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MLK Day through the Social Theory of Relativity

Power is up to you: Here's how

MLK Day is still a work in progress.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day  is a day to consider the events in the socially tumultuous 1960s. It is here.

Now, here is where conflict and social resistance come into prominence for a purpose. Let’s look at MLK day through the lens of the “Theory of Social Relativity”.

This lens to conflict is what this site uses to review all conflicts, upheavals, and intractable (supposedly) acts of social tension.

MLK had a rival goal. Mediation would not even touch it. Black skinned people wanted treatment, access, opportunity, and everything else just the same as non-blacks, i.e. white skinned people.

From here on in, it is simply blacks (weaker side in the conflict) and whites (stronger side in the conflict). I just like to get the “people” part in some place because that is what is central.

The rival goal was that the blacks wanted respectful treatment in emotional, economic, and political terms. The whites did not want to treat them respectfully in these terms. In practice, the strong side wanted to hurt the weaker side continually and deeply. This is a good reason to engage in conflict.

As the strong side, whites had social control of economics and ownership; emotions of disgust, anger, outrage, and moral uprightness were exclusively in the domain of the whites. Nearly all, if not all political offices were held by whites. Yes, we are talking about the South and eastern section of the United States but the rival goals appeared nationally.

As the weaker side, Blacks were able to express anger and emotions but with much less authority. Instead of power, emotion, and “righteousness” combining in social encounters with whites, black emotion was cast as rebellion and punishable by more violence.

The powers available to the stronger and weaker sides and at use in this battle are nearly the same as dictators in totalitarian nations. According to the five main powers, this conflict fits at the high power differential level. Coercive power is the main differentiator but that power is illegal in some ways in MLK days. This conflict is not the same as coercive power dictators hold because there is a court of last resort. That court is federal and national. The USA does not support coercive power of individuals or groups “over” each other. In the global society, dictators enjoy support of the world and there is no place to march or plead if you are part of that nation.

The United States did allow coercive power of whites over blacks in Antebellum (“before the war”), South. Anytime after the Civil War, the rival goal is the ability to define and live the stated rights. This requires challenging and changing the “Status Quo” intelligently. While coercion may appear at any time anywhere, it is not the central power differentiator in this rival goal but the fear of terrorism against the weaker side was important. Written laws removed such powers by the laws, actions, and outcomes surrounding the Civil War. Now, we go to the “powers that be” “for us” to use.

French and Raven’s five powers are all for everyone to have and use as necessary. French and Raven identified these social powers and the social theory of relativity harnesses them for the benefit of everyone. That is the ultimate lesson of the social resistance training. Social resistance training applies the social theory or relativity by doing two things. First, social resistance training introduces the five powers “all required” to pass the exam of life. You may have a preferred power but all are required to be whole. Second, social resistance training provides practical exercises in applying those powers in real situations so you are whole and powerful. Powerful people together or separate, the choice is theirs, make a powerful society that can be filled with…get this…love. Love is harmony, respect, and vision. Love doesn’t mind some competition to see who can “do it” better.

The five powers in hierarchical order, most to least coercive:

Most coercive: Physical restraint to stop all challengers from pursing the rival goal.

2nd Most:             Money and Physical Rewards or Access to Rewards to secure advantage in pursuit of rival goal.

3rd Most:              Status-quo manipulation (also called “legitimacy”) to assert rights to rival goal.  PS: I take the status out of “status Quo”

4th Most:              expert knowledge related to the rival goal or the rival goal’s attainment strategy

Least:                    Respect received for integrity in pursuit and management of the rival goal.

The unseen power that drives goals, social development, and human connection is empathy and unity.

No power is at odds with money, capitalism, or freedom. The powers are at odds with productivity, humanity, and beauty as they become more and more imbalanced.

Life is power.

Let’s look at the level of power balance. In theory, the United States had come through the revolution necessary to remove the hand of coerciveness from the throats of blacks during the Civil War. However, implementation was lacking. In general, blacks had to learn ways to empower themselves to experience freedom in the face of unenforced laws allowing them to be free. This is the level of double standard. Free and equal, the mantra of those days, led to not equal by a long shot. Not equal led to “not free”.  Did the strong group, white, or the weaker group, black, set the rules and values? Obviously, the strong side set the rules. The greatest power the strong side had, beyond the use of coercive and “illegal” force, was money and legitimacy that made the use of coercive force a “right” for the status enjoying strong side. The higher status group, white set the status quo and was the status quo.

The rules for having status and respect in those days were ownership of capital and property. Status and the rules were enforced with the legitimacy of the police and National Guard. There is really very little difference between this and dictatorship. Status also provided political status as those who paid more tax, had more economic investment in the balance, and hired the members of the weaker side. So, what was happening was that the rules for status were based on financial strength and financial strength was carefully guarded by the strong side. The strong side remained in power, leveraged the status quo to keep the rules they implemented in their favor, and had all the justification in their world to win the “rival goal” of leadership and control over the actions of the weaker side.

In this way, financial power led to status power that led to status quo of legitimate powers that gave the expert winning strong team ultimate respect. There was no unity or empathy in general.

Martin Luther King Jr. struck at the status quo as not legitimate, legal, or worthy of respect.

He gained the advantage through that and more so. Still, today, financially, blacks, women, and minorities is lacking.

Inter-dependence is a skill that minorities can use more fully. Organizing at the community level, at the educational level, the business level, and political level is still needed. Other groups that are dominate will not respect minorities until weaker sides become internally powerful just as the strong side has. As a community, each group must get powerful together, and then the unity of us all can be experienced together, as one. At that point a true transformation has occurred.

My suggestion for everyone in the world is to keep a sense of respect, empathy, and unity in the background of your vision of life and then…go for the bucks. Get rich by enriching others and demand financial education, business acumen, teach it to your children, and be passionate about it. The only reason Harvard University is so much the “status quo” for business is that they are rich in dollars. Harvard can buy the professors that will help them keep leadership and promote social agendas that make the weak seem weak indefinitely (John Rawls had little vision for the weak becoming strong but his ideas treated the weak like weaklings through his “fairness principle”). Harvard’s endowment is nearly 2X as big as its nearest competitor Yale. Any set of universities could decide to cooperate financially and compete at a higher level and create a new status quo. Harvard is a good school but like any status setting institution requires deep and powerful competition to drive everyone’s performance. The idea is to understand the power of financial power to create self-serving status quo. The Ivy League is nice but so are you, wherever you are.

The end result is…no matter who you are…especially if you are on the weaker side, increase your powers. Become strong physically, secure financially, set your teams status quo, be super expert thought leader, and gain respect you deserve and need from yourself…to live.

MLK day helps with this.

James d.

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Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit…step in the right direction

Why is Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit important as a movie? It represents a sea change in the nature of global tensions that bodes well. That change is a movement from raw physical force as represented by movies like “Fail Safe” and “Red Tide” to use of pure economic strategy against “enemies”. I am much more in favor of economic war than military incursions. Defending a strong currency against attach requires building a powerful economy without destruction of any kind. If finance is the worst threat against any people, the world is vastly better off compared with the threats of military interventions that destroy infrastructure, civil society, and economics.

Friday late afternoon, I saw the opening of the new action thriller movie: Jack Ryan, Shadow Recruit (JR). Cisco Systems sponsored the film for those in the field of technology and capital markets. The movie follows the movements in global geo-politics that is right on track with the power balance perspective that under girds the analysis and comments here on “Conflict of the Day”.


Let me say that the movie, in a normal scenario, would be over after the first 15 minutes. Jack Ryan would be dead. The assassin misses at close range so many times that it makes the assassin more incompetent than making Jack look great. Ah, movies. Jack Ryan still is the super-hero in the genre of Jason Bourne, kind of…almost.

Looking deeper, this movie is set within an international conflict or power game similar to the one outlined by James Rickards in his 2011 best selling business book, “Currency Wars”*. In the movie, as in the book, economic attacks are planned to devalue US currency and bonds. A timed terrorist maneuver meant to disrupt markets and cause prices to drop, while the terrorists “short” the target nation’s bonds is the gambit. Long story short (no pun intended), violence is only a sideline and the central damage is financial.
*Rickards, J. (2011). Currency wars: The making of the next global crisis. New York: Penguin.

This type of conflict scenario in the world is a positive step up from nuclear destruction so feared in the 1940s-1960s and beyond. At that time, the lesson learned was that mutually assured destruction (MAD) works. MAD works because it is human to self-preserve as a group even if you want to destroy another. Self-preservation tends to and does, stop one group from killing another. If both will die, neither will. Could we say that two potential wrongs make a right? Maybe.

Today, MAD might be able to work with global finance as well, due to mutual inter-dependence. Without undue war-related losses, it may be possible for all nations to become economically stable, create meaningful economic alliances, enjoy some peace, safety, and productivity. But the real value is when such an environment exists within a nation. The global link with petrodollars and military intervention to protect the flow of oil is a deeper but related subject that is not fully dealt with in this short article. I shall just stick the with presenting powers at play.

In Conflict or social resistance training, five powers are central and sufficient to explain and predict action and outcomes. In order of descending severity those powers are: Physical/coercive, Reward/financial/monetary, status/norms/legitimacy, expertise/information, and trust/respect. If one party has physical/coercive dominance, they often dominate on all levels. Social bullies and despots tend to have all the army, police, money, banks, central bank, status quo-Westphalian legitimacy, all the expertise and knowledge about governing, leadership, and ruler-ship, and of course, mostly feign respect for their servants, fellow countrywomen and men, and the rest of the world. So, they have everything. This was the level of conflict as it “used to be”.

The good thing about JR is that physical violence between nations is drastically reduced compared with older styles. In any social struggle, the inability to use wholesale, abject, raw, physical violence changes everything. Only revolutions loosen the iron grip of a despot’s hands from the throats of the oppressed people. Terrorism is a minor type of war. Economic terrorism is a step in the right direction.

Once physical dominance and coercive power is lost, everything changes within and between groups. The loss of physical domination by bully leaders represents a social revolution. Once that social sword of Damocles falls out of the hand of the big bad wolf, everything else changes for the better. The end of such conflicts leads to “better problems”. Then the social structure can become super flexible, a condition unimagined by Talcott Parsons. Social structure becomes fluid like Kurt Lewin might imagine. Unlike the Lewinian model, a society at this level never freezes over. Instead, it remains flexible, alive, growing, and accelerating toward the pleasure and connection of all involved. Consider the development.

Consider the future of people who are both secure in body and pocket book. Self-organization will be at a high level, unheard of previously. The status-quo will no longer be based on status. Status quo will be the vision of each group on its own. The dollar in the hand of the wealthy means much less when everyone is fairly well off. Power is balanced at a much higher level. Dynamic organizations reform teams often. Leaving any established group will always have transitional challenges but when new groups emerge, everyone will benefit via bridges of connection built to others.

Governance will not require the “power free” zone imagined by leading continental sociologist Habermas. Instead, all the community will be a “power full” zone, each group full of “power”. Status will not go away. Leadership will not go away. Both will spread everywhere, however, the reason for status and the reason for leadership will be making a great life. even some of the most beautiful operas may seem like relics from a desperate past of an animalistic barbarian world.

A great life will be a matter of living technologies, whether simple lives or ultra technological. It will be choice and freedom. Choice will be free, but there are costs to every choice we make. Determinism is a scholars’ quagmire that has little place in the real world outside of though “experiments”.

Somewhere, beyond the despot’s terrorism, the central banker’s favoritism to some hegemonic elite, the enforcers of the status quo, experts who verify everything is good or keep it so incomprehensible it cannot be understood, is an even higher realm. That realm is respect for humanity. That is the realm of dialogue. Dialogue is a deep two-way communication between people who willingly arrive at a bargaining “table” and willingly stay and engage.  Either may leave it and nothing will be accomplished or both can stay and see a breakthrough of cooperation. This is how capitalism works. These levels of power are as far as the most respected experts go, but there is more.

There is a sixth power, in addition to the first five, is hard to see from where much of the world is today. No one really sow it in French and Raven’s day. That is the power of empathy as seen by Adam Smith*. Empathy is going, in my visionary opinion, going to take us to unimagined heights.
* Smith, A. (1790). The theory of moral sentiments (electronic version) (6th ed.). Sao Paulo, Brazil: MetaLibre (downloaded 3/21/2008 from

The empathetic understanding that each of share is comprised of deep, powerful, feelings that drive us to a shared life. There are limits even to empathy but it is a higher level. Empathy is a power of desire each of us share that is the power of a greater life for all.
A final opinionated statement.

The jobs act general solicitation quicksand is an embarrassment to nations so focused on and dependent on capitalism for success and prosperity. Who calls schools that do not teach the details of money “modern”? After freedom from the fear of the dictatorial fist, comes fighting for the currency of modern life, money. Public schools do a powerful disservice to make business an elective. Just as physical education is needed to live well, so is money. The need for “Accredited Investor” status to even exist  is condemnation of the performance of any education in a capitalistic society. That status says, “the US has failed over 90% of its people through refusing to educate them sufficiently about money and business. These uneducated are doomed to forever be out of the “loop” of currency and capitalism. these are slave class citizens by virtue of ignorance of one of the most important parts of modern life.

Once the general population knows freedom from fear and has powerful money, the status quo will never be the same and productivity will skyrocket as people find energy to love to live. Then expertise, not only in government, self-government, and technology, but in human potential will take off. This is not a pipe dream of an idealistic visionary. This is American after the Revolutionary War. Representatives like Alexis de Tocqueville were desperate to understand and report of the success of the American Republic and limited democracy.

Those of any culture or scholarly community ignorant of the need to teach all people all over the world how to govern themselves balk at condemning and letting despots topple. The inability to defend freedom as a way of life and the lack of positive reasons why teaching freedom to all people, so those taught can choose the government they desire, has no basis compared with the benefits of teaching freedom governance. These   well meaning scholars and politicians say, “We (meaning the US) keep the tyrants under control and fund them to keep their people under the rule of the gun because we are afraid of who will come after them.” They cough and balk at the thought of preparing people for self governance.

This, along with trying to build technocratic states in areas of the world with little to no government has failed, been so ill-defined by scholars and researches (a common problem with academia in all behavioral sciences), and lacking of a clear directive outcome that it is relatively defunct.* There is only one common sense approach I can see. It is empirically, theoretically, and logically based. Teach money in the mainstream education to strengthen the economy to levels never seen before. Teach freedom to pursue goals at an early age so citizens of all nations can choose their way to live.

Pride in the benefits of our global vision of prosperity and dependence on currency demands teach money. Empathy of heart and value of life demands overcoming insecurity and teaching freedom and the value of economic and physical freedom.
*Mazarr, M. J. (2014). The rise and fall of the failed-state paradigm: Requiem for a decade of distraction [Electronic Version]. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 1/18/2014

Maybe Jack Ryan can take us, the USA, to a more vibrant and honest place in our own sight and that of the rest of the world.
James d.

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Gun Control or Guns out of Control?

The recent school shooting in Newtown CT is the focus of a renewed effort to limit or define the limits of the right to keep and bear arms.

This conflict arose out of a desire to reduce mass shootings that result in terrible numbers of dead. This desire seems in conflict with the right to keep and bear arms. Though terrible tragedies occur, is it inviting a worse tradedy to limit the right for law abiding citizens to own any type of arms traditionally allowed under the second amendment of the United States Constitution?

The second amendment was passed in 1789. The law and related use has a long presence with various outcomes and perceptions associated with it. 

The Sides:

  1. Barack O’bama and  the anti-gun lobby traditionally have lost many a gun fight. This is the weaker side overall.  Democrats tend to own fewer guns than republicans at 32%-55% respectively. 36% of independents own guns. Overall, 41% of Americans have guns in the home.
  1. The National Rifle Association (NRA) and all others who support unfettered acceptance of the 2nd Amendment. This includes CATO, FEE, and Heritage Foundation, among others. The NRA has an image of immense political sway.

The Rival Goal: Limit the type of arms covered by the 2nd Amendment or demand constructively limiting legislation such as background checks, or other processes that limit the ability to buy, carry, or exchange arms.

As in nearly all conflicts, the weaker side, gun control supporters, moved first to make a change in relationship since their ultimate goal was out of reach before the leverage this newest school tragedy provided. Until now most power was in support of the NRA.

Deeper interests: Both sides have security in mind as the reason for their goal. However, security of whom, and from whom is the difference. The dialectic is that government can be a source of security and threat.

The NRA is thinking about security from coercion of government. They may well and reasonably believe the framers of the constitution were OK with individuals owning everything from tanks to rocket propelled grenades, even though they did not yet exist. This is an important concept to them as they see it as protection from the misuse of legitimate firepower of government. There seem little indication that the right to keep and bear arms actually does this save the freedom America has enjoyed since the adoption of the Constitution.

Gun Control supporters believe that the easy availability of assault rifles and extra large magazine clips provide an undue opportunity for kids to do mass harm and that limiting their availability would help reduce school shootings and tremendous numbers of deaths. This may be true or this may be magical thinking along the lines of prohibition and the war on drugs if the problem is indeed deeper than surface.

The Social Rules: Upper Mid-level Power Differential.

The social rules  in which this conflict occurs will govern the outcome. The outcome will be measured in quality of internal security in the United States. It is predicted to have a moderate improvement as the balance of power at the upper middle level of the pattern is relatively high balance, a low power-differential.

The process is based on the political process in the United States. This means there is debate at the Federal level. The executive branch, senate, and house must find some level of understanding upon which to engage. This process has stronger and weaker representations when it comes to gun control and most other issues.


The social impact of guns is still in need of research. Politicians may have little systemic evidence to base a decision except what “feels” right. In the case of prohibition, weapons of mass destruction, and the drug war, along with former positions on gay marriage, political zeal, passion, and feelings can be woefully off. The best we could hope for is a call for true research into the deeper causes and the value of gun control. This would be a higher dialogue and create a more positive social environment which in and of itself can bring security and lessen deaths by violent outbursts.

States can enact laws at the local levels however the factors all remain the same as laws enacted at the Federal level. It will be a matter for sociological research.

Some of the processes are claimed to be secretly strategic by the government: http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20130118/NEWS/301180038/State-gun-law-what-got-banned-changed

Then, after all is said and done, the Supreme Court can reverse any decision no matter how it is created though research can sway the court to abandon precedents.


The synthetic model predicts an improvement in the quality of security and related factors if both the supporters and detractors around gun control engage deeply and positively with each other to find a creative and beautiful approach. Just the example they set can set the tone for the rest of the nation on other factors as well. Irate and angry young people may find hope and comfort in leaders at any level transcending their bias to try to understand others in order to create a more beautiful world. That example may itself be enough. Every little bit helps.

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School Shootings Conflict: What the hell is going on?

School Shootings Conflict: What the hell is going on?

School shootings and mass killings like the most recent Newtown, Sandy Hook Elementary, or Colorado’s  “Dark Night Rises” massacre, and all the way back to Columbine, are horrific and tragic “crazy makers”.

Strength together and understanding possibilities.

Strength together and understanding possibilities.

These events make more common everyday positive citizens crazy with unanswered questions, empathetic pain, and worse of all, real loss of loved ones and lost sense of security.

For the most part, these actions involve adolescent males as perpetrators. The victims are their peers and younger, plus any adults who get in their way. Sometimes, a family member is also killed. Often the weapon of choice is a gun that has extreme capability to kill many people quickly.

Louis Pondy’s Organizational conflict model describes these events but only superficially. He describes conflict as a series of episodes:

  1. Latent (everything is ready for a conflict, it is just a matter of time)
  2. Felt (the party that will initiate the conflict starts feeling it strongly)
  3. Perceived (the other parties start to feel it too)
  4. Manifest (Whoops, there it is…as the song goes)
  5. Aftermath (the conflict is over…now what happens? Are relationships in taters? Has there been improvements? What?

School-type shootings are of a “blitz” type. They are done before they are ever felt or even perceived. They manifest as a flash but the aftermath is forever in loss of human life. However, there is another aftermath after all these shootings: gun control. There is also an aftermath that is all too avoided: feeling and perceiving the potential of these conflicts before they manifest violently. Let’s start with gun control.

A focusing event leverages a public event to create some larger scale social change related to that event. Here, we have the shootings at a school. The great amount of energy and anger is redirected at gun control to stop such conflicts from ever manifesting again. Prevention is presented in the form of gun control. Gun control legislative talks are common after all mass shootings. Putting armed guards and employees in the schools is also discussed. Gun control becomes, now, a separate conflict and must be viewed separately or emotionally-based mis-calculations can and will occur. There are many drivers behind school shootings and access to guns is perhaps only a minor driver.

There are those who try to feel and perceive something deeper going on with these individuals or their social context. Interventions of identifying and reaching out to potential shooters is a work that defies the social structure of social success hierarchy. It defies the hierarchy because those who exercise sufficient influence over what is “should be” to downplay the importance of social hierarchy and thus, those outside of the hierarchy. A good overview of school shooting and its history in the US and world can be found at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2007.00008.x/full . This is a free and short article on Google Scholar! You can read it easily.

Now a quick analysis using the synthetic model:

Conflict: Lanza wants to kill others for reasons yet unknown but hinted at by his reclusiveness.


Strong side: Lanza…he has the guns and the element of surprise and free reign of his movements

Weak side:  People living in relative peace and tranquility and happiness


Lanza wants to kill everyone, likely because he was not successful in building the type of relationships he found satisfying. Other options must appear hopeless and he must feel otherwise helpless. This may have led more delusion or some mindset of extreme hostility. Some looked for organic causes such as brain damage. School shooters have little evidence of brain damage in general.

School children and adults:  Everyone wants to live.

Outcome measured: Quality of life. Quality goes down due to coercion.


This is an example of “jumping sides” from weak to strong by use of coercion. Lanza was socially weak in his mind. Others were in supportive groups. He felt somehow an outcast. Perhaps he was. Instead of learning social skills and dialogue. Instead of some children in our society having the social intelligence to reach out and bring him in, Lanza remained outside the circle of society in general. His voice had little influence. It does not seem the gun was a message of anything but irrational frustration leading to tragic ends. He went from weak, to powerful, to dead.

The school children and adults who were always strong, in the natural and healthy sense, were for a few terrible moments weak and threatened.

Jumping sides (see the basic model: http://conflictoftheday.wordpress.com/about/ ) from the weak left side to the strong right side has been tried by many groups. It nearly always ends disastrously. Most revolutions are subject to this because they use force rather than appealing to legitimate empathy and reason first and directly. Thomas Jefferson and Gene Sharp, in the US Declaration of Independence, and From Dictatorship to Democracy, respectfully, begin to address this. Gene Sharp helps get it to revolution but does not provide how to establish a republic of law and rights. Neither does Jefferson. The idea is that neither just “jumped” to a position of power or say that is the right way. Hitler jumped. Communists jumped. Watch out when jumping happens. Those who jump by only the power of guns are not ready to lead toward a human world of prosperity.

 A suggestion:

This activity is toward the bottom of the triangle indicating that consequences will be negative. The best answer goes well beyond knee-jerk legislation. It includes adults learning how to get along through dialogue so our children can be included totally too. Only positive relationships between Republicans and Democrats, CEOs and Unions, teachers and students, Black and White, female and male, and gay and straight, richer and poorer, can provide the example and context for total reaching out and inclusion at the level we need.


Oil or Environmental Sustainability

Pumping up Paradise or Hades? The Fossil Fuel Debate…Alex Epstein v. Bill McKibbon

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Parties/ Sides in conflict:

Alex Epstein: Center for Industrial Progress wants to Increase Oil use as much as the market can bear to assure a wonderful living experience in modernity. Political connections with Ayn Rand, Libertarians, and Objectivist groups.

Bill McKibbon: Lead Environmentalist wants to Reduce Oil use to save life and the environment. Political connections with Greenpeace, and environmentalist movement.


Reduction of Use of Fossil Fuels vs. No reduction and increase as much as possible.

Deeper Meaning of Goal:

For Alex: Fossil fuels/oil use is both necessary and healthy. It cannot be replaced with solar, wind or green technology. The planet is alive and well due to fossil fuel use. You are happy because of Oil, Coal, and Gas.  The next best thing is nuclear. This message must be conveyed! Love the crude!

For Bill: Fossil fuel was healthy and helpful to humanity but is now a clear and present danger to life, happiness, freedom, and the future of the planet. The polar caps have melted up to 45%, the sea is less alkaline, water level is rising, islands may be wiped out in some areas. Bill is a bit burned up about black gold, Texas tea, and the Arab Energy Oasis.

Power differentials: Who is stronger?

Alex: He is an articulate representative of the Oil producers, well spoken, passionate, focused, committed, and engaging.

Bill: Well studied with a deeply informed presentation. Represents the link between oil, global warming, and future disaster.

Evidence: In ethical/ political debates evidence is key. Here is the way this debate worked.

Alex’s research evidence pointed to increase in life directly, but not causally correlated, to fossil fuel production. Also, Alex showed and, eventually gave credit and date, a chart showing a decrease in weather related deaths as well.

Bill’s evidence is extrapolated from recent environmental changes. The changing sea will lead to deaths. The warming atmosphere is leading to reduction in crops that will cause starvation. Bill as well shows direct correlation but not causation for CO2 emissions and these changes though he connects them through logic.

What we have is two sincere and informed gentlemen with loads of evidence. Alex’s evidence is from the past and full of praise. Bill’s is toward the future and full of warning and doom. The audience is here, in the present. It is clear that Alex does not trust Bill or his evidence and neither does Bill like Alex’s evidence. I don’t think anyone’s mind was changed. Alex thinks Bill’s evidence is the dreaded “pseudo-science”. Climate prediction is impossible he claims. Bill thinks Alex’s evidence is irrelevant, a relic of past lives, and dead in the water.

A medium to low power differential is evident. Still in the medium power differential zone. The two are not talking to each other yet. The focus is not on the subject as much as “winning”. Alex called for this debate and used debate in the traditional antagonistic format to try and drain some of the supposed “hot air” from environmentalists. McKibbon tried to shine the sunlight of research to gain energy enough to rise up and win this debate. Both created light and heat. Let’s harness that for the future energy needs of creativity and power.

This meeting had strategic communication efforts by Alex as he feels the stance of McKibbon is dangerous and must be stopped at all costs short of physical violence. For Alex, the threat of outlawing fossil fuels is “suicide” and must be stopped. McKibbon did not deny the desire to outlaw fossil fuel use but said lowering it by 80% is a goal, not by 95%. Alex states either will be totally undo-able and harmful.

Adding the Global Social Norms, laws, and culture to the power mix:

The global community seems to favor less reliance on fossil fuels in word but not in deeds. Norms for such debates as this one at Duke University http://fossilfueldebate.com/ support that.  In this debate it appears that it is Alex Epstein and libertarians are taking on the larger scientific world.

The norms of debate held. Both had fair treatment by the moderator. No one had to actually talk to the other side civilly and, in fact, each could use an antagonistic approach as a sort of moral superiority or “moral high ground”. That is a typical tactic in times of ethical uncertainty. It sways audiences.

Outcomes: I see no visible change in the dynamics of the environmental concern about the use of fossil fuels from this debate. In the conflict model, conflicts at this level can have a positive impact, neutral, or slightly negative.  Overall, the environmental concerns will be sen in a more positive light and perhaps be more rigorously addressed by all. It is a step toward more meaningful relationships but it is not a set of positive relationships yet. Especially since Alex accuses Bill of misrepresentation and manipulation. Bill feels that big oil is public enemy #1. Here I am…stuck in the middle, maybe with you, maybe without you. You tell me and leave a comment.

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Iran or Nuclear Iran: Let it Be? Applying the Synthetic Model to the Iranian nuclear aspiration program

 Here is the conflict profile and suggested outcomes of this conflict based on the laws of conflict 

Parties/ Sides in conflict:




Nuclear facilities built in Iran. They will result in the capability to build a nuclear weapon

(Iran wants it/ Israel doesn’t and this is not likely negotiable. It appears a “rival” goal)

Deeper Meaning of Goal:

For Iran: Nuclear facilities mean power, electrical generation and possible military/political options.

For Israel: Iran’s nuclear facilities mean threat to survival of Jewish state and Jewish inhabitants living there

Power differentials: Who is stronger?

Iran has individual power advantage: The home turf, where plants are built and centrifuges are spinning and being built to produce higher grades of enriched uranium

Israel has a power disadvantage: Military efforts to physically stop the Iranians are risky and results uncertain.

Adding the Global Social Norms, laws, and culture to the power mix:

Israel is pleading with the non Muslim world and those Muslims who support them publicly or privately to give an ultimatum that will increase Israel’s power position by threatening Iran with destruction of the facilities if they go on in enrichment passed a yet to be communicated “red line in the sand”.

Such an ultimatum would precipitate a physical intervention should enrichment continue. This was requested publicly by P.M. of Israel Netanyahu at the U.N. during the last week of September 2012.

Israel’s argument: There is no deterrent that is effective with an ideology such as militant Islam. If Iran, which if lead by militant Islamist gets a nuclear weapon, they will use it, at any cost, without regard to any other thing on planet Earth. The target of Iranian nuclear devices will be strategic targets in Israel. Mutually assured destruction, that worked well in the Soviet days, will not work. Only a preemptive strike on the nuclear facilities will be effective in safeguarding Israel.

Global norms: Charter nations in the UN agree that an attack on any member nation is an attack on all member nations. The security council can rally all the ability of UN forces to attack aggressor nations. If Iran does strike, a UN intervention may follow. To this and all else Israel says, “So what? It is too late. Israel is destroyed, over-run by its enemies again, and without recourse. The entire Arab world will say, “Never again” to allowing a Jewish state in Israel to exist.

Level of Power-Differential: Medium but may escalate to high

Based on the observations that Iran is nearly there, sanctions have not stopped the progress, emotional rhetoric is high, there are not positive relations between the nations, neither yet is the physical violence, we are at a medium level of power-differential, howbeit, a high one, bordering on an outright high (physically coercive level).

In this level, communication is strategic (Habermas’ communicative action), appealing to norms and values to support each side’s “position” and orientation, toward the goal, as each plays to a wider audience.

The sides are not truly at the bargaining table as in Ury and Fisher’s interest-based bargaining. Instead there is posturing, perhaps bluffing, and as much cooptation of others as possible.

In game theory both sides perceive the other to have defected more often than being cooperative. In reality, they don’t play together. It is near a downward spiral except they don’t have to interact. Iran may feel powerless to achieve its stated goal: the eradication of Israel. Right now, playing together is not possible. They are not even really speaking.

From an organizational perspective of Louis Pondy’s model, the conflict is manifest and at the “system” level. Geography in the middle east puts them together. The latency of the conflict is ideological based on religion. Iran feels suppressed but is “mad as hell and not going to take it”…rightly or wrongly.

The managerial grid is at a negative set of relationships, nearing negative. This tone is set by the stronger party in the conflict. It is this negative attitude of Iran, the stronger side, toward Israel that is threatening to escalate the conflict from purely competitive to that of contending with Israel physically and avoiding Israel’s human qualities as a being like all others.


In this middle area of power differential strategic communication without physical coercion is used. Outcomes vary. The higher the rhetoric, the more likely for a negative outcome. The stronger Israel becomes in defending itself without using coercion, the more positive the outcome for peace. That outcome will be measure in terms of national sovereignty. If Israel can remain safe and sovereign, the whole world will improve. The same goes for Iran. Both must be safe and sovereign for the whole world to be. That is the ideal condition.

While we know less than those in the intelligence communities of both Israel and Iran, here are some considerations offered based on what is known:

  1. Iran will not stop trying to build nuclear facilities. Their efforts were stopped in 1986 with an air strike. They may be stopped today, tomorrow, or soon thereafter. But, Iran and militant nations will continue to try. In 50 years, if the ideology of war in both dominant and militant groups does not change across the world, efforts to secure military might with the most modern weapons possible will continue.
  2. Iran is not “irrational”. They are acting in line with their goals of converting the world to Islam or a faith acceptable to “them”. Some do send people to carry out suicide attacks. Those sent are usually poor, young, and not of the elite ruling class.  There is little evidence that when it comes to their own lives, on the whole, the leaders of Iran or any other Muslim nation, are not as swayed by “Mutually assured destruction”. Likely they are as much any other group in the world. Mutually assured destruction likely will be successful.
  3. This is an ideological battle in some origin. If ideology is more important than human life to some, the a threat of destruction of the sacred symbols rises to that of human life.
  4. If there will be war, then the destruction of holy sites in addition to enemy soldiers may be the most effective deterrent to any “first strike”. Certainly an attack on Israel is an attack on its holy site. Thus Holy places are exchanged for human life and other Holy places in a mutually assured manner. An attack on Israel by Iran means Muslim Holy sites are in danger as well. If it happens, this is of the utmost seriousness and pressure is put on the entire Muslim world to stop and even not attack at all. That is the idea of mutually assured destruction.  This evens the playing field and I’m sure it has been considered. Lives for symbols when the symbols are more important than life to some.  This may keep the balance of power more even, in an otherwise unmanageable situation.
  5. An attack on Israel will never destroy the heart of the nation though it would be terrible for the physical plant. Israel is a set of positive interpersonal relationships. Most Muslim people are or can be too. Militancy has a way of falling into disfavor in a world that is evolving in secure social relationships.
  6. Given the options that Mutually assured destruction will still have impact if framed powerfully, that may be sufficient even if Iran does secure a device. Let’s hope they do not.

The global community works on a set of fair rules for war. Strategic targets are fair game. Holy sites are strategic targets. So are nuclear facilities. I still believe mutually assured destruction is a viable route if a device is secured sometime in the future. If a device is secured, it is all anyone really has anyway.

Learn about Iran in a YouTube Documentary

Colin Kahl and Kenneth Waltz argue back and forth and come to the same conclusion: If negotiation, economic sanctions, and diplomacy don’t work then Iran will get the device because military intervention is not an option

The Washington Institute: Speaking for American Interests? The group makes a proclamation that Iran getting a nuclear device would be against America’s interest then provide no evidence. Instead this institute talks about how Iranian retaliation for US military intervention will raise the price of oil. This is un-scholarship.

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“Innocence of the Muslims”: The reviews are in and the world is divided!

The “Innocence of the Muslims” conflict is structured below. The structure is based on research synthesizing the five major paradigms of conflict management. Those five are: Jurgen Habermas’ Communicative Action, Robert Axelrod’s Game theory, Louis Pondy’s Organizational Conflict, Blake and Mouton’s Managerial Grid, and Ury and Fisher’s Interest based bargaining.

There are four major factors of all conflict: Goal/sides/power differential/total value of contested goal as an outcome

Goal: Removal of the youtube video: “Innocence of the Muslims” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAiOEV0v2RM&feature=related

The fact is that the video is up. 

Note: There is also a values (interest-based) conflict between both sides. The values in conflict are freedom of speech vs. limiting speech to that which only  conveys “Respect for Prophet Mohammed”.

Those who posted the video are not as concerned with the respect of the prophet as those who wish it removed. Thus, the fact and values are logically related to the sides taken in the conflict.

This goal, video up vs. video down, is a rival goal as are the values. It can’t have both ways. It is not a matter of semantics.  Video up equals disrespect. Video down is the mandate given by Mullahs to all those who do respect.


(1)   Defenders of the character and reputation of Mohammed

(2)   Non-defenders of the character of Mohammed who placed the video and those who allow its continuance.

Note: It is important not to see this as an “international” conflict between nations. It is an ideological conflict between those who use free speech to “disrespect the prophet” and those who are appointed to “defend the character of the prophet”.

Power differential:

Stronger Side: The person who put the video up controls or has access directly to the video, media, and is supported by the right of free speech within the US. This is strong political, technological and sovereign power. They are the stronger side for now as the video remains up and they are in control. This is side (2).

Weaker Side: Those who want the video down have less power. They cannot unilaterally take it down as the owner (2) could. They cannot remove the right to freedom of speech supported by the US. The cannot breach sovereign immunity of the US and just kill the people or destroy property to “force” the video down.  These are side (1).

Each side, must plead its case in the public eye on a set of norms and international values that calls for legitimately agreed upon rules. This power difference is medium considered medium. If the power difference were high, defenders (1) could simply force the video down by brute force. If the power differential was low, both sides might come together to discuss the possibility of some “win win” solution. Neither will likely happen since the US embraces freedom of speech and separation of church and state. Many defender groups (1) are in cultures that embrace theocracy. In this case, the defenders would like to convince the non defenders that the “non defender culture” must change. This can be done only through legitimate channels and not by force of arms.

Medium power differential a state where each side can use empathy and logic only to convince other. Values and character issues are at stake. US Muslims can take to the streets or courts but cannot kill or destroy to stop such disrespect. Non US Muslims have options of media, international forums, and internet responses as well. They are using some of these to protest in their own nations where it is seen as appropriate. If this were the extent of the conflict behavior, it would be clear. But the conflict was escalated by killings.

Escalation: (See typology) The killing of US diplomats is an escalation of conflict from the medium power differential to a high power differential (coercive).

It creates a second conflict not between ideologies but between nations. This is based on sovereignty and diplomatic status/immunity.  This is a second conflict taken up, not by YouTube, but by the President and the State Department of the US. This assassination conflict can be structured in the same way as this YouTube video conflict analysis is structured.

Insurance will take care of the looting damage so that is minor issue we do not need to address at this time.

Total value of outcome:

The conflict paradigms all predict worse outcomes related to the goal when higher power difference is employed rather than a balanced approach to more positive relations. In this case, the positive relations refer to the relations directly between (1) and (2) and not any third party god or prophet or nation. If the goal was to remove the video, using physical rather than more legitimate means is predicted to have negative consequences. Such is the case.

The video is on YouTube still and has over 6, 174, 874 views on 9/18/2012, 10,812,000+ views on 9/19/12. The continued posting on Google’s youtube is dedicated to the death of J Christopher Stevens, US Ambassador.

Respect is not a tangible goal but a value…one that different people value differently.

If respect is forced by coercion, it will lead the entire world and most conflicts into the high power differential (coercive thought control) area. The five major conflict management paradigms note this as a place that is to be avoided assiduously.


Escalation to level of a focusing event using violent coercive tactics. The conflict is made to be about more than the video by (1). It is extended to an ideological conflict and played to that end. A focusing event precipitates actions around any particular issue to bring wider change and power balance. Those who want the video down, may also try to use this to take down the US in the larger political picture.


The response of the weaker defender side (1) was violence when marches mixed with reason and respect for human life could have been powerfully used. They escalated the conflict to physical violence without asking first asking that the video central to their complaint be addressed or without responding on the same communicative level. This is similar to the case of the Dutch Cartoons that were a satire on Islam. Certainly marching in the streets would have everyone’s attention. Such a march is similar to a movie drama but with real people in mass. Showing the contested parts of the video could have worked well. Simply saying that such videos are offensive and inappropriate was an option too, though it would have been quite ineffective, it seems the number of viewers would have been less than the many millions the video has globally today.

It may be wise to keep those such movies out of the lands where Islam is the official religion. Still, that is up to the media or the nation that censors the media. The US ideology keeps things at the medium level of power differential. Here, in the US,  there is  some defection and misrepresentation of everything, some bluffing, some playing the system, some competition, but no physical violence and, in the end, many religions are both mocked and adored without fear.

The reaction of the stronger side (2) is reasonable. To say that all the US does not believe the message of this video but that we value freedom of speech and will not have any more respect for Mohammed than we do for Jesus, God, Buddha, or anyone else is accurate.

Everyone is fair game for mocking in the US, even presidential candidates.

Have you seen the play, “Book of Mormon”. What if that play was, “Prophet Mohammed” but in a similar vein to the Broadway Musical? In the end, just what are the limits to comments that lampoon Mohammed? Perhaps this is a nice dialogue for the Charlie Rose show. I look forward to the day when everyone can positively engage each other without fear or coercion. We will see it.

Your thoughts are appreciated.



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