Tuesday, January 31, 2017

World Class Hypocrisy

Ted Cruz has no Shame.   None.  

Hypocrisy this bold has consequences.  


A first temptation is to laugh it off and consider it just the normal way of politics, a perfect item for a late night comedy program to point out.

The consequences are bigger than that.   Only 56% of the eligible voters of voting age in America voted.   Either they didn't care or they cared and did not like any candidate enough to vote.  Gallup's ongoing poll shows that 19% if Americans approve of congress and 76% disapprove.   The institutions of self-government have lost credibility.  

Does this matter?  It matters all the time and In a time of stress or crisis the credibility of the institutions are what preserve a constitutional system.  The checks and balances of a constitutional system require people actually to care and demand that the system work.   The court system has no army.  Only the credibility of the system of laws put constraints on the people who carry rifles and command tanks and fighter jets.  The police and military forces accept the command of civilian government because they choose to and because they accept that the public expects and utterly demands no less.   Laws are obeyed because there is a broad consensus that they have legitimacy.

Thought experiment:   Imagine your relationship to a tradesman at your house, an employee, or an acquaintance.   Imagine a plumber insists that the line from a toilet is broken and needs replacement at a cost of $1,000.  You authorize it and he does the work.   Then, imagine three months later you overhear that plumber saying that toilet problems are never, ever a broken line, that this is a scam and ripoff, and that he is adamant in reporting plumbers who resort to the "broken line scam."  That plumber would have lost all credibility with you.   You would consider him a thief, or a liar, or both.  Certainly he is a hypocrite.

Don't just block Obama, block Hillary, too
Politicians who are overtly hypocritical, knowing they are recorded in headlines and news stories and on videotape, are stealing from the well of civic trust in self government.  The fact that they brazenly do it demonstrates how confident they are that voters have already become fatally jaded.

Here is a current example.  Ted Cruz

Antonin Scalia died in February, 2016.   President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace him.  Obama had about 11 months left in his 4 year term.   The Republican position was that no nominee of Obama would be considered to fill the Supreme Court position, period, regardless of his "moderation" or inherent judicial qualities.

Senator Ted Cruz not only participated in that, he doubled down.  In the weeks when it appeared very likely that Hillary Clinton would win election Cruz announced that even if she won a Republican majority senate should refuse to consider anyone.   We should hold the seat open for another 4 years, he said.  We don't need nine justices, he said.   
Ignore the election
Ted Cruz was announcing that any and all Hillary Clinton nominees should be ignored, sight unseen, for her term.  His position rescinded the earlier position that a president should not fill a vacancy with a year to go in his term because it should be decided in the election.   Obama's election did not matter, but the 2016 election would.   

Then, in the face of Hillary's presumed election he said that her election would not matter either.  He would oppose all Hillary Clinton nominees, as a matter of principle.

Last night, I receive the email below.

Note the tone of outrage and indignation that Democrats could consider filibustering a Supreme Court nomination.   How ridiculous.  The president was elected and he had 4 years to nominate someone.  Don't let the Democrats destroy the constitution!

"These threats are being made without even knowing the name, let alone record, of the president's choice."   He is accusing Democrats of doing exactly what he was just asserting he should do.   It is outrageous, Cruz writes, and it is "pure politics."    Politics is another word for self-government.   Cruz has made "politics" a synonym for hypocrisy and simultaneously proven the point.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Response to Airport Chaos: Democrats are Wimps.

Trump is attempting to change the metaphor by which people understand what is going on at the airports.

Trump calls Democrats Wimps.

Donald Trump and his media allies are selling an idea:  Democrats are wimps.  The chaos at the airports was running the risk of looking like Trump-incompetence vs. order.  Trump immediately went to work to force the frame back into the desired one, disorder vs. order.

There is a deep metaphor idea floating around for the past 150 years in the US and Britain.  It is the notion that the Love Your Neighbor, Matthew 25 kind of Christian is too feminine, too weak, too sentimental.  The response to it was "Muscular Christianity," which asserted Christianity was masculine and virile.    

Democrats, with their dove constituency and their stronger support among women have become the party of women, feminism and empathy to be contrasted with the GOP which is the party of men, hard work, tough-mindedness, and Christianity of the muscular sort.

The frame is made politically stronger for Republicans when Democrats are perceived less as female in all its complexity and more as exemplifying supposed feminine qualities of relative weakness, of sentimentality, of indulgence.   As wimps.  

There is a frame that works for Republican messaging:  Democrats as wimps, Republicans as strong.  It is a frame that has worried Democrats for seventy years, leading back to the immediate post-WW2 politics deciding which party was the more authentic opponent of the Soviet Union, China, and communism.  Republicans took the side of strength, muddled by JFK who switched the frame, with the supposed missile gap.  LBJ, to avoid the frame, reluctantly pushed forward deeper into the Vietnam war.

Today's news:  Airport Bumbling or Schumer's Tears.    The news today has two basic themes, depending on whether one is watching mainstream news or conservative (Fox/Breitbart/talk radio) news.   Mainstream news is about the chaos at the airports thank to the sudden, poorly planned and written ban on entry from some countries.  It created a media scene that framed "immigrant disorder" vs. Trump, a win for Trump, except for the problem that the chaos was being described as caused by Trump bumbling.   This was switching the frame and the blame.  Maybe the disorder was caused by a badly planned ban rather than the natural disorder of Muslim entry.   In this case, Trump was on the wrong side, the side of disorder rather than order.

Trump Tweets: Attack Schumer Tears.
Trump went right to work to fix this, with the tweets attacking Chuck Schumer for "tears."

Conservative news downplayed or ignored the airports.  It focused on attack as well, looking at Hollywood stars speaking at the SAG awards and on Chuck Schumer's tears.

The right loves to hate Hollywood, which represents liberal triviality and out-of-touch excess.    They could have gone two ways with Schumer, but the fact that they went one way and not the other is instructive.   They did not focus on Schumer using his power as Minority Leader to make trouble.  If they represented Schumer as powerful it undermines the opposite frame: Schumer as weak.

They went with weak.  The focus was on Chuck Schemer as sentimental wimp.

Strong vs. Weak.     Clear Headed vs. Sentimental.  

Trump wanted a nice clean frame:  Trump the Fighter for American Safety vs Democrat Chuck Schumer, the sentimental precious weak wimp.   Tears were the perfect symbol.   Trump acts while Democrats weep.

Breitbart jumps in: Trump mocks Schumer
Trump shaped the frame with his twin tweets, shown above.  Fox and Breitbart jumped aboard.   Their news splash page says little about airports.  It headlines Schumer's tears.  In fact Schumer had said they are Lady Liberty's tears, tears down the Statue of Liberty, but Trump, Breitbart, and Fox moved them to Schumer, where they belong to make the case for Democratic weakness.

This is a deep, pervasive set of metaphor currently operating in American politics:  Republicans as the strict father, Democrats as the indulgent mother.  Republicans who favor hard work, Democrats who want handouts.  Republicans who value military power, Democrats who are slacker peace-nics.  Republicans who fight communism, Democrats who are "soft on communism." 

Donald Trump is shoving today's news from "chaos caused by sloppy administration of a travel ban" vs order back into the frame that works for him: "unruly airport mobs" vs order.  More generally that dichotomy is protester, sentimental peace-nic wimps vs. a strong leader who will keep us safe.  Weeping-Schumer vs. Strong Trump.

Fox Website Headline.  Switch story to "Tears"
We are seeing messaging framing in action right now.   Today is an unusually good opportunity to see how it is done, as it is done, in real time.   Trump had a message advantage, but was starting to lose it.    He is scrambling to get it back.

Trump will not win every round in the message war.   This battle started to get away from Trump with the advantage going to the other side as airport chaos was greater than expected.

He is trying to get back the correct frame.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Another Media Win!

Liberals, Listen up!

Sometimes when liberals think they are winning they are losing.    And it is happening again.

Trump incompetent vs. Trump showing strength.   Yesterday this blog noted that the controversy of the day--Trump's tiff with Mexico--was understood by the left as a sign of Trump's foreign policy incompetence, the dangerous bull in a china shop.  No. A great many people saw it as Trump letting Mexico know that we are on top and they are the small, poor, weak country we can push around, and a great many American thought it was high time we asserted ourselves and Trump was putting the natural order of things back in place.

Two views: Trump creates disorder or Trump restores order.
Americans saw the same event and understood the story in very different ways.

It is happening again today.  The Trump executive order on refugees was bound to create chaos at America's airports.  Chaos is taking place at JFK and Dulles and DWF and LAX.   

What is going on?   Answer:  a media war that Trump is winning.

What good liberals are watching on MSNBC and in the mainstream media is:
   1. Breaking News Chaos.
   2. Reporters standing with microphones and noisy crowds behind them.
   3. References to the ACLU and to professors and to lawyers and to "constitutional scholars."
   4. References to federal judges and "stays."
   5. Families and friends of the detained being jostled and in a noisy airport expressing outrage, complaining about Trump causing chaos.
   6. Environment of crowd noise and disruption.

Liberals see Court; Conservatives see Disruption
What Trump supporters are watching is essentially the same thing.  But what they are seeing and integrating into their mindset is disruption and disorder and strange people trying to enter America and Trump acting decisive to say these people may be dangerous.  They see a battle between these disrupters (aided by ACLU lawyers with all their technicalities) versus a plain spoken man who said maybe amid the disruption there may be dangerous people.  The ACLU is positioned as fighting not for "regular Americans" and their rights but for outsiders/others who are trying to get into America.

The quick optics of the situation pits disruption vs. safety.   Simple as that.

Aren't the facts way more complicated?  Of course, but the complications are for the people who are paying close attention, for people who understand immigration law and Visa requirements and Green Cards and the potential certification of class action lawsuits by federal judges: very few people.

Fox view:  Trump restores order.
Readers of this blog need to remember that only 56% of eligible Americans of voting age actually voted in the presidential election.  Some have a great reason for not voting:  some are comatose in hospice, some had family emergencies, etc., but the overwhelming reason people did not vote was that they didn't care very much.  Most people don't pay all that close attention.  They get quick impressions on who stands for what and this is the basis for their voting behavior, at least among swing voters who decide elections.

They see a simple, clear drama:  scruffy people in disrupted airport crowds clamoring on behalf of people trying to get into America and Trump saying not-so-fast, safety first.   This is a win for Trump.   

People who can name the federal judges practicing in their states and their likelihood of supporting a stay on a presidential order are less than one in a hundred and they already know how they will vote.  The vast majority of people aren't that interested.  They get quick impressions of who is on what side and it solidifies their pre-existing view of the world. 

Trump appears to be on the side of regular Americans who don't want their airports disrupted by outside agitators backed by the ACLU.

Meanwhile, in Saigon. . . . 

Thad Guyer writes his own thoughts on optics and MSNBC with what he says was a dream about Rachel Maddow.

"Dreaming of Rachel Maddow”

I dreamed of Rachel Maddow last night. We were snapping selfies as we mused over America’s culture wars. “You went all InfoWars tonight”, I chided her, as we leaned against some kind of a wall beneath a warm sun. Secure in our camaraderie, I jokingly needled her about her show’s ongoing conspiracy theory of Russians stealing the election from Hillary. I woke up just as passersby were photographing us.

Freud isn’t needed to interpret: I listen to Rachel’s podcasts at bedtime, and my dream was triggered by anxiety both over Trump, and my friends thinking I’ve gone to the dark side in my Upclose guest posts. I think a lot these days about my real life socialist journalist friend in Paris who warned me about the fate of Trotskyites—politicos who break from orthodoxy yet remain in the fold. His warnings to fellow socialists about overreach subjected him to biting criticism.  

My limerent* dream coalesced my support for Rachel despite increasingly sounding like InfoWars, that online conspiracy show that inspires millions of conservative viewers. News is not fake if it’s presented merely as conspiracy theory, no matter how outrageous the claims. InfoWars packages its accusations against the diabolical left as “you heard it here first”, connecting the dots of thin facts into big alarming pictures. It’s entertaining, feeds viewer ideology, and calls them to political action. That’s what Rachel is now doing in her MSNBC slot, unapologetically positioning her show as a bulkhead of activism, pressure and resistance in protecting the American Way from Trump.

The night of my dream, she had hyped the unholy Trump-Putin conspiracy with new opaque facts about the arrest of two KGB agents. These arrests, she speculated, may be the Kremlin silencing spooks who leaked information to the former British MI6 private eye who compiled the Moscow Ritz prostitution dossier on Trump. Rachel thinks the MI6 guy is hiding not from the paparazzi but from Russians with poison-tipped umbrellas. Alternatively, the New York Times reported “anonymous sources” speculating that the arrested KGB agents might have been CIA informants about “Putin’s direct involvement” in defeating Clinton. I also listened to a New Yorker podcast with the Buzzfeed editor who published the prostitution dossier, defending himself that its not fake news as long as it’s prefaced with the warning that it might all be bogus— "let the reader decide what’s true”, he proclaimed.

Why do I like the conspiracy theories, and accept that it’s ok as long as Rachel and Buzzfeed are upfront that it might all be wrong? Dreaming of Rachel answered my questions: Trump is so adept in manipulating public opinion, and so effective paired with a Republican Congress, that the left seems unable to slow his excesses armed only with conventional rules of journalism. The Buzzfeed editor was explicit on this point, demanding it’s up to a younger generation of bloggers to do what “legacy media” will not in delegitimizing Trump. He dismissed criticisms of him as “spurious”.

Might eroding journalistic convention open a Pandora’s box we’ll later regret? It this like gutting the filibuster to get Obama’s appointees though during our delusion that “a new Democratic majority” would guarantee a Clinton win? Is Trump such a threat that it’s worth the risk? I fear not, but in dreaming about Rachel Maddow, I learned this: It feels good to watch dueling fake news, alternative facts, and conspiracies. While I support Trump’s core policies such as trade and secure borders, his raw political power invites unprecedented abuses. If Trump has so disemboweled the press from succeeding in its critical role of checking that power within conventional journalistic norms, then the ends may well justify the means. But I doubt it. 

*Limerent.  You don't run into this word every day.   It means infatuated and obsessed, but not necessarily sexually.  I had to look it up.  Peter Sage.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Down is Up. Trump and Putin Win by Losing

Trump and Putin show how it is done.  The media doesn't understand they are being used.  Progressives haven't yet figured it out.  

Down is up.   Let me explain.

Two news stories are out and being talked about.   One is the apparent mess Trump is making with our relations with Mexico. The other is the very conspicuous arrest for treason of some Russian cyber-spy people.

Big news.  Controversy!    On the surface the messages reflect problems and people are upset.  That is perfectly fine for Trump and Putin.  The more talk the better.   

Coastal Liberals expected this:  a New Yorker cartoon
The Trump mess with Mexico involves a potential tariff on Mexican imports, which will have multiple consequences on supply chains.   TV announcers say Mexico-US relations are at the worst condition in 100 years.  A former Mexican president says they will never "pay for the ----ing wall!"  Trump has a 3% approval rating in Mexico.  Now there is a back-and-forth spat over the location of a wall and then mechanisms for extracting money from Mexico.  Trump floats a 20% tariff idea.  The news announces a presidential visit by the Mexican president,  first scheduled and then cancelled.   Big mess. 

Progressives are delighted.   They think it shows Trump to be incompetent, a wild man having a very bad first week.  The liberal and sophisticated media was ready and waiting for this and Trump gave them just what they want.   Trump is having tantrum over Mexico, making silly demands.  It feeds the notion of Trump as a crazy bull in that china shop, upsetting relations with a neighbor.   

Perfect.  But not for progressives.  For Trump. 

Trump's people want that fight with Mexico.   As this blog noted yesterday, a great many people feel that America's place in the world, one of overwhelming power, primacy, and respect has eroded.  They feel that upstarts and the undeserving are stepping into line ahead of Americans and they resent it. This is backlash against affirmative action.   It is backlash against uppity behavior by women, Hispanics, the poor.   It is backlash against the courtly and internationalist manner of Barrack Obama.

They notice (as I personally did, when considering a new car to buy) that a Ford product was assembled in Hermosillo, Mexico.  They do not want and American president to deal respectfully as a peer with the Mexican president.  They want America visibly to bully the Mexican president and Mexican people.  America on top.  America first.

You pay for our wall.

American voters do not understand supply chains and balance of payments with Mexico nor do they care very much.  They assume that the business people and economists will more or less work things out.  What they do know is whether Mexico shows America deference and respect or whether they presume to deal with us as peers.   Americans want Mexico to say "Si, Senior" in some visible way.

Trump is not upsetting the apple cart.  He is setting right the apple cart: America on top.  We make the rules.   Mexico pays for the wall, or at least appears to.   Make America great again.
Watch out for Russia

Meanwhile, Russia conspicuously arrests some Russian cyber-spies for cooperating with Americans, and does it by locating them in public and putting a bag over their heads and marching them out of a room in the presence of others. It could not have been more visible.   What is going on?   Isn't this showing Putin to be an authoritarian dictator?  Doesn't this arrest only focus attention on the fact that Russia, notwithstanding denials,  was in fact involved with the hacking and influencing the American election?   Isn't that bad for Putin?

No.  It is perfect for Putin.  It confirms what the world knew.  That Russia messed with the American election, that Putin would do a bald faced lie about it.  It confirmed that Russia could do whatever it wanted.

It demonstrated to America and to every other democracy that the Russian ability to project power is very long and very powerful.  Russia does not have to send nuclear missiles to destroy democracies in the West.  Little people in faraway Siberia can do it.  Russia need not send suicide squads to hijack jets to ram into buildings.  Russia has far better first strike capability: cyber attacks on vulnerable spots, the power grid, the financial system, even the very democratic process.

Trump sent a blunt message to his fellow Americans: the American president bullies the Mexican president.   

Putin sent a blunt message to western democracies: Russia's reach is far and I can destroy you.

Criticism of Trump by the coastal elites only spreads the idea that Trump wants spread: America First, Mexico grovels.  

Angry bipartisan investigations of  Russian hacking only spreads the message Putin wants spread: Russia is dangerous.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Laugh out Loud

Very Bad Lip Reading

Sit back and enjoy something very, very funny.   It is Friday.  You deserve a break today.  This blog needs to lighten up a little.  Right?

Click Here. Four minutes of Fun.

Very bad lip reading.

Why Trump Won: A Narrative of Others Cutting in Line

Metaphor of How the World Works.   People like us are getting screwed and we resent it.

My effort to get up close to the candidates and their audiences in the campaign gave me some insights I would not have received from TV.

1.  Trump crowds were enthusiastic.  Trump was with the crowd, fed off it, and was getting policy insight from them.

2.  Hillary was not connecting.  Even her base voters were not really fired up, except for women who projected their own struggles onto Hillary and for whom she was an example of womanhood empowered at long last.

3.  Trump's support was tribal, not based on details of policy.  Indeed his tribal cohort was more material and cohesive than was Hillary's.   White women, religious people, and Republicans voted with Trump. 

South Carolina Tea Party Audience

An ongoing premise of this blog is that humans make political decisions based on intuition and identification and rarely on objective rational judgement based on calculated self interest.   

People have narratives in their minds about how the world works.  It is why a woman who has used Planned Parenthood in her young adulthood and who has two children after a long marriage can stand up and cheer when a politician says he will defund Planned Parenthood.   It is why a man who regularly shops at Walmart will cheer at the thought that we will put a tariff on goods manufactured from China.  

Tea Party Patriot, in costume

The most reliable applause lines in the campaign speeches of Republican candidates were criticism of Obamaphones.     

There was a story widely circulated that Obama arranged for low income people to get free phones at taxpayer expense.  The following email circulated in a chain mail is a typical example of the genre.

Email circulated expressing resentment over Obamaphones

In fact, the program was initiated under President Reagan in 1984 and expanded under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.   The intent was to lower taxpayer costs by giving the lowest  income people way to access the police and emergency services as well as ways for service agencies to contact them.  The notion that the program serves a public safety need rather than an entitlement giveaway, and that it was initiated by Reagan creates complications resolved by calling them "Obamaphones."

Now the moral direction is clear.  They are a giveaway to the undeserving. 

Tea Party Convention
I don't doubt that there are policy pros and cons for the distribution of these phones, but the facts and reality are completely irrelevant.   What is relevant is how powerfully the Obamaphone narrative struck a deep chord.  It made sense to people and a vast number of people thought it was an outrage when they associated it with Obama.  It clicked.  This is what is wrong with America.  The undeserving are getting stuff at our expense.  Hard work is disrespected and benefits are going to people who are not one of us.   

This blog has mentioned this several times over the past year as I watched audiences respond to the Obamaphone outrage.  They stood up and cheered wildly.

Poster Villain for what is wrong with America
A YouTube video went viral and I received multiple suggestions from politically conservative friends that I watch this video.   A aggressive black woman praises her Obamaphone and urges people to support Obama.   Click Here

Sociologist Arlie Russell Hothschild outlined a more general narrative and metaphor of American politics.  Her close attention to the voices of Tea Party members allowed her to hear the underlying narrative, something not captured by data.    I heard the same thing but Hothschild says it so elegantly I will simply quote her at length.

Democrats and Progressives who wonder why working class Democrats abandoned the party, particularly in regions where manufacturing jobs were conspicuously leaving need to review and integrate this understanding of America into their mindsets.  

Progressive language and policy can deal with and use this mindset by co-opting it.  What it cannot do an win electoral vote victories is ignore it or define it as racism.   The notion of unjust privilege is an appeal to the sense of morality and fairness that touches nearly all Americans.   Fairness is not a conservative value.  It is a universal value.  A great many voters thought they were being treated unfairly and they resented it and they voted for a person who they thought saw things their way.

Arlie Russell Hothschild:

       You are standing in a long line leading up a hill, as in a pilgrimage, patient but weary. You are in the middle of this line, along with others who are also white, older, Christian, native-born, and predominantly male, some with college degrees, some not. At the crest of the hill is the American Dream, the goal of everyone waiting in line, a standard of living higher than that your parents enjoyed. Many behind you in line are people of color—poor, young and old, mainly without college degrees. You wish them well, but your attention is trained on those ahead of you. And now you notice the line isn’t moving. In fact, is it moving backward?
      You’ve suffered. You’ve had marriage problems, and you are helping out a troubled sibling and an ill co-worker. Your church has seen you through hard times. You’ve shown strong character, and the American Dream is a badge of moral honor, as you see it, for that.
      But look! Some people are coming from behind and cutting in line ahead of you! As they cut in, you are being moved back. How can they just do that? You’re following the rules. They aren’t. Who are they? They are black. They are brown. They are career-driven women, helped by Affirmative Action programs.
      The liberal government wants you to believe they have a right to cut ahead. You’ve heard stories of oppressed blacks, dominated women, weary immigrants, closeted gays, desperate Syrian refugees. But at some point, you say to yourself, we have to build a wall against more sympathy. You feel like a refugee yourself.
      You’re a compassionate person. But now you’ve been asked to extend your sympathy to all the people who have cut in line ahead of you. And who’s supervising the line? It’s a black man whose middle name is Hussein. He’s waving the line cutters on. He’s on their side. He’s their president, not yours. What’s more, all the many things the federal government does to help them don’t help you. Should the government really help anyone? Beyond that, from ahead in line, you hear people calling you insulting names: “Crazy redneck!” “White trash!” “Ignorant southern Bible-thumper!” You don’t recognize yourself in how others see you. You are a stranger in your own land. Who recognizes this?
        Arlie Russell Hothschild:   Click here for the full article

Thursday, January 26, 2017

China: Winning the long game

Planting seeds for the next century.

China is doing its own messaging.    China is playing a long game.   They are doing things now which will affect the role of China twenty five and fifty years from now.  

I attended an event involving the Confucius Institute at a local private high school.  They had invested in exposing China to Americans by sending teachers to the high school to teach Chinese language and culture.   Some of the graduates of the high school have had four and five years of Chinese language instruction.

The group of about twenty are here on a goodwill ambassadorship tour, sharing information about China.  There were dancers, marshal arts gymnasts, musicians.   They played some Chinese traditional songs, plus American songs.   We heard Jingle Bells.  

The world is small, they said.   We seek peace and harmony.

The point of this blog is simple so it will be short.  China is doing nonverbal messaging.  China is communicating subtle signals of their position in the world.   I liken it to the helicopter entrances by Trump and the decision of press secretary Sean Spicer to switch to dark suits and white shirts.  China has a past, in which they felt humiliated by western countries that treated it as a colony to exploit and then by the Japanese who invaded and terrorized its citizens.   China remembers that during a time of immigration to America China alone was subject to an act of exclusion, the Chinese Exclusion Act.   That was then.

    Now China is so rich and successful they can offer American free teachers so Americans can learn something they want to learn.

   Now China is very proud of its history and culture.  It is ancient, much older than western culture.  

   Now China comes not as students, but as teachers.  They are low key missionaries to a land that would benefit from knowing them better.

   Now China comes in peace, seeking harmony and prosperity.

Click here: 60 second ad
China is not expecting short term results.  This is not a trade deal that provides short term advantage to anyone.  They are planting seeds for trees that take a generation or more to grow.  They are positioning China as a senior member of the family of nations.  

One hundred years ago the assumption of Americans was that the Chinese were an inferior country, suitable for exploitation.  They have repositioned.  Trump amplified the notion of China as a great danger, laughing at American weakness.  The ad,  set in Beijing in 2030, exemplifies this.  America has been defeated and humiliated by China.

China is sending another message with the Confucius Institute.  We are your peer and we can work in harmony.   

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Looking Authoratative

Donald Trump was right to tell Sean Spicer to change clothes.

Dark blue and black suits project power and authoritativeness.  Green and brown suits project service to power and inquiry.  Tan suits project casual accommodation to power.

This is real.  Humans may not notice how they react, but it is how we react.  Trump understands this.

Sean Spicer is the press secretary for Donald Trump.  There was news this week that Trump was unhappy with his clothes.  Some media commented negatively that Trump had better things to do than critique his press secretary's clothes. 

Trump understands very well how to project power with unspoken body language, starting with clothes.   

Sean Spicer went out on stage after the inauguration with two agendas that were overt and acknowledged, and one that was the bigger but unspoken:

Goal #1:  Assert that Donald Trump had the biggest crowds ever, period, and sell it.

Goal #2:  Blast the media for being wrong, for lying, for fake news.

Unspoken, but actual goal:  To define from day one that Trump is more authoritative than the media in all things.

You demand: "Let me talk to your manager."
Sean Spicer failed on all three goals in part because he did not look and sound authoritative.  He wore a light colored suit and it didn't fit.  His tie was not fully snug.  He looked harried and weak.

Take a second and look at the photo in the grey suit:  Doesn't he look like the overworked man in middle management you talk to who tells you unwelcome news.  You can see him saying, "I'm sorry, but that is our policy."  You tell this man that you want to speak to his manager.

Trump apparently told him he looked weak and to get new clothes.  He did.

Sean Spicer came the next day wearing a very dark blue suit against a white shirt and reddish tie pulled up snug.  

He says: "I am the manager.  Can I help you?"

Our perception of power in others is drawn more or less unconsciously, and our instinct is to deny its importance because it seems so irrational.  But look at these two photographs.   Which one looks like the manager and which one looks like the assistant manager?

It is irrational, but it is real.

Donald Trump understands body language and nonverbal communication.  Sometimes he was transparent in his use of it.   His arriving at events with booming music.  His descent into venues by helicopter.  His standing behind lecterns wearing dark blue suits.  His walking over to Hillary in a debate and looming over her.  His criticizing her stamina, his criticizing Rubio's stature, his criticism of Jeb Bush as weak.  

Donald Trump looked presidential.  His quick trip to Mexico and back to Arizona, where he met with the Mexican president and got photographed then came back to the US and blasted Mexico, projected Donald Trump as a fearless and cruel leader, willing to be rude and dismissive of someone he had just visited. It showed domination.

Still in power
Barrack Obama understood the dress code of power.   Briefly, in mid summer, he wore light colored suits for a few days and was criticized for it. Congressman Peter King blasted him for discussing the American response to ISIS while wearing a light tan suit.

Obama's final press conference he joked about it.  In the closing moments of his presidency he said he considered wearing a tan suit but Michelle talked him out of it because it was mid-winter.  But Obamas reference was clear. He knew what a light colored suit implied and projected.  His time of power was nearly gone.  But since he still had it, he dressed the part of presidential power, in a deeply dark suit.

Sean Spicer is now dressing the part.  Trump is attempting a fundamental change in the relationship between the president and the media.   Trump wants what he says and his assertions of facts to be more reliable than the facts presented by the media.  Kellyanne Conway's mention of "alternative facts" was not a joke or example of mis-speaking.   It was an open acknowledgement of a new regime in presidential news. The lying media will say what they think is true and Donald Trump will say what he thinks is true. The media will do it with mixed voices and with some effort, real or pretend, to sound fair minded.  Donald Trump will speak his truth loud and clear and with certainty.

Then let the people decide.

Doubting the Election Results

There is one side in American politics publicly asserting that the election results were fraudulent.  The winner.   

Is Trump crazy?   Crazy like a fox.

56 seconds of smiles and bowed heads

Donald Trump has made "official truth" and Trump-truth equal in status.

Donald Trump, yesterday and in the Oval Office, told Congressional leaders that the recent election that put him in office had deeply fraudulent vote counts and that in fact he won the popular vote.  He said some 3 to 5 million votes were cast for Hillary Clinton fraudulently.

No election official in any state or jurisdiction agrees with this assertion, but Trump made it multiple times, firmly and with intention.

Meanwhile, Democrats have accepted reluctantly the results of the election.  They assert, with the backing of CIA and FBI information, that the Russians intentionally hacked and selectively leaked information intended to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Trump.  It is very unclear whether it actually changed the election results, but in any case Democrats with national standing are accepting that the votes of those voters, deluded by Trump's charm or bad stories on Facebook or true emails leaked from the DNC or for whatever reason, voted for Trump.   So, Trump won the electoral vote and is president.

The effort to audit the results in Michigan and Wisconsin do not challenge the integrity and legitimacy of the win.  An audit does not de-legitimize the fact, it re-checks and verifies them.  The audit showed the un-happy result for Democrats: it was very, very close but Trump won.  And audit isn't being a sore loser or denying reality.  It is being a careful loser and checking reality.

Democratic efforts to note that Trump lost the popular vote is not an effort to delegitimize his election, only his mandate.  Democrats admit he is president.  They don't like it but they accept it.   What they don't accept is that he is president who represents the landslide will of the people.  He won with a minority of the votes.  That, too, is not being a sore loser.  It is the simple truth and intended to weaken Trump's mandate, not take away his office.

The odd thing is that Trump is saying the election is fraudulent.  The simple and straightforward reason for this is that it bothers Trump to lose at anything--a weakness of his--and he recognizes that his informal influence and credibility would be stronger if he had won both the popular vote and electoral vote.  Then he could say he speaks for a majority.  

So he pretends he does, and delegitimizes his own election, saying that he "really" won, when you take away the fraudulent votes supposedly won by Hillary.   Now he has a "mandate from the people".

But there is one other reason, deeper and more important.  Trump is de-legitimizing alternative sources of power and credibility.   Trump's ability to define what is believable requires that alternative sources of information and reality be delegitimized.   Some sources of alternative reality are easy to delegitimize.  Congress has some 13% approval rate.  The "political establishment" in Washington has bi-partisan opposition, evidenced by the Sanders and Trump vote.  The media lies, he says.  Experts and economists and academics of all kinds thought globalism was sound policy and Trump said they were wrong; the Brexit vote and the Trump election show that a great many people agree.

There was one other source of credibility: election officials in the fifty states, with their own independent count.   They are wrong, Trump says.  My count is right and I "really" won.   Now election results are not matter-of-fact.  They are matters of opinion.   The Trump media machine backs him up.

Trump is not crazy.  He is crafty and his strategy is successful.   He has made the election result a question of partisan opinion.  People who are inclined to believe Trump are free to do so.   Trump is held up to ridicule by the mainstream media for asserting something demonstrably inaccurate, but in fact Trump is winning the big war by doing so.  The more the media is forced to argue and persuade people to see the election results as credible the more they demonstrate that the election results are a matter of controversy, therefore a matter of opinion, therefore not a accepted reality.    Making Trump-truth equivalent to "official-truth" is a giant elevation in status for Trump.