Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Shock Event

From US/GOP historian, BC professor Heather Cox Richardson:
I don't like to talk about politics on Facebook-- political history is my job, after all, and you are my friends-- but there is an important non-partisan point to make today.
What Bannon is doing, most dramatically with last night's ban on immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries-- is creating what is known as a "shock event." Such an event is unexpected and confusing and throws a society into chaos. People scramble to react to the event, usually along some fault line that those responsible for the event can widen by claiming that they alone know how to restore order. When opponents speak out, the authors of the shock event call them enemies. As society reels and tempers run high, those responsible for the shock event perform a sleight of hand to achieve their real goal, a goal they know to be hugely unpopular, but from which everyone has been distracted as they fight over the initial event. There is no longer concerted opposition to the real goal; opposition divides along the partisan lines established by the shock event.
Last night's Executive Order has all the hallmarks of a shock event. It was not reviewed by any governmental agencies or lawyers before it was released, and counter terrorism experts insist they did not ask for it. People charged with enforcing it got no instructions about how to do so. Courts immediately have declared parts of it unconstitutional, but border police in some airports are refusing to stop enforcing it.
Predictably, chaos has followed and tempers are hot.
My point today is this: unless you are the person setting it up, it is in no one's interest to play the shock event game. It is designed explicitly to divide people who might otherwise come together so they cannot stand against something its authors think they won't like. I don't know what Bannon is up to-- although I have some guesses-- but because I know Bannon's ideas well, I am positive that there is not a single person whom I consider a friend on either side of the aisle-- and my friends range pretty widely-- who will benefit from whatever it is. If the shock event strategy works, though, many of you will blame each other, rather than Bannon, for the fallout. And the country will have been tricked into accepting their real goal.
But because shock events destabilize a society, they can also be used positively. We do not have to respond along old fault lines. We could just as easily reorganize into a different pattern that threatens the people who sparked the event. A successful shock event depends on speed and chaos because it requires knee-jerk reactions so that people divide along established lines. This, for example, is how Confederate leaders railroaded the initial southern states out of the Union. If people realize they are being played, though, they can reach across old lines and reorganize to challenge the leaders who are pulling the strings. This was Lincoln's strategy when he joined together Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers, anti-Nebraska voters, and nativists into the new Republican Party to stand against the Slave Power. Five years before, such a coalition would have been unimaginable. Members of those groups agreed on very little other than that they wanted all Americans to have equal economic opportunity. Once they began to work together to promote a fair economic system, though, they found much common ground. They ended up rededicating the nation to a "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Confederate leaders and Lincoln both knew about the political potential of a shock event. As we are in the midst of one, it seems worth noting that Lincoln seemed to have the better idea about how to use it.
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Friday, January 20, 2017

What Obama Leaves for Trump

Nancy LeTourneau, writing for the Washington Monthly, compiled a short list of vital indicators on the day that President Obama leaves office. You should read the entire article, but here's an excerpt:

Washington Monthly | Political Animal Blog: "As we await Donald Trump’s swearing in today, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at some of the key indicators as a baseline for a dashboard of performance by the incoming administration. This is a summary of a few of the metrics they will inherit:

  • Unemployment rate: 4.7% 
  • Underemployment rate: 9.2%
  • Labor Force Participation Rate: 62.7% 
  • Federal deficit: 3.2% of GDP 
  • Dow Jones: 19,732 
  • Uninsured rate: 9% 
  • Medicare is projected to be solvent until 2028 
  • Number of troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria: 14,700 (6,000/8,400/300)"

It's your move, Comrade Donnie...

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Saturday, January 07, 2017

Richard White's answer to How has Hillary Clinton not been charged, indicted, or arrested for anything regarding the email scandal? - Quora

I'm sure your Crazy Uncle Who Watches Fox News will mutter or already has muttered something about Hillary Clinton being corrupt, and will wonder or has wondered why she isn't in jail. Of course, the short answer is that we don't jail people because Fox News doesn't like them. But here's a longer, more succinct answer:Richard White's answer to How has Hillary Clinton not been charged, indicted, or arrested for anything regarding the email scandal? - Quora:

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