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The Wrongologist

Geopolitics, Power and Political Economy

Sunday Cartoon Blogging – January 31, 2016

Big week for news. The Bundy standoff winds down, Trump & Fox, Planned Parenthood, Iowa, and Barbie’s makeover. Most of Bundy Brigade have been arrested:

BUNDY STANDOFF

But Robert “LaVoy” Finicum, a 54-year-old Arizona rancher was killed at an FBI checkpoint. Finicum seemed deluded but decent, thinking he was doing his patriotic duty. But like the rest, he was misled by bad information, and a barrage of lies. Despite what extremists claim, there are no internment camps positioned to lock up patriots, no black helicopters waiting to attack, no government agents massing to confiscate guns, and no reason for citizens to occupy government land with arms. But because there are earnest-but-gullible citizens who take these lies to heart, Finicum may not be the last martyr for a ridiculous cause.

Fox debate is shadow of former self:

COW Fox Debate

The Trump/Kelly poutrage was brilliant strategy:

COW Donald and Megan

Cruz still pushin’ his values in Iowa:

COW NY Values

Cruz looks to be auditioning for attack-dog vice presidential contender. Wherever Spiro Agnew is now, he must be smiling and nodding in approval.

Iowa will be over soon. What’s next?

COW Whats Next

Planned Parenthood grand jury surprised everybody:

Clay Bennett, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Apparently we misunderstood what it meant to come to this country to practice religious freedoms – it really is the freedom for the guy on the right to force everyone else to follow his religion.

Barbie’s makeover will do nothing for women:

COW Barbie

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Why 2016 Won’t Be Like Any Other Election

If we add together the polling numbers of Trump, Sanders and Cruz, it’s clear that a majority of the electorate is ready for a president from well outside the political mainstream.

Start with the Trump slogan, “Make America Great Again“. It’s the first time in Wrongo’s memory that an explicit admission that America isn’t so great has been heard in an American presidential election. In a world where American Exceptionalism is settled dogma, how and why can a Republican say “we ain’t so great”, and be so successful?

Of course, that same dynamic also drives the willingness of voters to support the Democratic Socialist, Sanders. Bernie offers a different solution to the economic woes that the two parties have inflicted on us in the 35 years since we elected Ronald Reagan. Now, a substantial and very motivated part of the electorate on both the right and left, is telling pollsters that something different has to be on the table.

The old electioneering rules won’t work. We are in a time of anger and anxiety. Republicans go for the emotional jugular every day, while establishment Democrats are still trying to make points with a mix of policy, pragmatism and feel-good idealism. Democrats will have to decide whether they see the current political landscape as an opportunity to free themselves of these old terms of debate, or take full ownership of them moving forward.

Regardless of the GOP candidate, emotion will dominate their argument for the White House. John Michael Greer had an insightful piece last week about ways to look at voter motivations in America:

The notion [is] that the only divisions in American society that matter are those that have some basis in biology. Skin color, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability—these are the lines of division in society that Americans like to talk about, whatever their attitudes to the people who fall on one side or another of those lines.

The axiom in politics is that voters in these “divisions” tend to vote as blocs, and campaigns are designed to bring the bloc to the candidate. That’s less true today. Greer takes a deep dive into today’s politics, suggesting the largest differentiator:

It so happens that you can determine a huge amount about the economic and social prospects of people in America today by asking one remarkably simple question: how do they [earn] most of their income?

He posits that it’s usually from one of four sources: returns from investments, a monthly salary, an hourly wage, or a government welfare check. People who get most of their income in one of those four ways have political interests in common, so much so that it’s meaningful to speak of the American people as divided into an investor class, a salaried class, a wage class, and a welfare class.

The old divisions, women, gay people, people of color, are found in all four income classes. Finally JMG has a killer thought: The political wave that Trump and Sanders are riding has roots in the answer to another simple question: Over the last half century, how have the four classes fared? The answer is that three of the four have remained roughly where they were. The wage class in particular has been destroyed. And the beneficiaries were the investor and salaried classes. They drove down wages, offshored production, and destroyed our manufacturing base. More from JMG:

I see the Trump candidacy as a major watershed in American political life, the point at which the wage class—the largest class of American voters…has begun to wake up to its potential power and begin pushing back against the ascendancy of the salary class.

That pushback could become a defining force in American politics. The problem with that viewpoint is that their desired change is anti-business and anti-middle-class. And THAT change is not acceptable to those who control our politics, most of whom are squarely in the investor and salaried classes.

And a Trump candidacy is not the worst form it could take. If Trump is sidelined by another establishment type, a future leader who takes up the cause of the wage class could very well be fond of armbands or, of roadside bombs. Like the Bundy Brigade on steroids.

Once the politics of resentment becomes a viable strategy, anything can happen.

Read Greer’s analysis. Think about how the salaried class attack on Bernie as “socialist” might actually play out for Sanders, assuming he could analyze and communicate what is really going on here.

Think about how Hillary Clinton might stumble over the problems of the wage class, given her fervid support from the investor and salaried classes.

The usual fight for independent voters using conventional wisdom will not succeed in this political cycle.

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Millennial Women Back Bernie

Today we continue our focus on the demographics of the 2016 presidential elections. We covered American millennials in December, and return to them again because a new USA Today/Ipsos poll finds that a third say they’re likely to vote in the Republican primaries, while 40% say they’re likely to vote in the Democratic primaries; 60% said they are likely to vote in November.

That means that 70% overall say they will vote in the primaries, but 10% fewer say they will vote in the general election. But that may be good news, since only about 50% voted in 2012, the same as in 2008.

The poll was taken just prior to the SOTU. From USA Today:

The top issue by far for millennials is the economy, including concerns about jobs, the minimum wage and paid leave. On that, millennials have the same pocketbook focus as baby boomers and Gen Xers.

An interesting finding was that voters age 18-35 are most likely to support outsider candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump:

Donald Trump easily leads the field among younger Republicans and independents, at 26%, but that is a lower level of support than the billionaire businessman now holds in the overall electorate. He is backed by 34% of GOP voters in the RealClearPolitics average of recent national surveys.

But among Democrats, there’s something of a surprise: (editing and brackets by the Wrongologist)

On the Democratic side, among the overall electorate in national polls, Clinton now leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by close to 20 percentage points. But Sanders [in our poll]…has captured the allegiance of younger voters. [He]…is leading Clinton, 46%-35%, among millennial Democrats and independents.

Taking a closer look at the Democratic millennial voter preferences, Sanders’s support breaks young: Among the 18 to 25 year-olds, Sanders has a big lead. Among those 26 to 34, Clinton has a small edge.

There are gender gaps. We know from other polls that Clinton leads among baby boomer women. In this poll, men under 35 support Sanders by 4 percentage points. But, millennial women back Sanders by almost 20 points. The possibility of electing the first female president apparently has less persuasive power among younger women than their mothers’ generation.

A big question is whether or not Democratic millennials will show up to vote for the party’s nominee in the general election, if Hillary Clinton is the nominee.

Other findings:

• By 80%-10%, those surveyed say the US should transition to mostly clean or renewable energy by 2030.
• By 82%-12%, millennials support background checks for all gun purchasers, and there was no partisan divide on the issue: 89% of millennial Democrats and 83% of millennial Republicans support gun background checks.
• By 66%-33%, millennials see police violence against African Americans as a problem, and 75% say the government should require police officers to wear body cameras.
• 47% say the US should commit ground troops to combat ISIS, while 37% disagree. But there is a partisan divide: 69% of Republicans support deploying ground forces; while a plurality of Democrats (45%) oppose the idea.
• 57% say they are optimistic about the future of the US; 34% are pessimistic.

The U.S. Census Bureau says millennials surpassed baby boomers as the largest group in the US voting-age population. Millennials do not peak in the US population until 2036, so they are going to be in charge of our politics for the next 25 years, assuming they turn out to vote.

As the Wrongologist noted in December:

In 2012, young voters were decisive in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio…Obama won at least 61% of the youth vote in those four states, and if Romney had achieved a 50-50 split, he could have flipped those states…

And been elected president.

(The survey was conducted online by Ipsos in conjunction with Rock the Vote last Monday through Thursday, of 1,141 adults between the ages 18 through 34. The credibility interval, akin to a margin of error, is plus or minus 3.5 %.)

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Misinformed vs. Uninformed (Cont.)

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” (Mark Twain)

Yesterday, we linked to an article describing the difference between being misinformed and being uninformed. Uninformed people have no information about a subject, while those who are misinformed have information that conflicts with the best evidence and expert opinion.

How are so many people getting misinformed, and staying that way? Why does it work?

You probably have never heard of Robert Proctor, from Stanford, who wrote a book about ignorance, in which he tries to answer the question: What keeps ignorance alive, or allows it to be used as a political instrument? He calls this “Agnotology” (the study of ignorance). Proctor’s point is that ignorance has a political geography, and there are things people will work hard to keep you from knowing.

Apparently, his work started with the tobacco industry, who at some point used the slogan: “Doubt is our product“.

Proctor explains that ignorance can be propagated under the guise of balanced debate. For example, the common media approach that there are two opposing views does not always result in a rational conclusion to readers or viewers. This was how tobacco firms used science to make their products look harmless. It is still used today by climate change deniers to argue against the scientific evidence.

Procter, from the BBC:

This ‘balance routine’ has allowed the cigarette men, or climate deniers today, to claim that there are two sides to every story, that ‘experts disagree’ – creating a false picture of the truth, hence ignorance…We live in a world of radical ignorance, and the marvel is that any kind of truth cuts through the noise…Even though knowledge is ‘accessible’, it does not mean it is accessed.

Sound familiar?

In a December focus group with Trump supporters, David Frum, long-time Republican pollster, found that when negative information about Trump was presented, it strengthened the group’s support for him. Participants in the group held on more confidently to their misinformation as the session progressed.

We know that this is a symptom of the culture of American anti-intellectualism. Conspiracy theories have the same clout as legitimate science; the opinions of non-experts are just as credible as those of the experts; and ideology takes precedence over the cold hard facts. In this world, Trump is merely a symptom of that ethos and an industry dedicated to propagating doubt.

We all remember Stephen Colbert saying: “reality has a well-known liberal bias.

And consider a 2012 study that found when people are prompted to use their critical faculties, they become less likely to affirm religious statements. They found that there’s a causal link between “analytical thinking” and religious disbelief.

Perhaps the worst (best?) example was the Republican Party of Texas rejecting critical thinking in its 2012 platform:

We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs [that] have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs.

Hmmm. Teaching HOTS can give you the HOTS? Doubtful.

Perhaps it’s a better thing to not know the facts, instead of knowing a few pretend facts. At least, the uninformed person is persuadable by evidence.

The right-wing noise machine has fed hatred, bigotry, fear and loathing to its base supporters for decades, and Trump is the logical outcome. Most people aren’t all that logical when it comes to politics or political issues, since most of us tend to be ruled more by emotions. But the right-wing propaganda juggernaut has brainwashed some of its followers to the point that they are completely impervious to facts.

The Republicans are not going to laugh the Donald off their stage. They are not going to dissuade his core supporters, the only question is will his supporters vote in the Republican primaries.

If they do turn out, it will be The Donald vs. The Hill in 2016.

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News you can’t use – January 11, 2016

Powerball vs. Trump’o Rama:

COW Powerball

“They say the odds of winning are one in two-hundred and ninety-two million,just slightly better than the chance Donald Trump makes America great again.”

More political news you can’t use:

Trump supporters appear to be misinformed, not uninformed. (538) Americans who have incorrect information can be divided into two groups: the misinformed and the uninformed. Trump’s backers show signs of being misinformed. The difference between the two is stark. Uninformed citizens don’t have any information at all, while those who are misinformed have information that conflicts with the best evidence and expert opinion. Political science research has shown that the behavior of misinformed citizens is different from those who are uninformed, and this difference may explain Trump’s staying power. 538 quotes political researchers as saying the most misinformed citizens tend to be the most confident in their views and are also the strongest partisans.

The towns that love Donald Trump the most. (WaPo) Trump is increasingly holding rallies in cities that rarely see presidential candidates in the primary season. They are also often places that are struggling. They lag behind the country (and their home states) on a number of economic measures. Their median household incomes are lower, and they often have lower rates of home ownership or residents with college degrees. Even though most of these cities have sizable minority populations, the crowds at Trump’s rallies are nearly entirely white. Is Trump planning a third-party run?

Sanders outperforming Clinton in general-election match-ups. (NBC News) Sanders outperforms Clinton in hypothetical general-election match-ups in NH and Iowa. In Iowa:

• Clinton leads Trump by eight points among registered voters (48% to 40%), but Sanders is ahead of him by 13 (51% to 38%)
• Cruz tops Clinton by four points (47% to 43%), while Sanders beats him by five (47% to 42%)
• Rubio is up by five points over Clinton (47% to 42%), but he’s tied with Sanders (44% each)

In New Hampshire:

• Clinton leads Trump by one point (45% to 44%), but Sanders tops him by 19 points (56% to 37%)
• Cruz beats Clinton by four points (48% to 44%), but Sanders leads him by another 19 points (55% to 36%)
• Rubio bests Clinton by 12 points (52% to 40%), while Sanders leads him by nine points (50% to 41%)

The primary reason why Sanders tests better in these general-election match-ups is due to his stronger performance with independent voters.

Other news you can’t use:

Who owns US business? How much tax do they pay? (NEBR) Pass-through entities, partnerships, tax code subchapter S corporations and sole proprietorships, are not subject to corporate income tax. Their income passes directly to their owners and is taxed under whatever tax rules those owners face. In 1980, pass-through entities accounted for 20.7% of US business income; by 2011, they represented 54.2%. Over the same period, the income share of the top 1% of income earners doubled. The growth of income from pass-through entities accounted for 41% of the rise in the income of the top 1%. By linking 2011 partnership and S corporation tax returns with federal individual income tax returns researchers find that over 66% of pass-through business income received by individuals goes to the top 1%.

Last fall, a 7-inch well pipe ruptured 500 feet below the surface of Los Angeles. It was 60 years old. The resulting methane leak is now being called one of the largest environmental disasters since the BP oil spill has pushed thousands of people out of their homes. (Vox) But it’s not the first time this well sprang a leak, and Southern California Gas Company (So Cal Gas), which owns and operates the well, knew it. Will heads roll?

Licensed gun owners can now bring their firearms into Texas’ 10 state psychiatric hospitals. (American-Statesman) Until this year, guns were banned at Texas’s state-run psychiatric facilities. The new Texas open carry law allows gun license holders to openly carry their firearms, including inside the psych hospitals. A second Texas law fines state agencies for wrongly hanging “no guns” signs. Yet hospital employees are prohibited from bringing guns to work.

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What’s the Matter with Kansas? Part Infinity

From the WaPo:

In April 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte, their 7-year-old daughter and their 13-year-old son. The couple, both former CIA analysts, awoke to pounding at the door. When Robert Harte answered, SWAT agents flooded the home.

Read more:

The family was then held at gunpoint for more than two hours while the police searched their home. Though they claimed to be looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation, they later stated that they knew within about 20 minutes that they wouldn’t find any such operation. So they switched to search for evidence of “personal use.” They found no evidence of any criminal activity.

It started when Robert Harte and his son went to a gardening store to purchase supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes for a school project. A state trooper in the store parking lot had the job of collecting license plate numbers of customers, compiling them into a spreadsheet, and sending the spreadsheets to local sheriff’s departments for further investigation.

They were looking for folks who grow marijuana.

Yes, buying gardening supplies could make you the target of a drug investigation in Kansas. Naturally, the family was cleared of any wrongdoing. The Hartes wanted to know why they were targeted. What probable cause did the police have for sending a SWAT team into their home? But that information was difficult to obtain.

Under Kansas law, the sheriff’s department wasn’t obligated to turn over any information related to the raid. They spent more than $25,000 in legal fees to learn why the sheriff had sent a SWAT team into their home. Once they finally had that information, the Hartes filed a lawsuit.

And they lost the case. Last week, US District Court Judge John W. Lungstrum dismissed all of the Hartes’s claims. Lungstrum found that sending a SWAT team into a home first thing in the morning based on no more than a positive reading by an unreliable field test and spotting someone at a gardening store was not a violation of the Hartes’s Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

Think about this:

The Hartes are a white, financially sound couple who both used to work for the CIA. Most people on the receiving end of these raids aren’t white, aren’t middle-class, didn’t once work for a federal intelligence agency and don’t have $25,000 to fund a fight in court…you can imagine the long odds faced by the typical victim of a botched raid.

Another brick is removed from the wall of Constitutional rights that protects you from your government. By the way, the people who support this kind of thing also like to talk a lot about freedom and liberty.

News you can’t use, Trump edition:

Trump says US wages are too high. (Business Insider)

Trump says US Wages are too low. (CNN)

Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke says that Donald Trump speaks “a lot more radically” than he does. (Reader Supported News) David Duke is now a GOP “squish”, since Trump has gone even further right than the KKK.

Personal Note:

Today is the Wrongologist’s birthday. He remembers a time when to be a liberal was to be heroic. It seems that time has returned. Wrongo’s wish for 2016 is an election that provides Americans with the opportunity to debate US policies. However, our politics also provides entertainment to voters along the way to the election.

My prediction is we will see/hear far more ludicrous posturing than serious policy conversations in 2016.

Yet, think about the rest of the world’s politics compared to ours: We peacefully change presidents, elect new congresses, and 50 new state governments.

We do it via the ballot box, not with guns and tanks. This is the strength of our society.

So, PLEASE VOTE IN 2016!

And remember that your vote in a primary election has huge value. That is where the candidate choices are made.

Best wishes for a healthy New Year.

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Christmas Heading Towards the Rear-view

Hope that your Xmas was all that you wanted it to be. Here at the house of Wrong, there were good presents, good fun and good food. Scotch at the fire pit, and awesome desserts.

Fear abounds in the Homeland:

COW Bullet Proof Vests

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News you can’t use:

A list of people who filed to enter the 2016 Presidential race: As of Sunday, 1,446 people have filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for president next year. Among them are: Emperor Frederick Lindsey Lohan Goku (Independence Party), Elsa Is Bae (Unaffiliated), and Rarest Pepe (supported by the Committee to Make Pepe the Rarest). If you are over the age of 36, you can run, even if your name is Anus the Goat (D).

Last year, 848 million people boarded airplanes within the US. Here are 14 behind-the-scenes secrets of TSA agents.

Kentucky Fried Chicken is a Christmas tradition in Japan. Christmas wasn’t celebrated in Japan until recently. There was no food associated with Christmas in Japan. According to KFC, fried chicken became a traditional Xmas food in the 1970s, when the chain’s Aoyama store (in Tokyo) observed that in a land bereft of the customary turkey for a celebratory dinner, fried chicken was the next best thing.

DC’s hottest gift this year is weed. This Christmas is the first since DC’s marijuana legalization, called Initiative 71 went into effect. This means DC residents can legally give skunky-smelling Christmas presents to each other. Ya can’t sell weed in DC, but if you’re giving it away, that’s not a problem. Spark ‘em up!

The list of the top 30 most-played Christmas songs of all time, as compiled by ASCAP shows that nearly two-thirds of these songs were written in the 40s and 50s, when baby boomers were small children. No holiday songs from later than the 2000s crack the top 30. The closest is Mariah Carey’s 1994 hit “All I Want for Christmas is You“. Kill all the Boomers.

You may like this faux interview with the Donald, in which he says that Santa is stupid:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – December 13, 2015

(This is the last column until Thursday 12/17. Wrongo and Ms. Right are in San Francisco. Talk amongst yourselves, keep hands inside the blog at all times.)

The hits keep coming! The San Bernardino killings continue to reverberate in our psyches. People are scared beyond what should be reasonable, given the statistics about killings by Islamic terrorists. The Paris climate agreement is signed, but what will it really do? The Supreme Court considered affirmative action again, with predictable BS from both sides. Trump continues, and Rahm Emmanuel looks to be on the wrong side of justice in Chicago.

Here come the same tired solutions once again:

COW Tom Tomorrow 2

It’s Trump’s world, but so few can live in it:

COW Trump World

 

Chicago’s mayor finally decides to get rolling on solving the problem:

COW Rahm TruckAs mayor, he sat on that video for over a year. He had to know, because the $5 million payment to the victim’s family didn’t come from petty cash at the Chicago PD. He was the chief architect of the cover-up. And he needs to go.

Justice Scalia again covers himself with glory:

COW Scalia Bad Thing

 

Won’t matter what Paris says about climate change:

COW Climate Change

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Waiting for the Great Trumpkin

Today, we focus on this from the WaPo’s Marc Fisher who profiles the kind of people who support Donald Trump and finds they are mostly older white men and women:

The way Joe McCoy sees it, the last time America was great was when Ronald Reagan was president, when people played by the rules. No, it was in the ’70s, Holly Martin says, when you could depend on Americans to work hard. No, to find true American greatness, Steve Trivett contends, you need to go back to before the Vietnam War, ‘when you could still own a home and have a good job even if you didn’t have a college education.’

Fisher says this demographic resonates with the Donald’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. And even if they don’t agree on exactly why, they do accept Trump’s contention that the US has become “an economic wasteland” and that it is “committing cultural suicide.”

The premise behind “Make America Great Again” is that while the country is no longer great, it can be great again, and Trump is the can-do billionaire who can make that happen.

This can be difficult to watch, like a slowly-developing accident on the freeway. People seem so easily misled, and they say such unsophisticated things about immigration, about Putin and Syria, about our economy, about the threat from Muslims who live in America.

But do we have good Party establishment choices in the 2016 election? No, voters don’t have good, clear choices, despite the unprecedented number of candidates.

Republicans made their voters a bunch of promises over the past 10 years, some of which they had no hope of keeping, and others which they had no intention of actually delivering. It’s also clear that the Republican “Establishment” is frustrated with the Republican candidates, and their supporters who actually expected the Party to be more effective. That’s why so many Republican voters have no interest in Jeb Bush or Scott Walker, and it’s clear that the GOP Establishment misunderstands their own base.

So, Donald Trump appeals to many Republicans as someone who’s pretty effective at holding the media’s attention and driving the national conversation. Someone who looks to be a better bet to actually shake things up and make possible a few things that currently look impossible.

It might be a GOP Hail Mary pass, but what’s the alternative?

For Democrats, Hillary Clinton looks like the candidate who’s “turn” has finally come. She is a product of their “establishment” as much as Jeb Bush is of the GOP’s.

And is it really all that different that the progressive left looks to Bernie Sanders to create a “revolution” in the political climate, making a progressive America possible? Sanders may be more of a Hail Mary pass than Trump.

Since both parties suck and won’t work together, many on both sides are looking for an anti-establishment Messiah to lead them to the political Promised Land. What makes this risk seem worth it is that, while folks understand they’re inviting chaos, they feel our politics are already chaotic. So, people think “What’s the difference?”

And it’s hard to argue with them. American politics feels like a metaphor of Easter Island: Some of us spend our lives trying to get new trees to grow, while the majority are happy to keep chopping down the old ones as fast as they can.

Trump is saying if we vote for him, he’ll make it all better. And if you read Senator Sander’s stump speech, you’d know he is saying he can’t do it alone, that people have to get together and organize to effect change.

That is “a substantive difference” between these two “insurgents”.

That’s why Bernie Sanders’ use of the Democratic Socialist label is disorienting. It shakes people out of their normal process enough to wonder how he thinks he could possibly win. He can’t.

And the mainstream media and both party establishments say: “things really aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be.” They hope that in the end, most voters will agree with their sentiment, and vote for their establishment candidates.

But voters have spent decades lowering their expectations (in Wrongo’s case, except for a short-lived upswing in 2008). Screw that. People need to raise their expectations. Because lower expectations and the “what did you expect” attitude is essentially giving permission for poor results.

We need to expect MORE, demand more.

Because it’s better to have high expectations with the risk of disappointment, than it is to have low expectations that guarantee more of the same old stuff.

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Reframing Jeb’s “He Kept Us Safe” Framing

This week, Jeb Bush said that his brother George W. had “kept us safe” when he was president. And given opportunities to walk that back, he doubled-down on the message. Donald Trump didn’t let him get away with that. Paul Campos at Salon:

For years, W. got a pass from his party. Questioning him meant questioning our foreign policy. Those days are over.

Campos asks us to imagine that the Republican presidential primary race is a Thanksgiving dinner, and that Donald Trump is the crazy old uncle who says outrageous things that embarrass everyone at the table. Sometimes those things are embarrassing because they are not true.

But occasionally, Uncle says something that’s embarrassing, precisely because it’s true.

The Donald’s tweaking of Jeb Bush’s W. kept us safe claim falls into the latter category. Trump’s mockery is justified. On its face, Jeb’s claim about W. is analogous to Exxon boasting about its record of keeping the Alaskan coastline “mostly free” from oil spills.

The meme of “he kept us safe” uses the technique that sociologists call “framing.” Wikipedia calls framing a process of selective influence over the individual’s perception of the meanings attributed to words, phrases or memories.

The cultural frame that the Republican Party has so successfully managed to build up since the days of Ronald Reagan says that Democrats are weak-kneed appeasers and pacifists, while the GOP is the party of Big, Bad, War Daddy figures, who deal with foreign threats with realism and ruthlessness.

You might think it would be impossible to fold the 9/11 terrorist attacks to this frame, but you would be wrong. Such is the power of this pre-ordained narrative that, when America suffered a terrorist attack under a Republican president, this inconvenient fact was magically disappeared down a collective memory hole for huge numbers of Americans.

Jeb’s defense of his brother repeats years of GOP messaging. The idea that George W. Bush kept the nation safe from terrorism is something that Republicans repeated constantly when he was in office, and since. The core of the argument was that W. shouldn’t be held responsible for the terrorist attack, even though his administration was warned about it in advance, because he only had nine months to do something about it, and al Qaeda was already around at the time he took office, (i.e. al Qaeda should have been taken care of by Clinton).

The power of this frame is evident if we use a thought experiment: Imagine that the 9/11 attacks happened during Obama’s first term. If 3,000 Americans had been murdered on US soil by foreign terrorists nine months into the Obama administration, no one would claim that Mr. Obama had “kept us safe,” because the claim wouldn’t be supported by any equally powerful Democratic cultural framing. Instead, the political fallout would have been Benghazi x 750!

Or, you could imagine Mr. Obama sending US troops into a civil war in Lebanon, and 241 of them being killed in a terrorist bombing ordered by Iran. And, imagine if a few years later, that it was senior members of Obama’s administration, not that of Ronald Regan, who were discovered sending Iran weapons in exchange for hostages. Democrats would still be paying for that at the polls.

Framing explains why Republicans give Jeb’s older brother a mulligan on terrorism, to the point where it was their family member Crazy Uncle Donald who had to state the obvious.

It’s understandable that, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, almost no one wanted to consider assigning responsibility for the attack. Fourteen years later, we no longer have an excuse not to, and that applies especially to today’s GOP presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush.

Now, everyone is ducking and covering. To assign some responsibility to the Bush administration for letting 9/11 happen could lead to uncomfortable questions of what we knew, when we knew it, and what we did with that knowledge.

Undressing the 50 year Big, Bad, War Daddy perception that supports/excuses W.’s Iraq adventure could represent an existential threat to the GOP in 2016, particularly if the attack comes from the Right instead of the Left.

That is why it’s a strategic imperative for them to pursue Benghazi-gate to the end, even if it’s off a cliff.

If the War Daddy framing is lost, they could be left touting Reagan’s winning in Grenada.

And how would Republicans spin THAT as this country’s finest hour?

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