Monday, January 11, 2016

Asking Democrats a question usually aimed at Republicans

For the past 30 years, political pundits have wondered why working-class Republicans vote against their own interests. For their GOP backing they get “trickle-down” economics that never trickles down, cuts in social services, lay-offs as jobs go overseas, a rigged tax system benefiting the wealthy, and war, endless war, etc.

Now the same can be asked of Democratic voters supporting Hillary Clinton.

It’s easy to see where Clinton’s loyalties lie. Just look where her money comes from. Those mega donations from anonymous PACs and from the super-rich will call the shots in her administration.

The “little money” is going to Bernie Sanders for obvious reasons. He’s a populist in the best sense of the word. He’s not afraid to talk about inequality and a rigged and corrupt political/financial system.

So why is Clinton considered the odds-on favorite to win the nominations…at this point in the campaign?

Primarily because the media are creating an environment of inevitability about her success. And why would they do that? Because the power brokers, who buy ads that keep media fat, happy and blind, back Hillary, their protector. Indeed, much of the media is owned by those same power brokers.

Last year I watched Clinton quietly breeze into this city for a day and head straight for the blue-stocking, gated community of Dunthorpe. No visits to daycare centers, women’s shelters or pediatric wards. Hillary held a reception in a mansion and raked in a few hundred grand from Portland’s richest. And then she left, headed for LA. and you know who.

Just days later, Sanders rented the biggest hall he could find here, the MODA basketball stadium, and filled it to overflowing. The crowd count was 28,000. The donations were pocket change compared to the checks written in Dunthorpe for Hillary.

Then consider those six-figure speaking fees that Clinton gathers from corporate lobbyists interested in having her in their pockets. And what about the mega-donations the morally-challenged Saudi Royal Family funnels into the Clinton Foundation?

What’s the pay-off? Vote for Hillary and you’ll find out.

Meanwhile Sanders wants to break up the “Too Big to Fail” banks to avoid yet another financial meltdown and taxpayer bailout. He calls for affordable higher education and universal health care. He wants to put people to work HERE in decent paying jobs that will repair and improve our infrastructure.

So the question is the same for Democrats as for Republicans in this election year. Will you vote to solve pressing societal interests or to continue and expand welfare for the rich?

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Monday, January 04, 2016

Trump's contrived "disgust" with Hillary's trip to the toilet

Anyone who has ever majored in college psychology knows that the big pay-off in the field is in advertising. The 2016 presidential campaign is about to unleash the full force of psychological manipulation on the vulnerable voters in Iowa and New Hampshire…and South Carolina etc.

Opponents will be portrayed in grainy black-and-white, nightmare footage. We’ll hear creepy voices. We’ll see candid, hand-held photos of opposition candidates exposed in unguarded moments. Sound bites will flash by utterly out of context.

It all taps into our psychological vulnerabilities, needs and fears.

It is also a dangerous charade. Without a “media literate” electorate, a functioning, rational democracy is impossible.

But wait, there’s more!

This year’s campaign has introduced and entirely new psychological element beyond advertising manipulations. It arrives courtesy of the one, the only, Donald Trump. Although he would deny it, I’m guessing it is the product of invisible, high-paid geniuses — those psychology majors—hired by his campaign.

I’m thinking this is no less than the work of the candidate’s psyops (psychological operations) team. It is also a hand-and-glove fit with the candidate's own weird psychological profile and acting skills.

It works on several fronts. I’ve mentioned before Trump’s use of the non-verbal. Without “saying” anything in words (allowing deniability) he speaks volumes in gestures. The smirk, the pause, the nod, mimicking (of the disabled no less), the flailing of arms, flagrant ignoring of “boundaries.”

Others include overt bulling and outright lying. (We are seeing increasing references to Hitler and “The Big Lie” in expressed concerns about Trump as The Leader.)

I’m particularly intrigued with Trump’s technique of producing off-the-wall and crudely vivid mini-images. Their being indelible attaches them permanently and subconsciously to Trump’s victim. Because the images are disgusting, to use Trump’s own word, they have a particular deep psychological resonance with conservative voters.

See research reference: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2014/10/30/your-brains-response-to-a-gross-photo-can-reveal-your-political-leanings/

You can bet that the Trump psyops team is well aware of the research.

And so we have Trump citing and critiquing Hillary Clinton’s trip to the toilet in the recent Democratic debate. Without going into the scatological details of the non-event, Trump simply labeled her break as “disgusting.”

He leaves his audience to fill-in-the-blanks.

As noted above, disgusting images set off conservative subconscious alarms.
The image, of course, provides a graphic association to Trump and his backers’ views of Clinton and her campaign.

Clever, huh? And oh so funny.

Would any other Republican candidate invoke Trump’s own biological need to defecate, let alone label it “disgusting”?

In the odd world of Republican politics, they would seem to be missing a psychological opening to right-wingers.

Beyond drum-beat citations of  “American Exceptionalism” and the nation’s seemingly divine mission (God bless America!) and the dangers of terrorism, they should be invoking Donald in the toilet.

This, fellow citizens, it what we call democracy in action.

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Friday, December 04, 2015

Trump's Narcissism and the Suspension of Disbelief

If you search “Trump” and “narcissist” on the web you get dozens of hits linking the two words. Many posts are from therapists.

(Vanity Fair recently posted an overview story on the subject.)

But a therapist I know says dismissively, “Every politician is a narcissist.” It comes with the turf, she maintains.

The difference is that Donald Trump is a pathological narcissist. He lies, he bullies, he is self-absorbed, he has little or no empathy…and he flaunts all of that in public. None of that “comes with the political turf,” at least not publicly.

Clearly Trump is not fit for polite or political company, let alone the oval office.

But significant numbers of people don’t see it that way.

He has the backing of roughly 30 percent of polled Republicans. One poll has him winning 41 percent of the vote in a match-up with either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.  Thankfully, Democrats “win” over Trump in the poll. (Interestingly, Sanders draws more votes that Clinton against nearly every other Republican hopeful…but that’s another story)

So what’s the deal?  Why doesn’t Trump’s extreme public narcissism sink his candidacy? Indeed why does it seem to have contributed to his being the Republican front-runner.

The list of reasons is long, but right up near the top I’d put our media-manipulated culture.

Much of the public “understands reality” from what it gleans from TV and radio. A media fantasy world becomes “reality.” "The News" is a distorting mirror of politics (and crime, and success, and war, and health....)

Celebrities (and Trump has made himself one) are unquestioningly worshipped. For the media, they attract audiences and that attraction translates into advertising dollars.

What Trump and other celebrities say is taken as a priori truth, often because of their perceived “success.” Fans relish celebrity errors…and forgive them: “My celebrity, right of wrong.”

Deception becomes the stuff of plot lines, humor and scripts. When Trump demeans others he seems serious. But then he answers criticism by insisting he was “joking” or “acting” or “misunderstood.”

The public is willingly being gamed, largely to be entertained. (The absurdly popular Rush Limbaugh exhibits much of the same narcissistic public profile. He too is entertaining, particularly if you harbor prejudice and tolerate lies. Like Trump, he is self-obsessed, dangerous and panders to and feeds hatreds.)

When we enter the world of entertainment and fantasy we sometimes knowingly, but more often unknowingly, “suspend disbelief.” In other words, we let down our guard. We make ourselves vulnerable. And that’s what a sizable portion of the American public has done with Donald Trump…to everyone's peril.

The world of politics and governance is no fantasy and no game. It should be no place for celebrity worship and game-playing. Frankly, governing is not much fun, but it is important, vitally important.

Think global warming, war and peace, terrorism, poverty, inequity and injustice.

Now think of Donald J. Trump and his pathological, posturing, psychological state.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Taking Carrot and Stick to Executive Compensation

As noted in the previous post, greedy CEOs place their own financial interests above those of the companies they are responsible for and the needs of their workers.

And boards of directors, seemingly accustomed to such executive palm-geasing in their own organizations, look the other way, or cover their behinds by pointing to so-called so-called “compensation consultants” (also overpaid).

So here are the results of some thinking that followed the composition of the previous post.…

I recommended that CEOs and top executives (including college football coaches, university presidents and executives of non-profits) be compensated at a rate no more than five times the compensation of the average worker in their organization. (Note: Executive compensation - pay and benefits - can't be used to compute the average.)

Right now in this country among large institutions, the ratio is, shamefully, on the order of 300 to one.

The proposal also addresses the complaint about “high corporate taxes.” IF the top officers cut their compensation as described, I suggest that current taxes on their corporations be frozen (or possibly even lowered...see below.)

As noted in my previous post if the average compensation for employees is $50k, under this proposal, the higher-ups in the executive suite would get no more than $250k.

Because they are so smart, the executives should be able to manage on 250 grand a year. Rumor has it that quite a few folks do.

If the executives want to raise their compensation, they can so it by raising the compensation of employees. A $10,000 raise to the average employee, raises executive compensation $50,000.

Still not a lot by current executive pay standards, but that’s the point!

Now the flip side. If the corporations and their board do NOT make these changes, the corporate tax rate gets doubled (or made high enough to provide the "stick" to stop to the greed). Call this the "greed is bad" tax.

In short, fair and reasonable pay is rewarded; greed is punished. “Compensation consultants” are shown the door.

Those with sharp pencils might even be able to show that compensation fairness would actually increase tax revenues, if it encourages raising pay for all. The more the average worker makes the higher the total tax revenues from them. The amount might even bring in more revenue than now, even accounting for the “loss” resulting from lower taxes paid by reasonably paid executives.

If the new law results in significantly more tax revenue, the proposal just might allow for an actual reduction in corporate taxes.

Finally, higher paid workers will presumably buy more, which creates more jobs and more tax revenues. It also helps the economy…to say nothing of employee moral. The list of benefits is long.

One item on it might even be the postponement of the revolution, perhaps indefinitely.

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