Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Trump Administration's Disruptive Reform of Political Communication

While traditional political labels- liberal, conservative, moderate- simply won’t adhere to the Trump Administration, it is clear that Trump is an effective disruptive reformer. The Trump Administration increasingly employs actions and policies designed to disrupt the establishment and render useless the traditional tools used to keep and maintain the establishment.

What is Disruptive Reform?

Disruptive Reform is change that removes the competitive advantage of incumbent or establishment institutions and tools, thereby permitting competing insurgents or reform an opportunity to survive. “Disruptive” does not imply violence or even unlawful or illicit behavior. Disruptive means that reform is accomplished by replacing the traditional tools and institutions that normally support and sustain the establishment with those that challenge, change, and ultimately replace or reform the establishment.

The concept is perhaps Progressive, but the tools developed by Progressives are increasingly being appropriated by others. Others have noticed that it seems to be the Right, and not the Left, that is making effective use of disruptive reform. See, e.g, “Innovation Nation: The Indian Right’s Real Idea Is Disruptive Innovation.

The effectiveness of disruptive reform is increasingly demonstrated in a rapidly changing technological world, that is less cohesive and more personal. Disruptive reform has revolutionized the computer, telecommunications, and automotive industries. Disruptive reform is the driving force behind recent rapid changes in the use of social media and to secondary education. Disruptive reform has repeatedly been suggested as necessary to reform the health care industry. See, for example, "The Innovator's Prescription: A Disruptive Solution for Health Care." It is natural for someone like Donald Trump, whose experience is in the business sector, to reject the traditional tools of politicians in favor of effective tools from the business sector.
There are many examples of the Trump Administration engaging in disruptive reform. In my previous article, 'The real significance of the ‘Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,’ for example, I discussed how Trump Administration immigration policy implementation intends to bypass traditional media information sources, and generate effective alternate narratives thereby threatening establishment immigration policy values. But it is political communication that is the most potent example of Trump Administration disruptive reform.

Traditional establishment politics values finely tuned, disciplined, discreet messages designed to find the greatest support and least opposition possible (whether or not true or accurate, by the way). Traditional political communication reinforces the establishment, and discourages reform by relying upon scripted talking points suggesting broad and enduring consensus, whether or not these exist, and threatening catastrophic consequences with alternatives, whether or not these consequences are true or likely. Traditional political communication values the use of surrogates to initiate communication, and values highly repetitive recitation of messages across a variety of media to reinforce the message thereby suggesting consensus. Traditional political communication values trial balloons and nuance that allows politicians and institutions to distance themselves from positions or ideas that later prove controversial or unpopular. Discourse leading to reform is rendered difficult, if not  impossible, as those upholding the traditional establishment reject real debate or discussion as threatening established consensus and enduring underlying values.

Disruptive reform rejects and abandons these restraints on discourse as tools of the establishment, and so only utilizes the tool of traditional political communication to engage opponents and achieve discreet objectives. The Trump Administration’s reliance upon “direct to citizenry” communication while decried by the establishment as “dangerous,” “unprofessional,” and “inexperienced,” continues to reinforce Trump’s affiliation with those “outside” the establishment. Direct to citizenry content bypassses the establishment filters that would render the message less volatile, and less effective at challenging establishment ideas and institutions. Whatever the content, by communicating in an anti-establishment manner, any suggestion that Trump is co-opted by the establishment is likely to ring false.

Disruptive communication, unlike traditional political communication, can encourage and value vehement opposition, particularly where the opposition reveals opponents, bias, and weakness, or expends energy or resources that otherwise might be marshaled to actually frustrate reform. Opposition can invite consideration, and generate publicity.  Opposition communication and discourse under a campaign of disruptive reform reveals in time that the establishment threats of adverse consequences are untrue or unlikely, thereby blunting the effectiveness of reform opponents. It undermines trust and confidence in establishment values, institutions, and structures, replacing traditional communication mechanisms that support the establishment with those that threaten the establishment. In this way, reform communication replaces the establishment emphasis and reliance upon the status quo.

The Trump Administration’s mistrust of traditional media outlets is not new; its unrelenting full-throated attack, coupled with non-traditional means of communicating narratives is new. The ability of the establishment to reject by monolithic opposition and by repetition through various media outlets is muted as consumers of information find effective, inexpensive, and convenient alternatives.

Moreover, once confronted, the establishment predictably threatens extreme, outrageous, and unthinkable consequence. The establishment attack becomes unbelievable and increasingly lacking credibility as people realize that reform is not dangerous - Trump is not Hitler, is not rounding up homosexuals, and is working to parse the difficult immigration issues such as the protection of families, for example. As the establishment becomes more desperate, its agents and operatives become “useful idiots,” unwittingly revealing the true face of the establishment, and the need for reform.The establishment opposing the Trump Administration is increasingly revealed as less concerned with the lives of real people, and more with keeping and maintaining power and influence. It will be interesting to see whether establishment Republicans accept or reject these changes, and whether, if they side with the establishment against the Trump Administration, there will be a political cost that, in a traditional binary Republican-Democrat establishment, enhances or diminishes the Trump Administration’s authority.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Real Significance of the Temporary Immigration Ban?

Is the Trump administration inviting a constitutional crisis in the United States District Court (USDC)? Despite the fact that any half-conscious sot could, in a few Google clicks, find lists of refugees or immigrants from the seven subject countries caught committing or attempting to commit acts of terror, which would justify the temporary ban, when asked by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the administration demurred. Citing how quickly the case had developed, the Department of Justice (DOJ) merely raised and referred to the conclusions of the previous administration regarding the threat of immigration from the specific targeted nations.

It almost appeared as if the DOJ did not want to answer the question. Why wouldn't the administration want to justify the ban? Moreover, the DOJ did not offer, at least from what this author read online, to supplement the record with actual instances of immigrants from the specified countries representing a threat.

There is little question the court's injunction faces some important legal issues:
  1. A nationwide injunction issuing from a single USDC is, although with some precedent, difficult to support;
  2. Immigration is, according to Congress, a peculiarly executive function, and Congress has granted great deference to the Executive Branch;
  3. Without a sitting ninth Justice, the U.S. Supreme Court may deadlock on any issue, keeping the lower court ruling in place. Whether the result is good, one might think, depends on whether you support or don't support the ban. But, consider the possibility that there is a different objective than just a temporary ban on certain immigration.

Most people forget that the USDC system is NOT a constitutional court system. It is a statutory system. Congress established the system, and grants to the courts subject matter jurisdiction, which Congress can remove. Are the people in the Trump administration prescient enough to invite a crisis in order to justify weakening a court system that it finds "obstructive" on several fronts? My article, "The real significance of the ‘Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States’ suggested that a prior Trump administration order on immigration "represents governance at a very high level, a level many thought Trump incapable of reaching."  Outlining the sophistication of the order, and its objective to create a narrative, I concluded that the order "establishes the Trump administration as self-aware, proactive, and formidable."

The media, and apparently some in the Trump administration, would suggest that the executive order creating the temporary ban was, in contrast, not governance at its best, but a comedy of errors in its conception, drafting, and implementation.  Is it possible, though, that the chaos, the resulting challenge, and the resulting crisis is welcome and intended? It would explain, for example, initially leaked stories suggesting that the EO was not vetted nor communicated to key secretaries, which later turned out to be false.  These stories, and confusion whether the ban applied to those already-issued green cards or those otherwise previously admitted to the U.S., only added to the hysteria following the rollout of the order.

What if the real objective is support for restricting the power of the USDC to judicially review certain actions of the executive branch, or certain congressional legislation? An administration with the ability to achieve a defined objective is something the media is not even considering as it continues to be manipulated into believing, for example, that Steve Bannon runs the White House.  Is it possible, that there is value to the Trump administration in its political adversaries seeing it as feckless, inexperienced, and helpless?  Is it possible that, as with its previous immigration executive orders, the Trump administration is trying to develop and change the narrative, and the electorate.  How many voters who otherwise would cringe at any other congressional effort to limit the subject matter jurisdiction of the USDCs, might support an effort to check "activist federal courts," particularly in a case popular with many Americans, In which the court system was incapable of operating properly due to circumstance?  

The first month of the Trump Presidency may go down in history as the first effective use by a president of political "rope-a-dope."

Originally published in American Thinker.  The original article can be viewed here:

Monday, June 26, 2017

The real significance of the "Executive Order on Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States"

The executive order titled "Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States," establishes the Trump administration as truly formidable.  If you haven't heard or read about it, you soon will.  The order requires, among other things, the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to publish a weekly list of crimes committed by undocumented aliens.

There is an old adage: you should never pick a fight with anyone who buys his ink by the barrel.  The corollary is that the U.S. government "speaks" with an authority that threatens even the independent media and their billions of barrels of ink.  It is for this reason that scholars developed the doctrine of "government speech," which acknowledges the risks posed by a government engaged in propaganda.  That is why, for example, U.S. propaganda efforts like Voice of America are prohibited by law (the Smith-Mundt Act) from broadcasting in the U.S.  Simply, when the government "speaks," it does so in a loud, authoritative, and potentially exclusive voice.

The Trump administration believes that many in the media actively conceal news about crimes committed by undocumented aliens, or conceal the status of the perpetrators.  Now, in order to deluge what they contend is an ignorant public with evidence of an existential threat, the government will weekly generate and publish information and statistics supporting the administration's immigration narrative.  Some in the media will refuse to publish the information, but there is little doubt that the information will reach the public.  Of course, the megaphone of the U.S. government means that the information will likely have a profound impact.

For those who believe that any status should be irrelevant in decision-making due to the possibility of latent prejudice, or who believe that reference to status only feeds prejudice and discrimination, the impact will be further evidence that the U.S. cannot, and this administration will not, seek a more tolerant and less discriminatory culture.  Regardless, some of these may, if the statistics are compelling, be swayed to support government action to meet the threat.

For others, the information will confirm their belief in the threat.  There will be many, no doubt, who find the information illuminating and wonder why the threat was not sooner or more carefully identified.  Of course, the Trump administration is banking on there being many who are illuminated or swayed to support government action.

Regardless, the mere act of directing the government to develop the facts upon which to build a powerful narrative establishes the Trump administration as self-aware, proactive, and formidable.  The prescience and power of this strategy rival similar acts by former president Obama and the very prolific Senator Warren, who were directly or indirectly responsible for publishing countless reports documenting the existence and dangers of income inequality and of a rogue Wall Street.  These reports informed and motivated Progressives, anarchists, and anti-corruption conservatives alike, and supported movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders insurgency.

Most importantly, the effort signals clearly that the administration is not feckless, inexperienced, or helpless.  It means the administration is intent and willing to change the narrative, and therefore the electorate.  It means that the administration sees a long-term objective, and is not satisfied with simply taking immediate action, however confident Trump is in the action, over compelling and supporting lasting change.

The Order represents governance at a very high level, a level many thought Trump incapable of reaching.  It will, of course, please his supporters.  It will only further disturb his opponents, though, including those in the Republican Party.  After scratching their heads at just how badly they have repeatedly underestimated Trump, the order will send a shudder through the collective being of Trump opponents.

Now there is, and can be, no corner of consolation that Trump's inexperience will render him ineffective.  There can be no comfort that his political naïveté renders him toothless.  The order means that the Trump administration is and can be dangerous.  If Trump is the reform candidate he promised, it is now clear that his administration is capable of changing the way politics and governance are conducted, and perhaps changing these for a very long time.

Originally published in American Thinker:

Monday, February 27, 2017

18 questions for Obama on Trump-Russia collusion

Why won't reporters actually ask relevant questions?

Consider this: The New York Times reports that the Obama administration "scrambled" to leave a "trail of breadcrumbs" of "evidence" about Trump-Russia connection.  According to the now widely distributed report, in the closing days of the Obama administration, immediately before the inauguration, suspecting, but not yet having any hard "evidence" of, collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, the Obama administration spread classified information of admittedly irrelevant contacts and communication as widely as possible across the government and shared a dossier marked "secret" with Congress.  The administration shared not "evidence" of collusion, but evidence of contacts and communications.

I have several questions I wish someone would ask:
  1. Did these efforts include changing privacy and due process rules governing FISA-permitted investigations, unwittingly intercepting communications involving U.S. citizens (which requires scrupulous protection of the identity of U.S. citizens inadvertently intercepted without a warrant or independent probable cause)?
  2. Did this effort lead to intentional or unintentional dissemination to persons without clearance?
  3. Was consideration given to the fact that spreading information so broadly might encourage leaking of the information, since compartmentalization and limitation practices designed to prevent leaking were abrogated?
  4. Was consideration given to the possibility that leaking dubious information without conclusive proof might make it impossible to hold leakers and those making hasty generalizations from incomplete information responsible?
  5. Did the effort create a chatter about collusion that, although devoid of evidence, suggested to actors that someone somewhere must have evidence supporting the conclusion, given the wide dissemination of inconclusive data, thereby creating a fraudulent and false narrative?
  6. Is it possible that the broad dissemination of such information was intentionally designed to encourage leaks, protect leakers from discovery, or create a false narrative?
  7. Who in the Obama administration participated in this exercise, who authorized it, and who was briefed regarding the effort?
  8. Were there detractors from the effort, and if so, who?
  9. How was the effort communicated to subordinates, and did the communication come with the rationale for the effort, the rationale of which was widely reported as coming from "three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence"?
  10. Were the three former officials in the White House prior to the transition?
  11. Were the three former officials in the government at the time the information was disseminated?
  12. Were the three former officials authorized at any time to receive classified information?
  13. Who in Congress was given the file marked "secret"?
  14. Why was the file marked "secret"?
  15. Was the material contained in the file raw or redacted, and was it marked "classified"?
  16. Was the higher designation "secret" – suggesting that the dissemination of the information was potentially "seriously damaging," to national security – selected to elevate the gravity attached to ordinary or routine contacts and communication, thereby suggesting collusion for which there is apparently still no proof?
  17. Why was any effort necessary at all, since it would take only one person in authority to upload all of the intelligence to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information, thereby forever preserving it?
  18. Why haven't any of these relevant questions been asked of senior Obama administration officials?
Is it possible that just one question might reveal the implausibility of the motivation behind the entire effort?

This article originally appeared in American Thinker.  You can view the original article here: 

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