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Making Corrupt Politics Illegal

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

For most American’s, democracy is dead. A Princeton study found that if over 90% of us support a bill or policy idea in Congress, it has about a 30% chance of passing. BUT, if over 90% of us really hate a bill or policy idea in Congress… it has about a 30% chance of passing. Why? The system is corrupt. Our democracy is broken.

So here is a novel idea.Make corrupt political practices illegal. On the federal level alone the top 200 most politically active companies spend over $5.8 billion a year funding politicians (buying our democracy), often promising politicians high wage jobs after they leave office.  All of this allows the lobbyists to write the laws that congress actually passes, sometime without even reading the bills first. In exchange for all this political cash, these 200 politically active corporations receive over $4.4 trillion in favorable tax supports. That is equal to a 75,900% return on their political investments. It’s a racket and it’s all perfectly legal.

As the video below explains so well, that mean that 90% of everyone in the lower economic groups in America has “a minuscule, near zero, statistically insignificant.” influence over what laws our representatives pass in the Federal Congress.

Watch this video that explains the finding of a scholarly study out of Princeton. [Note: prior link was incorrect. This is the corrected link]

Copy and paste link to your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tu32CCA_Ig&spfreload=1

The creator of the above video have a possible solution which they explain in their second video, How to Fix Corruption in America. The fix is to make political corruption illegal though passage of a simple law. But getting anything passed in the Federal Congress to fix the way they do business now is impossible. So the strategy is to start by passing the law locally and then statewide so that federal representatives elected from these states aren’t already tainted by corrupt politics. Once enough states pass the anti-corruption law, there will be enough congress people from those states to pass a federal anti-corruption law.  Here below is the video:

Copy and paste link to your browser: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhe286ky-9A

And so, like all politics, the solution to make our voice count once again is in our hands if we act locally while thinking globally. All politics is local. Let’s make local politics the place where we restore democracy in America.

If you are disturbed by these facts, please do your part in getting this information out to your friends across the internet. and get active locally to start turning things around. The level of political corruption is inversely proportional to the level of citizen involvement.

Bernie, DNC and Hillary Connections to Big Data

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is conceived to be a neutral Democratic Party facilitator working on behalf of all Democratic political campaigns. It raises money for candidate races, it helps develop political ads and, most importantly, it has this huge national database on registered Democrats, Democratic donors, etc. This database is the most important tool candidates need in running for public office, especially Democratic presidential candidates. The DNC allows presidential campaigns to access all of this national data on individual voters, and use the database to enter their own voter information collected in the field and through their own direct voter contacts. The analysis of this information is essential for developing and monitoring campaign strategies.

Because the DNC database contains both shared and private candidate voter information, a firewall and other safeguards are in place so that competing campaigns can’t peek at the private data being collected and analyzed by their Democratic rivals. This too is essential for fair and free primary competition. Candidates would have unfair advantages if they could see the information developed by their rivals. At the end of the election cycle, however, the private field data collected by the campaigns are merged and used to update the DNC’s national database.

BACKGROUND

This huge database is run under a contract with a company called NGP-VAN. NGP-VAN is a partisan company; that is it is a company comprised of Democrats working for Democrats. It is the DNC’s choice to contract with a partisan company. There are many competent non-partisan company providing comparable services, but the DNC believes there are advantages to hiring a partisan firm. The key reason is to develop secure, less open technologies that feed data from NGP VAN’s systems into tools and platforms that put it to use, such as mobile apps used by door-to-door campaign volunteers. The motivation for hiring a partisan company seems to be an overriding need to protect the data platforms from GOP intrusions. (See http://adage.com/article/campaign-trail/political-tech-picks-sides-stay-sidelines/294800 )

But Democratic politics is also an insider’s game. There is competition within the Democratic party to be the Democratic candidate on the ballot. There are many primary candidates, campaigns and primary elections that must be fair and free if our democracy is to be properly preserved. Special interest corruption or establishment favoritism within either political party is a direct threat to our American democracy. The will of Republican or Democratic voters within their party is just as sacrosanct as is the will of the people in general election voting. It is the role of the DNC to preserve American democracy for Democratic voters. Maintaining the security of the DNC database is a principle obligation. Assuring proper access of the data to all candidates is an essential responsibility of the DNC. Making sure there are no political pressures or conflicts of interest to taint or corrupt the democratic process within the party is paramount.

The question rarely asked is this; If NGP-VAN is a company made up of Democratic partisans, how can we be sure they are scrupulously unbiased with respect to all Democratic primary candidates? How can we be sure the DNC is unbiased, for that matter. These are the haunting questions that still hang in the air even after the fireworks set off by the Sanders campaigns data breach has ended. Even though the DNC quickly unblocked the Sanders campaign from its data, and Senator Sanders apologized to Hillary Clinton for the intrusion, the integrity of the DNC and NGP-VAN remains a   question. This is especially true in part because there was so little concern expressed about the incompetence of NGP-VAN for the firewall failure.

UNDISPUTED FACTS

The undisputed facts regarding the data breach by the Sanders campaign staff are:

  • NGP-VAN rolled out updated software for this database on the morning of Dec, 17th.
  • Afterwards, for about 4 hours, any data search on the system pulled up the private files of all the Presidential candidates.
  • The breach was discovered by Sanders campaign staff after 10:00 am, at least 90 minutes later.
  • At least 4 Sanders campaign staffers obtained access to 24 Hillary campaign files over the next 40 minutes
  • NGP-VAN became aware of this activity and immediately notified the DNC
  • The DNC shut down the Sanders’ campaign access to the database before notifying Senator Sanders, who was unaware of the breach until the chairwoman of the DNC, Debbie Wasserman Schultz called him.
  • Some of the Clinton campaign files were copied to the “Vote Finder” system of the DNC’s database, meaning those files were still in DNC custody.
  • Whether files were copied to private location, or viewed and analyzed in any detail is in dispute.
  • One of the staffers who opened multiple files was Bernie Sanders Data Chief, Josh Uretsky, who was immediate fired.
  • The extent of actions by other Sanders campaign staffers who accessed files is still in dispute and under review.
  • The Clinton campaign accused the Sanders campaign of stealing data. The Sanders campaign filed a federal lawsuit against the DNC for illegally terminating access to their data and hindering their campaign.

According to a blog post written by the Stu Trevelyan, CEO of NGP-VAN, shortly after the breach was fixed the company audited its system and determined that only the Sanders campaign, and no other outside parties, could have possibly retained any of the exposed data.

Within less than a day of the Sanders lawsuit against the DNC, they restored his campaign access to the database. Bernie Sanders maintains that this isn’t the first breach of data systems between the Sanders and Clinton campaign. (Although the prior breach involved a different data vendor.)


DISPUTED FACTS

The most innocent explanation of the data breach comes from Josh Uretsky, the former Data Chief. In an interview with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC, Steve said he was, “… trying to create a clear record of the problem.” He was fully aware that his every move was being recorded by the NGP-VAN system. His thinking was that this breach happened hours before and he needed to determine if the Sanders data was as accessible at the Clinton data. He said he had to assume that they had accessed data as well in the hours before he discovered the breach. He denies any information was analyzed or saved anywhere out side of the NGP-VAN system. He believed his probative inquires were reasonable attempts to assess,”the scope of the problem.”

When the

NGP-VAN notified the DNC of the breach and the activity of Sanders staffers, they being the only ones to access opposition files, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chairwoman, acted on the worst case scenario, that data was being stolen which could then be manipulated using the DNC database to analyze Clinton’s campaign strategies. The DNC acted swiftly before consulting with Senator Sanders. Senator Schultz claimed that the data was copied off the NGP-VAN system and demanded that it be destroyed before the DNC would consider restoring access to the database.

Throughout this controversy the DNC has reserved its anger for the actions of a handful of staffers on Senator Sanders campaign. It has exhibited litter anger or outrage towards the NGP-VAN for having compromised critical DNC data for hours.


CONFLICT OF INTEREST?

This all caused me to wonder, just who is this seemingly incompetent company that lost their firewall for four hours in the middle of a Presidential campaign? And what of the Sander’s campaign long standing complaint that the DNC is trying to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

Here is what I found:

NGP-VAN (www.ngpvan.com): Claims to be the leading technology provider to progressive organizations and campaigns. Among its clients are; Obama for America, the DNC, Democratic state parties, the DSCC, the DCCC, the DLCC, a majority of Democratic state legislative caucuses, Democratic candidates and other organizations.

Co-Owner, Nathaniel Goss Pearlman: Is a political technology consultant aligned with the Democratic party. He founded NGP Software, Inc., in 1977. The company provided political software to a majority of federal Democrats including most Democratic candidates for President (including Dean, Gephardt, Kerry, Graham, Edwards, Obama, and Clinton). He was the chief technology officer for Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. In 2010, NGP Software merged with another company, the Voter Activation Network, and became NGP-VAN

NGP-VAN CEO, Stu Trevelyan: Was the founder of the Carol/Trevelyan Strategy Group (CTSG) which serve progressive groups and candidates starting around 1995. Before that Trevelyan worked directly on a number of campaigns, including the 1992 Clinton-Gore “War Room” and then in the Clinton White House. He was an early “Hillary for President” supporter and donor in 2013.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: She is the current DNC chairperson and was the national co-campaign chairperson of Hillary’s 2008 Presidential Campaign.

[12/28/15 Update]

NBJosh Uretsky, Data Chief for Sanders: Bernie Sanders fired this person after the data breach. Media outlets are now reporting that he was hired in September by the Sander’s campaign on the recommendation of both the VGP-VAN company and the DNC. This has raised further concerns among leadership in the Sanders’ campaign.

WHERE THINGS STAND

Obviously the partisan nature of NGP-VAN, the connections to Hillary Clinton, the Hillary Connection between Hillary and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz who was Hillary’s prior co-campaign manager, doesn’t prove anything or suggest anything nefarious. It doesn’t, however, rule out the possibility of a conflict of interests either. The Sanders campaign has not retracted their claim that the DNC might not be acting as a neutral third party and the lawsuit is still pending as of now.

Both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns, as well as the DNC, are calling for an independent “audit” of the incident and the records to rule out a wider scandal or a conflict, and also to identify and fix any vulnerabilities in the DNC’s database. This is as it should be, but there is just enough of a bad smell left in the room to require our fellow Democrats to maintain their scrutiny and to press for even more transparency at the DNC.

The idea of contracting with only partisan technology companies should be reconsidered and a broader conversation should generated on these issues. Finally, future DNC chairs should probably not be former campaign managers for any likely presidential candidates during their tenure.

Correction: An earlier version indicated a connection between the DNC chair and an employee at DGP-VAN which was an error. The error was widespread on social media and was apparently made because of confusion as to whether or not a Wasserman at NGP-VAN was her brother’s son. He is not. I extensively investigated this myself on social media and confirmed to my satisfaction that the information I had originally been given was wrong.

Cycle of Death for Our Republic

CycleOfDeath

Any questions?

Republicans Having a Selma Moment

by Brian Lynch, MSW

It’s been fifty years since marchers seeking voting rights were beaten on the Pettus Bridge in Selma Alabama, yet Republican leaders still can’t join hands with African Americans on that bridge without offending bigots in their base. Fifty year later and a show of unity on that bridge is still the wrong message coming from the Republican Party? Really?

Edmund Pettus Bridge Pic

This begs further questions. Just how much of Republican politics is driven by the desire to preserve white privilege? What percentage of their base feel hostile towards inclusion and justice for all? And who can be surprised after this missed opportunity to learn that 90% of African Americans vote for Democrats, or that Latinos are increasingly turning to the Democratic Party?

Media pressure was put on the Republicans when it was learned that no leaders were planned to go to Selma. At the last minute House Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced he will to join in the 50th anniversary events. McCarthy is a close friend of Democratic Congressman John Lewis who was beaten on that bridge 50 years ago. The cynical view is that McCarthy is the best Republican representative since his attendance can be forgiven by the bigots on the grounds that he is Lewis’ personal friend. This isn’t to impugn McCarthy’s motives for attending, which I’m sure are genuine.

Political spinners can say whatever they want, but no rational citizen who wants our society to advance can accept any more excuses from those who hold us back. The Republican Party has clearly chosen the wrong side of history. This time it is Republicans who are beating themselves on the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

_________________________________________________

Historical foot note: The Edmund Pettus Bridge is named for Edmund Winston Pettus, a former Confederate brigadier generalU.S. Senator from Alabama and Grand Dragon of the Alabama Ku Klux Klan.

Buying Back the U.S. Senate

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Dark money from anonymous donors is pouring into the 2014 Senate races. According to Jon Terbush at The Week magazine, midterm election spending this year will “blow away” prior campaign spending records.”Spending by outside groups in particular is on pace to reach an unprecedented level this cycle,” he wrote. “To this point in 2010, outside groups had spent $10.4 million… to date, such groups have spent more than three times as much on the 2014 races.”He offered this graph which show the 2014 spending to date:

There is no doubt that big donations are flooding into politics since the Citizen’s United decision by the Supreme Court. Another factor is the proliferation of highly political 501 C non-profit organizations. More than ever these organization take advantage of IRS policy to fund issue advertizing for their partisan candidates. All this money is narrowly concentrated. It comes from a few billionaires or from a relatively small number of special interest groups. Senators become obligated to their wealthy donors while the majority of citizens are not being well served. Much disaffection between citizens and their government has resulted from special interest politics, and this often suits corporate interests.
The biggest price tags for US Senate seats this year are in Georgia and North Carolina. Spending between these races is expected to be nearly $50 million dollars, most of which will come from large donations. How on earth can average citizens compete with such big donors for the attention and fidelity of their Senate representatives? There is growing certainty that our Republic no longer represents the interests of most ordinary citizens.Here’s part of the problem. Big numbers are very hard to comprehend. Our brains aren’t wired to grasp numbers in the millions or billions. So if we want to understand how expensive our elections really are, we have to break down the cost into manageable units.

Using Senate campaign cost estimates from the McClatchy news organization, and some census data, the following table breaks down Senate election costs by population segments. For example, the Michigan race is expected to cost $13.9 million this year, a lot of money, yet it breaks down to $1.85 for every adult living in the state. This is very close to the national average of $1.87 per adult for this Senate elections cycle. The really expensive Senate elections this year, on a per adult basis, are actually in Alaska and Arkansas where spending will be nearly $12 for every vote that is likely to be cast. Consider also that Senate elections take place every six years. That works out to just $2 per year per likely voter in the most expensive Senate seat, or about $1.10 for each Alaskan adult.

*Estimates are from the McClatchy News Service as published in the New Jersey Star Ledger.Here then are some numbers that most people can comprehend. The average cost to an individual for this very expensive Senate election works out to just 31¢ per year per Senator. This is all it would cost you to buy back your vote.Elections cost money. To get the money interests out of politics people have to put money into it. We can’t let billionaires and special interest group buy the Congress at such bargain prices. It is time to step to the plate and publicly finance our Republic.

Yes we need to undo Citizen’s United and make clear that corporations are not people. We need to do a lot of things, but nothing will restore our voice in government better than fronting the cost of election campaigns. When politicians need both our money and our vote we will have their full attention. Even a few dollars a month would go a long way to fund our democracy.  It would do more to help the poor and support the middle class than almost anything else we could buy. We could even discount campaign finance contributions for everyone who registers to vote.

As essential as voting is to fulfilling our civic duty, funding our Republic and being knowledgeable and engaged in public issues are just as critical.

When Ben Franklin was asked what kind of government we have as he left the Constitutional Convention of 1787 he famously remarked, “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Now we know what he meant. It’s time to take back our Republic from special interest groups and quirky billionaires. This time let’s invest our time, talents and money to keep it in the hands of ordinary people where it belongs.

The Profit Driven Rise of Domestic Armies

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Our founders never wanted a standing army, much less combat troops patrolling our towns and villages.  The role and methods of solders is much different than the role and methods of local police, and that is the way we wanted it from the beginning. But now, without public debate or voter input, the culture and the very nature of law enforcement is being changed.  The changes began with little notice well before 9/11 but accelerated after that terrible day, bring together both military equipment and military police training in the name of “homeland security.” I’ve written about the military equipment part of this change in May, 2012, but didn’t know much about how local police were being trained. That part of the story begins with the rise of PMCS.

PMSCs is the acronym for private military and security companies. These are  mercenaries incorporated. They provide private solders to protect government or business interests in unstable parts of the globe. They have multi-billion dollar contracts with the US and other world governments and they represent a huge growth industry since the start of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. As these conflicts wind down, these PMSC corporations have searched for new markets and places to do business. One of those new markets has been local and state domestic police training here in the United States.

(Credit: Reuters/Steve Nesius)

BLACKWATER, a large private solders-for-hire corporation, is one of the leading companies currently training many of our domestic police officers. They teach them with military style training and train them on how to use military style weapons provided to local police departments at no cost through the gov’t 1033 program. While the rationale for the 1033 program was stated to fight the war on drugs when it first began in 1997, the amount of brand new military equipment given away to local police departments has grown every year since.  The mere possession of this equipment is enough to alter the culture of local police departments, but coupled with military training on its use clearly militarizes law enforcement. The development of this police training is well documented in an article in Salon (below).

Here is a brief excerpt from the Salon article explaining the difference between “Serve and Protect” training and military training:

The difference between a police officer trained to “keep the peace” and a soldier was quite easy to identify. A policeman was legally required to protect and to serve the citizens of the state, to assume innocence unless there was a reasonable suspicion of illegal activity, and to use weapons against a citizen only as a last resort. A soldier was trained to identify enemies and if necessary to kill them while protecting any non-enemies in the vicinity. “I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat” was their creed. And although most policemen trained by a private military company would remain dedicated to their oaths to serve and protect the public, there was the possibility of the exception.

This is an article that everyone should read and discuss.  Is this development to be our future or our past?  the answer is up to us all.

http://www.salon.com/2014/08/30/militarized_police_are_everywhere_when_police_officers_are_armed_and_trained_like_soldiers_its_not_surprising_that_they_act_like_soldiers/

Government of the People Is Gone- Here’s Proof

by Brian T. Lynch

 

Martin Gilens of Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University , conducted a multivariate analysis of 1,779 policy issues in the United States, the results of which confirmed that the United States is no longer a Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.oligarchy

 

In other words, we have lost majority rule. The United States has become an oligarchy. Business interests and the interests of the wealthy elite have overwhelming dominance in influencing United States policy and laws. You can read their conclusions below and read this newly published study in full at this URL:

Click to access Gilens%20and%20Page%202014-Testing%20Theories%203-7-14.pdf

According to the authors, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”

Of course, anyone paying attention to government policies versus the popular will of the electorate would already have drawn this conclusion. I recently posted a two part piece on this very subject a few months ago:  http://j.mp/1bz7aO5

The Gilens and Page study opens by asking a critical question, who really rules? Are we, the people, the sovereigns of our nation, or have we become “largely powerless?”  He begins to answer this by summarizing four different theoretical traditions recognized by scholars who study democratic governance.

The first of these theoretical traditions discussed is the Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, which is best “… encapsulated in Abraham Lincoln’s reference to government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” This tradition holds that laws and policies should reflect the views of the average voter, and that the positions of politicians seeking election should converge towards the center of the normal range of voter opinion.  It is this view of democracy most often presented by major media outlets when covering our politics. More importantly, this is these are the outcomes most of us expect from our democracy.

The second tradition is the Economic Elite Domination tradition in which US policy making is dominated by those with high levels of wealth or income.  Some scholars also include social status or position as part of this tradition. The economic elites often exercise their influence through foundations, think-tanks and “opinion shaping apparatus,” as well as to the lobbyists and politicians they finance.

Majoritarian pluralism is the third theoretical tradition that Gilens and Page discusse. This tradition analyzes politics through the lens of competing interest groups within the population. These groups may include political parties, organized interest groups, business firms or industry sector organizations.  All things being equal, the struggle between diverse factions within the population should also produce policy outcomes that are at least compatible with civil majority opinions.  But all things are not necessarily equal, leading to the fourth, related tradition called Biased Pluralism.

Biased pluralism entails policy outcomes that result from contending, but unrepresentative organized interest groups. These unrepresentative interest groups are generally made up of upper-class citizens with the power and influence to tilt policy towards the wishes of corporations, businesses and professional associations.So, after statistically comparing almost 2,000 policy outcomes against these four models of political influence in our democracy, what did the researchers find?  In their own words:

“By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model …  we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.” 

“Nor do organized interest groups substitute for direct citizen influence [snip]… Over-all, net interest group alignments are not significantly related to the preferences of average citizens.” The net alignments of the most influential, business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes.” 

“Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites…  have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do. 

What then has become of our democracy? It has been usurped by billionaires who directly fund candidates for public office, directly influence policy through lobbying and heavily fund public marketing campaigns to influence public opinion for their own advantage.

GildedAge2

We have seen this before during the “Gilded Age” at the turn of the last Century.  We found our voice a hundred years ago and we took back our democracy from the wealthy elite. Today they are smarter, richer and have more control over the media and government than they did back then, so the challenges we face to save civil democracy and regain majority rule won’t be easy. But history tells us that power is ultimately with the people.  We must start by recognizing our situation and begin organizing ourselves to collectively act in our own best interest. We need to become, once again, a nation of citizens, not a nation of businesses and the rich.

Victims of the Third Column of American Politics

BLOGGER’S COMMENTARY

oligarchy2

He has been a friend of mine for years. We worked well together on school projects when both are children attended the same high school and our families socialized together. Outside of politics we have a lot in common, yet in the past five or six years we have become estranged. It isn’t our fault. We are victims of the rising tide of political partisanship.

It’s a damn shame that the billionaire puppet masters pumping money into politics to create divided, dysfunctional government have also driven a political wedge between him and me. I suspect there are many other friendships that have fallen victim to divisive politics. I tried to repair our friendship by explaining that the politics dividing us is actually a result of a third party attack on democracy, a third column, as I see it. But my friend is too firmly embedded in conservative doctrine to trust my arguments.

The larger truth is that there is a third column in American politics. It is the hidden hand of unprecedented wealth and corporate ownership. The only force in the world big enough to control corporate power  is civil governments. The power elites don’t what to be told what they can and can’t do, especially by one person, one vote majority rule. They are accustomed to corporate governance which boils down to one dollar, one vote. Their intent is to cripple civil control over our democracy and make government do its bidding. They have already overwhelmed most states and many countries around the world. Whether you are conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, it is the ultra privileged elite that is controlling the media and writing the scripts. THIS really is the big picture. What was once the conservatives/ liberal continuum was ruptured and is now this great divide. We were never so different before, my conservative friend and I. This is all a grand scheme and we are all caught up in it.

The wealthy oligarchs donate to the Republican Party in a ratio of at least 2 to 1 over Democrats. Moreover, their strategy with the two parties is very different. On the Democrats side they only support targeted seats and spend money on targeted issues. They buy specific votes when they need to kill or pass legislation important to them (making Democrats look sleazy in the process). This appears like the traditional way we think about lobbying and government, and both sides to it. This targeted strategy also happens leaves room for Democrats to champion other popular causes that don’t harm the oligarchs interests. This helps to preserve the facade of a democratic republic.

On the Republican side the Oligarch’s mostly own the whole party. They have put together an unlikely coalition of fundamentalist Christians, libertarians, small and large business owners, conservative special interest groups, neo-confederate separatists and anyone else who harbors antipathy towards the federal government. In fact, antipathy towards the federal government is the common thread that hold this coalition together.

To gain support of the fundamentalist Christians, who oppose secular government, the elite ruling class spends lots of money ginning up social conservative causes, like abortion or same sex marriage. To libertarians they serve up small government rhetoric, incite Second Amendment fears and promote “big brother” narratives. To businessmen they rant about government regulations and pro-labor policies. To white cultural warriors they attack immigration, welfare queens and exploit racial animus. To neo-confederates they clamor for stricter interpretations of the constitution and direct verbal animosity towards the federal system. To hold on to bread and butter Republicans they demonize liberals and the Democrats to raise fears about voting for them. To all of these groups they rail about taxes, but the whole time their real goal is to control the levers of power for their own gain. There is no longer any room left in the Republican Party for politicians who loves government and wants it to succeed in improving the lives of ordinary Americans (i.e.: moderates).

In the end, the wealthy power elite are neither Democrats nor Republicans, neither conservatives nor liberals. They are out for themselves and their own financial interests. This is the third column of American politics and the hidden hand behind the growing dissatisfaction with our system of government.

Tyranny of the Minority – Part 2: Rise of the Neo-Confederate Secessionists

Graycoat Conservatives – The Neo-Confederate Secessionists

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

 They are still small in number, but spread widely across the county. They are articulate, highly motivated and influential members within the Tea Party, the Christian right movement, Libertarians groups and nationalist groups in every state. They are the philosophic rear guard of the conservative movement  pulling conservatives ever further to the right. They may not have a central organization, but they do have a significant social media presence. They remain under the radar of the national press which fails to take them seriously. The best way to find them is to type “secessionist” into your internet search engine.  They are the Neo-Confederates, a polarizing counter-force behind the growing rift in the Republican Party.

The secessionists anti-government interests overlap with the corporate conservative wing of the  Republican Party, and both groups favor free market economics, but the graycoat conservatives envision a very different America. So while wealthy conservatives continue to fund the Tea Party, graycoat conservatives are busy winning over hearts and minds to their radical alternative.

The following graphic is taken from one of the many secessionist Websites. It maps the number of secessionist petitioners from around the country. In effect it shows where they are most active and how they are distributed across the country. It doesn’t represent how popular or unpopular the movement might be.


Plotting whitehouse.gov secession petitions

Sessionist Petition Activity

Signers to White House secession petitions by county. Color based on proportion of residents signing, with darker colors showing higher levels of secession support. Current as of 9am on Saturday, November 24th. Works best in Chrome or Safari.

Update: It looks like the secession petition movement has peaked.

Since Election Day, more than 60 petitions have been posted on the White House’s website requesting that states be allowed to withdraw from the United States and create their own government. As of November 13, 2012, the following states had active petitions: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Virginias, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. [http://www.unc.edu/~ncaren/secessionists/]


A 2009 Zogby poll quoted on a number of secessionist Websites found that 20% of American’s believe states have a right to secede from the Union.  Just today (12/18/13) Michael Hill, President of one of the Southern groups called League of the South, posted ten reasons for secession. They are:


  1. The U. S. government is an organized criminal enterprise, secession is the only way to return to legitimate government
  2. The U. S. economy is failing, secession makes economic sense
  3. The South’s unique history and culture is worth protecting
  4. The criminal nature of the bank bailouts and the Fed
  5. A dysfunctional national electoral system, secession may be the only way to restore integrity to elections
  6. Third World immigration into the South, secession removes the federal government’s interference and lack of performance
  7. Organic community vs. the globalism of the elites
  8. The implementation of an American police/surveillance state
  9. The Christian South v. secular America, secession provides the opportunity to return to Our Founding Principles

10. Because we think we can rule ourselves better than we are being ruled by DC, secession is a path to American Liberty http://dixienet.org/rights/2013/reasons_for_secession.php]


What  these secessionist groups most have in common is a desire  to facilitate the collapse of the Federal Government and the breakup of the Union of States.  They see this as the natural and inevitable course of history. As they see it, every great empire has followed this path.

applepie

They oppose all forms of collectivism and eschew society as we know it. Among some groups there is a distinct “cultural” component. All groups seem to  reject  democratic majority rule.  As one of them put it to me, ”  

According to one person who wrote me, they are, “… committed to the cause of individual liberty and [individual] sovereignty. [They] would prefer secession, to revolution.”  But revolution it will be if the majority opinion of the Americans go against them. They have a strong patriotic connection to our founding fathers even though their commitment to our Union is weak. Pin them down and they reluctantly choose the union of states over a return to a confederacy, but only if the Federal governments control over the states is weakened and individuals are free from all federal interference.

If you start to pin these folks down in a debate they squirm away. They are viscerally opposed to the our system of government, their anti-federal rage concealed only by their passion for an extreme interpretation of individual rights and freedoms. These passions are covered over by a thin veneer of selective scholarship. Scratch the scholarship and their passion flares. Challenge their constitutional interpretations and they circle the wagons.

They have no sense of responsibility towards society and nothing but contempt for majority rule. They believe the majority of American’s is just another special interest group, and one that is biased against minority rights. When majorities opinions prevail they force minorities to accede to their will which violates their rights. This is how they interpret the Constitution.

The only legitimate role they see for the federal government is the protection of the individual’s right to follow their conscience within Constitutionally defined boundaries. One major flashpoint seems to be taxes. They don’t want to pay any federal taxes, but when pressed say they agree to contribute only for spending within the limits of their narrow interpretation of the governments enumerated powers.

They resent being forced to pay taxes for national parks, education, environmental protection, food and drug administration, foreign diplomacy administration or anything else that isn’t specifically named in our Constitution. They claim a sovereign right not to pay for anything outside of the federal governments enumerated powers, as they define it. They reject all collectivism. For example they resent that the Federal government spends any money on highways and bridges, believing federal spending should be restricted to “postal roads.”

As one person wrote: ” For [the federal government] to “do” it must take. That violates rights. The only function of [government] is protect rights, not “do.”

Tenth Amendment: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The 10th Amendment is the source of their narrow interpretation of federal powers. Their interpretation provides all the justification they require.  Below is a reprint from one of their Websites that lists the enumeration of federal powers which they feel the government has exceeded.  These powers are listed on the Tenth Amendment Center Website where the members call themselves “Tenthers.:  [http://tenthamendmentcenter.com/]

Disdain for the Federal Government or any large democracy is a central feature for these neo-confederate groups.  They see majority as a special interest and would strip the government of its ability to show any favoritism to all special interests. This suggests that the only role of government must be the protection of the individuals rights yet they may concede collective rights to businesses. Perhaps this is why it is so important that corporations be viewed as people. It gives them individual status while denying other types of organization status as a collective entity.


 MIDDLEBURY INSTITUTE PAPER V

http://middleburyinstitute.org/rightsandfreedoms.html

March 2007 – Introduction to “Minimal Rights and Freedoms of Individuals in a Sovereign State”

Because questions keep coming up as to the kinds of states that secessionist organizations are working toward, and because each organization in the movement has an interest in the objectives of any other organization, it seemed to us here that it might be appropriate to send out a suggested platform of the rights and freedoms that might be guaranteed to individuals in any future seceded state. [SNIP]  There are important issues here and we hope you take them seriously.

MINIMAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF INDIVIDUALS IN A SOVEREIGN STATE

Rights to

                     Life, liberty, security
Equality before the law
Trial before competent tribunal, due process, counsel, appeal
Possess property and not be arbitrarily deprived thereof
Periodic elections with universal adult suffrage
Secession by any coherent unit

Freedoms of
Speech, opinion, expression in any media
Peaceable assembly, association
Belief, thought, religion, worship
Movement within any state, and to leave and return

Freedoms from
Slavery or servitude
Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion,
political belief, nationality, property, or birth
Torture or degrading treatment
Arbitrary arrest or detention
Invasion of privacy
Arbitrary deprivation of citizenship
Any action by the state to destroy or deny any of these rights and freedoms

Signators:

Middlebury Institute, February 2007
Second Vermont Republic, March 2007
Southern National Congress Committee, March 2007


The role of a state to infringe on individual rights is not well thought out among members of this group. Because states are smaller they believe them to be inherently less intrusive in the lives of individuals. They consider themselves to have an individual right to not be “interfered with” by any government, but apparently feel that smaller, state governments would be easier to control.  In a large constitutional democracy, such as the United States, a majority opinion is viewed as a form of tyranny against individual dissenters, even if that majority opinion is deemed constitutional according the the Supreme Court. On the other hand, they don’t see anything wrong with a minority group preventing the majority from governing in opposition to them. They see this as their right and duty as “soverigien citizens.” It isn’t clear whether this is true only when the minority feels the government is legislating beyond its enumerated powers, or if they claim this right under all circumstances.  As one person put it:

“But you don’t see that resisting (but not compelling) action from a majority isn’t a tyranny of the minority? The minority isn’t forcing the majority to do anything, only to refrain from forcing the minority to do something. The rights of any minority supersede the wants or needs of any majority.”

In the face debt ceiling financial cliffs, government shut downs, and the nearly total inability of Congress to pass legislation, it is time to recognize that there are forces on the far right, and in Congress, who see this as successful strategy.  Their intentions are malevolent and quite contrary to the motivations most often attributed to them by political analysts in the main stream press. It is time to pay attention to these groups and their impact on American politics. A failure to open a public debate that directly confronts both the graycoat secessionists and the corporate elite now would be a huge mistake.

Tyranny of the Minority – Losing Majority Rule

Part 1 – Losing Majority Rule

Most people pay attention to pocketbook issues that affect our family or retirement, but quite understandably avoid the rancorous politics we see on TV. There is a sense that government is failing because elected officials can’t agree and the country is evenly divided, but many important issues do get rationally settled in the opinion of vast majorities of the public.

For example,a large majority agree that global warming is happening and we are causing it in some way. Almost 90% of us agree we spend too much on defense. Large majorities believe we should generate more electricity from wind and solar. About 80% of us believe there should be universal background checks on gun sales and almost everyone agrees that big banks caused the great recession. Despite a near consensus on these and other issues there is gridlock in Washington. 

One explanation is that there is not a lot of passion behind these majority views, so meaningful change against an organized and well funded opposition is out of reach. In the face of majority agreement, Congress fails to act, or act contrary to the will of its citizens. On the surface it may seem like political gridlock between evenly matched forces, but this is an illusion. There are many issues supported by majorities in both parties that can’t even get a hearing in Congress because a tiny minority who oppose it are able to kill it. This is tyranny by the minority when the majority isn’t allowed to govern. To understand what’s happening really requires us to pierce the noise of partisanship and media bias. 

The voting majority has lost its ability to govern. In frustration more and more ordinary citizens feel alienated or betrayed, leaving us vulnerable to the radical fringe.

MajRuleProtest

Evidencethat the majority has lost the ability to govern is everywhere. The smallest special interest group, the wealthy elite, are by far the most influential and obvious force in Congress. CEO’s of major corporations testified in Congress that they don’t want or need tax subsidies and Congress increases their subsidies. Wall Street asks for and got billions in bailout money with no strings attached. Try to attach some strings or implement substantial financial reform and Congress kills it, either outright or later on through the budget process. There is evidence of the failure of majority rule in the way the filibuster has shut down open debate and killed popular legislation. There is evidence in the inability of Congress to debate and vote on immigration reform, which is popular and has strong bi-partisan support. The debt ceiling crisis, the budget cliffs and the government shutdown are all signs that the majority has lost control of the federal government. The growing assault on voting rights, recently passed anti-abortion legislation and the imposition of emergency managers over democratically elected city and municipal leaders are other examples. 

The truth is forces on the political spectrum are not evenly matched. Many political battles are asymmetrical. The nations shift to the right is mostly due to the success of highly motivated and well funded conservative action groups. For example there are right wing Christian groups opposed to secular society and what they see as moral decay. These groups promote socially conservative issues. There are Tea Party groups opposed to taxes. They promote free market capitalism and limited government. Then there are many extreme nationalists groups, gun rights groups, militial groups and the like. All of these groups have different aims but are drawn together by strong anti-tax, anti-government sentiments and by at least a laissez-faire view of capitalism. 

Money and organizational clout for these action groups comes mostly from wealthy capitalists who want to weaken the power of government to tax and regulate commerce. There is an anti-government alignment of interests between the wealthy elite and each of these groups. 

There is another, less visible segment in these groups as well, a far right group with a welll defined ideology but no central organization. These are the real insurgents fighting for control of the Republican Party. Their goal is to dismantle the Federal government as we know it, limiting its powers to the narrowest extent possible under their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. They are the members of the Tea Party who pull it further to the right. They are the members of conservative Christian right groups that fan the flames of anti-government rhetoric. Some belong to hate groups, conservative issues groups or libertarian organizations. Everywhere they show up they agitate to pull the organization further to the ideological right by sowing dissatisfaction with our Federal government. They seek an individual level of freedom that transends any personal responsibility to society or majority rule. 

Who are these far right ideologues and what do they want?

Imagine a future in which our Federal government is forced to cut back on every service or function not specifically named in the U.S. Constitution. What if, to keep Wyoming and a few other Mid-West and South-Western states from seceding, we give up our national parks. These are sold off to corporation such as Disney, ExxonMobil, Boise Cascade, Massey Energy Corp. and various land development corporations.  Under this scenario Texas or some other states may have already seceded and we now have to worry about the nuclear armed country of Texas on our southern border.

Imagine the Federal government no longer able fund departments and agencies over the objection of a minority of sovereign citizens. Gone are the Departments of Education, Energy, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Interior, Labor, Transportation.. all gone and replaced by individual state control, subject to the ability to fund them over the objections of “sovereign citizens” in each state.

The Environmental protection agency, The FDA, FCC, SEC and almost all federal regulatory agencies would all be gone. These are considered outside the enumerated powers of the Federal government. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are obviously gone as well. It is up to the sovereign citizens of each state to decide what they decide to fund or not fund within their own state.

In this future all Federal powers would be limited strictly to military defense, protection of the rights of individuals with respect to constitutional liberties and settling interstate commerce disputes among the states. In this future citizens could target where their tax money goes. In effect, majority rule would be subject to minority consent, in fact to consent by each sovereign citizen’s consent.

 Continued in Part 2 – Meet the Gray Coat Conservatives.

(Part 2 will detail the belief system of the neo-confederate conservative)