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by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
The mainstream media is finally starting to get it. They haven’t yet declared that we are at war with both foreign and domestic adversaries bent on dismantling our democracy, but they are starting to report on the outlines of the cognitive warfare raging against us in the media universe.
A New York Times editorial piece today broadens awareness of the means by which Russia influenced our 2016 election.
“But as a startling investigation by Scott Shane of The New York Times, and new research by the cybersecurity firm FireEye, now reveal, the Kremlin’s stealth intrusion into the election was far broader and more complex, involving a cyberarmy of bloggers posing as Americans and spreading propaganda and disinformation to an American electorate on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.”
And a New York Times Op-Ed piece today by Siva Vaidhyanathan provides further insight into how Facebook allowed (and continues to allow) Russia to influence American politics.
“On Wednesday, Facebook revealed that hundreds of Russia-based accounts had run anti-Hillary Clinton ads precisely aimed at Facebook users whose demographic profiles implied a vulnerability to political propaganda. It will take time to prove whether the account owners had any relationship with the Russian government, but one thing is clear: Facebook has contributed to, and profited from, the erosion of democratic norms in the United States and elsewhere.”
Here is another rather scary quote from this Op-Ed:
” We are in the midst of a worldwide, internet-based assault on democracy. Scholars at the Oxford Internet Institute have tracked armies of volunteers and bots as they move propaganda across Facebook and Twitter in efforts to undermine trust in democracy or to elect their preferred candidates in the Philippines, India, France, the Netherlands, Britain and elsewhere. We now know that agents in Russia are exploiting the powerful Facebook advertising system directly.”
Even if there was no direct collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the last electionD, there is strong evidence that the rogue interests of certain Western billionaires and Russian oligarchs have converged. Breaking down the economic barriers that keep wealth and power in check under civilian controlled democracies and the goal of undermining the strength and unity of Western democracies to strengthen Vladimir Putin’s global influence are essential aligned.
The Facebook, Twitter and alt-right media assaults on public perceptions during the 2016 election were not only parallel, but closely coordinated to produce the surprising outcome of Donald Trump winning the Presidency. The proof of this is slowly emerging.
What is even less appreciated now is the ongoing media assaults aimed at Trump’s supporters to maintain their loyalty and their perception that he is saving America from a “deep state” takeover of our government, or from radical Islamist trying to establish Sharia law, etc.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
As we fall into the shadows of the propaganda wars raging to divide us, it is more important than ever to hold our focus on the principles and values that united America in the first place. From our founding we were uniquely conceived in the world of nations that existed in the 1700’s. We are the first nation built on shared values rather than shared religion, tribe, geography, common language, ethnicity or race. We are still an experiment well conceived, if poorly lead. From the beginning we place the universal needs of human beings and the universal rights of every individual at the center of a system of self-government. From the start, and throughout our history, we are a nation of truly global diversity united by common dreams and shared values.
“E pluribus unum” is our motto. It’s printed on our currency. It means “out of many, one.” This is the essence of who we are as a nation or, more accurately, what we strive to become as a people. We are bonded by nature to all who hold “… these truths to be self evident.” We fought and died in a bloody civil war that tested whether this nation, “… or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.” We are still here. We are still called to be a beacon for a world in which ethnic and cultural diversity is a new and scary transition. If the United States of America can’t be both diverse and united after 241 years, if our experiment to make self-government work in a pluralistic society falters, what hope is there for a world where massive cultural migrations are challenging nation identities unaccustomed to such diversity.
In this spirit of unity I recommend this recent article by Rebekah Entralgo in ThinkProgress. It is a brief article that highlights one example where our history and ideals are being undermined.
Online racists celebrated Miller’s performance.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Does it seem like supporters of Donald Trump are out of touch with reality? Why are they so dismissive of claims that Russia attacked us? Even in the face of truly damning information about how the Donald Trump Jr. colluded with Russian’s to get dirt on Hillary Clinton, the far right and their Representatives in Congress seem unmoved. Why?
|Map of cyber activity by Right-wing websites during the 2016 election to counter mainstream media advantage.|
Recognizing that computer algorithms currently use by social media keep me from viewing the conversations of those who don’t share my views, I began reading conservative websites such as Breitbart and Info Wars for clues. I forced myself to listened to broadcasts of the Alex Jones Radio Show on Info Wars. For those who don’t know him, Alex Jones is a popular right-wing talk show host. He has millions of listeners and claims those numbers are growing as Fox News numbers decline. He is also the manager or owner of a number of conservative media outlets.
You probably are familiar with Breitbart. It was initially financed by recluse billionaire, Robert Mercer. Steve Bannon was the man in charge there until after this past last election.
As I browsed through these websites, one particular radio show caught my attention. I listened in detail (took notes) to a radio broadcast of Alex Jones on July 12, 2017 (http://rss.infowars.com/20170712_Wed_Alex.mp3). Using this as a starting point, and having sampled other content on both Breitbart and Infor Wars, some patterns emerged that I want to share.
First, the verbiage of Alex Jones’ show can’t be easily unpacked. It is dense with disinformation, oblique references, inflammatory innuendos and repetitive conservative and nativist memes. The overall narrative establishes and affirms an alternative frame of reference for his conservative listeners. The broadcasts contain a blitz of buzz words and references to long debunked Obama era scandals, as I would characterize them, woven into a story line that alters the context of current events. The content is clearly intended to evoke elicit emotions in the listener.
But the biggest insight was that these conservative sites ring exactly the same alarm bells about democracy under attack and a pending authoritarian takeover that those on the left worry about. Info Wars also points to the same means and methods used to attack America as do the rest of us do, such as media disinformation and internet propaganda. But these conservative websites substitute Islamic jihadists for Russian oligarchs, and they substitute “Marxist” liberals for rightwing nationalists.
In effect, this counter narrative creates two American world views that are mirror images. It unites us in our worst fears for American democracy while irreconcilably dividing us politically. We agree that we are at war conducted through information warfare, but we have different enemies waging this war and different ideas on what are foreign enemies trying to accomplish. We can’t come to any mutual understanding because we have an entirely different framework and different sets of facts.
For factual confirmation of the conservative world view listeners are referred to other conservative websites, such as understandingthethreat.com. Here is what the site says about its founder:
John Guandolo is the Founder of UnderstandingtheThreat.com, an organization dedicated to providing strategic and operational threat-focused consultation, education, and training for federal, state and local leadership and agencies, and designing strategies at all levels of the community to defeat the enemy.
That enemy is radical Islam. Guandolo’s website promotes the view that the real threats to America originates from Middle East terrorist organizations. The site has been active since June of 2012 and appears to be hosted in Montreal, Canada, according to its domain registration data.
On the other side, Rachael Maddow had Michael Carpenter on her show recently. He was a U.S. Deputy Assistant Director of Defense before retirement. His take on our strategic threats places Russia at the center of the attacks on our democracy. From what he saw in the past, the cyber operations during the last election are consistent with what Russia has employed in places like the Ukraine. Typically, Russia seeks proxies and allies in the foreign countries they attack to help carry out their cyber operations. They try to penetrate the networks of insurgent political groups seeking power within a foreign county. They do this, and help support those groups, to have influence as those groups gain power. He has no doubt that this has included infiltrating far rightwing groups in America and, by extension, the GOP.
For Alex Jones, his constellation of media outlets continue to create and maintaining this alternative world view focused on terrorists as the existential to America democracy. Those how believe this are convinced the investigations of the Trump Administration are witch hunts and that the allegations of Russian interference are smokescreens by the “deep state” to conceal a leftist takeover of America. They point to their universe of alternate facts, theories and political conspiracies to prove there is an unholy alliance between the liberal elites and Islamist Jihadists seeking to impose Sharia Law on America. They deny the DNC was hacked by Russia, claiming there is no evidence. They see the accusation itself is proof of “deep state” preparations for a coup against Donald Trump. Even more moderate Republicans are held in suspicion. One commenter on Alex Jones’ show said, “The GOP establishment hates Trump more than MSNBC.” In other words, the Republican establishment is complicit with the liberal elites in working with Hamas and other Islamic groups to bring about an authoritarian state and Sharia Law in America. The CIA, NSA and FBI are all in on it and can’t be trusted.
The Goal of Islamic radicals, according to Alex Jones, is to create chaos in America; to destabilize us so that out of the chaos the jihadists can bring about a radical leftwing revolution, an authoritarian state and implementation of Sharia Law. Rodger Stone, a guest on his show, said, The elite have to assume there will be no elections in the future, but a global takeover. An authoritarian state in America.”
Alex Jones defines Sharia Law as total warfare against our culture, social institutions, political systems, military systems, our media and our American way of life. According to Jones, these jihadists are experts in political influence operations. Note that this is just what our Intelligence community is saying about Russia.
These are the alt-right media voices that conservative GOP members in the House and Senate are hearing . These are the sentiments reflected in their core constituents, their power base. Is it any wonder they hardly react to the US Intelligence community’s warning about Russia? The men and women of the GOP are just as patriotic as any of us, but they are straddling two very different world views. They have to know that both worlds can’t be true. Either the Russians are undermining our democracy in league with ultra conservatives oligarchs to divided America, or it is the Islamic extremists doing the same thing in league with liberal Democrats and the deep state (i.e., our Intelligence community).
Since even the most conservative GOP members aren’t ranting in the halls of Congress about jihadists destroying American democracy, I assume they know which scenario is more likely. They also know how to stay in power. Even if a Republican lawmaker doesn’t share their constituents world, they can’t challenge their base without losing their seat. The GOP is, in fact, compromised.
I said earlier that the content of Alex Jones’ show is densely packed with disinformation. In fairness, his listeners have no problem understanding his messages. If they were to watch Chris Hayes or Rachael Maddow, they would have the same critique as me of his show. We really do have two different perceptual realities. The forces creating this schism have to be well organized, well funded and very entrenched to pull this off. It’s time to uncover everyone involved in the media warfare that is tearing us apart. It’s time to fight back, reunite and restore civil democracy in America.
by Brian T. Lynch
President Donald Trump is fomenting a constitutional crisis that he cannot be allowed to win. In an official White House press release today, Donald Trump’s Administration said elected officials in San Francisco “… have the blood of dead Americans on their hands” for opposing the Sanctuary Cities Executive Order that would strip away the city’s federal funding for not fully engaging in federal immigration enforcement efforts. The press release said, “Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation.”
The press release was a response to a lawsuit filed by San Francisco and other county officials requesting an injunction against enforcement of financial sanctions against them. They argued that the Executive Order is unconstitutional.
After hearing both sides of oral arguments in federal court, Judge William H. Orrick granted the injunction against the Administration, barring it from withdrawing any federal funding to cities and counties until after the issue can be adjudicated in a trial. In the judges legal opinion, the merits of the case presented by the city and counties would likely prevail at trial.
Summary of Judge Orrick’s Ruling.
According to Judge Orrick’s ruling, the Trump Administrations Sanctuary Cities Executive Order:
- Violates the separation of powers because it improperly seeks to wield congressional spending powers
- Is overbroad and coercive, violates 10th Amendment prohibition against commandeering local jurisdictions
- Is so vague and standardless that it violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause
- Deprives local jurisdictions of Congress’allocated funds without notice or opportunity to be heard, violating the procedural due process requirements of the Fifth Amendment and because the Counties have not been named “sanctuary jurisdictions” pursuant to the Trump Administration Order
Judge Orrick’s goes on to detail the substance of this federal court hearing:
- Trump’s lawyers said at oral argument the Sanctuary Order is merely an exercise of the President’s “bully pulpit” to highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement. Administration lawyers didn’t even respond to the constitutionality of the order itself, but instead argued that the Counties lack any standing in the court as the Executive Order didn’t change existing law
- Under the Administration’s interpretation of the Order, as presented by Trump Administration’s lawyers in court, Section 9(a) applies only to three federal grants in the DOJ and DHS, and provisions to withhold federal funding under those three grants can already be enforce under existing law.
- Trump’s own lawyers in court disavowed the Government’s right to affect most of the billions of dollars in federal funds that sanctuary cities receive every year
- Yet other language the Executive Order tries to include all other federal grants, and all federal funding as subject to sanctions against municipalities that don’t comply with federal immigration enforcement efforts.
- President Trump called his Order “a weapon” to use against these jurisdictions.
- The Attorney General warned that jurisdictions that do not comply with Section 1373 would suffer “withholding grants, termination of grants, and disbarment or ineligibility for future grants,” and the “claw back” of any funds previously awarded
- The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Sanctuary Cities Executive Order cannot place new conditions on federal funds
- The Tenth Amendment requires that federal funds be unambiguous, must bear some relationship to the funds purposes and that the financial incentive cannot be coercive.
- Federal funding that bears no relationship to immigration enforcement cannot be threatened because a city has chosen an immigration enforcement plan which is at odds with the Administration’s plans
- Judge Orrack therefore granted the County’s request for an injunction to prevent the Administration from withholding federal funding until after full hearing on the matter determines whether the Order is constitutional, saying “… this injunction does nothing more than implement the effect of the Government’s flawed interpretation of the Order.”
Read Judge Orrick’sInjunction against Trump’s Sanctuary Cities Executive Order in full: http://www.politico.com/f/?id=0000015b-a6d5-de92-a17b-aed55e780001 …
Trump’s outrageousresponse to the Sanctuary Cities injunction sets up a serious constitution crisis. His Administration is at war with another co-equal branch of government and the checks on his executive powers that were built into our constitution. We can’t allow him to win this fight in the courts or in the court of public opinion.
Here is the Administration’s outrageous press release printed in full:
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate ReleaseApril 25, 2017
Statement on Sanctuary Cities Ruling
Today, the rule of law suffered another blow, as an unelected judge unilaterally rewrote immigration policy for our Nation. Federal law explicitly states that “a Federal, State or Local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” 8 U.S.C. 1373(a). That means, according to Congress, a city that prohibits its officials from providing information to federal immigration authorities — a sanctuary city — is violating the law. Sanctuary cities, like San Francisco, block their jails from turning over criminal aliens to Federal authorities for deportation. These cities are engaged in the dangerous and unlawful nullification of Federal law in an attempt to erase our borders.
Once again, a single district judge — this time in San Francisco — has ignored Federal immigration law to set a new immigration policy for the entire country. This decision occurred in the same sanctuary city that released the 5-time deported illegal immigrant who gunned down innocent Kate Steinle in her father’s arms. San Francisco, and cities like it, are putting the well-being of criminal aliens before the safety of our citizens, and those city officials who authored these policies have the blood of dead Americans on their hands. This San Francisco judge’s erroneous ruling is a gift to the criminal gang and cartel element in our country, empowering the worst kind of human trafficking and sex trafficking, and putting thousands of innocent lives at risk.
This case is yet one more example of egregious overreach by a single, unelected district judge. Today’s ruling undermines faith in our legal system and raises serious questions about circuit shopping. But we are confident we will ultimately prevail in the Supreme Court, just as we will prevail in our lawful efforts to impose immigration restrictions necessary to keep terrorists out of the United States.
In the meantime, we will pursue all legal remedies to the sanctuary city threat that imperils our citizens, and continue our efforts to ramp up enforcement to remove the criminal and gang element from our country. Ultimately, this is a fight between sovereignty and open borders, between the rule of law and lawlessness, and between hardworking Americans and those who would undermine their safety and freedom.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
(A letter to the editor I submitted today. Please feel free to copy and send to your own local editors without attribution.)
Have we all lost our minds? Have we all forgotten that special interest tax loopholes are a tax burden for the rest of us? Are we so jaded that we no longer see tax breaks as evidence of political corruption?
Who among your readers would vote for a special tax break knowing it would raise their own taxes? If the majority ruled, as it should in our Republic, most tax breaks wouldn’t exist.
While Trump and his supporters say how genius it is of him to so cleverly exploit these disgusting loopholes, wouldn’t the financial gains of a corruptly created tax breaks also be tainted?
Muck money! Graft booty! We don’t have a precise word for it, but exploiting ill gotten tax breaks for personal gain isn’t honorable. It is unfair. It is the rigging in a rigged system. Tax loopholes may be legal but that doesn’t make them respectable.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
The rich are not like you and me. I can safely say that knowing they’ll never read this.
The massive leak of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca shows the extent to which the global elite shield their wealth from us. They have no interest in sharing the cost of governing. We pay for the military, the courts, the police, the roads, the schools and all of our social and physical infrastructure. The wealthy mooch off of us by not paying their taxes. The system is rigged to benefit those who least need the benefits. Some of the tax dodges are written into the law by politicians deep within the pockets of the rich. But as the Panama Papers reveal, most of the unreported wealth is hidden illegal. All of it is underhanded and immoral.
The sheer number of documents leaked is enormous. It covers 40 years of financial transactions and 2.6 terabytes of data. If media coverage of this scandal were proportional to the size of the document cashe, there would be no other news on television for weeks. Here below is a graphic depiction of the scale of the leak compared with other huge scandalous leaks.
As it stands, the owners and share holders of our corporate media are likely involved somewhere in this scandal. If not them directly, then surely their customers who buy advertizing are caught in this vast net of stinking fish. The hard working, front line journalists responsible for turning this data mountain into intelligible information have little control over how their work will be broadcast. For now, at least in the United States, coverage of the scandal is trumped by presidential politics.
If our society were healthy, if so many of us had not already given up on government’s lack of responsiveness to public demands, this would be a watershed moment. It would be a tipping point for righteous indignation and hot pursuit of substantial reforms.
The wealthy will tell you their fair share is in the paltry proportion they do pay in taxes, but the proof of the lie is the growing number of children living in poverty whose benefits are cut by the budget knife. The proof of the lie is in our crumbling bridges and crowed roads that we can’t fix without killing off other essential services. No matter how big some people say government is, it’s too small and corrupted to make these powerful people pay all their taxes.
It is all too depressing. All the more so if you believe, as I do, that a failure to mobilize for real change now puts the world on the path to real revolution, bloodshed and destruction. It is a well documented historical pattern, just as inevitable yet avoidable as global warming. It has happened countless times before, except this is different. This time tearing down our institutions in a murderous fit of rage would likely condemn the Earth to mass extinctions.
As much as we rail against the “system” we need it for the higher level of coordination and cooperation it will take to solve the global catastrophe we face. We can’t solve these challenges without reforming our current power structures and the eliminating the barriers created by greedy capitalists. Only the collective power of our vast social institutions can bring about the kind of changes we must make to survive. Radical reform is our best option for survival. How do we get a critical mass of people to understand this before it is too late?
Part I, The Progressive Era
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
The distinction between Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton couldn’t be sharper. If this doesn’t seem obvious, it is because Beltway media coverage of the candidates obscures more than reveals. Financial considerations of the for-profit news media creates short time horizons and shallow perspectives. The historical context of current events is often lost. To clearly see how different our choices are between these two Democratic Party candidates we need a little more information.
The two biggest areas of contrast between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are centered around two words that are very much in the public debate. These words are, “progressive” and “electability.” This essay is broken into two parts, each dedicated to these significant differences.
The Progressive Era
The term “progressive” as it relates to politics is not as vague a term as current usage suggests. The “Progressive Movement” was an historical development leading to a particular political philosophy. Born out of the Gilded Age, it held that the irresponsible actions of the rich were a corrupting influence on public and private life in America. It’s most influential period was between 1900 and 1920, although its influence continued throughout the 20th century. Progressivism was both a political and a social movement. It held that advances in science, technology, economics, and social organization could improve the conditions in which most citizens live, and that government had a role to play in promoting these advances.
Progressivism was a rejection of Social Darwinism (arguably a forerunner of Aya Rand’s Objectivism). It was a reform movement with goals considered radical in their time. Progressives sought to curb the power of big business and US corporations. It brought about laws to regulate fair commerce and break up monopolies. It fought to eliminate bribery and corruption in politics and to bring about political reforms. It fought against the extreme social injustice and inequality of that time, including opposition to child labor, widespread illiteracy, and horrible working and living conditions. It sought to improve lifestyles and living condition of all Americans and to establish health and safety standards both in the workplace and the communities where people lived. The progressive movement was also for the conservation and protection of our natural resources.
Among the activists in the movement were people such as Thomas Nast, Upton Sinclair, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Eugene Debs, Jane Addams, who founded Hull House and pioneered the field of social work, Booker T Washington, W. E. B. DuBose and many more. They and the muckrakers of the day found a sympathetic ear in Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican President. This is an important point as Progressivism was a sweeping and transformational movement supported by candidates in both political parties. The Progressive Movement ushered in the modern, middle-class oriented society we enjoy today.
Rise of Conservative Movement
Fast-forwarding for the sake of brevity skips a lot of important history, but it is fair to say that a strain of Progressive Movement philosophy has been baked into our political DNA. It remains most prominent in the Democratic party while largely disappearing from the establishment wing of the GOP. It’s disappearance is roughly correlated with the rise of our current income inequality and the growing power of the super rich. But a progressive element within the GOP is still not entirely absent even in conservative voters as evidenced by the continuing popularity of Medicare and Social Security among Tea Party Republicans.
On the Democratic side, the progressive vein of the party suffered though a crushing political loss with the landslide victory of Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972, followed a decade later by the rise of the conservative movement capped by the landslide election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.
President Reagan’s election marked the beginning of a successful and synergistic partnership between the Republican Party and private corporate wealth. This partnership began a decade earlier with the conscious decision to create ideologically conservative public media platforms and apply modern business marketing techniques to promote conservative causes, including a successful anti-union marketing campaign that turned workers against unions. The power of organized labor was also challenged by newly organized industry advocacy groups. These industry trade groups gave rise to the powerful corporate lobbies we have today. Among the early successes of industry trade groups was a law that created political action committees, or PAC’s where corporations were able to provide substantial campaign contributions to political candidates of their choosing, and their candidates were all conservative and mostly Republican. The influx of money, the marketing prowess and the organizing clout of this marriage between the GOP and big business overwhelmed the Democratic Party. The effectiveness of massively coordinated conservative messaging cannot be overstated. It began the shift of America’s political center to the right. The power of this massively coordinated messaging, rather than the strength of conservative ideas, continues to power this rightward movement of our electoral center today.
DLC Transforms The Democratic Party
To many Democrats it was clear that the Party had to change strategy. Progressive causes were no longer winning elections. The diagnosis, unfortunately, was that the progressive agenda was the problem rather than copious amounts of corporate money, more effective marketing techniques, and the rise of conservative funded media outlets with their focus group tested propaganda.
A Democratic political operative name Al From believed that economic populism was no longer politically viable. He founded an organization named the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) to move the Democratic Party away from progressive and socialist influences. The DLC sought more conservative alternatives that could appeal to the rightward shifting center of the American electorate. This required a willingness to compromise progressive values and embrace some conservative ideas. It was a strategy that triangulated politicians and the political party base on both the right and the left to win broad appeal for more “centrist” proposals. It also meant shifting Democratic Party allegiance towards big business interests and away from the poor and working classes. (The impact that this shifting focus had on the Democratic electorate will be explored more in Part 2).
More and more Democrats joined the DLS and adopted its ideas, which became known as the Third Way. It’s adherents became known as New Democrats. Their willingness to compromise and pass corporate friendly legislation, in combination with corporate lobbying, brought in the donation needed to fund successful campaigns. The crowning success of the New Democrats was the popular election of their candidate, President Bill Clinton. From then till now Democratic Party has hitched a ride on the shifting center of the American electorate. The DLC’s New Democrats became the establishment wing of the party.
Under Bill Clinton the New Democrats schemed and compromised their way with Republicans to pass a mixed bag of legislation, from a progressive stand point. Clinton got passed a the Family and Medical Leave Act, welfare reform legislation, legislation to deregulate banks and insurance companies so they can compete with investment banks, to list a few accomplishments. The DLC’s had to push ever further to the right to follow the shifting electoral center, but it was winning elections again. To better compete with GOP success, the Democratic party began adopting Republican style marketing strategies and ever closer ties to big corporate donors. Still, the electorate slide to the right continued. The Party was locked into a strategy that kept Democratic candidate competitive but left no room to challenge the conservative movement or corporate media more broadly. There was always the danger that directly confronting the right wing conservatives would dry up the corporate donation that Democratic candidates came to rely on.
It’s work on transforming the Democratic Party done, the DLC dissolved in early 2011, and on July 5 of that year, DLC founder Al From announced on the organization’s website its historical records had been purchased by the Clinton Foundation. The DLC had become the Democratic Party establishment.
Democratic Establishment Today
Today, New Democrats are simply called Democrats. They still claim the title of progressives, but it is a more relative term today. Those most closely associated with the former DLC, however, hold important policy positions that are considerably more conservative than before the DLC was founded. For example, former DLC activist oppose single-payer universal healthcare. They are more hawkish. They supported the Iraq War and are in favor of stronger military interventions in areas of active conflict. They are in favor of charter schools and “No Child Left Behind”. They are more aligned with Wall Street and market-based solutions to economic problems. They support free-trade agreements including NAFTA, and now the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP). They continue to fear that economic populism is not politically viable and while they have come late to addressing income and wealth inequality, their are less aggressive in their approach
This is the current state of the Democratic Party establishment, of which Hillary Clinton is the heir apparent. If she doesn’t see that she is an establishment Democrat, it is because a true progressive alternative has not presented itself in a long time. Today’s Democratic Party is progressive in name only. Hillary Clinton revealed more than she realized when she recently said some call her a centrist and she is proud to wear that label. Capturing the electoral center remains at the heart of her campaign strategy.
What she and other establishment Democrats haven’t realized is that they have chased the electoral political center far to the right of actual political sensibilities of most ordinary citizens. For decades Democratic and independent voters have given up on the electoral process. They are not among the likely voters the Party targets to win elections. And the Party has stopped listening to the families they represent. They haven’t notice just how rigged the economy has become. They have stopped talking about the poor and the term “working class” has disappeared from the Party’s vocabulary. They compete instead, with Republicans on the issues of the GOP’s own choosing while conservative operatives successfully frame every debate to benefit wealthy donors. Establishment Democrats have not stopped to notice just how painful the nearly 40 year decline in wages has been for the middle-class .
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has never stopped listening to the people or noticing what is happening to poor and middle class Americans. He retained his progressive values as an independent representative from Vermont. His record on this is clear. He continues to to promote progressive values and even retains the “socialist” tag that became associated with progressive philosophy in the 1960’s. When Hillary Clinton challenged him in the recent debate by asking what made him the gatekeeper of who is a progressive, Bernie couldn’t reduce his answer to a pithy sound byte. The question is breathtaking for those familiar with the transformation of the Democratic Party over the decades. There are very few champions of true progressives left in politics today. How could anyone answer her in question in a short few words? It requires too much context because so much of the history of the Party has been lost. But once the context is understood, the stark contrast between Clinton and Sanders is between:
1. A candidate who will continue to ride the electoral center wave to the right in exchange for small but more certain gains that improve our lives, or
2. A candidate who awakens the vast number of disaffected voters to challenge right-wing ideology directly, sweep conservatives from office and make way for bold ideas that will greatly benefit most people.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Diplomats are our solders for peace. They should be treated like the great patriots and heroes that they are. For too long they have been put on the shelf or forgotten. President Obama set them to work again for America, for all of us.
Today Iran released the American journalists and others that it held hostage in Iran for months. And now the NY Times says Iran has dismantled major parts of its nuclear program, paving the way for sanctions to be lifted. The UN Nuclear Agency is reporting that Iran has met all of its commitments in the Landmark nuclear deal with six world powers. This appears to be a major triumph of American diplomacy and for world deplomacy. Let’s celebrate and see who cares to joins in the celebration!!!
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
What follows is a letter I wrote to New Jersey’s principal newspaper, which is constantly trying to convince us that the huge pension deficits created by bad public policy decisions (or perhaps by intentional public union busting strategies) can’t be fixed without dismantling the whole system and starting over. All options to do this create great sacrifices by hard working servants of the people who were promised pensions in exchange for lower lifetime wages than the private sector would be paid for comparable work.
“Taxing the rich won’t solve pension problems” claims the Star-Ledger in its editorial. Their point is that the “millionaire’s tax” vetoed by Gov. Christie wouldn’t plug the current pension gap.
Money is fungible. Whenever tax revenue is deleted from the budget, someone’s ox has to be gored. For decades that ox belonged to State employees. Their pensions is part their wage package and the reason their overall compensation is roughly parallel with the private sector. Not funding it was a deliberate choice.
Another fact hidden in plain view is that revenue deleted from the budget doesn’t have a line item to remind us of what’s missing. We end up blindly subsidizing profitable corporations instead of properly compensating ordinary folks who work for us.
It’s disingenuous for politicians (or the Star-Ledger) to speak of pension reform without also discussing the massive tax breaks that created this crisis. If tax cuts for businesses and people who don’t need it were rescinded, there would be plenty of revenue to fund the pensions.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Let’s say you really want to know if Obamacare has had a positive effects on keeping people healthy. Partisan politics makes it difficult to get any concrete or objective answers to this or any questions regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA). So how would you go about finding the answer?
You could find out by designing your own study. You might start by looking at diseases that are silent killers because these have permanently damaging effects long before there are physical symptoms.
Diabetes is just such a disease. According to medical sources, as many as one person in four have diabetes and don’t know it. The longer it goes undetected the more it damages your internal organs, yet a simple blood test and doctors visit is all it takes to uncover and control this disease.
Now imagine that you have results of 400,000 diabetes blood tests nationwide from which you could pull out all the newly diagnosed cases. First you sort the new case in 2013, before any Medicaid expansion, from the 2014 cases after the expansion. Next you sort the new diabetes cases from each period by the 26 states that expanded Medicaid from the 24 states that refused. A concrete measure of an improved healthcare outcome would be finding that there was an increased rate of diabetes detection in the expansion states over the non-expansion states.
Just such a study was done and published this week (March 21, 2015) by Qwest Diagnostics, a national medical laboratory. What their analysis discovered was a 23% increase of newly diagnosed cases of diabetes in the states that expanded Medicaid in 2014. There was only a 0.4% increase in new diabetes cases from states that did not expand Medicaid. What’s more, they were able to see a trend towards earlier detection of diabetes in the expansion states. Earlier detection means fewer heart attacks, strokes, kidney transplants, amputations, blindness and premature deaths. This, in turn, means a healthier population and lower health care costs over time.
Thousands of people will now lead healthier lives and live to their full potent in those 26 states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. The number of people who could have been covered by the expansion roughly equals the number who got coverage in 2014. This means an almost equal number of people will likely experience needlessly declining health due to undiagnosed diabetes. The states that don’t expand Medicaid will have higher healthcare costs in the future resulting from a less healthy population.
The news isn’t all bleak for the poor or elderly in states that didn’t expand Medicaid. A report by the Avalere Health organization recently found that there are 550,000 new enrollees in standard Medicaid in 15 states that have not expanded Medicaid. They attribute this rise in enrollment to the “woodwork effect,” caused by increased public awareness and publicity surrounding Obamacare. These are individuals who were eligible for standard Medicaid but hadn’t applied. It is safe to presume that some of them will benefit from the early detection of diabetes.
From this one Quest diagnostics study alone the answer is clear. The Affordable Care Act is having a positive effect on the health and well-being of citizens in those states that expanded Medicaid. There are other silent killers that can easily be detected early while treatments and cures are still possible, such as high blood pressure and many types of cancer. If earlier detection of these diseases are also resulting from Medicaid expansion, this would be overwhelming evidence that the ACA is improving health outcomes.
Expanding Medicaid doesn’t cost the states any additional revenue for the first few years. After that there is significant reimbursements from the Federal Government. Refusing Medicaid expansion actually costs states millions of dollars in uncompensated care right now. Doing this on ideological grounds is not a principled position, not when it clearly results in a less healthy population and increased medical expenses for the foreseeable future.
I close with a quote from the actual Quest Diagnostics study findings:
Actual Study Findings:
“We identified 215,398 and 218,890 patients who met our definition of newly diagnosed diabetes within the first 6 months of 2013 (control period) and 2014 (study period), respectively (a 1.6% increase). We identified 26,237 Medicaid enrolled patients with new diabetes in the control period vs. 29,673 in the study period: an increase of 13%. The number of Medicaid-enrolled patients with newly identified diabetes increased by 23% (14,625 vs. 18,020 patients) in the 26 states (and District of Columbia) that expanded Medicaid compared with an increase of 0.4% (11,612 vs. 11,653 patients) in the 24 states that did not expand Medicaid during this period. Similar differences were observed in younger and older adults and for both men and women.”
Quest Diagnostics Diabetes Study: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/early/2015/03/19/dc14-2334.full.pdf+html