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It Has A Name: FASCISM

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Fascism: A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition. – Merriam-Webster

It’s time to call a duck a duck. Putin’s Russia is a fascist state.

PutinWink

While scholars may debate what fascism is, we all know it when we see it, or so we think. We have been slow to see it in Russia. Perhaps the shadow of communism in the former Soviet Union is blinding us to what Russia has become, a totalitarian fascist regime.

Correctly applying that label to Russia is important to understanding our own national politics and the growing swirl of suspicious connections between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. The most direct links, so far, appears to be a network of contacts between a shady collection of Trump’s operatives and shadowy Russian oligarchs. Whether or not Russia influenced our elections as alleged, this web of contacts by crony capitalists and intermediaries is just what one would expect between two fascist authoritarian leaders. Yes! Trump’s political movement in America has a name. Fascism!

Growing income inequality, the insurgence of the political right here and abroad, rising nationalism, the vilification of differences (racial, religious, ethnic, etc.), the ascension of an authoritarian leader in the U.S. and the confluence of billionaire capitalists bent on undermining democratic institutions for self-gain are unmistakable signs that fascism is reemerging in the 21st century.

A few words about fascism may be necessary since the term has been muddled, perhaps intentionally so. In general, it is an authoritarian form of government empowered by a multi-class nationalistic populism and a power sharing alliance with the wealthy elite. Fascism may take different forms as it metastasizes, but it is always built on three legs: A ruthless authoritarian leader, an extremely nationalistic base and a loyal cadre of uber-wealthy crony capitalists. The goal of fascism is always the same, to optimize power and prosperity for the fittest members of society, as defined by those aligned with their leader.

Without this understanding it is difficult to grasp the trans-national collaborations we see surfacing, not just between some conservative billionaires in the West and Russia, but also between them and other rich oligarchs the world over. Without understanding fascism it is impossible to grasp the national transition undermining our own democracy. It is impossible to grasp the extent to which fascism has already infected our democracy.

With or without Russia’s help, Donald Trump won the election without the popular vote through every available method used to rig elections. These included voter suppression measures in all its forms, traditional precinct dirty tricks, exploitation of electronic and mail-in voting, publication of hacked DNC emails, an FBI email investigation dust-up days before the election and the latest in mass marketing methods funded by billionaire campaign supporters. But it also included something new, the latest in “cognitive warfare” technology. These are essentially internet mind control techniques unleashed on us by Cambridge Analitica, a political propaganda company employed by Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign. (See Propaganda in the Digital Age – Mind Control on a Massive Scale)

All of this activity requires coordination among highly loyal followers, the kind of coordination that the Alt-right’s alternative media machines and crony capitalists’ connections can accomplish. And it requires the kind of loyal followers who know what Donald Trump will do for them when in power regardless of what he says to get there.

Does all this seem too incredible to believe?

Good! We should all be skeptical about what we read on the internet and what messages issue from the halls of power. So in keeping with my Data Drive Viewpoints theme, let’s conduct a rigorous, scientific style thought experiment to test my hypothesis.

The hypothesis is: Donald Trump is the leader of an American fascist movement.

The goal of experimental methods is to disprove the hypothesis by proving the opposite to be true. This thought experiment must therefore prove the opposite by showing that Trump does not do what fascist dictators do. Here there is space for readers to pick their most important markers of fascist dictators. There are many such lists to help you choose fascist characteristics.  Select the characteristics most convincing to you and state them as their opposite. Wikipedia offers helpful lists under their definition of fascism page. So for example, characteristic on one of the list, entry #4 reads:

#4. Anti-equality: Fascism loathes the principles of economic equality and disdains equality between immigrant and citizen. Some forms of fascism extend the fight against equality into other areas: Gender, sexual, minority or religious rights, for example.

To state this in its positive form, the null hypothesis is: Donald Trump and his administration will:

  • Assure all immigrants are afforded the same rights and due process as U.S. citizens
  • Respect and enforce the civil rights of members of LGBT community
  • Respect  and enforce the civil rights of ethnic and racial minorities
  • Guarantee freedom of religion and civil liberty for all religious groups, including Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities in America.

We can now count up all the qualifying future incidences where this proves true or false. Let’s try one more example from a different list of fascist characteristics. This list contains the following point:

Disagreement Is Treason” – Fascism devalues intellectual discourse and critical reasoning as barriers to action, as well as out of fear that such analysis will expose the contradictions embodied in a syncretistic faith.

[Note: The word syncretistic used here means the merging of different ideological strains to assert an underlying unity that may or may not exist.]

The null hypothesis to prove might read:

Donald Trump and his administration will: Encourage intellectual discourse from a diverse variety of stake holders to critically examine and analyze legislative and policy options best suited for the common good.

Or this:

Donald Trump and his supporters will: Express appreciation for those who may disagree with him).

The point here is to keep looking for signs that President Trump, his administration and supporters are not acting like fascists. Be as objective as possible and take a fairly large sample over the next several months. Once you have your own results you can decide for yourself if my hypothesis is true.

Propaganda in the Digital Age – Mind Control on a Massive Scale

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

“World War III will be a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” – Marshall McLahun

I noticed it during the 2016 election. My Twitter and Facebook accounts were awash in anti-Hillary comments. Many comments seemed to piggy-back on my own reservations about her. Other comments were wildly inaccurate and mean-spirited.

I was a Bernie supporter and not happy with the way the DNC and Democratic leadership conducted the primaries. Still, Hillary Clinton was clearly a normal candidate while, in my view, Donald Trump was not normal on many levels. I could never be persuaded to vote for Donald Trump.

When anti-Hillary messages mirrored my concerns I sometimes “liked” the comments or added my own in support of my views. When outrageously false anti-Hillary claims were posted I mostly ignored them, but sometimes took issue. This would often lead to a running debate with some implacable troll on social media. I debated them, not to change their minds (impossible), but to make sure others reading these posts would be exposed to a more reasonable set of facts and opinions.

During these social media debates I noticed a lot of others respondents chiming in with “likes” or retweets opposing my views. The longer I pressed the debate, the greater the number of these mostly silent opposition supporters grew Sometimes as many as 20 or 30 different respondents would like, share or retweet  my opponent’s posts, even days after the conversation ended. Some of these follow-on’s appeared to bolster randomly stupid or meaningless statements made by the Hillary hater.

That’s when I realized something unusual was happening. My assumption was that all these respondents were part of a coordinated system of trolls.  I resisted the feeling that I was in the minority, because my independent research confirmed that I held majority views. But I did get the feeling that somehow I was talking to myself.

Suddenly, after the election, all these feverish Twitter and Facebook respondents disappeared. Did you also notice that?

Only now, through my curiosity and continuing review of articles on internet propaganda, am I beginning to realize the full horror of what I experienced during the election. I was under a sophisticated psychological attack.

Propaganda as we commonly think of it today involves what spies call “active measure”  used to demoralize or destabilize civilian populations in times of war. Dropping fliers from airplanes, broadcasting news on Radio Free Europe, writing op-ed pieces under pseudonyms or stealing classified documents and releasing them publicly to embarrass adversaries are examples that come to mine. More recent examples include false flag attacks or leaking fake information that appears to be damaging but then proving it is wrong when your opponent tries to use it against you. This technique damages the credibility of your opposition instead.

The Russian connection to the DNC email hacks and subsequent Wikileaks publication appears to be the next generation of “active measures” propaganda. Gallons of ink have been used exploring these events to prove that Russia interferred in our elections. And they did. This is all well and good. but at its root the only thing new about this sort of propaganda is the sophisticated hacking used to steal the documents. Otherwise, it is old style propaganda.  Media attention to it only serves as a distraction to the whole new world of electronic propaganda unleashed on us during the election.  These are new, covertly developed military grade techniques never used on this scale before a few years ago (in the BREXIT, Vote Leave Campaign, Read the first article in the bibliography below.).

COGNITIVE WARFARE:  Cognitive warfare is a toolbox of cyber propaganda techniques that both models mass populations and profiles individuals to change their beliefs or attitudes. It has many aspects and methods that utilize super-computers, massive databases and sophisticated computer algorithms to weaponize information gathered from our digital footprints to use against us.  Some techniques model and manipulate whole societies to bring about social change while other techniques profile and manipulate individuals or groups to alter a person’s attitudes and behavior.  These methods go by names such as  Bio-psycho-social profiling, Recoding (of mass consciousness), Strategic drowning (of mainstream media content, for example), micro-targeted propaganda, etc. These propaganda techniques can be highly effective and operate on an emotional level without our specific awareness.

So where to begin? The amount of information needed to fully explain the new propaganda is way beyond the scope of this blog post. It is honestly beyond the scope of my own understanding at this point as well. This article can only serve as an introduction to the topic. At the conclusion I will point you to several lengthy articles that go into more detail.

ALGORITHMS: To understand the basics of cognitive warfare methods we must start with computer algorithms. These are sets of computer code instructions that allow a computer to analyze huge amounts of data and automatically make complex decisions for further action based on their continuous analysis. Algorithms can be simple or mind-bendingly complex, as their use in modern day financial trading illustrates. In the area of financial investments algorithms monitor the markets and social media sites (like Twitter, to see what’s trending) and then make split-second decisions on buying and selling stocks. It is estimated that over 70% of all stock trades are computer generated transactions.

But algorithms are ubiquitous in social media as well. From Google’s search engine to Twitter’s suggestions as to who to follow, algorithms have become our window on the world. As such they have an enormous impact on our outlook. Each of us who searches a term on Google may receive different information in a different order, depending on our digital footprint on the internet. This impacts our thinking. Robert Epstein, of the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology says,”.. these personalized results impact our opinions and behavioral patterns without our awareness.” Of Google he writes, “We are talking about the most powerful mind-control machine ever invented in the history of the human race. And people don’t even notice it.”

There is much more we need to know about these algorithms running in the background of the cyber world, but for our purposes here it is sufficient to know that a knowledge of them and how to manipulate and exploit them is the basis on which cognitive warfare operates.

BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL PROFILING:  When I type “Daily Record” into my iPhone search, my local newspaper site come up. Years ago this wasn’t the case. I would get a newspaper with that name in Scotland. We don’t think much about the convenience built into our media systems that allows computers to make assumptions about us. These assumptions are based on our digital profile, where we live, where we are presently located, what we have looked up in the past and other such personal information kept in a database about us somewhere. This is the friendly face of social profiling.

Advances in data storage and retrieval systems, sophisticated algorithms, and methods to analyze and manage massive amounts of data allow media platforms to develop comprehensive profiles on us. This allows them to deliver the content we most want to see. Formerly, the level of detail was based on some grouping we fit into, but increasingly it is based on who we are as individuals. This has been  a boon to commercial marketing but it has a very powerful dark side as well.

In the case of Facebook profiles, for example, scientists found that profiles can be correlated across millions of people to produce remarkably accurate individual profiles. When results are combined with data generated by the “like” button people click on approve certain content, the individual profile gets ever more perfect. With just 150 “likes”  our profile can predict personality better than our own spouses can, and with 300 likes it knows a person better they know themselves.

Of this profiling data, Paul-Olivier Dehaye, a Swiss mathematician, said, “People just don’t understand the power of this data and how it can be used against them.” This level of understand our personality allows those in control of our profiles to send micro-targeted messages to us that subtlety manipulate our feelings and the association with which our emotions are evoked.  For example, if a person is on the fence over how to vote in an election, the people behind the propaganda machines know this about you and can custom tailor messages to that will influence you to vote one way or the other. This technique is called micro-targeted propaganda. There is evidence that this type of propaganda was used in the 2016 election to help elect Donald Trump.

STRATEGIC DROWNING:  This is another tool in the Cognitive Warfare arsenal used to influence public discourse and alter our mass consciousness. While bio-psycho-social profiling targets individuals, this technique targets certain segments of the population or even the whole population at once. The idea behind this technique it to flood the cyber-media network with specific alternative messages that drown out conventional news and information. It exploits the algorithms used by media platforms that bring desired content to us. So, for example, if you type “Jews are” into Google search, it will return answers like, “Why do people hate Jews” I just did the experiment as I write this and the picture below shows the top results.

jewsarescreen

Clearly these are unexpected results for most people who might enter the search terms. (Try it yourself, and don’t be surprised if your results differ from mine based on your profile.) The result over-represent hate groups and the proliferation of these results are the work of nefarious operators who flood the “media ecosystem.”

Cyber media would normally be dominated by conventional information sources such as The New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC etc., but these sources are swamped with hundreds of thousands of links from much smaller alternative information sites. These links to alternative information are intended to exploit the structure of Google secret algorithms to bring these articles to the top of the search results. This has a psychological impact on us personally and gives a false impression about public consensus in America. It blurs the question as to what is really true.

The operational structure for strategic drowning includes a coordinated network of alternative information websites, referred to as micro-propaganda machines, or MPM’s. Each MPM controls a vast warehouse of “bots” which are bogus Facebook and Twitter accounts, etc. These fake accounts exist by the hundreds of thousands. Some are always active to drive public dialogue while some are “sleeper bots.” These are held in reserve and triggered en mass by propagandists to overwhelm news cycles or cover up information unfavorable to their goals. It is also used to create trends and alter public discourse, or change public attitudes.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Jonathan Albright is an assistant professor of communications at Elon University in North Carolina. He analyzed the activity of these MPM’s during the 2016 election and was able to create “spatial map” of that activity. The picture created shows the relative dominance of traditional information sources in the media ecosystem, as he calls it, and the impact on that system by MPM’s during the election.  The red nodes are alternative information (propaganda) websites and the red lines radiating from them are links or activity of these sites.

cognitivewarbattlefieldmap

In effect, what you see here is the cognitive warfare battlefield during the last election. This new propaganda arms race is between pro-democracy advocates and their adversaries. It is a war still being waged here and in other Western democracies. It is being waged by both foreign attackers and billionaire Western oligarchs who share converging interests. It is being waged by Russia, who just announced the creation of a new branch of their military calling them “information warfare troops”.

“… Russians have moved into an offensive posture that threatens the very international order.” said Ben Rhodes of the Obama Administration last year.

The propaganda war is also being waged by billionaire controlled corporations specializing in this field, companies like Cambridge Analytica. This is essentially a propaganda company featuring Steve Bannon on its board of directors.

This outline of Cognitive Warfare attacks we were subjected to, and are still experiencing as an attack on our journalism institutions, helps make sense of my social media experiences during the election. I see now how I was being stroked, on one hand (micro-targeted), to fan my discontent with Hillary while being made to feel my views were in the minority (strategic drowning) on the other hand. I know now that many of the trolls I encountered were really computer generated cyberbots. All this has caused be to completely rethink my own on-line presence.

I have presented a great deal of information here and a number of quotes and facts without specific attribution. That is because virtually all of the quotes and many of the fact are from the remarkable work of Carole Cadwalladr, published by The Guardian in London. I have vetted her information by going to her original source and found them to be accurate. If you have stayed with me to this point, I urge you to read Ms. Cadwalladr’s two article for even more background information. She also outlines the connections between the companies providing propaganda services for the wealthy ideologues funding them and the Trump administration.

Bibliography

Robert Mercer: the big data billionaire waging war on mainstream https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage                                                   Carole Cadwalladr, 26 February, 2017

Google, democracy and the truth about internet search  https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/04/google-democracy-truth-internet-search-facebook                                                                                                           Carole Cadwalladr, 4 December, 2016

The #Election2016 Micro-Propaganda Machine                https://medium.com/@d1gi/the-election2016-micro-propaganda-machine-383449cc1fba#.gl16j8e9c                                                                                                         Jonathan Albright, 18 November, 2016

And for further reading from my blog on algorithms,

Algorithms Hidden Impact on How We Think   http://aseyeseesit.blogspot.com/2017/02/algorithms-hidden-impact-on-how-we-think.html?spref=tw …

Brian T. Lynch, 9 February, 2016

Emoji of the Masses – The Trump Presidency

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

I have had to work with people like Donald Trump before. Not folks as materially successful of course, but just as wily, and with very similar personalities. It was my job to extract accurate information from them to assess whether or not their children were at risk of harm. There was always a lot at stake, so simply taking them at face value was out of the question. These interviews were among the most difficult and exhausting of my career. It was like engaging in an emotional game of three-dimensional chess. Extracting even the most innocuous facts was challenging. The experiences, however, had the effect of inoculating me from the expert emotional manipulations that are their genius.

Donald Trump spoke directly to the emotions of many voters during his campaign. It was a campaign like no other, but I recognized him right away. He constructed an elaborate emotional tableau, devoid of factual distractions, that resonated with a frustrated, angry electorate. People read into him whatever they believed. Other candidates and the beltway press tried but could not penetrate his invisible cloak with facts, logic or reason. His burgeoning movement of follower would not be dissuaded. Eventually, enough people aligned their feelings about him with the well crafted self-portrait he created through his speeches. He got just enough votes in just the right places to win the Presidency.

So here we are, a people habituated to the ubiquitous marketing assaults we succumb to every day. We were unprepared to see through the marketing cloud of Mr. Trump and now we have a new President about who we really know very little.

Donald Trump. The marketer-in-chief. Master illusionist. And because no one could pin anything on him during the campaigned, he is free to define his term in office any way he likes.

But beware! His disdain for the press, verbal assaults on journalists and his thank-you rally’s around the country are not short lived anomalies. They are harbingers of how he will maintain his power. The deflection of facts and the creation of strong, emotionally evocative impressions is how he operates.

Here is one way to help visualize what is happening. People like Donald Trump have the ability to do with language what a scrim does on a theatrical stage. A scrim is a special type of fabric that can be translucent, transparent, or opaque depending on how stage lights are directed. You can project any image you want on the front of it and it will mask everything from view behind it. When you only light the objects behind it, the scrim disappears like a pane of glass.

Donald Trump created a campaign, and is now building a Presidency behind a giant scrim. When he takes office we will only see what he chooses to project or to reveal. He will continue to divide us and play our emotions like the maestro that he is. My fear is that our only hope of revealing what he is up to will be either by taking control of the lighting board or storming the stage.

Trump, the Marketer-in-Chief

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

If anyone seriously thought that Donald Trump was running for President out of high mindedness, you can give it up now. He was running to elevate his brand and market the Presidency for personal gain.

How so?

Well, he just spent months on the campaign trail wearing a red cap with his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” on it. It became part of his campaign swag.

Every president in history, and any future president, would retire that cap and donate it to the Smithsonian Museum or feature it in their future presidential library. Not this guy. He fully intends to market the image and make a killing off of it. Expect to see some version of it for retail next Christmas while Donald Trump is sipping brandy in one of his Presidential palaces. Billionaires!

How much does this true-spirit-of-Christmas ornament go for this year?

It’s yours for just $149 dollars and no sense! This is the sort of change I never expected, the selling of the Presidency by the President-elect himself.

More than 45 million people, or 14.5% of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year. I’m certain none of them can afford this overpriced campaign schlock. Perhaps the proceeds for this sale are going to fund food pantries or house the homeless over the holiday season?  Well, there is nothing mentioned in the advertising to suggest that.

Maybe this isn’t really being marketed by President-elect Donald Trump. Maybe his business isn’t really financially benefiting. Could it be that some other enterprising fool is cleaning up on his political success?

I thought of that, so I checked. According to the internet advertisement, the link to buy the “classic red MAGA hat” is DonaldTrump.com. It’s his Trump store. To be sure there wasn’t a mistake, I went to the Whois.com website and confirmed that the domain name is registered to THE TRUMP ORGANIZATION (see below).

So there it is! Get yours America! (If you can afford it.) Is this supposed to be our new normal? Do we really have a President who is a businessman for himself first and President for the people last? 

This Christmas you should grab a bottle of Trump wine and drown your sorrows, because no one at the highest reaches of government will be marketing you cares away. 

 

Why I Blame the Democratic National Committee for Trump’s Election Win

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

The following excerpt is from a recent Huffington Post article:

New Pre-Election Poll Suggests Bernie Sanders Could Have Trounced Donald Trump

by Ryan Grim and Daniel Marans

bernie

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would have beaten Donald Trump by a historic margin if he had been the Democratic nominee, according to a private pre-election pollprovided to The Huffington Post.

The national survey of more than 1,600 registered voters, conducted by Gravis Marketing two days before the general election, found that Sanders would have received 56 percent of the vote while Trump would have won 44 percent. The poll was commissioned and financed by outgoing Florida Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat who endorsed Sanders in the presidential primary.

The last election result that decisive was Ronald Reagan’s victory over Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984.

Of the result validity of these poll results I have no doubt. Bernie Sanders was to the Democratic Party what Ronald Reagan once was to the Republicans, except the DNC didn’t allow a fair contest between him and their establishment pick. Instead the DNC made sure that the most establishment candidate the Democrats had would run against the most anti-establishment Republican candidate in history.

The twin phenomena of Trump and Bernie movements screamed its warning about the mood of the people, but the DNC thought it knew better. And if you think Hillary lost because she wasn’t progressive enough, or effective enough, or because she was a woman, or because of the emails and FBI mess, then you still don’t get it. Her problem isn’t with her. It’s much bigger.

Our government is far more broken than most of us are ready to admit. Many of the folks who voted for Trump know this in their heart. They feel it every day. They just don’t know why government is broken and they have been lied to about it for years.  Their frustration and anger was exploited by this demagogue who goes around blaming the wrong causes for our brokenness in order to divide us and gain power for himself.

We, the People, have long been disempowered. We have been rendered irrelevant by the wealthy elite and corporate power. This is the source of our broken government, and the road back to a healthy Republic just got a lot longer.

I do not disparage Hillary supporters at all.  I love them for their ideals and courage. While I have differences of opinion with her, I respect Hillary Clinton as a person and a candidate. I agree she was the most qualified candidate on paper. Most of the terrible things people have said about her are nasty lies.  I’ve been saying that for years now.

That said, she was still the wrong candidate to face Donald Trump this year. The difference between her and Bernie Sanders is not just by degrees of progressive policies. The real difference between them is a whole paradigm shift in governance.  It is a paradigm that empowers citizens over businesses, power and wealth. This is what the pundits missed. This is what many Hillary supporters couldn’t see. (New paradigms are difficult to imagine when our thinking is rooted in the context of an older paradigm).

One more point, if I may. A lot of Democrats defend the early actions of the DNC’s loyalty to Hillary Clinton. They say she came so close the first time and deserved a second shot. But four years is a long time, and things change. It’s like when military generals base their planning on the last war.

More importantly, loyalty is the opposite of democracy. Party loyalty to a “chosen” candidate is critical for a successful a presidential campaign, but democracy is still essential in choosing the right party candidate. That’s why it is critical that the DNC always remain neutral and equitably support all candidates. Their role in the primary phase is to conduct a fair and free primary campaign, to let the people speak.

The DNC failed our party and we lost, not just the Presidency but many down ticket races. In fact, Democrats have been losing election cycle after cycle at every level because the DNC has been interfering in party democracy to effect a result that fits their ideology and keeps like-minded Democrats in power.

In short, the Republicans allowed a democratic process and nominated the democratically elected candidate, for which they have been rewarded. The Democratic Party interfered with democracy within the party and have been punished. The DNC’s loyalty to Hillary Clinton was grossly premature.

Rural Republicans VS The Urban Bubble or How Trump Pulled Off An Upset

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

If you superimposed the Democratic v. Republican Party Map over the US Population Density Map you clearly see that the more urban, the more Democratic and the more rural, the more Republican. This strengthens a case that has been made that our political tensions also line-up between city vs. county lines. Cities are the seats of power. They are the drivers of culture and the economy. People living in vast stretches or rural America are mostly marginalized and largely ignored, even by the establishment wing of their own party. All political promises have been empty for decades. No one is helping them understand what’s really happening to them as their jobs disappear, their wages shrink, their homes are foreclosed and their family life is disrupted. No one is lifting a finger to fix things for them.

It was these areas where Trump’s messages resonated most. It was the folks in these areas that came out to vote for him in record numbers, against the backdrop of the lowest overall voter turnout in years. This year, the rural vote mattered.

All establishment politics is urban centered, so the anti-establishment sentiment that swept Trump into power is a wake-up call from rural heartland of America. People living inside our urban bubbles take note: Political inclusion isn’t just something that needs to happen inside the urban bubble.

A Concise Analysis of Why Trump Won

By Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Donald Trump won because the GOP allowed their party’s popular choice to be nominated even though he wasn’t the establishments choice. Democrats lost because of the anti-insurgency bias against a popular anti-establishment candidate, a bias baked into the Democratic primary process.

I blame the DNC for its epic failure to read the mood of the country, for thwarting Bernie Sanders at every turn and for fielding an historically unfavorable establishment candidate. It is clear that the DNC completely underestimated how much Hillary Clinton is disliked, or how well Trump resonated with so many citizens. The electorate clearly wanted to send a message to the establishment. Thanks to the DNC that message has been delivered in it’s most virulent form possible.

You can say she lost because she is a woman, and you are be partly right. You can say she lost because President Obama is black, and you are be partly right. But mostly she lost because no establishment candidate could have won. She and the Democratic Party failed to see or understand the lives of so many struggling, marginalized and forgotten families living below the radar, especially in rural America. She lost because she represents the very establishment that let so many American’s before, during and since the Great Recession.

I have more to say, but not now. It’s all still too damn depressing.

Let’s Elect.. The Democratic Party Platform!

I decided it would be a good thing to draft a condensed version of the Democratic Party Platform. I reasoned that a concise version of the document would benefit people who don’t have time to sit down and read it all, and it might help us keep Democrats accountable to what they say the stand for in the Platform. I didn’t realize what a daunting task it would be, or how little time I had to finish the job.

What I learned while doing this is that this is a pretty good document. If achieved, it would significantly improve the lives of most Americans. It doesn’t address Democratic Party reform issues or primary voting reforms, but it does lay out a decent course of actions that most of us can rally behind. More importantly, it gives activist citizens a template by which we can judge the performance of Democratic office holders, including Hillary Clinton if she doesn’t loose.

So while I am still upset with the DNC, the establishment Democrats and Hillary for fixing the primary against all others, including Bernie Sanders specifically, I think I can in good conscious vote for the Democratic Party Platform with a self-made promise to hold Hillary and every other Democrat to task in carrying out the Party Platform.

So without further delay, here is the incomplete, condensed version of the Democratic Party Platform:

2016 Democratic Platform (condensed version)

Democrats believe cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.  We are stronger together.

Today’s extreme level of income and wealth inequality makes our economy weaker, our communities poorer, and our politics poisonous.  We need an economy that works for everyone. We can have more economic fairness, so the rewards are shared broadly, not just with those at the top. An economy that:

  • prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking,
  • rewards the common interest over self-interest
  • promotes innovation and entrepreneurship
  • guarantees equal pay for women.. particularly women of color
  • protects every American’s right to retire with dignity
  • [create] jobs and security that come from [transitioning to] clean energy
  • incentivize companies to share profits with their employees on top of wages and pay increases

Race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind. We must face that reality and we must fix it.

A  good education is a basic right of all Americans. We will end the school-to-prison pipeline and build a cradle-to-college pipeline instead.

Greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street must be brought to an end. Wall Street must never again be allowed to threaten families and businesses on Main Street.

Democrats protect citizens’ right to vote, while stopping corporations’ outsized influence in elections. We will:

  • end the broken campaign finance system
  • overturn the disastrous Citizens United
  • restore the the Voting Rights Act
  • return control of our elections to the American people

Climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures.

The United States can mobilize common action on a truly global scale, to take on the challenges that transcend borders, from international terrorism to climate change to health pandemics.  We are stronger and safer when America brings the world together and leads with principle and purpose [and] strengthen our alliances. We believe in the power of development and diplomacy. Our military should be the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world.

We must honor and support our veterans.

We respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward [and] strive to reach higher ground. We are proud of our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

We believe in protecting civil liberties and guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights, LGBT rights, and rights for people with disabilities.

support workers through higher wages, workplace protections, policies to balance work and family, and other investments will help rebuild the middle class

Raising Workers’ to a living wage…  at least $15 an hour  [and]…  and index it [to inflation]. [Establish] one fair wage for all workers by ending the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities.

Support a model to leverage federal dollars to support employers who provide their workers with a living wage, good benefits, and the opportunity to form a union without reprisal.

Have the right to form or join a union – give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy and to:

  • make it easier for workers, public and private, to exercise their right to organize and join unions
  • direct the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards
  • bring companies to the negotiating table
  • support binding arbitration to help workers who have voted to join a union reach a first contract.

[We will oppose] “right to work” laws are wrong for workers [and] vigorously oppose laws [or] efforts that:

  • eliminate dues check-off procedures
  • roll-back prevailing wage standards
  • abolish fair share requirements
  • restrict the use of voluntary membership payments for political purposes
  • attack seniority
  • restrict due process protections
  • require annual recertification efforts
  • legislation and lawsuits that would strike down laws protecting the rights of teachers and other public employees

We will support efforts to limit the use of forced arbitration clauses in employment and service contracts, which unfairly strip consumers, workers, students, retirees, and investors of their right to their day in court.

Make sure that the United States enacts national paid family and medical .. that provide[s] at least 12 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or address a personal or family member’s serious health issue.  [Establish a] workers the right to earn at least seven days of paid sick leave [and] encourage employers to provide paid vacation.

We must help family caregivers.. to ensure family caregivers have the support, respite care, and training they need to support their loved ones. We will [do this by]:

  • creating a strong stable paid caregiving workforce by raising wages
  • improving access to training
  • giving workers the opportunity to come together to make their voices heard
  • address[ing] conditions that make it hard for workers with unpredictable or inflexible schedules to meet caregiving responsibilities.

We will take steps to:

  • expand and strengthen the home care workforce
  • increase investments to make quality childcare more affordable
  • boost wages for childcare workers, and
  • support the millions of people paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging relatives or those with disabilities

We will preserve and increase the supply of affordable rental housing and:

  • substantially increase funding for the National Housing Trust Fund to construct, preserve, and rehabilitate millions of affordable housing rental units
  • provide more federal resources to the people struggling most with unaffordable housing: low-income families, people with disabilities, veterans, and the elderly

We will address the lingering effects of the foreclosure crisis through [expanding] programs like the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program. We will expand programs to

  • prevent  displacement of existing residents, especially in communities of color
  • create affordable and workforce housing
  • preserve neighborhood-serving nonprofit organizations and small businesses
  • reinvigorate housing production programs
  • repair public housing
  • increase funding for the housing choice voucher program and other rental assistance programs
  • [provide] robust funding to end homelessness through targeted investments to provide the necessary outreach, social services, and housing options for all populations experiencing homelessness.
  • engage in a stronger, more coordinated, and better funded partnership among federal, state, and local governments to end chronic homelessness
  • build on and expand initiatives to end veteran and family homelessness
  • support more first-time homebuyers preserve the 30-year fixed rate mortgage
  • modernizing credit scoring
  • clarify lending rules
  • expand access to housing counseling
  • defend and strengthening the Fair Housing Act
  • ensure that regulators have the clear direction, resources, and authority to enforce those rules effectively.
  • prevent predatory lending by defending the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Social Security

  • fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits. expand Social Security.
  • cost-of- living adjustments may not reflect the spending patterns of seniors. We are committed to exploring alternatives that could better serve seniors.
  • make sure Social Security’s guaranteed benefits continue by taxing some of the income of people above $250,000.

Retirement

  • defend the right of workers to collect their defined benefit pensions and make sure workers get priority and protection when pension plans are in distress.
  • enact legislation to make sure that the earned pension benefits of Americans will not be cut
  • pay for it by closing tax loopholes that benefit millionaires and billionaires
  • fight attempt to roll back the Conflict of Interest Rule which requires that retirement advisors put the best interests of their clients above their own financial gain
  • support the Older Americans Act.

US Postal Service

  • eliminating the unsustainable mandate to “pre-fund” retiree health costs.
  • restore service to appropriate levels, including overnight delivery of first-class mail and periodicals within the same metropolitan area,
  • maintaining six-day and door-to-door delivery
  • expanding postal services [to include] basic financial services such as paycheck cashing
  • vote-by-mail to increase voter participation

Create Good-Paying Jobs

Build a full-employment economy, where everyone has a job that pays enough to raise a family and live in dignity:

  • rebuild our crumbling infrastructure.. expanding our roads, bridges, public transit, airports, and passenger and freight rail lines
  • build 21st century energy and water systems.. modernizing drinking and wastewater systems
  • modernize our schools
  • support the expansion of high-speed broadband networks
  • protect communities from the impact of climate change
  • address the backlog of deferred maintenance in our four key public land management agencies
  • create an independent, national infrastructure bank
  • support the interest tax exemption on municipal bonds..make permanent [a] version of Build America Bonds
  • revitalize hard-hit manufacturing communities
  • claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas
  • defend the Export-Import Bank
  • investing in industrial energy efficiency

Science, Research, Education, and Technology

  • educate our people and train our workforce; support entrepreneurship
  • invest in research and development, innovation hubs, as well as in getting ideas to market
  • [provide opportunities for all students] opportunity to learn computer science by the time they graduate from high school.
  • High-speed internet connectivity is not a luxury; it is a necessity
  • connect every household in America to high-speed broadband
  • increase internet adoption
  • hook up anchor institutions so they can offer free WiFi to the public.
  • take action to widely deploy 5G technology
  • support a free and open internet at home and abroad
  • oppose any effort to roll back the historic net neutrality
  • protect the intellectual property rights of artists, creators, and inventors at home and abroad
  • increase access to global markets for American intellectual property and other digital trade by opposing quotas, discriminatory measures, and data localization requirements
  • strengthen support for NASA and work in partnership with the international scientific community to launch new missions to space

Small Businesses

  • cut the red tape that holds back small businesses and entrepreneurs
  • open up access to credit
  • provide tax relief and tax simplification
  • expand access to new markets
  • make Wall Street work for the job-creating, productive economy—including by making loans more affordable for small- and medium-sized businesses

Jobs for America’s Young

  • make investments to spur the creation of millions of jobs for our young people
  • provide direct federal funding for a range of local programs that will put young people to work and create new career opportunities

Fight for Economic Fairness and Against Inequality

Reining in Wall Street and Fixing our Financial System

  • prohibit Wall Street from picking and choosing which credit agency will rate its products
  • [prohibit Wall Street] from imposing excessive fees on consumers
  • hold both individuals and corporations accountable when they break the law
  • stronger criminal laws and civil penalties for Wall Street criminals who prey on the public trust
  • extend the statute of limitations for prosecuting major financial fraud
  • providing the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more resources to prosecute wrongdoing
  • vigorously implement, enforce, and build on President Obama’s landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform law
  • stop efforts to hamstring our regulators through budget cuts
  • oppose any efforts to change the CFPB’s structure from a single director to a partisan[or] to remove the Bureau’s independent funding and subject it to the appropriations process
  • [enact] a financial transactions tax on Wall Street to curb excessive speculation and high-frequency trading
  • use and expand existing authorities [and]empower regulators to downsize or break apart financial institutions when necessary
  • new authorities to go after risky shadow-banking
  • support.. an updated and modernized version of Glass-Steagall
  • nominate and appoint regulators and officials who are not beholden to the industries they regulate
  • crack down on the revolving door between the private sector—particularly Wall Street—and the federal government.
  • ban golden parachutes for those taking government jobs
  • limit conflicts of interest by requiring bank and corporate regulators to recuse themselves from official work on particular matters that would directly benefit their former employers
  • bar financial service regulators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least two years
  • [make] the Federal Reserve more representative of America as a whole
  • enhance its independence by ensuring that executives of financial institutions are not allowed to serve on the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks or to select members of those boards

Stop Corporate Concentration

  • stop corporate concentration in any industry where it is unfairly limiting competition
  • make competition policy and antitrust stronger and more responsive to our economy today
  • enhance antitrust enforcement [at] the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • encourage other agencies to police anti-competitive practices in their areas of jurisdiction

Making the Wealthy Pay Their Fair Share of Taxes

  • claw back tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas
  • eliminate tax breaks for big oil and gas companies
  • crack down on inversions and other methods companies use to dodge their tax responsibilities
  • make sure that our tax code rewards businesses that make investments and provide good-paying jobs here in the United States
  • end deferrals so that American corporations pay United States taxes immediately on foreign profits and can no longer escape paying their fair share of U.S. taxes by stashing profits abroad.
  • establish a multimillionaire surtax to ensure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share
  • close egregious loopholes
  • restore fair taxation on multimillion dollar estates
  • tax relief to middle-class families
  • crack down on tax evasion and promote transparency to fight corruption and terrorism
  • tax relief to hard working, middle-class families

Promoting Trade That is Fair and Benefits American Workers

  • develop trade policies that support jobs in America
  • review agreements negotiated years ago to update them to reflect [Democratic Party] principles.
  • Any future trade agreements must make sure our trading partners cannot undercut American workers by taking shortcuts on labor policy or the environment.
  • [trade agreements] must not undermine democratic decision-making through special privileges
  • [trade agreements] must not undermine democratic decision-making private courts for corporations
  • trade negotiations must be transparent and inclusive
  • use all our trade enforcement tools to hold China and other trading partners accountable
  • These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Bring Americans Together and Remove Barriers to Opportunities

Ending Systemic Racism

  • dismantle the structures that define lasting racial, economic, political, and social inequity
  • promote racial justice through fair, just, and equitable governing of all public-serving institutions and in the formation of public policy
  • remove the Confederate battle flag from public
  • make it clear that black lives matter and that there is no place for racism in our country.

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

  • close this racial wealth gap
  • eliminat[e] systemic barriers to wealth accumulation for different racial groups
  • improv[e] opportunities for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to build wealth.
  • remove barriers to achieving sustainable homeownership
  • provide for greater diversity in federal and state contracting practices
  • incentivize and expand access to retirement investment programs
  • increase opportunities for quality jobs and education
  • challenge the deeply rooted structures that perpetuate and exacerbate current disparities and ultimately stagnate the nation’s economic growth and security

Reforming our Criminal Justice System

Democrats are committed to reforming our criminal justice system and ending mass incarceration. Something is profoundly wrong when almost a quarter of the world’s prison population is in the United States, even though our country has less than five percent of the world’s population. We will reform mandatory minimum sentences and close private prisons and detention centers. Research and evidence, rather than slogans and sound bites, must guide [reforms].
(PS: Notice that the person whose name is plastered everywhere is not mentioned here.  What a relief, right?)

America at the Crossroads of Crisis

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

His very name has become a dog whistle for expressing White outrage against growing minority influence in America. Trump! Trump! Trump!
His mantra, “Make America Great Again,” resonates with so many White people because they hear, “Make America White Again.”

As a country founded by immigrants and supported through slavery and exploitative labor practices for much of its formative years, the growth of a powerful, comfortable middle class in the last half of the last Century seemed like a coming of age. The rise of the middle class after World War II was vindication that our founding principles were virtuous and the diversity of our pluralistic society was our strength. We were now a world power and an exceptional example of a place where merit, innovation and hard work paid off. We were proof that immigrants can do well here. Of course the payoff was always more difficult for minority groups to achieve, especially African-Americans and South American migrants.

But now there has been some fundamental shifts in the fabric of America. The political and economic power of the middle class has been on a long, slow decline for decades. At the same time the population of minority groups and the flow of immigrants from our Southern borders have grown. Minority groups, taken together, make up nearly half of our citizens. Globalization of business has increased competition for good jobs and higher wages while domestic pressure has increased to give minority groups greater equality of opportunity. A bloody clash of cultures has arisen on the world stage adding anxiety for those of us who worry that America is losing its cultural identity. (A growing worry in Europe as well). And all the while, the American majority, made up of mostly White Protestants of Western European distraction, is being stretched and fractured by growing wealth inequality. The wages and ownership interests of most White Americans is declining while wealthy White elites are growing ever richer.

It is understandable that the timing of middle class economic decline and the growth of minority interests would seem like a causal  correlation. It is also understandable how powerful interests might exploit this apparent cause-and-effect for their own benefit, but the truth is far more nuanced, and cloaked in deceit. In an ironic juxtaposition, the New York Times published two excellent articles on the same day that highlight both our sad cultural polarization and the sinister impact of inequality on our public institutions.

In his July 13, 2016, article titled, “For Whites Sensing Decline, Donald Trump Unleashes Words of Resistance,” Nicholas Confessore writes:

“In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.”

What follows is an excellent expose on the cultural landscape in America. Then in an article titled, “How Private Equity Found Power and Profit in State Capitols,” the journalist detail how private equity firms are manipulating state and federal governments to pass legislation even more favorable to their financial interests.

The slow but steady economic decline of the middle class has taken most of us decades to recognize. That it was a planned assassination of the middle class perpetrated by corporate capitalists in the 1970’s has yet to sink in. And efforts by the elite perpetrators to distract us from their deeds by blaming the poor and pitting us, one against the other, rages on.

It may be indirectly true that minorities are somehow responsible for the economic decline that White Americans are experiencing, but certainly not in the direct ways as portrayed in the press or on the internet. It isn’t really true, for example, that undocumented immigrants are taking away jobs from White Americans.  It is true that immigration has created a growing pool of cheap, non-union labor that puts downward pressure on wages. It is also true that the pool of cheap labor has grown exponentially through the corporate globalization of commerce. But the bigger truth is that wealthy corporate capitalists have put us all in an economic vise. Almost all of us find ourselves in that proverbially overcrowded lifeboat that is about to capsize.

We seem to be at a crossroad. We can choose the Trump path to social dissolution and toss as many “others” overboard as we can, or ignore that we in the lifeboat because of the wealthy corporate capitalists (until we sink) or we can link arms to forge a new path that restores democracy and a civil economy for everyone. The only real option is to come together and face down the true source of America’s decline, the corporate global capitalists who are hoarding the fruits of our labors.

Why Bernie Sanders Must Fight for a Contested Convention

An Open Letter to Rachel Maddow in Response to Her May 2nd Segment on Why Bernie Should Bow Out of the Race.

BernieEvents Feb

Pictures of self-organized “movement” events supporting anti-establishment Bernie Sanders,

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Dear Dr. Maddow,

I’m a fan of yours, but I join those writing in opposition to your arguments against Bernie’s ideas of a contested Democratic Convention. The rules are set up to allow for this type of contested convention. Whether or not a trailing candidate for the Democratic nomination chooses to bring their fight to the floor has always been predicated on exigent circumstances of the times, not just institutional courteous or party loyalty.

In prior presidential party contests opposing, or insurgent candidates have fought for the support of their party with the goal of everyone unifying behind the candidate generating the most excitement with the best chance of winning against the other party candidate. In my 60 years these have always been intra-party contests, but these are different times. Party reformation has never played as large a roll as it does now.

This years election is a referendum on establishment politics itself. The pundits in both parties still fail to grasp this obvious fact.

The Republican Party is starting to wake up. Their primary season has been an expensive disaster. Their tuberous outcropping of so many weak presidential candidates, all casting about for a winning message, was an obvious sign that the GOP itself is in critical condition. The establishment elites of that party have abused their privileged status for years. They have made too many cynical promises to voters, promises they never intended to keep, They applied deceptive marketing to arouse their base and garner favor with an electorate that they secretly despise. Once in office, they cynically sold themselves to big business and big money interests while tossing crumbs to the people who elected them.

Donald Trump is the toxic chemotherapy that party needs to kill the cancerous grip big organized money has on the Republican establishment. The message couldn’t be any clearer. The Republican establishment has to go. The Trump candidacy, whether Trump wins or loses, will sweep many other establishment candidates out of office.

The Democratic Party suffers from the same disease as the Republican Party, but at an earlier stage. Party elites are caught in the death grip of powerful private interests. The will of their constituents have become secondary. Dwindling turnout over the past decade has been ignored as long as slick marketing techniques were still winning election.

But elections are not all about winning, they are ultimately about governing.

Money in the Democratic Party isn’t just a necessary evil anymore. It is now a growing tumor. The people who really hear what Bernie Sanders is saying recognize that he is proposing a cure that might prevent this cancer from metastasizing. Meanwhile the establishment media still thinks this election is only about a fight for progressive ideas.

Given the state of the two parties, a Sanders win would be a foregone conclusion. All the polls say as much, yet this is message isn’t seeping into the consciousness of the establishment.  The Democratic Party is eager to put Hillary’s negatives up against Trump’s negatives any day, in yet another hold-your-nose-and-vote election.

And, they would be right if this election was only based on ideology. But it isn’t. It is a referendum on our political establishment. Not only will Hillary Clinton have  disadvantages related to her high unfavorability, she will not win the support of youthful “movement” Democrats or disgruntled independents.

If the race is between Clinton and Trump it will be a race between an establishment and a non-establishment candidate. Given the anger and level of dissatisfaction around the country, all bets should be off as to how that contest might turn out.