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This Lies Behind Our Economic Boom and Political Bust

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Last year the wealthiest nation in the history of the world generated $8.7 trillion in new wealth, more than the next 10 countries combined. That works out to over $65,000 per household. How much of that worker generated new wealth did you receive in your pay raise last year? If your family income was $60,000 last year, and if you were rewarded with just 5% of the new wealth that you helped create, plus a cost of living adjustment to keep up with inflation, your family income today should be over $63,500? Is that true for most of you? Probably not, because that second bar graph on right suggests personal household income is not growing much.

Some people looking at this will say:
“Yea, rich people will get richer, but low unemployment and new manufacturing jobs will add a lot of wealth where there was none before. Right”?
That hasn’t been the case overall for the past 40 years. The great wealth creation last year isn’t a one-off event. It happens nearly every year. And every year since the mid-1970s workers do not receive any (or very little) share in the rising hourly GDP (New Wealth).

Prior to 1974, we all receive productivity raises nearly every year on top of any cost of living adjustments (a COLA, as it was called). Since then we stopped receiving productivity raises and lost public sector health coverage, pension plans, and other benefits. We have received cost of living raises since then, but productivity raises have been minimal. Therefore, while our wages keep up with inflation, they aren’t keeping up with new personal wealth. Put another way, our collective wages are a smaller and smaller percentage of our National GDP.

If wages continued keeping up with hourly GDP since 1974, the median household income today (fam of 4) would be over $115,000/year instead of nearly half that. The national GDP is nearly three times greater today than it was in 1974, yet inflation-adjusted have barely risen. These are uncontested facts. Chronic wage suppression (and I do believe this is deliberate) accounts for most of our economic ills today.

Imagine how much easier it would be to raise money for our schools and local services if everyone in town had twice the income they make now. How much money would we save on government aid to the working poor (daycare, housing, medical care, etc.) if everyone had twice the income and didn’t need financial subsidies? Imagine how the economy would be buzzing if everyone had lots more discretionary income to buy things, thus boosting the demand for production. The only downside is that the wealth of the richest 1% wouldn’t be growing quite as fast. The decline of the middle-class, the lack of good paying jobs, the increase in public assistance, the rise in taxes and decline of other government services are all symptoms of income inequality. The cycle of wealth accumulation followed by catastrophic wars and social collapse is a very old story with a many-centuries-old history.

Are you still with me, because this next part is important.

There has not been a big partisan difference on the issues of a fair distribution of wages or wealth. Both political parties remained silent on the subject for decades, until the 2014 election. Both parties talked about job growth, but not wage growth. Both talked about growing the economy but not about our shrinking pensions and benefits packages and stagnant wages. They talked about bolstering the middle-class but didn’t mention our growing poverty class for almost three decades.

Republican legislators (not most rank and file members) have been far more pro-corporate in pursuing the interests of the wealthy elite over time. Republican party elites also shamelessly pandered to value voters and the far-right fringe to win elections but never delivered on their promises. Main Street Republicans were used and abuse to the elite of their party could pursue the corporate donor interests.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic Party leadership (not every legislator) also pandered to big corporations, to the rich and to their more liberal base while being complicit in their silence on income inequality and many other matters important to their voters. No one in government was addressing the shrinking middle-class or their shrinking wages relative to the size of the ever-growing US economy. No one was listening to any of us!

Hence, we had a political revolt in both parties during the 2014 elections. Rank and file members of both parties weren’t listening to each other either as powerful special interest, foreign and domestic, made sure we didn’t get together to compare notes. Donald Trump rose up among conservatives to shake things up in the GOP. Bernie Sanders rose up among liberals to shake up the Democratic establishment.

So here we are today, like opposing armies glaring at each other across the battlefield in a war we never wanted. Both sides have been ignored by our leaders. Both sides have been told the other side is the cause of our decline. Both sides have been given false reasons for our growing dissatisfaction. And yet the real reasons for this sluggish Main Street economy, which is slowly squeezing us into poverty, are reasons that we all share in common.

It is the failure of our politics to address the unfair distribution of wages and wealth. It is hundreds of policies that favor the profitability of big businesses over the best interests of our people. It is the corruption of special interests representing the ultra-wealthy and buying elections. We would all do far better if we could just lower our guard, put our less consequential differences aside for now and join in common cause to take charge of our economic well-being.
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Jane Addams, A Great American Hero

JaneAddamsPortrait

On our trip to Chicago, my wife and I visited Hull House, one of the first Settlement Houses in the United States and home to Jane Addams. It is now a museum located in the middle of the University of Illinois, but 130 years ago it stood in the middle of the worst immigrant slums in Chicago.

Addams was born into privilege, yet in 1889 she and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, decided to moved into a house in the heart of the immigrant slums of Chicago. Their initial idea was to providing daycare for children living in poverty. In the process they came face to face with the great hardships and disadvantages or poor immigrants all around them. The focus or their mission kept growing to meet the endless needs. Daycare was supplemented with preschool and educational services. They opened the first playground in Chicago. She saw that child labor practices prevented theses children from having a full childhood, so she advocated for laws against child labor. Her mission grew to serve the parents and others adults.

Addams recognized that there were community and systemic issues that prevented the poor from improving their lives, things beyond their control. For example, the stench of garbage filled the streets and created unsanitary conditions. People were getting sick because the city wouldn’t regularly pick up the garbage in their neighborhood. She fought the city and won regular trash pick-up. When she learned that there were only 5 bathtubs in the whole community, she built a pubic bath beside the Hull House where hundreds of people came every week.

Intervening to help the poor and to lift their burdens on multiple social levels became her pattern. She took in homeless families, listened to their stories, helped them find housing and then advocated for better housing. She sheltered woman who were abuse by their spouse, listened to their stories, helped them get on their feet and used what she was learning to advocate for social change. Moreover, the work of Addams and Starr at Hull House attracted some of the best and brightest woman of the day to study the conditions of the poor and and disenfranchised, and to organize social movements for social change.

Addams became a prolific writer and prominent national spokesperson for social change in the 1930’s and 1940’s. The data she and other collected on the social issues of the poor, and social research at Hull House, helped inform her writings. Her advocacy and social ideas got her labeled as the most dangerous woman in America by none other than the Daughters of the American Revolution. Herbert Hoover’s FBI compiled lengthy files on her anti-war activities during WW I. Still she persisted.

Jane Addams was among the early pioneers of an effective method for improving peoples lives. It includes:

Meeting the immediate needs of a person in need


– Listening to their stories face to face


-Empowering them to get back on their feet through their own efforts whenever possible


– Collecting data on the problems and issues they presented


-Making observations about the local circumstances and social barriers that contributed to their problems, and


– Using that information to advocate for broader changes in laws, policies, funding and greater  social awareness 

This intervention methodology is the foundation for the profession of Social Work. This is the mission of social work and what sets it apart from psychology and other helping professions.

In 1931 Jane Addams became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her work at Hull House.

A War of Perceptions 

We are at war, but it isn’t a kinetic war where things explode. It’s a perceptual war that uses our advanced social medium platforms and weaponized psycho-social messaging against us. 
It is a war that undermines our trust and faith in self-government and our civil institutions. It is a war that divides, polarized, confuses and eventually turns us against our neighbors. It eats away at the values, morals and principles that unit people. It fills us with mistrust, greed, envy and hate. 
When we are disunited and weak, when we are unable to govern ourselves and events spiral out of control, we will welcome the social order that the wealthy and powerful tyrants of our day want to impose. 
I know this sounds bleak and a little crazy, even to me, but we have entered into an age were the powerful elites who own or control the means of mass communications can modify and manipulate mass perceptions if we let them. 
We must love humanity, trust in our shared values, heal our divisions, restore civility, take back control of our public discourse and rebalance public actions to better serve the greater good for all.

WE ARE AT WAR!

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

To say we are at war isn’t hyperbole, or exaggeration. We are in a real war with real adversaries and real human consequences. It isn’t a Shock and Awe” kinetic war as in the past where things that go bang, although that happens occasionally.  It is a new type of  global war being waged against Western style, civilian controlled democracies. Our adversaries are powerful, and wealthy, and well on their way to dominating our world. But the most shocking fact is that this war has been raging and escalating, for decades while most of us remain aware.

The  Canadian professor, philosopher and media theorist, Marshall McLurhan predicted that this war was coming. Most of us know him by his quote, made famous in the 1960’s, “The medium is the message.” Few know he also said, “World War III will be a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation.” How could any of us have understood this at a time well before personal computers, email, the internet and social media?

The mechanisms of this war are relentless media attacks to alter our public discourse, weaken our faith in public institutions and self-government, amplify disunity along social fault lines, polarize our politics, distract us, alienate us and pits us against each other. It is a war that assaults our collective consciousness.  It erases or rewrites our history for sinister gain. It attacks our core beliefs, undermines our principles, debauches our morality, occludes our access to knowledge and obscures all truth. In the end, it re-sculpts our culture to better serve the enemies of civil society.

I know this account of the war will likely fall into the silent media abyss that swallows almost every minority narrative.  It is up to you and me to support the authentic voices of real people and insist that we be heard in social medium that surrounds us.

(end of part 1)

 

Part II

– The evidence of war is all around us.

– And who are these adversaries?  What do they want?

– It isn’t just me saying it either.

– Who are our allies in this war? Who do we recruit other citizens?

– Where is the People’s army in this war? What are their weapons? Who are our future heroes?

[If you have read this far, please help me write part 2 of this account of war by writing your responses to the topic listed above.  Take a risk. Speak out. Send me your ideas and links to articles you want me to read. Don’t make me write this alone… ]

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

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

It all began with a conversation on Facebook with a conservative friend of mine and ardent Trump supporter. I had posted an article about Erik Prince. He is the founder of Blackwater, a solders for hire firm that is also providing very militarized training programs for our domestic police departments. I was surprised to learn that Betsy DeVos was his sister. The story is about him being a quiet Trump advisor.

My friend immediate responded  with a link to FakeNewsChecker.com that lists Democracy Now as a fake news site. I went to the FakeNewsChecker site for myself and saw that it lists perhaps hundreds of new sites as “fake news” sites. I was suspicious about this site as I am confident that Democracy Now, while progressive in its editorial decisions, present fully accurate, verifiable information.

Also overdue, is a discussion of what makes news “fake” news. In my view it is willfully false information presented as news either for profit or propaganda. It isn’t mistakes in reporting or accurate reporting, but selective reporting. It isn’t obviously intended satire either.

What follows it our Facebook discussion and my findings about the rise of fake, fake news checker sites here and abroad.

ME: WOW!!! This a really scary. I didn’t know

Scahill: Blackwater Founder Erik Prince, the Brother of Betsy DeVos, Is Secretly Advising Trump

The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill has revealed Betsy DeVos’s brother, Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary firm Blackwater, has been quietly advising Trump’s…

DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG

Friend:  Don’t believe it: http://www.fakenewschecker.com/fake-news…/democracy-now

Democracy Now

Democracy Now has been added to the growing list of untrustworthy and fake news sources.

FAKENEWSCHECKER.COM

Me: Thank you for sharing this. I. Was unaware until now that there was a fake, fake news reporting site. Democracy now is Progressive in terms of its editorial content but it is one of the most respected news sites on the web for its accuracy in reporting.

Friend : Again, We have to agree to disagree.

ME: your discovery of the Fakenewschecker site and it’s obvious flaws lead me to do some checking of my own.

First you will notice that there is no ownership information or “about us” menu on the Fakenewschecker.com website. This is a sure sign that the owners want to remain anonymous, not a good thing for a site that claims to check facts. There are no links or statements or any other evidence of an attempt at transparency. There is no discussion of what criteria or process the site uses to make hits findings. There are no references to source material used.

Next I learned that fake news checker sites are popping up in other countries lately. There is growing concern around the world that this may be a coordinated attempt to undermine confidence in news gathering. There is some evidence in Europe linking these sites to Russia (See a portion of an article below).

Then I looked the domain up on WhoIs.com. The site was only created on November 17, 2016. This is very recent. The time it would take to thoroughly vet the content of so many “fake news” sights far exceeds the three month window that the website has been active.

SiteRegistration.jpg

Finally, you will notice that the registrar for “FAKENEWSCHECKER.COM” is 1&1 INTERNET SE.  When you go to this registrar’s website (http://registrar.1and1.info)  you discover that the site is registered in Germany or Austria. Check out the flags below for 1&1 Internet SE. The first is Germany and the second is Austria. When you go to these sites the writing is all German. This is odd in my opinion because the owners are both secret and foreign based. I don’t have the skills or resources to track this suspicions that this is a Russian cyber-op, but I wouldn’t put much faith in the veracity of this site.

whois-newschecker

Below is a clip from an article on the recent appearance of fake, fake news checker sites.

Mortal Night

mortalnight