Saturday, July 14, 2018

WAR! The Indictment of 12 Russian Solders is a window on the War Against America.

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Have you read the Indictment of 12 Russian Officers who attacked our Election yet?:
https://www.justice.gov/file/1080281/download

Read just a small portion of the indictment. The term "Conspirators" is shorthand for named Russian military soldiers.

a. On or about April 12, 2016, the Conspirators used the stolen credentials of a DCCC Employee (“DCCC Employee 1”) to access the DCCC network. DCCC Employee 1 had received a spearphishing email from the Conspirators on or about April 6, 2016, and entered her password after clicking on the link.  
b. Between in or around April 2016 and June 2016, the Conspirators installed multiple versions of their X-Agent malware on at least ten DCCC computers, which allowed them to monitor individual employees’ computer activity, steal passwords, and maintain access to the DCCC network. 
c. X-Agent malware implanted on the DCCC network transmitted information from the victims’ computers to a GRU-leased server located in Arizona. TheConspirators referred to this server as their “AMS” panel. KOZACHEK, MALYSHEV, and their co-conspirators logged into the AMS panel to useX-Agent’s keylog and screenshot functions in the course of monitoring and surveilling activity on the DCCC computers. The keylog function allowed theConspirators to capture keystrokes entered by DCCC employees. The screenshot function allowed the Conspirators to take pictures of the DCCC employees’ computer screens. 
d. For example, on or about April 14, 2016, the Conspirators repeatedly activatedX-Agent’s keylog and screenshot functions to surveil DCCC Employee 1’s computer activity over the course of eight hours. During that time, the Conspirators captured DCCC Employee 1’s communications with co-workers and the passwords she entered while working on fundraising and voter outreach projects. Similarly, on or about April 22, 2016, the Conspirators activated X-Agent’s keylog and screenshot functions to capture the discussions of another DCCC Employee(“DCCC Employee 2”) about the DCCC’s finances, as well as her individual banking information and other personal topics.

We are presently under attack in a war designed to break the political bond that unite us as a nation. Russian interference in the 2016 election is just one skirmish in this broader war against our Republic. And Russia is just one element of the forces that are pushing the West towards a fascist style tyranny.

The 2016 election tampering was a battle to help mostly Republicans get elected to public office, not just Donald Trump. The Russian's were peddling stolen documents to many Congressional candidates around the country. At least one accepted that offer.

Why Republicans? Perhaps because that is where Russian first go a toe hold in American Politics. I don't know. I do know they don't care about Republican values or American conservative values. They only care about how they can use our political passions to drive a wedge between us so we fight amongst ourselves and become ungovernable.

It's working. The Russians, and other unnamed actors in this global movement, are winning battles all over the world.

If I sound like a kook, you need to stop right here and go back to the link above. Read the full indictment.

Then think about what it means when a division of full-time Russian military men spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sowing disinformation on American internet sites, stealing sensitive political documents then circulating them after weaponizing them for maximum impact in our political system, literally turning them into political bombshells. Think about Russian solders taking on American personas while recruiting followers and supporters duped by their lies and exaggerations.

This is a war. Russia isn't the only enemy, but the level of activity demonstrated in the Mueller indictment is a window on the activity levels among those conducting this war on our perceptions and emotions. If we are ever going to defend ourselves we have to first recognize that this is a war and our animus towards our fellow countrymen is evidence of the wounds our enemies have inflicted upon us.

Please, read the full indictment and then let us recommit ourselves to joining together despite our differences, despite our carefully implanted suspicions, to confront our real global enemies.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

A Soliloquy For Our Times


by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
(With ponderous respect for Shakespeare and apologies to Clare Boothe Lucy)

To impeach, or not to impeach:  That is the question.
Whether 'tis better to suffer the slings and arrows of the outrageous Trump,
Or now to drown him in his sea of troubles, and by calling the question, end him.
Impeach: convict: No more.
And by convicting say we ended Russiagate, restored the public trust, 
Upheld the constitution, purified our politics, and moved his sycophants off stage.
Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.
Impeach, Convict. Convict: perchance acquit! 
Ay, there's the rub: For in that long and bitter process of impeachment, 
What evils may befall us while we are shuffling off his White House coil, 
Must give us pause: To deepen those divisions now dividing us the more, 
While his minions undo all diplomacy and civility, tilting our enemies towards war, 
Ripping babies from their mothers' arms, 
Stoking flames of wild trade wars against allies, 
Battering the pillars of our cherished institutions,
Dissolving the rule of law and leaving us bereft of truth itself.
Whilst now our wav'ring allies stare aghast at his rapturous rapprochement
Toward the sly thief of Moscow, who abrogates their democracies and our own.
Heeding not Trump's unmastered tweets of preposterous denial,
Righteous Nations no longer take lead or counsel from the birthplace of liberty,
Whose statue blushes in New York harbor.
All the while hidden commerce of corruption rages on, expanding the swamp, 
Palms outward to every tyrants and stateless oligarch, 
In exchange for dark entanglements that enrich a few at the cost of the many.
To Impeach: To act quickly and strike the sword from his command, 
Before war and atomic doom encircles us all! 
For who can bear the whips and scorns of Trump's insolence in office,
His oppressive executive orders to undo righteous advances by his predecessors.
His fetid self-promotion, and disregard for all emollient constraints.
But alas, the dread of something after his quietus doth follow:  A congress of cowards! 
Men who neither see, nor hear nor care in action to spare us.  
A second in Pence who cannot be counted to quell the contumely of the berserkers base, 
And succession runs through Ryan and Bolton, the latter by far the darker Lord in waiting. 
The emboldened militia quick to arm and aim at the heart of founding fathers, 
Insurgents born from a country of souls and minds captured in this war of perceptions.
Yet is all of this not so already? This is the urgency of now!
So fly to the battered ramparts where the foundry of truth abides, 
Where the Articles will be cast, 
Where Rosenstein and Mueller alone bear the fardels still unrevealed.
Dwell not in rumination lest this yoke makes cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment,With this regard their currents turn awry 
And lose the name of action. Arise now or rise no more!

A Soliloquy from our recent past: 



Monday, April 30, 2018

Campaign Finance Laws Discriminates Against Worker and Voters


By Brian T. Lynch, MSW

Two people work in a smoke shop on the South Side of Chicago. One of them is the owner. What principle of law says that the owner of the shop gets to donate three times as much to a political candidate than the employee? How can campaign finance law be allowed to discriminate against workers like that?

On April 21, 2018, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mayor Rahm Emanuel added $1.7 million to his campaign in a single day. The explanation that followed encapsulates what’s wrong with our campaign finance laws. As in other states, the Illinois campaign donation system is set up like a board game, specifically a corporate board game.

If you are an actual carbon based person in Illinois you cannot donate more than $5,600 to a political campaign, unless you own a business. If you own a business you can contribute twice that amount on behalf of your business. And if you register as a political action group you can donate nearly 10 times the individual contribution limit, up to $55,400. These campaign limits are entirely lifted if one candidate in a race decides to give their campaign $100,000 of their own money.

That’s what happened in Chicago. Emanuel’s Republican opponent, Willie Wilson, boosted his campaign with $100,000 of his own money. Twenty-four hours later the Mayor added a million dollars to his campaign from just three wealthy donors plus another $700,000 from other donors.

In the Citizen’s United decision the US Supreme Court said, in effect, that money is a form of free speech. This may be true in some intellectual perspective of the court, but if true in the real world, how can there be a $5,600 free speech limit on voters? How can there be any limits at all?

In our Republic we have this bedrock principle that says, “One person, One vote.” Everyone has an equal say in who represents their interests. Corporate governance operates on a different principle that says, “One share, One vote.” You get one vote with every share of the company you buy. The bigger your financial stake is, the greater your say is within the company. Wealthy shareholders like this system because their voting power is proportional to their financial power.

The concept of one person, one vote is an anathema to them in our democracy. They feel their greater financial stake in the economy should also entitle them to a greater political say in our government. This is why they have rigged the campaign finance system.

As a thought experiment, try imposing the “One person, One vote” principle to campaign financing. One person’s donation limit in Illinois is $5,600. That means one vote is equal to that amount or less, mostly less. Most voters don’t contribute to political campaigns. Even if they do, the individual donation limit may be well beyond their means. The median income for a family of four is close to $56,000 a year, so a maximum political donation would cost them 10% of their annual income. Even a 1% donation would be well beyond their means. One tenth of one percent of their income, or $56 dollars, might be feasible for most voters, and this amount is 100 times the current limit.

If you go with the “$5,600 limit equals one vote” rule, then being a business owner gives you three votes, one personal vote and two votes for your business. Join another business owner to form a political action committee you get eight votes, five votes for your half of the PAC, three for your business and one personal vote.

Then Willie Wilson upsets the apple cart in Chicago by donating $100k to his campaign. Now just three wealthy donors get a total of 180 votes or more for Mayor Emanuel’s campaign. The actual impact on how a candidate might responds to donors is enhanced by the fact that tens of thousands of voters contribute nothing. Additionally, because individual donor limits are 100 times what the average voter can afford, the impact of those three big donors in the mayor’s race is more like 180,000 votes. So, if you are Rahn Emanuel, who are you going to listen to?

Money is not free speech. Money is power.

If we agreed to pair the power of money to the power of the vote, then one voting share should have the same price tag for every eligible voter. It should not favor businesses or the wealthy as it does now in our corporate governance style of campaign finance. This also means only eligible voters should be able to donate; No PACs or businesses. If a businessman or organization wants to lobby for a special interest, they should lobby directly with the people to gain influence rather than lobbying our politicians. It would mean that fair share campaign finance limits would either be equal and affordable for everyone, or without donation limits but with maximum transparency so every voter can see exactly which candidates the big donors are buying.  

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Jane Addams, A Great American Hero

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

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.


Sunday, March 4, 2018

A Blight of Billionaires

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

To quote a recent Newsweek article about our first elected billionaire to the Office of President:
"Anybody with $1 billion in net worth possesses a tranche of wealth greater than the gross domestic product of 60 nations. So what can a president give to these men who have everything? And what can they do for him and to the rest of America? The answer may be found in the most famous line from the Italian classic novel The Leopard, about the decaying Sicilian aristocracy: “Everything must change so that everything can remain the same.” The best gift Trump can give his rich friends from Manhattan is to appear to be shaking up the system while leaving their myriad tactics for manipulating and amassing capital unaffected by federal regulation and higher." NINA BURLEIGH, Newsweek 4/5/17
By the latest count there are 1,542 billionaires worldwide, 560 of whom live in the United States. There has never been a cohort of so many billionaires in the world before. It is a mistake to lump them in with the millions of ordinary millionaires that we think as being rich.

There is a huge difference between billionaires and millionaires in wealth, in power and in their world view. Consider this: Two stacks of $100 bills pilled as high as your knee equals a million dollars (each bill is .0043 inches thick). Two stacks of $100 bills pilled as high as the Empire State Building equals a billion dollars.


Most millionaires, on the other hand, start out as hard working folk on whom good luck has smiled. You can't accumulate a million bucks without good health, good timing and other matters of chance. 

Millionaires, however, will often say they don't believe in chance. They will say they earned what they have through persistence, hard work, education, bright ideas and going that extra mile, which is all true... so long as their good luck doesn't run out.

How many millionaires are there? In 2014 it was estimated that there were 920,000 new millionaires created, bringing the global total to 14.6 million. At that rate there would be no fewer than 18 million millionaires today.


The problem for the rest of us is that the more knee high stacks of $100 dollar bills millionaires have, the more they benefit from the tilted playing field created by the vastly wealthy billionaires. More importantly, the richer they get the more they begin to act as courtiers to the royally rich. The majority of our elected federal officials are just these sorts of millionaires.

Billionaires are immensely powerful. The majority of them inherited this wealth and power, much like royalty. And like royalty, most of them feel entitled and especially worthy of their rank and position. Many of them  think government and our social institutions should reward them , so they tilt the playing field to accelerate their capital growth.

People becoming millionaires is generally a good thing for the economy, for job growth and national GDP. The problem with millionaires arises when they fall under the influence of billionaires. The the more knee high stacks of $100 dollar bills millionaires have, the more they like the tilted playing field created for them by billionaires. More importantly, the richer they get the more they act as courtiers to the royally rich. It's more than a fascination, it becomes an addiction. The majority of our elected federal representatives are millionaires who engage in just these sorts courtier activity.

The world is rapidly approaching the point where a single multi-billionaire could control enough wealth to directly compete with national governments. We are already beyond the point where even loosely coordinated actions among billionaires can sway or defeat the popular will within nations. On example of their power is the "death tax" movement to eliminate the U.S. Estate Tax. As a percentage of the population, federal inheritance taxes affects very few families, just 0.2% of the population. The push to kill the death tax was created and funded by just a handful of super wealthy families. Billionaires want to secure their children's right to succession of their money and power. The Estate tax is the last bulwark our society has in defense of a democratic society. It is not sufficient when it can be so easily defeated by just a handful of billionaires

In his book, Capitalism in the 21st Century, Thomas Piketty takes on these issues directly and in great detail. Among his conclusions is that the march towards wealth inequality can only quicken over time without significant democratic controls. His primary suggestion is a global, progressive tax on wealth ownership. The barriers to establishing that are formidable, as he discusses in his book. But the greatest obstacle to any social intervention to save our freedom and self-governance is our failure to even recognize the threat that billionaires and wealth inequality pose to our future. 

Monday, February 26, 2018

South Africa - A Canary in a Cage

by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Having come of age in the 1970's, South Africa holds a special place in my heart.  Although I'd not been there before recently, the forced social separation by apartheid laws to reinforced White domination was a global disgrace, and I felt it. I signed petitions to get my college to divest from companies doing business there. Nelson Mandela's political imprisonment was an international affront to justice that bothered me.
The spontaneous street protests in Soweto by Black high school student in the 1980's was inspiring while the fact so many were shot dead shocked everyone.  
And so  I celebrated along with the rest of the world when Apartheid was finally dismantled, Mandela was freed and the first free elections were held. It was a triumph of the human spirit over oppression and it sent a message of love and freedom to the world.

When my wife and I recently  booked a trip to South Africa, we were excited by the prospect of viewing great African animals in their natural habitat, but equally interested to see how this iconic country had fared during their 27 years of freedom.  

The safari portions of our trip were spectacular, far exceeding our expectations. The landscapes, the plant life and geography were beautiful and so dramatic. All the people we met were friendly and welcoming. I felt I had come home to our mother continent where humanity itself was born. 


Yet it was sad to learn how difficult the transition to self-rule has been for the people in this developing nation. We learned a lot about South African culture and it's politics, much of which is just now seeping out to Western news outlets.

I can't begin to do this topic justice from just a 12 day tour, but I can highlight some of my impressions.

Our tour guide on the trip was a brilliant, very engaging "colored" man (his term) who self-identifies as being from the Khoi-San tribe. This is actually a joining of the names of two tribes indigenous to South Africa. The Khoi-San are genetically and linguistically among the oldest groups of humans on earth. It was they who Dutch settlers first encountered in 1656. Of course oppression and hardship followed the Khoi (or Khoe pronounced coy) and the San tribes throughout the colonial period under the Dutch, and then the English in the 1800's.
After three-hundred years of colonial rule our tour guide, like most colored people in South Africa, is bi-racial with some Dutch and English ancestry. Colored people were oppressed in colonial times and still are today, although less overtly. 

During apartheid, the designation of "colored" also applied to people from India who were brought there as slaves, and to any other group held in low esteem. If a black African wanted to appeal his designation as a colored person, a pencil was pushed through the person's hair and they were told to shake their head. If the pencil fell out they lost their appeal.

The hope of inter-racial harmony and social unity that animated the successful struggle against apartheid in the in the 1970's and 80’s has since given way to economic and political oppression by other factions. South Africa has among the greatest wealth inequality in the world.  In our guide's telling, it is the black African immigrants from the North who mostly hold the reins of power, Among these are certain dominate tribes, such as the Zulu for one example. There is a social hierarchy among these black African tribes while white South Africans are mostly caught in the middle and colored South Africans are at or near the bottom.

The degree to which society is stratified along tribal traditions is evident in the parliament where everyone insists on speaking in their own dialect or language despite the fact that virtually everyone speaks English. This means everything said in parliament has to go through interpreters and is fraught with misunderstandings. 

Not surprisingly, it is global corporations who appear to be pulling all the strings in South Africa. As we road in our bus for hours from one site to another we saw miles and miles of eucalyptus trees planted in perfectly straight rows awaiting lumber harvesting. We saw miles and miles of other single crop plantings as far as the eye could see. It was corporate industrial farming on a grand scale harvesting crops destined for international consumption. I couldn't help but wonder what native species were displaced by all this cultivated land. I wondered if beautiful giraffes or stately lions once roamed here. Does loss of habitat contribute more here to species decline than poaching? The only small farming we saw was tiny gardens between certain shacks in huge, crowded shanty towns that dotted the lands outside the major towns and cities. On one side of the roadway you might see a square mile or more of closely packed shacks made of corrugated tin or wood planks with electric wires extending down to them like ribbons from a maypole. Sanitation is provided by long rows of outhouses along the periphery of these villages.

On the other side of the road you might see large gated communities of small, brightly colored masonry houses with modest flower gardens and a little driveway. There is razor wire on top of all the walls surrounding these communities. These four or five room homes were described to us as middle class enclaves. Only in the township of Soweto did we see a community where rich, middle class and poor housing existed in proximity.

Poverty is rampant everywhere, even in the wealth city areas. The unemployment rate in South Africa is currently approaching 50 percent. Crime has become an essential activity for survival among some South Africans. We learned that the country has an affordable and extensive railway system which is now plagued by long delays because robbers steal the electric lines to sell the copper.

Evidence of corporate industrial farming and its impact was just as evident in Swaziland, which is an independent nation within the northern mountain region of South Africa.

Here lives the only remaining sovereign king on earth. He disbanded the constitution when he took power and is the sole law of the land. A Western educated man with 13 wives, his most recent wife is just 19 years old. He is also one of the top richest men on earth living in a land of great poverty and very inadequate health care. Many people here still rely on medicine men when they are ill.

As we road through a rural landscape we passed hectors after hectors of sugar cane planted in neat, endless rows. Our tour guide told us all this sugar cane belonged to Coca Cola. Asked if the land was owned by the company we learned that all the land is leased to Coca Cola by the government, which is the Swazi king. Still, every child goes to school and has a school uniform. Parents who can afford it buy their child's books and uniforms while poor parents apply for them from the government.

Back in South Africa the same is not always true. While every child is required to go to school and wear a uniform, in some rural farm areas there is a gap between sixth grade and eight grade. Parents who can afford it send their children to private 7th grade classes. Education stops at the 6th grade for those who can't afford a private school. In this way there is a steady supply of laborers to work the fields.

Water resources have recently become a huge issue in Capetown, a city of twelve million people who are expected to run out of water sometime in April. Water conservation signs are everywhere, starting at the airport. In our hotel a four minute hourglass egg timer was glued to the shower stall to help guests take shorter showers. (Currently the recommended shower time is two minutes, not four).

Almost all of Capetown's water comes from ground water reservoirs. So the environmental cause of this water shortage is a lack of rain due to five years of drought. But there are political causes behind the crisis as well. Endless squabbles and debates in the national government have resulted in years of delay in constructing a desalination plants.

I couldn't get a clear answer as to whether there were sufficient aquifers under the city to dig municipal wells, but an hour's drive south brought us to the wine district what water is abundant.

Here there were reservoirs filled with water as well as ground wells to irrigate the vineyards. There were lush fields of grapes in this fertile valley waiting to be picked and turned into that famous South African wine. Some of these vineyards are over 300 years old.

As my wife and I traveled around and observed all the contrasts and disparities, we got the sense we were not seeing South Africa backsliding towards it's past, but rather a glimpse into our own future here in the United States. South Africa, the cradle of humanity, is a place of awesome beauty and friendly, descent hard working folks. But the politics right now is frightening and the resources of this developing country appears to be more and more under private or corporate control. It is not unlike what we are beginning to experience here in the United States. So, these are among my cultural pictures that my camera couldn't capture.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mass School Shootings - A Framework for Prevention and Change


by Brian T. Lynch, MSW

[The following post was re-edited on 2/24/18, mostly to shorten and improve readability]

There have been at least seven school shootings during school hours so far this year where children have been killed or injured.  This includes 17 students recently killed in Parkland, Florida. We can't normalize this. Mass casualty shootings are a public health crisis. 
ABC News
We don't really know much about what triggers a young person to start shooting his peers. Part of the reason we don't know is that the shooters don't always live to tell their story. But there are also "don't ask, don't tell" government policies surrounding gun violence. The NRA has gotten the US Congress to block the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) from collecting data on gun violence or from studying the problem.

What we know is that these mostly young male assailants are not terrorists in a formal sense. Terrorists are motivated by politics and oppression. They commit horrible acts against soft targets to draw attention to their views. Sometimes terrorists do act out of vengeance while hiding behind politics or religion.

Tentative Profile of the Shooters
School shooters like Nikolas Cruz in Parkland seem to be motivated by internal fantasies that stem from a social pathology. They have troubled histories with symptoms of odd behaviors and emotional disturbances that are not clearly tied to a specific underlying mental illness.  For example, they have no brain-chemical imbalance, no obvious thought disorders or don't hear voices telling them to do these things.  As a result, they often aren't diagnosed as "mentally ill" in a strict clinical sense. This diagnostic ambiguity complicates their interactions with mental health systems and the law, and parents find it difficult to get effective help.

Instead, these loners become increasing self-isolating. They have weak social relationship and poor social skills. They may have a history of been shunned or bullied by peers, perhaps because they act so differently. They can appear passive or unpredictably aggressive. They excessively engage in solitary activities such as video games or social media. Some come to feel powerless and insecure on many levels and may then develop an active inner fantasy life to help them cope with their short comings.

A percentage of these socially troubled youth may become fascinated with military style assault weapons for several reasons. These weapons look "cool" and powerful, like the military hardware they see on TV and in their video games. They develop a strong desire to own these weapons. and owning them makes them feel powerful, more in control and perhaps more manly. By contrast, their actual cross-gender relationships are often either absent or very dysfunctional. Once they own these weapons their inner fantasies begin to evolve around the weapon and how they might use them.

This probably describes a large group of cohorts of youth. Most don't become a mass murderers. Why a few flip is anyone's guess. Was Cruz' expulsion from school a triggering event for him?  We shall see.

In all cases, young people who exhibits these sort of histories and behaviors are seriously in need of help. Current mental health screening protocols, treatment methods, treatment accessibility and mental health laws are not adequate to identify and help this population. The efforts needed to identify and treat potential mass shooters will take time. If we started today to study, identify and treat these kids it might take a years to bring the present crisis under control.

Guns and Gun Culture Factors
A much faster, direct way to curb the violence would be take these murderous military style weapons out of the hands of civilians, and young people in particular. A key concept here is  "style",  as in fashion. It isn't the technical capability of an AR-15 that attracts these kids, but it's looks.

Gun enthusiasts will tell you the AR-15 is semi-automatic and therefore it isn't an assault weapon. This definition is a distinction without a difference.  The design is such that a large magazine clip and a bump stock is all it takes to turn them into fully automatic assault weapons. Moreover, they have three times the muzzle speed of a handgun which gives their small bore bullets more kinetic energy and much greater killing power.

More importantly, the perception of the AR-15 as a military style assault style weapon is very powerful. It impacts the attitudes and behaviors of everyone who owns them and this has an especially powerful impact on socially vulnerable youth. And as we know, what is real in its perception is real in its consequence.

Below is a picture of two rifles with almost identical capabilities. In both models, a bump stock and a large capacity magazine would turn either into an assault weapon.


It is obvious from the captions that this comparison is used by gun rights advocates, but just consider the visual impact. The Ruger Mini looks like a regular hunting rifle. The AR-15 stands out. It looks the military grade hardware depicted in Hollywood movies and just about every video game kids play. What child would prefer the Ruger Mini to an AR-15?

Perceptions matter. Perceptions alter behavior and cultural. The advertizing impact of these weapons in games and movies is a powerful force in a developing mind. It's a marketers paradise.

Along with there, there is an overall militarization of our culture in recent times. Police training is being turned over to companies that also train our solders. A government program sells excess military equipment (initially set up in the 1990's by Dick Cheney) to local police departments who are trained in their use. This alters the culture of our domestic police forces and creates an "us vs. them" militia mindset. And a growing fervency in patriotic adulation for our soldiers and police officers, (as opposed to the due respect and appreciation they deserve) has an impact on our children's cultural development and values. We are all blurring the lines between military culture and a more peaceful minded civil society.

A General Framework for Action
There are at least two main, interdependent parts to the mass school shooting problem. One is the increased proneness of certain children towards gun violence, and the other is the ready availability of highly lethal assault weapons that play into their fantasies. The first part is complex and difficult to change quickly. The second part can change quickly but for strong political and cultural opposition. The parts are interdependent steps take in each can have an effects on the other. For example, changes in the prevalence of assault weapons can impact the gun culture and how guns are perceived by children. Conversely, detection and interventions for socially at risk children in eliminate violence incidents and improve the overall milieu and learning environment, in schools. A healthy child in a healthy environment is a more responsible gun owner, if they choose to own a gun.

What can politicians do to end these mass casualty episodes?. What can parents do to help their children who get caught in a web of social failure?

A Public Health Emergency
The most immediate actions we can take on the mental health side is to untie the hands of the NIH and the CDC. Let them do their job. For too long Congress has tied our hands so that the gun industry won't be encumbered by inconvenient truths. The NRA has blocked gun violence research for over 20 years. Congress won't even let the CDC collect data on gun violence. This is not acceptable.

Let our public health institutions treat gun violence and gun deaths is a public health crisis. Give them the funding they need bring science to bear on the issues. Make mass shootings at our children's schools a national emergency. Set up task forces to study the issue. Let them identify better screening protocols and intervention strategies that can be introduced at the local level so parents have the help they seek. Provide community based strategies to help communities prevent these children from falling between the cracks. We need healthier social environments in our schools and our communities. For that we need stronger national leadership. We have a significant public health  crisis and the champions in the best position to help us with it have been sidelined.

Gun Control and Changing Gun Culture
The quickest way to curb mass shooting episodes by socially dysfunctional students is to simply make ownership or possession of military style weapons illegal. These weapons are the objects of their murderous fantasies. Take them away.
High velocity, rapid fire weapons with large magazines are not appropriate for hunting game. They are killing machines of war. Banning them is also a step towards reestablishing a cultural separation between weapons of war and a more wholesome respect for guns in a peaceful society.

Current marketing forces are at work to make military hardware sexy and desirable to boost profits, but this campaign has negative impacts on children who are culturally developing. The proliferation of ultra lethal weapons, even among local law enforcement and criminal, foster a more aggressive militancy. Nobody wants this. The Ruger Mini 14 (above) has all the same capacity and a higher muzzle velocity than the AR-15 but it doesn't convey the same messaging. Perceptions matter especially for the young. Maintaining a distinction in weapons of war and peace doesn't violate a person's right to bear arms. It sets reasonable limits on that right, as is true with every other constitutional right. It sends a cultural message.

Making all weapons less lethal should be part of the strategy to curb mass gun violence. Bump stocks and trigger cranks easily turn any semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic killing machine. Banning them should be the message our cultural heritage conveys. And we should limit the size of a magazines capacity for semi-automatic weapons. Comprehensive background checks, ending gun show loopholes and all the rest of the other standard fixes that are offered after horrendous shooting incidents are all worthy considerations as well. They convey the message that gun ownership is a serious business and is not every member of society can be trusted to own a gun.

We are in the midst of a public health crisis and we have to do whatever it takes to prevent further tragedy. We should stand up with the students and parents of Parkland, and New Town and Columbine and everywhere these events have taken place. We have to come together as a country, find our compassion and make whatever sacrifices are necessary to end gun violence in our schools and communities. I welcome anyone who reads this to offer their own comments and perspectives.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Mueller's Russia Indictment - a condensed summary



Case 1:18-cr-00032-DLF Document 1 Filed 02/16/18 Page 1 of 37

IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

[The following is a six page summary of highlights of the 37 page Mueller Indictment of  thirteen Russian nations and the organizations they worked for to interfere with our public elections. It was prepared by me, Brian T. Lynch, MSW, to condense the facts related to Russia's criminal interference in our elections. The full document is here: https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download ]



Defendant INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC (“ORGANIZATION”) is a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes.

3. Beginning as early as 2014, Defendant ORGANIZATION began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

4. Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and creating false U.S. personas, operated social media pages and groups designed to attract U.S. audiences... Defendants also used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons to post on ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts.

6. Defendant ORGANIZATION had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants posted derogatory information about a number of candidates, and by early to mid-2016, Defendants’ operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump (“Trump Campaign”) and disparaging Hillary Clinton... Defendants also staged political rallies inside the United States, and while posing as U.S. grassroots entities and U.S. persons, and without revealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation, solicited and compensated real U.S. persons to promote or disparage candidates. Some Defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign and with other political activists to seek to coordinate political activities.

The ORGANIZATION employed hundreds of individuals for its online operations, ranging from creators of fictitious personas to technical and administrative support.

The ORGANIZATION’s annual budget totaled the equivalent of millions of U.S. dollars.

The ORGANIZATION was headed by a management group and organized into departments, including: a graphics department; a data analysis department; a search-engine optimization (“SEO”) department; an information-technology (“IT”) department to maintain the digital infrastructure used in the ORGANIZATION’s operations; and a finance department to budget and allocate funding.

The ORGANIZATION sought, in part, to conduct what it called “information warfare against the United States of America” through fictitious U.S. personas on social media platforms and other Internet-based media. (emphasis mine)

By in or around April 2014, the ORGANIZATION formed a department that went by various names but was at times referred to as the “translator project.” This project focused on the U.S. population and conducted operations on social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

By approximately July 2016, more than eighty ORGANIZATION employees were assigned to the translator project.

By in or around May 2014, the ORGANIZATION’s strategy included interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with the stated goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general.”

Defendants CONCORD MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING LLC (Конкорд Менеджмент и Консалтинг) and CONCORD CATERING are related Russian entities with various Russian government contracts. CONCORD was the ORGANIZATION’s primary source of funding for its interference operations. CONCORD controlled funding, recommended personnel, and oversaw ORGANIZATION activities through reporting and interaction with ORGANIZATION management.

CONCORD funded the ORGANIZATION as part of a larger CONCORD-funded interference operation that it referred to as “Project Lakhta.” Project Lakhta had multiple components, some involving domestic audiences within the Russian Federation and others targeting foreign audiences in various countries, including the United States.

By in or around September 2016, the ORGANIZATION’s monthly budget for Project Lakhta submitted to CONCORD exceeded 73 million Russian rubles (over 1,250,000 U.S. dollars), including approximately one million rubles in bonus payments.

Starting at least in or around 2014, Defendants and their co-conspirators began to track and study groups on U.S. social media sites dedicated to U.S. politics and social issues. In order to gauge the performance of various groups on social media sites, the ORGANIZATION tracked certain metrics like the group’s size, the frequency of content placed by the group, and the level of audience engagement with that content, such as the average number of comments or responses to a post.

For example, starting in or around June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, posing online as U.S. persons, communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization. During the exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators learned from the real U.S. person that they should focus their activities on “purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.” After that exchange, Defendants and their co-conspirators commonly referred to targeting “purple states” in directing their efforts.

32. Defendants and their co-conspirators, through fraud and deceit, created hundreds of social media accounts and used them to develop certain fictitious U.S. personas into “leader[s] of public opinion” in the United States.

33. ORGANIZATION employees, referred to as “specialists,” were tasked to create social media accounts that appeared to be operated by U.S. persons... Specialists were instructed to write about topics germane to the United States such as U.S. foreign policy and U.S. economic issues. Specialists were directed to create “political intensity through supporting radical groups, users dissatisfied with [the] social and economic situation and oppositional social movements.”

34. Defendants and their co-conspirators also created thematic group pages on social media sites, particularly on the social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. ORGANIZATIONcontrolled pages addressed a range of issues, including: immigration (with group names including “Secured Borders”); the Black Lives Matter movement (with group names including “Blacktivist”); religion (with group names including “United Muslims of America” and “Army of Jesus”); and certain geographic regions within the United States (with group names including “South United” and “Heart of Texas”). By 2016, the size of many ORGANIZATION-controlled groups had grown to hundreds of thousands of online followers.

35. Starting at least in or around 2015, Defendants and their co-conspirators began to purchase advertisements on online social media sites to promote ORGANIZATION-controlled social media groups, spending thousands of U.S. dollars every month.

36. Defendants and their co-conspirators also created and controlled numerous Twitter accounts designed to appear as if U.S. persons or groups controlled them. For example, the ORGANIZATION created and controlled the Twitter account “Tennessee GOP,” which used the handle @TEN_GOP. The @TEN_GOP account falsely claimed to be controlled by a U.S. state political party. Over time, the @TEN_GOP account attracted more than 100,000 online followers.

39. To hide their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation, Defendants and their coconspirators—particularly POLOZOV and the ORGANIZATION’s IT department—purchased space on computer servers located inside the United States in order to set up virtual private networks (“VPNs”).

40. Defendants and their co-conspirators also registered and controlled hundreds of web-based email accounts hosted by U.S. email providers under false names so as to appear to be U.S. persons and groups.

41. In or around 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators also used, possessed, and transferred, without lawful authority, the social security numbers and dates of birth of real U.S. persons without those persons’ knowledge or consent. Using these means of identification, Defendants and their co-conspirators opened accounts at PayPal, a digital payment service provider; created false means of identification, including fake driver’s licenses; and posted on ORGANIZATION-controlled social media accounts using the identities of these U.S. victims.

42. By approximately May 2014, Defendants and their co-conspirators discussed efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendants and their co-conspirators began to monitor U.S. social media accounts and other sources of information about the 2016 U.S. presidential election. [Humm, who were these co-conspirators?]

43. By 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online personas to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. They engaged in operations primarily intended to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.

44. Certain ORGANIZATION-produced materials about the 2016 U.S. presidential election used election-related hashtags, including: “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “#Hillary4Prison.” Defendants and their co-conspirators also established additional online social media accounts dedicated to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including the Twitter account “March for Trump” and Facebook accounts “Clinton FRAUDation” and “Trumpsters United.”

46. In or around the latter half of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, through their ORGANIZATION-controlled personas, began to encourage U.S. minority groups not to vote in the 2016 U.S. presidential election or to vote for a third-party U.S. presidential candidate.

47. Starting in or around the summer of 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators also began to promote allegations of voter fraud by the Democratic Party through their fictitious U.S. personas and groups on social media. Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased advertisements on Facebook to further promote the allegations...

On or about August 11, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators posted that allegations of voter fraud were being investigated in North Carolina on the ORGANIZATION-controlled Twitter account @TEN_GOP. ..

On or about November 2, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the same account to post allegations of “#VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida.”

48. From at least April 2016 through November 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators, while concealing their Russian identities and ORGANIZATION affiliation through false personas, began to produce, purchase, and post advertisements on U.S. social media and other online sites expressly advocating for the election of then-candidate Trump or expressly opposing Clinton.

51. Starting in approximately June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators organized and coordinated political rallies in the United States.

53. In or around late June 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Facebook group “United Muslims of America” to promote a rally called “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims” held on July 9, 2016 in the District of Columbia.

54. In or around June and July 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Facebook group “Being Patriotic,” the Twitter account @March_for_Trump, and other ORGANIZATION accounts to organize two political rallies in New York. The first rally was called “March for Trump” and held on June 25, 2016. The second rally was called “Down with Hillary” and held on July 23, 2016.

55. In or around late July 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the Facebook group “Being Patriotic,” the Twitter account @March_for_Trump, and other false U.S. personas to organize a series of coordinated rallies in Florida. The rallies were collectively referred to as “Florida Goes Trump” and held on August 20, 2016.

57. After the election of Donald Trump in or around November 2016, Defendants and their coconspirators used false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies in support of then president-elect Trump, while simultaneously using other false U.S. personas to organize and coordinate U.S. political rallies protesting the results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

58. In order to avoid detection and impede investigation by U.S. authorities of Defendants’ operations, Defendants and their co-conspirators deleted and destroyed data, including emails, social media accounts, and other evidence of their activities.

76. On or about August 18, 2016, the real “Florida for Trump” Facebook account responded to the false U.S. persona “Matt Skiber” account with instructions to contact a member of the Trump Campaign (“Campaign Official 1”) involved in the campaign’s Florida operations and provided 27 Case 1:18-cr-00032-DLF Document 1 Filed 02/16/18 Page 28 of 37 Campaign Official 1’s email address at the campaign domain donaldtrump.com. On approximately the same day, Defendants and their co-conspirators used the email address of a false U.S. persona, joshmilton024@gmail.com, to send an email to Campaign Official 1 at that donaldtrump.com email account, which read in part:

Hello [Campaign Official 1], [w]e are organizing a state-wide event in Florida on August, 20 to support Mr. Trump. Let us introduce ourselves first. “Being Patriotic” is a grassroots conservative online movement trying to unite people offline. . . . [W]e gained a huge lot of followers and decided to somehow help Mr. Trump get elected. You know, simple yelling on the Internet is not enough. There should be real action. We organized rallies in New York before. Now we’re focusing on purple states such as Florida. The email also identified thirteen “confirmed locations” in Florida for the rallies and requested the campaign provide “assistance in each location.”

85. On or about September 22, 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators created and purchased Facebook advertisements for a series of rallies they organized in Pennsylvania called “Miners for Trump” and scheduled for October 2, 2016. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371.

88. The conspiracy had as its object the opening of accounts under false names at U.S. financial institutions and a digital payments company in order to receive and send money into and out of the United States to support the ORGANIZATION’s operations in the United States and for selfenrichment.

89. Beginning in at least 2016, Defendants and their co-conspirators used, without lawful authority, the social security numbers, home addresses, and birth dates of real U.S. persons without their knowledge or consent. Using these means of stolen identification, Defendants and their coconspirators opened accounts at a federally insured U.S. financial institution (“Bank 1”), including the following accounts: [snip]

92. On or about the dates identified below, Defendants and their co-conspirators obtained and used the following fraudulent bank account numbers for the purpose of evading PayPal’s security measures: [snip]

93. Additionally, and in order to maintain their accounts at PayPal and elsewhere, including online cryptocurrency exchanges, Defendants and their co-conspirators purchased and obtained false identification documents, including fake U.S. driver’s licenses. Some false identification documents obtained by Defendants and their co-conspirators used the stolen identities of real U.S. persons, including U.S. persons T.W. and J.W.



95. Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist. All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1349.

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