Monday, May 15, 2023

The Fascist Playbook

There is a playbook that fascists use to take and maintain power—think Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán (and more than two dozen plus authoritarian countries around the globe).

The playbook is always the same:

  • Draw up an enemies list—either you are with us or you are against us. Govern for the party in power, not for all the people. Intimidate, bully, marginalize and crush any opposition.
  • Systematically demonize the press—a free press is the enemy of the people; truth is fake news. Either delegitimize the press or control and use it as a propaganda tool. 
  • Lie, lie, lie—the bigger the lie the better, because people believe that the most outrageous and improbable lie must be true, or else no one would say it in the first place. Deny truth and create alternate facts, fiction, or fantasy.  Deny science and substitute religion. Propagandize with false information and conspiracy theories.
  • Weaponize religious ideology to support the regime’s agenda.
  • Control the courts; bully, delegitimize and politicize the judiciary. Control judicial elections and appointments so only those loyal to the party line become judges; take control of the judicial branch and eliminate constitutional separation of powers and checks and balances.
  • Destroy the Rule of Law–use laws to reward supporters and punish opponents; ignore laws not in accord with the party line; ignore court orders, disrespect civil authority. Knowingly enact unconstitutional laws; then blame “activist” judges when those laws are challenged and overturned.
  • Politicize the civil service, military and domestic security.
  • Involve government in surveilling the press, reporters, political opponents and those on the enemies list.
  • Fearmonger and demonize minorities, LGBTQ+communities, transgender resident, the disabled, immigrants, and the powerless; make them the scapegoats for societies’ social and economic ills. Weaponize and inflame racial and social prejudices.
  • Trash civil rights and liberties in favor of partisan and religious ideology. 
  • Marginalize and bully women; trash their gender-specific rights and needs; empower government to control their reproductive functions; keep them submissive to the patriarchy. 
  • Disenfranchise voters. Promote spurious conspiracy theories and lies claiming election fraud, stolen elections and voting irregularities. Demand recounts and audits of elections held and certified in accordance with governing laws. Sue on false claims without evidentiary support. Suppress the vote and make it harder and more inconvenient to vote. Subvert election results. Gerrymander and do everything possible to rig the system so that only the party faithful are elected. Empower the legislature to ignore the popular vote and change the results of elections. Hold on to power at all costs and with any tactics.

In short, the goal of all fascists is to control all branches and functions of government, and to make those and the minds of people conform to the party line and ideology. People do not count; the Constitution does not count. 

The Rule of Law becomes the Rule of Lie.

It has been said that “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” And John Maynard Keynes observed that, “Perhaps it is historically true that no order of society ever perishes save by its own hand.” 

Sadly, history has shown both to be true, time and time again.

The fascist playbook ensures that democracy will die from within, not from without.

And, if you think “it can’t happen here,” you are wrong. Look where our state and our nation are headed; check off the boxes.

 It is already here.

By James C. Nelson

James C. Nelson is a retired lawyer and former Montana Supreme Court Justice. He lives in Helena.

Originally published in the Daily Montanan. Republished here under Creative Commons license 4.0

Thursday, May 04, 2023

Bringing our communities two makerspaces together: TinkerMill and Longmont Public Media

Over the last 10 years of living here in Longmont, my home town, I've been lucky enough to do a few public good things that are still giving back to the community. 

The first was TinkerMill. A makerspace that I created along with a couple of dozen other very enthusiastic founding members in 2013 because I wanted to see if a place like Longmont could support the concept of a makerspace. It did. TinkerMill is now one of the largest and some would say best Makerspaces in the country.

Then, out of a desire to have actual local news that reflected the community I lived in, I created a local non-profit news room called the Longmont Observer with a couple of co-founders (Sergio Angeles and Macie May) which went on to become the Longmont Leader, which Macie continues to run as the primary editor and overall manager to this day.

While still operating as the Longmont Observer, we bid on a contract that the City of Longmont had put out to run our local Public Access TV station operating 3 channels on the Comcast video network. To our surprise, we won that contract and created a new kind of public access TV that was also very much a Media Makerspace. We call it Longmont Public Media (LPM). Sergio has been running it as the Executive Director during most of that tenure (2020- present). Even with the pandemic and flagging pubic access TV budget dollars due to less people paying for cable TV, it's managed to continue to grow and prosper.

Sergio's decided that it's time to move on to what's next so that left us with the question of: what's next for LPM? I'm actively working on being retired, so I didn't want to run it. We looked at hiring from within LPM, as well as potential candidates from outside, and we looked at potential parternships with other similar non-profit entities like KGNU, The Firehouse Art Center and TinkerMill, the Longmont Makerspace.

We came to the conclusion that a partnership with the other makerspace in town was the best overall fit from a timing, capability and compatibility perspective. 

So, over the next few months, we'll be figuring out how the two organizations can be linked in partnership. Erin Hoard, the Executive Director of TinkerMill will be the ED of both organizations and Sergio and I (the current board of LPM) will join TinkerMill's board.

The details are still being worked out, but, for me, it's a natural. When we started TinkerMill one of the shops we wanted (and for awhile had subsets of) was photography, video and audio studios. 

LPM's mission is education about how to learn, create and distribute media with pro-level equipment, studios and expertise. TinkerMill's mission is also about education on how to learn and create throughout a broad range of areas from welding to 3D printing to circuit design to creating all kinds of different forms of art. LPM can create media around classes and projects at TinkerMill, which does over 100 different kinds of classes every month, and distribute it on LPM's 'educational channel' on Comcast (Channel 14). This supports TinkerMill's mission of education and helps to provide educational content for Longmont's public access TV system. That's just one area these two makerspaces can synergistically help each other.

TinkerMill is also an innovation center and dozens of company's as well as hundreds of product ideas and prototypes have emerged from the space over the years. Helping to document and promote those products and businesses is another area LPM can be leveraged for the Longmont community of entrepreneurs and creators with LPM using the content created for it's general community TV station (Channel 8) on what's going on in Longmont and Longmont's businesses.

There's so many ways a media entity like LPM and an innovation center like TinkerMill can work together that it's likely we'll be discovering all the possibilities for years to come.

I'm very much looking forward to watching these two incredibly dynamic organizations learn how to work together over the coming months and years. I also know the real winner here will be the residents of Longmont, and the entire region around Longmont.

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Stop the tipping

Mark this one to my 'get off my lawn' age group, but, it just pisses me off when I'm asked, at a fast casual restaurant where you order your food at a counter, pick up your food at a counter and bus your own table, to tip when you pay up front at, yea... the counter.

Or, someone at a coffee shop who makes your coffee (and isn't a 'server' so, isn't making 'server' wages of $2 an hour). Those tips? That's a way to keep wages up to market values, without paying for it, best case. More often? Those employees aren't seeing all (or even any) of those tips. The business just keeps it as profit. No one's watching the employers. No one's auditing anything.

It's a rip off of both consumers and employees by business owners.

So, I looked into tipping a little deeper and, man, it's dark. This is not a good thing and we should all start working for required living wages vs. this bullshit we call tipping.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Fraud and Late Stage Capitalism at work

 The more I look at todays medical system, the more disgusted I get.

I'll be 65 next year, and going on Medicare.

Want to see what massive corporate fraud looks like? Look no further than private 'Medicare Advantage' plans.

By next year, half of Medicare beneficiaries will have a private Medicare Advantage plan. Most large insurers in the program have been accused in court of fraud.

I used to be a dyed in the wool capitalist and believed a free and open market was the most efficient way to provide the best services and products at the best cost.

I was wrong.

Todays late stage and predatory capitalism isn't efficient, it's coordinated and driven by greed and profit. There's nothing balanced about America's market economy today. Nothing.

We need to look at real Universal Health Care in this country. We're one of the few 1st world countries that doesn't have it and it makes no sense. It's more efficient (yea, it really is, the 'market gurus' are lying to you and it's easy to prove) it's cheaper and doesn't make billionaire health care company owners and executives even richer.

You can bet the exact same thing is going on with your regular health care insurance as well. It's about corporations profit off their product.

Their product? 


And the sicker you are (or they can make you appear to be), the more profit they make off you. They don't sell health care. They sell 'what's the least amount of care' so they can keep more money.

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Cryptocurrency, blockchain and the potential future authoritarian world it could create.

Cryptocurrency Might be a Path to Authoritarianism

Extreme libertarians built blockchain to decentralize government and corporate power. It could consolidate their control instead.

By Ian Bogost

I remember reading this Atlantic article when it first came out almost 5 years ago and thinking "this sounds about right" It, and other examinations of what was going on, kept me from getting involved in the whole crypto world.

Now here we are, half a decade later, and I would say that it was a little bit wrong, but a lot more right.

The only thing missing (or is it?) is far right-wing, or far left-wing, governments of the world, to start enacting just some of the imagined uses of an authoritarian state this article lays out. I can see China already starting, and I'm pretty sure Georgia, Florida, or Texas wouldn't hesitate to use this kind of tech to control voter roles, once it decides it can get away with it.

And there are many many more scenarios that have been made possible with the continued advancement of the tech in the crypto/blockchain world.

I've got some very dear friends who've bought in wholeheartedly to this world. I hope they understand what they're really supporting and Web3 (which is what they're calling it) doesn't take the path of the Internet that I was deeply involved in ('web 2.0).

We really believed we were creating something that democratized information for individuals and society as a whole. What we really did, mostly, was create tools for corporations to massively centralize information and turn even tiny bits of it into financial transaction devices, also known as the securitization of information.

NFT's are the current manifestation of that. Laugh at them if you want, but, fiat money (i.e the US Dollar) is no less ethereal (pun intended Ethereum fans) than crypto-currencies and NFT's.

Massively distributed systems may be 'the democratization of X', but, they can be used for the opposite as well. 

The article above sums it up nicely:

"blockchain’s future seems tied to the short-term vision of investors and entrepreneurs willing to speculate on a hypothetical, distributed utopia without hedging against the consolidated autocracy it seems equally likely to realize. “This is what happens,” Greenfield says, “when very bright people outsmart themselves.”

I'm no longer the young idealist that went to silicon valley in the 80's to work for Apple. I've seen some shit. Especially in the last 5 years, I've come to conclude that humans will not, always, pick the best path for all of us collectively, or even, themselves individually. Some days, being a misanthrope is just easier.

I know this sounds like a 'get off my lawn' post, but, every so often, the old geezer yelling that old anachronistic stereotypical trope, is right.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Small Town Politics in 2021

Watching the latest small-scale municipal election unfold here in my hometown of Longmont, Colorado, I'm struck by how things have changed in a relatively short time, effectively, the last two years.

Our town is very blue (Democrat). It was once a Republican stronghold, but no more. Much of liberal Boulder has moved to lower cost and more family-friendly Longmont over the last few years making it as, or more, liberal than the famously liberal "People's Republic of Boulder" town twelve miles to the Southwest.

But you wouldn't think that looking at our latest City Council race and School Board elections.

We had nine candidates for City Council this year. Three for mayor, and six for two open at-large seats.

Of these nine candidates, five were, effectively, Republicans. We're supposed to have non-partisan races, but, it's clear, there's a left and right in Longmont and they're organized. But one is more organized and coordinated, than the other.

Of the six City Council candidates, four were GOP funded and supported. They attended meetings together and strategized with their local GOP supporters at various get-togethers. They even endorsed each other, openly, in debates. The GOP mayoral candidate in our town called out the four GOP-supported candidates running for council in a recent debate, calling for the city to elect them, along with himself, 'to bring balance' back to the City Council.

How do I know the GOP was so organized and funded? Mostly by one obvious example and a few hints. The obvious one is the candidate for mayor in our town is a local handyman. Nice guy. Quite likable, but, he had a 'handler' that's with him at all times. The handler is a lawyer from New York. This handler was writing his scripts and his debate answers as well as coaching him through interviews and video productions. Several of the candidates have also talked about 'a meeting on Sunday (and many other days)' with names of all the conservative candidates, only. It's coordinated.

The Democrats, by contrast, were eating their own in a scene that's eerily similar to the Democrats at a national level in 2021. There are center-left and progressive Democrats running for office here, and they dislike each other more than they, it seems, dislike their GOP opponents.

As noted above, it also is interesting to see the contrast of how well organized and funded, the conservative GOP-supported candidates are in comparison. They meet regularly with each other and their handlers/funders. They're focused, energized, and on message.

They also used tried and true ratf*cker methodology, a GOP-developed strategy for winning that can be mild (as it is in our case) to extreme (mostly used at a national level and exhibited by people like Roger Stone, Lauren Boebert, and, of course, trump).

Our local example has one of the GOP candidates who was allegedly unvaccinated and refused to wear masks in Boulder County, where mask mandates are in place for all indoor activities, running a largely single-issue campaign focused on a 'hyperloop' transportation system that is, at best, 50 years out. It's one of those things that everyone thinks is cool and likes, but, is used primarily as a diversionary topic to keep people off of her position on issues this particular candidate doesn't want to talk about. What are her positions here? No idea, although hints of a Lauren Boebert like mindset did appear. Whenever asked about specifics this candidate would divert back to the 'hyperloop'. That's the point of the strategy. 

Although to be fair, the other side may not be immune to this kind of behavior. I heard from an, at the time, sitting council person, that they had 'suggested he run' to the GOP Mayoral candidate. Apparently, he was this person's handyman. They seemed slightly surprised he actually ran though. Did they really encourage him to run? Was it with the intent to counter the 'not liberal enough' liberal candidate? It's hard to tell. If true, that's a 'clever' way to take out an opponent. As our city's recent ex-mayor likes to say: "Politics in Longmont is a bloodsport", so who knows.

Another big sign was this year's School Board race. The fact that there even was a race is really unusual. There is almost never an election in this town for a school board seat. They have a hard time finding people to run and there's almost always just one person for each seat on the ballot.

Not this year. Several seats were contested, and the 'new' folks are all GOP-controlled conservatives.

The aftermath of the elections was predictable. The conservatives lost, however, they had an effect. 

The Center-left mayoral candidate, who was a likely shoo-in for the job, lost to the more progressive left-wing candidate because of the GOP candidate. How? The GOP candidate took 20% of the vote, including the centrists and slightly center-right folks that would have voted for a center-left candidate over a farther to the left candidate.

The City Council candidates that won were the incumbent everyone already knew and the first black women to ever be elected to a Longmont City Council seat. Both are on the left side of the spectrum. The left-leaning candidate also won the School Board election.

The GOP, this time, actually created a more liberal government by coming out in force to try and take the City Council and School Board over. I'm sure that wasn't the intent, but, that was the end result.

Did they learn from this? I'm very sure they did. 

Boulder County is 80%+ blue so the GOP losing isn't a surprise. However, if we were a 55% or 60% blue county, which it was not that long ago, the results may well have been very different.

There is a national, coordinated, and well-funded effort on the part of the Republican Party to take over local governments. Grinding it out. Learning the lessons. Year after year after year. 

Election Commissioners, County Commissioners. City Councils. School Boards. Municipal Boards and Commissions. 

All of it.


I've seen it up close and personal right here at home. You might want to take a look at what's going on in your town, too. If you don't like what you see, get involved. And for gods sake, vote! 

Everyone, please, vote.

On predicting the future...

An old colleague of mine, Richard Gingras, from my days at Apple Computer wrote an article last year about the dangers of predicting the future. It's very much worth the four minutes it'll take to read

Why predicting the future can be so dangerous

I wouldn't have agreed with this 10 years ago, however, looking back, I have to say he's right.

I would go even farther in my analysis than he does: We honestly thought we were doing great stuff for humanity and the planet back in the early days of online systems and the internet. We believed we would be 'democratizing information' and giving everyone a platform to have a voice.

And, to a degree, we succeeded. Clearly, we didn't think through the ramifications of that and we're experiencing the results now.

For that, I, personally, am deeply sorry.

The Fascist Playbook

There is a playbook that fascists use to take and maintain power—think Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Vladimir Putin, Viktor Orbán (and mor...