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The Midterms And Beyond- A Democratic Future.

Millennial Democrats- The Future Is Ours!

Polls are showing that we Democrats are in a good, strong position going into the midterms. There are some problem areas, but we’re getting them worked out. By all indicators, we’re on track to retake at least the House of Representatives, something the nation’s future depends on.

In fact, it has become increasingly clear that the future of the nation depends largely on the future of the Democratic Party, since only Democrats seem to care about it. It has become critical for us to ask some questions about ourselves and where we’re going, after the midterms and beyond.

What is the nature of Democratic ideology? What does it mean to be a Democrat? This is something many of us have thought about a lot, especially since 2016. It has changed quite a bit over the years. Experience and study both have taught us to be wary of any ideology that requires a true believer. Thus, although it does not exist as a crystalline and brittle dogma, incapable of change, it does still have a form. And although it is profoundly sickening to dignify Trump’s raving with a well-thought out response, 

That form is not called socialism. It has nothing to do with socialism. And it will never have anything to do with socialism, regardless of the slanders of Trump aimed at us that we’re all radicals. We are not. 

The time-honored policies we’ve been using since Franklin Roosevelt, like that of nearly everyone in the western world, belong rightly to the tradition of Social Democracy. That is profoundly different from being a socialist, which even the most reputable and intelligent of leftist publications, Jacobin Magazine, is in total agreement with us on this matter; one headline of theirs we came across while researching this read simply, Democratic Socialism Isn’t Social Democracy.

The difference is simple. We want to retain our free market economy, and not hand it all over to bureaucrats. We also wish to see it tempered of its harshness by a social net of citizen relief. 

That’s not what everyone wants, and I get that, although it’s hard to accept, especially now, when the stakes are so high. Democratic ideology means having respect for others, which means a certain amount of agreeing to disagree. We cannot try to force it! People must come around on their own. We’ve got to use reason, not ugliness. We don’t want to hurt anyone over the way they think, just the opposite. We need their help to do our share to ensure that our government is healthy and to be sure we remain realistic about its prospects.

Everybody’s got a set of ideologies these days, one sometimes feels, and many are meant to deliberately waylay and mislead. Many seem artificial. Others seem insensitive, and still others downright stupid. While utopian thinkers are thinking about their utopia, the world outside is going right along as it always has, regardless of anyone’s thoughts or ideas. Current events do not suggest it’s the right time to retreat into philosophy and get lost in obscurity.

We need to get out there and fight.

Revolutionary-minded people have their talking points in order. They will not take long in getting around to Robert Owen or the Paris Commune or what have you as examples that things might be otherwise because a few people wanted them to be; a few words about the former seem in order here. In 1825, Owen bought the town of New Harmony, Indiana and established a utopian colony there-or tried to.

New Harmony prospered at first. But it wasn’t long before the residents fell to quarreling about politics and religion. By 1828, it had failed. Sound familiar? If they’d have been short on resources it would have gone the way of the Donner Party. This why Sir Thomas More chose the word Utopia to describe his 1516 vision of a perfect society.

The word “utopia” is the Greek word for “nowhere”.

Socialists do not understand the nature of capitalism. They believe it to be a system of government. It is not. Capitalism is an entity! It is the raw, naked force, the self-governing force, of the free market itself. Economist Adam Smith called it the Invisible Hand, and observed the patterns it arranges society into.

Those patterns are the trouble with socialism, which asserts itself along unrealistic principles that are inconsistent with human behavior, which is not going to change overnight. Humans are heavily pattern-based creatures. We do the same things in every generation. Bees don’t just wake up one day and start building pyramid shaped hives, no matter how talented the beekeeper.

We have got to find a way to bring this realization home to all of our fellow Millennial Democrats before it’s too late. It’s as if some of us have been in a bubble ever since the 2016 primary election and Bernie Sanders, repeating the same slogans to each other left and right. It has led to other generations slandering us and considering us to be unintelligent and unrealistic.

This is incredibly wrong and unfair. Once the dialogue begins, most of us are fair and decent, just as much so as anyone else. We are capable of thinking with reason. How dare we be held accountable for the conduct of the six-hundred-year-old Bernie? We’re going to be fine, thank you very much.

All we have to do is point out some basic things to one another.

We have to understand that socialism means state ownership, which is synonymous with public ownership but doesn’t sound as nice. It means to build an apparatus so huge that people can hardly fill it, and then hand over the keys to completely untested and radical persons. This has not gone well in the past. The entire systemic concept makes socialism, by its very nature, highly subject to despotism. We must come to thoroughly understand this.

Although the two terms sound alike, a massive gulf exists between the socialistic nightmares of Franz Kafka and social democracy, the highly decent governmental system that made the meatpacking industry in Chicago clean its act up after Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle.

Social democracy, by the way, is the free-market model used by Nordic nations such as Sweden. Another term for it is Nordic capitalism. There is no socialism involved. Period. Bernie’s praise of their system’s accomplishments was just and correct but he didn’t understand what he was praising. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t either, but we believe there’s hope for her. She’s got a good heart. She’s just got to cut out all this nonsense about socialism.

The process of trade and money started up in society right away. It was the reason society was necessary. Capitalism is raw desire, and without society, it walked around in the hearts of cavemen, snatching from the others where it could. It was brutal, but it also allowed us to compete with more powerful forms of life. We realized back then that what makes us great is also what makes us dangerous. The human being is a sword with many edges.

There’s certainly no getting rid of capitalism. It exists and appears to be an integral part of human culture. So what to do with it? This has been the question since before humans wore pants. It came at the cost of two World Wars and a galaxy of other atrocities, but at this point, humans have channeled capitalism and made it work for us, and it has given us everything we have, problems and progress alike. 

Every form of social organization, every form of government, is an attempt to give capitalism a saddle and riders. In America, we have the strength of the Roman Republic shoring up the walls of Greek democracy. Six thousand years of societal evolution has combined to give us the advantage we enjoy, as a nation. All we have to do is just take care of it.

And we’re going to give that up for- what, exactly? The half-baked regurgitations of Marx and Lenin that the far left has been shouting for these last few decades? Their “plan” is equivalent to cutting the basket ropes of a hot air balloon you are in because the sun is getting in your eyes. Destructive and ineffective. For all the disasters you cause in the process of cutting those ropes, the sun will still be in your eyes.

In the last analysis, regardless of who tries what, our nations and empires follow the same cycles of death and rebirth that our bodies do. During those cycles, the same things have happened in every generation. Most of them are not very nice.

Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States does a great job of illustrating just how ugly those struggles can get. Hundreds and hundreds of pages, and on each a grocery list of vivid atrocities. Yet still, somehow amid the dung-pile, he finds grounds to claim that humans can just unlearn it all, that we can just lay down and retire the entire concept of a State since people in a mob are so obviously capable of being objective and fair.

Most of us can’t even quit drinking caffeine.

Discussions about the nature of government have become much more common and much more critical for millennials than ever before. We must succeed where Bernie failed, and learn to correctly identify not only socialism, but also capitalism and understand its nature as an entity.

I ask you, readers- Have you ever read or seen Dune? The book, by Frank Herbert, the movie by David Lynch? If not, consider the recommendation made. It provides a perfect metaphor for the relationship between government, capitalism, and society.

Society is the Fremen sandriders. Capitalism is the sandworm. The government is the hooks they used to control where the sandworm goes.

The socialists want to act like the sandworm is not there, even while its jaws snap shut around them. They’d like it all to be theories and talk, and they ignore the grim realities behind many of their ideas. They think it’s just people waving hooks around and desert. They are slowing down the rest of us, in our quest to keep from being eaten.

On the other hand, the Republicans think that letting the sandworms go about without the hooks is good, which is so ridiculous and crude as to make a man throw up. In essence, both the right wing and the far left wing, are completely nuts. We need the government to regulate things, and this is why. We just don’t want to give it all the power. We’ll get by all right, we just have to keep moving forward together. Like Hillary Clinton said.

As John Locke said, the goal of government is not to restrict or negate the rights of man. It’s to ensure them. Even the most cursory glance at our sad yet vibrant history is enough to explain why we must have one. So let’s cut out all the nonsense and pining for the hunter-gatherer days and big revolutions and get to work cleaning our backyards. We can argue over terminology after we take back the House of Representatives.

There’s an enormous amount of work to do before a meaningful change will come to America, and most of it will not be done in our lifetimes. We can’t change that, but we can carry our load as best as we’re able, and we can be the change we want to see in the meantime. In a Democrat’s ideology, that is good enough. We don’t need to rise up in revolution; random acts of violence are not the answer. The answer is to look at the world in a spirit of love and kindness and to vote a straight Democratic ticket. In this election, and in every other.

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Cyber-Defense For Democrats! Security Measures For Midterms.

#CyberDefenseForDemocrats

Hello, world!

We have received numerous requests for a focus piece regarding cyber-defense for Democrats, especially right now as we are going into the midterms. In it is an introduction to a number of the techniques we can use to defend ourselves going forward. Knowledge is power. Pass it on.

Regular readers of Millennial Democrats will not require a lot of explanation as to how and why the threat of Russian hacking is real. We have been up against it for years. The time has come to soberly and objectively assess Russia’s cyberwarfare capabilities, and examine how we plan to fight back.

In 2016, America was caught off guard and we got a bloody nose. Guys like Roger Stone’s buddy Guccifer 2.0, or the guys in Fancy Bear pulled a fast one, to be sure.

But it’s important not to overstate the case. It is not accurate to attribute cybernetic omniscience to the Russians and their zany bots and fake news.

They had the element of surprise back then. Most people had no idea what they were doing(and rolled their eyes at those who were trying to warn them, but that’s another subject). These days things are very different.

Regardless of the lies of the great orange malignance, America knows the Russians are out to get us. Trump is sticking his head in the sand on this and will do nothing to help us, so we’re going to have to learn to help ourselves, and each other.

It’s too bad we’ve got no national leadership on this, but it is what it is. We’ll get by on our own.

In starting out, the most important thing to keep in mind is this: Hackers rely on our mistakes, and mistakes are most often made when we don’t know we are making them. They need to catch us off guard, and their job is to find creative ways to use their tools to get us to slip up.

The first place a smart hacker will look is outside the box, so to speak. They’re always looking for ways to burrow in that you wouldn’t think to look for.

Employing a given system, be it a human being or a PC, for a purpose it wasn’t designed for is what hacking means. However, if you’re careful, neither you nor your computer will end up thus employed. It’s all about being careful.

Hackers are clever, be they Russian or from elsewhere, but they are far from invincible. We’ve already stopped a number of Russian cyber-assaults directed at Democrats this year, such as the ones aimed at our Claire McCaskill.

Without the element of surprise, hackers have many limitations. It’s not that easy to brute-force open a website. Just ask these guys:

This is the IP address of a hacker, purportedly from Beijing, who is always doing his best to get in here. Have at it, pal.
This is the IP address of a hacker, purportedly from Beijing, who is always doing his best to get in here. Have at it, pal.

Basic cyber-hygiene techniques would cut down on more than 80 percent of cyber attacks and cyber thefts, according to Herbert Lin, senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. It will benefit us to learn a few.

There is a great deal of white-hat(ethical hacking) work that can be done to defend America in this realm, and most of it has to do with how careful we are.

We repeat- It’s all about being careful. This cannot be repeated too often.

Every technique that hackers use, be they DNS attacks against home routers, phishing emails, malware, botnets, or what have you, is ultimately something we can avoid.

In this piece, we’re going to talk about a few common mistakes made by end-users(that means us, the consumer) and how they are exploited by criminals. We’re also going to talk about some of these cyber-hygiene measures and assign them three rules of thumb.

  1. Don’t open strange emails.
  2. Don’t click on strange links.
  3. Don’t accept chat messages from people you don’t know, particularly on Facebook.

Before we get started, think for a second about all your other social media accounts. Are they just as secure as your Facebook or Twitter? Make sure they are! That’s the first place a hacker will go to collect more data about you. You’re particularly vulnerable to having your account on the ones you don’t often use pried open.

As an aside, this is also why you don’t want to use the same passwords for everything. Passwords are obviously critical, as somebody who’s got them has got all your information at his fingertips. Be careful!!

A great deal of a hacker’s job revolves around getting the passwords of their victims. Their most popular tools are all various ways to apply “spear-phishing” hacks, designed to steal passwords and personal data. The unlucky “phish” who opens one has become a victim and is now open to all kinds of trouble.

There are all kinds of ways to go spear-phishing. A brand new one showed up not long ago when U.S. government agencies recently received letters via snail mail.

They came with CDs inside, and they contained malware, according to cybersecurity researcher Krebs on Security. The infected discs were accompanied by a Chinese-postmarked envelope and a “confusingly-worded” letter.

That is just like what they do on Facebook. Hackers make links that look like YouTube videos and various other innocuous things, and they write you some goofy little messages. They look like some cute little harmless thing. Actually, they’re viruses. And you’re hit.

One example that all readers of this blog will vividly recall took place on March 10, 2016, when the first volley of malicious e-mail messages hit the inboxes of thirty people who were closely associated with the Hillary Clinton campaign. Inside them were links that were actually viruses, like worms on a hook.

Nearly all of them were failures. All but one, actually. But one was enough.

Within nine days, a horrendous amount of critical data had been stolen and passed along to Wikileaks, to be strategically released in a way they figured would hurt us. It did.

Those leaked e-mails, in which Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was seen to be fussing over Bernie’s lack of ability to fill out campaign finance forms correctly, were spun up into a narrative that Bernie(who lost by four million popular votes) had been cheated.

Bernie or Bust bought it, there were riots in the streets of Philadelphia, and a rift was torn in the Democratic Party that still has yet to heal.

All of that was made possible, with just a few phished passwords.

To combat phishing is to make sure everyone knows how common and damaging these attacks can be. Everyone should keep their guard up when checking emails, and they should report any email they find suspicious.

It’s necessary to point out here that Facebook phishing in particular is horrendously easy. They can hack you right through your chat box. We recommend in the strongest possible terms that you put as little of your personal information as possible on Facebook.

They save everything. They’re like a gigantic data collection firm, and they’ll sell your personal information to companies like Cambridge Analytica who will use it to hurt us all.

Why risk it?

Facebook presents about a million added vulnerabilities to all of us that use it. When Edward Snowden was asked what to do to keep your data safe on that platform, his response was, “Delete your account.”

We can’t recommend that, as Facebook gives us access to 2 billion people, but we can recommend this much. If people you don’t know send you strange messages on Facebook, don’t accept them.

Facebook was made to brief congressional aides just last week Tuesday about the newest outbreak of anti-Democratic disinformation, which is already said to be evolving into something more sophisticated. Excerpts from that briefing are shown below.

“We are looking at just some of the malicious material that already may be circulating or will be released before the midterms. It also bears repeating that we know the campaign of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) was targeted.”

Cyber-intelligence experts see this as being major, and with clear reason.

Moving on, it isn’t only Facebook and social media you’ve got to be careful with. Websites too are vulnerable.

Anecdotally, the webmaster of this site has seen hackers from all over the world try to take us down, from Beijing, China to Lviv, Ukraine, from Adelaide, Australia to Beauharnois, Quebec. They use all kinds of tricks, but they’ve never gotten in and they never will.

This is not because I’m a cyber-genius who speaks binary code, but because WordPress is awesome. Sucuri, the plugin that keeps safe all of us Millennial Democrats, is likewise excellent. They care about their clients and they hold the same liberal values sacred that we do.

WordPress users should strongly consider using Sucuri, not least for the reverse IP trace it automatically performs. This has the benefit of letting you know a lot more about who’s trying to hack you. Sometimes it will tell you everything.

Once a flower store owner from Adelaide, Australia tried to hack us. By using a reverse IP trace, Sucuri let us know who she was as soon as she had done so. Then we went to a site called WhatismyIPaddress.com, put it in, and voila.

We were able to get the name of her business by looking at the name of her domain. We then used that to look her up, and jackpot. We found the store’s address, website, and owner. We also found far-right garbage smeared all over her life.

I could put her on blast right here with a screenshot like this one:

My (possibly) Chinese friend, saying hello to me again. Hi, buddy. Change your ways!
My (possibly) Chinese friend, saying hello to me again. Hi, buddy. Change your ways!

Then the hunter would rapidly become the hunted.

Luckily for her, I’m not that mean. But the next guy might be. It’s a dangerous game for newbies (noobs- learn your hacker-ese) to play. It’s easy to run into trouble.

Change your life, would-be hacker flower store owner! Mend your wicked ways, before it’s too late.

Speaking of WordPress, using the two-factor authentication feature they offer as part of their platform is another good idea. This is a highly effective security measure and is available for Facebook, Gmail, WordPress, and many other major platforms.

Using this feature means a second device’s input will be required to access email accounts or websites on new computers, usually by prompting you and sending an SMS code to your phone or whatever. This can prevent scammers from accessing compromised accounts.

In addition to good cyber-hygiene, which amounts to common sense, caution, and our three rules of thumb, there are some tools we can use to make our online experience safer still. You may find this necessary, from time to time.

A VPN, or virtual proxy network service, will allow you to register as being somewhere that you’re nowhere physically near. It allows you to safeguard your IP address. You do not want hackers to have your IP address, as it can be used to hurt you in a bewildering multitude of ways. This is probably the biggest reason to use a VPN.

Guccifer 2.0 recently made a mistake and forgot to turn his VPN on, and we connected him to an IP address connected to Russian intelligence. Now his whole identity is blown because he didn’t use his VPN.

We strongly recommend getting one of these, specifically IVPN. They take protecting their customers super seriously and they are located on the Rock of Gibraltar. That fortress strikes me as a good place to keep anything valuable.

HotspotShield is another good one, and also NordVPN. There’s a lot of them; shop around and find one that’s right for you. We feel it’s worth repeating that they are a very good investment.

Additional tools include TOR(The Onion Router), which offers a former naval encryption system that we can now all use. Tor takes all your internet traffic and routes it through its own network, providing total anonymity.

The DuckDuckGo browser, which Tor employs, is good to know about also. It has a number of different features that keep you safe, including a “Flame” feature that burns up all your cookies in a second. Pretty cool.

We suggest you learn Linux, because it is more secure, and 99% of viruses are designed to attack Microsoft products. 

Russian hackers have been targeting home routers of individual people en masse, using what is called a DNS attack. We suggest you check your home router often, using the website Secure Router.

Secure Router is a great free feature that allows you to check if your router has been compromised with the click of a button. Doing this regularly cannot hurt and takes less than a second.

In closing, it’s important to emphasize that this is an introductory piece, and not meant to be totally comprehensive. These techniques will do a lot to keep you safe, but nothing is a substitute for doing your own research.

So far, this has not been the kind of cyber war imagined in the past, with nations taking out each other’s power grids before a mass invasion, although Russian malware continues to turn up in our power stations.

It’s more like a new type of proxy war. Like it or not, against our will, we have begun a new phase of the Cold War, on digital battlefields where you meet the enemy directly, but behind a screen.

Now, just as then, there is a need for deterrence, to defend the nation and hopefully prevent a further escalation of tensions. There is more at stake than we can even put into words. We need to be ready.

There are bigger dangers here than the usual America vs. Russia, liberal world order vs the new world order that the extremist crazies keep screaming that they want kind of thing. This is different completely.

One superpower actively destroying the democratic process of another is new and very dangerous, especially since Russian destability tactics rely heavily on disinformation and a systematic devaluing of the truth.

If nothing is true, everything is permissible. And then our entire species starts down the road to guns and roving mobs.

Disinformation and a post-truth reality are unacceptable, and so is Russian interference into our election, regardless of how many Fox News devotees will slobberingly say otherwise.

We have only got one party ready to defend our democracy from the foreign agitators’ who are trying to destroy it, and that is the Democratic Party. Accept no substitutes.

Due diligence is the key. Hackers will look for things you might be neglecting. Get in some good habits and keep yourself alert, because it all comes down to one thing.

If you are politically active as a Democrat, you are not paranoid. You are a target. Defend yourself.

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