Book Review: “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”/“This is Not Propaganda”

Book Review: “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible”/“This is Not Propaganda”

Shortly after the 2016 US Election, a journalist named Sarah Kendzior urged Americans to immediately write down their memories, their beliefs, their values, and what they know to be real and true, because those things were about to get very squishy for us. She wanted us to have a snapshot of our pre-Trump reality, a reference point to look back to, an anchor to moor us as we began to drift further out into a sea of craziness and disinformation. She said this based on her own extensive studies of authoritarian governments.

More than five years later, her prescience appears to have been spot on. “Fake news” – a term originally coined by the mainstream press to describe fictional clickbait articles (often created overseas) – was quickly rebranded by 2016 candidate Trump to describe the mainstream media themselves. Fact-checking of President Trump’s bold-faced lies was met with doubling down rather than the traditional responses of shame and contrition. Amid this nonstop deflection and distraction, many Americans eventually came to have a harder and harder time teasing out the truth in a given situation.

Distortions have always existed in the press – if nothing else, in the editorial decisions about what is “news” and what is not worthy of coverage. But the news has now fragmented into completely different realities (some of them by definition false realities), and each American is living their lives, and basing their choices, on which of those realities they have chosen. By November 5, 2020, for example, CNN, NPR, NBC, and even Fox News had acknowledged the election of Joe Biden. But on right-wing media upstarts NewsMax and OANN, Trump still appeared poised to win the election three weeks later, and conservatives abandoned Fox News by the hundreds of thousands to plant their flags in these more appealing oases of information. On January 6, some Americans watched a frightening banana-republic-style attempt to overturn a legitimate democratic election. Other Americans saw the same events – and continue to see them – as courageous attempts by noble-hearted patriots to prevent the results of a banana-republic-style “rigged election” from being carried through to their corrupt fruition.

It is in this new Through-the-Looking-Glass environment that I have been reading the works of Peter Pomerantsev, a British journalist who was born in Ukraine – then still a part of the USSR – as his dissident father was repeatedly being brought in for interrogation by the KGB. Pomerantsev’s two books provide astoundingly valuable insights into America’s current situation.

In “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia,” written in 2014, Pomerantsev provides colorful, engaging, and at times deeply amusing vignettes into the evolution of post-Soviet Russia from a land of fresh optimistic idealism, to a place of opportunistic lawlessness that created overnight winners and losers, to a kleptocratic authoritarian regime that keeps an impenetrable hold on power using a shrewd development in propaganda. Pomerantsev’s unique perspective as a now-Westerner inside Russia allows a powerful understanding of this metamorphosis.

The unstructured fluidity in early post-Soviet Russia, asserts Pomerantsev, allowed previously state-owned assets – media, oil production, etc. – to be grabbed up by those with the wits, money, or brute thuggishness to do so. Millionaires and power brokers were created overnight. Organized crime began to flourish, as Russian mafia found easy cash in blackmailing and extorting new business owners. This corruption eventually became a part of the Russian system itself – for all practical purposes, a coequal branch of government – as Putin took power and threatened imprisonment to any wealthy oligarch who refused to give him a cut of their often-ill-gotten earnings.

Pomerantsev looks into the lives of a variety of Russians: billionaire media moguls, bar-cruising prostitutes, city historians, reality show stars, political activists, a pre-teen boy turned national celebrity by his morbid obesity, a falsely imprisoned businesswoman, a nationalist Christian biker gang, a supermodel driven to suicide by a self-actualization cult, a lavishly partying millionaire playboy, and a small-time Mafioso/wannabe movie producer. Tying all of them together is a new Russian culture of delirium, a hazy yet psychedelically vivid combination of Zef-esque lifestyle, Cirque de Soleil surrealism, reality show drama, political theater, performance art, and tabloid sensationalism.

This culture is no accident. It is the result of a rather ingenious advance in propaganda developed by long-time friend of Vladimir Putin, Vladislov Surkov – a development that coincidentally and symbiotically emerged alongside the cultural fragmentation caused by the internet and social media. With a background in metallurgy, fine art and public relations, Surkov came up with the idea of an entertaining, never-boring politics that is both highly emotional and thoroughly disorienting and disempowering. Rather than the clumsy, ham-fisted propaganda of past authoritarians, where the powerful suppress all dissent and project their own worldview as the only acceptable line of thought, Surkov’s propaganda embraces a diversity of dissenting voices – and even supports them.

Politically adversarial groups are funded, encouraged, and their extremes magnified. On issue after issue – racism, the environment, worker’s rights – the stunningly cynical goal is to play different sides against each other, emotionally amplifying conspiracy theories, controversies, and extremists, while also culturally magnifying beliefs in the supernatural, cultism, rage, the spectacle of the absurd and the grotesque and the breathtakingly beautiful, until such a sense of disequilibrium is created amongst the population that the formation of any critical masse of unified dissent becomes impossible, because nobody can get a firm grasp on what is true. The goal is not a victory for any “side” or the ability of any particular ideology to prevail. Rather, the goal is simply the unending and energy-consuming distraction and confusion of conflict itself. The blizzard of lies, fabrications and “fake news” serve not to convince, but merely to sap the stamina of anyone motivated enough to seek out a definitive truth. Politics, culture, and life in general become a crazy hall of mirrors where each individual sees a different distortion, and reality is fluid, shifting, watery, elusive, continuously bombarded by new waves of disinformation and emotion.

The effect of this on many Russians has been a wry cynicism, a knowing skepticism, a smirking disbelief in any news story, and even a sullen dislike of the government behind it all. As Russia’s state media export, RT (formerly Russia Today), beckons in its slogan, “Question More.” But despite all the distrust and negative feelings held by many Russians, any resulting dissent is potently dulled by a paralyzing apathy brought on by the overwhelming task of convincing more than a couple people of anything amid the ceaseless swirl of competing ideas, conspiracies, controversies, and “news.” When everyone is urged to “question more,” there will always be a shaky detail that can eventually be unearthed to destroy the credibility of an entire narrative and send things back to square one.

If reading any of this feels a bit familiar in 2021 America, that is no accident either. Putin began exporting this approach to social manipulation in earnest during the 2016 Election, and the boisterous, grievance-driven Presidency of an erratic, constantly gaslighting reality TV star could not have been a better vehicle to give it fertile ground. We are currently in the midst of a major shift in how America operates. While some may console themselves that the bogeyman is gone now that a reasonable human being is President, such self-reassurance is like a survivor treading water in the ocean who feels relief at a shark that was successfully driven off. The problem wasn’t that shark, or even the twenty others circling unseen below the surface. The problem is that we are adrift in dangerous waters, and until that issue is addressed, the sharks will keep coming.

Pomerantsev closes his first book with a brief look at how Russia’s wealthy have chosen to preserve their riches through purchases of such concrete items as real estate in stable countries like the UK and United States, away from the greedy claws of the lawless government of Russia.

This ending is a good segue into Pomerantsev’s next book, 2019’s “This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality.” This book expands on the ideas in “Nothing is True” to look at how the use of social media, real-world actions, and astroturf campaigns – sometimes coordinated using tactics similar to Putin’s/Surkov’s – have recently enabled right-wing strong men to come into power in country after country worldwide: Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Recep Erdogan in Turkey, Donald Trump in the United States. In a sea of uncertainty and confusion, a strong leader with clear, simple answers seems to provide welcome comfort to some.

The strategic magnification of select ideas and stories by bots, cyborgs (bots accompanied by real people paid to follow up with a human touch on any one-on-one responses) and anonymous internet trolls has resulted in a new means of dealing with undesirable truths and ideologies. Activists and journalists are finding themselves individually targeted with threats of murder, rape, or other violence – not by an oppressive government, but by their fellow citizens inspired by manipulation on social media and elsewhere. Even friends and family begin spouting hostile content that has been amplified to them by bots. More disturbing still are the people who carry things one step further into the real world, harassing these dissidents and reporters with frightening phone calls, knocks at the door, and even escalations to actual violence.

Pomerantsev talks with some of the individuals who create these types of campaigns, as well as those on the receiving end. The most fascinating part is Pomerantsev’s synthesizing of disparate events to uncover patterns that are invaluable to understand – how an online campaign against an individual evolves, how the use of bots can effectively turn activists away from their crucial interconnectedness and collapse otherwise potent social and political movements, how something as benign as an online group formed around a shared interest in yoga can ultimately be used to install a brutal dictator. In the end, understanding these dynamics is the key to combating them.

Both of Pomerantsev’s books profoundly illuminate the new social, cultural, interpersonal, political, technological, and media waters that we find ourselves in today. The old paradigms of left vs right, or even powerful vs oppressed, no longer apply in the way that they once did, and Pomerantsev provides a useful nautical map to reorient ourselves and remind us of our moorings as we slip further out to sea. I highly recommend reading both books, in order.

– rob rünt

Photo of Bolsonaro taken by: Palácio do Planalto

Photo of Putin from: http://www.kremlin.ru

Photo of Trump by: Gage Skidmore

Photo of Erdogan from: the official website of the President of Ukraine

How Trump’s Presidency Has Changed Me

How Trump’s Presidency Has Changed Me

Three years ago, just after the 2016 election, journalist Sarah Kendzior wrote a very powerful piece. If you have not yet read it, you should. She had spent many years studying authoritarian countries, and encouraged every American to take time to write down their current perceptions, including:

  • Who you are
  • What you have experienced and endured
  • What you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others
  • Your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children
  • Your ancestors’ struggles and how their hardships shaped who you are today
  • Your biography
  • Your memories
  • A list of things you would never do
  • A list of things you would never believe

She wanted Americans to write these things down because she believed that they were all about to get very squishy under Trump – as she had seen happen in authoritarian countries like Russia. She believed Americans would benefit from a documented personal moral and historical reference point to look back to.

As a side note, at least a part of the squishiness in Russia can be attributed to a little discussed key advisor to Vladimir Putin – an advertising and PR guru named Vladislav Surkov. Early in Putin’s Presidency, Surkov developed an approach to propaganda that uniquely achieved its aims without pushing the government’s desired viewpoint or stifling dissent. Instead, Surkov’s theatrical approach combined the insertion and repetition of misinformation and conspiracy theories into the public dialog, while supporting and enflaming groups on the extremes of the political spectrum. The result has been a Russian population that is generally cynical and distrusting of government, but which is also disempowered from mobilizing around any one truth, because determining the actual truth about any situation in Russia is so elusive. This shrewd advance in propaganda, combined with an authoritarian government that occasionally assassinates its critics, has enabled Putin to stay in power with little realistic challenge. It is also a powerful and inexpensive tool that Putin is currently using to destabilize Western democracies and former Soviet republics.

I am grateful and relieved to say that Kendzior’s most dire concerns have yet to materialize. But there is no denying that we as a nation and as individuals have been changed by the past three years under Trump. And there is little denying that the general trajectory of our nation is toward becoming the type of country over which Kendzior raised the alarm.

The political and legal changes in America under Trump have been extensive, remarkable, and well documented. This piece focuses on the changes that I have observed in myself personally over the past three years.


(Context: I am a middle class, heterosexual, progressive white male whose life is not in immediate peril from our current political situation.)


THEN:
While I knew that our government interfered in the electoral affairs of other nations, it was virtually inconceivable to me that another country would have the audacity to try to do it to us, much less do it successfully.

NOW:
I assume that all of our major elections into the future will be the target of foreign interference, and that some of it will be successful.


THEN:
I believed that our Constitution was an ingeniously conceived and rock solid foundation that could see America through any crisis, and which made us immune to the possibility of totalitarianism or authoritarianism.

NOW:
I think that our Constitution left us woefully unprepared for the possibility of a corrupt demagogue President paired with a highly partisan Legislature, all of whom may be deeply compromised by a foreign power. Our Constitution also did not foresee the steady stream of 24/7 propaganda that is pumped out by the likes of Fox News. We are not immune to anything.


THEN:
I viewed America, rightfully or not, as the world’s leading superpower, pushed gradually toward decline by the values and effects of capitalism, but still held in the top role by the world’s belief that while the Americans are not perfect, our actions are better than those of some other nations.

NOW:
I see America as increasingly irrelevant in the eyes of the rest of the world, except to the extent that one needs to pay attention to a rabid ape running through the house. By and large, other countries seem to be just working around us, and some are looking to fill the power vacuum that America has left behind.


THEN:
I thought that Americans had differences of opinion, and that political extremes in America were generally muted by the common sense majority in the center.

NOW:
I think that factions of Americans believe in completely different, self-contained realities with their own “histories” and daily information flows, and those different realities animate disagreements that will likely never be resolved because we cannot even agree on what the facts are.


THEN:
If I disagreed with someone, I might seek to persuade them using logic and facts.

NOW:
I believe that listening with compassion can sometimes be more persuasive than the most well-reasoned argument, and that one can become drained and frustrated trying to use logic and facts with some people.


THEN:
I believed that the editorial policies of mainstream news organizations generally benefitted corporations and left out a lot of vital information.

NOW:
I still believe that, but also see mainstream news outlets as a precious life raft in a turbulent sea of misinformation, because despite their flaws, their editorial policies require a degree of fact-checking that is absent from bloggers and other information sources.


THEN:
I thought that protests were an effective form of dissent.

NOW:
I see protests largely as vanity events for people who want to “see and be seen,” to get attention for the most clever sign, and to feel a sense of shared political beliefs, but events which are irrelevant speed bumps to those in power. I’m looking for more meaningful forms of nonviolent dissent.


THEN:
I took water, heating and electricity for granted.

NOW:
I am humbly aware of Russia’s ability to shut down our electrical grid for days, and China’s ability to shut down our natural gas infrastructure for weeks – acts that could prove deadly to millions of people living in northern states if done during the winter months.


THEN:
I gave little thought to the needs, struggles and perspectives of rural Americans. With the exception of a handful of relatives, the world outside the suburbs and major cities was invisible to me.

NOW:
I think a lot about the needs, struggles and perspectives of rural people.


THEN:
I was very aware of the white supremacist and white nationalist movements within the U.S., but considered them an underground subculture.

NOW:
I see elements of white supremacy and white nationalism as emerging aspects of mainstream American culture.


THEN:
I had hopes of travelling abroad once I could save up enough money.

NOW:
I am reluctant to travel outside the U.S., because I believe that my nationality is more likely to make me a target of violence in some situations.


THEN:
I believed that Americans generally spoke their minds.

NOW:
I think that most Trump supporters keep their opinions to/amongst themselves, for fear of being shut down or ridiculed.


THEN:
When I was a kid and teen growing up during the Cold War, I had a daily dread of nuclear war. This gradually came to be replaced by decades of relative ease that such a war was unlikely.

NOW:
Nuclear conflict once again seems like a very real possibility, and I feel sorry for kids growing up in this era.


THEN:
I thought that the greatest threat to American democracy was corporate money.

NOW:
I think that the greatest threat to American democracy is foreign interference.


THEN:
I saw America’s government as similar to an ocean liner: sometimes moving a bit toward the left, sometimes moving a bit toward the right, but always generally headed in a consistent direction.

NOW:
I see America’s government as similar to a ship adrift with no navigation instruments and a drunken captain – an easy target for anyone who wants to plunder whatever is on board.


THEN:
Days went by when I wouldn’t think about what the President might be doing/saying or might have just done/said.

NOW:
It is increasingly difficult to recall a life where the American President’s words and actions were not center stage at all times – a life where you could hear a stranger tell their friend “did you hear what he did today,” and have no idea who their conversation was about.


THEN:
The Presidency had an innate dignity.

NOW:
The Presidency has all the grace of a screaming toddler in a supermarket demanding that his mother buy him a toy.


THEN:
I wouldn’t give conspiracy theories a second of my time.

NOW:
I take interest in conspiracy theories, because they sometimes help me better understand what is animating people with whom I disagree.


THEN:
I was too skeptical and rational to believe in conspiracy theories myself.

NOW:
I have my own conspiracy theory that, in addition to Trump, Putin has also compromised many Republican lawmakers through tainted campaign contributions, with the goals of discrediting American democracy, humiliating the U.S., getting a more Russia-subservient U.S. foreign policy, and using passive lawmakers and Trump’s loud craziness to quietly exfiltrate billions from the U.S. government and/or to make the U.S. government his own mass scale money laundering operation.
#WilburRoss
#HouseAndSenateAppropriationsRepublicans
#DeutscheBank


THEN:
I thought that friendship was stronger than politics.

NOW:
I’ve seen many of my friends turn their backs on their other friends over Trump and the amoral values that he embodies.


THEN:
The idea of a civil war in 21st Century America – something along the lines of what is currently happening in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq – seemed bizarre and laughable.

NOW
Civil war seems like a real possibility, particularly if Trump gets his supporters worked up enough with some conspiratorial victim-y melodrama. It is uncertain in my mind whether such a civil war ends up looking like a couple weeks of small groups of armed wackos with faux-patriotic delusions of grandeur trying to take over different locations and promptly being subdued and arrested by law enforcement (because rule of law means something in America), or if a significant percentage of law enforcement and/or military folks actually join in on their side, in which case, things could be very ugly in America for a very long time.


THEN:
Determination and persistence were character traits that had served me well in life.

NOW:
I often feel overwhelmed by the daily barrage of crazy crap coming out of the White House, and persistence and determination are no match for it. I need to take breaks.


THEN:
My knowledge of the different dimensions of corruption, extremism, and Russian culture was limited.

NOW:
Under Trump, my knowledge and vocabulary has been expanded considerably to include “money laundering,” “kompromat,” “indictment,” “racketeering,” “grand jury,” “witness tampering,” “GRU,” “FSB,” “sanctions,” “kleptocracy,” “self-dealing,” “emoluments,” “bone saw,” “white supremacist,” “white nationalist,” “alt right,” “nationalist,” “shell company,” “troll farm,” “Magnitsky Act,” “fake news,” “oligarch,” “RICO,” “obstruction of justice,“ “Special Counsel,” and “subpoena.”


THEN:
I was aware of hypocrisy within the religious community, but also believed that many Christians genuinely live their faith.

NOW:
I have no respect or patience for adherents to a hypocritical and willfully blind version of Christianity that embraces, supports and defends an amoral man who daily embodies the exact opposite of the teachings of Jesus Christ.


THEN:
I believed that corruption was rampant in U.S. politics, mainly in the form of the legalized bribery that we call campaign finance.

NOW:
I believe that my past perception of political corruption was quaint.


THEN:
I believed that the solutions that “fixed” the 2008 financial collapse did not address some of the root problems, but that when those problems inevitably resurfaced, our government would have the competence to pull us out of complete catastrophe.

NOW:
Despite our soaring stock market and record low unemployment rate, I have a gut feeling that America is circling the drain toward a level of grim and grinding hardship that our country did not even know during the Great Depression.


THEN:
I thought that countries like Russia did not guarantee democracy, free speech, and civil rights, and that authoritarian leaders like Putin were almost universally loathed by their countries’ inhabitants.

NOW:
I realize that things are a lot less cut and dry: Russia’s Constitution guarantees many of the same freedoms that ours does, and many of Russia’s people cheer Putin on.


These are the personal internal changes that I am capable of seeing in myself today versus three years ago. There may be others that I don’t have the self-awareness to see. What changes have you seen in yourself?

– rob rünt

Trump’s Reichstag Fire Drill

Trump’s Reichstag Fire Drill

Trump’s Reichstag Fire Drill


“I may declare a National Emergency, dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days.”


President Trump has a track record of pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable. From his refusal to release his tax returns to his violations of the emoluments clause to his profiting from presidential visits to his own properties, the president tends to get what he wants by doing something outrageous, holding to his position, and before the issue can be reasonably addressed, doing something else outrageous to redirect people’s energy and attention.

Such incrementalism is noted at the Holocaust Museum as emblematic of how, in a remarkably short amount of time, Adolf Hitler took Germany from a democratic republic to a nation where the government rounded up groups of the country’s own citizens and exterminated them. The latter was not Hitler’s stated agenda initially, but bit by bit, he moved the nation to that place.

The largest catalyst for Hitler’s consolidation of power was an event called the Reichstag Fire. In the middle of the night on February 23, 1933, an arson fire started in the German Parliament. In response, the the next day, the German government passed the Reichstag Fire Decree, suspending many of the rights of the German citizenry on an emergency basis. The emergency decree remained in effect throughout World War II. This decree, and the accompanying claim of extraordinary circumstances requiring extraordinary measures, enabled Hilter to incrementally accomplish things that the Germany’s democracy would not otherwise have accepted.

The United States has its own equivalent of a Reichstag Fire Decree, ready to implement in the event of a national emergency. Once the President declares the United States to be in a “state of emergency,” a number of changes take place. Among them are:

(Courtesy of http://www.sweetliberty.org/issues/eo/femalist.htm )

President Trump has suggested that if Congress does not require U.S. taxpayers to pay for the U.S.-Mexico border wall that he had promised that Mexico would pay for, he will accomplish the building of the wall by declaring the U.S.-Mexico border a “National Emergency.” The concept of border crossings – little changed in decades – suddenly being labelled a national emergency is laughable on its face, and hopefully will be met with swift and effective resistance from Congress,.

However, Trump’s suggestion should be of concern.

For him, declaring the border a National Emergency is yet another trial balloon, testing public reaction, and making it just a little more acceptable, expected, and “normal” when, for example, a terrorist attack occurs and he is able to more easily and successfully declare a National Emergency. At that point, he may get his way, and God help us all.

– rob rünt

On Not Forgetting

On Not Forgetting

 

On Not Forgetting

On Monday, I had lunch with a friend – a very thoughtful Jewish man and one of my favorite people in the entire world. The conversation eventually turned to politics. Having had relatives who were caught up by the Holocaust, he has visited the concentration camps in Germany as well as the Holocaust Museum in Germany and in Washington DC. He said that the most chilling thing for him in those places was not the photos or the artifacts. It was a video screen at the Holocaust Museum in DC. It showed no graphics or photos, just text, slowly scrolling through the small, incremental changes – small lines drawn and then crossed and then redrawn and crossed again – that took place in what came to be known as Nazi Germany. Each change was undesirable, but ultimately tolerated. The cumulative effect was the extermination of six million human beings.

– rob rünt


Sunday, Jan 8, 2017


Welcome to the first installment of “The Week in Trump.”

This Sunday blog is for people who wish to avoid gawking at the Trump train wreck for the other six days of the week, but who also believe that it is healthy and important to stay informed on matters that can significantly affect them. Here you will find a summary of the week’s most essential news and ideas (with links to the best reporting on the stories), artwork, videos and my personal thoughts. Once you’ve been thoroughly bludgeoned into despair, I will then restore hope, with info on the latest actions and upcoming events that you can participate in, as well as helpful resources and relevant organizations that you can support to make a positive difference.

I have long been obsessed with justice and the free flow of complete, accurate information. Now that both appear to be in peril, I consider it my civic duty to help others get the information that they need in a quickly and easily digestible form. It is my promise to you that I will provide the most accurate, factual information that I can. That does not mean that I will be objective. It means that I will be factual. If you think that this can be a useful weekly resource for you, please bookmark it or subscribe. Remember: we get to decide what the light at the end of the tunnel will be.

     – rob rünt

 

cropped-coverimage-0024.jpg


Articles & Editorials


Take It From A German: Americans Are Too Timid In Confronting Hate
(Full Article – The Daily Beast)


On Monday, in one of the first acts of the new Congress, Republicans attempted to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent oversight group with a track record of sending Congresspersons to prison when they violate the law. (Full Article – MSNBC)  After media attention and a swift and strong negative public outcry, Congress quickly undid the measure before noon the next day. (Full Article – MSNBC)  Shortly before Republicans backtracked, President-Elect Trump tweeted that the “timing” of the move was distracting, leading some news outlets to attribute Congress’ reversal of course to his strong leadership. (Full Article – CNN)


In recent weeks, President-Elect Trump has chosen not to avail himself of most Presidential daily intelligence briefings – something that most Presidents want to get as much of as they can in order to get up to speed on important matters about which they will need to make decisions. He has also been dismissive of US intelligence agencies’ assertion of Kremlin  interference in the U.S. election, leading to concern among legislators and members of the intelligence community that our next President will not make his decisions based on the best information.  (Full Article – The Guardian)

tweet-02

This unexpectedly led to a development that is likely to be a pattern with the Trump Administration, either out of poor organization, poor internal communication, or a deliberate strategy of floating an idea publicly without having to commit to it (or some combination of the above): someone from Trump’s inner circle told the Wall Street Journal that Mr. Trump planned to overhaul and cut staff in the nation’s intelligence agencies – a story which was then repeated by other news outlets (Full Article – The Hill), but which Trump later denied when asked directly.

Trump remained dismissive of the Russian hacking story even after a full report (declassified version here) from US intelligence officials. (Full Article – CNN)  However, he is interested in finding out who in the intelligence community made public the information about the Kremlin’s interference in the election.

tweet-01

In other news, Russians appear to have just hacked into accounts of Arizona state lawmakers. (Full Article – AZ Central)


An analysis of “Putin’s real end game.” I agree with much of the assessment of Russia’s involvement and what we’re up against, but disagree with much of the proposed response to it. Your thoughts? (Full Article – Politico)


Joseph Goebbels’ 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’ (Full Article – The Guardian)


“Having studied authoritarian states for over a decade, I would never exaggerate the severity of the threat we now face. But an American kleptocracy is exactly where president-elect Trump and his backers are taking us. That’s why I have a favor to ask you, my fellow Americans….

… I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.

Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others.

Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.”

– from the blog of Sarah Kendzior


A general overview of the election results, what they mean, and where to go from here. In my better moments can live up to the “where to go from here” part, but snark is a definite weakness for me. (Full Article – Charles Eisenstein Blog)


 Cartoons, Images & Videos



Cartoon by Will McPhail, New Yorker:
160108-001



Posted by Americans Against Trump:

160108-002



Cartoon by Paul Noth:

160108-003

 


Posted to Instagram by Alec Baldwin:

160108-004

 


 Personal Thoughts & Experiences


On Monday, I had lunch with a friend – a very thoughtful Jewish man and one of my favorite people in the entire world. The conversation eventually turned to politics. Having had relatives who were caught up by the Holocaust, he has visited the concentration camps in Germany as well as the Holocaust Museum in Germany and in Washington DC. He said that the most chilling thing for him in those places was not the photos or the artifacts. It was a video screen at the Holocaust Museum in DC. It showed no graphics or photos, just text, slowly scrolling through the small, incremental changes – small lines drawn and then crossed and then redrawn and crossed again – that took place in what came to be known as Nazi Germany. Each change was undesirable, but ultimately tolerated. The cumulative effect was the extermination of six million human beings.


 Events & Actions


Resources & Organizations