Trump and the Intelligence Agencies: On the Slow Collapse of Imperial Republics

I want to step back—way back—from yesterday’s release of a declassified intelligence report on Russian interference in the election in order to point out the larger political significance of this moment.

Regardless of the truth value of the report, the nation’s intelligence agencies (the report is based on assessments by the NSA, the CIA, and the FBI) are strongly suggesting that the person who is about to walk into the White House got there with the help of a foreign power. The significance of this move by the nation’s security establishment against an incoming president, as I’ve been suggesting for some time, has not been quite appreciated. That the nation’s security agencies could go public with this kind of accusation, or allow their accusation to go public, is unprecedented. The United States used to do this kind of thing, covertly, to other countries: that is the prerogative of an imperial power. Now it claims, overtly, that this kind of thing was done to it. It’s extraordinary, when you think about it: not simply that it happened (if it did) but that an imperial power would admit that it happened. That’s the real shocker.

But we need to read the story against a larger backdrop of the slow delegitimation of American national institutions since the end of the Cold War.

It began, I would argue, with the appointment of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, even though it seemed clear to most people he committed perjury before the Senate. It continued with the gratuitous impeachment of Bill Clinton, the elevation of George W. Bush to the White House by a Supreme Court deploying the most specious reasoning, a war in Iraq built on flagrant lies, the normalization of the filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and now the ascension of Trump, despite not winning the popular vote—and supposedly with the help of the Russians.

What ties these events together is either that they cast serious doubt on the democratic legitimacy of American institutions or that they drag those institutions into the delegitimating mud of the most sordid scandals.

The simple truth is that the United States could barely have weathered one of these events during the Cold War, let alone a long succession of them. That is why civil rights activists were able, finally, to bring an end to Jim Crow when they did—the international embarrassment was too great—and why the failures in Vietnam provoked such a national crisis.

What we’re now seeing is not a cataclysmic crisis—I suspect one day we’ll look back on the language of “legitimation crisis” as itself the product of the Cold War—but a more familiar phenomenon from the annals of history: the slow but steady collapse—the real norm erosion—that you tend to see in the later stages of imperial republics. A collapse that can take decades, if not longer, to unfold.

Update (11 am)

If people could step outside their partisan selves for one minute, I’d ask you to consider the following fact as yet another sign of late imperial disjunction: For the last eight years, we’ve had a president who half the country thinks is Muslim, Kenyan-born. For the next four, maybe eight, years, we will have a president who half the country thinks is the Manchurian Candidate, Russian-born. I can’t think of a greater symptom of the weird fever dream that is the American empire, whereby the most powerful state on earth imagines, over a 12- to 16-year period, that its elected leaders hail from the far reaches of its various antagonisms.


  1. William Burns January 7, 2017 at 9:28 am | #

    I don’t know about the chronology here. The JFK assassination with its attendant conspiracy theories had done a great deal of work delegitimizing American institutions before the end of the Cold War, as did Nixon’s pardon.

    • Glenn Hendler January 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm | #

      I’d add Iran-Contra to the chronology of this “legitimation crisis,” too. Sitting there and watching Oliver North blatantly lie on national television, and then seeing the liar elevated to the status of hero within 24 hours, surely contributed.

      But Corey’s argument that this is all part of “the slow collapse of” an imperial republic, to be valid, doesn’t require that we all agree on an origin point or on what the major moments in the chronology are. The seeds for that collapse were surely planted long before the end of the Cold War; that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening–and in a distinct and remarkable way–right now.

      • RWood January 9, 2017 at 12:22 pm | #

        Yes, and what effect a general, then president, had in condemning the military-industrial-congressional complex rising from the national security state?

  2. Rich Puchalsky January 7, 2017 at 10:08 am | #

    I think that this gives too much credit to external politics and too little to internal politics. The reason why the CIA/FBI/NSA are saying this openly now is because they want to sabotage Trump, who is clearly trying to lessen deep state influence on him. (Reorganizing the CIA, etc.) They don’t have to worry about the external humiliation of saying that the American election was affected by the Russians because there’s really one hyper power (or so they think). The earlier sensitivity to international opinion had to do with there being two competing superpower blocs: now that there is one, they don’t have to care. That isn’t necessarily imperial decline: it could be read as imperial success.

    Of course, I think that it is actually imperial decline, but that has to do with the actual relative power of the US and its decline in key industries and in soft power. The late-imperial fantasy that you don’t have to care about the opinion of anyone else may or may not be a sign of decline, but it’s sure a trigger for decline.

    • Robert January 7, 2017 at 2:23 pm | #

      Others who have tried to lessen the influence of the Deep State have met untimely ends.
      JFK and Frank Church to name two.

      • Rich Puchalsky January 7, 2017 at 8:50 pm | #

        Too conspiratorial for me. I don’t think that the CIA is competent enough to act directly against a US President and not have it leak. If a President calls their bluff, I don’t see what they can do other than what they’re already doing.

        • Robert January 7, 2017 at 10:23 pm | #

          Well ,I guess that makes my input useless!
          Gulf of Tonkin.
          WMD in Iraq?
          Lizards from outer space?
          Same continuum.

      • Avattoir January 8, 2017 at 1:46 pm | #

        The US IC caused Church’s pancreatic cancer?

        • Old Microbiologist January 9, 2017 at 10:31 am | #

          Not far fetched at all. Simple aerosol exposure to an adenovirus engineered to overexpress the oncogenes FAS and JUN leads to a very high incidence of a wide plethora of cancers in mice and non-human primates. Usually it manifests as bone cancer (sarcoma) but others can happen as well. This has been well documented, published in the open literature, and the work done at Fort Detrick (National Cancer Institute). Some believe that several less than enthusiastic foreign leaders have been assassinated this way (Chavez comes to mind). So, perhaps someone decided Church must go as well.

    • benjoya January 7, 2017 at 5:06 pm | #

      except trump only thought (?) of reorganizing the CIA recently, when they reached conclusions he didn’t like. honestly, doesn’t the IC usually try to suck up to an incoming president?

  3. ron bruno January 7, 2017 at 10:14 am | #

    Actually, I think it’s kind of refreshing to see the right defending Julian Assange and casting aspersion on the US intelligence community. The intelligence community are career bureaucrats who failed to prevent 9/11 and then provided the WMD propaganda to involve the US in a completely disastrous war in Iraq. It’s about time the right and the neocons in particular, get dragged through the muck.

    As far as the hacked emails are concerned, they demonstrate that the DNC was conspiring to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign and colluding with the media in a futile attempt to drag Hillary across the finish line. Progressives should be just as angry about those things. Don’t worry, Corey. Hillary should make a fine mayor of New York. She’s a great politician and only has the best interests of the little people at heart. I can’t believe that marijuana is not legal in New York because it sure seems like New Yorkers are smoking some really good shit. I’m kind of jealous.

    • Avattoir January 8, 2017 at 1:43 pm | #

      It appears to me that:

      1. you don’t understand what the word “conspiracy” means, certainly not in context;
      2. you think the Democratic party is some sort of public utility if not governance agency; and
      3. you’re a sucker for fake news, such as the bull poop about Hillary Clinton wanting to run for mayor of NYC.

      That, IMO, is a remarkable collection of intellectual shortcomings for anyone who identifies more or less with the values generally associated with liberals and progressives, particularly someone who even reads, let alone posts reader comments on, a Corey Robin blog. It’s remarkable enough for me to move beyond doubts about your authenticity into wondering about what exactly motivates someone with such a weird collection of thoughts to post such a mess.

      • Donald January 9, 2017 at 7:44 am | #

        That was a massive overreaction and a series of non sequiturs. Do you have a history with Ron?

      • hunkerdown January 9, 2017 at 6:13 pm | #

        If the Democratic Party is not, in fact, a public utility, then why should we allow it to assert privacy, let alone bridge the separation of church and state?

        Liberalism, and the bourgeoisie, are being rejected by the left right now, for cause, namely, people who fancy themselves above others need to be cut down to size. That’s what Liberalism is: apologetics for aristocracy. And that’s why it’s being rejected. Along with you.

        Religion — it’s fair to say this, because “liberalism” is just New England Protestantism with flat beige paint — has no pride of place in American society anymore. You’re asserting privileges that we no longer recognize. You need to explain why you believe that you are indispensable instead of at-will.

  4. mark January 7, 2017 at 10:14 am | #

    “I met Mark Galeotti, an NYU professor who has been teaching in Moscow, in a Pain Quotidien inside a business centre. ‘The Soviet Union used to reinvent reality too but they still kept to a single version of the truth. Pravda would telegraph the party line so everyone knew what to say,’ he told me. Now, instead of a single truth, the TV spits out contradictory conspiracy theories. The effect is to leave the viewer so confused and he is demoralised that he gives up on trying to find a ‘real’ version. This is effective in keeping people both paranoid and passive, but it means, Galeotti said, that ‘everyone has to improvise their own version of the truth.’

    I heard different improvisations during a week in Moscow. There were those who were calm and succinct, like the man who said that Google was curated by the CIA and that WikiLeaks was a CIA operation to spark the Arab Spring, and how Russia needs to create a sovereign internet to defend itself (the man just happens to design and market internet filter programs). But there were also hour-long emotional monologues, with no logical connections between the sentences, which just repeated the words ‘them’ and ‘us’ over and over, intimating but never quite clarifying who was behind some great anti-Russian plot.”

    ‘In Moscow’, Peter Pomerantsev, LRB blog 22 July 2014

  5. xenon2 January 7, 2017 at 10:54 am | #

    History has all been like a Reality TV Show, except real people get hurt and die. I have never watched
    a Reality TV Show, but I can imagine.

    Read “The Brothers” by Stephen Kinzer

    When were these institutions ‘good’?
    The US has been a world power since at least the Spanish-American War. I fail to see what these
    ‘good’ institutions have accomplished. Had I been alive in an earlier time, I’m very sure I would be
    equally critical.

    Do you personally know anyone who’s in the armed services?
    I don’t.The conflicts going on in the Middle East and Africa and Central America
    are like ‘shows’ I can dismiss when It’s time for me to fall asleep. They aren’t real.

  6. Roquentin January 7, 2017 at 11:45 am | #

    The anti-Russian hysteria that the Democrats and liberal media outlets have been whipping up has depressed me. At a minimum, I think the intelligence community is greatly exaggerating what they have found. I’m not even convinced they didn’t make most of this up out of whole cloth. Russia could have, sure, they have the means and the motive, but everything about it seems fishy to me. I can believe some hacking. Plenty of other countries do this, but the scope of what they are accusing appears to me to enter the realm of pure fantasy.

    All that said, the collective amnesia in the US is infuriating. No one seems to remember back in 1996, when Yeltsin was polling in the single digits and the US rigged the election so the Communist Party wouldn’t come back to power (which they absolutely would have absent our intervention). Together with the IMF 10 billion dollars was loaned to Yeltsin’s government, and every TV station broadcast his propaganda nonstop. Worse than that, when Yeltsin resigned three years later in 1999, Putin was his successor. Our rigging of the Russian election in 1996, which we were so crass as to brag about on the cover of Time magazine, is in large part responsible for Putin the first place. Perhaps worst of all is that rigging the election in such a vulgar and transparent manner in Russia in 1996 permanently delegitimized liberal Western multi-party democracy at a crucial time in a country which was just getting started on it. I have nothing but contempt for the prevailing US attitudes towards Russia which generally are a mix of overwhelming ignorance, stupidity, a bad hangover from half a century of Cold War propaganda, and old-fashioned xenophobia.

    I didn’t think it possible, but my opinion of the Democrats has actually gotten even worse and lower post-election. I’ve grown to loathe them so much I find myself wishing that the entire party leadership was removed, if not the party itself destroyed…if only so the left can build something better in its absence instead of year after year, getting suckered and badgered into supporting these neoliberal, reactionary clowns.

    • realthog January 7, 2017 at 1:50 pm | #

      At a minimum, I think the intelligence community is greatly exaggerating what they have found. I’m not even convinced they didn’t make most of this up out of whole cloth.

      And you base this judgement on what evidence? I’d be genuinely interested to know. Or is it just your gut feeling?

      • Roquentin January 7, 2017 at 3:14 pm | #

        Well, to be fair, the government has offered precious little in the way of proof that they did happen either. There is a degree of publicly available evidence which supports the idea that there was some hacking done by the Russians, but little to none that it was them who gave the Podesta emails to Wikileaks. It’s entirely possible they were doing hacking, but the emails were the result of an inside leak as Assange as always claimed (as far as I know). Whether you believe him or not, Assange has been pretty consistent in saying that the emails came from the inside, just like the those of Chelsea Manning.

        Also, the Washington Post has run two stories about Russia which, by their own admission now, are false. The first being the “ProporNot” blacklist and the second being the one about Russians hacking the electric grid. Both were based on bad sources and little to no evidence, and the latter turned out to be straight up false. That’s twice in the space of a month. I think this serves as a pretty good indicator that the big liberal publications are willing to run these stories based on little to no evidence and poor sources.

        However, a lot of it is my gut feeling. Russia very well could have hacked Podesta’s email account. It’s not like it was difficult. It’s widely known he was hacked by a simple phising page, the sort which takes almost no skill to create. It most definitely did not have to be the Russians to accomplish that. My gut feeling is based more on the fact that this is all way, way too convenient for the Democrats, who now have something to blame for all their failures instead of themselves. I also find it suspicious that it happened around the time of that bullshit “Hamilton electors” plan, as if it were all rolled out to deligitimize Trump’s victory.

        Last, after many years of following Russia closely (I minored in Russian Studies in college), I take everything the mainstream media says about Russia with a massive grain of salt. Our press is so slanted against them it would be high comedy if the general population was better informed. However, most people in the US couldn’t find Russia on a map and will believe the most ludicrous bullshit about them so long as it is bad.

        The TLDR version is a little of column A and a little of column B, but probably more gut feeling than proof.

        • realthog January 7, 2017 at 5:08 pm | #

          Sorry, Roquentin: for some reason the site won’t let me post my reply in one go. So here it is, serialized . . .

          “My gut feeling is based more on the fact that this is all way, way too convenient for the Democrats, who now have something to blame for all their failures instead of themselves.”

          Unless my memory’s at fault, the fuss about the Russian hacking started when it still seemed certain that Clinton would win the election, so this doesn’t seem to follow.

          • Roquentin January 7, 2017 at 7:51 pm | #

            “Unless my memory’s at fault, the fuss about the Russian hacking started when it still seemed certain that Clinton would win the election, so this doesn’t seem to follow.”

            realthog, I disagree with this. Yes, she mentioned it all election, but the intelligence agencies getting involved coincided very closely with the loss. A part of me suspects it may even be a tit for tat reprisal because of Comey and the FBI, which I guarantee you Hillary thinks cost her the election.

            I’ll also admit I don’t have proof either way. Russia could have been behind it, I admit that, but at the present moment the Democrats have zero credibility with me. I don’t really believe the CIA either. Honestly, I don’t have a good method of sorting out what is and isn’t bullshit.

            I would also like to take this opportunity to state I was a party line Democrat almost from the age of 18, with only three exceptions. 1) Voting Libertarian in my first election when I was young and too dumb to know better. 2) Cuomo for re-election. First time in my life I voted Green (Howie Hawkins) 3) Jill Stein instead of Hillary Clinton. I even voted straight Dem downballet. I mention this to show that it’s pretty tenuous to say I’m slanted against the Democrats. I spent almost 15 years carrying water for them. Just not anymore. Sanders was the final straw. I felt better than I had in a long time the day I decided I’d no longer carry water for the Democrats.

        • realthog January 7, 2017 at 5:09 pm | #

          Episode 2:

          “most people in the US couldn’t find Russia on a map and will believe the most ludicrous bullshit about them so long as it is bad”

          Too true! But aren’t you applying the same standard to the Democrats? Your “gut feeling” is based on your antipathy toward that party and, as you say, you have no real evidence to back it up.

          Er, just because a newspaper got two stories about the hacking wrong — if they did — in no way indicates the opposite is true: it just means they got two stories wrong.

        • realthog January 7, 2017 at 8:17 pm | #

          Thanks for your first reply. I can completely accept your account of your history with the Dems. Before moving to this country in 1999 I went through the same process with the Labour Party in the UK.

          I don’t really believe the CIA either.

          I know the feeling. But it seems to be all 17 security agencies speaking in concert. To go against that weight of research is surely a matter of “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

          • Rich Puchalsky January 7, 2017 at 8:55 pm | #

            It’s not all 17 agencies speaking in concert. The actual (declassified) document says that it’s the analysis of three: CIA, FBI, NSA. Other people have pointed out the absence of other agencies that actually focus on the GRU / Russia even more directly.

          • realthog January 7, 2017 at 10:35 pm | #

            @Rich Puchalsky

            Forgive my misstatement, Rich — I’ve clearly not been following the case closely enough. (I read a report somewhere reputable that said all 17 were involved, but didn’t trouble to crosscheck.) Obviously we don’t know if the remaining agencies abstain, concur or silently disagree.

            Even if just the three main agencies are in agreement, I think more than an amateur’s gut feeling and/or conspiracy theory is required to overturn the view.

          • realthog January 7, 2017 at 10:41 pm | #

            @Rich Puchalsky

            Oh, and it now appears as if friendly foreign agencies reported the Russian hacking too:

    • LFC January 7, 2017 at 2:10 pm | #

      I don’t buy everything S. Lemieux at LGM says/writes, but he’s basically correct that HRC’s policy positions were, on the whole, v. progressive. However, someone like Roquentin who seems to be living in a fantasy world of his own can’t see that. And of course he has no evidence the intel agencies made this up.

      Trivia question btw: who wrote a bk once called The Imperial Republic? Hint: it’s someone no one at this blog wd have much time for…

      • Roquentin January 7, 2017 at 3:24 pm | #

        1) What does “very progressive” even mean? As if stating this were enough to make it so. “Progressive” relative to what? By whose standards? I seem to remember the entire party establishment working overtime to crush Sanders, who would have been much more of a true “progressive,” whatever that term is supposed to mean. It was she who was arguing against single payer healthcare and tuition free state universities. She was the one still, even in this late hour, supporting NAFTA. I really don’t have the energy to create a laundry list of the things the Clintons have done which make these claims ridiculous, but you know the story. It’s all public knowledge.

        2) There is a massive, massive difference even between Clinton’s campaign promises and how she and her husband have functioned when in office. That’s the primary reason most people on the left don’t trust her. I actually think it’s really, really funny that the resume, her qualifications, the very thing that so many liberals thought made her a shoo-in was what dug the grave of her campaign in the end. It is precisely because she’s had such a long career in politics that everyone knows her claims of being any kind of leftist are bullshit. The Clinton’s have been around too long, no one is buying their bullshit anymore. They need to leave and never come back. Chelsea too.

    • William Stephenson (@wwstephenson) January 7, 2017 at 3:12 pm | #

      Well put analysis.

    • Glenn January 7, 2017 at 3:36 pm | #

      Most television and radio news readers do not, or are not able to, distinguish between a hack and a leak, and yet the broadcast media is uniformly using the word hack all over the western world.

      The terrible election-turning information allegedly released was the Podesta emails. By referring the means of acquisition of the emails instead of the so-called election-turning content, the content remains hidden in plain sight and relatively unknown, while the blame for the loss is attributed by the Democrats to anyone other than themselves.

      The interference of the US in the internal affairs of Ukraine was hidden the same way. Emphasis was placed on the word used by Victoria Nuland when she said “F**k the E.U.” rather than the content and context of what she said during the US backed coup in Kiev.

      I expect most readers of this response to the post are not aware of this publicly available information so I will not provide links to them at this time, because perhaps the discovery of them all by themselves will make a more lasting impression in a pedagogical sense. Virtually everyone who has not been living under a rock has had this information passed before their eyes without registering it in the least, so I will not at this time repeat this futile action.

    • WLGR January 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm | #

      Yeltsin was polling in the single digits and the US rigged the election so the Communist Party wouldn’t come back to power (which they absolutely would have absent our intervention).

      Another perpetually infuriating factor is Americans’ set of baseline presumptions about how people from the former Eastern Bloc interpret the Cold War, as if from 1945 to 1989 everybody living in these societies was either a mustache-twirling member of the nomenklatura or silently huddled for decades in miserable traumatized masses yearning for nothing but to breathe the free air of capitalism. (Although the success of this propaganda does help explain why similar propaganda was so successful in 2002-03 re: Iraqis greeting US troops with flowers and candy.) As hard as it may be to believe, the USSR and its satellite states were actual societies where actual people had actual lives, and even with all its undeniable problems the defeat of the Warsaw Pact brought about a dramatic decline in living standards for most of these people. Obviously some of this attitude can be attributed to the class composition of many of the people who emigrated to the West and came into direct contact with Westerners (i.e. “those dirty commies didn’t let me start and grow my own small business!” as literally the Platonic ideal of all oppression) but just like with the Cuban community in Miami, the message wouldn’t be so successful if the surrounding population wasn’t already ideologically primed to accept it.

      Actually, if the West’s intervention has really accomplished anything on an ideological level, one result has been to clamp down on what might potentially remain of internationalism as an element of what still calls itself Communism — in other words, Stalin was great because he rejected this silly “democracy” nonsense (which only gives the West an opening to interfere in our country anyway) and dramatically expanded the economy, but next time let’s just drop all that nonsense about anti-imperialism or a global revolution of the oppressed, which didn’t do anything for us Russians anyway. Different method than the explicit anticommunism of the West for muffling the potential clarion call “workers of the world, unite!” but a similar end goal.

      I minored in Russian Studies in college

      Ah, so that’s why you’re echoing all this evil foreign Putinist propaganda! Stay away from my precious bodily fluids, you traitor!

    • ay January 7, 2017 at 9:28 pm | #

      There’s lots of good work on history of Clinton/DLC led transformation of the Democrats (e.g. ). Historicially (going back to late 18th century), the right has aped the left and plagiarized it’s discourses (almost mechanistically modified with suitable substitutions) given paucity of original thinking in their neck of the woods. But the lesson Clinton and his cohorts learned in the 80s and early 90s was to ape mannerisms and tics of the right, one of the key ones being to never admit any mistake or to retreat an inch on any publicly exposed front. Senator McCarthy still has his defenders as did those who accused Dreyfuss even when their schemes were exposed in court (“patriotic lie”), and the least we can expect from Clintonites is to stick to their story about the malevolent Russkie hackers till the chickens come home to roost.

    • Mad Sarmatian January 9, 2017 at 12:55 pm | #

      I agree, the Russian hacking thing stinks to high heaven. Especially since during the weeks leading up to election day that was the only answer given to anyone who asked about the emails, “the Russians hacked us!”

      I don’t find the IC to be incredibly trustworthy (their history of being bad actors should give any honest person pause, really… as if they weren’t just in the hot seat for hacking Senate aids for crying out loud!) so I don’t think I can trust in their assessment without hard proof. But I don’t really know how important the identity of the hacker/leaker is, at least to me. It’s the content of the emails that concerns me more. I’m left feeling, well that’s too bad that your emails were exposed, but if you weren’t colluding with the media and the DNC to ensure Sanders didn’t win (all the while denying it left and right) then maybe you wouldn’t have anything to worry about.

      So instead of reckoning with their inner demons the Democrats and the IC are on an endless witch hunt to expose that which, for whatever their reasons, they aren’t willing or able to publish empirical proof. So yes, the story is rancid. And in this lingering atmosphere of witch hunts, be it for Putin under everyone’s bed, or blacklisting various sites as “fake news”, my opinion of the Democrats (and their supporting “liberal” establishment) has sunk pretty low.

      Yes, “delegitimation” certainly rings true for me.

      • realthog January 9, 2017 at 8:16 pm | #

        I don’t think I can trust in their assessment without hard proof.

        On the basis of what expertise would you judge any evidence that you were offered?

        • hunkerdown January 9, 2017 at 9:07 pm | #

          Interest, of course. Anyone who derives any personal benefit from it gets to stfu, to put it bluntly. Dmitry Alperovsky being a fellow of a Cold War fink-tank sinecure, being a long-time Ukronazi supporter, being the bourgeois press’s pet attribution vendor, *and* having a business relationship with the DNC in his “day job”, individually and together discredit any claim to disinterest he may have. Since the intelligence case depends solely on ClownStrike’s evaluation of the evidence and, quite uncharacteristically, included no internal investigations of their own, not least because they were blocked from doing so by the DNC themselves, my take is that there’s nothing there but the stench of Democratic imperialism in Palestine and Ukraine.

          I also have a decade or two of IT experience. The “indicators of compromise” included some perfectly normal, uncompromised production servers belonging to such clean-cut all-American big business interests as Dropbox and Yahoo. Bet you’ll never guess what happens when someone at, say, Burlington Electric tries to, say, check their ymail and happens to hit one of those lucky numbers on the round-robin DNS roulette wheel… Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood, dragged to the showers.

          • realthog January 9, 2017 at 9:24 pm | #

            To be honest, that sounds to me like undiluted Alex Jones to me. Do you think you could try to rephrase a reply in straightforward English, excluding the faux-omniscient smarm?

        • Mad Sarmatian January 9, 2017 at 10:38 pm | #

          “On the basis of what expertise would you judge any evidence that you were offered?”

          Right, right, Colonel Jessup, “we can’t handle the truth.” And how can we know what expertise is needed to judge said offered evidence unless is is actually offered, eh?

          No, no, no. Without proof all we have is what amounts to a changing of the subject. And that hasn’t changed since the very first evasion. No, this thing isn’t taking shape for them very well. It *sounds* more like sour grapes who can’t put up, and the last poll I saw democrats themselves are divided 50/50 on question.

          So what about you, what expertise do you have to interpret that evidence? If the Democrats can’t even muster a huge majority of their own party behind all these wind Rooskie accusations, what does it mean? I mean, are you qualified to make a judgement on this evidence?

          • realthog January 9, 2017 at 11:20 pm | #

            Try this analogy.

            I’m interested in particle physics and cosmology, and I read about those subjects quite a lot. But this isn’t to say I have any expertise in those subjects. If someone like Sean Carroll or Lawrence Krauss comes along and says something about particle physics/cosmology, I’d be a complete flipping eejit to argue the toss with them. They have the expertise. I don’t.

            A few comments ago I cited the principle that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. You may not quite have understood that point, or you may not have noticed it. For me to reckon that the expert conclusions of the intelligence services of at least two different countries, in both of which countries there’s political pressure to conclude the opposite, requires no “extraordinary evidence” on my part.

          • realthog January 9, 2017 at 11:22 pm | #

            PART B OF RESPONSE

            But, if you dissent from their professional, expert opinion, you have to produce something better than gut feelings, regurgitated twitters, dislike for the DNC, and so on: you have to produce some of that really good, conclusive, extraordinary evidence.

            And it’s fairly plain that you can’t, or at least are unwilling to make even the first effort to do so.

            The error that you’re making is one that I’m accustomed to confronting when dealing with climate-change deniers. I get weary of arguing against the logical fallacy that they’re committing.

          • WLGR January 10, 2017 at 12:43 pm | #

            realthog, “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is such a banal truism that it makes one look equal parts undereducated and patronizing to articulate it as if it’s some hard-edged incisive point, and similarly with harping on the concept of “logical fallacies”. But as far as expert opinion, here’s a widely circulated cybersecurity expert’s opinion to the effect that the so-called intelligence community has not offered “extraordinary evidence” of any kind regarding Russian state responsibility for the DNC/Podesta leaks. As long as nobody here is claiming to be an expert on what interests various actors within various deep-state intelligence agencies may or may not have (especially in light of the less over-repeated truism that all institutions have an inherent interest in emphasizing the seriousness of problems to which they are the solution) then it seems you’re the one arguing for an extraordinary claim — that we should accept even the least-substantiated “expert opinions” of intelligence agencies and officials regarding which dangerous evil foreigners are big bad spooky scary — without extraordinary evidence to back it up.

          • realthog January 11, 2017 at 9:21 am | #

            it seems you’re the one arguing for an extraordinary claim

            Have you ever heard of projection?

          • WLGR January 11, 2017 at 11:14 pm | #

            Why sure, in fact a very topical example of projection might be to cover for one’s dogmatic faith in the so-called intelligence community by lecturing others about skeptical inquiry and logical fallacies with all the smarm of a 13-year-old redditor who just read their first Richard Dawkins book. And another one might be to claim that the people really engaged in projection are the ones who point this out!

            In all seriousness, it does seem plausible that an organ or proxy of the Russian state could have been the ultimate source of the DNC/Podesta leaks, and I suspect most of the people pushing back against this recent tide of Rooskies-sappin’-our-bodily-fluids hysteria would agree. What we strongly disagree with is that (1) the hypothetical Russian hack was extra super-duper evil and scary relative to other routine forms of espionage and propaganda just because the target happens to have been an institution of the USA; (2) the release of accurate information about the inner workings of the Democratic Party was a bad thing at all; and (3) mere allegations from the US state about big bad foreigners threatenin’ our freedom (a theme you may recall from such smash hits as “The Maine!”, “Tonkin!”, and “Yellowcake!”) should be sufficient to shift the burden of proof onto skeptics. Any one of those contentions, let alone all three at once, would be alarmingly sycophantic and submissive toward people with the authority to unleash the deadliest military force in human history.

          • realthog January 11, 2017 at 11:26 pm | #

            lecturing others about skeptical inquiry and logical fallacies with all the smarm of a 13-year-old redditor who just read their first Richard Dawkins book

            Or, I dunno, a 67-year-old who’s published a number of relatively well received books on science denial and critical thinking.

          • WLGR January 12, 2017 at 9:52 am | #

            As long as you’ve chosen to defend Richard Dawkins instead of defending your own deference to the US military-industrial complex, it’s fair to say that he and his ilk offer an odd little mirror of the social role of religion: just as salvation in the spiritual realm is religion’s substitute for revolution in the corporeal realm, skepticism toward the imagined power of deities is their substitute for skepticism toward the socially constructed authority of states and capitalists. Your bumper-sticker-worthy stance of “the CIA said it, I believe it, that settles it” is a pretty perfect illustration.

          • realthog January 12, 2017 at 10:03 am | #

            As long as you’ve chosen to defend Richard Dawkins instead of defending your own deference to the US military-industrial complex,

            You really ought to read more carefully. I have said nothing whatsoever about Richard Dawkins, let alone made any attempt to defend him. I quoted someone else who mentioned him in an attempt to disparage me. That’s all.

            Your bumper-sticker-worthy stance of “the CIA said it, I believe it, that settles it” is a pretty perfect illustration.

            Except that this isn’t my stance at all. I’ve merely pointed out that, if you wish to argue that the conclusions of the US (and UK) intelligence services are a conspiracy, you need to produce some evidence better than hand-waving.

          • WLGR January 12, 2017 at 7:18 pm | #

            Ah, so you were referring to yourself as someone who’s written books on those topics, not Dawkins? (Now that I take 2 seconds to check, Dawkins’ age does appear to be 75.) If so, we have here an illustration of Clay Shirky’s point that the world of modern technology is one where “saying ‘I published a book’ will generate no more cultural capital than saying ‘I spoke into a microphone'”. It seems that thinking critically about your own political ideology is much harder for you than thinking critically about “science denial” (not that it requires some extraordinary stroke of genius to disagree with creationists or antivaxxers, but whatever) so I’ll try to give you a quick helping hand here:

            if you wish to argue that the conclusions of the US (and UK) intelligence services are a conspiracy…

            The activities of any intelligence service are by definition a conspiracy, since when shorn of a certain ideological fluff, the term “conspiracy” doesn’t necessarily mean any more than some kind of plan concealed from people who might otherwise obstruct it. If you think critically you’ll realize that strictly speaking your faith in the CIA’s assessment is also a conspiracy theory, the conspiracy in this case being that the CIA has evidence of Russian hacking that it’s keeping secret so that its source can continue to glean more information from the Russians. And your conspiracy theory could be correct, but without having evidence to know for sure, the major difference between your conspiracy theory and the ones you might deride as “conspiracy theories” is your trust in the benevolence of the conspirators.

            …you need to produce some evidence better than hand-waving

            No, you need to produce some better evidence than hand-waving, even if the hands doing the waving are employed by the CIA. It’s hardly an extraordinary claim to point out that intelligence agencies might use classified but ultimately dubious evidence to make a public case against a foreign foe for political reasons; again, just Google the word yellowcake, in case you’ve already forgotten about that one. On the other hand, the claims being made about Russian hacking are quite extraordinary — enough so in many people’s minds to warrant an escalation of tensions between two nuclear superpowers — and only through a profound lack of critical thinking about the political role of intelligence agencies could one conclude that unsubstantiated public allegations from them or anybody else should qualify as “extraordinary evidence” in support of these claims.

          • realthog January 12, 2017 at 7:48 pm | #

            You know, you really ought not to sneer so readily at those with whom you disagree when you do so from a position of complete ignorance. It suits you to belittle me as some self-published wonder.

            Yep, right. You have no idea who I am, yet you choose to belittle me anyway. How very Trumpist.

            FYI, since the early 1980s over seventy of my books have appeared, all of them commercially published. I don’t say that as a boast — it’s just that I’ve been in this game a long time. But your complete misconstrual of something I’ve said (first it’s a defense of Dawkins, then it’s a brag about self-publishing) is an indication of how crass your conclusions are likely to be when you’re analyzing texts that might be a tad more challenging than blog comments . . . such as declassified security documents.

            From what I’ve read of you here, you’re a conspiracy theorist of the wild and woolly type. If I’ve misunderstood you, please produce some evidence. And, too, please let me know why it is that you’re so frightened of the notion that people who choose to disagree with the conclusions of the intelligence services should offer better evidence than handwaving.

          • WLGR January 12, 2017 at 11:22 pm | #

            please produce some evidence

            Yellowcake. Can you say the word? Yell-low-cake. Here, let me help!

            I don’t know who you are and I don’t see any reason to care, but judging strictly from what you’ve posted here I’d address you the way Val Kilmer addresses Robert Downey Jr. in this scene, except with the word “smarmy”. Especially in that last comment, which consisted 100% of salving your ego by wrapping yourself in the identity of a Very Serious Person, and 0% of responding to literally a single actual point addressed to you.

            please let me know why it is that you’re so frightened of the notion that people who choose to disagree with the conclusions of the intelligence services should offer better evidence than handwaving

            I’m frightened of this notion because it’s a slavishly, obsequiously authoritarian one: that claims made by the state and its military/intelligence services are to be taken in complete faith by default, no matter how little actual evidence they present or how often they’ve been caught fabricating similar claims, and that by default the burden of proof rests entirely on skeptics to prove they’re not “wild and woolly” conspiracy theorists. I’m frightened because people who believe such notions hold the vast share of cultural, political, and economic capital in US society, and because believing such notions would render one not merely unable to mount any real resistance against a potential future fascist regime, but altogether unwilling. I’m frightened because at least in some sense, what people who believe this notion are doing — taking unsubstantiated allegations from the most powerful organs of the state as sufficient proof that particular political actors are treasonous proxies of a sinister foreign power — resembles the discursive conventions of a fascist regime much more directly than anything else going on in mainstream US politics right now, even including Trump himself. Does that answer your question?

          • realthog January 13, 2017 at 9:43 am | #

            So you’re saying that, when you gratuitously demean people, they’re not permitted to correct you.

            I’m frightened of this notion because it’s a slavishly, obsequiously authoritarian one: that claims made by the state and its military/intelligence services are to be taken in complete faith by default

            As I’ve repeatedly said, this is not my stance at all.

            You are a tiresome little conspiracy theorist. Goodbye.

    • Roquentin January 10, 2017 at 11:49 am | #

      Yes, but even reading the report itself which Corey linked, their own case, it’s about 50% complaining about Russia Today and a lot of what they complain about Russia Today saying is true. They also act as if the fact it is state funded is some big scandal. These people, I swear, do they say the same kind of bullshit about the BBC undermining the political system here? That channel is funded by the government of the UK too. No, I just don’t buy it. The whole thing stinks.

      • WLGR January 10, 2017 at 12:49 pm | #

        Roquentin, I hope you’ve seen this wonderful mashup of BBC video from birthday ceremonies for Queen Elizabeth with BBC audio from birthday ceremonies for Kim Jong-un.

        • Roquentin January 11, 2017 at 4:47 pm | #

          I laughed.

    • hunkerdown January 12, 2017 at 12:23 am | #

      realthog, admittedly, it’s the DC Shopper, but here’s a sketch of the Ukrainian nationalist ties from a member of your own class. While you may wish to assert the conceit that legal rules of evidence apply, I reject your standard in its entirety as irrelevant to anything to do with intelligence work, and prefer to look at how intersecting interests make for more effective operations.

      It’s good to hear you admit your interest in IP rents and passive income, though. It shows that liberalism pays for you.

      • realthog January 12, 2017 at 8:56 am | #

        It’s good to hear you admit your interest in IP rents and passive income, though.


  7. stevelaudig January 7, 2017 at 12:33 pm | #

    Might I suggest a possible outlier event. Ford’s pre-conviction pardoning of Nixon. By not letting the course of justice/law/rule of law/legal order run, Ford weakened the American federal state in a way that a post-conviction pardon would not have. It seems obvious to me that by preventing institutions from facing challenges they lose the ability to face challenges. Ford’s reason “ending a nightmare” was never persuasive to me. It prevented institutions from proving their worth and allowed the Nixon cancer to merely go into remission rather than being fully excised. Thomas’ perjury was obvious, I agree. Any senator pretending to believe him became an accomplice after the fact to the felony of perjury. Cheers. Trump is the Greek gods’ justice. The term nemesis comes to mind for some reason that warrants exploration. Double Cheers.

  8. Tom January 7, 2017 at 1:07 pm | #

    The whole civil rights struggle raised a lot of questions about democracy, with the effective exclusion of one race from the political process in the greater South. The assassinations of JFK, MLK, RFK, the Vietnam War, Watergate all raised serious questions; the triggering event Watergate was about Nixon trying to rig an election, but it exposed a much wider range of corruption.

  9. Sanjay January 7, 2017 at 1:15 pm | #

    Just to beat a hobby horse, I think the most extreme recent example of the “delegitimization of public institutions” is the wacky Jade Helm thing, and it tells you that even those poll numbers that show you the public has great faith in some public institutions — specifically in the military — are crap. When the soldiers stage necessary training and elected officials feel the need to warn of a possible politically-driven coup attempt, and to send out armed dudes to observe — everything is nuts. It’s an example I think Dr. Robin is inclined to overlook and yet it is to me much more amazing than anything of 2016.

  10. realthog January 7, 2017 at 1:45 pm | #

    What we’re now seeing is not a cataclysmic crisis

    It is if you count climate change into the equation.

  11. Gerald Staack January 7, 2017 at 2:18 pm | #

    How does anyone expect a society not to erode when conservatism rules the roost? Conservatism is the domination of society by an aristocracy whose goal is to exploit the masses so as to maintain their heritage. Conservatism is the antithesis of democracy.
    This has been true for thousands of years.

  12. xenon2 January 7, 2017 at 2:52 pm | #

    “the domination of society by an aristocracy whose goal is to exploit the masses so as to maintain their heritage”

    @GeraldStaack what do you suppose those liberals, neo-liberals, progressives, etc. are?

  13. Foppe January 7, 2017 at 3:55 pm | #

    A slightly tangential remark apropos of this post,
    (Not previously having paid any attention whatsoever to Lessig,) I was really, really surprised to read him arguing, in an essay posted on Medium, on the need for an electoral coup that he found the argument put before the SC ‘brilliant’. Now, I don’t know whether that was tongue in cheek, but considering that he treated this decision as a precedent, I took the absence of such as an implicit endorsement. Beyond that, there was no recognition whatsoever that, in the short run, the Ds accepting the fact that the SC hijacked the outcome was their choice, not a necessity. Nor that, in the long run, the Ds have made next to no attempt (between 2000 and ’16) to do things to increase turnout rates / combat disfranchisement. (Such as, say, ending felony disfranchisement.) All there was, was a huge distraction, in the form of a plea for more hijacking of electoral outcomes disliked by incumbent elites. What on earth is wrong with this guy?

  14. stevenjohnson January 7, 2017 at 4:09 pm | #

    The fever dream of American empire includes McCarthyism, the notion of “totalitarianism” and a host of similar atrocities against the human aspirations to reason. The notion the national police/security/intelligence services haven’t intervened against high ranking politicians, feeding insane conspiracy theories is wrong to the point of being deceptive. FDR being an unwitting tool of traitors, Trump being an unwitting tool of traitors, six of one, a half dozen of the other. Henry Wallace could tell you more about the police/security/intelligence of a government intervening in democratic politics than Bernie Sanders. Accusations of treason against politicians is long standing tradition in the US. Being a fellow anti-Communist doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, it just means you don’t put it on your list of historical outrages.

    The premise that the DNC leaks cost Clinton the election is just as deranged as the idea the DNC stole the nomination from Sanders. The accusations in either case could be true but still don’t matter because they weren’t that important, there’s little or no reason to think things might have been different otherwise. This isn’t true of the CIA keeping mum about Benghazi, letting (or even encouraging) Republicans to hint treason. And it isn’t true of the FBI’s keeping alive the Clinton Foundation “scandal” where Clinton is supposed to have taken bribes from foreigners. Really, after Trump made jokes about Putin helping, then he and his supporters really have no call to whine about tit-for-tat. The CIA letting Clinton take the heat for Benghazi or the FBI puffing up the “Clinton Cash” conspiracy mongering happened before the election, when it mattered most. This is after, by a lame duck, and it’s not really certain how much this matters, except it’s interfering with the most important swindle of all: Trump won the election because the American people supported him…not, Trump won the Electoral College (rigged constitutionally to favor the minority from slave states, but still with us, now favoring rural states) after being elevated into a serious candidate by billions of dollars of free publicity he got (unlike real dissidents) because the owners have moved even further to the right.

  15. Steven Levine January 7, 2017 at 4:52 pm | #

    Completely spot on Corey (if I may). But note an interesting point about your list of delegitimizing events, they all stem from the right. I make this point not for partisan reasons but to point out that this puts the onus on the center-left to preserve legitimacy, which makes it defensive and therefore ‘conservative’ in one meaning of that term. One thing that has happened is that larger and larger precincts of the left have gotten sick of that defensive posture, of having to stand by while asymmetric polarization keeps moving the overton window to the right. I am one of those people, having been a strong Bernie supporter. But I fear that we have gotten to a place where suspicion and paranoia on both the center and left-left (‘Treason!’ on the one side and ‘Russian interference if it happened is nothing to worry about’ on the other) will hasten the forces you describe so well. I am not sure what those who wish to fight for human liberty and equality ought to do, but I think self-satisfaction and defensiveness have pervaded the whole debate in a way that is blocking the types of analyses you are making. I think your call to step back is very much needed. I know the call for action in the current moment is urgent, but in another way the call for thought is equally as urgent.

  16. xenon2 January 7, 2017 at 8:29 pm | #

    One would think that the Democrats and the administration would feel so embarrassed by these leaks,
    they would never mention them again.

    The very fact that they haven’t is proof that your average voter hasn’t been subject to these leaks—
    which were all true—-and doesn’t know what they were.

    I’ll bet if you interviewed voters in Times Square (or wherever) and asked them what were the 3 big leaks coming
    from Russian ‘hackers’, they wouldn’t know. This is, in a city that voted overwhelming for Clinton.

    I am amazed that the administration is making a #BigDeal over it and I would be very afraid they will
    do something—like start a war— on their last days in office.

  17. Dean C. Rowan January 8, 2017 at 2:07 am | #

    I read the report. There is no “strong suggestion” whatsoever. I’m puzzled, because the document is so badly written that I can’t begin to figure why it was approved for publication, by whom, to what intended effect…

    • Gavolt January 8, 2017 at 3:00 am | #

      I don’t know about that. I think the report clearly showed that Russia unduly influenced the political opinions of Americans who watch 4 hours of Russia Today every day.

      • Dean C. Rowan January 8, 2017 at 12:46 pm | #

        Point taken!

    • Edward January 10, 2017 at 2:25 pm | #

      I wonder if the authors of the report were trying to sabotage the “Russian Hacking” propaganda by writing a pathetically weak report. Of course, these days who knows what to expect from Washington.

      • realthog January 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm | #

        I wonder if the authors of the report were trying to sabotage the “Russian Hacking” propaganda by writing a pathetically weak report.

        Conspiracy theories aside, you don’t think it might be “pathetically weak” because it’s the . . . declassified version?

        • Edward January 10, 2017 at 3:09 pm | #

          There is no evidence in this report. If the authors want to claim they have secret evidence of Russian tampering they don’t need a 25 page report to do this. They only need one sentence.

  18. Gavolt January 8, 2017 at 2:46 am | #

    I know the economy is not really an institution, but I’m amazed no one has yet mentioned the financial crisis of 2008 and the government’s response. That chain of events has millions of people across all political persuasions feeling that the economy is rigged. Like, the outcomes are totally made up. That’s astonishing. The US economy is what truly sets the it apart from other nations/empires past and present, and its basic unreality is now a commonplace belief among Americans.

  19. Mushin January 8, 2017 at 9:49 am | #

    I agree stepping from this cataclysmic crises offers perspectives for this moment of truth. I agree with comments that the JFK assassination was a major turning point in conserving the historic emergent notion of democracy in this republic. At the time I was in the 8th grade. The Nixon administration previewed a populist celebrity Henry Kissinger a for runner to DJT. Kissinger recent emergence speaking to both Trump and Clinton was a continuation of delegitimizing public institutional discourses. Kissinger should be arrested today for the Chilean intervention and Pinochet crimes against humanity. Yet, this master architect of coercive deceptive deceit is still acting as a wolf in celebrity sheep skin. Joe Jaworski’s “Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership” (1980? recent 2011) book speaks directly to the perilous Watergate leadership issue based on his father, Leon, who was a Texan Republican, extremely entertaining on a daily basis in the news, and saw the threat of leadership undermining the American notion of democracy by secret societies. Nixon pardon, Viet Nam, Iran-Contra, Iraq War and now social cyber multimedia paranoid panic/passivity where civil epistocratic assertions of factual truth has been reduced to deployable ignorance where improvisation of propaganda is normalized and political assassination occurs in cybernetics. We must be entering the bottom of the pit in this slow collapse of imperial republics?

    Which leaves me at the start of 2017 stepping back further in human history as an American Native. The real question is how can we get up everyday claiming to live in ethical mutual support as a society and at the same time deny ourselves and the freedom we experience by rationalizing justifications for western patriarchal culture’s domination and submission based in powerful elite that is over 2,500+ years old? Patriarchal culture is the elephant in the room in western history influencing leadership’s decision-making events daily. In cognitive science there is evolutionary factual evidence that our ancestries created language in a biology of love not arrogant aggressiveness of immature arrested adolescent attitudes, behaviors and genocidal activities of bullies on our playground called earth. DJT is a trickster teacher waking us up by demonstrating the insanity of patriarchal features centered on appropriation, domination and submission, mistrust and control, sexual and racial discrimination, and ultimately mercantile war in the art of the deal. I am beyond sadness as a Viet Nam era veteran witnessing three Generals and a cadre of private billionaires being appointed to DJT cabinet. The new patriarchal norm of the elite 1st class compartment is tax returns are none of a citizenry business. Yet, I am required to provide tax returns to purchase a home. What does that really say bottom line about our vetting process as American citizenry? Even more important what does it say to global citizens concerned about the Tsunami Global Warming and Imperialism States?

  20. Heliopause January 8, 2017 at 12:34 pm | #

    Obama, leading Dems, and the mass media could be opposing Trump on policy grounds if they chose to, rather than sticking it on the back burner.

    • realthog January 8, 2017 at 12:41 pm | #

      I think they are, if my inbox is anything to go by.

  21. Danny in Canada January 8, 2017 at 3:20 pm | #

    just for the record, I don’t think anyone believes that Trump was born in Russia, or is in any other way not legally eligible to be elected president.

    (It’d also be interesting to find out how many birthers were sincere about it.)

    • Rich Puchalsky January 8, 2017 at 8:24 pm | #

      Many people are claiming that Trump has committed treason and therefore may or may not be legally eligible but should be removed from office.

      I think that the idea that Trump has committed treason through some kind of dastardly cooperation with / approval of Russian hacking is not as racist as an apparently factual claim that Obama wasn’t born in America, but it’s in some ways kind of just as wrong. There are factual US descriptions of what treason is (as a political offense that can cause removal from office) and those are just as controverted by the facts as the birtherism thing.

  22. G Richard January 8, 2017 at 6:16 pm | #

    This CIA/FBI report describes something called Reflexive Control (aka “active measures”) and the Russians have used it for decades. This only feels like a collapse because it’s meant to feel like a collapse. You are feeling demoralized because you are meant to feel demoralized.

    Someone here mentioned Peter Pomerantsev. He really knows what the Putin is up to – he worked on Russian TV for 10 years.


  23. Bruce Wilder January 9, 2017 at 11:19 pm | #

    Those few of us who read political news or opinion, and consider its implications critically, are not the intended audience of the political discourse as it is now conducted on 24/7 cable news or thru the Twitterverse or on Facebook or even in blog comments. We few try to read and understand and all we see is the incoherence, the contradictions, the disregard of facts and even the unconcern for plausibility.

    The people deliberately generating the endless streams of fact-free narrative do not expect their intended audience to read whole articles or reflect on paragraph-long arguments. All they expect to emerge into consciousness are scattered fragments and unconscious implications.

    Stated as if they are facts, or relate to facts, memes such as Saddam Hussein’s role in 9/11 or Obama’s Kenyan birth, or Hillary Clinton’s “very progressive policy positions” seem ridiculous to people who are familiar with a great many actual facts. Fever dream indeed. Hypernormalization of every deviance from sense amplified at breakneck speed.

    • Mushin January 10, 2017 at 11:44 am | #

      Bruce I like what you say. This emerging predicament is an imminent dangerous cataclysmic global crises and the end of any future notion of democratic governing by the people. I am involved with the Lakota Oceti Sakowin society over 10,000 years old and actually operated as an epistocracy as a collective. In this current mess there is not even a discussion of what a we(i)sdom continuum is as human beings.

  24. Edward January 10, 2017 at 2:20 pm | #

    I think that what complicates matters in America today is that people have to admit they were wrong about their ideas about who to trust, what works, ect. That makes response to a problem much slower. The press are less then useless in having a national conversation about our problems. They are part of the problem. Still, the success of Sanders– or even Trump, indicate something is happening. I wonder how our current era compares to the time of the demise of the Whig party, because both political parties are begging voters to deep-six them. For some reason no-one seems to talk about the precedent of the whig party.

  25. Robert Daniels January 10, 2017 at 3:02 pm | #

    Prepare for POTUS Pence!
    A book in Vegas is taking bets on Trump lasting 4 years.
    Here are my probabilities in descending order:
    1.He drops dead.70 yo,75 lbs. overweight, no exercise,lousy diet.
    2. Assassination.’Nuff said.
    3.Quits! POTUS is a job,a tough one and he’s never had one.
    4.Declared incompetent and removed. He IS a psychopath. I bet he’d love to grab Marine Le Pen.
    5.Impeached. I think the (R)s look the other way ,unless he does shoot someone.

  26. Rich Puchalsky January 10, 2017 at 7:57 pm | #

    I picked out a few of the more interesting bits from the recently leaked “by a former intelligence agent” documents about Russia / Trump on Twitter. They’re pretty hilarious. Anyone nodding along to the idea that the CIA soberly is evaluating this important evidence should read the doc.

  27. Rich Puchalsky January 11, 2017 at 11:56 am | #
  28. Robert Daniels January 13, 2017 at 9:50 am | #


  29. b. January 24, 2017 at 12:28 pm | #

    I still think that your basic point – collapse, and delegitimization – is correct, but there is something truly off here IMO, as it was with your “undun” posting.

    This Republic has always been corrupt – hardly exceptional – and it always set aside its professed principles and hallowed institutions in the service of profit and expediency (Jackson vs. Supreme Court). It has always broken international treaty and constitutional word and spirit. If you really want to make a case that “this time, it’s different”, I can see two cases being made:

    • b. January 24, 2017 at 12:28 pm | #

      For one, there is a difference between corruption and dysfunction. US imperialism on against Mexico, regarding Puerto Rico, in the Philippines etc. was no less corrupt than e.g. Vietnam/Tonkin or Iraq 2003, but these acts were, by and large, profitable for the perpetrating nation. There is never a clear line – is 1812 any more idiotic than Carter supporting the Taliban – but e.g. the 2001 and 2008 economic failures definitely raise the question even from the point of view of the gilded “winners” of this clusterfuck whether “qui bono” has to be answered with “ultimately, nobody”. Competence has definitely become an issue, both regarding the electorate – either side – and the elected.

      • b. January 24, 2017 at 12:29 pm | #

        Or you could argue that the new quality here dates to the so-called “conservatives” that, either out of radical, reactionary conviction or short-sighted expediency, decided that delegitimizing not just the institutions of the Republic, but even the very idea of governance as both a necessity and an opportunity. That would be Reagan and whoever inspired him, and that would be that toxic vector of glibertarian Trojan Horseshit “thinking” that has been spreading the memes.

        • b. January 24, 2017 at 12:29 pm | #

          I fully agree that the Democratic Party response to Trump’s election, the red-baiting and anti-Russia agitprop and the actions of the three-letter soup – starting with Comey’s opening skid – are as unhinged, as despicable, and potentially more hazardous than, the Birther Bullshit. That said, the “Intelligence Agencies” and the DoD have been corrupt and dysfunctional all the way back to the end of Eisenhower’s term, and I would expect that their predecessor institutions were hardly more competent, and certainly not more principled. What is truly stunning is the utter disregard for reality and consequences of the hot air “coup de gas” against Trump. In the words of JH Kunstler (who nurses his own inner Trump), we pretend to live in an age where “anything goes and nothing matters”.

      • Robert Daniels January 24, 2017 at 1:28 pm | #

        It’s “Cui Bono.”

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