Aberrations

"Time to refuse the blurring of memory"; Trump supports nonexistent Article XII; and more.


  • “The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth, and truth be defamed as lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.” —Hannah Arendt, “Of Truth and Traps.”

  • “Now is the time to refuse the blurring of memory.” That’s novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in The New Yorker. Read the whole thing.

  • Blatant mis-statements of facts are now to be applauded as “refreshing” expressions of “opinion.” That’s Vice President-elect Mike Pence explaining yesterday, during an appearance on ABC’s This Week, why he wasn’t bothered by Trump’s claiming that he won the popular vote. Says Pence,“I think one of the things that’s refreshing about our president-elect and one of the reasons why I think he made such an incredible connection with people all across this country is because he tells you what’s on his mind.” (h/t Ned Resnikoff)

  • Or, you can adopt House Speaker Paul Ryan’s view of Trump’s claim that millions of people voted illegally, expressed yesterday while on CBS: “I have no way of backing that up. It doesn’t matter to me. He won the election.”

  • After noting that Trump’s phone call to Taiwan’s president may have been prompted by one of his advisers, the ultra hawk John Bolton, and that the Trump Organization is currently trying to win a lucrative development deal there, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos points out: “Since Election Day, Trump has largely avoided receiving intelligence briefings, either because he doesn’t think it’s important that he receive them or because he just doesn’t care about them. George W. Bush, in the first months of 2001, ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden. Only in our darkest imaginings can we wonder what warnings Trump is ignoring now.”

  • Upon taking over the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Michael Flynn, the man who is now Trump’s incoming National Security adviser, told a group of senior officials at an offsite retreat this taste of his leadership philosophy, report Matthew Rosenberg, Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt for the New York Times. “Mr. Flynn said that the first thing everyone needed to know was that he was always right. His staff would know they were right, he said, when their views melded to his.”

  • Flynn believes “we’re losing…a very big war, not just Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan,” as he writes in his book The Field of Fight. And he also writes, “Most Americans mistakenly believe that peace is the normal condition of mankind, while war is some weird aberration. Actually, it’s the other way around. Most of human history has to do with war, and preparations for the next one. But we Americans do not prepare for the next war, are invariably surprised when it erupts, and since we did not take prudent steps when it would have been relatively simple to prevail, usually end up fighting on our enemies’ more difficult and costly terms.”

  • While much of the media on the Trump transition since Friday has been on his protocol-breaking phone call with the President of Taiwan, which roiled longstanding understandings with China, we’ve missed the portent in his phone call that same night with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. According to Duterte, Trump “was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem,” reports Nestor Corrales in the Philippine Inquirer. “He understood the way we are handling it…And he wishes me well too, in my campaign and he said that… well we are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way.” Duterte’s regime has killed more than 3,000 people suspected of being drug dealers or users in the last three months, but he has apologized to the Jewish community for comparing this campaign to the Holocaust. Back in late September he said that “Hitler massacred three million Jews,” understating the number by half, then added, with three million drug addicts in the Philippines, “I’d be happy to slaughter them.”

  • The Trump transition did not confirm nor deny the substance of the Duterte’s comments on the phone call, noting only that “In their conversation, they noted the long history of friendship and cooperation between the two nations, and agreed that the two governments would continue to work together closely on matters of shared interest and concern.”

  • Donald McGahn, who will soon be Trump’s White House counsel, was previously one of the three Republican members of the Federal Election Commission, where he worked to prevent all enforcement of campaign finance laws, Jon Schwarz reports for The Intercept. McGahn even “attempted to block the general counsel’s staff from reading news reports, using Google or looking at a campaign’s web site without prior authorization from a majority of the FEC commissioners.”

  • Newt Gingrich tells Darren Samuelsohn of Politico that concerns about Trump’s many conflicts of interest as President are outdated “left-wing ideas,” rooted in the notion that “anyone successful is inherently dangerous and should be punished for trying to serve the country.” So much for the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

  • It’s worth recalling that it wasn’t that long ago that Trump said that Ben Carson, his nominee to run the department of Housing and Urban Development, had an incurable pathological disorder and compared him to a child molester. (h/t Judd Legum)

  • Former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin points out, in a trenchant op-ed in the New York Times, that when Trump met privately with House Republicans last July, he declared his commitment to all the articles of the Constitution, including “Article XII,” which doesn’t exist. McMullin writes, “Shock swept through the room as Mr. Trump confirmed one of our chief concerns about him: He lacked a basic knowledge of the Constitution.” McMullin adds:

    Mr. Trump’s inconsistencies and provocative proposals are a strategy; they are intended to elevate his importance above all else — and to place him beyond democratic norms, beyond even the Constitution.In our nation, power is shared, checked and balanced precisely to thwart would-be autocrats. But as we become desensitized to the notion that Mr. Trump is the ultimate authority, we may attribute less importance to the laws, norms and principles that uphold our system of government, which protects our rights. Most dangerously, we devalue our own worth and that of our fellow Americans….We can no longer assume that all Americans understand the origins of their rights and the importance of liberal democracy. We need a new era of civic engagement that will reawaken us to the cause of liberty and equality.

     

  • Here’s a visualization of Trump’s information universe, based on all the links he has tweeted since he announced his candidacy, courtesy of Charlie Warzel and Lam Thuy Vo of BuzzFeed.

  • In case you think devotion to the truth is just an academic issue, consider this: yesterday a North Carolina man was arrested in northwest Washington D.C. after he walked into the Comet Ping Pong pizza restaurant carrying an assault rifle and fired one or more shots. He told police he was there to “self-investigate” a false election-related conspiracy theory involving Hillary Clinton, as Fair Siddiqui and Susan Svrluga report for the Washington Post.

  • The “Pizzagate” non-scandal has been heavily promoted by Alex Jones’ Infowars site, one of the Trump campaign’s go-to sources of information, as Tim Murphy of Mother Jones points out. Jones claims that Trump called him after the election for “fighting so hard for Americans and for Americanism.”

  • What is to be done? In the wake of the election, millions of Americans have been shocked into action, but as I write in a new piece for Civicist, most advocacy organizations are overloading them with calls to sign online petitions and donate money, rather than engaging them in building up local organization and networks. Luckily, in this whirlwind moment, there are glimmers of big organizing popping up everywhere.

  • Mass organizing gets results, says Naomi Klein in The Nation. That’s the lesson of Sunday’s victory of the water protectors at Standing Rock.

  • What is civic tech now? Sam Biddle of The Intercept asked nine prominent tech companies if they would sell their services to help create a national registry of Muslims. After two weeks of calls and emails, only Twitter said no. Microsoft replied that “we’re not going to talk about hypotheticals at this point” and offered a link to a company blog post reiterating its support for an “inclusive culture.” The others didn’t reply or, in the case of Booz Allen Hamilton, declined to comment.

  • Writing for Deadspin, Hamilton Nolan explains exactly what was so wrong with last week’s invitation only Summit on Poverty and Opportunity co-hosted by the White House, Stanford University and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. (h/t Melanie Lavelle)

  • President Obama is considering a career in digital media, Mic’s Jake Horowitz reports, saying that he met with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg privately to discuss the idea while they were both in Peru for the recent APEC summit. Am I the only one wondering why Obama would consider a “career” in anything but saving the country from a decline into authoritarian madness the only sensible thing to do with his time?

  • Don’t miss Steven Johnson’s provocative op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times, which argues that blue states that pay more in federal taxes than they receive in federal spending, while having fewer electoral votes per capita than small, red states, are the true “Tea Party” states who are suffering from taxation without equal representation.

  • Emily Parker and charlton mcilwain co-author a piece in Medium about how Black Lives Matter resembles other internet-powered movements around the world.

  • You might call this burying the lede, but we are gratified to announce that the Omidyar Network is renewing and expanding its support for Civic Hall and Civic Hall Labs with $4 million in new funding. On Civic Hall’s side, this support will help to sustain our growth, expand our membership offerings, take Civic Hall events on the road across New York, and assist us as we endeavor to grow Civic Hall into a full-fledged NYC institution. On the Civic Hall Labs’ side, Omidyar’s backing will allow it to grow its core efforts in developing new ideas and experimenting with how design, data, and digital tools can move the needle on pressing societal challenges.

  • Your moment of zen: Richard Gingras, the head of Google News, got himself a drone and has been making amazing videos of the Pacific coastline with it.