Let's get political
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Norman Rozenberg
nprwrites12 days ago

Let's get political

My thoughts and questions about today's complicated political world.
12 days ago

Four New Words for Trump’s America

As we get used to a country where nothing is true but everything is possible, we should also learn some of the vocabulary that can help us frame what is happening here in the United States. It is only fitting that we draw inspiration from Soviet and Russian words that define political phenomena that are becoming more and more important in this country. These Russian words used to describe the Soviet experience, but are now finding new meaning in today’s American politics.

Blat: (pronounced blaht). My mother constantly reminds me that nothing, in both the Soviet Union and in the U.S., could get done without blat. These are favors in your informal network. How did you become the White House counsel? Blat. How did Trump Inc. get a building permit in Argentina? Blat. In the U.S., we might network or attempt to call in favors to find a new job. In Trump’s world, you need only be the right son-in-law or a company’s namesake.

Politburo: This word used to describe the executive committee of the Communist Party, where the leader considered and decided all policies while other members of the party would nod in forced agreement. With a motley crew of ex-Goldman Sachs executives, private billionaires and family members, the White House is shaping up to be its own bona fide politburo under the guidance of the smartest man in the room.

Nomenklatura: The who’s-who of the Soviet world comprised the Community Party elites. As Trump pads his White House, we’ll see a new nomenklatura coming to Washington. Rather than draining the swamp as Trump promised on the campaign trail, he’s introducing a dangerous new breed of alligators. The nomenklatura was able to operate in a completely different world than ordinary citizens. They were afforded freedoms and luxuries that no one else in the vast country could. Trump’s Washington will not look any different.

And finally,

Kompromat: The short form of “compromising materials,” or translated roughly as blackmail. We had a taste of what kompromat is throughout the election cycle. These could be true, mostly true or completely fabricated stories that seek to discredit or control an opponent. Russia, after its chaotic 1990s, has developed expert capabilities in deploying kompromat. Using intelligence and security officials, the Kremlin was able to essentially create a library of kompromat and use it against political enemies. Mayors were sacked, opposition leaders run out of the country. Russia is an expert. So much so, that they are now taking the game overseas. With Hillary Clinton’s email leaks and the unverified dossier on Trump, there’s no doubt that we’ll continue to run across this word. Ordinary Russians see entertainment value, as much of the kompromat includes sex scandals or overseas bank account dramas. For Russians, kompromat is part of life. We should get used to it here as well.

Welcome to Trump’s brave new world. 

13 days ago

Politics Today: Believe Nothing, Expect Everything

On January 10, BuzzFeed News dropped a bombshell: a 35-page dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia, including mentions of secret meetings in Prague and Mr. Trump’s own sex tapes. A firestorm erupted on Twitter and in the news. While some took the dossier at face value and used it as proof that Mr. Trump is not fit for office, others questioned BuzzFeed’s journalistic integrity by publishing an unverified piece full of such game-changing allegations. 

Welcome to America’s brave new world where doublespeak and gaslighting drives the national conversation.

Today, more than ever, we have to question all information presented to us, but we must also be ready to hear that any of these sometimes absurd accusations may be proven true.

I understand why BuzzFeed released the dossier: for those journalists, it was paramount that Americans knew the rumors floating around pertaining to our soon-to-be president. However, we must be careful with the information presented to us. There is a fine line between informing a public on the actions of elected officials and rumor mongering.

The dossier, allegedly compiled by a retired MI6 intelligence officer, makes some potentially damning claims, including close ties between Mr. Trump’s surrogates and people working on behalf of the Russian government. Furthermore, the dossier claims that the Russian government holds kompromat against Mr. Trump, which it is using to blackmail him.

We need to have a rational mindset when approaching anything that comes out pertaining to Mr. Trump, including his own policies. Even when his supporters rally to his defense and his enemies call for blood, we need to think through what is being presented to us. Will Mr. Trump keep his word? Does it make sense that his counsel met with Russian counterparts in Prague? If something feels wrong ]but claims remain unsubstantiated, what else do you have left except to go with your gut.

We’ve seen Mr. Trump claim that Mexico would pay for a border wall, then say that the U.S. government would pay, then take to Twitter to bash his opponents. We’ve seen Mr. Trump attempt to clarify his stances using Twitter while his surrogates make their rounds on cable news to defend their benefactor.

While the dossier and Mr. Trump’s antics shocked and even amused me, I could not help but feel incredibly sad for what has become of information and public debate about policies. I found myself ready to believe the entire contents of the dossier. I wish I would be surprised if even a third of the claims published by BuzzFeed were substantiated. But if or when any allegations are proven true or Mr. Trump attempts to dodge his policy positions, we need to be ready.

I was taught a lesson yesterday.

In today’s brave new world, there’s really only one rule: believe nothing, be ready for anything, and definitely expect everything.

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