Your Body Already Has a Built-in Weight Loss System that Works Like Wegovy, Ozempic and Mounjaro

Microbes in your gut and certain molecules from food play a key role in regulating your microbiome

The Conversation U.S.

The Conversation U.S.

Published in Wise & Well

Jan 22, 2024 (

By  Christopher Damman, Associate Professor of Gastroenterology, School of Medicine, University of Washington

Weight loss pills aren’t a replacement for a healthy diet and lifestyle. JW LTD/Stone via Getty Images

Wegovy, Ozempic and Mounjaro are weight loss and diabetes drugs that have made quite a splash in health news. They target regulatory pathways involved in both obesity and diabetes and are widely considered breakthroughs for weight loss and blood sugar control.

But do these drugs point toward a root cause of metabolic disease? What inspired their development in the first place?

It turns out your body produces natural versions of these drugs — also known as incretin hormones — in your gut. It may not be surprising that nutrients in food help regulate these hormones. But it may intrigue you to know that the trillions of microbes in your gut are key for orchestrating this process.

I am a gastroenterologist at the University of Washington who studies how food and your gut microbiome affect health and disease. Here’s an inside-out perspective on the role natural gut hormones and healthy food play in metabolism and weight loss.

A broken gut

Specialized bacteria in your lower gut take the components of food you can’t digest like fiber and polyphenols — the elements of plants that are removed in many processed foods — and transforms them into molecules that stimulate hormones to control your appetite and metabolism. These include GLP-1, a natural version of Wegovy and Ozempic.

GLP-1 and other hormones like PYY help regulate blood sugar through the pancreas. They also tell your brain that you’ve had enough to eat and your stomach and intestines to slow the movement of food along the digestive tract to allow for digestion. This system even has a name: the colonic brake.

GLP-1 serves many functions in the body. Lthoms11/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Prior to modern processed foods, metabolic regulatory pathways were under the direction of a diverse healthy gut microbiome that used these hormones to naturally regulate your metabolism and appetite. However, food processing, aimed at improving shelf stability and enhancing taste, removes the bioactive molecules like fiber and polyphenols that help regulate this system.

Removal of these key food components and the resulting decrease in gut microbiome diversity may be an important factor contributing to the rise in obesity and diabetes.

A short track to metabolic health

Wegovy and Ozempic reinvigorate the colonic brake downstream of food and microbes with molecules similar to GLP-1. Researchers have demonstrated their effectiveness at weight loss and blood sugar control.

Mounjaro has gone a step further and combined GLP-1 with a second hormone analogue derived from the upper gut called GIP, and studies are showing this combination therapy to be even more effective at promoting weight loss than GLP-1-only therapies like Wegovy and Ozempic.

These drugs complement other measures like gastric bypass surgery that are used in the most extreme cases of metabolic disease. These surgeries may in part work much like Wegovy and Ozempic by bypassing digestion in segments of the gastrointestinal tract and bathing your gut microbes in less digested food. This awakens the microbes to stimulate your gut cells to produce GLP-1 and PYY, effectively regulating appetite and metabolism.

Many patients have seen significant improvements to not only their weight and blood glucose but also reductions in important cardiovascular outcomes like strokes and heart attacksMedical guidelines support the use of new incretin-based medications like Wegovy, Ozempic and Mounjaro to manage the interrelated metabolic conditions of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.

Considering the effects incretin-based medications have on the brain and cravings, medical researchers are also evaluating their potential to treat nonmetabolic conditions like alcohol abusedrug addiction and depression.

A near-magic bullet — for the right folks

Despite the success and prospect of these drugs to help populations that may benefit most from them, current prescribing practices have raised some questions. Should people who are only a little overweight use these drugs? What are the risks of prescribing these drugs to children and adolescents for lifelong weight management?

Some people regain weight after stopping incretin-based drugs. Oleksandra Troian/Moment via Getty Images

While incretin-based therapies seem close to magic bullets, they are not without gastrointestinal side effects like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and constipation. These symptoms are related to how the drugs work to slow the gastrointestinal tract. Other more severe, but rare, side effects include pancreatitis and irreversible gastroparesis, or inflammation of the pancreas and stomach paralysis.

These drugs can also lead to a loss of healthy lean muscle mass in addition to fat, particularly in the absence of exercise. Significant weight gain after stopping the drugs raises further questions about long-term effects and whether it’s possible to transition back to using only lifestyle measures to manage weight.

All roads lead to lifestyle

Despite our greatest aspirations for quick fixes, it’s very possible that a healthy lifestyle remains the most important way to manage metabolic disease and overall health. This includes regular exercise, stress management, sleep, getting outdoors and a balanced diet.

For the majority of the population who don’t yet have obesity or diabetes, restarting the gut’s built-in appetite and metabolism control by reintroducing whole foods and awaking the gut microbiome may be the best approach to promote healthy metabolism.

Adding minimally processed foods back to your diet, and specifically those replete in fiber and polyphenols like flavonoids and carotenoids, can play an important and complementary role to help address the epidemic of obesity and metabolic disease at one of its deepest roots.

This article is from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit news organization dedicated to giving you the context to understand what’s going on in the world. Find out more about them or subscribe to their weekly newsletter.

Christopher Damman is on the scientific advisory board at One BIO and Supergut.

The Conversation U.S.

Written by The Conversation U.S.

·Writer for Wise & Well

An independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to unlocking the ideas and knowledge of academic experts for the public.

Why Truth Matters

Greg Satell

Greg Satell

Mar 23, 2024 (/

Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

In 2012, when Marco Rubio was gearing up for a run at the Presidency, he sat for an in-depth interview with the magazine GQ to bolster his image. “I think the age of the universe has zero to do with how our economy is going to grow,” he proudly declared. “I’m not a scientist. I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that.”

The attitude belies dangerous ignorance. The big bang is not just a theory, but a set of theories, including general relativity and quantum mechanics that underlie modern technologies such as computers, GPS satellites, lasers and solar cells, just to name a few. Our economy literally could not function without them.

As Vannevar Bush famously wrote, “There must be a stream of new scientific knowledge to turn the wheels of private and public enterprise.” Yet today we get “alternative truths” and book bans. Make no mistake: truth matters. History shows when we abandon the quest for discovery and design narratives to suit our preferences, the consequences tend to be severe.

Jewish Physics

In 1905, an unknown physicist working at the Swiss patent office named Albert Einstein unleashed four papers, written in his spare time, that would change the world so completely that it would come to be known as his miracle year. He would later follow up with his theory of general relativity and solidify his place as one of the greatest minds to ever live.

These breakthrough theories would change how scientists thought about the universe. We learned that time and space were not static, but relative, that light travels through discrete packets called “quanta” and that mass could be converted into energy. His discoveries would, within a few decades, be translated into revolutionary new technologies.

You would think he would be a hero in his home country of Germany, but just the opposite happened. As the Nazis gained power and Jews became scapegoated, Einstein’s theories became to be known as Jewish physics and the science of quantum theory and relativity was banned from schools. Philipp Lenard and Johannes Stark, both backed the shift and promoted anti-relativity Deutsche Physik.

The United States went a different way. It welcomed not only Einstein, but an entire generation of leading scientists. Over just a few short decades, America was transformed from a scientific backwater, where promising students would need to go abroad to receive advanced education, to a technological superpower.

In 1939, Leo Szilard, another refugee from fascist Europe, who had helped develop the idea of a nuclear chain reaction, went to see Einstein. Szilard alerted him that uranium could be used to make a bomb of unimaginable power. Together with emigres Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller, they drafted a letter to President Roosevelt which initiated the Manhattan project that led to the Allies ultimate victory in World War II.

Lysenko’s Biology

In the 1930s the Soviet Union was plagued by famines brought on by failed collectivization. The most famous of which, Holodomor in Ukraine, killed as many as seven million people. Clearly, something had to change and Stalin called on his favorite scientist, Trofim Lysenko, to figure out a way to increase agricultural production.

The problem was that Lysenko was both a fool and a fraud. He rejected the new science of genetics in favor of a wacky set of theories which collectively became known as Lysenkoism. At the heart of his thinking was that an organism’s environment can affect the germ line, so rather than selectively breeding for desired traits, he would try to “educate” crops by, for example, soaking crops in freezing water to help them grow in the winter.

It was all nonsense, of course. But ideology held sway over the scientific method and real scientists who questioned Lysenkoism faced serious consequences. Thousands of legitimate researchers were dismissed from their jobs and sent to the Gulag. Many were killed for nothing more than speaking the truth.

Stalin’s dedication to Lysenko and his pseudoscience worsened the famines and deepened the suffering of the Soviet people. Later, his ideas would be adopted by Mao Zedong and lead to the Great Chinese Famine. Tens of millions more would die needlessly. All of this happened for no other reason than the desire to defy what the Soviets called “Bourgeois pseudoscience.”

Identity — and the need to signal it — is a powerful thing.

Darwin And The Age Of The Earth

In 2012, Paul Broun, a US Congressman on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, asserted that evolution, embryology and big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” A recent Gallup survey suggests that 40% of Americans still agree with him. Darwin’s theory remains controversial in many quarters.

Just recently, the Texas state Board of Education recently voted to teach creationism along with evolution. West Virginia and Florida also passed laws promoting the teaching of “Intelligent Design,” a pseudoscientific theory that is designed to undermine the theory of natural selection in schools and promote a religious alternative.

These moves have consequences. Darwin’s theory is no abstraction, but a working model that scientists use every day. It is used, for example, to help understand the spread of pandemics and how to fight cancer. Genetic algorithms based on natural selection are used for a variety of complex optimization functions, such as organizing logistics.

Science And Pseudoscience

Today, the truth can seem like nothing more than a preference. We pick a side, form a group identity and set out to prove our worth by supporting the party line. In our quest for status, we try to top those around us, leading to a purity spiral in which everyone competes to see who can be the most true to the cause.

Yet truth is more than opinion. Facts are falsifiable. We can test them. Einstein’s relativity is a wacky theory, but unless we use it to calibrate GPS satellites, they won’t be accurate. Darwin’s theory may conflict with other beliefs, but it can help us cure terrible diseases like Covid and Cancer. These aren’t just ideas, but tools we use to create the modern world.

What we need to be careful about is those who assign identity to specific ideas. Once an idea becomes associated with a particular team, it can be used to manipulate our sense of self. The same basic urges that nearly robbed us of the ideas of Copernicus and Galilieo are no less pervasive today then they were centuries ago.

The telltale sign is leveraging identity to manipulate us, the use of an “us” and “them” to push us in a particular direction of what to believe. For those that are looking to con us, there can never be a “we together,” because that will undermine their narrative of an ideological battle, rather than a search for truth in the service for a greater good.

The need for truth is especially dire today when we have so many pressing problems to solve. We simply can’t afford anything less than an honest search to discover and ascertain facts.

Greg Satell is Co-Founder of ChangeOS, a transformation & change advisory, an international keynote speaker, and bestselling author of Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change. His previous effort, Mapping Innovation, was selected as one of the best business books of 2017. You can learn more about Greg on his website, and follow him on Twitter @DigitalTonto and on LinkedIn.

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Photo by James Lee on Unsplash

Greg Satell

Written by Greg Satell

Co-Founder: ChangeOS | Bestselling Author, Keynote Speaker, Wharton Lecturer, HBR Contributor, – Learn more at www.GregSatell.comFollow


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the Christian and cultural festival. For other uses, see Easter (disambiguation).

Icon of the resurrection depicting Christ having destroyed the gates of Hell and removing Adam and Eve from the grave. Christ is flanked by saints, and Satan, depicted as an old man, is bound and chained.
Observed byChristians
TypeReligious, cultural
SignificanceCelebrates the resurrection of Jesus
CelebrationsChurch services, festive family meals, Easter egg decoration, and gift-giving
ObservancesPrayerall-night vigilsunrise service
DateVariable, determined by the Computus
2023 dateApril 9 (Western)April 16 (Eastern)
2024 dateMarch 31 (Western)May 5 (Eastern)
2025 dateApril 20 (Western)April 20 (Eastern)
2026 dateApril 5 (Western)April 12 (Eastern)
Related toPassoverSeptuagesimaSexagesimaQuinquagesimaShrove TuesdayAsh WednesdayClean MondayLentGreat LentFriday of SorrowsPalm SundayHoly WeekMaundy ThursdayGood Friday, and Holy Saturday which lead up to Easter; and Divine Mercy SundayAscensionPentecostTrinity SundayCorpus Christi, and Feast of the Sacred Heart, which follow it.

Easter,[nb 1] also called Pascha[nb 2] (AramaicGreekLatin) or Resurrection Sunday,[nb 3] is a Christian festival and cultural holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, described in the New Testament as having occurred on the third day of his burial following his crucifixion by the Romans at Calvary c. 30 AD.[10][11] It is the culmination of the Passion of Jesus Christ, preceded by Lent (or Great Lent), a 40-day period of fastingprayer, and penance.

Easter-observing Christians commonly refer to the week before Easter as Holy Week, which in Western Christianity begins on Palm Sunday (marking the entrance of Jesus in Jerusalem), includes Spy Wednesday (on which the betrayal of Jesus is mourned),[12] and contains the days of the Easter Triduum including Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Maundy and Last Supper,[13][14] as well as Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus.[15] In Eastern Christianity, the same events are commemorated with the names of days all starting with “Holy” or “Holy and Great”, and Easter itself might be called “Great and Holy Pascha”. In Western Christianity, Eastertide, or the Easter Season, begins on Easter Sunday and lasts seven weeks, ending with the coming of the 50th day, Pentecost Sunday. In Eastern Christianity, the Paschal season ends with Pentecost as well, but the leave-taking of the Great Feast of Pascha is on the 39th day, the day before the Feast of the Ascension.

Easter and its related holidays are moveable feasts, not falling on a fixed date; its date is computed based on a lunisolar calendar (solar year plus Moon phase) similar to the Hebrew calendar. The First Council of Nicaea (325) established only two rules, namely independence from the Hebrew calendar and worldwide uniformity. No details for the computation were specified; these were worked out in practice, a process that took centuries and generated a number of controversies. It has come to be the first Sunday after the ecclesiastical full moon that occurs on or soonest after 21 March.[16] Even if calculated on the basis of the Gregorian calendar, the date of that full moon sometimes differs from that of the astronomical first full moon after the March equinox.[17]

The English term is derived from the Saxon spring festival Ēostre;[18] Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by its name (Hebrew: פֶּסַח pesachAramaic: פָּסחָא pascha are the basis of the term Pascha), by its origin (according to the synoptic Gospels, both the crucifixion and the resurrection took place during the week of Passover)[19][20] and by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In most European languages, both the Christian Easter and the Jewish Passover are called by the same name; and in the older English versions of the Bible, as well, the term Easter was used to translate Passover.[21]

Easter traditions vary across the Christian world, and include sunrise services or late-night vigils, exclamations and exchanges of Paschal greetingsflowering the cross,[22] the wearing of Easter bonnets by women, clipping the church,[23] and the decoration and the communal breaking of Easter eggs (a symbol of the empty tomb).[24][25][26] The Easter lily, a symbol of the resurrection in Western Christianity,[27][28] traditionally decorates the chancel area of churches on this day and for the rest of Eastertide.[29] Additional customs that have become associated with Easter and are observed by both Christians and some non-Christians include Easter parades, communal dancing (Eastern Europe), the Easter Bunny and egg hunting.[30][31][32][33][34] There are also traditional Easter foods that vary by region and culture.


Main articles: Ēostre and Names of Easter

The modern English term Eastercognate with modern Dutch ooster and German Ostern, developed from an Old English word that usually appears in the form ĒastrunĒastron, or Ēastran; but also as ĒastruĒastro; and Ēastre or Ēostre.[nb 4] Bede provides the only documentary source for the etymology of the word, in his eighth-century The Reckoning of Time. He wrote that Ēosturmōnaþ (Old English for ‘Month of Ēostre’, translated in Bede‘s time as “Paschal month”) was an English month, corresponding to April, which he says “was once called after a goddess of theirs named Ēostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month”.[35]

In Latin and Greek, the Christian celebration was, and still is, called Pascha (Greek: Πάσχα), a word derived from Aramaic פסחא (Paskha), cognate to the Hebrew פֶּסַח‎ (Pesach). The word originally denoted the Jewish festival known in English as Passover, commemorating the Jewish Exodus from slavery in Egypt.[36][37] As early as the 50s of the 1st century, Paul the Apostle, writing from Ephesus to the Christians in Corinth,[38] applied the term to Christ, and it is unlikely that the Ephesian and Corinthian Christians were the first to hear Exodus 12 interpreted as speaking about the death of Jesus, not just about the Jewish Passover ritual.[39] In most languages, the feast is known by names derived from the Greek and Latin Pascha.[7][40] Pascha is also a name by which Jesus himself is remembered in the Orthodox Church, especially in connection with his resurrection and with the season of its celebration.[41] Others call the holiday “Resurrection Sunday” or “Resurrection Day”, after the Greek Ἀνάστασις, Anastasis, ‘Resurrection’ day.[8][9][42][43]

More at:

Morning Meditation


I surrender my mind to God

While my mind can go in a million directions, I pray today that it goes toward love. May wildness in my mind and heart no longer foster chaos. May the peace of God within me bring all chaos to an end. Seeking order in my universe, I eschew at last the intemperate mind. I place my mind in the hands of God. I pray to be released from fear, thatI might know true love.

Dear God,
Please stop the storms within me.
Make peaceful my mind and calm my heart.
Reveal to me the love around me,
That my fear might fall away.

I surrender my mind to God

The Religious Language in Physics

Looking at how we think and how it affects what we find

Leo Greenwood

Leo Greenwood

Published in Pragmatic Wisdom

4 days ago (

a ring of light with filaments cascading outward from its edge
Photo by Dynamic Wang on Unsplash

We Have The Answer

When it comes to the reality of my experience I was, for a long time, speechless. My words couldn’t capture or hold what I felt, so naturally I was extremely interested in the claims of those saying they know what all of this is because I… I don’t really know what it is.

My mother was a scientist and my father was raised very religiously, and each discipline had very bold claims, often contradicting one another. I gave almost all of my time to the study of religions and sciences, even rushing my University work to get back to my real studies. Religion claimed to know the mind of existence and physics claimed/claims to know the body. Then I must know both if I am to know myself!

The more I investigated the more I realised that these two intellectual fascinations were caught up in a war for the world. It was like the Harry Potter prophecy, “Neither can live while the other survives.” I had walked into a battle that had been raging through time with two sides adamant they are distinct from one another and hold the only truth!

What I began to realise, perhaps because I was an outsider, were their similarities, and it looked to be to the detriment of both sides to ignore them. Science, I saw, wasn’t really all that different from religion and it seemed to be down to the narratives.

So there are, the story goes, four fundamental forces.

The Fantastic Four:

  • The Weak Nuclear Force
  • The Strong Nuclear Force
  • The Electromagnetic Force
  • Gravity

These forces act to ‘govern’ the behaviour of particles.

First, I think it’s important to look at the term ‘force’.


I often talk about how the mode of thinking characteristic of Roman Christianity became dominant in Europe and as a result, has deeply influenced the way in which scientists have thought and still think about reality.

The main idea that has transferred over is that of a king, ordering the universe around. God created and so ordered the universe and God gave us life and consciousness by breathing it into the lifeless form of Adam. But during the European ‘Age of Reason’ of the 17th and 18th centuries, God was kicked out of the equation. Unfortunately, it seems they had no alternative equation, they only knew they wanted God out. And so Nietzsche exclaimed,

“God is dead…. And we have killed him.”

With God having “bled to death under our knives” the intellectual world was left with a giant deity-shaped hole in every theory of existence. Even though they rebelled against it in the first place, what eventually happened was that they simply substituted ‘God’ with ‘The Universe’.

No, the Universe isn’t conscious, because God was conscious! No, the Universe doesn’t decide anything because God decided everything!

The definition of the Universe became the personification of anti-God: Inert, cold, unconscious, uncaring machinery.

Yet the minds of men were still not free of the tyranny they were determined to escape. Descriptions of the world were and are still framed as if there was and is such a being, ‘Force’ is one such anachronism.

Force can be defined as,

“coercion or compulsion, especially with the use or threat of violence,”

and this is something that played a key role in the rebellion against God in the first place. The compulsion to act the way He wants you to, or else face the threat and violence of hell for all eternity. The force of life.


By and large, these ‘forces’ are now more commonly called ‘interactions’. But still, we must tread carefully. Just as there is no ethereal ‘force,’ these interactions are merely labels for observed behaviours of matter. They do not ‘govern’ matter, which would be another top-down and authoritarian view of the universe.

In other words, they do not exist independently of the matter they describe. The interactions or forces were not present before matter and then arranged and organised it all according to their will, they are synonymous with matter. There is no way to separate the two, in fact. Just as you are what you do, matter is what it does, and what it does is described by how it interacts.

See, we have to be very careful to re-establish what we mean and how we’re thinking about what it is we’re observing. Because, even if we don’t use the religious lexicon, it’s still very possible that the way we think about life is still chiefly that it is being organised by some factor external to it.

If we do that, we’re going to arrive at the destination this way of thinking demands. What we’re thinking isn’t nearly as important as how we’re organising the information. It makes no difference if you’re on a train or walking, if you follow the tracks you’re going to end up at the same place sooner or later.

The End of The World

So, thinking religiously about life while denying any gods, physics works its mechanical way down the tracks to the very smallest thing it can imagine, the limits of its inquiry, the end of the world.

And what does it find?

A void, where God should be…

The Miracle

“Well, something isn’t right…” says Schrödinger. Humans can make great predictions, astonishing predictions, and yet when we are at the limits of what we can observe in the quantum realm, our equations show us only probability, and no certainty at all.

But that isn’t the worst of it! We get no certainty with our implausibly accurate predictive powers and instead, we get a superpositionIt’s supposed to be both A and B.

Well, the end of the world is quite a strange place it seems, it’s as if, Erwin Schrödinger remarks, a cat could be both alive and dead at the same time. But that’s nonsense, surely… We do not observe both at once, we observe one or the other.

And so it seems that we arrive at a miracle in the bedrock of being, whereby the bedrock itself spontaneously takes form and the world unfolds from this miracle.

That Which Is Fundamental

The anti-deist mechanistic view of life, ultimately, doesn’t fulfil its promise. It cannot tell you what the fundamental unit of life is. It cannot do this because all along it has been operating under the unspoken belief that what is fundamental is in fact external to the object of investigation.

They used to call that externality: God.

Now the gap between the unknown externality and the observation is called: The Measurement Problem.

What happens there, at the end of the world, when irreconcilable probability miraculously transforms into informed certainty? Mechanics cannot and will never be able to tell us, for mechanics has reached the end of its utility where it cannot see beyond mere likelihood.

Perhaps there is something else, something that is neither at the extreme of an external governor nor at the extreme of a lifeless machine. Perhaps there is a middle way.

Perhaps, it is instead that in the moment of self-awareness, reality evokes a universe, out of itself. Perhaps what was deemed external, was instead, you.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Only Love,


Leo Greenwood

Written by Leo Greenwood

·Writer for Pragmatic Wisdom

The Universe thinks about itself in interesting ways from here. Philosopher, author, in love with the miracle of existence.

Imagining a Russia Without Putin

Michael Mcfaul/Substack

Imagining a Russia Without PutinRussian Opposition Leaders Vladimir Kara-Murza and Boris Nemtsov Discuss Corruption At Sochi Olympics, Washington DC, January 30, 2014. (photo: AFP)

29 march 24 (

ALSO SEE: Michael Mcfaul | McFaul’s World (Substack)

Had Boris Nemstov succeeded Yeltsin, Russia’s political trajectory could have been different

Vladimir Putin’s victory in the recent “election” has triggered a debate about Russians and their political preferences once again. Is Putin’s leadership shaping Russian society or is Putin and his polices a reflection of Russian society? This debate gets particularly passionate when discussing who is responsible for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Is it Putin’s war or is it Russia’s war?

Of course, the truth lies somewhere in between extreme positions. Regarding Putin’s popularity, I believe that most Russians support or at least do not actively oppose him. I have to say “believe” because we have no credible data to support this hypothesis. What happened this month in Russia was not a free and fair election. Putin did not allow any competition. When Boris Nadezhdin, the anti-war candidate, started to gain some traction, Russia’s Central Election Commission allegedly found some irregularities in his list of supporters’ signatures and did not allow Nadezhdin on the ballot. None of the other candidates even tried to run alternative campaigns. They were not allowed access to resources – airtime, media, and money – to do so. There were no campaign launchers, discussions, or debates. And of course, Putin’s strongest election competitor — Alexey Navalny — was first poisoned, then jailed, and then killed.

Putin’s alleged final tally – 88% of the vote! – underscored the farcical nature of the whole event. In the old days, Putin tried to make his election victories look competitive. Last week, he didn’t even try.

Public opinion polls in totalitarian dictatorships also reveal little knowledge about actual societal preferences. In a heavily surveilled country where you can go to jail for even uttering the word “war,” there is only one rational response to a call from an unknown poll worker from Moscow asking you if you support Putin and his policies. Yes. We know from previous breakdowns of autocracies that real preferences about dictators are revealed only when it is safe to do. (Read Timur Kuran’s excellent article on this subject here).

Yet, even with all these caveats, I still believe that most Russians – actively and passively – support Putin today. After a quarter century of both covert and overt Putin’s carefully crafted propaganda, encompassing all mainstream media, the education system, pop stars, athletes, etc., active suppression of alternative media, political parties, and leaders – especially after the arrest and murder of Alexei Navalny – and three wars that always produce a rally-around-the-flag effect in societies, we should not be surprised by this support for Putin. Those Russians who support Putin too bear responsibility for the barbaric invasion of Ukraine. It is not just Putin’s war. It’s Russia’s war. Of course, not all Russians are responsible for this war, but not all Russians are free of responsibility for the war. For more of my thinking on this very complicated matter, see my old Substack post, “Are All Russians Guilty for Russia’s War in Ukraine?”

But has it always been this way? Do Russians have a genetic predisposition toward dictatorship at home and imperialism abroad? Is Putin’s presidency the natural and inevitable expression of Russian culture? I don’t think so. First, Russians did practice democracy in the late 1980 and 1990s and at times elected leaders who were pro-democratic and anti-imperial. Second, Putin’s coming to power was an accident. He was not destined to lead Russia. There was not a groundswell of popular support for him when he first came to power. A different path for Russia was possible and, in fact, almost happened.

These what-ifs in history are called counterfactuals. The most persuasive ones only change history just a little bit. In the case of Russia’s history, we have such a tight counterfactual. Imagine if Boris Nemtsov had been elected president in 2000. Russia’s political system would have liberalized and democratized, or at least it would not have become so autocratic. Nemtsov celebrated Ukraine’s democratic breakthroughs in 2004 and 2014 so Nemtsov’s Russia would not have tried to undermine Ukraine’s democracy – not in 2004, not in 2014, and not in 2022.

This counterfactual is not far-fetched. It almost happened. First appointed by Boris Yeltsin as governor of Nizhny Novgorod in 1991, Nemtsov subsequently won the election with 58.7 percent of the vote. Soon after, Yeltsin started grooming Nemtsov as his heir. As a member of parliament elected several times, elected governor, and then as a deputy prime minister of the Russian government, Nemtsov had already demonstrated his electability, appeal, and ability to govern. At the time, he was a much more famous and charismatic political leader than bureaucrat Putin. In 1997, Yeltsin named Nemtsov the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian government – a move that everyone interpreted as a steppingstone for his presidential run in 2000. ??? The 1998 financial crash – an economic meltdown triggered by events in East Asia, not Russia – interrupted the plan. The 1998 financial crash made the economic situation in Russia especially dire, with the nation already suffering from the enormous costs of transforming the command economy into a market system after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. In response, Yeltsin fired his pro-market government, including Nemtsov, and felt compelled to name the communist-backed, hardliner Yevgeny Primakov to become the new First Deputy Prime Minister. Primakov was one of the few candidates the parliament would approve at the time. But the search in the Kremlin then started immediately for a new candidate to challenge Primakov and his allies first in parliamentary elections in 1999 and then in the presidential election in 2000. Eventually, Yeltsin and his inner circle settled on the little-known (but presumably pliant) Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Vladimir Putin to become the new Prime Minister. When Yeltsin abruptly resigned from the presidency on December 31, 1999, Prime Minister Putin automatically succeeded as acting president, allowing him to run in the March 2000 presidential elections with the advantage of incumbency. Putin was appointed by Yeltsin as president first. Then, Russians ratified Yeltsin’s choice, not the other way around.

Had the 1998 global financial crisis not forced Nemtsov’s government to resign, he would have emerged as Yeltsin’s heir apparent in 2000, won that election easily with the backing of Kremlin resources (just as the virtually unknown Putin did instead), and would have pushed Russia’s regime trajectory and foreign policy in a very different direction. And remember, Russia’s economy finally started to grow again in 1999 and then took off in the 2000s. Had that happened on Nemtsov’s watch, he and his ideas would have become even more popular, just as it happened to Putin and his ideas.

Of course, Russian autocratic, nationalist, and imperialist forces would have tried to check Nemtsov’s policy impulses, just as they tried to do so with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. But to assume that they would have won is a speculation, not a fact.

Tragically, it will take years or even decades to unwind the damage done to Russian society after nearly 25 years of Putin’s rule. Maybe it won’t happen at all. But two facts suggest that Russia without Putin can have a different, more democratic, and less imperial future. First, it happened before, which means that it can happen again. Second, pro-democratic, anti-imperial Russians exist. Many if not most of them now live in exile. Those still inside Russia are keeping quiet to avoid prison. They are not the majority. (For a deeper dive on this subject read my “Are Russians Imperialists?” in Demokratizatsiya.) But they exist. They read news from independent media outlets, again with most operating from outside of Russia. They have their leaders, including most prominently, Yulia Navalnaya, but also Vladimir Kara-Murza and Ilya Yashin now in prison, and many others living in exile. And inside Russia, even during Putin’s sham election, they show up in numbers on election day at the “Noon Against Putin” protest, spoiling ballots. As I wrote over the weekend here, Yulia Navalnaya was the real winner of Russia’s 2024 election.

Today, Putin is firmly entrenched in power. Over the last 24 years, he has constructed a very effective autocratic regime, operating on fear and terror. But the day Putin dies or is no longer in power, political competition will begin again in Russia. The forces of Russian dictatorship and imperialism will still be strong then, but their hold on power forever is not preordained. Russian history tells us there is an alternative path. And brave Russians fighting for that different path today should give all of us hope.

Book: “Psychosis, Psychiatry and Psychospiritual Considerations: Engaging and Better Understanding the Madness and Spiritual Emergence Nexus”

From a psychiatric perspective, psychosis is generally viewed as a psychopathological and often incomprehensible mental disorder of biological cause. In his book, Brian Spittles argues that this represents a rather limited view, and that a psychospiritual investigation of psychosis may enable a better understanding of its nature and determinants.  


How Fascism Typically Takes Over a Nation by Rhetoric…

Words. Speeches. News conferences. Rallies. Media. Money. And they all point in one direction: violence in service of the fascist leader.


Fascism doesn’t typically take over countries by military means (WWII’s temporary order notwithstanding); instead, it relies on rhetoric.

Words. Speeches. News conferences. Rallies. Media. Money. And they all point in one direction: violence in service of the fascist leader.

The rhetorical embrace and appreciation of violence is one of the cardinal characteristics of fascism, and a big step was taken this week in a New York City courtroom to push back against the current fascist campaign being waged by Donald Trump against our American form of government.

Noting that Trump’s “statements were threatening, inflammatory, [and] denigrating” Judge Juan Merchan imposed a gag order on the orange fraudster and rapist, forbidding him from further attacks against the court’s staff, the DA’s staff, witnesses, and jurors.

Why? Because all were concerned about becoming the victims of Trump’s fascist army.

Because the judge omitted himself from the list, as its his job to try send bad guys to prison, Trump got slick and attacked the judge’s daughter (who’s also not on the list). Now she’s getting death threats.

This isn’t the first time. Whenever Trump finds himself in trouble, fraud or violence follow, as has already been determined by a court in New York this month and we saw in the pattern of his presidency.

As Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold told Chris Hayes last night about the Trump era since January 6, 2021:

“The threat of violence is part of their new playbook.”

When Trump repeatedly attacked Judge Engoron, who presided over the civil fraud trial that led to his $454 million fine, his fascist fan-boy fans sent envelopes of white powder both to the judge and the prosecutor and phoned in a bomb threat to the judge’s home.

Professor Jennifer Mercieca, author of Demagogue for President: The Rhetorical Genius of Donald Trumpnotes:

“Donald Trump has a history of refusing to follow the rule of law, he incited an insurrection against the peaceful transferal of power, he claims to want to be a ‘dictator’ if he wins power, and he has released plans to install people into government who are loyal to him instead of the Constitution. These are all signs that he plans an autocratic takeover of the United States.”

Analysts of fascism from Umberto Eco to Hannah Arendt to Timothy Snyder and Ruth Ben-Ghiat generally agree on a core set of characteristics of a fascist movement. It includes:

— A romantic idealization of a fictional past (“Make America Great Again”)
— Clear definition of an enemy within that is not quite human but an “other” (“vermin,” “rats,” “animals,” all phrases Trump has used just in past weeks to describe immigrants and employees of our criminal justice system)
— Vilification of the media (“fake news” or lugenpresse)
— Repeated attacks on minorities and immigrants as a rallying point for followers (shared hatred often binds people together)
— Disparagement of elections and the rule of law (because neither favors the fascist movement)
— Glorification of political violence and martyrdom (the January 6th “patriots” and Ashley Babbitt)
— Hostility to academia and science leading to the elevation of Joe Sixpack’s ability to “do his own research” (simple answers to complex questions or issues)
— Embrace of fundamentalist religion and the moral codes associated with it
— Rejection of the rights of women and members of the queer community as part of the celebration of toxic masculinity
— Constant lies, even about seemingly inconsequential matters (Hannah Arendt noted in 1978: “If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer.”)
— Performative patriotism that replaces the true obligations of citizenship (like voting and staying informed) with jingoistic slogans, logos, and mass events: faux populism
— Collaboration with oligarchs while claiming to celebrate the average person

Donald Trump and his MAGA movement check every single box.

So did the American Confederacy and the Democratic Party it seized in the 1860s. And the American fascist movements of the 1920s and 1930s (albeit, they were much smaller). And the white supremacy movement of the mid-20th century, from the KKK to the White Citizens’ Councils (ditto).

This is not our first encounter with fascism, as I detail in The Hidden History of American OligarchyNor will it be our last: fascism has a long history and an enduring appeal for insecure, angry psychopaths who want to seize political power and the great wealth or opportunity that’re usually associated with it.

The good news is that when fascist movements seize entire countries or territories their rule, at least in the last few centuries, tends to be fleeting. The Confederacy lasted only six years and failed in their attempt to take over our entire country; Hitler held power for a mere 12 years; Mussolini 21 years.

The bad news is that when fascist movements do seize absolute power in a nation, they do incredible damage, recovery from which often requires generations. They typically are only dislodged by war, with the loss in that war finally puncturing the bubble of invincibility and the aura of strongman infallibility in which their leaders have wrapped themselves.

Preventing a fascist takeover is not particularly complex, and there are encouraging signs that America is beginning to move in this direction. It involves a few simple steps:

— Recognize and call out the fascists and their movement as fascists

With Trump and his fascist MAGA movement, this is happening with greater and greater frequency. Yesterday, for example, the Financial Times’ highly worldwide-respected columnist Martin Wolf published an article titled Fascism has Changed, but it is Not Dead.

“[W]hat we are now seeing,” Wolf writes, “is not just authoritarianism. It is authoritarianism with fascistic characteristics.” He concludes his op-ed with: “History does not repeat itself. But it rhymes. It is rhyming now. Do not be complacent. It is dangerous to take a ride on fascism.”

For a top columnist in one of the world’s senior financial publications to call a candidate for US president and his movement fascists would have been unthinkable at any other time in modern American history. And it’s happening with greater and greater frequency across all aspects of American media.

— Debunk and ridicule extremism while ostracizing fascists from “polite company”

Increasingly, Trump’s fascist movement and those aligned with it are becoming caricatures of themselves. Book-banners and disruptors of public education are reaching the end of their fad-like existence. Moms for Liberty is a sad joke founded by some of the country’s more bizarre examples of hypocrisy; the former head of the RNC was fired from NBC for her participation in Trump’s fascist attempt to overthrow our government; and CPAC has shriveled into a hardcore rump (pun intended) faction of the conservative movement.  

Political cartoonists lampoon Trump followers as toothless rubes and obese, gun-obsessed men; so many women are rejecting Republicans as dating partners that both sociologists and media have noticed; and the GOP is looking at a possible bloodbath (to use Trump’s favorite term) this November, regardless of how many billions in dark money their billionaires throw into the races. We saw the first indicator of that this week in Alabama.

— Support democratic institutions and politicians who promote democracy

The media landscape of America has become centralized, with a handful of massive and mostly conservative corporations and billionaires owning the majority of our newspapers, radio and TV stations, and online publications.

Nonetheless, there are many great online publications beating the drum for democracy, and many allow subscriptions or donations. My list includes Raw StoryAlternetDaily KosCommon DreamsSalonTalking Points MemoThe New RepublicMother JonesThe NationThe GuardianDemocratic UndergroundJacobinOpEdNewsSlate, and Free Speech TV. In addition, there are dozens of worthwhile publications that share this Substack platform with Hartmann Report: you can find my recommendations here. And I’m live daily on SirusXM Channel 127 (Progress) and on Free Speech TV, as are many of my progressive colleagues. Read, use, listen, share, and support them.

There are also multiple organizations dedicated to promoting democracy and democratic values in America. They range from your local Democratic Party to IndivisibleProgressive Democrats of AmericaMove to AmendMoveOn.orgRoots ActionProgressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC)EMILY’s ListRun for SomethingNextGen AmericaAdvancement ProjectLeague of Women VotersDemocracy InitiativeCommon Cause, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

Other democratic institutions we should be supporting by joining, donating, or participating in their governance include public schools, libraries, city councils, county government groups, etc. When MAGA fascists show up to disrupt these institutions and intimidate their members, we should be there to defend them.

President Biden, speaking last fall at an event honoring John McCain, laid it on the line and challenged all of us:

“As I’ve said before, we’re at an inflection point in our history — one of those moments that only happens once every few generations. Where the decisions we make today will determine the course of this country — and the world — for decades to come.

“So, you, me, and every American who is committed to preserving our democracy carry a special responsibility. We have to stand up for America’s values embodied in our Declaration of Independence because we know MAGA extremists have already proven they won’t. We have to stand up for our Constitution and the institutions of democracy because MAGA extremists have made clear they won’t.

“History is watching. The world is watching. Most important, our children and grandchildren are watching.”

Tag, we’re it!