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I. The Big Picture

The U.S. election was more shaped by historical forces than the vast majority of U.S. citizens realizes, whether they voted for Hillary Clinton or for Donald Trump. The forces behind Donald Trump’s victory in the United States have been building for decades. Indeed, one can discern the outlines of this historic moment in the course of the last two centuries.

As distant from the 2016 presidential election as it may seem, events in the last quarter of the 18th century remain relevant to the present. It was a revolutionary era: American Revolution (1776); French Revolution (1789); Haitian Revolution (1791). Liberal ideas of political self-determination, natural rights and individual liberties were enshrined in republican constitutions. These liberal democratic ideals and emerging capitalist markets awkwardly embraced each other. Their union gave birth to the modern liberal state. The U.S. was the first of these modern republics.

The principle of laissez faire – separation of economy and government – was the core of capitalist politics. With limited government interference in the economy conflicts naturally arose between the new republican societies and the developing commercial and capitalist markets. Human slavery was the most egregious yet not the only clash of interests. As the 19th century unfolded, factories in the western world exploited poor men, women and children. Atmospheric carbon particles from the burning of coal smeared the stone buildings of industrializing urban centers in England and elsewhere. The extraordinary productive capacities and social conflict inherent in industrial capitalism ushered in a new epoch of human history: some scholars call it the anthropocene or ecocene. These designations are fitting for the present historical epoch when human activities have become a powerful global force in the planet’s geological and biological evolution. (more…)


Latte liberal, how’d ya vote? Stop and hear this poet’s note that rings of things both high and low. In corporate markets lies no justice; self-delusion causes carcass. Come thou hither and sit with me!

How doth Don Slobbering Monitor spitting venom at the world nudge out haut monde’s fair lady fixing to be the first femme incomprise to deep-kiss corporate ass from the White House lawn?

O sweet osculum infame for every corporate jefe, and sweeter still while waterboarding en masse the working-class in the frigid waters of austerity! Let us count the ways:

Cuz she’s the devil you know vs. the devil you don’t. The shipwreck sunk at sea vs. another yet to sail. The wicked fait accompli vs. the evil yet to be.

Cuz the Hill-Billy show from Li’l Rock is the ‘riginal neoliberal wrecking-ball that destroyed the Dem’cratic Party and its working-class base. (more…)


As the US prepares for president Trump, anyone who cares about human rights should be alarmed that he has pledged to restore torture as one of his top five priorities.

During the primary season, Republican Party candidate Donald Trump, who is now president-elect of the United States, pledged to bring back waterboarding “and much worse.” Like most other Republican contenders who vied for the 2016 nomination (and eleven of the twelve Republican contenders in the 2012 race), Trump ran on promises to resurrect the torture techniques authorized for use after 9/11. His premise – and that of other pro-torture candidates – was that these techniques “work”, and that the kinds of people subjected to waterboarding and other forms of brutality during interrogation and detention deserve it. They argued that the cancelation of torture by President Obama in 2009 was a mistake.

While the Democratic Party nominee, Hillary Clinton, made no such promises to restore torture, she also gave no indication that, if elected, she would pursue accountability or declassify information necessary to reshape public discourse. Today, a majority of Americans consider torture justifiable because they have been led to believe it works, or that those foreign Muslims subjected to torture deserved it.

Indeed, popular support for torture has become a litmus test for a particular brand of hard-eyed patriotism on the American political landscape. And that brand has prevailed with the election victory of Donald Trump and the reinforcement of Republican control over both houses of Congress. As the reality of a Trump administration starts to set in, we should ponder whether that new reality will include a return to torture. (more…)


President Trump. I am still in a state of shock. But I had better get used to it.

This is not just another US election. In my life I have seen many. Some had results I liked, some not. But this one is entirely different. This is an earthquake that changes the face of the planet.

How did it happen? Why? And why was it so completely unexpected?

It was unexpected because of this pagan worship of the polls.

As I wrote last week, before it happened, these polls remind me of the Roman art of divining the future from the entrails of animals and the more modern art of the astrologers.

As long as I can remember, the polls have always been wrong. From time to time one poll got it right, like a broken clock that is right twice a day. This poll was then feted, until the next time, when it was again wrong like all the others.

This is true in Israel as in the US and elsewhere.

So will the media turn to the polls again in the next election? Sure. They have no choice. The polls provide ratings. They generate suspense. Instead of reporting only dull and repetitive election speeches, they produce excitement. Their ups and downs fill printing and broadcasting spaces.

In short, the polls are created by the media, for the media. They mean nothing. When the real results become known, they are forgotten until the next time, when the polls start again as if nothing has happened. (more…)


The outcome of the strangest and most consequential election cycle in recent American history will soon be upon us. Regardless of who becomes the next president, this election will forever be synonymous with the rogue candidacy of Donald Trump and the demographic shifts that have emboldened the right.

Though it may be a close election, it is widely presumed that public antipathy towards Trump – the first major party candidate who is near-universally opposed by both major parties – will tilt the odds in Hillary Clinton’s favour. Nonetheless, Trump’s support base of primarily white, blue-collar Americans will be a major factor for the political establishment to contend with in the years ahead.

These voters are frustrated by their economic marginalisation wrought by neoliberal trade deals and economic policies and are contemptuous of traditional political elites, their internationalism and liberal identity politics. For these voters, fear of immigration is entwined with the precarity of being working class, their troubling prejudices notwithstanding.

Economic disempowerment and political disenfranchisement have accelerated under President Obama, to the detriment of the American middle class. White, blue-collar Americans have witnessed the offshoring of their jobs and the erosion of their status in society, and Trump has masterfully stroked their resentment and discontent by playing on their fears of Muslims, immigrants and minorities. (more…)


Those with an interest in the origin of altruism have to deal with an unnecessary complicating factor; an intrusion by evolutionary biologists into the discussion, which has had serious negative outcomes.

The ascendancy of gene-centric thinking in evolutionary biology led to the perceived need to analyse altruism in a way that is consistent with the gene-centric world view. That is, with evolution being seen incorrectly as a process of continuous struggle and competition from which the development of selfishness and individuality are allegedly inevitable, the very existence of altruism was a challenge to that view. Two linked definitions were involved in solving the problem of altruism, biological altruism and biological fitness. [1]

Biological fitness is seen as the capacity of an organism to produce adult offspring. Biological altruism is an act which lowers the fitness of the actor while raising the fitness of the recipient. The alleged existence of biological altruism means that we now see the existence of two forms, biological and psychological altruism. The difference between the two is explained here:

This biological notion of altruism is not identical to the everyday concept. In everyday parlance, an action would only be called ‘altruistic’ if it was done with the conscious intention of helping another. But in the biological sense there is no such requirement. Indeed, some of the most interesting examples of biological altruism are found among creatures that are (presumably) not capable of conscious thought at all, e.g. insects. For the biologist, it is the consequences of an action for reproductive fitness that determine whether the action counts as altruistic, not the intentions, if any, with which the action is performed. [2] (more…)


I am writing this (may God forgive me) on Yom Kippur.

Exactly 43 years ago, at this exact moment, the sirens sounded.

We were sitting in the living room, looking out on one of Tel Aviv’s main streets. The city was completely silent. No cars. No traffic of any kind. A few children were riding about on their bicycles, which is allowed on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day. Just like now.

Rachel, my wife, I, and our guest, Professor Hans Kreitler, were in deep conversation. The professor, a renowned psychologist, was living nearby, so he could come on foot.

And then the silence was pierced by a siren. For a moment we thought that it was a mistake, but then it was joined by another and another. We went to the window and saw a commotion. The street, that had been totally empty a few minutes before, began to fill up with vehicles, military and civilian.

And then the radio, which had been silent for Yom Kippur, came on. War had broken out.

A few days ago I was asked if I was prepared to talk on TV about the role of Henry Kissinger in this war. I agreed, but at the last moment the program was canceled, because the station had to devote the time to showing Jews asking God for forgiveness at the Western Wall (alias the Wailing Wall). In these Netanyahu times, God, of course, comes first. (more…)


What happens to a society when thinking is eviscerated and is disdained in favor of raw emotion? [1] What happens when political discourse functions as a bunker rather than a bridge? What happens when the spheres of morality and spirituality give way to the naked instrumentalism of a savage market rationality? What happens when time becomes a burden for most people and surviving becomes more crucial than trying to lead a life with dignity? What happens when domestic terrorism, disposability, and social death become the new signposts and defining features of a society? What happens to a social order ruled by an “economics of contempt” that blames the poor for their condition and wallows in a culture of shaming? [2] What happens when loneliness and isolation become the preferred modes of sociality? What happens to a polity when it retreats into private silos and is no longer able to connect personal suffering with larger social issues? What happens to thinking when a society is addicted to speed and over-stimulation? What happens to a country when the presiding principles of a society are violence and ignorance? What happens is that democracy withers not just as an ideal but also as a reality, and individual and social agency become weaponized as part of the larger spectacle and matrix of violence? [3]

The forces normalizing and contributing to such violence are too expansive to cite, but surely they would include: the absurdity of celebrity culture; the blight of rampant consumerism; state-legitimated pedagogies of repression that kill the imagination of students; a culture of immediacy in which accelerated time leaves no room for reflection; the reduction of education to training; the transformation of mainstream media into a mix of advertisements, propaganda, and entertainment; the emergence of an economic system which argues that only the market can provide remedies for the endless problems it produces, extending from massive poverty and unemployment to decaying schools and a war on poor minority youth; the expanding use of state secrecy and the fear-producing surveillance state; and a Hollywood fluff machine that rarely relies on anything but an endless spectacle of mind-numbing violence. Historical memory has been reduced to the likes of a Disney theme park and a culture of instant gratification has a lock on producing new levels of social amnesia. (more…)


Former Israeli Prime Minister and President, Shimon Peres, was a very successful brand. He was presented to the world as stately, wise, a relentless advocate of peace, and a sane voice amidst a conflict deemed senseless and unending.

Now that he is dead at 93, international media are rife with touching tributes and heartwarming eulogies of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, one of Israel’s most sagacious ‘founding fathers’, who was also seen as a ‘giant among men‘.

These attributes were mostly based on sentiment rather than fact, however, full knowledge of the man’s legacy certainly lingers among many Palestinians, Lebanese and advocates of peace and justice in the Middle East.

The truth is, Peres was never truly a peacemaker – he never labored to achieve fair and just political compromises that would preserve the dignity and rights of the Palestinians, along with securing the future of his people. In fact, he was a maximalist, a man who blatantly shoved his ideas forward in order to achieve his goals, no matter what the method or the price. (more…)


The network WatchTheMed Alarm Phone responds to violent ‘border protection’ practices and the unabated mass dying in maritime spaces around Europe, and offers travellers alternative ways to make their distress heard, in real-time.

Activists from the network WatchTheMed Alarm Phone created a ‘hotline’ for people in distress at sea in 2014 and have since engaged with tens of thousands in emergency situations in the Mediterranean. Advocating freedom of movement for all, the activists understand their maritime intervention as a challenge to Europe’s exclusionary border regime and its production of Mediterranean ‘death zones’. In solidarity with unruly human mobilities, the phone-line seeks to foster new modalities of collective political struggle in unlikely spaces.

A boat leaves the Turkish shore, in deep darkness. It is on Saturday June 11, 2016, a few hours past midnight, that fifty-three people, including fourteen children, risk their lives at sea. They hope to reach the Greek island of Chios and, thereby, Europe.

The fifty-three have come a long way. They fled from Syria, Eritrea, Iraq and elsewhere, only to find that Europe does not want them, that Turkey is supposed to be the final stage of their journey, or even the place of their forcible return, back to war, fear, poverty. (more…)