Category Archives: Politics

An anthropologist reminds us why Trump rose & how populism will survive his crash

Summary: Now that Trump has self-destructed and the inevitable landslide (which I predicted in August) looms, the Left believes it can forget the forces that brought Trump close to victory. FAILure to learn is our national affliction. Anthropologist Maximilian Forte reminds us why Trump arose from nothing and why populism might survive Trump’s crash.

Tiago Hoisel: surreal image

Tiago Hoisel: surreal image.

Terminal Condition: Neoliberal Globalization

By Maximilian C. Forte from Zero Anthropology, 13 March 2016.
Reposted with his generous permission.

After decades of protests and riots against neoliberal structural adjustment; after anti-globalization mass movements flourished across North America and Europe; after a large portion of Latin America and the Caribbean elected socialist governments; after waves of anti-Western cultural and religious revitalization movements (some violent, some not) have spread from Indonesia to Europe; after nationalist and nativist movements have achieved unprecedented political prominence in Europe since the 1930s; and, with entire libraries of research produced to show all of the illogic and injustices of corporate globalization which make sense only as the orchestration of the most massive transfer and concentration of wealth in history – after all of this, it would have been surprising if we were not yet in a position to speak of the impending death of neoliberalism.

The neoliberal elites know this, and they are seized by an absolute panic as they see the fundamental tenets of neoliberalism come under mass, electoral repudiation in the heart of the international capitalist system, the US itself. Discussion of the collapse of the neoliberal imperial disorder is therefore far from premature; it is overdue.

Nobody should have believed that the end of neoliberalism would be smooth, peaceful, harmonious or pleasant. There is absolutely nothing to say that movements that are politically right-wing cannot be the ones to bring an end to this order. Once we put these two forms of wishful thinking aside, that is, that there will be a peaceful transition and it will be led by “progressives,” we can be better prepared to grasp current realities.

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Hidden but important truths from the presidential debate

Summary: The last debate was mostly chaff, like the campaign mostly entertaining demonstrations of the obvious. But there were moments revealing deep truths about our government and us. They were, of course, ignored. Here is the story of one such moment, a statement by Hillary Clinton that is rich with useful insights — if we dig into it.

“Fire destroys all sophistry, that is deceit; and maintains truth alone, that is gold.”
— Leonardo da Vinci, from his Notebooks. A bad solution for political structures built on lies.


More essential insights from Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept: “In the Democratic Echo Chamber, Inconvenient Truths Are Recast as Putin Plots”…

“Donald Trump, for reasons I’ve repeatedly pointed out, is an extremist, despicable, and dangerous candidate, and his almost-certain humiliating defeat is less than a month away. So I realize there is little appetite in certain circles for critiques of any of the tawdry and sometimes fraudulent journalistic claims and tactics being deployed to further that goal. In the face of an abusive, misogynistic, bigoted, scary, lawless authoritarian, what’s a little journalistic fraud or constant fearmongering about subversive Kremlin agents between friends if it helps to stop him?

“But come January, Democrats will continue to be the dominant political faction in the U.S. — more so than ever — and the tactics they are now embracing will endure past the election, making them worthy of scrutiny. Those tactics now most prominently include dismissing away any facts or documents that reflect negatively on their leaders as fake, and strongly insinuating that anyone who questions or opposes those leaders is a stooge or agent of the Kremlin, tasked with a subversive and dangerously un-American mission on behalf of hostile actors in Moscow.

“To see how extreme and damaging this behavior has become, let’s just quickly examine two utterly false claims that Democrats over the past four days — led by party-loyal journalists — have disseminated and induced thousands of people, if not more, to believe. …”

Both are straightforward lies by Team Hillary about the Wikileak emails of John Podesta, propagated by good liberals and her loyal journalists — allowing them to ignore the emails’ damaging content. His conclusion is spot-on.

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A leaked memo about climate change explains why we’re unprepared

Summary: A leaked memo from the highest levels of the Democratic Party leadership discuss how to build public support for large-scale climate policy initiatives. It shows why their efforts failed, and raises questions about the coming Hillary Clinton administration.

“We don’t even plan for the past.”
— Steven Mosher (member of Berkeley Earth; bio here), a comment posted at Climate Etc.

Climate Change Drama

Memorandum: “Climate: A unifying theory to the case“,
Emailed from John Podesta to Chris Lehane, 28 January 2014.

This memo was emailed to Podesta (a senior White House official) from Lehane (partner in the strategic communications firm Fabiani & Lehane, dissolved in Nov 2015). We have it courtesy of Wikileaks — and whoever leaked it to them.

John Podesta was Chief of staff to Bill Clinton and Counselor to the President for Obama. He is Chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Chris Lehane – When an attorney in the White House Counsel’s office, he and his current business partner Mark Fabiani called themselves the “Masters of Disaster” for their work as a “rapid-response” team responding to the many scandals of the Clinton Administration. Lehane co-authored a book on damage control titled Masters of Disaster: The Ten Commandments of Damage Control. Jim Jordan, Kerry’s former campaign manager, called him ”a master of the political hand-to-hand” for his work as a political strategist.


“Thank you for asking us to share some ideas for a holistic approach to climate. Per your direction, the goal is to unify policy, politics, and communications to help the Administration best execute an informed plan over a multi-year time period. …this document is intended to provide some food for thought as the Administration refines its thinking on climate. …{it} addresses the four components that the Administration may want to consider as it seeks to lead on this issue.

  1. Three-Year Framework. …
  2. Right v. Wrong. Make the case that climate must be approached as a challenge of historical social change where progress will depend in part on successfully casting the issue in moral terms of who is right and who is wrong …
  3. The Big Idea. …{It} could drive an Administration-wide approach to climate for the next three years. …
  4. 2014 Action Plan. …

“To achieve victory, we must treat climate change as an issue of historic importance that is worthy of a true political social movement to create change. This political social movement must be founded on moral principles with stark definitions of who is right and who is wrong, and it is important to outline the historically negative, irreversible implications if we were to not succeed.

“By pursuing this as a political social movement, President Obama and his Administration will best be able to assure that his legacy includes his unprecedented leadership on climate that initiated the shifting of the country’s political tectonic plates to enable transformative climate change policy, before it was too late.

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Jonathan Swift explains the latest presidential debate

Summary: Rather than I add to the countless and pointless commentaries on the debate, here is a note from Jonathan Swift, one of the greatest political observers the West has ever produced. The politics of early 18th century Britain were much like ours. He describes our process for electing presidents — which produced our two weak candidates — better than anything I have seen in Campaign 2016.


Across the gulf of three centuries, Jonathan Swift’s insights still provide us with a clear perspective on America.  His observations, cloaked in metaphor, can help us understand the mess we have made of our elections.  This is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Gulliver’s Travels, A Voyage to Lilliput. Here Gulliver learns how they choose the King’s officers and advisers.

Is it so different than the 18+ month ordeal to which we subject our candidates for the presidency? Is the obstacle course we require any more rational?


“The Lilliputians, being of a civilization less advanced than our own, accept this bizarre selection method as normal.  This is their way, justified by tradition and that it has not utterly failed (yet).

“I was diverted with none so much as that of the Rope-Dancers, performed upon a slender white Thread, extended about two Foot and twelve Inches from the Ground. Upon which I shall desire liberty, with the Reader’s Patience, to enlarge a little. This Diversion is only practiced by those Persons who are Candidates for great Employments and high Favour, at Court. They are trained in this Art from their Youth, and are not always of noble Birth, or liberal Education.

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The moral panic over Trump’s lewd remarks reveals much about us.

Summary: Here is another chapter exploring the oddity of our Anything But Issues presidential campaign. The re-release of Trump’s lewd remarks from 2005 ignited a moral panic (a too common event in modern America). This episode is rich with sad lessons for us. Here are a few of them.

Things that don’t matter in Campaign 2016 as they should.Campaign issues


  1. Avoiding the issues.
  2. The Zucker incident.
  3. About moral panics.
  4. About hypocrisy.
  5. Conclusions.
  6. Posts in this series.
  7. For More Information.

(1) Circus 2016: an Anything But Issues Election.

Important issues powered Trump’s campaign, until they were buried by his theatrics and bombast. Hillary Clinton’s brilliant response will go in the history books: smear Trump, all the time, in every way, true or false (see a list in section 5).

It’s a brilliant strategy. Worries about globalization, massive immigration, foreign wars, Wall Street, aspirations for national greatness — all of these favor Trump. Her platform is less popular: Goldman, aggressive social engineering, and a belligerent foreign policy. She is wise to shift the debate away from issues to Trump’s legion of personal failings. We are fools to allow her to do so.

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