Author Archives: John Feffer

Will democracies be polarized out of existence?

From the United States and Brazil to Israel and Hungary, liberals approach the widening gap in political perceptions with incredulity while Illiberals see polarization as a political opportunity to destroy democracy.

Every election these days seems more consequential than the last. Continue reading

Will 2022 mark the turning point in the climate crisis?

Carbon emissions continue to rise, but this year the international community might finally be getting serious about climate change.

Over the last six months, the world took a giant step backward in its efforts to address the current climate crisis. In February, after finally reversing its position and pledging to become carbon-neutral by 2060, Russia invaded Ukraine and set off a panic around access to fossil fuels. In March, South Koreans voted out an administration that had put a Green New Deal at the center of its agenda in favor a new president whose idea of a sustainable energy transition was to build more nuclear power plants. Continue reading

Turning people into corporations?!

The market is not the go-to solution to the major problems of our age.

You’ve heard about corporations being treated like people. It’s one of the outrages of the Citizens United decision some years back by the Supreme Court, that corporations have a right to free speech just like individuals and therefore can contribute unlimited money to candidates running for office. Bye-bye, democracy. Continue reading

The weaponization of food

Russia and Ukraine have come to an agreement on food exports. Will the deal hold?

When Russia bombed the port in Odesa last month, it was not an auspicious beginning to the new deal on grain exports. If anyone believed that this agreement between Moscow and Kyiv would have some positive spillover effect on the war grinding on elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian military surely destroyed that wishful thinking. Continue reading

Is universal basic income part of a just transition?

When you give everyone a chunk of change, does it really change their lives and their communities?

In the remote rural village of Dauphin, in the Canadian province of Manitoba, economists tried out an unusual experiment. In the 1970s, they persuaded the provincial government to give cash payments to poorer families to see if a guaranteed basic income could improve their outcomes. During the years of this “Mincome” experiment, families received a basic income of 16,000 Canadian dollars (or a top up to that amount). With 10,000 inhabitants, Dauphin was just big enough to be a good data set but not too big as to bankrupt the government. Continue reading

When the Left is Right…Far Right

How is it possible that so many left voters in France are willing to choose a far-right candidate in the second round of the presidential elections?

In the twentieth century, the left defined itself as anti-fascist. It was against Franco in Spain, Hitler in Germany, and Mussolini in Italy. During the Cold War, progressives opposed far-right dictators like Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. It mobilized against neo-Nazis in Germany, right-wing militias in the United States, and fascist formations elsewhere in the world. Continue reading

South Korea’s new foreign policy of One Yes and Two Nos

The victory of conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol in South Korea's recent presidential election will push the country deeper into the U.S. embrace.

South Koreans are sorting out the implications of the recent presidential elections. Victorious conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol rose to prominence on an anti-corruption agenda and has various plans to shake up the way government functions. He has also pledged to reduce government intervention in the economy, boost incentives for business, increase the role of nuclear energy, and spur the construction of 2.5 million homes. He wants to compensate the population for its COVID losses. He has embraced Korea’s nascent anti-feminist movement. Continue reading

Helsinki 2.0

The European security order has broken down. The conflict around Ukraine is a symptom of this larger problem.

The European security order has broken down. Continue reading

Biden at one

The Biden administration's first year was a major course correction after Trump. But U.S. foreign policy needs transformation, not restoration.

In its first year in office, the Biden administration has done a reasonably good job of reversing the idiocies of its predecessor. It has failed, however, to establish a just, peaceful, and sustainable new U.S. approach to the world. Unlike the first year of Obama’s presidency, which included dramatic speeches on nuclear disarmament and U.S. relations with the Islamic world, Biden has not even gestured rhetorically in the direction of profound change. Continue reading

The end of dissent

Foreign agent laws in Russia, El Salvador, and elsewhere threaten the entire international edifice of laws and institutions that support the right to dissent.

I am a foreign agent. Continue reading

If you think vaccine mandate pushback is bad…

At some point, governments will start using more sticks than carrots to break our deadly dependence on fossil fuels. How will humanity respond?

I’ve only had to show my vaccination card a couple times—to eat in a restaurant in New York City, to see a play in Washington, DC. I was happy to do so. Once inside, I was relieved to be among the vaccinated. Continue reading

America is a poor advertisement for democracy

Congressional paralysis, voter suppression, and widespread political polarization all suggest that American democracy is far from exemplary.

In 988, Prince Vladimir was undecided about which of the three great monotheistic religions to bring to his Russian realm. He sent envoys to the lands of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The envoys returned with stories of the three faiths. Continue reading

Climate change and the limits of economic growth

If economic growth ushered in this era of climate change, how can economic growth also be part of the solution?

Since the nineteenth century, human society has experienced extraordinary but uneven economic growth thanks to the energy unleashed from fossil fuels. That growth, and the greenhouse gasses released from fossil-fuel use, has also created the current climate crisis. The conventional solution put forward to this crisis, a putative compromise between economic and environmental imperatives, has been to maintain economic growth but on the basis of sustainable energy sources. Continue reading

The real meaning of Squid Game

You’ve either seen the Netflix show Squid Game, considered watching the South Korean series before giving it a pass because of its violence, or read about it and wondered what all the fuss is about. You know, therefore, that this global hit is about hundreds of indebted Koreans competing against one another for a huge jackpot. The competitions are children’s games like tug-of-war and marbles. The penalty for losing is death. Continue reading

The handcuffing of Joe Biden

Trump didn’t just tie his successor’s hands. He handcuffed them to the throttle of a runaway train.

The far right would like to impeach Joe Biden, kick him out of the White House, perhaps even throw him in jail. “Lock him up” has been a predictable chant at Trump rallies going back to before the 2020 election. Even Republicans in Congress have joined this chorus. Continue reading

The global right wing’s bizarre obsession with pedophilia

Child molestation is a very real problem. But the far right is far more interested in demonizing women, homosexuals, and the transgender community.

Hungary’s authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán loves a good enemy. He has lashed out against Eurocrats in Brussels. He has cynically demonized immigrants to boost his political standing at home. Continue reading

Avoiding the robot apocalypse

We'd better control machines before they control us.

My wife and I were recently driving in Virginia, amazed yet again that the GPS technology on our phones could guide us through a thicket of highways, around road accidents, and toward our precise destination. The artificial intelligence (AI) behind the soothing voice telling us where to turn has replaced passenger-seat navigators, maps, even traffic updates on the radio. How on earth did we survive before this technology arrived in our lives? We survived, of course, but were quite literally lost some of the time. Continue reading

The politics of American protest, with a North Korean twist

The right wing has attacked Gwen Berry for her Olympic trial protest. A North Korean defector has joined that chorus.

Gwen Berry recently protested the playing of the U.S. national anthem by turning away from the flag and holding up a shirt that read “activist athlete.” The protest took place at the Olympic trials in Oregon where Berry had placed third in the hammer throw competition. Her action immediately drew angry responses from the right-wing side of the political spectrum. Continue reading

Democracy: On the precipice?

If we extrapolate from the current trend lines, democracy will be gone in a couple decades, melted away like the polar ice. But although down, democracy is not out.

Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarussian dictator, snatches a dissident from midair. Military strongman Assimi Goita launches another coup in Mali. Benjamin Netanyahu escalates a military conflict to save his own political skin in Israel. In the United States, the Republican Party launches a full-court press to suppress the vote. Continue reading

They’re not conservatives, they’re extremists

By mislabeling the radical members of the Republican Party "conservative," the mainstream media gives them a veneer of respectability.

The House Freedom Caucus is routinely described as conservative, by its members, by the mainstream media, by Wikipedia. The caucus, which draws together 45 Republican Party members of the House of Representatives, is the furthest to the right of any major political formation in the United States. The most extreme and flamboyant politicians in America, like scandal-plagued Matt Gaetz of Florida and gun-toting Lauren Boebert of Colorado, are proud to call the Caucus their political home. Even Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, after threatening to form an explicitly racist America First caucus, chose ultimately to continue promoting her nativist, QAnon-inspired beliefs from within the Freedom Caucus. Continue reading

Beating back the far right globally

It’s time to resurrect a global anti-fascist consensus to name, shame, and throw these guys out of the game.

After four years of shock, confusion, and paralysis, the United States is finally taking action against the far right. Continue reading

America: The unreliable superpower

The world welcomes Biden but is hedging its bets.

The nightmare is over. The vanquished beast has crawled back to Mar-a-Lago to lick his wounds. The heroes are hard at work repairing the damage. As America returns to the international stage, the world heaves a collective sigh of relief. Continue reading

The fall of Trump

Donald Trump has always been about me, me, me. Now he has no one left to blame.

In classical dramas, tragic figures are driven to their doom by some inexorable flaw in their character. Continue reading

America and the mob

The far-right has come out in support of Trump. After the failed coup attempt of January 6, what’s next?

The United States began as a glint in the eyes of an English mob of oddballs, dissenters, and criminals let loose on what they considered virgin territory. Once secure in their new digs, they administered rough justice to the original Americans and any colonist who fell afoul of community rules. Eventually, casting aside their imperial British overlords, the rabble achieved a measure of respectability by creating an independent state. Continue reading

America’s destructive denialisms

The refusal of tens of millions of Americans to recognize the election results is part of a much larger denialism—of COVID-19, of climate change, and U.S. decline.

The presidential election wasn’t close. Joe Biden won the popular vote by more than 7 million votes, which translates to a margin of 4.5 percent. His Electoral College victory was larger than either of George W. Bush’s. Continue reading

Who needs zombies when we have Republicans?

How else would you describe Americans who deny a pandemic that’s killed 250,000 people and the election that repudiated Trump?

The 2017 film “Bushwick” begins like a lot of zombie flicks. Continue reading

This election is about Trump’s pandemic failures. But what happens next?

It’s going to take more than a change of personnel in Washington to address our decaying climate, public health, and democracy. But it’s not too late.

In 2008, Americans voted for hope and change. In 2016, they voted for fire and fury—and change. In 2020, the vote for change comes from an entirely different quarter. Continue reading

America’s new policy of demoting democracy

Trump has put a stop to democracy promotion. Will democracy put a stop to Trump?

In November 2000, the battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore for the U.S. presidency was deadlocked over the status of a few thousand votes in Florida. Gore had won the popular vote, but the margin of victory in the Electoral College depended on Florida. In that state, Bush held a very slim lead of only 537 ballots. Continue reading

The problem of surplus white men

Dispossessed white men have haunted Western politics for generations. The answer isn’t to jettison 'identity politics'—it’s to create truly meaningful new opportunities.

The problem of America today is the problem of white men.
Continue reading

America’s global reputation isn’t bouncing back anytime soon

Even if Trump loses, his administration may have permanently damaged our standing abroad. But there’s a silver lining: it makes Trumpism an ideological dead-end.

Donald Trump used to care what the world outside America thought of him. Continue reading

Trump’s scorched-earth doctrine

Trump is doing whatever he can to make it impossible for his successor to resolve some of the world’s most intractable problems.

It is a recent tradition among occupants of the White House, as they head out of office, to play a few practical jokes on their successors. The Clinton administration jesters, for instance, removed all the Ws from White House keyboards before handing over the keys to George W. Bush’s transition team. The Obama administration left behind books authored by Barack Obama for Trump’s incoming press team. Continue reading

What will Trump do to the world to win reelection?

Trump shrugged at 150,000 U.S. COVID-19 deaths. Who’s to say he’s above starting a fight with China or Iran?

In 2016, Alan Lichtman departed from conventional wisdom to predict a Donald Trump victory in that year’s presidential election. The political scientist was following something he called the “13 keys to the White House.” Using this relatively straightforward metric, Lichtman had correctly predicted the outcome of presidential elections stretching back to 1984. Continue reading