Bulletin N° 375



13 November 2008
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
One man more than anyone else is responsible for the election of Barack Obama, opined Mumia Abu-Jamal from Death Row Radio : This man is George W. Bush.

Dialectical reason is a spiral, wrote Sartre in the 1960s. Le plus c'est la même chose, le plus ça change! --to revive and revise an old adage-- is like turning a screw into wood, the circular movement yields a deeper and deeper penetration into the practico-inert, always returning to the same position but at another level. In contrast with analytical reason, which focuses on selected moments to understand its object using concepts from the outside, dialectical reason seeks to understand the dynamics of change, by focusing on regressive and progressive movements from inside. In his later writings, Sartre revised the concepts of man-for-himself and man-in-himself by substituting for these earlier concepts the dialectical notions of praxis and process. The application of dialectics remained the human activity of : totalizing -- detotalizing -- retotalizing (which he describes as "conquests," and not "assassinations" as Hegel believed), and by praxis Sartre refered to the free, universal creative and self-creative activity through which man creates (produces) and changes (shapes) his historical, human world and himself. (One noteworthy example of dialectical praxis is president-elect Obama's selection of Zionist militant, Rahm Israel Emanuel, as his White House chief-of- staff.) Process, on the other hand, is defined as any series of events forming a recognizable pattern that recurs often enough that one may observe a logical progression toward some predictable goal or outcome. In this second dialectical movement, man is seen as a passive instrument constituted by the orientated action of a multiplicity of individuals. (An example of this dialectical process is the relationship cited above between George W. Bush and Barrack Obama).

We live in a world where analytic reason enjoys great prestige and is widely practiced. It is a thought process which freezes human understanding into a stationary object, forming a static idea by imposing concepts from outside events. The effect of this activity is further alienation of people from the complexity of the real material world. By objectifying thinking, by altering apprehensions of reality, by reifying ideas, and by ignoring reflexivity; analytical thought effectively removes one from the possibility of understanding real events and instead aims at creating conditions for knowing an ideal material world. (The Bush administration's misapprehension of war with Iraq is one example of this analytic distortion of material reality.) Sartre spent the last part of his life trying to synthesize the elements of dialectical reason and analytical reason, to show the dialectical origins of structuralism and the inherent traces of dialectical thought in analytical thinking. His was an effort, according to R.D. Laing and David Cooper, to examine the possibility of "totalizing totalizations" and thereby advance our knowledge of human history by executing "one of the greatest syncretic revolutions in human thought."  To accomplish this a new method of inquiry needed to be invented which incorporated both analytical and dialectical reason (see Search for a Method).

In military science, like in politics, morale is more important than technology. This is a lesson from modern warfare: to demoralize the enemy and to maintain ones own morale is a fundamental aspect of military victory. However, the larger realm of culture is not identical to military science. Much can be learned from analogies with the science of warfare, both positive and negative. In real-life politics, victories often turn rapidly sour and defeats can be life-saving. Today, thanks to advanced technology, modern warfare is generally recognized as being suicidal, if not downright apocalyptic.

"Of Human Bondage" : the structural constraints on our new President-elect

Barack Hussein Obama

Gender: Male.
Born: Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Height: 6 1 (1.87m).
Family: Married wife Michelle in 1992, 2 daughters Malia (born 1998) and Sasha (born 2001).
Parents: Barack Obama, Sr. (from Nyanza Province, Kenya) and Ann Dunham (from Wichita, Kansas); divorced.

Father: Barack Obama, Sr., was born of Luo ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya.
Mr. Obama, Sr. grew up herding goats with his own father, who was a domestic servant to the British.
He won a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya to pursue his dreams in Hawaii.
At the time of Junior's birth, his parents were students at the East–West Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Mother: Ann Dunham, grew up in Wichita, Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs during the Depression.
Ms. Dunham’s mother went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, both parents studied on the
G. I. Bill, bought a house through the Federal Housing Program, and moved to Hawaii. 

Early Family Life: Obama’s parents separated when he was two years old and later divorced. Obama’s father went to Harvard
to pursue Ph. D. studies and then returned to Kenya. Ms. Obama married Lolo Soetoro, another East–West Center student
from Indonesia. In 1967, the family moved to Jakarta, where Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro–Ng was born. Obama attended
schools in Jakarta, where classes were taught in the Indonesian language. Four years later when Barack was ten, he returned
to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham, and later his mother (who died of ovarian cancer in 1995).

Present Status:
Religion: Church of Christ.
Employment: U.S. Senator from Illinois.
Career status: Junior Seat, President-elect.
Office Seeking: Second term as U.S. President
Party: Democratic

The following 3 items are critiques of the tactics and strategy of Barack Obama, the candidate and the president-elect :


                                                        Nader                   Obama           McCain
1. Adopt single payer national health insurance
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
2. Cut the huge, bloated, wasteful military budget
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
3. No to nuclear power, solar energy first
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
4. Aggressive crackdown on corporate crime
   and corporate welfare
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
5. Open up the Presidential debates
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
6. Adopt a carbon pollution tax
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
7. Reverse U.S. policy in the Middle East
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
8. Impeach Bush/Cheney
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
9. Repeal the Taft-Hartley anti-union law
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
10. Adopt a Wall Street securities speculation tax
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
11. Put an end to ballot access obstructionism
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
12. Work to end corporate personhood
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
13. Defend, Restore and Strengthen
the Civil Justice System

                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table
14. Adopt the National Initiative
                                                        On the table
                                                                                Off the table
                                                                                                        Off the table


An Open Letter from Ralph Nader

November 3, 2008

Dear Senator Obama:

   In your nearly two-year presidential campaign, the words "hope and change," "change and hope" have been your trademark declarations. Yet there is an asymmetry between those objectives and your political character that succumbs to contrary centers of power that want not "hope and change" but the continuation of the power-entrenched status quo.

   Far more than Senator McCain, you have received enormous, unprecedented contributions from corporate interests, Wall Street interests and, most interestingly, big corporate law firm attorneys. Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart. Why, apart from your unconditional vote for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, are these large corporate interests investing so much in Senator Obama? Could it be that in your state Senate
record, your U.S. Senate record and your presidential campaign record (favoring nuclear power, coal plants, offshore oil drilling, corporate subsidies including the 1872 Mining Act and avoiding any comprehensive program to crack down on the corporate crime wave and the bloated, wasteful military budget, for example) you have shown that you are their man?

   To advance change and hope, the presidential persona requires character, courage, integrity­not expediency, accommodation and short-range opportunism. Take, for example, your transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights in Chicago before your run for the U.S. Senate to an acolyte, a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby, which bolsters the militaristic oppression, occupation, blockage, colonization and land-water seizures over the years of the Palestinian peoples and their
shrunken territories in the West Bank and Gaza. Eric Alterman summarized numerous polls in a December 2007 issue of The Nation magazine showing that AIPAC policies are opposed by a majority of Jewish-Americans.

   You know quite well that only when the U.S. Government supports the Israeli and Palestinian peace movements, that years ago worked out a detailed two-state solution (which is supported by a majority of Israelis and Palestinians), will there be a chance for a peaceful resolution of this 60-year plus conflict. Yet you align yourself with the hard-liners, so much so that in your infamous, demeaning speech to the AIPAC convention right after you gained the nomination of the Democratic Party, you supported
an "undivided Jerusalem," and opposed negotiations with Hamas­the elected government in Gaza. Once again, you ignored the will of the Israeli people who, in a March 1, 2008 poll by the respected newspaper Haaretz, showed that 64% of Israelis favored "direct negotiations with Hamas." Siding with the AIPAC hard-liners is what one of the many leading Palestinians advocating dialogue and peace with the Israeli people was describing when he wrote "Anti-semitism today is the persecution of Palestinian society by the Israeli state."

   During your visit to Israel this summer, you scheduled a mere 45 minutes of your time for Palestinians with no news conference,  and no visit to Palestinian refugee camps that would have focused the media on the brutalization of the Palestinians. Your  trip supported the illegal, cruel blockade of Gaza in defiance  of international law and the United Nations charter. You focused  on southern Israeli casualties which during the past year have totaled one civilian casualty to every 400 Palestinian  casualties on the Gaza side. Instead of a statesmanship that  decried all violence and its replacement with acceptance of the Arab League’s 2002 proposal to permit a viable Palestinian state within the 1967 borders in return for full economic and diplomatic relations between Arab countries and Israel, you played the role of a cheap politician, leaving the area and Palestinians with the feeling of much shock and little awe.

   David Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, described your trip succinctly: "There was almost a willful display of indifference to the fact that there are two narratives here. This could serve him well as a candidate, but not as a President."

   Palestinian American commentator, Ali Abunimah, noted that Obama  did not utter a single criticism of Israel, "of its relentless settlement and wall construction, of the closures that make life unlivable for millions of Palestinians. …Even the Bush administration recently criticized Israeli’s use of cluster bombs against Lebanese civilians [see www.atfl.org for elaboration]. But Obama defended Israeli’s assault on Lebanon as an exercise of its `legitimate right to defend itself.’"

   In numerous columns Gideon Levy, writing in Haaretz, strongly criticized the Israeli government’s assault on civilians in Gaza, including attacks on "the heart of a crowded refugee camp… with horrible bloodshed" in early 2008.

   Israeli writer and peace advocate­Uri Avnery­described Obama’s  appearance before AIPAC as one that "broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning, adding that Obama "is prepared to sacrifice the most basic American interests. After all, the US has a vital interest in achieving an Israeli-Palestinian peace that will allow it to find ways to the hearts of the Arab masses from Iraq to Morocco. Obama has harmed his image in the Muslim world and mortgaged his future­if and when he is elected president.," he said, adding, "Of one thing I am certain:   Obama’s declarations at the AIPAC conference are very, very bad for peace. And what is bad for peace is bad for Israel, bad for   the world and bad for the Palestinian people."

   A further illustration of your deficiency of character is the way you turned your back on the Muslim-Americans in this country. You refused to send surrogates to speak to voters at their events. Having visited numerous churches and synagogues, you refused to visit a single Mosque in America. Even George W. Bush visited the Grand Mosque in Washington D.C. after 9/11 to express proper sentiments of tolerance before a frightened major religious group of innocents.

   Although the New York Times published a major article on June 24, 2008 titled "Muslim Voters Detect a Snub from Obama" (by Andrea Elliott), citing examples of your aversion to these Americans who come from all walks of life, who serve in the armed forces and who work to live the American dream. Three days earlier the International Herald Tribune published an article by Roger Cohen titled "Why Obama Should Visit a Mosque." None of these comments and reports change your political bigotry against
Muslim-Americans­even though your father was a Muslim from Kenya.

   Perhaps nothing illustrated your utter lack of political courage or even the mildest version of this trait than your surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy  Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention. This is a tradition for former presidents and one accorded in prime time to Bill Clinton this year.

   Here was a President who negotiated peace between Israel and Egypt, but his recent book pressing the dominant Israeli superpower to avoid Apartheid of the Palestinians and make peace was all that it took to sideline him. Instead of an important address to the nation by Jimmy Carter on this critical  international problem, he was relegated to a stroll across the stage to "tumultuous applause," following a showing of a film about the Carter Center’s post-Katrina work. Shame on you, Barack Obama!.  But then your shameful behavior has extended to many other areas of American life. (See the factual analysis by my running mate, Matt Gonzalez, on www.votenader.org). You have turned your back on the 100-million poor Americans composed of poor whites, African-Americans, and Latinos. You always mention helping the "middle class" but you omit, repeatedly, mention of the "poor" in America.

   Should you be elected President, it must be more than an unprecedented upward career move following a brilliantly unprincipled campaign that spoke "change" yet demonstrated actual obeisance to the concentration power of the "corporate supremacists." It must be about shifting the power from the few to the many. It must be a White House presided over by a black man who does not turn his back on the downtrodden here and abroad but challenges the forces of greed, dictatorial control
of labor, consumers and taxpayers, and the militarization of foreign policy. It must be a White House that is transforming of American politics­opening it up to the public funding of elections (through voluntary approaches)­and allowing smaller candidates to have a chance to be heard on debates and in the fullness of their now restricted civil liberties. Call it a competitive democracy.

   Your presidential campaign again and again has demonstrated cowardly stands. "Hope" some say "springs eternal." But not when "reality" consumes it daily.

   Ralph Nader


Alexander Cockburn's post-election interview with Ralph Nader
(Talking to Nader about the Campaign, on November 5)

November 8, 2008

AC: In 2000,you drew nearly 10,000 people to a speech in Portland, Oregon. This year you got barely 2,000 in in the whole of Multnomah County where Portland lies, perhaps the most progressive county in the nation. Is this a sign of the withering of the progressive left or the dead end of independent political campaigns?

Nader: It’s a sign of the swoon in the voting booth by people who told pollsters that they were going to vote for me at a level of 4 to 7 million; that is, 6 per cent nationally in the summer and 3 per cent the day before the election, according to CNN. In Washington DC district Obama got 94 per cent. I said to people, how many years have you known me? And they answered, it’s a historic occasion. I wanted to be part of history. The real issue in this campaign is the voters. These are people who knew all about Obama’s flipflops, his support for offshore drilling, for FISA, his role as the number one corporate candidate.

When you in prison and you’re told you can’t get out and to chose between TB and cancer you’ll chose. It’s beyond politics, it’s psychology. This is what happens when we’re trapped in the winner take all closed system, watching tv.

The pattern is: Progressive politics for three years, and in the fourth year it renews itself with heavy doses of regressive politics and charges forward again.

I thought we’d get two to three million votes. We had a huge internet presence.

AC: How many votes did you get? This year and in the last two campaigns?

Nader: Probably 700,000. In 2000 it was 2.8 million. In 2004, 450,000. But those figures don’t tell the story. In New York this time for example it was almost impossible to find me on the ballot.

AC What about you calling him an Uncle Tom on Fox?

Nader: On Fox I said that as the first African American president we wish him well. The question is, will he be Uncle Sam for the people or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations which are driving America into the ground. Fox cut it off after “corporations.”

He is less vulnerable to criticism and harder to criticize because of his race. When I said he was talking White Man’s talk, the PC people got really upset.

It doesn’t matter that he sides with destruction of the Palestinians, and sides with the embargo. It doesn’t matter that he turns his back on 100 million people and won’t even campaign in minority areas. It doesn’t matter than he wants a bigger military budget, and an imperial foreign policy supporting various adventures of the Bush administration. It doesn’t matter that he’s for the death penalty ,which is targeted at minorities. But if you say one thing that isn’t PC, you get their attention. I tell college audiences, a gender, racial or ethnic slur gets you upset, reality doesn’t get you upset.

Can Obama speak truth to the white power structure? There’s every indication he doesn’t want to. For example, in February he stiffed the State of the Black Union annual meeting in New Orleans. He’s a very accommodating personality.

AC: Ralph, Why do you think Ron Paul was able to excite younger voters and you weren’t?

Nader: Ron Paul? There’s the novelty aspect. It was his first try. He hasn’t been losing. He gets the hard core people focused on the gold standard, and abolishing the federal reserve. The “Get government off our back”, rock-ribbed Goldwater people. He says the things mainstream Republicans can’t.

AC: Are the Republicans down for the count for a while?

Nader: Any time there’s a terrorist attack they’re back in business. Enough people will soon forget what Bush and Co actually did. At the moment conservatives have been subjected to Obama’s shock and awe, but they still have all these social issues. As a candidate Obama dodged the Gay Marriage Ban ballot, but they’ll throw the social issues at him. The Republican inventory is intact: “tax and spend”, “over regulation”, plus all these social issues.

AC Does Palin have a future?

Nader: No.

AC: How about the liberals and the left now?

Nader: The real crisis is the self-destruction of the liberal progressive community. It’s got nowhere to go, other than to renew its three out of four year cycle of criticism of the Democrats. They’ve nowhere to go because they’ve made no demands. He’s been a candid right-center Democrat and they’ve given him a free ride. No demands. From Labor? No demands. He gave them a sop on the card check. He campaigned for two years, promised blacks nothing, Latinos nothing, women’s groups nothing, labor nothing. Contrast the lack of demands on the liberal progressive side to what the Limbaugh crowd exacted from McCain.

AC: You think Michael Moore could have made some demands in return for his support?

Nader: Moore knows where his bread is buttered. He’s seen what the Hollywood set and the others did to me.

AC: How do you see the next phase playing out?

Nader: Obama faces three crises: wars overseas, economic collapse and the deficit. They can’t use fiscal policy very much, so he’s going to be strapped by things like Medicare.

He’s got along on general rhetoric, but now each decision will shake some section of the liberal constituency.

They need to launch a comprehensive program dealing with poverty, low income housing, corruption and extortion in the ghettos, and doubling the minimum wage to compensate for inflation.

They need to address the right of labor to form trade unions without coming up against the steel wall of Taft Hartley

Health insurance? He’ll extend tax supports which will give the insurance companies more business. He should deal with drug prices, but that’s a battle he won’t undertake.

How’s he going to deal with the auto companies which are in deep trouble? Take the proposed GM-Chrysler merger which makes no sense and will mean lay-offs for 90,000 workers. If people don’t want the cars then the sacrifices and subsidies are to no avail.
The only way this guy can ever get his head above water is if he is courageous. What he’s basically doing so far is giving the Clinton crowd a second chance. Rahm Emanuel? He’s the worst of Clinton. Spokesman for Wall Street, Israel, globalization.

Second: demilitarize foreign policy, establishing the international stability that flows from our becoming a respectful but energetic humanitarian superpower, confronting world issues like drinking water and infectious diseases.

He has to reverse course on Afghanistan. As Ashraf Ghani former finance minister for Karzai has said, the approach to Afghanistan should be the need for justice, the fundamental basis of all public order.

Third, he’s got to develop economic policy for the greatest good for the greatest number. Public works, not bailout. Put money where it matters.

He’s got to say to the rich and powerful, you have to give up your greed. It should be a two-track presidency, dealing with issues day to day, and strengthening the fiber of democratic society. That’s partly a matter of shareholder authority, worker-owned pension funds, which is a third of Wall Street. If every such fund was given the authority to control what they own, it would be over. Look at all institutional shareholders in Fannies. Their holdings are worth one per cent of what they were and these were the second safest investments after Treasuries! Believe in first principles: what you own, you control. If you screw up you’re free to sink ­ the first and second principles of capitalism.
I’m going to write Obama a letter in the next month saying, what you have to do is a pre-State of the union where you lay out exactly where the Bush Administration has left America, in category after category, so you will not be hung with it. In the pre-state of the union, Obama should say, This is the mess I’ve inherited.

Second, Obama has to cut the sequence of war crimes and high crimes and misdemeanors. If not, he’ll become a war criminal himself within a month. Shut down Guantanamo with strict directives, no torture. If he continue his policies, then he’ll become a war criminal. If you going to restore the rule of law, you have got to draw the line between what you’re going to do and what you refuse to inherit. Then it’s a real fresh start.

Obama’s a guy who’s got away with a ten minute speech for two years. He won too easily. He didn’t have to respond to the liberal constituencies. He’s really had it very easy, because he had an easy act to challenge and an easy act to follow

AC: How do you feel about your run?

Nader: I’m happy I ran, because the alternative is total surrender. I carried the banner to 50 states. I surprised myself. Look at the abolitionist Liberty Party in the mid-19th century. It didn’t get a tenth of one per cent. Did you think those people wasted their vote? We were quite successful this time in beating back ballot access barriers , in Arizona and Ohio. It’s like the early stages of fighting Jim Crow laws.

AC: The history of third parties over the past thirty years is not very encouraging.

Nader: We’re advancing majoritarian programs and the majority voters are trapped into the two party choice This is what happens. Obama sank public funding. Not only did he betray the principle and therefore shattered his credibility. In so outdoing he way outraised McCain. I read the trade literature. Not one of these industries ­ banking, insurance, automotive, oil, agribusiness, international trade - is worried. They’re all totally calm. The corporate state moves on.

Corporate power has unique characteristics. It is perfectly willing and able to corrupt, regardless of sexual or ethnic preference. It offers equal opportunities to be corrupted or coopted . That’s why it’s very difficult for the civil community, which is affected by principles, nuances, honest disagreements, to confront the monistically commercial corporations. No one says ‘the big debate inside Exxon is whether to go more for oil or solar. That’s why every religion in the world, in their scriptures, issues a warning not to give too much power to the merchant class. The commercial instinct is relentless, consistent, limitless in achieving its goal. It will run rough-shod to destroy, co-opt or dilute civic and spiritual values that stand in its way.

Below are 5 items which speak to the "dialectics of human liberation" and the new role of leaders who consciously or unconsciously participate in the process that will facilitate such movement forward.

Item A. is a Democracy Now ! broadcast interview with Alice Walker on "Obama's first visit to the White House as President-elect."

Item B. is an article from Mark Weisbrot on "the chance for us to make a change."

Item C. is an article by Jean Brickman on "decolonizing the European mind."

Item D. is an article by Paul Craig Roberts, on the old adage: "The first time fooled, shame on you; the second time fooled, shame on me (or whatever!)"

Item E. is an article by John Pilger on the real meaning of "change" in the USA.

And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a 45-minute video of Michael Albert's discussion of "What is an economy?"

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3

from Democracy Now ! :
Date: 11 November 2008
Subject: Obama's First Visit to the White House.

One day after Barack Obama's first visit to the White House as President-elect, we speak to the Pulitzer-winning novelist Alice Walker. In a recent open letter to Obama, Walker writes, "Seeing you take your rightful place, based solely on your wisdom, stamina and character, is a balm for the weary warriors of hope, previously only sung about."

Pulitzer-Winning Author Alice Walker on Obama's First White House Visit as President-Elect

from Mark Weisbrot :
Date: 6 November 2008
Subject: Change after the Obama victory.


After Four Decades: Finally, The Beginning of the End
by Mark Weisbrot

The nation's capital came alive after 11 p.m. on election eve, as thousands poured into the streets to celebrate a victory that everyone was calling historic. Car horns blaring, whooping and shouting, high fives all around, multi-racial crowds celebrating joyously. Historic it is, most obviously in the election of an African-American president, in a country where millions of black people could not even vote when the new president-elect was born. The rapper Jay-Z elegantly expressed the Obama campaign's connection to the long struggle for equality, along with the enthusiasm that it generated: "Rosa Parks sat so that Martin Luther King could walk. Martin Luther King walked so that Obama could run. Obama's running so that we all can fly."

But there is another sense in which this election will likely turn out to be historic. For nearly four decades this country has been moving to the right. Unfortunately we must include the Clinton years in this right-wing trajectory: with such major regressive structural changes as welfare reform, the World Trade Organization, and NAFTA, the Clinton administration continued the country's rightward drift on economic if not social issues. In other words, it continued using the government to make rules that would redistribute income, wealth, and power towards the upper classes. (These are generally described somewhat inaccurately as "free-market" or "free-trade" policies.)

The right's ascendance began with the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, who rode into office on a backlash against the social movements of the 1960s, especially the civil rights and anti-war movements. Nixon's infamous "Southern Strategy" deployed a coded racist appeal that would help make the South Republican and ensure that no Democratic presidential candidate would get a majority of white voters (they didn't from 1968-2004).

Reagan continued this strategy but also initiated a counter-revolution on the economic front, decimating organized labor and cutting taxes for rich. It was an economic failure by any objective measure but it succeeded in drastically changing the ideological climate on economic issues. By the end of the Reagan (and George H.W. Bush) administrations in 1993, the typical Democratic member of Congress was far to the right of Richard Nixon on most economic policy.

The impact of this economic counter-revolution on the living standards of the majority of Americans can hardly be over-emphasized. Prior to the Reagan years, the United States was on its way to becoming more like Europe, with a welfare state and social safety net that would allow the vast majority of its citizens to enjoy the benefits of a developed, high-income economy. When Medicare and Medicaid were enacted in 1965, it was widely believed that insuring the elderly and the poor, respectively, were just the first steps toward universal health insurance.

The assault that began with Ronald Reagan's firing of 12,000 striking air traffic controllers in 1981 set the nation on a very different path. By the time George W. Bush took over, he was even able to go after Social Security, the bedrock New Deal anti-poverty program whose beneficiaries include about one-sixth of the population. Bush lost that battle to a grass-roots groundswell of opposition. But the fact that he could even launch such a privatization effort, where Ronald Reagan would not even dare to tread, showed how far America had fallen from the economics, social norms, and basic ethical principles that prior generations had taken for granted.

The end result of America's long right-wing experiment was perhaps the most massive redistribution of income and wealth in our history. Over the last 35 years, there has been virtually no increase in real wages for the majority of the labor force. At the same time the top 1 percent of households (with earnings of more than $1.2 million) saw their real incomes more than triple. A new "gilded age" of gross class inequalities became the norm; workers without a college degree (still more than 70 percent of the labor force) could no longer have the same expectations of landing a job that would allow them to afford a home and a family.

Now that long journey into darkness has finally come to an end. My own view is that the 2006 Congressional elections may have been the turning point. It was then that Democrats regained the Congress on the basis of a more populist appeal by some of their candidates, and a mass revulsion with the war in Iraq. Even if McCain had won the presidency in yesterday's election, he would have faced great obstacles in pursuing a right-wing agenda, but he could have taken a lot of people to their graves trying. His best bet for saving the Republican party from a long walk through the political wilderness would have been the one threatened by Vice President Dick Cheney and other fellow neoconservatives: more war, most likely beginning with a military strike against Iran. This is how they retained the Congress in 2002, when the economy was also bleeding jobs after the bursting of the stock market bubble and the consequent recession of 2001. From August 2002 until the November election, the build-up for the Iraq war pushed all of the voters' most important concerns out of the news. It worked.

This time they couldn't pull it off, and Obama's election has saved us from a repeat of these kinds of crimes. One of the most interesting things about this election is that it also showed how the Democrats could have avoided most of this long nightmare of right-wing rule by simply appealing to the class interests of the key swing demographic, which is white working class voters. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, their way back to Kansas was right in front of them all this time. Non-college-educated whites with household income between $30,000-$50,000 voted for George W. Bush by a margin of 24 percentage points; for those with income between $50,000-$75,000 it was 41 percentage points (70-29). Obama did not make the kind of appeal that would really clinch this demographic, which includes many "Reagan Democrats;" but Wall Street did it for him. The financial crisis that exploded in mid-September sealed the outcome of this election. The Republicans' fake populist appeal to these swing voters, painting the Democrats as an "elite" who did not respect their culture or religion, rang hollow in the face of millions of mortgage foreclosures, job losses, collapsing retirement savings, and a shrinking economy. The politics of deploying "weapons of mass distraction," including the so-called "war on terror," had finally run its course.

But foreign policy will remain the Democrats' Achilles' heel for some time to come. This is also a mostly self-inflicted handicap. The most important Democratic leaders promote the same assumptions about foreign policy as the Republicans: that terrorism is practically the most important threat facing our country; that extremism and anti-U.S. sentiment in the world has nothing to do with our foreign policy; that America is really defending itself, or promoting "democracy" when it invades other countries or de-stabilizes foreign governments. If this is really the state of the world, then there is some logic to voting Republican. Why not vote for the guy who is willing protect us by any means necessary from these unavoidable, mortal dangers?

And someone who won't be constrained by a political base that includes peace activists and others who might shrink from the violence necessary to defend ourselves? Of course there are millions of Democratic party activists and primary voters who see right through the charade, and vote Democratic with the hope that the jingoistic campaign rhetoric is just for show. But unfortunately there are a lot of voters who believe the hype from both parties, which is often reinforced in the media. Thus, on the eve of this election, John McCain still had a 14 percentage point edge over Barack Obama on "national security," while trailing on almost every other issue. (Interestingly, the people of Washington DC and New York City, the prior victims and most at-risk of any future terrorist attack, are practically deaf to the right's fear-mongering --McCain lost DC by 93-7 %; while the most receptive audiences live in places like Wyoming and Oklahoma where they are more likely to be hit by a meteor from outer space than to get hurt by a foreign terrorist. This is another indicator of how far removed the politics of "national security" are from any real threats.)

This time none of that stuff mattered, because the economy was going down the drain. However, until the Democrats present a more reality-based program on foreign policy, they will still be vulnerable to external events and the hyping of foreign threats, even if they are ridiculously exaggerated, of our own making, or altogether imaginary.

For now, though, the domestic economy will occupy center stage as the new government faces the worst recession in decades, and one that is just beginning -- the housing bubble that caused this recession is only about 60 percent deflated. The people have voted for change, including expanded health care coverage and -- as they did in 2006 -- an end to the Iraq war. How much change we will actually see will depend more than anything on how much pressure there is from below.

But there is plenty to celebrate in addition to the election of our first African-American president. Forty years is a long time for a country to be on the wrong track, and even worse for one that has so much influence on the rest of the world. We now have an opportunity to resume the economic and social progress that was considered almost inevitable a few decades ago, and to address some of the most urgent environmental problems -- most importantly climate change -- which have only recently become widely recognized. Who knows, we might even stop invading other countries and move towards becoming a law-abiding member of the international community. Progress is now at least possible, although it will still be an uphill fight. As Obama himself said in his acceptance speech, "This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change." 

Mark Weisbrot is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. (www.cepr.net).

from Jean Brickman :
Date: 7 November 2008
Subject: View from Europe.

A View From Europe
Our Obama Problem

by Jean Bricmont

There are two factors to take into account in order to judge an election : what voters express by their vote and what the elected candidate is likely to do. In the case of the US presidential election, it would have been very depressing if the US population had elected McCain, after eight years of Bush. In fact, it is somewhat surprising that he still managed to get 48% of the popular vote, and that the Republican candidate did so well in states like Louisiana (remember Katrina ?).

In that sense, the Left should welcome the Obama victory, not so much because he is "African-American", but because people who vote for him probably express a desire for change, and, in general, for progressive change : less war, a more balanced economic policy, and a more friendly attitude with respect to the environment.

But the question of what the candidate will do is an entirely different matter. That depends on what he wants to do and what he can do. An American president has lots of power, but he is not a dictator and even a dictator would have to take into account relationships of forces. What Obama wants to do is not totally clear, but it is certain that he will not oppose the powers that be (Wall Street, big corporations, the pro-Israel lobby, etc.) that allowed him to win. He has at least demonstrated that much during the campaign.

Of course, Obama has also to take onto account the pressure from below. But that is where the main problem arises : which pressure ? If some Americans are irritated by the Obamania in the United States, they would be even more so if they looked at what goes on abroad, especially in Europe. There is nothing I find more depressing than to see youth in the French banlieues being "mobilized" for Obama, along with all of social democracy, show business and (enlightened) Zionists. I even saw some of those youths saying they will send a bullet-proof vest to Obama because they think that America will never allow an African-American to be president, as if somebody supported by Warren Buffett and, in fact, by most of the establishment, was a threat to America and in need of their help.

In other words, the Obama problem is his extreme popularity in Europe, which is based both on his skin colour and on his "image". Because people don’t understand how much race relations in the United States have actually changed, they see Obama’s election as a sort of absolute miracle and, since the media present him as a strong alternative to Bush, and hardly report, for example, his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan, they think that he is far more progressive than he actually is.

Of course, given the disastrous state of the Left worldwide, people desperately want to believe in something positive happening somewhere, and that only reinforces the illusions about Obama.

Besides, there is hardly any Right in Europe that is anti-Obama. In fact the Right and most of current social-democracy love Obama because he will let them be openly pro-American again. Because the United States is less egalitarian (in an economic sense) than Europe, the social wage is smaller, there are weaker unions and fewer worker’s rights, the European elite views the United States as some sort of capitalist paradise. The problem with Bush is that he was so brutal, arrogant, inefficient and stupid that it became increasingly difficult for them to openly express their admiration for the United States. But now, everything changes -- by shifting the attention from social issues to ‘’race’’ , they can turn the tables around and make the United States look like THE progressive country of the West. The very pro-American, "New Left", French daily Libération has already suggested that the election of Obama is a lesson in democracy for France. Curiously, they cite long voting lines as evidence for this, while of course such lines in non-Western countries are taken as a sign of inefficiency or, worse, of the government’s intention to dissuade people from voting.

A final problem is that Obama’s critics will automatically be suspected of racism. Already being "anti-American" is identified by Zionists with being antisemitic, so with a African-American president, we can expect the worst of both worlds.

The question therefore is, how much will Obama be able to get away with, if and when his foreign policy clashes with the expectations of his leftist European supporters ? Because of the strength of the illusions, it is of course very difficult to combat them before he has done anything. The only hope is that people will take him, not at his word, because he has not promised anything, but at what they think his word is, and will react furiously when he betrays their (unfounded) hopes. Only that can prevent the United States from escalating its wars in Afghanistan, Iraq or elsewhere.

But the deepest problem is that, sixty years after the end of WW2, Europeans still see themselves as somehow dependent on the United States. For their elites, the reasons are clear and understandable, but the rest of us, including a big part of the Left, still put too much of our hopes in expecting the US population to elect a "good prince", as they have just done with Obama. We should determine our foreign policy, and our social model irrespective of American choices and we should not be afraid of talking with other countries, like Russia, China or Iran without worrying what Uncle Sam thinks. Europeans often view the United States as a model of democracy, but there can’t be anything more undemocratic than for us to determine our policies in a way that depends on elections in which we do not participate.

The US population elects its president, not the Master of the Universe. This seems to be understood nowadays in Russia, Asia, Latin America and the Muslim world. Only in Europe do we still need to decolonize our minds.

Jean Bricmont teaches physics in Belgium and is a member of the Brussels Tribunal. His new book, Humanitarian Imperialism, is published by Monthly Review Press. He can be reached at bricmont@fyma.ucl.ac.be.

from Paul Craig Roberts :
Date: 9 November 2008
Information Clearinghouse

Conned Again
by Paul Craig Roberts

If the change President-elect Obama has promised includes a halt to America’s wars of aggression and an end to the rip-off of taxpayers by powerful financial interests, what explains Obama’s choice of foreign and economic policy advisors? Indeed, Obama’s selection of Rahm Israel Emanuel as White House chief of staff is a signal that change ended with Obama’s election. The only thing different about the new administration will be the faces.

Rahm Israel Emanuel is a supporter of Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Emanuel rose to prominence in the Democratic Party as a result of his fundraising connections to AIPAC. A strong supporter of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, he comes from a terrorist family. His father was a member of Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organization that used violence to drive the British and Palestinians out of Palestine in order to create the Jewish state. During the 1991 Gulf War, Rahm Israel Emanuel volunteered to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. He was a member of the Freddie Mac board of directors and received $231,655 in directors fees in 2001. According to Wikipedia, “during the time Emanuel spent on the board, Freddie Mac was plagued with scandals involving campaign contributions and accounting irregularities.”

In “Hail to the Chief of Staff,” Alexander Cockburn describes Emanuel as “a super-Likudnik hawk,” who as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2006 “made great efforts to knock out antiwar Democratic candidates.”

My despondent friends in the Israeli peace movement ask, “What is this man doing in Obama’s administration?”

Obama’s election was necessary as the only means Americans had to hold the Republicans accountable for their crimes against the Constitution and human rights, for their violations of US and international laws, for their lies and deceptions, and for their financial chicanery. As an editorial in Pravda put it, “Only Satan would have been worse than the Bush regime. Therefore it could be argued that the new administration in the USA could never be worse than the one which divorced the hearts and minds of Americans from their brothers in the international community, which appalled the rest of the world with shock and awe tactics that included concentration camps, torture, mass murder and utter disrespect for international law.”

But Obama’s advisers are drawn from the same gang of Washington thugs and Wall Street banksters as Bush’s. Richard Holbrooke, son of Russian and German Jews, was an assistant secretary of state and ambassador in the Clinton administration. He implemented the policy to enlarge NATO and to place the military alliance on Russia’s border in contravention of Reagan’s promise to Gorbachev. Holbrooke is also associated with the Clinton administration’s illegal bombing of Serbia, a war crime that killed civilians and Chinese diplomats. If not a neocon himself, Holbrooke is closely allied with them.

According to Wikipedia, Madeline Albright was born Marie Jana Korbelova in Prague to Jewish parents who had converted to Catholicism in order to escape persecution. She is the Clinton era secretary of state who told Leslie Stahl (60 Minutes) that the US policy of Iraq sanctions, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, had goals important enough to justify the children’s deaths. Albright’s infamous words: “we think the price is worth it.” Wikipedia reports that this immoralist served on the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange at the time of Dick Grasso’s $187.5 million compensation scandal.

Dennis Ross has long associations with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace negotiations.” A member of his Clinton era team, Aaron David Miller, wrote that during 1999-2000 the US negotiating team led by Ross acted as Israel’s lawyer: “we had to run everything by Israel first.” This “stripped our policy of the independence and flexibility required for serious peacemaking. If we couldn't put proposals on the table without checking with the Israelis first, and refused to push back when they said no, how effective could our mediation be?” According to Wikipedia, Ross is “chairman of a new Jerusalem-based think tank, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, funded and founded by the Jewish Agency.”

Clearly, this is not a group of advisors that is going to halt America’s wars against Israel’s enemies or force the Israeli government to accept the necessary conditions for a real peace in the Middle East.

Ralph Nader predicted as much. In his “Open Letter to Barack Obama (November 3, 2008), Nader pointed out to Obama that his “transformation from an articulate defender of Palestinian rights . . . to a dittoman for the hard-line AIPAC lobby” puts Obama at odds with “a majority of Jewish-Americans” and “64% of Israelis.” Nader quotes the Israeli writer and peace advocate Uri Avnery’s description of Obama’s appearance before AIPAC as an appearance that “broke all records for obsequiousness and fawning.” Nader damns Obama for his “utter lack of political courage [for] surrendering to demands of the hard-liners to prohibit former president Jimmy Carter from speaking at the Democratic National Convention.” Carter, who achieved the only meaningful peace agreement between Israel and the Arabs, has been demonized by the powerful AIPAC lobby for criticizing Israel’s policy of apartheid toward the Palestinians whose territory Israel forcibly occupies.

Obama’s economic team is just as bad. Its star is Robert Rubin, the bankster who was secretary of the treasury in the Clinton administration. Rubin has responsibility for the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and, thereby, responsibility for the current financial crisis. In his letter to Obama, Nader points out that Obama received unprecedented campaign contributions from corporate and Wall Street interests. “Never before has a Democratic nominee for President achieved this supremacy over his Republican counterpart.”

Obama’s victory speech was magnificent. The TV cameras scanning faces in the audience showed the hope and belief that propelled Obama into the presidency. But Obama cannot bring change to Washington. There is no one in the Washington crowd that he can appoint who is capable of bringing change. If Obama were to reach outside the usual crowd, anyone suspected of being a bringer of change could not get confirmed by the Senate. Powerful interest groups--AIPAC, the military-security complex, Wall Street--use their political influence to block unacceptable appointments.

As Alexander Cockburn put it in his column, “Obama, the first-rate Republican,” “never has the dead hand of the past had a ‘reform’ candidate so firmly by the windpipe.” Obama confirmed Cockburn’s verdict in his first press conference as president-elect. Disregarding the unanimous US National Intelligence Estimate, which concluded that Iran stopped working on nuclear weapons five years ago, and ignoring the continued certification by the International Atomic Energy Agency that none of the nuclear material for Iran’s civilian nuclear reactor has been diverted to weapons use, Obama sallied forth with the Israel Lobby’s propaganda and accused Iran of “development of a nuclear weapon” and vowing “to prevent that from happening.” http://news.antiwar.com/2008/11/07/obama-hits-out-at-iran-closemouthed-on-tactics/ 

The change that is coming to America has nothing to do with Obama. Change is coming from the financial crisis brought on by Wall Street greed and irresponsibility, from the eroding role of the US dollar as reserve currency, from countless mortgage foreclosures, from the offshoring of millions of America’s best jobs, from a deepening recession, from pillars of American manufacturing--Ford and GM--begging the government for taxpayers’ money to stay alive, and from budget and trade deficits that are too large to be closed by normal means.

Traditionally, the government relies on monetary and fiscal policy to lift the economy out of recession. But easy money is not working. Interest rates are already low and monetary growth is already high, yet unemployment is rising. The budget deficit is already huge--a world record--and the red ink is not stimulating the economy. Can even lower interest rates and even higher budget deficits help an economy that has moved offshore, leaving behind jobless consumers overburdened with debt?

How much more can the government borrow? America’s foreign creditors are asking this question. An official organ of the Chinese ruling party recently called for Asian and European countries to “banish the US dollar from their direct trade relations, relying only on their own currencies.”

“Why,” asks another Chinese publication, “should China help the US to issue debt without end in the belief that the national credit of the US can expand without limit?”

The world has tired of American hegemony and had its fill of American arrogance. America’s reputation is in tatters: the financial debacle, endless red ink, Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, rendition, torture, illegal wars based on lies and deception, disrespect for the sovereignty of other countries, war crimes, disregard for international law and the Geneva Conventions, the assault on habeas corpus and the separation of powers, a domestic police state, constant interference in the internal affairs of other countries, boundless hypocrisy.

The change that is coming is the end of American empire. The hegemon has run out of money and influence. Obama as “America’s First Black President” will lift hopes and, thus, allow the act to be carried on a little longer. But the New American Century is already over.

from John Pilger :
Date 13 November 2008
Subject: "Change" in America.

Beware The Obama Hype: What 'Change' In America Really Means
by John Pilger

My first visit to Texas was in 1968, on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of president John F Kennedy in Dallas. I drove south, following the line of telegraph poles to the small town of Midlothian, where I met Penn Jones Jr, editor of the Midlothian Mirror. Except for his drawl and fine boots, everything about Penn was the antithesis of the Texas stereotype. Having exposed the racists of the John Birch Society, his printing press had been repeatedly firebombed. Week after week, he painstakingly assembled evidence that all but demolished the official version of Kennedy's murder.

This was journalism as it had been before corporate journalism was invented, before the first schools of journalism were set up and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around those whose "professionalism" and "objectivity" carried an unspoken obligation to ensure that news and opinion were in tune with an establishment consensus, regardless of the truth. Journalists such as Penn Jones, independent of vested power, indefatigable and principled, often reflect ordinary American attitudes, which have seldom conformed to the stereotypes promoted by the corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic. Read American Dreams: Lost and Found by the masterly Studs Terkel, who died the other day, or scan the surveys that unerringly attribute enlightened views to a majority who believe that "government should care for those who cannot care for themselves" and are prepared to pay higher taxes for universal health care, who support nuclear disarmament and want their troops out of other people's countries.

Returning to Texas, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of a form of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the history of the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority.

That is the subtext of Barack Obama's "oratory". He says he wants to build up US military power; and he threatens to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more brown-skinned people. That will bring tears, too. Unlike those on election night, these other tears will be unseen in Chicago and London. This is not to doubt the sincerity of much of the response to Obama's election, which happened not because of the unction that has passed for news reporting from America since 4 November (e.g. "liberal Americans smiled and the world smiled with them") but for the same reasons that millions of angry emails were sent to the White House and Congress when the "bailout" of Wall Street was revealed, and because most Americans are fed up with war.

Two years ago, this anti-war vote installed a Democratic majority in Congress, only to watch the Democrats hand over more money to George W Bush to continue his blood fest. For his part, the "anti-war" Obama never said the illegal invasion of Iraq was wrong, merely that it was a "mistake". Thereafter, he voted in to give Bush what he wanted. Yes, Obama's election is historic, a symbol of great change to many. But it is equally true that the American elite has grown adept at using the black middle and management class. The courageous Martin Luther King recognised this when he linked the human rights of black Americans with the human rights of the Vietnamese, then being slaughtered by a liberal Democratic administration. And he was shot. In striking contrast, a young black major serving in Vietnam, Colin Powell, was used to "investigate" and whitewash the infamous My Lai massacre. As Bush's secretary of state, Powell was often described as a "liberal" and was considered ideal to lie to the United Nations about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Condaleezza Rice, lauded as a successful black woman, has worked assiduously to deny the Palestinians justice.

Obama's first two crucial appointments represent a denial of the wishes of his supporters on the principal issues on which they voted. The vice-president-elect, Joe Biden, is a proud warmaker and Zionist. Rahm Emanuel, who is to be the all-important White House chief of staff, is a fervent "neoliberal" devoted to the doctrine that led to the present economic collapse and impoverishment of millions. He is also an "Israel-first" Zionist who served in the Israeli army and opposes meaningful justice for the Palestinians - an injustice that is at the root of Muslim people's loathing of the United States and the spawning of jihadism.

No serious scrutiny of this is permitted within the histrionics of Obamamania, just as no serious scrutiny of the betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the "Mandela moment". This is especially marked in Britain, where America's divine right to "lead" is important to elite British interests. The once respected Observer newspaper, which supported Bush's war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, now announces, without evidence, that "America has restored the world's faith in its ideals". These "ideals", which Obama will swear to uphold, have overseen, since 1945, the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children.

None of this was uttered during the election campaign. Had it been allowed, there might even have been recognition that liberalism as a narrow, supremely arrogant, war-making ideology is destroying liberalism as a reality. Prior to Blair's criminal warmaking, ideology was denied by him and his media mystics. "Blair can be a beacon to the world," declared the Guardian in 1997. "[He is] turning leadership into an art form."

Today, merely insert "Obama". As for historic moments, there is another that has gone unreported but is well under way - liberal democracy's shift towards a corporate dictatorship, managed by people regardless of ethnicity, with the media as its clichéd façade. "True democracy," wrote Penn Jones Jr, the Texas truth-teller, "is constant vigilance: not thinking the way you're meant to think and keeping your eyes wide open at all times."