Happy New Year!
I hope things are looking up for 2009. For some reason, I feel pretty optimistic even though those ominous dark clouds are still on the horizon, the same ones that began to appear in 2001. But I promise you I won't be waving any flags on the eve of Obama's inauguration in the hopes that the winds of "change" will blow them away.
Sorry for sending such a long email, but I've been writing this rant below now for over a month, because I was tired of hearing the Obama rhetoric, and I am really tired of the narrow framework for debating the context of Mr. Change, while ignoring an historic analysis of the American Empire, a freight train that is not stopping anytime soon. I've included dozens of interesting links below.
Before the collective sigh following McCain's defeat, a lot of people got involved in political debates and thinking about collective responsibility to some degree. But I fear an Obama administration because it certainly means a return to the more sophisticated Clinton era "soft" imperialism and a reaffirmation of the neo-liberal economic violence that destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives both in Central America and at home, for example.
The last thing that has to happen right now is to believe that the US Empire is benevolent, or that Obama will change anything substantial in this regard. In fact, he is dangerous because I fear that his "hope" and "change" rhetoric on Afghanistan, Iran, Israel, and the environment, for example, could go unchallenged by his supporters; not to mention a retreat into an apolitical hangover after his inauguration at precisely the time when we are in a state of global crisis.
His interests are not our interests, no matter the millions of dollars worth of propaganda spent convincing us otherwise, or the Soviet-style propaganda posters of the great leader plastered on street signs throughout the country. What's next? A crafty and "ironic" bronze statue in every major city?
Now is not the time to rally around the flag, any flag. Or for that matter, any leader, and certainly not one representing the corporate-military-industrial complex, whether by choice or political expedience.
To quote Emma Goldman, "Patriotism is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit."
I wrote down some things on all of this below. Perhaps you may find something interesting.
Take care of yourselves this year.
For a more sane future,
Some thoughts on Obama and the US Empire
Bottomline: Industrial capitalism with its lack of environmental and human ethics, and in combination with the nation state, will continue to destroy the planet, destroy countless human lives, and drive the rate of species extinction beyond the current 50,000 per year, a rate unprecedented in geological history (i.e. an 'ecocide'). Corporate power will remain un-changed as the US empire marches onwards towards more death and destruction, unless we radically change our trajectory.
Now, what again is so special about Obama? I suppose if I have to answer that; the only real answer for me is that McCain didn't win, and given a choice between TB and cancer (Nader's line), people chose the best they could. Lets not forget that corporations run this government, not citizens. Period. It's a slow motion coup de`etat.
For me, the national vote in the US, in the context of an insane business class waging a vicious class warfare campaign, is itself just a facade that allows the real owners of this society to present to us a "choice" in who will rule over us. It is a cynical farce in which we participate, where we are simply choosing which faction of the business party will steer the US corporate empire towards its hegemonic goals, while paying lip service to "our" democracy; lip service that is indeed seductive when we live under the thumb of neo-conservatives or neo-liberals, and within an authoritarian fear-based culture.
If any candidate actually ran for office based on policies supported by the majority of the public (universal healthcare, support of labor rights, free education, harsh sentences for polluters and white collar crime, anti-interventionist, etc) and not the financial sector, they would never get elected. Any campaign rhetoric that suggests otherwise is the result of a sophisticated and expensive advertising campaign. The constituency represented by the two parties are the financial top 5%.
No doubt Obama's victory is a victory in rejecting 8 years of the "Bush Doctrine". But his victory is only meaningful if he actually reverses the damage done, and I seriously doubt he will reverse anything but a small percentage of the most egregious violations, if that, precisely because the democrats supported a large majority of Bush's policies, the spineless rats that they are.
His victory is a hurdle which has been overcome in the 40+ years of the civil rights movement, and no doubt it will inspire a lot of people of color, and young people of all backgrounds, to create a new vision of equality on many levels we may not even see yet (especially when their enthusiasm confronts the reality of US power with Obama at its head). The symbolism is huge, and not to be dismissed in this culture, even if institutional racism and bigotry is alive and well.
And I believe Obama will support movements that address some cultural issues in the US (if forced to), but will stay far away from even mild structural adjustments of the capitalist system itself (rolling back NAFTA, a return to a real progressive tax, reinstating the glass-steagall act that the Clinton administration removed, and a return to real regulation of capital, for example). At the end of the day, this is about political and economic analysis, not just about the symbolism of Obama's victory.
So, I think we need to set our feet squarely on terra firma and engage reality; namely, that the US empire is an extraordinary violent institution, run by an elite power structure that will stop at nothing to dominate the resources of this planet. It is a kleptocracy of enormous proportions (think John Perkins, "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" / Bernard Madoff / Blind support of Israel) and Obama has been vetted and allowed to participate in the elections by the business class, precisely because he will not fundamentally change anything. Nearly 1.5 million dead in Iraq since Bush I, via Clinton (think Madeline "the price is worth it" Albright), represents the trail of blood visible to anyone that will open their eyes. Remember, this guy is a conservative, but in a right-wing culture like the US, his image is that of an FDR liberal.
Quoting economist Michael Hudson in his recent article, "The Neo-Yeltsin Administration? The Obama Letdown":
"Obama is looking more like Boris Yeltsin – a political umbrella for the kleptocrats to whom the public domain and decades of public wealth were given with no quid pro quo. This is not what most people hoped for. But their hopes were so strong that it was easier to indulge in happy dreams and put one’s faith in a prince than to look at the systemic problems that need to be restructured in order for real change to occur. Individuals do not determine who owes what to whom, who is employed by whom or what laws govern their work and investment. Institutional economic and political structures are the key. And somehow the focus has been on the politics of personalities, not on the economic forces at work." (http://www.counterpunch.org/hudson11262008.html)
I recommend the following inteview with Dr. Michael Hudson done by Bonnie Faulkner on Pacifica radio's KPFA explaining how tax burdens are shifted off the wealthy and placed on workers. He also details what is essentially the new face of class warfare in the financial sector, including the latest scams that resulted in the recent crisis:
And contrary to what Obama says, the US has no intention of leaving Iraq (military bases are the Empires signature). Sadly, Obama is surrounding himself by Clinton era war criminals, and hawkish militarists like Rahm Emanuel. Read Alexander Cockburn's analysis here:
And read Jeremy Scahill's recent article called "This Is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House" at Alternet.org:
Up at the top, you say imperialism is continuing under Obama, but farther down, PCR is quoted saying that empire is finished because we can't afford it.
I tend to disagree with PCR, though I wish he were right. Empires don't contract when the economy gets tough. Back during the Great Depression, a lagging economy in Germany motivated that country to expand. Same for the Soviet Union. Later, when the US was pulled into the war, the victory resulted in our acquisition of empire, and we paid for it all by heavy debt spending.
Expansion of empire, whether it's traditional imperialism or the neoliberal type, where you just have these major trade agreements, are about making more money. They used to be about finding resources, and finding new markets. Today, they're also about finding labor, places to locate dirty factories, and finding chemical intellectual property that hasn't been claimed.
The future depends on how we deal with this coming depression. Carlos Fierro is correct, change comes from the street. However, to assume that this populist uprising will be progressive, leftist, socialist, or anarchist, is folly. There's also a right-wing uprising that can happen, and a lot of it was mobilized and made self-conscious when Sarah Palin was nominated to the GOP VP ticket.
Alcatraz as Possible Terror Detention Facility
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday comended
Republican suggestions that the federal government reopen Alcatraz prison in her San Francisco district to house detainees from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
President Obama this week signed an executive order calling for the closure of the prison at Guantanamo within the year. Republican Rep. Bill Young then suggested to White House counsel Greg Craig that the prisoners who could not be released back to their home countries or sent to a third country be put up in "the Rock," the famous military installation and prison that closed down in 1963 and is now part of the National Park Service.
Asked whether that was a serious proposal, Pelosi said, "It is "
House Minority Leader John Boehner put fourth the suggestion on Sunday, making that point that closing down Guantanamo by year's end may not be the best plan considering the recidivism rate of terrorist detainees is about 12 percent.
"If liberals believe they ought to go, maybe we ought to open Alcatraz," Boehner, R-Ohio, told NBC "Meet the Press." Being reminded that Alcatraz is a national park, Boehner responded, "It's very secure."
The argument is just the latest iteration in an ongoing dispute over what to do with the remaining 245 enemy combatants who were to be tried in military commissions until a stay was ordered by the president last week in one of his first official acts.
Boehner said the promise to close Guantanamo by year's end is impractical.
"Unilaterally saying it without knowing how were going to deal with them a campaign promise, but may be irresponsible," he said.
But Pelosi called the plan to use the next year to review the case of each detainee is "brilliant."
"What the president put forth was very wise. He said he's going to close Guantanamo, take the time to do it. You can't just go down there today and say, 'Everybody out,' and lock the door. They're going to review the cases, narrow it down and then go from there. ... It's brilliant," she said on ABC's "This Week."
Vice President Biden, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," said the prison must be closed because the symbolism of Guantanamo around the world has resulted in the terrorist organizations, reduction in attacks.
"There's no question it has to be closed. And we don't think it's inconsistent to deal with our national security and our Constitution. ... That's why we have the White House counsel -- Mr. Craig is now going through this meticulously, deciding what we're going to do with each and every prisoner," he said.
"They have no legal status to stay here, I don't anticipate that happening. What I anticipate happening is that those people who are in a situation where it is either the evidence is in question or it's going to be hard to make a case, we will most likely be rendering them back to their countries of origin or another country," he continued, adding that some countries have already agreed to establish prison facilities for the detainees.
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