Is Obama A War-Monger With A Different Face?

(As the US Presidential race reaches it denouement, Barack Obama’s ‘Change We Can’ mantra is under the scanner. Indeed, the more things change, the more they they remain the same! – RR)

The media establishment has been careful to portray Obama as a fresh voice, the “anti-war” candidate. Yet, Obama has already said that he will evaluate his withdrawal plan “at the time,” pledged a massive increase of troops in Afghanistan, and has threated Iran with nuclear annihilation. This is an “anti-war” candidate?

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Events may make Obama adopt radical positions

By Seumas Milne/The Guardian
What seems certain is that Obama’s election will be a catalyst that creates political opportunities both at home and abroad. The Obama campaign grew out of popular opposition to the Iraq war and its success has been based on the mobilisation of supporters who will certainly want to go further and faster than their candidate.
Roger And Out

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How Gibbering Numbskulls Dominate Washington

By George Monbiot
The Guardian

How was it allowed to happen? How did politics in the US come to be dominated by people who make a virtue out of ignorance? Was it charity that has permitted mankind’s closest living relative to spend two terms as president? How did Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle and other such gibbering numbskulls get to where they are? How could Republican rallies in 2008 be drowned out by screaming ignoramuses insisting that Barack Obama was a Muslim and a terrorist?

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Sangh Parivar & BJP Can’t Disown Role In Terrorism

By Kavita Krishnan

29 October, 2008

No longer can the Sangh Parivar and BJP ever disown its role in terrorism. A former firebrand ABVP leader and so-called ‘sadhvi’, Pragya Singh Thakur, has been arrested for her role in the Malegaon blasts of September 2006 as well as in the more recent Modasa blasts. Even more ominously, two ex-Army officers are implicated in the blasts, and it has come to light that an institution called the ‘Bhonsala Military Academy’ in Nagpur has been imparting arms training to the Bajrang Dal.

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Death Knell Of Print Journalism?

Published: October 28, 2008

After a century of continuous publication, The Christian Science Monitor will abandon its weekday print edition and appear online only, its publisher announced Tuesday. The cost-cutting measure makes The Monitor the first US national newspaper to largely give up on print.
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India must look after its own interests first

By Ashok Mitra

Hell has finally been let loose. It may look like the end of the capitalist order to those done in by the holocaust. Capitalism, with its feline features, has however proved it has more than nine lives. What is more legitimate to claim is the end of the officiousness of the ideology of laissez faire, which has for this long buttressed capitalism. Recent weeks have decisively settled the issue: the so-called free market does not raise human welfare to its highest possible level, allowing the animal spirit in man to roam unfettered does not lead to either an equilibrium of bliss or to the emergence of a just society, the animal spirit actually wraps within itself such evils as greed, envy, ill-will, skulduggery and a fearsome lack of moral principles.
Since luminaries from the United States of America were the most vocal votaries of the free market, it was almost inevitable for that country to be the first and severest victim of the catastrophe that has set in. The long, dismal procession of financial collapses, insolvencies, take-overs and whining pleas to the government to bail out the wrongdoers — and those at the receiving end of their wrongdoing — is almost a re-run of the Great Depression. Quite a few of those at this moment importuning with the begging bowl were, till yesterday, holier-than-thou specimens. In that sense, it has been a great leveller: the high and mighty mortgage financiers Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, for more than a century the majordomo in investment banking Lehman Brothers, other investment banking giants such as Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, the grand insurance conglomerate, the American International Group; the mega stockbroker Merill Lynch, have all bitten the dust. The individual tales of how they came a cropper have their specific nuances, but the basic malady is the same: overreaching ambition goading those in charge of these institutions to cut absurd corners. The entire American nation has now to pay for the sins of a collection of private sharks, big and small. Because over the past decades so much gibberish has been talked, and listened to, on the necessity of financial integration on a global scale, Europe — and Asia too, at least partially — are also at panic’s door. What in the jargon is known as the elasticity of expectations has gone haywire: since people expect the market to crash, the market is crashing — and keeps crashing — all over.

Hard times call for hard decisions. Whatever the wrench in the heart, dogmas have to be thrown into the wastebasket. Can you believe it, George W. Bush presenting himself before the world’s media and thundering in no-nonsense terms: the government must intervene in the affairs of the economy? The free market is officially buried. The State must reassume centre-stage, the treasury and the federal reserve board will be handing out rescue money right and left in order to save banking and non-banking institutions alike. Even when such entities have gone bust entirely on account of devious doings on their own part, State generosity will not be denied. After all, the survival of American capitalism is at stake. Saving a crooked and corrupt Wall Street is saving the capitalist order.

At the same time, it is being rubbed in even to the thugs in trouble, there is no free lunch. The US Congress, representing the American nation, has assumed the role of a stern taskmaster. State agencies will henceforth oversee and regulate the activities of institutions receiving government bounty. In some instances, such institutions — including banks — will have to part with a segment of their equity to these agencies, a euphemism for semi-nationalization. That is to say, American capitalism, in sackcloth and ashes, has agreed to the shackles of a regulatory regime. Even salaries and perquisites going to the executive personnel of quite a few fund-receiving institutions will be subject to public scrutiny. Margaret Thatcher’s Britain, equally hard hit by the blowing typhoon, has gone even further, to the extent of nationalizing, in full, some of its largest banks.

Will the message reach the shores of India, where the authorities, bewitched by liberalization, have been obstinately anxious to integrate the domestic financial market with miracle-making Wall Street? Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar: it is only determined resistance by the Left which has stood in the way of a greater exposure of our financial system to American banks and insurance firms. Notwithstanding that piece of luck, share prices here are behaving like Nervous Nellies. And this for a solid reason.

Short-term capital funds from abroad have parked in our stock exchanges in substantial quantities. Foreigners have purchased a sizeable slice of equity of not only many Indian industrial and commercial ventures, but of some of our leading banks as well. If, because of uncertainties originating in the US and Europe, these equity investments are withdrawn at an extraordinarily fast pace, it could cause a debacle in both share prices and our foreign exchange holdings. The nervousness on our bourses is largely on account of contemplation of that prospect, which can be avoided only if the authorities, without losing a moment, re-clamp restrictions on capital movements on the current account.

The neo-colonial grip on North Block is yet to slacken. Even as both Sensex and Nifty show signs of a free fall, the prime minister, his finance minister and their cronies persist in glib talk about the “strong fundamentals” of the Indian economy, a copycat version of the assertion of the US Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain that the American economy is “structurally sound”. Hope is being pinned exclusively on providing additional liquidity to participants in the share markets. Official verbiage continues to avoid mentioning the most crucial fact though. Foreign institutional investors at present hold around 70 billion US dollars —equivalent to Rs 350,000 crore — in Indian stocks, including equity of major banks and corporate bodies. If worst comes to the worst, foreigners could all of a sudden begin to sell short, dump these stocks, take their pickings and depart from the scene. The consequences could be frightening for share prices, the external value of the rupee and the country’s foreign exchange reserves. The Reserve Bank of India’s pump-priming would be hopelessly inadequate in that kind of a situation.

Is not what is immediately called for is, if not a total ban, at least a strict regime of controls, on taking short-term capital out of the country? Those at the helm of our affairs, overly concerned about possible negative reactions from their patrons in Washington DC to exchange control proposals, would like to perish such a thought and mumble inanities like the necessity of a global solution to a global problem. But the rude fact will not go away: finance ministers of the Western countries will lay stress on solutions which save their own skin; India and other developing countries are not at the top of their agenda.

What should worry our policy-framers is that, in case, while they do nothing, foreigners scoot with their loot, the stock markets collapse, foreign exchange assets shrink and some of the banks go under, the so-called “fundamentals” of the economy might cease to stay “strong” for any length of time. To cling to the notion of globalization together with liberalization leading us to an Arcadia would be plain silly in this season. The Americans and the Europeans are taking care of themselves, and have returned to the shelter of the State. In our country too the State has to step in and choose the most efficacious instruments, including those which foreigners disfavour: our own interests should precede the interests of foreigners.

The town cynic would conceivably chip in here. He would contribute a further argument against financial accommodation to save speculators in the stock markets. Why not let those who live by share prices, he would suggest, die by share prices too? After all, they constitute at most three per cent of the national population. Why not invest the money for an alternative purpose, for bettering the lot, for instance, of the agrarian community, which makes up close to two-thirds of the nation? That would, he would add, contribute much more towards strengthening the “fundamentals” of the economy.
(Courtesy: The Telegraph, Kolkata)
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The Real Story Behind the US-India Nuclear Deal

By Subrata Ghoshroy, AlterNet.

The legislation signed by Bush is technically known as the 123 Agreement because it amends section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which regulates U.S. cooperation with other nations in nuclear matters and prohibits trading with states that have not signed the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Not only is India a non-signatory to the landmark treaty, it is, along with Israel and Pakistan, also in contravention of its underlying principle, having secretly developed the bomb by transferring fissile material from its civilian program.

But while the point of the legislation was ostensibly to enable India to meet its energy needs, in reality it was about much more than that. The primary motivation is the U.S. embrace of India as a strategic partner.

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