I've been reading Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine (about half way through) which details many occasions in the past three decades where democratically elected leaders turned on their respective populations much to the disappointment of those peoples. However, the election of Barack Obama, in my opinion, is certainly a victory for the people. The President of the USA has less power than the Prime Minister of Canada, so if you are expecting rapid fire change it won't happen. Obama is an Executive and needs to herd the cats of Congress in order to make anything happen.
The Shock Doctrine, which details the story of how US multinationals with the assistance of the CIA, IMF and World Bank have been causing economic shocks around the world and taking advantage of the situation to reap billions in profits by forcing other countries to sell off their public assets for pennies on the dollar to American multinational corporations in exchange for IMF and World Bank loans. Torture has been a standard but hidden weapon of this three decade onslaught on the standard of living of peoples around the world. Ford motors even tortured it's union employees on the factory premise in Chile for many years.
Under GW Bush torture went public. Under Obama my hope is that torture will again go underground where it's practitioners will have less victims and they may be held liable for their illegal actions. To stop the CIA from torturing or teaching other security officials how to torture will take more than a change in the American President. The CIA developed a manual on modern torture methods code named Kubark based on scientific research developed at McGill University (funded by the CIA and the Canadian government) in Canada in the 1950s. By closing Guantanamo Bay, Obama can send a message to the CIA that under his administration he will not tolerate torture and if the CIA is careless they may face prosecutions. In case you are unclear on the morality of torture, I will remind you that what "we" do to the enemy, the enemy will do back to our soldiers. And worse, the US government has tortured several US and Canadian citizens, either directly or by sending them to remote facilities beyond the eyes of Amnesty International. Once the torture institutions are created it's impossible for any citizen to know whether or not they will wind up in such a facility regardless of their individual lawfulness. Modern torture is less about extracting information (because information goes stale quickly) and more about destroying an individuals personal beliefs and reverting them to a child like state of helplessness. Many torture victims go insane from the sensory deprivation techniques, not to mention the electroshock therapy.
I do think there will be minor changes to the American health care system. Children will be given universal coverage. Since the Congress already agreed on that and it was vetoed by Bush it should be easy to pass that legislation under Obama. Obama will likely make some moves to reduce the 40+ million uninsured and temporarily reduce medical costs by forcing insurance companies to bulk buy prescription medicine. But I highly doubt he would nationalize the health care system as was done in Canada decades ago. America just nationalized the banking and insurance systems and there won't be a climate to tolerate further nationalizations.
Among us atheists we know the only real and important change involves the US government changing their standard lies on two fronts.
Front #1, Religion. Obama is religious, officially, but like many Christians, I know, I doubt their open professing of their faith because, as Sam Harris mentioned in End of Faith, you cannot choose what to believe. Obama is clearly very intelligent and we should expect that he has made the calculation that to be a credible black man he needs to be Christian. His mother was an Atheist and I would be suspect that Obama himself may be a closet Atheist. Although my tolerance for listening to religious rhetoric was exceeded half way through Rick Warren's speech I thought it was an intelligent move by Obama to sandwich himself between two preachers. By doing this it removed the pressure on him to say anything too religious. I thought his mentions of God in his speech were well placed and in the appropriate context. He never said he was on a mission from God or anything extreme like that. It's well known by students of political speeches that words or phrases are used to send hidden messages that would be unpopular if the message was explicitly delivered. I accused John McCain of such a hidden message in October. Obama mentioned that non-believers formed part of America. This is a change in direction from Bush who never mentioned non-believers and allowed his messengers to paint non-believers as un-American, in the same way his father did. I also thought it was telling that he mentioned Muslims before Jews and that he even mentioned Hindus because Hindus have been as invisible as non-believers. Obama sent us a message that he is our friend and he put Rick Warren on stage to shield himself from religious criticism. Expect more extremely moderate religious positions from Obama; remember how he made fun of people who want to legislate from the bible by verbally sharing hilarious parts of the bible. Could an Atheist get away with that?
Front #2, Marijuana. Over the course of history that have been many truths which have been hidden from the people by bold faced lies in order for the ruling class to maintain it's grip on power. In case you are ignorant on the subject, marijuana is an herbal medicine that causes no harm to people and has many beneficial qualities including medicinal benefits. It's not dangerous, yet dangerous substances like alcohol, cigarettes, pharmaceutical medicines, toxins and pollutants are legally sold. The lies of religion are integral in propping up the lie that marijuana is harmful. Multinational corporations in the alcohol and pharmaceutical industries do not want to compete with marijuana because it's a better product than many of their offerings and can be cultivated and sold in a decentralized manner. Multinational corporations have also been trying to hold back many other decentralized projects such as wind and solar power.
The good news is we have the Internet and more ability than ever to pressure the American President and Congress to modernize their way of thinking and give up the charade of religion and the prohibition of marijuana. If this two major lies can be broken then liberty can be truly spread throughout the globe.
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