Sunday, January 29, 2012

The sustainable future beckons: an all purpose metaphor

David Seaton's News Links
photo credit to जरा खाजवा की डोक

For me this image is pure poetry, it suggests so many things about our world and even about our human nature: the smile of the driver, the people riding snug and dry in the cab, the no nonsense expression on the little bullock's face. Please feel free to write your own version. DS

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Thomas Friedman and the hangman

David Seaton's News Links
In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. Thomas Friedman - NYT

In older factories and, before them, on the farm, there were opportunities for almost everybody: the bright and the slow, the sociable and the awkward, the people with children and those without. All came to work unskilled, at first, and then slowly learned things, on the job, that made them more valuable. Especially in the mid-20th century, as manufacturing employment was rocketing toward its zenith, mistakes and disadvantages in childhood and adolescence did not foreclose adult opportunity. For most of U.S. history, most people had a slow and steady wind at their back, a combination of economic forces that didn’t make life easy but gave many of us little pushes forward that allowed us to earn a bit more every year. Over a lifetime, it all added up to a better sort of life than the one we were born into. That wind seems to be dying for a lot of Americans. What the country will be like without it is not quite clear. Adam Davidson - The Atlantic
The awkward fact about "average" people, or "average" anything for that matter is that there are so many of them... of "us" really, because most of us are average something, one way or another, intelligence, weight, height, sex appeal, you name it.... Anything that savagely attacks the "average" attacks the majority and the majority, barring massive police state repression and even then, will eventually fight back.
As anger rises, riots on the streets of American cities are inevitable. “Yes, yes, yes,” he says, almost gleefully. The response to the unrest could be more damaging than the violence itself. “It will be an excuse for cracking down and using strong-arm tactics to maintain law and order, which, carried to an extreme, could bring about a repressive political system, a society where individual liberty is much more constrained, which would be a break with the tradition of the United States.” George Soros quoted in the Daily Beast 
We are being told that we must be more competitive. What does that mean? Another quote from Tom Friedman's globalist panegyric, this time a paean to China.
A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day. ‘The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,’ the executive said. ‘There’s no American plant that can match that.’ ”
Friedman, of course thinks that this is just great, but I simply do not believe that Americans or Europeans would be willing to endure working conditions like that very long without revolting, except, perhaps, during the struggles of a world war. 
Suddenly Karl Marx of all people is reappearing in "polite" conversation and if you take a look at the following quotes taken at random and out of context and compare them with what you have read in the articles quoted above, you'll easily see why:
  • Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the laborer, unless under compulsion from society.
  • Machines were, it may be said, the weapon employed by the capitalists to quell the revolt of specialized labor.
  • The more the division of labor and the application of machinery extend, the more does competition extend among the workers, the more do their wages shrink together.
  • The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people.
  • (Free Trade) breaks up old nationalities and pushes the antagonism of the proletariat and the bourgeoisie to the extreme point. In a word, the free trade system hastens the social revolution. It is in this revolutionary sense alone, gentlemen, that I vote in favor of free trade.
So we are moving toward, or have moved to a society where even in developed countries increasingly a tiny minority lives very well and "average" people, by definition the majority, live badly, return to the living and working conditions of the days of Charles Dickens, conditions that took countless years and endless blood to meliorate... and even an "average" student of history will know that under such conditions revolutions happen.
I'm sorry to keep bringing the old boy up, but it was Lenin who said that a capitalist will sell you a rope on Friday that you are going to hang him with on Sunday... just to make a profit on Saturday... he can't help himself. Vladimir Ilych's mummy must be laughing his little wax head off when they turn out the lights in his tomb at night. DS

Monday, January 23, 2012

Barack Obama: a parenthesis between Bush and Gingrich?

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Who knew, in the exuberance of 2008, that America was electing an introvert? And that one who touched so many felt above the touchy-feely-gritty parts of politics? Maureen Dowd - New York Times
Why does Mitt Romney have money in the Caymans?
Christian Science Monitor
Gingrich is an unabashed egoist ("I think grandiose thoughts") who likes to compare himself to historic figures including Abraham Lincoln, Charles de Gaulle, the Duke of Wellington, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. He might soon add Jesus Christ to that list because Gingrich has had more political resurrections this past year than the son of God. Ron Fournier - National Journal
Just writing the title of this post gave me the whim whams...We may actually be on the path to seeing Newt Gingrich sworn in as President of the United States of America. The idea is really hard to contemplate.
I think that Romney's tax returns will sink him with today's struggling middle class, the fact that he was born rich and has never invented anything and has only worked in the financial area -- combined with his methacrylate personality -- already has him in trouble, but the mere words "Cayman Islands" should be enough to send him spinning off into Cain-Bachmann-Huntsman, purgatory... And as for Florida, where Romney is supposed to win easily, Gingrich's observation that the Palestinians are an "invented people", should make him a favorite with Florida's many elderly Jewish retirees... he already seems to have the rednecks in his pocket... I'm waiting to see how he will pander to the Cuban community. As I see it Romney is toast...(things have come to such a pass that I hope I am wrong!).
Many people might say that Obama would find Gingrich an easier opponent than Romney, but I am not so sure. Both Obama and Romney are boring, reasonable men, men who will say just about anything that a boring reasonable man would say (Obama can't trot out all the "audacity of hope" stuff again, we've been there, done that)... Gingrich is a nut... and maybe a genuine nut is just what many troubled American people, hard in the grips of nihilism, are ready for now... Somebody that breaks the mold, who takes bullshit to a level where it becomes a liberating sincerity, whose phoniness is cut from whole cloth... That may be the message the voters are sending in this serial adulterer winning handily in a southern state chockablock with Bible-beating family values Evangelicals... Gingrich says phoney, absurd, weird things, but underneath all the pond scum there lurks something "real" about him. Horribly real for many of us, but "real" nonetheless.
And of course, there is always the chance that a third party candidate may appear and screw up all predictions. My reading is that a third party candidate would hurt Obama most... many of his most enthusiastic supporters in 2008 were thrill seekers, joy riders on the wave of hope and change... They might like another "The One", just for the ride.
Anything is possible at a time and in a country which is seriously considering giving Newt Gingrich a permit to open carry atomic weapons. DS

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

SOPA + PIPA (additional reading)

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If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. Thomas Jefferson

At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution. With the change of the economic foundation the entire immense superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed.(...) higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself.
Karl Marx

As a result, the legislative battle over two once-obscure bills to combat the piracy of American movies, music, books and writing on the World Wide Web may prove to be a turning point for the way business is done in Washington. It represented a moment when the new economy rose up against the old.(...) “The problem for the content industry is they just don’t know how to mobilize people,” said John P. Feehery, a former House Republican leadership aide who previously worked at the motion picture association. “They have a small group of content makers, a few unions, whereas the Internet world, the social media world especially, can reach people in ways we never dreamed of before.” New York Times
When I was in junior high, I had this wonderful science teacher, Mr. Lazlo, a very vocational teacher who was always finding creative ways of teaching. He even let me turn in my homework in comic book form. I adored him.
One spring Mr. Lazlo brought an incubator to class filled with fertilized chicken eggs. Every day we would cut open one of the eggs and examine the development of the fetuses.
Day by day we saw the fascinating change from a clot of blood to something that looked more like a chicken.
Finally the day came for the surviving baby chicks to hatch.
Little holes began to appear in the shells as the chicks tried to peck their way out.
When the chicks were managing to get their heads free of the shell, Mr. Lazlo suggested that we help some of the chicks get out of the shell and let the others get out the best they could.
The ones we helped soon died. Apparently the act of getting out of the shell was a vital part of their development. DS

Monday, January 16, 2012

Iran's bomb... the bottom line

Here’s the bottom line: an Israeli attack unites Iran in fury, locks in the Islamic Republic for a generation, cements the Syrian regime, radicalizes the Arab world at a moment of delicate transition, ignites Hezbollah on the Lebanese border, boosts Hamas, endangers U.S. troops in the region, sparks terrorism, propels oil skyward, triggers a possible regional war, offers a lifeline to Iran just as Europe is about to stop buying its oil, adds a Persian to the Arab vendetta against Israel, and may at best set back Iran’s nuclear ambitions a couple of years. Roger Cohen - NYT
David Seaton's News Links
The selling point of starving or beating Iran into submission is that if they had an atomic bomb they would use it to attack Israel, who has at least 200 such weapons. The idea being that Iran is planning to turn Israel, its Jewish inhabitants and a considerable number of Palestinian Muslims into a radioactive Auschwitz.
The Persians, though notably strict in their religious practice, are eminently rational. They are just as rational as Khrushchev's USSR. They would not start an atomic exchange that would mean the annihilation of their country. The biggest problem brought on by the Iranians having a bomb would be that all the other countries in the region would want one too.
An atomic-weaponized Middle East would not mean a nuclear free for all, but it would mean that Israel's and America's freedom of action to behave like a colonial power "punishing the natives", would be forever curtailed.

It would be impossible for the USA to encourage Israel to continue a war like the one against Hezbollah in 2006 until it "finished the the job" or to have invaded Iraq for that matter either.
With atomic weapons in the mix, any action by Israel that could remotely set off to a general war in the Middle East, one with even the remotest possibility of an atomic exchange, would have to be snuffed out at the first whiff of smoke.
Lobby or no lobby, the USA would have to keep Israel on a very tight leash and Israel and their lobby know that. This would certainly cramp Israel's style, and many Israelis would find that restraint intolerable and a significant number of the "best and the brightest" of Israel's technological elite, who could find work anywhere in the world on 24 hours notice, might possibly take their families and head out for safer climes.
The fear of not being able to sufficiently intimidate the Muslim population of the Middle East, not any fear of Israel's perishing in a nuclear holocaust, is at the bottom of America and Israel's drive to eliminate Iran's nuclear program. DS

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why do they suddenly quote Marx and Gramisci in the Financial Times?

David Seaton's News Links
All of a sudden Karl Marx and Marxist thought are being talked about in the most unlikely places... like the Financial Times. Here is a sample that I identify a lot with from Gideon Rachman, the FT's chief foreign affairs commentator. Like Rachman, when I was a student I couldn't make any sense of Marx either.
"The old is dying and the new cannot be born: in the interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms will appear.” That statement from the Prison Notebooks of the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci was a favourite of student Marxists when I was at university in the 1980s. Back then it struck me as portentous nonsense. But Gramsci’s observation does resonate now – in an age of ideological confusion. Gideon Rachman - Financial Times
It is a little like what Mark Twain said,
"When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Commenting on Gideon's Gramsci quote, I would counter-quote with what Marx himself said on the transition from one historical period to another, something which so many of us feel is happening right now
No social order ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself.
Quite naturally, there are many people who believe that Marx's thinking is valueless because the Soviet Union collapsed in ruin and that Marx was to blame for it. They forget that Marx didn't create the Soviet Union, Lenin did that, using Marx as an intellectual tool. Where Marx said, not before "material conditions have matured in the womb of the old society itself", Lenin believed that the "new social order" could be delivered by Caesarian section. He was wrong and instead of the the moneyless, classless society that Marx vaguely predicted would succeed our system, Lenin gave birth to a sort of state capitalism, whose definition might have been the old soviet joke, "they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work".
Having said that, it is doubtful if the czarist regime could have ever industrialized Russia, defeated Nazi Germany and put the first man in space as Lenin's creation did. The irony of course being that the USSR's collapse made a perfect example of what Marx had said, that "new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself." Lenin's C-section revolution produced a rigid, dogmatic system that couldn't adapt to the post-industrial, information society trends. They were the ones that were "old". In the end they were brought down because their brand of "capitalism" was more fragile than ours, which as we are discovering now, doesn't mean that our system isn't also fragile.
In a sense we may be about to die of success, we may be spinning off the road, like a car in an ice storm. We like to think that our system is about "freedom" and democracy, but it is probably about consumption. We produce more and more stuff with fewer and fewer people; pay is stagnant for the mass of consumers, who can only stay in the game with credit, which has dried up. But it was grand while it lasted. That is what the soviet block never managed to do.
Here is a classic joke from the now defunct German Democratic Republic.
A man is walking home from work, when he sees a long line forming in front of a government store, he asks the people what they are in line for and they tell him "lemons"... Frantically he runs home, arriving much earlier than normal, and finds his wife in bed with his next door neighbor, confronting them furiously he shouts:
What are you doing here, don't you know that today they are selling lemons?
What brought the GDR down and the rest of Really Existing Socialism, including the USSR along with it, was not really people's chaffing under the repression of totalitarianism, but rather our system's miraculous ability to produce and distribute an infinite variety of affordable consumer goods, which their godless, planned economy couldn't. Free health care, social equality, guaranteed employment, good schools (Angela Merkel graduated from the University of Leipzig) and guaranteed housing couldn't compete with our cornucopia.
The essence of our system is a quite recent -- and never before in history achieved -- endless variety of things, many of them amazingly cheap, to choose from.  Think about it, you wander into a shopping mall looking to buy some deodorant and you'll be forced to choose between dozens of different brands at many different prices until you find exactly the one that suits your pocketbook or your "unique lifestyle" and image. You can eat your favorite fruit at any time of the year, flown in from the other side of the planet. This is freedom!
However it appears that we produce more and more with fewer  and fewer people and the majority's earning power has stagnated to the point where the newly impoverished would-be consumers can only pay to play by going deeply into debt. And now credit has dried up.
So Marx's idea expressed in "Preface of A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy", was that when our system reached its full potential, its inner conflicts would cause it to collapse.
What would that "full potential" look like?
Maybe it would be interesting to look into the opinion of venture capitalists, after all they risk their money on predicting that future. I recently stumbled on an interesting one, Steve Jurvetson, who is a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson a firm with affiliate offices in more than 30 cities around the world and over $7 billion in capital commitments. The video I am featuring below comes from the Stanford Center for Professional Devopment, and in it Jurvetson speaks about the future. He is a very effective communicator and allthough a lot of what he says sounds like pure science fiction, it most certainly isn't. 
Jurvetson gave the lecture in the video below at Stanford back in 2009 and although it is an hour long, I think that anyone interested in where the world is heading should watch it carefully.  Even stop the video and go back and watch and listen to some parts more than once.

This is the Kurszweil chart that Jurvetson uses in his presentation.  I am putting here so that you can study it it in detail. DS

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Themes for 2012: The Technology (special for the 20 somethings)

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Probably the most useful service that older people can perform for young people is to convey to them the reality of life-modifying change. Anyone in their sixties, or older today, has seen the "unthinkable" occur several times in the course of their lives and as the song goes, they have probably been "up and down and over and out", enough times to have absorbed or at least have some intuition of the Buddhist concept of "annica" or impermanence: the constant flux of life.  Having seen so much of it, having had to recycle themselves, perhaps several times, having seen the young and the beautiful wither and die, many older people hate and fear change.

For an older person to welcome change requires having embraced the spiritual value of annica and presents for them a constant inner struggle. 
Younger people of course, usually welcome the idea of change, perhaps because though sensing its value, they have little idea of its price.
Lets look at the changes the future may bring to those who have a lot of future to look forward to.
First read this about 3-D printing:
(snippet)  Using computerised designs, techniques such as three-dimensional printing will enable businesses based in Birmingham or Belize to make complicated parts for products from forklift trucks to space rockets that could be assembled virtually anywhere. Customer choice over how the artifacts look will increase, with only minimal compromise concerning quality or cost.
Or this:
(...) users create “a real mix of wonderful things and practical things” with his device. Hobbyists have printed small bridges for their model train sets, while engineers prototype products and repairmen print spare parts for out-of-production cameras. “It’s an innovation machine,” says Mr Pettis. “We’re out to democratise engineering.” Financial Times
Or this:
At some point in the future, or so I'm told, households will construct products out of raw materials, and businesses will simply create the formulas that turn atoms into goods. Fareed Zakaria - "The Post American World"
The idea is that you put some powder you order on the Internet into a washtub, add water and out walks a TV set, thus putting millions of Chinese people out of work.
Does this sound a bit  farfetched?
Now, think about what I just did, I got a Kindle for Christmas and then went online and in a few minutes downloaded, for free, more books than I probably could ever read in the rest of my life.
Next step, think how this 3-D printing device or the concept of producing complex computer generated, tangible objects at home will develop over the next 20 years -- it will become more efficient, with more features and cheaper and cheaper and more bandwidth -- you may be too young to remember what computers were like and what they cost only 20 years ago (much too young to remember the Commodore 64 of the 1980s)  then lets take that to its logical conclusion: at some point, I will be able to download the pirated plans for the Kindle itself and my "printer" will construct it for me, right here in my house... the only obstacle, the laws protecting intellectual property. We see that all the thrust of the new technology is attacking our present pre-digital legal system.
Now read the following excerpt from Onkel Karl:
At a certain stage of their development, the material productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations of production, or — what is but a legal expression for the same thing — with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution.
Reading that you can see that the old fellow was quite prophetic. Perhaps all this change will be peaceful, but as the property owners try to protect their property, perhaps not.
Maybe you think, "I'll be OK, I'm good at maths and sciences". Those who have, or plan on having, post-graduate degrees in math and engineering, thinking that their future is assured in an information-intelligence economy, should be looking warily over their shoulders at the advances in artificial intelligence (AI). They might ponder on the programs that today allow computers to defeat the world's most skillful chess players.
If we take as a working hypothesis that artificial intelligence is now at about the same stage as personal computers were at the beginning of the 1980s and project the trajectory of AI  to follow a similar path as the PCs into the coming three decades, these graduates could easily picture their futures, armed with their PHD in math, finding employment as security guards, gardeners, nurses or sex slaves of...  the one percenters. 
Bottom line: our system is amazingly artificial and almost impossible to sustain and the devil will take the hindmost if the hindmost don't put up a fight.
So get ready twenty somethings, this is the world your generation is going to live in, be shaped by and try to shape in your turn. DS

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Themes for 2012: Petraeus and the fantasies of Hugo Chávez

The Magic General
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez speculated on Wednesday that the United States might have developed a way to give Latin American leaders cancer, after Argentina's Cristina Fernandez joined the list of presidents diagnosed with the disease.Chavez, Fernandez, Paraguay's Fernando Lugo, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff and former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have all been diagnosed recently with cancer. All of them are leftists.(...) "this is very, very, very strange ... it's a bit difficult to explain this, to reason it, including using the law of probabilities." (Hugo Chávez). Reuters
David Seaton's News Links
Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's irrepressible president/strongman (take your pick) is more or less accusing the  United States of America of giving several left wing, Latin American leaders, including himself, cancer. Absurd.

The most disturbing part of this absurd accusation is what makes it absurd... As far as I know it is impossible to "give" people cancer, but I would not doubt for a moment that if it were possible, the CIA might try to do it... They have done even crazier stuff than that in their time with often quite disastrous results. Today they are doing things that no previous administration had ever dared to do before and some of that would be really hard to top.

Under the Obama administration, we seem to be entering a "golden age" of the CIA, where accusations like the one Chávez is making would be par for the course.

People reveal themselves by what they say and what they do, especially by what they do. By naming "magic general", David Petraeus, to run the CIA, Obama gives the game away.  Covert operations, drones, Israeli style targeted assassinations and the destabilizing of other countries' governments or economies by the CIA and front organizations, is now going to be the preferred or "smart" way of managing the empire... more cost effective than the hitherto horribly indecisive, hideously expensive or dismally failed armed adventures featuring thousands of uniformed soldiers, corrupt private contractors, aircraft carrier battle groups, etc. What could be smarter than that?

And what is most disturbing thing of all this "pragmatism" and smartness, is that the firewalls between what the US military and espionage establishment is allowed to do abroad and what is is allowed to do at home, even habeas corpus, are being breached. This gets to a point where "smart" moves into a territory that the British would call "too clever by half"... where the USA is in the gravest danger of outsmarting itself. DS

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Themes for 2012: America's relations with Israel

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The United States of America's relationship with Israel is probably the touchiest subject in American politics... a classic "third rail", touch it and you die, sort of subject, and yet it has become one of the major focus points of US political life.  How can it be impossible to question something this important in a democracy without being expelled into the outer darkness, where there is much wailing and gnashing of teeth?
It is a subject that has fascinated me since I was a young man. Way back in the 1970s, when I was a budding, (never really flowered), news photographer, I lived for nearly a year in Tel-Aviv. Israel was a very different place then, a very austere, egalitarian, socialist country and very popular with progressives on both sides of the Atlantic. Many things have happened since then to change all that, suffice to say that everything in the previous sentence has been turned completely upside down.
I was very happy there, I met many interesting people, heard innumerable, fascinating, anecdotes and participated in political conversations where I got a crash course in geopolitics... and probably most important of all, I had a wonderful Israeli girlfriend and participated in her family's life.  You could say that Israel made a strong impression on me and that I "bonded" with that country.  At the same time that I loved the place and the people,  even back then I had the feeling that,  by holding onto the territories they had conquered in the Six-Day War, taking their resources and oppressing  the inhabitants, Israel was entering into a soul destroying bargain, selling its moral birthright for a mess of pottage
Sometimes nothing is more unrealistic than realism. Israel's moral position is/was of much more strategic value to Israel's survival than a few kilometers of military "strategic depth" or the vapors of any biblical "entitlement". This is becoming clearer with every passing news cycle. The political awakening and mass enfranchisement of the Arab peoples expressed in the words, "Arab Spring", is only accelerating this process, the amount of political energy being released is massive
With Binyamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister the two state solution, which already showed clear signs of rigor mortis, has begun to stink.
As Thomas Friedman has pointed out, from that point on we are looking at a clear alternative of official apartheid or opportunistic ethnic cleansing as alternatives to the liquidation of the present "Jewish state", not necessarily the end of a state where Jews live comfortably, but the end of a so defined democratic "Jewish state".
I think that Netanyahu would be comfortable with either apartheid or ethnic cleansing although I think he would prefer the latter to the former. As the reality of this sinks in, America's relationship with Israel will inevitably become increasingly conflicted.
This conflict could be symbolized by the American people choosing Barack Obama as their president. Despite his every pledge of loyalty and support of Israel he is not trusted by the Israeli government or their US lobby.
This conflict is not about what  Americans actually voted for when they elected Barack Obama, but what they thought they had voted for and although they may not realize it, what they think they voted for sends a powerful message to Israel. A message which conflicts with Israel's very foundations. 
Americans voted for a person who by birth  belongs to no particular "tribe" or ethnic group, an amalgam of races and cultures: a person who is a symbol of some sort of "new man", freed from any historical or ethnic preconditioning. This "Adam" quality, perhaps more than any other, excited and continues to excite Americans and many others around the globe.
However this quality is in direct conflict with Israel's whole raison d'être.
To avoid being tiresome, only one example that could sum it all up: Israel is a country where a racial-religious qualification is needed to buy or lease state owned land.  This simply cannot be squared with what the Americans voted for when they voted for Barack Obama. The question is: how are those who voted for what Barack Obama symbolizes supposed to have a "special relationship" with a country predicated on religious or racial identity? I am not talking about diplomatic, commercial, military or friendly relations with such a state, America has always had, has and will always have such relations with many much less attractive states than Israel, but a "till death us do part", special, most important ally, relationship?
How could two countries be more different? If any people in the world have a long memory, it is the Israelis, and no people in the world have or have ever had such a short memory as the Americans. Israel is all about purity of pedigree and lineage, of maintaining the group intact. There are literally endless discussions in Israel on the subject, "who is a Jew ".   America is defined by an ancient argument between the country's culture and the country's values. Race prejudice is as old and rooted in American culture as the European colonization of America. In his inaugural speech President Obama observed that 60 years ago his father would not have been served in a Washington restaurant: that's the way it had been for hundreds of years.
Americans, in electing Obama, have symbolized the repudiation of their own tribal history and traditions and have chosen to reinvent themselves in accordance with the foundational principals of the Republic. Israelis by choosing to reoccupy land they haven't lived on for thousands of years, have chosen to reinvent themselves by embracing their own tribal history and traditions. What each country stands for is diametrically opposed to what the other stands for and their national trajectories are traveling in opposite directions. That will be an increasingly important theme in 2012 and the years to follow, of that I am sure. DS