Monday, December 01, 2008

"Change" also means "to switch"

David Seaton's News Links
I have always suspected that instead of "change", Barack Obama's real mission is to keep America's emetic reaction to clumsy, ugly, tongue tied, George W. Bush and all his works from derailing globalization and all those who profit from it.

As The One is careful to point out,
he is the change, as for the rest, aside from his morphology, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Moises Naím is a Venezuelan born, American resident who is the director of Foreign Policy Magazine and a very perspicacious and well connected observer of America's (both north and south's) political scene indeed.

Among Naím's many activities he writes a column in his native Spanish in the Madrid daily, El País. On Sunday
he wrote a very interesting piece that I have not found published anywhere in English called "The 23rd of January Brigade" referring to those who will be disillusioned with Obama before he has been in office more than three days.

In it he writes:
"One of the most complicated battles that Obama must face is one he hasn't inherited from Bush, nor is it a domestic crisis, nor international; it is the conflictual relationship he and his government will have with the US Congress. This will surprise those who suppose that just because the presidency and the congress are in the hands of the same party implies that the initiatives of the senators and congressmen will be in tune with Obama's policies and vice versa. It won't be like that. Obama and his team will be to the right of the Congress. Obama's statements, but more important all his nominees, show clearly that the next government of the United States will have a center-right orientation.(...) However the Congress will be quite another thing. The senators and congressmen represent a population that is furious, afraid and very wounded. The feelings in the US are to lynch the "thieves of Wall Street" and to reject the "immigrants that take away our jobs, the multinationals that export our jobs to India and the rich who pay few taxes". Also the rejection of long wars.

It is with this in mind that Congress will evaluate Obama's proposals on free trade treaties, tax or health reform, foreign policy and financial regulation. Centrist pragmatism will systematically come into conflict with the indignation of a population that will demand of its representatives solutions that are much more drastic than the White House will consider desirable.
As Naím could be described as "center right" himself, it might be useful to contrast what he has written for Spanish consumption with what someone of the American left has written for American consumption. David Sirota wrote the following in Salon and I have taken the liberty to put certain of his phrases into boldface:
Despite the election's progressive mandate, Obama is not what Ronald Reagan was to conservatives -- he is not as much the product of a movement as he is a movement unto himself. He figured out that because many "progressive" institutions are merely Democratic Party appendages and not ideological movement forces, he could build his own movement. He succeeded in that endeavor thanks to the nation's Bush-inspired desire for change, his own skills and a celebrity-obsessed culture.

Though many Obama supporters feel strongly about particular issues, and though polling shows the country moving left, the Obama movement undeniably revolves around the president-elect's individual stardom -- and specifically, the faith that he will make good decisions, whatever those decisions are. With that kind of following, Obama likely feels little obligation to hire staff intimately involved in non-Obama movements -- especially those who might challenge a Washington ruling class he may not want to antagonize.

This is the mythic "independence" we're supposed to crave -- a czar who doesn't owe anyone. It is the foreseeable result of the Dear Leader-ism prevalent in foreign autocracies but never paramount in America until now -- and it will have its benefits and drawbacks.

Wielding his campaign's massive e-mail list, the new president could mobilize supporters to press Congress for a new New Deal. Or, he could mobilize that army to blunt pressure on his government for a new New Deal. The point is that Obama alone gets to choose -- that for all the talk of "bottom-up" politics, his movement's structure grants him a top-down power that no previous president had.

For better or worse, that leaves us relying more than ever on our Dear Leader's impulses. Sure, we should be thankful when Dear Leader's whims serve the people -- but also unsurprised when they don't.
Some readers may feel that all this is very exaggerated and that globalization is in no real danger and does not require what amounts to a dictatorship to save it, but America is the absolute cutting edge of capitalism and I have always been convinced that, finally the most meaningful attacks on it will come from America itself.

Real political change has always come about everywhere when articulate, educated and informed intellectual workers feel themselves in the same boat as "the hewers of wood and drawers of water". This alliance of mass and vanguard is what creates change, whether you believe it or not.

Up till now the victims of globalization have been mostly the poorly educated, who having no unionized manufacturing jobs anymore are flipping hamburgers and tending Wal-Mart at minimum or close to minimum wages. But now the pain is moving up into the ranks of the educated and skillful knowledge workers. These two groups discovering their common interests is literally political dynamite and if you don't think America's movers and shakers can figure this out and move to cut it off at the pass, then you inhabit the 1998 classic, "The Truman Show".

Maureen Dowd, the daughter of a Washington DC cop, who with her wit and moxie has made it to the top of her profession has felt the chill wind herself. In her Sunday column Dowd has written what may prove a funeral oration for globalization. When someone on the level of a top columnist is worried about the future of her industry and experiences the "there but for the grace of God go I" gestalt, then you know that something significant is afoot.

Here are some choice bits:
The newspaper business is not only crumpling up, James Macpherson informed me here, it is probably holding “a one-way ticket to Bangalore.” Macpherson — bow-tied and white-haired but boyish-looking at 53 — should know. He pioneered “glocal” news — outsourcing Pasadena coverage to India at Pasadena Now, his daily online “newspaperless,” as he likes to call it. Indians are writing about everything from the Pasadena Christmas tree-lighting ceremony to kitchen remodeling to city debates about eliminating plastic shopping bags.(...) I wondered how long it would be before some guy in Bangalore was writing my column about President Obama. “In brutal terms,” said Macpherson, whose father was a typesetter, printer and photographer, “it’s going to get to the point where saving the industry may require some people losing their jobs. The newspaper industry is coming to a General Motors moment — except there’s no one to bail them out.” He said it would be “irresponsible” for newspapers not to explore offshoring options.(...) So, he thought, “Where can I get people who can write the word for less?” In a move that sounded so preposterous it became a Stephen Colbert skit, he put an ad on Craigslist for Indian reporters and got a flood of responses. He fired his seven Pasadena staffers — including five reporters — who were making $600 to $800 a week, and now he and his wife direct six employees all over India on how to write news and features, using telephones, e-mail, press releases, Web harvesting and live video streaming from a cellphone at City Hall. “I pay per piece, just the way it was in the garment business,” he says. “A thousand words pays $7.50.” A penny for your thoughts? Now I knew my days were numbered. I checked in with one of his workers in Mysore City in southern India, 40-year-old G. Sreejayanthi, who puts together Pasadena events listings. She said she had a full-time job in India and didn’t think of herself as a journalist. “I try to do my best, which need not necessarily be correct always,” she wrote back. “Regarding Rose Bowl, my first thought was it was related to some food event but then found that is related to Sports field.”
Reading Dowd, I would say that if I were Karl Marx I would best make sure that my suit was back in time from the cleaners and that I got myself a good haircut: because it's showtime. DS

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