Monday, September 1, 2008

"Get Out of Harlem" is the Microphrase for the American Macrofear Inhabiting Americans

Ranchers in Abilene assess world affairs in unilateral fashion

Recently, my father, a western businessman who works in Abilene, Texas as a consultant manager for a bottling company, called me on the phone to inquire into my living situation.

I mentioned to him that I was thinking of moving apartments from my current position in Harlem, in the Spanish barrio near 125th and Lexington, to something more leafy and South Manhattan.

I wanted to live somewhere where the girls walked around with blue hair and men wore faux-Western button up shirts and hipster jeans in a post-modern shrug to the traditions of this great frontier-shaping country. The idea of living in a place where bars stayed open till four and you needed code words and special networking connections to get into restaurants intrigued me. There is something very American about access and special privileges. This is the New York City that I had seen from my television in Hong Kong. This is the New York City that I had moved to, but I was not experiencing it up in Harlem.

In Harlem, I am without privilege and exposed to all that is the world in New York.

Harlem is, in general, a nice place to live. Not many people are crowding around in it trying to experience it all. It doesn't have the frenetic hyper-attentive hierarchy of trend-snatching hipsters. Usually the streets are filled with people from all over the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Middle East and South Asia, accompanied by their music.

Foreigners and native New Yorkers mix. Migrants, destined to arrive in order to send home all they capture, mill around and work incessant hours in part-time jobs that are easy to capture.

But on any given day, Harlem is dirty and it is dangerous, in relative terms. Almost every morning on the way to work I will literally walk around piles of trash, flying newspapers and at least once a week I will be stumbled into by someone who is in some kind of alcohol-induced or drug-created stupor. In other words, the tourist in New York is likely not sending home postcards with Harlem's realities pasted on them, inscribed with "Wish You Were Here!"

This obviously doesn't please my parents, hard-wired as they are to ascribe success to their three children. Even though I am 33 years old and have lived well on my own for over 15 years, they worry about me more than they ever have, dreaming up improbable terrors that pale in comparison to the riots I have worked in, and the fascist dictatorships that I have traveled to visit.

Offhand, I mentioned to my father that a man had been murdered on my street corner, 33 stories below, only 100 meters from my front door. This unsettled my father, and rightly so. He asked for details. Was it a gun? Yes, it was. What was he doing? I don't know. I thought it had something to do with an argument. But nobody in the building has said anything about it.

My father took the news with barely a second thought. "Get out of Harlem, find somewhere else to live. You represent money to them, and that's not their fault. That's the social conditioning," he said.

This is my father's thinking. I believe that it represents more of the country's thinking, too, when it comes to foreign affairs. It is the same kind of thiking that has framed the federal response to September 11.

Dominique Moisi is a Senior Advisor at the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales, in Paris, and the author of the forthcoming book The Geopolitics of Emotions. He writes in The Land of Hope Again? An Old Dream for a New America:

The United States looks at the outside world with the distance, if not the distrust of a psychologically self-sufficient country. Since World War II, he United States has been aware that its security depends on its ability to interact with the world -- a realization that was reinforced by the Cold War and more brutally by 9/11. But it has, nevertheless, always felt alone in its power.

The ironic, and I might even say hypocritical, mindset of the modern day American living in the post-modern world, is to retreat and to hide behind the walls of its fortress all of the character, personality, possessions and unique traits that the rest of the world wants to share with it, because it feels that it is so unique that other people want to steal and to take from it.

How medieval!

The world that walks around Harlem under my 33rd floor apartment is the greater world that America exists in, to its own self an island.

My father's thinking is the thinking that is running this election in competition against Barack Obama, the world candidate. In a world that is becoming more American, in terms of its cultural sameness and its penchant for the unique and the different, America is becoming more like the Old World. As Moisi writes in this letter to Americans on the verge of their elections for president:

The task facing the United States requires a sort of Copernican revolution of the American mind: it means accepting that although the world will look more and more similar to the United States an even familiar in cultural terms, it will not longer be defined by the United States alone or even by it principally. The first challenge of the next U.S. president will be to adjust Americans to this new world system, whose creation you have accelerated.

I have seen that in Asia. China is not striving to be democratically open and liberal like the United States. No, it took from the United States model the behavior that was most fluid and most easily traded to the rest of the world: the art of making money.

With money comes power. With the need to make money comes innovation. Not in politics, but in the power politics has to make new connections. Welcome to the world where you can go to sleep watching the news and wake up on your couch seeing the buildings you built as a testament to America's unmoving power be sold to the highest bidder, a bidder half a world away.

The truth about China is true for the Middle East.

Chrysler Building now owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

Can Bobby Jindal Pass the Hurricane Test?

Picked this up from Sree Srinavasan's Facebook stream:

So far, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is looking good in the media. He's succeeded in reducing the potential destruction from Hurricane Gustav to Louisiana's coastal areas by getting those people out in a fast and uncomplicated manner. His police and National Guard numbers are way up from the last big hurricane, Katrina.

South Asian Journalist's Association co-founder and all around good guy Sree Srinivasan links to a SAJA blog about Jindal's potential for a future presidential position. In it, an exchange between CNN anchor Rich Sanchez and libertarian Bob Barr, a former Republican congressman.

It reads as follows:

SANCHEZ: Watch this fellow Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and you almost say to yourself here's a guy who's handling this situation, doing really yeoman's work. He seems composed, he seems organized, he seems to be a very effective communicator. And your are almost wondering and asking yourself, boy here is a guy who would have made a very good vice-presidential choice, wouldn't he?

BARR: And maybe in the years ahead he'll make a good presidential choice for the Republican party. Very, very impressive fellow. Has a tremendous grasp of figures, organization, process, in addition to presenting himself very well. He has a tremendous future, I think.

SANCHEZ: It's not fair to ask the question, it's almost like being a backseat driver... But had the McCain campaign had another week to make this decision and they'd seen this guy's performance, do you think there was the possibility they may have... what's the old... I could have had a V8, (slapping his forehead) I could have a Jindal?

This is not the only time that CNN has been enamored of Jindal.

Probably four years ago, a mainstream media outlet [it may have been CNN] did a future Republican leaders bit and Jindal was all over it.

There was this mention in RedState in August of 2004: They ask him who might be the presidential candidate for 2008. Notable by the absence of a mention is John McCain.

I think we have to step back and realize that the leader in ‘08 may well be someone that we don’t even know today. Obviously there are many known names – Majority Leader Frist, Gov. Bush, Gov. Owens, Mayor Giuliani, Gov. Pataki – who could all reasonably try to fill the role. It really all depends on who emerges from the pack.

And I think a lot of this depends on the nature of the issues. Is the war on terror still the biggest issue we face? Or are domestic issues back at the forefront? One of the reasons that Gov. Bush was able to win in 2000 was that domestic issues were the main discussion, and he clearly had the resume to lead on these issues – on education, health care, taxes and other issues.

No, it isn’t clearly “someone’s turn” to take the leadership role – but we don’t want it to be someone’s turn. Few would’ve predicted that President Bush or President Clinton would’ve been the leaders of their parties four years in advance of their victories… and I think that’s a healthy thing – we want to determine who leads based on the challenges we face, based on external events.

And here is the Bobby Jindal blog with no mention of the current Hurricane proceedings. Perhaps they are too busy.

But has the US$1 billion in levee reconstruction money and low-lying lands refurbishment arrived too late? There was this in an August 19th blog post:

As we are now in the middle of hurricane season, we are constantly reminded of how important our hurricane and flood protection systems are. Last week, I announced more than $1 billion in funding for hurricane protection and coastal restoration, the largest single investment in these areas in our state’s history. As the New Orleans Times-Picayune wrote, “there are hardly more important goals for Louisiana’s long-term future than rebuilding our coast and improving hurricane protection.”

As I have said before, the time for studies and research has long passed. It is time to start breaking ground and digging dirt on these projects, and with this announcement we are ready to do just that. The money will go towards building stronger and safer levees, reinforcing existing levees, and helping rebuild our coast. While our levee systems are generally the focus of news coverage, rebuilding our coast is just as important to our state’s future. One study estimates that for every two miles of coastline we reduce storm surges by one foot, vastly improving the safety of our coastal cities and habitats.

As environmental groups said in the Thibodaux Daily Comet, “Louisiana’s spending plan is good news… [as] the plan includes a healthy balance of hurricane-protection and wetlands-restoration work.” These projects, along with nearly $15 billion in ongoing coastal restoration and hurricane protection projects in New Orleans and other areas of the state, represent one of the largest public works efforts in the world, showing our commitment to ensuring the safety of our gulf coast communities.

The post is found here: after a brief mention that Louisiana is conversations with General Motors to support the expansion and presence of an assembly plant in Shreveport.