There’s suddenly a reason to be cautiously optimistic: in the neoliberal death match euphemistically known as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the little guy just won an important round against the steroid-fueled defending champions of Team Corporate Elite.
The small family farmers of Japan, who prefer to keep both their families and their farms intact, delivered a stunning blow last week to Big Ugly Ag. But Big Ugly Ag’s promoter (Barack Obama of America), after canoodling over Sushi with P.M. Shinzo Abe of Japan, has vowed to come back for another round of fishy antics. Team Corporate Elite will refuel on even larger wads of cash, arm itself with even more fusillades of propaganda, and tone its tentacles in preparation for a whole lot of backroom arm-twisting of “constituencies” (anti-fast track congress critters in need of campaign cash and lobbyist largesse.)
Because Obama seems mighty irritated that regular people, like the small farmers of the world, are too comfortable. The capitalist monster is gnashing its terrible teeth, champing at the bit to transcend national interests for all-consuming global dominance. And Obama can’t let his masters think he is a loser. As he insisted in an “I will not surrender” news conference with Abe:
“Now is the time for bold steps that are needed to reach a comprehensive agreement, and I continue to believe we can get this done. All of us have to move out of our comfort zones and not just expect that we’re going to get access to somebody else’s market without providing access to our own. And it means that we have to sometimes push our constituencies beyond their current comfort levels because ultimately it’s going to deliver a greater good for all people.”
According to Japanese news reports, Obama had complained to Abe over Sushi that while his domestic approval rating has sunk into the 40s, making selling the TPP at home difficult for him, the Japanese P.M. is much more popular. Obama seemed baffled that with an approval rating in the 60s, Abe would still bow to pressure from his own citizens over the TPP. The Japanese P.M., for his part, also complained that Obama was too humorless and business-like at what was meant to be a relaxing social event. He apparently acted like a pushy salesman instead of a visiting head of state:
Mr. Abe tried to deflect with a joke, saying “In Japan, Ambassador (Caroline) Kennedy is more popular than me.” However, Mr. Obama kept pressing for concessions, citing the tariff rates for pork and beef.
Back at home, Obama and his negotiators are going to need true mega-doses of the standard corporate performance enhancers, given that their previous source of strength — secrecy — has been sucked dry by the actual intended victim-residents (“constituencies”) of 11 different countries andtheir reps. Reps such as Wikileaks, and Public Citizen, and those small stalwart groups of politicians who still have their respective national interests at heart.
And even if Big Ugly Ag were to eventually prevail over the small farmers and foist its products upon the world, there are plenty more contenders waiting in the wings to take on such muscle-bound thugs as Big Bad Pharma and Poison Tobacco. Lori Wallach of Public Citizen puts it this way:
After years of missed deadlines, unbending opposition by other nations to many U.S. proposals and scores of deadlocked TPP issues, Congress’ refusal to grant President Obama trade authority, growing opposition in many nations, and now Obama and Abe not announcing a breakthrough, TPP should be ready for burial. Instead, like some movie monster that will not die, TPP is being animated by a broad coalition of powerful corporate interests and we are told talks will continue.
Even if the continuing bilateral negotiations resolve U.S.-Japan auto and agricultural trade issues, there are scores of other deep deadlocks in TPP negotiations. This includes deep disputes on medicine patent and government drug reimbursement rate policies that would affect healthcare costs; limits on financial regulation, food safety and Internet freedom; disciplines on state owned enterprises; the expansion of investor protections that subject domestic laws to attack by corporations in foreign tribunals; and environmental and labor standards. As well, 60 U.S. Senators and 230 U.S. Representatives have insisted that TPP include enforceable disciplines on currency manipulation, but other TPP countries oppose this and to date the issue had not been addressed.”
Of course, to hear the White House tell it, last week’s blow to the solar plexus of his beloved corporate coup was only a temporary setback. (And given the power of his investors, he could very well be right.) According to The Hill, Obama merely “fell short” in his murketing abilities. Plus, it was a veritable whirlwind over there, and he got a bit buffeted in the ring. But according to administration flacks, Obama is still the champ — because even though he never connected, he threw some pretty amazing “breakthrough” punches and created a “pathway” to the winners’ circle:
“And so, when we say is there an agreement, the agreement comes on the very last day of the negotiation when you have a comprehensive package. That’s not where we are today,” a senior Obama administration official told reporters Friday on Air Force One.
“Where we are is at that moment where we see how we’re going to achieve resolution potentially of these key market access issues that will help unlock other negotiations,” the official said.
I nominate that last sentence for a Murketer of the Year award in the word salad category of best performance by an uncredited obfuscator in a supporting role.
And anyway, who needs a “senior Obama administration official” to toss out wilted propaganda when you have the glitzy Hollywood version so cleverly and originally known as West Wing Week? This is the email video modeled after Entertainment Tonight, sent out by the White House to disengaged citizen-consumers to keep us up-to-date on what we should think is important. The president, first lady and their palace guard are all portrayed as celebrities and filmed in only the most flattering lights and angles.
If West Wing Week was your only source of news, you wouldn’t even know the reason for Obama’s whirlwind trip to Asia. You’re told that he flew to Japan to eat and say hello to some factory robots. Seriously. This is the blaring headline:
“POTUS Dreams of Sushi”
To an up-tempo light jazz score, pre-trip POTUS is shown in the first scene as Upper-Middle Class Everyman, cavorting on the White House tennis and basketball courts and reading “Where the Wild Things Are” to a group of children. The one realistic moment is when he forms his fist into a claw and uses his fishy dulcet tone to camouflage his inner free-market roar.
Then follow a whole series of Potuses and Flotuses planing and deplaning to the salutes of military men and the air-kissing and kowtowing by factotums. Once he arrives in Asia, Potus is instantly transformed into Potentate, with all the red-carpet and orchestral trimmings. He eats a $300 plate of Sushi, and gushes over robots. The Temp Emp of America then eats some more, this time with the Perm Emp of Japan. There’s even a scene of them reviewing a medieval jousting tournament from the royal box. But not one word about the TPP. Not one single word.
The film ends with the non sequitur of Obama back home in the White House, jocularly posing for photos with comic Jim Carrey and making fun of his white shoes. I guess the president can only be humorous in his own comfort zone.
Watch the West Wing Week video here if you haven’t eaten recently.
And if you tried to look beyond White House propaganda for some real news on the president’s Asia trip, you probably looked in vain. Because according to the dutiful Washington press corps, the president went to Asia to… eat! Here, for example, was the headline from ABC News:
“Mt. Fuji-Shaped Ice Cream Is ‘Delicious’, Obama Says”
Asked by ABC News how he found last night’s state dinner dessert, Obama said it was “delicious.”
“They had the green tea at the bottom that I’ve spoken about having since I was 6,” he said. “I was very pleased.”
He later passed the compliment to the emperor and empress in person as he bid them farewell at the Hotel Okura.
“Thank you for last night it was such a nice evening,” Obama told the couple.
Whiel (sic) waiting for his royal highnesses, Obama told the press that he is jetlagged on day three of his Asian tour. “I’m still on the waking up at 4 thing,” he said.
Whiel you’re waking up from that vision, let me end the misery with just one more shallow non sequitur:
If you can’t live by the promise of hashtag, what can you live by?
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