China Called “The Biggest Risk to the World Economy” But History Shows that War Can Always Straighten This Sort of Situation Out (Update 1X: China Missile = “No-Go Zone” for U.S.?)

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

We’ve be writing later about the strength of China, but lately there has been some talk rising about a possible bubble being created in China.  In the Telegraph (U.K.),  Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has written a piece which looks at what’s going on titled China has now become the biggest risk to the world economy.

This article shed a totally different light on the views of Larry Kudlow that I wrote about in my previous post, Larry Kudlow Has a Fit as Obama the “Declinist” Opens His Mouth in Japan; Says Obama is “Not His President”.

Evans-Pritchard argues that China is not going to take over as the growth engine of the world economy.  I’ve heard quite often that China cannot pull the world out of its economic troubles.  The stats that I’ve seen indicate that China, no matter how robust, simply is still too small an economy to accomplish this.

Evans-Pritchard has concluded that China’s policies” continue to play havoc with global trade and risk tipping the world into a second leg of the Great Recession.”

Why?  According to the piece, there’s plenty of overcapacity in China.  I saw a report the other day showing empty structures, built for basically no use.  The article explains:

“The inherent problems of the international economic system have not been fully addressed,” said China’s president Hu Jintao. Indeed not. China is still exporting overcapacity to the rest of us on a grand scale, with deflationary consequences.

While some fret about liquidity-driven inflation, Justin Lin, World Bank chief economist, said the greater danger is that record levels of idle plant almost everywhere will feed a downward spiral of job cuts and corporate busts. “I’m more worried about deflation,” he said.

Paul Krugman is quoted in this piece and he explains that China’s policy to hold the value of the yuan down versus the dollar is basically “stealing American jobs” as it relies on cheap exports to stave off massive unemployment. And other Asian countries must do it, too.

Of course, our capitalists use the cheap labor in China and, as the author says, “then lobby Capitol Hill to prevent Congress doing anything about it. This is labour arbitrage.”

But, China doesn’t hold all the cards, although it seems that way.  Evans-Pritchard writes:

Washington can bring China to its knees at any time by shutting markets. There is no symmetry here. Any move by Beijing to liquidate its holdings of US Treasuries could be neutralized – in extremis – by capital controls. Well-armed sovereign states can do whatever they want.

So, what’s the situation in China?  Their much-heralded stimulus has been spent building up more capacity to ship more goods and they’ve been investing in property and stocks. There is a huge credit explosion and production is booming.  BUT, Evans-Pritchard reveals:

Once you know that Hunan authorities have torn down two miles of modern flyway so that they can soak up stimulus by building it again, or that the newly-built city of Ordos is sitting empty in Inner Mongolia, you know what must come next.

A crash, right??

The Chinese consumer is supposed to be the solution to all this overcapacity and oversupply, but it won’t happen overnight.  Meanwhile, China’s central bank is tightening and fewer loans are being issued.

Evans-Pritchard concludes:

The world economy is still skating on thin ice. The West is sated with debt, the East with plant. The crisis has been contained (or masked) by zero rates and a fiscal blast, trashing sovereign balance sheets. But the core problem remains. The Anglo-sphere and Club Med are tightening belts, yet Asia is not adding enough demand to compensate. It is adding supply.

My view is that markets are still in denial about the structural wreckage of the credit bubble. There are two more boils to lance: China’s investment bubble; and Europe’s banking cover-up. I fear that only then can we clear the rubble and, very slowly, start a fresh cycle.

In my earlier post, I included the quote by Obama that Kudlow ridiculed:

While he also talked of multilateral cooperation and human rights, he came to Asia to deliver the message that the rapidly growing export-driven economies can no longer count on the U.S. consumer to keep them afloat.

It seemed a bit arrogant, particularly because Obama hasn’t really been pushing China much:

As for Obama, during the presidential campaign Obama promised to “crack down on China” but during the primaries there was chatter: “But his commitment to that point of view was thrown into doubt during the primaries when a Canadian official said an Obama adviser had privately characterized his tough stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement as political posturing.” (As an example, see: U.S. to Impose Tariff on Tires From China, Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2009.  Detractors figure that “the tariff won’t result in more jobs. Tires will simply come in from other low-cost countries, they say, and U.S. manufacturers, keep making their cheaper tires in China.”) Of course, this is classic Obama…all that “get-tough” talk and “insisting” while we have to go “hat in hand” to China…more blowing smoke.

But Evans-Pritchard comments (above) about Washington’s ability to really shove are food for thought. To repeat, “Well-armed sovereign states can do whatever they want.”

Now, I’m not suggesting Barack Obama is going to start a “real” war with China.  I don’t even think a sane Repbulican would.  (Then again, the Chosen One may just be arrogant enough????)

But, what about an INSANE Republican or Democrat, for that matter, since the elite in Washington are all about the same?  George W. Bush and his oil buddies decided to mess around in Iraq and look what we’re stuck with.  (George and his father were too busy with their long-time ties to China, so Iraq filled the bill for George II.) Barack Obama is worrying about that pipeline in Afghanistan that’s attacked so often by the Taliban that it hasn’t even been able deliver any oil yet.

But, there are lots of INSANE Republicans and Democrats around and who can trust ANY of them?

And, there’s history which shows a link between trade and wars.

Over at the RGE Monitor, Kevin O’Rourke wrote in a 2008 piece  titled Lessons of 1000 Years of Trade History: (my bolding)

Even more fundamentally, the continuation of a broadly liberal international trading environment will require that the geopolitical system adapt to the rise of China, India and other ‘Third World’ giants.  In a historical context, this represents of course the restoration of the status quo ante, the end of a “Great Asymmetry” in international economic and political affairs caused by the Industrial Revolution, which was itself in large part a product of the interactions between early modern Europe and the rest of the world.  But that is not to say that such an adjustment will be easy.  The international system has historically done a pretty poor job of accommodating newcomers to the Great Power club. German unification and industrialisation during the late 19th century led to tensions with Britain and France over colonial and armament policy, while Japan’s rise to regional prominence during the interwar period, and its search for secure sources of raw materials, ended in war against United States and its allies.  Both precedents are worrying, in that similar questions are posed today, both in terms of the rights of emerging nations to rival the established powers’ military capabilities (notably with regard to nuclear weapons), and in terms of the strategic importance to countries like China of ready access to oil supplies and other natural resources.

The last point should cause us to reflect that, Cobden and Montesquieu notwithstanding, interdependence and trade do not necessarily guarantee peace.  The world economy of the late 19th century was extremely interdependent, to the point where Norman Angell famously felt able to pronounce, on the eve of World War I, that major conflict was now unthinkable.  Interdependence implies vulnerability, and vulnerability can lead to fear, with unpredictable consequences, as Anglo-German rivalry in the run-up to the Great War, and Japanese reactions to the Great Depression and Smoot-Hawley, both indicate.

Impermanence appears to be the most enduring feature of the human condition, and if there is one lesson which we can safely learn from history, it is that history has not ended.  Hopefully it will not repeat itself.

We know that Barack Obama knows nothing about history (in fact, dismissing the entire Viet Nam experience), and I’d bet that none of our future leaders will know it either. And, even if they DO, I doubt they’d actually pay any attention to any lessons to be learned.

***

UPDATE 1

Looks like China isn’t missing this military angle:

Related Story from Bloomberg News, November 17, 2009 (excerpt):

China’s New Missile May Create a ‘No-Go Zone’ for U.S. Fleet

China’s military is close to fielding the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, according to U.S. Navy intelligence.The missile, with a range of almost 900 miles (1,500 kilometers), would be fired from mobile, land-based launchers and is “specifically designed to defeat U.S. carrier strike groups,” the Office of Naval Intelligence reported.

Five of the U.S. Navy’s 11 carriers are based in the Pacific and operate freely in international waters near China. Their mission includes defending Taiwan should China seek to exercise by force its claim to the island democracy, which it considers a breakaway province.

The missile could turn this region into a “no-go zone” for U.S. carriers, said Andrew Krepinevich, president of the Center for Strategic and Budget Assessments in Washington. (MORE)

Larry Kudlow Has a Fit as Obama the “Declinist” Opens His Mouth in Japan; Says Obama is “Not His President”

~~By  InsightAnalytical-GRL

Well, Larry Kudlow over at CNBC is already having fits about Obama’s first statement since his arrival in Asia. You can see Kudlow flip out in this video.

On the Friday night  Kudlow Report (11/13/2009),  Larry bellowed that Obama was “not his President.”

I had to laugh.  I’ve never called Obama “President” either, in real life or on this blog.  Which just continues my tradition, since I never attached the word “President” to George W. Bush, either.  However, arch-conservative Kudlow apparently thought Bush was peachy keen at the time having no problem refrerring to Bush as President.

Kudlow ranted about how Obama does not do “optimism” and, in fact, preaches “declinism.”  And he cheerleaded about U.S. exceptionalism and our huge economy then railed about how Obama doesn’t understand how oversimplified it is to say that “the American consumer won’t bail out” the world economy.

Here’s the article from the Wall Street Journal that flipped out Kudlow:

Obama Carries a Message to Asia

Trade-Talk Revival a Goal, but World Economy Can’t Rely Solely on U.S. Consumers

(snip)

Mr. Obama’s emphasis on pursuing new pacts comes as he makes his way through an export-dependent region that has grown nervous about his trade policy, and skeptical about his willingness to use political capital at home to support free trade. He has yet to achieve tangible advances on the trade front, nor did he offer specific proposals Saturday beyond a promise to complete the next global round of free talks — dubbed Doha — “in a timely fashion.” So far, his most dramatic moves on trade have involved slapping tariffs on Chinese tire imports and, just last week, steel pipes. In his speech, he said his administration will “pursue pragmatic cooperation with China on issues of mutual concern.”

The speech in the vast Suntory Hall here Saturday morning had a somewhat different tone than many of Mr. Obama’s foreign-policy addresses. He has spent much of his first year in office working toward burnishing what he has called his nation’s diminished stature in the globe. While he also talked of multilateral cooperation and human rights, he came to Asia to deliver the message that the rapidly growing export-driven economies can no longer count on the U.S. consumer to keep them afloat.

Doesn’t this sound sort of arrogant?  I have to wonder what “consumer” Obama’s talking about.  They seem to be half-dead here. I’m sure the Chinese know that, too. They are not dumb, Barack.

Panel member Zachary Karabell of  Rivertwice Research, who has written a book on something related to all this, played both sides of the fence…he sort of believes that we’re not the biggie we used to be (which is the sort of thing that pushes Kudlow’s buttons) but he says there’s a moment at hand now where we have to continue to make sure that we remain a hub of innovation.  He made sure he agreed with Kudlow that a “dual hub” situation is occurring–U.S. & China–which is OK with both of the because they see this as being “very beneficial.”  But Kudlow is totally pissed about how we’re wrecking other economies because of the weak dollar, which is creating an inflationary bubble in Asia region. Basically,  he says Obama is ignoring all this because he’s too preoccupied with “bashing” the American consumer.

Andrew Busch of BMO Capital Markets said he thinks the Administration’s strategy, which he doesn’t like, is to go “hat in hand” to China to try convince China to help us by letting the yuan appreciate…That is where the INSISTING part I discussed in my previous post is supposed to come in, I guess.

Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal editorial board sees this weak dollar situation is what set up the Bush Administration to go down as a failure in terms of economic policy and that’s what we’ve got now.  How encouraging!

Ah, but Kudlow and Karabell think that American companies like Nike and Walmart making stuff in China and selling it here is great (but I’m asking, what about American jobs HERE, Larry!).

Kudlow made some dreamy comments about “stabilization” and “currency cooperation” and “coordination” with Asia. And then, Karabell dropped the bomb about an Asian ‘unified currency bloc to facilitate strength.”   And he said that if we want China to continue to “hitch” themselves to us more, we’re not supposed to freak out if China wants to buy businesses HERE and not have a “knee-jerk xenophobic response.”  Kudlow even decided there should be FUSION.  Later, he also espoused an Asian currency zone a la the Euro.  Kudlow also opined that Karabell should get a Nobel Prize for his book.

Karabell and Busch both think that China WILL  revalue the yuan by 5% with other countries in the region to follow.  Busch pointed out that China could face World Trade Organization actions for protectionism if they don’t.   As for Obama, during the presidential campaign Obama promised to “crack down on China” but during the primaries there was chatter: “But his commitment to that point of view was thrown into doubt during the primaries when a Canadian official said an Obama adviser had privately characterized his tough stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement as political posturing.” (As an example, see: U.S. to Impose Tariff on Tires From China, Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2009.  Detractors figure that “the tariff won’t result in more jobs. Tires will simply come in from other low-cost countries, they say, and U.S. manufacturers, keep making their cheaper tires in China.”) Of course, this is classic Obama…all that “get-tough” talk and “insisting” while we have to go “hat in hand” to China…more blowing smoke.

I have no idea what a 5% revaluation really means in the long run but I doubt it will miraculously revive our exports and restore many American jobs that have left the country.

All I know is that Kudlow finished the segment by again repeating that he likes his Presidents to be “optimists” and not “declinists” and that he was furious about Obama’s first utterances in Asia.  It’s worth checking out the video because I can’t due full justice to everthing that was discussed.

But what’s all this about “FUSION”? Well, it’s that “free-trade” stuff again. Kudlow seems to talk about U.S. economic leadership but embraces all this business leading to globalization.

Kudlow and  Obama both can give you whiplash…

But at least I hear Michelle and the girls are having a good time…

A Look at the Surreal Health Care Debate…Dr. Weil, A Tea Party Guy, Newt Gingrich and One Unholy Media Stew

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

“A Look at the Surreal Healthcare Debate” …well, not by me, but one offered up by Thursday (9/10)  night’s group of cable ghouls that I happened to see over the span of a few short minutes.

For some unknown reason I turned on CNN and caught a bit of Larry King.  Dr. Andrew Weil was on, blasting the same-old, same-old of the current health care “reform” efforts.  While the challenges are correctly recognized, the solutions are within the same model we have now. Weil is usually quite sanguine, but Thursday night in his own quiet way, he seemed pretty frustrated over the structure of our non-system. He predicts that whatever is done will fail, because costs won’t come down.  He thinks that high-tech stuff is way overused and he especially is irate over the drug advertising on TV.  We are the only country that allows this and it makes the physician more prone to dishing out the drugs when a patient comes in with a request rather than time spent on real discussion with the patient.  He wants that advertising stopped now!  He likens our ties to Big Pharma as being like the role of Wall Street in our lives.

He stated that places like Germany, Australia, and Norway are places where health care seems to satisfy people (Germany and Australia are part public and part private), but they, too, face the same problems of rising costs.  He mentioned that in Germany and other places, however, people seem to be willing to learn to “take care of themselves,”– they can take care of their own rashes and colds without running to the doctor, he said.

Basically, it seems Weil wants a system where doctors really take the time to know their patients and use modern medicine as well as tried and true remedies and new alternative approaches. He hope kids who are being exposed to new ideas will pass them to their parents. He figures we’ll see a different sort of  person coming into the system to be doctors if the approach to medicine changes, people who will have a real committment to healing  and dealing with patients differently if the attitude about health care changes. He sees some movement among some doctors toward this now. The system currently is all about insurance payments, not medicine, and a fear of liability suits, hence the overuse of reapeated/overkill diagnostic tests.  He strongly believes in preventative medicine, in getting people to understand how they can help themselves in terms of diet and stress management so they stay healthier longer.

He also pointed out that while we hear about eating more fruits and vegetables, they seem to be the most expensive foods, as industry is pushing cheap, processed stuff  full of things that are government subsidized to keep them cheap…all the sugar– corn syrups, fructose, etc.– and oils…which is diametrically opposed to what the message to eat better is saying.

Part of the show involved an interview with the guy leading the “Tea Party Express.”  This guy was revolting to me.  King asked if there was anything in the current reform bills that this guy approved of.  NO.  Well, King asked about the move to end the “pre-existing condition” stranglehold.  NO, was again the answer.  King then posed a hypothetical question…If you wife had a health problem and couldn’t get insurance, would that change his mind?

Well, this BOZO said NO, because he was SURE in the free market there would be someone to write a policy for her!  I guess it was that idiot Roland Martin (?) who actually said the correct thing, that there would be no one there to write a policy for her, that could be easily affordable.  On this I totally agree…this guy, who is leading an awful lot of lemmings these days, has no clue.  Heck, if you’re on disability you pay DOUBLE what the normal Medicare supplement costs!   (I know this from personal experience.) Has this guy ever applied for a policy in the open market with a serious precondition?  The waiting times to be covered, if it’s even allowed, are daunting and the premiums are sky high!  And, not all companies offer the same options. So, yeah, MAYBE she could get a policy, but if she could, it wouldn’t be cheap OR offer immediate coverage in most cases. He’d have to look long and hard. Very hard…

His glibness really bugged me.  It annoys me that that people like him are uninformed or so wedded to their own ideology and are leading lots of people who are also uninformed.  The folks who follow the leaders are often too busy to keep informed or really don’t have the capacity to understand a lot of what’s going on, and are so vulnerable to being fooled and ultimately lead toward their own destruction.  This guy sounded like a Republican or Libertarian, but the key point was he was so rigid. Had the compassion of a a robot…Frankly, I saw the two sides of the same coin (Obama/Organized “Opposition” leader  = same crap) and the pied piper mentality that has befallen this country. The  often-misquoted Janus myth really doesn’t describe this situation, but the visual seems to help create the mood…

Janus

Janus

That’s not to say some Tea Party folks aren’t well-informed…many are and many are Independents or ticked-off Democrats who are along for the ride for other reasons than Republican reasons.  But, I’m so uneasy about hooking into people who are so against any change at all.  I wish there were people without long-term agendas doing the leading…and when I say “long-term agendas” I mean the Republican agenda which would love to ditch the security net as quickly as possible or take back ANY restraints on the health industry/insurers.  The leader of the Tea Party Express, along with Glenn Beck fall into this category.

After this little segment of insanity, I then caught a bit of Greta van Susteren who was chatting with Newt Gingrich.  Greta seems to have come completely on board with the FOX stance of complete negativity.  There she sat with old Newt who had the GALL to say that we need more “scientific reasearch” along with the standard GOP stuff about taxes, more freedom to sell policies across state lines, etc., which do squat to really reform much of anything.   Let’s see…didn’t Bush CUT research funds to the bone????

Well, yes, he did without much upset from Republicans, who were also busy doing the cliffhanger bit on paying doctors who participated in Medicare. Dr. Weil mentioned how far back we’ve been set back by this and even referred to the “religious” groups (and Bush) who howled about stem cell research. For Weil to get into that hornet’s nest was pretty surprising, but, as I said before, Weil seemed pretty pissed off in a quiet way.  Weil is grateful that there’s been some restoration of funding for research, but I don’t think he’ll be looking to Newt and the Republicans to come in and do MORE when they retake the government.  Would you??

So there you go…Greta sits there and doesn’t challenge old Newt. I’ve noticed that she NEVER puts anything into context…that lawyer’s brain of hers is permanently atrophied, it seems.  I used to have some hope that she could put together SOMETHING informative, but she’s gone downhill and spends way too much time on missing children cases…

And, so,  people like Newt say things that are LUDICROUS and the Tea Party Express guy with the stick up his ass (looks like a blond, ex-army guy or something, with a strange look in his eyes) leads the way to…WHERE?

Which is why I prefer to watch “You Are What You Eat” on BBC America…at least it provides some visual shock value in terms of the junk people consume, some discussion about the effects on health, and some inspiration that things can actually CHANGE, one unhealthy person at  a time…

Hillary Clinton At It Again in Africa…This Time, Talking about Elections…

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

Can somebody explain all this action in Africa?

Since the Congo incident, the State Department has been scrambling around trying to put Hillary Clinton’s angry outburst to rest.  According to the Washington Post’s Washington Wire, the State Department has reversed itself on how to explain the incident away.  “Bad translation has now given way to the questionner’s “nerves.”

But now, there’s another incident.  As reported in The Times (UK):

August 13, 2009

Dodgy elections? We have them too, Hillary Clinton tells Nigerians

Hillary Clinton has risked provoking American conservatives by drawing a parallel between political corruption in Nigeria and George W Bush’s contested election win in Florida in 2000.

The US Secretary of State made the comparison while talking to an audience of activists in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, yesterday, during an 11-day tour of Africa.

Then, she went into more detail:

But she added: “Our democracy is still evolving. You know, we had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember.

“In 2000, our presidential elections came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems, too.”

The State Department went into scramble mode:

State Department officials defended Mrs Clinton’s remarks, saying that she had not been making a partisan point but one about the peaceful transfer of power in the US.

“The point she is making is that it’s about a disputed result and then the willingness of the candidates to accept a flawed result rather than, say resort to violence,” an official said.

Now, I don’t give two hoots about offending “conservatives,” but the crap coming out of State about a “peaceful transfer of power” bugs me. Yeah, those thugs sent down to Florida from D.C. were really inspiring, weren’t they? But, of course, thuggery in the current Chicago on the Potomac crowd is de rigeur these days, so I guess we can forget 2000…And calling 2000 a “flawed result” is so, so…civilized!!  Makes me want to wretch at the new myth making about 2000…

So our democracy is “evolving?”   To me, it seems more like it’s DEVOLVING…

Of course, what bugs me even more is that Clinton seems to be careful about avoiding any mention of  the Democrat’s own primaries last year and the problems with THAT whole process…Talk about IRONY!!!

I don’t know why Clinton is blabbing so much in Africa these days, but something must be going on in her psyche.  Hillary seems to have contracted the contagion of nonsense that prevails these days.

As  for MY psyche, at this point I’m so totally disgusted with everything about the Obama Administration that I want to bury myself in a carton of ice cream and stay in the house watching movies all day…anything to avoid what the media may say on this latest matter, which will be another source of diversion from critical issues if and when the chorus begins…

The Complicated Diplomatic Life of Hillary Clinton (UPDATE 1X: Clinton on the Defensive in Congo over Bill’s “Presence”; UPDATE 2X: Bill Off the Leash?; UPDATE 3X: Video of Clinton Congo Outburst, Glenn Beck Comments)

~~By InsightAnalytical-GRL

UPDATE 1: 8/10/09 PM:

Apparently, Hillary Clinton IS getting touched by the recent focus on her husband–in Congo, no less!  This is SO NOT GOOD! And in so many ways…for women, for Clinton herself, for the country…is the final set-up in place for her to leave? A large part of her visit to Congo is going to focus on the mass rapes in the country and human rights issues, but by the time the following report gets to the U.S. that emphasis will probably be lost.

Note: I’ve deleted the original excerpt after seeing that it was from the AP….replaced by the story from the France24/AFP:

Clinton pushes rights issues in Congo, Angola

snip

Clinton faced a flurry of questions from the students, not all to her liking. At one point, she showed a rare flash of public anger as a young man asked for the views of her husband, former president Bill Clinton.

“My husband is not the secretary of state, I am,” Clinton said forcefully.

The AP story also quoted her as saying she wouldn’t be “channeling” Bill Clinton and described her response as being “snapped.”

The Voice of America news omits the exchange and the BBC story only cites the last line/quotation (without the “she snapped” or the “forcefully.”)

UPDATE 2

Albert R. Hunt, Exec. Editor for Washington for Bloomberg News opined 8/10:

Big Dog May Not Return to Leash After Pyongyang

What will this Pandora’s Box yield?

UPDATE 3   8/11/09   AM

From the AP story at FOX News, the video…and, as predicted, this is going viral. Glenn Beck was razzing Clinton about this on his AM radio show just now and will sending it in his newsletter.  He did make one comment that makes a lot of sense: that Clinton must really regret that she took the job.  Whatever it is, she’s cleary frustrated as hell.  Beck also played a tape of her during the campaign in which she shouts about how “Amercans have a right to debate” and how “debate is patriotic” (in reference to the Bush Administration). Beck mocked her “gentle” style and compared it to her outburst in Congo.  He also commented on her absence from the trip to Russia and the N. Korean business.  He was implying that she was being cut out of the loop.   He was caustic, of course, but an awful lot of it was spot on.  Especially when he finished up by saying that the Obama/ACORN machine had taken down the Clinton machine–that’s how scary these people (Obama people)  are.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “untitled“, posted with vodpod

***

ORIGINAL POST BEGINS HERE (Touching on what’s been brewing and finally came out today, as reported above.)”

This is a complicated post that has evolved over several days observation…

To start,  back on Tuesday, 8/4/09,  I posted a little comment over at the TD Blog’s open thread on Bill Clinton’s mission to N. Korea to free Al Gore’s journalists/reporters  from Current TV (or whatever they are).  I commented:

I expect to hear at some point that Bill’s success shows that Hillary sucks at being SOS…

So, lo and behold, I listened to the report on the “rescue” the next  morning on the BBC World Service news bulletin (at 1400 UTC)  and at the very end, the throwaway comment by a reporter on the phone (a British reporter, not an American) was (sic) “What’s interesting is that SOS Hill Clinton is married to Bill Cinton and he accomplished what she couldn’t.”  The AP on Thursday (8/6) in an analysis piece (can’t quote them) and the L.A. Times in a news story that, of course, includes “analysis” used the word “overshadow” in their post-mission coverage.

Meanwhile, over at the BBC’s “Have Your Say” page, the teaser is “Should Africa Listen to Hillary Clinton?”

Should Africa listen to Hillary Clinton?

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has begun a tour of Africa, saying improving democracy is the key to boosting trade and development. But should Africa follow her advice? (more)

Gee, I thought she was representing the Obama Administration/the United States–why the “personalization” of her foreign policy trip?

Well, I guess it’s understandable, since Clinton has personalized some of her rhetoric, notably her comments in late July regarding North Korea. From the detailed coverage of the spat at India’s IBNLive:

“Maybe it’s the mother in me, the experience I’ve had with small children and teenagers and people who are demanding attention, Don’t give it to them,” she said in the interview.

She also said the North Koreans were like “little children” who “had no friends left.”

I have no no problem to the reference to motherhood, in general, but …did Clinton’s acid comments really help the situation?

North Korea’s Foreign Minister issued a scathing response. From the KOREAN CENTRAL NEWS AGENCY of DPRK(Democratic People’s Republic of Korea)

She said during her recent trip to India that “north Korea should not receive the attention it is seeking through behavior like missile launches,” likening Pyongyang’s behavior to that of unruly children. Her words suggest that she is by no means intelligent.

The DPRK has taken necessary measures to protect the nation’s sovereignty and right to existence to cope with the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat, not to attract anyone’s attention.

snip

We cannot but regard Mrs. Clinton as a funny lady as she likes to utter such rhetoric, unaware of the elementary etiquette in the international community.

Sometimes she looks like a primary schoolgirl and sometimes a pensioner going shopping.

Anyone making misstatements has to pay for them.

While some stories in the Western press called N. Korea’s personal attack “bizarre”  (See: the Agence France-Press report at News.com.au titled  North Korea in bizarre Hillary Clinton attack ),  over at IBNLive there’s a vote up on Clinton, up or down which is basically tied, and also a place where, among several choices,  you can give her flowers or throw tomatoes, complete with a “live action” tomato throw at Clinton.  Currently the tomatoes are the most popular choice.

The result of this spat was that the 6-party talks were declared “dead”….but the rhetoric was toned down and backchannel work to reset the playing field  was undertaken and then, enter Bill Clinton and the freeing of the Current TV writers.

Early on,  Asia Times Online, the “private” nature of Bill’s N. Korean rescue mission was nabbed as a “fantasy”: See Dear Leader stars in Bill and Hillary show for a good read.

Clinton was just the high-profile visitor North Korea hoped to entice from Washington in return for handing over the journalists.

Why bother to pretend otherwise, after wife Hillary, as secretary of state, had laid the groundwork by saying that maybe Ling and Lee had made a mistake and strayed across the Tumen River border with China when North Korean soldiers picked them up on March 17? And hadn’t Hillary already expressed an apology for the mishap after having said earlier the two had done nothing wrong?

The Independent Opinion Page seemed to think everything is OK for Hillary:

Yet one perk now stands out. How many other jobs would enable a woman to send her philandering husband to North Korea? Many women have fantasised about it. Mrs Clinton has actually done it. Take note Harriet Harman. Some sisters, at least, are letting their menfolk know who wears the (pantsuit) trousers.

Well, that BBC reporter quoted up top doesn’t seem to echo this shallow assessment. Neither did the AP or the L. A. Times and other media outlets. From the  above L.A. Times story,

It once again led to him overshadowing his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, even as she is on her own diplomatic trip to Africa.

snip

At the same time, the trip left some uncertainty about how Clinton’s new diplomatic career is fitting in with that of his wife, America’s chief diplomat. While Bill Clinton was in a worldwide spotlight, the debut of Hillary Clinton’s 11-day trip to Africa received scant attention. She has been trying to raise her visibility in an administration stocked full of capable diplomats and influential White House foreign policy aides. The Africa trip, including stops in Kenya — Obama’s father’s homeland — and several longtime hot spots, was meant to help her raise her own profile.

In an NBC interview Wednesday, the secretary of State said that though she had originally favored Gore for the North Korea assignment, she was “very much in favor” of sending her husband once the North Koreans requested it.

And, here’s something else, also from the L.A. Times story:

“This is really going to help consolidate his role as an elder statesman,” said Ross Baker, a political analyst at Rutgers University. “It almost gave him a kind of heroic tint.”

So Bill is the hero of the story; Hillary, not so much. Heck, by the end of the week on the McLaughlin Group, Hillary Clinton’s name didn’t even come up in the discussion of Bill’s trip to N. Korea and its potential implications at all!

Back to that BBC news bulletin I mentioned right up at the top…

A short bit later in the same news bulletin, I heard the report on Hillary Clinton’s umbrage at the Kenyan government…their corruption, impunity, and failure to correct the problems that resulted in the post-election violence back in December 2007.

The BBC story below has a video of  Clinton Speaking at the 8th AGOA Conference.

Kenya impunity ‘disappoints US’

snip

Addressing the press following a meeting with the Kenya’s president and prime minister, Mrs Clinton strongly criticised Kenya’s political leadership.

She said the absence of strong and effective institutions had permitted ongoing corruption, impunity and human rights violations.

And she noted that these conditions had helped fuel the violence that engulfed the country in early 2008.

“We’ve been very clear in our disappointment that action has not been taken [over the violence],” she said.

“It is far preferable that it be done in the regular course of business, that prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials step up to their responsibilities and remove the question of impunity.”

The violence broke out after supporters of Raila Odinga – the main opposition leader at the time – said he had been cheated of victory in the December 2007 polls.

Clinton adds:

“I want you to know President Obama feels a personal connection and commitment to the future of Kenya.”

If you listen to her speak this line, she enunciates every word very carefully, as if she wants to make sure everyone listening gets it.  It’s overkill, of course.  Perhaps over-compensating for Obama’s ties to Odinga and the same old, same old foreign policy that’s chugging along. Or some reflexive sense that she has to make sure any hint of “not being fully on board” is dispelled.  Whatever.  It seems to happen fairly often.

A little bit below this video there’s an audio clip which discusses the main concern of the U.S. regarding  Africa, namely, OIL, since 24% of our imports come from Africa and catching up with China, Russia, and India.

Emira Woods, Liberian-American  journalist and an “expert on U.S. foreign policy in Africa”  comments, that  despite the ” lofty rhetoric” of Obama’s Inaugural Address, U.S. foreign policy is “still focused on a  narrow definition of U.S  interests” with regard to “extractive industries”…oil, gas, and mining.  Then there’s the “land grab” which is going on across the African continent.  According to Woods, large “tracks of lands” are being turned over to the production of biofuels to fuel cars around the world, but there’s really very little concern about feeding starving children.  Woods also relays concerns about the militarization of Africa. (Note: Both the Clinton video and the Woods audio are here on one page:   http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8185626.stm).

Very little “hope and change” over there, just like there’s very little here at home…

And in Angola, Clinton pushed for  “credible elections”…you know, the kind the Democrats gave us last year during the primaries.  Eek!

Of course, the topic turned to oil. From the BBC:

In Luanda, Mrs Clinton is expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with American oil giant Chevron and the US Agency for International Development (USAid) to promote investment in Angola’s agricultural sectors like coffee and bananas.

Asked about China’s growing influence in Angola, Mrs Clinton said she was not interested in what other people were doing in Angola because her focus was on what the US was doing.

Last year, Angola overtook Saudi Arabia as China’s leading source of crude oil.

She’s not interested in what China is doing?  Really?  Oh, please.  It sounds sort of glib, doesn’t it? And completely disingenuous…

So, basically, all the trumpeting of a new foreign policy seems to be a lot of hot air and not much different than anything that’s come before. The U.S.’s self-interest is still all wrapped up in oil.

Remember how during the Bush years we got all sorts of big talk?  Remember the infamous “axis of evil” reference in his 2002 State of the Union address (axis = North Korea, Iran & Iraq)?  Well, there are times when Clinton sounds just like George W. with her sometimes very harsh or very glib statements.

Now, I really deplore the snark from that BBC reporter aimed at  Hillary Clinton about Bill coming to the rescue.  She seems to absorb al this without batting an eye. Then again, Hillary got the “street finger” from the Obama crew during the primaries. And she chose to leave the Senate and sign on with the Obama crowd.  It’s nice that she’s adding some comments about women in her speeches, but in real life, she’s being slimed by a reporter for the BBC and undercut in her desired appointments to positions by the Obama team.  It’s been reported that HIS  people are in under her, not her first choices for key jobs.  And now, Bill has re-entered and is the new hero of the N. Korea situation.

But she’s apparently OK with all this. (?)

So, the upshot of how this makes me feel is that 1) She’s getting shafted or undercut too often and 2) Sometimes she speaks in ways that makes me scratch my head. But most of the time, I just wonder what will happen next. What does Bill do next?  Madeline Albright sure didn’t have to deal with this sort of thing. I can’t figure it out, unless Clinton is used to the soft form of “battered wife” syndrome.  Then there’s the dealings with Obama, the guy who cheated and muscled himself into the nomination.  Here she is, right on board the train with the usual U.S. foreign policy, surrounded by Obama loyalists, while he keeps his nose clean. I guess she’s OK with this and how she must defer to his lead, but it I don’t feel OK watching it all happen.

So, while others cling to Hillary Clinton as their personal inspiration, I can only say that I’m left with very mixed feelings at this point. I sort of shake my head and say ” Too bad”  about Clinton’s odd position at State, along with everything else that is “too bad” these days…