Tag: China

Hummer Headed For A Marxist Doom?

I’m still absorbing the news that the Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company Ltd, one of the giant industrial corporations that characterize present-day Chinese “socialism,” has purchased the Hummer brand from General Motors as the latter shuffles down the path blazed long ago by Studebaker and American Motors.

The Hummer is of course the vehicle sensible people love to hate: ugly, heavy, dangerous, gas-guzzling, polluting, military (in roughly the same sense as camouflage footsie pajamas) and a big fat macho fraud–the damn thing is built on a regular GM SUV chassis, just like a plain old Chevy Colorado.

The psychological makeup of Hummer purchasers has been looked into more deeply, most succinctly by Ruben Bolling, the crackerjack creator of the Tom the Dancing Bug comic. (Won’t embed for some reason–view his hysterical dis of Hummer owners here.]

I, however, have an even more theoretical speculation on the fate of the Hummer, based on the old Marxist precept that changes in people’s consciousness tend to trail changes in material conditions. Let me draw first a brief analogy-when I spent a little time in West Africa in the early ’80s, I met a couple of young guys, Komi and Kasimir, who were adherents of voudon (a/k/a voodoo). We talked about the belief system and they turned out to be followers of a particular fetiche or deity, which forbade them to eat anything cooked in a metal vessel or with metal utensils.

Kasimir and Komi told me of one the most dreaded of the voudon cults, whose fetiche was connected with smallpox, Its adherents would paint their faces white on sacred occasions and were feared for their ability to call disease down on enemies. Now this was only a decade since scientists and medical personnel had finally eradicated the disease in its last strongholds in Africa, so I asked if this group was still as feared as it had used to be. They both thought and said no, actually it was not as powerful and its fetiche not seen to be as deadly. Changes in consciousness trail changes in material conditions!

Back to the Hummer. The military’s HumVee was a star of the last substantial victory for the US military, Operation Desert Storm, the 1991 Gulf War. The Arnold Schwarzeneggers of the US felt uncontrollable lust and a civilian version was soon forthcoming, and became a GM product by 1998.

9/11-fueled war fever sent sales soaring even higher–for a while. But by early 2004 they were declining precipitously. I rather doubt that it was due to sudden environmental concerns among its target audience. I think what happened is that fairly early in the occupation of Iraq, it became clear that this mighty war wagon could be taken out by a couple of Baghdad teenagers with a big artillery round and a garage door opener. Whether people thought about it consciously or not, IEDs had taken the bloom off the rose.

I don’t know what Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Company management is thinking. I can’t see a big Hummer comeback in the US and the contribution they’d make to China’s already horrific pollution boggles the mind. Indications are they plan to market these vehicular plug-uglies more heavily in developing nation markets. I can only say I hope they take a richly deserved bath on this venture.

Crossposted from Fire on the Mountain.

Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, And The Context Of Obama’s AfPak “Solution”

Crossposted from Antemedius

Yesterday we saw investigative historian and journalist Gareth Porter  talk with Paul Jay of the Real News Network about the war in Afghanistan and Obama’s recent appointment of Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal to replace General McKiernan as the US commander in Afghanistan.

Porter says the McChrystal appointment won’t fulfill Obama’s supposed intention of investing in a civilian surge that will “win over the population,” through “services and political programs” because during his five year service in the Joint Special Operations Command and recently as the Director of the Joint Staff, McChrystal “has only been involved in targeted killings.”

We also learned that Obama’s surge may be only a prelude to a ground invasion of Pakistan as part of ongoing imperial resource wars.

Today in part two of the interview we learn that Porter has also interviewed Graham Fuller, the CIA Station Chief in Kabul during US support for the Afghan Jihadi movement against the Soviet Union, and says that Fuller “now believes very strongly the United States has to get out. That there is no way the United States is going to be able to win, [because the US] has no understanding of the forces it has unleashed in Afghanistan.”

Real News Network – May 25, 2009

No way to “win” in Afghanistan

Porter: The United States doesn’t understand the forces it unleashed in Afghanistan

I think that Porter is right as far as the majority of people in the US and the world not understanding the forces unleashed in Afghanistan by the US invasion and occupation, but I also feel Porter hasn’t gone far enough in explaining the context of what is happening in Afghanistan and with Obama’s surge, and I want to highly recommend to readers a thorough reading of another recent and very detailed in depth piece from Tom Englehart and from Pepe Escobar that places the AfPak situation in the much wider geopolitical context of a desperate US attempt at world energy and resource domination: Tomgram: Pepe Escobar, Pipelineistan Goes Af-Pak.

Weekly Torture Action Letter 9 – China And Rule Of Law

Welcome to the 9th in the Dog’s letter writing campaign series. This series is dedicated to taking action (even if it is a small action) every week on the issue of torture. Here is how it works, each week the Dog writes a letter highlighting some aspect of the torture issue and making the point this requires investigation. The Dog sends these letters to the President, the Supreme Court, AG Holder, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and Rep. John Conyers, the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. Your part, if you chose to act is pretty easy. Simply cut and paste the letter and send it under your own name.  

Do the (Chinese) math: A review of Minqi Li’s “The Rise of China”

This will be a book review of Minqi Li’s “The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy,” a book which is important for its calculation of the rising contradiction between capitalist growth and ecological sustainability, and for its perspective on Chinese history.  

Li’s prose is clear and understandable, and his use of graphs and charts really drives his points home rather than (as is the case with some economic writing) confusing the reader.  In this review, I will look at Li’s book with one eye upon a conference I have volunteered with Focus the Nation to help organize.  Li will be the keynote speaker at the FtN conference at USC.

(crossposted at Big Orange)

Follow the money


President-elect Barack Obama’s adminstration will inherit a $1.2 trillion budget deficit for 2009 according to the forecast by the Congressional Budget Office.

Unfortunately for the United States, despite owning more than $1 trillion of American debt, China has hinted that enough is enough. Rather than continuing to spend “as much as one-seventh of its entire economic output buying foreign debt”, Beijing now plans to pay for its own $600 billion economic stimulus plan.

China’s timing is unfortunate for the American economy, since the federal budget deficit is likely to swell past $2 trillion in 2009 when Congress passes a further economic stimulus measure. The CBO forecast also does not include the ongoing spending for the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Where is Obama going to find the money to restart the U.S. economy?

Manufacturing Monday: Week of 12.15.08

My oh my, what an interesting week, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  From our trade deficit to our automakers on the brink of joining our domestic consumer electronics firms, things aren’t looking all that swell.  The latest indicators are showing, at least for November, what has been on everyone’s mind, the economy.  Some are saying, though that things will pick up, that the recession began a year ago and we’ll come through it by 2009.  We’ll see, when the average worker is able to stop worrying not just about making rent or that mortgage payment, but also putting food on the table, then I’ll agree.  Globally, like the United States, things for now look dim.  And like I said, the figures show it…which leads us to the Numbers!

Manufacturing Tuesday: Week of 12.01.08

(My apologies folks, for the delay.  This was supposed to be published this morning, but I had rush a sick wiener dog to one of those emergency vet places.  Rest assured, he’s Ok, and probably won’t eat another sock again!)

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to another edition of Manufacturing Monday…er Tuesday!  Originally I wanted to post this on Monday morning, but I wanted to include the latest development from the Boeing SPEEA talks. Outside of this we got news from the steel industry, unfortunately not the good kind.  Sticking with steel for a moment, there’s an op-ed piece I wish to highlight that I thought you should look at.  We have news or alarm bells I should say about pensions.  Of course we also have some Green news, some ominous, but some good.  

But before we get to those, let’s take a look at the Numbers!

Melamine Scandal Far More Widespread Than Thought

This from Richard Spencer in Beijing, this morning:

A statement posted on online government media overnight said that 294,000 babies and young children had suffered “urinary system abnormalities” after drinking formula milk from Sanlu, the company most seriously affected, and other brand names.

It now says as many as six infants died and up to 294,000 suffered from urinary tract ailments including kidney stones. That figure is a lot higher than had previously been reported. More than 850 children are still being treated in hospital; at least 150 of them are said to be seriously ill. Why? Last year, China’s dairy industry was worth $18 billion. That’s a whole lot of dairy products.

Non-Political Diary Alert: Melamine Now Found in Egg Products!

I wasn’t going to write anything until after the election (Go Obama!) but this is important, IMHO. Yesterday melamine was found in several egg products in South Korea following last week’s similar discovery in Japan, marking the first time the toxic chemical has been found in Chinese egg products.

Some of you have followed my pieces on the Chinese melamine scandal, here is the last one with a comprehensive list of the tainted products. Add egg products to this list now, and God knows what else! Egg products can be found in many items such as cake mixes, cookies and much more, see the list below. Having said that, don’t be alarmed, just make sure you know the provenance of your food products and read the labels carefully.

Dem. Congresswoman Raps FDA On Melamine Risk Guidelines

This is my fourth diary on the melamine scandal (but first here on Docudharma), and like the financial scandals it shows no sign of going away any time soon. To this day 10,666 infants are still in Chinese hospitals fighting for their lives.

Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3), chairwoman of the Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Subcommittee, issued the following statement about the FDA’s announcement that, despite potential harm to the kidneys, some melamine would not raise health concerns:

“While other countries throughout the world, including the European Union, are acting to ban melamine-contaminated products from China, the FDA has chosen to establish an acceptable level for melamine in food in an attempt to convince consumers that it is not harmful. Not only is this is an insult to consumers, but it would appear that the FDA is condoning the intentional contamination of foods.”

Chinese Economy in Tectonic Shift

Relatively unnoticed in the MSM has been a sudden, even startling, turnaround in Chinese economic strategy in recent days. The Chinese are making it clear that they must move toward satisfying their domestic market and away from their export-driven growth model.

Here is the op-ed piece in yesterday’s People’s Daily. Note especially the last two paragraphs of the article:

Owing to the sluggish global market, more input in China’s domestic production will also give rise to the glut of goods. Therefore, in order to enable the expanded domestic demand to achieve an anticipated result, it is essential and imperative to input more in such fields as social security, medicare and health work, and education.

In other words, the main purpose of imput is definitely not to turn out more goods or to build more high-rises or skyscrapers, but to bring about more and more consumers with substantial financial strength, so that ordinary citizens in the country are better able to resist and defend against risks. Such an imput will eventually effect the long-term benign growth of Chinese economy, and China will be capable of making even greater contributions to the development of the entire world.

The Chinese Government has also directed Chinese banks not to lend to U.S. financial institutions during this ongoing financial crisis.

The Chinese see that the financial crisis in the U.S. will spread and will make their heavily export-driven growth model unsustainable. Logically enough, they are planning to move quickly toward satisfying their own domestic demand, especially for services and for a better quality of life.

The Chinese must also be having their doubts about investing in distressed U.S. companies or showing up with open checkbook at coming U.S. T-bill auctions. The prospect of an accelerating decline in the U.S. dollar will impel them to look for better places to distribute portions of their Sovereign Wealth Fund or surprlus Yuan.

More below the break….

Look Out Below! Economic News Worsens

As the media and the blogosphere focus on the dangers in the Paulson putsch proposal and the war of maneuver between the campaigns, stuff is happening that may render it all insignificant.

You may have seen a short news clip of the huge lines outside of Bank of East Asia offices in Hong Kong. Already it’s the biggest bank run since the one that resulted in the nationalization of Northern Rock in the UK last year, a lot earlier in this mess.

But did you read that Société Générale has told its customers to dump their stock holdings in China-related firms, pronto?

So what, I hear you ask. Why is this any worse than the rest of the economic bad news rattling our way?

A bit of background may help–SocGen is the sixth largest publicly-traded company in France by market capitalization and the third largest bank/financial services company in the whole Eurozone. They swing a big butt in world finance.

Their main global strategist, a dude named Albert Edwards, argues that most Western observers are counting on Asia, and China in particular to remain resilient and help keep the global economy perking. He argues that

The collapse of emerging market economies will shake investors to the core. The great unwind has only just begun.

In essence he is predicting a massive recession–a decline in global GDP. He points out that a liquidity squeeze could hit financial companies that are heavily exposed in Latin America as well as Asia, vastly intensifying the ongoing downward spiral of the credit crisis.

A good short summary of his argument can be found in this Telegraph article–and in the closing prices in the world’s stock markets.

crossposted at DKos

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