Saturday 22 October 2016

Wonder Woman UN appointment less about gender than Israel, Syria and World War III

Reports of Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman appointment to the UN miraculously omit her Israeli Army background

More proof that we've slipped into the Twilight Zone as the popular culture takes a hit.

Today's news about Wonder Woman at the United Nations yields a graphic example of how slippery the media is and why we need some sort of media studies in schools teaching us to analyse exactly what narrative is being shoved down our throats. Like geese being fattened up for paté foie gras, we're being asked to open wide for war with Syria.

Just at the point where Clinton's path to the White House looks clear, the cuddly librul Guardian manages to publish an article about the appointment of DC Entertainment/Warner Brothers' fictional character – Wonder Woman – to the UN without mentioning once that her current incarnation is played by Gal Gadot, no mere conscript who served her mandatory two years in the Israeli Army, but an enthusiastic combat trainer and cheerleader for the killing of Palestinians.

Neutrality, much? It's not as if you have to dig deep on this issue. Gadot is perfectly open about her pro IDF stance.

"Israel's real-life Wonder Woman", purrs The Times of Israel.

Was this all literally too blindingly obvious for the Guardian? Or another new low in cynicism?

The Guardian, drowning in a glut of articles about peach-flavoured vaginas, siezes on the issue of gender representation and says of a UN staff protest on the matter:
... It mentioned concerns over her “overtly sexualized image” that is not “culturally encompassing or sensitive”. ... “The bottom line appears to be that the United Nations was unable to find a real-life woman that would be able to champion the rights of ALL women on the issue of gender equality and the fight for their empowerment. The United Nations has decided that Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all around the world should look up to,” the petition read.

Protesters entered the chamber at the start of the event, and stood with their backs turned and their fists raised. ... Though they didn’t intend to speak about their protest to the media, one, who was asked if the Guardian could mention her remarks anonymously, said she wished a real person had been chosen for the role of ambassador.

Well, a real person has been chosen, sweetie. It's just that press reports are blinding you to what's just happened.

And how about "Wonder Woman is the role model that women and girls all around the world should look up to"? White, Israeli American is our collective role model? I'm not sure, either, how many Palestinian girls will be identifying with someone who wants to drive them into the sea which, from looking at satellite pictures of the tiny Gaza Strip, is an aim close to being accomplished.

The Guardian continues:

Cristina Gallach, UN under secretary general for communications and public information, attended on behalf of the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon. She seemed to explain the choice of Wonder Woman in her remarks. “I don’t need to tell you Wonder Woman is an icon,” she said. “She has been known for justice, peace and equality and we are very pleased that this character will help us reach new audiences with essential messages about empowerment and equality.”

The whole process provides a handy shorthand for stamping Israel with the DC superhero qualities of "justice, peace and equality" through the metonymic representation by Gadot, morphing Wonder Woman into a potent symbol for Israel and her interests. Soft propaganda in action, the politicisation of the culture, and nary a challenging word from the press.

In focusing exclusively on the hyped-up gender controversy about women in the UN, the media add to the smoke 'n' mirrors obfuscating the fact that this UN appointment is a partisan, political one with a purpose and potentially catastrophic results.

Gender politics is increasingly used as safe, stupefying fodder for the uninformed in our depoliticising media, totally obliterating the key political dynamic that a conscientious press should be all over like a rash — warming us up for Clinton's imminent war with Syria and Russia.

Friday 21 October 2016

Global economy running on fumes: let's have a jolly nice war

Sterling has taken a post-Brexit pounding and may even fall below parity with the dollar. The US economy is at the top of a bull run and running on fumes. The Euro is sliding and the European Union may disintegrate. Deutsche Bank may fail (it's much, MUCH bigger than Lehman Bros) and could be the trigger for another economic meltdown ... only without the safety next of a wealthy China growing at full throttle. China has the best potential to thrive but has a ticking time-bomb credit bubble of 250 per cent of GDP.

How to get out of this mess?

Apropos of nothing, shares of Raytheon and British Aerospace, purveyors of death machines, are doing rather well, thank you, with brokers urging BUY BAE Systems. Wonder why that could be.

Perhaps what capitalism needs is a nice world war to clear debt, make fortunes and reset us all to the stone age. Hey, let's stir it up in Syria, ignore the tyrants in Saudi and the Stans, and go and live in a deep mineshaft somewhere in survivalist country.

Here's Dr Strangelove ...

Thursday 6 October 2016

Brexit: a depreciating currency and the mirage of a thriving economy

The Reluctant Capitalist: a depreciating currency and the mirage of a thriving FTSE (or: how we are so screwed).

Keeping the Left up to speed.

The pro-Brexit camp is lulling us into complacency over the results of the EU referendum where only 37 per cent of the electorate voted Leave, along with a summer bounce in retail sales and the FTSE breaking through the 7000 mark.

Let's take a closer look as those markets.

The FT, not known for dissembling to its moneyed-class readers on economic matters, unlike certain Brexit-cheerleading newspapers, says:
The pattern of the UK’s performance looks wholly different when viewed in dollar terms; the FTSE 100 is down slightly for the year in dollars, and lags behind FTSE’s index for the rest of the world by seven percentage points. Substantially all of that gap has opened up since the Brexit referendum in June, which initially caused stocks to fall globally. Stocks in the US made a full recovery; stocks in the UK did not, unless you measure them in the UK’s depreciated currency.
... 1998, the FTSE 100 has underperformed the rest of the world by 50 per cent in dollar terms ...
... UK stocks have lagged behind the world badly since the referendum, in common currency terms, and that the pound has dropped to a fresh 31-year low since UK politicians started saying over the weekend that they were prepared to suffer a “hard Brexit” in return for regaining control of migration, show that international markets perceive Brexit as risky, and potentially harmful for the UK economy.

Apart from being a huge bubble trading at 69 times earnings, only seen at the height of the tech bubble and 2009 crash aftermath,
... the gains have been concentrated in the materials and mining groups that populate the London market. Anglo-American has trebled this year, while Fresnillo and Glencore have more than doubled; all are rallying from a severely sold-off position, and rely on a continued recovery in commodity prices.
And don't forget that Bank of England chief Mark Carney had to pump another £60 billion pounds into the economy by buying up gilts (government debt) after the EU vote, extending the existing quantitative easing (QE) programme to £435bn, keeping the stock markets artificially inflated.

And yet Money Week points out that:
In the three months to the end of July 2016 – so roughly a month and a half either side of the Brexit vote – it showed that the UK’s broad money supply grew at 14.7%. ... this rate exceeds even the previous high of 12.8%, set in 2006 at the peak of the boom before the global financial crisis. We all know what happened next.

... only about 10% of newly-created money has made its way into the kind of consumer items tracked by CPI. Instead, 37% has gone into financial markets, 40% into residential and commercial property, and 13% into real businesses that create jobs and boost economic growth. ... So all the official measures do, effectively, is track the 10% of “inflation” that has gone into consumer goods.

Sterling probably has further to fall. It was $1.55 before the vote, then plunged to around $1.30 and now it's $1.27 and slipping. Some commentators have been talking about $1.05 which was last hit in the mid 1980s.

The pound has fallen more than 14 per cent this year, only beaten by the Argentine peso as the worst performing major currency for 2016.

But what does this mean for the many working class voters who want Brexit?

When you have few assets and are living essentially hand to mouth much of this goes over your head. I was blissfully untouched by ERM, the dot com bubble and the 2008 crash, only vaguely aware that some awful calamity was going on in the upper echelons. This is likely to be how many poorer Brexiteers — done over or neglected by successive governments, left largely undefended by either of the parties when austerity was running full tilt — feel about the current economic hit, especially if the Tories can keep some plates spinning. Problem this time, though, is what's coming down the pipeline: more "soft" austerity, collapsing pensions hit by ultra-low interest rates, cuts in services and a privatised NHS will all hurt.

While domestic goods made here will be more expensive due to cost of imported materials, so will imports, so UK manufacturing may gain the upper hand in time, and rising UK earnings may also help soften the blow.

However ... value for investors isn't present even with a fallen pound. One study found only four of the giant stocks had any value left (including dealer of death BAE, of course!). Investors may flee or just sit tight and watch for now.

So we have the worst of both worlds. A severely damaged economy where those at the bottom are picking up the bill, no revolutionary movement to change society and a degenerated left waiting on the wings for capitalism to deliver the working class into their hands. It won't, at least this time around. That's the genius of capitalism — it mutates and leaves us in its dust.

Such great material to work with. UK productivity gap widens to worst level since records began. 

Tories under pressure to go for investment: Labour's opportunity to drive the economic narrative

Theresa May bragged about Britain being world’s 5th-largest economy. After her speech, it dropped to 6th.

Banking revenues about to fall off cliff as UK signals slashing regulations. Remember Reagan doing the same and Clinton abolishing the Glass Steagal Act separating investment and savings banks? And the 2008 crash that those policies led to?

Tories under pressure to go for investment: Labour's opportunity to drive the economic narrative

The Reluctant Capitalist: keeping the Left up to speed

From Anna's Facebook post Sunday 2nd October 2016:

I'll give this to Team Corbyn for free (as always).

I'm delighted to see left arguments for infrastructure investment entering the debate at the Labour conference. What you might not know is that investors, AKA the capitalist class, are in a panic because austerity hasn't worked for them, either. It’s all very well being a First Class passenger on the Titanic while those in steerage drown first under George Osborne’s austerity measures, but they know the sea will get you in the end.

The markets are fat, flat and running on petrol fumes. Bonds have no yield. Gold has soared as the last refuge of value but looks like dropping. Everyone is expecting a massive correction (slump), only unlike the 2008 crash, an economically strong China is not there to help pick up the pieces — China has a terrifying amount of debt as they have learnt about printing and pumping money from our own Quantitive Easing (QE). It is like playing pass the parcel with a live grenade.

Philip Hammond is now under pressure from significant bodies of Tories. Now that the central banks have run out of ammo and the poorest have suffered from austerity while national and personal debt has soared, there’s a clamour for what we needed right after the 2008 crash: investment in infrastructure such as rail, roads, housing, ports, power stations and so on.

However, Hammond is dithering. This means there is a window of opportunity to change the austerity narrative and get speakers into the media — you'll be pushing at an open door. This is your chance to update your fact-files (I am sure you do this regularly), brief your speakers, give them some media training and shape the debate.

For instance, the Tories will baulk at building social housing among all the possible projects. Your task, if you care to take it, is to grab the limelight PROACTIVELY, get into the various print, broadcast and social media and foreground the facilities we want built for need not greed.

Aditya Chakrabortty: Hammond is leading Britain into another lost decade