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

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Friday, 2 September 2016

WASPI guide to stolen state pensions: did you know?

WASPI guide to the 6-year State Pension Age rip-off by Trudy Baddams


1. Your wife, your mother, your grandmother, your sister, your auntie will now have to wait until they reach 66 before they can retire?

2. In 1940 in fairness to men the women’s pension age changed to 60 because married men had to wait until the wife turned 65 before he could retire, this allowed the couple to enjoy their retirement together.

3. In the late 60’s / early 70’s the 50’s women embarked on their journey into work. They paid the same percentage contribution towards National Insurance as men but didn’t earn equal pay. When they reached 18 the also contributed to the Graduated Pension until it later merged with N.I.

4. When the 50’s women began paying their dues they were told they could retire at 60.

5. When the 50’s women married they had a choice, they could continue paying the standard rate of NI entitling them to benefits and retiring at 60 in their own right, or opt for the lower ‘married woman’s rate’ but would have to wait until their husband reached 65 before they could retire.

6. So, women of the 50’s have been paying NI for anything from 35 – 44 years believing they would retire at 60 or at the very least until the husband retires.

7. Did you know the chancellor has been holding onto £30bn of NI contributions and government says they can’t afford to pay our pensions at 60 even though we’ve been paying all these years and continue to pay and they have this surplus just sitting there?

8. So, despite paying our dues, now the government is refusing to pay our pension at 60.

9. The government have played on our goodwill, and have breached their verbal, social, legal contract. We kept our side of the contract and have paid up to retire at 60.

10. Apparently labour introduced an increase of pension age to 65 in 1995 but failed to inform the women of the 50’s who would be most directly affected, the government failed its legal duty to inform all women personally of this change, they tried to get away with this by stating they didn’t have any current details, except they forget that they have all details from PAYE, us women still received all our NI demands and self-assessments as well as any tax or child benefit details, so they do have out details, they just failed to carry out this legal action. They also tried to get away with this by saying they put adverts in magazines (I’ve yet to see) and pension pack were available for anyone who requested them.

11. The legal contractual duty according to the Pension Advisory Service is that the provider MUST inform its clients of any changed, the government failed to do this on 2 occasions and they decided without consulting us of any changes to increase our pension age to 66 thus every 50’s woman is losing anywhere between £35,000 - £40,000 in the pension they were contracted to receive.

12. The change to women’s pension age was blamed on the EU, this is simply not true, it was labelled ‘unfair to men’ and had to be equalised, but hang on; did we not do the ‘fair’ bit in 1940? And other European countries are not equalising and some are reducing pension age Poland for example, not as wealthy as us, the 6th richest country.

13. When the government called to change the pension age they promised a relaxed transition but we’re now looking at working an EXTRA 6 years, not the 18 months MP’s keep stating in their interviews. This is hardly fair to women when men only have to work an EXTRA 1 year.

14. We do not dispute that men and women should be equal in everything including their pension age but it has to be done fairly.

15. Looking back to the 1940 issue and continuing now, women in general marry men a few years their senior, this change in pension age has turned the tables on fairness, we are now seeing men retiring earlier than their wives, this is unfair especially to those who opted for the ‘standard rate’ NI to retire at 60 in their own right.

16. 50’s women who have reached or are nearing 60 have had no time to change their plans, many finding themselves unemployed and in the clasp of the jobcentre with workfare, work programmes, working for their benefits as they are claiming Job seekers allowance, or they find themselves on ESA and its strict regime of sanctions. This is no way to treat women who have done the ‘right thing’ who have paid their dues, and who are entitled to their pension.

17. A pension is not a benefit and for Mr Cameron and others to say there are other benefits to claim, we don’t want benefits, we don’t deserve to be treated this way, going to the jobcentre cap in hand. Signing on at 60 is degrading and insulting.

My Story
I started work at the age of 16, I married at 17 and I was verbally offered the married rate NI, mentioned above, the company accountant sat and explained that if I continued to pay the ‘standard rate’ I would be able to retire at 60 in my own right, as my husband was 3 years my senior this was a good option for me, rather than waiting until he reached 65 when I would be 62, so that is what I did and paid the standard rate since then. I will now be retiring 3 years after my now ex-husband, how is this right? This is NOT what I signed up for; this is not what I paid all my NI contributions for. Women are now retiring later than their husbands in a situation where the government are trying to make things fair they are making it extremely unfair to women.

So I can no longer retire at 60 despite all those years of expecting to do so, I now have to work an EXTRA 6 years, I cannot even retire at 62 as if I had paid the ‘married woman’s rate’ so in my case, this is extremely unfair. The government say no-one will have to work anything over an EXTRA 18 months, this is simply not true.

So I have paid NI over 44 years for a pension at 60 which I will not be getting, I continue paying NI for a pension I will not receive and I will continue to pay for a further 6 years. Why am I still paying for something I will not get? Why have I paid all these years for something I will not receive?

Instead of settling into my retirement next year at 60, allowing my husband in his ill-health to cut down on his hours, and taking care of our grandchildren, helping my daughter out with ‘free’ childcare while she works, we’ll be denying our grandchildren and ourselves the right to a family life as they are dumped at costly childminders. My husband will have to continue working his long hours now we’ve been denied my pension at 60, denying us a better quality of life.

I have done the right thing, please reverse the decision and give us our pensions at 60, give us the respect we deserve.

The link to my newspaper interview
Mrs T Baddams

See also:

Waspi busts the myth of State Pension Age "equalisation": Waspi fact file

WASPI women's pensions were in surplus but RAIDED: restore our pensions

Osborne clobbers low paid freelancers and deals fresh blow to women born in the 1950s in Budget 2016

No way to treat a woman: Waspi case study video exposes state pensions rip-off.

Hansard on the Waspi debate in Parliament, 1st Feb 2016.

WASPI women are the first line of defence in the government's war on state pensions — YOUR state pension.