Sep 052018
 
 September 5, 2018  Posted by at 2:18 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  


Pablo Picasso The actor 1904

 

 

I’ve had a few comments lately wondering why I’m against Brexit, while before the referendum I was not. Someone even remembered I had been talking about Beautiful Brexit back in 2016. It’s real simple. Brexit could be, or could have been, a good idea. There’s a lot wrong with the way the European Union is set up. There’s nothing democratic about Germany always having the last say when it comes to important decisions. Slaughtering the entire nation of Greece on the altar of saving Deutsche and Commerzbank says it all.

But Brexit today is not the same -anymore- as it was before or during the June 23 2016 vote. What happened is that nothing happened. The Brits wasted two whole years and change, and the complexity of the process never allowed for that kind of delay. There are many thousands of pages of EU rules and regulations that not only has the UK been bound by over the past 45 years, but that have shaped its own society.

It’s not just that these ties have to be untangled, they have to be replaced by other rules and regulations. And no, the UK can’t just go back to what they had before 1973; too much water under the bridge, both domestically and internationally. Politically, the EU may be a disaster, but the single market is quite the achievement. And they’re not going to risk it by letting London cherry-pick the rules it likes while leaving others behind. It’s a package deal.

But that is what the Brits, or at least the Tories, appear to have counted on: cherry-picking. They still do. It’s going to be a cold shower. And obviously, they’re going to blame it all on the EU, but that’s neither true nor credible. Still, expect a huge blame campaign. They’re practicing on Labour and its leader Jeremy Corbyn, who the entire UK press including the BBC and Guardian, who are supposed to balance out the slew of Murdoch rags that shape opinion, started accusing of anti-semitism a few weeks ago.

It’s as concerted an effort as the D-Notice gag orders issued earlier this year in the novichok cases. And now that the few media outlets who once had some degree of independence start saying the same things as their smut peers, Brits can safely assume they have no press left that attempts to inform them. It’s now all a propaganda machine.

 

As for Jeremy Corbyn, one can feel sorry for him, but he doesn’t even try to defend himself. Needs to take some cues from Trump? Still, if Corbyn’s a jew hater, I’m Napoleon. There’s nothing in the man’s life that points to that. Just saying that Palestinians are not treated fairly doesn’t mean you hate Jews. That this has become the thread of the ‘discussion’ is an ominous sign.

How are Brits supposed to find out what’s happening in their own country, let alone the rest of the world? There’s no-one left to tell them who doesn’t subscribe to pre-gurgitated ideas and politics. So Theresa May can claim today they know who poisoned the Skripals, and threaten further sanctions against Russia, without sharing any proof with anyone. She can do that because there are no media left in Britain that will ask questions.

If no. 10 says the Russians did it, everyone reports that. If the Blair section of the Labour party says their own leader is an anti-Semite, everyone reports that. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that both Huxley and Orwell were Brits. There is no proof needed anymore: the media will parrot anything the ‘authorities’ say.

Well, kiddo’s, enjoy it while you can, because Brexit is going to shatter that little controlled world of yours into very little pieces. Pretend won’t do it anymore after that. You will need proof for that one, in the form of actual food, and actual trade and jobs. And you won’t have those to offer.

 

Today, Bloomberg reports that both Germany and the UK are willing to accept less stringent conditions for Brexit, but after Brexit day, March 29 2019, goods can no longer move across borders the way they used to. Yes, there is a 21-month transition period, but British products will have to comply with ALL EU rules and laws to be sold to Europe, including Ireland. The same goes for products and services and people that move the opposite way. And in the meantime, the UK cannot close any trade deals with 3rd part countries that don’t comply with EU rules.

Taking control of the narrative(s), as has been the UK’s model, only gets you so far. Britain can trade with the EU, but it cannot simultaneously trade with the US under entirely different conditions. Likewise, London can let Polish people pick British fruits, but not without letting other Europeans work in Britain as well. These rules are broad, and there can be no exceptions, since 27 other countries will want them too.

Now, if only Britain had a press that would tell people what’s going on. It doesn’t. The press only parrots. And if only Jeremy Corbyn told his anti-Semitism accusers to shut up or be sued for libel, and unveil an actual alternative plan for how to do Brexit -or not-. Nobody’s seen any such plan, and Corbyn doesn’t say a thing.

The whole place is just swirling down the drain, watching silly weddings and cooking shows, sipping gin and dreaming of a lost empire nobody can actually remember anymore. And the pace of the swirling can be adapted a little, but no-one is trying to stop it from happening. Oh well, tragedy can be beautiful too.

 

 

Jul 232017
 
 July 23, 2017  Posted by at 1:16 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  


Ford Madox Brown King Lear and Cordelia c1851

 

Mea culpa. Yesterday I wrote Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the Fandango?, and not long after publishing it, I figured I missed the target I was going for. Not 100%, and it’s not all bad, as people’s reactions have confirmed, but…

The thing is, Trump’s nomination of Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director was not the main point of my piece. Tempting, because everybody knows the Queen song, but not the main one, and it certainly shouldn’t have been the title of the piece.

So, sorry for that, and let me try to correct. The much stronger point, in my ever so humble view, that I hit on yesterday is the connection between Donald Trump and William Shakespeare. In fact, I think that from now on we should all see Trump in that light. Simply because it fits so … fittingly.

Not because I would call Trump mad, that is far too easy a view. But because his story, both as it unfolds today and in its history, has so many classic Shakespearean elements. And when we look at our world through the glasses of the ‘Old Bard’, we will see it in a different light. As in: Trump could be a man in the process of going mad. Or he could not.

Not that it’s just about Trump. Richard Nixon looks, if anything, way more Shakespeare material than Da Donald. Though, admittedly, we can oversee Nixon’s entire history, while Trump’s is ongoing (he has promise), and Shakespeare is all about development, about what happens to people as they go through what happens to them.

Macbeth and King Lear describe the trappings -and much more- of power. How power corrupts, and not only absolute power. How sociopathic character traits make people seek power, and how it -often- destroys them. But also how outside forces influence them, in -just as often- highly destructive ways.

That’s not to say that Shakespeare, if he were alive today, would have written a play about Trump. I don’t know that, we don’t. I do think he would have found it hard to stay away from Nixon, but that’s just a guess, even if Tricky Dick seems to have all the required boxes ticked off.

The Bard of Avon might have opted for Hillary Clinton’s story instead of Trump’s. Hers has most if not all of his ingredients, power, corruption, murder, treason, trust -and the lack thereof-, madness -inborn, inbred and developing-, gossip, innuendo, conspiracies, scheming, backstabbing, the lot. That’s not trying to single out Hillary, it’s just saying that all these power-seeking tragedies have the same elements.

Shakespeare situated Macbeth in Scotland, Hamlet in Denmark and King Lear in Britain, while the latter play was highly influenced by Sophocles’ Oedipus (Rex), which is set in Greece. Location is for once not essential -sorry, real estate guys-, power corrupts everywhere, and in more or less the same ways and sequences.

Apart from the entire list of people in his camp, some of which get thrown out from time to time, the Trump narrative also relies to a great extent on all the outside people trying to bring him down. It’s hard to see how Shakespeare could not have loved that. Fair is foul and foul is fair, but now with the three witches in Macbeth’s opening part -the media, the commentators?!- having chosen sides from the beginning.

Hillary as Lady Macbeth? Again, tempting, but we’re not Shakespeare -or Sophocles-. Putting too much emphasis on any of the specific traits of characters from 400+ or 2000+ year-old plays doesn’t look like the way to go. For one thing, Shakespeare wouldn’t have wanted to repeat himself. It’s the overarching themes and characteristics that count. What the hunger for power did to people then, and what it does to them now.

If only we had someone to write today’s stories, today. But those writers, the ones that can gaze inside their own narratives, don’t come around very often. And when they do, they write about long-ago narratives and conspiracies. Good thing we can learn from them regardless because many things about our species never change. In a few words: what the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare and many others taught us is that Power equals Tragedy. And that’s eternal.

Moreover, since our media is failing us in unprecedented fashion, Shakespeare looks like our best bet if we want to understand what is happening in Washington. Or Brussels, Berlin, Beijing. Think entertainment value. What else are you going to do? The Bard’s original audiences reportedly threw eggs and tomatoes at the stage.

 

 

Apr 022015
 
 April 2, 2015  Posted by at 10:05 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  


Esther Bubley Passengers on Memphis-Chattanooga Greyhound bus 1943

I think I’ve never understood the American – and international – fascination with money, with gathering wealth as the no. 1 priority in one’s life. What looks even stranger to me is the idolization of people who have a lot of money. Like these people are per definition smarter or better than others. It seems obvious that most of them are probably just more ruthless, that they have less scruples, and that their conscience is less likely to get in the way of their money and power goals.

America may idolize no-one more than Warren Buffett, the man who has propelled his fund, Berkshire Hathaway, into riches once deemed unimaginable. For most people, Buffett symbolizes what is great about American society and its economic system. For me, he’s the symbol of everything that’s going wrong.

Last week, Buffett announced a plan to merge a number of ‘food’ companies in a deal he set up with Brazilian 3G Capital. For some reason, they all have German names (I’m not sure why that is or what it means, if anything): Heinz, Kraft, Oscar Mayer. Reuters last week summed up a few of the ‘foods’ involved:

His move on Wednesday to inject Velveeta cheese, Jell-O, Lunchables, Oscar Mayer wieners, and Kool-Aid into his portfolio, stuffs an already amply supplied larder. The additions came from the acquisition of Kraft Foods Group Inc by H.J. Heinz Co, which is controlled by 3G Capital and Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. His larder already included everything from Burger King’s Triple Whopper burgers, Coca-Cola soft drinks and Tim Horton donuts to See’s Candies and Dairy Queen icecream Blizzards, as well as such Heinz brands as Tomato Ketchup, Ore-Ida fries, bagel bites and T.G.I. Friday’s mozzarella sticks.

Isn’t it curious to see that once people have more than enough to eat, they sort of make up for that by drastically lowering the quality of their food, like there’s some sort of balance that needs to be found? Give them more than plenty, and they’ll start using it to poison themselves.

The key term here, the one that tells you where this goes awry, is what in economics is called ‘externalities’. Something large industries are very good at circumventing. The larger the are, the better they get at it. Mostly this has to do with environmental destruction as a result of resource extraction, but the razing of large swaths of natural habitat for the construction of highways and suburbs that make people use more products provided by the oil industry, is a good example too. That and the direct effect these products have on people’s physical health.

Buffett, the supposed genius, can only do these deals because nobody demands anybody to pay for the externalities that arise as a result of Warren pushing crap posing as food upon the American people. And then when he’s done getting even richer off of poisoning your kids, he’ll donate billions to their well-being.

But in a better and wiser world, Warren should pay into the health care system right now, he should pay for the obesity and diabetes costs his ventures and investments are going to cause. And he should do so in advance, not just after the fact in some warped and distorted kind of philanthropy. Warren Buffett kills American kids for profit. Huge profits.

The ballooning waistlines of America can be traced back, in a very simple and straight line, to the sorts of ‘food’ that Buffett’s new conglomerate produces. That’s where type 2 diabetes comes from. This is not some vague future scare scenario, it’s here and it’s now. As someone in a poor black community said a few years back: ‘we’re raising a generation of blind amputees’.

And it’s of course not just Buffett, the poisoning and degradation of America’s food runs across and through industries, both vertically and horizontally. The insanity of corn syrup and processed food ranges from Monsanto to Cargill to McDo’s to a zillion other companies and products. Who, as an industry, have managed to keep any responsibility, let alone litigation, at bay.

Who would even dream of taking McDonald’s to court for poisoning American kids? In the present set-up, it would be an impossible and unwinnable case. But that’s not because the accusation is absurd or even far-fetched. It’s because the narrative is that, even if it could be proven, people still have the right to choose to eat what they want.

The companies get the profits, society at large gets the damage. It’s the ultimate form of the Tragedy of the Commons. If you allow people – and companies – to dump the negative consequences, and the costs, of their undertakings on the public, they will, and they can get very rich off of that.

Yeah, Warren has Coke and Utz Potato Stix for breakfast. What a great story… But does that mean he is too thick to understand what happens in America? Does he not see the bulging waistlines? Or is his own bottom line simply that much more important? Does Warren Buffett consider his own profits way more important than the future of America’s children?

You could be forgiven for thinking so, couldn’t you? Warren Buffett is revered all over the place, but in reality, he’s the schoolbook example of everything that’s wrong with America. That whole money before and over anything else (including people’s health and well-being) mentality.

It makes people stupid, and it makes for stupid people. And sick ones, too. It’s their own choice, though, and their own responsibility, advocates of the model will say. All the industry does is help them make that choice by bombarding them with endless feel-good ads. But is that really a good idea if and when it means the world’s health care systems threaten to implode because of it?

Like many other industries, Buffett’s crap-for-food enterprise would not nearly be as profitable (probably not even viable) if it were to be charged for the damage it does to society and the people living in it. That’s what’s wrong with the current American economic model, and Warren epitomizes this.

This Tragedy of the Commons abuse is so ingrained in the economy that it’s hard to see how it can be changed. And that does not bode well for anyone except the Warren Buffetts profiteering from it.