Warnings about the horrific effects of Disney’s Princesses on America’s girls

Summary: Feminists warn that Disney Princesses encourage America’s girls to become thin, passive, and submissive — and make them psychologically disturbed. They teach this to young girls. It’s delusional, and illustrates a serious problem.

Disney Princesses - original six

When researching the effects of feminism on society, I stumbled on this presentation by Jaden Maxwell and Cheyenne Taylor, seventh grade students at Mount Pleasant School: “Princesses as Role Models“. Its quality is far above anything I did at their age (they also won 2nd and 4th prize at the math fair). It illustrates one aspect of the education of modern American girls.

Princesses as Role models

Princesses as Role models

They say other ill effects of exposure to Disney princesses are “dependence and submissiveness”.

Impressively, the girls cite sources. The most significant is “Point: Fantasy Princess Role Models Teach Young Girls To Be Dependent And Submissive And Help To Foster An Unhealthy Body Image” by Micah Issitt (in Princesses As Role Models For Young Girls, 2014). Google revealed a large body of works exploring this theme. Sadly, dipping into this sea of feminist advocacy found little research supporting these claims.

That should not surprise anyone, for the concept appears quite daft. Snow White, the first Disney princess, hit the screens in 1937. The mass merchandising of the followed Andy Mooney’s (chairman of Disney’s Consumer Products division) genius invention of the “princess franchise” in January 2000. How has Disney changed America’s women during the past several generations?

American girls are often described as “princesses”, but not for those qualities. Rather, it describes the opposite: aggressive girls with high self-esteem (who are also privileged and materialistic). The earliest use I found of this was “Jewish American Princess“, which became popular after WWII — and was still popular when I was in college in the 1970s.

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Wolfgang Streeck explains how to reform capitalism for a better 21st century

Summary: We have hundreds of ideas for small reforms of America, but few for radical reform of the capitalist system that runs it. As a demonstration of this problem, Wolfgang Streeck gives a profound critique of capitalism and Adam Tooze  one of the most powerful essays I have seen in a long time. This is part two; part one discussed how we drifted into this crisis of capitalism.

 

A General Logic of Crisis

By Adam Tooze,
London Review of Books, 5 January 2017.

Posted with his generous permission.

Review of Wolfgang Streeck’s How Will Capitalism End?: Essays on a Failing System.

Part two of two: looking at the end of capitalism, and beyond.

The publication of How Will Capitalism End?: Essays on a Failing System thus comes when Streeck has positioned himself as the leading intellectual proponent in Germany of a Gaullist vision of Europe from the left. Now that his cards are fully on the table it is a good moment to try to answer the question: how did Streeck turn critical theory into a vehicle for the assertion of the primacy of the nation?

In one respect at least the national turn has allowed Streeck to subsume what might once have been seen as a fatal weakness in his analysis into a consistent part of the argument. A truly remarkable thing about his work is that he discusses the future of capitalism entirely without reference to the place where the future of capitalism will surely be decided: Asia. That no doubt reflects the limitations of his professional specialisation – OECD industrial relations. China and India are beyond his ken.

But given the arguments he has been making, his Eurocentrism takes on a new meaning. If you are going to articulate the basic tension of the crisis as existing between a superficial, utilitarian universality on the one hand, and a ‘grandiose jointly produced diversity’ on the other, then Europe is, indeed, the classic terrain on which to make your case. Not that there isn’t nationalism elsewhere. But nowhere else has as many different nationalisms in such a tiny space and nowhere else has tried to merge them the way the EU has. India and China never subordinated themselves entirely to the dictates of neoliberalism, nor arguably has the United States: compared to the EU, Nafta was integration-lite. So if the EU stands for a peculiarly pure form of neoliberal capitalism – a basic contention of the Lexit camp – where better to make one’s stand than Europe? In rejecting the false capitalist homogeneity of the EU, one is saving Europe’s essence, namely its diversity. What could be a better expression of that grandiose diversity, after all, than the battle of Brexit, another round in the centuries-old cross-Channel struggle?

But Streeck is a political economist, so he isn’t content with civilisational arguments. He wants to talk about nuts and bolts, the real power behind the scenes. The particular vector of globalisation that has seized his imagination since 2008 is finance. As a somewhat surprised Martin Wolf remarked in the Financial Times, Streeck worries so much about debt you could mistake him for an Austrian economist. Debt, for Streeck, is an index of the unsustainable balance between democracy and capitalism. It’s the way the system borrows time. At times he takes this metaphor quite literally, describing credit as a mechanism through which ‘not-yet-existing virtual resources … are pulled forward from the future.’ Taken at face value that would suggest a very odd view of economic reality indeed.

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The Red Warning Flags In Today’s Employment Report

Summary: the key things to know about today’s job report.  (Second of two posts today.)

  • The December job numbers show that nothing has changed.
  • The US economy remains locked in slow gear, slowly slowing.
  • The exciting stories about growth are mostly noise or cherries picked from the flood of economic numbers.
  • Combined with a hawkish Fed and high valuations = a dangerous market for investors.

See my full report at Seeking Alpha.

Free registration at Seeking Alpha requires only an email address.

 

Wolfgang Streeck asks “How will capitalism end?”

Summary: Lost in the trivia of the daily news, we can easily lose sight of the great issues shaping our times.  Such as the future of capitalism, tested by demographic change, slowing growth, rising inequality, and political turmoil. Here is the first of two posts with insights by Wolfgang Streeck and Adam Tooze; one of the most powerful essays I have seen in a long time. This post examines how we came to this point, on the brink of great events. In tomorrow’s post they discuss the forces that will test and perhaps break capitalism.

 

A General Logic of Crisis

By Adam Tooze,
London Review of Books, 5 January 2017.

Posted with his generous permission.

Review of Wolfgang Streeck’s How Will Capitalism End?: Essays on a Failing System.

Part one of two: how we got here.

 

‘Whatever it takes.’ These words, spoken by the president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, to a crowd of investors in the City of London on 26 July 2012, have come to represent the symbolic end to the acute phase of the global financial crisis. In the political sphere, by contrast, where words are supposed to be everything, we have not yet been able to draw the line. More than four years on, we know that in 2012 the political fallout was only just beginning.

It was in December 2011 that David Cameron reopened the European question by opting out of the new ‘fiscal compact’ drawn up by Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy with the aim of enforcing budget discipline across the EU. In the US in spring 2012, Mitt Romney emerged as the candidate from the Republican primaries, but the freakshow anticipated the Trump campaign to come. In Italy the ousting of Berlusconi in a backroom coup in November 2011 and the installation of the ‘unpolitical’ economist Mario Monti as prime minister set the stage for the emergence of Beppe Grillo and Five Star in the local elections of May 2012. In France as the fiscal compact began to bite, François Hollande’s presidency was dead almost before it had started.

Amid all these events, Germany can easily seem like a bastion of stability, with ‘Merkel über alles’ its anthem. But beneath the smooth surface, Merkel’s grip on the chancellorship has since she took office in 2005 been supported by three successive coalitions. And by early 2013 it was clear that her partners since 2009, the free-market, libertarian, liberal FDP, were in trouble. They were being outflanked on their right-wing by a new formation, the AfD, the Alternative für Deutschland, whose focus in 2013 was not immigration but passionate opposition to the euro. Like much of the German right the AfD was indignant not about austerity, but about the failure of Merkel to back an even harder line. The AfD didn’t break the 5 per cent threshold required to enter parliament at its first try, but it took enough votes from the FDP to drop it out of the Bundestag, leaving Merkel to form a new coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

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Good news for the New Year! Salon explains that the global climate emergency is over.

Summary: During the past two weeks I’ve posted much good news to help you prepare for the New Year. Concluding the series is the best news of all: a solid leftist declares an end to the planetary climate emergency! Solar and wind are replacing fossil fuels at an astonishing pace, sooner even than optimists expected when James Hansen began the climate crusade in 1988.

Good news about the climate

Donald Trump’s “carbon bubble” economy is bound to pop
— the only question is how bad it will be

“Trump’s economic policies are built on many flawed assumptions,
especially a fossil-fuel boom that won’t end well.”
By Paul Rosenberg at Salon, 2 January 2017.

Let’s go directly to the money paragraphs that give us the good news.

“The carbon bubble does exactly the same thing. It’s not just fossil fuel reserves that are overvalued by the bubble, but everything associated with the sector — pipelines, power plants, refineries, etc. …

“The carbon bubble risk is only made worse by the fact that renewable energy costs have dropped dramatically in recent years, and become increasingly competitive. Thus, even if those reserves were not unburnable because of their potential impact on climate change, they will become so for economic reasons in the next few decades. For example, the World Economic Forum’s recently released “Renewable Infrastructure Investment Handbook: A Guide for Institutional Investors” reported:

‘[T]he unsubsidized, levellized cost of electricity (LCOE) for utility scale solar photovoltaic, which was highly uncompetitive only five years ago, has declined at a 20% compounded annual rate, making it not only viable but also more attractive than coal in a wide range of countries. By 2020, solar photovoltaic is projected to have a lower LCOE than coal or natural gas-fired generation throughout the world.’

“Add to this the fact that renewable energy — particularly solar and wind — is a new technology sector, in which large efficiency gains are to be expected. That’s quite unlike the fossil fuel industry, whose costs are increasing because the cheap, easy-to-get fuel has already been burned. By 2030, renewables could well leave fossil fuels in the dust. …

“Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English.”

This is the good news of the decade (even if bad news for fossil fuel investors)! For a decade climate activists have warned about the coming apocalypse from RCP8.5, the worst-case scenario in the IPCC’s AR5 report (often misrepresented as “business as usual” despite its unlikely assumptions). Almost all the articles you have read about the horrific effects of climate change assume the RCP8.5 scenario.

To learn about this possible future see “RCP 8.5: A scenario of comparatively high greenhouse gas emissions” by Keywan Riahi et al in Climate Change, November 2011. It describes a hot dirty 21st century, in which coal use increases 5-fold to become the world’s major source of power (it’s a back to the 19thC future) — with the steepest increase coming after 2030. This graph shows energy use by fuel in 2100 for each of the four scenarios in AR5.

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Stratfor explains why Russia won’t join our arms race

Summary: Here Stratfor examines the arms race, one aspect of the propaganda campaign seeking to start a new cold war with Russia. Spoiler: it’s bogus, like the rest of the campaign. Stratfor

An Arms Race Russia Will Not Run

Stratfor, 30 December 2016.

Summary

In the 25 years since the Soviet Union fell, Russia has punctuated military buildups on its border with the occasional rattle of its nuclear saber in response to U.S. provocations. But a muted reaction to President-elect Donald Trump’s recent suggestion that the United States should expand its nuclear weapons arsenal reflects a different military and economic reality for Russia, one in which the Kremlin realizes it could not afford to keep up in a new nuclear arms race.

Trump’s Dec. 23 pronouncement that the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be beefed up came as President Barack Obama signed a wide-ranging $618.7 billion defense spending bill. Trump’s remarks, particularly his quip about reigniting an arms race, elicited criticism from the Kremlin. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitri Peskov responded that his country would not take part in any arms race, and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova criticized the United States for trying to spend Russia to death.

In years past, Russia used news of U.S. arms buildups to justify expanding its own arsenals, but echoes of the disastrous Soviet defense spending spree in the 1980s have given Moscow pause. Russia’s more moderate tone does not mean it will pull back on its defense plans, but rather that the Kremlin does not want to repeat a history of military overspending that helped accelerate the demise of the Soviet Union.

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A picture of America, showing a path to political reform

Summary: As we start a New Year and end this series about resolutions, here is a summary of American politics as I see them. It points the way to reform and a better future, if we are willing to pay the price.

American Power

 

Time has disproved most of Marx’s economics, but it has validated much of his sociology. As income inequality has returned to the peak of the Gilded Age (and still rising), the class structure has returned.

Marx’s schema of the classes accurately described 19th century society, but George Orwell gave us a model of a class structure that better fits modern America. There is the bourgeois, the top few percent who own most of America (the 1% own over a third; the top 3% over half). There is the inner party, the highly paid senior leaders of our political, non-profit, and business institutions. There is the outer party of managers, small business-people, and professionals. There are the proles, America’s workers, and the underclass.

Our elites

The bourgeois and inner party are America’s insiders. They have a common interest in preserving the political and social systems that have given them so much, so most are conservative in the literal meaning of the term. They might like to tinker on a small scale, shifting America to the Left or Right — but not radical change. They have leisure time, autonomy, security, and agency (the ability to influence events), which gives them a perspective on the world radically different than that of the lower classes (everybody else).

People in the upper classes prefer to marry within their class, just they in Pride and Prejudice. The professional and managerial classes call it “associative mating“. The rich marry each other; they call it “good sense”. That is why Elizabeth Bennet could not marry Mr. Darcy (nor could your daughter). Like their Gilded Age forbearers, they live on a scale almost unimaginable to the lower orders. Bill Gates’ palace is 6,000 sq ft larger than Hearst Castle.

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