Gordon Campbell on Ardern’s ascension & Trump’s triumph

A penis conveys gravitas to any political career. Think of the stream of gaffes by Murray McCully. Think of the hyper-emotionalism of Nick Smith. If they were women, they would have been laughed out of Cabinet long ago, or would never made it there in the first place. How does Steven Joyce get away with a hectoring style deemed intolerable in a Judith Collins or a Helen Clark? Obvious answer: because boardrooms are a boys club, and the serious stuff of politics is believed to happen there.

Meaning… it’s about time we cut the crap about Jacinda Ardern being only a show pony. Yet here we are in election year 2017 and the likes of Matthew Hooton can still be heard on RNZ this week claiming that Ardern, quote, “campaigns on her looks” unquote.

The response from the RNZ presenter? “That’s a bit harsh.” You think? Oh, if only Ardern had the sober grandeur of Gerry Brownlee! If only she had – somehow, from the opposition benches – amassed the list of policy achievements that intellectual giants like Nathan Guy and Michael Woodhouse have racked up over the course of their nine years in government.

As this excellent NBR article by Pearl Going pointed out two years ago, if John Key had been a ‘pretty little thing’ his fawning over the All Blacks in general and Richie McCaw in particular and his selective memory loss on everything from the Springbok tour to the details of policy would have been judged very harshly indeed. These would be judged to be terminal foibles in a female politician. In Key, they were touted as part and parcel of the man’s unique skills as a political communicator. As Going added:

I happen to think a woman of [Ardern’s] age juggling what she does is interesting. I want to hear about her journey, not years after she’s made it as Helen Clark was relegated to, but while it is happening. When you turn the tables, you begin to see the irony of the criticisms and comparisons levelled at Jacinda Ardern by men who are really in no position to lay claim to a true understanding of the degree of talent she has had to possess to get thus far.

They are men in a man’s world standing on the sidelines watching a woman line up in a male-dominated race where the deck is already stacked against her. Flaunting the blatant nerve to claim she does not deserve her place on the starting block. Then patting each other on the back and backing each other up. Even worse, they lay claim to knowing exactly how much work she’s put in and what she has sacrificed to even get to the race track. A certain section of men in society have done this for years. The shocking thing about this is that… they still feel so very comfortable doing it in a manner that can only be described as heckling.

Or misogyny. Let’s hope Labour won’t timidly try to package Ardern so that she looks ‘credible’ to the Hootoniks over there in the boys club. Let’s also hope that Labour doesn’t tie itself in knots trying to ensure that she doesn’t upstage her leader. (Hard not to.) We can only pray that having finally recognised and rewarded one of the brightest talents at their disposal, the Labour leadership will let her play to her strengths. Which are: she is very good at articulating and promoting the social justice issues that Labour holds dear. That’s a rare and politically valuable skill.

Trump reads teleprompter!

Having said and done crazy stuff for what seems like eons, Donald Trump finally found a way yesterday to say and do some of the same crazy stuff without scaring everyone witless. I liked this juxtaposition by Matthew Yglesias:

TRUMP: The media is crooked

PUNDITS: He’s a menace to democracy

TRUMP: Immigrants are murdering your family.

PUNDITS: He’s so presidential!

Similar optimism broke out on his victory night speech last November I recall, when he also made a nod in the direction of unity – and then the craziness resumed transmission as usual. Somehow, Trump been getting rapturous reviews for yesterday’s address to Congress from many of the same journalists he’s been attacking as liars, traitors, and as the enemy within. I liked this guy’s response to Trump’s speech yesterday:

Here’s what you have to understand about the sort of people who become anchors, nonpartisan pundits, centrist columnists, and cable news political correspondents: They didn’t sign up to be the resistance. They don’t want Donald Trump to fail. They want him to “pivot” and “act presidential.”… Here’s another thing you should understand about these guys: The only thing the elite Washington press corps likes more than a bipartisan commission on debt reduction is a stack of flag-draped coffins.

That’s why the best reviews Trump has received so far in his short, mostly disastrous presidency have come in response to the moment in last night’s joint address in which he trotted out the widow of a service member—a SEAL whose death he’d denied any responsibility for just a few hours earlier—to a sustained standing ovation and rapturous press coverage.

If one dead American service member won him this much praise, just imagine how much they’ll respect him when he kills a couple hundred—or a couple thousand! Now that Trump has learned that there is a direct relationship between a president’s body count and how “presidential” the mainstream political press considers him to be, the whole world is fucked.

China vs Hollywood

But let’s not be so negative! Let’s identify a trade opportunity for the US that’s gone begging. As we all know, the only thing Trump loathes and denigrates more often than Hollywood liberals is the threat allegedly posed by China. In fact, Trump could/should be using Hollywood as a lure, in order to relieve the Chinese of untold billions of their investment dollars. Even if that meant turning James Bond into a Chinese spy.

Only last week, James Bond did almost switch sides. At the very last minute, Chinese investors have backed off from making a huge investment in the fabled Metro Goldwyn Mayer studio, which has classics in its vaults like The Wizard of Oz and Singin’ in The Rain, and the James Bond films as well. It seems the Chinese government has suddenly become nervous about the massive outflow of Chinese investments into Hollywood deals that haven’t really paid off, thus far.

Last year, the Chinese real estate conglomerate Dailian Wanda slapped down more than $3.5 billion to buy (a) the vast AMC movie theatre chain and (b) Legendary Entertainment, the co-production powerhouse responsible for Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, The Hangover, 300, Pacific Rim, Interstellar, Straight Outta Compton etc etc. The huge Chinese gamble on Legendary’s recent Matt Damon film The Great Wall though, appears to have been a real disaster. Heads have rolled at Legendary, including its boss, Thomas Tull.

Only last month, the Chinese poured $1 billion of co-financing dollars into the ailing Paramount studio, and since November, Dalian Wanda has been teetering on the edge of closing a deal to buy Dick Clark Productions. Yet in a twist ending that few people saw coming, the Chinese government seems to be pulling the plug. And Donald Trump is part of the reason that Beijing is suddenly getting cold feet on Hollywood:

The new dynamic highlights Hollywood’s dependence on China, where the slightest change in [Chinese] state policy has ripple effects across the entertainment industry. China’s deep pockets have become a frequent topic of speculation and intrigue among entertainment executives, some of whom see the country as full of prospective buyers willing to pay high premiums for flashy Hollywood holdings.

The economic-policy changes in China come amid mounting protectionist rhetoric in the U.S. from the administration of President Donald Trump.“We’ve heard from both [private-equity] firms and investment banks that China investment activity around [Hollywood] assets started to wane just prior to the election and is almost nonexistent now,” said Chris Fenton, a trustee of the U.S.-Asia Institute, which organizes congressional delegations to China, and president of DMG Entertainment, a media company headquartered in Beverly Hills and Beijing. “No China entity wants to be the first to test” the heated rhetoric on the U.S. side and the capital controls on the Chinese side, he added.

Awww. Surely Trump should be working in unison with Hollywood in order to fleece those socialist suckers. Instead, he’s scaring them off. Sad.

Messiah, Complex

If you’re tired of feeling angst and despair at the week’s latest array of White House idiocy – lets start a nuclear arms race! Lets put another slew of corrupt morons in charge of dismantling the federal government! – here’s one of those jaded songs of hell in a handbasket cynicism that the French do so well. Don’t come back Jesus Christ, you wouldn’t think it had been worth it. Mon ami, they’re just invoking your name in order to fight better…

In more upbeat mode, here are a couple of good driving songs, for that long and whiny road back home…