The Daily Visionary: Wednesday, January 16, 2019

PM May loses the vote on her Brexit deal by a significant margin, prompting a no confidence motion

 

The Story

 

British Prime Minister Theresa May’s parliamentary vote on her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union (EU) failed miserably on Tuesday, with 432 Members of Parliament (MP) voting against and 202 voting in favour. Following the vote PM May said, "The House has spoken, and the Government will listen."

 

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, tabled a motion of no confidence in the Government. Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom announced a confidence motion has been scheduled for Wednesday, and MPs will spend the day debating the motion ahead of a 7pm vote.

 

The Details

 

  • Possible outcomes now include a No Deal, a "managed" No Deal, a Norway-style relationship between the UK and the EU, a second referendum, a General Election, or a second vote assuming a renegotiation with Europe.

  • The no confidence motion: under the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, the Leader of the Opposition is able to put forward a censure motion expressing no confidence in the Government.

  • If the motion succeeds: The Conservative Party will have 14 days to form an alternative Government and win a subsequent confidence vote in the Commons. PM May is not required to resign, though it is difficult to see her taking any other form of action.

  • If the motion fails: Mr. Corbyn may try to form a coalition of opposition parties capable of winning its own confidence vote in the House, though the chances of this happening or succeeding are slim. Otherwise, an election will be called, and Parliament will dissolve at least 25 days beforehand. A period of “washing up” may be allowed beforehand, in order for MPs to pass any urgent legislation.

 

Background

 

The defeat of the Brexit deal has broken a Parliamentary record. Prime Minister May lost by 230 votes, far exceeding the 166-vote loss suffered by Ramsay MacDonald in 1924. No Prime Minister has ever had more than 400 votes against them. 432 MPs voted against PM May's deal. In addition, 118 Tory MPs rebelled against their own government.

 

In 1990, when Labour leader Neil Kinnock tabled a no-confidence motion in Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s government at the height of the Conservatives’ travails over Michael Heseltine’s leadership challenge to the Prime Minister, he felt he had little choice, given the circumstances. However, the government had a majority of about 100, and by the time the motion was debated, PM Thatcher had already announced her resignation. The benches behind her, although still in a state of shock at recent events, roared their unanimous support and the occasion became PM Thatcher’s last great triumph in the House. The government survived and, under PM Thatcher’s successor, went onto win the general election 18 months later.

 

Key Quotes

 

Before the vote, PM May said it was the "most significant vote that any of us will ever be part of in our political careers" and lead to a "historic decision" that will affect the country for generations to come.

Netflix raises its prices for U.S. subscribers

 

The Story

 

Netflix is raising monthly fees for its American subscribers by between 13 percent and 18 percent, the video streaming pioneer’s first price increase since 2017 as it spends heavily on original content and international expansion.

 

Prices for its popular standard plan, which allows streaming on two devices at the same time, will rise to USD $12.99 per month from USD $10.99, the company said in a statement.

 

The company’s top-tier plan, which allows streaming on four screens in high definition, will increase to USD $15.99 from USD $13.99 per month, while the fee for its basic plan will rise to USD $8.99 from USD $7.99.

 

The Details

 

  • Netflix shares rose 7 percent to USD $356.11 in afternoon trading, adding to their 30 percent rise so far this year.

  • In comparison, HBO Now streaming service charges USD $14.99 per month, while Hulu’s no-advertisements plan is priced at USD $11.99 per month.

 

Background

 

Netflix has been spending billions to bolster its original content, which features award-winning and international shows, to fend off intensifying competition from players such as Amazon’s Prime Video service and Hulu. The company reported it had 137 million customers at the end of September 2018.

 

The subscription price increases are expected to earn Netflix hundreds of millions of dollars. Aggressive spending, including a planned USD $8 billion in 2018, led to a surge in subscriber growth. Netflix’s debt doubled to USD $6.50 billion in 2017 from USD $3.36 billion in 2016. The company is expected to have a debt level of USD $8.33 billion in 2018, according to Daniel Morgan, senior portfolio manager at Synovus Trust Co, which owns 15,019 shares of Netflix. Netflix is scheduled to report its fourth-quarter results after market close on Thursday.

 

Key Quotes

 

It highlights that Netflix has pricing power and even after the increase it remains a very cheap entertainment alternative,” said Pivotal Research Group analyst Jeff Wlodarczak.

 

With Netflix frequently tapping the debt markets on several recent occasions, the price hike could help ease concerns with a growing deficit on free cash flow to fund a likely continued escalation in Netflix’s content spending, which likely topped $13 billion in 2018,” said CFRA analyst Tuna Amobi.

 

President Trump’s U.S. Attorney General nominee says he won’t “be bullied” at confirmation

 

The Story

 

William Barr is President Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General and is expected to win confirmation in the Republican-controlled Senate to serve as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

 

Mr. Barr told lawmakers he would not interfere in a federal probe into Russian election meddling from political pressure, stressing he would bring independence to the job, and not shy away from breaking ranks with the administration.  He committed to look into anti-Trump bias at the FBI during the 2016 presidential campaign, saying he was “shocked” by the anti-Trump texts that were famously sent between FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page.

 

Asked about the ongoing partial federal government shutdown, Mr. Barr said he wanted to see a deal reached by Congress that recognizes the imperative for border security, which by common sense requires a barrier.

 

The Details

 

  • Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at President Trump’s request the day after the November 4, 2018 midterm elections.

  • Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker currently holds the position and has not recused himself from oversight of the Mueller probe, despite a recommendation that he do so.

  • Mr. Barr was nominated by the president to lead the Justice Department in December.

  • To be confirmed, Mr. Barr needs a simple majority of votes in the Senate. Republicans currently hold 53 of the Senate's 100 seats.

 

Background

 

Mr. Barr was Attorney General under Republican President George H.W. Bush from 1991 to 1993. He said his primary loyalty would be to the rule of law, not President Trump, and said he did not seek out the job and was reluctant to accept when it was offered to him.

 

Mr. Barr spoke broadly in favour of many of the tough immigration policies that have been advocated by President Trump. He said he believed in the use of border walls and criticized ‘sanctuary cities’ that shield illegal immigrants from deportation immigrants, saying, “We need money right now for border security, including walls and barriers.

 

Key Quotes

 

I will not be bullied into doing anything that I think is wrong - by anybody, whether it be editorial boards or Congress or the President. I’m going to do what I think is right,” said Mr. Barr at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

Venezuela Opposition Congress declares President Maduro a 'usurper' of democracy

 

The Story

 

On Tuesday, Venezuela’s Opposition-led Congress formally declared President Nicolas Maduro a “usurper,” whose actions would be considered null and void after he was sworn in last week for a disputed second term.

 

Opposition legislator Jorge Millan said, “Today Congress declares that at this time there is no president of the republic. Let’s start the process to recover the constitutional order.” Congress also approved a measure asking dozens of foreign governments to freeze bank accounts controlled by Maduro’s government. The measure calls on the United States, European Union, and several Latin American governments to instruct regulatory agencies to “prohibit any movement of liquid assets by the Venezuelan state in local bank accounts.”

 

The Details

 

  • The pro-government Supreme Court, which has been in conflict with the legislature since the opposition took Congress over in 2016, has pre-emptively invalidated any laws passed by the body.

  • Lawmakers are discussing a future amnesty for government officials and military officers who reject President Maduro and help bring about a return to democracy. The measures are unlikely to be enforced in the short term.

  • A White House spokesman, asked if further sanctions were in the pipeline, said the United States was considering “all diplomatic, political, and economic tools in its arsenal in response to the usurpation of power by the illegitimate Maduro regime.”

  • Last week, Opposition Leader Juan Guaido said he was willing to replace President Maduro if he had the support of the military. Several government officials have said he should be arrested for treason and on Sunday he was briefly detained by intelligence agents.

 

Background

 

President Maduro was inaugurated on January 10 under criticism that his leadership was illegitimate following a 2018 election widely viewed as fraudulent, with countries around the world disavowing his government.

 

The US and many Latin American nations say President Maduro has become a dictator whose failed state-led policies have plunged Venezuela into its worst ever economic crisis, with no recovery in sight. President Maduro says that a U.S.-directed “economic war” is trying to force him from power.

 

The US and EU have imposed sanctions that limit the sale of Venezuelan government debt and freeze assets belonging to Maduro and a number of his top officials.

 

Key Quotes

 

“The United States has expressed its support for Juan Guaido, who as president of the democratically-elected National Assembly has courageously declared his constitutional authority to ... call for free and fair elections,” a US spokesman said.

 

Diosdado Cabello, president of the Constituent Assembly, a legislative superbody elected in 2017 that gives the ruling Socialist Party sweeping powers, said that the opposition in Congress were “the only ones trying to usurp power. They’ve spent 20 years trying to force us from government.

 

Gillette’s new viral ad ‘The Best Men Can Be’ provokes both anger and support

 

The Story

 

A new advertising campaign from razor company Gillette ‘The Best Men Can Be’ is a play on its long-time slogan ‘The Best a Man Can Get’, and it has attracted both support and criticism online. Gillette’s new two-minute-long video was posted on Sunday to the brand’s YouTube page. On its website, Gillette explains that it created the campaign because it believes it has a role to play in influencing cultural perceptions.

 

The campaign has gone viral. The YouTube video had been viewed more than 3 million times by Tuesday morning, while an accompanying tweet had nearly 50,000 retweets and more than 120,000 likes. There has also been a significant negative reaction to the campaign. This is particularly evident on YouTube, where as of Tuesday morning the video’s 56,000 likes were dwarfed by its nearly 300,000 dislikes; YouTube’s audience is pre-dominantly men.

 

Those who like the campaign support the positive message of men leading by example and treating others with respect, encouraging men to be their best selves. Detractors thought it was insulting, assigning guilt to all men for the #MeToo movement, and pushing the political far-left’s belief that masculinity is
toxic” and its social agenda of demasculinizing men.

Gillette also makes products for women; no doubt the bashlash would have been severe and potentially deadly for the company had it suggested women be their best selves.

 

The Details

 

  • The ad opens showing the faces of men looking themselves in the eye in the mirror before they shave for the morning. In the background, media voices say "bullying”, “MeToo”, and “toxic masculinity".

  • The narrator asks – “is this the best a man can get?” and says, “Something finally changed, and there will be no going back,” followed by footage plays of MeToo-related news reports.

  • There are scenes of a group of boys bullying another boy, of two boys roughhousing in the backyard while their fathers watch, sexual exploitation of women in music videos, and a man condescending his female co-worker in the boardroom. It’s the “same old excuses” as the men say, “boys will be boys”.

  • Shifting from the negative to the positive, the ad cuts back to the men in the mirror. The narrator says, "we believe in the best of men”, followed by scenes showing men standing up to others harassing women and treating women respectfully, a father walking with his son steps in to stop bullies beating up another boy, another breaks up the roughhousing boys saying, “this isn’t how we treat each other”, and a father repeating the words with his young daughter in their bathroom mirror "I am strong".

  • The boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow."

  • It's only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best."

 

Background

 

Gillette says its commitment to redefining masculinity will include USD $3 million in donations over three years to non-profit agencies in the United States working “to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal ‘best’ and become role models for the next generation.

One Twitter user wrote, “The video is sad and depressing while putting ALL men in a bad light. Men aren’t just waking up to bad things that are going on. There have always been good men. Bad ones too, yes, but the same can be said about women.”

 

We recognize it’s sparking a lot of passionate dialogue—at the same time, it’s getting people to stop and think about what it means to be our best selves, which is the point of the spot,” said Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s brand director for North America. 

Key Quotes

 

As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette.” the website reads.


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