May’s Magic Money Tree and other stories

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I usually vote SNP, but will vote Labour. The first-past-the-post system means that my vote is meaningless, but if everybody thought the same thing the Tory party would win by a landslide.  Teresa May obviously thought that way. Her Damascene moment came while walking the dales. It had nothing to do with local government elections, where historically the party in government gets trashed, but the Conservative Party gained seats, even in places like Ferguslie Park where nobody knows what a Tory looks like, or has ever met one, because if they did they’d get a good kicking. It was probably a novelty vote, like voting for Mr Blobby.  The tory swing-o-meter, however, pointed to a Conservative (post-Falkland) victory of 1983 proportions, with Teresa May the new Thatcher Boadicea of the Daily-Hate-Mail ready to take on Brussels and get a good Brexit deal.

I do know what Brexit is, but I’m not clear what a good deal it. Brexit is Britain leaving the European Economic Community and customs union, one of the major power blocks in the world, and one which we do most of our trading with. We, however, import more that we export. That’s called a trade deficit. Scotland didn’t vote for Brexit and is particularly dependent on EEC funding and exports.   Withdrawing from a trade agreement with your most important and influential partner doesn’t seem very smart. Canada recently thrashed out a trade deal with the EEC it took years and 300 dedicated Canadian negotiators, multiply that by 100 support staff for every negotiator and you’ll get some idea of the complexity of a trade deal. Will Hutton reports that Britain will have to renegotiate 759 trade deals with 168 countries out with the EEC. On the bright side this could lead to full employment. Unemployed individuals could retrain as negotiators, with years of work in prospect. That’s what I’m doing now, brushing up on my pie-charts and colouring in graphics.

Some 55 000 work in the NHS and University departments report the loss of 3000 staff since the uncertainty of Brexit. It’s been called a brain drain. Boris Johnson and Teresa May have stayed to fight on. That’s a no-brainer.

I’m still not sure what the difference between a hard and soft Brexit is and I’m not sure they know either. World Trade organisation estimates ‘no deal’ with the EEC  and British exports will half and the sales of our invisible services fall by sixty percent or more. We laughed at the Greece government threatening to leave the EEC while taking another bailout to pay for its public services. It’s the economy stupid. The M20 and M2 can and will become gigantic truck stops full of goods by their sale by date and those in Northern Ireland will nip over to the Republic to stock up on cheap groceries and booze before bringing them home to Great Britain.

But it’s not often you hear an ex-chief office of the Metropolitan Police calling the Prime Minster a liar. Asked if that was what he was saying he said yes. She’s a liar. But not a lot of folk know that she’s also a Marxist.

If the energy cap fits, wear it. Our Prime Minister went along with the rhetoric that Ed Miliband, then Labour leader ‘lived in a Marxist universe’ because he wanted to cap energy prices for the major energy companies that have been ripping off exiting customers for years before angling to do the same thing. The difference between Marxism and Mayism needs to be looked at more closely.

Marxism is associated with the magic money tree. Karl Marx, 1860, in London libraries, was considering the idea of surplus value. He used the example of a worker that in two hours produced enough from his labour to pay for his food and accommodation, but worked on for another thirteen hours in a fifteen-hour day. The extra thirteen hours extracted from his labour was surplus to his requirement but the value was paid to his employer. So what, you’re probably thinking he probably works for Amazon or in a call-centre annoying folk. The killing line was the boy was only nine-years old.

The richest man under thirty in the United Kingdom is the Duke of Westminster. In a meritocracy he would be rich because of the skills he acquired. But he was also the richest under twenty in the United Kingdom. The richest under-ten in the United Kingdom. No need for him to labour for fifteen hours in a mill, creating surplus value. Others were doing that for him. He was the richest one-year old in the United Kingdom. And no doubt he was the richest placenta in the United Kingdom history. That’s democracy at work. Cradle to grave, he’s stinking rich.

Britain is a good place to live, a tax haven for the rich.  Money at increasing rate flows from the rich to the poor. You’re probably wondering what happened to that magic money tree that is going to pay for all those goods and services. Monetarism has also got magic dust when the Bank of England creates billions of pounds of bonds electronically and gives money to the rich folk and bankers that caused the financial crisis, ostensibly to help elasticity. Remember that film Happy Gilmore, well if you don’t, here’s how it goes. Happy Gilmore didn’t need golf clubs, he only needed one club, which he used to win competitions. Well, that’s the Tory secret, give money to rich folk and they’ll give it to poor folk. Trickle-down economics. It’s the kind of thing that the moron’s moron and US President believes in. You’re either for or against him, but there are pictures out there with Teresa May holding the orange sex pest’s hand and gurning at the camera.

Mayism unlike Marxism has no core values, no value at all. It’s junk bonds, but no doubt with an enlarged majority that rictus smile will be on the front page of every paper and on the news. Bad news for me, and people like me. Good news for the rich.

 

 

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Scottish Book Trust.

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Writing is the easy part. That’s what I tell folk. That’s when I learn what I think. And others think about me. Reading is the engine of writing. I’ve had a long love affair with books, with bouts of promiscuity. As I get older I find time not reading is time wasted.  Selling yourself, well, that’s the hard part. Not many folk know about Scottish Book Trust. It’s a national charity.  Until I started writing a few years ago I hadn’t heard of it either. Here’s what they do, they encourage children and adults to read books. http://www.scottishbooktrust.com/about/what-we-do. They link it with that buzz word, wellbeing. Whisper it, the key factor is class. Literacy rates in Scotland (and elsewhere) have been falling and this is linked to the gap between rich and poor. The earlier you get kids to read the better quality life they will have. The postcode lottery of what school you attend, whether, for example, Drumchapel High or Bearsden Academy a mile or two away, but on a different planet, determines life chances. Reading is the one thing we can get right, but we’re getting it wrong. The gap remains and has grown in recent years, despite much bluster. The Scottish Book Trust tells us it gave one million free books away last year. They organise festivals and supports authors. I’m a supporter of the charity work of the Scottish Book Trust. I attend most of their festivals in West Dunbartonshire libraries and write about the authors on my blogs. And last year, I gave a reading in West Dunbartonshire’s Dalmuir library of my debut novel Lily Poole (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-Poole-Jack-ODonnell/dp/1783522356).  In a way I’ve worked for the charity for free. It’s win-win, as I get free publicity. My debut novel was novel of the week in West Dunbartonshire libraries. That’s as good as it gets. Most debut novels get published and are pulped within a week. Mine is no different. But for me, books are holy things. To be a published author is a big thing and to be on library shelves next to other novelists that’s a blessing.

My gripe with Scottish Book Trust is I’ve found they’re not to be trusted, don’t acknowledge me as a published author, even though I’ve appeared at one of their festivals as a published author. They can’t deny that I’m Scottish, I’m guess it may be a matter of number of books sold. The underlying question is quality. They don’t want to acknowledge a numpty like me as an author or the whole edifice of Scottish Book Trust will crack and fall to the ground. They may be right.

I’m a big fan of the Scottish Book Trust and have been trying to join them for years, but I fear it’s easier for a Catholic to join the Masons. Over the years I’ve applied for mentoring, the New Writer’s Award and later the Next Chapter Award. The first time I got an email back saying we enjoyed reading your application I thought it was true. After ten or twelve emails saying the same thing you recognise that no they didnae, it’s junk mail. Published authors can apply for inclusion in the Live Literature Database. It makes such applications easier.  BBC Script room, in comparison, are a lot better at that sort of thing. Over the same period I’ve been longlisted twice. They tell you for example, you got an A, but not A-plus for your attempt and your thirty pages script got a full read through. And they give you numbers, out of 13 000 scripts submitted, you were in the top 10%, perhaps even 1%,  but they don’t say we enjoyed reading your script, because they didnae, that’s their job.

To be honest I don’t really think of myself as a writer either. You probably wonder why I keep bothering the Scottish Book Trust with my lame efforts. Simple, they offer a gateway to writers that have been where I am, that will read my work and give an honest critique, point the way forward. That saves me time. Saving time and money, that’s what it’s all about. Unfortunately the Scottish Book Trust enjoyed reading my novel, but they didnae, I don’t exist.  Yet I persist.  Writing is a strange beast.

Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon, BBC 2, 9pm (BBC iPlayer) Director and Producer Ricardo Pollack

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08tj1kx/bill-cosby-fall-of-an-american-icon

Today, 5th June 2017, Bill Cosby faces four charges of first-degree aggravated sexual assault against Andrea Constand. A possible ten-year prison sentence hangs in the balance. He has pled not guilty. In many ways this is the reverse of the OJ Simpson trial. When Constand made the allegations against Cosby that he had drugged and sexually assaulted her in summer 2004, the Hollywood star was not prosecuted, but an action was taken through the civil courts and an agreement was reached. What that agreement was and the damages paid was incommunicado, the silencing of the witness by giving them money, as compensation, with a legal provision that they keep stuhm.  It’s a rich man’s injustice. And Cosby was rich and so famous he wasn’t even regarded as black. From the 1960s onwards his success as a comedian, actor, writer and producer of the The Cosby Show, which ran for eight series and some shows were watched by over fifty-percent of the telly-watching population made him and the characters he created, paediatrician, family man and all-round good guy, Cliff Huxable, the face of television and America’s dad.

You here that quite a lot. Lili Bernard, for example, told how he mentored her, took her onto the set of The Cosby Show and offered to give her a part. After about a year of mentoring he took her to Trump’s Taj Mahal hotel ostensibly to meet a producer. In the suite he’d leased, he force fed her Quaaludes, but she trusted him, thought it best to go along with his wishes, so she drank them down, but even as he was raping her, there was a disconnect, because Bernard couldn’t believe a person she thought of a dad, was raping her. Cosby warned her not to speak out.  ‘You’re nothing,’ he said.

Cosby was always something. I’d never heard of OJ Simpson, but I could place Cosby. I watched bits of his shows.  I guess like many others, I conflated the character Huxtable with Cosby. If the character was called Bill Cosby and this was his family I don’t think many people would have complained or noticed. Cosby did have a black wife and five kids.

He was also a serial rapist. Let’s use the tip-of-the-iceberg argument. Thirteen women testified to attorney Gloria Alred that Cosby had drugged them, raped them and then threatened them afterwards not to tell anyone because they were nothing. Victoria Valentino a former Playboy bunny tells us how Cosby at the end of the nineteen-sixties, promised her and a friend he’d an eye for, an audition in a forthcoming show, but asked them to take pills that would make them feel better, which they did, but felt nauseous. He took them for a ride in his limousine into the hills and orally and vaginally raped her. He left her and her friend in the hills and told them to ‘call a cab’. She didn’t report it, because of whom he was and who she was, but even when she did, nobody seemed to want to listen.

It takes a lot to knock an icon from a pedestal. Ironically, it was a joke, Hannibal Buress, calling Cosby a rapist, which did the job. It was filmed; one black man calling another black comedian a rapist and it exploded on social media sites, being picked up by mainstream media. A statute of limitations meant that victims such as Valentino would not have their day in court, but they can be called as witnesses and it won’t be for the defence. Cosby is guilty as OJ was guilty, but he didn’t kill anybody, but both black men will join the largest concentration of citizens in the world that are serving time in prison, the majority of whom are also black. There’s justice and there’s justice. We’ll wait and see if that other serial groper and potential rapist the moron’s moron who is president is, in the years to come, charged with sexual assault. That would be an even bigger trial and I’m sure more viewers would watch that than The Cosby Show.   Perhaps we’ll finally see the footage Putin has of Trump and the prostitutes he’d hired. That would be a show-stopper that could go nuclear.

Elena Ferrante (2015) The Story of the Lost Child, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein.

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The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante’s fourth and final novel, is largely set in a working-class district of Naples. The narrator in each novel has been Elena Grecco, born the reader is told in August 1944, and this narrative takes us up to 2005 and almost the present day, when she’s an old woman in her late sixties, sitting on her balcony, looking over the Po, a view of Vesuvius and the semicircle of Naples. She is content,  a writer, in the mould of Elena Ferrante, whose books set in Naples have been widely read, translated, and made into acclaimed films, but whose body of work had begun to fade from public view, but is brought back to prominence by the publication of an eighty-page novella, A Friendship, which is a fiction of a fiction telling of her love of ‘My Brilliant Friend’- based on Raffella Cerullo, also called Lila, and their extended families and friends – which is the title of the first book of the quartet of the Ferrante’s novels. Still with me?

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym of a writer who writes about Naples. A common motif in her work is the madwoman, who everyone knows, sees out of the corner of their eye, but disappears from view. Drowning in love, metaphorically and often literally. To be avoided at all costs in case they too, sane but susceptible women, are dragged down. Class and poverty create many links, often with violent outcomes. The surprise here is Lila jokes it is her that has become the madwoman, akin to her aunt Melina, a widow, who lived up the stairs and had a relationship with Donato Sarratore. And for most of the forth volume Lila lives in the house below Elena. To recap, they both had an affair with Nino, Donato’s son, at one time the great love of their life. Lila created a fiction that her son Rino was Nino’s son and not her husband, Stefano’s, but it was later proved the latter’s child and not the former’s.

This story begins in 1976 when it is Elena who is, once more, besotted with Nino. She leaves her husband Pietro Airota and takes her children Adele, known as Dede, and Elsa, and goes to live with her true love, who has also promised to leave his wife and children. There’s  mirroring here, and in the text, between Elena and Lila, Janus faced, Lila left her husband for Nino, Elena does the same.

The Solara family, who give out loans and deal in other people’s misery, are the adult ogres of the tale. The killing of the widowed moneylender, with her little red book, Manuela, mother of local thugs Marcello and Michele, muscle, who make others pay, goes unsolved, like the death of Don Achiche, but not without blind retribution. Both Marcello and Michele are at different stages and in different books, in love with Lila, as most men are, but it is Nino who wins her and who slips through the years, also a less noticeable and perhaps less lethal, parasitical type. He uses women such as Elena and discards them as he works his to becoming esteemed, an elected member of Italian Parliament, bloated in body and mind, but Lila is the one that got away.

Elena and Lila both fall pregnant at the same time. Lila has a child with Enzo Scanno, who rescued her from Nino and they have a little girl, Nunziatina, called Tina. Elena has another little girl, with Nino, whom she called Immacalotta, pet name, Imma. As Elena comes to realise these were the names of her and Lila’s dolls, mysteriously delivered to her in a package in the epilogue. Ugly dolls, Tina and Nu, but much loved then, pushed into the basement, where bad things happened, more than sixty years earlier (see, for an example of this, the denouement of Ferrante’s debut novel, The Days of Abandonment)  never to be found, but Lila had led her friend to the ogre, and local Mafia boss, Don Achille to demand compensation, which to their surprise the children received. And their children Tina and Imma take to each other in a way that mirrored their mothers. Tina is the brilliant friend, the child prodigy, but Imma, in her own way, is also brilliant. Then one day, when Lila is talking to Nino, Tina disappeared, never to be found.

This was unexpected. It shocked me, but really it shouldn’t have. The story is in the title – the lost child. Lila doesn’t recover but lives on, waiting, and then working out a way to eradicate her story. Elena writes the story of their friendship and breaks the promise of childhood that she wouldn’t. Lila disappears.

Lila’s trajectory from preteen novelist, beautiful teenage bride, designer of iconic footwear and builder of a computer business is all faithfully chartered by her friend and follower:

Here’s what she had done, she had deceived me, she had dragged me wherever she wanted, from the beginning of our friendship. All our lives she had told a story of redemption, but this was hers, using my living body and my existence [italics in the text].

As a reader you’ve got to be glad to Ferrante for all her deceptions and for her narrator Elena’s moment of illumination. All redemption is written down, waiting to be found. Amen to that.