Anderlecht 0—3 Celtic.

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Scott Sinclair’s goal in the ninety-third minute to put Celtic three up put the sheen on a fine team performance and, more or less, guarantees Celtic third-spot in the group table and a Europa League parachute. European football after Christmas is not something we’re used to and after getting hammered by PSG the doom-mongers (let’s call them Ranger’s supporters) were predicting, once again, zero points in the group stage and an embarrassment to Scottish football. After PSG hammered Bayern Munich, who, incidentally, sacked their manager, Celtic’s trip to the German champions isn’t exactly bringing us out in a cold sweat and thoughts of damage limitation.  Here last night Celtic players held their heads up, had most of the play, and did to Anderlecht what they usually do to inferior Scottish opposition such as Rangers.

The first goal was the pick of the bunch. Oliver Nitcham played a perfectly weighted pass in behind the Anderlecht defence, full-back Kieran Tierney higher up the pitch than midfield or forwards, overlapped, looked up and picked out Leigh Griffiths at the back post who had a tap in.

Brendan Rogers won’t be getting sacked any time soon. We now know who he sees as his first eleven. The same team started here as did against Rangers, with the exception of Nitcham for Stuart Armstrong. Ironically, Nitcham before that 38th minute goal had been the Celtic player most likely to misplace his passes.

The second goal after fifty minutes was an own goal, a deflection from a Patrick Robert’s shot, who claimed it.  Olivier Deschacht, the Anderlecht defender, dawdled on the ball and was robbed by Roberts and it was a pivotal moment in the game.

Celtic strolled the rest of the match, and it’s not often you can say that in Europe, and the substitutions followed a familiar pattern. Rogic being replaced after sixty minutes to give McGregor the last thirty minutes. Forrest, who prior to the Ranger’s game, had scored four goals in two games, replacing Roberts. And in the last few minutes an injury to Scott Brown meant Nir Bitton was given game time. The first away win in Europe for five years, hopefully, not the last.  There’ll be a shakeup of this team for Saturday’s game against Hibernian, but for now everything in the garden is green.

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I, Daniel Blake, Director Ken Loach and writer Paul Laverty.

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I, Daniel Blake is one of those films everybody thinks I should see. A typical conversation, or text message, goes something like this,  sorry you missed the screening, you’d have loved it and the discussion afterwards in Dalmuir library. It’s one of those films I already know the story. Some old guy meets up with some young girl who has kids. They’re on the buroo and they get shat on from a great height because they’re poor and working class and powerless to do anything about it. Yep, that’s pretty much how the film worked out. The DVD I was loaned was still in the original cellophane. That’s like somebody saying that’s my favourite song, but I’ve not listened to it. You’ll love it.

It’s a heresy to say I was underwhelmed. we did have a cameo of Daniel Blake going about Newcastle asking employers ‘geez a job’, with echoes of Yosser Hughes, I much preferred Boys from the Blackstuff, (watched by upwards of 20 million viewers) or even Cathy Come Home, that Play for Today, all those years ago (watched by five people that had a new-fangled telly) which triggered a debate about housing and the setting up of the charity Shelter.  That’s an exaggeration; I didn’t see the original Cathy, because I was still in my pram.

I have, however, been to Jobcentre Plus. Here I,Daniel had good cop, bad cop benefit- advisor routine and meddlesome staff workers trying to talk sense to Daniel when we know the government premise of welfare is to penalise and punish claimants and make them suffer unnecessarily by taking away what little money they are legally due to live on. We all know about having an up-to-date CV, the blather that goes with it about standing out from the crowd and how every failure is an opportunity. Daniel and single-mother Cathy are the salt-of-the earth type that want to work, but can’t. They attend the local Foodbank together and she starves herself to feed her children. Caught shoplifting, she’s let off with a caution by a kindly manage, but pimped by the security guard and agrees to work in a brothel because her daughter has no shoes. She has dreams of that placebo we call education and is going to do an Open University course. Ho hum.

When Daniel does turn and sprays a message of defiance on the walls of the Jobcentre Plus asking to be treated as a human that’s the high point and denouement of the film. We’ve still got a bit to go, but you know what I mean. I am not a number. I am a person. I demand to be treated as a human, kind of thing. I much preferred a drinking buddies response which was to take a hammer from the workman fixing the stairs inside the Jobcentre and take it outside and started smashing small-minded bureaucrat’s cars in the Kilbowie Road carpark. I gave him £20 for that because I shared his frustration. It didn’t change anything.   I, Daniel Blake, ho-hum. We the working class lost the propaganda war to rich Tory bastards, the reality is this film is like putting on a duffle coat and saying I’m working class. Rich people don’t care and won’t watch it anyway. Did I learn anything? No? Snap.

 

Selina Todd (2015) The People: The Rise and Fall of the Working Class.

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I liked this book, it’s about us, the working class often portrayed standing outside history books adding a bit of colour to the stories of kings and governors, quietly happy to die for their country, or the working class portrayed as a Lemuel Gulliver lying down in the long grass and falling asleep and being tied down by Lilliputians who make theatrical speeches he doesn’t understand but he does what the little men, the 1% of the population want him to do, anyway. That’s not the case. If the working class were Gulliver he’s prone to poke himself in the eye. Tie down one foot and chop off a leg and dance the hornpipe. As Selina Todd makes clear the working class are not a uniform body. What they have in common, what we have in common is our relationship to the means of production. The working man needs to work to survive. Elite groups do not. Class is about who is holding the stick, how big is it and how hard are they going to hit us?

If you look at relationships this way things become a lot clearer. Take Teresa May, for example, a sluggish economy, just over 1% growth, because of the managed industrial decline of industry in the last fifty years we have non-jobs and the highest personal-debt ratio in Europe, common people are struggling,   Britain is dependent on selling its goods and services to the largest trading block in the world and if the EEC doesn’t want them, well, what stick is she going to hit them with? We import more than we export. We are a debtor nation.  Withdrawal, the longest suicide note in history springs to mind.

In the Afterword, Selina Todd quotes John Maynard Keynes, on the 2008 crisis applies equally here. Capitalism relies on ‘the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.’

She could equally well have quoted Owen the narrator of The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist from almost 100 years ago:

The question is, what is the cause of the lifelong poverty of those who are not drunkards and who DO work? Why, if all the drunkards and wont-works and unskilled or inefficient workers who could be by some miracle transformed into sober, industrious and skilled workers tomorrow, it would, under the present conditions, be so much worse for us, because there isn’t enough work NOW, and those people by increasing the competition for what work there is, would inevitably cause a reduction in wages and greater scarcity of employment. The theories that drunkenness, laziness or inefficiency are the causes of poverty are so many devices invented and fostered by those who are selflessly interested in maintaining the present state of affairs, for the purposes of discovering the real causes of our present condition.

Todd charts the high points of the People, the working class after the Second World War up to around 1970 and the advent of neoliberal policies designed ostensibly to revive the economy but took money from the poor and gave it to the rich. Trickle-down-economics and the ideology or Thatcherism, everyman for themselves finds expression in quixotic Think tanks like The Centre for Social Justice which is the kind of sham that had Boris Johnson standing beside a bus and promising to spend £150 million a week on the NHS when we left the European Union. The sham of The Taxpayers Alliance, which demands value for money, which sounds laudable, but they don’t mean their money, they mean poor people’s money. The working class won the Second World War, but lost the ideological war and are now paying for that failure, but which is marketed as a success. We know, of course, right-wing neoliberals with double-barrel names don’t read books like this, but they do write government policy.

Here are some common myths Todd deals with.

Myth 1: The economic crisis was caused the welfare state.

What history reminds us is that targeting welfare at the poorest is not the answer. Instead we need wealth to be redistributed more equally.

Myth 2: We can only solve the economic crisis by all working very hard.

‘Hard work has never solved poverty. If it did, then no one would have been poor during the three decades after 1945, when work was more plentiful than before or since.’

‘Rather than dividing people between those who are and aren’t members of “hardworking families” we should ask why anyone should have to work at all.’

What Todd is saying here isn’t that much different from those on the far right, charting the rise of the robots and the mass unemployment which will ensure in the next ten years and whose talk once more turns to citizens being allocated an allowance.

Myth 3: Working-class people’s opportunities are blocked by women and immigrants.

‘By focusing on migrants, we move our gaze from the real culprits: employees and politicians, who turn migrant workers into cheap and exploitable wage slaves.’

‘If migrants are wrongly blamed for the economic crisis, so too are women…Far from “choosing” to go out and earn [pin] money rather than have babies, many women go out to work to support children, unemployed husbands or partners, and parents who, in old age, face poverty. In 1996, 67% of mothers with dependent children went out to work, by 2013, 72% of them were doing so.’

Myth 4: Social mobility, promoted by selective and private education, can solve inequlity.

‘It’s ironic that a political consensus exists that post-war Britain was a meritocratic society, given how clearly erroneous that claim is.’

‘A society as technologically advanced as ours, as rich in natural resources and wealth, could and should be committed to providing all children with the best possible start in life, not just a handpicked few.’

‘Since 2010 spending of education has fallen at the fastest rate since the 1950s.’

Myth 5: People’s greed and selfishness prevent us from creating a different sort of society.

‘What we have to do now is to start working out the first steps towards revealing an alternative way to live better than neoliberalism…class testifies to inequality and inequality has not worked or any of us.’

‘economic growth does not improve quality of life, but economic redistribution can and will. Britain was healthier and happier place in the post-war years because there was some re-distribution.’

We need to trust ourselves to find a more democratic and transparent way of creating an equal society.

We can do this because we’ve done it before.

We need to question why work is at the centre of our lives. There is no reason why so many of us should have to spend most of our lives working in jobs that achieve little or nothing…no reason why we should not be able to undertake meaningful work, organized for the benefit of society and not the 1 percent who live off profit.

Class, as a relationship of unequal power, shapes British society.’

The important thing is to recognise the shared experiences and build on it, not quibble over semantics.

If the past teaches us anything it is this: if the people want a better future, we can, and must, create it, ourselves.’

 

 

 

Rangers 0—2 Celtic.

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I usually write a blog about Celtic’s big games, but this was one of those matches where everything goes as planned. Celtic didn’t score five this time. But if you listen to Steven Thompson on telly then Celtic could easily have scored five or six, had eighteen shots on target and he doesn’t think the gap between Celtic and Rangers has declined. Thompson is, of course, a former Ranger’s centre-forward and hardly a neutral. From where I was sitting, drunk admittedly, Wes Fodernigham made the save of the match, after a minute from Tom Rogic’s strike. Armstrong slipped when he was about to shoot and Griffiths missed an absolute sitter, heading well over the bar from the back post. That was all inside ten minutes. Brown strolled the midfield and Ranger’s brave new signings, much like the old lot, were playing with concrete feet on. Yet, after the game, I was told Rangers bossed the first half.

Looking for evidence of this a ball did flash across the Celtic box at one point and Jozo Simunovic did pull out of a tackle on the Ranger’s centre-forward, Alfredo Morelos, which could have been classified as a penalty, but wasn’t. Other than that Celtic did look a bit pedestrian, but teams like St Johnstone have pushed them further for longer than Rangers managed for about five minutes.

When  the diddy teams don’t score first they are in trouble and so it proved. A trundler from Patrick Roberts from the edge of the box and Tom Rogic (I’d two quid on him as first-goalscorer at 9/1)  was first to pounce and Celtic were one up and coasting. And when Roberts drifted in behind the defence to play in Griffiths the game was over, the Copland Road stand emptied and most of the blue contingent went hame in case anything else happened.  Celtic brought on McGregor for Rogic. Forrest for Roberts and Dembele for Griffiths. Bitton, Hayes and Nicham didn’t get a sniff. I’ve been impressed by Eboue Koussai but he’s injured. Liam Henderson can’t get a hooped strip. Ryan Christie is out on loan and set up Aberdeen’s win at Motherwell with a marvellous piece of skill. Odsonne Edouard, the onloan striker from PSG, wasn’t stripped either, despite being one of the three best strikers in Scottish football. There’s no doubt a Celtic second eleven would have a real chance of beating the first-eleven. I’d certainly expect them to beat Rangers easily.

Back to the Champions League duty where Celtic are the minnows, but it’s minnow against minnow this week with a game against Anderlecht on Wednesday. Last time we were rotten and a young seventeen-year-old Vincent Kompany stood tall against Hartson, Sutton and Henrik. Inevitably, there was talk of signing him, but I wonder where that Kompany boy  is now?

Roxane Gay (2017) Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body.

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Roxane Gay is the author the New York Times bestseller Bad Feminist the tag on the cover of the book tells the reader. This is an easy book to read in terms of thin chapters and the subject matter of need and greed and what makes us what we are. This is right up there with the classic, Lucy Grealy, Autobiography of a Face.

Chapter 1 of Gay’s autobiography is one sentence long.

Everybody has a story and a history. Here I offer mine with a memoir of my body and my hunger.

Chapter 2:

The story of my body is not a story of triumph. This is not a weight-loss memoir. There will be no picture of a thin version of me, my slender body emblazoned across the book’s cover, with me standing in one leg of my former fatter self’s jeans. This is not a book that will offer motivation. I don’t have any powerful insight into what it takes to overcome an unruly body and unruly appetites. Mine is not a success story. Mine is, simply, a true story.

If we flip to the last thin chapter Gay offers a summation of her life. What makes it interesting is Gay, like Grealy, has over the years developed the tools of writing to interrogate what she has become, and what she might have become, had she not been traumatised.   An honest account of a body taking up more space than it should, but not an apologist account. Art not for art’s sake, but for truth’s sake.

Chapter 88:

When I was twelve years old I was raped and then I ate and ate to build my body into a fortress. I was a mess and then I grew up and away from that terrible day and became a different kind of mess…I am as healed as I am ever going to be.

I guess we are all in some ways our own kind of mess, but Gay has ‘found her voice’. I like that. Sometimes that’s enough. But most of the time I wonder if anybody’s listening.

Risk, BBC 2 10pm, directed by Laura Poitras

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b095vnpx/risk

I didn’t like Julian Assange after watching this programme, but I didn’t have to spend six or seven years filming him and his cult of followers, much of the time in the Ecuadorian Embassy, as director Laura Poitras did. It’s unusual for a director to speak directly to the audience with her misgivings about Assange’s motives as Poitras does. It’s the equivalent of actors breaking the third wall, while in character, and speaking directly to the audience from the stage. Poitras feels she’s being played and used by Assange and I think she’s probably right.

Assange reminds me of a slicker version of the moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, Donald J Trump. Ironically, Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange is fingered as the patsy behind leaks from Hillary Clinton’s email server while she was Secretary of State in the Obama administration and prior to running in the Presidential election against Trump. In 2011, the opening shots of Risk set in Norfolk (England) has Julian Assage having one of his team phoning the Secretary of State and asking to speak to Hilary Clinton. It creates drama for the camera. But if I phone up Buckingham Palace and ask to speak to Prince Charles the likelihood of me being able to do so would be extremely slim. I’d be speaking to one of his  flunkies. Predictably, that’s what happens. Assanges’s flunky speaks on the phone to Clinton’s flunky. But it’s claimed as a moral victory for Assange, because as leverage he claims to have access to 700 000 classified documents, 250 000 United States documents classified as secret. ‘We don’t have a problem,’ he says. ‘You have a problem’ when we release them onto the internet, which he did.

Fast forward to June 2017.  James Comey then director of the FBI testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee that there had been a sustained cyber-attack on the Whitehouse by a foreign power, Russia, that had close links with the Trump administration. Comey was sacked by Trump, allegedly for leaking state documents.

I googled a question. ‘What is Wikipedia?’   ‘Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia, written collaboratively by the people who use it. It is a special type of website designed to make collaboration easy, called a wiki.’

Wikipedia tells me about Wikileaks: [It is] an international non-profit organisation that publishes secret information, news leaks,[6] and classified media provided by anonymous sources.[7] Its website, initiated in 2006 in Iceland by the organisation Sunshine Press,[8] claims a database of 10 million documents in 10 years since its launch.[9] Julian Assange, an Australian Internet activist, is generally described as its founder, editor-in-chief, and director.[10]

 

The group has released a number of prominent document dumps. Early releases included documentation of equipment expenditures and holdings in the Afghanistan war and a report informing a corruption investigation in Kenya.[11] In April 2010, WikiLeaks released the so-called Collateral Murder footage from the 12 July 2007 Baghdad airstrike in which Iraqi journalists were among those killed. Other releases in 2010 included the Afghan War Diary and the “Iraq War Logs”. The latter allowed the mapping of 109,032 deaths in “significant” attacks by insurgents in Iraq that had been reported to Multi-National Force – Iraq, including about 15,000 that had not been previously published.[12][13] In 2010, Wikileaks also released the U.S. State Department diplomatic “cables”, classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department. In April 2011, WikiLeaks began publishing 779 secret files relating to prisoners detained in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.[14]

 

During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, WikiLeaks released emails and other documents from the Democratic National Committee and from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta suggesting impropriety against fellow Democratic Party candidate senator Bernie Sanders, among other issues. These releases caused significant embarrassment to the Clinton campaign, and to Hillary Clinton, and is speculated to have contributed to the Democratic Party’s loss’.

The motto of Google is famously, ‘don’t be evil.’ The motto of Wikileaks, ‘We open governments’. The promise of transparency is always an easy selling point. Assange was teenage cyber hacker uncovering those hidden secrets of government departments. These are the guys that are wearing the white hats, cyber writing what was wrong and bringing it to the light.

Google’s dictum, of course doesn’t extend to paying taxes to governments or allowing competition. Algorithms rule the world. What you don’t see is what you get. Google are appealing a 2.4 billion Euros fine by the European competition commissioner for among other things favouring, not surprisingly, its own online shopping services. Facebook were fined 110 million Euros for using Whatsapp accounts as a Trojan horse for data mining individual’s preferences.  Apple, the richest company in the world, which provides much of the hardware to allow the software to date mine, was fined 13 billion Euros for having an effective corporation tax of 0.005% in Ireland. If you want to know how much power Apple has the ‘Double Irish’ wasn’t that the Irish Government wasn’t being cheated of tax, but they claimed they didn’t want the fine levied. The openness of a free society does not extend to the largely American conglomerates that peddle power and claim no allegiance (in theory) to any one nation. Donald J Trump, of course, spent almost all of his campaign funds of $90 million on Facebook fake news and tweaking accounts of potential backers and voters.

When we look at the power of transparency in post truth society, what do we see looking back at us but our own image. Assange holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy for six years, we know he’s a celebrity because we see Lady Ga Ga visiting him. The twin charges of rape in Sweden have been dropped. He claims this as a victory. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? is a Latin phrase found in the work of the Roman poet Juvenal from his Satires (Satire VI, lines 347–348). It is literally translated as ‘Who will guard the guards themselves?’

Juvenal was referring to sex scandals. Like misogyny and a hatred of government that’s something that runs through these high-tech companies and is in the foreground of the moron’s moron and Assange’s cabal. The guards that the rich Roman’s paid to watch their wives and keep them having sex with others, were the ones they were fucking. Transparency is always a good thing, but let’s start with ourselves. Truth is often not plain and rarely simple. I’m with Assange for greater transparency, but I don’t want less government, I want more. I want to tax the Trumps and those hi-tech boys that deceive us and manipulate the truth and mix it with lies. If that sounds familiar, remember those things called bonds. A bond was something established something you could trust.  There derivatives financial weapons of mass destruction. They were in plain sight. No need to hide them. Transparency wasn’t an issue. Complexity was. But somehow, in one of the richest countries in the world, the poorest members who had the least stake in the 2008 implosion, took the biggest hit and took the blame. Welfare. In a Post-Truth world propaganda has its roots in a lack of transparency, but more in a lack of power. Those without power know what’s coming and how they’re going to be hurt, but can’t do anything about it.  Assange might have opened up a Pandora box, but if you look who is in the White House and look at Russia and Turkey and Syria, what has he done? I don’t know. But I don’t like him. That’s my truth. We don’t judge things rationally. Again and again it’s been proven empirically we feel first and think when we need to later and construct a truth around it.

 

Black Lake, BBC 4, 9pm, 9.40 pm, Directors: Jonathan Sjoberg, David Berron, Peter Arrhenius.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b081clh5

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0821s1b

 

I watched episodes one and two of Black Lake last night. I’ll be following the other six episodes. I’m a bit of a Wallander anorak, loved wooly jumpers and The Killing, so a Swedish thriller with subtitles is a must see. A group of friends meet and drive to the Black Lake hotel complex, a remote ski resort that is so near the Norwegian border they joke they’re not even sure they’ve crossed it. Johan (Filip Berg)  is the young, hip financier that plans to make a killing on the land and property and takes his friends along for the ride. His girlfriend and later fiancée, Hanne (Sarah-Sofie Boussnina) who look like a young Winona Ryder isn’t sure about the hotel, isn’t sure about the noises coming from the basement and therefore isn’t sure about him. Her sister Mette (Mathilde Norholt) who is doctor ask Hanne if she’s still taking her meds. Their brother drowned when Hanne was twelve and she has never got over it. She’s off-kilter as some of the locals. The caretaker Erkki (Nils Ole Oftebro), for example, refuses to open the cellar door and threatens to punch the putative owner Johan when the latter gets a bit stroppy and challenges his lame excuses for doing nothing. Then there’s the appearance of those strange children’s drawings (a dramatic device I used in my novel (Lily Poole https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lily-Poole-Jack-ODonnell/dp/1783522356) and the way Jessan (Aliette Opheim) suffers from mysterious pains in her bloodshot eye, sleepwalks and is drawn to the cellar door. Her boyfriend,  Frank (Philip Oros) seems powerless to help when she sleepwalks and when she becomes possessed by drugs or something more malevolent. Nobody can offer any answers. Osvald (Victor von Schirach) cook and bottle- washer in the hotel complex is filmed entering the cellar, but he claims he too sleepwalks and has no recollection of it. He also claims to have no knowledge of another party making a bid for the complex, but Johan doesn’t trust him. The key to what happened twenty years ago is the local Lippi (Valter Skarsgard).  He’s nearer in age to Hanne that the distant Johan and teaches her to ride a motorised snow-ski. It doesn’t take much delving to uncover the facts and guess they’ll get together. Here we are in Stephen King’s The Shining territory. Isolated hotel. Hannah’s psychic presence and the backstory of murders that took place in the hotel when it first opened. Father, mother, and children, holding hands as they were all smothered. An open and shut case.  Helgesen (Christian Skolmen) is shown confessing to the crimes on an old betaxam tapes Hannah watches and replays. Then she spots it. He said something made him do it. The hotel is built on the grounds of an old mental sanatorium. Local myth is that murdered children return to capture souls. Johan is also captured kissing Elin (Anna Astrom) by Hanna’s sister. He’ll be punished for his sins.