Vice, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Writer and Director Adam McKay.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0011p18/vice

Described as comedy-drama, a biographical film about former US vice-president Dick Cheney. Christian Bale won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the most powerful vice-president in modern history. There is a contemporary joke that nobody is ever called Dick, but that’s about it.

There is nothing funny about Vice. At a push, I could probably name most of the President since the first wold war since it mostly involves saying Roosevelt over and over.

Vice President can become Presidents. General Eisenhower and Harry Truman spring to mind. And if you take a circular route, Republican, Vice President Richard Nixon finally got his feet under the desk at the Oval Office. Most were in agreement Vice was no more than a token job. A bit like being the President’s wife. Good for photoshoots and opening fetes.

Kamala Harris’s power, in contrast, lies her ability to cast a tie-breaking vote in a split Senate. But really, she’s waiting for Joe Biden to die so she can step into a real job.

Robert A. Caro shows how Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) spiralled into depression when his attempts to control the Senate were rebuffed and his attempt to manipulate the new American President, and darling of the media, John F. Kennedy were swatted aside with a smile. The man that had once controlled Congress and Senate reduced to a comic figure that was left out of briefings in the new Camelot.

Vice follows the path of an American boy made good. Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) telling him after a couple of drink driving convictions and barroom fights he was on the road to nowhere. He better ship up or ship out. He did both, while staying out of Vietnam and the armed forces on deferments.

Like LBJ, Cheney had a talent for politics. In one scene, he asks another intern what party  guest-speaker Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) belongs to. When told he’s a Republican, he says he’s a Republican too.

When working for Rumsfeld as an intern he asks him Cheney what he believes in. Here’s the joke part of the film. Rumsfeld slaps him on the back and laughs so long and hard, the viewer knows it’s a joke. The purpose of power is power.

Realpolitik. Rumsfeld points to a closed door. He tells Cheney behind it is Nixon and Defense Secretary Henry Kissinger are having an unofficial meeting. When the meeting was finished tens of thousands of Vietnamese would die. Subtext. They are plotting mass murderer.

Drawing a line in the sand, Cheney gave his support to gay marriages since one of his two daughters, Mary (Alison Pill) came out as gay.  

There were other shifting lines in the sand. He was a hawkish Secretary of Defense (1989–1993) following the precepts of the Eisenhower Doctrine—any (oil rich) Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression. 1st August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi forces into neighbouring oil-rich Kuwait.

President George W Bush (senior) unleashed coalition (mainly US) forces in Desert Storm under the command of General Norman Schwarzkopf. February 24. Within 100 hours, Iraqi forces had been expelled from Kuwait in the ground war. With aerial dominance, they were sitting ducks.

[Not in the film, but worth quoting Cheney’s perceptive response to the invasion of Baghdad, in the first Gulf War: how many American dead is Saddam worth?]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Cheney

 ‘Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it – eastern Iraq – the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families – it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.’

Vice Presidency (2001–2009).

We all know about what’s now called 9/11.

But if you asked me who the Vice President was at the time, I couldn’t have answered. The tone of the film is set early. George W. Bush (junior) (Sam Rockwell) is in the air metaphorically and literally when the planes hit The Twin Towers. Dick Cheney takes charge of the 9/11 fallout.  

But Dick Cheney had always been—more of less—in charge. The coup that LBJ had attempted had failed, but Cheney was the real power in American politics. The dithering George W Bush President, but the Vice President pulling the strings. Ironically, the power grab going in the other direction. The American President grabbing more executive power as the Twin Towers fell. Extra-ordinary rendition. Repealing the Geneva Convension. Spying on American citizens.

The invasion of Afghanistan was payback for 9/11.

Payback for his old bosses at Halliburton Corporation by adding billions of dollars to shareholder value. The invasion of Iraq’s oil-rich fields with evidence from a list drawn up before Saddam Hussein was found to have mass weapons of destruction—he didn’t have and links to Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida hidden network in the paperwork with the weapons of mass destruction.  

Cheney, a hawk abroad, and conservative at home. No surprise with his fortune coming from a fossil fuel, Times 500 Company, he helped in the pushback for the ideas of global warming. He helped reframe the debate, through think-tanks sponsored by Times 500 companies as simply climate change, which sound much more palatable and less threatening. The kind of idea picked up the moron’s moron.

Cheney endorsed Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, but didn’t shut his eyes to how he got elected. Russian interference, or what he moron’s moron would call Russian help from their cyber networks, Cheney classified as ‘an act of war’. But he’d also have to have declared war on that American institution Facebook that cashed the cyber cheques made in Russia and created the images of hate that polluted politics (from a very low base which Cheney’s think-tanks helped fuel) and still does.

The film ends with the viewer finding out the narrator of the film is the man that provided Cheney with a new heart after his failed. I guess they should have saved it and given it to someone more deserving. But money talks loudest. Worth a look, but don’t expect to giggle.  

.

Seven Worlds, One Planet, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, narrator David Attenborough.

There are countless wildlife programmes way back to the mists of time, but there’s only one David Attenborough. He’s the gold standard of natural history and been doing it a very long time. There he is onscreen, popping up in Borneo in 1964, when it was mostly jungle, now it’s not. There are wildlife sanctuaries instead, as soon as you say that you know something has gone drastically wrong.

Here we have it, Seven Worlds, One Planet, has a didactic purpose. Tarzan might have been king of the jungle, but it was Attenborough’s clout and pictures of a whale losing its baby because of plastic bags that led to revolution at home. Plastic bag use is shops is down something like 98% and that’s the Attenborough effect. What he’s telling us now is global warming is killing us, killing the planet and killing the wildlife we are meant to protect.

We can’t because Malthus was right and the clock’s ticking. Mankind scores high in every score in Robert Hare’s Psycopathy Checklist (Revised).

‘Glibness’. In Asia, walruses like to rest on ice, but when there’s none they need to rest on rock.  The problem is congestion. On the Siberian costs tens of thousands of walruses scramble up cliffs and rocks to get a space. Most of them weight a ton, literally and aren’t designed for hard landings. Polar bears find them easy pickings on land. A rare event, polar bears and walruses congregating together becomes the new normal. We can glibly say, ‘It’s only a walrus’. Until there were none.

‘Grandiose sense of self-worth.’ God above, man below, the steward of all. Aye, right. God can just fuck off. Because we’re the real deal. We’ll do what we want, when we want because we are God. Animals are there to be ate.

‘Need for stimulation’. This reminds me of when the great race was on to cover America in train tracks. Just for fun passengers used to get on a train, stick a rifle out the window and shoot buffalo.

‘Pathological lying’. See moron’s moron in the Whitehouse as basic role model for it wasnae me and if it was, it still wisnae me. David Attenborough is trying to bring a bit of sense into the argument. He’s talking eons, when what is now India collided with the Himalayas pushing them up five miles, above the clouds, creating snowfall and microclimates. Nobody’s listening, we’re too busy telling lies.

‘Manipulation’. The Paris Agreement in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first ever, legally-binding, global climate reduction deal. The biggest fossil fuel debtor walked away, said there was no such thing as global warming. See moron’s moron above.

‘Lack of remorse’. When the last Sumatran rhino dies and we no longer hear its jungle song, will we care? I think not. See ‘Glibness’.

‘Shallow affect’. No crocodile tears, no tears at all. No crocodiles. Our emotions are skin deep.

‘Lack of empathy’. Empathy is usually described as putting yourself in another’s shoes. Bit clichéd. Attenborough tries to make us care by showing large-eyed baby orangutans clinging to their mother and climbing the tallest trees to get the best food. He tries to humanise them. See ‘Lack of remorse’.

‘Parasitic lifestyle’.  In The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, his boss CJ always ended his monologue with a story ‘I didn’t  get where I am today…’ Mankind is the world’s greatest parasite. There’s around 7.6 billion of us. Rising to 10 billion, soonish. But we account for only 0.01% of all species but have destroyed around 83% of all mammals and 50% of all plants, from fungi to fish we’re in the dock.

‘Poor behavioural controls’ Poor behaviour is mandatory around animals, plants, fungi and fish. Any kind of red tape is anathema to us. See moron’s morons ripping up almost 100 years of incremental improvements in taking care of the environment. I’m proud to say John Muir was Scottish. He was ‘Father of the National Parks’ in America. The moron’s moron has a smidgen of Scottish blood in his veins, but there the link ends.

‘Promiscuous sexual behaviour’.  Out on the desert-like Indian plateaus garishly coloured lizards fight for the right to have sex. Mankind doesn’t do much fighting for sex, but we do a lot of procreating. See ‘Parasitic lifestyle’.  

‘Early behavioural problems’. Man has always been a killer. Mass genocide of the American Indian, the aboriginal Australians and the murder and enslavement of black Africans is just a taster.

‘Lack of realistic, long-term goals’. We agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Then we didn’t. We disagreed about agreeing and up the ante to 2 degrees Celsius. See runaway global warming – it’s not going to wait.

‘Impulsivity’. Mankind isn’t impulsive. We just do what we want, when we want. Other species can also be red-blooded and impulsive, but usually it’s tied to a short-term goal. See ‘Lack of realistic, long-term goals’.

‘Irresponsibility’. Science is a noun and a verb. A body of knowledge and a methodology. Only man has the language of how stupid and irresponsible we are. We face planetary disaster yet we’d much rather the world burns than change. Science tells us this is going to happen. See ‘Impulsivity’.

‘Failure to accept responsibility for our own actions.’ In the frozen Kamchaka peninsula, brown bears waking after hibernation seek out active volcanoes. Mankind does that too, see moron’s moron.

‘Short-term marital relationships.’ Mankind is pretty good at that and we’re getting better. The moron’s moron’s only been married three times. One of them might be fake news. See ‘Parasitic lifestyle’.

‘Juvenile delinquency’. Mankind has had two global conflicts. The third one really will be apocalyptic. When nations fight for enough water to feed themselves, when every stream and river becomes a conflict zone and those higher up the pecking order control the waters of those below (see the Ganges river, for example) then juvenile delinquency really could come to blows.

‘Revocation of conditional release’.  Yeh, the Paris Agreement of 2015 was ratified, but in 2018 the perennial re-offender and moron’s moron walked away. He’s still on parole. Let’s hope it’s prison time for him, personally, soon.

‘Criminal versatility.’ Mankind has committed every kind of crime against our planet I’m tempted to start spouting like Donald Rumsfeld about ‘the known knowns’, ‘the known unknowns’ and the ‘unknown unknowns’.

Only David Attenborough can explain what we’ve done to our Blue Planet. We massacring it with criminal abandon. That’s the didactic element of Seven Worlds, One Planet. Some known known is sure to complain about a waste of taxpayer’s money. See Grandiose Sense of Self Worth, but watch Attenborough and learn. Mankind scores 20 out of 20 on the Psychopathy Checklist. We are not to be trusted. We fuel not only our own doom, but mass species extinction and we blame somebody else.  There’ll be no walking away this time. No Seven Worlds. No nothing.