Reporting Trump’s First Year: The Forth Estate, BBC 9pm, BBC iPlayer, director and producer Liz Garbus.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b8lfjh/reporting-trumps-first-year-the-fourth-estate-series-1-1-the-first-100-days

The twin problems of Donald J Trump are entwined. Firstly, he is Donald J Trump. Secondly, he is in office as President of the United States.  This four-part documentary follows reporters in the New York Times as they cover the newly inaugurated President. Much of news in online before it reaches print, as is shown here.

Too late. Trump moves faster than any documentary crew and we already feel we know everything we need to know about him. What should be must-see viewing is in reality a yawn fest.

The Fourth Estate and New York Times, in particular, also have a bit of catching up to do. Dewey defeats Trauman, for example, was a banner on the Chicago Tribune, 3rd November 1948. But Harry S Trauman was elected President. A victory none of the print media that helped set trends then saw coming and for many of the same reasons they assumed Hillary Clinton would follow Barack Obama as the forty-fifth President. They didn’t look closely enough at what was happening on the ground.

The comparisons end there. Harry Trauman was a humble working-class man of the people, who took his nation through the years of the Korean War. Let’s hope there’s not another war, and that’s not a given with such a narcissistic psychopath in charge of the most powerful nation on earth’s armoury, or God help us, Armageddon is a possibility.

The Observer front page on the same as day Garbus’s documentary is shown on BBC 2 leads with the headline UK rabbi in genocide warning to Trump. A sidebar announces ‘Dehumanisation has ended in atrocities. May urged to attack child separation policy.’ We all know what happened on the United States and Mexican border. As we all know about Cambridge Analytica stealing data, Russian interference in the election, gaming Facebook and allegations of Trump being human.  Children at the border were separated from their parents. Some of them filmed crying in child-proof cages. One version of this and I can’t be sure of this because I originally heard it on the radio, while driving, was these were child actors. I’d guess that came from Kirsten Nielsen, one of Trump’s mouthpieces. It was even by Trump standards an incredibly stupid thing to say. The picture of a naked nine-year-old girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc OOnt, burning from Napalm during the Vietnam War led to a similar world-wide backlash. Trump’s eventual step back is partial and grudged, awaiting applause for his humanity.

Trump builds walls and hides behind them, but he loves the camera to be on him. Ronald Reagan, that old B-movie actor from before the Cold War era, knew when to stop acting. He stepped back from his anti-Soviet rhetoric and didn’t go ahead with planned Nato manoeuvres in 1983, when the Russian’s believed they would come under attack. It was on par with the Cuban Missile Crisis.   Trump cannot stop being Trump.

I had plans to write a longer piece around William Empson’s seven types of ambiguity. I’d sketched some ideas working on Trump’s seven types of idiocy. But really, that’s an underestimate. Trump always surprises us. Not in a good way. A human magnet for misery and for all that’s wrong in the world. Watch this programme if you want to learn about the New York Times. As for Trump…I’m weary, weary of him, but it’s impossible to look away.  That’s the whole point of Trumpism.

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whose party is it in 2018 anyway, Willow?

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To my niece Willow, I was born on the 10th December 1962. Fifty-five years ago not only was my mum Jean alive, but she had given birth and was nursing me back to health somewhere in darkest Braeholm. I wasn’t expected to live. I don’t remember the reasons why.  Yeh, we showed them mum. What we showed them I’m not really sure. I’m nearer death than birth now. Life is the miracle. And I’m not likely to forget you birthday, Willow. It’s also the 10th December.  And as the Bible, book of Timothy, suggests ‘We brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it’.

So baby Willow, I’m 55 years older than you, let’s play a game in which you sit wherever you are in 55 years’ time and look back and tell me what the world looks like. I don’t remember any of this but we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and later the assassination of the President John F Kennedy. I’m hoping you don’t remember President Donald J Trump. Shakespeare knew his villains intimately. He portrayed Richard of Gloucester  as ‘the bottled spider’, vainglorious, treacherous, ruthless murderer and usurper, but nobody’s fool. President Donald J Trump is everybody’s fool. His claim to fame is dropping ‘the mother of all bombs’ in Afghanistan and taking money from poor people and giving it to the rich. I’m not sure why bombs are called mothers. But I hope Willow you see your fifth birthday. Like me, I hope you sleep securely through threats of Armageddon and nuclear winter and the world keeps turning.

Prospero and Brave New World and the closer we get to utopia the closer we get to dystopia is something you’re going to have to live with Willow.  George Orwell, I guess got it nearly right with his three shifting blocs. The axis of the world is shifting and I’d guess China is where America was before the start of the First World War. Perhaps there will be a transition, such as Fritz Laing’s Metropolis, but the future is one in which we are equal but some are more equal than others. Deep machine learning and the use of pattern recognition software will serve your needs before you know what they are. Your body will no longer be your own. Behaviour will be monitored.  Healthy and wealthy will be conflated into flawless new bodies and flawless new babies in smart cities.

‘Hoist with his own petard.’ I’m of average intelligence and can guess what that means. I google it and see it’s from Hamlet.  But intelligence will no longer have any meaning. Machine learning how to play the game ‘Go’ shows it is possible to beat intuition as it is possible to surpass the logic of the best human chess players. Machines will be connected to other machines and humans will be part of that loop. Just as the Wright brothers took off in their flimsy craft, flew and crashed it was possible to predict air flight, quantum machines no longer need to play humans to master the precepts of ‘Go’. Machines play themselves and work out first principles. When, and if, deep learning machines master the problem of consciousness then humans need no longer be in the loop. That’s a different kind of Armageddon.

Willow, what we do know for sure is machines will do most, if not all, of the work we take for granted. How many angels fit on a pinhead? How many doctorates can fit on a subatomic particle? Masters of pattern recognition predict the future and make it happen. Energy usage will be the only transferable currency. All that green crap, waves, wind, water and sun will be the stopgap until the machines figure out something better. Nature will be a treasure trove of a different kind. Picked apart for its lessons and reconstructed. The sea will be harvested as the earth has been.

‘Gentleman, it’s your duty to make yourself rich!’ says one of Anthony Trollope’s characters in The Way We Live Now. It’s your duty to make everyone else poor. Make the world warmer and vast tracts of land uninhabitable. That’s not what Trollope said, but we’ve had our Silent Spring moment with Trump’s refusal to sign the Paris Accord and Global Warming Agreement on fossil fuels. No one can make the super rich do what they want to do. Monopoly holders of data work by their own rules.

But the problem of making everyone else poor, with no work and no surplus value, as they’d say in Marxist ideology is when everyone’s poor and wealth accumulates with the super rich as Thomas Picketty showed in his constant rate of return in his model of Capitalism is stagnation. Not enough money to buy all these surplus goods. But, of course, there’ll be no money. Not as a store of value, but as a shifting energy equation, this will be related to land use and global warming. The problem will be how to find new ways of punishing the poor for being poor.

What is materially damaging to the rich will in an Orwellian way be regarded as an attack on equality of accord.  But I lack the scrivener’s art, the means to look into the future Willow. When I was growing up in the 1970s I never imagined the internet, but neither did I imagine Britain regressing to a state where the poor need to go to a church hall to get food to last them a few days, nor that so many children would be living in sub-standard housing and poverty. Four in ten children. I expected things to get better and I hope you’re not one of them. Outside this shiny vision of the end of scarcity is a dystopian vision. When poverty because a digital country and not an economic and social relationship then that’s where we’ll all live and only the rich will float above it.  We come into the world with nothing. We go out of the world with nothing, Willow it is compassion which makes us fully human. Live in the here and now and not in a simulation of now. That’s a different kind of Armageddon. The church my mum brought me up in called it limbo. It was a sin to be truely selfish.  Put yourself out on a limb, Willow. Dare to be you and not a slice of identifiable code.

 

M. Scott Peck (1983 [1990]) People of the Lie. The Hope of Healing Human Evil.

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I sped read through the 309 pages of this book in two sittings. It didn’t take me long. I’m good at that kind of thing, but I’m not sure if good is the right word. I read lots, but remember very little. M. Scott Peck is of course better known for his ten-million bestseller, The Road Less Travelled. Yep, read that too. Writing this now I can’t remember a word of it, but I’m guessing it’s full of folksy wisdom.  Americans love that kinda shit. As a lapsed Catholic I can’t say I’m immune either.

Scott Peck is a psychiatrist, but he’s also a Christian. He believes in the risen Christ. The flip side of this is the devil, Satan, who has fallen from grace. He wasn’t sure about that archetypal character. As a scientist and a Christian he looked at the evidence. You’ve guess it. The devil does exist he concludes and evil is a real force. He offers some case studies of people he feels are evil. And touches on the use of exorcisms to drive out the devil. He believes a very small number (my analogy would the around the number of what can be truly called compassionate conservatives) have something inside them which is not of them, which is fundamentally evil. The old argument of whether a person is mad, bad, or sad when they commit crime finds Peck siding with the rhetoric that some people really are bad, or in this case evil.

What I found interesting was this book written in the early eighties describes the American President Donald J Trump to a tee. Remember those games you played when you were younger when it was shown conclusively that by allocating Hebraic letters and mixing them with Greek numbers to Hitler’s name and finding conclusively it matched the number of the beast, as did, Emperor Nero. Peck does much the same thing here, but he does it blind. At the time of writing Donald J Trump was a multiple bankrupt who cheated and lied his way into maintaining the front of a business tycoon and property-estate entrepreneur encapsulated by the vainglorious Trump Tower. Now, of course, he’s the American President and more importantly Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Emperor Nero could only burn Rome. Trump can burn the world.

Peck offers as a case study of group evil the Vietnam war in general and, in particular, the case of My Lai, in a morning1968, and the cover-up which happened almost immediately afterwards. Anyone that has been watching the series on Vietnam, as I have, know that neither President John F Kennedy or his successor the Texan Lyndon B Johnson  believed in this war, but they admitted privately that to say so would end their hope of becoming President. Richard M Nixon was of course asked to stand down because of the lies he told about Watergate. These Presidents look like rank amateurs when placed next to the father of lies Donald J Trump. The coming war with North Korea is based on the same great lie. As one veteran said I killed one human, after that all I killed were gooks. The metrics used in Vietnam was the number of bodies killed. Some soldiers kept human ears as trophies. What Peck doesn’t say is most of the Task Force Baker had taken turns raping their young female victims before killing them. Most of the men serving that day got away with their crimes. Gooks don’t count. Demonization of the other is the first step in the murder of the soul.

Peck’s first case study is titled ‘The Man Who Made a Pact With the Devil.’ I guess there’s a similar story in Stephen King’s Needless Things.    An innocuous old man sells people exactly what they want. Trump has been selling fear and hatred for a long time now and drawing evil to him like a magnet. His lies got him elected to the highest office in the land.

Pecks gives us a loose definition between those that are mad, bad and sad.

If people cannot be defined by the illegality of their deeds, or the magnitude of their sins, then how are we to define them? The answer is by the consistency of their sins. While usually subtle the consistency of their sins. This is because those “that have crossed over the line” are characterized by their absolute refusal to tolerate sense of their own sinfulness.

This is something Richard Holloway the agnostic former arch-bishop talked about. Those who are narcissistic enough to believe they are always absolutely right and have a God-given right to do exactly what they want, are absolutely wrong. The problem here, of course, Trump would rather see the world burn than admit to getting things wrong. There’s a race running between his impeachment and him ending it all with a bang. God, I hope, is on our side and if He’s not available, perhaps we should phone Stephen King.

Mitch Albom (2003) the five people you meet in Heaven

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I read this book in two sittings. It didn’t take me long. For those of you that don’t know Mitch Albom is ‘Author of the international bestseller tuesdays with Morrie’. For those of you that did know, but forgot, it’s tagged below the author’s name on the cover. I’ve read tuesdays with Morrie and I can probably tell you the plot, Mitch Albom goes to visit this old guy called Morrie on a Tuesday, and then one of them dies and it’s not Mitch and it’s not Tuesday. I read quite a lot and my memory is terrible, books swirl around like corks in an empty ocean, some of them stick, but most of them don’t. I remember I liked tuesday with Morrie and I’m sure it had some home-spun wisdom.

I’m sure Morrie went to heaven and I’m sure Eddie, who is over eighty-years’, is the same kind of ageless hero that went to heaven, because the narrator tell the reader the end is the beginning.

The last hours of Eddie’s life was spent like most of the others at Ruby Pier, an amusement park by a gray ocean. The park had the usual attractions, a board-walk, a Ferris wheel, roller coasters, bumper cars, a taffy stand, and an arcade where you could shoot streams of water into a clown’s mouth.

I was trying to remember where I’d read this kind of stuff before. When I was a kid we used to get two Sunday papers. The Sunday Mail and The Sunday Post. The Post had ‘The Broons’ and ‘Oor Wullie’ and  carried pages of homilies to the salt-of-the-earth everyman and everywoman that went that extra step to make life better for everybody else. People a bit like Eddie. Eddie dies saving a little girl’s life, but he’d lived a full life and now he’s on the other side there’s some lessons he’s got to learn before he progresses to Heaven mark II. When salt of the earth meets sugar something has to give.

Eddie meets the guy with blue skin, who worked in the carnival as a freak. He meets his wife and his dad and Ruby who the pier was named after. Each one tries to decrust his salty exterior to get to that mushy heart within. Eddie asks big questions like is God in heaven? Yeh, Eddie, he really is. And can he talk to Him? Yeh, Eddie, you can. We all can!

I guess the character that sticks with me is the Captain. He’s waiting for Eddie on top of a tree in some unnamed island in the Pacific. Eddie has joined up. Of course he did. Anybody worth their salt joined up (President Trump got five deferrals from the Vietnam war because his dad was rich, rich, rich, rich and very rich) and Eddie is no exception to the non-rich, salt-of-the -earth rule. The Captain is one of the good guys but he shoots Eddie, because it was necessary. That’s what good guy do. They do the necessary and salt of the earth that they are, don’t try and claim the credit (compare with the marauding band of Trumpters). Eddie was mad about it. Of course he was, but he had a lesson to learn, don’t be a Donald all your life. Let it go.

The surprise here is Eddie, the Captain, and a few of his good  buddies, get captured by the sneaky Japanese. You know the kind. They look like North Koreans, crudely written caricatures of real people, easily fooled and found wanting in the end. Eddie has to kill a couple of Nips. Listen up, salt of the earth wasn’t brought into this world to bow to the masochistic, no good bastards that like torturing poor soldiers and aren’t even American Trumpters. Eddie does what a man’s got to do. So does the Captain. In a heavenly body he understands better the choices he had to make. There’s a line rattling about somewhere about everybody affecting everybody else, even those not yet born.  I want one of those heavenly bodies, but not right now Mr –Apocalypse Now- Trump for Dummies. Not now.

So tueday with Morrie. Yeh, I’d like a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday too, if you don’t mind. Thanks Mitch for reminding us. There’s sugar and sugar puffs. Salt of the earth. You better believe it – or else.

 

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.

 

 

Donald J Trump is a threat to humanity.

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It takes a war, a Great War, a Second World War to teach us values. It’s crude but effective. Thatcher before the Falkland’s War, behind in the polls, goes on to win in a landslide. The problem with the dead is they don’t stay dead. The Somme, six-million Jews, Hiroshima, Nagasaki. The dead stay frozen, when homes fit for heroes remain unmade, and resurface minutes, hours, days, years, decades later as a soundbite to be counted off, or a source of information. Then we’ve done our duty and forget them. In today’s world it’s difficult to imagine the publication of the Beveridge Report being a bestseller at home and with our servicemen abroad coming home to vote in a Labour and Attlee government.  Labour’s finished. We’d hope for the future then. We can denigrate the dead –six million Jews didn’t die, they stayed in Butlin’s holiday camps and were allowed out to eat ice-cream but never came back – and say an action, a genocide, never happened. Information does not add up. Bullshit. False new. Lies. Propaganda.

The moron’s moron that avoided the draft to Vietnam because he was rich and white, not because it was right, has blundered from one thing to another in a long list of photo opportunities in which he plays the leading man.  Prime Ministers such as Teresa May are dragged onstage and made to smile and dance to his tune. His latest ruse was to sack the director of the FBI, James Comey and explain why it was necessary tweet by tweet in which the narrative changed. You’re fired is not a reality TV show, but real life at the White House.  He’s tried to govern by executive order and found his path blocked. On the international stage he’s come up Trump with the Mother of All Bombs. That’s a flexing of muscles. I imagine him as  the kind of crazy rear-hatch gunner role in a Chinook that plans to kill all gooks, especially those North Korean bastards, while everybody in the KKK tells him what a great guy he is. Reality bites. He has the nuclear capacity to end all life in his locker. The moron’s moron is dumb enough because he doesn’t believe in science, doesn’t believe in certainty, it never ends badly in the movies and he did want to become an actor.

When you surround yourself with right-wing hawks everyone else begins to look like carrier pigeons. Fresh meat. The moron’s moron is blocking the future. I’m worried. And I’m not the only one.

I was reading an interview with Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and all those scribbles in my notebook made sense.

‘What do I have to complain about? There’s no possibility of living anywhere other than on a knife edge of terror when Donald Trump is president. Every sentient being has to be widely alarmed’.

Amen.

Born to Kill, Channel 4.

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http://www.channel4.com/programmes/born-to-kill

This is the first episode of a four-part drama. I won’t be watching the other three episodes. I know the formula – a thrill at every advert break. So like Coronation Street or Emmerdale or whatever soap you watch something big is going to leave you wanting more than your cuppa and something small is left hanging during advert breaks to bring you back with a Kit Kat. Labelling theory contends that what people say you are, you end up ingesting that message and  being. If teenager Sam (Jack Rowan), a model school kid who thwarts bullies bullying another kid on the school bus and spends his time in the hospital reading to old codgers in the geriatric wing and telling them jokes, he’s obviously up to no good because he’s born to kill. Nature or nurture? Well, his mum who is also a nurse on a geriatric ward, Jenny, (Romola Garia) thinks he’s a good kid. Most mums do. Some scenes hint at a kind of incestuous relationship, but that may be how Sam is reading it, because he’s a psychopath. He’s born to kill. Empathy is not something psychopaths do, but they can learn to mimic being human, in the same way that the moron’s moron, Donald Trump can mimic being a President by blowing up the world. Born to kill. Jenny has the dim, dark secret beloved of thrillers and it’s not very secret, her ex-partner is also a psychopath, but he’s liable to come calling…advert time. Then there’s Chrissy (Lara Peake), the new girl at the school. She is grungy, not born to kill, but is an arsonist. She sets fire to the science lab, probably because she was bored and making a statement about moving house, going to a new school and teenage angst. . That’s the kind of friends psychopaths hang about with. Like attracts like. Jenny ends up getting detention for trying to burn the school down. As does Sam, who’s mum thinks he’s really a good kid, because he tries to take the rap for Jenny’s misdemeanours. Jenny’s dad, Bill (Daniel Mays) is a cop, a detective sergeant, so he knows if her arson attack had killed a classroom of kids, she was liable to get detention and lines, having to copy on the blackboard a million times ‘I must not kill my classmates or I’m a psychopathic killer like Sam, but it’s not my fault. I’m stroppy and misunderstood. An amateur. He’s the psycho’. Phew. I’m even tired after that. A bit of times tables tells us one psycho multiplied by another psycho, for example, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, Fred and Rosemary West, means a whole lot of trouble and more detention time.

You know how it goes, Born to Kill is a modern psychological drama starred a new and upcoming actor…must see…not for me.