A Dangerous Dynasty: The House of Assad, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director Nick Green.

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Panorama, BBC 1, BBCiPlayer, editor Rachel Jupp.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bb6yw0/panorama-syrias-chemical-war

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bnfn0d/a-dangerous-dynasty-house-of-assad-series-1-episode-1

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bp1b9v/a-dangerous-dynasty-house-of-assad-series-1-episode-2

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bpyvvh

Civil War in Syria has lasted seven years, around 13 million of its citizens have been displaced and the refugee crisis in Europe has led to a right-wing orchestrated backlash against those who dare to cross borders and not die quietly at home.

Bashar Al-Assad the President of Syria was never meant to be in the position of leadership, never meant to be a mass murderer of around half a million of his people, never meant to sanction the use of barrel bombs, low-tech chlorine and high-tech Sarin chemical weapons against men, women and children, in the city of Idib, targeting hospitals – and then of course, deny it. He was never cut out to be a war criminal that should be charged under the 1949 Geneva Convention for crimes against humanity.

Bashar Al-Assad was destined to be a run-of-the mill eye-doctor who trained at St Mary’s hospital in Paddington, London. A largely forgotten figure outside his own country, where his father Hafez was a conventional Middle-East dictator with a billion pound sea-front property in which to bring up his five children.  A pragmatic man who seized power in a 1970 army  coup d’etat and intended to keep it by whatever means necessary, which included bombing and killing up to 20 000 of his own citizens in Homs and jailing and torturing many others.

Not surprisingly, when the Arab Spring flooded the Middle East in 2011, Homs home of the Muslim Brotherhood and Sunni Muslims was anti-Assad. Again unarmed civilians were murdered and tortured, prisoners in Syria’s largest prison massacred.

Watch what seems ancient footage of newly trained recruits stabbing puppies as a mark of loyalty to President Hafez, but they had it easy, female soldiers had to bite the heads off live snakes.  But Hafez also saw off Israeli advances in Lebanon, a state he kept firmly in his grip as a satellite and he lived long enough to see off six elected American Presidents.

Bashar’s eldest brother Bassel was in line to take over from Hafez. He showed the right credentials. When a fellow army officer in a horse-riding event, for example, beat Bassel in an equestrian championship he was arrested. It doesn’t tell you what happened to him next, but we can guess. Bassel also liked fast cars and that’s what killed him.

Hafez had to decide who to pass his crown to, his daughter, of course, was ruled out for being the wrong gender. We can take the script from a cross between the Corleone family in The Godfather and King Lear, ‘nothing will come of nothing’. Quietly spoken Bashar comes from nothing to lead the family when his father dies, but he has married wisely and married well, Asma’s Lady Macbeth and would-be first lady of Syria, but supermodels herself on Lady Di.

Fast forward to 2013, millions fleeing Syria, the advance of Islamic State and Bashar’s family only controlling 14% of Syria, and the rebels three miles from his presidential palace.   One word: PUTIN.

Poems for Refugees (2002) edited by Pippa Haywood.

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) The Second Coming.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosened and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction; while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

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Trust BBC 2, iPlayer, written by Simon Beaufoy, directed by Danny Boyle.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p06g8bcy/trust-series-1-1-the-house-of-getty

Donald Sutherland is the eponymous John Paul Getty senior in BBC’s big-budget drama. My knowledge of Getty was negligible.  I knew he was one of the richest men in the world and I knew he had a pay phone in his house, so unpaying guests wouldn’t chisel him and make long-distance phone calls at his expense. Yep, tick that one off; it happens in this drama, which counterfeits itself by using the clichéd tag, inspired by actual events.

The story is quite simple John Paul Getty’s grandson is kidnapped and he failed to pay the ransom.

A lot of fun can be had from that simple premise as a jumping off point for writer Simon Beaufoy and director Danny Boyle. Only two things really matter. Money and sex.

Here we begin with images of the grandson John Paul Getty junior-junior or John Paul Getty III (Harris Dickinson) running through a field and cornflower and cut to a Gatsbyesque party in which John Paul’s eldest son, and we’re following the feudal process of primogeniture, commits suicide. Long live the king. The heir to the throne is dead, but who is next in line?

We’re back to with John Paul Getty senior at home in his Tudor stately pile in the Surrey countryside with his harem at dinner and in attendance, his fool, the only male at the table. King Lear and ‘nothing will come of nothing’ is quoted.  The King cannot keep an erection, but more worrying is his son, John Paul Getty junior (Michael Esper) is next in line for the fortune. But junior has had a bit of problem with drugs and his dad doesn’t trust him with the Getty Trust. He bemoans the fact his sons aren’t more like the Kennedy’s who, with a bit of help from their bootlegging dad, conquered America. His sons are limp dicks in comparison.

Then John Paul Getty III appears at the funeral. He’s a hippy, with the flared trousers, long hair and not a penny in his pocket. Granddad takes a shine to him. He’s the great white hope of the Getty’s with bare feet and he’s not been ostensibly corrupted by money, because he’s skint. This gives the filmmakers a chance to show how great fortunes are made, which involves oil and horizontal and vertical integration of the production process. The most important point is, Getty senior points out to his grandson, the Trust runs at a loss, so they don’t have to pay up to 70% corporation tax.

Getty III just wants a few thousand dollars to pay back the drug dealers he owes.

Money, sex and tax avoidance gives nineteen seventy-three a contemporary feel. Not really my kinda thing,  trust me, so I was told to say.