Apostasy written and directed by Daniel Kokotajlo.

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Debut screenwriter and director Daniel Kokotajalo weaves together apostasy in Kingdom Hall, and strands of growing sexuality and defiance in a North of England family setting. Middle-aged, Ivanna (Siobhan Finneran) has two teenage daughters and holds on to Jehovah Church doctrine like a nursing mother. The gold standard here is Jeanette Winterton’s autobiographical 1985 novel, adapted as a 1990 BBC serial, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit.  The Jesuit maxim also applies in both cases, ‘Give me the child until he was seven, and I’ll show you the man,’ or  women.

Devout Alex (Molly Wright), and her older sister, Luisa (Sacha Parkinson) who recants her religious beliefs in the here-ever-afters and leaves the family home and relationship are a test case into the nature of belief and God.

Kokotajlo who was brought up in a Jehovah Witness household knows religion is a serious business. In Putin’s Russia, for example, Jehovah Witnesses are (and I’m meant to say here, allegedly,) persecuted for their refusal to serve in the armed forces. Heinrich Himmler also had them rounded up and placed in concentration camp and marked out with a lime-green triangle for much the same reason. Since Jehovah Witnesses were taught to expect the apocalypse, and labelled Hitler the Antichrist, this Armageddon was expected and even overdue. But Himmler made use of their pure Aryan blood, their essential honesty and willingness to work themselves to death. He advocated bureaucratic pragmatism, and women’s labour should be utilised  as servants and baby-sitters in the houses of SS guards outside the barbed wire of concentration camps.

Alex is the narrator when the film begins. She is much too pretty a match for gawky Steven (Robert Emms). In a rather awkward courtship ritual, the viewer learns he works as a window cleaner, while living alone and training to be an Elder in the Church. Alex works as a gardener, and has taken classes to learn and speak Urdu. We see her and another young Jehovah witness proselytising door to door among the Asian community of the run-down town having learned the language.

Both sisters have secrets. Alex is anaemic. She fingers a scrapbook with pictures of saved children that have died rather than have a blood transfusion.  Alex had a blood transfusion when she was a baby. She is aware of her unworthiness and how she could be shunned by her mother and the community of believers and spend the afterlife in hell. Steven squeezes her hand to show he understands. He’s pecked her on the lips. Her purity settled, the engagement is still on, until she gets a bit wobbly on her feet at a house party.

Luisia is at college studying God knows what. She explains to her mother that she might have to miss a meeting at Kingdom Hall to complete a module on Thursday night. They argue. But her secret is bigger than that.

When Luisia admits to her mother and sister she is pregnant, Ivannah tries to reassure her that the Elders in the church will understand and be merciful. But Luisia questions orthodoxy. She tells her mum that she’d been on the internet and that in the 1970s some Elders had given up their jobs, taken their kids out of school and sold their property believing that the end of the world was imminent, but the Holocaust was postponed. God’s ways are opaque.

Luisia is shunned by the Elders in her church, quoting Galatians and the church fathers’ advice about having little to do with those not on the righteous path.  Her mother and sister are told to cut themselves off from her. This is made easier when Luisia leaves home.

Transitions are difficult in life and family. When next we see Luisia she is back at Kingdom Hall and asking one of the faithful to give up her seat so she can sit in the front row, where her mother is already sitting dry-eyed. There’s a jump in which we realize the coffin is that of Alex, her wee sister and the narrator. All the questions that have been asked about faith and relationship are multiplied like the woes of Job.

Ivanna turns to the church for answers, and the Elders look at Luisia and doubt she truly has renegaded her apostasy, her return to the church a false flag of faith. Neither side is truly prepared to cede ground, a loving mother and soon-to-be grandmother caught in the middle. A new-born baby, each life brings hope of renewal.

 

 

Timothy Snyder (2015) Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning.

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We think we know the bare bones of the history of the holocaust. Hitler as bogey man and the German nation following him to the abyss, where around six million Jews perished and many more minorities. That was my take on it. Not bad, around a D grade. But Snyder does more than root in the history of the past. He drags us into the present and the lessons are illuminating.

For the German nation the war was portrayed as necessary, a colonial war to maintain food supplies, a war against the inferior Slavic nations, or ‘shitty countries’ are our friend President Trump termed them.  But when Lebensraum came unstuck at Leningrad and the Red Army began to roll back German colonial gains the genocidal war against Jews continued and grew even more intense.

‘The Auschwitz Paradox’ the complex of Treblinka, Belzac, Sobibor and Chelmno was a factory in which people were murdered for being the wrong type of people. The gas chambers also stood as a metonym for the evil of a racial policy of mass murder and genocide, but most of the killing had already taken place further East,

‘where tens of thousands of Germans shot millions of Jews over hundreds of death pits over the course of three years, most people knew what was happening. Hundreds of thousands of Germans witnessed the killings, and millions of Germans on the eastern front knew about them…German homes were enriched, millions of times over, by plunder from the murdered Jews, sent by post or brought back by soldiers and policemen on leave’.

Auschwitz processed a lie of left and right, separating the living and dead effectively, and more importantly it allowed a generation of Germans to say they didn’t know. It also allowed the Russians to act as liberators when earlier they had played a large part in the murder of Jews and other Slavic nationals.

The key to survival, then as now was citizenship. Jews in Denmark, for example, retained their citizenship and almost all survived.  In contrast, all 963 Jew in Estonia were murdered, not by the Germans, but Estonian citizens. And from the Baltic to the Black Sea people who killed Jews killed others such as psychiatric patients and gypsies. Lithuanian policemen who took part in the killing of 150 000 Jews in 1941, also starved to death the same number of Soviet prisoners.

Similar elements are at work in the Syrian conflict. Putin’s genocidal onslaught in the second Chechnya war helped set the template for what was to follow.  Russian troops that committed atrocities were fighting terrorism.

When Russian invaded Ukraine its citizens were deemed to be terrorists. Snyder draws explicit parallels with Hitler’s ideology:

In 2013 Russian leaders and propagandists imagined neighbouring Ukraine out of existence, or presented them as sub-Russians…an artificial entity with no history, culture, and language, backed by some global agglomeration of Jews, gays, Europeans, and Americans…In the Russian war against Ukraine, the first gains were the natural gas fields in the Black Sea…annexed in 2014…The fertile soil of mainland Ukraine, its black earth, makes it a very important exporter of food, which Russia is not.

Bashar al-Assad, Syrian’s dictator, whom Putin brought back from the brink of military defeat, using high-tech Russian jets, chemical weapons that put them outside the Geneva Convention, old-fashioned barrel bombs, artillery strikes on hospitals and schools while classifying these murders as fighting against terrorists. There is no such thing as non-combatants.  Women and children are also terrorists.

Three million people in Idib. Three million non-citizens and terrorists. On the Turkish border civilian forces offer a sense of humanity and prepare for a million refugees. Perhaps an overestimate when the Russian fleet offshore are engaged in ‘exercises’. Non-citizens can expect no mercy in a kill-box that would have been all too familiar to Eastern European Jews. Ironically, those fleeing towards Israel in the hope that proximity to another nation state will provide a safe haven of sorts are simply classified as terrorist by another nation state.

Snyder’s template of taking away citizenship as the first step in genocidal murder applies equally to Myanmar’s Rakhine state. In scenes reminiscent of Nazi occupied Poland, on 27th August 2017 Myanmar’s army attacked unarmed civilians and forced more than 700 000 Rohingya to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Ian Figel and Benedict Rogers in The Observer report thousands were killed, thousands of women raped. Children were snatched from their parents’ arms and thrown into their burning homes or drowned. Villagers lined up and shot.

Britain’s response to refugees mirrors that of the Americans during the Holocaust – no entry. The United States and richest nation in the world patted itself on the back for allowing around 5000 Jewish refugees, around the same number that were gassed in Treblinka in a morning’s work. Remember David Cameron talking about ‘swarms’ of them waiting to cross the English Channel. Swarms of children, who we agreed to take, then reneged on the deal. Without the sovereign protection of citizenship those without passports have no rights and can be disposed of.

With global warming the numbers of refugees Snyder argues is bound to increase exponentially and the poorest nations in the world will be hit first and hit hardest. Already we are preparing our defences. The first defence being rhetoric, them-or-us fundamentalism. The warning from history is a lesson we have learned too well. Enough talk produces hate and murder, but no real people die. Only terrorists.  Believe that and you’ll believe anything. We often do and justify it to ourselves by saying we didn’t know. Read this book.

 

Hans Rosling (2018) Factfulness

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Hans Rosling is dead, but his work lives on. Clichéd, I know. But Rosling does something we rarely do, he looks at the facts. And he concludes that the world is so much better than it’s ever been. He’s an optimist, a myth buster and all-round good guy.

I’m none of these things. I’m a bit like Calimero, walking about under rainy skies with an egg-shell head and complaining ‘It’s an injustice. It’s an injustice’.

This is a book I should really re-read, but I won’t, of course. It’s an injustice. It’s an injustice.

Let’s look at the facts in factfulness.

The Gap Instinct is when we create a binary world, black and white, rich and poor, celitc and rangers. In between the two groups we place the valley of death with no river styx and no boatman to help us across. Here’s my prejudices. I think rich, elderly, self-serving, white men are responsible for most of the world’s ills. Shhh, whisper it, here’s the rub. I still believe it after reading Rosling’s book. I guess I could quote John Maynard Keynes, ‘In the long run we’re all dead,’ or ‘when the facts change, I change my mind’.

Rosling argues and gives statistical evidence to buttress his argument that mostly we don’t change our mind much. Our prejudice remain the same. Our world view undisturbed.

Rosling asks what is wrong with this picture of ‘them’ and ‘us’? We shift ourselves to the side of the angels. Rosling concludes that there is no them and us. There is only us, but he’s talking about a bigger picture and no just my prejudices.

Measuring the gap between rich and poor, the developing world and the developed world here is the matrix he uses to measure progress.  He doesn’t, for example, use the Marxist, or indeed Weberian idea of class. Too messy. He’s looking for something more practical. The world’s population, about seven billion people as split into four income levels. Each figure represents a cohort. On Level 1, for example, about 1 billion people live on a $1 per day.   Level 2, about 3 billion people live on $4 per day. Level 3, 2 billion people, live on $16 per day. Here we are on Level 4, a billion people live here, that’s where I live, ‘you are a rich consumer,’ $64 per day. I don’t feel rich. That’s the problem. It’s not about feelings but facts. The world is becoming richer and more people are moving through the levels quicker than at any other time in history.

Rosling reminds us: Beware the comparisons of averages. Beware comparisons of extremes. And reminds us the view from up here (rich man’s territory) skews our vision and understanding.

We get to, ‘The Negativity Instinct’, familiar territory for me and The Mega Misconception that The World Is Getting Worse’. Actually, I got this question right. I did quite well in Rosling’s quiz. I ticked the box that said the world is getting better. Thinking and feeling again. Rosling shows that those living in ‘extreme poverty’ $1 a day, has halved in the last 20 years and has been falling steadily since 1800s (when measurements began). Average life expectancy is on the up and up. Child survival at birth to five years has taken an exponential leap.   Even Hunger is declining. We’re all fat bastards now, but not equally flabby.

Science, Literacy, Democracy, Clean Water, Immunization rates, Number of Girls in school all increasing.

We don’t Trump the good news. We Trump the Trump, whether that’s a good thing, or a bad thing, it’s a very human trait.

So here’s Rosling’s view of how to think and not feel. Balance negative news with positive news. Trump may be the moron’s moron, but he’s old and he might die soon. ‘Expect bad news’ Trump may get re-elected. ‘Don’t Censor History’. I don’t. I just blame the morons that voted for him.

‘The Straight Line Instinct’ is to be avoided. Here his example is The Mega (he used Mega lots) Misconception That ‘The World Population is Just Increasing and Increasing.  Here Rosling is playing devil’s advocate for us dummies. He concedes that over the next 13 years about a billion people will be added to the population. But the number of children will be about the same. As the world’s population becomes richer we have less children. I can cut in here and say, yeh, I knew that. In South Korea during the 1950s (Korean War) women had on average about seven children. Now, they have one. Yeh, one, it’s causing real problems. As it is in Japan and China.

Rosling’s quick fix here is don’t assume straight lines (question them). Many or most trends are S-bends, slides, humps or doubling lines.

The Fear Instinct is in some ways what makes us human. We think with our heart and not our head. Men in advertising love it. They sell us everyday fear. Your penis is too small. Yes, it is, thanks.  Rosling asks us to ‘be afraid of the Right Thing’.  He gives us a natty equation. Risk = danger x exposure.

The Size Instinct is like the penis risk equation, getting a handle on proportion. Journalists make everything bigger. They direct our limited attention span to how big the disaster they are covering is. Rosling asks us to compare the numbers. In 2016, for example, ‘4.2 million babies died’.  But back in the 1950s it was ‘14.4 million’.

Rosling’s compass. Compare and contrast. 80/20 rule. Look for the largest numbers and deal with them first. They are likely to be more important than the others put together. Divide them. Amounts and rates tell different stories.

The Generalization Instinct is something we’re all good at. It’s a bit of a hybrid. The gap instinct makes us think in terms of us and them. The generalization instinct makes us think them over there are all the same. Think of our old friend the moron’s moron generalizing about ‘shit countries’ – over there.

In general, Rosling’s what to do list is generalizable under the headings. ‘Look for differences within groups. Look for similarities across groups, but also differences across groups. Beware of ‘the majority’ (especially morons that label others ‘enemies of the people’). Beware of vivid examples. Assume people are not idiots (unless they’re the current US President).

The Destiny Instinct. I get that all the time. My destiny is told in the nearest puddle. Someone bigger is going to stand on me. For Rosling the Destiny Instinct is the kind of prejudices that make the white man’s burden sound perfectly reasonable. Rosling puts it in terms of snobbish self-regard. But what he does here is confirm my suspicions that the world economy is moving East to Asia. China is the new United States. Britain is a pimple on the end of United States arse. Rosling tells us Africa, with the poorest countries in the world can catch up. As China did, in a relatively short time, before leaving many nations in the wing mirrors. As South Korea did. As India is doing.

His factfulness checklist has in it Keep track of gradual improvements. A small change can translate into a huge change over decades. I’d need to fling in Thomas Piketty’s Capital here. He shows that those whose incomes (the one-percent) grow faster than the 99% then small changes are massive changes and a worrying trend over time.

Rosling asks us to update our knowledge. Yeh, read books. I like that idea. Think for yourself. Go on try it at home.

Talk to grandpa to see how things have really changed. Talk to me. I remember phone boxes that took two-pence coins.

Collect examples of cultural changes. See above.

The Single Perspective Instinct is a variation on the old chestnut when you’ve got a hammer everything looks like a nail, or when you’re the moron’s moron everybody looks like a terrorist apart from the leader of the terrorist state which invade Ukraine, disembowelled Chechnya and broke so many Geneva Conventions they ran out of condemnations. But as Rosling argues, we find simple ideas attractive, but not as attractive as prostitutes peeing on a bed Mr T? Sorry, I’ll need to be more professional here.

Rosling argues we should trust professionals and experts. Not everyone is equal in what they know, but everybody can have an opinion. Look at the data.  But look at the data critically.

The checklist asks you to test your ideas. Be humble (I like that). Hammers and nails. If you’re good with a tool you’ll want to use it. Number, but only numbers. Beware of simple ideas and simple solutions. Get rid of all immigrants and we’ll all be great in Great Britain again. Make America Great Again.

The Blame Instinct is fishing for a simple reason for complex problems. Playing the Blame Game is easy. Do it at home. I blame elderly rich white men. (I’m with Piketty on that one, but they don’t have to be white, just superwealthy, which qualifies as white).

Rosling looks at how we scapegoat ‘Refugees’, for example. I’ll cut to the chase them away. ‘Our European governments claim to be honouring the Geneva convention that entitles a refugee from a severely war-torn country [like Syria] to apply for and receive asylum. But their immigration policies make a mockery of this claim…’

Here’s the checklist. ‘Look for causes not villains’ [the 1% who own mostly everything] ‘Look for systems, not heroes [expropriation of capital].

‘The Urgency Instinct’ is human nature. Amazon promises to deliver the next day, but that’s not soon enough. We want it now. ‘Tomorrow may be too late’. Rosling tells us to relax. ‘It’s almost never true’. He tells us to put a foot in our mouth and control the urgency instinct. ‘Insist on the Data’.

Now we’re on my territory. Read This Now. Urgent.

Rosling’s checklist of ‘The Five Global Risks We Should Worry About.’

We can exclude Rosling from this list as he’s dead.

  1. Global pandemic
  2. Financial Collapse
  3. World War III
  4. Climate Change
  5. Extreme Poverty.

These are not independent of each other. Climate Change is inevitable. We’ve missed the boat. And World War III isn’t inevitable, but more likely with the moron’s moron in office and financial collapse would be inevitable should a war start. Maybe not. I don’t want to find out.

Here’s the cure. Take a breath Mr President. Insist on the data. Beware of fortune-tellers Mr President don’t appoint them to the highest offices of state. Be wary of drastic action Mr President.

Rosling’s final words really were his final words. ‘I have found fighting ignorance and spreading a fact-based worldview to be sometimes frustrating, but ultimately inspiring and joyful way to spend my life’. Amen to that.

Yep. Factfulness. We’ve been here before, but with the growth in social -media reports and fake news we never needed it more.

Timothy Snyder (2017) On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.

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On the eve of President Trump’s ‘working visit’ to the United Kingdom this is a handy book to read. President Trump features more than Putin, or other twenty-first century despots. I guess this short book is a riposte to that shock election result, which wasn’t a shock to Snyder. Depots don’t read books. And Trump doesn’t read. His library consists of stored Tweets.  Snyder’s lessons  On Tyranny shifted through the sands of the mass killings of the Holocaust and Stalinist purges looks at then and now. It’s a call for vigilance, but more than that it’s a call for democracy to be transparent and for that to happen we need a more equitable and just society in which each citizen can be held equally accountable for his or her actions.

Our own traditions demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communisim…

1 Do not obey in advance.

A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do. #MeToo

First they came for the Socialists

I did not speak out.

I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Windrush generation

I did not speak out.

I was not black.

Then they came for the homeless and unemployed.

I did not speak out.

I was not homeless or unemployed.

2 Defend Institutions

We do not subscribe to the view that Mr Hitler…will suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights.

We do not subscribe to the view that Mrs May…will suddenly deprive us of the NHS and we will need to pay for health treatment.

We do not subscribe to the view that…some people do not deserve housing, or food, or their children should be educated.

We do not subscribe to the view that 1 in 4 children live in poverty.

3 Beware the one-party state.

‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’.

‘The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don’t know when you make love for the last time that you are making love for the last time’.

We don’t know that when we see a Tory gerrymandered system based on patriotism and lies that we’d see such atrocities such as foodbanks on our streets and some children labelled at birth as being the wrong kind of children. Rejected.  Shame on us.

4 Take responsibility for the face of the world.

The symbols of today are the reality of tomorrow.

In the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin prosperous farmers were portrayed on propaganda posters as pigs.

Under the Cameron and Osborne era anyone on benefits were portrayed as the worst kind of scum. Channels 4 and 5 tried to outdo each other featuring characters, that happened to be –stereotyped- real people, with programmes ending in the tagline Benefits.

‘A neighbour portrayed a pig is someone whose land you can take.’

‘Thus the German who marked shops as ‘Jewish’ participated in the process by which Jews really did disappear.’

Amber Rudd’s migrant memo and ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants in which she did not/ did have targets really did make immigrants disappear.

5 Remember professional ethics

Before the Second World War, a man named Hans Frank was Hitler’s personal lawyer. Later, governor general of Poland where millions of Jews and other Poles were murdered.

I G Farben and other German firms exploited the labour of concentration camp inmates.

Poundstretchers take on staff from benefit office to ‘train’.

‘Just following orders’ doctors and nurses in the health assessment centre in Cadogan Street.

‘Just following orders’ the benefit clerk who sanctions the unemployed.

‘Just following orders’ care staff who puts your mother to bed at six o’clock

6 Be wary of paramilitaries.

‘American state government pay corporations to run prisons, the use of violence in the United States is already highly privatised.’

‘As a candidate, the president ordered a private security detail to clear opponents from rallies.’

Mob violence and the ideology of exclusion.

The British government pay corporations to run prisons…and schools and railways and the NHS.

7 Be reflective if you must be armed.

The evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers doing irregular things. Be ready to say no.

In the Great Terror of the Soviet Union, NKVD officers recorded 628 691 executions of supposed enemies of the state.

The Holocaust began not in the death facilities, but over the shooting pits in eastern Europe.

Black Lives Matter# because time and again it’s proven they don’t really.

8 Stand out.

Remember Rosa Parks.

Remember Hillsborough.

Remember Grenfell Towers.

9 Be Kind to Our Language

Read books.

Victor Klempner noticed how Hitler’s language rejected legitimate opposition. The people always meant some people and not others (the president [Donald Trump] uses the word in the same way) encounters were always struggles ( the president says winning), and any attempt by free people to understand the word in a different way was defamation of the leader (or, as the president puts it, libel).

George Osborne used the word welfare to legitimise the use of taking money from the poorest members of society and give it to the richest. This wasn’t called theft but wiping out the deficit and balancing the economy.

10 Believe in truth.

The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

Victor Klempner – truth dies in four modes.

  1. Open hostility to verifiable reality. e.g. One attempt during the 2016 presidential campaign found that 78 percent of his factual claims were false. e.g. the cladding on Grenfell towers was fireproof.
  2. Shamanistic incantation and endless repetition. e.g. Build the wall. Lock her up. e.g. the NHS is safe in our hands
  • Magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradictions. e.g. president’s campaign involved cutting taxes for everyone, eliminating the national debt, and increasing spending on both social policy and national defence. e.g. George Osborne and the Conservative Party promised to eliminate the national debt and maintain the same levels of services. e.g. The NHS is asked to find savings from its savings and decrease bureaucracy by appointing more managers to manage change.

A blatant abandonment of reason. Amber Rudd’s I did not set targets for deportations of immigrants from the UK. These were set at a local level and they weren’t really targets.

  1. Misplaced faith. e.g. the Fuhrer’s all-knowing greatness. Trump’s ‘I alone can solve it’ from local crime to the problem with Russia or North Korea, but not Israel. He’s already solved that. e.g. the doublethink of Osborne cutting money to the poorest in our society and telling them he was helping them.

11 Investigate.

Like Hitler, the president [Trump] used the word lies to mean statements of facts not to his liking, and presented journalism as a campaign against himself.

We will be better off after Brexit. Lies.

The NHS will gain an extra £150 million a week. Lies.

There will be no hard border in Ireland? Really? How?

12 Make eye contact and small talk.

It was no great surprise that Teresa May fled from victims of the Grenfell fire. Like Trump she doesn’t like dealing with minions. They leave that kind of things to their servants.

13 Practice corporeal politics.

Power wants your body softening in a chair.

Solidarity in Poland began small. #MeToo. #Black Lives Matter.

14 Establish a Private Life.

Scrub your computer. Tyrants seek the hooks on which to hang you. Try not to have hooks.

Facebook theft and manipulation put Trump in the White House. Few journalists talked of Russian involvement and the trashing of privacy codes.

Hannah Arendt suggests totalitarian regimes seek to remove the idea of privacy, everything is public, unless you’ve got something to hide (tagline). Society becomes a mob seeking sanctioned scapegoats.

15 Contribute to good causes.

Support civil society and help others to do good.

16 Learn from peers in other countries.

Russia used many of the cyberwar techniques against the Ukraine that is deployed against the United States.

Most Americans do not have passports. Most claim they would die defending America, but against what?

17 Listen for dangerous words.

Extreminsm. Terrorism.

Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotism. We surrender freedom for safety against the other. Immigrants. Asylum Seekers.  Health tourists. Families on welfare. Feral children.

Extremism, those not in the mainstream. The poor and disadvantaged who need to be controlled. Locked up.

18 Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.

The oldest trick in the book, burn the Reichstag, blame the Jews, suspend freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, the only way to deal with terrorists is to torture and terrorise.

Create a hostile environment in which asylum seekers do not have legal aid, do not have the right of appeal, do not have any rights. Send them home. Don’t worry where home is. We will define it for you.

19 Be a patriot.

Mr President. What is patriotism?

It is not patriotic to dodge the draft

It is not patriotic to mock war heroes.

It is not patriotic to discriminate against active-duty members of the armed forced (i) in one’s companies, or (ii) to campaign to keep disabled veterans from one’s property.

It is not patriotic to compare one’s search for sexual partners in New York with military service in Vietnam that one has paid to dodge.

It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay.

It is not patriotic to expect American taxpayers to finance one’s own presidential

campaign and then to spend their contributions on one’s own companies.

It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators

It is not patriotic to share an adviser with Russian oligarchs.

20 Be as courageous as you can.

Be an enemy of the people, if that what it takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Unreported World. Putin’s Family Values. Channel 4, 7pm. Director Jessica Kay, Presented by Marcel Theroux.

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http://www.channel4.com/programmes/unreported-world/on-demand/65524-002

Just when you thought you’d seen enough of writer, producer and documentary maker Louis Theroux his brother Marcel pops up in Russia in a programme about Putin’s Family Values. There are two narratives here, one which we in the West will no doubt be familiar with. Tatanya is the Russian matriarch who opens her heart and opens her home. She has adopted 48 children and is currently fostering another 28. Six-year-old Kostya, for example, was abandoned on the streets by his alcoholic parents and brought to Tatanya three days later to care for him. Five-year old Kolya has a bad squint and even worse temper tantrums. He was adopted by a family with his other three siblings, but returned to Tatanya. Kolya really wants to go to Kindergarten with the other children and the camera follows him there with Tatanya. She complains she doesn’t get enough money from the state to feed the kids in her care. From what we see the house is dilapidated, but the kids playing in the basement seem happy (there’s no way of knowing if they are unhappy).

Ivan Osaki is a Patriarch of the Russian Orthordox Church in Cossack County near the River Don, on the borders of the Ukraine. He is the face of Russia Putin wants the West to see. He lives in a palatial home with his 18 children, their ages ranging from seven to thirty-three. He also has 25 grandchildren, and his sons are also Patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. His lifestyle is sponsored by the billionaires who cashed in on the breakup of the Soviet Union and ‘liberalised’ its assets. They include Konstantin Maleeov a banker with Kremlin connections, who has also set up Russia’s first Christian TV channel. Alexander Dugen a Putin cheerleader and—for the moment—a supporter of President Trump’s conservative values. Ivan Osaki’s wife, Nadeszhda, jokes that she went on maternity leave twenty-eight years ago and has been pregnant pretty much every year since then. Her services to the Russian state has been rewarded with Order for Parental Glory.

My reading of this is Russia’s population has been shrinking since the size of the economy halved with liberalisation and the gap between the rich and poor was once those in the Kremlin drove a Skoda and had six times the income of their comrades. Now there’s a unhealthy Western-style gap between rich and poor, with the latter choosing to have fewer children. The Order for Parental Glory – for good parents – has similarities with the Cross of Honour the Nazi Party gave to mothers who produced four or more children. The annexation of parts of Ukraine because the so-called majority of their citizens speak Russian has similarities with the Anschluss between Austria and Germany and the annexation of countries bordering the enlarged state. But you’d need to go back to Tolstoy’s War and Peace and read Nicholas Rostov’s sycophantic ravings such as ‘Oh God, what would happen to me if the Emperor spoke to me?’ thought Rostov, ‘I should die of happiness’, to appreciate the mind-sets and public pronouncements of Patriarch’s like Osaki that call Putin their father.

The strong man isn’t a uniquely Russian trait. The moron’s moron in the Whitehouse plays the same role. And both strong men seek to turn back the clock and put women firmly in their place. In America Trump seeks to appoint judges that will repeal Roe v Wade and take all federal funding from clinics that sanction abortion. Maleeov’s Christian commentators on television call for the sanctity of private property, no interference from the state in family life and compare abortions to the practices of Nazi doctors in the Death Camps. Money talks and conservatism speaks very loudly, women are not only different from men, they are lesser than men.

Yuval Noah Harari epigram in Sapiens about the crime of married rape, for example, being an oxymoron ‘as illogical as saying that a man stole his own wallet’ sums it up exactly. The proposed bill to decriminalise domestic violence in the Russian Duma supported by Maleeov was passed into Russian law. Men, of course, don’t get off Scot free. It will cost them around 5000 roubles (£70) if they are found guilty of beating their wife and 7000 roubles for beating their children. Harari cites precedents from among other books the Bible, if a man meets a virgin and rapes her he must pay fifty shekels to the father of the virgin and then marry her. Nobody can argue with the laws of the bible or the laws of the market. Both are God given. The world is becoming a much smaller and harsher place for poor women.

 

The Problem with Donald J Trump is Donald J Trump.

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Donald J Trump’s mother, Mary came from the Isle of Lewis. There’s more than one Scottish word for her son. Bawbag is a good Scottish word to start with.

Perhaps Robert Burns, our national bard,  put it better in The Cotter’s Saturday Night, the kind of dwelling his mother Mary came from:

An honest man’s the noblest work of God;

And certes in fair virtue’s heavenly road;

What is a lording’s pomp? a cumbrous load,

Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,

Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin’d

Here’s Donald J’s take on intelligence. He holds up his first-born son for the camera and tells his audience he wants his son to be ‘strong, tough and vicious and I hope intelligent.’ Intelligence is an afterthought, and add on. Being vicious that’s the thing. Be a killer.

Donald is his father, Fred’s son. Freddy’s first born wasn’t smart. He did dumb things like when he was put in charge of a housing project he gave the tenants new window. Donald’s take on that was he was soft, a great guy, very, very intelligent, everybody liked him, but they took advantage of him.

I’m not as dumb as George W Bush and its worth remembering when it came to counting the chads in 2000, an election he lost, asked for a recount because he’d ran out of fingers and toes, but the numbers came up right and he won, even though he didn’t know who or what a chad was. Curtis Sittenfeld, American Wife’s narrator is a bookish girl that grows into a woman that marries somebody like George W Bush, who can’t be trusted to run the family firm and becomes United States President to keep him out of harm’s way. Lionel Shriver asks much the same question of Donald J Trump, that most writers do, ‘Faced with current reality, how can fiction compete?’

Donald J Trump cheerfully admits he is a cartoon character and yet he is the forty-fifth President of the United States. I’d like to say I predicted that. And I did, I did, but I’ve a tendency to say when playing The Chase on telly when the correct answer is read out, and out of three options I’ve got some part of it wrong, most part of it wrong, but I’m right because that’s the one I meant. Lining up reality and opinion is not always that easy, but fantasy always figures and finds the shortest route and in a post-factual society finds its way to the truth, by not being the truth, or a neologism in the Oxford dictionary, but a simulacrum. Who really cares about that stuff?  I like to quote Socrates, ‘Speak so I can see you,’ so that I can seem more intelligent. If we tried that experiment with Trump taking away his orange face, shiny suit and swept back blond mop and left the screen blank and simply listened to him, you’d laugh, because he lisps  and not like an eight-year old girl, but not Liza Simpson, and that’s a fact that’s been tested. You’d be saying grow up. Read a book. Something else Donald J admits he never does. Only dumb smucks have the time to read. But he’s published an international bestseller. The Art of the Deal. He didn’t write it, of course, but it’s his, because it’s got his name on the cover. Tony Schwatz who wrote the book shadowed Trump. He liked that, people following him about, disciples. A kid showing you his toys. Matt Damon mentioned it in a recent interview. Trump’s propensity to pop up when they were filming on his property and sneak into shot.  You see a snapshot of it in Anthony Bartlett’s Dispatches programme entitled President Trump’s Dirty Secrets. In truth his connection to big oil and his disdain for little people isn’t much of a secret. Any dolt with an internet connection can spend five minutes and find out everything that you need to know about Trump and even Putin’s not-so-secret dossier of Trump cavorting with two prostitutes in a hotel room and them peeing on a bed. Look more closely at the images outside the hotel room and you’ll see him squeezing the flesh of contestants at the Miss Universe contest, a project which he bought and owns. Perhaps he plans to buy a contestant and bring her home and put on the mantlepiece to replace Melanina. Before he buys he likes to try them, not that he’d know what droit de seigneur means, but he understand enough to know that the people that buy the land owns the people in the land and that give him the right to push up against them and feel them up. He’s admitted as much, boy’s stuff, locker-room chat. Not rape, of course, because the women were gagging for it. His lawyers say so.  And his toys are irresistible. Trump is happy hosting. See as an example Bartlett schmoozing in his car, Trump’s telling him how much the car cost and how the seat-belts are gold, yeh, real gold.

But Trump knows about discipline. He was sent to a military school when he went too far and his father, Fred, found he’d bought a flick knife. One of his classmates remembered him as being, and I’m thinking how to paraphrase this, an empty jacket. Someone that is hanging on the peg but isn’t all there. Psychopath, devoid of compassion, all human feelings, apart from vanity. Schwartz tells how Trump liked to start the day with what was in the news about him. Narcissus looking into a stream of photo feeds. Now he’s won the biggest beauty contest in the world, the American Presidency it will be a full-time job. The worry is he’ll not like what he sees or hears. A multiple bankrupt that has never been poor. A groper and potential rapist that has never been called to account or arrested. A non-tax payer whose father’s business was based on scamming the federal dollar to build houses for ex-servicemen. A Manhattan businessman that broke Federal laws and refused to sell or lease apartments to blacks and explained to young persecuting attorney, Elyse Goldweather, in an aside she admitted she couldn’t quite belief she was hearing, ‘Now, Elyse, you don’t want to live with them either.’ Black lives matter, but only to black people. The Ku Klux Khan represented in office. Right-wing feeds triumphant and showing Melanina replacing an image of a First Lady taken from the Planet of the Apes. Trump a boy that went to military academy but avoided the draft to serve in the military, but denigrates those that did has become Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. You couldn’t make it up.

The FBI and CIA accuse him of being Putin’s dupe. Donald will sort it. He’ll win the war by tweets. Ewan McMullin, a former CIA officer tweeted: ‘While you avoided the draft, John Lewis risked his life for equality in America. You’ll never dream of such selfless patriotism.’

Donald J Trump settled his hash, he became President and boasted about how many Twitter followers he had in comparison to crooked Hillary. Fake news  such as ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims in Jersey City cheered as The World Trade Center crashed can be viewed on YouTube, alongside his pledges to build a wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexican government pay for it. The sting in the tail here is every comma in every sentence, every shady deal Trump has ever made will be uncovered. There is no hiding place when you are the American President. He asked to see Obama’s birth certificate. His detractors in a divided America will be asking to see a lot more than that.

Twitter feed, that’s where you’ll find the American President. 140 character tweets of what Trump’s policy is going to be, telling you what he and America is going to do next. There is a conflation here that Walt Disney might recognise, what is good for Donald J Trump is good for America and what it good for America is good for Donald J Trump. American Presidents are supposed to set up a blind trust, transparent so that they have no interests which conflict with that of running government and they should not directly, or indirectly, profit from the office of government. Nepotism and public office should also be divorced. The ethics committee set up to look into Trump’s financial arrangements for when he moves from becoming President elect to President started laughing. Cartoon characters are always funny, even when they’re trying to be serious. You love them or hate them and that is why Trump’s inauguration will not be a smooth transition from the outgoing President to the President elect, but the biggest protest since the Vietnam War divided America. Then again, I could be wrong on this. The business as usual model is stronger than any ideologue. Al Gore won more votes than George W Bush in 2000 Hillary Clinton gained 2.9 million more votes in 2016, both Democrats lost. To the winners the spoils. The casino President gambled and won. The billionaire daddy that says he’s too rich to care about money appoints his chum Ben Carson as housing tsar. Expect tens of millions or billions of US federal dollars to flow into the Trump real-estate coffers. Expect Trumps portfolio and investment in fossil fuels to grow exponentially. Oil is once more king. Alaska, with the help of global warming, a fish bowl open to being mined. One of his advisers – Paris Treaty on Global Warming, joke. Let’s laugh and end with that joke for a cartoon President.

Burt Reynolds summed Trump up as a fun guy, ‘but he might just start a war’.   He is the most powerful man in the world and could end the world in a tweet. And that’s no joke, but a worry. The world’s big worry, even greater than the backlash of the persecution of the poor, more worrying than the rise and rise of the super rich and the inevitable rise in global warming and pollution of our blue planet in a death march of rising acidic seas and failing crops and tens of millions on the move.  Inconceivable, as it seems, the question must be asked, like Bush, can Trump serve two terms as President? Is he despite his dimness, crafty enough, vicious enough? Or will the world end in a ball of fire first. I’m repeating myself, as Trump does. Listen to him. He says the same thing again and again and again and again, until you believe him. Funny, eh?