Yes! Yes! UCS! Townsend Productions written by Neil Gore.

Oscar Wilde:  ‘Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has ever read history, is a man’s original value.’

A writer’s job is to remember. The better the writer, the better we remember. I’d a day out at The Golden Friendship Club on Saturday. Jim McLaren performed two miracles—and perhaps there’ll be a play about that one day—buying the old Masonic Club and finding the money to renovate it. If he wants to hang a picture of his mum, Agnes, and Auntie Molly Kelly in one of two the main halls, well, that’s really up to him. In the old days, you had to stand up for old Queen Lizzie. He’s standing up for his mum, and she’s more to my liking. He needs a third miracle to find the funding to keep the place going. The Golden Friendship is a Community Hall in a real sense of being paid for and belonging to the community. Workshops during the day and Neil Gore’s play, Yes! Yes! UCS!  were held to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the UCS work-in on the Clyde in 1971 (for those not very good at arithmetic a Covid year wasn’t carried over, so to be pedantic, 51 years).

Bernardine Evaristio: Girl, Woman, Other, ‘she wants people to bring curiosity to her plays, doesn’t give a damn what they wear’.  

When I came into the hall Jim was there to meet guests. There was no sneaking past in casual wear. They set the seats out with a free copy of The Morning Star (cost £1.50) which made me smile. I didn’t think they still printed it. I’d a quick chat with that old dinosaur, John Foster. He didn’t remember me, but I remembered him in a tutorial asking us if we knew what hegemonic meant. We were more interested in when The Wee Howff opened. He taught us always to cite your sources. Hating Tories was a given.

Rhyming couplets and verse Yes! Yes! UCS! 

I’m up for a writer’s challenge. So a quick sketch of Peter Barra McGahey with his handlebar moustache:

 Fae John Brown’s on the Clyde—James Scott Dry Dock—tae Govan and Yarrows

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

The sootie tenemenet walls, Dalnator, where we lay out past

Glasgow Airport moles that didnae depart

An a the rats and birds that flies

pay a feu rent fae their tinker’s tents

the dog that shits, cats that hiss

the foreman’s toot isnae his

Fae James Scott Dry Dock, Yarrows and John Brown’s on the Clyde

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

The Morning Star we see.

Yard owners haunds oot free.

Their coats of arms with all its charms

Our cranes feeds your wains memes

With patriot calls to our common country

Futile dreams and poet themes of equality

the match that lights the dout

lame-duck yards goin slow

Tartan paint and a long wait—work to rule

Fair democracy, where do we place we?

We that toil should own the soil and Broomilaw

A welded chain for those that pass laws again

Fae John Brown’s on the Clyde—James Scott Dry Dock—tae Govan and Yarrows

Land, river and sea, nane belanged to Barra McGahey

No part of our common we.

A zip in his trousers at the back

for emergency purposes only

Christmas lights on his welder’s hat

the unfair and grand

none as light-headed as he

In Barra’s place, we place our grace.

None forgotten, or will be.

His gravelly laugh still finds a path

To our common humanity.

We had lunch in the hall, and Jim put on a fine spread. We could make a donation to a food bank or to The Golden Friendship. I grew up in the seventies. I could never have imagined the idea of food banks. Worker’s memories of taking over the yards and forcing Ted Heath’s government to backtrack. Go from spending a possible £6 million government package to nearer £36 million is at the core of our day out. Yes! Yes! UCS! as an antidote to the highest grossing film of 1960, I’m Alright Jack, with the stereotypical bungling and walkouts of the shop steward movement in Union Jack Foundries portrayed by Peter Sellers meant to typify a Britain that was going in the wrong direction.

I asked John Foster if there was still a Communist Party, still a Socialist Movement. In particular, if it had younger members. I don’t think anybody in the hall was under forty, apart from the two actors that played Aggie and Eddi.

I’d guess very few adults under-thirty could tell you what the plaque on Clydebank College labelling a building John Brown’s means. The Clyde has become a feature, a waterfront for selling property.

John Foster did say there was a growing Socialist movement. I’d guess Greta Thunberg, aged 15, sitting in silent protest outside Parliament (Skolstrejk för klimatet) is more important and certainly better known.

Ted Heath’s government was defeated. We had the oil-price hike and stagflation. But the token woman in Heath’s cabinet was Margaret Thatcher. Her destruction of the miner’s union with the help of a media vying with each other to create fictional stories about Arthur Scargill and present them as facts stand out.  M15 and a pumped-up police force and the loss of around 80 000 jobs is well documented in what was described as a war against terrorists. Less well documented is how we lost the propaganda war in which food banks, for example, is sold to us a positive trend.  

When I hear about a critically acclaimed singer and songwriter, I usually do a bit of planning of my own, and nip away before I get caught. I don’t listen to music in the way that other people don’t read books. I could add or go to the theatre. But when I saw a friend and nipped outside during the break of Yes!Yes! UCS!  I admitted Findlay Napier had been the best part of the day. I still don’t listen to music, but he caught me on the good side.

I asked Jim why Neil Gore’s production wasn’t on the stage. He told me it wasn’t deep enough for the set. It was impressive. A mock-up of tenement buildings, with doors that open and decades to slide into. We get to see Heath in cartoonish blue and hear his voice. ‘There’ll be nae bevvying’ cries Jimmy Reid. The roar of the crowd. On two girls’ shoulders the production hangs. I feel for them. Art makes us and unmakes us. This might be their first and last job. The yards were a men’s playground, to channel the dispute through women takes balls.

Anne Ryan was out having a fag at the canal. I’d joked with her that in 1970, everybody would have been out of the hall and smoking. She was the solitary pariah of the path, until another guy ambled over. She asked if I’d smoked, ‘Nah, I was a good boy’.

‘Whit dae yeh think of the show?’

She made a face. ‘He seems to like it.’  

Radical politics doesn’t sell is hardly a headline, even in The Morning Star. George Orwell in his unpublished introduction to Animal Farm described how ‘unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for an official ban’. Ironically, Communist China is probably best at this. Rupert Murdoch, second best. We’ve come a long way since the nineteen-seventies, backward step by backward step. Only the past can live in the present. I brought my curiosity to play. Perhaps Townsend Production doesn’t quite capture the zeitgeist. The fault might be mine. I don’t do musicals and I don’t do theatre. The wrong man in the right place. Go see for yourself. Make your own head space.    

Anne, ITV, ITV Hub, written by Kevin Sampson.

https://www.itv.com/hub/anne/2a5505a0001

Not many programmes can get away with a one-word titular introduction—Anne. I’d have had no idea of who it was referring unless I’d read the pre-publicity for the four-night drama starring Maxine Peake.

Anne Williams, an unremarkable woman from Liverpool who worked in a shop, and who died in 2013.

That might have been that. But if we throw in another word, Hillsborough, the unremarkable becomes remarkable. I’m old enough to remember the FA Cup semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest in 1989, both serial European Champions. Kenny Dalglish moved to Liverpool from Celtic for a £440 000 transfer fee. He was now the Liverpool manager. As a Celtic fan, I didn’t take much notice of the match or care who won. I didn’t know what happened. But imagined it was much the same as the Ibrox disaster of 1971. Media reports concentrated on the pageantry of Anfield covered in tops and scarves and token of remembrance for the 97 men, women and children killed and around 766 injured.

One victim was Kevin Williams, a few days short of his sixteenth birthday. He attended the match with his mate. Kevin died in pen 3, at Hillsborough. The official line was compression asphyxiation. After The Ibrox Disaster, Glasgow Lord Provost, Sir Donald Liddle wept at a press conference. He declared, ‘It is quite clear a number died of suffocation’. Anyone that has ever been to a big match knows the feeling of being lifted off their feet after their team score and being swept away down the terracing—a mass love in. But that turns to terror when barriers break, people stumble and fall, and there’s nowhere for fans to go and the bodies pile up.

At the end of the first episode, Anne Williams gets on a train and introduces herself at a meeting of The Hillsborough Support Group. Something just doesn’t add up. The official line was that Kevin had died instantly. Stefan Popper the coroner cajoled witnesses until they supported the narrative being sold to the public by South Yorkshire Police under Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield. Victim blaming.

A Director of Rangers adopted a similar approach and the club did not admit culpability. Spectators helped police carry victims onto the Ibrox pitch and pavilion. A general appeal went out for first aiders. Fifty-three bodies, still in their club’s colours, were laid out on the pitch.

Mist was falling in Govan and ambulances, police and fire engines were delayed by the crowd leaving the stadium, unaware of the tragedy. Eye-witness accounts such as eighteen-year-old, First-Aid assistant, Ian Holm told us he wasn’t even sure what happened and he was inside the stadium.

At Hillsborough there was panic and no coordinated response. The Miner’s Strike 1984-85 had given the police force a blank cheque in Yorkshire. They were dealing with the enemy, working-class men. Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield already knew the official line before any major event. It had worked before and drawn nothing but praise. Rupert Murdoch’s Sun (let’s not call it a newspaper) carried reports of looting and drunken brawling among Liverpool supporters. Let’s not forget a frail and senile acting Murdoch appearing before a Common’s Committee after the News of the World debacle. Then suddenly regaining his mojo in time to help the moron’s moron get elected. That’s the kind of leverage he had then and now. But long memory.  Graham Sourness, the ex-Liverpool captain and Rangers manager, was ostracised in Liverpool for taking the Sun’s money for a story a few years later.

Mary, my partner, watched the first episode with me. She was crying. I guess, like many others, we’ve been there before with unexpected deaths that don’t make sense or the news.

‘But he was already dead,’ she said. ‘What more could they have done?’

I tried to explain about the official delays to ambulances. The chaos of fans using pitch-side barriers to carry victims away. Impromptu, mouth-to-mouth and heart massage. And this is what Anne Williams heard. She was convinced her son cried out her name. A volunteer policewoman said he’d been alive. The coroner said he’d most likely been brain dead and that was highly unlikely. He imposed a 3.15 pm cut-off point, after which anyone on the pitch was presumed to be already dead.

‘What happened to my boy?’

An Observer report concluded if Chief Superintendent David Duckenfield and his compromised police force had behaved professionally, 40 victims might well be alive. In other words, Frank Williams, who was breathing, might well be alive.

What have we learned from Hillsborough? Nought. I look at the Grenfell tower fire. The way the official narrative switched when officials could no longer blame the victims, but instead focussed on those that had cheated and were trying to claim compensation money they weren’t due. Then those that were victims were allowed their day in court. When that was out of the way, the adults in the room could get on with the real business of cutting a deal. No one to blame. Nothing to see. Business as usual.   

Flint, BBC Scotland, BBC iPlayer, narrator Alec Baldwin, writer Richard Phinney, director and editor Anthony Baxter.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000q1km/flint

I found it strange that a crew from BBC Scotland led by Anthony Baxter should from 2014 spend five years filming a documentary about water pollution in Flint Michigan, the former home of General Motors, and the narrator is Alec Baldwin. We’re far from home.

Remember around 25 years ago when John Gummer, the then Tory agricultural minister, fed his four-year-old daughter a burgher to prove the British beef was safe after the BSE (Mad Cow Disease) disaster? Here we have President Obama sipping water from the Flint River’s Treatment Plant and declaring it safe. Whilst we have Reverend Jesse Jackson declaring that water is a basic human right. Amen to that.

What we have is a crisis of faith in authority and what they are telling us. (Soon to be mirrored by the almost 50% that will not take a Covid 19 vaccine because they don’t trust those telling us it’s safe – and often for good reason—although in the case of the Covid vaccines, plural, ignorance plays a large part).

Who to believe becomes what we believe. In Flint the mayor declares it an issue of class (and ethnicity). General Motors produced almost 50 million cars in Flint. That’s past tense. Since 1970 the population has halved. Houses that sold for $60 000 can now be bought for $6000. Lots lie empty.  

Rick Snyder was elected as Michigan’s governor on a ticket of running local government like a business. This is the kind of ticket the Laurel and Hardy of British politics Cameron and Osborne ran down the British economy. The same ticket Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ran in sacking firefighters to save public money because in Rupert Murdoch land global warming is a hoax nobody is falling for. We could even throw in the moron’s moron’s wilful dismantling of government agencies tasked with the prevention of public health epidemics because they were insiders.

Snyder got away with sacking firefighters and police officers to balance the books. His plan to ratchet up water prices and take water from the Flint River and not from the Huron River, in south-eastern Michigan which had been used before then to save around $5 million per annum was a fiscal disaster and health disaster.

It followed the usual trajectory. First up is to blame the victims. Jeremiah Loren, aged 12, with a skin rash and debilitating illnesses is somehow to blame, if not him, then his family.   

As Michigan’s governor, he stripped Flint’s city council of its power, and his administrators raised water prices to balance the books. They then forced the city to use water from the Flint River in order to save more money. Something was wrong. Tap water was brown. Residents were told to run it a little longer. Advised that colouring had nothing to do with safety—it was still safe to drink. At the last remaining General Motors assembly plant car parts began to rust.

Professor Edwards with the help of his students from nearby Virginia Tech College took water samples and found lead 5000 times over the limits advised by the World Health Organisation. He declared it ‘a man-made disaster’ that such a toxic substance had been allowed to accumulate, particularly, in the bloodstream of around 10 000 city children where it was linked with among other factors a lower IQ and possible brain damage.

ACT 2. Snyder admits there may have been a problem. He’ll fix it (but you’ll pay for him to fix it). Hey Presto. Fixed. Your water is safe to drink. Cue Snyder drinking water treated by the Flint Treatment Plant and taken from the Huron River. No more talk about saving money, now it’s about saving lives. We do get a fix on him with his ad-lib about those on welfare (that they should be glad to pay over-inflated prices for drinking poison).

Class actions suits against Flint, and at state and federal levels are filed. We’re in Erin Brokovich territory.

The expert for the Water Defence League, Scott Smith, proves to be a charlatan and snake-oil salesman. Professor Edwards turns turtle and agrees to work with Snyder. Edwards declares the water safe to drink, well, as safe as any other state. Edwards files a law suit of defamation against, mother of three, Melissa Mays. She was a major part of the city-wide initiative to uncover the truth about Flint’s water. Edward had publicly thanked and praised her and other volunteers.

Alec Baldwin appears in front of the camera to ask a resident and mother, ‘why don’t you leave?’  

If you can’t work out the answer, here’s a questionnaire I developed (A) I just love poisoning myself and my kids or  (B) I’m skint, and where would I go?

If you answered A, congratulations, you voted for the moron’s moron, Trump. If you answered B, and voted for Trump, keep drinking the water. Rust belt? Sure, hope so.

Joe Biden wins- alleluia!

I’m delighted. I kept checking the US election results in the same way I usually check the football results to see how my team, Celtic, are doing. I get it. I really do. I’m not American. I was not going to influence the almost 75 million polled votes for Joe Biden, nor the just over 70 million votes for Donald J Trump. For the last five years I’ve called him the moron’s moron. He is no more.

When the 45th United States President was elected, I said he’d won the biggest beauty contest in the world. I naively thought that the scrutiny would unman him, even unPresident him. Like Narcissist looking into a pool of water he would somehow fade away. The opposite happened. The moron’s moron claimed, with some justification, he ‘could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters’.

20 000 Trump lies later, fact-checked by the New York media, we’re back in 2016. Trump didn’t expect to win in 2016. All his crooked-Hillary lies were in place for Trump to claim he should have won and could have won and he’ll win next time. Next time he’ll drain the swamp. The has-been President will find, once more, that Rupert Murdoch won’t be taking his calls. Fox New has already made that screeching U-turn and asked him—at the very end, when it’s no longer needed—to behave like a President.

The has-been President will find all that other people’s money he’s been using in a Ponzi scheme will begin to unravel. The buck will begin to stop here. And he won’t be able to pay his creditors. Especially, his foreign creditors.

What of the former President’s tax returns? That should make interesting copy and should at least keep the moron’s moron in the news.

Allegations of rape and sexual assault that have been kept at arm’s length by litigation and, like so many others such as Weinstein, Cosby and Jackson, by a wall of money. That should make good copy too.

We’ll be able to find out more about how Russia was involved in the 2016 election. It might even be worth looking again at the Senate’s roll in failing to impeach the former President for his role in tarnishing the current President.

We might even find out more how Facebook and Cambridge Analytical stitched up the Presidential election of 2016 and the Brexit vote by targeting voters. Despite this, no one much was calling the 2016 election fake news. Trump won, so it must be true.

All of these things may come to pass or may not. Truth is variable. I wish the very worst thing that could happen to the moron’s moron. We follow the lead of New Zealand Prime Minister—and not just in the battle against Covid-19—Jacinda Ardern, and refuse to name evil, give it a face, give it a voice.  Silence the moron’s moron. Not giving him house room. Laughing at him. Giving the peddler of hate and his childish rants the respect he deserves. That’s all I ask. Count the carnage of Covid-19. The moron’s moron… shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Sweet silence.

Greg Palast, How to Steal the Presidency and Get Away with It (scorecard) 2000-1

Al Gore, of course, won the 2000-1 election, but an unfamiliar word entered the lexicon – chad. An appeal to the Supreme Court called for a recount of the votes in Florida.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_v._Gore

Palast shows that following the 2000-1 Presidential election stories of African American voters being targeted, racial profiling, that excluded voters from the electoral roll weren’t fake news, but fact. He had a copy of two CD-Rom disks from the office computer of Katherine Harris, Florida Secretary of State. 57 700 potential Democrat voters named as felons. Purged from electoral roll in the run up to the election. 90.2% innocent of any crime.  Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush spent almost the entire Republican budget on a computer hunt for black voters. What Governor Jeb Bush did was illegal. He later ran against Trump for leadership of the Republican Party. I guess he’ll be back for another try.

My favourite quote here was Trump telling Rupert Murdoch he was running for the Presidency and Rupert Murdoch telling him, ‘no, you’re not’. That’s power Without the backing of the Murdoch corporation and Fox News, of course, there’d be no President Trump.

Ironically, former Governor of Florida, George W. Bush had a prior drink-driving conviction (misdemeanour) therefore he shouldn’t have been allowed to vote, for himself, or anybody else. That purge would have added or subtracted one vote to the 500-600 chads he won the election (minus the 57 700 he’d have lost by).

We all know how the moron’s moron did it. What he did was not illegal. Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook  took what was for him chump change,  most of the Republican candidate’s budget of around $44 million, and matched it with expertise. With Russian bot farms churning out memes and disinformation, Trump rode a wave of discontent all the way to the Whitehouse by winning the Electoral College, but not the popular vote. Hillary Clinton won more votes but lost the election.  

Florida signed a $4 million contract with DBT Online merged with ChoicePoint of Atlanta to purge voters. Cambridge Analytica https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge also involved in the Brexit debate tried to keep their methods secret, claiming it was private and commercial information, but were outed by Guardian journalists.

Nothing new from the Trump handbook, with Mark Zuckerberg again handling Trump’s funds for re-election.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/02/trump-us-election-disinformation-russia

https://www.channel4.com/news/revealed-trump-campaign-strategy-to-deter-millions-of-black-americans-from-voting-in-2016

The historian and author Robert A. Caro magisterial (unfinished) biography of Lyndon B Johnson (LBJ) offers another tale of straight forward electoral cheating. Caro juxtaposes LBJ’s fight for a senate seat with ‘Mr Texas’ Coke Stevenson.

Nobody much is interested in Box 13, or that old stuff called history. The guys in the photograph LBJ showed a hostile reporter are Texans that stole enough votes and stuffed them into Box 13 so that LBJ could become a Senator in the 1948 race. A race Mr Integrity Coke Stevenson won. He was diddled. LBJ became Senator and, his gamble he’d be a heartbeat away from the top job of President paid off when President John F. Kennedy was killed in Texas.

That’s the traditional way of doing things in American politics. Kamala Harris will be the first female President.

Robert A.Caro’s advice was turn every page and do the maths. Four years ago I thought Trump could win. I no longer think that now. ‘Power corrupts’ argues Caro, ‘but it also reveals’. What it has revealed about Trump is an unclean spirit channelling hate for his own gain. Or in other words of psychobabble: a psychopathic narcissistic personality with low intelligence.

Trump is not leading the dis-United States to disorder and disaster. Any politician can do that from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush. Trump is the disaster. The risk of Armageddon is lessened with him gone.  Everything Trump touches turns to shit is the closest thing to the truth I’ve heard about the 45th President. We can sleep in our beds more soundly with him gone. That’s a starting point. Not a finishing point. Go Joe Biden. Go. There can be no neutrals in the American election of the 46th President. Mankind depends on it.

The Trial of Alex Salmond, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Director Sarah Howitt and narrator Kirsty Wark.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000lwld

Droit du seigneur

#MeToo in the Middle-Ages – A supposed legal right in medieval Europe, allowing feudal lords to have sex with subordinate women on their wedding night (or whenever).

#MeToo in the twenty-first century, Scotland’s former First Minister Alex Salmond, March 2020, at the High Court in Edinburgh,  was found not guilty of thirteen charges of sexual misconduct, including an attempted rape in which the witness, ‘woman H’ (identities were kept secret and actor’s voices used for dramatic purposes) alleged that after dinner in 2014, at Bute House, she was sexually assaulted and Alex Salmond held her down on a bed and would have raped her, but he passed out drunk. This charge was found ‘Not Proven’ (a verdict that only exists in Scotland’s courts). One charge was thrown out by the procurator fiscal’s office before going to trial.

 ‘Woman A’, one of ten women, alleged, for example, Alex Salmond had placed his hand on her thigh while in his chauffeur-driven car and had sexually assaulted her.

Salmond’s Queen’s Counsel, the bumptious Gordon Jackson, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, was himself censored after being overhead naming some of the women witnesses on board the Edinburgh to Glasgow train. Salmond had crowdfunded his defence costs and reached his target of over £80 000 claiming he was being unjustly vilified.

Jackson was more forthright in his train journey. The same old tactics that victimise the victim which mean, on average, 95% of rape allegations never reach court and aren’t prosecuted by the procurator fiscal, were referred to by the QC: ‘All I need to do is put a smell on her’.

Discredit, discredit, discredit.

Jackson also referred to Salmond as sexual bully and being a nightmare to work for, but not being quite the kind of person that should be on sex-offender register. He was, in effect, one of the middle-class chaps that had made a mistake and it was his fame that had got him punished. He was being victimised.

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/mar/29/alex-salmond-qc-to-be-investigated-after-naming-trial-women

Kirsty Wark also established that female workers at Bute House were advised not to work out-of-hours and to be alone with Alex Salmond. Alex Salmond and his friends suggest there was a conspiracy against him. He was right, of course, about this. It’s called POLITICS.

The latest opinion-polls suggest fifty-five percent of the Scottish population would vote to leave the British union and become an independent nation.

‘Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes or No’ was the question asked of voters in September 2014. I voted YES. The country voted NO, with a 55-45 percent split in which there was a turnout at the polls of almost 85% of registered voters. I was ungracious in defeat. You can fuck off with your Better Together campaign was how I and many others felt. A Labour Party cosying up to the Tories wiped them out in Scotland. All this is history, of course, but it’s still being played out.

The futures green and the futures SNP, but an SNP without its leading light of the 2014 Scottish referendum. Alex Salmond stood down and his ignominy was compounded by losing his Parliamentary seat to a Tory bastard. Salmond then tried to revitalise his career as a talk-show host, which would be fair enough, but like the former Communist Jimmy Reid decrying the rat race as Rector of the University of Glasgow, but writing for Rupert Murdoch’s Sun tabloid made strange bedfellows, Salmon’s show was backed by Russian television and Putin’s oligarchs. Talk on independence would leave a bad taste in anybody’s mouth.

Where does Alex Salmond go now? A footnote in history? Nicola Sturgeon, now we’re talking.