Peterloo film by Mike Leigh, review, interview


This 17 October 2018 British TV video says about itself:

Maxine Peake: Peterloo touches on themes that are still relevant today | ITV News

Actress Maxine Peake has told ITV News that she feels new movie Peterloo touches on themes that are still relevant in today’s society. The new movie is based around the Peterloo Massacre that took place at St Peter’s Field in Manchester in 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of up to 80,000 people who were protesting for parliamentary representation.

Ms Peake, who plays the part of Nellie, believes the element of those struggling in their day to day lives in the film have similar troubles to those experienced in the UK by many.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Mike Leigh’s Peterloo: A drama of the British working class

5 April 2019

Mike Leigh’s Peterloo is opening in New York City and Los Angeles on April 5, and more widely on April 12. This is an event of some importance. The film was inspired by important ideas and created with great seriousness and artistry.

The Peterloo Massacre took place on August 16, 1819, in Manchester, England when cavalry with sabers drawn charged into a crowd estimated at anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 people protesting their lack of political representation and the dire economic conditions. The official death toll was 15 men, women and children killed, with an additional 400 to 700 wounded. The actual death toll was likely much higher.

The circumstances that produced the “Peterloo” event (so named, darkly and ironically, because it occurred on St. Peter’s Field in Manchester and resembled the Waterloo battlefield of 1815 located in present-day Belgium) are complex and have lengthy historical roots.

The end of the Napoleonic wars, at Waterloo, in 1815 was followed by a severe economic slump in England, with chronic unemployment and hunger for many, particularly among textile workers in the north of the country. The Manchester area, often described as the first industrial center in the world, had 60 factories in 1815 employing some 24,000 workers. Over 90 percent of the factories were spinning mills.

The notorious and unpopular Corn Laws, which restricted the importation of foreign corn until the price of home-grown wheat reached a certain price, benefited the landowners and large farmers and produced famine that, in the words of one historian, “hung over the whole period like a carrion crow.”

The lack of representation in parliament was an accompanying issue that outraged reformers and working class radicals. Manchester, the second largest city in England, had no member of parliament at all. Rural areas of the country returned dozens of members while industrial cities went virtually unrepresented.

Wages were falling steadily, the factory owners were ruthless and the government was entirely indifferent to the suffering of the working population. The defeat of Napoleon and his forces and the restoration of various monarchies across Europe, codified by the Congress of Vienna, were supposed to have put an end to the threat represented by the French Revolution. But political subversion was raising its head in England itself and gaining strength within the nascent working class.

Leigh’s film opens on the bloody battlefield at Waterloo. A young, evidently shell-shocked British soldier (David Moorst) plays a few wretched notes on a bugle amid the horrific carnage. He makes his way home, on his own, to Manchester. He falls sobbing into the arms of his kindhearted mother, Nellie (Maxine Peake). The family of textile workers that receives him unexpectedly home again is suffering from falling wages and the lack of work.

Meanwhile, parliament bestows 750,000 pounds (the equivalent of more than 60 million pounds today) on the Duke of Wellington, the “victor” at Waterloo. But all is not well in the country.

The home secretary, Lord Sidmouth (Karl Johnson), warns of “seditious activity” in the North of England (“In Manchester and the surrounding towns of Lancashire, there is a sickness. A dangerous threat of rampant insurrection”) and accordingly puts a network of spies and provocateurs to work. Officials routinely intercept and read the correspondence of radical leaders. Sidmouth also orders General Sir John Byng (Alastair Mackenzie) to prepare himself for whatever actions may be necessary to suppress political opposition.

At public meetings in Manchester, speakers denounce the corrupt political system and appeal to the Bill of Rights of 1689, demanding “fair, proper and full representation—for all Englishmen.” The male members of Nellie’s family, her husband Joshua (Pearce Quigley) and son Robert (Tom Meredith), are in attendance. They listen quietly and sympathize. But the practical Nellie thinks it may all be a lot of words. (“Talk. Talk. Talk … Less talk, more action. … Any road, they’ll never give us t’vote.”)

The brutality of class rule finds expression in the courts. A woman is ordered to be whipped for public drunkenness, another is transported to Australia for 14 years over a purloined watch (“Our Lord God owns everything upon this earth, and when you steal, you rob from him”), a third is sentenced to be hanged for stealing a coat from his master (“I didn’t steal it. I took it. … He had two, I needed one. He’s got one. I’ve got one”). The local magistrates, many of them clergymen, respond to unrest by awing the “rabble” into “submission” and wielding the “iron hand of the law”.

The magistrate Rev. Charles Wicksted Ethelston (Vincent Franklin), a real figure who aspired to be a poet and who told two Radical Reformers who appeared before him in 1819, “Some of you reformers ought to be hanged, and some of you are sure to be hanged—the rope is already around your necks”, positively swoons at his own blood-curdling rhetoric.

A potato thrown at the carriage of the Prince Regent (Tim McInnerny)—the future George IV, officially in power since 1811 owing to the madness of his father, George III—provides the government the pretext to suspend habeas corpus in 1817.

Henry “Orator” Hunt (Rory Kinnear) speaks to a London meeting attended by two representatives of reformers in the North, Samuel Bamford (Neil Bell) and the irrepressible Dr. Joseph Healey (Ian Mercer). Their generally favorable impression of his oratorical skills and personality suffers a blow when he rudely rejects their invitation for a friendly drink.

More radical leaders in the north—some, like John Bagguley, a Manchester apprentice, as young as 19—remind their listeners at a semi-clandestine outdoor meeting (observed by government agents) of what “our French brethren” have done to their monarch and aristocracy: “We must punish our mad king and his gluttonous offspring by taking off their heads!” The watchword is “Liberty or death!” The radicals are seized by police thugs and beaten in jail.

An assembly of women takes place, presided over by middle class reformers, one of whom uses somewhat turgid language: “And in order to accelerate the emancipation of our suffering nation, we do declare that we will assist the male union formed in this town, with all the might and energy that we possess, in obtaining the object of our common solicitude.” One working woman, angry and excited, shouts out that she doesn’t “understand a word you’re saying.”

Preparations for a great protest meeting in Manchester, which Hunt will address, are set in motion. It will be held on a workday. Hunt insists that no one bear arms of any kind. Bamford warns him the Yeomanry will be armed (“A large body of men are signed up, and weapons have been widely distributed amongst them”), but Hunt is adamant.

The situation of Nellie and her family has worsened. Should they participate in the meeting? It will mean losing a day’s wage and perhaps more. On the eve of the event, in one of the film’s most poignant scenes, Nellie and Joshua are in bed, in the same room as their small daughter. “Little angel … I were just thinking, in 1900, she’ll be eighty five. … I hope it’s a better world for her.”

The day of the massacre itself occupies a significant portion of Leigh’s film. Workers and their families show up, for the most part in a holiday mood, dressed in their finery. A huge, peaceful crowd gathers. The Yeomanry and the magistrates work themselves into a paranoid frenzy (“It is our Christian duty to bring the axe down on this riotous mob!” “Well said, sir! Well said!”). The Riot Act is readied.

The pompous Hunt begins to speak, although much of the crowd can’t even hear him. The Yeomanry, followed by the military, charges into the defenseless crowd. …

Leigh’s film works at a high artistic and social level. He has been making films since the 1970s, most famously High Hopes (1988), Naked (1993), Secrets & Lies (1996), Career Girls (1997), Topsy-Turvy (1999), All or Nothing (2002), Vera Drake (2004), Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) and Mr. Turner (2014), but this is the first time he has directly treated a historical or political event. As he told his audience after a public screening of Peterloo at the Toronto film festival in September 2018, and repeated to me in a conversation , the current state of the world pushed him in that direction.

The filmmaker works directly and thoroughly with every performer, planning and preparing each sequence. Improvisations within an initial outline help create a script. Every actor has a definite purpose and a conception of what he or she is doing. While there are obviously heightened and dramatic turning points, each distinct, individual moment is treated with considerable importance and conscientiousness. This is the opposite of sloppy or careless work, although the end result is often uneven and lively, like life.

The scenes of the public meetings and rallies are memorable, and the language and ideas are accurately and passionately reproduced, but small moments may also stand out:

–The nervous young serving maid (Byrony Miller) asked by Hunt, busy having his portrait painted, to hold down some of his “important” pages, but who is loathe to do so because “Me ‘ands are dirty.”

–In the crowd at the mass meeting, a plump, innocent brother and sister have come all the way from Wigan, a healthy walk (“You must have been up with the lark.” “Aye, set off at six”). But they’ve brought along no food (“We didn’t think to”). Nellie won’t have that and offers them bread to eat.

–Hunt grandly asks his hostess in Manchester, Mrs. Johnson (Lizzie Frain), to bring him a “light repast.” The unfortunate, harried woman whispers desperately to anyone within hearing, “What’s that?”

–The scene, noted above, in which the parents consider what the future holds for their young daughter. Leigh told an interviewer, “It was about a week away from the birth of my first grandchild… and I was thinking about…what will this world be like in 2100?”

The drama is historically and psychologically realistic. The Prince Regent and the authorities are portrayed as monstrous beings. They were monstrous beings, and this was before the hypocrisies of modern-day parliamentary “democracy”, worn incredibly thin by this point, had fully worked their way into everyday life. The ruling class brazenly and unashamedly defended repression and violence in defense of its wealth and property.

In the face of the mass murder of defenseless civilians, Lord Sidmouth, the home secretary, responded by explaining that he was “gratified equally by the deliberate, spirited manner in which the magistrates discharged their arduous and important duty on that occasion. … I do not fail to appreciate most highly the merits of the two companies of Yeomanry cavalry and other troops employed on this service.” The government introduced new repressive measures, the Six Acts, to suppress radical meetings. Working class political opponents were thrown into jail en masse .

Leigh has captured the essence of the historical moment and its enduring significance. As he said to me, and as he told other interviewers, the film, he believes, is “prescient”—i.e., this history points toward the future. Historical truth, in Trotsky’s words, “the highest truth of life”, here corresponds with artistic truth.

An interview with Mike Leigh on Peterloo is here. Another review is here.

More bloodshed in NATO’s ‘new’ Libya


This 5 April 2019 video says about itself:

Troops belonging to Libya’s strongman Khalifa Haftar were pushed back on Friday from a key checkpoint just 27 km from capital Tripoli.

He had ordered his troops on Thursday to march on the capital, escalating a conflict with the [Tripoli] government.

Militiamen from the coastal town of Zawiya retook the base after a “short exchange of fire”, though Haftar has vowed to continue the fight.

Latest news on the proxy oil war between Macron‘s France and Salvini‘s Italy, waged by pro-Salvini paramilitaries against pro-Macron Haftar paramilitaries. Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Despite appeals to calmness and restraint, there is fear internationally of a new civil war in Libya.

Not really new. It never stopped ever since NATO’s ‘humanitarian‘ 2011 regime change war.

The government in Tripoli, threatened by the Libyan National Army of warlord Haftar, has announced a counter-offensive called “Volcano of Anger”.

Prime Minister Sarraj of the … government in Tripoli had a military spokesperson declare that the operation aims to clear all cities in the country from illegal forces. Sarraj blames Haftar for plunging the country into a new cycle of violence, and says that only personal motives play a role for him. …

Both parties have combat aircraft with which attacks are carried out. Since Thursday, 23 people are said to have been killed in the fighting.

Today there was a battle at the international airport of Tripoli, 24 kilometers south of the city. Yesterday Haftar’s troops reported that they had taken the airport. …

The US government has withdrawn some of its soldiers from Libya, given the unpredictable situation on the ground.

Panamanian lance-tailed manakins dancing


This video says about itself:

Hail Hail The Lance-tailed Manakin Gang’s All Here – April 5, 2019

A female, two adult males and a juvenile male all shared the display perch at once today. The males took turns practicing their display. The juvenile male in attendance got a thorough and vigorous dance lesson.

Watch Live at http://allaboutbirds.org/manakins

This cam shows one display perch in a population of Lance-tailed Manakins on Isla Boca Brava, Chiriquí, Panamá, that has been monitored intensively since 1999.

French President Macron victim of own authoritarianism


This 31 March 2019 video from France is called (translated) Emmanuel Macron‘s full burnout? “Luckily he’s wearing makeup, otherwise we would see his real situation”.

Translated from Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad, 2 April 2019:

“Macron on the verge of burnout”

According to his inner circle, the French president is not doing well. They testify to the French newspaper Le Parisien that Emmanuel Macron is completely exhausted by the “lonely” way in which he exercises power. He wants to be in control as much as possible, but that is not without consequences.

The past year in which his country staggered from one crisis to another has left its mark on Macron, who is now 41 years old. The energetic and driven impression that the head of state invariably leaves behind in public appearances is only a facade. His loved ones know better and are very worried. The politician is exhausted. A burnout is lurking. …

Worst manager ever

… Macron is increasingly dependent on himself when exercising power. The situation is likely to become problematic. Since the start of his mandate, the president has seen many members of his team leave. Substitutes are hardly found. “All Macron confidants have disappeared. He is the worst manager which the world has produced”, Le Parisien says.

Meanwhile the protests of the yellow vests are continuing and the president is risking even more sleepless nights. In the meantime, some have begun to doubt his capacity to defuse the crisis in his country. “I don’t see how the crisis can end. With spring in sight, the yellow vests will soon be organizing barbecues on the roundabouts in Paris”, says a worried friend.

Macron dreams of nipping the unrest in the bud with a measure that produces a “wow effect” and blows everyone off their socks. But his intimates see that gloomily. “If he disappoints, then he is done. And he will disappoint … “

United States prisons horrors


This August 2014 video from the USA says about itself:

Modern Day Debtors’ Prison in the Deep South

An SPLC lawsuit in Montgomery, Alabama, has stopped the jailing of indigent people who can’t pay traffic fines – a modern-day version of debtors’ prison that is finding new life across America. This is Harriet Cleveland’s story.

By Niles Niemuth in the USA:

America the Barbaric

6 April 2019

Rapes, murders, beatings, stabbings, mutilations and arson are rampant. Pleas for help, scrawled in blood, stain the walls from prisoners held in solitary confinement. Fifteen suicides have been recorded in the last 15 months.

This is not the description of a torture chamber in el-Sisi’s Egypt or Bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia. Nor is it about the abuse of detainees at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay or a CIA black site.

These are the nightmare conditions in the Alabama state-run prison system, described in a Justice Department report released this week. They constitute a gross violation of the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

More than 2,000 photos of abuse in one Alabama prison given to the media by the Southern Poverty Law Center in advance of the report’s release depict the gruesome reality of the conditions detailed in hundreds of interviews with prisoners and their families conducted by federal investigators over more than two years.

While particularly horrific, such conditions are by no means unique. They are repeated in different forms in the prisons of every state, county and city across the United States. More than 2.3 million people are packed like cattle into America’s overflowing system of state and federal prisons, local jails and immigration detention camps. Including those on probation or parole, nearly seven million Americans are caught up in what is absurdly called the “criminal justice system”.

The US accounts for more than one-quarter of the world’s incarcerated population. For every 100,000 residents, there are 698 people in detention. More than 540,000 of those held in jail on any given day have not been convicted of any crime. Many are kept in detention simply because they are too poor pay to pay the median bail of $10,000. Another half a million, one in five inmates, are serving long prison sentences for nonviolent drug convictions.

Researchers estimate that 61,000 prisoners are held in solitary confinement on any given day, a form of incarceration that the UN has declared to be tantamount to torture. At least 4,000 of those held in complete isolation from the outside world suffer from severe mental illness. Confinement to these living coffins is known to drive prisoners to suicide.

While debtors’ prisons are officially outlawed, poor workers are routinely held for their debts. A mother in Indiana was detained for three days in February in a squalid jail alongside convicts because of an unpaid ambulance bill, which she had never received in the mail. Such stories are common.

Under the Trump administration, extending the policies developed by Obama, the federal government is waging a war on immigrants, holding thousands of men, women and children in degrading conditions. Some 77,000 people were detained in February for seeking to cross the southern border. Immigrant workers are being hunted down and arrested in their homes and at their work places.

The cruelty of the American government was on full display this week when 280 undocumented workers were detained by federal agents in Allen, Texas. It was the largest such raid in more than a decade.

Then there is the unending wave of police killings, with more than 1,000 people shot, tased or beaten to death every year on the streets of American cities. Criminal charges for police killings are rare and convictions almost unheard of. Cops are given a green light to kill, maim and brutalize with impunity.

With boundless hypocrisy, Democrats and Republicans proclaim their outrage over alleged human rights violations in whatever country the American ruling class is targeting for regime change or invasion. They proclaim one of the most cruel and unequal societies in the world, where the three richest Americans control more wealth than the bottom half of the population, to be a beacon of democracy to the world.

If the conditions that exist in US prisons were exposed in Russia or China, there would be a hue and cry in the press and the halls of Congress for economic sanctions and “humanitarian” military intervention that would resound in the media.

Fifty years ago, a report such as that exposing the conditions in Alabama prisons would have been met, even within sections of the political and media establishment, with shock and demands for action, but today it passes with barely a murmur.

The Democratic Party is silent because it is complicit in the vast retrogression in conditions in US prisons. President Bill Clinton signed the legislation that paved the way for a historic increase in the prison population. The Democrats oversee a prison system in California that was found by the Supreme Court in 2011 to be “cruel and unusual” and in violation of the Constitution.

The upper-middle class, self-obsessed layers in and around the Democratic Party are disinterested. The promoters of the #MeToo campaign in the media and academia have nothing to say about sexual violence in American prisons, nor about the violence inflicted on immigrants fleeing to the United States.

The media has made as little as possible of the report, with no coverage on the major nightly news programs. As with the photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib and the Senate report on CIA torture, there has been an effort to suppress information of what is happening in Alabama. The New York Times and other media outlets have chosen not to publish most of the photos documenting abuse and death.

In the end, this is their state. The conditions of American prisons, and the overall apparatus of violence, is a noxious expression of the reality of American “democracy”. The state apparatus will be utilized in the suppression of social and political opposition to the demands of finance capital. It is the real face of American capitalism.

Elephant kills rhino poacher, lions eat him


This February 2018 video from the Kruger National Park in South Africa says about itself:

This Elephant Calf decided to “protect” it’s Mom by giving mock charges towards safari tourists.

We stayed in Polokwane at our friends’ house. Anton Botha was also our guide.

This might be the Cutest Elephant Attack ever! Baby elephant joins Mom in charge. Funny! This elephant calf decided to join its Mom in a charge towards safari tourists. An incredible video showing how a mother elephant stops her calf from going any closer to spectating tourists. Almost as if she is saying “Don’t talk to strangers”.

An April 2017 video from the Kruger National Park in South Africa used to say about itself:

This might be the Cutest Elephant Attack ever! Baby Elephant joins Mom in Charge. Funny!

This Elephant Calf decided to join it’s Mom in a charge towards safari tourists. The little Elephant tries to keep up and eventually hit the front when it suddenly and (very proudly) gives a warning trumpet towards the tourists!

“It was a very memorable encounter. Our guide thought that there could be a problem as soon as we came upon the group and told us that we may have to reverse quickly to leave them alone. How right he was.”

However, not always elephant attacks in Kruger are so bloodless; and not always the targets are non-violent tourists.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Rhino poacher killed by elephant and eaten by lions

In South Africa, a suspected rhino poacher has cruelly encountered the dangers of nature. He was killed by an elephant and then eaten by lions. A group of five were poaching in the Kruger National Park. One of them was attacked by an elephant and died then.

The other four informed relatives of the victim, who in turn warned the authorities. Park rangers went to the scene of the incident, but because it was getting dark, they couldn’t find the victim. The next day they did find him, but then it turned out that lions had taken advantage of the corpse. The rangers only found the skull and pants of the man.

The national park has indicated in a statement that it is unwise to enter Kruger illegally on foot. “There are many dangers and this incident proves that.” The other four poachers have been arrested, they will be tried.

Big five

The Kruger National Park is located in the northeast of South Africa, along the border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. With over 19,000 square kilometers, it is almost half the size of the Netherlands. All types of the big five are found in the park: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo.

Poachers are a big problem just like in other game parks in Africa. They are often looking for the ivory of the tusks of elephants or the horn of rhinos.