We here at ‘Shiraz’ really don’t want to intrude into private grief, especially when so many thin-skinned comrades like Johnny Game-boy and Dickie “intellekshull” Seymour might get upset (and they’re upset so easily, the poor dears)…but…
…It seems that the crisis in the SWP is going from bad to worse. But we at Shiraz wouldn’t agree with the CPGB in giving support to the Rees faction (not unless we really hated him and wanted to fuck him up once and for all): no, our position is REVOLUTIONARY DEFEATISM.
Poor John Rees is being blamed for the SWP’s humilation at the hands of Galloway and his coterie of small businessmen and Islamo-fascists. But -surely – Smith and Callinicos went along with that at the time? And denounced those of us who used the word “communalism”?
A classic case of “revolutionary defeatism”: that means we hope that both sides inflict maximum damage opon each other.
Scenes from the battle for the SWP, with John ‘Basil’ Rees (in real life an expert swordsman) playing Sir Guy of Gisbourne (not the Sheriff of Nottingham, as is widely believed). Martin Smith as The Man In The Iron Mask.
The following is a statement from the Executive Committee of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers.
The Executive Committee of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers mourns the murder of Majiid Karim an executive member of the GFIW
As a continuation of human and trade union right violations in Iraq, terrorists have committed another heinous crime on Thursday, 26 / 11 / 2009. Brother Majid Karim, member of the Executive Committee and the head of the internal relations died when his car exploded. The enemies of democracy had attached improvised explosives to his car that led to his death.
The deceased had worked actively to organize, in the public sector, despite the anti union legislation150 of 1987, issued by the former regime of Saddam Hussein that banned workers from joining unions in the public sector. Our late colleague had contributed actively seeking to unite the trade union movement in Iraq.
The GFIW demands that the Iraqi government and its security authorities conduct an urgent investigation to uncover the circumstances of this criminal incident and bring criminals to justice in order to receive punishment.
Glory and eternity for the martyrs of the Iraqi working class.
the General Federation of Iraqi Workers
27 / November / 2009
And there are some people – like ‘Workers Power’, and (maybe) the SWP – on the British “left” who support these killers of workers…
Further to Champagne Charlie’s post, there was more about the Bad Sex in Fiction Award on Saturday’s Today programme at 8:55am. The two novelists interviewed, Howard Jacobson and Lionel Shriver, agreed that if you want to write sex scenes, you don’t write them graphically.
Howard Jacobson:- I do desire, I don’t do the what goes where kind of sex. [You can’t put it more succinctly than that.]
Lionel Shriver:- I think they make the mistake of being geographical about it. After all, if you were going to describe what’s going on between two people when they had dinner you wouldn’t want to write “he picked up his fork, he had a piece of salmon, he dabbed his mouth with a piece of napkin.”
Geographical is spot on (so to speak – when writing on this subject everything turns into a double entendre). Lionel Shriver then went on to say:-
“I’ve had readers indicate that they thought a given book of mine was full of sex. Actually there is no literal sex acted out in the book but it is sexy. The intercourse happens in the reader’s mind.”
I’ve only read Shriver’s We Need to Talk about Kevin, an intelligent page-turner of a novel, and she did convey the kind of sexual relationship the parents of the murderous Kevin enjoy. In fact, a theme of the novel is to show, to the most extreme degree, how having kids screws up your sex life. Satisfied lovers turn into frazzled parents of difficult, demanding creatures who have invaded your love nest.
Howard Jacobson thought the mistake that the writers on the Bad Sex short list made was “not of being gross, not of being ribald or coarse but actually trying to write too beautifully about it. The person who is going to win Monday night because he’s been too literary, too elegant and too well mannered about it.”
Howard Jacobson writes beautifully himself but doesn’t do graphic passages of sex between characters you are supposed to take seriously and sympathise with. His sex passages in Kalooki Nights, are oblique and perverse (the scenes are in Buchenwald, between Ilse Koch and her Jewish victim and I found them disturbing to the point of not wanting to read them at all). In Act of Love he described an orgy that was so miserable you wondered why anyone had shown up for it.
So writers can do successful comic sex, e.g Kingsley Amis in One Fat Englishman .
At the end of Chapter 10 the anti-hero, Roger, has got his love object to dispose of her child for an hour or two.
“Conticuere omnes,” Roger was saying urgently to himself half an hour later, “intentique ora tonebant. Inde toro pater Aeneas sic fatus ab alto: “Infandum, regina, iubes renovare dolorem; sed. . .” No, it’s. . .Hell: colle sub aprico celeberrimus illic lucus. . . Trouble with the damned stuff it’s all chopped up into lengths so you have to know the beginning of each line and never get a clue out of what’s gone before. Oh God – hic haec hoc hic-haec-hoc yes yes yes now hunc hanc hoc three huises hoc hac hoc right his hae ha…. Ha? Ha ha ha horum his his? That can’t be right, can it? No, of course, it’s huic, you idiot. Get on with it – hi hae haec then straight on to the Greek irregulars esthio and good old blosk-moloumai yes now back to hic hoc haec hos has hos three horums. . .’
What Roger was saying to himself might have struck a casual observer, if one could have been contrived, as greatly at variance with what he was doing. In fact, however, the two were intimately linked. If he wanted to go on doing what he was doing for more than another ten seconds at the outside it was essential that he should go on saying things to himself – any old things as long as the supply of them could be kept up.
There’s good comic sex and plenty of bawdy in English writing, where it’s plain exactly what’s happening. There’s also eroticism eg the King James translation of the Song of Songs and John Donne’s poetry. That again deals with desire rather than the what goes where, and that’s what seems to work when writing of sex between lovers who the reader is supposed to respect.
An op ed I wrote for the Irish Daily Star which was published today. The report was published this afternoon. More to follow on the report later. It can be downloaded here. Even after the Ryan report last May and the Ferns Report in 2005, the contents of the Dublin Diocese report, the scale of the cover-up, will shock Irish society. Bishops in Dublin colluded with child abusers, protecting them and hiding them, enabling them to prey on the innocent. Children were deliberately sacrificed to protect the Church. Dozens of priests and members of the clergy were involved. Worst… [Read more]
Yesterday the Tories were making a lot of noise about the alleged influence of the extreme Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahir in two independent Islamic schools, and the alleged ‘fact’ that the schools had received £113,000 between them in funding from the government’s Preventing Violent Extremism fund. The schools – one in Slough and the other in Haringay, had also not been “properly” registered or inspected by Ofsted, said Cameron.
Gordon Brown and schools secretary Ed Balls hit back, accusing Cameron and his education secretary Michael Gove of “playing politics” with education and of getting their facts wrong. No “anti extremism” public funds had gone into either school; the schools had been inspected in 2007 and had been found to be meeting the required standards. Balls, in a letter, claims that the 2007 and subsequent inspections found no evidence “to support allegations that the schools are teaching antisemitic or anti-western values” or were using public funding to “further Islamist aims”, as Gove had alleged.
This is, of course, all a smokescreen: note what Balls does not deny: that Hizb ut-Tahir (via its front organisation the Islamic Shakhsiyah Foundation) set up both schools, and still runs one of them (the Slough school, where the head teacher/proprietor, Farah Ahmed, is either a member or very close supporter of Hizb). Meanwhile, Haringay Council have stated that the school in their borough has written to them, “stating that it no longer has any links with any of the individuals alleged to have connections with Hizb ut-Tahir” (my emphasis - CC) .
Cameron and Gove got it wrong about the £113,000 coming from the Preventing Violent Extremism fund; the money actually came from the Pathfinder fund to pay for nursery education (confusingly, part of the PVE fund is also called Pathfinder – which is presumably the cause of Cameron’s mistake). But the fact remains that schools with a strong link to the vicious, racist clerical fascists of Hizb-ut Tahir are not only allowed to exist, but are actively encouraged and have have received state funding in Britain today.
Yet Cameron and the Tories appear to have now shut up about the matter, meekly admitting their (minor) mistake about the Pathfinder fund. Why?
Could it possibly be that with the line of attack over the Prevention of Violent Extremism fund pulled from under him, Cameron was loath to pursue the far more important issue of why religious nutters and racists are allowed to set up schools in the first place? After all, Cameron and Gove’s only objection to New Labour’s academies programme is that it doesn’t go far enough and too many restrictions are placed upon prospective sponsors; like New Labour, they’re all in favour of faith schools; and now they’ve discovered the so-called ‘Swedish model’, whereby all manner of parents groups, charities and religious nutters will be allowed to set up schools with a minimum of supervision.
Michael Gove’s Tory conference speech on education policy was well described by the education commentator and working teacher Francis Gilbert; note Gilbert’s comment that under the Tories “every crackpot fundamentalist group – from extreme Islamists to creationist Christians – will be setting up educational institutions”: I think that comment alone explains why Cameron and Gove have gone all quiet about Hizb ut-Tahir…
“Throughout his speech, he referred to the Labour initiative of academies as a panacea for our educational ills. If in power, the Tories would enable any school to become an academy. In this sense, this flagship policy is no different from Labour’s.
“What both parties have not mentioned though is that the academy programme is far from a proven success; while there are some good ones, increasingly Ofsted, parents and teachers are blowing the whistle on some pretty terrible academies. There are currently 40 academies that are failing to meet the government’s benchmark figure of 30% five A*-C grades at GCSE. In other words, a high proportion of these so-called great schools are really sink schools. Since Gove has promised in his first 100 days to sack the managements of such failing schools, he could find himself in the embarrassing position of disbanding a great many of the very schools that he wants to see more of.
“Most troublingly, his promise to create 20,000 extra school places by enabling parents, charities, religious groups and businesses to set up schools at the drop of hat could well mean that every crackpot fundamentalist group – from extreme Islamists to creationist Christians – will be setting up educational institutions. Gove, like this current government, is very supportive of faith schools, sending his own children to one. I believe this will create massive secular divisions in our society at a time when we really need schools to bring our society together, not fragment it even more.”
The self-appointed guardians of speaking truth to power have hosted a long piece by reporter Jonathan Cook, who compares the recent Medialens book with journalist Nick Davies’s Flat Earth News. Naturally (it would not have been published on the site otherwise) Cook raves about the two Davids’ masterpiece of conspiratorial binary thinking while dumping on Davies’s reality-based look at how the media works.
Don’t read Cook’s entire piece, it is tedious beyond belief, but in it he does make one interesting point about this year’s expenses scandal. Here it is:
It is interesting that the revelations about the British MPs emerged in the immediate wake of a far more important scandal involving the banks’ extortion of western governments to save themselves from liquidation, and the later feathering of their own nests from public finances. Whether it was the goal or not, the trickle of reports of parliamentary graft over several months very effectively distracted attention in Britain both from the banks’ shocking behaviour and forestalled a tentative debate about the profound crisis facing corporate capitalism.
In addition, a Chomskian might suspect that the timing of the attack on our elected representatives, using information leaked to the establishment’s favourite newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, had a beneficial consequence for the embattled finance sector. With their own integrity in question, British MPs and ministers lost the moral high ground and with it any hope, admittedly already feeble, of turning on the bankers. With the parliamentary system in crisis, the banking system faced little threat of significant reform, which would have required an unprecedented assertion of political will.
Even efforts to make the banks more accountable lost momentum during this period. In fact, while our elected representatives were being flayed by the media, the bankers quietly went back to business as normal. By personalising the issue of graft and directing popular anger at a few individuals – at first, the most visible bankers and then many MPs – the economic system itself was given a reprieve from a serious debate about its merits and failings.
This does make a certain amount of sense to me. The spectacle of a wealthy elite being bailed out by the public after gambling the future of the economy on other people’s money looked like becoming a catalyst for real democratic reform of capitalism. Then came the Torygraph‘s revelations – and the public and commentariat, stampeding with anger about Fred the Shred and the con of the free market, obediently turned round and stampeded in the opposite direction. Relatively minor public sector graft has overshadowed the greater crimes of the banks.
The expenses scandal could have broken at any time. Lembit Opik MP claimed in the Observer that ‘The expenses system was set up as a salary substitute. MPs were told that overtly.’ Welcome to human nature! (We always say we want our politicians to be human – yet we hate it, when they are.) Even the worst offenders, like David Wiltshire MP, have ripped off very little compared to the Telegraph’s owners, a pair of reclusive twins who live on a tax haven so they don’t have to contribute to a society their newspaper purports to represent.
There was a lot of big talk about cracking down on bonuses and tax havens when the markets fell. But now the champagne pyramids are back up in Square Mile bars and, at least in this country, populist reforms have been quietly forgotten. It’s business as usual, except it’s on your tab. It will be business as usual until the next huge disaster.
What does this tell us about the press? Chomsky said the role of the media was to manufacture consent. In the UK, it looks more like the manufacture of outrage.
A few years ago I was talking to Dave Hirsh, of ‘Engage’, the left-wing campaign and web-site against anti-semitism. Dave was limbering up for a debate against the anti-Israeli academic Illan Pappe (who Dave wiped the floor with, by the way) and I came along to offer moral support and to intervene from the floor. In the course of our convesation I said something like, “of course there are some people who will accuse anyone who criticises Israel of anti-semitism.” Dave immediately asked me, “Who?; when was the last time you heard anyone denounce criticism of Israel as anti-semitism?” I had to admit that I never had – but everyone I knew said they had, so I assumed that I had simply led a sheltered life.
I began pondering Dave’s point and realised that legitimate, political criticism of Israel (as opposed to crazed conspiracy theories and calls for the total destruction of the state of Israel) is not denounced as anti-semitism by any serious people, left right or centre. And yet it has become a trusim – an article of faith almost - on much of the “left” that it is. I myself used to habitually preface speeches at the trades council and in the Labour Party on the subject, with some sort of disclaimer like “I’m not one of those people who thinks any criticism of Israel is anti-semitic.” But, as Dave pointed out: who are “those people”? Do they actually exist? Or are they a sort of anti-Zionist’s urban myth?
Similarly, British and European people who criticise Israel are frequently described as being “brave.” What form does this “bravery” take? What threat are they under? What dangerous and unpopular arguments are they putting forward? This has never been satisfactorily explained to me.
I was reminded of all this when I read the following by Peter Wilby (a commentator I am fast taking a dislike to) in the current New Statesman:
“The Israeli lobby
“The journalist Peter Oborne is a brave man. The inevitable accusations of anti-Semitism are already flying around after his Channel 4 programme on Britain’s pro-Israel lobby. Given 20th-century history, anti-Semitism is just about the most damaging epithet that can be used against anybody, far more so than Islamophobia, and Isreal’s defenders rarely hesitate to use it, even against critics who are Jewish.”
Wilby goes on the rehash the tired and vacuous cliche that some anti-semites have, historically, supported the creation of the state of Israel.
But what I want to know from Wilby (and I sent a comment to the NS website asking this, but when I last checked it hadn’t been published) , is who, precisely, has made these “inevitable” claims against Oborne and his programme (which, like the Guardian piece accompanying it clearly stated, by the way, that “there is no conspiracy, and nothing resembling a conspiracy”)?
I’ve been checking responses to Oborne’s programme, and his Guardian piece, especially checking pro-Israel publications and websites, and vigilant campaigners against anti-semitism (not always the same thing, by the way): I have come across plenty of criticism of Oborne’s programme and article – but not one single allegation of anti-semitism. No doubt some ultra-Zionist nutter has made such an accusation, somewhere. But most of the Zionist and Israel-defensist reaction has been along the lines of David Cesarani in the Graun‘s Comment Is Free:
“So what is Oborne’s beef about pro-Israeli activists? First, he complains that they operate semi-covertly. Although he disavows any imputation of a conspiracy, that is what his charge amounts to. But the same can be said about Michael Ashcroft, Rupert Murdoch, the arms industry, the Saudi Arabians, and the list can go on.”
Cesarani also makes the point that although few – if any - have accused Oborne of anti-semitism, plenty have seized upon his programme and article to make outrageous conspiritorial accusations about sinister ”Israeli” (sic) and ”Zionist” (sic) influence: just look at the comments on Channel 4′s website and the Graun‘s ‘Comment Is Free.”
So, Mr Wilby: where, exactly, are these “inevitable” accusations of “Anti-semitism” that are “already flying around”? Or could they just be a myth perpetuated by smug, lazy, unthinking “anti-Zionist” commentators like yourself? Unidentified flying allegations, even.
I’ve missed the centennial of Johnny Mercer’s birth by a few days (he was born on 18 Nov 1909): sorry!
He was one of the Twentieth Century’s great song lyricists, and was also a fine singer himself. He recorded as a vocalist with Paul Whiteman, Wingy Manone, Benny Goodman and Jack Teagarden:
He dueted with Teagarden on what is surely the best jazz Christmas record of all time (not that there’s a lot of competition), “Christmas Night in Harlem.” For a Southern white guy, he was also remarkably enlightened and free of prejudice: he just loved music and couldn’t give a damn about skin pigmentation. When Nat Cole was having a hard time from racists, Mercer rallied round (though, it must be said, Cole was signed at that time to Mercer’s ‘Capitol‘ label, but I like to think he’d have done it anyway).
Mercer’s most famous song is “Moon River” , written (with Henry Mancini) for the film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Personally, I have to say I don’t find it a very engaging tune or lyric. But I’m glad it brought Johnny some wealth and security towards the end of his life.
I much prefer Blues In The Night, his 1941 masterpiece, written with Harold Arlen. Here’s the Benny Goodman version, with Peggy Lee on vocals. The rather strange falsetto scatting following Peggy’s vocal is by trombonist Lou McGarity (how do I know that? Am I a sad git or what?); Benny himself, on clarinet, briefly returns to his wailing Chicago roots in the closing bars of the number:
Ha’way the lads! Top notch entertainment over at Dave “Mr Politically Correct” Osler’s place.
It’s that “po faced” Stroppy I feel sorry for, mind.