And on a lighter note…Bechet!

November 18, 2006 at 9:29 pm (jazz, Jim D, literature, wild man)

The Priest and I agree that this here blog should maintain a balance between politics and other -lighter- matters. In fact, we are always open to suggestions for light-hearted, or at least, diverting, subjects. The latest James Bond, the latest Martin Scorsese film, for instance. Or maybe why “Torchwood” hasn’t worked; or how it is that “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” is so good. We, at “Shiraz Socialist” positively want people who can comment on these sort of trivial, petty-bourgeois matters. The Priest doesn’t seem very interested, and I have the disadvantage of not knowing very much about contemporary “culture”, beyond such facts as that Fred Elliot was very entertaining, and Mylene (“I’m A Celebrity”) is very intelligent and brave…

Anyway, to take a leaf out of Dave Osler’s blog, ‘Dave’s Part’ (I can’t be arsed to do a link, but you’ll find one on the right), I’m going to do a “Saturday Night Is Music Night” feature, and invite all you lot to participate. I amazed the Priest and Mike (of ‘Mike’s Little Red Page’) by revealing, today, in the pub, that I knew who the “Smiths” were (a popular music ensemble, Your Honour)…

Anyway, I’m afraid that to start this, I will have to go back to my childhood, and the first jazz musician I ever learned to recognise just from his sound: Sidney Bechet. Bechet (who started out as a clarinetist, and continued to play the clarinet throughout his life), was the first jazz player of that strange instrument, the straight soprano saxophone. And until the arrival of John Coltrane, Bechet was the *only* significant soprano-player; all others (and there weren’t that many: Johnny Hodges and Tab Smith being the only obvious contenders) , having to base themselves upon Bechet. He dominated his instrument in a way that Armstrong didn’t dominate the trumpet: on trumpet – even in Armstrong’s time, there were other contenders, like ‘Red’ Allen and Roy Eldridge; in the 1920’s and ’30’s there was no-one playing soprano sax in jazz; or, at least, no-one to match Bechet.

As I’m writing this, I’m listening to Bechet playing “Perdido Street Stomp” with the incompetent Mezz Mezzrow (whom bechet covered-up for) and the great trumpeter Oran “Hot Lips” Page: it’s wonderful. I can thoroughly recommend spending an evening in with Bechet and a bottle (or two) of cheap read wine.; the only danger (as my pal, the clarinetist Norman Field, once warned me) is that the combination of Bechet and wine could cause you to hyper-ventilate.

Philip Larkin was crazy about Bechet (‘Blue Horizon’ was played by a live band at Larkin’s funeral), and wrote this about him:

For Sidney Bechet
That note you hold, narrowing and rising, shakes
Like New Orleans reflected on the water,
And in all ears appropriate falsehood wakes,Building for some a legendary Quarter
Of balconies, flower-baskets and quadrilles,
Everyone making love and going shares–Oh, play that thing! Mute glorious Storyvilles
Others may license, grouping around their chairs
Sporting-house girls like circus tigers (priced
Far above rubies) to pretend their fads,
While scholars manqués nod around unnoticed
Wrapped up in personnels like old plaids.

On me your voice falls as they say love should,
Like an enormous yes. My Crescent City
Is where your speech alone is understood,

And greeted as the natural noise of good,
Scattering long-haired grief and scored pity.

Philip Larkin

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Tinfoil Hat of the Year!

November 17, 2006 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Contrary to what I first thought, it seems the “Vigil” organisation involved in the Newsnight debacle do in fact have a website. Now, that kinda would seem to make them even less credible as clandestine intelligence operatives, wouldn’t it? Particularly as, again, my two favourite secret squirrels Glen Jenvey and Dominic Whiteman have their names are all over it (you hear that, evil-doers? JENVEY and WHITEMAN!).

What’s more, one quote from the homepage of the “global community” that hosts them trumps all of our other contenders and sweeps in at this late stage to take the prestigious Shiraz Socialist Tinfoil Hat of Tinfoil Hats for 2006:

“Back in 1991, a young-man from a far-off country came to the Western-Sahara desert to meet with a group of people. They formed an alliance to establish a global network to form an army to fight the Evil-World to come and to serve for the glory of Jerusalem, the city of GOD!”

Fighting the Evil-World. Oh yes. I kid you not. Check it out.

Newsnight editorial team, I really do hope you’re suitably embarrassed.

(Belated hat-tip for the Vigil www site address: The Neurocentric)

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Newsnight/Vigil/Hizb Update

November 16, 2006 at 12:16 am (Uncategorized)

Just a quick missive to update you all as to what’s happened since my previous post about last night’s risible Newsnight “report” on Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

I claim no credit for this, but Newsnight editor Peter Barron has posted a justification for the report, saying that “Some believed that the film was politically motivated and that we had set out with an agenda to discredit Hizb-ut-Tahrir. That was not the case.”

What I would like to know, then, is why does Peter’s justification not mention the report’s heavy reliance on the shadowy “Vigil” organisation and its two members, Glen Jenvey and Dominic Whiteman? The main complaints that I have seen, revolve around the question as to whether these two, or the organisation they represent, are credible sources of information. I know what I think (I refer you to my previous post) – but why don’t you take a look at Jenvey’s website and decide for yourselves? And whilst you’re at it, ask yourselves a question. If Barron is so confident in the report, then why doesn’t he even try to defend one of the most crucial parts of its content?

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A working class woman writes…

November 15, 2006 at 10:14 pm (Uncategorized)

The ‘Morning Star’ – paper of the old, Stalinist, ‘Communist Party of Britain’ , seems to be in the grip of a faction fight. As far as can be made out, it is between the middle-class cultural relativists who want to go in with the SWP and “Respect” (and, to a lesser extent, Ken Livingstone and his ex-Trot “Socialist Action” advisers), and old-style, working class-based (if Stalinist) socialists.

This simmering dispute arises time and again in the pages of the ‘Morning Star’, and today (November 15 2006), there is a letter from the class-politics/socialist side of the dispute, that I think is worth reproducing. I cannot trace the October 21st letter that this is a response to, but I think we can all guess roughly what it said (and that it came from patronising, middle-class scum)… anyway, here’s the response, as published under the title “Defending my attack on veil” in today’s ‘Morning Star’:

“The 10 women who signed a letter enlightening me (M Star October 21) have, like many more, lost the plot again.

“The point that I was making was that wearing Muslim dress is a symbol showing their unequal status. Linking me to Le Pen in their letter is disgusting. They do this not knowing what I have done throughout my life in the trade union movement, politically, and in the women’s movement.

” I would be surprised if they had ever worked on the shop floor fighting for women’s rights, both in job opportunity and pay and against male prejudice.

“It was my generation which marched and fought politically for a women’s right to choose. We fought both the Establishment and the church, we did not accomodate them.

“It was also we who saw the need for refuges for battered women and who spent many hours raising money to buy property and buy homes, picking up women, sometimes children, at hospitals and on the streets at all hours and helping them with their needs, schools for the children, doctors, sympathetic solicitors and social services.

“I mention this because, knowing that Pakistan has admitted to 4,000 honour killings annually, I cannot be convinced, now that this practice has happened here, that all Muslim women wear their dress voluntarily rather than through family pressure and fear.

“It would be interesting to know if feminist women have provided any help, maybe refuges, for muslim women in such a situation.

“I would like to see Muslim women in work where their dress would not be a safety hazard and to have the pleasure of sports activities.

“Women have the right in this country to look men in the face without fear and as equals and this should be encouraged.

“If Muslim dress is not sexist, what is it for?


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November 15, 2006 at 1:41 am (Uncategorized)

I saw the film last night – after being told it was hilarious. Rather than rolling around holding my tummy with laughter pains.. I thought the film raised a few interesting things about the nature of certain people.. It was shocking what he was allowed to get away with saying some things, I thought that initially, but then I realised there was something more sinister in the people he was encountering – it is funny cos he went to one of the most run down places in the entire film. Where he was in the Hood (if you can call it that) he was surrounded by Black men who were made to look quite threatening – but they treated him with genuine respect.. opposed to the attitude he got from some of the others – there was the constant ‘Welcome to America’ which was said with so much passion and friendliness; But then you had the exposure of blatant Anti-Semitism, misogynism, Homophobia and Racism, which was really disturbing!

Anyhow well done to Sasha – I always thought he was a bit of a racist comic – there are certain things I have seen him do and say on TV.. which I thought pushed things too far – but I can now see he does it deliberately to see if people retaliate or are too polite to confront him. One situation I can remember, was when he was on something like Parkinson and he was sharing the guest list with one of the actors from Goodness Gracious Me – he said something to that actor, which was quite outrageously racist – and the response he got from the actor was an open mouth and raised eye brows – the expression said it all *I can’t believe you can SAY THAT and I’m speechless, cos we’re on Parki*

Has anyone else seen this Borat film I’m going on about – if so, let’s hear whatcha gotta say.

P.S it’s late…

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Vigil’s lies, Newsnight’s shame

November 14, 2006 at 11:10 pm (Uncategorized)

I honestly never thought I would see the day when I was put in the position of having to post something in public defence of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, but having just watched BBC Newsnight, I don’t feel I have a choice.

It was the kind of bog-standard “Jihadi devils in our midst” piece that has been hashed and rehashed over and over again in the gutter press since 9/11 all over the West, and especially since 7/7 in the UK. With a twist.

This particular report relied on supposedly new “secret” evidence from an organisation called “Vigil”, which showed that Islamist organisations in the UK, the Hizb among them, were organising and actively plotting violence in the UK, as well as organising random gang warfare in order to stoke up ethnic tension. Don’t bother trying to find Vigil’s website, they’re really secret squirrels apparently. Except for the fact that not one, but two of these brave men appeared, remarkably without balaclava or voice-over actor, on the report.

The first was Glen Jenvey, a man so free from bias and attached to reality that he calls his own website “Anti-Terrorist News”, and links to several Christian ultra and right-wing sites ranging from the Western Defense Studies Institute (password protected, but it apparently exists to “to facilitate the exchange of ideas and opportunities between U.S. and European individuals and businesses to counter-terrorism and protect Western civilization“… oh, yes), to Pipeline News (motto: “The RIGHT news, RIGHT now”… preach, brothers…). Also the ubiquitous Internet Haganah. So he’s obviously a model of journalistic impartiality.

Anyway, according to the report, Glen hangs around on Islamist websites until the early hours of the morning, pretending to be a Muslim and seeking to “expose” staggering facts such as that Omar Bakri Muhammad has terrorist sympathies. Now, I’ve heard Omar Bakri Muhammad speak in public before, and the “recordings” that Vigil presented didn’t sound right to me, but that’s by the by. Bakri’s organisation Al-Muhajiroun (latterly apparently called Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jamaa’ah) is the nearest thing that exists to extremist street theatre in the UK, with pantomime clowns in toilet roll bomb belts parading around calling for “death to the infidel” whilst being laughed at by passers by. The notion that these halfwits could be passed off as a serious terrorist threat is a joke to anyone with halfway reasonable knowledge of the Islamic political scene in the UK, and surely, surely if I know that then so do the BBC’s researchers.

The other fellow from Vigil was one Dominic Whiteman. He’s a pal of Glen’s who (the wonders of Google reveal) spends a lot of his time writing smug polemics about having “infiltrated” the Tamil Tigers. Funny how they don’t seem to give a toss about him, but there you go. He’s apparently a reliable enough source for BBC Newsnight, so there.

And the attacks on Hizb-ut-Tahrir just made it look all the more weird. For those not in the know, the Hizb are a wacko group that call for a global caliphate – and they do this in many parts of the world. They dissasociated themselves from Bakri over a decade ago. Further, contrary to the Newsnight report, they have no record of violence in the UK, and in that light follow in a long tradition of harmless kooky ranting weirdos in British politics who go back to the flat earthers and beyond.

Dr Abdul Wahid of the Hizb was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman after the report was shown. At least, it was an “interview” in the sense that Paxo yelled and fulminated at Wahid, who appeared to refute all his points masterfully. This included Wahid producing written complaints from a South London Muslim forum about BBC cameras harrassing people outside a mosque, where the report attempted to show that the camera crew had been subjected to violence.

It was an attempted hatchet job by the BBC reporters concerned, and I for one am glad that the Hizb stood up to them.

I have never seen such a disgusting excuse for journalism in my life. In this era of daily attacks on Muslims in the UK, both in written form in the press and in physical form on the streets, for a national broadcaster to commission such a report based on the rantings of right-wing Islamophobic goons, demonstrates journalistic standards worthy of the BNP. Hizb’s website is already stating that they plan legal action, and I say good luck to them. BBC News, you should hang your heads tonight – you have brought shame upon yourselves and your profession.

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No Respect for trade unionism

November 13, 2006 at 11:15 pm (Uncategorized)

“Respect”, the lash-up between the erstwhile ‘Marxists’ of the British SWP, and the Muslim Association of Britain, held an event this Saturday, called the “Organising for Fighting Unions Conference”. As these things go, it was quite big (about 600 people); politically it was terrible, rarely rising above the level of “people are angry and the fighback is beginning”. Perhaps the nadir was an incoherent stream of consciousness from one Jane Loftus, an SWP member on the CWU executive, who seemed to be arguing that the way to combine the political and economic struggles was to disaffiliate unions from the Labour Party…

I attended as a delegate from my union branch: I was in a small minority in being delegated: the vast majority of attendees were there as individuals, representing no-one but themselves (this can be confirmed by checking the “Respect” website, where supporters of the conference whose trade union bodies have actually voted to support are marked with an asterisk: they are very few). What was most noticeable about the event was that:

1/ It wasn’t realy a conference, in the sense of “confering”: there was virtually no debate. There were four lengthy platform speakers per session, leaving little time for contributions from the floor; virtually all the floor speakers were either SWP’ers, or people who the SWp knew weren’t going to say anything contentious;

2/ It wasn’t really a trade union event: few of the platform speakers had anything of significance to say about the state of the British union movement, or the way forward for the working class: they wanted to talk about the war in Iraq, Islamophobia, the veil, the US election results…in fact, more or less anything except trade unionism. The two noticeable exceptions were Paul Mackney of UCU, who at least attempted to discuss the role of shop stewards, and Andy Snoddy of the T&G’s Organising Unit, who gave a detailed practical description of their efforts to organise migrant workers. Snoddy’s contribution was exactly what the event should have concentrated upon: significantly, there was no further discussion of the issues he raised.

The session entitled “Who speaks for trade unionists: the struggle for political representation” was especially disappointing. For a start, there was very little debate on the subject that was supposed to be under discussion (most of the contributions were about Islamophobia and the veil); and what little debate on the subject of political representation there was, was thoroughly dishonest. Let me explain: it is clear that the SWP are in fact in favour of unions disaffiliating from Labour; no-one who listened to the speaches from leading SWP trade unionists (like the afore-mentioned Jane Loftus) could doubt that; and yet they would not argue openly for that position. The reason for this appeared to be a desire to avoid alienating the Labour left. So an opportunity to have an important discussion was lost because the SWP refused to argue for their own politics. They even went so far as to oppose the Socialist Party’s pro- disaffiliation amendment to the “Charter” that the conference was asked to vote on in the final session: again, not because of any principled disagreement, but out of pure opportunism towards the Labour left. Interestingly, the best (and most political) speaker on this topic was John McDonnell. But he came on as a guest speaker, not as part of the “political representation” debate. So, in the end, the conference rejected the call for disafilliation: quite rightly, but without any proper debate and with the conference organisers (the SWP) playing a thoroughly dishonest role.

What was the point of the whole exercise? Don’t ask me; you could try asking the SWP, but I strongly suspect they don’t know either.

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Marks & Sparks

November 9, 2006 at 12:19 pm (Uncategorized)

Brighton activists deface M&S

I was not part of this protest and at the moment don’t intend to get involved in this part of the Palestine campaign, due to not knowing the full details… I know a few years ago I was part of the boycott M&S, due to a quote made

Aiding the economic development of Israel, is one of Marks and Spencers main objectives“. Lord Israel Sieff chairman of Marks and Spencers 1999.

As you can see this is a while ago – and things can change.. I have asked representatives of the PSC to get in touch with the company and ask them if they still espouse of the same stance.. but this has yet to happen and the campaign has continued.

What do others think of this whole issue?

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Dave Spart meets Asterix the Gaul

November 7, 2006 at 5:18 pm (Uncategorized)

Oh dear:


“In 46 BC the captured Gallic leader, Vercingetorix, on the way to his execution, was paraded through the streets of Rome by Caesar to mark the fifth anniversary of his victorious campaign to quell revolt in Gaul and Germania, a campaign which secured the Roman Empire’s European possessions for many years to come.

“On Sunday, November 5, 2006, pictures of Saddam Hussein in the dock receiving the death sentence at the end of a nine month ‘show trial’ were beamed round the world – a world increasingly controlled by a new Roman Empire with Washington DC its centre of power.

“Over two thousand years seperate the ignominious end of Vercingetorix and Saddam Hussein at the hands of an imperial behemoth, yet the parallels are striking. Simply put, both men stood up to the prevailing global power and both were destroyed”…etc, etc, etc.

Read the rest of this politically illiterate gibberish (if you’ve nothing better to do with your time), here.

(Hat-tips: Stan Crooke and Dan Read).

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A voice of humanity, passion… and plain common sense

November 7, 2006 at 2:57 pm (Uncategorized)

For once, the (UK) Guardian has published something decent on the subject of Israel and the Middle East: Israeli novelist David Grossman’s speech to the Rabin Memorial ceremony in Tel Aviv on 4 November. Grossman lost a son during the invasion of Lebanon, but he says:

“The calamity that my family and I suffered when my son Uri fell in the war last summer does not give me any special privileges in our national debate. But it seems to me that facing death and loss brings with it a kind of sobriety and clarity, at least when it comes to distinguishing the wheat from the chaff, between what can and cannot be achieved, between reality and fantasy.

“Every thinking person in Isreal – and, I will add, in Palestine as well – knows today precisely the outline of a possible to the conflict between the two peoples. All thinking people, in Isreal and Palestine, know deep in their hearts the difference between, on the one hand, their dreems and wishes, and on the other, what they can get at the end of negotiations. Those who do not know that, whether Jews or Arabs, are already not part of the dialogue. Such people are trapped in their hermetic fanaticism, so they are not partners.”

The transcript of the entire speech is well worth reading. It’s a powerful rebuke not just to Prime Minister Olmert and the Israeli right, but also to the “destroy Israel”/ “We are all Hizbullah” fanatics of the type we’re all too familiar with in the UK (and whose poisonous opinions are usually all too well represented in the Guardian). Here’s a flavour:

“For more than a hundred years we have lived in a conflict. We, citizens of that conflict, were born into war, we were educated within it , and, in a sense, we were educated for it. Perhaps for that reason we sometimes think that this madness that we’ve been living in for a century now is the only true thing, that it is the life we are destined for and that we have no way, even no right, to aspire to a different way of life. We will live and die by the sword, and the sword shall devour for ever.

“Maybe that explains the apathy with which we accept the total cessation of the peace process, a moratorioum that has lasted for years now, and has cost ever more casualties. That can also explain how most of us have failed to respond to the brutal kick democracy received when Avigdor Lieberman was appointed a senior cabinet minister. It’s the appointment of a compulsive pyromaniac to head the country’s firefighters.

“And these are some of the reasons why Israel, in an amazingly short time, has degenerated into heartlessness, real cruelty towards the weak, the poor and the suffering. Isreal dispays indifference to hungry, the elderly, the sick and the handicapped, equanimity in the face of, for example trafficking in women, or the exploitation of foriegn workers in conditions of slave labour; and in the face of profound, institutionalised racism towards its Arab minority. When all this happens as if it were perfectly natural, without outrage and without protest, I begin to fear that even if peace comes tomorrow, even if we eventually return to some sort of normality, it may be too late to heal us completely”.

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