Tories will leave Afghan girls to their fate

May 22, 2010 at 6:23 pm (Afghanistan, Champagne Charlie, fascism, Tory scum, war, women)

In an pronouncement that will surely bring joy to the hearts of the  Stop The War Coalition and other Taliban supporters, trad-right Tory Liam Fox has made it clear that the new Lib Dem-Tory government doesn’t give a toss about Afghan women and girls:

“In a significant shift from Labour’s foreign policy, Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, said that Britain was not a “global policeman” and emphasised that the mission in Afghanistan was about making British streets safer rather than sending Afghan girls to school(Times 22/05/10)

If you ever needed proof that Tories (and their Lib-Dem bag-carriers) are SCUM, this is it.

Trouble is, large sections of the so-called “left” are equally scummy on this question.

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Artie Shaw, b: 23 May 1910; d: 30 Dec 2004

May 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm (jazz, Jewish music, Jim D)

Shaw  started out as a dance-band sax player and only learned the clarinet when it became necessary in order to get gigs. Nevertheless once he’d started on clarinet his perfectionism ensured that he became a master of the instrument. Benny Goodman (in the mid-to-late-thirties, which is the time we’re talking about) was established as the “King of Swing”, and the greatest clarinetist in jazz, but Shaw challenged him both as a clarinetist and as a bandleader. In my (humble) personal opinion, Goodman was always the more convincing jazz player, thanks to his Chicago upbringing at the feet of Teschmacher, Noone and Dodds.

Shaw’s colourful personal life (noteably his marriages to many glamourous women including Lana Turner) ensured him headlines, but are irrelevant to his place in jazz:

A high-profile success which he would have preferred to have buried in obscurity, aspirations to great art thwarted by commercial popularity, a theme tune called ‘Nightmare‘, eight marriages and a retirement which lasted three times as long as his bandleading career: Artie Shaw’s world was as unconventional as jazz could provide” – Richard Cook, Richard Cook’s Jazz Encyclopedia (Penguin, 2005).

Nevertheless, Shaw was a great player and led some fine bands – not least this one with a string section, plus Billy Butterfield (trumpet) and Nick Fatool (drums):


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UNISON opposes solidarity between Israeli and Palestinian trades unionists

May 22, 2010 at 2:35 pm (anti-semitism, Champagne Charlie, israel, Middle East, palestine, stalinism, unions, workers)

Cross-posted from Eric Lee at TULIP

Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI), which aims to “promote Israeli-Palestinian trade union co-operation and strengthen the links between the Israeli, Palestinian and British trade union movements”, has been banned from attending the upcoming annual conference of UNISON, the giant public sector union.

For three years running TUFI, like many similar groups, had a stall at each year’s UNISON conference, as well as at the conferences of other major trade unions. (This year two major British unions — the GMB and CWU — have specifically invited TUFI to attend.)

But last year, UNISON told TUFI it was not welcome to have a stall at its conference. Initially, UNISON claimed that TUFI had requested the stall too late, but later changed the line to say that TUFI was not welcome because of the “security threat”. Apparently there were some concerns for the safety of Jewish members of the union following the Gaza conflict.

After the conference — at which TUFI held a very successful fringe meeting — UNISON promised that it was all a great misunderstanding and everything would be fine this year.

In fact the union’s deputy general secretary, Keith Sonnet, told a room full of trade union and Jewish leaders exactly that last fall.

So TUFI submitted its request for a stall in early December 2009 expecting to be able to attend — and was shocked to hear from UNISON’s Sonnet on 4 May 2010 that the union is “unable to offer you a stall/stand in June” because “we have no ongoing work with the Trade Union Friends of Israel nor are we affiliated to the organisation“.

UNISON, he wrote, has decided this year to only offer stalls to organisations UNISON is affiliated to, or campaigns with.

This is an outrageous attempt by the pro-Tehran wing of the labour movement to kick out advocates of a two-state solution in the Middle East — which remains the solution advocated by UNISON and the TUC. It is a part of the campaign to sever relations between British and Israeli unions, which is part of a broader campaign to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state.

This is not a trade union agenda. This is the agenda promoted by the murderous regime in Iran.

Sonnet is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC). The PSC advocates the Iranian regime’s line of a one-state solution — a Palestinian state ruled by Hamas, with Israel wiped off the map.

If you read what TUFI actually stands for and what it actually does, it is obvious that the only people who would deny it the right to participate in union events are those who want the elimination of the Jewish state, who support the solution advocated by Tehran and its terrorist clients, Hamas and Hizbollah.

Such a view has no place in the trade union movement. The Iranian regime is hostile to everything we believe in; it imprisons and executes trade union activists. Last week it hanged Farzad Kamangar, a teacher trade union activist.

The Iranian regime spreads terror throughout the region and now through its proxies in the PSC it’s reaching into the labour movement to persuade unions to exclude anyone who disagrees with their line.

Trade unionists everywhere — and not only in Britain — must call on UNISON to reverse its decision, to welcome those who advocate peace and a two-state solution, and to reject Tehran’s line.

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“I’m (re-)joining the Labour Party”

May 19, 2010 at 11:07 pm (Jim D, labour party, unions, workers)

Liberal Democrat special conference
Liberal Democrat special conference to endorse the deal with the Tories: Labour MP for Bassetlaw John Mann greets Liberal Democrat party members arriving at the NEC, Birmingham, 16/05/2010.

My job involves talking to rank-and-file trade unionists every day. I’ve been struck by how many of them are saying that, in the light of the general election outcome, they’re going to join (or re-join) the Labour Party.

Other, anecdotal and poll reports seem to confirm this trend (even granted that some of them may have been put about by the Labour Party). Can any readers confirm this from their own experiences? The Labour Party is, apparently, reporting “thousands” of applications to join from former Lib Dem voters and members.

And surely – if this is true – the serious left now needs to re-orientate back to the Labour Party?

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Hank Jones, 1918 -2010

May 18, 2010 at 12:32 am (jazz, Jim D)


“Hank Jones all but defines urbanity in the jazz idiom. Hardly any of his records are individually well known as such, and he has played through a career which has been carried off in a kind of continuous shadow: even when he he has been in a high-profile gig, the spotlight has never seemed to be on him. Restraint and fine taste have marked all of his music, but that suggests a rather dry, uninvolving musician: fairer to say that Hank’s immaculate touch and quiet ingenuities always deserve the listener’s finest attention.”

-Richard Cook:  Jazz Encyclopedia (Penguin, 2005)

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Willie Walsh: an “over-reaction”?

May 17, 2010 at 10:06 pm (Jim D, unions, workers)

Strange, isn’t it, how BA boss Willie Walsh thinks that restrictions on flying through dangerous ash-clouds are an “over-reaction“, but outlawing a strike  that’s been democratically endorsed in a ballot by the vast majority of employees is OK because 11 (that’s right: 11 out of 11,000) spoiled ballot papers were not announced by the union.  And that court ruling is not an “over-reaction.”

We have to now consider: is it possible to have a legal strike in Britain?

Workers Liberty has this to say.

A commenter on The Times website says this:

william cleo wrote:
Numerically overwhelming and morally legitimate strike ballots are now constantly being overriden by the Courts on technical grounds.

If the same stringent rules were applied to General Election ballots as appear to be applied to election strike ballots we should have no government at all.

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Thailand: an education from Dave’s Part

May 17, 2010 at 9:34 pm (blogging, Jim D)

If – like me – your knee-jerk reaction to the Thai crisis is to support the “red shirts”, but you don’t really know much about Thailand or the issues at stake, then Dave’s Part will be an education.

This is blogging at its best.

Dave starts off with the analysis of Giles Ungpakorn, a Thai/British academic who fled to Britain after the 2006 coup d’etat, and is associated withh the SWP. Ungpakorn’s analysis is that the “red shirts” are an unambigiously progressive movement and that the PAD yellow shirts are a “proto fascist group supporting the aristocracy.”

But a correspondent, Les Abbey, who (it turns out) played “a very small part in the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Lisbon“, takes issue with Ungpakorn, arguing that:

“So, the line being peddled by Giles Ungpakorn over at IS or whatever it’s called now-a-days is that the UDD red shirt movement is part a peasant based class struggle against the Bangkok aristocracy while the PAD yellow shirt movement is a proto fascist group supporting that aristocracy.

“You could almost sell that line except the red shirts are fighting for and financed by Thaksin Shinawatra. Now Shinawatra has gone into exile to avoid a two year jail sentence for corruption while prime minister and has had much of the proceeds of the sale of his telecom company to a Singapore government owned company confiscated by the courts due to among other things failure to pay tax and hiding the true ownership of his shareholding.

“What should be avoided is comparing this man with Chavez. The more accurate comparison is with Berlusconi. While in power, which he obtained by buying off the old and most corrupt gangster run political parties in Thailand, he put his family and friends in most of the powerful positions in the country. He turned the Moslem independence movement in the south from a low level insurgency into a full blooded war because he wanted to copy Blair and Bush. He corrupted the business government relationship even more than usual which is saying something. He enacted a regime of police killings against small time drug dealers probably finishing off about a thousand of them. And this is just the tip of the iceberg…”

I don’t like Les Abbey’s repeated attacks on “Trotskyists” but as by that term he seems to mean the SWP and its Thai grouping, I’m not that worried. It’s clear, reading the correspondence that follows Dave’s opening remarks, and Les Abbey’s comments, that readers of Dave’s Part have had the unusual experience of engaging with someone who speaks with authority and knows what they’re talking about.

Top quality blogging!

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Exorcism for Change!

May 17, 2010 at 7:27 pm (Conseravative Party, Max Dunbar, religion)

You’re probably aware that Conservative high-flier and demon-purge charity campaigner Philippa Stroud failed to win her Tory target seat of Sutton and Cheam in the recent election.

Not to worry! She has been made a special advisor at the DWP.

I look forward to some interesting policy announcements from that government department.

Perhaps long-term jobseekers will need to submit to an exorcism if they are to continue drawing benefit.

Maybe new incapacity benefit claimants will be subject to a medical test involving a ducking stool and a pond.

And I wonder if being demonically possessed means that you count as two people under housing benefit rules?

And you thought the Flexible New Deal was bad!

I warn you not to be ordinary. I warn you not to be young. I warn you not to fall ill. I warn you not to get old.

– Neil Kinnock, June 1983

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Eye of Marx, Toe of God

May 15, 2010 at 8:45 am (crap, religion, Rosie B, Uncategorized)

Thought for the Day on Radio 4 contravenes the Trade Descriptions Act as its blended platitudes about how we should all be nicer to each other and bad things happen aren’t something you can chew on for very long.  However, about 10 days ago someone, I can’t remember who, did actually grab my attention.  First of all he said the name “Eagleton”, then he said he’d been reading something Professor Prolific has been writing – evidently his new book about Evil – and how he’d gone from interpreting the three witches in Macbeth as revolutionary socialists overthrowing the old order (that would have been in his Marxist days – what a perverse reading of the withered hags) to thinking they are a bunch of evil nihilists wanting destruction for destruction’s sake (that’s in his present Christian guise, and a standard reading borne out by the text).  Well, anyone can change their mind about a literary work – nah they can’t, it’s Eagleton, and he’s up to no good.

I don’t want to read his latest so I can denounce it as vapour but Anthony Grayling has saved me the trouble by tasting the stew Eagleton has cooked up in his cauldron from random ingredients:-

He [Eagelton]  sets off on one of those complexifying journeys, like the route of a pinball bouncing backwards and forwards among a thicket of pingers, from William Golding to St Augustine, Macbeth to Pseudo-Dionysus, original sin to the Holocaust, Shakespeare to Freud, Satan to Thomas Mann, Arendt to Aristotle, and so copiously on – a verbal pinball ride among the entries in the telephone book of Western culture, to tell us what evil is. But do not expect, by the end, a conclusion, still less a definition, nor even a summary. Eagleton has been too long among the theorists to risk a straightforward statement. You have to grasp at fragments as you bounce among the pingers, not always quite sure whether he is agreeing or disagreeing with this or that author, even whether he is still paraphrasing an author or speaking with his own voice. That’s a technique, of course.

Yeah, the shifty sod.

As we are dealing with Eagleton here, note that this is of course not a mish-mash of inconsistencies, as it appears to be; this is subtlety and nuance. It is, you might say, nuance-sense.

I chose the same bits to quote as Butterflies and Wheels, for the very good reason that they are witty and apt.  Grayling goes on (read the lot – it’s an elegant hatchet job):-

The notion that evil is non-rational is a more significant claim for Eagleton than at first appears, because he is (in this book as in others of his recent “late period” prolific burst) anxious to rewrite theology: God (whom he elsewhere tells us is nonexistent, but this is no barrier to his being lots of other things for Eagleton too, among them Important) is not to be regarded as rational: with reference to the Book of Job Eagleton says, “To ask after God’s reasons for allowing evil, so [some theologians] claim, is to imagine him as some kind of rational or moral being, which is the last thing he is.” This is priceless: with one bound God is free of responsibility for “natural evil” – childhood cancers, tsunamis that kill tens of thousands – and for moral evil also even though “he” is CEO of the company that purposely manufactured its perpetrators; and “he” is incidentally exculpated from blame for the hideous treatment meted out to Job.

You can see where this leads: with other ways of defining deity conveniently beyond any possible meaning that can be attached to the notion, the religionists and their fellow-travellers are forever protected from challenge to and criticism and refutation of religious ideas and beliefs.


When Shakespeare was writing about witches he was living at a time when people believed they did have actual powers that could hurt and harm.   Eagleton’s statements on God are an incantation that summon what he no doubt thinks is a Cloud of Unknowing but are in fact a medium’s vapour of ectoplasm, a magician‘s puff of smoke.

Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw. . .
Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

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Coalition of the Damned

May 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm (Conseravative Party, David Cameron, Lib Dems, Max Dunbar, religion, religious right, Tory scum)

Comparing David Cameron to Disraeli, Peter Oborne declared that the new PM has ‘a chance to change Britain, to reshape the political landscape and to turn the Conservatives into the progressive party that New Labour never became.’ His article is indicative of the general impression that Cameron has in some way modernised the Tory Party. Even the perceptive Kammo agreed that ‘he’s completed the task of transforming modern Conservatism and of once again attaining office.’

The argument goes like this. The Conservatives lost two elections that they fought on Daily Mail headlines. Cameron realised this and, as leader, he has tried to reclaim the centre ground from Labour. The easy ride Cameron has had in the media has reinforced the impression that he has indeed made the Conservatives a moderate and reasonable political force. Labour’s cry of ‘same old Tories’ was dismissed as scaremongering from a government scrambling for a propaganda line. A closer examination proves that the image of a Conservative Party at ease with the twenty-first century is just that.

Last week I wrote about Philippa ‘Pray the Gay Away’ Stroud, rightly rejected by the voters of Sutton and Cheam. The blogs and social networking sites hummed with activity when the Observer made this revelation, but no other paper followed it. Twitterers demanded to know why the fact that a prominent Tory candidate tried to exorcise demons from addicts and gay people was met with silence yet when Gordon Brown made a minor gaffe in Rochdale the world seemed to go mad for a second. As Nick Cohen explained, a servile media didn’t want to offend the UK’s new boss.

Yet Stroud is just one visible signifier of the Conservative dark heart. Far from isolating extremists in the Tory Party, Cameron has surrounded himself with them. It’s common yet ignored knowledge that he left the EU’s moderate conservative group to ally with fringe nutters and SS fetishists. The Big Society policy was quickly exposed as the sinister Victorianism that it was. Less attention is paid to his friends in the UK’s Christian right.

Like Islamic Forum Europe, the Christian religious right in this country doesn’t run on its explicit beliefs – it knows voters would reject them. There’s a group called the Christian Legal Centre that generates coverage for high-profile victimology cases like the nurse who wasn’t allowed to wear a crucifix at work. It’s run by Andrea Minichiello Williams, who is also behind Christian Concern for Our Nation, an ally of Tory wingnut Nadine Dorries in her campaign to reduce abortion time limits. According to Sunny Hundal: ‘CCFON isn’t a normal Christian organisation. Williams believes that abortion should be illegal, homosexuality is sinful and the world is 4,000 years old.’

The chairman of the Alpha Course (like Cameron himself, it’s less liberal than it sounds) has given at least £50,000 to the party. Thirty-seven election candidates were members of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, set up by the hugely influential Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home. The Christian Legal Centre even works with the Alliance Defence Fund, the US religious right group, which counts Eric Prince, theoconservative founder of mercenary army Blackwater, among its biggest donors. (The clippings on Blackwater don’t do it justice – you have to read Jeremy Scahill’s essential investigation.)

If religious extremism doesn’t particularly bother you, take a look at the political extremism of the Young Britons Foundation, which trains parliamentary activists and whose research director used to be Cameron’s chief of staff. The YBE advocates abolishing the NHS and sends its members to residential camps that include training in sub-machine guns and assault rifles. As Chris Huhne said (this was before the election): ‘The YBF’s tentacles reach deep into the shadow cabinet and show the influence of the extreme anti-NHS, pro-torture, neocon wing of the party.’

And this is the regime that Nick Clegg is propping up. Shameful.


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