Tony Curtis (June 3, 1925 – September 29, 2010)

September 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm (Champagne Charlie, cinema, good people)

Born Bernie Schwartz, working class Bronx kid.  For all his fame and popularity, an underrated actor. And, by all accounts, a decent human being.  The New York Times obit is here.

As ‘Shell Oil Jnr’, wooing Marilyn a la Cary Grant.


An atypically serious role, with Sidney Poitier.


Probably his finest performance.

In 1998, he founded the Emanuel Foundation for Hungarian Culture, and served as honorary chairperson. This is for the restoration and preservation of synagogues and 1300 Jewish cemeteries in Hungary. He dedicated this to the 600,000 Hungarian victims of the Holocaust. (see his Wikipedia entry)

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Matgamna on the present state of Labour

September 29, 2010 at 8:42 pm (AWL, Jim D, labour party, socialism, unions)

Maybe the bourgeois press isn’t that wide of the mark…


The AWL’s Sean Matgamna is surprisingly up-beat about recent developments and the prospects for the “reclaimation” of the Party:

What is new about Ed Miliband’s Labour?

That New Labour would be shaken up by electoral defeat, and that defeat would allow “old Labour” and trade-union discontent with what Blair and Brown had done to the Labour Party to emerge, has been obvious for a long time.

That the shake-up would within four months of the general election and New Labour’s defeat produce the transformations expressed in the election of Ed Miliband – the trade unions’ candidate – as leader of the party, and in his speech to conference on Tuesday 28 September, is nevertheless startling. The speed, scope, and (in a limited sense) completeness of the change is startling.

Although the press has not reported this, and as we write even the delegates have not been formally told the result of the card vote, we understand that the conference voted, on trade-union initiative, to restore to unions and local Labour Parties the right to send (a limited number of) motions to annual conference.

This reverses the decision of 2007 conference to end completely the old practice of having conference act as a forum and parliament of the labour movement, and to turn it into a rally instead.

That 2007 decision had been a sealing-off and completion of the rule changes introduced in 1997 that destroyed the structures that had allowed the rank and file and the affiliated unions to function – however inadequately – in politics.

The reversal of the 2007 decision (again, assuming the report is true) can be made the beginning of a reconstruction of the Labour Party, and its reclaimation by the trade unions and Labour Party members.

 Read the rest here.

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State of the Race: Yes, It’s Ed Miligeddon!

September 27, 2010 at 6:02 pm (anonymous, elections, labour party, Max Dunbar, Tory scum)

Reasons why the Ed Miliband victory is not the disaster everyone says it is:

1) David and Ed are actually very similar in terms of policy. The media have exaggerated what differences there are to bring life into what has been a dull and protracted contest.

2) In any case, there is strong public support for redistributive and leftwing policies that the Westminister village doesn’t see.

Michael White brings a little perspective:

As I noted yesterday, [Ed] Miliband keeps protesting that ‘there’s nothing very leftwing’ about attacking investment bankers’ bonuses or the terms of the coalition’s timetable for deficit cuts – on which the coalition is likely to have to retreat, I suspect.

Opposing free schools? Many sensible people opposed them and Michael Gove’s claim that he would release huge pent-up demand has (so far) proved illusory. A graduate tax? Ditto, though I happen to think he’s got it wrong (so far).

Defence of universal benefits from bus passes to child benefit? Ditto again. A higher minimum wage and a high pay commission to address rising levels of inequality? Sounds good to me. More unequal societies tend to be unhappier ones.

Behind all this lies what Polly Toynbee rightly calls the imaginary ‘middle class’ routinely presented by the Mail, Telegraph and Express as earning much more than it does. Articles repeatedly suggest incomes and lifestyles far above what folk actually earn.

In real life, the median income is around £25,000, the median household income £36,000. In the mid-market Tory papers readers can often be forgiven for thinking it is at least double those figures.

It matters because it leads to an over-emphasis on, for instance, the 40% rate of income tax – which most people don’t pay. As Robin Cook once reminded his Today programme tormentor – John Humphreys, I suspect – that ‘more of your listeners are interested in the rate of benefits than in the top tax rate’.

Still, the Daily Mail gets to the heart of the matter: Ed Miliband is having sex with a woman to whom he is not married.

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Now That’s What I Call Sibling Rivalry!

September 26, 2010 at 7:59 pm (Champagne Charlie, cinema, labour party)

David and Ed…

… ain’t got nothing on this (Boris Karloff, The Black Room, 1935):

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Ed and David talk things over

September 25, 2010 at 5:02 pm (Champagne Charlie, elections, labour party)

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Breaking Broken Britain

September 25, 2010 at 3:37 pm (Anti-Racism, immigration, Islam, Max Dunbar, Tory scum)

If Britain has an official narrative it’s of the Great Decline. This once great nation degenerated into a Third World country where the good are paralysed by political correctness and the lazy and evil live high on the sweat of the few remaining working men. The story of how we went from the spirit of the Blitz to a selfish, hedonistic wasteland has captivated highbrow conservatives, policy units and libertarian bloggers alike. In some ways this miserable romance has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It has hardwired self-pity, parochialism and resentment into the UK’s political discourse. It’s a climate where mainstream newspapers publish the most fantastical conspiracy theories and incitements to racial hatred while clerics make high-profile pronouncements about the End Times like doomsayers wailing in the street.

A key part of the Great Decline narrative is immigration. The hatred for immigrants in our culture has now become a national pathology. Migrants in reality tend to be dispossessed and vulnerable yet they are somehow responsible for taking both our jobs and our benefits, depressing wages, and destroying social cohesion. If they come from Islamic countries they are said to be imposing their native culture upon this small island. It’s this last point that Edmund Standing focuses on in his report ‘Debunking the ‘Islamisation’ Myth‘. ‘Are we now to seriously believe,’ he asks, ‘that Britain is finished because a religious minority, many of whom are poor and powerless, and very few of whom are found at the heart of our economy and our political process, has arrived on our shores?’

Standing begins by putting the Great Decline narrative in historical context, tracing it from Melanie Phillips back to earlier apocalyptics like Spengler and the Nazi theorist Max Nordeau. He then goes on to knock down the conspiracy theories of the contemporary British right. Standing takes apart the demographic basis for the Eurabia idea, and could have pointed out that it rests on the sinister fallacy that future generations will believe exactly the same things that their parents did, as if belief and culture were hammered into the genetic code.

Standing’s an atheist and considers Islam itself to be harmful and stupid. A lot of people will object to his report for these reasons alone, but for my money it’s a stronger, finer attack on the current bigotry against British Muslims than anything produced by the far left.

(Image via John Rentoul)

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Miliband on the Labour Party

September 25, 2010 at 3:10 pm (Champagne Charlie, class, elections, history, labour party, Marxism, socialism, strange situations)

“…(T)he Labour Party will not be transformed into a party seriously concerned with socialist change. Its leaders may have to respond with radical-sounding noises to the pressures and demands of their activists. Even so, they will see to it that the Labour Party remains, in practice, what it has always been – a party of modest social reform in a capitalist system within whose confines it is ever more firmly and by now irrevocably rooted. That system badly needs such a party, since it plays a major role in in the mangement of discontent and helps to keep it within safe bounds; and the fact that the Labour Party proclaims itself at least once every five years but much more often as well to be commited not merely to the modest amelioration of capitalist society but to its wholesale transformation, to a just social order, to a classless society, to a new Britain, and whatever not, does not make it less but more useful in the preservation of the existing social order.

“It is very likely that the Labour Party will be able to play this highly ‘functional’ role for some time to come, given its overwhelming preponderance as ‘the party of the left’ in the British political system. There is at present no party or grouping which is capable of  posing an effective challenge to that preponderance; and this helps to explain why so many socialists in the Constituency Labour Parties, in the trade unions (and for that matter in the Communist Party) cling to the belief that the Labour Party will eventually be radically transformed. But the absence of a viable socialist alternative is no reason for resigned acceptance or for the perpetuation of hopes which have no basis in reality. On the contrary, what it requires is to begin preparing the ground for the coming into being of such an alternative: and one of the indispensable elements of that process is the dissipation of paralysing illusions about the true purpose and role of the Labour Party.”

(The excerpt above is from the Postscript to the second edition, April 1972).

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The Minor Drag: Fats Waller (a quiz)

September 25, 2010 at 2:24 pm (Anti-Racism, history, jazz, Jim D, United States)

…or was it ‘Harlem Fuss’?

Above: Waller on the right, and Condon (second from left).

Eddie Condon’s description of this recording session (the morning after a major drinking session with Fats Waller, whom he was supposed to be ‘minding’ for the record company), on 1st March 1929:

“We stopped at the Riverside Towers and I got my banjo. At ten minutes before twelve we walked into the Leiderkranz Hall at Fifty-eighth Street and Lexington Avenue. Mr Adams (boss of the Southern Music Company – JD) was waiting for us.

“‘I see you are punctual,’ he said to me. ‘Congratulations.’  To Fats he said, ‘Well, Mr Waller, what is it to be this morning?’

“‘ Well, Mr Adams,’ Fats said, ‘this morning I think we’ll start with a little thing we call ‘The Minor Drag.’  It’s a slow number.  Then we got a little ol’ thing for the other side we call – he hesitated – ‘Harlem Fuss’…

“…When we finished Mr Adams came of of the control-room. He didn’t say anything. We listened to the playback.

“I had a difficult time believing what I heard because it sounded wonderful. I looked at Mr Adams. He was smiling.

“‘You see,’ he said to me, ‘what careful rehearsal will do? You have performed your job excellently.’

 “I walked over to Fats. ‘What are we going to play for the other side?’ I whispered. ‘What is Harlem Fuss?’

“‘It’s just a little blues in a major key,’ he said.

“We made it. When the master was cut Mr Adams was delighted.

“After that the Southern  Music Company, with careful planning and preperation, brought out the record on a Victor Label with the titles reversed: ‘Harlem Fuss’ was called   ‘ The Minor Drag’ and ‘ The Minor Drag’ was called ‘ Harlem Fuss.’ I got my seventy five dollars.”

Quiz question: what was racially/socially ground-breaking about Fats Waller’s “Harlem Fuss/ Minor Drag”  1929 recording session?

Prize: any Eddie Condon or Fats Waller CD you wish copied from my collection and posted to you free of charge.

PS: Stroppy remembers Jimmy Hendrix – like Waller a short-lived, wayward musical genius – 40 years on.

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Labour leadership: Ed by a whisker?

September 25, 2010 at 2:56 am (elections, Jim D, labour party, strange situations)

Susan “Grimmer Up North” Press keeps her ear to the ground on Labour Party matters, so I trust her judgement on this:

…I should be at work today but I am dosing myself up with antibiotics and paracetamol in a bid to ward off a disgusting lurgy which came from nowhere to knock me for six.

Bugs or no bugs, I will be in Manchester tomorrow for Labour Party Conference and I plan to be in the conference hall when the announcement is made re next Leader.
Not because I am a gung-ho supporter of either Miliband, but because it is an Occasion and one which should be very interesting. A journalist is never off duty…..
Reading between the lines in today’s papers, it is clear that the David Miliband camp is already briefing for defeat. Mandelson’s poisonous interventions at the weekend probably put the last nail in the coffin.
But even had he stayed quiet there is no mood in the Labour Party for Blairism Mark Two.
The media are already sharpening their claws and risibly suggesting Ed Miliband’s politics are closer to Ralph’s than his brothers. If he does get elected no doubt the Mail will be tagging him as a Marxist. Not so. To put it mildly
Ed Miliband represents a strand of social democracy which is firnly in the centre. Under Blair, we moved so sharply to the right it can be painted as far more radical than it is.
However, I have long said it was a key task to stop David Miliband and see off the Mandelson Campbell cabal . I cannot for the life of me fathom what the likes of Dennis Skinner were doing when they endorsed him.Cruddas, showing his increasing disengagement from the grassroots, also chose the wrong horse.
Could be of course I am utterly wrong and the elder Miliband will storm to victory. But somehow I doubt it…..


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Dagenham: the film may be crap, but these women were (and are) heroes!

September 24, 2010 at 10:57 pm (cinema, class, comedy, Feminism, Jackie Mcdonough, women, workers)

Dagenham girl strikers
Eileen Pullan, Gwen Davis, Sheila Douglass and Vera Sime: heroes of the Dagenham sewing machinists’ strike (see the Graun‘s story). Top: the  1968 strike vote.
Trade unionism has not been portrayed well by film and TV over the years. By far the best two films involving trade unionism, I’m All Right Jack (a British comedy from 1959) and On The Waterfront (a US melodrama from 1954) are both determinedly anti-union. More typical are weak British comedies like Carry on At Your Convenience (don’t ask), and the 1960’s TV sitcom The Rag Trade.
By all accounts, Made In Dagenham, which goes on general release in November, is more in the tradition of The Rag Trade than of On The Waterfront. If we’re lucky (and the less than enthusiastic advance reviews prove wrong) we may get something approaching the hilarious brilliance of I’m All Right Jack.  But I’m not hopeful: Made In Dagenham is by the same people who did the “feel-good” Calender Girls.
Never mind: it’s based upon a true and inspiring story: that of the women sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant, whose three week strike  in 1968 forced the company to concede something approaching equal pay with male machine operators (though full equal pay at Ford wasn’t achieved for another two decades), and was a major factor in the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1970. These women were heroes, defying not just the Ford bosses, but also many of their male workmates and reactionary forces within the unions as well (though the T&G did give them official support and plant Convenor Bernie Passingham played a good role). Their determination and solidarity deserves to be better remembered: if this film – however lightweight – helps do that, then it will have been worthwhile. The surviving strikers who’ve seen it say the film isn’t actually that bad…
Here’s a factual account of what really happened, and its political consequences. And here’s what Elizannie, a blogger with family connections to Dagenham, has to say. Meanwhile  Dave asks, “why now?”

I’ll review the film itself as soon as I can. Meanwhile, here’s the trailer:

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