Crosby, Cameron and their smokescreen

July 25, 2013 at 9:22 pm (Conseravative Party, corruption, David Cameron, Jim D, profiteers, Tory scum)

Shiraz Socialist‘s crack team of high-price legal eagles tell me I have to be careful about what I write about Lynton Crosby, David Cameron and tobacco packaging.

So I’ll start by simply welcoming Andrew Marr back to our screens:

Marr asks Cameron about Crosby at 06.15

For months Cameron has been evading questions about Crosby’s influence over tobacco policy, repeating the mantra that he’s never been “lobbied” by Crosby. On the Marr show on 21 July (above) he continues the evasion, repeatedly refusing to say whether he’s discussed plain cigarette packaging with Crosby, instead denying that Crosby had “intervened” on tobacco policy.

On Monday Sheila Gunn, John Major’s former press secretary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, “Lynton’s job is to go through all different policies with David Cameron and advise him whether or [not] they are going to be vote winners or losers … But the choice of verb ‘intervene’ – just like at prime minister’s question time last week he said he hadn’t been lobbied by Lynton on this. The fact that he wouldn’t expand on whether or not they’d talked about it and his body language – he just looked very uncomfortable.”

On Tuesday Crosby himself issued a statement denying that he had ever “discussed” tobacco packaging with Cameron – a word (“discussed”) that Cameron had spent months avoiding using.

Then, immediately following Crosby’s statement, Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood, rejecting Ed Miliband’s call for an enquiry, stated that the Conservative Party had drawn up “principles of engagement” with Crosby: “Against this background I do not see what purpose would be served by the enquiry that you propose,” Heyward wrote to Miliband.

But it turns out that the “principles of engagement” is an undated document that has simply appeared out of the blue sans provenance, just as the heat is being turned up on Cameron. Jon Trickett, Labour’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office has now written a searching letter to Heywood, politely but firmly asking for some answers:

Dear Sir Jeremy,

Thank you for your letter of 23 July in response to letters from me and from Ed Miliband, which I think you will acknowledge leaves a number of questions unanswered. It is notable that you have chosen not to give your own judgement on any of the substantive issues raised with you.

Significantly, you do not say – just as the Prime Minister has not said – that the tobacco lobbyist Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister about tobacco policy. Nor do you say that there is no conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s role advising the Conservative Party and his role advising a number of commercial organisations who have an interest in Government policy.

Thank you also for passing on “the principles of engagement between Lynton Crosby and the Conservative Party” – which are undated. The journalist Michael Crick has quoted a Conservative Party source as saying “The principles of engagement capture what was agreed at the time Lynton was hired… verbal agreement on the principles of engagement was made at the time Lynton was hired. This was written down in the last couple of days and published today.” It therefore appears that this was not properly drawn up by civil servants in order to avoid conflicts of interest in Government, but hastily cobbled together after Mr Crosby had become a political embarrassment to the Conservative Party.

In addition, there remains a significant lack of clarity over who Lynton Crosby’s clients are, and whether either the Government or the Conservative Party have any idea who they are.

The Prime Minister’s spokesman reportedly “said that he had been unaware that Mr Crosby’s British company had Philip Morris Ltd, whose brands include Marlboro, as a client” (The Times, 13 July 2013). And on BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme last Wednesday, the Conservative Party Chairman Grant Shapps said that “It is a matter for Lynton Crosby who his clients within the company are”. Yet on BBC 2’s Newsnight last Tuesday, the Health Secretary suggested that he was privy to details of Mr Crosby’s clients when he said that public health was an area Lynton Crosby never advised the Prime Minister on “because his company has clients in that area”.

Clearly, if the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party are unaware of who Mr Crosby’s clients are – which is what the Chairman of the Conservative Party says is the case – then you will agree that the principles of engagement are unenforceable and worthless. In the interests of transparency Mr Crosby’s company’s full client list should be published immediately.

I would be grateful if you would answer the questions below.

• Were you or any civil servants involved in any way in the drawing up of the terms of engagement published yesterday? 

• Did you know that the principles of engagement which you sent me had only been “written down in the last couple of days”? 

• Did you know about them before this week, and when did you first see them? 

• Do you have any evidence at all that these principles have been followed?

• Are you personally satisfied that Lynton Crosby has had no discussions with the Prime Minister or other Ministers about tobacco policy, alcohol policy, NHS policy or fracking policy?

• Are you personally satisfied that there is no possibility of a conflict of interests between Mr Crosby’s roles as an adviser to the Conservative Party and an adviser to commercial organisations?

• Do you know who Mr Crosby’s commercial clients are, and in the interests of transparency will you ensure that a full list is published immediately?

Given the continued public interest in these matters I am releasing this letter to the press.

Yours sincerely,

Jon Trickett MP

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Readers will notice that I’ve completed this post without once using the word “liar.” Our legal eagles should be proud of me – JD

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ISN and other no-hopers issue statement: phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse

July 24, 2013 at 9:15 pm (Champagne Charlie, ex-SWP, political groups, statement of the bleedin' obvious)

The sheer banality of these people knows no bounds…

This joint statement was agreed by the International Socialist Network, Anticapitalist Initiative, and Socialist Resistance delegations to recent unity talks. They met to discuss the formation of a united revolutionary tendency.

Delegates from Socialist Resistance, the Anticapitalist Initiative and the International Socialist Network came together on Sunday 7th July to discuss the next steps on the road to forming a united, plural and heterodox revolutionary tendency on the left in Britain.

These discussions were born out of the recent crisis and split in the Socialist Workers Party, which led to the formation of the International Socialist Network, and also inspired debate all across the left in Britain and internationally on how we should move away from the top down and monolithic conception of revolutionary organisation that has proven so damaging in recent years. All of the delegations agreed that they were committed to building an open, democratic and radical left, which encourages free thinking, is built from below and can reach out to a new generation. Wherever necessary delegates tried to make clear the terrain of the debate within their own organisation to the other delegations. This was important for encouraging an open and honest culture in the discussions. It also made clear that the groups participating were not, and did not want to be, monolithic in their approach to revolutionary politics, but even in our own groups we were already attempting to practice pluralism.

Initially discussion focused on a document from Simon Hardy and Luke Cooper (ACI), ‘what kind of radical organisation?’. Discussion was wide-ranging but focused on the questions of building new left parties, trade union and social movement activism, and democratic organisation. Alan Thornett (SR) had produced a response to the document that focused on the difference between a broad party project and a revolutionary Marxist tendency, as well as raising some differences over how the question of democratic organisation was put across in the document.

After two delegate-based discussions of revolutionary unity it was agreed that the debate must be opened out to our wider networks and memberships, and a date for a joint national meeting was agreed for October. There was also a useful discussion of practical collaboration: plans floated for a joint 12 page publication, a common perspective for student and youth work in the autumn, working together to make Left Unity a success, and developing a joint BME caucus. For more information on these discussions then contact any one of the three different organisations involved, SR, ACI, and the IS Network.

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A Comrade comments:

They want to build a “heterdox” open and democratic left which “encourages free thinking”, unless you’re free thinking about their distinctly orthodox position on imperialism in which case, comrade, you’re shit out of luck. 
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I don’t see how this is building an organisation “from below” – is such a thing even possible? What does it mean? – when it’s a meeting of sect veteran Alan Thornett, former Workers Power hacks Simon Hardy and Luke Cooper, and whoever was sent from the ISN steering committee (former SWP hack and noted imbecile Tim Nelson/former SWP bigwigs China Meiville and Richard Seymour, etc.)
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It’s a unity talk conducted “from above”, i.e. by the leadership of SR and ISN and the de facto leadership of the ACI. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just nonsensical to claim this is in any sense “from below”.
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It’s not surprising that the three groups could agree this joint statement: it’s comprised entirely of ambiguous rhetoric about democracy and vague buzzwords. Reading it I was reminded of Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language:”
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“This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse.”
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On a more positive note, I suppose it’s a step forward that they’re being “open and honest” about the debates within their own organisations and it’s good that there’s going to be some sort of wider organisational debate and some sort of joint conference, it’ll be interesting to see if the conference will be all-member or delegate based.

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Wadjda: a critique of multiculturalism

July 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm (children, cinema, civil rights, Cycling, Feminism, film, Human rights, liberation, Middle East, misogyny, multiculturalism, secularism, women)

By Andrew Coates (reblogged from Tendance Coatsey)

Wadjda: Joyous and Free.

Wadjda is  pioneering film by Saudi Arabia’s first female director, Haifaa Al-Mansour. She  is also the first person to shoot a full-length feature in the country itself.

The picture is  wonderful. It also raises serious political and cultural issues.

Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a 10-year-old. She is referred to in reviews as  ”sparky” and “rebellious” and, somewhat patronisingly, a “sweet scamp”.

She reminded me of Marjane Satrap in Persepolis – someone  with the humour and wit to stand up for herself against the dead hand of religious pressure.

In that film Marji faced the power of Khomeni’s Iranian Islamists.

In Wadjda  the heroine has to live with the Saudi educational system and the male-dominated world of orthodox Islam.

The latter appears in the trap her mother is caught in: a life dependent on the good will of her husband, a daily commute provided by a Pakistani driver who speaks broken Arabic, and  her fears about him searching for another wife.

For her daughter we see  the continuous surveillance of her dress, and the sudden appearance of the religious police when Wadjda is seen playing around with a boy.

The scenario revolves around Wadja’s efforts to buy a bicycle.

Bikes are, naturally, not seen as suitable for modest women.

Listening to “satanic” rock music she plots to raise the cash. But selling football team colour bracelets does not get her far.

Her efforts also get ensnared by  her pious head mistress – whose constant enforcement  of the Islamic ‘modesty’ codes go against the fibre of the young rebel.

Wadjda hears that winning a  Qur’an  knowledge and recital competition could deliver her the money.

She suddenly becomes pious and sets out for victory.

As her project gets underway there are plenty of moments with a  political message.

With an admiring friend, a young boy, they pass a celebration of a suicide bomber’s death. He remarks that the martyr will  be enjoying 72 virgins in paradise.

Wadjda looks at him wryly and says,”Does that mean I’ll get 72 bicycles in heaven?”

It’s hard not to relate the film to recent discussion about multiculturalism.

It is the right thing to defend plural cultural identities, and, specifically, groups targeted by the Church and King mob of the English Defence League.

But do we want to defend those who wish to introduce a moral police like that of Saudi Arabia?

The curriculum followed by Wadjda is present in this country, in Saudi linked  schools – right up to their textbooks. It’s hard not to imagine that the religious policing that goes with it is not present.

Wadjda shows  how women can be joyous and free.

Like the Iranian film by Jafar Panahi Offside it expresses the universal hopes for human freedom.

And it does so beautifully.

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Dennis Farina

July 23, 2013 at 10:07 am (cinema, cops, film, Jim D, RIP, TV, United States)

Ex-cop turned actor, star of Law & Order and Hill Street Blues and, by all accounts, all-round good guy, Dennis Farina is dead.

Here he is with Gene Hackman in Get Shorty (1995):

New York Times obit here

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“It was pitiful for a person born in a wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble and hearty outpourings of loyalty”

July 23, 2013 at 1:18 am (Beyond parody, insanity, Jim D, Monarchy, republicanism)

“It was pitiful for a person born in a wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble and hearty outpourings of loyalty toward their king and Church and nobility; as if they had any more occasion to love and honor king and Church and noble than a slave has to love and honor the lash, or a dog has to love and honor the stranger that kicks him! Why, dear me, ANY kind of royalty, howsoever modified, ANY kind of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably never find it out for yourself, and don’t believe it when somebody else tells you. It is enough to make a body ashamed of his race to think of the sort of froth that has always occupied its thrones without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-rate people that have always figured as its aristocracies — a company of monarchs and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions…

The truth was, the nation as a body was in the world for one object, and one only: to grovel before king and Church and noble; to slave for them, sweat blood for them, starve that they might be fed, work that they might play, drink misery to the dregs that they might be happy, go naked that they might wear silks and jewels, pay taxes that they might be spared from paying them, be familiar all their lives with the degrading language and postures of adulation that they might walk in pride and think themselves the gods of this world. And for all this, the thanks they got were cuffs and contempt; and so poor-spirited were they that they took even this sort of attention as an honor”  – Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

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For republicanism!

July 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm (France, history, Ireland, Jim D, republicanism)

Now is the time to remember that all true socialists must be republicans.

By Patrick L. Quinlan

In this brief sketch of James Connolly I avoided the present-day [1922] developments in Ireland. If I must refer to them at all it will be in this foreword. In the early days of the war Arthur Griffith was for passive neutrality while Connolly was actively opposed to any participation in the war. MacNeill was opposed to the 1916 rebellion as were Griffith and others now prominent in the Irish Free State but Connolly said “We must fight or be disgraced for all time. ” When the final decision to revolt was made it was Connollys influence and vote that forced it. He was severely wounded and taken prisoner on the fourth or fifth day of the fight- ing and* contrary to the solemn promise made in the House of Commons by the then Prime Minister* Herbert Asquith* that Connolly would not be shot on May 12 1916 he was propped up on a stretcher and murdered by a British firing squad in violation of the civilized rules of warfare and the humanitarian codes that have done much to soften the harshness and savagery of the world. Of all the men who played, a prominent part in the Socialist movement and who contributed something vital to its literature and something permanent to its structure, few are as little known as James Connolly. It is true because of his dramatic and tragic end the name of Connolly became universally known, and to a certain extent almost equally universally misunderstood.

Misled by the press and their own lack of industry, many people think Connolly was a man of narrow views, with no cosmopolitan grasp of life, and a leader of a forlorn hope in a fight to establish an old brand of petty parochialism with a new and strange name. It was the contrary. His vision was large and. bounded by no parochial horizons. If he saw the world and its all-embracing class strug- gle, he did not shut his eyes to the elemental facts that are the warp and woof of the universe. There are people who view the forest, but cannot distinguish the trees. But James Connolly was not of that race. His vision embraced and perceived the little as well as the great things. He was a nationalist in the best and highest sense of that much- abused and very much misunderstood word. As he once happily wrote it in The Worker and in The Harp: “We can love ourselves without hating our neighbors.’ His sympathy for the Irish nationalist movement, while the sum of many noble mens ambitions and ideals was to Connolly the manes, if not the beginning of a great end, the turning point of the road that leads through oppressed nations to the liberation of all peoples — the human race. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sami Ramadani: pro-fascist enemy of the working class

July 22, 2013 at 4:06 pm (fascism, Galloway, Guardian, iraq, Jim D, Middle East, reactionay "anti-imperialism", unions)

The Guardian (no doubt under Seumas’ influence), once again gives space to this thoroughly dodgy and deceitful character, this time supporting Hezbollah, in a ‘head-to-head’ with Israel’s Tzipi Livni (and – just for the record- we don’t have any time for her, either).

Ramadani has form:

He supported the fascist Iraqi “resistance” that killed and tortured trade unionists and Communist Party members. He now, like his sponsor, Seumas Milne,  gives  (not very “critical”) support to Assad in Syria.

Above: Ramadani chums up to Galloway and gives ‘critical’ support to Assad

Here’s an account of a debate in November 2004, on the Iraqi trade union movement, from Workers Liberty:

About 50 people — many more than usual — were at the most recent monthly meeting of Iraq Occupation Focus to hear Sami Ramadani and Ewa Jasiewicz on “Trade unionism in occupied Iraq” (London, 9 November).

The first speech, Ewa’s, was informative and sober, but entirely detached from the debate which dominated the rest of the meeting. Ewa described the activity of the Southern Oil Company Union in Basra, an IFTU affiliate with which she worked for some months; expressed doubts about Communist Party control in most of the IFTU and the IFTU’s “ambiguous” stance on privatisation; and mentioned the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions of Iraq, which she saw as “more grass-roots” than the IFTU but “naive” in its implacable opposition to what it calls “Islamic terrorism”.

Sami Ramadani’s speech covered the same ground as the widely circulated letter he wrote to Alex Gordon, an RMT rail union activist who has done a lot of work in support of Iraq’s new trade unions, after Subhi al Mashadani, general secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions, was shouted down at the European Social Forum.

Ramadani agrees that al Mashadani should not have got a hearing at the ESF, though he would have preferred a walk-out to shouting him down. The Communist Party of Iraq, says Ramadani, is collaborating with the occupation, and the IFTU under CP leadership “diverts the Iraqi working class from the main contradiction”. The IFTU are “Quislings”.

The meeting became mostly a debate between Ramadani and myself. I argued that for supporting the Iraqi labour movement against the Islamist militias.

The CP’s “realpolitik” — trying to get the best deal by working with whatever power-that-be it thinks most amenable — is wretched. But a trade union with bad politics is a very different matter from a Quisling organisation. Quisling was a fascist!

We want a free Iraq with free trade unions and no occupation. For a labour movement to build itself up, using the de facto openings for free organisation that exist now, and then play a central role in ending the occupation, is a possible route to that. For the labour movement to be crushed as “Quislings” in the cause of anti-imperialism, and then to hope for the triumphant Islamists to allow free unions to emerge at a later stage, is not.

Not just the IFTU but all the main trade unions and communist groups in Iraq oppose the Islamist militias. Activists in Britain should not dismiss their views.

Several other speakers favoured Sami Ramadani’s view. Some said that “collusion” by the IFTU with the occupation was something qualitatively worse than “bad politics”. (So class collusion is venial, but national apostasy is a mortal sin?)

Others reckoned that really there is no labour movement in Iraq — only a shell, only union offices. (So what about the struggles and organisations which Ewa Jasiewicz had described? So, if the union movement is weak, and some of it is more hopeful sketch than reality, then it doesn’t matter if it is branded as fascist and crushed?)

Some believed that the Communist Party of Iraq became fascist when it joined the Ba’thist government in the mid-1970s. (The same as the Social-Democratic Party of Germany was deemed by the ultra-left Stalinists of 1928-33 to have become “social-fascist” when it collaborated with the ultra-right Freikorps in 1919?). Or that any labour movement that supports an occupation becomes fascist. (So when it accepted the Treaty of Versailles the Social-Democratic Party of Germany became… fascist? The All India Trade Union Congress, led by the Communist Party of India, became fascist when the CP line during World War Two was to support Britain?)

The clincher for many people seemed to be the argument that the imperialists say that the Iraqi militias are Islamist and terrorist, and would clash with each other in civil war if the occupation troops vanished tomorrow. “We must combat their propaganda”.

So when the rulers of the West were saying that the USSR was a tyranny, we should have insisted that it was a paradise? When the US said that victory for the NLF in Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia would lead to police states, we were duty bound to deny it? An “opposition to imperialism” which can sustain itself only by pretending that any force opposed to the USA must be benign is made of thin stuff!

Sami Ramadani concluded by saying flatly (as he did not in his letter to Alex Gordon) that the IFTU is “not a working-class organisation”. He “reserved judgement” on the Federation of Workers’ Councils and Unions, believing that their recent denunciation of Islamist attacks on women was “disgusting” at a time when Fallujah was under attack by US forces.

The debate must continue.

Ramadani denounces Iraqi trade unions, in a previous Guardian article, here.

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‘Comrade Delta’ (aka Martin Smith) and his friend Gilad Atzmon

July 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm (anti-semitism, Asshole, conspiracy theories, jazz, Jim D, mental health, misogyny, sexism, SWP)

“The sex-pest and the anti-Semite” – JD

Now that the serial sex-pest ‘Comrade Delta’ (aka Martin Smith) has finally “resigned” (or has he?) from the SWP, it seems an appropriate time to remember one of his more outspoken supporters. Now, I’m aware that it’s not always fair to damn people on the basis of those who, unbidden, speak out in their support. But in this case, you’d have thought that Mr Smith might have taken steps to publicly repudiate such foul support: to the best of my knowledge, he never has.

I reproduce the following distasteful (and, frankly, unhinged) piece from Atzmon, only because of that, and because there still seem to be some idiots about who continue to argue that the moderately talented sax player Gilad Atzmon, once promoted so vigorously by the SWP under Mr Smith’s leadership, is not an anti-Semite:

Gilad Atzmon.jpg

SAX OFFENDER vs PROGRESSIVE RAPISTS
DateFriday, January 18, 2013, by AuthorGilad Atzmon

Once again leading UK AZZs , their Sabbath Goyim (Laurie Penny and Richard Seymour) and Islamophobic Hasbara outlet Harry’s Place have been caught together in bed. The exact same Judeocentric tribal coalition that, a year and a half ago, was formed to wreck my career (and failed) is now pursuing Martin Smith AKA Comrade Delta, former secretary of the UK SWP (Socialist Workers Party) who, they insist, is a ‘sex offender’.

Between 2005-10 I worked closely with Martin and the SWP. At the time I was the SWP’s official Kletzmer. I toured with Martin, performed and spoke in quite a few of those Red gatherings. I met some very nice people in the SWP, but I also came across their many Jewish gate-keepers and tribal operators. But the one thing I never detected in any of those political gathering was a trace of libidinal enthusiasm let alone sexual desire. I assumed at the time that these militant young Marxists had decided to postpone having sex until after the revolution.

However, it didn’t take long to realise that Martin Smith was not being pursued because he is a ‘sex offender’ – he surely isn’t – no, our so-called ‘progressive’ tribals chase Smith because he is a Jazz lover and an enthusiastic fan of my music. They harass him because he gave me a platform in spite of the Jewish demand to ban me. They want to bring Martin Smith down simply because he didn’t obey his tribal masters. So If anything, it is Martin who is the rape victim in this saga – he is punished because he refused to bow down to the tribal junta.

(You can read the rest here if you’ve a strong enough stomach…)

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Mel Smith

July 20, 2013 at 3:45 pm (comedy, Rosie B, snooping, song, spoofs, television)

Mel Smith has just died.

He was great in sketch shows and also in the more straight role of Colin in Colin’s Sandwich.

Some videos of him and the Not the Nine O’Clock News gang doing their spoof songs.

Gob On you (Punk)

Headbanger (Metal)

I Like Trucking

Country and Western

Update:- Obituary
Mel Smith, who has died at the age of 60, had a perfect face for comedy. Hangdog and irritable, Smith’s often had the demeanour of a man who had just been trapped in a lift for 12 hours with an angry bluebottle. His gift for comedy is rightly recognised, but a look at his 40-year career reveals a more versatile talent.

The son of a bookie, Smith was born in Chiswick in 1952 and attended Latymer Upper School and Oxford University where he became president of OUDS. At the Oxford Playhouse, he directed a production of The Tempest which led to his being hired by the Royal Court as an assistant director.

This was the Royal Court of the mid-Seventies, a tremendously fertile period when playwrights such as David Edgar and Caryl Churchill broke through. However, Smith’s career stalled after an unhappy spell at the Young Vic and he decided to take over his dad’s betting shop. Then he got a call from John Lloyd.

Lloyd had created a satirical sketch show, Not the Nine O’Clock News, with a short-but-already-troubled history. It was 1979 and, in a year of a General Election, the BBC had pulled the pilot episode because they feared it took too overtly political. Lloyd decided to recast the show, and that was when Smith was asked to join.

Smith’s performances throughout the series’s four-year run are uniformally good. He played it beautifully straight as the Hush Puppy-wearing professor who has reared a rather urbane gorilla called Gerald. He was also the terribly polite customer who wanted to buy a “gramophone”, enduring the derision of Rowan Atkinson’s shop assistant with a stiff-upper-lip decency.

Although these were only three-minute sketches, Smith had the talent to completely immerse himself in the characters he played and make them memorable.

Of course, Not the Nine O’Clock News also starred Smith’s long-term collaborator Griff Rhys Jones. The pair formed the TV production company Talkback (which they eventually sold for £62million) and created Alas Smith and Jones, another successful BBC comedy show. It became famous for the pair’s wonderful quasi-philosophical face-to-face dialogues, which were filmed in profile.

But aside from these hit series, Smith should also be praised for the now largely forgotten Colin’s Sandwich. In this 1988 sitcom he played Colin Watkins, a British Rail clerical worker who dreamed of becoming the next Stephen King. The series was peppered with long monologues which Smith delivered brilliantly in the style of Tony Hancock.

However Smith’s comedy appearances were fewer and further between after this, and he concentrated largely on directing. Although the results were variable, he directed the underrated The Tall Guy (1988), which featured a brilliantly awful pastiche of West End musicals called Elephant, about the life of John Merrick. A decade later, he stepped in to direct Bean (based on Rowan Atkinson’s extraordinarily successful TV show) when the original director was fired.

The last 15 years of his life saw a marked reduction in his output. He had become addicted to painkillers and was hospitalised with stomach ulcers.

His last appearance was in Stephen Poliakoff’s Dancing on the Edge earlier this year. (By a curious coincidence, his first TV role was in Poliakoff’s Bloody Kids in 1979.) Smith played Schlesinger, a jobsworth hotel manager bristling with hostility towards Louis Lester’s black jazz band.

It was a neat, perfectly judged performance and an indication of how, had he lived, Smith might have developed into a successful character actor as well as a deceptively talented comedian.

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Chomsky -v- Žižek (and Lacan)

July 20, 2013 at 2:18 pm (academe, Beyond parody, Chomsky, cults, intellectuals, jerk, Jim D, language, philosophy, stalinism, strange situations, wankers)

Regulars will know that us Shirazers are not big fans of Noam Chomsky. But back in December 2012 he gave an interview that warmed the cockles of our collective heart, slamming, amongst others, those two verbose charlatans Žižek and Lacan:

Mike Springer (at Open Culture) writes:

Noam Chomsky’s well-known political views have tended to overshadow his groundbreaking work as a linguist and analytic philosopher. As a result, people sometimes assume that because Chomsky is a leftist, he would find common intellectual ground with the postmodernist philosophers of the European Left.

Big mistake.

In this brief excerpt from a December, 2012 interview with Veterans Unplugged, Chomsky is asked about the ideas of Slavoj Žižek, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida. The M.I.T. scholar, who elsewhere has described some of those figures and their followers as “cults,” doesn’t mince words:

What you’re referring to is what’s called “theory.” And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential.

via Leiter Reports

Related content:

John Searle on Foucault and the Obscurantism in French Philosophy

Clash of the Titans: Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault Debate Human Nature and Power on Dutch TV, 1971

Jacques Lacan Talks About Psychoanalysis with Panache (1973)

Philosopher Slavoj Zizek Interprets Hitchcock’s Vertigo in The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (2006)

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Oh, goody goody! Žižek has replied…(and makes some fair points about Chomsky’s record), here

Further comment on the spat, at Open Culture

H/t: Norm … who also draws our attention to the John Searl link on Foucault and Obscurantism, above.

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