That UK-Irish border problem: the zeppelin solution

November 28, 2017 at 9:33 am (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, Europe, fantasy, Ireland, Jim D)

Above: one possible drawback

Zeppelins are part of a proposed solution to the UK-Ireland border problem after Brexit.

An influential British think tank has suggested that drones or airships could be used to monitor the Irish border after Brexit.

The Legatum Institute raised the possibility of patrolling the skies in a paper entitled Mutual Interest: How the UK and EU can resolve the Irish border issue after Brexit”. In the paper, they also suggest ground-based solutions, such as unattended ground sensors, cameras, and ground-wave radar. The think tank is considered influential with some government ministers, according to the BBC.

It states that “persistent surveillance of the border region” could be achieved through patrols by unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) or deployment of aerostats (airships or hot air balloons).

But it concedes “that these solutions are subject to a number of limitations, not least weather and cost”.

Still, it remains the most practical solution yet put forward by the British side, who after all, created the problem in the first place.

Other possible solutions include fairies.

H/t: Marina Hyde of the Graun (for the Zepplins) and Colin O’Driscoll (for the fairies)

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The Death of Stalin: history as tragedy *and* farce

October 22, 2017 at 2:02 pm (anti-semitism, apologists and collaborators, cinema, comedy, film, Jim D, murder, parasites, stalinism, terror, thuggery, tragedy, truth, USSR)

Communism is the positive abolition of private property, of human self-alienation, and thus the real appropriation of human nature through and for man. It is, therefore, the return of man himself as a social, ie really human being, a complete and conscious return which assimilates all the wealth of previous development. Communism as fully-developed naturalism is humanism and as a fully-developed humanism is naturalism” – Marx, Third Economic and Philosophical Manuscript, 1844 (Marx’s own emphases).

Stalinism, that murderous negation of Marx’s humanism and the emancipatory ideals of October 1917, seems to be making a minor comeback in British politics. It’s no secret that at least two of Jeremy Corbyn’s closest advisers are dyed-in-the-wool Stalinists and (I’m told) cod-Stalinist iconography and rhetoric is worryingly prevalent within Young Labour. That semi-official mouthpiece of middle class liberalism, the Guardian, recently published a letter defending the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of August 1939, the alliance between Stalin and Hitler that set off the Second World War.

Since most present-day Stalinists and would-be Stalinists are (in my experience) not particularly interested in either Marxist theory or serious history, perhaps farce is the best way to begin to educate them. The Death of Stalin bills itself as “loosely based on a true story” and it’s certainly the case that director Amando Iannucci has taken plenty of liberties with the facts surrounding the death of the mass-murdering tyrant in March 1953: as historian Richard Overy has pointed out, Vyacheslav Molotov was not foreign minister when Stalin died; Marshal Zukov did not command the Red Army at the time, having been exiled to the provinces; Krushchev, not Malenkov chaired the meeting to re-organise the government; and Beria had ceased to be head of security in 1946.

But all this is really beside the point: the film is a caricature, and like all the best caricatures, it tells a fundamental truth: that the danse macabre of these apparatchiks as they jostled for position following the monster’s death was as grotesque, absurd and cynical as anything Iannuncci has previously satirised in his depictions of contemporary bourgeois politics (The Thick of It / In the Loop and Veep), but more deadly. And, of course, it is all a million miles from the ideals of the Bolshevik revolution that these gargoyles had strangled.

The scenes immediately following the apparent ‘death’ (and brief, terrifying revival, before real death) contain at least two real truths: that the apparatchiks dithered over whether to call a doctor for several interconnected reasons: fear of  being seen as disloyal, the wish to see Stalin gone in order to succeed him, and secondly, the fact that many doctors  had been murdered, imprisoned or ceased practicing as a result of the so-called Doctors’ Plot, an antisemitic campaign in which senior medics were accused, preposterously, of belonging to a “Zionist terror gang” (today’s leftist “anti-Zionists” take note).

Is this a suitable subject for comedy – even comedy as consciously dark as this? Mr Overy thinks not, complaining that whereas “the audience reaction to Downfall was serious reflection about the Hitler dictatorship … The Death of Stalin suggests Soviet politics can be treated as opera buffa”.

Again, I beg to differ: though the film is genuinely very funny, the laughs are frequently brought to a sudden end with the sounds of pistol-shots as prisoners are summarily dispatched, a body rolls down the stairs as a torture session is briefly revealed, and the sadist, mass murderer and rapist Lavrentiy Beria (brilliantly portrayed by Simon Russell Beale) casually orders a soldier to “shoot her before him – but make sure he sees it.”

The diabolical figure of Beria dominates the film like a monstrous, manipulative, poisonous toad whose eventual cum-uppance (another historical inaccuracy, by the way; he wasn’t executed until December 1953, months after the period covered by the film) had me silently cheering – and then feeling ashamed: had Beria, from beyond the grave, degraded my humanity to the degree that I was entertained by a brutal killing?

In fact, it is Russell Beale’s extraordinary performance as Beria that is, simultaneously, the film’s greatest strength and its central weakness: so satanically malevolent is he, that the other apparatchiks seem almost likeable – or, at least, pitiable. Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) comes over as a nervous, failed stand-up comedian, Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor – Hank from The Larry Sanders Show) is weak, vain and pathetic, while Molotov (Michael Palin) is simply a tragic, broken man, not least when Beria tricks him into denouncing his own wife, in her presence.

So this is not definitive history, and makes no pretence of being so. But it tells a real truth: that Stalin and his courtiers were at least as venal and corrupt as the very worst bourgeois politician, and a thousand times more murderous (OK: Trump may yet cause me to reassess that judgement). They, and the regime they created out of the ruins of the October revolution, had nothing to do with socialism or communism – not, that is, if like Marx, you believe that communism must be “fully-developed naturalism [and] humanism.” It’s a tragedy that a new generation of would-be socialists (some not even born when the workers of Eastern Europe overthrew Stalinism in 1989-90) are going to have to learn this lesson from scratch. Let us hope that Iannucci’s darkly comic and horrifically wise film sets at least some young comrades on a journey to the truth.

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Morning Star letters page: a “total waste of space”

October 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm (Beyond parody, Brexit, comedy, conspiracy theories, CPB, Europe, Jim D, nationalism, plonker, publications, stalinism)

Image result for picture Morning Star EU

The letters page of the Morning Star is not somewhere I’d normally recommend for either political enlightenment or a good laugh.

But following the super-patriotic Daily Mail of the Left‘s  decision to publish a token anti-Brexit letter last week, various rancid old Stalinists and Little-Britain nationalists have been spluttering with rage. One Mike Magee, for instance, fulminated in hilarious cod-Marxiese against the publication of any such “ignorant and ill-founded” letters from unbelievers (I personally just love the claim that such letters might “confuse” those who are “already unsure of which line is correct”).

As letters do not appear on the M Star‘s website, I feel it’s a public service to republish Mr Magee’s stern missive, followed by a straight-faced riposte from a splendid husband-and-wife team, who (not for the first time) bring some much-needed sanity and decency to the paper’s letter page.

Don’t add to the EU confusion
MANY readers will want to reply to Alan Yearsley’s letter (M Star October 4) criticising the Star for not giving equal coverage to the Remainers protesting at the Tory conference that Brexit is a monstrosity. I would direct a contrary criticism to the Star.

The paper’s editorial line is based on sound factual evidence as exemplified by left-wing anti-EU campaign Lexit, including now the referendum result, whereas Mr Yearsley and his Remainers simply “believe” (imagine, presume or surmise without credible evidence) we can reform the EU from inside.

 He cites a couple of “benefits” which do not require membership of the capitalist club, and there are many more such examples of collaboration across borders that do not require a corporate state to exist.

 The EU is an oversized homunculus which no amount of reforming surgery can beautify – 45 years inside prove it.
The Star’s editorial line is Marxist even though the rest of its content is directed at a wider left-leaning readership. Marxism is a scientific outlook formed from careful study and analysis of human society throughout history, and our modern day observation and experience of it.

 Neither science nor Marxism relies on human hopes and fancies but on human experience.

 My point is that publishing ignorant and ill-founded letters is not part of the Star’s remit. It only serves to confuse further those who are already unsure of which line is correct.

 An aim of the capitalist media is to obfuscate reality and thereby confuse the mass of the people. It is not the function of our paper to add to that confusion.
MIKE MAGEE Frome

The Star’s letters page is total waste of space
Mike Magee is absolutely right (M Star October 8-9), and Alan Yearsley is quite wrong (M Star October 4) in his criticism of our paper

There is no place in it for ignorant and ill-founded letters, which only serve to confuse.

In fact, discussion of difficult and complicated political questions like Brexit is best avoided altogether.

Our paper’s editorial line is there to be followed. What else is it for?

Come to think of it, do we really need a letters page? It merely provides space for arrogant readers who think they have all the answers to lay down the law to the rest of us.

If we scrap the letters page, that would allow more space for news reports and the all-important Star comment, which tells us what to think and saves us the trouble of thinking for ourselves.

Of course a paper like the one were are suggesting would lose a lot of its present readers, so a very much larger Fighting Fund would be needed. We are sending a small cheque to help.
BETTY AND CHRIS BIRCH London SW6

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Stewart Lee: “Why I despise Richard ‘The Hamster’ Hammond the most.”

June 12, 2017 at 8:57 pm (comedy, posted by JD)

Jeremy Clarkson’s fawning sidekick Richard Hammond has emerged more or less unscathed from another high speed prang. This gives me an excellent excuse to bring you Stewart Lee’s magnificent rant on the subject of Top Gear (as was) in general and Hammond in particular. This dates from about three years after Hammond’s first prang in 2006:

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But the SWP *is* a joke

May 8, 2017 at 3:54 pm (Beyond parody, comedy, Jim D, SWP)

Unlike some people, us Shiraz’ers can usually spot a joke.

But….

… is this a joke?

The SWP are asking people to sign a petition to kick the Tories out!

Who does that petition go to? The government? The Labour Party?

Ah! (thanks to Jason Hill, in btl comments) it goes to Corbyn – he needs to be told,  by the SWP,  of the importance of kicking out the Tories…

The petition’s on the SWP website.
https://www.swp.org.uk/resource/1726

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Alan Simpson RIP

February 8, 2017 at 6:37 pm (BBC, comedy, poetry, posted by JD, TV, wireless)

One half of the funniest – and most literary – comedy scriptwriting teams Britain has ever known, died today.

Foreword to the 2002 BBC box set of Hancock’s Half Hour, Series One
BBC Worldwide has asked us to contribute an introduction of 600 words to this boxed set of the first radio series of Hancock’s Half Hour. However on discovering that out of the 16 programmes in this series .the BBC have managed to lose six, our Union, the Writers Guild of Great Britain has instructed us to reduce the size of the article pro rata to approximately 400 words. This last sentence amounts to 68 words leaving 332 words to contribute. This latter sentence, amounting to 12 words, now only leaves 320. We could continue like this and not write anything at all but that would be churlish on our part. Thus leaving 290 words. Thus leaving…no let’s stop this silly counting game now.

So…if you are reading this it follows that you have bought the box — in which case, well done. Unless of course you have broken open the container and are therefore guilty of a misdemeanour which, if Mr Blair has his way, may result in an on-the-spot fine and a security guard marching you off to the nearest cashpoint.

Assuming you are a law-abiding citizen and are actually the legitimate owner of this set, may we wish you five hours of uninterrupted mirth and hilarity free of sexual references, innuendo, bad taste and all the good things of life that one wasn’t allowed to mention in 1954. A moral sensitivity made all the more remarkable when we were all under the threat of annihilation by a nuclear holocaust. Ironically, what one was then traditionally allowed to employ freely would now be considered racist, sexist and politically incorrect. In those days, sex was trying to make out the contour of a breast through the outside of a thick woollen coat, a recreational drug was half a pint of Mackeson’s milk stout whilst a hard drug was a quick sniff of a Vicks inhaler or a stiff swig from a bottle of Galloway’s cough mixture.

Nevertheless, we hope a new generation will enjoy the fruits of out labours of nearly half a century ago and try not to resist the urge to immediately rush out and order set number two and so keep us in the style to which we would like to become accustomed.

And so it is with great pleasure that we suggest you …

(At this point Mr Galton and Mr Simpson’s introduction was terminated on instructions from their Union.)

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Stewart Lee on “Paul Nuttalls of Ukips”

November 28, 2016 at 8:22 pm (Anti-Racism, comedy, posted by JD, Racism, UKIP)

A comic masterpiece:

How to deal with the racist piece of shit who’s just been elected to replace the previous racist piece of shit.

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Introducing: Unite the Union’s very own Baron Munchausen

November 24, 2016 at 11:24 pm (comedy, fantasy, scotland, sectarianism, surrealism, Unite the union)

Image result for picture the adventures of Baron Munchausen

 By Anne Field  

 The Story So Far:

In late July selected members of the United Left Scotland (ULS) and a considerable number of non-members of the ULS received an e-mail from unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com (a close imitation of the actual ULS e-mail address).

Although the e-mail had not been sent out by the ULS, it was headed “United Left Scotland Meeting” and was signed off as “United Left Scotland”. The e-mail invited its recipients to a meeting to be held in Glasgow on 27th August.

At the same time Unite Scottish full-timers were instructed by the Scottish Regional Secretary to a) attend the meeting of 27th August; b) mobilise members in their sectors for the meeting.

The meeting went ahead despite the chair of the United Left at national level advocating that it be called off. 14 Unite full-timers attended the meeting. The ratio of full-timers to members at the meeting was around one to six.

At the meeting itself Mark Lyon (Unite Executive Council vice-chair and International Transport Workers Federation full-timer) regaled attendees with horror stories about the alleged iniquities of the ULS, each of which was as lacking in substance as the next.

In the course of his ramblings Lyon denied all knowledge of the e-mail which had been sent out inviting people to the meeting.

Announced by a bogus e-mail; falsely described as a “ULS” meeting; invites sent only to selected ULS members and non-members; opposed by the national chair of the United Left; and mobilised for by full-timers – only in the fevered imagination of a latter-day Baron Munchausen could the meeting be regarded as anything other than a sham, organised by charlatans for the purpose of wrecking the ULS.

Now Read On to Learn of Baron Mark Munchausen’s Latest Whacky Escapades:

At the end of last week Mark Lyon issued an e-mail to Unite members he believed had bought into his fantasy. The e-mail he sent out came from unitedleft.scotland2016@gmail.com.

Whoops! That’s the e-mail address which the Baron had denied all knowledge of at the 27th August meeting!

The e-mail proclaimed the existence of an organisation called “Progressive United Left Scotland” (PULS), announced two PULS candidates for the Scottish territorial seats in next year’s Executive Committee elections, and declared that Mark Lyon would be running “an amazing campaign” (sic) for PULS candidates.

Lyon’s e-mail showed up the non-democratic, non-inclusive and top-down nature of PULS itself.

There had been no members’ meetings to decide on the creation or name of a new organisation, to select candidates for the Executive Committee elections, or to decide that Mark Lyon should be in charge of an election campaign.

Although Lyon’s e-mail admitted that “having a meeting would be ideal”, it continued: “It is unlikely we will be able to have a general meeting before the end of the year.”

But one of Lyon’s criticisms of the ULS was that its meetings were supposedly too irregular and its members supposedly excluded from decision-making.

This e-mail was small beer compared with another e-mail and attachment circulated by Lyon earlier this week on the national United Left e-mail group.

Lyon’s three thousand words of delirium read like a latter-day version of “The Singular Travels, Campaigns, Voyages and Adventures of Baron Munchausen.”

Or, more aptly, like a later edition of the same work: “The Vice of Lying Properly Exposed, Containing Singular Travels, Campaigns, Voyages and Adventures … Also, An Account of a Voyage into the Moon and Dog-Star”.

The Vice of Lying Properly Exposed:

 A blow-by-blow rebuttal of the Baron’s fantasies would be nearly as tedious as reading the three thousand words of dreary prose in which they are couched. But some prime examples should suffice:

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … not forwarding new members’ details to the national list.” Fact: PULS has been asked by national and Scottish United Left office-bearers to forward names on the PULS address list. It has simply refused to do so.

(In fact, Lyon’s own record of the decisions taken by the sham ‘’ULS’ meeting of 27th August includes the action: “To inform national UL of new members welcomed to our organisation.” Lyon has refused to do what his own meeting instructed him to do!)

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … opening our meetings to everyone.” Fact: A whole raft of ULS members were not informed of, and thereby excluded from, the sham ‘ULS’ meeting of 27th August. And since 27th August PULS has not even had a meeting.

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … honouring the agreements reached with the help of Martin (ULS national chair).” Fact: PULS agreed with the ULS national chair that it would pass on the e-mail addresses of its ‘members’, but has failed to do so. (See above.)

“We have tried every avenue to avoid conflict, including … not requesting seats on the United Left national co-ordination committee.” Fact: United Left national supporters’ meetings and national co-ordinators meetings have recognised the ULS as the only body in Scotland entitled to send delegates to the national co-ordinators committee.

“The vast majority of comrades in Scotland are not supportive of the minority ULS grouping.” Fact: Whenever there were differences of opinion in debates and discussions in the ULS, Mark Lyon and his followers lost the argument. The most obvious example: Their defence of Agnes Tolmie’s conduct and attacks on Unite Executive Council decisions.

(And if the ULS has only minority support but PULS has the support of the majority of ULS members, why did the inner circle which runs PULS walk away from the ULS? Answer: They walked away because they lost the arguments and were consistently in a minority.)

“Instead of attending our meeting of 27th August, [a member of the ULS] led a group of people in the street giving out offensive and insulting flyers discouraging people from attending.” Fact: The flyer did no more than point out that the meeting had not been convened by the ULS, quoted concerns about the meeting expressed by the United Left national chair, and explained to its attendees how to join the ULS. No-one complained about it.

“Our United Left Scotland candidates were finalised this week as Eddie Cassidy and Ann Crozier.” Fact: Eddie Cassidy is not a member of the ULS. And while Ann Crozier is a member of the ULS, until the end of last week the second PULS candidate was to have been Linda Pollock – also not a member of the ULS.

“Over 60 people from both ‘groups’ in Scotland agreed to run four recognised candidates at a meeting in Edinburgh on 12th November. It was agreed by everyone that we would run four recognised candidates.” Fact: This was not agreed by anyone. The 12th November meeting was NOT a decision-making meeting. No vote was taken on the proposal for four candidates.

The only person to advocate four candidates for the two Scottish territorial seats was Mark Lyon. And that sums up the essence of Baron Mark Munchausen: He substitutes his own fantasies for reality, and hopes that if he exudes sufficient bluff and bluster then no-one will notice how detached from reality he now is.

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RIP Jimmy Perry: Alan Coren on Dad’s Army

October 24, 2016 at 1:44 pm (anti-fascism, BBC, comedy, funny, history, posted by JD, RIP, television, tragedy, war)

RIP Jimmy Perry, creator and co-writer (with the late David Croft) of Dad’s Army.

In honour of Jimmy Perry’s greatest creation, we reproduce here the late Alan Coren’s brilliant Times review:

Dad’s Army, BBC1, by Alan Coren
They belong to the oldest regiment in the world, the men of Dad’s Army. The Sidewinder may replace the siege-engine and the Armalite the longbow, but the nature and composition of the King’s Own 17th/21st Incompetents change not at all. I watched them all troop on again last night, out of step, ragged, potty, insubordinate, inept, and who are Arthur Lowe and Clive Dunn and John Le Mesurier, I said to myself, but Bardolph and Nym and Ancient Pistol? Or, come to that, Schweik and Yossarian and Stan Laurel and Miles Gloriosus; and, though memory, not to say erudition, escapes me, I will just bet that the literatures of Sanscrit, old High Gothic and Xhosa are packed to their various margins with stories of soldiers who right-wheeled into the wall, fell over their side-arms, and shot the regimental ferret in error.

I suppose the monumental madness of war can be made tolerable only by this kind of miniaturisation; there is a wider lunacy beyond the script in the fact that Clive Dunn might well, in theory at least, have been the only thing standing between us and Dachau, and the alternative to allowing that thought to send the shrapnel shrieking round the brain is to watch him fire his Lewis gun into the ceiling of the church hall while we all fall about gasping on hilarity instead of on gas.

So much for today’s Sobering Thought. What must now be said is that these particular khaki fools do no discredit to the great tradition; the timing of their disasters is impeccable, the individuation of their character has been splendidly fleshed out so that each identity is total, and their personal conflicts are soundly based in those differences. The essential quality of mock-heroic is always sustained by the parody of Brit-in-arms (there was a superb moment last night when Arthur Lowe restrained his enfeebled warriors with a terse: “Steady! We’re not savages”), and behind the daftness there lies a certain valuable poignancy which is not altogether explained by nostalgia. I suppose what I mean is that they would have died, too, if the greater folly had demanded it.

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In praise of Bridget Christie on Brexit

August 6, 2016 at 6:17 pm (class, comedy, Europe, Racism, stalinism)


Her ‘Brexit’ material is not yet available on Youtube – so her ‘Ant’ material will have to do for now

I’ve long been a fan of Bridget Christie, and her words (quoted in the Guardian) about her current show in Edinburgh merely confirmed me in my admiration:

“I totally reject this notion, which is coming from a lot of people on the left, that we mustn’t criticise leave voters,” said Christie. “Everybody has to admit that there were a lot of people who voted leave for not noble and legitimate reasons. Just look at the 500% increase in race hate crimes after Brexit.”

She continued: “And people saying that the middle classes and the educated elite are demonising the working classes as racists. Well, I’m working class and I don’t accept that at all. Racists are being demonised; it doesn’t matter what their socio-economic background is. We have to talk about it – in the media and in comedy.”

I put it a bit more tactfully in a (so far unpublished) letter to the Morning Star:

Dear Comrades,

A number of articles and letters in the Morning Star over the past few weeks have objected to anyone mentioning the plain fact that the Brexit vote has been followed by a “spike” in racist incidents.

The pro-Brexit left seems to object to having the consequences of their irresponsible foolishness pointed out to them: this denial reached its apogee with the editorial of August 1st, which stated “”Singling out anti-EU and labour movement campaigns for blame is even more reprehensible”: I can assure you, comrades, that those of us who warned about the consequences of your reactionary stance will continue remind you of your shameful role in encouraging racism and backwardness for the foreseeable future.

Workers who voted “Leave” must be approached with sensitivity: the “left” who pandered to backwardness and reaction must never be allowed to forget what they did. As for the fantasy that a “left exit” is on the cards: get real and face reality, comrades!

That was written before this steaming pile of reactionary/idealist shite appeared … at first it made me very angry, but I guess I’d be better advised to follow Ms Christie’s lead, and just take the piss out of these stupid arseholes.

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