Penny Dreadful

April 19, 2015 at 12:21 am (Beyond parody, elections, Jim D, New Statesman, plonker)

Laurie Penny (idiot)

Having just read this (in the present edition of the New Statesman):

“Right now, there may not be much to vote for but there’s plenty to vote against. Go out and vote, if you can stand it, and I hope you can. Vote in disgust. Vote in despair. If I see you at the polling station with a grin on your face, I will worry, unless you have the good fortune to be Scottish. Vote against bigotry, hatred and fear. Vote today and change the world tomorrow. We are not as powerless as they would have us believe. Choose your enemy and choose wisely. Good luck.”

… a number of thoughts occur to me:

1/ OK: she’s (relatively) young … but on the other hand is being paid as a “political” commentator by the NS;

2/ The NS expects us to take seriously someone who writes: “I endorsed the Liberal Democrats in 2010, a fact that tops the long list of stupid things I did in my early twenties, but the feeling of hope was genuine and so was the pain of betrayal”;

2/ The NS, for all its faults, was once a journal that advocated positive socialist political engagement, not nihilism combined with vicarious Scottish nationalism;

3/ I’ll now be starting a “most stupid comment about the election” competition. So far, Laurie Penny’s in the lead, but there’s still time to go! Feel free to nominate.

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Trapped between Assad and ISIS: the abandoned Palestinians of Yarmouk

April 12, 2015 at 9:38 pm (hell, islamism, Jim D, Middle East, murder, palestine, Syria)

Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk, Damascus, queueing for food.

Above: the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp after bombing by Assad’s forces

About 200,000 Palestinians lived in the Yarmouk camp in a suburb of Damascus for more than 50 years. They were once held up as a symbol of Syrian support for the Palestinian cause, but when Syrian opposition forces moved in two years ago, Assad turned on the Palestinians, laying siege to the camp and blocking water and electricity supplies.  Now Islamic State (‘Daesh’) jihadists have moved in, while Assad’s forces barrel-bomb the camp. The remaining Palestinians are trapped between the two forces of mass-murder.

Yet the UN stands by and does nothing. And the so-called Palestine Solidarity Campaign organises no protests and rounds up no celebrities to sign letters to the Guardian. Why not? Surely it’s not because on this occasion, Israel can’t be blamed?

Thanks to Martin Chulov and Kareem Shaheen of the Guardian.

To his credit, Mehdi Hasan speaks out.

Correction: the PSC has issued a statement … blaming Israel …

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Stan Freberg on political correctness and censorship

April 10, 2015 at 5:57 pm (comedy, Free Speech, Jim D, RIP)

The death of Stan Freberg, at the age of 88, has been all but ignored this side of the pond. But there was a time (the 1950s and 60s) when as well as being a leading US comedian, he was also a familiar voice on BBC radio. His great spoof recordings were not intended as political satire, but one at least is as relevant – possibly more relevant – today than when he recorded it in 1957:

H/t Gene at That Place

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The utter bollocks of the Morning Star on Europe

April 9, 2015 at 10:15 pm (conspiracy theories, Europe, fantasy, Jim D, publications, stalinism, unions)

Image result for morning star logo

I have sometimes been asked why Shiraz Socialist pays any attention whatsoever to the small-circulation British daily paper the Morning Star. The answer is because, despite its very limited circulation, it is influential within the UK left and trade union movement and – indeed – since the demise of the USSR (which used to fund it) is kept in business by the largess of major unions, including Unite and the RMT. Unfortunately, quite a lot of honest but gullible left-wingers and trade unionists take what the Star says as good coin.

Its coverage of the fighting in Ukraine has been a dishonest pro-Putin disgrace, branding the pro-Russian forces as “anti-Fascists” and the Kiev government as “pro-Fascist”. But it’s when it comes to the European Union that the Star really plumbs the depths of reactionary little-England nationalism, thinly disguised support for increased immigration controls and sheer all-round incoherence.

The editorial that appeared in Thursday’s print edition (Wednesday in the on-line edition) is truly bizarre. Starting out by playing to the gallery with an attack on Tony Blair, the editorial culminates in a truly extraordinary series of blatant falsehoods, conspiracy theories, non-sequiturs and self-defeating “arguments” on the subject of the EU. It is utter bollocks, even by the wretched standards of the Star’s usual commentary on Europe; so bad, in fact, that I feel the final section warrants being held up for ridicule here at Shiraz:

‘By adopting the “no referendum on EU membership” position, Miliband has put the ball in his own net.

Cameron is no less committed to EU membership than Blair and Miliband. How could he not be when this is the confirmed position of big business, especially the City of London, and it is these vested interests that the Tory leader represents?

Cameron’s plan to mobilise anti-EU feeling by offering the phantom of negotiations to “reform” the EU followed by a referendum is a swindle.

Any reforms achieved would be illusory or would underpin already weak workplace rights prior to the Tories uniting to back a Yes vote to remaining in the EU.

The Tories and their corporate backers are relaxed about their referendum pledge, looking back to the previous vote in 1975 when a concerted campaign of misinformation funded by big business and backed by the mass media swung the decision in favour of staying in.

By presenting itself as the party of EU integration, Labour is needlessly antagonising the anti-EU majority and handing votes to the Tories and their Ukip allies.’  

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Billie Holiday, born April 7 1915, died July 17 1959

April 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm (civil rights, culture, history, jazz, Jim D, music, protest, Racism, Sheer joy, song, Soul, The blues, truth)

The woman who was simply the greatest singer in the entire history of jazz was born 100 years ago. Apart from her extraordinary voice (limited but highly expressive), she tends to be remembered for her “tragic” life, bad choices in lovers and her clashes with the authorities (she was even arrested on narcotics charges as she lay dying in hospital).

She made an extraordinary impression on all who met her, or even just heard her records. The British jazz critic Max Jones who met her and got to know her when she visited Britain in 1954 and then just before her death in 1959, is typical:

“Soon reports were coming in regularly of her deteriorating condition. At the end of May she collapsed and was taken to hospital, suffering from liver and heart complaints.

“Still harried by the authorities, she died in degrading circumstances at 3 a.m. on 17 July 1959, with 70 cents in the bank and 750 dollars in large notes strapped to her leg. She was, by her reckoning, only 44 years old. And I was halfway through a letter to her when friends telephoned to say she was dead. Though half expecting it, I was devastated by the news.

“But still, we have those many lovely or disturbing recorded performances. They will be a pleasure to my ears for the rest of my life and those of future generations for all time, I guess.” 

The actor, Billy Crystal  (who, it turns out, is the nephew of Commodore Records’ Milt Gabler, who recorded Billie singing ‘Strange Fruit’ in 1939), still remembers her.

Billie is well represented on Youtube, including her incredibly moving 1957 TV recording of ‘Fine and Mellow’ , a reunion with her old (platonic) friend and confidant Lester Young, after some years of estrangement. Then there’s the cry of pain and protest that is ‘Strange Fruit.’

But I prefer to remember the young, joyous and careless Billie of the mid-to-late 1930’s, as can be heard on this little gem from 1936 (below):

Billie even (playfully) puts drummer Cozy Cole in his place in the opening banter. Bunny Berigan on trumpet, Artie Shaw on clarinet.

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Milne champions Popular Front with Lib Dems, SNP, Greens and Respect

April 2, 2015 at 8:11 am (Asshole, class collaboration, elections, fantasy, Green Party, Guardian, Jim D, Lib Dems, middle class, scotland, stalinism, wankers)

Above: Seumas getting all excited

The ‘Popular Front’ (ie what used to be called “class collaboration”) is alive and well in the fevered imagination and wet dreams of the Graun‘s tame public school Stalinist:

“[T]he prospect of a Labour-led parliamentary alliance – including, say, Lib Dems, the SNP, Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SDLP and Respect – taking Britain in a more progressive direction wouldn’t be so scary for most voters, to judge by opinion polls. It would risk being unstable and be bitterly opposed by some Labour leaders. Anything of the kind would depend on the numbers, of course, and may well be overtaken by the campaign in the weeks ahead. But it could also offer the kind of government that a large part of the population would actually want.”

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Labour’s new video

March 31, 2015 at 12:57 pm (democracy, elections, Jim D, labour party, reformism)

Much to my surprise, this is rather good:

“But it isn’t just a choice between two different plans, two different ways of getting the deficit down. It’s a choice about what kind of country we want to live in.”

Lets have more of that, and less of this

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Just who the f**k does Alex Salmond think he is?

March 23, 2015 at 8:55 pm (Asshole, democracy, Jim D, labour party, populism, scotland, Tory scum)

Above: the Tories wasted no time in rushing out this bizarre video

One thing emerged very clearly from Alex Salmond’s appearance on the Andrew Marr Show: the Scottish Nationalists are bare-faced opportunists and liars. Nicola Sturgeon has already back-tracked on the SNP promise not to vote on issues that effect only England; on Sunday Salmond made it clear that his earlier promise that the referendum would settle the question of Scottish separation “for a generation” has also gone by the board. He hinted in unmistakable terms that a pledge to hold a new referendum is likely to be included in the SNP’s 2016 Holyrood manifesto.

But it was his arrogant boast that the SNP would, in effect, control the policies of a future Labour government that was most memorable: “If you hold the balance, you hold the power” he gloated. Socialists should not be taken in by Salmond’s claim that the SNP would use its power to insist on some policies of which we might approve (dumping Trident and moving away from austerity): Salmond’s vision of the SNP as the force that will make or break a Labour government is both profoundly anti-democratic and a calculated gift to the Tories. Say what you will about Salmond, he’s not an idiot, and knows full well that his arrogant boasts about holding Labour to ransom (the accurate description used by the Tory press) make it more likely that the Tories will win in May – something that it’s pretty obvious that the SNP leadership relishes.

And, of course, the SNP has form when it comes to de facto support for the Conservatives.

Despite the Scottish Labour Party’s disastrous choice of the wretched Blairite Murphy as its leader, serious people who want a Labour government know that a Labour vote is essential everywhere – including Scotland.

Miliband should make it clear that no deal of any kind (including so-called “confidence and supply”) is on offer to Salmond, Sturgeon and the Tartan Tories.

And a final point: Alex Salmond is not the leader of the SNP and even if he is elected to Westminster in May, he won’t lead the party there (that role will remain with Angus Robertson). So who the f**k does this potential back-bencher think he is, to be dictating terms to anyone?

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Ben Webster: Danny Boy

March 18, 2015 at 1:04 am (Ireland, jazz, Jim D, music)

Apologies to all (and especially Irish comrades) for failing to mark St Pat’s Day.

To make up for this, here’s Ben Webster (and his performance is beautiful):


Ben Webster (tenor sax), Kenny Drew (piano), Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen (bass), Alex Riel (drums). Denmark, 1965.

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Stewart Lee on Top Gear

March 12, 2015 at 12:21 am (Anti-Racism, comedy, Jim D, Tory scum, TV)

The suspension of Cameron’s friend Jeremy Clarkson and the subsequent question-mark over the future of Top Gear (but, I fear money talks, and Clarkson and his show will return), at least gives me an excuse to show you this clip of Stewart Lee (in 2010 I’d guess) on the subject of Top Gear and its presenters. I think Lee’s very, very, funny, but not everyone agrees.

It lasts 14 minutes, and all I’d advise is if you decide to watch it, please watch all the way to the end:

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