Brian Parsons RIP

February 15, 2015 at 1:07 pm (culture, good people, internationalism, jazz, Jim D, music, RIP)

Brian Parsons died on Saturday morning, after a long illness (a brain tumour).

My very dear friend Brian Parsons died this morning, he bought a lot of joy and happiness into my life and the lives of many others too. Thank you for being my friend.

Brian had been very politically active in the 1970s and was, briefly, associated with the libertarian-left group Big Flame. He was also a great champion of a wide range of music and pioneered appreciation of what became known as “world music” by means of his Bongo-Go disco (with occasional live sessions), which for many years were a hugely popular feature of Birmingham night-life, at the Moseley Dance Centre. He also supported live jazz and blues: I last saw him about a year ago at a gig featuring the Kinda Dukish Big Band – apparently he’d long been a passionate enthusiast of the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn – something I’d never realised.

Meanwhile, he never lost his political commitment and remained a friend of equality and justice all his life.

So long, old friend and comrade!

H/t Terry Lilly

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Tax fraud isn’t HSBC’s only crime: there’s money-laundering as well

February 10, 2015 at 6:52 pm (capitalism, crime, David Cameron, drugs, Jim D, tax, terror, Tory scum)

HSBC building

The Guardian‘s Polly Toynbee gets it 100% right in her latest column; this week’s revelations about HSBC should be a gift to Labour if the party leadership make the most of it:

Labour is lucky this global story blew up in a week already dominated by a tax avoidance row: it was a Tory blunder to put up the Monaco-dwelling head of Boots to call Labour a “catastrophe”, when his company pays a fraction of the UK tax it did before switching its base to Switzerland. Timing is important here: the HSBC revelations haven’t emerged on Labour’s watch. Both Eds have frequently – and rightly – apologised for Labour’s feeble regulation of banks pre-crash, while always reminding Cameron and Osborne that they called loudly for less banking “red tape” in those days.

Ms Toynbee isn’t always a favourite with us here at Shiraz, but the piece quoted from above is a hum-dinger, and well worth reading in full.

Left Foot Forward‘s Ruby Stockham, meanwhile, has put 4 questions to David Cameron that should be repeated ad nauseam between now and the election.

But it’s worth remembering that the crimes of HSBC under Stephen Green (aka Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint and minister for trade and investment between 2010 and 2013) were not restricted to colluding in tax fraud: they also extended to money-laundering.

In 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a $1.9 billion fine for money laundering for clients that the US authorities said included Mexican drug cartels (as well as providing services to lenders in Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh though to include supporters of al Qaeda).

The Daily Telegraph‘s David Hughes reported on July 17 2012:

While the Treasury select committee is giving the third degree to Mervyn King and his chums over the Libor debacle, a potentially much bigger banking scandal is breaking in the United States. The US Senate has launched a coruscating attack on HSBC for its slapdash approach to money-laundering regulations. The bank could face a $1 billion fine.

According to Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, “the culture at HSBC was pervasively polluted for a long time.” Just how polluted was revealed in the Senate report into the scandal. For example, between 2007 and 2008, HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank’s US operations. According to the report, both Mexican and US authorities warned HSBC that the amount of money could only have reached such a level if it was tied to illegal narcotics proceeds. This is explosive stuff for the “world’s local bank”, as HSBC calls itself.

As these other, perhaps even more serious, scandals from the noughties have not been widely reported in the last few days (except by the FT‘s excellent Jonathan Guthrie), here are a couple of links to articles from July 2012:

David Hughes’s Telegraph piece (quoted from above), here

The Telegraph‘s report on the US Senate’s findings, here

Ned Simons at the Huffington Post (which mentions the alleged al Qaeda funding) here.

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The left, Zionism and anti-Semitism: my letter to the Morning Star

February 4, 2015 at 10:37 pm (anti-semitism, israel, Jim D, Middle East, posted by JD, stalinism)

Image result for morning star logo

Letter to the Morning Star (emailed on January 26 2015):
Dear Comrades,

I had a feeling your excellent editorial  on anti-Semitism (19 Jan) might cause some consternation amongst M Star readers, if only because it noted that “attacking, criticising or making special demands upon people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.” We all know that this happens on the left and within the trade union movement, with Jews being required to renounce Zionism and denounce Israel, in order to prove that they’re “good” Jews and avoid being tarred as “Zionists.”

It was also refreshing to read in the editorial that whilst condemning the policies of Israeli governments “is not in itself anti-Semitic” (I agree), that “at the same time, Jewish sensitivities about the conditions in which Israel was founded should be understood and appreciated.” This is a major step forward for the Star, which all to often gives space to ‘absolute anti-Zionists’ who believe that Israel has no right to exist, even behind pre-1967 borders.

So I was not entirely surprised to read Linda Clair’s letter (M Star Jan 24) stating that criticism of Israel “is not anti-Semitic at all” (by which I presume, she means it never can be, under any circumstances at all). I beg to differ. People expressing anti-Semitic views now habitually justify themselves by claiming to be merely criticising Israel and “Zionism”. According to the Campaign Against Antisemitism, 77% of British Jews recently polled, stated that they had witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism disguised as political comment about Israel.

I myself witnessed a well-known trade unionist in my local area, only a few years ago, use blatantly anti-Semitic language (in the form of a ‘joke’ about people who failed to buy a round of drinks) and when challenged, self-righteously claim that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians made his ‘joke’ acceptable.

The present state of affairs when it comes to anti-Semitism, can be summed up thus: that whilst not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites, these days all anti-Semites call themselves “anti-Zionists.”
JIM DENHAM, Birmingham

Letter from Linda Clair (Morning Star, January 24-25 2015):
CRITICISING people for being wrong is a perfectly legitimate part of any debate, however I disagree with the comment that condemning Israel is not in itself anti-Semitic.

It is not anti-Semitic at all, them difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism must be made clear.

Our paper has a responsibility to do that and to educate many people who are unfamiliar with the ideologies.

It’s important to also recognise that extra resources for security are not forthcoming when a Muslim community is under attack and racist murders are perpetrated. The question must be asked: Why?

Now is the time to debate these questions when the way immigration is portrayed in the pre-election period will need to be challenged.
LINDA CLAIR, Rochdale

Morning Star editorial, January 19 2015:
No Place for Anti-Semitism

Anti-semitism is known as “the oldest hatred” for good reason.

For 2,000 years, Jewish people have been the targets of hatred, prejudice and discrimination in different parts of the world, in different types of society and for different reasons.

It is rooted in fear of the unknown and hostility to those perceived as “outsiders.”

But in the case of anti-semitism, this has been given a genocidal twist by the ideological conviction that Jews are the enemies of Christianity, nationhood, racial purity, socialism or — today — the oppressed people of Palestine.

These and other vile calumnies have been used by the power-hungry and the deluded to identify a convenient scapegoat, deceiving the ignorant and downtrodden to the benefit of a particular leader or movement.

Home Secretary Theresa May was right to declare that Britain must redouble its efforts to wipe out anti-semitism in her address at yesterday’s service to commemorate the four people recently murdered at a kosher supermarket in Paris.

Her urgent call for more protection for Jewish cemeteries, synagogues and other targets of anti-semitism, alongside greater efforts to combat it through education and on the internet, stands in sharp contrast to government complacency hitherto.

As late as December 29 last year, the Department for Communities and Local Government was trumpeting that its own report “highlights the great strides that Britain has made in fighting anti-semitism.”

Since then, however, a YouGov opinion poll and a survey commissioned by the Campaign Against Anti-semitism have revealed that anti-Jewish prejudice remains widespread among the general population while a substantial minority of Britain’s Jews fear for their future here.

The questions for Theresa May, Local Government Minister Eric Pickles and their colleagues must now therefore be: what additional resources are this Tory-led government prepared to plough into the police, broadcasting and education services to turn fine words into buttered parsnips?

In order to step up the drive against anti-semitism it will also be important to foster unity between all those forces that can potentially be mobilised in support.

Churches have a special responsibility to disown those in their ranks — sometimes in the past at the highest level — who have poisoned the minds of Christians against Jews and Muslims.

Politicians and parties which profess patriotism must take every opportunity to make clear that their notion of nationality is inclusive, not least by highlighting the disproportionately positive contribution that Jewish citizens have made to social, economic, cultural and democratic progress in Britain and its component nations.

Trade unions and the left — much of which has a proud record of combating anti-semitism here and overseas in the 20th century — must continue to expose the pernicious myths that most Jews are especially greedy and wealthy, are bad employers or engaged in some Jewish-led global banking conspiracy.

That, as Engels echoed more than a century ago, is the “socialism of fools.”

There also needs to be sharper clarity as to what constitutes anti-semitism and what does not.

Attacking, criticising or making special demands on people because they are Jewish is anti-semitism.

Attacking or criticising Jewish people or institutions in the sincere belief that they are wrong is not.

Condemning Israeli state policies, or the actions of Israeli governments, is not in itself anti-semitic.

At the same time, Jewish sensitivities about the conditions in which Israel was founded should be understood and appreciated.

Many Jews around the world support the human and national rights of the Palestinian people.

The fight against anti-semitism should not become the pretext for denying those rights.

The struggle for justice and democracy against oppression and dictatorship is indivisible. That, too, must be remembered on Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27.

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McCluskey: Labour does not need backstabbing Blairites

February 2, 2015 at 5:31 pm (apologists and collaborators, elections, Jim D, labour party, reformism, Tony Blair, Unite the union)

Above: bought-and-paid for traitor Milburn

I was about to to write something about these treacherous scumbags, but Lennie’s saved me the trouble. I’d only add that Milburn (who failed to declare an interest when he sabotaged Labour’s health announcement) should be expelled immediately, and Hutton, Mandelson and Blair himself, put on notice that they will follow if they continue to undermine the Party in the run-up to the election.

I put this proposal forward in all seriousness, and it would have the incidental benefit of shutting-up all those who accuse Ed Miliband of “weakness.”

Even Blairite commentators have been taken aback by these people’s arrogant, bare-faced disloyalty.

Anyway, here’s what Lennie (not someone that Shiraz always agrees with) has to say, according to a Unite press release:

Labour Does Not Need Back-stabbing Blairite Grandees>

With the days counting down to the most important general election in generations, the leader of the UK’s biggest union, Unite, has condemned those within the Labour party who are undermining Ed Miliband’s leadership.

Denouncing the politicians of Labour’s past as >Blairite grandees, Len McCluskey urged Ed Miliband not to be deterred by these

Addressing the union’s 1200 strong officer and organiser core in Birmingham today (Monday, 2 February), Len McCluskey warned that the Tories’ immense spending power, allied to their wealthy backers and a loyal media, means the country faces a one-sided campaign in May placing a duty to democracy’ on the union to support Labour:

“The electorate is today poised between fear and hope. Fear is the basis of the UKIP menace – blame someone else for all the problems, usually immigrants or foreigners, and seek refuge in an imagined past.

“But it is hope that is blossoming today as we have seen in last week’s magnificent election result in Greece. Labour needs to bottle some of the Syriza spirit and take that anti-austerity agenda to the people here.

“What it doesn’t need is the Blairite grandees – the people who sucked the life out of the last Labour government – attacking every progressive impulse, like the mansion tax and saving our NHS.

“So I say to Peter Mandelson, Alan Milburn and John Hutton: stick to counting your money, and stop stabbing Labour in the back.

“And I say to Ed Miliband – have the courage of your convictions and ignore these blasts from the past.”

Len McCluskey continued: “This is a fight for the future of our society, for the poor and vulnerable. A fight for everyone squeezed by the crisis and the cuts, and for everyone who believes that Britain has gone badly wrong, and who wants to live in a fairer country.

“The Tories are plotting a reduction in the scope and role of the state which even Thatcher could only have dreamed of, taking us back to the days of the 1930s, under the pretext of balancing the books without, of course, asking the rich or big business to contribute. They want to tear to bits every advance working people have secured, every protection we have built up, over the years.

“Let me say today – it’s not going to happen. If a government with the backing of less than one voter in four tries to deny the rights of a movement of millions, we will treat that with the contempt it deserves. And if we are pushed outside the law, so be it. If Unite is ever to die, it will not die on its knees.”

On working for a Labour victory, McCluskey said:  I’ve asked our Executive to provide donations to Labour’s election fund totalling £2.5m so far. More will most likely be needed.

“I regard this as doing our duty to democracy.

“Let the Tories get their millions from hedge funds and from shadowy dinner clubs of big businessmen. Our money is clean, transparent to the public, democratically-sanctioned and honestly accounted for. It’s the pennies of our members each week, not the ill-gotten gains of the ruling elite.

“There can be no doubt that Labour’s commitments will make a huge difference – there’s no need to be mealy-mouthed or half-hearted about this – and will provide a platform for tackling the crippling inequalities in our society.”

If we lose the election, we understand how much harder that life will be for the people we serve.

“That’s why I’m appealing to each and every one of you – step up to the plate. Get behind your union and its political strategy, and get behind a Labour victory in May. Answer the Party’s call. Do not stand aside from this battle, or let any doubts and reservations paralyse you.

“We are now facing the fight of our lives.”

For further information, contact Pauline Doyle on 07976 832 861

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Apologies to the heroic Kurdish liberators of Kobane!

January 31, 2015 at 4:40 pm (anti-fascism, democracy, good people, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, kurdistan, liberation, Middle East, misogyny, Syria, terror, war, women)

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter
YPG fighters celebrate their victory: note the gender of many of them. 

Over at That Place, Gene has noted the lack of coverage on leftist blogs and websites, of the wonderful news of the defeat of the ISIS (aka Daesh) occupiers of the Syrian border town of Kobane, at the hands of heroic Kurdish forces.

Gene mentions That Place’s own coverage (fair enough), and quite correctly gives credit to Tendance Coatesy‘s coverage, which has been exemplary. I found myself nodding along in agreement, hoping that the silence of much of the left is not symptomatic of any residual sympathy with Islamism, “blow-back” nonsense, or a lingering belief in that highly sophisticated Tariq Ali-ish political philosophy “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

Then it dawned on me that over here at Shiraz we’ve so far said nothing. So, for the record:

Shiraz Socialist unreservedly apologises to the heroic fighters of the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga, for our delay in celebrating your marvellous victory over the fascists and mass rapists of Daesh / ISIS in Kobane. We can only offer you our assurance that this delay is not the result of any political reservations about the justice of your struggle or the need for all principled leftists to give you unqualified support.

Your victory in Kobane is a huge physical and symbolic blow to Daesh’s ambitions.

We celebrate reports that Daesh have lost more than 1,000 fighters since it began its advance on Kobane in September 2014 in an attempt to control the border between Syria and Turkey. At one point the fascist-rapists had taken over most of the city.

Air raids by the US-led coalition undoubtedly helped the anti-fascist struggle, but the credit for this great victory must go the Kurdish forces. The role of women fighters is especially glorious and must be celebrated. As Gene notes:

“One way of countering Islamic State propaganda and recruitment in the West is the widest possible distribution of photos and videos of the female fighters who helped defeat IS– living proof that not only is IS losing, it is losing to women who will fight and die rather than submit to the forced marriage and sexual slavery which IS claims is its right.”

Death to fascism in all its forms! Victory to the Kurds! Victory to democratic, secular socialism!

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For Cabu: ‘Mama, I Wanna to Make Rhythm’

January 25, 2015 at 7:06 pm (anti-fascism, BBC, jazz, Jim D)

Yesterday’s BBC Radio 3 Jazz Record Requests carried a memorable request. It was from one Jean Francois (sorry: I didn’t catch the full name), a friend of the murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, ‘Cabu’.

JRR presenter Alyn Shipton described Cabu as “a harmless, civilised and witty man” who loved jazz and , at the time of his murder, had been working on a book about Woody Herman. Cabu, apparently, loved the 1937 Cab Calloway recording of Mama, I Wanna Make Rhythm, although “he could never pronounce it.” This is in memory of Cabu, and a reminder that authoritarians, Stalinists and fascists invariably hate jazz:

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Buddy DeFranco: ‘My Favorite Clarinetists’

January 16, 2015 at 9:11 pm (jazz, Jim D, music)

The great clarinettist Buddy DeFranco died on December 24, and I’ve been meaning to write something about him ever since, but always seem to have been preoccupied by other matters.

Well, now Buddy himself has saved me the trouble. Here’s a fascinating piece he wrote for Down Beat magazine, published in their March 11 1953 edition:

Down Beat: cover title graphic

My Favorite Clarinetists by Buddy DeFranco
(Ed. note: Buddy DeFranco started winning in the clarinet division of the Down Beat poll in 1945 and hasn’t stopped grabbing plaques since. He’s taken eight in a row, and we thought that it would be of much interest  to Down Beat readers to see who the men were that most influenced Buddy’s style.)

There are, naturally, many clarinetists whose playing influenced mine and to whom I listened as often as I could. But I have been asked to name those whom I consider tops in the field and who did most to shape my clarinet style. they are, in order:

* Benny Goodman. I pick benny first just for his sheer proficiency as a clarinetist. He has a good tone, clean, sure technique, and a basic pulse which he introduced as “swing” many years ago. He’s just an automatic first and my idol for years.

* Artie Shaw. I’d name Artie second because of his fluent style and originality. He could handle a melody as easily as a swing piece. And he also has a fine harmonic sense. I had figured that Artie would move more and more into the progressive field, but unfortunately I was disappointed.

* Stan Hasselgard. My deepest regret is that Stan is not with us today. I have the feeling that he would eventually have surpassed everyone in the field of clarinet jazz.
I have often been asked if I ever felt jealous of or vindictive toward Stan. I can say only that during the short time I knew him, he was a warm, honest human being. His kind of competition would have been healthy. Perhaps we could have created (commercially, that is) the same fervour and interest in the clarinet that Benny and Artie did a few years back.

* Jimmy Hamilton. A guy with a good tone, excellent technique, and an original style. I expect great things from Jimmy in the coming years.

* Peanuts Hucko. Although I feel that perhaps Peanuts sounds too close to Benny and not original enough, he nevertheless has excellent facility and an exceptional tone.

* Abe Most. Again I get the feeling that Abe sounds a little too much like someone else, in this case Artie Shaw. But he sure can handle a clarinet.

* Johnny Mince. Johnny has been a favourite of mine ever since I heard him years ago with Tommy Dorsey, when he was playing some brilliantly fast and creative things. I honestly feel that if Johnny weren’t hindered in his present surroundings (studio work) he would definitely make his mark in the modern jazz field.

* Tony Scott. Tony is another clarinetist who is developing a personal style and just at the beginning of what will be a big career. He is acquiring great proficiency and a keen harmonic sense.
There are other clarinetists, too, whom I admire a great deal. Lester Young, for one. I consider his jazz ideas the greatest of anyone’s, but the infrequency with which he plays clarinet keeps him from the list.
Another man, too, who is a great all-round musician and is skilled on clarinet but seldom plays it is Benny Carter. Sol Yaged, too, should be mentioned.
That’s it. That’s my list. I’ve probably forgotten half a dozen guys who should be on it, but the ones I’ve mentioned I think would qualify in anyone’s book.

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Our fallen cartoonist comrades

January 8, 2015 at 1:48 am (Andrew Coates, anti-fascism, Free Speech, good people, Human rights, islamism, Jim D, solidarity)

Comrade Coatesy notes: A word about our martyrs: Charb (supporter of the Front de gauche) Wolinski (communist – PCF supporter) Cabu (whose cartoons have played a big part in our lives).

We republish one of Cabu’s cartoons as a mark of respect to these fallen comrades – heroes of Enlightenment values:

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Charlie Brooker: Total Farage Plus

January 7, 2015 at 2:05 am (Europe, fantasy, funny, Guardian, Jim D)

Charlie Brooker is unfailingly amusing and his return to the Graun is a welcome surprise. Let’s hope he maintains a regular column, if only to counteract the malign, or at least annoying, effects of public school Stalinist Seumas Bloody Milne. Brooker’s G2 page/column yesterday had me laughing out loud – especially this:

Nigel Farage has accused the Government of

Photo: Reuters

Total Farage Plus

As 2015 dawns, Britain seems more divided than ever. But there’s one thing we can all agree on: we just don’t see enough of Nigel Farage. Sometimes you can eat an entire Twix without seeing a photograph of him raising a pint and guffawing or hearing his voice on the radio. Total Farage Plus is a tiny chip almost painlessly inserted into the back of your mind using a knitting needle and a croquet mallet. Once in place and booted-up, it hijacks the signal to your visual cortex, skilfully Photoshopping Farage into whatever you’re looking at. Enjoying a glorious sunset? It’ll be even better with Farage’s face peeping over the horizon. Bathing your kids? Nigel’s here too, with a cheeky blob of bath foam perched on his lovable nose! Staring into the eyes of the one you love? That’s not your own reflection gazing back at you – it’s Farage. Kicking a foreigner to death? Who’s that standing beside you, delivering the final blow with his steel-toe boots, real ale sloshing from the pint he’s still holding in one hand, a lusty guffaw bursting from his wobbly amphibian throat? It’s Farage again! What a card!

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A tip to Ed: expel Blair!

January 4, 2015 at 10:51 pm (class collaboration, elections, Jim D, labour party, Tony Blair)

Despite his typically dishonest denial, there is no doubt that in his interview with the Economist, Tony Blair said that he expects the Tories to win the next general election, unless Labour shifts dramatically to what he calls the “centre ground” (ie the right).

Blair said he expected to see an election “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result.” Anne McElvoy, public policy editor of the Economist, conducted the interview, and she’s quite clear on what Blair meant, writing in the Guardian: “For the avoidance of doubt he was also clear that this would mean a Tory victory.”

Less than six months before the general election, with Labour maintaining a slim lead over the Tories, this amounts to rank treachery. Ed Miliband is not doing well in the polls, generally scoring less well than the Labour Party itself. At a stroke, he could establish his credentials as a decisive leader and also put Blair and his acolytes in their place once and for all: by moving Blair’s expulsion for bringing the Party into disrepute. I put that forward as a serious suggestion, in the firm belief that it would be both a principled and a popular move.

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