Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, February 28, 2014

Poor Bonni Benstock-Intall: while the Southern Poverty Law Center and the FBI rate her as a hate purveyor, to everyone else she's simply an irrelevant Holocaust-denying imbecile

Bonni must be gutted that her employer and puppet-master Pamela Geller got the nod as America's greatest Islamophobe ahead of her little hate site.

And the overwhelming vote for President Barack Obama as overall winner presumably puzzles her, as she remains convinced that he is a Muslim (despite the stacks of evidence to the contrary) and a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood (despite the fact that Egypt's military dictator al-Sisi, himself a clear winner in the Middle East category, is still walking around alive - which would hardly be the case were Obama not more in sympathy with Israel-backed dictators than with democratically-elected Muslims).

Anyway, congratulations to all the winners. I must say that the only ones I voted for were al-Sisi and Aung San Suu Kyi, who were obviously far out in front in their respective regions. I had Dave Agema instead of Obama or Bonni, and Douglas Murray instead of Raheem Kassam. Actually, I may have voted for Geert Wilders too: can't remember. All these white supremacists look the same really.....

Good to have it confirmed that Bonni is as irrelevant as ever, despite her enjoining all her sheep to cast multiple votes for her. All those hundreds of comments on her hate blog all reduce to about a dozen crazed "patriots" holed up in shacks in the US outback, plus the odd British or Australian bigot. There were probably more people actually in the White House voting for Barack Obama than the total votes cast for New York's most self-deluding holocaust denier. I wonder if she'll own up on her blog to having lost out to people who actually cause Muslims to be murdered rather than just cheering for genocide from a safe distance. I won't hold my breath though: she was so confident that her barmy army of a dozen or so goose-steppers would launch her into some kind of credibility as an Islamophobe in her own right rather than simply a relay station for her employers.

World Rare Disease Day 2014

Today (February 28th) is Rare Disease Day. Actually the day is February 29th (the rarest day in the calendar) but 75% of the time it's celebrated on 28th. I take an interest in it as a sufferer from A1AD, but I think that in the spirit of the day I should highlight some other, even rarer, disease. This year I have decided to select Addison's Disease, an uncommon kidney complaint. Addison's Disease is what would probably have killed John F Kennedy had Lee Harvey Oswald not got there first. It is also the probable cause of Jane Austen's death, while Osama bin Laden was another suspected sufferer.

Spare a thought, then, this Friday, for all those suffering from rare diseases, and especially those with Addison's.

There can be no real peace until this human filth is cleaned up

It's twenty years this week since the massacre at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. That's the one which translated Baruch Goldstein from "sad loser" to either the most famous Israeli terrorist in history or an Israeli hero, depending on whether or not you're a "settler" terrorist.

As a commenter on this site remarks, the US dumped Bin Laden into the sea to erase his memory and prevent hero-worship at his graveside. Meanwhile, the terror-loving Israelis in Occupied Palestine commemorate Goldstein's mass murder every year, with protection from the IDF.

Regardless of what may or may not be negotiated by the Israeli and Palestinian governments as the BDS movement begins to edge Israel back towards fulfilling its international obligations, there can be no lasting peace in the region (even if all the "settler" terrorists are deported back to Israel) until the glorification of terrorist murder by "settlers" and its implicit support by the Israeli regime is excised like the cancer it is.

Robin Robertson Blues Band, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, Tuesday 25 February 2014

The Robin Robertson Blues Band, aka RRBB (though I think R2B2 would be snappier) made an Edinburgh appearance on Tuesday at the end of a week-long tour of England (London, Harrogate, Stockton, Newcastle) promoting their new album. I have to confess a personal interest here, as my son Ruairidh is their drummer. I hadn't seen the band live for a few months, and it was obvious that the tour had sharpened their performances, both in terms of how they played together and in the individual contributions. Tuesday was also my first time at the Voodoo Rooms, which impressed me as a venue: small and intimate without being cramped, and with the performance area and the bar separated just enough to avoid noisy distractions without requiring major planning every time you wanted a drink.

The support were local band Wah Wah. Like RRBB, WW are led by a staff member at Edinburgh College. Taj Wyzgowski has more guitars than Robin Robertson, onstage at least, and his playing has more raw bluesiness, but whether doing their own material or covers such as "All Along the Watchtower" or Steely Dan's "Barrytown", the band showed huge potential and I shall be following their progress with interest. It was refreshing to see a blues guitar/bass/drums trio which not only didn't sound like the obvious exemplars such as Cream or Beck/Bogert/Appice but which clearly had no intention of sounding like them, or indeed like anyone but themselves. Oh, and they have a female drummer, which shouldn't be worth mentioning but still is, such is the male domination of rhythm sections even now (I know, White Stripes, Magic Numbers, blah blah: but it's still true that a female bassist or drummer is a rare bird, so to speak).

And so to RRBB. What can I say about Annette Chapman, their singer, except that her voice didn't sound as though she was at the end of a tour: still all the usual punch and volume, like a Scottish Janis Joplin (I'd love to hear Annette doing "Ball and Chain"). She has sweetness as well as wellie, as shown on numbers like "God Bless The Child" and "Woman Be Wise". Brian Branford must be one of the most self-effacing bass players since Ashley Hutchings: "Mr Cellophane", you hardly notice him, except that his playing holds everything together. Brian is the only band member who doesn't take a solo at any time during the set, which is a shame though presumably his choice. Ruairidh Saunders on drums was giving hos new touring kit its first serious outing on this tour. It's one of Jalapeno's Russian Doll kits where the whole thing packs into a single bass drum case, but the sound has in no way been compromised by the stackable design. My wife and I were agreeing that it sounds even better than his conventional touring kit (R's primary instrument is a mighty electronic kit which has taken over our music room at home). Ruairidh's playing has improved over the tour, mainly I think in terms of his listening which has been uprated from "sensitive" to "acute", so plugged-in is he to what everyone else is doing. Dot Allan has matured incredibly as a soloist over the past few months. Once upon a time Dot was a classical pianist (I've heard her playing a Rachmaninoff concerto) who played in pick-up bands for some big names in Reggae and other genres. But now she's right in the Georgie Fame/Alan Price/Gary Brooker zone as a solid blues keyboardist with the ability to knock out great solos on either piano or organ. And finally, Robin Robertson, the eminence grise (or eminence chauve) of the band. His own soloing abilities have never been in doubt, whether he's using a bottleneck (as on "New Orleans") or not. It's hard to say whether RRBB reflects Robin's personality more than Annette's or the other way round: I suspect Annette "rules the school" when she's singing, and the rest of the time it's Robin's show. But it's a very democratic band, and I'm not referring to their debates about material or their rehearsal technique but their organisation on stage. There's no "I" in "team", and there's only one in "Robin Robertson Blues Band", tucked away quietly inside Robin.

You need to buy the album (plug? moi?) to get a feel for what the band are like. (Oh all right, watch this instead then.) They do a mixture of Chapman and Chapman originals (Annette and her husband), traditional blues numbers, and the odd cover from the likes of Katy Webster. And they sound like a professional touring band, which is impressive when you consider that they comprise three lecturers, one student, and whatever Brian does when he isn't playing bass. I understand there are plans for a festival in Romania, and a possible US tour: I think the RRBB are easily capable of succeeding at both.

To sum up: a great evening, as expected. Venue, support, RRBB: all even better than anticipated.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Scarlett the Starlet believes that because money is the only thing she values, everybody else must feel the same way: thus proving that some blondes really are dumb

We've all heard a lot recently about Scarlett Johansson's conflict of interest, between her work as an Ambassador for Oxfam and her work for Sodastream, a company which carries out a lot of manufacturing in an illegal settlement in the Occupied West Bank. And we all know how it was resolved: she dumped Oxfam and kept the more lucrative Sodatream gig. One observer suggested that this was because the "Jewish lobby" in Hollywood would have ensured that she was blacklisted had she sided with Oxfam. That might be true or not, but it's purely speculative: however, the same lobby ensured that Rankin was forced into a humiliating apology.

Anyway, Ms Johansson and many of her supporters have made much play of the thousand or so jobs for Palestinians provided by the Sodastream factory in Ma'ale Adumim, and of the fact that the workers' pay and terms of employment are equivalent to those of Israeli workers. their pay and hours may be the same, but there is no equivalence in the conditions under which they work: they have no vote, they are restricted in their ability to travel, to get to the factory they have to run a gauntlet of checkpoints, they are subjected to regular racist abuse by the settlers (which hardly ever leads to any reprimand from the IDF or police - at least, not for the perpetrators, though sometimes for the victims) and finally for now, if they have any dispute with their employer they have no recourse to Israeli law as they are governed under military law which treats them as second-class human beings and not as citizens.

Let's look at the system of checkpoints which dominates the lives of Palestinians (but not of Israelis) working in the illegal settlements. Here is a short film which brings home the everyday reality.

And before you all start to say that the film is just fiction, and that such things don't happen in the region's only democracy(TM), take a look at this recent story from the West Bank.

So yes, Scarlett, the workers in Ma'ale Adumim have jobs, and well-paid ones, but don't kid yourself that Sodatream's pocket-book largesse makes up for the vile conditions of servitude in which those workers will spend their entire lives unless the world puts a stop to Israel's crimes against humanity.

You said you were lied to, and that's not hard to see

Further to my post last week about the strike at my workplace, I can report that although negotiations have resumed and the management have made some key concessions, the strike was still escalated from one day a week to two, with three days per week planned for the future (which will be in two weeks, as there are no students in next week). That last fact in itself tells you something: if the purpose of the strike was to inconvenience management, the absence of the students would make no difference (staff will be in from Monday to Wednesday, doing various training and team-building things). No, the whole point of this strike has become clear: it's to cause maximum inconvenience to the students in the hope that this will cause them (and their parents) to put pressure on the College management. (Which just shows how little the strike organisers understand about either students or their parents, who are probably emailing their MPs and MSPs now demanding further legal restrictions on the right to strike.) Further confirmation of this came from the picket line at the Milton Road campus last Tuesday (the one at my workplace was fairly low-key and wholly peaceful), where in addition to lying in the road in front of cars to stop them crossing the picket line, and bouncing on the car bonnets, the pickets were harassing students entering the college, demanding to know why they were going in, who their lecturers were, and bringing some of the more sensitive ones (remember some of these students are no more than fifteen) to the verge of tears. The police were called, though for what precisely I'm unsure.

In the event, a lot of lecturers were out on Tuesday so most lectures were cancelled. I turned up for mine in case anyone wanted a lesson but mainly got on with my admin. Wednesday was pretty similar, and the pickets were peaceful when I went in, though apparently some of the crowd form the Milton Road picket line had transferred their attention to Sighthill by later in the day, where they were bouncing on cars again, and apparently attempting to photograph anyone entering. I think if they try that one with me I'll take a selfie with the pickets in the background and post it on Facebook: I don't intimidate easily.

A number of lecturers who had been out the previous week felt like me that escalation of the action was inappropriate (some felt it should have been suspended: I'd have been happy if they'd just kept it to one day, which seems to chime with the view of most of the students I spoke to later). Some were also pissed off by a piece of lying from the EIS-FELA Branch Secretary, which was as brazen a piece pf work as any of Bonni's over at BareNakedIslam. Let me explain.

The strike was called because of worries about various proposed changes to terms and conditions, and about the management's insistence on linking any pay deal to these changes. Foremost among the concerns was the introduction of annualised hours with no weekly ceiling on class contact time. In other words, your current full-time contract might specify 22 hours a week of class contact, but the new one would just say 800 hours per year. That's a very slight rise (less than half an hour a week) on average, but the new system would permit management to ask staff to teach extra classes so they might have to be in front of a class for 35 hours in a week. This was felt to be a risk, and I can understand that. So when negotiations began, and management asked what the union were still wanting, a weekly cap on class contact was first on the shopping list. And the management duly provided it: realising that they'd made a mistake, they fixed a cap of 24 hours per week. So now you could only be asked to teach up to 24 hours per week (and staff on some current contracts already teach that). Moreover, staff on those 24-hour contracts would be harmonised down to 22 hours per week in line with everyone else. So: the union asked for a cap, and were given it. In addition, staff currently teaching at that capped level would have their normal contract requirement cut so that 24 hours would be an exceptional maximum for all staff. The union negotiators considered these proposals and welcomed them. They still rejected the overall package on offer because of other small points they still wanted improving, and mainly because of the link between the (now improved) pay offer and the contract changes, which remains in place. All of which seems very reasonable on both sides.

An email was circulated by the union's negotiating team explaining how the negotiations had gone and why the strike would be continuing. I received it, but a number of my colleagues (good union members who indeed continued to strike after the escalation) did not. Which at the time seemed like an oversight, but which may have had more sinister motives (though I don't want to make to read too much into it: history is usually far more cock-up than conspiracy). About half an hour later the Branch Secretary, Penny Gower, circulated a second email which complained stridently that the management's response had been disgraceful. Under the proposed changes, lecturers would be expected to work 24 class contact hours a week instead of their current 22, and this might lead to the loss of up to 50 jobs. Yes, she really did write that. Yes, she really does think her members are that stupid (or perhaps that she had successfully suppressed the actual report from the union). And to judge from some reactions, she may be right in some cases: but not mine, thank you. If I had been intending to strike last week that email would have given me second thoughts, showing Ms Gower to be not only a liability to the EIS but a disgrace to the trade union movement. It shows that Penny Gower has so little confidence in the union's case for the strike that she feels the need to lie about it to her own members, which just seems sad. Because the case isn't a bad one: if the strike had stayed at one day a week I'd have been happy to stay out purely for the principle of separation on the contract negotiations from the pay offer.

(Ms Gower, as well as being Branch Secretary of EIS-FELA, is currently its President, which I have just realised makes my title singularly apt, coming as it does from Arlo Guthrie's Watergate song "Presidential Rag". Hah.)

UPDATE: after the second week of strike action the union accepted a very slightly slightly revised offer from management and is recommending the deal to its members for approval. Meanwhile, the strike is suspended.

FURTHER UPDATE: Penny Gower did eventually respond to my email, explaining that the original offer had turned out (after further questioning of the management) to be intended to be "self-funding", by way of reducing the number of temporary lecturers to make savings to pay for the hours cap. I'm grateful for the response, even if it does seem too convenient to be true that her comment about jobs was precisely - and solely - about people in my situation. I think I spy someone trying too hard to give out the message(s) she thinks people want to hear, and making up the detail as she goes along. Still, I may revise my "disgrace to the trade union movement" description, even if "liability to the EIS" still fits.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Historical resonances indeed.

"In the future", Andy Warhol wrote in 1968, "Everyone will be world famous for fifteen minutes." Perhaps he had in mind people such as the heckler at the Bob Dylan concert I attended at Manchester's Free Trade hall in 1966: the one who shouted "Judas!"

Disrupting concerts is usually a good route to quick notoriety and even quicker obscurity. Sometimes it is done to protest about the performers. Sometimes it has been the musical content which has attracted the opprobrium of the protestors. Sometimes it has been both.

As you will have seen from the earlier posts from this blog in among those links, I don't approve of concert disruption as a means of protest even if I agree with the protest's aims. So you can imagine that when I heard about this German woman who interrupted a performance of Karl Jenkins' mass "The Armed Man" in a German church I was unimpressed, and would have been so even had she been shouting about the music.

But she was doing no such thing: she was whining about the blasphemy of allowing the Islamic call to prayer to be heard in a Christian church as part of a "Mass for Peace". She compared herself to Martin Luther, and rails against the Protestant/Evangelical Chisrch in Germany. Only she knows what true Christianity is: "The people know and understand nothing".

The CBN reporter goes on about the historical resonance of the church in Speyer, and let's stay with that. In the Middle Ages, Speyer had one of the largest Jewish communities in Germany, most of whom had fled there from persecution in other Germanic regions. In 1544 the Jews of Speyer petitioned Emperor Charles V to renew their Charter of Rights, as they were alarmed by the rising tide of antisemitic hatred being inflamed especially by a young priest called Martin Luther. Under the Third Reich, Speyer's already somewhat depleted Jewish community was totally wiped out by the Nazis in pursuit of the Final Solution. There are some memorials to the evicted Jews, but the town council voted not to erect plaques marking where their houses used to be (of a kind which are common elsewhere in Germany). It was not until the 1990s that a Jewish community sprang up again in Speyer.

There have been other recent historical resurgences in Speyer:

Now let's consider the musical work whose "Islamic" content Ms Mund was so incensed about. The Armed Man, by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, a work commissioned by one of Britain's biggest military museums, the Royal Armouries. they commissioned it to mark the Millennium celebrations, and it is dedicated to the victims of the Kosovo crisis. The work combines elements of the Catholic mass with quotations form the Bible, the Mahabharata and the Islamic call to prayer. Subtitled "A Mass for Peace", it makes reference to the horrors of both the First and Second World Wars, and of course to the Kosovo conflict.

So, we are in a town whose Jewish population suffered terribly from antisemitism, both at the hands of Martin Luther (with whom Heidi Mund identifies herself) and Adolf Hitler, whose thugs regularly disrupted concerts which were felt to be un-German, or ideologically unsound. We are in a town which showed no particular interest in the elimination of its Jews, not any great enthusiasm for their return; a town where neo-Nazis march in the street today. The work which we choose to attack is by a British composer, commissioned by the government which helped to defeat Nazism, and dedicated to peace (which as any Nazi will tell you, is only for the weak). It promotes the idea that other religions than Protestant Christianity have a place in the world (it's based in a Catholic mass, for heaven's sake). Its performance places a curse on the church which is such a glorious and significant monument to religious intolerance, the church leaders who organised the performance have betrayed noble German values, and the mere Christians who worship there and attended the concert, they are just so much ignorant fodder if they don't hate in the ideologically correct manner.

No wonder Heidi Mund has become a heroine with a certain kind of German, and with those around the world who long for the return of the Nazis to power in Germany. Can't have pesky non-Christians polluting the place: and any stupid Christians who take their faith seriously and refuse to hate them, well, they'll get the same treatment.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Gloating: sometimes understandable, never cool

I was originally going to link this post from Bonni the Holocaust denier at BareNakedIslam to ask why she hates the police so much she would brazenly lie about their statements. (From the report she cites: '..an FBI spokesman said the man’s burns were possibly from an incendiary device. “At this time, we are assisting in furthering the investigation to determine how the male received the injuries and how the fire started,” Officer John Chafee with Atlanta police said.' From Bonni's post: 'Police say they don’t believe Saamer Akhshabi (photo right) was trying to make a bomb.') I suppose if you want people to take up arms against the US government you have to take every opportunity to lie about it, and the tired old crap about Benghazi and about the President being a Muslim just won't suffice any more.

But the slew of gloating comments about the apparent bomb-maker's injuries made me think. OK, it's never nice to cheer when someone is fighting for his life, but I can see where they're coming from with this guy.

Let's leave Bonni and her goose-stepping commenters now, and travel via Facebook to a friend of mine in Colorado. Aric Clark is a Presbyterian minister, and a beacon of sound sense in the online Chrstian community. Now a couple of days ago Aric shared this link with the comment "Yep. This is what it's like for victims of sexual assault." I responded by linking this and observing 'I would have liked this better had it not been a true story, from a country where women are burned to death every week in "dowry murders". Hard to feel much sympathy for the guy, but gloating seems out of place.' To be fair, Aric had assumed it was a fake story created to make the valid point about the way in which society treats victims of sexual assaults. But in a world where people are routinely burned to death for the most trivial of reasons, it seems wrong to make light of even a fictional immolation.

Which brings me back to Bonni and her loathsome flock of commenting sheep. There was a tragic story from Montreal last week, of a woman whose scarf got caught in an escalator on the subway: when she tried to free it her hair became entangled and she died from her injuries. there was much speculation as to whether the scarf was a regular Canada-in-the-winter scarf or a hijab (as though that made some kind of difference). The press started banging on about a hijab, which the police corrected. Then it turned out that the dead woman was a Muslim who wore a hijab, but that it was indeed a normal scarf (not her hijab) which had led to her death. Regardless of the facts, Bonni and her sheep rejoice that a "headbag" wearer got what she deserved (to wit, an agonising death) for having the temerity to wear clothing of which they disapprove. So far, so unsurprising: but what shocked even me (and I don't shock easily, especially where neo-Nazis are concerned) is the sheer volume and strength of the hatred being expressed in Bonni's comment stream. See here. There is the usual crop of fantasists coming out with how-I-would-have-mocked-the-dying-woman-if-I'd-been-there porn, and Bonni banning any normal person who dares to suggest that celebrating the death of an inniocent mother of two is a little tasteless. ("She brought this oneself (sic) by insisting on dressing like a slave. Showing compassion for muslims here gets you banned. Buh Bye.") But more shocking than the run-of-the-mill sho-gives-a-shit comments are the dozens who consider a women's death (bah! a mere woman!) as a cause for actual celebration and mirth. No doubt we shall soon see videos of them dancing in the street and handing out cake. I'll leave the subject with one of the comments, which shows both the blatant racism and the degree of self-delusion of these self-described "Christians" (not Bonni of course: she pretends to be a Jew).

" ....even on our worst days we are better than them,we have half a brain(that’s half more than they have),we are kind,we are compassionate,we are generous,we open our doors to people who want to kill us(and have killed),we tolerate the intolerable.Oh,nearly forgot….and we shower daily(using soap)."

Friday, February 07, 2014

Which Side Are You On?

While the strike on the London Underground is attracting a lot of attention, there is a strike much closer to home which is affecting the Saunders household. The teaching staff at Edinburgh College have come out on strike over the college's pay offer, specifically its linkage to a number of changes to their terms and conditions. Hilary is classed as a management grade and is therefore not only not expected to strike but liable to disciplinary action if she did. I on the other hand am in a teaching position, and as a member of the EIS (the Scottish teachers' union) am expected to strike.

I find myself in an odd position. Today was a one-day strike, and I came out in solidarity. The terms and conditions changes don't actually affect me as I am part-time and on a temporary contract. I voted against strike action when we were balloted, but the vote went the other way and I am happy enough to turn out to support my striking colleagues, even though I was somewhat horrified at the eagerness with which the union went for strike action. (My previous - lengthy and intimate - involvement with trade union activism has involved a lot more negotiation and a lot less withdrawal of labour, though this is not my first strike.)


The EIS's plan is that after today's strikes, next week there will be a two-day strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, after which there will be three-day Tuesday-Thursday strikes until the end of term. If I thought the first strike was precipitately launched, I consider this degree of escalation insane. It will cause massive disruption to students (and let us remember that if they fail their courses as a result that may be the end of the line for their chosen careers). As the EIS has helpfully published all the dates when it intends to strike, the disruption to management has been minimised. I would much rather have seen a continuation of one-day strikes, but with the days randomly varied at short notice: far better tactics. I assume the theory is that the panicked students will get their parents to apply pressure to the college to accede to the EIS's demands. What I suspect will happen is that those parents will instead apply pressure to their MP and MSP to change the legal availability of strike action. I gather from the radio news that Cameron's government are considering the introduction of a bill to reduce still further the right of workers to strike - this as a result of the Tube strike. It could be that the outcome of the present EIS action will not be a change of heart by the college management but a declaration that strikes in essential services such as teaching are illegal.

Anyway, I emailed the EIS President (who teaches at our college) and asked whether I would receive strike pay if I continued to strike but only for the one day a week I could square with my conscience: I'm damned if I'm going to have my students failing if I can help it. I have to date received no reply so will have to assume that I will not, which means that from here on I will not be striking. Of course, as my reason for not striking is the effect on the students - the loss of earnings if I received strike pay would be small - if the college decides to cancel classes on the strike days I may as well strike. Classes were cancelled today, supposedly because of the short notice, and it will be interesting to see what happens next week. Certainly some of my students were assuming that their classes would not be running. I am not relishing the crossing of picket lines for the first time in my life, though if there are classes next Tuesday for me to teach I shall be turning up to teach them. I find myself with a conflict of principles here: trade union solidarity (even when it is not in my personal interest) versus dedication to providing my students with an education. I don't want to come over as some kind of goody-goody if I say that my decision is to put the students first. If I did, you might point out that if all my students on a course fail it reduces my chance of being re-employed: there is a degree of self-interest there. But in honesty, I have in some cases put a lot of effort into ensuring that my students have the best chance of passing: why would I waste all that effort and stress?

So should I hope that classes next Tuesday are cancelled so that I can pusillanimously avoid crossing the picket line? Or hope that they go ahead so that I can take my classes? Given the very short gap between the strike today and the one next week, hope for a negotiated outcome that would avoid further strike action seems unrealistic. Watch this space for further developments, but I expect to be back at work next week.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

And now, some music.....

Some music while you read. Here are Runrig doing Ard live. Written in one of those angry-as-hell-but-determined-to-get-something-positive-from-it moods, the day after the Conservatives had been elected in Westminster once again. I suppose if the referendum in September goes against independence it may be being played more often...

I heard this one last week in a coffee shop for the first time in many years. it bears up very well.

My quartet is currently practising the Schoenberg Quartet in D (1897) for a performance in a few weeks. I keep finding myself humming the variation that starts at 3:55 here. It's all good stuff though.

This one is getting played quite a bit, having been recently purchased.

And finally, The Scissor Sisters came up in conversation in college this week. So we have to have this one:

Sunday, February 02, 2014

This Machine May Not Actually Kill Fascists But It Pisses Them Off A Treat

Having recently written posts on both Pete Seeger and Anders Breivik, it seemed serendipitous that I should find this clip. It shows a crowd of 40,000 Norwegians singing Seeger's "My Rainbow Race" in a Norwegian translation by Lillebjoern Nilsen. This was after Breivik's conviction: at his trial he had called Nilsen a Marxist who was “brainwashing” the Norwegian people. So they sang a song they knew he hated right outside his window. LOL.

And here, for the benefit of Paul Weston, Bonni Benstock Intall, and all the other haters, is Pete Seeger performing the original. Because I'd hate the message to be lost in translation.

(For any haters who don't understand the post title, look and learn.)

Paul Weston on poor misunderstood Anders Breivik, and how the wicked media fail to give his medication-induced wibblings the attention Weston feels they merit

Bonni, bless her, has reposted a diatribe from Britain's own neo-Nazi wannabe Paul Weston, Weston now leads (or more likely comprises) LibertyGB, the current incarnation of his fantasy of becoming politically relevant. Before LibertyGB he used to head the British Freedom Party, which like all these splinter groups of all-mouth-no-trousers activists tore itself apart over some vital issue of policy (probably the colour of the uniforms).

Weston's current ramblings are just too good to miss. Consider:

“Unfortunately for the decent, intelligent and moral people today, the Left have largely carried out their Long March and now control the institutions which form the thoughts and opinions of the vast majority of Western peoples.”

So the vast majority of Western people, according to Weston, are not decent, intelligent or moral. Yes, Paul, keep with the flattery, that'll persuade folk to vote for you. But seriously, why does he hate the West so much? What's wrong with being British?

“…….Hitler, Stalin and their present day Socialist comrades-in-arms……”

OMG, the old “Hitler was a socialist because it was in the name of his party” trope.

“In 2011 Breivik carried out his murderous spree, to the shock and horror of all decent people everywhere.”

Well, not so much shock and horror for the Cardiff organiser of the British Freedom Party, led at the time by, er, Paul Weston.

Breivik, of course, slaughtered his victims not because the were Muslims or even Muslim sympathisers, but because they were young socialists: children who were being brought up as "leftists". So how does Paul Weston attempt to distance himself from his fellow-fascist? By referring to "leftists" as " a disgrace to humanity". Yeah, that'll work.

The main point of Westinls piece is to publicise the most recent ravings of Breivik himself, because heaven forbid that we should miss a word that comes from the pen of the great man. Apparently he has now decided that the manifesto which he defended so vigorously at his trial was all just a wind-up: that he implicated so many "counter-jihad" hatemongers in it because he felt they were insufficiently right-wing. Yes, it was all just a dream.... Ia hardly ever find myself in agreement with "Mad Mel" Phillips, but when Breivik's original ravings were published she wrote:

First and foremost, this is treating Breivik as if his words deserve to be taken seriously and at face value. As of now, however, we don’t know whether Breivik is psychotic, a psychopath or under the influence of all the drugs he claims to have taken.
We also don’t know what part, if any, his political views actually played in this atrocity.
After all, since his target was his country’s Labour party one might just as well surmise that he was motivated by hatred of his father, who was a Labour party supporter and who was divorced from Breivik’s mother when the killer was a baby.
In any event, someone who travels to a teenagers’ summer camp and invites them all to gather round so that he can kill them all cannot be considered rational.

Yet when this delusional self-publicist (Breivik, not Phillips) announces that he made the whole thing up, Weston treats his fantasy with the deepest respect, as though it were Hitler himself publishing Mein Kampf from prison.

Finally, it seems that as a “left-liberal” (whatever the fuck that is) I have declared a "racial and cultural war on the indigenous people of this country". So never mind how many generations of English ancestors I have, never mind my living in Britain all my life, working for the government and several proudly British banks, never mind my C of E upbringing and my membership of the Scottish Episcopal Church, never mind my education at one of England's oldest schools: I’m a left-liberal so must hate everything I stand for, including all my family.

The man is insane. No wonder he feels such an affinity for Breivik.

I believe they have lawyers in America......

Email sent by me today to to feedback@oxfam.org.uk:

Hi. I would like to draw your attention to a post on the anti-Islamic hate site BareNakedIslam on 31 January 2014. The post states that "Oxfam has ... advocated violence against Jews, women and homosexuals". See here

As far as i am aware, Oxfam has never advocated violence against any group. While a degree of criticism is inevitable from some quarters over the recent Sodastream affair. I feel this goes beyond the bounds of reasonable criticism and constitutes libellous defamation.

Should you wish to discuss the matter with the blog's author, her name and address are:

Bonni Benstock Intall
New York
NY 11360


Rob Saunders

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Today is World Hijab Day

My view on the Muslim headscarf, or hijab, is perfectly summed up by this cartoon.

Personally I figure that anyone wearing a hijab will probably encounter plenty of assholes in the course of their week who will glare at them, make unpleasant comments, and generally try to make them miserable: so I always make a point of giving women in hijabs a friendly smile. It seems a small, positive thing I can do to improve their lives, along with simply treating them as normal women (normal Scottish women, moreover).

However, World Hijab Day isn't just about treating women in hijabs as human beings and respecting their right to wear the things if they wish. It is a day when woman who do not habitually wear the hijab don the garment in a display of solidarity with their hijabi sisters. Which as the author of this article observes, is just so much tokenism. I'm not going to discover how it feels to be a Sikh in Britain by wearing a turban for a day.

Oh, and this article makes interesting reading. Especially relevant here is point number 6:

Six: Avoid tokenism and broad generalizations. Sometimes a hijab is just a hijab, and sometimes it is not.

And sometimes, of course, it is a punk hijab. A tartan punk hijab. What?

Well this should be an interesting year

The Taoist Tai Chi Society, of which I am a member, produces T-shirts for each of the various Chinese Years. If they take their cue from the BBC I imagine this year's will be a wet T-shirt....