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

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Hell, if they were that bothered about keeping us in the Union they could have hung on to our royal family.....

I thought this was rather good. (It's a video entitled "Top 10 Unionist Myths Debunked".)



I think Joe may be getting an inkling of the way I'm leaning now.......

Sunday, April 21, 2013

For the times they are a-changing....

A piece from the Huffington Post on probably the only openly gay Imam in the world.

Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mrs Intall?

And gosh, while it's still April 20th in New York I must wish Bonni Benstock-Intall a happy birthday. Bonni, as we know, claims to be Jewish but at her hate site BareNakedIslam she spews out antisemitic drivel blaming the Holocaust on left-wing Jews (and denying altogether that it affected gays, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah's Witnesses or any other Untermenschen). She celebrates the passing of antisemitic laws banning Beth Din courts and calls for bans on the provision of kosher food in schools. She never fails to mention the ethnicity of any political opponent who happens to be Jewish. She calls for hate mail (or worse) to be sent to rabbis who are insufficiently imbued with her brand of white supremacist vileness and who simply stick to the teachings of the Torah. And she has called for the return of the Nazis in Germany.

So why do I suspect that it is no coincidence that her birthday is the same as Adolf Hitler's? This is a person who pretends to be Jewish (but pours scorn on those who keep kosher), who pretends to have a degree in Japanese (but hates foreigners and thinks Rome is in Spain), who pretends to be a patriot (but calls for the violent overthrow of the government). Why do I suspect that April 20th is just her "official" birthday adopted in honour of her hero?

Anyway, Jesus Christ died for her sins as well as for those of the Boston bombers (though I'm sure she hates the idea - she hates Christians nearly as much as Jews). So happy birthday, Bonni, and I hope your mental problems get better some day.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Wish He Was Here

Storm Thorgerson has died. He gave us this:



..not to mention these:



And I always rather liked this tribute to his classic Pink Floyd album covers:



I've always wondered whether they did the other side....

Always Look On The......

Credo

Oh, this is terrific. In fact, I'm going to repost the main bit and wish I could have put it that well myself. Thanks to Douglas Hagler for posting it and to Aric Clark for bringing it to my attention.

In the midst of my doubts, I behave as if God exists -

God who is like a parent, and a river, and a wild animal, and a storm, and a fire, and a voice, and a quark, among many other things;

God from whom all being and non-being arises.

I imagine that I relate to Jesus, who is all of God and all of us

and I commit myself, as much as I can, to his way of life, to the best of my understanding.

I understand him to have been born like any person

but that he was inhabited, from the beginning, by the presence of God

in a way that people around him found shocking and inspiring and frightening.

(I believe we say far too little about his life and teaching)

I understand him to have suffered the violence of the religious and political authorities,

just as vulnerable people who tell the truth and serve the poor often do,

and that he was tortured to death.

(If there ever was a Hell, I trust that Jesus went there, emptied it, and turned the lights off on his way out)

I trust the story of the first disciples, men and women,

who experienced the personal presence of Jesus even after his death,

and in reading their interpretations of this experience, I see that it could not adequately be described, but feel that their subsequent behavior is compelling evidence that it was nonetheless both real and repeatable.

If there is a kind of existence that is particular to God, then I think Jesus shares that existence

and because of that, I guess, and hope, that Jesus-followers can somehow share that kind of existence as well.

(It is also quite possible that when we say God, what we mean is an essential experience of our own existence, one which transcends our usual perceptions and alters us, or creates greater wholeness in us, which we inadequately characterize as a separate being.)

I trust in the continuing presence of God in our lives, and that what the first disciples experienced, that presence which transcends words and concepts, can be experienced still.

I think that it is a worthwhile and powerful thing to gather together in community,

seeking to live in the presence of God and to be changed by it,

and that the community may very well be best understood as the resurrected body of Christ,

as each of us participates in the life and action of Christ in the world.

I am convinced that no wrong we do is able to separate us from this God-life, and that forgiveness is one path to reconcile ourselves with God and with each other.

In imagining the experience of Christ’s life that the first disciples had,

even after Jesus was tortured to death for all to see,

and trying to behave in a way similar to Jesus and his first followers, as well as wise and courageous people since,

I hope that I am able to experience Christ’s life in a similar way.

I imagine that one aspect of the experience of this God-life is to no longer feel the passage of time and the anxious consciousness of our mortality, and to find that greater breadth and depth of life unfolds around us,

and in us, and through us.

I have had enough glimpses of this experience myself that I still seek it.

I hope that in some or even all of these things that I am correct, but I think that even if I am not correct, my life is nonetheless enriched and enlivened by the practice of living, playing and working with others who are also seeking this God-life that Jesus embodies.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Simple

No wonder Churchill made it a priority in the middle of WW2 to provide government funds to establish the Central London Mosque

This sounds like an interesting exhibition. Wish I still lived in London and could see it. Wonder if they're arranging showings of this to tie in with it?

Prediction: if the bomber turns out to be a white Christian extremist, Walid Shoebat will still try to blame it on Muslims

I imagine BareNakedIslam is pretty typical of Hitler fan sites in (a) assuming from the outset that the perpetrator(s) of the Boston bombing will turn out to be a Muslim (b) promulgating the lie that a Saudi man was under investrigation for it by the FBI (c) publishing full details of his identity, with photographs (not to mention linking to pieces by notorious hate preacher Walid Shoebomberbat libelling the guy).

So this piece by Amina Chaudry is overdue really.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Different Trains

You would think the SNCF, which waited until 2011 to apologise to survivors of the Holocaust for its role in wheeling thousands of French Jews off to the extermination camps, might be careful to avoid any further accusations of institutional racism. Yet this week, when Israeli President Shimon Peres passed through the Gare du Nord in Paris, the SNCF went out of its way to ensure that he wouldn't have to look at any black or brown faces during his visit (which ironically was to discuss how to improve relations between Israel and Palestine).

Before we all get too well-what-do-you-expect-from-a-racist, the Israeli Embassy denies having requested any such ethnic cleansing of the station staff. I'm inclined to believe them: after all, in Israel most Jews have no problem with exposure to Arabs. They might not let them onto their buses, or their roads, or their housing estates, but they don't mind looking at them any more than whites in Mississippi in the 1950s minded looking at the blacks who were cleaning their homes.

The SNCF's "sensitivity" to the question of a Muslim presence is especially ironic when you compare the NCF's record during the Nazi occupation with that of Paris's Muslim community, who were responsible for saving countless Jews from arrest and slaughter by the authorities. That the SNCF compounded its historical thick-headedness with clumsy racism by equating "black and North African" with "Muslim" just adds to the heap of trouble on store for its management.

Harry, Mohamed: they're so easy to confuse really.

Oh, puh-lease! Look, if Bonni the Bayside Nazi wants to protect the USA from the "scourge" of "Mohamedan" babies (read: get rid of the non-whites) she can dream on (what's she going to do, sterilize every Muslim herself? Or perhaps just do a Herod and use one of her dozens of guns to rub out any suspiciously brown-skinned picaninnies found polluting her all-white paradise? Good luck with that.)

But please: Mohamed the most popular boy's name in England? Get real. It's number 57. (At least, in the UK. I can't find separate England/Scotland/Wales figures, but (a) as England has most of the population it clearly is nowhere near the top (b) I doubt Bonni - who thinks the Coliseum is in Spain - realises that England and the UK are different places anyway.)

But please carry on demonstrating your lamentable ignorance of all things British. We love it.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Brave BBC journalists risking lives - but not, of course, their own - to get stories

The BBC is making the news in another way just now as well, because of a Panorama programme it intends to air tomorrow night. The BBC's team posed as LSE (London School of Economics) students on a student society visit to North Korea, but never bothered to tell the LSE about it. Now both the students involved and the LSE itself want the programme pulled because of the danger it could pose to future student visits, to academic co-operation, and to any kind of genuine investigative work on North Korean society and politics.

I've had concerns in the past about deeply biased reporting in Panorama programmes on Palestine, Cuba and other places, but my concern here isn't whether they're being fair and honest in their reporting, but whether the BBC's lack of professional ethics is putting lives at risk. We have seen how the use of a fake vaccination programme in Pakistan by the CIA as cover for spying has led to deep mistrust of genuine healthcare programmes. Quite apart from the consequences for the spread of polio of people's not being vaccinated, real health volunteers are now at risk of attack on suspicion of being spies and stooges. It is easy to see how the BBC's infiltration of a student visit could play out in future: we could see students routinely being hauled in for interrogation, or worse.

Of course, the London School of Economics has always had a reputation as a hotbed of left-wing activism, so perhaps the BBC considers that the possible death or torture of a few leftists in the future is an acceptable trade-off in the ratings battle for a programme going up against Coronation Street.

The BBC - censoring news and the arts again

Just noticed this report on the BBC News site, and in particular the bit about the BBC's Radio One Chart Show.

Later on Sunday, the UK singles chart positions of Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead, a song at the centre of an anti-Lady Thatcher campaign, and I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher, a 1980s punk song adopted by pro-Thatcher campaigners, will become known.

Sales of Ding Dong! - from the 1939 musical film the Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland - have soared since her death.

The BBC has defended its decision not to play the song in full on Radio 1's Official Chart Show, saying it had had to take the feelings of her grieving family into account. It will play a five-second clip of the song in a news item if the song charts.

However, it has said I'm In Love With Margaret Thatcher will be played if it is a high entry because there are "no editorial reasons not to".


.... so if a classic from an American musical is number 1 it will be censored because it has become associated with opposition to Thatcherism. But if a song explicitly entitled "I Love Margaret Thatcher" is number 1, it will be played in full. Coming up shortly on North Korean State radio.......

Perhas the only funny thing about all this is that the song the Thatcherites have adopted was originally written as a satirical swipe at the newly-elected PM (and indeed, it's clearly intended to sound as though it's being sung by a bunch of knuckle-dragging morons).

A five, a four, a five, four, three, two.....

"But Mr Chairman, they definitely said on the telephone that you would be arriving shortly and wanted to see for yourself that our bass has been placed on a war footing........"



(Thanks to the Classical Music Humor Facebook group for the picture.)

My son the drummer

...making a recording with the Robin Robertson Blues Band.

Oooh arrrr

My parents came from Dorset in the South-West of England, but I was born in Manchester. Now the accents typical of residents of those areas are a little different, and as a child I spoke pretty much like my parents (after half a century of moving around England and Scotland my accent these days is hard to pin down). So when I first went to school I was forever being surrounded by a crowd of older kids who wanted to hear me talk. Well, when you're backed into a corner of the playground by a crownd whose collective IQ is almost equal to your own and who demand "Say something", what do you do? You say anything you want - they won't understand it anyway. As a naturally talkative soul I took little encouragement to become a raconteur and wit (OK, smug bore and teller of bad jokes).

All of which is just by way of a DJ's intro to this track which I first heard a couple of days ago. The original song, of course, was the UK's 1996 Eurovision entry, perfomed by Gina G and vanishing without trace. The Wurzels - who sing better than Gina - are a Dorset band who used to be fronted by the great Adge Cutler, and some of whose early hits were penned by Trevor Crozier, best man at my brother's wedding. If only I'd been able to sing this to my interlocutors......

Bonni the Holocaust denier encourages another British Nazi to commit identity fraud so as to circumvent the USA's laws

One almost - but no quite - has to admire the brazenness with which Bonni Benstock-Intall (New York antisemite who calls for the return of the Nazis to cleanse Germany of Muslims) tells her lies. In a comment on a post calling on her sheep to deluge the Governor of Oklahoma with emails to intimidate him into authorising yet another of the rash of dumbass "anti-sharia" (aka Jew-bashing anti-Beth Din) bills, we see this telling exchange:

Mirren
April 12, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

I would love to send her an e-mail from the UK, warning her **exactly** what happens when this barbaric, savage ‘law’ sticks its nose in the tent. Unfortunately the form will only accept zip codes, not postal codes in the UK !

BareNakedIslam
April 12, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

Mirren, make up an address, i.e., 300 East 46th Street, NY NY 10017

Leaving aside the fact that this arrogant New York Nazi imagines that the Governor of Oklahoma would give a shit about the opinion of a New Yorker (mind you, Bonni thinks Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that the Coliseum is in Spain, so she probably imagines that Oklahoma is somewhere in Queens), the blatancy of her attempt to subvert the normal process of American democracy is delightful. Not enough Nazis in Oklahoma? Hell, we'll import some British ones and get them to pretend to be American. (Well, importing British Nazis using fake identities is standard operating procedure for the American far right.)

I feel it would be much more interesting for those Nazis wishing to pretend to be from New York to pick the address of a real New York Nazi such as Bonni herself. Bonni Benstock Intall lives at 2 Bay Club Drive, Unit 19A, Queens NY 11360. (Some time ago I posted her address as 1 Bay Club Drive and it still appears in some listings that way, but unit 19A in that building belongs to someone else altogether and number 2/19A seems to be where Bonni runs her Hitler Fan Club.)

Bonni of course is well aware that sharia / Beth Din courts do nothing more sinister than provide adjuducation on matters of divorce and probate without having to undertake expensive civil litigation. See for example her response to this comment:

Billy
April 12, 2013 @ 1:26 am

If Sharia law is approved does that mean if I commit an offense against an Islamist that I can be stoned or flogged? Will they have their own judges? Before approving such a thing shouldn’t a study of it be made? Here it takes years of study to become a lawyer plus passing the bar. No one knows anything about it and they even consider allowing it?? What are the codes? statutes? We have English Common law, where does their law come from?

BareNakedIslam
April 12, 2013 @ 2:28 am

Billy, no, that comes much later. They start in increments, just civil matters like divorces and wills and contracts. Once they get their numbers up, they start running for office, and officials start demanding their own sharia courts just for muslims. The criminal cases have to wait until they control a large area of Muslims. The UK has nearly 100 sharia courts now but they haven’t beheaded anyone that I know of or chopped off any limbs. As I said, that comes later.

But we can't have these wicked Jews and Muslims organising their own affairs without employing expensive lawyers, can we? Because then how could we moan about "litigation jihad"?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The voice of the turtle

For some reason Janis Joplin has generally left me unimpressed: maybe just too far over the top stylistically to appeal. But I heard this one back in my teens and I've loved it ever since. Go figure. Maybe it's the simplicity of the arrangement, or the fact that it's more blues than Janis. Whatever - a great song.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Unlikely though it is for me to be siding against women who want to take off their clothes, Laila Alawa is right

An American Muslim woman responds to the recent FEMEN topless protests.

I am a proud Muslim-American woman, and I am tired. I am tired of being told that I am oppressed. That I have no voice. That I need to be liberated.

I am tired, and I am speaking out for the rights of my and other fellow Muslim sisters to be able to dress and be how they wish to be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Plumb loco

Over in Las Vegas, Joe has been rebuilding his kitchen. So when I was catching up with Doonesbury strips (I suddenly realised I hadn't looked at one since I left my job with the bank a year ago) this one made me think of him. Can't think why.

Love of Aspects

One of my pet hates is watching television when a programme (or film or whatever) which was made with a 4:3 aspect ratio is being shown in a stretched-out widescreen format, making everyone ion it look as though they are being squashed by Jovian gravity. My wife feels the same, though it doesn't seem to bother either of our children: indeed, my daughter has been known to complain when I corrected the ratio on something that "It's too small now" and "It doesn't fill the screen". (To which the answers are "No, it's the same size but the right shape" and "Well, duh" respectively.)

Anyway, here is xkcd on the related issue of widescreen items being shown in 4:3. I like his thinking: I could implement the equivalent for my pet peeve by dropping a steamroller onto the car.

Incidentally, isn't it funny that we still call them steamrollers (and talk about policies being "steamrollered through") even though the vehicles in question had all changed from steam to diesel before I was born?

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

De mortuis nil nisi bonum, A fairly short post then.

As you will by now have heard, Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, died yesterday. Her death has provoked rather unseemly joy in some quarters. Personally, I didn't gloat when Osama bin Laden was killed and I'm not gloating now, though Thatcher did far more to damage Britain than OBL ever did. (Her neoconservative acolyte Blair did more still.)

Mrs T was never as popular in Scotland as in England - indeed, a number of commenters on Radio Scotland over the past day have said that it was her policies that finally drove the Scots to seek devolution and may yet drive them to seek independence. (See also here.) They certainly drove me (living in London at the time) to join the Labour Party, a membership I continued until it abandoned socialism so it could be elected by Middle England Tories. (An abandonment best demonstrated by the complete failure of Blair's "Labour" government, or Brown's after him, to reverse a single piece of Thatcher's anti-trade union legislation during their thirteen years in power.) Her legacy North of the border is so divisive even 23 years after she stepped down that everyone interviewed seemed to be taking the line "One shouldn't speak ill of the dead....BUT......" before explaining just why she had been such a disaster. Even Scottish Conservatives were cautiously distancing themselves from her.

So it doesn't surprise me that a work colleague was alerted to her death by his son texting "Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead!" I find the idea of her receiving a funeral with full military honours rather tasteless given the deaths her unnecessary war in the Falklands caused (Clausewitz described war as the continuation of diplomacy by other means, but Margaret Thatcher, impatient as ever, skipped the boring diplomacy bit). But there too Blair's vile legacy far exceeds hers, and presumably as a former PM he will get the same treatment. Personally I'd dump his body in a skip and save the cost of the funeral altogether. I think the reason I loathe Blair more than his mentor Thatcher is that at least with Mrs Thatcher you knew what you were getting: she was about ideology, she said so, and she suited the actions to the words. Unlike Blair, she never personally lied to her people or her parliament, she never did anything just in the hope of being liked, and she was a politician of substance rather than style.

Update: I've just read this wonderful piece by Russell Brand in the Guardian, which I think will be hard to better as an epitaph for the Iron Lady.

Further update: Lisa at Rullsenberg Rules has a good piece on Thatcher's legacy and why, despite it, she isn't partying. I particularly liked:

And I will freely admit to being one of those who still think that an early 1990s call for epitaphs for Thatcher's grave was most ably served by the line "Licensed for dancing". It limited the bile whilst still capturing the need to challenge the usual hagiographic memorialising around any public monument to her.

Lisa illustrates her post with a picture of Margaret Thatcher on her wedding day, looking not unattractive in a mumsy kind of way, but wearing an extraordinary ..... well, I'm not sure if it's part of her hat or a weird kind of prehistoric hair extension, but it looks as though an entire packet of cooked spaghetti is unfurling itself down the side of her head.

Squeak

And while looking for a clip of the Lohengrin music with better sound, I found this, from Bayreuth in 2011. Musically wonderful of course, but a little - how shall I put it? - wayward in the production department.



And if you continue to the following scene (via the Youtube sidebar) you will see that King Heinrich appears to be being played by Hugh Laurie...

Wagner Bicentenary Concert

Last Saturday I took part in a concert organised to celebrate the bicentenary of Richard Wagner's birth. It wasn't with one of my usual orchestras - indeed Edinburgh Chamber Orchestra rehearse on the same night of the week as my main band, so it could never be - but I had been asked to play, and an evening of Wagner always sounds like fun to those of us who, you know, like evenings of Wagner. And as with most music, it's always more fun to be inside the orchestra making it than outside listening.

So last Wednesday night I went along to my first rehearsal. (The orchestra's regulars had been practising for some weeks: extra bods like me came in at the last minute.) Lawrence Dunn (the leader) had asked me to play, and sent me links to download music to practise. Now: I play in Edinburgh Light and Edinburgh Players with Lawrence, and in both I play second violin. I lead the seconds in Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra and play front desk second in EPOG's Wagner performances each year. Do you see a pattern developing there? I downloaded and practised - of course - the Violin II parts. On Wednesday I turned up to find a crescendo of surprises: (mf) I was playing first violin (f) Ii was sitting with Lawrence in the front desk (ff) Lawrence was going to be away for Friday's string sectional, making me leader for that night by default. It was like one of those dreams where you have to give a Nobel Prize acceptance speech without knowing what you won the prize for, and without your trousers.

Still, it wasn't too bad. If 12 years of EPOG Wagner weekends prepares you for anything, it's sight-reading Wagner for a couple of hours at a sitting. The string sectional went OK: I was surprised by how many of the notes I hit despite still being effectively sight-reading, and people seemed happy.

So on to Saturday, which was full of fun. OK, so the chorus got the concert date wrong and will presumably turn up to an empty church next Saturday (we sorted out their absence with a few judicious cuts in the orchestra's parts). OK, so both Lawrence and I got lost a couple of times (that it wasn't just me made me feel a lot better!) OK, so Alberto managed to knock over not only our stand but the front desk of seconds' as well with his dramatic baton sweeps towards the end of Lohengrin. And yes, I had had precisely one play-through each of the Rienzi and the Lohengrin Act 2 procession. (Though after Friday's sectional I felt as though no sight-reading would ever terrify me again.....) But the singers were undeterred by it all and performed magnificently. I've known Emily Mitchell (who sang Elsa) since she was a bump in her mother's profile, but had never actually heard her sing other than in a chorus. So it was marvellous to hear her up close and personal, as it were. Even if she was singing Wagner's most wimpish heroine, she stole the show, and stole it from some very talented colleagues. Janet de Vigne is always a safe pair of lungs, and was great as Venus (and gloated nicely as Ortrud). Ben Thapa was suitable noble as Lohengrin, and suitably conflicted as Tannhäuser. Richard Mein sang King Heinrich, who doesn't get to sing much but is expected to make a suitably regal noise - and did. The orchestra, despite the odd glitch referred to, played pretty well, and everyone enjoyed themselves, including - very obviously - the audience, who made up in enthusiasm for their relative slightness in numbers.

Oh, and just before the final rehearsal on Saturday afternoon we were filmed (well, Janet de Vigne was the one being filmed in fact) for part of a making-a-film-in-24-hours project being entered for a Eureopean film festival. Ms de V sang a few dozen bars of Ortrud's part in the church and would then seemingly be transported by spaceship to a hilltop in Edinburgh. Why do I get the impression this may be a somewhat eccentric film?

Here OTOH is a less eccentric film illustrating the Lohengrin Act 2 finale (the one I'd played once in rehearsal and then performed). I'd completely forgotten what wonderful music it is: it tends to be overshadowed by the more famous "Here Comes the Bride" Bridal Chorus in act 3 (or in our case the Bridal Orchestra-With-Cuts-To-Avoid-The-Chorus).

Monday, April 08, 2013

"You cannot hope to bribe or twist (thank God!) the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to." (Humbert Wolfe)

Bonni Benstock-Intall, the New York Holocaust denier who wants the Nazis back running Germany (and Greece, France, the Netherlands, Britain....) published a piece last week which I took as just a normal piece of her over-the-top offensiveness, in which she says that the only news she wants to hear from the Guantamanamo Gulag is that the innocent political prisoners kept there have all died (or been killed). She published pictures purporting to show that Gitmo has been "tranformed into a Club Med resort by barack Hussein Obama" and that this was proved by the prisoners' reluctance to have their indefinite detention without trial continued on the mainland but without the minimal protection currently provided by the Geneva Convention.

It seems Bonni is not alone on drinking the Bacardi-flavoured Kool-Aid. Here is an article from the Guardian listing several supposedly conscientious journalists (not all swivel-eyed loons like the New York Nazi) who have been taken on carefully choreographed tours of Gitmo where they were shown all the marvellous facilities (but no prisoners, of course).

I know the quote in my title refers to British journalists, and these were American ones: but there is little difference, to judge from the screams of dismay from the British press which greet every failure of the British Government to deport Abu Qatada (a man against whom it has failed to find a shred of evidence in over ten years with which to charge him) to face a rigged trial based on evidence pulled out along with Jordanian prisoners' fingernails. Qatada, who has been under house arrest, has now been imprisoned again for "breaching his bail conditions" (specifically, for letting someone in the same room as him use a mobile phone). American journalists moan at the "luxurious" conditions in which their political prisoners languish, while ours moan at the taxpayers' money being wasted on keeping Abu Qatada in custody. Hey, if it's so scandalous and expensive, why not just release them all? None of them, after all, has killed anyone or planned to kill anyone.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Help defend Israeli's security: beat yourself up, hook your dick up to a car battery, and arrange for someone to abduct your kids for a decade or so

I've just been looking at On Torture, which is a report from a workshop held in Jerusalem on Securing Accountability for Torture and CIDT in Israel: New Trends and Comparative Lessons (CIDT is "Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment"). It makes grim reading, though to anyone remotely familiar with the behaviour of the secret police and armed forces in that renowned "democracy" little in the report will come as a shock.

From what I've read so far, the best pieces are the one by Bana Shoughry-Badarne, explaining how - in spite of a 1999 ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court banning torture (though providing loopholes rendering such a ban worthless) - the Israeli secret police routinely torture suspects, are never punished (despite over 600 complaints of torture being brought not a single Shin Bet thug has ever been charged, let alone convicted) and the use of false confessions tortured out of prisoners is not only permissible but effectively impossible to challenge in Israeli courts; and the one by Gerard Horton on the particularly vile mistreatment of Palestinian children (abducted from their homes in the middle of the night without explanation by masked men, blindfolded, handcuffed and beaten, then subjected to brutal interrogation and incommunicado detention until they confess and are thrown into prison, generally in Israel where their parents - up to this time unaware of their whereabouts - are not permitted to visit them. And this is a regime where a child throwing stones at a tank can be jailed for up to twenty years.)

Of course Israel is not the only country in the world whose government rules by terror: but it is surely one of the very worst.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Personally I'd rather like to be out of NATO and to be a republic rather than a monarchy, but hey, let's start with the edge pieces.....

An Evening of Burlesque

And then tonight I went to see An Evening of Burlesque which is on tour and came to the Playhouse tonight. All good clean fun: a bit like an old-style variety show but with more underwear on display. The nicest thing about it was that all the dancers were normally shaped: neither cosmetically enhanced nor skinny as rakes. What Gok Wan would call "hourglass figures" were the order of the evening. I was reminded of the lines from Oklahoma! about the Kansas City Burlesque:

One of the girls was plump and pink and purty
As round above as she was round below
I'da swore that she was padded from her head down to her heel
But then she started dancing and the dancing made me feel
That every single thign she had was absolutely real
She went about as far as she could go.

I was thinking it was quite jolly but not all that memorable really, until this lady came on and took my breath away with this routine. There's flexible, and there is jaw-dropping. And if the move at around 2:30 doesn't get a reaction from you, you should consult a physician as you may actually be dead.



The only number I had heard reports of prior to attending the "Evening of Burlesque" - and which rather persuded me to give it a try - was this next one, which was indeed rather fun. To judge from remarks I overheard afterwards, several other audience members enjoyed this and "Mein Herr" the most, though there were plenty of other good routines.

We Are Loonies And We Are Proud

OK, so on Tuesday I went to the Lyceum to see their joint production with Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre of Donna Franceschild's Takin' Over The Asylum. This was a stage adaptation of her own BAFTA-winning BBC Scotland TV series from way back in 1994. It's all about a hospital radio station in a Glasgow mental hospital, and the adaptation worked very well as Franceschild had taken the opportunity not only to revise the script to meet the demands of live staging but also to update references and introduce new topical ones. (I don't think in 1994 they had podcasts or live streaming to the web.) The human drama which is at the core of the story remains as relevant, and as little in need of updating, as it ever was, and the evening was very moving. the production was wonderful, the cast marvellous. Iain Robertson as Eddie the DJ was, I think, even better than Ken Stott in the TV version (and I'm a big Ken Stott fan). And if Brian Vernel as Campbell, the bipolar patient he takes on as a kind of apprentice, didn't manage to eclipse the memory of his television predecessor there is no shame in that. The TV Campbell was played by a young (God, how young!) David Tennant in his breakthrough role: I believe the lad went on to do quite well for himself.

This scene, for example, was great on stage, with Brian Vernel convincingly manic: but here is DT in full-on genius mode:



And here, for those who are interested, is David's audition tape for the TV production.



Makes you realise how tough it is to get into these things: but do a turn like his, and get the gig, and you're on your way. My daughter saw him - also at the Lyceum - as Jimmy Porter in Look Back In Anger a matter of months before he returned to a slightly bigger TV audience with two hearts and a police telephone box.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Candidate for Governorship of Virginia tries to introduce sharia punishments in place of US constitution

Shouldn't there be a queue of protestors demanding a ban on Cuccinelli's attempt to introduce sharia law into Virginia? After all, the mission of the Virginia Anti-Shariah Task Force is to oppose the implementation of "radical, barbaric and anti-Constitutional" Shariah law in Virginia.

It's funny, though: homosexual acts between consenting males in private became legal (where they ARE legal) in a very non-intuitive sequence. I mean, who would have guessed that Islamic Turkey legalised homosexuality in 1858, and it has never been illegal in Muslim Mali (though there is widespread homophobia there)? Or that England legalised it in 1967, Canada in 1969, Scotland in 1981 but the USA not until 2003? Or (my personal favourite because Israel is always being compared favourably with its Muslim neighbours over its treatment of gays) that Israel only legalised it in 1988 while Jordan did so in 1951? (And thus the Occupied West Bank, whose legal code derives from that of Jordan, legalised homosexual acts 37 years before Israel - LOL.)

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Does this bus go to Hate Street?

Glad to see a "guerilla art group" calling themselves Bay Area Art Queers Unleashing Power (BAAQUP) have taken direct (and very witty) action against Pamela Geller's hate ads on San Francisco buses.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Too many guns...and landmines....and antitank rockets...

And a propos the supply of arms to dodgy regimes, whether that's the UK arming the USA, the USA arming Israel, or Iran arming Assad, let's hope the UN votes tomorrow to introduce an effective treaty to regulate the international arms trade.

Personally I think it's shameful that we still sell them weaponry when they have an innocent British political prisoner in the Guantanamo concentration camp

Oh, I forgot one thing when laughing at Bonni "It just might take a few Nazis to get rid of the Muslim plague" Benstock-Intall's made-up story about Obama arming the Syrian rebels. Not only is Obama not sending them sniper rifles, and not only does the film not show them using what she claims it does, but the AS-50 she claims is being supplied by her President isn't even an American weapon: it is a product of the proudly British firm Accuracy International, arguably world leaders in sniper weaponry. One of her commenters reckons the Syrians would have no trouble getting hold of ammunition: well, the large-calibre sniper rounds of choice (for everybody as far as I can tell, whether using Russian, British or American guns) are made by Lapua in Finland, and are thus covered by the EU embargo. Jeez, I knew that last snippet from reading Andy McNab novels, long before looking it up on the web.

Presumably it's because of her abiding loathing for Britain that Bonni can't bring herself to admit that her precious US Navy SEALS use British weapons because none of the American ones are up to the task.

Pity these "English patriots" don't know enough about Mr Punch to use a swazzle to do his voice.

Anyone who has ever watched Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen opera cycle cannot fail to have been struck by the characters of Alberich and more particularly his brother Mime. Alberich is loveless, obsessed by wealth and power, a bullying slave-driver who is so puffed up with self-importance that he falls easy prey to the superior intellect of the Valhalla Gods. Having been dispossessed of his means to wealth and power in the first opera, he spends the rest of the cycle impotently plotting revenge. Mime, whose music has a wheedling, whining edge to it, is a super-skilled goldsmith, though when it comes to the important matter of repairing a sword made by the Gods he is effortlessly outclassed by a blond Germanic hero. He is treacherous, thieving, murderous, and once again is so keen to show off his cleverness that he misses the opportunity to learn something important. Like his brother he is obsessed with gaining power and wealth, and while he seems to have shown kindness to an orphaned baby it is really only in the hope of exploiting him.

Knowing what we do about Wagner's ideas of racial purity (the ones which would later so endear him to Adolf Hitler) it takes no effort at all to see in Alberich and Mime very clear caricatures of the Jews he so despised. And while there is no mention of Jews in the Ring cycle, pretty much every antisemitic trope you can think of is incorporated into the depiction of those two Nibelungs.

Why am I bringing this up today? Because it demonstrates that you don't have to mention Jews explicitly to be anti-semitic. If Wagner had instructed that they should wear ringlets and skull caps the identification would have been total.

Nor is it necessary to mention Islam or Muslims to be quite extraordinarily Islamophobic. In a new video from the Englsh Defence League (England's answer to Ernst Roehm's SA brownshirts) we see Mr Punch, with his normal pointed hat but also with an Islamic-style beard. Without ever mentioning Islam or Muslims, the video accuses "Mr Punch" of wife-beating, cousin marriage, female genital mutilation, demanding that his wife remain at home or cover herself from head to foot in black, bomb-making, honour killing, grooming of underage girls for sex, intent to murder white English people, terrorism, contempt for the law, and false accusations of racism to excuse all this criminal behaviour. (None of these things has any connection with Islam, but that's OK because the video doesn't claim that they do - only that "Mr Punch" does them.) Mr Punch is assisted in his fight against the law by a complicit judge who is concerned only with cultural sensitivity. All this in three minutes and forty-eight seconds of very professionally-scripted hate speech which makes Pat Condell's anti-Muslim diatribes seem tame, and which use the good old English comedy villain "Mr Punch" to wrap it all up in an aura of Englishness. As clever a piece of propaganda as anything Der Stürmer ever came up with.

However, unlike Wagner's Jewish caricatures which will live on for ever by virtue of their attachment to a sublime work of musical drama, the EDL's Muslim stereotypes will most likely be forgotten by this time next year: and the EDL itself is unlikely to last much longer.

Every Day Is April Fool's Day for Bonni Benstock-Intall

I had intended to do a post lampooning the most idiotic thing Bonni the Holocaust Denier posted on April 1st. However, her final post on 31st March, which I didn't read until today, fits my requirements to a T.

Consider the FSA, the Syrian rebels fighting President Assad's army. At present, while Assad is being supplied with arms by Iran and Russia, the West has an embargpo on the supply of weapons to the rebels. Indeed, Britain and France have been unsuccessfully trying to get the EU to lift its embargo, though it seems that France has now reversed its position and supports it.

Meanwhile, President Obama has consistently opposed sending arms to the rebels, even when members of his cabinet recommended it.

President Barack Obama has already turned down recommendations to arm the opposition, even when those recommendations came from cabinet members such as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, as well as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin E. Dempsey and former CIA Director David Petraeus. Obama explained that he did not want American weapons to fall into the hands of extremists currently operating in Syria.

There is, however, a bill now before Congress (which, I need hardly remind you, is controlled by the Republican party) which would authorise the shipment of arms to the rebels.

Members of the U.S. House of Representatives put forward a bill to arm the rebels this month. The Free Syria Act of 2013, introduced March 21 by Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., and Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., would increase economic and humanitarian assistance for Syrian fighters and civilians, while also authorizing the administration to supply arms to rebels.

The IBT article points out that some weapons are reaching the rebels, from Croatia for example, but counsels caution insofar as weapons sent to the rebels might end up in the hands of dodgy groups such as al-Qaeda.

OK, so much for the real world. In Bonni's Bizarro-world, President Obama (personally - not the US government, but President Obama) is supplying sniper rifles to the Syrian rebels. Leaving aside his consistent opposition to any such supply, the only "evidence" Bonni can produce to support her claim is a video, entirely in Arabic, of a bunch of turbanned guys yelling "Allahu Akbar" while loosing off rounds from what seems to be an AS-50. I note from the sales video Bonni helpfully supplies that the AS-50 has a floating barrel which minimises recoil, which makes it odd when we see the massive recoil from the Arabs' rifle nearly taking out the sniper's eye. Looking at various pictures of the AS-50, they all seem to show a distinctive structure between the magazine and the barrel: this encircles the barrel (presumably to provide the "floating") and has a row of five slots on top. No such structure adorns the Arab rifle. Also I would expect the fire selector to be visible on the right-hand side of the Arabs' rifle: it isn't. I conclude that they are shooting something rather like an AS-50, but not actually the real McCoy.

So we have a video which shows what looks quite like an AS-50 at first glance, being shot by people who might be Syrian rebels, but might be Assad loyalists, or might even be a bunch of guys from the IDF (hey, Bonni's always telling us what an equal society Israel is, and we KNOW that Israel has all the American weaponry it could ever want - why would there not be Muslim IDF snipers?) Meanwhile, the transfer of the imaginary AS-50 to the Central Casting Muslim fighters is blamed on President Obama, despite his being one of the few voices in the US government opposing arms transfers to the rebels. None of this has any source cited other than Bonni's imagination: she gives a hat tip to "Golem Bar" but no link, and the only Golem Bar I have located is a Hamburg drinking den. Perhaps Bonni got drunk there and imagined the whole thing...

Bonni's commenters lap it all up, of course, despite their supposed expertise on weaponry. They demand the armed overthrow of the President and the hanging of anyone who supports arming the rebels. (Er, that would be the Republican Congress. LOL.)

I would say "You couldn't make it up", except that that is precisely what Bonni has done. APRIL FOOL, imbecile.