Corbyn is coming. Will he bring his friends?

Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign to be the new leader of the UK Labour Party is going much better for him than most pundits and commentators expected.

This Guardian article says:

Corbyn’s campaign for the Labour leadership is gathering a momentum even he did not anticipate at the outset.

Earlier in the week, Guido Fawkes‘ quoted a leaked internal poll that put Corbyn  “well out in front” with a massive 22 point lead.

He might win.


As the registration system for the right to vote in the election is somewhat open to abuse, it’s no surprise there have been calls for Tory activists to join up and vote for Mr C. There are even suggestions this has been done by significant numbers of people. (We may never know the truth.)  The Tory view is that Corbyn as Labour leader condemns them to longer in the political wilderness. I’m not so sure they are right.

Allied to this possibly false spirited wave of support is, on the face of it, the clear political ground between Corbyn and the other candidates. The others are seen (rightly or wrongly) as New Labour. Corbyn is seen, all on his own, as “Old Labour” – the party of Benn, and traditional socialists before Tony Blair came along and made the party electable. So Corbyn can claim to be the alternative candidate; the happening, honorable bearer of the real socialism torch. And that’s an appeal that is bound to be given a sympathetic hearing by political activists. Not voters, but activists.

In the circumstances, this largely overlooked post – The Diplomat of Islington North – is worth reading and noting. In it, David Paxton writes:

Corbyn has repeatedly praised members of Hamas. They kill gays, deny the holocaust and speak of starting a fresh one. He calls them a force for social justice.

He praised the leadership in Venezuela while the oil-rich country was being run into bankruptcy and the freedom of the press was being eroded.

Corbyn asserts that despite the wishes of the Falklands islanders, expressed through the ballot box, and despite a fascist junta invading them causing British servicemen to fight and die, the islands should be owned by Argentina.

Paxton can do that, because he makes a better job than many of looking what Corbyn has said and done. Essentially, Corbyn’s attempts to explain away his “friends” reference is seen as nonsense. Corbyn is an extremist, and Paxton’s conclusions about the man are not pleasant.

The material in that post would be useful to any journalist who wanted to more rigorously interview the candidate. However, the prospects of that are low. Instead, it seems likely there will be more media presentation of the two sided, polarized view that makes the man attractive to the activists: Old Labour v New Labour. Whether that converts into success for him, and failure for his party, remains to be seen. But, it is telling (and somewhat frightening) that someone with such views is still even in serious contention. Who will rescue the Labour Party?

Long apology

I saw this smart dig at the Register:


I suspect Microsoft will be hoping that ‘apology for Windows 8’ label does not catch on.

Click the image above to go to the full article.


This is a sports film that follows a well worn formula, and thereby courts the possibility of being cliched and of little value. However, primarily due to the superb, peerless performance by Jake Gyllenhaal (as Billy Hope, world Light Heavyweight boxing champion) it is a cracking character study, a tale of violence, redemption – Believe in Hope! – and love, and engrossing entertainment. It’s also a real tearjerker.

Warning: Spoiler ahead!

In brief, Billy (complete with wife, child, and entourage) is at the top of the world and his profession. But a moment of madness sees his wife killed before him, and that sparks his fall to the bottom of the pit. He loses his way, his self-respect, and his daughter, Leila (Oona Laurence).  Oh, and he loses his house, his cars, his superstar lifestyle, and his boxing license.

In the fall, we see Billy’s character exposed with many of its failings. He is quick tempered, violent, impatient, and intoxicated. He is also deaf to reason.

One of his hangers on remains a true friend, and steers him in the direction of salvation: a gym run by Tick Wills (Forest Whitaker).  And so, slowly, the crawl back up begins.

Gyllenhaal was a thin wimp in the excellent Nightcrawler. Here, he seems to have undergone an amazing workout regime; he looks like a real boxer. Further, somebody who knows the sport has ensured that he moves like a boxer. It is an incredible commitment to have been made by the actor, but it pays dividends for us viewers. And the icing on the cake is that his acting is simply spot on. It’s a fine, fine performance. It’s not Raging Bull, but it’s close. I’m beginning to think that any film he does will be worth watching.

I should also commend Forest Whitaker. Although I think he is just playing Forest Whitaker at times, he has a presence and a quality that adds to the film’s depth. That having been said, I thought the belated bonding of the Hope and Wills characters was the weakest part of the film. It appeared to me that the editing may have been to blame, as the whole episode was uneven.

And then there’s Oona Laurence and Rachel McAdams (as BIlly’s wife). Both are good, though I thought Ms Laurence grabbed her opportunity with the more extensive, endurable role of the daughter, and she and Gyllenhaal were pretty near perfect together.

The fight sequences are tense, sometimes hard to watch, but gripping. You may squirm with some of the punches.

The story is a tad predictable, but holds together. You are not watching this for the plot twists, but the experience. And it is an experience well worth having.

[Footnote: the Hebrew title is literally “Without Gloves.”  I guess there’s no direct translation for southpaw, but Without Gloves doesn’t do it for me.]


Winning walls


This week’s session saw Nechamiah, Rosalynn, and Sheer join me for two classic games and a heap of fun.

First up was Alhambra, the game where you try and build a structure that has a long wall, and a majority of the different types of building. I was the only one who had played it before, so it was no surprise that by the time the first round of scoring came around (there are three) I was in the lead. At that point, as we used to say back in the Old Land, the penny dropped for the others, and I was demoted to last place. Nechamiah and Rosalynn improved their building decisions, and rapidly upped their score. Unfortunately for them, Sheer was a tad better, and so he was the eventual winner. Everyone liked the game, tending to confirm its status as a classic worthy of repeated play.

Next was San Juan, a smart card management game. Again, I was the only one who had played it before, but that was absolutely no use whatsoever to me, and I finished well out of the reckoning. Rosalynn and Nechamiah did quite well, but winner Sheer did better. The game was well received, with people keen to try it for a second time, having properly assimilated what was required for success. I would expect subsequent games to be closer contests. I might even get a respectable score…

Thanks to the visitors for making my night.

Israel in a good light

There is an IDF scholarship program in the name of a former Druse soldier, Salim Shufi . Recipients of awards from the program recently met Bibi, and according to this report in the Jerusalem Post, “the event with the prime minister and other important figures had given the students a sense of pride.”

This is just one small story. But it’s one of a countless number of such stories in a similar vein – about Israel and its people – that are out there, every single day.

Similar, in that they show good things happening.

Similar in that they make a mockery of the demented demonization of Israel.

Similar, in that they are ignored by the western media, because they do not fit the pattern of their message: Israel is bad, bad, bad, we tell you. And if we are ever at risk of seeing or hearing anything about Israel that is good, we are going to shut our eyes, and stick our fingers in our hears. You will note that small stories which are critical of Israel, are far more likely to appear in that same western media.

Thankfully, no matter the extent of that media madness (and badness) we survive, thrive, and confound the conspirators. Long may it continue.

Back in Hitler’s stadium

The European Maccabi Games are underway in Berlin, part of which will be at a site built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics. The opening ceremony is later today, and you can access a stream at the website. Incidentally, if the games are anything like the website, they will be professional and slick.


Good luck to a certain Nathan Simpson, competing for Scotland in the badminton event!

And here’s hoping the games are a great success for all concerned.

[That sound you can hear in the background, is a certain Austrian born German politician, suffering in Hell. Good.]

Alice was never in Wonderland…

…and she has no claim to Wonderland, except that of an occupier by force.

Yes, you guessed it; we are back in the wacky world of conspiracy theories, and alternative history, so cherished in this part of the world. If it’s not Zionist attack pigs, or phantom olive tree bulldozers (on Shabbat!), it’s putting a perverse spin on history. That’s how we suffer such rubbish as Jesus the Palestinian, and the fables of how the Jews lived a life of pleasure, leisure, and safety under Muslim rule.

The most recent phenomena, clearly driven by official Palestinian policy, is to deny Jewish connections to Israel. Every such connection. There never was a Temple, they say. There never was a Jewish nation, they say. And on and on it goes. The Romans must be turning in their grave, frustrated at seeing their imperial efforts ignored. Real historians must be seething with anger, while keeping their heads below the parapet, just in case. And there seems no change on the horizon. The Tisha B’Av broadcast by Joint (Arab) List MK Masud Ganaim repeated the claim that Jews have no historical connection to the Temple Mount. (See the report, here.) Given the spectacularly over the top (alleged) reaction by Palestinian youth (aka hooligans and thugs) to some extremist individual insulting the prophet Mohammed, I wonder what the proportionate Jewish response to Ganaim would have (or should have) been.

This embedded position over the Temple Mount is, of course, our fault. When Israel retook  the rest of Jerusalem in 1967, it should have taken control of all the religious sites. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, it left the Waqf in charge of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. I have a suspicion that such weakness may have at least been partly responsible for encouraging the dreadful revisionist historical approach of the Palestinians to deny a Jewish presence on the Temple Mount. In short, we are still paying the price for a colossal error made in 1967. Who believes that there is any politician who will grasp the nettle, and re-establish Israeli control?

Five for Friday

We said goodbye to Hannah this week, and restarted the game sessions, so a bit of a mix. But still the weekend arrives, this time with a nasty kick in the tail called Tisha B’Av. IT starts on motzei Shabbat.) Yuk. Ah well, it will soon be over. Meantime, I offer the usual selection of links, and hope you get something from them. I did.

Shabbat Shalom!

Sapiens – A Brief History of Humankind – Yuval Noah Harari


“Back in the snail-mail era, people usually only wrote letters when they had something important to relate. Rather than writing the first thing that came into their heads, they considered carefully what they wanted to say and how to phrase it. They expected to receive a similarly considered answer. Most people wrote and received no more than a handful of letters a month and seldom felt compelled to reply immediately. Today I receive dozens of emails each day, all from people who expect a prompt reply. We thought we were saving time; instead we revved up the treadmill of life to ten times its former speed and made our days more anxious and agitated.”

Yuval Harari is a grumpy young man, with a mild to medium pessimistic streak that rarely lets him see progress as positive. He is also a sharp thinker, a fine storyteller, and a polished presenter of stimulating and thoughtful ideas. In short, he’s a leading candidate for the ideal dinner party guest. Unless you are serving meat…

Sapiens is a broad brush history, plotting the rise of homo sapiens, and the development of its culture and habits; from small groups of semi-nomads, to settled civilizations. At each stage, something happens – though the reason may not be known or clear – and homo sapiens makes a change. For example, settling down and establishing farms. Rarely does the author see it as for the good of all mankind. There’s a definite class struggle theme at the back end of his thoughts, and capitalism gets a regular spanking. However, though his theories are often subjective, and his coverage occasionally discloses some lack of knowledge, on the whole this is a good and challenging read.

The plus points are boosted by his writing style which is clear, smooth, and entertaining. So, his challenging ideas and interpretations come across well. His predictions about the future of mankind have added weight. He darts about from economics to military history; from politics to religion (he’s not a believer); and from psychology to sociology, and back again. You name it, and it gets a mention as part of his entertaining explanation of who we are, and how we got here. His recurring theme of joint human imagination and consent, for example when it comes to explaining how money works, and the greed for precious metals, deserves its own book length analysis.

The not so plus points include that his knowledge is not as encyclopedic as he might pretend, and sometimes you get the impression that the has not fully grasped the idea or the consequences of his approach. For example, on military command he struggles to make a case for female generals. He is way out of his depth. And his coverage of the battle of Navarino is twisted out of all recognition to fit his theme – of a banker driven conquest.

More significantly perhaps, for most of the book he is dispassionate, reasoned, and logical. When it comes to two areas of great personal interest to him – vegetarianism and homosexuality – there’s a distinct difference in the writing. It’s clearly personal. And while that might be personal, it does him no favors in my eyes. I get that these things are personally important to him – they are fundamentals of his lifestyle – but they do not benefit from his special treatment.

This book is something of a viral success, and I can see why. It has some terrific ideas and some great writing. It is well worth reading, and will probably give you much food for thought. I recommend it, highly.

[Thanks to Hannah for the recommendation. I normally shy away from blogging about the non-fiction I read – or you would be flooded with military history book reviews – but thought this one deserved a mention. It’s fresh, often fun, often shocking, and often challenging.]