Teachers in Ontario have been without a contract for almost a year. Well, actually, it’s been a bit longer really.
At the end of the last contract in August 2012, the governing Liberal party tabled and then passed Bill 115 subsequently The Putting Children First Act (see it you can spot the irony here) giving the province substantially more power in bargaining with education unions. A key point was the demand that the unions accept the province’s hand-crafted contract or the province would impose it on them.
Given the “we will fight them on the beaches” style rhetoric from union leaders, they opted to have the province shoot them rather than commit suicide. At least that way, they could retain their dignity. Not much, mind you because despite the rhetoric, almost nothing was done.
Come the end of two years and it’s bargaining time again. This time there’s a bit more talk of fight back. Six weeks ago, secondary teachers in Durham, the board just east of Toronto walked out. Two weeks ago, teachers in Peel (Mississauga) and Rainbow (Sudbury) also walked out. Faced with more locals poised to strike, the Liberals introduced back-to-work legislation which passed today. At the same time, the Ontario Labour Board in response to a petition by the striking school boards declared the strikes illegal. Teachers went back to work on Wednesday, but union leaders have vowed to fight on.
Wow! Pretty militant stuff. Or is it?
A number of teachers I spoke to are pretty cynical about the whole thing. Is it possible that the striking boards were just used as cannon fodder? (Teachers wages will be garnished by the union to pay the strikers and make up the outlay by the union) The Liberals get to posture as tough against the unions, and the unions get to tell the membership they are still fighting for them. When you think about it, back-to-work was always at the end of the road, and what did the unions do to prepare? Very little. No mass rallies. No enlisting other unions to help out. What solidarity pickets there were, were organized at the local level not by the Federation. Is it too much to suggest that there’s already a backroom deal in the works? Despite the rhetoric of both the province and the unions, their agendas are virtually the same.
No? Well, cast your mind back a few years to when current premier Kathleen Wynn was running for leadership of the party. Education unions called for a massive protest at the convention site, and it was massive, in the thousands. What those protesters didn’t know though was that members of their own executive were inside lobbying with and for Wynn and actually gave the union’s money to her campaign! And when he retired from leadership of the federation, Ken Coran actually ran for the Liberals. He lost, but OSSTF had still endorsed him! Elementary, it should be noted endorsed the NDP candidate, but it might have been a different story if one of theirs had been running.
Too bad civics classes are almost over for the year. This would have been a most instructive lesson.
Well, lots of things about the UK this week.
First is the general election on Thursday. To think, it’s been 36 years on Monday since Thatcher was elected (apparently she ate her first live baby in celebration), and it’s been Conservatives every since. OK, OK, but it’s amusing that Tony Blair MP is an anagram for I’m Tory Plan B.
The fact remains though that the election campaign by two essentially identical parties tied neck and neck has remained deadly dull. Possibly the most interesting thing was a college student who accidentally (I wonder) dropped his trousers in front of Liberal-Democrat Nick Clegg while hoping for a selfie. Ralph Miliband must be turning in his grave over what his offspring are like. And David Cameron is so clueless he likes the Jam’s “Eton Rifles.” (Still, if Paul Ryan can claim Rage Against the Machine, anything’s possible)
And then there was that woman who had a second child. As a parent who has two children, I’ll say that the second one is easier; there’s
no less panic. Of course, it’s even easier, if you’re part of arguable the richest family in the world. As a fellow parent, I don’t have any personal antipathy toward William and Kate, but when I read about how the royal couple got a 10% discount at the swishy hospital Kate delivered at because they’re frequent birthers ( is that the word?) there, I think, surely you mean the general public got a 10% discount. Ah, I’m nostalgic for the good old days, the 1990s, when everyone hated them. Of course, there was the astute Mr. Blair who was able to skillfully turn public anger over the cold-hardheartedness of the first family over the death of the “people’s princess” into support for the institution.
Lastly, crime novelist Ruth Rendell died of a stroke yesterday. I never read any of her books, but I think I might have enjoyed the TV adaptation of the Inspector Wexford series at one point. I was surprised to learn she was a Labour Party member. I was even more surprised to learn she was a member of the House of Lords. “How can she be a Labour Party member and a member of the House of Lords?” my wife asked. I began to wind up the machine. It’s quite stunning though just uncommitted many-house trained “socialists” are, waiting for their seats in the House of Lords.
What was it the Clash wrote?
Who needs the Parliament
Sitting making laws all day
They’re all fat and old
Queuing for the House of Lords
You know, there comes a time in every music fan’s life where said fan thinks, “I’m getting too old for this.” Usually it comes after a night out, and now the work day approaches after a lot less sleep than is comfortable. And yet, it’s been almost half a century since the last Sonics record, so if they can do it, so can I.
A month or two ago I was in Soundscapes talking to one of the guys who worked there about the show. I’d missed the Sonics at North by North East a few years earlier and wasn’t sure whether I wanted to see the band who in all likelihood wouldn’t be able to recapture those glory days. The conversation nudged me in the right direction (“Gerry Rosile can still hit the notes”), but if I’m going to be honest, the deal maker was that catL was opening the show.
If you haven’t seen catL, you have missed something beautiful. A duo of JP and Sarah, although joined on stage by their harmonica playing friend Pete, catL come into their element live. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the records are great, but live they are incredible. The fifty-minute set pulled songs from their four albums, and I almost left then, thinking that was going to be a peak. I picked up the album I was missing from my collection, and got a rather nice catL tote bag as well. Cool.
But of course, I stayed for the Sonics, and then the wait was worth it. The band was promoting their new record This is the Sonics, and ran through most of the album as if they were the songs they had been playing all of their lives. New songs sounded like old, and old songs sounded like old friends. Along with the new, covers from Bo Diddley, the Hoodoo Gurus, and even their version of Louie Louie (a sad note – Jack Ely, the singer on the Kingsmen’s version passed away a few days after the show). Of course the hits came too, with “Strychnine,” “Psycho” and “The Witch” bringing things to a close. (Was a bit sad “Walking the Dog” didn’t make the set list, but at least “Have love will travel” made it)
A great show. But two things nagged at me. The hacking cough which caused people to move away from me during the show as I coughed up a lung, and if this was the Sonics at 70, when someone invents a time machine so I can go to see them at their peak, will I be strong enough to endure the mighty Sonics?
May Day has too often been the property of geriatric Stalinists parading military hardware or in the social-democratic version saluting “actually existing socialism.” Just to note that this tradition is still in place, the Mandel Trotskyists of Socialist Action in Toronto have a guest from the Cuban Consulate at their May Day banquet. But May Day sprang out of actual struggles. And workers deaths. The article below is by Lucy Parsons whose husband Albert was one of the Haymarket Martyrs.
“I am an anarchist. I suppose you came here, the most of you, to see what a real, live anarchist looked like. I suppose some of you expected to see me with a bomb in one hand and a flaming torch in the other, but are disappointed in seeing neither. If such has been your ideas regarding an anarchist, you deserved to be disappointed. Anarchists are peaceable, law abiding people. What do anarchists mean when they speak of anarchy? Webster gives the term two definitions chaos and the state of being without political rule. We cling to the latter definition. Our enemies hold that we believe only in the former.
“Do you wonder why there are anarchists in this country, in this great land of liberty, as you love to call it? Go to New York. Go through the byways and alleys of that great city. Count the myriads starving; count the multiplied thousands who are homeless; number those who work harder than slaves and live on less and have fewer comforts than the meanest slaves. You will be dumbfounded by your discoveries, you who have paid no attention to these poor, save as objects of charity and commiseration. They are not objects of charity, they are the victims of the rank injustice that permeates the system of government, and of political economy that holds sway from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Its oppression, the misery it causes, the wretchedness it gives birth to, are found to a greater extent in New York than elsewhere. In New York, where not many days ago two governments united in unveiling a statue of liberty, where a hundred bands played that hymn of liberty, ‘The Marseillaise.’ But almost its equal is found among the miners of the West, who dwell in squalor and wear rags, that the capitalists, who control the earth that should be free to all, may add still further to their millions! Oh, there are plenty of reasons for the existence of anarchists.
“But in Chicago they do not think anarchists have any right to exist at all. They want to hang them there, lawfully or unlawfully. You have heard of a certain Haymarket meeting.’ You have heard of a bomb. You have heard of arrests and of succeeding arrests effected by detectives. Those detectives! There is a set of men nay, beasts for you! Pinkerton detectives! They would do anything. I feel sure capitalists wanted a man to throw that bomb at the Haymarket meeting and have the anarchists blamed for it. Pinkerton could have accomplished it for him. You have heard a great deal about bombs. You have heard that the anarchists said lots about dynamite. You have been told that Lingg made bombs. He violated no law. Dynamite bombs can kill, can murder, so can Gatling guns. Suppose that bomb had been thrown by an anarchist. The constitution says there are certain inalienable rights, among which are a free press, free speech and free assemblage. The citizens of this great land are given by the constitution the right to repel the unlawful invasion of those rights. The meeting at Haymarket square was a peaceable meeting. Suppose, when an anarchist saw the police arrive on the scene, with murder in their eyes, determined to break up that meeting, sup¬pose he had thrown that bomb; he would have violated no law. That will be the verdict of your children. Had I been there, had I seen those murderous police approach, had I heard that insolent command to disperse, had I heard Fielden say, ‘Captain, this is a peaceable meeting,’ had I seen the liberties of my countrymen trodden under foot, I would have flung the bomb myself. I would have violated no law, but would have upheld the constitution.
“If the anarchists had planned to destroy the city of Chicago and to mas¬sacre the police, why was it they had only two or three bombs in hand? Such was not their intention. It was a peaceable meeting. Carter Harrison, the mayor of Chicago, was there. He said it was a quiet meeting. He told Bonfield [Captain John Bonfield, Commander of Desplaines Police Station] to send the police to their different beats. I do not stand here to gloat over the murder of those policemen. I despise murder. But when a ball from the revolver of a policeman kills it is as much murder as when death results from a bomb.
“The police rushed upon that meeting as it was about to disperse. Mr. Simonson talked to Bonfield about the meeting.’ Bonfield said he wanted to do the anarchists up. Parsons went to the meeting. He took his wife, two ladies and his two children along. Toward the close of the meeting, he said, ‘I believe it is going to rain. Let us adjourn to Zeph’s hall.’ Fielden said he was about through with his speech and would close it at once. The people were beginning to scatter about, a thousand of the more enthusiastic still lingered in spite of the rain. Parsons, and those who accompanied him started for home. They had gone as far as the Desplaine’s street police station when they saw the police start at a double quick. Parsons stopped to see what was the trouble. Those 200 policemen rushed on to do the anarchists up. Then we went on. I was in Zeph’s hall when I heard that terrible detonation. It was heard around the world. Tyrants trembled and felt there was something wrong.
“The discovery of dynamite and its use by anarchists is a repetition of history. When gun powder was discovered, the feudal system was at the height of its power. Its discovery and use made the middle classes. Its first discharge sounded the death knell of the feudal system. The bomb at Chicago sounded the downfall of the wage system of the nineteenth century. Why? Because I know no intelligent people will submit to despotism. The first means the diffusion of power. I tell no man to use it. But it was the achievement of science, not of anarchy, and would do for the masses. I suppose the press will say I belched forth treason. If I have violated any law, arrest me, give me a trial, and the proper punishment, but let the next anarchist that comes along ventilate his views without hindrance.
“Well, the bomb exploded, the arrests were made and then came that great judicial farce, beginning on June 21. The jury was impaneled. Is there a Knight of Labor here? Then know that a Knight of Labor was not considered competent enough to serve on that jury. ‘Are you a Knight of Labor?’ ‘Have you any sympathy with labor organizations?’ were the questions asked each talisman. If an affirmative answer was given, the talisman was bounced. It was not are you a Mason, a Knight Templar? O, no! [Great applause.] I see you read the signs of the times by that expression. Hangman Gary, miscalled judge, ruled that if a man was prejudiced against the defendants, it did not incapacitate him for serving on the jury. For such a man, said Hangman Gary, would pay closer attention to the law and evidence and would be more apt to render a verdict for the defense. Is there a lawyer here? If there is he knows such a ruling is without precedent and contrary to all law, reason or common sense.
“In the heat of patriotism the American citizen sometimes drops a tear for the nihilist of Russia. They say the nihilist can’t get justice, that he is condemned without trial. How much more should he weep for his next door neighbor, the anarchist, who is given the form of trial under such a ruling.
“There were ‘squealers’ introduced as witnesses for the prosecution. There were three of them. Each and every one was compelled to admit they had been purchased and intimidated by the prosecution. Yet Hangman Gary held their evidence as competent. It came out in the trial that the Haymarket meeting was the result of no plot, but was caused in this wise. The day before the wage slaves in McCormick’s factory had struck for eight hours labor, McCormick, from his luxurious office, with one stroke of the pen by his idle, be ringed fingers, turned 4,000 men out of employment. Some gathered and stoned the factory. Therefore they were anarchists, said the press. But anarchists are not fools; only fools stone buildings. The police were sent out and they killed six wage slaves. You didn’t know that. The capitalistic press kept it quiet, but it made a great fuss over the killing of some policemen. Then these crazy anarchists, as they are called, thought a meeting ought to be held to consider the killing of six brethren and to discuss the eight hour movement. The meeting was held. It was peaceable. When Bonfield ordered the police to charge those peaceable anarchists, he hauled down the American flag and should have been shot on the spot.
“While the judicial farce was going on the red and black flags were brought into court, to prove that the anarchists threw the bomb. They were placed on the walls and hung there, awful specters before the jury. What does the black flag mean? When a cable gram says it was carried through the streets of a European city it means that the people are suffering—that the men are out of work, the women starving, the children barefooted. But, you say, that is in Europe. How about America? The Chicago Tribune said there were 30,000 men in that city with nothing to do. Another authority said there were 10,000 barefooted children in mid winter. The police said hundreds had no place to sleep or warm. Then President Cleveland issued his Thanksgiving proclamation and the anarchists formed in procession and car¬ried the black flag to show that these thousands had nothing for which to return thanks. When the Board of Trade, that gambling den, was dedicated by means of a banquet, $30 a plate, again the black flag was carried, to signify that there were thousands who couldn’t enjoy a 2 cent meal.
But the red flag, the horrible red flag, what does that mean? Not that the streets should run with gore, but that the same red blood courses through the veins of the whole human race. * It meant the brotherhood of man. When the red flag floats over the world the idle shall be called to work. There will be an end of prostitution for women, of slavery for man, of hunger for children.
“Liberty has been named anarchy. If this verdict is carried out it will be the death knell of America’s liberty. You and your children will be slaves. You will have liberty if you can pay for it. If this verdict is carried out, place the flag of our country at half mast and write on every fold ‘shame.’ Let our flag be trailed in the dust. Let the children of workingmen place laurels to the brow of these modern heroes, for they committed no crime. Break the two fold yoke. Bread is freedom and freedom is bread.
The Kansas City Journal, December 21, 1886, p. 1.
A few interesting things for your ears…
1 Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Delightful debut from Barnett. A marvellous rambling sing-song collection of observations about love, the modern world, and …well other stuff too. All backed by catchy tunes. Oh, and did I mention, very funny?
2. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
This is the first real Zeppelin album I’ve acquired. Sure, I have Mothership and that reunion gig, but never one of the cannon. Somehow, this one seemed irresistible. The double album, the masterpiece. I’m still absorbing it, but Zeppelin is one of those bands, that for me were an acquired taste. And the more I listen, the more I discover. Ah, if you like Zeppelin you already know this and are wondering why it took me so long. Which brings me to…
3. Various artists – Physical Graffiti (Mojo cover-mount CD)
Mojo magazine often does these tribute re-recordings of albums, and I guess their success depends on how you feel about the original record. Did you love the original (I was indifferent to the Rumours collection because I’m indifferent to Fleetwood Mac) and hate the idea of change? (I can see Zep fanatics hating this). Me? I quite like it. Songhoy Blues cover of “Kashmir” is quite amazing, and I prefer Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ version of “Boogie with Stu.” Sue me! Free with Mojo’s April issue.
4. Roy Orbison – Mystery girl (Deluxe)
I think I mentioned last month I’m on a bit of a Roy Orbison kick at the moment. Orbison’s last record and it’s aged well. The big hits “You Got It” and “She’s a Mystery to Me” still hold up over two decades later, but the deluxe edition comes with a DVD (OK), but a number of demos. The demos are outstanding. Fragile rough takes; the rawness of them is unbeatable. Like looking into a man’s soul.
5. catL – Soon This Will All Be Gone
Possibly my fave Toronto band. This is their third album and the last with Johnny Larue on drums (Sarah K has filled the gap quite admirably though). If you know catL’s punk-blues formula, you’ll love this. Originals and covers of Hasil Adkins and Leadbelly. Listen loud.
6. Black Belles – s/t
Sure it bares the mark of Mr. White, but the garage rock of the Black Belles stands on its own. It’s not a great record, but tracks like “Howl at the Moon” shine. (Ouch. Didn’t notice that right away) Main Belle Olivia Jean is now a pretty amazing solo artist.
7. Chris Isaak – Forever Blue
Mmm, possibly my favourite Isaak record. Or maybe Baja Sessions I dunno. Doesn’t matter, there’s not a bad song on either. Yeah, Isaak sticks to his true romance or true broken heart formula; Duane Eddy guitar and Roy Orbison crooning, but hell, it works. “Things Go Wrong” tears me up every time.
8. Gemma Ray – Milk for Your Motors
Anyone that can get Howie Gelb and Alan Vega to appear on their record s and be recommended by Jimmy Page is OK in my book. But don’t let others’ recommendations do it for you, check out this quite stunning record yourself. Twangy guitar, catchy vocals. Great car album.
9. Kitty Daisy and Lewis – Third
The difference between their first and third records is ambition. The first is a great rockabilly type record, but with Third, the band take a huge leap forward musically. Reggae, rock, soul even protest songs. Produced by Mick Jones too.
10. The Sonics – This is the Sonics
Can a buncha old men rock? (see the forthcoming review of the Toronto show). Actually, yes. Now, it’s not “Psycho” and “The Witch,” but what you get is some pretty loud insane garage stuff. In lovely mono.
It’s just under a month until this year’s Montreal Anarchist Bookfair, the largest of its kind in Canada, and one of the largest in North America.
I’ve just received my confirmation for tabling, so will be there as usual. Hard to believe this is my sixteenth year tabling there!
The bookfair takes place on the weekend of May 23-24, but this year there’s only tabling on the Saturday. More details at the bookfair site.
If you’re going, drop by, say hi. And if there’s anything maybe obscure ultra-lefty you want, drop me a line at the blog.
Retro is a term that raises mixed emotions. On the one hand, it’s reactionary since it means the idealized version of the past and the implication things were always better “back then,” but it can also mean having look for good stuff and bringing it up to date. It’s difficulty to get it right.
The tag has been applied to London mulch-instrumentalist siblings Kitty, Daisy and Lewis who were in town a little while back to play Lee’s Palace, but never fear. They got it right.
Oddly enough the DJ mix at Lee’s was no less retro: all the sounds of ’77. The Clash, the Damned, Stiff Little Fingers, the Ramones and a lot more golden oldies. Great songs, although they seemed a little off considering what was to come.
Show-opener Gemma Ray has been endorsed by Jimmy Page no less, but it’s easy to see why. Ray stood along on stage save for her guitar and drummer/keyboard player, but she filled the stage with sound. Mixing country, surf and pop Ray performed a compelling set of tunes that sounded, well, both old and new.
Kitty, Daisy and Lewis are promoting their third album, The Third, and listening to it after the first, you can hear the progression, both in confidence and sound. The older material is great, but the new stuff just sounds so much bolder.
Sisters Kitty and Daisy took the stage wearing what might have been go-go suits or Jetsons era space suits, while brother Lewis wore a suit (and yeah, they all looked great). Off to the sides, both parents appeared, with ex-Raincoat and mum Ingrid Weiss playing bass.
The three alternated vocals and instruments throughout the set, while working through the new record and cuts from their earlier two. But, for me, the most interesting thing was how much fun they seemed to be having. It was infectious, and the audience dug it too.
It’s a rare thing when a band can play new stuff, and old, and seem equally at home with other people’s songs too (check out their version of “Boogie with Stu”). Great show.
A few years ago I went to Belgium in March. The day I left, there was a blizzard here. When I arrived in Brussels, the flowers were blooming. I mention this here because this winter seem to never be coming to an end. There’s actually a warning of snow for this coming Thursday, but it doesn’t mean my neighbours should still have their Christmas lights up.
In some or other book on or by the Situationist International I read about the idea of exploring a city using the map of another, thus opening the explorer up to new, erm, avenues. Which brings me round to the point at the start. During the winter months, walking the dog can be a grim chore. It’s cold and the dog gets filthy every time (my dog is white so…), but when the weather warms, it becomes a joy.
I read somewhere about a “sniff walk.” Basically, instead of walking the usual route, you allow the dog to set the pace and the direction, stopping to sniff whatever and for how long he wants. (I should state too that my dog walks are pretty relaxed anyway, and the dog usually gets to sniff whatever he wants)
So for the most part, you get a much longer, but still familiar route. However, about three-quarters of the way through one of our usual routes, Lester opted to go straight instead of left. As a result we made a much wider swing and ended up going along paths he had seldom travelled. He became much more excited, going along new routes and getting to pee in new places.
And as you walk, you notice new things too. Not least with people. When you walk a dog, people are more willing to be friendly. I usually smile, nod hello or say good morning, but still a significant number of people ignore you. My dog never ignores another dog. Sure, there’s sometimes snarls or alpha dog moves, but never indifference. (I wonder too about the people engaged in animated cell phone conversations when walking the dog – just enjoy the moment; don’t wish you were elsewhere)
Lastly, I read something once about Ivan Pavlov and his dogs. Apparently here was a flood in one of his labs. A pipe burst or something and many of his dogs drowned. Some were able to kick open their cages and escape. The ones that escaped, forgot their training. The liberating effect of freedom. We can learn a lot from dogs.
In the circles where I travel, work, social and political, overt racism is rare. Not unknown, but generally people know to keep socially unacceptable comments under wraps.
Last week’s comments by NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre then, don’t fit into that category:
“Eight years of a demographically significant president is enough.”
Demographically significant? Oh, you mean, the U.S. has had a black president, now it might get a woman? How awful. What about all of the poor white men who would like to be president. (And of course, when I say poor, I mean unfortunate not actually poor – you can’t be president unless you’re rich)
OK, I’ll stop now, since sarcasm doesn’t always travel that well.
What LaPierre and his increasingly demographically insignificant base seem to miss is that Obama has been a faithful steward carrying out policies every bit as awful as Bush, and Hilary Clinton, if she gets the chance, will carry on just the same.
What was it Lenin said about music? You can do blues, opera, jazz, classical and country until you’re 150, but rock and rap are a young man’s game. No wait, that was Grace Slick. Lenin said something about revolutionaries over the age of 55. I digress.
Thing is, the Fleshtones who played the Horseshoe Tavern last week to a small, but appreciative crowd are no longer young men. Singer Peter Zaremba is 60, Keith Streng is 59, and drummer Bill Milhizer is approaching 70. (Toronto’s Ken Fox is the baby of the group at 54), but the thing is they still play pretty hard. My usual rule is not to go to reunion show unless I never saw the band in their prime (going to see the Sonics in a couple of weeks) , but I did see the band in the mid-90s when they had been playing together for a couple of decades. Still, the band never broke up, so it isn’t a reunion.
Glad I went. They played an hour-long set followed by two encores and never sat still. I’m not familiar with a lot of the newer material, so it was nice to hear “Hexbreaker” as the first encore, but the new stuff didn’t sound particularly different. “Super-rock” they call it. And it was. The kind of thing that makes you want to get up and dance. Garage rock with a touch of soul.
Openers Crummy Stuff weren’t young men either, but they played a solid punk rock set that could have been the Vibrators or one of the other class of 77. Turns out the guitar player had been in Durango 95 – now there’s a name I hadn’t heard in many a year. Not sure if he went into the Purple Toads. It was a solid set. Too bad there weren’t more people there to hear it.
Hey, hey, let’s hear it for the old guys!