Rolling Backouts Coastal Fever at the Horseshoe.

September 16, 2018 at 3:32 pm (Uncategorized)

Went to see Australia’s Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever this past Tuesday at one of my favourite venues, the Horseshoe Tavern. I probably first heard of the band on either an Uncut or a Mojo compilation, and bought the French Press EP as a result. It’s a fantastic guitar driven indie-rock record. I saw the band at the Garrison earlier this year, and was happily impressed by their live show.

Yet, two things really stood out from their show at the Horseshoe. It was soooo hot in there. I can’t remember the last time it was so sweaty at a show in September! Should it be cooler by now.?

But seriously, the important thing was how much tighter the band was. It felt like a well-oiled machine, playing songs from their earlier record and the fantastic debut album Hope Downs.

An hour-long set and a quick encore, and we were done.





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For the People..?

September 16, 2018 at 3:12 pm (Uncategorized)

Doug Ford argues because his party received 2.3 million votes in the last election, it represents the “will of the people.”

Donald Trump often refers to the press as the “enemy of the people.”

Maxime Bernier, the former Conservative M.P., has named his (and that’s significant) party “The People’s Party of Canada.”

In my ever so humble opinion, anytime a right-wing politician plays the populist “for the people” card, it’s rarely to ask the “people” what they want, its to tell them, and even then, rarely give to to them.


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First Create a Crisis!

September 10, 2018 at 2:58 pm (Uncategorized)

The Toronto municipal election just got even more interesting.

Earlier this year, but after the municipal campaign had started, new Ontario Premier and failed Toronto mayoral candidate decided after a vague campaign promise about “shrinking government” to unilaterally reduce the size of city council in Toronto from 47 to 25 counsellors.

While this act was widely perceived as Ford being petty and vindictive about a city and council that had spurned him, it was entirely within the province’s authority.

Except that according to  an Ontario Supreme Court Justice, it wasn’t. The campaign, already underway with new boundaries will now revert to the original 47 seat council. Unless, the province wins its inevitable appeal, and then, who knows?

This article from today’s Globe and Mail has a good summary.

The election takes place October 22.

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Postone – Marx in the Age of Trump

September 9, 2018 at 9:53 pm (Uncategorized)

A friend forwarded this video. Very interesting.


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Truth isn’t truth, but We’re all living in Reality TV Now – 3 Observations and a Conclusion

September 9, 2018 at 9:53 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s hard to keep up with the Trump train…This is the third time I’ve started this piece, and each time, new stuff gets added as the world gets crazier. Just this week, Bob Woodward’s book and the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times flare briefly on the horizon, displacing all of the previous news on Trump. Some of the stuff in this post is old. But, if it doesn’t go now, it never will, because something else will appear tomorrow.

I was in a conversation with friends recently, and we all bemoaned the fact that we were unable to escape from the Trump phenomena (short of living in a cave I suppose, and even then I’m not entirely sure you’d be safe). Apart from What Not to Wear and Canada’s Worst Driver, I’ve never really watched reality TV. Survivor, the Bachelor, Jersey Shore, the Apprentice, and all the rest passed me by. But with Trump’s election, it’s become impossible to ignore: The world feels like an episode of a particularly horrifying reality TV show. Heroes and villains all. But stay tuned for next week’s atrocity as, in an effort to juice ratings, the appears sooner and sooner.

I. The Omarosa Follies

What was it Jimmy Kimmel said: , there’s a vicious, lying, treacherous reality TV star, and on the other side there’s Omarosa. I still have no desire to read her book, but I’ll make three observations about that now fading story:

  1. Given that Trump and Omarosa are seemingly pathological liars, it’s impossible to know which of them to disbelieve.
  2. Do we really need the existence of an audio tape to know whether or not Trump uses the N-word and is a racist?
  3. When the tape does appear, and it will, watch for Republicans to shrug with greater or lesser degrees of discomfort, say that’s how people talk, and see Trump’s population among his base increase.

II. Double Tap: Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen

With all the talk last week of “rats,”  not being able to “break”Manafort, and “flipping,” I briefly considered that it wasn’t reality TV I was living in, it was an episode of The Sopranos. The take-away lines from this one, are the pro-Trump juror who said of Manafort, “I wanted him to be innocent, but he wasn’t” (ouch!), and Trump tweeting that Cohen had pleaded guilty to things that weren’t even crimes (thus displaying an masterful ignorance of how capitalist “justice”  works – people are often charged with crimes they didn’t commit, but rearely things which aren’t actually crimes). Manafort’s tax crimes do precede his work with Trump, but Cohen’s violation of election spending rules and his implication of Trump hit closer to home, but they are merely indications of what lies ahead.

III The Death of John McCain

John McCain was a right-wing Republican, who among his sins brought Sarah Palin to national prominence. He was an opportunist, but one who had not entirely surrendered all of his principles to the complete venality that is the Republican party. The seeming canonization of McCain ( former presidents George W Bush and Barack Obama will speak at his funeral) is no doubt due to his record as a good and loyal servant, but  also that he absolutely loathed Trump.  The feeling was mutual of course: Trump’s vetoing of a statement which described McCain as a hero in favour of a bland tweet, and the pettiness over lowering of the flag to mark McCain’s passing show the essential smallness, classlessness of Trump. Still, for once Trump as probably not the most thoughtless (The perfunctory note of condolences on Twitter addressed to the family without really an appraisal of McCain as weak but his Instagram did further undermine even that gesture by posting the same words with a picture of Trump looking on. “Donnie, it’s not about you.” . No, that dubious award belongs to Kellie Ward who argued that the announcement that McCain was ending his treatment was deliberately timed to draw attention away from her bus tour to promote her senate race efforts. No Kelly sweetie, it’s really not not about you. (Is it just me, or does she remind other people  of Senator Helen Brucker, the demon-possessed member of the Circle of the Black Thorn on Angel?) Oddly enough, even after this grotesque self-absorption, Ward is still not the most vile person in that race. No, that honour goes to Joe Arpaio. such is the quality of candidates for political office these days.(Although his weak finish almost gives some hope of common sense)

Where do we go to my lovely?  

It’s hard to know where the division in the U.S. ruling class will lead. The Democrats and their allies loathe Trump, with a pathological dislike that almost as strong as the Republicans loathing of them.  The split in in the U.S. ruling class between those who hate Trump and those who, well, put up with him because despite his boorish, racist, corrupt, petty nature (or possibly in some cases because of it) seems to characterize the entire range of political dialogue in the country. It’s particularly strange given the fact that the twin parties of U.S. capital so long -operated with a largely bi-partisan arrangement.

Trump way well be displaced. Given the laziness of the thuggish corrupt business practices with which Trump and his associates have operated for decades (Manafort and Cohen were so lazy in committing their corruptions it reportedly wasn’t that difficult to ensnare them), it would seem likely a smoking guns is just waiting for Robert Muller. Still, in the event that scenario does occur, will the hyper-partisanship of U.S. politics prevent further cooperation or will a third forth emerge as possible alternative?




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Music Notes August 2018

August 31, 2018 at 12:11 pm (Uncategorized)

As the kids go back to school…

1 Bobby Fuller Four – “I Fought the Law (El Paso)”

Came across this one on You Tube recently. It’s the demo version of the song. A little heavier sound which might even be better than the version we all know and love.


2 Dean Wareham – “Lonesome Cowboy Bill”

Not entirely sure where this is available – I subscribe to Dean Wareham’s mailing list, and it just showed up in my mail box last week. Rather lovely cover of the old Velvet Underground song from Loaded. 

3 Kit B. – “Four Obscure B Sides”

Heard about this band this morning courtesy of Louder Than War. Described as a sort of Young Marble giants for 2018, the record has a lo-fi charm that’s hard to resist. Down load from the band’s site. I particularly like the track “Swisser Swatter.”

4 Margo Price with Jack White – “Honey we can’t afford to look this cheap”

Appropriately shaky recording of the old White Stripes song from a show in Nashville.


5 Lulu and the Lampshades – “You’re Gonna Miss Me”

Yeah, I know Anna Kendrick does this in one of those Pitch Perfect movies, but I like this version better because it’s a Carter Family song sung with a British accent.


6 The Cowboy Junkies – All That Reckoning

First saw the Cowboy Junkies around the time their version of “Sweet Jane” was breaking. They played Clinton’s Tavern on Bloor Street. We saw close to the front, and the audience was still louder than the band. And yet, they were hypnotic (it didn’t work quite so well when I saw them a couple of years later at Ontario Place). Good to have them back.

7 Miley Cyrus – “Jolene”

Now that Dolly Parton’s back in the news after her posting of that meme, why not remember a great song of hers done effectively by Ms. Cyrus?


8 Half Man Half Biscuit – “Knobheads on Quiz Shows”

A fantastic track off the band’s new album, No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin Hedge Cut



9 Kaelan Minka – Manadas

Icelandic post-punk but dabbling in goth sounds. Moody, but affecting

10 Mitski – Be the Cowboy

Less punky that the previous album Puberty 2, but no less wonderful. The Toronto show in October has been moved from the Opera House to the Danforth Music Hall.

Enjoy back to school. 

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The New Socialists (According to the New York Times that is) )

August 31, 2018 at 12:09 pm (Uncategorized)

I live in Canada. Canada’s party of socialism (sorry, Communist Party of Canada) is the New Democratic Party. The NDP has been around for over half a century, and has never been a very radical organization. It’s peddled the same wishy-washy “capitalism  doesn’t have to be this way” mixture of warmed-over Keynesianism and social justice issues with some success. It’s never been a serious contender at the federal level, it has formed governments at the provincial level in six of Canada’s ten prvinces. While in power, it rolled out the same old program of managing capitalism, just as it promised it would.

And yet, the NDP still seem a great deal more radical than the Democratic Socialists of America. So, it was with interest I came across this article in Sunday’s New York Times which has a significant article on the front page of the Review section on contemporary socialism in the United States entitled “The New Socialists. “

It’s an interesting article, although its most telling line is the observation that the DSA is still deeply buried in the “second most enthusiastic capitalist party.”  (Paul Krugman also has a column to reassure people, this isn’t really anything to worry about) . So until that break is made, and by break, I mean with the value system, this mini-revolt isn’t really going to go too far.

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Communicating Vessels #29

August 31, 2018 at 12:08 pm (Uncategorized)

There’s a new issue of Communicating Vessels out now. The 29th issue (summer/fall 2018) features observations about life in the south-west (personal and political), reviews and letters, and an appreciation of writer Jim Harrison (new to me). The issue is, as always, beautifully produced in what is surely a labour of love.

To get a copy, send a few dollars to

PO Box 2048

Tuscon, Arizona, 85702


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Back to the Grind (Almost)

August 20, 2018 at 12:40 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve been on holiday out of the country for the past fortnight. I got back Friday evening, and I’m pretty much over the jet lag now, and as a bonus I still have a little time before I have to go back to work. Yah me!. Still, it’s there. the heaviness. Waiting.

I have a number  of things I need to write up from the trip and finish here: Articles for IP, new links for this blog, Trump, and the changes in Ontario politics since the election of Doug Ford.

Well, the more you try to get done, the more you get done.


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Business Economics 101 (Or something like that)

August 6, 2018 at 1:23 pm (Uncategorized)

There’s an old joke that goes something like this: At the first meeting after the Cuban Revolution , Castro is doling out jobs. “Is anyone here an economist?” he asks.

Che puts up his hand. “Right. You’re the minster for the economy.” Che looks a bit shocked, but says nothing.

After the meeting Che approaches Fidel ans says, “I’m happy to rake care of the economy, but you know, I’m not an economist.”

Fidel snaps back, “Why did you put up your hand when I asked if anyone was an economist.”

“Oh,” Che replies, “I thought you said was anyone a communist.”


Now, it turned out Che was neither an economist nor a communist, (sorry, left-communist snark here), and while the new Progressive Conservative government of Doug Ford certainly never claim to be communists, its grasp on basic economic principles  doesn’t appear too solid either.

The cancellation of the Liberal government cap-and-trade pollution policy was an ideological one, but part of the money was earmarked for school repairs – The Toronto District School Board was scheduled to receive $100 million for repairs to plant and infrastructure, and as a parent who still has one kid in the school system, I’m OK with money being spent on schools. Where does that money go now? Presumably it says with polluters.

A few years ago when Ford’s brother Rob was the Mayor of Toronto, the Fords railed against a 5 cent charge for plastic bags in grocery stores. which the previous Mayor David Miller had instituted in order to reduce plastic bag use Outrageous they said. No longer would Toronto collect that money. Funny thing is,  most of the stores I shop at still charge me for a plastic bag. .

Last week, the government announced it was cancelling the province’s basic income pilot program. This caused much consternation, since the Conservatives had maintained prior to the election they would be continuing with the program. Minister Lisa MacLeod more or less fessed up to the broken promise, but fell back on the time honoured tradition of claiming the previous government had left them with less money than they had assumed, only to claim the next day that the media’s reporting was….wait for it…fake news.

But it’s not all bad news. One of the other campaign promises was the return of the buck-a-beer. Currently in Ontario the minimum price a brewer can sell a bottle or can of beer for is $1.25. Prior to 2008, the minimum was $1. Ford’s idea is to reduce the floor, so while your kids’ school may have holes in its roof, the air is too polluted to go outside, and you may have been pushed deeper into poverty, at least you can save some money on beer. Maybe…because there’s no guarantee that brewers will actually sell at the minimum price (a quick survey of LCBO and Beer Store prices indicate no one’s selling anywhere close to that minimum now).

I’m not an economist either. I took a few classes in school, and read a few books since then, but I do remember a couple of things. One of the basic principles of capitalism is profit maximization. The other is externalities. I.e., if you can get someone else to pay for some of the messes you create, you can make more profit. Oh wait, now I get it: Business and the wealthy enjoy socialism; the rest of us get capitalism.

Last week, the right-wing Toronto Sun featured an article by John Snoblen, a high school dropout who was a Minister of Education under a previous Tory Government. Snoblem, who applauded Ford’s decisions to date, was most famous for being caught arguing that in order to more easily accomplish their policies, it was necessary to create a crisis.

That’s the way the game is played. I’m not suggesting that the old Liberal policies represented a moment toward a fairer society etc., but the new Conservative government’s early decision suggest that this is a taste of things to come.



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