The Re-framing of Political Discussion

September 30, 2018 at 3:23 pm (Uncategorized)

I used to be a subscriber to Doug Henwood’s Left Business Observer. He longer publishes it, but does a podcast. The current one has an interesting discussion with Anand Giridharadas. I disagree with the general framework and the political conclusions, but the point about how capitalism has re-framed the discussion is pretty interesting. Here’s the link to the archive of past shows

http://www.leftbusinessobserver.com/Radio.html#S180927

 

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Music Notes September 2018: The Best Local Group in the World

September 30, 2018 at 3:22 pm (Uncategorized)

“The best local group in the world” was a line I first heard in connection with British legends Dr. Feelgood. I don’t know if any of these days would relish the title (and I really mean it as a compliment), but here goes…

1 The Dirty Nil 

From Hamilton, the Dirty Nil has two albums and a bunch of singles, and they make an unholy noise on them. Recently moved up on my “must see” list (Opera House, December)

2. The Pack A.D.

Garage rock from Vancouver, but much more. Your favourite songs on the new album Doll’s House will likely be the quiet ones.

3. CatL

For a long time, my favourite Toronto band. Their fifth album Bide My Time until I Die is out now. Stunningly impressive punk-blues duo.

4. Moscow Apartment

Indie-folk from Toronto (the set opening for Dream Wife was a bit punkier than their EP though) The other great thing was that after the set, the band had to leave as they were too young to be at the Hard Luck Bar!.

5 Surfrajettes

I’m still a sucker for surf music instrumentals. Have a listen on Bandcamp to “Party Line” and a clever cover of Brittany Spears’ “toxic.”

6.  Kiwi Jr

Not from New Zealand, but copping that classic alt-pop NZ sound – they did a Clean cover when I saw them this summer.

7.  Metz 

I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve never seen Metz live, but oh the churning noise on the albums.

8. Weak Hands 

Local punks. Saw them open for Shilpa Ray this year. Taking a break now, but will be back later.

9. Christian D and the Sinners 

I’m a recent convert to this band. Looking forward to seeing them live on October 19 at Cherry Colas.

10. The Palominos

OK, Full disclosure, friends of mine. But that doesn’t make them any less wonderful. Drawing from a lot of classic rock n roll sounds and making something new. Great band live.

 

I’m sure there’s loads of unsung heroes I’ve forgotten, but it’s always good to support local things.

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How to be a Cynic 101

September 30, 2018 at 3:22 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve been in politics or activism or whatever you want to call it since my teens, but the closest thing  I got to mainstream Politics was as a member of Canada’s social democratic party the New Democratic Party. In the years since then, I came across a lot of people on the left who were not exactly motivated by reams of a socialist future, but seemingly by lust for power or more often pure malice. (Spartacists, I’m thinking of you here)

Even so,  when I watched House of Cards, where everyone who entered public service seems driven by pettiness, cynicism, and corruption, I thought, “It can’t possibly be this bad, can it?”

Turn on the news.

An example of this baseness is playing out with the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Bret Kavanaugh. It’s increasingly evident that although members of the political apparatus don’t really care whether or not Kavanaugh is guilty or not. (Some believe him, some believe his accusers) They just don’t care as long as it advances the interests of their faction of the American ruling class.

The word decadence has some currency within the left-communist current. At its most extreme interpretation, one championed by the International Communist Current, it meant that the productive forces of capitalism had ceased to grow and were now simply rotting. As such every gross aspect of capitalism, pollution, mass-shootings, genocide, meth epidemics, were a facet of economic decadence.  Internationalist Perspective stopped using decadence in this way decades ago. But in a real sense, it could easily be used as a synonym for corruption. Not in the narrow hands in the till sense, but corruption, as in even by the rules the bourgeois sets for themselves, they are failing. It could be that Washington and the American political class has always been this way (true to a greater or lesser extent), and all Trump and his ilk have done is pull off the band aid to reveal the gangrenous pus, but the pure venality of it seems shocking even to a cynic like me.

Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets, er, out of power…

 

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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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