Summer Wines

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Summer Wines

Em Marshall-Luck proposes a selection

The two rosés in this May batch of wine recommendations proclaim with clarion call that spring is at last here, and summer on its way. They are well-matched by one superb-value budget-price white and mid-higher range red whose intriguing secrets need to be teased out with breathing; and a celebratory cider, perfect for a refreshing post-ambulatory drink in the emerging sun.

To commence with the rosés: one whiff of Haut Vol 2015 at once conjures up the long lazy days of summer; picnics in the countryside by clear running streams or serene lakes – or, indeed, relaxing in the warm Mediterranean landscapes from which the wine comes. Continue reading

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Trump Addresses America’s Debt

Donald_Trump May

Trump Addresses America’s Debt

Stephen Michael MacLean’s take on Trumponomics

‘The Open Conspiracy.’ That is what Henry Hazlitt, the renowned New York journalist, called the political effort to ‘monetise the debt’ by inflating the currency so that U.S. government debts incurred to-day will cost less to pay to-morrow; or, as is the case, years into the future — if ever.

But in an interview with CNBC on 5th May, Donald Trump, presumptive Republican presidential candidate, took a swing at the conspiracy by matter-of-factly stating that, as President, he would seek to restructure the payment of U.S. Treasury bonds at lower returns. Continue reading

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Paul Ryan, a Guy who Never Built a Thing

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan, a Guy who Never Built a Thing

Mercer macerates mental midget

As of May 7, the outgoing neoconservative priestly cast had raised its game. Since Donald Trump has effectively clinched the Republican Party’s nomination, based on his America First platform, they had an ultimatum for him: Stop your nonsense and we’ll take you back.

If Trump quits denouncing George Bush and his Good War, and starts to blame only Barack Obama for Iraq—said commentator-cum-soldier-cum-global crusader Pete Hegseth to an exultant Gretchen Carlson at the Fox News Channel—all would be forgiven. Recall, Trump called Bush a liar and went on to win South Carolina … and Nevada. He continues to denounce the “made by Bush” Iraq war. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, 16th May 2016

Claire Hammond

Claire Hammond

ENDNOTES, 16th May 2016

In this edition: Interview with Royal Philharmonic Society Award-winner, Clare Hammond * German and French recorder concertos * Brahms, Piano Quintet from Chandos * Looking forward to the Proms – in London and Cardiff.

A stream of CDs arrives each month on our desk, with a recent eye-catching new recording from the Swedish label, BIS, which – in its clean, sharp, immaculate packaging – often champions contemporary music. Kenneth Hesketh (b. 1968) is a British composer who seems to have developed an unparalleled sound-world: a modern impressionism of unceasing invention; of suspension and movement; of layers of sound – varying from (as in the 12-movement work, Horae (PRO CLARA) (Breviary for Clare) from 2012) the sound of “the tiniest humming bird” and an “evening full of linnet’s wings” – to a desolate Molto misterioso, ‘for now we see through a glass, darkly’. Performed by Royal Philharmonic Society Award-winner, Clare Hammond (she secured this year’s prestigious RPS ‘Young Artist’ category, and is also a dedicatee of Hesketh’s work) the new disc*, produced by BIS engineer, Robert Suff, must rank as one of the most thought-provoking productions of new music to have appeared in recent years. Continue reading

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Pleasure

Divine David

Divine David

Pleasure

Pleasure, Mark Simpson, Britten Studio, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Music, Suffolk, May 2016. Director Tim Albery, Psappha conducted by Nicholas Kok, reviewed by Tony Cooper

A co-commission and co-production between Aldeburgh Music, Opera North and the Royal Opera, this well-constructed and entertaining 75-minute chamber opera, Pleasure, sees Mark Simpson make his first foray into the genre in a compelling and intensive piece unfolding over ten fast-moving scenes. The work has sealed the credentials of this young Liverpudlian composer at the beginning of his opera career. What will come next? Perhaps an opera based on the life of Madame Blavatsky, a co-founder of the Theosophical Society.

Followers of the BBC’s Young Musician Competition will recall that in 2006 Simpson won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition playing Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto with the Northern Sinfonia under Yan Pascal Tortelier at The Sage, Gateshead. He also won the BBC Young Composer of the Year Competition, thus becoming the only person in history to have ever won both competitions – and in the same year. Continue reading

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Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham

Ellenborough Park Terrace

Ellenborough Park Terrace

Ellenborough Park, Cheltenham

Ellenborough Park was a surprise – albeit one of the nicest possible: a great rambling old pile in Cheltenham; the original Tudor house (which dates from the early fifteenth century) presenting a glorious step back in time, but with less attractive modern accretions. The first impressions – once we found the car park and battled the biting wind to walk up to the reception – were good. A very professional but not unfriendly greeting met us from the main desk, and we were then taken through to a fabulous wooden-panelled room with glorious old stone work, a blazing log fire and spectacular minstrel’s gallery. Continue reading

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Jerusalem’s Russian Quarter

jerusalem mosqueJerusalem’s Russian Quarter

The peripatetic Bill Hartley reports

During the nineteenth century various European powers set out to establish a presence in Jerusalem. For example, Austro Hungary managed to squeeze a post office into the old city just opposite the Jaffa Gate. It didn’t prosper. Presumably non citizens of the empire saw no advantage in having their mail routed through Vienna.

Russia created a much larger presence and even today the district where they established themselves is still known as the Russian Quarter. Continue reading

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Government Greed Axes the Golden Goose

Laffer Curve

Laffer Curve

Government Greed Axes the Golden Goose

Stephen Michael MacLean condemns economic illiteracy

President Barack Obama mounted the bully pulpit last month, to decry the practice of ‘tax inversion’ and those corporations with the effrontery to believe in private property and the profit motive, thus escaping exorbitant tax bills by moving operations out of the United States for the welcoming low-tax jurisdictions of foreign lands.

According to an AP News report:

“Obama called it ‘one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there’ because it shortchanges the country. He said less tax revenue means the government can’t fully spend on schools, transportation networks and other things to keep the economy strong. He said the practice also hurts middle-class Americans because ‘that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere.'”

Oh, dear! Where does one begin to enumerate President Obama’s recurring penchant for economic (and constitutional) illiteracy? Continue reading

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America First, by Ilana Mercer

Donald-Trump

America First, by Ilana Mercer

 The Donald puts flesh on his foreign policy

“Unsophisticated rambling,” “simplistic,” “reckless.” The verdict on Donald J. Trump’s foreign policy, unveiled after his five-for-five victory in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut, was handed down by vested interests: members of the military-media-think-tank complex.

People like Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. People that Dwight D. Eisenhower counseled against, in his farewell address to the nation.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.” Continue reading

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Strange Bedfellows in Canada

 

CCF Saskatchewan Section, Towards the Dawn

CCF (Saskatchewan Section), Towards the Dawn

Strange Bedfellows in Canada

Mark Wegierski detects a convergence of the “Old” Left and Right

One can look at the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada – and its precursor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) – to highlight the differences between the so-called “Old Left” and the new Left-Liberal consensus.

In the May 2, 2011, federal election in Canada, the New Democratic Party – Canada’s social democratic party – won 103 seats, thus displacing the Liberal Party, and becoming the Official Opposition. However, in the October 19, 2015 election, they were swept away by the Justin Trudeau tide, falling to 44 seats. Some blamed Tom Mulcair’s centrist-tending campaign (especially the promise to keep the federal budget balanced) for this loss.

Tommy Douglas, revered today by many in Canada as the founder of the Canadian Medicare System, was a longtime leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation. Like many on the “Old Left”, Tommy Douglas was surprisingly conservative on cultural and social issues. For example, medicare was initially adopted in the province of Saskatchewan as part of a pro-natalist, pro-family policy. Tommy Douglas also advocated what later became called “workfare” – appalled by the idea that able-bodied men should receive government money without rendering some kind of constructive labor. And he hated deficits, arguing that fiscal prudence was necessary “to keep the bankers off the government’s back”.

Tommy Douglas, Poletical.com

Tommy Douglas, Poletical.com

While ferociously fighting for equality for the working majority, much of the “Old Left” had no wish to challenge religion, family, and nation. They were thus social-democratic in economics, but socially conservative. Indeed, most of the “Old Left” would have found the concerns of the post-Sixties’ Left as highly questionable, if not repugnant.

One could therefore ask the question – do the genuine Left and the genuine Right converge today as an “anti-system opposition”? A number of social critics across the spectrum, such as U.S. paleoconservative theorist Paul Edward Gottfried, and Frankfurt School-inspired Paul Piccone, the late editor of the eclectic, New York-based, independent scholarly journal, Telos, have perceived the ruling structures of current-day society in terms of a “managerial Right” and a “therapeutic Left”. Piccone’s interpretation of the Frankfurt School was unusual as he saw its members as critics of the managerial-therapeutic regime – as opposed to a more common view that they had in fact significantly aided in the institution of the system.

Telos, www.telospress.com

Telos, www.telospress.com

According to Gottfried and Piccone, there currently exists a pseudo-conflict between the officially-approved Right and Left which in reality represents little more than a debate between managerial styles. The “managerial Right,” typified by soulless multinational or transnational corporations (including the big banks and financial firms that a few years ago received over a trillion dollars of U.S. taxpayers’ money) represents the consumerist, business, economic side of the system. The “therapeutic Left,” typified by arrogant social engineers, advocates redistribution of resources along politically-correct lines, and “sensitivity-training” for recalcitrants. Traditionalists and some eclectic left-wingers oppose both the “managerial Right” and the “therapeutic Left,” as together constituting today’s “new Establishment,” or “New Class.”

The Left is also identified today, by some traditionalist and eclectic critics, such as Michael Medved (author of Hollywood vs. America) and Daniel Bell (author of The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism), with the rougher edges of the pop-culture, which similarly seeks to negate traditional social norms. The profit motive of the corporations, and the rebelliousness of the cultural Left and of late modern culture in general, feed off each other. The pop-culture in America and Canada (including certain reckless and irresponsible academic and art trends) and the consumer culture, are tightly intertwined. But the sense of an integrated self and society, where people can hold a meaningful identity, and in which real public and political discourse can take place, is fundamentally in atrophy.

The real division in both the U.S. and Canada, then, is between supporters and critics of the managerial-therapeutic regime. The critics include genuine traditionalists – people who respect religion and concrete, rooted locality, and are able to perceive the assaults of both capitalists and therapeutic experts against them – as well as the communitarian tendency (that was especially prominent in the early to mid-1990s) which emphasizes “real communities” as against corporate and therapeutic manipulations. While some leftists denounce Christopher Lasch as a reactionary, he continued to identify himself as a social democrat to the end of his life.

The possibility of a coalition of the authentic Right and Left against the ersatz Right and Left Establishment conglomerate was anticipated by John Ruskin, the nineteenth-century art critic and social commentator, who – in an age of a pre-totalitarian and pre-politically-correct Left – could confidently say, “I am a Tory of the sternest sort, a socialist, a communist.” G. K. Chesterton, likewise, made pointed criticisms of managerialist and consumerist capitalism, which he presciently noted was based on the premise of unending economic growth which must ultimately destroy nature and thoroughly undermine social mores and human dignity. He defended the broader lower-middle- and working-classes and called for more local and human-scale systems of economy.

In the wake of the financial and economic crises that engulf the planet today, both Right and Left should look to some of their more unconventional thinkers for guidance on how we can emerge in better condition from these troubled times.

Mark Wegierski is a Toronto-based writer and historical researcher

 

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