Monday, August 10, 2015

and another excerpt from John Keane's TOM PAINE: A POLITICAL LIFE

Paine was not a pacifist.  He recognized that in politics "turning the other cheek" can be a devilishly self-contradictory ethic that enables the strong to outfox or destroy the weak.  Yet he was also convinced that an ethic of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" was dangerous, especially in politics, where its literal application invariably leads to mutual reprisals and escalating violence, thereby hardening the hearts of the combatants, destroying their civility, and forcing freedom into exile, condemning it to tramp other lands as a poor and hungry refugee.  Therefore, the use of violent means to defend liberty was only the lesser of two evils.

p.228, Chapter 7 (The Federalist), "Revolutionary Compassion"section

another excerpt from John Keane's TOM PAINE: A POLITICAL LIFE

Paine was no believer in self-regulating "free markets."  He was not an "ideological spokesman for the bourgeoisie."  He certainly believed -- in this he was remarkably modern -- that market mechanisms for structuring decisions about investment, production, and consumption through anonymous monetary exchanges could never be eliminated from the heart of civil societies without destroying the vitality and what Paine sometimes called "civil independent pride."  Industry, commerce, and agriculture regulated by means of money-based private exchanges were essential for a free civil society, if only to protect it from meddlesome state power.  But -- the qualification was of the utmost importance to Paine -- he refused to draw from this the conclusion that the various institutions of civil society should be ruled by impersonal "market forces."  Within this sphere, individuals should not be treated as private entrepreneurs whose talents and powers are presumed to be natural and whose conduct is guided by the bourgeois principle of differential cash rewards for workers and owners of property.  He was adamant that market exchanges must be controlled and nurtured politically.  A self-regulating market is undesirable.  It motivates individuals not on the basis of commitment to serve and be served by their fellow citizens, but through a mixture of greed and fear.  Market competition encourages citizens to see each other as threats and as sources of private self-enrichment.

p. 190, Chapter 6 (Public Insults), "Men of Wealth" section

Thursday, June 25, 2015

excerpt from John Keane's TOM PAINE: A POLITICAL LIFE

...fear is a central ingredient of despotic regimes, in which fear of power always corrupts those who are subject to it and fear of losing power always corrupts those who are exercising it.

p.141, Chapter 5 (War), "The American Crisis" section, 1st graph

Friday, February 13, 2015


Shit musical, indeed.

NOFX's Fat Mike's musical is finally hitting the stage.  His label, Fat Wreck Chords, dropped the soundtrack on February 10.  And it's lamer than the transients lounging on Telegraph Ave.

Most of the songs are about drug-taking and the S&M scene.  I dunno.  I quit drinking three years ago, so my household ain't 420 friendly.  And as far as dating a dominatrix. . . .  Why?  Sex is awesome all by itself.  Why would you want to ruin it by adding torture to the mix?  Consequences of a post-9/11 world, perhaps.

And here's the thing: Fat Mike is a millionaire.  Him writing songs celebrating street life is like Stalin penning an ode to those victimized by empire.

But the million-dollar question is, "Who the hell would invest in this musical?"  Theatre productions are notoriously expensive, hence the astronomical ticket prices.  Maybe it's a vanity project for Fat Mike.  Gotta spend your Knob Hill millions on something, I guess.

The sad thing is what a waste this whole endeavor is (and the money I lost buying it).  Fat Mike has an unbelievable amount of talent rocking around in his drug-addled brain.  A cursory listen to NOFX's catalog proves he has an ear for harmony and melody.

If you're going to do a musical, how about one on the plight of today's working person?  With the 1%'s war on the middle and poor classes, a musical in that key could be what America needs right now.  Art should educate and engage, not simply entertain.  But, no, Fat Mike decided to salute the cult of self, glamorizing the pursuit of pleasure and the annihilation of brain cells.

It's not all bad, though.  Besides a kick-ass soundtrack title, Home Street Home (take that, Mötley Crüe!) has a few half-decent tracks.  "Three String Guitar" has witty wordplay, especially admirable given it's only 93 seconds long.  "Missing Child" is a beautiful ballad told from the perspective of a mother missing her runaway daughter (more songs in that vein would've been nice).  "Because I Want To" has splendid synthesizers straight out of an Epoxies outtake.  And while the last track, "The Agony of Victory", is a little too saccharine for my ears with its cliche "na-na-na" ending, it gives an excellent excuse to pull out NOFX's last great album, Coaster, which featured a far superior version.  Ah, to a better time, before a great American songwriter jumped the shark. . . .