Happy New Year 2021 : (+ Jan 4: US politics really crazy now?), Indigenous Edmonton, Saul Alinsky’s democracy, Trump etc, old New York jazz clubs

Jan 1st, 2021 | By | Category: In Brief
“The Furies” by Toronto artist and political observer Michael Seward, January 2021.

COUNTERWEIGHTS EDITORS’ VIRTUAL NEW YEAR’S PARTY 2021 (UPDATED 9 AM ET, MONDAY JANUARY 4, 2021), FERNWOOD PARK, ON. To start with, we’ve moved our January 4, 2021 update on US politics right up front here instead of at the end of our original comments as usual, for what we think should be obvious reasons!

We feel driven to post something about Donald Trump’s gangster-style phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (a Republican), made public over the first weekend of the new year. We re-tweeted various eminent comments on this subject on Twitter yesterday (and much earlier this morning). And we’ll content ourselves with four of them here :

First we commented briefly on Mr. Raffensperger’s historic response to the lame-duck president : “Respectfully, President Trump: What you’re saying is not true. The truth will come out.” And we prefaced this with our own lonely question : “Will this become classic summary tweet on Trump presidency?”

Second, we re-tweeted MSNBC historian Michael Beschloss’s comment on President Trump’s phone call to Mr. Raffensperger : “Can you imagine how many calls like this he might have made over the past four years that we don’t yet know about?”

Third, we noted Ezra Klein’s compelling historical observation : “It’s always been lunacy to have a lame duck period this long and we’re really seeing why this year.”

Canadian PM Jean Chretien and finance minister Paul Martin back in the mid 1990s.

Finally, we also very much liked former Obama senior advisor David Axelrod’s high-minded and non-partisan comment, that showed there are still reasons to keep hope alive about Democracy in America in 2021 : “Here’s one other thing the latest Trump tape reaffirmed: Whatever else he has done or will do, @GaSecofState [ie the Republican Mr. Raffensperger] deserves enormous credit for standing up to the kind of pressure he has endured from the @POTUS [Mr. Trump] and his mob.”

Now we return to our original post, while dedicating this update to the free and democratic futures of five very young American citizens currently resident in California (by age, Tatum, River, Skyler, Slater, and Sunny)!

DEMOCRACY IN CANADA SINCE 1497. Our first [New Year’s party] assignment in between gulps of iced sparkling water was to extend the apologies of our senior editor (Dr) Randall White, who has not quite managed to complete the second or at least third last chapter of his work in progress on Democracy in Canada Since 1497 by the end of 2020, as once promised.

The chapter is called “The Return of the Natural Governing Party, 1992–2006.” It focuses on the Canadian Liberal federal governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, after the defeat of the Charlottetown Accord in the fall of 1992. Mr. White is now promising that the chapter will be finished over the next few weeks — and posted along with everything else so far completed on “The Long Journey to a Canadian Republic” page of this site. And we almost believe him.

Edmonton, Alberta in a -32’C deepfreeze. January 15, 2020! Tks to WaffleStompFantasy.

EDMONTON’S NEW INDIGENOUS WARD NAMES. As further evidence that 2020 has not been a complete waste of time, we applaud the decision of the elected council for the capital city of Alberta to give its 12 wards for municipal elections Indigenous Canadian names.

The story can be quickly reviewed in four articles available online. Two are from this past September when progress was first reported : Dustin Cook’s “’A return to the history’: Indigenous names recommended for Edmonton’s 12 new wards effective 2021 election” from the Edmonton Journal ; and “Proposed Indigenous names for Edmonton’s 12 new wards revealed” from the CBC News website.

Two more articles are from December 2020, when Edmonton city council passed the earlier recommendations : “Indigenous Ward Names Approved … bylaw approving the new ward boundaries and Indigenous Ward Names … passed by Council on December 7, 2020” from the city government records ; and “A look at the Indigenous names for Edmonton’s 12 wards” from The Canadian Press, December 25, 2020.

By Michael Seward. Late December 2020.

SAUL ALINSKY AS POOR MAN’S MACHIAVELLI : Some of us have been lucky enough to recently secure public library copies of former President Barack Obama’s new book. Back when he was first elected president Obama’s history as a Chicago community organizer revived some interest in the work of the historic Chicago organizing wizard Saul Alinsky (1909–1972).

The forces of progress in the USA right now could use some new Saul Alinsky (a thought first prompted by Bill Maher’s interview with Steve Bannon this past February). And we were pleased when friends recently drew fresh attention to Vijay Phulwani’s 2016 American Political Science Review article on “The Poor Man’s Machiavelli: Saul Alinsky and the Morality of Power.”

Phulwani’s article “presents Saul Alinsky’s theory of community organizing as a democratic alternative to political realism’s fixation on the coercive authority of the state and the ethical problems of statesmanship … Organizing is realist, pedagogical, and democratic, and Alinsky’s ability to hold these ideas together makes him an important theorist of democratic agency in undemocratic times.”

President Trump returning to the White House after the Army-Navy football game last month.

TRUMP’S (AND ROD PHILLIPS’S) LAST STAND. Four December 31, 2020 gleanings from the Twitterverse suggest just a few of the problems the United States (and Canada) now faces in our current continuing undemocratic times.

First, the great Ron Brownstein from The Atlantic apparently remembers seeing possibly somewhat instructive bumper stickers in the french quarter (?of New Orleans?) this past November 3, 2020 US election day. Their message was : “Vote for the Crook — It’s Important”!

Second, at 10:50 AM David Corn from Mother Jones reported : “Trump is flying back from Mar-a-Lago today to the White House. He usually stays through the holiday. He will miss the New Year festivities at his precious club. The White House did not provide a reason for this early departure. So…watch out.”

Third, re just what we’re watching out for, Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri (along with as many as 150 US House Republicans?) will apparently be challenging the 2020 presidential election result on profoundly vague grounds of voter fraud, when Congress officially receives the electoral college conclusions on January 6. Evidence has now surfaced that “Sen. Josh Hawley Committed Voter Fraud in Missouri” himself. Mmmmm … does it matter if the real slogan is “Vote for the Crook — It’s Important” ??

Fourth, as evidence that Canada is not entirely immune, we counterweights editors ourselves offered a lonely Twitter commentary on the resignation of Ontario finance minister Rod Phillips, after it became clear he was holidaying in the Carribean while Premier Ford was telling the rest of us to stay at home and patriotically fight the pandemic.

Our strictly professional view was : “Not a happy decision for Ford government, which Phillips (along with COVID-19) did so much to rescue in 2020.” Some with very long memories might also recall that W. Darcy McKeough had to resign at an earlier point in his 1960s-1970s career, but then went on to return to cabinet as a strong finance minister (Treasurer) for PC Premier William Davis, 1975–1978. And whatever else, all this is still a long way from what some considerable number of Republican members of Congress are apparently going to do on January 6 in Washington, DC.

LOST WORLD OF THE NEW YORK JAZZ CLUB. What a welcome relief from all the raw political craziness of the USA today it was to read a December 23, 2020 piece from the online New York Review Daily by Sean Wilentz.

“Charlie Parker with fans at the Royal Roost, New York City, late 1940s.” Collection of Marc and Mary Perkins.

The piece is called “Souvenir of the Lost World of the New York Jazz Club.” A secondary headline summarizes the main message : “It was an era when this milieu of popular music seemed to herald a now-distant promise of what American life might be.”

In fact Sean Wilentz is reviewing Sittin’ In: Jazz Clubs of the 1940s and 1950s, by Jeff Gold and published by Harper Design. This is a “book of photographs of, and memorabilia from, the club scene in its pre-1960s heyday.” It deals with 11 “cities on both coasts and in the Midwest,” but “New York clubs contribute the largest number of photos.”

Several interesting photos also accompany Wilentz’s text in the New York Review Daily online posting. And, with perhaps some special reference to the widely acknowledged heights of the 1940s and 1950s jazz scene in New York City, his last paragraph points to something that may still have slightly more soft power than usually imagined :

These images bequeath a rarely published view of Black American middle-class life at mid-century: relaxed, elegant, and urbane … You also come away struck by how singular this postwar moment was. Finally, though, you come away refreshed by the spirit of what once was, a spirit that rebukes and shames where we seem to be today.”

Like the outdoor Christmas lights this season we’re working hard to remain hopeful (as well as realistic and even Machiavellian like Saul Alinsky). As we look around what we see up close (in Canada and the United States) there are more than enough good reasons to, as the Rev. Jesse Jackson urged long ago, “Keep Hope Alive.” So happy new year 2021.

(And again Randall White has promised that his much meditated chapter on “The Return of the Natural Governing Party, 1992–2006” will appear very soon. That is his main new year’s resolution so far.)

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