The ‘New’ Iranian Stand-Off Is Just Business As Usual for the USA

In recent months, news coverage has again become dominated with reports from Iran, with President Trump and his counter-part President Hassan Rouhani stuck in a now-familiar war of words in response to Trump escalating sanctions against the beleaguered Gulf nation, with Rouhani recently calling the Trump “mentally retarded”. Retarded… maybe not. Simple? Most definitely. Yet the US administration’s latest escalations with Iran are not the birth of a new conflict but exhaustively predictable behaviour from a nation which has been behaving this way for decades, even when it was ruled by much sharper minds than Donald J. Trump.

It is notable that Iran can take credit for being one of the few prizes for aspiring rulers of any international hegemony which has resisted subservience to America, the dominant world power. The country has become economically crippled and a fundamentalist, autocratic Islamic theocracy along the way. The Republican administration of 2019 has not radically hardened America’s response to their resistance: Democratic and Republican administrations alike have pursued the same neo-realist approach which requires rebellious, resource-rich and strategically important states such as Iran to be brought in line or duly punished. (more…)

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Oklahoma Teachers On Food-stamps and Raw Sewage in Alabama: the “Forgotten Men and Women” in America Today

Donald Trump became President on January 20th 2017 and, appropriately, marked the occasion with a tweet. It read:

A little over a year later, reports from the nation’s heartlands suggest a radically different narrative, where “forgotten men and women” have not only yet to be remembered, but have fallen foul to a collective bout of governmental amnesia. Shocking stories are not new to de-prioritised US states; the lack of clean water in Flint, Michigan reverberating the world over, such was the shock of such a situation within the world’s great superpower. So supportive was the story of the doom-leaden image of American painted by Donald Trump; Hilary Clinton’s neglect to visit Flint stands as one of her most deplorable campaign failures. (more…)

An Inconsequential Awards Show Just Hosted A Touchstone Moment In An Intensifying Cultural Divide

“What just happened?” These were the words which headlined many an article reporting on the chaos which occurred on stage at the 89th Oscars on Sunday night, where bookies’ favourite La La Land appeared to attain the inevitable, only for Warren Beattie to have to prepare before an audience of millions an entire buffet of humble pie and reveal that it was the other critical darling, Moonlight, which had actually won the award. However with the racial tensions surrounding the dramatically unrepresentative Oscars of previous years and conspiracy theories already abound, it seems ‘what just happened’ was little to do with cinema or what went down on stage, and was instead the creation of a talking-point which evidences rising social narratives that are increasingly radical, vitriolic and unforgiving. (more…)

How Did We Get Here?

Yesterday, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. It’s still quite surreal. It will be hard to disassociate the images of him in the Oval Office with President Obama which emerge today from all those SNL sketches at first, but that’s the reality. It’s also not the end of the world. As the residing President said himself: the sun still rose this morning. Hyperbole isn’t helpful. It’s also hard to imagine a deeply unprepared President Trump, who has seized upon the pain of so many but has offered not a single solution to resolve it, making it beyond four years. So let’s take this for what it is: a wake-up call. It’s a gut punch which may finally force everyone who is against the fascism of Donald Trump and far-right populism in the West to realise that it’s no anomaly, that we can’t pretend that it’s not there or that people aren’t suffering. It should urge us to finally aim to reach out to the people feeling it and name alternative causes of the symptoms they feel so strongly. (more…)

The Birth (and Death) of the Popular Music Counterculture

‘Counterculture’ may be a term only coined in the sixties, but its reach stretches back into the movement of 18th century Romanticism, and its foundation in the poetry of William Wordsworth. In truth, it’s always been about the poetry. From the writing of Bob Dylan in the folk revival of the sixties, flanked by the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, to Patti Smith; laying down the groundwork of punk in the 1970’s. A lack of poetry then is perhaps to blame for the lack of an emergent counter-culture in recent decades; although it may be the most lyrical of musical mediums, rap music, which seeks to lay the path for a future resurgence.

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William S. Burroughs & Jack Kerouac

The point of a counter-culture is that exists on the fringes. When it becomes populist then naturally it becomes a culture to be countered: such is the ebb and flow of the music industry over the past sixty years. The beat generation was the first counter-culture to boast popular music as one of its facets, and the first to emerge since the Bohemian movement of mid-19th century Europe. Encompassing the likes of painter Jackson Pollock, author William S. Burroughs and poet Allen Ginsberg, the scene emerged in response to the clean-cut and wholesome, but tepid state of being eminent in post-war America, and folk-revivalism in the heart of Greenwich Village was an essential aspect of the movement. (more…)