Sunday, May 28. 2017
Three fairly prominent figures died in the last couple days -- at
least prominent enough to warrant articles in the Wichita Eagle: Jim
Bunning, Greg Allman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Naturally, I go back
furthest with Bunning. I became conscious of baseball in 1957, when
I was six, and for many years I could recite the all-star teams from
that (and practically no other) year. Bunning was the starting pitcher
for the AL, vs. Curt Simmons for the NL. That was the year Cincinnati
stuffed the ballot boxes, causing a scandal by electing seven position
players to the NL team. Commissioner Ford Frick overruled the voters
and replaced Gus Bell and Wally Post with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
In my memory, he also picked Stan Musial over Ted Kluszewski at 1B
and Eddie Matthews over Don Hoak at 3B, but he stopped short and didn't
pick the equally obvious Ernie Banks vs. Roy McMillan. According to the
Wikipedia page, Musial actually won, and Hoak (and McMillan and
2B Johnny Temple and C Ed Bailey) started. My memory of the AL team
somehow lost 1B Vic Wertz (no idea who played there, since I was
pretty sure it wasn't Moose Skowron, on the team as a reserve) and
2B Nellie Fox (I thought Frank Bolling, who didn't make the team --
Casey Stengel liked to stock his bench with Yankees, so he went with
Bunning won the game, pitching three scoreless innings while
Simmons walked in two runs. Biggest surprise from the game summary
was that Bell pinch-hit for Robinson (no doubt the only time that
ever happened, despite being teammates for many years) and came up
with a two-run double. Bunning had his best season in 1957, going
20-8, although he also won 19 in 1962, and after he was traded to
Philadelphia in 1964 had three straight 19-win years, winding up
with a 234-184 record and a lot of strikeouts (2855). He played
during a period (1955-71) when W totals were especially depressed --
I worked out a system for adjusting W-L totals over the years but
don't have the data handy (one significant result was that Cy Young,
Walter Johnson, and Warren Spahn came out with almost identical
adjusted W-L totals). But also Bunning spent most of his career as
the star on losing teams, so that also reduced his career standing.
Still, a marvelous pitcher. He was also one of the more militant
leaders in the baseball players union, but after he retired he
turned into an extreme right-wing crank and got elected to the
Senate from Kentucky, where his two terms went from dismal to worse.
If there was a Hall of Fame for guys kicking the ladder away after
they used it, he'd be in.
I have far less to say about Allman, but nothing negative. His
most recent albums were engaging and enjoyable, and early in his
career he contributed to some even better ones.
People much younger than me might remember Brzezinski for his
biting criticism of GW Bush's Iraq fiasco. He was the Democrats'
original answer to Henry Kissinger, a foreign policy mandarin with
a deep-seated hatred of the Soviet Union and anything even vaguely
communist, and he seemed to be the dominant force that bent Jimmy
Carter's his initial foreign policy focus on human rights toward
an unscrupulously anti-communist stance. Still, decades later, after
the fall of the Soviet Union, even after Carter wrote his essential
book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Carter stuck to his line
that his signature peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was driven
primarily by his desire to curtail Soviet influence. It's not that
Brzezinski offered any real break from the rabid anti-communism of
previous administrations so much as he kept Carter from changing
course, and in their Iran and Afghanistan policies they set the
stage for everything the US has butchered and blundered ever since --
including Trump's "Arab NATO" summit last week.
Last week when I was reading John D Dower's new book The Violent
American Century: War and Terror Since World War II I ran across
a paragraph I wanted to quote about how Reagan both adopted and extended
policies begun under the Carter administration, while simultaneously
belittling and slandering Carter. It seemed to me that we are witnessing
Trump making the same move. But since then Zbigniew Brzezinski died,
so I figure in his honor I should start with the previous paragraph:
Although Carter failed in his bid for a second term as president his
"doctrine" laid the ground for an enhanced US infrastructure of war,
especially in the Greater Middle East. Less than two months after his
address, Carter oversaw creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task
Force that tapped all four major branches of the military (army, navy,
air force, and marines). Within two years, this evolved into Central
Command (CENTCOM), responsible for operations in Southwest Asia,
Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, initiating what
one official navy historian called "a period of expansion unmatched in
the postwar era. Simultaneously, Carter's national security adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski launched the effective but ultimately nearsighted
policy of providing support to the Afghan mujahedeen combating Soviet
forces in their country. Conducted mainly through the CIA, the
objective of this top-secret operation was in Brzezinski's words, "to
make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible."
Carter's successor Ronald Reagan inherited these initiatives and
ran with them, even while belittling his predecessor's policies. In
his presidential campaign, Reagan promised "to unite people of every
background and faith in a great crusade to restore the America of our
dreams." This, he went on -- in words that surely pleased the ghost of
Henry Luce -- necessitated repudiating policies that had left the
nation's defense "in shambles," and doing "a better job of exporting
If Trump seems less committed to "exporting Americanism" than Reagan
(or Luce, who coined the term/slogan "American century"), it's not for
lack of flag-waving bluster, arrogance, or ignorance. It's just that
decades of excoriating "weak leaders" like Carter, Clinton and Obama,
and replacing them with "strong" but inept totems like Reagan, the
Bushes, and Trump have taken their toll. The lurches toward the right
have weakened the once-robust economy and frayed social bonds, and
those in turn have degraded institutions. And while it's easy to put
the blame for this decay on a right-wing political movement dedicated
to the aggrandizement of an ever-smaller circle of billionaires, the
equally important thing I'm noticing here is how completely Carter,
Clinton, and Obama internalized the logic of their/our enemies and
failed to plot any sort of alternative to the right's agenda, which
ultimately has less to do with spreading "the American way of life"
than with subjugating the world to global capital. Indeed, it appears
as though the last people left believing in Luce's Americanism are
the hegemonic leaders of the Democratic Party.
I wound up completely exhausted and disgusted from last week's
compilation of Trump atrocities (see my
Midweek Roundup). I know I said, shortly after Trump's inauguration,
that "we can do this shit every week," but I'm less sure now --
not to mention I'm doubting my personal effectiveness.
In particular, the Montana election loss took a toll on my psyche.
Then I saw the following tweet (liked by someone I thought I liked):
"I wonder what Bernie has learned from his massive loss and that of
his scions, Mello, Feingold, Teachout, Thompson, Quist. Probably
nothing." Quist, in Montana, ran anywhere from 6-12% ahead of Clinton
(at least in the counties I've seen). So did Thompson here in Kansas.
They lost, but at least they ran, they gave voters real choices, and
they got little or no support from the Clinton-dominated national
party (which has made it their business to reduce party differences
to a minimum, even as the Republicans stake out extreme turf on the
right). The others I haven't looked at closely, but Bernie wasn't
the one who lost to Donald Trump. What lessons should he learn from
those defeats? Offer less of an alternative? Take his voters for
granted? Further legitimize the other side? Clinton Democrats have
been doing those things for 25 years now, and look where they've
Meanwhile, a few quick links, probably little commentary -- but
these things pretty well speak for themselves.
Some scattered links this week in Trump world:
Esme Cribb: Trump Lashes Out at Media Upon Return to US: 'Fake News
Is the Enemy!' I can remember when "fake news" was self-identified,
the successor of what we used to call satire, its fakeness intended to
help sharpen a point. Now, for Trump at least, it's just any report you
don't want to face up to. But already Trump has done so much he needs
to deny that he's broadening his targets. For more, see
Peter Maas: Donald Trump's War on Journalism Has Begun. But Journalists
Are Not His Main Target. The "main targets" referred to are sources,
those disclosing to journalists what Trump's administration is doing.
If government was "of, by, and for the people," you'd think it would be
ok for said people to see just what was happening, but that's not in
Trump's scheme of things. Also:
Olivia Nuzzi: Trump's Love-Hate Relationship With Anonymous Sourcing.
David Dayen: Trump's "America First" Infrastructure Plan: Let Saudi
Arabia and Blackstone Take Care of It
Chauncey DeVega: 'We Have an Obligation to Speak About Donald Trump's
Mental Health Issues . . . Our Survival as a Species May Be at Stake':
I think there's something to speak about here -- it all has a certain
perverse satisfaction -- but I'm skeptical that it will do any good,
and I think it's been a big mistake all along to focus on Trump and
not on the Republican policies he's committed to (especially the ones
he explicitly attacked before the election).
Henry Farrell: Thanks to Trump, Germany says it can't rely on the United
States. What does that mean? Another view:
David Frum: Trump's Trip Was a Catastrophe for US-Europe Relations.
Also on the NATO meeting:
Fred Kaplan: The Tussle in Brussels. And then there's:
Elisabeth Braw: Germany Is Quietly Building a European Army Under Its
Rebecca Gordon: Trump Is Trying to Cover Up His Lies by Destroying
Information: "For an administration that depends on ignorance,
public knowledge is enemy number one."
Maggie Haberman/Glenn Thrush/Julie Hirschfeld Davis: Trump Returns to
Crisis Over Kushner as White House Tries to Contain It: So it turns
out that Kushner omitted multiple meetings with various Russians when
he applied for his security clearance. Also that he tried to set up
some kind of "back channel" communications link with Russia that would
bypass normal security protocols. Many more stories on Kushner, like:
Jeet Heer: Why Trump Is a Salesman With Autocrats and a Slumlord
With Allies. Heer also wrote, back on May 15,
Donald Trump Killed the "Indispensable Nation." Good! ("Trump
has ushered in a new era of American hegemony, one in which the
hegemon is adrift, mercurial, and utterly irresponsible.") Both
of these pieces are sidelong glances at a "superpower" which
expects the world to bow and cater to its whims without expecting
or getting much of anything in return -- well, beyond catching
some of the chaos mean indifference engenders.
Paul Krugman: It's All About Trump's Contempt
Cezary Podcul: Trump's New Bank Regulator: Lawyer Who Helped Banks
Charge More Fees: "Keith Noreika helped big banks avoid state
laws protecting consumers. As head of the Office of the Comptroller
of the Currency, he now has the power to override those state laws."
Michael D Shear/Mark Landler: Trump Ends Trip Where He Started; At Odds
With Alies and Grilled on Russia: In particular, he got several
earfulls on his refusal to endorse the Paris climate accords. He says
he will make a decision on that next week -- sure, he's spent the last
two years campaigning against it, but he's already broken dozens of
campaign promises. One wonders whether any of the other G7 leaders
added credible threats. I haven't heard anyone propose this, but why
shouldn't the other 194 nations that signed the accord levy sanctions
on nations that refuse to cooperate on what is truly a global problem?
For one thing, sanctions would have a real effect in lowering emissions --
most obviously by depressing the American economy. They could go further
and freeze US assets. They could deny airspace rights to US flights,
especially by the military (a significant global polluter).
Matt Shuham: WH Budget Chief: 'I Hope' Fewer People Get Social Security
John Wagner/Robert Costa/Ashley Parker: Trump considers major changes
amid escalating Russia crisis
Stephen M Walt: What's the Point of Donald Trump's Afghan Surge?
Five questions for McMaster. Meanwhile:
Ruchi Kumar: War in Afghanistan Is Killing Children in Record Numbers
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though mostly still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Andrew J Bacevich: The Beltway Foreign-Policy 'Blob' Strikes Back
Ari Berman: Democrats Are Launching a Commission to Protect American
Democracy From Trump: Trump's first (and thus far only) special
commission was launched to investigate "election integrity" -- i.e.,
why so many likely Democrats were allowed to vote. That threatens to
hit the Democrats where they live, so in this case at least they're
doing something on their own. I think they should be doing a lot more
of this, including running a "shadow cabinet" that continually tracks
everything the Trump billionaires and lobbyists are up to.
Linda J Bilmes: Iraq and Afghanistan: The $6 trillion bill for America's
longest war is unpaid
Michelle Chen: Why Are Canada's Prescription Drugs So Much Cheaper
Jason Ditz: US Is Killing More Civilians in Syria Air War Than Assad
Is: Thought I'd mention this since I read a Charles Krauthammer
column last week (look it up if you want it) that decried Assad's
"genocidal war" in Syria. By the way:
Samuel Oakford: US officials confirm their Coalition allies have
killed 80 civilians -- but none will accept responsibility.
David Hajdu: Bold-Sounding Things: "Doesn't every political resistance
need a soundtrack?"
Daniel Politi: White Supremacist in Portland Kills Two Men Who Tried
to Stop His Racist Rants: This in turn elicited a deep background
Alana Semuels: The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in
Carol Schaeffer: How Hungary Became a Haven for the Alt-Right
Matt Taibbi: The Democrats Need a New Message: This was Taibbi's
reaction to the Democrats' loss to billionaire/goon Greg Gianforte
in the Montana special election. It's worth noting that Democrat Rob
Quist ran 13% points better than Hillary Clinton did in November,
although I can also note that local Democrats have won a number of
statewide races in the not-too-distant past, so I had reason to be
more optimistic here than in the Kansas race (Gianforte won this one
by 6.5%; Ron Estes won in KS by 6.8%). I think the key paragraphs
Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low
approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has
lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back
to November, when it was at 45 percent.
The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair
over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys
have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging
the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile
foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton
in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.
To be sure, prospects for Democrats look better further out, but
that's because most people haven't been paying attention to all the
shit Republicans are pulling, and in most cases the adverse effects
won't hit home for months or even years, by which time it will be
too late. Still, one reason people haven't been paying attention is
that Democrats keep talking about Trump personally rather than the
Republicans universally, and a large segment of Americans have shown
themselves to be impervious to anything you say about Trump.
As for the old message, Taibbi cites
Jeff Stein: Study: Hillary Clinton's TV ads were almost entirely
Hillary Clinton's campaign ran TV ads that had less to do with policy
than any other presidential candidate in the past four presidential
races, according to a new study published on Monday by the Wesleyan
Clinton's team spent a whopping $1 billion on the election in all --
about twice what Donald Trump's campaign spent. Clinton spent $72 million
on television ads in the final weeks alone.
But only 25 percent of advertising supporting her campaign went after
Trump on policy grounds, the researchers found. By comparison, every other
presidential candidate going back to at least 2000 devoted more than 40
percent of his or her advertising to policy-based attacks. None spent
nearly as much time going after an opponent's personality as Clinton's
Clinton's ad strategy had, I think, the perverse effect of inoculating
Trump against further personal attacks and not framing issues that the
Democrats could follow up on post-election. It conveyed to voters that
issues don't matter -- only personalities and character -- and as such
Clinton offered little help down-ballot. Conversely, most Republican
money was spent down-ballot, and that created a powerful momentum to
capture Congress as well as to elect Trump. But then the Clintons have
a long history of sabotaging their party mates -- all the better to
concentrate their deal-making opportunities with donors (as well as
their retirement bonuses).
For a more optimistic accounting of Montana, see:
Matthew Yglesias: Republicans' 7-point win in last night's Montana
election is great news for Democrats; for more pessimistic views, see:
Andrew O'Hehir: Wake Up, Liberals: There Will Be No 2018 'Blue Wave,' No
Democratic Majority and No Impeachment; and
Ed Kilgore: 6 Takeaways From Montana's Special Election.
Rebecca Traister: Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny.
And Worried. "The surreal post-election life of the woman who would
have been president." Long piece, not unsympathetic, not without
interest, especially on problems of sexual politics. You might also
be interested in
Katie Serena: Hillary Clinton Roasts Donald Trump in Wellseley College
Commencement Speech, where she "even took a whack at humor,"
introducing herself as "the former president of the Wellseley College
Young Republicans" and reminiscing about "how she and her peers were
'furious' over the election of Richard Nixon." She could have used
some of that fury lately, but instead she's "OK."
Joan C Williams: The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension: Author
also has a book, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness
Dave Zirin: A Lynching on the University of Maryland Campus, and
Why I Called the Murder of Richard Collins III a Lynching.
What a bummer this is all turning into. Nor can I say it's different
than I expected. And it's really unhealthy to go through life with so
many occasions to say "I told you so."
Wednesday, May 24. 2017
Didn't do a Weekend Roundup on Sunday, not for lack of material
but because I had something better to do. Still, this stuff has been
piling up at an incredible rate, with no likelihood of abating any
time soon. One thing I didn't get to is the terror bombing at an
Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK, which killed 22, mostly
young girls. The bomber was from Libya, set loose by NATO's entry
into civil war there, itself prefigured by the 2003 US-UK invasion
of Iraq, and indeed decades of UK and US intervention in the area,
originally to exploit resources (and open the Suez Canal), then to
support repressive crony governments, and ultimately just to sell
arms and encourage everyone to kill each other. When atrocities like
this happen, it's always proper not just to condemn the ones who
directly did this but to recall and curse those US/UK politicians
who paved the way, including Democrats like Obama and the Clintons,
Labourites like Blair, as well as the usual right-wingers.
Some quick links on Manchester:
Trump's Thursday schedule includes a meeting of NATO, where UK Prime
Minister Theresa May is expected to use the Manchester bombing as an
to formally join fight against Isil. No one expects Donald Trump
to be the voice of reason at this meeting: even without NATO's "help"
US Killed Record Number of Civilians in Past Month of ISIS Strikes.
Also on Thursday, Montana will elect a new House member. See
Both Parties Are Spinning Hard in Montana's Strange, Evolving Special
Ed Kilgore/Margaret Hartmann: Montana GOP Candidate Allegedly 'Body Slams'
Journalist, Is Charged With Assault.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpworld:
Dean Baker: Will President Trump Make Rust-Belt Manufacturing Great
Again? No evidence so far. Baker also wrote
A Job Guarantee and the Federal Reserve Board.
Sharon Begley: Trump wasn't always so linguistically challenged. What
could explain the change? Some people who have researched Trump's
various utterances from decades ago argue that he wasn't always such
a scattered, incoherent moron:
For decades, studies have found that deterioration in the fluency,
complexity, and vocabulary level of spontaneous speech can indicate
slipping brain function due to normal aging or neurodegenerative
disease. STAT and the experts therefore considered only unscripted
utterances, not planned speeches and statements, since only the
former tap the neural networks that offer a window into brain function.
The experts noted clear changes from Trump's unscripted answers
30 years ago to those in 2017, in some cases stark enough to raise
questions about his brain health. They noted, however, that the same
sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration,
anger, or just plain fatigue.
Begly also wrote:
Psychological need to be right underlies Trump's refusal to concede
Russell Berman: The Trump Organization Says It's 'Not Practical' to
Comply With the Emoluments Clause
Bridgette Dunlap: Trump's Abortion Policy Isn't About Morality -- It's
Mike Konczal: How the "Populist' President Is Creating an Aristocracy
Sharon Lerner: Donald Trump's Pick for EPA Enforcement Office Was a
Lobbyist for Superfund Polluters: Meet Susan Bodine.
Eric Lipton: White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists
Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the
Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than
the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would
make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating
federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.
Dahlia Lithwick: Is Donald Trump Too Incapacitated to Be President?
The 25th amendment to the constitution would seem to be the simplest
way to dispose of the increasingly erratic Donald Trump. Whereas
impeachment requires a simple majority of the House and a two-thirds
super-majority of the Senate to convict, all the 25th amendment takes
is the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet to decide that
the President is "incapacitated but not dead." Still, this approach
suffers from the fact that so many of the people who would have to
sign off were chosen by Trump primarily for their own incompetence
(a list I would start with Mike Pence himself):
Moreover, so many of the Cabinet officials who might rightly affirm
that Trump is unable to discharge his duties are similarly unable to
discharge their own. Trump's chief infirmity -- the vanity, wealth,
and self-regard that was mistakenly confused with effective leadership --
is actually shared by the vast majority of his Cabinet, most of whom --
in the manner of any individual Kardashian -- seem to prize money and
power more than they prize governance or democracy. For instance, it's
abundantly clear that neither Betsy DeVos nor Ben Carson are fit to
execute their own Cabinet positions. Are they also to be summarily
removed? Jeff Sessions has gone along with the worst of Trump's plans,
drafting the legal justification for the stalled-out Muslim ban. If we
can see clearly enough to judge Trump unfit, surely Sessions is as
We already know that the people with the power to stop Trump -- the
Republicans in the House and Senate who declare themselves "troubled"
and "concerned" by his actions -- are so hell-bent on destroying the
regulatory state, harming the weak, imposing Christianity on nonbelievers,
and giving tax breaks to the wealthy that Trump's fitness raises no
alarms. Unfortunately, that isn't a DSM-IV level diagnosable pathology.
It's what we call conservatism in America.
Lauren McCauley: Comcast Threatens Legal Action Against Net Neutrality
Proponents: FCC chairman Ajit Pai is working on rescinding the
"net neutrality" rules, which currently require internet service
providers (like Comcast) to provide equal access to all websites.
Without those rules, they'd be free to pick and choose, and to
scam both providers and users.
Jose Pagliery: Trump's casino was a money laundering concern shortly
after it opened: Old history, but recently dug up through a FOIA
The Trump Taj Mahal casino broke anti-money laundering rules 106 times
in its first year and a half of operation in the early 1990s, according
to the IRS in a 1998 settlement agreement. . . .
Trump's casino ended up paying the Treasury Department a $477,000
fine in 1998 without admitting any liability under the Bank Secrecy Act.
Jamie Peck: Billionaire Betsy DeVos wants to scrap student debt
forgiveness. Surprised? After WWII the American economy was
growing fast and science was held in high esteem, so government
worked hard to expand access to higher education, to make it
affordable and accessible to many more people, to build up a
much better educated workforce (and citizenry). Then, from the
1980s on, the economy slowed, collage came to be viewed more as
a certification program for getting ahead (or not falling back),
and costs skyrocketed. Now we've entered into a stage where the
rich want to keep the advantages of education to themselves, or
at the very least make everyone else pay dearly for the privilege.
And that's the mindset of rich people like DeVos and Trump, who
inherited their fortunes. So, sure, this policy makes perfect
sense to them, while condemning everyone else to servitude and
CJ Polychroniou/Marcus Rolle: Illusions and Dangers in Trump's
"America First" Policy: An Interview With Economist Robert Pollin
Priebus: Trump Considering Amending or Abolishing 1st Amendment:
One of the scarier things Trump said during the campaign was how he
wanted to change libel laws so that people with thin skins and deep
pockets (like himself) can sue people who criticize (or make fun of)
them. Libel laws are primarily limited by the first amendment (freedom
of speech and press), although one always has to worry that the courts
will carve out some kind of exception (as they did, for instance, to
prosecute "obscenity"). It's not inconceivable that Trump could pass
something like that and pack the courts to uphold it, although it's
also not very likely. But repealing the first amendment is certainly
way beyond his dreams, and if he recognizes that that's what it would
take, his scheme is pretty much dead. Still, useful to know that his
respect for American democracy is so low that he'd even consider the
prospect. But didn't we already know that?
Shaun Richman: Republicans Want to Turn the National Labor Relations
Board Into a Force for Union Busting: I already thought it was,
but I suppose it could get even worse.
Jeremy Scahill/Alex Emmons/Ryan Grim: Trump Called Rodrigo Duterte to
Congratulate Him on His Murderous Drug War: "You Are Doing an Amazing
According to one former hitman, Duterte formed an organization called
the "Davao Death Squad" -- a mafia-like organization of plainclothes
assassins that would kill suspected criminals, journalists, and
opposition politicians, often from the backs of motorcycles. Multiple
former members of the group have come forward and said that they
killed people on Duterte's direct orders.
Duterte has even bragged that he personally killed criminals from
the back of a motorcycle. "In Davao I used to do it personally," he
told a group of business leaders in Manila. "Just to show to the guys
[police officers] that if I can do it, why can't you."
In 2016, Duterte campaigned on a policy of mass extermination for
anyone involved in the drug trade. "I'd be happy to slaughter them.
If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have me," Duterte said
after his inauguration in September.
Despite human rights concerns, the U.S. has long considered the
Philippines a military ally, and under Obama the U.S. gave the country's
military tens of millions of dollars in weapons and resources per year.
The U.S. government does not provide lethal weapons directly to the
Philippine National Police, which has a decadeslong history of
extrajudicial killings. But it does allow U.S. weapons manufacturers
to sell to them directly. In 2015 the State Department authorized more
than $250 million in arms sales from U.S. defense contractors to
security forces in the Philippines.
Nate Silver: Donald Trump's Base Is Shrinking: His overall approval
numbers haven't dropped this much, but those who "strongly approve" of
Trump has dropped "from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just
21 or 22 percent of the electorate now." Meanwhile, the number of people
who "strongly disapprove" of him has shot up "from the mid-30s in early
February to 44.1 percent as of Tuesday."
Matthew Stevenson: Is Trump the Worst President Ever? Posted back
on February 17, so too early for a fair hearing, but it's not really
his point to answer the question ("such a milestone could be a tall
order. He would need to match Nixon's paranoia and arrogance with
Lyndon Johnson's military incompetence, and then throw in Chester
Arthur's corruption and maybe Harding's lust for life") -- just to
provide a quick review for your history buffs.
Amy B Wang: Sinkhole forms in front of Mar-a-Lago; metaphors pour
Matthew Yglesias: Trump isn't a toddler -- he's a product of America's
culture of impunity for the rich: Notes that both
Ross Douthat and
David Brooks have recently tried to explain Trump away as "a toddler"
(so that's the kind of original thinking that lands you a job writing
opinion for the New York Times?):
My 2-year-old son misbehaves all the time. The reason is simple: He's
He stuck his foot in a serving bowl at dinner Tuesday night. He
screams in inappropriate situations. He's terrified of vacuum cleaners.
He thinks it's funny to throw rocks at birds. He has poor impulse control
and limited understanding of the consequences of his actions.
But he's also, fundamentally, a good kid. If you tell him no, he'll
usually listen. If you remind him of the rules, he'll acknowledge them
and obey. He shows remorse when his misdeeds are pointed out to him,
and if you walk him through a cause-and-effect chain he'll alter his
behavior. Like all little kids, he needs discipline, and he's got a lot
to learn. But he is learning, and he has some notion of consequences
and right and wrong.
Trump is not like that -- at all. . . .
He's 70 years old. And he's not just any kind of 70-year-old. He's
a white male 70-year-old. A famous one. A rich one. One who's been rich
since the day he was born. He's a man who's learned over the course of
a long and rich life that he is free to operate without consequence.
He's the beneficiary of vast and enormous privilege, not just the ability
to enjoy lavish consumption goods but the privilege of impunity that
America grants to the wealthy.
Scattered links on Trump's holy war trek:
Peter Beinart: What Trump Reveals by Calling Terrorists 'Losers':
So why is Trump putting ISIS in the same category in which he places
Rosie O'Donnell? Because for him, America's primary goal is not freedom
or tolerance. It's success. Trump espouses no deeply held political,
religious, or moral doctrine. He sees government through the lens of
business. And thus, he's more comfortable with the language of winning
and losing than the language of right and wrong. That's why he's so
obsessed with the margin of his electoral victory and the size of his
crowds. It's why he responds to articles critical of him by saying that
the newspapers that published them are "failing." For Trump, losing is
worst thing you can do.
If there's a silver lining here, it's that people who judge right
and wrong (or good and evil) are often far more deranged, precisely
because their value judgments are more deeply buried in their personal
history and circumstances. It's interesting how quickly Trump's prejudices
seem to melt away when he actually meets such obviously successful people
as the leaders of China, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia (and, one might add,
Russia). Maybe he needs state visits to Iran and North Korea? I might
add that for normal people, being called a "loser" is less taunting
(and less inaccurate) than what Bush called the 9/11 terrorists:
Bryan Bender: Israeli Officers: You're Doing ISIS Wrong: Israel
has its own foreign policy objectives, and they've long been peculiarly
at odds with its supposed ally, the United States. When, for instance,
the US was supporting Iraq's war against Iran, Israel was helping Iran --
even to the point of selling Iran American weapons (which was OK with
Reagan as long as some of the profits were channeled to the Contras in
Nicaragua, which Reagan was legally barred from funding on his own --
you know, the "Iran-Contra Scandal"). Israel has repeatedly intervened
in Syria, not to promote any constructive agenda, just to balance off
the forces to keep the war going longer. But if they had to choose,
they'd rather see ISIS come out ahead than Hezbollah, and now they're
casting aspersions about the US for tilting the other direction. The
bottom line is that while the US always assumes that the goal is peace
and stability -- even if that's hard to discern from what the US does --
Israel never wants peace or stability: they seek continual turmoil and
conflict, because any lasting peace would involve them settling with
the Palestinians, and that's the one thing they can't consider. When
this finally sinks in, you'll begin to understand how schizophrenic
US policy is in the region. We keep thinking we have allies in the
region, but actually all we have are alignments: temporary, fragile,
counterproductive, and often downright embarrassing.
Natasha Bertrand: Flabbergasted anchor points out to commerce secretary
why there wasn't a 'single hint of a protester' in Saudi Arabia:
Wilbur Ross was delighted by the reception the Trump entourage received
in Saudi Arabia ("there was not a single hint of a protester anywhere
there during the whole time").
James Carden: What Explains Trump's Sharp About-Face on Saudi Arabia?
I don't quite buy that the Trump administration really has an "obsession
with Iran" -- that's just a clever way to curry favor with people who
still have deep-seated resentment against post-Shah iran. It's obvious
that Israel turned on Iran only once Iraq was squashed in 1991 because
they needed an "existential security threat" to talk about whenever
brought up the Palestinians. (For the long history of this, see Trita
Parsi's 2007 book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of
Israel, Iran, and the United States.) Saudi Arabia was threatened
by Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1979 revolution -- effectively he
challenged Saudi pre-eminence in the holy places of Islam, which hit
the Kingdom very close to home. But nothing since then justifies the
Saudi's evident obsession with Iran -- other than the ease with which
anti-Iranian rhetoric ingratiates themselves with the US. Before the
Saudis got all worked up over Iran, their desires to purchase American
arms were frustrated by the Israel lobby -- the two states were, after
all, nominal enemies. Now they seem to be virtual allies inasmuch as
they share a common enemy, but isn't the real reason that matters their
new desire to become an effective hegemon over the Sunni Arab world?
Meanwhile, first Obama and now Trump have found it convenient to sell
arms to the Saudis: effectively, it's a jobs program that never has to
navigate through Congress or even hit the US budget. The new thing is
that Trump's finally selling it as such, but he's picked a terrible
time to do so: pre-Salman the Saudis never used their expensive toys,
but lately they've been increasing violence and chaos everywhere they
reach, and entangling the US as they go.
I should work this in somewhere and this seems as good a place as
any: the visceral reaction most Americans had to the self-declaration
of an Islamic State would have been just as easy to stir up against
the real Islamic State: Saudi Arabia. This didn't happen because the
Saudis have a lot of oil and money, and because they feign allegiance
and (perhaps rent?) alliance to the United States. They also may have
seemed less threatening for lack of territorial ambitions, but they
have invaded Yemen, attempted to buy Lebanon (through Rafik Hariri),
supported proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and largely treat
the Persian Gulf sheikdoms as vassals. Although they've bought lots
of American arms for a long time, they never organized them into an
effective military for fear of a coup -- until Salman acceded to the
throne and they launched the war in Yemen. Until recently they had
enough money to buy loyalty, but they're faced now with both sinking
oil prices and declining reserves -- along with buying more arms,
that means belt-tightening elsewhere, and the most obvious waste is
the bloated and often embarrassing royal family. The odds of a coup
in the near future have shot up, and if/when it happens it is most
likely to adopt the IS model with its renewed Caliphate. It may be
possible to rout ISIS from the cities of Upper Mesopotamia, but the
idea of a Caliphate will survive, as it has since the 7th Century,
and no one could adopt it more readily then the regime that controls
Mecca and Medina -- a regime armed to the teeth thanks to Obama and
Patrick Cockburn: Trump's Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His
Crisis at Home
Andrew Exum: What Progressives Miss About Arms Sales: Thinks "Trump
had a great visit to Saudi Arabia" -- great for him, great for the Saudis
"and other Arab Gulf states, and -- last but not least -- it was a great
visit for magical, glowing orbs." Especially great was the "deliverable":
"$110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia -- with an additional $240
billion committed over a 10-year period." He then chides "progressives"
for not celebrating:
I want to spend a little time talking about one of the reasons why the
trip went so well. I'll warn you: This is a somewhat taboo subject for
progressive foreign-policy types. The subject, friends, is arms sales.
Progressives don't like arms sales very much, but they need to pay
attention to them, because they're one big way Republicans are fighting
for -- and winning -- the votes of working-class Americans who have
traditionally voted for Democrats.
As I've pointed out elsewhere, Obama (considered a "progressive"
in some parts) has been using arms sales, especially to dictatorial
Arab States and Eastern Europe, as a jobs program for much of his
two terms. For many years selling arms to the Saudis seemed harmless
enough -- they never used them, and they had lots of dollars we
wanted back -- but eventually these arms sales started to make the
world more conflict-prone and dangerous: US relations with Russia
deteriorated as Obama kept pushing NATO closer to Russia's borders,
and the Saudis and Qataris started using their arms, first in Libya
and even more dramatically in Yemen. While the Saudis have generally
tried to align their foreign interventions -- until recently mostly
cash and propaganda -- with the US, they've always cast their efforts
in their own terms, which from the founding of the tribe with its
Wahhabist trappings in the late 18th century has always been framed
as jihad. Jihadist warfare has actually been very rare in Islamic
history, but since the Saudis started spending billions to promote
their peculiar flavor of Salafism it's become ubiquitous, more often
than not rebounding back against the US, who so encouraged the Saudis
to frame their opposition to Communism (and Nasserism and Baathism,
nationalist movements seen as Soviet proxies) in religious terms.
Further complicating this is that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies
are among the most reactionary and repressive states in the world.
By feeding them arms -- and by little things like Trump participating
in that sword dance and orb touching -- the US becomes complicit not
only in their jihadism but also in their suppression of human rights.
One effect of this is that US leaders have lost control of their own
policy, and while this has become increasingly evident over the past
year -- the tipping point was Saudi Arabia's attack on Yemen -- the
event that people will remember is Trump's visit, where the formerly
"great" America has been reduced to grovelling for arms sales (or,
if you're a pseudo-progressive, "jobs").
Exum may be right that many defense contractor workers voted for
Trump, but that's only after the Democrats abandoned the unions that
were formerly common -- e.g., Boeing shut down their Wichita factory
after office workers there unionized, moving their operations to
union-free South Carolina and Texas. Still, what Chalmers Johnson
liked to call Military Keynesianism has steadily declined in value
ever since WWII, and there are plenty of healthier things progressives
can push for. Meanwhile, it's no accident that Republicans like Trump
have thrived in the increasingly vicious atmosphere of violence and
hate generated by perpetual war.
Kareem Fahim: After assurances by Trump, Bahrain mounts deadliest raid
in years on opposition
Emma Green: Pope Francis, Trump Whisperer? Article is interesting,
but let me first point to the picture, which shows Melania and Ivanka
wearing headware (veils), in marked contrast to their scarfless
appearance in Saudi Arabia.
Fred Kaplan: Trump's Sunni Strategy: "The president wants America to
take sides in the Middle East's sectarian rivalry. That won't end well."
Actually, it's already started badly. As recently at the 1970s there was
essentially no violent conflict between Sunni and Shi'a, but then the
Saudis started pushing their Salafist sectarianism, Ayatollah Khomeini
challenged their control of Mecca, and the Saudis backed the US-Pakistani
promotion of jihadism in Afghanistan. In the 1990s the US tried to raise
up Shi'a resistance in Iraq, which became the basis of a sectarian civil
war after the US invasion in 2003 -- one where the US played both sides
against one another. Then the US wound up opposing both sides in Syria
through various proxies it has no real control over, including the Saudis
and Qataris, both backing jihadist groups. Year after year this muddled
strategy has only produced more war and more backlash.
Rashid Khalidi: Why Donald Trump's 'Arab Nato' would be a terrible
Paul Pillar: Trump's Riyadh Speech: Bowing to the Saudi Regime
David Shariatmadari: Who better to lecture Muslims than Islam expert
Donald Trump? Worse still, Trump's big speech in Saudi Arabia was
mainly written by Steven Miller, although the result was little more
than a sop -- for someone so belligerent toward strangers, it doesn't
seem to take more than a little shameless flattery to win Trump over.
This is not only hard to defend morally. Siding with Saudi Arabia and
antagonising Iran in order to weaken jihadism won't work, to put it
mildly. Though the Saudi kingdom has taken part in military action
against Isis, its state textbooks are deemed acceptable in Isis-run
schools. It has backed militant Islamist rebels in Syria, and continues
to export an extremely intolerant version of Islam.
Trump cut a weird figure at Murabba Palace on Saturday night, bobbing
along to a traditional sword dance like someone who'd stumbled into the
wrong wedding reception.
Richard Silverstein: Trump's Saudi Soliloquy: "one of the most
hypocritical speeches in American political history." Curious that
I have yet to see a single post which contrasts Trump's Riyadh speech
with the Cairo speech Obama gave early in his presidency, even though
the latter turned out to be pretty hypocritical as well. Still, reading
Silverstein's comments I'm more stuck by the extraordinary amount of
falsehood and nonsense in the speech. Silverstein also wrote a bit
about the Jerusalem leg of Trump's tour:
Trump Selfie with Israeli MK Features Two Moral Degenerate Birds of a
Feather. The selfie Trump was cornered into was with Oren Hazan,
who bills himself "the Israeli Trump."
Paul Woodward: Trump struts onto the world stage only to become a
laughingstock: Also cites
Susan B Glasser: 'People Here Think Trump Is a Laughinstock'.
Scattered links on Trump/Comey/Russia:
Former CIA Chief Tells of Concern Over Possible Russia Ties to Trump
Campaign: Unsigned NY Times article on John Brennan's testimony
and other things. Also:
Greg Miller: CIA director alerted FBI to pattern of contacts between
Russian officials and Trump campaign associates; and
Yochi Dreazen: Obama's CIA chief just offered a Trump-Russia quote
for the ages. I'm still not a fan of anyone charging anyone with
treason, but Brennan's earlier quote about Trump speaking to the CIA
post-inauguration remains apt: a "despicable display of
Vera Bergengruen: Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed -- after
being paid as its agent. Also:
Mark Mazzetti/Matthew Rosenberg: Michael Flynn Misled Pentagon About
Russia Ties, Letter Says; and
Karoun Demirjian: Flynn takes 5th on Senate subpoena as a top House Democrat alleges new evidence of lies.
Karoun Demirjian/Devlin Barrett: How a dubious Russian document influenced
the FBI's handling of the Clinton probe
Adam Entous/Ellen Nakashima: Trump asked intelligence chief to push
back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence:
He made his appeals to Daniel Coats (DNI) and Adm. Michael S Rogers
(NSA), "urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence
of collusion during the 2016 election."
Chris Hedges: The Dying Republic: A Vast Disconnect Between Faux Values
and the Corporate Controlled Anti-Democratic Reality
Dara Lind: It's becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is
part of Trump's Russia problem
Ryan Lizza: Trump's Damning Responses to the Russia Investigation
Josh Marshall: The President Lawyers Up: The lawyer is Marc Kasowitz,
who has made a nice living defending Trump in civil suits, including the
big one against Trump University. Note that Kasowitz is the partner of
Joe Lieberman, the former CT senator whose name briefly seemed to be at
the top of Trump's short list to become FBI Director.
Joshua Matz: Donald Trump's panoply of abuses demand more than a
Josh Meyer: Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction
Josh Marshall: The Continuing Triumph of Trump's Razor: Marshall
assumes that his term is self-evident, but in case you missed it, it's
Urban Dictionary: "When seeking an explanation for the behavior of . . .
Donald J. Trump, always choose the stupidest possible explanation."
Philip Shenon: Trump's Worst Nightmare Comes True: So he fires James
Comey, and gets Robert Mueller instead. Also on Mueller:
Karen J Greenberg: 4 Reasons Why Robert Mueller Is an Ideal Special
Josh Marshall: Thoughts on the Special Counsel Appointment.
Matthew Yglesias/Alex Ward: This week, explained: spies, special counsel,
and Flynn: And, upon further reflection, Yglesias' next post was:
The case for impeaching Trump -- and fast.
Meanwhile, Mick Mulvaney released a new budget, titled A
New Foundation for American Greatness:
John Cassidy: The Trump Administration's Budget Charade:
In March, the Trump Administration released a so-called skinny budget,
which contained the broad outlines of its spending plans. The proposed
cuts in domestic and international programs were so draconian,
mean-spirited, and misguided that I termed it a Voldemort budget, and
many other commentators offered similar reviews. On Tuesday, the White
House released the full version of its budget, and, if anything, the
details are even more disturbing.
The document describes how the Trump Administration would shred the
social safety net, particularly Medicaid, which provides health care to
the poor, to finance tax cuts for corporations and rich households. On
top of this, the budget's revenue and deficit projections are so
contingent upon wishful thinking and accounting sleights of hand that
they are virtually meaningless.
Benjamin Dangl: Trump's Budget Expands Global War on the Backs of the
Denise Lu/Kim Soffen: What Trump's budget cuts from the social safety
Trudy Lieberman: Donald Trump to Hungry Seniors: Drop Dead
Jim Newell: Trump's Biggest Broken Promise:
The most black-and-white broken promise of President Donald Trump's
early tenure has been his administration's treatment of Medicaid. On
the campaign trail, he promised not to cut the health care program
that covers more than 70 million low-income people. "I'm not going
to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I'm not going
to cut Medicare or Medicaid," Trump said in an interview during the
campaign that was then posted on his official web site. "Every other
Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn't, they don't
know what to do because they don't know where the money is. I do."
Charles P Pierce: Make No Mistake: This Is Not a 'Trump Budget':
This is a Republican budget, a movement conservative budget, a product
of the tinpot economic theory and the misbegotten Randian view of human
nature towards which every serious Republican has pledged troth since
the days of Reagan, a government-sanctioned fulfillment of all the
wishes that Paul Ryan wished over the keg during the college experience
that our contributions to Social Security helped buy him.
Mulvaney, a Tea Party fanatic, held a press conference Tuesday morning
to shill for this slab of Dickensian offal, and listening to him I got
the feeling that, not only is Mulvaney of a different political persuasion,
but that he was raised in a different dimensional space. There are individual
atrocities a'plenty: zeroing out Meals on Wheels; an outright assault on
the government's role in science; a butchery of Medicaid that only makes
marginal sense if the dead-fish healthcare bill passes first; shredding
any EPA efforts to combat climate change; and hefty cuts to the SCHIP
program for children's health, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax
Credit. These are Republican proposals, movement conservative proposals,
proposals that any Republican candidate would be proud to take to the
Iowa caucuses in 2020.
Matt Shuham: WH Budget Center: 'I Hope" Fewer People Get Social Security
Marshall Steinbaum: Your Economics Are On Backwards: Why Trump's Budget
Will Not Spur Growth: As noted elsewhere, the case for balancing
the budget is based on high growth stimulated by lower taxes for the
rich. Steinbaum explains why this doesn't work:
The reason regressive tax cuts don't spur growth is that, rather than
incentivizing investment or employment, lower rates for top earners
only encourage them to negotiate for higher salaries. Under President
Eisenhower, the top marginal income tax rate was 90 percent. This rate
created a de facto maximum income, because it simply made no sense to
demand exorbitant pay packages. Instead, companies spent these dollars
elsewhere -- either in expanded capacity or higher wages for their
workers. Not shockingly (except, perhaps, to conservatives), growth
Today's economy is the opposite: Rates are so low that an additional
dollar of income for the rich running or owning businesses is almost
always more appealing than spending that additional dollar on investment
or wages. And growth is sluggish, at best.
For an example of how far rewards at the top have gone, see
Sam Pizzigati: Walmart's $237 Million Man: How Americans Subsidize
Inequality. Also recommended for more general issues is
In Conversation: Brad DeLong and Marshall Steinbaum, an interview
with Heather Boushey -- all three edited After Piketty: The Agenda
for Economics and Inequality. Interesting comment here from DeLong:
Ronald Reagan was absolutely awful for the manufacturing jobs of the
Michigan Reagan Democrats. He pushed the dollar up by 50 percent. And
lo and behold, that just sent Midwestern manufacturing a signal that
it should shut down. Today, the dollar is up by 10 percent since Trump's
election, and whatever legislation rolls through Congress is likely to
involve a large tax decrease for the rich, in which case we will see
another bigger dollar cycle than we have now. Let the dollar go up by
another 10 percent, and that's a hit to the manufacturing employment
that is much, much larger than China's entry into the World Trade
Organization or any plausible effects of the North American Free
Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump's budget relies on magic economic growth;
The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump's budget. From the
But budgets are important as statements of values. One clear headline
value of the Trump budget is an overwhelming preference for cutting
taxes on high-income families over providing food, medical care, housing
assistance, and other support to low-income families.
The growth accounting mess shows a parallel value -- or, rather,
lack of value -- placed on the idea of governing with integrity. . . .
Trump's White House is just going through the motions. They're supposed
to release a budget proposal, so they released a budget proposal. Whether
or not it makes any sense is a matter of total indifference to them. But
they've now kicked the can to congressional Republicans in an awkward
way, since if Congress wants to enact a budget, they need to enact a
real one with details filled in. Meaning they can't possibly match the
unrealistic aspirations Trump has laid out for them.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Max Boot: The Seth Rich 'Scandal' Shows That Fox News Is Morally
Beth Gardiner: Three Reasons to Believe in China's Renewable Energy Boom:
Some astonishing numbers here, like "China added 35 gigawatts of new solar
generation in 2016 alone" and that coal consumption "fell in 2016 for the
third straight year." Meanwhile, back in the USA:
Dahr Jamail: Scientists Predict There Will Be No Glaciers in the
Contiguous US by 2050 -- but Trump Is Stomping on the Gas Pedal.
Paul Krugman: Trucking and Blue-Collar Woes: Starts with a chart on
"wages of transportation and warehousing workers in today's dollars,
which have fallen by a third since the early 1970s." He further explains
Why? This is neither a trade nor a technology story. We're not importing
Chinese trucking services; robot truck drivers are a possible future, but
not here yet. The article mentions workers displaced from manufacturing,
but that's a pretty thin reed. What it doesn't mention is the obvious
Unfortunately the occupational categories covered by the BLS have
changed a bit, so it will take someone with more time than I have right
now to do this right. But using the data at unionstats we can see that
a drastic fall in trucker unionization took place during the 1980s: 38
percent of "heavy truck" drivers covered by unions in 1983, already down
to 25 percent by 1991. It's not quite comparable, but only 13 percent of
"drivers/sales workers and truck drivers" were covered last year.
In short, this looks very much like a non tradable industry where
workers used to have a lot of bargaining power through collective action,
and lost it in the great union-busting that took place under Reagan and
Krugman speculates that "the great majority of the people whose chance
at a middle-class life was destroyed by those political changes voted for
Trump." But he doesn't follow up. Why did they vote for Trump? It sure
wasn't because Trump promised to bring unions back, because he never did.
All they got from Trump was a chance to vent their spleen. But Clinton
didn't offer to bring back unions either. Maybe she offered them a chance
to go back to school somewhat cheaper, but even that wasn't clear. If you
want to have a middle class, you have to pay middle class wages to
blue-collar workers. And if you aren't willing to go that far, everything
you say about "middle class" is cant.
Elsewhere, Krugman linked to
Sarah Birnbaum: An Economist reporter dishes on Trump's 'priming the pump'
interview, including the story of how Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue saved
So Sonny Perdue literally asked his staff to draw up a map of the bits
of America that had voted for Donald Trump and the bits of America that
do well from exporting grain and corn through NAFTA. [The map] showed
how these two areas often overlap. So he went in, said to Donald Trump,
"Actually, Trump America, your voters, they do pretty well out of NAFTA."
And the president said, "Oh. Then maybe I won't withdraw from NAFTA."
Evidently there was no one around to point out that those same
grain and corn exports was what drove so many Mexican peasants from
their farms to seek employment in the US -- the single most dramatic
effect of NAFTA wasn't the loss of American factory jobs but the
decimation of Mexican agriculture due to the flood of cheaper US
grain. But then, the piece also includes a quote from David Rennie,
describing the "atmosphere" of the Oval Office:
It's kind of like being in a royal palace several hundred years ago,
with people coming in and out, trying to catch the ear of the king.
That's the feel at the Trump Oval Office. He likes to be surrounded
by his courtiers. . . .
And the role of some pretty senior figures, including cabinet
secretaries, was to chime in and agree with whatever the president
had just said, rather than offering candid advice.
There was a moment with Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary.
We were talking [to Trump] about China and currency manipulation.
On the campaign trail, Trump was very ferocious about [calling China
a currency manipulator.] [In our interview], he said, "As soon as I
started talking about China being a currency manipulator, they cut
it out." Actually that's not true. China [stopped manipulating the
currency] two or three years ago.
What was striking was, when he made that point, Steve Mnuchin,
the Treasury secretary, chimed in and said, "Oh yeah. The day he
became president, they changed their behavior!" And factually,
that's just not right. It's quite striking to see a cabinet
secretary making that point in that way.
Laura Secor: The Patient Resilience of Iran's Reformers: While
Trump was forging his anti-Iran coalition in Saudi Arabia, Iran had
a presidential election, where 75% of the electorate turned out and
57% of the voters reëlected Hassan Rouhani, the "moderate reformer"
who signed the deal halting Iran's "nuclear program," over a much
more conservative, anti-Western opponent. Also:
Hooman Majd: Iran Just Prove Trump Wrong;
Muhammad Sahimi: As Iran Elects a Moderate, Trump Cozies up to its
Terrorist Enemy Saudi Arabia.
Matt Taibbi: Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever:
Makes a good case, but that got me wondering who were the ten worst
Americans ever. Naturally, the list tends toward political figures,
because their misdeeds tend to be amplified in ways that mere bank
robbers and serial killers can never attain (compare, e.g., Ted
Bundy and McGeorge Bundy, although at least Ted was solely culpable
where McGeorge was wrapped up in groupthink and depended on others
to do the actual dirty work. Here's a quick, off the top of my head,
list, in more-or-less chronological order:
- Aaron Burr, who made the first blatant attempt to turn the young
republic into a kleptocracy; he could have been our Yeltsin or Suharto
or Mubarak or Mobuto.
- John C. Calhoun, the would be architect of slavocracy and de facto
designer of the use of "states rights" to perpetuate white supremacy.
- John Wilkes Boothe, whose assassination of Abraham Lincoln ended
any chance for a graceful reconstruction (not that such was actually
- John D. Rockefeller, whose ruthlessness turned business into empire
building on a grand scale.
- J. Edgar Hoover, whose iron control of the FBI created a bureaucracy
that could cower presidents.
- Joseph McCarthy, whose witch hunts elevated the "paranoid style" so
common in American politics to an unprecedented level of viciousness.
- Richard Nixon, for many things including his singular lack of scruples
when it came to winning elections.
- Henry Kissinger, the foreign policy mandarin who exported dirty wars
all around the world.
- Antonin Scalia, the judge and legal theorist whose "originalism" set
new standards for sophistry in support of right-wing politics.
- Dick Cheney, the prime driver behind the so-called "global war on
terrorism"; i.e., the poisonous projection of American power into every
corner of the globe.
Can Ailes crack that list? That's a tall order, but I wouldn't dismiss
the suggestion out of hand. One might argue that the conservative backlash
that lifted Nixon and Reagan was just a matter of re-centering politics
after exceptionally liberal periods, but the right-wing resurgence from
1994 onward has almost exclusively been manufactured by a broad network
of well-funded behind-the-scenes actors and their success is mostly due
to the creation of a hardcore propaganda network, of which Ailes' Fox News
has been the flagship. The only other individual to rise out of this swamp
to a comparable level of notoreity has been Charles Koch -- another prime
candidate, especially if we expand the list a bit.
Back to the story, Taibbi writes:
Moreover, Ailes built a financial empire waving images of the Clintons
and the Obamas in front of scared conservatives. It's no surprise that
a range of media companies are now raking in fortunes waving images of
Donald Trump in front of terrified Democrats.
It's not that Trump isn't or shouldn't be frightening. But it's
conspicuous that our media landscape is now a perfect Ailes-ian dystopia,
cleaved into camps of captive audiences geeked up on terror and disgust.
The more scared and hate-filled we are, the more advertising dollars
come pouring in, on both sides.
Trump in many ways was a perfect Ailes product, merging as he did the
properties of entertainment and news in a sociopathic programming package
that, as CBS chief Les Moonves pointed out, was terrible for the country,
but great for the bottom line.
The the nth time, Taibbi exaggerates the symmetry, because right and
center have very distinct approaches to reality, not to mention vastly
different political agendas. Right-wing fear and loathing of Clinton/Obama
had less to do with policy than with style, and only touched reality when
they caught the Democrats doing something corrupt. Clinton and Obama, at
least, almost never actually changed anything, so heaping scorn on them
seemed to have little effect. The media might be just as happy ridiculing
Trump -- indeed, the effort bar is pretty low there -- but less obviously
(especially to the media) Trump and the Republicans are doing real damage,
undermining our welfare and way of life, and it's pretty scandalous just
to think of that as entertainment.
Alex Tizon: My Family's Slave: "She lived with us for 56 years. She
raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid,
before I realized who she was."
Whew! Think I'll spend the next couple days away from the computer,
out back painting the fence.
Tuesday, May 23. 2017
Music: Current count 28166  rated (+25), 397  unrated (+3).
I spent pretty much all of Sunday and Monday cooking birthday dinner
for my sister, Kathy, after spending a good chunk of Saturday shopping.
During that time I mostly played oldies, especially 50 Coastin'
Classics, which never sounded better. She requested a couple Indian
curries "and all the fixin's" so I did what I could. I wound up making
(mostly from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking):
- Lamb brained in aromatic cream sauce: Rogani gosht, with
chunks of lamb and potatoes.
- Fish in velvet yogurt sauce: Pacific cod, but I substituted
coconut cream for the yogurt.
- Smooth buttered cabbage
- Smoked eggplant with fresh herbs: ok, roasted eggplant (and
Japanese at that), with frozen peas
- Green beans with coconut and black mustard seeds
- Fragrant buttered greens: spinach, kale, collard greens
with fried potatoes
- Patiala pilaf: minus the fried onion garnish
- Okra and yogurt salad: fried okra folded ito raita
- Tomato, onion, and cucumber relish: from Madhur Jaffrey
- Hot Hyderabad tomato relish: well, maybe not so hot
- Banana tamarind relish: cheated, using tamarind paste
- Major Grey chutney: mango chutney, from a web recipe
- Sweet lemon pickle with cumin: ok, made this way back, so
just pulled from refrigerator
Half of the dishes were made on Sunday then reheated, again taking
hints from Sahni. I had hoped to make kadhi (chickpea dumplings in
yogurt sauce), but got cold feet, then added several relishes/salads
that seemed easier. Too many dishes, but not many complaints: the
lamb and fish were luxurious, the four vegetables dishes superb,
the rice a little bland but sumptuous, the yogurt/okra lovely, the
chutneys/pickles intense. I meant to fry up some frozen, store-bought
paratha but it slipped my mind in the rush to serve everything (which,
by the way, was on scheduled time).
For dessert we had spiced tea, flourless chocolate cake, and
store-bought vanilla ice cream.
We had eight people for dinner. Fairly extravagant, but I've made
at least three larger Indian dinners -- a birthday dinner in NJ
consumed 22 onions, whereas this one only took 10. Aside from the
chutneys, the tomato-cucumber-onion (the least impressive dish),
and the rice, not a lot of leftovers. Seems like a lot of work, but
I don't get many chances to do something nice for others, nor to
feel like I'm actually being productive -- e.g., as opposed to just
reacting to the worldwide train wreck. (Expect a belated Weekend
Roundup mid-week, and a Streamnotes by end-of-month.)
The jazz guides are up to 661 + 527 pages, still less than midway in
the Jazz '80s-'90s database file. I never expected the 20th century to
reach 700 pages, but that now seems likely. Still, I think, only has 1/4
to 1/3 as many records as The Penguin Guide, which has long been
my bible. The 21st century file should still more than double in length,
and it's not inconceivable that the pair will top 2000 pages.
One side effect of that work is that every now and then I check
Napster for missing jazz records, as I did with banjoist John Gill's
early work. I was pleased to find many recordings on Stomp Off, long
one of the best trad jazz labels. As you're probably aware, most of
my higher picks are avant-garde, but I've always had a soft spot for
trad jazz, and even more so for small group swing (which I swear was
the cradle of rock and roll). So I went on a bender here, checking
out Gill, his trumpet buddies Duke Heitger and Chris Tyle, and records
I had missed by two pianists I liked, Ted Des Plantes and Keith Nichols.
Biggest problem here is that they're hard to sort out on just one or
two plays -- they nearly all sound good, but differentiating isn't as
easy. Second biggest problem is that Stomp Off is probably the most
media-adverse label in the world -- they don't have a website, and
almost none of their records are listed by Discogs -- so it's been
very hard to get any info on them (the most reliable source is The
Penguin Guide, plus occasionally I've found back cover scans which
at least give credits, release dates, and song lists. Probably quite
a few more to check out in weeks to come.
In contrast, new jazz seems to sit in my changes for 3-4 plays
regardless of whether it's much good or not, so I'm making slow
progress through the queue. (The unpacking below is longer than
usual because I forgot to post last week's intake.) And the only
non-jazz records I checked out last week were two from Robert
Expert Witness (couldn't find the newer, and longer, Daddy
Issues last week, but it's there now, so next week). I'm just not
aware of much I want to seek out there, at least for now.
New records rated this week:
- Daddy Issues: Can We Still Hang (2015, Infinity Cat, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Girlpool: Powerplant (2017, Anti-): [r]: B
- Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Madness (2017, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(**)
- Rebecca Hennessy's Fog Brass Band: Two Calls (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (2015 , Euonymous): [cd]: B+(***)
- Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Onward (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin (2017, Accurate): [cd]: B+(***)
- Eve Risser/Benjamin Duboc/Edward Perraud: En Corps: Generation (2016 , Dark Tree): [cd]: B+(**)
- Sult/Lasse Marhaug: Harpoon (2017, Conrad Sound/Pica Disk): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Joris Teepe & Don Braden: Conversations (2009-16 , Creative Perspective Music): [cd]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Midnight Stomp (1991, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Shim-Sham-Shimmy Dance (1997 , Stomp Off): [r]: A-
- John Gill's San Francisco Jazz Band: Turk Murphy Style (1989 , GHB): [r]: A-
- John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" (1991, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: Headin' for Better Times (1992 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- John Gill's Dixie Serenaders: "Listen to That Dixie Band!!" (1997 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(**)
- John Gill's Jazz Kings: "I Must Have It!" (2004, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Learn to Croon: John Gill & His Sentimental Serenaders Remember Bing Crosby (2009 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(**)
- Duke Heitger and His Swing Band: Rhythm Is Our Business (1998-99 , Fantasy): [r]: A-
- Duke Heitger's Big Four: Prince of Wails (2001, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Duke Heitger With Ken Mathieson's Classic Jazz Band: Celebrating Satchmo (2010, Lake): [r]: B+(**)
- Sergey Kuryokhin: The Ways of Freedom (1981 , Leo Golden Years of New Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
- Keith Nichols & the Cotton Club Orchestra: Harlem's Arabian Nights (1996 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Chris Tyle's New Orleans Rover Boys: A Tribute to Benny Strickler (1991, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
- Bill Cunliffe: Bachanalia (Metre): June 2
- Art Fristoe Trio: Double Down (Merry Lane): June 2
- Gato Libre: Neko (Libra)
- Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young: Jammin' at the Gibbs House (Whaling City Sound)
- The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra: Dreaming Big (Goldfox)
- Innocent When You Dream: Dirt in the Ground (self-released): May 26
- Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Find the Common, Shine a Light (Greenleaf Music): June 16
- Christian Lillinger/Petter Eloh/Wanja Slavin/Peter Evans: Amok Amor (Intakt)
- Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio (Whirlwind): May 19
- Vadim Neselovskyi Trio: Get Up and Go (Blujazz): May 19
- Larry Newcomb Quartet With Bucky Pizzarelli: Living Tribute (Essential Messenger): June 2
- Riverside [Dave Douglas/Chet Doxes/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas]: The New National Anthem (Greenleaf Music): June 16
- Elliott Sharp With Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot: Err Guitar (Intakt)
- John Stein/Dave Zinno: Wood and Strings (Whaling City Sound)
- Dylan Taylor: One in Mind (Blujazz)
- Urbanity: Urban Soul (Alfi)
- Shea Welsh: Arrival (Blujazz)
Monday, May 15. 2017
Music: Current count 28141  rated (+22), 397  unrated (-2).
A bit surprised that the rated count isn't any higher. I couldn't
think of much to stream on Napster, so decided to focus on the jazz
queue, and most of those records were instantly forgettable. However,
the two I did like took a lot of time -- Amado was pretty automatic,
but still got many plays before I finally wrote something, while
Miwa had to overcome my normal "that's nice" reaction to piano trio.
The other new A- record was reviewed by Robert Christgau
here. (Christgau also published a piece in the Voice last week:
Songs of Love and War: Syria's Omar Souleyman.)
I keep expecting a new Downloader's Diary from Michael Tatum any
day now, so thought I should check before posting this, and found
instead something he posted back on February 20:
Orts from the 2016 Table -- just three reviews: American Honey
(A+), Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (A), and De La Soul
and the Anonymous Nobody (B). I should add them to his
Archive -- but later this week,
I think, or maybe when the first 2017 column appears.
I didn't do anything for Mother's Day other than write my long
Weekend Roundup, but the day before I tried making one of the
few non-traditional dishes from my childhood: Spanish rice with pork
chops. I made it the way Mom might have made it: using Zatarain's
boxed rice kit (add water, a can of diced tomatoes, butter). As best
I recall, she browned the pork chops, then baked them with the rice,
but I did it all on the stove top, starting the rice in one pot while
I browned the chops in a deep skillet. I then dumped the partly cooked
rice on top of the chops, covered, and turned the heat low to finish.
The mix had long-grain rice, dried onions, and spices. It wouldn't be
hard to come up with a scratch recipe -- Google has many suggestions.
Mom almost never made rice -- this was the only real dish I can recall,
but I vaguely remember her making Minute Rice as a side some time.
Much later I taught her how to make Chinese fried rice to go with
1-2-3-4-5 Spare Ribs, but she most often just made the latter --
especially after she got my sister to pre-mix the ingredients, so she
just ad to measure out 1/2 cup.
I hope to write up some sort of cookbook/food memoir built around
her cooking (but with a few of my things slipped in). I have her
recipe cards, but they're mostly disappointing and unrepresentative:
too many things that she collected from friends and family to be
polite -- way too many casseroles and jello salads -- but never made
again. The main things that are well covered are cakes, cookies, and
candy. Virtually absent are meats (she fried, or sometimes roasted,
them), gravy, and vegetables (mostly boiled to death). I don't recall
her ever consulting a cookbook (though she may have had one, possibly
Betty Crocker) but she did crib recipes off cans and boxes, which is
where she got the idea for baking fried steak in mushroom soup. I've
tried recreating some of her dishes, and had generally good results,
so that will eventually go into the book.
Other big project last week was to repaint the steel fence on the
south side of the back yard. Got everything scraped earlier last week,
then painted primer on 2 (of 7) penels on Saturday. Slow going, will
probably take most of this week to finish (or longer, allowing for
New records rated this week:
- Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (2015 , NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
- David Binney: The Time Verses (2016 , Criss Cross)
- Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976 (1976 , Delmark/Sackville): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bryan and the Aardvarks: Sounds From the Deep Field (2017, Biophilia): [cdr]: B-
- Duo Baars Henneman & Dave Burrell: Trandans (2016 , Wig): [cd]: B
- Dominique Eade & Ran Blake: Town and Country (2015-16 , Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(*)
- Craig Fraedrich With Trilogy and Friends: All Through the Night (Summit)
- Grandaddy: Last Place (2017, 30th Century/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Mats Holmquist: Big Band Minimalism (2015 , Summit): [cd]: C+
- Jentsch Group Quartet: Fractured Pop (2009 [2017, leur de Son): [cd]: B+(*)
- Kehlani: SweetSexySavage (2017, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
- Les Amazones d'Afrique: Republique Amazone (2017, RealWorld): [r]: A-
- Jesse Lewis/Ike Sturm: Endless Field (2017, Biophilia): [cdr]: B
- Migos: Culture (2017, QC/YRN/300): [r]: B+(***)
- Yoko Miwa Trio: Pathways (2016 , Ocean Blue Tear Music): [cd]: A-
- Michael Morreale: Love and Influence (2013-16, Blujazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
- Noertker's Moxie: Druidh Penumbrae (2011-15 , Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
- Paramore: After Laughter (2017, Fueled by Ramen): [r]: B+(***)
- Jeannie Tanner: Words & Music (2017, Tanner Time, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
- Trichotomy: Known-Unknown (2016 , Challenge): [cd]: B+(***)
- Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Five (2016 , OA2): [cd]: B
- Ronny Whyte: Shades of Whyte (2016 , Audiophile): [cd]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976 (1976 , Delmark/Sackville): [cd]: B+(**)
Sunday, May 14. 2017
Arthur Protin asked me to
comment on a recent interview with linguist George Lakoff:
Paul Rosenberg: Don't think of a rampaging elephant: Linguist George
Lakoff explains how the Democrats helped elect Trump.
Lakoff has tried to promote himself as the liberal alternative
to Frank Luntz, who's built a lucrative career polling and coining
euphemisms for Republicans. I first read his 2004 primer, Don't
Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,
which consolidated ideas from his earlier Moral Politics: How
Liberals and Conservatives Think -- a dichotomy he's still
pitching as "the strict father/nurturent parent distinction." I've
never liked this concept. I'll grant that conservatives like the
flattering "strict father" construct, not least because it conflates
family and society, in both cases celebrating hierarchical (and,
sure, patriarchal) order, and there's something to be said for
recognizing how they see themselves. But the alternative family
model isn't something I'd like to see scaled up to society, where
nurturing morphs into something patronizing, condescending, and
meddlesome, and worse still that it grants the fundamentally wrong
notion that what's good for families is equally good and proper
for society and government. This is just one of many cases where
Lakoff accepts the framing given by Republicans and tries to game
it, rather than doing what he advises: changing the framing. I
don't doubt that his understanding of cognitive psychology yields
some useful insights into how Democrats might better express their
case -- especially the notion that you lead with your values, not
with mind-numbing wonkery. But it's not just that Democrats don't
know how best to talk. A far bigger problem is that Democrats lack
consensus on values, except inasmuch as they've been dictated by
the need to collect and coalesce all of the minorities that the
You see, back in Nixon days, with Kevin Phillips and Pat Buchanan
doing the nerd-work, Republicans started strategizing how to build
a post/anti-New Deal majority. They started with the GOP's core base
(meaning business), whipped up a counterculture backlash (long on
patriotism and patriarchy), and lured in white southerners (with
various codings of racism) and Catholics (hence their about face on
abortion), played up the military and guns everywhere. The idea was
to move Nixon's "silent majority" to their side by driving a wedge
between them and everyone else, who had no options other than to
become Democrats. The Democrats played along, collecting the votes
Republicans drove their way while offering little in return. Rather,
with unions losing power and businesses gaining, politicians like
the Clintons figured out how to triangulate between their base and
various moneyed interests (especially finance and high-tech).
Lakoff is right that Clinton's campaign often played into Trump's
hands. While some examples are new, that's been happening at least
since Bill Clinton ran first for president in 1992. Clinton adopted
so many Republican talking points -- on crime and welfare, on fiscal
balance, on deregulating banks and job-killing trade deals -- that
the Republicans had nowhere to go but even further right. For more
on Clinton and his legacy, see Thomas Frank's Listen, Liberal!
Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? The key point
is that Clinton almost never challenged the values Republicans tried
to put forth. Rather, he offered a more efficient (and slightly less
inhumane) implementation of them. Indeed, his administration oversaw
the largest spurt of growth in the wealth of the already rich. If
the rich still favored Republicans, that was only because the latter
promised them even more -- maybe not wealth, but more importantly
power. That Clinton left the rich unsatisfied was only part of the
problem his legacy would face. He also left his voters disillusioned,
and his post-presidency buckraking left him looking even more cynical
and corrupt, in ways that could never be spun or reframed.
So Hillary Clinton's own political career started with two big
problems. One was that she was viewed as a person whose credentials
were built on nepotism -- not on her own considerable competency,
except perhaps in marrying well -- and even when she seemed to be
in charge, he remained in her shadow. The second was that she
couldn't separate herself from the legacy of ashes -- the demise
of American manufacturing jobs, the concentration of wealth for
a global financial elite. Indeed, with her high-paid speeches to
Wall Street, she seemed not just blind but shameless. Her husband
had refashioned the Democratic Party into a personal political
machine, both by promoting personal cronies and by losing control
of Congress (a source of potential rivals), leaving her with a
substantial but very circumscribed fan base.
As for Hillary's campaign, as Lakoff says, the focus was
The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was
to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump
saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was
saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that's exactly what
his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what
actually was helping Trump with his supporters.
Lakoff doesn't say this, but the lesson I draw was that Clinton's
big failure was in treating Trump as an anomalous, embarrassing
personal foe, rather than recognizing that the real threat of a
Trump administration would be all of the Republicans he would
bring into government. She thought that by underplaying partisan
differences she could detach some suburban "moderates" to break
party ranks, and that would make her margin. Her indifference
to her party (and ultimately to her base) followed the pattern
of her husband and Barack Obama, who both lost Democratic control
of Congress after two years, after which they were re-elected but
could never implement any supposed promises. You can even imagine
that they actually prefer divided power: not only does it provide
a ready excuse for their own inability to deliver on popular (as
opposed to donor-oriented) campaign promises, it makes them look
more heroic staving off the Republican assault (a threat which
Republicans have played to the hilt). When Harry Truman found
himself with a Republican Congress in 1946, he went out and waged
a fierce campaign against the "do-nothing Congress." That's one
thing you never saw Clinton or Obama do.
So, sure, you can nitpick Clinton's framing and phrasing all
over the place. A popular view in my household is that she lost
the election with her "deplorables" comment, but you can pick
out dozens of other self-inflicted nicks. I saw an interview
somewhere where a guy said that "everything she says sounds
like bullshit to me" where Trump "made sense." Maybe she could
have been coached into talking more effectively, but the subtext
here is that the guy distrusts her and (somehow) trusts Trump.
Lakoff is inclined to view Trump as some kind of genius (or at
least idiot savant) for this feat, but my own take is that
Hillary was simply extraordinarily tarnished goods. Democrats
have many problems, but not recognizing that is a big one.
Lakoff has a section on "how Trump's tweets look":
Trump's tweets have at least three functions. The first function is
what I call preemptive framing. Getting framing out there before
reporters can frame it differently. So for example, on the Russian
hacking, he tweeted that the evidence showed that it had no effect
on the election. Which is a lie, it didn't say that at all. But the
idea was to get it out there to 31 million people looking at his
tweets, legitimizing the elections: The Russian hacks didn't mean
anything. He does that a lot, constantly preempting.
The second use of tweets is diversion. When something important
is coming up, like the question of whether he is going to use a
blind trust, the conflicts of interest. So what does he do instead?
He attacks Meryl Streep. And then they talk about Meryl Streep for
a couple of days. That's a diversion.
The third one is that he sends out trial balloons. For example,
the stuff about nuclear weapons, he said we need to pay more
attention to nukes. If there's no big outcry and reaction, then he
can go on and do the rest. These are ways of disrupting the news
cycle, getting the real issues out of the news cycle and turning
it to his advantage.
Trump is very, very smart. Trump for 50 years has learned how
to use people's brains against them. That's what master salesmen do.
The three things may have some validity, but Lakoff lost me at
"very, very smart." Much empirical observation suggests that he's
actually very, very stupid. Indeed, much of the reason so many
people (especially in the media) follow him is that they sense
they're watching a train wreck. But also he gets away with shit
because he's rich and famous and (now) very powerful. But can you
really say tweets work for Trump? As I recall, his campaign shut
down his Twitter feed the week or two before the election, just
enough to cause a suspension in the daily embarrassments Trump
Lakoff goes on to talk about how advertisers use repetition
to drum ideas into brains, giving "Crooked Hillary" as an example.
Still, what made "Crooked Hillary" so effective wasn't how many
times Trump repeated it. The problem was how it dovetailed with
her speeches and foundation, about all the money she and her
husband had raked in from their so-called public service. It may
have been impossible for the Democrats to nominate an unassailable
candidate, but with her they made it awfully easy.
For a more detail exposition of Lakoff's thinking, see his
Understanding Trump. There is a fair amount to be learned here,
and some useful advice, but he keeps coming back to his guiding
"strict father" idea, and it's not clear where to go from there.
As someone who grew up under a strict (but not very smart or wise)
father, my instinct is to rebel, but I wouldn't want to generalize
that -- surely there are some fathers worthy of emulation, and I
wouldn't want to condemn such people to rule by the Reagans, Bushes,
and Trumps of this world. The fact is that I consider conservative
family values as desirable, both for individuals and for society.
On the other hand, such family life isn't guaranteed to work out,
nor is it all that common, and I've known lots of people who grew
up just fine without a "strict father." But more importantly, the
desired function of government isn't at all analogous to family.
This distinction seems increasingly lost these days -- indeed,
important concepts like public interest and countervailing power
(indeed, checks and balances) have lost currency -- but that's
in large part because the Democrats have followed the Republicans
in becoming whores of K-Street.
Still, I find what Lakoff and, especially, Luntz do more than
a little disturbing. They're saying that we can't understand a
thing in its own terms, but instead will waver with the choice
of wording. It's easy to understand the attraction of such clever
sophistry for Republicans, because they often have good reason
to cloak their schemes in misleading rhetoric. Any change they
want to make is a "reform." More underhanded schemes get more
camouflage -- the gold standard is still Bush's plan to expedite
the clearcutting of forests on public lands, aka the "Healthy
Forests Initiative." Similarly, efforts they dislike get labels
like Entitlement Programs or Death Taxes or Obamacare. And so much
the better when they get supposedly neutral or even opposition
sources to adopt their terminology, but at the very least they
make you work extra hard to reclaim the language.
Republicans need to do this because so much of their agenda
is contrary to the interests of many or most people. But I doubt
that the answer to this is to come up with your own peculiarly
slanted vocabulary. Better, I think, to debunk when they're
trying to con you, because they're always out to con you. Even
the "strict father" model of hierarchy is a con, originating
in the notion that the social order starts with the king on
top, with its extension to the family just an afterthought.
But they can't very well lead with the king, given that we
fought a foundational war to free ourselves from such tyranny.
Indeed, beyond the dubious case of "strict fathers" it's hard
to find any broad acceptance of social hierarchy in America --
something Democrats should give some thought to.
On the other hand, Democratic (or liberal) euphemisms and
slogans haven't fared all that well either, and to the extent
they obfuscate or distort they undermine our claims to base
our political discourse in the world of fact and logic. Aside
from "pro-choice" I can't think of many examples. (In contrast
to "right-to-life" it actually means something, but I believe
that a more important point is that entering into an extended
responsibility requires a conscious choice -- pregnancy doesn't,
but the free option of an abortion makes parenthood a deliberate
choice. But I also think that deciding to continue or abort a
pregnancy is a personal matter, not something the state should
involve itself in. So there are two reasons beyond the frivolous
air of "choice.")
There is, by the way, a growing body of literature on the low
regard reason is held in regarding political matters. One book I
have on my shelf (but somehow haven't gotten to) is Jonathan
Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by
Politics and Religion (2012); another is Drew Westen's
The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the
Fate of the Nation (2007). These books and similar research
provide hints for politicians to try to scam the system. They
also provide clues for honest citizens trying to foil them.
The big news story this week was Trump's firing of FBI Director
James Comey. This has forced me to revisit two positions I have
tended to hold in these pages. The first is that when people would
warn of some likely coup, I always assumed they meant that some
organization like the US military might step in to relieve Trump
of his power. This, pretty clearly, was not going to happen: (1)
the US military still has some scruples about things like this;
and (2) Trump is giving them everything they want anyway, so what
reason might they have to turn on him? Trump's firing of Comey
isn't a coup, because Trump was already in power. It was a purge,
and not his first one -- he fired all those US Attorneys, and
several other people who dared to question him. But those were
mostly regular political appointees, so to some extent they were
expected. As I understand it, the FBI Director enjoys the job
security of a ten-year term, so Trump broke some new ground in
firing Comey. It seems clear now that Trump will continue to
break new ground in purging the federal government of people he
disagrees with -- to an extent which may not be illegal but is
already beyond anything we have previously experienced.
Second, I tended to disagree with the many people who expected
Trump not to survive his 4-year term. I would express this in odds,
which were always somewhat a bit above zero. I still don't consider
a premature termination of some sort to be likely, but the odds have
jumped up significantly. I don't want to bother with plotting out
various angles here. Just suffice it to say that he's become a much
greater embarrassment in the past week. In particular, I don't see
how he can escape an independent prosecutor at this point. Sure,
he'll try to stall, like he has done with his tax returns, but I
think the Russia investigation will be much harder to dodge. Also,
I think he's dug a deeper hole for himself there. It seems most
likely that Comey would have done to him what he did to Hillary
Clinton: decide not to prosecute, but present a long list of
embarrassments Democrats could turn into talking points (after
all, he's a fair guy, and that would balance off his previous
errors). Hard to say whether an independent prosecutor would do
anything differently. Probably depends on whether he draws some
partisan equivalent of Kenneth Starr.
Meanwhile, some links on the purge:
Max Boot: Trump Keeps Acting Like He Has Something to Hide
Jonathan Chait: Trump Has Sparked the Biggest Political Crisis Since
Trump Is Trying to Control the FBI. It's Time to Freak Out.
Esme Cribb: UN Ambassador Defends Comey Firing: Trump Is 'CEO of the
Country': Nikki Haley, adding "He can hire and fire whoever he
wants." Actually, many of his hires must first be approved by the US
Senate. And most government employees are protected by civil service
laws. CEOs often have similar restrictions, but Haley seems to think
they possess enough absolute power for the president to envy, much
as CEOs often envy the power of absolute monarchs and dictators.
Tim Dickinson: The Totally Deserved but Deeply Troubling Firing of
Bridgette Dunlap: Trump's Surprise at Comey Firing Fallout Is a Scary
James Fallows: Five Reasons the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate:
"The underlying offense"; "The blatancy of the interference"; "The nature
of the president"; "The resiliency of the fabric of American institutions";
and "The cravenness of party leaders."
Travis Gettys: Comey Furious Over Trump Team's Smear Campaign -- and
He's Prepared to Respond
Charles Krauthammer: A political ax murder: Not that he minds
("Comey had to go") but still "brutal even by Washington standards.
(Or even Roman standards. Where was the vein-opening knife and the
Michael Kruse: 'He Doesn't Give a Crap Who He Fires': "The only
people who aren't surprised by Trump's dismissal of James Comey are
the people who've watched his whole career."
Kathleen Parker: A theory: Trump fired Comey because he's taller:
Probably the most benign spin, but one that occurred to my wife,
so I figure it's worth mentioning.
David Rothkopf: Is America a Failing State?
The brazen firing of Comey is an escalation. If Trump is allowed to
get away with this and appoint a lackey as chief investigator into
his team's alleged wrongdoing, the world will see the United States
as a failing state, one that is turning its back on the core ideas
on which it was founded -- that no individual is above the law and
that those in the government, at every level including the president,
work for the people.
Michael S Schmidt: In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey
Bruce Shapiro: Comey's Firing Is Worse Than the Saturday Night
Andrew Sullivan: Trump Just Incriminated Himself
Jeffrey Toobin: Firing Comey Was a Grave Abuse of Power: "In
1974, Republicans put country before Party and told Nixon it was
time to go. Today's G.O.P. seems unlikely to live up to its
Laurence H Tribe: Trump must be impeached. Here's why. I wouldn't
normally bother with such an unlikely scenario, but consider the
source. For more on Tribe, see:
Dahlia Lithwick: How the President Obstructed Justice. In an
unrelated matter, Tribe had made some news recently:
Ryan Koronowski: One of the Nation's Most Respected Constitutional
Scholars Sells Out to Nation's Largest Coal Company.
By firing James Comey, Trump as put impeachment on the table.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Robert L Borosage: Donald Trump Is Waging a War on Workers
Rosa Brooks: Donald Trump Is America's Experiment in Having No
Government: For example:
Meanwhile, President Trump froze most federal hiring, ensuring, for
the experiment's sake, that the executive branch is also short-staffed
at middle and lower levels. Similarly, Trump has asked Congress to slash
the budgets for most civilian agencies, in the hopes that those employees
who remain will be unable to fund any programs. He has moved quickly to
eliminate many of the regulations put into place by previous governments,
leaving private sector actors more free to pollute the environment and
fleece the general public. This week, President Trump announced his
intention to precipitously slash corporate taxes as well, in an apparent
effort to reduce federal revenues and thus further reduce the federal
government's ability to function.
Elisabeth Garber-Paul: Jeff Sessions Orders Harsher Sentences, Taking
US Policy Back to the 1980s
Peter Maass: Birth of a Radical: Profile of Steve Bannon protégé
Gareth Porter: Will Trump Agree to the Pentagon's Permanent War in
Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria?
Micah Schwartzman/Mark Joseph Stern: How Trump Will Transform the
Federal Courts: Republicans have been systematically nominating
younger judges, on the theory that they'll stay in power longer,
resulting through natural selection in a disproportionately conservative
bench. Trump's influence will also be furthered by McConnell keeping
open "more than 100 court vacancies" (double the number open when
Obama became president).
Steven W Thrasher: Trump voter fraud commission is a shameless white
power grab: Hard to think of anything America needs less than a
kangaroo court led by Mike Pence and Kris Kobach coming up with new
schemes to keep even more people from voting. Still, voter suppression
has already helped Republicans get elected, for instance in Wisconsin:
Ari Berman: Wisconsin's Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016
(Trump Won by 22,748); Berman also wrote:
Trump's Commission on 'Election Integrity' Will Lead to Massive Voter
James Traub: Donald Trump Is the President America Deserves: Author
normally covers politics in France, which after spurning Marine Le Pen
seems relatively sane and sensible.
Matthew Yglesias: The latest Trump interview once again reveals appalling
ignorance and dishonesty
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Jessica Bonanno: Progressive Senators Are Going Big for Employee
Ownership of the Businesses They Work At: Specifically, Bernie
Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand. I'm a big fan of employee-owned
businesses: they promise to harmonize labor-management relations,
and they inherently incentivize workers to contribute as much as
possible. This strikes me as preferable even to unions, which give
workers more power and a fairer share of profits but work mostly
through adversarial conflict. Gar Alperovitz has written much
about this. Thomas Geoghegan has focused more on Germany's
co-determination system, which gives workers board seats but
not actual equity.
Ariel Dorfman: What Herman Melville Can Teach Us About the Trump Era:
"He would point out that what plagues us are the sins of the past coming
home to roost: America's tolerance of bigotry and blindness to its own
Tom Engelhardt: The Globalization of Misery. Also new at TomDispatch
Danny Sjursen: America's Wars and "More" Strategy; and
William Hartung: Ignoring the Costs of War. From the latter:
Even on the rare occasions when the costs of American war preparations
and war making are actually covered in the media, they never receive
the sort of attention that would be commensurate with their importance.
Last September, for example, the Costs of War Project at Brown University's
Watson Institute released a
paper demonstrating that, since 2001, the U.S. had racked up $4.79
trillion in current and future costs from its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and Syria, as well as in the war at home being waged by the
Department of Homeland Security. . . .
On the dubious theory that more is always better when it comes to
Pentagon spending (even if that means less is worse elsewhere in
America), Trump is requesting a $54 billion increase in military
spending for 2018. No small sum, it's roughly equal to the entire
annual military budget of France, larger than the defense budgets
of the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, and only $12 billion less
than the entire Russian military budget of 2015.
Henry Farrell: Cybercriminals have just mounted a massive worldwide
attack. Here's how NSA secrets helped them. Also:
Sam Biddle: Leaked NSA Malware Is Helping Hijack Computers Around
Richard Kreitner: 'Trump Is Just Tearing Off the Mask': An Interview
with Eric Foner: Who has a new book: Battles for Freedom: The
Use and Abuse of American History.
Nina Martin: The Last Person You'd Expect to Die in Childbirth:
"The US has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world,
and 60 percent are preventable."
Sophia A McClennen: The DNC's elephant in the room: Dems have a problem --
it's not Donald Trump: Some sobering numbers here:
Trump currently has a 45.1[*] percent favorability rating, one of the lowest
for any president in the history of polling. But Democrats fare worse.
The DNC has only a 38.8 percent favorability rating.
A January Gallup poll indicated that party identification is at record
lows, with 42 percent identifying as independents, 29 percent as Democrats,
and 26 percent as Republicans. A recent Washington Post poll showed that
the DNC trailed both Trump and the GOP when voters were asked if the party
was "in touch" with their concerns. In fact, only 28 percent of those
polled felt the party was connected with issues that matter to them. . . .
The elephant in the room for the DNC isn't Trump or the GOP or Bernie
bros or Russian hackers; it is its own elitist, corporatist, cronyist,
corrupt system that consistently refuses to listen to the will of the
people it hopes to represent. Thus far, though, DNC leadership has
refused to take these issues seriously. It's a strategy that smacks
of arrogance and hubris. And it's a politics that looks a lot more
like the GOP than a party invested in helping the little guy.
[*] Latest figure at 538 is 40.6% approve Trump, 53.4% disapprove.
Jacob Sugarman: The Financial Crisis That Spawned Austerity, Corporatized
the Democratic Party and Gave the World Donald Trump: Interview
with Kim Phillips-Fein, who has a new book about New York City's
default in 1975: Fear City: New York City's Fiscal Crisis and the
Rise of Austerity Politics.
Matt Taibbi: Free Lunch for Everyone: Review of Rutger Bregman's
book, Utopia for Realists, which "argues that money should be
free and a 15-hour work week sounds about right." Taibbi also wrote
The War in the White House, which prematurely cited April 5-7
as "the most crucial [period] in the history of America's last
president, Donald John Trump." Mostly about Steve Bannon, whose
power was curtailed during said period, yet a month later he's
started to look like the sane one. The fact that someone with
the imagination and flair of Taibbi can't write a piece on Trump
that doesn't seem hopelessly dated two weeks hence is possibly
the scariest statement you can make about the president.
Stephen M Walt: 'Mission Accomplished' Will Never Come in Afghanistan
Monday, May 8. 2017
Music: Current count 28119  rated (+23), 399  unrated (+3).
Something I missed for yesterday's
Weekend Roundup, but two TPM stories gave me pause:
White House Blames Obama for Trump Hiring Flynn, and
Obama Warned Trump Not to Hire Flynn as National Security Adviser.
Seems typical that Trump would do the opposite of what Obama recommended
then blame Obama when he turned out to be right. This illustrates the
extraordinary extent to which Trump has based his own agenda on the
desire to reflexively undo everything Obama has done over the past
eight years -- to effectively erase the Obama administration from
American history. Moreover, this contrasts sharply with Obama's own
considered efforts to maintain continuity when he replaced GW Bush,
despite the latter's dreadful legacy of failure.
I've long felt that Obama's emphasis on continuity was terrible
political strategy -- he gave up the option of continuing to blame
the lingering problems he inherited (like the Great Recession and
the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) on the person/party
responsible for them, he made it possible for Americans to forget
and forgive. The astonishing result was that two years later the
Republicans could surge back as the party of resentment against
America's corrupt elites. I've long felt that Obama cut not just
his own but his party's throat because he bought so deeply into
the myths of American Exceptionalism, and that compelled him to
rationalize and defend his country even when it had gone wrong.
Trump, clearly, has no such scruples or ideals, so it's hardly
surprising that his reflexive contempt of Obama so often strikes
against Obama's idealized America. One might expect his blind
contempt to backfire more often than it has, but unfortunately
the Democrats are still more inclined to defend their cherished
myths -- e.g., Hillary's "America's always been great" -- than
to recognize real problems, identify their causes, and propose
I'd also like to add that in thinking about the French elections
I posted a tweet, which I'll expand a bit here to get past the 140
One difference between elections in France and US is that French
media never let you forget Le Pen is a fascist, while US media never
notices our native fascism.
My point is that an honest recollection of what Republicans have
done and tried to do since Reagan would have shown them to be as
dastardly and disreputable as the Vichy-rooted National Front. But
the media insists on treating Republicans -- even ones as vile as
Trump, Cruz, and Ryan -- as respectable Americans, even though that
requires massive amnesia. I'm reminded once again of Tom Carson's
metaphor of America (embodied in the quintessentially all-American
Mary Ann) as a perpetual virgin, regrowing her hymen after every
act of intercourse. Unfortunately, the only people still suckered
by this myth of American purity are elite Democrats, and their
disconnection from reality is killing their party and sacrificing
Not much to say about music this week. Rated count is down,
probably just because I've been slow, though I can point to
repairing a fence as a distraction, and I took a couple breaks
to make nice dinners-for-two (since our social entertaining
seems to have withered to nothing). I did find a good record
from Buffalo (one of my favorite towns) --
or perhaps I should say it found me. Among the
high B+ list (all jazz) the pecking order is probably: Fiedler,
Oh, Dickey, Durkin. Three of those came from Napster, as did
four jazz records from the next tier down (Preservation Hall,
Watson, the two Parker duos). Still have a couple dozen CDs in
the mail queue, but lately they haven't been amounting to much.
Still, this week's unpacking looks relatively promising.
Expert Witness last week featured several rap records:
Kendrick Lamar's Damn (an A- here last week), two
each by Migos and Future (haven't heard yet). He also publisher
two pieces last week:
Who the Fuck Knows: Covering Music in Drumpfjahr II (something he did
for the EMP Conference), and
Rob Sheffield Explores How the Beatles Live on Inside Our Heads.
There's also an interview Tom Slater did with him at
Modest progress collecting the Jazz Guide reviews: currently at
635 + 436 pages, through Eliane Elias in the
Jazz '80s file (27%).
New records rated this week:
- Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (2016 , Cadence Jazz): [cd]: A-
- Whit Dickey/Mat Maneri/Matthew Shipp: Vessel in Orbit (2017, AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(***)
- Andrew Durkin: Breath of Fire (2016, PJCE): [r]: B+(***)
- Feist: Pleasure (2017, Interscope): [r]: B
- Joe Fiedler: Like, Strange (2017, Multiphonics Music): [r]: B+(***)
- David Gilmore: Transitions (2016 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(*)
- Pasquale Grasso/Renaud Penant/Ari Roland: In the Mood for a Classic (2014 , ITI Music): [r]: B+(**)
- Larry Ham/Woody Witt: Presence (2016 , Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
- Tristan Honsinger/Antonio Borghini/Tobias Delius/Axel Dörner: Hook, Line and Sinker (De Platenbakakkerij): [dvd]: B+(*)
- Keith Karns Big Band: An Eye on the Future (2015 , Summit): [cd]: C+
- Oliver Lake Featuring Flux Quartet: Right Up On (2016 , Passin' Thru): [r]: B
- Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk: The Breathe Suite (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Willie Nelson: God's Problem Child (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
- Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (2016 , Biophilia): [cd]: B+(***)
- William Parker & Stefano Scodanibbio Duo: Bass Duo (2008 , Centering): [r]: B+(**)
- Sarah Partridge: Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
- Chuck Prophet: Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins (2017, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(*)
- Günter Baby Sommer: Le Piccole Cose: Live at Theater Gütersloh (2016 , Intuition): [r]: B+(*)
- Torben Waldorff: Holiday on Fire (2016 , ArtistShare): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bobby Watson: Made in America (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
- Alex Wintz: Life Cycle (2016 , Culture Shock Music): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Joëlle Léandre & William Parker: Live at Dunois (2009, Leo): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (NoBusiness)
- Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (NoBusiness): cdr
- Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976 (Delmark/Sackville)
- Fred Frith/Hans Koch: You Are Here (Intakt)
- B.J. Jansen: Common Ground (Ronin Jazz): June 23
- Mat Maneri/Evan Parker/Lucian Ban: Sounding Tears (Clean Feed): advance, May 26
- John McLean/Clark Sommers Band: Parts Unknown (Origin): May 19
- Itaru Oki/Nobuyoshi Ino/Choi Sun Bae: Kami Fusen (NoBusiness): cdr
- Mason Razavi: Quartet Plus, Volume 2 (OA2): May 19
- Tom Rizzo: Day and Night (Origin): May 19
- Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999, NoBusiness)
- Joris Teepe & Don Braden: Conversations (Creative Perspective Music): May 30
- Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (NoBusiness): cdr
- Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Five (OA2): May 19
- Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond (Intakt)
Sunday, May 7. 2017
I originally planned on writing a little introduction here, on how
bummed I've become, partly because I'm taking the House passage of
Zombie Trumpcare hard -- my wife likes to badmouth the ACA but it
afforded me insurance for two years between when she retired and I
became eligible for Medicare, and it's done good for millions of
other people, reversing some horrible (but evidently now forgotten)
trends -- and partly because the 100 days was just a dry run for
still worse things to come. But I wound up writing some of what I
wanted to say in the Savan comment below.
One thing that's striking about the Trumpcare reactions is how
morally outraged the commentators are ("one of the cruelest things,"
"war on sick people," "moral depravity," "sociopathic," "hate poor
and sick people," "homicidal healthcare bill"). If you want more
details, follow the Yglesias links: he does a good job of explaining
how the bill works. It's also noteworthy how hollow and facetious
pretty much everything the bill's supporters say in defense of it
is. I've offered a few examples, but could easily round up more.
I've added a link on Democrats-still-against-single-player (a group
which includes Nancy Pelosi and Jon Ossoff, names mentioned below).
Let me try to be more succinct here: single-payer is the political
position we want to stake out, because it's both fairly optimal and
simple and intuitive. If you can't get that, fine, compromise with
something like ACA plus a "public option" -- an honest public option
will eventually wind up eating the private insurance companies and
get you to single-payer. But you don't lead with a hack compromise
that won't get you what you want or even work very well, because
then you'll wind up compromising for something even worse. We should
remember that Obama thought he had a slam dunk with ACA: he lined up
all of the business groups behind his plan, and figured they'd bring
the Republicans along because, you know, if Republicans are anything
they're toadies for business interests. It didn't work because the
only thing Republicans like more than money is power. (They're so
into power they were willing to tank the economy for 4 or 8 years
just to make Obama look bad. They're so into power they held ranks
behind Trump even though most of the elites, at least, realized he
was a hopeless buffoon.)
On the other hand, the shoe is clearly on the other foot now: it's
the Republicans who are fucking with your health care, and they're
doing things that will shrink insurance rolls by millions, that will
raise prices and weaken coverage, that will promote fraud and leave
ever more people bankrupt. Those are things that will get under the
skin of voters, and Republicans have no answer, let alone story. The
other big issue noted below is the environment. The EPA is moving
fast and hard on policies that will severely hurt people and that
will prove to be very unpopular -- maybe not overnight, but we'll
start seeing big stories by the 2018 elections, even more by 2020,
and air and water pollution is not something that only happens to
I didn't include anything on how these changes have already affected
projections for 2018 elections, because at this point that would be
sheer speculation. To my mind, the biggest uncertainty there isn't
how much damage the Republicans will do (or how manifest it will be)
but whether Democrats will develop into a coherent alternative. That's
still up for grabs, but I'll see hope in anything that helps bury the
generation of party leaders who were so complicit in the destruction
of the middle class and in the advance of finance capital. To that
end, Obama's $400,000 Wall Street speech clearly aligns him with the
problems and not with the solutions.
[PS: This section on the French election was written on Saturday,
before the results came in. With 98% reporting, Emmanuel Macron won,
65.8% to 34.2% for Marine Le Pen.
TPM's post-election piece included a line about how the election
"dashed [Le Pen's] hopes that the populist wave which swept Donald
Trump into the White House would also carry her to France's presidential
Elysee Palace." I don't see how anyone can describe Trump's election
as a "populist wave" given that the candidate wasn't a populist in
any sense of the word -- not that Le Pen is either. Both are simple
right-wingers, who advance incoherent and mean-spirited programs by
couching them in traditional bigotries. While it's probable that the
center in France is well to the left of the center in the US, a more
important difference is that Trump could build his candidacy on top
of the still-respected (at least by the mainstream media) Republican
Party whereas Le Pen's roots trace back to the still-discredited
Vichy regime. But it also must have helped that Macron had no real
history, especially compared to the familiar and widely-despised
Hillary Clinton. (Just saw a tweet with a quote from Macron: "The
election was rly not that hard I mean . . . how despised do you have
to be to get beaten by a fascist am I right?" The tweet paired the
quote with a picture of Hillary.)
[More reaction later, but for now I have to single out
Anne Applebaum: Emmanuel Macron's extraordinary political achievement,
especially for one line I'm glad I never considered writing: "Not since
Napoleon has anybody leapt to the top of French public life with such
speed." She goes on to explain: "Not since World War II has anybody won
the French presidency without a political party and a parliamentary base.
Aside from some belated endorsements, he had little real support from
the French establishment, few of whose members rated the chances of a
man from an unfashionable town when he launched his candidacy last
year." She makes him sound like Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the
president in the TV series Designated Survivor -- which despite
much centrist corniness is a pleasing escape from our actual president.]
France goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president. The
"outsider" centrist Emmanuel Macron is favored over neo-fascist
Marine Le Pen -- the latter frequently described as "populist" in
part because Macron, a banker and current finance minister, is as
firmly lodged in France's elites as Michael Bloomberg is here. The
polls favor Macron by a landslide, less due to the popularity of
the status quo than to the odiousness of Le Pen. One interesting
sidelight is how foreigners have weighed in on the election -- one
wonders whether the French are as touchy as Americans about outside
interference. For instance, Barack Obama endorsed Macron --
Yasmeen Serhan: Obama's Endorsement of Macron -- as did, perhaps
more importantly, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis --
Daniel Marans: Top European Economist Makes the Left-Wing Case for
Emmanuel Macron, or in Varoufakis' own words,
The Left Must Vote for Macron. On the other hand, Le Pen's foreign
supporters include Donald Trump --
Aidan Quigley: Trump expresses support for French candidate Le Pen --
and Vladimir Putin --
Anna Nemtsova/Christopher Dickey: Russia's Putin Picks Le Pen to Rule
France. And while
Putin tells Le Pen Russia has no plans to meddle in French election,
on the eve of the election the Macron campaign was rocked by a hacked
email scandal: see,
James McAuley: France starts probing 'massive' hack of emails and documents
reported by Macron campaign, and more pointedly,
Mark Scott: US Far-Right Activists Promote Hacking Attack Against
Macron. [PS: For a debunking of the "leaks," see
Robert Mackey: There Are No "Macron Leaks" in France. Politically
Motivated Hacking Is Not Whistleblowing. Evidently a good deal
of this isn't even hacking -- just forgery meant to disinform.]
One likely reason for Putin to support Le Pen is the latter's
promise to withdraw France from NATO. The interest of Trump and US
far-right activists is harder to fathom -- after all, even fellow
fascists have conflicting nationalist agendas, and nationalist
bigots ultimately hate each other too much to develop any real
solidarity, even where they share many prejudices. For instance,
why should Trump applaud Brexit and further damage to European
unity? Surely it can't be because he gives one whit about anyone
John Nichols argues that Obama's endorsement of Macron
Is an Effort to Stop the Spread of Trumpism, but while right-wing
nationalist movements have been gaining ground around much of the world,
it's hard to see anything coherent enough to be called Trumpism, much
less a wave that has to be stopped anywhere but here. Obama may have
good reasons for publicizing his endorsement, and may even have enough
of a following in France to make his endorsement worth something, but
given his recent buckraking it could just as well be meant to solidify
his position among the Davos set. Besides, I haven't forgotten his
proclamation that "Assad must go" -- his assumption of America's right
to dictate the political choices of others, which had the effect of
tying America's diplomatic hands and prolonging Syria's civil war.
At this stage I'm not sure I even want to hear his position on any
American political contest -- least of all one having to do with
leadership of the major political party he and the Clintons ran into
Big news this week is that the Republicans passed their "health
care reform" bill -- most recently dubbed "Zombie Trumpcare 3.0" --
in the House. They had failed a while back because they couldn't
get enough votes from the so-called Freedom Caucus, but solved that
problem by making the bill even worse than it was. Some links:
Jamelle Bouie: The GOP's Passage of Trumpcare Is One of the Cruelest
Things the Party Has Ever Done:
[PS: Top Comment: "Time to face the truth. The wealthy in this country
are parasites. 99% of the wealth, 90% of all new wealth and they need
to take more from those with nothing."]
Michael Corcoran: The GOP Declares War on Sick People: The Moral Depravity
of Trumpcare's Passage
Chauncey DeVega: The Republican Party Is Sociopathic: If You Didn't
Know That Already, the Health Care Bill Should Make It Clear; also
by same author:
The 'Pro-Life' Party Has Become the Party of Death: New Research
on Why Republicans Hate Poor and Sick People.
Adam Gaffney: Donald Trump's homicidal healthcare bill will kill some,
and enrich others
Travis Gettys: You're Not Safe From Republicans' Obamacare Replacement
if You Get Your Insurance Through Work: Key thing here is that the
ACA established some minimal standards for all health insurance plans,
and the Trumpcare bill weakens those standards, so in more cases the
insurance you thought you had will prove worthless.
Kelly Hayes: The ACA Repeal: Our Lives Are at Stake, So Now What?
Michael Hayne: If Trumpcare Ends Up Happening, Up to 7 Million Veterans
Could See Their Health Care Ruined
Sarah Kiff: Tom Price says Americans will "absolutely not" lose Medicaid
under GOP plan. That's not true.
Daniel Politi: Republican Congressman: "Nobody Dies Because They Don't
Have Access to Health Care": I reckon I could find dozens of
articles about inane comments from pro-Trumpcare Republicans.
Aaron Rupar: HHS Secretary Price argues people with pre-existing
conditions should pay more; also
Fox News host says health care for people with pre-existing conditions
is a 'luxury'. Things like this make you wonder how dumb people
can be if they think their political identity demands it. The fact is
that everyone has a "pre-existing condition" sooner or later. In the
old days, you could sometimes maintain insurance coverage by continuity --
by sticking with a job and its insurance plan if it didn't weed you out
at the start, but now it's even harder to keep lifetime jobs. I also
knew some people who were able to get community-rated individual plans,
and maintained their continuity through hell and high water, because
they would never be able to switch to another insurance program. The
ACA helped fix those problems, and thereby helped make sure that health
insurance would actually insure you when you needed it. Anyone who
wants to go back to a system which encourages insurance companies to
drop anyone they think might cost them is simply crazy -- especially
given that the pre-ACA system allowed costs to skyrocket way beyond
virtually anyone's ability to pay as you go.
Jon Schwarz: Paul Ryan's Spokesperson Can't Be Bothered Coordinating
Her Lies About Trumpcare With the White House's Lies
Matthew Yglesias: AHCA is a betrayal of all the GOP's promises on health
Matthew Yglesias: Republicans' health bill takes $600 billion out of
health care to cut taxes for the rich;
How Paul Ryan gained moderate votes for AHCA by making it more extreme;
AHCA: Donald Trump celebrated Obamacare repeal by lying about what the
Joel Dodge: The Case Against Single-Payer: Meant more to be a
case for some sort of "public option," which as I recall was mostly
opposed because it was viewed as a stalking horse for single-payer,
especially out of the fear that a "public option" would turn out to
be so popular private insurance wouldn't be able to compete. Still,
it's hard at this point to see the political advantage of pushing
"public option" over single-payer. The latter is intrinsically more
efficient in that it eliminates the overheads of marketing and the
need to generate profits, as well as fracturing the insurance pool.
That leaves lots of issues figuring out what is/isn't covered and
how much providers are paid -- things that market competition can
help with, but everywhere else single-payer systems have managed
to do more/less satisfactorily. Dodge cites Georgia Democrat Jon
Ossoff as rejecting single-payer in favor of "incremental progress
based upon the body of law on the books" -- something I have no
problem with, but I don't see that sort of tinkering-with-ACA as
making the necessary political impact. Single-payer gets the core
idea of equal coverage as a right across. If anything, it doesn't
go far enough. Why not start building public-interest health care
providers, and see how well the private sector competes with
Some scattered links this week directly tied to Trump:
Coral Davenport: EPA Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review
The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members
of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics
call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency's
regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.
A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would
consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from
industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part
of the wide net it plans to cast. "The administrator believes we should
have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on
the regulated community," said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.
The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed
a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific
review board to include more representation from the corporate world.
President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A.,
pushing for deep cuts in its budget -- including a 40 percent reduction
for its main scientific branch -- and instructing him to roll back major
Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. In
recent weeks, the agency has removed some scientific data on climate
change from its websites, and Mr. Pruitt has publicly questioned the
established science of human-caused climate change.
Justin Elliott/Derek Kravitz/Al Shaw: Meet the Hundreds of Officials
Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the Government; follow ups:
Derek Kravitz: Remember Those Temporary Officials Trump Quietly
Installed? Some Are Now Permanent Employees;
Ariana Tobin/Derek Kravitz/Al Shaw: You Helped Us Find Hires the White
House Never Announced, Including a Koch Brothers Alum.
Keith Ellison: The Great Recession hurt millions. Now, Republicans
want to risk a repeat: They call this the Financial Choice Act,
because it will vastly increase the range of options bankers enjoy
to screw you, especially by killing the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau, the agency created after the 2008 meltdown to protect against
fraud. Also see:
Jill Abramson: Dismantling Dodd-Frank: Donald Trump's Valentine's gift
to Wall Street.
Michelle Goldberg: Ivanka Trump's Book Celebrates the Unlimited
Possibilities Open to Women With Full-Time Help
Bruce Goldstein: How Trump's Skewed View of Rural America and Agriculture
Threatens the Welfare of Farmworkers
Gabrielle Gurley: Trump's Disastrous Decision to Ruin America's Prize
Dahlia Lithwick/Elliot Mincberg: Trump's religious liberty executive
order reads like it was lawyered to death.
Josh Marshall: Why They're So Scared About Mike Flynn: Reaction
to two new stories deepening the mess Flynn created and left behind --
not something I'm terribly interested in because ever since Michael
Hastings' Rolling Stone article on McChrystall it's been clear
to me that Flynn was an erratic and unscrupulous hustler no one should
ever trust. (Many think Obama fired McChrystall for insubordination,
but it was Flynn who actually said the nastiest shit about Obama, as
he continued to do even after Obama appointed him DIA head -- one of
Obama's all-time worst appointments, by the way.) After leaving the
military, Flynn only became unreliable, pimping himself to foreign
governments while ingratiating himself to the Trump campaign. What
he actually accomplished with all his double-dealing isn't clear, or
even that interesting, to me, but I'm sure there are cautionary tales
to be learnt here. (For one, that luck in wartime allows officers
wholly unsuited for command to rise far beyond their competency --
a famous, albeit far-removed, case might be George Armstrong Custer.)
Trump's attraction to Flynn may have been because they shared common
paranoias, but Flynn's interest in Trump was probably just that he
was an easy mark. I suppose we're lucky that the pair of them didn't
do more damage than they did, but we're not exactly out of the woods
Ashley Parker/John Wagner: Kushner has a singular and almost untouchable
role in Trump's White House: And I thought nepotism was bad under
the Bushes. Also, note how the family is making out:
Emily Rauhala/William Wan: In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes
$500,000 'investor visa' to wealthy Chinese
Nomi Prins: The Empire Expands: Not the America One, but Trump's:
Just a taste:
The ways that Jared, "senior adviser to the president," and Ivanka,
"assistant to the president," have already benefited from their links
to "Dad" in the first 100 days of his presidency stagger the imagination.
Ivanka's company, for instance, won three new trademarks for its products
from China on the very day she dined with President Xi Jinping at her
father's Palm Beach club.
In a similar fashion, thanks to her chance to socialize with Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, her company could be better positioned for
deal negotiations in his country. One of those perks of family power
includes nearing a licensing agreement with Japanese apparel giant Sanei
International, whose parent company's largest stakeholder is the
Development Bank of Japan -- an entity owned by the Japanese government.
We are supposed to buy the notion that the concurrent private viewing of
Ivanka's products in Tokyo was a coincidence of the scheduling fairy.
Yet since her father became president, you won't be surprised to learn
that global sales of her merchandise have more or less gone through the
Corey Robin: Think Trump is an authoritarian? Look at his actions,
not his words: I pretty much agree with Robin here -- as "strong
leaders" go Trump has such a weak grasp of the mechanics of power
that he tends to be ineffective regardless of his malign desires --
especially compared to the views of someone like Timothy Snyder (see
"It's pretty much inevitable" that Trump will try to stage a coup and
overthrow democracy). Still, I don't take much comfort in his
ineptitude -- he still has enough power and enough willing actors
(including the sort ready to take their own initiative) to do a lot
Leslie Savan: A Hundred Days of Trump Denial: Unlike Savan, I
never expected Trump to somehow step down or go away let alone be
impeached or (as the 25th amendment seems to allow) be declared
incompetent. In fact, I'm not even sure he's a greater embarrassment
than Ronald Reagan was, although this time many more people can see
through his act, and his supporting cast is far more craven (not
that Reagan's didn't want to be, they just hadn't yet lost all sense
of shame). The fact is that Trump, like Reagan and the Bushes, will
wind up doing a great deal of damage to the country. It just won't
happen overnight or over 100 days. It will incrementally seep into
the system, like water and wind tearing apart mountains, and when
it does, it will be so thorough people line Clinton and Obama won't
be able to repair it -- although perhaps others, with more insight
and more fortitude, might do better at finding ways to rebuild on
the tattered landscape.
Lucy Steigerwald: Justice for No One Except Jeff Sessions; also:
Marjorie Cohn: Jeff Sessions' Department of Injustice. Sessions
probably has the highest profile of any Trump appointee, particularly
given how arbitrarily he can change enforcement priorities. Still,
there is likely to be a lag between when he decides to do something
and when it really changes situations.
Steven W Thrasher: The war on drugs is racist. Donald Trump is embracing
it with open arms
Douglas Williams: Trump's civil war comments master the Republican
art of downplaying slavery
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
David Atkins: The Argument Over Why Clinton Lost Is Over. Bernie Was
Right. Now What?
It has been a long, knock-down drag-out battle, but the ugly intramural
conflict over why Clinton lost to Trump is finally over. New polls and
focus groups conducted by Clinton's own SuperPAC Priorities USA shows
that while racism and sexism had some effect, the main driver of Trump's
victory was economic anxiety, after all. The data showed that voters who
switched from Obama to Trump had seen their standards of living decline
and felt that the Democratic Party had become the party of the wealthy
and unconcerned about their plight. . . .
fThose who try to win elections for a living also aren't looking
forward to fighting the full power of the financial and pharmaceutical
interests in addition to the regular armada of right-wing corporate
groups. It would be much easier for electoral strategists if Democrats
could unlock a majoritarian liberal bloc with a "rising tide lifts all
boats" ideology that doesn't greatly inconvenience the urban donor class.
Consultants aren't exactly looking forward to trying to win elections
against interest groups angered by arguing for renegotiating NAFTA,
punishing corporations for sending jobs overseas, raising the capital
gains tax rate, and cutting health insurance companies out of the broad
American marketplace. But that's exactly what they're going to have to
do if want to win not only the presidency, but the congressional seats
and legislatures dominated by increasingly angry suburban and rural
voters. Not to mention angry young millennials of all identities who
have essentially been locked out of the modern economy by low wages
combined with outrageous cost of living, especially in the housing
market that has uncoincidentally been such a major investment boon
for their lucky parents, grandparents, and the financial industry.
Patrick Cockburn: Fall of Raqqa and Mosul Will Not Spell the End for
Isis: One should recall, first of all, that Raqqa and Mosul weren't
conquered by Isis so much as abandoned by hostile but ineffective central
governments in Damascus and Baghdad. Before, pre-Isis was just another
salafist guerrilla movement, as it will remain once its pretensions to
statehood have been removed. And the Iraqi government is no more likely
to be respected and effective in Mosul than it was before. (I have no
idea about what happens to Raqqa if Isis falls there -- presumably not
Assad, at least not right away.)
Richard Eskow: Who's Behind the Billionaire PAC Targeting Elizabeth
Warren? Well, not just Warren. They're looking to muddy the waters
for any Democratic candidate conceivable in 2020. The group is America
America Rising was formed in 2013 by Matt Rhoades, the director of Mitt
Romney's failed 2012 presidential campaign, and it represents the worst
of what our current political system offers. Its goal is not to debate
the issues or offer solutions to the nation's problems. Instead, the PAC
gets cash from big-money donors and spends it trying to tear down its
The Republican National Committee's "autopsy" of its 2012 presidential
loss reportedly concluded that the party needed an organization that
would "do nothing but post inappropriate Democratic utterances and act
as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats."
Mehdi Hasan: Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason -- They Remember
the Korean War. Bigger problem: they don't remember it ending,
because for them it never really did: they're still stuck with the
sanctions, the isolation, the mobilization and felt need for constant
vigilance. One might argue that the regime has used these strictures
to solidify its own rule -- that in some sense they're more satisfied
with a continuing state of crisis than anything we'd consider normalcy,
but we've never really given them that option. America's failure to
win the Korean War was an embarrassment, and no one since then has
had the political courage to admit failure and move on. Hence, we're
stuck in this cycle of periodic crises.
Terror Is in the Eye of the Beholder, John Dower wrote a bit
about Korea, after noting how the US dropped 2.7 million tons of
bombs in Europe and 656,400 tons in the Pacific:
The official history of the air war in Korea (The United States Air
Force in Korea 1950-1953) records that U.S.-led United Nations air
forces flew more than one million sorties and, all told, delivered
a total of 698,000 tons of ordnance against the enemy. In his 1965
memoir Mission with LeMay, General Curtis LeMay, who directed the
strategic bombing of both Japan and Korea, offered this observation:
"We burned down just about every city in North and South Korea both . . .
We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million
more from their homes, with the inevitable additional tragedies bound
Other sources place the estimated number of civilian Korean War dead
as high as three million, or possibly even more. Dean Rusk, a supporter
of the war who later served as secretary of state, recalled that the
United States bombed "everything that moved in North Korea, every brick
standing on top of another."
Americans killed in the Korean War totaled 33,739, a little more
than 1% of the number of Koreans killed, so sure, we remember the war
a bit less ominously. Dower's new book is The Violent American
Century: War and Terror Since World War Two.
Michael Howard: Let's Call Western Media Coverage of Syria by its Real
Name: Propaganda: Starts off with two paragraphs on Ukraine -- same
story. The bottom line is that all parties work hard to control how news
is reported, and the country is too dangerous for journalists not aligned
with some special interest to search out or verify stories. Howard also
Stephen Kinzer: The media are misleading the public on Syria, who
Reporting from the ground is often overwhelmed by the Washington consensus.
Washington-based reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra,
is made up of "rebels" or "moderates," not that it is the local al-Qaeda
franchise. Saudi Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in
fact it is a prime sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a
"rat line" for foreign fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria,
but because the United States wants to stay on Turkey's good side, we hear
little about it. Nor are we often reminded that although we want to support
the secular and battle-hardened Kurds, Turkey wants to kill them. Everything
Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing,
simply because it is they who are doing it -- and because that is the
official line in Washington.
Mark Karlin: Government Has Allowed Corporations to Be More Powerful
Than the State: An interview with Antony Loewenstein, author of
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, so it
focuses on corporations profiting from disasters around the world.
That's interesting and revealing, but I would have taken the title
in a different direction. What I've found is that we've allowed
corporations so much control over their workers that a great many
people are effectively living under totalitarian rule, at least
until they quit their jobs (and in some cases beyond -- I, for
instance, was forced to sign a no-compete agreement that extended
for years beyond my employment). And that sort of thing has only
gotten worse since I retired.
Jonathan Ohr: 100 senators throw their bodies down to end UN 'bias'
against Israel: including Bernie Sanders, although his line about
not writing the letter (just signing on) was kind of funny.
Nate Silver: The Comey Letter Probably Cost Clinton the Election:
FBI czar James Comey spent a couple days last week testifying before
Congress on his strategic decision to announce, on October 28 before
the November 8 election, that the FBI was investigating a fresh batch
of Hillary Clinton's emails, reopening a case that had been closed
several months before. As Silver notes, "the Comey letter almost
immediately sank Clinton's polls," starting a spiral that cost her
a polling lead she had held all year long. There are, of course,
lots of factors which contributed to her loss, but this is one of
the few that can be singled out, precisely because the "what if"
alternative was itself so clear cut -- Comey could simply have held
back (which would have been standard FBI policy) and nothing would
have happened. Many people have made this same point, not least the
candidate herself, but Silver backs it up with impressive data and
reasoning. He recognizes that the swing was small, and shows how
even a small swing would have tilted the election. He also makes
a case that somewhat larger swing (what he calls "Big Comey") was
likely. The way I would put this is: Clinton has been dogged by
scandals constantly since her husband became president in 1993 --
the first big one was "Whitewater" and there had been a steady
drumbeat of them all the way through Benghazi! and the emails and
speaking fees and Clinton Foundation. Clinton had somehow managed
to put those behind her by the Democratic Convention, when she
opened up her largest polling lead ever (although, something I
found troubling at the time, she never seemed able to crack 50% --
her 10-12% leads were more often the result of Trump cratering).
What the Comey letter did was to bring all the fury and annoyance
of her past scandals back into the present. Trump's final ad hit
that very point: maybe we have lots of difficult problems, but
voters had one clear option, which was to get rid of Clinton and
all the scandals, both past and future. And that was the emotional
gut reaction that swung the election -- even though a moment's
sober reflection would have realized that Trump is far worse in
every negative respect than Clinton.
Silver points his piece toward a critique of the media, which
consistently played up Clinton scandals while laughing off Trump's,
and I think more importantly made no effort to critique let alone
to delegitimize the right-wing propaganda machine. Still, he
doesn't really get there. For more on this, see:
Richard Wolfe: James Comey feels nauseous about the Clinton emails?
That's not enough
John Stoehr: Nancy Pelosi Is the Most Effective Member of the
Resistance: News to me. One thing I do know is that Republicans
still get a lot of mileage out of slamming Pelosi and smearing
anyone remotely connected to her. I can see where that's unfair
and even horrifying, but writing a puff piece about her doesn't
help. Moreover, it's not as if she's all that dependable. When
Trump launched all those cruise missiles at a Syrian base, she
jumped up and applauded. And she's as blind a devotee of Israel
as anyone in Congress. Maybe she does have a keen sensitivity to
injustice, but it's never interfered with her realpolitik.
Less impressed with Pelosi is
Klaus Marre: Dems Have Difficult Time Capitalizing on Trump Presidency
of Blunders; also:
Sam Knight: Pelosi Refuses to Back Single Payer, Despite GOP Deathmongering
Suddenly Taking Center Stage.
Steve W Thrasher: Barack Obama's $400,000 speaking fees reveal what
few want to admit: "His mission was never racial or economic
justice. It's time we stop pretending it was." It does, however,
suggest that his real mission -- what many people take to be the
real meaning of the phrase "American dream" -- is not just to be
accepted and respected by the very rich, but to join them. As the
Clintons have shown, one way to become rich in America is to get
yourself elected president. And as has been pretty convincingly
demonstrated, anything the Clintons can do, Obama can do much
Monday, May 1. 2017
Music: Current count 28096  rated (+32), 396  unrated (-1).
Most of what's listed below appeared in Saturday's
Streamnotes, so old news
there. I made a last minute stab at checking out some 2017 non-jazz
releases, and continued that after the column posted. No additional
A-list albums after the column, but Body Count's Bloodlust
came close -- actually a remarkable album, just one I didn't want to
give the extra spins that probably would have moved it over the A-
cusp. Ardor & Zeal is a bit less in every respect, including a
bit less irritating to a metal-phobe like myself. For Christgau on
those two records, look
Christgau also praised the new
Brad Paisley record, the biggest flop of four (I think) overrated
full-A records he's found this year (Jens Lekman, New Pornographers,
Khalid -- OK, I gave the latter an A-, the others high B+). I like
Paisley in small doses, but he never seems to approach album-length
without wearing out his welcome, either because his Nashville rock
gets boring or because he says something stupid (often both, like
here). After grading, I read a bunch of Facebook comments on Bob's
review, and it seemed like quite a few were closer to my position.
On the other hand, I don't have any non-jazz this year remotely
close to full-A: the non-jazz set of the
2017 list-in-progress are (with
Christgau grades where known): Orchestra Baobab (A-), Run the Jewels
(A-), XX, Jesca Hoop, Kendrick Lamar, Tinariwen (**), Craig Finn (B+),
Conor Oberst (A-), Syd (A-), Arto Lindsay, Matt North (A-), Angaleena
Presley (A-), Colin Stetson, Khalid (A-). (I normally count Stetson
as jazz -- he's a saxophonist -- but he crossed over into post-rock
and that's where pretty much all of his critic/fan bases are.) That's
14 records, vs. 22 jazz records (38.9% non-jazz), actually not far
from what I had before the EOY lists started rolling in last year.
But before last week's 5-0 the split was 9-to-22 (29.0% non-jazz),
so I was right to shift focus. I'd do a better job of keeping up
if more people I trusted wrote more often. Maybe we'll see some
4-month lists soon.
As you may have noticed, I bumped up the grade on Stanley Cowell's
Departure #2. I was on the fence at the time, but hedged low
until I remembered how much better it was than the 4-5 good Cowell
records I played after it. Really pleased that so many SteepleChase
albums have appeared on Napster. Lots to catch up on there.
New records rated this week:
- Arca: Arca (2017, XL): [r]: B
- Body Count: Bloodlust (2017, Century Media): [r]: B+(***)
- Peter Campbell: Loving You: Celebrating Shirley Horn (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound (2017, Carpark): [r]: B+(**)
- Rodney Crowell: Close Ties (2017, New West): [r]: B+(***)
- Brian Eno: Reflection (2017, Warp): [r]: B+(**)
- Gas: Narkopop (2017, Kompakt): [r]: B
- Chris Greene Quartet: Boundary Issues (2016 , Single Malt): [cd]: B
- Marien Hassan/Vadiya Mint El Hanevi: Baila Sahara Baila (2015, Nubenegra): [r]: A-
- Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indómita (del Sahara Occidental) (2017, Nubenegra): [r]: B+(***)
- Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (2017, Acoustical Concepts): [cd]: B
- Kendrick Lamar: Damn (2017, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): [r]: A-
- Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (2016 , SteepleChase): [cd]: B+(***)
- Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame (2017, Northern Spy): [r]: A-
- Mas Que Nada: Sea Journey (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B
- Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me (2017, PW Elverum & Sun): [r]: B+(*)
- Matt North: Above Ground Fools (2017, self-released): [r]: A-
- Brad Paisley: Love and War (2017, Arista Nashville): [r]: B
- Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (2016 , Groundblue): [cd]: B+(*)
- Angaleena Presley: Wrangled (2017, Thirty Tigers): [r]: A-
- Priests: Bodies and Control and Money and Power (2014, Don Giovanni, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (2017, Sister Polygon): [yt]: B+(**)
- Jason Rigby: Detroit-Cleveland Trio: One (2016 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [cd]: B+(***)
- Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (2017, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
- Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Sidelong (2015 , Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
- Jared Sims: Change of Address (2017, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(***)
- Colin Stetson: Sorrow: A Reimagining of Gorecki\'s 3rd Symphony (2016, 52Hz): [r]: B-
- Colin Stetson: All This I Do for Glory (2017, 52Hz): [r]: A-
- Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer (2017, Merky): [r]: B+(*)
- Vagabon: Infinite Worlds (2017, Father/Daughter): [r]: B+(*)
- Valerie June: The Order of Time (2017, Concord): [r]: B+(**)
- Zeal & Ardor: Devil Is Fine (2016 , MKVA): [r]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1978-1992 (1978-92 , Music From Memory): [r]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Mariem Hassan: Mariem Hassan Con Leyoad (2002, Nubenegra): [r]: B+(***)
- Stanley Cowell Trio: Departure #2 (1990, SteepleChase): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dominique Eade & Ran Blake: Town and Country (Sunnyside): June 9
- Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (Euonymous): May 5
- Ed Maina: In the Company of Brothers (self-released): May 6
- Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin (Accurate): May 19
- Mumpbeak: Tooth (Rare Noise): advance, May 26
- Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte With Iggy Pop: Loneliness Road (Rare Noise): advance, May 26
Sunday, April 30. 2017
One-hundred days after Trump became President of the United States,
about the best you can say is that he could have done even worse than
he did. People make fun of him for only appointing a few dozen of the
thousand-plus presidential appointees, but he's hit most of the top
positions, including one Supreme Court justice, and he's picked some
of the worst nominees imaginable -- in fact, a few way beyond anything
rational fears imagined. But one of his worst picks, former General
Michael Flynn as National Security Director, has already imploded,
and another notorious one, Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, looks like
he's been consigned to the dog house.
Despite having Republican congressional majorities, Trump has yet
to pass any major legislation -- although he's proposed some, and/or
bought into Paul Ryan's even more demented schemes. So thus far the
main thing Trump has done has been to sign executive orders -- dozens
of the things, nearly all aimed at undoing executive orders Obama had
started signing once he realized he wasn't going to get any help from
the Republican-controlled Congress. While Trump's orders are truly
disturbing, that's not so much what they do -- even the ones that
aren't promptly blocked by the courts -- as what they reveal about
the administration's mentality (or lack thereof).
Trump has also had a relatively free hand when it comes to foreign
policy -- especially the prerogatives that Congress has granted the
president to bomb other countries. His first acts were to escalate
American involvement in Yemen, although he's followed that up with
attacks against America's usual targets in the Middle East: Syria,
Iraq, and Libya. But while nothing good ever comes from America
flexing its military muscles in the Middle East, a more dangerous
scenario is unfolding with North Korea, with both sides threatening
pre-emptive attacks in response to the other's alleged provocations.
By insisting on an ever-more-constricting regime of sanctions, the
US has cornered and wounded North Korea, while North Korea has
developed both offensive and defensive weapons to such a point
that an American attack would be very costly (especially for our
ostensible allies in South Korea).
There are many reasons to worry about Trump's ability to handle
this crisis. There's little evidence that he understands the risks,
or even the history. On the other hand, he's spent eight years
lambasting Obama for being indecisive and weak, so he's come into
office wanting to look decisive and strong. Moreover, when he
ordered an ineffective cruise missile attack on a Syrian air base
he was broadly applauded -- a dangerous precedent for someone so
fickle. Maybe he has people who will restrain him from ordering a
similar attack on Korea, but he often resembles the "mad man" Nixon
only feigned at. Nor does Kim Jong Un inspire much confidence as a
well-grounded, rational leader (although see
Andrei Lankov: Kim Jong Un Is a Survivor, Not a Madman).
First, some 100-day reviews:
Sasha Abramsky: Trump's First 100 Days: Workers Get Pummeled, People
Jill Abramson/Kate Aronoff/Moustafa Bayoumi/Steven W Thrasher: 'Will
we survive 1,361 more days?': Our panel's verdict on Trump's first
100 days: I especially take exception to Bayoumi's "If this doesn't
kill us, it'll make us stronger." I'm afraid I've fallen into the habit
of referring to predators (as in "predatory capitalism"), but an older
term is perhaps more apt: parasites. Well-evolved parasites mastered
the knack of draining without killing you, and victims of parasites
rarely come out stronger.
Peter Dreier: Relax, Donald: After 100 Days, You've Already Done So
Bridgette Dunlap: After 100 Days of Trump, America's Gotten Corruption
Jonathan Freedland: The lesson from Donald Trump's first 100 days:
resistance is not futile
Will Kane: This land is your land: American reflections on Trump's
first 100 days
Gary Legum: Donald Trump's administration after 100 days: A second-rate
salesman surrounded by con men and losers
Ran Lenz/Booth Gunter: 100 Days in Trump's America: From Southern
Poverty Law Center, focus on "white nationalists" -- a key part of the
Trump entourage, although I doubt they're very influential.
Nancy LeTourneau: 100 Days, 100 Horrors: Kinda schematic, but
consider she was too lazy to read the critical Clinton campaign book
Shattered before writing an article about how she couldn't
bother to read it
I'm Not Interested in Being "Shattered" -- by the way, I checked
link to Kevin Drum she described as "a good job of challenging
the book's assertion that Clinton ran a particularly horrible campaign"
and found no compelling data or argument, just: "My horseback guess
is that when you put it all together, she was about average as a
candidate and her campaign was about average as a campaign").
Jim Newell: Trump's Biggest Mistake of His First 100 Days Was Embracing
Paul Ryan's Cartoonishly Plutocratic Agenda: Retitled "Trump Could
Have Broken the Democratic Party." The idea is that had Trump stuck to
his populist program -- had he actually followed through and promoted
American jobs while safeguarding the safety net and backing away from
the foreign entanglements that have saddled us with wars and refugees --
he would break through the party divisions and become singularly popular.
Still, that was never going to happen: the Republican Party these days
doesn't allow that sort of heterodoxy, so he gave up any claim to
independent thought when he joined. Admittedly, he thinks so little
that wasn't much of a sacrifice. He thinks so little he didn't have
a better idea anyway. So it didn't take long for Republicans to work
out a satisfactory modus vivendi: they get him to front their agenda,
and he and his family get their graft and perks. That's all he ever
cared about in the first place.
Charles Pierce: The 100 Days: Who Can Stop an Unfit President*?
Pierce has picked up the habit of adding an asterisk every time he
refers to Trump as president, something those of you who don't remember
Ford Frick may have trouble parsing. He focuses on the transcript of
Trump's recent AP interview with its dozens of "(unintelligible)"
notations, inserted for sections that don't even rise to the level
of "[sic]." Casey Quinlan read the same interview, and concluded:
Donald Trump doesn't know anything about the health care bill he's
Ryan Koronowski: Trump broke 80 promises in 100 days
William Rivers Pitt: Trump, the GOP and the 100-Day Dump Truck
Daniel Politi: Trump's 100-Day Speech Mimics His Presidency: Rambling,
Lies, and Egomania
William Saletan: You Don't Have to Hate Donald Trump to See He Is Bad
at His Job: Well, maybe not hate, but you do have to be able to
look at him critically (or skeptically), and if you have that skill
set you probably didn't care for him even before he got elected. The
author is one of our most notorious political centrists, so after
the jump he retitled his article "The Moderate's Case Against Trump."
It's probably worth extracting his ten points -- note that there is
much more detail in the article and the links -- even if some are
things that only a "moderate" would think he promised, much less to
hold him to:
- He promised to fight for working people against the establishment.
- He said he would repeal Obamacare and replace it with something
better. He has done neither.
- He promised to strengthen our borders and "get smart" about keeping
out terrorists. He hasn't.
- He said he would stand up to our enemies and competitors. He hasn't.
- He ran against the national debt. Now he's running it up.
- He promised to work for "the forgotten man and woman." Instead,
he has focused on himself.
- He promised to make America great. Instead, he has isolated and
- He said he would "drain the swamp." He hasn't.
- He preached "America First." But he has put his friends' business
interests before the national interest.
- He said he would honor the military. Instead, he has disparaged
Of course, most of his supporters are still convinced that his
shortcomings are the fault of insidious liberal elites continuing
to manipulate the system despite his election. It's not like they
let facts or reason get in the way of voting for him in the first
Matthew Sheffield: Polling at the 100-day mark shows President Trump's
policies are widely unpopular
Tessa Stuart: 100 WTF Moments From Trump's First 100 Days
Stephem M Walt: The Worst Mistake of Trump's First 100 Days:
Plenty to choose from, but Walt says Asia, and I'd narrow that down to
Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump's first 100 days have been a moneymaking
success story: "He's getting what he cares about."
Trump isn't failing. He and his family appear to be making money hand
over fist. It's a spectacle the likes of which we've never seen in the
United States, and while it may end in disaster for the Trumps someday,
for now it shows no real sign of failure.
Some more scattered links this week in Trump world:
Rosa Brooks: Donald Trump Is America's Experiment in Having No
Government: That's an amusing, if somewhat facetious, way of
putting it, but ever since Reagan made his little joke about the
most terrifying words in the language being "I'm from the government,
and I'm here to help" Republicans have been flirting with destroying
the organization which underpins law, order, and all private wealth.
And although he's out to cut some parts of government, and to makes
others completely unproductive, it's not really "no government" that
he's pursuing. What he really wants to do is get rid of the "of, by,
and for the people" part.
Aviva Chomsky: Clinton and Obama Laid the Groundwork for Donald Trump's
War on Immigrants
William Greider: It's Groundhog Day in Washington, With Trump Peddling
the Same Old Reaganite Snake Oil: Trump's tax cuts for the rich,
err, tax reform, program.
Fred Kaplan: A Short Bus Tide to Nowhere: So Trump organized a
bus trip for 100 Senators "to the White House to tell them things
they already know about North Korea." Kaplan seems to think that
all the bluster and bluff ultimately signifies nothing:
In recent days, Trump has sent an aircraft carrier battle group and
a guided-missile submarine toward North Korea's shores. Vice President
Mike Pence has gone to the Demilitarized Zone and squinted through the
binoculars at the North Korean guards, so they can see his resolve.
Pence also declared, "The era of 'strategic patience'" -- President
Obama's policy of containment, as opposed to action, toward North
Korea -- "is over." . . .
This may be, in the end, a pragmatic acknowledgment of the realities
at hand, but it is no way to run a foreign policy. You don't issue
warnings and ultimatums, luring friends and foes to believe that you
might really use military force, possibly as a way of compelling them
to solve the problem themselves -- and then back off and say you'll
deal with it the way it's always been dealt with, somehow, at some
point. In the high-decibel run-up to this anti-climax, Trump has once
again shown these same friends and foes that they shouldn't pay attention
to anything he says -- that he doesn't necessarily mean it, that he and
his threats and his promises are not to be taken seriously.
On the other hand, there's a small chance that Trump and/or Kim
will blunder into something that kills millions of people and leaves
indelible scars, simply because they can't distinguish fantasies
Sarah Leonard: You Are Now Paying Internet Companies to Sell Your
Browsing History to Advertisers: Thanks to a repeal of FCC
privacy rules signed by Trump.
Caitlin MacNeal: Trump to Appoint Anti-Abortion Leader Charmaine
Yoest to Post at HHS: Actually, she's been bouncing back and
forth between Republican administrations, campaigns, and right-wing
think tanks since she got her start in the Reagan administration.
Chris Mooney/Juliet Eilperin: EPA website removes climate science site
from public view after two decades
Michael Paarlberg: How would Donald Trump's tax plan benefit him?
Let us count the ways; also
Bess Levin: Donald Trump Stands to Make Millions Off His Own Tax
Marcelo Rochabran/Jessica Huseman: Former Director of Anti-Immigration
Group Set to Be Named Ombundsman at US Immigration Agency: Another
candidate for Trump's most inappropriate nomination ever.
Matt Shulman: At NRA Conference, Trump Bathes Audience in Conservative
Shout-Outs: I suppose at some point in its distant past, the NRA
was just a lobby group of conservation-minded hunting devotees, a little
backward-looking but basically harmless. Then they were taken over by
the gun industry and jumped onto the law-and-order bandwagon, trying
to stampede terrified city folk to the gun shops with the pitch that
the only way to hold back the tidal wave of crime was by being armed --
and conveniently they tore down the legal barriers against criminals
obtaining guns. But now they're basically just an extreme right-wing
political cult, way beyond reasoning. In this atmosphere, the few
politicians who aren't intrinsically loathed by them can venture
into their den and throw them some red meat and hope to rally their
support. Democrats, even those who've long given up on any political
prospect of limiting gun proliferation, still aren't welcome, because
they've never been able to bridge the increasing chasm of gun lunacy.
But here Trump is, not because he's ever needed or wanted a gun but
because he's as fundamentally wacko as they are. And if you take them
seriously, not as a hobby group but as a political cult, consider:
Heather Digby Parton: Could the NRA's Wayne LaPierre Talk Trump Into a Violent War on the Left?.
Matthew Rosza: This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: Who
says you can't cash in on public office?
Matt Taibbi: Man Trump Named to Fix Mortgage Markest Figured in Infamous
Financial Crisis Episode: Craig S. Phillips, formerly of Morgan
Stanley (head of their Asset-Backed Securities division). "More foxes
for more henhouses. Welcome to the Trump era."
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Amanda Erickson: Turkey just banned Wikipedia, labeling it a 'national
Thomas Frank: The Democrats' Davos ideology won't win back the
midwest: Like Frank, I have a soft spot for the midwest -- its
farms still productive even as the small towns and factories have
decayed and been depopulated. Still, the Democrats' problem isn't
regional. It's about class, something the Democrats regard as taboo.
Nore are they attracted to "Davos ideology" -- just Davos money, or
any money flexible enough to support a party which seeks to be all
things to all people while never really satisfying anyone. If they
ever want to come back, they have to settle on some vision they can
campaign on and deliver -- something that, if not revolution a la
Bernie, at least makes spreads the wealth Davos promises much more
broadly and equitably. Meanwhile, they're vulnerable to critiques
like this one:
Cornel West: The Democrats delivered one thing in the past 100 days:
Trevor Timm: Everyone loves Bernie Sanders. Except, it seems, the
Edward Helmore: Whole Foods Is Tanking -- High-Priced Luxury Foods Don't
Jibe With Our Times: I don't see much evidence that the analysis is
valid. In times of increasing inequality, there's certainly a niche
market selling high-priced food to the wealthy, and there's plenty of
evidence of that. Last couple times I was in New York I saw relatively
new high-end food stores everywhere. And we've had several, including
a Whole Foods, open here in the last couple years. Fresh Market closed,
but less for lack of customers than some corporate decision to reduce
their distribution area. Whole Foods hangs on -- my impression is with
fewer customers, but having gone there several times and walked out
empty-handed I rarely bother. Sure, their prices are a big part of
the problem, but I hardly ever find anything there I want, much less
that I can't find cheaper elsewhere. I really lamented the loss of
Fresh Market, but I could care less if these guys go under.
Amy Renee Leiker: More than 400 guns stolen from autos in Wichita
since 2015: A rather shocking number, I thought, when I read
this in our local paper -- especially given how cheap and easy it
is to legally buy a gun in this town. Seems to be a nationwide trend:
Brian Freskos: Guns Are Stolen in America Up to Once Every Minute.
Owners Who Leave Their Weapons in Cars Make It Easy for Thieves.
Conor Lynch: Obama's whopping Wall Street payday: Not a freat look
for the Democratic Party brand: After raising $60 million in
book advances, Obama "agreed to give a speech in September for the
Wall Street investment bank Cantor Fitzgerald. His fee will be
$400,000." Stephen Colbert's
comment: "Hillary wasn't able to continue Obama's legacy -- but
at least Obama was able to continue hers." Their interchangeability
may have once seemed like a political plus but is starting to look
like a curse. The more buckraking Obama does, the more tarnished he
will look to those of us who can't fathom their rarefied world, and
the easier it will be for Republicans to tar them. As Lynch writes:
As the Trump administration's recently unveiled tax plan reminds us,
the Republican Party is and always will be committed to serving
corporations and the billionaire class. Yet this hasn't stopped
Republicans from effectively portraying their Democratic opponents
as a bunch of snobby, out-of-touch elites over the past 30 years or
so. According to a recent Washington Post survey, this rhetoric has
paid off: Only 28 percent of respondents believed that the Democratic
Party is "in touch with the concerns of most people in the United
David Marcus: Marxism With Soul: Review of a new collection of
essays (Modernism in the Street: A Life and Times in Essays)
by the late Marshall Berman.
Jonathan Martin: At a 'Unity' Stop in Nebraska, Democrats Find Anything
But: An old friend of mine linked to this and tweeted: "Anyone
surprised that Bernie-O don't care about a woman's right to choose,
when it comes right down to it? Not me!" I'd be surprised if there
was any basis for this charge, but that would require several leaps
of imagination beyond even what the article claims. The back story
is that Sanders and Keith Ellison campaigned for Democrat Heath
Mello running for mayor of Omaha, and were attacked by the head
of NARAL Pro-Choice America because in Nebraska's state legislature
some years ago Mello had voted for several anti-abortion bills.
For more background on Mello, see
DD Guttenplan: Why Was Heath Mello Thrown Under the Bus? The
upshot is that Mello had moved away from his early anti-abortion
stance, much like Hillary Clinton's VP pick, Tim Kaine, had done.
Even if he hadn't, it's not like I've never supported a Democrat
I didn't see eye-to-eye with. It wouldn't bother me if NARAL, as
a single-issue lobby, endorsed a Republican candidate with a much
better track record on abortion, but those are few and far between
out here, and as I understand it local pro-choice people are fine
with Mello -- so who's NARAL trying to impress? I suspect that's
the anti-populist faction of the national party, which could hardly
care less about losing in Nebraska but regards Sanders as a threat.
(Remember that the DCCC didn't lift a finger to help a pro-Sanders
Democrat run for Congress here in Kansas, even though he had an
impeccable pro-choice record which featured heavily in Republican
hate ads.) And it's yet another leap of imagination to imply that
the reason Sanders supports Mello has anything to do with his lack
of interest in abortion rights.
DD Guttenplan: Why Was Heath Mello Thrown Under the Bus?: I've
seen several complaints from Hillary Democrats about Bernie Sanders
supporting Heath Mello's campaign for mayor of Omaha, Nebraska. The
charge is that Mello is anti-choice
Steve Phillips: Democrats Can Retake the House in 2018 Without Converting
a Single Trump Voter: The trick is mobilizing their base, while Trump
voters get bored or lazy or disenchanted: "there are 23 Republican
incumbents in congressional districts that were won by Hillary Clinton
in November. There are another five seats where Clinton came within 2
percent of winning." Phillips is author of Brown Is the New White:
How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority,
so one of those guys who thinks Democrats can ride a demographic
backlash against Republican racism without actually having to come
up with populist positions. That strikes me as unlikely until they
establish some credibility, which was something the Clinton-Kaine
ticket had little of in 2016. Along these lines, see the John Judis
interview with Ruy Teixeira, an early proponent of The Emerging
Why the Left Will (Eventually) Triumph. He attributes Trump's
win to "the declining group, the white non-college voters," who
suddenly lunged away from the Democrats in 2016. Asked why:
They do not have any faith that the Democrats share their values and
are going to deliver a better life for them and their kids, and I
think Hillary Clinton was a very efficient bearer of that meme.
Whether she wanted to or not, the message she sent to these voters
is that you are really not that important and I don't take your
problems seriously, and frankly I don't have much to offer you.
And that's despite the fact that her economic program and policies
would have actually been very good for these people. There was a
study of campaign advertising in 2016 that showed Hillary outspent
Trump significantly and that almost none of her advertising was about
what she would actually do. Almost all of it was about how he was a
Voters were fed up with stagnation and with the Democrats and they
turned to someone who thought could blow up the system. The way the
Democrats and the left could mitigate that problem is to show these
voters that they take their problems seriously and have their interests
in mind, and could improve their lives.
Matthew Rosza: Sam Brownback pushed for concealed carry in Kansas -- now
the governor wants to spend $24 million to ban concealed weapons from
hospitals: The 2013 law was written to make it prohibitively expensive
for any institution to exclude guns from its premises. Turns out that
includes psychiatric hospitals, and turns out Brownback finally decided
that wasn't such a great idea. Of course, it doesn't help that Brownback's
Laffer-inspired tax scheme has forced across-the-board spending cuts
while leaving Kansas in a huge fiscal hole.
Joe Sexton/Rachel Glickhouse: We're Investigating Hate Across the US.
There's No Shortage of Work. Also:
Ryan Katz: Hate Crime Law Results in Few Convictions and Lots of
Clive Thompson: Gerrymandering Has a Solution After All. It's Called
Started this Saturday afternoon (the intro), and the hits just kept
Saturday, April 29. 2017
About the same count this time: 115 vs. 114 in March, which compares
to 153 in February and 156 in January, back when I was paying more heed
to EOY lists. I made a last-minute effort to listen to well-regarded
new non-jazz albums, which helped -- new releases are up to 78 from 52,
with old music down roughly that much. The old music came from artists
I ran into while collating the jazz guides. In a couple cases I checked
out musicians I didn't have any rated albums from before (Pete La Roca,
Charles Tyler). In some cases (Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard) I pretty
much limited myself to their early Blue Note releases. For Horace Tapscott
I found a record that I had written a bit about before but hadn't graded.
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records
from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets).
They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since
my last post along these lines, back on March 31. Past reviews and
more information are available
here (9514 records).
Kevin Abstract: American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story
(2016, Brockhampton): Rapper-crooner Ian Simpson, barely out of his
teens, plying beats too suave and fills too orchestral.
Actress: AZD (2017, Ninja Tune): British electronica
guy, Darren Cunningham, ambient with occasional interruptions, both
glitches and more violent eruptions. Last track, "Visa," broke the
Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter
(2016 , AAM): Brazilian pianist, based in US (Florida, I think),
has several dozen albums since 1969. Eight Wayne Shorter compositions
plus Adolfo's closer, all given a nice samba treatment.
Arca: Arca (2017, XL): Alejandro Ghersi, originally
from Venezuela, studied in New York, now based in London. The music
is surreal and eerie, something that one could find oddly attractive,
were it not for the arch and arcane vocals.
Bardo Pond: Under the Pines (2017, Fire): Rock band
from Philadelphia, together and fairly prolific since the early 1990s --
Discogs counts 35 albums plus many EPs, Wikipedia only lists 11 studio
albums but mentions 11 side projects. Thick trippy guitars with drone
feedback and ethereal moans, they pass for psychedelic these days, but
I can't latch onto much beyond their dense ambiance.
Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (2016
, Rare Noise): Guitar duets -- Saft is normally a keyboard player
but is credited with dobro and lap steel here, so he adds some resonance
to the relatively placid lead guitar.
Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors
(2016 , Cuneiform): Since 1998 Rob Mazurek (cornet/electronics) and
Chad Taylor (drums) have led various Chicago Underground duos, trios, and
quartets, with Mazurek later taking his Underground concept to Sao Paulo.
Here the Chicago duo visits London, meeting up with Alexander Hawkins
(piano) and John Edwards (bass) -- both are very active, bringing a lot of
heat and dynamism to the cooler orientation of the Chicagoans.
Jacob Collier: In My Room (2016, Membran): British
jazz singer, first album, title from the Beach Boys song. Belongs to
the school that thinks tricking thing up makes them jazzier, but also
betrays his background singing Bach chorales.
Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra: Invitation (2016
, OA2): Big band, produced by alto saxophonist Art Bouton, with
baritone saxophonist Wil Swindler doing most of the arranging (and
writing the only original piece). Standards from the songbook and
major jazz sources like Ellington and Mulligan, done up smartly.
Larry Coryell: Barefoot Man: Sanpaku (2016, Purple
Pyramid): Probably the late fusion guitarist's last album, the title
referring back to his 1971 album Barefoot Boy like a pair of
bookends. And he goes out much like he came in, with a groove.
Rodney Crowell: Close Ties (2017, New West): His
geography is bracketed by an opener about Houston and a closer on
Nashville. He writes substantial, earthy songs, and sings them with
a polite drawl, supplemented by duet features for Rosanne Cash and
Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes
(2016 , Malcom): Group's first (2016) album seemed to be credited
to Live the Spirit Residency, also on the cover here followed by
"Presents # 2" but this is a more sensible credit (of course, I could
have followed he cover and added "featuring Vijay Iyer"). Has a rough
patch I don't much care for, but coheres more often than not.
Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet: Waltz New (2016
, OA2): Guitar and bass, respectively, with several albums
together, always interesting postbop. Joel Frahm is very solid at
tenor sax, with Eliot Zigmund on drums.
David Feldman: Horizonte (2016 , self-released):
Pianist, born in Rio de Janeiro (where he recorded this), has a couple
albums, wrote most of the songs here, most with bossa touches -- hard
not to with a band that includes Toninho Horta on nylon guitar.
Craig Finn: We All Want the Same Things (2017, Partisan):
One of the most distinctive and touching voices in recent rock history
(mostly with Hold Steady), a writer with a fine ear for speech and lots
of compassion for other people, both down and out and temporarily up --
which seems to be the gamut these days.
Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People: Weather or Not
(2016 , Whaling City Sound, 2CD): After several albums with
what drummer ("Trasher") Gibbs called his Dream Trio (Kenny Barron
and Ron Carter), evidently Hans Glawischnig (bass) and Alex Collins
(keyboards) are just people. First disc is "The Music of Weather
Report"; second is "The Music of Gerry Gibbs." Upbeat enthusiasm,
even some thrashing, but much ado about damn little. [My copy only
came with the first disc; I listened to the second on Napster.]
Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway (2017, Nonesuch):
Lead singer for old-timey revival group Carolina Chocolate Drops,
also plays banjo, second album on her own. Sounds primal, even when
the producer throw in the kitchen sink.
Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince (2017, Mack Avenue):
Pianist, first album, got a boost as the piano player on saxophonist
Kamasi Washington's crossover hit, The Epic. Washington returns
the favor here, along with Philip Dizack (trumpet) and Ryan Porter
(trombone). Graves pounds the piano hard enough to rock the house,
but it all feels stiff and forced to me, except when Dizack tries to
light the sky.
Iro Haarla: Ante Lucem (2012 , ECM): Second line,
same size and darker than the title: "for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz
Quintet." From Finland, plays piano and harp, has a handful of albums
since 2001. Problem, for me anyhow, is the orchestra (Norrlands Operans
Symfoniorkester, conducted by Jukka Iisakkila), although the quintet --
with Hayden Powell (trumpet) and Trygve Seim (soprano/tenor sax) -- is
far removed from swing or bop. Still, this achieves much of the beauty
and grandeur it aspires to. Just not sure that's a good thing.
Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indómita (del Sahara Occidental)
(2017, Nubenegra): Sahrawi pop singer, born in what was then called
Spanish Sahara and has lately been occupied by Morocco, died at 57 in
a refugee camp, but after building a formidable international recording
career, and leaving this compilation from her last four years as some
kind of testament. Christgau lauds her as "postcolonial Africa's most
striking female singer." Maybe, but there's not a lot more to the music,
even by Saharan standards.
Mariem Hassan/Vadiya Mint El Hanevi: Baila Sahara Baila
(2015, Nubenegra): Dance music, so the rhythms pick up, along with what
for lack of a better informed context I'll call war whoops. Hanevi makes
his mark early on by talking through the dances. While he doesn't have
Hassan's legendary voice, the energy he brings makes the difference.
Heads of State: Four in One (2017, Smoke Sessions):
Mainstream quartet on their second album, with founders Gary Bartz
(alto sax), Larry Willis (piano), and Al Foster (drums) -- the bass
slot originally filled by Buster Williams goes to David Williams
(nickname "Happy") here. Bartz has matured into a lovely ballad
player, and of course they swing.
Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: The Art of Latin Jazz
(2016 , Origin): Pianist, based in Los Angeles, with sax/flute
and "special guest" trumpet (Gilbert Castellanos), bass, congas and
drums. All original pieces, pretty much as advertised.
Derrick Hodge: The Second (2016, Blue Note): Bass
guitarist, has won a couple Grammys for producing hip-hop/r&b
albums, jazz credits include Terence Blanchard and Robert Glasper,
this his second album as leader. Mostly multitracked solo, amiable
groove, plus a drummer on three tracks, horns on a couple more (not
Idles: Brutalism (2017, Bailey): British post-punk
group, from Bristol, first album, a little heavy but clear and catchy,
one that could grow on you.
The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Music of John
Lewis (2013 , Blue Engine): Lewis was the pianist
and main composer for the Modern Jazz Quartet, and was an important
figure in the decade's brief (but really still evolving) "third
stream" movement. Around 2000, when Gary Giddins started pushing
for classical-like jazz repertory orchestras, the first person he
turned to for leadership was Lewis. So a trawl through the major
compositions of Lewis is just the sort of thing the culture empire
uptown would sign up for. Executive producer Wynton Marsalis gets
his usual "featuring" credit, along with guest pianist Jon Baptiste.
Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (2017, Acoustical Concepts):
Drummer, don't know anything about him. Concept here is a set of duos,
some "east coast," some "west coast," less than half with musicians
I've heard of (John Vanore, Gary Meek, Mick Rossi, etc.), about
half horns, two pianos, one each vibes and vocals. Versatile, I
suppose, or scattered.
Khalid: American Teen (2017, Right Hand/RCA): Last
name Robinson, b. 1998, grew up on Army bases including six years in
Germany, sung in the US Army Band. Doesn't strike me as much of a
voice, but his songs are offhandedly catchy and they grow on you.
Kneebody: Anti-Hero (2017, Motéma): Brooklyn quintet --
Shane Endsley (trumpet), Ben Wendel (sax), Adam Benjamin (keyboards),
Kaveh Rastegar (bass), Nate Wood (drums) -- seventh album since 2005.
They took a turn toward IDM last time out with Daedelus, but this
year's more conventional fusion is also less interesting.
Julian Lage: Live in Los Angeles (2016, Mack Avenue,
EP): Guitarist from California, several records since 2009 but still
under 30. This is billed as an EP, but its five cuts run 35:06. Trio
with Scott Colley (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums).
Kendrick Lamar: Damn (2017, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope):
Metacritic score 96 on 29 reviews -- if not a lock to top 2017 EOY
lists a very strong favorite. As has always been the case, I'm slow
getting him -- can't much relate to the slice of life, and the soft
beats and sliding melodies take time to sink in. Still, his chronicle
of fear really got to me, and there seems to be much more floating
in the ozone. Still, doubt I'll really get there: I grew up thinking
that the telos of music is pleasure, not (for lack of a better word)
Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (2016 ,
SteepleChase): Jazz singer, describes herself as "sultry," graduated
from New England Conservatory, has one previous album. Nice combo
here with Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Stephen Riley (tenor sax), Carmen
Staaf (piano), Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Mostly original
pieces, or words she added to label legends Dexter Gordon and Duke
Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame (2017, Northern Spy):
Part of New York's post-punk "No Wave" movement (his band was DNA),
although his experience growing up in Brazil has always tugged him
towards Tropicália -- his many albums leaning one way or the other,
or in this case both.
Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (2016 ,
CAP): Piano trio, with Paul West on bass and Lewis Nash on drums.
Pianist goes back to the early 1970s, most recently crafting a
tribute to Oscar Peterson. Couple originals here, mostly smart
covers, including a couple Monks.
The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (2017, Nonesuch,
5CD): Fifty-year-old Stephin Merritt's autobiographical concept album,
one song for each year of his life, one half-hour CD per decade --
actually a more modest, if less tiresome, project than his famous
69 Love Songs, which actually did fill three hour-long CDs.
Perhaps unfair to judge given that Napster only offers 16 songs,
but they look to be a fairly random sample, and I'm not sure more
would overcome my annoyance.
Laura Marling: Semper Femina (2017, More Alarming):
British singer-songwriter, sort of a latter-day Joni Mitchell, which
works better some times than others.
Robert McCarther: Stranger in Town (2016 ,
Psalms 149 Music): Has a previous album, wrote one song here, covers
include Monk and Mancini and two Bill Withers. Band includes horns,
piano, guitar, bass, drums. You know he's a jazz singer because he
evinces all the usual stereotypical tics.
MEM3: Circles (2011 , self-released): Canadian
piano trio, pianist is Michael Cabe, and Mark Lau gets a bass solo I
never fail to notice, but the only familiar name is drummer Ernesto
Cervini. He provides enough rhythmic regularity to push this into EST
territory, but while I started thinking they were pushing something
with a pop angle, after several plays I gave that notion up.
The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to
Me: The Micros Play the Blues (2016 , Cuneiform): Group
led by Philip Johnston (soprano sax) and Joel Forrester (piano), dates
back to 1981 with a break in the 1990s, the addition of tenor saxophonist
Michael Hashim the key move to the reunion. Closes with a Joe Liggins
song (Dave Sewelson sings), the other dozen tracks split even among the
leaders (although Forrester quotes more than the title from "Silent
Night" -- nearly a deal breaker for me, until it isn't). Blues, maybe,
but the key thing here is swing, which they do not for nostalgia but
because it feels right.
The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions (2017,
Collected Works/Concord): I lost interest in this Canadian semi-super
group shortly after their 2000 debut, while sampling most (but not
all) of their later albums just in case I missed something. I have
little doubt that this is their best ever -- it's the brightest and
catchiest by miles -- but after two plays I'm losing interest again,
and wouldn't want to bump it higher just because I'm impressed or
Matt North: Above Ground Fools (2017, self-released):
Nashville session drummer writes and (I assume) sings a batch of big
beat rock and roll songs, with clear lyrics more than a little sharp.
Conor Oberst: Ruminations (2016, Nonesuch): His
acoustic album, guitar or piano and harmonica, basically demos of
songs written over an Omaha winter, "staying up late every night
playing piano and watching the snow pile up outside the window."
Conor Oberst: Salutations (2017, Nonesuch): Here
he refashions his Ruminations songs (plus a few more) for
full band. With his harmonica, I was struck by how accomplished
his Dylanisms had become on the demos, but he's got an even better
sense of electric Dylan's tricks of the trade. Songs maturing too.
One for All: The Third Decade (2015 , Smoke
Sessions): Mainstream jazz group, Discogs shows them recording five
albums 2001-05 and not much since, but I heard a missing 2006 album,
and the labels claims they've recorded 16 albums in 20+ years, making
this the start of their third decade. All names you should know: Eric
Alexander (tenor sax), Jim Rotondi (trumpet), Steve Davis (trombone),
David Hazeltine (piano), John Webber (bass), Joe Farnsworth (drums).
Matt Otto With Ensemble Ibérica: Ibérica (2016 ,
Origin): Tenor saxophonist, has a handful of albums since 2002, teaches
at KU. The Ensemble are three guitarists (sometimes oud, cavaquinho,
tres, acoustic bass guitar), supplemented by keyboards, bass/cello,
and steel guitar -- no drums, so you get that chamber jazz feel, with
everything -- especially the sax -- on the pretty side.
Brad Paisley: Love and War (2017, Arista Nashville):
Nashville superstar, eleventh studio album since 1999, last eight
topped the country charts, has an arena-ready sound which rocks hard
but is still recognizably country. Even seems like a nice guy, and
not a dumb one. But I've never warmed to any of his albums -- even
the three (counting this one) Christgau A-listed. Probably has most
to do with that big sound -- I stopped caring for Eric Church, too,
when he muscled up -- but there's always a lyric (or two or three)
to trip over. First one I caught this time: "let's go to bed early,
and stay up all night" -- that's not the worst (certainly not next
to "just another day in heaven," or his elegy for vets: "they ship
you out to die for us/forget about you when you don't" -- fact is
they forget about every one once they can no longer be used).
The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook:
Volumes I & II (2016 , Cuneiform, 2CD): Alto
saxophonist way back when, cut his first album in 1982, has led
his big band since 1987, recording three or four (maybe more)
albums of Frank Zappa music. Here he examines not so much the
British Invasion as the prog strain that followed, starting and
ending with bits of Sgt. Pepper, navigating through Move,
Cream, Procul Harum, Nice, King Crimson, Blodwyn Pig, ELP,
Traffic, Jethro Tull, Arthur Brown, plus Radiohead. Vocals by
Bruce McDaniel help pin the songs down, and his patter adds an
air of nostalgia. "The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys" followed
by "Fire" got to me, too.
Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (2016 ,
Groundblue): Tenor/soprano saxophonist, mainstream player, should be
a natural for a ballads program, but I find his tone a bit thin. Or
it may just be that instead of picking surefire songbook classics he
had guitarist Johnny Valentino do most of the writing (8/10 songs).
I wouldn't call the Paul Simon cover a plus either, and "Crescent"
only reminds me of how truly gorgeous Pharoah Sanders' ballads were.
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1:
Titan (2016 , Leo): The first of a trove of seven separately
issued discs pairing the Brazilian avant saxophonist with the American
pianist -- frequent collaborators since 1996's Bendito of Santa Cruz --
with various rhythm sections. Seems like the ideal might be to listen to
all of them then start to make whatever marginal distinctions I can find,
but for practical purposes all I can do is take them one-by-one and hope
I don't get too lost. This one is a trio with William Parker, who in
Perelman's 2016 The Art of the Improv Trio lifted Volume 4.
He gets this series off to a strong start, too.
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2:
Tarvos (2016 , Leo): Third member here is veteran drummer
Bobby Kapp, who belatedly came to my attention as Shipp's partner on
their 2016 duo album, Cactus. The drummer kicks up the energy
level here, and the saxophonist responds accordingly.
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3:
Pandora (2016 , Leo): Quartet here, with William Parker on
bass and Whit Dickey on drums, a piano trio that backed David S. Ware
back in the early 1990s. This isn't as exciting: Perelman would rather
work his way around the edges than channel the Holy Ghost, so the group
doesn't push him. Still fascinating to follow.
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4:
Hyperion (2016 , Leo): Trio, with Michael Bisio -- another
frequent Shipp collaborator -- on bass. I was thrown a bit early on by
the high notes -- Perelman may play more in the top end of the tenor sax
than anyone else -- but they settle down, and midway take a remarkable
run. Not sure this counts as a slip, but it doesn't add much.
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5:
Rhea (2016 , Leo): Quartet with Shipp's usual trio mates
Michael Bisio and Whit Dickey. As with the other sessions, the pieces
are simply numbered, and it's "Part 6" that puts this over the top with
its exhilarating tornado of sound -- everything you could hope for in
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6:
Saturn (2016 , Leo): Just a duo, the only such volume in
the series. Gives the pianist the chance for a few solos, something he's
done little of so far, but still the focus is on the tenor sax, aiming
this time more to woo than to overpower.
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7:
Dione (2016 , Leo): Trio with Andrew Cyrille on drums, a
stellar choice although as always it's the saxophonist who calls the
shots and sets the pace. Could be fatigue setting in -- no idea if these
were released in the order recorded, as all are listed as October 2016.
Or could just be that the reviewer is tiring (although the moment I
wrote that the record entered a particularly interesting passage).
Angaleena Presley: Wrangled (2017, Thirty Tigers):
Pistol Annies member, cut an excellent debut album in 2014 (American
Middle Class), returns for her second. This one takes longer to
click, but it ends on a succession of high points, including songs
written with rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson and the late Guy Clark
and a short meditation on a "Motel Bible."
Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (2017, Sister Polygon):
DC-based post-punk group, first album (after a couple EPs).
Guitar-bass-drums plus singer Katie Alice Greer, who centers them
while making them seem special.
Priests: Bodies and Control and Money and Power (2014,
Don Giovanni, EP): Seven cuts, 17:24, enough to make an impression.
Michael Rabinowitz: Uncharted Waters (2017, Cats Paw):
Bassoonist, has been playing jazz (at least) since the 1990s, not many
of those, so there's a temptation just to let the unusual tone do the
work of differentiating this from every other mainstream artist. That's
most obvious on the covers, but he also wrote half of the pieces here,
and he does a creditable job of taking a heavy and awkward instrument
and keeping it breezy.
Rashad: #LevelUp (2017, Self Made): Rapper, can't
find anything about him -- not DJ Rashad, Isaiah Rashad, probably
not Rashad Stark or Tony Rashad or @RashadtheGod though they all
pop up inconclusively. Sixteen cuts, most catchy or punchy or
Jason Rigby: One: Detroit-Cleveland Trio (2016
, Fresh Sound New Talent): Tenor saxophonist, long based
in New York though I'm guessing he ultimately hails from Cleveland,
as his trio mates -- Cameron Brown on bass and Gerald Cleaver on
drums -- are Detroit natives. He's always struck me as a fancy
post-bop guy, but this is very down-to-basics.
Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (2017,
Summit): Pianist-composer, teaches at Ball State (Muncie, IN), has three
previous albums going back to 2000. With Nick Tucker on bass and Cassius
Goins III on drums. Original postbop.
Trygve Seim: Rumi Songs (2015 , ECM): Norwegian
saxophonist (tenor/soprano), sixth album since 2000 (all on ECM), recasts
the poetry of Rumi (1207-1273, from Persia) in English translation as
songs, sung by classical mezzo-soprano Tora Augestad. The music builds
on accordion (Frode Haitli) and cello (Svante Henryson), with Seim's
sax acting as a chorus in response to the singer. I rather prefer the
sax, which verges on gorgeous.
The Shins: Heartworms (2017, Columbia): James Mercer's
former band, carrying on as a "shell corporation" for his/their fifth
studio album. High-pitched pop, tempted to call it catchy but can't
say as it caught me. I was, however, intrigued by the jangle-free
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Sidelong (2015
, Bloodshot): Band from Chapel Hill, NC, lead singer-guitarist
previously fronted Sarah Shook & the Devil. Dates confusion
suggests the debut was self-released first then picked up by Chicago's
premier outlaw country label. She drinks hard, plays hard, doesn't
have a lot of range but does have an impact.
Bria Skonberg: Bria (2016, Okeh/Masterworks): From
British Columbia, plays trumpet, sings, mostly standards but five
(of fourteen) originals. Evan Amtzen's clarinet and tenor sax offer
a nice complement flirting with trad jazz, but the rhythm section
(Aaron Diehl, Reginald Veal, Ali Jackson) are more tuned to swing,
and Stefon Harris accents on vibes. The opener, "Don't Be That Way,"
Sleater-Kinney: Live in Paris (2015 ,
Sub Pop): I've dutifully listened to all of the albums, but never
became enough of a fan to be able to place any of the songs in
this reunion tour set (other than "No Cities to Love" -- the
title of their reunion album).
Nate Smith: Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere
(2017, Ropeadope): Drummer, side credits with Chris Potter and
Dave Holland, both with a guest spots on this debut (Potter's on
a piece called "Bounce"). Easily the best thing on this broad
spread -- Lionel Loueke funk, three singers (Gretchen Parlato
the best known), Adam Rogers guitar, scads of strings.
Spoon: Hot Thoughts (2017, Matador): Alt-indie
group, based in Austin, goes back to the 1990s with several
notable albums. This one holds up at least half way through,
an appealing rough chunkiness, then someone's mind wanders --
maybe my own.
Colin Stetson: Sorrow (A Reimagining of Gorecki's 3rd
Symphony) (2016, 52Hz): Stetson is a saxophonist who's picked
up a substantial rock following (ties to Bon Iver and Bell Orchestre),
but moves toward classical here, performing a piece by Polish compuser
Henry Gorecki (1933-2010). Group includes saxophonists Dan Bennett and
Matt Bauder, violinist Sarah Neufeld, two cellos, two guitars, keyboards,
drums, with vocals by Megan Stetson.
Colin Stetson: All This I Do for Glory (2017, 52Hz):
Saxophonist, plays alto and tenor but specializes in the heavy stuff --
bass sax and contrabass clarinet. Born in Ann Arbor, based in Montreal.
Only thing that links him to jazz is his instrument -- otherwise he's
basically a post-rock experimentalist (only jazz name I see on his
"performed and recorded with dozens of artists" list is Anthony
Braxton, but maybe that's the only one comparably famous to Bon
Iver, Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem, or closer to his home Godspeed!
You Black Emperor). This is industrial/minimalist fusion, recycling
rhythms with the extra resonance of wind instruments and some vocal
shadowing. Seems fairly simple, but remains unique.
Trio 3: Visiting Texture (2016 , Intakt):
Andrew Cyrille (drums), Reggie Workman (bass), Oliver Lake (alto
saxophone). Thirteenth album together since 1997, recently adding
various guests but this is back to basics, nothing fancy but
remarkable craft within the free jazz trade.
Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (2016 ,
Intakt): Swiss group, no one named Heinz or Herbert -- two brothers,
Dominic and Ramon Landolt, on guitar and keyboards, both cranked up
with "effects," and drummer Mario Hänni. Quieter stretches resemble
piano trio, but more often their electronics move them into new and
surprising sonic terrains -- though nothing I would call fusion. I
wound up spending a lot of time on this, torn between the suspicion
that what they're doing is marginal and the certainty that it's unique.
Valerie June: The Order of Time (2017, Concord):
Last name Hockett, from Memphis, father promoted gospel and soul
singers. Her music is commonly described as "a mixture of folk,
blues, gospel, soul, country, Appalachian and bluegrass" -- i.e.,
she's a singer-songwriter who has yet to distinguish her voice,
although she definitely has one.
David Virelles: Antenna (2016, ECM, EP): Hot young
pianist with three previous albums, credited here with piano, organ,
various keyboards, prepared piano, computer and sampler. Released as
10-inch EP, six cuts, 21:43. Joined here by a variety of people on
one or two tracks each, including two rap-influenced vocalists and
Henry Threadgill (alto sax) -- the only other consistent presence
(electronics, sampler, cello) is producer Alexander Overington. Breaks
noisy in many directions, hard to pin down.
Daniel Weltlinger: Samoreau: A Tribute to the Fans of Django
Reinhardt (2016 , Rectify): Violinist, so you might think
he'd be more focused on the unmentioned Stéphane Grappelli, especially
with the guitar slot rotating among five players -- three with the
surname Reinhardt. With bass and accordion on a couple tracks -- the
ones you most notice.
Jim Yanda Trio: Regional Cookin' (1987 , Corner
Store Jazz): Guitarist, trio includes Drew Gress (bass) and Phil Haynes
(drums), released to accompany a new recording of the same trio 30 years
later -- Yanda's first released record appeared in 2013. Nice straight
line guitar, sounds fresh but stays within the usual limits.
Jim Yanda Trio: Home Road (2016 , Corner Store
Jazz, 2CD): This one is new, same trio as 30 years ago, haven't evolved
much but have aged gracefully.
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (1973 ,
Delmark/Sackville): South African pianist, a major figure in jazz
since the mid-1960s, working until 1977 under the name Dollar Brand --
the name this solo album was originally released under in 1974. Two
medleys plus a couple other pieces, some with vocals (liner notes
says "spoken word"), the last (previously unreleased) piece played
on bamboo flute. His rhythmic rumble was (and remains) unique, but
Jerry Bergonzi: Inside Out (1989 , Red): Tenor
saxophonist from Boston, one of the most consistent mainstream figures
since he signed with Savant around 2006, but early on he recorded with
this Italian label, here a quartet with Salvatore Bonafede on piano,
Bruce Gertz on bass, and Salvatore Tranchini on drums.
Stanley Cowell: Blues for the Viet Cong (1969 ,
Arista/Freedom): Pianist, first album, a trio with Steve Novosel on
bass and Jimmy Hopps on drums, some quirky electric piano as well as
acoustic ranging from free to boogie -- "You Took Advantage of Me"
always perks my attention. I knew this record from its 1977 Arista
reprint -- I picked up most of Arista's Freedom reprints around then --
but when Black Lion reissued this on CD, they had second thoughts
about the title, picking Travellin' Man instead.
Stanley Cowell Trio: Departure #2 (1990, SteepleChase):
After a frantic decade jumping around labels from avant Strata-East to
retro Concord, Cowell found a home with this Danish label, releasing
Sienna in 1989 and this follow up. With Bob Cranshaw on bass
and Keith Copeland on drums, alternating bright originals with covers
ranging from Ellington to Porter to Parker, thoughtful and often flashy.
Stanley Cowell Trio: Live at Copenhagen Jazz House
(1993 , SteepleChase): With Cheyney Thomas on bass and Wardell
Thomas on drums -- not a dazzling rhythm section, so this rises and
falls on the piano, catchiest when he picks up Ellington or Monk.
Stanley Cowell: Mandara Blossoms (1995 ,
SteepleChase): Cover says "featuring Ralph Peterson [drums] &
Bill Pierce [tenor saxophone]" and "introducing Karen Francis [vocals]
& Jeff Halsey [bass]."
Stanley Cowell Quartet: Hear Me One (1996, SteepleChase):
With Bruce Williams (alto sax), Dwayne Burno (bass), and Keith Copeland
(drums). Five Cowell originals, one by Williams, covers of Monk and Parker.
Both sax and piano have specular moments, but sometimes make me wonder.
Stanley Cowell: Are You Real? (2014, SteepleChase):
Piano trio with Jay Anderson and Billy Drummond. Cowell seems to have
stopped recording after 1997, only to pick it up again with 2010's
Prayer for Peace. Two originals, six masterful covers, ending
with a sparkling Monk.
Herbie Hancock: Inventions & Dimensions (1963
, Blue Note): The pianist's third studio album (after Takin'
Off and My Point of View), the first recorded after he
joined the most legendary edition of the Miles Davis Quintet. Trio,
with Paul Chambers on bass and Willie Bobo doing his Cuban percussion
Herbie Hancock: Cantaloupe Island (1962-65 ,
Blue Note): Effectively a "greatest hits" from the pianist's most
prime period, with two cuts from his debut with Freddie Hubbard and
Dexter Gordon, two from his second album with Donald Byrd and Hank
Mobley, one each from his peak fourth and fifth albums with Hubbard,
Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and George Coleman on the latter. So a
bit redundant, especially given that the Byrd cuts you may not have
aren't nearly as impressive as the Hubbards you probably do.
Herbie Hancock: Speak Like a Child (1968 , Blue
Note): Sixth album, following his stellar Maiden Voyage, but
aside from the pianist, in nice form, the only carryover is bassist
Ron Carter, and the unconventional horn section -- Thad Jones on
flugelhorn, plus alto flute and bass trombone -- never grabs you.
RVG Edition adds three alternate takes.
Herbie Hancock: The Prisoner (1969 , Blue Note):
The pianist's last album for Blue Note, produced by Duke Pearson, with
numerous musicians dropping in for a track or two, including three
flute (counting tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson). Beyond Henderson,
regulars are Johnny Coles (flugelhorn), Garnett Brown (trombone),
Buster Williams (bass), and Tootie Heath (drums). Sophisticated
postbop composition, overly tricked up production. RVG Edition adds
two alternate takes.
Mariem Hassan: Mariem Hassan Con Leyoad (2002,
Nubenegra): Her first album, backed by the Sahrawi group Leyoad.
She emerges as a very strong singer backed by a powerful group --
I almost find it too heavy, especially returning after listening
to her last albums.
Freddie Hubbard: Goin' Up (1960 , Blue Note):
Trumpet player, seems like he was suddenly everywhere in 1960, second
album under his own name, a classic hard bop quintet with Hank Mobley
(tenor sax), McCoy Tyner (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Philly
Joe Jones (drums). Feels a bit rushed for me -- maybe the rhythm
section wanted to see how hard they could push the kid. He keeps up,
and turns in a nice ballad.
Freddie Hubbard: Hub Cap (1961, Blue Note): Continuing
to make the rounds, this time with Jimmy Heath (tenor sax), Julian Priester
(trombone), Cedar Walton (piano), Larry Ridley (bass), and Philly Joe
Jones (drums). They tend to switch up too much, but he powers through
and blows over them, and the trombone is notably interesting.
Freddie Hubbard: The Hub of Hubbard (1969 , MPS):
Recorded in Germany, not sure of the conditions but the band is American,
probably touring with Hubbard at the time: Eddie Daniels (tenor sax),
Roland Hanna (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Louis Hayes (drums). Starts
with a blistering "Without a Song," and tears through Porter and Styne
plus one original.
Abdullah Ibrahim: Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand
Trio (1963 , Reprise Archives): The South African pianist
changed his name from Dollar Brand to Abdullah Ibrahim around 1977, and
later reissues have tended to indulge him -- I'll follow that convention
here, although the reissue title remains unchanged. Ibrahim moved to
Europe in 1962, and got noticed in Zürich by Ellington, who arranged
the trio session for Reprise. Impressive debut, but he was more out to
show his command of jazz repertoire than to make his own mark.
Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Orchestra: African Space Program
(1973 , Enja): Big band program, two side-length pieces, the
group numbering 12 with 5 saxes and 3 trumpets. Much rougher than
Abdullah Ibrahim/Johnny Dyani: Echoes From Africa
(1979 , Enja): Piano and bass, both from South Africa, both
long in exile, the four songs pointed back home -- even the one
dedicated to McCoy Tyner. Both sing, not the calling of either.
Abdullah Ibrahim: African Dawn (1982 , Enja):
Solo piano, runs through several of his better known pieces, two by
Monk, one by Strayhorn, dedications to Coltrane and Monk.
Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: African River (1989,
Enja): Group named for his 1986 album, one of his best, with four
horns -- John Stubblefield (tenor sax, flute), Horace Alexander
Young (alto/soprano sax, piccolo), Robin Eubanks (trombone), and
Howard Johnson (tuba, trumpet, baritone sax). Pennywhistle jive
beats, looping horns, his favorite formula.
Pete La Roca: Basra (1965 , Blue Note): Born
Peter Sims, first noticed playing drums for Sonny Rollins (1957-59).
This was his first album, the only one he led until 1997's Swing
Time. He wrote three (of six) pieces for this young but stellar
quartet -- all born between 1937-40, so 25-28 at the time: Steve
Swallow (bass), Steve Kuhn (piano), both impressive but Joe Henderson
(tenor sax) even more so.
Pete La Roca: Turkish Women at the Bath (1967 ,
Fresh Sound): The drummer's second album, released on a small label
I don't recall ever running into but rescued from oblivion by Jordi
Pujol's Spanish label. Again, the key is distinctive tenor sax, this
time by John Gilmore, but also a pianist who was just starting to get
noticed: Chick Corea. (The album was later reissued under Corea's name
as Bliss; Sims sued and the album was withdrawn.)
Pete (LaRoca) Sims: SwingTime (1997, Blue Note):
Partly reverting to his original name, the drummer's third (and
last) album. Evidently no table of credits, but Jimmy Owens, Ricky
Ford, Dave Liebman, Lance Bryant, George Cables, and Santi Debriano
are mentioned in the booklet. More bop than swing, and less hard
than playful, making a mess out of "Body and Soul" but still can't
salvage "The Candy Man."
Red Records All Stars [Jerry Bergonzi/Bobby Watson/Victor
Lewis/Kenny Barron/Curtis Lundy/David Finck]: Together Again
for the First Time (1996 , Red): The saxophonists
are not just the front line. They're the stars, and as in most
all-star games, they please most when they show off. And the two
bass rhythm section keeps pace.
Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Giant Is Awakened
(1969, Flying Dutchman): Pianist from Los Angeles, first album,
as it was for alto saxophonist Arthur Blythe -- the only horn,
as the quintet included two bassists plus a drummer, but he does
a fine job of wailing over the rumbling rhythm.
Gust William Tsilis & Alithea With Arthur Blythe: Pale
Fire (1988, Enja): Vibraphonist, from Chicago, moved to LA
in 2002 where he mostly does TV/movie music. Presumably Alithea is
a band name: Allen Farnham (keyboards), Anthony Cox (bass), Horacee
Arnold (drums), Arto Tuncboyaci (percussion). Spotty, although the
alto saxophonist can warm things up fast when he gets a chance.
[5/6 cuts, missing the 15:35 title piece]
Charles Tyler Ensemble: Black Mysticism (1966,
ESP-Disk): Most sources list this debut's title as Charles Tyler
Ensemble. Tyler plays alto sax, backed with "orchestra vibes"
(Charles Moffett), cello (Joel Freedman), bass (Henry Grimes), and
drums (Ronald [Shannon] Jackson). Avant scratch with some tinkle,
but the raw sax keeps gaining stature.
Charles Tyler Ensemble: Eastern Man Alone (1967,
ESP-Disk): Second album, the group reduced to David Baker on cello
and two bassists. The leader's alto sax remains raw and inspired,
but Baker's cello plays a much larger role, and its borderline
squelch keeps the album on edge.
James Blood Ulmer: Revealing (1977 , In+Out):
Guitarist, made his initial mark with Ornette Coleman's fusion group,
Prime Time. His first album, although it didn't appear until 1990,
with George Adams (tenor sax), Cecil McBee (bass), and Doug Hammond
(drums). Adams makes the strongest initial impression, but every
time he threatens to run off with it the guitar fills in something
James Blood Ulmer: Part Time (1983 , Celluloid):
Ulmer peaked with his 1983 album Odyssey, recorded with Charles
Burnham (violin) and Warren Benbow (drums) -- a trio which later
regrouped several times as Odyssey the Band. This is that same group,
recorded live at Montreux Jazz Festival. Repeats half the album (four
songs), more frenetic, harder to follow.
The James Blood Ulmer Blues Experience: Blues Allnight
(1989 , In+Out): Entering full blues crooner mode here, still
an idiosyncratic guitarist but the bass-drums-more guitar band would
rather be catchy than creative.
Blood & Burger: Guitar Music (2002 ,
Dernière Bande): The principals are James Blood Ulmer and Rodolphe
Burger, both guitar and vocals, the latter also keyboards. Burger
Burger is French, has a couple dozen albums since 1993, some as
Kat Onoma. We get songs from each, notably a rather bent "Are You
Glad to Be in America?" plus a slow, gritty cover of the Rolling
Stones' "Play With Fire" -- and, of course, a lot of guitar.
Bobby Watson: Live in Europe: Perpetual Groove
(1983 , Red): Alto saxophonist from Kansas, helped revitalize
Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the late 1970s, cut a few albums
for American labels but did his most important work in Italy with
this group -- Piero Bassini (piano), Attilio Zanchi (bass), and
Giampiero Prina (drums). Mostly standards, fast ones like "Mr. PC,"
"Cherokee," and "Oleo" served up hot and hearty.
Bobby Watson: Appointment in Milano (1985, Red):
Same quartet even tighter, Bassini and Zanchi contributing songs,
with the alto saxophonist easily soaring over their breakneck rhythm.
Bobby Watson & Tailor Made With Tokyo Leaders Big Band:
Live at Someday in Tokyo (2000 , Red): Tailor
Made was a big band album Watson made in 1993 but only Watson
repeats here, backed this time by a crack (if sometimes heavy-handed)
Japanese outfit. The alto sax stands out, no surprise.
Bobby Watson: The Gates BBQ Suite (2010, Lafiya Music):
Big band project, a recurrent theme in Watson's oeuvre, this one built
around the UMKC Concert Jazz Orchestra, where his day job of late has
been director of jazz studies. Sharp and powerful, but as one title has
it, "Heavy on the Sauce."
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
- Jerry Bergonzi: Tenor of the Times (2006, Savant): <>B+(**)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (2006 , Savant): B+(***)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Tenor Talk (2008, Savant): A-
- Jerry Bergonzi: Simply Put (2008 , Savant): A-
- Jerry Bergonzi: Three for All (2008 , Savant): B+(***)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (2008 , Savant): A-
- Jerry Bergonzi: Shifting Gears (2012, Savant): A-
- Jerry Bergonzi: By Any Other Name (2012 , Savant): B+(**)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll (2012 , Savant): A-
- Stanley Cowell: Sienna (1989, SteepleChase): B+
- Stanley Cowell: Back to the Beautiful (1989, Concord): B
- Stanley Cowell: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Five (1990, Concord): B
- Stanley Cowell: Angel Eyes (19993, SteepleChase): B+
- Stanley Cowell: Setup (1993, SteepleChase): B+
- Stanley Cowell: Juneteenth (2014 , Vision Fugitive): B+(*)
- Herbie Hancock: Takin' Off (1963, Blue Note): A-
- Herbie Hancock: My Point of View (1963, Blue Note): B+
- Herbie Hancock: Empyrean Isles (1964 , Blue Note): A-
- Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (1964 , Blue Note): A
- Herbie Hancock: 15 other albums
- Mariem Hassan: Shouka (2010, Nubenegra): B+(*)
- Mariem Hassan: El Aaiun Egdat (2012, Nubenegra): B+(***)
- Freddie Hubbard: Open Sesame (1960, Blue Note): A-
- Freddie Hubbard: Ready for Freddie (1961 , Blue Note): A-
- Freddie Hubbard: Hub Tones (1962 , Blue Note): B+
- Freddie Hubbard: Here to Stay (1962 , Blue Note): B+(***)
- Freddie Hubbard: Breaking Point (1964, Blue Note): B+
- Freddie Hubbard: Blue Spirits (1965 , Blue Note): A-
- Freddie Hubbard: The Night of the Cookers (1965 , Blue Note, 2CD): B
- Freddie Hubbard: 12 other albums
- Dollar Brand: Cape Town Fringe (1965 , Chiaroscuro): B
- Dollar Brand: Ode to Duke Ellington (1973 , Inner City): B+
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Banyana: The Children of Africa (1978, Enja): B
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Voice of Africa (1976 , Kaz): A
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Tintinyana (1971-79 , Kaz): A-
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Blues for a Hip King (1974-79 , Kaz): B+
- Abdullah Ibrahim: African Marketplace (1979, Discovery): A-
- Abdullah Ibrahim/Carlos Ward: Live at Sweet Basil Vol. 1 (1983 , Ekapa): B+
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Ekaya (1983 , Ekapa): A
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Water From an Ancient Well (1985 , Tiptoe): A-
- Abdullah Ibrahim: No Fear, No Die/S'en fout la mort (1993, Tiptoe): A-
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Knysna Blue (1993, Tiptoe): B
- Abdullah Ibrahim: The Very Best of Abdullah Ibrahim (2000, Music Club): B+
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Senzo (2008 , Sunnyside): A-
- Abdullah Ibrahim/WDR Big Band Cologne: Bombella (2008 , Sunnyside): B+(***)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Sotho Blue (2010 , Sunnyside): A-
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi (2013, Intuition): B+(**)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: The Song Is My Story (2014 , Sunnyside): B
- Horace Tapscott/Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: The Call (1978 , Nimbus): B+(**)
- Horace Tapscott With the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Live at I.U.C.C. (1979 , Nimbus West): A-
- Horace Tapscott: Lighthouse 79, Vol. 1 (1979 , Nimbus West): B+(**)
- Horace Tapscott: Lighthouse 79, Vol. 2 (1979 , Nimbus West): B+(**)
- Horace Tapscott: The Tapscott Sessions Vol. 8 (1984 , Nimbus West): B+(***)
- Horace Tapscott: Dissent or Descent (1984 , Nimbus West): B+
- Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree (1989 , Hatology): A
- Horace Tapscott: Aiee! The Phantom (1995, Arabesque): B+
- Horace Tapscott: Thoughts of Dar Es Salaam (1997, Arabesque): A-
- Gust William Tsilis: Sequestered Days (1991, Enja): B+
- James Blood Ulmer: Tales of Captain Black (1978 , DIW): A-
- James Blood Ulmer: Are You Glad to Be in America? (1980, Rough Trade): B+
- James Blood Ulmer: Free Lancing (1982, Columbia): B
- James Blood Ulmer: Odyssey (1983, Columbia): A
- James Blood Ulmer: America -- Do You Remember the Love? (1987, Blue Note): B
- James Blood Ulmer: Black and Blues (1990 , DIW): A-
- James Blood Ulmer: Blues Preacher (1992, DIW/Columbia): B
- Odyssey the Band: Reunion (1998, Knitting Factory): B+
- James Blood Ulmer: Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions (2001, Label M): B+
- James Blood Ulmer: No Escape From the Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions (2003, Hyena): A-
- James Blood Ulmer: Birthright (2005, Hyena): A-
- Odyssey the Band: Back in Time (2005 , Pi): A-
- James Blood Ulmer: Bad Blood in the City: The Piety Street Sessions (2006 , Hyena): B+(***)
- James Blood Ulmer: In and Out (2008 , In+Out): A-
- Bobby Watson: Gumbo (1983, Evidence): B+
- Bobby Watson: Advance (1985, Enja): B+
- Bobby Watson: Round Trip (1985, Red): A-
- Bobby Watson: Love Remains (1986, Red): A
- Bobby Watson: The Year of the Rabbit (1987 , Evidence): B
- Bobby Watson: The Inventor (1989, Blue Note): B
- Bobby Watson: Post-Motown Bop (1990, Blue Note): B
- Bobby Watson: Present Tense (1992, Columbia): A-
- Bobby Watson: Tailor Made (1992, Columbia): B
- Bobby Watson: Midwest Shuffle (1993, Columbia): B+
- Bobby Watson: This Little Light of Mine (1993, Red): B
- Bobby Watson: Quiet as It's Kept (1998, Red): A-
- Bobby Watson: Horizon Reassembled (2004, Palmetto): B+(***)
- Bobby Watson: From the Heart (2007 , Palmetto): B
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in
brackets following the grade:
- [cd] based on physical cd
- [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
- [yt] available at youtube.com
- [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely
available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist
Thursday, April 27. 2017
I haven't done a Book Roundup since
August 21, 2017, so I should have about six months worth of books
saved up. I don't, but managed to quickly bag my limit (40 per post),
and I'm far from done, so will likely follow this up with a second
(and probably third) part before long. I posted four of these in 2016,
five in 2015, three in 2014, five in 2013, four in 2012, six in 2011.
The main purpose is to keep myself abreast of what's being published,
at least in my main areas of interest -- politics, economics, and
history -- although I sometimes stray (albeit almost never to literature,
a luxury indulgence I haven't had time for in many years).
This whole series has been plagued by long breaks then sudden
flurries of research, usually resulting in clusters of 2-3-4 closely
spaced posts. At this point I have about thirty more notes written
up, and I'm nowhere near caught up. But perhaps my methodology isn't
up to snuff. I usually start with my Amazon recommendations then
click on various "related" books, but that approach has lately been
yielding diminishing returns. (I wonder if their algorithm's slipped
or maybe it's becoming more corrupt -- it is, after all, a form of
advertising -- or my own data has gotten confused by buying way too
many cookbooks.) In the past I've supplemented this by collecting
lists at bookstores and libraries, but I hardly ever frequent them
The other thing that's undercutting my ability to pull forty notes
together is that a while back I started adding uncommented notes at
the end of posts. At first I was thinking of books that might be worth
knowing about but which I didn't have anything non-obvious to add to.
One source of these are public figures like Mikhail Gorbachev, Olivier
Blanchard, and Sheldon Whitehouse -- I almost includes Elizabeth Warren
but decided instead to make a point on Middle Class. Then there are
books that don't seem that promising, and books that would just elicit
comments similar to past books (the latest Robert D Kaplan has moved
into that category. But almost instantly that gave me an out for books
I might have written about but don't feel like digging into at the
moment. And, as usual, I've grouped some related books under one I
wrote about -- not necessarily the best (how would I know?) but the
one that got me going.
I have thirty more books in my scratch file, and will continue to
collect them for a few more days, so expect a follow up post sooner
rather than later (hopefully with more paperbacks; for some reason
they're exceptionally hard to find just using Amazon). Given how long
it's been, I'll note that I've read (or at least started) five of
these books (Peter Frase, James Galbraith on Greece, Wenonah Hauter,
Gail Pellett, and Matt Taibbi), have a couple more on the shelf (Dean
Baker, the other Galbraith, Bernie Sanders), and plan on ordering a
couple more (JVP, John W Dower, maybe Pankaj Mishra). Also, Laura's
played the audio of Shattered, so I've picked up some of
that, too. (Should be required reading for anyone who thought the
Clinton machine had any credibility left 24 years after the populist
promises of 1992 -- or for that matter any mechanical skills. I'm
not sure whether I can exempt myself, inasmuch as, despite quite a
bit of awareness to the contrary, I never doubted that Hillary
could have been elected in 2016, nor that she would helm a much
less obnoxious administration than the one we got with Trump.)
Jonathan Allen/Arnie Parnes: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's
Doomed Campaign (2017, Crown): Purports to offer inside dirt on
Clinton's failed presidential campaign. Of course, had she won we'd read
this differently: perhaps as a triumph over adversity, or maybe just as
a vindication for democracy, showing that the people could still see past
the shortcomings of the candidate. On the other hand, the fact that she
lost, and lost to so unpopular and despicable a candidate as Donald Trump,
turns this into a scab you want to pick at -- in the end she lost because
too many people hated her more than they feared him, and while that wasn't
wholly her fault, she was far from faultless.
Carol Anderson: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our
Racial Divide (2016, Bloomsbury USA): Flips the tables on
complaints of "black rage" in response to recent police shootings
of unarmed blacks to point out the long history of intemperate
rage and resistance of whites at every advance of civil rights
since the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery.
Dean Baker: Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the
Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer
(paperback, 2016, Center for Economic and Policy Research): How
various rules and policies increase inequality, and how different
rules could reduce the concentration of wealth. Book available
free online as a PDF
James Brennan: Against Democracy (2016, Princeton
University Press): Philosopher, argues that democracy is inefficient
and often misguided, mostly because it pretends that people who don't
know shit are entitled to make decisions about how everything is run.
Brennan argues for a "epistocracy" -- rule by a small number of people
who have qualified by taking rigorous tests (developed no doubt by the
epistocracy). Sure, maybe those properly qualified could settle their
differences by voting, but the process could just as well be narrowed
to ever smaller (more qualified) elites until it achieves the ultimate
efficiency of dictatorship. Lots of problems with this: one is that
rulers quickly develop interests that run counter to public interests,
like self-perpetuation. For all its flaws and corruptions, democracy
at least gives lip service to the notion that government serves all
(or at least most) of the people, and provides remedies when leaders
get out of hand. Winston Churchill famously said that democracy was
the worst possible form of government, except for the rest. I suspect
what he really appreciated about democracy was that it allowed the
voters to periodically take leave of him without having to sever his
head. Brennan is reportedly writing books Against Politics
and cowriting one called Global Justice as Global Freedom: Why
Global Libertarianism Is the Humane Solution to World Poverty.
Now if only he can come up with a definition of libertarianism that
doesn't suspiciously resemble feudalism.
Noam Chomsky: Requiem for the American Dream: 10 Principles
of Concentration of Wealth & Power (paperback, 2017,
Seven Stories Press): Derived from a documentary film made mostly
of interviews with Chomsky. Principles (from chapter titles): 1.
reduce democracy; 2. shape ideology; 3. redesign the economy; 4.
shift the burden; 5. attack solidarity; 6. run the regulators; 7.
engineer elections; 8. keep the rabble in line; 9. manufacture
consent; 10. marginalize the population. That needs some fleshing
out, but this is probably a fairly succinct primer on an important
Tyler Cowen: The Complacent Class: The Self-Defeating Quest
for the American Dream (2017, St Martin's Press): How much
more proof do you need that "the dream is dead" than that this
right-wing hack should come along, lecturing how stupid you were
to have ever fallen for the idea in the first place? It may help
to point out here that what American Dream always meant was the
notion that prosperity should be widely shared -- within the grasp
of practically everyone (aka the Middle Class, which is to say the
condition of sufficient equality where virtually no one is so poor
they cannot share in the nation's increasing prosperity). On the
other hand, Cowen's resignation to the oligarchy has less to do
with insight and vision than with who signs his checks. Books like
this must make the rich feel inevitable and invincible.
Katherine J Cramer: The Politics of Resentment: Rural
Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker
(paperback, 2016, University of Chicago Press): After 2016, when
Wisconsin voted down Russ Feingold's Senate run and went with
Trump for president, after three statewide wins for weaselly
governor Walker, you have to admit that Republicans have had
remarkable success at capturing Wisconsin -- the subject here.
Christopher de Bellaigue: The Islamic Enlightenment: The
Struggle Between Faith and Reason, 1798 to Modern Times
(2017, Liveright): The start date was when Napoleon invaded Egypt,
an event more often remembered as the first salvo of European
dominance of the Middle East). This deals with the spread of (and
reaction to) cultural and intellectual ideas -- what others have
called modernism -- from Europe to the intellectual centers of
Islam (Cairo, Istanbul, and Tehran).
John W Dower: The Violent American Century: War and Terror
Since World War II (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books): Perhaps
our most important historian of Japanese-American relations both during
and after WWII, Dower took an interest in Bush's Iraq War schemes when
warmongers cited the US occupation of Japan and Germany as successful
models for what the Bush administration could do in Iraq. He pointed
out many ways in which Iraq was different, but also stressed how the
US had changed in ways that made us less fit. I expect a big part of
this book to expand on those insights (although possibly not as much
as his 2010 book, Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, 9-11,
Peter Frase: Four Futures: Life After Capitalism
(paperback, 2016, Verso): Speculative post-capitalist futurology
plotting out broad options based on two axes based on distribution
of wealth in a world of plenty or scarcity. Frase calls these options
communism, rentism, socialism, and exterminism. Written before last
year's election, which suddenly tilted the odds toward the later.
James K Galbraith: Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know
(paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press): Galbraith's Inequality
and Instability: A Study of the World Economy Just Before the Great
Crisis (2012, Oxford University Press), turned out to be a dry
compendium of research, meant for specialists, but this primer should
be clear and compelling. He did, after all, write two of the most
important (and quite accessible) political-economic books of the
last decade: The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the
Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too (2008), and The End
of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth (2014).
James K Galbraith: Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The
Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (2016, Yale
University Press): America's best economist offers a view of the
Euro crisis, informed by having worked as an advisor to the Syriza
government in Greece. No nation suffered (or continues to suffer)
more than Greece for the inflexibility of the Euro system and its
rigid control by German bankers.
Anne Garrels: Putin Country: A Journey Into the Real Russia
(2016, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Before jumping to conclusions about
Russia's president, perhaps a good idea to look at Russia itself. This
focuses on Chelyabinsk, a city deep in Siberia best known as one of
the centers of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapons program. Garrels is
an NPR correspondent who spent several years in occupied Baghdad -- see
Naked in Baghdad: The Iraq War and the Aftermath as Seen by NPR's
Correspondent Ann Garrels (2003; paperback, 2004, Picador). Other
recent books on Russia and/or Putin (aside from Satter, which I treat
separately): Charles Clover: Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of
Russia's New Nationalism (2016, Yale University Press); Karen
Dawiska: Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? (2014; paperback,
2015, Simon & Schuster); Steven Lee Myers: The New Tsar: The
Rise and Reign of Vladimir Putin (2015, Knopf; paperback, 2016,
Vintage Books); Mikhail Zygar: All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the
Court of Vladimir Putin (2016, Public Affairs).
Mark Hannah: The Best "Worst President": What the Right Gets
Wrong About Barack Obama (2016, Dey Street Books): As Obama's
second term comes to a close, it's tempting to start looking at his
legacy, which Hannah views through the peculiar prism of the most
ungrounded, counterfactual attacks any president has had to suffer.
Still, vilification of political opponents is old hat in America,
even if now it seems more unhinged than ever. The other part of the
problem with Obama is that he hasn't clearly changed much, but he
also has this idea that small incremental changes will have larger
long-term consequences, and those are hard, perhaps impossible, to
accurately gauge now. I suspect that Hannah is trying to claim those
changes now, and I don't know that he's not right to do so. On the
other hand, Trump is frantically trying to reverse as much of Obama's
legacy as possible -- something Obama's focus on small changes makes
all the easier.
Wenonah Hauter: Frackopoly: The Battle for the Future of Energy
and the Environment (2016, New Press): US petroleum production
had been declining ever since Hubbert's Peak was hit in 1969, but at
least in the short term new technologies like hydraulic fracturing has
made it possible to recover more oil and to open up substantial amounts
of natural gas trapped in shale deposits. On the other hand, all this
new production adds to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,
and fracking introduces new environmental problems -- so much so that
opposition to it has become a potent political movement. Hauter herself
heads an organization called Food & Water Watch, and previously
wrote Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in
America (paperback, 2014, New Press).
Chris Hayes: A Colony in a Nation (2017, WW Norton):
A look at race relations, keyed off the shooting in Ferguson, MO,
expanding on the theme that there remain a managed colony of black
people in America, separate and very different from the concept of
an egalitarian nation commonly experienced (at least the lip-service)
by whites. Hayes previous book, Twilight of the Elites: America
After Meritocracy, was one of the most insightful, accessible,
and powerful books on increasing inequality.
Richard Heinberg/David Fridley: Our Renewable Future: Laying
the Path for One Hundred Percent Clean Energy (paperback, 2016,
Island Press): Heinberg has written a number of books on the limits
of basing our energy needs on oil, starting with The Party's Over:
Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003) up to Snake
Oil: How Fracking's False Promise of Plenty Imperils Our Future
(2013), and he's generally been a pretty pessimistic sort, one book
even titled The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality
(2011). On the other hand, the cost of renewable energy sources has
been plumeting (especially solar cells), opening up the possibility of
transitioning to renewables with relatively little disruption (except,
of course, to fossil fuel companies). Related: Lester R Brown: The
Great Transition: Shifting From Fossil Fuels to Solar and Wind Energy
(paperback, 2015, WW Norton); Gretchen Bakke: The Grid: The Fraying
Wires Between Americans and Our Energy Future (2016, Bloomsbury
Arlie Russell Hochschild: Strangers in Their Own Land
(2016, New Press): Sociologist sets out to explore "a stronghold of
the conservative right" in Louisiana, finding "lives ripped apart by
stagnant wages, a loss of home, an elusive American dream," a context
for trying to understand their self-defeating political choices. Made
a list of "6 books to understand Trump's win," compiled by people who
probably don't understand it themselves. Also on that list: J.D. Vance:
Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis (2016,
Jewish Voice for Peace: On Anti-semitism: Solidarity and the
Struggle for Justice in Palestine (paperback, 2017, Haymarket
Books): Essay collection probing various aspects of the frequent charge
that advocating peace and justice in Israel/Palestine is anti-semitic.
JVP has been an important group in America in the campaign to end the
Occupation precisely because their activism is rooted in common Jewish
values, which has put them in a uniquely authoritative position to
dispute this canard.
Robert P Jones: The End of White Christian America
(2016, Simon & Schuster): Head of something called the Public
Religion Research Institute argues that since the 1990s White
Christians have both demographically and culturally become a
minority in America. Not sure what he does with this insight, but
but it does correspond to many Republicans losing grip not just on
power but on reality -- as you'd expect, it's a question that only
matters to people wrapped up in White Christian identity, especially
those nostalgic for an America that honored and privileged their
John B Judis: The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession
Transformed American and European Politics (paperback, 2016,
Columbia Global Reports): Short (184 pp) and topical overview of what
passes for populism both on the right and the left, both in Europe
and America. It takes a peculiar perspective to see all those stances
as related. Even shorter: Jan-Werner Müller: What Is Populism?
(2016, University of Pennsylvania Press); also: Benjamin Moffitt:
The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style, and
Representation (2016, Stanford University Press).
Sarah Leonard/Bhaskar Sunkara, eds: The Future We Want: Radical
Ideas for the New Century (paperback, 2016, Metropolitan Books):
Editors associated with The Nation and Jacobin collect
some essays to sketch out "a stirring blueprint for American equality,"
starting with the recognition that the present system is an oligarchy.
They imagine finance without Wall Street, full employment achieved by
limiting work hours, and many other things.
Pankaj Mishra: Age of Anger: A History of the Present
(2017, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Mishra has written several books on
how various Asian intellectuals reacted to modernism, especially given
how Europeans presented it wrapped up in self-serving imperialism --
a much trickier subject than figuring out why so many westerners are
so full of rage as their world of myth slips out of any illusion of
their control. Nor would he ever stop at the West, unlike chroniclers
of "populism," because he knows anger circles the world, taking all
sorts of form.
Cathy O'Neil: Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data
Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (2016, Crown):
Former Wall Street quant, defected to the Occupy Movement and now
writes a blog as mathbabe. The "big data" she writes about
is mostly used by businesses to target sales pitches, to qualify
mortgages and loans, and other things that effectively discriminate
against the poor or statistical analogs, not least by warping their
experiences in self-perpetuating ways (she talks about "siloing"
people which strikes me as an apt metaphor, especially since in
my part of the country silos are often death traps). Of course,
government also uses "big data" and while I wouldn't say they're
up to no good, they too often aren't doing you any favors with
their own siloing. I'm not so sure the math itself is at fault,
but we'd have to turn the power relationships around to give it
a chance -- e.g., collect data about everything public on the
market and give consumers tools to access it in a consistent and
even-handed manner. As it is, "big data" is becoming an increasingly
effective tool for managing and manipulating people, one that helps
those in power exercise more power than ever.
Iain Overton: The Way of the Gun: A Bloody Journey Into the
World of Firearms (2016, Harper): Mostly on the US but Overton
journeys through twenty-five countries looking into many aspects of
gun proliferation -- "meets with ER doctors dealing with gun trauma,
SWAT team leaders, gang members, and weapons smugglers." No idea how
deep this goes, but it reflects critically enough that Amazon's gun
nuts have buried it in negative ratings -- they seem to be even more
vigilant than Israel's hasbaraists.
Gail Pellett: Forbidden Fruit: 1980 Beijing, a Memoir
(paperback, 2015, VanDam): A new left feminist I knew in St. Louis
before she moved on to Boston and New York, working in radio and
video (including NPR and Bill Moyers). Along the way she spent a
year at Radio Beijing as a "foreign language expert," "polishing"
news propaganda. That was 1980, post-Mao, a transitional period as
the party regime was starting to stabilize after the upheavals of
the Cultural Revolution and the Gang of Four -- interesting times,
as the old Chinese curse put it.
Elizabeth Rosenthal: An American Sickness: How Healthcare
Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back (2017,
Penguin Books): With the health care industry sucking up close to
20% of America's GDP these days -- double from a couple decades
ago when the gold rush really accelerated with vulture capitalists
snapping up previously non-profit hospitals. This promises a big
picture look at how business is organized, how they subvert markets,
how they game both supply and demand sides, and how they grapple
with public policy which hopes to contain costs but is influenced
largely by lobbyist money.
Zachary Roth: The Great Suppression: Voting Rights,
Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy
(2016, Crown): The 2010 sweep reinforced for Republicans the idea
that all they have to do to win is keep undesirable people from
voting. Since then, they've passed dozens of state laws to make
it harder for people to vote: this recounts those efforts, looks
at the right-wing money behind those campaigns. This is not just
an assault on democracy, it's an attempt at negation: it starts
with the Republians' assumption that their group is more worthy
than others, and follows that anything they can do to increase
their power is justified.
Bernie Sanders: Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In
(2016, Thomas Dunne): Came out post-election, recognizing that the
same platform would be relevant regardless of who won. And while we
all supported Hillary figuring she'd be slightly more aware of the
problems and slightly more amenable to real solutions, with Trump
in the White House and the Republicans controlling Congress (and oh
so much more), this looms as the only real way forward for anyone
who wants a fairer and less conflict-ridden society (even mainstream
Democrats should be supportive of that, given the alternative).
David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's
Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin (2016,
Yale University Press): Fourth book on Russia, all harshly critical,
so much so that the Russian government expelled him in 2013 as a
general nuisance. This new book seems to recapitulate and update
his previous ones: Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the
Soviet Union (1996), Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian
Criminal State (2003), and It Was a Long Time Ago and It
Never Happened Anyway: Russia and the Communist Past (2007).
A quote from the second book: "Influenced by decades of mendacious
Soviet propaganda, [Russia's reformers] assumed that the initial
accumulation of capital in a market economy is almost always
criminal, and, as they were resolutely procapitalist, they found
it difficult to be strongly anticrime. . . . The combination of
social darwinism, economic determinism, and a tolerant attitude
toward crime prepared the young reformers to carry out a frontal
attack on the structures of the Soviet system without public
support or a framework of law." It's hard to overstate how much
social and economic damage their "reforms" did, nor to appreciate
how popular Putin became as the strong man who ushered in a new
era, both by winning back Chechnya and covering up Yeltsin's
corruption. Satter returns to the 1999 apartment bombings that
gave Putin his excuse for attacking Chechnya -- if true (and I
find them credible) a remarkably cruel and cynical turn. While
I worry that most anti-Putin fulminations are themselves cynical
efforts to relaunch the Cold War -- the lost love of the neocons,
Satter has a knack for making them make sense.
Ganesh Sitaraman: The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution:
Why Economic Inequality Threatens Our Republic (2017, Knopf):
Argues first that the US constitution was designed to counteract class
inequality -- in no small part because "compared to Europe and the
ancient world, America was a society of almost unprecedented equality,
and the founding generation saw this equality as essential for the
preservation of America's republic." Every expansion of democracy
since has been linked to putting the nation on a more equal footing,
so it's no surprise that the rise of oligarchy today is so eager to
limit the franchise, not to mention burying it under mountains of
Timothy Snyder: On Tyrrany: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth
Century (paperback, 2017, Tim Duggan): Historian, I know him
mostly from his late collaborations with Tony Judt, but he has two
major books on the Nazis and Eastern Europe, Bloodlands: Europe
Between Hitler and Stalin (2010) and Black Earth: The Holocaust
as History Warning (2015). His "warning" from the latter: "our
world is closer to Hitler's than we like to admit, and saving it
requires us to see the Holocaust as it was." This short (128 pp)
post-Trump book draws further ties between the genocidal "tyranny"
of the WWI era and our own times: another warning.
Andy Stern: Raising the Floor: How a Universal Basic Income
Can Renew Our Economy and Rebuild the American Dream (2016,
PublicAffairs): Former president of the SEIU, one of the few unions
which has grown in size since 2000, bucking trends that have been
driven by technology and politics. He recognizes that technology has
entered a phase where it's more likely to destroy jobs than to create
new ones (the main theme of James K Galbraith's The End of Normal:
The Great Crisis and the Future of Growth), and he recognizes
that this has been a major source of the growth of inequality, and
consequently an increasingly inequitable society. His basic income
scheme counters inequality while making technological trends less
disruptive. When I think along these lines, I tend to think of not
just recirculating cash into the hands of workers but also of giving
workers equity in the companies they work for, ultimately democratizing
the workplace. But for as far as it goes, a basic income is a good
idea. Other recent books along these lines: Rutger Bregman: Utopia
for Realists: The Case for a Universal Basic Income, Open Borders, and
a 15-Hour Workweek (paperback, 2016, The Correspondent); Philippe
Van Parijs/Yannick Vanderborght: Basic Income: A Radical Proposal
for a Free Society and a Sane Economy (2017, Harvard University
Press); and Nick Srnicek/Alex Williams: Inventing the Future:
Postcapitalism and a World Without Work (paperback, 2015, Verso).
Joseph E Stiglitz: The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens
the Future of Europe (2016, WW Norton): Probably the definitive
book on why the Euro has straitjacketed Europe's economy following
the 2008 financial meltdown. The idea behind the Euro was to extend
and simplify the Common Market with a common currency, but that market
was never integrated politically (like, say, the United States) so the
central bank, and effectively the single monetary policy, could be
effectively captured by German national interests. In pre-recession
years this helped fuel housing bubbles in southern Europe and Ireland,
which burst in 2008, but left those nations with particularly severe
debt overhangs, denominated in Euros so they couldn't compensate by
inflating their own currencies. Greece was hit hardest of all, partly
its own government's fault, and when the Greek people resisted by
electing a left-wing government, the Germans came down even harder,
dictating a crippling austerity regime. Stiglitz reviews all this
and offers several sensible ways out. If there's a fault it may be
that focuses on what is technocratically possible as opposed to the
politics that got us here and keep us from fixing it.
Matt Taibbi: Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the
2016 Circus (2017, Spiegel & Grau): Quickly patched
together from reports covering the election -- you know, the one
where it was absurd that Trump would win until the day he did,
giving the whole affair a certain whiplash. Still, Taibbi was
more sensitive to Trump's supporters and conscious of Hillary's
faults than most, so he helps even when he's not totally right.
But then he's always been sharp, which he proves here by quoting
20+ pages from his book on 2008 and making it seem as timely as
ever. By contrast, Maureen Dowd called her campaign journal The
Year of Voting Dangeously: The Derangement of American Politics
(2016, Twelve) -- borrowing her subtitle from Taibbi, whose 2008
book was The Great Derangement.
Michael Waldman: The Second Amendment: A Biography
(2014; paperback, 2015, Simon & Schuster): Two parts: the first
a history of the original debate surrounding the framing and adoption
of the second amendment ("the right to bear arms"); the second covers
the various Supreme Court rulings on the amendment, most recently ones
broadening the right of individuals to own firearms. Needless to say,
those were different debates and sets of issues. The original, I've
long felt, was a way of reserving to the states the option of starting
the Civil War, so became obsolete once that happened. Today the key
issue has more to do with the acceptability of violence for resolving
public disputes. Unfortunately, the federal government's practice of
imposing its will abroad through force of arms sets a bad example for
everyone under it, leading to all sorts of futile arms races, even
much legal ambiguity over when lethal force may or may not be used.
Elizabeth Warren: This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save
America's Middle Class (2017, Metropolitan Books): Originally
from Oklahoma, one of the few to clearly recognize what was happening
during the 2008 banking meltdown, the principle architect of a major
tool for ending the consumer abuses which contributed so much to that
debacle, acts which gave her a measure of fame from which she won a
US Senate seat from Massachusetts. All that plus her aggressive tone
against Trump in 2016 positions her to be a credible presidential
candidate in 2020, so figure this to be a position stake-out. That's
good enough for me, but I want to quibble about her Middle Class
usage. The Middle Class is not an entity that one can care for to
the exclusion of rich and poor. Rather, it is the effect you get
when the economic system is relatively equal -- when differences
between most people (blue collar and white collar, manual laborers
and professionals) are inconsequential, when all those people have
similar opportunities and intergenerational hopes. To get a Middle
Class you need institutions, both public and private (like unions),
and policies that equalize differences, primarily by leveling up
(you move poor people into the Middle Class by supporting them,
and you fold the relatively well-to-do back into the Middle Class
by reducing their intrinsic advantages). And that's basically what
progressive politicians like Warren mean when they say "Middle Class."
But the reason they say "Middle Class" instead of "equal" is that
they (and/or their target audience) have bought the right-wing's
propaganda that the poor are responsible for their own destitution,
usually because lack some essential character trait that the "Middle
Class" prides itself on. Secondly, "Middle Class" gives the Upper
Class a pass, a green light to keep on doing what they're doing --
such as using government as a tool to keep pulling away from the
rabble -- but at least "Middle Class" doesn't challenge them the
way old-fashioned Populism did. That comes in handy for politicians
who are still dependent on the rich for most of their funding.
J Kael Weston: The Mirror Test: America at War in Iraq and
Afghanistan (2016, Knopf): Former US State Department officer,
spent seven years in these wars, writes at great length (606 pp) on
the human cost of those wars, though possibly only to the Americans
who fought them -- a lot of looking in the mirror here. That may be
sufficiently damning, but is far from the whole story. And I have to
wonder how critical he can be about American intentions given how
long he kept trying to serve them.
James Q Whitman: Hitler's American Model: The United States
and the Making of Nazi Race Law (2017, Princeton University
Press): Well before Hitler came to power, the US codified the set
of racial discrimination laws known as Jim Crow. It's pretty well
known that South Africa's Apartheid system was based on the American
model, but what about Nazi Germany's Nuremberg Laws? Yes and no: "the
ultimate, ugly irony that when Nazis rejected American practices, it
was sometimes not because they found them too enlightened, but too
harsh." Even so, the slope from discrimination to genocide turned
out to be much steeper in Germany, probably due to the extraordinary
pressures of fighting a loosing war. While interesting in itself,
a more interesting book would examine Nazi views of America's own
Lebensraum campaign -- the series of wars that drove Native Americans
off the land, making room for white settlers. Indeed, the US was
the pioneer for white settler colonies all around the world (most
Other recent books merely noted:
Ryan Avent: The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the
Twenty-First Century (2016, St Martin's Press)
Olivier Blanchard/Raghuram G Rajan/Kenneth S Rogoff/Laurence H
Summers, eds: Progress and Confusion: The State of Macroeconomic
Policy (2016, MIT Press)
Derek Chollet: The Long Game: How Obama Defied Washington
and Redefined America's Role in the World (2016, Public
Angela Y Davis: Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson,
Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (paperback,
2016, Haymarket Books)
Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: An Indigenous Peoples' History of the
United States (paperback, 2015, Beacon Press)
Michael Eric Dyson: Tears We Cannot Stop: A Serman to White
America (2017, St Martin's Press)
Mikhail Gorbachev: The New Russia (2016, Polity)
Pamela Haag: The Gunning of America: Business and the
Making of American Gun Culture (2016, Basic Books)
Jerry Kaplan: Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and
Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (2015, Yale
Robert D Kaplan: Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes
America's Role in the World (2017, Random House)
Walter Laqueur: Putinism: Russia and Its Future With the
West (2015, Thomas Dunne)
Giles Merritt: Slippery Slope: Europe's Troubled Future
(2016, Oxford University Press)
Trevor Noah: Born a Crime: Stories From a South African
Childhood (2016, Spiegel & Grau)
Arkady Ostrovsky: The Invention of Russia: From Gorbachev's
Freedom to Putin's War (2016, Viking)
George Papaconstantinou: Game Over: The Inside Story of the
Greek Crisis (paperback, 2016, Create Space)
William J Perry: My Journey at the Nuclear Brink
(paperback, 2015, Stanford Security Studies)
Kenneth S Rogoff: The Curse of Cash (2016, Princeton
Jeffrey D Sachs: The Age of Sustainable Development
(paperback, 2015, Columbia University Press)
Chris Smith: The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as
Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests
(2016, Grand Central Publishing)
Rebecca Solnit: The Mother of All Questions: Further Reports
From the Feminist Revolutions (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books)
Sheldon Whitehouse: Captured: The Corporate Infiltration of
American Democracy (2017, New Press)
Jason Zinoman: Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night
Selected paperback reprints of books previously noted:
Mark Blyth: Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea
(2013; paperback, 2015, Oxford University Press)
Steven Brill: America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom
Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System (2015;
paperback, 2015, Random House)
Noam Chomsky: Who Rules the World? (2016; paperback,
2017, Metropolitan Books): Essay collection.
Martin Ford: Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat
of a Jobless Future (2015; paperback, 2016, Basic Books)
Theda Skocpol/Vanessa Williamson: The Tea Party and the
Remaking of Republican Conservatism (2012; updated ed, paperback,
2016, Oxford University Press)
Monday, April 24. 2017
Music: Current count 28064  rated (+31), 397  unrated (-4).
Rated count up this week, probably because I didn't find nearly as
many A-list records as last week: the two I came up with got (I think)
three plays each, as did a couple of high HMs -- African River
came closest, although I wound up deciding it was a slightly uneven
follower of several better albums, starting with the band-naming (and
hugely recommended) Ekaya, and the Dawkins-Iyer record only had
one spot I kept tripping on. I did only give Idles -- currently number
three on Chris Monsen's
2017 favorites list -- one spin, finding myself more impressed
than interested. I haven't yet found his number two Harriet Tubman --
probably a download link in my mailbox -- and I wasn't that taken
with his top-rated Angles 9 album (although I liked their smaller
group Live in Coimbra and Live in Ljubljana discs),
and I've never rated anything by Martin Küchen less than B+(**).
A few more things I haven't heard down the list: Atomic, Lithics,
Priests, Led Bib (in the queue but temporarily lost), Cloud Nothings,
Made a little more progress in the Jazz Guide compilation: 20th
Century up to 619 pages, 21st 372, so I'll probably his 1000 pages
sometime this week. Since last time I reported, that's up +9 and
+34, so at this point (Seamus Blake, 10% into "Jazz 80s") the latter
is growing four times as fast. I think I was just starting the file
last week, so some quick envelope math suggests I'll finish it in
another nine weeks (end of June), with 20th Century growing to 700
pages and the 21st to 778. After that it should be all post-2000
(aside from relatively small files for Latin and pop jazz).
The calendar says I should post April's Streamnotes file later
this week. Draft file is currently shorter than usual, especially
for new music (58 records, 94 total). So I imagine I'll scrounge
around for some scoops, but don't really expect to find much.
I also hope to do a book post sometime this week. I haven't done
August 21, and a lot has happened since then. I will note that
I've started reading Gail Pellett's remarkable memoir of 1980, the
year she spent working as a "foreign expert" for Chinese radio.
I knew her back in St. Louis in the 1970s, so I'm recognizing some
things and I'm learning even more -- not least about her background,
which for some reason I never enquired into when I could.
Something else I should (but probably won't) do is to write up
some thoughts on Ian Kershaw's Fateful Choices -- ten moves
from 1940-41 that dramatically broadened the wars that started in
the late 1930s. The book would probably have been better had he
started earlier and included more on the earlier decisions that
led up to the war: Japan's decision to invade China in 1937,
Germany's to carve up Poland in 1939, the German-Russian pact
that allowed Germany into Poland, the Anglo-French decision to
declare war on Germany but not Russia over Poland. Of course,
those in turn should be backtracked: Japan's previous attack on
Manchuria in 1929, Italy's attacks on Ethiopia and Albania, the
mix of intervention and avowed neutrality over the Spanish Civil
War, and the so-called "appeasement policy" toward Germany.
Before that, of course, is the detritus of the first World War,
and before that you get the relatively late efforts at empire
building by Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.
In many ways the best book on all this is Nicholson Baker's
Human Smoke -- at least he brings all these threads
together, albeit too schematically. One thing I learned there
was how artfully Franklin Roosevelt maneuvered Japan and Germany
into attacking, allowing him to enter the war with broad popular
support -- something most Americans weren't interested in until
it happened. Various other books I've read recently helped fill
in details: Kershaw, Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself, and
most of all James Bradley's The China Mirage. But Baker
still has the most important insight: that the only people who
tried to stop this cascade of bad choices were the pacifists,
not only because they were the ones who anticipated the disaster
to come, but because they were the ones most sensitive to the
injustices which preceded it. Well, also the people less adverse
to fighting who were later dismissed as "premature antifascists."
New records rated this week:
- Kevin Abstract: American Boyfriend: A Suburban Love Story (2016, Brockhampton): [r]: B+(*)
- Actress: AZD (2017, Ninja Tune): [r]: B+(*)<
- Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter (2016 , AAM): [cd]: B
- Bardo Pond: Under the Pines (2017, Fire): [r]: B
- Bill Brovold & Jamie Saft: Serenity Knolls (2016 , Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes (2016 , Malcom): [cd]: B+(***)
- Idles: Brutalism (2017, Bailey): [r]: B+(***)
- Khalid: American Teen (2017, Right Hand/RCA): [r]: A-
- Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (2016 , CAP): [cd]: B+(**)
- Robert McCarther: Stranger in Town (2016 , Psalms 149 Music): [cd]: C+
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5: Rhea (2016 , Leo): [cd]: A-
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6: Saturn (2016 , Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7: Dione (2016 , Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
- Michael Rabinowitz: Uncharted Waters (2017, Cats Paw): [cd]: B+(*)
- Rashad: #LevelUp (2017, Self Made): [r]:
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (1973 , Delmark/Sackville): [cd]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Jerry Bergonzi: Inside Out (1989 , Red): [r]: B+(**)
- Stanley Cowell Trio: Departure #2 (1990, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Stanley Cowell Trio: Live at Copenhagen Jazz House (1993 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Stanley Cowell Quartet: Hear Me One (1996, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Stanley Cowell: Are You Real? (2014, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio (1963 , Reprise Archives): [r]: B+(**)
- Dollar Brand/Abdullah Ibrahim Orchestra: African Space Program (1973 , Enja): [r]: B
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Echoes From Africa (1979 , Enja): [r]: B+(**)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: African Dawn (1982 , Enja): [r]: B+(**)
- Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: African River (1989, Enja): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (Nonesuch/World Circuit)
- Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Madness (Moserobie)
- Rebecca Hennessy's Fog Brass Band: Two Calls (self-released): May 19
- Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Onward (self-released)
- Alex Maguire/Nikolas Skordas Duo: Ships and Shepherds (Slam, 2CD): May 19
- Yoko Miwa Trio: Pathways (Ocean Blue Tear Music): May 12
- Noertker's Moxie: Druidh Penumbrae (Edgetone)
- Eve Risser/Benjamin Duboc/Edward Perraud: En Corps/Generation (Dark Tree)
- Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Five (OA2): May 19
Sunday, April 23. 2017
We're approximately 100 days into the Trump administration, which
only leaves 1360 more days to go until he's gone -- assuming American
voters don't get even stupider along the way. If you've been hiding
in a cave somewhere, you might check out
David Remnick: A Hundred Days of Trump as a quick way of getting
up to speed, although Remnick's piece is long on style and short on
substance. If you're really masochistic you can dig up my Weekend
Roundups (and occasional Midweek Roundups) since January. Indeed, one
could write a whole book on Trump's first 100 days -- probably for
the first time since Franklin Roosevelt made that timespan historic
(see Adam Cohen's Nothing to Fear: FDR's Inner Circle and the
Hundred Days That Created Modern America), although in this
case the "accomplishments" are all negative, and the real damage
Trump has sown in this fertile period has (mostly) yet to play
itself out. As Bill McKibben notes, below, things that we do to
the environment now will continue to drive changes well into the
future. That's also true for society, culture, politics, and the
How much damage Trump ultimately does will depend on how
effectively the resistance (not just the Democrats, although they
have much to prove here) organizes and how coherently we can explain
and make people aware of what's so wrong with the Republican agenda.
One thing that has probably helped in this regard is that the false
dichotomy between "populist" Trump and "conservative" Republicans has
faded away -- Trump is still harshly anti-immigrant in all forms
(not just "illegals" but he's also turned against perfectly legal
H-1B visa holders), but everywhere else he's fallen into line with
orthodox (and often extremist) conservatives. This not only means
that Trump and the rest of the Republicans will share blame for
everything that breaks bad on their watch, it will force Democrats
to refashion their platform into one that counters those disasters.
We no longer have to argue what bad things might happen if hawks
run wild, if corporate moguls are freed of regulation, if the
courts are packed with right-wing ideologues, if any number of
previous hypotheticals happen, because we're going to see exactly
what happens. In fact, we're seeing it, faster than most of us
can really process it.
Some scattered links this week in the Trump World:
Robert L Borosage: The Stunning Disappearance of Candidate Trump:
It's arguable whether Trump's "economic populism" ever amounted to
anything that might actually help his white working class fans, but
he's so completely abandoned that part of his platform that we'll
never know. He's setting records for how quickly and how completely
he's breaking campaign promises. Wonder whether the Democrats will
call him on it?
Christina Cautenucci: What It Takes: "O'Reilly, Ailes, Cosby, Trump:
Three alleged sexual preditors found disgrace. A fourth became president.
What made the difference?"
David S Cohen: How Neil Gorsuch Will Make His Mark This Supreme Court
Term: Also, for instance,
Sophia Tesfaye: Neil Gorsuch's first Supreme Court vote clears the
way for Arkansas to begin its lethal injection spree.
Justin Elliott: Trump Is Hiring Lobbyists and Top Ethics Official Says
'There's No Transparency'
Tom Engelhardt: The Chameleon Presidency: Quotes Trump: "If you
look at what's happened over the last eight weeks and compare that
really to what's happened over the past eight years, you'll see
there's a tremendous difference, tremendous difference." Actually,
Trump doesn't seem to be capable of actually seeing either recent
history or today's news. His bombing missions in Syria, Afghanistan,
Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia don't even hint at a break with Obama --
they were all in the Pentagon playbook he inherited. Of course,
if he starts a nuclear conflagration in Korea, that would be his
own peculiar mark on history. But thus far his shift from Obama
in foreign policy (aka warmaking) is little different than the
shift from Kennedy to Johnson: as McGeorge Bundy put it, whereas
Kennedy wanted to be seen as making smart moves, Johnson preferred
to be seen as tough. Still, neither were as explicit or dramatic
about their needs as Obama ("don't do stupid shit") and Trump,
who seems eager to green light anything the Pentagon brass offers.
And Trump is so forthright about this it's almost as if he's hard
at work on his Nuremberg defense:
Above all, President Trump did one thing decisively. He empowered
a set of generals or retired generals -- James "Mad Dog" Mattis as
secretary of defense, H.R. McMaster as national security adviser,
and John Kelly as secretary of homeland security -- men already
deeply implicated in America's failing wars across the Greater
Middle East. Not being a details guy himself, he's then left them
to do their damnedest. "What I do is I authorize my military," he
told reporters recently. "We have given them total authorization
and that's what they're doing and, frankly, that's why they've
been so successful lately."
Successful? The explosions are bigger and the casualty reports
are up, but I haven't seen anything that suggests that he's moved
any of his wars one iota. Granted, his recklessness has gotten the
neocons to turn around and start singing his praises -- they had
been worried that he might actually have meant some of the things
he said on the campaign trail, like regrets over Bush's Iraq War
or his reluctance to get involved in Syria. Still, neither the
generals nor the neocons have a clue how to extricate themselves
from the wars they wade ever deeper into. Engelhardt speculates:
Here's the problem, though: there's a predictable element to all of
this and it doesn't work in Donald Trump's favor. America's forever
wars have now been pursued by these generals and others like them
for more than 15 years across a vast swath of the planet -- from
Pakistan to Libya (and ever deeper into Africa) -- and the chaos
of failing states, growing conflicts, and spreading terror movements
has been the result. There's no reason to believe that further
military action will, a decade and a half later, produce more
Engelhardt seems to think Trump will eventually turn on his generals.
I think it's more likely that, like Johnson (or for that matter Truman),
he will find himself stuck, buried under his own hubris, unable to back
out or find any other solution.
Maggie Haberman/Glenn Thrush: Trump Reaches Beyond West Wing for
Counsel: His rogues gallery.
Dahlia Lithwick: Jeff Sessions Thinks Hawaii's Not a Real State. We
Shouldn't Be Surprised. Reminds me that the reason Hawaii became
the 50th state, waiting well past Alaska, was that southern Senators
filibustered to delay the likelihood of a non-white joining them in
the US Senate. Sessions is evidently still of that mindset.
Jonathan Marshall: Neocons Point Housebroken Trump at Iran:
Trump's latest bombing exploits in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan have
only served to gin up the "real men go to Tehran" brigade. Also:
William Rivers Pitt: The Looming Neocon Invasion of Trumpland.
Josh Marshall: To Scare Dems, Trump Threatens to Light Himself on Fire:
Looks like we're in the midst of another round of government shutdown
extortion, where Republicans are holding Obamacare subsidies hostage,
hoping to trade them for Democratic support on funding the "big, beautiful
wall" that Trump originally expected Mexico to pay for. Evidently the
catch is that even though the Republicans control Congress funding for
the wall would have to break a Democratic filibuster (so 60 votes in
the Senate). This all seems pretty stupid: Obamacare is suddenly pretty
popular, polling on building that wall is currently 58-28% against, and
the most immediate effect of shutting down the government will be to
hold up Social Security checks.
Bill McKibben: The Planet Can't Stand This Presidency:
What Mr. Trump is trying to do to the planet's climate will play out
over geologic time as well. In fact, it's time itself that he's stealing
What I mean is, we have only a short window to deal with the climate
crisis or else we forever lose the chance to thwart truly catastrophic
heating. . . .
The effects will be felt not immediately but over decades and centuries
and millenniums. More ice will melt, and that will cut the planet's
reflectivity, amplifying the warming; more permafrost will thaw, and
that will push more methane into the atmosphere, trapping yet more heat.
The species that go extinct as a result of the warming won't mostly die
in the next four years, but they will die. The nations that will be
submerged won't sink beneath the waves on his watch, but they will
sink. No president will be able to claw back this time -- crucial time,
since we're right now breaking the back of the climate system.
We can hope other world leaders will pick up some of the slack. And
we can protest. But even when we vote him out of office, Trumpism will
persist, a dark stratum in the planet's geological history. In some
awful sense, his term could last forever.
This link picks up a number of other interesting pieces on the
Dave Levitan: The March for Science has a humble aim: restoring sanity;
David Suzuki: Rivers vanishing into thin air: this is what the climate
crisis looks like;
Michael T Klare: Climate change as genocide.
Leon Neyfakh: How Trump Will Dismantle Civil Rights Protections in
America: "The same way Bush did: by politicizing the DOJ."
Heather Digby Parton: Trump's First 100 Days: More Frightening, or More
Pathetic? Franklin Roosevelt's first 100 days were the benchmark,
but he came into office with a huge margin of support in Congress, and
a shocked and battered population that was willing to try anything. Plus
his bank holiday/fireside chat was probably the most brilliantly executed
act of any president ever. Trump had none of that going his way. In fact,
about all he actually did was to make some spectacularly bad appointments,
sign a bunch of executive orders (mostly countering Obama's executive
orders), meet with a few foreign leaders (often to embarrassing effect),
and blow up shit. So, yeah, both pathetic and terrifying.
Sarah Rawlins: Costs and Benefits of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments:
Could use some more political context, but clearly the positive payback
for the relatively small costs imposed by these regulations has been
huge -- they estimate $30.77 for every dollar spent. Of course, you
don't need that sort of ROI to justify doing something right, but this
is a pretty resounding answer for flacks who tell you we can't afford
to have cleaner air or water.
Nelson D Schwartz: Trump Saved Carrier Jobs. These Workers Weren't as
Matthew Yglesias: Today's executive orders are the nail in the coffin
of Trump's economic populism: Well, it was starting to stink anyway.
For more (especially on "shadow banking"), see
Mike Konczal: Now Republicans want to undo the regulations that helped
consumers and stabilized banking.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Matt Apuzzo et al.: Comey Tried to Shield the FBI From Politics. Then
He Shaped an Election: Fairly in-depth reporting on Comey's political
ploy which did much to throw the election to Donald Trump.
But with polls showing Mrs. Clinton holding a comfortable lead, Mr.
Comey ended up plunging the F.B.I. into the molten center of a bitter
election. Fearing the backlash that would come if it were revealed
after the election that the F.B.I. had been investigating the next
president and had kept it a secret, Mr. Comey sent a letter informing
Congress that the case was reopened.
What he did not say was that the F.B.I. was also investigating the
campaign of Donald J. Trump. Just weeks before, Mr. Comey had declined
to answer a question from Congress about whether there was such an
investigation. Only in March, long after the election, did Mr. Comey
confirm that there was one.
John Cassidy: The Real Trump Agenda: Helping Big Business
Ira Chernus: It's Time to Resurrect the Counterculture Movement:
"The largest mobilization for progressive politics since the Vietnam
era offers a unique opportunity to go beyond simply treating symptoms
to start offering cures for the underlying illness." I'm not sure
I'd call that "counterculture" -- what I think of by that term has
perhaps been the deepest, broadest, and most persistent outgrowth
from the political and cultural upheaval of the late 1960s. Rather,
what we need to bring back is the New Left -- the political critique
of war, empire, the security state, sexism, racism, consumption, the
despoilment of the environment, and various related cultural mores --
only we need to bring back the Old Left focus on inequality and we
need to come up with a better solution for securing political gains.
I've long felt that the New Left was a huge success in changing
minds, but the intrinsic distrust of political organizations has
left those gains vulnerable to a right-wing counterattack focused
on securing narrow political power. The latter has in fact become
so pervasive we need a refresher course in basic principles, which
is I think where Chernus is heading.
Patrick Cockburn: America Should Start Exploring How to End All the Wars
Paul Cohen: Could Leftist-Jean-Luc Mélenchon Win the French Presidency?
First round of France's presidential election is Tuesday, with centrist
Emmanuel Macron and "Thatcherite" François Fillon the fading establishment
candidates, Marine Le Pen on the far right, and Mélenchon "surging" from
the left. This gives you some background on the latter. As for the horse
Harry Enten: The French Election Is Way Too Close to Call: the chart
there shows Macron barely ahead of Le Pen, a couple points ahead of Fillon,
in turn barely ahead of Mélenchon -- who has the sole upward trajectory,
but it's mostly been at the expense of Socialist Party candidate Benoit
Robert Mackey: Trump Hopes Paris Attack Boosts Le Pen, One Day After
Obama Calls Macron. Clearly, Americans have few if any qualms about
interfering in someone else's election. (As for Russian interests, well,
Le Pen-Putin friendship goes back a long way.)
[PS: Projected votes as of 4:13PM CDT: Macron 23.8%, Le Pen 21.7%,
Fillon 19.8%, Mélanchon 19.2%, Hamon 6.5%. So there will be a runoff
between Macron and Le Pen, with Macron heavily favored.]
Michael Hudson: Running Government Like a Business Is Bad for Citizens:
The latest idiot to express the cliché is Jared Kushner, although the
Trump administration is so weighted toward business résumés that it
was pretty much in the air (or should I say Kool Aid?). The idea is,
of course, ridiculous, even before we signed off on the notion that
the only reason behind business is to extract and return profits to
investors (something less obvious back in the days when companies
could afford loftier goals, like offering useful goods/services),
and before we forgot the idea of there being a public interest,
which includes providing services to people who have difficulty
getting by on their own. When asked for historical examples of
governments run like businesses, Hudson mentioned Russia under
Boris Yeltsin -- a kleptocracy run through the Kremlin. If Trump
admires Putin, that's probably why.
Mark Karlin: Israeli Government Is Petrified of the Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions Movement: Interview with Rebecca
Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace and
editor of On Antisemitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for
Justice. I spent a couple days last week with Palestinian
civil rights lawyer
Jonathan Kuttab: he gave several presentations here in Kansas
in Mennonite churches in support of a BDS resolution they will be
voting on later this year, which is itself an indication of how
much progress BDS is making. (Another indication is that the Kansas
legislature is likely to pass a law prohibiting the state from
contracting with any companies which support BDS.) Last year's
resolution was tabled for fear it might seem anti-semitic, so
Kuttab reached out to JVP for support on that count, and they
arranged for Laura Tillem to join Kuttab (she started by reading
Meanwhile, you might note Richard Silverstein's recent posts:
Former Israeli Defense Minister Confirms Israeli Collaboration with ISIS in Syria;
Israel Criminalizes Palestinian Muslim Activism; and
Justice Department to Prosecute Israeli-American Teen Who Masterminded
Wave of Threats Against Jewish Institutions. The latter may have
been a prank, but it reminded me of the Lavon Affair (the most notorious
of Israeli "false flag" operations). With the alt-right providing cover,
Michael Kaydar's phone threats helped raise the profile of anti-semitism
in America, which played into the hands of anti-BDS hysterics. For a
reminder of what's actually happening in Israel/Palestine, it's worth
your while to check up every now and then on Kate's regular compendiums
of news reports. The latest is called
Settlers from Kushner family-funded community attack 3 Israeli grandmothers,
but that's only the lead story, with much more outrage following.
Paul Krugman: Why Don't All Jobs Matter? He asks the question, why
only focus on lost mining and manufacturing jobs (so dear to Trump voters,
if not necessarily to the boss-man himself), when we're also seeing major
job losses in sectors like department stores:
Over the weekend The Times Magazine published
a photographic essay on the decline of traditional retailers in the
face of internet competition. The pictures, contrasting "zombie malls"
largely emptied of tenants with giant warehouses holding inventory for
online sellers, were striking. The economic reality is pretty striking
Consider what has happened to department stores. Even as Mr. Trump
was boasting about saving a few hundred jobs in manufacturing here and
there, Macy's announced plans to close 68 stores and lay off 10,000
workers. Sears, another iconic institution, has expressed "substantial
doubt" about its ability to stay in business.
Overall, department stores employ a third fewer people now than they
did in 2001. That's half a million traditional jobs gone -- about
eighteen times as many jobs as were lost in coal mining over the same
Dean Baker's response:
Paul Krugman Gets Retail Wrong: They Are Not Very Good Jobs. Still,
Krugman's end-point is right on:
While we can't stop job losses from happening, we can limit the human
damage when they do happen. We can guarantee health care and adequate
retirement income for all. We can provide aid to the newly unemployed.
And we can act to keep the overall economy strong -- which means doing
things like investing in infrastructure and education, not cutting
taxes on rich people and hoping the benefits trickle down.
I recall Dani Rodrik, I think, arguing that the problem with free
trade wasn't trade -- it was the failure of some countries (e.g., the
United States) to recognize that trade deals inevitably have losers
as well as winners, and to help minimize the hurt imposed those who
lose out. Another bigger picture point is that these losses of retail
jobs aren't caused by lower demand; they're being driven by the more
efficient service that online retailers offer. As a society we could
just as well convert those efficiencies into fewer work hours, and
all be better off for that. But we don't, largely because politically
we insist that even the least productive workers toil at minimum wage
jobs while allowing companies to extract ever more hours from their
more productive employees.
Eric Margolis: What Would Korean War II Look Like? The illustration
is a nuclear mushroom cloud, and that's certainly within the realm of
possibility -- both sides possessing such weapons. The US, of course,
fears that North Korea might some day use their growing stock of atomic
warheads and long-range missiles, but the immediate danger is that the
US will precipitate such at attack with some arrogant ultimatum or more
overt act. The result would be awful messy: beyond the kill zone any
nuclear exchange would "cause clouds of lethal radiation and radioactive
dust to blanket Japan, South Korea and heavily industrialized northeast
China, including the capital, Beijing." (Actually, given that prevailing
winds blow east, the radioactive cloud wouldn't take long to blow over
America.) Even if both sides restrain themselves, North Korean artillery
aimed at Seoul threaten to turn the city (pop. 10 million) "into a sea
of fire." Presumably the US military could invade and conquer North Korea,
but the latter has a large conventional army and has long been obsessed
with preparing to repel an invasion. No one thinks it would be easy, or
painless. Margolis counters that "All this craziness would be ended if
the US signed a peace treat with North Korea ending the first Korean War
and opened up diplomatic and commercial relations." That hasn't happened
because Americans are petty and vindictive, still harboring a grudge over
their inability to rid Korea of Communism in the extraordinarily brutal
1950-53 war. And because neocons are so wrapped up in their own sense of
omnipotence they refuse to acknowledge that any other country might be
able to present a credible deterrence against American aggression. The
fact is that North Korea, like China and Russia (and probably Iran, even
without nukes) has one, and the only way to counter that is to decide
that the old war is over and that we're never going to restart it. You
don't have to like Kim Jong Un or his very strange, isolated and paranoid
country, to decide to stop hurting yourself and endangering the world --
which is really all Trump's Korea policy amounts to. You might even find
they become a bit more tolerable once you stop giving them so much reason
to be terrified.
Robert Dreyfuss: Trump's Terrifying North Korea Standoff;
Mike Whitney: The US Pushed North Korea to Build Nukes: Yes or No?;
Richard Wolffe: Donald Trump's 'armada' gaffe was dangerous buffoonery.
Sophia A McClennan: Bill O'Reilly Ruined the News: 10 Ways He and Fox
News Harassed Us All; also
Justin Peters: The All-Spin Zone.
Robert Parry: Why Not a Probe of 'Israel-gate'? After all, far
more than Russia, no other nation has so often or so profoundly tried
to influence American elections and political processes for its own
interests. This piece reviews a fair selection of the history, not
least Israel's 1980 efforts to defeat Jimmy Carter. Indeed, Israel's
influence has become so exalted that both Trump and Clinton prostrated
themselves publicly before AIPAC -- and who knows what they did behind
the closed doors of Israel-focused donors like Abelson and Sabin.
Margot Sanger-Katz: Bare Market: What Happens if Places Have No Obamacare
Insurers? Even though the ACA is basically a "safety net" for insurance
industry profits, the marketplace is failing -- mostly, I think, due to
concentration in the industry, but also because the ACA not only subsidizes
profits, it limits them. In Kansas, when I applied for Obamacare when it
opened for business, there were many plans, but only two providers, and
one of them was, frankly, worthless, so the much vaunted "choice" devolved
to a maze of deductible variations -- as usual, insurance company profits
depended mostly on their ability to dodge paying for anything. Now we're
finding some states (or counties within states) with even fewer choices --
potentially none. One way to fix this would be to throw even more money
at the insurance companies. Another would be to provide a "public option" --
a government guarantee which could compete with private plans. Or we could
bow to the inevitable and extend medicare and/or medicaid to undercut the
private insurance industry altogether. The problem is, any such solution
depends on a political will that Trump and the Republicans don't have and
can't muster, so the failure of Obamacare they've been predicting will
most likely be hastened by their own hands. Also by the author:
No, Obamacare Isn't in a 'Death Spiral', and
Trump's Choice on Obamacare: Sabotage or Co-opt? And from
House Republicans Have a New Plan to Make Your Healthcare Worse.
Matt Taibbi: Yikes! New Behind-the-Scenes Book Brutalizes the Clinton
Campaign: Review of Jonathan Allen/Arnie Parnes: Shattered:
Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign (Crown), a first draft
on what's already turned out to be a fateful slice of history. The
insider dirt ("sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton
campaign") focuses on the mechanics of running the campaign, with
Taibbi singling out the vexing question of why she was running in
the first place:
The real protagonist of this book is a Washington political establishment
that has lost the ability to explain itself or its motives to people
outside the Beltway.
In fact, it shines through in the book that the voters' need to
understand why this or that person is running for office is viewed
in Washington as little more than an annoying problem.
In the Clinton run, that problem became such a millstone around
the neck of the campaign that staffers began to flirt with the idea
of sharing the uninspiring truth with voters. Stumped for months by
how to explain why their candidate wanted to be president, Clinton
staffers began toying with the idea of seeing how "Because it's her
turn" might fly as a public rallying cry.
The authors quote a campaign staffer explaining, "We were talking
to Democrats, who largely didn't think she was evil." But the number
of people who did think she was evil mushroomed beyond the cloistered
party ranks, and her campaign to continue a status quo that seemed to
work only for the donors she preferred to spend time with (especially
when wrapped up in vacuous clichés like "America's always been great")
offered nothing but negatives even to voters who Republicans would
only prey on. As I recall, back in 1992 when Bill Clinton first ran,
he made all sorts of populist promises. Hillary was doubly damned:
not only did she fail to deliver Bill's "man from Hope" shtick, she
started out handicapped by the legacy of his broken promises. (But
since he won, she probably counted that as an asset -- it certainly
did help introduce her to the powers he sold out to.)
One story in the book is about how Hillary scoured her 2008 campaign
email server for evidence of staffers who betrayed her, so this story
Emily Smith: Hillary camp scrambling to find out who leaked embarrassing
Glenn Thrush, et al.: Trump Signs Order That Could Lead to Curbs on
Foreign Workers: Specifically, legal, documented workers under
the H-1B Visa program, which is widely used by American companies
to hire skilled technical workers (admittedly, at below open market
wages). Also see:
EA Crunden: Trump's crackdown on H-1B visas goes far beyond tech
Max Bearak: Trump and Sessions plan to restrict highly skilled foreign
workers. Hyderabad says to bring it on -- the implication here is
that if companies can't hire foreign labor to work here, they'll send
the work to offshore firms.
Monday, April 17. 2017
Music: Current count 28033  rated (+24), 401  unrated (-3).
Lowest rated count February 27 (20), second lowest this year.
About the only excuse I can think of is that the relative bumper
crop of A- records took a lot of extra time -- even the ones on
Napster were more likely to get three than two spins, and the
Perelman-Shipp CDs have proven nearly impossible to rank or even
to sort out -- though they've been a constant pleasure to play.
I'll also note that my office space has turned into a horrible
mess, where the normally FIFO new jazz queue is now a teetering
pile. I need to do a lot of "spring cleaning" -- especially moving
trays of CDs to shelves, a fairly hideous task given deterioration
of my eyesight. Anyhow, my short-term workaround has been to play
old music on the computer, the selections suggested by wherever
I'm stuck in compiling my last fifteen years of jazz reviews into
two book files.
I'm at the stage where I'm going through the database files and
fishing the reviews out of a large text file. I just finished
Jazz (1960-70s), so
next one up is the even longer
Jazz (1980-90s), then
the really huge
Jazz (2000- ), plus
post-2000 vocalists, separate files for Latin and Pop Jazz, and
some scattered names I've filed elsewhere (Avant-Garde, Classical,
New Age, maybe Africa or Latin or Electronica?). The 20th Century
file is growing slowly now -- mostly records that came out before
I started writing seriously about jazz, plus some later reissues --
at 610 pages (271k words), but the 21st Century file is picking up
speed, with 338 pages (159k words).
Given how long the last database file took, I can't even imagine
when I'll be done (in the sense of finishing the compilation phase.
(August? October?) And I expect the result then will be terribly
redundant and shot full of holes -- certainly not something a real
publisher might take any interest in. To come up with something
useful I'd have to go back and take each artist in turn, write a
short bio and critical summary, and fill in a few holes. I might
also need to take less of a kitchen sink approach -- just focus on
"notable" (especially "recommended," maybe even "essential") albums
to cover up how much of the rest I never managed (or will manage)
to get to.
On other fronts,
Lee Rice Epstein has a nice piece on the late Arthur Blythe
(the star, by the way, of the Horace Tapscott album right/below).
I also got notes that Alan Holdsworth and Jay Geils died recently.
I had hopes of driving out to the
EMP Pop Conference in Seattle (April 20-23), but it's clear now
I'm not going to make it. Would have been a nice way to break out of
my winter rut, but I guess I'm stuck.
Not much more to say. Listening to more Stanley Cowell at the
moment. By the way, Cowell's debut album is on Napster as Travellin'
Man, but I went with the title of the LP I bought back in 1977
(like many old LPs it slipped my mind when I compiled my original
rated records list; glad to fill this one in).
New records rated this week:
- Jacob Collier: In My Room (2016, Membran): [r]: C+
- Larry Coryell, Barefoot Man: Sanpaku (2016, Purple Pyramid): [r]: B+(*)
- David Feldman: Horizonte (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Craig Finn: We All Want the Same Things (2017, Partisan): [r]: A-
- Gerry Gibbs & Thrasher People: Weather or Not (2016 , Whaling City Sound): [cd/r]: B
- Rhiannon Giddens: Freedom Highway (2017, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(**)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1: Titan (2016 , Leo): [cd]: A-
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2: Tarvos (2016 , Leo): [cd]: A-
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3: Pandora (2016 , Leo): [cd]: A-
Old music rated this week:
- Stanley Cowell: Blues for the Viet Cong (1969 , Arista/Freedom): [r]: A-
- Blood & Burger: Guitar Music (2002 , Dernière Bande): [r]: B+(**)
- Red Records All Stars [Jerry Bergonzi/Bobby Watson/Victor Lewis/Kenny Barron/Curtis Lundy/David Finck]: Together Again for the First Time (1996 , Red): [r]: B+(***)
- Horace Tapscott Quintet: The Giant Is Awakened (1969, Flying Dutchman): [r]: A-
- Charles Tyler Ensemble: Black Mysticism (1966, ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(***)
- Charles Tyler Ensemble: Eastern Man Alone (1967, ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)
- James Blood Ulmer: Revealing (1977 , In+Out): [r]: A-
- James Blood Ulmer: Part Time (1983 , Celluloid): [r]: B+(**)
- Bobby Watson: Live in Europe: Perpetual Groove (1983 , Red): [r]: B+(***)
- Bobby Watson: Appointment in Milano (1985, Red): [r]: A-
- Bobby Watson & Tailor Made With Tokyo Leaders Big Band: Live at Someday in Tokyo (2000 , Red): [r]: B+(*)
- Bobby Watson: The Gates BBQ Suite (2010, Lafiya Music): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Craig Fraedrich With Trilogy and Friends: All Through the Night (Summit)
- Mats Holmquist: Big Band Minimalism (Summit)
- Sarah Partridge: Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian (Origin)
- Cuong Vu 4-Tet: Ballet (Rare Noise): advance, April 28
Sunday, April 16. 2017
After a long post on Saturday, I need to keep this one short, almost
Saddened to hear of the death of Amy Durfee, 88, a neighbor of my
wife's when she was growing up in Oak Park, Michigan. Amy and Art
Durfee remained close friends of the family, people we saw every trip
we made to Detroit. I feel fortunate to have known them.
The big story this past week has been the Trump Administration's
attempt to show North Korea that when they get into a pissing contest
the US will not only stand up the challenges but will take the extra
step in showing itself to be more insanely belligerent. As best I
recall, even Nixon regarded his infamous "madman" ploy as something
of a joke -- a nuance Trump clearly is incapable of fathoming. So
far, it's been hard to argue that any of Trump's belligerence has
transgressed lines that Hillary Clinton was comfortable with, but
in Korea he could easily step out too far. This is probably something
to write a long post about. Indeed, I've written about Korea several
times, including a passage at the start of my memoir, given that I
was born the same week China entered the Korean War and turned an
American rout into a bloody stalemate. That was the beginning of
the end of America both as a global empire and as a nation that
could lay some claim to decent and honorable values. Korea was
where Americans learned to become the sore losers who invest so
much effort in bullying the world and are so unforgiving of any
offense. And here we are, sixty-six years later, still picking at
the scab of our past embarrassment.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Robert Bateman: Why So Many Americans Support Deadly Aerial Warfare:
"It took decades of propaganda to get here." Last week's use of the
21,000 pound "Mother of All Bombs" signifies more as a propaganda coup
than for the 90 "ISIS fighters" it killed. The notion of "Victory Through
Airpower" goes way back, but what it mostly means today is that we can
punish our "enemies" at virtually no risk to ourselves. Removing that
risk helps strip away our inhibitions against bombardment, as does the
distance. Of course, it matters that one only attacks "enemies" that
don't have the capability to respond in kind. ISIS and the Taliban have
no airpower to speak of, and lately the US has been able to bomb Iraq
and Syria at will with no obvious repercussions (other than the stream
of bad press due to civilian casualties, but that rarely registers in
"the homeland"). One danger of listening to your own propaganda is a
false sense of confidence, which can lead to reckless provocations,
like Trump's macho bluff against North Korea.
Medea Benjamin: The "Mother of All Bombs" Is Big, Deadly -- and Won't
Lead to Peace: Actually, this feels like a publicity stunt, a way
to follow up on the gushing press Trump's cruise missile attack on
Syria generated. Benjamin doubts that MOAB is "a game changer," then
asks: "Will Trump drag us deeper into this endless war by granting
the US Afghan commander, Gen. John Nicholson, his request for several
thousand more troops?" What worries me more isn't that the US will
throw good troops after bad, but that Trump will conclude that what
he really needed was a bigger bang -- that MOAB is just a precursor
to deploying tactical nuclear weapons.
Frank Bruni: Steve Bannon Was Doomed: Bannon always seemed shaky
because he clearly had his own ideas and agenda, where Trump had little
He didn't grapple with who Trump really is. Trump's allegiances are
fickle. His attention flits. His compass is popularity, not any fixed
philosophy, certainly not the divisive brand of populism and nationalism
that Bannon was trying to enforce. Bannon insisted on an ideology when
Trump cares more about applause, and what generates it at a campaign
rally isn't what sustains it when you're actually governing. . . .
Bannon is still on the job, and Trump may keep him there, because
while he has been disruptive inside the White House, he could be pure
nitroglycerin outside. He commands acolytes on the alt-right. He has
the mouthpiece of Breitbart News. He has means for revenge. He also
has a history of it.
As for how Bannon could hurt Trump, Bruni cites
Sean Illing: If Trump fires Steve Bannon, he might regret it.
One need only note that the audience that Bannon cultivated is
used to getting screwed over by false heroes, and it will be
easy to paint Trump that way. Illing also has an interview with
On the billionaire behind Bannon and Trump
Lee Fang: Paul Ryan Raised $657,000 While Avoiding His Constituents
During Recess: I guess the buck doesn't stop with Trump.
Elizabeth Grossman: "It couldn't get much worse": Trump's policies
are already making workplaces more toxic
Fred Kaplan: Return of the Madman Theory: Found this after I wrote
the "madman" line in the intro, if you want deeper speculation on the
subject. Kaplan's argument that Trump's "erratic and unpredictable"
foreign policy "might just make the world more stable -- for a short
time" is a reach -- it could just as easily backfire spectacularly.
For instance, Trump doesn't understand that America's "leadership of
the Free World" was something paid for generously, not something
simply accorded because the US had the most bombs and the longest
reach. So when he tries to shake down NATO members or to flip trade
deficits with East Asia he doesn't realize how easy it would be for
supposed allies to go their own way.
Paul Krugman: Can Trump Take Health Care Hostage?
Jon Marshall: Thinking About Spicer's Chemical Weapons Gaffe:
I thought about writing more about the use of chemical weapons as
the Syria incident/response unfolded, and both Spicer's spouting
and Marshall's "thinking" suggests people are short on some of the
basics. Marshall writes, "It's no accident that since World War I,
the rare uses of chemical weapons have been as terror weapons, as
Saddam Hussein did with the Kurds in the 1980s and Assad has during
the Syrian Civil War." Actually, more typical examples were by the
British in Iraq in the early 1920s and by Italy in Ethiopia in 1937:
poison gas is a favored weapon against people with no protection
and no ability to respond in kind. I think the only time since the
Great War where it was used against a comparable army was by Iraq
against Iran, where Iran ruled out reprisals on moral grounds.
Saddam Hussein against the Kurds was an isolated incident tied
to the Iran War. It's also not clear to me that Assad ever used
it in Syria, regardless of what Marshall thinks. No doubt poison
gas is terrifying, but so is every other method of killing in war.
The international treaties and the general taboo about chemical
weapons are just one part of a more general effort to prohibit
war, and it's the general case we should focus on.
For more on Spicer's "doofusery" (Marshall's apt term), see:
Amy Davidson: Sean Spicer Is Very Sorry About His Holocaust Comments;
Brant Rosen: All Pharaohs Must Fall: A Passover Reflection on
Charles P Pierce: Is Trump Actually in Charge? Or Is It Worse Than We
Feared? I don't get the Fletcher Knebel references, but what I take
away from the Trump quotes is that he simply lets the military brass
do whatever they want, assuming that whatever they come up with will
be just great: "We have the greatest military in the world . . . We
have given them total authorization, and that's what they're doing.
Frankly, that's why they've been so successful lately." This shouldn't
come as a surprise to anyone: from the start of his campaign, Trump's
only original idea was that Obama weakened the country by telling the
military "no" too many times. (Personally, I thought Obama said "yes"
way too often.) But the problem here isn't uncertainty of control.
It's that the military -- indeed, all militaries in recent history --
have tended to be over-optimistic about their own powers, while
under-estimating the risks of action, and having no fucking idea
about where their aggression might lead.
Eric Fehrnstrom: The generals come to Trump's rescue, which
starts: "Thank God for the gneerals. No one thought they would turn
out to be the moderates in the Trump White House. . . . If not for
them, Trump's grade on his first 100 days would go from middling to
poor." Fehrnstrom is a big fan of "Mattis, McMaster, and Kelly,"
yet the best he can say for them is that the "first 100 days" have
Gareth Porter: New Revelations Belie Trump Claims on Syria Chemical
Rick Sterling: How Media Bias Fuels Syrian Escalation.
Matt Taibbi: For White America, It's 'Happy Days' Again: Or, there
ain't gonna be any federal civil rights enforcement while Jeff Sessions
is Attorney General. Also the DOJ (formerly Department of Justice) won't
be reviewing any alleged instances of local police abuses. Not sure why
turning you back on decades of civil rights justice (lackluster as it's
been) is supposed to make white people happy -- more like ashamed, I'd
Annie Waldman: DeVos Pick to Head Civil Rights Office Once Said She
Faced Discrimination for Being White.
Jon Wiener: On the Road in Trump Country: Interview with Thomas
Frank, whose 2016 book Listen, Liberal prefigured the Hillary
Matthew Yglesias: Trump's pivot is real -- he's more right-wing than
ever; or as David Dayen put it,
President Bannon Is Dead, Long Live President Cohn.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Rebecca Burns: Is Georgia Poised for a Democratic Upset? This is
GA-6, mostly Atlanta suburbs, Newt Gingrich's old district, recently
vacated by Republican Tom Price whom Trump picked as his Secretary
Against Health and Human Services. The national Democratic Party
likes its chances here because the district was only narrowly won
by Trump (unlike KS-4, which Trump won by 27 percentage points,
reduced to 7 points last week by James Thompson) -- also perhaps
because Ossoff was a Clinton (not Sanders) supporter, and the
district's demographics are more upscale and cosmopolitan. The
election is next week, but unless Ossoff wins a majority there
will be a runoff.
Michael Corcoran: Single-Payer Health Care Is Seeing Record Support
Taylor Link: The total cost of the 2016 election was nearly $6.5 billion:
Isn't there some relevant adage about how "you get what you pay for"?
That's an awful lot of money to wind up with Donald Trump as president
and a swamp full of Congressional corruption. Of course, compared to
something really counterproductive, like the war in Syria (let alone
Afghanistan or Iraq) that's pretty cheap.
Isaac Stone Fish: Let's stop calling North Korea 'crazy' and understand
their motives; also:
William J Perry: How to Make a Deal With North Korea.
Kareem Shaheen: Erdogan clinches victory in Turkish constitutional
referendum: Probably a big story. Certainly not the only one
who would try to take advantage of his position to rig the system
with an eye to the future. Another view:
Simon Waldman: After referendum, Turkey is more divided than ever.
Matthew Yglesias: Why flying in America keeps getting more miserable,
explained: Deregulation back in the 1970s was supposed to increase
competition and reduce prices, but it's led to all sorts of predatory
behavior -- especially as customers have predictably looked for lower
prices than better service -- and the fallout has resulted in only four
airlines controlling more than 80 percent of passenger traffic, with
their attendant monopoly pricing. Also note that the fact that the
system is functional at all is due to residual regulation -- e.g.,
rules that keep airlines from cheating on safety in ways that would
increase crashes (and probably cause the industry to implode). More
regulation could help bolster minimal service standards, and more
competition would help keep prices reasonable. But if you've ever
doubted that the market knows best, you can find plenty of evidence