Sunday, December 16. 2007
Having a lot of trouble with updates this week, partly because some thing I would be posting earlier get held back here, mostly because of the deadline pressure. Year-end jazz list is done and handed in -- more on that in Jazz Prospecting. Jazz CG has reached its word count but still needs more work to get the records I want in. Next week will be better, unless the holidays strike early. Should have some book stuff anyway.
TomDispatch interview: Jonathan Schell, The Bomb in the Mind. Schell has written a number of books about nuclear weapons, such as 1982's The Fate of the Earth. The most recent being The Seventh Decade: The New Shape of Nuclear Danger -- the occasion for this interview. There have actually be a sudden rash of books on nuclear weapons -- I have new ones on my shelf by Jeremy Bernstein and Richard Rhodes, and there are plenty more I could have picked up, like Joseph Cirincione's Bomb Scare: The History and Future of Nuclear Weapons and Douglas Frantz/Catherine Collins' The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets. The reason is no doubt the preoccupation with the prospects of all those Evil Axis countries. The interview focuses more on the idea of nuclear weapons, which is (thankfully) the only realm where they are readily deployed. Schell relates a thought that occurred to him in the 1960s (evidently while taking a course from Henry Kissinger): "I remember this thought: That the people who were for the bomb were politically sane but morally crazy, while the people who were against the bomb were morally sane but politically crazy. These seemed like two universes that would never meet." Schell goes into the reasons why nations seek nuclear weapons:
Francis Davis: Rookies of the Year. Reviews four "notable 2007 debuts," featuring Tyshawn Sorey's That/Not (Firehouse 12). Sorey is a young drummer who's made a big impression in several side credits, but when I asked for a copy I was politely turned down, with implications that it was none of my business, mostly because my short reviews are unworthy of such a momentous work. Davis' review was cited as the way it should be done, and I can't argue with that, although I think his Bill James analogy is a bit off base. I have heard the three other debuts, concurring strongly on Rafi Malkiel, mostly on Amir ElSaffar, and more/less on Champian Fulton -- the latter made the lower tier of my B+ range, which is better than David Berger has managed on his own.
Steve Fraser: Concocting the Perfect Electoral Storm. In many ways the 2006 election is analogous to the 1930 election, when a sitting Republican president saddled with disaster narrowly lost control of Congress, setting up a massive shift in the presidential election that followed in 1932. Bush's disaster centers on his wars, whereas Hoover's was economic, but it's quite likely that Bush and the Republicans will run into increasing economic problems over the next 10-12 months. Fraser spends most of this article laying out the prospects for just such an economic downturn. The thing about the subprime mortgage crisis that people don't talk about much is that the initial extension of what credit was politically motivated to help shore up the post-9/11 recession and see Bush through the 2004 election. It's not like it actually made sense that there would be a housing bubble at the same time jobs and real wages were falling, but that's what happened. The recovery since 2004 has consistently underperformed, for much the same reason: declining real wages resulting in declining demand. The artificial demand stimuli -- deficit spending, loose credit, currency inflation, auctioning assets off to cover the current accounts deficit -- have all been worked so hard over the last 7 years that their magic is wearing thin, and much of their credibility is shot. Obviously, the worse the economy tanks in 2008 the worse it will be for Republicans.
Another sign that the Republicans are tanking is their roster of presidential candidates. In 2000 Bush was able to make people think that he was some sort of consensus party candidate, a guy amenable to virtually every faction in the party. The candidates today are virtually all factional candidates with little or no appeal beyond their niches. Romney is the money guy, but hard to believe on anything else. Giuliani is the superhawk terrorism guy. Huckabee is the fundamentalist wingnut. McClain is trying to be Giuliani with principles and Bush with brains but isn't trusted by either of those camps. Paul has the libertarians pumped up, but nobody else in the party can stand them. Thompson seems to be aiming for the morons, but it's hard to distinguish himself among people who can't grasp distinctions. Only one of those guys is going to get the nomination, and everyone else will be more/less ticked off. The rank and file factions are likely to believe that, like Goldwater, it's better to be right than to win. The money factions are likely to see which way the wind is blowing and take their business elsewhere.