Friday, March 31. 2017
Feeling rather negligent this month. New records count dropped to
52 from 120 (February) and 138 (January). Of those 17 were 2016 releases,
and 2 go back to 2015, so 33 are 2017 releases (63.5%). Of the 2017
releases, 6 were non-jazz (18.2%): five of those were Christgau picks
(Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Orchestra Baobab, Whitney Rose, Sunny Sweeney, Syd),
so that leaves only one I checked out on my own hunch (Murs). So I seem
to have moved past 2016, but not really into 2017. On the other hand,
when I look at, say, Album of the Year's
The Highest Rated Albums of 2017 I'm not real inspired (Mount Eerie?
Magnetic Fields? Valerie June? OK, I liked the last Laura Marling album,
and I have found three A- records among the top 25 -- Jesca Hoop, XX,
Tinariwen -- but I've also wasted my time with Sampha and Loyle Carner;
aside from Magnetic Fields, the only Christgau picks in the top 50 are
Syd at 34 and Jens Lekman at 43). By the way, Napster only has 16 of
Magnetic Fields' 50 songs, as if I didn't already have reasons enough
to ignore the thing.
On the other hand, more old music this time than in quite some time.
The deaths of Chuck Berry and Arthur Blythe triggered most of them. I
knew Berry from his compilations (including the 3CD Chess Box,
and the earlier LP-era Golden Decade volumes and Rarities,
so I thought it might be interesting to work my way through his albums.
I was fortunate to find (after some digging) all of them on Napster,
but I did stop short of the "complete Chess recordings" boxes (two are
online, the early one not).
Pickings for the late great alto saxophonist were harder to come by,
with most of the Columbias unavailable (including the great In the
Tradition), and nothing on India Navigation, CIMP or Savant -- his
last masterpiece, Focus, appeared there in 2002. Also, he played
a lot in groups (I knew about the Leaders, but the Roots albums below
are finds) and as side credits, and not infrequently stole the show on
the latter. (The John Abercrombie and Lester Bowie albums below feature
Blythe; I'm listening to another by Gust William Tsilis as I'm writing
Other things driving me to old music: collating the jazz guides got
me to look up a few things -- Gato Barbieri, Bob Brookmeyer, Barney
Kessel, Vic Juris. Old albums by Swans and Peter Van Huffel followed
from new albums. I noticed Napster finally added Al Green Is Love,
which Christgau had bumped up from B+ to A a few years ago (I've moved
it to A- myself), so that got me looking at some albums I had missed --
mostly his mid-life gospel phase. Stopped when I couldn't find I Get
Joy (1989), but I haven't missed much since then.
I also took a long look at Ken Vandermark's
Bandcamp page, partly
looking for new (or at least recent) material but also finding some
older records I had missed (going back as far as 1993's Big Head
Eddie, his first quartet). Still a few things I haven't gotten
to on that page: especially the big boxes. If it all seems daunting,
a good place to start is Spaceways Inc.: Version Soul. Or
Vandermark 5's early risk-taking on Target or Flag (which
was the one that convinced me).
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 February 28. Past reviews and
more information are available
here (9400 records).
Greg Abate/Tim Ray Trio: Road to Forever (2016 ,
Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist, credits here list soprano, tenor, and
alto in that order, but he also plays quite a bit of flute. Ray is a
pianist, also plays keyboards, and his bassist switches between acoustic
and electric. Postbop, fluid and eloquent.
AMP Trio: Three (2016 , self-released): New
York-based Piano trio: Addison Frei (piano, Fender Rhodes), Perrin
Grace (acoustic bass), Matt Young (drums). Third album. Played it
twice and it does nothing for me, but not bad when I force myself
Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life (2016, Mama Bird):
Singer-songwriter from Phoenix, based in Seattle, qualifies as Americana
with its plain-spoken songs and modest (give or take some strings)
Jason Anick & Jason Yeager: United (2016 ,
Inner Circle Music): Anick plays violin and mandolin, Yeager piano.
As a duo, or backed with bass and percussion, they make nice chamber
jazz, but the occasional horns perk things up, most monumentally the
cut with tenor saxophonist George Garzone.
Animal Collective: Painting With (2016, Domino):
Having observed (but I must say never understood) how their albums
like Meriweather Post Pavilion (2009) captured critics' polls,
I was surprised that the group's tenth album hardly generated a blip
this year (only one vote in Pazz & Jop, tied for 279 in my EOY
Aggregate). Also surprised that its bounciness no long annoys.
Ballrogg [Klaus Ellerhusen Holm/Roger Arntzen/Ivar Grydeland]:
Abaft the Beam (2014-15 , Clean Feed): Clarinets,
double bass, various guitars (first listed pedal steel, last banjo,
also drum machine). Sort of avant-ambient fusion, which is to say it
doesn't try to melt into background but doesn't really go anywhere
Bat for Lashes: The Bride (2016, Parlophone): British
singer-songwriter Natasha Khan, fourth album, full of weepy ballads sung
in an artificially pretty timbre.
Battle Trance: Blade of Love (2016, New Amsterdam):
Saxophone quartet, all tenors -- Travis Laplante, Patrick Breiner,
Matt Nelson, Jeremy Viner). One piece (40:12) split into three parts,
stuck in one narrow tone band bud they fiddle with it a lot.
Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop: Love Letter for Fire
(2016, Sub Pop/Black Cricket): Beam's own albums are released as
Iron and Wine -- six since 2002, including a 2015 duo credited
to Iron and Wine & Ben Bridwell. Hoop has a similar number of
albums since 2007, including one this year I like a lot (Memories
Are Now). Voices mesh nicely, which helps him more than her.
Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (2016 ,
Clean Feed): Portuguese bassist, currently in Berlin, released a
record called Azul in 1995 and kept the name. Group is a trio
with Frank Möbus on guitar and Jim Black on drums.
Chicago Edge Ensemble: Decaying Orbit (2016 ,
self-released): Guitarist Dan Phillips composed all the pieces here,
but the edge comes from Mars Williams on saxophones and Jeb Bishop
on trombone. They can crack up, loose, or any which way.
Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows
(2016 , self-released, 2CD): Drummer, staged a monumental work
here, lots of strings and gongs and a soprano singer, Areni Agbabian,
and other sampled voices, all things I normally detest, yet it's all
quite lovely and unaccountably moving -- well, maybe if I figured out
the packaging and followed the text and all that . . .
DIIV: Is the Is Are (2016, Captured Tracks):
Brooklyn indie rock band, initially called (and presumably still
pronounced) Dive, second album, with Zachary Cole Smith lead singer,
and keyboards adding a bit of dream pop catchiness to the guitar
Dinosaur Jr: Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016,
Jagjaguwar): One of the genre-defining alt/indie bands back in the
1980s, slogged on despite Lou Barlow's departure in 1989 to 1997,
then regrouped with J Mascis' solo career going nowhere and Barlow
returning in 2006. Eleventh album, sounds like they could go on
Akua Dixon: Akua's Dance (2016 , Akua's Music):
Third album, launching a career after turning 60, plays baritone
violin and cello this time, backed by guitar, bass, and Victor Lewis
on drums -- she certainly has a good sense of how to layer strings
together. Sings one too, and not bad at that.
Marc Ducret Trio+3: Métatonal (2014 , Ayler):
French guitarist, cuts with a sharp metallic edge, his trio adding
double bass and drums, the "+3" horns: saxophonist Christophe Monniot,
trumpeter Fabrice Martinez, and trombonist Samuel Blaser, but they
only let loose when following the leader.
Krzysztof Dys Trio: Toys (2014 , ForTune):
Polish pianist, has at least one previous album, this a trio with
bass (Andrzej Swies) and drums (Krzysztof Szmanda). One original
piece at the end, one Jobim, the rest bop classics (Monk, Davis,
Coltrane, Silver, Evans, Hancock, Shorter), all handled with aplomb.
Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (2016 , Clean Feed):
Avant-jazz sax trio, the leader alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel
(Canadian, Belgian roots, based in Berlin), with Roland Fidezius
(electric bass, effects) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums). The bass
gives this a certain rockish foundation, which the saxophonist
regularly blows up.
Bill Hart: Touch of Blue (2016 , Blue Canoe):
Guitarist, plays fusion, backed by bass, keys, drums, and percussion,
a lot of riffing up and down.
Jill Jack and the American SongBook Band: Pure Imagination
(2016, UpHill Productions): Singer from Detroit, has a dozen albums
since 1997, evidently wrote most of her songs previously but for this
project she picks prime standards from "All of Me" to, ugh, "Bridge
Over Troubled Water." Pianist Dale Grisa leads a solid jazz combo
with guitar and sax. Some interesting twists, but basically as good
as the songs.
Sarah Jarosz: Undercurrent (2016, Sugar Hill): Austin
singer-songwriter, plays mandolin and banjo, originally slotted as
bluegrass, fourth album, doesn't seem to belong to any genre, just
the work of a talented and sometimes touching songsmith.
Norah Jones: Day Breaks (2015 , Blue Note):
I've collected her reviews for my jazz guide, mostly given her label,
but she's never fit very well. Still, the band here is jazzier than
ever, as are her originals, and she covers Ellington and Silver (and
Neil Young), all the while sounding remarkably sweet.
Jü: Summa (2016 , Rare Noise): Avant-fusion trio:
Ádám Mészáros (guitars, kalimba, percussion), Ernö Hock (bass guitar,
bass ukulele, percussion), and András Halmos (drums, bells, kalimba),
with a couple guests on one track. Kjetil Mřster's sax is a nice touch,
but that's about it.
Doug MacDonald: A Salute to Jazz Composers: Jazz Marathon 2
(2016 , BluJazz, 2CD): Guitarist, based in Los Angeles where this
was recorded live, has a dozen albums going back to 1981 -- no evidence
of a Jazz Marathon 1. Horn players are mostly names I recognize --
sax section is Lanny Morgan, Pete Christleib, and/or Ricky Woodard (some
churn from cut to cut). Compositions mostly date from the 1950s, roughly
Charlie Parker to Sonny Rollins, with one original (MacDonald's "Bossa
Don") and an Ellington medley on the margins. So nothing new here, but
it's all pretty delightful.
Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra: Common Ground (2015
, Addo, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist, from Canada, discography goes
back to 1990, fronts a big band with five trumpets and a couple extra
reeds, none of which especially stand out.
Ben Markley Big Band: Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton
(2016 , OA2): Pianist, has a couple of previous albums, teaches
as Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wyoming, his big band
leaning on Denver musicians plus guest trumpet player Terrel Stafford.
Walton always had a knack for writing for horns, so his music scales
up easily here, a very brassy concoction.
Lisa Mezzacappa: Avant Noir (2015 , Clean Feed):
Bassist, has a couple albums, leads a sextet here with just one horn
(Aaron Bennett on tenor sax) and no piano: the other spots are electric
guitar, vibes, electronics, and drums.
The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra: Welcome to Swingsville!
(2016 , BluJazz): Big Band from University of Wisconsin Milwaukee,
"managed" by Kyle Seifert (tenor sax) and Julia Rose Bustle, main name
I recognize trumpeter Russ Johnson. Notes brag about this program being
played "live and unrehearsed." That may explain why this gets a slow
start, but they hit their stride on "Caravan."
Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds
(2015 , FPE): Flute player, based in Chicago since 1990 although
since 2001 she has taught at University of California Irvine. Booklet
credits this to her Black Earth Ensemble, a group with shakuhachi, viola,
cello, guitar, bass, and percussion. Effectively this is two records,
and long enough that both are well developed: it begins and ends with
instrumental grunge, something like a jazz elaboration on industrial
but a bit more ethereal; in between, we get an extended vocal harangue
from "avery y young." I've played this four times, and I'm still
ambivalent about both halve, but this is pretty unique, and for once
I'm not bitching about the flute.
Murs: Captain California (2017, Strange Music): LA
rapper, underground, has a couple albums I like a lot, more I never
heard. This one, packed with featured guests I've never heard of and
nine different producers, wanders all over the place.
Bill O'Connell: Monk's Cha Cha: Live at the Carnegie-Farian
Room (2016 , Savant): Solo piano, the title tune an
original, the other material -- originals plus covers of "Afro Blue,"
"Dindi," and "The Song Is You" -- not pushing either interest very
hard or far.
Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: Drool (2017, Father/Daughter/Sooper):
From LA (or Chicago), sings more than he raps, a Christgau pick but
while some of this prog trickiness sounds promising I find much of it
Miles Okazaki: Trickster (2016 , Pi): Guitarist,
has an airy style with a slight metallic tinge, leads a quartet here
with pianist Craig Taborn impressive as usual.
Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (2016 , Loyal Label):
Norwegian Bassist, based in New York, has released four Overseas
albums with a core group of saxophonist Tony Malaby and pianist Jacob
Sacks, joined here (as on Overseas IV by Brandon Seabrook (guitar)
and Kenny Wolleson (drums). Dense and intricate, the guitar and sax
blunted and folded back into the group, where the focus is more on
sustaining rhythmic force.
Orchestra Baobab: Tribute to Ndiouga Dieng (2017,
Nonesuch/World Circuit): One of Senegal's most important bands, their
1970s shrined in multi-volume compilations called La Belle Epoque,
with more albums since 1992, one of the best (Specialist in All
Styles) from 2002, the last before this in 2008. Dieng (1947-2016)
was the group's long-time singer, though he is ably replaced here.
The Radio Dept.: Running Out of Love (2016, Labrador):
Swedish electropop group, a bit of a throwback to 1980's new wave (with
a dash of shoegaze), the final cut a hint of Pet Shop Boys but rather
Rocco John: Peace and Love (2014 , Unseen Rain):
Alto saxophonist (also soprano and piano) Rocco John Iacovone, leading
a group he calls the Improvisational Composers Ensemble in a tribute to
Will Connell (1938-2014), a saxophonist with a slim discography (most
notably the 1981/83 Commitment recordings with William Parker) who
"lived his music." Group is an octet with Ras Moshe Burnett (bells,
tenor sax, flute), violin, bass clarinet, guitar, double bass, drums,
and percussion. Group hits hard, but is equally interesting when they
spread out, chill out, or aim for the heavens.
Whitney Rose: South Texas Suite (2017, Six Shooter, EP):
Singer-songwriter from Prince Edward Island up in Canada, moved to Austin
and after two albums I never noticed came up with this remarkable six cut,
Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger
(2016 , Meta/M.O.D. Technologies): Percussionist, mostly hand
drums here, with two other drummers (Hamid Drake and James Hurt) in
the ensemble, along with horns -- Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn)
and Ralph M. Jones (flutes, clarinets, saxes) -- keyboards, guitar,
and electric bass. Strong suit is rhythm, colors changing from darker
John K. Samson: Winter Wheat (2016, Anti-):
Singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, came out of a couple bands I've
heard of (Propagandhi, The Weakerthans), third solo album.
Jenny Scheinman: Here on Earth (2017, Royal Potato
Family): Violinist, working on a soundtrack for the film Kannapolis:
A Moving Portrait, based on 1936-42 archival footage by H. Lee
Waters of small town folks in North Carolina during the Great Depression.
Some scenes included fiddle-banjo-guitar, so she recruited Danny Barnes,
Robbie Fulks, Bill Frisell, and Robbie Gjersoe -- reminds me that Frisell
hired Scheinman for his very similar Arkansas-based Disfarmer.
Andy Shauf: The Party (2016, Anti-): Singer-songwriter
from Saskatchewan, started out as drummer in a "Christian pop punk band,"
third solo album here. This is pretty sedate, or pretty but sedate.
Swans: The Glowing Man (2016, Young God, 2CD): Michael
Gira's industrial/noise group, toiled in near-complete obscurity from
1983's Filth through 1996's Soundtracks for the Blind,
but since regrouping in 2010 they've garnered effusive press and even
a bit of commercial acceptance. That fell off a bit on this fourth
post-hiatus album, perhaps because its length reinforces the sense
Sunny Sweeney: Trophy (2017, Aunt Daddy): Country
singer, cowrote most of her songs -- don't have the credits but
evidently Lori McKenna was involved. The backing is nondescript,
and they drag a little, but every one hits its mark, even a couple
I'd rather not deal with.
Syd: Fin (2017, Columbia): Vocalist for the Internet tries
a solo album. Small voice, matter-of-fact beats, picks up toward the end
with a couple of featuring credits (who is this Steve Lacy?) and a song
about "Insecurities" -- whoever's doing that low voice is helping a lot.
Teenage Fanclub: Here (2016, Merge): Alt/indie band
from Scotland (or "Northern Britain" as one title put it), long time
since anyone here was a teenager, their tenth album losing much of
their jangle but keeping light pop harmonies.
University of Toronto Jazz Orcherstra: Sweet Ruby Suite
(2016 , UofT Jazz): Subtitled The Music of Kenny Wheeler featuring
Norma Winstone and Dave Leibman (lyricist/singer and soprano saxophonist),
so this is a minor milestone in the evolution of jazz repertory, as well as
a sentimental tribute to one of Canada's greatest jazz figures (1930-2014).
Not a direction I relish or a piece of opera I'm particularly fond of, but
I'm not unsentimental (nor unimpressed).
University of Toronto 12Tet: Trillium Falls (2016
, UofT Jazz): Terry Promano directed and composed a couple
pieces, and Noam Lomish added his piano to his track. Notable covers
come from Strayhorn and Ellington. Nice flow, but sometimes I wonder
Keith Urban: Ripcord (2016, Capitol Nashville): Country
singer-songwriter, born in New Zealand, moved to Australia when he was
17 and broke through there, released his first US album in 1999, married
actress Nicole Kidman in 2006, moved to Nashville at some point and
became a US citizen, becoming a judge on American Idol. Ninth
studio album, first I've heard. A formidable voice and a flexible
student of pop hooks, mixing in Carrie Underwood on one track and
Nile Rodgers and Pitbull on another. Could catch on if I gave it the
chance, but I can remember so little of it after one play I doubt I
Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (2016 , Clean Feed):
Recorded in Portugal but mixed in Norway, don't know anything about
the trio -- Bostjan Simon (sax, electronics), Stephan Meidell (guitar,
bass, percussion, electronics), and Luis Candelas (drums, percussion) --
other than that their 2014 debut blew me away. They describe this one
as "a step forward and a dive inward," which is to say the deep sound
of their dense fusion takes much longer to sink in.
Nate Wooley/Ken Vandermark: All Directions Home (2015,
Audiographic): Duets, trumpet and reeds, recorded over two nights in
Milwaukee. This actually works out quite nicely, either likely to set
up rhythmic vamps the other can slide against, neither in a mood to
burn the joint down.
Michael Zilber: Originals for the Originals (2016
, Origin): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), originally from Canada,
now based in San Francisco after a long east coast stay (Boston and
New York -- his debut seems to have been 1992's Stranger in
Brooklyn). Originals dedicated to other saxophonists -- most
obviously Michael Brecker, Sonny Rollins, Wayne Shorter, John
Coltrane, Paul Desmond), mostly backed by piano-bass-drums (David
Kikoski, James Genus, Clarence Penn).
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Count Ossie and the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari: Tales of
Mozambique (1970-75 , Soul Jazz): Born Oswald Williams
(1926-76), he was one of the innovators of nyabinghi, a primitivist
hand drumming style wrapped up in the Rastafari cult. His drumming
with chants and the occasional horn are simple and seductive.
Nigeria Soul Fever: Afro Funk, Disco and Boogie
(1970s-80s , Soul Jazz): A big country, roughly the population
if not nearly the physical size of Brazil (173.6 vs. 200.4 million
people), its diversity another reason for adopting so many western
musical styles. Label has a good record for compilations, but this
often sounds second-hand, even if more energetically so.
John Abercrombie/Arthur Blythe/Terri Lyne Carrington/Anthony Cox/Mark
Feldman/Gust Tsilis: Echoes (1996 , Alessa): All names
on front cover, in alphabetical order, but Blythe (alto sax) only appears
on two (of ten) cuts, and Feldman (violin) on one. On the other hand,
they dominate their cuts to the point of suggesting the album could turn
into something. Otherwise, the guitarist is most chameleon-like, leaving
Tsilis' vibes to shine.
Gato Barbieri Quartet: In Search of the Mystery
(1967, ESP-Disk): Tenor saxophonist from Argentina, played with
Lalo Schifrin in the late 1950s/early 1960s before following John
Coltrane into the avant-garde, leading to this debut album, with
Calo Scott (cello), Norris Jones (bass), and Bobby Kapp (drums).
Strong stuff, but mostly his screech is barely controlled, and
sometimes it slips.
Gato Barbieri: The Third World (1969 , Flying
Dutchman): Front cover just says "Gato" under the title. Album opens
with flute, then a little vocal, before blossoming into one of the
most identifiable tenor sax tones ever. Interesting line up here,
with the first hints of his Latin/tango rhythm melded with Roswell
Rudd's trombone growl.
Gato Barbieri: Fenix (1971, Flying Dutchman): This
is where he set the pattern for his best albums of the following
decade: he cranked up the Latin percussion (adding Gene Golden on
bongos and congas and Na Na on congas and berimbau), let the rhythm
section (Lennie White III on drums, Ron Carter on electric bass,
and Lonnie Liston Smith on keyboards) ham it up, and blew his sax
way past them all.
Gato Barbieri: El Pampero (1971 , Flying
Dutchman): Same instrumental lineup with considerable shuffling of
personnel (Lonnie Liston Smith on piano and Na Na on berimbau are
the constants), with the saxophonist if anything even more towering.
Chuck Berry: After School Session (1955-57 ,
Chess): I discovered Berry through compilations -- Chuck Berry's
Golden Decade, which later morphed into The Great Twenty-Eight
and the slightly enlarged 30-cut (picking up his 1972 novelty hit "My
Ding-A-Ling") The Definitive Collection -- and I've heard the
3-CD Chess Box, but on his death, I figured why not check out
as many old LPs as I could find? This was his first, only the second
issued by the label, with five classics ("School Days," "Too Much Monkey
Business," "No Money Down," "Brown Eyed Handsome Man," "Havana Moon"),
a forgotten single ("Wee Wee Hours" from 1955), and filler -- plucky
instrumentals plus less developed ballads.
Chuck Berry: One Dozen Berrys (1957 , Chess):
Second album, follows the same formula, with four classics -- "Sweet
Little Sixteen," "Oh Baby Doll," "Reelin' and Rockin'," "Rock and Roll
Music" -- and mostly instrumental filler (though "It Don't Take but a
Few Minutes" is a charming oddity).
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry Is on Top (1955-59 ,
Chess): Third album, possibly his best known, rounded up non-album
singles as far back as "Maybellene" (1955) and "Roll Over Beethoven"
(1956). Eight of twelve songs made The Great Twenty-Eight,
two other singles dropped from the canon ("Anthony Boy" and "Jo Jo
Gunne"), and there are two odd little pieces of filler ("Hey Pedro"
and "Blues for Hawaiians").
Chuck Berry: Rockin' at the Hops (1960, Chess):
Only one canon song ("Let It Rock"), but three other songs were
released as singles, and they and a couple others (including a
cover, "Too Pooped to Pop") are unmistakable Berry.
Chuck Berry: New Juke Box Hits (1961, Chess):
Not really: "I'm Talking About You" is the only canon song, and
some of the covers had been around the block too many times
("Route 66," "Rip It Up").
Chuck Berry: Twist (1955-61 , Chess): A
stopgap released with Berry in jail, the title suggesting something
new to cash in on Chubby Checker's twist craze, the fourteen songs
old singles (though this was the first album for three: "Oh, Baby
Doll," "Come On," "Back in the U.S.A."). It's all brilliant, but
docked a bit as misleading, and because later compilations were
able to double the length without slipping one bit. [Reissued a
year later as More Chuck Berry. That title was then recycled
for a 1964 UK release with a different songlist -- only "Reelin'
and Rockin'" appears on both.]
Chuck Berry: On Stage (1963, Chess): Berry was in
jail in August when this was released -- had been from February 1962
up to October -- so the label faked this, dubbing applause in over
studio tracks, with "Surfin' USA" highlighted on the cover but not
in the song listings (oh, yeah, "Sweet Little Sixteen"). Napster
adds 12 cuts, probably from a later CD reissue I can't locate --
they appear to be the undubbed originals.
Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry: Two Great Guitars (1964, Chess):
Each side of the original LP starts with a sub-three-minute instrumental,
followed in turn by 10:39/14:23 jam, the first side leaning toward Berry,
the second McDaniel. A reissue added four bonus tracks, longest 3:44.
Grooveful, but might have been more exciting if not just a duo.
Chuck Berry: St. Louis to Liverpool (1957-64 ,
Chess): Back from jail, buoyed by royalties from the Beatles and the
Beach Boys (after having sued the latter), he wrote ten (or twelve)
songs, including three of his greatest ("No Particular Place to Go,"
"You Never Can Tell," and "Promised Land"). The forgotten songs are
pretty solid too, and the reissue adds three cuts.
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in London (1965, Chess):
Cover says "recorded in England" but offers no further details --
no evidence of an audience, nor that the recording location matters.
But it does feature new material, only three covers (two name-checking
St. Louis), nothing that wound up in the canon (although "Dear Dad"
and "I Want to Be Your Driver" come close), but the guitar is sui
generis even when the blues are generic.
Chuck Berry: Fresh Berry's (1965, Chess): Last album
for Chess, effectively the end of the era, but none of the songs here
made the canon, the only one coming close "My Mustang Ford." Ends with
a reworking of an early single, this time called "Wee Hour Blues" --
a fitting end. (Berry returned to Chess in 1970, and had a one-shot
hit single in 1972, but never regained his 1957-64 genius.)
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Hits (1966 ,
Mercury): Freed from Chess Records, the first thing Berry's new label
has him do is re-record a dozen of his Chess hits (well, eleven, as
"Club Nitty Gritty" is new, a non-hit single in 1966; expanded to 15
songs for the reissue). While I can't swear the songs are vastly
inferior to the originals, they do feel a bit off. And while the back
cover notes they were recorded "in October and November, 1966" and
"Chuck himself was in full charge of the sessions from beginning to
end," this can't escape the whiff of fraud (although this practice
wasn't unusual -- I'm still soft on The Very Best of the Everly
Brothers, recorded for Warners in 1964, because that's where I
started with them). Chess answered almost immediately with the 2-LP
24-cut Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, which is where I dove in.
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in Memphis (1967, Mercury):
The second of five post-Chess albums Berry cut for Mercury (two live
plus that bogus Golden Hits). Two more re-recorded hits, a
couple of passable outtakes, a batch of soul ballad covers which are
pure filler, and more stress on the horns.
Chuck Berry: Live at Fillmore Auditorium (1967, Mercury):
A proper live album, but Berry had already fallen into the mode of working
with whatever local pick up band he could find, drawing what was still
known as the Steve Miller Blues Band here. Someone must of whispered in
Berry's ear that the hippies dug blues, because he leads off with a long
string of blues covers before delving into his own catalog, with only the
last three songs recognizably his own (one of them his first recorded take
of "My Ding-a-Ling").
Chuck Berry: From St. Louie to Frisco (1968, Mercury):
Seems to be working hard, wrote a batch of new songs -- though "My
Tambourine" is just a gloss on "My Ding-a-Ling," and he that's far
from the only recycling -- but he's falling behind and further into
Chuck Berry: Concerto in B-Goode (1969, Mercury):
First side offers four new songs, all blues, far from bad but not
especially memorable. Second side is an 18:40 instrumental, built
from familiar licks, evidently intended to roll Beethoven back
over. Neither strikes me as a good idea, but he makes them work
Chuck Berry: Back Home (1970, Chess): Well, back in
Chicago with Chess, anyway, leading off with "Tulane" -- probably
his best song since 1964. Follows up with blues and instrumentals,
both better than par.
Chuck Berry: San Francisco Dues (1971, Chess):
I'm curious why Berry has so many San Francisco titles, especially
given that whenever he thinks of that town he slows down and melts.
Chuck Berry: The London Chuck Berry Sessions (1972,
Chess): One side (five songs) cut in the studio, including a Little
Walter cover. The other side was live, just three songs: "Reelin' and
Rockin'" and "Johnny B. Goode" sandwiched 11:33 of Dave Bartholomew's
"My Ding-a-Ling" structured as an audience sing-along. Berry had
recorded the song before (as well as its alter-ego "My Tambourine"),
but this was somehow turned into Berry's one and only chart-topping
single ("Sweet Little Sixteen" peaked at 2, "School Day" at 3,
"Maybellene" at 5, with three more cracking the top ten).
Chuck Berry: Bio (1973, Chess): Seven original songs
show a lot of care if not much genius, but I find the easy and almost
effortless pace rather appealing. The band, which fills in seamlessly,
also does business as Elephant's Memory.
Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry (1975, Chess): Mostly covers,
a mix of blues and country and "Shake Rattle and Roll," with "Swanee
River" adapted to be most Berry-like. It's schlock, but he makes it
sound easy and natural, like he's figured out the art of coasting.
Chuck Berry: Rock It (1979, Atco): Having left Chess
for the second time, his first and only album for the Warners combine,
and it would turn his last album before his death in 2017 (although a
new one is rumored, the posthumous market for legends never richer).
Christgau liked this one much more than his previous five (or maybe,
probably, more), and it certainly is cheerier, but too much rubs me
the wrong way -- not least the "Havana Moon" accent -- to get at all
Chuck Berry: Rock 'N Roll Rarities (1957-64 ,
Chess): I wouldn't have bothered with this except I recall having it
on vinyl. Some misdirection in that the songs themselves are far from
unknown -- 11 of 20 are on The Great Twenty-Eight, which was
the standard compilation at the time, and 4 of the remaining 9 were
chart singles. Still, the fine print explains that most are demos or
alternate takes, some just stereo remixes. And none of the variants
stray far. Still, one terrific song was previously unknown ("Time Was"),
and I hadn't noticed "Oh Yeah" elsewhere.
Arthur Blythe: Put Sunshine in It (1985, Columbia):
The late great alto saxophonist, came out of Horace Tapscott's circle
in Los Angeles, cut a couple albums on small labels, then got a shot
on Columbia and responded with two of the major jazz albums of the
late 1970s, Lenox Avenue Breakdown and In the Tradition.
This was his eighth album at Columbia (out of ten up to 1988), and
by then he was struggling for something bright and pleasing. With
cello and tuba instead of bass, guitar, and drums (congas on one
track), this doesn't push anyone's buttons.
Lester Bowie: The 5th Power (1978, Black Saint):
AACM trumpet player, with Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Malachi Favors (bass),
Amina Myers (piano), and Phillip Wilson (drums). Five pieces, Myers
wrote and sings a "traditional gospel" that doesn't stay true, the
rest of the pieces are sketchy and tentative.
Bob Brookmeyer: The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer
(1954-55 , Prestige/OJC): The valve trombonist's first album,
cobbled together from two four-cut sessions: the first featuring
guitarist Jimmy Raney, with Teddy Kolick (bass) and Mel Lewis
(drums); the second with Teddy Charles (vibes), Kolick, and Ed
Shaughnessy (drums), plus one nondescript vocal. Leader plays some
fancy piano too (opposite Charles).
Double Tandem [Ab Baars/Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love]:
OX (2012, dEN): Two tenor saxes (Vandearmark also on
baritone, both also switching off to clarinet), jousting mightily
with the drummer refereeing.
FME: Live at the Glenn Miller Café - Feb. 27, 2002
(2002, Okka Disk): Ken Vandermark free jazz trio, active 2002-05,
with Nate McBride on bass and Paal Nilssen-Love on drums. Terrific
example of Vandermark in avant-honk mode, weakened only by a couple
spots of regrouping.
FME: Montage (2005 , Okka Disk, 2CD): Last
album for the group, although Vandermark has recorded a half-dozen
or more duo albums with drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, and has often
employed bassist Nate McBride, so it wouldn't take much for them
to regroup. Problem here is that at double the length, they space
out the moments of brilliance, and while the anticipation may add
something to live performance, it just makes us impatient here.
Al Green: Truth N' Time (1978, Hi): His last album
before switching over to gospel music. Shows some but not a lot of
decline, voice still extraordinary, groove compelling, but nothing
really great, and pretty short for an LP (8 songs, 26:39).
Al Green: Tokyo . . . Live (1978 , Motown):
Live double, should fit on a single CD (76:49). Great songs, the
two covers long owned, the band proficient, the sound a bit distant
compared to the studio cuts you know like the back of your hand.
Al Green: Precious Lord (1982, Myrrh): Green's
third gospel album, after the tentative The Lord Will Make a
Way and the more sure-footed Higher Plane. Traded his
Memphis groove section for Nashville and more choir, which turned
off some, but this is chock full of familiar songs which have
rarely been raised so high to the rafters.
Al Green: I'll Rise Again (1983, Myrrh): Back in
Memphis so sure, a better groove record. Not sure of the credits but
nothing I recognize, or listened to closely enough to get turned off
or on. Wish the title prophesied the soul singer, not Jesus.
Al Green: Trust in God (1984, Myrrh): His gospel
albums have become so perfunctory I only noticed one song here.
Looking at the credits there should have been two.
Al Green: He Is the Light (1986, A&M): Discogs
says this was originally titled Going Away (after the lead
song), but I doubt the record was released in the UK before the US,
where this has always been the title. Willie Mitchell returns as
producer, helping to focus the groove. Favorite lyric: "I feel like
shoutin' for joy."
Vic Juris: Songbook (1999 , SteepleChase):
Guitar trio with Jay Anderson (bass) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums).
Title piece is an original, plus two standards by Kern, one each
by Jobim and Mancini, the rest jazz touchstones from "Nuages" to
"Milestones," all played so modestly none stand out.
Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne and Ray Brown: The Poll
Winners (1957 , Contemporary/OJC): Guitar-drums-bass
trio, not sure what poll they claimed but at ages 30-36 they were
early in their careers, and milked that group title for several more
albums. One original, eight standards, Kessel's thin lines and mild
metallic tone fast on their way to becoming hegemonic.
Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne & Ray Brown: Poll Winners
Three! (1959 , Contemporary/OJC): Third group record
for the guitar trio, Kessel having released a couple albums on his
own between each. Again, one Kessel original, another by Brown, the
rest standards swung a bit harder this time out.
The Leaders: Unforseen Blessings (1988 , Soul
Note): All-star group came together in 1986 with Lester Bowie (trumpet),
Arthur Blythe (alto sax), Chico Freeman (tenor sax), Kirk Lightsey
(piano), Cecil McBee (bass) and Don Moye (drums). Third album with
that lineup -- they'd go on to cut one more in 1994, but their 2006
reunion replaced Bowie and Blythe with Eddie Henderson and Bobby
Watson. The rhythm section also recorded an 1988 album as the
Leaders Trio, and Lightsey also seems to be in the helm here --
the horns tentative until they close with a blues.
Lean Left: Live at Area Sismica (2012 ,
Unsounds): Ken Vandermark and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love, their
duo joined by two guitarists from the Dutch punk band Ex, left
to play free and joust with the sax. Group came together in
2008 and recorded four live albums up to this one.
Rara Avis: Mutations/Multicellulars Mutations (2012
, dEN, 2CD): Ken Vandermark group recorded in Rome, with Stefano
Ferriari as a second saxophonist (soprano/tenor), Simone Quatrana
(piano) Luca Pissavini (double bass), and SEC_ (Mimmo Napolitano:
electronics, effects). First disc are group improvs. Second, much
shorter, breaks down to duos and trios. Some sonic surprises, as
well as hard-charging sax.
Rara Avis: Rara Avis (2013 , Not Two): Same Vandermark
in Italy group, some months later on the road in Poland, improvising
nine unnamed pieces. Piano is more prominent, and SEC_'s electronics
prod things in interesting directions, while second saxophonist
Stefano Ferriari does a pretty solid Mars Williams impression.
Reed Trio: Last Train to the First Station (2008-10
, Kilogram): Another live Ken Vandermark in Poland album (this
time Gdansk), joined by Mikolaj Trzaska and Waclaw Zimpel who like
Vandermark keep a couple clarinets in their toolkits (Zimpel also
has a tarogato). Much less aggressive than Sonore (Vandermark's trio
with Peter Brötzmann and Mats Gustafsson), partly because the softer
reeds predominate, partly because the group often drops down to solo
Roots [Arthur Blythe/Sam Rivers/Nathan Davis/Chico Freeman/Don
Pullen/Santi Debriano/Tommy Campbell]: Salutes the Saxophone
(1991 , In+Out): Four saxophones plus piano-bass-drums, doing
nine standards every saxophonist must know by heart, with swing-era
warhorses like "Cottontail" and "Lester Leaps In" raising the hottest
jams. Still, the breakout star is the pianist, especially on his first
Roots: Stablemates (1992 , In+Out): Names remain
prominent on front cover, the only change Idris Muhammad moving in on
drums. Mostly pieces by band members, others merely arranged. Pullen
has several jaw-dropping moments, but as impressive this time is the
sax layering, especially the exquisite altos (mostly Blythe, but also
Freeman and Davis).
Swans: Public Castration Is a Good Idea (1986 ,
Thirsty Ear): Michael Gira's noise rock band, had a run from 1982 to
1997 then regrouped in 2010. This was their first live album, heavy,
plodding, not without a certain rogueish charm but nothing that might
qualify as wit.
The Vandermark Quartet: Big Head Eddie (1993, Platypus):
I think this counts as Ken Vandermark's first album, recorded shortly
after he moved from Boston to Chicago, credited with "reeds," joined by
Michael Zerang (drums), Kent Kessler (bass), and Todd Colburn (guitar).
Some parts feel overdubbed, but maybe it's just not clear what the guitar
is up to.
Vandermark 5: Drink, Don't Drown (1997, Savage Sound
Syndicate): Practically a bootleg, recorded live at the Empty Bottle
in Chicago and released in a jewel case with photocopied artwork. Front
cover reads, above the title: "Every Tuesday at the Empty Bottle the
VANDERMARK 5 will pour an ocean of sound into your bucket." This is
the original lineup with Ken Vandermark and Mars Williams (reeds), Jeb
Bishop (trombone, guitar), Kent Kessler (bass), and Tim Mulvenna (drums),
shortly after their . Sound rather dampened, but they do have their
Vandermark 5: Thinking on One's Feet (1998 ,
Savage Sound Syndicate): Same deal, a year later, with Dave Rempis
(alto sax) in lieu of Mars Williams. Front cover, above the title,
reads: "Every Tuesday at the Empty Bottle the battle for supremacy
continues: the VANDERMARK 5 vs. SANTO, El Enmascarado de Plata." A
bit chaotic, but group was in a feisty mood, especially trombonist
Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: August Music (2006
, self-released): Reeds/drums duo, Daisy at the time was drummer
in Vandermark 5, live at the Empty Bottle in Chicago, originally a
limited edition of 200 copies. Album cover has two sets of initials,
"td" on left and "kv" on right, and Discogs fell that way, but I
went with the spine. The sax is as powerful as ever, and Daisy makes
the clarinet work as well, pecking adroitly around the edges. Applause
is enthusiastic, but I doubt the crowd numbered over two dozen.
Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: The Conversation (2010-11
, Multikulti): Cover suggests the drummer should be listed first,
but Bandcamp page belongs to Vandermark. More duos, drums and various
reeds, recorded on two dates in Chicago clubs, impressive work although
the high clarinet came off a bit constrained.
Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love: Letter to a Stranger
(2011 , Smalltown Superjazz): Sax-or-clarinet and drums duo, by
my count the eighth between these two (half list the drummer's name
first), not to mention a couple dozen group albums. Strongest on tenor
sax, also impressive on baritone, and the drummer is always attentive.
Peter Van Huffel/Michael Bates/Jeff Davis: Boom Crane
(2013 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto sax trio (plus some clarinet),
with bass and drums. All three originally hail from Canada, though are now
based in Berlin (Van Huffel) and New York (the others). Not as aggressive
as the leader's Gorilla Mask group (formed at the same time), but a good
showcase for the individual talents.
Witches & Devils: Empty Bottle Chicago (1997
, Savage Sound Syndicate): The first of several Ken Vandermark
groups to take the name of a famous album (cf. School Days, Free Fall),
this one was more conventionally a tribute album, with three of four
pieces written by Albert Ayler. Sextet, Mars Williams joins in on
reeds, Jim Baker on keyboards, Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, leading
to collisions and pile-ups, but in the end you'd swear the Holy Ghost
is tapping feet.
Jimmy & Mama Yancey: Chicago Piano Volume 1 (1951
, Atlantic): A boogie woogie pianist of some note, playing solo
(bluesy but not terribly fast) on more than half of the tracks, with
Estelle Yancey (wife, not mother) singing on the rest -- a straight up
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
- John Abercrombie: 15 other albums
- Gato Barbieri: 13 other albums
- Chuck Berry: The Great Twenty-Eight (1955-64 , Chess): A+
- Chuck Berry: The Definitive Collection (1955-72 , Geffen/Chess/Chronicles): A+
- Chuck Berry: The Chess Box (1955-73 , Chess, 3CD): A
- Arthur Blythe: In Concert: The Grip/Metamorphosis (1977 , India Navigation): B+
- Arthur Blythe: Lenox Avenue Breakdown (1978 , Koch): A
- Arthur Blythe: In the Tradition (1979, Columbia): A-
- Arthur Blythe: Illusions (1980, Columbia): B+
- Arthur Blythe: Basic Blythe (1987, Columbia): B
- Arthur Blythe: Retroflection (1993 , In+Out): A-
- Arthur Blythe/David Eyges/Bruce Ditmas: Synergy (1996 , In+Out): B+
- Arthur Blythe: Night Song (1997, Clarity): B-
- Arthur Blythe/David Eyges: Today's Blues (1997, CIMP): B-
- Arthur Blythe: Spirits in the Field (2000, Savant): A-
- Arthur Blythe: Focus (2002, Savant): A
- Arthur Blythe: Exhale (2003, Savant): B+
- Lester Bowie: 5 other albums
- Bob Brookmeyer: 3 other albums
- FME: Underground (2004, Okka Disk): A-
- FME: Cuts (2004 , Okka Disk): A-
- Al Green: 27 other albums
- Vic Juris: Blue Horizon (2002-03 , Zoho): B
- Vic Juris/Jimmy Bruno/Corey Christiansen: MB3 Jazz Hits Volume 1 (2006, Mel Bay): B+(*)
- Barney Kessel: To Swing or Not to Swing (1955, Contemporary/OJC): B+
- The Leaders: Mudfoot (1986, Blackhawk): A-
- The Leaders: Out Here Like This (1986, Black Saint): B+
- The Leaders Trio: Heaven Dance (1988, Sunnyside): B+
- The Leaders: Spirits Alike (2006 , Challenge): B
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz): A-
- Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilsson-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 2 (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz): B+(***)
- Lean Left: Live at Café Oto (2011 , Unsounds): B+(**)
- Swans: 5 other albums
- Ken Vandermark: 90 other albums
- Peter Van Huffel: 4 other albums
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
- [bc] available at bandcamp.com
Monday, March 27. 2017
Seems like every time I post a
Weekend Roundup, only minutes later I find a piece that I should
have mentioned. This week's major one was
Mike Konczal: Four Lessons from the Health Care Repeal Collapse.
Very thoughtful, very smart piece on what last week's Trump-Ryan
cave in means for now and the near future. First photo in the piece
shows demonstrators with two placards: "Healthcare is a right, not
a privilege!" and "Thanks to the ACA I am having my surgery tomorrow!"
As I tried to stress in yesterday's post, Republicans tried to tout
how their "repeal and replace" agenda would somehow be better for all
(or most, or maybe just some) Americans, but they couldn't spell out
any details on paper that plausibly backed up their claims. Nobody's
denying that someone could come up with a better replacement -- the
big story from last week that I didn't come up with any links for is
how people all over the political map were looking at single-payer
insurance -- but clearly the Republicans' pet ideas would only do the
opposite (stripping some 24 million people of insurance, driving
premiums for everyone else through the roof, protecting insurance
companies from malpractice and fraud claims, providing even more tax
breaks to the very rich).
It's beginning to look like people have somehow managed to sort out
the key concepts behind the ACA -- especially that universal coverage is
the only sane foundation for the health care system -- from its shoddy
and corrupt implementation. One of the most interesting moments from last
week was watching Charles Krauthammer on Fox News lament this very point.
There is much more to be said about this and related issues -- like how
Donald Trump has created a prison for himself in the increasingly psychotic
Republican Party -- but that will have to come later.
Meanwhile, my week in music.
Music: Current count 27951  rated (+30), 397  unrated (-6).
I've had an extremely weird week, one artifact being that my work
space is in scary disorder. The counts above don't include unpacking
last week's mail -- I didn't do that until this afternoon -- and I've
added one more rated album below even though it's not in the count
above. I've been especially lax on getting to new jazz records -- the
pending queue is up to 46 records. I've also had scant interest in
new 2017 releases (especially
Christgau's pick last week, the 5-CD Magnetic Fields monument --
actually only 50 songs, less than the 69 Stephin Merrit squeezed onto
3-CD on his last excessive binge but still an awful lot from someone
I like to a much more limited degree). So the only thing that's kept
the rated count from collapsing is diving into old music. This week
I continued my Chuck Berry dive to its end in 1979's Rock It --
maybe there are later live albums I haven't noticed.
I also started my way into Al Green's gospel period -- actually
what kicked that off was noticing Al Green Is Love in Napster's
new releases list. (Christgau regraded it significantly up a few years
ago, but it hadn't been available and my LP is long gone, so I've been
wanting to revisit.) I also checked out Gato Barbieri's early work,
stopping at Under Fire and Bolivia, since I reviewed
a twofer of those back in early Recycled Goods days (a very solid A-).
I suppose I should revisit Chapter Four: Alive in New York
since it won its Penguin Guide crown -- I have it at B+(*), as the
weakest of Barbieri's Impulse "Chapters."
What got me looking at Barbieri was working on collecting reviews
and database entries for my jazz guides. I've finished going through
my notebook and the various
column archives, and have gone through the
database files. I'm currently 7% into
Jazz (1960-70s) (i.e., at Gary
Bartz). It's a slow, tiring process, with a lot more to process (looks
like 10,939 rated albums, assuming I am indeed 7% through the current
file). The jazz guides are divided into two books, one for 20th and the
other for 21st century records. The former has virtually all of the known
reviews, so I'm mostly adding stubs for records I rated before I started
blogging everything. It currently stands at 554 pages (260,890 words),
and will probably top 600 pages before I'm done (or start writing new
reviews, like this week's Gato Barbieri records).
The first draft of the
latter was constructed from
Jazz Consumer Guide reviews. I took all of the column reviews and
stuffed them into a huge text file, and I've been pulling those
reviews out and adding them to the book as I go through the database
files. It currently runs 217 pages (91,123 words) and is growing
rapidly. (The text file has 1,097,330 words, but that's inflated
with redundant reviews and metadata, but at least half of that will
eventually be copied over, so I'd swag the 21st Century book upwards
of 1300 pages.)
It remains to be seen whether those books will interest anyone, or
even be fit to be published. There is, for instance, a lot of redundancy
that should be moved to introductions to each artist. There is also the
question of whether what's left, aside from the ratings, will be worth
reading. My opinion waxes and wanes as I sort through this stuff. I also
note lots of stuff missing (I developed my database as a sort of search
list, so it has a lot of stuff that I've seen favorably reviewed but
never got to myself) -- especially early on, while the 21st Century
book has numerous albums of no lasting interest whatsoever.
By the way, I'm using a numeric grading system for both books, but
I needed to map my letter grades mechanically. I considered two possible
scales, one where A- == 8 and another where A- == 9 and B == 5, and
decided to go with the latter (against, I should note, the advice of
pretty much everyone I consulted). One reason is that for all practical
purposes I've stopped issuing A+ grades (the last jazz record to earn one
was James Carter's Chasin' the Gypsy in 2000, and before that you
have to go back to 1990 for Pharoah Sanders' Welcome to Love, then
1986 for Don Pullen's Breakthrough and Sonny Rollins' Plays
G-Man, then 1980 for Art Pepper's Winter Moon). Further back
you'll find a couple dozen A+ albums: a handful each for Armstrong and
Ellington, a couple each for Hawkins and Hodges, a few landmarks from
Fletcher Henderson, Tatum, Monk, Mingus, Coltrane, Coleman, Davis, and
Roswell Rudd (oh, and singers: Holiday, Fitzgerald, and Rushing).
Still, I'm not sure that those records are so much better than the
400 (or so)
plain A jazz records; most took on
added significance for me as I sorted through the tradition. Even those
A records peter out over time: including A+, I count 64 since 2000 (15.2%
of 420); the only repeat artists are: Billy Bang (2), Steve Lehman (2),
Mostly Other People Do the Killing (2), David Murray (3), William Parker
(7), Matthew Shipp (2), Ken Vandermark (5). (One each for: Nik Bärtsch,
Tim Berne, Arthur Blythe, Anthony Braxton, James Carter, Ornette Coleman,
Jon Faddis, Avram Fefer, Rich Halley, Craig Harris, Michael Hashim,
Benjamin Herman, Jim Hobbs, Vijay Iyer, Pandelis Karayorgis, Martin
Küchen, Adam Lane, Mark Lomax, Allen Lowe, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Billy
Martin, Nils Petter Molvaer, Michael Moore, Barbara Morrison, Houston
Person, Roberto Juan Rodriguez, Sonny Rollins, Roswell Rudd, Randy
Sandke, Bernardo Sassetti, Jenny Scheinman, Alexander von Schlippenbach,
Irčne Schweizer, Paul Shapiro, Tommy Smith, Sonic Libration Front, Assif
Tsahar, Velkro, David S. Ware, World Saxophone Quartet.)
End of month is coming up fast, so I need to post Streamnotes this
week. Hopefully I'll come up with something new in the next couple days.
Too late for last week's "recommended links," but Robert Christgau
published a piece at Billboard on Chuck Berry:
Yes, Chuck Berry Invented Rock 'n' Roll -- and Singer-Songwriters. Oh,
Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:
- Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (1955-64 , Chess, 2LP): A
- Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Decade (1955-64 , Chess, 2LP): Built a playlist to re-check this: contains some of my favorite Berry songs, things that reappear in later one-CD anthologies, but also had a lot of non-canon songs, most of which proved delightful. A-
New records rated this week:
- Greg Abate/Tim Ray Trio: Road to Forever (2016 , Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)
- Bill Hart: Touch of Blue (2016 , Blue Canoe): [cd]: B-
- Doug MacDonald: A Salute to Jazz Composers: Jazz Marathon 2 (2016 , BluJazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- The Milwaukee Jazz Orchestra: Welcome to Swingsville! (2016 , BluJazz): [cd]: B+(*)
- Nicole Mitchell: Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (2015 , FPE): [cd]: B+(**)
- Miles Okazaki: Trickster (2016 , Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
- Adam Rudolph's Moving Pictures: Glare of the Tiger (2016 , Meta/M.O.D. Technologies): [cd]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Gato Barbieri: In Search of the Mystery (1967, ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(*)
- Gato Barbieri: The Third World (1969 , Flying Dutchman): [r]: B+(***)
- Gato Barbieri: Fenix (1971, Flying Dutchman): [r]: A-
- Gato Barbieri: El Pampero (1971 , Flying Dutchman): [r]: A-
- Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry's Golden Hits (1966 , Mercury): [r]: B-
- Chuck Berry: From St. Louie to Frisco (1968, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
- Chuck Berry: Concerto in B-Goode (1969, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
- Chuck Berry: Back Home (1970, Chess): [r]: B+(***)
- Chuck Berry: San Francisco Dues (1971, Chess): [r]: B-
- Chuck Berry: The London Chuck Berry Sessions (1972, Chess): [r]: B
- Chuck Berry: Bio (1973, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
- Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry (1975, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
- Chuck Berry: Rock It (1979, Atco): [r]: B+(*)
- Chuck Berry: Rock 'N Roll Rarities (1957-64 , Chess): [r]: B+(***)
- Al Green: Truth N' Time (1978, Hi): [r]: B+(**)
- Al Green: Tokyo . . . Live (1978 , Motown): [r]: B+(***)
- Al Green: Precious Lord (1982, Myrrh): [r]: B+(***)
- Al Green: I'll Rise Again (1983, Myrrh): [r]: B+(**)
- Al Green: Trust in God (1984, Myrrh): [r]: B
- Al Green: Al Green Is Love (1975, Hi): [r]: [was: B+] A-
- Al Green: Love Ritual (Rare & Previously Unreleased 1968-76) (1968-76 , MCA): [r]: [was: A-] B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (Acoustical Concepts)
- Keith Karns Big Band: An Eye on the Future (Summit)
- Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (Groundblue)
- Jason Rigby: Detroit-Cleveland Trio: One (Fresh Sound New Talent): April 28
- Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (Summit)
- Jeannie Tanner: Words & Music (Tanner Time, 2CD): May 5
Sunday, March 26. 2017
We went to two funerals on Saturday: the first for long-time peace and
justice activist Mary Harren (91), the second for my last uncle, James
Hull (85), who spent 26 years as a mechanic in the Air Force, and was
well known to Wichita Eagle readers as a right-wing crank. Main
thing I was struck by was the difference in the crowds: close to 300
turned out for Mary, compared to about fifteen (not counting the Color
Guard you taxpayers provided) for James. The former was quite properly
a celebration of a long and fruitful life. The latter was rather sad,
bitter, and pathetic.
We spent much more time with Mary over the last fifteen years: she
was one of the first to welcome us to Wichita's small cadre of anti-war
activists; she was quick to visit whenever we ran into troubles; and
she was a frequent (and delightful) dinner guest. But she was so active
and engaged that even while she made you feel special, you knew that
she had dozens of other people and groups she did the same for. And
she had been doing this for ages, sometimes regaling us with stories
of political struggle over events I only vaguely remember from my teen
My interaction with James dates from those same years. Seems like
he spent most of the 1950s stationed elsewhere -- Germany and somewhere
near Las Vegas are places that stuck in my mind, although he joined in
1950 so was involved in Korea -- but after 1960 he was mostly based at
McConnell AFB here in Wichita, and his family stayed here through two
tours in Vietnam. After I turned 17 he lobbied me hard to sign up, but
by then I was resolutely opposed to the Vietnam War and detested pretty
much everything related to the military, so he was one of the first
people I can recall arguing with about politics. (I was so withdrawn
I'd scarcely speak to anyone, but he was so unflappable you couldn't
help but argue with him.) After I moved away from Wichita, I had very
little to do with him: while he was always very affable and loved a
good (even a dirty) joke, his wife (Bobbie Ann) had terrified me as
a child, and was so dim-witted and erratic I actively avoided her (and
less actively their two shell-shocked sons -- the younger was what we
used to call retarded; he wound up in some kind of special care facility
and died at age 21). But I did run into him a few years ago, after Bobbie
Ann had died, and he was cheerful as ever. He gave me a book he had
written: a memoir plus a compilation of poems and political letters
and a piece of his "scholarly" research which claimed that American
economic performance correlates with frequency of executions, so to
get the country moving again we should execute more felons.
He titled his memoir I Survived!, but there was virtually
nothing in it about his wife or sons, so it's hard to imagine readers
without personal knowledge making sense of his point. His work, and
his bowling, and probably even his politics, make more sense as an
escape from a disappointing home life. One pleasing thing about the
funeral was that the pastor was a neighbor and friend, as was another
person who spoke. So they made an effort to talk about the actual man
rather than wander off into the hereafter. And they pretty much agreed
that the man himself was a difficult, cranky person to be around.
The most revealing story was one where the pastor asked James what he
had been doing today, and James answered "spreading hate and discontent."
Asked what he had done yesterday, James answered the same, as he did when
asked what he was planning on doing tomorrow. I'm not sure exactly what he
thought he meant by that, but his politics was rooted in state violence,
something he celebrated both in war and in his obsession over executions.
Hate just greases the skids toward violence, which is part of why Trump
has escalated the killing in places like Yemen and Syria despite claiming
he opposes the disastrous wars Bush and Obama led. You can't sustain those
wars without engendering and feeding off a lot of hate.
Another possibility was that James was conscious of how he rubbed people
wrong with his crackpot theories. He did on occasion joke about the Secret
Service coming after him after letters he wrote to the president. I suspect
that in some cases he was contrarian for its own sake. Indeed, like with
my father, his sense of humor was often rooted in irony against invisible
foes. Still, at some point his right-wing bent hardened, probably egged on
by the Fox News cabal. (Several people commented on how every time they saw
him he had Fox News blaring -- his father and mine were very hard of hearing,
and having worked around jet engines for many years I'm sure he was too.)
That he wound up bitter and cranky and full of "hate and discontent" was,
I think, baked into his political bent. The contrast to Mary couldn't have
been more stark. She was probably every bit as critical of the world as he,
but everything she did was imbued with hope and love. Even toward the end,
she was full of grace. His pastor talked about grace, too, but it seemed
like a long shot for James.
By the way, speaking of crowd numbers, there also was a "Make America
Great" rally for Trump on Saturday. The Eagle's headline on the story was
Dozens brave cold winds to rally for Trump. Not sure if the numbers
are exaggerated, but the adverse weather sure was.
I got into a bit of a Facebook argument with Art Protin, who had posted
a meme-pic showing the left half of Hillary Clinton's head and the caption
(imagine in all caps): "The next time someone tries to tell you that Hillary
Clinton was a weak candidate, remind them that it took the RNC, Wikileaks,
the FBI and Russia to narrowly bring her down in an election she won by
nearly 3 million votes." Being a reality-based sort of guy, my initial
response was to list a dozen or so areas where she had acted or had taken
positions that proved detrimental to most Americans, as if voters had been
rational in rejecting her. That's not quite it, although we certainly
shouldn't neglect the fact that, rightly or wrongly, she's picked up a
lot of unfavorable baggage over the years, and that she's been the target
of an awful lot of focused political hate -- both personally and due to
her association with two Democratic administrations that promised much
and delivered little to their neediest supporters. Those things worked
to weaken her credibility and to tarnish her integrity, and that's the
main thing we mean when we describe her as a weak candidate.
But really, the more glaring proof of her weakness is that she lost
to DONALD J. TRUMP, who even before the election had the most negative
approval ratings of any major party candidate ever, and who afterwards
was subject to the greatest "buyer's remorse" we've seen since Nixon
in 1972. Clearly, a lot of people hated Clinton so much that they voted
for a guy they didn't like instead. I think a lot of factors entered
into that choice, and I don't think any of them were very rational.
(Sure, she's dishonest and corrupt and much more, but is she worse in
any of these respects than Donald Trump? That comparison should have
been laughably easy, yet somehow lots of people didn't realize it.)
Given all of the points one could make against Trump, it's pretty
much axiomatic that anyone who could still lose to him was an awfully
The meme also has several other faults. Leave aside the RNC for
the moment, the other three forces arrayed against Clinton are/were
pretty lame: Wikileaks, the FBI, and Russia. What Wikileaks did was
one-sided (does anyone doubt that a hack of the RNC would have made
them look like buffoons?) and Comey's dredging up of the whole email
mess was unfortunate, but it's hard to believe that they had any more
than the tiniest of impacts. And I have no idea what Russia did
(beyond the DNC hack, and that's not clear) other than to soften the
heads of some DNC types, who thought that red-baiting Trump as soft
on Putin would be an easy score -- I can't prove it, but I think the
net effect was to make Hillary look more recklessly hawkish, and
that was something that hurt her. Of course, the continuing Russia
obsession of frustrated Hillary-bots means something else: how hard
it is to them to admit that they might bear any blame for policies
or organization or candidate. Indeed, the whole meme is just another
instance of scapegoating.
The three million vote margin is also at risk of being overplayed.
Sure, it points to a structural problem (which Republicans will never
allow to be fixed), but the problem is not just the structure for how
it has been gamed, not least by the Democrats. Trump supporters can
point out that they lost in states where they hardly campaigned at
all (New York, Illinois, especially California), but the same was true
for the 20-30 states Clinton didn't campaign in at all (including a
couple she thought she'd carry): the net result being that the popular
vote is bogus both ways. I think the net result is a wash, so Trump's
failure to gain a plurality is a leading indicator of his unpopularity,
but that only gets you so far. As Trump likes to say, "I'm president,
and you're not." So while it properly embarrasses him that he only got
paltry inauguration crowds, that his rallies regularly play to empty
seats, and that he can only get 80 marchers out on a Spring day here
in Wichita, it doesn't amount to much.
Biggest story this week was the demise of Paul Ryan's health care
bill, which Donald Trump had pledged full allegiance to. Some links:
Ross Barken: Trump tried to burn down Obamacare. He set his hair on fire
Zoë Carpenter: Donald Trump Can't Make a Deal: "Now that the GOP's
health-care bill is dead, plan B is to sabotage Obamacare."
Michelle Goldberg: The Biggest Lesson From the Trumpcare Debacle:
"It showed us how government by misogynists actually translates into
policy." This fits in with a picture that's been going around, depicting
the "diverse group of people" brought together to craft the bill -- all
white males, about equally divided between those with pattern baldness
Paul Krugman: The Scammers, the Scammed and America's Fate: Krugman's
favorite sport is "I told you so," and he's been telling us that Ryan is
a fraud for many years now -- he cites a 2010 post called
The Flimflam Man -- so he understands that this is no time to let up.
He notes how the media has repeatedly promoted Ryan, and he think that
this is due to "the convention of 'balance'." "This meant, in particular,
that when it came to policy debates one was always supposed to present
both sides as having equally well-founded arguments." I suspect that the
truth is crasser: that Ryan was a pet project of the Kochs and their
think-tanks long before you heard of him, and the people backing him
have ever since been whispering in the ears of media managers and
Tom McCarthy: Health insurance woes helped elect Trump, but his cure
may be more painful: Some Republicans, including most of the
so-called Freedom Caucus who torpedoed the Ryan-Trump bill, believe
that any form of government regulation in the health care markets
is improper, that people should not be required to have insurance,
that businesses should be free to sell any form of insurance (even
policies that don't cover anything). Moreover, such people have no
idea what such a world would look like, in part because nothing
like that has ever been allowed in America. But most Republicans
have done this hand-waving thing, arguing that if they were in
power they'd "replace and repeal" Obamacare with something which
would be so much better for everyone: that costs would go down
and care would improve and everyone would be better off. They've
never detailed how that might work, because they've never been
in a position to pass it, until now, when it turns out that their
proposals would quite obviously, one way or another, make it all
worse. And this is not just health care: Republicans often feel
the need to argue that their proposals will benefit everyone,
even when it's clear that they'll be massively harmful.
Alice Ollstein: Trump to House GOP: Vote Yes on O'Care Repeal or Lose
Your Seat: Early-week threat from the White House. Trump campaigned
in the primaries on a relatively heterodox (or schizophrenic?) platform,
but wound up stuck with a straight Republican Congress (well, actually
one that is split between a hardcore conservative majority and an even
more extreme right-wing faction), with virtually no personal commitment
to the president. The effect is to allow him to pivot only one direction
(right), which means he can only pass what they let him pass. So there's
always been this fleeting fancy that Trump might try to steer the party
his direction by purging uncooperative Republicans in the primaries. So
that's sort of what's going on here, except that Trump didn't produce
his own health care bill -- he acceded to Ryan's bill -- and most of
the successful primary challenges lately have come from the right (Tim
Huelskamp in Kansas was a rare exception, but he was very far out, and
specifically his extreme anti-government stance offended agribusiness
interests, who control damn near all of the economy in his district).
So it's interesting that Trump made this threat, but it didn't work,
and now seems pretty hollow.
Another view of the purge story is:
Daniel Politi: Bannon Pushed Trump to Use Health Care Vote to Write Up
"Enemies List": After all, if Republicans only understand one big
thing, it's how to exploit a list of enemies.
Amber Phillips: Donald Trump is giving a lot of mixed messages about whom
to blame on health care; or pretty much the same thing:
Joanna Walters: Trump blames everyone but himself for failure of GOP
Andrew Prokop: On health reform, Donald Trump followed Republican leaders
into a ditch: Many of these pieces assume that Trump promised something
better (even "really great") and got blind-sided by Ryan. More likely is
that Trump never could care about health care, and was only mouthing words
(including blatant lies) fed to him by right-wing propagandists, because
that's easier than actually thinking.
Heather Richardson: The showdown that exposed the rift between Republican
ideology and reality:
Republicans have been able to paper over the vast gulf between their
ideology and reality, so long as they could blame Democrats for their
inability to put their ideology into law. They could rail about lower
taxes and liberty, and then, when Democrats saved the policies that
voters liked, could blame the socialistic Democrats for Republicans'
own failure to enact their ideological vision. This tactic was at the
heart of their rage against Obamacare, the symbol of their oppression
since it passed seven years ago. Republicans in the House of Representatives
voted more than 50 times to repeal the law, knowing they could count on
Obama's veto to protect them from voters who would, in reality, be furious
at the loss of their healthcare. . . .
The initial draft of the bill reflected Republican ideological principles
by giving the wealthiest Americans an $880bn tax cut. Even still, its
retention of government regulations on healthcare were too much for purists.
Members of the far-right Freedom Caucus insisted that the government must
not interfere in healthcare, defending the principle that the law must be
repealed entirely to resurrect American liberty. Other members of Congress,
swamped by popular outcry against repeal, had to bow to reality: Americans
actually like the law.
The showdown over Obamacare finally brought into the open the fundamental
rift between Republican ideology and reality. Speaker Ryan and President
Trump tried to skirt that gulf by forcing the bill through in an astonishing
17 days. When that failed, Trump tried to bluster it out with the old
Republican narrative, blaming Democrats, who are in the minority, for
this epic failure. Neither worked. Since 1980, the Republican party has
won power by hiding its unpopular ideology under a winning narrative, and
reality has finally intruded.
Matthew Sheffield: Downfall of a policy wonk: Paul Ryan becomes the latest
victim of the American right's fundamental dysfunction.
Some more scattered links this week in the Trump swamp:
Philip Bump: Nearly 1 out of every 3 days he has been president, Trump
has visited a Trump property
Roqayah Chamseddine: Despite Campaign Promises, Trump Set to Outdo Obama
on Military Adventurism: Yemen remains a prime example, and last week
saw extensive civilian deaths from American bombing in Mosul.
Michelle Chen: Donald Trump's Rise Has Coincided With an Explosion of
Lawrence Douglas: Donald Trump's dizzying Time magazine interview was
'Trumpspeak' on display: "Predictably, the president offered nothing
in the way of substantiation or contrition. Instead, he overwhelmed his
interviewer with such a profusion of misstatements, half-truths, dodges
and red herrings that one grows dizzy trying to untangle it all."
John Judis: Democrats Need to Reclaim the Issue of Manufacturing from
Martin Longman: Trump Built His Own Prison: I don't think Trump ever
had the option of not ruling as a Republican stooge -- joining the party
is a lot like getting a lobotomy (or becoming a zombie) -- but Longman
still likes to fantasize:
Personally, I think Trump should have taken a different route with them
by explaining in no uncertain terms that he didn't run on creating a
health care system anything like what was in the bill, and that he was
already going to take a massive amount of heat for dispossessing tens
of millions of people of their health care. He should have threatened
that if he couldn't rely on the Freedom Caucus on this most important
first test, he'd be forced to cut them out of negotiations on pretty
much everything else and go to the Democrats for his votes for
infrastructure, trade, and tax reform, which would result in a major
defeat for conservative ideology.
Daniel Politi: Trump Reportedly Handed Merkel a $374 Billion Invoice
for NATO: "Trump's statements on NATO suggest he really does not
understand how the alliance is funded. Merkel reportedly 'ignored the
provocation.' She appears to be a bit more adept at diplomacy than
her U.S. counterpart." Also on Trump-Merkel:
Jessica Valenti: Trump did to Merkel what men do to women all the
Eric Roston: The Hidden Risks of Trump's EPA Cuts: Birth Defects, Bad
Mark Joseph Stern: Can Neil Gorsuch Answer a Question? On Trump's
Supreme Court nominee's hearings: "Gorsuch has smiled and quipped. He
has frowned and mused. He has brooded, hedged, dodged, vacillated,
hesitated, temporized, and mulled. What he has not yet done is directly
answer a substantive question posed by a United States senator. Will
he? Can he? That mystery is becoming the central drama of these
hearings." Also on Gorsuch:
Dahlia Lithwick/Camille Mott: The Democrats Must Filibuster Neil
Gorsuch. This, of course, is specifically about Gorsuch. Still,
I wouldn't mind taking a more general approach, such as the Senate
shouldn't confirm any Supreme Court appointee until we have an
election producing an unambiguous presidential winner (which, by
the way, would be a less extreme position than the one Republicans
took on the Garland nomination). Of course, the majority could
abolish the filibuster, but that too would be a long-term win.
Bill Raden: "Elections have consequences": What we can expect from
a Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Jacob Sugarman: A Handful of Trump Voters Are Coming to the Painful
Realization That They've Been Had: A predictable headline after
the election. Features four prototypical examples, who misunderstood
Trump in fundamental (but not unusual) ways when he was campaigning,
and have the presence of mind to realize their mistakes now. Just a
trickle at present, but there will be more and more over time.
Matt Taibbi: Trump the Destroyer: A long piece written for the
print issue, a big picture survey of Trump's first 5-6 weeks -- the
high tone seems more and more like a hedge, the author's big fear
that between deadline and publication dates Trump will do something
so astoundingly weird and/or evil the article will have been eclipsed
(a problem he's been hit with several times already). He does manage
to reel off some juicy lines, especially about Trump's cabinet, and
his overarching theme is something folks need to hear.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Dean Baker: Why the NY Times Is Chiefly Responsible for the Mass Ignorance
About the US Budget
Steven A Cook/Michael Brooks: Bill Maher makes us dumber: How ignorance,
fear and stupid pop-culture clichés shape Americans' view of the Middle
East: "Americans used to be just ignorant about Muslims and the
Middle East. Now we're also fearful, stupid and wrong."
Richard Falk: The Inside Story on Our UN Report Calling Israel an Apartheid
Frank Rich: No Sympathy for the Hillbilly: Alerted to this piece by
a Matt Karp tweet: "Elite liberals keep writing about sympathy because
they have no concept of solidarity." Headline-wise this reinforces
stereotypes as much about New York liberals as about hillbillies, Down
in the text Rich cites various (mostly right-wing) studies complaining
that hillbillies are morally degenerate (Charles Murray, really?). Not
that Rich is really that stupid -- I can't object to his pull quote,
"Instead of studying how to talk to 'real people,' might Democrats start
talking about real people?" Also, this starts out accurate enough before
plunging over the deep end:
Trump voters should also be reminded that the elite of the party they've
put in power is as dismissive of them as Democratic elites can be
condescending. "Forget your cheap theatrical Bruce Springsteen crap,"
Kevin Williamson wrote of the white working class in National
Review. "The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities
is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets.
Morally, they are indefensible." He was only saying in public what
other Republicans like Mitt Romney say about the "47 percent" in
private when they think only well-heeled donors are listening.
Besides, if National Review says that their towns deserve to
die, who are Democrats to stand in the way of Trump voters who used
their ballots to commit assisted suicide?
The problem here is that the Republicans aren't the only political
party who have written off the vast expanses of America outside the
mostly coastal urban areas. The Democrats offer a bit more generous
"safety net" but they still make it look and smell like welfare, and
with their trade deals and bank deregulation and indifference to unions
(which in any case are out of reach to most workers) the Democrats been
as complicit in the decline of the heartland as the Republicans. The
main difference is that Republicans have been much more successful at
blaming Democrats for policies that both parties' elites support, at
least in "red states" where Democrats have abandoned and no longer
campaign in -- partly due to the ascendancy of snobs like Rich, and
partly from sheer expediency.
Got a late start on this, so it feels more scattered than usual.
So much crap to deal with these days. So little time.
Monday, March 20. 2017
Music: Current count 27921  rated (+33), 403  unrated (+14).
More old music than new this week. For one thing, I've been playing
CDs from the travel case when I get up in the afternoon instead of things
I'd have to work on. Rated count still seems robust as I spent the late
nights picking off old Ken Vandermark records I had missed (my rated list
here, although this doesn't pick up things where his name wasn't
listed first -- a quick count shows 35 of those, including a couple of
groups I catalog separately; my chart shows 11 more records I haven't
gotten to, including several multi-disc sets). And over the weekend
I started listening to the late Chuck Berry's old albums. I must have
heard some Berry singles during his heyday, but never owned any of
his records until I got to St. Louis and picked up Chuck Berry's
Golden Decade (released 1967) and followed up with Vol. 2
(1973) -- though I don't recall Vol. 3 (1974). So I've always
known him through compilations, especially the canon-defining The
Great Twenty-Eight (1982), and the even better The Definitive
Collection (2006), but also the 3-CD Chess Box (1988),
which shows the pickings thin out past one disc, but don't disappear
I mentioned three deaths up top in yesterday's
Roundup post: Chuck Berry, Jimmy Breslin, and James Hull. One
more troubling still is pending: Mary McDonough Harren, reportedly
in the final stage of her terminal cancer. She is the grande
dame of the Wichita peace movement, a founder of the
Peace and Social Justice Center
of South Central Kansas, and a dear friend over the last 15
years. Her passing will leave an unfathomable hole in our lives.
A couple links that popped up on Chuck Berry:
New records rated this week:
- Jason Anick & Jason Yeager: United (2016 , Inner Circle Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bat for Lashes: The Bride (2016, Parlophone): [r]: B-
- Alex Cline's Flower Garland Orchestra: Oceans of Vows (2016 , self-released, 2CD): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Akua Dixon: Akua's Dance (2016 , Akua's Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jill Jack and the American SongBook Band: Pure Imagination (2016, UpHill Productions): [cd]: B+(*)
- Kirk MacDonald Jazz Orchestra: Common Ground (2015 [2017, Addo, 2CD): [cd]: B
- Ben Markley Big Band: Clockwise: The Music of Cedar Walton (2016 , OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
- Nate Wooley/Ken Vandermark: All Directions Home (2015, Audiographic): [bc]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Chuck Berry: After School Session (1955-57 , Chess): [r]: B+(***)
- Chuck Berry: One Dozen Berrys (1957 , Chess): [r]: B+(***)
- Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry Is on Top (1955-59 , Chess): [r]: A-
- Chuck Berry: Rockin' at the Hops (1960, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
- Chuck Berry: New Juke Box Hits (1961, Chess): [r]: B+(*)
- Chuck Berry: Twist (1955-61 , Chess): [r]: A-
- Chuck Berry: On Stage (1963, Chess): [r]: B-
- Chuck Berry: St. Louis to Liverpool (1957-64 , Chess): A-
- Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in London (1965, Chess): [r]: B+(***)
- Chuck Berry: Fresh Berry's (1965, Chess): [r]: B+(**)
- Chuck Berry: Chuck Berry in Memphis (1967, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
- Chuck Berry: Live at Fillmore Auditorium (1967, Mercury): [r]: B
- Bob Brookmeyer: The Dual Role of Bob Brookmeyer (1954-55 , Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
- Cinghiale [Mars Williams and Ken Vandermark]: Hoofbeats of the Snorting Swine (1995-96 , Eighth Day Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Bo Diddley/Chuck Berry: Two Great Guitars (1964, Chess): [r]: B+(*)
- Vic Juris: Songbook (1999 , SteepleChase): [r]: B
- Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne and Ray Brown: The Poll Winners (1957 , Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(*)
- Barney Kessel With Shelly Manne & Ray Brown: Poll Winners Three! (1959 , Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
- Rara Avis: Mutations/Multicelluars Mutations (2012 , dEN, 2CD): [bc]: B+(*)
- Rara Avis (2013 , Not Two): [bc]: B+(**)
- Reed Trio: Last Train to the First Station (2008-10 , Kilogram): [bc]: B+(*)
- The Vandermark Quartet: Big Head Eddie (1993, Platypus): [bc]: B
- Vandermark 5: Drink, Don't Drown (1997, Savage Sound Syndicate): [bc]: B+(*)
- Vandermark 5: Thinking on One's Feet (1998, Savage Sound Syndicate) B+(**)
- Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: August Music (2006 , self-released): [bc]: A-
- Ken Vandermark/Tim Daisy: The Conversation (2010-11 , Multikulti): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love: Letter to a Stranger (2011 , Smalltown Superjazz): [bc]: B+(***)
- Witches & Devils: Empty Bottle Chicago (1997 , Savage Sound Syndicate): [bc]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Antonio Adolfo: Hybrido: From Rio to Wayne Shorter (AAM): April 7
- Bryan and the Aardvarks: Sounds From the Deep Field (Biophilia): April 28
- Ernest Dawkins New Horizons Ensemble: Transient Takes (Malcom)
- Duo Baars Henneman & Dave Burrell: Transdans (Wig)
- Tristan Honsinger/Antonio Borghini/Tobias Delius/Axel Dörner: Hook, Line and Sinker (De Platenbakakkerij)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Ancient Africa (1973, Delmark/Sackville): March 24
- Jentsch Group Quartet: Fractured Pop (Fleur de Son): April 7
- Mike Longo Trio: Only Time Will Tell (2017, CAP): March 31
- Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (Biophilia): April 14
- Michael Rabinowitz: Uncharted Waters (Cats Paw): April 28
- Sult/Lasse Marhaug: Harpoon (Conrad Sound/Pica Disk): advance
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 1: Titan (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 2: Tarvos (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 3: Pandora (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 4: Hyperion (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 5: Rhea (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 6: Saturn (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: The Art of Perelman-Shipp, Volume 7: Dione (Leo)
Sunday, March 19. 2017
Chuck Berry died.
Jimmy Breslin died. My uncle, James Hull, died.
It's been one of those weeks.
The big thing Trump did this week was to release a new budget proposal.
Who Wins and Loses in Trump's Proposed Budget; also
The 62 agencies and programs Trump wants to eliminate.
A grim budget day for US science: analysis and reaction to Trump's
plan: E.g., "NIH cuts could mean no new grants in 2016."
Graham Bowley: What if Trump Really Does End Money for the Arts?
Public arts funding has been a political hot potato for many years now, so
it's not surprising that conservative churls would take this opportunity
to slash it, indeed to cut it out altogether. I could nitpick myself, but
I also recall that during the 1930s the WPA financed all sorts of public
art, some of which we're still fortunate enough to enjoy. One cannot even
imagine government funding programs like that today, but if you give it
a wee bit of thought, you might wonder why. Given today's technology, the
ability to digitize sound and vision, to reproduce and disseminate those
bits at zero marginal cost, there has never been a better time to make a
big public investment in the arts. Sure, we need to come up with a funding
scheme that isn't subject to arbitrary commissars, but the costs and risks
are almost trivial. Especially compared to the Defense Department; after
all, without art and entertainment, what is there left to defend?
David S Cohen: Trump's Budget Is Pure Cruel Conservatism
Jeff Daniels: Rural America and farm sector to take a hit with Trump's
Zaid Jilani: Trump the Outsider Outsources His Budget to Insider Think
Tank: Explores how "many of the White House proposal's ideas are
identical to a budget blueprint Heritage drew up last year." Also quotes
from a statement put out by Heritage praising the Trump budget, with one
little demur: "it complained that Trump's call for an additional $54
billion in defense spending just isn't big enough."
Eric Levitz: White House Says Cutting Meals on Wheels is 'Compassionate':
Quote comes from White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who you'll
read more about elsewhere. Levitz also wrote
6 Promises That President Trump's Budget Betrays.
Charles Pierce: This Is the Ending Conservatives Always Wanted:
This budget is short-sighted, cruel to the point of being sadistic,
stupid to the point of pure philistinism, and shot through with the
absolute and fundamentalist religious conviction that the only true
functions of government are the ones that involve guns, and that the
only true purpose of government is to serve the rich. . . .
A lot of this is going to make the members of Congress choke, so
a lot of it may not pass. Its very existence is important, though,
as a document that lays out quite clearly the vision of government
shared almost everywhere in modern conservatism. This is a DeMint
Budget, a Heritage Budget, a Gingrich Budget, a Reagan Budget, and
a Tea Party Budget. It may be crude and lack a certain polish, but
its priorities and goals are clear. There is no modern Republican
Party without movement conservatism, and this budget is the most
vivid statement yet of that philosophy.
By the way, Piece also wrote:
Chuck Berry and Jimmy Breslin Reinvented the English Language.
Jordan Weissmann: Trump's Budget Director Has a Breathtakingly Cynical
Excuse for Cutting Aid to the Poor
Matthew Yglesias: Trump's budget blueprint is a war on the future of
the American economy: I caught a whiff here of Robert Reich's old
scheme for education transforming American workers into highly paid
"symbolic manipulators" -- sure, boring old manufacturing jobs get
stripped due to "free trade" deals, but we'll all wind up richer than
ever. That was bullshit then and is bullshit now, but that doesn't
mean the opposite is even close to right: you don't need Friedman to
realize that business today requires more technical skill than ever
before, and the future more so. So why would anyone push a government
budget that seriously undermines scientific research and education?
But Trump's rhetoric, and now his spending blueprint, don't just push
back against techno-utopianism. They constitute a denial of the obvious
truth that a prosperous society is necessarily going to be one that is
evolving and changing over time. . . .
One of the main things that was good about the "good old days" is
that they were a time of massive progress, expansion of higher education
opportunities into the middle class and rapid development of new products
and cures. This happened while the government invested more -- not less --
on health, education, science, and regional development.
Didn't Trump spend much of his campaign complaining about how we've
neglected essential investments in infrastructure? Science, research
and engineering are what infrastructure is built on, and education is
fundamental to all that.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Zoë Carpenter/George Zornick: Everything Trump Did in His 8th Week That
- Released a very skinny budget.
- Moved to loosen fracking rules.
- Delayed chemical-safety regulations.
- Fired 46 US Attorneys nationwide.
- Made a formal apology to United Kingdom over wild spying claims.
- Put military action against North Korea on the table.
Doug Bandow: Why Is Trump Abandoning the Foreign Policy that Brought Him
Victory? Starts by pointing out that Trump was often critical of the
neoconservatives who had plunged America into endless war, quoting him
as saying, "unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression
will not be my first instinct." Indeed, many single-issue neocons like
the Kagans were quick to flock to Hillary Clinton, trusting her record
for hawkishness. Still, although Trump has been able to torpedo much
bruited nominations for the likes of John Bolton and Elliott Abrams,
his administration has done a lot of sabre-rattling so far. But the
author ("a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special
Assistant to President Ronald Reagan") has a selective memory of Trump's
campaign -- he also insisted he'd crush ISIS and increase military
spending. Unlike anti-war conservatives (like Justin Raimondo) who
fell for Trump's promise, I actually considered him more bellicose
and more dangerous than Clinton (and I've repeatedly attacked her on
just this issue). The reasons: the Republicans Trump would surround
himself with would be more consistently hawkish (many Democrats have
better things to do), and Trump himself is ignorant of and prejudiced
about the world, and much given to macho posturing. A good example of
this is the rapidly developing crisis with North Korea; e.g., see two
recent Jason Ditz pieces:
Tillerson: North Korea Diplomacy Has Failed, and
Tillerson: Attacking North Korea Remains an Option;
Charles P Pierce: Don't Poke North Korea with a Stick Just to See What
Michelle Chen: Trump's Obsession With Cutting Regulations Will Make America
Julie Hirschfield Davis: Trump, Day After Merkel's Visit, Says Germany
Pays NATO and US Too Little: Trump's been complaining for some time
about NATO member not paying enough for their common defense, and he's
sent Rex Tillerson out to shake down America's supposed allies, so this
isn't exactly new. There's much Trump doesn't understand, but one thing
is that a big part of the reason the US has so many subservient allies
is that the US pays for the deference, not just in allowing the US to
base troops on foreign soil but in ways like generous trade deals that
help countries develop through exports. Take those perks away and won't
people start wondering whether it's all worth it?
Allegra Kirkland: Huck: Trump Should Ignore Travel Ban Ruling, Like
Jackson With Trail of Tears: Says a lot when you take inspiration
from one of the most shameful facts in American history, but that's
where many Republicans are at: until they manage to stock the courts
with like-minded conservatives, they invite like-minded executives to
run amuck over niceties like law and constitution. Not clear that
Trump, a man who has put a lot of stock into using the courts for his
own gains, is there yet, or that if he was he wouldn't be facing a
widespread revolt from civil servants forced to choose between the
legal system and his executive ego.
Ezra Klein: Does Donald Trump know what the GOP health bill does?
Conclusion: "maybe not"; more to the point: "the AHCA does literally
none of the things Trump says it does."
Nancy LeTourneau: Checking in on Trump's 'Contract With the American
Voter': This is becoming a staple piece on the left, dredging up
Trump campaign promises and showing how few of them -- especially the
relatively decent ones -- have been implemented, or even followed up
on. This doesn't seem to phase Trump's actual supporters yet: they
have, after all, almost by definition become jaded cynics about the
political process, leaving them more inclined to see Trump's failures
as subversion by unseen forces. On the other hand, LeTourneau's list
includes a lot of "not introduced" Acts, which goes to show how the
Republicans in Congress have proceeded their own agenda, regardless
of how that fits in with Trump's own promises. Ryan, in particular,
seems to view Trump as his stooge, aided by the fact that Trump is
too lazy to work on his own agenda, and too hamstrung by the people
he's allowed himself to be surrounded by. Still, I suspect the day
is coming when we'll consider ourselves lucky anytime Trump breaks
a campaign promise.
Josh Marshall: He Seems Nice: Irony still in plan: "he" is Greg
Knox, described in a Pence tweet as "a small biz owner hurting under
Obamacare." So here's some context: "It shows Knox to be what policy
specialists refer to as a 'toxic right wing asshole.'"
Ian Millhiser: Paul Ryan says he fantasized about cutting health care for
the poor at his college keggers: "Meet the most insufferable frat boy
in human history."
Tessa Stuart: Four Things We Learned About Trump's Tax Returns From
Rachel Maddow: Explained much more succinctly than what you got
from watching Maddow's program.
Amy B Wang: Why Trump's plan to slash UN funding could lead to global
Paul Woodward: Donald Trump's deceitful and misleading statements have
consequences: This keys off a long quote from
John Cassidy: Donald Trup Finally Pays a Price for His False and Reckless
Words, but I found Woodward's commentary more to the point:
Donald Trump could accurately assert: "I didn't get where I am today by
Like many people who believe in the supremacy of will power, he may
believe that being faithful to ones own interests and objectives is all
Trump is consistent in his unwillingness to bend to the will of others.
His America First policy is merely an inflation of his Trump
The idea that Trump might have the capacity to mend his ways -- to see
that his dishonesty no longer works -- derives, perhaps, from a misreading
of his pragmatism.
Trump isn't bound to any ideology. At the same time, he exhibits no
psychological flexibility whatsoever.
Trump believes in his own innate capabilities with which, in his own
imagining, he is so richly endowed he has no need to learn anything.
This reminds me a bit of another president not bound to any ideology:
Franklin Roosevelt. The difference, of course, was that Roosevelt did
learn from his mistakes. He saw, for instance, that his more conservative
impulses -- especially his fetish for balanced budgets -- were harmful,
while his more generous, more liberal, impulses worked much better. The
result was the most progressive administration in American history, but
few voters imagined that at the start. They simply wanted to try something
different, because the reign of Andrew Mellon and his three presidents
had been so disastrous. The election of Trump was based on much the same
reaction, but less decisive because disaster was much less universally
recognized (let alone commonly understood) in 2016, and because quite a
few people understood that Trump and/or the Republicans didn't offer any
real solutions -- indeed, they were major problems.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Patrick Cockburn: Yemen Is a Complicated and Unwinnable War. Trump Should
Stay Out. Should, but thus far Yemen is the war Trump has most
dramatically inserted himself in.
Tom Engelhardt: How the Invasion of Iraq Came Home: Actually, his
third-tier title, after "Walled In" and "President Blowback." I'm not
sure "blowback" is correct, because most of the damage done to America
since Trump took office has been self-inflicted: the problem is less
that others are attacking so much as we've internalized the scars of
fifteen-years of the shocks of war:
It's clear, however, that his urge to create a garrison state went far
beyond a literal wall. It included the build-up of the U.S. military to
unprecedented heights, as well as the bolstering of the regular police,
and above all of the border police. Beyond that lay the urge to wall
Americans off in every way possible. His fervently publicized immigration
policies (less new, in reality, than they seemed) should be thought of as
part of a project to construct another kind of "great wall," a conceptual
one whose message to the rest of the world was striking: You are not
welcome or wanted here. Don't come. Don't visit.
All this was, in turn, fused at the hip to the many irrational fears
that had been gathering like storm clouds for so many years, and that
Trump (and his alt-right companions) swept into the already looted
heartland of the country. In the process, he loosed a brand of hate
(including shootings, mosque burnings, a raft of bomb threats, and a
rise in hate groups, especially anti-Muslim ones) that, historically
speaking, was all-American, but was nonetheless striking in its
intensity in our present moment.
TomDispatch also published
Michael Klare: Winning World War II in the Twenty-First Century, on
Trump's nostalgia for the days when America actually won wars -- ignoring
that times have changed as pre-WWII empires have been rolled back on every
front, and that the US is no longer viewed as a country normally content
to mind its own business, that only joins wars when attacked, and that
doesn't plot to keep and plunder other nations. Indeed, the real problems
the US military face today aren't the sort that can be fixed with a few
more ships, planes, and troops.
Matea Gold: The Mercers and Stephen Bannon: How a populist power base was
funded and built: Robert Mercer is a hedge fund exec, the plural
evidently refers to daughter Rebekah, and the article goes into some
depth on how they've sowed their millions to promote right-wing causes,
especially through Trump strategist Steve Bannon.
While other donors gave more to support Trump's presidential bid last
year, the Mercers are now arguably the most influential financiers of
the Trump era. Bannon, who went on to manage the final months of Trump's
campaign before joining the White House, is the senior architect of the
president's policy vision. He is joined in the West Wing by counselor
Kellyanne Conway, a friend of Rebekah Mercer who led the family-funded
super PAC that backed first Cruz and then Trump in the 2016 race.
People who know them say the Mercers, who soured on traditional
political operatives, appreciated Bannon's business savvy and share
his belief that the conversation around politics must be changed for
their ideas to prevail. For all of their power and privilege, both the
family and their longtime adviser see themselves as outsiders, fighting
the grip of elite institutions.
One thing I was surprised by here was a $4 million donation to John
Bolton Super PAC. I wasn't aware of such a thing, but it probably explains
why such a useless and incompetent buffoon keeps managing to get his name
in the news.
Gold also wrote a comparable analysis of the Kochs (in 2014):
Koch-backed political network, built to shield donors, raised $400 million
in 2012 elections; also co-wrote one on the Clintons (in 2015):
Two Clintons. 41 Years. $3 Billion.
William Greider: Here's What You Need to Know About the Federal Reserve:
"We demand way too much from the central bank -- but that's because our
elected politicians have done almost nothing to revive the economy." The
Federal Reserve raised short-term interest rates last week, in an effort
to throttle back the economy lest it grow to the point where wages actually
start to rise. That would normally be bad news for a sitting president,
but not for the bankers who sit with this particular one.
Greider also wrote:
Trump Is Fighting a New Trade War -- and This One Is Intramural,
about the "nasty White House battle [that] has broken out between
right-wing nationalists and globalist financiers," asking the
question: "Who owns this president -- the folks who voted for him,
or the power hitters of big business and banking?" That's actually
a novel question for a Republican president: with leaders like the
Bushes, Republican voters were merely consenting to oligarchic rule,
but didn't Trump promise something else? I'm not sure, but given
how readily Clinton and Obama turned against their voters, I hardly
expect Trump to show much spine.
Eric Levitz: The Case for Countering Right-Wing Populism With 'Left-Wing
Economics': Article spends too much time rebutting a red herring from
Zack Beauchamp. My own suspicion is that the key to making an "Left-Wing
Economics" argument work is to name enemies and show how those enemies
take unfair advantage of working people, especially through their bought
influence on government, how their lobbying perverts the course of justice.
Not that we needed more examples, but the Trump administration is rife with
them. (Trump sure had a field day painting the Clintons that way.)
Richard Silverstein: Knesset Votes to Ban Palestinian Parties, Destroy
Israeli Democracy: In 1951 Palestinians still residing in Israel
were granted citizenship (a right that was not extended after 1967 as
Israel occupied and in some cases annexed additional Palestinian land),
and since then Palestinian political parties have been represented in
Israel's parliament (Knesset) -- to little effect, of course, as ruling
coalitions have very rarely even considered including them, but it's
always been a talking point, a big part of the Israel's claim to be a
This paragraph is meant as an aside, but is noteworthy:
Coincidentally, today a UN body issued a report
finding that Israel had become an apartheid state. It further urged
that the UN reactivate the methods, resolutions and commissions it used
to ostracize South Africa, when it too faced international opprobrium
for its racist policies. The new version of the Basic Law further
strengthens such findings.
Monday, March 13. 2017
Music: Current count 27888  rated (+26), 389  unrated (+4).
Actual new rated count less than above -- I only count 19 records
below. I may have missed something below: seems like every record I
process means I have to add lines to 4-5 files, and sometimes I lose
track of one or more of them. On the other hand, in looking through
the database and comparing it to the 20th Century Jazz Guide, I found
a half-dozen or so reviews that hadn't been registered, so correcting
those added to the count. Thus far I've gone through the Jazz '20-30s
file and most of the Jazz '40s-50s, adding stubs for all of the albums
I've graded but haven't collected reviews for (basically, records I
heard before 2001 or so), and also for all of the artists even if I
haven't heard any albums. One side effect of the latter is that I've
been checking up on artists I didn't have death dates for, and finding
most of them as I go along (and hopefully this trend will change) have
indeed died -- some long ago. Still have a long ways to go -- the '60s
through '90s files are larger still (though will have more post-2000
records), and there are also separate files for vocals, Latin, and pop.
Currently up to 515 pages (254k words).
Almost finished the week without an A- record, but Clean Feed came
to the rescue. Actually, two of Christgau's
Expert Witness picks came real close: Sunny Sweeney and Whitney
Rose. (His other pick, Becky Warren's War Surplus, was an A-
Scheinman also came close with an album uncannily similar to Bill
Frisell's Disfarmer. Got a letter from Clean Feed today
hoping to pinch pennies and switch me over to downloads, which
won't stop me from listening but will sure slow me down -- and
make me question why bother. I was tempted to give up reviewing
back when the Village Voice lost interest in Jazz Consumer Guide,
but kept on because labels like Clean Feed kept sending me new
releases. That's effectively the difference between a virtuous
circle and a death spiral.
New records rated this week:
- Battle Trance: Blade of Love (2016, New Amsterdam): [bc]: B+(*)
- Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop: Love Letter for Fire (2016, Sub Pop/Black Cricket): [r]: B+(*)
- DIIV: Is the Is Are (2016, Captured Tracks): [r]: B+(**)
- Dinosaur Jr: Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
- Krzyysztof Dys Trio: Toys (2014 , ForTune): [bc]: B+(**)
- Gorilla Mask: Iron Lung (2016 , Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
- Norah Jones: Day Breaks (2015 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
- Murs: Captain California (2017, Strange Music): [r]: B+(**)
- The Radio Dept.: Running Out of Love (2016, Labrador): [r]: B+(**)
- Whitney Rose: South Texas Suite (2017, Six Shooter, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- John K. Samson: Winter Wheat (2016, Anti-): [r]: B+(*)
- Jenny Scheinman: Here on Earth (2017, Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(***)
- Andy Shauf: The Party (2016, Anti-): [r]: B
- Swans: The Glowing Man (2016, Mute, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
- Sunny Sweeney: Trophy (2017, Aunt Daddy): [r]: B+(***)
- Teenage Fanclub: Here (2016, Merge): [r]: B-
- Michael Zilber: Originals for the Originals (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Swans: Public Castration Is a Good Idea (1986 , Thirsty Ear): [r]: B
- Peter Van Huffel/Michael Bates/Jeff Davis: Boom Crane (2013 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra: Invitation (OA2)
- Tom Dempsey/Tim Ferguson Quartet: Waltz New (OA2)
- Oscar Hernández & Alma Libre: The Art of Latin Jazz (Origin)
- The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: The Music of John Lewis (Blue Engine): March 24
- Matt Otto With Ensemble Ibérica: Ibérica (Origin)
- Trio 3: Visiting Texture (Intakt)
- Trio Heinz Herbert: The Willisau Concert (Intakt)
Sunday, March 12. 2017
Donald Trump likes to talk about how he "inherited a mess": here's
one measure of that, a chart of private-sector payroll employment over
Obama's eight years:
Note first that the guy who really did inherit a mess was Obama,
following eight years of Republican misrule under GW Bush. Also, that
by ignoring cuts to public sector employment due to austerity measures
mostly (but not exclusively) pushed by Republicans, this overstates
the overall jobs gains a bit. Still, Trump's going to be hard-pressed
to sustain Obama's rate, given hat he's working with the same "wrecking
crew" that sunk Bush. Of course, you may not know all this, because
Obama spent very little time bitching about the hole Republicans dug
for him: he felt it important to recovery to project confidence, so
he consistently understated the recession early on. In doing so, he
did himself (and the country) a disservice, as he undercut the political
case for more emphatic reforms.
Dean Baker reviews the latest jobs figures:
Prime-Age Employment Rate Hits New High for Recovery in February.
On the other hand, no false modesty from Trump:
Trump keeps claiming he's created US jobs since Election Day. As
the title continues: "Not so." Also:
Spicer: Trump Says Formerly 'Phony' Jobs Numbers Are Now 'Very Real'
For more, see
Matthew Yglesias: Sean Spicer's appalling answer about economic data
shows how far we've lowered the bar for Trump. Spicer's quip: "They
may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now."
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Zoë Carpenter/George Zornick: Everything Trump Did in His 7th Week That
Really Matters: Sub-heads:
- Instituted a new travel ban.
- Sent 400 Marines into Syria.
- Bombed Yemen more in a week than Obama did in a year.
- Broke a federal rule about the jobs report.
I've featured these pieces every week since inauguration, but frankly
the "federal rule" broken in the last point is a really stupid one, on
the order of misusing a comma in a press release. As the rest of this
post shows, there was much more amiss in the Trump world this week --
the purge of federal prosecutors, for instance, which shows the extent
to which partisan politics has taken over law enforcement in the minds
of Republican strategists.
More fallout on the Paul Ryan's health care hack (graphic right from
Zoë Carpenter: The GOP's Health-Care Plan Could Strip Addiction and
Mental-Health Coverage From 1.3 Million: Part of the Republican
effort to roll back Medicaid expansion.
Esme Cribb: Trump Admin Keeps Up Attacks on CBO Before It Scores ACA
Jesse Drucker: Wealthy Would Get Billions in Tax Cuts Under Obamacare
Jessica Glenza: Trump supporters in the heartland fear being left behind
by GOP health plan
Ezra Klein: Is the Republican health plan designed to fail? This piece
has gotten a lot of attention for Klein's fawning portrait of Paul Ryan:
Paul Ryan isn't an amateur. He is, arguably, the most skilled policy
entrepreneur of his generation. He is known for winning support from
political actors and policy validators who normally reject his brand of
conservatism. The backing he's built for past proposals comes from
painstaking work talking to allies, working on plans with them, preparing
them for what he'll release, hearing out their concerns, constructing
processes where they feel heard, and so on. He's good at this kind of
The implication is that since he didn't do all that this time he
must not be serious about it.
Paul Krugman has a response:
But has Ryan ever put together major legislation with any real chance
of passage? Yes, he made a name for himself with big budget proposals
that received adoring press coverage. But these were never remotely
operational -- they were filled not just with magic asterisks -- tax
loophole closing to be determined later, cost savings to be achieved
via means to be determined later -- but with elements, like converting
Medicare into a voucher system, that would have drawn immense flack if
they got anywhere close to actually happening.
In other words, he has never offered real plans for overhauling
social insurance, just things that sound like plans but are basically
just advertisements for some imaginary plan that might eventually be
produced. Actually pulling together a coalition to get stuff done? Has
he ever managed that?
What I'd say is that Ryan is not, in fact, a policy entrepreneur.
He's just a self-promoter, someone who has successfully sold a credulous
media on a character he plays: Paul Ryan, Serious, Honest Conservative
Policy Wonk. This is really his first test at real policymaking, which
is a very different process. There's nothing strange about his inability
to pull off the real thing, as opposed to the act. . . .
In other words, maybe this looks like amateur hour because it is.
Ryan isn't a skilled politician inexplicably losing his touch, he's a
con artist who started to believe his own con; Republicans didn't hammer
out a workable plan because there is no such plan, and anyway they have
no idea what that would involve.
Or to put it another way, this could just be more malevolence tempered
Jordan Weissmann: Trumpcare's Only Fan Is a Massive Insurance Company That
Really Need a Favor Right Now
Matthew Yglesias: The Republican health plan is a huge betrayal of
Trump's campaign promises: As if anything Trump's done as president
Julia Belluz: Scott Gottlieb, Trump's FDA pick, explained: "Trump wants
to deregulate the Food and Drug Administration. He chose the right guy for
Anna Lenzer: Trump's Panama Problem And the Panama story didn't even
make Matthew Rosza's
This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest, the juiciest of
which was "Trump opened a hotel in the capital of Azerbaijan with 'The
Corleones of the Caspian' as his partners." Also this quote from Eric
Trump: "The stars have all aligned. I think our brand is the hottest
it has ever been." That quote was pulled from
Eric Lipton/Susanne Craig: With Trump in White House, His Golf Properties
Les Leopold: 6 reasons why Trump is too weak to save American jobs:
All six boil down to the fact that Trump, as a lifelong businessman,
inevitably winds up siding with investors in their pursuit of profits
over concerns for jobs and livelihoods. The "six reasons" are simply
examples of that, and are far from exhaustive.
Dahlia Lithwick: Is Trump's Second Immigration Ban Unconstitutional?
Yes, among other things at least as troubling.
Bill Moyers/Henry A Giroux: Our President Is Up to No Good:
Actually, two pieces. Giroux's is especially stirring (at least,
reading it right after writing the piece on the Olathe shootings
Trump's ascendancy has made visible a plague of deep-seated civic
illiteracy, a corrupt political system and a contempt for reason
that has been decades in the making. It also points to the withering
of civic attachments, the decline of public life and the use of
violence and fear to shock and numb everyday people. Galvanizing
his base of true-believers in post-election rallies, the country
witnesses how politics is transformed into a spectacle of fear,
divisions and disinformation. Under President Trump, the scourge
of mid-20th century authoritarianism has returned, not only in the
menacing plague of populist rallies, fear-mongering, hate and
humiliation, but also in an emboldened culture of war, militarization
and violence that looms over society like a rising storm.
Matthew Nussbaum/Josh Dawsey: Trump's in the White House bubble, and he
loves it: "He's a creature of habit . . . and it works for him."
Janet Reitman: Betsy DeVos' Holy War: Some things you may not know:
Betsy DeVos' father, Edgar Prince, made his fortune manufacturing auto
parts (including perhaps his greatest innovation, the lighted sun visor),
and was one of the single largest donors to the Christian right. "No one
in the United States gave more money to James Dobson's Focus on the Family,
its Michigan Family Forum affiliate or its Washington, D.C., arm, the
Family Research Council, than the late Edgar Prince," notes Russ Bellant,
a Michigan author who has written extensively about the religious right.
After Prince died in 1995, Betsy's mother, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen,
continued funding religious-right causes, as has Betsy's brother, Erik
Prince, founder of the military contractor Blackwater. Among the causes
the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has supported is the Foundation
for Traditional Values, which produced multi-media seminars and presentations
on "America's Judeo-Christian heritage," including the "biblical roots" of
government and our education system.
And some stuff you probably did:
Neither Betsy DeVos, who is 59, nor any of her children have ever attended
a public school; her Cabinet post also marks her first full-time job in the
education system. Even before her nomination, she was a controversial figure
in education circles, a leading advocate of "school choice" through student
vouchers, which give parents public dollars to send their children to private
and parochial schools.
There is also a quote from Trump calling school choice the "civil rights
issue of our time." Admittedly, not a fellow well known for his devotion to
Alexandra Rosenmann: Trump supporters call for "liberal genocide" and
deportation of Jews at Arizona rally
Harry Siegel: Trump to US Attorney Preet Bahrara: You're Fired:
This followed a political purge as Trump and Sessions "ordered 46
United States attorneys to resign immediately." When Bahrara didn't,
he was fired. Also see:
US Attorney in NY Fired by DOJ After Trump Previously Promised He'd
Stay On; also
Cleve R Wootson Jr/Amy B Wang: Preet Bharara said he wanted to be a
US attorney 'forever.' Well, he was just fired. One unfortunate
thing here is that focus on Bharara, whose record on prosecuting Wall
Street was checkered at best, has distracted from the bigger story,
which is the extent Trump and Sessions have decided to use federal
prosecutors for their own political agenda. [PS: Belatedly found one
piece that picks up this thread:
Elizabeth Warren says Trump pushed out prosecutors to install
Mark Joseph Stern: Donald Trump and the Chamber of Secrets: "The
president's solicitor general nominee Noel Francisco thinks executive
privilege should shield pretty much everything."
Cary Wedler: US Drone Strikes Have Gone Up 432% Since Trump Took Office:
On a per/day basis, compared to Obama's much longer term.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Bernard Avishai: It's Not Too Early for the Next Democratic Ticket:
Dude, it's way too fucking early. In fact, the subject should be zipped
until way after the 2018 elections, and I wish we could put it off until
well into 2020: partly because it'll do nothing but distract the press
from the real issues, but mostly because the next candidate should
represent the party, not usurp the party to stroke her or his ego
(which is what being the designated leader would do).
Dean Baker: Drugs Are Cheap: Why Do We Let Governments Make Them Expensive?
It's worth remembering that private health insurance was quick to add
pharmaceutical coverage to their plans because drug therapies were often
cheaper than medical interventions. Medicare was slow to follow suit,
and by the time they did drugs weren't so cheap any more. The price rise
was partly the effect of more money being available through insurance,
and partly the increasing callousness of the profit motive, but to cash
in the key has been government-granted patent monopolies, which give
companies the right to push patients (and insurers) to their limits --
a "right" they've lately been exploiting so universally it's become a
major driver of health care cost. There is an easy fix to this, and a
little public investment would more than make up for any reductions
companies might make to r&d.
Baker also wrote a major piece on the track record of his fellow
The Wrongest Profession.
Thomas Frank: The Revolution Will Not Be Curated: There must be a
better word for what he's getting at, but the people he's talking about
are those who sort and select things (originally art) to be presented
to larger groups of people (originally exhibitions). To call these people
filters suggests they're more passive than they in fact are. Another word
that comes to mind is experts, but that suggests they know more than most
seem to, and that they work by some relatively objective criteria which
we should respect -- in fact, many people who call themselves experts
are distinguished mostly by their partisan support for special interests.
Obviously, much can go wrong with all this curating, but it's impossible
to be broadly informed without tapping into intermediaries who pay much
more attention to specialists. Virtually all of the links in this post
came to my attention through curators I've found worthwhile, and if
you're reading this you're doing the same. Indeed, that makes me a
curator, as I suppose I am in other domains, such as recorded jazz.
Still not sure what Frank's title means, unless it's that in order to
break out of today's debilitating conventional wisdom you have to be
aware of how all this curating limits your options, and seek out info
beyond the commonplace. But as a practical matter, that just means
that you need to find better curators (and, I would add, hold them
Henry Grabar: Corporate Incentives Cost US $45 Billion in 2015,
Don't Really Work: Photo features Boeing, who recently extorted
$8.7 billion from Washington state for not (for now) moving jobs
Aamna Mohdin: The Dutch far right's election donors are almost exclusively
American: So rich Americans are trying to buy another election, something
they have a lot of practice doing at home, and as a little reporting would
easily reveal, abroad. For more on right-wing Dutch candidate Geert Wilders:
Michael Birnbaum: The peroxide-blonde crusader who could soon top Dutch
elections. Especially interesting is Wilders' experience of working
on an Israeli kibbutz ("a trip he described as transformative in shaping
his pro-Israel, anti-Muslim views"). Another American publicly supporting
Wilders is Rep. Steve King (R-IA):
Iowa congressman lauds far-right Dutch politician, warning over
'demographics'. Curious how chummy the International Fraternal
Order of Fascists is at the moment, because one lesson history
teaches us is that nationalists ultimately find themselves at war
with one another, or falling obediently into the orbit of stronger
nationalists (as Quisling, Petain, and others prostrated their
nations to Hitler's Germany). Do the Dutch really want to elect
Wilders (or the French Le Pen) to be even more under Trump's (or
Putin's) thumb? [PS: Also on Wilders' funding:
Max Blumenthal: The Sugar Mama of Anti-Muslim Hate.]
Rich Montgomery/Andian Cummings: Arcs of two lives intersect in tragedy
at Austins bar in Olathe: Profiles of the Trump-inspired shooter
(Adam W. Purinton: "51, had long since seen his career as an air traffic
controller come to an end, gaining a reputation as an unhappy drinker as
he drifted from one low-level job to another") and victim (Srinivas
Kuchibbotla, 32, an engineer who had immigrated from Hyderabad, India;
he "had the American dream in his grasp: great job, happy marriage,
new house and plans for children"). Of course, Trump's spokespeople
were quick to disavow the shooting, but aside from its ending (which
they'd prefer to leave ambiguous) the whole Trump campaign was based
on exploiting the frustrations of folks like Purinton and rallying
their furor against people like Kuchibbotla. And it certainly is the
case that American businesses prefer hiring brilliant and optimistic
foreign-born professionals to trying to train undereducated and aging
malcontents like Purinton. We live in a society where even such paltry
welfare efforts as we make are more meant to belittle beneficiaries
than to build them up, so it's easy to see how Trump's supporters can
think the system favors immigrants over natives. And Democrats, having
taken every side of the issue (including for the Clintons a leading
roll in "ending welfare as we know it"), have had no coherent message,
allowing Trump to exploit this simmering wrath -- and to stir it up,
as we see here.
Vijay Prashad: The Rehabilitation of George W. Bush, War Criminal
Paul Rosenberg: Stronger than Tea: The anti-Trump resistance is much
bigger than the Tea Party -- and it has to be.
Danielle Ryan: WikiLeaks CIA dump makes the Russian hacking story even
murkier -- if that's possible: I haven't followed the latest WikiLeaks
dump of confidential CIA documents enough to form an opinion on whether
it's a good or bad or mixed thing, and frankly don't much care. Clearly,
we already knew that the CIA was out of control, which we should have
expected simply due to the cloak of secrecy under which it works. Still,
this article makes some interesting points:
The Vault 7 leaks are not exactly a smoking gun for those who maintain
Russia's innocence where the DNC hacks and leaks are concerned -- but
they're not insignificant either. If anything, the new leaks should make
people think a little harder before putting their complete trust in the
CIA's public conclusions about the acts (or alleged acts) of enemy
states. . . .
The fact that the CIA -- an organization of professionals trained
in the most sophisticated methods of deception -- is front and center
promoting the idea that Assange is a Russian agent, should be enough
for anyone to take that idea with a pinch of salt.
Thursday, March 9. 2017
Top local story here has been wildfire, the predictable result of
a very dry winter and three or more days of high winds. On Wednesday,
the Wichita Eagle front page, above the fold, consisted of one huge
picture of fire and the headline "Unprecedented." The story revealed
that about 60% of
Clark County (WSW of Wichita, south and a bit east of Dodge City,
at population 2215 pretty much the definition of nowhere) has been
burnt. That fire spread east into Comanche County (pop. 1891), and
there have been more scattered fires near Hays and Hutchinson. For
a rundown as of Wednesday, see
Tim Potter: Over 650,000 acres burned so far, state says. The
wind died down a bit on Thursday, so presumably the worst is over.
Note, however, that the annual record broke last week (a bit early,
don't you think?) dates from just last year.
The big story of the week was that Paul Ryan, with Donald Trump's
evident blessing, unveiled his "repeal-and-replace" health care bill.
He's managed to disgust both the right and the left, and more than
a few people in between. Some reactions:
Jamelle Bouie: How Republicans Botched Their Health Care Bill: Title
from the link, better than "Trumpcare Is Already on Life Support" on the
David Dayen: The Republican Health-Care Bill Is the Worst of So Many
Worlds: it "fails on every score -- except cutting rich people's
Tim Dickinson: The Dark Strategy at the Core of the GOP Health Care
Richard Eskow: The American Health Care Act Is a Wealth Grab, Not a
Mike Konczal: The Truth About the GOP Health-Care Plan
Paul Krugman: A Plan Set Up to Fail
Josh Marshall: Let's Agree Not to Lie About GOPCare: Starts with a
rather striking lie: "Here is the simple secret of health insurance and
health care provision policy: You can create efficiencies and savings
by constructing functioning markets." Actually, it's been clear for
decades that health care markets are inherently dysfunctional -- i.e.,
that Marshall's assumption is horribly faulty. His next line is also
untrue: "But at the end of the day, more money equals more care." This
doesn't even demand theory: it implies that the US has 3-4 times more
care than France or Japan, which is empirically false. Marshall then
argues that when Ryan promises to reduce costs, he's really just saying
he'll be offering less care, which is, well, true, but that's mostly
because Ryan isn't trying to change any of the cost factors behind
health care (e.g., by limiting private party profits). He then seems
to endorse right-wing opponents of Ryan's plan, saying "the real way
to do this is simply to repeat the Affordable Care Act root and branch --
no pretending about making it better and 'access' and other nostrums,"
but he doesn't see that happening because "Republicans have essentially
accepted the premise of the ACA: which is to say, the people who got
coverage under the ACA should have coverage." But Republicans
refuse to admit to that position, so Ryan has tailored the program to
fit Republican biases, which is to say to protect the insurability of
people who can afford it and screw everyone else. Marshall ultimately
make some solid points ("The current plan also starts the phaseout of
Medicaid and preps for the phaseout of Medicare -- a key policy goal
for Paul Ryan"), but makes a lot of stupid blunders along the way.
John Nichols: Sean Spicer Is Lying About Trump's Health-Care Debacle:
Joy-Ann Reid: Donald Trump Signs On to Paul Ryan's Let-Them-Die 'Health-Care'
Michael Tomasky: It Sure Looks Like Paul Ryan Wants Ryancare to Fail:
"The tip-off to me came Tuesday around noon, when Heritage Action, the
political arm of the Heritage Foundation, issued a tweet condemning the
bill. If Ryan didn't even bother to grease this with Heritage, he's just
not being serious."
Matthew Yglesias: Republicans are now playing the price for a years-long
campaign of Obamacare lies: "Republican leaders and conservative
intellectuals, for the most part, didn't really believe nonsense about
death panels or that Obama was personally responsible for high-deductible
insurance plans. What they fundamentally did not like is that the basic
framework of the law is to redistribute money by taxing high-income
families and giving insurance subsidies to needy ones." I want to add
two points here: the first is that every health care reform going back
at least to Medicare protected industry profits and allowed the industry
to increase those profits by inflating costs, even though this quickly
price health care beyond what most families could afford; and second,
that the Republicans have always had to jump through hoops to pretend
that increasing industry profits was good for the people (at least the
ones they profess to care about). These positions have become increasingly
untenable over time, but Republicans have been able to make political hay
as long as they could get people to blame the Democrats, whose own policies
have only been marginally more viable, and whose reforms have saddled them
with the lion's share of blame for their shortcomings.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Robert L Borosage: Foreign Policy Elites Have No Answer for Trump:
"Few entities have been more discombobulated by our madcap president
than the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, which former Obama
foreign-policy adviser Ben Rhodes once dubbed 'the blob.'" The Blob,
in the form of "a bipartisan committee of the impeccably credentialed --
eight men, two women, all white" working under the Brookings Institute
trademark, answered Trump with a report rehashing all the nostrums that
have worked so badly over the last 10-20-30 years:
The nabobs recommend a measured course, a posture more muscular than
"the detachment" of Barack Obama and less reckless than the "over-commitment"
of George W. Bush. They detail the elements. We will police the seas and
the heavens. We will allow no rival power to claim even a regional sphere
of influence. We will be dominant militarily in every theater from the
Russian border to the South China Sea to cyberspace.
This requires a major military buildup, including investments in
modernizing our nuclear weapons, "long-range strike capability, armed
unmanned aviation, ISR platforms, undersea warfare, directed energy,
space, and cyber security" and more. Yes, our allies should spend more
too, but we should "not ask to much of fragile Europe."
What does this mean on the ground? They recommend dispatching more
forces to the Russian border to counter "Russian revisionism," including
"a robust US and allied presence in the Baltic States, Central and
Eastern Europe and the Balkans." They want greater assistance to Ukraine
"to help ensure its prosperity and success," with a promise of "lethal
military aid" if Russia escalates its interference.
They propose "increasing engagement" to "restore stability" in the
Middle East, ramping up the fight against ISIS and Al Qaeda. They also
urge continued deployment of military forces in the Gulf "to keep the
oil flowing," even though the United States doesn't need it.
Trump's first erratic weeks in office have already created a horrifying
sense that the commander in chief is not in command of himself. But the
conventional wisdom of the bipartisan foreign-policy establishment is in
many ways even more disconnected from reality than Trump's tweets.
Jordan Charlton: Donald Trump's Hoodwinking of Working Class People Now
Stephen F Cohen: The 'Fog of Suspicion' and of Worsening Cold War. Also
Matt Taibbi: Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the
Dan De Luce/Paul McCleary: Trump's Ramped-Up Bombing in Yemen Signals More
Aggressive Use of Military: Trump managed to sow enough ambiguity in
his campaign it wasn't clear whether he's dial back the reckless and often
pointless military adventures of the past 15 years, or escalate them like
crazy. Early evidence suggests the latter, which is why so many of these
links point to possible wars, but this one deals with an active front, a
harbinger of things to come. Also see:
Paul McLeary: More US Troops Bound for Afghanistan, as Marines, Comandos,
Arrive in Syria. The situation in Syria is further complicated by
warfare between ostensible US allies (Turks and Kurds); see:
Liz Sly: With a show of Stars and Stripes, US forces in Syria try to
keep warring allies apart.
Lawrence Douglas: President Donald Trump is the most powerful cornered
animal in the world: I'm not sure we should be reminding him how
powerful he is, and quoting Joseph Welch ("have you left no sense of
decency?") is rather beside the point.
Katelyn Fossett: The Trouble with Trump's Immigrant Crimes list:
Specifically, VOICE (Victims Of Immigrant Crime Engagement).
DD Guttenplan: How Donald Trump Speaks to Ohio's Autoworkers:
Some quotes: "When Barack Obama ran, people here were not afraid of
his blackness. They saw someone who talked about things that had
meaning: getting the health-care system to work. Less focus on
foreign wars." And: "I think the vote in Ohio was as much against
Hillary as it was for Trump." And: "People still perceive NAFTA
and TPP as the root of the problem. Until we say it will never be
profitable to oppress other workers, corporations will always
move for cheap labor."
Dhar Jamail: On Labor and Beyond, Trump Is Following Scott Walker's
Patrick Lawrence: Are We Drifting Toward War With North Korea?
Officially, the US is still at war with North Korea, and has been
ever since the "temporary" 1953 armistice, although it's gotten to
the point where it'd be awful costly to renew it, and there's hardly
any cost to maintaining the status quo. At least that's Washington's
view. North Korea is far more affected by sanctions and isolation,
and has been frustrated at every corner in their efforts to move the
status quo. About the only thing they've found that gets the world's
attention is threats, which have repeatedly given American hawks the
opportunity to advocate military actions. What's new, of course, is
Trump, who combines ignorance and antipathy and bully bluster to an
unprecedented degree. I doubt he came into office scheming, as Bush
did viz. Iraq, to start a war, but he's so unstable, and his security
and state picks put so little stock in diplomacy, that any number of
situation could flare up out of control. Korea is an obvious one,
and Iran is another, and some are even worried about China.
Jeffrey Lewis: North Korea Is Practicing for Nuclear War: More
inflamatory is the subhed: "It's preparing for a nuclear first strike."
This is a good example of how Washington foreign policy mandarins
exacerbate tension by inflating the threat North Korea poses.
Eric Lipton/Binyamin Appelbaum: Leashes Come Off Wall Street, Gun Sellers,
Polluters and More
Trita Parsi/Tyler Cullis: Trump Didn't Start the Anti-Iranian Fire:
The anti-Iran war lobby goes back many years.
Philip Rucker/Robert Costa/Ashley Parker: Inside Trump's fury: The president
rages at leaks, setbacks and accusations
Rucker and Costa also wrote:
Bannon vows a daily fight for 'deconstruction of the administrative
state': Not sure why he'd use an academic term for deep analysis
"a philosophical or critical method which asserts that meanings,
metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions . . . are
always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary
signifiers") when he more likely means "dismantling" or "destruction" --
unless, that is, he's one of those all talk, no action guys.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Dean Baker: Progressives Should Support Policies That Help All Working-Class
People: This is all good; for example:
On trade this means policies designed to reduce the trade deficit. This
issue here is not "winning" in negotiations with our trading partners.
It's a question of priorities in trade negotiations.
Rather than demanding stronger and longer protections for Pfizer's
patents and Microsoft's copyrights, we should be getting our trading
partners to support a reduction in the value of the dollar in order to
make our goods and services more competitive. If we can reduce the trade
deficit by 1-2 percentage points of GDP ($180 billion to $360 billion)
it will create 1-2 million manufacturing jobs, improving the labor market
for the working class.
We should use trade to reduce the pay of doctors and other highly paid
professionals. If we open the door to qualified professionals from other
countries we can save hundreds of billions of dollars a year on health
care and other costs, while reducing inequality.
We should also support policies that rein in the financial sector,
such as reducing fees that pension funds pay to private equity and hedge
funds and their investment advisors. This money comes out of the pockets
of the rest of us and goes to some of the richest people in the country.
A financial transactions tax, which could eliminate tens of billions of
dollars spent each year on useless trades, would also be a major step
towards reducing inequality.
Policies that put downward pressure on the pay of CEOs and other top
executives would also help the working class. This could mean, for example,
making it easier for shareholders to reduce CEO pay. In the nonprofit
sector we could place a cap on the pay of employees for anyone seeking
tax-exempt status. Universities and nonprofit charities could still pay
their presidents whatever they wanted; they just wouldn't get a taxpayer
There is a long list of market-based policies that we can pursue to
reverse the upward redistribution of the last four decades. (For the
fuller list see
Rigged). These are policies that we should pursue because it is the
right thing to do. It will help the working class of all races, including
the white working class.
I've been reading Ira Katznelson's Fear Itself: The New Deal and
the Origins of Our Time, which puts a lot of emphasis on how white
Southern Democrats supported radical New Deal policies up to about 1938,
when many switched sides, most famously joining with Republicans to pass
the Taft-Hartley Act which halted the growth of unions and ultimately
did them great damage. The South was, at the time, by far the poorest
part of the country (well, still is), so as long as New Deal policies
were crafted not to upset the South's Jim Crow racial order politicians
were happy for the help. However, by the late 1930s, especially with
the Wagner Act supporting unionization in 1935, Southern whites started
to feel threatened, and decided they'd rather keep their racial order
pure and poor than do anything that might help both whites and blacks.
It is one of the great shames of American history that one of our few
major periods of progressivism was so fraught with racism. (Actually,
the same combination hampered Wilson's progressivism, and before that
the Populist Party, at least in the South. For that matter, the great
expansion of voting rights in the Jackson-Van Buren era was more often
than not accompanied by disenfranchisement of free blacks.)
Thomas Frank: Don't let establishment opportunists ruin the resistance
movement: I agree that there's a lot of similarity between the
anti-Trump resistance and the anti-Obama Tea Party, but there is very
little symmetry between left and right, either in the streets or among
the partisan establishment (although I suspect the Republicans were
more inclined to feed their protest movement because they considered
it less of a personal threat -- wrongly, perhaps, if you take Trump
to be a Tea Party champion, but for now let's just say that Democratic
party centrists have a lot more to feel guilty about).
Joseph P Fried: Lynne Stewart, Lawyer Imprisoned in Terrorism Case, Dies
Paul Glastris: Charles Peters on Recapturing the Soul of the Democratic
Rebecca Gordon: Forever War:
During the 2016 election campaign, Donald Trump often sounded like a
pre-World War II-style America First isolationist, someone who thought
the United States should avoid foreign military entanglements. Today,
he seems more like a man with a uniform fetish. He's referred to his
latest efforts to round up undocumented immigrants in this country as
"a military operation." He's similarly stocked his cabinet with one
general still on active duty, various retired generals, and other
military veterans. His pick for secretary of the interior, Montana
Congressman Ryan Zinke, served 23 years as a Navy SEAL.
Clearly, these days Trump enjoys the company of military men. He's
more ambivalent about what the military actually does. On the campaign
trail, he railed against the folly that was -- and is -- the (second)
Iraq War, maintaining with questionable accuracy that he was "totally
against" it from the beginning. It's not clear, however, just where
Trump thinks the folly lies -- in invading Iraq in the first place or
in failing to "keep" Iraq's oil afterward. It was a criticism he reprised
when he introduced Mike Pompeo as his choice to run the CIA. "Mike," he
explained, "if we kept the oil, you probably wouldn't have ISIS because
that's where they made their money in the first place." Not to worry,
however, since as he also suggested to Pompeo, "Maybe we'll have another
chance." Maybe the wrong people had just fought the wrong Iraq war, and
Donald Trump's version will be bigger, better, and even more full of win!
Perhaps Trump's objection is simply to wars we don't win. As February
ended, he invited the National Governors Association to share his nostalgia
for the good old days when "everybody used to say 'we haven't lost a war" --
we never lost a war -- you remember." Now, according to the president,
"We never win a war. We never win. And we don't fight to win. We don't
fight to win. So we either got to win, or don't fight it at all."
Well, if you'd just stop to give it a bit of thought, you'd realize
that no one ever wins a war. Maybe you lose less bad than the other
side does, but everyone comes out worse for the experience. Anyone who
thought we won the 20th century's two world wars simply didn't account
for everything we lost (admittedly, a pretty widespread problem, given
how much money some people who didn't fight made off those wars). And
anyone who tells you we won (or could have won if only we'd shown more
unity and resolve) wars in Korea or Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq
simply has their head wedged. What makes Trump so dangerous is his
obsession with winning, and worse still his conviction that's he such
a big winner -- that the only possible result of whatever he chooses
to do will be winning, and indeed that all it takes to "make America
great again" is leadership by a great winner like himself.
Danny Sjursen: I Was Part of the Iraq War Surge. It Was a Disaster.
Monday, March 6. 2017
Music: Current count 27862  rated (+28), 385  unrated (-6).
Streamnotes (February 2017)
came out last week, actually on March 1 (but I backdated it). March draft
file is open now, starting with 17 records listed below. At this point no
real direction as to what I'm covering: I picked off a few 2016 releases
that I hadn't bothered with before -- ones that got some attention from
the EOY lists. Highest rated album from my
EOY Aggregate List I haven't
heard is Metallica's Hardwired . . . to Self Destruct, in 83rd.
Highest point in the list where there are three or more straight unrated
records starts at 230: Andy Stott, Wild Beasts, Woods, The Body, then
after one I've heard (Clipping) there's The Drones and Fat White Family.
Next cluster of 5+ I haven't heard starts at 291: Opeth, Roly Porter,
Ty Segall, St Paul & the Broken Bones, Sunflower Bean, Suuns, Tedeschi
Trucks Band, Thrice, Wild Nothing, and Zayn.
Also checked out Christgau's
picks last week: Syd's Fin closes strong enough I could see
grading it up, but three or four plays didn't quite convince me, and I
didn't enjoy Nnamdi Ogbonnaya's Drool at all. I gave NxWorries'
Yes Lawd! the same grade months ago, but still haven't checked
out the John Legend album yet (fwiw, the only Legend album I have heard
is a B).
The old Ken Vandermark records I happened to notice on his
as among the few I hadn't heard. A bit disappointed that the two
FME records only hinted at how good the band was on two records I
had previously rated A-: Cuts and Underground. I
need to check more closely for whatever I've missed (though my
seems pretty comprehensive).
Achieved a milestone of sorts in the Jazz Guide project: got up to
date with my Streamnotes reviews, copying the 20th century ones into
a book file which now measures 459 pages, and the later ones into a
long text file that I'll eventually fold into the 21st century book.
Next step on 20th century is to go through the database files and add
all the rated-but-unreviewed albums in as stubs. I knocked the first
(and probably shortest) of those files off today, for jazz artists
who first appeared before 1940. As with every step on this project,
it's been a slow slog.
New records rated this week:
- AMP Trio: Three (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B
- Courtney Marie Andrews: Honest Life (2016, Mama Bird): [r]: B+(*)
- Beans on Toast: Rolling Up the Hill (2015, Xtra Mile): [r]: A-
- Beans on Toast: A Spanner in the Works (2016, Xtra Mile): [r]: B+(**)
- Gianni Bianchini: Type I (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Carlos Bica & Azul: More Than This (2016 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
- Chicago Edge Ensemble: Decaying Orbit (2016 , self-released): [cd]: A-
- Marc Ducret Trio+3: Métatonal (2014 , Ayler): [bc]: B+(**)
- The Hotelier: Goodness (2016, Tiny Engines): [r]: B+(*)
- Sarah Jarosz: Undercurrent (2016, Sugar Hill): [r]: B+(**)
- Lisa Mezzacappa: Avant Noir (2015 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
- Nnamdi Ogbonnaya: Drool (2017, Father/Daughter/Sooper): [r]: B-
- Old 97's: Graveyard Whistling (2017, ATO): [r]: B+(***)
- Eivind Opsvik: Overseas V (2016 , Loyal Label): [cd]: B+(***)
- Keith Oxman: East of the Village (2016 , Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
- Noah Preminger: Meditations on Freedom (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
- The Reunion Project: Veranda (2016 , Tapestry): [cd]: B+(**)
- Hiromi Suda: Nagi (2015 , BluJazz): [cd]: B+(*)
- Syd: Fin (2017, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
- Thee Oh Sees: A Weird Exits (2016, Castle Face): [yt]: B+(*)
- Keith Urban: Ripcord (2016, Capitol Nashville): [r]: B
- Velkro: Too Lazy to Panic (2016 , Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
- Ryley Walker: Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (2016, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Double Tandem [Ab Baars/Ken Vandermark/Paal Nilssen-Love]: OX (2012, dEN): [bc]: B+(***)
- FME: Live at the Glenn Miller Café - Feb. 27, 2002 (2002, Okka Disk): [bc]: B+(***)
- FME: Montage (2005 , Okka Disk, 2CD): [bc]: B+(**)
- Lean Left: Live at Area Sismica (2012 , Unsounds): [bc]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Chicago/London Underground: A Night Walking Through Mirrors (Cuneiform): advance
- MEM3: Circles (self-released): March 24
- The Microscopic Septet: Been Up So Long It Looks Like Down to Me: The Micros Play the Blues (Cuneiform): advance
- The Ed Palermo Big Band: The Great Un-American Songbook: Volumes I & II (Cuneiform, 2CD): advance
- Daniel Weltlinger: Samoreau: A Tribute to the Fans of Django Reinhardt (Rectify): March 31
Sunday, March 5. 2017
For a while there, I thought I had shot my wad on Thursday's
Midweek Roundup, but it didn't take long for the floodgates to open.
I thought I'd start this with a remarkable letter that appeared in the
Wichita Eagle by Gregory H. Bontrager, under the title "Trump on our
side" (emphasis added):
The same media that is hounding President Trump are the same ideological
malcontents that gave President Obama a free pass for eight lost years
of American history. Finally, the middle class has a friend in the White
If you like welfare, food stamps or unchecked borders, Obama is the
man for you. But if you work for a living or own your own business,
Trump is on your side. Despite media hype, the age of the working man
has arrived, as personified by Trump.
No more apologies will be accepted from America-hating elitists and
the clueless children they foster on college campuses.
The American worker will no longer be held hostage to insane
regulations by runaway bureaucracies such as the Environmental Protection
Agency or rogue tax collectors in the IRS who have been weaponized by
Democrats to suppress political opposition.
The Democratic Party cares more about the rights of illegal aliens
than your children being able to walk safely down the streets of their
Whether they sit on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals or the city
councils of sanctuary cities, it is time to push aside these apostate
Americans and take our country back.
As someone who grew up in a union household, I can't help but be
moved by this "working man" rhetoric, although I recognize that close
to half of wage-earners in America are women, and that most of the
jobs people work at today are in the service sector, more or less
removed from the muscle and grime associated with the working men of
yore -- hardly a vanished species, but much less prevalent than in
my father's and grandfather's days. Nor do I begrudge the right of
some people "who own their own business" to think of themselves as
"working men" -- those, at least, who actually do some of their own
work, as opposed to the ones who merely bark orders and push papers,
but I know full well that nothing changes a person like controlling
a business' checkbook, especially politically.
Still, what I find unfathomable is how anyone who's not a real
estate magnate (or maybe a hedge fund manager) can imagine that
Donald Trump -- a man who's spent every waking moment in the last
fifty years pursuing his own wealth and celebrating his own ego --
would be on their side, or even give half a shit about them. Even
the author's laundry list of phobias doesn't justify his leap of
Most wage earners -- a more accurate if less romantic term than
"working man" -- understand that welfare and food stamps are part
of a safety net that, when properly supported, protects the lowest
earners from disaster. Even people who never directly make use of
such support benefit from living in a society which doesn't allow
abject poverty to fester. Similarly, most government regulation is
meant to protect workers and communities from the sort of abuses
that inevitably tempt profit-seeking private businesses. It's easy
to see why some short-sighted business owners may take umbrage at
inspectors and tax collectors, but aside from lost jobs when badly
managed businesses fail, workers generally benefit from policies
which keep businesses from cutting corners.
It is true that if you think your problems are caused by policies
which limit the greed and avarice of private companies, Trump will
(sometimes) be "on your side." And if you see "illegal aliens" as
some sort of plague, you may take some pleasure in Trump's callous
and cruel demonization of America's most downtrodden immigrants and
refugees. But neither of those stances makes you a "working man,"
nor does it guarantee that Trump will be your champion. For starters,
the man is a world class liar and demagogue, as should already be
clear from his selective memory of his campaign promises.
The stuff about Obama and the Democrats is harder to explain,
other than that the author appears to have indeed been held hostage
the last eight years, not by federal bureaucrats but by the right-wing
fantasy media. Although appeals to the vanishing middle class have
been a staple of both parties, few politicians in recent memory have
devoted so much of their rhetoric to the cause as has Barack Obama.
One might fault Obama for delivering so little to the middle class:
under him, despite a modest tax increase on the rich, income inequality
has continued to increase, the safety net has continued to fray, and
his signature health care program delivered at best a mixed blessing.
But the idea that with Trump replacing Obama "the middle class has a
friend in the White House" is patently absurd.
To be clear, the "middle class" most of my generation grew up in --
we're talking 1950s here -- was the product of two things: a strong
union movement which lifted both blue- and white-collar wage-earners
to the level where they could own houses and send their kids to public
colleges, and near-confiscatory (up to 90%) income tax rates on the
still well-to-do managers and owners. (Paul Krugman called this "the
great compression" -- see The Conscience of a Liberal.) Look
for anything like this in Trump's platform: there's not even a hint
of anything comparable. Rather, what the Republicans -- and this is
certainly why Trump chose to become one -- have pushed ever since
Reagan (or Calvin Coolidge or William McKinley or the robber barons
who took over the GOP in the 1870s) is the notion that we'll all be
better off if only we let businesses pursue profits unfettered by
any sense of social responsibility. It should be clear by now that
only the very rich have benefited from that theory, and only to the
extent that they've been able to isolate themselves from the world
they've left behind. The "middle class" is not a natural condition
in capitalist society: it exists only because policies have forced
a more equal distribution of the national wealth. Take those policies
away, and, sure, a few people can become much richer, while a great
many slip into increasing poverty. And that's not just theory. That's
what has actually happened, to the extent that Republicans have been
able to seize power since 1980.
So there's nothing in Trump's platform to make him "a friend of the
middle class." But it's just as incredible to think he might be a friend
of anyone. Friendship is based on empathy, common understanding, and
mutual respect. To achieve that usually requires familiarity, engagement,
and interaction. But how much opportunity does someone like Trump get
to interact with even "middle class" (much less poor) people when he
lives in the penthouse on top of Trump Tower, is chauffeured around
town, and flies on private planes around the world -- at least to the
few spots where he owns luxury resorts full of deferential employees
and frequented by guests as rarefied as he himself is? Even leaving
aside his personality, charitably described as narcissistic, no one
can reasonably expect him to relate to, much less empathize with, the
everyday problems of most Americans.
The letter contains more absurdities, both of fact -- Obama, rather
notoriously, deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous
president -- and of interpretation -- I can't even imagine the "free
pass" he thinks Obama was granted, or what "eight lost years of American
history" even means. (Although thanks to Bush and Republican obstruction
of Obama we've wasted sixteen years. and counting, that could have been
used to counter global warming -- something future generations are sure
to judge us harshly for.)
The Kansas State Legislature passed a law repealing Gov. Sam Brownback's
income tax exemption for business owners, at long last promising to fill
a budgetary hole that has plagued Kansas since 2011. Brownback vetoed,
the House overrode, but the Senate barely sustained the veto, primarily
thanks to Republican Majority Leader Susan Wagle switching her position.
Richard Crowson drew the cartoon at right to mark the occasion. Sedgwick
County Commissioner Richard Ranzau took exception to the cartoon, noting
that depicting Wagle as a "female dog" was tantamount to calling her a,
well, you know. Ranzau is probably the most outrageously reactionary
politician in Kansas, at least in recent years. Of course, it isn't his
fault that his name resonates as some lesser known Nazi extermination
camp, one you can't quite put your finger on. Still, one would be less
likely to make the connection if he had somewhat more moderate take on
Crowson thanks Ranzau for showcasing cartoon.
Robert Christgau forwarded this tweet by
James F Haning II, proclaiming it "perfect":
Donald Trump is a stupid man's idea of a smart man, a poor man's idea
of a rich man, a weak man's idea of a strong man.
There certainly is a lot of projection concerning Trump. There is
scant evidence to support many of the traits his fans attribute to
him (although, even without tax returns, he does a fairly good job of
passing for rich, even compared to the bottom of the top percentile).
And rich seems to buttress the notions of smart and strong, especially
given that they don't stand up all that well on their own. He has a
bully aspect, but that's mostly exercised through lawyers; other than
that he talks big, but is known to tone it down when faced with likely
opposition (as during his campaign stop in Mexico, where he offered
none of the slander and fury of his post-visit immigration rant). As
for smart, he's clearly not even remotely a smart man's idea of smart.
Whether stupid men are that stupid is another question: he clearly has
a knack for exploiting some people's insecurities, and for projecting
himself as their savior. Part of that comes from a very instinctual,
almost bred-in, sense humans have that in crisis they should rally
behind the guy who looks strongest -- an instinct that's likely to
give you a Napoleon, a Churchill, or a Hitler (most of whom turned
out to be disasters). Part is that many Americans have way too much
admiration for the rich. And part is the luck of running against
people who hardly inspire anyone at all. But much of it is that with
Trump we have a man who is extraordinarily self-centered and immodest,
so much so he doesn't betray any lack of confidence in his abilities,
even though they are manifest to anyone who bothers to look.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
George Zornick/Zoë Carpenter: Everything Trump Did in His 6th Week That
Really Matters: A regular series that goes beyond chasing tweets.
- Halted a probe into airline-price transparency. "Stocks in
major airlines increased 2 percent."
- Absolved senior adviser Kellyanne Conway of wrongdoing. Re
her promotion of Ivanka Trump's clothing line, contrary to federal
ethics rules. "The White House concluded that Conway acted 'without
nefarious motive,' and did not announce any disciplinary actions."
- Swore in a commerce secretary with serious conflicts of
interest. Multi-billionaire Wilbur Ross, who among other things
"served as the vice-chair of the Bank of Cyprus, 'one of the key
offshore havens for illicit Russian finance.'"
- His attorney general recused himself from Russia inquiries.
Jeff Sessions, who falsely testified to the US Senate during confirmation
that he had no contact with Russian officials.
- Announced a special exemption for the Keystone XL pipeline.
He also ordered that all pipelines be made with American steel "to the
maximum extent possible," which turns out to be not at all. (See
Keystone Pipeline Won't Use US Steel Despite Trump Pledge.)
- Ordered a review of water regulations. The first step
toward undoing clean water rules developed by the EPA under Obama.
Julia Edwards Ainsley: Trump administration considering separating women,
children at Mexico border
Eric Alterman: The Media's Addiction to False Equivalencies Has Left
Them Vulnerable to Trump: "Decades of conservative efforts to work
the press are paying off handsomely." I've described this as the "Earl
Weaver effect": you always argue with the umps, not so much to convince
them now as to make them more likely to give you a call later on (thus
avoiding another scarifying encounter).
Coral Davenport; Trump to Undo Vehicle Rules That Curb Global Warming:
"The E.P.A. will also begin legal proceedings to revoke a waiver for
California that was allowing the state to enforce tougher tailpipe
standards for its drivers." Also by Davenport:
Top Trump Advisers Are Split on Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
A few, like Rex Tillerson, recognize that withdrawal will have adverse
impact on how the US is viewed throughout the world. After all, it's
a pretty clear message: to protect our industry profits, we don't care
what the impact is to the rest of the world: fry, drown, whatever.
Note that even if the US doesn't formally withdraw, Trump's EPA is
already working hard to make climate catastrophe irreversible. Also
Steven Mufson/Jason Samenow/Brady Dennis: White House proposes steep
budget cut to leading climate science agency: maybe if we stop
studying the problem, we won't notice when it happens, so won't know
who to blame.
Josh Dawsey: Trump's advisers push him to purge Obama appointees:
Well, actually they'd like to purge much of the civil service as well
as a few dozen holdovers still trying to do their jobs. ("Candidates
for only about three dozen of 550 critical Senate-confirmed positions
have even been nominated.") A big part of the problem here is that
Trump campaigned by totally misrepresenting what Obama's administration
had been doing, treating it as all bad and therefore all in need of
radical change. But the election didn't change any laws, and policy
changes are subject to many checks and balances. No past administration
started with a clean slate, and most saw continuity as a virtue. Trump
is different partly because he set up the expectation of radical change,
and partly because his people have proven unusually incompetent -- I'd
say that's largely due to his party having made obstruction its norm
for eight years (after making destruction the norm for two terms under
GW Bush). Still, the immediately burning issue is that they're steamed
about leaks revealing their incompetence. A better solution would be
to try to behave in ways that aren't embarrassing to the public, but
that's a level of maturity they haven't grown into yet (if indeed they
Paul Feldman: A deadly pattern: States that went red during 2016 election
saw more workplace fatalities: Chart is pretty starkly amazing, with
only two states above 3.0 (New Mexico and Nevada) voting Democratic, and
only one state below 3.0 (Arizona) voting Republican.
Jon Finer/Robert Malley: How Our Strategy Against Terrorism Gave Us
Trump: Actually, the US doesn't have a strategy against terrorism
any more, and hasn't since it became clear that reconstructing Iraq
along Texas lines wasn't going to pay off. What passes for one is no
more than whacking all the terrorists we notice, or people in their
vicinity -- the sort of knee-jerk spasms dead chickens are noted for.
What gave us Trump was the callousness and ignorance of continuing a
hopeless and hapless war despite clear proof that of having no clue.
In early Bush days the US could present itself as some kind of friend,
and occasionally find acceptance and support, but those days are long
gone as the frustration of losing has turned Americans into haters of
all things Islamic. I think it was predictable from the start that
this approach would fail, but the authors are still committed to the
mission no matter how badly it fails.
Todd C Frankel: How Foxconn's broken pledges in Pennsylvania cast doubt
on Trump's jobs plan: One thing I'm struck by is how many of the
companies Trump's counting on to "invest in America" are Chinese -- not
just that their offers are subject to political ploys but that their
bottom line depends on getting lower labor costs in the US than they
are already getting in China. This doesn't seem like much of a golden
Jonathan Freedland: Donald Trump isn't the only villain -- the Republican
party shares the blame
David Cay Johnston: Trump's Lament That He 'Inherited a Mess' of an
Economy? False! Sad! Various measures of the economy were actually
up for the last months of Obama's second term, with the median wage
"began rising in 2013 after 15 years of being in the doldrums." This
momentum, a far cry from the "mess" Trump has already started blaming
for his own incompetence, will likely continue to buoy Trump for months
or even a couple years to come, until Trump (like Bush before him)
blows it all to hell. For more on this, see:
Christian Weller: The truth about Obama's economic legacy and Trump's
Paul Krugman: Goodbye Spin, Hello Raw Dishonesty:
At this point it's easier to list the Trump officials who haven't been
caught lying under oath than those who have. This is not an accident.
[ . . . ]
In part, of course, the pervasiveness of lies reflects the character
of the man at the top: No president, or for that matter major U.S.
political figure of any kind, has ever lied as freely and frequently
as Donald Trump. But this isn't just a Trump story. His ability to get
away with it, at least so far, requires the support of many enablers:
almost all of his party's elected officials, a large bloc of voters
and, all too often, much of the news media.
[ . . . ]
But then you watch something like the way much of the news media
responded to Mr. Trump's congressional address, and you feel despair.
It was a speech filled with falsehoods and vile policy proposals, but
read calmly off the teleprompter -- and suddenly everyone was declaring
the liar in chief "presidential."
The point is that if that's all it takes to exonerate the most
dishonest man ever to hold high office in America, we're doomed.
Krugman also wrote
Coal Is a State of Mind: Trump keeps insisting that he'll bring back
coal mining jobs, but nothing -- not technology and not economics --
suggests he can, no matter how much political will he puts behind it:
The answer, I'd guess, is that coal isn't really about coal -- it's a
symbol of a social order that is no more; both good things (community)
and bad (overt racism). Trump is selling the fantasy that this old order
can be restored, with seemingly substantive promises about specific jobs
mostly just packaging.
One thought that follows is that Trump may not be as badly hurt by
the failure of his promises as one might expect: he can't deliver coal
jobs, but he can deliver punishment to various kinds of others.
Laila Lalami: Donald Trump Is Making America White Again: The detail
points are worth reading, but file this under really bad titles. For
one thing, America has never been white, no matter how marginalized
the political system made non-whites. For another, while Trump will
make America more hurtful for non-whites, nothing he can do will change
the racial, religious, and/or ethnic demography of the nation to any
meaningful degree. The most he and his fans can hope for is to slow
down what they view as a demographic disaster, and perhaps to jigger
the system a bit to politically marginalize what they view as undesirable
Americans -- that is, after all, the point of the voter suppression laws
that are all the rage in Republican legislatures.
Jefferson Morley: Who wins? Donald Trump vs. the Koch Brothers on jobs:
I had to read down the article to even find out what Trump was thinking
of as his jobs program: turns out it's the BAT (Border Adjustment Tax),
which is really just a tariff. The Kochs are organizing against BAT, and
they have things Trump doesn't have, like a grass roots organization
that has been very successful at getting Republicans elected to Congress.
(In many ways Trump sailed to the presidency on their coat tails.) So
no, it's pretty much dead in Congress, and there's damn little Trump
can do about that.
Paul Rosenberg: America's infrastructure disaster -- and why Donald Trump
will do nothing to fix it:
The last time it was issued, back 2013, our infrastructure got an overall
grade of D+, with a projected $3.6 trillion investment needed by 2020 --
more than 3 1/2 times the amount that President Donald Trump has promised
(mostly from private investors) over a much longer period. Grades ranged
from a high of a single B- for solid waste to a low of D- in two categories --
levees and inland waterways. There were more straight Ds than anything else --
for schools, dams, aviation, roads, transit, wastewater, drinking water and
hazardous waste. Rail and bridges both rated C+, ports a straight C, public
parks and recreation a C- and energy a D+. Even Bart wouldn't be proud of
The key problem is that we let business ideologues (mostly but not
exclusively Republicans) convince us that government can't do anything
competently (except wage war, which kind of proved their point) so
we're better off not wasting our money -- just wait for the private
sector to fill the need. This is, of course, exactly not how we got
all our infrastructure in the first place (the whole point of Jacob
S Hacker/Paul Pierson: American Amnesia: How the War on Government
Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper).
Matthew Rozsa: This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest:
Favoritism from Vancouver to New York City. Rosza also wrote
President Pence's problems: Indiana Democrats say VP was "the worst
governor we ever had" -- something to bear in mind before you
Katy Waldman: We All Talk Like Donald Trump Now: Sad! Oh, dear!
Even when we satirize him the mental rot is contagious! As if we didn't
have enough to worry about already!
Matthew Yglesias: Trump is Mad Online at Obama, Schwarzenegger, and
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court: This day (March 4)
in tweets. Personally, I'm just gratified that when Trump refers to
"McCarthyism" and "Nixon/Watergate" he's treating them as bad things.
Nor do I especially mind him dissing Schwarzenegger, recently departed
from Trump's former reality show. For more on the latter (possibly
the week's least momentus "news") see:
Todd VanDerWerff: Arnold Schwarzenegger is leaving The Celebrity
Apprentice. He blames President Trump.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's broader bout of political insanity:
William Astore: In Afghanistan, America's Biggest Foe Is Self-Deception:
Actually, that's true in America as well. When future generations look
back on America today (assuming they should be so lucky), one big thing
they will puzzle over is how so many people could have believed in so
much really crazy shit.
Tony Blair, Who Brought US the War in Iraq, Lectures on the Evils of
Populism: Or more to the point, "he criticizes the left for abandoning
centrist politicians," like himself -- where centrism means pretending
to have a social conscience while serving the advancement of "clean"
businesses like high-tech and finance. ("Tony Blair has worked as an
advisor to JP Morgan and Zurich Financial Services, since retiring as
James Carden: Why Does the US Continue to Arm Terrorists in Syria?
Well, because the US doesn't have a clue what it's doing in Syria, or
for that matter all across the Middle East. Because US strategists feel
the need to choose sides in a contest where no sides are viable let
alone right. Because they can't contemplate of resolving problems but
by force of arms. And because they, like the "terrorists" they claim
to oppose, see terror as a tactic for advancing political goals.
Ian Cummings: FBI undercover stings foil terrorist plots -- but how many
are agency-created? I think it's pretty clear that Terry Loewen here
in Wichita would never have done anything but for FBI prodding. Several
other cases mentioned here are similar. I think the Garden City case
where three guys planned an attack on a Somali neighborhood was real,
but the FBI has a long history of trying to provoke crimes, and that
has probably gotten worse with all the "war on terror" nonsense.
Nelson Denis: After a Century of American Citizenship, Puerto Ricans
Have Little to Show for It
Richard J Evans: A Warning From History: Review of Volker Ullrich's
recent biography, Hitler: Ascent, 1889-1939, by the author of
The Coming of the Third Reich and two massive sequels. I can
see the fascination, but I'm more struck by the dissimilarities between
then and now -- one is reminded of Marx's quip about the arrival of
Napoleon III: "history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce."
Nor do I mean to downplay the real people hurt by Trump's policies and
acts. But Germany faced a real crisis in 1928-32, and Hitler presented
a plausible (albeit totally wrong-headed) solution until his absolute
self-confidence and ruthlessness drove the nation over a cliff. Trump's
demons are almost totally imaginary (his 40% unemployment rates, the
rampaging crime wave, hordes of demented illegal aliens, more hordes
of fanatical Muslims), and despite a modest Defense Department budget
bump (that will quickly be sopped up by graft) one doubts that he or
his anti-government henchmen will ever be able to turn the state into
a truly ominous force. Still, his impulses and tendencies are so bad
it helps to be reminded how catastrophically they've failed in the
Still, if you want to go further down this rathole:
Anis Shivani: Trump and Mussolini: Eleven key lessons from historical
fascism. Some key points:
- Fascism rechannels economic anxiety: key thing
is that it doesn't relieve it, it just redirects blame.
- Liberal institutions have already been fatally
weakened: I wouldn't say it's fatal here (yet), but Trump
wouldn't have risen without the discrediting of key institutions,
like the military in the Middle East and bankers everywhere.
- Of course it's a minority affair: The Tea Party
and the alt-right are every bit as vanguardist as the Bolsheviks,
but are rooted in venerable Americanisms, like Nixon's "dirty tricks"
and Lombardi's "winning is the only thing."
- Its cultural style makes no sense to elites:
which in turn makes it hard to counter; it's easy to prove that
Trump isn't smart but you won't impress his fans by doing so --
they've spent every moment of the last eight years loathing Obama,
suspecting that his brains are merely the engine of deviousness.
(Nor did Meryl Streep dissing football gain any traction.)
- No form of resistance works: Have fascists
ever been voted out of office, given that one thing they've always
been quick to do is to rig the system (much like the Republicans
with their voter restriction laws, though often even more brutal).
"Nothing ever works until fascism's logic, the logic of empire,
stands discredited to the point where no denial and no media
coverup is possible anymore." Actually the Axis was only "discredited"
by the most brutal military counterattack in history.
Daniel Politi: Pentagon Has Been Waging Secret Cyberwar Against North
Korea Missiles for Years: Perhaps this has something to do with why
North Korea is so paranoid, so erratic, and ultimately so dangerous?
We have thus far failed to develop the sort of taboo that inhibits
other forms of war, like chemical weapons -- in fact, cyberwar usually
doesn't even get recognized as such. In a better world, our recent brush
with Russian hacking would lead the US and Russia to work toward mutual
controls, including suppressing their own independent hackers. But as
long as we all think this sort of thing is OK it continues, sometimes
with dire consequences.
Thursday, March 2. 2017
Some weeks the shit's piling up so fast you have to get the shovel
out a few days early. I have little doubt that there will be this much
more by the weekend. Less sure I have the time and energy to keep up
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Glenn Kessler/Michelle Ye Hee Lee: Fact-checking President Trump's address
to Congress: The "fake news" media was, of course, much taken with
Trump's tone ("so presidential"), which as far as I can tell means he
refrained from pooping on stage and flinging it at the Democrats (and
for good measure Paul Ryan).
More on the speech:
Michelle Chen: Donald Trump's War on Science: Mostly focused
on environmental science, which is a big enough subject, but most
likely nowhere near the sum. Stiff upper lip at the end: "At the
dawn of the Trumpocene, even under a regime fueled by contempt for
truth, facts will still matter." Even more so laws of physics, such
as the one that points out that every molecule of carbon dioxide
added to the atmosphere increases the amount of heat from sunlight
that is retained by the atmosphere.
David Dayen: Crony Capitalism at Work? Trump Adviser Carl Icahn Strong-Arms
Ethanol Lobby to Save His Company Millions
William Greider: Is Our President Bonkers?: Maybe, but he came up with
a clever con and sold it to just enough Americans.
Fred Kaplan: Money for Nothing: Trump is following through on his
campaign promise to increase Defense Department spending, submitting a
$54 billion increase over Obama's 2016 budget. Other pieces on the
Anne Kim: Why Trumpism Is Here to Stay: The author's antidote is
"broadly shared economic expansion," as this "puts more Americans in
a generous mood." But isn't that one thing that we can be sure will
not happen under Republican rule? After all, their prime directive
is to increase the concentration of wealth among the already rich,
even if that means producing less of it overall. You'd think that
Trump (if not Trumpism) would lose all credibility soon, but for now
they seem to figure they can hang on by decrying the "fake news"
that might rat them out.
Daoud Kuttab: US and Israel join forces to bury Palestinian statehood:
A point made clear by Netanyahu's very early visit to see Trump, who
knows little about the conflict, has no respect for America's customary
(albeit hapless) advocacy of international law, nor any concern that
the world view the US as a fundamentally friendly world power. Still,
could be worse: in 2008 Israel feared that Obama might make a serious
effort to pressure Israel into accepting a two-state partition, so
started a war against Gaza. Netanyahu knows better than to fear Trump,
who's so eager to please he's willing to do things that Israel only
says they want (tearing up the Iran deal, moving the US embassy to
Jerusalem) that he needs to be gently nudged back to sanity. Still,
Netanyahu has a problem: for the next four years, no one will look
toward the US to ineptly muddle up the "peace process" -- the idea
that Trump will be "an honest broker" is beyond laughable -- but in
the meantime people (especially in Europe) will see Israel as it
actually is: a deeply racist society and unjust oppressor state.
Aaron David Miller: Trump's New Ambassador to Israel Heralds a Radical
Change in Policy;
Jonathan Cook: Trump shows his hand on Israel-Palestine.
Jessica Lipsky: Ben Carson, Rick Perry confirmed to Cabinet posts:
On the same day, two of Trump's more ridiculous picks.
Lachlan Markay: Big Steel Sees Gold in Trump's Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross: Well, of course: after all, Ross made his billions
in big steel.
Jennifer Rubin: Why Jeff Sessions is in deep trouble: Sure, he
met with Russians, and sure, he lied about it. The former bothers
me far less than Nixon's efforts to sabotage Vietnam War negotiations
in 1968, or even Reagan's ploy to keep Iran from releasing hostages
to Jimmy Carter. After all, what Trump's people were telling Putin
is "keep your cool and don't overreact to Obama's sanctions -- when
we win we'll be more reasonable." There are innumerable things wrong
with Trump and his posse, but his Russia stance was actually saner
than what Obama and Clinton were offering. Of course, it's hard not
to applaud any scandal that undermines Jeff Sessions, but I'd rather
focus on real reasons for getting rid of him, like
Sophia Tesfaye: Jeff Sessions drops DOJ lawsuit against discriminatory
Texas voter ID case, reverses 6 years of litigation. Not that I
condone his lying, but it's no victory for progressives if the only
lying anyone gets sacked over is offending the neocon anti-Russia lobby
(cf. Flynn, Manafort, etc.) -- in fact, it's fucked up.
By the way, see
Glenn Greenwald: The New Yorker's Big Cover Story Reveals Five Uncomfortable
Truths About US and Russia. Number one on that list is how much more
hawkish against Russia Clinton was than Obama. Way back I argued that she
would lose if people came to perceive her as the more dangerous warmonger,
and I think that's a big part of what's happening. Of course, her fans
didn't think that, nor did more critically balanced observers like myself,
but all of her campaign talk about "the Commander-in-Chief test" and her
obsession with nuclear launch codes may well have unnerved less informed
voters. In any case, until Democrats get over their obsession with
vanquishing foes abroad and focus on the real ones that are robbing us
bind, they won't be able to mount a credible defense against the class
war the rich are still winning within America.
Reihan Salam: Paul Ryan Could Kill Donald Trump's Political Future:
"If the president accedes to congressional Republicans' wishes to slash
the social safety net, he'll pay a very hefty price." While lots of
liberal-leaning pundits have been imploring the so-called sane regular
Republicans to rein in the patently insane president, I've been saying
all along that the most ominous threat comes from empowering Ryan and
his ilk in Congress -- a perception that is finally beginning to sink
in. For all their bluster, conservatives have always had to fall back
on the promise that their crackpot theories would ultimately be good
for all (well, most) people -- and not just the 1% (give or take a
little) they shill for. Still, now they have enough power to do some
real damage, and the more they exercise that power the more they will
Jordan Weissmann: Republicans Are Trying to Build a Welfare State That
Sucks for Everyone but Mutual Fund Managers
Richard Wolffe: Steve Bannon lifted his mask of death at CPAC; also
Sarah Posner: How the Conservative Movement Went All in for
Matthew Yglesias: What Trump has done (and mostly not done) from his
first 100 days agenda
Also a few links less directly tied to the ephemeral in America's
bout of political insanity:
Dean Baker: Bill Gates Is Clueless on the Economy
R Mike Burr: The Self-Serving Hustle of "Hillbilly Elegy": On J.D. Vance's
book, widely acclaimed as a book you should read to understand "Trump's
America" (well, not Trump, really, but some of the fools who voted for
Juan Cole: Sorry, Trump, China's cut-back on Coal Dooms Industry:
A few years ago China was poised to build so many coal-fired electricity
generators that it became likely that one nation, at the time a nation
in complete denial about global warming, would wind up frying the rest
of us. Since then at least half of those coal plants have been canceled.
Since then, it's become clear that if you consider the externalities --
which for China includes the good will of other nations fearful of being
fried -- coal is already an inefficient energy source. That's increasingly
obvious in the US as well, even though thanks to fossil fuel industry
clout most of those externalities go uncharged. And the trendline for
coal is getting worse, even with the President and Congress securely
in the industry's pocket.
Stanley L Cohen: Jim Crow is alive and well in Israel: The analogy
hits closer to home than "apartheid" (although that was merely the
South African term for a legal code of segregation inspird by and
borrowed from America's Jim Crow laws). Of course, the analogy is not
quite precise: the US and SA systems were meant primarily to preserve
a low worker caste their respective economies were built on, whereas
the Israeli system seeks to make Palestinian labor (hence Palestinians)
superfluous, and as such is an even more existential threat. Article
does a good job of reminding you not just that separate is inherently
unequal but that segregated systems are sustained with violence and
Cohen also wrote
Trump's 'Muslim ban' is not an exception in US history, rubbing it
in a little when it might be more effective to explain how such bans
are inimical to American ideals even if they've recurred frequently
throughout American history.
Mark Lawrence Schrad: Vladimir Putin Isn't a Supervillain: This
seems like a fairly realistic evaluation of Russia, after first
positing two strawman arguments and showing how neither is all that
true. I'll add that there are a few countries what once had larger
empires and have never quite shaken the mental habit of thinking
they should still be more powerful than they are: this is true of
Russia and China, would-be regional powers like Iran and Turkey,
and several ostensible US allies (notably Britain, France, and
Saudi Arabia), and if you possess the ability to look cleary in
a mirror, the United States as well. (Germany and Japan were
largely cured of this by the crushing weight of defeat in WWII,
although you see glimpses in, e.g., Germany's role in breaking
up Yugoslavia and Japan's weird dread of North Korea.) What has
thus far passed for Russian aggression has so far been limited
to adopting breakaway regions of now independent former SSRs --
Crimea from Ukraine, Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia.
On the other hand, the US has been extending its NATO umbrella
into previously neutral former SSRs, building up its Black Sea
fleet, installing anti-missle systems focused on Russia, and
imposing sanctions to undermine the Russian economy, and trying
to influence elections in places like Ukraine and Georgia to
heighten anti-Russian sentiments. Given all this, who's really
Of course, were I a Russian, I'm quite certain that I'd have
no shortage of
political disagreements with Vladimir Putin. But the US doesn't
have (or deserve) a say in who runs Russia. At best we can refer
to standards of international law, but only if we ourselves are
willing to live by them -- which, as was made clear by Bush's
refusal to join the ICC we clearly are not. An old adage is that
you should clean up your own house first, and that's the thing
that American politicians should focus on.