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Sunday, May 26, 2024

Speaking of Which

I woke up one morning last week flooded by what felt like deep thoughts. Of course, I never got around to writing them down, and most have proven fleeting, but one stuck with me as important enough to use an an introduction here. It's that, in negotiations, one should always try to do the right thing. In games, that means seeking out the maximum positive sum (or, if you are starting in deep trouble, as is often the case, the minimum negative sum).

You may have trouble quantizing, but any mutual gain will do, as would a mutual loss that doesn't seem disparate. They key is that both sides should feel some satisfaction, even if it's only relative to where one entered negotiations. This matters because not only does one have to solve a current problem, but one hopes to prevent a future recurrence. Any negotiation that ends with one side feeling aggrieved is likely to be rejoined later, when prospects become more favorable.

The simplest model I can think of here is what we might call the social contract. In unequal situations, one side may be able to dominate and take from the other, who being demeaned will be resentful and seek to redress the situation, possibly flipping roles only to be targeted again. Humans do not readily submit to other humans, so it takes extra effort not just to obtain but to maintain unequal ranks, while the rewards for doing so diminish. Hegel understood this well enough in theory, but he also had the real world example of American slavery to draw on.

Yet many people, especially in positions of power, still think they can use their power to force the submission of others, thereby preserving their advantages. They may get away with it for a fairly long time, but never without cost, and sometimes at great risk of revolt and revolution. This desire to dominate was long thought to be as essentially human as rebellion, but it can be tempered by reason if one is willing to think things through. Unfortunately, the sort of people who start and fight wars are sadly deficient in that respect.

Real world cases can be tricky. You need to sort out what really matters, and understand how various options will play out. On the other hand, you need to steer away from positions that will cause future resentment. A good rule of thumb here is that anything that exploits a power advantage or intends to preserve or develop one is likely to backfire. Unfortunately, most thinking by US and other powers is based on the assumption that power provides leverage for imposing unequal settlements. This delays negotiations, and leads to bad agreements.

Specifics vary from case to case. I write about Ukraine most weeks. The battleground is deadlocked, with both sides capable of extending the war indefinitely. Ukraine's maximalist goal of retaking all of its pre-2014 territory is unrealistic. Russia's goals and minimum requirements are less clear, in part because the US is fixated on weakening and degrading Russia on the theory (groundless as far as I can tell) that Putin is obsessed with expanding Russian territory and/or hegemony. I think it's more likely that Putin is concerned to halt or limit US/EU threats to Russia's security and economy, which have been manifested in NATO expansion, EU expansion, and sanctions against Russian business interests. If that's the case, there are opportunities to trade various chits for favors in Ukraine, especially ones that longer-term will reduce US-Russia tensions.

That doesn't mean that Putin will be willing to give up all of Ukraine. Crimea and Donbas had Russian ethnic majorities before the broke away in 2014, and given the chance would almost certainly have voted to join Russia. As a nationalist, Putin is concerned with the fate of Russian ethnic minorities beyond his borders -- such people had been secure in the Soviet Union, but became vulnerable when the SSRs broke away and themselves became more nationalist. Besides, having made the move into Ukraine, and having conquered and held additional territory (which is now also heavily Russian), he's very unlikely to walk away empty-handed.

All this suggests to me that a deal would be possible -- perhaps not win-win but one that lose-loses a lot less than continuing the war -- if we start looking for a more equal settlement, as opposed to the current strategy of hoping the next offensive adds some leverage while nearing the other side to exhaustion. Not only has that thinking failed both sides utterly, the prospect of an inequitable settlement would only serve to encourage future conflicts.

Same principles should apply elsewhere, and will inform my comments when I get to them.

I'm getting to where I really hate website redesigns, all of which are immediately disruptive, making it harder to find things. While you expect to get past that after a bit of learning curve, it often turns out to be a permanent condition. The Wichita Eagle changed to a more "web friendly" design recently, as opposed to their previous newspaper page scans (which they still have now, but buried in the back, behind lots of spurious junk). I suppose regular articles are a bit easier to read, and flipping past them is a bit faster, but still, I'm almost ready to quit them -- which would be a loss for Dion Leffler, and various restaurant and road openings and closings, but not much more.

One of my regular stops is Vox, and their redesign is so disruptive I'm bothering to mention it here. (They explain some of this here, but they merely assert that the "sleek, updated design [makes] it easier for you to discover and find all of the journalism you love." It doesn't.)

Posting this end-of-Sunday, not really complete, but there's quite a bit here. I'll add some more on Monday.

Initial count: 185 links, 11,242 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): Louis Allday; Sarah Jones; on music.

Top story threads:


America's Israel (and Israel's America): The Biden administration, despite occasional misgivings, is fully complicit in Israel's genocide. Republicans only wish to intensify it -- after all, they figure racism and militarism are their things.

Israel vs. world opinion: From demonstrations to ICC indictments, and backlash again.

  • Nasser Abourarme: [05-25] The student uprising is fighting for all of us: "Palestine has ignited our planetary consciousness once again, and it is the student movement that refuses to let genocide become our new normal.".

  • Louis Allday: [05-24] Four points on solidarity after the Gaza genocide: I don't agree with this, and I'm rather disappointed that Mondoweiss would print it. Allday writes: "We must support the struggle of the Palestinian people to abolish Zionism, no matter the means they choose to do it." I'm inclined to be cautious about articulating what other people think and feel, but I object to every clause in that sentence, and to each of the four points the author goes on to make -- "Palestinians have a right to armed resistance"; "Zionism is irredeemable"; "we will not police our slogans"; and "'Israel' must come to an end." The problems here are grammatical, logical, moral, and political. I hate to trot out Lenin, not least because I never actually read his book, but this reminds me of a style of thought he dismissed as "an infantile disorder."

    To go back to the sentence: "the Palestinian people" assumes a unity that does not exist and therefore cannot be supported without contradiction; "abolish Zionism" is a category disorder (you can do lots of things to Zionism, like reform or reject or ridicule it, but you cannot abolish it); and it always matters what means you use, because your means define you as much as your ends. As for the points:

    1. "Palestinians have a right to armed resistance": I believe that people should have both negative ("freedom from") and positive ("freedom to") rights, but armed resistance is neither. The best you can say for it is that it's a bad habit humans have picked up over the ages, made only worse by advanced technology. I can see why some people may feel they have no better option than to resort to it, and I can see why some Palestinians think that, and I see little point in condemning them when they have no better options, and I can't see that Israel has closed or frustrated all other options. So I see little point in blaming Hamas for their violent uprising, as it mostly reflects Israel's responsibility for the conditions. But I refuse to dignify it by calling it a right. For the same reasons, I deny that Israel has a "right to defend itself" -- if anything, Israel's claim is worse, because they do have other less destructive options. Self-defense may get you an acquittal or pardon in court, but we don't have to pretend it's some kind of right to justify that. It could just be grounds for mercy. No one has a right to mercy, but some powers, especially when concerned with their own legitimacy, grant it anyway. By the way, it's fine with me if you reject armed resistance on purely moral grounds. My view here is a bit more nuanced, but in some book I read a pretty emphatic "thou shalt not kill," and that sounds to me like a pretty sound rule to live by.
    2. "Zionism is irredeemable": I'm pretty well convinced that the way Israelis are behaving today flows quite logically from the way Zionism was originally articulated by Pinsker and Herzl and rendered into political form by Ben-Gurion, Jabotinsky, and Kook (each of those, plus a dozen lesser known figures, has a chapter in Shlomo Avineri's The Making of Modern Zionism. So I would be inclined to chuck the whole conceptual legacy out, but that doesn't mean that it cannot be reformed. While I have no personal investment in Zionism, there are other isms I can imagine recovering from their tarnished pasts. And in any case I'd never say that any group of people, including fascists and white supremacists (mentioned here because they appear in the text), who are absolutely irredeemable.
    3. "We will not police our slogans": This one is probably what got me thinking of Lenin. If you can't police yourself, you certainly don't deserve to police anyone else.
    4. "'Israel' must come to an end": I don't technically disagree with "the Zionist entity commonly known as Israel is a settler colonial project sustained by U.S. imperialism for its own purposes," but I would never put it in those terms, because I don't want people to take me for a moron. I hardly know where to start here, but in any case I'll wind up with a political point, which is that this isn't going to happen, not even close, isn't even desirable, and any efforts to bring it about will only make you look stupid and cruel, reflecting adversely on any decent thing you might reasonably aim at.

    I suppose I've known all along that this kind of "thinking" exists, but so far I've only run across rough sketches of it in obvious Israeli propaganda, so I've been reluctant to credit it at all. (Could this be a plant? That's always been a suspicion with "Palestinian" resistance literature, because "false flag" operations run as deep in Israeli history as tactical hasbara.) I've occasionally thought of writing a piece on "Why I've never identified as pro-Palestinian (but don't care if you do)," which would review the checkered history of Palestinian nationalism, including the oft-repeated arguments that Jews can and should be expatriated from Israel, and explain why I find them every bit as reprehensible as Israel's not-merely-rhetorical efforts to control, incarcerate, expel, and/or kill Palestinians. One could include charts to show how much of each both sides have done, and how they stack up. (Palestinians aren't innocents in this regard, but the ratios are pretty sobering.) It's quite possible to describe yourself as pro-Palestinian and not buy into all of the dead baggage of the nationalists, so I don't assume that identifying yourself as that implies that you're simply out to flip the tables. But that's not a linkage I make for myself.

    What I'd like to see is everyone live wherever they want, with equal rights, law, and order for all within whatever state they live in (one, two, many?). Also, as a safety valve, with a right to exile, both for Israelis and Palestinians (and ideally for everyone else). I imagine that if given the chance most Palestinians (though maybe not the leaders of Hamas or Fatah) would welcome such a world, but most Israelis are still wedded to their dreams of self-rule achieved through forever war against the antisemitic hordes, so they will reject it as long as they can. And no one can force Israel to change, so the best we can do is negotiate a bit, appeal to what's left of their humanity, shame them for their obvious crimes, negotiate a bit more, find "do the right thing" compromises that give and take a little but in the right direction. They're not crazy, and they're not stupid. (Although I'm not so sure about some of the Americans.) They have some legitimate concerns, which deserve respect, but we also have to be firm that we will not let them con us (as they try to do incessantly, and have often gotten away with). This is a noble task that will require diligence and sensitivity and skill -- traits the author here, and anyone anywhere near his wavelength, manifestly lacks.

    One more point: "solidarity" doesn't mean you should follow the other lemmings into the abyss. It means you should look for common themes between your complaints and the complaints of others, to see if you can join forces in ways that help you both. Chances are, you share opponents who are already at work keeping you divided and conquered, and you can improve your tactics based on your shared experiences.

    "Empathy" is a much rawer emotion, where you experience some other's plight as impacting yourself. While it's good to be able to imagine how other people feel, the emotion can sometimes overwhelm, leading you to sympathize with counterproductive rhetoric and tactics. Empathy can motivate commitment, which is one reason movement put so much effort into garnering it, but solidarity requires thinking, analysis, deliberation, and calculated action. Empathy can lash out, and temporarily make you feel good, but it rarely works, especially against opponents who are practiced in dealing with it. On the other hand, solidarity can work.

  • Linah Alsaafin: [05-23] Why students everywhere have been jolted awake by Israel's brutality.

  • Michael Arria:

  • Ramzy Baroud: [05-23] With Biden's bear hug of Israeli atrocities, world's view of American democracy craters.

  • M Reza Benham: [05-24] Lifting the veil: Demystifying Israel: Recalls a movie, The Truman Show, where the lead character was trapped and filmed in a stage set he took to be the real world, until he discovered otherwise.

  • Ghousoon Bisharat: [05-24] 'The international legal order needs repair -- and Gaza is a part of this': "Al Mezan director Issam Younis explains the obstacles and opportunities for Palestinians following major interventions from the world's top courts."

  • Juan Cole:

  • Jonathan Cook: [05-24] The message of Israel's torture chambers is directed at all of us, not just Palestinians: "'Black sites' are about reminding those who have been colonised and enslaved of a simple lesson: resistance is futile."

  • Owen Dahlkamp: [05-24] Inside the latest congressional hearing on campus antisemitism: "Students for Justice in Palestine called the hearing 'a manufactured attack on higher education' as Republicans criticized universitites for negotiating with protesters."

  • Moira Donegan: [05-24] Congress's latest 'antisemitism' hearing was an ugly attack on Palestinian rights: "The real purpose of this nasty political farce is to pressure US universities to crack down on criticism of Israel."

  • Richard Falk: [05-22] Why ICC bid for arrest warrants is a bold and historic move: "Unsurprisingly, the announcement has fuelled a misplaced rhetoric of outrage from Israel and its allies."

  • Michael Gasser: [05-22] A tale of two commencements: How Gaza solidarity encampments are changing the way we see university education: "Indiana University's 'Liberation Commencement' was a celebration of the students' brave commitment to fighting powerful institutions and their involvement in challenging Zionism and the Palestinian genocide."

  • Amos Goldberg/Alon Confino: [05-21] How Israel twists antisemitism claims to project its own crimes onto Palestinians: "What Israel and its supporters accuse Palestinians of inciting, Israeli officials are openly declaring, and the Israeli army is prosecuting."

  • Murtaza Hussain: Can a US ally actually be held accountable for war crimes in the ICC?

  • Ellen Ioanes/Nicole Narea: [05-21] Why ICC arrest warrants matter, even if Israel and Hamas leaders evade them: "The role of the International Criminal Court and the limits to its authority, explained."

  • David Kattenburg: [05-24] UN expert: 'Very little hope' of Israel abiding by ICJ order to stop Rafah invasion.

  • Nichlas Kristof:

    • [05-24] Biden's chance to do the right thing in Gaza: "In a speech in Warsaw two years ago, President Biden declared that 'the great battle for freedom' is one 'between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.' Now we'll see whether he meant it." No evidence of that yet. Previously wrote:

    • [05-18] Invading Rafah doesn't help Israel.

    • [04-19] What happened to the Joe Biden I knew? "During the Darfur genocide and humanitarian crisis two decades ago, then-Senator Joe Biden passionately denounced then-President George W Bush for failing to act decisively to ease suffering. Biden expressed outrage at China for selling weapons used to kill and maim civilians, and he urged me to write columns demanding the White House end needless wretchedness." As you may recall, "genocide in Darfur" was a big Israeli talking point at the time, as the Israelis never missed an opportunity to portray Arabs as mass killers, and Sudan counted as an enemy of Israel. Silly Kristof for thinking that Biden actually cared about humanity, when he was, as always, simply doing Israel's bidding.

    • [03-16] President Biden, you have leverage that can save lives in Gaza. Please use it.

  • Akela Lacy: October 7 survivors sue campus protesters, say students are "Hamas's propaganda division": Say what?

  • Natasha Lennard: University profesors are losing their jobs over "New McCarthyism" on Gaza.

  • Eldar Mamedov: [05-22] More European countries recognize Palestine: "The moves by Ireland, Norway, and Spain point to a Europe-wide frustration with futility of the current process." It's hard to recognize a "nation" that doesn't legitimately exist, but these moves to at least Israel has lost all credibility to millions of people it has effectively rendered stateless and homeless.

  • Imad Sabi: [05-22] In memory of an Israeli lawyer who never lost her moral purpose: "Tamar Pelleg-Sryck worked tirelessly to defend Palestinian detainees like me in a profoundly unjust system."

  • Bernie Sanders: [05-23] The ICC is doing its job.

  • Tali Shapiro: [05-20] Israel's extortion leaflets and Namecheap: How to do corporate accountability during a genocide: "Arizona-based internet domain company NameCheap ended all service to Russia over the invasion of Ukraine but has now registered an Israeli website targeting Palestinian children. Activists are calling out the company's complicity in war crimes." Psychological warfare has been around at least since WWII, but is rarely commented on. For instance, did you know this?

    On Friday Israel dropped another set of leaflets on Gaza. Israel's use of leaflets for its psychological torture of the besieged Palestinian population is well known in these genocidal days.

    Ominous, gloating, taunting, and sadistic messaging is the lingua franca of these leaflets, which Israel claims is a humanitarian effort to evacuate the civilian population. Some of the most common leaflet content are calls to contact Israel's secret service with information on Hamas or the Israeli hostages. The purpose of these particular leaflets is twofold: the coercion of protected civilians to obtain information (which is a violation of the law of armed conflict); but most of all, to undermine the trust and cohesion of a community under siege and annihilation.

    Friday's leaflets took the intel-gathering genre to another level, when the army included messaging of extortion and a list of children, among them toddlers as targets, with the threat to reveal personal information such as criminal records, extramarital affairs, and queer identities.

  • Abba Solomon/Norman Solomon: [05-26] The dead end of liberal American Zionism: "In 2024, the meaning of 'pro-Israel, pro-peace' is macabre: J Street supports US military aid to Israel as it carries out a genocide. Liberal American Zionism has revealed itself to only be a tool for the subjugation of the Palestinian people." The authors refer back to a 2014 article they wrote -- The blind alley of J Street and liberal American Zionism -- and they seem entitled to an "I told you so" today. Just as I've never described myself as pro-Palestinian, I've also never claimed to be pro-Israeli, but I can see where other people might wish to combine their pro-peace and pro-nationalist sentiments. The problem is that they have to make a complete break not just with the Netanyahu gang -- as undoubted pro-Israelis like Schumer and Pelosi have done -- but with the entire apartheid/militarist regime. I can imagine some people coming to that view purely from their sympathy and concern for Israel, because it's obvious to me that not just the genocide but the entire history of occupation is something that Israelis should be ashamed of and shunned for. Anyone like that, even with zero regard for suffering of Palestinians, wouldn't deserve to be called a "tool for the subjection of Palestinians." But if you see J Street as some kind of AIPAC-Lite, meant to promote a sanitized Israel for squeamish American liberals, its mission is dead now, because the fantasy Israel it tried to present has been irreversibly exposed.

  • Christopher Sprigman: [05-23] Why universities have started arresting student protesters. "Over the past couple of months, more than 2,000 students have been arrested at colleges and universities around the US for protesting Israel's bombardment of Gaza." For starters, "It isn't because today's pro-Palestinian students are particularly violent or disruptive." This article kicks around several theories, but the obvious one is that Israel doesn't have a rational defense of genocide, so they hope to bury the charges under a bogus story of antisemitism and stir up a bit of violence then can easily blame on Palestinians. Why university administrators would go along with this is a story that probably has a money trail.

  • Ishaan Tharoor:

  • Simon Tisdall: [05-25] Call to prosecute Benjamin Netanyahu for war crimes exposes the west's moral doublethink: Someone at the Guardian needs remedial help in writing headlines: the article criticizes Biden, Sunak, and others for their attempts to undermine and impugn the ICC, not the Court for doing its job (finally).

  • Marc Tracy: [05-23] Ari Emanuel condemns Netanyahu, drawing boos at Jewish group's gala.

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans: Let's start off with another quote from Richard Slotkin's A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America (pp. 385-386):

MAGA-constituencies have therefore embraced extreme measures of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and legislative control of election certification. In this regard, MAGA is building on values and practices already rooted in the conservative movement. As political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein have argue, since the 1990s the GOP has been "ideologically extreme, scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition." Its agenda has been formulated as a canon, most tenets of which predate Trump: Grover Norquist's No-Tax Pledge, the Kochs' No Climate Change Pledge, the NRA's absolute rejection of gun safety, Right to Life's rejection of abortion under any circumstances, the anti-immigration bloc's No Amnesty Pledge. Its "Southern Strategy" dealt in dog-whistle racism to rouse resistance to social welfare programs. It has generally opposed the extension of social welfare programs and voting rights.

Trump exaggerated those tendencies by an order of magnitude, and his cult of personality gave them shape, color, and the aura of insurgent populist heroism. Government was not just a problem to be minimized, but an administrative state to be deconstructed. Dog-whistle racism became explicit in the defamation of Mexican and Black people, and in the display of sympathy for White Power vigilantes. Climate change was not just a hoax, but a "Chinese hoax." Faced with global pandemic, inescapable evidence of dangerous climate change, a public outcry for racial and social justice, and defeat at the polls, Trump chose repression over recognition.

But Trump also shifted the focus of conservative politics from the neoliberal economic policies of Reagan and the two Bushes to the culture war policies of Pat Buchanan.

That paragraph goes on with Christopher Rufo and Ron DeSantis and the war against woke. One should note that Trump is no less neoliberal than Reagan or the Bushes: he'd just prefer to saddle Clinton, Obama, and Biden with blame for the side-effects of policies Republicans have consistently supported since Nixon. Granted, Trump is a bit heretical with the odd tariff, but the economic effects are trivial, the targets are jingoist, and the beneficiaries dovetail nicely with his graft.

Actual trial news is skimpy: the defense rested quickly (without Trump testifying), and the judge took the rest of the week off to prepare for final arguments and jury instructions on Monday. Other articles:

  • Nia Prater: [05-21] What happened in the Trump trial today: The defense rests: I've been using this "running recap of the news" for much of the trial, but it's fallen off Intelligencer's front page for lack of an update. Presumably it will get one when final arguments are given. Meanwhile, it's still a good backgrounder. Also (again, thin this week):

    • Devlin Barrett/Perry Stein: [05-26] The Trump trials: Closing arguments Tuesday in NY, and then we wait.

    • Ryan Cooper: [05-23] Why you should care about the Trump trial: "Any other politician in American history would be ruined by this story. Trump should be." Anyone else would be at least slightly embarrassed, which is the signal that tells us he knows he's done something wrong. We detect that signal and respond, but he's utterly shameless, and that gives us -- especially the media, who are practically selected for their skill at picking on people -- pause enough to allow him to squirm free.

  • Eric Alterman: [05-17] How can this country possibly be electing Trump again? "How the media has failed, and what the Democrats need to do."

  • Jamelle Bouie: [05-24] Trump's taste for tyranny finds a target:

    Trump's signature promise, during the 2016 presidential election, was that he would build a wall on the US border with Mexico. His signature promise, this time around, is that he'll use his power as president to deport as many as 20 million people from the United States.

    "Following the Eisenhower model," he told a crowd in Iowa last September, "we will carry out the largest domestic deportation operation in American history."

    It cannot be overstated how Trump's deportation plan would surely rank as one of the worst crimes perpetrated by the federal government on the people of this country. Most of the millions of unauthorized and undocumented immigrants in the United States are essentially permanent residents. They raise families, own homes and businesses, pay taxes and contribute to their communities. For the most part, they are as embedded in the fabric of this nation as native-born and naturalized American citizens are.

    What Trump and his aide Stephen Miller hope to do is to tear those lives apart, rip those communities to shreds and fracture the entire country in the process.

  • Jonathan Chait: [05-23] Karl Rove frets RFK Jr. is stealing 'wacko' voters from Trump: Isn't that rather like Willie Sutton's rationale for robbing banks? Not much substance here, mostly just a chuckle as Chait is firmly Team Biden. But it occurs to me that if RFK Jr. really wanted to do some damage to Biden, what he has to do is flip 180° on Israel, and wrap that up with his anti-empire, anti-militarist views into a serious critique of the mostly-shared Biden/Trump geopolitics. The one thing a third-party candidate most needs is an urgent issue where the two major parties are joined at the hip, and that issue right now is genocide. (And sure, that won't help him with Trump voters, but he still has crazy for them.)

  • Juliette Kayyem: [05-23] Trump's assassination fantasy has a darker purpose: "The ex-president's stories of his own victimization make violence by his supporters far more likely."

  • Ed Kilgore: [05-24] Trump guilty verdict would feed election-denial claims. Well, so would an acquittal, or a hung jury. That die was set when he was indicted. Trump certainly thinks that the indictments are proof of a vast conspiracy to get him, millions of people are happy to believe whatever he says, which guarantees that charging him with anything will turn into a political circus and raise all sorts of questions about impartial juries and free speech and the political inclinations and entanglements of judges, all of which are certain to be played to the hilt for Trump's political purposes. I could imagine prosecutors with good political instincts deciding that it's not worth all that much trouble to go after Trump, especially on the specific cases they have here.

    That they waited nearly three years after he left office before moving certainly suggests that they were reluctant to take on this fight. They didn't go after Nixon after he resigned -- Ford's peremptory pardon gave them a convenient excuse, but wasn't binding on state prosecutors, and could have been challenged in court. But Nixon never so much as hinted at running again, while Trump is. So, sure, the optics do suggest that he's being prosecuted to derail his campaign, but so is his defense designed to promote his campaign. I have no idea who's winning, or will win, this very strange game. From a purely political standpoint, I've never been sure it was good strategy. (I am pretty certain that the Ukraine impeachment was a bad move, but the Jan. 6 one was well-founded, and that McConnell missed an opportunity there to get Trump disqualified under the 14th amendment, precluding a 2024 run, and probably sparing Trump the indictments -- which all in all would have been a good deal for everyone.)

    Still, I understand that prosecutors like to (no, live to) prosecute, and I have no doubt that they have very strong legal cases. And I do like that in the courtroom, Trump has to come down from his high horse and show some submission to the court. It is one thing to say "nobody's above the law," but that Trump has to show up and shut up, even if he nods off and farts a lot, gives us a graphic illustration of the point. But as for Kilgore's point, the only thing that would stop feeding election-denial claims would be for media like himself to stop airing them.

  • Nicholas Liu: [05-23] Louisiana Republicans declare abortion pills a "dangerous substance," threaten prison and hard labor: "Under the proposed law, people found in possession of the pills could face up to five years behind bars."

  • Clarence Lusane: [05-19] Black MAGA is still MAGA: "Trump's racism and authoritarianism should be disqualifying."

  • Amanda Marcotte: [05-24] Trump's "Biden the assassin" fantasy is pure projection.

  • John Nichols: [05-24] The soulless hypocrisy of Nikki Haley: "Haley has abandoned her opposition to Trump for political expediency." Seriously, did you ever think for a minute that she would "never Trump"? Still, doesn't (yet) strike me as much of an endorsement. Sort of like me sheepishly admitting I'll vote for Biden, despite some really serious issues I have with him. Also see:

  • Timothy Noah: [05-23] Here's what Trump and the GOP really think about the working class.

  • Andrew Prokop: [05-21] Why Trump's running mate could be the most important VP pick of our time: I don't really buy this, but it would take another article to explain all the reasons why. VPs matter very little unless one gets promoted, in which case they're usually mediocre (Coolidge, Truman) to disastrous (Tyler, Andrew Johnson), the exceptions being Teddy Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson (who, like Coolidge and Truman, won a term in their own right). True that Trump's odds of finishing a second term are below-average, but he'd be hard pressed to pick a VP even worse than he is, or one much better.

  • David Smith:

  • Matthew Stevenson: [05-24] Trump's three penny media opera: The machinations of TMTG, the Trump Media shell corporation.

  • Robert Wright: [05-24] Why Trump is worse than Biden on Gaza (and maybe much worse).

  • The New Republic: What American Fascism would look like: "It can happen here. And if it does, here is what might become of the country." A weighty topic for a special issue, but how seriously can we take a publisher when all the art department could come up with is a bronze-tone Donald Trump head with a Hitler mustache? The articles:

    The first piece in this batch I read was the one by Brooks, partly because I found the title confusing, but she's pretty clear in the article: the military won't rise up to hand Trump power, or otherwise instigate a coup, but if Trump does have power and issues clear orders, there is no reason to doubt that they will act on his behalf. The notion that they might act independently to stop Trump is what she means by "liberal fantasy."

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Kate Conger/Ryan Mac: [05-24] Elon Musk ramps up anti-Biden posts on X. One of the authors also contributed to:

  • David Dayen: [05-21] Pelosi may back industry-friendly House crypto bill: "The industry has become a major spender in political campaigns, and the most prodigious fundraiser among Democrats is taking notice." I hate crypto, and this is one of the reasons. Democrats have to raise money just like Republicans do, but when they do they manage to look extra dirty, and nothing's dirtier than crypto.

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [05-25] When Joe Biden plays pundit: "A close reading of what the president really thinks about 2024 -- at least what he's telling his donors." There's an old joke that Minnesota has two seasons: winter and road repair (which is really just recovering from and preparing for winter). Politicians also have two seasons: one, which never really ends, where they appeal to donors, and another, for several weeks leading up to an election, when they try to appeal to voters. Then, as soon as the votes are counted, it's back to the donors. Successful politicians may try to juggle both, but donors are more critical -- they basically decide who can run and be taken seriously, plus they're always in touch, whereas voters only get one shot, and even then can only choose among donor-approved candidates -- so they get most of the attention. Having wrapped up the nomination early, Biden has time to focus on the donors, raising his war chest. His anemic polls can wait until September, when the voters finally get their season.

  • Ed Kilgore:

    • [05-21] The Biden campaign has a Trump-fatigue problem. Don't we all have a Trump-fagigue problem? Come November, the big question on voters' minds should be what can I actually accomplish with my vote? In 2016, middle-of-the-road voters seized the opportunity to get rid of Hillary Clinton. This time, they have to seriously ask themselves whether they want to finally rid themselves of Donald Trump? Sure, lots of people love him, but they've never been close to a majority. Some people prefer him, but do they really want all the attention and scandal and agita and strife? And while he's sure to claim yet another election was stolen, how many times can he whine before people shrug and leave him to the wolf? Sure, he could threaten to run again, but even William Jennings Bryan was done after losing thrice. Plus he still has those indictments. He has to fight them in order to keep running, but if he gives up the run, it's almost certain he could plea bargain them for no jail time -- and really, how bad would house arrest, which is probably his worst-case scenario, at Mar-a-Lago be?

    • [05-24] Is Biden gambling everything on an early-debate bounce? My read is that the June debate is meant to show Democrats that he can still mount a credible campaign against Trump. If he can -- and a bounce would be nice but not necessary -- it will go a long way to quelling pressure to drop out and open the convention. If he can't, then sure, he'll have gambled and lost, and pressure will build. But at least it will give him a reference point that he has some actual control over -- unlike the polls, which still seem to have a lot of trouble taking him seriously.

  • Joan Walsh: [05-20] Biden fared well as Morehouse. So you didn't hear about it. The upshot seems to have been that the administrators as well as the protesters were on best behavior, and that Biden (unlike some politicians in recent memory) didn't make matters worse.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Economic matters:

  • Luke Goldstein: [05-22] The raiding of Red Lobster: "The bankrupt casual restaurant chain didn't fail because of Endless Shrimp. Its problems date back to monopolist seafood conglomerates and a private equity play." Isn't this always the case? Cue link to:

  • John Herrmann: [05-24] How Microsoft plans to squeeze cash out of AI: "The same way it always has with most everythign else -- by leveraging our PCs."

  • Michael Hudson: [05-24] Some myths regarding the genesis of enterprise. Author has a series of books on economic development in antiquity, most recently The Collapse of Antiquity, as well as the forthcoming The Destiny of Civilization: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. Two pull quotes from the latter:

    The decline of the West is not necessary or historically inevitable. It is the result of choosing policies dictated by its rentier interests. . . . The threat posed to society by rentier interests is the great challenge of every nation today: whether its government can restrict the dynamics of finance capitalism and prevent an oligarchy from dominating the state and enriching itself by imposing austerity on labor and industry. So far, the West has not risen to this challenge.

    There are essentially two types of society: mixed economies with public checks and balances, and oligarchies that dismantle and privatize the state, taking over its monetary and credit system, the land and basic infrastructure to enrich themselves but choking the economy, not helping it grow.

Ukraine War and Russia:

  • Connor Echols: [05-24] Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine pushes for direct NATO involvement in war: "As Kyiv's battlefield position worsens, the West faces a dangerous choice." As I understand it, they're talking about providing trained NATO personnel to run defensive anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, which would counter the long-range bombing threat and stabilize the current stalemate. That doesn't sound like such a bad idea, as long as it is used to support a reasonable negotiation process. This war was always going to be resolved through negotiations, and has lasted so long only because both sides have unrealistic goals and are afraid of compromise. On the other hand, without a negotiation process, this would just be another hopeless escalation, threatening a wider and even more severe war.

  • Jonathan Chait: [05-23] Trump tells Putin to keep Wall Street Journal reporter hostage through election: "Putin 'will do that for me, but not for anyone else.'" As Chait notes, "by openly signaling to Putin that he does not want Gershkovich to be freed before the election, [Trump] is destroying whatever chances may exist to secure his release before then." As Robert Wright noted (op cit), Republican presidential candidates have a track record of back-channel diplomatic sabotage (Nixon in 1968, Reagan in 1980), but few have ever been so upfront and personal about it. One might even say "nonchalant": like his assertion that he alone could end the Ukraine war "in a day," this seems more like evidence of his own narcissism than political calculation. (Even if he were to placate Putin, Zelensky and his European fan base wouldn't fold immediately.) This got me looking for more pieces on Trump, Russia, and Ukraine:

    • Isaac Arnsdorf/Josh Dawsey/Michael Birnbaum: [04-07] Inside Donald Trump's secret, long-shot plan to end the war in Ukraine. For what it's worth, I think the land division is pretty much a given -- the notion that "to cede land would reward Putin" is just a rhetorical ploy to fight on endlessly, while the ruined, depopulated land is as much a burden as a reward -- but there is still much more that needs to be carefully negotiated, including refugee status, trade, sanctions, arms reduction, and future conflict resolution. I would like to see plebiscites to confirm the disposition of land, preferably 3-5 years down the line (well after refugees have returned or resettled; probably after Ukraine has joined the EU, allowing open migration there; allowing both sides to show what they can do to rebuild; but probably just confirming the present division -- as anything else would make both leaders look bad). Needless to say, Trump has no skills or vision to negotiate any such thing, as his "one day" boasts simply proves. Unfortunately, Biden hasn't shown any aptitude for negotiation, either.

    • Veronika Melkozerova: [04-18] Why Donald Trump 'hates Ukraine': "The once and possibly future president blames the country for his political woes."

    • Lynn Berry/Didi Tang/Jill Colvin/Ellen Knickmeyer: [05-09] Trump-affiliated group releases new national security book outlining possible second-term approach. The group calls itself the America First Policy Institute:

      The book blames Democratic President Joe Biden for the war and repeats Trump's claim that Putin never would have invaded if Trump had been in office. Its main argument in defense of that claim is that Putin saw Trump as strong and decisive. In fact, Trump cozied up to the Russian leader and was reluctant to challenge him.

      I wouldn't read too much into this. The group appears to be about 90% Blob, the rest just a waft of smoke to be blown up Trump's ass. Trump would probably approve of Teddy Roosevelt's foreign policy motto ("speak softly but carry a big stick"), but like everything else, his own personal twist -- a mix of sweet talk and bluster -- is much more peurile, and unaffected by reason and understanding, or even interests beyond his personal and political finances. North Korea is the perfect example, with Trump's full, ungrounded range of emotions accomplishing nothing at all, which was the Blob position all along. Same, really, for Ukraine. Regardless of his rants and raves, when pressed Trump will tow the line, as in [04-18] Donald Trump says Ukraine's survival is important to US.

    • Jeet Heer: Will Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu bless Donald Trump with an October Surprise? "Unlike Joe Biden, the former president benefits from international turmoil."

  • Joshua Keating: [05-22] How worried should we be about Russia putting a nuke in space? About as worried as we should be if the US or any other country did it.

Elsewhere in America's empire and the rest of the world:

Other stories:

Daniel Falcone: [05-24] In Memoriam: H Bruce Franklin (1934-2024): Historian (1934-2024), see Wikipedia for an overview of his work and life, including political activism starting with opposition to the Vietnam War. His books started with one on Melville, with others on science fiction, prison, fish, and most of all, war. His most recent book, Crash Course: From the Good War to the Forever War (2018; paperback 2024), looks especially interesting, as much as memoir as history. This reprints an interview from 2018. I also found for following by Franklin (several adapted from Crash Course):

  • [2022-08-31] Why talk about loans? Let's quote some of this:

    Vice President Agnew (not yet indicted for his own criminal activities) was even more explicit. Speaking at an Iowa Republican fund-raising dinner in April 1970, Agnew argued that there was too high a percentage of Black students in college and condemned "the violence emanating from Black student militancy." Declaring that "College, at one time considered a privilege, is considered to be a right today," he singled out open admissions as one of the main ways "by which unqualified students are being swept into college on the wave of the new socialism."

    Later in 1970, Roger Freeman -- a key educational adviser to Nixon then working for the reelection of California Governor Ronald Reagan -- spelled out quite precisely what the conservative counterattack was aimed at preventing:

    We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. That's dynamite! We have to be selective on who we allow to go through higher education. If not, we will have a large number of highly trained and unemployed people.

    The two most menacing institutional sources of the danger described by Freeman were obviously those two great public university systems charging no tuition: the University of California and the City University of New York. Governor Reagan was able to wipe out free tuition at the University of California in 1970, but that left CUNY to menace American society. The vital task of crippling CUNY was to go on for six more years, outlasting the Nixon administration and falling to his appointed successor, Gerald Ford.

  • [2022-01-19] Ready for another game of Russian roulette?

  • [2021-12-03] Ocean winds: Bringing us renewable fish with renewable energy. One of his many books was The Most Important Fish in the Sea: Menhaden and America (2007).

  • [2020-08-14] August 12-22, 1945: Washington starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and Japan's surrender, "allied" troops (including British and French) entered and started their occupation.

  • [2020-08-06] How the Fascists won World War II.

  • [2019-09-20] How we launched our forever war in the Middle East: In July 1958 Eisenhower sent B-52s into Lebanon.

  • [2014-08-03] Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and American militarism: A review of Paul Ham: Hiroshima Nagasaki.

  • [2014-07-16] America's memory of the Vietnam War in the epoch of the forever war.

  • [2003-01-16] Our man in Saigon: A review of the film The Quiet American, based on the Graham Greene novel.

  • [2022-09-01] H Bruce Franklin's most important books: Interview of Franklin with Doug Storm. When asked about "the Second World War as a good war," Franklin replied:

    No, unfortunately, we lost that war. We thought we were fighting against militarism, fascism, and imperialism. If so, we lost. We lost partly because of how we fought that war, using air attacks on civilian populations as a main strategy. This strategy climaxed with us exploding nuclear bombs on the civilian population of two Japanese cities. That is how we lost the good war.

Connor Freeman: [05-21] The passing of a Republican anti-war, anti-AIPAC fighter: "A veteran himself, Rep. Pete McCoskey railed against the Vietnam War, and continued to question US interventions until his death on May 8."

Sarah Jones:

Anna North: [05-24] Birth control is good, actually.

Christian Paz: [05-24] 3 theories for America's anti-immigrant shift: "A recent poll suggests a reversal in a decades-long trend of the public warming to immigrants. What's causing the shift?" The theories are:

  1. It's the politicians
  2. It's the economy
  3. It's the "law-and-order" mindset

In other words, it's the politicians, who sometimes try to deflect attention to the other bullshit points. And it's only certain politicians, although they have relatively a free run, because it's an issue without a strong countervaling lobby. A lot of us aren't bothered by immigration, but wouldn't mind slowing it down, especially if that shut up the Republicans. Of course, nothing will, because the split is precisely the kind Republicans can exploit, and thereby put less committed Democrats on the defensive. Needless to add, but Republicans couldn't get away with this if the media wasn't helping them at every step.

Rick Perlstein: [05-22] Influencers against influencers: "The TikTok generation finds its voice."

Jeffrey St Clair:

Liz Theoharis/Shailly Gupta Barnes: [05-21] Don't grind the faces of the poor: "The moral response to homelessness."

Also, some writing on music:

Dan Weiss: [05-20] What was it made for? The problem with Billie Eilish's Hit Me Hard and Soft: "She's overwrought and over you."

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Music Week

Updated May 23, 2024, 19:02 CDT

I slipped up and failed to include "unpacking" when I posted this. Added below.

One more thing I meant to write about is that my domain registration for is up for auto-renewal on May 28. I won't bother giving you a link, as the page is currently blank. (I thought I had a stub page. It actually had some material years ago, but it got wiped up in a server disaster, and I never got it restored.) Once upon a time, I thought my music and politics posts have somewhat diverging audiences, so it might be better to promote them as two separate websites (possibly with different collaborators). My first step there was to register domain namess for Terminal Zone and Notes on Everyday Life.

Those domain names came from publications I was heavily involved with in the 1970s. Notes on Everyday Life was a left-political tabloid with broad cultural interests -- "everyday life" potentially covered everything -- started at Washington University (St. Louis) by Elias Vlanton, Kevin Dougherty, and Harold Karabell, and they roped me in early on. Over a couple years we published a dozen or so issues, with an ever-changing cast of contributors.

One of those was Don Malcolm, who initially wanted to write about the Beach Boys, and he's the main reason or at least the catalyst for getting me into writing about music. He wrote a column, "Mainline," later collected as Overdose -- a compilation that included my initial batches of CG-like record reviews. (Those writings are preserved here). He followed that up with Terminal Zone, which I did major work on, but we split after a single issue. (I think Malcolm published a second, and maybe a third, issue, before his interests moved onto baseball -- there's more shared publishing history there, but I lost my interest in baseball well before I started thinking about web publishing.)

Anyhow, the question now is whether I keep a domain name I'm not using, and haven't used for ages, or let it expire. The money isn't a big deal -- although the fewer domain names I host websites for, the less I need to lease a dedicated server, and that is a tad expensive, as well as no small amount of management headache. I've dropped or reassigned a couple domains in recent years, and I'm glad I did.

On the other hand, renewing the domain name keeps open the possibility of eventually using it for something worthwhile. I don't feel much (if any) desire to promote myself as a music writer these days, but I do still fantasize about reorganizing my fairly substantial stash of music writings into a website framework that other people can take over and build on -- in effect, the seed for an open source project. I've been kicking variants of that idea around for years, with no great urgency or commitment. At this stage, it's unlikely to happen, unless someone else steps forward and wants to make it happen. It's not necessary to keep my sentimental name, let alone the domain name, but that -- plus the server plus the writings plus the fact that I still have most of my wits and skills and am often willing to lend a helping hand -- makes it the prospect a bit more credible.

I would appreciate any thoughts here. The name itself is of sentimental value to me, but meaningless to almost everyone else, so dropping the domain name won't preclude future website development. (So if the name sucks, that would be a good reason not to invest further in it.) Offers of help are welcome, but I'm unlikely to be very proactive for a while. (I have lots of other things in flux, but I'm feeling less down on myself as a critic than I was back in January, when I was more optimistic about book writing.)

I'm guessing that the most likely scenario is I kill the week waiting for responses that never come, so the domain gets renewed but remains unused for another two years. But I thought I should at least post the thought. Use Contact or Q&A to respond. Notices will follow on Twitter and Facebook (which I'm old-fashioned enough to reserve for personal friends, although my posts there are usually public). If you run across this after the deadline, chances are the opportunity hasn't been permanently lost.

One more note: I've had a request to be able to link directly into my Greil Marcus commentary from the the May 20 Speaking of Which, so I've started to add a few anchors: the Marcus note is here, and you can also jump straight to the music links. No idea how often I'll do this in the future, but it will make it possible to call out particular sections in tweets and comments.

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42349 [42312] rated (+37), 27 [22] unrated (+5).

We had a friend from Boston visiting this weekend, Friday to Tuesday. Most of the original planning didn't pan out: people we wanted to invite over for dinner left town, museums and restaurants we expected to be open weren't. We took a day trip into the area in central Kansas my grandmother hailed from, but we were a couple weeks too early to see wheat ripen. I figured we could stop at a legendary Swedish restaurant in Lindsborg, only to find it "closed permanently," so we wound up at Applebee's. So in some ways it was a bust, but the company was much appreciated, and appreciative.

I had written a bit of Speaking of Which before our guest arrived, and added bits here and there when I had a spare moment. I figured there was enough to post Sunday night, but didn't get it done until late Monday (118 links, 7602 words). I added some more after our guest left today, as well as blocking out this Music Week post.

I suppose I should point out that I finally carved out a section there for links to pieces on music. Not much in it this week, but it should go into the template. I still haven't played the Taylor Swift album, or even the new Billie Eilish. Not much strikes me as a priority these days. Speaking of Which also has a long comment on a Greil Marcus "answer," but it has nothing to do with music.

I hadn't expected to get much music reviewed this week, but when you promise a weekly post, you're not promising any quantity (or quality, really). I'm surprised I came up with as much as I did. Not at all clear what to do next.

New records reviewed this week:

John Ambrosini: Songs for You (2024, self-released): Jazz singer, plays piano, seems to be his first album (only Discogs credit is for an eponymous 1997 group album, The Trees), wrote two songs, the rest coming from what we may dub the rock-standards era: Beatles, Billy Joel, Elton John, James Taylor, Stephen Stills, Walter Becker with Donald Fagen or Rickie Lee Jones. Draws on Randy Breker, David Binney, and Joel Frahm for horn spots. Well done, but the familiar songs are not all old friends, and it still seems odd to standardize songs from such an auteurish era. B [cd] [06-01]

Bruno Berle: No Reino Dos Afetos 2 (2024, Psychic Hotline): Singer-songwriter, from Maceio, in northeast Brazil, fourth album since 2014, sequel to his 2022 release. Laid back and slightly off-kilter. B+(***) [sp]

The Bobby Broom Organi-sation: Jamalot Live (2014-19 [2024], Steele): Guitarist, pulled this together from two tours (the latter opening for Steely Dan), both trios with Ben Paterson (organ) and Kobie Watkins (drums), playing songs you know: "Superstition," "Layla," "Tennessee Waltz," "Jitterbug Waltz," "House of the Rising Sun," and a medley in 2019. B+(*) [cd] [05-24]

Carl Clements: A Different Light (2023 [2024], Greydisc): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano here; also bansuri, from his interest in Hindustani classical music), has several albums since 2004 (nine per website). Quartet with piano (Chase Morrin), bass (Bruno Råberg), and drums (Gen Yoshimura). Original pieces, some quite impressive. B+(***) [cd] [05-23]

Amalie Dahl's Dafnie: Står Op Med Solen (2023 [2024], Sonic Transmissions/Aguirre): Saxophonist, has a previous group album, one more; group includes trumpet, trombone, bass, and drums. B+(***) [sp]

Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (2023 [2024], Prophone): Swedish pianist, fourth album since 2005, quartet with guitar (Carl Mörner Ringström), bass (Niklas Fernqvist), and drums (Daniel Fredriksson). Original pieces, smart and steady. B+(***) [cd]

Mikko Innanen Autonomous: Hietsu (2021 [2024], Fiasko): Finnish saxophonist, in a live set named for the venue in Helsinki, with Håvard Wiik (piano), Ajntti Lötjönen (bass), and Peter Bruun (drums), with some extra strings (and contrabass guitar). B+(**) [bc]

Abbey Masonbrink: Rising (2024, self-released): Singer-songwriter from Kansas, first album, plays banjo but not bluegrass, with producer Rod Pope (Get Up Kids) going for a denser, more electronic mix. Returns to form with a somber, piquant "I Saw the Light." B+(**) [sp]

Modney: Ascending Primes (2023 [2024], Pyroclastic, 2CD): Violinist Josh Modney, based in New York, has a couple previous albums, most ambitiously the 3-CD Engage (2018). This one is pretty ambitious as well, starting solo and ascending to "undectet" (11-piece orchestra). Unfortunately, I played the second disc first, and didn't discover the first until I was more than done with the second. Not that I'm not impressed, but violin can rub me the wrong way, so there's a lot here I simply don't enjoy. But I still feel like its monumental-ness deserves some kind of credit. B+(*) [cd]

John Moreland: Visitor (2024, Thirty Tigers): Country singer-songwriter from Tulsa, debut 2008 but breakthrough was 2015's High on Tulsa Heat. Slows down here, and reflects. "We don't grieve, and we don't rest. We just choose the lie that feels the best." B+(***) [sp]

Bill Orcutt Guitar Quartet: Four Guitars Live (2023 [2024], Palilalia): Guitarist, from Florida, started in rock groups, notably one from 1992-96 he co-led with then-wife Adris Hoyos called Harry Pussy. He released a solo album in 1996, then many more after 2011, along with avant-jazz collaborations (especially with Chris Corsano). His largest project, Music for Four Guitars, appeared in 2022, with Wendy Eisenberg, Ava Mendoza, and Shane Parish. Here they take their 30:58 set on the road, stretching it to 58:14. A- [sp]

Katie Pruitt: Mantras (2024, Rounder): Singer-songwriter from Georgia, filed her first record under country but that's less obvious here. B+(**) [sp]

Ren: Sick Boi (2023, The Other Songs): Welsh rapper/beatmaker Ren Gill, formerly of Trick the Fox and The Big Push, third album. Quick off the mark, but in for the long haul. A- [sp]

Maggie Rogers: Don't Forget Me (2024, Capitol): Singer-songwriter, the kind I have trouble with because I don't like having to pay close attention, but the music and voice are agreeable enough to lessen the chore, and the work pays off more often than not. Third major label album, after two self-released efforts that her discography makes an effort to distance from (although they seem to be available in a juvenilia compilation). Probably worth revisiting the earlier work. A- [sp]

Ann Savoy: Another Heart (2024, Smithsonian Folkways): Originally Ann Allen, from St. Louis, married Cajun accordionist Marc Savoy and joined his Savoy Doucet Cajun Band, also appearing in Magnolia Sisters, and leading a couple albums with Her Sleepless Knights. This seems to be the first with just her name on the credit line. It is a modest endeavor. B+(*) [sp]

Serengeti: KDIV (2024, Othar): Chicago rapper David Cohn, many records since 2003, looks like he's released several since the last I noticed in 2021. KD is his recurring character (or alter-ego?) Kenny Davis (this 18-track album is also available on Bandcamp as Kenny Davis IV). A- [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Congo Funk: Sound Madness From the Shores of the Mighty Congo River: Kinshasa/Brazzaville 1969-1982 (1969-82 [2024], Analog Africa): Some big names here, like Franco and Rochereau, as well a sampling from the north bank of the river, selected to emphasize the influence of James Brown. B+(***) [sp]

Grupo Irakere: Grupo Irakere (1976 [2024], Mr Bongo): Legendary Cuban jazz group, founded by pianist Chucho Valdés in 1973, second album, band toured Eastern Europe in 1977, and gained further international notice when Columbia released an album in 1978, followed by notable defections in 1980-81 (Paquito D'Rivera, Arturo Sandoval). The band continued through 1997, when Valdés left, to be replaced by his son, Chuchito (to 1999). Excitement everywhere. A- [sp]

Todd Snider: Songs for the Daily Planet (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Pandemic project, possibly inspired by Taylor Swift's decision to re-record all of her old records, except that not being Taylor Swift, he decided to give them away as free downloads, and saved some money by just doing acoustic guitar solo versions, but they come out longer as he tells stories and talks around. The cover has some extra print: "Aimless Records Presents" above the cover image, and "Recorded at the Purple Building" below, but I think (Purple Version) suffices. This was his first album, from 1994. B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Step Right Up (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Reminiscing his way through a remake of his second album. B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (Purple Version) (2020 [2024], Aimless): Project continues through his third and final MCA album, Viva Satellite. Solo guitar and voice, with spoken intros stretching the original 14 songs out to 84 minutes. B+(*) [sp]

Old music:

Jackson Blues, 1928-1938 (1928-38 [1991], Yazoo): Original LP collected 14 tracks from 10 artists in 1968, the dupes three tracks each for Tommy Johnson and Ishman Bracey. B+(**) [sp]

Ville Lähteenmäki Trio: Introducing (2022, Ultraääni): Leader plays bass clarinet, claims the compositions, titled "side A" and "side B," with Nicolas Leirtrø (contrabass) and Trym Saugstad Karlsen (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Ville Lähteenmäki Utopia: Russian Body Language (2020, Art First): Also found this earlier album, probably the bass clarinetist's first, a cassette release recorded and mixed by guitarist Lauri Kallio, with bass, drums, vibes (Mikko Antila), and extra alto sax on one track (Johannes Sarjasto). Most free, some heavy, some light. B+(***) [sp]

Mississippi Moaners: 1927-1942 (1927-42 [1991], Yazoo): Isaiah Nettles, of Carlisle, Mississippi, recorded four songs in 1935, two released as The Mississippi Moaner, one here along with 13 more songs, one per artist, in this interesting compilation of Delta blues obscurities. B+(**) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Delta Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-40 [2016], World Music Network): Generous (25-track) sampler from the northwest corner of Mississippi, noting legends like Son House, Charley Patton, and Skip James, but quickly moving on to the lesser-knowns that make anthologies like this necessary. Starts with the last-recorded piece, Bukka White's "Special Streamline," because even archivalists like to open with a bang. A- [sp]

The Rough Guide to Delta Blues (Vol. 2) (1928-40 [2022], World Music Network): Plenty more where the previous volume came from, giving 22 first-volume artists a second song (opening again with 1940 Bukka White), adding four more (Big Joe Williams, Mississippi Matilda, Louise Johnson, Mississippi Mud Steppers). Some finds here, like "It's Killin' Me" (Willie Lofton), but overall it loses a step. B+(***) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Ragtime Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1925-38 [2017], World Music Network): Blind Blake, Blind Boy Fuller, and Blind Willie McTell anchor this collection, where "rag" can mean any number of things. B+(***) [sp]

The Rough Guide to Barrelhouse Blues [Reborn and Remastered] (1928-48 [2018], World Music Network): Piano players, a nice selection, with boogie woogie specials like Jimmy Yancey, Pete Johnson, and Albert Ammons pushing into the 1940s. B+(***) [sp]

Serengeti: The Glennon EP (2020, self-released, EP): With nothing in my database since the disappointing 2021 Have a Summer, I'm playing catch up. Five tracks here, 11:46, produced by Glennon Curran. Still, not much here. B- [sp]

Serengeti: Kaleidoscope III (2022, Audio Recon, EP): Nine tracks, 16:01, produced by Rob Kleiner. B [sp]

Serengeti: We Saw Mad Turtles (2022, self-released, EP): Four tracks, 10:12, produced by Arborist. Getting a bit denser. B [sp]

Serengeti: Ajai II (2023, self-released): Short album (10 tracks, 28:37), follows his 2020 release Ajai, produced by Child Actor. B+(*) [sp]

Todd Snider: Step Right Up (1996, MCA): Second album, following his 1994 debut Songs for the Daily Planet, some folk, some country, some flat out rock, can amuse but that's not yet a big part of his repertoire. At least until "Tension" appears, one of his greatest songs (I probably know it from one of the Storyteller live albums). That's where he's found his calling. B+(***) [sp]

Todd Snider: Viva Satellite (1998, MCA): Third album, last for MCA, reportedly got him fired, probably for following their advice and rocking harder -- not something I object to on any sort of principle, but I find the deviant "Guaranteed" much more interesting than the powerhouse "Out All Night". Still, I can't say that his unplugged remake is any better, so maybe not one of his better batches of songs (although "Double Wide Blues" is a keeper). B+(**) [sp]

Todd Snider: Happy to Be Here (2000, Oh Boy): After MCA, Snider landed on John Prine's Oh Boy label. First (well, only) time I heard him was as a solo act opening for Prine, but that was around the time of his third Oh Boy album, Live: Near Truths and Hotel Rooms, so I'm catching up with its predecessors. This was recorded solo, then extra bits were dubbed in (including some awkward horns). B+(***) [sp]

Todd Snider: New Connection (2002, Oh Boy): Some more songs I recognize, like "Statistician's Blues" and "Beer Run," no doubt from elsewhere. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Altus: Mythos (Biophilia) * [06-07]
  • Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (Culture Shock) [06-14]
  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released) * [06-12]
  • Jon Gordon: 7th Ave South (ArtistShare) [05-03]
  • Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (Palmetto) [06-14]
  • Janel & Anthony: New Moon in the Evil Age (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Janel Leppin: Ensemble Volcanic Ash: To March Is to Love (Cuneiform) * [06-28]
  • Flavio Silva: Eko (Break Free) [06-07]
  • Ryan Truesdell: Synthesis: The String Quartet Sessions (ArtistShare) [0l6-21]
  • Juanma Trujillo: Howl (Endectomorph Music) * [07-12]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Speaking of Which

We've had company this weekend, a welcome distraction from the usual news-and-music grind. I predicted I wouldn't post this week, but went ahead and opened the draft file before our guest arrived, and wrote a fairly long comment on an especially deranged post by Greil Marcus, so that's the centerpiece of the section below that I call "Israel vs. world opinion" -- or, as I know it, owing to the keyword I use to search out this particular section, "@genocide." The expected shortfall of time led me to mostly just note article titles, and more often than usual to quote snippets.

Still, by Sunday evening, I figured I had enough I should go ahead and post what I have, noting that it's incomplete -- I've yet to make my usual rounds of a number of generally useful web sites -- and allowing that I might do a later update. However, by the time I got back to it Sunday night, I was too tired to wrap up the post. So this is basically Sunday's post on Monday, abbreviated, but there's still quite a bit here.

Initial count: 118 links, 7602 words. Updated count [05-21]: 155 links, 9283 words. Local tags: Greil Marcus; Aryeh Neier; on Trump (Slotkin quote); on music.

Top story threads:


America's Israel (and Israel's America):

  • Geoffrey Aronson: [05-16] There is no 'plan for Palestine' because Israel doesn't want one: "Washington is dealing on a completely different plane than Tel Aviv, which has never supported Arab sovereignty, period." He talks about the two obvious wars: the war on the ground (to destroy Gaza), and the one for world opinion (at least to keep US support lined up), but also a third, poorly defined, "war after the war." The plainest statement of the latter is a quote from Danny Ayalon: "If the PLO wants to quit, Israel will look for international or local forces to take charge of the PA, and if they can't find them and the PA collapses, that will not be the end of the world for Israel." You might be able to find more optimistic quotes -- fantastical pablum from Americans, disingenuous accord from Israelis try ing to humor the Americans -- but nothing to take seriously. Israel has never sanctioned any version of democratic self-rule for Palestinians, and it's going to take much more arm-twisting than Americans are capable of before they do. On the other hand, without political rights, Palestinian leadership will never be able to negotiate a viable, lasting deal with Israel. Which is, of course, exactly as Israel would have it, because they don't want any kind of deal. All they actually want is to grind Palestinians into dust.

  • Michael Arria: [05-15] Biden is sending Israel another $1 billion in weapons: "The move comes days after a State Department report that documents likely international humanitarian violations by Israel." I thought I read somewhere that this package would be for longer-term supplies, so doesn't violate the dictate against invading Rafah, but the details here suggest otherwise: "The package includes roughly $700 million for tank ammunition, $500 million for tactical vehicles, and $60 million in mortar rounds." That's exactly what they would be using in Rafah.

  • Mohamad Bazzi: [05-09] Will Biden finally stop enabling Netanyahu's extremist government?

  • Medea Benjamin/Nicholas JS Davies: [05-19] Forget Biden's "pause": Israel is destroying Gaza with a vast arsenal of US weapons.

  • Julian Borger: [05-17] Supplies arrive in Gaza via new pier but land routes essential, says US aid chief.

  • Eli Clifton: [05-16] Biden's Gaza policy risks re-election but pleases his wealthiest donors: "Courting rich pro-Israel supporters at the expense of a significant swath of voters may cost the president in November."

  • Dave DeCamp: [05-16] House passes bill that would force Biden to give paused bomb shipment to Israel. Also:

  • Connor Echols: [05-13] Only our enemies commit war crimes: "A half-based report highlights the double standard US officials use for Israel."

  • Melvin Goodman: [05-17] Friedman, Biden and US weapons sales to Israel. "Friedman" is NY Times columnist Thomas, who led the parade of Israeli mouthpieces denouncing Biden's "pause" of delivering some bombs to Israel. Interesting factoid here:

    Biden did not want to make a public announcement because he didn't want a public blowup. It was the Israelis who leaked the news in order to embarrass Biden and notify their U.S. supporters; this forced Biden to go public on CNN in order to stress that the United States would not be a part of any major military operation in Rafah. Friedman was either being disingenuous or didn't understand the background of Biden's comments.

  • Yousef Munayyer: Israel policy could cost Biden the White House -- and us democracy.

  • Mitchell Plitnick:

  • Jeffrey St Clair: [05-17] Follow the missiles.

    The US has long been Israel's largest arms merchant. For the last four years, the US has supplied Israel with 69% of its imported weapons, from F-35s to chemical munitions (white phosphorus), tank shells to precision bombs. Despite this, the Biden administration claims not to know how these weapons are put to use, even when they maim and kil American citizens.

    This piece includes a pretty detailed chronicle of the "war" from October 7 to the present.

  • Jason Willick: [05-20] If Biden thinks Israel's liberals are doves, he's dreaming: "Prominent progressive Yair Golan says Netanyahu is a 'coward' for not taking out Hamas earlier." I have very low regard for Willick, but don't doubt that he's tuned in here.

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Nikki McCann Ramirez: [05-20] International criminal court seeks arrest warrants for Netanyahu, Hamas leaders: This just broke, so I'm pinning this one piece at the top of this section, but will stop there. Expect more next week. I will say that while Hamas leaders have much less reason to accept the legitimacy of the ICC or to expect a fair trial, it would be interesting to see them try to defend themselves in court, where I think they have a much more reasonable case than Israel's leader do. It would also set an example for Netanyahu and the Israeli leaders to follow -- one they will do anything to avoid following.

    One of the stranger immediate reactions was this tweet from Aaron David Miller:

    The ICC decision, especially if warrants are issued, has strengthened Netanyahu; lessened prospect of Biden's pressure on Israel; ensured Israel won't cooperate with the PA, validated Netanyahu's circle the wagons, and helped prolong war. A dangerous and destructive diversion.

    This is basically the same argument that says prosecutors shouldn't indict Trump because doing so will only make his followers even more upset. It shows no faith that the judicial process can work credibly. Miller was a State Department negotiator for Israel/Palestine from 1988-2003, accomplishing nothing permanent, before moving on to one of those comfy think tank posts where he continues to be trotted out as an "expert" on why Israel is always right and there's nothing you can do about it. Nathan J Robinson commented on Miller's tweet: "In fact, I notice that very few of the negative responses to the ICC deal with the actual evidence that Israel violated the laws of war." This is another example of the old lawyer line, "if you don't have the law and you don't have the facts, pound the table."

  • Zaina Arafat: [05-14] The view from Palestinian America: "In Kholood Eid's photographs of Missouri, taken six months into the war in Gaza, the quiet act of documenting life is a kind of protest against erasure."

  • Michael Arria: [05-17] Morehouse says it will shut down commencement if students protest Biden speech. Related here:

  • Robert Clines: [05-18] The 'ancient desire' to kill Jews is not Hamas's. It's the West's. Author is a historian who has written on this before; e.g., in A Jewish Jesuit in the Eastern Mediterranean: Early Modern Conversion, Mission, and the Construction of Identity.

  • Juan Cole: [05-17] South Africa v. Israel on Rafah genocide: Endgame in which Gaza is utterly destroyed for human habitation.

  • Zachary Foster: Hard to tell how much he has in his archive, but here's a sample:

  • Yuval Noah Harari: [05-13] Will Zionism survive the war? One of Israel's most famous intellectuals, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, followed up with some dabbling in futurology. I haven't really looked at his work, so I have no real idea much less critique of what he's all about. This, at least, is a thoughtful piece, wishing for a kinder, gentler Zionism, but ultimately warning of something even darker than the bigotry he attributes to Netanyahu:

    After 2,000 years, Jews from all over the world returned to Jerusalem, ostensibly to put into practice what they had learned. What great truth, then, did Jews discover in 2,000 years of study? Well, judging by the words and actions of Netanyahu and his allies, the Jews discovered what Vespasian, Titus and their legionnaires knew from the very beginning: They discovered the thirst for power, the joy of feeling superior and the dark pleasure of crushing weaker people under their feet. If that is indeed what Jews discovered, then what a waste of 2,000 years! Instead of asking for Yavneh, Ben Zakkai should have asked Vespasian and Titus to teach him what the Romans already knew.

    Harari's piece elicited some commentary:

    • Yoav Litvin: [05-16] Yuval Noah Harari's odyssey into a parallel Zionist universe: "Pseudo-intellectual idol to the masses, Yuval Noah Harari's imaginary Ziounism is so far-fetched he may as well be living on another planet."

    • Robert Booth: [2023-10-24] Yuval Noah Harari backs critique of leftist 'indifference' to Hamas atrocities: "Sapiens author among 90 signatories to statement of dismay at 'extreme moral insensitivity.'" This was typical of the insistence that excoriated anyone who mentioned Israel without starting with an explicit condemnation of Hamas -- which Israeli leaders took as approval for their genocidal war, even if the rest of the statement advised caution or reflection.

      He highlighted a letter signed by the actors Tilda Swinton and Steve Coogan and the director Mike Leigh calling for "an end to the unprecedented cruelty being inflicted on Gaza" without specifically condemning the Hamas assault, although it condemned "every act of violence against civilians and every infringement of international law whoever perpetrates them."

      "There is not a single word about the massacre [of 7 October]," Harari said.

      One of the few other signatories mentioned is David Grossman, who has a long history of instinctively rallying to Israel's war drums, only to later regret his fervor.

    • Yuval Noah Harari: [04-18] From Gaza to Iran, the Netanyahu government is endangering Israel's survival: "Israel is facing a historic defeat, the bitter fruit of yeras of disastrous policies. If the country now prioritizes vengeance over its own best interests, it will put itself and the entire region in grave danger."

  • William Hartung: [05-14] Democracy versus autocracy on America's campuses.

  • Ellen Ioanes:

  • Sarah Jones:

  • David Kattenburg: [05-16] South Africa returns to the ICJ to demand a stop to the Israeli genocide in Gaza: "South Africa returned to the ICJ to argue for an immediate halt to Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza warning that a full Rafah invasion is 'the last step in the destruction of Gaza and its Palestinian people.'"

  • Eric Levitz: [05-15] Make "free speech" a progressive rallying cry again: "Protecting radical dissent requires tolerating right-wing speech." Examples here involve anti-genocide protests and their backlash, specifically "how Israel hawks have coopted social justice activists' ideas about speech and harm."

  • Greil Marcus: [05-10] Ask Greil: May 10, 2024: As someone long and rather too intimately familiar with his political views, I'll start by saying that he's the last person on earth I wanted to hear spout off on Hamas and Israel. I'll also note that what he wrote here is almost exactly what I expected him to write, not that I don't have difficulty believing that any intelligent, knowledgeable, and generally decent person could actually believe such things. But I was struck by how eloquent his writing was, and by how clearly he focused on the single idea that keeps him from being able to see anything else:

    The Hamas massacres removed the cover of politeness and silence and disapproval that has if never completely to a strong degree kept the hatred and loathing of Jews that is an indelible and functional part of Western civilization, a legacy of Western civilization, covered up. Now the cover is off, and we are seeing just how many people hate Jews, have always hated Jews, and have waited all their lives for a chance to say so.

    We should be clear here that the people he's accusing of having "always hated Jews" aren't Palestinians or Arabs, but Americans, few of whom have ever shown any prejudice against Jews, but whose sense of equanimity has brought them to demonstrate against six months of relentless war Israel has waged against the people it previously corralled into the tiny Gaza Strip. What Marcus has to say about that war is wrong in fact and even worse in innuendo, but such rote reiteration of Israeli propaganda points doesn't help to explain why Israelis have acted as they have.

    For example, Marcus writes: "Every death of a person in Gaza is a win for Hamas." So why does Israel keep giving Hamas wins? Arguably, it's because Israel wants to make and keep Hamas as the voice of Palestinian resistance, because they want an opponent they will never have to negotiate with, one that they can kill at will, excusing all the collateral damage that ensues. The only way that makes any sense is if you assume that all Palestinians are Hamas, or will be Hamas, because their true souls are bound up in thousands of years of hatred for Jews, which would drive them to join Hamas (or some other Judeocide cult) sooner or later, even if they were unable to point to specific offenses of the Israeli state. Of course, there is very little evidence that any of this is true, let alone that the IDF is the only force preventing this paranoid worst-case logic from playing out.

    But Marcus doesn't really care about any of those details. He only cares about one thing, which is the idea, evidently locked in by childhood trauma -- his story of getting his hand stabbed with a pencil, and the coincidence of something similar having happened to his father also as a child -- that the only thing protecting him, his family, and the Jewish people he exclusively identifies with -- from genocide is the existence of a tiny but mighty Jewish State thousands of miles away from where he actually lives (and has lived without further incident for seventy-some years now). He may think he cares about others, but the moment any of them -- even fellow Jews who do respect and care for non-Jews -- dares to criticize or even doubt Israel, they are dead to him.

    It should be noted that Marcus is not uncritical of Netanyahu -- unlike, say, the leaders of AIPAC and ADL, who can be counted on to do the bidding of whoever Israel's Prime Minister is, as their real concern is political, ensuring that the US is the submissive partner -- but he buys the party line on Hamas, Palestinians, and Iran completely, and he has not the slightest doubt of Israel's war strategy, whatever they say it may be. And since the party line says that any doubt or criticism of Israel is antisemitic, and since all antisemitism is aimed at the annihilation of all Jews, any such deviation must be treated as a matter of life-and-death.

    I hate reducing political choices to psychology, but his trauma story makes that much clear. Marcus is hardly alone in surrendering judgment to trauma, but not everyone who supports Israel in such a blinkered fashion has that excuse. Christian Zionists seem to be really into the Armageddon story, which Israel advances but does not turn out well for Jews. They overlap with two more explicit groups of Israel boosters: kneejerk militarists (like Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton), who have been especially vocal in support of genocide, and MAGA-fascists, who love the idea of mob violence against Palestinians. None of those groups have the slightest concern about antisemitism, other than perhaps relief that their pro-Israel stances seems to point the charges elsewhere.

    While it's possible that some American Jews are as misanthropic as the pro-Zionist groups I just mentioned -- the Kahanist movement, for one, actually started in America -- most Jews in America are liberal and/or leftist, both to protect their own freedom and to enjoy the social benefits of a diverse and equitable society. And they are common and visible enough within liberal and/or leftist circles that nearly everyone else of their persuasion has close, personal ties with Jews, and as such have come to share their historic concerns about antisemitism.

    But we've also opposed the denial of civil rights in the US and in the apartheid period of South Africa, so we've been greatly troubled by evidence of similar discrimination in Israel. Current demonstrations recognize that Israel's leaders have crossed a line from systematic discrimination and denial to massive destruction and starvation, a level of violence that fits the legal definition of genocide. Those demonstrating include people who have long been critical of Israel -- the expulsion of refugees and Israel's refusal to allow them to return to their homes dates from 1948. Given how long a movement against Israel's occupation and caste system has been growing, it is only natural that the first to come out against genocide are those who have long opposed that system -- many people who are fond of Palestinian flags, but also explicitly Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace.

    But the demonstrations also welcome people who have long sympathized with Israel but who are deeply disturbed by the recent turn of events. I would not be surprised to see people who identify as exclusively with Israel as Marcus does come out to demonstrate against genocide, the rise of mob violence in the West Bank, the underlying apartheid regime, the increasingly extremist right-wing settler movement, and the militarist security establishment that have taken hold in Israel, and attempt to direct whatever influence America has toward steering Israel back onto a path that can eventually lead to a just and lasting peace. Because if anything has become clear over the last six months, it's that the current leadership clique in Israel is driving the nation's reputation to ruin. And their constant equation of antizionism and antisemitism is damaging the reputation of Jews worldwide. So even if the latter is all you care about, it behooves you to press Israel to ceasefire and to start making amends. There is no way they can kill their way out of the pickle they've gotten themselves into.

    One more point, and it's an important one. While I doubt that the sort of trauma that Marcus claims is common among American Jews, it is much more common among Israelis. Partly this is because they are more likely to have experience terror attacks (direct or, much more often, through others they emphasize with), but also because Israel's political powers have deliberately orchestrated a culture of fear and dread. (For example, see Idith Zertal's 2005 book, Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood. Tom Segev's The Seventh Million: Israelis and the Holocaust is also useful here, as is Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering. Americans, especially Jews and their liberal/left sympathizers, are not immune to this effect. There is a Holocaust Museum in Washington not because Americans have any particular insight into the history but as a tool for keeping us in line.)

    I've been following these psychological currents for a long time. They're a big part of the reason why I believe the current war will eventually take a huge psychic toll on the people who were stampeded into supporting it, much like WWII did to Germany and Japan (albeit with no prospect of Americans and Russians settling the score). My view here was largely informed by Tom Segev's 1967, which showed quite clearly an extraordinary division within Israel, between an elite that was supremely confident in their ability to destroy the united Arab armed forces, and a people who were driven to abject terror by the widely advertised prospect of doom (a return of the Holocaust). The sudden victory produced tremendous uplift in both camps: the elites became even more arrogant, achieving levels of hubris unmatched since the heights of Axis expansion (US neocons, marching into Baghdad while dreaming of Tehran and Pyongyang, had similar fantasies, but never even realized their Israel envy); while the masses succumbed to the right-wing drift of fear and fury as their leaders repeatedly flailed and double down on force as the only solution.

    By the way, Marcus also strongly endorsed the following truly hideous piece:

    • Bret Stephens: [05-07] A thank-you note to the campus protesters. What he's thankful for is that demonstrators have done things that people like him could characterize as the work of "modern-day Nazis," although his conviction is such that he hardly needs facts to spin tales any which way he wants. So his "thank you" is really just a literary device, all the better to fuck you with.

  • Emad Moussa: [05-07] Israel is a broken society. And it's not just Bibi to blame: "Israel's allies are snubbing Netanyahu to cloak their complicity in genocide."

  • Timothy McLaughlin:

  • Aryeh Neier: Is Israel committing genocide? A founder of Human Right Watch, who (as he explains at great length), has always been very cautious about using the word genocide, and whose group has always been very scrupulous about citing Hamas crimes as balancing off Israel's more extensive human rights abuses, finally has to admit that what Israel is doing in Gaza does in fact constitute genocide. This is worth quoting at some length:

    In late December, when South Africa brought to the ICJ its accusation that Israel was committing genocide in Gaza, I did not join some of my colleagues in the international human rights movement in their support of the charge. . . . I thought then, and continue to believe, that Israel had a right to retaliate against Hamas for the murderous rampage it carried out on October 7. I also thought that Israel's retaliation could include an attempt to incapacitate Hamas so that it could not launch such an attack again. To recognize this right to retaliate is not to mitigate Israel's culpability for the indiscriminate use of tactics and weapons that have caused disproportionate harm to civilians, but I believe that Hamas shares responsibility for many of Israel's war crimes. . . . And yet, even believing this, I am now persuaded that Israel is engaged in genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. What has changed my mind is its sustained policy of obstructing the movement of humanitarian assistance into the territory.

    As early as October 9 top Israeli officials declared that they intended to block the delivery of food, water, and electricity, which is essential for purifying water and cooking. Defense Minister Yoav Gallant's words have become infamous: "I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we act accordingly." The statement conveyed the view that has seemed to guide Israel's approach throughout the conflict: that Gazans are collectively complicit for Hamas's crimes on October 7.

    Since then Israel has restricted the number of vehicles allowed to enter Gaza, reduced the number of entry points, and conducted time-consuming and onerous inspections; destroyed farms and greenhouses; limited the delivery of fuel needed for the transport of food and water within the enclave; killed more than two hundred Palestinian aid workers, many of them employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the principal aid provider in the blockaded territory before October 7; and persuaded many donors, including the United States, to stop funding UNRWA by claiming that a dozen of the agency's 13,000 employees in Gaza were involved in the October 7 attack or have other connections to Hamas.

    I started using the word genocide much earlier, because it was clear to me from the very beginning of the October 7 that Israel was primed and intent on committing genocide, and that the only thing that might stop them would be world opinion and their own (mostly callused) consciences. Indeed, within 24 hours, many prominent Israeli figures, and more than a few American ones, were talking unambiguously about genocide. So perhaps I figured raising the charge was one of the few things reasonable people of good and fair will could do to elicit that conscience. Even now, that the charge has been amply documented, the one obvious thing that Israel can still do to start to clear its name is to cease fire, to stop the incursions, to permit aid to enter Gaza, and to allow for a future political system there that does not involve any form of Israeli control.

    I have no problem with condemning the Hamas attacks on October 7, or for that matter much of what Hamas has done over the last thirty-plus years, on moral and/or political grounds, but I don't see much urgency or import in doing so. I've thought a lot about morality and politics this year, and reluctantly come to conclude that one can only condemn people who had options. I started with thinking of Brecht's line, "food first, morals later." What better options did Hamas (or any Palestinians) have? Nothing that seemed to be working.

    Israel, on the other hand, has had lots of options. They liked to chide Palestinians for "never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity for peace," but just when were those opportunities? And if they were opportunities, why did Israel withdraw them? It's long been clear to me that Israel is the one that wants to keep the conflict going forever.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [05-18] Unpacking the Israeli campaign to deny the Gaza genocide: "A recent media flurry over the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza amounts to nothing more than genocide denial. This campaign to discredit the Gaza health ministry is simply a strategy to allow the Gaza genocide to continue." One note here:

    Israel knows fully well that there is a difference between a body count and full identification. It took it many weeks to identify the bodies of the dead after the Hamas-led October 7 attack, and in mid-November, Israel actually reduced its rough estimate of 1,400 to around 1,200, and later to 1,139. The reduction of roughly 200 bodies from the count was due to hundreds of bodies being burned beyond recognition -- where 200 were then said to have been Palestinians and not Israelis, as earlier assumed. This was undoubtedly due to Israel's own indiscriminate bombing on October 7, also killing an unknown number of its own citizens.

    Counting bodies, whether they are burned beyond recognition or not, is a much more straightforward task than actually identifying them, and with Israel's methods of heavy bombing of civilians, the latter can become an enormously complex task. Gaza has been undergoing genocide since October 7, while Israel has since counted and identified its dead under relatively peaceful circumstances. Israelis may say that they have been at war since then, but the war on Gaza has had little bearing on the functioning of Israeli forensics teams. Gazans have to count their dead under fire constant fire, with Gaza's health system all but decimated, not to mention with thousands still under the rubble.

    That Israel should simply exclude any count of Palestinian dead is itself telling. It is still not clear how many of the Israeli dead on Oct. 7 were actually killed by Israeli "friendly fire."

  • Ilan Pappé: [05-21] I was detained at a US airport and asked about Israel and Gaza for 2 hours. Why? Israeli historian, based in UK, has written a bunch of important books on Palestinian history and Israeli politics, the best known The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006)

    , followed by The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories. Also notable are shorter primers: The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge (2014); (2017); Ten Myths About Israel (2017; a new edition is scheduled for 17 September 2024).
  • Rick Perlstein: [05-15] Can we all get along? "A Q&A with Eman Abdelhadi, a Palestinian University of Chicago professor, about encampments, dialogue, and mutual respect."

  • Vijay Prashad: [05-17] A semester of discontent: The students who camped for Palestine.

  • Philip Weiss: [05-19] Weekly Briefing: Biden is risking reelection over Gaza to please donors, the mainstream media reports.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans: I'm reading Richard Slotkin's A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America, which covers the whole sweep of American history, but mostly as a prelude to current political disorders, what at least one writer below has started calling the Trumpocene. Here's a sample that nails a key point, then drives it home with examples (pp. 297-299):

Narcissism is an enduring pattern of behavior marked by obsessive concentration on the self, an excessive demand for admiration, and a lack of compassion or empathy. When a narcissist's need for approbation is not met, he or she will typically feel deeply aggrieved, even persecuted. Narcissists then seek power so they can control those around them, including family and colleagues. But no degree of domination ever completelysatisfies their need, so the power drive becomes authoritarian and (in the absence of empathy) verges on the sociopathic.

Trump exhibits all of these traits. His Twitter feeds and speeches are rife with variations on "only I can fix it": "I am the only one who can Make America Great Again. . . . Nobody else can do it." "Nobody will protect our Nation like Donald J. Trump." "5000 ISIS fighters have infiltrated Europe. . . . I TOLD YOU SO! I alone can fix this problem!" "I am hoping to save Social Security without any cuts. I know where to get the money from. Nobody else does." His followers read that self-assurance as a mark of authenticity -- he truly believes even the most extravagant claims he makes about himself. . . .

The effectiveness of Trump's speaking style owes a good deal to his narcissism. In press interviews, rally speeches, and Twitter rants, he follows no logic but his own free associations. In 2019 Trump was asked about his failure to get funding for his "beautiful" border wall, and the separation of parents and children crossing the border. He begins with a statement contrary to fact (implying he has actually built his wall), tosses a word salad, and ends with a "definition" that reads like a joke: "Now until I got the wall built, I got Mexico because we're not allowed, very simply, to have loopholes and they're called loopholes for a reason, because they're loopholes." His speeches are full of banalities endlessly repeated -- how great he is, how he'll increase jobs or destroy North Korea "like you've never seen before," he's going to fix it, fake news, Crooked Hillary -- but his followers respond with enthusiasm.

Let's start, again, with his porn star hush money trial.

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Harold Meyerson: [05-14] Swing voters prefer Democrats. Just not Joe Biden.

  • Ramesh Ponnuru: [05-14] Democrats could sweep the 2024 elections -- and make major policy changes. Need I note that this column is by a right-winger, hoping to panic Republicans into rallying behind Trump. The giveaway is "make major policy changes." I can imagine Democrats sweeping the 2024 elections, but doing anything significant with their win is the tough one. In any imaginable scenario, there will still be enough Democrats tightly bound to lobbyists and their interests, blocking any real reform, much as Manchin and Sinema did with recent Democratic Senate "majorities."

  • Stephen Prager: Democrats, contempt will not win you the election: Photos here of Hillary Clinton and John Fetterman.

  • Andrew Prokop: [05-15] Biden's surprise proposal to debate Trump early, explained.

  • Bernie Sanders: [05-15] We're in a pivotal moment in American history. We cannot retreat: "Clearly, our job is not just to re-elect Biden." This is basically a stump speech, but a remarkably decent and sensible one. It reminds me of the opportunity mainstream Democrats forsook when they got scared and abandoned Sanders for Biden in 2020.

    • Ed Kilgore: [05-17] Bernie Sanders makes incredibly gloomy case for reelecting Biden. Well, that's the case Biden has left himself with, and there's little point pretending otherwise. There are many little things that Biden could have done better, but his foreign policy mistakes are glaring, starting with his disinterest in defusing conflicts with unfriendly states like Iran and North Korea, his provocations of China and Russia, his unwillingness to negotiate peace in Ukraine, and especially his utter failure to mitigate Israel's genocidal mania, those are the sort of mistakes with grave consequences that can ruin him. You can't just pretend this isn't happening.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Other stories:

Reza Aslan: [04-15] Religiosity isn't done changing our world: An interview with the author ("one of the foremost scholars of religion in America") about "Jesus the revolutionary, Palestine, and the continued growth of religion in the world."

Fabiola Cineas: [05-15] Why school segregation is getting worse.

Alec Israeli: [05-19] Slavery, capitalism, and the politics of abolition. A review of Robin Blackburn: The Reckoning: From the Second Slavery to Abolition, 1776-1888. This is "the capstone volume to Blackburn's decades-long project chronicling the rise and fall of slavery in the Americas," following The Overthrow of Colonial Slavery, 1776-1848 and The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern, 1492-1800, as well as related studies like The American Crucible: Slavery, Emancipation and Human Rights An Unfinished Revolution: Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln.

John McPhee: [05-13] Tabula rasa: The fourth article in a series (links in article) on writing. Starts with a discussion of Wordle, which is not one of his more inspired subjects, but informs you that he likes to start with "ocean" but has tried less likely words that I must admit never occurred to me.

Katya Schwenk: [05-18] The law may be coming for Boeing's fraud: "At the end of the Trump administration, Boeing cut a sweetheart deal to avoid prosecution for deceiving regulators about a faulty flight system that caused crashes. New allegations of greed and negligence may finally bring the company to justice."

Julia Serano: [04-23] The Cass Review, WPATH files, and the perpetual debate over gender-affirming care. Noted, not that I have anything meaningful to say on the subject. Pull quote: "Gender-affirming care is the only thing that has positively helped trans youth thus far, and abandoning it now isn't a passive or neutral solution -- it's an active and conscious decision to subject these children to antiquated social and medical interventions that have already been scientifically shown to be ineffective if not downright harmful."

Jennifer Szalai: [05-08] Can a 50-year-old idea save democracy? A review of Daniel Chandler: Free and Equal: A Manifesto for a Just Society, which "makes a vigorous case for adopting the liberal political framework laid out by John Rawls in the 1970s."

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [05-13] Class consciousness for billionaires: "We used to think the rich had a social function. What are they good for now?" We did? I remember reading a biography of Jay Gould when I was quite young, and it pretty much permanently disabused me of the notion that rich people contributed anything of value to society, and left me with even more contempt for the people who inherited their money (and, in this case, frittered it away to nothing very quickly). Review of Guido Alfani: As Gods Among Men: A History of the Rich in the West. By the way, the publisher page led me to another book, more promising I thought, so I looked for a review:

Also, some writing on music:

Richard Brody: [05-14] New releases make old jazz young again: on Alice Coltrane, The Carnegie Hall Concert; Sonny Rollins, Freedom Weaver: The 1959 European Tour Recordings; Art Tatum, Jewels in the Treasure Box: The 1953 Chicago Blue Note Jazz Club Recordings; and Charles McPherson, Reverence (actually a new recording, though the saxophonist is 83).

Robert Christgau: [05-15] Consumer Guiide: May, 2024.

Christian Iszchak: [05-17] An acute case: 17 May 2024.

Brad Luen: [05-19] Semipop Life: Moving past years.

Amanda Petrusich: [05-17] The anxious love songs of Billie Eilish.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42312 [42249] rated (+63), 22 [29] unrated (-7).

Major time sink last week was filling out the DownBeat Critics Poll ballot. I took notes, and they're here, but probably need to be cleaned up a bit more. One thing that slowed me down was that I copied off all of their nominee lists. I could write a sociology dissertation on "How to Lie with Polls," where the most obvious way is the questions you pick and those you leave out, so this is data I've often wished I had kept (although whether I do anything with it remains to be seen).

One thing I have done ever since they started inviting me was to copy down their album lists, figuring I could use them as checklists. Before I got into this year's lists, I calculated that I had heard 84.4% of their new jazz album nominees, 57.5% of their historical jazz albums, 22.5% of the blues albums, and 78.3% of their "beyond" albums. Most of the albums in this week's haul came from the unheard parts of those lists, including a lot of blues guitar-slingers I never bothered with before and probably won't again.

After submitting the DownBeat ballot, I resumed work on Speaking of Which. Sunday night I was mostly done, but still meant to write something on a particularly offensive Jonathan Chait piece, so decided to hold it an extra day. By the time I posted Monday evening, it was 228 links, 11,661 words. I've added a bit more today, flagged as usual.

The extra day added to the rated count (+11 to be precise), as I rarely bothered to give even high-B+ albums a second play. Jimmy Holmes and his protege Robert Connelly Farr were two I wondered about. Much in the long Wes Montgomery and Keith Jarrett sets sounded terrific, but I wound up demurring, partly because I previously had Full House at B+, and Köln Concert at A- (with no other Jarrett solo coming close).

One nice bit of news is that after complaining about Cox's lack of service at some length last week, I got an unsolicited tweet-message from them pointing me to a web page with an email address to appeal blocked mail. I wrote them. They cleared the block a couple days later, and fixed my problem: I can now send email that references my website.

A couple days later, I found another problem, this time with Gmail. Turns out anything I send from my server to a Gmail account gets automatically rejected as "likely suspicious due to the very low reputation of the sending IP address." I've run across this before, and (needless to say) they, too, make it very difficult to get anything resembling service. I've yet to try troubleshooting this particular problem -- which, among other things, means making sure my server isn't committing the offenses charged. It's a pretty low-grade problem right now, but will matter more if/when I revive the Jazz Critics Poll.

I should also note that last week's much-hyped storm front almost completely spared Wichita. We had a cold front that was sweeping southeast across Kansas, and on its edge there developed an almost straight line of storms from Texas into Nebraska. But the actual storm cells were moving north-northeast up the edge of the front. Just before the front passed through Wichita, the line broke, with two larger storms coalescing, one passing north of Wichita, the more southern storm passing to our south and east. The latter did produce tornadoes, but mostly in Oklahoma. There were more tornadoes later that night, around Kansas City and up into Iowa.

I expect to get very little work done in what's left of this week, and none over the weekend. We have company coming, which almost certainly means I won't be posting Speaking of Which then (although I probably will open a draft file in case I do stumble on something I'd want to link to). It will also be tempting to skip a Music Week, although there's no minimum there: if I do post, it will be much shorter than this one.

New records reviewed this week:

Matt Andersen: The Big Bottle of Joy (2023, Sonic): Canadian blues guitarist-singer-songwriter, regular albums since 2004. I don't see credits, but the backup singers loom large here. Actually, it's all big and joyful. B+(**) [sp]

Anitta: Funk Generation (2024, Republic): Brazilian "baile funk" singer-songwriter, Larissa de Macedo Machado, debut 2013, this follows a similarly named 2023 EP, repeats the first single "Funk Rave," expanded to 15 short, hard-hitting tracks, 35:14. B+(***) [sp]

Nia Archives: Silence Is Loud (2024, Hijinxx/Island): British jungle DJ/producer, last name Hunt, has several EPs since 2021, first album takes a big step toward turning her into a dance-pop star. A- [sp]

Duane Betts: Wild & Precious Life (2023, Royal Potato Family): Son of Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts (1943-2024), namesake obvious. First album under his own name but he's been playing in Allman and/or Betts bands since 2005, and quite capably recycles their trademark sound. B+(*) [sp]

Pat Bianchi: Three (2023 [2024], 21H): Organ player, debut 2002, tenth or so album, back-to-basics trio with Troy Roberts (sax) and Colin Stranahan (drums). Opens and closes strong with "Love for Sale" and "Cheek to Cheek." B+(***) [sp]

Muireann Bradley: I Kept These Old Blues (2021-23 [2023], Tompkins Square): Irish folkie, plays guitar, first album, sings twelve old blues, three from Mississippi John Hurt, three following arrangements by Stefan Grossman (plus one John Fahey). B+(***) [sp]

Edmar Castañeda World Ensemble: Viento Sur (2023, self-released): Harp player, from Colombia, ten or so albums since 2005. Not much info available, but I gather the singer is his wife, Andrea Tierra, and the band includes Felipe Lamoglia (sax), Ryan Keberle (trombone), Helio Alves (piano), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), and Itai Kriss (flute), plus percussionists. B+(***) [sp]

Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Radio Afloat (2023 [2024], In a Circle): Violinist, sings some, group with (Jake Charkley (cello), Philip Golub (piano/keyboards), Sam Minais (bass), and John Hadfield (drums). The occasional vocals lend this a Middle Eastern air, while the variety in the instruments frees the violin up as the engaging solo lead. A- [cd] [05-17]

Gary Clark Jr.: JPEG RAW (2024, Warner): Blues singer-songwriter, got a lot of hype with his 2012 major label debut, can't say as I was much impressed. Title acronym for "Jealousy, Pride, Greed, Rules, Alter Ego, Worlds." Five (of twelve) songs feature guests, with Stevie Wonder and George Clinton the big names. B- [sp]

Chris Duarte: Ain't Giving Up (2023, Provogue): Blues-rock singer-songwriter from Texas, regular albums since 1987, like so many his calling card is his guitar. B+(*) [sp]

Tinsley Ellis: Naked Truth (2024, Alligator): Blues-rock singer-songwriter-guitarist based in Atlanta, started in the Heartfixers in 1982, went solo in 1988 and has 20+ albums since. Wrote nine songs here, covers Son House (quite credibly), Willie Dixon, and Leo Kottke. B+(**) [sp]

William Lee Ellis: Ghost Hymns (2023, Yellow Dog): Folkie singer-songwriter from Memphis, plays guitar, opens solo with a front porch blues, picks up some banjo and fiddle for the Jesus-namechecking second song, called "Flood Tale." Both of those songs grabbed me immediately, but then he wandered into other less immediately appealing fare. Still worth the thought. B+(***) [sp]

Empirical: Wonder Is the Beginning (2022 [2024], Whirlwind): British group, half-dozen albums since 2007, led by bassist-composer Tom Farmer, with Jason Rebello (piano), Shaney Forbes (drums), Lewis Wright (vibes), and Nathaniel Facey (alto sax), plus Alex Hitchcock (tenor sax, 3 tracks). B+(**) [sp]

Ethel & Layale Chaker: Vigil (2022 [2024], In a Circle): As best I can tell -- my eyes have gotten so bad it pains me to search out the recording date and credits, let alone decipher the microscopic booklet -- Chaker is a violinist and composer of half of this, and Ethel is her group -- three more violins and a cello -- members of which composed most of the rest. So a strings group, certainly qualifies as chamber jazz. B+(***) [cd] [05-17]

Robert Connelly Farr: Pandora Sessions (2023, self-released): Guitarist, growler, from "Bolton, Mississippi, home of Charley Patton, Sam Chatmon & the Mississippi Sheiks," a protege of Jimmy "Duck" Holmes, plays "thunderous back alley blues" that are "menacing, guttural." Indeed, the sound is very striking at first, but then sort of shrinks, folding back on itself. B+(***) [sp]

Lawrence Fields: To the Surface (2023 [2024], Rhythm 'N' Flow): Pianist, from St. Louis, "long-awaited" debut album -- he has side credits back to 2007, including Joe Lovano and Christian Scott -- a trio with Yasushi Nakamura (bass) and Corey Fonville (drums), originals plus one cover ("I Fall in Love Too Easily"). B+(**) [sp]

Samantha Fish & Jesse Dayton: Death Wish Blues (2023, Rounder): Blues singer-songwriter-guitarist from Kansas City, a dozen or so albums since 2009, some with co-credits (like 2011's Girls With Guitars), this her first with Dayton, a rockabilly/outlaw country artist with more records going back to 1995. They're rough enough to get on each other's nerves, but the exception, a Fish ballad "No Apology," is an oasis of calm in the enveloping chaos. B+(**) [sp]

Sue Foley: One Guitar Woman: A Tribute to the Female Pioneers of Guitar (2024, Stony Plain): Blues guitarist, singer, has written most of her songs since her 1992 debut (Young Girl Blues), mostly covers here, drawing songs from Elizabeth Cotten, Maybelle Carter, Rosetta Tharpe, and others. B+(***) [sp]

Roberto Fonseca: La Gran Diversión (2023, 3ème Bureau/Wagram): Cuban pianist, a dozen or so albums since 1999. A full roster of Cuban musicians, including vocalists, with a guest spot for Regina Carter (violin). Cover depicts a party. Music bears that out. B+(**) [sp]

Amaro Freitas: Y'Y (2024, Psychic Hotline): Brazilian pianist, from Recife, fourth album since 2016. Nine tracks, some solo, some with a guest or two, including Shabaka Hutchings (flute), Brandee Younger (harp), Jeff Parker (guitar), and Hamid Drake (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Gov't Mule: Peace . . . Like a River (2023, Concord): Southern rock jam band, founded 1994 as an Allman Brothers spinoff, Warren Haynes (guitar/vocals) and Matt Abts (drums) founders still carrying on. This one is especially long. B- [sp]

Makiko Hirabayashi Trio: Meteora (2022 [2023], Enja): Japanese pianist, based in Copenhagen since 1990, side credits since 1996, several own albums since 2006. Trio with Klavs Hovman (bass) and Marilyn Mazur (drums). B+(***) [sp]

Hiromi's Sonicwonder: Sonicwonderland (2023, Telarc): Japanese pianist, last name Uehara, studied at Berklee, debut album 2003, a dozen more since, has classical skills, likes electronics, wrote jingles before moving into (and sometimes out of) jazz. This one jams Adam O'Farrill (trumpet) into the sonic tapestry, which helps. Some vocals. B+(*) [sp]

Munir Hossn/Ganavya: Sister, Idea (2023, Ropeadope, EP): Duo, recorded in Miami, the former a guitarist/vocalist from Brazil, the latter a vocalist/bassist (last name Doraiswamy, born in New York but raised in Tamil Nadu), each with a couple of independent previous albums. Seven songs, 19:46. B+(*) [sp]

Hovvdy: Hovvdy (2024, Arts & Crafts): Indie rock duo from Austin, Charlie Martin and Will Taylor, fifth album since 2016, tuneful, easy going, slight, just a whiff of country. B+(*) [sp]

Ibibio Sound Machine: Pull the Rope (2024, Merge): London-based afro-funk band, led by vocalist Eno Williams (UK-born, of Nigerian parents), the band including a guitarist from Ghana and a percussionist from Brazil. Choice groove: "Dance in the Rain." B+(**) [sp]

Christone "Kingfish" Ingram: Live in London (2023, Alligator, 2CD): Blues singer-songwriter from Clarksdale, Mississippi, plays guitar, has two previous studio albums. Pretty young (23), but solid. Run time: 107.12. B+(*) [sp]

Eric Johanson: The Deep and the Dirty (2023, Ruf): Louisiana-born blues-rock singer-songwriter, guitarist, moved to New Zealand after Katrina but returned to New Orleans in 2010, has a half-dozen albums since 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Pieces of Treasure (2022 [2023], BMG/Modern): Fifteenth studio album, going back to her eponymous debut in 1979, with its jazzy freak hit single, produced by Russ Titelman, who returns here for this collection of ten standards. They picked great songs, but slowed them way down, exposing the cracks in her voice, but little else. B- [sp]

Live Edge Trio With Steve Nelson: Closing Time (2023 [2024], OA2): Trio of Ben Markley (piano), Seth Lewis (bass), and Andy Wheelock (drums), with the vibraphonist most prominent as guest. Highlight is a Horace Silver cover (of course). B+(**) [cd] [05-17]

John Lurie: Painting With John (2021-23 [2024], Royal Potato Family): Founder of the Lounge Lizards, a jazzy fusion group which recorded four studio and more live albums 1981-98; also did a shtick as Marvin Pontiac, and recorded a few soundtracks, including Fishing With John for an unscripted TV series he did in 1991. This collects music from his more recent TV series, with three seasons on HBO Max. Scattered pieces, most miniatures, some narrated, most minor but often interesting, ends with a Lounge Lizards delight. Spotify counts 56 songs, "about" 75 minutes. B+(***) [sp]

The Taj Mahal Sextet: Swingin' Live at the Church in Tulsa (2023 [2024], Lightning Rod): Folk blues great, first record 1968, no recording date I can see here, but one source had him at 81 in 2023, which is info enough. Six originals, four covers (three blues, one Hawaiian). Seems to be in strong voice, buoyed by a strong band. B+(***) [sp]

Dom Martin: Buried in the Hail (2023, Forty Below): Blues-rock singer-songwriter-guitarist, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, third album, ten originals plus a power ballad rendition of Willie Nelson's "Crazy." B+(*) [sp]

Dave McMurray: Grateful Deadication 2 (2023, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Detroit, started with Albert King, was in Was (Not Was) and Griot Galaxy, first solo album 1989, second 1996. Got the idea of doing a Grateful Dead tribute after meeting Bob Weir in 2019, released one in 2021, and here's a second. Pleasant-enough songs, some I recognize despite having no interest in the band since the early 1970s, helped with organ and a bit of grit in the sax. Some vocals, not sure whether they hurt or help. B+(*) [sp]

Coco Montoya: Writing on the Wall (2023, Alligator): Blues guitarist-singer-songwriter, from California, albums since 1995. Raw but unexceptional power. B [sp]

Simon Moullier: Inception (2022 [2023], Fresh Sound New Talent): Vibraphonist, from Nantes, France (although web bio doesn't mention that, or anything specific other than "being mentored" at Berklee), fourth album since 2020, trio with bass (Luca Alemanno) and drums (Jongkuk Kim), on one original and eight wide-ranging jazz standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]

Nat Myers: Yellow Peril (2023, Easy Eye Sound): Roots-blues singer-songwriter-guitarist from Kentucky, happens to be Korean-American, an irony that is not lost on him. First album. Good songs throughout, but "Pray for Rain" is exceptional. A- [sp]

Parchman Prison Prayer: Some Mississippi Sunday Morning (2023, Glitterbeat): Gospel recordings from inmates in a maximum security prison in Mississippi. B+(**) [sp]

Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra: Groove Junkies (2023 [2024], Origin): Conventional big band, leader/composer plays trombone, graduated from UNT, spent over a decade in the USAF Airmen of Note, has at least two previous albums as leader, his whole career leading right here. He has every reason to be pleased with this one, although I'm not fully convinced by the big Latin jazz number. B+(**) {cd] [05-17]

Nicholas Payton: Drip (2023, PayTone): Trumpet player, from New Orleans, plays keyboard and flugelhorn here, fairly laid back funk tracks with guest vocals. B [sp]

Jessica Pratt: Here in the Pitch (2024, Mexican Summer): Singer-songwriter from San Francisco, based in Los Angeles, fourth album since 2012, has a reputation but I disliked the only previous album I've heard. I don't dislike this rather low key "album of hypnogogic folk music," but didn't find the mysteries intriguing enough to give it a second listen either. B [sp]

John Primer & Bob Corritore: Crawlin' Kingsnake (2024, VizzTone): Mississippi bluesman, played with Magic Slim before going out on his own in 1991, picked up the harmonica player in 2013, and they've been solic ever since. B+(***) [sp]

Jason Robinson: Ancestral Numbers (2023 [2024], Playscape): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano here, also alto flute), albums since 1998, composed everything here, thinking about his ancestors. Quintet with Michael Dessen (trombone), Joshua White (piano), Drew Gress (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). Interesting throughout, but took me a while to work through all of it. A- [cd] [05-14]

Still House Plants: If I Don't Make It, I Love U (2023 [2024], Bison): British art/experimental rock trio, singer is Jess Hickie-Kallenbach, third or fourth album, has very positive reviews from Guardian and Pitchfork, but not much notice elsewhere. I could see her as some kind of jazz singer, only loosely tethered to the off-kilter guitar/drums, but not the kind -- pace "remarkable voice" -- I like. B- [sp]

Natsuki Tamura/Jim Black: NatJim (2023 [2024], Libra): Japanese trumpet player, husband to pianist Satoko Fujii, has more albums with her but quite a few on his own, like this dynamic but choppy improv duo with drums. B+(***) [cd] [05-17]

Ralph Towner: At First Light (2022 [2023], ECM): American guitarist, has recorded regularly for ECM since 1973, also extensively in the group Oregon. Solo here, nice and easy. B+(*) [sp]

Angela Verbrugge: Somewhere (2017-18 [2024], OA2): Standards singer, from Canada, first album, starts a bit flat, and the title song has little to recommend itself, but gets better -- I especially love the one en français, curiously the only one she wrote, and oddly billed as a "remix." B+(**) [cd] [05-17]

Bill Warfield and the Hell's Kitchen Funk Orchestra: Time Capsule (2023, Planet Arts): Trumpet player, has led big bands since 1990, this his second album with this particular group. Opens with a splashy Chrissi Poland vocal. Only a few more vocals, but everything is splashy. B+(**) [sp]

Randy Weinstein: Harmonimonk (2023 [2024], Random Chance): Harmonica player (both chromatic and diatonic) plays seven Monk tunes, 37:46, with various backing, but not much on any given song. B+(**) [cd] [05-15]

Dan Wilson: Things Eternal (2023, Brother Mister/Mack Avenue): Guitarist, second album, leads a quartet with electric piano (Glenn Zaleski), bass (Brandon Rose), and drums (David Throckmorton), with guest organ on two tracks, vocals on three -- a crossover pop move that works better than expected. B+(**) [sp]

Mark Winkler: The Rules Don't Apply (2024, Cafe Pacific): Jazz singer, twenty-some albums since 1980 including duos with Cheryl Bentyne, yet when you look him up in Wikipedia you get some South African writer. Looks for postmodern standards -- "I.G.Y." sounds especially great here, and he does well by "Got to Get You Into My Life" and "Mama Told Me Not to Come" -- and writes some lyrics, mostly celebrating jazz. Recorded in five groups, but dates not given. B+(**) [cd]

Warren Wolf: Chano Pozo: Origins (2023, self-released): Vibraphonist, from Baltimore, tenth album since 2005, including a decade on Mack Avenue (also playing with Christian McBride). Very little info on this, but back story seems to be that it's a tribute to his late father, who nicknamed his son after the legendary Cuban percussionist. B+(*) [sp]

Xaviersobased: Keep It Goin Xav (2024, 34Ent): Young (20) rapper Xavier Lopez, from NYC, first album. B+(*) [sp]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Terri Lyne Carrington: TLC & Friends (1981 [2023], Candid): Drummer, from Massachusetts, father and grandfather were musicians (latter played with Fats Waller and Chu Berry), was tutored by Alan Dawson, recorded this when she was 16 but had some major league friends: George Coleman (tenor sax), Kenny Barron (piano), Buster Williams (bass). She wrote one song, but otherwise went with sure covers, slipping Billy Joel between two Sonny Rollins tunes on the second side, "St. Thomas" and "Sonny Moon for Two" (with her father guesting as the second tenor sax). They're all having terrific fun. A- [sp]

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Hollywood Bowl, August 18, 1967 (1967, Experience Hendrix/Legacy): Another installment, we're long past surprises now, let alone amazement, but the quirks are still fun to listen to. Set list: "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Band" to open, two blues, four originals, "Like a Rolling Stone," and "Wild Thing" to finish. B+(**) [sp]

Keith Jarrett: Solo-Concerts Bremen/Lausanne (1973 [2023], ECM, 2CD): Originally a daunting 3-LP box, but this did much to establish Jarrett's reputation as a dazzling pianist before his 1975 solo The Köln Concert became a mega-seller. As with the latter, the CD length got dispensed of the need to slice his long solos up, here giving us the two-part Bremen in 63:10 and the single Lausanne set in 64:53. B+(***) [sp]

A Moi La Liberté: Early Electronic Raï, Algerie 1983-90 (1983-90 [2023], Serendip Lab): Algerian folk music, electrified during the 1980s, spreading from Oran to Paris, accelerated by the civil war (1991-2002), during which several singers became international stars. For me, the introduction was Earthworks 1988 sampler, Rai Rebels, followed by individual albums by Cheb Khaled, Chaba Fadela, and others. This goes a bit earlier, perhaps a bit deeper. B+(***) [bc]

Wes Montgomery: The Complete Full House Sessions (1962 [2023], Craft, 2CD): Hugely influential jazz guitarist, cut this album live at Tsubo in Berkeley, California, released in 1962 with six songs, 43:14, with one of his strongest groups: Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). The 1987 CD picked up three alternate takes, and a 2007 reissue found a few more. This adds a couple more, giving us 14 takes of the original six songs. B+(***) [sp]

Tell Everybody! 21st Century Juke Joint Blues From Easy Eye Sound (2017-23 [2023], Easy Eye Sound): Blues label sampler, label founded by Dan Auerbach (Black Keys) in Nashville, major find to date has been Robert Finley, with most of the artists here not even represented by albums (as far as I can tell; dating previously released songs is also hard, but I did find a couple). B+(**) [sp]

Old music:

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes: Cypress Grove (2019, Easy Eye Sound): 72-year-old blues singer-guitarist from Bentonia, Mississippi, inherited the Blue Front Cafe ("on the Mississippi Blues Trail") from his parents, but only started recording in 2006. Wrote three (of eleven) songs here, his favorite cover source Skip James. B+(***) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Rickie Lee Jones (1979, Warner Bros.): Singer-songwriter, first album, led off with a memorable jive single, "Chuck E's in Love," which took the album platinum, and finished in top 25 in Pazz & Jop that year -- I was reminded of this, because it's the only one of the top-40 I missed hearing. She's had a steady career ever since, but her sales declined, with nothing after album four (1989) charting top-100. B+(*) [sp]

Rickie Lee Jones: Pirates (1981, Warner Bros.): Second album, also went top-ten but the singles stiffed. She does manage to generate some swing on the title cut, but the credits she should have gotten more (rhythm from Victor Feldman, Russell Ferrante, Chuck Rainey, Steve Gadd; horn spots from Randy Brecker, David Sanborn, and Tom Scott; Donald Fagen on synth). B [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Adam Forkelid: Turning Point (Prophone) [03-05]
  • Dave Rempis/Tashi Dorji Duo: Gnash (Aerophonic) [06-25]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Speaking of Which

Started this mid-week, but spent most of two days working on that stupid DownBeat Jazz Critics Poll, so I'm picking it up again Saturday afternoon.

Late Sunday evening I pretty much completed my rounds, but still wanted to circle back and write something about Jonathan Chait and "punching left," so figured that could wait for Monday. That'll probably push Music Week back another day, but in times like these, who care about that? (With a normal cutoff, rated count would have been +52.)

One thing I did manage to do was to spend some time reviewing, ostensibly to catch accumulated formatting errors, but the exercise let me write some section intros and identify some places where I should seek out more reports. I'm always in such a rush to get this over and done with that I rarely consider how much better it could be with a little editing.

I wound up spending much of Monday on the long Chait comment. That lead to a couple other section, but no time for a significant review. On to Music Week tomorrow. Perhaps there will be a few minor updates here as well, but don't expect much next week.

Initial count: 228 links, 11661 words. Updated count [03-15]: 238 links, 12105 words.

Top story threads:


Israel and America: The relationship got rockier as Israel rejected a cease-fire/hostage deal Biden was banking on, and insisted on going through with their ground operations in Rafah, where many refuges from elsewhere in Gaza had fled. Biden, in turn, held back certain arms shipments, leading Israel to turn up domestic pressure on American politicians.

Israel vs. world opinion: Includes reports on US campus protests/encampments, sometimes met with police violence as Israel would rather suppress dissent than to face criticism.

Antisemitism: Looks like we have enough this week to break this out separately, especially the notion that any criticism of Israel, even for crimes against humanity as grave as genocide, should be rejected as promoting anti-semitism. So says a bill passed a week ago by the House, a view that Biden embraced in his big Holocaust Museum speech.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Alex Abad-Santos: [05-08] Eurovision is supposed to be fun and silly. This year is different. "Eurovision doesn't want to be about Israel-Palestine, but amid protests and boycotts, it might not have a choice."

Sam Adler-Bell: [05-06] Between victory and defeat: "How can the left escape burnout?" Review of Hannah Proctor: Burnout: The Emotional Experience of Political Defeat.

Perry Bacon Jr/Kate Cohen/Shadi Hamid: [05-09] Are politics replacing religion in American life? "And what is gained and lost as our country stops going to churches, synagogues and mosques?"

Claire Biddles: [05-10] Steve Albini believed in a democratic music industry: Albini (1962-2024), who was best known as an engineer and rock producer, died last week. Here's a discogrpaphy.

  • Amanda Petrusich: [05-11] The beautiful rawness of Steve Albini.

  • Steve Albini: [1993-12] The problem with music: "Imagine a trench filled with decaying shit." An old article, belatedly pointed out to me. Very technical on how the business works, or worked then. No real idea how much it has changed. Well, the technology is probably better/cheaper, but the economics are unlikely to be any less brutal. Self-releasing and -promoting is one path increasingly taken.

Jonathan Chait: [05-10] In defense of punching left: The problem with 'Solidarity': Less a review of than a polemic against the recent book by Leah Hunt-Hendrix & Astra Taylor: Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. I bought the book, and will get to it in due course, but I hardly needed them to caution me against "punching left" or especially to point out that Chait is a prime example of a liberal pundit who seems to show much more passion and take much more delight in not merely criticizing but flat-out attacking the left than he ever shows when he reacts to the right. He's far from alone in this regard, and he's nowhere near the worst, but I've had to call him on it numerous times of late. It happens often enough I could probably collect the cases and turn them into a full essay like the Anti-Dühring.

I don't have the appetite to attempt that here, but can't help but leave a few scattered notes. First thing to point out is that here, at least, he is careful to present well-organized and respectable arguments. He is very clear on what he believes. Even where I disagree, I find no reason to doubt his sincerity or integrity. I do have some doubts about his characterization of the book and of the left in general. I haven't read this one, but I've read most of Taylor's books, and have rarely found fault in them, and often been impressed by her brilliance. As for the rest of the left, there is a wide range of reasonable opinion, especially as you move away from the core principle, which is that we favor equality and mutual aid, and oppose hierarchy and forced order.

A personal aside may be in order here. My politics firmed up in the late 1960s when, largely driven by opposition to the Vietnam War, I discovered the New Left -- which had no truck with the old left, but still embraced core left principles, and came equipped with a sophisticated critique of capitalism, its liberal ideology, its conservative detritus, and its fascist activists. Within the New Left, I was relatively sympathetic to anarcho-libertarians (probably because I had absorbed some of the hyper-individualism and anti-statism that ran deep in the American West) but I also had a keen sense of the value of unions and solidarity (my father was in the union, although he was not very heroic about it). I've been pretty consistent in those views for more than fifty years, but I've evolved in several respects. The most relevant here is that I've become more tolerant of well-intentioned liberals -- except when they go to work for the war party (as Chait did in endorsing the Bush war in Iraq).

One suspicious thing Chait writes here is this:

One important distinction between the two tendencies is that liberals tend to understand policy as a search for truth and politics as a struggle to bring a majority around to their position, while leftists understand politics as a conflict to mobilize the political willpower to implement the objective interests of the oppressed.

Leaving the first clause aside for the moment, the second is equally true of conservatives if you replace "oppressed" with "rich and powerful." It's less clear what the replacement would be for liberals, but it's probably something more self-interested than "truth." Historically, liberals fought against aristocracy by appealing to universal benefits as rights -- probably what Chait meant by "truth" back there -- but as they gained power, they started to find they had more common bonds with the owners, who tempted them to turn on the workers. This habit of "punching left" emerged as early as the revolutions of 1848, where workers supported liberal challenges to aristocracy and autocracy, only to be betrayed.

The left is no less concerned with truth than liberals think they are, but we do have cause to be wary of people who spout high-minded rhetoric but don't deliver results beyond their own elite aspirations. We don't deplore "punching left" because we're thin-skinned and unwilling to debate reason, but because we see it as a signal to the right that liberals are happy to serve the right by marginalizing and controlling the left.

And please note here that under "punching left" I'm not talking about airing out differences over tactics -- the ever-roiling debates over when to compromise on what and with whom -- or even over principles. I'm talking about cases where liberals like Chait deliberately distort arguments to support right-wing programs and to impugn the integrity and principles (and sometimes even sanity) of the left. For example, Chait writes:

An additional problem is that each activist issue-group can itself be pulled left quickly by its most committed members. (The stakes for staying on good terms with the left on Israel have quickly escalated from opposing the occupation to opposing Israel's existence in any form to, increasingly, refusing to condemn the murder of Israeli civilians). The dynamic is magnified when every component of the left is expected to endorse the demands of every other.

The parenthetical is essential here, as a cascading series of ridiculous assertions backed by nothing more than the escalating torrent of rhetoric. As someone, typically of people on the left, opposed to war, I certainly condemn the murder of Israeli citizens; likewise, I have no problem whatsoever with an Israel that provides equal rights to everyone who lives there (or for that matter who has a reasonable claim to return there); and my one complaint on the occupation is that it deprives people of those equal rights -- one might imagine a counterfactual where occupation of the West Bank might have afforded Palestinians more equitable rights than they enjoyed under the Jordanian monarchy, but that is not what Israel did ever since the 1967 war.

The before and after sentences are simply Chait's way of complaining that extreme-leftists use "solidarity" as a means of ever-radicalizing thought control, driving them away from the "truth" and "enlightenment" of his pristine liberalism. That he refuses to be bullied like that is, well, respectable, but that he thinks that's what is happening is paranoid and more than a little vile. Maybe the old CP had that kind of disciplined followers, but today's left is as scattered and unorganizable as Will Rogers' Democrats. I take it that the point of Solidarity (the book) is to try to convince people that a little effort at coherence would be of practical value, but I find it impossible to believe that veterans of Occupy Wall Street open democracy meetings -- David Graeber wrote about them in The Democracy Project -- can fancy themselves as the new bolsheviks. (The only "new bolsheviks" are whoever's crafting right-wing talking points these days -- it used to be Grover Norquist's weekly roundtable -- which are then picked up and dutifully repeated by Fox News, politicians, social media, and whoever else is on the party line.)

PS: Even before I finished the above, Chait attacked again: [05-13] No, your pet issue is not making Biden lose: "It's inflation, not Israel or class warfare." Chait and Ed Kilgore (see his article above) are like tag-team wrestlers, jumping in one after another with their assertions that hardly anyone really cares about genocide in Gaza, so, like, nothing to look at here, just "the desire of a tiny number of left-wing activists to leverage the issue," and that "siding with the unpopular protesters would not address the source of Biden's unpopularity." (Bill Scher is another one, over at Washington Monthly.)

The question of why Biden is so unpopular is complicated and, as far as I can tell, poorly understood by anyone (myself included). But I can tell you two things of which I am fairly certain.

One is that even being proximate to a disaster leaves you with an odor that is hard to shake, and there is no way to spin any possible outcome of Israel/Gaza as anything but a disaster. Everyone involved looks bad, some for what they did, some for what they didn't do, some for just witnessing, the rest for ignoring the obvious. Israel has set impossible goals for itself, and even if they could achieve those goals, they wouldn't solve their problem, which is ultimately that they've turned their whole country, and everyone associated with them, into a colossal embarrassment. It's going to take decades, and that means decades of new people, to recover. Biden will never erase this stain from his reputation. All he can do now is to change course, and start to make amends.

The other thing is that, unlike inflation or class warfare, Israel is something he can actually do something about. Israel cannot afford to continue this war, at this level, without American support, and Biden can stop that. Netanyahu has a very weak hold on power, and Biden can nudge him down and out. Israel's leadership may be evil, but they're not stupid. They can see there's no way out of this. They're just playing on borrowed time, because no one has stepped in to put an end to this insanely horrible war. But Biden can do that. And the real problem with Chait, Kilgore, et al., is that they're trying to give Biden cover, allowing him to waste time and dig himself an ever deeper grave. This has turned into the world's deadliest "Emperor's New Clothes" parable. If you can't see that, all I can do is pity you.

And while writing these last paragraphs, this tweet came in:

  • David Klion: Speaking for myself at least, I am not happy about this. I do not want Trump to be president again, and I do believe he would be worse in all respects including on Palestine. That's why I've been sounding the alarm about Biden's indefensible approach to Palestine for 7 months.

Steve Chawkins/Hailey Branson-Potts: [05-08] Pete McCloskey, antiwar candidate who took on Nixon, dies at 96. I remember when he was first elected to the House, and quickly established himself as one of the Republicans' firmest opponents of the Vietnam War.

Bryce Covert: [04-09] The toxic culture at Tesla: "The factory floors at America's top seller of electric vehicles are rife with racial harassment, sexual abuse, and injuries on the job."

Thomas B Edsall: [05-08] The happiness gap between left and right isn't closing: "Why is it that a substantial body of social science research finds that conservatives are happier than liberals?" This isn't a new discovery (or should I say conceit, as it's invariably advanced by conservatives?): the article here links back to a 2012 piece by Arthur C Brooks: Why conservatives are happier than liberals, and more recently to Ross Douthat: [04-06] Can the left be happy?. (Liberals and leftists may well concede the point as individuals but point to studies of whole societies, which always show that more people are happier in more equitable societies.) Steve M asks the key question on the Edsall piece: If right-wingers are happy, why are they so angry?

Edsall devotes most of his lengthy column to the question of whether liberals are miserable because they think the world treats certain groups poorly. He seems to agree that that's the case.

He points out that conservatives also have problems with the world as it is. However, they don't turn sad -- they just get angry: [examples]

So research suggests that they're angrier than liberals, but they're also happier than liberals. Edsall seems to accept the notion it's possible to stew in anger while feeling quite happy.

So, why not? Don't people get some kind of adrenalin rush out of fighting? Even I got some kind of charge as the anti-genocide demonstrations turned more confrontational. And while I perhaps should be worried about the repression, it mostly just makes me want to fight back. It's not that I don't understand the dialectics of violence and non-violence well enough, but one does get sick and tired of being lectured that "when they go low, we go high." That doesn't seem fair.

Right-wingers seem to be able to escape the inhibitions of reason and taste, and just indulge their passions. They've found a way to take pleasure in other people's pain. We're not like that. We can anticipate, and rue, consequences of our actions. We see problems before they're widely acknowledged, and sure, that makes us sad -- especially given the blissful ignorance of those who fancy themselves as conservatives (or, back when I was growing up, as establishment liberals) -- but it also makes us determined, and that requires us to temper the anger that comes with recognizing injustice. But humans are wired to pursue happiness, so sometimes we do that too. And when that does happen, forgive us. We mean well, and would do better if only we weren't so often confronted with happy-angry mobs who hate us and most everyone else.

Abdallah Fayyad: [05-06] America's prison system is turning into a de facto nursing home: "Why are more and more older people spending their dying years behind bars?"

Jacqui Germain: [05-13] Student debt stories: High interest, debt strikes, generational debt, and more.

Constance Grady: [05-07] Why the Met Gala still matters: "Turns out the first Monday in May is the perfect value for celebrity image-making." I generally like Vox's "explainers," not least because they offer a suitably balanced hook upon which to hang more specific articles. But whatever degree of wry amusement this hideous event may have held for me in the past, that moment has long passed.< By the way:/p>

Aljean Harmetz: [05-12] Roger Corman, 98, dies; prolific master of low-budget cinema.

John Herrman: [05-05] Google is staring down its first serious threats in years. Subheds: A monopoly at risk; The AI search dilemma; Search is a nightmare now.

Harold Meyerson: [05-06] Who created the Israel-Palestine conflict? "It wasn't really Jews or Palestinians. It was the US Congress, which closed American borders 100 years ago this month." Blaming the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 is kind of a cheap shot, but bear with him. Before 1914, 85% of Jewish emigres moved to the US, vs. 3% to Palestine. After 1924, the number of Jewish immigrants to the US fell, as the bill designed, to a trickle.

Nicole Narea: [05-12] America's misunderstood border crisis, in 8 charts: "For all the attention on the border, the root causes of migration and the most promising solutions to the US's broken immigration system are often overlooked."

By the way, this is just a stray thought that occurred to me and seemed worth jotting down -- although I can't begin to do it justice here. The US immigration system covers two distinct cases, and their mix does much to confuse the issue. On the one hand, we have immigrants seeking opportunities (mostly economic), coming from stable and even wealthy nations as well as more troubled ones (from which the advantages may seem more obvious). On the other, we have refugees seeking asylum. In theory, the latter could be just as happy somewhere (anywhere?) else. As one of the charts here shows, applications for asylum have trended up since 2014 (except for a 2020-21 Covid dip, but sharply thereafter), so they're a bit part of why immigration (especially "the border") has become a hot blowback issue.

If we actually had, or wanted, some kind of "rules-based international order," a pretty simple way of dealing with the global refugee problem would be to implement a "pay-or-play" scheme, where rich countries could pay poorer countries -- presumably that's the way it would actually work -- to provide sanctuary as needed. Refugees would have rights, including an option of applying for legal immigration to any country willing to consider them. The expense would provide some motivation to negotiate terms for returning refugees, and for curtailing the wars and discriminatory processes that generate most refugees, as well as economic and climate impacts. If we do nothing to better manage migration, the latter will almost certainly make the current crisis even worse.

I'm not a big fan of "pay-or-play" schemes, but they're relatively flexible, easy to implement, minimally intrusive. It could partly be funded by imposing taxes on trade and/or currency of countries producing refugees, which would give them incentive to treat their people better and stop driving them away. This would also be a start toward a much needed system of capital transfers from rich to poor countries, and could provide a framework for equalizing labor markets -- the EU has been a pioneer in both -- but wouldn't require buy in from the start.

I should also mention that I've long been pushing the idea of a "right to exile," which would provide a safety valve for people in countries that are prone to mistreating their people. That would allow anyone who is being incarcerated or punished to appeal to go into exile, provided there is another country willing to accept that person. Again, many details need to be hashed out, and universal agreement will be take some work -- e.g., such a right would almost certainly empty Guantanamo; the US regularly complains about people it thinks are being detained unjustifiably, but also practices what it preaches against.

Nathan J Robinson:

Kenny Torrella:

Dan Weiss: [05-06] The definitive guide to hating Drake: "Enjoy the rap battle of the century, because we've never seen anything like this before." I don't doubt that he's right, but I've never ran across a rap feud I couldn't ignore before, and it saddens me should prove the exception. I am minimally aware that many critics dislike Drake (with at least some sinking into hate). I've heard most of his records, though his early ones sounded promising, his later ones not so much, but I've never heard reason to rail against him. Part of that may be because I'm pretty oblivious to popular success, and barely cognizant of celebrity gossip press -- I gather he's had quite a bit of both.

Colin Woodard: [04-06] Disordering our national myths: "The Founders, the Pioneers, the Movement, the Lost Cause -- the more driving myths one identifies, the more our true national character is obscured." Review of Richard Slotkin: A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America.

I'm midway through this book, and thus far I'm very impressed and pleased with what I've read on subjects I've read a lot on recently (as well as long ago). As for the reviewer's complaints, I'll have to withhold judgment, but for now I'm very skeptical of the notion that there is any such thing as "our true national character": these states may be united, but never without dissent, and many countercurrents run deep, mythologized or not. But intuitively, trying to understand current politics through its mythic dimensions makes a lot of sense to me.

PS: Reading further, I see that Woodard's unhappiness derives in large part from his own competing theory, which he lays out in his own book Union: The Struggle to Forge the Story of United States Nationhood, where his "different paradigm" reduces the story to "a struggle between two national myths," so between uplifting faith in liberal democracy and the dead weight of slavery, racism, and authoritarianism. (Here's a review by David W Blight.) Slotkin's "disorder" is due to his attempt to trace more mythic threads, and show how they're used by later politicians (Trump, of course, but also Obama) like a readymade toolkit.

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Monday, May 6, 2024

Music Week

May archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 42249 [42200] rated (+49), 29 [31] unrated (-2).

Pretty substantial Speaking of Which last night, updated today to 208 links, 12085 words. Mostly got the updates from Twitter and Facebook, which I hadn't had much time for in the crush.

I'll forego any attempt at an introduction here, hoping to get this up before the storm line hits (6-7 PM CDT). No reports of tornadoes in Kansas yet, but there are some in Oklahoma, and that's where this is coming from.

One note I will make is that I've refined the problem with Cox email a bit more. It now looks like any email that I send with any HTML link to is generating the AUP#CXSNDR error. I'm curious whether any email from other domains with links to my website are generating similar errors. I need to do some research on email block lists, and how to fight them. Cox is pretty useless, and they're working to dump all of their email customers on Yahoo, which seems to have an even worse reputation. For now, I'm avoiding the problem by watching what I say.

New records reviewed this week:

Melissa Aldana: Echoes of the Inner Prophet (2024, Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Chile, seventh album since 2010, second on Blue Note, quintet with piano (Fabian Almazan), guitar (Lage Lund), bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Karrin Allyson: A Kiss for Brazil (2023 [2024], Origin): Jazz singer, originally from Kansas but she's given her heart to Brazil, and she's credible enough for this native Kansan. Cover notes Rosa Passos as "special guest," but credits only show two vocals and one rhythm guitar track. The essential guitarist is Yotam Silberstein, with Harvie S on bass, Vitor Gonçalves keyboards, and Rafael Barrata percussion. B+(**) [cd] [05-17]

Roxana Amed: Becoming Human (2024, Sony Music Latin): Jazz singer from Argentina, half-dozen albums since 2004, based in US since 2013, originals in English and Spanish, backed by piano (Martin Bejerano), sax (Mark Small), trombone (Kendall Moore), bass, and drums. One choice cut here is "We Built a Home," which reminds me of Roswell Rudd and Sheila Jordan. B+(***) [cd]

Byron Asher's Skrontch Music: Lord, When You Send the Rain (2022 [2024], Sinking City): Clarinetist, originally from Maryland, based in New Orleans since 2011, group name from a 2019 album, credit here is "reeds," same for three others, brass section is cornet-trombone-sousaphone, rhythm piano-bass-drums-live electronics. B+(**) [bc]

Black Lives: People of Earth (2024, Jammin' Colors): A "large and humanistic ensemble" combining musicians from "the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe," bassist Reggie Washington seems to have been the catalyst, assembling the album Black Lives: From Generation to Generation in 2021 in response to the Black Lives Matter demonstrations. He took the evolving group on tour of Europe in 2022-23, and they returned with this second album. Mostly names I recognize, but too many to list here (start with Cheick Tidiane Seck and Immanuel Wilkins, with seven more vocals/spoken word artists). B+(***) [sp]

Carsie Blanton: After the Revolution (2024, self-released): American singer-songwriter, based in New Orleans, albums since 2005, lefty politics, no complaints from me on that score, but I wish there more songs like "Cool Kids" I don't have to think about. B+(***) [sp]

Carsie Blanton: The Red Album Vol. 1 (2024, self-released, EP): Six songs, 13:25, first appeared as a thing (I think) as a bonus CD packed along with the LP of After the Revolution, though it may have had some virtual existence earlier -- "Rich People" has reportedly "gone viral," which Blanton herself claims didn't earn her a dime. Jazzy, explicitly political (first two songs are "Ugly Nasty Commie Bitch" and "You Ain't Done Nothing (If You Ain't Been Called a Red", but the one about "Democrats" shooting in you in the back hits ever harder. I don't know whether she wrote or found them, but I'd like to hear more. B+(***) [yt]

Cedric Burnside: Hill Country Love (2024, Provogue): Blues singer-songwriter, grandson of R.L. Burnside, his debut was their 2001 Burnside on Burnside, started as a drummer but plays guitar here, as does Luther Dickinson. B+(**) [sp]

Nicola Caminiti: Vivid Tales of a Blurry Self-Portrait (2022 [2024], self-released): Italian saxophonist (alto/soprano), born in Messina, several side credits from 2018 but this appears to be his first album leading. Quartet with piano (Lex Korten), bass (Ben Tiberiti), and drums (Miguel Russell). Impressive. B+(***) [cd] [05-10]

James Carter: Un (Unaccompanied Baritone Saxophone) (2023 [2024], J.M.I.): Originally a tenor saxophonist, emerged as a prodigiuos star in the 1990s, but (unlike David Murray, similarly dominant in the 1980s) allowed himself to be limited by major labels with their focus on fewer, fancier releases, and struggled when the labels dried up on him -- he has little to show under his own name since his last EmArcy in 2011 (other than a 2018 Organ Trio as his one shot on Blue Note). But he's still working, still impressive when he gets an airing. Along the way, he picked up every other saxophone, and developed enough of a reputation for baritone that that's the one slot he regularly places high in DownBeat's polls. Hence this solo album, eight tracks, 41:06, pretty much as awesome and aggravating as you'd expect. B+(**) [sp]

Yelena Eckemoff: Romance of the Moon (2023 [2024], L&H Production): Russian pianist, moved to US in 1991, got into jazz and has recorded regularly since 2010. Very nice quintet, "inspired by the poems of Federico Garcia Lorca," recorded in Italy with Paolo Fresu (trumpet), Riccardo Bertozzi (guitar), Luca Bulgarelli (bass), and Stefano Bagnoli (drums). B+(***) [cd] [05-10]

Nicole Glover: Plays (2024, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, from Oregon, First Record self-released in 2015, this is her second on Savant, trio with Tyrone Allen and Kayvon Gordon plus guest Steve Nelson (vibes). Found line fits: "a deep, rich tone, but also lots of modern edges." Opens strong, but holds you with ballads. A- [sp]

Aaron Yale Heisler: Zoot's Soprano EP [Alternate Takes and Remixes From the Bechet Century] (2022-23 [2024], Bathurst Manor, EP): Guitarist, from Toronto, released an album called The Bechet Century in 2023, on the 100th anniversary of the soprano saxophonist's first recordings. Solo guitar with some vocals, mostly leftovers, nine tracks, 20:49, not that close to the model anyway (or maybe I just have trouble imaging Bechet without his rhythm?). B [sp]

Aaron Yale Heisler: Guitar Sketches (Toronto 2008-24) (2008-24 [2024], Bathurst Manor): Solo guitar again, with a bit of vocal, did a Sidney Bechet tribute last time, adds Charles Gayle to his list of inspirations, which he handles in a uniquely low-key way. B+(***) [sp]

Jazz at the Ballroom: Flying High: Big Band Canaries Who Soared (2024, Jazz at the Ballroom): Standards from the big band era, open with an instrumental "On the Sunny Side of the Street," followed by fourteen songs by six vocalists: Gretje Angel, Carmen Bradford, Olivia Chindamo, Jane Monheit, Vanessa Perea, and Champian Fulton, who plays piano throughout, leading two bass-drums trios. B+(***) [cd]

Dawn Landes: The Liberated Woman's Songbook (2024, Fun Machine Music): Folkie singer-songwriter, debut 2005, moved from Kentucky to NYC to North Carolina, found these eleven songs, going as far back as 1830, in a book published in 1971, and finds them "as timely today as they were then." B+(**) [sp]

Lauren Alaina: Unlocked (2023, Big Loud, EP): Country singer-songwriter, from Georgia, real name continues: Kristine Suddeth, had a run on American Idol at 17, got her an album that year (2011), two more since (one I panned), now this credible-sounding six song, 18:40 EP. Sample: "you ain't in the heels she's walkin' in, so don't judge a book by its cover." B+(**) [sp]

Li'l Andy: The Complete Recordings of Hezekiah Procter (1925-1930) (2022, Back-to-Wax): This is the work of Canadian Andrew McClellan, touted as "Montreal's best country songwriter," his music as "roots-based Americana that actually deserves to be made." Procter is a fiction, the hero of the singer's debut novel, who not only wrote all of this "two-disc, 29-song box set" (ok, not all -- not "Lovesick Blues," and I'm not sure what else), but took pains to get the primitive sound by recording it on a 1937-vintage Webster-Chicago wire recorder (with eleven songs also recorded on a Tascam 38 half-inch analog tape machine, if you care to compare). I'm quite impressed, but also a bit overwhelmed, and not having the box leaves me tempted to hedge a bit. B+(***) [sp]

Dua Lipa: Radical Optimism (2024, Warner): Albanian, moved to London to model, switched to dance-pop for her multi-platinum 2017 debut, third album preceded by the breakout single "Houdini." Eleven snappy, upbeat songs, just fine for 36:35. A- [sp]

Lloyiso: Seasons (2023, Universal, EP): South African singer-songwriter, Loyiso Gijana, singles since 2018, first album but just seven songs, 23:02, slow, soulful ballads. B+(*) [sp]

Leyla McCalla: Sun Without the Heat (2024, Anti-): Folk singer-songwriter, born in New York, raised in New Jersey, parents from Haiti, played cello and banjo in Carolina Chocolate Drops and Our Native Daughters, fifth solo album. But doesn't folk music need some roots to locate itself? I'm not sure I recognize any here, which may make it more interesting but less immediately satisfying. For that, you need the message. Title expands to "you want the crops without the plow/ you want the rain without the thunder/ you want the ocean without the roar of its waters, can't have the sun without the heat"; also: "And there's so much wrong/ only we can change ourselves." And finally: "I want to believe in the light/ I have been given." A- [sp]

Charles McPherson: Reverence (2023 [2024], Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, started with Charles Mingus and Barry Harris in 1961, first album as leader was Bebop Revisited! (1965), has worked steadily ever since, recording this date at 83, still revisiting bebop, with Terell Stafford (trumpet), Jeb Patton (piano), David Wong (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). Ends with his "Ode to Barry." B+(***) [sp]

Mdou Moctar: Funeral for Justice (2024, Matador): Multiple sources refer to artist as a band, but name started as an alias for its leader, a Tuareg guitarist-singer from Niger, Mahamadou Souleymane, with albums starting on Sahel Sounds in 2013, then breaking out on American indie label Matador in 2021, with this one racking up a Metacritic 91 from 12 reviews in its first week. Reviews use words like "incendiary" and "blazing," which make me wonder how long they've been following. B+(***) [sp]

Mike Monford: The Cloth I'm Cut From (2021 [2024], self-released): Alto saxophonist, with spoken word, from Detroit (I gather; sorry but I can't read anything on the CD, and I'm not doing much better with the hype sheet). Website adds Composer and Jazz Historian, and notes "over 30 years to practicing, performing, and experimenting with the universal language of music," but I'm only seeing one previous album. This one is billed as "a musical autobiography," a live set most certainly, because that's where social music comes from. Special credit for the violin solos. A- [cd] [05-04]

Mute: After You've Gone (2021 [2024], Endectomorph Music): Quartet of Kevin Sun (C melody sax/clarinet/suona), Christian Li (piano), Jeonglim Yang (bass), Dayeon Seok (drums); second album, song credits scattered, including a standard for the title, a nice touch. B+(***) [cdr] [05-13]

Pierrick Pédron/Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Pedron Rubalcaba (2022 [2023], Gazebo): French alto saxophonist, dozen-plus albums since 2001, duets with the Cuban pianist, who started in the 1980 with Orquesta Aragón and has long been based in Florida. Nice mix and match here. B+(***) [sp]

Jeremy Pelt: Tomorrow's Another Day (2024, Highnote): Trumpet player, debut 2002, a regular on this label since 2010, mainstream player with considerable chops, calls this his "most experimental recording to-date." That involves electric as well as acoustic bass (Leighton McKinley Harrell) and keyboards (Frank LoCastro), with vibes (Jalen Baker) and drums (Allan Mednard or Deantoni Parks). B+(*) [sp]

Pet Shop Boys: Nonetheless (2024, Parlophone): Fifteenth studio album, since 1986. Formula by now, but it's a great formula, dancey and dreamy, clever and profound, their best in some time, most likely. A- [sp]

Jeanfrançois Prins: Blue Note Mode (2024, GAM): Belgian guitarist, debut 1993 with Judy Niemack, "sharing his time between NYC and Berlin for over 20 years," moved back to Brussels in 2016. Sees this as a tribute marking the 85th anniversary of the Blue Note label, "the centennial of Rudy Van Gelder, and the 65th anniversary of his mythical studio." So he convened a hard bop revival -- Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Jaleel Shaw (alto sax), Danny Grissett (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and E.J. Strickland (drums) -- mediated with guitar. B+(**) [sp]

Tutu Puoane: Wrapped in Rhythm, Vol. 1 (2023 [2024], SoulFactory): South African singer-songwriter, based in Brussels, debut album 2007, lyrics taken from South African poet Lebo Mashile's anthology, In a Ribbon of Rhythm. Band is mostly Belgian, plus Larry Goldings (organ). B+(*) [sp]

Xavier Richardeau: A Caribbean Thing (2023, Continuo Jazz): French baritone/soprano saxophonist, albums back to 1996, seventh per Discogs, joined here by Jocelyn Ménard (tenor sax) and a suitably evocative rhythm section. B+(*) [sp]

Luke Stewart Silt Trio: Unknown Rivers (2022-23 [2024], Pi): Bassist, works in a number of DC-based groups, most notably Irreversible Entanglements. Second Silt Trio album, with Brian Settles (tenor sax) and either Trae Crudup or Chad Taylor on drums (second half here is a live set with Taylor). A- [cd]

Rosie Tucker: Utopia Now! (2024, Sentimental): Singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, fifth album since 2015, alt-rock guitar with some hook craft. B+(**) [sp]

Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Exuberance (2021 [2024], self-released): Second album, 22-piece orchestra. Nominally a love story, with the final song featuring lyrics by Zuar's wife Anne, sung by Emma Frank. B+(**) [cd] [05-11]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Afrika Muye Muye! Tanzanian Rumba & Muziki Wa Dansi 1968-1970 (1968-70 [2023], Recordiana): South African reprint label, ventures into Tanzania for a narrowly sourced but quite pleasant "dance music" (to translate the Swahili) collection: six groups, 17 songs (5 by Nuta Jazz). B+(***) [bc]

Les Belgicains: Na Tango Ya Covadia 1964-70 (1964-70 [2024], Covadia): Covadia was a Belgian label founded by Nikiforos Cavvadias, a Greek who had produced records in Congo for the Ngoma label. In Belgium, he organized groups of Congolese students, releasing singles, a selection of which are featured in this revived label sampler. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Carmen Bradford: Home With You (2004, Azica): Jazz singer, daughter of trumpet player Bobby Bradford, her grandfather, Melvin Moore, sang with big bands and the Ink Spots in the 1940s. She has a half-dozen albums since 1992, following side credits with Count Basie and Benny Carter, but I didn't really notice her until the Jazz at the Ballroom album. This is the only album of hers I could stream. She's accompanied here by pianist Shelly Berg. Remarkable voice, a bit strained here, and not really the ideal set of songs and support (though this does have its moments) -- but I'd like to hear more. B+(**) [sp]

Dicks: These People/Peace? (1984-85 [2012], Alternative Tentacles): Austin-based punk band, recorded two albums 1983-85, plus some singles and EPs -- this tacks a three-track EP from 1984 onto their second album. I decided to check this out after leader Gary Floyd's death -- superb jazz critic Tim Niland named their first album, Kill From the Heart (1983), as an all-time favorite, but I already had it at B+(***). Choice cut is from the EP: "No Fuckin' War." B+(***) [sp]

Dicks: 1980-1986 (1980-86 [2010], Alternative Tentacles): Career-spanning compilation, starts with their first single ("Dicks Hate the Police"), samples their two albums (5 and 6 tracks), their 1984 EP ("No Fuckin' War" and "I Hope You Get Drafted"), plus some previously unreleased tracks. Total: 21 songs, 51:23, which can get a bit excessive. B+(**) [sp]

Nicole Glover & Nic Cacioppo: Literature (2020, self-released?): Tenor sax and drums duo, 14 pieces in 30:32, not her first album (that was 2015, titled First Record), also not in any discography I can find (but does appear on a couple of streaming sites), so I'm guessing here. What I do know is that she grew up in Portland; studied at William Patterson in NJ; "is on the faculty at Manhattan School of Music, Princeton University, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music"; plays in Christian McBride's quintet and in "supergroup" Artemis; has two later albums on Savant; and gets confused by Google with "a writer of historical fantasy and other speculative fiction" -- presumably a different Nicole Glover. This is considerably more free than her résumé suggests, but she clearly has the talent to go anywhere she wants. B+(***) [sp]

Nicole Glover: Strange Lands (2020 [2021], Savant): Tenor sax trio, with Daniel Duke (bass) and Nic Cacioppo (drums), plus "special guest" George Cables (piano) on four tracks (on one of those, the bass and drums drop out). Mostly a solid mainstream outing, but gets exciting for a couple stretches where they break free. B+(***) [sp]

Grand Kallé & African Jazz: Joseph Kabaselle and the Creation of Surboum African Jazz (1960-1963) (1960-63 [2021], Planet Ilunga): Congolese bandleader Kabaselle, aka Grand Kallé, led one of the first major soukous bands, its ranks including Dr. Nico, Rochereau, and Manu Dibango -- the latter evidently featured here. Surboum African Jazz was a label which released these singles and compiled them into albums in the 1970s. I'm not sure how these intersect with the later Sonodisc compilations, or the 2-CD Sterns set from 2013, Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music, which most likely is still the one to look for. B+(***) [bc]

Li'l Andy & Karaoke Cowboy: Home in Landfill Acres (2008, self-released): Montreal country singer-songwriter Andrew McClellan, first album, set in a (probably fictitious) town "where the straightened street meets the knotted pine." Not just trad, with pedal steel and such, but almost old-timey. B+(**) [sp]

Li'l Andy: All Who Thirst Come to the Waters (2010, self-released): Second album, still country but ventures into gospel in a dark vein. B+(*) [sp]

Li'l Andy: While the Engines Burn (2014, self-released): Third album, sounds less country but the concepts are rustic, one song dated 1917, another "Fin De Siècle," with several referencing trains and the cover picturing a smoke-belching, steam-driven tractor -- a massive engine with wheels. As a songwriter, he's starting to remind me of Sufjan Stevens, but not yet in a good way. B [sp]

Li'l Andy: All the Love Songs Lied to Us (2019, self-released): The country touches help, although it's all rather subtle, and seriously historical. B+(**) [sp]

Mike Monford: Perseverance (2012, self-released): Alto saxophonist from Detroit, first album although he must have some history to get to that title, not much to go on but Herb Boyd's liner notes, which identify Marc Cary (piano/organ), Tarus Mateen (bass), Steve Williams (drums), and Rayse Biggs (trumpet). Solid groove, with spiritual jazz flashes. B+(**) [sp]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Bobby Broom Organi-sation: Jamalot Live (Steele) [05-24]
  • Live Edge Trio With Steve Nelson: Closing Time (OA2) [05-17]
  • William Parker/Cooper-Moore/Hamid Drake: Heart Trio (AUM Fidelity) [06-21]
  • William Parker & Ellen Christi: Cereal Music (AUM Fidelity) [06-21]
  • Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra: Groove Junkies (Origin) [05-17]
  • Angela Verbrugge: Somewhere (OA2) [05-17]
  • Alan Walker: A Little Too Late (Aunt Mimi's) [06-28]
  • Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Good Trouble (Palmetto) [06-14]
  • Mark Winkler: The Rules Don't Apply (Cafe Pacific) [01-12]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Speaking of Which

Opened draft file on Thursday. First thing I thought I'd note was some weather stats here in Wichita, KS. High Wednesday was 89°F, which was 17° above "normal" but still 2° below the record high (from 1959; wild temperature swings from year to year are common here). Should be cooler on Thursday, but above average for the rest of the forecast.

Year-to-date precipitation is 5.48 in (well below 7.50 normal; average annual is 34.31, with May and June accounting for 10.10, so almost a third of that; last year was 3.29 at this point, finishing at 30.8). Year totals seem to vary widely: from 2010, the low was 25.0 (2012), the high 50.6 (2016), where the median is closer to 30 than to 35.

Growing degree days currently stands at 435, which is way up from "normal" of 190. That's a pretty good measure of how warm spring has been here. As I recall, last year was way up too, but the summer didn't get real hot until August. The global warming scenario predicts hotter and dryer. I figure every year we dodge that, we just got lucky. The more significant effect so far is that winters have gotten reliably milder (although we still seem to have at least one real cold snap), and that we're less likely to have tornados (which seem to have moved east and maybe south -- Oklahoma still gets quite a few).

I started to write up some thoughts about global warming, but got sidetracked on nuclear war: my initial stimulus was George Marshall's 2014 book, Don't Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, but when I groped for a title, all I came up with was Herman Kahn's "Thinking About the Unthinkable," so I did. I got eight pretty decent paragraphs in, without finding a way to approach my point.

The next thing I thought I'd do was construct a list of the books I had read on climate change, going over how each contributed to the evolution of my thought. But that proved harder than expected, and worse still, I found my thinking changing yet again. So I took a break. I went out back and planted some pole beans. My parents were displaced farmers, so they always kept a garden, and I remember their Kentucky Wonders as much better than any grocery store green beans. So I've had the model idea forever, but never acted on it before. No real idea what I'm doing, but when it's 89° on May 1, I'm certainly not planting too early.

I should have felt like I accomplished something, but I came back in feeling tired, frustrated, and depressed. I decided to give up on the global warming piece, and spent most of the rest of the day with the jigsaw puzzle and TV. Hearing that Congress passed a law banning criticism of Israel as antisemitic added to my gloom, as I contemplated having to take my blog down, as I can't imagine anything as trivial as publishing my thoughts being worth going to jail over.

But for the moment, I guess I can still publish the one new thought I did have about global warming, or more specifically about how people think about global warming. I've always meant to have a section on it in the political book -- it would be one of 5-8 topics I would examine as real problems. I'm constantly juggling the list, but it usually starts with technological change, which is the principal driver of change independent of politics, then on to macroeconomics, inequality, market failures (health care, education, monopolies), externalities (waste byproducts, not just climate change), something about justice issues (fraud, crime, freedom), and war (of course).

The purpose of the book isn't to solve all the world's problems. It's simply to help people think about one very limited problem, which is how to vote in a system where Democrats alone are held responsible for policy failures, and therefore need to deliver positive results. (Republicans seem to be exempt because they believe that government can only increase harm, whereas Democrats claim that government can and should do things to help people. Earlier parts of the book should explain this and other asymmetries between the parties.)

Anyhow, my new insight, which Marshall's book provides considerable support for without fully arriving at, is that climate change is not just a "wicked issue" (Marshall's term) but one that is impossible to campaign on. That's largely because the "hair suit" solutions are so broadly unappealing, but also because they are so inadequate it's hard to see how they can make any real difference. Rather, what Democrats have to run on is realism, care, respect, and trust.

Which, as should be obvious by now, is the exact opposite of what Republicans think and say and do. Showing that Republicans are acting in bad faith should be easy. What's difficult is offering alternatives that are effective but that don't generate resistance that makes their advocacy counterproductive -- especially given that the people who know and care most about this issue are the ones most into moralizing and doomsaying, while other Democrats are so locked into being pro-business that they'll fall for any promising business plan.

Obviously, there is a lot more to say on this subject -- probably much more than I can squeeze into a single chapter, let alone hint at here.

PS: Well after I wrote the above, but before posting Sunday evening, I find this: 40 million at risk of severe storms, "intense" tornadoes possible Monday. The red bullseye is just southwest of here, which is the direction tornadoes almost invariably come from. I'm not much worried about a tornado right here, but it's pretty certain there will be some somewhere, and that we'll get hit by a storm front with some serious wind and hail.

I'm also seeing this in the latest news feed: Wide gaps put Israel-Hamas hostage deal talks at risk of collapse, which is no big surprise since Netanyahu is making a deal as difficult as possible. Little doubt that he still rues that Israel didn't kill all the hostages before Hamas could sweep them away, as they've never been the slightest concern for him, despite the agitation of the families and media.

I saw a meme that a Facebook friend posted: "If you object to occupying buildings as a form of protest, it's because you disagree with the substance of the protest." He added the comment: "No, you don't have some rock-solid principle that setting up tents on grass is unacceptably disruptive to academic life. You just want people to continue giving money to Israel." I added this comment:

Not necessarily, but it does suggest that you do not appreciate the urgency and enormity of the problem, or that university administrators, who have a small but real power to add their voices to the calls for ceasefire, have resisted or at least ignored all less-disruptive efforts to impress on them the importance of opposing genocide and apartheid. This has, in its current red-hot phase, been going on for six months, during which many of us have been protesting as gently and respectfully as possible, as the situation has only grown ever more dire.

I was surprised to see the following response from the "friend":

Wait, what? It sounds like we're on the same side of this one. My post just points out that people critiquing the protest methods don't actually care about that and just oppose the actual goals of the protests.

To which I, well, had to add:

Sounds like we do, which shouldn't have come as a surprise had you read any of the thousands of words I've written on this in every weekly Speaking of Which I've posted since Oct. 7, on top of much more volume going back to my first blogging in 2001. I've never thought of myself as an activist, but I took part in antiwar protests in the 1960s and later, and have long been sympathetic to the dissents and protests of people struggling against injustice, even ones that run astray of the law -- going back to the Boston Tea Party, and sometimes even sympathizing with activists whose tactics I can't quite approve of, like John Brown (a distant relative, I've heard). While it would be nice to think of law as a system to ensure justice, it has often been a tool for oppression. Israel, for instance, adopted the whole of British colonial law so they could continue to use it to control Palestinians, while cloaking themselves in its supposed legitimacy (something that few other former British colonies, including the US, recognized). Now their lobbyists and cronies, as well as our homegrown authoritarians, are demanding that Americans suppress dissent as Israel has done since the intifada (or really since the first collective punishment raids into Gaza and the West Bank in 1951). Hopefully, Americans will retain a sufficient sense of decency to resist those demands. A first step would be to accept that the protesters are right, then forgive them for being right first. I'm always amused by the designation of leftist Americans in the 1930s as "premature antifascists." We should celebrate them, as we now celebrate revolutionary patriots, abolitionists, and suffragists, for showing us the way.

In another Facebook post, I see the quote: "Professional, external actors are involved in these protests and demonstrations. These individuals are not university students, and they are working to escalate the situation." This is NYPD commissioner Edward Caban, and is accurate as long as we understand he is describing the police. The posts pairs this quote with one from Gov. Jim Rhodes in 1970: "These people move from one campus to the other, and terrorize a community. They're the worst type of people that we harbor in America. These people causing the trouble are not all students of Kent State University." As I recall, the ones with guns, shooting people, were Ohio National Guard, sent into action by Gov. Rhodes.

More on Twitter:

  • Tony Karon: Israel's ban of Al Jazeera is 2nd time I've been part of a media organization banned by an apartheid regime. (1st was SA '88) I'm so proud of that! It's a sign of panic by those regimes at the their crimes being exposed, a whiff of the rot at the heart of their systems . . .

  • Jodi Jacobson: [Replying to a tweet that quotes Netanyahu: "if we don't protect ourselves, no one will . . . we cannot trust the promises of gentiles."] For the 1,000th time: Netanyahu Does. Not. Care. About. The. Hostages.
    He never did. They said so at the outset.
    He wants to continue this genocide and continue the war because without it, he will be out on his ass, and (hopefully) tried for war crimes.

  • Joshua Landis: Blinken and Romney explain that Congress's banning of TikTok was spurred by the desire to protect #Israel from the horrifying Gaza photos reaching America's youth that has been "changing the narrative."
    [Reply to a tweet with video and quote: "Why has the PR been so awful? . . . typically the Israelis are good at PR -- what's happened here, how have they and we been so ineffective at communicating the realities and our POV? . . . some wonder why there was such overwhelming support for us to shut down potentially TikTok."]

  • Nathan J Robinson: [Also reacting to the same Romney quote}: In this conversation, Romney also expresses puzzlement that people are directing calls for a cease-fire toward Israel rather than Hamas. He says people don't realize Hamas is rejecting deals. In fact, it's because people know full well that Israel refuses to agree to end the war.

    There's an incredibly unpersuasive effort to portray Hamas as "rejecting a ceasefire." When you read the actual articles, inevitably they say Hamas is rejecting deals that wouldn't end the war, and Israel refuses to budge on its determination to continue the war and destroy Hamas

    What Romney is really wondering, then, is how come Americans aren't stupid enough to swallow government propaganda. He thinks the public is supposed to believe whatever they're told to believe and is mystified that they are aware of reality.

  • Jarad Yates Sexton: [Reposted by Robinson, citing same Romney/Blinken confab]: This is an absolutely incredible, must-watch, all-timer of a clip.
    The Secretary of State admits social media has made it almost impossible to hide atrocities and a sitting senator agrees by saying outloud that was a factor in leveraging the power of the state against TikTok.

  • Yanis Varoufakis: Israel's banning of Al Jazeera is one aspect of its War On Truth. It aims at preventing Israelis from knowing that what goes on in Gaza, in their name, which is no self defence but an all out massacre. An industrial strength pogrom. Genocide. The West's determination to aid & abet Israel is a clear and present danger to freedoms and rights in our own communities. We need to rise up to defend them. In Israel, in our countries, everywhere!

    [PS: Varoufakis also pinned this tweet promoting his recent book, Technofeudalism, with a 17:20 video.]

Initial count: 192 links, 11,072 words. Updated count [05-06]: 208 links, 12,085 words.

Top story threads:

Israel: Before last October 7, a date hardly in need of identification here, I often had a section of links on Israel, usually after Ukraine/Russia and before the World catchall. Perhaps not every week, but most had several stories on Israel that seemed noteworthy, and the case is rather unique: intimately related to American foreign policy, but independent, and in many ways the dog wagging the American tail.

Oct. 7 pushed the section to the top of the list, where it has not only remained but metastasized. When South Africa filed its genocide charges, that produced a flurry of articles that needed their own section. It was clear by then that Israel is waging a worldwide propaganda war, mostly aimed at keeping the US in line, and that there was a major disconnect between what was happening in Gaza/Israel and what was being said in the UN, US, and Europe, so I started putting the latter stories into a section I called Israel vs. World Opinion (at first, it was probably just Genocide -- Robert Wright notes in a piece linked below that he is still reluctant to use the word, but I adopted it almost immediately, possibly because I had seriously considered the question twenty-or-so years ago, and while I had rejected it then, I had some idea of what changes might meet the definition).

I then added a section on America and the Middle East, which dealt with Israel's other "fronts" -- Iran and what were alleged to be Iranian proxies -- in what seemed to be an attempt to lure the US into broader military action in the Middle East, the ultimate goal of which might be a Persian Gulf war between the US and Iran, which would be great cover for Israel's primary objective, which is to kill or expel Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. (Israel's enmity with Iran has always had much more to do with manipulating American foreign policy than with their own direct concerns -- Trita Parsi's book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States explained this quite adequately in 2007. The only development since then is that the Saudis have joined the game of using America's Iran-phobia for leverage on America.) As threats there waxed and waned, I wound up renaming the section America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire, adding more stories on military misdeeds from elsewhere that would previously have fallen under Ukraine or World.

Now campus demonstrations have their own section, a spin-off but more properly a subset of genocide/world opinion. Needless to say, it's hard for me to keep these bins straight, especially when we have writers dropping one piece here, another there. So expect pieces to be scattered, especially where I've tried to keep together multiple pieces by the same author.

Also note that TomDispatch just dusted off a piece from 2010: Noam Chomsky: Eyeless in Gaza.

Anti-genocide demonstrations: in the US (and elsewhere), and how Israel's cronies and flaks are reacting:

Israel vs. world opinion:

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Stan Cox: [04-28] Eco-collapse hasn't happened yet, but you can see it coming: "Degrowth is the only sane survival plan." Author of a couple books: The Green New Deal and Beyond: Ending the Climate Emergency While We Still Can (2020, pictured, foreword by Noam Chomsky), and The Path to a Livable Future: A New Politics to Fight Climate Change, Racism, and the Next Pandemic (2021). I'm sympathetic to degrowth arguments, but liberals/progressives have long taken as axiomatic that the only path to equality is through focusing on growth, so the mental shift required is massive. Still, as Cox points out, there is a lot of thinking on degrowth. I'll also add isn't necessarily a conscious decision: every disaster is a dose of degrowth, and there are going to be plenty of those. What we need is a cultural shift that looks to rebuild smarter (smaller, less wasteful, more robust). Growth has been the political tonic for quite a while now, it's always produced discontents, which we can and should learn from.

  • Jan Dutkiewicz: [05-02] How rioting farmers unraveled Europe's ambitious climate plan: "Road-clogging, manure-dumping farmers reveal the paradox at the heart of EU agriculture."

  • Umair Irfan: [05-01] How La Niña will shape heat and hurricanes this year: "The current El Niño is among the strongest humans have ever experienced," leading to its counterpart, which while generally less hot can generate even more Atlantic hurricanes. To recap, 2023 experienced record-high ocean temperatures, and an above-average number of hurricanes, but fewer impacts, as most of the storms steered well out into the Atlantic. The one storm that did rise up in the Gulf of Mexico was Idalia, which actually started in the Pacific, crossed Central America, reorganized, then developed rapidly into a Category 4 storm before landing north of Tampa. The oceans are even hotter this year.

  • Mike Soraghan: [05-05] 'Everything's on fire': Inside the nation's failure to safeguard toxic pipelines.

Economic matters:

Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Other stories:

Michelle Alexander: [03-08] Only revolutionary love can save us now: "Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War offers a powerful moral compass as we face the challenges of out time."

Maria Farrell/Robin Berjon: [04-16] We need to rewild the internet: "The internet has become an extractive and fragile monoculture. But we can revitalize it using lessons learned by ecologists." Further discussion:

Steven Hahn: [05-04] The deep, tangled roots of American illiberalism: An introduction or synopsis of the author's new book, Illiberal America: A History. (I noted the book in my latest Book Roundup, and thought it important enough to order a copy, but haven't gotten to it yet.) Alfred Soto wrote about the book here and here (Soto also mentions Manisha Sinha: The Rise and Fall of the Second American Republic: Reconstruction, 1860-1920, and Tom Schaller/Paul Waldman: Whire Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy). Also see:

John Herrman: [05-05] Google is staring down its first serious threats in years: "The search giant now faces three simultaneous challenges: government regulators, real competition, and itself."

Sean Illing: [04-28] Everything's a cult now: Interview with Derek Thompson "on what the end of monoculture could mean for American democracy." This strikes me as a pretty lousy definition:

I think of a cult as a nascent movement outside the mainstream that often criticizes the mainstream and organizes itself around the idea that the mainstream is bad or broken in some way. So I suppose when I think about a cult, I'm not just thinking about a small movement with a lot of people who believe something fiercely. I'm also interested in the modern idea of cults being oriented against the mainstream. They form as a criticism of what the people in that cult understand to be the mainstream.

Given that "cult" starts as a term with implied approbation, this view amounts to nostalgia for conformism and deprecation of dissent, which was the dominant ("mainstream") view back during the 1950s, when most Americans were subject to a mass culture ("monoculture," like a single-crop farm field, as opposed to he diversity of nature). Thompson goes on to castigate cults as "extreme" and "radical" before he hits on a point that finally gets somewhere: they "tend to have really high social costs to belonging to them."

I'd try to define cults as more like: a distinct social group that follows a closed, self-referential system of thought, which may or may not be instantiated in a charismatic leader. One might differentiate between cults based on ideas or leaders, but they work much the same way -- cults based on leaders are easier, as they require less thinking, but even cults based on ideas are usually represented by proxy-leaders, like priests.

By my definition, most religions start out as cults, although over time they may turn into more tolerant communities. Marxism, on the other hand, is not a cult, because it offers a system of thought that is open, critical, and anti-authoritarian, although some ideas associated with it may be developed as cults (like "dictatorship of the proletariat"), and all leaders should be suspect (Lenin, Stalin, and Mao providing obvious examples). Nor is liberalism fertile ground for cults, nor should conservatism be, except for the latter's Führersprinzip complex.

Since the 1950s mass monoculture has fragmented into thousands of niche interests that may be as obscure as cults but are rarely as rigid and self-isolating, and even then are rarely threats to democracy. The latter should be recognized as such, and opposed on principles that directly address the threats. But as for the conformism nostalgia, I'd say "good riddance." One may still wish for the slightly more egalitarian and community-minded feelings of that era, but not at the price of such thought control.

Whizy Kim: [05-03] Boeing's problems were as bad as you thought: I've posted this before, but it's been updated to reflect the death of a second whistleblower.

  • Annika Merrilees/Jacob Barker: [05-05] Why Boeing had to buy back a Missouri supplier it sold off in 2001: So, Spirit wasn't the only deal where Boeing outsmarted themselves? "Meanwhile, President Joe Biden's administration is pushing an $18 billion deal with Israel for up to 50 F-15EX fighter jets, one of the largest arms deals with the country in years." (And guess who's paying Israel to pay Boeing to clean up one of their messes?)

Rick Perlstein: [05-01] A republic, if we can keep it.

Nathan J Robinson: Catching up with his articles and interviews, plus some extra from his Current Events:

  • [04-09] Gated knowledge is making research harder than it needs to be: "Tracking down facts requires navigating a labyrinth of paywalls and broken links." Tell me about it. Specific examples come from Robinson writing an afterword to a forthcoming Noam Chomsky book, The Myth of American Idealism: How U.S. Foreign Policy Endangers the World. He also cites an earlier article of his own: [2020-08-02] The truth is paywalled but the lies are free: "The political economy of bullshit." Actually, lots of lies are paywalled too. Few clichés are more readily disprove than "you get what you pay for."

  • [04-11] Can philosophy be justified in a time of crisis? "It is morally acceptable to be apolitical? Is there something wrong with the pursuit of 'knowledge for knowledge's sake'?" Talks about Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky, as distinguished academics who in their later years -- which given their longevity turned out to be most of their lives -- increasingly devoted themselves to antiwar work, and to Aaron Bushnell, who took the same question so seriously he didn't live long at all.

  • [04-16] What everyone should know about the 'security dilemma':

    The security dilemma makes aspects of the Cold War look absurd and tragic in retrospect. From the historical record, we know that after World War II, the Soviet Union did not intend to attack the United States, and the United States did not intend to attack the Soviet Union. But both ended up pointing thousands of nuclear weapons at each other, on hair-trigger alert, and coming terrifyingly close to outright civilization-ending armageddon, because each perceived the other as a threat.

    Some people still think that deterrence was what kept the Cold War cold, but it wasn't fear that prevented war. It was not wanting war in the first place, a default setting that was if anything sorely tried by threat and fear. If either country actually wants war, deterrence is more likely to provoke and enable.

  • [04-18] The victories of the 20th century feminist movement are under constant threat: Interview with Josie Cox, author of Women Money Power: The Rise and Fall of Economic Equality.

  • [04-19] Palestine protests are a test of whether this is a free country.

  • [04-23] You don't have to publish every point of view: "It's indefensible for the New York Times to publish an argument against women's basic human rights." Which is what they did when they published an op-ed by Mike Pence.

  • [04-26] We live in the age of "vulture capitalism": Interview with Grace Blakely, author of Vulture Capitalism: Corporate Crimes, Backdoor Bailouts, and the Death of Freedom. Evidently Boeing figures significantly in the book.

  • [05-02] The Nicholas Kristof theory of social change: "The New York Times columnist encourages protesters to stop atrocities by, uh, studying abroad." This is pretty scathing, admitting that Kristof seems to recognize that what's happening in Gaza is horrific, but with no clue of how it got this way or how to stop it. Robinson writes:

    Actually, I'm giving him too much credit here by suggesting he actually has a theory of change. For the most part, he doesn't even offer a theory for how his proposed actions are supposed to make a difference in policy, even as he patronizingly chides protesters for their ineffectiveness. He doesn't even try to formulate a hypothetical link between studying abroad in the West Bank and the end of Israel's occupation, even as he says university divestment from Israel will do nothing. (He seems to demonstrate no appreciation of how a plan to try to isolate Israel economically resembles the strategy of boycotts and sanctions against South Africa, which was important in the struggle against that regime's apartheid. But divestment from Israel will only, he warns, "mean lower returns for endowments.") He pretends to offer them more pragmatic and effective avenues, while in fact offering them absolutely nothing of any use. (The words "pragmatism" and "realism" are often used in American politics to mean "changing nothing.")

    Also worth reiterating this:

    In fact, far from being un-pragmatic, the student Gaza protesters have a pretty good theory of power. If you can disrupt university activity, the university administration will have an interest in negotiating with you to get you to stop. (Brown University administrators did, although I suspect they actually got the protesters to accept a meaningless concession.) If you can trigger repressive responses that show the public clearly who the fascists are, you can arouse public sympathy for your cause. (The civil rights movement, by getting the Southern sheriffs to bring out hoses and dogs, exposed the hideous nature of the Jim Crow state and in doing so won public sympathy.) It's also the case that if protesters can make it politically difficult for Joe Biden to continue his pro-genocide policies without losing support in an election year, he may have to modify those policies. Politicians respond to pressure far more than appeals to principle. . . .

    The protesters are doing a noble and moral thing by demonstrating solidarity with Gaza and putting themselves at risk. Because Israel is currently threatening to invade the Gazan city of Rafah, where well over a million Palestinians are sheltering, it's crucially important that protesters keep up the pressure on the U.S. government to stop Israel from carrying out its plans. Given the Palestinian lives at stake, I would argue that one of the most virtuous things anyone, especially in the United States, can do right now is engage in civil disobedience in support of the Gaza solidarity movement. And correspondingly, I would argue that one of the worst things one can do right now is to do what Nicholas Kristof is doing, which is to undermine that movement by lying about it and trying to convince people that the activists are foolish and misguided.

  • [05-03] The ban on "lab-grown" meat is both reprehensible and stupid: I must have skipped over previous reports on the bill that DeSantis signed in a fit of performative culture warring, and only mention it here thanks to Robinson, even though I dislike his article, disagree with his assertion that "factory farming is a moral atrocity," and generally deplore the politically moralized veganism he seems to subscribe to. (Should-be unnecessary disclaimer here: I don't care that he thinks that, but think it's bad politics to try to impose those ideas on others, even if just by shaming -- and I'm not totally against shaming, but would prefer to reserve it for cases that really matter, like people who support genocide.) But sure, the law is "both reprehensible and stupid." [PS: Steve M has a post on John Fetterman (D-PA) endorsing the DeSantis stunt. I've noticed, but paid little heed to, a lot of criticism directed at Fetterman recently. This also notes Tulsi Gabbard's new book. I'm not so bothered by her abandoning the Democratic Party, but getting her book published by Regnery crosses a red line. Steve M also has a post on Marco Rubio's VP prospects. I've always been very skeptical that Trump would pick a woman, as most of the media handicappers would have him do, nor do I see him opting for Tim Scott. I don't see Rubio either, but no need to go into that.]

  • Alex Skopic/Lily Sánchez/Nathan J Robinson: [04-24] The bourgeois morality of 'The Ethicist': "The New York Times advice column, where snitching liberal busybodies come to seek absolution, is more than a mere annoyance. In limiting our ethical considerations to tricky personal situations and dilemmas, it directs our thinking away from the larger structural injustices of our time." I'm sure there's a serious point in here somewhere, but it's pretty obvious how much fun the authors had making fun of everyone involved here.

Jeffrey St Clair: [05-03] Roaming Charges: Tin cops and Biden coming . . . "As America's liberal elites declare open warfare on their own kids, it's easy to see why they've shown no empathy at all for the murdered, maimed and orphaned children of Gaza. Back-of-the-head shots to 8-year-olds seem like a legitimate thing to protest in about the most vociferous way possible . . . But, as Dylan once sang, maybe I'm too sensitive or else I'm getting soft." I personally have a more nuanced view of Biden, but I'm not going to go crosswise and let myself get distracted when people who are basically right in their hearts let their rhetoric get a bit out of hand.

After citing Biden's tweet -- "Destroying property is not a peaceful protest. It is against the law. Vandalism, trespassing, breaking windows, shutting down campuses, forcing the cancellation of classes and graduations, none of this is a peaceful protest." -- he quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter From a Birmingham Jail.":

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."

I think it's safe to say that no protester wants to break the law, to be arrested, to go to jail, to sacrifice their lives for others. What protesters do want is to be heard, to have their points taken seriously, for the authorities to take corrective action. Protest implies faith and hope that the system may still reform and redeem itself. Otherwise, you're just risking martyrdom, and the chance that the system will turn even more vindictive (as Israel's has shown to a near-absolute degree). We all struggle with the variables in this equation, but the one we have least control over is what the powers choose to do. As such, whether protests are legal or deemed not, whether they turn destructive, whether they involve violence, is almost exclusively the choice of the governing party. And in that choice, they show us their true nature.

Some more samples:

  • Columbia University has an endowment of $13.6 billion and still charges students $60-70,000 a year to attend what has become an academic panopticon and debt trap, where every political statement is monitored, every threat to the ever-swelling endowment punished.

  • Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich: "We must obliterate Rafah, Deir al-Balah, and Nuseirat. The memory of the Amalekites must be erased. No partial destruction will suffice; only absolute and complete devastation." While chastizing college students for calling their campaign an "intifada," Biden is shipping Israel the weapons to carry out Smotrich's putsch into Rafah . . .

  • The pro-Israel fanatics who attacked UCLA students Tuesday night with clubs and bottle rockets, as campus security cowered inside a building like deputies of the Ulvade police force, shouted out it's time for a "Second Nakba!" Don't wait for Biden or CNN to condemn this eliminationist rhetoric and violence.

  • In the last 10 years, the number of people shot in road rage incidents quadrupled. Two of the three cities with the highest [number] of incidents are in Texas, Houston and San Antonio.

This week's books:

Michael Tatum: [05-04] Books read (and not read): Looks like more fiction this time.

David Zipper: [04-28] The reckless policies that helped fill our streets with ridiculously large cars: "Dangerous, polluting SUVs and pickups took over America. Lawmakers are partly to blame."

Li Zhou: [05-01] Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here's what that means.

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 74 albums, 17 A-list

Music: Current count 42200 [42126] rated (+74), 31 [30] unrated (+1).

Two weeks of listening here, although it seems like much longer, so much so that I can barely remember hearing the earliest entries, let alone why. I mean, where did all those Walter Davis albums come from? Probably Clifford Ocheltree, but didn't that start with Billy Boy Arnold? I think Ride came from a list of Pitchfork reviews -- that's certainly where I noticed Austin Peralta. Little things like that set me off on various tangents.

One thing that helped is that I finally sorted my demo queue by release date (as opposed to order received, with variations), so I could be reasonable sure I could just grab something and not worry about it not being released for 2-3 months. Still, new records came in almost as fast as old ones got played, so the unrated count barely moved. And it should be noted that several top-rated albums this week only got reviewed because I was sent CDs -- most obviously: Broder, Core, Four + Six, Schwartz, Shner.

Still, I've largely lost track of new releases that don't find me. And I'm nearly helpless when it comes to downloads (although I did manage to dig out a batch of Ivo Perelmans -- no idea whether I managed to catch up, but another one came in the mail today, so definitely not). I may have to break my 2024 resolution not to do tedious projects like the EOY list (which in some earlier iterations also tracked review grades or in some cases mere mentions). I've already let my tracking list spread out, but I haven't maintained it regularly enough for it to be very useful.

Last week's Music Week was the victim of an executive decision to first finish a Book Roundup post that I started several weeks earlier, but kept researching ever deeper on. Even so I didn't manage to notice a single one of the books Michael Tatum reviewed in his first Books Read (And Not Read) column. (Note to self: check out that New York Times list he cites. The fiction half is beyond my ken, but I have previously noted seven of the non-fiction fifty, with one more in the draft file.)

After Book Roundup, I had to finish a Speaking of Which, also started but held up. It's fair to say that we're living in what the Chinese would call "interesting times" -- so much so that nearly everywhere I turned I ran into pieces that seemed like noting (317 by the time I posted Sunday evening) and commenting on (15302 words). And even while I'm trying to knock this out by end-of-Monday, every break I take results in me adding more notes to Speaking of Which. (Look for red stripes on right border.)

I appear to have recovered from my big tech problem of the last few weeks: I haven't been able to send email, with all efforts producing a "AUP#CXSNDR" error, which is some kind of dirty look the system gives you without ever explaining why. I contacted Cox to find out why, and, well, I didn't. I did learn a bunch about their customer service department, exploring endless variations of five or six basic scripts for not helping you while eventually steering the conversation around to "it must be your fault" and "why don't you bug someone else about it?"

First, there's "Oliver," their chatbot, occasionally relieved by "live people," who seem to be playing a Turing game to see if you can discern whether their stupidity is artificial or organic. Then there's their phone service, which starts with a gauntlet of menu options and numbers you have to peck in, before you arrive at a "level one" person, who acknowledges your problem, thanks you profusely for being such a good customer, and ultimately passes you off to a "level two" person, who presumably will actually help you.

Mostly what "level two" people do is fill out tickets that get passed to supposedly more technical people who are firewalled from customer contact, presumably because their time is so precious, or because your time is deemed without value or utility. You are then advised that it takes them 72 hours to get to the ticket, and even then never on a weekend or after business hours. Eventually, they write one line in the ticket and close it, and someone (probably a "level two") calls you once and leaves you a garbled message in your voice mail. (Never once did we actually catch a callback.) When you call them back for more information, the number they leave is the original gauntlet number, and all they can wind up doing is reading you the one-liner, which they don't understand either, and open another ticket, where you have to repeat all the information again.

This took over two weeks, with frustration levels rising, especially when they got sidetracked on clearly irrelevant asides. (I could do four more paragraphs on them, but the details hardly matter. In the end, I recalled one garbled message, and gave it enough thought to devise a test. It was "your email is working, but there is a security problem with" The obvious, and still unaswered, question is what is that security problem? But the right question was what does my email have to do with ""?

The answer to that seems to be that I had included a link to my website in my email signature, which evidently they scanned and did something wholly improper with. The reason they might do something like that is because normally all of their customers look like Cox, but some of them may be bad actors, so Cox would like to give their customers other identities they can then discriminate against. So, once Cox decided to treat my email like it came from, they then consulted their various email blacklists, saw on one, and rejected it (with no explanation or evident recourse). As far as I know, there was no good reason for them to do so, but I'll probably never find out, because the people who decide these things are insulated from feedback, much like Cox is.

I tested this hypothesis by removing my signature line, and hitting send. It hung, I canceled, and hit send again, and then it worked. Losing the signature line is a small price to pay compared to dealing with what Scott Adams caricatured as "the preventers of information services." Now I have a month's backlog of email to go through and reply to as still seems relevant. If you were expecting to hear from me but didn't, try again.

Last Monday in April, so the monthly archive (link above) is done, but not yet indexed. I also still need to index the Book Roundup, among lots of unfinished business. Stil have house projects, and much more tidying up. Book writing is on hold, and I'm beginning to wonder if that will ever change. I've had to do little bits of programming lately, which remain fun although a bit nerve-racking. Weather is nice here, for a short while until the heat comes.

New records reviewed this week:

Nicki Adams/Michael Eaton: The Transcendental (2023 [2024], SteepleChase LookOut): Piano and tenor saxophone duo, based in Brooklyn, second album together. They relate this to Gunther Schuller's "third stream" movement, for reasons not obvious to a classical-phobe like myself, and pick their way through several Joe Henderson pieces, expertly. B+(**) [r]

John Basile: Heatin' Up (2024, StringTime Jazz): Guitarist, ten or so albums since 1985, thoughtfully called the first one Very Early. B+(*) [cd]

Owen Broder: Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. Two (2021 [2024], Outside In Music): Alto saxophonist, also plays baritone, more from the sessions that generated Vol. One in 2022, four songs Johnny Hodges had a hand in writing, four more he left his indelible mark on. Comparing them against the originals would be hopeless, but they certainly evoke the swing era Hodges towered over. With Riley Mulkerkar (trumpet), Carmen Staaf (piano), Barry Stephenson III (bass), and Bryan Carter (drums). A- [cd]

Paul Brusger: A Soul Contract (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Bassist, several albums since 2000, mainstream quintet here with Eric Alexander (tenor/alto sax), Steve Davis (trombone), Rick Germanson (piano), and Willie Jones III (drums). B+(*) [sp]

Caporaso Ensemble: Encounter (2023 [2024], Psychosomatic): Guitarist André Caporaso, who has some records going back to 1984, leads a quintet with Jim Goetsch (soprano sax), David Strother (electric violin), Tony Green (bass), and Breeze Smith (drums). Effective fusion. B+(*) [cd] [04-26]

The Castellows: A Little Goes a Long Way (2024, Warner Music Nashville, EP): Three sisters from Georgetown, Georgia, last name Balkcom (Eleanor, Lily, and Powell), moved to Nashville, signed a contract, released two catchy singles late 2023, expanded into this 7-song, 22:10 mini-album. B+(**) [sp]

The Core: Roots (2022 [2024], Moserobie): Norwegian jazz group, founded 2001, released eight albums 2004-10, back for one more here. Saxophonist Kjetil Møster is the best-known member, but Espen Aalberg (drums) wrote four (of six) pieces, with one each for Møster and Steinar Raknes (bass), zero for Erlend Slettevoll (piano). Expansive, like Coltrane's legendary quartet. A- [cd]

Arnaud Dolmen/Leonardo Montana; LéNo (2023 [2024], Quai Son): French duo, Guadeloupian drummer and Brazilian pianist, "long-time collaborators," several separate albums each. I'm not seeing any other credits here, other than "chorus." The rhythm tracks sweep one along, the piano commenting thoughtfully. B+(**) [cdr]

Dave Douglas: Gifts (2023 [2024], Greenleaf Music): Trumpet player, one of the most acclaimed since the mid-1990s, I've often been unmoved by his albums but never doubted his chops, or his commitment to forming challenging groups. Here he adds James Brandon Lewis to a long list of heavyweight champ saxophonists, as well as two younger players we'll hear more from: Rafiq Bhatia (guitar) and Ian Chang (drums). Slips a four-song Billy Strayhorn medley as the sweet center of a sandwich of originals, blurring the edges so they all flow together. A- [cd]

Four + Six: Four + Six (2024, Jazz Hang): The Four is a saxophone quartet of Mark Watkins, Ray Smith, Sandon Mayhew, and Jon Gudmundson. Their names adorn the top border of the cover, so by one convention I often follow, I could have listed them for the artist credit, but then I should also follow the "Plus Six" named in the other borders, from left to bottom to right: Derrick Gardner (trumpet), Vincent Gardner (trombone), Corey Christiansen (guitar), Justin Nielsen (piano), Braun Khan (bass), Kobie Watkins (drums). But only three or four of those names ring a bell for me -- I'm a bit confused on my Gardners -- and I usually save the cover-listed instruments for the body. Saxophonist Mark Watkins composed and arranged this, upbeat, richly textured, superb big band lacking only the conventional brass overload. A- [cd]

Eric Frazier: That Place Featuring "Return of the Panther Woman" (2024, EFP Productions): Percussionist (congas here, trap drums, djembe, piano, tap dance elsewhere), sings, based in Brooklyn, website offers ten albums but Discogs comes up far short, at least under "(4)." His Carribbean funk is loosely engaging, Gene Ghee's sax helps, no complaints when a piano-conga duet stretches out. B+(***) [cd]

Kenny Garrett & Svoy: Who Killed AI? (2024, Mack Avenue): Alto/soprano saxophonist, a breakout star in the 1990s, back here with a duo with Russian electronica producer Mikhail Tarasov, who has several albums since 2005 (they seem to be most popular in Japan). Some vocals. Some interesting ideas that don't go very far. B+(**) [sp]

María Grand With Marta Sánchez: Anohin (2024, Biophilia): Saxophonist-vocalist from Switzerland, based in New York, fourth album since 2017, a duo with the pianist. Emphasis is more on voice, but I prefer the saxophone. B+(*) [sp]

Frank Gratkowski/Ensemble Modern: Mature Hybrid Talking (2022 [2024], Maria de Alvear World Edition): German avant-saxophonist, many albums since 1991, plays flute and alto here, conducting the twelve-piece chamber jazz group -- flute/clarinet/oboe/bassoon, trumpet/trombone, piano, violin/cello/bass, no drums -- through the single 45:08 composition. B+(**) [sp]

Noah Haidu: Standards II (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): Piano trio, with Buster Williams (bass) and Billy Hart (drums), following up on their 2023 album, itself preceded by a 2021 Keith Jarrett tribute. B+(**) [cd]

Alexander Hawkins/Sofia Jernberg: Musho (2023 [2024], Intakt): British pianist, rather prolific since 2011, accompanies the Ethiopian-born but (sources agree) Swedish jazz singer, most often showing up with avant-leaning groups like Fire! Orchestra and Koma Saxo. Has some moments, but mostly fairly arch art song. B+(*) [sp]

Ill Considered: Precipice (2024, New Soil): British group, dozen-plus albums since 2017, looks like this iteration is back-to-basics, with just sax (Idris Rahman), bass (Liran Donin), and drums (Emre Ramazanoglu). B+(***) [sp]

Matt Lavelle/Claire Daly/Chris Forbes: Harmolodic Duke (2023, Unseen Rain): Trumpet player, credits start in 2001, including large groups led by Butch Morris and William Parker, developed bass clarinet as a second instrument, plays alto and piccolo clarinet here, with Daly on baritone sax and Forbes on piano. Did a Harmolodic Monk album in 2014, again the aim here is to put an Ornette twist on a classic. Needs more study than I can muster, or more swing than they're willing to allow. B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle: In Swing We Trust (2022, Unseen Rain): Trio, names below the title are Phil Sirois (bass) and Tom Cabrera (drums), so this has rhythm even if it is somewhat at odds with what I think of as swing. Lavelle plays trumpet, bass and E-flat piccolo clarinets. B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle: The House Keeper (2022 [2023], Unseen Rain): Quintet, other names on cover mostly familiar from recent albums: Claire Daly (baritone sax), Chris Forbes (piano), Hilliard Greene (bass), Tom Cabrera (drums). B+(**) [sp]

Matt Lavelle & the 12 Houses: The Crop Circles Suite Part One (2022 [2024], Mahakala Music): Starting from an idea he first articulated in the 1990s, the trumpeter-composer describes this as his "life's work," or half of it anyway, the first six pieces in a 12-piece suite, with "Crop Circles 7-12" still in development. B+(***) [sp]

Andy Laverne: Spot On (2023 [2024], SteepleChase): Pianist, from New York, started with Woody Herman 1973, debut 1978, 36th album on this label, quartet with Mike Richmond (bass), Jason Tiemann (drums), and impressive newcomer Ben Solomon (tenor sax). B+(**) [sp]

Shawn Maxwell: J Town Suite (2023 [2024], Cora Street): Alto/soprano saxophonist (also flute), seventh album since 2005, this one backed by electric bass, keyboards, and drums. Nice ending. B+(**) [cd] [05-01]

Ron McClure: Just Sayin' (2024, SteepleChase): Bassist, started in 1960s, has close to two dozen albums as leader, composed eight (of ten) songs here, a quartet with Anthony Ferrara (tenor sax), Michael Eckroth (piano), and Steve Johns (drums). Very solid mainstream outing, especially for Ferrara. B+(***) [sp]

Ava Mendoza/Dave Sewelson: Of It but Not Is It (2021-22 [2024], Mahakala Music): Duets, guitar and baritone sax, two Mendoza arrangements of William Parker lyrics, so voice too -- Sewelson a gruff blues declaimer, Mendoza adds some harmony and callback. B+(***) [sp]

Cornelia Nilsson: Where Do You Go? (2022-23 [2024], Stunt): Swedish drummer, based in Copenhagen, first album as leader, combines two trio sessions, one with pianist Aaron Parks, the other with tenor saxophonist Gabor Bolla, both with Daniel Franck on bass. Both sides are pretty impressive. B+(**) [sp]

The Michael O'Neill Sextet: Synergy: With Tony Lindsay (2021 [2024], Jazzmo): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, bass clarinet), sextet with Erik Jekabson (trumpet), John R. Burr (piano), bass, drums, and extra percussion, swings, swaggers even, with Lindsay singing eleven songs -- a Burr original, some standards, three songs from Stevie Wonder, one from Bill Withers. B+(**) [cd]

Chuck Owen & Resurgence: Magic Light (2019-23 [2024], Origin): Pianist (also accordion and hammered dulcimer), based in Florida, started his Jazz Surge as a big band in 1995, this edition is slimmed down -- a no-brass sextet, with Jack Wilkins (sax), Sara Caswell (violin), Corey Christiansen (guitar), bass, and drums, plus Kate McGarry singing five (of eight) songs, the only non-original being the opener, "Spinning Wheel." B+(*) [cd]

Charlie Parr: Little Sun (2024, Smithsonian Folkways): Folk/blues singer-songwriter from Duluth, plays resonator guitar and banjo, couple dozen albums since 2002. B+(*) [sp]

Ivo Perelman Quartet: Water Music (2022 [2024], RogueArt): Avant tenor saxophonist from Brazil, started releasing albums in 1989, did a duo with pianist Matthew Shipp in 1996, and they've released scores of albums ever since, probably more than the years Lincoln counted at Gettysburg. Both not only play a lot together, they're happy to let others join in, especially when they contribute as much as Mark Helias (bass) and Tom Rainey (drums) do here. A- [cdr]

Ivo Perelman/Chad Fowler/Reggie Workman/Andrew Cyrille: Embracing the Unknown (2024, Mahakala Music): Tenor sax, stritch/saxello, bass, and drums. B+(**) [sp]

Ivo Perelman/Barry Guy/Ramon Lopez: Interaction (2017 [2024], Ibeji Music): Tenor sax, bass, drums/tabla. An exceptionally fine outing for the saxophonist, divided into two parts (73:52 + 55:18). A- [dl]

Ivo Perelman/Mark Helias/Tom Rainey: Truth Seeker (2022 [2024], Fundacja Sluchaj): Tenor sax/bass/drums trio, his ideal format (apologies to Shipp), especially when he gets a bassist this remarkable. A- [dl]

Ivo Perelman/Tom Rainey: Duologues 1: Turning Point (2024, Ibeji Music): Tenor sax and drum duets, seven unnamed files, no telling how many more "duologue" albums are planned. B+(***) [dl]

Rich Perry: Progression (2022 [2023], SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, from Cleveland, mainstream, regular albums since 1993, quartet here with Gary Versace (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), and John Riley (drums). B+(**) [sp]

PNY Quintet: Over the Wall (2022 [2024], RogueArt): Free jazz meeting in France: Steve Swell (trombone), Rob Brown (alto sax), Michel Edelin (flutes), Peter Giron (bass), John Betsch (drums). Most brought songs, and the rest they improvised. B+(**) [cdr]

Dave Rempis/Pandelis Karayorgis/Jakob Heinemann/Bill Harris: Truss (2023 [2024], Aerophonic/Drift): Alto/tenor/baritone saxophone, with piano, bass, and drums. Two long pieces. I've grown accustomed to the free jazz thrash, finding it both stimulating and relaxing, heightened, of course, by the fascinating various stretches of foreplay. A- [cd] [04-23]

Ride: Interplay (2024, Wichita): English shoegaze band, four albums 1990-96, third album since they regrouped in 2017. B+(*) [sp]

Angelica Sanchez/Chad Taylor: A Monster Is Just an Animal You Haven't Met Yet (2023 [2024], Intakt): Piano and drums duo. B+(***) [sp]

Marta Sanchez Trio: Perpetual Void (2023 [2024], Intakt): Spanish pianist, based in New York, albums since 2008, trio here with Chris Tordini (bass) and Savannah Harris (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Radam Schwartz: Saxophone Quartet Music (2023 [2024], Arabesque): Keyboard player, mostly organ, first album 1988, second on Muse 1995, maybe a half-dozen approximately soul jazz albums since. This one is something else, with Schwartz not playing but arranging for a saxophone quartet (Marcus G Miller, Irwin Hall, Anthony Ware, Max Schweber), with isolated guest spots (guitar, vocal, percussion). Starts off delightful, mixes it up from there, ends with "My Ship." A- [cd] [05-01]

Shabaka: Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace (2022 [2024], Impulse!): British saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, parents from Barbados, bills this as "his solo debut album," but I've counted one previous one as Shabaka (now deemed an EP, at 28:36), two as Shabaka & the Ancestors, plus his dominant presence in groups Sons of Kemet, Melt Yourself Down, and The Comet Is Coming. Limits his tenor sax here to one track, as he plays clarinet (3), shakuhachi (2), flute (6), and svirel (1), with a rotating cast of guests, leaning hard on the harps (Brandee Younger and Charles Overton), exotic instruments (André 3000, Rajna Swaminathan), electronics (Surya Botofasina, Floating Points), and spot vocalists (Elucid, Eska, Anum Iyapo, Laraaji, Lianne La Havas, Moses Sumney, Saul Williams). I'm tempted to slag this off as new agey, but it's not so bad B+(**) [sp]

Idit Shner & Mhondoro: Ngatibatanei [Let Us Unite!] (2023 [2024], OA2): Alto saxophonist, based in Oregon, as is her group, although they channel Zimbabwe, most directly through percussionist John Mambira (and vocal on the title cut), but with music far more universal. A- [cd]

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Revelations (2024, Abeyance): Grew up as a homeschooled fundamentalist in North Carolina, didn't turn out that way, fourth album, more rock than country. B+(**) [sp]

Skee Mask: ISS010 (2024, Ilian Tape): German techno producer Bryan Müller, from Munich, also released records as SCNTST (2013-18), title denotes 10th album in this series. Steady beats. B+(*) [sp]

Geoff Stradling & the StradBand: Nimble Digits (2023 [2024], Origin): Pianist, also plays electric and synths, leads a very raucous big band here with occasional extras (mostly Latin percussion) through nine originals plus "Poinciana." B+(***) [cd]

Jordan VanHemert: Deep in the Soil (2023 [2024], Origin): Alto saxophonist, Korean-American, based in Oklahoma, has several previous albums, leads a very flash all-star sextet of Terrel Stafford (trumpet), Michael Dease (trombone), Helen Sung (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Lewis Nash (drums), through two originals, two from the band, and four more or less standards. B+(**) [cd]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon: In Perfect Harmony: The Lost Album (1972 [2024], Jazz Detective): Two West Coast trumpet players, both sing sometimes -- Baker more often, or at least more famously, but I like Sheldon's extra swing -- backed by Jack Marshall (guitar), Dave Frishberg (piano), Joe Mondragon (bass), and Nick Ceroli (drums). Eleven tracks, 36:16. B+(**) [cd] [04-20]

John Coltrane Quartet + Stan Getz + Oscar Peterson: Live/Dusseldorf March 28, 1960 (1960 [2024], Lantower): Another live set from a much recorded European tour, the Quartet at this point with Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass), and Jimmy Cobb (drums). This sounds like Peterson dominates the piano (does Kelly even play?), while Getz is less imposing on tenor sax. B+(*) [r]

Franco & OK Jazz: Franco Luambo Makiadi Presents Les Editions Populaires (1968-1970) (1968-70 [2024], Planet Ilunga): Like James Brown, Franco's earliest recordings date from 1956, but he didn't really hit his stride until the 1970s, so this late-'60s compilation can still be considered early, rough, not quite ready, but it's pretty exciting nonetheless. Belgian label looks to have much more worth checking out. A- [bc]

Gush: Afro Blue (1998 [2024], Trost): Scandinavian trio -- Mats Gustafsson (reeds), Sten Sandell (piano), Raymond Strid (drums) -- mostly recorded 1990-99 with a couple later reunions. This one recorded live in Stockholm, with two variations of Sandell's "Behind the Chords" (27:22 + 18:53) and 19:17 of the Mongo Santamaria title song. B+(***) [bc]

Yusef Lateef: Atlantis Lullaby: The Concert From Avignon (1972 [2024], Elemental Music, 2CD): Tenor/soprano saxophonist (1928-2013), originally Bill Evans, one of the first major jazz figures to adopt a Muslim name and a pan-African worldview, also one of the first to incorporate flute as a major part of his sonic toolkit. Quartet with Kenny Barron (piano), Bob Cunningham (bass), and Albert "Tootie" Heath (drums). B+(**) [cd]

Merengue Típico, Nueva Generación! (1960s-70s [2024], Bongo Joe): From the Dominican Republic: "Curated by Xavier Daive, aka Funky Bompa, the compilation unveils rare '60s and '70s gems, providing a glimpse into a transformative period following the fall of the Trujillo regime." The genre dates back to the 19th century, when accordions came over on German trade ships. Just ten brief singles, 32:13, hard to resist, like polka or cajun played dizzyingly fast. A- [sp]

Austin Peralta: Endless Planets [Deluxe Edition] (2011 [2024], Brainfeeder): Jazz pianist, also plays soprano sax, regarded as a prodigy, moved from classical to jazz at 10, won a prize at 12, released his first album at 16, died at 22, a year after this third album, touted now as the first jazz release on the label (executive producer aka Flying Lotus). Hints at fusion but never gets too comfortable, repeatedly fracturing the rhythm, filling with Strangeloop electronics, and giving the saxophonists (Zane Musa and Ben Wendel) free reign. Adds a vocal by Heidi Vogel toward the end. Deluxe edition adds a second LP of variations -- doesn't add much, other than cost, but reminds us of the loss. A- [sp]

Rail Band: Buffet Hotel De La Gare, Bamako (1973 [2024], Mississippi): Band from Bamako in Mali founded 1970, lead singer to 1982 was Salif Keita, who went on to Les Ambassadeurs and a successful solo career, at least through 2018. The band carried on as Super Rail Band, but their 1970-83 period is best documented on three 2-CD Syllart/Sterns sets. Both Discogs and the label list this LP reissue as Rail Band, but Christgau reviewed it as Buffet Hotel de la Gare, which is how I parsed the cover, adding the smaller-print Bamako -- it is a venue they played regularly at -- but I stopped short of other splotches of print. A- [r]

Sonic Youth: Walls Have Ears (1985 [2024], Goofin'): Official release of a 1986 bootleg drawn from three UK concerts, situated between Bad Moon Rising and Evol -- in my database, their two weakest albums, well before the albums I took to be breakthroughs (Daydream Nation and Dirty). So, songwise, nothing here rings a bell, but soundwise, which is what really matters with them, it's mostly here, and there are really terrific stretches -- basically, any time they real momentum going, especially when Kim Gordon is on a rant. B+(***) [sp]

Sun Ra: At the Showcase: Live in Chicago 1976-1977 (1976-77 [2024], Jazz Detective, 2CD): Two shows, long on their space shtick, judging from audience response must have been much more fun to witness than they are to listen to now. Your mileage may vary, but in my favorite Sun Ra discs the groove finds some miraculous way to escape Earth's gravity. This feels more like a revival, which can be tough on non-believers. B+(*) [cd]

Art Tatum: Jewels in the Treasure Box: The 1953 Chicago Blue Note Jazz Club Recordings (1953 [2024], Resonance, 3CD): Legendary pianist (1909-56), remarkable facility -- a friend noted that he often sounds like three guys playing at once -- starting with his 1933 solos (later collected as Piano Starts Here) up to the remarkable series recorded by Norman Granz from 1953-56, later boxed up as The Tatum Solo Masterpieces and The Tatum Group Masterpieces -- the latter's session with Ben Webster is an all-time favorite. These sets are mostly trio, with Everett Barksdale (guitar) and Slam Stewart (bass), occasionally dropping down to solo. I wouldn't rate this among his very best work, with the later sets going through his trademark motions, but the first disc is a real delight. A- [cd]

Mal Waldron/Steve Lacy: The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp (1995 [2024], Elemental Music, 2CD): Piano and soprano sax giants, often played as a duo, but are joined here by Reggie Workman (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums), who are precisely the rhythm section one might pray for. Long pieces, timed for four 23-25 minute LP sides, the two shorter ones Monk covers, a shared bond. A- [cd]

Old music:

Billy Boy Arnold/Jimmy McCracklin/Charlie Musselwhite/Christian Rannenberg With Keith Dunn/Henry Townsend with Ben Corritore: The Walter Davis Project (2013, Electro-Fi): Davis (1911/1912-63) was a blues pianist-singer, born in Mississippi, ran off to St. Louis, left a bunch of unrecorded songs, featured here. Rannenberg produced, with Arnold singing nine (of 18) songs. B+(***) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 1: 2 August 1933 to 28 July 1935 (1933-35 [1994], Document): Blues singer-songwriter, born in Mississippi, ran away to St. Louis, started singing with Roosevelt Sykes and Henry Townsend, taught himself piano, and wound up recording 150 songs from 1933-52, available on seven CDs on this Austrian label, with selections on various other labels (all in Europe; I don't think RCA has touched him since 1970's Think You Need a Shot, but even that was only released in UK and France). Scratchy masters, par for the course with this label, but at least they give you dates and credits: note that Sykes plays piano on 1-15, Davis 16-25, with Townsend and/or Big Joe Williams on guitar. B+(***) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 2: 28 July 1935 to 5 May 1937 (1935-37 [1994], Document): Hitting his stride here, his piano is serviceable but lacks the sparkle of Sykes, his vocals and songs credible and easy to listen to, but he rarely rises to the level of Tampa Red or Big Bill Broonzy, to cite two comparable but often superior artists. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 3: 5 May 1937 to 17 June 1938 (1937-38 [1994], Document): Not sure whether he's running out of steam, or I am. B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 4: 17 June 1938 to 21 July 1939 (1938-39 [1994], Document): From "Good Gal" to "Love Will Kill You." B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 5: 21 July 1939 to 12 July 1940 (1938-39 [1994], Document): Eight tracks in the middle here have Davis playing piano behind Booker T. Washington -- his entire Bluebird output, just short two 1949 tracks from being his complete works. The fit is pretty seamless. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 6: 12 July 1940 to 12 February 1946 (1940-46 [1994], Document): Three sessions up to 5 December 1941, a long break, then picks up one track from 1946. B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis: Volume 7: 12 February 1946 to 27 July 1952 (1946-52 [1994], Document): Three more tracks from 1946, four more from 1947, more sessions from 1949-50, and one last one in 1952, just before his career was ended by a stroke, not long after he turned 40 (he died a decade later, in 1963). B+(**) [sp]

Walter Davis Trio: Illumination (1977, Denon Jazz): Jazz pianist (1932-90), not related to the blues pianist, played with Dizzy Gillespie (1956-57) and Art Blakey (1959-61), led one Blue Note album in 1959 as Walter Davis Jr. (Davis Cup, with Donald Byrd and Jackie McLean). Resumed his career with this second album, mostly trio with bass (Buster Williams) and drums (Art Blakey or Bruno Carr), plus flute (Jeremy Steig) on one track. B+(*) [sp]

Walter Davis Jr. Trio: Scorpio Rising (1989, SteepleChase): Last album, a piano trio with Santi Debriano (bass) and Ralph Peterson (drums), the title song an original from his 1977 album, with two more originals plus three standards. B+(**) [sp]

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Who's That Knocking? (1965 [2022], Smithsonian/Folkways): Bluegrass singers, first album, Dickens (1925-2011) is the real deal from West Virginia, father a banjo-playing Baptist minister, most of her six brothers coal miners. Gerrard (b. 1934) came out of Seattle, got into folk music at Antioch College, moved to DC and joined Dickens and future husband Mike Seeger in the Strange Creek Singers. Only knock I have against this is that all 15 songs, plus 11 more (including some of their best), have long been available on CD as Pioneering Women of Bluegrass, but if you gotta have vinyl, this should suit you well. B+(***) [sp]

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerard: Won't You Come and Sing for Me (1973 [2022], Smithsonian/Folkways): Their second Folkways album together, came out the same year as one on Rounder called Hazel & Alice which I've long regarded as their best. This opens very strong. A- [sp]

Radam Schwartz: Two Sides of the Organ Combo (2017 [2018], Arabesque): Organ player, albums (but not many) from 1988, divides this into a "smooth side" and a "groove side": the former with vibes (Bryan Carrott), tenor sax (Mike Lee), and drums (Andrew Atkinson); the latter with trumpet (Marcus Printup), alto sax (Anthony Ware), guitar (Charlie Sigler), and drums (Atkinson again). B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Confusion Is Sex (1983, Neutral): I paid them no mind until Christgau warmed up to them on Sister (1987), after badmouthing their debut EP (C), this initial album (C+), and more (rising to B+ for Evol, which I guess I did check out, registering a B- in my database -- my grades continued to trail his, until they matched on Daydream Nation, and I liked Dirty even more). But when I finally did give the debut a chance -- in a 2006 reissue that was more bonus tracks than not -- I was impressed enough for B+(***). And with the newly-reissued 1985 bootleg (an A-, per Christgau) sounding pretty good, I figured it's time to fill in the holes, at least in their studio discogrpahy. (I can't see myself going through their dozens of live archives, but Joe Yanosik did, so maybe I'll get to a couple more.) They now seem to have had a pretty good idea of how they wanted to sound from the beginning, but without much sense of how to form that sound into songs. The Kim Gordon vocals work a bit better, and they get a freebie with the Stooges cover. B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Kill Yr Idols (1983, Zensor, EP): Four-track EP (20:58), recorded live at the Plugg Club in NYC, released in Germany, later tacked onto DGC's CD reissue of Confusion Is Sex, where it's quite at home. B+(**) [sp]

Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising (1985 [1986], Blast First): Second studio album, originally an 8-track LP (37:09), CD a year later added 4 bonus tracks (15:01), mostly dead weight, but the album already had a lot of that. B [sp]

Sonic Youth: Anagrama/Improvisation Adjoutée/Tremens/Mieux: De Corrosion (1997, SYR, EP): First in a series of self-released experimental asides, four tracks, 22:35. B+(*) [r]

Sonic Youth: Slaapkamers Met Slagroom/Stil/Herinneringen (1997, SYR, EP): Three tracks, 28:30, title translates from Dutch as "bedrooms with whipped cream." B+(*) [r]

Sonic Youth: Live in Los Angeles 1998 (1998 [2019], Sonic Youth Archive): Cover says "Los Angeles, CA * Veterans Wadsworth Theatre * May 28, 1998," but we'll go with the more economical Bandcamp title. This is the one archive title that Christgau reviewed after Joe Yanosik compiled his consumer guide to the whole archive, so seems like the obvious place to dip into, "standing on the shoulders of giants," etc. Context is between A Thousand Leaves and NYC Ghosts and Flowers, both A- in my book, but not albums I have much recollection of -- I wonder if by this point their sound hadn't become so comfortable any iteration would suffice. Starts with "Anagrama," which remains a warm-up exercise, and meanders a fair bit, but packs multiple high points, which prove how terrific they could be. B+(***) [bc]

Sonic Youth: The Destroyed Room: B-Sides and Rarities (1994-2003 [2006], DGC): Opens with a 10:22 outtake from Sonic Nurse, closes with the "full version" (25:48) of of a track cut down to 19:35 on Washing Machine. Pretty trivial, but as someone who used to play "Sister Ray" to calm his nerves, I can't completely dismiss the latter. B+(*) [r]

Unpacking: Found in the mail:

  • Karrin Allyson: A Kiss for Brazil (Origin) [05-17]
  • John Ambrosini: Songs for You (self-released) [06-01]
  • Roxana Amed: Becoming Human (Sony Music Latin) [05-02]
  • Isrea Butler: Congo Lament (Vegas) [06-01]
  • Caporaso Ensemble: Encounter (Psychosomatic) [04-15]
  • Carl Clements: A Different Light (Greydisc) [05-23]
  • Coco Chatru Quartet: Future (Trygger Music) [lp] [03-28]
  • Devouring the Guilt: Not to Want to Say (Kettle Hole) [06-08]
  • John Escreet: The Epicenter of Your Dreams (Blue Room Music) [06-07]
  • Ethel & Layale Chaker: Vigil (In a Circle) [05-17]
  • Layale Chaker & Sarafand: Radio Afloat (In a Circle) [05-17]
  • Galactic Tide Featuring Andy Timmons: The Haas Company Vol. 1 (Psychiatric) [06-01]
  • Phillip Golub: Abiding Memory (Endectomorph Music) [06-21]
  • Jake Hertzog: Longing to Meet You (self-released) [06-01]
  • The Bruce Lofgren Group: Earthly and Cosmic Tales (Night Bird) [06-01]
  • Bruno Råberg Tentet: Evolver (Orbis Music) [06-01]
  • Jason Robinson: Ancestral Numbers (Playscape) [05-14]
  • Marta Sanchez Trio: Perpetual Void (Intakt) [04-19]
  • Radam Schwartz: Saxophone Quartet Music (Arabesque) [05-01]
  • Luke Stewart Silt Trio: Unknown Rivers (Pi) [05-03]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Jim Black: NatJim (Libra) [05-17]
  • Amber Weekes: A Lady With a Song: Amber Weekes Celebrates Nancy Wilson (Amber Inn) [06-01]
  • Randy Weinstein: Harmonimonk (Random Chance) [05-15]
  • Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Exuberance (self-released) [05-11]

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Speaking of Which

I started working on this around Wednesday, April 17, anticipating another long and arduous week. But I thought I'd be able to get in a Book Roundup before posting, so I numbered my draft files accordingly. When that didn't happen (which was like the second or third week in a row), I decided to hold back Speaking of Which and Music Week until I posted the Book Roundup. That turned out to be Thursday, April 25. This draft has picked up a few new pieces along the way, but I'm only getting back to it in earnest on April 26.

I thought then I might try to wrap it up in a day, but was soon overwhelmed by all the new material I had missed. So now it's slipped to Sunday, making this a two-week compilation, but at least putting me back on the usual schedule. Another thought I had on resuming was that I should write an introduction to summarize my main points. Probably too late to do anything like that this week, but over the last couple days, I've expanded on many of these pieces where the articles seemed to call for it. So I'll leave it to you to fish out the essential summaries.

I decided to push this out Sunday evening, even though I didn't quite manage to hit all the sources I wanted. Perhaps I'll catch some misses on Monday, while I'm working on the also delayed Music Week. They'll be flagged, as usual, like this paragraph. (Note that my initial counts are about double typical weeks, which makes this easily the longest Speaking of Which ever. So while I've been slow posting, I haven't been slacking off.)

A few noted tweets:

  • Tanisha Long: Nothing radicalizes a generation of debt burdened young people like sending 26 billion dollars to fund a genocidal terror state.
    [To which, The Debt Collective added]: Telling generations of young people that there isn't enough money for free college or free healthcare and then spending billions to commit the gravest assault on Gaza really does elicit a very particular type of rage.

  • Robert Wright: [Reacting to headline: Democrats Upbeat After Sudden Wins on Ukraine and Auto Worker] This is naive. The only way the Ukraine funding becomes a political asset for Biden is if there's a peace deal before November. Otherwise Trump has him right where he wants him: spending tax dollars on an endless war.

  • Tony Karon: [Commenting on a Jewish Voice for Peace tweet] Shkoyach! It's actually anti-Semitic to conflate Jews with Israel - all my adult life I've been an anti-Zionist Jew, because I want no part of an apartheid state whose existence is based on sustained racist violence on the people it displaced and subordinated.

    Some who've been raised to put a blue-and-white calf above Jewish values now dread Israel being recognized as a genocidal apartheid state. They're not unsafe, they're uncomfortable. But 10000s of Jews stand up for Palestinian freedom - because it's the Jewish thing to do.

    [Tweet links to their statement: We're fighting to stop a genocide. Slanders against our movements are a distraction.]

  • Nathan J Robinson: Joe Biden might want to read about what happened to one of his Democratic predecessors who also presided over a war unpopular with young people and had a party convention scheduled in Chicago.

  • Max Blumenthal: Genocide friendly gentile gov Greg Abbott swore allegiance to a foreign apartheid state
    UT students are under occupation
    [photo of Abbott in wheelchair with kippah prostrating himself to the temple wall is emblematic of America's political class; I still have to ask, why does this play so well to basically antisemitic Christian nationalists?]

  • Greg Sargent: Agree with this from @lionel_trolling: Trump's trial "cuts him down to size" and reveals him as "a common, banal criminal."
    FWIW, we did a pod episode with polling on how the trial makes Trump look "grubby" and "small" and why this wrecks his aura.

    In the criminal trial in Manhattan and the Supreme Court oral arguments, the two different sides of Donald Trump are fully on display. On the one hand, in Alvin Bragg's criminal trial, we have Trump-in-himself: he's a petty conman, a quasi-gangster, who lives in a world of pornstars and pay offs to tabloids. There he's an old man who is falling asleep in court. And maybe not because he's aging either: the Trump trial is actually kind of boring; it's quotidian sleaze that can't break through the news about Gaza and the student protests. People have criticized Bragg's decision to prosecute Trump, but it occurred to me that maybe there's a quiet brilliance in the move; it cuts Trump down to size and shows him to the world to be just what he is: a common, banal criminal. It even made me wonder at the wisdom of my insistence on Trump's fascistic qualilties. Does not that just add to his myth? Perhaps he is just kind of a nothing.

    There is no reason to think Trump's trial helps him outside his MAGA base.
    "He is not the alpha. He is falling asleep. HE is subjected to censure," says @anatosaurus. He looks "small" and his conempt for the law . . .

  • Ryan Grim: [commenting on an Ari Fleischer counterfactual that "If Students for Trump launched encampments at colleges . . . every student would be immediately arrested, discipline and the camps torn down"] If cops started beating up and arresting a bunch of college Trump supporters the left would probably chuckle at the irony but oppose the abuse and defend their basic rights. I certainly would do both, and that's ok.

Greg Magarian reports from Washington University, St. Louis:

If you've been wondering about the content of pro-Palestinian campus protests, I just got back from one. Things I did NOT hear or see: (1) Even the barest aspersion cast on Jewish people or any Jewish person. The only appearance of the word "Jew" or any variation thereon was as a self-identifier (e.g., "Jews Against Genocide"). (2) Even the barest deviation from peacefulness and good order. If you haven't been to a public protest, I can tell you that protest organizers know their work well. They're way too disciplined to indulge "rioting." (3) Anything that a reasonable person could construe as a call for violence against Israeli civilians. Resistance to occupation, Palestinian self-determination, anti-Zionism? Sure. Every human being has the right to speak up and out for their own aspirations. This movement is about equal Palestinian humanity -- no more, no less.

Magarian also posted this video and comment:

This is what my university did today. It was a peaceful protest. The university administration decided to respond with violence. Wash U's support for Israel has gotten much easier to understand: institutions that believe might makes right, that have no problem stomping on anyone who gets in their way, have to stick together.

Also see this post on St. Louis by Tinus Ritmeester (not sure how I got into the "with others" list, but thanks), which also includes a longer report from Megan-Ellyia Green.

Also, note this protest sign: "Over 200 zip-tied Palestinians found executed in a hospital & you are upset at our protest???"

A Howard Zinn quote is making the rounds again: "They'll say we're disturbing the peace, but there is no peace. What really bothers them is that we are disturbing the war."

Initial count: 317 links, 15,302 words. Updated count [05-01]: 328 links, 16,177 words.

Top story threads:


Israel vs. Iran:

Israel vs. world opinion: First, let's break out stories on the rising tide of anti-genocide protests on American university campuses:

  • Spencer Ackerman: [04-25] Now the students are "terrorists": "Politicians and administrators are playing the 9/11 Era hits against students protesting a genocide -- and want to badly to kill them."

  • Michael Arria:

  • Narek Boyajian/Jadelyn Zhang: [04-25] We are occupying Emory University to demand immediate divestment from Israel and Cop City.

  • Nandika Chatterjee: [04-16] Republican Senator Tom Cotton urges followers to attack pro-Palestine protesters who block traffic.

  • Fabiola Cineas: [04-18] Why USC canceled its pro-Palestinian valedictorian: "As the school year winds down, colleges are still grappling with student speech."

  • Julian Epp: [04-16] Campus protests for Gaza are proliferating -- and so is the repression.

  • Henry Giroux: [04-26] Poisoning the American mind: Student protests in the age of the new McCarthyism.

  • Luke Goldstein: [04-26] Pro-Israel groups pushed for warrantless spying on protesters.

  • Chris Hedges: [04-25] Revolt in the universities: Also note: [04-25] Princeton U. police stop Chris Hedges' speech on Gaza.

  • Caitlin Johnstone: [04-26] Will quashing university protests and banning TikTok make kids love Israel?

  • Sarah Jones:

  • Ed Kilgore: [04-26] The GOP is making campus protests a 2024 law-and-order issue: At last they've finally found a law that they want to enforce. And they sure aren't afraid of looking like authoritarian thugs in doing so. That's the rep they want to own.

  • Branko Marcetic: [04-24] Why they're calling student protesters antisemites: "They want us talking about anything other than the genocide in Gaza."

  • James North: [04-20] The media is advancing a false narrative of 'rising antisemitism' on campus by ignoring Jewish protesters.

  • Nushrat Nur: [04-20] Long live the student resistance: "University administrators fail to understand that student activists have glimpsed a remarkable future in which Palestinian liberation is possible. The Gaza Solidarity Encampment at Columbia University is an inspiration to stay the course." Or maybe they do understand, and just don't want to see it happen?

  • Andrew O'Hehir: [04-28] Columbia crisis: Another massive failure of liberalism: "Columbia's president capitulated to the right-wing witch hunt -- and only made things worse."

    I intend to work my way back around to the instructive case of Columbia president Minouche Shafik, who apparently believed she could galaxy-brain her way around the protest crisis -- and avoid the fate of ousted Harvard president Claudine Gay, among others -- by capitulating in advance to the House Republicans' witch-trial caucus, taking a hard line against alleged or actual antisemitism, and finally calling the cops on her own students. Spoiler alert: None of that was a good idea, and she probably didn't save her job anyway.

    When he returns to Shafik, he nominates her "if you wanted to choose one individual as the face of 'neoliberalism' for an encyclopedia netry." But more important is this:

    First of all, it's more accurate to say that the media-consuming public is riveted by the contentious political drama surrounding those scenes of campus discord than by the protests themselves, which are a striking sign of the times but hardly a brand new phenomenon. . . . It's also worth noting that America's extraordinary narcissism -- another quality shared across the political spectrum -- creates a global distortion effect whereby the deaths of at least 34,000 people in a conflict on the other side of the world are transformed into a domestic political and cultural crisis. Nobody actually dies in this domestic crisis, but everyone feels injured: Public discourse is boiled down to idiotic clichés and identity politics is reduced to its dumbest possible self-caricature.

    I hate the both-sides-ism here: I don't doubt the shared narcissism and symbol-mongering, but "on the other side of the world" a nation with a long history of racial/ethnic discrimination and repression has advanced to the systematic destruction of a large segment of its people -- the applicable legal term here is "genocide" on a level with few historical analogues. So the dividing line -- opposing the practice of genocide, or supporting it mostly by trying to obscure the issue -- is very real and very serious, even if none of the American protesters are living in terror of their own homes, food sources, and hospitals being bombed. Moreover, while Israel/Gaza may be literally as distant as Congo, Myanmar, or Ukraine, it is a lot closer emotionally, especially for American Jews, who are most sharply divided, but also for any American who believes in equal rights, in freedom and justice for all -- people who would normally support the Democratic Party, but now find themselves torn and ashamed by a President who seems aligned and complicit with the forces committing genocide.

  • Katherine Rosman: [04-26] Student protest leader at Columbia: 'Zionists don't deserve to live': "After video surfaced on social media, the student said on Friday that his comments were wrong." I dropped the name, because after the retraction, why should he have to live in Google fame forever just for a casual remark? But the New York Times considers this news, because it fits their mission as purveyors of Israeli lines, especially larded with further comments like "it's one of the more blatant examples of antisemitism and, just, rhetoric that is inconsistent with the values that we have at Columbia" and "there's a danger for all students to have somebody using that type of rhetoric on campus." Doesn't that just echo the official rationale for having all those students arrested?

    Personally, I would never think such a thing, much less say it, nor would most of the people offended enough by genocide to show up at a protest, but really who are we to make a major issue out of such sentiments? There's a Todd Snider lyric that captured a very common, if not quite ubiquitous, credo, which is "in America, we like our bad guys dead."

    If some guy goes berserk and starts shooting up a school or church, then is shot himself, we rarely count him among the victims. We have presidents who go order the assassination of prominent political figures, then go on TV and brag about their feats, expecting a bump in the polls. As for Israelis, they're clearly even more bloodthirsty than we are. But we should all drop whatever we're doing and condemn some guy who fails to empathize with people who are furthering genocide?

    We're fortunate so far that few people who oppose what Israel has been doing view its architects and enablers and fair-weather friends with anything remotely resembling the fear, loathing, and malice Israel has mustered. That's especially true in America, where so few of us are directly impacted, leaving us free to moralize as we may. But human nature suggests such luck won't hold. The longer this war, which is purely a matter of Netanyahu's choice, goes on, the more desperate become, the more despicable Israelis will appear, the more the violence they've unleashed, the more hatred will wash back on them. And when it does, sure, decry and lament those who fight back and their victims, but never forget who started this, who sustained it, and who could have stopped it at any point and started to make amends. (And surely I don't need to add that the bomb started ticking long before Oct. 7.)

  • James Schamus: [04-23] A note to fellow Columbia faculty on the current panic: "The current 'antisemitism panic' at Columbia University is manufactured hysteria weaponized to quell legitimate political speech on campus and give cover to the larger project of ethnic cleansing in the West Bank and, now, of course, Gaza."

  • Bill Scher: [04-25] The divestment encampments don't make any sense: "The demand that universities unload any investments having to do with Israel is half-baked and bound to fail." Really? Granted, the investment money at stake isn't enough to cause Israel to flinch, but the very idea that anyone -- much less elite institutions in Israel's most loyal ally -- would choose to dissociate itself from Israel on moral grounds is likely to sow doubt elsewhere. Otherwise, why would Israelis go into such a tizzy any time they hear "BDS"? But more importantly, divestment is a direct tie between the university and Israel, and one that can be discretely severed by university administrators who discover that doing so is in their best interest. Divestment gives protesters a tangible demand, and it is one that universities can easily afford, so it offers a chance for a win. Moreover, the dynamic is pretty easy to understand, because we've done this sort of thing before. The odds of success here are much better than anything you might get from trying to lobby your representative, or for boycotting a store that sells Israeli hummus. Also, this shows that students are still organizable (and on long-term, relatively altruistic grounds), probably more so than any other segment of society, despite generally successful efforts to reduce higher education to crass carreerism. Despite the dumb pitch, the article's back story on South Africa gives me hope. Sure, this generation of Israeli leaders is more Botha than De Klerk, but so was De Klerk until he realized that a better path was possible. That's going to be harder with Israel, mostly because they still think that what they're doing is working. The protests show otherwise, and the more successful they are, the better for everyone.

    [PS: Per this tweet, the philosophy department chair at Emory University says, "Students are the conscience of our culture."]

  • Matt Stieb/Chas Danner: [04-28] University protests: the latest at colleges beyond Columbia.

More on the Israel's propaganda front, struggling as ever to mute and suppress the world's horror at the genocide in Gaza and to Israel's escalation elsewhere from apartheid to state/vigilante terror.

  • Michael Arria:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [04-16] Tucker Carlson went after Israel -- and his fellow conservatives are furious: "Carlson mainstreamed antisemitism for a long time, and conservatives seemed not to care. Then he set his sights on Israel." When it comes to dunking on Carlson, I don't much care who does it:

    • Daniel Beaumont: [04-26] The Big Bang: Israel's path to self-destruction.

    • M Reza Benham: [04-26] Manipulation politics: Israeli gaslighting in the United States: "A country does not become cruel overnight. It takes intent, years of practice and strategies to effectively hide the cruelty." Dozens of examples follow, especially on Israel's master of American politicians. "Israeli gaslighting has reached into and exerted influence in almost every segment of American society. Consequently, Israel has grown into an entity unbound by borders, exempt from international law and able to commit genocide with impunity." Also note: "And while Israel continues its intense bombing in Gaza, Biden signed legislation on 24 April allocating another $26.4 billion for Tel Aviv to continue its atrocities."

    • Ronen Bregman/Patrick Kingsley: [04-28] Israeli officials believe ICC is preparing arrest warrants over war: "The Israeli and foreign officials also believe the court is weighing arrest warrants for leaders from Hamas." That would be consistent with past efforts to charge both sides with war crimes, but it opens up an interesting possibility, which would be for Hamas leaders to surrender to the ICC for trial, which would presumably protect them from Israeli assassination, and would largely satisfy Israel's demands that Hamas's leadership in Gaza be dismantled. It would also give them a chance to defend themselves in public court, where they could make lots of interesting cases. It would show respect for international law, even if it demands sacrifice. And it would put Israel on the spot to do the same. I'd like to see that.

    • Jonathan Chait: [04-17] Conservatives suddenly realize Tucker Carlson is a lying Russian dupe: "What changed?" I don't quite buy the idea that Carlson is a "Russian dupe" but he has so little redeeming social value that I don't care what you call him. Still, you have to wonder, when Israel starts losing the antisemites, what will they have left?

  • Jonathan Cook: [04-26] How an 'antisemitism hoax' drowned out the discovery of mass graves in Gaza.

  • Dave DeCamp:

  • Connor Echols: [04-24] Israel violating US and international law, ex officials say: "An independent task force has given a detailed report of alleged Israeli war crimes to the Biden administration."

  • Thomas L Friedman:

    • [04-26] Israel has a choice to make: Rafah or Riyadh: I suspect that most Israelis regard Friedman as nothing more than a "useful idiot," which is to say he's useful when he says what he's supposed to -- as when he repeated their "six front" theory in an attempt to entice Biden into launching a war of distraction with Iran -- and an idiot when he tries to think for himself and to offer them advice. [Cue famous Moshe Dayan quote.] This is an example of the latter, though you can hardly blame Friedman, since this is based on things he was told to think. Some day the relevant secrets will be revealed, and we'll all have a good laugh over how Trump and Biden got played over the Abraham Accords -- or how Kushner played everyone, since he wound up with billions of Saudi money for a deal that never had to happen. Israel never cared the least bit for any of them, but went along with Qatar and Morocco because they were totally harmless deals that cost them nothing and helped manipulate the Americans (much like their phony war with Iran, which the deals propose to turn into some grand alliance).

      The Saudis couldn't quite stoop that low because they still have some self-respect -- they are, after all, the trustees of Mecca and Medina -- but strung Kushner along with cash, and more generally the Americans with potentially lucrative arms deals. But if Friedman's choice is real, Israel would much rather demolish the last Palestinian city in Gaza, rendering it uninhabitable for whoever manages not to be killed in the process, than have a chance to play footsie with the decadent but despised Saudis. But they may also suspect it isn't really real, because it's always been so easy to manipulate the Americans and their Arab friends, who've always proved eager to accommodate whatever Israel wants.

    • [04-16] How to be pro-Palestinian, pro-Israeli and pro-Iranian. While the title suggests that Friedman might be capable of thinking creatively, searching out some kind of mutually beneficial win-win-win solution, pinch yourself. By "pro-Iranian" he means anti-Ayatollah, which is to say he's no more prepared to deal with the real Iran than Netanyahu and Biden are. And by "pro-Palestinian" he means totally domesticated under a fully compliant Palestinian Authority, as separate-and-unequal as any imaginary reservation. Sure, by "pro-Israeli" he probably means free of Netanyahu, but he'd be less of a stickler on that point.

  • Binoy Kampmark: [04-28] Israel's anti-UNRWA campaign falls flat.

  • Naomi Klein: [04-24] We need an exodus from Zionism: "This Passover, we don't need or want the false idol of Zionism. We want freedom from the project that commits genocide in our name." Klein spoke at a Passover seder in Brooklyn:

  • Alan J Kuperman: [04-16] Civilian deaths in Gaza rival those of Darfur -- which the US called a 'genocide'.

  • Judith Levine: [04-25] Why we need to stop using 'pro-Palestine' and 'pro-Israel': "The safety and security of Palestinians and Jews are interdependent, so we should use language carefully." Good luck with that. I know I try to be precise and respectful in my terminology, but it's always a struggle: we are necessarily talking about groups of people, despite every grouping, whether self- or other-identified, having exceptions and individual variations that undermine every attempt to generalize. At some point, you have to concede the impossibility of the task, and admit not just that the terms are imprecise but that we shouldn't put so much weight on them.

    I've considered writing an article on this: "Why I've never called myself 'pro-Palestinian,' but I don't care if you do." Part of what I feel here is that Palestinian nationalist groups, even ones nominally on the left, have a sorry history of ambition and exclusion which I've never approved of in principle, and have found to be counterproductive politically. But mostly, I don't trust any nationalism, even one that would presume to include me among the elect. (Although I've found that people who would divide us into nations will continue to subdivide so that only their own clique comes out on top, which somehow never saw me as fit for their supremacy.)

    On the other hand, I've never doubted that Palestinians should enjoy the same human rights as everyone else, provided they accord the same rights to others. But most people who describe themselves as pro-Palestinian believe exactly that. Their self-label is meant to convey solidarity with people they rightly see as oppressed, people they hope to advance not to dominance but to equal rights. I don't think that this is the clearest way of expressing their support, but who am I to object to such tactical quibbles? I felt much the same way when Stokely Carmichael started talking about Black Power. Sure, like all power, that could be abused, but for now the deficit was so great one had little to worry about. And the trust expressed would only help to build the solidarity the movement needed.

    By the way, see the Robert Wright article below for a story along these lines, where Norman Finkelstein suggests that when saying "From the river to the sea," it would be clearer and safer to say "Palestinians" will be free" instead of "Palestine." That makes sense to me, but as Wright noted, he was immediately followed by another speaker, who repeated the standard line and got bigger applause. I could see giving up after that, but isn't that the worst of all scenarios?

  • Sania Mahyou: [04-26] Inside the first French university encampment for Palestine at Sciences Po Paris.

  • Stefan Moore: [04-23] Israel's architect of ethnic cleansing: "The spectre of Yosef Weitz lives on." Now there's a name I know, but haven't heard of in a while. Weitz was head of the Land Settlement Department for the Jewish National Fund, which was the Zionist entity charged with buying up parcels of Palestinian land as Jewish immigrants sought to take over the country. In 1937, after the Peel Commission recommended that Palestine be partitioned with forced transfer, Weitz became head of the Jewish Agency's Population Transfer Committee, so he was the original bureaucratic planner of what became the Nakba.

  • Colleen Murrell: [04-26] How the Israeli government manages to censor the journalists covering the war on Gaza.

  • James North: [04-15] A secret internal 'NYTimes' memo reveals the paper's anti-Palestinian bias is even worse than we thought. North has been documenting reporting bias and outright propaganda in the NY Times long enough he can't possibly be as surprised, let alone shocked, as says. NY Times, regardless of pretensions to high-minded objectivity, has always been a party-line organ. Still, it's nice to be able to see explicit directions and reasoning on terminology, rather than just having to sniff out the distortions. For more on this, see the original leak story, and more:

  • Kareena Pannu: [04-17] How the UK media devalues Palestinian lives: "The UK media's coverage of the killing of World Central Kitchen workers shows how much Palestinian life is devalued."

  • Vijay Prashad: [04-24] Elites afraid to talk about Palestine: "The Western political class has used all tools at its disposal to support Israel's genocide while criminalizing solidarity."

  • Fadi Quran/Fathi Nimer/Tariq Kenney-Shawa/Yawa Hawari: [04-17] Palestinian perspectives on escalating Iran-Israel relations. Many interesting points here; e.g., from Kenney-Shawa:

    Iran's highly-choreographed attack achieved exactly what it intended, gaining valuable intel on Israeli, American, and regional air defense capabilities, costing Israel and its US benefactors over $1 billion in a single night, proving Israel's dependency on the US, and further eroding Israel's image of military invincibility. In doing so, Iran also sent a clear message that its drones and missiles could cause significantly more damage if launched without warning, while still preserving a window for de-escalation.

    Also, from Hawari:

    For Netanyahu, picking a fight with Iran was the only thing that could save him from near-certain political demise. As the Gaza genocide rages on, the Israeli military remains unable to secure its stated objective: the eradication of Hamas and the return of the hostages. This, in addition to the fact that he faces major corruption charges and overwhelming domestic opposition to his leadership, makes Netanyahu at his most dangerous.

    The Israeli prime minister has, for years, built his political career on arousing fear of Iran and its nuclear capabilities among the Israeli public. Internationally, the Israeli regime has long positioned itself as a Western bulwark against Iran and tied its security to that of Western civilization itself. Netanyahu has also exploited Palestine-Iran relations to justify Israel's continued oppression of the Palestinian people as a whole. This is a narrative that has particularly taken hold during since the start of the current genocide.

    This was published by Al-Shabaka, which bills itself as "the Palestinian Policy Network." Some other recent posts:

  • Balakrishnan Rajagopal: [01-29] Domicide: The mass destruction of homes should be a crime against humanity.

  • Jodi Rudoren: [04-05] Why an immediate ceasefire is a moral imperative -- and the best thing for Israel. Editor-in-chief of Forward, she's made some progress since her October 9, 2023 column, where she wrote: "The coming days and weeks will be awful. Israel has no good options." I don't mean to rub it in, but there was one good option back then. Give her credit for finding it eventually. Too many others are still pretending they can't do otherwise.

  • Robert Tait: [04-27] Sanders hits back at Netanyahu: 'It is not antisemitic to hold you accountable'. His own piece:

  • Philip Weiss:

  • Robert Wright: [04-26] This feels like Vietnam: I mentioned this piece under Levine above, for its discussion of language. The analogy to the Vietnam War protests has been noted elsewhere but is still has a long ways to go:

    The last two weeks have been more reminiscent of the Vietnam War era than any two weeks since . . . the Vietnam War era. After the mass arrest of students at Columbia University failed to squelch their anti-war protest encampment, the attendant publicity helped inspire protests, and encampments, at campuses across the country.

    We're nowhere near peak Vietnam. As someone old enough to dimly remember the protests of the late 1960s (if not old enough to have participated in them), I can assure you that college students are capable of getting way more unruly than college students have gotten lately.

    I can't do this subject justice here, so will limit myself to two points. One is that thanks to the AIPAC-dominated political culture in Washington, both parties are totally aligned with Israel, although few in either party did so from core beliefs. This matters little on the Republican side (where core beliefs tend to be racist, violent, and repressive), but leave Democrats more open to doubt and persuasion. Lacking any better political base, that's what demonstrations are good for, and why there's hope they may be effective. It's also worth noting that Occupy Wall Street, which was pretty explicitly anti-Obama but not in any way that could benefit the Republicans, had at least two major successes: one was popularizing the "1%" line to highlight inequality; the other was in making student debt relief a tangible political issue -- one that Biden has finally embraced.

    The other point is that it will be important both to the protesters and to the Democrats to keep the demonstrations focused and not allow the sort of descent into chaos that Republicans exploited with Vietnam. (And which, as we've already seen with Abbott in Texas, and with the recent anti-BLM police riots, they are super-psyched to exacerbate now.) I'm reminded here of Ben-Gurion's famous "we will fight the White Paper as if there is no war, and fight the war as if there is no White Paper." His tact allowed him to win both fights, which is to say he fared much better than Johnson and Daley did in 1968.

    Needless to say, there will be more pieces like this coming our way:

  • Dave Zirin: [04-26] How the US media failed to tell the story of the occupation of Palestine: Interview with Sut Jhally.

PS: For some reason I no longer recall, I happened to have had a tab open to a piece from Spiked, so I took a look at their home page. It seems to be a right-wing UK site -- Wikipedia traces its roots to "Living Marxism," but also also notes support from Charles Koch -- but whatever it's clearly in the bag for Israel now, with articles on: "Iran, not Israel, is escalating this war"; "Is it now a crime to be a Jew in London?"; "Hamas apologism has taken Australia by storm"; "The Islamo-left must be confronted"; as well as a lot of articles about "gender ideology" and "woke capitalism" and one on "Why humanity is good for the natural world." Right-wingers seem to be inexorably drawn to Israel.

America's increasingly desperate and pathetic empire:

Election notes:

Trump, and other Republicans: Trump's New York porn-star hush-money trial has started, so let's go there first:

More Republicans in the news (including more Trumps):

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Charles M Blow: [04-17] The Kamala Harris moment has arrived.

  • Gerard Edic: [04-23] Why is the Biden administration completing so many regulations? "The answer is the Congressional Review Act, which Republicans in a second Tumpp presidency could use to further attack the administrative state. Finalizing rules early protects them from this fate."

  • Jordan Haedtler/Kenny Stancil: [04-16] Democrats must start to distinguish themselves on insurance policy: "Amid a crisis for homeowners, Democrats have done little while Republicans pursue an agenda of bailouts and deregulation." I think, and not just due to climate change, insurance will become the number one political issue in America, as private industry is no longer able to charge enough to cover the necessary payouts (and still make the profits they expect).

  • Ed Kilgore: [03-18] This year's Democratic Convention won't be a replay of 1968: Didn't I say as much last week?

  • Paul Krugman:

    • [04-09] Stumbling into Goldilocks.

    • [04-23] Ukraine aid in the light of history: Compares the current vote to Lend-Lease in 1941, which most Republicans opposed before Pearl Harbor rallied them to war. Doesn't allow that they might have had good reasons for doing so, and accepts uncritically that Lend-Lease proved to be the right thing to do in 1941, implying that reasons then and there are still valid here and now. That case is pretty weak on almost every account, not that history between such unlike cases offers much guidance anyway.

    • [04-25] Can Biden revive the fortunes of American workers?: "He's the most pro-labor president since Harry Truman." I had to laugh at that one. Truman was very anti-union after the war ended in 1945, and his threats against strikers probably contributed to the debacle of 1946, which gave Republicans a majority in Congress, which (with racist southern Democrats) they used to pass Taft-Hartley over his veto. He recovered a bit after that, but no subsequent Democat made any serious efforts -- even when Johnson seemed to have a favorable Congress -- to reverse the damage. I'm not sure Krugman is technically wrong, but he's talking about slim margins at both ends.

  • Harold Meyerson: [04-15] Biden's Gaza policy could create a replay of Chicago '68: If Israel is still committing genocide in Gaza, Biden will certainly face (and deserve) protests, but will Chicago police riot again? -- that was, after all, the real story in 1968, and much of the blame there goes directly to Mayor Richard Daley.

  • Ahmed Moor: [04-17] As a Palestinian American, I can't vote for Joe Biden any more. And I am not alone: "The president's moral failure in Gaza has taken on historic proportions, like Lyndon Johnson's in Vietnam before him." I understand the sentiment, and I think Biden's team should take the threat of defections like this one -- and it's not just Palestinians who are thinking like that -- and get their act together. But come November, no one's just pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli or any other single thing. Politics is complicated, and ideal choices are hard to come by.

  • Timothy Noah: Yes, Joe Biden can win the working-class vote.

  • David Smith: [04-28] 'Stormy weather': Biden skewers Trump at White House correspondents' dinner: One of the few favorable things I had to say about Trump's presidency is that he sidelined this annual charade of chumminess. And it's not like the White House press has been doing Biden many favors over the last three years. But I guess the material writers came up with this year was too good to miss?

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

Russia/Ukraine War:

Around the world:

Taylor Swift: New album dropped, presumably a major event. I've been too busy to focus on it, but will get to it sooner or later.

Other stories:

Daniel Brown: [04-19] Oldest MLB player turns 100: Roomed with Yogi Berra, stymied Ted Williams: I clicked on this because I had to see who, after having noted the deaths of Carl Erskine (97) and Whitey Herzog (93) earlier in the week. And the answer is . . . Art Schallock! Not a name I recall, and I thought I knew them all (especially all the 1951-55 Yankees, although 1957 was the first year that actually stuck in my memory) Previous oldest MLB player was George Elder, and second oldest now is Bill Greason -- neither of them rings a bell either, but the next one sure does: Bobby Shantz!

Robert Christgau: [04-17] Xgau Sez: April, 2024: Perhaps because I'm disappointed I get so few questions my way, I thought I'd add a couple personal notes to his answers:

  1. I haven't actually read more Marx than Bob admits to here (at least not much more, and virtually nothing since I shifted focus circa 1975), so like him I'd refer inquisitive readers to the now quite long and deep tradition -- although at this point I'm not exactly sure where I'd start. (I started with historians like Eugene Genovese, art critics like John Berger, and economists like Paul Sweezy, followed by a lot of Frankfurt School, especially Walter Benjamin.) But his recommendation of Marshall Berman's Adventures in Marxism has me intrigued, so I think I'll order a copy. I have, but have never read, Berman's All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, which came out after I lost interest (long story, that), but has always struck me as the probably closest analogue to the book I sometimes imagined writing on Marx (had my career gone that direction: working title was Secret Agents, after a Benjamin quip about Baudellaire). But I did read, and much admired, Berman's first book, The Politics of Authenticity: Radical Individualism and the Emergence of Modern Society, which gets us at least half way there. (By the way, while I largely blanked out on Marxism after 1975, I broke the ice recently with China Miéville's A Spectre Haunting, which was like meeting up with an old friend.)

  2. Bob didn't search very hard for an answer to the question about "immediate astonishment" -- he checked off several 2023 records, then remembered two formative experiences from from sixty years earlier -- but had he consulted me, I could have reminded him of one: I was present when he opened and immediately played Marquee Moon, and I was even more impressed by the intensity of his reaction than I was by the music I was hearing. Although I had read much in the Voice about Television, I had never heard anything by them, so for me it took time to adjust.

    For me, the most obvious answer was another record I first heard in Bob's apartment: Ornette Coleman's Dancing in Your Head, which was an even more obviously perfect title than The Shape of Jazz to Come. As for real early records, which for me started around 1963, everything I bought was already baited with singles I already loved, but the first album side I really got into was on my fourth purchase, Having a Rave-Up With the Yardbirds -- the hits were on the first side, but I came to like the raves on the second side even more (above all the cover of "Respectable"). But I couldn't tell you if that was "instantaneous." I did buy Sgt. Pepper when it came out, with much hype but no presold singles, and I quickly came to love it as much as anyone else did.

  3. We didn't go to the 1994 Rhode Island festival, but Bob and Carola stayed with us in Boston before and after, so we were among the first to hear their unmediated reaction before it was sanitized for print. I've heard the Richie Havens dis so many times, both from Bob and from Laura Tillem, that I wondered whether they had shared the same traumatic concert experience, but she says not.

Tom Engelhardt: [04-21] A story of the decline and fall of it all. The editor-first, writer-as-the-occasion-arises, who has done more than anyone else over the last twenty years to help us realize that the American Empire is failing and floundering and never was all that useful let alone virtuous in the first place, has entered his 80s, feeling his own powers also dwindling, and growing more morose, as so many of us do. I'm tempted to quote large swathes of this article, but instead, let me do some editing (almost all his own words, but streamlined):

If Osama Bin Laden were still alive today, I suspect he would be pleased. He managed to outmaneuver and outplay what was then the greatest power on Planet Earth, drawing it into an endless war against "terrorism" and, in the process, turning it into an increasingly terrorized country, whose inhabitants are now at each other's throats.

As was true of the Soviet Union until almost the moment it collapsed in a heap, the U.S. still appears to be an imperial power of the first order. It has perhaps 750 military bases scattered around the globe and continues to act like a power of one on a planet that itself seems distinctly in crisis: a planet that itself looks as if it might be going to hell, amid record heat, fires, storms, and the like, while its leaders preoccupy themselves with organizing alliances and arming them for Armageddon.

It's strange to think about just how distant the America I grew up in -- the one that emerged from World War II as the global powerhouse -- now seems. Yet today, the greatest country on Earth (or so its leaders still like to believe), the one that continues to pour taxpayer dollars into a military funded like no other, or even combination of others, the one that has been unable to win any war of significance since 1945, seems to be coming apart at the seams, heading for a decline and fall almost beyond imagining.

I'm reminded here that Tom Carson, reviewing 1945 from the cusp of 2000, declared that the worst thing that ever happened to America was winning World War II. He might well have added that the second worst thing was the collapse of the Soviet Union: the essential ally in winning WWII, the opponent that allowed the Cold War to remain stable, and the void the US has spent thirty-plus years trying to fill in, and ultimately resurrect, with fantasies of imperial glory. I'd add that the third worst thing is the genocide in Gaza, where the Holocaust has returned in the form of America's spoiled, even more brattish and brutish Mini-Me.

Like Engelhardt, I've been fortunate to have lived my whole life in, and mostly conscious of, this arc. I'm a bit younger: I was born the week China entered the Korean War, ending the American advance and hopes of swift victory, so it was perhaps a bit easier for me to see that the remainder was all downhill. I was struck early on by the arrogance of power -- a familiar phrase even before William Fullbright used it as a book title -- and even earlier by the hypocrisy of the powerful. One of the first maxims I learned was "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." I was an introspective child, cursed with the ability to see deep into myself, and to approximate what others see, even over vast time and space. I was schizophrenic. I embraced radicalism, searching for roots, and found reason, a way of constructing frameworks for understanding. As a method, it was so incisive, so clear, so aware, that I had to put it aside for decades just to try to live a life, but it never left me, nor I it, as two decades of notebooks (most reorganized here) should attest.

Céline Gounder/Craig Spencer: [04-16] The decline in American life expectancy harms more than our health. Related:

  • Michael Hiltzik: [2023-04-05] America's decline in life expectancy speaks volumes about our problems. I may have cited this article before. The county map looks familiar. On a state level, lower average age of death lines up pretty close to Republican votes, although within those states, powerless Democratic enclaves (e.g., in Mississippi and South Dakota) are hit worst of all.

Constance Grady: [04-11] Why we never stopped talking about OJ Simpson.

John Herrman: [04-19] How product recommendations broke Google: "And ate the internet in the process." A long time ago, I put a fair amount of thought into what sort of aggregate information modeling might be possible with everyone having internet connections. Needless to say, nothing much that I anticipated actually happened, since business corruption crept into every facet of the process, making it impossible to ever trust anyone. It may look like the internet made us shallow and venal and paranoid, but that's mostly because those were the motivations of the people who rushed to take it over.

Jonathan Kandell: [04-19] Daniel C Dennett, widely read and fiercely debated philosopher, dies at 82: "Espousing his ideas in best sellers, he insisted that religion was an illusion, free will was a fantasy and evolution could only be explained by natural selection."

Whizy Kim: [04-17] Boeing's problems were as bad as you thought: "Experts and whistleblowers testified before Congress today. The upshot? "It was all about money."

Eric Levitz: I originally had these scattered about, but the sheer number and range suggested grouping them here.

  • [04-12] What the evidence really says about social media's impact on teens' mental health: "Did smartphones actually 'destroy' a generation?" Reviews Jonathan Haidt's book, The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness. Hard to say without not just having read the book but doing some extra evidence. Haidt seems like a guy who tries to look reasonable so he can sneak a conservative viewpoint in without it being dismissed out of hand. Levitz seems like a smart guy who's a bit too eager to split disputes down the middle. I suspect there are other factors at work that don't fit anyone's agenda.

  • [04-13] Don't sneer at white rural voters -- or delude yourself about their politics: "What the debate over "white rural rage" misses." Refers to the Tom Schaller/Paul Waldman book, White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy, which has been much reviewed, including a piece cited here by Tyler Austin Harper: An utterly misleading book about rural America. Levitz makes good points, nicely summed up by subheds:

    1. Rural white people are more supportive of right-wing authoritarianism than are urban or suburban ones
    2. Millions of rural white Americans support the Democratic Party
    3. Rural white Republicans are not New Deal Democrats who got confused
    4. The economic challenges facing many rural areas are inherently difficult to solve.
    5. Most people inherit the politics of their families and communities

    Further reading here:

  • [04-19] Tell the truth about Biden's economy: "Exaggering the harms of inflation doesn't help working people."

  • [04-23] The "feminist" case against having sex for fun: "American conservatives are cozying up to British feminists who argue that the sexual revolution has hurt women."

  • [04-24] Trump's team keeps promising to increase inflation: "Voters trust Trump to lower prices, even as his advisers put forward plans for increasing Americans' cost of living." Four steps:

    1. Reduce the value of the US dollar
    2. Apply a 10 percent tariff on all foreign imports
    3. Enact massive, deficit-financed tax cuts
    4. Shrink the American labor force

Rick Perlstein:

  • [04-17] The implausible Mr Buckley: "A new PBS documentary whitewashes the conservative founder of National Review." Hard to imagine them rendering him even more white. Also on Buckley:

  • [04-24] My dinner with Andreessen: "Billionaires I have known." First of a promised three-part series, "because you really need to know how deeply twisted some of these plutocrats who run our society truly are." Then after sharing the story of their meeting, he concludes: "There is something very, very wrong with us, that our society affords so much pwoer to people like this."

Jeffrey St Clair: [04-19] Roaming Charges: How to kill a wolf in society.

Michael Tatum: Books read (and not read): First post on the author's new blog, "Michael on Everything." Nice supplement to my own last week Book Roundup, especially as he catches books I missed, and writes about them with much more care.

Astra Taylor/Leah Hunt-Hendrix: [03-12] What is solidarity and how does it work?: Introduction to the authors' book, Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea. Related:

Li Yuan:

  • [04-08] What Chinese outrage over '3 Body Problem' says about China: "Instead of demonstrating pride, social media is condemning it." The review also inadvertently says much about America, like how we insist on cartoonishly simple framing of Chinese history, and how we insert more westerners into a Chinese story to make it more "relatable" and still expect them to be thankful for their leftovers. I'm critical enough of America's own chauvinists and sanitizers of history that I disapprove of the same things in other countries -- e.g., the Turkish taboo against so much as mentioning the Armenian genocide -- and I don't doubt that there is some of this same spirit in much of the Chinese reaction. But that hardly give us the right to dictate how they should view their own history, especially as we have so little sense of it.

  • [02-29] China has thousands of Navalnys, hidden from the public. Of this I have no doubt. Every political system, no matter how coercive, breeds its own dissent. Countries that tolerate and even encourage dissent are often better off, and tend to look down their noses at those who don't, but all countries adjust as they see fit. Unfortunately, many think they can solve their problems through repression, and we have no shortage of people who think like that in America.

Li Zhou: [04-18] Jontay Porter's lifetime NBA ban highlights the risks of sports gambling. Also, evidently, the lure. Jeffrey St Clair says: "People who watch NBA or NHL games are hit with as many as three gambling ads per minute."

Ask a question, or send a comment.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Book Roundup

I've been doing these book roundups almost as long as I've been blogging. I've long held to the idea that the state of human knowledge is realized in books -- newspapers and magazines, and the less literary forms that proliferate on the internet may be ok for "first drafts," but to be taken seriously, one needs to put it into a more permanent format, secured both by and for time. So my idea here is to spend a few days looking around to see what's new or recent (or in some cases just new to me), then write up some notes, usually from reading blurbs and customer comments, often by looking at samples, and in very rare cases by actually reading the book.

This process often results in me buying and reading more books, but in most cases I figure the research itself is sufficient. There is an element of consumer guidance here, as I hope these lists will help you decide what to read (and what to skip), to the extent our interests intersect. Nearly everything below comes from history, philosophy, and/or social science (including economics), but especially where politics are involved. Those have been my dominant interests going back to the mid-1960s, and almost exclusively since 2000, when I lost my job as a software engineer and found myself with a lot of free time (mostly thanks to a hard-working and politically astute wife). Occasionally some other interest will sneak in -- I write a lot about music but don't read much, at least in book form; before 2000, I read a lot of popular science (making up ground for my lack of formal education) and business management (I kept on top of what my bosses were thinking), but even then I rarely read fiction, and see no way I can survey it now.

The format of late has been to do short blurbs for a batch of forty books each post, followed by a list of other things I felt like noting but not saying much about. I often wound up tacking "related" lists onto the top-forty, so that section started to sprawl. Last time (Sept. 23, 2023) I decided to contain the sprawl, and hopefully expedite the schedule, by cutting the top section down to 30, promising to drop down to 20 next time -- the hope there was to get posts out in a more timely fashion. But since I didn't, I figured I'd shoot for 30 this time, then upped it to 40, then added in a few more I figured were done enough to move out of the drafts file (where a couple hundred more rough drafts and briefly noted remain).

Pictures are books listed below that made it to my Recent Reading list (also including books I've ordered but haven't gotten into yet):

  • Ned Blackhawk: The Rediscovery of America
  • Linda Dittmar: Tracing Homelands
  • Leah Hunt-Hendrix/Astra Taylor: Solidarity
  • John B Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone?
  • Steven Kahn: Illiberal America
  • Shaul Magid: The Necessity of Exile
  • Tricia Romano: The Freaks Came Out to Write
  • Timothy Shenk: Realigners
  • Richard Slotkin: A Great Disorder

Here are 40+ more/less recent books of interest in politics, the social sciences, and history, with occasional side trips, and supplementary lists to group related titles:

Daron Acemoglu/Simon Johnson: Power and Progress: Our Thousand-Year Struggle Over Technology and Prosperity (2023, PublicAffairs): Acemoglu is an economist who does big picture studies of "the historical origins of prosperity, poverty, and the effects of new technologies on economic growth, employment, and inequality," often emphasizing the role of institutions (or their absence or shortcomings), as in two previous books with James Robinson: Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty (2012), and The Narrow Corridor: States, Societies, and the Fate of Liberty (2019). Johnson is also an economist, formerly chief at the IMF, who with James Kwak wrote a bestseller, 13 Bankers (2010), about the 2008 financial meltdown. I tend to be skeptical of writers trying to work at this level, but the authors do seem to understand not just that technology is a powerful driving force, but that exactly where it takes us is subject to political choice -- if, that is, we have any choice in the matter. They open with a quote from Norbert Wiener (1949): "If we combine our machine-potentials of a factory with the valuation of human beings on which our present factory system is based, we are in for an industrial revolution of unmitigated cruelty. We must be willing to deal in facts rather than in fashionable ideologies if we wish to get through this period unharmed." I would suggest working on that second sentence a bit more, as facts are rarely recognized except through a haze of ideology, and what's fashionable often diverges from what one really needs.

Elliot Ackerman: The Fifth Act: America's End in Afghanistan (2022, Penguin): Former Marine, five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, worked for CIA, has written several well-regarded novels, returned for the end and didn't like what he saw. This is much touted as a powerful work that is critical of all US administrations -- bear in mind that's not exactly the same thing as critical of the war they created -- but it strikes me as impossible for someone so deeply embedded to be able to see much beyond the battle lines.

  • Adam Wunische: Unwinnable Wars: Afghanistan and the Future of American Armed Statebuilding (paperback, 2024, Polity). Author has a long history as a military and CIA analyst, but also did some research at Quincy Institute, and admits that "armed statebuilding is overdetermined for failure."
  • Séamus Ó Fianghusa (Fennessy): The Pullout Sellout: The Betrayal of Afghanistan and America's 9/11 Legacy (paperback, 2021, Im Úr Blasta).

Tim Alberta: The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory: American Evangelism in an Age of Extremism (2023, Harper): Shows how American evangelicals have embraced right-wing politics under the guise of Christian Nationalism, seeing Donald Trump as their savior and redeemer, through which God might bring the nation back to its intended state of grace. It's a very heady mix, ominous to anyone who just wants to get along in an increasingly complex and diverse society. Some related books (including some pushback):

  • Anthea Butler: White Evangelical Racism: The Politics of Morality in America (2021, The University of North Carolina Press).
  • Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons: Just Faith: Reclaiming Progressive Christianity (2020, Broadleaf Books).
  • Jack Jenkins: American Prophets: The Religious Roots of Progressive Politics and the Ongoing Fight for the Soul of the Country (2020; paperback, 2021, Harper One).
  • Kristin Kobes Du Mez: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation (2020; paperback, 2021, Liveright).
  • Robert P Jones: The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future (2023, Simon & Schuster).
  • Sarah McCammon: The Exvangelicals: Loving, Living, and Leaving the White Evangelical Church (2024, St Martin's Press).
  • Elizabeth Neumann: Kingdom of Rage: The Rise of Christian Extremism and the Path Back to Peace (2024, Worthy Books).
  • Bradley Onishi: Preparing for War: The Extremist History of White Christian Nationalism -- and What Comes Next (2023, Broadleaf Books).
  • Jim Wallis: The False White Gospel: Rejecting Christian Nationalism, Reclaiming True Faith, and Refounding Democracy (2024, St Martin's Essentials).
  • NT Wright/Michael F Bird: Jesus and the Powers: Christian Political Witness in an Age of Totalitarian Terror and Dysfunctional Democracies (paperback, 2024, Zondervan).

Eric Alterman: We Are Not One: A History of America's Fight Over Israel (2022, Basic Books): "This book is a history of the debate over Israel in the United States." But has there really been a debate? I suspect that much in this book will come as news even to the American Jews and Evangelicals (presumably the subject of the chapter "Alliance for Armageddon") who most reflexively and vehemently cheer Israel. The "special relationship" of America for Israel -- an affection that is welcomed by Israelis but clearly not reciprocated -- desperately needs to be reexamined in light of the instant and unblinking rallying of virtually the entire American political class when Israel set on its course of genocide against Gaza.

Isaac Arnsdorf: Finish What We Started: The MAGA Movement's Ground War to End Democracy (2024, Little Brown): There is a large and growing shelf of books lamenting various threats to democracy (some of which I'll tack on here), but few get specific to the threat, even though their greatest fears are clearly articulated at every Trump rally. The problem is not some abstract threat to the cherished concept of democracy, but a specific political movement which seeks to seize power, by any means at its disposal, and to use that power to punish its enemies and to perpetuate itself. More books on various aspects of this:

  • Ari Berman: Minority Rule: The Right-Wing Attack on the Will of the People -- and the Fight to Resist It (2024, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Joan Donovan/Emily Dreyfuss/Brian Friedberg: Meme Wars: The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America (2022, Bloomsbury): Investigates how the right wing has weaponized social media, especially in their reduction of political argument to memes, where meaning is often reduced to tribal identity.
  • James Davison Hunter: Democracy and Solidarity: On the Cultural Roots of America's Political Crisis (2024, Yale University Press): Keywords fit here and/or under solidarity, but aims at deeper study of social mechanics rather than some activist agenda.
  • Robert Kagan: Rebellion: How Antiliberalism Is Tearing America Apart -- Again (2024, Knopf).
  • Steve Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt: Tyranny of the Minority: Why American Democracy Reached the Breaking Point (2023, Crown). Authors of How Democracies Die (2018).
  • Barbara McQuade: Attack From Within: How Disinformation Is Sabotaging America (2024, Seven Stories Press).
  • David Neiwert: Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us (2020, Prometheus).
  • David Neiwert: The Age of Insurrection: The Radical Right's Assault on American Democracy (2023, Melville House).
  • Tom Nichols: Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault From Within on Modern Democracy (2021, Oxford University Press): Professor at US Naval War College.
  • David Pepper: Saving Democracy: A User's Manual for Every American (2023, St Helena Press).
  • Brynn Tannehill: American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy (2021, Transgress Press).
  • Miles Taylor: Blowback: A Warning to Save Democracy From the Next Trump (2023, Atria Books): The "senior Trump administration official" who published A Warning in 2019. Most of us worry more about This Trump.

Walter Benjamin: Radio Benjamin (paperback, 2021, Verso): Famous German literary critic (1892-1940), wrote and presented radio programs from 1927-33, bringing his insights and curiosity to the new medium. This gathers the surviving transcripts from his programs (424 pp).

Lauren Benton: They Called It Peace: Worlds of Imperial Violence (2024, Princeton University Press): Blurb suggests an alternate sub: "A sweeping account of how small wars shaped global order in the age of empires." "Small wars" is a term Max Boot popularized to describe conflicts where the US -- and Europe has many more examples -- attacked some relatively defenseless enclave, for plunder or punishment or sometimes it would seem simply for sport (as they sometimes put it: "butcher and bolt"). This offers a brief (304 pp) history of the violence committed in the name of empire: Chapter 1 is "From Small Wars to Atrocity in Empires." "Peace" is rarely more than post-facto rationalization, and more often than not dissolves into resistance and revolt, which has its own "small war" etymology ("guerilla warfare"). Benton has written a fair amount about empire:

  • Lauren A Benton: Invisible Factories: The Informal Economy and Industrial Development in Spain (1990, SUNY Press).
  • Lauren Benton: Law and Colonial Cultures: Legal Regimes in World History, 1400-1900 (2002; paperback, 2009, Cambridge University Press).
  • Lauren Benton: A Search for Sovereignty: Law and Geography in European Empires, 1400-1900 (paperback, 2009, Cambridge University Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Richard J Ross, eds: Legal Pluralism and Empires, 1500-1850 (paperback, 2013, NYU Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Lisa Ford: Rage for Order: The British Empire and the Origins of International Law, 1800-1850 (2016; paperback, 2018, Harvard University Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Bain Atwood/Adam Clulow, eds: Protection and Empire: A Global History (2017; paperback, 2018, Cambridge University Press).
  • Lauren Benton/Nathan Perl-Rosenthal, eds: A World at Sea: Maritime Practices and Global History (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).

Vincent Bevins: If We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution (2023, PublicAffairs): Journalist, has written for Washington Post and Financial Times [London], covering South America and Southeast Asia, has a previous book on the mass murder of leftists in Indonesia (The Jakarrta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World). Major insight here is that the 2010s were a decade with massive protests all around the world -- Arab Spring, Turkey, Ukraine, Chile, Hong Kong are among the more famous -- that resulted in very little real change. The reasonable conclusion would be that the underlying problems are still festering, temporarily held in check by repressive measures that are likely to fail. Related:

  • Mark Engler/Paul Engler: This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century (2016; paperback, 2017, Bold Type).
  • Nadav Eyal: Revolt: The Worldwide Uprising Against Globalization (2021, Ecco; paperback, 2022, Picador).
  • Jade Saab: A Region in Revolt: Mapping the Recent Uprisings in North Africa and West Asia (paperback, 2020, Daraja Press).

Rachael Bitecofer: Hit 'Em Where It Hurts: How to Save Democracy by Beating Republicans at Their Own Game (2024, Crown). Democrats sorely need a hard-hitting political strategy book, which is what this one promises. Still, the two political parties are in many respects asymmetrical, and as such require different positions and therefore tactics. Democrats need to be able to solve problems and offer tangible returns to voters, where Republicans seem to be able to thrive on emotional appeals that only lead to counterproductive policies. Democrats need to be able to raise money, but cannot afford to be seen as corrupt, and need to garner massive support from voters who have little or no money to give. Still, Democrats need to be able to deliver at least some of the emotional satisfaction people seem to get from Republicans. One way to do that is to get nastier: to show that Republicans are crooked and deceitful and generally full of shit. Which really shouldn't be that hard for the party that believes in science, in reason, in truth, and in honest public service. More on the state of the Democrats:

  • Joshua Green: The Rebels: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the Struggle for a New American Politics (2024, Penguin Press). Green previously reported on the Republicans in Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency (2017).
  • Ryan Grim: The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution (2023, Henry Holt).
  • John B Judis/Ruy Teixeira: Where Have All the Democrats Gone? The Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes (2023, Henry Holt): The guys who promised you an "emerging Democratic majority" now promise you . . . more heartbreak.
  • Lainey Newman/Theda Skocpol: Rust Belt Union Blues: Why Working-Class Voters Are Turning Away From the Democratic Party (2023, Columbia University Press).
  • Hunter Walker/Luppe B Juppen: The Truce: Progressives, Centrists, and the Future of the Democratic Party (2024, WW Norton).

Ned Blackhawk: The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of US History (2023, Yale University Press): A prize-winning revision of American history turning on relations with the continent's native population, from the first Spanish encounters to the "Cold War Era." This story has most often been brushed aside in large-scale historical studies, but has a lot to say about what kind of people we were, and what kind we have become. Also:

  • Kathleen DuVal: Native Nations: A Millennium in North America (2024, Random House): Big book (752 pp), vast scope.

Andy Borowitz: Profiles in Ignorance: How America's Politicians Got Dumb and Dumber (2022, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster): Satirist, for years now has paddled desperately trying to stay ahead of reality, but succumbs here, writing about "The Three Stages of Ignorance." Or, as he explains: "Over the past fifty years, what some of our most prominent politicians didn't know could fill a book. This is that book."

Daniel Boyarin: The No-State Solution: A Jewish Manifesto (2023, Yale University Press): A professor of Talmudic Studies, the author tries to reconcile the justice sought by his religion with the power sought by the Israeli state, and cannot, leading him to reject the state, and to reexamine the "Jewish question" that some of his co-religionists tried to solve with Zionism. Also on Zionism and its discontents:

  • Noah Feldman: To Be a Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People (2024, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Geoffrey Levin: Our Palestine Question: Israel and American Jewish Dissent, 1948-1978 (2023, Yale University Press).
  • Shaul Magid: The Necessity of Exile: Essays From a Distance (paperback, 2023, Ayin Press).
  • Atalia Omer: Days of Awe: Reimagining Jewishness in Solidarity With Palestinians (paperback, 2019, University of Chicago Press).
  • Derek J Penslar: Zionism: An Emotional State (paperback, 2023, Rutgers University Press).
  • Rebecca Vilkomerson/Alissa Wise: Solidarity Is the Political Version of Love: Lessons From Jewish Anti-Zionist Organizing (paperback, 2024, Haymarket Books). [09-03]

Steve Coll: The Achilles Trap: Saddam Hussein, the C.I.A., and the Origins of America's Invasion of Iraq (2024, Penguin Press): He wrote the primary book on America in Afghanistan -- Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden: From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (2004), which was eventually given a sequel in Directorate 6: The CIA and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2018) -- as well as major side projects on the Bin Ladens and Exxon-Mobil. This, like Ghost Wars, starts in 1979, and ends in 2003 -- as the Bush invasion of Iraq was as definitive a break as the 9/11 pivot from clandestine mischief to assertion of global power, and every bit as misguided.

Matthew Desmond: Poverty, by America (2023, Crown): Asks why, and concludes that people in power like it this way. It's not an obvious choice, but in a political system where power is largely determined by money, it shouldn't be surprising to find that money is largely determined by power. As Desmond notes, "poverty isn't simply the condition of not having enough money. It's the condition of not having enough choice." Author previously wrote Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016), specifically about Milwaukee. A few more books relating to poverty:

  • Kevin F Adler/Donald W Burnes: When We Walk By: Forgotten Humanity, Broken Systems, and the Role We Can Each Play in Ending Homelessness in America (paperback, 2023, North Atlantic Books).
  • Kathryn J Edin/H Luke Schaefer/Timothy J Nelson: The Injustice of Place: Uncovering the Legacy of Poverty in America (2023, Mariner Books).
  • Joanne Samuel Goldblum/Colleen Shaddox: Broke in America: Seeing, Understanding, and Ending US Poverty (2021, BenBella Books).
  • Tracie McMillan: The White Bonus: Five Families and the Cash Value of Racism in America (2024, Henry Holt).
  • Mark Robert Rank/Lawrence M Eppard/Heather E Bullock: Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong About Poverty (2021, Oxford University Press).

Bruce Gilley: In Defense of German Colonialism: And How Its Critics Empower Nazis, Communists, and the Enemies of the West (2022, Regnery): It's rather shocking that anyone could come up with a whole book of rationalizations for Germany's pre-WWI colonial empire, which is mostly remembered for its genocide of the Herero in what's now called Namibia. (But I suppose the publisher tells you what you need to know about the author.) Also in this vein:

  • Bruce Gilley: The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns's Epic Defense of the British Empire (2021, Regnery).
  • Jeff Flynn-Paul: Not Stolen: The Truth About European Colonialism in the New World (paperback, 2023, Bombardier Books): Argues that colonialism was a blessing, that all of the "shameful sins and crimes against humanity" you've read about never happened, and the true story "is more inspiring than you ever dared to imagine."

Steven Hahn: Illiberal America: A History (2024, WW Norton): A thematic review of all of American history, the theme being the impulses and forces that have always risen to threaten and often to thwart the liberal ideals Americans have celebrated, but rarely lived up to. Little distinguishes illiberalism from the more often self-proclaimed conservatism, except that it expresses not just a fondness for order but the willingness to enforce it through violence. As thematic history, I suspect this winds up fairly closely tracking Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics -- illiberalism by yet another name. Other books by Hahn:

  • Steven Hahn: The Roots of Southern Populism: Yeoman Farmers and the Transformation of the Georgia Upcountry (1983; updated paperback, 2006, Oxford University Press).
  • Steven Hahn: A Nation Under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South From Slavery to the Great Migration (2003; paperback, 2005, Belknap Press).
  • Steven Hahn: The Political Worlds of Slavery and Freedom (2009, Harvard University Press).
  • Steven Hahn: A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-1910 (2016, Viking; paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).

Jonathan Haidt: The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness (2024, Penguin Press): Degree in social psychology, teaches "ethical leadership" in NYU's Stern School of Business, a conservative intellectual who can't quite be dismissed out of hand, although I find it pretty likely that much of what looks like "mental illness" to conservatives is simply stuff they don't understand. This pairs with:

  • Greg Lukianoff/Rikki Schlott: The Canceling of the American Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All -- but There is a Solution (2023, Simon & Schuster): Foreword by Jonathan Haidt, who co-wrote The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. No doubt this ignores the basic paradox, which is that while conservatives do the most complaining about "cancel culture," they're also the ones doing most of the cancelling.

Jacob Heilbrunn: America Last: The Right's Century-Long Romance With Foreign Dictators (2024, Liveright): Journalist, has a previous book, They Knew They Were Right: The Rise of the Neocons (2008), actually goes back a bit farther than the rise of Mussollini (third chapter; first is "Courting Kauiser Wilhelm"), winds up with Trump (of course), but in a short book he probably glosses over a lot of obvious subjects (e.g., whole books have been written about Pinochet and Friedman).

Dara Horn: People Love Dead Jews: Reports From a Haunted Present (2021; paperback, 2022, WW Norton): A novelist of some note, writes about the state and legacy of antisemitism in America (and elsewhere?), recalling Shakespeare's Shylock and Anne Frank and "the Jewish history of Harbin, China" and, no doubt, much more. Which is bound to be disturbing on some level, but exactly how cannot be known except to looking deeper into the details and nuances. That could be interesting, but hardly seems important compared to the ongoing genocide in Gaza, on top of the broader and deeper discrimination against non-Jews in Israel, which is not only fueled by the same kinds of prejudices that have been used against Jews for ages, but is also fortified by internalizing the sort of tales of victimhood Horn engages in. Also on antisemitism (and Holocaust remembrance, the trump card in the eternal victimization story):

  • David Baddiel: Jews Don't Count (2021, TLS Books): Short (144 pp), argues antisemitism is overlooked or underappreciated.
  • Omer Bartov: Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz (2018; paperback, 2019, Simon & Schuster): In Nazi-occupied Ukraine.
  • Omer Bartov: Genocide, the Holocaust and Israel-Palestine: First-Person History in Times of Crisis (paperback, 2023, Bloomsbury).
  • Jószef Debreczeni: Cold Crematorium: Reporting From the Land of Auschwitz (2024, St Martin's Press).
  • Susan J Eischeid: Mistress of Life and Death: The Dark Journey of Maria Mandl, Head Overseer of the Women's Camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau (2023, Citadel).
  • Cary Nelson: Israel Denial: Anti-Zionism, Anti-Semitism, & the Faculty Campaign Against the Jewish State (paperback, 2019, Indiana University Press).
  • Dan Stone: The Holocaust: An Unfinished History (2024, Mariner Books).
  • Bari Weiss: How to Fight Anti-Semitism (2019; paperback, 2021, Crown).

Leah Hunt-Hendrix/Astra Taylor: Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea (2024, Pantheon): Liberals and leftists may share common beliefs in principles and rights, but there is an essential difference: liberals celebrate individuals, while the left sees groups, acting together, bound by solidarity, a sense not just that interests are shared but that only collective action can secure them. Not long ago, Thomas Geoghegan made a big point on how solidarity was what distinguishes the labor movement from liberalism in America, and how alien the former seems to the latter. But when I look around today, I see a lot of emphasis on solidarity. More recent books on left activism:

  • Chris Benner/Manuel Pastor: Solidarity Economics: Why Mutuality and Movements Matter (paperback, 2021, Polity).
  • Deepak Bhargava/Stephanie Luce: Practical Radicals: Seven Strategies to Change the World (2023, New Press).
  • David Fenton: The Activist's Media Handbook: Lessons From Fifty Years as a Progressive Agitator (2022, Earth Aware Editions).
  • Kelly Hayes/Mariame Kaba: Let This Radicalize You: Organizing and the Revolution of Reciprocal Care (paperback, 2023, Haymarket Books).
  • Tricia Hersey: Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto (2022, Little Brown Spark).
  • Mie Inouye: On Solidarity (paperback, 2023, Boston Review): Leads a forum, with William J Barber II, Charisse Burden-Stelly, Jodi Dean, Nathan R DuFord, Alex Gourevitch, Juliet Hooker, Daniel Martinez HoSang, David Roediger, Sarah Schulman, Astra Taylor, Leah Hunt-Hendrix, Liz Theoharis, plus articles by others.
  • Raina Lipsitz: The Rise of a New Left: How Young Radicals Are Shaping the Future of American Politics (2022, Verso).
  • Staughton Lynd/Mike Konopacki: Solidary Unionism: Rebuilding the Labor Movement From Below (paperback, 2015, PM Press).
  • Daisy Pitkin: On the Line: Two Women's Epic Fight to Build a Union (2022; paperback, 2023, Algonquin Books).
  • Andrea J Ritchie: Practicing New Worlds: Abolition and Emergent Strategies (paperback, 2023, AK Press).
  • Erica Smiley/Sarita Gupta: The Future We Need: Organizing for a Better Democracy in the Twenty-First Century (paperback, 2022, ILR Press).
  • Cenk Uygur: Justice Is Coming: How Progressives Are Going to Take Over the Country and America Is Going to Love It (2023, St Martin's Press).

Of course, solidarity is a theme that extends beyond the US, as many recent books attest:

  • Jennifer Lynn Kelly: Invited to Witness: Solidarity Tourism Across Occupied Palestine (paperback, 2023, Duke University Press).
  • Margaret M Power: Solidarity Across the Americas: The Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and Anti-Imperialism (paperback, 2023, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Rob Skinner: Peace, Decolonization and the Practice of Solidarity (2023, Bloomsbury Academic).
  • Firuzeh Shokooh Valle: In Defense of Solidarity and Pleasure: Feminist Technopolitics From the Global South (2023, Stanford University Press).
  • Daniel Widener: Third Worlds Within: Multiethnic Movements and Transnational Solidarity (paperback, 2024, Duke University Press). Foreword by Vijay Prashad.

Book series: Abolitionist Papers:

  • Mariame Kaba: We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice [Abolitionist Papers, 1] (paperback, 2021, Haymarket Books).
  • Angela Y Davis/Gina Dent/Erica R Meiners/Beth E Richie: Abolitionism. Feminism. Now. [Abolitionist Papers, 2] (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books).
  • Robyn Maynard/Leanne Betasamosake Simpson: Rehearsals for Living [Abolitionist Papers, 3] (paperback, 2022, Haymarket Books).
  • Mizue Aizeki/Matt Mahmoudi/Coline Schupfer, eds: Resisting Borders and Technologies of Violence [Abolitionist Papers] (paperback, 2024, Haymarket Books).

Book series: Emergent Strategy (a series of 12 books):

  • Adrienne Maree Brown: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds [Emergent Strategy, 0] (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
  • Adrienne Maree Brown, ed: Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good [Emergent Strategy, 1] (paperback, 2019, AK Press).
  • Adrienne Maree Brown: Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation [Emergent Strategy, 4] (paperback, 2021, AK Press).

Jonathan Karl: Tired of Winning: Donald Trump and the End of the Grand Old Party (2023, Dutton): Every one of these posts offers a new crop of Trump books, so the only question is which one to lead with. Lots of legal baggage down list, with his trials and tribulations likely to crowd out his more fundamental obnoxiousness and more pathetic malapropisms. But no other politician has remotely come close to the amount of press he's garnered, and that's unlikely to change any time soon. Although I'm inclined to add that this segment's collection of new Trump books is among the most boring ever:

  • Martin Baron: Collision of Power: Trump, Bezos, and the Washington Post (2023, Flatiron Books).
  • Ken Block: Disproven: My Unbiased Search for Vote Fraud for the Trump Campaign, the Data That Shows Why He Lost, and How We Can Improve Our Elections (2024, Forefront Books).
  • Clay Cane: The Grift: The Downward Spiral of Black Republicans From the Party of Lincoln to the Cult of Trump (2024, Sourcebooks).
  • Alan Dershowitz: Get Trump: The Threat to Civil Liberties, Due Process, and Our Constitutional Rule of Law (2023, Hot Books): Fourth (or sixth?) book the world's most opportunistically liberal lawyer has written defending Trump.
  • Elie Honig: Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away With It (2023, Harper): Former prosecutor, now CNN Legal Analyst, tells us something we already suspected, which is that the rich and famous enjoy huge advantages in America's so-called justice system. Granted, some of his famous examples (Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby) did wind up in jail, but only after extraordinary efforts. But his main example, Donald Trump, is still at large.
  • Cassidy Hutchinson: Enough (2023, Simon & Schuster): Trump White House aide, testified memorably to the Jan. 6 Select Committee (e.g., about Trump throwing food).
  • Michael Isikoff/Daniel Klaidman: Find Me the Votes: A Hard-Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President, and the Plot to Steal an American Election (2024, Twelve).
  • Melissa Murray/Andrew Weissmann: The Trump Indictments: The Historic Charging Documents With Commentary (paperback, 2024, WW Norton).
  • Tim Murtaugh: Swing Hard in Case You Hit It: My Escape From Addiction and Shot at Redemption on the Trump Campaign (2024, Bombardier Books).
  • Mark Pomerantz: People vs. Donald Trump: An Inside Account (2023, Simon & Schuster): New York prosecutor, resigned when he thought Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg was too slow in prosecuting Trump.
  • Ethan Porter/Thomas J Wood: False Alarm: The Truth About Political Mistruths in the Trump Era (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press): 80 pp.
  • Charles Renwick: All the Presidents' Taxes: What We Can Learn (and Borrow) from the High-Stakes World of Presidential Tax-Paying (2023, Lioncrest): Short (180 pp), some but not all on Trump.
  • Ramin Setoodeh: Apprentice in Wonderland: How Donald Trump and Mark Burnett Took America Through the Looking Glass (2024, Harper). TV writer. Previously wrote: Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Story of "The View" (2019). [06-18]
  • Tristan Snell: Taking Down Trump: 12 Rules for Prosecuting Donald Trump by Someone Who Did It Successfully (2024, Melville House): Snell was the New York prosecutor on the Trump University fraud case, which was ultimately settled for $25 million, before Trump became president, so he didn't take him down very far.
  • Ali Velshi: The Trump Indictments: The 91 Criminal Counts Against the Former President of the United States (paperback, 2023, Mariner Books): Introduction plus documents.
  • Bob Woodward: The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward's Twenty Interviews With President Donald Trump (paperback, 2023, Simon & Schuster): Documentation for his books Fear (2018) and Rage (2020).

Nelson Lichtenstein/Judith Stein: A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism (2023, Princeton University Press): "How the Clinton administration betrayed its progressive principles and capitulated to the right." I'm less inclined to grant him any "progressive principles." I think his plan all along was to show wealthy donors that backing Democrats would make them more money than the Reagan cronies ever would, and he delivered a pretty good case for that. But the other part of his pitch didn't fare so well: he claimed that "reinventing government" to make it more business-friendly would "trickle down" to lift up workers and alleviate poverty, so everyone would win (especially himself). To some extent, he succeeded there too, but it didn't feel like much of a win -- especially to the workers who got cut off from union jobs, to the regions that got stripped of their factories and livelihoods, and to the millions of Americans who saw the federal safety net shredded by austerity, and who fell ever deeper in debt, as a new class of "symbolic analysts" were touted as future elites. Also by the authors:

  • Nelson Lichtenstein: Labor's War at Home: The CIO in World War II (1983; paperback, 2008, Temple University Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein/Howell John Harris, eds: Industrial Democracy in America: The Ambiguous Promise (1993; revised, paperback, 1996, Cambridge University Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit: Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor (1995, Basic Books).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, ed: American Capitalism: Social Thought and Political Economy in the Twentieth Century (2006, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (2002; revised, paperback, 2013, Princeton University Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, ed: Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First Century Capitalism (2006, paperback, New Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: The Retail Revolution: How Wal-Mart Created a Brave New World of Business (2009, Metropolitan Books; paperback, 2010, Picador).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein/Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, eds: The Right and Labor in America: Politics, Ideology, and Imagination (2012; paperback, 2016, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Nelson Lichtenstein: A Contest of Ideas: Capital, Politics and Labor (paperback, 2013, University of Illinois Press).
  • Romain Huret/Nelson Lichtenstein/Jean-Christian Vinel, eds: Capitalism Contested: The New Deal and Its Legacies (2020, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Roy Rosenzweig/Nelson Lichtenstein/Joshua Brown/David Jaffee [American Social History Project]: Who Built America? Working People and the Nation's History: Volume Two: 1877 to the Present (third edition, paperback, 2007, Bedford/St Martin's).
  • Judith Stein: The World of Marcus Garvey: Race and Class in Modern Society (1985; paperback, 1991, Louisiana State University Press).
  • Judith Stein: Running Steel, Running America: Race, Economic Policy, and the Decline of Liberalism (paperback, 1998, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Judith Stein: Pivotal Decade: How the United States Traded Factories for Finance in the Seventies (2010; paperback, 2011, Yale University Press).

Antony Loewenstein: The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World (paperback, 2023, Verso). Israel isn't just one of the world's most authoritarian societies, they've pioneered advanced technology to surveil and repress the people they don't like, and they've tested it extensively, so they know what works, and fix what still needs work. But they're not selfish. They got that entrepreneurial spirit, so would-be fascists anywhere in the world, whether running a country or just a local police department, can get in on the act and buy proven technology to oppress their own people. As Noam Chomsky explains: "A sad and sordid record of how 'the light unto the nations' became the purveyor of the means of violence and brutal repression from Guatemala to Myanmar and wherever else the opportunity arose." Related books:

  • Alon Arvath: The Battle for Your Computer: Israel and the Growth of the Global Cyber-Security Industry (2023, Wiley).
  • Antony Loewenstein: The Blogging Revolution: How the Newest Media Revolution Is Changing Politics, Business and Culture in India, China, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Cuba and Saudi Arabia (2008; paperback, 2015, Jaico Publishing House).
  • Antony Loewenstein: My Israel Question (3rd ed, paperback, 2009, Melbourne University Press).
  • Antony Loewenstein/Ahmed Moor, eds: After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine (2012; paperback, 2024, Saqi Books).
  • Antony Loewenstein: Disaster Capitalism: Making a Killing out of Catastrophe (paperback, 2017, Verso).
  • Antony Loewenstein: Pills, Powder, and Smoke: Inside the Bloody War on Drugs (paperback, 2019, Scribe).

Rachel Maddow: Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism (2023, Crown): Popular left-of-center newscaster, but she's been super annoying ever since she got Putin stuck in her craw during the 2016 election and never managed to either swallow or spit it out. But I have to wonder: who actually writes her books? And why does she put her name on the cover? I mean, I can sort of imagine her writing Drift in 2012 to show she's really a warmonger at heart, and then Blowout -- well, she totally cornered the "blame Russia" niche for three years up to 2019 -- but why write a book about Spiro Agnew during the 2020 election season? And now this, about how Nazi sympathizers in 1941 got rejected and some kind of comeuppance? Title suggests that we can also stand up to fascists today, but it's not that simple, because we're not the same us, and they're not the same them. Blurring those distinctions may sell whatever, and that's clearly the level she wants to work at, but it hardly solves anything. Nazis are a perennial theme, so here are more recent books:

  • Michael Benson: Gangsters vs. Nazis: How Jewish Mobsters Battled Nazis in WW2 Era America (2022, Citadel).
  • David De Jong: Nazi Billionaires: The Dark History of Germany's Wealthiest Dynasties (2022, Mariner Books).
  • Kathryn S Olmsted: The Newspaper Axis: Six Press Barons Who Enabled Hitler (2022, Yale University Press): As WWII approached, these six American and British moguls praised Hitler and sought to keep their countries neutral and friendly towards Nazi Germany.
  • Susan Ronald: Hitler's Aristocrats: The Secret Power Players in Britain and America Who Supported the Nazis, 1923-1941 (2023, St Martin's Press).

Branko Milanovic: Visions of Inequality: From the French Revolution to the End of the Cold War (2023, Belknap Press): Economist, has written several books on capitalism and inequality, moves here from the evidence of such to the realm of philosophy, focusing on what six important economists said about inequality: François Quesnay, Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, Vilfredo Pareto, and Simon Kuznets. Also on inequality:

  • Ann Case/Angus Deaton: Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism (2020; paperback, 2021, Princeton University Press).
  • Chuck Collins: Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good (paperback, 2016, Chelsea Green).
  • Chuck Collins: Is Inequality in America Irreversible? (paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Chuck Collins: The Wealth Hoarders: How Billionaires Pay Millions to Hide Trillions (paperback, 2021, Polity).
  • Angus Deaton: Economics in America: An Immigrant Economist Explores the Land of Inequality (2023, Princeton University Press).
  • Oded Galor: The Journey of Humanity: The Origins of Wealth and Inequality (2022, Dutton): Big picture synthesis of all of human history plus what we know about pre-history, particularly interested in the growth of wealth and inequality.
  • Michelle Jackson: Manifesto for a Dream: Inequality, Constraint, and Radical Reform (paperback, 2020, Stanford University Press).
  • Destin Jenkins: The Bonds of Inequality: Debt and the Making of the American City (2021, University of Chicago Press).
  • Eyal Press: Dirty Work: Essential Jobs and the Hidden Toll of Inequality in America (2021, Farrar Straux and Giroux; paperback, 2022, Picador Press).

Luke Mogelson: The Storm Is Here: An American Crucible (2022, Penguin): Reporter used to covering the War on Terror decided the real action was back in the USA in 2020, reporting on the Michigan militias and their anti-lockdown protests/crimes, police violence both before and after the George Floyd killing, and so forth up through January 6.

William L Patterson: We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People (1951; paperback, 2017, International Publishers): I saw this among the recommendations in a list of books about Israel, and figured anyone ahead of the curve deserved a mention. Turns out it's a much older book, a brief that the author (1891-1980, "a Marxist lawyer, author, and civil rights activist") presented before the UN in 1951. That's a stretch -- the American system was still more focused on exploiting labor, as an extension of slavery, than on killing people, not that they had much compunction about those they did kill -- but coming early after the world belatedly decided that genocide is a major crime, Patterson offered them a real and pressing case to think about.

Heather Cox Richardson: Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America (2023, Viking): Historian, has written several useful books on the Republican Party and Reconstruction. Recently, she's become a prolific blogger, attempting to understand contemporary events in the context of history, and often impressive as such. But her views are pretty conventionally liberal, and I've found her recent attempts to valorize Biden's foreign policy really lame even before they turned so spectacularly embarrassing. (But I can't say I've noted much by her on that of late.)

Tricia Romano: The Freaks Came Out to Write: The Definitive History of the Village Voice, the Radical Paper That Changed American Culture (2024, Public Affairs): Structured as an oral history, assembled quotes from interviews and other sources, this chronicles New York's (well, America's) biggest little underground newspaper from 1956 to its demise c. 2012, with skeletal coverage of the business and editorial masters, and a broad selection of the ever-revolting workers, who took every opportunity to transcend its economics. Much more could have been done on the latter. Just in music, there's nothing much on the brilliant jazz writing of Gary Giddins and Francis Davis (although Stanley Crouch throws enough punches to get noticed), nothing at all on the exceptional new music coverage of Tom Johnson and Kyle Gann, and not a single mention of yours truly (or dozens of others I can name who were more regular contributors). My own history goes back to subscribing when I was an 18-year-old dropout in Wichita, gathering seeds that later transformed my life, even with no clear desire let along plan to do so. All it took was an openness to say, hey, that might be interesting.

Nouriel Roubini: Megathreats: Ten Dangerous Trends That Imperil Our Future, and How to Survive Them (2022, Little Brown): Worth listing: The Mother of All Debt Crises; Private and Public Failures; The Demographic Time Bomb; The Easy Money Trap and the Boom-Bust Cycle; The Coming Great Stagflation; Currency Meltdowns and Financial Instability; The End of Globalization?; The AI Threat; The New Cold War; An Uninhabitable Planet? Ends with two versions of "Can This Disaster Be Averted?" Roubini got a lot of credit as one of the first economists to predict the crash of 2008. There's some real stuff here, but it also is some kind of hustle.

Timothy W Ryback: Takeover: Hitler's Final Rise to Power (2024, Knopf): Focuses on the few months lealding up to "January 30, 1933" (chapter 22 title here), when Germany's transferred effective power to Hitler, who then swiftly moved to seize everything else, fashion his peculiar version of MAGA ("The Third Reich," he called it), and drive Germany to war, extermination, and ruin. The broad outline is familiar by now, the nuances in the details over just how much of Hitler's program was anticipated and relished by his benefactors (almost everything, I dare say) and how many of them regretted their decision (very few, at least until the war turned against them).

David E Sanger: New Cold Wars: China's Rise, Russia's Invasion, and America's Struggle to Defend the West (2024, Crown): Journalist, covers national security for the New York Times, which evidently requires him to believe that conflicts with nuclear powers are necessary but also stable and benign, like they think the Cold War was. This was mostly nonsense, wrapped up in American myopia and arrogance, also ideological incoherence -- as Russia and China became more capitalist, the real distinction came down to them having their own arms markets, independent of the American cartel. Nothing boosts arms sales like the spectre of enemies, and falling back on decades of distrust, Russia and China were easy villains. That Russia took the bait in Ukraine should have alerted us to the risks of such thinking, but for now the arms industry is booming.

  • David E Sanger: The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage, and Fear in the Cyber Age (2018; paperback, 2019, Crown).
  • Sanjaya Baru/Rahul Sharma: A New Cold War: Henry Kissinger and the Rise of China (2021, HarperCollins).
  • Michael Doyle: Cold Peace: Avoiding the New Cold War (2023; paperback, 2024, Liveright): One of the few books in this section not bought and paid for by the arms cartel. He previously wrote:
  • Michael Doyle: Ways of War and Peace: Realism, Liberalism, and Socialism (paperback, 1997, WW Norton).
  • John Bellamy Foster/John Ross/Deborah Veneziale: Washington's New Cold War: A Socialist Perspective (paperback, 2022, Monthly Review Press): Introduction by Vijay Prashad.
  • Gordon M Hahn: Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West and the "New Cold War" (paperback, 2018, McFarland).
  • Matthew Kroenig/Dan Negrea: We Win They Lose: Republican Foreign Policy & the New Cold War (2024, Republic Book Publishers): Foreword by Mike Pompeo. Declared the New Cold War has started, and China is the enemy. Kroenig is a long-time hawk, as you can see from:
  • Mark Kroenig: The Logic of American Nuclear Strategy: Why Strategic Superiority Matters (2018; paperback, 2020, Oxford University Press).
  • Matt Pottinger: The Boiling Moat: Urgent Steps to Defend Taiwan (paperback, 2024, Hoover Institution Press). [07-01]
  • Sten Rynning: NATO: From Cold War to Ukraine, a History of the World's Most Powerful Alliance (2024, Yale University Press): Rather puffy for what's basically a useless symbol -- except when it is used, it quickly turns into a liability.
  • Jim Sciutto: The Return of Great Powers: Russia, China, and the Next World War (2024, Dutton): CNN "national security" correspondent, two previous big books along these lines, including The Madman Theory: Trump Takes on the World.
  • Richard Sakwa: Deception: Russiagate and the New Cold War (paperback, 2023, Lexington Books).
  • George S Takach: Cold War 2.0: Artificial Intelligence in the New Battle Between China, Russia, and America (2024, Pegasus Books).
  • Noam Chomsky: Towards a New Cold War: US Foreign Policy From Vietnam to Reagan (1982; paperback, 2003, New Press): Searching for "new cold war" I found this ancient text, from the period when Reagan's hawks still had an old Cold War to escalate. The reprint, with a new introduction by John Pilger, clearly marked their plans for a revival with the Global War on Terror already going sideways, and reminds us that their blueprints just fed on old propaganda, easily recycled.

Along the way, I ran into some new books on the old Cold War, which bear mention here:

  • Paul Thomas Chamberlin: The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking the Long Peace (2018; paperback, 2019, Harper).
  • Campbell Craig/Fredrik Logevall: America's Cold War: The Politics of Insecurity (2009; second edition, paperback, 2020, Belknap Press).
  • Jeffrey A Engel: When the World Seemed New: George HW Bush and the End of the Cold War (2017; paperback, 2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
  • Bridget Kendall: The Cold War: A New Oral History (paperback, 2018, BBC Physical Audio).
  • Chris Miller: The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR (2016, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Jeff Shesol: Mercury Rising: John Glenn, John Kennedy, and the New Battleground of the Cold War (2021; paperback, 2022, WW Norton).
  • Natalia Telepneva: Cold War Liberation: The Soviet Union and the Collapse of the Portuguese Empire in Africa, 1961-1975 (paperback, 2022, University of North Carolina Press).
  • Odd Arne Westad: The Cold War: A World History (2017, Basic Books; paperback, 2019, Random House). He previously wrote:
  • Odd Arne Westad: The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (2005; paperback, 2011, Cambridge University Press).

Tom Schaller/Paul Waldman: White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy (2024, Random House): "A searing exposé on what drives the average Republican voter in white rural America and what can be done to combat their rage." One of the more talked-about political books of late, as it documents and in many ways reinforces the divide between the Trump mob and their imagined enemies (urban, liberal, elitist, woke, ever so quick to castigate you as "deplorable"; even those who don't think of themselves as enemies are just as likely to offend with pity as loathing).

  • Michelle Wilde Anderson: The Fight to Save the Town: Reimagining Discarded America (2022; paperback, 2023, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster).
  • Steven Conn: The Lies of the Land: Seeing Rural America for What It Is -- and Isn't (2023, University of Chicago Press).
  • Justin Gest: The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Nicholas F Jacobs/Daniel M Shea: The Rural Voter: The Politics of Place and the Disuniting of America (2023, Columbia University Press). Jacobs previously co-wrote:
  • Nicholas F Jacobs/Sidney M Milkis: What Happened to the Vital Center?: Presidentialism, Populist Revolt, and the Fracturing of America (paperback, 2022, Oxford University Press).
  • Kathleen Hall Jamieson/Paul Waldman: The Press Effect: Politicians, Journalists, and the Stories That Shape the Political World (2002; paperback, 2004, Oxford University Press).
  • Jonathan M Metzl: What We've Become: Living and Dying in a Country of Arms (2024, WW Norton).
  • Lainey Newman/Theda Skocpol: Rust Belt Union Blues: Why Working-Class Voters Are Turning Away From the Democratic Party (2023, Columbia University Press).
  • Paul Waldman: Fraud: The Strategy Behind the Bush Lies and Why the Media Didn't Tell You (2004, Sourcebooks).
  • Paul Waldman: Being Right Is Not Enough: What Progressives Can Learn From Conservative Success (2006, Wiley).

Adi Schwartz/Einat Wilf: The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace (paperback, 2020, St Martin's Griffin): Two "liberal Israelis supportive of a two-state solution" argue that there is no legal basis for a "right of return" (unlike Israel's Law of Return?), and that the very suggestion is "one of the largest obstacles to successful diplomacy and lasting peace in the region." They think UNRWA should be abolished, because it perpetuates the notion that the descendants of Palestinian exiles from 1948 are refugees, and as such are entitled to return to their homeland. This book is described as "a runaway bestseller in Israel," and as such is a fair document of the state-of-mind that was prepared to commit genocide when Oct. 7, 2023 happened. Other recent books on Israel, from all over the spectrum, including one somewhat sympathetic to Hamas, and lots that are pure hasbara (also see the lists under Boyarin, Horn, and Loewenstein):

  • Ami Ayalon: Friendly Fire: How Israel Became Its Own Worst Enemy and the Hope for Its Future (paperback, 2021, Steerforth Press): Former Shin Bet director, who understands that "when Israel carries out anti-terrorist operations in a political context of hopelessness, the Palestinian public will support violence, because they have nothing to lose." He isn't the only Israeli to realize that, but he's one of the few who do who sees it as a problem.
  • Sumaya Awad/Brian Bean, eds: Palestine: A Socialist Introduction (paperback, 2020, Haymarket Books).
  • Tareq Baconi: Hamas Contained: The Rise and Pacification of Palestinian Resistance (2018; paperback, 2022, Stanford University Press): Billed as "the first history of the group on its own terms," but critical, arguing that "the movement's ideology ultimately threatens the Palestinian struggle and, inadvertently, its own legitimacy," especially where "its brutality . . . has made permissible the collective punishment of millions of Palestinian civilians." I would caution, though, that regardless of what Hamas does, it is ultimately Israel that decides to punish, up to and now including genocide.
  • Jacques Baud: Operation Al-Aqsa Flood: The Defeat of the Vanquisher (paperback, 2024, Max Milo Editions): "The way Israel is fighting the Palestinians is leading to a loss of legitimacy that seems to be accelerating."
  • Jonah Jeremy Bob/Ilan Evyatar: Target Tehran: How Israel Is Using Sabotage, Cyberwarfare, Assassination -- and Secret Diplomacy -- to Stop a Nuclear Iran and Create a New Middle East (2023, Simon & Schuster): Israelis, bragging.
  • David Brog: Reclaiming Israel's History: Roots, Rights, and the Struggle for Peace (2017; paperback, 2018, Regnery): Note blurbs by John Hagee and Glenn Beck.
  • Alan Dershowitz: War Against the Jews: How to End Hamas Barbarism (2023, Hot Books): His usual The Case Against Israel's Enemies, quickly rebranded post-October 7.
  • Asaf Elia-Shalev: Israel's Black Panthers: The Radicals Who Punctured a Nation's Founding Myth (2024, University of Calilfornia Press).
  • George Gilder: The Israel Test: How Israel's Genius Enriches and Challenges the World (paperback, 2024, Encounter Books) [07-30].
  • Daniel Gordis: Impossible Takes Longer: 75 Years After Its Creation, Has Israel Fulfilled Its Founders' Dreams? (2023, Ecco): Author of many Israel fluff books, also the primary biography of Menachem Begin.
  • Marc Lamont Hill/Mitchell Plitnick: Except for Palestine: The Limits of Progressive Politics (2021; paperback, 2022, New Press): Authors "spotlight how one-sided pro-Israel policies reflect the truth-bending grip of authoritarianism on both Israel and the United States."
  • Adam Race Hochdorf: Israel Has the Right to Exist & Defend Itself (paperback, 2024, Purple Poppy Publishing): Short (90 pp) but strident propaganda screed.
  • Michael A Horowitz: Hope and Despair: Israel's Future in the New Middle East (2024, Hurst). [06-01]
  • Dan Kovalik: The Case for Palestine: Why It Matters and Why You Should Care (2024, Hot Books). [05-28]
  • Mitri Raheb: Decolonizing Palestine: The Land, the People, the Bible (paperback, 2023, Orbis Books).
  • Dan Senor/Saul Singer: The Genius of Israel: The Surprising Resilience of a Divided Nation in a Turbulent World (2023, Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster).
  • Raja Shehadeh: What Does Israel Fear From Palestine? (paperback, 2024, Other Press). [06-11]
  • Avner Shur/Aviram Halevi: Sayeret Matkal: The Greatest Operations of Israel's Elite Commandos (2023, Skyhorse): No other nation brags about its illegal foreign ops quite like Israel does.
  • Grant F Smith: How Israel Made AIPAC: The Most Harmful Foreign Influence Operation in America (paperback, 2022, Institute for Research).
  • Jamie Stern-Weiner, ed: Deluge: Gaza and Isarel From Crisis to Cataclysm (paperback, 2024, OR Books): First serious book I'm aware of to reassess Israel after the Gaza genocide started.
  • Thomas Suárez: Palestine Hijacked: How Zionism Forged an Apartheid State From River to Sea (paperback, 2022, Olive Branch Press).
  • Nathan Thrall: A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy (2023, Metropolitan Books).

More recent books on older Israel/Palestine history:

  • Teresa Aranguren/Sandra Barrillaro: Against Erasure: A Photographic Memory of Palestine Before the Nakba (2024, Haymarket Books).
  • Linda Dittmar: Tracing Homelands: Israel, Palestine, and the Claims of Belonging (paperback, 2023, Interlink Books): A memoir, starting in the 1940s, later searching out ruins of villages destroyed in the Nakba.
  • Alan Dowty: Arabs and Jews in Ottoman Palestine: Two Worlds Collide (paperback, 2021, Indiana University Press).
  • Frederic C Hof: Reaching for the Heights: The Inside Story of a Secret Attempt to Reach a Syrian-Israeli Peace (2022, USIP Press): US ambassador, mediator of 2009-11 peace talks, which were scuttled by Obama's turn against Assad in the Arab Spring.
  • JMN Jeffries: Palestine: The Reality: The Inside Story of the Balfour Declaration (paperback, 2016, Olive Branch Press).
  • Uri Kaufman: Eighteen Days in October: The Yom Kippur War and How It Created the Modern Middle East (2023, St Martin's Press).
  • Oren Kessler: Palestine 1936: The Great Revolt and the Roots of the Middle East Conflict (2023, Rowman & Littlefield): Fairly major history of an oft-overlooked but very pivotal event.
  • Jamie Kirkpatrick: The Tales of Bismuth: Dispatches From Palestine, 1945-1948 (paperback, 2024, independent).
  • Peter Shambrook: Policy of Deceit: Britain and Palestine, 1914-1939 (2023, Oneworld Academic).
  • Gardner Thompson: Legacy of Empire: Britain, Zionism and the Creation of Israel (2020; paperback, 2022, Saqi Books): This is an important part of the story, as Israelis learned the art and craft of colonialism directly from the British, sometimes in concert and sometimes in opposition, retaining the legal framework and much of the mentality of their captors and patrons.

Timothy Shenk: Realigners: Partisan Hacks, Political Visionaries, and the Struggle to Rule American Democracy (2022; paperback, 2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Portraits of pivotal political figures from the founding to the present, not always going with the obvious choices (e.g., he goes with William Sumner over Abraham Lincoln, and Mark Hanna over William Jennings Bryan).

Richard Slotkin: A Great Disorder: National Myth and the Battle for America (2024, Belknap Press): This is a sweeping history of myth in America, the stories we've invented to explain and convince ourselves, starting with the frontier and the founding, and picking up every cliché of the last 240, not neglecting Trump and MAGA, which gets the better half of Part V ("The Age of Culture War"). Also by Slotkin:

  • Richard Slotkin: Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (paperback, 1998, University of Oklahoma Press).
  • Richard Slotkin/James K Folsom, eds: So Dreadfull a Judgement: Puritan Responses to King Philip's War 1676-1677 (paperback, 1999, Wesleyan University Press).
  • Richard Slotkin: Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600-1860 (paperback, 2000, University of Oklahoma Press).
  • Richard Slotkin: Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Criris of American Nationalism (paperback, 2006, St Martins Press).
  • Richard Slotkin: The Long Road to Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution (paperback, 2013, Liveright).
  • Richard Slotkin: Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800-1890 (paperback, 2017, University of Oklahoma Press).

Brian Stelter: Network of Lies: The Epic Saga of Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Battle for American Democracy (2023, Atria/One Signal): Expands on his previous Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth (2020). Fox News has long struck me as the single most important cog in the Republican mind control matrix, combining as it does self-funding, vast outreach, ideological rigor, and the immediacy and intimacy of television. More on Fox:

  • Chris Stirewalt: Broken News: Why the Media Rage Machine Divides America and How to Fight Back (2022, Center Street): Former Fox News political editor, so he's contributed to the rage he writes about, and no doubt observed much more (and worse); senior fellow at AEI, which keeps him safely on the right, although he can try to pose that as balanced.
  • Kat Timpf: You Can't Joke About That: Why Everything Is Funny, Nothing Is Sacred, and We're All in This Together (2023, Broadside Books): Gutfeld! co-host and Fox News contributor.
  • Michael Wolff: The Fall: The End of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty (2023, Henry Holt): Author of three insider-ish books on Trump, goes after the big fish this time.

Stuart Stevens: The Conspiracy to End America: Five Ways My Old Party Is Driving Our Democracy to Autocracy (2023, Twelve): "Never Trumper," former Lincoln Project strategist, back in 2020 wrote It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, returns with deeper thinking on what is no longer just his personal dilemma. He identifies "five autocratic building blocks": Propagandists; Support of a major party; Financers; Legal theories to legitimize actions; and Shock Troops.

Rory Stewart: How Not to Be a Politician (2023, Penguin Press): Wrote a book about hiking in Afghanistan, just after the Taliban fled. Wrote a book about being a British civil servant in Iraq, shortly after Bush and Blair invaded. Went back to England and wrote another book about how none of that worked. Decided to try his hand at politics, so he ran for a Tory MP seat, and won. Then he ran for party leader/prime minister, and lost. So by now, he figures he's failed enough he can write a memoir about it all. In the UK, he more optimistically called this book Politics on the Edge. For America, however . . . he opted to face the music, and 'fess up.

Yaroslav Trofimov: Our Enemies Will Vanish: The Russian Invasion and Ukraine's War of Independence (2024, Penguin Press): Wall Street Journal correspondent, born in Kyiv, highly partisan, but hailed as "the most comprehensive, authoritative book on the war to date." Latest batch of books on Ukraine:

  • Jacques Baud: The Russian Art of War: How the West Led Ukraine to Defeat (paperback, 2024, Max Milo Editions). Swiss military analyst, has a history of disparaging the West, or maybe just flattering Putin: Putin: Game Master? (2023); Operation Z (2023); The Navalny Case: Conspiracy to Serve Foreign Policy (2023).
  • Hal Brands, ed: War in Ukraine: Conflict, Strategy, and the Return of a Fractured World (paperback, 2024, Johns Hopkins University Press).
  • Glenn Diesen: The Ukraine War & the Eurasian World Order (paperback, 2024, Clarity Press): Appeals to "world order" obsessives, leaving little concern for Ukrainians.
  • Rory Finnin: Blood of Others: Stalin's Crimean Atrocity and the Poetics of Solidarity (paperback, 2024, University of Toronto Press).
  • Igort: How War Begins: Dispatches From the Ukrainian Invasion (2024, Fantagraphics): Graphic journalism.
  • Volodymyr Ishchenko: Towards the Abyss: Ukraine From Maidan to War (paperback, 2024, Verso).
  • Michael Kimmage: Collisions: The Origins of the War in Ukraine and the New Global Instability (2024, Oxford University Press).
  • Fadi Lama: Why the West Can't Win: From Bretton Woods to a Multipolar World (paperback, 2023, Clarity Press): Ukraine is one example.
  • Christopher A Lawrence: The Battle for Kyiv: The Fight for Ukraine's Capital (2024, Frontline Books).
  • Paul Moorcraft: Putin's Wars and NATO's Flaws: Why Russia Invaded Ukraine (2024, Pen and Sword Military): Author has a long list of war books, "from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe."
  • Simon Schuster: The Showman: Inside the Invasion That Shook the World and Made a Leader of Volodymyr Zelensky (2024, William Morrow).

Yanis Varoufakis: Techno Feudalism: What Killed Capitalism (paperback, 2024, Melville House): Greek economist, had a brief fling with fame as finance minister under the radical Syriza government, but quit rather than accept the austerity measures the EU insisted on. He argues that something fundamental has changed: "Big tech has replaced capitalism's twin pillars -- markets and profit -- with its platforms and rents. With every click and scroll, we labor like serfs to increase its power."

  • Joel Kotkin: The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class (2020; paperback, 2023, Encounter Books): Not much difference between Varoufakis' "techno feudalism" and this one, especially from the vantage point of the neo-serfs.

Alexander Ward: The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump (2024, Portfolio): Major reporting on Joe Biden's foreign policy team, their critique of Trump's offenses against "democratic allies" and coddling of "authoritarians" (especially the much despised Vladimir Putin), and how they sought to return America to its pre-Trump eminence as the leader of the Free World. Less reporting on how often that backfired, with the book's cutoff date minimizing the stalemate in Ukraine, and omitting any mention of the unfolding genocide in Gaza, or Israel's persistent efforts to embroil America in war with Iran and other irrelevant but easily maligned enemies. The problem is that Biden remains trapped in the supposedly benign superpower cult that emerged post-Cold War under Clinton, Bush, and Obama, and even more committed to the real dictators of American foreign policy: Israel and the arms cartel -- precisely the graft Trump most indulged, so he's not so different from Trump after all.

Fareed Zakaria: Age of Revolutions: Progress and Backlash From 1600 to the Present (2024, WW Norton): Big-picture history, with opening chapters on the Netherlands, England, and France, then shifts focus to industrialization in Britain and the United States, then his more topical concerns of globalization and contemporary geopolitics.

Additional books, noted without comments other than for clarity. I reserve the right to return to some of these later (but probably won't; many are here because I don't want to think about them further).

Kali Akuno/Ajamu Nangwaya [Cooperation Jackson]: Jackson Rising; The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi (paperback, 2017, Daraja Press).

Thomas J Baker: The Fall of the FBI: How a Once Great Agency Became a Threat to Democracy (2022, Bombardier Books): Actually, the FBI was always a threat to democracy.

Stephen Breyer: Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism (2024, Simon & Schuster): Retired Supreme Court Justice.

Jennifer Burns: Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative (2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Liz Cheney: Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning (2023, Little Brown).

Jared Cohen: Life After Power: Seven Presidents and Their Search for Purpose Beyond the White House (2024, Simon & Schuster). Previously wrote (suggesting a business plan, which is supported by his biography):

Jared Cohen: Accidental Presidents: Eight Men Who Changed America (2019; paperback, 2020, Simon & Schuster).

McKay Coppins: Romney: A Reckoning (2023, Scribner).

Jeremy Eichler: Time's Echo: The Second World War, the Holocaust, and the Music of Remembrance (2023, Knopf).

Philip Gefter: Cocktails With George and Martha: Movies, Marriage, and the Making of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (2024, Bloomsbury).

Doris Kearns Goodwin: An Unfinished Love Story: A Personal History of the 1960s (2024, Simon & Schuster).

Phil Gramm/Robert Ekelund/John Early: The Myth of American Inequality: How Government Biases Policy Debate (2022, Rowman & Littlefield).

Adam Kinzinger: Renegade: Defending Democracy and Liberty in Our Divided Country (2023, The Open Field): Former Representative (R-IL), voted to impeach Trump, served on House Jan. 6 Committee.

Erik Larson: The Demon of Unrest: A Saga of Hubris, Heartbreak, and Heroism at the Dawn of the Civil War (2024, Crown).

Michael Lewis: Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon (2023, WW Norton): A profile of FTX founder ("crypto's Gatsby") Sam Bankman-Fried (since convicted for massive fraud).

Yascha Mounk: The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure (2022, Penguin Press).

Yascha Mounk: The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time (2023, Penguin Press).

Peter Pomerantsev: This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality (2019, PublicAffairs).

Peter Pomerantsev: How to Win an Information War: The Propagandist Who Outwitted Hitler (2024, PublicAffairs): On Thomas Sefton Delmer, who worked for Britain during WWII, but also thinking about the author's favorite subject, Vladimir Putin.

Marilynne Robinson: Reading Genesis (2024, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Rick Rubin: The Creative Act: A Way of Being (2023, Penguin Press): Music producer (Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash).

Patrick Ruffini: Party of the People: Inside the Multiracial Populist Coaliltion Remaking the GOP (2023, Simon & Schuster).

Salman Rushdie: Knife: Meditations After an Attempted Murder (2024, Random House).

Lucy Sante: I Heard Her Call My Name: A Memoir of Transition (2024, Penguin Press).

Erella Shadmi: The Legacy of Mothers: Matriarchies and the Gift Economy as Post Capitalist Alternatives (paperback, 2021, Inanna Publications).

John Sides/Chris Tausanovitch/Lynn Vavreck: The Bitter End: The 2020 Presidential Campaign and the Challenge to American Democracy (2022; paperback, 2023, Princeton University Press).

Benn Steil: The World That Wasn't: Henry Wallace and the Fate of the American Century (2024, Avid Reader/Simon & Schuster).

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, ed: Did It Happen Here? Perspectives on Fascism and America (2024, WW Norton).

Matthew Stewart: An Emancipation of the Mind: Radical Philosophy, the War Over Slavery, and the Refounding of America (2024, WW Norton).

Calvin Trillin: The Lede: Dispatches From a Life in the Press (2024, Random House). Also note:

Calvin Trillin: Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff (2011; paperback, 2012, Random House).

James Traub: True Believer: Hubert Humphrey's Quest for a More Just America (2024, Basic Books).

Jacob L Wright: Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and Its Origins (2023, Cambridge University Press).

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