Blog Entries [10 - 19]
Monday, June 19, 2017
Music: Current count 28293  rated (+39), 373  unrated (-12).
Covered a lot of records last week, came up with a nice mix with
more than usual highly recommended. Once again, streaming played a
large roll: only one of three A-list jazz albums came in the mail
(Steve Coleman, the most marginal, the one that took the most work,
but regardless of my reservations I predict a top-five poll finish).
latest featured "a flood of new country" -- especially Jason
Isbell, who I've never gotten and still don't, and Steve Earle,
for the week's easiest pick. But I've been working on another
country list, thanks to
Saving Country Music, which brought me to Jason Eady, Zephaniah
OHora, Marty Stuart, Jaime Wyatt, and some others we'll get to soon --
Joseph Huber, Colter Wall, Dalton Domino, the Brother Brothers,
Shinyribs, and possibly more in the fine print. (I'd already checked
out Sunny Sweeney, John Moreland, Willie Nelson, Rodney Crowell,
Whitney Rose, Chris Stapleton, Angaleena Presley).
The latest Downbeat steered me to Jimmy Greene, Gerald
Clayton, Ambrose Akinmusire, Regina Carter, and Louis Hayes. I've
seen some raves about Akinmusire, but only one or two cuts come
close to justifying them. His last album came in 3rd in Jazz Critics
Poll (I gave it a B-), so this one might too. At least I feel like
I can hear what Coleman's doing, even if I'm not wild about it.
Greene's previous album was also hugely admired, but I didn't
like it nearly as much as I do this one. The featured reviews
also includes a new one by Tomasz Stanko, which I've snarfed a
download of but haven't bothered with yet. (Actually, I've yet
to play a single ECM download this year, although I have most
of them somewhere -- I think mostly on the wrong computer.)
Speaking of computers, I'm running into big problems with the
ISP that hosts
tomhull.com. I struggled getting yesterday's posts up because
the server ran out of disk space. I'm using 398MB on a virtual
server disk partition with 67GB, so my slice is a mere 0.59% of
the partition, and the server has another 141GB partition that's
only 56% used (but inaccessible to me). I've filed a problem
report but they haven't responded let alone done anything. The
company is Addr.com. I've been there a long time, and they've
become increasingly dysfunctional, so I should move -- in fact,
should have moved years ago, but didn't because it's not actually
possible to get a clean dump of the blog database. I do have all
the flat files elsewhere, but it would be a huge job to rebuild
the blog database (probably not even worth doing since almost
all of the writing is in the
Notebook and there never have
been many comments).
Compounding this is my main working computer, which is stuck
on a very old release of Ubuntu. The main reason that's a problem
is that that particular version of Firefox seems to be real buggy
The result is that the program quickly becomes bogged down -- as
I'm currently writing this it's just sitting idle but top reports
it's using 102% of CPU -- and soon crashes. I had it hang or crash
three times yesterday, which means it's getting worse -- over the
last few months it's usually managed to stay up about 2-3 days at
a time. What I need to do is to copy everything off, load a fresh
batch of software, and restore all the websites and writing and
archives and so forth. Ugh.
I've known I've had to upgrade for some time, but have held
back due to the general mess in the office. I finally made a
small amount of progress last week on getting the mountains of
CDs organized and filed, and hope to continue working on that
this week. In the meantime, there's some possibility that the
website will temporarily go away.
I did make some progress early last week on the Jazz Guides,
but that got stalled mid-week. Current page counts: 682 + 599.
Still in the
Jazz '80s file, up
to Adam Pieronczyk. I took a dive into Amina Claudine Myers'
back catalogue while working on this: mostly AACM-meets-Bessie
Smith. The Leo album was a Penguin 4-star, and really takes
off on the backstretch.
Incoming mail took a nosedive last week, although I got two
new releases from Intakt today. There's usually a seasonal dip
later in the summer, but as the trawl through Downbeat
demonstrated, I'm no longer getting a lot of new jazz (9/35
records individually reviewed this month). Looks like I'm no
longer getting records from Clean Feed, which I've regarded
as a reason to carry on. Maybe I'll find some on Napster.
New records rated this week:
- Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society: Simultonality (2014-15 , Eremite): [bc]: A-
- Ambrose Akinmusire: A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard (2017, Blue Note, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
- Ignacio Berroa Trio: Straight Ahead From Havana (2017, Codes Drum Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Steve Bilodeau: The Sun Through the Rain (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Gerald Cannon: Combinations (2017, Woodneck): [cd]: B+(**)
- Regina Carter: Ella: Accentuate the Positive (2017, Okeh): [r]: B+(*)
- Gerald Clayton: Tributary Tales (2017, Motéma): [r]: B
- Steve Coleman's Natal Eclipse: Morphogenesis (2016 , Pi): [cd]: A-
- Dálava: The Book of Transfigurations (2016 , Songlines): [r]: B+(*)
- Roger Davidson Trio With Hendrik Meurkens: Oração Para Amanhã/Prayer for Tomorrow (2016 , Soundbrush): [cd]: B+(**)
- Rick Davies: Thugtet (2015 , Emlyn): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jason Eady: Jason Eady (2017, Old Guitar): [r]: A-
- Steve Earle & the Dukes: So You Wannabe an Outlaw (2017, Warner Bros.): [r]: A-
- Alex Goodman: Second Act (2017, Lyte): [cd]: B
- The Great Harry Hillman: Tilt (2017, Cuneiform): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Jimmy Greene: Flowers: Beautiful Life Volume 2 (2017, Mack Avenue): [r]: A-
- Louis Hayes: Serenade for Horace (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound (2017, Southeastern): [r]: B+(**)
- Tift Merritt: Stitch of the World (2017, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(*)
- Amina Claudine Myers: Sama Rou: Songs From My Soul (2016, Amina C): [r]: B+(*)
- Ed Neumeister & His NeuHat Ensemble: Wake Up Call (2014 , MeisteroMusic): [cd]: B+(*)
- The New Vision Sax Ensemble: Musical Journey Through Time (2017, Zak Publishing): [cd]: B+(*)
- North Mississippi Allstars: Prayer for Peace (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
- Zephaniah OHora & the 18 Wheelers: This Highway (2017, MRI): [r]: B+(**)
- Perfume Genius: No Shape (2017, Matador): [r]: B-
- Errol Rackipov Group: Distant Dreams (2015 , OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
- Rag'n'Bone Man: Human (2017, Columbia): [r]: B-
- Oumou Sangaré: Mogoya (2017, No Format): [r]: A-
- Scenes: Destinations (2016-17 , Origin): [r]: B+(*)
- Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives: Way Out West (2017, Superlatone): [r]: B
- Thundercat: Drunk (2017, Brainfeeder): [r]: B+(*)
- Thurst: Cut to the Chafe (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
- Carlos Vega: Bird's Up (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jaime Wyatt: Felony Blues (2017, Forty Below, EP): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Dave Liebman/Joe Lovano: Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane (2007 , Resonance): [cd]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Amina Claudine Myers: Salutes Bessie Smith (1980, Leo): [r]: A-
- Amina Claudine Myers Trio: The Circle of Time (1983 , Black Saint): [r]: B+(***)
- Amina Claudine Myers Trio: Women in (E)Motion (1988 , Tradition & Moderne): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Llop: J.Imp (El Negocito)
- Mike Reed: Flesh & Bone (482 Music): August 25
Sunday, June 18, 2017
I thought I'd start with some comments on the Trump-Russia mess.
As far as I can tell (and this isn't very high on the list of things
I worry about these days), there are four separate things that need
to be investigated and understood:
What (if anything) Russia did to affect the course and outcome
of the 2016 elections, and (harder to say) did this have any actual
impact on the results. You might want to delve deeper and understand
why they did what they did, although there's little chance they will
be forthcoming on the subject, so you're likely to wind up with little
but biased speculation. [I suspect the answer here is that they did a
lot of shit that ultimately had very little impact.]
Did the meetings that various people more/less tied to the Trump
campaign had with various Russians (both officials and non-officials
with ties to the Russian leadership) discuss Russian election ops. In
particular, did Trump's people provide any assistance or direction to
the Russians. [Seems unlikely, but hard to tell given that the people
involved have repeatedly lied, and been caught lying, about meetings,
so what they ultimately admit to isn't credible -- unless some sort of
paper trail emerges, such as Sislyak's communiques to Moscow.]
Did Trump's people, in their meetings with various Russians,
make or imply any changes in US policy toward Russia that might reward
or simply incline the Russians to try to help Trump's campaign and/or
hinder Clinton's campaign? [This seems likely, as the campaign's public
statements imply a less punitive tilt toward Russia, but it could be
meant for future good will rather than as any sort of quid pro quo for
campaign help. The Russians, of course, could have found this reason
enough to help Trump vs. Clinton. Again, we don't know what transpired
in the meetings, and the fact that Trump's people have lied about them
doesn't look good.]
Did Trump and/or his people seek to obstruct the investigation,
especially by the Department of Justice, into the above? [It's pretty
clear now that they did, and that Trump was personally involved. It's
not clear whether this meets the usual requirements for prosecution --
for instance, it's not clear that there has been any fabrication of
evidence or perjury, but there clearly have been improper attempts to
apply political pressure to (in the quaint British phrasing) pervert
the course of justice.]
The problem is that even though these questions seem simple and
straightforward, they exist in a context that is politically highly
charged. Again, there are several dimensions to this:
Clinton and her supporters were initially desperate to find any
reason other than their candidate and campaign to explain her surprise
loss to one of the most unappealing (and objectively least popular)
major party candidates in history, so they were quick to jump on the
Russian hacking story (as well as Comey's handling of the email server
fiasco). Early on, they were the main driving force behind the story.
[This made it distasteful for people like me who thought she was a bad
candidate, but also helped turn it into a blatantly partisan issue,
where Trump supporters quickly became blindered to any attacks on their
A second group of influential insiders had reason to play up a
Russia scandal: the neocon faction of the security meta-state, who have
all along wanted to play up Russia as a potential enemy because their
security state only makes sense if they can point to threats. If Trump
came into office thinking he could roll back sanctions and reverse US
policy on Russia, they would have to hustle to stop him, and blowing
up his people's Russia contacts into a full-fledged scandal helped do
the trick. [This is pretty much fait accompli at this point, although
Trump himself isn't very good at sticking to his script. But while some
Republicans chafe, the Democrats have been completely won over to a
hard-line policy on Russia, even though rank-and-file Democrats are
overwhelmingly anti-war. One result here is that by posturing as hawks
Democrat politicians are losing their credibility with their party's
base -- recapitulating one of Clinton's major problems in 2016.]
As the scandal has blown up, Democrats increasingly see it as
a way of focusing opposition to Trump and disrupting the Republican
agenda. Meanwhile, Republicans feel the need to defend Trump (even to
the point of crippling investigation into the scandal) in order to get
their agenda back on track. Thus narrow legal matters have become
broad political ones, turning not on facts but on opinions.
[This makes them impossible to adjudicate via
normal procedures, and guarantees that whatever investigators find
will be dismissed to large numbers of people who put their allegiances
ahead of the facts. Ultimately, then, the issues will have to be weighed
by the voters, who by the time they get a chance will have plenty of
other distractions. Meanwhile the Democrats are missing countless
scandals and even worse policy moves, while Republicans are getting
away with -- well, "murder" may not be the choicest word here, but
if Republicans pass their Obamacare repeal many more people will die
unnecessarily than even America's itchy trigger-fingers can account
Here are some links on subjects related to Trump/Russia:
Devlin Barrett et al: Special counsel is investigating Trump for possible
obstruction of justice, officials say
Nicholas Confessore/Matthew Rosenburg/Danny Hakim: How Michael Flynn's
Disdain for Limits Led to a Legal Quagmire
Esme Cribb: Pence Hires Outside Counsel to Guide Him Through Russia
Investigations: Best case scenario: he becomes president. Worst:
Karoun Demirjian/Anne Gearan: Senate overwhelmingly votes to curtail
Trump's power to ease Russia sanctions: Vote was 97-2, with Rand
Paul and Mike Lee dissenting, so no Democrats (or Bernie Sanders).
Sanders, along with Paul, did vote against a bill that combined Iran
and Russia sanctions (see
Senate Votes 98-2 to Impose New Sanctions on Iran, Russia), as
not a single Democrat voted to protect Obama's nuclear deal with
Iran (that's what happens when you get so worked up over Russia).
Elizabeth Drew: Trump: The Presidency in Peril
Noah Feldman: One Trump Tweet Can Shake Up the Justice Department:
So now Rod Rosenstein needs to recuse himself, just because Trump
tweeted about him? That would make Rachel Brand the one person who
can legally dismiss Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and that could
be the hope.
Garrett M Graff: Robert Mueller Chooses His Investigatory Dream
Sari Horwitz et al: Special counsel is investigating Jared Kushner's
Bob Inglis: I Helped draft Clinton's impeachment articles. The charges
against Trump are more serious.
Allegra Kirkland: Close Manafort Ally Is Latest Trump Campaign Figure
Caught in Russia Mess: Rick Gates.
Lachlan Markay/Asawin Suebsaeng/Spencer Ackerman: Even Trump's Aides
Blame Him for Obstruction Probe: 'President Did This to Himself':
Trump keeps doing things that guilty people do -- at least, guilty
people who aren't much good at hiding the fact. He may not have
obstructed justice when he told Comey he "hoped" the Flynn thing
would go away, but firing Comey showed the world that he wasn't
just hoping. And firing Mueller, which he's threatened to do,
would make him look even guiltier. (Just look at how long Nixon
lasted after he fired Archibald Cox.)
William Saletan: Jeff Sessions Isn't Trying to Protect Trump. He's
Mark Joseph Stern: Robert Mueller's Probe Will Reveal Loads of Dirt From
Trump's Financial Past. Uh Oh.
Richard Wolffe: Jeff Sessions: a poor, misunderstood man exempt from
Matthew Yglesias: Trump's media allies are making the case for firing
Robert Mueller; Yglesias also wrote:
Donald Trump is really sad he's not running against Hillary Clinton
anymore, where he quotes this June 15 Trump tweet: "Why is it
that Hillary Clintons family and Dems dealings with Russia are not
looked at, but my non-dealings are?" I've never heard of any such
dealings, although I know Bill Clinton was chummy with Boris Yeltsin
back in the 1990s when the latter was drunk-driving Russia into a
ditch, a national disaster which made Putin look good. Still, the
real point is that whenever Trump or many other Republicans look bad,
their first instinct is to blame some Democrat (cf. the Steve King
And somewhere, I should mention Yglesias'
The week explained: a shooter, sanctions, Sessions, and more:
Subtitled "A brief guide to what you need to know," he actually
misses a lot of things I touch on further down below (although I
hadn't noticed the Uber story).
Someone named James T Hodgkinson took a rifle to a baseball field in
Arlington, VA where several Republican members of Congress (and a few
hangers-on) were practicing for a charity baseball game, and started
shooting. He wounded five, most seriously Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA)
before he in turn was shot and killed by police. Hodgkinson had a long
history of writing crank letters-to-the-editor, as well as a history
of run-ins with the law, including complaints of domestic abuse and
shooting guns into trees, but he was also virulently anti-Trump, so
right-wing talking heads had a field day playing the victim. Still,
it's doubtful that this brief experience of terror will move any of
the Republicans against the wars we export abroad, let alone question
their vow of allegiance to the NRA. Some relevant links:
Angelina Chapin: The Virginia gunman is a reminder: domestic abusers
are a danger to society
Esme Cribb: Steve King Partly Blames Obama for Divisive Politics That
Led to Shooting
David Frum: Reinforcing the Boundaries of Political Decency:
He declares that "across the political spectrum, there is only
revulsion" to acts like the shooting members of Congress, he
notes that we're much less repulsed when our politicians and
commentators threaten violence:
In the wake of this crime, as after the Gabby Giffords attack in 2011,
we'll soon be talking about whether and when political rhetoric goes
too far. It's an important conversation to have, and the fact that the
president of the United States is himself the country's noisiest inciter
of political violence does not give license to anyone else to do the
same. Precisely because the president has put himself so outside
the boundary of political decency, it is vitally important to define
and defend that border. President Trump's delight in violence against
his opponents is something to isolate and condemn, not something to
condone or emulate.
What Frum doesn't note is that while assassination is still frowned
on here inside America, it is official government policy to hunt down
and kill select people who offend us abroad, as well as anyone else
who happens to be in the vicinity of one of our targets.
Charlie May: Trump's favorite right-wing websites aren't listening
to his calls for unity following GOP shooting: As Alex Jones
put it: "The first shots of the second American Civil War have already
been fired." Nor was it just the alt-right that wanted to jump on the
shooting to score cheap shots against the left: see
Brendan Gauthier: New York Times tries, fails to blame Virginia shooting
on Bernie Sanders.
Heather Digby Parton: Don't miss the point on Alexandria and San Francisco:
There is a solution for mass shootings: The San Francisco shooting
didn't get anywhere near the press of the one in Alexandria, despite
greater (albeit less famous) carnage: "an angry employee went into a
UPS facility and opened fire, killing three co-workers and himself."
Mother Jones gathers data on mass shootings and has pretty strict
criteria for inclusion: The shooting must happen in a public place and
result in three or more deaths. This leaves out many incidents in which
people are only injured, such as the
shooting of 10 people in Philadelphia last month, or those that take
place on on private property, such as the recent
killing of eight people in Mississippi during a domestic violence
shooting spree. (The
Gun Violence Archive collects incidents that involve the shooting
of two or more victims. It is voluminous.)
According to the Mother Jones criteria, yesterday's Virginia shooting
doesn't even count since it didn't meet the death threshold. The San
Francisco UPS shooting does, bring the total of such mass shootings to
six so far this year. . . .
Meanwhile, 93 people on average are shot and killed every day in
America, many of them in incidents involving multiple victims.
More than 100,000 people are struck by bullets every year. President
Donald Trump was right to speak about "carnage" in America in his
inaugural address. He just didn't acknowledge that the carnage is
from gun violence.
OK, another boring gun control piece ensues. And no doubt fewer
guns (better regulated, less automatic) would reduce those numbers.
Still, there are other reasons why America is so trigger-happy, and
change there would also help. For starters, we've been at war almost
continuously for seventy-five years, with all that entails, from
training people to kill to cheering them when they do, and making
it easier by dehumanizing supposed enemies. We've internalized war
to the point that we habitually treat projects or causes as wars,
which often as not leads to their militarization (as in the "war
on drugs"). We've increasingly turned politics into a bitter, no
holds, drag out brawl; i.e., a war. And we've allowed corporations
to be run like armies, which is one reason so many mass shootings
are job-related (or loss-of-job-related). Another is that we've
increasingly shredded the safety net, especially when it comes to
getting help for mental health problems. (Veterans still get more
help in that regard, but not enough.) It might help to require
companies to provide counseling to laid-off workers (or if that's
too much of an imposition, let the public pick up the tab). Free
(or much cheaper) education would also help. Decriminalizing drugs
would definitely help. And then there's this notion, from a tweet
by Sen. Rand Paul:
Why do we have a Second Amendment? It's not to shoot deer. It's to
shoot at the government when it becomes tyrannical!
That notion proved impractical as early as the 1791 Whiskey Rebellion.
The Second Amendment actually spoke of well-regulated militias, which
the various states maintained up to the Civil War. Once that was over,
the role for such militias (and as such the Amendment) vanished, until
it was refashioned by opportunistic politicians and activist judges to
give any crackpot a chance to kill his neighbors. As Alexandria shows,
that right doesn't help anyone. But then the left half of the political
spectrum already knew that, partly because they've much more often been
the targets of crackpots, and partly because they've generally retained
the ability to reason about evidence.
Charles Pierce: When White People Realize American Politics Are Violent:
"It's not news to anyone else." He notes America's long history of political
violence, including lynchings and a couple of wholesale racist massacres,
but also mentioning an attack on miners in Colorado. Pierce then turned
around and wrote:
This Is Not an Ideal Time to Have White Supremacists Infiltrating Law
Enforcement. Come on, is there ever a time when it was harmless
much less ideal? I recalled a prime example from fifty-some years ago,
a guy named Bull Connor. (By the way, when I went to check the name,
I also found this story:
Deputy shoots dog after many loses everything in trailer fire.
The man was then charged with disorderly conduct, but acquitted. One
of many understatements: "The Madison County Sheriff's Department
has seen greater problems than the shooting of a dog.")
Some scattered links this week in Trump's many other (and arguably
much more important) scandals:
Dean Baker: Going Private: The Trump Administration's Big Infrastructure
But Trump's big ace in the hole is that he will rely on the private sector
to provide funding for infrastructure beyond the amount he put in the budget.
This is the idea that we will privatize assets like highways and water
systems so that the private sector can profit from them.
This sounds like a great idea for someone who has spent a lifetime
running rip off schemes. We actually have considerable experience with
privatizing public assets and most of it is not good. . . .
If we think the government is run by buffoons who can't do anything
right, it is hard to see how the buffoons are supposed to rein in the
fast-moving contractors in the private sector. Putting private firms
in a position to take advantage of the lack of effective oversight is
likely to make things worse, not better.
This is a lesson we have seen repeatedly in the United States and
throughout the world. Donald Trump is incredibly ignorant of history
and almost everything else, but Congress isn't.
We should expect better of Congress. The story of mass privatization
of assets is a story of rip offs and corruption.
Kate Brannen et al: White House Officials Push for Widening War in
Syria Over Pentagon Objections: Specifically, they want to go after
Iranian forces allied with Assad. Or maybe they just want to start a
shooting war with Iran. Meanwhile, see:
Elliot Hannon: Iran Launches Missile Strikes Targeting ISIS in Syria,
Dramatically Escalating Role in Syrian Conflict. Also:
Russian Military: Airstrike Last Month Might Have Killed ISIS Leader.
On the other hand, fighting against the anti-ISIS Syrian government:
US Warplane Shoots Down Syria Jet Over Eastern Syria. And US-backed
Saudi Airstrikes on Saada Market Kill Dozens of Civilians.
Margaret Brennan/Kylie Atwood: Trump sells Qatar $12 billion of U.S.
weapons days after accusing it of funding terrorism: Does North
Korea realize all they have to do to get on Trump's good side is buy
a bunch of F-15s?
David Dayen: Betsy DeVos Moves to Help For-Profit Schools Defraud
Chauncey DeVega: Groveling before the mad king: Donald Trump's Cabinet
of sycophants: Probably the most demeaning day for a US Cabinet
since Bill Clinton got impeached and rounded up his for a forced display
of unity. For more:
Isaac Stone Fish: Emperor Trump's sycophantic cabinet meeting stinks of
Tom Engelhardt: The Making of a Pariah Nation: When I started working
on an autobiography a while back, I noted that my birthdate nearly coincided
with "the maximal state of American power in the world": the US had nearly
routed the Communists in North Korea and were closing in on the northern
border with China. Within a week, the Chinese counterattacked, and US forces
started their retreat, finally signing an armistice (but pointedly no peace
treaty) in 1953, ending (or suspending) the war as a stalemate. After WWII
the US emerged as a very rich country, with something like 50% of the world's
wealth, while Europe and East Asia were totally devastated. George Kennan
argued at the time that the point of American foreign policy should be to
preserve that discrepancy and dominance. Alas, that didn't happen, nor
could it. While the US economy enjoyed remarkable growth up to 1970, the
world economy grew even faster -- especially in Western Europe and the
Pacific Rim, where the US found business allies, treated favorably to
steer them away from the Communist bloc. After 1970, the US economy
stalled and sputtered, while the US flat-out lost its misbegotten war in
Vietnam. And alongside this economic decline, there has been a loss of
morals and decency, which we've seen play out both through a series of
Republican presidents (Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, now Trump), although
you can see its effects nearly as well in the Democrats (Carter, Clinton,
Obama). So in a sense, my entire life experience has been touched by
national decline and degeneracy. As best I recall, Engelhardt is only
a few years older than I am, so this must be his lifelong experience
too. Sure, this decline has been long denied: Reagan's "morning in
America" made it clear that our future would be based on fraud, which
for sure was America's only booming industry during his tenure; even
last year Hillary Clinton's "America's always been great" collapsed
with her delusional campaign. Even today, Engelhardt hedges his view
of "Trump, in real time, tweet by tweet, speech by speech, sword
dance by sword dance, intervention by intervention, act by act, in
the process of dismantling the system of global power" by which the
US "made itself a truly global hegemon." The problem, of course, is
that even as Americans feel pinched and belittled, even as we've
grown ever more self-centered and contemptuous of the rest of the
world, the US is still a very dangerous, very ominous force in that
world. Moreover, although Trump starts with a sense of America's
diminish stature and role, he has no clue as to how to engineer a
more graceful landing. Rather, he's actively picking totally useless
(indeed embarrassing) fights with Cuba, Iran, and North Korea, while
subcontracting US policy in the Middle East to Israel and Saudi Arabia
(or Qatar if the price is right), and pouring more resources into the
quicksand of Afghanistan. He's undermined NATO, and sought to weaken
the EU, and his rejection of the Paris Accords has offended everyone.
While Trump will henceforth be associated with failed slogans, ranging
from "Drain the Swamp" to "Lock Her Up," "Make America Great Again"
will prove even more vexing. At least no one really knows what "Great"
means. Had he been more modest and said "Make America Good Again," it
would be clear how badly he's failing.
Meanwhile, the foreign policy gurus are desperately struggling to
scale back the damage Trump is doing. It's a difficult task, as Max
Boot admits in
Donald Trump Is Proving Too Stupid to Be President; also
Richard Evans: The Madness of King Donald, which takes a longer, more
historical view of incompetent rulers; and
Daniel Shapiro: Trump Is Letting America Get Pushed Around by Saudi
Arabia -- but they let him play with swords and touch their orb.
Thomas Erdbrink: Raising Tensions, Iranians Again Link Saudis to Terror
Attacks in Tehran
Lee Fang: Trump Officials Overseeing Health Care Overhaul Previously
Lobbied for Health Insurance Firms: Title is a little obscure,
but the gist of the article is how Trump and Secretary Tom Price are
stocking HHS with a long list of industry lobbyists (Eric Hargan,
Paula Stannard, Randolph Wayne Pate, Lance Leggitt, Keagan Lenihan
are the ones mentioned and documented).
Lee Fang: Trump Officials Overseeing Amazon-Whole Foods Merger May
Face Conflicts of Interest: May?
President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Justice Department's antitrust
division, Makan Delrahim, has worked since 2005 as a lawyer and lobbyist
at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, a firm that is registered to lobby
on behalf of Amazon. . . .
Delrahim, however, isn't the only official with ties to the merger.
Abbott Lipsky, appointed in March as the new acting Director of the FTC's
Bureau of Competition, which oversees antitrust, previously worked as a
partner in the antitrust division of the law firm Latham & Watkins.
Lipsky's former law firm has been tapped by Whole Foods' financial adviser,
Evercore, to help manage the merger with Amazon, according to Law360.
And finally, Goldman Sachs has stepped up to provide bridge financing
for the merger. The investment bank maintains a broad range of connections
to multiple officials within the Trump administration, most salient of whom
is Gary Cohn, the former chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs. As the
chief economics adviser to the president, Cohn will likely weigh in on the
Karen J Greenberg: Donald Trump Is Waging a War on Children: "America's
never-ending 'war on terror' wreaks havoc on the physical, mental, and
emotional health of kids around the world."
Jeff Hauser/Brian Dew: The Trump Administration's Underrated Threat to
the IRS: First, funding cuts targeted against enforcement. Then there
And in particular, that temporary head could make a big headache go away
from one very influential person, hedge fund billionaire and Breitbart
investor Robert Mercer. In a too-little noticed McClatchy piece last
month, it was reported that "The Internal Revenue Service is demanding
a whopping $7 billion or more in back taxes from the world's most
profitable hedge fund, whose boss's wealth and cyber savvy helped Donald
Trump pole-vault into the White House." The IRS demand is hardly
controversial, as Mercer's Renaissance Technologies attempts to use
an obviously problematic loophole to pretend that's its rapid-fire
trading constitutes long term investing that is taxed at a far lower
Jessica Huseman/Annie Waldman: Trump Administration quietly rolls back
Civil Rights efforts across federal government: Not sure how quiet
this has been, but it's not just Jeff Sessions, although he bears much
Fred Kaplan: Trump, Still Unfit for President, Is Letting His Defense
Secretary Decide Strategy in Afghanistan. This includes
US to Send 4,000 More Ground Troops to Afghanistan, nearly a 50%
increase over the 8,500 already there. Later reports suggest that
Trump will wind up sinking even more troops:
General Urges Up to 20,000 More US Troops in Afghanistan. Also:
William J Astore on Trump and the Afghan War; and
Ahmed Rashid: Afghanistan: It's Too Late.
David D Kirkpatrick: Trump's Business Ties in the Gulf Raise Questions
About His Allegiances
Sarah Kliff: I've covered Obamacare since day one. I've never seen lying
and obstruction like this. On the other hand, Ezra Klein thinks:
Republicans are about to make Medicare-for-all much more likely:
not, of course, by advocating it -- they're much too dedicated to
increasing corporate graft opportunities for that -- but by exposing
all of the other alternatives to Obamacare as impossible.
Stephen Ohlemacher: GOP Tax Plan in Trouble as Republicans Increasingly
Reject Import Tax: Article mentions "strong opposition from retailers,
automakers and the oil industry." As I recall, it's also opposed by the
Kochs and their AFP front group. On the other hand, the corporate cuts
are predicated on raising revenues elsewhere, and the import tax was the
bill's main offset.
Miriam Pensack: Trump to Reverse Obama Openings to Cuba Under the False
Flag of Human Rights. More on Cuba:
Marjorie Cohn: Trump Takes Aim at Obama's Détente With Cuba;
Peter Kornbluh: Normalization With Cuba Has Been a Smashing Success -- but
Trump Wants to Destroy It. For some reason this Cuba story is making
me exceptionally sad. For nearly sixty years the US has had head stuck up
ass on this, and Obama finally pried it loose. During that time America's
standing in the world has been tarnished by many things, but with Cuba it
mostly showed the extremes to which our politicians would go to further
a grudge (and not admit any culpability -- let's face it, US treatment of
Cuba from 1898-1958 was why there was a revolution). And now it seems like
the only real reason Trump has is his desire to erase everything that Obama
ever did. (Well, except for the Afghanistan Surge, which he now seems bound
to recapitulate.) And he's getting away with this because we've created
this Imperial Presidency where the guy in charge -- even though he lost
the popular vote, even though his current approval rate is around 38% --
enjoys this incredible, arbitrary power to fuck up the world. Also note:
Richard Lardner: Not all GOP Lawmakers Pleased Trump Rolled Back Some
Obama Cuba Policies.
Nick Penzenstadler et al: Most Trump real estate now sold to secretive
Corey Robin: Trump can stack the judiciary for years. That's why
Republicans stick with him; or as Dahlia Lithwick puts it:
Trump Is Trying to Stack the Federal Courts With Wackadoos.
Mustafa Santiago Ali: Trump's planned EPA cuts will hit America's
And finally some other items that caught my eye:
Andrew J Bacevich: The 'Global Order' Myth: Unusually confused
summary of Trump and the foreign policy mandarins -- dissidents
because they cling to their treasured myths and clichés, which
Trump himself shows no evidence of believing in or caring for
(unlike Obama and Clinton, who bought into every absurd concept).
On the other hand, Trump's actual foreign policy is more crazed
but not fundamentally different -- probably because he subcontracts
it to the usual suspects.
Dan Berger: Welfare and Imprisonment: How "Get Tough" Politics Have
Excluded People From Society: Review of Julilly Kohler-Hausmann's
new book, Getting Tough: Welfare and Imprisonment in 1970s America.
Tom Cahill: A New Harvard Study Just Shattered the Biggest Myth About
Bernie Supporters: "a new poll finds that [Sanders'] popularity is
greater among minorities and women than among whites and men." Still,
lowest group listed was 52%.
Nithin Coca: Meet Gov, the Open Source, Digital Community Transforming
Democracy in Taiwan
Max Ehrenfreund: Kansas's conservative experiment may have gone worse
than people thought.
Phil Giraldi: Resist this: How Hillary lost, in her own words:
Giraldi was fool enough to vote for Trump, because, as he puts it,
"he wasn't the war candidate" -- so no surprise his enthusiasm for
a book edited with commentary by Joe Lauria called How I Lost
By Hillary Clinton, based on Clinton speeches and leaked emails
from John Podesta and the DNC brain trust, The two central themes
were "Hillary as an elitist and Hillary as a hawk" -- obviously (at
least to a non-conservative) not the full gamut of Clinton's views,
but certainly a facet she had a hard time shaking, perhaps because
she spent more time raising money than appealing for votes, and
because so much of her campaign pitch was built around what she
called "the Commander-in-Chief test."
Sarah Leonard: Why Are So Many Young Voters Falling for Old Socialists?
Corbyn? Sanders? You have to ask? First, they're the only politicians to
have survived the last 35 years of neocon/neolib bullshit with integrity
intact. Second, they've established a track record of being consistently
right in understanding how that neocon/neolib bullshit would blow up.
Third, they actually have practical programs that would help most people
enjoy better lives, while making it harder for the rich and powerful to
abuse their money and power.
Mike Ludwig: In an Aging Nation, Single-Payer Is the Alternative to
Dying Under Austerity.
Alec Luhn: Russia's Massive Protests Reveal a Government Playing by
Outdated Rules; and
Nadezda Azhgikhina: Russia Is Experiencing the Largest Anti-Government
Protests in Half a Decade.
Timothy Noah: Manufacturing Won't Save Us: Review of Luis Uchitelle's
new book, Making It: Why Manufacturing Still Matters. Unfortunately,
tagline ("But it's maddeningly difficult to make an evidence-based case for
rescuing it") suggests that Noah disagrees. In point of fact, manufacturing
has mostly been rescued in America, mostly by driving labor costs down, by
breaking and avoiding unions. But rescue like that is turning large swathes
of America into a third world nation. The problem has less to do with what
business make and do than with a business model that focuses exclusively
on draining profits from workers and customers while doing nothing for
communities and the country.
Feargus O'Sullivan: The Grenfell Tower Fir eand London's Public-Housing
Crisis: It was a 24-floor apartment tower in west London, home to
600 people, now destroyed by fire, with
58 people missing and presumed dead (including and superseding the
previously announced 30 dead). The building was public housing, but
managed by a for-profit company, with some/many apartments sold to
residents and flipped for profit.
In a trend now typical across London, the borough contracted KCTMO to
refurbish the tower, in part to increase the number of apartments
available for private rent or sale. That work left the tower with
just one staircase and exit -- an exit that the management company
has failed to keep clear. Protests about the safety of the people
living in the tower fell on deaf ears. . . .
Redeveloping projects like these is especially attractive to
cash-strapped boroughs because it helps them manage severe austerity
cuts imposed by the central government. By attracting buyers to these
properties, the boroughs can generate direct profits and attract
wealthier residents who pay higher taxes and use fewer public services.
Redeveloping or remodeling public projects also means that boroughs
and developers can squeeze out extra revenue by adding homes for the
private market, or "affordable" homes that, while cheaper than market
rates, still generate some profit.
In order to maximize these profits, there is pressure to remove as
many poorer public-housing tenants as possible, to make more room for
market-rate apartments. . . .
If Grenfell Tower hadn't been rearranged to create more apartments
and re-clad to make it look newer, there's a good chance it would
still be standing intact. . . .
The reports of neglect, threats, and indifference by the
Conservative-held local council toward low-income tenants seem
especially bitter given the incredible wealth of the area as a whole.
On a national level, the media has already noted that May's new chief
of staff sat on a report that exposed serious concerns about the fire
safety of residential towers. It would still be inaccurate to present
Grenfell Tower's neglect as a Conservative issue alone. Most inner-London
boroughs are in fact held by the Labour Party, and report similar
experiences of low-income displacement, public housing neglect, and
officially sponsored gentrification. These have been powder-keg issues
in London for years, with activists warning that some crisis would come
sooner or later. It's now arrived, in the worst possible way imaginable.
For more on the political fallout (Prime Minister Theresa May seems
to have handled this especially badly), see:
Jonathan Freedland: Grenfell Tower will forever stand as a rebuke to
Lynsey Hanley: Look at Grenfell Tower and see the terrible price of
Polly Toynbee: Theresa May was too scared to meet the Grenfell survivors.
She's finished (she reminds us that "George W Bush was similarly
exposed by his clueless reaction to Hurricane Katrina"). Also:
Seraphima Kennedy: When I worked for KCTMO I had nightmares about burning
Rebecca Solnit: Victories against Trump are mounting. Here's how we deal
the final blow: Reasons to be cheerful, or at least harbor a faint
glint of hope. Still, I'm not seeing the glass half full, let alone
Matt Taibbi: Goodbye, and Good Riddance, to Centrism: On Jeremy
Corbyn and the British election.
Douglas Williams: Flint officials may face jail for water crisis.
That's bittersweet news
Matthew Yglesias: The Fed just took action to slow job creation despite
low inflation: The Fed bumped up their basic rate by a quarter-point,
despite the fact that inflation is below its 2% target, and low unemployment
is mostly the result of people giving up looking.
Sunday, June 18, 2017
Six Days and Fifty Years
I noticed this letter by Stu Blander in the New York Times Book Review,
a response to a review by Gal Beckerman,
50 Years On, Stories of the Six Day War and What Came After, and saw
that it provided a brief set of talking points meant to defend Israel's
50-years-and-counting Occupation. I thought I'd quote these points (in
bold below) and see how well they hold up:
- the historical connection between the Jewish people and the
land of Israel (both sides of the Green Line, e.g., Hebron) spans two
millenniums; As expressed this may be true but carries no weight.
Many peoples have comparably long historical connections to this or
other lands, but that doesn't give them any right to claim land and
subjugate and/or eject those living there -- as Israelis have done.
The louder form of this argument, one often heard from Israelis, is
that God gave them the land, but while that may be an article of
faith for Jews it is arbitrary and unconvincing to anyone else.
(Those Christians who are pro-Zionist are more likely to base their
views on Revelations than on Exodus. But aside from the British of
1922-39, Christian rulers of Palestine -- Romans, Byzantines, and
Crusaders -- prohibited Jewish immigration, in contrast to the Arabs
and Ottomans, who allowed it).
- the Green Line was intended as a temporary armistice line, not
a final border;
The UN's 1947 Partition Resolution was intended to be a final border,
but Israelis, while campaigning hard for UN approval, rejected it when
they declared independence without specifying any borders and launched
Plan D to seize West Galilee, Jerusalem, and environs -- indeed to
seize as much land as they could without too many Palestinian Arabs.
The "temporary borders" of the UN-brokered armistice agreements were
expected to be finalized in peace agreements, which Israel didn't
make any effort to negotiate in good faith. That is primarily because
David Ben Gurion and his successors always contemplated seizing and
annexing more territory by armed force. Regardless of Israeli intent,
the Green Line did over nearly 20 years come to be regarded as a de
facto border, as recognized in UNSCR 242 following the 1967 War, and
it was eventually accepted by all nations of the Arab League, by the
PLO, and finally Hamas. It is only Israel that isn't satisfied with
the Green Line as a border.
- the territories were acquired in a defensive war; The
1967 War was initiated in a surprise attack by Israel, and followed
a plan aimed at rapidly conquering territory previously held or
administered by Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Egypt provoked a crisis
by demanding that UN monitor troops leave their territory in the
Sinai Peninsula, and once that happened by closing the Straits of
Tiran to Israeli shipping. Both of those reversed concessions that
Egypt had made following Israel's attack on Egypt in 1956. There
is no reason to think that Egypt (or any other Arab country) would
have attacked Israel at that time, and it is likely that had Israel
not attacked the crisis would have been resolved diplomatically.
Syria and Jordan were dragged into the war because they had signed
mutual defense deals with Egypt -- a failed attempt at deterring
Israeli attack. Even if they fired on Israel first, it was only
after Israel had attacked Egypt, and Israel responded with an
aggressive campaign to seize strategic territory.
- Security Council Resolution 242 contemplates the retention of
some of the territories; The preamble very clearly refers to the
"inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war," so there
is no reason to think that the Resolution "contemplates the retention
of some of the territories." While Israel officially accepted the
Resolution, they thought they had a loophole, arguing that the lack
of a definite article (withdrawal "from territories occupied in the
recent conflict" instead of withdrawal "from the territories"). By
that bit of nitpicking, Israel could claim to respect international
law while "creating facts on the ground" to carve out territories
they would refuse to ever withdraw from. The first such "fact on the
ground" -- the razing of a Palestinian neighborhood adjacent to the
Western Wall of the Temple Mount -- took place before the war ended,
and Israeli annexation of a greatly expanded Jerusalem very shortly
after. As internal documents from the time were declassified, it has
become clear that Israeli leaders never intended to give up various
- the 1948-49 war resulted in the destruction of existing Jewish
settlements (e.g., Gush Etzion) to which Israelis returned after 1967;
The massacre at Gush Etzion is a rare case where Arab militia were able
to destroy an isolated Jewish settlement. On the other hand, Israeli
forces destroyed some 700 Palestinian villages, and forced some 700,000
Palestinians to flee. The net effect of the 1948-49 was was that Israel
expanded its territory from 55% offered in the UN Partition Resolution
to 72% while at the same time reducing the non-Jewish population from
45% to 20% -- a massive demographic shift that nowadays we commonly
refer to as "ethnic cleansing." No doubt the massacre at Gush Etzion
was unjust, as was the 1929 attack on the Zionist settlement in Hebron,
which resulted in its retreat, and another early post-1967 settlement.
But if you want to redress those acts, you need to do it for both sides,
which would mean allowing 700 resettlements of Israel by Palestinian
refugees. Otherwise, those settlements are just land grabs by the
superior military force.
- there are significant security reasons for continued control of
the territories; Maybe there were some valid reasons in 1967, and
possibly up to the 1977 Peace Treaty with Egypt, but Israel has not
faced any significant border threats since roughly that time. Israel
created a problem with Lebanon when Israel intervened there in 1978
and especially 1982, and when Israel escalated a minor border incident
in 2006 into a major war, but all of those were preventable or could
have been handled otherwise. And Israel's Occupation creates far more
dissent and resistance, and far more immediate threats, than allowing
those territories to develop independently (as, for instance, the Oslo
Accords promised but never delivered, again due to Israeli sabotage).
- international law is far from clear as to which side has the
better of the "legal" argument; One point international law is
very clear on is that the Jewish-only settlements Israel has been
building on territory seized by force in the 1967 War are illegal.
A second point is that Israel has refused to permit refugees from
the 1948-49 and 1967 Wars to return to their homes or compensate
them for their losses, contrary to UN Resolution. There are also
various laws regarding treatment of people in Occupied Territories
that Israel is likely to have violated. Israel runs a very coercive
and invasive Occupation regime, which systematically discriminates
against civil and human rights of Palestinians. Israel routinely
practices collective punishment against Palestinians. It's not
clear to me what the "legal" arguments on the other side may be,
or how they can possibly offset these complaints.
I can see some merit in some of these points, especially up through
the 1967 War. European settler colonies have either succeeded or failed
depending on whether they were able to establish a demographic majority --
as they clearly did in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but
as they failed to do in Algeria, South Africa, Rhodesia, or Kenya.
Until the 1948-49 War, the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine was limited to
about 32% of the total population, which didn't bode well. This is why
Ben Gurion and the Zionist leadership embraced Partition and Transfer
as well as open Jewish immigration (which the British had suppressed
since 1939, and earlier from Arab countries). That they emerged from
the war with 72% of the land in Palestine and an 80% majority ensured
their survival, but it took some years after that before the lesson
was impressed on the Palestinians and neighboring Arabs. Algeria, for
instance, rejected the French only in 1964, and it took another 25
years for white South Africans to give up their system of Apartheid.
So Zionism won the struggle for existence and statehood in 1948-49,
but like so many successful people, they didn't stop there. They got
greedy: both in terms of expanding their territorial grasp and in
how completely they were able to dominate their opponents. The result
has been an extraordinary human tragedy, both for the oppressed and
for the souls of the dominators.
Blander's letter continues:
I do not think that these arguments (individually or in
combination) dictate continued retention of the territories and
perpetuation of the occupation. But it is frankly absurd to
characterize the current situation as, say, akin to that of France in
Algeria or the British in India.
Aside from demography, the other settler colony consideration is
whether you can return, as the British in India and the French in
Algeria clearly could. Boers in South Africa might have been able to
return to the Netherlands, but (unlike the English in South Africa)
were long separated from those roots -- which is one reason they
hung on so dearly. Jews in Palestine/Israel had few other options --
Americans could come and go, and some others did move on to Western
Europe, but the majority from East Europe and the MENA countries had
few options and little appetite to return.
On the other hand, if you don't recognize Zionism to be a creed
of settler colonialism, you'll miss the underlying rationales for
why the Zionist settlers did what they did, and why they've gone on
to create a regime that systematically denies the native population
any semblance of human or civil rights, a system which it regularly
reinforces with violence. Otherwise, you might just think their
racism and militarism derive from some intrinsic evil. As a white
settler American (albeit 4-10 generations removed from Europe), I
can relate, but I also understand the trap such identity sets, and
the need to outgrow that. Israelis have succeeded in transplanting
themselves to the Middle East, but not for as long, and with a more
precarious majority, than we have, so it's understandable that they're
much more on edge (plus there's the Holocaust, which they've preserved
memory of to an unhealthy degree -- kind of like the way the Civil War
was remembered in the US South well into my lifetime, whereas we've
done a pretty good job of sweeping traumas to minorities like slavery
and the Indian wars under the rug).
I guess this is why I find the last paragraph of Blander's letter
One more thing. After a couple of pages of essentially holding
Israel responsible for the continued occupation, the essay ends with a
plea by Raja Shehadeh that until the Israelis "accept that the land
must be shared and that both people have the right to self-determination,
peace will remain elusive." Maybe so. But how to square that with Nir
Baram's conclusion (apparently endorsed by Beckerman) that the conflict
is not about "final borders" and there remains "total and irreconcilable
difference" between the parties?
You can't really square away those and dozens of other things people
say, each coming from a limited and parochial vantage point. It would
helps to see where the Zionists came from, what they sought and hoped
for and built, and how they coped with real and imagined threats, but
one also needs to accept the Palestinians as they were and have become,
to put their words and actions into a historical context and understand
how their options have been severely constrained. The next line might
be something about how if they could all just learn to understand and
empathize with each other the conflict would be easy to resolve. But
that won't happen, at least broadly: the views are too limited and the
experiences too raw. It often takes distance to be able to see both
sides clearly, to find some common ground or viable modus vivendi.
I think that's the point of Nathan Thrall's new book, The Only
Language They Understand: Forcing Compromise in Israel and Palestine.
Thrall is taking a line that Israelis have often said about Arabs --
one of many things Zionist colonizers learned from their British
patrons (along with house demolitions and other forms of collective
punishment, and indeed the legal code Israel built its Occupation on),
and reflecting it back. The saying usually ends with "is violence,"
which Thrall left out, because he realizes that force can take other
forms. In The One-State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in
Israel/Palestine, Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir make a distinction
between "eruptive violence" (what you normally think of as violence)
and "potential violence" (what you feel when you see an Occupation
soldier, or are arrested, or served with a warrant by a state that
depends on arms for enforcement, or even a veiled threat). Israeli
society positively seethes with "potential violence" like this. The
closest analogy I can think of, one that Americans should (but often
cannot) be able to relate to, is how the all-pervasive legal strictures
of the Jim Crow South were reinforced with lynching (and note that many
white Southerners had their own "Holocaust memories" dating from Civil
War and Reconstruction, their own sense that their renascent power was
only achieved through violent struggle).
As someone who abhors violence in all forms and degrees, I find it
disturbing to note that Jim Crow was only dismantled because a superior
force -- the US federal government -- intervened. (Same for slavery a
century earlier, much more violently.) Similarly, it is hard to see
any glimmer of hope that Israeli society might voluntarily dismantle
its own "matrix of control" (Jeff Halper's
and thorough analysis) without the application of considerable
external pressure. One problem is that the world isn't much good at
this: partly because many powers are convinced they can solve their
international problems through violence, and partly because the
targets of that violence are more likely to hunker down and carry on
than to give up. Germany and Japan gave up their imperial ambitions
only after utter devastation, but Vietnam and Afghanistan suffered
comparable ruin and carried on. And while economic sanctions seem
less brutalizing, about the only case you can point to where they
worked was South Africa (which at least is much more similar to
Israel than such failed sanctions targets as Cuba, North Korea,
Iraq, and Iran). The BDS movement is promising not so much because
it punishes Israel for misbehaving as because it shows that the
world no longer considers Israel's violent repression of millions
of people subject to its power to be morally acceptable.
As fascinating as the past is, this is a conflict which can only be
resolved in the present, and the key to that is to stop treating each
other badly. To do that we need to condemn every transgression on every
side, and we need to refuse to allow either side's misdeeds to justify
the other. Most obviously, Israel's "right to defend itself" doesn't
extend to bombing, shooting, bulldozing, kidnapping or starving -- all
typical Israeli acts justified under the "self-defense" umbrella. One
could even imagine a simple and elegant system where, for instance,
every time someone in Gaza shoots a rocket over the wall Israel can
present the authorities in Gaza with a bill for damages and a warrant
for the arrest of whoever's responsible. Of course, Gaza could do the
same every time Israel lobs a shell or drops a bomb on Gaza. While
the warrants may be difficult to satisfy, the damages at least could
be deducted from the streams of aid both Israel and the Palestinians
receive. The formalities themselves would both publicize infractions
and deter against them. Moreover, this wouldn't require a grand deal
to establish a "final status" verdict. All it would require is mutual
agreement that shooting and bombing is something that shouldn't be
allowed or excused any more.
We also need to lighten up and let go of things. You can't go
back and rectify the past, but you can start again and try to get
it right from here on out. No one starts with a clean slate, and
I'm not sure that one is even possible, but a little self-awareness
and a little more effort to respect others can go a long ways. I
know, for instance, that I'm not free of the racism and sexism and
Christianity and American jingoism I grew up with, but I've managed
to contain them to the point where I'm not much of a problem for
other people. That much seems doable, even if it's not done often
But one last point: we should understand why ending (or at least
ameliorating) this conflict matters. It's not just that mistreatment
anywhere is bad, or even that Israel is bucking a worldwide trend
toward deconialization (not so much a return of settlers to Europe
as a general blurring of racial and ethnic identities all around
the world), but especially for us in America a recognition that
Israel's all-encompassing belief in using violence to perpetuate
inequality infects us as well (or in some cases, such as Jim Crow,
even originated here). America's self-destructive lurch to the
right parallels and feeds off Israel's, and it's unlikely we can
stave off the one without at least separating it from the other.
For another review of Thrall's book and several others, see
David Shulman: Israel's Irrational Rationality (or as the cover
put it: "Israel: From Military Victory to Moral Failure"). Here's a
By far the most cogent of the new books, however, is Nathan Thrall's
The Only Language They Understand, which surveys the last five
decades and comes to a remarkable conclusion: the only way to produce
some kind of movement toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
is to apply significant coercive force to the parties involved, and in
particular to Israel.
No amount of coddling and reassuring, no increased bribes in the
form of more money or military aid, will have any effect on Israeli
policy for the simple reason that Israel considers any sacrifice that
would be necessary for peace far worse than maintaining the current
situation. As Thrall writes, "no strategy can succeed if it is premised
on Israel behaving irrationally." In this reading of the worldview that
has driven all Israeli governments -- right, pseudo-left, or center --
over these decades, "it makes no sense for Israel to strike a deal today
rather than wait to see if . . . imagined threats," such as an apartheid
state ruling over a Palestinian demographic majority, and thus the end
of Israeli democracy, "actually materialize." The assumption that Israel
genuinely wants a peace agreement is simply wrong; the costs of such an
agreement are tangible, immediate, and perhaps overwhelming, involving
the loss of territory, an end to colonization, and potential political
collapse, whereas the costs of maintaining the status quo are for many
Israelis, if at times unpleasant, eminently bearable.
Also, further down, after detailing the author's personal experiences
with Israeli settlers near Hebron:
A diary that kept track of such assaults on Palestinians would run to
thousands of pages, with daily, perhaps hourly, entries. And I have not
yet mentioned the endless demolitions of Palestinian houses -- entire
villages, such as Susiya and Umm al-Khair, are in danger of extinction --
or the remorseless processes of expulsion and ethnic cleansing that we
see everywhere in the occupied territories. The occupation is also a
surreal world of denial, where lies mask themselves as truth and truth
can't be uttered, at least not by the officers and politicians who hold
power. I recommend the graphic and moving descriptions of the current
situation in the West Bank and Gaza in Kingdom of Olives and Ash,
a volume of personal essays by well-known writers, including the Nobel
laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman
and published to coincide with the fifty-year anniversary.
The settlers themselves, however obnoxious, bear only a portion of
the blame for the atrocities they commit. They carry out the policies
of the Israeli government, in effect maintaining a useful, steady level
of state terror directed against a large civilian population. None of
this can be justified by rational argument. All of it stains the character
of the state and has, in my experience, horrific effects on the minds and
hearts of young soldiers who have to carry out the orders they are given.
A few unusually aware and conscientious ones have had the courage to speak
out; as always in such situations, most people just go along.
Shulman also mentions a "binational" scheme which is close to where
my own thinking has led me:
There exist other templates for some sort of resolution. The most
interesting and creative is probably the
Two States One Homeland proposal by Meron Rapoport, Awni al-Mashni,
and the group of Palestinians and Israelis they have gathered around
them. They envision two states within a single geographical space and
a movement toward simultaneous sharing and separation. The blueprint
speaks of two independent polities with Jerusalem as their capital;
freedom of movement and even freedom to settle on both sides of the
border, subject to agreement on the number of citizens of each state
who will become permanent residents of the other; a Joint Court for
Human Rights, a Joint Security Council, and other common institutions
functioning alongside the institutional structures of each state.
Of the other books reviewed, Matti Steinberg's In Search of
Modern Palestinian Nationhood strikes me as possibly the most
interesting. The author "served for many years as a senior adviser
to the heads of the Shin Bet" and he seems to have made a careful,
nuanced study of what Palestinian writers were actually thinking
as their view of Israel evolved from "roughly 1973" on. There is
an interesting movie called
The Gatekeepers of interviews with five former Shin Bet
heads, showing in each case a career evolution from youthful hawk
to aged, wizened dove, so one imagines that even while they towed
the standard political line, they actually learned real things
about the people they were spying on. Unfortunately, the more they
learned, the more they regretted, the more likely they were to be
replaced with someone younger and more reckless. I think that rule
often applies to Israeli politicians as well, although Netanyahu
has managed to be single-mindedly obstructionist for what seems
Monday, June 12, 2017
Music: Current count 28254  rated (+29), 385  unrated (+2).
Barely less than the thirty that for me marks a productive week,
but close enough, especially given that my cutoff for the week's
report was relatively early, and since then I'm already as I write
this up to seven records for next week. I've continued to add items
Music Tracking file, especially
from early "so far" lists (although I ran out of patience when I
tried to scoop up the 2017 jazz review list from All About Jazz).
I've been picking promising (well, in some cases just much touted)
records from the list, and getting the usual hit-and-miss results.
I found two A- records there: a rapper who surprised me, and a pop
star who still sounded convincing after four plays. The hardest
call was the Mountain Goats' Goths, which probably got six
plays without clearly making the grade -- still, a damn nice album.
Two records I didn't spend much time on but you might turn out to
be more to your taste: MUNA and Jay Som.
The other A- is American Epic: The Soundtrack, which is
the tip of an iceberg that includes much more I haven't found time
to deal with, notably a 5-CD box and a bunch of individual artist
compilations for genres (Blues, Country) and artists I already have
serviceable anthologies by (Carter Family, Mississippi John Hurt,
Blind Willie Johnson, Leadbelly, Memphis Jug Band). Chances are
any of those would do you well. But the box is a lot to focus on
coming off the computer, and I wouldn't be able to review the doc --
always important with reissues -- without actually getting my hands
on the product. As for the original music, I haven't seen the PBS
shows, and don't know where to begin. The whole thing is much like
the Ken Burns jazz and Martin Scorsese blues campaigns, except I'm
much less engaged.
As for the mid-year lists (and obviously we're still close to
a month shy), so I'm working from a short and arbitrary sample.
Without resorting to math, I'll give you my subjective impression
of how this list would shape up if we had more data. Also, I've
included my grades, where known, in brackets:
- Kendrick Lamar: Damn (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope) [A-]
- Sampha: Process (Young Turks) [*]
- The XX: I See You (Young Turks) [A-]
- Father John Misty: Pure Comedy (Sub Pop)
- Syd: Fin (Columbia) [A-]
- Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 3 (Run the Jewels) [A-]
- Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me (PW Elverum & Sun) [*]
- Drake: More Life (Young Money/Cash Money) [*]
- Spoon: Hot Thoughts (Matador) [***]
- Thundercat: Drunk (Brainfeeder) [*]
- Migos: Culture (QC/YRN/300) [***]
- Jay Som: Everybody Works (Polyvinyl) [*]
- Khalid: American Teen (Right Hand/RCA) [A-]
- Perfume Genius: No Shape (Matador) [B-]
- Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville) [***]
- Slowdive: Slowdive (Dead Oceans) [*]
- Dirty Projectors: Dirty Projectors (Domino)
- Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian) [***]
- Laura Marling: Semper Femina (More Alarming) [*]
- The Magnetic Fields: 50 Song Memoir (Nonesuch) [B-]
The top slot is a slam dunk. The next three could go any way, with XX
a clear leader in UK, Misty in US, and Sampha broader (but not so deep)
everywhere. I think RTJ3 is underrepresented, probably because its
release straddled the New Year. The sample is skewed toward hip-hop, so
I tended to slide those records back a bit (especially Drake, which showed
up on the third most lists). Also I pushed Christgau favorites Lekman and
Magnetic Fields up (onto) the list (the latter quite a bit, but also note
that its Metacritic score is very high).
Some other, somewhat less likely, possibilities:
Ryan Adams: The Prisoner;
Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ [A-];
Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound [**];
(Sandy) Alex G: Rocket;
Japandroids: Near to the Wild Heart of Life [**];
Kehlani: SweetSexySavage [*];
The New Pornographers: Whiteout Conditions [***];
Paramore: After Laughter [***];
Priests: Nothing Feels Natural [**].
Also on my "first pass" list:
Mary J. Blige: Strength of a Woman [***];
Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness;
Charly Bliss: Guppy;
Feist: Pleasure [B];
Future Islands: The Far Field;
Girlpool: Powerplant [B];
Jlin: Black Origami [**];
Aimee Mann: Mental Illness;
Rick Ross: Rather You Than Me;
Sorority Noise: You're Not as ___ as Your Think;
Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer [*].
More 2017 best of (so far) lists:
I should also note that Robert Christgau has a review of several books
by Terry Eagleton:
With a God on His Side.
New records rated this week:
- Joey Bada$$: All-Amerikkkan Bada$$ (2017, Pro Era/Cinematic): [r]: A-
- Chicano Batman: Freedom Is Free (2017, ATO): [r]: B-
- Bill Cunliffe: BACHanalia (2013-16 , Metre): [cd]: B-
- Joey DeFrancesco and the People: Project Freedom (2017, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
- Drake: More Life (2017, Young Money/Cash Money): [r]: B+(*)
- Art Fristoe Trio: Double Down (2017, Merry Lane, 2CD): [cd]: B
- Gabriel Garzón-Montano: Jardin (2017, Stones Throw): [r]: B
- Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young: Jammin' at the Gibbs House (2016 , Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(***)
- Japandroids: Near to the Wild Heart of Life (2017, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
- J.I.D: The Never Story (2017, Dreamville/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
- Brian McCarthy Nonet: The Better Angels of Our Nature (2016 , Truth Revolution): [cd]: B+(***)
- Charnett Moffett: Music From Our Soul (2017, Motéma): [r]: B+(***)
- Kyle Motl: Solo Contrabass (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- The Mountain Goats: Goths (2017, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
- MUNA: About U (2017, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
- The Necks: Unfold (2017, Ideologic Organ): [r]: B+(***)
- Larry Newcomb Quartet With Bucky Pizzarelli: Living Tribute (2016 , Essential Messenger): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jay Som: Everybody Works (2017, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
- Dayna Stephens: Gratituge (2017, Contagious Music): [r]: B+(**)
- Becca Stevens: Regina (2017, GroundUp): [r]: B-
- Matthew Stevens: Preverbal (2017, Ropeadope): [r]: B
- Dylan Taylor: One in Mind (2015-16 , Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
- Urbanity: Urban Soul (2017, Alfi): [cd]: B
- Shea Welsh: Arrival (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B-
- Wire: Silver/Lead (2017, Pinkflag): [r]: B+(*)
- Charlie Watts/The Danish Radio Big Band: Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band (2010 , Impulse): [r]: B+(**)
- Charli XCX: Number 1 Angel (2017, Asylum): [r]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- American Epic: The Soundtrack (, Columbia/Third Man/Legacy): [r]: A-
- Alice Coltrane: The Ecstatic Music of Turiyasangitananda [World Spirituality Classics 1] (1982-95 , Luaka Bop): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Steve Bilodeau: The Sun Through the Rain (self-released)
- Burning Ghosts: Reclamation (Tzadik): advance
- The Four Bags: Waltz (NCM East)
- Kate Gentile: Mannequins (Skirl)
- The Great Harry Hillman: Tilt (Cuneiform): cdr
- Dave Liebman/Joe Lovano: Compassion: The Music of John Coltrane (2007, Resonance): June 16
- Molly Miller Trio: The Shabby Road Recordings (self-released)
- Ed Neumeister & His NeuHat Ensemble: Wake Up Call (MeisteroMusic): July 15
- Jeremy Rose: Within & Without (Earshift Music)
- Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite (Clean Feed)
- The Vampires: The Vampires Meet Lionel Loueke (Earshift Music)
Sunday, June 11, 2017
Started this on Saturday and finished before midnight on Sunday, so
quick work given all the crap I ran into. If I had to summarize it, I'd
start by pointing out that as demented as Trump seems personally, the
real damage is coming from his administration, his executive orders, and
the Republican Congress, and all of that is a very logical progression
from their rightward drift since the 1970s. To paint a picture, if you're
bothered by all the flies buzzing and maggots squirming, focus first on
the rotting carcasses that are feeding them. Secondly, America's forever
war in the Middle East seems to have entered an even more surreal level,
which again can be traced back to a bunch of unexamined assumptions
about friends and enemies and how we relate to them that ultimately
make no sense whatsoever. The simplest solution would be to withdraw
from the region (and possibly the rest of the world) completely, at
least until we get our shit together, which doesn't seem likely soon.
That's largely because we've come to tolerate a political and economic
system of all-against-all, where we feel no social solidarity, where
we tolerate all kinds of lying, cheating, and gaming -- anything that
lets fortunate people get ahead of and away from the rest of us. Last
week's UK election suggests an alternative, but while the votes there
were tantalizingly close, the resolution is still evasive -- probably
because not enough of us are clear enough on why we need help.
Meanwhile. this is what I gleaned from the week that was, starting
with a summary piece I could have fit several places below, but it
works as an intro here:
Matthew Yglesias: The week, explained: Comey, Corbyn, Qatar, and
more -- Obamacare repeal, debt ceiling. I don't doubt that the
section on Qatar is true, but still don't really understand it (nor,
clearly, does Trump: see
Zeshan Aleem: Trump just slammed US ally Qatar an hour after his
administration defended it; also
Juan Cole: Tillerson-Trump Rumble over Qatar shows White House
Richard Silverstein: All's Not Well in Sunnistan; also
Vijay Prashad: ISIS Wins, as Trump Sucks Up to the Saudis, and Launches
Destructive Fight with Qatar; and perhaps most authoritatively,
Richard Falk: Interrogating the Qatar rift; more on Qatar below).
The UK held its "snap election" on Thursday, electing a new parliament
(House of Commons, anyway) and, effectively, prime minister. Conservative
(Tory) Party leader Theresa May called the election, hoping to increase
her party's slim majority -- a result that must have seemed certain given
polls at the time. But after a month or so of campaigning -- why can't we
compress American elections like that? -- the Tories lost their majority,
but will still be able to form a razor-thin majority by allying with the
DUP (Democratic Unionist Party, a right-wing party which holds 10 seats
in Northern Ireland). The results: 318 Conservative (-12), 262 Labour
(+30), 35 SNP (Scottish National Party, -21), 12 Liberal Democrats (+4),
10 DUP (+2), 13 others (-2). The popular vote split was 42% Conservative,
40% Labour (up from 30% with Ed Miliband in 2015, 29% with Gordon Brown
in 2010, and 35% for Tony Blair's winning campaign in 2005 -- almost as
good as Blair's 40.7% in 2001).
As victory margins go, the Tories are no more impressive than Trump's
Republicans in 2016, but like Trump and the Republicans they've seized
power and can do all sorts of horrible things with it. Still, this is
widely viewed as a major, perhaps crippling setback for May and party.
And while it doesn't invalidate last year's Brexit referendum, it comes
at the time when the UK and EU are scheduled to begin negotiations on
exactly how the UK and EU will relate to each other during and after
Perhaps more importantly, the gains for Labour should (but probably
won't) end the charges that Jeremy Corbyn is too far left to win an
election. At the same time the business-friendly New Democrats (e.g.,
Clinton and Gore) took over the Democratic Party in the 1990s, the
similarly-minded Tony Blair refashioned New Labour into a neoliberal
powerhouse in the UK. Both movement proved successful, but over the
long haul did immense damage to the parties' rank-and-file, who were
trapped as opposition parties moved ever further to the right. After
New Labour finally crashed, Corbyn ran for party leader, won in a
stunning grassroots campaign, and faced down a mutiny by surviving
Labour MPs by again rallying the rank-and-file. The result is that
this time Labour actually stood for something, and the fact that
they improved their standing rebukes the Blair-Clinton strategy of
winning by surrendering. We, of course, hear the same complaints
about Bernie Sanders. It may well be that the majority is not yet
ready for "revolution," but voters (especially young ones) are
getting there, and many more are rejecting the NDP/NLP strategy
Some scattered UK election links:
Harriet Aberholm: Jeremy Corbyn was just 2,227 votes away from chance
to be Prime Minister: "Winning seven Tory knife-edge seats could
have put Labour leader in Downing Street."
Anne Applebaum: Theresa May and the revenge of the Remainers:
Notes that while Corbyn was moving Labour to the left, May took
the Conservatives right-ward -- irritating moderates not just on
Brexit but also those "worried about the future of the National
End of Blair Era in UK: Corbyn's Left-Wing Policies win at Ballot
Harry Enten/Nate Silver: The UK Election Wasn't That Much of a Shock:
Much ado about poll gazing.
John Harris: Britain is more divided than ever. Now Labour has a chance
to unify it: Title gave me no idea what this piece would be about,
and I'm not sure the author figured it out either. Still, a bit:
The contest May herself wanted was a laughably flimsy affair, focused
on her supposedly strong leadership and her belief that a sufficient
share of the public was willing to blankly approve a vision of Brexit
that she was unable to articulate. Meanwhile, thanks to Corbyn's party
and its primary-coloured manifesto, a completely different conversation
was taking place, which began to define the agenda after May's U-turn
on social care -- about the condition of the country and the need for
a new social settlement. To all intents and purposes, Labour has just
won a historic moral victory, thanks to a faintly miraculous coalition
that included not just millions of remain voters but -- as proved by
a stream of Labour successes in the Midlands, Wales and the north --
people who once voted Ukip and backed leave.
Bemoaning a divided nation is a cliché, but it's also practical
politics for the right, since the only basis on which a majority can
merge would be for more equality and broader prosperity, which is to
say the agenda (when they're not selling out) of the left.
Mehdi Hasan: Jeremy Corbyn Is Leading the Left out of the Wilderness
and Toward Power
Toby Helm/Daniel Boffey: 'Drop hard Brexit plans,' leading Tory and
Labour MPs tell May
Zaid Jilani: Jeremy Corbyn's Critics Predicted He Would Destroy Labour.
They Were Radically Wrong.
Robert Mackey: After Election Setback, Theresa May Clings to Power in
UK Thanks to Ulster Extremists: Mostly a reminder of how right-wing
the DUP is.
Maria Margaronis: Labour's Near-Triumph Brings a New Morning to British
Politics: "Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offered an end to austerity,
a commitment to the public good, the faith that generosity is more
powerful than greed."
Emile Simpson: That Time Theresa May Forgot That Elections Come With
Opponents: She also forgot that, regardless of how much people
may be inclined to blame New Labour and/or the EU, Conservative rule
since 2010 hasn't really delivered anything of value to most British
voters -- a steady diet of austerity, cutbacks, wars, and terror,
with whatever dislocations "hard Brexit" portends. Trying to look
at this rationally, I'm surprised that they did as well as they did,
since I can't think of any credible reason for hardly anyone to stick
with them. So I liked this bit:
But of course, credit where credit is due. Jeremy Corbyn, who has been
much maligned over the last two years now looks like he will end up
outliving two Conservative prime ministers. His biggest strength, in
contrast to May, is his sincerity, which was even recognized during
the campaign by the likes of Nigel Farage. Unlike May, people trust
that he means what he says, even if they disagree with him.
Of course, Simpson goes on to complain that Corbyn's "biggest
weaknesses are his own hard-left political views," but tempers
that by noting that the Labour manifesto "was far closer to the
center than Corbyn's own views."
Steve W Thrasher: Bernie Sanders could have won. That's the Corbyn lesson
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: How Jeremy Corbyn Moved Past the Politics of
On Wednesday night, Corbyn gave the final speech of his campaign, in the
stunning Union Chapel, in Islington, his own constituency. Near the end,
he took out his reading glasses and gave a dramatic performance of a few
melodramatic lines from Shelley. "Rise, like lions after slumber / In
unvanquishable number! / Shake your chains to earth like dew / Which in
sleep had fallen on you: / ye are many -- they are few!" Corbyn was
standing in front of a red background emblazoned with Labour's slogan:
"For the many, not the few." He said that he and his audience had stood
together in places like this for countless protest meetings over the
decades -- "protect this, defend that, support this person." "Tonight
is different," Corbyn said. "We're not defending. We're not defending.
We don't need to. We are asserting. Asserting our view that a society
that cares for all is better than a society that only cares for the
few." Monday morning, the Blackpool Gazette ran an advertisement from
the Conservatives that covered half its front page. The other half was
a news story: "Poverty-hit families are forced to rely on food bank
handouts." The election was being argued on Corbyn's terms. That isn't
the same as winning, but it is something.
Gary Younge: We were told Corbyn was 'unelectable.' Then came the
And the usual scattered links on this week's Trump scandals:
Dean Baker: Trump Versus Ryan: The Race to Eliminate the Federal
Government: Another piece on Trump's budget. It bears repeating
that the real reason conservatives seek to shrink government is
that they want people to forget that the government is there to
serve them, and that with integrity and a sense of public service
government can make their lives better. So anything they can do
to make government look bad works to their favor. And, of course,
they don't apply their pitch lines to the parts of government
they not only like but depend on to maintain their privilege. On
a related issue, see
William Rivers Pitt: We Are Not Broke: Trashing the Austerity
Lies. One of their favorite pitches is that we can't afford
to do things (yet somehow we manage to spend a trillion dollars
on a war machine that does little but blowback).
Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman: Trump Grows Discontented With Attorney
General Jeff Sessions: Trump may have thought he was appointing a
loyalist who would make his legal problems go away, but all he got was
a racist/right-wing ideologist who recognizes there are still some limits
to how much he can undermine America's system of justice.
Moustafa Bayoumi: Trump's Twitter attacks on Sadiq Khan reveal how
pitiful the president is
Mohamad Bazzi: The Trump Administration Could Provoke Yet Another
Mideast War: "Trump has emboldened a recklessly aggressive Saudi
government, which is now destroying Yemen, imposing a blockade on
Qatar -- and could even stumble into a war with Iran." Long piece
on how "the Saud dynasty views itself as the rightful leader of the
Muslim world" and how that view leads them into conflicts with Iran,
all secular Arab nationalists, and challengers (like the Muslim
Brotherhood) and pretenders (like ISIS). A little short on exactly
why the Saudis turned on Qatar, another rich autocracy which has
turned into a rival by becoming even more prone to intervention:
Aside from their anger toward Iran, the Sauds were also enraged by
Qatar's support for the revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, and especially
Egypt, where Qatar became a primary backer of the Muslim Brotherhood,
which in 2012 won the first free elections in Egypt's modern history.
(Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates later backed an Egyptian
military coup, in July 2013, against the government of President
Mohamed Morsi, a Brotherhood leader.) The Sauds were already irritated
at Qatar for pursuing an independent foreign policy and trying to
increase its influence after the regional turmoil unleashed by the
US invasion of Iraq. And, like other Arab monarchs and autocrats,
the Sauds disdained Qatar's Al Jazeera satellite network, which was
critical of the monarchies and supported the uprisings in 2011.
Shawn Boburg: Trump's lawyer in Russia probe has clients with Kremlin
Gilad Edelman: Trump's Plan to Make Government Older, More Expensive,
and More Dysfunctional: "Slashing federal employees doesn't save
money. It just makes the government more dependent on private contractors
and more prone to colossal screw-ups."
Robert Greenwald: Trump Is Sending a Murderer to Do a Diplomat's Job:
"Trump just put Michael D'Andrea -- the man who invented so-called
'signature drone strikes' -- to head up intelligence operations in
Iran. Probably pure coincidence that almost immediately Tehran
was hit by an ISIS terror bomb attack (see
Juan Cole: ISIL Hits Tehran; Trump Blames Victim, Iran Hard-Liners
Blame Saudis -- who probably blame Qatar, a country they've
broken relations with while suggesting they have ties to Iranian
terrorists). Also, Richard Silverstein asks
Iran Terror Attack: Who Gains? And then there's this:
US Congressman suggests his country should back ISIS against Iran
following Tehran attacks: That's Dana Rorhbacher (R-CA).
Mark Karlin: Organizations Representing Corporations Pass Regressive
Legislation in the Shadows: Interview with Gordon Lafer, who
wrote The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking
America One State at a Time. One reason Republicans have spent
so heavily at taking over state legislatures is that they can use
that power base for cultivating corporate favors. For an excerpt
from Lafer's book, see
Corporate Lobbies Attack the Public Interest in State Capitols.
Anne Kim: Deconstructing the Administrative State: "Donald Trump
promises that his deregulatory agenda will lead to a boom in jobs.
The real effect will be the opposite."
Naomi Klein: The Worst of Donald Trump's Toxic Agenda Is Lying in Wait --
A Major US Crisis Will Unleash It: Long piece, adapted from Klein's
new book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Shock Politics and Winning the
World We Need.
Paul Krugman: Wrecking the Ship of State: Also see Jacob Sugarman's
more pointed comments:
If You Think the United States Is a Disaster Now, Just Wait.
Mike Ludwig: Pulling Out of the Paris Climate Pact, Trump Is Building
a Wall Around Himself
Josh Marshall: Trump's Saudi Arms Deal Is Actually Fake: $110 billion
in arms sales -- think of all the jobs (well, actually not that many, and
not working on anything valuable in itself, like infrastructure). But:
The $110 price tag advertised by the Trump White House includes no
actual contracts, no actual sales. Instead it is made up of a bundle
of letters of intent, statements of interest and agreements to think
about it. In other words, rather than a contract, it's more like a
wishlist: an itemized list of things the Saudis might be interested
in if the price of oil ever recovers, if they start more wars and
things the US would like to sell the Saudis. . . .
As I said, it's remarkably like the Trump-branded phony job
announcements: earlier plans, themselves not committed to, rebranded
as new decisions, with the Saudis happy to go along with the charade
to curry favor with the President who loves whoever showers praise
Also, as the Bazzi piece above notes, "From 2009 to 2016, Obama
authorized a record $115 billion in military sales to Saudi Arabia,
far more than any previous administration. (Of that total, US and
Saudi officials inked formal deals worth about $58 billion, and
Washington delivered $14 billion worth of weaponry from 2009 to
Ruth Marcus: Why Comey's testimony was utterly devastating to
Trump: This was the story Washington insiders obsessed about
all week. Everyone has an opinion, so I should probably just drop
into second-tier bullets and let you figure it out (if you care):
Peter Baker/David L Sanger: Trump-Comey Feud Eclipses a Warning on Russia:
'They Will Be Back' I've pooh-poohed the "Russia interferes with US
election" thing because it was initially pushed mostly by renascent cold
warriors (neocons nostalgic for an enemy they can overspend) and mainline
Democrats (looking for an excuse for their own failures). Also there's
the fact that no one interferes in foreign elections more than the United
States. Still, I was struck by Comey's matter-of-fact Russia indictment,
and recognize that Russia's engagement in foreign elections isn't helpful --
even if it's only one of many distortions and disinformation sources we have
to fend off. Sensible people would look for a solution which disentangles
other sources of distortion and disinformation as well.
EJ Dionne Jr: Trump doesn't understand how to be president. The Comey
story shows why.
David Frum: The Five Lines of Defense Against Comey -- and Why They
Failed: For example, all that nitpicking over Trump meekly saying
"I hope" even though Trump is the sort of person who habitually surrounds
himself with people eager to satisfy Trump's wishes. Frum wrote:
But Adam Liptak, Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times,
almost instantly produced an example of an obstruction of justice
conviction that rested precisely on "I hope" language -- and the
all-seeing eye of Twitter quickly found more. Anyone who has ever
seen a gangster movie has heard the joke, "Nice little dry cleaning
store, I hope nothing happens to it." The blunt fact is that after
Comey declined to drop the investigation or publicly clear the
president, Trump fired Comey. A hope enforced by dismissal is more
than a wish.
Frum also cites
Michael Isikoff: Four top law firms turned down requests to represent
Trump, one of them vividly explaining, "the guy won't pay and he
Fred Kaplan: What Trump Doesn't Know Will Hurt Us: "The GOP excuse
about Trump's ignorance will lead America to disaster."
Ryan Koronowski: Comey's testimony was a media disaster for Trump.
These headlines prove it.
Nancy LeTourneau: The President's Lawyer Fails Miserably in Defending
His Client: On Marc Kasowitz's rebuttal to the Comey testimony.
Meanwhile, Matthew Yglesias gets hung up proofreading:
Trump's personal lawyer just released a letter filled with typos.
Kathleen Parker: Boy Scout James Comey is no match for Donald Trump:
You can tell she's a right-winger because she thinks bad is good and
Heather Digby Parton: James Comey rivets the nation -- and tells intriguing
stories about Jeff Sessions
Adam Serwer: The Incompetence Defense: "Republican senators suggest
Trump is innocent because he didn't try very hard to obstruct justice,
or because he was bad at it."
Philip Rucker/David Nakamura: Trump accuses Comey of lying, says he'd
'100 percent' agree to testify in Russia probe: Trump denied it
all, then summed up: "No collusion. No obstruction. He's a leaker." As
Philip Bump further reports, Trump wants to turn around and go after
Comey for the leak. Bump further interviewed Stephen Kohn ("a partner
at a law firm focused on whistleblower protection") on the possibility
that the Justice Department's inspector general might prosecute Comey
for the leak. Kohn's response:
"Here is my position on that: Frivolous grandstanding," he said. "First
of all, I don't believe the inspector general would have jurisdiction
over Comey any more, because he's no longer a federal employee." The
inspector general's job is to investigate wrongdoing by employees of
the Justice Department, which Comey is no longer, thanks to Trump --
though the IG would have the ability to investigate an allegation of
"But, second," he continued, "initiating an investigation because
you don't like somebody's testimony could be considered obstruction.
And in the whistleblower context, it's both evidence of retaliation
and, under some laws, could be an adverse retaliatory act itself."
Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, also picked up on charging Comey as
a leaker. Given that the Trump administration has been in a paranoid
frenzy about leakers, that gives Trump's followers a talking point,
even if, as Bump details, there's no legal basis for the complaint.
The way politics plays today, that may be all Trump needs to deflect
Nicholas Schmidle: James Comey's Intellectual History: Background
profile on Comey, which shows he was well predisposed to screw over
Hillary Clinton but unlikely to emerge as Donald Trump's nemesis.
I suppose that makes him credible to our relentlessly rebalancing
centrists, but for now it highlights how outrageous Trump still is --
until Republicans manage to make him the new normal (as they did
with Nixon, Reagan, the Bushes, Gingrich, and Ryan).
Deborah Tannen: It's not just Trump's message that matters. There's also
Matthew Yglesias: The most important Comey takeaway is that congressional
Republicans don't care:
The question before Congress is whether or not it's appropriate for a
president to fire law enforcement officials in order to protect his
friends and associates from legal scrutiny. And the answer congressional
Republicans have given is that it's fine.
Almost since Trump was sworn in there have been flurries of pieces
on impeachment (post-Comey, see
John Nichols: Congress Has What It Needs to Impeach Trump), but
Yglesias is right here: as long as Trump is useful to Republicans in
Congress they will have no will to impeach him, no matter what he
does (even, to pick his favorite example, should he start shooting
pedestrians on New York's Fifth Avenue). Impeachment may reference
"high crimes and misdemeanors" but is purely political calculation.
Trump is safe on that count until the Republicans in Congress decide
he's a liability.
Jim Newell: Trumpcare Is on the March: "GOP Senators have quietly
retooled a Trumpcare bill that could pass." This was also noted by
Zoë Carpenter: Senate Republicans Hope You Won't Notice They're About
to Repeal Obamacare. Also, in case you need a refresher:
Alex Henderson: 9 of the most staggeringly awful statements Republicans
have made about health care just this year:
- Raul Labrador claims that no one dies from lack of health insurance
in the U.S.
- Rep. Jason Chaffetz compares cost of health care to cost of iPhones
- Warren Davidson's message to the sick and dying: Get a better job
- Mo Brooks equates illness with immorality
- Mick Mulvaney vilifies diabetics as lazy and irresponsible
- Roger Marshall claims that America's poor "just don't want health
- President Trump praises Australian health care system, failing to
understand why it's superior
- Steve Scalise falsely claims that Trumpcare does not discriminate
against preexisting conditions
- Ted Cruz, Jim Jordan claim Canadians are coming to U.S. in droves
for health care, without a shred of evidence
Ben Norton: Emails Expose How Saudi Arabia and UAE Work the US Media
to Push for War
Jonathan O'Connell: Foreign payments to Trump's businesses are legally
permitted, argues Justice Department: Something else Trump "hoped"
the DOJ would see his way.
Daniel Politi: Afghan Soldier Opens Fire on US Troops, Kills Three
Service Members: I first heard this story from a TV report,
where VP Mike Pence was proclaiming the dead soldiers "heroes"
and no one mentioned that the shooter was a supposed ally. Now
we hear that the shooter was a Taliban infiltrator. However, note
another same day report:
US Air Raid Kills Several Afghan Border Police in Helmand.
"Several" seems to be 10, and they were "patrolling too close
to a Taliban base."
Nomi Prins: In Washington, Is the Glass(-Steagall) Half Empty or Half
Full? Republicans in Congress are hard at work tearing down the
paltry Dodd-Frank reforms that Congress put in place to make a repeat
of the 2008 financial meltdown less likely -- it was, quite literally,
the least they could do. The Wichita Eagle ran an op-ed today by our
idiot Congressman Ron Estes and it gives you an idea what the sales
pitch for the Finance CHOICE Act is going to be:
Repealing Obama's regulatory nightmare. Republicans seem to think
that all they have to do to discredit regulations is count them (or
compile them in a binder and drop it on one's foot). As Estes put it,
"The scale of regulations added is incredible. Dodd-Frank added almost
28,000 new rules, which is more than every other law passed under the
Obama administration combined." He may be right that some of those
regulations "hinder smaller local lenders" -- the Democrats' Wall
Street money came from the top, and while they weren't fully satisfied
(at least after they got bailed out), they did get consideration.
Beyond that Estes spools out lie after lie -- the baldest is his
promise that "consumers must be protected from fraud." (The first
bullet item on Indivisible's
What is the Financial CHOICE Act (HR 10)? says the act would:
"Destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and obliterate
consumer protections as we currently know them, including allowing
banks to gouge consumers with credit card fees." One reason Dodd-Frank
needed so many regulations was how many different ways banks could
think of to screw consumers.
Prins' article doesn't mention Financial CHOICE, but does mention
a couple of mostly-Democratic bills to restore the separation concept
of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act. Arguably that isn't enough, but one
can trace a direct line from the 1999 Glass-Steagall repeal (which
was triggered by Citibank's merger with Traveler's Insurance -- a
much smarter response would have been to prosecute Citibank's CEO
and Board) to the 2008 meltdown and bailouts. Also see
Paul Craig Roberts: Without a New Glass-Steagall America Will Fail.
Ned Resnikoff: Trump ends infrastructure week with some binder-themed
Chris Riotta: Donald Trump Is Sputtering with Rage Behind the Closed
Doors of the White House
Mica Rosenberg/Reade Levinson: Trump targets illegal immigrants who were
given reprieves from deportation by Obama
Bill Scheft: Who in the hell is Scott Pruitt?! Everything you were afraid
to ask about this suddenly important person
Derek Thompson: The Potemkin Policies of Donald Trump: Last week
was "Infrastructure Week," during which he unveiled a plan to privatize
air traffic control that the big airlines have been lobbying for quite
a few years, and something about reducing environmental impact studies
to no more than two pages, presumably by eliminating the study part.
Trump has also been heard complaining that all the Russia investigations
have gotten in the way of doing important work, like jobs, or terrorism,
or something like that.
The secret of the Trump infrastructure plan is: There is no infrastructure
plan. Just like there is no White House tax plan. Just like there was no
White House health care plan. More than 120 days into Trump's term in a
unified Republican government, Trump's policy accomplishments have been
more in the subtraction category (e.g., stripping away environmental
regulations) than addition. The president has signed no major legislation
and left significant portions of federal agencies unstaffed, as U.S. courts
have blocked what would be his most significant policy achievement, the
legally dubious immigration ban.
The simplest summary of White House economic policy to date is four
words long: There is no policy.
To be sure, this void has partially been filled up with Paul Ryan's
various plans -- wrecking health care, tax giveaways to the rich, undoing
regulation of big banks, etc. -- which is the point when people finally
realize just how much damage Trump and the Republicans are potentially
capable of. So much so that the one thing I'm not going to fault Trump
on is the stuff he's threatened but never tried to do. There's way too
much bad stuff that he's done to shame him for not doing more. It used
to be said that at least Mussolini got the trains to run on time. About
the best Trump can hope for is to destroy all the schedules so no one
can be sure whether they're on time or not.
Trevor Timm: ICE agents are out of control. And they are only getting
Paul Woodward: Whatever we call Trump, he stinks just as bad:
Reports that CNN fired Reza Aslan after a tweet about Trump, then
hired former Trump campaign strategist Corey Lewandowski. For the
record, here is Aslan's tweet:
This piece of shit is not just an embarrassment to America and a
stain on the presidency. He's an embarrassment to humankind.
Donald Trump is the embodiment and arguably purest distillation of
vulgarity and yet the prissy gatekeepers of American mainstream-media
civility have a problem when vulgar language is used to describe a
What other kind of language is in any sense appropriate?
There's no good answer to this. The fact is it's impossible to
convey the extent and intensity to which I'm personally disgusted
by Trump both in word and action, and I'm not alone. Sometimes I
erupt with vulgarity. Sometimes I try to be clever. Most of the
time I try to explain with some factual reference which should be
self-evident. But nothing seems to break through the shell his
supporters wear. Still, I can't blame anyone for trying. I can't
blame Kathy Griffin for her severed head joke. (Actually, I smiled
when I saw the picture, and that doesn't happen often these days.
Then my second thought was, "that's too good for him.") But I
don't like getting too personal about Trump, because regardless
of how crass he seems, the real problems with his politics are
much more widespread, and in many cases he's just following his
company around. So that's why I'd object to Aslan's tweet: it
narrows its target excessively. Still, I wouldn't fire him. He's
got a voice that's grounded in some reasonable principles --
more than you can say for "the tweeter-in-chief."
Stephen M Walt: Making the Middle East Worse, Trump-Style:
I've lodged a number of links on the Saudi-Qatari pissfest, the
ISIS-Iran terror, and the long-lasting Israel-Palestine conflict
elsewhere in this post, and apologize for not taking the time
to straighten them out. But this didn't fit clearly as a footnote
to any of those: it's more like the core problem, so I figured I
should list it separately. Walt continues to be plagued by his
conceit that the US has real interests in the Middle East and
elsewhere around the world other than supporting peace, justice,
and broad-based prosperity, so what he's looking for here is a
"balance of power" division, something Trump is truly clueless
I don't think Trump cares one way or the other about Israelis or
Palestinians (if he did, why would he assign the peace process to
his overworked, inexperienced, and borderline incompetent son-in-law?)
but jumping deeper into bed with Saudi Arabia and Egypt isn't going
to produce a breakthrough.
The folly of Trump's approach became clear on Monday, when (Sunni)
Saudi Arabia and five other Sunni states suddenly broke relations with
(Sunni) Qatar over a long-simmering set of policy disagreements. As
Robin Wright promptly tweeted, "So much for #Trump's Arab coalition.
It lasted less than two weeks." Trump's deep embrace of Riyadh didn't
cause the Saudi-Qatari rift -- though he typically tried to take credit
for it with some ill-advised tweets -- but this dispute exposed the
inherent fragility of the "Arab NATO" that Trump seems to have envisioned.
Moreover, taking sides in the Saudi-Qatari rift could easily jeopardize
U.S. access to the vital airbase there, a possibility Trump may not even
have known about when he grabbed his smartphone. And given that Trump's
State Department is sorely understaffed and the rest of his administration
is spending more time starting fires than putting them out, the United
States is in no position to try to mend the rift and bring its putative
One completely obvious point is that if the US actually wanted to
steer the region back toward some sort of multi-polar stability the
first thing to do would be to thaw relations with Iran, and to make
it clear to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and Israel that we won't
tolerate any sabotage on their part. The US then needs to negotiate
a moderation of the efforts of all regional powers to project power
or simply meddle in other nations' business (and, and this is crucial,
to moderate its own efforts). Obviously, this is beyond the skill set
of Trump, Kushner, et al. -- they're stuck in kneejerk reaction mode,
as has been every American "tough guy" since (well before) 2001. But
this isn't impossible stuff. All it really takes is some modesty, and
a willingness to learn from past mistakes. Would Iran be receptive?
Well, consider this:
Last but not least, Trump's response to the recent terrorist attack
in Tehran was both insensitive and strategically misguided. Although
the State Department offered a genuine and sincere statement of regret,
the White House's own (belated) response offered only anodyne sympathies
and snarkily concluded: "We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism
risk falling victim to the evil they promote." A clearer case of "blaming
the victim" would be hard to find, and all the more so given Trump's
willingness to embrace regimes whose policies have fueled lots of
terrorism in the past.
Contrast this with how Iranian President Mohammad Khatami responded
after 9/11: He offered his "condolences" and "deepest sorrow" for the
American people and called the attack a "disaster" and "the ugliest form
of terrorism ever seen." There was no hint of a lecture or snide
schadenfreude in Khatami's remarks, even though it was obvious that
the attacks were clearly a reaction (however cruel and unjustified)
to prior U.S. actions. It is hard to imagine any modern American
presidents responding as callously as Trump did.
Matthew Yglesias: The Bulshitter-in-Chief: "Donald Trump's
disregard for the truth is something more minister than ordinary
lying." Quotes philosopher Harry Frankfurt's essay "On Bullshit"
for authority when making a distinction between bullshitting and
lying, then gives plenty of examples (most familiar/memorable).
One interesting bit here comes from
Tyler Cowen: Why Trump's Staff Is Lying:
By asking subordinates to echo his bullshit, Trump accomplishes two
- He tests the loyalty of his subordinates. In Cowen's words, "if
you want to ascertain if someone is truly loyal to you, ask them to
do something outrageous or stupid."
- The other is that it turns his aides into members of a distinct
tribe. "By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can
undercut their independent standing, including their standing with
the public, with the media and with other members of the
Sounds to me like how cults are formed. Yglesias continues:
But the president doesn't want a well-planned communications strategy;
he wants people who'll leap in front of the cameras to blindly defend
whatever it is he says or does.
And because he's the president of the United States, plenty of people
are willing to oblige him. That starts with official communicators like
Spicer, Conway (who simultaneously tries to keep her credibility in the
straight world by telling Joe Scarborough she needs to shower after
defending Trump), and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But there are also the
informal surrogates. . . .
House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes embarrassed himself
but pleased Trump with a goofy effort to back up Trump's wiretapping
claims. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who certainly knows better,
sat next to Trump in an Economist interview and gave him totally
undeserved credit for intimidating the Chinese on currency manipulation.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross hailed a small-time trade agreement with
China consisting largely of the implementation of already agreed-upon
measures as "more than has been done in the whole history of U.S.-China
relations on trade."
This kind of bullshit, like Trump's, couldn't possibly be intended to
actually convince any kind of open-minded individual. It's a performance
for an audience of one. A performance that echoes day and night across
cable news, AM talk radio, and the conservative internet.
Plus a few other things that caught my eye:
Patrick Cockburn: Britain Refuses to Accept How Terrorists Really Work:
After ISIS-claimed attacks in Manchester and London:
When Jeremy Corbyn correctly pointed out that the UK policy of regime
change in Iraq, Syria and Libya had destroyed state authority and
provided sanctuaries for al-Qaeda and Isis, he was furiously accused
of seeking to downplay the culpability of the terrorists. . . .
There is a self-interested motive for British governments to portray
terrorism as essentially home-grown cancers within the Muslim community.
Western governments as a whole like to pretend that their policy
blunders, notably those of military intervention in the Middle East
since 2001, did not prepare the soil for al-Qaeda and Isis. This
enables them to keep good relations with authoritarian Sunni states
like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Pakistan, which are notorious for aiding
Salafi-jihadi movements. Placing the blame for terrorism on something
vague and indefinable like "radicalisation" and "extremism" avoids
embarrassing finger-pointing at Saudi-financed Wahhabism which has
made 1.6 billion Sunni Muslims, a quarter of the world's population,
so much more receptive to al-Qaeda type movements today than it was
60 years ago.
Eric Foner: The Continental Revolution: Review of Noam Maggor:
Brahmin Capitalism: Frontiers of Wealth and Populism in America's
First Gilded Age, about economic development following the US
Thomas Frank: From rust belt to mill towns: a tale of two voter revolts:
The author of What's the Matter With Kansas?, The Wrecking Crew,
and Listen, Liberal tours Britain on the eve of the election. He
doesn't predict the election very well, but he does notice things, like
When I try to put my finger on exactly what separates Britain and America,
a story I heard in a pub outside Sheffield keeps coming back to me. A man
was telling me of how he had gone on vacation to Florida, and at one point
stopped to refuel his car in a rural area. As he was standing there, an
old man rode up to the gas station on a bicycle and started rummaging
through a trash can. The Englishman asked him why he was doing this, and
was astonished to learn the man was digging for empty cans in order to
support his family.
The story is unremarkable in its immediate details. People rummaging
through trash for discarded cans is something that every American has
seen many times. What is startling is that here's a guy in Yorkshire, a
place we Americans pity for its state of perma-decline, relating this
story to me in tones of incomprehension and even horror. He simply
couldn't believe it. Left unasked was the obvious question: what kind
of civilisation allows such a fate to befall its citizens? The answer,
of course, is a society where social solidarity has almost completely
What most impressed me about the England I saw was the opposite: a
feeling I encountered, again and again, that whatever happens, people
are all in this together. Solidarity was one of the great themes after
the terrorist bombing in Manchester, as the city came together around
the victims in a truly impressive way, but it goes much further than
that. It is the sense you get that the country is somehow obliged to
help out the people of the deindustrialised zones and is failing in
its duty. It is an understanding that every miner or job-seeker or
person with dementia has a moral claim upon the rest of the English
nation and its government. It is an assumption that their countrymen
will come to their rescue if only they could hear their cries for help.
John Judis: What's Wrong With Our System of Global Trade and Finance:
Interview with economist Dani Rodrik, who has written several books on
globalization. The main thing I've learned from him is that when nations
open up trade (and/or capital and/or labor flows), sensible ones recognize
that there will be losers as well as winners and act to mitigate losses.
The US, of course, isn't one of the sensible ones. And while Trump seems
to recognize some of the losses, he doesn't have anything to offer that
actually helps fix those problems. Still, he offers that some sort of
real change needs to come:
I think the change comes because the mainstream panics, and they come
to feel that something has to be done. That's how capitalism has changed
throughout its history. If you want to be optimistic, the good news is
that capitalism has always reinvented itself. Look at the New Deal, look
at the rise of the welfare state. These were things that were done to
stave off panic or revolution or political upheaval. . . .
So I think the powerful interests are reevaluating what their interest
is. They are considering whether they have a greater interest in creating
trust and credibility and rebuilding the social contract with their
compatriots. That is how to get change to take place without a complete
overhaul of the structure of power.
Christopher Lydon: Neoliberalism Is Destroying Our Democracy: An
interview with Noam Chomsky.
Ed Pilkington: Puerto Rico votes again on statehood but US not ready
to put 51st star on the flag; also
Michelle Chen: The Bankers Behind Puerto Rico's Debt Crisis.
Matthew Rozsa: Kris Kobach, "voter fraud" vigilante, is now running for
Kansas governor: He's been Kansas' Secretary of State since 2011,
a fairly minor position whose purview includes making sure elections
are run fairly, and to that end he's managed to get a "voter ID" bill
passed, purge thousands of voters from the registration rolls, and
prosecute perhaps a half dozen people for voting twice. Earlier he
was best known as author of several anti-immigration bills, and he's
continued to do freelance work writing far right-wing bills -- by
the way, virtually all of the ones that have been passed have since
been struck down as unconstitutional. He is, in short, a right-wing
political agitator disguised as a lawyer, and is a remarkably bad
one. He was the only Kansas politician to endorse Donald Trump, and
he wrangled a couple job interviews during the transition, but came
up empty. It's not clear whether Trump worried he might not be a
team player (i.e., someone who sacrifices his own ideas to Trump's
ego), or simply decided he was an asshole -- the binders he showed
up with suggest both. Kobach launched his gubernatorial campaign
with a ringing defense of Sam Brownback's tax cuts, which the state
legislature had just repealed (overriding Brownback's veto). Rosza
asks, "have the people of Kansas not suffered enough under Sam
Brownback?" Good question. Although he's by far the most famous
(or notorious) candidate, and he ran about 4 points above Brownback
in their 2014 reëlection campaigns, I think it's unlikely he will
win the Republican primary. For starters, his fanatical anti-immigrant
shtick doesn't play well in western Kansas where agribusiness demands
cheap labor and hardly anyone with other options wants to live. But
also, most business interests would rather have someone they can keep
on a tighter leash than a demagogue with national ambitions (a trait
Kobach shares with Brownback). Still, either way, I doubt the state's
suffering will end any time soon.
Reihan Salam: The Health Care Debate Is Moving Left: "How single-payer
went from a pipe dream to mainstream." The author isn't very happy about
this, complaining "that Medicare has in some ways made America's health
system worse by serving the interests of politically powerful hospitals
over those of patients." Still:
If faced with a choice between the AHCA and Medicare for all, Republicans
shouldn't be surprised if swing voters wind up going for the latter. The
AHCA is an inchoate mess that evinces no grander philosophy for caring
for the sick and vulnerable. Single-payer health care is, if nothing else,
a coherent concept that represents a set of beliefs about how health care
should work. If Republicans want the single-payer dream to go away, they're
going to have to come up with something better than the nothing they have
Sabrina Siddiqui: Anti-Muslim rallies across US denounced by civil
rights groups: On Saturday, a group called Act for America tried
to organize "anti-Sharia law" rallies in a number of American cities
("almost 30"; I've heard 28). They seem to have been lightly attended.
(My spies here in Wichita say 30 people showed up. There wasn't a
counter-demonstration here, although in many cases more people came
to counter -- needless to say, not to defend Sharia but to reject
ACT's main focus of fomenting Islamophobia.)
Ana Swanson/Max Ehrenfreund: Republicans are predicting the beginning
of the end of the tea party in Kansas: The overwhelmingly Republican
Kansas state legislature finally managed to override Gov. Sam Brownback's
veto of a bill that raised state income taxes and eliminated a loophole
that allowed most businessmen to escape taxation altogether. The new
tax rates are lower than the ones in effect before Brownback's signature
"tax reform" became law and blew a hole in the state budget, leading to
a series of successful lawsuits against the state over whether education
funding was sufficient to satisfy the state constitution. Republicans
have done a lot of batshit-insane stuff since Brownback took office in
2011, but the one that kept biting them back the worst was the Arthur
Laffer-blessed tax cut bill. One can argue that this represents a power
shift within the Republican Party in Kansas: in 2016 rabid right-wingers
(including Rep. Tim Huelskemp) actually lost to "moderate" challengers,
whereas earlier right-wingers had often won primaries against so-called
moderates. But as this article points out, right-wingers like Kris
Kobach and their sponsors like the Koch Brothers are pissed off and
vowing civil war. Meanwhile, the Ryan-Trump "tax reform" scam looks
a lot like Brownback's, with all that implies: e.g., see
Ben Castleman et al: The Kansas Experiment Is Bad News for Trump's
Mark Weisbrot, et al: Did NAFTA Help Mexico? An Update After 23 Years:
Executive summary to a longer paper (link within):
Among the results, it finds that Mexico ranks 15th out of 20 Latin American
countries in growth of real GDP per person, the most basic economic measure
of living standards; Mexico's poverty rate in 2014 was higher than the
poverty rate of 1994; and real (inflation-adjusted) wages were almost the
same in 2014 as in 1994. It also notes that if NAFTA had been successful
in restoring Mexico's pre-1980 growth rate -- when developmentalist economic
policies were the norm -- Mexico today would be a high-income country, with
income per person comparable to Western European countries. If not for
Mexico's long-term economic failure, including the 23 years since NAFTA,
it is unlikely that immigration from Mexico would have become a major
political issue in the United States, since relatively few Mexicans would
seek to cross the border.
Lawrence Wittner: How Business "Partnerships" Flopped at the US's Largest
I've also collected a few links marking the 50th anniversary of
Israel's "Six-Day War" and the onset of the 50-years-and-counting
Ibtisam Barakat: The Persistence of Palestinian Memory: "Growing up
under occupation was like living in a war zone, where people were punished
for wanting dignity and freedom."
Omar Barghouti: For Palestinians, the 1967 War Remains an Enduring,
Neve Gordon: How Israel's Occupation Shifted From a Politics of Life
to a Politics of Death: "Palestinian life has become increasingly
expendable in Israel's eyes." The piece starts:
During a Labor Party meeting that took place not long after the June
1967 war, Golda Meir turned to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol, asking,
"What are we going to do with a million Arabs?" Eshkol paused for a
moment and then responded, "I get it. You want the dowry, but you
don't like the bride!"
This anecdote shows that, from the very beginning, Israel made a
clear distinction between the land it had occupied -- the dowry --
and the Palestinians who inhabited it -- the bride. The distinction
between the people and their land swiftly became the overarching
logic informing Israel's colonial project. Ironically, perhaps,
that logic has only been slightly modified over the past 50 years,
even as the controlling practices Israel has deployed to entrench
its colonization have, by contrast, changed dramatically.
By the way, the bride/dowry metaphor is the organizing principle
for Avi Raz's important book on Israel's diplomatic machinations
following the 1967 war: The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordaon,
and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War
(2012, Yale University Press). Based on recently declassified
documents, the book shows clearly how Israel's ruling circle
(especially Abba Eban) weaved back and forth between several
alternative post-war scenarios to make sure that none of them got
in the way of Israel keeping control of its newly conquered
Mehdi Hasan: A 50-Year Occupation: Israel's Six-Day War Started With
Rashid Khalidi: The Israeli-American Hammer-Lock on Palestine
Guy Laron: The Historians' War Over the Six-Day War: Author of a
recent book, The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle East
(2017, Yale University Press). Surveys a number of earlier books on
the war, including works by Randolph Churchill, Donald Neff, Michael
Oren, and Tom Segev (1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That
Transformed the Middle East -- the one of those four I've read,
but far from the only thing).
Hisham Melhem: The Arab World Has Never Recovered From the Loss of
1967: I'm reminded here of Maxime Rodinson's late-1960s book,
Israel & the Arabs, which was written at a time when
many Arab countries were palpably moving toward modern, secular,
socialist societies. The 1967 war didn't in itself kill that dream,
but it tarnished it, with Egypt, Syria, and Iraq soon calcifying
into stultifying militarist (and hereditary) dictatorships, sad
parodies of the monarchies Britain left in its wake. The US Cold
War embrace of salafist-jihadism (and the ill-fated Shah in Iran)
further clouded the picture, turning Islam into the last refuge
of the downtrodden.
Jonathan Ofir: The issue isn't 'occupation,' it's Zionism:
The status of Palestinian citizens within Israel has likewise not been
regulated into equal status, as one might expect from a democratic
country when it finally offers citizenship. This community is subject
to some 50 discriminatory laws, as well as -- and this deserves special
attention -- ethnic cleansing, as we have seen recently in the case of
Umm Al-Hiran [a Bedouin village razed in 2015].
We must therefore see Israel's 'occupation' as an all-encompassing
paradigm, reaching beyond isolated localities and beyond this or that
war or conquering campaign. Occupation is simply what we DO, in a very
Philip Weiss: How 1967 changed American Jews: Weiss gives many
other telling examples, but the one I most vividly recall was that
of M.S. Arnoni (1922-1985), who edited and largely wrote a very
pointed antiwar (or at least anti-Vietnam War) publication called
A Minority of One. I found this magazine early on as I found
my own antiwar views, but after the 1967 Six-Day War Arnoni shifted
gears and from that point on wrote almost exclusively about Israel
and its valiant struggle against the exterminationist Arab powers.
I recall that even before I bailed, Bertrand Russell resigned his
honorary seat on the editorial board. At the time I was generally
sympathetic to Israel -- I hadn't read much about it, but had read
a number of things on the Holocaust, including Simon Wiesenthal's
The Murderers Among Us. Still, this struck me as a bizarre
personal change, which only many years later started to fit into
the general pattern Weiss writes about. I do recall watching all
of the UN debates on the war, and being impressed both by Israeli
ambassador Abba Eban and by whoever the Saudi ambassador was. The
event which really made me rethink my sympathy to Israel was the
1982 Lebanon War, although I didn't read Robert Fisk's 1990 book
Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon until after 2001.
Since then I've read a lot on the subject -- most recently Ilan
Pappe's Ten Myths About Israel, a very useful short primer.
Still, the single best book is probably Richard Ben Cramer's How
Israel Lost: The Four Questions (2004), because it makes clear
the subtle self-deceptions that success and power breed, how the
quest for safety morphed into an addiction to war. And that ties back
around to how Arnoni (and many other American Jews) got lost in
identity and paranoia and gave up what they once understood about
peace and justice.
Philip Weiss: 'The greatest sustained exercise in utterly arbitrary
authority world has ever seen' -- Chabon on occupation: On a
recent book edited by Ayelet Waldman and Michael Chabon,
Kingdom of Olives and Ash.
Charlie Zimmerman: Dispatch from 'the most ****ed up place on Earth,'
Hedron's H2 quarter: And this is what the Occupation has come down
Monday, June 5, 2017
Music: Current count 28225  rated (+38), 383  unrated (-4).
last Wednesday. I usually try to make a push at the end of the
month to find a few more A-list albums, but gave up after nothing
but the Paul Rutherford archival tape clicked. I stopped adding
records late Tuesday and posted mid-day Wednesday, but as it
turned out Wednesday netted seven good records: 1 A- (Lord Echo),
3 B+(***) (Heliocentrics, Sleaford Mods, Chris Stapleton), and
3 B+(**) (Gato Libre, Ryan Keberle, Umoja). A good start for a
better June column.
Still, I decided I needed to do some better research for the
future. For some years now, I've kept a file I call
Music Tracking: basically a
long list of the year-to-date's releases. Records I have physical
copies of are shown in blue (220 so far this year) -- I add them
to the list during unpacking -- and other records I've sampled
off the internet and written about are in green (110). For most
of this year that's all I've done with the file (although previous
year's files have been much more extensive). But the idea is to
sort the unheard records into four priorities (0, 1, 2, 3), where:
3 = things I must hear; 2 = things I want to hear, or things lots
of other people think I should hear; 1 = things some people think
are worth hearing, but I'm not in much of a rush; and 0 = things
I've noticed but have no real interest in. The 0 priority albums
don't show up in the default presentation, but when I search the
source file I'll find them (and think, no bother looking into that
This year I haven't been using 0 or 3, but I do find myself
searching for priority 2 records for something to listen to. So
last week I added a bunch of albums to the file. I got these
first by going through AOTY's
Highest Rated Albums of 2017 list, jotting down everything in
the top 200 and a few things I recognized as interesting below that.
I then used the "Source" option to select specific publications,
and picked up the top 25 for most of them (I skipped Alternative
Press but have since gone back and picked up their 90+ ratings).
Also, in a few cases that review a lot of varied records, I went
deeper (Pitchfork, PopMatters, Guardian -- those three had 100+
records rated 80+). I probably need to go back and probe a few
other sites deeper, and maybe check
Metacritic's album releases by score list, and look at a few
mid-year best-of lists: thus far I've checked
I also see new lists from:
The Free Weekly,
The Musical Hype,
The Telegraph, and
(Note that I've opted not to pursue several lists of minor interest
and/or unfriendly to my browser:
FACT, HotNewHipHop, Loudwire, Metal Storm, PopCrush, Sputnik, Time.)
I also notice there are a few things on
Phil Overeem's First Quarter Report I haven't heard. including
his top rated Harriet Tubman album (also number 2 for
The file currently lists 105 priority 2 albums and 503 priority 1,
so there should be enough there to keep me busy in weeks ahead.
New records rated this week:
- Tony Allen: A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers (2017, Blue Note, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Mary J Blige: Strength of a Woman (2017, Capitol): [r]: B+(***)
- Blondie: Pollinator (2017, BMG): [r]: B
- Chastity Belt: I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone (2017, Hardly Art): [r]: B+(*)
- Gato Libre: Neko (2016 , Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
- Freddie Gibbs: You Only Live 2wice (2017, ESGN/Empire): [r]: B+(**)
- The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra: Dreaming Big (2016 , Goldfox): [cd]: B+(*)
- GoldLink: At What Cost (2017, Squaaash Club/RCA): [r]: B+(***)
- Halsey: Hopeless Fountain Kingdom (2017, Astralwerks): [r]: B+(**)
- The Heliocentrics: A World of Masks (2017, Soundway): [r]: B+(***)
- Innocent When You Dream: Dirt in the Ground (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- The Jesus and Mary Chain: Damage and Joy (2017, ADA/Warner): [r]: B+(**)
- Jlin: Black Origami (2017, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(**)
- Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Find the Common, Shine a Light (2017, Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Zara Larsson: So Good (2017, Epic/TEN): [r]: B+(**)
- Lord Echo: Harmonies (2017, Soundway): [r]: A-
- Low Cut Connie: "Dirty Pictures" (Part 1) (2017, Contender): [r]: B
- John McLean/Clark Sommers Band: Parts Unknown (2017, Origin): [cd]: B-
- Jason Miles: Kind of New 2: Blue Is Paris (2017, Lightyear): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Thurston Moore: Rock N Roll Consciousness (2017, Caroline): [r]: B+(*)
- John Moreland: Big Bad Luv (2017, 4AD): [r]: A-
- Quinsin Nachoff/Mark Helias/Dan Weiss: Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio (2016 , Whirlwind): [cd]: A-
- Vadim Neselovskyi Trio: Get Up and Go (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(**)
- Mason Razavi: Quartet Plus, Volume 2 (2016 , OA2): [cd]: B
- Riverside [Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas]: The New National Anthem (2015 , Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Sleaford Mods: English Tapas (2017, Rough Trade): [r]: B+(***)
- Slowdive: Slowdive (2017, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)
- Omar Souleyman: To Syria, With Love (2017, Mad Decent): [r]: A-
- Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 1 (2017, Mercury Nashville): [r]: B+(***)
- Tamikrest: Kidal (2017, Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Hayes McMullan: Everyday Seem Like Murder Here (1967-68 ]2017], Light in the Attic): [r]: B+(***)
- The Rough Guide to Hillbilly Blues (1920s-30s , World Music Network): [r]: A-
- The Rough Guide to Jug Band Blues (1920s-30s , World Music Network): [r]: A-
- Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Thunder of the Gods (1966-71 , Modern Harmonic): [r]: B-
- Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999 , NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
- Umoja: 707 (1988 , Awesome Tapes From Africa, EP): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Gregg Allman: One More Try: An Anthology (1973-88 , Capricorn/Chronicles, 2CD): [dl]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Gerald Cannon: Combinations (Woodneck)
- Steve Coleman: Morphogenesis (Pi): June 23
- Alex Goodman: Second Act (Lyte): June 23
- Errol Rackipov Group: Distant Dreams (OA2): June 16
- Scenes: Destinations (Origin): June 16
- Carlos Vega: Bird's Up (Origin): June 16
Monday, June 5, 2017
These weekend posts are killing me. I didn't even make it through
my tabs this time -- nothing from Alternet, the New Yorker, Salon,
TruthOut, Washington Monthly, nor much of what I was tipped off to
from Twitter. Just one piece on the upcoming UK elections, which
would be major if Jeffrey Corbyn and Labour pull an upset. Just a
couple links on Israel, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary
of their great military land grab in 1967, which is to say 50 years
of their unjust and often cruel occupation. A couple of uncommented
links on the problems Democrats face getting out of their own heads
and into the minds of the voters. And only a mere sampling of the
Trump's administration's penchant for graft and violence. Just an
incredible amount of crap to wade through.
Big story this week was Trump's decision to pull the United States
out of the Paris climate change deal, joining Nicaragua and Syria as
the only nations on record as unwilling to cooperate in the struggle
to keep greenhouse gases from pushing global temperatures to record
highs. One might well criticize the Paris accords for not going far
enough, but unlike the previous Kyoto agreement this one brought key
developing nations like China and India into the fold.
Here are some pertinent links:
Vicki Arroyo: The US is the biggest loser on the planet thanks to
Trump's calamitous act:
The Paris agreement was a groundbreaking deal that allowed each
country to decide its own contribution to reducing greenhouse gas
emissions. Even though it is non-binding, the agreement puts the
world on the path to keep global temperatures from rising more
than 2C, which scientists warn would be disastrous for our planet.
By abandoning the agreement, we are not only ceding global
leadership but also effectively renouncing our global citizenship.
The US is joining Nicaragua (which felt the agreement did not go
far enough) and Syria (in the midst of a devastating civil war) as
the only nations without a seat at the Paris table. As an American,
I am embarrassed and ashamed of this abdication of our responsibility,
especially since the US has been the world's largest contributor of
carbon emissions over time. We have become a rogue nation.
Perry Bacon Jr/Harry Enten: Was Trump's Paris Exit Good Politics?
They look at a lot of polling numbers, and conclude it was fine with
the Republican base, but unpopular overall. Key numbers:
Only a third of Republicans rate protecting the environment from the
effects of energy production as a top priority. Polling from Gallup
further indicates that 85 percent of Republicans don't think that
global warming will pose a serious threat in their lifetime. Education
was a major dividing line in the 2016 election, but Republicans of all
education levels think the effects of global warming are exaggerated. . . .
An overwhelming majority of Democrats (87 percent) and a clear
majority of independents (61 percent) wanted the U.S. to stay in the
climate agreement, according to a poll that was released in April and
conducted jointly by Politico and Harvard's School of Public Health.
Overall, 62 percent of Americans wanted the U.S. to remain part of the
accord (among Republicans, 56 percent favored withdrawal). . . .
It's also possible that Trump gave a win to his base on an issue
they don't care that much about while angering the opposition on an
issue they do care about. Gallup and Pew Research Center polls indicate
that global warming and fighting climate change have become higher
priorities for Democrats over the past year.
As of this writing, 538's "How Popular Is Donald Trump?" is at 55.1%
Disapprove, 38.9% Approve, so down a small bit since the announcement.
Daniel B Baer, et al: Why Abandoning Paris Is a Disaster for America:
The president's justifications for leaving the agreement are also
just plain wrong.
First, contrary to the president's assertions, America's hands are
not tied and its sovereignty is not compromised by the Paris climate
pact. The Paris agreement is an accord, not a treaty, which means it's
voluntary. The genius (and reality) of the Paris agreement is that it
requires no particular policies at all -- nor are the emissions targets
that countries committed to legally binding. Trump admitted as much in
the Rose Garden, referring to the accord's "nonbinding" nature. If the
president genuinely thinks America's targets are too onerous, he can
simply adjust them (although we believe it would be shortsighted for
the administration to do so). There is no need to exit the Paris accord
in search of a "better deal." Given the voluntary nature of the agreement,
pulling out of the Paris deal in a fit of pique is an empty gesture,
unless that gesture is meant to be a slap in the face to every single
U.S. ally and partner in the world.
The second big lie is that the Paris agreement will be a job killer.
In fact, it will help the United States capture more 21st-century jobs.
That is why dozens of U.S. corporate leaders, including many on the
president's own advisory council, urged him not to quit the agreement.
As a letter sent to the White House by ExxonMobil put it, the agreement
represents an "effective framework for addressing the risk of climate
change," and the United States is "well positioned to compete" under
the terms of the deal.
Action on climate and economic growth go hand in hand, and are
mutually reinforcing. That is why twice as much money was invested
worldwide in renewables last year as in fossil fuels, and why China
is pouring in billions to try to win this market of the future. A
bipartisan group of retired admirals and generals on the CNA Military
Advisory Board is about to release a report that will also spell out
the importance of competitiveness in advanced energy technologies --
not just to the economy, but also to the country's standing in the
world. Pulling out of climate will result in a loss of U.S. jobs and
knock the United States off its perch as a global leader in innovation
in a quickly changing global economic climate.
The article especially harps on "Trump is abdicating U.S. leadership
and inviting China to fill the void." As you may recall, China pretty
much torpedoed the Kyoto accords in the 1990s by insisting on building
their burgeoning economy on their vast coal reserves, but lately they've
decided to leave most of their coal in the ground, so agreeing to the
Paris accords was practically a no-brainer. The same shift has actually
been occurring in the US, admittedly with Obama's encouragement but more
and more it's driven by economics, even without anything like a carbon
tax to factor in the externalities. And unless Trump comes up with a
massive program to subsidize coal use, it's hard to see that changing,
and even then not significantly.
Another point they make: "Pulling out of Paris means Republicans
own climate catastrophes." Over the last several decades, we've all
seen evidence both of climate drift and even more so of freakish
extreme weather events, and the latter often trigger recognition of
the former, even when they are simply freakish. But also, despite
the popularity of Reagan's "I'm from the government and I'm here to
help" joke, when disaster strikes, no one really believes that.
Rather, they look immediately (and precisely) at the government for
relief, and they get real upset when it's not forthcoming, even
more so when it's botched (e.g., Katrina).
Coral Davenport/Eric Lipton: How GOP Leaders Came to View Climate
Science as Fake Science: Trump's decision shows how completely
his mind has been captured by a propaganda campaign orchestrated
by "fossil fuel industry players, most notably Charles D. and David
H. Koch, the Kansas-based billionaires who run a chain of refineries
(which can process 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day) as well as
a subsidiary that owns or operates 4,000 miles of pipelines that
move crude oil." The Kochs run Americans for Prosperity, perhaps
the single most effective right-wing political organization (e.g.,
they've been critical in flipping Wisconsin and Michigan for Trump).
One of their major initiatives has been to get Republicans they
back to sign their "No Climate Tax Pledge," which appears here:
Americans for Prosperity is launching an initiative to draw a line
in the sand declaring that climate change legislation will not be
used to fund a dramatic expansion in the size and scope of government.
If you oppose unrestrained growth in government at taxpayer's expense
and hidden under the guise of environmental political correctness,
then sign the pledge at the bottom of this page and return it to
our office, or visit our website at www.noclimatetax.com.
Regardless of which approach to the climate issue you favor,
we should be able to agree that any climate-change policy should
be revenue neutral. Revenue neutrality requires using all new
revenues generated by a climate tax, cap-and-trade, or regulatory
program, dollar for dollar, to cut taxes. There must also be a
guarantee that climate policies remain revenue neutral over time. . . .
Any major increase in federal revenue should be debated openly
on its merits. We therefore encourage you to pledge to the American
people that you will oppose any effort to hide a revenue increase
in a feel-good environmental bill.
Thus they ignore any substantive environmental impacts while
tying the hands of lawmakers, preventing the people from using
government to do anything for our collective benefit. That's one
prong of their attack. Denying climate science is another, and
a third is their long-term effort to undermine collective efforts
through international organizations -- a complete about-face from
the 1940s when the US championed the UN and the Bretton-Woods
organizations as a way of opening the world up and making it more
hospitable to American business. Back then Americans understood
that they'd have to give as well as take, and that we as well as
they would benefit from cooperation. That's all over now, thanks
to the right-wing propaganda effort, itself based on the premise
that dominant powers (like corporate rulers) can impose dictates
to mold their minions to their purposes.
When I opened the opinion page in the Wichita Eagle today, I
found an op-ed piece,
Withdrawing from Paris accord is a smart decision by Trump.
The contents were total bullshit. And the author, Nicolas Loris,
was identified is "the Morgan Research Fellow in Energy and
Environmental Policy at The Heritage Foundation."
By the way, the Eagle's other op-ed was by Sen. Jerry Moran:
A strong national defense also means a strong economy,
which was almost exclusively taking credit for some work on the B-21
("the world's most advanced stealth bomber") will be done in Spirit's
Wichita plant. Evidently no problem with spending precious taxpayer
money to better threaten a world that Trump has clearly shown nothing
but contempt for.
Geoff Dembicki: The Convenient Disappearance of Climate Change Denial
in China: "From Western plot to party line, how China embraced
climate science to become a green-energy powerhouse." The transition
seems to have occurred in 2011, when the leadership stopped publishing
tracts decrying climate change as a Western plot and started investing
heavily in renewables. One thing that helped tip the balance was air
pollution in Chinese cities. Another was a purge of corrupt managers
in the oil industry.
Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidency, Xi told him in a call
that China will continue fighting climate change "whatever the
circumstances." Though the new U.S. president has staffed his
administration with skeptics such as Scott Pruitt, the head of the
Environmental Protection Agency, China released data suggesting it
could meet its 2030 Paris targets a decade early. "The financial
elites I talk with," Shih said, "they think that the fact that the
Trump presidency has so obviously withdrawn from any global effort
to try to limit greenhouse gases provides China with an opportunity
to take leadership."
The paths both countries are taking couldn't be more divergent.
While Trump rescinded Obama's Clean Power Plan with a promise to end
America's "war on coal," China aims to close 800 million tons of coal
capacity by 2020. The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable
Energy is facing a budget cut of more than 50 percent when China is
pouring over $361 billion into renewable energy. All this "is likely
to widen China's global leadership in industries of the future,"
concluded a recent report from the Institute for Energy Economics
and Financial Analysis.
Michael Grunwald: Why Trump Actually Pulled Out of Paris: "It
wasn't because of the climate, or to help American business. He
needed to troll the world -- and this was his best shot so far."
No, Trump's abrupt withdrawal from this carefully crafted multilateral
compromise was a diplomatic and political slap: It was about extending
a middle finger to the world, while reminding his base that he shares
its resentments of fancy-pants elites and smarty-pants scientists and
tree-hugging squishes who look down on real Americans who drill for oil
and dig for coal. He was thrusting the United States into the role of
global renegade, rejecting not only the scientific consensus about
climate but the international consensus for action, joining only Syria
and Nicaragua (which wanted an even greener deal) in refusing to help
the community of nations address a planetary problem. Congress doesn't
seem willing to pay for Trump's border wall -- and Mexico certainly
isn't -- so rejecting the Paris deal was an easier way to express his
Fortress America themes without having to pass legislation. . . .
The entire debate over Paris has twisted Republicans in knots. They
used to argue against climate action in the U.S. by pointing out that
it wouldn't bind China and other developing-world emitters; then they
argued that Paris wouldn't really bind the developing world, either,
but somehow would bind the United States. In fact, China is doing its
part, dramatically winding down a coal boom that could have doomed the
planet, frenetically investing in zero-carbon energy. And it will
probably continue to do its part even though the president of the
United States is volunteering for the role of climate pariah. It's
quite likely that the United States will continue to do its part as
well, because no matter what climate policies he thinks will make
America great again, Trump can't make renewables expensive again or
coal economical again or electric vehicles nonexistent again.
California just set a target of 100 percent renewable energy by
2045, and many U.S. cities and corporations have set even more
ambitious goals for shrinking their carbon footprints. Trump can't
do much about that, either.
Mark Hertsgaard: Donald Trump's Withdrawal From the Paris Accords
Is a Crime Against Humanity; also
Sasha Abramsky: Trump Echoes Hitler in His Speech Withdrawing
From the Paris Climate Accord.
Zachary Karabell: We've Always Been America First: "Donald Trump
is just ripping off the mask." Also cites
David Frum: The Death Knell for America's Global Leadership.
Frum was actually talking more about Trump's refusal to commit
to Article 5 of the NATO treaty, but the two go hand-in-hand.
Karabell also wrote:
Pay attention to Donald Trump's actions, not his words.
Naomi Klein: Climate Change Is a People's Shock: Long piece,
prefigured by her 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism
vs. the Climate. Also includes a link to Chris Hayes' 2014 piece
The New Abolitionism, about "forcing fossil fuel companies
to give up at least $10 trillion in wealth" (by leaving that
much carbon in the ground).
Tom McCarthy: 'Outmoded, irrelevant vision': Pittsburghers reject
Trump's pledge: "The president said he was exiting the Paris
climate deal on behalf of Pittsburgh -- but his view of the
environmentally minded city is off by decades, residents say." Also:
Lauren Gambino: Pittsburgh fires back at Trump: we stand with Paris,
not you; and
Lucia Graves: Why Trump's attempt to pit Pittsburgh against Paris is
Daniel Politi: John Kerry: Trump Plan for Better Climate Deal Is
Like OJ Search for "Real Killer"
Joseph Stiglitz: Trump's reneging on Paris climate deal turns the
US into a rogue state
Hiroko Tabuchi/Henry Fountain: Bucking Trump, These Cities, States
and Companies Commit to Paris Accord
Katy Waldman: We the Victims: "Trump's Paris accord speech projected
his own psychological issues all over the American people."
Ben White/Annie Karni: America's CEOs fall out of love with Trump:
An amusing side story is that several corporate bigwigs have started
to distance themselves from Trump, especially over the decision to
pull out of the Paris climate accords. As the US evolves from hegemonic
superpower to tantrum-prone bully, laughing stock, and rogue state,
America's global capitalists have ever more to disclaim and apologize
for, and it won't help them to be seen as too close to Trump. On the
Trump regularly touts himself as a strongly pro-business president
focused on creating jobs and speeding up economic growth. But both
of those depend in part on corporate confidence in the administration's
ability to deliver on taxes and regulation changes. . . .
One corporate executive noted that Trump is often swayed by the
last person he talks to, so, the executive said, remaining in the
president's good graces and keeping up access is critical. The senior
lobbyist noted that next week is supposed to be focused on changing
financial regulations with the House expected to pass a bill rolling
back much of the Dodd-Frank law and Treasury slated to release a
report on changing financial laws.
One problem here is that so many of the things corporations and
financiers want from Trump come at each other's expense, Thus far,
Republicans have been remarkably sanguine about letting business
after business rip each other (and everyone else) off, because few
businesses look at the costs they incur, least of all externalities
like air and water, but those costs add up. For instance, one reason
American manufacturing is at a disadvantage compared to other wealthy
countries is the exorbitant cost of health care and education, and
making up the difference by depressing wages isn't a real solution.
There are corporations that love Trump's Paris decision -- ok, the
only one I'm actually sure of is Peabody Coal -- but they're actually
few and far between. Most don't care much either way, or won't until
the bills come due.
By the way, this piece also includes this gem:
From a purely political perspective, the distancing of corporate
CEOs may not be especially bad for Trump. He won as a populist
railing against corporate influence, specifically singling out
Since the election, he has continued to single out Goldman Sachs:
he's tapped more of their executives for key administration jobs
than any other business.
Richard Wolffe: Trump asked when the world will start laughing at
the US. It already is
Paul Woodward: Trump believes money comes first -- he doesn't care
about climate change
Plus more on the Trump administration's continuing looting and
Daniel Altman: If Anyone Can Bankrupt the United States, Trump Can
Bruce Bartlett: Donald Trump's incompetence is a problem. His staff
should intervene: The author is a conservative who worked in the
White House for Reagan and Bush I, though he was less pleased with
Bush II. Still, his prescriptions hardly go beyond what was standard
practice for Reagan: "He should let his staff draft statements for
him and let them go through the normal vetting process, including
fact-checking. And he must resist the temptation to tweet or talk
off the top of his head about policy issues, and work through the
normal process used by every previous president." Of course, what
made that work for Reagan was that he was used to being a corporate
spokesman before he became president -- after all, he worked for GE,
and he was an actor by trade. Trump has done a bit of acting too,
but he's always fancied himself as the boss man, and bosses in
America are turning into a bunch of little emperors. On the other
hand, Reagan's staff were selected by the real powers behind the
throne to do jobs, including keeping the spokesman in line. Trump's
staff is something altogether different: a bunch of cronies and
toadies, whose principal job seems to be to flatter their leader.
And that's left them sadly deficient in the competencies previous
White House staff required -- in some cases even more so than the
Jamelle Bouie: What We Have Unleashed: "This year's string of brutal
hate crimes is intrinsically connected to the rise of Trump."
Juliet Eilperin/Emma Brown/Darryl Fears: Trump administration plans
to minimize civil rights efforts in agencies
Robert Faturechi: Tom Price Bought Drug Stocks. Then He Pushed Pharma's
Agenda in Australia
David A Graham: The Panic President: "Rarely does a leader in a
liberal democracy embrace, let alone foment, fear. But that's exactly
what Donald Trump did in response to attacks in London, as he has done
before." Graham starts by showing how London mayor Sadiq Khan responded
to the attack, then plunges into Trump's tweetstorm. Also see:
Peter Beinart: Why Trump Criticized a London Under Attack; and
David Frum: What Trump Doesn't Understand About Gun Control in
Matthew Haag: Texas Lawmaker Threatens to Shoot Colleague After Reporting
Protesters to ICE
Whitney Kassel/Loren De Jonge Schulman: Donald Trump's Great Patriotic
Purge: "The administration's assault on experts, bureaucrats, and
functionaries who make this country work isn't just foolish, it's
suicidal." The most basic difference between Republicans and Democrats
is how they view the government bureaucracy: Republicans tend to view
everything government does as political, so they insist on loyalists
consistent with their political views; Democrats, on the other hand,
see civil servants loyal only to the laws that created their jobs.
Republicans since Nixon have periodically tried to purge government,
but those instincts have never before been so naked as with Trump,
nor has the Republican agenda ever before been so narrow, corrupt,
or politically opportunistic. Moreover, instilling incompetency
doesn't seem to have any downside for Republicans, as they've long
claimed that government is useless (except for lobbyists).
In a signature theme of its first 100 days, the Trump administration,
encouraged by conservative media outlets, has launched an assault on
civil servants the likes of which should have gone out of style in
the McCarthy era. Attacks on their credibility, motivations, future
employment, and basic missions have become standard fare for White
House press briefings and initiatives. In doing so, the administration
and its backers may be crippling their legacy from the start by casting
away the experts and implementers who not only make the executive agenda
real but provide critical services for ordinary Americans. But in a move
that should trouble all regardless of political affiliation, they also
run the risk of undermining fundamental democratic principles of
Searching for policy-based or political rationale for these moves
overlooks a key point: that the United States civil service can be an
enormous asset for presidential administrations regardless of party,
and undermining it belies a misunderstanding of what public servants
actually do. These good folks, the vast majority of whom do not live
in Washington, get up in the morning to cut social security checks,
maintain aircraft carriers, treat veterans, guard the border, find
Osama bin Laden, and yes, work hard to protect the president and make
his policies look good. Many of them earn less than they would in the
private sector and are deeply committed to serving the American people.
Any effort to undercut them is irrational on its face.
Mark Mazzetti/Matthew Rosenberg/Charlie Savage: Trump Administration
Returns Copies of Report on CIA Torture to Congress
Daniel Politi: Democratic Challenger to Iowa Lawmaker Abandons Race
Due to Death Threats
CIA Names the 'Dark Prince' to Run Iran Operations, Signaling a
Tougher Stance: Michael D'Andrea.
Rebecca Solnit: The Loneliness of Donald Trump: "On the corrosive
privilege of the most mocked man in the world." She cites a Pushkin
fable on green, and is surely not the first to apply F. Scott Fitzgerald's
classic line to Trump: "They smashed up things and creatures and then
retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever
it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess
they had made." She goes on, adding to the mocking of "the most mocked
man in the world":
The American buffoon's commands were disobeyed, his secrets leaked at
such a rate his office resembled the fountains at Versailles or maybe
just a sieve (this spring there was
an extraordinary piece in the Washington Post with thirty anonymous
sources), his agenda was undermined even by a minority party that was
not supposed to have much in the way of power, the judiciary kept
suspending his executive orders, and scandals erupted like boils and
sores. Instead of the dictator of the little demimondes of beauty
pageants, casinos, luxury condominiums, fake universities offering
fake educations with real debt, fake reality tv in which he was master
of the fake fate of others, an arbiter of all worth and meaning, he
became fortune's fool.
Still, if someone made him read this, he would surely respond,
"but I'm president, and you aren't." And while he goes about his
day "making America great again," he gives cover to a crew that
is driving the country into a ravine. When they succeed, all this
mockery will seem unduly soft and peculiarly sympathetic. On the
other hand, I suspect that treating Trump and the Republicans as
badly as they deserve will provoke a kneejerk reaction to defend
them. Even now, the scolds are searching hard for instances where
they can argue that satire has crossed hypothetical boundaries; e.g.,
Callum Borchers: Maher, Griffin, Colbert: Anti-Trump comedians are
having a really bad moment. I found the Griffin image amusing --
not unsettling like the first time I saw an image of one person
holding up the severed head of another, because this time the head
was clearly fake and symbolic. The other two were jokes that misfired,
partly because they used impolite terms but mostly because they made
little sense. That's an occupational hazard -- no comedian ever hits
all the time -- but singling these failures out reveals more about
the PC squeamishness of the complainers. (Where were these people
when Obama was being slandered? Or were they just overwhelmed?) And
note that Maher is often a fountain of Islamophobic bigotry, but
that's not what he's being called out for here.
Lisa Song: Trump Administration Says It Isn't Anti-Science as It
Seeks to Slash EPA Science Office
John Wagner: Trump plans week-long focus on infrastructure, starting
with privatizing air traffic control: During his campaign one of
Trump's most popular talking points was on the nation's need for
massive investment in infrastructure. After the election, Democrats
saw infrastructure investment as one area where they could work with
Trump, but as with health care the devil's in the details. Since he
took office, it's become clear that Trump's infrastructure program
will be nothing but scams fueling private profit with public debt.
It's worth noting that the scam for "privatizing" air traffic
control has been kicking around for years, backed by big airlines,
but it's very unpopular here in Kansas because it portends higher
charges to general aviation users. That should cost Trump two votes,
so his only hope of passing the deal is to pick up Democrats, who
should know better.
Paul Woodward: Donald Trump plays at being president. He doesn't
even pretend to be a world leader:
At this stage in his performance -- this act in The Trump Show
which masquerades as a presidency -- it should be clear to the audience
that the motives of the man-child acting out in front of the world are
much more emotive than ideological.
Trump has far more interest in antagonizing his critics than pleasing
No doubt Trump came back from Europe believing that after suffering
insults, he would get the last laugh. A senior White House official
(sounding like Steve Bannon) described European disappointment about
Trump's decision on Paris as "a secondary benefit," implying perhaps
that the primary benefit would be the demolition of one of the key
successes of his nemesis, Barack Obama.
Thus far, The Trump Show has largely been ritual designed
to symbolically purge America of Obama's influence.
Matthew Yglesias: Trump has granted more lobbyist waivers in 4 months
than Obama did in 8 years; also by Yglesias:
An incredibly telling thing Trump said at today's Paris event wasn't
about climate at all ("He simply has no idea what he's talking
about on any subject"); and
Jared Kushner is the domino Trump can least afford to fall in the
Russia investigation ("His unique lack of qualification for
office makes him uniquely valuable").
And finally a few more links on various stories one or more steps
removed from the Trump disaster:
Decca Aitkenhead: Brendan Cox: 'It would be easy to be consumed by
fury and hatred and bile': Interview and extract from Cox's
book about his British MP wife's murder by a right-wing racist,
Jo Cox: More in Common.
Marc Ambinder: The American Government's Secret Plan for Surviving
the End of the World: "Newly declassified CIA files offer a
glimpse of the playbook the Trump administration will reach for if
it stumbles into a nuclear war." The documents in question date
from the Carter and Reagan administrations.
William J Broad/David E Sanger: 'Last Secret' of 1967 War: Israel's
Doomsday Plan for Nuclear Display: This week is the 50th anniversary
of the fateful "Six Day War," which resulted in Israel's ongoing
occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Syrian
(Golan) Heights. It's well known that Israel considered using its
nuclear weapons arsenal during the 1973 war had they not been able
to turn back Syria and Egypt, but this is the first I've heard of
a 1967 plan. The most striking point I gleaned from Tom Segev's
1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle
East (2007) was the extraordinary confidence Israel's military
leaders had in launching their war, in stark contrast to the fear
and terror most Israelis were led to feel.
Some more pieces on the war and occupation:
James North: Israel provoked the Six-Day War in 1967, and it was not
fighting for survival; North also published an interview:
Norman Finkelstein on the Six-Day-War and its mythology.
Nathan Thrall: The Past 50 Years of Israeli Occupation. And the
Thomas B Edsall: Has the Democratic Party Gotten Too Rich for Its
Maria Margaronis: Could Labour's Corbyn Actually Win the British
Elections? Tory Prime Minister Theresa May called the election
expecting a landslide to bolster her majority. After all, the New
Labour elites, unable to win themselves, hate Corbyn enough to
sabotage him, and Corbyn is so far out of the cozy neoliberal
mainstream his election would be unimaginable. But polls have
narrowed from 22 points to something like 5. I don't know much
more than that, and don't have time tonight to search further.
Election is June 8.
Mujib Mashal/Fahim Abed/Jawad Sukhanyar: Deadly Bombing in Kabul Is
One of the Afghan War's Worst Strikes: Truck bomb, killed at
least 80, disclaimed by the Taliban. Comes just a few weeks after
the US dropped its own "mother of all bombs" on Afghanistan.
Rajan Menon: What Would War Mean in Korea? Makes the key points
I and many others have been making ever since Trump started rattling
sabres, so make sure you understand. By the way, just noticed that
Menon has a book called The Conceit of Humanitarian Intervention
(2016). That's a good word for it: conceit. It denotes narcissistic
self-regard, crediting yourself for helping others when more likely
you're doing them great harm. It's an excuse for more war, not a
solution for real suffering. And everywhere the US has done it, the
humanitarian impulses are quickly discarded when it rapidly decays
into a struggle for self-defense and propping up the tarnished image
of American omnipotence.
Ijeoma Oluo: LeBron James reminds us that even the rich and famous
face racist hatred
Jeffrey D Sachs: It isn't just Trump: The American system is broken
Matt Taibbi: Republicans and Democrats Continue to Block Drug Reimportation --
After Publicly Endorsing It
Douglas Williams: The Democratic party still thinks it will win by
'not being Trump'
Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Streamnotes (May 2017)
With 111 titles (90 new) my shortest Streamnotes column this year.
Fewer A- records too (6 + 1 new, 3 old). Old music mostly came from
trad jazz revivalists (mostly on the reclusive Stomp Off label).
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records
from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets).
They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since
my last post along these lines, back on April 29. Past reviews and
more information are available
here (9625 records).
Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic
(2015 , NoBusiness): Tenor sax trio from Portugal, avant, all
joint improv but bassist got his name listed first -- alphabetical,
I presume, but he opens with an arco solo and makes himself heard
throughout. Amado, of course, is terrific. He's had quite a run
since 2010's Searching for Adam.
Amok Amor [Christian Lillinger/Petter Eldh/Wanja Slavin/Peter
Evans]: We Know Not What We Do (2016 , Intakt):
In my unpacking, I missed the title (going with the group name),
and misspelled bassist Eldh's name. Same quartet has a 2015 album
named Amok Amor, so this is one of those groups. All four
members contribute songs (3-2-1-3, although it was 3-4.5-2.5-0 last
time; I filed under drummer Lillinger, but Discogs lists Eldh
first on the previous album). Slavin plays sax, Evans trumpet --
strongest showing I've heard by him since he left MOPDTK.
Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton
Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (2013 ,
NoBusiness): Piccolo trumpet, tenor/soprano sax, piano-bass-drums, two
improv split into two parts. Some dead spots, or maybe just ambient
noise, but Butcher has strong moments, and when things pick up it's
usually the French pianist at the center.
David Binney: The Time Verses (2016 , Criss
Cross): Alto saxophonist, twenty-some albums since 1990, leads a
postbop quartet with Jacob Sacks (piano), Eivind Opsvik (bass),
and Dan Weiss (drums) through fourteen of the leader's pieces.
Most impressive when he cuts loose. One vocal by Jen Shyu, not a
Body Count: Bloodlust (2017, Century Media): Rapper
Ice-T's metal band, sixth album since 1992 when "Cop Killer" became
a national political scandal. I hadn't noticed any of their albums
since the first, but word is that Trump got them energized again,
and they sure are. A spoken intro cites Slayer for their precision,
and that's sure here. Razor sharp barbs, brutal volume. I'm duly
impressed without feeling like giving it a second spin.
Bryan and the Aardvarks: Sounds From the Deep Field
(2017, Biophilia): Packaging is called BiopholioTM, "a
two-sided, 20-panel origami-inspired medium," but does not include
a CD -- you get a download code instead, so while they eschew "the
harmful effects of plastic in the environment" you'll have to get
your own. I've never had a problem with Rubik's Cube, but folding
this packaging back together tight enough to slip the little paper
band around it is a tall order. I won't comment on the downloading
process because the publicist was good enough to mail me a CDR (ok,
after I complained). For grading purposes let's forget about the
packaging and just deal with the music. Group is led by bassist
Bryan Copeland, with Fabian Alamzan (piano), Chris Dingham (vibes),
and Joe Nero (drums), plus Dayna Stephens plays EWI and Camila Meza
sings some. Frothy fusion with a mind toward the wonders of deep
Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (2016
, Cadence Jazz): Cover suggests title is PausaLive,
but spine says otherwise. Local Buffalo musicians, only a couple
familiar to me -- chiefly pianist Michael McNeill -- but they
form a remarkable large free jazz ensemble, with standout solos
on sax, trumpet, and drums, and brisk and energetic group improv
that never breaks down.
Peter Campbell: Loving You: Celebrating Shirley Horn
(2016 , self-released): Vocalist, second album, voice eerily
similar to the sepia tones of the famous line of female jazz singers
from Sarah Vaughan to Cassandra Wilson, so he's right at home wading
through Horn's ballads. Mark Kieswetter plays piano and directs, and
Kevin Turcotte adds some tasteful trumpet.
Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound (2017, Carperk):
Indie rock band from Cleveland, fourth album, good for a swirling
storm of guitar-bass-drums, intermittently catchy, so I was surprised
when they cranked up the intensity for the closer ("Realize My Fate").
Daddy Issues: Can We Still Hang (2015, Infinity Cat,
EP): Three-piece "grunge pop" band from Nashville -- Jenna Moynihan
(guitar/vocals), Jenna Mitchell (bass), Emily Maxwell (drums) -- with
an eight-cut, 27:12 cassette. Sometimes they work through their issues
with punk rage, sometimes just refrain them to death ("Creepy Girl,"
Daddy Issues: Deep Dream (2017, Infinity Cat):
A bit longer -- 10 songs, shortest 3:10, longest 4:13 -- guitar
deeper, more resonant, lyrics deeper too, more mature, the one
about "boring girls" self-inclusive, though they rise above all
Whit Dickey/Mat Maneri/Matthew Shipp: Vessel in Orbit
(2017, AUM Fidelity): Drums, viola, piano, listed alphabetically with
all compositions jointly credited, but the viola is the most obvious
lead, with the others adding impressive density.
Diet Cig: Swear I'm Good at This (2017, Frenchkiss):
Pop-punk duo from New Paltz, NY: Alex Luciano (guitar, vocals) and
Noah Bowman (drums). She has a small voice and a couple songs just
hang out waiting for a melody, but it usually comes.
Duo Baars Henneman & Dave Burrell: Transdans
(2016 , Wig): Violinist Ig Henneman has been playing with
saxophonist Ab Baars at least since 2006, often as a duo, sometimes
with others. Their interaction strikes me as rather sparse and
reticent here. Perhaps the pianist has them spooked, but he hardly
imposes himself, mostly laying back and looking for cues.
Andrew Durkin: Breath of Fire (2012-16 ,
PJCE): Pianist, released four albums 2001-06 as Industrial Jazz
Group, plus a book called Decomposition: A Music Manifesto
(2014). Label acronym stands for Portland Jazz Composers' Ensemble,
and they're showing more than two dozen albums (by nearly as many
artists) on Bandcamp. Group here adds two saxes, guitar, bass,
and drums. Postbop, fits nicely together without seeming obvious.
Dominique Eade & Ran Blake: Town and Country
(2015-16 , Sunnyside): Voice and piano duo, something the
pianist has done numerous times, including with Eade on the 2011
album Whirlpool. This seems slight, although familiar tunes
like "Moon River" and "Moonlight in Vermont" resonate.
Brian Eno: Reflection (2017, Warp): Solo electronics,
although Peter Chilvers is also credited with "mutation software."
One 54:00 piece, what you'd call quietly reflective, fully within
his ambient range.
Feist: Pleasure (2017, Interscope): Singer-songwriter
from Nova Scotia. Title song is not just a good idea, it even delivers
a bit. But it's also a reminder of what the rest of the album has too
Joe Fiedler: Like, Strange (2017, Multiphonics Music):
Trombonist, has mostly recorded trios including a tribute to Albert
Mangelsdorff but went for something funkier with his band Big Sackbutt,
and continues that here: a quintet with Jeff Lederer's tenor/soprano
sax for contrast, and terrific support from guitarist Pete McCann.
Craig Fraedrich With Trilogy and Friends: All Through the
Night (2017, Summit): Trumpet/flugelhorn player, Trilogy
is presumably the Tony Nalker-led piano trio who backs him, and
Friends, as far as I can tell, is singular: singer Christal Rheams,
who does a nice job working through old standards, including six
credited to Traditional (also two Fraedrich originals).
Fred Frith/Hans Koch: You Are Here (2016 ,
Intakt): Guitarist, also credited with "various small objects,"
in a duo where Koch plays "bass clarinet, soprano and tenor
saxophones, spit." Interesting when they mesh or just clash,
separated by awkwardly indeterminate slots.
Gas: Narkopop (2017, Kompakt): Wolfgang Voigt, German
electronica producer, co-founded Kompakt, has used many aliases over
the years, releasing four albums as Gas 1996-2000, and now he's dusted
that old alias off one more time. Probably because the ambient electronics
are so thin and dispersed.
Freddie Gibbs: You Only Live 2wice (2017, ESGN/Empire):
Rapper from Gary, IN, originally Fredrick Tipton. Third album, along
with a joint with Madlib and a pile of mixtapes. Cover a Rennaissance
painting of the rapper resurrected and ascending to heaven, an idea
that may have occurred to him after being acquitted of rape charges
in Austria. But the short (31:49) album is more quotidian, dense and
impenetrable, though the closer ("Homesick") does hint at the cover.
David Gilmore: Transitions (2016 , Criss Cross):
Guitarist, not to be confused with the Pink Floyd guy (Gilmour) despite
Google's insistence. Fifth album since 2000, had a lot to do with
Steve Coleman's funk-fusion in the 1990s. Quartet with Mark Shim (tenor
sax), Victor Gould (piano), Carlo DeRosa (bass), E.J. Strickland (drums),
plus a couple guest spots. Various postbop looks, although the one
funk-fusion throwback ("Kid Logic") is the most engaging.
Girlpool: Powerplant (2017, Anti-): Two girl guitar-bass
group based in Los Angeles (Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad) plus a session
drummer, variously described as folk punk and dream pop. They play twelve
songs in 28:30 without ever seeming rushed.
GoldLink: At What Cost (2017, Squaaash Club/RCA):
Rapper D'Anthony Carlos, from DC, grew up on go-go, which explains
why this has more than the usual funk quotient. First album after
two mixtapes. Starts a bit tentative but grows on you, then slips
up a bit.
Grandaddy: Last Place (2017, 30th Century/Columbia):
Alt/indie band from Modesto, California, principally Jason Lytle;
emerged in the late 1990s, hung it up in 2006, regrouped in 2012 with
this their/his first post-hiatus album. Alt/indie, but dreamier than
most "dream pop."
Pasquale Grasso/Renaud Penant/Ari Roland: In the Mood for a
Classic (2014 , ITI Music): Guitar-drums-bass, Grasso
born in Italy, moved to New York in 2012, playing in bop bands for
Chris Byars and Roland. Classics as advertised, with the bassist
rescuing "These Foolish Things."
Chris Greene Quartet: Boundary Issues (2016 ,
Single Malt): Saxophonist from Illinois, based in Chicago, favors
tenor over soprano (7 tracks to 2), quartet includes keyboards, bass,
and drums -- some electric, some not. Cover suggests a mad rush, but
album itself is fairly even tempered.
Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Madness (2017, Moserobie):
Swedish drummer, parents from Finland, now based in Berlin. Was lead
guitarist for the Bear Quartet (15 albums), also a member of "pop combo"
Heikki. Second Trio album, cover just says JH3, with bass guitar (Daniel
Bingert) and sax (Per Texas Johansson) that recalls r&b honkers more
than prog fusion. Twelve cuts, but short (27:11).
Larry Ham/Woody Witt: Presence (2016 , Blujazz):
Piano and tenor sax, in a quartet with bass and drums. Neither has
much discography, Ham mostly recording in retro-swing groups, this
one more postbop.
Rebecca Hennessy's Fog Brass Band: Two Calls (2017,
self-released): Trumpet player from Canada, the extra brass coming
from trombone and tuba but none of the horns make a huge impression
(though the tuba keeps things moving). Sextet also includes piano,
guitar, and drums.
Mats Holmquist: Big Band Minimalism (2015 ,
Summit): Swedish big band leader, discography goes back to 1986
including tributes to Chick Corea and Wayne Shorter. This time out
he borrows the Latvian Radio Big Band and adds guest stars Dick
Oatts (alto sax) and Randy Brecker (trumpet). No idea what a
successful implementation of his concept might sound like, but
this doesn't sound like much of anything coherent.
Tristan Honsinger/Antonio Borghini/Tobias Delius/Axel Dörner:
Hook, Line and Sinker (2016 , De Platenbakakkerij,
DVD): Cello, bass, tenor sax/clarinet, trumpet, with Honsinger also
singing something vaguely folkish in a sea of free jazz. Recorded
live at Spinhuis Amsterdam, pressed up as a DVD -- just musicians
at work, the camera wandering, only rarely capturing the full stage,
not that I watched much of it.
Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator (2017, ATO):
Alyndra Segarra, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, a folkie attracted to
New Orleans, although her label deal affords her a lusher band -- hard
to hear this as Americana, though of course it's as wholeheartedly
American as can be.
Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (2015 , Euonymous):
Violinist, born in Waukegan, IL but developed an interest in Chinese
classical music, and has played that off against avant jazz. Quintet,
with Steve Swell (trombone), Chris Forbes (piano), Ken Filiano (bass),
and Andrew Drury (drums), a group so stellar he has trouble getting
out in front -- the trombonist is especially impressive.
Ibibio Sound Machine: Uyai (2017, Merge): Leader
Eno Williams, born in London but raised in Lagos, sings in Ibibio
(from southeast Nigeria) while drawing on musican sources from all
over the map (as Pitchfork put it: "Nigerian highlife as much as
new wave, South African jazz as much as techno, Cameroonian makossa
as much as disco").
José James: Love in a Time of Madness (2017, Blue Note):
Jazz singer, from Minneapolis, based in New York, seven albums since
2007. Has split credits on most songs, with synth player/programmer
Antario Holmes his main partner. Soft and slinky, more appealing than
B.J. Jansen: Common Ground (2016 , Ronin Jazz):
Baritone saxophonist, born in Cincinnati, based in New York, has a
couple previous records. A big mainstream sound, powered by a mostly
famous sextet: Duane Eubanks (trumpet), Delfeayo Marsalis (trombone),
Zaccai Curtis (piano), Dezron Douglas (bass), Ralph Peterson (drums).
Jentsch Group Quartet: Fractured Pop (2009 ,
Fleur de Son): Guitarist Chris Jentsch, based in Brooklyn, first
two releases were styled as suites, and this fits that mold. Two
programs, separated by a dead spot with muffled cricket sounds.
Group includes Matt Renzi (tenor sax, clarinet, alto flute), bass
and drums. Package includes a DVD.
Jlin: Black Origami (2017, Planet Mu): Jerrilynn
Patton, from Gary, IN, second album (plus two EPs), associated with
Chicago footwork, probably all electronics (aside from scattered
voices), but especially strong on percussion, dense and varied,
with a quasi-industrial air.
Keith Karns Big Band: An Eye on the Future (2015
, Summit): Trumpet player, website has a section called "Woody
Shaw Research," big band recorded in Dallas. Karns wrote five (of
seven) pieces, covering "Like Someone in Love" and "Without a Song."
Tenor saxophonist Rich Perry gets a featuring credit.
Kehlani: SweetSexySavage (2017, Atlantic): Surname
Parrish, from Oakland, 21 when this came out, first album after a
couple mixtapes but her career started at age 14 in group PopLyfe --
they had a run on America's Got Talent, but after they broke
up she couldn't work and spent some time homeless. This one's got
some good songs, some bounce and sass, some oversinging.
Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet (2017, Verve):
Standards singer, also plays piano, became a big star in the 1990s
and still has remarkable phrasing. She recorded this with three
small and mostly interchangeable guitar-bass-drums groups (Marc
Ribot-Tony Garnier-Kariem Riggins the most interesting on paper
but I can't say I noticed much difference, even from Anthony
Wilson-John Clayton-Jeff Hamilton). Plus hints of strings and
a bit of vibes. All very agreeable, typically remarkable.
Oliver Lake Featuring Flux Quartet: Right Up On
(2016 , Passin' Thru): The leader is credited with alto sax,
although in two plays I didn't notice any -- and he's not normally
one to hide in the shadows. Rather, you get an avant string quartet
playing rather abstractly modernist compositions, by Lake, some
dating back to 1998.
Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Onward (2017, self-released):
Tenor saxophonist, at least one previous album. Quartet with piano
(Steve Feifke), bass and drums, plus guest trumpet (Randy Brecker)
on two cuts. Five originals, four covers ("Isn't She Lovely," "Giant
Steps," "The Nearness of You," "All of You"). Impressive sax runs,
conventional rhythm, makes for a solid mainstream album.
Les Amazones d'Afrique: République Amazone (2017,
RealWorld): New group, all women, mostly names I recognize from
solo careers -- Angélique Kidjo, Kandia Kouyaté, Mamani Keita,
Nneka, Mariam Doumbia (of Amadou &) -- none from Les Amazones
de Guinée, last heard from on their brilliant 2008 Wamato.
This is more limited to beats and chants, but they grow on you.
Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk: The Breathe Suite (2017,
self-released): Organ player, released Organ Monk in 2010
followed by a couple more sets of Monk tunes, but here he's moved
into something else -- song titles like "Chronicles of Michael Brown,"
"Trayvon," and "Eric Garner" will give you an idea. Mostly quintet
with trumpet (Riley Mullins), tenor sax (Reggie Woods), and relative
stars on guitar (Marc Ribot) and drums (Nasheet Waits). Fast, furious,
a bit heavy.
Jesse Lewis/Ike Sturm: Endless Field (2017, Biophilia):
Guitar and bass, as a duo they fashion intricate, pleasant pastorales --
the sort of thing "new age" promised but rarely delivered. However, they
also entertain guests (Donny McCaslin, Ingrid Jensen, Fabian Almazan,
Chris Dingman, Nadje Noordhuis "& More"), some a plus, some not.
[PS: Packaging comes with download code, probably no CD -- mine came
Ed Maina: In the Company of Brothers (2017, self-released):
Saxophonist, plays everything from soprano to baritone plus piccolo to
alto flute, clarinet, and EWI. From Miami, likes Latin percussion and
Mas Que Nada: Sea Journey (2017, Blujazz): Brazilian
and Afro-Cuban jazz group directed by Tom Knific at Western Michigan,
eight pieces plus two singers, mostly doing standard fare -- "If I
Fell in Love" (John Lennon) the furthest reach.
Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin,
Volume 1 (2017, Accurate): Trumpet player-vocalist, fourth
album, all songs by pianist Bushkin (1916-2004), bracketed by stories
about Bushkin from Frank Sinatra and Red Buttons, plus a snippet of
Bushkin's own piano, all very nicely done -- mostly smooth crooning,
but outliers include "Hot Time in the Town of Berlin," "Boogie Woogie
Blue Plate," and "Man Here Plays Fine Piano."
Migos: Culture (2017, QC/YRN/300): Atlanta hip-hop
crew, three rappers (Quavo, Takeoff, Offset) related and raised by
the same mother. Second album, a dozen mix tapes. The polyrhythmic
voices can turn catchy, but no guarantee of that.
Jason Miles: Kind of New 2: Blue Is Paris (2017,
Lightyear): Keyboard player, claims credits on 130 albums, tends
toward pop jazz grooves but occasionally throws something more,
as when he brought Ingrid Jensen in for his previous Kind of
New album. This isn't a repeat, although he's thrown four
trumpet players into the void: Russell Gunn, Theo Croker, Patches
Stewart, and Jukka Eskola. Says this was "written in reaction to
the 2015 Paris terror attacks." The groove pieces are actually
rather catchy, and the title vocal (reprised at the end) works
just well enough.
Yoko Miwa Trio: Pathways (2016 , Ocean Blue
Tear Music): Pianist, born in Kobe, Japan, studied at Berklee, has
six albums. This a trio with Will Slater on bass and Scott Goulding
on drums. Four originals, covers of Marc Johnson (2), Joni Mitchell,
and "Dear Prudence." Runs 72 minutes but is delightful all the way
Michael Morreale: Love and Influence (2013-16 ,
Blujazz, 2CD): Trumpet player, also some flugelhorn and piano, based
in New York. I don't know of any previous albums, but hype sheet says
he's been active thirty-some years, and I've seen a number of side
credits, especially with Joe Jackson. Mainstream, with Jon Gordon on
alto sax, lots of piano. First disc is brighter and sharper; second
includes a vocal.
Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me (2017, PW Elverum
& Sun): Singer-songwriter Phil Elverum, formerly of the Microphones,
whose last album (2003) was titled Mount Eerie. As I write this,
the first- (Metacritic) or second-best (AOTY) reviewed album of 2017, a
remarkable consensus for a guy with almost no pulse much less dynamism.
Still, a not unpleasant waste of time.
Mumpbeak: Tooth (2017, Rare Noise): Roy Powell,
based in Oslo, plays piano but credited here with "Horner clavinet,
Moog Little Phatty, Hammond organ, tubular bells"; backed by Lorenzo
Felicati on bass and Torstein Lofthus on drums, so basically midway
between an organ trio and keyboard fusion.
Willie Nelson: God's Problem Child (2017, Legacy):
Working title: "Still Not Dead" -- one of seven new songs by Nelson
and producer Buddy Cannon, but they wound up going with the title
song from Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White, with what sounds like
Johnson doing the bulk of the singing (the bulky parts, anyway).
Seems like a perfectly respectable, perfectly average album, which
given recent fads may indeed prove he's not dead yet.
Noertker's Moxie: Druidh Penumbrae (2011-15 ,
Edgetone): Bassist Bill Noertker's main group (he also has one
called the Melancholics), pieced together from live recordings
over the band's run. Annelise Zamula (alto/tenor sax, flute) is
the only other constant, with a series of three drummers, two
pianists (4/11 cuts), and more horns (ranging from cornet to
Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (2016 ,
Biophilia): Bassist, born in Malaysia, raised in Australia, previously
recorded three good albums as Linda Oh plus side credits with Dave
Douglas and others. Group features Ben Wendel on sax, plus Matthew
Stevens on guitar and Justin Brown on drums, joined by Fabian Almazan
(piano on 3 cuts) and Minji Park (janggu & kkwaenggwari on 1).
Another solid record, especially when I focus on the bassist. New
label, has come up with a packaging gimmick that unfolds into a
large many-faceted surface, roughly the equivalent of a 16-page
booklet turned into crumpled chaos -- really awful. But the music:
[PS: $20 product just comes with empty packaging and a download code.]
Paramore: After Laughter (2017, Fueled by Ramen):
Pop/rock band originally from Tennessee, fifth studio album, only
constant member since 2004 is singer-keyboardist Hayley Williams.
Starts strong, an interesting voice over the pop hooks, somewhat
less so the slow one.
William Parker & Stefano Scondanibbio Duo: Bass
Duo (2008 , Centering): Two bassists, one famous, the
other not (at least not that I'm aware of; he died at 55 in 2012),
performing improv duets at a jazz festival in Udine, Italy. Probably
not your cup of tea, but I'm fascinated, and don't even mind it for
Sarah Partridge: Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining
Janis Ian (2016 , Origin): Singer from New Jersey,
favors standards, half-dozen albums, devoted this one to the songs
of Janis Ian, a folkish singer-songwriter who first emerged in
1967 (and who joins for one song here). Somewhat (but not very)
surprised I don't have any Ian albums graded in my database, so
no surprise that the songs here don't stick with me either. Some
nice Scott Robinson saxophone.
Simona Premazzi: Outspoken (2016 , self-released):
Pianist, originally from Italy, moved to New York in 2004. First album,
quartet with Dayna Stephens (tenor/soprano sax), Joe Martin (bass), and
Nasheet Waits (drums), plus guest shots (one track each) by vocalist
Sara Serpa and trumpeter/producer Jeremy Pelt.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is (2017, Legacy):
Band dates back to 1963, with bassist/tuba player Ben Jaffe taking
over from his father in 1987, and evidently another turn following a
tour of Cuba in 2015. For one thing, this is all original material,
related to New Orleans trad (and for that matter Afro-Cuban) only in
that it's upbeat, celebratory social music. And being geared for hot
jazz, they can do that.
Chuck Prophet: Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins
(2017, Yep Roc): Retro rocker from California, was in the pretty
good late-1980s group Green on Red, fourteenth album under his
own name -- I liked the only one I've heard, The Hurting
Business (2000). Title song is slight, and not as amusing
as "Jesus Was a Social Drinker" or "If I Was Connie Britton."
On the other hand, "Alex Nieto" does matter, and they crank the
guitars up to drive the point home.
Eve Risser/Benjamin Duboc/Edward Perraud: En Corps:
Generation (2016 , Dark Tree): French piano trio,
second album as they carry on their debut title, recorded live
in Austria. Two pieces ("Des Corps" and "Des Âmes"), slow to
develop from repeated rhythmic patterns, impressive when they
Riverside [Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas]:
The New National Anthem (2015 , Greenleaf Music):
Pianoless quartet, the brothers playing clarinet/sax and drums,
Swallow electric bass, the leader trumpet. The title and two other
tunes come from Carla Bley -- the album's most striking pieces --
plus one each by Swallow and Chet Doxas, the title tune bracketed
by the leader's "Americano." Full of remarkable passages, but
after many plays I'm still finding it a bit too solemn.
Tom Rizzo: Day and Night (2015 , Origin): Guitarist,
second album although his side credits go back to 1976. Three originals,
covers mostly from jazz sources ranging from Ornette Coleman to Vincent
Herring, so not so surprising I don't start recognizing them until he
gets to "Living for the City" and "Moon River." With piano-bass-drums
plus six horns I scarcely noticed.
Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte With Iggy Pop: Loneliness
Road (2017, Rare Noise): Saft plays piano here, turning this
into a classy little cocktail trio, though nothing really familiar
as the tunes are all originals. The surprise is his guest crooner,
instantly recognizable as Iggy Pop, who pops up 4, then 9, then 12
songs in, personifying the title.
Shakira: El Dorado (2017, Sony Latin Music): Superstar
from Colombia, eleventh album, mostly (but not all) in Spanish, mostly
has a good pop beat with a little extra.
Elliott Sharp With Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot: Err Guitar
(2016 , Intakt): Three guitarists, nothing else, more stutter than
flow or harmony, which I take to be Sharp's dominance (he had a hand in
10/12 songs, 5 co-credits with Halvorson, 2 with Ribot, 1 with both).
Jared Sims: Change of Address (2017, Ropeadope):
Baritone saxophonist, leads a quintet balanced on Nina Ott's organ,
with guitar, bass, and drums -- a funky soul jazz update with
distinguished by the deep breathing of the big horn.
Günter Baby Sommer: Le Piccole Cose: Live at Theater
Gütersloh (2016 , Intuition): Swiss avant drummer,
past 70, leads a pianoless quartet, names likely to be known in
his environs -- Gianluigi Trovesi (alto sax/alto clarinet),
Manfred Schoof (trumpet/flugelhorn), Antonio Borghini (bass),
with all but the bassist contributing pieces. Most work up an
interesting sound. Concludes with an 11:06 interview, in Deutsch.
Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer (2017, Merky):
English rapper, genre's called grime, first album after singles,
an EP, and a mixtape.
Sult/Lasse Marhaug: Harpoon (2017, Conrad Sound/Pica
Disk): Sult is a Norwegian trio -- Håvard Skaset (guitar), Jacob Felix
Heule (percussion), Guro Skumsnes Moe (contrabass) -- with three
previous albums. They built the source for this jazz-noise fusion,
and Marhaug (probably best known in these parts for his work with
Ken Vandermark) "constructed and produced" the result -- i.e., made
it somewhat noisier.
Jeannie Tanner: Words & Music (2017, Tanner Time,
2CD): From Chicago, plays trumpet, wrote nineteen songs here in the
"Great American Songbook" vein, had pianist Dan Murphy arrange horns
and strings, and brought in "twelve of Chicago's finest vocalists" to
sing. The women outnumber the men, and are pretty interchangeable so
the album has a consistent flow. No instant classics, but time will
Joris Teepe & Don Braden: Conversations (2009-16
, Creative Perspective Music): Bass and tenor sax/flute, the
earliest tracks duos, most with drums (Gene Jackson or Matt Wilson).
One original each, one from Wilson, the rest well-worn standards --
the duo on "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat" an especially good match.
Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (2016 ,
NoBusiness): Piano and drums, released as limited edition vinyl. The
pianist, from Germany, has several previous albums, going back at
least to 1986. The drummer, American, has led several "Po" bands
and appeared on dozens more. Pretty sharp all around.
Trichotomy: Known-Unknown (2016 , Challenge):
Piano trio, from Australia, fourth album, principally Sean Foran
(piano) and John Parker (drums) plus new bassist Samuel Vincent,
all also credited with electronics, helping their bounce and
Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington Bicoastal Collective: Chapter
Five (2016 , OA2): Conventionally-sized big band led
by trumpet and baritone sax, respectively -- until now the collective
has always been smaller, down to a quintet last time. Writing duties
split between the leaders, Craig Marshall charged with conducting.
Recorded in equally inconvenient Dallas, the least impressive of
their five convocations, not that there are no sweet spots.
Vagabon: Infinite Worlds (2017, Father/Daughter):
Laetitia Tamko, born in Youundé, Cameroon, moved to New York at 13,
first (short: 8 songs, 28:18) album after an EP.
Cuong Vu 4-Tet: Ballet (The Music of Michael Gibbs)
(2017, Rare Noise): Trumpet player, born in Saigon during the war,
now based in New York, with a dozen albums since 1996. No idea of
his relationship to Gibbs, who toiled in obscurity since 1970 but
came up with two good 2015 albums on Cuneiform with the NDR Bigband.
One of those Gibbs albums was Play a Bill Frisell Set List,
and the guitarist is a major addition here -- along with Luke Bergman
on bass and Ted Poor on drums.
Torben Waldorff: Holiday on Fire (2016 ,
ArtistShare): Danish guitarist, has a handful of records since 1999.
Tends to weave his guitar into the mesh, but big help here from
Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and Maggi Olin on keyboards.
Bobby Watson: Made in America (2017, Smoke Sessions):
Alto saxophonist, one of the greats although he hasn't recorded much
lately. Quartet with Stephen Scott (piano), Curtis Lundy (bass), and
Lewis Nash (drums). Nine pieces dedicated to more/less obscure black
American cultural figures.
Ronny Whyte: Shades of Whyte (2016 , Audiophile):
Classic crooner stylist, also plays piano, which must be cost-effective,
although he uses a bassist here, alternates two drummers, and benefits
from Lou Caputo's tenor sax (if not his flute).
Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond
(2016 , Intakt): Sax-bass-drums trio, the leader playing
soprano, alto and tenor, and writing 7 (of 9) pieces (bassist Guy
one, plus one by Michael Griener).
Alex Wintz: Life Cycle (2016 , Culture Shock Music):
Guitarist, born in California, raised in New Jersey, studied at Berklee
and Juilliard, first album, adds tenor sax (Lucas Pino) on 4/9 cuts,
piano on 4 (3 both), nice postbop vibe, and the sax helps.
Zeal & Ardor: Devil Is Fine (2016 , MKVA):
Swiss-born New Yorker Manuel Gagneux fuses black field hollers (or
chain gang chants) with black metal (and a little xylophone) -- a
fairly amusing rather than overbearing combination. Short, but long
enough: 9 tracks, 25:00.
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976
(1976 , Delmark/Sackville): Trombonist, younger brother of
Art Ensemble of Chicago trumpeter Lester Bowie, doesn't have much
under his own name -- only record I see was Trombone Riffs for
DJ's (1993), although he made it to the headline a half dozen
times. Duet with the alto saxophonist, who also plays some flute.
Itaru Oki/Nobuyoshi Ino/Choi Sun Bae: Kami Fusen
(1996 , NoBusiness): Two trumpets (Oki also plays bamboo flute),
bracketing bassist Ino. Contrast interesting, but doesn't generate
Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil,
1978-1992 (1978-92 , Music From Memory): An exotic
travelogue, probably more interesting if you have a booklet to
follow, but as background it keeps changing without finding its
Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999
, NoBusiness): Trombone and drums duo. Rutherford (1940-2007)
was one of the most important avant-trombonists in Europe, a pioneer
in the rare art of solo trombone. This is as fine a showcase for him
as I've heard, but it's the drummer -- previously unknown to me --
who put this archive tape over the top.
Gregg Allman: One More Try: An Anthology (1973-88
, Capricorn/Chronicles, 2CD): A founding father of Southern
Rock, formed the Allman Brothers Band in 1969 with brother Duane,
who died in a 1971 motorcycle crash. The band carried on, released
their biggest album in 1973, and broke up and regrouped several
times. Meanwhile, from 1973 Gregg had a lackluster solo career,
releasing four studio albums 1973-88, one in 1997, another in
in 2011, plus live albums in 1974 and 2015, before dying on May
29. A fan recommended this compilation, combining 6 album cuts
and 28 previously unreleased demos, live shots, and so forth,
and indeed it does a nice job of showcasing the man's voice and
keyboards, a charming remembrance. It does, however, get a bit
worn when he veers toward gospel.
Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Midnight Stomp
(1991, Stomp Off): Trad jazz band from Ohio, led by the pianist. Info
remarkably scarce, but First album, I think, with: Leon Oakley (cornet),
Jim Snyder (trombone), Larry Wright (clarinet, alto/tenor sax, occarina),
John Otto (clarinet, alto sax), Frank Powers (clarinet, alto sax), Mike
Bezin (tuba), Jack Meilhan (banjo), Hal Smith (washboard, drums), with
vocals by Des Plantes and Otto.
Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Shim-Sham-Shimmy Dance
(1997 , Stomp Off): Third album on Stomp Off (plus a couple more
elsewhere); Oakley, Otto, Wright, and Smith remain essential, plus a new
tuba player and John Gill takes over the banjo and gives them another
vocalist (though I have no idea who sings what). Still pulling obscurities
out of the '20s, but more assured, less frantic.
John Gill's San Francisco Jazz Band: Turk Murphy Style
(1989 , GHB): Napster's cover doesn't have this title, but other
images do, as do most of the web pages matching this songlist. Moreover,
the trombonist on the cover looks like Murphy (1915-1987). Banjoist
Gill, pictured on the back cover, started in Murphy's trad jazz band,
which carried on the Dixieland flame from Lu Watters. The band: Bob
Schulz (cornet), Lynn Zimmer (clarinet, soprano sax), Charlie Bornemann
(trombone), Pete Clute (piano), Bill Carroll (tuba), with Gill on banjo
and vocals, plus Pat Yankee on two Bessie Smith songs.
John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: "Smile, Darn Ya,
Smile" (1991, Stomp Off): Can't find any info on this other than
the front cover art. Presumably the musicians were similar to those listed
below, except that this doesn't show up in Dan Levinson's discography.
The title song dates back to a 1931 cartoon short, recorded by Ambrose
and His Orchestra, and that's the sort of mirth they're aiming for.
John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: Headin' for Better
Times (1992 , Stomp Off): All I know about this is from
Gerard Bielderman's Swinging Americans discography posted by
Dan Levinson (tenor sax and clarinet). The lineup: Charles Fardella
(trumpet), David Sager (trombone), Tom Fischer (clarinet, soprano/alto
sax), Levinson, Debbie Markow/Elliot Markow (violin), Tom Roberts
(piano), Gill (banjo), Tom Saunders (tuba), Hal Smith (drums), with
vocals (12/15 songs they list, album has 22) by Sager, Gill, Saunders,
and Chris Tyle.
John Gill's Dixie Serenaders: "Listen to That Dixie Band!!"
(1997 , Stomp Off): Banjo player, a major figure in San Francisco's
trad jazz scene starting with bands led by Turk Murphy and Duke Heitger,
and on to the Bay City Stompers and his main outfit since 2001, Yerba Buena
Stompers, but there is little on him online, and much confusion with
London-born/Australian ragtime pianist John Gill (1954-2011). This was
the last of his three Dixie Serenaders albums, "featuring" blues singer
Lavay Smith (on less than half of the tracks), with Heitger on trumpet,
Chris Tyle on cornet, Frank Powers on clarinet, Vince Giordano on tuba,
Steve Pistorius on piano -- a fine Dixieland band that doesn't quite
John Gill's Jazz Kings: "I Must Have It!" (2004, Stomp
Off): Only info I can find is the cover scan, which shows a stage empty
except for "Joe Oliver's cornet" and "Johnny St. Cyr's banjo." Back
cover offers the date and musician list -- Jon-Erik Kellso (cornet),
Orange Kellin (clarinet), Brad Shigeta (trombone), Hank Ross (piano),
John Gill (banjo, vocals), and Joe Hanchrow (tuba) -- plus a list of
22 songs (no credits, but "total time: 79:26"). Odd song out is "That's
All Right," but where else can you hear it with a tuba break?
John Gill: Learn to Croon: John Gill & His Sentimental
Serenaders Remember Bing Crosby (2009 , Stomp Off):
Very little info online, but I've seen a hint that the old-fashioned
crooner here is Gill. The band itself is thick with strings --
couldn't be more retro if Gill had discovered ancient outtakes.
Sentimental is an understatement, but oddly enough the soppier it
gets, the more I like it ("Pennies From Heaven," "Blue Hawaii").
Duke Heitger and His Swing Band: Rhythm Is Our Business
(1998-99 , Fantasy): Trad jazz trumpet player, also sings, from
Ohio, moved to New Orleans, eight albums as leader plus side credits (the
only one Google seems to care about is with the Squirrel Nut Zippers).
This is a mid-sized swing outfit -- trombone, two saxes (with some
clarinet), piano, guitar-bass-drums (no banjo-tuba), and Rebecca Kilgore
splitting vocals with Heitger. Good showcase for the leader's trumpet,
and Chris Tyle's drums really help.
Duke Heitger's Big Four: Prince of Wails (2001,
Stomp Off): Quartet is compact by trad jazz standards, but stellar:
Evan Christopher (clarinet/alto sax), John Gill (banjo), Tom Saunders
(tuba/string bass). Gill and Saunders generate plenty of rhythm, and
Christopher has an especially strong showing.
Duke Heitger With Ken Mathieson's Classic Jazz Band: Celebrating
Satchmo (2010, Lake): The trumpeter pledged allegiance to Louis
Armstrong when he moved to New Orleans, and drummer Mathieson's Scottish
trad jazz band has spent lifetimes learning this music. Still doesn't
come close enough to leave you wanting the originals, nor so deficient
you wonder why they bother -- actually, rather delightful.
Independence Hall Jazz Band: Louis: The Oliver Years
(2002, Stomp Off): Yet another New Orleans-based repertory band, best
known names trumpet players Jon-Erik Kellso and Duke Heitger. Second
album, tunes Armstrong played with King Oliver, done picture-perfect
if not all that exceptionally.
Sergey Kuryokhin: The Ways of Freedom (1981 ,
Leo Golden Years of New Jazz): Russian pianist (1954-1996), his first
album (of 40+ over 15 years), evidently unauthorized, the reissue
adding three cuts. Solo, has no real sense of swing or bop but gets
a rhythm going that turns fascinating. Only thing I've heard -- few
titles are available, with only the second disc of his 4-CD posthumous
Divine Madness online.
Joëlle Léandre & William Parker: Live at Dunois
(2009, Leo): Avant bass duets, both masters with plenty of tricks up
their sleeves, but they open politely, teasing their instruments to
sing. Of course, later on Léandre does literally sing -- or something
Keith Nichols & the Cotton Club Orchestra: Harlem's
Arabian Nights (1996 , Stomp Off): British pianist,
started as a ragtime specialist but expanded to stride and swing.
Smallish big band akin to Henderson and early Ellington: three reeds,
two each trumpets/trombones, the guitar-bass-drums players doubling
on banjo-tuba-washboard. Nichols sings some, as does Janice Day.
Chris Tyle's New Orleans Rover Boys: A Tribute to Benny
Strickler (1991, Stomp Off): Grew up in Portland where his
father, Axel Tyle, was drummer in the Castle Jazz Band. He formed
a swing band called Wholly Cats, played some with Turk Murphy, and
moved to New Orleans in 1989. His main instrument is cornet and
he sings some, but elsewhere I've seen him credited with drums.
Strickler played trumpet in the wartime Yerba Buena Jazz Band, but
he also shows up in Bob Wills' discography, and died quite young.
Clarinet player Bob Helm, whose name is singled out on the cover,
was close to Strickler. This group includes Orange Kellin (clarinet),
David Sager (trombone), Steve Pistorius (piano), John Gill (banjo/2
vocals), Bill Carroll (tuba), and Hal Smith (drums, 1 vocal). One
highlight is what the horns add to the Wills tune ("It Makes No
Difference Now"), but there are many more in a typically (for the
label) long program.
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
- Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues (2011, Rounder): B+(*)
- Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA (2014 , Rounder, 2CD): B+(***)
- Ted Des Plantes: Ohio River Blues (1994, Stomp Off): B+(*)
- Ted Des Plantes: Thumpin' and Bumpin' (2006 , Stomp Off): A-
- John Gill's Dixie Serenaders: Looking for a Little Bluebird (1994 , Stomp Off): A-
- John Gill's Dixie Serenaders: Take Me to the Midnight Cakewalk Ball (1995 , Stomp Off): A-
- Duke Heitger/Bernd Lhotzky: Doin' the Voom Voom (2008 , Arbors): B+(*)
- Joëlle Léandre: 8 other albums
- Keith Nichols: I Like to Do Things for You (1991 , Stomp Off): B+
- Keith Nichols: Henderson Stomp (1993, Stomp Off): A-
- William Parker: 43 other albums
- Chris Tyle's Silver Leaf Jazz Band: Sugar Blues: A Tribute to Joseph "King" Oliver (1995, Stomp Off): A-
- Chris Tyle's Silver Leaf Jazz Band: New Orleans Wiggle (1999, GHB): A-
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in
brackets following the grade:
- [cd] based on physical cd
- [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
- [dvd] based on physical dvd (rated more for music than video)
- [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely
available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Music: Current count 28187  rated (+21), 387  unrated (-10).
As this weekly post falls on Memorial Day, I'd like to dedicate it
our fallen heroes: not those who lost their lives in the many pointless
wars this nation has waged since shortly before I was born, but to those
who spoke, wrote, and often demonstrated against those wars, especially
those who recognized how tightly war was bound up with social and economic
injustice, who saw the struggle against both as equally necessary.
Foremost in my mind today are Alice Powell and Mary Harren, who late
in their lives became good friends as well as comrades, and Elizabeth
Fink, one of the finest, most steadfast, and most principled legal
minds of our generation. I could, of course, come up with a few dozen
more names of people I've known, and many more who inspired me from
a distance -- David Dellinger is one of the latter I often find myself
returning to. And, thankfully, there are many more still living, still
struggling to turn minds and souls against America's fascination with
empire and its attendant inequality and injustice.
Among the living one I should mention is Gail Pellett, who I knew
briefly in St. Louis in the early 1970s. She was a graduate student
in the sociology department at Washington University, and I was in
several classes with her and ran into her socially and politically.
She graduated and left for Boston, then a couple years later moved
to New York, working in public radio and teaching journalism. In
1980 she got a job as a "foreign language expert" for Radio Beijing
in China, and spent a year there trying to fit in and ultimately
getting rejected (or at least dejected). A couple years ago she
wrote a memoir of her time in China,
Forbidden Fruit, which I recently read. Terrific book, taught
me a lot about the post-Mao transition in China -- the scars of the
Cultural Revolution and the fitful reforms of Deng Xiaoping's zig
and zag toward economic reform and prosperity minus democracy. But
it also filled in some earlier and later history of Gail I never
knew, and reminded me how much I adored her when our paths crossed.
Also note all the music she mentions. Those years were the ones that
got me interested in music and its social context, so she probably
had something to do with all that.
Relatively light week of record processing: partly because I was
distracted with all the Trump nonsense, partly because I took some
time off to paint the fence and cook, partly because I'm having a
lot of trouble making up my mind about good-but-not-great albums.
Two of those inched into the A- column this week, with a couple more
falling arbitrarily short (Cuong Vu was probably the most tempting,
followed by Diet Cig and Klaus Treuheit, with Shakira most volatile
(only 2 plays, could go either way), and I still haven't made up my
mind on Riverside after 6-7 plays).
Feeling a big nostalgic, so I made fried chicken, biscuits &
gravy, and green beans tonight -- the chicken and gravy like my mother
taught me (and they came out near-perfect), but I cheated a bit on the
rest (much to the meal's detriment: I used a microwave bag of green
beans and some really old Bisquick that didn't rise). Just for us, so
I wasn't too embarrassed, but I can do better.
Looks like I need to post Streamnotes tomorrow or Wednesday.
Draft file currently has 106 albums, so the post will be lighter
than usual, not that I've slacked off too badly this month.
Still don't have many good non-jazz leads to chase down.
New records rated this week:
- Amok Amor [Christian Lillinger/Petter Eloh/Wanja Slavin/Peter Evans]: We Know Not What We Do (2016 , Intakt): A-
- Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (2013 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Daddy Issues: Deep Dream (2017, Infinity Cat): [r]: A-
- Diet Cig: Swear I'm Good at This (2017, Frenchkiss): [r]: B+(***)
- Fred Frith/Hans Koch: You Are Here (2016 , Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
- Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator (2017, ATO): [r]: B+(*)
- José James: Love in a Time of Madness (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
- B.J. Jansen: Common Ground (2016 , Ronin Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
- Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet (2017, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
- Ed Maina: In the Company of Brothers (2017, self-released): [cd]: B
- Mumpbeak: Tooth (2017, Rare Noise): [cdr]: B
- Simona Premazzi: Outspoken (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Tom Rizzo: Day and Night (2015 , Origin): [cd]: B
- Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte With Iggy Pop: Loneliness Road (2017, Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Shakira: El Dorado (2017, Sony Latin Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (2016 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Cuong Vu 4-Tet: Ballet (2017, Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond (2016 , Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Itaru Oki/Nobuyoshi Ino/Choi Sun Bae: Kami Fusen (1996 , NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Independence Hall Jazz Band: Louis: The Oliver Years (2002, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Ignacio Berroa Trio: Straight Ahead From Havana (Codes Drum Music): August 7
- Roger Davidson: Oração Para Amanhã/Prayer for Tomorrow (Soundbrush): June 14
- Rick Davies: Thugtet (Emlyn)
- Brian McCarthy Nonet: The Better Angels of Our Nature (self-released)
- Kyle Motl: Solo Contrabass (self-released)
- The New Vision Sax Ensemble: Musical Journey Through Time (Zak Publishing): June 12
- Simona Premazzi: Outspoken (self-released)
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Three fairly prominent figures died in the last couple days -- at
least prominent enough to warrant articles in the Wichita Eagle: Jim
Bunning, Greg Allman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Naturally, I go back
furthest with Bunning. I became conscious of baseball in 1957, when
I was six, and for many years I could recite the all-star teams from
that (and practically no other) year. Bunning was the starting pitcher
for the AL, vs. Curt Simmons for the NL. That was the year Cincinnati
stuffed the ballot boxes, causing a scandal by electing seven position
players to the NL team. Commissioner Ford Frick overruled the voters
and replaced Gus Bell and Wally Post with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
In my memory, he also picked Stan Musial over Ted Kluszewski at 1B
and Eddie Matthews over Don Hoak at 3B, but he stopped short and didn't
pick the equally obvious Ernie Banks vs. Roy McMillan. According to the
Wikipedia page, Musial actually won, and Hoak (and McMillan and
2B Johnny Temple and C Ed Bailey) started. My memory of the AL team
somehow lost 1B Vic Wertz (no idea who played there, since I was
pretty sure it wasn't Moose Skowron, on the team as a reserve) and
2B Nellie Fox (I thought Frank Bolling, who didn't make the team --
Casey Stengel liked to stock his bench with Yankees, so he went with
Bunning won the game, pitching three scoreless innings while
Simmons walked in two runs. Biggest surprise from the game summary
was that Bell pinch-hit for Robinson (no doubt the only time that
ever happened, despite being teammates for many years) and came up
with a two-run double. Bunning had his best season in 1957, going
20-8, although he also won 19 in 1962, and after he was traded to
Philadelphia in 1964 had three straight 19-win years, winding up
with a 234-184 record and a lot of strikeouts (2855). He played
during a period (1955-71) when W totals were especially depressed --
I worked out a system for adjusting W-L totals over the years but
don't have the data handy (one significant result was that Cy Young,
Walter Johnson, and Warren Spahn came out with almost identical
adjusted W-L totals). But also Bunning spent most of his career as
the star on losing teams, so that also reduced his career standing.
Still, a marvelous pitcher. He was also one of the more militant
leaders in the baseball players union, but after he retired he
turned into an extreme right-wing crank and got elected to the
Senate from Kentucky, where his two terms went from dismal to worse.
If there was a Hall of Fame for guys kicking the ladder away after
they used it, he'd be in.
I have far less to say about Allman, but nothing negative. His
most recent albums were engaging and enjoyable, and early in his
career he contributed to some even better ones.
People much younger than me might remember Brzezinski for his
biting criticism of GW Bush's Iraq fiasco. He was the Democrats'
original answer to Henry Kissinger, a foreign policy mandarin with
a deep-seated hatred of the Soviet Union and anything even vaguely
communist, and he seemed to be the dominant force that bent Jimmy
Carter's his initial foreign policy focus on human rights toward
an unscrupulously anti-communist stance. Still, decades later, after
the fall of the Soviet Union, even after Carter wrote his essential
book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Carter stuck to his line
that his signature peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was driven
primarily by his desire to curtail Soviet influence. It's not that
Brzezinski offered any real break from the rabid anti-communism of
previous administrations so much as he kept Carter from changing
course, and in their Iran and Afghanistan policies they set the
stage for everything the US has butchered and blundered ever since --
including Trump's "Arab NATO" summit last week.
Last week when I was reading John D Dower's new book The Violent
American Century: War and Terror Since World War II I ran across
a paragraph I wanted to quote about how Reagan both adopted and extended
policies begun under the Carter administration, while simultaneously
belittling and slandering Carter. It seemed to me that we are witnessing
Trump making the same move. But since then Zbigniew Brzezinski died,
so I figure in his honor I should start with the previous paragraph:
Although Carter failed in his bid for a second term as president his
"doctrine" laid the ground for an enhanced US infrastructure of war,
especially in the Greater Middle East. Less than two months after his
address, Carter oversaw creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task
Force that tapped all four major branches of the military (army, navy,
air force, and marines). Within two years, this evolved into Central
Command (CENTCOM), responsible for operations in Southwest Asia,
Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, initiating what
one official navy historian called "a period of expansion unmatched in
the postwar era. Simultaneously, Carter's national security adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski launched the effective but ultimately nearsighted
policy of providing support to the Afghan mujahedeen combating Soviet
forces in their country. Conducted mainly through the CIA, the
objective of this top-secret operation was in Brzezinski's words, "to
make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible."
Carter's successor Ronald Reagan inherited these initiatives and
ran with them, even while belittling his predecessor's policies. In
his presidential campaign, Reagan promised "to unite people of every
background and faith in a great crusade to restore the America of our
dreams." This, he went on -- in words that surely pleased the ghost of
Henry Luce -- necessitated repudiating policies that had left the
nation's defense "in shambles," and doing "a better job of exporting
If Trump seems less committed to "exporting Americanism" than Reagan
(or Luce, who coined the term/slogan "American century"), it's not for
lack of flag-waving bluster, arrogance, or ignorance. It's just that
decades of excoriating "weak leaders" like Carter, Clinton and Obama,
and replacing them with "strong" but inept totems like Reagan, the
Bushes, and Trump have taken their toll. The lurches toward the right
have weakened the once-robust economy and frayed social bonds, and
those in turn have degraded institutions. And while it's easy to put
the blame for this decay on a right-wing political movement dedicated
to the aggrandizement of an ever-smaller circle of billionaires, the
equally important thing I'm noticing here is how completely Carter,
Clinton, and Obama internalized the logic of their/our enemies and
failed to plot any sort of alternative to the right's agenda, which
ultimately has less to do with spreading "the American way of life"
than with subjugating the world to global capital. Indeed, it appears
as though the last people left believing in Luce's Americanism are
the hegemonic leaders of the Democratic Party.
I wound up completely exhausted and disgusted from last week's
compilation of Trump atrocities (see my
Midweek Roundup). I know I said, shortly after Trump's inauguration,
that "we can do this shit every week," but I'm less sure now --
not to mention I'm doubting my personal effectiveness.
In particular, the Montana election loss took a toll on my psyche.
Then I saw the following tweet (liked by someone I thought I liked):
"I wonder what Bernie has learned from his massive loss and that of
his scions, Mello, Feingold, Teachout, Thompson, Quist. Probably
nothing." Quist, in Montana, ran anywhere from 6-12% ahead of Clinton
(at least in the counties I've seen). So did Thompson here in Kansas.
They lost, but at least they ran, they gave voters real choices, and
they got little or no support from the Clinton-dominated national
party (which has made it their business to reduce party differences
to a minimum, even as the Republicans stake out extreme turf on the
right). The others I haven't looked at closely, but Bernie wasn't
the one who lost to Donald Trump. What lessons should he learn from
those defeats? Offer less of an alternative? Take his voters for
granted? Further legitimize the other side? Clinton Democrats have
been doing those things for 25 years now, and look where they've
Meanwhile, a few quick links, probably little commentary -- but
these things pretty well speak for themselves.
Some scattered links this week in Trump world:
Esme Cribb: Trump Lashes Out at Media Upon Return to US: 'Fake News
Is the Enemy!' I can remember when "fake news" was self-identified,
the successor of what we used to call satire, its fakeness intended to
help sharpen a point. Now, for Trump at least, it's just any report you
don't want to face up to. But already Trump has done so much he needs
to deny that he's broadening his targets. For more, see
Peter Maas: Donald Trump's War on Journalism Has Begun. But Journalists
Are Not His Main Target. The "main targets" referred to are sources,
those disclosing to journalists what Trump's administration is doing.
If government was "of, by, and for the people," you'd think it would be
ok for said people to see just what was happening, but that's not in
Trump's scheme of things. Also:
Olivia Nuzzi: Trump's Love-Hate Relationship With Anonymous Sourcing.
David Dayen: Trump's "America First" Infrastructure Plan: Let Saudi
Arabia and Blackstone Take Care of It
Chauncey DeVega: 'We Have an Obligation to Speak About Donald Trump's
Mental Health Issues . . . Our Survival as a Species May Be at Stake':
I think there's something to speak about here -- it all has a certain
perverse satisfaction -- but I'm skeptical that it will do any good,
and I think it's been a big mistake all along to focus on Trump and
not on the Republican policies he's committed to (especially the ones
he explicitly attacked before the election).
Henry Farrell: Thanks to Trump, Germany says it can't rely on the United
States. What does that mean? Another view:
David Frum: Trump's Trip Was a Catastrophe for US-Europe Relations.
Also on the NATO meeting:
Fred Kaplan: The Tussle in Brussels. And then there's:
Elisabeth Braw: Germany Is Quietly Building a European Army Under Its
Rebecca Gordon: Trump Is Trying to Cover Up His Lies by Destroying
Information: "For an administration that depends on ignorance,
public knowledge is enemy number one."
Maggie Haberman/Glenn Thrush/Julie Hirschfeld Davis: Trump Returns to
Crisis Over Kushner as White House Tries to Contain It: So it turns
out that Kushner omitted multiple meetings with various Russians when
he applied for his security clearance. Also that he tried to set up
some kind of "back channel" communications link with Russia that would
bypass normal security protocols. Many more stories on Kushner, like:
Jeet Heer: Why Trump Is a Salesman With Autocrats and a Slumlord
With Allies. Heer also wrote, back on May 15,
Donald Trump Killed the "Indispensable Nation." Good! ("Trump
has ushered in a new era of American hegemony, one in which the
hegemon is adrift, mercurial, and utterly irresponsible.") Both
of these pieces are sidelong glances at a "superpower" which
expects the world to bow and cater to its whims without expecting
or getting much of anything in return -- well, beyond catching
some of the chaos mean indifference engenders.
Paul Krugman: It's All About Trump's Contempt
Cezary Podcul: Trump's New Bank Regulator: Lawyer Who Helped Banks
Charge More Fees: "Keith Noreika helped big banks avoid state
laws protecting consumers. As head of the Office of the Comptroller
of the Currency, he now has the power to override those state laws."
Michael D Shear/Mark Landler: Trump Ends Trip Where He Started; At Odds
With Alies and Grilled on Russia: In particular, he got several
earfulls on his refusal to endorse the Paris climate accords. He says
he will make a decision on that next week -- sure, he's spent the last
two years campaigning against it, but he's already broken dozens of
campaign promises. One wonders whether any of the other G7 leaders
added credible threats. I haven't heard anyone propose this, but why
shouldn't the other 194 nations that signed the accord levy sanctions
on nations that refuse to cooperate on what is truly a global problem?
For one thing, sanctions would have a real effect in lowering emissions --
most obviously by depressing the American economy. They could go further
and freeze US assets. They could deny airspace rights to US flights,
especially by the military (a significant global polluter).
Matt Shuham: WH Budget Chief: 'I Hope' Fewer People Get Social Security
John Wagner/Robert Costa/Ashley Parker: Trump considers major changes
amid escalating Russia crisis
Stephen M Walt: What's the Point of Donald Trump's Afghan Surge?
Five questions for McMaster. Meanwhile:
Ruchi Kumar: War in Afghanistan Is Killing Children in Record Numbers
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though mostly still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Andrew J Bacevich: The Beltway Foreign-Policy 'Blob' Strikes Back
Ari Berman: Democrats Are Launching a Commission to Protect American
Democracy From Trump: Trump's first (and thus far only) special
commission was launched to investigate "election integrity" -- i.e.,
why so many likely Democrats were allowed to vote. That threatens to
hit the Democrats where they live, so in this case at least they're
doing something on their own. I think they should be doing a lot more
of this, including running a "shadow cabinet" that continually tracks
everything the Trump billionaires and lobbyists are up to.
Linda J Bilmes: Iraq and Afghanistan: The $6 trillion bill for America's
longest war is unpaid
Michelle Chen: Why Are Canada's Prescription Drugs So Much Cheaper
Jason Ditz: US Is Killing More Civilians in Syria Air War Than Assad
Is: Thought I'd mention this since I read a Charles Krauthammer
column last week (look it up if you want it) that decried Assad's
"genocidal war" in Syria. By the way:
Samuel Oakford: US officials confirm their Coalition allies have
killed 80 civilians -- but none will accept responsibility.
David Hajdu: Bold-Sounding Things: "Doesn't every political resistance
need a soundtrack?"
Daniel Politi: White Supremacist in Portland Kills Two Men Who Tried
to Stop His Racist Rants: This in turn elicited a deep background
Alana Semuels: The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in
Carol Schaeffer: How Hungary Became a Haven for the Alt-Right
Matt Taibbi: The Democrats Need a New Message: This was Taibbi's
reaction to the Democrats' loss to billionaire/goon Greg Gianforte
in the Montana special election. It's worth noting that Democrat Rob
Quist ran 13% points better than Hillary Clinton did in November,
although I can also note that local Democrats have won a number of
statewide races in the not-too-distant past, so I had reason to be
more optimistic here than in the Kansas race (Gianforte won this one
by 6.5%; Ron Estes won in KS by 6.8%). I think the key paragraphs
Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low
approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has
lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back
to November, when it was at 45 percent.
The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair
over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys
have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging
the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile
foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton
in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.
To be sure, prospects for Democrats look better further out, but
that's because most people haven't been paying attention to all the
shit Republicans are pulling, and in most cases the adverse effects
won't hit home for months or even years, by which time it will be
too late. Still, one reason people haven't been paying attention is
that Democrats keep talking about Trump personally rather than the
Republicans universally, and a large segment of Americans have shown
themselves to be impervious to anything you say about Trump.
As for the old message, Taibbi cites
Jeff Stein: Study: Hillary Clinton's TV ads were almost entirely
Hillary Clinton's campaign ran TV ads that had less to do with policy
than any other presidential candidate in the past four presidential
races, according to a new study published on Monday by the Wesleyan
Clinton's team spent a whopping $1 billion on the election in all --
about twice what Donald Trump's campaign spent. Clinton spent $72 million
on television ads in the final weeks alone.
But only 25 percent of advertising supporting her campaign went after
Trump on policy grounds, the researchers found. By comparison, every other
presidential candidate going back to at least 2000 devoted more than 40
percent of his or her advertising to policy-based attacks. None spent
nearly as much time going after an opponent's personality as Clinton's
Clinton's ad strategy had, I think, the perverse effect of inoculating
Trump against further personal attacks and not framing issues that the
Democrats could follow up on post-election. It conveyed to voters that
issues don't matter -- only personalities and character -- and as such
Clinton offered little help down-ballot. Conversely, most Republican
money was spent down-ballot, and that created a powerful momentum to
capture Congress as well as to elect Trump. But then the Clintons have
a long history of sabotaging their party mates -- all the better to
concentrate their deal-making opportunities with donors (as well as
their retirement bonuses).
For a more optimistic accounting of Montana, see:
Matthew Yglesias: Republicans' 7-point win in last night's Montana
election is great news for Democrats; for more pessimistic views, see:
Andrew O'Hehir: Wake Up, Liberals: There Will Be No 2018 'Blue Wave,' No
Democratic Majority and No Impeachment; and
Ed Kilgore: 6 Takeaways From Montana's Special Election.
Rebecca Traister: Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny.
And Worried. "The surreal post-election life of the woman who would
have been president." Long piece, not unsympathetic, not without
interest, especially on problems of sexual politics. You might also
be interested in
Katie Serena: Hillary Clinton Roasts Donald Trump in Wellseley College
Commencement Speech, where she "even took a whack at humor,"
introducing herself as "the former president of the Wellseley College
Young Republicans" and reminiscing about "how she and her peers were
'furious' over the election of Richard Nixon." She could have used
some of that fury lately, but instead she's "OK."
Joan C Williams: The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension: Author
also has a book, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness
Dave Zirin: A Lynching on the University of Maryland Campus, and
Why I Called the Murder of Richard Collins III a Lynching.
What a bummer this is all turning into. Nor can I say it's different
than I expected. And it's really unhealthy to go through life with so
many occasions to say "I told you so."
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