Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, August 17, 2020

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33814 [33774] rated (+40), 221 [218] unrated (+3).

My wife announced that she's not going to watch any of the Democratic Convention speeches, figuring they'll just be depressing. Needless to say, I wasn't even considering the prospect. I can read up whatever it is I need (e.g., here's Vox's The 2020 Democratic National Convention's speaker lineup and how to watch). Looking at the lineup, the show will be sanctimonious, condescending, and more than a little nostalgic, reminding you of the opportunities past Democrats have squandered, and how little we have to show for it. I can see the value of inviting the occasional token Republican, and I'm glad Doug Jones gets a spotlight moment, but do we really need both Clintons to speak? And is the bench of Democratic prospects so weak Michelle Obama needs to be the keynote speaker? Barack Obama was nobody when he spoke in 2004, and it looks like the DNC is never going to let something like that happen again. While I'm sure Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will make the most of her token minute, bracketing her between John Kerry and Chuck Shumer is pretty much guaranteed to spoil the night. Then Sally Yates? On the other hand, at least they passed over Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler.

In past successful Democratic presidential campaigns -- by which I mean Clinton in 1992 and Obama in 2008 -- the candidates ran to the left until election, then made their accommodations with the established powers after they won, leaving most of their platforms with their luggage. To some extent, Gore did that in 2000, although not very convincingly, and even less Hillary tried that tack even less credibly in 2016. Biden seems determined to run through the vast open ground to his right, reassuring business, the suburbs, the shattered remnants of the middle and working classes, that he will restore a measure of normalcy and sanity after the batshit craziness of the Trump (and, if you still have any memory cells, Bush) fiascoes. And the left (including me) seem willing to let him call the tactical campaign shots however he sees best. On the other hand, the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party" has gradually accumulated a real power base in Congress, one that Biden and Harris will have to deal with to move forward -- not least because the real answers to the real problems are the ones coming from the left, but also because there no longer is a neoliberal Republican block like the one Clinton (and much less successfully Obama) tried to triangulate through. That residual power base is why the left doesn't need to get its message out during the rest of this campaign.

The other is that you can't build toward an egalitarian vision of peace and prosperity without first establishing a fundamental commitment to decency, honesty, and trust, and you won't have any of that if Donald Trump and the Republicans win in November. We may have differing ideas how to accomplish this, but the one that the Democrats have chosen was arrived at more or less democratically, and it is important to respect that process. Even if it means a week of boring, uninspiring TV. I really don't need any of these speakers to tell me who to vote for in November. But if you do need help, by all means tune in. You're the person they want to address.

One reason I'm not too terribly disappointed with the way the ticket has turned out is that I've been reading Thomas Frank's new book, The People, No! Eighty pages in, most of what he's covered so far has been the 1896 presidential election -- the one between William McKinley (R-OH) and William Jennings Bryan (D-NE) -- and the slanders against Bryan were harrowing. This doesn't have much relevance to the actual 2020 election. Trump's credentials as a populist are totally bogus, and Biden's aren't much better. Indeed, Biden will probably wind up raising more money than Trump (as Hillary did in 2016, and as Obama previously did). But if Sanders had won the nomination, he would have represented the most radical break in Democratic Party nominees since Bryan in 1896, following the ultra-conservative Grover Cleveland in 1892. The shift from 1968-1972 was comparatively miniscule: both Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern were midwestern liberals who agreed on virtually everything -- the one sticking point, and it was a big one, was the Vietnam War. Still, that was enough for many Democrats to sabotage their ticket by voting for Nixon.

It seems unlikely to me that establishment Democrats would have broken ranks as decisively as they had done in 1896 and 1972, if only because Trump is far too odious an alternative, but it is likely that the degree of vitriol directed at Sanders would have approached the levels aimed at Bryan. Of course, Republicans being the deranged scum they are, much the same will be aimed at Biden and Harris, but at least with them it's not something I have to take personally. (Not that I wouldn't be game to try, had Sanders won the nomination. At least the upside there justifies the risk.) One hopes that people will not only see through the slanders, but that they will reflect back properly on those who launched them. Also that they will be seen as evasions of responsibility for the tremendous harm caused by Trump and his party. (And, by all means, never attack Trump without also blaming his accomplices. He may be their nominal leader, but often as not he's the one being led around by the nose.)

I thought this was going to be a lax week, but ran the numbers and came up with 40 again. Started off with more Polish jazz left over from last week, plus another ZAUM album. Then Robert Christgau published his August Consumer Guide. As I noted in a tweet, I had previously graded several albums: Car Seat Headrest (A-), Dream Wife (A-), Haim (**), Lori McKenna (A-), X (*). Picked up almost all of the rest below. That leaves Birds of Prey, Deap Vally, and the Boswell Sisters -- I have Sony's That's How Rhythm Was Born (1931-34) in my database (B+); Christgau's pick isn't on Napster, but there are several alternatives. Three of this week's A- records come from Christgau, although only John Chibadura was an easy call -- City Girls and Kehlani could have gone either way, and probably would have fallen short without the encouragement and extra time.

Other suggestions came from all over. A couple were recommended in an Expert Witness Facebook post asking for items on Bandcamp. I can't say as they were particularly good, but they led indirectly to the new Mekons album, which is. I played a couple things I downloaded, and searched for a recent batch of Clean Feed releases. One I looked for but didn't find is a new WHO Trio album of Strayhorn/Ellington compositions. When I saw the Keith Ingham/Harry Allen records, I just had to check them out. When in doubt, I look at Napster's "featured" records, and decided to check out the live Stooges set. That reminded me of two albums I used to have but hadn't entered into the database. I probably should have looked and given them a fresh listen, but the memories were clear enough.

A couple other albums were suggested by working on Christgau Consumer Guides from September last year. Christgau wants to impose an eight month delay on them to give subscribers a sense of exclusivity, so I haven't been in any hurry to tackle them. Anyhow, finally started entering them into my private copy of the website last week. Still not sure what to do about enforcing the delay. I've long had code for handling timelocks on regular pages, so those are working on the CG columns, but I've never imposed delays on database fetches, so that will require new code. It seems to me that the way it should work would be to set up an account management system synched to Christgau's subscription newsletter, so that paid subscribers could also see restricted content on the website, but that would take a lot of work, and it's not clear how to keep the two sites in synch.

I should note that Steve Grossman died last week. I knew him mostly as one of a cluster of mainstream tenor saxophonists from the 1990s -- Bennie Wallace is the one I followed most closely, but I especially liked Grossman's 1991 In New York. Rather surprised to find that I only had one more of his albums in my database. I'll write up more next week. I'm especially glad that I started with his 1973 debut, Some Changes to Come. That dates from his tenure in Miles Davis's great fusion band, and builds thereupon.

It's been a trying week for me, with my brother hospitalized for what at first looked like Covid-19, but turned out to just be pneumonia. Had another scare with a friend in Massachusetts, which again turned out to be something else (but still quite serious). We continue to do virtually no socializing, and only rarely make even the most rudimentary shopping efforts. With this isolation, it's been a rare pleasure to occasionally post on Facebook a picture of some little meal I've managed to whip up. Some recent ones: ribs; dosas; carbonade; shrimp boil; Szechuan chicken wings; beef stroganoff; shells; Chinese ribs. (Looks like if you click on one, you can cycle through the rest, as you won't find many pictures there not of food. I think all the links are public. My rule is to only seek and accept friends that I have personal relationships with, and I very rarely bother Facebook with my writings -- that's what Twitter is for.) Not as satisfying as cooking for others, but in times like these we make do.

Still open for questions.

New records reviewed this week:

Aminé: Limbo (2020, Republic): Portland rapper Adam Daniel, goes by his middle name, parents from Ethiopia and Eritrea, second album, marking his adulthood from the death of Kobe Bryant, although I suspect the daughter had more to do with it. A-

Arbor Labor Union: New Petal Instants (2020, Arrowhawk): Alt/indie band from Atlanta, influenced by "DIY punk" and classic rock and Walt Whitman and Woody Guthrie. B+(**)

BROM: Dance With an Idiot (2019 [2020], Trost): Free jazz group, from Moscow, ninth album since 2008 -- Anton Ponomarev (alto sax), Dmitry Lapshin (bass guitar), and Yaroslav Kurilo (drums) appear to be long-time members, with Felix Mikensky (electronics, guitar) joining here, modulating the raw furor a bit, even making it a bit tuneful. B+(***)

City Girls: City on Lock (2020, Quality Control/Motown): Hip-hop duo from Miami, Caresha Brownlee (Yung Miami) and Jatavia Johnson (JT), both with too much street cred/scars too soon. Second album after a mixtape. Most frequent word: pussy, probably followed by N* and bitch (especially when they host a male guest). Over the top, but so are the trap beats. A-

Emily Duff: Born on the Ground (2020, Mr Mudshow Music): Singer-songwriter from Queens, couple albums but pretty low profile, has picked up a bit of drawl in her voice, giving her some appeal to country/Americans afficionados, picks up a roots-rock producer to sharpen her rockabilly edge. B+(***)

Tyler Higgins: Broken Blues (2016 [2020], Shhpuma): Guitarist, also plays organ, describes this as "experimental music that draws on folk/blues/jazz traditions," third album, short one (29:47), trio with upright bass and drums. Gospel pieces like "Yes Jesus Loves Me" are the clearest cases, turned into dense walls of sound with nothing especially improvisational about them. B+(**)

Kehlani: It Was Good Until It Wasn't (2020, Atlantic): Sometime around the turn of the century, r&b went slack, turning away from the dominant church-based wail to its opposite. While I'm not a big fan of the former (at least for lesser artists than Aretha), I've long had trouble getting into the latter. Three plays in, I'm barely with her, the bits of rap helping. Sex, too. A-

Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Mind the Gap of Silence (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Pianist Mathias Landaeus's trio, plus the saxophonist (soprano, alto, tenor). Fourth album together (counting the compilation Vinyl), mostly Küchen's songs. Some very strong passages. B+(***)

Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings E&F Sides (2017-18 [2020], International Anthem): Drummer, second generation, born in Paris, grew up in Massachusetts, 2018 album was a crossover hit, had four sides: one each recorded in New York, Chicago, London, and Los Angeles. These look and feel like outtakes from the same sessions. B+(**)

Paulette McWilliams: A Woman's Story (2020, Blujazz): Standards singer, had an album and a couple singles c. 1977, a couple more since 2001. Closes with a strong "Both Sides Now." B+(*) [cd]

Mekons: Exquisite (2020, self-released): Surprise release, pieced together following the formula of a surrealist game "cadavre exquis," with each remotely locked down member adding their bits remotely. Easily recaptures the sound and feel of Mekons albums everywhere. B+(***) [bc]

Dawn Oberg: 2020 Revision (2020, self-released, EP): San Francisco-based Singer-songwriter, plays piano, flirted with jazz, turned political with her Nothing Rhymes With Orange EP, offers 3 more songs here (8:52), including a lame takedown of "Mitch McConnell." B- [bc]

Larry Ochs/Aram Shelton Quartet: Continental Drift (2012-18 [2020], Clean Feed): Two saxophonists (tenor/sopranino and alto), plus bass (Mark Dresser on six cuts from 2012, Scott Walton on two from 2018) and drums (Kjell Nordeson). A-

The Rails: Cancel the Sun (2019, Psychonaut): English group, principally James Walbourne and Kami Thompson -- daughter of Richard and Linda, sister of Teddy Thompson, so tempting to call this folk-rock, but tries hard to escape. One song goes: "save the planet/ kill yourself/ it's the least that you could do," then flips that around to "kill the planet/ save yourself." B+(*)

Roots Magic: Take Root Among the Stars (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Italian quartet, third album: Alberto Popolla (clarinets), Errico De Fabritiis (alto/baritone sax), bass, and drums, plus guest flute on two tracks, vibes on one. Starts off with an irresistible rhythm track, covers blues (Skip James, Charley Patton) and jazz (Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, Kalaparusha, John Carter, Charles Tyler), with the occasional hot spot. B+(***)

Thumbscrew: The Anthony Braxton Project (2019 [2020], Cuneiform): Trio, fifth album, the subject a natural given that Tomas Fujiwara (drums/vibraphone) and Mary Halvorson (guitar) studied under him, and Michael Formanek (bass) played in Braxton's legendary 1980s Quartet. Braxton's compositions have always been opaque to me, leaving me with the fascination of his playing around them. Halvorson has that same effect. A- [dl]

Charles Tolliver: Connect (2019 [2020], Gearbox): Trumpet player, main period recording was 1968-88, though he returned with two 2007-09 records, and now this one. Started out on the left fringe of hard bop, and hasn't budged much. Recorded this in England with Jesse Davis (alto sax) and Keith Brown (piano), adding Binker Golding (tenor sax) for 2 (of 4) tracks. B+(***)

Matt Ulery: Pollinator (2019 [2020], Woolgathering): Chicago bassist, tenth album since 2012, plays sousaphone here, in a sextet with trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, piano, and drums. Has an upbeat party vibe, before it gets too serious. B++(**)

Otomo Yoshihide/Chris Pitsiokis: Live in Florence (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Prolific Japanese guitarist, also turntables here, Discogs lists 119 albums since 1989; duets with alto saxophonist, also credited with electronics. Experimental, rather ragged and harsh, but has some appeal. B+(*) [dl]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Harry Beckett: Joy Unlimited (1974 [2020], Cadillac): Trumpet player (1935-2010), originally from Barbados, moved to UK in 1954, played in a number of important British jazz bands. With Ray Russell (guitar), Brian Miller (piano), bass, and drums. Opens with tension and edge, eventually settling for groove. B+(**)

Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris: Live in Sao Paulo (2008 [2020], Nublu): Morris (1947-2013) came up with a system of conducted improvisations (conduction), and applied it extensively in his 1988-95 10-CD box Testament. He organized this group for a stand at Nublu, a club in Manhattan's Lower East Side, and they released an album in 2007, before going on tour. Plan now is to release a dozen live albums at monthly intervals. This is the second, looks like most of the 9 musicians and 4 vocalists were picked up in Brazil. Only two horns -- Graham Haynes on cornet and Ilhan Ersahin on tenor sax -- keyboards, and double guitar-bass-drums. B+(*)

The Stooges: Live at Goose Lake: August 8th, 1970 (1970 [2020], Third Man): A month (and a day) after their second album, Fun House, dropped, reprising all seven songs, and nothing else. Awkward, sloppy, has some cathartic moments in "Fun House," then blows up. B

Gillian Welch: Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1 (2002 [2020], Acony): Folksinger, turned some heads with her 1996 album Revival (A- in my book), although Christgau was quick to pan her (B-). Boots seems to be her authorized bootleg series, begun in 2016 with outtakes from Revival. These songs were reportedly recorded to wrap up a record contract, but went lost along the way. B+(*)

Zam Groove: Music From Zambia ([2020], SWP): "2 deep trance tracks by xylophone master Crispin Mutanuka, 3 shining examples of the Barotse Guitar style by the Lipa Band and Libala Band, and 2 sparkling tracks with the kalimba and golden voice of Mufrika Edward." Adds up to 7 tracks, 34:36, collected by Zambian-born field-recordist Michael Baird, and that's all I know. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

John Chibadura: The Best of John Chibadura ([1986], ZMC): From Zimbabwe (1957-99), original surname Nyamukokoko, nickname refers to his guitar prowess (impressive, indeed), recorded an album with Sunguru Boys in 1985, more with Tembo Brothers. Discogs has nothing before 1983, and I can't place these ten titles. Fast and catchy, more like a single slice than a career retrospective -- this appears to have been released just as his short career was starting. A-

Extra Ball: Birthday [Polish Jazz Vol. 48] (1976, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish fusion band, first of six albums 1976-83, led by guitarist Jaroslaw Smietana, with tenor sax, keyboards, bass, and drums. B

Steve Harris/ZAUM: A Is for Ox (2006-07 [2008], Amazon): Live tracks, group has extra guitar and piano, meanders some, takes shape with Geoff Hearn's saxophones. B+(***) [bc]

The Keith Ingham-Harry Allen Quintet: My Little Brown Book: A Celebration of Billy Strayhorn's Music, Volume One (1993 [1994], Progressive): English pianist, retro swing player from the late 1970s on, moved to New York in 1978, often starring on other folks' albums -- Marty Grosz's Unsaturated Fats (1990) is a favorite. Here with a fresh-faced tenor saxophonist, doing what they love most, with guitar (Chris Flory), bass (Denis Irwin), and drums (Chuck Riggs). A-

The Harry Allen-Keith Ingham Quintet: The Intimacy of the Blues: A Celebration of Billy Strayhorn's Music, Volume Two (1993 [1994], Progressive): Swapped the credit around, but same band, same three-day session. Caveat here is that Napster only has 7/16 tracks, but I'd be surprised if I ever find a more drop-dead gorgeous take of "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing," and I've heard plenty. Note: the focus on ballads here actually does bring Allen to the fore. B+(***)

Keith Ingham: Rockin' in Rhythm (2010 [2011], Arbors): Piano trio with Frank Tate (bass) and Steve Little (drums), nice set of standards including some bop-era jazz pieces (Powell, Lewis, Shorter, Walton). B+(*)

Krzysztof Komeda-Trzcinski: Komeda [Polish Radio Jazz Archives 04] (1957-62 [2013], Polskie Radio): Poland's most famous jazz composer, legendary long past his early death (at 37 in 1969), even known abroad for his film scores (mostly for Roman Polanski). Trzcinski was his last name, added to some credits here, mostly writing. He was also a MD, so originally used Komeda as a stage name to keep his careers distinct. These are radio shots: four sextet tracks from 1957, three live tracks with Swedish saxophonist Bernt Rosengren, four piano trio tracks from a 1962 concert. Each slice impresses. I haven't figured out why he seems so coherent, but he does. A-

Krzysztof Komeda: Ballet Etudes (1963, Metronome): Title continues: The Music of Komeda: A Jazz Message From Poland Presented by an International Quintet. Recorded in Copenhagen, with Komeda on piano, Jan Wroblewski (tenor sax), Allan Botschinsky (trumpet), Roman Dylag (bass), and Rune Carlsson (drums). The title piece(s) run 21:56. Trumpet drops out on the second side, with long takes of "Crazy Girl" and "Alea" (12:58 + 7:06). A-

Jerzy Milian Trio: Baazaar [Polish Jazz Vol. 17] (1969 [1970], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Vibraphone/marimba player (1935-2018), recorded a couple dozen albums. Trio presumably with bass and drums, but there are also some flute and vocals (Ewa Wanat). He sounds nothing like the swingers who popularized the instrument, or the tinklers who followed them, or even the later ones who edged into the avant-garde -- moody, I guess. B+(*)

Zbigniew Namyslowski: Zbigniew Namyslowski (1977, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Alto sax quartet, plus extras all the way up to orchestra, nudging them into fusion or something. Scattered, redeemed by occasional sax solos. B

Zbigniew Namyslowski: Standards (2003, Quartet): Quartet plus guest trumpet on one track, trombone on three, all standards starting with "After You've Gone." B+(***)

Zbigniew Namyslowski: Assymetry (2006, Quartet): Quintet, the leader playing soprano as well as his usual alto sax, with trombone, piano, bass, and drums, on all original material. B+(**)

Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski Quartet: Flyin' Lady [Polish Jazz Vol. 55] (1978, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Tenor saxophonist, played in Polish Jazz Quartet (1964), remained important enough to be nicknamed "the godfather of Polish Jazz." Backed by guitar, bass, and drums, hard bop with the occasional funk riff. B+(***)

Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski Sextet: Komeda: Moja Slodka Europejska Ojczyzna [Polish Jazz Vol. 80] (2013 [2018], Warner Music Poland, 2CD): Live tribute, presumably songs from Krzyzstof Komeda, the patron saint of Polish jazz, led by his former tenor saxophonist (albeit 50 years earlier). With Robert Majewski (trumpet), Henryk Miskiewicz (alto sax), Wojciech Niedziela (piano), bass, and drums. Exhaustive, although it does have sweet spots, even majestic ones. B+(**)

Added grades for remembered lps from way back when:

  • Iggy and the Stooges: Metallic K.O. (1976, Skydog): B+
  • Iggy Pop: TV Eye 1977 Live (1977 [1978], RCA): B-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Berkman: Plays Music by John Coltrane and Pete Seeger: Solo Piano (Without)
  • Bruno Råberg/Jason Robinson/Bob Weiner: The Urgency of Now (Creative Nation Music)
  • Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (Pyroclastic) [09-11]
  • Fumi Tomita: Celebrating Bird/A Tribute to Charlie Parker (Next Level) [09-25]

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Weekend Roundup

After what seemed like a very long deliberation, Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate for vice president. The main takeaway is that he'll listen to whatever the left wing of the party has to say, but he's going to staff the government with people friendly with and acceptable to business interests. The New Democrat vision was to show that business is better served with Democrats in power. Clinton and Obama worked hard to make that case -- especially with trade deals like NAFTA and TTP that were injurious and opposed by critically important traditional union allies. While they were unable to convince most capitalists, they did manage to break off enough support to run well-funded campaigns. Biden fits neatly into their program -- if anything, he anticipated it, coming from a state which is famed mostly for its lax corporate laws. Against Donald Trump, he has the potential to raise a lot of big donor money -- as long as he is seen as a buffer against, rather than as a tool of, the insurgent left. The strongest VP candidate, based on her campaign skills, organizational ability, and command of the issues and policies, was Elizabeth Warren, but she's widely viewed in business circles as antagonistic to their interests. Harris is not viewed as hostile -- indeed, she's had tremendous success raising money in Silicon Valley -- making her the safe (and lucrative) bet.

Reassuring big money donors is one big thing Harris brings to the campaign. Her chuminess not only helps support Biden, it helps insulate the campaign from charges of being a vehicle for far-left radicals -- the main charge that Trump's Republicans have been making. In particular, Harris's reputation as a law-and-order hard case makes it clear that "defund the police" and "abolish ICE" are not part of the Biden agenda, quickly reducing a major thrust of Republican campaign fodder to the hysterical ravings of deranged paranoids.

Biden's primary success was based on a hunch shared by many Democrats, including some who policy-wise are more sympathetic to the left, that this year, running against this exceptionally odious president, it is important to risk as little as possible, to build a broad coalition around the single essential goal of denying Trump a second term. The early primary season turned on issues, with Sanders and Warren pulling the party to the left with their strong command of issues and policy; Buttigieg and Klobuchar countered as the most articulate candidates on the right, squeezing out potential compromisers like Harris and Booker. As Sanders emerged as the leader, the billionaires jumped in, and Michael Bloomberg spent the better part of a billion dollars to prove how virulently opposed to Sanders and Warren his class was. Bloomberg had no personal appeal, but served as a catalyst, aligning the party rank-and-file's deepest seated fears into a surge of support for Biden. Had she not dropped out, Harris might have become the middle-ground candidate that Biden turned into. But having dropped out, she returns to the campaign largely unscathed.

Biden committed to selecting a woman early on. Thus far, the only person who has found that decision controversial has been Donald Trump. There has been a good deal of discussion about race, which mostly struck me as misguided and/or irrelevant. I admit that I didn't see any advantage to Biden picking a black running mate. I figured doing so might cost him more white voters than it otherwise gained -- mostly because his own history on race and/or crime issues is rather tawdry, which may have helped him gain white votes, especially in Southern primaries. On the other hand, Harris is a brilliant solution to the question: she is the sort of black that iffy whites would find least stereotypical -- traits Obama shared, but her even more so -- yet she is black enough to provoke hideous reactions among more committed racists, who were solidly pro-Trump anyway. If anything has been made clear from first reactions, it's that Trump and his ilk are the ones trying to stir up America's race problem.

One reason Obama won was that he made it possible for many iffy whites to feel good about themselves for rising above their racist past. In picking Harris, Biden shows that he's better than that. In slandering Harris, Trump shows that he's not. That's hardly the only clear cut distinction between the two, but it sure is one of them.

Some background, referred or alluded to in the links that follow. Harris was born in 1964 in Oakland, California. Her parents were both immigrants, who came to UC Berkeley in 1960-61 as graduate students, received PhD's, and had distinguished careers. Her father is Donald J. Harris, from Jamaica, professor of economics at Stanford, now emeritus (age 81). Her mother was Shyamala Gopalan, from Tamil Nadu, India, studied endocrinology, and worked on breast cancer research in various universities and labs, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She died in 2009 (70). They had two daughters, and divorced in 1971. The daughters lived with their mother, including several years in Montreal, Canada. Kamala graduated from high school in Quebec, then attended Howard University in DC, then UC Hastings College of Law. She was admitted to the Bar in 1990, working in the Alameda County DA office, then in San Francisco (DA and Mayor's Office). She was elected San Francisco District Attorney in 2003 and 2007, California Attorney General 2010 and 2014, and was elected to the US Senate in 2016.

Some links on the Harris pick:

Tweet of the week, from Chris Hayes:

Something I just keeping back to over and over is the tremendous continuity between the last two Republican presidents, both of whom left the country in ruins, amidst historic catastrophes. The entire party and movement are rotten to the core and unfit to govern.

To which Steve M. astutely replied:

And yet Democratic politcians never say this -- mainstream Dems don't want to insult Republican voters, while progressive Dems are so angry at mainstream Dems that they lose sight of the sheer godawfulness of Republicans.

Some scattered links this week:

Alexandra Alter: Michael Cohen releases details about his forthcoming memoir. Title is Disloyal. Publication date September 8. Annie Karni: has more: In tell-all foreword, Cohen promises sordid tales Trump 'does not want you to read': "In his memoir, Disloyal, Michael D. Cohen, President Trump's onetime lawyer and fixer, claims that he had unique access to Mr. Trump, a man with 'no true friends.'"

Kate Aronoff:

  • A novel way to fund a green economy: "Instead of bailing out Exxon and other fossil fuel companies, a National Investment Authority could democratize finance and help ordinary people and their governments fight climate change."

    The government has been pretty kind to fossil fuel companies these last few months. Recent disclosures from the Federal Reserve's secondary bond-buying program show that it has now bought $17 billion worth of ExxonMobil debt and $28.5 million from Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. Private asset manager Blackrock oversees this purchasing program, among others.

    Blackrock, with friends in both parties, is on the verge of becoming a fourth branch of government. Despite its pledge in early 2020 to recalibrate investment practices with climate change in mind, so far on behalf of the Fed it has seemed to offer up nearly unlimited public funds to bail out the world's biggest polluters. These investments serve as a lifeline to a deeply troubled and increasingly unprofitable industry. Meanwhile, state and local governments -- and the millions of people who'll soon lose their unemployment insurance -- have found bailouts much harder to come by. And hopes for a green recovery (which an increasingly large swathe of the Democratic Party supports to stave off depression and climate catastrophe) look alarmingly scarce.

  • We can't fight climate change without China: "The Democratic Party's 2020 platform echoes President Trump's hawkishness on China. That's a mistake."

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Co-opt & corrupt: How Trump bent and broke the GOP.

James Bruno: What are the chances Trump could actually go to jail?

Kyle Cheney: GAO finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli are ineligible to serve in their top DHS roles.

Colin Dickey: The helpless outrage of the anti-Trump book: "The Trump era has birthed a distinct new genre of political writing: irate, forgettable, and strangely complacent." Review of Donald W Drezner: The Toddler in Chief: What Donald Trump Teaches Us About the Modern Presidency, and Jonathan Karl: Front Row at the Trump Show, with side glances elsewhere. I'm struck by a quote from long-time ABC White House correspondent Karl (previously known for his "reputation for pitching softballs to Bush Administration officials"): "I don't believe there has ever been a more exhausting, exhilarating, dangerous, maddening, frustrating, downright bizarre, or more important time to be a White House reporter." I'm sure that dealing with Trump on a daily basis can seem to be all of those things -- except important: nothing Trump says has any bearing on the stories journalists should be telling about his administration, and detracts from their ability to do so.

Jason Ditz: US push to extend Iran arms embargo fails at UN Security Council: 2 votes for (US and Dominican Republic, of 13 needed), 2 against (Russia and China), 11 abstentions. More:

  • Bob Dreyfuss: Could covert war with Iran become overt before November 3rd?. I doubt it, but the scenario I wouldn't put past Pompeo goes like this: Trump loses, but is still in office until January, and uses that period of time to launch various offenses against Iran. Iran, in turn, will be tempted to hold back until Biden takes office, hoping for restoration of US support for the nuclear agreement; Iran's failure to retalliate will be taken by Trump as license to escalate further. Note that some of the attacks could be facilitated by proxies, like the new UAE-Israel partnership.

  • Mark Fitzpatrick: Pompeo set to double down on failure to extend Iran arms embargo.

Jesse Dorris: How DeForrest Brown, Jr, centers the black body in techno music: I don't usually put music links here, but have had trouble keeping track of them for Music Week. I reviewed several records by Brown last week, especially recommending his (i.e., Speaker Music's) Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (A-).

Robert Guffey: What is QAnon? A not-so-brief introduction to the conspiracy theory that's eating America: "Do millions of Americans really believe Donald Trump is saving children from underground demons? It seems that way." I admit that I never had any interest in even finding out what QAnon referred to. Still don't, even after often reading that Trump's most fervent supporters are psyched on whatever it is. Even if it weren't nuts, I doubt it would ever have a fraction of the ill-effects of believing in Atlas Shrugged. Or, for that matter, The Road to Serfdom. The old mental illnesses are still the direst.

Chris Hedges: America's death march: Whoever wins, this election won't save us: "Neither [Biden nor Trump] will stop hyper-nationalism, crisis cults and other signs of an empire in terminal decline." I hate coming off as an optimist, but Hedges has turned into a useless critic of modern life, like the existentialists around the time I stopped bothering with them. There are gross malaises that Hedges may still have some insight into, but there's also a lot of nuts-and-bolts dysfunction that even Biden can figure out and do something to keep utter chaos and collapse at bay -- like keeping the Post Office delivering mail. Halting global warming and unwinding America's worldwide "empire of bases" may be a bit harder, and Biden doesn't have the best of track records, but even there the election decision will surely have some bearing.

Rebecca Heilweil: The dystopian tech that companies are selling to help schools reopen sooner.

Mark Helenowski: Billionaires have made an absolute killing during the pandemic. The number is staggering.

Patrick Iber: How the GOP became the party of resentment: Review of Rick Perlstein's book Reaganland, the fourth volume in what promises to be an immense history of American conservatism from Goldwater on. (I've read the second volume, Nixonland. Been meaning to get to the others, but I'm daunted by their length -- over 3,000 pages to date.)

Ezra Klein:

  • Most candidates run to the center in the general election. Biden is moving left. Title is misleading, as the only criteria Klein is using is where the VP picks stands in relation to the Presidential candidate (Clinton-Kaine, Obama-Biden, Kerry-Edwards, Gore-Lieberman), and depend on making assumptions that may not be warranted. The first three VP's came from more centrist states, but if anything came off as more populist (especially Edwards). Lieberman came from a more liberal state, and was probably viewed as more liberal than Gore at the time, but he later discredited himself. Harris is from a more liberal state than Biden, but isn't all that liberal for California. On the other hand, the left-right spectrum has shifted this time, with Trump so extreme on the right it's nonsensical to even try to split the difference. I don't expect Biden to try to move left, but some left-aligned policies are so popular there's no reason not to go with them. If Harris looks to be a bit to his left, I don't see how that hurts him.

  • What would Keynes do? Podcast/interview with Zach Carter, author of The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes.

    For Keynes, there's always something outside of consumer preferences that they need to align with. There's always a good life and a good society that we're trying to guide society towards. He believes there are objectively good things in the world, that not everything is relative, that not everybody's preferences are equal. That is a paternalistic approach, as you note.

    The way that his successors who take him seriously as a philosopher try to resolve this -- and I think [John Kenneth] Galbraith is the most successful in this -- is to say this is what democracy is for. We don't want to have big, bad, terrible monarch telling us what to do. But in a democracy people can express their preferences politically. And using the market as an alternative to democratic politics is signing us up for a particularly bad life. . . .

    [Keynes] could never really make up his mind about where he was on the question of socialism, but it was very clear to him by the end of his life that large sections of the economy had to be socialized if we were going to realize the type of good life that he wanted realized. In the States, we think of him as this guy who legitimizes deficit spending. In the UK, he has a very different legacy: his most significant policy achievement in the UK is socializing British medicine. He's the financial architect of the National Health Service.

Sheelah Kolhatkar: Trump's incoherent policy on TikTok and China.

Robert Kuttner: Falling upward: The surprising survival of Larry Summers: "He is once again a senior economic adviser to another prospective Democratic president."

Lyz Lenz: An inland hurricane tore through Iowa. You probably didn't hear about it. Gusts of up to 112 mph did considerable damage, leaving a quarter-million without power. There is some video from Chicago showing heavy rain, but no other mention of it. I've seen completely dry wind storms in Kansas, with winds in the vicinity of 80 mph. They are very rare. I've seen hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico dump a lot of rain in Kansas, and I've read that the 1900 Galveston hurricane still produced hurricane-force winds as far inland as Chicago, but this wasn't one of those.

Martin Longman: Trump's bizarre obsession with Mount Rushmore.

German Lopez:

Louisa Loveluck/Chris Mooney: Baghdad's record heat offers glimpse of world's climate change future.

Ian Millhiser:

Samuel Moyn: The Never Trumpers have already won: "They're not trying to save the GOP from a demagogue. They're infiltrating the Democratic Party." Review of Robert P Saldin/Steven M Teles: Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites.

Exceptionally close to the Never Trump insurgency, Saldin and Teles take a cozy approach to their study of this movement and its central characters, faithfully drawing on their accounts of the rise of Trump. They start with the national security experts -- figures such as former National Security Council staffers Peter Feaver and Philip Zelikow. Officially, this stalwart crew feared that Trump threatened the Cold War national security consensus that had once led conservatives beyond geopolitical "isolationism." Views once safely quarantined to the libertarian or racist fringes of their party were now getting a second look, they worried.

Their concern here was hardly disinterested: More important than anything else for them was that Trump was breaking the taboo within the Republican Party that forbade calling the Iraq War a gross error.

That Never Trumpers were more bothered by Trump's apostasy on Iraq than by his racism, self-dealing, and ignorance of the Constitution makes sense. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that their revolt against Trump has won them much influence in the Democratic Party -- where second thoughts on Iraq, for instance, is now the norm even among those who originally voted to authorize the war. It is true that they have reinforced the view among Democratic hawks that it is safest to attack Trump over foreign policy issues, especially when they can paint him as doing favors for Russia. But that's not because they've cultured any support among rank-and-file Democrats. All they did was to sway a few centrists into thinking that they might pick up support among nominal Republicans for impeachment and such if the issues were defined strictly in national security terms. That never worked, other than to sidetrack Democrats from pressing more popular charges, like corruption and gross negligence. By the way, Saldin and Teles wrote a reply to this review: Don't blame Never Trumpers for the left's defeat. They have a point, provided you don't count Michael Bloomberg among the Never Trumpers -- although you could argue that he was the biggest one of all, especially in a world where free speech is denominated in dollars.

Olivia Nuzzi: The most tremendous reelection campaign in American history ever: "Inside the chaotic, desperate, last-minute Trump 2020 reboot." I can't read this because "You've reached your monthly article limit." But I read the Kos synopsis: Trump's campaign IS the cesspool of corruption and incompetence we thought it was.

Osita Nwanevu: Trump's "blasphemous" attacks on Biden were torn from the Republican hymnal: "The president's pearl-clutching critics have forgotten how defaming Democrats' faith is a longstanding tradition for the GOP." Still, no examples here further back than 2012 -- I expected at least a reference to the Republicans' characterization of the Democratic Party in the 1880s: "The party of rum, Romanism, and rebellion." After all, charging your opponent with antipathy to religion just exposes your own bigotry and intolerance. Nwanevu quotes Ashley Parker: "Rather than look for campaign ammunition in the former vice president's long track record of politically vulnerable votes and policy proposals, Trump has instead chosen to describe Biden as a godless Marxist bent on destroying the country with a radical agenda that would make Che Guevara blanch." At least those are charges that require no work researching, or any measure of self-reflection.

Aaron Rupar:

Katherine Stewart: Betsy DeVos's plot to enrich private schools amid the pandemic: "The secretary of education wants religious schools to flourish at the public system's expense; and she's doing it under the cover of the coronavirus crisis."

Matt Taibbi: Big Pharma's Covid-19 profiteers.

Alex Ward:

Li Zhou: Why Democrats are holding out for more comprehensive stimulus: "They don't think Trump's executive actions come close to covering what's needed -- and they have the leverage to push for more." Besides: "Republicans are set to bear more of the political backlash, for now."

PS: Robert Christgau forwarded this string of tweets from John Ganz (@lionel_trolling). I couldn't follow it as presented, so wondered if copying it down might help. Christgau's comment:

Read the five-part thread, reread a few of your political tweets, and ask yourself whether he nailed you or not. If you find that question discomfiting, please try to err on the side of not being contrarian till the election is over.

Ganz's thread:

  • There's also a kind of anti-respectability politics, which views everything that appeals to conventional people as either hopelessly naive and dowdy or thoroughly hypocritical, and sometimes as both
  • Usually this attitude is fostered in bohemian milieus, where a shared commitment to 'epater les bourgeois' and cultivated anti-conformism mistakes itself for political principle, it's almost beneath mentioning that it becomes its own sort of conformism
  • You get an importation of the intellectual habits of art criticism and social appraisal into politics, in some ways a welcome new perspective for political judgment to consider, but have the unfortunate result of turning everything into a question of affect or pose
  • There is always a performative aspect of politics, it's a kind of theater, so the eye trained to either judge artistic or social performances is going to make very witty and sometimes penetrating observations about politics, but usually they have more wit than substance
  • Politics, or rather commentary on politics, is one of the last places where people can maintain the very 19th century pretension of being simultaneously totally ensconced in a tiny elite cult of decadence while convincing themselves they understand the feelings of "the people"

There are also some comments by Ganz:

  • Some of the points of the bohemian political commentators are undoubtedly correct: much of conventional society and its ruling class are hypocritical and stupid, and their vaunted norms both hide their misconduct and prevent them from thinking
  • But they don't really have much of substantial position beyond seeing through these things and flaunting their own superiority to it all
  • Very fond of armchair sociology, they can't raelly theorize their own sociological position vis a vis the squares and dupes and how they need them for their existence
  • It's histrionic in the old sense of the word: a kind of theater of poses and attitudes, which might provide worthwhile critique of the serious world that is actually just as full of pretense, if it could drop its own pretense to self-seriousness and authenticity

Well, no, I don't think he "nailed" me. I don't even think he struck a glancing blow. Although it's hard to tell what he was aiming at, due to the total lack of specific references. I don't doubt that there are strands of socio-political analysis that reflect one clique making fun of, belittling, and/or looking askance at a broader population, scoring points with their wit. At least since I started reading critical theory, I've always been critical of trying to understand, much less practice, politics as an aesthetic concern. In fact, I'm pretty skeptical of anyone who attempts to impose an arbitrary ethics on it.

I have no idea what kind of political analysis Christgau wants to counter, but I can make a guess given his time frame: from now to the November election. On a good day, you can imagine an infinite range of political possibilities, and that's what people like me prefer to talk about. I'd like to write about why patents are always bad, or why everyone should have free access to the internet, and advertising should be banned there (except when you specifically ask for its, and even then you need to ability to challenge it). However, between now (roughly speaking) and election day in November, the political universe we live in has radically constricted to the choices on the ballots, in particular the two dominant political parties here in the US). During that time, the only practical thing you can do is to compare A and B (or, realistically, R and D) -- or, at least, that's the position of people who are totally invested in the election to the exclusion of all else. I'm not generally disposed to do that. In particular, I want to reserve the option of saying when both sides are in the wrong -- and I swear to you, I'm not being contrarian; there is always some underlying principle at stake. And those principles are grounded in serious thought; they're not just things that strike my aesthetic fancy.

Of course, politics isn't just voting. If, between now and November, cops kill yet another unarmed black teenager for no reason, I'm not going to tell you not to go march, even if I suspect doing so might reflect poorly on the election. It might even be a good idea to put a march together in Washington for funding for the USPS, unemployment, to stop evictions, etc. (a good time might be during the so-called Republican Convention, but not at wherever it's supposed to be -- not to draw attention to them but to take away from their news cycle).

And sure, take it easy on the Democrats until November. If they win, you'll have plenty of occasion to critique them in the future, but at least you'll be starting in a better place. And if they lose, you'll need them more than ever.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33774 [33729] rated (+45), 218 [223] unrated (-5).

Most of this week's haul is tied to a question I tried to answer a couple days back. I've done a little editing on my answer since its initial post. Always good to get back and tune some more -- something I rarely manage these days. The big questions concerned British jazz from the 1960s-70s, and also Polish jazz. The question mentioned a list of British and South African musicians by name. My review counts for them are: Joe Harriott (6), Michael Garrick (2), Don Rendell (0), Ian Carr (0), Mike Osborne (2), Tony Coe (4), Harry Beckett (2), Tubby Hayes (6), Chris McGregor (4), Dudu Pukwana (5), Mongezi Feza (1), Johnny Dyani (3), Louis Moholo (6), Annie Whitehead (0), Lindsay Cooper (0). That illuminates some holes in my listening.

I thought I might come up with a reference list of British jazz musicians, but both Google and Wikipedia failed badly -- e.g., neither mentioned Evan Parker, who would certainly top my list with 48 albums. After Parker, my most reviewed British jazz musicians are: Barry Guy (32), John McLaughlin (32), John Surman (27), Dave Holland (25), Tommy Smith (19), John Butcher (17), Paul Dunmall (16), Marian McPartland (15), Billy Jenkins (14), Andy Sheppard (11), Trevor Watts (11), Derek Bailey (10), Elton Dean (9), Alexander Hawkins (9), Stan Tracey (9), Chris Barber (8), Tony Oxley (8), John Taylor (8), Keith Tippett (8). Very likely I've forgotton a few. Further down, you get important musicians like Howard Riley (6), Gordon Beck (5), Paul Rutherford (5), Iain Ballamy (3), Humphrey Lyttleton (3), Ronnie Scott (3), Alan Skidmore (3), Mike Westbrook (3), Acker Bilk (2), Spike Hughes (2), Ken Colyer (1). I've probably slighted most of them.

But rather than try to catch up with British jazz musicians I've missed, I spent much of the week with Polish ones. Mostly it was just easier: Polskie Nagrania Muza (now owned by Warner Music Poland) has a series of 80 volumes of "Polish Jazz," and that's most of what you get when you do a title search for "Polish jazz" on Napster. The immediate appeal was a couple albums I had missed by Tomasz Stanko, and a couple more by Zbigniew Namyslowski -- I've long been a fan of his 1973 album, Winobranie. Most of this week's haul comes from that series, with a few more to come next week (although my interest is finally starting to flag). I wasn't surprised to find a bunch of trad jazz titles, but was pleased to note how well done they were. Indeed, the bop groups were also pretty sophisticated. The only genre that fell short of contemporary standards was 1970s fusion -- which, you may recall, could be pretty bad everywhere.

Two other clusters in the "old music": I started the week with English folksinger Shirley Collins' latest, and thought I'd sample some of her early records (especially one with Albion Dance Band which I used to own, but couldn't find). That didn't last long. The second cluster is from English drummer Steve Harris. I was reminded of him while looking at my list of Penguin Guide crown albums, and his was the only one I hadn't heard. Turns out that both it and a bunch more have recently (2018) been released on Bandcamp. I wound up liking the 2002 ZAUM album even more.

For new music, I worked a few things off my queue -- some of which won't be released until the Fall (it's hard to pace myself with them). Also spent a fair amount of time on the fence over DeForrest Brown Jr.'s latest album, so I wound up listening to his other releases. Listening order below, not release order.

I'll try to get around to some old British jazz this week. See if anything really clicks. Would be great if I could find my old Blue Notes for Monghezi LP, still unrated. Also been looking at the Bandcamp lists, which suggested Speaker Music (also Jenna Camille and Hideto Sasaki).

Recommendation: Jason Bailey and Mike Hull (my nephew) have started to produce podcasts. Episode 1: 'Fight the Power' discusses Spike Lee's film, Do the Right Thing.

Questions queue is empty now. Please use the form.

New records reviewed this week:

Max Bessesen: Trouble (2020, Ropeadope): Alto saxophonist, originally from Denver, based in Chicago, records in both places for his debut album, adding Colorado-based trumpet player Ron Miles for the Denver set. With Eric Krouse on piano, plus bass and drums. Nice postbop. B+(**) [09-04]

Jenna Camille: The Time Is NOW (2020, self-released): Singer-songwriter, plays keyboards, born in Atlanta, based in DC, last name may be Henderson, self-released an album in 2014, sixth release per Bandcamp. Politics first, experimentation always, finally settling into ambient groove. B+(*) [bc]

Shirley Collins: Heart's Ease (2020, Domino): English folk singer, 85, MBE, I remember her from Albion Dance Band in the 1970s but didn't get anything into the database. Her debut was actually 1959, and she retired in 1980, but came back with a very solid album in 2016 (Lodestar, high B+). Voice is worn, gravity helps. B+(**)

Duotrio: In the Bright and Deep (2020, Blujazz): "A modular chamber music ensemble" led by trumpeter Daniel Nissenbaum, configured as two bands, neither trios: one based in Holland (quintet), the other in Philadelphia (quartet plus strings/orchestra, vocals on one piece, guitar on another). Sounds semi-classical to me, not to my taste. B- [cd]

Gato Libre: Koneko (2019 [2020], Libra): Japanese trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's group, a trio with Yasuko Kaneko on trombone and wife Satoko Fujii on accordion. Eighth group album, with 2006's Nomad my favorite (by far). Interesting enough, but seems a bit slow. B+(**) [cd]

John Hollenbeck: Songs You Like a Lot (2019 [2020], Flexatonic): Drummer, mastermind bnehind the Claudia Project, Large Ensemble impressario, presents his third album of likable songs, with Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry singing, Gary Versace on piano, and the Frankfurt Radio Big Band. Mostly songs I don't much like, but he also manages to spoil "God Only Knows" -- and not just by twisting it into "Only God Knows." B- [08-14]

Camden Joy: American Love (2020, self-released): Tom Adelman, a novelist before singer-songwriter, follows up his EP with a full-length album, 14 songs, lots of historical figures from the suffragists and William Jennings Bryan to Johnny Paycheck: "A lot of famous dead Amerians collide with a lot of dying American musical styles." Musically, reminds me a bit of Thomas Anderson, with less twang. B+(**)

Kenny Kotwitz & the LA Jazz Quintet: When Lights Are Low (2020, PMRecords): Leader plays accordion and celeste. Rest of the quintet adds guitar (John Chiodini), vibraphone, bass, and drums. All standards, the title cut from Benny Carter, reprised at the end. Not as schmaltzy as one might expect, but a little. B+(*) [cd]

Simon Moullier: Spirit Song (2017-20 [2020], Outside In Music): Vibraphone player (also credited with "balafon, percussions, synths"), first record, recorded over four sessions, with bass (Luca Alemano) and drums (Jongkuk Kim), most tracks adding piano and/or sax (Dayna Stephens or Morgan Guerin). I particularly like the balafon closer. B+(***) [10-09]

Jose Rizo's Mongorama: Mariposas Cantan (2018-19 [2020], Saungu): Rizo is a DJ, songwriter, and (here) bandleader, based in Los Angeles. This, obviously, is a tribute band to Mongo Santamaria, reprising his songbook, with typical flair. B+(**) [09-16]

Lawrence Sieberth Quartet: An Evening in Paris (2020, Musik Blöc): Pianist, based in New Orleans, handful of albums going back to the 1980s. Recorded this one in Paris, with Stephane Guillaume (sax), Michel Benita (bass), and Jeff Boudreaux (drums). B+(**) [cd] [09-24]

Speaker Music: Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (2020, Planet Mu): DeForrest Brown Jr., "a New York-based theorist, journalist, and curator . . . a representative of the Make Techno Black Again campaign." Maia Sanaa's opening testimony of powerful and touching. A second tract is more pragmatic and less inspired. The beats hold up on their own, at least until the final track rattles my nerves. It's called "It is the Negro Who Represents the Revolutionary Struggles for a Classless Society." Comes with a 45 page PDF, which I haven't seen. A-

Speaker Music: Of Desire, Longing (2019, Planet Mu): DeForrest Brown Jr., raised in the deep South, moved to New York 7 years ago, first album, two 23-minute pieces, "With Empathy," and "Without Excess." B+(**) [bc]

Speaker Music: Processing Intimacy (2019-20 [2020], Planet Mu): A "reassessment" of material from Of Desire, Longing, five parts squeezed into a single 45:51 track. Bits of industrial warble, scales up nicely. B+(***) [bc]

Speaker Music: Percussive Therapy (2020, Planet Mu, EP): Four tracks, 17:50. Starts with more focus on the drums (or whatever they are), but ends up in the electronic ether. B+(**) [bc]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Hideto Sasaki-Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet Plus 1: Stop Over (1976 [2020], BBE): Japanese group, leaders play trumpet and piano, accompanied by alto sax (Noriyasu Watanabe), bass, and drums. Hard bop with a lush overgrowth, comparison given is to Kenny Dorham. B+(**) [bc]

Old music:

Ewa Bem With Swing Session: Be a Man [Polish Jazz Vol. 65] (1981 [1982], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Singer, backed by trumpeter Henryk Majewski's swing band. First side in English, starting with a six-song medley and adding four more standards from "Misty" to "Groovin' High." She's very good at this. Second side is in Polish, no less swinging. B+(**)

Shirley Collins: Sweet England (1959, Argo): English folksinger, sings and plays banjo, first album, Alan Lomax produced. High, lonesome voice, pretty basic guitar and banjo, still comes back to haunt you. B+(**)

Shirley Collins: False True Lovers (1959, Folkways): Cover text: "A collection of British love songs about love, adapted and sung by Shirley Elizabeth Collins of Sussex, England, with guitar and five-string banjo accompaniment by John Halsted, Ralph Rinzler, Guy Carawan and Miss Collins. With notes by Alan Lomax." B+(*)

Shirley Collins/Davy Graham: Folk Roots, New Routes (1964, Decca): Graham plays guitar -- indeed, his first (1963) album was called The Guitar Player. More elegant, but I rather miss the banjo. B+(*)

Ducks Deluxe: Side Tracks & Smokers (1973-2009 [2010], Jungle): Six "rough mixes" from the eponymous debut sessions, sound great not least because they're looser than the final takes; two b-sides; eight live tracks from the Sean Tyla-Martin Belmont reunion band -- two Dylans I'd drop, three more bar band covers, two basic Tylas, a 9:19 "Teenage Head." B+(**)

Hagaw: Do You Love Hagaw? [Polish Jazz Vol. 12] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish trad jazz band led by banjo player Gregorz Brudko, with trumpet, trombone, sax, violin, bass, and drums, tilts the balance toward the strings. Asocjacja Hagaw recorded ten albums through 1986. B+(**)

Steve Harris: ZAUM (2002, Slam): British drummer (1948-2008), played in a rock band in the late 1960s (Woody Kern), a jazz-funk outfit from 1987 on (Pinski Zoo), formed this group in 2001, named after a Russian Futurist concept. With Cathy Stevens (six string violectra, viola), Geoff Hearn (tenor, soprano sax), Karen Wimhurst (clarinet, bass clarinet), Udo Dzierzanowski (guitar). "Instant compositions" -- works in large part because the group is so intricately balanced. A-

Steve Harris/ZAUM: Above Our Heads the Sky Splits Open (2004 [2007], Amazon): This record was awarded a Penguin Guide crown in their 8th edition, and may be the only crown album I never picked up. Sax, clarinet, two guitars, a sampler, a bunch of strings. The simplest rhythmic-focused tracks are terrific (e.g., "Trouble at house-for-one"), but the strings lack such immediate appeal -- at least until the 19:43 closer ("White pass ink black moon") puts it all together. A- [bc]

Steve Harris/ZAUM: The Little Flash of Letting Go (2004-05 [2005], Spitz Live): Band is stripped down a bit here: one horn (Geoff Hearn on tenor sax), two guitars, the strings reduced to Cathy Stevens (viola, electric violin). Also sampler on two tracks. Again, best track comes last. B+(***) [bc]

High Society: High Society [Polish Jazz Vol. 18] (1969 [1970], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Trad jazz group from Gliwice, septet, seems to be their only album, not much about the musicians, although Witold Wertel (soprano sax) and Leszek Furman (piano) are the only ones with writing/arranging credits, and the banjo (Jan Piecha) is strong throughout. B+(***)

Jazz Band Ball Orchestra: Jazz Band Ball Orchestra [Polish Jazz Vol. 8] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Trad jazz septet led by pianist Jan Boba, who wrote nearly half of the pieces. The other main composer was Zbigniew Raj, not in the band, otherwise best known for soundtracks. Bright, strong group. B+(***)

Mieczyslaw Kosz: Reminiscence [Polish Jazz Vol. 25] (1971 [1972], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist, died young (age 29 in 1973), only recorded a couple more albums. Backed here by Bronislaw Suchanek (bass) and Janusz Stefanski (drums). Two originals, one from Suchanek, covers from Borodin, Chopin, Liszt, and Lennon/McCartney. Nice, thoughtful touch. Bet he loved Bill Evans. B+(*)

Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet: Go Right (1963, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Trumpet player (1932-2007), leading a quintet with Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski (tenor sax/flute), Wojciech Karolak (piano), bass, and drums -- songs from the leader and first two. Contemporary bop, strong performances, especially the saxophonist. B+(***)

Andrzej Kurylewicz: Polish Radio Big Band [Polish Jazz Vol. 2] (1964 [1965], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Plays valve trombone here, piano elsewhere, leading a 19-piece big band, mostly wrote "serious music" after 1970, shows some knack for arranging here, with nice charts and solos. B+(**)

Adam Makowicz: Live Embers [Polish Jazz Vol. 43] (1975, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist, born Andrzej Matyszkowicz, clasically trained but more impressed by Art Tatum. Moved to New York in 1978, and wound up in Toronto, so he's relatively well known here. Solo piano, two Scott Joplin tunes, two Coltrane, rest originals. B+(*)

Mieczyslaw Mazur: Rag Swing Time [Polish Jazz Vol. 27] (1971, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist, seems to be his only album, but he also appeared in Ragtime Jazz Band and Old Timers. Delivers on his title, especially with the solo rags to open and close. Adds banjo, guitar, bass, and drums for most cuts. B+(**)

The Wlodzimierz Nahorny Trio: Heart [Polish Jazz Vol. 15] (1967 [1968], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Leader plays alto sax and piano, most distinctly the former, has had a pretty substantial career, which as far as I can tell starts here. Avant, backed by bass and drums, makes a strong impression. B+(***)

Zbigniew Namyslowski: Zbigniew Namyslowski Quartet [Polish Jazz Vol. 6] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Alto saxophonist, in the 1965 group that recorded Krzysztof Komeda's masterpiece Astigmatic, a prominent Polish jazz figure ever since -- best known to me for his 1973 album Winobranie. Quartet with the future Adam Makowicz on piano, plus bass and drums. A-

Zbigniew Namyslowski Quintet: Kujaviak Goes Funky [Polish Jazz Vol. 46] (1975, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Adds a second saxophonist, Tomasz Szukalski (soprano/tenor), and electric piano (Wojciech Karolak) and lots of bass to go funky. A-

Zbigniew Namyslowski Quintet: Polish Jazz - Yes! [Polish Jazz Vol. 77] (2016, Warner Music Poland): Plays soprano as well as tenor sax, with piano, two guitars, and trombone. B+(**)

NOVI: Bossa Nova [Polish Jazz Vol. 13] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Vocal group, three male and one female, acronym for New Original Vocal Instruments, also known as NOVI Singers. First of ten albums through 1981. Inspiration may be Brazilian, hinted at in the rhythm, but all original credits, mostly scat blending into choral, with piano-guitar-bass-drums, or sometimes strings. B

Polish Jazz Quartet: Polish Jazz Quartet [Polish Jazz Vol. 3] (1964 [1965], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish names are notoriously difficult for English speakers, which has led some to shorten Polish names, or simply to punt, e.g., Polish Notation (PN) for the scheme worked out by Jan Lukasiewicz. Not sure if that's at play here, but here are the names: Jan "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski (tenor sax), Wojciech Karolak (piano), Juliusz Sandecki (bass), and Andrzej Dabrowski (drums). The bassist produced little after this, but the others went on to substantial careers, with Wroblewski touted as "the godfather of Polish jazz." Contemporary bop, well done. B+(**)

The Ragtime Jazz Band: The Ragtime Jazz Band [Polish Jazz Vol. 7] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Closer to what I think of as trad jazz than to ragtime. Octet, led by cornet player Wladyslaw Dobrowolski, with trumpet, trombone, tuba, clarinet, banjo, piano, and drums. All titles in Polish, credited to band members. B+(**)

Tomasz Stanko Quintet: Music for K (1970 [2004], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish trumpeter, had played in Krzysztof Komeda's group in the 1960s, and Globe Unity Orchestra in 1970. This was his first album as leader, a quintet with two saxes, bass, and drums. Free jazz, pretty sharp all around, especially trumpet. Presumably K was Komeda, who died the year before, at 38. A-

Tomasz Stanko: Music 81 [Polish Jazz Vol. 69] (1982 [1984], Polskie Nazrania Muza): Trumpet player, leads an impressive quartet with piano-bass-drums. B+(***)

Andrzej Trzaskowski: The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet [Polish Jazz Vol. 4] (1965, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Pianist (1933-98), backed by bass and drums, with Tomasz Stanko (trumpet) and Janusz Muniak (alto/soprano sax). Contemporary bop, starts strong, both on piano and trumpet. B+(**)

Michal Urbaniak's Group: Live Recording [Polish Jazz Vol. 24] (1971, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Violinist, also plays soprano/tenor/baritone saxes. Started in a Dixieland band, played with Komeda and Namyslowski in the 1960s. Moved to New York in 1973, adopted the group name Fusion, but ranges widely. Quartet with Adam Makowicz on piano, starting with the riotous 21:12 "Suite - Jazz Jamboree 70," followed by covers of Komeda's "Crazy Girl" and "Body and Soul." B+(***)

Warsaw Stompers: New Olreans Stompers [Polish Jazz Vol. 1] (1959-64 [1965], Polskie Nagrania Muza): Polish jazz was first noticed in the West through Krzysztof Komeda's soundtracks and Tomasz Stanko joining avant-jazz groups like Globe Unity Orchestra, but it always made sense that there would be some trad jazz bands in the background -- Europe's first introduction to jazz was when the Original Dixieland Jazz Band toured England, and trad jazz remained the dominant form there through the 1950s, spreading elsewhere in Europe wherever you looked. I took a blind chance on a later album by trumpeter Henryk Majewski, clearly out of this tradition, and one of the stars here. This was assembled from six sessions over five years with various lineups -- the only constants are Majewski and Bogdan Ignatowski (banjo). As bright as anything out of London (or New Orleans) at the time. A-

Janusz Zabieglinski: Janusz Zabieglinski and His Swinget [Polish Jazz Vol. 9] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): Leader plays clarinet and alto sax, only other album I can find of his is Tribute to Duke (1997), but he was part of the long-running Old Timers group. Sextet, with guitar, piano, bass, drums, and (most distinctively) vibraphone. B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Finbury: American Nocturnes (Green Flash Music)
  • Somi With Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Holy Room: Live at Alte Oper (Salon Africana)
  • South Florida Jazz Orchestra: Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza (Summit) [08-28]

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Weekend Roundup

One thing I've noticed here but don't have the time or patience to try to unpack is that a significant share of the articles below look ahead to after the November election -- usually assuming that Trump will be defeated, some allowing for the possibility that Trump will cheat massively and produce a disputed result. This was bound to happen sooner or later, but this soon is a bit surprising. Maybe it's because the whole year is something we can't wait to get over with?

Some of the future articles imagine a chance for the Republican Party to reform itself after the Trump debacle, but I don't see that happening any time soon -- in large part thanks to the speed with which the Party recovered after the 2008 debacle. In many ways, Democrats will find it harder to function after winning than Republicans will -- especially if their victory isn't deep enough to capture both houses of Congress, allowing Republicans to obstruct their efforts, and Fox to blame those losses on the Democrats.

Finally, some pieces start to look at where the economy is headed -- not so much after the pandemic but along with it. Had I tried to speculate on that 4-6 months ago, I no doubt would have come up with little more than reassertions of what I had long been thinking. Now I'm less certain than ever.

Biden's date for announcing his VP pick is August 10. Good to get this posted before then.

Some scattered links this week:

Zeeshan Aleem: Trump falsely claims coronavirus is "disappearing" and Russia isn't meddling in the 2020 election: "Trump's surprise news conference held at his private club was packed with false claims about America's crises."

Michael Arria: Biden personally intervened to get the word 'occupation' removed from the Democratic Party platform: I don't discount the significance of one's views on Israel-Palestine as a test of political principles, but as a practical matter in a contest between Biden and Trump, and more generally between the parties, dropping it from the platform, and inserting some pablum, doesn't bother me. Biden isn't stuck in Sheldon Adelson's pocket, and he's not going to owe anything to the fundamentalist Christian apocalypse-mongers backing Trump. After the election, he'll have options based on future events, which he may or may not respond to constructively. But at this point, Israel has gone so far down its racist-militarist apartheid path that it's hard to see the US having any real influence (as if it ever has). Elsewhere, it's more important that the US disengage from its own occupations and interventions. Dismantling systemic racism and militarism at home would also help, perhaps more than anything else. Israel has chosen to follow its own rogue path, but that choice has always been easier with the US as a model. Take that away, and maybe Israel will start to realize the folly of its path. In the long run, all nations have to change of their own accord -- even the ones the US is so obsessed with bending to its will, like North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and China.

Joshua A Barocas/Jennifer E Lacy: The pandemic is an extraordinary opportunity to reform US education: "We should allow kids to take a gap year and waive standardized testing before it's too late."

If anything, there is a sense that many in the Trump administration and its allies across the country want public education to fail. For example, Kansas City Metropolitan charter and private schools received between $19.9 million and $55.9 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), program whereas Kansas City Public Schools received nothing.

Isaac Chotiner: Why Stuart Stevens wants to defeat Donald Trump: Interview with Stevens, who worked in the GW Bush presidential campaigns and was Mitt Romney's top strategist in 2012. More recently, he wrote It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, and is an adviser to the Lincoln Project. Still a lot of delusions here for past Republicans, especially Romney. Also a strong belief that the president's number one job is opposing Putin. For another interview with Stevens, see David Corn: The Republican Party is racist and soulless. Just ask this veteran GOP strategist.

Patrick Cockburn:

Chas Danner: Yes, Trump actually did want to be added to Mount Rushmore: "A White House aide reportedly looked into the process for adding another president's face to the monument." Filed under "Delusions of grandeur."

Wade Davis: The unraveling of America: "Anthropologist Wade Davis on how Covid-19 signals the end of the American era."

Jason Ditz: Superhawk Elliott Abrams named Special Envoy on Iran: Most recently, he's been Special Envoy for Venezuela, a job he's made a total mess of. Disasters are nothing new for Abrams. Ever since he got out of jail for his role in Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, he's using his foreign policy clout to make things worse -- especially his tenure as GW Bush's top dog on Israel-Palestine. More on Abrams:

Tom Engelhardt: The unexpected past, the unknown future: It could have been different: Nostalgia for the bad old days, just following 9/11, when the Bushies thought all they had to do to rule the world was "to take the gloves off." Engelhardt resisted that idea from its inception, and if he's ever been wrong, it was to underestimate how bad it might get.

Amy Gardner/Josh Dawsey: As Trump leans into attacks on mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis: It's real hard to anticipate how turnout is going to break, but this is one part of the question. This was the first of several articles linked to in As Trump attacks mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis. Another is Pema Levy: Democracy depends on the postal service more than ever. Republicans won't help fix it. Some more pieces on Trump, voting, and mail:

Shirin Ghaffary:

Susan B Glasser: "Mr President, what are your priorities?" is not a tough question: "Trump is running for reëlection, but, unlike four years ago, he can't even say why." Reduced to red hat slogans, he wants to keep America as great as it became the moment he was elected and inaugurated in 2017, which by definition will cover four more years. Why can't people grasp that? I mean, aside from the fact that none of the people are Donald J Trump?

Trump's vapid answer is more than a reflection of a political-messaging dilemma -- it's a sign of decline, both in terms of the President's ability to respond cogently to a simple query and as a warning for American democracy, given that such a large segment of the electorate apparently finds it acceptable to support a leader whose only campaign selling point is himself. Is Trump's inability to come up with something to say about the next four years a reflection of the fact that even he thinks he is going to lose? Perhaps, but it's also a measure of how far Trump has descended into full "l'état, c'est moi"-ism. Running for reëlection without offering even a hint of a program is a sure indicator of at least aspirational authoritarianism.

John F Harris: Donald Trump has the sole authority to blow up the world. It is madness to let him keep it. Madness to give any president solo authority, much less one who seems incapable of understanding what nuclear weapons can do, yet who seems fascinated with finding out. Thought about filing this under Hiroshima (below), but decided this is a current issue, not history. One thing that keeps is current is how completely Trump has dismantled arms limitation treaties with Russia. Also how he's approved the plan to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding America's nuclear arsenal. I sometimes wonder what else Trump can do to destroy the country before leaving office, and this is high on the list.

Kaleem Hawa: Present absences: Review of Rashid Khalidi's new book, The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017, selecting the Balfour Declaration as his arbitrary starting point, no doubt cognizant that the "war" isn't over at a mere century.

Jacob Heilbrunn: Why the United States invaded Iraq: Review of Robert Draper's new book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq. Seems like there should be more here on Afghanistan, but for Bush, Cheney, et al., war with Iraq was predetermined, and if anything Afghanistan just slowed them down a bit. One thing here I previously missed was the 1998 "Rumsfeld Commission," where Congress gave "Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other hawks . . . a high-profile platform" to fantasize about and play up the Iraqi threat. Draper also "presents the former CIA director George Tenet in a particularly unflattering light, suggesting that he made up for his frustrations with Bill Clinton by excess ("slam dunk") enthusiasm for GW Bush.

If Draper expertly dissects the ferocious turf battles that took place within the administration over the war, he does not really seek to set it in a wider context other than to note rather benignly that "the story I aim to tell is very much a human narrative of patriotic men and women who, in the wake of a nightmare, pursued that most elusive of dreams: finding peace through war." But there was more to it than that. Thanks to Donald Trump's bungling, Bush may be benefiting from a wave of nostalgia for his presidency. But he was criminally culpable in his naïveté and incuriosity about the costs and consequences of war. At the same time, Cheney and Rumsfeld were inveterate schemers whose cynicism about going to war was exceeded only by their ineptitude in conducting it.

Sean Illing:

Alex Isenstadt: Trump antagonizes GOP megadonor Adelson in heated phone call.

Derrick Johnson: Voter suppression is back, 55 years after the Voting Rights Act.

Fred Kaplan:

  • Trump's latest move at the Pentagon is brazenly unlawful: Giving Anthony Tata the job of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (you remember, the job in 2003 filled by "dumbest fucking person on earth" Douglas Feith), without getting Senate approval..

  • Trump's troop tantrum: "There's no strategy behind the decision to withdraw US troops from Germany. It's about the president's anger and ego."

Roge Karma: How cities can tackle violent crime without relying on police: Interview with Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence.

Isabel Kershner/Pam Belluck: When Covid subsided, Israel reopened its schools. It didn't go well.

Ezra Klein: How inequality is changing the Republican Party -- and breaking American politics. Review of Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Economic Inequality. I read the book recently, and recommend it. More on this book:

Hiroki Kobayashi: The elusive horror of Hiroshima: It's the 75th anniversary of our rude awakening to the atomic age. This refers back to John Hersey's early reporting of the bomb's devastation -- you can read Hersey's classic report here. I previously wrote about Hiroshima and Nagasaki on their 70th anniversary: Thinking about the unthinkable. I also wrote an earlier piece in the August 6, 2005 notebook. Some more on Hiroshima:

Zack Kopplin: How Mike Pompeo built a blood-for-oil pipeline: "The State Department, a conservative-connected shell company, and a key Kurdish crime family team up to siphon Syrian oil for US investors."

Josh Kovensky: NRA looted its Foundation to cover cash hemorrhage, DC AG alleges.

Michael Krimmage/Matthew Rojansky: The problem with Putinology: "We need a new kind of writing about Russia." Primarily a review of Catherine Belton's Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West, which exemplifies the "old kind of writing," which trades in paranoia over Russia's evil designs to cripple and dominate the West -- easy enough to sell in America given the legacy and continuing hegemony of Cold War propaganda. The authors counter some of this, but don't go very far -- they certainly don't want to be dismissed as pro-Putin. It's easy for us to be critical of Putin, but we forget what a disaster Russia faced in the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin. With the old regime discredited, Yeltsin turned state-owned enterprises over to a set of underworld figures who emerged as more-or-less criminal oligarchs. Putin's principal task was the bring the oligarchs back from anarchy, which he did in classic Mafia manner by becoming capo di tutti capi. He wrapped his move by playing up nationalism, but he's more often been a limit against the ultra-nationalist opposition, which really does want to restore Russia's imperial greatness by recovering the periphery lost in 1991. He's also embraced the usual center-right power bases, like the church and the military. And he hasn't always respected the tenets of liberal democracy, but that's partly because they've never really taken root in Russia, and also because the left has never been able to form a credible opposition to Putin (remnants of the Communist Party are so wrapped up in nostalgia that they often wind up to Putin's right). Of course, America doesn't really care about Putin strong-arming his opponents -- even the tiny slice devoted to America's vision of neoliberalism. Rather, they cannot abide Russia doing business with countries on America's shit list, like Syria, Iran, and Venezuela. The fact is that Russia has few opportunities to form bonds abroad, and standing up to American bullying is still a popular stance in Russia. This situation only gets worse as American foreign policy gets ever more self-centered and myopic -- a trend that Trump has added a few new twists to but has been the rule since GW Bush decided to lead his Global War on Terror. The art to diplomacy is the ability to see what's important to the other side, and compromises which deliver more than half a loaf to both sides. Simply demanding that the other side bow over and submit has never worked very well (or for very long), and is even more ridiculous given America's declining stature with the rest of the world. A positive step here would be to start showing some respect for Putin, which doesn't necessarily mean glossing over his crimes, just putting them in context.

Anita Kumar: 'She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick': GOP pines for Rice as Biden VP. Hoping not to do a VP cluster this week, but must reiterate that Rice would be a really poor choice. PS: Mine is not the only such opinion:

Daniel Larison: The Jakarta method: How the US used mass murder to beat Communism: Review of Vincent Bevins' book, The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World. Aside from the brutal wars in Korea and Vietnam, and I suppose in Afghanistan and Iraq, I've long felt that Indonesia's anti-communist purge in 1965-66 was the single most reprehensible event in American foreign policy.

David Leonhardt: The unique US failure to control the virus: "Slowing the coronavirus has been especially difficult for the United States because of its tradition of prioritizing individualism and missteps by the Trump administration." Also of prioritizing business over all other aspects of human life.

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • Trump's latest attack on Biden: Photoshops and cheap shots.

  • David Brooks wants a nicer, more competent form of Trumpism. I for one don't care what Brooks thinks, but I will jump off from this Brooks quote:

    Bannon and Trump got the emotions right. They understood that Republican voters were no longer motivated by a sense of hope and opportunity; they were motivated by a sense of menace, resentment and fear. At base, many Republicans felt they were being purged from their own country -- by the educated elite, by multiculturalism, by militant secularism. . . . It would have been interesting if Trump had governed as a big-government populist. But he tossed Bannon out and handed power to Jared Kushner and a bunch of old men locked in the Reagan paradigm. We got bigotry, incompetence and tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Of course, Trump to offer Republican populists, beyond his own emotions as someone as hated and degraded by those elites as was his base -- yet that never came off as sympathy, only as more rage. As for the post-Trump Party, Brooks suggests building on these "core assumptions":

    1. Everything is not okay. The free market is not working well.
    2. Economic libertarianism is not the answer. Free markets alone won't solve our problems.
    3. The working class is the heart of the Republican Party.
    4. China changes everything.
    5. The managerial class betrays America.

    When I read that list, the answer is pretty simple: put workers in charge of US companies. Worker-owned companies aren't going to ship jobs overseas. Worker-owned companies aren't going to strip assets for short-term gain. Workers who own companies will support their communities, and their nation. And when workers own companies, the managerial class will work for them. Nothing else satisfies these concerns as simply and elegantly. Well, aside from China: not sure that anyone understands what that point means.

Eric Levitz: David Shor's unified theory of American politics. He's obviously a very smart guy who's been paid by Democrats to think about how to win elections for the last decade, and he's come up with insights that are uncomfortable to everyone. One thing that occurred to me in his bit on the Obama-to-Trump voters is that while he's probably right that race was the determining factor, one should consider the different ways the two candidates affected thinking on race. Obama was very conciliatory, which encouraged white voters to credit themselves for rising above the race question. Trump, on the other hand, gave white voters reason to feel good about themselves even if they were racist, which it turns out many still were. But Trump's also allowed super-racists to thrive, and maybe that's starting to make the fence-sitters a bit nervous. All through the interview, Shor is very critical of people who develop any consistent sort of ideology, which includes most Democratic politicians, their campaign staffs, and their donors (even rich ones). His advice: "you should talk about popular issues, and not talk about unpopular ones." And do the research to tell one from the other, rather than just following your instinct. Here's an interesting quote:

So I think people underestimate Democrats' openness to left-wing policies that won't cost them elections. And there are a lot of radical, left-wing policies that are genuinely very popular. Codetermination is popular. A job guarantee is popular. Large minimum-wage increases are popular and could literally end market poverty.

All these things will engender opposition from capital. But if you focus on the popular things, and manage to build positive earned media around those things, then you can convince Democrats to do them. So we should be asking ourselves, "What is the maximally radical thing that can get past Joe Manchin." And that's like a really depressing optimization problem. And it's one that most leftists don't even want to approach, but they should. There's a wide spectrum of possibilities for what could happen the next time Democrats take power, and if we don't come in with clear thinking and realistic demands, we could end up getting rolled.

Amanda Marcotte: Right-wing conspiracy theorists get (even more) unhinged as Trump's chances fade: "With QAnon on the rise, Alex Jones tells his fans to 'kill' progressives: Trump Nation is going full cuckoo."

Terrence McCoy: Last year's Amazon fires stirred international outrage. This year's dry season has started out worse.

Alexa Mikhail/Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff/Joel Jacobs: After hundreds of covid-19 deaths in state-run veterans homes, lawmakers press VA to adhere to science. I should mention again that my cousin was one of the victims in a VA facility in Oklahoma.

Nicole Narea: Trump's latest plan to use the census for political gain, explained. As they note, "more than a third of all US coronavirus cases occurred in July."

Michael T Osterholm/Neel Kashkari: Here's how to crush the virus until vaccines arrive: "To save lives, and save the economy, we need another lockdown."

JC Pan: The pandemic benefit seems so great because actual wages are insanely low.

Kim Phillips-Fein: Rethinking the solution to New York's fiscal crisis.

Wendell Potter: The health care scare: "I sold Americans a lie about Canadian medicine. Now we're paying the price."

David Roberts: How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy, quickly.

Aaron Rupar:

John Quiggin: The end of interest: This is interesting:

Amid all the strange, alarming and exciting things that have happened lately, the fact that real long-term (30-year) interest rates have fallen below zero has been largely overlooked. Yet this is the end of capitalism, at least as it has traditionally been understood. Interest is the pure form of return to capital, excluding any return to monopoly power, corporate control, managerial skills or compensation for risk.

If there is no real return to capital, then then there is no capitalism. In case it isn't obvious, I'll make the point in subsequent posts that there is no reason to expect the system that replaces capitalism (I'll call it plutocracy for the moment) to be an improvement.

I have two thoughts based on this. The first is a corollary, that if capitalism is dead, the free market will no longer be able to rebuild the economy. Therefore, government must step in, providing planning and finance (and possibly even direction) for new ventures. The nations of East Asia (most dramatically China) have been able to grow above market rates thanks to central economic planning, in contrast to the relatively anemic growth in the West, especially if you discount the excess wealth generated by monopolies, corporate predation, and asset inflation (which is what happens when the rich have more money than things to spend it on). The Green New Deal is certainly one way the government could force feed the economy, and thereby prop it up, but probably isn't in itself all that will be needed. Which leads to the second point, which is that we need to come up with a better alternative than plutocracy. Indeed, we're far enough into plutocracy now that it's more properly seen as a problem, not a solution. But if Quiggin wants to scare people, sure, feel free to point out where that road heads.

William K Rashbaum/Benjamin Weiser: DA is investigating Trump and his company over fraud, filing suggests.

Jeffrey D Sachs: America's unholy crusade against China: Reaction to Mike Pompeo's big China speech -- "inflammatory anti-China rhetoric could become even more apocalyptic in the coming weeks, if only to fire up the Republican base ahead of the election" -- not sure why he focuses so much on evangelicals:

According to Pompeo, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China (CPC) harbor a "decades-long desire for global hegemony." This is ironic. Only one country -- the US -- has a defense strategy calling for it to be the "preeminent military power in the world," with "favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere." China's defense white paper, by contrast, states that "China will never follow the beaten track of big powers in seeking hegemony," and that, "As economic globalization, the information society, and cultural diversification develop in an increasingly multi-polar world, peace, development, and win-win cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times."

More on China (for pieces on TikTok, see Shirin Ghaffery above):

  • Doug Bandow: Let's face it, China is its own worst enemy: "Much like Trump, Xi's grand ambitions are checked by his inability to make friends." Bandow is a libertarian (Cato Institute) critic of American foreign policy, so so he avoids most of the usual Washington clichés. Still, he comes up with a long list of ways Xi's instincts to fight back and bully at every slight has hurt China's business relations.

Claudia Sahm: Economics is a disgrace.

Dylan Scott:

Steven Shepard: Kobach and Clay go down: Takeaways from a big primary night: Primaries in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Tennessee. In Kansas Republican Senate primary, Roger Marshall beat Kris Kobach 39.41% to 25.68%, with Bob Hamilton at 18.34% and Wichita Eagle-endorsed David Lindstrom in 4th with 6.33%. Kobach barely won the governor primary in 2018 then lost, so he's increasingly viewed as a loser as well as a lunatic. Lacy Clay (D-MO), who's always struck me as a pretty progressive Congressman, lost to Cori Bush, who promises to be even better. Another incumbent, Steve Watkins (R-KS), recently indicted, lost his primary. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) faced a well-financed opponent she had barely won over in 2018, and won 66.27% to 33.73%. The biggest piece of election news was Missouri voting in favor of Medicaid expansion. Article doesn't have any "takeaways" from Tennessee (which voted later), where Trump-endorsed Bill Hagerty appears to have won the Republican Senate nomination. Related:

Alex Shephard:

Richard Silverstein: Israel bombed Beirut:

A confidential highly-informed Israeli source has told me that Israel caused the massive explosion at the Beirut port earlier today which killed over 100 and injured thousands. The bombing also virtually leveled the port itself and caused massive damage throughout the city.

Israel targeted a Hezbollah weapons depot at the port and planned to destroy it with an explosive device. Tragically, Israeli intelligence did not perform due diligence on their target. Thus they did not know (or if they did know, they didn't care) that there were 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a next door warehouse. The explosion at the arms depot ignited the next door warehouse, causing the catastrophe that resulted. More on Beirut:

Silverstein followed this initial report with Ex-CIA analyst confirms Beirut blast initiated by "military munitions," Lebanese President to examine role of "external actors"; and Senior Israeli opposition leader: Hezbollah arms cache caused Beirut explosion. I should note that I haven't seen any corroboration of Silverstein's reports elsewhere. Israel has publicly denied its involvement, although they've frequently attacked alleged Hezbollah supplies and forces in Syria, waged a brutal war against Lebanon in 2006, and invaded Lebanon in 1982, not leaving until 2000. They still occupy a small patch of Lebanon, a major bone of contention with Hezbollah. Mainstream media sources have focused on the large store of ammonium nitrate, which came from an abandoned Russian ship, while claiming that the initial fire which ignited the larger explosion had something to do with fireworks. As the articles below note, Lebanon has been struggling for some time, and there is a lot of pent-up resentment against the long-ruling cliques. There were popular demonstrations against the government over a year ago, and they have flared up again.

Jeffrey Toobin: It really is time to get rid of the filibuster.

Lucian K Truscott IV: Let's remember that long with everything else, Donald Trump's a total pig. Pic here of a much younger Trump with his old buddy, Jeffrey Epstein.

Chris Walker: Students suspended for taking pictures of crowds in Georgia school's reopening: This is the "cancel culture" I remember from the 1950s. PS: 9 people test positive for coronavirus at Georgia school that went viral for crowded photo.

Sean Wilentz: What Tom Cotton gets so wrong about slavery and the constitution: It was the Arkansas Republican Senator to called slavery "a necessary evil upon which the union was built" -- not the founders he cites. See Bryan Armen Graham: Tom Cotton calls slavery 'necessary evil' in attack on New York Times' 1619 Project. Note that Cotton is not only asserting his own views, he's trying to suppress the views of others: specifically, historians who have attempted to document the long and disgraceful history of slavery and racism in the United States.

Matthew Yglesias:

Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen: Why Republicans are dragging their feet on more stimulus. Now that the stock market has recovered, and the rich are richer than ever, their job is done. Sure, they still would like to get lawsuit immunity for businesses. But fuck everyone else. Note: The first group of pieces date from earlier in the week, before Trump punted with his executive orders. I've put them first, then reports on the executive orders and the reaction in a second block.

Then on Saturday, Trump broke off negotiations and signed his orders. They are a purely political ploy: a way to claim he's doing something without delivering much of anything. They are a "free lunch," as in "there's no such thing as a free lunch":

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Music Week

August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33729 [33697] rated (+32), 223 [220] unrated (+3).

After a month-plus of regularly hitting 40+ records per week, my energy and/or patience flagged last week. I started most days with something from the travel cases, or Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music (long out of sight, found it on a top shelf up stairs, along with Fats Waller's If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It box. Didn't unpack until Monday, and spent the rest of the day muddling through metacritic lists. After that, didn't feel like writing anything, so put that off a day. Still don't, but will try to touch a few bases.

As I noted in the intro to Weekend Roundup, my cousin Duan Stiner caught Covid-19 and died last week, three days shy of 93. He had been living in a VA facility northeast of Tulsa for two years. Although "locked down" in March, the disease got in and decimated the population. Last time I visited was shortly after he moved there. I can't say as I was particularly pleased with the place, but his daughters were upbeat, and visited him virtually every day (until March). It was a sad end to a long life of hard work and good humor. I've been missing him for a while already.

Duan was just one of several older relatives who have faced a lot of hardship this year. Another cousin, Chloe McCandlis, died in February. Others are ill or struggling, and even those who are getting by are finding 2020 to be an especially difficult year to be old in. I haven't traveled since my trip to see Duan in Oklahoma, and I'm not likely to for the foreseeable future, so I'm feeling especially helpless and useless these days.

A friend here in Wichita, Don Bass, also died, and we just heard that another is in the hospital.

In music, I should mention that Sean Tyla (73) died. He was the leader of the seminal pub rock band Ducks Deluxe, which recorded two albums 1974-75. Both records were personal favorites, with the second (Taxi to the Terminal Zone) the namesake for the short-lived magazine Don Malcolm and I published in 1977. Worth noting that I much preferred the UK version of their eponymous debut: there were two jazzy pieces that made much more sense in context than moved to weaken the second side of RCA's US release. They exemplified everything I loved in rock & roll. For the moment, I harbored the idea that the past of rock & roll might be its future. Of course, a couple years later the future did arrive, and it was something else.

When Ducks Deluxe broke up, Tyla carried on as the Tyla Gang, while other band members joined the Motors and the Rumour (Graham Parker's backup band, but they also recorded without Parker). I enjoyed his first title (Yachtless), but nothing else he did made much of an impression.

Best source for new records this week has been Bandcamp Daily, but I also tried picking off some of the higher ranking metacritic titles (link above). Also scanned Phil Overeem's July list, slimmed down and slightly annotated. The grade change came after receiving a CD, which certainly helped.

One question in the queue. Feel free to ask more.

New records reviewed this week:

The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (2020, Dirty Hit): British group, fourth album since 2013, eponymous debut opened at number one on UK charts, other three albums also cracked top five in US. Starts with soft electronics framing a Greta Thunberg message ("Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we don't/ Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, or we don't/ Either we choose to go on as a civilization, or we don't"), then the band breaks out like the Clash ("Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!"). Of course, they aren't the Clash, so the remaining 73 minutes is filled with their usual postmodern pop, though not without occasional interest. B+(***)

Arca: @@@@@ (2020, XL): I ignored this when it came, out, seeing it flagged as a "single." Indeed, a single track, but 62 minutes, as jumbled at a typical album. B+(*)

Armand Hammer: Shrines (2020, Backwoodz Studioz): New York hip-hop duo, rapper Billy Woods and producer Elucid, fourth album. Pretty sharp. B+(***) [bc]

The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (2020, Carpark): Alt/indie band from New Zealand, second album, harmony voices led by Elizabeth Stokes, guitar-bass-drums. B+(*)

Boldy James & the Alchemist: The Price of Tea in China (2020, ALC/Boldy James): Rapper James Jones III, born in Atlanta, grew up in Detroit, second album, both with Daniel Maman co-writing and producing. B+(***)

Lisa Cameron/Tom Carter/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Tau Ceti (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Last names only on cover, no instrument credits, but figure drums-guitar-bass, split between an "acoustic side," which feels like treading water, and an "electric side," which raises the ante. B+(*) [bc]

Crazy Doberman: Illusory Expansion (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Collective improv group, has recorded extensively since 2017 (or, as Doberman, 2014). This, which lists 16 musicians, is the first on a label I've heard of. Mix of industrial ambient and free jazz. B+(*) [bc]

Falkner Evans: Marbles (2019 [2020], CAP): Pianist, based in New York, handful of albums since 2001, aims big here with a sextet -- Michael Blake and Ted Nash (saxes), Ron Horton (trumpet), bass, and drums -- plus vibes (Steve Nelson) on three cuts. All originals, elegant postbop. B+(**) [cd]

John Fedchock NY Sextet: Into the Shadows (2019 [2020], Summit): Trombonist, probably best known for his big bands, scales down nicely, with Scott Wendholt (trumpet) and Walt Weiskopf (tenor sax), plus piano-bass-drums. B+(**) [cd]

Sue Anne Gershenzon: You Must Believe in Spring (2020, self-released): Standards singer, seems to be her first album, support includes Joel Frahm (tenor sax) and Ryan Keberle (trombone), a pianist-arranger hard on my eyes (Glafkos Kontemeniotis?), and occasional strings. Nice take on title track. B [cd]

Kate NV: Room for the Moon (2020, RVNG Intl): Russian singer-songwriter, Ekaterina Shilonosova, from Kazan, singer in the postpunk band Glintshake, third solo album. Electronics and voice, "conjured from unlived memories of 70s and 80s Russian and Japanese pop music and film." Pretty delightful combination. A-

Keys & Screws [Thomas Borgmann/Jan Roder/Willi Kellers]: Some More Jazz (2017 [2020], NoBusiness): Sax-bass-drums trio, leader playing tenor and soprano, also "toy-melodica." Nice, edgy free jazz, backing smartly away from the abyss. A- [cdr]

David Krakauer & Kathleeen Tagg: Breath & Hammer (2020, Table Pounding): Clarinet player (also bass clarinet), klezmer specialist (1995 debut was Klezmer Madness), duets with piano, although pieces are built up in layers to form a "piano orchestra." B+(**) [bc]

Lianne La Havas: Lianne La Havas (2020, Nonesuch): British singer-songwriter, third album, Matthew Hales shares most writing credits, the only cover song from Radiohead. B+(*)

Jessy Lanza: All the Time (2020, Hyperdub): Canadian electropop singer-songwriter, third album. B+(*)

Mako Sica/Hamid Drake: Balancing Tear (2020, Astral Spirits): Chicago group, dates from 2008 with Przemyslaw Krys Drazek (trumpet, guitar), Brent Fuscaldo (voice, electric bass, classical guitar, harmonica, percussion), and Chaetan Newell (keyboards, cello, viola, drums, ukulele, upright bass), plus the guest drummer. Group has rock roots, but vocals are atrophied, and they more properly belong in some kind of post-rock orbit. B+(*) [bc]

Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (2020, Domino): Detroit band, Joe Casey the singer, backed with guitar-bass-drums, plus the occasional guest -- two names that jump out at me are Jemeel Moondoc (alto sax) and Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), avant-jazz guys. Fifth album, always solid. B+(**)

Jason Robinson & Eric Hofbauer: Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late: Duo Music of Ken Aldcroft (2018 [2020], Accretions): Aldcroft was a Toronto guitarist, died at 46 in 2016, left a pretty scattered legacy, ranging from AIMToronto to his Hat & Beard duo. I don't see a direct connection to the two Americans playing these duets -- tenor sax and guitar -- but they have a disjointed, somewhat Monkian aspect. B+(**) [cd]

Christian Rønn/Aram Shelton: Multiring (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Danish keyboard player, doesn't really seem to be a jazz guy -- 6 years studying church organ, with sides in electronic music, ambient drone, microtonal composition, and soundtracks -- provides an engaging counterpoint for the latter's alto sax. B+(**) [bc]

Benny Rubin Jr. Quartet: Know Say or See (2019 [2020], Benny Jr. Music): Saxophonist (tenor/alto), from Flint, MI; second album, quartet with piano-bass-drums, hard bop with harder leads. B+(***) [cdr]

Andy Shauf: The Neon Skyline (2020, Anti-): Canadian singer-songwriter, sixth album since 2006. B+(**)

Sparks: A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (2020, BMG): Brothers Ron and Russell Mael, new wave pop band from Los Angeles, released their debut as Halfnelson in 1971, their best title in 1973 (A Woofer in Tweeter's Clothing), then got picked up by Island for three albums. I was briefly infatuated with them, but quickly grew annoyed and held a long-term grudge as they've cranked out new albums every few years. This is their highest US chart since 1974's Propaganda. Still annoying. C+

Paul Weller: On Sunset (2020, Polydor): Singer-songwriter from England, led the Jam (1976-82) and the Style Council (1983-89), went solo with an eponymous album in 1992, 14 more studio albums since then -- all 15 charted in UK (debut peaked at 8, one 5, one 4, rest either 1 or 2), only one cracked the US charts (Sonik Kicks at 166 in 2012). B

Kamaal Williams: Wu Hen (2020, Black Focus): British keyboardist, second studio album under his own name, also has a DJ-Kicks mixtape, and several records as Henry Wu, something this title plays on. Saxophonist Quinn Mason lifts this out of its pop jazz groove, but without him it keeps sliding back. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Doug Hammond/David Durrah/Charles Burnham: Reflections in the Sea of Nurnen (1975 [2020], Tribe): Drummer, sings some, first album, original cover listed eight musicians, Hammond and Durrah (keyboards) first, Burnham (violin) well down the list. B

Nkem Njoku & Ozzobia Brothers: Ozobia Special (1980s [2020], BBE): Igbo highlife, presumably from Nigeria, seems to be only album, leader sings, no one named Ozzobia (or Ozobia) in the credits. Draws on Ghanian highlife, touted as a classic album, not as slick as Lagos juju, but catchy as can be. A- [bc]

Shirley Scott: One for Me (1974 [2020], Arc): Organ player (1934-2002), known as "Queen of the Organ," 45 LPs starting with Great Scott! in 1958, slowed down after leaving Impulse! in 1967 and divorced Stanley Turrentine in 1971, recording this for Strata East. With Harold Vick (tenor sax, in fine form) and Billy Higgins (drums). B+(***) [bc]

Sleaford Mods: All That Glue (2013-20 [2020], Rough Trade): British duo, James Williamson and Andrew Fearn, spoken word over punkish strum and drums, got noticed for their working class rage, their biggest hit last year's Eton Alive. They cash in here with a compilation of odds and sods ("a collection of songs spanning the last seven years of the bands career"). Unsure of dates, but most that I can pin down were 2013-15 singles. Good to hear them angry again. B+(***)

Luiz Carlos Vinhas: O Som Psicodélico De L.C.V. (1968 [2020], Mad About): Brazilian pianist, made his mark in bossa nova from 1963, takes a stab at psychedelica here. B+(*) [bc]

Old music:

Kate NV: Binasu (2017, Orange Milk): First album, shows considerable pop sense. B+(***)

Kate NV: For (2018, RVNG Intl): Half of album title, which like all ten songs is two 3-letter words, the second all caps in English, the first presumably Russian. Symmetry is the concept. The pieces are all instrumental, pretty minimal, and work as such. B+(*)

Annie Ross: Sings a Handful of Songs (1963, Everest): Singer was British, had joined Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks for their vocalese trio 1956-62, was back in London when she recorded this splashy set of standards with Johnny Spence & His Orchestra. B

Annie Ross & Pony Poindexter: Recorded at the Tenth German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt (1966, SABA): Credit (or title) continues: "With the Berlin All Stars Feat. Carmell Jones and Leo Wright." Poindexter plays alto/soprano sax and sings, Jones trumpet, Wright alto sax and flute, and the others (piano-guitar-bass-drums) are less stellar. Opens with Poindexter leading a Louis Jordan song, closes with Ross doing "Twisted." B+(*)

Grade (or other) changes:

Luís Lopes Humanization 4tet: Believe, Believe (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, group name from the title of a 2008 album, although the group is unchanged, and everyone writes: Rodrigo Amado (tenor sax), Aaron Gonzalez (bass), and Stefan Gonzalez (drums). Gets a little rough in spots, but the guitar is remarkable, and I always like Amado. [was: B+(***)] A- [cd]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rez Abbasi: Django-shift (Whirlwind) [08-28]
  • Tom Guarna: Spirit Science (Destiny) [09-18]
  • Bob James: Once Upon a Time: The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions (1965, Resonance) [08-29]
  • Eva Kess: Sternschnuppen: Falling Stars (Neuklang) [08-28]
  • Roberto Magris: Suite! (JMood) [08-17]
  • Raphaël Pannier Quartet: Faune (French Paradox) [08-21]
  • Maria Schneider: Data Lords (ArtistShare, 2CD)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (Dark Tree)
  • Matt Wilson Quartet: Hug! (Palmetto) [08-28]

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Weekend Roundup

My oldest surviving cousin, Duan Stiner, died on Sunday, due to Covid-19. He was days away from his 93rd birthday. He had been living in a VA center near Tulsa, Oklahoma. The center was locked down in March. He hasn't been able to leave, and our relatives haven't been able to visit, since then. Nonetheless, Covid-19 got into the facility, causing at least 58 cases and 10 deaths (figures I got before Duan died). Duan joined the Army in 1945, spent some time occupying Japan, then got called back for the Korean War in 1950. He never talked much about his Army days (unlike his older brother, Harold, who was an MP and was present for the war crimes trials on Tokyo; Harold died in 2015). Duan was a butcher, first in a grocery store, then he owned his own meat business. When I was young, my parents used to buy a side of beef at a time from him. I think he was the first person I personally knew to die of the disease, although I've written about dozens of more famous people in these pages.

I also found out that Don Bass (77) died last week, but don't know the cause (so he may have been the first). I ran into him often, especially at Peace Center events. He was a talented artist, and always a welcome sight.

More newsworthy individual deaths below. For numbers of the less famous, see At least 151,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US. Worldometer has the US death count at 158,365. (Those links may be volatile.)

Minor formatting change here, as I've eliminated the outer layer of bullets.

Some scattered links this week:

Dean Baker:

  • An economic survival package, not a stimulus package. I could have buried this among the other "stimulus" articles (see Li Zhou), but they're tied to actual negotiations, whereas this is more along the lines of what should be done. Krugman described the downturn as more of an induced coma than a typical recession, a distinction that is lost on people who have one-track minds (like everyone in business). Until the virus is contained and normalized (cured would be nice, but I'm imagining a somewhat more delicate and treacherous equilibrium), talk of restoring growth really misses the point, which is survival -- difficult enough in any case.

  • More thoughts on the post-pandemic economy: GDP is headed down, but are we worse off for that?

    If we do let obsessions with government deficits and debt curtail spending, then we can expect to see a long and harsh recession. . . . And, we also have to recognize that when we have a serious problem of unemployment, the failure to run large deficits is incredibly damaging to the country. Millions of workers will needlessly suffer, as will their families. And the failure is increased when it means not spending in areas that will have long-term benefits for the country, like child care and slowing global warming. It is tragic that deficit hawks are able to do so much harm to our children under the guise of saving our children.

Peter Baker: More than just a tweet: Trump's campaign to undercut democracy.

Jake Bittle: The right's increasingly unhinged fight against Black Lives Matter: "As the movement's popularity surges, the conservative media insists that it is hell-bent on destroying the American way of life."

Charles M Blow: Trump's nakedly political pandemic pivot.

Alleen Brown: Trump's pick to manage public lands has four-decade history of "overt racism" toward native people: Meet William Perry Pendley.

Alexander Burns: Trump attacks an election he is at risk of losing: "Mr Trump has become a heckler in his own government, failing to marshal leaders in Washington to form a robust response to the health and economic crises. Instead, he is raising doubts about holding the election on time."

Katelyn Burns: The NYPD unit that snatched a protester off the street has been accosting people for years.

Alexia Fernández Campbell: A small federal agency focused on preventing industrial disasters is on life support. Trump wants it gone: "The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is without enough voting members, and its investigations are stuck in limbo."

Matthew Cappucci/Mustafa Salim: Baghdad soars to 125 blistering degrees, its highest temperature on record. Also record-high temperatures elsewhere in the Middle East.

Steve Coll: Is the Postal Service being manipulated to help Trump get reëlected?

Summer Concepcion: Cotton's office denies he believes slavery was a 'necessary evil' after backlash over remark: Maybe if he wasn't such a reactionary racist, he wouldn't be so often misunderstood? Still, it's hard to be any kind of conservative in America without having lots of racist skeletons in your closet. Maybe that's why so many conservatives move them to the front porch, and celebrate them.

James Downie: Republicans' pandemic blunders keep piling higher.

Katherine Eban: How Jared Kushner's secret testing plan "went poof into thin air": "This spring, a team working under the president's son-in-law produced a plan for aggressive, coordinated national COVID-19 response that could have brought the pandemic under control. So why did the White House spike it in favor of a shambolic 50-state-response?" Or, as David Atkins commented on this piece: Trump and Kushner should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

Alex Emmons: Democrats unveil draft foreign policy platform with promises to end "forever wars" and "regime change": however, blanket support for Israel makes it harder to achieve those goals.

Richard Fausset/Rick Rojas: John Lewis, a man of 'unbreakable perseverance,' is laid to rest: I'm afraid I found all the pomp surrounding the death and funeral of John Lewis a bit disconcerting. Such events only come about when someone has a political legacy they want to build up -- usually around a president, most recently/similarly someone like John McCain. I don't actually have much of an opinion about Lewis, but he does provide a reminded that the fight for civil rights isn't over, and the struggle for equality still has a long ways to go. Still, it was a big deal, all the more conspicuous because of the times (e.g., see the picture of Obama delivering a eulogy to a more-than-half-empty church). More related to the funeral:

John Feffer: The no-trust world. The first point George Brockway made in his brilliant The End of Economic Man (1991) was that nothing works in modern society without trust. Indeed, it's impossible to get anything done when you constantly have to scan 360 degrees for potential threats. (E.g., imagine trying to do simple reconstruction projects in war-torn Iraq.) Of course, it's even harder to defend against an invisible virus, especially where you can't trust people around you to follow recommended practices. Karen Greenberg's article below pairs well with this one: a big part of the reason we an trust no one is that powerful people, like but not exclusively Trump, are rarely held accountable for their acts, let alone their accidents.

Conor Friedersdorf: Forging a right-left coalition may be the only way to end the War on Drugs. Link to Atlantic article therein, but I'm up against my article limit. Quote sets up a 1991 debate between black liberal Charlie Rangel and white reactionary William F Buckley Jr, quoting Rangel in favor of escalating the war on drugs:

In fact, Rangel clarified, if somebody wants to sell drugs to a child, they should fear "that they will be arrested and go to jail for the rest of their natural life. That's what I'm talking about when I say fear." Then he suggested that America should tap the generals who won the Gulf War to intensify the War on Drugs. "What we're missing: to find a take-charge general like Norman Schwarzkopf, like Colin Powell, to coordinate some type of strategy so that America, who has never run away from a battle, will not be running away from this battle," he said. "Let's win this war against drugs the same way we won it in the Middle East."

That Gulf War "victory" doesn't look so great now, though the War on Drugs may have fared even worse. Neither failed for lack of tough guys like Schwarzkopf. Both were severely tarnished by the arrogance and racism that was baked into their execution, and were utterly ruined by the contempt and carelessness the enforcers had for the people they impacted. Here's another quote:

Had the drug war ended back in the early 1990s, younger Millennials would have been spared a policy that empowered gangs, fueled bloody wars for drug territory in American cities, ravaged Latin America, enriched narco cartels, propelled the AIDS epidemic, triggered police militarization, and contributed more than any other policy to racial disparities in national and local incarceration.

Also note that while Buckley and other libertarians have criticized the War on Drugs, they've never spent any political capital doing so. The one issue conservatives are serious about is privileging the rich, and that makes them comfortable with repression as a tool to protect the established order. So while it's possible that the left might pick up a few right-wing votes to decriminalize drugs, I don't expect them to be much help.

Masha Gessen: Why America feels like a post-Soviet state.

Shirin Ghaffary: The TikTok-Trump drama, explained.

Karen Greenberg: Can the pandemic bring accountability back to this country?

Glenn Greenwald: The US-supported coup in Bolivia continues to produce repression and tyranny, while revealing how US media propaganda works.

Daniel A Hanley: Another Trump legacy: Spreading price discrimination on the Internet: "Consumers are already feeling the pain of the president reversing net neutrality." Two prominent offenders mentioned here are Cox, which we use, and AT&T, which has made a big push to break into Cox's cable monopoly here.

Shane Harris: DHS compiled 'intelligence reports' on journalists who published leaked documents.

Doug Henwood: We have no choice but to be radical.

Sean Illing: "It's ideologue meets grifter": How Bill Barr made Trumpism possible. Interview with David Rohde, who wrote a long New Yorker profile of Barr.

Roge Karma: We train police to be warriors -- and then send them out to be social workers. A breakdown of training time (840 total hours) here shows that 20% goes for "firearm skills, self-defense, and use of force." A breakdown of actual time spent by police shows that only a tiny fraction of time is spent dealing with violent time, and that's mostly taken up by things like interviewing witnesses. Given that a large percentage of police are former military, this training bias is probably even more warped -- and given how many former military suffer from PTSD, the bias could be even more dangerous.

Annie Karni/Katie Rogers: Like father, like son: President Trump lets others mourn: "Whether he is dealing with the loss of a family member or the deaths of nearly 150,000 Americans in a surging pandemic, President Trump almost never displays empathy in public. He learned it from his father."

Ankush Khardori: There's never been a better time to be a white-collar criminal: "Thanks to the Trump administration's signature mix of incompetence and corruption, America is knee-deep in fraud and corporate malfeasance."

Bonnie Kristian: Trump's reasoning is bad, but withdrawing troops from Germany is a good idea.

Paul Krugman:

  • The nightmare on Pennsylvania avenue: "Trump is the kind of boss who can't do the job -- and won't go away.

  • The cult of selfishness is killing America: "The right has made irresponsible behavior a key principle."

  • Why can't Trump's America be like Italy? "On the coronavirus, the 'sick man of Europe' puts us to shame." The "sick man of Europe" quip was commonly applied to the Ottoman Empire in its last century, as European powers were chipping away at its borders and demanding "capitulations" to give them extraterritorial rights within the Empire. I've never heard it used to refer to anyone else. Italy is often derided for its unstable governments and unequal economy, but Greece and Portugal are more often viewed as the bottom of the barrel. If there is a "sick man of Europe" these days, it must be Donald Trump, who's personally much more rooted in Europe than in America.

  • What you don't know can't hurt Trump: "Slow the testing down," he said, and it's happening."

  • Republicans keep flunking microbe economics: "Getting other people sick isn't an 'individual choice.'" Henry Farrell has a comment at Crooked Timber, more focused on economists than Republicans. My own theory is that most economists do everything possible to view everything through their own prism, which is single-mindedly focused on increasing growth. The problem with the pandemic is that it's causing a lot of people to consider other factors, like health and safety, and that messes with the economists' heads. It also messes with Republicans, who basically agree with the economists but tweak their measurements to only really consider the effects of policy on making the rich richer.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee/Jacob Bogage: Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot deliveries could be delayed in November.

Jill Lepore: How the Simulmatics Corporation invented the future: Mostly on the data-driven 1960 presidential election.

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • How white supremacists are using protests to fuel racial tensions. It's widely felt, especially among Trump's campaign advisers, that playing up the protests, and especially provoking violence in/around them, will produce a backlash that will benefit Trump and his ilk.

  • Trump's eight potentially impeachable offenses in six months: If we've learned anything about impeachment under Trump, it's that it isn't a very useful process. The two-thirds supermajority rule makes it impossible to convict in the Senate, and the simple majority rule in the House makes it too each to impeach. Maybe that could work if the complaint wasn't political, but everything's political these days, so nothing works. As this list here indicates, it's easy to come up with a list of essentially political charges, and it's also fruitless. What might have worked better was if Congress had reserved to itself the right to overrule executive actions by simple majority, but somehow we've gotten into the ridiculous where Trump can simply veto Congressional resolutions (like ones limiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, or military interventions in Syria). That puts us back at needing a two-thirds supermajority, which is well nigh impossible. On the other hand, the thing I find most disturbing about this list isn't its pointlessness. It's that a lot of these things aren't very good charges. Indeed, number four ("abuse of power in foreign affairs") insists on policies that Trump is right not to have followed ("willingness to ignore China's treatment of the Uighurs in exchange for help with farmers during trade negotiations" and "totally ignored Russia placing bounties on the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan").

Martin Longman: The key to a real Democratic landslide: Better rural performance: I'm sympathetic to this position, partly because with all the factors stacked against them Democrats have to win landslides to be effective -- Obama's margins clearly weren't sufficient, and the popular pluralities of Al Gore and Hillary Clinton didn't even score as wins -- but also because I believe that Republicans are doing a terrible job of serving rural and small-town voters, and Democrats could do a lot better, so why not try harder. Kansas has long thought of itself as a rural state, but the percentage has been declining steadily, at least since my father moved to Wichita in the 1940s. According to the first measure I found, the rural percentage in 2018 was 31.5%, but I doubt the farm percentage is even 10%. (There are 58,500 farms in Kansas. If 4 people lived on each, that would come to 8%. The nationwide farm population is 2%.)

Carlos Lozada: Trump tried to shut him down, but Robert Mueller was his own worst enemy. Review of Jeffrey Toobin's new book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump.

Eric Lutz:

Nick Martin: It was insane to restart sports in America.

William Marx: Far-right groups now pose the greatest terrorist threat in the US and Europe. Links to: Jihadist plots used to be US and Europe's biggest terrorist threat. Now it's the far right. And that's just freelance terror, not the kind practiced by "law enforcement" organizations.

Ian Milhiser:

Bennett Minton: The lies our textbooks told my generation of Virginians about slavery.

Max Moran: The 277 policies for which Biden need not ask permission: "As president, Joe Biden could take action on hundreds of policies without having to go through Congress. The Biden-Sanders unity task force provides a map."

Sara Morrison/Rebecca Heilweil: How Trump and his son helped make a Covid-19 conspiracy theorist go viral in a matter of hours.

Nicole Narea:

Ella Nilsen:

  • The slow-motion 2020 election disaster states are scrambling to prevent, explained.

  • Joe Biden will announce his running mate soon. Here's who's on the list. Not something I spend much time thinking about, although I still think Elizabeth Warren is a cut above the rest on two major counts: she's a fearless campaigner, and while that isn't especially reassuring in a presidential candidate, it's a quality that stacks up especially well against Trump and Pence; and she simply knows a lot more about policy than anyone else. She's also likely to be a shrewd judge of personnel, if she gets the chance. The last two Republican gave their VPs (Cheney and Pence) decisive impact on staffing, but Clinton and Obama worked through their own personal staffs (who often gave them limited bad choices). Beyond Warren, Gretchen Whitmer would be a sensible pick, helping in a key state where she's currently very popular. I don't see any advantage in picking a black woman: Biden has very solid black support, but he also has substantial support from whites who might take exception to a black VP, so why run that risk. Only one I have any specific objection to is Susan Rice, who was a consistent hawk under Obama and a leading player in all of his foreign policy mistakes. The idea that her selection would allow Biden to focus on domestic policy while she runs foreign is one of the worst advanced here. Still, there isn't much reason to think that anyone else on the list would be much better than Rice on foreign policy issues -- they've just had less opportunity to discredit themselves.

Osita Nwanevu: The 2020 election doesn't really matter to Republicans.

Helaine Olen: The CFPB once defended consumers. Thanks to Trump, it now helps companies prey on them instead.

Vijay Prashad/Alejandro Bejarano: 'We will coup whoever we want': Elon Musk and the overthrow of democracy in Bolivia.

Laurence Ralph: Countries with levels of police brutality comparable to that in the US are called 'police states': That's the title in the link from Attention to the Unseen; better than "To protect and serve: Global lessons in police reform." There's a chart here of "Number of people killed by the police" per ten million residents, and the US is only in second place, barely above Iraq and just below Democratic Republic of the Congo, but no other country is close (only Luxembourg is more than 5% of the US rate, and Luxembourg is so small that its 16.9 rate works out to be 1 unfortunate person).

Catherine Rampell: Trump knows he's going to lose. He's already salting the earth behind him. Part of her evidence is Fed nominee Judy Shelton. Rampell wrote more about her here: Yes, Trump's latest Fed pick is that bad. Here's why.

Diane Ravitch: How Trump politicized schools reopening, regardless of safety.

Katie Rogers/Maggie Haberman: Kayleigh McEnany heckles the press. Is that all?

Theodore Schleifer: Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is searching for new political allies. He's found one in Kansas: Thiel's spent almost $1 million on Kris Kobach's Senate primary race. The only other candidate Thiel has supported so far this year is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). More on Kansas and/or elections:

Dylan Scott: Herman Cain, 2012 presidential contender, dies after contracting Covid-19: He was 74, a former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, one of the most prominent black Republicans, a major Trump surrogate. He attended Trump's Tulsa rally, signed his liability waiver, and was diagnosed a week later. More on Cain:

Robert J Shapiro: Trump is wrong again: US manufacturing is not recovering.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Demon seed.

Matt Taibbi: Kansas should go f--- itself: Review of Thomas Frank's new book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. I have the book, and expect to read it soon -- maybe then I'll be able to figure out the confusion from Taibbi's review. I've read most of Frank's books, from What's the Matter With Kansas? (which has left a bad taste, mostly because it seems mostly to have been read and taken to heart by culture war conservatives, who have taken it as a dare to hold Republicans responsible for their promises) through Listen, Liberal (which perhaps could be blamed for exposing the Clintons as liars and frauds, although there's little evidence that the people who took that insight and voted for Trump got it from reading a book). Taibbi also cites a recent review by Jeff Madrick: Why the working class votes against its economic interests, which could be of Frank's work, but actually refers to Robert B Reich: The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, and Zephyr Teachout: Break 'Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money.

Adam Taylor: Trump ordered federal forces to quell Portland protests. But the chaos ended as soon as they left.

Alexander S Vindman: Coming forward ended my career. I still believe doing what's right matters.

Alex Ward: 5 real steps the US could take to help Uighurs in China: The first one that's missing is: why? It's certainly not because the US has any sympathy with or concern for Muslims in the far west of China, even as part of a more general commitment to human rights. To demonstrate the latter, one would have to make a show of supporting the Palestinians against Israeli occupation. One suspects the US of bad faith, because the US has rarely shown anything but bad faith on human rights. Otherwise, the US would support international institutions that tackle human rights issues, like the ICC. The US can't even be bothered to support the WHO. And the "real steps" listed here are straight from the Cold War toolkit being retargeted at China, for reasons only known to Trump and Pompeo. For more on them, see the comment under Robin Wright, below.

Robin Wright: Why Trump will never win his new cold war with China. Couple things here. First, the notion that the US "won" the Cold War with Russia is flat-out wrong, and misguided too. I've compared it to a wrestling match where one fighter has a heart attack, then the other pounces on top to claim the win. The people under the Soviet Union's thumb simply gave up their system of government, and really didn't get much from the West for their trouble. (Russia was so ravaged under Yeltsin that average life expectancy dropped 10 years in less time than that. Putin's popularity is to no small extent based on arresting that decline.) One striking aspect is that countries the US had totally ignored, like Albania and Mongolia, fell without so much as a funny glance from the US. The ones that didn't fall were the ones the US fought wars with (Korea, Vietnam), blockaded (Cuba), and China (both, but somewhat different), so there's no evidence that the Cold War's most aggressive tools achieved anything, other than to make the US look like a public menace. China might also have fallen, but the ruling party held on and imposed top-down reforms that radically grew the Chinese economy -- much faster and more equitably than any capitalist regime had achieved. Second thing is that while the Soviet Union saw itself as leading a worldwide workers revolution, China is just concerned with China. Their investments abroad promote their businesses, mostly at home. While they like the idea of garnering good will, they don't pose any threat to the regimes they do business with. As such, there's no demand for a global capitalist alliance to limit their power, let alone to tell them how to run their own damn country. On the other hand, the US is always telling its "allies" and clients how to run their countries and how to mistreat their people -- start by looking up Washington Consensus for examples. Article explains some of the ways China has outmaneuvered typical Cold War tactics like sanctions. It doesn't even dignify the neocons' unipolar military fantasies with a rebuttal, but well before his death in 2010, Chalmers Johnson wrote about how China could easily disable America's advanced weapons systems by "launching a dumptruck full of gravel into space" (destroying every satellite). The fact is that America's military can't win in Aghanistan, let alone take on a vastly more sophisticated foe like China. The only question here is how stupid Trump and Pompeo really are. More on China:

Matthew Yglesias:

  • Thursday's historically bad economic growth numbers, explained. Subhed tries to reassure us -- "It's not as bad as it looks" -- but that vastly understates how bad the chart looks. Real GDP dropped about 5% in Q1, most of which occurred before the lockdown. The Q2 GDP drop, which picked up part of the original lockdown, the slow reopening, but not much of the further backpedaling as cases rose to a second peak, is a staggering 33%. That's "not just the worst on record, but the worst on record by a large margin." This suggests to me that, given that the drop in employment is only half that much, we're seeing a huge drop in productivity in addition to lost jobs. Offhand, that makes intuitive sense, given the number of people working from home, the overhead of masks and sanitation, and the pretty severe dip in demand. But Yglesias focuses more on how the numbers are cooked up. That leads him to the hypothesis that in Q3 "we're probably going to see a historically amazing growth number when expressed as an annualized rate," and that "Trump will doubly brag that it's the best economy ever, but of course it won't be, any more than Q2 was the worst economy." Still, one shouldn't soft-peddle the notion that this is the worst economy ever. The only reason it hasn't been as painful as the Great Depression is that Congress (mostly thanks to Democrats) moved quickly to shore up incomes (and the Fed moved even faster to bail out banks and stockholders). Take that away (as many Republicans want to do) and it won't be long before we feel just how bad this economy is. More on this economy:

  • The real stakes in the David Shor saga.

Li Zhou: Senate Republicans have a new stimulus bill. Here's what's in it. Author also wrote, with Ella Nilsen: Senate Republicans' dramatically smaller unemployment insurance proposal, explained, and Millions of people will see a sharp drop in their unemployment benefits because Congress failed to act..

Monday, July 27, 2020

Music Week

July archive (done).

Music: Current count 33697 [33650] rated (+47), 220 [224] unrated (-4).

I usually figure 30 records per week is a solid effort. This month I've averaged 40, which is largely attributable to streaming a lot of old jazz records: specifically, Freddy Cole (died this month), Hampton Hawes (got a question on him, Jackie McLean (ran across a complete album I hadn't heard on YouTube, and I always love listening to him), and Sam Rivers (took a look after his latest archival album just missed, and found a lot more than I expected). Of course, never leaving the house helped with the count. I think I made two grocery runs in July, and took my wife to the doctor once. Occasionally, especially after a grocery run, I try to cook something, but not often. Tried making gluten-free raisin bread today. Looks perfect, but I'm pretty sure it would taste better with wheat.

This ends a 4-week month. The link above gets you to the roll up, with 169 records. I revisited the Jessie Ware album and bumped its grade up. It's always sounded like an A- two-thirds of the way through, but took me a while to overcome my reservations over the end. Appears as a re-grade here, but just an edit in the monthly file.

Did play some records from the promo queue this week, including the last of the batch from NoBusiness. Looks like I still have 17 left in the queue, including 2 September releases and 1 October. (Also one more NoBusiness release. Really need to tidy up the mess on my desk.) Also made a late push to check off highly-rated albums in my metacritic file. Top ones I haven't heard yet are: Lianne Le Havas (22); 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (34); Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (48); Paul Weller: On Sunset (51); and The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (58); and lots more from 70 down (about half from 70-150, more after that).

I spent a lot of time with Taylor Swift's Folklore (four spins, plus some videos, plus I read a half-dozen pieces, mostly in places like Vox which don't normally review records. I liked the record fine, but wasn't blown away by anything on it. Same for the Texas girl group who decided Chicks wasn't the more offensive half of their name. For what it's worth, I always found both parts at least partly ironic, and they've lost some of that with the name change. (On the other hand, Lady Antebellum was never not offensive.) I spent a lot less time with Gaslighter, probably because I didn't sense that it had much potential to get better (as Ware did, and Swift might do).

Vocalese singer Annie Ross died last week, at 89. I'm not a big fan of her records, either with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks or not, but I've only sampled them lightly. I did think she was terrific in Robert Altman's The Player, basically playing herself. Another semi-famous musician who died last week was Peter Green (73), widely touted as the founder of Fleetwood Mac, despite the group being named for two other members (their first album was sometimes known as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac). I have two Green albums in my database: In the Skies (1979), and a compilation, Man of the World: The Anthology 1968-1988, both B+. For an appreciation, see Milo Miles: The Terrifying and Lyrical Greatness of Peter Green. Greil Marcus also has some things to say about Green and Fleetwood Mac.

I answered a couple of questions last week. Please ask more.

New records reviewed this week:

Blaer: Yellow (2019 [2020], Ronin Rhythm): Swiss quintet, pianist Maja Nydegger composed everything, with two saxophonists (Nils Fischer also on bass clarinet), bass, and drums, with Nik Bärtsch as co-producer. Third album. After a couple of atmospheric cuts, starts to tighten down the rhythm, and build on that. B+(**)

Adam Caine Quartet: Transmissions (2018 [2020], NoBusiness): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, several albums since 2005, including a duo with Robert Dick in 2019. Quartet adds a second guitar (Bob Lanzetti), acoustic bass (Adam Lane), and drums (Billy Mintz), with alto sax (Nick Lyons) on one track. Starts easy, turns into something intense, fades away. A- [cd]

François Carrier/Masayo Koketsu/Daisuke Fuwa/Takashi Itani: Japan Suite (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Alto saxophonist, from Montreal, picks up a local band in Japan: alto sax, bass, drums. Has its impressive moments, but runs long (78:14). B+(***) [cd]

The Chicks: Gaslighter (2020, Columbia): Formerly the Dixie Chicks, changed their name in June just before their first album since 2006, when they were defying the backlash for disrespecting fellow Texan GW Bush. Leader Natalie Maines, multi-instrumentalist sisters Martie and Emily Erwin (now Maguire and Strayer). Co-produced by Jack Antonoff, who nudges them closer to pop than country. B+(***)

Gerald Clayton: Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard (2020, Blue Note): Pianist, son of bassist John Clayton, nephew of saxophonist Jeff Clayton, has led several albums since 2009. This is a quintet with two saxes (Logan Richardson and Walter Smith III), bass (Joe Sanders), and drums (Marcus Gilmore). B+(**)

Dena DeRose: Ode to the Road (2020, High Note): Jazz singer, plays piano, dozen albums since 1998. Ten tracks, six with scene-stealing guest stars -- two each for Sheila Jordan (vocals), Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), and Houston Person (tenor sax) -- the others with just piano trio (Martin Wind and Matt Wilson). B+(***)

Robert Dick & Adam Caine: The Damn Think (2017 [2019], Chant): Flute and guitar duo. Dick impressed me back in the 1990s, in large part due to his fondness for bass flute, and Caine has a good new quartet album out. Intimate exchange, mixed results. B+(*) [bc]

Gregory Dudzienski Quartet: Beautiful Moments (2019 [2020], OA2): Tenor saxophonist, based in Chicago, has a previous album. Mainstream, nice tone, some swing, backed by piano (Chris White), bass, and drums. All originals. B+(*) [cd]

Extra Soul Perception: New Tangents in Kampala, London & Nairobi Vol. 1 (2019 [2020], Extra Soul Perception, EP): Ad hoc collective, five tracks (16:17), recorded in Nairobi, attributed to various artists. B+(*)

Asher Gamedze: Dialectic Soul (2020, On the Corner): South African drummer, opens with strong sax (Buddy Wells) and trumpet (Robin Fassie-Kock), for the 18:55 "State of Emergence Suite." Slows down then, with Nono Nkoane singing. And don't forget the township jive thing. B+(**)

Ricardo Grilli: 1962 (2020, Tone Rogue): Guitarist, based in New York, third album, previous one was 1954, not clear to me what the dates signify (Grilli was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1985). Postbop quintet with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Kevin Hays (piano), Joe Martin (bass), and Eric Harland (drums). B+(**)

Bartosz Hadala Group: Three Short Stories (2020, Zecernia): Pianist, born in Poland, moved to New York in 2003, on to Toronto in 2010. Fourth album, group with two saxes, electric guitar and bass, accordion, and drums -- listed as "feat." on the cover are Michael Manring (bass guitar) and João Frade (accordion). B+(**) [cd]

Jon Hassell: Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) (2020, Ndeya): "Fourth world" music pioneer, plays trumpet, keyboards, electronics, following up his previous Pentimento volume, Listening to Pictures. B+(***)

Jarv Is: Beyond the Pale (2020, Rough Trade): Jarvis Cocker, former Pulp front man (1983-2001), fourth solo album, cover reads "JARV IS . . ." but title is somewhere else. Seven songs, co-written with Serafina Steer and (usually) others, all neatly hooked. A-

KA: Descendants of Cain (2020, Iron Works): Rapper Kaseem Ryan, a firefighter from Brooklyn, fifth album at 47. B+(***)

Quin Kirchner: The Shadows and the Light (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Chicago drummer, second album. Lineups vary: starts solo, then quartet (Greg Ward on alto sax), septet, trio (Nate Lepine on tenor sax and flute), five tracks expand to septet. Mixed bag, the fancy parts impressive but a bit too slippery. B+(***) [bc]

Jeremy Levy Jazz Orchestra: The Planets: Reimagined (2019 [2020], OA2): Trobonist, has played in the Brian Setzer and Tim Davies big bands, co-led Budman/Levy Orchestra. Arranger and conductor here, running a big band through Gustav Holst's "Planets," a famous piece I never bothered with and have no more desire for. B- [cd]

Lupe Fiasco/Kaelin Ellis: House (2020, 1st & 15, EP): Rapper Wasalu Muhammad Jaco, 7 albums 2006-18, returns with a 5 track, 22:28 EP, with Ellis co-writer and co-producer. Easy gait, with a grin. B+(*)

Lori McKenna: The Balladeer (2020, CN): Singer-songwriter from Massachusetts, doesn't have the twang for country but does have the songs. Not sure this is an exceptional batch, but even her average fare has few rivals. A-

Pink Siifu & Yungmorpheus: Bag Talk (2019, Field-Left): LA-based rapper Livingston Matthews, has a previous album, reportedly more underground. So is this, but more focused on the police ("proceeds go directly to the Anti Police-Terror Project in Oakland). B+(**)

Pink Siifu: Negro (2020, Field-Left): Grim, bleeding into noise, effects, aural graffiti -- Discogs styles include "power violence," which doesn't seem to mean anything in particular, but promises a rough ride. B

Corey Smythe: Accelerate Every Voice (2018 [2020], Pyroclastic): Pianist, has a growing reputation (including a Grammy), and a fondness for arch voices that is amplified more than accelerated here. He uses five voices here, the more the worse. Plays some decent piano when they finally shut up. B- [cd]

Soft Machine: Live at the Baked Potato (2019 [2020], Moonjune): Guitarist John Etheridge remains from the original group, formed in 1966, which put Canterbury and prog onto the rock map. Kevin Ayers and Daevid Allen left very quickly, and Robert Wyatt followed in 1971. While Etheridge can claim continuity, during the 1970s Hugh Hopper, Karl Jenkins, and Elton Dean seemed more like leaders -- the latter's avant sax shifting the group into a jazz orbit (cf. the live Grides, from 1970-71, released after Dean died in 2006). From 1978, the band was succeeded by various soft-named iterations: Soft Heap, Soft Head, Soft Ware, Soft Mountain, Soft Works, Soft Bounds, finally Soft Machine Legacy. Etheridge reclaimed the name in 2015, brought back Roy Babbington (bass) and John Marshall (drums) from the 1970s, and added Theo Travis (sax, flute, keyboards), for a slightly better than average fusion band. B+(*) [cd]

Leni Stern: 4 (2020, LSR): German guitarist, fusion mostly, born as Magdalena Thora, married Mike Stern, 20+ albums since 1986. Sings some, also plays n'goni here, backed by Leo Genovese (keybs), Mamadou Ba (bass), and Alloune Faye (percussion). The latter give this an African vibe, which Stern can play with or against. Vocals not a plus. B-

Tim Stine Trio: Fresh Demons (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Chicago guitarist, several albums since 2015, this one with Anton Hatwich (bass) and Frank Rosaly (drums). B+(**)

Taylor Swift: Folklore (2020, Republic): Eighth studio album, recorded simply with Aaron Dessner (The National) and/or Jack Antonoff co-writing and/or producing. Still, far from DIY: full credits include occasional strings and horns, and a Justin Vernon vocal, but you mostly just hear keyboards and drums -- little flash to an album with sixteen long, pleasant, intricate songs. Judging from download counts and reviews, she's caught the spirit of the times. B+(***)

Marcin Wasilewski Trio/Joe Lovano: Arctic Riff (2019 [2020], ECM): Polish piano trio, with Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Micha Miskiewicz, got a measure of fame supporting Tomasz Stanko but has an impressive run of albums on their own. Joined by the tenor saxophonist, who wrote a song, shares credits on five, with two Carla Bley covers. Very chill. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Just Coolin' (1959 [2020], Blue Note): Previously unreleased, classic lineup with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), and Jymie Merritt (bass). Terrific group, one one of their best days, always a delight to hear Morgan. B+(***)

Abraham Burton: Live at Visiones, NYC 1993 (1993 [2020], self-released, EP): Alto saxophonist, shortly before he recorded two of the best albums of the 1990s -- still his only ones as a leader, although he contiues with side credits. One 23:52 track, released by pianist Marc Cary, with Billy Johnson on bass and Eric McPherson on drums. Outstanding lead, pretty good piano solo, wonder why there isn't more. B+(***) [bc]

Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers: Get in Union (1959-66 [2020], Global Jukebox): Folk/gospel singer (1902-84), recorded by Alan Lomax. Expands on a 2014 compilation on Tompkins Square, which itself had 26 unreleased tracks. B+(**)

Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy: The Coalescence (2007 [2020], ESP-Disk): Brooklyn-based group, ran 2004-08, led by Adam Kinney (drums) and Gene Janas (electric upright bass), here also Shayna Dulberger (bass) ad Mario Rechtern (sax). Outtakes -- three cuts, 29:16, but plenty intense -- from session producing Splintered Visions, itself not releaed until 2011. B+(***) [cdr]

Old music:

Sam Rivers: A New Conception (1966 [1967], Blue Note): Tenor saxophonist (also soprano and flute), third album, quartet with Hal Galper (piano), bass and drums. Standards, sounds new even if not very avant. Plays a lot of remarkable flute. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Streams: Recorded in Performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1973, Impulse!): Trio, with Cecil McBee (bass) ad Norman Connors (drums). One long piece (arbitrarily split on the LP), divided into sections for tenor sax (18:42), flute (13:13), piano (7:31), and soprano sax (9:18). B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Trio Live (1973 [1998], Impulse!): Originally released 1978 as The Live Trio Sessions, the first set ("Hues of Melanin") reordered, moving the piano part up front, then tenor sax, then the long soprano sax, flute, and vocal sections. With Cecil McBee and Barry Altschul. Ends with "Suite for Molde," from the Norwegian jazz festival, with Arild Andersen taking over at bass. It, too, is split between a flute section and the final tenor sax section. Listening to the former makes you wonder if he wasn't the greatest jazz flautist ever. Listening to the latter makes you wonder why he ever played anything else. A-

Sam Rivers: Hues (1971-73 [1975], Impulse!): Scraps from four live performanes, including two tracks from Molde. Cover pictures him with a flute, but only two lute tracks here, plus two piano, two soprano sax, four tenor sax -- in other words, they pieced together a typical trio concert, using three bass-drums pairs. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Crystals (1974, Impulse!): Big band album, not conventional but 6 brass (including Joe Daley on tuba and euphonium), five reeds (with everyone doubling on flute), bass, drums, extra percussion, but no piano or guitar. Doesn't seem like it's going to work at first, but then it does. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: The Quest (1976, RED): Trio with Dave Holland (bass) and Barry Altschul (drums). Rivers cycles through his instruments, impressive on each, but I can't help but think he'd get more from his rhythm sectio if he played more tenor sax. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Paragon (1977, Fluid): Trio with Dave Holland (bass/cello) and Barry Altschul (drums). Rotates through his four instruments on the first four tracks, then recapitulates them all on the 12:15 title cut. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Waves (1978 [1979], Tomato): Quartet with Joe Daley (tuba), Dave Holland (bass/cello), and Thurman Barker (drums). Starts on piano. Rivers cycles around his instruments, impressive on each. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Contrasts (1979 [1980], ECM): Plays flute, soprano and tenor sax, backed by trombone (George Lewis), bass (Dave Holland), and drums (Thurman Barker). Somewhat buttoned down, so it takes a while to sink in, and fully appreciate the trombone. A-

Sam Rivers Quartet: Crosscurrent: Live at Jazz Unité (1981 [1982], Blue Marge): Recorded live in Paris, with Jerry Byrd (guitar), Rael Wesley Grant (electric bass), and Steve Ellington (drums). Rivers makes his usual round of instruments, with the soprano sax meshing especially well with the guitars. A-

Sam Rivers/Noël Akchote/Tony Hymas/Paul Rogers/Jacques Thollot: Configuration (1996, Nato): Guitar, piano, bass, drums, with Rivers alternating between tenor sax, soprano sax, and flute. B+(**)

Sam Rivers: Concept (1995-96 [1997], RivBea): Nine tracks recorded over five sessions, most with Doug Matthews (bass or bass clarinet) and Anthony Cole (drums, but also plays tenor sax). B+(**)

Sam Rivers & Alexander von Schlippenbach: Tangens (1997 [1998], FMP): Duets, tenor/soprano sax/flute and piano. B+(***)

Sam Rivers/Doug Matthews/Anthony Cole/Jonathan Powell/David Manson: Fluid Motion (2002, Isospin Labs): Soprano/tenor sax, bass, drums, trumpet, trombone: only Rivers well known, but feels like a band album, more mainstream with everyone pitching in. B+(***)

Sam Rivers: Celebration (2003 [2004], Posi-Tone): Live shot from Jazz Bakery, trio with Doug Matthews and Anthony Cole, close in spirit to his 1970s albums, with the leader playing piano and flute as well as tenor and soprano sax -- and mixing things up, drummer Cole also plays tenor sax and piano, while bassist Matthews goes electric, also playing bass violin and bass clarinet. B+(**)

Sam Rivers/Adam Rudolph/Harris Eisenstadt: Vista (2003 [2004], Meta): Starts off on flute, also plays tenor and soprano sax, with two percussionists, Rudolph using hand drums. B+(***)

Sam Rivers/Ben Street/Kresten Osgood + Bryan Carrott: Purple Violets (2004 [2005], Stunt): Trio plus vibes. B+(**)

Grade (or other) changes:

Jessie Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (2020, Interscope): British dance-pop diva, fourth album, starts retro-disco, ends up more new wave, the cool taking a while to carry the day. [was: B+(***)] A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Duotrio: In the Bright and Deep (Blujazz)
  • Kenny Kotwitz & the LA Jazz Quintet: When Lights Are Low (PMRecords) [08-01]
  • Paulette McWilliams: A Woman's Story (Blujazz)
  • Jose Rizo's Mongorama: Mariposas Cantan (Saungu) [09-16]

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Weekend Roundup

A good headline to sum up the week comes from Philip Rucker: Trump's week of retreat: The president reverses course as the coronavirus surges out of control. Rucker lists various things that Trump had to backpeddle on -- wearing masks, opening schools, packing his convention hall in Jacksonville, insisting Congress cut payroll taxes. You know, things that any reasonable adviser could have predicted weeks or months ago. Turns out the will doesn't always triumph over reality. And speaking of reality: Coronavirus updates: US deaths top 1,000 for fourth consecutive day. Also: Rebecca Rainey: New unemployment claims rose last week to 1.4M, ending months of declines.

Here's a meme which pretty succinctly sums up where the President's head is at these days. No idea where it originated, but Sue Katz posted it on Facebook, and Laura Tillem forwarded it.

Here's a tweet, attributed to Richard Feynman:

Schrödinger's Douchebag:

A guy who says offensive things and decides whether he was joking based on the reaction of people around him.

Or in Trump's case, since he isn't much good at judging reactions of people around him, based on subsequent polling, or less formally on how Fox's talking heads decide to spin it.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, July 20, 2020

Music Week

July archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33650 [33607] rated (+43), 224 [225] unrated (-1).

Seems like the summer is passing very fast. Probably a reflection of how little I get done most days. About all I can claim for this past week is:

Did nothing whatsoever on my other writing projects. and nothing on website projects. Didn't shop, or cook much, or deal with any of the few house projects I'm still contemplating. Managed just one phone call.

Have one question in the queue, a pretty general one about Europe. Ask more.

When I was writing about Hawes, it occurred to me that the one album I hadn't been able to find on Napster might be on YouTube, and indeed it was. After playing it, I did a search for whole albums on YouTube. First one I found that caught my attention was Fat Jazz by Jackie McLean, and that turned me loose on a McLean dig. Every record sounded real good, but I shut them down after one play each, with just enough reservation to keep them off the A-list. Further listening would very likely promote one or more, but the full grade list suggests better places to start.

Had some technical problems with the NoBusiness CDs, although the problem could be in my CD player. It had trouble recognizing several CDs, and got stuck on one. Wound up going to Bandcamp for a second spin of Carrier.

Michael Tatum mentioned he's planning on writing something about records from Christgau's 1985 Dean's List. I was thinking that was a year when I paid relatively little attention to new music, but not much there I didn't have rated. One was Jimmy G. and the Tackheads: Federation of Tackheads, although I'm pretty sure I did have the LP at some point. Same for Harold Budd & Brian Eno's The Pearl, and Steven Van Zandt's Sun City. Maybe I wasn't as out of it as I thought. I moved from New Jersey to Massachusetts end of 1984, so it became easier to find better record stores. Also got a nice raise with the move.

New records reviewed this week:

Riz Ahmed: The Long Goodbye (2020, Mongrel): British rapper, Pakistani parents, also known as Riz MC, one half of Swet Shop Boys, even better known as an actor (e.g., HBO's The Night Of). Second album, short (14 cuts, 26:58), a Clash critic described it as "a tightly packed, lightning-quick swing at the racism of British society." B+(*)

Conrad Bauer/Matthias Bauer/Dag Magnus Narvesen: The Gift (2018 [2020], NoBusiness): German trombonist, actual name Konrad, better known as Conny, a major figure in the German avant-garde since 1973 (especially in Zentralquartett). With bass and drums. B+(**) [cdr]

Bombay Bicycle Club: Everything Else Has Gone Wrong (2020, Island): British indie band, fifth album since 2009. B

Car Seat Headrest: Making a Door Less Open (2020, Matador): Will Toledo started with eight lo-fi download releases (2010-13) before being picked up by Matador and given a budget, at which point he became a semi-popular blip. I was less impressed, so when this didn't get much reaction, I didn't bother. Turns out it's pretty sharp. A-

Dramarama: Color TV (2020, Pasadena): New wave band from New Jersey in the 1980s, recorded two good 1985-87 albums, a couple more before hanging it up in 1994. Regrouped for another in 2005, and now this one. Singer-songwriter John Easdale is constant. B+(*)

Agustí Fernández/Liudas Mockunas: Improdimensions (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Duo, piano and reeds (contrabass clarinet, tenor and soprano sax). B+(***) [cdr]

David Guetta/Morten: New Rave (2020, Parlophone, EP): French DJ, seven albums since 2002, a series of compilations called Fuck Me I'm Famous, more than 100 singles, EPs, and production credits. Collaborator is Dieser Morten, but that's about all I know. Dense, catchy, 4 cuts, 12:20. B+(**)

Horse Lords: The Common Task (2020, Northern Spy): Fusion group from Baltimore, sax-guitar-bass-drums with most also into electronics. Fourth album, draws on Appalachia and Africa, arcane tunings, polyrhythms. Can build riff pieces, and run them into the ground. B+(*)

Jockstrap: Wicked City (2020, Warp, EP): London duo: Georgia Ellery and Taylor Skye. Second EP, five cuts, 20:45. Glitch pop, very scattershot, something I'd normally hate but too ridiculous for that. B

Camden Joy: Updated Just Now (2020, self-released, EP): Singer-songwriter Tom Adelman, has written six books, mostly fictionalized rock crit -- I'm pretty sure I read his The Last Rock Star Book or Liz Phair: A Rant (1998), although I can't recall any details. First record (at least under this alias), seven songs, 24:50, rough and sloppy folk-rock. B+(**)

Okkyung Lee: Yeo-Neun (2020, Shelter Press): Korean cellist, moved to US in 1993, based in New York, mostly plays in jazz contexts although this could be classical chamber music, with hints of Korean trad. With harp (Maeve Gilchrist), bass (Eivind Opsvik), and piano (Jacob Sacks). B+(**)

Luka Productions & Kandiafa: Music From Saharan WhatsApp 06 (2020, Sahel Sounds, EP): Sixth installment in the label's fast-disappearing monthly EP series, a duo with Luka Guindo (vocals, synth, percussion) and Abdoulaye "Kandiafa" Kone (ngoni). Four songs, 17:51. Fairly minimal but quite pleasant. B+(**) [bc]

Brad Mehldau: Suite: April 2020 (2020, Nonesuch): Solo piano, of the historical moment, "some experiences and feelings that are both new and common to many of us." Twelve parts follow his day from "Waking Up" through "The Day Moves By" to "Lullaby." Three covers follow, from Neil Young, Billy Joel, and Jerome Kern ("Look for the Silver Lining"). I'm rarely satisfied with solo piano, and when I am it's usually a pianist like James P. Johnson or Earl Hines who suffices as a whole rhythm section. But there's always a exception, and this one works especially well for right now. A-

Quinsin Nachoff: Pivotal Arc (2018 [2020], Whirlwind): Saxophonist, last two albums especially impressive, wrote this long series for strings -- specifically Molinari String Quartet, and solo violinist Nathalie Bonin. Does get immeasurably better on the title track, when the saxophone finally enters. B+(*) [08-07]

No Age: Goons Be Gone (2020, Drag City): Noise pop duo from Los Angeles, formed 2005, released a consistent stream of fine albums. Not sure why this one has fared so poorly with critics. Maybe a bit sludgy, but has their basic sound down pat. B+(**)

Joshua Redman/Brad Mehldau/Christian McBride/Brian Blade: Round Again (2019 [2020], Nonesuch): Big name quartet -- tenor sax, piano, bass, drums -- joining the label's two main stars with two more prominent leaders, but also reuniting the quartet from Redman's third album, MoodSwing (1994). All contribute songs (Redman 3, Mehldau 2, 1 each for the others), Mehldau has some fine solos, Redman more. Ends a bit soft, but reminds us that the '90s can still hold their own. B+(***)

Rose City Band: Summerlong (2020, Thrill Jockey): Portland group (of course), originally a side project for Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips, Moon Duo), evidently on his move from San Francisco. Second album, has a rep for psychedelia but this is pretty mellow, a bit like the Eagles but with less sunshine and ego. B+(*)

The Streets: None of Us Are Getting Out of This Life Alive (2020, Island): UK rapper Mike Skinner, six albums 2002-11, various projects before returning to his calling. Starts slow, ends strong. B+(**)

Threadbare [Jason Stein/Ben Cruz/Emerson Hunton]: Silver Dollar (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): Bass clarinte, guitar, drums. Cruz and Hunton did the composing (4-3, plus 1 joint), but Stein continues his impressive run of albums. A- [cd]

Etuk Ubong: Africa Today (2019 [2020], Night Dreamer): Nigerian trumpet player, also sings, played with Femi Kuti, hailed by Seun Kuti, develops a strong Afrobeat groove. B+(**)

Summer Walker: Life on Earth (2020, LVRN/Interscope, EP): R&B singer-songwriter, from Atlanta, well-regarded album last year, followed it up with this 5-track, 16:25 EP. B

Larry Willis: I Fall in Love Too Easily (2019 [2020], High Note): Recording date not stated, but billed as "The Final Session at Rudy Van Gelder's." Van Gelder died in 2016, but several more records were recorded in his famous studio, at least through 2018. On the other hand, Willis died in 2019. Quintet with Jeremy Pelt (trumpet), Joe Ford (alto sax), Blake Meister (bass), and Victor Lewis (drums). The horns have some moments, but the most touching ones are when they drop out, leaving the piano. B+(**)

Wire: 10:20 (2010-20 [2020], Pink Flag): Outtakes, four from the sessions that produced Red Barked Tree (2010), four from Mind Hive (2020). B+(*)

Yaeji: What We Drew (2020, XL): Kathy Yaeji Lee, born in New York, parents Korean, lived in Atlanta, Japan, and Korea before returning to Brooklyn. Produces electronica, sings, first album after two EPs, title includes a string of Hangul I'm ignoring. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Vincent Chancey/Wilber Morris/Warren Smith: The Spell: The Vincent Chancey Trio Live 1987 (1987 [2020], NoBusiness): French horn player, one of few, played for Sun Ra, shows up in a fair number of big bands and brass ensembles (e.g., Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, rarely as leader -- as exampled here, the instrument doesn't have much oomph. With bass and percussion. B+(*) [cdr]

DUX Orchestra: Duck Walks Dog (With Mixed Results) (1994 [2020], NoBusiness): Septet led by two baritone saxophonists (Dave Sewelson and Mats Gustafsson), with Will Connell Jr. (alto clarinet), guitar, piano, bass, and drums. Kicks up a bit of a ruckus. B+(**) [cdr]

Sam Rivers Trio: Ricochet [Sam Rivers Archive Project, Volume 3] (1978 [2020], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist (1923-2011), got a fairly late start, recording his brilliant debut Fuschia Swing Song at age 41, but worked into his mid-80s. His archives have been notable so far, with this, a trio with Dave Holland and Barry Altschul, no exception. Does include a fairly substantial amount of Rivers on piano and flute. B+(***) [cd]

Old music:

Artists United Against Apartheid: Sun City (1985, Manhattan): Organized by Little Steven (Van Zandt) around a single supporting the international boycott of South African resort Sun City -- lyrics don't go much beyond "I'm not going to play Sun City," but the mass of singers and musicians, especially the drums, carry it. Original album offered two versions, plus extra pieces by Peter Gabriel/Shankar, Keith LeBlanc, Gil Scott-Heron/Melle Mel/Duke Bootee, Miles Davis, and Bono, and eventually got expanded further in a "Deluxe Edition." The boycott did much to make people around the world aware of apartheid, leading to its end by 1994. A-

Harold Budd/Brian Eno: The Pearl (1984, Editions EG): Budd was a minimalist composer from California, drifted toward ambient, recording one of Eno's first batch of ambient albums (1980). Measured and relaxed. Might have seemed like something more at the time. B+(**)

Jimmy G. and the Tackheads: The Federation of Tackheads (1985, Capitol): One-shot Parliament-Funkadelic spinoff led by Jimmy Giles (George Clinton's younger brother), who plays bass, programs drums, and is the lead of many vocalists. Pedro Bell cover art. A-

Hampton Hawes: The Green Leaves of Summer (1964, Contemporary): Trio, with Monk Montgomery (bass) and Steve Ellington (drums). One original blues, seven scattered standards, "St. Thomas" a hit. B+(**) [yt]

Jackie McLean: Strange Blues (1957 [1967], Prestige): Alto saxophonist, scraps from two sessions, one a quartet with Mal Waldron (piano), the other with a rhythm section I don't recognize plus Webster Young (trumpet) and Ray Draper (tuba). B+(**)

Jackie McLean: Fat Jazz (1957 [1958], Jubilee): Sextet, with Webster Young (trumpet), Ray Draper (tuba), Gil Coggins (piano), bass, and drums, with Young and Draper originals. B+(**)

Jackie McLean: Vertigo (1959-63 [2000], Blue Note): Expands on a 1981 album which had picked up scraps, one a Walter Davis tune from 1959, five from 1963 session with Herbie Hancock and Donald Byrd, and adds five more tracks from a shelved album from 1962 with Sonny Clark and Kenny Dorham. The pieces fit together seamlessly, all respectable hard bop. B+(***)

Jackie McLean Quartet: Tune Up (1966 [1993], SteepleChase): Live shot from Baltimore, with LaMont Johnson (piano), Scotty Holt (bass), and Billy Higgins (drums). Sound strikes me as a bit off, but when he unloads on "Jack's Tune" I see no point in quibbling. B+(**)

Jackie McLean feat. Dexter Gordon: Vol. 2: The Source (1973 [1987], SteepleChase): Live at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, two stellar saxophonists, alto and tenor, with Kenny Drew, NHØP, and Alex Riel. A 1976 US release, on Inner City, was just The Source, but is the same as the shorter 1974 LP release. The summit did produce two LPs, but the first was The Meeting: Vol. 1, so it makes more sense to bring Vol. to the front. Or better still, look for Montmartre Summit 1973, which gives you both on 2-CD. B+(***)

Jackie McLean/Dexter Gordon: Montmartre Summit 1973 (1973 [1991], SteepleChase, 2CD): Combines Vol. 1: The Meeting with Vol. 2: The Source in a handy single package. B+(***)

Jackie McLean: A Ghetto Lullaby (1973 [1991], SteepleChase): Live in Copenhagen, scene of 1972's exceptional Live at Montmartre, with Kenny Drew (piano) and Alex Riel (drums) returning, and taking over the bass slot: Niels-Henning Ørsted Pederson. B+(***)

Jackie McLean & the Cosmic Brotherhood: New York Calling (1974 [1987], SteepleChase): Sextet, one of his son René McLean's first appearances (alto/soprano sax), with Billy Skinner (trumpet), Billy Gault (piano), bass, and drums. B+(***)

Jackie McLean With The Great Jazz Trio: New Wine in Old Bottles (1978, East Wind): Hank Jones formed GJT in 1976 and recorded a lot with it (22 albums 1976-84, 17 more 1988-2010, with various lineups but originally and here with Ron Carter and Tony Williams. B+(***) [yt]

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Max Bessesen: Trouble (Ropeadope) [09-04]
  • John Hollenbeck: Songs You Like a Lot (Flexatonic) [08-14]
  • Simon Moullier: Spirit Song (Outside In Music) [10-09]
  • Lawrence Sieberth Quartet: An Evening in Paris (Musik Blöc [09-24]
  • Ike Sturm/Jesse Lewis: Endless Field (Biophilia)
  • Tropos: Axioms // 75 AB (Biophilia)

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Featured headline this week: Griff Witte/Ben Guarino: It's not only coronavirus cases that are rising. Now covid deaths are, too. When I posted last week's headline, Florida shatters single-day infection record with 15,300 new cases, denialists responded that it wasn't a problem, because the death rate hadn't risen. That wasn't very clever. Bad as the disease is, it does take a week or two to kill, and that sort of lag time has followed the infection curve from the very start. Moreover, infections continue to rise: see Hannah Knowles/Derek Hawkins/Jacqueline Dupree: Coronavirus updates: Halfway through the year, the pandemic's only intensifying in many states.

I probably scraped the cartoon on the right from Twitter. It seemed to capture the moment and the person exceptionally well. Not sure who did it. Google shows several Pinterest lists it's on, and various Twitter threads. I didn't care for the meme that attributed Covid-19 deaths to Trump's inaction in and before March -- I figured any politician would have been blind-sided -- but it's harder to excuse him from the second peak (if that's all it is) we're going through now. But that's secondary here, to the all-important stroking of Trump's fragile ego. Of course he's incompetent: Republican orthodoxy demands that government fail whenever called on in an emergency. But why does he have to be so needy? He's an embarrassment, and that's finally, albeit still slowly, sinking in even to the people who hitched their hopes to his dumb luck.

On the other hand, I believe that there is more behind America's abysmal failure to contain the Covid-19 pandemic than just the buffoon in the White House. There's a Lincoln Project widget I've seen on Twitter that provides a running bar graph of total Covid-19 cases in OECD countries. It starts with South Korea as the highest country, then Japan and Italy have their moments, but the USA soon overtakes and buries the rest. Still, the rise of the UK to second place is as steady. For an explanation of this, Pankaj Mishra takes a more unified view of Anglo-America in: Flailing states. Writing for an English audience who hate being left out, Mishra glosses over differences which are evident even in the chart. The UK does still have a functioning, albeit not especially well funded, public health system, which even Boris Johnson showed some appreciation for after they saved his life. Still, every march to the right in America has been felt in the UK. Some samples:

Anglo-America's dingy realities -- deindustrialisation, low-wage work, underemployment, hyper-incarceration and enfeebled or exclusionary health systems -- have long been evident. Nevertheless, the moral, political and material squalor of two of the wealthiest and most powerful societies in history still comes as a shock to some. In a widely circulated essay in the Atlantic, George Packer claimed that 'every morning in the endless month of March, Americans woke up to find themselves citizens of a failed state.' In fact, the state has been AWOL for decades, and the market has been entrusted with the tasks most societies reserve almost exclusively for government: healthcare, pensions, low-income housing, education, social services and incarceration. . . .

The escalating warning signs -- that absolute cultural power provincialises, if not corrupts, by deepening ignorance about both foreign countries and political and economic realities at home -- can no longer be avoided as the US and Britain cope with mass death and the destruction of livelihoods. Covid-19 shattered what John Stuart Mill called 'the deep slumber of a decided opinion,' forcing many to realise that they live in a broken society, with a carefully dismantled state. As the Süddeutsche Zeitung put it in May, unequal and unhealthy societies are 'a good breeding ground for the pandemic.' Profit-maximising individuals and businesses, it turns out, can't be trusted to create a just and efficient healthcare system, or to extend social security to those who need it most. . . .

The pandemic, which has killed 130,000 people in the US, including a disproportionate number of African Americans, has now shown, far more explicitly than Katrina did in 2005 or the financial crisis in 2008, that the Reagan-Thatcher model, which privatised risk and shifted the state's responsibility onto the individual, condemns an unconscionable number of people to premature death or to a desperate struggle for existence. . . .

However, after the most radical upheaval of our times, even the bleakest account of the German-invented social state seems a more useful guide to the world to come than moist-eyed histories of Anglo-America's engines of universal progress. Screeching ideological U-turns have recently taken place in both countries. Adopting a German-style wage-subsidy scheme, and channelling FDR rather than Churchill, Boris Johnson now claims that 'there is such a thing as society' and promises a 'New Deal' for Britain. Biden, abandoning his Obama-lite centrism, has rushed to plagiarise Bernie Sanders's manifesto. In anticipation of his victory in November, the Democratic Party belatedly plans to forge a minimal social state in the US through robust worker-protection laws, expanded government-backed health insurance, if not single-payer healthcare, and colossal investment in public-health jobs and childcare programmes.

Mishra skips around, through quite a few countries for examples, including a bit on how democracy doesn't guarantee anything. What does work is having a government which sees its role to provide for the public welfare of all, and having a society which looks to the government for justice, security, help, and improvement, again for all. Democracy, by giving everyone an equal stake, should lead to healthier, more equal societies, but democracy can be corrupted and conned by privileging money, as we've seen. What the pandemic has done has been to split the world open according to how inequal nations are, with the most inequal ones paying the harshest price. This comes as no surprise to recent critics of inequality, such as Richard Wilkinson/Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger. Even mainstream Democrats seem to have some intuitive understanding of this, as evidenced by their relief proposals. On the other hand, people who are totally oblivious to the problem of inequality have been utterly gobsmacked by the pandemic -- none more so than Trump.

Some scattered links this week:

  • David Atkins: Why is Trump sending stormtroopers into Portland?

    In one of the most alarming developments of Trump's presidency, dozens of federal agents in full camouflage seized protesters and threw them into unmarked cars, taking them to locations unknown without specifying a reason for arrest. It appears that at least some of the agents involved belonged to the US Customs and Border Protection (colloquially known as Border Patrol), an organization that obviously has no business whatsoever conducted counterinsurgency tactics against peaceful American protesters in Portland, Oregon. Neither the mayor of Portland nor the governor of Oregon wanted them there; in fact, they specifically requested that they leave.

    Atkins asks why Trump is doing this, and rolls out some theories, saving the "ridiculous" but "also likely closest to the truth" for last:

    But if Fox News were the sum of your reality, you would believe that emergency action needed to be taken before the residents started to erect a Thunderdome and the services of Snake Plissken would be required. You would send in the troops despite the potential cost out of a belief that relieved Americans would be desperately grateful for your embrace of "law and order" (even if it were heavy on the "order" and light on the "law.") You would do whatever it took to bring the situation to heel, and figure the public approval would follow from the new Pax Trumpiana. After all, Fox News declared it must be so.

    Atkins followed this post up with a more speculative one: Trump may use DHS stormtroopers to stop people from voting. I don't see how he can do this, at least on a scale that might sway the election, without generating a huge backlash. More on Portland:

  • Ryan Bort: So long, Jeff Sessions: Trump's former attorney general lost the Republican Senate primary to Tommy Tuberville, who was endorsed by Trump.

  • John Bresnahan/Ally Mutnick: Kansas Republican Rep. Steve Watkins charged with voter fraud. Watkins' father is also being investigated for campaign finance violations.

  • Philip Bump: In a pair of interviews, Trump highlights white victimhood.

  • Megan Cassella: America's hidden economic crisis: Widespread wage cuts.

  • Jane Coaston: The Lincoln Project, the rogue former Republicans trying to take down Trump, explained. More on Lincoln Project:

  • Sean Collins: Rep. John Lewis, civil rights leader and moral center of Congress, has died at 80: "He is remembered as a Freedom Rider, voting rights champion, and the 'conscience of the Congress.'" Also on Lewis:

  • Sumner Concepcion: 5 key takeaways from Trump's lengthy off-the-rails interview on Fox News:

    • Doubling down on his claim of the coronavirus "disappearing" someday
    • Defending the Confederate flag
    • Piling on more attacks against Biden
    • Griping about his inability to hold rallies amid the COVID-19 pandemic
    • Refusing to guarantee he will accept the results of the November election

    The last was the more-or-less new one. But it's worth nothing that he did the same thing in 2016, and he trapped Hillary Clinton into declaring that she would accept the results, and true to her word, she gave up meekly and vanished from sight.

  • Igor Derysh:

    • Trump Victory Committee paid nearly $400,000 to Trump's Washington hotel in second quarter. "Trump's properties have earned well over $20 million in political spending since he took office, per CPR data." I suppose his defense is "that's chump change," but the thought counts.

    • Trump says it's "terrible" to question why Black people are killed by police: "So are white people": He refers to "white people" five times in 20 seconds, per the CBS tweet. Question: "Why are African Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?" Trump's complete answer: "So are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people by the way. More white people." Maybe he could have recovered a bit by adding, "Bottom line, police kill more people of all races than they should. And sure, statistics say they're more likely to kill a black person than a white, but the answer isn't to make them discriminate more carefully based on race. The answers is for them to kill a lot fewer people." Still, when your first thought to a question about discrimination against black is to bring up "white people," you're a racist. QED.

  • Tom Engelhardt: Donald J Trump, or Osama bin Laden's revenge. Starts with a stroll through Trump's sculpture "garden of heroes" (which Masha Gessen wrote up in sufficient detail last week, then considers the fate Osama bin Laden hoped we would have in leading America into "the graveyard of empires" in Afghanistan.

  • David S Fogelsong: With fear and favor: The Russophobia of 'The New York Times': "Disregarding all past experience, journalists, politicians, and foreign policy experts have simply assumed that the claims of Russian bounties for killing American troops are true. They -- and we -- should know better."

  • Matt Ford: The Supreme Court's unconscionable rush to kill a prisoner.

    The federal government ended its 13-year moratorium on executions on Tuesday morning by killing Daniel Lewis Lee at the federal death chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana. Lewis is the first in a series of federal prisoners slated to die in the next few days as part of a renewed push by the Trump administration to carry out death sentences at the federal level, even as the practice falls out of favor nationwide.

  • Melissa Gira Grant: The dark obsessions of QAnon are merging with mainstream conservatism: "With Republican candidates and Trump embracing the strange, child trafficking-fixated movement, it can no longer be dismissed as merely a conspiracy theory."

  • Maggie Haberman: Trump replaces Brad Parscale as campaign manager, elevating Bill Stepien. Parscale got a lot of credit for Trump's 2016 win with his Facebook operation, so naturally got promoted to head the whole campaign operation, finding himself in way over his head.

  • Jeff Hauser/Max Moran/Andrea Beaty: Better policy ideas alone won't stop monopolies. Outlines the obstacles antitrust enforcement faces, especially in the courts but also in the bureaucracy. But the conclusion I'd draw from this is that that's why better policy ideas are needed. Why not develop some policies that would prevent monopolies from forming in the first place? Ending patents, promoting open source software and research, giving employees more power on boards and as owners, making it much more difficult to acquire companies (e.g., limiting debt financing of purchase price), allowing bankrupt companies to return under employee management, publicly-sponsored non-profit cooperatives -- those are all things that would help. Certainly way better than waiting for monpolies to form and trying to prosecute the worst offenders.

  • Mara Hvistendahl: Masks off: How the brothers who fueled the reopen protests built a volatile far-right network. On Ben Dorr and brothers Aaron, Chris, and Matthew. When Trump was elected, we saw an outpouring of protests styling themselves as the Resistance. It seems inevitable that when/if Trump loses, the right will organize its own Resistance -- smaller but more menacing, much like the Dorrs here. I expect thay'll make the Tea Party look like a polite afternoon klatch.

  • Tyshia Ingram: The case for unschooling: "Why the hands off alternative to homeschooling might get parents through the Covid-19 pandemic." I was intrigued by this because my own experience with the school system was mostly negative. My impression is that schooling has become even more demanding and oppressive since then, especially with "No Child Left Behind"'s focus on testing. So my initial reaction when schools shut down this Spring was that maybe kids could use a break. On the other hand, to make this work, I don't doubt that children and adolescents need access to and support from people who do have decent educations. My parents weren't much help, but after I dropped out of high school I found my own way. Would certainly be easier today with the Internet. By the way, after I dropped out, I spent a lot of time reading about education. The term "unschooling" comes from John Holt, who was one of the pioneering writers I read back then. Teaching as a Subversive Activity, by Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner, was my favorite.

  • Elahe Izadi/Jeremy Barr: Bari Weiss resigns from New York Times, says 'Twitter has become its ultimate editor': I can't say as Weiss was even on my radar, but she was prominently mentioned in the Harper's letter controversy, and evidently decided to exploit that moment of fame by "canceling" herself. She was evidently most famous as the main pro-Zionist voice on their opinion staff, not that the Times' biases there are likely to change in the near future. Some reaction:

    • Henry Olsen: McCarthyism is back. This time, it's woke. The Weiss resignation (and/or Andrew Sullivan's resignation from New York Magazine) stirred up a hornet's nest of outrage among Washington Post opinion writers -- scroll down for links from Matt Bai, Hugh Hewitt, Kathleen Parker, Megan McArdle, and Jennifer Rubin -- but this is about as off the deep end as any. Olsen has no more grasp of McCarthyism than Clarence Thomas did of lynching when he decried having to face unflattering testimony. Although I am glad that McCarthyism is still being viewed as something bad. For a better grounded use of the term, see Peter Beinart: Trumpism is the new McCarthyism. Sullivan's farewell letter, which doubles as promo for his new subscription newsletter, is here.

    • Avi Selk: A New York Times columnist blamed a far-left 'mob' for her woes. But maybe she deserves them. In any case, the talking point will set her up for lucrative ventures further right.

    • Alex Shephard: The self-cancellation of Bari Weiss: "Like much of her writing, the New York Times editor's resignation letter is long on accusation and thin on evidence." As Shephard concludes, her resignation will "make the perfect ending for her next book."

    • Philip Weiss: Bari Weiss leaves the 'NYT' and that's bad for Zionists: "Weiss is such a gifted careerist that even this moment feels like shtik: Bari Weiss playing her own persecutino for the greater glory of Bari Weiss."

  • Jen Kirby: Israel's West Bank annexation plan and why it's stalled, explained by an expert: Interview with Brent E Sasley ("a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and an expert on Israeli politics").

  • Ezra Klein: What a post-Trump Republican Party might look like: Interview with Oren Cass, who was a Romney consultant and author of The Once and Future Worker: A Vision for the Renewal of Work in America, on "why conservatives need to challenge free-market economic orthodoxy." He doesn't say much about the Republican party (either the financiers or the rank-and-file), but does offer a bunch of dubious economic ideas. Some such rethinking is in order (although few ideas have fared worse than supply-side focus), but even if Trump loses badly, I don't see many Republicans (either rich or poor) taking the hint to rethink economic policy. Rather, they'll try to pin their loss on media focus on Trump's gaffes, limiting them as much as possible to Covid-19. Most importantly, the real power base behind the GOP -- which is Fox News -- will pivot to attack mode, and try to gin up another Tea Party, as they did in 2009. And once again, they'll do that not for tactical reasons but because they have to fill up 24/7 of air time, and outrage sells, and it doesn't matter to them if their market is a hopeless minority -- just so it's big enough to be profitable.

  • Andy Kroll: The plot against America: The GOP's plan to suppress the vote and sabotage the election.

  • Paul Krugman: Why do the rich have so much power?

  • Nancy LeTourneau: The pandemic is making Republican lawmakers much more vulnerable:

    All of that is happening as the news of a potential landslide in the 2020 election continues to build. There's been a lot of talk about how several incumbent Republican senators are extremely vulnerable in their quest for reelection. But today, the Cook Political Report made some changes to their House ratings -- with 20 seats moving towards the Democrats. . . .

    So when Greg Dworkin's friend suggested that this wasn't so much an election as a countdown, it resonated deeply. The hope that we can turn things around in a few months is palpable. But what will happen over those months is terrifying. The clock is ticking.

    Perhaps the saddest part of all of this is that it begs the question: "Why did it have to get this bad?" I'm sure that future historians will write volumes in an attempt to answer that question. But something is deeply wrong with our democratic republic when it takes a pandemic costing the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans to get us to wake up and smell the stench emanating from the president and his congressional enablers.

  • Dahlia Lithwick: Mary Trump's book shows how Donald Trump gets away with it: "The problem with a fraud as big as this president is that once you start collaborating with him, it's impossible to get out." I must admit I'm enjoying the reviews of niece Mary Trump's book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, not least because it seems so close and personal, even if the title could apply equally to nearly every silver-spooned baby boomer in the land. Lithwick writes:

    Donald Trump ogled his own niece in a bathing suit and sought to fill one of his books with hit lists of "ugly" women who had rebuffed him; Donald Trump paid someone to take his SATs; Maryanne Trump Barry, a retired federal appeals court judge, once described her brother as a "clown" with no principles; Donald Trump was a vicious bully even as a child; Freddy Trump -- the author's father -- died alone in a hospital while Donald went to a movie. The details are new, and graphic, yes, but very little about it is surprising: The president is a lifelong liar and cheater, propped up by a father who was as relentless in his need for success as Donald Trump was to earn his approval. . . .

    But as it became clear that Donald had no real business acumen -- as his Atlantic City casinos cratered and his father unlawfully poured secret funds into saving them -- Mary realized that Fred also depended on the glittery tabloid success at which Donald excelled. Fred continued to prop up his son's smoke-and-mirrors empire because, as Mary writes, "Fred had become so invested in the fantasy of Donald's success that he and Donald were inextricably linked. Facing reality would have required acknowledging his own responsibility, which he would never do. He had gone all in, and although any rational person would have folded, Fred was determined to double down." . . .

    And as Mary Trump is quick to observe, the sheer stuck-ness of his enablers means that Trump never, ever learns his lesson. Being cosseted, lied to, defended, and puffed up means that Donald Trump knows that, "no matter what happens, no matter how much damage he leaves in his wake, he will be OK." He fails up, in other words, because everyone around him, psychologically normal beings all, ends up so enmeshed with his delusions that they must do anything necessary to protect them. Trump's superpower isn't great vision or great leadership but rather that he is so tiny. Taking him on for transactional purposes may seem like not that big a deal at first, but the moment you put him in your pocket, you become his slave. It is impossible to escape his orbit without having to admit a spectacular failure in moral and strategic judgment, which almost no one can stomach. Donald Trump's emptiness is simply a mirror of the emptiness of everyone who propped him up.


  • German Lopez: Florida now has more Covid-19 cases than any other state. Here's what went wrong. "The percentage of positive tests is now nearly 19 percent," which means they're not testing enough (recommended maximum is 5 percent), not too much. More Covid-19 stories:

  • Nick Martin: Ivanka Trump and Lockheed Martin want you to reach for the stars and stop collecting unemployment. Actually, "find something new" isn't a totally stupid idea. It seems likely that the economy will eventually adapt to Covid-19 and look different than the one before the pandemic. As such, those who can shift their trajectories toward emerging careers will benefit both for themselves and for the future society. Extended unemployment compensation and benefits could help. But companies like Lockheed Martin are just trying to scam the program for themselves.

  • Dylan Matthews: Trump reduced fines for nursing homes that put residents at risk. Then Covid-19 happened.

  • Jane Mayer: How Trump is helping tycoons exploit the pandemic: "The secretive titan behind one of America's largest poultry companies, who is also one of the President's top donors, is ruthlessly leveraging the coronavirus crisis -- and his vast fortune -- to strip workers of protections."

  • Sara Morrison:

    • Lawmakers are very upset about this week's massive Twitter breach: Maybe because the folks who got hacked are rich and famous?

    • Everything you need to know about Palantir, the secretive company coming for all your data.

      Palantir is also controversial because its co-founder and board chair, Peter Thiel, is controversial. Thiel, who was one of Facebook's first outside investors and maintains a position on its board of directors, has seen his share of criticism over the years, but the libertarian billionaire really came into the public eye in 2016 when he revealed himself as the money behind Hulk Hogan's privacy lawsuit against Gawker (which would ultimately kill the site) and an early Trump supporter.

      As most of liberal Silicon Valley's big names publicly came out against Trump, Thiel was one of relatively few public figures who supported his candidacy. After speaking at the Republican National Convention, he gave the Trump campaign $1.25 million, and when Trump won the election, New York magazine said he was "poised to become a national villain." Thiel has been rewarded for his support: He was chosen to be a member of the president's transition team; in the early days of the Trump presidency, Politico dubbed Thiel "Donald Trump's 'shadow president' in Silicon Valley"; and Thiel's chief of staff and protégé, Michael Kratsios, served as the White House's chief technology officer from 2017 until this month, when he was named acting undersecretary for research and engineering at the Department of Defense.

      The article notes that "Palantir even sued the US Army in 2016 to force it to consider using its intelligence software after the Army chose to go with its own," and "won the suit, and then it won an $800 million contract."

  • Elie Mystal: The Trump administration is on a capital punishment killing spree: "After 17 years, attorney general Bill Barr has resumed federal executions -- and the conservative on the Supreme Court approve."

  • Terry Nguyen: Boycotts show us what matters to Americans.

  • Tina Nguyen: Trump keeps fighting a Confederate lag battle many supporters have conceded. I thought Nikki Haley made a courageous move in ditching the Confederate flag after a mass shooting in Charlestown while she was governor, but it became merely savvy when literally no one tried to save the flag. As a northerner whose ancestors came to the US well after the Civil War, you'd expect Trump to have even less interest in the Confederacy. But some polling here shows not only that a majority of Americans view the Confederate flag as a racist symbol, there is no significant difference between North and South -- but there is one between Republicans and Democrats.

  • John Nichols: Why the hell is the Supreme Court allowing a new poll tax to disenfranchise Florida voters?

  • Anna North: America's child care problem is an economic problem. Subhed bullet list:

    • More than 41 million workers have kids under 18. Almost all of them lost child care as a result of the pandemic.
    • In normal times, inadequate child care is the equivalent of a 5 percent pay cut for parents. Now it's much worse.
    • By late June, 13 percent of parents had cut back hours or quit their jobs
    • 80 percent of moms say they're handling the majority of homeschooling responsibilities in their families
    • And about 16 percent of parents are taking care of kids alone, without a partner
    • Add to that parents needing and looking for jobs: More than 11 percent of women are unemployed right now
    • Meanwhile, 40 percent of child care programs say they will have to close permanently without outside help
    • More than 250,000 child care workers have lost their jobs
    • When it comes to schools, the news is just as grim: At least 3 of the country's biggest school districts will be partially or fully remote in the fall
    • With fewer options for child care, parents could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetime
    • Trump has offered zero solutios to solve the problem

    All originally in bold. Thought that would be too much clutter, but kept one that seemed to stand out.

  • JC Pan: In defense of free stuff during (and after) the pandemic: "The mass expansion of public goods is long past due, so pay people to say home, give them free health care, and stop charging tuition."

  • Alex Pareene: Throw the bums out: "We are in the midst of a world-historic failure of governance. Why isn't anyone in charge acting like they are responsible for it?" Picture is Andrew Cuomo, and his "three-dimensional foam mount repreenting the pandemic's toll on the state." I'm not one inclined to defend Cuomo, but I really doubt a random reshuffling of politicians would do us any good. There may be exceptions, but in damn near all of the country, there's a big difference between Republican and Democratic "bums."

  • Heather Digby Parton: Trump's unhinged Rose Garden campaign rally: His sideshow act is getting truly pathetic: "He can't hold rallies, so he forced the press corps to sit through one. Then he said Joe Biden will ban windows."

  • Kim Phillips-Fein: Rethinking the solution to New York's fiscal crisis.

  • Abraham Ratnet: Trumpism is an aesthetic, not an ideology -- and it will survive Donald Trump. I'm half convinced: ideology involves too much thinking for Trump followers. But at least I can imagine an ideology. I'm finding it much harder to come up with a Trump aesthetic. Sure, there's no great shortage of Trump kitsch, from his Goya pandering to his gold toilets, but is that really an aesthetic? I've long been wary of efforts to ideologize and/or aestheticize politics, not least because the Nazis and Fascists put so much effort into doing just that. (I don't like lumping them, but in this regard one could also include various Communist parties -- with Korea the most comprehensive.) But with Trump's followers, what you mostly get are Trilling's "irritable mental gestures" -- well, sometimes physical gestures as well. All they have is a psychology, and sure, that will survive Trump, not because Trump invented it but because Trump was as mired in it as they are. He never was the leader of a movement. He just caught the spotlight as the guy acting out most flagrantly.

  • David Roberts:

  • Michael Scherer/Josh Dawsey: From 'Sleepy Joe' to a destroyer of the 'American way of life,' Trump's attacks on Biden make a dystopian shift.

  • Jon Schwarz: Political correctness is destroying America! (Just not how you think.) What he means is that the right, and for that matter the center, work at least as hard at patrolling use of language among their followers. You don't have to spend much time watching Fox News to see that everyone in every time slot echo the same talking points, offering the same spin on and definition of events and ideas. The modern term for this is message discipline. The exclusive association of PC with the left goes back to the Leninist Communist Parties, where approved speech was deemed to be correct, and because correct implies fidelity to a higher authority, like nature or reality (or God or Party). The use in recent America has been far more haphazard, mostly as people have sought to avoid and deplore slurs, occasionally resorting to indirect or infelicitous phrases. This is contentious because parties on all sides understand that controlling the language used to define an issue often determines the outcome. But it also becomes pedantic when debates reduce issues to terminology -- itself a common, if unappealing, debate technique. Schwarz provides many examples of Republicans dictating their followers' speech, as well as a few where mainstream Democrats have joined them (e.g., deference to God and Country, to the military and the police). Still, I'm not sure that calling this PC is helpful. For example, insisting that climate change is a hoax is more properly propaganda, its message discipline enforced as dogma. It is in no sense of the word correct.

  • Dylan Scott:

  • Alex Shephard: Donald Trump Jr wages a culture war on the publishing industry: "He evidently believes that he can make more money self-publishing -- especially if he portrays the move as a rebuke of liberal elites." Trump has a new book, to be released during the Republican convention, Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrat's Defense of the Indefensible (sic?).

  • David Sirota: Wall Street is deeply grateful for the Supreme Court's recent little-noticed ruling.

    Chief Justice John Roberts has created the most conservative court in modern history: In just the last few weeks, his court has helped financial firms bilk pension funds, strengthened fossil fuel companies' power to fast-track pipelines, limited the power of regulatory agencies that police Wall Street, and stealthily let Donald Trump hide his tax returns. As a reward for Roberts's continued defense of the wealthy and powerful, much of the national media has obediently depicted him as a great hero of moderation, because he sort of seemed to snub Trump in a handful of other rulings.

  • Roger Sollenberger: Fox News peddled misinformation about the coronavirus 253 times in five days. Well, that's what you get for counting.

  • Emily Stewart: The PPP worked how it was supposed to. That's the problem. "America's plan to save small business in the pandemic was flawed from the start."

  • Matthew Avery Sutton: The truth about Trump's evangelical support: Review of recent books on evangelical Christians: Kristin Kobes Du Mez: Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation; Sarah Posner: Unholy: Why White Evangelicals Worship at the Altar of Donald Trump; and Samuel L Perry/Andrew L Whitehead: Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.

  • Derek Thompson: A lot of Americans are about to lose their homes: "The current housing crisis could get messy quickly, but fixing it shouldn't be complicated, if Congress intervenes."

  • Paul Waldman: If you aren't filled with rage at Trump, you aren't paying attention.

    Before the pandemic, Trump was one of the worst presidents in our history. But now he has laid waste to our country, with his unique combination of incompetence and malevolence -- and he's not done yet. Once we finally rid ourselves of him, it will take years to recover. But as we do, we should never for a moment forget what he was and what he did to us. And we should never stop being angry about it.

    Same thing could have been said about Bush in 2008, but Obama chose not to remind people of the wars and recession and environmental and climate degradation and collapsing infrastructure and education and increasing inequality he was to no small extent responsible for. He not only let people forget the perils of electing Republicans, he let them transfer blame to his own party and self, allowing Republicans to stage a resurgence which led to Trump in 2016.

  • Alex Ward:

  • Libby Watson: The Democrats' baffling silence as millions of Americans lose their health insurance: "Five million have lost coverage amid the pandemic -- a number that's expected to triple by year's end. But the party leadership isn't reacting as though it's a crisis."

  • Moira Weigel: The pioneers of the misinformation industry: Book review of Claire Bond Potter: Political Junkies: From Talk Radio to Twitter, How Alternative Media Hooked Us on Politics and Broke Our Democracy; and Matthew Lysiak: The Drudge Revolution: The Untold Story of How Talk Radio, Fox News, and a Gift Shop Clerk with an Internet Connection Took Down the Mainstream Media. "Potter, a professor at the New School, keeps a (mostly) neutral, academic distance from her subjects, while Lysiak has written a sympathetic biography that moves at the speed of a screenplay."

  • Erik Wemple: Tucker Carlson whitewashes the racism of his show and his former top writer.

  • Erica Werner/Jeff Stein: Trump administration pushing to block new money for testing, tracing and CDC in upcoming coronavirus relief bill. This seems beyond stupid. It's part of negotiations on a follow up to the CARES act, which expires at the end of the month (more on it below). Trump is also insisting on a payroll tax cut, which seems especially dumb given the more pressing needs of the unemployed, and "another round of stimulus checks" (same problem, plus until the virus is contained there won't be much economy to stimulate).

  • Richard D Wolfe: Why government mostly helps people who need it the least . . . even during a crisis. Mostly on the stock market, which the Fed and the Trump administration have struggled mightily to re-inflate after the panic in March, even though an overvalued stock market is useless to fighting the pandemic or even re-opening the economy. Trump thinks it makes him look good, and maybe it does to people who own a lot of stocks. The re-inflated stock market is a big part of the reason the share of wealth owned by billionaires has increased dramatically while virtually everyone else has suffered.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Li Zhou: Congress is running out of time to extend expanded unemployment insurance. Also on CARES:

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