Blog Entries [10 - 19]

Monday, December 7, 2020


Music Week

December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34511 [34444] rated (+67), 215 [210] unrated (+5).

I've been working very fast and very hard, as should be obvious from the ridiculously high rated total this week. I've been counting ballots for the Jazz Critics Poll (71 submitted so far, which is pretty good with six days to go). I've been toting up EOY lists. I've been playing things I'm seeing on these lists, though rarely giving them more than a single spin. (I should give those Schubert albums another shot; also seems likely that one or more of the hip-hop albums might click; on the other hand, Kimbrough got three spins today, thanks to having the CD, which I could play while making soup and coleslaw (separate projects, but both kitchen-based).

All this listening is causing my EOY lists for jazz and non-jazz to churn, but is having surprisingly little effect on the upper reaches. I haven't formally submitted a Jazz Critics Poll ballot, but nothing new has come close to top-ten level. This is probably because I've managed to hear more of what I've heard about this year than in any previous year. For instance, if you look at the current EOY Aggregate file, the top-rated records I haven't heard are:

  1. Deftones: Ohms (Warner Bros) {38}
  2. Code Orange: Underneath (Roadrunner) {24}
  3. Sorry: 925 (Domino) {21}
  4. Gorillaz: Song Machine,Season One: Strange Timez (Parlophone) {20}
  5. The Killers: Imploding the Mirage (Island) {19}
  6. Matt Berninger: Serpentine Prison (Book/Concord) {18}
  7. Helena Deland: Someone New (Luminelle) {18)
  8. AC/DC: Power Up (Columbia) {17}
  9. The Lemon Twigs: Songs for the General Public (4AD) {17}
  10. Touche Amore: Lament (Epitaph) {17}
  11. Nick Cave: Idiot Prayer (Bad Seed) {16}
  12. The Microphones: Microphones in 2020 (PW Elverum & Sun) {16}
  13. Poppy: I Disagree (Sumerian) {16}
  14. BC Camplight: Shortly After Takeoff (Bella Union) {15}
  15. Crack Cloud: Pain Olympics (Meat Machine) {15}
  16. Mark Lanegan: Straight Songs of Sorrow (Heavenly) {15}

Most of these are metal or near-metal -- things I almost never like. The frequency of unheard records increases after that, but I have to scroll down toward 330 to get a screen with more black than green (or blue), and from 582-624 colors outnumber black 27-16 (at 5-6 points, my own votes are starting to have more influence). My coverage of jazz is even deeper. At present, there are 111 albums with 9(2) or higher scores. Of those, I've heard all but the following (11, so less than 10%; I've heard the top 34):

  • Tyshawn Sorey: Unfiltered (self-released)
  • Camila Nebbia: Aura (Ears & Eyes)
  • Michael Formanek Quartet: Untamed . . . Pre-Apocalyptic (Out of Your Head)
  • Peter Evans: Being & Becoming (More Is More)
  • Jason Palmer: The Concert: 12 Musings for Isabella (Giant Steps Arts)
  • Dan Weiss Starebaby: Natural Selection (Pi)
  • Steve Swell: The Center Will Hold (Not Two)
  • Lynne Arriale Trio: Chimes of Freedom (Challenge)
  • George Lewis & Oxana Omelchuk: Breaking News Studio Dan (Ezz-thetics)
  • Tim Ray: Excursions and Adventures (Whaling City Sound)
  • Dave Douglas: Marching Music (Greenleaf Music)
  • 3D Jazz Trio: I Love to See You Smile (DIVA)

I recall looking the first three up on Bandcamp, and didn't find enough cuts to review. (I should recheck them for "Further Sampling," which I'm still doing -- just not very aggressively.) I already have a download of Douglas, so I'll get to that. I was surprised to find that I've only received one record from Pi this year. They usually do a very good job of servicing critics, but cut back when the lockdown hit, and started releasing digital-only home recordings. Besides, I've panned all of Dan Weiss's CDs, so maybe they're keeping track.

As far as the EOY Aggregate is concerned, I continue to cheat in ways designed to make the list more interesting. I ignore exclusive metal magazines -- although enough leaks through that the metal subset of the big list has reached 160 albums (I've heard 2: kind of liked one, and didn't hate the other). I pick up jazz that the big aggregators ignore (including some JJA lists, but I haven't dipped into the JCP ballots yet), and I look out for country and hip-hop lists, and somewhat less aggressively for electronica and world lists. I've heard 42 of the top 50 country/folk/Americana albums (84%, 135 albums listed), 47 of the top 50 hip-hop/rap albums (94%, 214 albums listed), 22 of the top 50 electronica albums (44%, although 9/10 and 14/16, 197 albums listed), and 31 of the top 50 world albums (62%, 80 albums listed).

I've also started to pick off some ballots from the Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll, although thus far my standard is to only pick names I've tracked in previous EOY Aggregates (many from Village Voice Pazz & Jop polls, or the Christgauvian Expert Witness Facebook group, so that warps the results toward Christgau's picks, as does the extra points for his grades). One such ballot came from Tom Lane, who followed up by sending me a much longer list via email (which I will count in due course; any reader who deigns to send me a ranked list via email is also likely to get counted).

My EOY lists were up to date as of last Friday (at least based on what I've found on Acclaimed Music Forums), but I've slipped a bit over the weekend. I should also note that I've depended a lot on lists by Phil Overeem, Chris Monsen, and Tim Niland.

One anomaly this week is that I threw in a cover scan for a mere B+(***) record. Just saw Gnod's record in the recommendations of a Bandcamp page, and my interest was piqued enough that I played it -- the only non-new record this week (not that 2017 is that old). Couldn't quite give it an A- (a bit too noise/metal for my taste within the limits of one spin), but wanted the cover anyway. My prerogative.

Current jazz/non-jazz split for new A-list albums: 69/48. Most years eventually even out. Maybe Christgau's December Consumer Guide -- out Wednesday for paying subscribers -- will offer some non-jazz candidates?

By the way, Michaelangelo Matos' new book, Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year, is coming out this week. I'd still argue for 1964, but he's a good deal younger than me. For a review, check out Jack Hamilton: The Great New Book About the Year That Changed Pop.

By the way, Matos passed along my favorite tweet of the week: "Pro-tip: Never say 2020 can't get any worse!"


New records reviewed this week:

Eivind Aarset & Jan Bang: Snow Catches on Her Eyelashes (2020, Jazzland): Norwegian duo, the former plays guitar and bass, the latter samples, mixes, and produces, with a few guest spots along the way (e.g., one track with Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet). Ambient, washes over you gently. B+(*) [bc]

Backxwash: God Has Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It (2020, Grimalkin, EP): Rapper Ashanti Mutinta, born in Zambia, moved to Canada at 17 to study computer science, transgender, pronouns she/her, which is part of the subject matter. Second studio album, short (10 tracks, 22:05, as was the first, Deviancy), but dense and heavy. B+(**) [bc]

Barrage: The Was and Is to Come (2020, Øra Fonogram): Bassist Alexander Riris composed these pieces, played by a Norwegian septet, with trumpet, three saxes, piano, and drums. Impressive at speed, loses a bit when they slow down. B+(***)

Ran Blake/Andrew Rathbun: Northern Noir (2018 [2020], SteepleChase): Duets, piano and tenor sax. Opens and closes with "Strange Fruit," which seems about right for the somber, measured intimacy. B+(**)

Urs Blöchlinger Revisited: Harry Doesn't Mind (2018 [2020], Leo): Tribute group for the late Swiss saxophonist (1954-95), a septet led by son Lino Blöchinger, also a saxophonist, playing the old compositions. B+(**)

Peter Brötzmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Memories of a Tunicate (2020, Relative Pitch): Tenor sax and cello duo, a small but loud subset of their Chicago Tentet. The former sometimes takes the edge off by switching to clarinet or tarogato, while the latter adds electronics. As Mark Corroto put it, "entertaining and exhausting." B+(*) [bc]

Paul Bryan: Cri$el Gems (2020, self-released): Los Angeles-based bassist, Discogs credits him with one previous album (from 2003), but he seems to do a lot of production work on the side, including Jeff Parker's Suite for Max Brown. Parker plays guitar here, Lee Pardini electric piano, plus three percussionists, in an album that puts groove first but isn't satisfied to leave it there. B+(*)

BTS: BE (2020, Big Hit): Korean boy band, big stars worldwide. I've seen them dance through their revolving vocals a few times, and they're a lot of fun to watch. Less fun to just listen to, and the 3:00 "Skit" in the middle here is dead time, not that the closing single ("Dynamite") doesn't make up for it. Short (8 tracks, 28:30). B+(*)

Conway the Machine: From a King to a GOD (2020, Griselda): Buffalo rapper Demond Price, brother of Westside Gunn, cousin of Benny the Butcher, mixtapes from 2015, first studio album. "It's all good crap." B+(***)

Conway the Machine/The Alchemist: Lulu (2020, Griselda/ALC, EP): Seven tracks, 22:42. B+(**)

Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: Force Majeure (2020, International Anthem): Bass and harp duets, recorded in their shared Harlem apartment between March and June, 2020. A unique item, the mesh and contrast of the instruments near perfect, but I doubt it's something I'll want to return to, except to recall what those months were like, and how to survive them. B+(***)

Kurt Elling: Secrets Are the Best Stories (2020, Edition): Jazz singer, impressed a lot of people but I've always found him way too mannered, and have even started to question his chops of late. Big help here musically from Danilo Perez (pianist and co-producer). B-

Enemy Radio: Loud Is Not Enough (2020, SplitSLAM): A Chuck D project, with DJ Lord Aswod and Jahi Torman, the sound as punched up as Public Enemy can bring it, the message even more deeply political. I missed this when it came out in April, but it belongs in the Spring/Summer soundtrack, and is not likely to lose relevance for quite some time. A-

Fleet Foxes: Shore (2020, Anti-): Mild-mannered rock group (chamber or baroque pop), formed near Seattle c. 2006, principally Robin Pecknold. Fourth album, I've never understood the critical interest in this group, but this at least is pretty easy listening. B

Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Pentas: Tribute to Eric and Chris Stern (2019 [2020], Not Two): Piano and trumpet duo, four compositions each. No idea how the Sterns figure into this. B+(**)

Future/Lil Uzi Vert: Pluto x Baby Pluto (2020, Atlantic): Two rappers, title refers back to the 2012 album by Future (Nayvadius Wilburn) and the lead song from the latter's 2020 album. This got pretty severely panned, but I'm finding the dense, beatwise banter about par for the course. B+(*)

GoGo Penguin: Live From Studio 2 (2020, Decca): English piano trio -- Chris Illingworth, Nick Blacka, Rob Turner -- strong on rhythm, a crossover threat niche previously developed by EST and Bad Plus. Digital only, billed as an EP, really a short album (7 tracks, 35:18). B+(*)

Devin Gray: Socialytics (2019 [2020], Rataplan, EP): Drummer, composer, leads trio with names below and right of title: Dave Ballou (trumpet) and Ryan Ferreira (guitar). Short (6 tracks, 24:17), but Ballou makes a big impression. B+(**)

Devin Gray/Gerald Cleaver: 27 Licks (2019 [2020], Rataplan): Two drummers, duets, something of an acquired taste. B+(*) [bc]

Connie Han: Iron Starlet (2020, Mack Avenue): Pianist, from Los Angeles, second album (or third, counting a Richard Rodgers Songbook she did as a teenager). Impressive speed, wrote 5 songs, to 3 by drummer-producer Bill Wysaske, and 2 covers. Gets significant help from Walter Smith III (tenor sax) and, especially, Jeremy Pelt (trumpet). B+(**)

Elisabeth Harnik & Steve Swell: Tonotopic Organizations (2019 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Piano and trombone duets, recorded in Vienna (the pianist's home turf). Limited, but notable streaks from both. B+(*) [bc]

Honey Harper: Starmaker (2019 [2020], ATO): Born William Fussell, grew up with country music in Georgia, seems to be based in UK now, debut album after an EP and singles. Not conventionally country, but maybe a glittered up stage rendition. B

Headie One: Edna (2020, Relentless): British rapper Irving Adjei, first album after several mixtapes. B+(**)

Ian Hendrickson-Smith: The Lowdown (2019 [2020], Cellar Live): Alto saxophonist, mainstream, his debut a memorable early Jazz CG find, continues in that vein, with Cory Weeds (tenor sax), Rick Germanson (piano), John Webber (bass), and Joe Farnsworth (drums). B+(**)

HHY & the Macumbas: Camouflage Vector: Edits From Live Actions 2017-19 (2017-19 [2020], Nyege Nyege): Jonathan Saldanha and/or his "cryptic collective" from Porto, Portugal, with a strategic intervention by dub producer Adrian Sherwood, working from Barcelos to Tenerife then editing the rhythm tracks under lockdown in Kampala. B+(**)

Jon Irabagon: I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues: Volume 3: Anatomical Snuffbox (2019 [2020], Irabbagast): Tenor saxophonist, has done a fairly wide range of work since staring with Mostly Other People Do the Killing in 2006, but opts for avant-screech here ("46:54 of brutal, non-stop, cataclysmic end-of-the-world guitars, saxophone, and drums"). I mostly blame the guitars (Mick Barr and Ava Mendoza), although drummer Mike Pride is someone I associated with such din. B- [bc]

Keefe Jackson/Jim Baker/Julian Kirshner: So Glossy and So Thin (2018-19 [2020], Astral Spirits): Chicago trio -- tenor/sopranino sax, piano/synthesizer, drums -- two track live at the Hungry Brain (21:38 and 23:45). B+(***) [bc]

Jubileum Quartet [Joëlle Léandre/Evan Parker/Agustí Fernández/Zlatko Kaucic]: A Uis? (2018 [2020], Not Two): Bass, tenor sax, piano, drums; a single 45:02 improv piece, recorded at Cerkno Jazz Festival, "celebrating 40 years of Kaucic's professional career as a musician." B+(**)

Junglepussy: JP4 (2020, Jagjaguwar): New York rapper Shayna McHayle, parents from Jamaica and Trinidad, several albums and mixtapes. Short album (10 tracks, 29:35). Murky early, snaps sharp toward the end. B+(*)

Will Kimbrough: Spring Break (2020, Daphne): Singer-songwriter from Mobile, Alabama; based in Nashville, had a group called Will and the Bushmen (1985-91), half-dozen or so solo albums since 1999, side credits with Todd Snider and Amy Rigby (well, also Jimmy Buffett and Rodney Crowell, but first things first; two co-writes here with Snider). Notes on two of the more political songs: "Cape Henry" is not about a Civil War battle; and it's easier to have a "Right Wing Friend" if that friend also loves John Prine (as my own do). A- [cd]

Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders (2020, Ghostly International): Classically trained harpist from North Carolina, seventh album since 2013. Generally classified as experimental or ambient, a few notes convinced me to file her under new age -- that haven for acoustic music which neither swings nor rocks nor evokes trad or classical roots. B+(*)

José Lencastre/Hernâni Faustino/Vasco Furtado: Vento (2018 [2020], Phonogram Unit): Portuguese avant-jazz trio: alto sax, bass, drums. Continues to impress. B+(***) [bc]

Lil Baby: My Turn (2020, Quality Control): Atlanta rapper Dominique Jones, second album, half dozen mixtapes. Trap beats, clipped flow, still works. B+(**)

Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake (2020, Atlantic): Rapper Symere Woods, from Philadelphia, second studio album, after four mixtapes. B+(*)

Brian Lisik: Güdbye Stoopid Whirled (2020, Cherokee Queen): Singer-songwriter from Akron, Ohio. Google identifies him as a journalist, but website is focused on music, including six previous albums. Some garage klang. Relatively short (10 songs, 32:37). B+(**) [cd]

Tkay Maidza: Last Year Was Weird (Vol. 2) (2020, 4AD, EP): Rapper/singer, born in Zimbabwe, first name Takudzwa, moved to Australia when she was 5. Has a 2016 album (Tkay), two short mixtapes since (with a 3rd volume promised for 2021), this one 8 tracks, 26:54. Weirdest is "You Sad," which isn't sad at all. B+(**)

Anna McClellan: I Saw First Light (2020, Father/Daughter): Singer-songwriter from Omaha, third album. Lo-fi, sounds like early Liz Phair -- real early. B+(*)

Flo Milli: Ho, Why Is You Here? (2020, RCA): Rapper Tamia Carter, from Mobile, first album, rolls up a couple 2019 singles ("Beef FloMix," "In the Party"). Good beats, plenty sass, not what you'd call deep. B+(*)

Keir Neuringer/Shayna Dulberger/Julius Masri: Dromedaries II (2020, Relative Pitch): Alto sax/bass/drums trio, leader has albums since 2010, including one from 2017 with this trio. B+(**) [bc]

Keir Neuringer & Rafal Mazur: The Continuum (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): Alto sax and acoustic bass guitar duo, recorded live in Krakow. Circular breathing for continuous engagement, B+(**) [bc]

Guillaume Nouaux: Guillaume Nouaux & the Stride Piano Kings (2019 [2020], self-released): French drummer, debut was 1998 album Creole Pinasse Hot Jazz Band, not a lot since then but these piano-drums duets would seem to be a dream project. Two tracks each from seven retro-swing pianists: Bernd Lhotzky, Louis Mazetier, Luca Filastro, Chris Hopkins, Rossano Sportiello, Harry Kanters, and Alain Barrabes. A couple songs could have been better chosen, but most are bright and cheery. B+(***) [cd]

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: Viscerals (2020, Rocket): Brit rock group, fairly hard (Bandcamp tags range from psych and stoner rock to sludge and doom metal), from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Bass riffs feel strong, guitar shrill, voice hoarse. Not clear if they're full of shit, but no harder to listen to than vintage Black Sabbath. B

Chris Potter: There Is a Tide (2020, Edition): Big time tenor saxophonist, plays more soprano than he should, evidently plays everything else in a pinch -- a polite way to describe the circumstances of this lockdown recording, a dubbed solo effort where his credits read: "piano, keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, drums, clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, alto flute, percussion, samples, and saxophones." He does a nice job comping behind one monster sax solo, but not much else of interest. B-

Abbey Rader/John McMinn: Duo From the Heart (2019 [2020], Abray): Drummer, "whose 'free' approach is heavily influenced by Buddhism." Records since 1979, including work with William Parker and Billy Bang. Duets, McMinn is an alto saxophonist who plays a lot of piano here. B+(**) [bc]

Eric Reed: For a Time Such as This (2020, Smoke Sessions): Mainstream pianist, started out with Wynton Marsalis, dedicated his first album to Art Blakey, has many more since 1990. Trio here with Alex Boneham (bass) and Kevin Kanner (drums), plus Chris Lewis (tenor/soprano sax on 4 tracks), and Henry Jackson (one gospel vocal). B+(*)

Matana Roberts & Pat Thomas: The Truth (2018 [2020], Otoroku): Alto sax and piano duets, recorded live in London. B+(**) [bc]

Frank Paul Schubert/Dieter Manderscheid/Martin Blume: Spindrift (2019 [2020], Leo): German saxophonist (alto, soprano), twenty-some albums since 2005, trio with bass and drums. Two long pieces, impeccable free jazz sets. B+(***)

Frank Paul Schubert/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Martin Blume: Forge (2020, Relative Pitch): Alto/soprano sax, piano, drums: one 47:30 improv piece, followed by a 6:47 encore. Another impressive outing, even more so. A-

Nadine Shah: Kitchen Sink (2020, Infectious Music): British singer-songwriter, fourth album (plus 2 EPs) since 2012. Has a distinctive voice, and this record breaks out of the folkie rut. B+(**)

Skurkar: Skjulte Motiver (2019 [2020], Øra Fonogram): Trondheim-based jazz band, two saxophones -- baritone (Jenny Frøysa) and alto (Amalie Dahl) -- bass (Oda Steinkopf), and drums (Emma Lönnestål). Starts free and punkish, settles into patterns. B+(***)

Spillage Village: Spilligion (2020, Dreamville/SinceThe80s/Interscope): Hip-hop collective from Atlanta, includes members of EarthGang and rapper JID, first major label outing after three digital-onlys. Framed as a take on religion, ranges far and wide, lost me a bit on "Hapi" (the Nile River God), where the rap parted to let the choir spill over. B+(*)

Bartees Strange: Live Forever (2020, Memory Music): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, actual surname Cox, debuted with an EP of National covers, then released this first album. Sharp-edged, kind of arty, rooted in garage rock, no interest in folkie confessionals. B+(*)

Talibam! With Silke Eberhard and Nikolaus Neuser: This Week Is in Two Weeks (2020, ESP-Disk): Group is a duo -- Matt Mottel (keyboards, guitar) and Kevin Shea (drums, from MOPDTK) -- with 30+ albums since 2007, joined here by two German horn players (alto sax and trumpet). B+(**)

Duval Timothy: Help (2020, Carrying Colour): Pianist, sings some, b. 1989, divides time between London and Freetown, Sierra Leone. I saw this pegged as jazz, but aside from the pure piano bits this is impossible to pigeonhole. B+(*)

Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (Del Amor Y Otros Demonios) (2020, Interscope): Pop star, Karly-Marina Loaiza, born in Virginia, father from Colombia, where she moved at some point. Breakthrough album Isolation was one of my favorites in 2018. Switches to Spanish here -- "Without Fear (Of Love and Other Demons)." Loses more than a little in transition: not just the words I don't grok, but also the hooks I don't feel. B+(*)

Birgit Ulher/Franz Hautzinger: Kleine Trompetenmusik (2018 [2020], Relative Pitch): Two trumpet players, German and Austrian, more than a dozen records each since 1996/1998. B- [bc]

Luís Vicente/John Dikeman/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Goes Without Saying, but It's Got to Be Said (2020, JACC): Trumpet, tenor sax, bass, drums. Note says "recorded live at ZDB by Kellzo on the 19th July 2020." No idea where that is, or how they managed to get musicians from Portugal, Netherlands, and US together. The horn players have been on the free jazz scene for a while, but nothing like the world's greatest bass-drums team for inspiration. A-

Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFunk: We've Had Enough! (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): Recorded last December, bet she's even more pissed off now. Adventurous group -- Sam Newsome (soprano sax), Joe Morris (guitar), Reggie Nicholson (drums) -- a little rough and unsteady, but she takes risks others cannot imagine. B+(**)

Virtual Company: Virtual Company (2018 [2020], Confront): Bassist Simon H. Fell, who died in June at 61, organized this "live" set at Café OTO, with Mark Wastell (cello, percussion) and pre-recorded fragments from Derek Bailey (guitar) and Will Gaines (tapdance) -- an "in-concert, virtual Company performance" (reference to Bailey's old avant-improv group, which Fell and Wastell played in). I've probably heard (and certainly appreciated) less by Bailey/Company than any of the other Penguin Guide demigods, and for that matter I've barely scratched Fell, but 46:37 is fascinating in a low-key, off-kilter way. A- [bc]

Working Men's Club: Working Men's Club (2020, Heavenly): Electropop group from Yorkshire, auteur Sydney Minsky-Sargeant. Seems like a throwback to 1980s new wave disco, a bit louder and shriller, which may turn into annoying should the initial thrill wear off. B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Victor Chukwu: Akalaka/The Power (1977-79 [2020], BBE): Combines two LPs of vintage Igbo highlife, the second title fully credited to Uncle Victor Chuks & the Black Irokos. One of my favorite African styles, not the slickest version but upbeat, a delight. A-

Full Blast [Peter Brötzmann/Marino Pliakas/Michael Wertmüller]: Farewell Tonic (2007 [2020], Trost): Reeds, electric bass, drums, trio going under the name of their 2006 debut. Front cover just shows the last names. Live shot. Crowd is really into it. B+(**) [bc]

Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live in Maui (1970 [2020], Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2CD): "The trio's second-to-last performance in the U.S. during their final The Cry of Love Tour," on July 30, before his death (at 27) on September 18. Some parts have been plundered for previous posthumous product. This time, the presentation is as two complete sets (51:34, 48:44), no songs repeated. No surprises here, but a fair sampler from a major artist, enjoyable in its own right. B+(***)

Wolfgang Lackerschmid and Chet Baker: Ballads for Two (1979 [2018], Dot Time): German vibraphone player, young (22) at the time, in a duo with the trumpet legend. Originally released with Baker's name first. Nice showcase for Baker at his most laconic. B+(**)

Wolfgang Lackerschmid/Chet Baker: Quintet Sessions 1979 (1979 [2020], Dot Time): Second album together, also originally released with Baker's name first, with ample cover space for the stellar rhythm section: Larry Coryell, Buster Williams, and Tony Williams. Trumpet stars less here, but the rhythm makes up. B+(***)

Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987 (1983-87 [2020], Captured Tracks): Not a period when I paid much attention to pop music, but 28 tracks by as many artists, none I recall, but the guitar sound is distinctive, and everything is upbeat, so this coheres, about as much as Nuggets did for the late 1960s. The difference is that Nuggets mostly picked hits, so they jogged your memory, whereas this leaves you blank. B+(*)

Old music:

Gnod: Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (2017, Rocket): British rock band from Manchester, formed 2006, Discogs lists 34 albums, this particular title jumped out at me. Psych and/or drone, I gather, eases off a bit toward the end. Let's post the cover anyway. B+(***)


Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

Mark Helias/Tim Berne: Blood From a Stone (2020, Radiolegs): Bass/alto sax duo. [bc: 1/5, 9:07/51:04]: +

The Human Hearts: Day of the Tiles (2020, self-released, EP): Franklin Bruno project. Christgau's a big fan, but I don't hear it. [bc: 3/6, 12:16/21:50]: -


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Brad Brooks: God Save the City (Brad Brooks)
  • The Grasso-Ravita Jazz Ensemble: Jagged Spaces (Grassvita Music) [01-15]
  • Roderick Harper: Evolving (R.H.M. Entertainment) [01-04]
  • Will Kimbrough: Spring Break (Daphne)
  • Brian Lisik: Güdbye Stoopid Whirled (Cherokee Queen)
  • Gayelynn McKinney and McKinney Zone: Zoot Suit Funk (Beatstix)
  • Larry Newcomb Quartet: Love, Dad (Essential Messenger) [02-05]
  • The Justin Rothberg Group: Hurricane Mouse (self-released) [01-01]

Sunday, December 6, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Table of contents:

I've been paying more attention to EOY album lists this week than to news. Started collecting this Saturday evening, and figure I got enough.


Trump's Election Fraud

Plus a few more election-related stories, including the Georgia Senate runoffs. Note that: Biden's vote lead over Trump now more than 7 million.

Susan B Glasser: The President is acting crazy, so why are we shrugging it off? Well, we voted him out of office. What more can we do? And unless, in due course, he figures out some way to defy the eviction, why give him the satisfaction of attention? It's not like we don't have anything else to worry about.

Ryan Grim: Goldman Sachs log exposes David Perdue's stock trading claim as a lie. Actually, both Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have notorious stock trading scandals. (Steve M also reminds us that Loeffler is "the wealthiest member of the Senate" and "Loeffler's husband is literally the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange." Another tweet posted this picture of "one of Loeffler's 5 houses.") With enormous sums being spent on this race, scandals like that should be drummed into every voter's noggin. More on Georgia:

Benjamin Hart: Trump funds political future by claiming he won in 2020.

Zach Montellaro/Elena Schneider: Trump's post-election cash grab floods funds to new PAC.

Andrew Prokop:

Aaron Rupar:

Jeff Singer: Ohio's decade-old gerrymander still performed exactly as the GOP intended in 2020.

Peter Slevin: Trump's election-fraud bluster finds an audience.

Matt Stieb: DOJ investigating 'bribery-for-pardon' scheme involving White House.

Biden Prospects

We're starting to see announcements of Biden's picks for the cabinet and key staff positions -- see Joe Biden's cabinet begins to take shape.

Kate Aronoff: The problem with putting a BlackRock alum in charge of greening the economy: "Brian Deese, expected to head the Biden administration's National Economic Council, is a longtime adherent of a disastrous energy strategy."

David Atkins: Media must focus on larger truths during the Biden presidency: I'm not a betting person, but odds of this happening are pretty slim. Presumably they won't have to cope with Trump's "flood the zone with bullshit" approach to PR, but let's face it: they were suckers for bullshit; also a lot of it is endemic to using social media as a PR engine, which Biden's staff will continue to do, even if they're not as flagrantly duplicitous as Trump's staff have been. Atkins also wrote a piece on How do you deradicalize the Republican Party?. Well, it would help if the media got smarter and dug deeper, holding Republicans accountable not just for their frequent gaffes but for the real consequences of their demented programs. After all, what matters more than deradicalizing the Republican Party is defeating them. Do that, and they'll adjust on their own.

Rosa Brooks: It's time for a woman to run the Defense Department. Advertisement for Brooks' former boss, Michele Flournoy, although it could also reflect Brooks' own ambitions. I try to cut her some slack, mostly because her famous leftist mother Barbara Ehrenreich still seems to respect her, and this is one case where coming from a famous family is unlikely to have done her any favors. Still, I couldn't care less about the sex or race or religion of any government agency heads, but I'm unlikely to like anyone under serious consideration for the Defense Department. By the way, see Robert Wright/Conor Echols: Grading candidates for Biden's foreign policy team: Michèle Flournoy (grade even lower than expected; hell, even lower than Antony Blinken's).

Linda Pentz Gunter: In promoting new nuclear power, Biden-Harris back fiction over science.

Ben Jacobs: Harry Reid's former lieutenant on what it's like to fight Mitch McConnell. Interview with Adam Jentleson.

Paul Krugman:

Dylan Matthews: Joe Biden is taking office amid a poverty crisis: "Columbia researchers project that 5 million to 12 million more people will be in poverty in January than a year before."

David Roberts: Joe Biden should do everything at once. Nice to see some thinking about the Obama administration's failures to get things done given a hostile, obstructionist Republican Party. Subheds:

  • Obama's efforts to collect and spend "political culture" were mostly for naught
  • Two-party partisan politics really is a zero-sum game
  • Biden should run a blitz
  • The new rule of partisan politics is to act, not react

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 14.8 million+ cases (14 day change +12%, total up 1.5 million in last week), 282,257 deaths (+48%), 101,190 hospitalized (+27%).

Chas Danner: Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for Covid-19.

Elaine Godfrey: Iowa is what happens when government does nothing.

Kasey Grewe: Headlines don't capture the horror we saw: "I chronicled what Covid-19 did to a hospital. America must not let down its guard."

Carolyn Kormann: Countdown to a coronavirus vaccine.

Robinson Meyer/Alexis C Madrigal: The US has passed the hospital breaking point: "A new statistic shows that health-care workers are running out of space to treat Covid-19 patients."

David Remnick: Atul Gawande on coronavirus vaccines and prospects for ending the pandemic.

David Roberts: The scariest thing about global warming (and Covid-19): "Shifting baselines syndrome."

Dylan Scott: America's failures have led to a new daily record in Covid-19 deaths.

Still More on Donald Trump

Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: Barr taps Durham as special counsel, pushing probe into Biden era. John Durham has been investigating "the origins of the FBI's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election," looking (to little avail) or pin the investigation of Trump on Obama. By designating Durham a Special Counsel, Barr hopes to extend the witch hunt past Jan. 20.

"In an appointment secretly conferred on Durham prior to the election and only disclosed now that Barr concedes there is no evidence of election fraud to overturn the results, Barr is using the special counsel law for a purpose it was not intended: to continue a politically motivated investigation long after Barr leaves office," said House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff in a statement.

More on Durham:

Jonathan Guyer: The lucrative after life of a Trump official: "Trump's former appointees are profiting from their time in the White House -- H.R. McMaster most of all."

Sarah Jones: White evangelicals made a deal with the devil. Now what?

Michael Klare: Trump's pernicious military legacy: "From the forever wars to the cataclysmic wars."

People seldom notice that Trump's approach to military policy has always been two-faced. Even as he repeatedly denounced the failure of his predecessors to abandon those endless counterinsurgency wars, he bemoaned their alleged neglect of America's regular armed forces and promised to spend whatever it took to "restore" their fighting strength. "In a Trump administration," he declared in a September 2016 campaign speech on national security, America's military priorities would be reversed, with a withdrawal from the "endless wars we are caught in now" and the restoration of "our unquestioned military strength."

Anita Kumar: Trump to restart foreign deals, breaking a post-presidency norm.

Martin Longman: Trump's maddening war against Section 230 which protects digital publishers. "It's not just Democrats for whom January 20th cannot come soon enough."

David Nakamura/Juliet Eilperin/Lisa Rein: As Trump rants over election, his administration accelerates push to lock in policy and staffing gains.

Administration officials are rushing to auction off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, slash U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, implement new rules to limit drug prices and create a new personnel category for civil servants in policymaking roles that would strip them of most job protections. The Department of Homeland Security is racing to complete an additional 50 miles of wall barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the State and Treasury departments are preparing additional economic sanctions on China and Iran.

Senate Republicans -- who may lose their governing majority in January, depending on a pair of runoffs in Georgia -- are moving swiftly to confirm Trump's conservative picks to the federal courts and other nominees whose tenures will extend into the Biden presidency and beyond.

Sarah Okeson: Trump's ERA clears way for "Bhopal 2" here in the US.

Rachel Ramirez: The high rate of executions during Trump's last weeks in office, explained: "Trump has scheduled more federal executions than any president in at least a century." More specifically:

Brian Resnick: Why Trump taking credit for the Covid-19 vaccines could be a good thing: "After he leaves office, he can help convince supporters to get vaccinated for Covid-19." Wishful thinking, but don't expect he'd do it out of his deep well of public-spiritedness. On the other hand, he could probably make a bundle as a Pharma shill.

David Rohde: William Barr's break with Donald Trump: "The Attorney General is, at long last, defending American democracy." Jeez, he says one thing, carefully worded to technically accurate while a minimum of comfort to his enemies, and some people are eager to acclaim him as an American hero. The best I can say for Barr is that he, unlike Rudy Giuliani (to pick the most obvious example), has always known where the line of the law lies, and how to tripping over it and getting indicted or disbarred. That may occasionally irritate Trump, and feel free to enjoy Trump's agitation, but Barr has actually been a much more effective defender of his client than Giuliani has. If you need a reminder, look back at how Barr handled the Mueller Investigation, showing Mueller a great deal of personal respect while bottling up and defanging the Report. Again, contrast with Giuliani, who accomplished little more than getting his henchmen indicted.

Matthew Rosza: This Marxist philosopher foresaw the rise of Trumpism more than 80 years ago. Title like that I had to click, if nothing else just to get the name. Of course, 80 years ago isn't as far back as it used to be. In fact, it only takes you to 1940, which gives one plenty of time to observe the rise of Adolf Hitler. Sure, Trump isn't Hitler Redux, but you're hardly breaking new ground pointing out similarities. The name is Walter Benjamin, a special interest of mine in a time closer to then than to now, and the key point is:

Benjamin, a Marxist and a Jew who was thus obviously opposed to the Nazis, postulated that modern fascists succeed when they are entertainers. Not just any entertainer -- a circus clown or a juggler-turned-fascist wouldn't do. Specifically, modern fascists were entertainers with a distinct aesthetic, one that appeals to mass grievances by encouraging their supporters to feel like they are personally expressing themselves through their demagogue of choice.

Benjamin's insight, which appears to have been largely forgotten, is that keeping fascism out of power means recognizing how they use aesthetic entertainment to create their movements. That does require us to admit, cringe-inducing though it may be, that Trump is an artist -- albeit a tacky, shallow and transparently self-aggrandizing one. More importantly, his movement, the MAGA crowd, has a distinct aesthetic which he has created and honed for them.

There is, by the way, much more to Benjamin than the essay cited, and much more to he essay than the use it's put to here -- John Berger wrote a whole book, Ways of Seeing, based on the essay. There is much more to be gained by understanding Benjamin within the context of his time than in trying to use him to decipher fascism today. But it is also true that those of us who understood fascism through the critiques of Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and fellow thinkers had a leg up on you dogmatic anti-Marxist liberals. The other point I want to make is that fascist aesthetics are only such when adopted by fascists for fascist political aims. It's not random what fascists choose, but it's not commutative either: you don't become a fascist because you like swastikas or monster trucks or "reality TV," and you don't stop being a fascist because you hold to more conservative aesthetics.

In the Courts

Ian Millhiser:

Around the World

Dave DeCamp: President Trump orders to withdraw the 'majority' of troops from Somalia: "The Plan will reposition troops to neighboring countries to allow for 'cross-border operations'" -- ergo, business as usual, no big change. Also on the Somalia war you probably didn't know about:

Yossi Gurvitz: Israeli court rules that Nation State law calls for discrimination against Palestinian citizens.

Daniel Immerwahr: Fort Everywhere: "How did the United States become entangled in a cycle of endless war?" Review of David Vine's book, The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, From Columbus to the Islamic State. I'm reminded here of point 2 in Mark Kurlansky's Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea: "Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them." Or as Madeleine Albright put it, "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" War follows militarism. Put bases all around the world and what you're protecting soon reduces to little more than the bases themselves.

James North: Coverage of Israel's killing of Iranian scientist is marred by inaccuracy and inhumanity.

Richard Silverstein: Iranian authorities: Israeli assassination carried out remotely by satellite.

Alex Ward:

Other Matters of Interest

Jariel Arvin:

Paul Blest: The Democratic Party will keep betraying labor. It's time to launch a workers' party. Article paired with: Jonathan Smucker: Don't abandon the Democratic Party -- take it over. I answered this question after the Ralph Nader debacle in 2000. What bothered me wasn't throwing the election to Bush -- Gore campaigned the way he wanted to -- but the fact that even in Kansas, where Gore didn't campaign at all, he outpolled Nader 10-to-1. I realized then that the people you need to appeal to had already decided to be Democrats, and if anything that's even more true today. Sure, Democratic socialists and neoliberals have huge differences, and are joined today largely by fear of ever greater Republican fascism. But the path of political progress goes through the people, and the people most open to progressive proposals are already in the Democratic Party. Win there, or go home. (Of course, I have no problem with sitting outside practical politics when that's the only space you can be right in -- one of my formative political journals was called The Minority of One. Just don't pretend that doing so is some kind of viable political strategy.)

Zach Carter: The power of ideas and the idea of power: "The progressives won the debate about whether there is a power elite. Now they need to keep the corporate elite from destroying what's left of our democracy."

Jeffrey Frank: Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz tell the full sordid story of Spiro Agnew: A review of their book, Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House.

Christina Goldbaum/Will Wright: 'Existential peril': Mass transit faces huge service cuts across US.

Eric Levitz:

German Lopez:

Ed Morales: Privatizing Puerto Rico: "The rushed sell-off of the territory's electrical utility is part of a larger move to gut public goods for private profit."

Anna North: The government's failure to provide economic relief is killing people.

Alex Ross: Revisiting Hitler's final days in the bunker: Very hard to read this piece without trying to transpose Trump into Hitler's bunker -- not that Trump is Hitler, let alone that the "radical leftists" besieging Trump's White House are anywhere near as lethal as the Red Army bearing down on Berlin. But psychologically, it must bear some likeness, even if only in Trump's fevered delusions. Sure, Hitler fell harder, but when you start from the pinnacle of Trump's ego, the downfall must feel infinite.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Let's get small: Some snippets:

  • Joe Biden's cabinet is shaping up to be the most diverse group of ideological clones ever assembled.
  • According to Obama's book, the breakdown on intervening in Libya was as follows: Against: Biden, Gates, Mullen, Daley. For: HRC, Rice, Powers, Blinken. He, of course, was conflicted, but bombed Libya anyway.
  • Nancy Pelosi has now served as the leader of the Democrats in the House for as long as Leonid Brezhnev served as General Secretary of the Communist Party, 18 years.

Monday, November 30, 2020


Music Week

November archive (finished).

Music: Current count 34444 [34401] rated (+43), 210 [213] unrated (-3).

Not really sure why I feel so frazzled at the moment. I've been doing a lot of high speed clerical work: counting Jazz Critics Poll ballots (32 so far), adding EOY early lists to my aggregate file, fiddling with my jazz and non-jazz EOY files, and trying to wrap up this post and the November Streamnotes archive, while listening to as much as I can recall, track down, and stomach. The hardest part is deciding what to check out.

Sorry to hear of the death of Kali Z. Fasteau (aka Zusann Kali Fasteau). I wrote to her when I was researching my big William Parker/Matthew Shipp consumer guide. She generously sent me not just what I asked for but her whole catalog, starting with a 1975-77 collection of her work with her late husband, Donald Rafael Garrett, and she kept sending CDs up through her latest, in 2016. She played a wide range of instruments, none especially well, but she was a scene setter and often enough made her eclecticism work. I finally gave one of her records an A-: Piano Rapture (2014), where she finally impressed me with her piano, joined by various guests (notably Kidd Jordan and Mixashawn).

I've continued to fiddle with the format of "records I played parts of, but not enough to grade," including adding them to Streamnotes archive, and adding them to the Year 2020 list (although they are not yet in the EOY lists). I'm not very happy with them yet. But this week I went through most of the unheard records at Tim Berne's Screwgun Records Bandcamp. Only records flagged as ++ continue to be listed in the 2% EOY list prospects. Again, I still haven't made a complete pass through the tracking file to identify most of the albums that meet the 2% standard (but I did drop three of Berne's albums from the list I had, leaving 2).


New records reviewed this week:

AVA Trio: Digging the Sand (2018 [2019], Marocco Music): Giuseppe Doronzo (baritone sax/mizmar), Esat Ekincioglu (bass), and Pino Basile (percussion). Mediterranean groove and flavoring, some edge. B+(***)

Bad Bunny: El Último Tour Del Mundo (2020, Rimas): Puerto Rican rapper Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio, draws on reggaeton to create a kind of Latin trap rap. B+(*)

Alan Barnes: 60th Birthday Celebration: New Takes on Tunes From '59 (2019, Woodville): British clarinet/saxophone player, a swing guy, which partly explains why I expected him to be older, but also true that I've sampled him lightly (I've missed all 6 Penguin Guide recommendations in my database). Band is just horns on top of piano trio. Songs from his birth year, which nets him Jobim, Mancini, Quincy Jones, Quincy Jones, Ellington, Monk, and more modern figures (expected classics other than nothing from Kind of Blue). B+(**)

Beabadoobee: Fake It Flowers (2020, Dirty Hit): Born in the Philippines in 2000, Beatrice Laus moved to London when she was 3, credits Kimya Dawson for inspiration to start making music. First album after four EPs. Her pop is more robust than Dawson's anti-folk, but not free from its inspirational idiosyncrasy. B+(**)

Scott H. Biram: Fever Dreams (2020, Bloodshot): Singer-songwriter from Texas, drawl fated him for Americana but he started out in punk and still reminds me of "psychobilly." Twelfth album since 2000. Ends with a bizarre gospel remix. B+(**)

Scott H. Biram: Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram (2019, Bloodshot): Likely to remain an oddity in his discography, but in some ways this rough and profane clash with sin and grace was the album he was born to sing. A-

Jeb Bishop: Centrifugal Trio (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): Trombonist, early member of Vandermark 5, recorded this in Berlin with Antonio Borghini (bass) and Michael Griener (drums). B+(**) [bc]

Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman (2020, 37d03d): American folk-rock "supergroup" -- Anaïs Mitchell, Eric D. Johnson (Fruit Bats, The Shins), Josh Kaufman (The National, Hiss Golden Messenger). B

Cabaret Voltaire: Shadow of Fear (2020, Mute): Group from Sheffield, UK, formed in 1973, pioneered industrial electronica, I never went deep into their albums but like some compilations a lot. Last group album in 1994, but Richard H. Kirk has returned with a new album under the old name. Got the old groove back, too. B+(***)

Chloe x Halle: Ungodly Hour (2020, Columbia): R&B duo, sisters, last name Bailey, second album, cover features angel wings over big booties. B+(*)

Dan Clucas/Jeb Bishop/Damon Smith/Matt Crane: Universal or Directional (2018 [2020], Balance Point Acoustics): Cornet, trombone, bass, drums. Napster lists this under Bishop, and displays what seems to be the back cover, which does list Clucas first. Ends strong. B+(***)

Shemekia Copeland: Uncivil War (2020, Alligator): Blues singer, daughter of Johnny Copeland, debut 1998, ninth album. Notable lyric: "money makes you ugly/you're the living proof." Also: "we all give God the blues." Less than notable cover: "Under My Thumb." Gun song (probably anti-, but sometimes it's hard to tell): "Apple Pie and a .45." B+(*)

Miley Cyrus: Plastic Hearts (2020, RCA): Pop star, started as a Disney teen but is all grown now. Opens with a should-be hit ("WTF Do I Know"). Digital edition ends with three hard rocking tracks, including a harder take on "Heart of Glass." B+(**)

Hermine Deurloo: Riverbeast (2019, Zennes): Dutch, plays chromatic harmonica, albums since 1998. With Steve Gadd, Tony Scherr, and Kevin Hays. Slick and a bit funky, with a couple vocals (probably Gadd). B

The End: Allt Är Intet (2019 [2020], RareNoise): Norwegian saxophonist Kjetl Møster, has had many projects since 2004, even a solo album (title: Blow Job). Second with this group, which combines a remarkable number of things I can't stand, ranging from Mats Gustafsson at his squawkiest to church/opera vocals and death metal. Still not as bad as their eponymous 2018 effort. C [cdr]

John Fogerty: Fogerty's Factory (2020, BMG): Started in lockdown as a 7-cut EP remaking songs from Cosmo's Factory, with the singer's family as his band, expanded now to 12 covers. Has anyone ever sounded more quintessentially American? Depends on what America means to you, I guess. B+(*)

Funk Shui NYC: Shark NATO on a Plane (2020, Zoho): Fifteen-piece big band, short on brass (3 trumpets, 2 trombones) but doubles up on bass and percussion, i.e., funk quotient. B+(*)

Dave Gisler Trio With Jaimie Branch: Zurich Concert (2019 [2020], Intakt): Swiss guitarist, fair number of albums since 2008, trio with Raffaele Bossard (bass) and Lionel Friedli (drums), plus guest trumpet. B+(*)

Vinny Golia/John Hanrahan/Henry Kaiser/Wayne Peet/Mike Watt: A Love Supreme Electric: A Salvo Inspired by John Coltrane: A Love Supreme & Meditations (2019 [2020], Cuneiform, 2CD): I figure guitarist Kaiser is the catalyst here. He previously recorded several volumes of "electric Miles Davis" (Yo Miles!), and his guitar is the extra element here. Golia is as inspired a saxophone choice as Wadada Leo Smith was on trumpet, and Peet's organ adds to the electrification. B+(***) [dl]

Jahari Massamba Unit: Pardon My French (2020, Madlib Invazion): Hip-hop producer Otis Jackson Jr., better known as Madlib, and drummer Kariem Riggins. B+(*)

Benjamin Koppel/Kenny Werner/Scott Colley/Jack DeJohnette: The Art of the Quartet (2015 [2020], Cowbell Music/Unit, 2CD): Danish alto saxophonist, has been pretty prolific since 2002, joined by three relatively famous Americans. Unlikely they were ever a working band, much less one seasoned enough to justify the title, but they're such pros that they could have coalesced instantly. Runs long, and holds together. B+(***)

Benjamin Koppel/Tine Rehling/Henrik Dam Thomsen: Les Mobiles (2019 [2020], Cowbell Music): Leader plays soprano and mezzo saxophones as well as his usual alto, in a chamber jazz trio with harp and cello. B+(*)

Ingrid Laubrock: Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt (2019 [2020], Intakt, 2CD): German alto saxophonist, based in Brooklyn, subitles this "Music for Chamber Orchestra and Small Ensemble": the former is the EOS Chamber Orchestra (5 tracks), the latter (also 5 tracks) a trio with Cory Smythe (piano) and Sam Pluta (electronics), plus three guests (accordion, violin, electric harp). B+(*)

Lionel Loueke: HH (2019 [2020], Edition): Guitarist, from Benin, title honors Herbie Hancock. Solo, with loops, plays up the funk angle, doesn't dull or sweeten it with vocals. B+(**)

Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parish/Zach Rowden: Live at Static Age Records (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): Percussion, nylon string guitar, double bass. B+(*) [bc]

The Michael O'Neill Quartet: And Then It Rained (2020, Jazzmo): Bay Area saxophonist, started in 1980s doing soundtracks, fifth album since 2004, with Michael Bluestein on piano, plus bass and drums. Lovely, a bit on the lush side. B+(**)

Bruno Parrinha/Abdul Moimeme/Carlos Santos: A Silent Play in the Shadow of Power (2020, Creative Sources): Artist order can be parsed multiple ways, but this is top-to-bottom, per Discogs. Recorded in Lisbon, live just before lockdown, credits in order: bass clarinet/alto sax, guitar, electronics, the latter two also "objects." Short with one 26:10 piece. Bigger problem is that while not quite silent it can be hard to hear. B- [bc]

Vanessa Perica Orchestra: Love Is a Temporary Madness (2019 [2020], self-released): Australian composer/arranger/conductor, first album, leading a conventional 17-piece big band. B+(**)

Ben Perowsky/John Medeski/Chris Speed: Upstream (2014 [2019], El Destructo): Drummer, studied with Alan Dawson at Berklee, many more side- than leader-credits (evidently this is the first in a decade). More famous trio mates, and this is almost a dream match up for them. B+(***)

Noah Preminger: Contemptment (2020, SteepleChase): Tenor saxophonist, impressive debut in 2007, solid ever since. Quartet with guitar (Max Light), bass (Kim Cass), and drums (Dan Weiss). B+(**)

Dave Rempis/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Jeremy Cunningham: Stringers and Struts (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Sax, guitar, bass, drums. Starts measured, and for once never blows any fuses. The guitarist contributes some of his finest work, but it's still top shelf Chicago avant-sax. In a year when Rempis dumped a dozen old tapes out as download-only, he put this one on a CD. A- [cd] [12-04]

Andrew Renfroe: Dark Grey EP (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): Guitarist, leads quintet with alto sax (Braxton Cook), piano, bass, and drums through five songs, 25:08, on his debut effort. Nice guitar texture. B+(*) [cd]

Ray Russell: Fluid Architecture (2020, Cuneiform): British guitarist, many records since 1971, ranging from free to fusion. Various lineups, most with bass and drums, some keyboards, three cuts with sax (Chris Biscoe). B+(**) [dl]

Luke Stewart: Exposure Quintet (2020, Astral Spirits): Bassist, has a previous solo album and some notable side-credits, lined up two saxophonists here (Ken Vandermark and Edward Wilkerson Jr., both credited with reeds), piano (Jim Baker), and drums (Avreeayl Ra). The saxophonists start out aggressive, but when they back off the piano remains central, and the bass solos justify their focus. A-

The United States Air Force Band: Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Highlights (2019 [2020], self-released): Useless big band, reminds us that military music is to music as military justice is to justice -- to flip Robert Sherrill's book title around -- but not the worst thing the USAF wastes taxpayer money on. Nor is this anywhere near their worst album -- indeed, I rather enjoy the punchiness of the horns, also the TSgt.'s vocal on "Honeysuckle Rose" (where John Fedchock guests). B [cd]

Becky Warren: The Sick Season (2020, Becky Warren): Nashville singer-songwriter, two very impressive albums under her belt, more budget here, not sure that rocking harder doesn't blunt her songcraft (or maybe just tries to overcompensate). B+(***)

Kate Westbrook & the Granite Band: Earth Felt the Wound (2018-19 [2020], Westbrook): Jazz singer, notable painter, married composer-pianist Mike Westbrook, who wrote or arranged the music here, most matched to her lyrics. Band refers back to her 2018 album, Granite, with two guitars, electric bass, keyboards, sax (Rox Harding), and drums. One song in German veers toward cabaret. B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Bill Evans: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1968 [2020], Resonance, 2CD): Piano trio, with Eddie Gomez (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums). The drummer only lasted a few months, but At the Montreux Jazz Festival revived Evans, and the recently discovered live shots have generally been impressive. This one collects 20 songs (99:31) from a month in London. B+(***) [dl]

Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 1 (2000 [2020], Circulasione Totale): Norwegian avant alto saxophonist, started with Detail 1983-96, led Circulasione Totale Orchestra 1987-2011, has close to 100 small group records, including several more with this rhythm section -- including a 4-CD box on Not Two (2017, not clear when recorded). Looks like he's released a bunch of old tapes this year, including this 54:32 "Traffic Zone Centre" set. B+(*) [bc]

Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 2 (2000, Circulasione Totale): Slightly longer at 62:25, but takes a long time to get going, and while it may peak stronger, this isn't top shelf work from any involved. B [bc]

Hanging Tree Guitars (1991 [2020], Music Maker Relief Foundation): A dozen blues recordings, Timothy Duffy field recordings featuring guitar craftsman Freeman Vines and family. Unsure of the dates. A-

Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 (1964-75, Sunnyside, 4CD): Two major groups on tour, the bassist and drummer Dannie Richmond common denominators. The stellar 1964 group had Johnny Coles (trumpet), Eric Dolphy, (alto sax/flute/bass clarinet), Clifford Jordan (tenor sax), and Jaki Byard (piano) -- their set had previously been bootlegged as The Complete Bremen Concert, with Dolphy co-headlining. The 1975 group was less famous at the time, but names you'll recognize today: Jack Walrath (trumpet), George Adams (tenor sax), Don Pullen (piano). Hard to tell from streaming, but I doubt the 1964 set adds much to the same group's Town Hall Concert, or for that matter the Paris and Cornell concerts from the same year. On the other hand, I'm not aware of any live material from the 1975 group -- the 1974 Mingus at Carnegie Hall is a different deal -- and it reminds me that few leaders were able to command their bands as authoritatively as Mingus. Also good to hear the new songs from Changes. A-

Old music:

Etran De L'Aïr: No. 1 (2014 [2018], Sahel Sounds): Tuareg group from Agadez, Niger, formed in 1995 but first album here: guitars, bass guitar, drums, singers named Ibrahim Mohamed and Hamidane Aboubacar Bouzou. As minimal as the desert. A- [bc]


Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ probable prospect.

  • Tim Berne: 7 Adobe Probe (2009 [2020], Screwgun): Septet, names big enough to put on front cover. [1/3, 37:00/75:36] ++
  • Tim Berne/Nasheet Waits: The Coanda Effect (2019 [2020], Screwgun): Alto sax/drums duo. [1/2, 9:53/48:57]: +
  • Tim Berne: Sacred Vowels (2020, Screwgun): Solo alto sax, his first ever. [2/12, 8:23/41:11] +
  • Matt Mitchell/Tim Berne: 1 (2010 [2020], Screwgun): Piano/sax duo. [1/5, 11:28/48:01] +
  • Chris Speed/Dave King/Reid Anderson/Tim Berne: Broken Shadows Live (2019 [2020], Screwgun): Ornette Coleman tribute band, nods to Charlie Haden, Dewey Redman, Julius Hemphill. [2/9, 13:01/61:43): ++
  • Sun of Goldfinger [David Torn/Ches Smith/Tim Berne]: Congratulations to You (2010 [2020], Screwgun): Early date of trio that produced 2019 title album, although may include other bits. [1/3, 13:55/56:28] +


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Guillaume Nouaux: Guillaume Nouaux & the Stride Piano Kings (self-released)

Sunday, November 29, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Table of contents:


I'm getting bored with this, just going through the motions, and Thanksgiving holiday no doubt depressed the news feed (Vox is way down, which may reflect turnover there), but started early enough there's still quite a lot here.

I'd like to dedicate this column to Lou Jean Fleron, who celebrated her 80th birthday today. Sixty-some years ago, she and her little brother Ken Brown attended a speech by Sam Rayburn (Speaker of the House, from Texas), and it inspired them both to study politics and become Democrats. Both wound up teaching political science. They've always been my heroes and role models, and no one has had more influence or provided more inspiration for my own considered political views than Lou Jean. I failed to write up the requested "story" for her Festschrift today, so the least I can do is dedicate this to her.

Trump's Election Fraud

As more votes have been counted, well, see Tim Dickinson: It actually was a landslide: 80 million votes and counting for Biden. Also note: "At 51 percent, Biden's share of the vote is the highest of any presidential challenger since FDR ousted Herbert Hoover in 1932." Trump got a lot of votes, too, but in the popular vote Biden is leading by over 6 million. The Electoral College margin appears to be 306-223. That it is that close attests to how the Electoral College bends the playing field in favor of the Republicans -- the party which has won four presidential terms while losing the popular vote, something the Democrats have never done. (The only other time a minority vote-getter became president was John Quincy Adams, in 1824, at a point when the Federalist Party had collapsed and the Whig Party not yet founded, so all major contenders were Democratic-Republicans. Andrew Jackson got the most votes, but no one got an Electoral College majority, so the House chose the president, in a deal brokered by Henry Clay.) Lots of people complain about the Electoral College, but with one party systematically benefitting from it -- and for that matter a party with nothing but contempt for democracy -- there's little chance of change. The only chance Democrats have is to win elections by even larger margins than Biden won this one.

Alexander Burns: Trump stress-tested the election system, and the cracks showed.

Gail Collins/Bret Stephens: Can this get any more pathetic? "The president and his enablers may look like fools, but they are causing real damage."

Aaron C Davis/Josh Dawsey/Emma Brown/Jon Swaine: For Trump advocate Sidney Powell, a playbook steeped in conspiracy theories.

Eliza Griswold: Trump's battle to undermine the vote in Pennsylvania.

Richard L Hasen: Trump's legal farce is having tragic results: "There is nothing funny about the Republican Party's multipronged attack on voting rights."

Rosalind S Heiderman: Wisconsin recount confirms Biden's win over Trump. Biden's lead actually increased by 87 votes.

Josh Marshall: The short, happy, bizarre defenestration of Sidney Powell.

Cameron Peters:

Daniel Politi: Biden sees lead increase in Milwaukee County after Trump pays for vote recount.

Philip Rucker/Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey/Amy Gardner: 20 days of fantasy and failure: Inside Trump's quest to overturn the election.

Robert Shapiro: No, it wasn't a coup attempt. It was another Trump money scam.

Other Election Matters

Trip Gabriel: How Democrats suffered crushing down-ballot losses across America.

Will Wilkinson: Why did so many Americans vote for Trump? "To the dismay of Democrats, the president's strategy of ignoring the pandemic mostly worked for Republicans." I think that much is true. Trump's own illness story, his treatment and recovery, breathed substance into his message that we shouldn't let fear of the virus dominate our lives. Many people admired his defiance, even if they recognized he wasn't very smart or conscientious. Still, that only helped so much.

How could a president responsible for one of the gravest failures of governance in American history nevertheless maintain such rock-solid support? Democracy's throw-the-bums-out feedback mechanism gets gummed up when the electorate disagrees about the identity of the bums, what did and didn't occur on their watch and who deserves what share of the credit or blame.

When party affiliation becomes a central source of meaning and self-definition, reality itself becomes contested and verifiable facts turn into hot-button controversies. Elections can't render an authoritative verdict on the performance of incumbents when partisans in a closely divided electorate tell wildly inconsistent stories about one another and the world they share.

Mr. Trump has a knack for leveraging the animosities of polarized partisanship to cleave his supporters from sources of credible information and inflame them with vilifying lies. This time, it wasn't enough to save his bacon, which suggests that polarization hasn't completely wrecked our democracy's capacity for self-correction: Sweeping a medium-size city's worth of dead Americans under the rug turned out to be too tall an order.

Biden Prospects

We're starting to see announcements of Biden's picks for the cabinet and key staff positions -- see Joe Biden's cabinet begins to take shape.

Doug Bandow: Team Trump determined to drop foreign policy bombs in the way out: "Everything the outgoing administration is doing today seems coordinated to obstruct the Biden team tomorrow."

Christopher Campbell: The Biden popular front is doomed to unravel. Title makes sense but I'd argue that both left and right wings of the Democratic Party need each other more than they need to fear or dominate the other, that neither can afford to lose the other, especially given that Republicans even without Trump remain a unifying threat. But this article has little to do with its title. Much of it is a strange rationalization of Trump's unexpected success. And it ends with an observation that the dividing line between the parties isn't capital vs. labor (as it was during the New Deal/Great Society era) but growing vs. declining states/regions.

Megan Cassella/Ben White/Tyler Pager: Biden unveils diverse economic team as challenges to economy grow: "The president-elect intends to name Cecilia Rouse, Neera Tanden and Wally Adeyemo to senior roles in his administration." Article assumes Janet Yellen is pick for Treasury Secretary. Most of the commentary I've seen concerns Tanden, who runs the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, but is infamous as a critic of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Tanden was picked to run the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Sanders is on the Senate Budget Committee.

Nancy Cook: Trump's 2016 transition defined his presidency. Biden's might, too. "The hallmarks were all there during Trump's transition -- off-the-cuff decision-making, high staff turnover and bitter internal battles. So far, Biden's transition has publicly been the opposite."

EJ Dionne Jr: Why they fight: "The Democrats are a big-tent party. The GOP isn't. That explains everything." Glancing through the comments, I see that Dionne's view -- basically a variant on the old Will Rogers joke (quote included) -- is limited by being inside the tent. One could imagine (and maybe even relish) the "democratic wing" purging the Party's more conservative elements, like the Republican right-wing did to "purify" their party. Indeed, that's likely to happen, although I doubt the left will ever be as successful as the right has been. But for now, the big difference isn't the diversity of opinion within the Democratic Party, but the fact that Democrats still imagine themselves as representing and supporting the entire country -- even regions, components, and classes that provide them little support -- whereas Republicans focus narrowly on their supporters, even if only to reinforce prejudices.

Jen Kirby: Joe Biden's foreign policy vision takes shape as he selects his team. Nominees to date:

  • Antony Blinken: Secretary of State (grade card)
  • Alejandro Mayorkas: Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Avril Haines: National Intelligence Director
  • Jake Sullivan: National Security Adviser
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield: UN Ambassador
  • John Kerry: Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

More on these people:

Jackson Lears: Don't wish for a restoration: One common reaction of Democrats to Trump has been a wave of nostalgia for Obama, and that's been a driving force behind Biden's campaign. As Biden stocks his administration, it is inevitable that he will draw heavily on Obama veterans. However, I'm more inclined to view Obama's years as opportunity wasted -- not just through inaction but through futile attempts to appeal to elite but conventional interests:

The great danger is that much of the Biden administration will likely be composed of Washington insiders who are devoted to the failed policies of the past -- austerity at home, overextended military commitments abroad. To cling to those policies would be to pretend that the populist challenge to the Washington consensus in 2016 never happened.

This is part of a New York Review series of short articles on the 2020 elections. Also see:

  • Ben Fountain: What has minimalist democracy gotten us?

  • Wallace Shawn: Developments since my birth. That would be 1943. I've thought a good deal about my own birth date (in 1950, a week before a Chinese volunteer army reversed American gains in Korea) as a pivotal date in the decline of the nation.

    Barack Obama seemed to love the old rhetoric, and he may have been despised by Trump and his followers not simply because he was the first person of color to become president, and not simply because of the elegance of his speeches and the refinement and sense of self-respect evident in his demeanor, but because the words he used somehow harked back to the ethical aspirations expressed by President Kennedy (never mind that neither he nor President Kennedy lived up to them).

    Over the decades of my life, America's morale has declined, I'd say. There was a dignity to feeling kind and good. It was enjoyable. On the other hand, the lack of connection between what we felt we were and what we actually were was dangerous and led to the death of a lot of people. . . . But for those countless others, in the cities and towns of the USA and in countries far away, to whom America has not been good, the face of America has always and forever been the face of Donald Trump.

Ralph Nader: Biden needs to report Trump's wreckage in Executive Branch as markers.

When the Bidenites take over on January 21, they will find hollowed-out government law enforcement and shelved research projects. They'll see offices empty after government scientists and other civil servants were forced out. Other public servants will be sitting in what the Japanese call "window jobs," ordered to stop working on vital matters ranging from limiting climate disruption to stopping Wall Street rip-offs. The Trump administration turned important government jobs into do-nothing positions.

Heavily censored federal CDC workers, benumbed from prohibitions on what they can say, and who were ordered not to speak the words "climate change" will receive their rescuers with deep relief. EPA workers who were ordered to repeal or weaken over 100 environmental safeguards -- unleashing deadly toxins into people's air and water -- will feel the breaking of the restraints imposed on sound science.

Specialists who were told to weaken or eliminate about 50 occupational health and safety standards and literally shut down enforcement at OSHA will also start to see the early dawn.

Biden's team will discover destruction or theft of public records, spectacles of looting and plunder of public trust and public property.

They will hear stories of corporate lobbyists coming in and out of the agencies as if they owned the government because they did. Trump turned over the federal government to Big Business, as has never before happened, brazenly, openly, and endlessly. His nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) into nothingness, marauding Mick Mulvaney, openly said the agency's mission was to protect Wall Street Big Banks and unscrupulous payday lenders!! Mulvaney abandoned tens of millions of defrauded Americans. . . .

Unlike the entering Obama Administration back in 2009, the Biden Administration must come in with a determined mindset as they begin restoring the rule of law and reversing Trump's cruel and crazy policies. Biden's team will also need to start restoring past services and initiating new services for the citizenry.

They must not let the Trumpster outlaws escape and become immune fugitives from justice. If Trump's wrecking crew escapes the arm of the law, for sure they and their base will return with a vengeance in two and four years.

Osita Nwanevu: The Democrats' maddening cowardice is carrying over into the Biden era.

Richard Silverstein: Biden's Middle East policy will face an unholy right-wing alliance.

Jamie Stiehm: Why Biden has it harder than FDR and Lincoln: For starters, he doesn't have their Congressional majorities, and most likely won't have any sort of majority in the Senate. But even though Obama had a majority in Congress in 2009, he had a great deal of trouble getting his relatively modest legislative proposals passed.

Astra Taylor: How the Biden administration can free Americans from student debt.

Laura Weiss: The government's human cruelty will outlive Trump: "Immigration agencies won't suddenly clean up their act when the president leaves office. What's Biden going to do about their systemic abuses?"

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 13.3 million+ cases (14 day change +12%), 266,357 deaths (+29%), 91,635 hospitalized (+38%). The change rates have lowered a bit, but still 1 million cases in the last week (151,247 on Nov. 28). At the current rate, we'll hit 18 million cases and 300,000 deaths by January 1. Note that constant rate is not the worst possible scenario (see Higgins below).

Bryce Covert: New York's feckless, scientifically illiterate response to the Covid second wave.

Marissa Higgins: Amid holiday season, Dr Anthony Fauci gets brutally honest about possible coronavirus spike.

Umair Irfan: Covid-19 vaccine efficacy results are not enough: "What the latest Covid-19 vaccine announcements from AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna can and can't tell us."

Melody Schreiber: Pharma executives are profiting from Covid vaccine press releases: "The timing of the announcements, and their lack of detail, are raising worries about insider trading and unrealistic expectations."

Still More on Donald Trump

Isaac Arnsdorf: Trump races to weaken environmental and worker protections before January 20th.

Dan Barry: 'Loser': How a lifelong fear bookended Trump's presidency: "The president's inability to concede the election is the latest reality-denying moment in a career preoccupied with an epithet."

Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: Trump pardons former national security adviser Flynn. The first, and in some ways, the safest of Trump's post-election pardons. Even so, Trump made Flynn wait in line behind the Thanksgiving turkey. More on Flynn:

Zak Cheney-Rice: Losing hasn't changed Trump's stance on white supremacy: "His continued resistance to renaming military bases that honor Confederates -- though it has no obvious political benefit -- confirms his true beliefs." Doesn't strike me as a very good example. In fact, I don't think Trump qualifies as a white supremacist -- unlike some of his followers, and many of their forebears -- although he often has racist impulses, and consistently rejects all efforts to acknowledge much less correct past racism. I'd also argue that his position does have political benefit, at least within his base, which is all he really care about. A lot of Trump supporters are in denial about racism, both past and present, and one reason Trump is important to them is that he saves them from having to examine their own beliefs and acts. On the other hand, it's very likely that all of those bases will be renamed under Biden, and the issue will die there.

Lee Fang: Another official dismissed at the Pentagon as Trump continues unusual shake-up.

Lisa Friedman: EPA's final deregulatory rush runs into open staff resistance.

Charlotte Klein: Here's what a lame-duck Trump might do: List from subheds follows. The ones to worry about are the irreversible acts, especially military strikes.

  • Pardon his cronies and the connected
  • Attack Iran's main nuclear site
  • Bring back firing squads
  • Make it easier to pollute
  • Preserve Confederate monuments
  • Make it even harder to claim asylum

Philip Allen Lacovara: Yes, the Biden administration should hold Trump accountable. Author is "a former president of the DC Bar, served as counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor." More thoughts on prosecuting Trump:

  • Andrew Weissmann: Should Trump be prosecuted? "Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law." Weissman "was a senior prosecutor in the Mueller investigation."

Martin Longman: How Trump killed political blogging.

Jonathan Martin/Maggie Haberman: How Trump hopes to use party machinery to retain control of the GOP.

Eric L Muller: The one word that bars Trump from pardoning himself: "The question shouldn't be whether the president can pardon himself but whether he can grant himself a pardon -- and those are not the same thing."

Olivia Nuzzi: The final gasp of Donald Trump's presidency.

Madison Pauly: Will Trump's accusers finally get their day in court?

Walter M Shaub Jr: The presidential transition meets Murphy's Law: In this case, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, the very literal embodiment of Murphyism. Since this article, Trump allowed Murphy to release transition funds. But she still stands as a prime example of how Trump's intransigence is reflected among his loyal minions.

Asawin Suebsaeng: Trump's already gaming out a 2024 run -- including an event during Biden's inauguration.

Jeff Wise: The people v Donald J Trump: "The criminal case against him is already in the works -- and it could go to trial sooner than you think." Opens with the example of Silvio Berlusconi, who went from billionaire media magnate to prime minister of Italy to jail. I wrote about the Berlusconi precedent four years ago (which built on something I wrote in 2006, Mobsters in Suits), so it seems fitting that other people are writing about it now.

Obama Has a Book to Sell

Barack Obama's memoir, A Promised Land, came out last week, as did most of the press coverage.

Murtaza Hussain: Obama book explains how birtherism made Trump's presidency.

Fred Kaplan: Obama had a remarkable grasp of complexity and ambiguity. Is that good for a president?

Around the World

Ramzy Baroud: Expansion and mass eviction: Israel 'takes advantage' of Trump's remaining days in office.

Dave DeCamp: Israel suspected in assassination of top Iranian scientist: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, "head of an Iranian military nuclear program." More:

Jason Ditz: Israeli airstrike kills 19 in eastern Syria, mostly Pakistani militia members:

Continuing a tactic of anticipating a US-Iran War, Israel seems to keep trying to provoke the conflict, with a Thursday morning strike in eastern Syria killing at least 19 Shi'ite militia members, declared "pro-Iranian fighters" by the Israeli press. . . .

This is the third Israeli attack against Shi'ites in Syria in just over a week. Iran did comment on the first one, which killed mostly Iraqi and Lebanese Shi'ites, and threatened retaliation over it. They did not specify when or how they would retaliate.

Roger Harris: US intervenes as Venezuela prepares for high stakes election.

Jacob Silverman: Mike Pompeo is a global arsonist. Can Biden put out his fires?

Other Matters of Interest

Joel Achenbach: Did the news media, led by Walter Cronkite, lose the war in Vietnam? Why is this even coming up now? As someone who lived through the era, and who regularly watched TV coverage in real time, I can assure you that the news media was fully behind the war effort until the hypocrisy and false claims became undeniable. Even so, they never quite grasped the real lessons of the war, which is why any suggestion that the war was ever winnable is so risible. The "revisionist" argument that the US could have prevailed had it not been for the American people's loss of willpower is nothing more than the "stab-in-the-back" claim that aided the rise of the Nazis in Germany, its "success" leading to yet another, even more disastrous war. Look at the people pushing it in the 1990s, and you'll find the same people who led us into Afghanistan and Iraq, who used martial myth to rally support for the Bush and Trump regimes, and the interminable waves of right-wing zealots in Congress and the Courts.

David Atkins: Not everything can move to Substack or the Times. Evidently, two (of three) co-founders of Vox have left: Ezra Klein to the New York Times, and Matthew Yglesias to do his own thing at Substack. Others trying their hand at Substack subscriber newsletters include Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, and Matt Taibbi. (Article doesn't mention Taibbi, but does name Casey Newton, who used to cover Silicon Valley for The Verge.) I figure Sullivan-Greenwald-Taibbi to be temporary holding patterns: all three have grown apart from their hosts, but I doubt any of them are viable as isolated oracles. I'm more troubled by the Vox founders, not least because Vox has been my most reliable news filter over the past four years. Perhaps its business model has failed, and the founders have jumped ship based on inside information. But to my mind, leaving your own company to work for the behemoth New York Times or to freelance (which, again, may just be a stall) seems like a bad move.

Paul Demko: How one of the reddest states became the nation's hottest weed market: I suspected as much last time I visited Tulsa, where I saw billboards touting access to "medical marijuana," and my right-wing relatives (not to my knowledge actual users) bragging about how easy it is to get.

Christopher Bonanos: David Dinkins deserved better: "His mayoralty was not the overt failure that it once seemed." The former New York City mayor died last week, at 93. Dinkins was mayor from 1989 to 1993, following Ed Koch, and followed by Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.

Jonathan Chait: 'Republicans remain opposed to any policies that would reduce fossil-fuel use'. That seems like a far more explicit declaration than even the oil, gas, and coal companies are used to pushing. Until recently, they've been satisfied just throwing shade on climate change concerns, but more and more they're losing out to renewables on purely economic terms -- never mind the fact that what makes fossil fuel sources affordable is how the industry has escaped having to pay for its externalities.

Charles Duhigg: How venture capitalists are deforming capitalism.

Todd C Frankel/Brittney Martin/Andrew Van Dam/Alyssa Fowers: A growing number of Americans are going hungry: "26 million now say they don't have enough to eat, as the pandemic worsens and holidays near."

Amanda Frost: The Supreme Court has to choose between Trump and the nation's founders: "Are the court's conservatives the devout originalists they claim to be or partisan hacks? A key immigration case will provide the proof."

Michael M Grynbaum/John Koblin: Newsmax, once a right-wing also-ran, is rising, and Trump approves. More on Newsmax:

  • Alex Shephard: How Newsmax became Trump TV: "Chris Tuddy's conservative cable news network is gaining viewers by telling them Trump can still win."

Rebecca Heilweil: Parler, the "free speech" Twitter wannabe, explained.

Sean Illing: A historian on the perils of chaotic White House transitions: Interview with Eric Rauchway, author of Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal. I mentiond this piece in Music Week, but figured it bear repeating, and belongs here. The transition from Hoover to Roosevelt in 1932-33 is relevant inasmuch as it started with an incumbent president being thrown out in favor of a new party, in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis -- less of an economic crisis now, but the pandemic more than makes up the difference. It was worse then because the transition period was two months longer, but less bad then because Hoover didn't have many of the powers that presidents have today (e.g., the ability to launch nuclear weapons at supposed enemies). It was similar in that Hoover, like Trump today, refused to recognize the election results as a popular verdict on his administration, and continued to pursue his dangerous policies until the very end.

Ian Millhiser: The Supreme Court fight over Trump's last-ditch effort to rig the census, explained: "The Court must decide whether to follow the Constitution's clear test -- or to rubber-stamp an illegal effort by Trump."

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Dumb all over, again.

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins: The liberal establishment is 'a stranger to self-examination': "A conversation with Pankaj Mishra about Biden's closer-than-expected victory, the sterile state of mainstream intellectual culture, and his new book Bland Fanatics."

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34401 [34356] rated (+45), 213 [220] unrated (-7).

A day later than usual. Got distracted on Monday, and was too tired to write an introduction. I did the cutover when I got up Monday, and resisted the temptation to sneak in anything extra during the day, so chalk the high rating count up to hard work. Invites went out for the Jazz Critics Poll on Wednesday, so I've had a few ballots to count (16 at present, typically about 12% of the total). They've given me some listening suggestions, as well as motivated me to get to some queue items (e.g., Sonny Rollins).

The first EOY lists have started to appear. I've added Mojo and Uncut to my metacritic file (which at some point I should rename my "EOY Aggregate"). I compiled Mojo (including genre side-lists, except for soundtracks) from a scan of the glossy magazine, but for Uncut, I went to the more easily usable Acclaimed Music Forums (half-dozen more lists there already; while they frown on "single-critic" lists, like mine, they do an especially thorough job of collecting lists from European sources).

Both Mojo and Uncut picked Bob Dylans' My Rough and Rowdy Ways as the year's best record. Dylan is pretty clearly among the top three contenders this year, along with Run the Jewels' RTJ4 and Fiona Apple's Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Mojo had Apple at 2 and RTJ at 8. Uncut had Apple at 22, and no mention of RTJ4. I don't see any rappers at all on their list (even Brits, although there are a dozen-plus Black artists, including some Americans -- Thundercat came in at 5, and I don't see any Brits until Jarvis at 8, Shirley Collins 9, and Laura Marling 10). Early lists tend to be disproportionately British, and short on hip-hop.

My own working EOY lists are here, split into jazz and non-jazz. Usually they start with a strong jazz bias, which evens out over the season, as I scour over the vast array of pop and specialty lists. However, so far I've been looking mostly at jazz ballots, so the jazz list is the one that's seen a growth spurt this week (and probably for the next 2-3 weeks -- I've already added two more A- entries for next week's report: Luke Stewart: Exposure Quintet, and Dave Rempis: Stringers and Struts).

Phil Overeem noted that every record in my non-jazz list is marked with **, which means that I streamed or downloaded it. (Actually, there are two exception: Al Gold's Paradise, a blues album from a jazz publicist, and Thank Your Lucky Stars: Girl in Her 29s, which the artist was kind and/or desperate enough to send me.) I still get a fair number of jazz promos -- down at least 50% from the days when I was writing Jazz Consumer Guide for the Village Voice, and all the way to zero this week -- but haven't bought more than a couple dozen CDs in any of the last 5-8 years, and zero so far this year. Admittedly, that changes the way I listen to music, and you can take that as a caveat if you want. It does reduce the chance of adding any new music to my all-time list. On the other hand, it presents a pretty level playing field.

One new feature this week is that I finally added a section on "records I played parts of, but not enough to grade." I've thought about this before, but it always seemed like a bookkeeping headache. Still, last week I was going through the year's list promoted by a jazz publicist, seeking out items he hadn't sent me, and was left with two albums that were only partially available on Bandcamp. So I played what I could, and noted that for future reference. They are not counted as graded in my database, so won't inflate rated counts. I decided to go with four levels:

  • ++ indicates a record I'd like to hear more of; it is a solid prospect for an A- or B+(***) grade.
  • + is a record I like but don't consider an A- prospect; it probably falls in the middle of the B+ range.
  • - is a decent, maybe even a good record, but definitely not an A- or B+(***) prospect, and not worth my time pursuing; it's probably a low B+ or a B, though probably no worse.
  • -- is a record I have no desire to hear more of; it's not necessarily a bad record, but not worth the time.

I don't know how many more of these I'll do, but I run across partial selections at Bandcamp several times each week, and many other records that aren't available on streaming sites at least make a song or two available, even if only on Soundcloud or YouTube. One thing I do in the EOY lists is try to compile a list of records which by reputation have a 2% or better chance of an A- grade, so they are the most obvious prospects. I could also see doing this for back catalog items, which are particularly hard to find.

For now, the plan is to have a single section in Music Week each week, and two sections (new and historical) in the music year file. I'm not adding them to the EOY files, although they'll have some influence in the 2% sections. They won't show up in any of the database files, but I will be able to see comments in the source files. I might at some point figure out how to generate a collective list, but that will require some programming, so isn't in the cards for now. For now, I'm not adding them to the Record Guides, although I could see an argument for doing so.


One thing I was aware of while writing Sunday's Weekend Roundup was that I had written various conflicting things on Trump's post-presidential prospects. There is much speculation but no answers. I have no real idea, and chances are neither does Trump. For one thing, there's a very real question as to whether he will be prosecuted (there is very little doubt but that he will be hit with civil lawsuits, some of which are already in progress). Trump's public profile will have some bearing on those cases. In some ways, I think the main benefit from keeping the option to prosecute "on the table" is that the threat may force him to moderate his behavior. And I may add that I don't want to muzzle him to stifle his political impact, but just because he's been such a painfully tiresome presence in our lives.

The only reason I'm returning to this is that I wanted to pass on a link: Sean Illing: A historian on the perils of chaotic White House transitions. The historian is Eric Rauchway, and he recently wrote a book on the long stretch (November to March) from the 1932 election defeat of Herbert Hoover to the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt. I've talked about my notion that you can divide US history into four long partisan eras, each initiated by a major president and ended by a one-term failure: Jefferson to Buchanan (1800-1860), Lincoln to Hoover (1860-1932), Roosevelt to Carter (1932-1980), and Reagan to Trump (1980-2020). One thing I hadn't really thought about was how painful the transitions were between those eras. One can also throw in the transition from Adams to Jefferson in 1800-01, which like Hoover-Roosevelt was so bad it led to a constitutional amendment (the former separated the elections of presidents and vice-presidents, the latter moved the inauguration date up from March to January to shorten the lame duck period). The Buchanan-Lincoln transition period was when the Civil War started (although Rauchway doesn't blame Buchanan for that -- nonetheless, many pre-Trump polls of historians ranked Buchanan as the worst president ever). The Carter-Reagan transition was benign only in comparison to the others: it was conspicuously marked by Reagan's back channel negotiations with Iran to release the American embassy hostages only after Carter left office. What makes Hoover so relevant is the degree of crisis the nation faced then and is facing now.


One more week before we wrap up the November Streamnotes archive. I expect it will be a busy one. We have no plans for Thanksgiving. I may try to cook a nice dinner for two, but I don't even have plans at present, and I'm unlikely to go out shopping. No guests, not even virtual ones. We're pretty severely hunkered down, as Kansas pandemic numbers have kept shooting up.


Lina Allemano's Ohrenschmaus: Rats and Mice (2019 [2020], Lumo): Canadian trumpet player, based in Toronto, first record a 1998 quintet that listed William Carn first, seems to have a Berlin connection -- appeared in Satoko Fujii's Orchestra Berlin, and recorded this trio there: Dan Peter Sundland (electric bass) and Michael Griener (drums), group name translates to "festival for the ears." B+(***) [bc]

Lina Allemano: Glimmer Glammer (2019 [2020], Lumo): Solo trumpet, rarely done, rarely successful, but a game effort. B+(*) [bc]

The Awakening Orchestra: Volume II: To Call Her to a Higher Plain (2019 [2020], Biophilia): Big band, directed by Kyle Saulnier, released a Volume I in 2014 and an Interlude in 2016. Cites George McGovern for inspirational "higher plain" quote, but I have to wonder whether the word intended wasn't "plane." Tracts on patriotism, divided into two parts: "The Pessimist's Dilemma" and "The Optimist's Folly," each embedding a short symphony. One vocal bit, but mostly lets the music talk, speaking volumes. B+(***)

Baby Queen: Medicine (2020, Polydor, EP): Bella Latham, South Africa-born, London-based, don't know if she's done anything else. Six songs, 22:47, half sly talky grooves ("Buzz Kill"), half pop genius ("Internet Religion," "Want Me"). Title song synthesizes both. A-

Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brotherhood: Live (2019 [2020], International Anthem): From Chicago, credited with clarinet, keys, and vocals, band has tenor sax, electronics, bass, two drummers, "auxiliary instruments," and more vocals. Can get intense, probably for good reason. Her fan base is pretty intense, too. B+(**) [bc]

Alabaster DePlume: To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 (2020, International Anthem): British spoken word artist, from what I hear, plays tenor sax and guitar here, with voice (his and others) used for background color. Cy & Lee are only identified as "two men with learning difficulties" DePlume befriended in Manchester, who worked on music with him, finding it to have a calming effect. One can see why. B+(**)

Fox Green: The Longest April (2020, self-released): Alt/indie band from Little Rock, Wade Derden singer-guitarist, with Cam Patterson (guitar), Steve Kapp (upright bass), and Dave Hoffpauir (drums), plus a true connoisseur's selection of guest spots (Peter Stampfel, John Kruth, Adam Weiner, Lisa Walker), plus various backup vocals on most tracks. Clear, easy-going country rock. Inspired concept: "The Day Marc Bolan Went to Nashville." B+(***) [bc]

Sam Gendel: Satin Doll (2020, Nonesuch): Saxophonist, several albums but first on a major label, pitches this as "a futuristic homage to historical jazz." Standards, 1950s jazz tunes as well as older Ellington and "Stardust," tweaked with synths, which is itself an older vision of the future. B

Sam Gendel: DRM (2020, Nonesuch): Solo experiments with vintage instruments -- antique synths and drum machines, a sixty-year-old nylon-string guitar -- with voice. Loose-limbed and out of kilter, reminds me a bit of Arto Lindsay, but not that good. B

Julian Gerstin: Littoral Zone (2020, self-released): Subtitled (back cover but not front or spine) "Percussion for Mollusks." Implies that he's mostly working with shells, but details list four dozen percussion "instruments," including Fanta bottle, rice cooker, and espresso maker, as well as most of the Afro-Latin kit. Lovely within its limits, which expand a bit with guest marimba on three tracks, even more with clarinet on one. B+(***) [cd]

Ben Goldberg/Kenny Wollesen: Music for an Avant-Garde Massage Parlour (2020, BAG Production): Clarinet player, spent the pandemic lockdown period from March 19 to August 27 recording 137 pieces for his Plague Diary, and has since kept adding to it, hitting 186 on November 16. That's mind-numbingly long for me -- I don't even have the stomach to add up the times (the pieces range from 1:26 up to 24:54, with the mean close to 7 minutes). This duo with percussionist Kenny Wollesen seemed more tractable (21 songs, 64:49). B+(**)

Majamisty Trio: Organic (2019 [2020], Sokoj): Piano trio, from Serbia: Maja Alanovic (piano), Ervin Malina (bass), and Lav Kovac (drums). B+(**)

Carla Marciano Quartet: Psychosis: Homage to Bernard Herrmann (2019 [2020], Challenge): Alto/sopranino saxophonist, Italian, several albums starting with Trane's Groove in 2002. Quartet adds Alessandro La Corte (keyboards), Aldo Vigorito (bass), and Gaetano Fasano (drums). Herrmann (1911-75) was an American composer, mostly wrote soundtracks, including themes here from Taxi Driver, Marnie, Twisted Nerve, Psycho, and Vertigo, plus a John Williams piece to close. Intense, nothing atmospheric here. B+(***) [cd]

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Orchestra: Dimensional Stardust (2020, International Anthem): Large group -- my count is 13, but short on horns with just trumpet (Mazurek and Jaimie Branch) and flute (Nicole Mitchell) -- seventh album since 2007. Instead, he's rounded up a lot of electronics, strings, and rhythm, with occasional words by Damon Locks. Doesn't swing like Sun Ra did, but bops along with comparable cosmic flair. A-

Charles McPherson: Jazz Dance Suites (2020, Chazz Mack Music): Two major pieces, titles on the cover -- "Song of Songs" and "Sweet Synergy Suite" -- as well as "Music and Motion." The second has more motion, and more impact from Terrel Stafford (trumpet). The alto saxophonist is lovely throughout. B+(**) [bc]

Megan Thee Stallion: Good News (2020, 300 Entertainment): Rapper Megan Pete, from Texas, first studio album after a good mixtape and an even better EP. Big production, with one song ("Circles") listing 24 writers, and most of the rest featuring guests as prominent as Young Thug, SZA, and Beyoncé. Beats super sharp, hooks ascendant. Not sure that freeing your ass will liberate your mind, but so far, so good. A-

Todd Mosby: Aerial Views (2020, MMG): Guitarist, first album, produced by Will Ackerman (guitarist, new age guru, founder of Windham Hill Records). Various lineups, violin the best match, some vocal bits. B [cd]

Pa Salieu: Send Them to Coventry (2020, Warner Music UK): British rapper, last name Gaye, born in Slough, spent his early years with relatives in Gambia, moved back to UK at age 10, turned to music after a friend was killed. First album. Dense, not easy to follow. B+(**)

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Amalgam (2020, Mahakala Music): Tenor sax and piano duets. They've done a lot of them lately -- 10 albums with 17 CDs -- so it's hard to tell what this one adds. B+(**)

Margo Price: Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman (2018 [2020], Loma Vista): Country singer-songwriter, recorded this between her second and third studio albums. Snappier than Sunny Sweeney's new live album, but also less consistent. B+(**)

Jason Robinson: Harmonic Constituent (2019 [2020], Playscape): Saxophonist (tenor/soprano, also alto flute), albums since 1998. Each piece "inspired by a technical, and sometimes impressionistic, aspect of the oceanography, tidal dynamics, and geography specific to the coastline" near Mendocino, CA. With Joshua White (piano), Dave Gress (bass), and Ches Smith (drums). A-

Bree Runway: 2000and4Eva (2020, Virgin EMI, EP): British rapper/singer Brenda Wireko Mensah, first album (or mixtape), although length (21:45 including a bonus remix with Rico Nasty) looks more like an EP. B+(***)

Lori Sims/Andrew Rathbun/Jeremy Siskind: Impressions of Debussy (2020, Centaur): Piano, soprano sax, piano. Sims teaches at Western Michigan, seems to be strictly classical, no other albums I could find. The others are established postboppers. B

Chris Stapleton: Starting Over (2020, Mercury Nashville): Nashville singer-songwriter, fourth album, deep roots, solid voice, pretty fair songs (well, "Watch You Burn" is more than fair, at least until the climax). B+(**)

Dayna Stephens: Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard (2019 [2020], Contagious Music, 2CD): Mainstream tenor saxophonist, from Berkeley, studied at Berklee, impressed me first on side credits, but he's putting a solid resumé together as a leader. Quartet with Aaron Parks (piano), Ben Street (bass), and Greg Hutchinson (drums). B+(***) [cd]

Kevin Sun: (Un)seaworthy (2019 [2020], Endectomorph Music): Tenor saxophonist, fourth album (counting his eponymous group Mute), all winners. Trio with Walter Stinson (bass) and Matt Honor (drums). Feels like he's master the whole tradition, and can pick his way through anything. A- [cd] [11-27]

Sunny Sweeney: Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio (2020, Aunt Daddy): Country singer-songwriter, from Houston, four studio albums since 2006. I never stuck with her albums, so I have no idea how many of these songs are how old, but this might work as a best-of, or at least as a sampler. B+(***)

Tani Tabbal Trio: Now Then (2020, Tao Forms): Drummer, originally from Chicago, played in James Carter's peak period quartet, with Roscoe Mitchell, many others. Not much as leader -- website lists five previous albums on Tabbalia label, but links go to the now defunct CDBaby, and other sources don't recognize them. So probably not a debut at 66, but an impressive arrival: a trio with Adam Siegel (alto sax) and Michael Bisio (bass), with Bisio contributing four pieces to Tabbal's six. I love the balance between the two, and how Siegel builds on their rhythm. A-

Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Mantle (2019 [2020], Libra): Japanese trumpet-piano duo, a marriage as well as a long-time partnership, his name first for a change. Plus a drummer -- always good to have one of those. B+(***) [cd]

Thaba: Eyes Rest Their Feet (2020, Soundway): Duo from different continents, met online: South African singer/songwriter Khusi Seremane, who died at 41 before this was released, and American producer/musician Gabriel Cyr, drawing on musicians from Antibalas. Doesn't seem to belong either here or there. B+(*)

Micah Thomas: Tide (2019 [2020], self-released): Pianist, from Columbus, OH, first album, a trio with bass and drums. B+(**)

Peeter Uuskyla/Tellef Øgrim/Anders Berg/Per Anders Nilsson: Isn Hi Lagt Sae På Fjellvatna (2020, Simlas): Swedish drummer, I recognize him from one of Peter Brötzmann's best trios, has his own trio with Øgrim (guitar) and Berg (bass), adding Nilsson (sax) this time, a little extra shrill to go with the thrash. B+(***) [bc]

The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound: Soundpath (Composed by Muhal Richard Abrams) (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): Big band, previous album listed alto saxophonist Bobby Zankel ahead of the group name, this one lists Marty Ehrlich (another alto saxophonist) as co-producer and conductor. One 41:34 composition by AACM founder Abrams. B+(***)

WHO Trio: Strell: The Music of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): Group name from artist initials: Michael Wintsch (piano), Gerry Hemingway (drums), Bänz Oester (bass). Fifth group album, spaced every 4-6 years since 1999. Usual songs, rendered delicately. Hemingway sings "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing." B+(***)

Wood River: More Than I Can See (2020, Enja/Yellowbird): Charlotte Greve, plays sax and keyboards but mostly sings here, backed by guitar, bass, and drums. Long on texture, vocals nice enough, much prefer the sax. B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Dave Alvin: From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings ([2020], New West): Former Blaster, went solo in 1987 and has produced some terrific albums since. No idea where or when these sixteen songs come from -- hype suggests many come from opportunistic studio dates, not part of regular album projects -- but most feature his signature melodic ease and deadpan delivery. B+(***)

Don Cherry: Om Shanti Om (1976 [2020], Black Sweat): Recorded in Rome for a television broadcast, an example of Cherry's global eclecticism, where he plays pocket trumpet, flute, and kora, accompanied by Gian Piero Pramaggiore (guitar, flute), Nana Vasconcelos (percussion, berimbau), and Moki Cherry (tambura), with uncredited vocals as the grooves elicited sing-along. B+(*) [yt]

Jay Clayton/Fritz Pauer/Ed Neumeister: 3 for the Road (2001-02 [2020], Meistero Music): Jazz singer, backed by piano and trombone. (Pauer died in 2012.) B+(**)

Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland (1967 [2020], Resonance, 2CD): Three dates on two days in early May, with local musicians: Ruud Jacobs (bass, d. 2019, package dedicted to his memory) and a young (25) drummer, Han Bennink. This comes after his most avant records for Impulse, at the start of a hiatus (his second), which he broke in 1972. Not all first rate, but great to hear his unique sound, especially when he picks up the pace, and the CDs come with a substantial booklet, so gets extra credit for historical import. A- [cd] [12-04]

Horace Tapscott/Michael Session: Live in Avignon, France 1989 (1989 [2020], The Village): Piano and tenor sax duo. Session only has one album under his own name, but played in Tapscott's Pan-Afrikan Peoples Orchestra and related groups. He makes a strrong impression here. B+(***)

René Thomas: Remembering René Thomas: Rare and Unreleased (1955-62 [2020], Fresh Sound, 2CD): Belgian guitarist (1927-75), moved to Paris in early 1950s, recorded an album for Vogue, moved to Canada in 1956 then US, leaving a second album (Guitar Groove, then back to Europe in 1962. This starts with a sextet led by Jaccques Pelzer (alto sax), then some live trio tracks, some work with Bobby Jaspar (tenor sax/flute), quartets with piano-bass-drums, and one track with Jimmy Smith (organ). B+(***)

Old music:

Dave Alvin: Blue Blvd. (1991, Hightone): Second solo album. Solid. B+(***)

Dickie Landry: Fifteen Saxophones (1977 [2011], Unseen Worlds): Saxophonist, from Louisiana, four albums 1973-78, a Solo released in 2006 (one track called "12 Saxophones"), did some work with Philip Glass, website has more on his photography and paintings. Title cut is probably just what he says: 15 saxophones overdubbed into thick, shimmering sheets of sound. Other self-descriptive titles: "Alto Flute Quad Delay," "Kitchen Solos." B+(**)

Horace Tapscott: Songs of the Unseen (1978, Interplay): Pianist (1934-99), born in Houston but moved to Los Angeles as a child and became the focal point there for avant-jazz, not just through his Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra. This is solo, a title he would reuse for his autobiography (published posthumously in 2001). I don't have the patience to decide just how brilliant this impressive but mixed set is, but I have no doubt he's one of the era's most important jazz pianists. B+(***) [yt]

Horace Tapscott Sextet: Dial 'B' for Barbra (1980 [2006], Nimbus West): With trumpet (Reggie Bullen), two saxes (Gary Bias and Sabir Mateen), bass violin (Roberto Miguel Miranda), and drums (Everett Brown Jr). A- [yt]

Horace Tapscott: The Tapscott Sessions Vol. 9 (1983 [2001], Nimbus West): The pianist released seven volumes of solo piano sessions 1982-84, on vinyl only and long out Vols. 8-11 came out much later, the first two from the same period, less clear about the others. B+(**)


Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ probable prospect.

  • Emi Makabe: Anniversary (Greenleaf Music) -
  • Raf Vertessen Quartet: LOI (El Negocito) +


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • None.

Sunday, November 22, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Trump still refuses to concede. I thought he was a national embarrassment before the election, but hadn't even anticipated this. My apologies to all the pundits I made fun of for expecting, and even "war gaming," his intransigence. Jimmy Kimmel has started calling his lame duck period Squattergate.


Trump's Election Fraud

No serious observer thinks Trump has a chance of stealing back the election at this point, but as best I can figure, continuing to press his case does three things Trump's likely to regard as positives: it keeps his name at the top of the news, thereby keeping Biden and the Democrats from building on their win; it shows his base he's willing to fight for them (well, himself), even when the cause seems lost; and it lays the foundation for a scorched earth resistance against Biden and everything the Democrat-Socialists want to do. The downside, of course, is that it makes him look like a jerk and an asshole who has no concern for any part of the country beyond his following, but let's face it: you already knew that. I know a lot of people who thought they couldn't possibly despise him more than they did on November 3, but most of them now admit they were wrong: he's even more loathsome than they imagined.

David Atkins: Trump is staging a comically incompetent coup.

Dana Bash/Gloria Borger: Trump told ally he's trying to get back at Democrats for questioning legitimacy of his own election. "The President, this source said, 'doesn't see' how bad the aftermath of all of this could be for the country, and for democracy itself. As usual, he's focused on himself."

John Cassidy: Rudy Giuliani is a hot mess.

Christina Cauterucci: Shame the random, unknown government officials aiding Trump's coup attempt.

Jonathan Chait:

Kyle Cheney: Trump campaign cuts Sidney Powell from president's legal team. Just when she was upstaging Rudy Giuliani as the biggest laughing stock on retainer. Another take: Walter Einenkel: Trump campaign now says lady who lied with Giuliani for 2 hours at presser not really on legal team.

Chas Danner: Federal judge rebukes Trump's effort to overturn Pennsylvania election results: "In a scathing ruling, the judge said the Trump campaign was trying to 'disenfranchise almost 7 million voters.'" Also on this: Ian Millhiser: A Republican judge just tore into Trump's election lawyers for their incompetence.

Timothy Egan: Donald Trump is leaving behind blueprints to end democracy.

Garrett Epps: In election litigation, an ominous sign.

Edward B Foley: If the losing party won't accept defeat, democracy is dead. This has become a common thread for pundits, especially at the Washington Post:

Matt Ford: The unpardonable sins of Lindsey Graham. Also on Graham:

Masha Gessen: The coup stage of Donald Trump's presidency. Right after the election, I ridiculed efforts to describe Trump's refusal to accept plain results a coup, but he's persisted so steadfastly that there's little doubt that a coup is precisely what he would like to see. What escapes him is how one might work, but as long as he refuses to concede the fort, he has hopes that some kind of force might still come to his rescue. Gessen, on the other hand, has seen plenty of coups (successful and otherwise).

In the coup stage of his Presidency, Trump has continued to be Trump: he has shown no ability to plan or plot, but plenty of resolve and willingness to act. He fired military brass and the chief of election cybersecurity, Chris Krebs, for daring to contradict him. He garnered more than seventy million votes. He has showcased considerable power, in other words, but so far it doesn't seem to be enough to persuade Americans that he will keep it. For now, Trump's coup attempt seems doomed.

But, as is his way, Trump is succeeding even as he fails. His project all along has been to destroy the political order as we have known it. An overwhelming majority of Republican elected officials are hedging their bets on the coup attempt -- whether in order to humor Trump or appease his base, they have neglected to recognize the results of the election. The Tuesday-night incident at the Wayne County election board showed that at least some election officials will do Trump's bidding.

Alex Isenstadt: Trump threatens to wreak havoc on GOP from beyond the White House. Hey, bring it on!

Ed Kilgore: Rudy melts down over Trump and 'voter fraud' during insane press conference.

Jen Kirby: A Trump official is still blocking Biden's presidential transition. House Democrats want answers. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.

Robert Mackey: Defeated Trump campaign tells supporters "The Left HATES YOU" in fundraising emails: The left hates Trump, not Trump supporters. Feels sorry for their mental anguish, and sometimes fears how irrationally they may act out. But the left's programs would actually help most Trump supporters. Just maybe not Trump.

Ian Millhiser: Trump's lawsuits challenging the election have turned into a clown show: "Republican officials aren't just losing. They're embarrassing themselves." Pictured: Rudy Giuliani.

Andrew Prokop: How long can Trump keep disputing the election results?

David E Sanger: Trump's attempts to overturn the election are unparalleled in US history.

Anya van Wagtendonk: Trump lashes out at fellow Republicans as his legal challenges to election results fail.

Li Zhou: 73 percent of Republican voters are questioning Biden's victory: Per a Vox poll.

Other Election Matters

Ross Barkan: The Biden campaign's decision not to knock on doors was a huge mistake.

Gabriel Debenedetti: Election night with Biden's data guru.

Fintan O'Toole: Democracy's afterlife: "Trump, the GOP, and the rise of zombie politics."

It is impossible not to think, in this in-between moment, of Antonio Gramsci: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." Something is dying, but we do not yet know what. Is it the basic idea of majority rule or is it the most coherent attempt to destroy that idea since the secession of the Confederacy? Something is trying to be born, but we cannot yet say what it is either. Is it an American version of the "managed democracy" or "electoral autocracy" that is the most rapidly expanding political form around the world? Or is it a radically renewed republic that can finally deal with the unfinished business of its history? The old is in a state of suspended animation; the new stands at a threshold it cannot yet cross.

I would have gone elsewhere with the Gramsci quote. Most Democrats seem to be suffering from PTSD. They've been so traumatized by Trump that they've lost faith in their own basic principles, so they hardly campaign on them. Moreover, they regard Trump as such an anomaly that they fail to recognize that he's part and parcel of the Republican Party. They fret over the Republican base falling for Trump's folly, when it would be more accurate to point out that Trump is the one who fell for the crazed, vicious worldview. On the other hand, there are Democrats who see this clearly, yet they were unable to prevail in the primaries -- mostly due to the tsunami of Bloomberg cash, and the panic of pandemic. I still have faith in the left's clarity and reason, but O'Toole is haunted by darker thoughts:

The historic question that must be addressed is: Who is the aberration? Biden and perhaps most of his voters believe that the answer could not be more obvious. It is Trump. But this has been shown to be the wrong answer. The dominant power in the land, the undead Republican Party, has made majority rule aberrant, a notion that transgresses the new norms it has created. From the perspective of this system, it is Biden, and his criminal voters, who are the deviant ones. This is the irony: Trump, the purest of political opportunists, driven only by his own instincts and interests, has entrenched an anti-democratic culture that, unless it is uprooted, will thrive in the long term. It is there in his court appointments, in his creation of a solid minority of at least 45 percent animated by resentment and revenge, but above all in his unabashed demonstration of the relatively unbounded possibilities of an American autocracy.

Andrew Prokop: Georgia's Republican secretary of state just certified Biden's victory.

Michael Tomasky: What did the Democrats win?

Li Zhou: Why Republican women candidates had such a strong year. As I recall, in 2018, when Democrats elected a lot of new women to Congress, the number of Republican women in the House remained constant. This year it's jumping from 22 to 36, while the count of Democratic women is little changed, at 105. How exactly does that justify this headline?

Biden Prospects

I've been avoiding speculation on Biden cabinet picks, figuring what will be will be, but just noticed this one: Biden chooses Antony Blinken, defender of global alliances, as Secretary of State. You may recall mention of Blinken last week. Robert Wright has been writing a series on Grading Biden's foreign policy team, and I linked to his assessment of Blinken, with its overall grade of C- (teacher's comment: "Tony is bright and studious but needs to do a better job of learning from past mistakes"). Wright followed up with a report card on William Burns, who fared considerably better at A- (B grades for military restraint and international law).

Kate Aronoff:

  • Joe Biden can't compromise with the rising seas.

  • Democrats' fear of the Green New Deal is tearing the Party apart: "Why are party leaders so scared of a policy that's demonstrably popular?" I have a slightly different question. Given that GND doesn't have any intrinsic definition (unlike, say, single-payer health insurance), what is keeping Democratic Party leaders from just picking out a few things they like and calling it their GND? Most likely it's that Republicans have had some success at condeming GND as an extreme radical-liberal project, and mainstream Democrats are used to running scared from Republican attacks. It's worth stepping back and thinking about this a bit. There are two directives to GND: one is to accelerate public infrastructure development, specifically to provide plentiful energy while reducing carbon emissions, thereby reducing climate change without crippling the economy. The second is to make sure that the jobs created come with livable wages and benefits. Why should any Democrats oppose either of those programs? One might argue about how much to spend how soon, and how to pay for it -- which shouldn't be the big deal opponents try to make it out to be. But those are just basic principles, especially for someone like Joe Biden, who's talked a lot about climate change and better wages. If you do those basic things, what does it matter what you call it?

Peter Beinart: The Biden problem. Specifically, about foreign policy: Biden has moved significantly left on domestic policy, but if anything mainstream Democrats (especially those calling themselves "security Democrats" during the impeachment process) have retrenched even deeper into American exceptionalist orthodoxy.

Thomas Geoghegan: An FDR-size executive order for Biden: "With one stroke, the new president could revive the labor movement and help repair the post-pandemic economy."

Even with a hostile Senate, there is at least one executive order that could do more to transform the country than single-payer health care or the Green New Deal -- indeed, an order that could help pave the way toward those goals. Biden could require as a condition in every federal contract that every supplier of a good or service have a collective bargaining agreement -- unless there is no such supplier that can perform that contract at a reasonable cost or comparable quality. Such an executive order would do more to revive the labor movement than many a federal law -- and it wouldn't require Mitch McConnell's permission.

Dylan Matthews: 10 enormously consequential things Biden can do without the Senate. From the unnumbered subheds (although there are major caveats in the small print, and even so I'm not sure Biden is on board for many of them):

  1. Fight climate change
  2. Forgive student debt
  3. Expand immigration
  4. Ease the ban on marijuana
  5. Reverse Trump's rollback of air pollution and lead poisoning rules
  6. Cut back on factory farming
  7. Create a postal banking system
  8. Crack down on Wall Street
  9. Crack down on monopolies
  10. Expand access to health care

Luke Savage: Joe Biden should take a hard look at what Obama did in 2009 -- and do exactly the opposite. By the way, a pretty good book on Obama's transition and initial choices is Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions, especially given that Biden is inheriting the worst recession America has faced since the one Obama inherited (in some ways it's arguably worse, in which case you might want to supplement your reading with Adam Cohen: Nothing to Fear: FDR's Innter Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America). One of the biggest mistakes Obama made was to put off proposing any big infrastructure projects because they weren't "shovel ready" and he thought only short-term stimulus (like tax breaks and cash) would be necessary. (Feel free to blame Larry Summers for that decision. Also note how tightly Summers and Timothy Geithner limited Obama's choice in economic advisers.)

Dylan Scott: What Biden could do to expand health coverage -- without Congress. But: "Undoing Trump's health care actions won't be as easy as it sounds." Some problems are bureaucratic, but most were built into the program, even before Trump and the Republicans started beating on it.

Rob Urie: Democrats and the canard of 'too far left'.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 12.3 million+ cases (14 day change +59%), 256,581 deaths (+62%), 83,227 hospitalized (+50%). The mapmaker had to shift the scale to restore some gradation to what had become a vast red blob.

Lavender Ali: How China crushed coronavirus.

Eleanor Cummins: Why we can't comprehend 250,000 Covid deaths. Statistics, sure, but don't underestimate the truth Upton Sinclair discovered: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

James Hamblin: How Trump sold failure to 70 million people: "The president convinced many voters that his response to the pandemic was not a disaster. The psychology of medical fraud is simple, timeless, and tragic."

Elliot Hannon: Tyson Foods supervisors allegedly bet on how many plant workers would get coronavirus.

Umair Irfan: Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for emergency approval for their Covid-19 vaccine.

German Lopez: The next Covid-19 superspreading event: Thanksgiving.

Alexis Madrigal/Whet Moser: How many Americans are about to die? "A new analysis shows that the country is on track to pass spring's grimmest record."

Nick Martin: Scott Atlas, star disciple in Trump's Covid death cult: "The task force adviser is there to incite the president's base and facilitate the slow, deadly violence of our failed federal response to the pandemic."

Anna North: Why restaurants are open and schools are closed.

Amy Qin/Vivian Wang/Danny Hakim: How Steve Bannon and a Chinese billionaire created a right-wing coronavirus media sensation: "Increasingly allied, the American far right and members of the Chinese diaspora tapped into social media to give a Hong Kong researcher a vast audience for peddling unsubstantiated pandemic claims."

Katie Shepherd: Trump coronavirus adviser tells Michigan to 'rise up' against new shutdown orders.

John Wagner/Colby Itkowitz/Michelle Ye Hee Lee: Donald Trump Jr, the president's eldest son, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Also might as well note: Kate Riga: Rick Scott becomes the 6th member of Congress to test positive this week. Also: Sean Collins: Sen. Kelly Loeffler has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ed Yong: Hospitals know what's coming: "'We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,' said a COVID-19 doctor at America's best-prepared hospital."

Still More on Donald Trump

Chas Danner: Lara Trump is considering Senate run in North Carolina: In 2022, for retiring Senator Richard Burr's seat.

Juliet Eilperin: Trump officials rush to auction off rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before Biden can block it.

Randall D Eliason: The case against indicting Trump. Author recently wrote Yes, going after Trump's law firms is fair game, so he's drawing some fine distinctions.

Paulina Firozi: Trump administration exits Open Skies treaty. This was announced six months ago, but it's still shocking to see it happening, especially with Trump heading out the door.

Danny Hakim/Mike McIntire/William K Reshbaum/Ben Protess: Trump tax write-offs are ensnared in 2 New York fraud investigations.

David M Halbfinger: For Netanyahu and Israel, Trump's gifts kept on coming: "Allowing the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard the ability to emigrate to Israel was just the latest in a long list of prizes for America's closest ally in the Middle East." I always gag when I see "ally" in this context. Allies are concerned with your welfare. Allies come to your aid. Israel does whatever it wants, and expects Americans to clean up the mess, and pay them billions every year for the trouble. The twenty-year debacle of the Global War on Error isn't all Israel's fault, but it would never have happened without Israel: first, by generating so much bad will, but also by providing the inspiration for the neocon approach, which is to always project power, and suffer the consequences of perpetual war. As for Pollard, good riddance. But the list doesn't end there, and in every other respect we've been ill-served by the Trump administration's slavish prostration to Israeli ego and arrogance. Also on Pollard:

Sean Illing: How TV paved America's road to Trump: Interview with TV critic James Poniewozik, author of what I regard as the single most useful book on Trump, Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.

Jill Lepore: Will Trump burn the evidence?: "How the President could endanger the official records of one of the most consequential periods in American history."

Steve M.:

  • This is asymmetric warfare, and the GOP has the advantage:

    One of the main reasons we're in this mess is that Republicans have spent years preparing their voters for a moment like this -- and Democrats haven't.

    As I often say, the right-wing media and Republican officials tell GOP base voters every day, whether or not we're in election season, that Democrats are evil, deceitful people who are responsible for all the ills of the world, occasionally in partnership with alleged allies such as antifa or the jihadist movement. Republicans voters have heard this for so many years that they don't need to be persuaded that Joe Biden -- who seems like a decent, human person to us -- is either the mastermind or the unwitting dupe of a fiendish plot cooked up by all-powerful supervillains to steal an election. Of course Biden and his henchmen could fake a couple hundred thousand votes in six states! Of course they could conceal the evidence so deftly that President Trump's lawyers and investigators can't uncover it! The absence of evidence isn't proof that the election was honest and fair -- it couldn't possibly be! Democrats are too evil! No dyed-in-the-wool Republican voter needs evidence to be persuaded that something terribe happened. Our malign nature is an article of faith! Proof isn't necessary. . . .

    And the mainstream media seems incapable of imagining the possibility that the Republican Party might be dangerous and malignant. Surely it's just Donald Trump! Or Trump plus Republicans temporarily in thrall to him! Surely the party's four years of coddling Trump aren't a sign that there's something inherently wrong with the party, any more than the GOP's extreme positions on climate change and gun ownership and abortion and the regulation and taxation of rich people and corporations are signs that the party can't be trusted! Despite all that, the GOP is seen not only as a respectable center-right party but as the party of normal Americans, while the Democratic Party is the party of non-whites and effete white freaks and weirdos.

  • Who's really addicted to Trump? Republicans and journalists. Starts with a link to a Frank Bruni column, anticipating the pains of withdrawal from our daily Donald Trump fix. SM sagely comments:

    Get a grip, Frank. It's fine to keep writing about Trump, at least for now. Trump is still with us. He destroys democracy a little more every day. People who study fascism express serious concern about his ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the election.

    But if we can ever be rid of him, we'll be fine. Trust me, I know. Years ago I obtained a copy of The Book on Bush: How George W. Bush (Mis)leads America by Eric Alterman and Mark Green, as well as The Man Who Would Not Shut Up, a biography of Bill O'Reilly by Marvin Kitman. There was a time I thought I'd read these books. But Bush and O'Reilly passed from the scene and I just . . . didn't. I gave the books away. If I think about Bush or O'Reilly now, I remember how much I despised them and how angry I was at the damage they'd done to America. But I rarely think about them. I'm much more concerned with the people who are actively doing harm today.

    That's how I'll be once Donald Trump is no longer a figure of influence in America. I'll be fine. The rest of his critics will all be fine.

Jonathan Mahler: Can America restore the rule of law without prosecuting Trump? Long article, covers a lot of possible grounds for prosecution. "No ex-president has ever been indicted before, but no president has ever left office with so much potential criminal liability."

Ben Mathis-Lilley: White nationalist appointed by Trump to Holocaust Commission praised Jeffrey Epstein for not being "a pussy" -- isn't this the ultimate Trump headline?

Philip Rucker/Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey: Trump privately plots his next act -- including a potential 2024 run: Well, he filed the paperwork to campaign in 2020 the day after inauguration in 2017, so he understands how campaign finance works as a racket, and is not coy about getting in early. In the UK, the opposition party has what they call a "shadow cabinet": an MP designated to respond politically to each cabinet minister. Trump could proclaim himself Shadow President, and demand air time to respond to every Biden appearance. He might find that more fun than he ever had actually being president. On the other hand, he'll lose much of his immunity from prosecution and civil lawsuits when he leaves office (not that being an ex-president and a billionaire won't cut him some slack), so he might be better off toning down his profile. Check out the Mahler article above for an outline of the cases that could (and probably should) be brought against him.

Claudia Sahm: Is Trump trying to take the economy down with him? "His Treasury secretary is shackling the nation's central bank and closing an emergency program for local governments." The New York Times Editorial Board on this: Mnuchin's inglorious endgame.

Richard Silverstein: Trump wanted to attack Iran, they talked him out of it . . . for now. A Trump military attack on Iran has been a great fear for some time now, perhaps as an "October surprise," or as a lame duck parting gift. This gives you an indication of how close he came to doing it. After all, "Trump loves wreckage."

Emily Stewart: Why Trump and McConnell are trying -- and failing -- to push through Fed pick Judy Shelton.

James Webb: Ending 'endless wars' could cement Trump's foreign policy legacy: Well, maybe if had done it three years ago, and secured policy changes with clear directives, redeployments, and personnel changes, he'd have a legacy. Instead, he escalated the wars erratically, gave "allies" a free hand to expand their own wars, repeatedly hired (and had to fire) hawks like John Bolton, subverted possible efforts at diplomacy. A.J. Muste used to say: "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." Just one of many things Trump never came close to understanding. I think it is true that Trump won votes in 2016 because Hillary Clinton tried to out-hawk him (remember her "commander-in-chief test"?). Conservative anti-war pundits invested great hope in Trump as an alternative to the neocon/neoliberal war nexus. Even today, Doug Bandow is writing: Donald Trump isn't gone yet and I already miss him. What he's really saying is that he doesn't trust Biden, and fears that Biden will be worse than Trump, because Biden has always gone along with bipartisan defense and security posturing. Still, he could have just said that, as Beinart and others cited above have done, but he still relishes the idea that conservatives are good guys -- even Trump.

Robin Wright: What will a vengeful president do to the world in his final weeks?

Obama Has a Book to Sell

Barack Obama is doing a press tour to promote his memoir, A Promised Land, reportedly the first of two volumes (one for each term). I watched the first half of his interview on Jimmy Kimmel. It was refreshing to see a major political figure with a self-effacing sense of humor, talking about a recognizably normal family life. I turned it off before Kimmel got around to promised questions about the issues and events that constitute his legacy. Four years of Donald Trump helps us remember what his appeal was, slightly different from how twelve years of Obama and Trump have dulled our sense of how awful George W Bush was.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: On Barack Obama's A Promised Land. Flagship New York Times review. Book sounds awful -- not in the same way ghost written books for Bush or Trump would be, but a long, deep, blinkered trawl through a deeply heartfelt worldview that was rarely up to what was needed. Especially troubling is his inability to counter Republicans even a decade after the fact. Then there is this:

With foreign policy, he is less guarded. He even manages a kind of poetic jingoism, where nearly every criticism of the United States is mere preface to an elegant and spirited defense. In this sense Barack Obama defies the stereotype of the American Liberal for whom American failure on the world stage is not the starter course but the main. He is a true disciple of American exceptionalism. That America is not merely feared but also respected is, he argues, proof that it has done something right even in its imperfectness. "Those who complained about America's role in the world still relied on us to keep the system afloat," he writes, a reactionary position, as if it were innately contradictory to question America's outsize role and also expect America to do well at the job it chose to give itself.

All that talent, and the best he could do for American jingoism was make it more poetic?

Ryan Grim: Obama book: Rahm Emanuel cooked up deal to promise Larry Summers Fed Chair. The way I understood the story is that Summers and Tim Geithner were the only candidates for Treasury, and Geithner refused to consider any other position, so Summers had to settle for the Council of Economic Advisers -- a position he used to prevent anyone else from offering advice to Obama. The real question nobody's answered is why anyone wanted to hire either of them, let alone put them in charge of the recovery. Both were, after all, totally in the pocket of the big banks, as they amply proved. Sure, Summers wanted the Fed Chair job even more, but due to staggered terms it wouldn't open up for a year. When it did, Obama reappointed Ben Bernanke -- a big mistake, I always thought, for while he wasn't the worst ever, you'd think Obama would have gone with his own person, given how much power the Fed Chair has to make or break his economy.

Constance Grady: In his new memoir, Obama defends -- and critiques -- his legacy.

John F Harris: Could Obama have been great?

Peter Kafka: Obama: The internet is "the single biggest threat to democracy." I would have said money, and its control over media. There's a lot more money in the Internet now than 4, 8, 20 years ago, and it's taken a toll, but Fox News still bothers me a lot more than Facebook.

Osita Nwanevu: Barack Obama doesn't have the answers: "The former president seems unable to reckon with the failures of his presidency and diagnose the Republican Party's incurable nihilism."

Alex Shephard: Barack Obama, media critic.

Paul Street: The real v. the liberal fantasy Obama presidency: Two excerpts from Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement: Street's recent book.

Around the World

Masha Gessen: The abortion protests in Poland are starting to feel like a revolution.

Fred Kaplan:

Terrence McCoy: Bolsonaro ran against corruption. Now, he'll have to find another slogan. You'd think so, but Trump ran on the same anti-corruption themes he used in 2016. The key is getting people to believe that it's only corruption when someone else does it.

Mitchell Plitnick: Pompeo's attack on BDS is an assault on free speech. That's kind of the lowest common denominator reaction to Pompeo, whose main thrust is less that you can't say you don't like Israel's human rights abuses as that you can't do anything about it. The whole point of BDS is to do something tangible that can lead to real changes but that doesn't incite or condone violence. Israel would rather face violence, which they're used to dealing with, than BDS, which questions their morality. However, free speech does come into play here, because the only way to counter the logic of BDS is to prohibit discussion of it.

Alex Ward:

Other Matters of Interest

Reed Albergotti: Apple is lobbying against a bill aimed at stopping forced labor in China.

Dean Baker: "Protecting intellectual property" against China means redistributing income upward.

Damian Carrington: Renewable energy defies Covid-19 to hit record growth in 2020.

Jonathan V Last: The Republican Party is dead. It's the Trump cult now.

JC Pan: Charles Koch got the free-market dystopia he wanted. Now he'd like your approval. "The same billionaire who refashioned the American political system to suit his needs is now calling for bipartisan cooperation -- on his terms." Also on Koch: Garrison Lovely: The reputation launderers: "Talking with monsters like they're not monsters isn't journalism -- it's cowardice."

Jeremy W Peters:

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: The gang that couldn't sue straight.

Monday, November 16, 2020


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34356 [34320] rated (+36), 220 [223] unrated (-3).

I continued my post-election practice of starting each day with a couple of vintage jazz CDs, although I stopped tweeting about it at some point. I published the previous week's selection, so might as well follow it up with this week's (as best I recall):

  • Don Byas: Don Byas on Blue Star
  • Charles McPherson: But Beautiful!
  • Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um
  • Sonny Rollins: Falling in Love With Jazz
  • Sidney Bechet: The Legendary Sidney Bechet
  • Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite
  • Coleman Hawkins: A Retrospective 1929-1963 [2CD]
  • Earl Hines: Piano Man! (ASV's 1928-41 big band comp)
  • Roy Eldridge: The Nifty Cat
  • Ben Webster/Buck Clayton: Ben and Buck
  • Ben Webster/Harry Edison: Ben and Sweets
  • Lester Young: The "Kansas City" Sessions

Only a couple A- records on that list (very solid ones). The Mingus (A+) got an encore spin. Only one today, as I had to venture out early. The practice cut down on my listening, especially from the demo queue (which I'm working on now). Still got a fairly decent haul. Several records I was tipped to from Facebook posts (e.g., Aesop Rock, Harald Lassen, Big Mama Thornton). Several came from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: I already had Thelonious Monk and Elizabeth Cook (both of them) at A-, Margo Price at B+(*), and Low Cut Connie at B, so I checked out the rest (aside from Slim Gaillard, who I like enough to have given his 4-CD Properbox Laughin' in Rhythm an A-, but didn't expect the 2-CD Verve reviewed to improve on the 1-CD Verve from 1994, Laughin' in Rhythm). Pleasant surprise from the list was Rodney Rice, but where he was nice and comfy, I wound up preferring Tim Barry's anger (choice cut: "Prosser's Gabriel"). The Barry tip, by the way, came from Napster, explained thusly: "because you like Johnny Cash." They're often wrong (not least about what I like), but for someone I had never heard of that was a pretty good tip. One caveat: given its 2-hour-plus length, I only played the record once. Still left me feeling it's more likely to get better than worse.

I noticed this Richard Scheinin tweet:

Sad news: the passing of Andrew White, one of the most brilliant & exciting saxophonists I've ever witnessed. An outrageous character, too. Brilliant man. Coltrane transcriber. Oboist. Electric bassist with Stevie Wonder and Weather Report. R.I.P., genius.

I've heard a few records White played on, but his name never stuck in my mind, and I don't have anything by him in my database. I searched for records online and came up empty. Wikipedia credits him with 42 albums, but they're self-released, and I'm not finding them anywhere. (I did find some YouTube videos -- one fairly long one I listened to was pretty impressive.) Seems like getting his music organized on Bandcamp would be a good project for his estate.

I've done some work on the Christgau website (not updated yet). I have all of the And It Don't Stop Consumer Guides in my database, and have written a bit of code that drops the most recent reviews out (supposedly this is an incentive for people who pay for their subscription). The transition from PHP 5 to 7 broke the old database code (and other stuff), so I'm having to go through dozens of files and rewrite code. Started that project way back, got distracted, but now I'm finally intent on plugging through to the end, at which point it'll be possible to update the database.

I can also tell you that Francis Davis and I will be doing another Jazz Critics Poll this year. Invites should be going out real soon now. (I heard "over the weekend" but haven't seen mine yet.) If you think you should be invited but haven't been in the past, or have been and haven't heard from us within the week, please send email and make your case. NPR will publish the headline results, and I'll publish all the gritty details, as usual. To help out, I've prepared a version of my music tracking file that omits my grades and only lists jazz albums. It covers everything I've noted since December 1, 2019, plus some earlier 2019 albums that were so obscure I hadn't noticed them in the 2019 music tracking file. Obviously, the list is far from complete.

I still haven't done any fine tuning for my own EOY lists, but you can see them in their initial state here: Jazz and Non-Jazz. I did a bit of reshuffling, but I'm still not very happy with the ordering -- especially non-jazz, where I own virtually none of the records and haven't replayed any (other than Dua Lipa) since they came out. Also, I've barely started the 2% section on prospects I haven't heard (but would like to).

EOY lists should start appearing around Thanksgiving, which is next week. (I've given zero thought to cooking for anyone, then or pretty much forever.) Meanwhile, my metacritic file offers a few hints as to how the year's shaping up.

I'm sitting on a tough question about African music. Would be nice if you asked me more.


New records reviewed this week:

Aesop Rock: Spirit World Field Guide (2020, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Rapper Ian Bavitz, quick with his words, sharp with his beats. B+(***)

Susan Alcorn Quintet: Pedernal (2019 [2020], Relative Pitch): Pedal steel guitarist, common in traditional country music but rarely used in jazz. Discogs credits Alcorn with 25 albums since 2000 -- many free jazz collaborations, but still more than I expected. Quintet here, mostly strings -- violin (Michael Feldman), double bass (Michael Formanek), guitar (Mary Halvorson) -- plus a drummer (Ryan Sawyer). All original compositions, although I think I hear bits from folk songs. B+(**)

Tim Barry: Live 2018 (2018 [2020], Chunkasah): Country singer-songwriter, started in Virginia punk bands -- (Young) Pioneers, Avail -- solo albums since 2006. Never heard of him before, but Napster recommended him "because you like Johnny Cash." Collects two hour-long sets, no hits, no duplicate songs. Some striking songs. In one he gets 28 years for a moment, when he took credit after his sister shot a man who abused her. In another, he's the one getting shot, in Iraq. Most striking song is "Prosser's Gabriel," about a slave rebellion in 1800 and the city's crumbling monuments to slaverholders (a/k/a "rich white motherfuckers"). Presented as a time capsule, with "nothing glossed over." He adds, "it's a lot to absorb." And advises, "be fucking resilient." A-

Noah Bless: New York Strong: Latin Jazz! (2020, Zoho): Trombonist, studied in Cincinnati, moved to New York in 1990, appeared on dozens of mainstream and Latin jazz albums, not much under his own name. Percussion as expected, nice trombone leads. B+(*) [cd]

Will Butler: Generations (2020, Merge): Arcade Fire member, brother of frontman Win Butler, third solo album, has a couple of well-hooked songs, ends with one on George Washington which starts like Randy Newman. Turns out "Fine." B+(***)

Carla Campopiano: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections, Vol. II (2020, self-released): Flute player, from Argentina, moved to US in 2011 and teaches in Chicago. Second album, a short one (27:02), one original, seven covers, tango classics, two sung by Alba Guerra. U [cd]

The Nels Cline Singers: Share the Wealth (2020, Blue Note): The guitarist's long-running project with Trevor Dunn (bass) and Scott Amendola (drums), augmented here by Skerik (sax), Brian Marsella (keyboards), and Cyro Baptista (percussion), none of whom sing. B+(*)

Cortex: Legal Tender (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Free jazz quartet from Norway -- Thomas Johansson (trumpet), Kristoffer Berre Alberts (sax), Ola Høyer (bass), Gard Nilssen (drums) -- fourth album. Neither horn dominates, but hits strong notes, while the rhythm stays fresh. A-

André Fernandes: Kinetic (2020, Clean Feed): Portuguese guitarist, studied at Berklee, lived in New York for a while, returned to Lisbon. Ten (or more) albums since 2003. Quintet with alto sax (Perico Sambeat), keyboards (Xan Campos), bass, and drums. B+(**)

Rich Halley/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio/Newman Taylor Baker: The Shape of Things (2019 [2020], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Portland, had been playing for a while but got serious after he retired from his day job, and has been producing excellent records every year. Had been using locals, but picked up a world-class rhythm section last year, and they're even better this time out. A- [cd]

Theo Hill: Reality Check (2020, Posi-Tone): Pianist, plays Rhodes and synthesizer here, fourth album, trio (Rashaan Carter and Mark Whitfield Jr.) plus vibes -- Blue Note star Joel Ross. B+(*)

Jaga Jazzist: Pyramid (2020, Brainfeeder): Norwegian acid jazz group, 7th studio album since 1996, on an electronica label (new, but last three were on Ninja Tune). Horns down to two (trombone and tuba, with guitarist-keyboardist Lars Horntveth also playing a bit of clarinet and sax), guitar and synths up. Pretty good groove band, adept at avoiding the ruts. B+(**)

Harald Lassen: Human Samling (2020, Jazzland): Norwegian saxophonist, also plays piano, couple previous albums. His sax takes a back seat to the guitar-keyboards-electric bass, shading to soften the fusion groove. B

José Lencastre/Jorge Nuno/Felipe Zenícola/João Valinho: Anthropic Neglect (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): Brazilian guitarist Nuno, background in "psychedelic rock," joins Portuguese sax-bass-drum trio. Three pieces, 39:11, the fast one most immediately compelling, but the slow one also develops a fine burn. A-

Nicole Mitchell/Moor Mother: Offering: Live at Le Guess Who (2018 [2020], Don Giovanni): Flutes and vocals, both also credited with electronics. Camae Ayewa's poetry is often worthy, but long stretches here are hard to take in. Probably more interesting to watch. B

Ikue Mori/Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Prickly Pear Cactus (2020, Libra): Japanese drummer, credited with electronics here, part of New York's No Wave noise-punk movement c. 1980, Discogs lists 40 albums since 1992, swaps quarantine files with the even more prolific piano-trumpet duo. B+(**) [cd] [12-04]

Oneohtrix Point Never: Magic Oneohtrix Point Never (2020, Warp): Daniel Lopatin, electronica, albums since 2007. This one seems all over the place, but a few passages are so sublime there may be more to it. B+(*)

Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree: Names of North End Women (2020, Mute): Sonic Youth guitarist, has dabbled in experimental pursuits, ranging from avant-noise to jazz, on dozens of releases since 1987. Refree is a Spanish (Catallan) producer, Raül Fernandez Miró, with 16 releases since 2002. Songs here, oblique ones, eased into. B+(*)

Rodney Rice: Same Shirt, Different Day (2020, Moody Spring Music): Country singer-songwriter, from West Virginia, based in Colorado, second album. Identifies working class. Voice has a bit of John Anderson and John Prine, but mellower. B+(***)

Scott Routenberg: Inside (2020, Summit): Pianist, plays electric keyboards here, with occasional guests, most likely socially distanced. B [cd]

Sad13: Haunted Painting (2020, Wax Nine): Sadie Dupuis, side project from her band Speedy Ortiz (which also started out as side project, though I know not to what), second album. I can't say as I get much from it, but doesn't seem like the concept is sad. B+(*)

Alexa Tarantino: Clarity (2020, Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist (also soprano, flute, alto flute), second album, backed by piano (Steven Feifke), bass (Joe Martin), and drums (Rudy Royston). B+(*)

Trees Speak: Ohms (2020, Soul Jazz): Arizona group, synthesizers, draws on Krautrock but reminds me more of the equally vintage Mother Mallard. B+(*)

Andreas Tschopp Bubaran: Tambuk (2019 [2020], Enja/Yellowbird): Swiss trombonist, first (2017) album Bubaran, kept that for his group name, both album names derived from Indonesian gamelan music. Both groups have trumpet, second trombone, guitar, and drums. B [bc]

Savina Yannatou & Joana Sá: Ways of Notseeing (2020, Clean Feed): Voice and piano duo. I can't follow the words, if indeed that's what they are. The notes refer to John Berger's eye-opening book, Ways of Seeing. B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Blue Note Re:imagined 2020 (2020, Blue Note): Date in smaller print, but probably important as they could be recycling this formula for some time. Samples from the label's 1960s golden age (Herbie Hancock, Eddie Henderson, Joe Henderson, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, McCoy Tyner, Donald Byrd, Dodo Greene, and especially Wayne Shorter) remixed by up-and-coming UK jazz stars. They (and other labels) have gone down this rathole before. At best, the records are amusing for a while. At worst, they aren't. B

Brian Eno: Film Music 1976-2020 (1976-2020 [2020], Astralwerks): It was inevitable that his ambient electronica would find a home in films. As early as 1978, he had enough for his first Music for Films. No idea how much more followed, but 15 of 17 tracks here came later, including several previously unreleased and one new one to stretch the window. B+(*)

Mort Garson: Music From Patch Cord Productions (1968-74 [2020], Sacred Bones): Canadian composer, electronic music pioneer, an early (1967) adopter of the Moog synthesizer. Some vocals, pop moves. B+(*)

Mort Garson: Didn't You Hear? (1970 [2020], Sacred Bones): Soundtrack for an "experimental film." Title track (reprised at the end) is pretty awful. Moog filling not so bad. B

The Heshoo Beshoo Group: Armitage Road (1970 [2020], We Are Busy Bodies): South African jazz group, only album, two sax players (Henry and Stanley Sithole), guitar (Cyril Magubane), bass, and drums. Guitarist the steady hand here, playing off the township jive groove like Wes Montgomery on the blues. B+(***)

Space Funk: Afro Futurist Electro Funk in Space 1976-84 (1976-84 [2019], Soul Jazz): Fifteen obscure funk tracks with synths and space themes -- only group name I thought I recognized is Funk Machine, but that's only because it's so rote. Nothing here that Dr. Funkenstein couldn't bump into a higher orbit. B+(*)

Peter Stampfel/The Dysfunctionells: Not in Our Wildest Dreams (1994-96 [2020], Don Giovanni): No "&" on the cover, and the group -- Rich Krueger plus four (or more) -- can stand on their own, and appear to have sought out the folk legend. Sloppy on all counts, especially when trashing pop hits, but also when covering Have Moicy! B+(**)

Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley: Being Astral and All Registers/Power of Two: Live at the Ulrichsberg Festival, May 10th 2002 (2002 [2020], Discus Music): Cover adds quote marks, dots, and a dash to the title, but it's really just two piece titles, totalling 59:41, and the sub at the bottom could just as well be the real title. The pianist's later recordings almost all feature drummer Oxley, most (like this one) duos. How many anyone needs is unclear, but since Taylor's death in 2018, it's been nice to get periodic reminders. B+(***) [bc]

Neil Young/Crazy Horse: Return to Greendale (2003 [2020], Warner): From a live tour in support of a well-regarded but minor enough to be easily forgotten album. The original 10 songs ran 78:19. This one reprises all ten, in order, two shortened by less than a minute, the rest a bit longer (total 80:36), not stretched but just a bit relaxed. No need to own both, but for the moment relaxed works for me, not least on long yarns that are packed with tension. A-

Old music:

Rodney Rice: Empty Pockets and a Troubled Mind (2014, self-released): Country singer-songwriter, first album, has an easy way about him but doesn't slight hard subjects. B+(**)

Sad13: Slugger (2016, Carpark): Singer-songwriter Sadie Dupuis, away from her band Speedy Ortiz (between their 2nd and 3rd albums). Has some moments, but in general I don't see the point. B+(*)

Big Mama Thornton With the Muddy Waters Blues Band: 1966 (1966 [2004], Arhoolie): Famed for recording "Hound Dog" before Elvis, but worth exploring at greater length. I had two of her CDs in my database, both at A-: Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings (1952-57 [1992], MCA), and Ball N' Chain (1965-68 [1989], Arhoolie), which mixes six tracks from this album with other live tracks (some with Buddy Guy). Here she borrows the band for a San Francisco gig, with Waters and Samuel Lawhorn on guitar, Otis Spann piano, Luther Johnson bass, Francis Clay drums, James Cotton harmonica, and Everett Minor tenor sax. Terrific band, maybe a bit fancy for Thornton. Padded with alternate takes. B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Friesen With Orchestra and Quartet: Testimony (Origin)
  • Jihee Heo: Are You Ready? (OA2)
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Mantle (Libra)

Sunday, November 15, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Table of contents:

Not really a proper introduction, but I want to reiterate one point made below. It occurs to me that a lot of the anomalies of the election make sense as artifacts of the exceptionally high turnout. As I recall, back in 2010 it seemed like most of the Democratic vote drop could be traced to low voter turnout compared to 2008. The lesson there seemed to be that Democrats do better when more people vote, and that made a certain amount of sense because non-voters tend to be younger and less stable economically -- i.e., people who would vote Democratic if they had reason to bother. That ignored the fact that 2010 voter turnout was about the same as in 2006, when Democrats swept both houses of Congress. Obviously, different people chose not to vote in those elections -- mostly ones who lost faith in their party's handling of power. But the high turnout in 2020 suggests a different dynamic. As participation increases, the main thing that increases is the share of uninformed or misinformed voters, and they tend to be all over the map, voting R or D based on half-baked notions about what parties mean and do. And let us not forget the other major facts of 2020: the natural rhythm of campaigning was disrupted by the pandemic, which seems especially to have hurt Democrats (due to their greater wariness of the virus); incredible sums of money was spent, mostly on misleading television advertisements (where the Republicans were total frauds, and Democrats struggled to present a coherent message that matters to most people); the media continued to cover Trump as an eccentric celebrity, while ignoring most of the real things done by his administration and party. I think it's likely that the main reason the polls were off was that their qualifications for "likely voters" were off. A lot of unlikely voters wound up voting, and more of them than one might rationally expect ignorantly pulled the lever for Republicans. I say "ignorantly" because if you ask them why, it's extremely unlikely they'll offer an explanation that could pass even a rudimentary fact check. I think the signature here is to be found in Trump's much-touted improved share of Black and Latin votes. Clearly, he did nothing to earn those votes honestly, so the fact that he got them suggests confusion.

In other news, the big stories are tragedy and farce: the Covid-19 surge, and Trump's continuing charade to deny his election loss. Needless to say, the farce only adds to the tragedy. I can only hope that other Americans are as thoroughly disgusted with Trump as I am.

I'd like to get rid of the Table of Contents breakdown, but there's even more of it this week. Also a bit arbitrary to sort the post-election pieces out, so many wound up slotted under Biden or Trump. We're starting to see some pieces on what the Biden administration will (or could) look like. I haven't linked to many -- at this point it's mostly speculation and/or plotting -- as I'm not privy to any inside info, and I'm not likely to be consulted or referred to. I will say the following:

  • There are some Democrats it would be bad form to bring back. I don't have a long list, although it would probably grow if I gave it some thought, but for starters: Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emmanuel, Joe Lieberman, Lawrence Summers, Ash Carter, Madeleine Albright.
  • I'm against nominating any sitting US Senators. The Senate is too important right now. There's been discussion of Sanders and Warren, but both represent states with Republican governors, so could be net losses. At any rate, we need those two as independent voices for progress -- not as administration cronies. (I'd be OK with stealing a Republican Senate seat, although I don't know how you go about doing that. Ron Johnson?)
  • The left doesn't need representation in the Cabinet. All the left needs is an open door and a fair hearing. I also don't care about quotas or such. Clinton claimed to have a "cabinet that looks like America." By looks sure, but for the clothes and the bankrolls and the Ivy League degrees.
  • Biden's security people will inevitably draw on the same Washington think tanks that have owned American foreign policy for the last 60 years, so expect to be disappointed there, but don't assume they'll continue making the mistakes they've made repeatedly over the last 20-30 years (personally, in many cases). Conditions change, limits appear, and war weariness has set in like never before. They say "personnel is policy," but focus on the policy. (Of course, if Biden nominates a Kagan or Bill Kristol, by all means go apeshit.)

Parting advice: let Biden be the centrist he wants to be, but challenge him on issues, and bring forth real and substantive plans. Biden is more or less the center of the party. Move him and you move the party.

PS: I was going to link to several articles from The American Prospect (e.g., Robert Kuttner, David Dayen), but balked when they refused to show me a second without registering. Probably harmless to do so, but my skepticism is what keeps the Internet safe for me. But this also rubs a bugbear of mine. The only way to get better informed voters is to make information free. I'm not unsympathetic to the notion that progressives need to make a living, and I certainly know that writing is work, but I get tired of getting hit up for money all the time, especially when I'm trying to do the world a favor.


Election Aftermath

James Arkin: Health care vs. 'radical leftists': Parties re-running 2020 playbooks in Georgia runoffs. Also on Georgia:

David Atkins: Biden won big, but his approach may have cost Democrats downballot. I think it did, at least to the point that Biden didn't stress the message that he needs a Democratic Congress to deliver on his issues. Given his opponent, Biden was able to hold back, spouting nebulous notions (like "soul of the nation") instead of campaigning on issues, which Democrats had in spades thanks less to the fickleness of Trump than to the sociopathy of Republicans. It was, after all, Democrats who led on the CARES Act that got the country through the lockdown. It's Democrats who want a livable minimum wage, and who want every American to have health care. Those are winning issues, but only if you run on them.

Katelyn Burns: Biden plans on swiftly rolling back some Trump policies with executive orders.

Jonathan Chait: Trump's election challenges keep getting laughed out of court.

Nancy LeTourneau: Reefer madness: On the curious effect of the Marijuana Now Party candidates in Minnesota congressional races, which seem to have helped Republicans (and in at least one case were recruited by Republicans).

Eric Levitz: David Shor's postmortem of the 2020 election. Interview with the Democratic pollster. Also refers to his "other interview," with Dylan Matthews: One pollster's explanation for why the polls got it wrong. Shor argues that Trump voters aren't "shy" so much as they are cynical and distrust pollsters, which makes them reluctant to answer prying phone calls. Conversely, anti-Trump voters were more interested in voicing their displeasure with Trump, partly because they are more invested in democratic processes. This suggests a systemic bias in polling that's going to be hard to factor out.

German Lopez: America's war on drugs has failed. Oregon is showing a way out. For more:

Madeline Marshall: Weed was the real winner of the 2020 election: "Americans are turning against the war on drugs."

Matt Naham: Lawyers litigating for Trump suddenly remember their licenses are on the line if they lie to a judge.

Ella Nilsen: House Democrats will keep their majority for two more years.

Andrew Prokop:

Aaron Rupar: The 2000 election doesn't justify Trump's refusal to concede to Biden. Here's why.

Alex Shephard: The media finally figured out Trump. Now do the GOP.

David Siders: 'A grand scheme': Trump's election defiance consumers GOP.

Nate Silver: The polls weren't great. But that's pretty normal. Also at FiveThirtyEight:

Jacob Silverman: Postelection misinformation and massacre threats on conservatives' favorite new social media app: "Ted Cruz and Dinesh D'Souza have huge followings on Parler, a right-wing Twitter clone that has exploded in popularity since the election."

Over the weekend, Parler became the most downloaded app in the country, a position it was still holding as of Tuesday morning. It's also the app in which Lang Holland, the police chief of Marshall, Arkansas, on Friday called for his fellow users to join him in traveling to Washington, D.C., to "fight our way into the Congress and arrest every Democrat who has participated in this coup? We may have to shoot and kill many of the Communist B.L.M. and ANTIFA Democrat foot soldiers to accomplish this!!!" Holland added, "Death to all Marxist Democrats. Take no prisoners leave no survivors!!" He has since resigned.

Founded in 2018 and surging since this summer, when it at one point gained a million users in a week, Parler has been adopted by practically every media personality and politician of note on the right, including some you might have forgotten. (Milo Yiannopoulos, banned from Twitter and polite society for his pedophilia apologetics, uses Parler to promote his paid video appearances on the service Cameo.) Some of them are racking up huge follower counts: 1.8 million for Bongino, 2.9 million for Ted Cruz, 1.3 million for Dinesh D'Souza. Posting many times per day (often by simply syndicating their tweets), they attract thousands of "echos," the site's equivalent of a retweet, "upvotes," and comments.

Matt Stieb: Incoming GOP senator apparently doesn't know basics of World War II. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) missed the fact that the US fought against Nazi Germany in WWII.

Benjamin Wittes: How hard is it to overturn an American election?

So yes, the president is allowed to sulk. He is allowed to be the sorest of sore losers. He is allowed to once again display before the entire world the complete triumph of ego over patriotism, of self-interestedness over public-spiritedness, within his heart. There is, actually, nothing to do about it if he wants to play it this way; there is no way to stop him. And in and of itself, it's not even a particularly grave problem. It is certainly sad that the United States has a president who so completely fails the basic tests of honor and decency. It would be lovely to see him just once rise to some occasion, any occasion. But it's hardly a surprise that he can't or he won't or he doesn't want to. He is, after all, Donald Trump.

Matthew Yglesias: The problem with exit poll takes, explained.

Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen: How North Carolina and Maine dashed Senate Democrats' hopes of a "blue wave". The loss to Susan Collins shows that Democrats still aren't ready to put partisan interests above personal quirks. North Carolina shows that Republicans do just that. The asymmetry has repeated killed independent Democratic candidates, especially in Senate races. Which makes it all the harder to prevail in the Senate, given the built-in anti-Democratic bias.

Biden Prospects

Sam Adler-Bell: The brewing Democratic fight over Biden's cabinet.

Albena Azmanova/Marshall Auerback: 2020 was the 'precarity election'. I know quite a few words, but had to look up "precarity": "the state of being precarious or uncertain"; also more specifically: "a state of persistent insecurity with regard to employment or income." Subhed: "Democrats' failure to address the issue of economic precarity undermines their claim to be the party of the working class." We need to find a better way to express that idea.

Andrew Bacevich: After Trump, throw out the old foreign policy establishment, too.

Allison Crimmins: Why the Biden administration should establish a Department of Climate.

Melissa Gira Grant/Nick Martin/Katie McDonough/JC Pan: The election is over. Here's a vision from the left for the next four years. A collection of pieces from activists, mostly good ideas, few anywhere near fruition given present limits.

Ryan Grim: What went wrong in the House? "In answering that question, don't ignore the Democratic consultant class."

Naomi Klein: Now we have to fight Trump's tin-pot coup -- and Biden's worst instincts. I don't doubt the latter, but also don't see much value in anticipating them. Trump has made clear his intent to make the transition period as difficult as possible, leaving Biden so much to remedy that it's hard to see much point in squabbling over details. Later on, sure, the left needs to defend its principles, but not to weaponize them against against Biden, who for various reasons is in a very precarious situation.

Sonali Kolhatkar: America -- and the Democrats -- won't have a future if Joe Biden adopts a centrist agenda.

Eli Lehrer: What Joe Biden could learn from Harry Truman about hiring Republicans: I'm skeptical, but don't doubt that there are places where an occasional Republican might help rather than harm. However, understand that any Republican who works for (or even consorts with) the Biden administration will be branded a traitor by the party faithful, and will bring in damn little support. The point on soft vs. hard positions is well taken, and would be a good way to bring left Democrats into the administration without surrendering much power. But what makes it work is that left Democrats have ideas that actually help, unlike wandering Republicans.

Nick Martin: The agenda is still survival: "The Democratic Party can't be mired in intraparty fights about what's 'too far left.' Life as we know it is at stake."

Sara Morrison: How Biden's FCC could fix America's internet: "The FCC can bring back net neutrality and help Americans stay connected during the pandemic." Could, but note that Biden got a lot of money from Silicon Valley, and that Obama had a pretty shoddy record of appointing industry flacks to the FCC. Net neutrality is an easier call because there are industry interests on both sides of the issue, but there's still a big gap between what the less obnoxious parts of the industry wants and what people could actually benefit from.

Ella Nilsen: Democrats are already at odds over how to win in 2022.

Hadas Thier: Biden and the Dems should have buried Trumpism. But they provided no alternative. That's pretty unfair. Anyone who made the slightest effort should realize that Biden offers a clear and major contrast to Trump: He offered a return to the conventional pieties of American politics, to the conventions of unity that Trump flagrantly trashed. Admittedly, he's not nearly as articulate as Barack Obama, and his campaign came off as slack and cliché-ridden. He failed to make the point that Trump and Republicans down ballot are equally dangerous, and he didn't unify Democrats in anything beyond their disgust with Trump. On the latter score, his distancing from policies of the party's left-wing lent credence to Republicans' blanket attacks on all Democrats as radical socialists. It would have been better had he emphasized common principles: rather than attack Medicare-for-all, he could have emphasized his commitment to health care as a universal right; rather than trash Green New Deal, he could have stressed the need for infrastructure development, to limit climate change and to make the economy run more efficiently. In short, he could have gone far toward unifying Democrats on principles rather than dividing them on policies. But then, well, he wasn't a very articulate candidate. Related:

Robert Wright/Connor Echols: Grading Biden's foreign policy team: Tony Blinken. This will likely be a series. The authors previously wrote Introducing the progressive realism report card, and Wright wrote Grading criteria for progressive realism report cards.

Matthew Yglesias: Joe Biden needs to avoid a return to "eat your peas" budgeting.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

The latest covid numbers are: 11+ million cases (14-day change +80%), 245,777 deaths (+38%), hospitalizations 69,455 (+43%). The first and second "peaks" on the chart look like mere speed bumps now. Sedgwick County, KS is regularly setting new records, and all the ICU beds in Wichita are full. Cases are up in virtually every state (Kansas is number 11). Trump carried 10 of the top 13 states.

Half or more of the following articles could have been filed in the more explicitly political sections, but have slopped over here. Not least because pandemic response has become so very political.

Julia Belluz: Why the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is a cause for optimism -- and skepticism.

Jerusalem Demsas: 80 percent of those who died of Covid-19 in Texas county jails were never convicted of a crime.

Igor Derysh: To truly recover, US needs 400% more coronavirus relief than McConnell is offering, economists say. Since McConnell got reelected, why not flood Georgia with ads pointing out that votes for Senate Republicans are nothing more than votes for McConnell's plan to strangle states, cripple small businesses, and starve the unemployed? McConnell makes a much more convincing bogeyman than Chuck Shumer or Nancy Pelosi -- the stars of virtually every Republican scare ad over the last year.

Dan Goldberg/Alice Miranda Ollstein: Pandemic on course to overwhelm US health system before Biden takes office.

Eric Levitz: A nightmare COVID winter could force a GOP awakening on stimulus. Only if the stock market tanks again. Nothing else seems to phase them, and if they think they can blame the stock market on Biden, maybe not even that.

German Lopez: America's third Covid-19 surge, explained.

Nick Martin: Republican malice has turned the pandemic into a deadly loop: "The GOP blocks the stimulus. Nonessential businesses reopen and people go back to work because they need money. Cases surge. People die."

Eleanor Mueller: Health officials sound alarm over impact of Trump's transition blockade.

Benjamin Rosenberg: The second White House coronavirus outbreak: Mark Meadows, the Secret Service, and more.

Dylan Scott: Trump's final two months in office might be the worst Covid-19 months yet.

Michael Tomasky: There's a word for why we wear masks, and liberals should say it: "It's high time Democrats played some philosophical offense on the concept of 'freedom.'" Last week it was David Harvey instructing the left on the importance of embracing the concept of freedom -- for different reasons, to different ends. "Freedom" is a versatile word, and the right's use of it rests on a peculiar ratiocination. So why not? Just don't think it's an elixir. It's as likely to muddle as to inform.

Zeynep Tufecki: It's time to hunker down: "A devastating surge is here. Unless Americans act aggressively, it will get much larger, very quickly."

David Wallace-Wells: Un-normalizing America's third wave. Notes that the number of US deaths due to Covid-19 now exceeds "the number of people who died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Still More on Donald Trump

Zeeshan Aleem: Violence followed the "Million MAGA March" in Washington, DC: Of course it did. Otherwise, evidently very little to report on. Curiously little on turnout. Here's what I found:

John Cassidy: The long-term damage of Trump's antidemocratic lies.

Nancy Cook/Gabby Orr: Trump aides privately plot a flurry of moves in their final 10 weeks: "The White House is eyeing executive orders and regulations on immigration, trade, health care, China and school choice."

Tom Engelhardt: Donald Trump knew us better than we knew ourselves. Subtitle, but more evocative than "Gloom and Doom 2020" or "State of Chaos." Sure, he knew how to play half of America, mostly because he's soaked up the vitriol spewed 24-7 on Fox News, adding only enough ego to think himself the leader of his perverse world. On the other hand, he hardly knows the rest of us at all.

Trumpism has split America in two in a way that hasn't been imaginable since the Civil War. The president and the Senate are likely to be in gridlock, the judicial system a partisan affair of the first order, the national security state a money-gobbling shadow empire, the citizenry armed to the teeth, racism rising, and life everywhere in an increasing state of chaos.

Welcome to the (Dis)United States. Donald Trump led the way and, whatever he does, I suspect that this, for at least the time being, is still in some sense his world, not Joe Biden's. He was the man and, like it or not, we were all his apprentices in a performance of destructive power of the first order that has yet to truly end.

Michelle Goldberg: The post-presidency of a con man: "Out of office, Trump might seem a lot less formidable." Goldberg previously (10/29) wrote a piece I can certainly relate to: Four wasted years thinking about Donald Trump. Also (11/07): We are finally getting rid of him.

Doug Henwood posted a link to a 1934 article by Leon Trotsky: Hitler's National Socialism, and commented on it in Facebook:

This 1934 essay on Hitler et al. by Trotsky appeared in the Yale Review, of all places, and it's pretty fabulous. Lots of relevance to the Trump phenomenon, though there are some differences. Trotsky estimated the petty bourgeoisie to about half the German population; ours is much smaller. And big capital is not yet behind the Trumpy mission, as it was behind the Nazis.

Trotsky wrote:

The leader by will of the people differs from the leader by will of God in that the former is compelled to clear the road for himself, or, at any rate, to assist the conjuncture of events in discovering him. Nevertheless, the leader is always a relation between people, the individualistic supply to meet the collective demand. The controversy over Hitler's personality becomes the sharper the more that the secret of his success is sought in himself. In the meantime, another political figure would be difficult to find that is in the same measure the focus of anonymous historic forces. Not every exasperated petty bourgeois could have become Hitler, but a particle of Hitler is lodged in every exasperated petty bourgeois.

This was written shortly after Hitler seized power, so at a time when Hitler's public support and messianic profile was roughly equal to Trump's. The difference, of course, is that Hitler was a ruthless tactician as well as a demagogue, which allowed him to consolidate power and remake Germany to embody his personal pathologies. There is little chance that Trump will be as successful and as disastrous, but it's not because his personal nature doesn't drive him to such extremes. He is hemmed in by historical constraints (and perhaps by his own ineptness), but his post-election behavior reveals him to be every bit the fascist we've long suspected him of. Secondary point: Marxists have often been exceptional journalists, starting with Karl (see, e.g., "The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte").

Ezra Klein: The crisis isn't Trump. It's the Republican Party. Interview with Anne Applebaum, who "wrote the book on why people choose to collaborate with authoritarian regimes," Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism.

Michael Kruse: Trump's crazy and confoundingly successful conspiracy theory.

Trump, after all, started preparing for what he was going to do if he lost this election before the last election. And he simply could not be doing what he's doing at this stage if he hadn't been doing it for this long. "He's able to do this now," said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian of authoritarians, fascism and propaganda who has a new book out this week titled Strongmen, "because of all that he's already set up."

It goes way back. "Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory," one of Trump's lawyers told Marie Brenner for a story in Vanity Fair 30 years ago this fall. "If you say something again and again, people will believe you."

Trump is an expert liar. The foundation of his existence is lies. He's not self-made. He's not a good businessman, manager or boss. He's an insider instead of an outsider. He's not been somehow singularly a victim but rather spectacularly privileged and lucky. "He is not who he says he is," former Trump casino executive Jack O'Donnell told me this past August. "He is," Trump biographer Michael D'Antontio said, "a walking lie."

Timothy L O'Brien: Why Trump fears leaving the White House: "Losing the presidency leaves him vulnerable to financial and legal danger."

Nathaniel Manderson: Understanding the Trump voters: Here's why nobody is doing it right: "I've been an evangelical pastor and a teacher in an immigrant community. I'm not shocked Trump did better this time."

Nick Martin: Consider the bootlicker: "Trump's time in office was a group effort. Here's a taxonomy of the grifters, sycophants, and opportunists who made it all possible for the last four years."

Alex Pareene: A coup is a coup: "It's still an illegitimate power grab, even if Republican operatives are only doing it to protect Trump's fragile ego." After Trump's repeated abuse of "coup" to describe impeachment, you'd think we'd be more careful in our choice of words now. Pareene seems to be responding to Matt Ford: This is (probably) not a coup d'état. But the fact is we have no proper word for Trump's stance now. I imagine it's not unprecedented -- surely there have been other elected leaders who have dragged their feet after losing elections, but it's hard to recall them, probably because so few got away with it. Perhaps Trump will become comparably obscure in the future.

Katha Pollitt: The Trump-shaped stain on American life.

James Risen: "We're not a democracy": Quote comes from Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who approves, and like most Republicans wants to see further barriers erected against the democratic impulses of the American people. But it's been Donald Trump who's done more than anyone to act upon Lee's precept. Attempting to discredit the election he just lost if just one more step after many.

While it would be cleansing to get rid of Donald Trump and his cronies, it will not be enough. Regardless of whether Trump wins reelection, the rot at the heart of the Republican Party -- particularly its deep-seated racism -- is not going away anytime soon. With or without Trump, America is in for a generation-long death match between the supporters of white identity in what is left of the Republican Party and supporters of a more diverse society, primarily Democrats.

Using the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Electoral College, Trump and the Republican Party are trying to build defenses against changing demographics. Those mechanisms allow the party that controls the right states to retain power, even if that party does not represent a national majority. The Republican Party's objective is the political hegemony that comes from the strategic control of key states; it helps explain Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee's recent tweet, in which he noted that "we're not a democracy."

Nathan J Robinson: He'll be back: Starts, appropriately enough, with a New York Times headline from 1923, "Hitler virtually eliminated."

As I write, there are horns honking in the French Quarter and people cheering. I don't think they are overcome with emotional enthusiasm for the upcoming presidency of Joe Biden. They're just thrilled about the end of Donald Trump. For four years, this monstrous man has occupied our constant attention, committing crime after crime, escalating the climate crisis and terrorizing immigrants. Now, thank God, he has been narrowly defeated, and we face four years of a conservative Democratic presidency, which, while it cannot be expected to be good, at least spares us from the worst.

Aaron Rupar: Trump's turn against Fox News, explained: "The network sometimes engages with the reality that Biden won. For Trump, that's an unforgivable sin." More on Fox:

Maggie Severns: Where Trump's recount fundraising dollars are really going: "Money raised to pay for recounts goes to covering campaign debts, funding future political activities and boosting like-minded figures."

Nick Turse: Tantrum and theater: Trump's desperation after election loss isn't yet a coup.

Alex Ward: Why Trump is suddenly replacing Pentagon officials with loyalists. I'm reminded of how GWH Bush sent US troops into Somalia during his lame duck period, a poison pill which Clinton had to clean up later, after the whole operation went bad (remember "Black Hawk Down"?). Clinton, in turn, didn't do a very good job of cleaning it up, so 25+ years later the US is still bombing suspected "bad guys" in Somalia. The interesting twist here is that Trump's idea of a poison pill might not be starting or escalating a new war, but finally withdrawing troops from the endless war in Afghanistan -- a point of contention between Trump and DOD, one where Biden is likely to side with the generals. Americans in general, and Democrats in particular, would be pleased to leave Afghanistan, no matter what the consequences were. While continuing the status quo costs Biden little, having to decide whether to send troops back would be a lose-lose proposition. Trump might relish that.

Around the World

Murtaza Hussain:

  • Trump, the war president, leaves a trail of civilians dead in Yemen.

  • Trump destroyed any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace -- and Biden can't rebuild it. One big reason Biden can't go back to the Clinton-Obama focus on a "two-state" solution is that it's been a mirage at least since Sharon's destruction of the Palestinian Authority after 2000. Reversing Trump's embassy move won't help that illusion. Nor would it help to undo the Kushner deals, the only effect of which has been to force Arab states to recognize Israel as a condition of American alliance -- which mostly means arms deals. Within this framework, the only thing that matters is mitigating the harsh effects of occupation on the Palestinians, which is to say, recognizing human rights. Needless to say, Trump has also acted to hobble international efforts to recognize human rights abuses everywhere in the world. Biden can and should try to reverse Trump on those policies. Of course, it's possible that Biden will try to have it both ways: defending human rights in general, while carving out an exception for Israel. Such hypocrisy makes a weak impression.

Nahal Toosi: Pompeo expected to announce process for US to label groups anti-Semitic. The criteria is simply whether a group has been critical of Israel, including for human rights abuses. Examples given in the piece: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam. Support for non-violent BDS strategies against Israeli human rights abuses would also be deemed anti-Semitic. Also note that official US designation will be used to further chastise and restrict anyone who regards human rights for Palestinians as important. Also see:

Alex Ward: The surprising Armenia-Azerbaijan peace deal over Nagorno-Karabakh, explained.

Other Matters of Interest

Douglas Belkin: Charles Koch says his partisanship was a mistake: "At 85, the libertarian tycoon who spent decades funding conservative causes says he wants a final act building bridges across political divides." This reminds me a bit of those former Shin Bet heads who spent their entire careers crushing Palestinian opposition, then in retirement decided Israel should have been more accommodating. Charles Koch had as much (maybe more) as anyone to do with making Donald Trump's presidency possible. I don't recall the exact words, but somewhere in Samuel Beckett (Happy Days?) there's an exchange where the son asks his father why he was ever conceived. The father replies, "I didn't know it would be you." After being born with millions, and spending all of a long life strutting and preening like a feudal lord, Koch discovers he wasn't so smart after all. Meanwhile, as with those Shin Bet tyros, his work is being taken up and furthered by younger men, as callous and arrogant as he ever was.

[PS: James Thompson linked to this on Facebook. I commented: "I wrote about this piece in my Weekend Roundup. On further reflection, this is less a mea culpa than a sly take on his own selfishness: a way of saying, now that I got what I wanted from politics, you should give up on politics and stop trying to change my world."]

Sasha Frere-Jones: American history XYZ: "The chaotic quest to mythologize America's past."

Umair Irfan: It's official: 2020 is the busiest Atlantic Hurricane Season on record: "Subtropical Storm Theta is now the 29th named storm of the season." More:

Ezra Klein: The crisis isn't too much polarization. It's too little democracy: "If Republicans couldn't win so much power while losing votes, the US wouldn't be in the current crisis."

Yanna Krupnikov/John Barry Ryan: The real divide in America is between political junkies and everyone else: "Most Americans view politics as two camps bickering endlessly and fruitlessly over unimportant issues." This is false, but offers one more dimension to consider: how much people know and care about politics.

There might be an advantage for politicians who focus less on the demands of partisans and more on tangible issues. Yes, hard partisans are more likely to reward ideological victories, but they are also a minority of the electorate.

Each day, partisan Democrats wonder whether that day's "outrage" will finally change how people feel about President Trump. Partisan Republicans wonder the same thing about Joe Biden. But most "regular" voters are not paying that much attention to the daily onslaught. It turns them off.

And the major scandals that do break through? Well, to many of them, that is "just politics."

The left-right divide is still primary, as it's based not just on ideology but on ethical concerns: leftists seek greater equality in power, rights, and wealth, while right-wingers aim to preserve and enhance privileges. That divide is heightened by asymmetrical information: the right seeks to obscure its moral lapses by spreading propaganda aimed at increasing division by targeting others, while the left tries to expose the right's lies and misinformation and appeal to the people's basic sense of fairness and justice. That's the real divide, even if most people don't recognize it as such. But there isn't a sharp divide between people who people who get this much about politics and those who don't. Rather, there is a gradual attenuation of information and interest, passing down through people who have nothing to react to but isolated echoes, which makes their votes (when they bother) increasingly arbitrary. I suspect that the real explanation for Trump's gains among Black and Latin voters this year was the success of the get-out-the-vote campaigns, leading people who don't normally follow politics to vote anyway. Those people, with so little quality information to go on, simply voted more randomly than more informed voters, and that worked to Trump's advantage. Still, the solution isn't to suppress the uninformed vote. It's to do a better job of informing them -- much better than the Democrats did this year, although Georgia looks like an exception, perhaps because the registration effort was more personal there.

Robert Markley: Kim Stanley Robinson is one of our greatest socialist novelists: I haven't found time for novels, but I know people who would agree.

David Masciotra: If Democrats can't stop acting like losers when they win, America is doomed.

Corey Robin: The professor and the politician: "For Max Weber, only the most heroic figures could generate meaning in the world. Does his theory hold up today?"

Nathan J Robinson:

  • Interview: Stephanie Kelton talks MMT and more. With Sparky Abraham also on the interview. Kelton has a book: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy.

  • Why nationalism is a brain disease: "Matthew Yglesias' One Billion Americans argues that America needs more people because America must be the best. But why be the 'best'? And what is 'America'?" Robinson suggests an alternate subtitle, trading in The Case for Thinking Bigger for How the Assumption That America "Must" Remain on Top Produces Ludicrous Implications. Examples follow. I've read Yglesias regularly in Vox, and often started these Weekend Roundups with links to his pieces, but his book strikes me as a naked reach for the Thomas Friedman market. And while he no doubt knows a lot, I have no desire for that level of cliché crafting. Besides, I learned all I ever needed to know about nationalism from Camper Van Beethoven: "And if you weren't living here in America/you'd probably be somewhere else."

Jeff Sharlet: A heart is not a nation: "Confronting the age of hate in America." Review of Jean Guerrero: Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda, and Seyward Darby: Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: After/math. Since I've mentioned "soul of America" several times recently, let this bury it:

So Biden found his new Neil Kinnock after all, except historian Jon Meacham, unlike Kinnock, is a one-man cliché factory. Is there any phrase more hackneyed and less meaningful than "the soul of America"? How much did the Biden campaign pay Meacham to insert "soul of America" four or five times into every Biden speech? As stale platitudes go, the sell-by date on that one expired 150 years ago and even then Mark Twain would have had rich sport illustrating just how moronic it is.

Randy Stein/Alexander Swan/Michelle Sarraf: Conservatives value personal stories more than liberals do when evaluating scientific evidence. The link to this article had a more potent title: "How conservatives process COVID data."

Among conservatives especially, the idea that the pandemic itself is not a major threat can hold as long as there's personal evidence on offer that supports that view. President Donald Trump's recovery from COVID-19 and his assertion based on his own experience that the disease is not so bad would have bolstered this belief. Recommendations from researchers to wear masks can remain mere suggestions so long as the court of public opinion is still undecided.

Given all this, Trump's quick recovery from Covid-19 could have been the worst possible outcome. Recent history seems to bear that out.

Monday, November 9, 2020


Music Week

November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34320 [34286] rated (+34), 223 [214] unrated (+9).

Spent most of the week in a fairly deep funk, not just due to the mixed bag of election results. Part of this is uncertainty as to where to go next with my writing. I'm tired of politics, and tired of music, and not too optimistic about anything else. I've long vowed that when I give up on the world, I'll go back to reading fiction. I haven't done that yet, but could go that way. Meanwhile, I've continued to make half-efforts at the usual projects. Yesterday's Weekend Roundup came to 811 lines, down 28% from the previous week, and down 45% from two weeks back. Indeed, it was the shortest since July 7, although early in the year most columns (23 total) were shorter.

As for music, I started off every day last week with vintage jazz albums. I noted the "breakfast music" in my Twitter feed, so I can report them here:

  • Ben Webster: Soulville
  • Don Pullen: Ode to Life
  • Coleman Hawkins: At Ease
  • Coleman Hawkins: Hollywood Stampede
  • Ben Webster: Cottontail
  • Budd Johnson: Let's Swing
  • Art Pepper/Duke Jordan: In Copenhagen 1981
  • Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk
  • Sonny Rollins: Plays G-Man
  • Johnny Hodges: Triple Play
  • Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do

These are all grade A/A+ records.

When I finally did return to my computer, I spent most of my time on my record lists: the tracking list, and the metacritic list. In particular, I caught up on some jazz sources: All About Jazz, Free Jazz Collective, Bandcamp (Dave Sumner), and Stereogum (Phil Freeman). That, plus time lingering on Aerophonic's Bandcamp site, led me to most of this week's records. Phil Overeem spotted most of the new compilations (at least, the better ones).

I've only gotten one question in weeks, so tried to answer it today.

Fell further behind on my demo queue, with more than the usual mail haul this week. I will get to them in due course, assuming some return to normalcy -- although I can tell you now that the Rich Halley CD is one of his best. Note that some albums don't officially release until 2021. That forced me to set up the scaffolding for tracking 2021 releases. Still lots of 2020 to process, but looking forward to January 20, even more so than in 2009. Thank God (and FDR) for the 20th Amendment.


New records reviewed this week:

Actress: Karma & Desire (2020, Ninja Tune): British ambient electronica composer Darren Cunningham, eighth album since 2008, singles back to 2004. Inconspicuous vocals, beats hopeful. B+(*) [bc]

Aluna: Renaissance (2020, Mad Decent): Aluna Francis, born in London, mother from Belize, half of the AlunaGeorge electropop duo with George Reid, first album on her own. Various looks, but "Body Pump" is singles list material. Change-of-pace ballad "Whistle" sounded off at first, but won me over midway through. A-

Jon Armstrong Sextet: Reabsorb (2020, Orenda): I Googled him and got "Heather Armstrong's ex-husband." I was also offered results about a "Film Actor" and a "Writer," and an entry for "one of the world's best magical entertainers," and some tweets (probably from the writer). This one plays tenor sax, started in Los Angeles, has a teaching job in Pocatello, two previous albums. This is a sextet with trumpet (Dan Rosenboom), trombone, piano, electric bass, and drums. Short, with two pieces, 29:38. First one jumps out at you. Second one lies back in wait, then pounces even harder. B+(**) [bc]

David Binney/Kenny Wollesen: Basu (2020, Mythology): Alto sax and drums duo, with both adding considerable electronics, although the latter is the expert there, with his own "Wollesonics" tool kit. Some evidence of Binney's sax chops, much more electronics, interesting and less so. B+(*)

Jamie Branch/Dave Rempis/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Tollef Østvang: Tripel/Dubbel (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): Trumpet, alto/tenor sax, bass, drums, a Chicago/Norway meet up in Belgium, for a very solid and occasionally exciting 40:49 live shot. B+(***) [bc]

Johanna Burnheart: Burnheart (2020, Ropeadope): German violinist, also sings and plays synthesizer, classical training, has a few side credits including Maisha and Yazz Ahmed, debut album, backed with keyboards, bass, and drums. B+(*)

Cosmic Vibrations: Pathways & Passages (2018 [2020], Spiritmuse): Singer Dwight Trible, also plays kalimba, backed by a Los Angeles group with Pablo Calogero (tenor sax/reeds), bass, and three percussionists. Deep spiritual roots in LA jazz, including Horace Tapscott and Build an Ark. B+(**)

Dej Loaf: Sell Sole II (2020, BMG): Detroit rapper Deja Trimble, title refers back to her 2014 mixtape. Slack beats, gets her words in. B+(**)

Demae: Life Works Out . . . Usually (2020, Touching Bass, EP): R&B singer, from London, full name Demae Chloma Wodu. Feature spots for Ego Elia May (vocal) and Joe Armon-Jones (keyb). 8 tracks, 24:07. B

Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon: To Catch a Bird in a Net of Wind (2018 [2020], Trost): Guitar-drums duo, the former from Bhutan, now based in North Carolina; the latter based in Chicago; both members of Kuzu, along with Dave Rempis. B+(***) [bc]

Tashi Dorji: Stateless (2020, Drag City): Solo guitar, doesn't rock, doesn't swing, hard to be sure of his folk influences (even from his native Bhutan), sounds more like Fred Frith than Derek Bailey, but not much. B+(*)

Silke Eberhard/Dave Rempis/Kent Kessler/Mike Reed: Exposure (2017 [2020], Aerophonic): German alto saxophonist -- leader of Potsa Lotsa -- visits Chicago, picks up local sax-bass-drums trio. First half (19:36) is one of the most successful pieces in the label's extended tape dump. Second half tails off a bit. B+(***) [bc]

Michael Foster/Dave Rempis/Jason Roebke/Tyler Damon: The Eagle (2019 [2020], Aerophonic, 2CD): Saxophonist (soprano/tenor), from New York, visiting Chicago for two improv sets (49:40 + 48:36) with a local sax-bass-drums trio. B+(***) [bc]

Ill Considered: Ill Considered 9: East/West (2019 [2020], Ill Considered Music): British group, core: Emre Ramazanoglu (drums), Idris Rahman (sax), Leon Brichard (bass). This one collects two London concerts, one from the East side of town (with Tamar Osborn on second sax), the other from the West (with extra percussion by Satin Singh). I've always been impressed by this group: they have a bit of world groove, and Rahman is a terrific saxophonist. 3 and 6 are the ones I most recommend, but this is in the ballpark. B+(***) [bc]

Josh Johnson: Freedom Exercise (2020, Northern Spy): Multi-instrumentalist (sax, keyboards), from Chicago, based in Los Angeles, first album, has a fair number of side credits (e.g., Jeff Parker, Makaya McCraven). I get the feeling this label wants to find the future of jazz-rock fusion, but is stabbing blindly at it. B+(*)

Les Sangliers: Miniscules (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): Free jazz quintet, dates back to 2012 but this, from a tour of France, seems to be it. Two saxophonists (Keefe Jackson and Dave Rempis), two percussionists (Peter Orins and Didier Lasserre), with pianist Christine Wodrascka in the middle. Runs hot and cold. B+(*) [bc]

Kylie Minogue: Disco (2020, BMG): Australian dance pop star, debut 1988, 15th album, retro, upbeat, not what I'd call classic disco, but a fair, functional approximation. B+(**)

Rachel Musson: I Went This Way (2019 [2020], 577): British tenor saxophonist, half-dozen albums since 2013, mostly small and free, goes big and arty here, with strings, extra sax and flute, and voice (Debbie Sanders, more spoken than sung, "grit in the mix"). I'm not much into the strings, but the sax trio parts are invigorating. B+(**)

Rachel Musson: Shifa: Live in Oslo (2019 [2020], 577): Tenor sax trio, with Pat Thomas (piano) and Mark Sanders (drums), follows up a Live at Cafe Oto from last year. Club name is Blow Out, an apt description of the single 34:04 improv. B+(**)

Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes: Heritage of the Invisible II (2020, International Anthem): Trumpet and drums duo, members of group Irreversible Entanglements, self-released a duo album in 2014 but I can't find any further reference to it, or other solo/duo work. Credit Navarro also with keyboards and voice, and there are a few other guest spots. Very scattered, impressive at times. B+(**) [bc]

Optic Sink: Optic Sink (2020, Goner): "Synthetic minimal music for now!" From Natalie Hoffman, of the punk group Nots, and Ben Bauermeister. Texturally similar to Wire. B+(***)

Paris: Safe Space Invader (2020, Guerrilla Funk): Rapper Oscar Jackson Jr., gained some fame with his politically pointed early 1990s albums, slowed down after his label-defining Guerrilla Funk, but got a musical jolt with his 2006 Public Enemy collaboration, and had a lot to say in 2015's Pistol Politics. Hard funk beats, more politics, most obviously "Baby Man Hands" on Trump. B+(***)

Theo Parrish: Wuddaji (2020, Sound Signature): Detroit electronica DJ/producer, albums since 1998. Starts slow and runs long, but finds its groove in the middle. B+(**)

Dave Rempis/Terrie Ex/Tim Daisy: Sugar Shack (2013 [2020], Aerophonic): Long-running sax-drums duo, Vandermark Five alums, plus Dutch guitarist, leader of the post-punk group Ex, who knows the drill here from his own Vandermark collaboration, Lean Left. B+(**) [bc]

Dave Rempis/Jim Baker/Ingebright Håker Flaten/Avreeayl Ra: Millenniums (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): Live at Chicago Jazz Festival, one of a large stash of tapes the Chicago tenor saxophonist released digital only for pandemic summer. Three long improvs, backed by piano, bass, and drums. B+(*) [bc]

Steph Richards: Supersense (2020, Northern Spy): Trumpet player, couple previous records, this a quartet with Jason Moran (piano), Stomu Takeishi (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums and his trademark Wollesonics). Avant instinct don't always pan out, but have their moments. B+(**)

Tiwa Savage: Celia (2020, Universal): Nigerian pop star and actress, real name Isale Eko, studied in London before moving back. Third album. Pop globalization. B+(*)

Cat Toren's Human Kind: Scintillating Beauty (2019 [2020], New Focus): Canadian pianist, based in Brooklyn, fourth album. Kept group name from her 2017 album. With sax (Xavier Del Castillo), oud (Yoshie Fruchter), bass, drums, and chimes/tuning forks/singing bowls. Most impressive on the soaring closer, especially the sax. B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Cool Cats Invasion (Highlife, Juju & Palm-Wine) (1950s-60s [2020], Moochin' About): Huge (102 tracks) collection of vintage pop music from Nigeria and Ghana, picks up a few names I recognize (like I.K. Dairo, Victor Olaiya, E.T. Mensah, Rex Lawson, Haruna Ishola, a very young Fela Kuti), many more I don't. Seems to only be available as a digital, and is pretty cheap as those things go. Not sure how the time adds up, or how many CDs it would take (5-6?). Only played it once, and haven't regretted a minute. Can't swear enough of it is brilliant, but I've always loved this music. Deserves some serious documentation. A- [bc]

Etta Jones: A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank (1972 [2020], Cellar Live): Jazz singer (1928-2001), started with Buddy Johnson (recorded a tribute in 1998 called My Buddy), recorded for Prestige in 1960, and followed Houston Person to Muse and HighNote. Backed here by Cedar Walton Trio (with Sam Jones and Billy Higgins), who open with a 10:07 piece, before intrducing Jones. Walton is in fine form, but Jones sounds strangely off. B-

Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknown (2014-20 [2020], Soul Jazz, 2CD): Survey of recent British jazz, especially the semi-popular niche for avant/soul jazz/fusion. Missing some big names in that niche, but I'm familiar with at least half of the names, less so the short-lived groups. Most strong groove pieces, few of them rote, some positively inspiring. B+(***)

La Locura De Machuca 1975-1980 (1975-80 [2002], Analog Africa): Colombian music from Baranquilla, recorded by Rafael Machuca for his Discos Machuca label. B+(**) [bc]

Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi (1985-1997) (1985-97 [2020], Bongo Joe): North African music, developed at clubs in Lyon in France. B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Randal Despommier: Dio C'è (Outside In Music) [2021-02-06]
  • The End: Allt Är Intet (RareNoise): cdr [11-13]
  • Rich Halley/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio/Newman Taylor Baker: The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle)
  • Simone Kopmajer: Christmas (Lucky Mojo) [11-20]
  • Carla Marciano Quartet: Psychosis: Homage to Bernard Hermann (Challenge)
  • Todd Mosby: Aerial Views (MMG)
  • William Parker: Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World (Centering/AUM Fidelity, 10CD): 1-CD "advance listening demo" [2021-01-29]
  • Ivo Perelman Trio: Garden of Jewels (Tao Forms) [2021-01-22]
  • Dave Rempis/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Jeremy Cunningham: Stringers and Struts (Aerophonic) [12-04]
  • Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland (1967, Resonance, 2CD) [12-04]
  • J. Peter Schwalm: Neuzeit (RareNoise): cdr [11-27]
  • Chris White/Lara Driscoll: Firm Roots (self-released) [2021-01-21]

Sunday, November 8, 2020


Weekend Roundup

Table of contents:

Last week I collected a number of links meant to help readers understand how votes were likely to be counted over time from Tuesday evening into the next day(s). However, on Tuesday evening I found myself with little interest in checking, let alone following, the returns. Nor did my wife, who is much more the news junkie, somewhat more partisan, and definitely more full of dread. So we watched a movie instead (Ford vs. Ferrari, based on a story I followed closely when I was 15) and some stream TV I can't recall -- maybe the Australian series, Mystery Road? I googled election returns before going to bed: Biden was leading in popular vote, but it was closer than expected, with Trump still holding leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but Arizona called for Biden. I saw some Kansas returns, and knew that Barbara Bollier had lost her Senate bid. I spent the rest of the week never going deeper than Google's AP widget, which currently gives Biden a 290-214 lead, a margin of a bit over 4.5 million votes (with Biden at 50.7%), with three states still uncalled: Biden leads narrowly in Georgia, Trump leads a bit more in North Carolina, and much more in slow-returning Alaska.

I had hoped the Democrats would win more impressively, especially in the Senate races. (One piece which explains why is Joseph Fishkin: Please let it not be close: Who 2020 prez outcome probably won't be decided in court. But also Republican obstruction and rule has cost us 10 years of "opportunity costs" as Washington has ignored critical problems.) As it is, Democrats picked up two seats (Arizona and Colorado), lost one (Alabama), are trailing in North Carolina and Alaska, and face two difficult runoffs in Georgia, so it is very likely that the Republicans will control the Senate: leverage they could use not just to prevent Democrats from delivering on any of their legislative goals but totally sandbag the Biden administration: rejecting any or all nominations (judges, even cabinet members), even failing to pass a budget, appropriation bills, and resolutions allowing the government to extend its credit limit. They could, in short, shut the federal government down for the next two years. I wouldn't put any of that past them.

Democrats also lost a few seats in the House, but retain control there. I stil haven't looked at detailed returns for down ballot races. I haven't had much interest in reading people's opinions about why the votes broke as they did, or what it means for the future. Nonetheless, I do have a few opinions:

  1. I doubt that nominating a more progressive ticket would have helped the Democrats much. In particular, I doubt that Bernie Sanders would have inspired more young people to come out to vote Democratic than he would have lost among anti-left Democrats, independents, and anti-Trump Republicans. I also doubt that he would have done much worse (except perhaps at fundraising, which appears to be very overrated this year). And he might have made up some ground by articulating a sharper attack on Trump and/or by promising greater return value for votes.
  2. Biden, like Clinton in 2016, put a lot of effort into wooing Republican crossover votes, which undermined Democrats in down ballot races (especially in Maine, where Republicans won a Senate seat that polls had shown them losing all year; the failed campaign to defeat Susan Collins was the year's biggest disappointment). Biden should have made it clear that he needed a Democratic Congress not just to deliver on his promises but to govern at all.
  3. Biden put way too much emphasis on nebulous ideas like "soul of America" and "saving democracy," and not nearly enough on pocket book issues, like raising the minimum wage, encouraging unions, cutting drug and medical costs, keeping the economy going during pandemic. I'm reminded that in 1860, Republicans didn't campaign on generalities like limiting slavery and preserving the union. Their campaign pitch was direct: "Vote yourself a farm! Vote yourself a tariff!" Sure, both of those points worked to undermine the Slave Power, but they required nothing more from voters than a sense of self-interest. Trump and the Republicans were vulnerable of every front (except arguably taxes, but even there they clearly favored the rich). Democrats could honest have argued that the economy would be much worse without their insistence that the CARES act provide extra money for unemployment compensation and small businesses, and that the only reason it hasn't been extended has been Republican obstruction.
  4. Republicans retained a remarkable degree of unity up and down the ticket, possibly because their charges against Democrats were so outrageous and indiscriminate. Republican Senate candidates won everywhere Trump did (plus Maine), limiting Democratic gains to states Biden carried (less Maine). In many cases, Democratic Senate candidates polled better than Biden, only to lose out. Republicans are brutally efficient at getting their voters out, as they've been for quite some time. One corollary is that it doesn't seem to matter whether the Democratic candidate is left, liberal, moderate, or conservative.
  5. I think the main reason Trump exceeded his polls this time was that he moved some late-breaking voters on pandemic lockdowns. His handling of the pandemic was disastrous, but his ultimate embrace of the disease made him look tough and vigorous, and it aligned with the business interests of potential swing voters. Biden backed away from endorsing more lockdowns, but had a harder time convincing voters that his more cautious approach would be better for the economy. (Note that I'm not endorsing Trump's stance, which is stupid and callous, but it helps explain the small shift at the end.)
  6. Republican control of the Senate will certainly suit some of Biden's richest backers (e.g., Michael Bloomberg, whose money is one of the grossest blemishes on the 2020 elections). It will give him a good excuse not to nominate anyone from what Howard Dean memorably dubbed "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." (Even if Democrats had won control, their efforts would be checked by the most conservative Democrats in the Senate -- much as Joe Lieberman and James Exon killed the ACA public option.)
  7. The Georgia runoff elections offer an opportunity for Democrats to get a redo, albeit on unfavorable terrain. The Democrats need to run as a team, and beg Georgians to give Biden a chance to work for America. Republicans are already arguing that winning those races is "America's last chance to stop socialism," so they're not going to lose gracefully.

Here's a related Steve M tweet:

Republicans have successfully nationalized every election by linking everything that scares center and right voters to every Democrat. Someone torches a police station? Implicitly the local Dem's fault! Dems never do this to the GOP, which is why Susan Collins won.


The Elections

Josh Barro: Smile, Democrats. Trump lost. You won.

Jerusalem Demsas: Why Georgia has runoff elections: Well, you know, racism, same as in other Southern states that use runoffs to a black person doesn't win a plurality against a divided mix of white candidates. It matters this year because both Senate elections will be going to runoffs. And most likely, the runoff election will draw fewer voters than the presidential, and that will help the Republicans sweep both seats, giving them a slim majority in the Senate, the the ability to sabotage any appointments or other initiatives Democrats push.

Liza Featherstone: There was actually a lot of good news for the left on election day.

Natalie Fertig/Mona Zhang: 1 in 3 Americans now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal: "New Jersey, Arizona and Montana passed measures to legalize adult-use marijuana. South Dakota became the first state to authorize both medical and recreational sales at the same time." Mississippi voters approved medical marijuana. Every state that offered voters the chance to weigh in passed the measures.

Matt Ford: Election day was peaceful -- then Trump opened his mouth.

Murtaza Hussein: Nonwhite voters are not immune to the appeal of right-wing populism.

Ezra Klein:

  • How Joe Biden, the ultimate insider, defeated Donald Trump, the ultimate outsider: "The lessons of Biden's unusual campaign."

  • Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight. Not a coup. I doubt there are any institutions in America that could or would launch a coup, either to depose an inconvenient president, or in this case to preserve one who lost an election. It's not just that it's never been done before, or that there's little public support for taking contempt for American democracy to that level. Sure,the courts can (as they did in 2000) tilt the scales a bit. And if the electoral college split ended at 270-268 (as seemed possible before Biden won Pennsylvania), some sort of backroom deal (as happened in 1876 with Hayes-Tilden) might steal the election (although the Supreme Court ruled against "faithless electors" earlier this year). But neither of those disgraceful scenarios would really be a coup. What Trump is doing is everything he can to discredit an election that he clearly lost. He may not understand that he's really discredited himself in the bargain.

Michael Kruse:

  • Donald Trump confronts a new label: loser. By the way, Greg Magarian commented:

    This piece is utterly vicious simply because it's accurate and thorough. I disagree with people who think Trump was a singularly damaging president; in terms of the harm he did, he's just another disastrous conservative, the logical heir of Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes, all of whom slaughtered more people around the world. But Trump is certainly the worst person ever to hold the office, and I'm reveling in his debasement and humiliation. He deserves every drop in the tsunami of suffering that's headed his way.

  • How misfortune -- and stunning luck -- brought Joe Biden to the presidency.

Anita Kumar:

Peter Maass: As Trump is defeated, the Murdochs try to dodge backlash for Fox News. One thing I'll add is that Fox never needed to build a Republican majority to make money. Indeed, their interests favor keeping their audience extremely agitated, even if it's merely a sizable minority. Also, it kind of cramps their style having to defend a Republican establishment, certainly compared to how freewheeling they can get in attacking Democrats. That said, Trump was ideal for them: for one thing, he was living testament to their power and reach; for another, he never tried to be less crazy than they were. But Fox never needed Trump like Trump needed Fox. More on Trump and Fox:

Ian MacDougall: If Trump tries to sue his way to election victory, here's what happens.

Dylan Matthews: Joe Biden has won. Here's what comes next.

Laura McGann: Anderson Cooper described Trump as "an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun".

David Nakamura: Trump's bid to discredit election raises fear that he will undermine a smooth transfer of power.

John Nichols:

  • The Biden-Harris victory brings 'an outpouring of joy, hope, renewed faith': "In cities nationwide, a spontaneous celebration erupts as Trup is defeated and voters usher in 'a new day for America.'" I must admit this took me by surprise, probably because I was bummed by how close the election was, and by the failure to rout Republicans down ballot, leaving Congress divided and ensuring that very little of the Biden-Harris platform stands a chance of getting implemented (at least for two years, but mid-term elections almost always go against the sitting president's party, and Democrats have blown mandates after both Clinton and Obama won with more impressive margins). On the other hand, had Trump actually won a second term after the most appalling record ever, in one of the worst years this country has ever suffered, it would have felt like the end of the world. Dodge that and yeah, joy makes sense. [By the way, Wichita also had a celebration, despite not contributing much to the win. We didn't attend, not least because Sedgwick County is regularly breaking records for new Covid-19 cases.] More celebrations:

  • Georgia voters can put an end to Mitch McConnell's grim reaping: By electing Democrats to two Senate seats subject to runoff. Yeah, but they probably won't. Georgia Republicans do everything they can to make voting difficult, and they're very efficient at winning low-turnout elections.

Ella Nilsen: House Democrats will keep their majority for two more years.

Alice Miranda Ollstein/Megan Cassella: 'A dreaded two years': Biden, allies gear up to face a GOP Senate.

Gabby Orr: Trump faces divided family and friends as calls out for a concession.

Lili Pike: Why so many young people showed up on Election Day.

Max Read: Time has never moved as slowly as it did this week.

Aaron Rupar:

Nate Silver: Biden won -- pretty convincingly in the end.

Still, this brings up one last point: This is the seventh election out of the past eight in which Democrats have won the popular vote for president. If American elections were contested on the basis of the popular vote, this race could probably have been called fairly early on Tuesday night, and we could all have gotten a lot more sleep the past few days. But don't let bleary eyes obscure Biden's accomplishment.

The one election the Republican won the most votes in was 2004, when GW Bush used his minority win in 2000 to start a war in Iraq, and was barely able to rally the nation behind its hapless Commander in Chief, and a thick veil of smoke and mirrors to hide how poorly the war was going. By 2008, Bush was even more unpopular than Trump this year. You can read 538's election blog here: Biden is projected to be the President-Elect. Here's how it all went down.

Emily Stewart: Trump spent years worrying about the stock market only to discover Wall Street doesn't care if he loses.

Asawin Suebsaeng/Sam Stein/William Bredderman: Trump orders advisers to 'go down fighting'.

Libby Watson: The futility of the Democrats' record-breaking war chest: "Liberals lined the campaigns of Senate hopefuls with mountainous piles of campaign loot, only to watch it all burn up on election night."

Matthew Yglesias:

  • Trump's gains with Hispanic voters should prompt some progressive rethinking.

  • 3 winners and 4 losers from a very long Election "Day": Winners: Joe Biden; Congressional Republicans ("Congressional Republicans escape from the Trump years with a tax cut, a stocked federal judiciary, an absolute stranglehold on the Supreme Court, and almost certainly a majority in the US Senate. They did lose the House in 2018 and didn't win it back in 2020, but Democrats' majority is now slim. And Republicans will dominate the redistricting process next year, setting themselves up nicely to make a big run at the majority in 2022."); Poll workers; Losers: Democratic small donors; Blue Texas, Martha McSally; The polls.

Li Zhou: Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman to become vice president. Lots of articles in this vein, as if it matters. At this stage, anyone who has a problem with her race and/or sex needs to get over it. What matters more (and most Republicans will emphasize this) is that she's significantly more progressive than Biden. Of course, that may be a consequence of her experiences given her background. Or she may just be smarter and more respectful and responsible than your average American. More on Harris:

After the Election

Dean Baker:

Jedediah Britton-Purdy: Donald Trump was a monster forged by the American free market.

Thomas Frank: Ding-dong, the jerk is gone. But read this before you sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Fine with me if you sing first, even dance a little. Plenty of time for disappointment later.

Biden can't take us back to the happy assumptions of the centrist era even if he wants to, because so many of its celebrated policy achievements lie in ruins. Not even Paul Krugman enthuses about Nafta-style trade agreements any longer. Bill Clinton's welfare reform initiative was in fact a capitulation to racist tropes and brought about an explosion in extreme poverty. The great prison crackdown of 1994 was another step in cementing the New Jim Crow. And the biggest shortcoming of Obama's Affordable Care Act -- leaving people's health insurance tied to their employer -- has become painfully obvious in this era of mass unemployment and mass infection.

But the biggest consequence of the Democrats' shabby experiment is one we have yet to reckon with: it has coincided with a period of ever more conservative governance. It turns out that when the party of the left abandons its populist traditions for high-minded white-collar rectitude, the road is cleared for a particularly poisonous species of rightwing demagoguery. It is no coincidence that, as Democrats pursued their professional-class "third way," Republicans became ever bolder in their preposterous claim to be a "workers' party" representing the aspirations of ordinary people.

Michael Grunwald: America votes to make politics boring again.

Fred Kaplan: Even without the Senate, Biden can get an awful lot done: "The executive branch is powerful and has only become more so in recent years."

First, there are executive orders. Obama signed 270 of them in the eight years of his presidency (that's almost three per month); Trump signed 176 in his one term (with, perhaps, more orders to come in his remaining two-and-a-half months). Biden could, and probably will, follow suit. (One thing he'll almost certainly do is repeal many of Trump's executive orders, just as Trump repealed many of Obama's.) Some of his predecessors' orders were challenged, and even overturned, in the courts, but not that many. Besides, presidents have other tools of unilateral power at their disposal: administrative orders, federal regulations, and national security decision directives, few of which can be challenged, many of which are deeply buried in bureaucratic documents, some of which are highly classified.

Second, presidents have enormous leeway in foreign policy (a privilege that, for better or worse, Congress and the courts rarely restrict). Biden will almost certainly reenter the Paris Agreement on climate change (which was signed within a United Nations framework, so the Senate would have no say), extend the New START nuclear arms treaty with the Russians (a provision allowed under the treaty itself, which the Senate ratified under Obama), and at least try to revive the nuclear arms deal with Iran (which was a multilateral agreement, not a treaty, and so never required Senate ratification). He won't be able to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty without Senate approval (he would face obstacles with many Democrats as well as Republicans). But he can enter into lots of negotiations with other countries that, in some way, involve trade and regional security.

Kevin M Kruse: Why a Biden administration shouldn't turn the page on the Trump era: "The Obama-Biden administration wanted to move forward rather than hold Wall Street bankers and CIA torturers accountable. If elected, Biden should follow FDR's playbook and expose his predecessor's corruption and mismanagement instead."

Matt McManus: How to avoid another Trump. "Trump was able to divert attention from the profound structural inequities of our time toward an agnostic politics where 'giving the middle finger' to liberals would serve as an ideological substitute for change."

Osita Nwanevu: Will the Democrats ever make sense of this week? "They're more likely to take the wrong lessons from Biden's win and the down-ballot losses."

Alex Pareene: What if Democrats' message just doesn't matter? "Florida voters backed a $15 minimum wage. So did Joe Biden -- and he lost the state. There are important lessons here for the party."

Yanis Varoufakis: Hoping for a return to normal after Trump? That's the last thing we need.

The Pandemic Is Still With Us

Katelyn Burns: The White House is dealing with another Covid-19 outbreak: "Five people have tested positive, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, as the US sees record daily case counts."

Umair Irfan/Julia Belluz/Brian Resnick: The US Covid-19 epidemic hit a deadly new milestone, and help isn't on the way: "More than 120,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day."

A Odysseus Patrick: Australia has almost eliminated the coronavirus -- by putting faith in science.

Melody Schreiber: Trump is still the president, and the pandemic is getting worse.

David Waltner-Toews: The wisdom of pandemics: "Virus are active agents, existing within rich lifeworlds. A safe future depends on understanding this evolutionary story."

Still More on Donald Trump

Daniel Block: Donald Trup's return to TV would not be easy.

A Trump-controlled network would have an even greater chance of failure. It took Turner and Murdoch years to turn CNN and Fox into behemoths. Both did so when the cable television market was larger and less consolidated than it is today. Conservative media is particularly tricky. The target demographic -- middle-aged-to-elderly white men -- is becoming a smaller proportion of the U.S. They already have Fox.

And Trump is not a talented businessman. His companies have declared bankruptcy six times. His properties bleed cash. And his experience as chief executive of the federal government isn't exactly inspiring. The United States has had one of the worst responses to the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to Trump's dithering and denial. He could delegate the network's management to better hands, but, once again, it's hard to see him not micromanaging.

"Do you really want to help me build a channel for Donald Trump that targets old white guys?" the senior executive said. "I don't think so."

That doesn't mean networks or investors won't work with Trump. In fact, they likely will. Perhaps Fox will give him an enormous contract to call in as a commentator, buying him off without the risks of having to host a Trump show. (Whether Trump, with his massive ego, would settle for anything less than a dedicated prime-time audience is unclear.) Maybe Sinclair will decide partnering with Trump is worth the risk. Someone, somewhere, will pay him for his brand. Indeed, even the most spectacular possible failure -- creating a new channel, only to have it sputter -- could still be a financial win. Al Gore's Current TV never really caught on with viewers. Yet when he sold it to Al Jazeera, he made out with $100 million.

Katelyn Burns: The Trump legal team's failed Four Seasons press conference, explained. More:

Nancy Cook: Trump prepares to launch a second term early, even without winning: "He ay fire department heads like the FBI's Chris Wray and Pentagon chief Mark Esper. He could sign base-pleasing executive orders. He might resume travel."

Emily Dreyfuss: Trump's tweeting isn't crazy. It's strategic, typos and all. I'd rather just think of him as an illiterate moron, but could that just be his personal touch added to devious coaching?

Amy Gulick: The majestic Alaskan rain forest in Trump's crosshairs: Tongass National Forest.

The Intercept: Part Seven: Climate change: "Trump has stacked his anti-science administration with corporate polluters, gutted environmental regulations, and opened protected land for extraction." Most recent installment in a series, American Mythology. Previous parts:

Sarah Jones: Say good-bye to Trump's lesser ghouls: The roll call profiled here: Seema Verma (as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "approved drastic cuts to Medicaid that left thousands of needy Americans without health care"); Sonny Perdue (Secretary of Agriculture, issued rules to allow states to cut SNAP); Eugene Scalia (Secretary of Labor, name no coincidence, undermined OSHA among other things); Gina Haspel (CIA Director, torture supervisor); Julia Hahn (White House speechwriter, with white nationalist credentials to rival the more infamous Stephen Miller); Robert Wilkie (VA head, union buster, Confederate monument fetishist); Paula White (White House "spiritual adviser"); Alyssa Farah (White House communications director); Russ Vought (Director of Office of Budget and Management, "task is to reshape the executive branch according to Trump's whims"); William Perry Pendley (acting director Bureau of Land Management).

Nick Pinto: Across the US, Trump used ICE to crack down on immigration activists. This is part of a larger series on The war on immigrants.

Jon Schwarz: During the Trump Era, everyone and everything in America failed: "The possibilities in front of us are real, but we should not deceive ourselves about what we learned during the Time of Trump." Schwarz doesn't limit his list of failures to Trump and the Republicans; also indicted are: Biden, Democrats, and The Corporate Media. Nonetheless, Trump leads:

Before Trump, it seemed obvious that fascists were filled with vigor, always available for a mass torch-lit rally at midnight. Trump clearly has the instincts of a fascist: a lust for power, cruelty toward out-groups, and romanticization of a past that never existed. But he also can't execute any plan that requires more than five seconds of effort. Are you a fascist if you vaguely want to be Supreme Leader, but that seems like a ton of work, and your top priority is getting through all the hours of "Fox & Friends" on your DVR? . . .

It's true the Trump administration has managed to implement policies that blighted the lives of many, many people. But this has been on issues where Trump himself just had to sign papers put in front of him by the small number of his underlings who are minimally competent.

All that said, there is one area where Trump did not fail. Everyone has a mental map of the world inside their head. Mentally healthy people adjust their interior map when they see it doesn't match reality. Mentally unhealthy people try to force reality to change to match what's inside them. Trump, who is pullulating with hate and fear, has successfully devoted himself to multiplying the amount of hate and fear in the world outside of his head.

The most terrifying part of the Trump presidency has not been Trump himself, but the slavish support other GOP politicians have given his every action. We now know for sure that there's nothing a Republican president can do that's so grotesque that the rest of the party won't fall in line behind it.

Supreme Court and Other Injustices

Ian Millhiser:

Benjamin Weiser/Michael S Schmidt/William K Rashbaum: Steve Bannon loses lawyer after suggesting beheading of Fauci: "Mr Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump, said the heads of the FBI director and Dr Anthony Fauci should be put on pikes, leading Twitter to ban one of his accounts."

Around the World

Laura Gottesdiener: The children of Fallujah: The medical mystery at the heart of the Iraq War: "Since the 2003 invasion, doctors in Fallujah have been reporting a sharp rise in birth defects among the city's children -- and to this day, no one knows why."

Murtaza Hussain: Trump, the war president, leaves a trail of civilians dead in Yemen: "A new report sheds light on Donald Trump's bloody continuation -- and intensification -- of the brutality of US foreign policy."

Marissa J Lang: Mexico is poised to legalize marijuana, but advocates don't like the details.

Sharon Lerner: US military responsible for widespread PFAS pollution in Japan: "A new book by Jon Mitchell exposes 'countless' releases of PFAS chemicals by the US military in Japan." Interview with Mitchell, whose book is Poisoning the Pacific: The US Military's Dumping of Plutonium, Chemical Weapons, and Agent Orange.

Timothy McLaughlin: America still thinks it's the election police: "After the 2020 election, who would bother to listen to the US about how to run a vote?"

Other Matters

Harry Browne: Robert Fisk was a reporter who brought the wars home and shaped the thinking of a generation. Fisk died last week. His books Pity the Nation (on civil war in Lebanon, although it also includes important reporting on Syria) and The Great War for Civilisation (on Bush's "War on Terror") were major, but mostly we depended on him for day-to-day journalism.

Matthew Cappuci/Andrew Freedman: Tropical Storm Eta nears Florida with flood threat, hurricane warnings: "The storm's swipe at Florida is part of the second incarnation of Eta, which killed dozens in Central America last week after striking Nicaragua on Tuesday as a devastating Category 4 storm."

David Harvey: Socialists must be the champions of freedom.

Anatol Lieven: US strategists lost empathy, along with their wars.

Paul R Pillar: The global nuclear bargain. Eighty-four nations have signed, and fifty have now ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. You may recall that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) back in 1970 promised that if nations agreed not to develop nuclear weapons, the states that previously had them would disarm. The US and others have failed to do so, hence the need for a new treaty.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: The fog of bores.

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