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Friday, October 30, 2015

Beneath Debate

My patience for political debates gave out long ago. I think the clincher was a 1984 encounter which somehow favored Ronald Reagan despite the clear fact that Walter Mondale out-hustled him on every single question. (I was rather annoyed with Mondale because so many of those tussles revealed him to be the more aggressive and tenacious cold warrior.) It was almost a replay of my first debate experience, Kennedy-Nixon, except where Kennedy appealed to a hopeful future, that future had passed by 1984 and America was ready to be led into senility -- at least they sure picked the guy to do it.

However, some bloggers I follow still take these things seriously, so I figured I'd cite a few of their comments. After all, watching ten right-wing jerks fumble their way through a set of questions and spinning them into their fantasies does offer some opportunity to examine the psychosis that afflicts so-called conservatives today. Whereas Reagan had a knack for amalgamating an imagined past with a fantasy future, at least he was pretty sure it would be a positive future. But today's Republican standard-bearers are united in their conviction that the nation stands on the brink of a catastrophe that only their kind of determined leadership can stave off, even though the scenarios most likely to push the country off the deep end are the very ones that adopt their policy proposals.


Some links:

  • Gail Collins: Oh, Those Debating Republicans:

    But about Wednesday night's debate -- the topic was economics, and the big takeaway was probably that when there are 10 people onstage, nobody is going to have to explain how that flat tax plan adds up. When in doubt, complain about government regulations.

    Carson appears to have a particular genius on this front. Asked what to do about the pharmaceutical industry's outrageous pricing policies, he mildly said: "No question that some people go overboard when it comes to trying to make profits," and then he careened off to the cost of government rules on "the average small manufacturer."

    Every seasoned politician is good at answering a difficult question with the answer to something entirely different. But Carson -- who isn't supposed to be a politician at all -- was possibly the champ. Where do you think he picked that up? It's a little unnerving to think this kind of talent is useful in the operating room.

    Because Carson's voice always sounds so moderate, responses that make no sense whatsoever can sound sort of thoughtful until you replay them in your head. Asked why, as an opponent of gay marriage, he serves on the board of a company that offers domestic partner benefits, Carson said that he believed "marriage is between one man and one woman and there is no reason that you can't be perfectly fair to the gay community." He then proposed, in his measured tones, that "the P.C. culture . . . it's destroying this nation."

  • Ezra Klein: Ted Cruz's best moment of the Republican debate was also completely wrong:

    "The questions that have been asked so far in this debate illustrate why the American people don't trust the media," Ted Cruz said with considerable disgust. "This is not a cage match."

    Cruz ticked off the insults the CNBC moderators had lobbed Wednesday night at the assembled Republicans. "Donald Trump, are you a comic book villain? Ben Carson, can you do math? John Kasich, will you insult two people over here? Marco Rubio, why don't you resign? Jeb Bush, why have your numbers fallen? How about talking about the substantive issues?"

    The crowd roared. Republican pollster Frank Luntz reported with some awe that his focus group gave Cruz's riff a 98. "That's the highest score we've ever measured," Luntz tweeted. "EVER."

    Cruz's attack on the moderators was smart politics -- but it was almost precisely backwards. The questions in the CNBC debate, though relentlessly tough, were easily the most substantive of the debates so far. And the problem for Republicans is that substantive questions about their policy proposals end up sounding like hostile attacks -- but that's because the policy proposals are ridiculous, not because the questions are actually unfair.

    Klein goes on to quote some of the questions that Cruz caricatured:

    Moderator John Harwood asked, "Mr. Trump, you have done very well in this campaign so far by promising to build another wall and make another country pay for it. Send 11 million people out of the country. Cut taxes $10 trillion without increasing the deficit." [ . . . ]

    Similarly, Ben Carson wasn't asked whether he could do math. He was asked whether his tax plan's math added up.

    "You have a flat tax plan of 10 percent flat taxes," said moderator Becky Quick. "This is something that is very appealing to a lot of voters, but I've had a really tough time trying to make the math work on this. If you were to take a 10 percent tax, with the numbers right now in total personal income, you're gonna bring in $1.5 trillion. That is less than half of what we bring in right now. And by the way, it's gonna leave us in a $2 trillion hole. So what analysis got you to the point where you think this will work?" [ . . . ]

    Meanwhile, Cruz himself was also asked a substantive question. The moderators asked why he was opposing a bipartisan budget deal that would avert a debt ceiling crisis, a Medicare crisis, and a Social Security Disability Insurance crisis. Rather than answer that question, he attacked the moderators for refusing to ask substantive questions, during which he pretended a slew of unusually substantive questions were trivial political attacks.

    Cruz's whine was so popular that the RNC decided to act on it and break an agreement they had with NBC to host a debate in February. See: Jack Mirkinson: The GOP's media warfare goes nuclear: How the RNC is trying to hold journalism hostage. One more example how firmly GOP leadership can act to get things done (or, actually, undone).

    Although Klein has some piece of a point -- the candidates certainly did manage to avoid answering anything substantial in the questions, more than a few came off as snarky and their opening shot, as Stephen Colbert justly complains, was the worst question ever.

  • Rick Perlstein: Sociopaths on a Merry-Go-Round:

    I sure hope you didn't bother to watch the absurd Republican debate on CNBC Wednesday night. That's what you have me for. Here are two takeaways: Ben Carson said "crap." (Specifically, that "the government picking winners and losers" is "a bunch of crap.") And, remember that time a few years ago when I wrote that getting anointed a star among the Republican elite "is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing that you have the skill and the stones to brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher"? I worry I understated the case. [ . . . ]

    Something you will not learn consuming accounts of the debate from all those talking heads, the poor saps, forced by the professional canons of "objectivity" to grit their teeth and pretend what went on on that stage in Boulder was legitimate political discussion. No. This was two straight hours of sociopathy.

    Perlstein details examples from Carson, Fiorina, and Rubio, but he could go on and on.

  • Heather Digby Parton: The medical miracles of Mike Huckabee: Inside the absurd, dangerous & contradictory health care plans of the GOP candidates: Parton also looks at Carson, who has a history of promoting a fraudulent supplement as a miracle cure for Alzheimer's and cancer. Huckabee, who's made a career out of opposing medical research based on fetal tissue, has suddenly found the solution to America's health care woes: "let's cure the four big cost-driving diseases . . . diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's." Not clear how he'll do all that -- maybe he's bought into Carson's snake oil? More likely it's just that old standby of the religious right: miracles. Huckabee's a big "flat tax" promoter too, if you want another example of magical thinking. Parton concludes:

    So here we have two Republican candidates for president. One has offered an incomprehensible health care plan that he cannot explain to the public. The other proposes that the correct approach is to "pass real reform that will actually lower costs, while focusing on cures and prevention rather than intervention.") Both of them oppose fetal tissue research that promise advances in actually curing diseases while endorsing ludicrous scams that don't work.

    Every Republican promises to vote to repeal Obamacare. It's a litmus test right up there with tax cuts and abortion. Carson says it's the worst thing since slavery, Huckabee calls it a "nightmare." It looks like magical snake oil cures are now what passes for serious health care policy to replace it.

    Parton also unloaded on Jeb Bush's performance: Jeb Bush's stunning, televised implosion: How the former GOP frontrunner became a sad, pathetic joke.

  • Jesse Berney: These Republicans are petulant children: What's really behind their whining about the big, bad media:

    But of course the complaints about the media aren't really about getting easier questions at debates; they're much more pernicious than that.

    Republicans are working the refs. They don't care what questions they're asked; what they care about is destroying the credibility of anyone who might criticize their policies or their rhetoric. When Quick asked Carson about the $1.1 trillion in new deficits his tax plan would create, Carson simply replied "That's not true" -- an assertion he could make confidently because he knows Republican primary audiences are much more likely to trust Ben Carson than a member of the media.

    Of course his tax plan would be a disaster -- it would involve huge cuts for the richest Americans and drain the treasury, pushing America even deeper into debt. But facts, even obvious facts, don't matter if you can convince people the arbiters of those facts are liars.

  • Ed Kilgore: Stand With Rand . . . for Nineteen Minutes!: Rand Paul's big moment in the debate was his announcement that he would fillibuster the much-hated Bipartisan Budget Deal (at least much-hated by the faction who'd seize any excuse to shut down the government). Turns out that when he did take the Senate floor to oppose the bill, he spoke against it all of 19 minutes. Ted Cruz can't even read Green Eggs & Ham that fast.

  • Charles Pierce: I Have Come to the Conclusion That It's Very Easy to Be a Republican Candidate:

    Here at the shebeen, we have been talking almost since our grand opening in 2011 about how the institutional Republican party is nothing more than a sham of a mockery of a façade of a shell of its former self. Now, it seems, the candidates may be forming a creepy little cabal aimed at taking even the debate process away from obvious anagram Reince Priebus, the emptiest suit in American politics.

    "I think the bigger frustration you saw is that all those candidates onstage had prepared for a substantive debate. Everyone was ready to talk about trade policy and the debt and tax policies," Rubio said on Fox News. "And we're ready for that, everybody was. And then, you got questions that everyone got, which were clearly designed to get us to fight against each other or get us to say something embarrassing about us and then get us to react."

    Again, bullshit, all the way down. Rubio was asked a very substantive question about the lunatic tongue-bath to the wealthy that he calls a tax plan. John Harwood cited the conservative Tax Foundation's assessment that his highly redistributive notion of where all the money should end up would balloon the deficit and be an unprecedented windfall for the likes of Norman Braman and (shh!) Sheldon Adelson. If Rubio was "embarrassed" by that question, he should have been.

    But nobody is so unencumbered by facts, and nobody is so utterly unburdened by honesty, as the Tailgunner [Ted Cruz], who has proposed a debate moderated by the superstars of conservative talk-radio.

    "How about a debate moderated by Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and Rush Limbaugh? Now that would be a debate." Hannity replied with enthusiasm: "I'm in!"

    By all means, senator. Let's do that.

    I'm not sold on Limbaugh, who has a history of massive flop-sweat attacks whenever he appears on television, or anywhere else outside the cocoon of his studio. And Hannity, I think, still wants too much to be a player in mainstream conservative politics to be very entertaining. But Mark Levin? Abso-freaking-lutely. Mark Levin thinks Paul Ryan is a squish. Mark Levin wants the Constitution rewritten to eliminate the popular election of senators and so that states can nullify federal laws. Let Levin moderate a debate and he'll push these clowns so far to the right that they'll end up in Kazakhstan.

  • Josh Marshall: Some More Thoughts on the Debate: If you dig through the archives you can probably find his "live blogging" -- which I did read but have largely forgotten by now. Here he points out that Carly Fiorina got more time than anyone else (funny no one has tabbed her as winning or even gaining this time, like they did last debate), and Jeb Bush "got the least by a significant margin" (although lots of people have commented on how "sad" or "pathetic" Bush seemed). Plus this:

    But as I reflect on the debate a bit more I think a big reason the debate was so weird was that so many of the questions were based on obscurantist and myopic CNBC nonsense -- which is not only far-right and identified with great wealth but specifically owned by the bubble of Wall Street. That led to a lot of odd questions -- like Jim Cramer's saying why aren't GM execs going to jail, Santelli's wild questions or that question about fantasy football. Lots of people are into fantasy football. But whether it's betting and whether it should be regulated, that's a Wall Streeter question -- in the same way huge amounts of the money that gets pushed through political betting sites comes off Wall Street. It's hard for Republicans to say this. But I think this is a significant reason why the debate seemed so odd. And it made it kind of odd to hear anti-liberal bias attacks on the moderators when they were asking questions like shouldn't the Fed be forced to take us back to the gold standard.

    I should never miss the opportunity to say that the stupidest thing any political figure can possibly say is that we should go back to the gold standard.

    OK, here are the live blog links: #1, #2, #3, #57 (who knows)?, Why is this debate so bad?, Some initial thoughts. For a much longer live blog -- one that will take you longer to read than it would have taken to watch the damn thing -- go to 538. Some side-excursions too. One that I found interesting is that Trump's support is pretty even across the ideological spectrum (23-28%, plus a blip at 30% for Tea Party), where Carson is strictly conservative (with a 27% peak for White Evangelical -- a group that raises Huckabee from 4% to 7% and drops Fiorina from 7% to 2%).

  • William Greider: Why Today's GOP Crackup Is the Final Unraveling of Nixon's 'Southern Strategy': Not on the debates -- I assume this piece was a response to the House's GOP leadership squabble. The key point is that the pluralism that Ronald Reagan promoted with his "11th commandment" has given way to a hard-core purism that sees every issue as a litmus test and labels any deviant as a RINO.

    A Republican lobbyist of my acquaintance whose corporate client has been caught in the middle of the political disturbances shared a provocative insight. "I finally figured it out," he told me. "Obama created the Tea Party." I laughed at first, but he explained what he meant. "We told people that Obama was a dangerous socialist who was going to wreck America and he had to be stopped, when really we knew he was a moderate Democrat, not all that radical," the lobbyist said. "But they believed us."

    In other words, the extremist assaults on the black president, combined with the economic failures, were deeply alarming for ordinary people and generated a sense of terminal crisis that was wildly exaggerated. But it generated popular expectations that Republicans must stand up to this threat with strong countermeasures -- to win back political control and save the country.

    Greider posits an "odd couple" alliance forged by the Nixon and Reagan "southern strategy" -- a cynical decision by the Republican establishment to broaden their voting base by catering to the racism of southern (and let's not forget many northern) whites. I hardly regard this as so odd: the rich never have the numbers to win in a democracy, so they always have to wrap their naked self interests in a cloak of something that might enjoy broader appeal. Since WWII that was mainly cold war propaganda, with its adulation of capitalism, defense of religion (against "godless communism"), and the growth of a military caste with all the patriotic trappings, including a lot of jingo about "freedom." Admittedly it took a while for Republicans to appropriate those myths as wholly their own, but Barry Goldwater had put it together in terms so stark it could be used to tar liberals as traitors, and Nixon and Reagan only made Goldwater's synthesis more palatable. (What made Nixon appear to be more moderate was that he was generally respectful of unions, albeit more due to pragmatism than to ideology, while Goldwater and Reagan seethed contempt.) If adding a bit of "dogwhistle racism" adds to the vote total, how much of an "odd couple" sacrifice is that really to the Republican rich? There are exceptions, for sure, but the elite country clubs have never lacked for prejudice or snobbery -- why else refer to them as "exclusive"?

    I don't see Greider's evidence that the contradictions at the root of the "odd couple" strategy are coming apart -- for one thing, the appetite of Americans for hypocrisy has never been greater, but also the rich have gotten so rich they've become oblivious to the damage and decay the rest of the world have to live in -- but Republicans do have problems keeping their shit together. The first big thing is that the Bush administration from 2001-09 was an utter clusterfuck: so much so that nearly every substantive policy that any Republican can think of today has been tried out and proven to be disastrous. Bush ended his term with approval ratings way below the Mendoza Line (and Cheney's was in single digits, about half of Bush's). The initial response of sentient Republicans to that debacle was to crawl into a hole somewhere, but all that did was to let the crazies loose, and when they seemed to be having some success, the rest of the party, lacking any better ideas or principles, lined up behind them. The only reason they've been able to survive by doubling down on disaster has been their ability to get people to blame the adverse effects of their policies on the Democrats. (Obama and the Democrats abetted this not only by continuing many Bush policies, like the wars in the Middle East and the bank bailouts, but by not squarely placing blame where it belonged, and by not pushing reforms that would make a real difference.)

    The reason the Tea Party exploded in 2009 was that the Republican propaganda machine, after eight years of lamely recycling pro-Bush talking points, got a chance to go on the offensive, and they did so with a vengeance. They did so by characterizing Obama as a devious monster "out to wreck America," and they clearly equated America not with the majority who had voted for Obama but with the small minority who listened to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck -- a group that flattered themselves as the only true Americans, the vanguard to "take America back." They may even be right that "their America" is slipping away, but they're also letting themselves be used.

    I could probably spend several pages just unpacking that last sentence: there are obvious cons like Beck's gold racket, and there are broader problems embedded in dozens of policy proposals, and there are deeper and subtler problems when a society devolves into nothing but rapacious individuals each out for number one. It seems like a premise of the debates is that all Republicans think alike, so the only thing to decide is the character and tone you want in a leader (ranging from a blowhard like Trump to a soft sell like Carson).

    For more along these lines, see Jacob Hacker/Paul Person: No Cost for Extremism. Subhed: "Why the GOP hasn't (yet) paid for its march to the right."

Monday, October 26, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25653 [25626] rated (+27), 447 [449] unrated (-2).

Rated count slipped a bit, mostly because I lost a day-plus cooking up another chapter in my birthday dinner series. Tried my hand at Cuban cuisine this time, something I've sampled in restaurants not much more than a half-dozen times (mostly one in Royal Oak, MI, although we lucked into a very good place southwest of Miami). I've done a lot of Spanish (and Basque and Catallan and Portuguese, so should I say Iberian?) dishes, but very little from south of the border (aside from a massive feijoada one birthday). As with Spanish, Cubans use a lot of garlic but not much in the way of chilis. I've never liked the peppers that dominate Mexican cuisine, although I should figure out my way around them (as I've done with Indian, Thai, and Indonesian) given that the hardest part of any exotic cuisine is the shopping, and there are countless Mexican stores in these parts. (Actually, for this dinner I picked up most of the less conventional ingredients not from the bilingual Kroger but from a large Vietnamese grocer I frequent -- among other things, the only place in town I can get salt cod.)

More details on the dinner in the notebook. Suffice it to say that despite some very poor planning and last-minute panicking pretty much everything came out splendid. Good company too, although by the time I was finished I was a bit too frazzled to get into it. Much on my mind was the thought that I'm getting too old for this sort of thing. No one thought to take pictures. Where's Max Stewart when you really need him? Also nostalgic for so many previous guests, especially Liz Jones, who inspired the first few dinners (and has long since lost touch), and the late Liz Fink -- people who really appreciated good food. (Liz, of course, was represented by her dog Sadie, who earned the title sous-chef by always being under my feet.)

While cooking, I suspended my usual listening work and played oldies, starting with the Beatles and winding up with Atlantic R&B. The former hadn't happened in many years, but when I went out to shop for the meal, before I could pop a CD in -- I had picked out Rumba en el Patio by Conjunto Kubavana (1944-47) -- a song came on which struck me as the most completely marvelous thing I've ever heard: "All My Loving." I probably hadn't heard it since shortly after I bought the With the Beatles CD, but I found myself intimately familiar with every note and harmony. It was followed by Elvis Presley singing "All Shook Up," by comparison merely great, then something else I only vaguely recognized and didn't care for.

Most of this week's list already appeared in October's Rhapsody Streamnotes. I noted there how many of my jazz picks were by (or featured) saxophonists, so maybe I'm compensating a bit for that here. My two top HMs this week -- Rich Halley's Eleven and Scott Hamilton's Live in Bern -- are by long-time personal favorites who have already scored A- records this year (Creating Structure and Plays Jule Styne). I have minor quibbles about both, but I haven't been conscientious enough to do the A:B comparisons to see which is really the better record. I will say that there is some terrific music on both. Instead, I went with another long-time favorite saxophonist, Rodrigo Amado. I suppose one could quibble there too, but Joe McPhee (who has another A- record this year) adds extra bite to some of the year's most impressive sax runs.

The best post-RS record on the list is Marty Grosz's debut. I noticed that Rhapsody added some old Grosz Jazzology titles, and worked my way back. I mostly listen to avant-jazz these days, but I still hold to the idea that the old jazz is the real jazz, so guys like Grosz are always on my radar. Grosz was born a year before Bix Beiderbecke died, and well into his 80s he's still active -- his Fat Babies album Diga Diga Doo is also on this year's A-list.

No comments so far on my question whether it'd be worthile to do another Turkey Shoot/Black Friday Special this year. I dropped the ball last year and no one picked it up -- I had hopes for Odyshape, but they crashed shortly before. I don't want to do the heavy lifting this year -- soliciting and editing entries -- but would be willing to format and post it and might even contribute something. So let me know if you want to volunteer. Time is running out. I'm not going to bring this up again.


New records rated this week:

  • Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin: Lost Time (2015, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rodrigo Amado: This Is Our Language (2012 [2015], Not Two): [cd]: A-
  • Randy Brecker: Randy Pop: Live (2015, Piloo): [cd]: B
  • Art "Turk" Burton and Congo Square: Spirits: Then & Now (1983-2015 [2015], ATB): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Marnix Busstra: Firm Fragile Fun (2015, Buzz Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Rich Halley 4: Eleven (2014 [2015], Pine Eagle): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live in Bern (2014 [2015], Capri): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Alfred 23 Harth/Jörg Fischer/Marcel Daemgen: Confucius Tarif Reduit (2014 [2015], Spore Point): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dale Head: Swing Straight Up (2015, Blujazz): [cd]: B
  • Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid (2015, Blue Engine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Innerroute: Fourmation (2015, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bill Kirchner: An Evening of Indigos (2014 [2015], Jazzheads, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Frank Kohl Quartet: Invisible Man (2013 [2015], Pony Boy): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John Kruth: The Drunken Wind of Life: The Poem/Songs of Tin Ujevic (2015, Smiling Fez): [bc]: A-
  • Amy LaVere and Will Sexton: Hallelujah I'm a Dreamer (2015, Archer): [r]: A-
  • Russ Lossing: Eclipse (2012 [2015], Aqua Piazza): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hans Luchs: Time Never Pauses (2015, OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Whitney Marchelle: Dig Dis (2015, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Matt Mitchell: Vista Accumulation (2015, Pi, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ben Patterson: For Once in My Life (2015, Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Scottish National Jazz Orchestra/Makoto Ozone: Jeunehomme: Mozart Piano Concerto No 9 K-271 (2014 [2015], Spartacus): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Voicehandler: Song Cycle (2013-14 [2015], Humbler): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lou Volpe: Tremembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra) (2015, Jazz Guitar): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bastian Weinhold: Cityscape (2014 [2015], Frame Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Galen Weston: Plugged In (2015, Blujazz): [cd]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Willem Breuker Kollektief: Angoulême 18 Mai 1980 (1980 [2015], Fou, 2CD): [cd]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Marty Grosz and His Honoris Causa Jazz Band: Hooray for Bix! (1957 [1958], Good Time Jazz): [r]: A-
  • Marty Grosz with Destiny's Tots: Sings of Love and Other Matters (1986, Jazzology): [r]: A-
  • Marty Grosz: Songs I Learned at My Mother's Knee & Other Low Joints (1992 [1994], Jazzology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marty Grosz: Keep a Song in Your Soul (1994, Jazzology): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Bill Kirchner Nonet: One Starry Night (1987 [2011], Jazzheads): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • June Bisantz: It's Always You: June Bisantz Sings Chet Baker Vol. 2 (self-released)
  • Bizingas: Eggs Up High (NCM East): November 6
  • Bobby Bradford-Frode Gjerstad Quartet: The Delaware River (NoBusiness): CDR of LP-only
  • The Katie Bull Group Project: All Hot Bodies Radiate (Ashokan Indie): November 10
  • John Carter: Echoes From Rudolph's (1977, NoBusiness, 2CD)
  • Agedoke Steve Colson: Tones for Harriet Tubman/Sojourner Truth/Frederick Douglass (Silver Sphinx, 2CD)
  • Joseph Daley/Warren Smith/Scott Robinson: The Tuba Trio Chronicles (JoDa Locust Street Music): January 1
  • Giovanni Di Domenico/Peter Jacquemyn/Chris Corsano: A Little Off the Top (NoBusiness): CDR of LP-only
  • Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden: Frictions/Frictions Now (NoBusiness)
  • Amina Figarova: Blue Whisper (In + Out)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Big Band Holidays (Blue Engine): October 30
  • Martin Küchen/Jon Rune Strøm/Tollef Østvang: Melted Snow (NoBusiness): CDR of LP-only
  • Martin Küchen/Johan Berthling/Steve Noble: Night in Europe (NoBusiness)
  • Ingrid Laubrock: Ubatuba (Firehouse 12): November 6
  • Jon Lindberg/Anil Eraslan: Juggling Kukla (NoBusiness): CDR of LP-only
  • Roy McGrath Quartet: Martha (JL Music): November 6
  • Rova: Channeling Coltrane: Electric Ascension / Cleaning the Mirror (RogueArt, 2DVD): January 7
  • Ramana Veiera: Fado Da Vida (Fate of Life)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Weekend Roundup

No real time to write this week's roundup -- it's my birthday and I'm busy cooking (see the notebook for the menu). But I do have a bunch of links open in various tabs and I thought I might share them before they become stale. In no particular order:

  • Uri Avinery: The Settler's Prussia: In the 19th century, Germany was, fatefully, taken over by a marginal state on its far northeastern border, Prussia. Avinery sees the settler movement doing something like that in Israel. Also see Avinery's Weep, Beloved Country.

  • Andrew J Bacevich: Yes, the US can leave Afghanistan:

    What we have here is temporizing dressed up in policy drag. It is a gesture designed to convey an appearance of purposefulness to an enterprise whose actual purpose has long since vanished in the mists of time.

    Having inherited from his predecessor two wars begun in 2001 and 2003, respectively, Obama will bequeath those same two wars to the person who will succeed him as president in 2017. It is incumbent upon Americans to contemplate the implications of this disturbing fact. By their very endlessness, the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq constitute a judgment on American statecraft, one further compounded by the chaos now enveloping large swaths of the Islamic world. Here are the consequences that stem from misunderstanding military power and misusing a military instrument once deemed unstoppable.

    Only by owning up to the mindless failure of U.S. military efforts since 9/11 does it become possible to restore real choice. Alternatives to open-ended war waged on the other side of the globe do exist. Contrary to Carter's lame insistence, the United States can leave Afghanistan. Protecting Americans from the relatively modest threat posed by the Taliban or Al Qaeda or Islamic State -- or all three combined for that matter -- does not require the permanent stationing of U.S. forces in the Islamic world, especially given the evidence that the presence of American troops there serves less to pacify than to provoke.

    Bacevich also wrote a more substantial piece at TomDispatch, On Building Armies (and Watching Them Fail).

  • Peter Beinart: Trump Is Right About 9/11: As was well known if not at the time then shortly after, there were a number of concrete things the Bush administration could have done that might have kept 9/11 from happening. Terrorism "czar" Richard Clarke was especially unhappy about how Bush's neocons dropped the ball on Al-Qaeda, and Beinart dredges up all that story -- one that few in the press seem to recall, but which makes Trump's reminder that 9/11 happened during Bush's presidency appear to have more weight. Beinart could have made an even stronger case had he pointed out some of the things Bush did to aggravate tensions in the Middle East, such as his Clinton-esque bombing of Iraq and his support for Sharon's Counter-Intifada in Palestine. One might counter that Trump has unrealistic notions about what presidents can do, but that's a big part of his charm (or absurdity).

  • Tom Carson: 'Spies' Like Us: Steven Spielberg and the Cold War's Forgotten Battles: Review of Bridge of Spies and the Cold War it illuminates, for once.

  • Kathleen Frydl: Donald Trump and the Know-Nothings: More useful as an historical excursion into the short-lived 1850s nativist party than as an analysis of Trump himself, but that's because the "Know Nothings" were more colorful and their ignorance was more florid. One of history's great truisms: stupid people in the past could be interesting, but stupid people today are just tiresome.

  • Assaf Gavron: Confessions of an Israeli traitor:

    The internal discussion in Israel is more militant, threatening and intolerant than it has ever been. Talk has trended toward fundamentalism ever since the Israeli operation in Gaza in late 2008, but it has recently gone from bad to worse. There seems to be only one acceptable voice, orchestrated by the government and its spokespeople, and beamed to all corners of the country by a clan of loyal media outlets drowning out all the others. Those few dissenters who attempt to contradict it -- to ask questions, to protest, to represent a different color from this artificial consensus -- are ridiculed and patronized at best, threatened, vilified and physically attacked at worst. Israelis not "supporting our troops" are seen as traitors, and newspapers asking questions about the government's policies and actions are seen as demoralizing. [ . . . ]

    The cumulative effect of this recent mindless violence is hugely disturbing. We seem to be in a fast and alarming downward swirl into a savage, unrepairable society. There is only one way to respond to what's happening in Israel today: We must stop the occupation. Not for peace with the Palestinians or for their sake (though they have surely suffered at our hands for too long). Not for some vision of an idyllic Middle East -- those arguments will never end, because neither side will ever budge, or ever be proved wrong by anything. No, we must stop the occupation for ourselves. So that we can look ourselves in the eyes. So that we can legitimately ask for, and receive, support from the world. So that we can return to being human.

  • Ed Kilgore: The Cult of the Second Amendment:

    And to a remarkable extent, the default position of conservatives has less and less to do with arguments about the efficacy of gun regulation or the need for guns to deter or respond to crime. Instead, it's based on the idea that the main purpose of the Second Amendment is to keep open the possibility of revolutionary violence against the U.S. government.

    This was once an exotic, minority view even among gun enthusiasts who tended to view the Second Amendment as protecting an individual right to gun ownership not to overthrow the government but to supplement the government's use of lethal force against criminals. [ . . . ]

    Nowadays this revolutionary rationale for gun rights is becoming the rule rather than the exception for conservative politicians and advocates. Mike Huckabee, a sunny and irenic candidate for president in 2008, all but threatened revolutionary violence in his recent campaign book for the 2016 cycle, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy:

    If the Founders who gave up so much to create liberty for us could see how our government has morphed into a ham-fisted, hypercontrolling "Sugar Daddy," I believe those same patriots who launched a revolution would launch another one. Too many Americans have grown used to Big Government's overreach. They've been conditioned to just bend over and take it like a prisoner [!]. But in Bubba-ville, the days of bending are just about over. People are ready to start standing up for freedom and refusing to take it anymore.

    Dr. Ben Carson, another candidate thought to be a mild-mannered Christian gentleman, recently disclosed that he used to favor modest gun control measures until he came to realize the importance of widespread gun ownership as a safeguard against "tyranny."

    "When you look at tyranny and how it occurs, the pattern is so consistent: Get rid of the guns," Carson told USA Today. [ . . . ]

    Indeed, a lot of Second Amendment ultras appear to think the right to revolution is entirely up to the individual revolutionary.

    My own view is that the second amendment was meant to ensure that state militias would be able to fight the Civil War, although the other obvious reading had to do with fighting Indians. Both meanings had become obsolete by 1900, and civilians have never had a significant role in fighting against criminals. The second amendment wasn't repealed then because it didn't seem to be all that harmful -- no least because the courts consistently ruled against an individual right to guns. That's only changed recently, and the full impact has yet to be felt, but what's disturbing about it isn't just the increase in the number of guns out there and the number of (often incompetent) people carrying them, but the sheer nonsense gun advocates wind up spouting. One stupid idea is that if everyone was armed we'd all wind up treating each other with more proper respect. A deeper one is that we're shifting responsibility for managing conflict from law and the courts to the streets. Then there's the notion Kilgore dwells on, that because individuals have a right to own guns they have a right to use them to oppose the rule of law when they (alone) find it unjust. The latter is often used not just to rationalize gun ownership but to permit individuals to own ever more powerful firearms because that's what it would take to neutralize the power of the state. The problem here is not just practical -- after all, we're talking about a state that owns AC-130 gunships that can fire thousands of rounds of depleted uranium per minute, and that's not even the scariest example. The real problem is that it gives up on making sure the state is responsible to the public in a fair and equitable way.

  • Nancy LeTourneau: What I Learned From Watching the Benghazi Hearing: Mostly, that Clinton kept her cool through eleven hours of idiots trying to rile her. But also it has something to do with the word preferences between Republicans and the administration, not that I get all the nuances there. For example, I tire of hearing the word "terrorist" used so indiscriminately: partly because it seems to be all it takes to gain license to kill someone (and perhaps a few others in the vicinity), partly because it seems like much (if not most) of the real terror is perpetrated by the so-called anti-terrorists. Still, lest the Republicans turn Clinton into some sort of heroic figure, see Jason Ditz: Bizarre Revisionism: Hillary Claims Libya Shows Consequences of US Military Withdrawals.

  • Mark LeVine: The tide is turning against Zionist extremism:

    As the inherent contradiction between Israel's self-image as a modern, democratic and progressive country and the reality of a half-century-long brutal occupation become clear to all, the erosion of support for Israel by the emerging generation of American Jews will continue and likely increase, with profound consequences not just for Israel but also for the future of the American Jewish community.

    For an example LeVine didn't cite, see Two establishment Jews (Harvard and Microsoft) endorse boycott of Israel and 'single state' in Washington Post.

  • Josh Marshall: Netanyahu Reduced to Defending Hitler, Really . . .: This is the first piece I saw on Netanyahu's speech to the World Zionist Congress, where he argued that Hitler "just wanted to deport the Jews" until he met exiled Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, whose answer to Hitler's "So what should I do with them?" was "Burn them." With the Palestinian Revolt of 1937-39 failed, al-Husseini went into exile and spent WWII in Nazi Germany. It is known that he met with Hitler once, in 1941, and Israelis have been trying to make mountains out of that mole hill ever since. Still, it seems bizarre that any Israeli, much less the Prime Minister, would try to make Hitler seem less horrific just to blame some Palestinian -- anything, I guess, to distract from all of Israel's self-inflicted problems. More links on this:

  • Gareth Porter: Why the US Owns the Rise of Islamic State and the Syria Disaster:

    The causal chain begins with the role of the U.S. in creating a mujahedeen force to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Osama bin Laden was a key facilitator in training that force in Afghanistan. Without that reckless U.S. policy, the blowback of the later creation of al-Qaida would very likely not have occurred. But it was the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq that made al-Qaida a significant political-military force for the first time. The war drew Islamists to Iraq from all over the Middle East, and their war of terrorism against Iraqi Shiites was a precursor to the sectarian wars to follow.

    The actual creation of Islamic State is also directly linked to the Iraq War. The former U.S. commander at Camp Bucca in Iraq has acknowledged that the detention of 24,000 prisoners, including hard-core al-Qaida cadres, Baathist officers and innocent civilians, created a "pressure cooker for extremism." It was during their confinement in that camp during the U.S. troop surge in Iraq 2007 and 2008 that nine senior al-Qaida military cadres planned the details of how they would create Islamic State.

  • Gareth Porter: The US Could End Saudi War Crimes in Yemen -- It Just Doesn't Want To:

    According to a joint report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2,682 civilian deaths and injuries resulted from air bombardment in Yemen from late March to the end of July 2015 -- more than anywhere else in the world during the first seven months of the year.

    The Saudis have also imposed a tight blockade on Yemen by air, land and water, to prevent not only weapons, but also food, fuel and medicine from reaching millions of Yemenis, creating a humanitarian disaster. Doctors Without Borders declared in July that the Saudi blockade was killing as many people in Yemen as the bombing. US Navy ships have been patrolling alongside Saudi ships to prevent arms from entering Yemen, while disclaiming any involvement in the Saudi-led blockade of food, fuel and medical supplies.

    The Amnesty report points out that the United States has a legal obligation under the Arms Trade Treaty not to provide weaponry it knows will be used in the indiscriminate bombing of Yemen. Article 6 of that treaty, which entered into force in October 2014, forbids the transfer of arms and munitions to a party to an armed conflict if it has knowledge that the weaponry will be used for "attacks directed against civilian objects or civilians protected as such, or other war crimes as defined by international agreements to which it is a party."

    I suspect one reason for Obama's reluctance to criticize Saudi Arabia for killing civilians in Yemen is that the US had been doing exactly that through its drone program for many years now. Some details of that (plus much more) appear in Cora Currie: The Kill Chain: The Lethal Bureaucracy Behind Obama's Drone War.

  • Jon Schwarz: A Short History of US Bombing of Civilian Facilities, and Tom Engelhardt: The US Has Bombed at Least Eight Wedding Parties Since 2001: Two immediate (and rather obvious) responses to the US bombing of a Médicins Sans Frontières hospital in Afghanistan. The Schwarz piece includes a cartoon with a quote from Obama's then-latest mass shooting speech (the one in Oregon).

  • Nathan Thrall: The End of the Abbas Era:

    For Abbas, political survival depended on making significant gains before any of this occurred. His strategy entailed several gambles. First, that providing Israel with security, informing on fellow Palestinians, and suppressing opposition to the occupation would convince Israel's government that Palestinians could be trusted with independence. Second, that after Palestinians had met US demands to abandon violence, build institutions and hold democratic elections, the US would put pressure on Israel to make the concessions necessary to establish a Palestinian state. Third, that after being invited to participate in legislative elections, Hamas would win enough seats to be co-opted but too few to take over. Fourth, that by improving the Palestinian Authority economy and rebuilding its institutions, Abbas would buy enough time to achieve Palestinian statehood.

    In all four respects, he came up short. Israel took his security co-operation for granted and the Israeli public did not demand that its government reward Abbas for his peaceful strategy. The US did not apply the necessary pressure to extract significant concessions from Israel. Hamas won the legislative elections, took over Gaza, and refused to adopt Abbas's political programme (though Hamas's victory also strengthened international support for Abbas, as the international community shifted from democracy promotion to democracy prevention). And West Bankers, though dependent on the jobs and economic infrastructure provided by the PA, also resent it, and have lost whatever faith they once had that Abbas's strategy could succeed. According to an opinion poll taken last month, two-thirds of West Bankers and Gazans want him to resign.

Daily Log

Planning out birthday dinner (Cuban theme). Cookbooks:

  1. Ana Sofia Pelaez/Ellen Silverman: The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History
  2. Maricel E Presilla: Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America
  3. Regan Daley: In the Sweet Kitchen

Menu:

  1. Pollo Frito a la Criolla: chicken [1:149]
  2. Picadillo a Caballo: ground beef + potatoes [1:157]
  3. Rabo Alcaparrado: oxtail in caper sauce [1:166]
  4. Camarones Enchilados: shrimp [1:189]
  5. Mariscos en Salsa de Coco: seafood in coconut sauce [1:194]
  6. Potaje de Frijoles Negros: black beans (meat variation) [1:113]
  7. Elotes con Crema y Quesa Plaza de San Francisco: corn on the cob [2:237]
  8. Ensalada de Aguacate: avocado salad [1:211]
  9. Calabaza con Mojo: calabaza [1:224]; or: Ensalada de Calabaza y Pino: with pineapple and cacao nibs [2:558]
  10. Arroz Blanco: white rice [1:121]
  11. Café Cubano [1:45]
  12. Oatmeal Stout Cake with a Chewy Oat Topping and Orance Date Ice Cream: [3:384,555]

I split the calabaza in half and made both dishes -- each impressive in its own way although the broiled pineapple made a difference. On the other hand, I ran out of burners, and out of time. I ditched the Mariscos en Salsa de Coco and moved the scallops I had marinated into the shrimp dish. I'm not sure I really got it right, although it wasn't bad. Also never got to the avocado salad, nor to the coffee. I also cut back and only made a half-recipe of rice. That turned out to be a good decision, given that we still had some leftover. Minor quibbles on the food -- the picadillo was not as good as last time I fixed it (possibly the victim of the last-minute rush); the beans could have been softer; the corn seemed to lose heat quickly, and the cotijo cheese tended to flake off; the ox-tail wasn't easy to serve (four big pieces, a few very small ones) but was a revelation if you were able to dig the meat out; some of the dates in the ice cream were tough (I'd almost say leathery). The last-minute rush got me flustered, and left the kitchen a complete mess.

I had only made Cuban food a couple times before, and only had one real cookbook to work out of. Nearly all the dishes are braises, so the tendency is to collect a lot of pots on the stove toward the end. I had six burners operating, and needed two more. I should have done more of the prep up front -- nearly everything was built on the same sofrito. Still, came out pretty good. Had ten people, so the table was pretty crowded.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Rhapsody Streamnotes (October 2015)

Pick up text here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Counter-Intifada Grows Desperate

I don't really understand what's been going on there over the last few weeks, other than that it this episode of escalating violence isn't all that different from every other one -- in that it's mostly explained by the exhaustion of hope for change by any means other than yet another mass uprising. In 1989, as 22 years of military rule over the Occupied Territories turned increasingly rote and rigid, numb and dumb, with the Palestinian political leadership broken and scattered, the popular revolt that broke out was called the intifada -- an Arabic word denoting a tremor, shivering, shuddering, derived from nafada meaning to shake, to shake off, to get rid of. It was an almost involuntary response to the daily grind of oppression, and it took the PLO as much by surprise as it shocked Israel's security czars. Their kneejerk reaction then was summed up in Yitzhak Rabin's vow to "break the bones" of those who would dare protest against Israeli power. Nearly all of the violence was the work of Israelis, who killed hundreds of Palestinians, injured and/or detained thousands, and looked foolish. The worst the Palestinians did was to throw rocks at the armed gendarmes, not exactly textbook nonviolence but for two peoples who grew up on the stories of David and Goliath, more an act of symbolic than physical resistance.

Rabin eventually saw the the way out of the embarrassment of the Intifada was to insert a buffer layer of Palestinian "leaders" between the Israeli masters and most of the Palestinian masses: a role that Yassir Arafat all too readily agreed to, as long as it was sugar-coated with vague promises of future Palestinian independence. This was the Oslo "peace process" -- by design it spurred a redoubling of Israeli efforts to "create facts on the ground" (Israel's jargon for building illegal settlements and outposts on occupied Palestinian land) while forces on both sides -- and not just the "extremists" like Kach-ist settlers and Hamas -- worked to poison the agreement. We can only speculate on what might have happened had Rabin not been assassinated; had his successor, Shimon Peres, not recklessly provoked a wave of Hamas terrorism which got him voted out; had Benjamin Netanyahu not come to power and used that power to subvert the "process"; had Ehud Barak, elected with a mandate to deliver the "final status" negotiations, not gotten cold feet, reneged on his promises, tore up the Oslo agreement, initiated the so-called "Second Intifada" while ushering Ariel Sharon into power to nail the coffin shut. But what we know now is that the growing power of Israel's settler movement, its militarist security state, and its right-wing political parties, has buried, as far into the future as we can see, any prospect for equal rights, for justice and peace, under Israel's yoke.

It's unfair to blame the Second Intifada for killing Oslo, but the resort to violence by Hamas and factions of the PLO, especially the practice of "suicide bombing," helped to harden right-wing Israeli attitudes and determination. I always thought the two Intifadas were completely different phenomena: the former a spontaneous mass revolt in the face of Israel's overwhelming potential violence; the latter a calculated attempt by small cadres of militants to show Israel's powers that their subversion of the "peace process" must have adverse consequences for the Israeli people. The former exposed the rotten truth about Israel's "enlightened occupation"; the latter revealed that in a naked test of violence with Israel the Palestinians never stood a chance.

The great failure of Arafat's political leadership was that he was never able to move beyond his famous UN speech where he offered Israel the choice of peace or war, symbolized by an olive branch and an AK-47. When he failed to negotiate a "final status" deal with Barak in 2000 -- which as we now know was almost totally Barak's fault -- his natural instinct was to pick up the gun. It's not clear to me that's what he did: he always held out the hope for further negotiations, but he couldn't distance himself from the militants without admitting that he had no control over them, and as such no leverage against Israel (or for that matter use to Israel). The notion that Arafat launched the "Al-Aqsa Intifada" -- the term widely abused to associate the Second Intifada with the Moslem holy site, hence with Jihad -- is as ridiculous as the notion that Arafat rejected "unprecedentedly generous offers" at Camp David. Besides, we now know the Intifada was something the Palestinians were goaded into: by Barak's self-serving spin after Camp David, by Sharon's massive armed "visit" to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and most of all by Chief of Staff Shaul Moffaz's decision to open fire on Palestinian demonstrators against Sharon's provocations. It's never seemed quite right to view the violence of 2000-05 as an intifada when it was originally set up as an ambush.

It's hard to change long-established terminology, but it would make more sense to refer to the 2000-05 ("Second Intifada") period as the Counter-Intifada. The original Intifada led to the Oslo Agreements and the "peace process" which the Counter-Intifada destroyed: that much should by now be perfectly clear. One can debate whether the Counter-Intifada ever ended: Arafat died in November 2004, depriving the Intifada of its most prominent boogeyman (his successor, Mahmoud Abbas, was so firmly opposed to the Intifada that he was useless as an enemy face, a role that was quickly shifted to Hamas); Sharon withdrew Israeli settlements from Gaza in September 2005; in 2006 Hamas called a truce, and entered the Palestinian Authority's electoral system, winning a landslide before being cut off by a US-sponsored coup attempt. And while Israel's military actions against Palestinians never really subsided, including massive shellings against Gaza in 2006 (and 2008-09 and 2012 and 2014), the violence was at least temporarily eclipsed by Israel's brutal 2006 bombardment of Lebanon (Condoleezza Rice's notorious "birth pangs of a new Middle East").

Levels of eruptive violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have waxed and waned, but Israel has always threatened and exercised much more violence in its efforts to control Palestinians. In most years since 1967, the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces is ten times as many as the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian "terrorists." Ironically, the ratio drops to about four-to-one in 2001-03, the one (and only) period where there was significant armed Palestinian resistance. (By the way, the distinction between "eruptive" and "potential" violence is a key concept in the book The One State Condition: Occupation and Democracy in Israel/Palestine, by Ariella Azoulay and Adi Ophir. Eruptive violence is something that Israelis and Palestinians can compete at, but potential violence totally favors Israel: it is, for instance, what allows Israel to require permits, to impose checkpoints, to pick up and hold prisoners. Comparing the ratios of killed or injured, even when we're talking ten-to-one, doesn't even hint at balancing the power scales.)

Most eruptive violence is, at least as rationalized by those who perpetrate it, retaliatory, which means as a first approximation is perpetual, a self-sustaining cycle. However, the actual incidence is far from regular. Palestinians, who suffer disproportionately, are more likely to declare unilateral truces and less likely to break them. And while Palestinians will sometimes inflict violence just to remind Israel that Israel's own violence will not go unanswered, Israelis put much more stock in the deterrence value of violence. Moreover, Israelis are much more likely to see violence as a path to personal advancement. For starters, a majority of Israel's Prime Ministers built their careers on their military records -- more if you count paramilitary terrorists like Begin and Shamir. And as Israel continues its drift toward the extreme right, even mainstream politicians take on genocidal airs.

But while Israel's eruptive violence never seems to go away -- the one exception was the year-and-a-half from when Barak won with his peace mandate in 1998 until he squandered it at Camp David and let Sharon run amok at Al-Aqsa in 2000 -- the eagerness of Palestinian militants to match Israel's violence with their own seems to roughly correlate with a generational (12-15 year) cycle -- making this year's uptick in stabbings seem like a harbinger of a third Intifada. I think three things are going on here: (1) people confuse intifada -- a significant increase in activism meant to "throw off" the occupier -- with violence, a tactic that cannot conceivably stand up against the military and police power of Israel; (2) much of the talk of Intifada comes from militant groups seeking to exploit widespread discontent for their own sectarian purposes (or, conversely, from Israelis who see the militants as their ticket to more devastating repression; (3) while at the same time a rigorously non-violent intifada, aimed at soliciting international support especially for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, has been the predominant political expression of Palestinians for the last decade -- Israelis hope that by provoking more violence they can draw attention away from non-violent and increasingly international organization.

The uptick in violence that's been getting the most attention (at least in the US press) concerns stabbing attacks, notably in Jerusalem. The location is significant because Netanyahu's administration has been especially active in building Jewish-only settlements and in isolating Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. One thing that can drive people to desperate acts of violence is hopelessness, and life for Palestinians in East Jerusalem has never been grimmer. I've yet to see a comprehensive report on such events (maybe one will show up in the links below), but my initial impression is that the stabbings are ineffective even on their own terms: hardly any of the people stabbed die, few are injured seriously, while nearly all of the stabbers are quickly apprehended and/or killed on the spot. Rather, this seems like some form of suicide ritual. Some years back one of Israel's security gurus said that the goal of the occupation was to convince Palestinians that they are "an utterly defeated people." When I read that I didn't know what it might look like, but here it is.

Of course, what I just said only applies to Palestinians attempting to stab Jews. There have been a similar number of Israeli Jews stabbing Palestinians (plus at least one case of an Israeli Jew stabbing a Mizrahi Jew mistaken as Arab). In those cases the assailant is much less likely to be apprehended, let alone gunned down immediately. And if arrested, the Israeli Jew is less likely to be convicted, and far less likely to serve any significant time behind bars. Israel has different courts for Jews and Palestinians, different laws, different rights of appeal, and different punishments -- there is, for instance, no death penalty for Israeli citizens, but Palestinians are routinely targeted extrajudicially. Again, I haven't seen a clear statistical analysis, but a casual review of news items (Kate's compendia at Mondoweiss is a good source) suggests that Israeli settlers have become much more violent in the last couple of years, and that officials are doing little to curb their enthusiasm.

Israel's elections last year brought the most extreme right government to power in the nation's history, with Netanyahu finally making explicit his opposition to any form of peace settlement. His cabinet includes members who have called for the forcible expulsion of all Palestinians, in some cases Israeli citizens as well as the unfortunate inhabitants of the Occupied Territories. Last year Israel stepped up harassment of the West Bank, then turned to a 51-day bombardment of Gaza where its kill rate rivals that of Syria's Assad regime. (For some reason you never hear about Israel "killing its own people" like Saddam and the Kurds or Assad and the Sunnis although the ethnic differences are comparable.) Lately various Israeli religious leaders have issued ruling that aim to legitimize indiscriminate killing of Palestinians, while the Netanyahu government has adopted the policy of shooting stone throwers.

If you know one thing about Israel it should be the utter unwillingness of its right-wing political class to do anything to mitigate a conflict that goes back 50 or 70 or 100 years. (Amy Dockser Marcus' Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israel Conflict sees the origin in 1913 resolutions that committed Zionists to seeking exclusive power over Eretz Israel.) They grew up on that conflict, thrived even, advancing to the most prestigious positions in an increasingly militarized society. And quite frankly, they wouldn't know what to do without the conflict -- so they fight on, inventing new existential threats to replace vanquished ones. (Egypt might have been a real one had they focused on Israel but Nasser had other preoccupations. Syria was never a threat without Egypt as an ally. Iraq had actually fought Israel in 1948, but Saddam Hussein was much more interested in the Lebensraum to his east. And Iran, even under the Ayatollahs, had never been less than friendly toward Israel, but Netanyahu sold them to the Americans as a monstrous threat -- which worked because deep down Americans realized that Iran had good reason to hate the United States.) They even find threats hiding in the closets, like the so-called demographic problem. And they've so conditioned the Israeli public, long steeped in the legacy of Jewish victimhood from the razing of the ancient temples to the Holocaust, that every act against them, regardless of how trivial -- like the rockets from Gaza that never hit anything, or a vote from an American church group to divest from companies that profit from the occupation, or an agreement between Iran and the world ensuring that Iran won't develop nuclear weapons -- is received by ordinary Israelis as nothing less than bone-chilling terror.

The main thing you'll learn if you read Tom Segev's 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East is how split Israelis were over the coming war: on the one hand, the military leaders were utterly confident of victory; on the other hand, the Israeli public was completely terrified. Of course, overconfidence is endemic in the military (cf. Germany and Japan in WWII, everyone in WWI, Bush in Iraq), but has rarely been rewarded so quickly as when Israel attacked Egypt in 1967. Victory inflated the egos of all Israelis, especially the quaking masses who concluded they were protected not just by the IDF but by God. Israel's leaders were still cognizant enough of world (and especially American) opinion to treat lightly, but almost immediately a dynamic developed where civilians (notably the energized Gush Emunim) and politicians competed to see who could most aggressively expand the Yishuv onto Palestinian land, over the Palestinian people.

For many years, politicians like Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon exploited the settler movement for their own (mostly militarist) purposes, but under Netanyahu it's hard to tell who's pushing whom, in large part because the settler movement and the political powers have largely become one. Netanyahu's own contribution to this comes not just from his pedigree as right-wing royalty -- his father was Vladimir Jabotinsky's secretary in exile in New York -- as from his conceit that he is a master not just of Israeli but of American politics. Moshe Dayan famously said that "America gives us money, arms, and advise; we take the money and arms, and ignore the advice." Even as powerful a politician as Sharon had to humor George Bush when he came calling. Netanyahu, on the other hand, has repeatedly flaunted his contempt for Obama, confident that no matter what the President feels the US is stuck in its carte blanche support of all things Israeli.

Whether Netanyahu is right about America remains to be seen, but for how his position has freed Israel from any pretense of civility -- the last barrier against all sorts of ghastly policies. One could write a whole book about what right-wing Israelis are up to, both as officials and as vigilantes -- indeed, Max Blumenthal wrote one such, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, but his 2013 book already seems quaintly dated. The upshot is that a growing number of Israelis have decided that they can't abide the presence of non-Jews anywhere in Eretz Israel, even completely submissive ones. That's probably not a majority view yet, but one should recall that in 1937, when the British offered to "transfer" all the Arabs out of the proposed Jewish partition of Palestine, the notoriously pragmatic David Ben-Gurion was little short of ecstatic. (A decade later, Ben-Gurion engineered the nakba -- the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians from territory seized by Israel. Ben-Gurion argued against seizing more land in the 1967 war on grounds that this time the Arabs wouldn't flee, but like everyone else got caught up in the glory of Israel's "victory.") The fact is that as far back as 1913 "transfer" has been a fundamental (albeit sometimes tactically unspoken) plank of the Zionist platform. The question isn't whether a majority of Zionist-identified Israelis approve of "transfer" -- it's only whether it can be done cleanly, and even that matters less as Israel proves they can get away with ugly.

As it happens, Netanyahu is running two pilot projects to show the feasibility of "transfer" ("ethnic cleansing" is the more accurate term, even if it, too, is merely a euphemism -- the Serbs coined it at Srebrenica). One involves the Bedouin who have for ages lived in the Negev Desert in the southern quarter of Israel. The plan there is to force them off the land and move them into newly constructed Arab-only villages (synonyms are ghettos and concentration camps). This would allow Israel to build new Jewish-only settlements pushing ever further into the Desert. The other is in East Jerusalem, which Israel took from Jordan in the 1967 war and "annexed" days later. Israelis have been building Jewish-only neighborhoods ever since, but as "security tensions" increase they've become more aggressive at isolating and separating Palestinian neighborhoods. The latest round of closures, house demolitions, and exiles are clearly meant to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem, eventually aiming at a city where only Jews can live. And when that happens, demands to raze the Al-Aqsa Mosque and build a Third Temple -- something we already hear -- will be deafening.

For many years now critics have pointed out the similarities between Israel and other colonial settler states -- notably South Africa, with its Apartheid policies. The links if anything go deeper: Israelis call their foundation, in emulation of the United States, their War for Independence, but in fact Israel preserved nearly all of Britain's intrinsically racist colonial laws -- they merely reshuffled who was privileged and who was not. Ever since 1948, Palestinians under Israeli control have lived under unequal laws and an often brutal administration, impoverished by both formal and informal descrimination. But while growing inequality is a grave political and economic, indeed moral, problem in the US (and very likely within the Jewish segment of Israel), non-Jews under Israeli control are locked by birth into a life of perpetual crisis, one that is currently worsening, one which ultimately, at least on the individual level, is a matter of life or death.

Whether Israel arrives at the final solution that is the logical outcome of Zionist ideology and unchecked power ultimately depends on whether they can stop themselves. There are, for instance, some number of dissenters within Israel: some are explicitly anti-Zionist, some style themselves as post-Zionist; more are repulsed by the growing violence of the settler movement, or by the chokehold of established orthodox Judaism. The BDS movement is also likely to become more of a burden to Israel, especially if the atrocities the current regime seems to produce like clockwork mount and the credibility of Israeli hasbara wanes. Given how modest the BDS movement's goals are -- equal rights for all, the one thing we should all be able to compromise on -- one can't call BDS a threat to Israel, except inasmuch as Israelis insist that their privileges and prerogatives should be maintained to the exclusion of everyone else.


Some recent links:

  • Richard Silverstein: Third Intifada or Zionist Jihad: Israel Escalates Tensions With Execution Style Force: Surveys many recent events and argues that "Netanyahu has no strategy for addressing Palestinian grievances short of more force and more blood spilled from Israelis and Palestinians alike." Here are a couple samples:

    This video shows Ahmad after he was struck by the settler driver. Two Israeli ambulances arrive and emergency medical personnel approach, stand over him, and then withdraw. Bystanders curse the wounded 13-year-old boy, telling him: "Die, you son of a bitch," and goading police to shoot him.

    As of Wednesday, at least 31 Palestinians have been killed and as many as 1,200 others injured amid escalating clashes between Israeli security forces and protesters in Gaza and the West Bank in the past two weeks alone. During this period, eight Israelis have been killed and dozens others injured. [ . . . ]

    Those suspected of committing a terrorist act will have their residency permits revoked, effectively expelling them from Jerusalem. This is just one more instance in a series of acts of ethnic cleansing imposed by Israel.

    This is a return to the martial law regime which ruled over Israeli Palestinians from 1948-1966. Under these regulations, they were not governed by civil law, but by a military government which imposed a far more restrictive regime. This new development is yet another sign of devolution from democratic rule and values into a form of authoritarianism. It further reinforces the notion of apartheid in which Israeli Jews enjoy superior rights to the Arab minority. [ . . . ]

    On Sunday, Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport quoted a series of statements from various Israeli ministers and NGOs indicating that the government is at fault for inciting the latest wave of protests. He quotes the current culture minister, Miri Regev, who said a year ago: "It is unacceptable that Muslims should have freedom of worship on the Temple Mount, but not Jews." Regev, who was former chairman of the interior for the Knesset at the time, advocated a division of the site as exists at the Cave of the Patriarchs, where Baruch Goldstein murdered 29 Palestinians in 1994. [ . . . ]

    On Sunday, IDF soldiers raided the Bethlehem offices of the International Middle East Media Center, a Palestinian human rights organization which documents the activities of security personnel in the West Bank. Video surveillance footage shows a gang of soldiers breaking into the office at 4 a.m. They rampaged through the facility, overturning and breaking computers, destroying equipment and stealing files containing the records of informants.

    After a prior IDF break-in, the organization discovered that its informants were later arrested and harassed by security forces and threatened for engaging in the legal act of observing and documenting the actions of Israeli security personnel. [ . . . ]

    Last week, in one of the most heinous of a series of incidents in which Palestinians were killed by Israeli security and police forces, Fadi Alloun, a 20-year-old man from the village of Issawiya, was accosted by a mob of Israelis near Jerusalem's Old City. This unruly group, believing that Alloun had stabbed an Israeli Jew, pursued him, screaming: "Shoot him, shoot him!" They summoned the police, and when an officer arrived at the scene and exited his vehicle, he immediately shot and killed the Palestinian with multiple shots. [ . . . ]

    Over the weekend, a freelance journalist and Palestinian investigator for Human Rights Watch wearing a clearly marked "Press" sign, was shot three times -- twice with rubber bullets, and once with live ammunition -- by Israeli forces as she documented and photographed a protest. She could easily have been killed. Israeli forces have been known in the past to directly target and even kill Palestinian journalists covering unrest in a systematic assault on the press. [ . . . ]

    He continues, relaying the experiences of others on the ground, including a young man who drove his wounded friend to the hospital on Friday, journalists who agree that it seems "live bullets were fired at specific targets," and doctors who said "they were shocked at the numbers of victims with precise bullet wounds, which they say appeared to be deliberately aimed not to injure, but to kill or cause the maximum amount of damage." [ . . . ]

    It's important to note that Jewish terrorists are never shot, let alone murdered, when apprehended in the midst of an attack. After a Jew stabbed three Palestinians and a Bedouin in Dimona over the weekend, not a hair on his head was mussed. When Yaakov Schlissel murdered an Israeli woman at the Jerusalem Gay Pride Parade this summer, he wasn't harmed in any way. The only Jewish terrorists ever killed during commission of their acts of mass murder were Baruch Goldstein and Eden Natan Zenda, who were killed by their Palestinian victims. There are Israeli Jews who have the temerity to condemn Palestinians for taking the law into their own hands in these cases.

    The focus on Jerusalem in general and Al-Aqsa in particular seems intent on provoking the most devout Muslims (and perhaps also of messianic Jews) into acts of violence. I can't describe either the Mosque or the West Wall as "holy places" because I believe all such designations are ridiculous, and doing so only feeds the fantasy world of the "believers" -- something that has long hampered efforts to settle the conflict. The 1967 decision to carve out a Jewish space around the West Wall while leaving the Haram al-Sharif to the Waqf was a concession to coexistence that is increasingly rejected by right-wing Israelis: even those who don't particularly relish the erection of a Third Temple see it as a blight on Jewish power in the Jewish state. Those same people object not just to any sort of parity with non-Jews but to their very presence, especially in their Holy City. Pretty much everything that we are witnessing derives from the notion that the end game requires the elimination of non-Jews from Israel. Piecemeal this is becoming Israeli policy, dismantling all checks against the abuse of total power. Netanyahu and his ilk are being swept along by the mob, because they have no alternative vision.

  • Jonathan Cook: Chaos in Jerusalem is a warning of things to come:

    Strangely, in the face of all this, there are signs of a parallel breakdown of order and leadership on the Israeli side.

    Mobs of Jews patrol Jerusalem and Israeli cities, calling out "Death to the Arabs!" A jittery soldier causes pandemonium by firing his rifle in a train carriage after a bogus terror alert. An innocent Eritrean asylum seeker is shot by a security guard during an attack because he looks "Arab," then beaten to a pulp by a lynch mob that includes soldiers.

    Meanwhile, politicians and police commanders stoke the fear. They call for citizens to take the law into their own hands. Palestinian workers are banned from Jewish towns. Israeli supermarkets remove knives from shelves, while 8,000 Israelis queue up for guns in the first 24 hours after permit rules are eased.

    Some of this reflects a hysteria, a heightened sense of victimhood among Israelis, fuelled by the knife attack videos. But the mood dates to before the current upheavals.

    It is also a sign of the gradual leaching of the settler's lawlessness into the mainstream. A popular slogan from the past weeks is: "The army's hands are tied." Israeli civilians presumably believe they must take up arms instead.

  • Willa Frej: Violence Escalates in Jerusalem and West Bank: Scattered reporting, much familiar but this is another angle:

    Four Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv, voted Sunday to temporarily ban all Arab workers from their schools.

    "Entrance to cleaning and maintenance workers will be forbidden during school hours," the Hod Hasharon municipality wrote on its website.

    Israel's Education Ministry has yet to comment, but the Interior Ministry released a statement calling for municipalities to "continue to act with respect and equality towards all their workers, irrespective of religion, ethnicity or gender."

    Israeli police were also granted greater stop-and-frisk powers. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Sunday that these measures were about "preserving the status quo, we will continue to do so."

  • Meron Rapoport: The paradox of Jerusalem:

    The Palestinians in Jerusalem live in a very peculiar situation. They carry Israeli identity cards, so they enjoy freedom of movement denied to their fellow Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. But contrary to Palestinians living in Israel, they are not Israeli citizens and their temporary residency status could be abolished at any time.

    And above all, Jerusalemite Palestinians feel the burden of Israeli discrimination on a daily basis. While they represent 37 percent of the total population in the city, the poverty rate among them has reached 75 percent, a third of their youth drops out before finishing high school and 39 percent of their houses are built without permits. Events on al-Aqsa ignited a longstanding frustration built for many years.

    As always, Israel responded to the violent events in Jerusalem by tightening its security control over the Palestinian parts of the city, sending in thousands of extra police forces. It also gave these policemen almost an open hand to shoot to kill any Palestinian involved in attacks. "Any event in which policemen or civilians are hurt must end with the killing of the attacking terrorist," said Moshe (Chico) Edry, the commander of Jerusalem's police.

  • Ran HaCohen: What Israel Is Up to in Jerusalem:

    Once again, war atmosphere in Israel. In television day and night nothing but Palestinians stabbing, hurling, burning; current footage is recycled ad nauseam, and, a second before vomiting, reminders from previous Intifadas are aired, to place the present event in the right historical context. As the fruit juice seller told me, "It has always been like that: they always kill us. First Temple, Second Temple, the Crusades, the Holocaust, and now this." (He was overwhelmed when I wondered where the Amalekites had gone, who it was that killed them.) So you have on the one hand Palestinians armed with knives and stones -- not even bombs and guns this time -- and a regional nuclear superpower, one of the world's biggest exporters of weaponry on the other hand, and is quite obvious that the poor, innocent victim is the latter. When the Gods want to destroy a nation, they first make it blind. [ . . . ]

    In coping with the violence -- no community can tolerate daily stabbing of innocents on its streets -- Netanyahu has very little to offer. After all, he refused to negotiate with the Palestinians in years of relative quite (in 2012, for example, not a single Israeli was killed by Palestinian violence), so he won't start now. Demolishing terrorists' homes has been reintroduced as a means of deterrence, a decade after the Israeli army itself under Chief-of-Staff -- now Minister of Defense -- Ye'elon officially recommended stopping such demolitions. With one nuance, though: now Israel has taken the right not only to demolish the houses, but to confiscate their land as well. And this is significant. [ . . . ]

    The Palestinians constitute 35% of Jerusalem's population, a "demographic threat" in Israeli eyes. East Jerusalem is not cut off from West Jerusalem; this is hardly feasible, as East Jerusalem is packed with Jewish settlements. Instead, the Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem are further cut off from each other, encircled and besieged by checkpoints and concrete blocks. There are small extremist Jewish settlements even within many Palestinian neighborhood; the land of demolished houses will be given to them to expand. Palestinians in the strangulated Jerusalem neighborhood will have little choice but to leave to the West Bank enclaves; and, to make things even clearer, deportations and retraction of their Israeli citizenship are already considered. What is likely to take place now is not a division of Jerusalem, but rather its ethnic cleansing.

  • Sam Bahour: The Non-Violent Way Young Palestinians Are Flipping Israel's Script:

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has built his entire political career on a platform of violence against Palestinians. Leading up to his first election as prime minister in 1996 he publicly and aggressively mocked Israel's erstwhile prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, for entering into an interim peace agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The toxic environment Netanyahu operated in was partly behind the motivation of a Jewish extremist to assassinate Rabin. Netanyahu prides himself on being the leader who stopped the peace process in its tracks. To make sure peace would never have a chance, he accelerated settlement building in the West Bank, attacked Gaza multiple times, demolished more Palestinian homes, arrested Palestinians, including minors, often without charges, and failed to bring to justice the Jewish settlers who recently burned alive a Palestinian family while they slept in their home.

    But why does Israel seemingly seek violence? The answer is elementary to anyone following this conflict. Israel has a single gamebook against the legitimate Palestinian struggle for freedom and independence: that of using their well-oiled military machine to squash any Palestinian who attempts to resist occupation. Israel since 1948 and 1967 has routinely used war and violence to seize more land, all the while pushing Palestinians to either turn violent or emigrate.

    During the past few years, Israel found itself in a strategic bind. Palestinians shifted gears and started to operate in non-violent venues. Palestinians call it "smart resistance." New tools of resistance, such as calling for a boycott of Israeli products, divestment from Israeli investments, and working to get states to apply sanctions to Israel, contribute to this shift in strategy.

  • Philip Weiss: Facing down hecklers in NY, Gideon Levy calls for equal rights for all in one state: Levy offers what is probably the most succinct summary of the Israeli worldview:

    Levy says that Jewish Israelis have been able to live happily with occupation because of three deep-rooted beliefs/blindnesses: One, we are the chosen people, we can do anything we want, and international law doesn't apply to us. Two, we the Jews are the biggest victim in history and the only victim in history. Golda Meir said after the Holocaust Jews have the right to do whatever we want. And third, that Palestinians are not exactly human beings. "Killing Palestinians is not really a violation of human rights."

    Levy is equally succinct about what is happening today, and what needs to change:

    Now even Israeli Jewish society is threatened by "one lynch after another, day after day." Scenes that he had never thought even imaginable are occurring. [ . . . ]

    "The two state solution is in my view dead. The settlers won." And there is only one alternative: the one-state solution. It's not easy. I have no illusions. "But it is the only game that is in town . . . Therefore the struggle the discourse must be from now on I think a very simple one. Equal rights. That's all." [ . . . ]

    Levy says that only an international intervention will save Israel's "moral profile."

    Life in Israel is too good, Israel is too strong, and brainwashing is much too efficient to expect a change from within the Israeli society.

    No country in the world remains powerful when it lives only on its sword. . . . .

    The world must bring pressure on Israel so that it will consider whether it "is worth it" to continue the criminal occupation.

  • Kate, at Mondoweiss, continues to file two or three long posts every week, compiling many of the everyday news items that get overlooked. Here's just one little sample that caught my eye: Extremist settler kills 40 lambs:

    An Israeli settler ran over 40 lambs in the eastern part of the West Bank city of Nablus, on Tuesday evening. Owner Ayesh al-Da'ajneh said that one of his sons was taking care of the lambs as they were eating in a pasture at the edge of the city. "The Israeli vehicle approached the lambs and my son raised a light sign in his face thinking the settler had taken the wrong side of the road," Al-Da'ajneh said, according to Days of Palestine. He continued: "The settler hit the lambs several times and my son, who was unarmed, could not stop him." Forty lambs, out of 300, were killed and at least 20 others were wounded. Illegal Jewish Israeli settlers and armed forces frequently target Palestinian farmers, killing their sheep and cattle, as well as burning their crops.

    I've also found the rather schematic (and studiously matter-of-fact) lists at Wikipedia to be useful; notably:

    For a sample, the entry for October 20 (the most recent day listed) reads:

    • An Israeli soldier was lightly wounded, suffered scratches when a Palestinian, Udaay Hashim al-Masalma (24) reportedly tried to stab him during clashes at Beit Awwa, west of Hebron. Israeli sources say the incident occurred near the settlement of Negohot, and the assailant threw himself at troops. The suspect in turn was shot dead with a bullet to the head.
    • A settler from Kiryat Arba was killed when he was run over by a truck after he exited his car, which had been struck by rocks, and perhaps with a gun on him. The truck-driver turned himself in to Palestinian police, saying it was an accident.
    • A Palestinian, Hamzeh Moussa al-Imla (25) from Beit Ula, is reported to have rammed his car into Israelis at a bus stop at the Gush Etzion junction. 2 Israelis were injured, one lightly, the other moderately. He is said also either to have tried to stab people after getting out of his car, or to have been found with a knife on him.
    • 9 Gazan Palestinians were wounded by live fire, and one Ahmad al-Sarhi (27), was shot dead. 6 were wounded east of the al-Bureij refugee camp, and a further 3 were wounded near the Eretz Crossing.
    • 9 West Bank Palestinians were wounded by live fire, 3 in Bireh and 2 in Ni'lin.
    • Bashar Nidal al-Jabari (15) and Hussam Jamil al-Jabari (17) were shot dead at a checkpoint near the near the Rajabi house close to Kiryat Arba. It is alleged one of the two tried to stab a soldier. A soldier lightly wounded.

    That's one day, a rather ordinary one by present standards. The thing is it wouldn't take much effort to radically reduce this cycle of violence, only it has to be started by the people with the power to change things: the government of Israel.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25626 [25588] rated (+38), 449 [449] unrated (+0).

Last week was disrupted by a "sleep study": turns out I don't get enough oxygen when I sleep, which leads to all sorts of unfortunate side effects, ranging from heart trouble to early senility. I've been feeling exceptionally tired this week, and pretty stupid as well. Presumably an expensive treatment regimen will follow. That is, after all, the American way.

I did make a stab at a Weekend Roundup, but didn't get it done in time to post on Sunday. Look for it later this week -- hopefully tomorrow. Also, beware that it won't cover all the stupid things going on in the world right now. Thus far it's limited to Israel, and why the so-called Third Intifada is a ruse meant to derail an increasingly successful BDS movement by clouding the issue with senseless violence.

This week I hope to do some serious cooking. Birthday dinner is coming up. Hopefully we can find some guests. I'm thinking Cuban, which means I'll finally have to learn how to make coffee.

Usual mixed bag of records this week. Christgau recommended the Bottle Rockets and two John Kruth records. I didn't find the latest Kruth [PS: it's on Bandcamp], but took a look at holes in both back catalogs (I only knew Kruth from his duo with John Greene, Tribecastan). I also looked into Ulrich Gumpert's back catalog: a pianist from East Germany, he was at the center of one of the most adventurous jazz circles behind the Iron Curtain (along with Conrad Bauer, Günter Sommer, Klaus Koch, and the remarkable saxophonist, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky). Gumpert has one of this week's two new A- jazz records: the other I attribute to Joe McPhee but I've also seen an album cover with Jamie Saft's name in big print, and the pianist is clearly the one who holds it together.

Much more new jazz in the queue, including some real prospects. I got a large package of material from a Spanish label I wasn't familiar with: UnderPool. Also a package from my Dutch friends at ToonDist -- but it was a little light, omitting the new (and presumably last) one from ICP Orchestra. Reports are that the brilliant Misha Mengelberg has been sidelined with dementia -- very sad news, incredible given the mental dexterity of his work going back to the 1960s.

Among the stupider things I did this week was to write a letter to the Village Voice to inquire whether the new ownership might have any interest in reviving Jazz Consumer Guide. I'm not sure that's a good idea, but in my benighted state it seems at least like something I can still do.

Latest Rhapsody Streamnotes draft count is 104 records. I guess that means I'm due to release one in the next week or so. I should also note that I took a pass at a year-end list: actually, two, one for jazz and another for non-jazz. I expect to do much resorting before the actual end-of-year, as well as adding more records, so take this list with more than the usual grain of salt. One thing that is clear is that the jazz list is shaping up as close to last year's (currently 52 new records, vs. 69 last year), but I'm way short of last year's pace for non-jazz (33 vs. 76 last year). The latter almost certainly reflects lack of effort on my part. Even though I've kept a tracking file this year, it isn't very comprehensive nor have I made much effort tracking things down. I expect to do better by the actual end-of-year, but it's beginning to look like a tall order.


New records rated this week:

  • The Bottle Rockets: South Broadway Athletic Club (2015, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
  • A Bu Trio: 88 Tones of Black and White (2014 [2015], Blujazz, CD+DVD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • De Beren Gieren: One Mirrors Many (2015, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • East West Quintet: Anthem (2011 [2015], self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Eskmo: SOL (2015, Apollo): [r]: B+(**)
  • EZTV: Calling Out (2015, Captured Tracks): [r]: B
  • Ulrich Gumpert Quartett: A New One (2014 [2015], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis: Live in Cuba (2010 [2015], Blue Engine, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Left Exit Mr K: Featuring Michael Duch & Klaus Holm (2013 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Liberation Music Collective: Siglo XXI (2015, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Joe McPhee/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Charles Downs: Ticonderoga (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Mark Christian Miller: Crazy Moon (2015, Sliding Jazz Door Productions): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ben Monder: Amorphae (2010-13 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B
  • Tom Rainey Trio: Motel Grief (2015, Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Romano: If I've Only One Time Askin' (2015, New West): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue: Sounds and Cries of the World (2014 [2015], Pi): [cd]: B-
  • Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Hampus Lindwall: If Nothing Else (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ben Winkelman Trio: The Knife (2014 [2015], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • The Bottle Rockets: 24 Hours a Day (1997, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bottle Rockets: Leftovers (1998, Doolittle): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Bottle Rockets: Brand New Year (1999, Doolittle): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Bottle Rockets: Zoysia (2006, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ulrich Gumpert: Workshop Band (1978-79 [2008], Jazzwerkstatt, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ulrich Gumpert: Erik Satie: Danses Gothiques/Quatre Preludes/Petite Ouverture a Danser (1989 [2013], Phil.Harmonie): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ulrich Gumpert Workshop Band: Smell a Rat (1995 [2007], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ulrich Gumpert: Quartette (2006 [2007], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ulrich Gumpert Workshop Band: Suites (2008, Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: A-
  • John Kruth: Banshee Mandolin (1992, Flying Fish): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Kruth: Eva Destruction (2006, Crustacean): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Kruth: Splitsville (2008, Smiling Fez): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Josh Berman Trio: A Dance and a Hop (Delmark)
  • Geof Bradfield Quintet: Our Roots (Origin)
  • Dani Comas: Epokhé (UnderPool)
  • John Dikeman/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Live at La Resistenza (El Negocito)
  • Carlos Falanga: Gran Coral (UnderPool)
  • Sergi Felipe: Whisper Songs (2011, UnderPool)
  • Sergi Felipe: Whisper Songs: Bombú Es Libre En El Espacio (2013, UnderPool)
  • Erroll Garner: The Complete Concert by the Sea (1955, Columbia/Legacy, 3CD)
  • Guus Janssen: Meeting Points (Bimhuis)
  • Jeff Jenkins Organization: The Arrival (OA2)
  • Nancy Lane: Let Me Love You (self-released)
  • Emma Larsson: Sing to the Sky (Origin)
  • Martin Leiton: Poetry of Sound (UnderPool)
  • Marco Mezquida Mateos: Live in Terrassa (UnderPool)
  • Spinifex: Veiled (Trytone)
  • Underpool 3 (UnderPool)
  • Underpool 4 (UnderPool)
  • Jacob Varmus Septet: Aegean: For Three Generations of Jazz Lovers (Crows' Kin): October 23
  • Carrie Wicks: Maybe (OA2)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Daily Log

Started this but couldn't finish it:

You may have heard about how Israelis are terrified these days by a wave of stabbings of Jews by Palestinians, especially in Jerusalem. Since October 1 (based on this Wikipedia list):

Monday, October 12, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25588 [25572] rated (+16), 449 [437] unrated (+12).

Two weeks ago, Monday Sept. 28, we packed up the car and drove east from Wichita, the main objective being to pick up the late Liz Fink's dog, Sadie, and bring her back to Wichita. (For more on Liz, look here.) We finally got out around 1PM, bypassed Kansas City before traffic got bad, had dinner in Columbia [MO], skipped north of St. Louis, finally pulling into our day's destination, a cheap motel in Effingham [IL], 565 miles out. Seems like I've done that drive dozens of times -- most recently a year ago when I drove to Cape Cod. Last year my second day pushed into southwestern Pennsylvania, but this time we faced constant rain and only made 405 miles, to Cambridge [OH].

That turned out to be close enough to reach Brooklyn on Wednesday. Overcast all day, rain threatening but we never got more than a few sprinkles here and there (and some eerie fog crossing an Appalachian pass). Drove through the Holland Tunnel, then "straight ahead for 3.8 miles" (as the GPS lady put it: down Walker merging into Canal, over the Manhattan Bridge, down Flatbush to Grand Army Plaza) then unload and park -- the part I dreaded most. (We played the "alternate side" parking game that night, then found a safe lot the next morning.) The apartment felt disheveled but mostly familiar -- the closets had been emptied of clothes, and someone unplugged everything so it took a while to get Internet working. My nephew Mike came over, as did Liz's friend Carol, who brought the dog -- a 7-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Laura had spent much time with but I barely recognized. (I had visited in spring 2014, my first New York venture since 2004. In the interrim and after, Laura had been there ten or so times.)

Next day, Pearl Smith (Big Black's widow, Liz's heir, not that there's not much Liz hadn't already given away), Larry Fink (Liz's brother, the famed photographer), his daughter Molly (Snyder-Fink), and some others came over to sort through affects -- packing some things to pick up later but not taking much at the moment. Over the next few days several other friends of Liz showed up to look around, reminiscence, and occasionally pick up mementos. A few of our friends also came over to chat, and sometimes to go out for a bite to eat. When we got to NYC, the weather forecast called for five straight days of rain climaxing with Hurricane Joaquin (expected to miss us but not clear by how much). We only ventured into Manhattan once, a dinner with Georgia Christgau, Steve Levi, Robert Christgau, and Carola Dibbell.

I figured the best time to get out would be Sunday afternoon. My nephew and his fiancée came over to help us load up the car. The drive down Flatbush, across the Manhattan Bridge, up Canal and through the tunnel was as easy as I could imagine. I would normally have driven half way across Pennsylvania after such an exit, but we were due for an oil change, and the dealers didn't do service business on Sunday. So I settled with driving to a friend's house near Newton, NJ, figuring I'd get the oil changed first thing Monday morning. That worked out pretty much as planned, and by 11AM we had driven back to I-80 and turned west. We made it through Akron and turned southeast, stopping in Mansfield, OH for the evening. Tuesday we got off to our earliest start and wound up in Columbia, leaving about 330 miles for Wednesday, home by 5PM.

Normally when I drive that far, I have people and spots I want to see along the way, but Laura doesn't have a lot of patience for that, and I was feeling pretty miserable the whole trip. Before the trip, we had talked about the possibility of stopping in DC on the way out, coming back through Buffalo-Detroit-Chicago, and possibly making a side-trip to Cape Cod. None of that happened this time. (In 2004, I drove out through Kentucky to DC, then went to western Massachusetts before coming back through Buffalo and Detroit, then I took a detour to Ste. Saint Marie and Duluth just to see what I had never seen before. In 2014 I drove straight out to NJ, then on to Cape Cod, back to NJ, up to Buffalo, then down to Arkansas and Oklahoma. In 2001 I took a deeper southern return route, through DC into NC and across Tennessee and Arkansas.)

Since we got home, Sadie has gotten a radical trim and been to the vet's, so now we have all the paperwork in order to get her properly licensed. (A lot more effort than it takes to get an UZI or AR-15 here in Kansas.) We have a two story house (plus a basement of sorts), and a fenced-in backyard she can have the run of -- stocked with squirrels and birds and occasionally visited by wilder life. She seems to be adjusting. Maybe I will too.


I didn't manage to get a Weekend Roundup done yesterday. Had to work on the yard, plus my rhythm is totally screwed up due to a bad head cold on top of all the time changes. Anyhow, I didn't skip this weekly exercise because there was nothing to write. (I usually go into a news deepfreeze when I travel but somehow missed that this time.) Still, this week's stories diverge only marginally from last week's, or next week's, and one gets tired of writing the same over and over again -- so maybe the occasional break is needed just to maintain sanity.

Still, two things I want to at least mention:

  • Don Melvin: At least 95 killed in twin bombings near train station in Turkey's capital: The "twin bombings" were set to disrupt and maim and kill peace protestors, which is to say demonstrations against the ruling party in Turkey. Subsequent articles tell us that the official investigation is targeting ISIS. Not clear why ISIS would bomb a demo against Turkey's war against ISIS. Same for Turkey's perennial enemy the PKK, since Turkey's "war against ISIS" is really little more than cover for Turkish attacks against anti-ISIS Kurds. I'm always opposed to whoever would do such a dire thing, but I'm even more touched by the targeting of "my people" -- the anti-war movement.
  • Israel has right to completely destroy Gaza, right-wing rabbi says, and even more pointedly, Richard Silverstein: Israeli Advocates Palestinian Holocaust. With Netanyahu's recent decision to use "live ammo" to kill Palestinians who throw stones, Israel's increasingly right-wing government is inching ever further toward "the final extermination of the Palestinian people." Ideologues like Rabbi Dov Lior have long been out in front of this, but the movement is palpably closing in on its goal. I never thought Israel would sink so low, but it's hard to see any force within Israeli society providing a check against such violent racism.


I have very little to add about the records below -- roughly one-half of a week's worth. The two picks were items I found on Liz Fink's shelf, and are possibly not the best Jazz Tribune picks for either artist -- Bechet is also represented by Volumes 1/2 which goes back to the mid-1930s, and RCA has both a slice of c. 1930 big band Armstrong and a 1947 live set, The Complete Town Hall Concert. Also, arguably I also overstepped my needs, in that I already have most of the music here, in Armstrong's 4-CD The Complete RCA Victor Recordings and Bechet's The Victor Sessions: Master Takes. Still, there's something to be said for not coming home empty handed.


New records rated this week:

  • Gonçalo Almeida/Martin van Duynhoven/Tobias Klein: Vibrate in Sympathy (2015, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Laurie Antonioli & Richie Beirach: Varuna (2006-15 [2015], Origin): [cd]: B-
  • Benoit Delbecq/Miles Perkin/Emile Biayenda: Ink (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: The Puzzle (2015, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Live in Studio (2015, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Julia Holter: Have You in My Wilderness (2015, Domino): [r]: B
  • Jason Isbell: Something More Than Free (2015, Southeastern): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ivan & Alyosha: It's All Just Pretend (2015, Dualtone): [r]: B
  • Oddisee: The Good Fight (2015, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ought: Sun Coming Down (2015, Constellation): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charlie Parr: Stumpjumper (2015, Red House): [r]: B+(**)
  • Keith Richards: Crosseyed Heart (2015, Mindless/Virgin): [r]: B
  • Jill Scott: Woman (2015, Atlantic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Snik: Metasediment Rock (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Louis Armstrong: From the Big Band to the All Stars (1946-1956) (1932-56 [1992], RCA, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Sidney Bechet: The Complete Sidney Bechet Volumes 3/4 (1941) (1941 [1986], RCA, 2CD): [cd]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:

  • Sarah Buechi: Shadow Garden (Intakt)
  • Ann Hampton Callaway: The Hope of Christmas (MCG Jazz)
  • Chaise Lounge: A Very Chaise Lounge Christmas (Modern Songbook)
  • Romain Collin: Press Enter (ACT)
  • Caroline Davis Quartet: Doors: Chicago Storylines (Ears & Eyes): November 6
  • Kirsten Edkins: Art & Soul (self-released): November 3
  • Clare Fischer: Out of the Blue (Clavo)
  • The 14 Jazz Orchestra: Nothing Hard Is Ever Easy (self-released): January 1, 2016
  • Mike Holober: Balancing Act (Palmetto): November 13
  • Hot Jazz Jumpers: The Very Next Thing (On the Bol): November 6
  • Russ Lossing: Eclipse (Aqua Piazza): November 7
  • Kristine Mills: Bossa Too (InkWell Publishing)
  • Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra: Joyful Jazz (MCG Jazz): October 23
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear)
  • Herb Silverstein: Younger Next Year (self-released): October 23
  • Slobber Pup: Pole Axe (Rare Noise): advance, October 30
  • Lou Volpe: Tremembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra) (Jazz Guitar): November 6
  • Dave Wilson Quartet: There Was Never (Zoho): November 6

Purchases:

  • Louis Armstrong: From the Big Band to the All Stars (1946-1956) (1932-56, RCA, 2CD)
  • Sidney Bechet: The Complete Sidney Bechet Volumes 3/4 (1941) (1941, RCA, 2CD)


Some unfinished drafts:

Nonetheless, I think odds that Israel may commit statistically significant genocide against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have nudged up perceptively. As usual, Rabbi Dov Lior is out in the lead (see Israel has right to completely destroy Gaza, right-wing rabbi says). Such sentiments aren't new: Max Blumenthal wrote about Lior and others in 2010; Ali Abunimah wrote about several other rabbis in 2007; although one reported by Richard Silverstein is particularly chilling:

The only solution is to understand that eventually only the one people will exist between the Jordan river and the sea, and the other people will undergo a dreadful holocaust and annihilation. The only conclusion is that even though the conditions are not yet ripe, we must act quietly to lay the ground for the final extermination of the Palestinian people.

Genocidal demands, both from religious and secular political leaders, occur every time the conflict heats up in Israel/Palestine, and indeed that's what is happening now: the RT article notes that "Israel's military campaign in Gaza over the past 15 days has so far resulted in the deaths of more than 600 Palestinians, many of them women and children, with more than 4,500 wounded."

But these appeals by prominent Israeli religious figures are reflected in such recent policy changes as the decision to use "live ammo" to shoot and kill "Palestinian stone throwers" (at the same time as reports that Israeli undercover agents have been encouraging Palestinians to throw stones). And this is within an increasing cycle of actual violence, one that . . .


Sep 2015 Nov 2015