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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26420 [26400] rated (+20), 410 [411] unrated (-1).

Another short week, but at least I found a few recommendables this week, thanks, I must admit, to slipstreaming other critics. You can read more substantive reviews of Kendrick Lamar's 2010 mixtape and Anderson Paak's new one (also HM Kyle) by Robert Christgau, of Bonnie Raitt (and BJ the Chicago Kid -- a tip he fed me a couple weeks ago) by Michael Tatum, and Audio One by Tim Niland. Tatum also has an excellent review of Hamilton (a record he likes a lot and I rather admire, although I'll mention that I was blown away by Daveed Diggs' Small Things to a Giant), a Willie Nelson review I don't buy at all (his awkward avoidance of any hint of swing couldn't keep other versions -- I've heard thousands -- from crowding my mind; above all Ella and Louis Again), and a cursory HM for Lyrics Born's Real People, my (and Laura's) favorite album of 2015.

I suppose I need to revisit Rihanna's Anti, which I gave two stars to a couple weeks back, before Tatum's A- and Christgau's A. (I had Erykah Badu's You Caint Use My Phone, A- by Tatum and two stars by Christgau, as an A- back in December. Tatum also reviews Archy Marshall's A New Place 2 Drown, an A- for me in February.) Hopefully by the time I post Rhapsody Streamnotes, no later than the end of the month.

Aside from two advances from the Swiss label Intakt, one of the worst weeks for the new jazz queue ever. One problem is that the queue got down to one record before I added in this week's haul. (Audio One was sampled from Bandcamp, as were the Borah Bergman and Paal Nilssen-Love albums.) Got email from the publicist today that the Vijay Iyer-Wadada Leo Smith album A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke is "out NOW." Not a high water mark in either catalog, but the only ECM record I've been able to play in my CD player for several years now, so I suppose it's worth a mention. Reminds me I have more ECM links to download -- most promising is a new record by Nik Bärtsch.

Thought I'd go back and catch up on the old Bonnie Raitt records I had missed (including three Christgau A-). Her debut was pretty good, but it seemed somewhat less than several contemporary groups she evoked -- e.g., Delaney & Bonnie, Joy of Cooking -- and for that matter the two albums she followed it with (Give It Up and Takin' My Time). I didn't get much out of the others, although with Longing in Their Hearts (1994) still missing I decided to give The Best of the Capitol Years a chance, and it makes a pretty good case for her MOR period.

I'm not sure why I've never cared much for Raitt, given how pivotal my one brief encounter with her had been (this would have been in 1973, or maybe 1972). Carl Boggs was a Poli Sci professor at Washington University, a lefty and a big fan. He came up with the idea of hiring Raitt to do a concert meant to be a benefit for paying down legal bills of one of the guys arrested for burning down the Wash U ROTC building before I got there. I was in a student group called Notes on Everyday Life -- we published a very underground tabloid -- so he used us to get the concert staged on campus. I had little to do with this other than filing the paper work, and almost missed the concert: I hooked up with my first girl the night before (or was it two?) and we only got out of bed to make the show, so I was pretty dazed that night. But I'm pretty sure it was the first concert I ever went to, not that I remember any of it. We went to the the party at Boggs' house afterwards. I saw Raitt there -- in fact, almost smashed into her -- but was far too shy to even say hello. (She was probably the first celebrity I had ever gotten that close to. What I remember was her looking very tired, and short.) That may also have been the first time I smoked pot -- I was very late getting to any of these milestones. When the party pooped out, we wound up getting breakfast with eight or ten others. Then my girlfriend and I went back to her house, to bed. Had these events played out in different order I might have credited Raitt for turning me into a human being. As it was, she was at most a distraction. I only listened to her albums much after the fact.


New records rated this week:

  • Anderson .Paak: Malibu (2016, OBE/Steel Wool/ArtClub/Empire): [r]: A-
  • Audio One: What Thomas Bernhard Saw (2014 [2015], Audiographic): [bc]: A-
  • Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker: Whisper (2015 [2016], Enja): [cd]: B-
  • Rex Cadwallader/Mike Aseta/Arti Dixson/Tiffany Jackson: A Balm in Gilead (2015 [2016], Stanza USA): [cd]: B-
  • Florian Egli Weird Beard: Everything Moves (2014 [2016], Intakt): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Darren English: Imagine Nation (2014 [2016], Hot Shoe): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Piere Favre: DrumSights NOW (2015 [2016], Intakt): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Jeff Guthery: Black Paintings (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B-
  • The James Hughes/Jimmy Smith Quintet: Ever Up & Onward (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kyle: Smyle (2015, Indie Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gabriela Martina: No White Shoes (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Naked Truth: Avian Thug (2015 [2016], Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Pram Trio: Saga Thirteen (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bonnie Raitt: Dig In Deep (2016, Redwing): [r]: A-
  • Marcos Varela: San Ygnacio (2012 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B
  • Michiyo Yagi/Lasse Marhaug/Paal Nilssen-Love: Angular Mass (2011 [2015], PNL): [bc]: B
  • Michiyo Yagi/Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love/Lasse Marhaug: Soul Stream (2013 [2015], PNL): [bc]: B+(*)

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

  • Borah Bergman/Peter Brötzmann/Frode Gjerstad: Left (1996 [2016], Not Two): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Anderson .Paak: Venice (2014, OBE/Steel Wool): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kendrick Lamar: Overly Dedicated (2010, Top Dawg Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Bonnie Raitt: Bonnie Raitt (1971, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bonnie Raitt: Streetlights (1974, Warner Brothers): [r]: B
  • Bonnie Raitt: The Glow (1979, Warner Brothers): [r]: B
  • Bonnie Raitt: Green Light (1982, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bonnie Raitt: Nine Lives (1986, Warner Brothers): [r]: B-
  • Bonnie Raitt: Road Tested (1995, Capitol, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bonnie Raitt: The Best of Bonnie Raitt on Capitol 1989-2003 (1989-2003 [2003], Capitol): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Ian Carey Quintet + 1: Interview Music (Kabocha): April 8
  • Eli Degibri: Cliff Hangin' (Blujazz)
  • Matt Lavelle's 12 Houses: Solidarity (Unseen Rain): May 6
  • Steven Lugerner: Jacknife: The Music of Jackie McLean (Primary): April 22
  • Kat Parra: Songbook of the Americas (Jazzma): April 29
  • Rocco John Quartet: Embrace the Change (Unseen Rain): May 6
  • Sirius Quartet: Paths Become Lines (Autentico): April 13
  • Steve Wiest and Phröntrange: The High Road (Blujazz)
  • Christopher Zuar Orchestra: Musings (Sunnyside): April 1

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Weekend Roundup

We finally got around to seeing the movie Spotlight (A-) on Wednesday afternoon. When we came out of the theatre in west Wichita, the sky to the west was extremely dark but mostly featureless, and the wind was blowing hard from the south. Looked very ominous, but not like the squall lines and thunderstorms we're used to seeing. Turns out that what we were seeing was smoke from wildfires to our southwest: at the time, about 72,000 acres had burned from the Oklahoma border to near Medicine Lodge, and there were two smaller fires to the northwest in Reno and Harvey counties. The next day the wind turned around to the north, which cleared the smoke from Wichita but expanded the wildfire to more than 400,000 acres (625 square miles). Here's a report on Anderson Creek fire in Oklahoma and Kansas. The fire is still burning as I write this, although reports are that it is no longer expanding.

Winters are typically dry in south-central Kansas, and high winds are common, so this is the prime season for grass fires. (A large chunk of south-central Kansas was subject of a red flag warning back on February 8.) Still, this year has been dryer than normal, and much warmer, which set the stage for what is already the largest wildfire in Kansas history. The area is very sparsely populated, the farms more used to pasture cattle than to grow wheat. No cause has been determined (although we can rule out lightning). I've seen lots of reports about cattle (and deer) but nothing yet about oil wells, which are fairly common in the most heavily fracked (and recently most earthquake-prone) part of the state. (Most wells collect oil in adjacent tanks, so I'd be surprised if a few didn't contribute to the fire.)

I also ran across this report on a 160-acre fire near Salina caused by gun nuts shooting at exploding targets:

Exploding targets consist of two ingredients that when mixed by the end user create an explosive when shot by a high-velocity projectile. They have caused many fires since they became more popular in recent years, have been banned in some areas, and caused the death of one person. In June, 2013 a man attending a bachelor-bachelorette party in Minnesota was killed after shrapnel from the device struck him in the abdomen causing his death. The Missoulian reported that two years ago a woman in Ohio had her hand nearly blown off while taking a cellphone video of a man firing at an exploding target placed in a refrigerator about 150 feet away.

You'd think that natural selection would start to limit this kind of stupidity, and evidently it works very slow.

Meanwhile, Governor Brownback declared two counties to be disaster areas. That leaves him 103 counties short, but if he declared disasters everywhere he has caused them he'd have to commit to fixing some of the problems he's caused. That would cost money, and require that someone in power care, so no chance of that.

Bernie Sanders won all three Democratic caucuses on Saturday, by landslides, with 69.8% in Hawaii, 72.7% in Washington, and 81.6% in Alaska. When Kansas voted back on March 5, Sanders' 67.7% share here was his second largest total (after Vermont), but he has since done better in Idaho (78.0%), Utah (79.3%), and yesterday's trio. Next up is Wisconsin on April 5, Wyoming on April 9, and New York on April 19. 538's polling average favors Clinton in Wisconsin 55.6-42.1%, and much more dubious polling has Clinton ahead in New York 67.4-24.3% (only one poll in March, a 71-23% outlier; three previous polls had Clinton +21, going back to September). Nothing on Wyoming, but Sanders has won four (of four) abutting states (Montana and South Dakota haven't voted yet).

If you care about such things, Cruz is heavily favored to win Wisconsin (polling average 42.8-32.2-22.4%, Trump ahead of Kasich), while Trump is ahead in New York (limited polling: 58.8-11.6-2.8%, which would give him his first majority win, but Kasich's share strikes me as way low). The Republicans have already done Wyoming, with Cruz winning.


Not much time for this, but some quick scattered links this week:

  • Franklin Foer: Donald Trump Hates Women: E.g.:

    Humiliating women by decrying their ugliness is an almost recreational pastime for Trump. When the New York Times columnist Gail Collins described him as a "financially embittered thousandaire," he sent her a copy of the column with her picture circled. "The Face of a Dog!" he scrawled over her visage. This is the tack he took with Carly Fiorina, when he described her facial appearance as essentially disqualifying her from the presidency. It's the method he's used to denounce Cher, Bette Midler, Angelina Jolie, and Rosie O'Donnell -- "fat ass," "slob," "extremely unattractive," etc. -- when they had the temerity to criticize him. The joy he takes in humiliating women is not something he even bothers to disguise. He told the journalist Timothy L. O'Brien, "My favorite part [of the movie Pulp Fiction] is when Sam has his gun out in the diner and he tells the guy to tell his girlfriend to shut up. Tell that bitch to be cool. Say: 'Bitch be cool.' I love those lines." Or as he elegantly summed up his view to New York magazine in the early '90s, "Women, you have to treat them like shit."

    Also see: Nancy LeTourneau: The Nexus of Trump's Racism/Sexism: Dominance. She quotes Foer and various others, including Rebecca Traister, whose summed up her reflections on Trump (and Cruz) as The Election and the Death Throes of White Male Power. While I don't disagree with the general point, pieces like this tempt me to point out that Trumpism isn't the only common response to economic and/or social decline by whites (even males). Said group also makes up a substantial slice of support for Bernie Sanders' campaign -- and I doubt that any white males who've backed Sanders have done so expecting him to restore lost white/male privileges, or to deny the benefits he's campaigned for to blacks, Latinos, and/or women.

    Meanwhile, I suppose this is where I should file links like Mary Elizabeth Williams: Donald Trump despises women: Mocking Heidi Cruz's looks is a new low in this grotesque sausage-waving campaign and Gary Legum: Trump vs. Cruz: How the National Enquirer became a battleground in the GOP primary

  • David Kurtz: What Just Happened in North Carolina?: Quotes a reader, who was more on the ball than TPM:

    In a span of 12 hours, the GOP political leadership of this state [North Carolina] called the General Assembly back to Raleigh for a special session, introduced legislation written by leadership and not previously made available to members or the public, held "hearings" on that legislation, passed it through both chambers of the legislature, and it was signed by the GOP Governor.

    The special legislation was called, ostensibly, to prevent an ordinance passed last month by the Charlotte City Council, from going into effect on April 1. That ordinance would have expanded the city's LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance, and would have allowed transgendered people to use public restrooms that corresponds with their gender identity.

    But the legislation introduced and passed into law by the General Assembly yesterday didn't simply roll back that ordinance. It implemented a detailed state-wide regulation of public restrooms, and limited a person's use of those restrooms to only those restrooms that correspond with one's "biological sex," defined in the new state law as the sex identified on one's birth certificate. [ . . . ]

    But wait, there's more. The legislation also expressly states that there can be no statutory or common law private right of action to enforce the state's anti-discrimination statutes in the state courts. So if a NC resident is the victim of racial discrimination in housing or employment, for example, that person is now entirely barred from going to state court to get an injunction, or to get damages of any kind. The new law completely defangs the state's anti-discrimination statute, rendering it entirely unenforceable by the citizens of the state.

    For more, see Caitlin MacNeal: NC's Sweeping Anti-Gay Law Goes Way Beyond Targeting LGBTs. The US prides itself on a unique system of "checks and balances," but this is the clearest example yet of what can happen when voters cede complete political control to one party, at least if that party is of one mind -- in North Carolina that would be Art Pope, who personally spent millions electing that legislative majority and governor. (Of course, it's still possible that the courts will throw this law out, but the Republicans are working that angle too.) Also note two key things: the speed, intended to produce a fait accompli before there could be any public discussion let alone organized opposition; also how the bill's used the "emergency" to push through extra measures that most likely couldn't have stood on their own.

    Also in the captured red state category: Amanda Marcotte: Mike Pence's sadistic abortion law: Indiana passes draconian anti-choice bill geared towards humiliating and bankrupting women who have abortions.

  • Caitlin MacNeal: AIPAC Denounces Trump Criticism of Obama's Relationship With Israel: Trump's actual speech to AIPAC contained nothing but red meat for Israel's bloodthirsty right wing, yet somehow he managed to offend at least one important faction in the lobby's leadership -- perhaps the one that realizes that Obama is still president, and that while he hasn't been the perfect lackey of their dreams, he has still treated pretty generously. AIPAC's annual conference provided an opportunity for all aspiring American politicians to show their colors and salute the flag of the Jewish State. And once again pretty much everyone played their assigned role as expected -- indeed, Hillary Clinton was second to none in her obsequiousness, which may be why she has a fair number of AIPAC's high rollers backing her. I doubt that they really minded what Trump said in his speech -- I heard the thing, and he certainly didn't lack for applause -- so their worries have more to do with what he's said elsewhere. And even there it's probably not so much that he's promised to be a "neutral" peacemaker (hard to take that seriously) or that he doesn't think the US should spend so much on military aid to the 4th (or 5th) largest military power on earth (more possible, but still not likely) as in his slogan about "making America great again" -- as opposed to being a big country in thrall to its little "ally."

    Some other AIPAC-related links:

    You can also Read the speech Bernie Sanders planned to give to AIPAC. Doesn't go nearly as far as I'd like, but wouldn't have gone over well at AIPAC (see the link above). Also see: Richard Silverstein: Bernie Finally Addresses Israel-Palestine.

  • Eamon Murphy: 'Do we get to win this time?': Trump foreign policy appeal based on revenge for Iraq War failure: The notion that the American military's persistent failure to win wars -- in the sense of achieving initial intentions; I'm more inclined to argue that all sides in war invariably lose, so the concept of winning is excluded by definition -- is caused by civilian leaders holding the soldiers back is America's own peculiar version of the Dolchstoßlegende (the stab-in-the-back myth). Trump's embrace of this theory is one more thing he shares with past generations of fascists, a minor one unless his own ego is so huge that he thinks his leadership genius will turn the tide.

    Though the public may feel burned by what was undeniably a wasteful war launched on trumped-up pretexts, withdrawal is always unacceptable, on patriotic grounds -- a sentiment at least as old as the overseas U.S. empire. ("American valor has easily triumphed in both sea and land," declared Senator David Hill, an advocate of annexing the Philippines, in 1898, "and the American flag floats over newly acquired territory -- never, as it is fondly hoped, to be lowered again.") The advent of ISIS compounded this problem, mocking official claims that American arms had achieved some measure of progress in Iraq. The resultant agony was epitomized by a January 2014 New York Times story, "Falluja's Fall Stuns Marines Who Fought There": completely ignoring Iraqi suffering, the reporter rendered vividly the anguish of veterans at the city's takeover by Sunni insurgents, which left them "transfixed, disbelieving and appalled," and was "a gut punch to the morale of the Marine Corps and painful for a lot of families who are saying, 'I thought my son died for a reason.'"

    So what is to be done? If invading Iraq was a costly mistake, how can we keep fighting there? But if we paid so dearly for it, how can we not?

  • Richard Silverstein: Identities of IDF Soldier Who Executed Unarmed Palestinian -- and His Commanding Officer -- Exposed: You've probably read about stabbing incidents in Israel/Palestine, where typically Jewish victims receive light injuries, often treated at the scene, and Palestinian assailants are usually shot dead. You may be expected to think that the shooting was necessary to disarm fanatic knife-wielders, but this is a case where the Palestinian was executed after being disarmed, and this case is not unique or all that exceptional (aside from the video).

    The shooter later told investigators that he shot a-Sharif because he was "moving," and was afraid he would detonate a suicide vest. The victim is seen clearly on the video and he has no suicide vest. Nor does his Shapira seem to sense danger as he stands near the wounded man speaking on the telephone.

    Let no one think of this is a one-off aberration. Palestinians are executed in the same fashion virtually every day. Nor are these summary executions a product of Israeli policy over the past few months alone. Such murders go all the way back to the 2002 incident I described above. The murderers are rewarded for their callousness as Levy has been, by being a respected member of the Knesset.

  • Stephen M Walt: Monsters of Our Own Imaginings: A big news story last week was the terror bombing in Brussels, which unlike other big bombings last week (e.g., in Baghdad and Lahore) was meant to scare us and/or was used to promote further reinforcement of the war against ISIS (see More US Combat Troops Headed to Iraq Soon -- no, we don't get any say in the matter; how could we when Brussels is on TV 24/7?). Walt says, sure, this is a serious problem, but let's not get hysterical, and offers four key points. The fourth is the most important: "Terrorists cannot deeat us; we can only defeat ourselves."

    The bottom line: Terrorism is not really the problem; the problem is how we respond to it. My first thought when I heard the news from Brussels, I'm sorry to say, was "Brexit," meaning my worry that this act of violence might irrationally bolster support for the United Kingdom leaving the EU, thereby dealing that already-struggling experiment another body blow. It might also boost the political fortunes of xenophobes in other Western countries, further poisoning the political climate in Europe. It is also worth noting that presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have already offered up idiotic proposals of their own (such as Cruz's call for stepped-up police patrols in Muslim neighborhoods in the United States), steps that would give the Islamic State a new propaganda victory. But these developments would be entirely our own doing, and we have no one to blame but ourselves if we try to fight extremism by abandoning our own values and becoming more like them.

    Does anyone really fail to understand that Brussels was attacked because it's the headquarters of NATO and NATO is engaged in killing Muslims in a broad swath from Afghanistan to Libya but especially in the parts of Iraq and Syria ISIS is trying to govern? But who actually says that? Hardly anyone, because doing so would imply that the most effective way to safeguard Europe and America against terrorism would be to withdraw from the fruitless wars the US and Europe (and proxies like the Saudis who epitomize "Islamic extremism") have been waging. Walt prays for leaders who understand the "value the calm resolution in the face of danger or adversity" without noting that (a) that's a fair description of Barack Obama, and (b) Obama still hasn't managed to end the wars his predecessors started. Granted, replacing Obama with Trump or Cruz could result in even more counterproductive acts -- their proposals to "police Muslim neighborhoods" (are there any?) and otherwise harass Muslims seem deliberately designed to radicalize US Muslims, even worse than their reckless escalation abroad.

    Walt's exemplars are WWII heroes -- he even asks "what would Churchill say?" which is like asking the proverbial stopped clock for the time -- but his list includes one name who did successfully face a colonial quagmire not unlike the present situation: Charles DeGaulle, who stood up to enormous pressure and withdrew French forces from Algeria.

    Also see: Tom Engelhardt: Don't Blame It All on Donald Trump, or "Entering Uncharted Territory in Washington," which points out how far "grown ups" like Obama have already veered toward creating a world where terrorism will long be a fact of life. Engelhardt cites a news story from the last week or two (I forget exactly), when the US "killed 150 more or less nobodies (except to those who knew them) and maybe even a top leader or two in a country most Americans couldn't locate on a map" (Somalia):

    The essential explanation offered for the Somali strike, for instance, is that the U.S. had a small set of advisers stationed with African Union forces in that country and it was just faintly possible that those guerrilla graduates might soon prepare to attack some of those forces (and hence U.S. military personnel). It seems that if the U.S. puts advisers in place anywhere on the planet -- and any day of any year they are now in scores of countries -- that's excuse enough to validate acts of war based on the "imminent" threat of their attack. [ . . . ]

    When was it, by the way, that "the people" agreed that the president could appoint himself assassin-in-chief, muster his legal beagles to write new "law" that covered any future acts of his (including the killing of American citizens), and year after year dispatch what essentially is his own private fleet of killer drones to knock off thousands of people across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa? Weirdly enough, after almost 14 years of this sort of behavior, with ample evidence that such strikes don't suppress the movements Washington loathes (and often only fan the flames of resentment and revenge that help them spread), neither the current president and his top officials, nor any of the candidates for his office have the slightest intention of ever grounding those drones.

    And when exactly did the people say that, within the country's vast standing military, which now garrisons much of the planet, a force of nearly 70,000 Special Operations personnel should be birthed, or that it should conduct covert missions globally, essentially accountable only to the president (if him)? And what I find strangest of all is that few in our world find such developments strange at all.

  • Brief links:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Daily Log

Shopping for DVR. Some notes:

  • WD Purple 4TB Surveillance Hard Disk Drive: $156.99 [az]
  • Dahua DHI-HCVR7104H-S2 DVR: $150 [ne], no hard drive

Monday, March 21, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26400 [26384] rated (+16), 411 [411] unrated (-0).

Rated count continues to plummet: after averaging 39 in February, March's totals are 24, 21, and now 16. Last week I made up for the shortfall by finding seven A- records, but this week I didn't come up with any (can't remember when the last time that happened was, other than weeks I shut down for travel). Best I can do is six high HMs, with Jeff Williams probably the closest call. Maybe Larry Young's In Paris should get extra credit for its huge booklet?

Main reason for falling short is that I've been out of the house, trying to help my sister fix up our late parents old house so she can move in. That should give me something practical to do over the next several weeks. Nonetheless, the incoming queue has slowed down to the point where I'm still keeping pace. I do have some download links I can tap into, but I don't count them before they hatch, and I haven't felt much energy for dealing with the hassle.

I'll post a Rhapsody Streamnotes some time before the end of the month, even though it's likely to be a short one -- only have 85 capsules at present.


New records rated this week:

  • Raul Agraz: Between Brothers (2013-15 [2016], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Ehud Asherie: Shuffle Along (2015 [2016], Blue Heron): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kenny Barron Trio: Book of Intuition (2015 [2016], Impulse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Oguz Buyukberber/Tobias Klein: Reverse Camouflage (2015 [2016], TryTone): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Taylor Cook: The Cook Book (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Hanami: The Only Way to Float Free (2015 [2016], Ears & Eyes): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Julian Hartwell: The Julian Hartwell Project (2015, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hendrik Meurkens: Harmonicus Rex (2010 [2016], Height Advantage): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Willie Nelson: Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (2016, Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ratatet: Arctic (2015 [2016], Ridgeway): [cd]: B
  • Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Portraits and Places (2015 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B-
  • Rihanna: Anti (2016, Roc Nation): [r]: B+(**)
  • Zhenya Strigalev: Never Group (2015 [2016], Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jeff Williams: Outlier (2015 [2016], Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(***)
  • La Yegros: Magnetismo (2016, Soundway): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Larry Young: In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (1964-65 [2016], Resonance, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Nathan Davis: Happy Girl (1965 [2006], MPS): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Larry Young Trio: Testifying (1960 [1992], New Jazz/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Larry Young: Groove Street (1962 [1995], Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ehud Asherie: Shuffle Along (Blue Heron): April 8
  • Florian Egli Weird Beard: Everything Moves (Intakt): advance, April
  • Marty Elkins: Walkin' by the River (Nagel Heyer)
  • Darren English: Imagine Nation (Hot Shoe)
  • Piere Favre: Drum Sights (Intakt): advance, April
  • Jeff Guthery: Black Paintings (self-released): May 6
  • The Hughes-Smith Quintet: Ever Up & Onward (self-released)

Monday, March 14, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26384 [26363] rated (+21), 411 [413] unrated (-2).

Rated count dropped further (was 24 last week). Next week will most likely be lower still, at least if I manage to spend any substantial amount of time working on my sister's house. Not sure what happened last week. I suspect both interest and listening time were down as I'm coming off my 2015 wrap up efforts but not paying much attention to 2016. Still, relatively high share of recommended records this week. The Tom Zé was recommended by Christgau the previous week, but it took me a while to find it on Rhapsody. (The other Zé record Christgau liked, Tropicália Lixo Lógico, was an A- back in 2012.) BJ the Chicago Kid and Wussy were tips from Michael Tatum (although Christgau wasted no time certifying Wussy). Threadgill was the most obvious prospect in the incoming queue, aside from vault discoveries from Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and Larry Young (still pending).

Two HMs came close. The Kendrick Lamar dump is mostly up to snuff, maybe even genius, but I kept stumbling on some dull stretches that should have been edited out -- although doing so would have cut the "album" well under 30 minutes. The Danny Green record grew on me despite my usual disinterest in piano trios and dislike for string quartets. I rarely fall for postbop jazz that lush, but it almost became the exception -- indeed, might have had I stuck with it longer.

I'll also note that the Loretta Lynn record is likely to be much enjoyed by fans, although it doesn't really add much. The concept there is to do for her what Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash in his final years: to capture his voice on a vast songbook that may (or may not) enhance his legacy. That worked mostly because Cash had such a unique voice. Lynn's voice isn't in that rarefied league, although she's sounding remarkably good here, and she's got a lot more production support than Cash had. John Carter Cash co-produced, along with Lynn's daughter, and I hear they have 200+ songs recorded since 2007, so I expect we'll be hearing a lot more from them -- perhaps part of the reason I managed to curb my initial enthusiasm.

Also bothered to listen to five Rough Guide releases -- a couple were Christgau HMs, but the best of the batch was a pick back in 2009 (fun fact: I also have 2001's The Rough Guide to Merengue and Bachata and 2006's The Rough Guide to Merengue at A-). Most I tried to track down the source dates for, with the usual mixed results. The label's compilers usually have good ears, but I've long been irritated by their shoddy documentation -- wouldn't you think that a company that publishes books would take that more seriously? Working off Rhapsody is even more frustrating, as I can only imagine how bad the booklets might be.


John Morthland, one of the finest rock critics to emerge in the golden age of the art, died last week. It came as a complete shock to me, partly because only a couple months ago he sought me out with a Facebook friend request -- I was honored. I met him in the 1970s when I moved to New York. He had recently moved to New York himself from working at Creem in Michigan, along with Lester Bangs and Georgia Christgau. I didn't run into him much, but after he moved to Austin in the mid-1980s Georgia would occasionally mention him, and I wound up corresponding with him a bit. Sometime around 2003 I even managed to drive through Austin, and looked him up and had lunch. He asked if I was still strictly into rock, and I told him that I had mostly moved on, much as he had -- in fact, his The Best of Country Music guide book helped me out a lot (although I grew up close enough to country music it wasn't much of a leap; when it was cut out, I bought a stack of his book and handed them out as presents; one thing I probed him on was doing a website around his book, but he didn't have any interest in going back there). He was a very kind and generous person, an encyclopedic mind which he shared freely. His passing is a real loss.

I meant to collect more links, but for now I'll just go with his Rockcritics.com interview. Also Katy Vine's memoir, from Texas Monthly.


New records rated this week:

  • B.J. the Chicago Kid: In My Mind (2016, Motown): [r]: A-
  • Renato Braz: Saudade (2005-15 [2016], Living Music): [cd]: C
  • Andy Brown Quartet: Direct Call (2015 [2016], Delmark): [cd]: B
  • Patrick Cornelius: While We're Still Young (2014 [2016], Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Dominican Jazz Project: The Dominican Jazz Project (2015 [2016], Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Danny Green Trio: Altered Narratives (2015 [2016], OA2): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kendrick Lamar: Untitled Unmastered (2013-16 [2016], Top Dawg Entertainment): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tom Lellis: The Flow (2015 [2016], Beamtime): [r]: C-
  • Loretta Lynn: Full Circle (2016, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roberta Piket: One for Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland (2015 [2016], Thirteenth Note): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Leslie Pintchik: True North (2015 [2016], Pintch Hard): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Logan Richardson: Shift (2013 [2016], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (2015 [2016], Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Wussy: Forever Sounds (2016, Shake It): [r]: A-
  • Tom Zé: Vira Lata Na Via Láctea (2014, self-released): [r]: A-

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

  • William Hooker: Light: The Early Years 1975-1989 (1975-89 [2016], NoBusiness, 4CD): [cd]: A-
  • Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays (1966 [2016], Resonance, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • The Rough Guide to Cumbia [Second Edition] (1975-2012 [2013], World Music Network): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rough Guide to Latin Disco (1975-2014 [2015], World Music Network): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Rough Guide to Merengue Dance ([2009], World Music Network): [r]: A-
  • The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Cumbia (1969-2014 [2015], World Music Network): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rough Guide to the Best Arabic Music You've Never Heard (2008-14 [2015], World Music Network): [r]: B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Raul Agraz: Between Brothers (OA2): March 18
  • Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker: Whisper (Enja): May 6
  • Oguz Buyukberber/Tobias Klein: Reverse Camouflage (TryTone)
  • Julian Hartwell: The Julian Hartwell Project (self-released)
  • Pram Trio: Saga Thirteen (self-released)
  • Ratatet: Arctic (Ridgeway): March 11
  • Scptt Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Portraits and Places (Origin): March 18

Daily Log

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The Rough Guide to Cumbia [Second Edition] (1975-2010 [2013], World Music Network): B+(***) [rhapsody]
  • The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Cumbia (1969-2014 [2015], World Music Network): B+(***) [rhapsody]

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Not much time for my usual weekly survey, but I did find a few pieces on the Donald Trump/Fascism axis, and for your convenience I've added a bit of forecasting for Tuesday's elections at the bottom.


  • Josh Marshall: Someone Will Die: Reflecting on recent incidents at Trump rallies, violent and merely threatening or maybe just disruptive:

    For all the talk about Mussolini, let alone Hitler, George Wallace is the best analog in the last century of American politics -- the mix of class politics and racist incitement, the same sort of orchestrated ratcheting up of conflict between supporters and protestors. As all of this has unfolded over the course of the day there have been numerous instances of Trump supporters calling for protestors to "go back to Africa" and another on video calling on them to "go to fucking Auschwitz."

    Is the man invoking Nazi concentration camps in that video an anti-Semite or just a ramped hater in a frenzy of provocation? I'm not sure we know. And as I'll argue in a moment, in a climate of incitement and crowd action, it doesn't necessarily matter.

    It may sound like hyperbole. But this is the kind of climate of agitation and violence where someone will end up getting severely injured or killed. I do not say that lightly.

    Actually, more than Wallace this reminds me of the Rolling Stones at Altamont, hiring Hell's Angels for "security" then playing "Sympathy for the Devil" as they killed a fan. That's the sort of thing that happens when a cavalier attitude toward violence makes it cool.

    I'll add that I don't particularly approve of protesting at Trump events. That's partly because I don't regard him as in any way unique in the Republican Party today -- he's certainly not the "worst of the worst" policy-wise, although he does seem to be the most careless and cavalier regarding the racist violence they all more or less pander to. I do understand that the people who protest Trump are concerned to nip his attitude in the bud, and to make it clear that his kind of incivility will always be challenged in America today -- although I also think it's hard to make that point in the heat of a rally. But also I think there's a fuzzy line where protest becomes harrassment -- indeed, I think anti-abortion activists often cross that line -- and I worry it might backfire. Marshall concludes:

    The climate Trump is creating at his events is one that not only disinhibits people who normally act within acceptable societal norms. He is drawing in, like moths to a flame, those who most want to act out on their animosities, drives and beliefs. It is the kind of climate where someone will eventually get killed.

    I'm reminded that one of the defining characteristics of fascism is how readily, in the very early days in Italy and Germany, fascists resorted to violence against people they regarded as enemies (which is to say pretty much everyone).

  • David Atkins: Donald Trump is Merely the Symptom. The Republican Party Itself is the Disease: We on the left have long had an acute sense of the smell of fascism -- possibly the most basic definition is that fascists are the people who want to kill you, so we're talking less about political theory than existential anxiety. It's long been clear to me that there are elements of fascism in the American right, but I've been more focused on the anti-democratic manipulations of the elites than on the swelling tide of hatred they've stirred up. Still, interesting to read this:

    We no longer have to speculate whether fascism, in Sinclair Lewis' famous words, would come to America wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross. We already know what its beginnings look like in the form of Trump rallies, which are carrying an increasingly violent, overtly racist, authoritarian aura strongly reminiscent of the 1930s in Germany or Italy.

    Those comparisons were once the province of liberal activists or traffic-seeking headline writers. No longer. The incipient racist violence has reached such a fever pitch that a Trump rally in Chicago had to be canceled entirely. It's one thing to talk in theoretical or strictly political terms about Trump's authoritarian behavior, his effect on the Republican Party generally or the potential feasibility of Trump's policy proposals. But the influence of Trumpism on the country is already so obviously toxic and dangerous that it must be called out and mitigated before people start getting seriously hurt or killed.

    That's not the fault of Donald Trump. It's the fault of the GOP itself, for three main reasons.

    First, the Republican Party abandoned the notion of shared truths and shared reality. They set up an alternative media empire and convinced their voters that every set of authorities from journalists to scientists were eggheaded liberals not to be trusted. They peddled conspiracy theories and contrafactual dogmas of all stripes -- from the notion that climate scientists were all lying about global warming in order to get more grant money, to the notion that tax cuts for the rich grow the economy and pay for themselves. Their base became convinced that no one could be trusted except for the loudest and angriest voices who told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Fox News, talk radio and the Drudge Report became the only trusted media sources. But at a certain point those outlets stopped becoming the media arm of the Republican Party; instead, the Republican Party became the legislative arm of those media outlets. It should come as no surprise that when the Republican establishment seemed unable to deliver on its promises to their voters, conspiracy theory peddlers new and old from Breitbart to Drudge would turn on the establishment and convince the GOP masses that Fox News was the new CNN, just another liberal arm of the media not to be trusted.

    Second is, of course, the Southern Strategy of exploiting racial resentment. That worked just fine for Republicans while whites were the dominant majority under no particular threat. It was a great way to win elections in much of the country while discounting voters who couldn't do them much damage. As long as the rhetoric remained, in Lee Atwater's words, "abstract" enough, the tensions created wouldn't boil over into anything much more damaging than the slow, quiet destruction of generations of minority communities via legislatively enforced instituional racism. But as whites have become a smaller and smaller part of the electorate, that Southern Strategy has not only cost the GOP elections by throwing away the minority vote; it has also heightened the fears and tensions of the formerly dominant white voters it courts. What was once quiet and comfortable racism has become a loud and violent cry of angst. That, again, isn't Donald Trump's fault. It's the Republican Party's.

    Third and most important is the effect of conservative economics. For decades laissez-faire objectivism has hurt mostly the poorest and least educated communities in America. Due mostly to institutional racism, those have tended in the past to be communities of color. The deregulated economy simply didn't need their labor so it tossed them aside, leaving squalor and a host of social problems in its wake. This was convenient for those peddling racist theories, as it laid the blame for drug and family problems in those communities directly on the individuals involved -- and by extension on their racial background.

    I would phrase these last two points slightly differently. Republicans not only swept up white southerners who had grown up as the supposedly top dogs in a racially segregated society. They also appealed to new suburbanites in the north, again white, many Catholic, many moving up the economic ladder, hoping (among other things) to escape what they viewed as the decay of the (increasingly black) central cities. These were the so-called Reagan Democrats, and they were recruited through ploys as tinged with racism as the Southern Strategy.

    I would also point out that Republican economic orthodoxy did more to destroy the middle class than it did to pillage the already poor. They used a two-prong strategy to slide their agenda past an unwary and somewhat oblivious base: on the one hand, they convinced their target voters that the were only for those other people and that real Americans like themselves didn't need to be propped up by the government -- indeed, they made it a point of pride that they weren't; on the other, they made it possible for their audience to live beyond their means by offering credit so things like education and housing, previously "affordable" thanks to government programs, could still be had. They realized that most people don't recognize a declining standard of living until it smacks them in the face, and even then they assured you that your misfortune was you own damn fault -- not something government could (let alone should) help you out with.

    Tuned up a bit, this is pretty accurate, but still missing a key fourth point: war. You may think that war's good for "absolutely nothing," but it's proven very useful for Republicans. For one thing it creates a false unity of us-against-them, which they can exploit with God-and-country shtick; it undermines democracy, which they fear and dread anyway; more importantly, it debases the value of human life, elevating killing to a patriotic act, and tempting us to think that the solution to all our problems is to kill supposed enemies; needless to add, it also opens up incredible opportunities for graft; it forestalls any pressure to collaboratively work on worldwide problems, to shift from competition to cooperation. It also turns out that it's been pretty easy to sucker Democrats into supporting war, which both saddles them with insupportable costs and alienates them from their base.

  • Michael Tomasky: The Dangerous Election: Written before "Super Tuesday" this has some details that have been overtaken by events -- one certainly wouldn't write about Rubio's nomination path today -- but it's worth quoting his own three-item explanation for Trump's domination of the Republican Party (it is both more succinct and more narrowly political than Atkins'):

    The fury that led to Trump's rise has three main sources. It begins with talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh, and all the conservative media -- Fox News and, now, numerous blogs and websites and even hotly followed Twitter and Instagram feeds -- that have for years served up a steady series of stories aimed at riling up conservatives. It has produced a campaign politics that is by now almost wholly one of splenetic affect and gesture. If you've watched any of the debates, you've seen it. The lines that get by far the biggest applause rarely have anything to do with any vision for the country save military strength and victory; they are execrations against what Barack Obama has done to America and what Hillary Clinton plans to do to it.

    A second important factor has been the post-Citizens United elevation of megarich donors like the Koch brothers and Las Vegas's Sheldon Adelson to the level of virtual party king-makers. The Kochs downplay the extent of their political spending, but whether it's $250 million or much more than that, it's an enormous sum, and they and Adelson and the others exist almost as a third political party.

    When one family and its allies control that much money, and those running want it spent supporting them (although Trump has matched them), what candidate is going to take a position counter to that family and the network of which it is a part? The Kochs are known, for example, to be implacably opposed to any recognition that man-made climate change is a real danger. So no Republican candidate will buck that. [ . . . ]

    This fear of losing a primary from the right is the third factor that has created today's GOP, and it is frequently overlooked in the political media. [ . . . ]

    Few Americans understand just how central this reality is to our current dysfunction. All the pressure Republicans feel is from the right, although they seldom say so -- no Republican fears a challenge from the center, because there are few voters and no money there. And this phenomenon has no antipode on the Democratic side, because there exists no effective group of left-wing multimillionaires willing to finance primary campaigns against Democrats who depart from doctrine. Very few Democrats have to worry about such challenges. Republicans everywhere do.

    This creates an ethos of purity whose impact on the presidential race is obvious. The clearest example concerns Rubio and his position on immigration. He supported the bipartisan bill the Senate passed in 2013. He obviously did so because he calculated that the bill would pass both houses and he would be seen as a great leader. But the base rebelled against it, and so now Rubio has reversed himself on the question of a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens and taken a number of other positions that are designed to mollify the base but would surely be hard to explain away in a general election were he to become the nominee -- no rape and incest exceptions on abortion, abolition of the federal minimum wage, and more.

  • Bob Dreyfuss: Will the Donald Rally the Militias and the Right-to-Carry Movement?: OK, that makes three straight pieces on Donald Trump and fascism, a subject we'll have to call "trending." This one consults Richard J Evans' The Coming of the Third Reich -- premature antifascist that I am, that occurred to me more than a decade ago, but I have to admit I never got around to reading the book:

    If you decide to read the book, try doing what I did: in two columns in your head draw up a list of similarities and differences between the United States today and Weimar Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s.

    In this edgy moment in America, the similarities, of course, tend to jump out at you. As Trump repeatedly pledges to restore American greatness, so Hitler promised to avenge Germany's humiliation in World War I. As Trump urges his followers, especially the white working class, to blame their troubles on Mexican immigrants and Muslims, so Hitler whipped up an anti-Semitic brew. As Trump -- ironically, for a billionaire -- attacks Wall Street and corporate lobbyists for rigging the economy and making puppets out of politicians, so Hitler railed against Wall Street and the City of London, along with their local allies in Germany, for burdening his country with a massive post-World War I, Versailles Treaty-imposed reparations debt and for backing the Weimar Republic's feckless center-right parties. (Think: the Republican Party today.) As with Trump's China-bashing comments and his threats to murder the relatives of Islamist terrorists while taking over Iraq's oil reserves, Hitler too appealed to an atavistic, reckless sort of ultra-nationalism.

    He finds some differences too, but expects American fascism to be uniquely American.

  • Corey Robin: This is why the right hates Donald Trump: He doesn't question their core beliefs, but they still see the danger:

    Trump hasn't dared touch a lot of the orthodoxy of the right, including its penchant for tax cuts, which is the keystone of the conservative counterrevolution, as everyone from Howard Jarvis to George W. Bush understood. But without the fear of the left -- listening to the Republican debates, you'd never know the candidates were even concerned about their opposition, so focused is their fratricidal gaze -- Trump is free to indulge the more luxurious hostilities of the right.

    And this, in the end, may be why Trump is so dangerous. Without the left, no one has any idea when his animus will take flight and where it will land. While counterrevolutionaries have always made established elites nervous, those elites could be assured that the wild Quixotism of a Burke or a Pat Buchanan would serve their cause. As today's Republicans and their allies in the media have made clear, they have no idea if Trump won't turn on them, too. Like Joe McCarthy in his senescence, Trump might try to gut the GOP. At least McCarthy had a real left to battle; Trump doesn't.

    Trump is dangerous, then, not because he is an aberration from conservatism but because he is its emblem. He's a threat not because the movement he aspires to lead is so strong but because the one he will lead is so weak. It's weak not because it has failed but because it has succeeded.

    This doesn't make an obvious lot of sense, but we can unpack a few things here. The best evidence of the weakness of the left is how much politicians like Clinton and Obama remain in thrall to still hegemonic parts of the conservative mindset, even as the so-called conservative movement has moved on to even more dysfunctional hysteria. Or maybe the best evidence is how alien Sanders' programs seem to the Clinton (and Obama) worldview, even though they'd be little more than common sense in any social democracy in western Europe. On the other hand, the conservative movement has greatly weakened since Reagan, at least in the sense that nothing they do works (unless you consider obstruction and fraud forms of art). I've long assumed that the right hates Trump because they fear that if given power he would abandon their batshit theories for compromises that might at least muddle through, and that that would undermine the hegemony of key ideas they've invested so much money and effort in. Or to put it slightly differently, they may just fear that he wouldn't follow orders like the political hacks who've spearheaded the party for the last few decades. I suspect in this they're giving him too much credit.

  • Bill Clinton's odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history of the '90s: The history should be familiar. The conclusion:

    Some got bailouts, others got "zero tolerance." There was really no contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets a biblical-style beatdown -- these things actually fit together quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what the professionals get is endless indulgence.

    I don't necessarily agree with the argument that financialization requires dismantling the safety net, although history does show us that once the bankers got their bailout, they weren't bothered that nobody else did. The bigger point, I think, is that the Clintons went to elite colleges and spent all their lives rubbing shoulders with the rich and super-rich and that rubbed off on them. Whereas in politics they were ready to do whatever was expedient, in their personal lives they always yearned to be one with the rich, and they were pretty successful at that. I also think the same can be said for Obama, which is a big part of why he worked so hard to avoid upsetting the status quo.


By the way, here are the latest poll projections at 538, for Tuesday's primaries. First, Democrats:

  • Florida: Clinton 67.6%, Sanders 29.4%. Best Sanders poll 34%.
  • Illinois: Clinton 56.2%, Sanders 40.8%. Latest polls show Sanders +2 (YouGov, 3/9-11) and Clinton +6 (3/4-10), so this has tightened up a lot; all earlier polls Clinton +19 or more (two early March polls have Clinton +37 and +42). Nonetheless, 538 gives Clinton a 95% chance of winning.
  • North Carolina: Clinton 63.0%, Sanders 33.7%. Best Sanders poll 37%.
  • Ohio: Clinton 58.9%, Sanders 38.4%. Latest polls are +9 and +20 for Clinton; Sanders led one poll in February, but his best recent poll is 43%.

Clinton is likely to sweep, but Sanders has a real upset chance in Illinois, and a more remote one in Ohio. I wouldn't be surprised if Sanders beats his polling averages in all four states.

For Republicans:

  • Florida: Trump 39.9%, Rubio 30.6%, Cruz 17.2%, Kasich 10.1%. Rubio's best poll is 32%, but other recent polls give him 22% and 20%. 538 gives Trump a 85% chance of winning.
  • Illinois: Trump 32.1%, Rubio 27.1%, Cruz 21.1%, Kasich 17.4%. Trump has led every poll there since last July, when Walker was the front runner, but 538 doesn't give any of the polls much weight.
  • North Carolina: Trump 36.4%, Cruz 28.8%, Rubio 20.3%, Kasich 12.5%. Latest, highly weighted poll shows Trump over Cruz 41-27%.
  • Ohio: Kasich 37.8%, Trump 31.8%, Cruz 20.9%, Rubio 7.7%. Latest poll shows a Kasich-Trump tie at 33%, with Cruz at his highest polling number ever, 27%. Two previous polls show Kasich +6 and +5 leads, but everything before that favored Trump.

Florida and Ohio are "winner take all" states, so the stop Trump effort has to stop him there. Kasich is done if he loses Ohio, and Rubio is done if he loses Florida. Cruz isn't likely to have much good news, but he can rationalize away his losses -- especially if Rubio is eliminated.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Day That Was

The Wichita Eagle was a veritable catalog of horrors yesterday. I'm working off hard copy, but if you hurry you might find the URIs online at Kansas.com. Here are some of the things that caught my eye (or nose, as the case may be).

  • Page 1: Wichita school district officials will consider staff cuts. This story has gone around the block several times before. When Sam Brownback was elected governor in 2010, he passed a state income tax cut, promising it would act as "a shot of adrenaline" straight into the heart of the Kansas economy. (To reduce his credibility, he even hired Arthur Laffer to study and recommend the cut.) The most notable thing about the cut wasn't that it favored the already rich: it zeroed out all income taxes on "small business owners," i.e., those with "Chapter S" businesses, e.g., Wichita billionaires Charles Koch and Phil Ruffin. The result was that tax revenues fell far short of spending, so Brownback tried balancing the books with spending cuts, while the state legislature raised taxes on sales and "sins" (like tobacco) -- Kansas now has the highest sales tax on food in the country, and it's even higher in many counties since they've been encouraged to levy their own sales taxes (as opposed to, say, property taxes). So state and local government have been severely pinched for five years now.

    To complicate matters, there's a clause in the Kansas state constitution which says that the state government has a responsibility to provide adequate funding for local school districts. Many school districts have repeatedly sued the state for failing to honor the constitution, and the Kansas Supreme Court has repeatedly sided with them, ordering the state to pony up more money. A couple years back the legislature came up with what they called a "block funding" scheme to satisfy a court order, which promptly was challenged and ruled unconstitutional. This year the legislature is considering various bills to replace the sitting Supreme Court with one more to their liking. (To be fair, the Justices have been remiss in dying, like Antonin Scalia had the decency to do, so Brownback hasn't had much opportunity to leave his mark, as he has done to virtually every corner of the state.)

  • Page 1: Westar seeking rate hike for homes, cuts for businesses: Wester is the local electric company, formerly known as Kansas Gas & Electric before it got conglomerated. Like most electric companies, they are a natural monopoly, and as such are regulated by a state utility board. Every year Westar asks for ridiculous rate increases, and every year they get beat down to something slightly less ridiculous. However, Brownback has managed to restaff that board with crony appointments, and sometime last year then decided to fire the staff that reviews the rate proposals and rededicate themselves to fighting against federal government regulation of utilities, leaving those utilities free to gouge Kansas consumers. Well, it turns out that Westar is taking full advantage of this "regulatory capture" and proposing a 31% increase in residential electric rates. They're willing to give some of this increase back in the form of rate cuts to large business users -- after all, you can't be too grateful to "job creators" in Kansas -- but that looks pretty paltry by comparison. Like I said, normally when you read about rate increase proposals, you know it's a game and most of the hit will be knocked down, but this time it's different: the "regulators" having surrendered, there is no one to stand up for Kansas consumers, so the predators will feast.

  • Page 2: Police: Hutch students planned to detonate pipe bombs in school: Juveniles, ages 14 and 15, no names released.

  • Page 2: Hesston police chief: 'I am not a hero': There was a mass shooting at the Excel factory in Hesston (a small, mostly Mennonite, town less than an hour north of Wichita) a week or two ago. The shooter killed three and wounded more than a dozen, before the police chief fatally wounded the shooter. Needless to say, another triumph for gun rights in Kansas.

  • Page 5: Kansas bills seek to reduce early-term birth costs: Kansas has its own privatized Medicaid service ("KanCare"), which costs the state a lot of money. The legislature has been looking for ways to trim costs, so they hired someone to study the situation, and they've come up with long lists of ways to reduce costs by denying services they regard as inessential. One of these is to outlaw cesarean deliveries of premature babies (any under 39 weeks). Presumably there is still some way to establish a medical necessity, but this adds a whole new layer of legal interference with women's reproductive care. (Of course, a more effective way to save money would be to allow, or even encourage, covered women to opt for abortions, but it's taboo to even mention that in the state legislature.) Another proposed law would "require physicians to offer birth risk factor screenings for women in the first trimester to determine whether a pregnant woman uses tobacco, consumers alcohol, abuses substances, suffers from depression or is a victim of domestic violence." (No info on what happens if she does.)

  • Page 6: Old Town shooting a test of new chief's approach to policing: Another mass shooting, the first since Wichita got a new Chief of Police a few weeks ago.

  • Page 6: 4 people shot to death in KCK; fifth killing in mid-Missouri may be linked: Kansas City, Kansas. Shooting deaths there hardly ever get reported here, so I guess 4 must be the magic number.

  • Page 6: Trump wins Mich., Miss.; Democrats split states: So, Tuesday's presidential primary election results get buried deep in the paper, a single column about eight inches long, under a head no larger than "Prepaid card users, under scrutiny, find tax refunds frozen" and "Drug in Sharapova case used by Soviet troops in 1980s." The night's big story, barely mentioned, was Bernie Sanders' surprise upset of Hillary Clinton in Michigan (a state 538 gave her a 21-point poll advantage and a 99% chance of winning). On the other hand, they make no mention of Trump's third win in Hawaii, or Cruz's solo win in Idaho, or that Marco Rubio got zero delegates from those states.

  • Page 12: Sports Authority default ripples through sporting-goods industry: One store in Wichita, now shuttered, employees sacked. Another overleveraged chain bites the dust.

  • Page 13: Two Sedgwick County officials back measure that would restrict property tax increases: Not enough for Sedgwick County Commissioners Jim Howell and Karl Peterjohn to not pass property tax increases, they want to use their limited time in office to lobby the state legislature to prohibit future tax increases -- otherwise, like, future county commissioners might try to use county and local government to, like, do things for people.

  • Page 13 (Opinion): Cal Thomas: Culture beast to blame for Trump's rise: Nearly everything in this column is absurdly wrong, but my eyes were drawn to this paragraph:

    On the other side of the political fence, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton feed into the entitlement mentality that the government exists to give you stuff and take care of you. Democrats have exploited race and class for political advantage, deepening the divide between whites and blacks (and increasingly Hispanics), as well as the three classes -- poor, middle class and wealthy. If the left really cared about African-Americans, wouldn't that core Democratic constituency be better off now than they have ever been, given the amount of money spent on social programs supposedly created to improve their lot in life?

    First point: the United States government does exist to "give us stuff" (the wording in the US Constitution is "promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty"). What Thomas calls an "entitlement mentality" is what most of us think of as the basic rights of citizenship -- one of which is that we elect, and therefore effectively own, the government. If the government is ours, why shouldn't we use it for our own benefit? Where Sanders and (even) Clinton run afoul of Thomas is that they encourage us to take advantage of our own citizenship and use our votes to increase "the general welfare." On the surface, it's hard to understand how people like Thomas can even write this nonsense, but that they can gives you an idea of how completely they are enclosed in the right-wing media bubble.

    Second point: Thomas remains a captive of one of the right wing's oldest and deepest cons: the notion that helping people hurts them. Conservatives love this con because they hate sharing: it makes them feel especially virtuous, and if the disadvantaged fall for it they might go away blaming themselves for a system that is rigged against them. A corollary to this point is the belief that liberal efforts to improve the general welfare of Afro-Americans have only hurt them (and that the Democrats are hypocrites or just plain cruel for pursuing such policies). The problem with this point and corollary is not just that they're cynical and self-serving: it's that they're flat out falsehoods. The fact is that most Afro-Americans are much better off now than they were before the Great Society programs, before the Civil Rights laws, before the New Deal. It's certainly true that much more could be done, that there is much room for improvement, but you can't begin to justify an argument that those programs haven't helped. (As I'm writing this, one example of this is the full-color Berkshire Hathaway ad on the opposite page, showing showing a prosperous-looking black couple talking to a real estate agent in front of some rather upscale suburban housing. Ads like that didn't exist when I was a child. You can readily find examples elsewhere. For example, this piece was written to dispell misconceptions Sanders' supporters may have about blacks, but could enlighten Thomas as well.)

    Third point: blaming the Democrats for exploiting "race and class for political advantage" and "deepening the divide between whites and blacks (and increasingly Hispanics)" is, well, obscene. Class exists because one group owns property and makes its income from rents and profits, and another only makes a living by selling its labor, and that difference puts those two classes in conflict with one another. Political parties didn't invent capitalism; they arose because of it. What Thomas is really saying is that it would be good for his side if the other side never talked about class conflict. Race complicates this only a little bit: most Afro-Americans came to America as slaves, were held as such until 1865, and even after emancipation were discriminated against in ways designed to maintain them as a low-wage labor pool. Slaveholders, in turn, used the ever-present threat of slave revolts to organize poor white militias, a division that persists to this day, undermining class solidarity which could improve the lot of both black and white working classes. Similar divisions have long existed between native and immigrant workers -- again something that owners have often exploited to increase their advantages in class struggle.

    Thomas is not objecting to class, racial, or ethnic divisions -- indeed, he views them as immutable, the very foundation of his ideal conservative order. What he objects to is any possibility that the people not favored by his ideal hierarchy should become conscious and realize that change is possible -- that the general welfare can, in fact, becomg more general.

  • Page 13: Letters to the Editor: One letter points out the value of burying electrical lines rather than the cheaper (and much more outage-prone) stringing of lines from poles -- perhaps something that could be added to Sanders' infrasructure program, but that's hard to do when the power grid is trusted to predators like Westar. One letter touted Sanders' supporters, and two more had praise for Ted Cruz. Consider this paragraph:

    Beck opined that unless Republicans quit their infighting and unite behind a principled Republican conservative such as Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, they will lose the election to an unworthy Democrat, who will follow President Obama's job-killing policies.

    It still shocks me when I find people so totally ignorant of the facts. GW Bush was the job killer, winding up with negative job growth after eight years after his short-term housing bubble gains were wiped out when the bubble burst. Obama, on the other hand, has seen America steadily add jobs after an initial dip bequeathed by Bush, and the net result as been sharply positive (despite a loss in public sector jobs thanks to Republican slagging on government spending, especially at the state and local level -- remember Brownback?). In fact, ever since WWII Democratic presidents have average over twice the growth rates of Republicans (despite huge increases in deficit spending by Reagan and the Bushes). I'll leave it to you to look up the numbers, but believe me, the differences are huge.

    There is also a letter on Trump:

    Trump is what the base of the Republican Party has been clamoring for -- nay, demanding -- for decades and has given an outlet to racists, bigots and misogynists who blame political correctness on their inability to practice these openly. So why is the party surprised?

    Well, because Republicans' capacity for self-delusion is boundless -- almost as great as their knack for passing the buck (for example, see Bobby Jindal Blames President Obama for Donald Trump's Rise; it's really pretty galling how easily Republicans fling about "job-killing," especially with "Obamacare" -- but never with job-massacres like NAFTA or TPP). Leaving Trump aside for the moment, I've seen Ted Cruz talk passionately about stagnating wages, and then in the next breath proposing to abolish the IRS to solve the problem. How is that supposed to work? If the federal government has no facility for collecting taxes, how can it afford to do anything, much less encircle the globe in military bases armed to the hilt with state-of-the-art weapons systems? Without future tax income the federal government won't even be able to borrow money. Printing more money doesn't begin to solve the problem. And then what happens to the 20-25% of the workforce who lose their government jobs? And the millions more who lose Social Security and Medicare? You know, I hate taxes too, but I can't pretend nothing bad will happen if you abolish the IRS.

    As for Trump, Republicans have plenty of reason to be embarrassed by him, but the actual complaints coming from people like Thomas and Jindal and everyone from Glenn Beck and Bill Kristol to David Brooks and Mitt Romney boil down to two points: one is that Trump deviates from (and is not seen as a true believer in) the conservative dogma that right-wingers have spent millions (possibly billions) of dollars drumming into the movement, and the other is that Trump isn't wholly dependent on said right-wingers -- so they fear he's liable to go off script.

For many years we suffered bad politicians with bad ideas and somehow muddled through. Even now, people my age are more likely to die quietly than to see their world descend into dystopia. But I have little faith now that young people today will be able to muddle through even as we did. Throughout much of my lifetime the left tried to organize on the basis of helping other people -- something noble but when push came to shove not exactly dependable. But with the Sanders campaign what I see is young people mobilizing to defend themselves against a future full of peril. Meanwhile, when you look at newsdays like the above, that peril appears not just as something looming like global warming but as something frightfully urgent.


A couple quick links on the election:

  • FiveThirtyEight: What Went Down in the March 8 Presidential Primaries: Live blog from the night, closed out before anything from Hawaii reported, so not really the whole night. They spent a lot of time patting themselves on the back for nailing the Republican contests, and more time complaining about the bad polling data that screwed up their 99% prediction of a Clinton win in Michigan. For more of the latter, their Carl Bialik added a post-mortem, Why the Polls Missed Bernie Sanders's Michigan Upset. The reason that makes the most sense to me was that Sanders really hit the right notes with the Flint debate and the Detroit town hall events, although that's too subjective for these guys (they complain about not having any post-event polls, an excuse they also used with Cruz in Iowa). The one I don't believe at all is that over-confident Clinton supporters switched to the Republican primary to stop Trump. That doesn't make sense on any level, and exit polls tell us that only 4% of identified Democrats crossed over anyway so it couldn't have been much of an effect (sure, 4% would have tilted the election to Clinton, but I really suspect that most of that 4% crossed to vote for Trump, not against him, and I doubt that Trump-leaning Democrats would have preferred Clinton over Sanders -- unless they were super hawkish).

  • Nate Silver: Marco Rubio Never Had a Base: Rubio finished below the delegate threshold in all four Republican primaries on Tuesday, so he wound up with zero delegates. He trailed Kasich (and Cruz) in Michigan, so wound up fourth there. He significantly underperformed expectations in all four states. He's trailing in 538's poll average in his home state of Florida to Trump 30.6-39.9% (or 24.7-40.2%, depending on which chart you use; his best recent polls are 30-38% and 32-42%, but others are 22-42%, 20-43%, and 22-45%). He's dropped from 2nd to 3rd in all recent polls in North Carolina. He's still a bit better in Illinois (20.4%), but that reflects more on Trump (33.0%) and Cruz (19.5%). Silver has some ideas on why Rubio hasn't done well, but they don't go far toward explaining why he's tanked so much lately. I'd say it's basically because he's a placeholder -- a way of saying "none of the above." Let's face it, no one really likes him, even if they think they should. Silver trots out one revealing bit of data: Rubio's best districts so far are all very Democratic. Good chance what those voters like about Rubio is that they see him as someone they may be able to slip him past a more liberal electorate. Sure, he's a phony, but their phony, and no one doubts that if he wins he'll do as he's told.

    This is probably as good a place as any to mention two popular memes that came out of Super Tuesday and intensified this week. One is the proposition that if conservatives really want to stop Trump, the only choice they have left is to back Cruz. Sure, he's possibly the most toxic politician in America right now, but with him you get the whole package: a doctrinaire conservative even more principled (i.e., extreme) than Rubio and Kasich, and a guy who appeals to the basest instincts of the party base (much like Trump minus the flim flam). The second is that Rubio should cut a deal where he withdraws, throws his support to Cruz, and joins the ticket as Cruz's vice president. It's amusing to think that Rubio thinks he has supporters so loyal that now they would follow him into Cruz's arms when it was Cruz (and Trump) that drove them to Rubio in the first place. He's a politician with no intrinsic appeal, and it's good that's becoming obvious to everyone.

    If you want to read more, there's Gary Legum: The Marco Rubio post-mortem: How a supposedly ready-made GOP nominee crashed and burned.

  • Bill Curry: It should be over for Hillary: Party elites and MSNBC can't proper her up after Bernie's Michigan miracle: Few people remember this but when Eugene McCarthy ran against Lyndon Johnson in 1968, McCarthy actually lost to Johnson in New Hampshire. Nonetheless, that he came as close as he did rattled Johnson so severely that he dropped out of the race almost immediately. He could see that McCarthy would keep gaining traction, and while he could almost certainly have still won at the convention -- Hubert Humphrey in fact did without running in a single Democratic primary -- he didn't want to go out like that. I think of this not only because it was one of my formative political experiences but because Hillary Clinton started this campaign in every bit as dominant a perch as Johnson had in 1968. Her nomination was so pre-ordained that virtually no mainstream Democrat even considered a run against her. (Martin O'Malley ran a very half-hearted campaign, having positioned himself as Hillary's backup plan. Sanders and Lincoln Chafee weren't even Democrats, and Jim Webb wasn't much of one.) So why does Clinton, unlike Johnson, truck on after repeated primaries -- both in 2008 where she kept her losing campaign going all the way to the convention, and so far in 2016 -- reveal her to be a flawed and vulnerable candidate? Could just be hunger, but could also be a sense of entitlement. One thing it certainly involves is a willingness to win ugly, especially if that's the only way she can do it. Curry points out some of the obvious problems. A couple paragraphs, the first from a section headed "The old politics is over," the second from the end:

    I often talk to Democrats who don't know Obama chose not to raise the minimum wage as president even though he had the votes for it; that he was willing to cut Medicare and Social Security and chose not to prosecute Wall Street crimes or pursue ethics reforms in government. They don't know he dropped the public option or the aid he promised homeowners victimized by mortgage lenders. They don't know and don't want to know. Their affection for Bill and Barack -- and their fear of Republicans -- run too deep. [ . . . ]

    In the end, thinking only tactically makes you a bad tactician. When revolution's in the air polls, money and ads mean far less. Reporters who know nothing else can't conceive how voters choosing among a democratic socialist, a pay-to-play politician and a fascist might pick door number one. They bought Hillary's myth of inevitability, but as Lawrence of Arabia told Prince Ali in the desert, nothing is written. If Democratic voters really use their heads, they'll see through the tactical arguments just like the voters of Michigan did -- and then walk into voting booths all over America and vote their hearts. Then there will be change.

    The first paragraph reminds me of disappointment: that voting for Obama in 2008 was a vote for change, but in fact what we got was a president and administration that was dedicated to preserving the liberal-conservative tradition in America, to not rocking the boat and not changing anything -- in short, the sort of business-as-usual administration we expected from Clinton. Looking back, it's easy to see that we could have done much worse, but we also could have done better. Now we're being offered the same-old, same-old we rejected in 2008, and we're being told first that it's inevitable -- that one is proving flimsy -- and that Clinton is the only one able to stave off the barbarian hordes. I saw David Corn on TV last night arguing that Hillary's been "tested by fire" over thirty years, while Sanders has never had to face the sort of assaults the Republicans will surely bring against him if he's the nominee. Still, it's not as if Hillary hasn't been burnt a few times along the way, and he overlooks that Sanders has actually held elective office for thirty-some years, whereas Hillary only served one unfinished Senate term, one that was gift-wrapped for her in a safe state. Maybe Sanders is tougher than the pundits think. Maybe he just has less unsavory laundry to air out.

    Curry also wrote Hillary's inevitability lie: Why the media and party elites are rushing to nominate the weakest candidate.

  • Andy Schmookler: Who Is the Better Bet to Beat Trump, Hillary or Bernie?: Doesn't offer a clear cut argument for Sanders, but the argument for Hillary isn't very clear cut either. (Curry, by the way, subtitled the piece above "She's the one Dem even Trump beats.")

  • Charles Pierce: Why Bernie Won Michigan: One reason was that Clinton tried to claim Sanders' vote against the TARP fund bank bailout bill was a vote against the later auto industry bailout that Obama worked out using TARP funds:

    But, as I talked to more and more people around Flint, I got the sense that the resonance of the exchange was not what HRC and her campaign thought it would be. The UAW members I talked to clearly considered HRC's use of the auto bailout against Sanders to be at best a half-truth, and a cynical attempt to win their support, and they were offended by what they saw as a glib attempt to turn the state's economic devastation into a campaign weapon. These were people who watched the auto industry flee this city and this state, and they knew full well how close the country's remaining auto industry came to falling apart completely in 2008 and 2009. They knew this issue because they'd lived it, and they saw through what the HRC campaign was trying to do with the issue.

    Pierce also has a piece about Clinton trying to red bait Sanders over old comments he made about Cuba and Nicaragua: Bernie Sanders Said Something We Weren't Ready to Hear Last Night:

    The pundits are right that Sanders' statements back in the 1980s are fertile ground for conservative ratfcking -- look how easy it was for HRC to turn them around on him -- and likely would be used to make a meal out of him in a general election. The biggest problem that Sanders has here, though, is that he told a truth that we're still not prepared to hear. That Elliott Abrams has not been fitted with a leper's bell yet is proof enough of that.

    Still, I can't help but think that Obama has painted himself red, white and blue in patriotic homilies, fervently striving to steer any attention away from the fact that as a black American he might have had a somewhat more nuanced view of this country's legacy in the world. Note that I'm not saying he does, but no matter what he's said or done it hasn't cut any mustard with the rabid right, who have spent the last eight years frantically trying to deny that he's even a real American. So what crime is Sanders committing here by admitting the truth, and offering lessons from history as a guide for future policy? Merely that he will be attacked for not parroting common myths. But isn't the fact that he hasn't been pilloried yet for embracing Socialism at least a suggestion that the sanctities of the high priests are slipping? What ultimately undermines Obama and Clinton here is the widespread (and I'm pretty sure unfounded) belief that they are not sincere. But by not falling for the homilies, Sanders is showing that he is sincere, honest, truthful, and trustworthy -- and when he doesn't get hurt by doing so, that starts to free us from the dead weight of retrograde ideas. I have to admit, I myself always cringe when I hear Sanders' line about "a political revolution." I consider myself well to his left, and I would never use the r-word, partly to be circumspect but mostly because I don't consider it a real or even particularly desirable possibility. But then a funny thing happens every time I hear the line: applause. And I have to admit, I'm not the sort of political purist who makes a fuss against something worthwhile that seems to be working.

  • Sarah Leonard: Which Women Support Hillary (and Which Women Can't Afford To): I saw this piece a while back (posted Feb. 17), and the title resonated through the Kansas caucuses and into Michigan.

Could go on much longer, but let's close with a Matt Taibbi tweet:

Struggling to find the comp for that Trump victory speech. Ron Jeremy meets Stalin?

If anyone out there is too culturally illiterate to get the point, Ron Jeremy is a pudgy porn actor with modest skills as a comic, perhaps best known for waging swordfights with his erect penis. Stalin was head of the Soviet Union from 1929-1953, during which time he had nearly all of his political opponents killed off, some after elaborate show trials, at least one by an icepick-wielding assassin. He was famed for giving marathon speeches, frequently interrupted by long stretches of applause. It's been observed that the reason the applause lasted so long was that no one wanted to be seen as the first person to stop clapping. Sorry if you flash on both images next time you hear Trump speak, but I know I will.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26363 [26339] rated (+24), 413 [410] unrated (+3).

Rated count is down this week. I can't think of any particular reasons, other than that I'm getting tired and/or lazy. A lot of records stayed in the changer longer than usual. About three-quarters of the records (18 below) are 2016 releases. I didn't consciously decide to move on so much as I started running out of 2015 releases to chase down. I'm not sure how much remains unsearched of the Ye Wei Blog list, but I only see two albums from there listed below (Youth Worship is recommended to people who like that sort of thing -- I called it alt/indie but it's got a heavier sonic depth without being punkish).

The live Drive-By Truckers album is one I had been avoiding, partly as redundant but mostly because I didn't want to invest three-plus hours in a sitting. It only got one spin, but I never regretted a minute of it. Then I went back and listened to two early albums I had missed, and a best-of I probably shouldn't have bothered with. I haven't been all that happy with the group's later ATO albums, but all the source albums on New West are superb, each worth having in its own right. The problem with Greatest Hits is that I've hardly ever heard such an album that elevates less over its source material. I wound up giving it two extra plays to see whether I should knock it down, but in the end didn't. Still, not the place to start.

The Meridian Brothers compilation, a 2013 release, was featured in Robert Christgau's latest Expert Witness along with two Tom Zé albums -- one old news here (Troplicália Lixo Lógico, an A- from 2012) and a newer one (Vira Lata Na Via Láctea, from 2014), I'm listening to as I'm writing this -- and a long list of HMs from Latin America (or wherever Sidestepper comes from). That list went back as far as 2010 (Anibal Velasquez) but didn't mention two more recent Meridian Brothers albums on Soundway. I can recommend the one album on his HM list I had heard: Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978 (an A- in 2014). The Rough Guides continue to drive me crazy. I slogged my way through Psychedelic Salsa [B+(**)] and Psychedelic Samba [B+(***)] a while back, but hadn't notice any of the three he reviewed.

I jotted down a list of more/less recent Latin American albums I had noticed and recommended but Christgau hadn't reviewed. Thought I'd share that with you here:

  • The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: 10 (2015, Zoho) [***]
  • Bomba Estereo: Elegancia Tropical (2013, Soundway) [A-]
  • Bomba Estereo: Amancer (Sony Music Latina) [***]
  • Fabiano Do Nascimento: Danca Dos Tempos (2015, Now-Again) [A-]
  • Fumaca Preta: Fumaca Preta (2014, Soundway) [A-]
  • Aurelio Martinez: Landini (2014, Real World) [***]
  • Ondatropica: Ondatropica (2012, Soundway) [A-]
  • Sao Paulo Underground: Tres Cabecas Loucuras (2011, Cuneiform) [A-]
  • Sonzeira: Brasil Bam Bam Bam (2014, Talkin' Loud/Virgin) [***]
  • Tribu Baharu: Pa'l Mas Exigente Bailador (2015, self-released) [A-]
  • Mati Zundel: Amazonico Gravitante (2012, Waxploitation/ZZK) [A-]
  • Cartagena! Curro Fuentes and the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72 (2011, Soundway) [A]
  • Jukebox Mambo: Rumba and Afro-Latin Accented Rhythm and Blues 1949-1960 (Jazzman) [***]
  • Palenque Palenque! Champeta Criolla and Afro Roots in Colombia 1975-91 (Soundway) [A-]
  • The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Samba (2015, World Music Network) [***]

Of course, I'm no expert. I only find out about these discs by accident, don't have much back catalogue to compare to (even compared to, say, African music), don't follow Spanish or Portuguese. There are probably more albums I have misfiled somewhere else, like under jazz or electronica. (I had Fumaca Preta filed under Europe -- its leader is described as Portuguese-Venezuelan.) I skipped over most Latin jazz. I also used 2010 as a cutoff date -- there's a good deal more on older lists.


New records rated this week:

  • Steve Barta: Symphonic Arrangement: Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio (2015 [2016], Steve Barta Music): [cd]: B
  • Rich Brown: Abeng (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Cowboys & Frenchmen: Rodeo (2015, Outside In Music): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • The Drive-By Truckers: It's Great to Be Alive! (2014 [2015], ATO, 3CD): [r]: A-
  • Moppa Elliott: Still Up in the Air (2015 [2016], Hot Cup): [cd]: B+(**)
  • David Fiuczynski: Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam (2015 [2016], Rare Noise): [cdr]: B
  • Socrates Garcia Latin Jazz Orchestra: Back Home (2015 [2016], Summit): [cd]: B
  • Lafayette Harris Jr.: Hangin' With the Big Boys (2013 [2016], Airmen): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Joseph Howell: Time Made to Swing (2015 [2016], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Krakauer's Ancestral Groove: Checkpoint (2015 [2016], Table Pounding): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Julian Lage: Arclight (2015 [2016], Mack Avenue): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Los Bosnáis: Nordeste (2015, Elefant, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kirk MacDonald: Symmetry (2013 [2016], Addo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Meridian Brothers: Los Suicidas (2015, Soundway, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Miller: Old Door Phantoms (2015 [2016], Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B-
  • Christian Perez: Anima Mundi (2015 [2016], CPM): [cd]: B
  • Richard Poole/Marilyn Crispell/Gary Peacock: In Motion (2014 [2016], Intakt): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Alfredo Rodriguez: Tocororo (2015 [2016], Mack Avenue/Qwest): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sidestepper: Supernatural Love (2016, Real World): [r]: B+(*)
  • The U.S. Army Blues: Live at Blues Alley (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: C
  • Youth Worship: LP1 (2015, Self Harm): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Cheryl Bentyne: Lost Love Songs (2003-11 [2016], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • DJ Katapila: Trotro (2009 [2016], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [r]: B+(***)
  • Meridian Brothers: Devoción (Works 2005-2011) (2005-11 [2013], Staubgold): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Drive-By Truckers: Gangstabilly (1998, Soul Dump): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drive-By Truckers: Alabama Ass Whuppin' (1999 [2000], Second Heaven): [r]: B+(***)
  • Drive-By Truckers: Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians: Greatest Hits 1998-2009 (1998-2009 [2011], New West): [r]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Cheryl Bentyne: Lost Love Songs (Summit)
  • Renato Braz: Saudade (Living Music): June 7
  • Andy Brown Quartet: Direct Call (Delmark)
  • Rex Cadwallader/Mike Aseta/Arti Dixson/Tiffany Jackson: A Balm in Gilead (Stanza USA): May 6
  • Taylor Cook: The Cook Book (self-released): March 18
  • Patrick Cornelius: While We're Still Young (Whirlwind)
  • The Dominican Jazz Project (Summit)
  • Danny Green Trio: Altered Narratives (OA2)
  • Lafayette Harris Jr.: Hangin' With the Big Boys (Airmen): May 6
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Abyssinian Mass (Blue Engine, 2CD+DVD): March 18
  • Gabriela Martina: No White Shoes (self-released)
  • Never Group: Zhenya Strigalev (Whirlwind)
  • Roberta Piket: One for Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland (Thirteenth Note): advance, June 10
  • Leslie Pintchik: True North (Pintch Hard): March 25
  • Henry Threadgill Zooid: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi): April 1
  • Marcos Varela: San Ygnacio (Origin): March 18
  • Jeff Williams: Outlier (Whirlwind)

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Kansas held both Democratic and Republican Party caucuses yesterday. Both had record turnouts, in many cases forcing voters to wait in line for hours. Still the caucus format is so inconvenient that at most 10% of the number of people who will vote in November showed up. I suppose you could argue that that means only the hard core fanatics showed up. You could go further and point out that both caucuses were won by the party's extremists -- Cruz and Sanders -- with both trouncing national favorites (Trump and Clinton) by more than 20 points. Still, while a primary might have narrowed the outcomes, I seriously doubt if it would have overturned either winner.

The Republican caucus was a big show here in Wichita, with most (or maybe all) registered Republicans required to head downtown to the Century II Auditorium, where the voting took place after speeches in favor of the candidates. Cruz and Trump represented themselves in person. Marco Rubio was AWOL, his slot filled in by local Congressman (and Bill Kristol favorite) Mike Pompeo. Trump was singled out for a counter-demonstration, and had some hecklers removed from the caucus. When the votes were counted, the results were: Cruz 48.2%, Trump 23.3%, Rubio 16.7%, Kasich 10.7%, out of about 72,000 votes (Romney got 689,000 votes in 2012).

The Democratic caucuses were organized by State Senate district. We attended the 25th, at the SEIU union hall on west Douglas. The 25th district covers the near west side of Wichita, between the Arkansas River and the flood control ditch from 25th North to Pawnee (23rd South), plus Riverside (the area between the Little Arkansas River and the big one -- this is where we live) and a chunk of south Wichita from the river east to Hillside, bounded by Kellogg (downtown) on the north and Pawnee on the south (this is the area I grew up in). The district is represented by creepy Republican Michael O'Donnell -- a "preacher's kid" who long lived rent-free thanks to his father's church, and who is best known for authoring a bill passed last year which placed many restrictions on what welfare recipients could do with their money (including a restriction that they couldn't draw more than $25 at a time from an ATM), but who was most recently in the news for providing beer to a party of underaged "campaign supporters."

The district is mostly working class, overwhelmingly white -- Wichita is still pretty segregated, and the Republicans who drew up the Senate district map worked hard to put every black person they could find into the 29th district -- the result is that Sedgwick County has only one Democrat in the state senate, compared to 7-9 Republicans (some suburban and rural slivers overlap into other counties). The district was formerly represented by Jean Schodorf, a liberal Republican who was ousted by O'Donnell in the 2012 GOP primary purge. He will be opposed this year by Lynn Rogers, a popular school board member who recently switched parties, so I think he has a good chance to flip the district (until they redraw it -- Republicans control the state senate 32-8).

We managed to park about three blocks from the caucus site, and spent a little more than an hour in line to get into the building. By that time, they had decided to run a primary instead of a caucus as they couldn't fit a tenth of the people who turned out into the hall. We saw a couple dozen people we knew (including a couple carrying Hillary signs), and many hundreds we didn't (a great many with Bernie signs or stickers). When we got in, I was chagrined to find that my name wasn't on the voter roll, so I had to register. (Being Democrats, they didn't require ID or proof of citizenship, so I'm not sure how my registration will set with the Voter Suppression Bureau -- or whatever they call it these days. I've been registered here since 1999, but changed from independent to Democrat for the 2008 caucus, so it's possible that the party change didn't stick).

The final vote total was 67.7% Sanders, 32.3% Clinton, with 41,000 votes cast (Obama got almost 440,000 in 2012). I've looked around for more local election results, but haven't found much yet. I do know that the 4th Congressional District, which includes Wichita and mostly rural counties southeast to Montgomery (Independence and Coffeyville), broke 70-30% for Sanders -- the highest of any Kansas Congressional District. There's a good chance my caucus went 75-80% for Sanders. It's likely blacks in Kansas broke for Hillary: I saw few, but those who did have signs supported Hillary. Sanders got 81.4% in Lawrence (where Cruz only got 37% and Rubio beat Trump 20-18%), but (as I recall) the 3rd District was the closest, so Hillary must have done better in Wyandotte (largely black) and/or Johnson (KC suburban) counties.

The 4th was also Cruz's top congressional district. He slumped a bit in the 3rd (suburban Kansas City, Lawrence) and, a bigger surprise, in the 1st, represented by his most prominent booster in the state, Tim Huelskamp. Good chance Huelskamp's endorsement actually cost Cruz votes: Huelskamp is much hated in the most Republican district in the state, mostly by farmers who don't appreciate his efforts to wipe out the government gravy train. Not a good day for other prominent endorsers either: Gov. Brownback, Sen. Roberts, and Rep. Pompeo all threw their political weight behind Rubio, who came in a distant third, performing well below his statewide average in Pompeo's district. The top Trump supporters -- Kris Kobach (ALEC) and Phil Ruffin (Wichita's other billionaire, like Trump a casino mogul) -- had no discernible effect. One might also add Clinton-backer Jill Docking, possibly the best known Democrat in the state -- she lost a couple statewide races, but bears the name of two former governors and a state office building in Topeka.

[PS: Here are some figures by Congressional District: Cruz got 58% in the 4th, 49% in the 1st, 46% in the 2nd, and 42% in the 3rd. Rubio led Trump in the 3rd 22-20%, but with Pompeo's help trailed in the 4th 13-22%. Kasich got 15% in the 3rd, only 6% in the 4th. Sanders did best in the 2nd District (Topeka) with 72%, followed by 70% in the 4th, 69% in the 1st, and 62% in the 3rd.]

Sanders also won in Nebraska (57.1-42.9%), while Clinton mopped up in Louisiana (71.1-23.2%). Evidently Clinton finished the day with a slight increase in her delegate edge. Maine votes today, and should go to Sanders. [PS: That indeed happened, Sanders leading 64.2-35.6%.] Michigan and Mississippi vote on Tuesday -- Michigan should be an indicator of whether the Sanders campaign is looking up or down. Recent polls there favor Clinton (60-36%, 57-40%, 55-44%; 538's weighted average is 57.1-37.2%), but Michigan Democrats have been known to think out of the box -- George Wallace and Jesse Jackson are former winners -- and the last-minute focus there will be intense. (Trump is a heavy favorite on the Republican side, leading Cruz 37.0-21.4% with Kasich above Rubio 20.7-18.4%.)

Trump won primaries yesterday in Kentucky (35.3-31.6% over Cruz, with Rubio at 16.4% and Kasich 14.4%) and Louisiana (41.4-37.8% over Cruz, with Rubio way out at 11.2% and Kasich half that), while Cruz solidly beat Trump in Maine (45.9-32.6%, Kasich over Rubio 12.2-8.0%). The latter was a surprise to me: Cruz had done very poorly in New England thus far, and Maine is about the last place in the nation where moderate Republicans have any traction. May be worth noting that turnout in Maine was extremely low (18382 votes vs. 292276 for Romney in 2012, so 6.3% -- about half the ratio in Kansas).

For more on this round, see 538's How the States Voted on Semi-Super Saturday. They are very impressed by Cruz, at least as unimpressed by Rubio, and quick to dismiss Sanders. You also get things like:

The Republican race is quite challenging to model demographically, and also isn't all that well-explained by ideology. So I expect that personality really might have something to do with it. Is it a coincidence that some of Trump's worst performances so far are in "nice" states like Minnesota and Kansas, and that his best is in neurotic, loud Massachusetts?

My first reaction to the first line was that there's no division in the Republican party either demographically or ideologically, but then the third line made me think of one: Catholics, especially those who got worked up over race and left the Democratic Party for Reagan. Massachusetts, which Reagan won in 1984, was ground zero for them, but Kansas and Minnesota have far fewer Catholics and a lot less urban/suburban race panic. They are also states where the Republican Party has never made much effort to pander to racism -- I suppose you could say that was "nice" of them, but they didn't really have the need in Kansas, nor the opportunity in Minnesota. Of course, we don't really need to define this group as Catholic: the more generic term is racist, and Trump does very well in those ranks.

One thing that 538 does point out is that Carson's votes seem to be going to Cruz, not Trump. I think he's right there, especially in Kansas, where Carson is very highly regarded and would probably have pulled 10% were he still in the race. They also note that while Trump led Louisiana in early ballots, Cruz may have gotten more votes on primary day than Trump.


Some scattered links this week:


  • Jeffrey Toobin: Looking Back: The New Yorker's legal expert, author of two books on the Supreme Court -- The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court (2007), and The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court (2012) -- considers the legacy of the late Antonin Scalia and gets to the point quick:

    Antonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately, he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that President Obama should avoid in a successor. The great Justices of the Supreme Court have always looked forward; their words both anticipated and helped shape the nation that the United States was becoming. Chief Justice John Marshall read the new Constitution to allow for a vibrant and progressive federal government. Louis Brandeis understood the need for that government to regulate an industrializing economy. Earl Warren saw that segregation was poison in the modern world. Scalia, in contrast, looked backward. [ . . . ]

    Scalia described himself as an advocate of judicial restraint, who believed that the courts should defer to the democratically elected branches of government. In reality, he lunged at opportunities to overrule the work of Presidents and of legislators, especially Democrats. Scalia helped gut the Voting Rights Act, overturn McCain-Feingold and other campaign-finance rules, and, in his last official act, block President Obama's climate-change regulations. Scalia's reputation, like the Supreme Court's, is also stained by his role in the majority in Bush v. Gore. His oft-repeated advice to critics of the decision was "Get over it."

    Toobin has a follow-up piece, The Company Scalia Kept, including an overdose of the wit and wisdom of Scalia's hunting buddy, C. Allen Foster ("when the last duck comes flying over with a sign around his neck 'I am the last duck,' I will shoot it"). Also post-mortem is Jedediah Purdy: Scalia's Contradictory Originalism, which treats Scalia's signature rationale with more respect than I can muster. I've felt "originalism" was nothing more than Scalia's way of echoing Pope Urban's "Deus vult" -- a cheap way of selling anything that enters his wretched mind (although effective only if you think Scalia, like the pope, is infallible).

  • Nate Silver: Republican Voters Kind of Hate All Their Choices: My first thought was, not as much as I hate them, but then I remembered that we're talking about Republicans, who seem to have a boundless capacity for hating other people -- so why not themselves? One chart here shows that in in the 2012 primary season, Republicans were more likely to have at least a "satisfied" view of Romney (63%) than of Santorum (55%) or Gingrich (52%). The current leader is Rubio (53%), followed by Cruz (51%) and Trump (49%). Another chart puts Trump's 49% well below that of all but one previous nominee or major candidate since 2004: Ron Paul in 2012 was lower; Cruz, Gingrich, and Rubio were the next lowest, behind Huckabee (2008), Santorum (2012), and Edwards (57% in 2004). Another chart shows that the 2008 race between Obama and Clinton was less divisive: Clinton led 71-69 -- the main difference was that while Clinton never dropped below 58 (in Mississippi), Obama had lower scores in a few states that turned hard against him in the general election: West Virginia (43), Kentucky (43), Arkansas (47), Oklahoma (49), and Tennessee (51). Clinton's figure this year is even higher at 78, while Sanders is well behind at 62 -- still high enough to suggest he would do a better job of uniting the party than any of the current batch of Republicans.

    No More Mister Nice Blog has a piece which looks beyond Rubio's bare margin in acceptability, arguing there's not much to it: Cruz is the other Trump, and Rubio continues to be friendzoned. The argument is basically that Trump and Cruz, as militant outsiders, are more acceptable to each other's bases than an obvious corporate tool like Rubio would be to either's. The result is that if a brokered convention hands the nomination to Rubio, a big chunk of Cruz and/or Trump supporters would go home or break loose or otherwise wreck the Republican Party.

  • Stephem M Walt: It's Time to Abandon the Pursuit for Great Leaders: From Napoleon to Donald Trump, the track record of investing great power in a charismatic individual has been lousy (in Walt's words, "always a mistake"). The Germans had a word for this, Führerprinzip, which has since become as discredited as it deserves to be. That's one example Walt doesn't bother with, for the problem is not just the higher you fly the harder you fall (surely no one can argue about Napoleon in any other terms), but that Great Leaders may not even be possible any more (and that may be for the better). Walt surveys the recent wreckage:

    I suspect the appeal of the Great Leader also reflects the present shortcomings of existing democratic institutions in Europe and North America, the transparent hypocrisy of most career politicians, and the colorlessness of many current office-holders. If you strip away the well-scripted pageantry that tries to make presidents and prime ministers seem all-powerful and all knowing, today's democratic leaders are not a very inspiring bunch. I mean, seriously: whatever their political skills may be, can one really admire an undisciplined skirt-chaser like Bill Clinton, an insensitive, privileged bumbler like George W. Bush, or an unprincipled opportunist like Tony Blair? Does listening to David Cameron or François Hollande fill you with confidence and patriotic zeal? I still retain a certain regard for Barack Obama, who is both thoughtful and devoid of obvious character defects, but nobody is talking about him being a "transformational" president anymore. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's lackluster performance on the campaign trail and the clown show that is the Republican primary season is just reinforcing the American public's sense that none of these people are sincere, serious, genuinely interested in the public's welfare, or deserving or admiration or respect. Instead, they're mostly out for themselves, and they would say and do almost anything if they thought it would get them elected. And if that is in fact the case (and many people clearly believe it is), then a buffoon like Trump or a grumpy outsider like Bernie Sanders are going to look appealing by comparison.

    Leaving aside the irrelevant sidepoint of whether Sanders is grumpy, the obvious follow-up points are that lacking any policy goals that in any way bear up under scrutiny, the Republican primaries have turned into a forum on leadership posturing, may the greatest of the great prevail (although it's not clear to me how this hasn't ruled Rubio out yet). Meanwhile Clinton has developed (or should I say was given?) the counter, that it is not the president but America that is great, a blessing she will surely shepherd and sustain. From where I stand, all this adds up to is a culture of narcissism -- the last thing in the world we should look to our political leaders to fix.

    Still, I'm haunted by Trump's "make America great again" -- the nagging question being, when was America ever really great? Indeed, what could that possibly mean? Sure, empires from Rome to Brittania to Nazi Germany have exulted in their brutal power while lavishing their elites with the spoils of war, but hardly any of their gains trickled down to the masses, and every last one sowed the seeds of its own destruction. What's so great about that? For that matter, what's so good? The difference is not just rhetoric: back when Lyndon Johnson was president, he had an argument with Bill Moyers over what to call his programs to lift the poor out of poverty and broaden the middle class. Moyers wanted to call this vision the Good Society, but Johnson insisted on cranking up the superlatives, giving us the Great Society. Problem is, while it's easy to think of lots of things that would make most lives better, no one could really envision what it would take to make them great. By overselling his programs, burdening them with grand gestures and empty rhetoric, he undermined them. (Same for his War on Poverty, which he actually did a much better job of executing than his Vietnam War, but which could never be won as definitively as Americans had come to expect from WWII.)

    Perhaps Sanders seems grumpy because he's stuck thinking about real problems and viable solutions instead of engaging in the great national ego stroke of our collective and/or individual greatness?


Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:

Extras


Partial draft on Libya-Syria, couldn't work my way out of this in time:

Martin Longman: Clinton and Libya: Libya and Syria both erupted in Arab Spring demonstrations in early 2011. Both nations were ruled by governments which the US had long regarded as antagonistic (not always so, but that was certainly the default prejudice). Both were headed by strongmen, who ruled through a combination of brute force and tribal favoritism, and they responded to popular demonstrations with brutal repressive force. In both cases the clashes rapidly became militarized with some factions within the established military breaking away. In both cases the opposition was joined by jihadi-oriented islamists, whose anti-American stance muddied initial anti-regime biases in the US. While both conflicts had much in common, a few differences led the US to react differently to them. Actually, there were a range of reactions and proposals within the US government, with Obama deciding to go with the interventionists in Libya and against them (at least initially) in Syria. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at the time, and generally sided with the hawks. She largely got her way in Libya: the US intervened and in fairly short order Gaddafi's offensive was halted and unwound, Gaddafi was killed, and his government was dismantled. It turned out that overthrowing Gaddafi left a vacuum that soon evolved into a civil war that continues today, so it's no longer easy to view Libya as any kind of success for US policy.

Meanwhile, the initial revolts in Syria degenerated into prolonged and indecisive civil war. Obama resisted the interventionists at first, who continued to coo into his ear that if only we could step in we could put an end to the bloodshed (you know, doing so would be a humanitarian act). The US approved small scale programs to aid and abet anti-government rebels, but such programs were ineffective and only served to extend the war. The US got more active when a former anti-American group in Iraq mutated into ISIS, setting up an "Islamic State" that spanned northwestern Iraq and parts of eastern Syria. The American reaction at that point became kneejerk, so the haphazard opposition to Assad was supplemented by a more direct war against Assad's chief adversaries. The US has often been misguided in its foreign alliances, but it's hard to think of a previous case where it's acted with such unthinking callousness. Aside from her initial impulse to intervene in Syria, Clinton has at least been on the sidelines.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Tuesday Stupor

The mainstream news media was all hepped up yesterday to declare Super Tuesday as the event that cinched the nominations of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, a bias they confirmed by rapidly calling the most obvious states for their heroes: Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas (Trump over Cruz 32.7-30.5%), Tennessee, Virginia (Trump over Rubio 34.7-31.9%), and Massachusetts (Clinton over Sanders -%). Then not much else broke as they expected. Everyone expected Cruz to take Texas (over Trump 43.8-26.7%), but he also won Oklahoma and Alaska. Finally, Marco Rubio won in Minnesota (over Cruz 36.5-29.0%, with Trump at 21.3%, how lowest share of the night).

Sanders was a shoe-in for Vermont (86.1-13.6%; Trump prevailed over Kasich there 32.7-30.4%), but he also won impressively in Minnesota (61.6-38.4%) and Colorado (58.9-40.4%), and surprisingly in Oklahoma (51.9-41.5% -- 538's polls and models favored Sanders there, but I didn't really believe them). Clinton won blowouts across the south, sweeping Virginia (64.3-35.2%) and Arkansas (66.3-29.7%) and four states she has no prayer of winning in the fall (she got 65.2% in Texas, 66.1% in Tennessee, 71.3% in Georgia, and 77.6% in Alabama). The only close contest was in Massachusetts, which she won 50.1-48.7%. That seems like a state Sanders should have won (and needed to win to have a shot at the nomination), but having lived there, one thing I recall is that the state harbors some of the most reactionary Democrats in the north, if not the whole country. I don't know how significant that was, but it's something you wouldn't be aware of unless you lived there.

It seems pretty clear that Clinton will win the nomination: she's running a little ahead of 538's targets, accumulating a majority of popularly elected delegates, plus she has that huge superdelegate advantage. She also appears to be headed toward some big wins in March primaries: 538's polling averages show her winning handsomely in Michigan (60.7-36.3%), Florida (66.8-29.8%), Illinois (65.5-30.4%), North Carolina (59.7-36.8%), and Ohio (60.1-37.6%). Sanders' next best chance is April 5 in Wisconsin, where polling is close to tied. I'm not seeing any polling for the March 5 caucuses in Louisiana, Kansas, and Nebraska, or March 6 for Maine. I expect Kansas and Nebraska to be close, and Maine to tilt to Sanders, so he may get some good news before the bad. At some point I think Sanders needs to pivot his campaign toward retaking Congress -- say thanks for supporting him by campaigning for his supporters, which would allow him to stay on the campaign trail until November, and build up a party which would pull Clinton to the left.

Trump didn't top 50% anywhere (he came close in Massachusetts with 49.3%, followed by 43.4% in Alabama, 38.9% in Tennessee, 38.8% in Georgia, but took less than 35% in his owner wins, bottoming out in Minnesota). And Trump wound up with less than half of the delegates (319 vs. 369 for the not-so-united opposition). He's still the frontrunner and may still be on track to the nomination, but he's not exactly blowing everyone else away. The best you can say for his chances is that no one else looks to have a chance. Kasich finished second in Vermont (close) and Massachusetts (distant, Trump winning 49.3-18.0%). Presumably he'll hang around for Ohio, where he's polling a few points behind Trump. A win there might give him a shot at a broken/brokered convention, as establishment favorite Rubio continues to falter: he won Minnesota, and came in second in Virginia (close) and Georgia (distant), but he specializes in thirds -- eight of them, everywhere else. Carson's best state was Alabama (10.2%), which netted him 0 delegates. Today he conceded that he sees no 'path forward' for his campaign, but rather than suspending it he'll just fade into occlusion (like the last Shiite Imam). Presumably his voters will gravitate toward Trump (if they don't follow their leader into occlusion).

That leaves Cruz, who'd like establishment conservatives to realize that he's their last chance to stop Trump -- something that it's safe to say isn't going to happen, if only because many of them despise Cruz even more viscerally than they do Trump. They may, after all, worry that Trump isn't a true conservative, but Cruz is so true he makes their carefully worded rationalizations look like a cruel joke. And while they may not wish to admit it, Trump at least is thoroughly corruptible, with a substantial personal stake in his fortune. Cruz, on the other hand, has the air of a true believer, the sort of fanatic who in his extremism could bring them all down. (Hence Rubio: never in history has a candidate so completely looked the part of a tool of his donors' interests. No wonder he's their favorite.)


Some links:

  • FiveThirtyEight: Super Tuesday: Live Coverage and Results: Start at the bottom if you want to follow the night minute-by-minute, the bottom having a lot of background data (since it started before any new data came in). Only some of this avalanche of info is useful, but note, for instance, at 6:53PM someone asked about Rubio's polls, and Harry Enten answered: "The two states where [Rubio] has been competitive, according to data I've seen, are Minnesota and Utah." That was before Rubio won Minnesota. Also suggests that if he was going to win anywhere, that would be it, and winning there doesn't suggest he's going to win anywhere else (well, except Utah, maybe).

  • Nate Silver: Can Republicans Still Take the Nomination From Trump? Main thing I take away here is that the picture will become much clearer after March 15, when winner-take-all primaries in Florida and Ohio can shift the delegate counts dramatically. Currently 538 has Kasich slightly ahead of Trump in terms of "chance of winning" Ohio (41-39%), but the poll data tilts the other way: Trump (30.1%), Kasich (27.4%), Rubio (21.6%), Cruz (18.8%). Trump is doing a little better in Florida, with 41.4% polling average, vs. Rubio (35.2%), Cruz (12.4%), and Kasich (8.5%). If Trump wins both, I don't see how he can fail to take the nomination.

    By the way, the other polling averages for March primaries: Michigan (March 8): Trump 38.4%, Rubio 24.9%, Cruz 17.4%, Kasich 15.1%; Illinois (March 15): Trump 37.3%, Rubio 29.4%, Cruz 16.8%, Kasich 13.1%; North Carolina (March 15): Trump 31.3%, Rubio 29.0%, Cruz 21.8%, Kasich 12.9%; Arizona (March 22): no average, but latest poll shows Trump 35%, Rubio 23%, Cruz 14%, Kasich 7%. Trump is also leading polls for April primaries in Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania. Nothing on smaller states, but March 5 could be a good day for Cruz with caucuses in Louisiana, Kansas, and Nebraska (contiguous, as they are, with three of his four wins: Texas, Oklahoma, and Iowa).

  • Clare Malone: If You Want to Understand What's Roiling the 2016 Election, Go to Oklahoma: This was written a couple days before the election, when Sanders upset Clinton, and Cruz pulled ahead of Trump. It's been a long time since anyone has brought up Oklahoma's early-19th-century populist past, but when you're looking for explanations, it's always handy to grasp at straws.

  • Nate Silver: Don't Assume Conservatives Will Rally Behind Trump: Another piece from before the election. Useful mostly because it looks back at the history of partisan abandonment ("share of party's voters voting against its presidential candidate"), something Democrats have done more often than Republicans (indeed, aside from 1964 Republican defections appear to have mostly gone to third party candidates. But note that 2012 had the lowest total figure (8+7) since the chart starts up in 1952, and 2004 had the second lowest (11+7) -- one can argue that after a lot of party-jumping from 1952-1996 we've entered a new period of stability. Sure, Trump could change that, both by losing Republicans and by drawing Democrats. Perhaps Sanders also (conversely, of course). But I don't expect many Republicans to cross over and vote Democratic -- just too much pent-up hatred to swallow that pill. And thus far I haven't heard any credible talk of a third party candidate meant to torpedo Trump support among Republicans, even at the cost of throwing the presidency to Hillary Clinton. (Bloomberg maybe, but he seems far more animated by Sanders than Trump, which makes sense given where his billions come from.) That leaves, who? The Republicans are a party of lemmings. They'll follow anyone off the cliff.

  • Amanda Girard: How Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday 'Win' Relied on Dismal Voter Turnout: Some numbers here. Sanders has been hoping that high voter turnout will boost his chances. Most of the numbers I've seen are down from 2008 (Clinton v. Obama), but that's a pretty high bar. The chart does suggest that Sanders do relatively well where the turnout is relatively high: turnout in the five states Sanders won or barely lost (Massachusetts) was down 8.8%; in the six southern states Clinton won by landslides, turnout was down 32.7%. That really just corresponds to the adage that competitive races draw more interest. On the other hand, Republican turnout has generally been high higher this year, which probably has more to do with the competitiveness of the races (and the obscene amounts of money spent on them) than a net shift to the GOP.

  • Martin Wolf: Donald Trump embodies how great republics meet their end: Intellectual mischief, introducing the phrase "pluto-populism" ("the marriage of plutocracy with rightwing populism" -- the more common historical term for this is "fascism").

  • Kevin Drumm: Will Conservatives Do the Right Thing in November?: Uh, no: even though focus groups have long cautioned conservatives against over-the-top racism (while identifying all manner of viable "dog whistles"), deep down the only thing conservatives really care about is their money, and they'll do whatever it takes to grab the political clout they need to keep their good thing going. I got a kick out of this quote from Bret Stephens complaining about how unfairly conservatives have been maligned for trading on racism:

    It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years. Nativist bigotries must not be allowed to become the animating spirit of the Republican Party. If Donald Trump becomes the candidate, he will not win the presidency, but he will help vindicate the left's ugly indictment. It will be left to decent conservatives to pick up the pieces -- and what's left of the party.

    That's a real knee-slapper, "decent conservatives." I won't deny that there are decent people who identify with conservatism, mostly because the movement flatters them for their personal virtues -- most of which I approve of and share in -- and they take that as some sort of tribal identity. But the conservative movement doesn't stop there. It takes advantage of their decency and isolation and uses that to promote the wealth of a very few at the expense of nearly everyone else.

  • Colbert Rips Trump's KKK Fumble: 'This is the Easiest Question in Politics!': It should be pretty pro forma by now for Republicans to disavow David Duke and the KKK -- it's not like they haven't had to do it before -- but somehow Trump hesitated. I saw a meme on Facebook from The Other 98% -- somehow Facebook has made it impossible to share their photos anywhere else (or at least I haven't figured out how to do it). The text reads: "Donald Trump eagerly attacks Muslims, Mexicans, journalists, newspapers, scientists, women who aren't pretty enough for him, women who breastfeed, people who are taken prisoner, Macy's, Apple, fat people, thirsty people, handicapped people and the Pope . . . but he has to be careful and do more research before he criticizes the KKK."

  • Peter Beinart: Why Liberals Should Vote for Marco Rubio: OK, this is bizarre, but Beinart has quite a history of thinking himself into ridiculous positions, like when he supported the Bush invasion of Iraq, then wrote a book blaming the Bush team's conservatism for fucking it all up (The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again). He admits that Marco Rubio "would be a terrible president" but considers Trump so odious that he's urging Democrats to abandon their party, forgoing the non-trivial differences between Clinton and Sanders, to vote for a guy who's only taken seriously because conservative pundits can't think of anyone better to back. He even offers three reasons why voting for Rubio is a dumb idea, yet his paranoia about Trump is so great he dismisses them out of hand. He even suggests liberals should help out by donating money to Rubio's campaign, as if they'd make a material difference compared to the billionaires already bankrolling Rubio. And he has a "plan B" if liberal largesse doesn't tilt the nomination to Rubio: convince your conservative buddies to vote for Hillary Clinton. That at least isn't so far fetched: some are already gravitating to Clinton because they view her as an even-more-trigger-happy Commander in Chief.

    Not sure whether that factors into Beinart's thinking: regardless of how hawkish Clinton is, the GOP "establishment" candidates -- Kasich as well as Rubio -- have staked out even more reckless neocon positions than Clinton, Cruz, or Trump. Indeed, one of Beinart's charges against Trump is how he's "praised Vladimir Putin": going soft on Putin seems to violate one of the "norms that both decent liberals and decent conservatives cherish." He concludes: "Across the ideological divide, it's time to close ranks." Effectively, he's saying that none of the differences between Rubio and Clinton (let alone Sanders) matter. In truth, Beinart comes off as such a smug and complacent liberal elitist it's hard to read this without thinking, hey, this guy deserves Trump. Of course, why should we suffer because he's a dolt? I can see going soft on Clinton because bad as she is she isn't nearly as awful as any conceivable Republican. I can see differences between those Republicans, but none that make me want to pick one, let alone try to influence the Republican primary to pick the least evil one. Nor am I even sure that Trump is the most evil: Rubio and Kasich are clearly more pro-war, and Cruz is more prone to blow up the government lest it ever help people in need. My biggest worry about Trump isn't that he'll be much worse than Rubio. It's that he'll prove more effective campaigning against a corporate shill and shameless hawk like Clinton.

  • Derek Thompson: How Donald Trump Can Beat Hillary Clinton: To wit:

    But here's the problem: If Trump doesn't care about policy and his appeal truly transcends issues, what's stopping him from becoming a starkly different person in the general election, the same way he's morphed, with convenient timing, from a moderate businessman -- supportive of Canadian health care, a friend of Democrats, an admirer of Hillary Clinton -- to a nationalist demagogue?

    Trump's most famous skill is self-promotion through bloviation. But his most underrated skill is he is a terrific panderer. He will say anything he thinks people want to hear, but he'll say it in a way that makes his pandering look like an act of courage. The ingenious subtext of much of his messaging is: "Nobody wants to hear this hard truth, but here it is: you're right!" [ . . . ]

    Trump is also positioned to offer a devastating critique of Hillary Clinton -- that she never wins: She tried to pass health care reform. Biggest disaster I ever saw in Washington. Biggest I ever saw. And that's saying a lot. She wanted us to go into Iraq and then into Libya. Look at that mess. Worst decision in foreign policy history. Worst. NAFTA, prisons, welfare reform. You know that story about King Midas? Where he touches something and it turns to gold? Hillary's the opposite. Everything she touches blows up. She's a disaster.

    Is it really so hard to imagine Trump peddling a populist message that keeps the Great Wall of America (he can't disavow that wall), dials down on the dog-whistle rhetoric toward Hispanics and Muslims, and goes hard at the economic and cultural insecurity of the middle class by promising them a gorgeous new fleet of protectionist trade deals, a big beautiful tax cut, and all the social spending they've come to love? Pay Less, Keep More, Win, Win, Win. It will be a incredible six months of populist pandering. And what's worse: If it produces results and he rises in the polls, the political media will paint Trump as a rapidly maturing centrist.

    The word Thompson keeps using about Trump is "authentic." George Burns used to be quoted as saying "the secret to acting is sincerity -- if you can fake that, you've got it made." Trump's figured out how to fake authenticity, and that's likely to cause Clinton fits (not that she isn't unskilled at faking sincerity).


Feb 2016 Apr 2016