August 2016 Notebook
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Monday, August 29, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27056 [27020] rated (+36), 370 [359] unrated (+11).

Published Streamnotes last week, so most of the finds (4 of 5 pictured albums) are already known to you. I wrote there about catching up with the Downbeat Readers Poll albums ballot, and I've continued doing that -- only eleven more that I haven't looked up, so I'll probably finish this week, even if that means listening to Yellowjackets. Of course, that leaves 20 records I tried finding on Rhapsody (and often on Bandcamp) but failed. Of those, the ones I most miss are the HighNotes/Savants (JD Allen, Kenny Burrell, George Cables, Joey DeFrancesco, Tom Harrell, Jeremy Pelt, The Power Quintet) and Roscoe Mitchell's Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa). I'll publish a revised grade breakdown when I hit the bottom of the list. Needless to say, the curve has been edging down, with only the George Coleman and David Murray records (ones I picked off on the first day) joining the A-list.

I got a letter from Oliver Weinding, who runs Babel Label and the Vortex Jazz Club in London, a while back, noting he's putting on a series of showcases for Intakt artists and mentioning my review of "the Lucas Niggli album" -- that would be Kalo-Yele, which I filed under the first name, Aly Keita, a balafon player from Côte D'Ivoire. That, by the way, is still my top-rated record this year. Don't know whether this will result in me getting any physical mail, but I'll point out that Babel's catalog is pretty much all on Bandcamp, and I think their material is well represented on Napster. I've long associated the label with guitarist Billy Jenkins, who I credit with five A- records and one full A: 1998's True Love Collection. I wanted to give you the Bandcamp link, but there doesn't seem to be one, and to top that it's out of print. Basically '60s cheese ("Mellow Yellow," "Everybody's Talking," "Feelin' Groovy," "Sunny," "Dancing in the Streets," with avant twists connecting it all together, including terrific work by Django Bates and Iain Ballamy. It's on my all-time list. Meanwhile, the Paul Dunmall record is here.

I stopped using All Music Guide this week. Recently they added some JavaScript that broke on my browser, so whenever I went to a page they printed a message about something horrible happening then looped forever. I could still see their pages on a Chromebook I keep open on the desk nearby, but they decided to escalate their anti-Ad Blocker campaign and make their site unavailable unless users either allow ads, pay them money, or something else I don't understand (seems to be some kind of scam to sell your name to other advertisers). I'm not unsympathetic to people who'd like to make some money off their hard work, and I could probably afford to pay them something as much as I use their site, but I'm also retired, have no income to speak of, make all of my web work available gratis, and have contributed numerous corrections to their site, but mostly I don't like the way this has gone down. It does, however, mean that I have less access to information -- mostly using Discogs a lot, and should find a way to better use MusicBrainz, which is more dependably free, and which I contributed to for a while -- and that's bound to hurt my reviews (main frustrations to date: verifying dates and credits).

More bad web news: I gather that Spin is shutting down its review section, starting by firing staff reviewers including Dan Weiss (check him out here). Back when I followed webzines better, Spin had one of the more reliable and adventurous review sections anywhere, including more hip-hop than any other non-specialist source. Supposedly Spin will limp on doing news and features, but even when I bought whole copies of their print magazine I rarely read anything but reviews -- I really don't know what else they have to offer. Weiss is so knowledgeable and so prolific I expect he'll land somewhere else, but those opportunities are vanishing -- and not just because people like me are too cheap to pay for professional work ("content-providers" get squeezed from both directions).

Unpacking picked up this week with nearly everything I received actually scheduled for September or October release. But part of the reason for the uptick is that I went ahead and added six releases I received today -- I usually hold Monday's mail for the following week.

PS: Just noticed Michael Tatum has a new Downloader's Diary.


New records rated this week:

  • Lucian Ban Elevation: Songs From Afar (2014 [2016], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Black Top: #Two (2014 [2015], Babel): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Brian Bromberg: Full Circle (2016, Artistry): [r]: B
  • Larry Coryell: Heavy Feel (2014 [2015], Wide Hive): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ian William Craig: Centres (2016, 130701): [r]: B
  • Elysia Crampton: Demon City (2016, Break World, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kris Davis: Duopoly (2015 [2016], Pyroclastic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Paul Dunmall/Matthew Bourne/Steve Davis/Dave Kane: Mandalas in the Sky (2013 [2015], Babel): [bc]: A-
  • David Gilmore: Energies of Change (2015 [2016], Evolutionary Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet: Family First (2015, Beat Music Productions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joel Harrison 5: Spirit House (2013 [2015], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gilad Hekselman: Homes (2014 [2015], Jazz Village): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cory Henry: The Revival (2016, Ground Up): [r]: B-
  • Hiromi: Spark (2016, Telarc): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dylan Howe: Subterranean: New Designs on Bowie's Berlin (2014, Motorik): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lydia Loveless: Real (2016, Bloodshot): [r]: B
  • Romero Lubambo: Setembro: A Brazilian Under the Jazz Influence (2015, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Changes (2016, Hot Cup, EP): [cdr]: A-
  • Tom McCormick: South Beat (2016, Manatee): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Pat Metheny: The Unity Sessions (2014 [2016], Nonesuch, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Northern Winds and Voices: Inside/Outside (Sisällä/Ulkona) (2016, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lina Nyberg: Aerials (2016, Hoob Jazz, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ralph Peterson/Zaccai Curtis/Luques Curtis: Triangular III (2016, Truth Revolution/Onyx Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Enrico Pieranunzi: Proximity (2013 [2015], CAM Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Enrico Pieranunzi with Simona Severini: My Songbook (2014 [2016], Via Veneto): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Pizzarelli: Midnight McCartney (2015, Concord): [r]: B
  • Gregory Porter: Take Me to the Alley (2016, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Herlin Riley: New Direction (2016, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jamison Ross: Jamison (2015, Concord): [r]: B
  • Luciana Souza: Speaking in Tongues (2015, Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life: Nihil Novi (2016, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Marlene VerPlanck: The Mood I'm In (2015, Audiophile): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cuong Vu/Pat Metheny: Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny (2016, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Close to the Noise Floor: Formative UK Electronica 1975-1984 (1975-84 [2016], Cherry Red, 4CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens (1988 [2016], Resonance): [cd]: A-
  • Joi: Joi Sound System (1999-2007 [2015], RealWorld, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Senegambia Rebel (2016, Voodoo Rebel): [dl]: A-
  • Sunburst: Ave Africa: The Complete Recordings 1973-1976 (1973-76 [2016], Strut, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Shirantha Beddage: Momentum (Factor): September 9
  • Ron Carter Quartet & Vitoria Maldonado: Brasil L.I.K.E. (Summit)
  • The Roger Chong Quartet: Funkalicious (self-released)
  • Lajos Dudas Quartet: Brückenschlag (Jazz Sick)
  • Shirley Horn: Live at the 4 Queens (1988, Resonance): September 16
  • Franklin Kiermyer: Closer to the Sun (Mobility Music)
  • Cameron Mizell: Negative Spaces (Destiny): October 7
  • The Phil Norman Tentet: Then & Now: Classic Sounds & Variations of 12 Jazz Legends (Summit)
  • Ray Obiedo: Latin Jazz Project Vol. 1 (Rhythmus): October 7
  • Oddsong: Jailhouse Doc With Holes in Her Socks (JCA): September 30
  • Opaluna: Opaluna (Ridgeway)
  • Little Johnny Rivero: Music in Me (Truth Revolution): September 29
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track II (Strikezone): September 2
  • The U.S. Army Blues: Swamp Romp: Voodoo Boogaloo (self-released)

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weekend Roundup

Not very happy with all that follows, let alone all that I haven't gotten to, but it looks like there's enough to chew on for now. Latest odds at 538 show Clinton as having slipped to a 80.9% chance of winning as Georgia and Arizona have tilted back in Trump's favor. Clinton's big problem is that she's still unable to crack 50% of the popular vote -- seems like an awfully flawed, weak candidate given that all she has to beat is Trump, and he's pretty handily beating himself. I suspect the media deserves much of the blame for normalizing and legitimizing Trump, and also for tarring Clinton with an endless series of silly scandals -- the biggest eye-opener for me was to discover that GW Bush's Foundation, even with no prospects of future dynasty, has been raking in even more money than the Clinton Foundation. While I don't doubt the corruption inherent in the latter, I find it curious that no one ever mentions the former. Matt Taibbi attacked the media this year in a piece called The Summer of the Shill, lamenting especially the partisanship of news channels like Fox and MSNBC, where one airs nothing but Hillary "scandals" and the other little but Trump "gaffes." Still, it's not clear to me that the quality has dropped much since Taibbi wrote up his brilliant Wimblehack series in 2004 (cf. his book Spanking the Monkey), and at least there's more parity now. Still, I guess you have to make do with the candidates you got.

Some scattered links this week:


  • Michelle Goldberg: Hillary Clinton's Alt-Right Speech Isolated and Destroyed Donald Trump: Trump's hiring of Steve Bannon has brought the "alt-right" brand to the mainstream media's attention, making it possible for centrists to draw a line between Trump and run-of-the-mill conservatives, neocons, and/or Republicans -- letting the latter off the hook if they can somehow see clear to cut themselves loose from Trump.

    But the killer in Hillary came out on Thursday, delivering a devastating indictment of Donald Trump's associations with the far-right fringe, one meant to permanently delegitimize him among decent people. "A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military," she said, daring Republican officials to disagree.

    With Trump already trailing badly in most polls, Clinton could have tried to yoke him to the Republican Party so he would drag it down with him. Instead, she sought to isolate and personally destroy him.

    Let me interject here that I would much prefer that she "yoke him," since I personally find mainstream Republican apparatchiks even more odious than fringe personalities like Trump, and since her ability to do anything positive as president depends on beating the Republicans down in both houses of Congress. Continuing:

    First came her campaign's Twitter video earlier today about Trump's white-supremacist admirers. Usually, a politician trying to link her opponent to the KKK would come dangerously close to the Godwin's Law line, but Clinton appears to have calculated that few Republicans would rally to their nominee's defense. Her speech, in Reno, further painted Trump as a creature from the fever swamps, one who has nothing to do with legitimate conservatism. It was able to briskly explain some of the crazier figures and theories Trump has associated with, without getting bogged down in obscure detail. Her list of Breitbart headlines, including "Birth Control Makes Women Unattractive and Crazy" and "Gabby Giffords: The Gun Control Movement's Human Shield," tells you much of what you need to know about Trump's new campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, the former head of the site.

    Given such a ripe target, Clinton's pitch can get yucky, as when she said (quoted in this article):

    Twenty years ago, when Bob Dole accepted the Republican nomination, he pointed to the exits and told any racists in the party to get out. . . . The week after 9/11, George W. Bush went to a mosque and declared for everyone to hear that Muslims "love America just as much as I do." . . . We need that kind of leadership again.

    Uh, no, we don't need or want that kind of leadership again, and if that were all Hillary has to offer we'd be having second thoughts about her, too. Goldberg obviously considers that a stinging rebuke to Trump (else why quote it?), and she admires the way Hillary strung so many of Trump's outrages together, without noticing that in doing so Hillary is making her move on high center ground, intent on establishing herself as the blandest, most conventional establishment candidate ever. That will probably work for her, and given her other handicaps that may be her safest route to the presidency. But in her self-conceit, she's also missing a golden opportunity to help her party and her people.

    For more, see: Lincoln Blades: Call the 'Alt-Right' Movement What It Is: Racist as Hell; Nancy LeTourneau: Quick Takes: Clinton's Speech in Reno.

  • Rochelle Gurstein: How Obama Helped Lay the Groundwork for Trump's Thuggery: "His refusal to prosecute torturers and his Wild West assassination of bin Laden show how moral complacency can all too easily degenerate into full-blown corruption." I would shift the focus a bit here: by failing to end America's involvement in the wars in the Middle East, and by failing to embrace a consistent doctrine of democracy and justice in the region, Obama has kept those wars and their side effects -- like Guantanamo and the plight of Syrian refugees -- central to American political discourse. So now we're forced to choose between Trump's incoherent bluster and Clinton's bumbling continuity. Still, it's flat-out wrong to say that Obama was the one responsible for laying this groundwork. He inherited that entire foundation from GW Bush, who actually was in a position where he could have ordered the military and CIA to stand down and seek justice for 9/11 through international law. He pointedly did not do that, leading to one disaster after another, many only becoming obvious after he left his mess to Obama.

  • Adam H Johnson: Pundits, Decrying the Horrors of War in Aleppo, Demand Expanded War: Nicholas Khristof, Joe Scarborough, presumably many others unnamed, but you know the types as America's punditocracy is rife with them:

    This is part of the broader problem of moral ADD afflicting our pundit class -- jumping from one outrage in urgent need of US bombs to the next, without much follow-through. Kristof, for example, was just as passionate about NATO intervention in Libya in 2011, writing several op-eds that called for bombing in equally moralistic terms. Yet as Libya descended into chaos, the country faded into the background for him. His last post on the subject? September 2011. The plight of Libyans was urgent for the Times columnist when it involved selling war to weary liberals, but once the smoke cleared, his bleeding heart dried up and he moved on to the next cause.

    OK, let's think about this for a moment. Civil Wars, such as Libya in 2011 and Syria from then to now, and you could throw in dozens more (including our own in 1861-65), occur when you have two (or more) groups fighting to seize power and to dominate the other. Civil Wars end two ways: one side "wins" exacting its toll on the others, the "losers" bearing grudges for generations, so in some sense those wars never really end -- they just become relatively quiescent; or both sides agree to share power somehow. The latter is vastly preferable -- in fact, arguably the only thing that works. (The Soviets, for instance, clearly "won" the Russian Civil War by 1922, but the repression they instituted crippled the country for generations. Franco clearly "won" the Spanish Civil War, but was troubled by Basque "terrorists" until his death, when the king he installed allowed democratic elections to move the country far to the left.)

    When outside nations intervene in civil wars, they invariably tilt the tables one way or another, allowing their favored groups to escalate the violence and making them less inclined to compromise. Intervention also resupplies the war, usually extending it, and may cause it to lap into neighboring countries and/or draw in others -- the US intervention in Vietnam's civil war extended the war by ten years, cost millions of lives, destroyed Cambodia and Laos, and led to Nixon's "madman" nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union; the Soviet Union's insertion of troops into Afghanistan to support a friendly coup led the US and Saudi Arabia to recruit and arm a jihadist insurgency that is still active more than 35 years later, having lapped into Pakistan and inspired acts of terror around the globe.

    One thing that has made recent civil wars in the Middle East especially destructive is that opposition groups have often been fractured and divisive. We saw this in Afghanistan, where following the Soviet withdrawal the jihadist groups continued to fight each other for over a decade, with the Northern Alliance still holding territory from the Taliban when the US invaded in 2001. Again, in Libya the NATO intervention degraded forces loyal to Ghadaffi but left the spoils to be fought over by numerous clans and schisms. Syria is even worse, with dozens of anti-Assad groups unable to unite into a coherent opposition, not least because foreign powers have chosen to intervent in often contradictory ways. For instance, the US is funneling weapons to so-called moderate groups to fight against Assad (weapons that are quickly resold to less friendly groups) while at the same time the US bombs ISIS, perhaps the most formidable of the anti-Assad groups. Turkey too is opposed to Assad, also to ISIS, and even more so to the anti-Assad, anti-ISIS Kurdish militia.

    Recent calls by Kristof and others mostly focus on "establishing a no-fly zone" over Syria -- a tactic which short and shallow memories recall as working so well in Iraq and Libya -- although the task is rather more complicated in Syria. For one thing, would the US also guard against anti-Assad forces flying over Syria (not just NATO allies but also Turkey, Jordan, and Israel). Moreover, Syria's air force is augmented by Russian planes and pilots, and those forces at least occasionally attack ISIS. I don't see how the US can negotiate this, but even if it works you're left with something like Libya but many times as much firepower left on the ground, with Assad weakened to where he cannot win but no other group strong enough to prevail except locally. A subsequent ground assault on ISIS might break it up, with splinters retreating into Iraq or going underground -- but the idea that an Islamic caliphate is needed to save the Muslim world isn't going away anytime soon.

    Seems like it would be easier to negotiate a truce, if not between the local warlords then between the foreign powers, and much better for all in the long run. I could even imagine a military intervention helping here, but only if it was done by a neutral party with the sole interest of disarming all parties, with preference or malice toward none (even ISIS, even Assad, even everyone) -- by disarming I'm not just talking about the big stuff like mortars and RPGs; I'm talking about total NRA nightmare. As areas are cleared of arms, another international group can move in and organize local elections and aid. Over time this would lead to a loose federalism, but most power would remain local and representative. Both the military and the international group would have to rigorously police themselves against corruption, and function with the scrutiny of a free press. No foreign power would have any claim to local property or privilege. All foreign powers have to agree to let Syria manage itself, except for three restrictions: no guns; corruption to be prosecuted in international courts; and prisoners have the right to appeal to insure no discrimination against minorities (needless to say, this also means no capital punishment).

    It should be obvious that the US cannot intervene like this -- it's simply not in the military or political culture to go into a country and not pursue some probably misguided sense of national interests (usually the military's own interest, above all in their own survival). One indication of the problem is that when the US had the opportunity to stand up governments in Afghanistan and Iraq -- two countries with distinct local ethnic and religious communities with longstanding grudges -- US politicians insisted on setting up very centralized governments that would inevitably run up against local dissent, and to arm those governments against the people they may or may not represent. That immediately labeled the natives put into nominal positions of power as Quislings and made the Americans foreign occupiers. That proved disastrous yet the US never wavered from that model: it simply kept training and arming more police and buying friends through calculated corruption, and that, too, never worked, no matter how much "hearts and minds" gibberish was added.

    The best choice for the ground disarmament force is probably the Chinese because they have no hidden agenda -- indeed, they would have to be well-paid mercenaries, barred from plunder -- supplemented by Arabic speakers (also hired from abroad so they have no clan ties). The ground force can be supplemented by US and Russian surveillance and air power which can be called in to pulverize any armed resistance to the ground troops. They would, of course, commit the occasional atrocity -- that is what they do, and why they should be feared. But they won't attack anyone who is not firing back, and should vanish as areas are disarmed.

    The international relief groups should be organized by the UN. Once they organize local governments, they should step back and function as resources for those governments. They may initially depend on ground forces for security, but as security is met the ground forces should move on and out of the country. Border control will probably be their last role, as, alas, the rest of the neighborhood is awash in guns and corruption.

    Americans need to realize that their true national interest is in a peaceful world where all people are respected and treated fairly. This isn't a new idea -- Franklin Roosevelt sketched it out in his "Four Freedoms" speech, and it was the basis for the United Nations, but it got lost in America's post-WWII pursuit of profit and empire. But for now the United States military is only good at one thing: killing. Better to focus that skill set on other people killing than to give the military missions it cannot possibly fulfill, like "winning hearts and minds" and projecting US power as anything other than the terror it is. Of course, better still to set an example and stop the killing altogether. Until we learn better the one thing the US shouldn't be doing is entering into wars. Of course, if we knew better we wouldn't be doing it anyway.

  • Paul Krugman: No, Donald Trump, America Isn't a Hellhole:

    Back when the Trump campaign was ostensibly about the loss of middle-class jobs, it was at least pretending to be about a real issue: Employment in manufacturing really is way down; real wages of blue-collar workers have fallen. You could say that Trumpism isn't the answer (it isn't), but not that the issue was a figment of the candidate's imagination.

    But when Mr. Trump portrays America's cities as hellholes of runaway crime and social collapse, what on earth is he talking about?

    Krugman answers "race" -- indeed, for Trump's followers, all it takes to constitute a hellhole is non-white skin and/or non-American accents. Krugman explains "Trump's racial 'outreach'" as meant "to reassure squeamish whites that he isn't as racist as he seems." I think it's more like he wants to reassure whites that blacks will welcome his draconian law enforcement fantasy once they see how much safer it makes them (the "good ones," anyhow). And besides, living in the hellholes of their own skin, what do they have left to lose?

    Still, it's a pretty ridiculous pitch, but even sympathetic white people tend to underestimate how much progress blacks have made over the last 50-70 years, and therefore how much they stand to lose if white supremacists like Trump regain power. (One is tempted to credit the civil rights acts of the 1960s for those gains, but to some extent they simply codified and consolidated gains made in the early postwar era.

  • Jim Newell: Why Is the Trumpish Right Inept at Hardball Politics? Case study is "making stuff up about their opponents' health," as in claims by Rudy Giuliani and other Trumpsters that Hillary Clinton is covering up a secret debilitating illness (presumably somewhere under a blanket of traitorous emails and Clinton foundation favors). Newell spends much too much time investigating a similar line of attack used by Sen. John McCain's primary opponent, Tea Party partisan Kelli Ward, and probably not enough on everything else -- after all, didn't "the big lie" work just fine for Goebbels (although I guess it was never really tested in a general election)?

    Conservative media has been the lifeblood of Ward's campaign, and with Trump's hiring of Steve Bannon, it is in direct operational control of the Republican presidential nominee's campaign. And so crappy attacks, workshopped inside the conservative tabloid media bubble, get greenlit even if they confuse 70 percent of the electorate. Trump was able to say a lot of stupid things and get away with them in the Republican primary, but the lesson from that shouldn't have been that the idea was replicable: He was in a 17-person field, against a group of mostly undefined opponents, depriving them of oxygen. And he could at least be funny. John McCain and Hillary Clinton have total name recognition and well-known histories. It doesn't convert anyone new to suggest, sans evidence, that they're near death. It just hastens the death of the campaigns suggesting it.

  • Ben Norton: No, they don't support Trump: Smeared left-wing writers debunk the myth: "Clinton-supporting neoconservative pundit James Kirchick published an article in the Daily Beast this week titled "Beware the Hillary Clinton-Loathing, Donald Trump-Loving Useful Idiots of the Left." Norton did some checking and none of the named writers, no matter how much they loathed Hillary, supported Trump. OK, one writer -- all fifteen are quoted here, making for entertaining reading -- somename I had never heard of named Christopher Ketcham, said he would vote for Trump, who he described as "an ignorant, vicious, narcissistic, racist, capitalist scumbag, and thus an accurate representative of the United States." There have always been a tiny number of leftists who hold a romantic idea of revolution erupting as conditions deteriorate unbearably. I think those people are out of touch, especially with the people they think their revolution would help, but they're also very marginal -- "idiots," perhaps, but not useful to anyone. I'm tempted to retort that the real "useful idiots" are the neocons supporting Hillary (like Kirchik, although he's small fry compared to Max Boot and the Kagans) as they actually represent a faction with real money and clout and they give her an air of legitimacy in a domain Republicans like to think they own, but for the most part they at least are making rational choices to advance their most cherished goals -- not so much that Hillary will plunge the country into more wars than Trump but that she will more reliably parrot the neocon line, which in turn legitimizes the neocons. Kirchik, on the other hand, is merely doing what he habitually does: slandering the left, which is still America's best hope for peace.

  • Mark Oppenheimer: 'Blood in the Water,' a Gripping Account of the Attica Prison Uprising: A review of Heather Ann Thompson's new book, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (Pantheon) -- easily the most definitive history of the famous prison revolt, the brutal assault on the prison ordered by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, and the long legal struggle that ensued. I'll also add that what made this picture so clear was the trove of documents and testimony elicited by defense lawyers, especially the late Elizabeth Fink. Also, that the one underlying theme from each step of the history -- the reason the revolt started, and the reason the state protracted the legal fight so long -- was the state's dogged refusal to grant or acknowledge even basic human rights to prisoners; in short, to see prisoners as people. Rather, the state felt free to punish prisoners virtually without limit. For more on this, including how little has changed, also see: Michael Winerip/Tom Robbins/Michael Schwirtz: Revisiting Attica Shows How New York State Failed to Fulfill Promises.

  • Scott Shane: Saudis and Extremism: 'Both the Arsonists and the Firefighters': The al-Saud clan made a deal with al-Wahhab back in the late 18th century where the latter would bless the Saudis' expansion from the Arabian Desert into the Holy Cities and the Wahhabis would control religious doctrine in the Kingdom. I'm not sure when the Saudis started proselytizing Wahhabism outside of Saudi Arabia: probably in the 1960s when they bankrolled a war with Egypt over Yemen and coincidentally adopted Egyptian Sayyid Qutb -- the subject of the first chapter of Lawrence Wright's 9/11 pre-history, The Looming Tower. [Shane dates this from 1964, when King Faisal ascended to the Saudi throne.] But the Saudis spent more in the 1970s and more still in the 1980s when the US decided that militant Islamist Jihadis would be useful against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And they've kept it up, even as virtually every Sunni terrorist you can think of traces religious doctrine back through the Saudi-Wahhabis to the medieval Salafists. As Shane explains, in the 1980s the US was completely complicit in this:

    Throughout the 1980s, Saudi Arabia and the United States worked together to finance the mujahedeen in this great Afghan war, which would revive the notion of noble armed jihad for Muslims worldwide. President Ronald Reagan famously welcomed to the Oval Office a delegation of bearded "Afghan freedom fighters" whose social and theological views were hardly distinguishable from those later embraced by the Taliban.

    In fact, the United States spent $50 million from 1986 to 1992 on what was called a "jihad literacy" project -- printing books for Afghan children and adults to encourage violence against non-Muslim "infidels" like Soviet troops. A first-grade language textbook for Pashto speakers, for example, according to a study by Dana Burde, an associate professor at New York University, used "Mujahid," or fighter of jihad, as the illustration: "My brother is a Mujahid. Afghan Muslims are Mujahedeen. I do jihad together with them. Doing jihad against infidels is our duty."

    The US government still loves the Saudis: they are big business, especially to the oil, defense, and banking sectors which have so much clout over American foreign policy. On the other hand, large segments of the American public are beginning to wonder about Saudi Arabia, especially since King Salman was crowned last year and immediately attacked Yemen (with America's tacit blessing). Those segments include the Islamophobes which have been a predictable result of 15 years of American wars targeting Muslims (or 25 or 35 years, pick your starting date), but they also include, well, me: it looks to me like Saudi Arabia is the real Islamic State ISIS wants to grow up to be, the differences mostly explained by ISIS having been created in a war zone with the US, NATO, Russia, and Iran joining the attack (despite all their various differences). As Shane notes, Saudi Arabia's cleric Saad bin Nasser al-Shethri has condemned ISIS as "more infidel than Jews and Christians," but, you know, he would say that -- doing so protects the Saudi's exclusive claim to rightful jihad, but it perpetuates the Salafi habit of declaring their enemies takfir (impure, false Muslims).

    I'm afraid that the instinctive American response to ISIS is tantamount to genocide -- and it's not just the Islamophobic right that insists that ISIS must be crushed and destroyed. On the other hand, the US has proved that we can live with an Islamic State, even one that insists on dismembering or even beheading subjects it deems to be criminals, one that joins in foreign wars just to assert its religious dogma (the Saudis like to describe their opponents in Yemen as proxies of Iran, but the real problem is that they're Shiites). Of course, it helps that the Saudis have huge oil reserves and a deep appetite for American arms, but even if ISIS can never become as lucrative as Saudi Arabia, that still suggests that the US should be willing to make some sort of accommodation to ISIS, especially one established by votes as opposed to arms.

    As it is, the US insistence on destroying ISIS makes it impossible to negotiate an end to the Syrian Civil War, as does other irrational American impulses, such as simultaneous opposition to Assad. On the other hand, uncritical support for Saudi Arabia creates and deepens regional conflicts, including Syria and Yemen, in ways that have and will continue to blow back on America. The fact is that American support for Saudi jihad was never just a shortsighted policy. It was from the beginning a schizophrenic assault on world piece, order, and justice.

    For more on the Saudi assault on Yemen, see: Daniel Larison: 'The Administration Must Stop Enabling This Madness' in Yemen, and Mohamad Bazzi: Why Is the United States Abetting Saudi War Crimes in Yemen? Note how US arms sales to Saudi Arabia have continued and even increased even though Clinton is no longer in the State Department:

    On August 9, the State Department approved the latest major US weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, mainly to replace tanks that the kingdom has lost in its war in Yemen against Houthi rebels and allies of the former president. The $1.15 billion deal highlights the Obama administration's deepening involvement in the Saudi-led war, which has escalated after four months of peace talks broke down on August 6. Since then, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition have bombed a Yemeni school, a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, and a potato-chip factory, killing more than 40 civilians, including at least 10 children.

    Also note Trita Parsi's tweet: "Fun fact: When ISIS established its school system, it adopted official Saudi textbooks for its schools."

  • David Sirota/Andrew Perez: Clinton Foundation Donors Got Weapons Deals From Hillary Clinton's State Department: At some point I should look for a good article by a reputable investigative journalist to explain what the Clinton Foundation does and where all the money went -- looks like a big chunk went into the Clinton's own pockets (their personal income was $11.2 million last year; if memory serves about 2/3 of that came from the Foundation) which is a funny way to run a non-profit charitable institution. Actually, it looks more like a political slush fund, one that's even more free of regulation than Clinton's PAC. I wonder, for instance, whether having the ability to launder so much corporate and foreign money through the Foundation wasn't a big part of the reason virtually no other mainstream Democrats ran against Hillary for president this year.

    Sirota and Perez plumb the more obvious question, which is where the money came from and whether it maps to political favors, and they conclude that at least in the area of American arms sales to foreign countries -- something that the State Department, headed by Hillary from 2009-13, has to sign off on -- lots of things look suspicious. Clinton (and Obama) sure approved a lot of weapons deals. I suppose it's possible that Obama, like presidents going back to Truman and Eisenhower, saw foreign arms sales as a cheap, politically safe jobs program (and following the financial meltdown of 2008 Obama desperately needed one of those). Or maybe you can just chalk it up to Hillary's notorious hawkishness. None of those explanations are really very calming.

    Still, see, for instance, Kent Cooper: 16 Donors Gave $122 Million to George W. Bush Foundation, which notes among other things that Bush's Foundation raised $341 million in 2006-2011, a period that overlaps Bush's presidency. Maybe the Clintons weren't so unique in monetizing their political "service"?

    As for all those weapons sales, see: CJ Chivers: How Many Guns Did the US Lose Track of in Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Thousands. It's been absurd to listen to Trump claim that Obama and Clinton "founded ISIS," especially given that most of ISIS's guns were delivered to the region by the Bush administration. For example:

    One point is inarguable: Many of these weapons did not remain long in government possession after arriving in their respective countries. In one of many examples, a 2007 Government Accountability Office report found that 110,000 Kalashnikov assault rifles and 80,000 pistols bought by the United States for Iraq's security forces could not be accounted for -- more than one firearm for every member of the entire American military force in Iraq at any time during the war. Those documented lapses of accountability were before entire Iraqi divisions simply vanished from the battlefield, as four of them did after the Islamic State seized Mosul and Tikrit in 2014, according to a 2015 Army budget request to buy more firearms for the Iraqi forces to replace what was lost.

  • Sean Wilentz: Hillary's New Deal: How a Clinton Presidency Could Transform America: A distinguished historian -- I learned a lot from his The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln -- but less than reliable when it comes to putting recent political movements into historical perspective (e.g., The Age of Reagan: A History 1974-2008). A historian should be able to bring some perspective to a campaign, but Wilentz does little more than regurgitate campaign hype:

    Hillary Clinton has already indicated what she would pursue in her first 100 days in office: launching her infrastructure program; investing in renewable energy; tightening regulation of health-insurance and pharmaceutical companies; and expanding protection of voting rights. She has also said that she will nominate women for half of her Cabinet positions. And not far behind these initiatives are several others, including immigration reform and raising the minimum wage.

    Even without a unifying title, it is a sweeping agenda, the latest updating of Democratic reformism. Democratic politics at their most fruitful have always been more improvisational than programmatic, more empirical than doctrinaire, taking on an array of issues, old and new, bound by the politics of Hope pressing against the politics of Nostalgia. So it was with FDR and Truman, so it has been with Barack Obama, and so it would be with Hillary Clinton.

    Still, a historian should recall that FDR's remarkable first 100 days -- the since-unequaled model for that concept -- was accomplished mostly due to conditions Clinton, even if she scores a personal landslide, will not enjoy: Roosevelt had an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress (and for that matter a large percentage of surviving Republicans were progressives), and in throwing out Hoover and Mellon the voters had sent a clear message that the new administration should do something about desperate times. Clinton has yet to do anything significant to elect a Democratic Congress -- indeed, she seems preoccupied with capturing anti-Trump Republicans for her campaign only. Moreover, historians should recognize that the last two Democratic presidents -- Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, for whom she represents nothing if no continuity -- delivered very few of their campaign promises, even when they had Democratic majorities before they squandered them away through inaction. Hillary may think she wants to do wonders as president, but unless Congress changes she won't be able to. Indeed, if the Republicans hold onto the Senate, she may have trouble even getting those women confirmed to cabinet posts.

    For a more serious example of a historian looking at present politics, see Corey Robin: Donald Trump is the least of the GOP's problems, where he argues that it's not just Trump's gaffes that are dragging the party and the conservative movement down: both are also "victims of their success." Robin argues that reactionary movements lose their "raison d'être" as they become successful. I'd argue that success leads to them overshooting their goals in ways that turn destabilizing and self-destructive. On the other hand, I don't really believe that there is some sort of left-right equilibrium that needs to be periodically recentered. Rather, I believe that there is a long-term liberalizing drift to American politics, which is occasionally perverted by the corruption of business groups. We are overdue for a course correction now, but it's only happening fitfully due to the Republican focus on rigging the system and the generous amnesia of Democrats.

  • Miscellaneous election tidbits:

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Streamnotes (August 2016)

Pick up text here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Daily Log

Wichita Eagle had an article today lampooning Donald Trump's idea that Boeing would send aviation jobs to China. As I recall, that's already happened, as part of an offset deal that China dictated as a condition for their airlines buying Boeing airliners, but never mind that: Trump's specifically worried about the low-wage non-union Boeing jobs in South Carolina, massively subsidized by the state government down there. For many years Boeing was the largest employer in Wichita (largely because the Army built Boeing a huge base here during WWII to build B-17 and B-29 bombers, and later B-47s and B-52s). Boeing shut all that down a few years ago to move their jobs to sweatshop states like Oklahoma, Texas, and South Carolina, so as far as we're concerned those jobs might just as well have been sent to China. I sent this to the Eagle's Opinion Line:

So Trump's concerned about Boeing sending South Carolina jobs to China? As far as Wichitans are concerned, those jobs already went to China.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27020 [26996] rated (+24), 359 [357] unrated (+2).

Spent much of last week trying to pull yesterday's Book Roundup post together, barely scratching up my quota (40) although I still have a dozen tabs open with more books, and those will lead to even more. Still, I imagine we'll have to wait for September/October to get a new batch. I didn't find any of this batch compelling enough to order, although I gave some thought to Barbara Ehrenreich's progeny -- Ben Ehrenreich (The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine) and Rosa Brooks (How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon), David Daley's Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, Steve Fraser's The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America. I might have added new books by Thomas Piketty and Jeremy Scahill, but they mostly remind me that I still haven't read older (and probably more important) books by them (Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, both sitting patiently on my shelf).

On the other hand, I've already discovered that I missed two books by James K. Galbraith: Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (2016, Yale University Press), and Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press). I do intend to pick both of them up soon, and maybe also Joseph Stiglitz' The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe (2016, WW Norton). It's not so much that I feel a need to bone up on these subjects -- I think I understand the Euro issues pretty well (although I don't know much about the supposedly labrinthine EU bureaucracy), and I've been on record that increasing inequality is the main political problem of our time. Actually, I think I'll learn more about inequality from the Euro books, as it seems to me that Europe has, at least in terms of economic issues, been turned as far to the right by globalizing business interests (code name: neoliberalism) as the US, albeit without nearly as much focus on wrecking security nets as here -- although that's likely to change as inequality increases, and the code name there is austerity; Britain, for instance, avoided the Euro trap, but suffered a politically self-induced recession anyway).


Rated count isn't anything to brag about, especially given that nearly half of it came from a deep dive into Barbara Dane's discography, and I didn't come up with anything I'd missed there nearly as good as her Anthology of American Folk Songs (1959) or her surprising new one, Throw It Away. Don Ewell and the Chambers Brothers were side trips from Dane. I also thought about taking a dive into Chucho Valdés after listening to somewhat less than half of his 2015 album, Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac), last week, but didn't get very far. I actually saw him live here shortly after we moved to Wichita -- the Village Vanguard album from the same period has long sat on my unrated shelf, and I'm sorry to say it doesn't quite live up to the memory, not that it isn't quite some show.

The other new A- record this week is from Atmosphere, a Minnesota alt-rap duo I've been habitually giving high B+s to ever since their 1997-2002 A- streak (Overcast!, Lucy Ford, God Loves Ugly). I wrote it up after two spins, then was taken aback to find Dan Weiss panning it (4/10) in Spin, so much so that I replayed it from the second cut ("Ringo" -- Weiss calls it "terribly unfunny" and says it "might be the worst song they've ever made"). Still, the extra play only reinforced my initial impressions. (The album actually has mixed reviews -- 71/6 at etacritic, favorable reviews at AV Club and Exclaim, another pan at Pitchfork -- latter doesn't bother me at all.) Still not sure I didn't underestimate their 2014 album Southsiders, which Weiss likes and Christgau gave an A- to, but I gave them both basically the same shot. But that could also be said of their many in-between albums -- I've heard 10 overall, but have missed a couple along the way.

Wasn't clear from Christgau's review of Mestre Cupijó, but it looks to me like the 2014 record is a compilation based on four 1973-78 LPs. Sounds to me closer to Colombia than to Brazil, but that's partly explained by geography, and possibly also by its vintage. I haven't heard The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz yet, or any of Christgau's other recent world music picks (although I do have a download of Senegambia Rebel awaiting my attention).

It's getting harder to do basic research on downloaded/streamed albums here, which is to say it's getting harder to write reviews. Part of this is that AMG added some new JavaScript to their site that totally breaks it for me, so they're no longer usable as a reference site. I suppose one might blame this on me, as I'm still doing my writing work on a machine running Ubuntu 12.04, and the Firefox browser there is horribly buggy, crashing every 2-3 days. The longer I wait the harder it gets to upgrade -- at this point I almost have to rebuild the system from scratch, something I don't look forward to. I did, however, manage to upgrade my secondary system -- the one I use for music streaming -- from 14.04 to 16.04. Took all night, but I'm pleased to say nothing serious broke.

Good chance I'll go ahead and post Streamnotes sometime this week rather than waiting for the tail end of August. Currently have 101 records in the draft file, including 16 A-. Perhaps a bit long on jazz since I've mostly been picking unserviced, previously unheard records off Downbeat's album ballot. Will be glad to see August gone, although here at least it's been pretty mild compared to past years (hint: grass is still green).


New records rated this week:

  • Livio Almeida: Action and Reaction (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Atmosphere: Fishing Blues (2016, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall: Throw It Away . . . (2016, Dreadnaught Music): [cd]: A-
  • Grace Kelly: Trying to Figure It Out (2016, Pazz Productions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Masabumi Kikuchi: Black Orpheus (2012 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Zach Larmer Elektrik Band: Inner Circle (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Le Boeuf Brothers + Jack Quartet: Imaginist (2014 [2016], Panoramic/New Focus): [cd]: B-
  • Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival (2015 [2016], Mack Avenue): [r]: B
  • Christian McBride Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2014 [2015], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nine Live: Sonus Inenarribilis: Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark (2016, Mulatta): [cd]: B
  • Nils Økland: Kjølvatn (2012 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Sundae + Mr. Goessl: Makes My Heart Sway (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Chucho Valdés: Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac) (2015, Jazz Village): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Joe Castro: Lush Life: A Musical Journey (1954-66 [2015], Sunnyside, 6CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mestre Cupijó E Seu Ritmo: Siriá (1973-78 [2014], Analog Africa): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • The Chambers Brothers: Time Has Come: The Best of the Chambers Brothers (1966-71 [1996], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barbara Dane: Trouble in Mind (1957 [2011], Stardust): [r]: B+(*)
  • Barbara Dane/Earl 'Fatha' Hines and His Orchestra: Livin' With the Blues (1959 [2013], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barbara Dane: On My Way (1962 [2013], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Barbara Dane & Lightning Hopkins: Sometimes I Believe She Loves Me (1961-65 [1996], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barbara Dane/The Chambers Brothers: Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers (1966, Folkways): [r]: B+(*)
  • Barbara Dane: FTA! Songs of the GI Resistance (1970, Paredon): [r]: B+(***)
  • Barbara Dane: I Hate the Capitalist System (1973, Paredon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Don Ewell: Denver Concert (1966 [2004], Storyville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irakere: The Best of Irakere (1978-79 [1994], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chucho Valdés: Live at the Village Vanguard (1999 [2000], Blue Note): [cd]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kris Davis: Duopoly (Pyroclastic, 2CD): September 30
  • Le Boeuf Brothers + Jack Quartet: Imaginist (Panoramic/New Focus): October 14
  • Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Changes (Hot Cup, EP): advance, September 30
  • Tom McCormick: South Beat (Manatee): August 26
  • Northern Winds and Voices: Inside/Outside (Sisällä/Ulkona) (Edgetone)
  • Sonic Liberation 8: Bombogenic (High Two)
  • Florian Wittenburg: Eagle Prayer (NurNichtNur)

Daily Log

Spent Sunday cooking, coming up with a very tasty dinner. Mostly Chinese, menu:

  • Fried Mountain Trout with Ginger [Charmaine Solomon, Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking, p. 67]: couldn't find whole trout, so wound up substituting three slightly larger whole Bronzini -- a Greek "sea bass," probably farmed but pretty tasty.
  • Glazed Chicken Wings [Solomon, p. 26]: braised in a very rich sauce, reduced to a glaze.
  • Stir-Fried Bok Choy, [Irene Kuo, The Key to Chinese Cooking, p. 388]: used baby bok-choy.
  • Szechuan Eggplant, [Kuo, p. 402]: used Japanese eggplant, Chef Chow hot bean paste instead of hot oil.
  • Mushrooms in Hoisin Sauce [Kuo, p. 384]: recipe calls for oyster sauce, but substituted hoisin; used fresh shiitake mushrooms instead of straw/button.
  • Shrimp, Leek and Pine Nut Fried Rice [Barbara Tropp, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, p. 408]
  • Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: meant to use my mother's recipe but couldn't find it, so I went with this one; used fresh instead of canned pineapple, omitted the maraschino cherries, added 1/2 cup chopped pecans to the base, and had to bake it much longer (is 325F really the right temp?); served with Edy's Slow Churned Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

I wanted to make soft-shell crabs, but evidently missed the season. Wichita Fish used to keep them frozen, but they were out. Looking for the trout was another hassle: lots of red filets, but no full fish. Again, Wichita Fish used to keep them frozen, and I've often seen them at the best of the Dillons. Found the Bronzini at Whole Foods -- an awful store in oh so many ways. Didn't know what I was getting, but worked out pretty well. I've made the trout recipe close to ten times, including once in Idaho with fish we just caught. But as I was shopping I developed a fear that I'd have to pick out a totally different main dish.

For dessert I first thought of ice cream, since Chinese meals are always dairy-defficient, then of pineapple, which is often served in Cantonese restaurants. I've been collating my mother's recipe cards, so it wasn't much of a leap to pineapple upside-down cake à la mode. It's been a long-time family staple, and was one of three cakes I made in my mother's kitchen the day after she died -- I figured we should have them after the funeral (we also bought some barbecue), plus I thought it would be good to use up some of her pantry, which was always stocked in case a dozen relatives dropped in unannounced at midnight. I've made it a couple times since, and will probably find the recipe in the other card box when I finally find it. (As she was losing her eyesight, she copied some recipes onto larger cards. That's actually a more useful box, as it omits the dozens of casseroles and jello salads she picked up from other family and friends but hardly ever cooked herself.)

One plus was that I did hack together a preliminary index of the old recipe box. I can then use that to start a table of contents for a book of her recipes, my remembrances of her food, and a few further thoughts on the subject (probably a few of my own recipes -- maybe I'll sneak the new pineapple upside-down cake recipe in. One problem is that she never wrote down most of the dishes she made frequently. There is, for example, no chicken and dumplings (or biscuits or noodles -- I have the dumplings recipe because I had her write it down for me long ago), no brown beans and ham, no fried steak with mushroom gravy, no meatloaf, no roast beef, no cornbread, no sausage gravy, no green beans with bacon, for that matter virtually no meats (usually pan-fried with gravy made from the drippings) or vegetables (usually boiled -- most of them I grew up hating). I have most of the cakes (but not the one with the toasted oat topping -- I have my own version of that with ingredients she never dreamed of using, like Guinness Stout), but few pies and no cobblers.

I've synthesized recipes for a few of those (like the meatloaf) or found other recipes that fill the bill (sometimes better, like this pineapple upside-down cake). I need to make a survey of the relatives to see what they have written down. And I'll need to do some experimenting -- e.g., I never much liked pies, so never got the hang of making crusts or the various fillings. Also, I'm inclined to provide recipes from scratch in many cases where she used mixes -- e.g., I can't every recall her making cornbread or brownies except from Jiffy boxes. (I haven't made a cake from a mix in my adult life, and I make really good brownies from scratch, but even I reach for the Bisquick box when I make chicken and biscuits.) Also, the Spanish rice and pork chops recipe I found -- a dish she made dozens of times -- calls for Minute Rice, which would be pretty embarrassing. Actually, my recollection is that she made the seasoned rice out of a box, browned the pork chops, and baked them together, sort of like a paella although she didn't know that concept. She made a lot of box recipes -- "shake and bake" chicken, that sort of thing. Maccaroni and cheese was probably a box. Pizza definitely was -- I personally made dozens of Chef Boyardee pizzas with ad hoc toppings, mostly hamburger, onion, green bell peppers, and topped with shredded Velveta; that was the main thing I cooked as a teenager.


Work notes:

  • Mestre Cupijó E Seu Ritmo: Siriá (1973-78 [2014], Analog Africa): A- [rhapsody]

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book Roundup

Time for another collection of 40 short notes on recent books -- my modest attempt to keep track of what's being published primarily in the fields of politics, history, economics, and social science (not that other personal interests don't slip in occasionally). These are mostly gathered by trolling around Amazon, checking my "recommended" lists, following up on cross-references, reading (and occasionally quoting) the hype, blurbs, sometimes even reviews. Few of these books I have any in-depth knowledge of, so they hardly constitute reviews. Last batch of these came out on July 7, before that April 26.


Christopher H Achen/Larry M Bartels: Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (2016, Princeton University Press): Political scientists argue against the conventional view that voters make rational political choices by pointing out how their views at least as much shaped by primordial identities, a hint of what's become obvious as the red-blue divide has gone beyond analysis and prescription to selective embrace of facts. Still, title suggests something more, like pointing out how these distortions have opened up opportunities for politicians to do things contrary to the positions they adopt when campaigning. Those things are mostly favors for special interests -- favors that wouldn't stand a chance if "representatives" were actually responsive to voter views.

Mehrsa Baradaran: How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy (2015, Harvard University Press): "The United States has two separate banking systems today -- one serving the well-to-do and another exploiting everyone else." Actually, I doubt the "well-to-do" are served all that well either, but the "payday lenders" and "check cashing services" that people frozen out of the legit banking system deserve a harsher word than "exploiting." Baradaran advocates a "postal banking" system that would provide minimal cost banking services to everyone.

Samuel Bowles: The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens (2016, Yale University Press): Lectures -- I imagine this poised against the Thaler/Sunstein notion of nudges which assumes that wise managers can concoct incentives that lead seemingly free economic actors to do good deeds, although he could be countering the older laissez-faire conceit that markets miraculously do good on their own. It was, after all, no coincidence that the new vogue for Friedman, etc., in the 1980s was accompanied by rejection of public interest and a coarsening of civil concern.

Rosa Brooks: How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon (2016, Simon & Schuster): Law professor, New America Foundation fellow, married a Green Beret, was a "senior advisor at the U.S. State Department" and "a counselor to the US defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011," but also daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, one of America's finest lefty journalists: I'm not sure how all that adds up (blurb suggests: "by turns a memoir, a work of journalism, a scholarly exploration into history, anthropology and law, and a rallying cry"), or whether. An excerpt I read pushes a Walmart analogy way beyond ridiculousness, especially in assuming that the military, like Walmart, produces tangible and desirable (albeit shoddy and ethically dubious) goods. The military has, for instance, become the only big government institution beloved by conservatives out to discredit all other big government. Part of this is that, as Brooks points out, it crowds out saner alternatives, yet that's not just successful lobbying from organized interest groups -- an important group of Pentagon boosters simply don't want sane.

Noam Chomsky: Who Rules the World? (2016, Metropolitan Books): Another essay collection, so not wholly devoted to the title question -- probably just as well, as there's no good answer. Still likely to include his usual rigorous accounting of US misbehavior in the world (one chapter is "The US Is a Leading Terrorist State"). Other recent Chomsky titles I haven't noted before: How the World Works (paperback, 2011, Soft Skull Press); On Anarchism (paperback, 2013, New Press); Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures, 1969-2013 (paperback, 2014, Haymarket Books); What d Kind of Creatures Are We? (2015, Columbia University Press); On Palestine (with Ilan Pappé, paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books); Because We Say So (paperback, 2015, City Lights); also several reprints of older books (mostly from Haymarket Books), and the DVD Requiem for the American Dream.

Stephen S Cohen/J Bradford DeLong: Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy (2016, Harvard Business Review Press): An argument that history is key to understanding how the American economy grew, and a compact history of government intervention in the American economy going all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.

David Cole: Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law (2016, Basic Books): Points out a number of cases where Supreme Court rulings merely formalized changes in public opinion brought about by political activism -- sample cases include marriage equality and the individual right to bear arms, but it isn't hard to think of more cases, including the 1930s reversal on New Deal programs.

David Daley: Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy (2016, Liveright): Title evidently a technical term coined by a Nixon operative to boast about some of the "dirty tricks" used to tilt the 1972 presidential election his boss's way, but is generalized here to cover the story of how the recent deluge of GOP-leaning money has helped that party to gain political power way beyond what you'd expect in a representative democracy. Gerrymandering is one not-so-secret aspect of this. Lesser known is the REDMAP project -- especially how the Republicans targeted state legislatures -- that opened up so many opportunities to stack the deck.

Charles Derber/Yale R Magrass: Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society (2016, University Press of Kansas): Not just schoolyard bullying, but we live in a society that increasingly lets the rich and powerful bully the poor and weak, that prizes wealth and power, treats their lack as a personal disgrace. These are all consequences of inequality, but they also correlate with the US stance as the world's superpower, the one nation that is free to tower over and bully all others. This is one book that seems to get all that: "The larger the inequalities of power in society, or among nations, or even across species, the more likely it is that both institutional and personal bullying can become commonplace."

Dan DiMicco: American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness (2015, St. Martin's Press): Former CEO of Nucor, "the largest and most profitable U.S. steel company" although as far as I an tell they mostly melt down and recycle in non-unionized plants far from America's old Rust Belt. Recently DiMicco was named to Trump's economic advisory board, with the strategic word "Greatness" hinting this book might be a blueprint for Trump's agenda. Still, I doubt there's anything new here: there's still a good deal of manufacturing in America, and such companies can be profitable if you can keep the vulture capitalists who dominate Trump's board from bleeding them dry. The bigger problem is how to get more of the profits of business back into the paychecks of workers, and there DiMicco is more problem than solution.

Tamara Draut: Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America (2016, Doubleday): Cover features the banner "FIGHT FOR $15 AND A UNION." The new working class isn't the old blue collar one, but "more female and racially diverse" employed in bottom end service jobs that don't pay enough to live on much less secure the old notion of middle class equality. A decade ago Draut wrote Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Something Can't Get Ahead, and they've only fallen further behind, which is why they're (finally) fighting back.

Ben Ehrenreich: The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (2016, Penguin Press): American journalist, son of Barbara Ehrenreich, has also written a pair of novels, details considerable time spent in Israel/Palestine observing the military occupation, and perhaps more importantly the people subject to that occupation.

Rana Foroohar: Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business (2016, Crown Business): If I recall correctly, the title comes from Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign speech where he derided the 47% of Americans who owe no federal income tax as "takers" -- as parasites living off the better off classes (i.e., those without effective tax dodge scams). Still, another reading is possible: some businesses still make things, but others (notably Romney's Bain Capital) just take profits out of the economy through various financial shenanigans. Everyone knows that the latter have grown enormously over recent decades. What this book does is explore the effect of all this financial "taking" on the older practice of making things, which as everyone also knows has declined severely in America. Pretty sure the two are linked. Hope this book helps explain why.

Robert H Frank: Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (2016, Princeton University): Short book, argues that the rich tend to underestimate the role of luck in their success, or overestimate the role of merit -- flip sides of the same coin.

Steve Fraser: The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America (2016, Basic Books): The term dates from the 1969 New York mayoralty election, about the same time the "hard hat" riots against antiwar protesters reinforced Nixon's idea that a conservative "silent majority" had been victimized by "liberal elites" -- a term that ultimately had more traction than "limousine liberal." Fraser recently wrote about how Americans lost their sense of class struggle in The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of Organized Wealth and Power, to which this adds a significant case study.

Chas W Freeman Jr: America's Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East (paperback, 2016, Just World Books): Former US diplomat, was denied a job in the Obama administration because he was considered unacceptably equivocal about Israel. Shortly after that, he wrote America's Misadventures in the Middle East (paperback, 2010, Just World Books). Presumably this is all new material, succinct even, as it only runs 256 pages.

Michael J Graetz/Linda Greenhouse: The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right (2016, Simon & Schuster): Of course, the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts moved even further to the right, but Nixon's appointment of Warren Burger to replace Earl Warren started the rightward shift. This book explains how and why. I'll add that this represented a reversion to form for the Supreme Court up to the New Deal. Maybe now we should recognize how fortunate we were to have grown up in an era when the Supreme Court took an active interest in expanding individual and civil rights.

Karen J Greenberg: Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State (2016, Crown): Having written a book on Guantanamo and edited one called Torture Papers, the author is in a position to sum up the marginal rationalizations used to trample two centuries of legal principle just to facilitate the security state's defense of its own power and secrets. While many of these examples were started by the Bush administration in its initial panic over 9/11, most have been continued under Obama, with some policies -- like extrajudicial killings -- greatly extended.

Seymour M Hersh: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden (2016, Verso): Short book on how the US sent a team of Navy SEALs deep into Pakistan to assassinate the nominal leader of Al-Qaida. Hersh casts doubt on many of the stories the Obama administration spread about its exploit.

Elizabeth Hinton: From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (2016, Harvard University Press): Author starts with Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, which includes a simultaneous "war on crime," a set of policing policies that Republicans (and Bill Clinton) kept building up while at the same time tearing down the welfare programs. It is probably no accident that Johnson's programs were launched while America was increasingly mired in war in Vietnam, and even less so that police became more militarized during the so-called War on Terror. In between you get the War on Drugs. The idea there was probably that in post-WWII America "war" is the magic word for unity and determination, but after Vietnam most Americans were tired of war, and anti-drug laws criminalized a wide swath of society, which gave increasingly well-financed police a wide license to pick and choose. The result is that "the land of the free" became the world's most pervasive prison state.

David Cay Johnston: The Making of Donald Trump (2016, Melville House): Journalist, previously wrote a couple books on how the political system is rigged to favor the rich -- Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill). Not an in-depth biography (288 pp), but probably as good as any quick primer on the Republican nominee. Other new books on Trump (aside from the jokes I mention under Trump's own book): Michael D'Antonio: The Truth About Trump (paperback, 2016, St Martin's Griffin -- reissue of 2015 book Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success; Michael Kranish/Marc Fisher: Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power (2016, Scribner); Marc Shapiro: Trump This! The Life and Times of Donald Trump, an Unauthorized Biography (paperback, 2016, Riverdale Avenue Books); Mark Singer: Trump and Me (2016, Mark Duggan Books); and, of course, GB Trudeau: Yuge! 30 Years of Doonsebury on Trump (paperback, 2016, Andrews McNeel).

Mark Landler: Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power (2016, Random House): Journalist, interviewed over 100 "inside sources" to discover that Clinton was invariably hawkish as Secretary of State, while Obama usually started skeptical but often gave in to the hawks he surrounded himself with -- far be it from to seriously reject any orthodoxy. I doubt Landler further explores how often Obama's policies backfired, as he seems more entranced with his "team of rivals" collaboration story -- the common ground of those alter egos.

Marc Lynch: The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East (2016, PublicAffairs): Wrote The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (2012), a more hopeful title but in case after case popular uprisings have given way to civil war, as the ancien regimes have violently clung to power, as jihadists have come to the fore, and as foreign governments (notably the US) have interfered to advance poorly understood interests.

Benjamin Madley: An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 (2016, Yale University Press): There is evidence that the population of Native Americans was reduced by as much as 90% from pre-Columbian levels to the end of the 19th century, and it's not much of a stretch to call that genocide. This book deals with just one narrow front, in California where the native population dropped from about 150,000 to 30,000 in the years covered -- roughly the period of California's Gold Rush. On the same subject: Brendan C Lindsay: Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 (paperback, 2015, University of Nebraska Press). Related: John Mack Faragher: Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles (2016, WW Norton).

George Monbiot: How Did We Get Into This Mess? Politics, Equality, Nature (2016, Verso): British journalist, has written about science (degree in Zoology), climate change, and all sorts of political matters, which gives him a broad view of the "mess" of our times. This one's an essay collection, columns written 2007-15, that illustrate his title rather than exploring it systematically. Still, I did track down the title piece, which indicts neoliberalism traced back to the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947.

Peter Navarro: Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World (2015, Prometheus Books): Another Trump "economic adviser," the only one with any academic credentials, which as this book shows means zilch. Trump has a whole range of complaints about China ranging from currency manipulation to short-changing on patent rents. But Navarro sees something different: a mirror image of the US expanding its economic grasp into Asia under a cloak of the threat/promise of military power. The implication is that if the US ever backs down, China will pounce -- certainly not that China's military was built as a defense against intimidation from the world's sole superpower." Navarro previously co-wrote (with Greg Autry): Death by China: Confronting the Dragon -- A Global Call to Action (2011, Pearson Press). Chinese-American conflict has become a staple, both for business writers and empire strategists; e.g.: Thomas J Christensen: The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (2015, WW Norton); Thomas Finger: The New Great Game: China and South and Central Asia in the Era of Reform (paperback, 2016, Stanford University Press); Aaron L Friedberg: A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (paperback, 2012, WW Norton); Lyle J Goldstein: Meeting China Halfway: How to Diffuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry (2015, Georgetown University Press); Robert Haddick: Fire on the Water: China, America, and the Future of the Pacific (2014, Naval Institue Press); Bill Hayton: The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia (paperback, 2015, Yale University Press); Anja Manuel: This Brave New World: India, China and the United States (2016, Simon & Schuster); Liu Minglu: The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era (2015, CN Times Books); Henry M Paulson Jr: Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower (2015, Twelve); Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (paperback, 2016, St Martin's Griffin); also, one I've mentioned before: Robert D Kaplan: Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific (2014; paperback, 2015, Random House); and one I somehow didn't mention, Henry Kissinger: On China (2011; paperback, 2012, Penguin Books).

Daniel Oppenheimer: Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century (2016, Simon & Schuster): Profiles that go "deep into the minds of six apostates -- Whitaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz, and Christopher Hitchens." Reagan seems an odd choice for any book concerned with the mind, but the rest are far from original thinkers, more like notorious cranks, and can only be counted as reshaping the century in the sense that they allowed themselves be used as tools for the right-wing. Some blurb writers I respect liked this book, but it's hard to see why it should matter.

Thomas Piketty: Why Save the Bankers?: And Other Essays on Our Economic and Political Crisis (2016, Houghton Mifflin): Author of the major work on economic inequality Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014), picks these scattered essays from a monthly column published in France (2008-15).

Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters: Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics (paperback, 2016, Anchor): Author previously co-wrote (with David Brock) The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network Into a Propaganda Machine and The Benghazi Hoax: The Truth Behind the Right's Campaign to Politicize an American Tragedy. The PR outfits may have started out just trying to spin the truth, but they quickly found themselves creating whole untruths from scratch, and what worked for tobacco and climate denial was seized upon by the right-wing for their own political machinations.

Yakov M Rabkin: What Is Modern Israel? (paperback, 2016, Pluto Press): Argues that Zionism is rooted not in anything Jewish but in Protestant Christianity's reading of Biblical prophecy, compounded by "Europeean ethnic nationalism, colonial expansion, and geopolitical interests." That doesn't quite explain why the idea came to be embraced by many Jews, both among those who settled in Israel and among those scattered elsewhere.

Andrés Reséndez: The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Slavery in America (2016, Houghton Mifflin): Before Columbus imported slaves from Africa, he tried enslaving the natives he "discovered." The Spanish crown supposedly ended this practice in 1542, but by then slavery had already had a calamatous effect on decimating native populations, and the story didn't end there. Most likely an eye-opening, pathbreaking book.

Jeremy Scahill: The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program (2016, Simon & Schuster): Previously wrote about early US use of drones for extrajudicial assassinations in 2013's Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. Since then drones have become ever more central to Obama's continuation of Bush's Global War on Terror, which makes this an important book.

Jean Edward Smith: Bush (2016, Simon & Schuster): Big (832 pp) history of the eight years when GW Bush was pretty clearly the worst president the United States has ever had to suffer through, written to remind us of just that fact, all the more urgent since so many media hacks and even President Obama -- originally elected when the memory was clear in the minds of the electorate -- have let so much of his record slip from their minds.

Jason Stahl: Right Moves: The Conservative Think Tank in American Political Culture Since 1945 (2016, University of North Carolina Press): Surveys the history of right-wing financiers' efforts to stand up a faux academia to propagate their pet theories, and increasingly to fabricate their own facts, in hopes of dressing up their self-interested politics. But academia turned out to be too grand a vision, as they descended ever more into cranking out made-to-order political propaganda. And they've increasingly turned into a jobs program for conservative politicians, a security net for out-of-work ideologues.

Robert Teitelman: Bloodsport: When Ruthless Dealmakers, Shrewd Ideologues, and Brawling Lawyers Toppled the Corporate Establishment (2016, PublicAffairs): During the 1970s there arose a mania for building companies by mergers and acquisitions, a practice which led to the growth of diversified conglomerates as well as big companies snuffing out their competitors. Not clear to me whether Wall Street led the way or jumped on the bandwagon, but this went hand-in-hand with the financialization of the American economy, a process which increased inequality in lots of ways. The ideologues come into play with their justification of the supreme importance of shareholder value, regardless of who gets hurt.

Donald J Trump: Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America (paperback, 2016, Threshold Editions): Cover an orange smudge on an American flag against a not quite uncloudy blue sky, a vast improvement over Trump's scowl on the hardcover that came out last November as Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again. Like the title swap, the juxtaposition between crippled and great is so confusing it's hard to tell which is the past and which is the future. Meanwhile, the short (170 pages gets you to "Acknowledgments") campaign prop is full of such simplistic pablum you could use it for a second grade reader -- if, that is, you don't mind turning our children into sociopaths. By the way, if you want more Trumped-up propaganda, check the usual suspects: Ann Coulter: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! (2016, Sentinel); Dick Morris/Eileen McGann: Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Hillary (2016, Humanix Books); Wayne Allyn Root: Angry White Male: How the Donald Trump Phenomenon Is Changing America -- and What We Can All Do to Save the Middle Class (2016, Skyhorse Publishing).

Yanis Varoufakis: And the Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future (2016, Nation Books): Economist, became Finance Minister when the leftist Syriza party won in Greece, precipitating a crisis within the Eurozone resulting in Greece being forced to suffer punitive austerity and Varoufakis leaving the government in disgust. This appears to aim at something more general, but the author's unique experience offers a distinct starting point. Varoufakis has a similar previous book, The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy (3rd ed, paperback, 2015, Zed Books).

Dov Waxman: Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel (2016, Princeton University Press): There have always been segments of the Jewish population in the US that have been critical of Israel, but especially after the 1948 and 1967 wars Israel enjoyed deep support among American Jews. That has begun to shift, mostly along generational lines, as Israel has moved hard to the right politically, as its militarism and human rights abuses have proven ever more difficult to justify on security grounds. This book looks at that, and to do so fairly you have to look at the issues that underly these divisions.

Edward O Wilson: Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life (2016, Liveright): Legendary biologist/entomologist (the study of bugs), has increasingly turned to writing about how much damage people have done to the natural world, and at 86 isn't done yet. He has a case, and his anger is justified. Still, the notion that the earth cares, much less is fighting back, is a fanciful conceit, flattering to the same people who scarcely comprehend what they are doing -- not so much to the earth as to ourselves.

Richard D Wolff: Capitalism's Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown (paperback, 2016, Haymarket): Lefty economist, has been tracking economic crisis since 2009's Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It, and for that matter did something about it, being closely associated with the Occupy Movement. Short, topical pieces written over several years.


Other recent books also noted:

  • Walter R Borneman: MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific (2016, Little Brown)

  • Todd G Buchholz: The Price of Prosperity: Why Rich Nations Fail and How to Renew Them (2016, Harper)

  • James Carville: We're Still Right, They're Still Wrong: The Democrats' Case for 2016 (2016, Blue Rider Press)

  • Diego Gambetta/Steffen Hertog: Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection Between Violent Extremism and Education (2016, Princeton University Press)

  • Fawaz A Gerges: A History of ISIS (2016, Princeton University Press)

  • William N Goetzmann: Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible (2016, Princeton University Press)

  • Max Hastings: The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945 (2016, Harper)

  • Marc Lamont Hill: Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, From Ferguson to Flint and Beyond (2016, Atria)

  • Sean Jacobs/Jon Sooke, eds: Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy (paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books)

  • Garry Kasparov: Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped (2015, Public Affairs)

  • John Kay: Other People's Money: The Real Business of Finance (2015, Public Affairs)

  • Mervyn King: The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy (2016, WW Norton)

  • Robert F Worth: A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, From Tahrir Square to ISIS (2016, Farrar Straus and Giroux)

Previously mentioned books (book pages noted where available), new in paperback:

  • Thomas E Mann/Norman J Ornstein: It's Even Worse Than It Looks Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (2012; rev ed, paperback, 2016, Basic Books)

  • David Swanson: War Is a Lie (2010; second edition, paperback, 2016, Just World Books)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Daily Log

Any chance I can recall enough films to fill out a #fav7films? Let's see:

  • Babette's Feast
  • Before Sunrise
  • Hairspray
  • Johnny Dangerously
  • Made in Heaven
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Stars and Bars

I also see there's a #7FavTVShows:

  • The Avengers
  • Fargo
  • Homicide: Life on the Street
  • Justified
  • The Mentalist
  • Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries
  • The Rogues

Monday, August 15, 2016

Music Week


Music: Current count 26996 [26901] rated (+95), 357 [420] unrated (-63).

Early last week I got up and found my new jazz queue was practically empty -- at least didn't have anything I particularly wanted to listen to. I wound up playing something from the travel case for breakfast, then took a look at the Downbeat ballot albums list I had saved and started looking things up on Rhapsody. By the end of the day, I had two very solid A-list albums: new works by George Coleman and David Murray I wasn't aware existed. I kept looking up ballot albums for the rest of the week, but didn't find any more A-list. The tally so far: [A-] 2, [***] 4, [**] 4, [*] 7, [B] 2. That brings the percentage of the 186 ballot albums I've heard up from 60.21% to 70.43%. That also skews the grade curve down a bit, although it still centers on mid-B+ (was 26-35-20, now 30-39-27). That leaves 58 albums, the majority most likely not on Rhapsody.

At some point I started wondering why, if the queue was empty, the unrated count was stuck around 440 even though it had been down around 400 before I took my June trip and fell behind. So I took a close look at the ratings database and found nearly sixty albums that I had done but hadn't written down the grade for. The actual newly rated count this week is close to the 36 albums listed below -- a pretty healthy weekly count, but way short of the humanly impossible 96 reported above. As I've explained before, the unrateds shot up over a decade ago when Wichita's local record stores went out of business and I bought boxloads of stuff I still haven't gotten to. The list also includes some LPs I didn't remember well enough to jot down when I first constructed the ratings list in the late 1990s -- of course, I wonder now how many of those I still have, since I sold off most of my vinyl in 1999. There are also a few promos from the mid-'00s that I didn't get to but didn't dispose of, but probably no more than a dozen promos from this decade -- I've been doing a pretty good job of getting through the new stuff even if I haven't made much progress with the old.

At some point I should make a serious effort to knock down that backlog, even if it just means reclassifying things I no longer have (or cannot find). That would be one of those decluttering projects we talk about doing but I never seem to be able to find time for. Besides, even if the promo stream is drying up -- this month's dearth is partly seasonal but last week's haul is one of the lamest ever. (Two more records arrived today, but I'm pretty sure if I hadn't held last Monday's mail back I'd be empty below. As it is, I won't be empty next week, but might not see a rebound either.)


I made phat thai last week, and finally jotted down the recipe I use -- been meaning to do that for some time, especially as I take various liberties with the cookbook (which, by the way, Michael Tatum recommended to me). Laura doesn't like bean sprouts, and I don't like cayenne, so I leave those things out (but I've found that a couple dried Chinese chili peppers don't hurt, as long as I pitch them before serving). Nice thing about the dish is that I can do all the prep, including soaking, and cook the thing in less than an hour. And with shrimp in the freezer, the only thing I have to worry about having fresh is the scallions.

I've had a few recipes online for many years, but I've been pretty erratic about adding to them. In fact, I have two sets, one "old" (which dates to 2000) and "new" (which starts in 2007, using a newer look and feel). At one point I meant to convert all the "old" to "new" format, and develop the code to where everything is cross-indexed by ingredients, cuisine, and even dinner party (so one can tell which dishes went together, even how often I make them -- if I bothered to keep track). But I never finished that code, never converted all the "old" to "new," and have only sporadically added things, mostly when I wanted to pass a recipe on. This is actually one of those, and this time I added some new code to display a picture of the finished dish. Looks pretty good, I think.


New records rated this week:

  • Greg Abate & Phil Woods with the Tim Ray Trio: Kindred Spirits: Live at Chan's (2014 [2016], Whaling City Sound, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Karrin Allyson, Many a New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein (2015, Motéma): [r]: B
  • Peter Bernstein: Let Loose (2016, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Black Trio: The Constant (2015 [2016], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Terri Lyne Carrington: The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul (2015, Concord): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Coleman: A Master Speaks (2015 [2016], Smoke Sessions): [r]: A-
  • Paquito D'Rivera: Jazz Meets the Classics (2012 [2014], Paquito/Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Paquito D'Rivera & Quinteto Cimarron: Aires Tropicales (2012 [2015], Paquito/Sunnyside): [r]: B-
  • Paquito D'Rivera/Armando Manzanero: Paquito & Manzanero (2016, Paquito/Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Oran Etkin, What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman (2015, Motéma): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sullivan Fortner: Aria (2014 [2015], Impulse!): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wycliffe Gordon: Somebody New (2015, Blues Back): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stacey Kent: Tenderly (2015 [2016], Okeh): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kirk Knuffke: Lamplighter (2014 [2015], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Camila Meza: Traces (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Otis Was a Polar Bear (2016, Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(**)
  • Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio: Perfection (2015 [2016], Motéma): [r]: A-
  • Quinsin Nachoff: Flux (2012 [2016], Mythology): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Aaron Neville: Apache (2016, Tell It): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit: Ana (2015 [2016], PNL): [bc]: A-
  • Adam O'Farrill: Stranger Days (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Arturo O'Farrill Sextet: Boss Level (2013 [2016], Zoho): [r]: B+(*)
  • Francisco Pais Lotus Project: Verde (2016, Product of Imagination): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Aaron Parks/Thomas Fonnesbaek/Karsten Bagge: Groovements (2014 [2016], Stunt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sergio Pereira: Swingando (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jim Rotondi: Dark Blue (2015 [2016], Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ches Smith: The Bell (2015 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Bill Stewart: Space Squid (2014 [2016], Pirouet): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Basement Blues (2012-15 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Miroslav Vitous: Music of Weather Report (2010-11 [2012], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Charenée Wade: Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson (2015, Motéma): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Irène Schweizer/Léon Francioli/Pierre Favre: Musical Monsters (1980 [2016], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Daunik Lazro/Joëlle Léandre/George Lewis: Enfances 8 Janv. 1984 (1984 [2016], Fou): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy (2007-14 [2015], PNL, 7CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Penny Penny: Shaka Bundu (1994 [2013], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pylon: Live (1983 [2016], Chunklet): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Quinsin Nachoff: Flux (Mythology): September 16
  • Nine Live: Sonus Inenarribilis: Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark (Mulatta): October 7

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Weekend Roundup

First a few loose ends left over from yesterday's Trump post:

  1. For more on populism, see Russell Arben Fox: Ten Theses on Our Populist Moment: He quotes Damon Linker's monumentally stupid claim that "Trump may be the purest populist to receive a major-party presidential nomination in the nation's history," but the Linker also argues that:

    Populism doesn't have a fixed agenda or aim toward any particular policy goal, like liberalism, progressivism, conservatism, libertarianism, or socialism. It's a style -- one that favors paranoia and conspiracy-theorizing, exaggeration of problems, demonization of political opponents (politicians but also private citizens), and most of all extravagant flattery of "the people" (which the populist equates with his own supporters, excluding everyone else).

    In other words, Linker has his own private definition of Populism. To most other people, what he's describing is the propaganda pitch of fascism to the masses (as opposed to the pitch made behind closed doors to the oligarchy). So it shouldn't be surprising that recent examples are mostly Republican ("From Newt Gingrich . . . to Sarah Palin . . . and Donald Trump") as the Republican conservative project is so similar in intent to the fascist project. Fox himself comes up with a more sensible definition ("whatever articulation of economic justice, community protection, and local democracy one comes up with"), but he's ambivalent about calling it Populism. I haven't researched this, but I suspect part of the problem is that Populism has always been a label to attack the movement -- the proper name back in the 1890s was the People's Party -- and it was chosen by high-handed snobs who despised the people even more than the dead-end thinking of isms. Even today, I suspect that most of the people who regard Trump as a Populist do so because they regard "the people" as too ignorant, too intemperate, too irrational even to look out for their own interest. Of course, many of those same people also decry true economic populism as well, hoping that by linking Trump and Sanders they can dispose of both.

  2. If you take one thing away from the Trump post, it should be that Trump's real problems are endemic to the Republican Party and its conservative ideologues and propagandists. Sure, Trump lacks the message discipline of a GW Bush and the ideological fervor of a Dick Cheney, but in the end he always retreats to the orthodox party line. And that's what doesn't work, and that's what you should really fear about him or any of the other party leaders.

  3. On the other hand, what the party leaders hate about Trump is his loose mouth. They understand that belief in their economic ideas and their foreign policy doctrine depends on strict repetition, on never allowing a morsel of doubt to creep into the discussion. If you ever stop and think about whether the free market optimally solves all economic equations or whether the world would descend into chaos if the US ever stopped projecting its global superpowerness, you might realize that those doctrines, upon which rests so much privilege and luxury for the fortunate few, are in fact remarkably flawed. Trump is so ignorant and so uninhibited that he simply can't be trusted to keep those cherished myths inviolate.

  4. One thing that the Trump debacle should impress upon people is that the idea that successful businessmen are really great problem solvers and managers, and especially that those are skills that can be transferred to politics and government, is sheer nonsense. Could be that some are, but circumstance and luck count for a lot, as does starting out with a fortune, as Trump did.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Andrew Bacevich: The Decay of American Politics: "An Ode to Ike and Adlai," major party nominees of sixty years ago -- the author's "earliest recollection of national politics," somewhat more vaguely mine as well (I turned six just before the election). I'm not quite as nostalgic about this pair, but Eisenhower was a centrist who, like previous Republican nominees Thomas Dewey and Wendell Wilkie, had no desire much less delusions of rolling back the redefinition of what the federal government meant and did known as the New Deal. And Eisenhower was so respected that if in 1952 he had declared his party differently he might most likely would have been nominated by the Democrats. Stevenson was an eloquent, highly respected liberal, no less adored albeit by a narrower base. From his conservative perch, Bacevich underrates Stevenson, and Hillary Clinton as well, although as a long-time critic of American foreign policy and militarism he has no trouble marshalling his arguments against the latter:

    When it comes to foreign policy, Trump's preference for off-the-cuff utterances finds him committing astonishing gaffes with metronomic regularity. Spontaneity serves chiefly to expose his staggering ignorance.

    By comparison, the carefully scripted Clinton commits few missteps, as she recites with practiced ease the pabulum that passes for right thinking in establishment circles. But fluency does not necessarily connote soundness. Clinton, after all, adheres resolutely to the highly militarized "Washington playbook" that President Obama himself has disparaged -- a faith-based belief in American global primacy to be pursued regardless of how the world may be changing and heedless of costs. [ . . . ]

    So while a Trump presidency holds the prospect of the United States driving off a cliff, a Clinton presidency promises to be the equivalent of banging one's head against a brick wall without evident effect, wondering all the while why it hurts so much.

    Bacevich at least concedes that both candidates are representative of their parties, each having mastered what it takes to get nominated. And as such, he regards them less as flukes than as symptoms of some underlying shifts. He blames "the evil effects of money," and "the perverse impact of identity politics on policy." He doesn't unpack these points nearly well enough, so let me take a shot:

    • Money seems pretty obvious: he links to Lawrence Lessig's "brilliant and deeply disturbing TED talk. Of course, money has bought political influence in America for a long time -- Karl Rove's hero William McKinley would never have been elected president without the backing of wealthy patrons -- but Eisenhower was sought out by backers of both parties because he was already hugely popular, and because in the 1950s popular appeal was still worth more than money. That's changed over the years, utterly so in 2016. The Republican candidates were all selected by their billionaire backers -- Trump, of course, had an advantage there in being his own billionaire, which made him look a little less shady even though his own business history was plenty suspect. Clinton, on the other hand, cornered all the party's big money donors, so she would have ran unopposed had Sanders not come up with a novel way of financing a competitive campaign.

    • The matter of identity politics is somewhat subtler. In a sense it's always existed -- indeed, it seems to be the dominant factor in "third world" countries with weak democratic traditions, like Pakistan and post-Saddam Iraq. If you've read Kevin Phillips' The Emerging Republican Majority (1969), you'll recall that most of his arguments about shifting political alignments were based on demographics. Early in the 20th century the Republican Party was preponderately northern and protestant, mostly white but most blacks who could voted Republican, while the Democratic Party represented a mix of northern Catholics and Jews along with southern whites. Economic factors occasionally appeared, but were often secondary: northern farmers shifted to the Democrats with Bryan, while labor more slowly shifted from R to D, especially with the New Deal. Phillips' scheme was for the Republicans to capture southern whites and northern Catholics -- Nixon started the former with his "southern strategy" and the latter came to be known as "Reagan Democrats." Still, I think Bacevich is getting at something more. Back in the 1950s America was, in self-concept if not quite reality, a homogeneous middle-class nation with a single mass market. Since then, America has become a good deal less homogeneous: immigration, which was suppressed in the 1920s, has greatly increased, as has inequality. But just as importantly, advertisers and media programmers have learned to target specific niche audiences, and politicos have followed their lead -- to the extent that even news and political opinion shows are now targeted to specific factions. In this atmosphere, identity has taken on increased significance.

      Still, political parties have to distinguish themselves somehow, and the main alternative to identity is class, something that became clearer when Franklin Roosevelt sided with the labor movement in the 1930s. Nixon and Reagan tried to counter this by pushing identity to the fore, which should have sharpened the class division of parties, but Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton went out of their way to screw over their labor supporters, and were able to get away with that as labor unions lost membership and clout, and as Republican hostility to non-whites, immigrants, gays, and anyone of a liberal disposition pushed those groups toward the Democrats. That the result appears to be "identity politics" mostly speaks to the fact that the sense of national unity that was forged during the New Deal and World War II has been fractured, most emphatically by economic inequality.

    Bacevich skips over here because he wants to move to say this:

    The essential point here is that, in the realm of national security, Hillary Clinton is utterly conventional. She subscribes to a worldview (and view of America's role in the world) that originated during the Cold War, reached its zenith in the 1990s when the United States proclaimed itself the planet's "sole superpower," and persists today remarkably unaffected by actual events. On the campaign trail, Clinton attests to her bona fides by routinely reaffirming her belief in American exceptionalism, paying fervent tribute to "the world's greatest military," swearing that she'll be "listening to our generals and admirals," and vowing to get tough on America's adversaries. These are, of course, the mandatory rituals of the contemporary Washington stump speech, amplified if anything by the perceived need for the first female candidate for president to emphasize her pugnacity.

    Bacevich then adds a third explanation: "the substitution of 'reality' for reality" -- the idea, facilitated by mass media and the PR industry, that well-managed perceptions count for more than what actually happens. Bacevich cites Daniel Boorstin's 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseydo-Events in America, written a mere decade after Americans started learning to see the world through the selective images beamed to their television screens. He could also have mentioned Joe McGinniss' The Selling of the President 1968 (1969), on Richard Nixon's PR campaign.

  • John Holbo: Is the Cato Institute a, Your Know, Libertarian Think-Tank? Article about libertarians bitching about the Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. That's not a fight I care to get into, but I will say that, regardless of their stands on issues, Johnson and Weld were two of the more decent and respectable Republican governors of the last few decades. I have less sense of Johnson, but Weld did one commendable thing that I don't think any other politician of either party has done, which is to (admittedly only partially) free up a toll road. I'd like to see a national program established to convert toll roads and bridges to the (free) interstate highway system, and to outlaw the construction of new toll roads. As far as I know that's on no political agenda -- I'm not even sure libertarians would support it, but they should. But that aside, I linked to this piece to quote a comment from "derrida derider" which seems about right:

    When thinking of libertarians I always think of Lenin's aphorism about anarchists -- "fine people, but an ideology for children."

    Because the hook libertarianism always get stuck on is that we are social animals where every action we take affects someone else. So the JS Mill stuff that "you are free to do what you like so long as you don't hurt anyone else" in practice comes down to a choice of "you are free to do lots of stuff which will really hurt other people" or "you are free to anything I judge will not hurt me."

    The first is so obviously untenable that actually existing "libertarians" adopt the second -- that is, they are in fact conservatives engaged in JK Galbraith's conservative project throughout the ages -- to find a higher justification for selfishness. So it's no surprise to find that they are usually in the same political bed as conservatives.

    E.g., the Kochs may think they're for freedom in the abstract, but they're mostly for freedom for themselves, to make money at everyone else's expense. It was libertarians like the Kochs that led Mike Konczal to write We Already Tried Libertarianism -- It Was Called Feudalism.

  • David E Sanger/Maggie Haberman: 50 G.O.P. Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation's Security 'at Risk':

    Fifty of the nation's most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump "lacks the character, values and experience" to be president and "would put at risk our country's national security and well-being."

    Mr. Trump, the officials warn, "would be the most reckless president in American history."

    The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States' moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has "demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding" of the nation's "vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values" on which American policy should be based. And it laments that "Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself."

    "None of us will vote for Donald Trump," the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans "have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us."

    You'd think this would be good news for Clinton, but what they're accusing Trump of not understanding is the unexamined foundation of every foreign policy disaster of recent decades. Trump half discerns this, but in the end he decides they're only doing this for spite and personal gain -- i.e., the reasons Trump himself would use:

    Late Monday, Mr. Trump struck back. The signatories of the letter, he said in a statement, were "the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place." He dismissed them as "nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power."

    Mr. Trump correctly identified many of the signatories as the architects of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But he also blamed them for allowing Americans "to die in Benghazi" and for permitting "the rise of ISIS" -- referring to the 2012 attacks on the American mission in Libya and the spread of the Islamic State, both of which occurred during the Obama administration. At the time, most of Mr. Trump's Republican foreign policy critics were in think tanks, private consultancies or law firms, or signed on as advisers to the Republican hopefuls Mr. Trump beat in the primaries.

    If Trump was smarter he'd figure out a way to turn the tables and cast Hillary as the intemperate, dangerous warmonger and point to the hawks who are abandoning him and (in many cases) embracing her as further proof. It's not happening because he's fully absorbed the party line that all of America's problems abroad are because Obama is weak (or some kind of America-hating traitor), so he feels the need to continually reassert his own toughness, even though he's so shallow and erratic this comes across as recklessness. A good recent example is his refusal to concede that there are any conditions where he'd rule out the use of nuclear weapons.

    Meanwhile, many neocon hawks have moved past dissing Trump and on to supporting Clinton. In particular, see:

  • Some campaign-related links:

    • Sedgwick County Republican chairman: 'Hold your nose' and vote Trump: Catchy new slogan here in Wichita. Latest SurveyUSA poll shows Trump still leading in Kansas, 44-39%, close enough for 538 to give Clinton a 17.3% chance of winning Kansas. In related Wichita Eagle articles, Governor Sam Brownback reiterated his firm support for Trump (he does, after all, have a lot of experience holding his nose). Also Sen. Pat Roberts was named as a Trump adviser on agriculture (i.e., agribusiness, in whose pocket Roberts has spent much more time than he has in Kansas).

    • John Cassidy: Why Trump's Crazy Talk About Obama and ISIS Matters: More hectoring on "right-wing populist movements," charging that Trump is out to create a neo-fascist America First movement that will outlive his own scattershot candidacy. I agree with Steve M's critique, No, he's just parroting what he's heard from Fox and the GOP. But as I pointd out the other day, Trump not only hears Republican "dog whistles," he responds to them like a dog (apologies, of course, to anyone who thinks I just insulted their best friend).

    • Maureen Dowd: The Perfect GOP Nominee: Hillary Clinton, of course: "They already have a 1-percenter who will be totally fine in the Oval Office, someone they can trust to help Wall Street, boost the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cuddle with hedge funds, secure the trade deals beloved by corporate America, seek guidance from Henry Kissinger and hawk it up -- unleashing hell on Syria and heaven knows where else."

    • Lisa Lerer/Ken Thomas: What Have We Learned From Hillary Clinton's Tax Returns? She released them for 2015 last week, presumably to taunt Trump. Headline figure was that Bill and her reaped $10.6 million, which seems like quite a bit for run a foundation and get most of their money (some $6 million) from speaking fees. They've also released earlier tax returns, showing that they've made $139 million from 2007-2014 -- I suspect that's more than any other ex-president has owned, a remarkable reward (not that Clinton, as president, didn't make other people even more money). These figures put them in the lower rungs of the 1%, so one may wonder where their allegiances actually lie.

    • Ryan Lizza: What We Learned About Trump's Supporters This Week: The main thing is that Jonathan Rothwell, a researcher at Gallup, did a deep dive into their polling database to see whether Trump's base of support comes from economic distress caused by trade deals and immigration, and finds that it doesn't. He finds that Trump's supporters "are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and perhaps the contradiction there leads to economic anxiety. They're also socially isolated: it's easier to hold stereotyped views of immigrants if you don't know any. No real news here for anyone who's been paying attention.

    • Mark Joseph Stern: "Second Amendment People" Solutions: Argues "Trump's Clinton 'joke' was no coincidence. The GOP espouses a right to bear arms whose logical conclusion is political assassination."

    • Benjamin Wallace-Wells: The Real Scandal of Hillary Clinton's E-Mails: Well, to save you some scanning, it's that there is none, other than the cozy access donors have to politicians for decades now.


Finally, a few links for further study (ran out of time to comment):

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Trump

One of the more annoying themes pundits like to spin about Donald Trump is how he represents some sort of populist backlash against the elites who run the country. To do so coherently you have to construct strawmen both of the elites and of the people. Coming up with a definition of elites that does not include Trump is an especially daunting challenge: he is, after all, extremely rich, very famous, a guy who flies around in private planes and helicopters, who lives in a postmodern castle in the heart of Manhattan. Sure, elite could mean many other things that Trump decidedly is not: brilliant scientists, stellar athletes, remarkable chefs and fashion designers, actors who can play someone other than themselves. But rich and famous counts for a lot in America: it gets you invited to hobnob with politicians and gives you free access to the media, privileges that, having been born rich, Trump has enjoyed nearly all his life.

Then there are the people. You can't have populism without people, but Trump's people aren't exactly a random cross-section of America -- what Bill Clinton referred to when he said he wanted a cabinet that looks like America (not that the one he picked wasn't a good deal richer and fancier dressed). Trump's cross-section is skewed white, older, and male (in almost exclusively to mostly order). But doesn't populism also have to signify some kind of economic revolt? It did in the 1990s when the Populist Party emerged in response to the worst recession American capitalism suffered (only exceeded by the Great Depression of the 1930s, and maybe the Bush meltdown of 2008). And it's certainly true that there is an economic revolt brewing all across America today, where poverty is increasing and most Americans above the poverty line are mired in stagnant wages, rising prices, and often crushing debt, while business (especially the financial sector) has recovered from 2008 and is posting record profits, with virtually all of the gains accruing to the billionaire class.

But it's not Trump's people who are behind this revolt -- those who really are down and out (or just struggling to get ahead) voted for Sanders or Clinton (if they voted at all). As Nate Silver shows (see The Mythology of Trump's 'Working Class' Support), Trump voters are significantly better off than median (average household income is $72K, about even with Cruz with but less than the $90K of Kasich and Rubio voters). They are, in short, comfortable enough they can afford to indulge their prejudices in false solutions and a candidate who won't help them in the least.

If anyone had any illusions that Trump's economic program would be a boon for billionaires and disaster for everyone else, the candidate dispelled them in two quick moves last week. First, he announced his team of economic advisers. For a quick rundown, see Andrew Ross Sorkin: Donald Trump's Economic Team Is Far From Typical, Patricia Cohen: Trump's Economic Team: Bankers and Billionaires (and All Men) and Evan Popp/Josh Israel: Donald Trump Announces Economic Policy Team: 13 Men -- not sure why these authors chose to focus on sex when the team is homogeneous in more extraordinary ways, such as their finance portfolios, and their PAC experience. Most are billionaires, and most built their fortunes on predatory financial shenanigans -- most notoriously John Paulson, who rigged up the Abacus Fund to bet against the mortgage bubble. A few may dabble in manufacturing ventures -- Steve Feinberg's company makes AR-15 assault rifles -- but only one has a manufacturing company at the base of his resume (Dan DiMicco, formerly of Nucor). None are economists, unless you count Stephen Moore (whose peerless record of bad predictions qualified him to be employed as Chief Economist at the Heritage Foundation).

Two of the advisers do have books that might be seen as signposts of a Trumpian economic nationalism, but they point in different directions, underscoring the incoherence of Trump's own blather: DiMicco's American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness (2015), and Peter Navarro's Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World (2015), but like so much of Trump's thinking they don't exactly fit together. Navarro, for instance, is more concerned with protecting business interests in East Asia against Chinese domination than bringing jobs back to America. I have no idea how DiMicco intends to rebuild America's manufacturing base, but most of Trump's advisers do have proven records of bankrupting companies and sending jobs elsewhere.

The absence of any credible economists is especially striking. Sorkin's article explains that even long-term Republican partisans like Glenn Hubbard and Greg Mankiw are keeping their distance from Trump. Sorkin also lists some major Republican donors who have been staying away -- the people Trump picked mostly paid plenty for the proximity, and are all in position to more than make their investment back if Trump wins. Trump got a lot of credit during the primaries by not being beholden to the billionaires who backed his candidates, but as you can see from this list, that's all over now. Of course, if you're smart you should have realized that being your own billionaire backer doesn't convey one iota of independence from the billionaire class -- it merely harmonizes the corruption.

Perhaps Trump could have clarified all this in his "major economic speech" in Detroit (transcript here), but when it comes down to brass tacks, Trump has little to offer other than tax breaks and deregulation for the already rich, who will then magically take their gains and invest them in American jobs -- just like they did with the tax breaks and deregulation of the Reagan and Bush eras? (Amusing quote from Trump's China-bashing section: "Just enforcing intellectual property rules alone could save millions of American jobs. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, improved protection of America's intellectual property in China would produce more than 2 million more jobs right here in the United States." Collecting more intellectual property tariffs is the major purpose of TPP, which Trump claims he opposes.)

As Isaac Chotiner noted, the speech "was meant for Republican bigwigs as much as for passionate Trump voters" -- actually, I'd say much more for the bigwigs, as he pulled his punches on doing anything meaningful about balancing the trade deficit -- he just expects miraculous effects there from giving businesses free money. (By the way, the trade deficit actually is a boon to the finance industry, and a major driver of inequality. Some of that money shipped abroad goes to workers abroad, but a large slice of it goes to businesses, many of whom reinvest their profits in American banks which help drive up the prices of assets, benefitting the rich, not least the sticky-fingered bankers.)

The speech offers an avalanche of numbers abstracted from dubious sources, so it helps to follow with the fact checkers, like Fact-checking Donald Trump's speech to the Detroit Economic Club, to get a rough idea how selective Trump's writers were with facts and how outrageously they could spin them. I particularly appreciate this for the full context to Hillary's quote about putting "a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business" -- actually very thoughtful on how we need to help workers and regions impacted by technology and trade, touching even. But still, you only get a rough idea -- there's much more in the speech that could have been critiqued (like, e.g., the intellectual property crap I cited above), plus it would help to provide more context for Trump's sources (e.g., when he cites the Institute for Energy Research, are you aware that it's a Koch front group?).

Some critical links in response to the speech follow. I'm again struck by how hard it is for some pundits to let go of the notion that Trump is some sort of populist. As should be glaringly obvious by now, there is no economic dimension to Trump's so-called populism. He is too much a part of the rich in America to find any fault with them. Sure, he finds fault in some trade deals, but not because he opposes trade or wants to restore tariffs -- it's just that those agreements were badly negotiated, something a more skilled dealmaker like himself wouldn't have done and could easily fix. How, however, is mysterious, presumably magic, because he doesn't have any coherent program other than his boundless faith in himself.

So what makes Trump a populist? Well, it's all in the eyes of the beholder, isn't it? Deep down, Trump's campaign is based on little more than demagogic appeals to racism and xenophobia. It celebrates a subset of the nation that is white, native-born, and Christian, and flatters them as the true Americans, the people this country used to belong to, people who feel entitled to take the country back from the traitorous scum that let those foreigners and deviants and gave them jobs and power, and that cultivates their votes.

Trump's pitch is the classic right-wing scam, first pioneered by the fascists of the 1920s and 1930s. So why dignify Trump as a populist, a movement from the 1890s which sought to elevate common people (mostly farmers at the time) by reining in the predatory practices of the rich, instead of deriding him as a fascist? I think it's because a certain class of pundit always viewed fascism and populism as two faces of the same thing: an expression of the ignorant prejudices of the lower orders. This betrays a good deal of ignorance both about the history of fascism and the current composition of Trump's movement: both have more to do with middle class fears of the masses but ultimately depend most of all on their real masters, the rich.

Robert O. Paxton, in The Anatomy of Fascism, argues that fascist movements developed in countries where aristocratic classes had been unable to repackage their political interests to have any real appeal in democratic elections. In essence, the fascists were able to broaden the appeal of conservatives by agitating the middle classes, playing to their fears of communist revolution and their various prejudices and hatreds and offering redemption through a renewed, often violent, cult of nationalism. To my mind, Paxton's focus on democratic appeal is overly narrow, as he uses it to deny that various murderous conservatives like Francisco Franco were really fascists. Curiously, his definition doesn't exclude Trump or, for that matter, much of the Republican Party at least since Newt Gingrich became party leader in the House. For twenty years (at least) Republicans have shamelessly campaigned to increase the power and wealth of the already rich, to vastly increase the degree of inequality among Americans, and they have done this by rallying a large slice -- middle-class and up, white, Christian, patriotic in the sense of being pro-military -- to their cause.

Of course, Republicans haven't advertised themselves as fascists -- Americans fought a World War to rid the world of fascism, and sought afterwards to characterize communism as an allied disorder (coming up with "totalitarianism" to group the two as opposed to our system of democracy and free enterprise). In particular, ever since Nixon launched his "southern strategy" and claimed "the silent majority" as his base, Republicans have been careful to "dog whistle" their appeals to racism. The only thing that makes Trump exceptional is that his anti-immigrant stance has been overtly racist -- certainly it doesn't extend to his Slovenian wife or his Scottish mother or his German grandparents -- and that he has refused to dissociate himself with the hard-core racists who have flocked to his campaign. (Has any presidential nominee ever had fewer American-born ancestors?) I suppose you can see from this why pundits who can't tell you the difference between fascism and populism might get confused, but is there anything more to it?

Well, Mussolini got his start leading a gang that smashed the heads of strikers. Trump hasn't done that, but he has encouraged his supporters to acts of violence against demonstrators, and most recently asked his "second amendment people" to stop his opponent, Hillary Clinton (after his convention chanted "lock her up"). Again, Republicans since Nixon have occasionally "dog whistled" their support for violence against their perceived enemies -- in particular, recall Nixon's embrace of "hard hats" who cracked the heads of peace protesters. And the threats made against Obama and Clinton by lesser Republicans and their fans are beyond counting.

I suppose you could add two more technical issues, but I suspect they're beyond the radar of most pundits. Trump's opposition to trade deals -- what you might call economic nationalism, although to be fair he doesn't -- recalls the fascist concern for autarky. And Trump's more explicit "America First" foreign policy stance threatens to fight wars with no concern for the casualties inflicted elsewhere -- hence his insistence on keeping the option of nuclear weapons "on the table" -- although there is little reason to think he would start wars for foreign conquest (as Mussolini and Hitler did). These aspects have created a huge schism within the Republican establishment, not because they point toward fascism but because they threaten to undermine the profits of global-minded businesses. Republican-leaning capitalists have been remarkably obtuse in not understanding that they've made much more money under Clinton and Obama than under Bush, but many are finally, belatedly realizing that Trump would be even worse for them than Bush was.

Just because Trump is a demagogue preying on the worst instincts of a once-powerful segment of the American people does not make him a populist, even if it makes him somewhat popular. After Detroit, that at least is one term that should never be associated with him. As for fascist, I won't argue no -- as a leftist I've long been hypersensitive to even the slightest whiff of fascism -- but I don't regard Trump as exceptionally fascist (e.g., as compared to Cruz and Kasich). I don't see him doing fascist things, but I don't see him undoing the present security state, and he may make things somewhat worse, especially for people who don't pass muster as white.

That's because what he really is isn't any sort of ideologue. He's simply a dog -- a guy who's been hearing all those Republican "dog whistles" for so long he assumes everyone can hear them, that they define reality. And as such, he campaigned on the basis of what he and all the other Republican dogs heard, oblivious to the tact and decorum the whistlers have worked so hard at cultivating. Trump should be a hugely popular figure in this world, because he's practically the only public person who speaks their understanding of the truth. On the other hand, the true conservatives who have been manipulating this electorate, especially the ones who bought wholesale into economic orthodoxy and the ones who are most obsessed with preserving America's worldwide hegemony are aghast, as well they should be.

Just as I won't deny that Trump is a fascist, I won't deny that his election would be catastrophic. It's not so much what he would do as what him winning would say about the American people: that we're so jaded we'd fall for a crude and ignorant media celebrity who understands nothing and has nothing to offer but discredited clichés, with a side of hate to pin our self-loathing on. Above all, his election would encourage the worst sort of racist revanchists, people who until Trump's rise were consigned to the farthest margins of political discourse. But it would also repopulate government with run-of-the-mill conservative spearchuckers, who would multiply the corrupt rot of the Bush administration, and that may do more damage in the long run.

Trump has been sinking in the polls, even since I started writing this. He seems to have learned that the only way to shift one horrid gaffe from the news cycle is to commit another one -- like his "2nd amendment people" threat, or his claim that Obama and Clinton "founded ISIS." Still, no matter how far Trump sinks, Clinton has been unable to push her share above 50%. If Trump wins it will say more about her than about him. Still, Trump only has one real chance: he needs all his dogs to vote, and he needs much of the rest of America to not bother. For that to happen, Clinton will have to prove remarkably uninspiring and/or a dangerous warmonger (her obsession with the "commander-in-chief test" worries me). But also Trump will have to stop pissing off most of the country, and at this point that seems pretty unlikely.


A few more links on the speech:

Pierce, by the way, started his article with a somewhat unrelated reference to "a popular Republican strategist named Rick Wilson," who wrote an op-ed hoping that Trump be defeated so utterly his memory is forever purged from conservative consciousness. Pierce goes on to note:

You will see more of this as the campaign grinds on -- movement conservative Republicans attempting to separate their party from the inevitable consequence of the way they've all done politics since the Reagan people invited the god-botherers into the tent where the racists invited in by Nixon were already jamming up the bar service. [ . . . ]

Jesus H. Christ on a biscuit, can we stop with the Party of Lincoln crapola?

You forfeited the right to that title the moment that Harry Dent sat down to write a memo. You are now the Party of Calhoun, the party of voter suppression. Hell, I don't know what "constitutional conservatism" even means any more, except to note that it seems to involve radical Tentherism and a desire to roll back the effects of Amendments 13-15.

When conservatives set out to take over the country, they set themselves up with a tough task: to somehow convince a majority of Americans to enrich the 1% at their own expense. They did it by assembling as many single-issue constituencies as they could stand under their umbrella, and even then the few victories they scored were often marked by subterfuge -- remember Bush's "compassionate conservatism"? What about his promise to never engage in "nation building"? When Bush cratered the economy, they didn't readjust to the changed reality. They invented their own, in an echo chamber that was totally disconnected from reality (take another look at that fact checking linked to above), and within this world they found their champion in Donald Trump. That puts them in quite a bind: if, having rounded up all the hate groups, and all the fools, they still lose, and lose badly, the only option left for reaching new voters is to abandon their pursuit of inequality, but how can they do that given the way a handful of billionaires dominate the party?

Daily Log

Tweet for above piece:

Trump is no populist, and people who confuse racist demagogues with populists know nothing; fascist? that's closer:

Early drafts for post above:

While Trump was trying to shore up his support among billionaires and their lackeys, his campaign was springing other leaks, notably: David E Sanger/Maggie Haberman: 50 G.O.P. Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation's Security 'at Risk':

Fifty of the nation's most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump "lacks the character, values and experience" to be president and "would put at risk our country's national security and well-being."

Mr. Trump, the officials warn, "would be the most reckless president in American history."

The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States' moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has "demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding" of the nation's "vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values" on which American policy should be based. And it laments that "Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself."

"None of us will vote for Donald Trump," the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans "have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us."

You'd think this would be good news for Clinton, but what they're accusing Trump of not understanding is the unexamined foundation of every foreign policy disaster of recent decades. Trump half discerns this, but in the end he decides they're only doing this for spite and personal gain -- i.e., the reasons Trump himself would use:

Late Monday, Mr. Trump struck back. The signatories of the letter, he said in a statement, were "the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place." He dismissed them as "nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power."

Mr. Trump correctly identified many of the signatories as the architects of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But he also blamed them for allowing Americans "to die in Benghazi" and for permitting "the rise of ISIS" -- referring to the 2012 attacks on the American mission in Libya and the spread of the Islamic State, both of which occurred during the Obama administration. At the time, most of Mr. Trump's Republican foreign policy critics were in think tanks, private consultancies or law firms, or signed on as advisers to the Republican hopefuls Mr. Trump beat in the primaries.

If Trump was smarter he'd figure out a way to turn the tables and cast Hillary as the intemperate, dangerous warmonger and point to the hawks who are abandoning him and (in many cases) embracing her as further proof. It's not happening because he's fully absorbed the party line that all of America's problems abroad are because Obama is weak (or some kind of America-hating traitor), so he feels the need to continually reassert his own toughness, even though he's so shallow and erratic this comes across as recklessness. A good recent example is his refusal to concede that there are any conditions where he'd rule out the use of nuclear weapons.

Still, her greatest risk is that she'll blunder ahead and make the case for Trump -- because she, too, is determined not to be viewed as weak. (In fact, she'd rather be viewed as part of what Obama referred to as the "do stupid shit" faction than be seen as backing away from a fight.) I heard this just the other day when she charged that Trump is unfit to be "president and commander and chief," and made it sound like president was by far the less significant title -- like her deepest ambition is to seen as leading the nation in war.

Some more links here:


Since I started working on this post, Trump has bombed two more news cycles, first by calling on "2nd Amendment People" to "stop" Clinton, then by accusing Obama and Clinton of "founding ISIS." The former, of course, was a joke, but the Secret Service wasn't amused. The second should have been, but evidently Trump is dead serious.


By the way, the Pierce article cited above starts with an aside on "a popular Republican strategist named Rick Wilson," who wrote an op-ed urging that Trump be defeated so utterly his memory is purged forever from conservative consciousness. Pierce notes:

You will see more of this as the campaign grinds on -- movement conservative Republicans attempting to separate their party from the inevitable consequence of the way they've all done politics since the Reagan people invited the god-botherers into the tent where the racists invited in by Nixon were already jamming up the bar service. [ . . . ]

Jesus H. Christ on a biscuit, can we stop with the Party of Lincoln crapola?

You forfeited the right to that title the moment that Harry Dent sat down to write a memo. You are now the Party of Calhoun, the party of voter suppression. Hell, I don't know what "constitutional conservatism" even means any more, except to note that it seems to involve radical Tentherism and a desire to roll back the effects of Amendments 13-15.


Admittedly, populism means different things to different people. To me, it's mostly the rural cooperatives in western Kansas that were the longest-lasting achievement of the 1990s Populist Party. But others treat that Party and William Jennings Bryan's absorption of much movement support into the Democratic Party as an atavistic response to urbanization and the rise of America as a manufacturing and financial power which decayed into nativism and racism, notably in the south (e.g., Tom Watson, who started out as a fiery orator and wound up as a bitter racist governor of Georgia).

Indeed, for many pundits populism has become synonymous with demagogic appeals to racism and xenophobia -- traits they readily attribute to the masses (at least the White Christian variety) . . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Downbeat Readers Poll

Voted today in Downbeat's Readers Poll: link here, go ahead and vote. Didn't intend on posting this, but took notes and finally decided my ballot might be of some small interest. In the Reader's Poll you only get one vote in each category. They conduct the poll using Survey Monkey, offering you a ballot of many suggestions for each category (usually two to five dozen, but up to 186 for Best Album) and the option to write something in. I almost always vote from the ballot, especially for albums even though my own lists prefer many things they left out. I list the categories below, my pick in bold (or bold italic for write-ins), followed by a few ballot items that I jotted down as possibilities on the first pass. Rarely I add a comment.

This is much quicker than filling out their Critics Poll ballot. My notes on that experience are here.

  • Hall of Fame: Anthony Braxton; Han Bennink, Paul Bley, Don Byas, Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim, Illinois Jacquet, Professor Longhair, Sam Rivers, George Russell, Pharoah Sanders, Cedar Walton. (I usually pick Russell, but thought Braxton might have more chance. Obvious write-in candidates: Louis Jordan, Jimmy Rushing, Mal Waldron.)
  • Jazz Artist: Henry Threadgill; Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Douglas, Fred Hersch, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, Ken Vandermark.
  • Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing; The Bad Plus, Microscopic Septet, Rova. (Write-in here. I generally don't like voting for artist name groups, and these made up approx. 90% of the ballot, so I thought an act of rebellion was in order.)
  • Big Band: Ken Vandermark Resonance Ensemble; Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra, Either/Orchestra, ICP Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Vienna Art Orchestra. (Another write-in, doesn't always bear Vandermark's name, but let's be clear. Haven't noticed the other candidates being very active.)
  • Jazz Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Henry Threadgill, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi '16); other A- on ballot: Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi); Barry Altschul 3dom Factor, Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM); Erik Friedlander, Oscalypso (Skipstone); Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto); Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM '16); Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi); Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear); Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, A New Kind of Dance (482 Music); Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup); Nate Wooley Quintet, (Dance To) The Early Music (Clean Feed); Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music); Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live At 55 Bar (self release); Ochion Jewell Quartet, VOLK (self release); Sonny Rollins, Holding The Stage: Road Shows, Vol. 4 (Doxy/OKeh). Two full A albums not on ballot: Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (Intakt 8/15); Aly Keita/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele (Intakt 1/16). Only one Intakt album on ballot (Aruan Ortiz); guess they had to save room for: Concord/Telarc/MCG Jazz (11), ECM (11), Blue Note (10), Mack Avenue (10), Smoke Sessions (9), Sunnyside (9), Columbia/OKeh (7), HighNote/Savant (7), Motema (7). Clean Feed (5) did best among imports (after ECM, which is distributed by Universal in US so is really in a different league). Pi placed four records; they released six albums in 2015 and four so far this year.
  • Historical Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard (Resonance); other A- records: Blind Alfred Reed, Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital '16); Bobby Rush, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (Omnivore); Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert by the Sea (Sony Legacy); Miles Davis, Miles Davis At Newport: 1955-1975 The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy); Various Artists, The Rough Guide to the Blues Songsters (Rough Guide).
  • Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith; Ralph Alessi, Steven Bernstein, Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen, Kirk Knuffke, Brian Lynch, Tomasz Stanko.
  • Trombone: Roswell Rudd; Ray Anderson, Jeb Bishop, Joe Fiedler, George Lewis, Phil Ranelin, Steve Swell.
  • Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome; Jan Garbarek, Evan Parker, Bob Wilber.
  • Alto Saxophone: François Carrier; Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Marty Ehrlich, Jon Irabagon, Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Joe McPhee, Charles McPherson, Ted Nash, Henry Threadgill, Bobby Watson, Miguel Zenón, John Zorn.
  • Tenor Saxophone: Ivo Perelman; Harry Allen, JD Allen, Peter Brötzmann, James Carter, Charles Gayle, George Garzone, Jon Irabagon, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, Joe McPhee, David Murray, Larry Ochs, Evan Parker, Houston Person, Chris Potter, Ken Vandermark.
  • Baritone Saxophone: Brian Landrus; Hamiet Bluiett, Vinny Golia, Mats Gustafsson, Scott Robinson, Colin Stetson, Joe Temperley, Ken Vandermark.
  • Clarinet: Michael Moore; Evan Christopher, Anat Cohen, Eddie Daniels, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, David Krakauer, Michel Portal, Perry Robinson, Louis Sclavis.
  • Flute: Nicole Mitchell.
  • Piano: Myra Melford; Kenny Barron, George Cables, Uri Caine, Marilyn Crispell, Satoko Fujii, David Hazeltine, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, Keith Jarrett, Misha Mengelberg, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn. Huge ballot omission (was tempted to write her in): Irène Schweizer.
  • Keyboard: Jamie Saft; Nik Bärtsch, Uri Caine, Wayne Horvitz, John Medeski, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn, Gary Versace.
  • Organ: Gary Versace; Brian Charette, Mike LeDonne.
  • Guitar: Mary Halvorson; Rez Abbasi, John Abercrombie, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Bill Frisell, Joe Morris, Marc Ribot.
  • Bass: William Parker; Ben Allison, Arild Andersen, Omer Avital, Stephan Crump, Mark Dresser, Michael Formanek, Drew Gress, John Hébert, Mark Helias, Dave Holland, Marc Johnson, Eric Revis, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman.
  • Electric Bass: Steve Swallow.
  • Violin: Jenny Scheinman; Charles Burnham, Jason Kao Hwang, Carlos Zingaro.
  • Drums: Andrew Cyrille; Han Bennink, Jim Black, Gerald Cleaver, Jack DeJohnette, Hamid Drake, Gerry Hemingway, John Hollenbeck, Lewis Nash, Bobby Previte, Matt Wilson.
  • Vibraphone: Karl Berger; Jason Adasiewicz, Khan Jamal, Joe Locke, Matt Moran, Warren Smith.
  • Percussion: Han Bennink; Kahil El'Zabar, Marilyn Mazur, Adam Rudolph, Warren Smith, Dan Weiss.
  • Miscellaneous Instrument: Erik Friedlander (cello); Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud), Edmar Castaneda (Colombian harp), Howard Johnson (tuba), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), David Murray (bass clarinet), Bob Stewart (tuba).
  • Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole.
  • Female Vocalist: Catherine Russell; Ernestine Anderson, Patricia Barber, Sheila Jordan, Diana Krall, René Marie, Mary Stallings, Fay Victor.
  • Composer: Carla Bley; Ben Allison, Steve Lehman, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn.
  • Arranger: Steven Bernstein.
  • Record Label: Intakt; Clean Feed, Delmark, No Business, Pi Recordings, anyone that sends me promos.
  • Blues Artist or Group: Dave & Phil Alvin; Guy Davis, Taj Mahal, Otis Taylor, James Blood Ulmer.
  • Blues Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Various Artists, God Don't Never Change: Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator); only other A- record: The Ragpicker String Band, The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog).
  • Beyond Artist or Group: Laurie Anderson; Erykah Badu, Courtney Barnett, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Leonard Cohen, Flying Lotus, Future, Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kendrick Lamar, Willie Nelson, Parquet Courts, Rihanna, The Roots, Tinariwen, Kanye West, Neil Young.
  • Beyond Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade '16); other A- records: Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers '16); Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool '16); Ashley Monroe, The Blade (Warner Bros. Nashville); BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown '16); Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep (Redwing '16); Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion (604/Schoolboy/Interscope); Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book (self release '16); Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone (Motown/Control Freaq); Ezra Furman, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union); Grimes, Art Angels (4AD); Rihanna, Anti (Westbury Road/Roc Nation '16).

I copied the full album ballots into the notebook as a check on how much I've heard (and still have to dig up). Of 186 new jazz albums, I've heard 112 (60.21%), grades breaking: [A-] 15, [***] 26, [**] 35, [*] 20, [B] 10, [B-] 4, [C+] 1, [C] 1, [C-] 1. I could do the same thing for Historical and Blues but my cut is extremely low. I have nothing to say about Beyond other than that records so labeled aren't what we used to call "far out."

PS: Later added (or found) more grades (totals when I hit the end of the list, leaving 21 albums unavailable, 11.29%): [A-] 15+2+1=18, [***] 26+4+1=31, [**] 35+4+7=47, [*] 20+7+14=41, [B] 10+2+4=16, [B-] 4+0+4=8.


Album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • Aaron Diehl, Space Time Continuum (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Adam O'Farrill, Stranger Days (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Al Di Meola, Elsyium (Valiana/Songsurfer)
  • Alfredo Rodríguez, Tocororo (Mack Avenue '16) [**]
  • All Included, Satan In Plain Clothes (Clean Feed '16) [***]
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom, Otis Was A Polar Bear (The Royal Potato Family) [**]
  • Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi) [A-]
  • Andy Sheppard Quartet, Surrounded By Sea (ECM) [**]
  • Anthony Wilson, Frogtown (Goathill '16) [*]
  • Antonio Sánchez, The Meridian Suite (CAM Jazz)
  • Ari Hoenig, Pauper & The Magician (Ah-ha)
  • Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Cuba The Conversation Continues (Motéma) [***]
  • Arturo O'Farrill Sextet, Boss Level (Zoho) [*]
  • Arturo Sandoval, Live At Yoshi's (Alfi) [*]
  • Aruán Ortiz, Hidden Voices (Intakt '16) [***]
  • Avishai Cohen, Into The Silence (ECM '16) [**]
  • Barry Altschul 3dom Factor, Tales Of The Unforeseen (TUM '15) [A-]
  • Ben Monder, Amorphae (ECM) [B]
  • Ben Williams, Coming Of Age (Concord) [B-]
  • Bill Charlap Trio, Notes From New York (Impulse! '16) [*]
  • Bill Frisell, When You Wish Upon A Star (OKeh '16) [B]
  • Bill Stewart, Space Squid (Pirouet '16) [*]
  • Blue Buddha, Blue Buddha (Tzadik) [***]
  • Bob Mintzer Orchestra, Get Up! (Manchester Craftsmen's Guild) [*]
  • Brandee Younger, Wax & Wane (Revive) [*]
  • Bret Higgin's Atlas Revolt, Bret Higgin's Atlas Revolt (Tzadik) [**]
  • Brian Bromberg, Full Circle (Artistry '16) [B]
  • Brian Landrus, The Deep Below (Blueland) [***]
  • Camila Meza, Traces (Sunnyside) [B]
  • Carlos Henriquez, The Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine) [**]
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant, For One To Love (Mack Avenue) [*]
  • Charenee Wade, Offering: The Music Of Gil Scott-Heron And Brian Jackson (Motéma) [***]
  • Charles Lloyd & The Marvels, I Long To See You (Blue Note '16) [**]
  • Charlie Hunter Trio, Let The Bells Ring On (Self Release '16) [***]
  • Ches Smith, The Bell (ECM)
  • Chick Corea & Béla Fleck, Two (Concord) [B]
  • Chris Dingman, The Subliminal And The Sublime (Inner Arts) [*]
  • Christian McBride Trio, Live At The Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Stretch Music (Ropeadope/Stretch Music) [*]
  • Chucho Valdés, Tribute To Irakere (Live In Marciac) (Jazz Village)
  • Cory Henry, The Revival (Ground Up) [B-]
  • Cyrille Aimée, Let's Get Lost (Mack Avenue '16) [*]
  • Daniel Freedman, Imagine That (Anzic)
  • Danilo Pérez/John Patitucci/Brian Blade, Children Of The Light (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Dave Douglas Quintet, Brazen Heart (Greenleaf) [**]
  • Dave Douglas, High Risk (Greenleaf) [**]
  • Dave Liebman Group, The Puzzle (Whaling City Sound) [***]
  • David Gilmore, Energies Of Change (Evolutionary Music) [**]
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater & Irvin Mayfield, Dee Dee's Feathers (OKeh) [**]
  • Don Braden, Luminosity (Creative Perspective) [*]
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith, Evolution (Blue Note) [B]
  • Dylan Howe, Subterranean (Motorik)
  • Enrico Pieranunzi, Proximity (Cam Jazz) [**]
  • Enrico Rava Quartet with Gianluca Petrella, Wild Dance (ECM) [**]
  • Erik Friedlander, Oscalypso (Skipstone) [A-]
  • Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution (Concord) [B]
  • Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto) [A-]
  • George Cables, In Good Company (High Note)
  • George Coleman, A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions) [A-]
  • Gilad Hekselman, Homes (Jazz Village) [*]
  • GoGo Penguin, Man Made Object (Blue Note) [***]
  • Grace Kelly, Trying To Figure It Out (Pazz) [*]
  • Greg Abate & Phil Woods with the Tim Ray Trio, Kindred Spirits: Live At Chan's (Whaling City Sound) [**]
  • Gregory Porter, Take Me To The Alley (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Harold Mabern, Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions) [B]
  • Heads Of State, Search For Peace (Smoke Sessions) [**]
  • Henry Threadgill, Old Locks And Irregular Verbs (Pi '16) [A-]
  • Herlin Riley, New Direction (Mack Avenue '16) [*]
  • Hiromi, Spark (Telarc) [*]
  • Hugo Carvalhais, Grand Valis (Clean Feed) [**]
  • Ingrid Laubrock, Ubatuba (Firehouse 12) [**]
  • Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM '16) [A-]
  • Jacob Garchik, Ye Olde (Yestereve) [**]
  • Jaimeo Brown Transcendence, Work Songs (Motéma) [***]
  • Jamison Ross, Jamison (Concord)
  • Jane Monheit, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald (Emerald City '16) [*]
  • Jason Roebke, Every Sunday (Clean Feed) [**]
  • Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, Live In Cuba (Blue Engine) [**]
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Abyssinian Mass (Blue Engine) [C-]
  • JD Allen, Americana: Musings On Jazz And Blues (Savant)
  • Jeff "Tain" Watts, Blue, Vol. 1 (Dark Key)
  • Jeff Denson Trio, Jeff Denson Trio + Lee Konitz (Ridgeway) [*]
  • Jeremy Pelt, #Jiveculture (HighNote)
  • Jim Rotondi, Dark Blue (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Joel Harrison 5, Spirit House (Whirlwind) [*]
  • Joey DeFrancesco, Trip Mode (High Note)
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, Like It Is (MAMA) [**]
  • John Hébert, Rambling Confessions (Sunnyside) [*]
  • John McLaughlin & 4th Dimension, Black Light (Abstract Logix)
  • John Pizzarelli, Midnight McCartney (Concord) [B]
  • John Raymond & Real Feels, Real Feels (Shifting Paradigm '16) [***]
  • John Scofield, Past Present (Impuse!) [***]
  • Jon Irabagon, Behind The Sky (Irabbagast) [**]
  • Julian Lage, Arclight (Mack Avenue '16) [*]
  • Karrin Allyson, Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein (Motéma) [B]
  • Ken Peplowski, Enrapture (Capri '16) [***]
  • Kendrick Scott, We Are The Drum (Blue Note) [B]
  • Kenny Barron Trio, Book Of Intuition (Impulse! '16) [**]
  • Kenny Burrell, The Road To Love (HighNote)
  • Kenny Werner, The Melody (Pirouet) [**]
  • Kirk Knuffke, Lamplighter (Fresh Sound New Talent) [**]
  • Kneebody & Daedelus, Kneedelus (Brainfeeder) [***]
  • Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, Checkpoint (Table Pounding '16) [***]
  • Kris Davis Infrasound, Save Your Breath (Clean Feed) [**]
  • Ku-Umba Frank Lacy & Mingus Big Band, Mingus Sings (Sunnyside) [B-]
  • Kurt Elling, Passion World (Concord) [C]
  • Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi) [A-]
  • Lina Nyberg, Aerials (Hoob Jazz) [**]
  • Lionel Loueke, GAÏA (Blue Note) [**]
  • Lizz Wright, Freedom & Surrender (Concord) [*]
  • Logan Richardson, Shift (Blue Note '16) [*]
  • London, Meader, Pramuk & Ross, The Royal Bopsters Project (Motéma) [B]
  • Lucian Ban Elevation, Songs From Afar (Sunnyside) [*]
  • Luciana Souza, Speaking In Tongues (Sunnyside) [B]
  • Luis Perdomo, Montage (Hot Tone '16) [*]
  • Mack Avenue Superband, Live From The 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival (Mack Avenue)
  • Makaya McCraven, In The Moment (International Anthem) [***]
  • Manuel Valera & Groove Square, Urban Landscape (Destiny) [**]
  • Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare) [**]
  • Marc Copeland, Xenith (Innervoice)
  • Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life, Nihil Novi (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, Family First (Beat Music Productions) [**]
  • Marlene VerPlanck, The Mood I'm In (Audiophile) [***]
  • Marquis Hill, The Way We Play (Concord '16) [***]
  • Mary Halvorson, Meltframe (Firehouse 12) [***]
  • Matt Parker Trio, Present Time (BYNK '16) [**]
  • Matt Wilson's Big Happy Family, Beginning Of A Memory (Palmetto '16) [***]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct Of Jazz (Thirsty Ear) [A-]
  • Matthew Stevens, Woodwork (Whirlwind) [*]
  • Melissa Aldana, Back Home (Wommusic '16) [***]
  • Metheny/Garbarrek/Burton/SWR Big Band, Hommage À Eberhard Weber (ECM) [*]
  • Michael Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus, The Distance (ECM '16) [***]
  • Miho Hazama, Time River (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Mike Moreno, Lotus (World Culture Music)
  • Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, A New Kind Of Dance (482 Music) [A-]
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup) [A-]
  • Murray/Allen/Carrington, Perfection (Motéma '16) [A-]
  • Nate Wooley Quintet, (Dance To) The Early Music (Clean Feed) [A-]
  • Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music) [A-]
  • Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live At 55 Bar (Self Release) [A-]
  • Ochion Jewell Quartet, VOLK (Self Release) [A-]
  • Omar Sosa, JOG (Otá '16) [A-]
  • Oran Etkin, What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman (Motema) [***]
  • Orrin Evans, The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions) [***]
  • Paquito D'Rivera, Paquito & Manzanero (Sunnyside) [*]
  • Parks/Fonnesbaek/Bagge, Groovements (Stunt '16) [**]
  • Pat Metheny, The Unity Sessions (Nonesuch '16) [B]
  • Pete McCann, Range (Whirlwind) [*]
  • Peter Bernstein, Let Loose (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Peter Erskine, Dr. Um (Fuzzy Music)
  • Ralph Alessi, Quiver (ECM '16) [***]
  • Ralph Peterson Trio, Triangular III (Onyx/Truth Revolution)
  • Randy Brecker, RandyPOP! (Piloo) [B]
  • Renee Rosnes, Written In the Rocks (Smoke Sessions '16) [B]
  • Robert Glasper, Covered (Blue Note) [**]
  • Robin Eubanks, More Than Meets The Ear (ArtistShare) [*]
  • Romero Lubambo, Setembro: A Brazilian Under The Jazz Influence (Sunnyside) [*]
  • Roscoe Mitchell, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis, Azul Infinito (Greenleaf '16) [**]
  • Snarky Puppy, Culcha Vulca (Ground Up '16) [C+]
  • Snarky Puppy, Family Dinner Volume 2 (GroundUp '16) [B-]
  • Sonny Rollins, Holding The Stage: Road Shows, Vol. 4 (Doxy/OKeh '16) [A-]
  • Stacey Kent, Tenderly (OKeh) [***]
  • Stanley Clarke/Jean-Luc Ponty/Bir'li Lagrène, D-Stringz (Impulse!)
  • Steve Davis, Say When (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Sullivan Fortner, Aria (Impuse!) [***]
  • Sun Ra Arkestra, Live At Babylon (In + Out) [**]
  • Terell Stafford, BrotherLee Love (Capri) [**]
  • Teri Lyne Carrington, The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul (Concord) [**]
  • The Power Quintet, High Art (HighNote)
  • The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded, Routes (Strikezone '16) [***]
  • Theo Croker, Escape Velocity (OKeh Sony Masterworks '16) [*]
  • Tigran Hamasyan, Luys I Luso (ECM) [B-]
  • Tom Harrell, First Impressions (High Note)
  • Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap, The Silver Lining: The Songs Of Jerome Kern (Columbia) [*]
  • Tyshawn Sorey, The Inner Spectrum Of Variables (Pi '16) [***]
  • Various Artists, Born To Be Blue: Music From The Motion Picture (Rhino) [*]
  • Various Artists, Miles Ahead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia '16) [*]
  • Various Artists, Revive Music Presents Supreme Sonacy, Vol. 1 (Revive/Blue Note) [B-]
  • Vijay Ayer/Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM '16) [**]
  • Vincent Herring, Night And Day (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Wadada Leo Smith & John Lindberg, Celestial Weather (TUM) [***]
  • Wayne Horvitz, Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places For Richard Hugo) (Songlines) [***]
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, Intercambio (Patois) [*]
  • Wycliffe Gordon with the Dimartino/Osland Jazz Orchestra, Somebody New (Blues Back) [**]
  • Yellowjackets, Cohearence (Mack Avenue) [**]

Historical album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • Abbey Lincoln, Sophisticated Abbey (HighNote)
  • Al Cohn/Jimmy Rowles, Heavy Love (Elemental)
  • Albert "Tootie" Heath, Kwanza (The First) (Elemental)
  • Albert Ayler, Bells/Prophecy - Expanded Edition (ESP-Disk)
  • Albert Collins & The Icebreakers, Live At Rockpalast - 1980 (Rockpalast)
  • Art Pepper, Live At Fat Tuesday's (Elemental)
  • Barry Harris, Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron (Elemental)
  • Béla Fleck, Drive (Rounder)
  • Bill Evans, Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest (Resonance)
  • Billie Holiday, Banned From New York City Live (Uptown) [***]
  • Blind Alfred Reed, Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital '16) [A-]
  • Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 (Columbia)
  • Bobby Rush, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (Omnivore) [A-]
  • Brad Mehldau, 10 Years Solo Live (Nonesuch)
  • Carl Hall, You Don't Know Nothing About Love (Omnivore)
  • Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tokyo Adagio (Impulse!/UMC) [*]
  • Count Basie, Netherlands On Kurhaus Concert 1954 (Doctor Jazz)
  • David S. Ware/Apogee, Birth Of A Being (AUM Fidelity) [***]
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Conny Plank Session (Gronland) [**]
  • Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz At The Philharmonic: The Ella Fitzgerald Set (Verve '16) [*]
  • Ella Fitzgerald, Live At Chautauqua, Vol. 1 (Dot Time Legends)
  • Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert By The Sea (Sony Legacy) [A-]
  • Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra: A Voice On Air (1935-1955) (Sony Legacy)
  • Fred Hersch, Sarabande (Sunnyside)
  • Jaco Pastorius, JACO: Original Soundtrack (Columbia/Legacy)
  • James Cotton, Mighty Long Time (New West)
  • Jimmy Heath, Picture Of Heath (Elemental)
  • Joe Castro, Lush Life: A Musical Journey (Sunnyside)
  • Joe Louis Walker, Live In Istanbul [DVD] (MVD)
  • John Abercrombie, The First Quartet (ECM) [**]
  • John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters (Impuse!)
  • John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Live In '67 (Forty Below)
  • Kenny Wheeler/John Taylor, On The Way To Two (Cam Jazz)
  • Kurt Cobain, Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings (Universal)
  • Larry Coryell: Aurora Coryellis (Purple Pyramid) [*]
  • Larry Young: In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance '16) [***]
  • Magic Sam Blues Band, Black Magic (Delmark)
  • Maynard Ferguson, Live From San Francisco (Omnivore)
  • Maynard Ferguson, Storm (Omnivore)
  • Miles Davis, Miles Davis At Newport: 1955-1975 The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy) [A-]
  • Mose Allison, American Legend: Live In California (Ibis Recordings)
  • National Jazz Ensemble directed by Chuck Isreals, Featuring Gerry Mulligan (Dot Time)
  • Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers, Genuine Blues Legends (ELROB)
  • Sam Most, From The Attic Of My Mind (Elemental)
  • Sarah Vaughan, Live At Rosy's (Resonance)
  • Sheila Jordan, Better Than Anything: Live (There) [***]
  • Shirley Horn, Live At The Four Queens (Resonance)
  • Simon & Garfunkel, The Concert In Central Park (Vinyl Reissue) (Columbia/Legacy)
  • Sonny Sharrock, Ask The Ages (M.O.D. Technologies)
  • Stan Getz & Joao Gilbert, Getz/Gilberto '76 (Resonance)
  • Stan Getz, Moments In Time (Resonance)
  • Stone The Crows, Stone The Crows/Ode To John Law (Angel Air)
  • Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings At The Village Vanguard (Resonance) [A-]
  • The Flaming Lips, Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic 1994-1997 (Warner Bros.)
  • The Isley Brothers, The Complete RCA Victor And T-Neck Album Maasters (Sony Legacy)
  • The Velvet Underground, Loaded: Re-Loaded The 45th Anniversary Edition (Atlantic)
  • UMO Jazz Orchestra with Michael Brecker, Live In Helsinki 1995 (Random Act)
  • Various Artists, French New Wave: Original Jazz On Film Recordings, 1957-62 (JOF)
  • Various Artists, Night Flight To Dakar (Elemental)
  • Various Artists, The Complete Bee Hive Sessions (Mosaic)
  • Various Artists, The Rough Guide To The Blues Songsters (Rough Guide) [A-]
  • Weather Report, The Legendary Tapes: 1978-1981 (Legacy)
  • Wes Montgomery, In The Beginning (Resonance)
  • Wes Montgomery, One Night In Indy (Resonance)
  • Xanadu All-Stars, Night Flight To Dakar (Elemental Music)

Blues album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • Albert Cummings, Someone Like You (Blind Pig)
  • Amy Black, The Muscle Shoals Sessions (Reuben)
  • Andra Faye & Scott Ballantine, Coulda Woulda Shoulda (VizzTone)
  • Anthony Geraci, Fifty Shades Of Blue (Delta Groove)
  • Arlen Roth, Slide Guitar Summit (Aquinnah)
  • Brad Vickers, That's What They Say (Man Hat Tone)
  • Buddy Guy, Born To Play Guitar (RCA)
  • Chris Yakopcic, The Next Place I Leave (Yako)
  • Christian Collin, Spirit Of The Blues (C-Train)
  • Dalannah & Owen, Been Around A While (Quest)
  • Danielle Nicole, Wolf Den (Concord)
  • Dave & Phil Alvin, Lost Time (Yep Roc) [*]
  • Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau, Lead Belly's Gold (Stony Plain)
  • Eric Clapton, I Still Do (Bushbransch/Surfdog)
  • Gary Clark Jr., The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros.)
  • Georgie Bonds, Hit It Hard (Roadhouse Redemption)
  • Guy Davis, Kokomo Kidd (M. C.) [*]
  • Guy King, Truth (Delmark)
  • Heather Crosse, Groovin' At The Crosse Roads (Ruf)
  • Henry Gray & Bob Corritore, Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest (Delta Groove)
  • Ironing Board Sam, Super Spirit (Big Legal Mess)
  • Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats, The Avenue (Self Release)
  • Jeff Plankenhorn, SoulSlide (Lounge Side)
  • Jimmy Burns, It Ain't Right (Delmark)
  • Joe Bonamassa, Blues Of Desperation (J&R Adventures)
  • John Del Toro Richardson, Tengo Blues (JRCD)
  • John Mayall, Find A Way To Care (Forty Below)
  • Johnny Rawls, Tiger In A Cage (Catfood)
  • Julie Rhodes, Bound To Meet The Devil (Self Release)
  • Karen Lovely, Ten Miles Of Bad Road (Kokako)
  • Keb' Mo', Live: That Hot Pink Blues Album (Kind of Blue)
  • Keith Stone, The Prodigal Returns (Self Release)
  • Kim Nalley, Blues People (Self Release)
  • King Louie & LaRhonda Steele, Rock Me Baby (Self Release)
  • Lara Price, I Mean Business (Price Productions)
  • Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams (Red House)
  • Lazer Lloyd, Lazer Lloyd (Lots of Love)
  • Mighty Mike Schermer, Blues In Good Hands (VizzTone)
  • Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud, Tears Of The World (ACT)
  • Mitch Woods, Jammin' On The High Cs (Club 88)
  • Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators, Happiness In Every Style (Timmion)
  • Paul Nelson Band, Badass Generation (Friday Music/Sony)
  • Robert Cray, 4 Nights Of 40 Years Live (Provogue)
  • Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Father's Day (Stony Plain)
  • Sam Butler, Raise Your Hands! (Severn)
  • Shemekia Copeland, Outskirts Of Love (Alligator) [*]
  • Sonny Landreth, Bound By The Blues (Mascot)
  • Tad Robinson, Day Into Night (Severn)
  • The Jimmys, Hot Dish (Brown Cow)
  • The Nightowls, Fame Sessions (SuperSonic)
  • The Ragpicker String Band, The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog) [A-]
  • Tim Williams, So Low (Lowden Proud)
  • Tommy Castro, Method To My Madness (Alligator)
  • Toronzo Cannon, The Chicago Way (Alligator '16) [*]
  • Various Artists, God Don't Never Change: Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator)
  • Various Artists, Muddy Waters 100 (MRI)
  • Various Artists, The Rough Guide To Bottleneck Blues (Rough Trade '16) [***]
  • Walter Trout, Battle Scars (Provogue)
  • Wee Willie Walker, If Nothing Ever Changes (Little Village Foundation)

Beyond album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • A$AP Ferg, Always Strive And Prosper (RCA)
  • Adele, 25 (XL/Columbia) [B]
  • Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers '16) [A-]
  • Allen Toussaint, American Tunes (Nonesuch '16) [**]
  • Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool '16) [A-]
  • Andrew Bird, Are You Serious (Loma Vista)
  • Animal Collective, Painting With (Domino)
  • Anonhi, Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian '16) [*]
  • Ashley Monroe, The Blade (Warner Bros. Nashville) [A-]
  • Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal, Musique De Nuit (Six Degrees)
  • Banda De Los Muertos, Banda De Los Muertos (Barbes)
  • Beach House, Depression Cherry (Sub Pop) [B]
  • Beach House, Thank Your Lucky Stars (Sub Pop) [***]
  • Beach Slang, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us (Polyvinyl) [B]
  • Beyoncé, Lemonade (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia)
  • Big Grams, Big Grams (Epic)
  • Billy Gibbons & The BFG's, Perfectamundo (Concord)
  • BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown '16) [A-]
  • Bob Mould, Patch The Sky (Merge)
  • Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep (Redwing '16) [A-]
  • Brian Eno, The Ship (Warp '16) [*]
  • Car Seat Headrest, Teens Of Denial (Matador '16) [***]
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion (604/Schoolboy/Interscope) [A-]
  • Cee-Lo Green, Heart Blanche (Atlantic) [*]
  • Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book (Self Release '16) [A-]
  • Charles Bradley, Changes (Daptone '16) [*]
  • Chvrches, Every Eye Open (Virgin EMI) [**]
  • Coldplay, A Head Full Of Dreams (Parlophone/Atlantic)
  • Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks In Whispers (Caroline Records)
  • Darlene Love, Introducing Darlene Love (Wicked Cool/Columbia)
  • David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia '16) [***]
  • Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands (HUB) [B-]
  • Deafheaven, New Bermuda (Anti-) [*]
  • Deantoni Parks, Technoself (Leaving/Stones Throw)
  • Death Grips, Bottomless Pit (Third Worlds/Harvest)
  • Death Grips, Interview 2016 (Third Worlds/Harvest)
  • Deerhunter, Fading Frontier (4AD) [***]
  • Dr. Dog, The Psychedelic Swamp (ANTI-)
  • Drake, VIEWS (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic '16) [*]
  • Empress Of, Me (Terrible/XL) [*]
  • Eric Bachmann, Eric Bachmann (Merge)
  • Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood (EMI Nashville) [**]
  • Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone (Motown/Control Freaq) [A-]
  • Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness (Temporary Residence Limited)
  • Ezra Furman, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union) [A-]
  • Fetty Wap, Fetty Wap (RGF/300) [B-]
  • FKA twigs, M3LL155X (Young Turks) [C+]
  • Florence and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Island) [B]
  • Foxes, All I Need (Sign Of The Times)
  • Freddie Gibbs, Shadow Of A Doubt (ESGN)
  • Future, Evol (A1/Freebandz/Epic)
  • Grimes, Art Angels (4AD) [A-]
  • Grupo Fantasma, Problemas (Blue Corn)
  • James Blake, The Colour In Anything (Polydor '16) [B-]
  • Jamie xx, In Colour (Young Turks) [***]
  • Janet Jackson, Unbreakable (Rhythm Nation/BMG) [*]
  • Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free (Southeastern) [*]
  • Jeff Lynne's ELO, Alone In The Universe (Columbia)
  • Jen Shyu, Sounds And Cries Of The World (Pi) [B-]
  • Jeremih, Late Nights (Mick Schultz/Def Jam)
  • Joanna Newsome, Divers (Drag City)
  • John Jorgenson, Divertuoso/From The Crow's Nest (Cleopatra)
  • Julia Holter, Have You In My Wilderness (Domino) [B]
  • Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville) [***]
  • Kanye West, Life Of Pablo (GOOD/Def Jam '16) [***]
  • Kendrick Lamar, Untitled Unmastered (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope '16) [***]
  • Kevin Gates, Islah (Breadwinners' Association/Atlantic '16) [*]
  • King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity (ATO)
  • Kurt Vile, B'Lieve I'm Goin Down . . . (Matador) [B]
  • Lalah Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway Live! (eOne Music)
  • Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon (Interscope/Polydor) [***]
  • Leon Bridges, Coming Home (Columbia) [*]
  • Lil B / Chance the Rapper, Free (Self Release)
  • Loretta Lynn, Full Circle (Sony Legacy '16) [**]
  • Lucinda Williams, The Ghosts Of Highway 20 (Highway 20)
  • M83, Junk (Naïve/Mute)
  • Mac Demarco, Another One (Captured Tracks)
  • Mac Miller, GO:OD AM (Warner Bros./REMember)
  • Mavis Staples, Livin' On A High Note (ANTI-/Epitaph '16) [**]
  • Miguel, Wildheart (ByStorm/RCA) [***]
  • Milo, So The Flies Don't Come (Ruby Yacht/The Order Label) [**]
  • Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats (Stax) [*]
  • Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade '16) [A-]
  • Pinegrove, Cardinal (Run For Cover '16) [*]
  • Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art) [**]
  • PUP, The Dream Is Over (Royal Mountain/SideOneDummy '16) [C+]
  • Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool (XL '16) [B]
  • Ray LaMontagne, Ouroboros (RCA)
  • Richard Thompson, Still (Fantasy/Proper) [***]
  • Rihanna, Anti (Westbury Road/Roc Nation '16) [A-]
  • Ryan Adams, 1989 (PAX AM)
  • Savages, Adore Life (Matador)
  • School of Seven Bells, SVIIB (Vagrant)
  • Shye Ben Tzur / Jonny Greenwood / The Rajasthan Express, Junun (Nonesuch)
  • Sia, This Is Acting (Monkey)
  • Son Little, Son Little (ANTI-)
  • Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, So Familiar (Rounder)
  • Sturgil Simpson, A Sailor's Guide To Earth (RJ Records '16) [***]
  • Sun Kil Moon, Universal Themes (Caldo Verde) [***]
  • Sunn O))), Kannon (Southern Lord)
  • Tame Impala, Currents (Modular/Universal/Fiction/Interscope) [*]
  • The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep . . . (Polydor '16) [*]
  • The Internet, Ego Death (Odd Future/Columbia) [**]
  • The Monkees, Good Times! (Rhino)
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness (XO/Republic) [*]
  • Thundercat, The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam (Brainfeeder) [B]
  • Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge) [B]
  • Twin Peaks, Down In Heaven (Grand Jury)
  • Ty Segall, Emotional Mugger (Drag City)
  • Various Artists, Day Of The Dead (4AD)
  • Various Artists, Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (Atlantic) [**]
  • Vince Staples, Summertime '06 (Def Jam/ARTium/Blacksmith) [***]
  • Wavves X Cloud Nothings, No Life For Me (Ghost Ramp)
  • Weezer, Weezer (Crush Music/Atlantic)
  • White Out, Accidental Sky (Northern Spy) [**]
  • Wilco, Star Wars (dPbm) [***]
  • Willie Nelson, Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (Sony Legacy '16) [B]
  • Xenia Rubinos, Black Terry Cat (Anti-)
  • Yo La Tengo, Stuff Like That There (Matador) [***]
  • Yoni & Geti, Testarossa (Joyful Noise)

Monday, August 08, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26901 [26875] rated (+26), 420 [423] unrated (-3).

Another week that's liable to make people think I'm an easy grader, or at least one that has a few soft spots that make him an easy mark: six A- records, eleven (or twelve counting the grade change) high B+, that's something like 65%. In my defense, several things came into alignment this past week. Main one was that I did a major update of Robert Christgau's website, which got me rumaging through recent EW lists for things I hadn't gotten to yet, which yielded two solid A- records (Konono No. 1, Lori McKenna) and a bunch of just-unders (Leland Sundries, Dawn Oberg, Walter Salas-Humara, older Lori McKenna). I also caught up with a purple patch in the new jazz queue: a batch of Clean Feeds, plus new albums by old favorites Stephan Crump and Steve Lehman. Also stumbled upon some old records I had been looking for (Peter Kuhn, Ellery Eskelin, Audio One), looked up some big-name recent jazz I didn't get in the mail (Kenny Garrett, Charlie Hunter, Joe Lovano, Markus Stockhausen). Didn't leave much time for bottom trawling. In this company, the dud of the week was Garrett's Do Your Dance -- something I might of suspected given that he snagged the cover of Downbeat (nearly all of my old JCG duds had been on Downbeat's cover).

I don't usually make a point of linking to music, but the search for Crump's cover led me to his Bandcamp page. Note that to start with the first cut, you have to scroll down to the song listing and pick it from there. More records there, including some early ones I should check out, but I don't see my favorite one, 2010's Reclamation. I reviewed this from CD, but Bandcamp is one of the best things that's happened for someone who wants to review a broad swathe of records like I do. Also, I think, good for customers, who among other things get to sanity check reviewers like me.

While I'm at it, here's a YouTube link for the song of the week, Dawn Oberg's "Republican Jesus", from her short 2015 LP Bring. Probably the most pointed political song since Todd Snider's "Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight White White American Male" -- actually more pointed since the analysis is deeper and more detailed, but the subject is pretty much the same.

A couple things I could use some feedback on:

  • Does Spotify (or any other non-Apple streaming source) have much that Rhapsody/Napster doesn't? I ran into this question because there's at least one Lori McKenna album I couldn't find on Rhapsody or Bandcamp that seems to be on Spotify. I tried Spotify's "free" service back when it came out (at least in the US) and managed to write up a couple albums based on it, but generally hated everything about it (the ads, of course, but also the search and the general greediness of the application).

  • Are there any MP3 players which can be managed from Linux more or less as seemlessly as iPods under iTunes on Windows (or presumably Macs, something I refuse to even consider)? I have an iPod Nano which I haven't used since my last Windows computer bit the dust (fittingly, during one of those "automatic software updates"). Someone mentioned Sansa Clip to me: from what I gather you can mount it and poke files into it, but not much more. Searching this question gives me a lot of Linux applications like Amarok, XMMS, and RhythmBox -- something else I should learn more about, but not what I'm asking.

Follow the Contact link for an email address, or comment on Facebook of something like that.


New records rated this week:

  • Audio One: The Midwest School (2014, Audiographic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Carate Urio Orchestra: Ljubljana (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Stephan Crump: Stephan Crump's Rhombal (2016, Papillon): [cd]: A-
  • Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Fierce Silence (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance! (2016, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hieroglyphic Being: The Disco's of Imhotep (2016, Technicolour): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charlie Hunter: Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth (2016, Ground Up/Decca): [r]: B+(***)
  • Konono No. 1/Batida: Konono No. 1 Meets Batida (2016, Crammed Discs): [r]: A-
  • The Kropotkins: Portents of Love (2015, Mulatta): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Lehman: Sélébéyone (2016, Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Leland Sundries: Music for Outcasts (2016, L'Echiquier): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lori McKenna: The Bird & the Rifle (2016, CN/Thirty Tigers): [r]: A-
  • Dawn Oberg: Bring (2015, Blossom Theory): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jason Roebke Octet: Cinema Spiral (2014 [2015], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Walter Salas-Humara: Work: Part One (2015, Sonic Pyramid): [r]: B+(**)
  • Walter Salas-Humara: Explodes and Disappears (2016, Sonic Pyramid): [r]: B+(***)
  • Susana Santos Silva/Lotte Anker/Sten Sandell/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Jon Fält: Life and Other Transient Storms (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Stirrup: Cut (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Markus Stockhausen/Florian Weber: Alba (2015 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)

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

  • Joe Lovano Quartet: Classic! Live at Newport (2005 [2016], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Arcanum Moderne (2002 [2003], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Peter Kuhn Quartet: The Kill (1981 [1982], Soul Note): [r]: A-
  • Leland Sundries: The Foundry EP (2012, L'Echiquier): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lori McKenna: Paper Wings and Halo (2000, Orcheard): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lori McKenna: Pieces of Me (2001, Signature Sounds): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lori McKenna: The Kitchen Tapes (2001 [2004], Gyrox): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lori McKenna: Bittertown (2004, Signature Sounds): [r]: B+(**)


Grade changes:

  • Dawn Oberg: Rye (2012, Blossom Theory): [r]: [was: B+(*)] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt): advance, August 24
  • Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Irène Schweizer/Léon Francioli/Pierre Favre: Musical Monsters (1980, Intakt): advance, August 24
  • Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall: Throw It Away . . . (Dreadnaught Music): August 19
  • Peter Kuhn/Dave Sewelson/Gerald Cleaver/Larry Roland: Our Earth/Our World (pfMentum)
  • Francisco Pais Lotus Project: Verde (Product of Imagination): September 23
  • John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Basement Blues (Origin): August 19

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Weekend Roundup

I want to start with a paragraph from John Lanchester: Brexit Blues:

Immigration, the issue on which Leave campaigned most effectively and most cynically, is the subject on which this bewilderment is most apparent. There are obviously strong elements of racism and xenophobia in anti-immigrant sentiment. All racists who voted, voted Leave. But there are plenty of people who aren't so much hostile to immigrants as baffled by them. They feel left behind, abandoned, poor, ignored and struggling; so how come immigrants want to come here, and do so well when they get here? If Britain is broken, which is what many Leave voters think, why is it so attractive? How can so many people succeed where they are failing? A revealing, and sad, piece in the Economist in 2014 described Tilbury, forty minutes from London, where the white working class look on resentfully as immigrants get up early and get the train to jobs in the capital which, to them, seems impossibly distant. 'Most residents of the town, one of England's poorest places, are as likely to commute to the capital as fly to the moon.'

The evidence on immigration is clear: EU immigrants are net contributors to the UK's finances, and are less likely to claim benefits than the native British. The average immigrant is younger, better educated and healthier than the average British citizen. In other words, for every immigrant we let in, the country is richer, more able to pay for its health, education and welfare needs, and less dependent on benefits. They are exactly the demographic the UK needs.

Not sure of the numbers, but offhand this sounds like a pretty fair description of immigrant America as well -- maybe there is a slightly larger slice of unskilled immigrant workers because the US has much more agribusiness, but a lot of the immigrants I know are doctors and engineers, and I suspect that immigrants own a disproportionate share of small businesses. One widely reported figure is that Muslims in America have a higher than average per capita income, so it's hard to see them as an economic threat to the middle class -- they're part of it. One thing we do have in common with Britain is that anti-immigrant fervor seems to be greatest in places with damn few immigrants. (Trump's third strongest state -- see below -- is the formerly Democratic stronghold of West Virginia, which is practically hermetically sealed from the rest of the US.) Whether that's due to ignorance and unfamiliarity or because those areas are the ones most left behind by economic trends -- including the ones most tied to immigration -- isn't clear (most observers read into this picture what they want to see).

Lanchester makes another important point, which is that the Brexit referendum succeeded because the single question cut against the grain of the political party system: "To simplify, the Torries are a coalition of nationalists, who voted out, and business interests, who voted in; Labour is a coalition of urban liberals, who voted in, and the working class, who voted out." I suspect that if we had a national referendum on TPP you'd see a similar alignment against it (and it would get voted down, although the stakes would be far less). On the other hand, Trump vs. Clinton is going to wind up being a vote along party lines, not an alignment of outsiders against insiders or populists against elitists or any such thing.


Some scattered links this week:

  • David Auerbach: Donald Trump: Moosbrugger for President: Long piece, finds an analogue for Trump in Robert Musil's novel, The Man Without Qualities, left incomplete by the author's death in 1942:

    The character who concerns us is Christian Moosbrugger, a working-class murderer of women who becomes an object of fascination for many of the characters in the novel and of the Vienna they inhabit. During his trial for the brutal murder of a prostitute, he becomes a celebrity, due to his cavalier and eccentric manner. [ . . . ] His "discipline" is akin to Trump's nebulous "art of the deal," not a teachable trade but an esoteric, innate property that makes him better than others -- a Macguffin. Trump is not a murderer; unlike Moosbrugger, he does not need to be. Trump was fortunate enough to begin with his father's millions and the ability to achieve dominance without physical violence. For Moosbrugger, violence was the only option available to him. Moosbrugger is no more a "murderer" than Trump is a "politician." They perpetrate amoral (not immoral) acts not out of their characters but out of a lack of character.

    Of course, if Trump becomes president, he will become a murderer -- much like Obama before him, by signing off on the assassination of alleged enemies (and, to use a time-worn phrase, fellow travelers). GW Bush and Bill Clinton too, but they had a head start as governors signing death warrants for condemned felons.

    I also like Auerbach's line:

    Trump's political rise is a product of the commodification of attention. As the ballooning of new media and analytics have facilitated the microscopic examination of consumer attention, the analysis has been performed with indifference to the consequences of that attention. Just as Donald Trump does not care why he is loved, worshipped, and feared -- no matter what the consequences -- we have seen massed content production turn to clickbait, hate clicks, and propaganda in pursuit of viewer eyes. By mindlessly mirroring fear and tribalism, the new media machine has produced a dangerous amount of collateral damage.

    It seems like it took a couple years after he became president before psychologists started probing the mind of GW Bush, but now we are already blessed with Dan P McAdams: The Mind of Donald Trump -- better safe than sorry, I suppose. Here he is just getting warmed up:

    Researchers rank Richard Nixon as the nation's most disagreeable president. But he was sweetness and light compared with the man who once sent The New York Times' Gail Collins a copy of her own column with her photo circled and the words "The Face of a Dog!" scrawled on it. Complaining in Never Enough about "some nasty shit" that Cher, the singer and actress, once said about him, Trump bragged: "I knocked the shit out of her" on Twitter, "and she never said a thing about me after that." At campaign rallies, Trump has encouraged his supporters to rough up protesters. "Get 'em out of here!" he yells. "I'd like to punch him in the face." From unsympathetic journalists to political rivals, Trump calls his opponents "disgusting" and writes them off as "losers." By the standards of reality TV, Trump's disagreeableness may not be so shocking. But political candidates who want people to vote for them rarely behave like this.

  • Gabriella Dunn: Bipartisan frustration over Kansas disability system: 'Legislature be damned': Part of Gov. Brownback's program for making Kansas a model state for emulation all across America and for resuscitating his presidential ambitions was his program to harness the magic of private enterprise to "reform" the moribund bureaucracy of the state's Medicaid program. He called this stroke of genius KanCare. Now, well, it's worked about as well as the rest of his programs:

    The Medicaid system has been riddled with problems recently. More than 3,000 disabled Kansans are on waiting lists for services, and the state says a seven-year wait is typical.

    The state also has a backlog of applications for Medicaid that started mounting a year ago when the state switched the computer system used to process the applications. The committee was told on Thursday that nearly 4,000 Kansans have been waiting more than 45 days for their applications to be processed. In mid-May that number was above 10,000.

    Part of the art of shrinking government "to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub" is to pick on areas that most people don't immediately recognize what's happening. Slacking off on maintenance is one such area, and helping people with disabilities is another. Things have to get pretty bad before they get noticed, and even then the full impact is hard to absorb. Still, even Kansans have started to wise up. For one thing, see GOP Voters Stage Major Revolt Against Brownback's Kansas Experiment. Not really as "major" as one might hope, but until this year Republican primaries have been killing fields for our so-called moderates. This year six Brownback-affiliated state senators, including Majority Leader Terry Bruce, got axed, as did Tea Party favorite Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of the few "small government" conservatives in Congress to oppose such real government threats as NSA's domestic spying programs -- but his real problem was agribusiness, who flooded the primary with some $3 million in mostly out-of-state dark money. (Huelskamp spent a couple million himself, largely from the Koch network.) Not mentioned in the article is that Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who unlike Huelskamp has no redeeming virtues, was also knocked off -- again, his ideological fervor ran afoul of local business interests. On the other hand, the Democratic primary was a very depressing affair, with hardly any competent candidates rising to challenge the unmitigated disasters wrought by Brownback and company.

  • Diana Johnstone: Hiroshima: The Crime That Keeps on Paying, but Beware the Reckoning: Each August 6 marks yet another anniversary of our bloody inauguration of the age of nuclear destruction. I found this bit, following an Eisenhower quote expressing misgivings about dropping the atom bomb, interesting:

    As supreme allied commander in Europe, Eisenhower had learned that it was possible to work with the Russians. US and USSR domestic economic and political systems were totally different, but on the world stage they could cooperate. As allies, the differences between them were mostly a matter of mistrust, matters that could be patched up.

    The victorious Soviet Union was devastated from the war: cities in ruins, some twenty million dead. The Russians wanted help to rebuild. Previously, under Roosevelt, it had been agreed that the Soviet Union would get reparations from Germany, as well as credits from the United States. Suddenly, this was off the agenda. As news came in of the successful New Mexico test, Truman exclaimed: "This will keep the Russians straight." Because they suddenly felt all-powerful, Truman and Byrnes decided to get tough with the Russians.

    In his book Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam, Gar Alperovitz argued that the US used the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to intimidate Russia. This twist is more plausible: that having used it for whatever reason, it then installed an arrogance in Truman and his circle that made them more aggressive in postwar diplomacy, and that made Stalin more defensive (which in turn, in some cases, made him more aggressive -- e.g., in Berlin and Korea, although in both cases he was largely provoked to lash out).

    Also on Hiroshima, see Ward Wilson: The Bomb Didn't Beat Japan . . . Stalin Did. By the way, I wrote more about Hiroshima in May 2016 and August 2015, and several times earlier (e.g., August 2008).

    Of course, the question of presidential control of "the nuclear launch codes" came up with respect to the notoriously thin-skinned and impulsive Donald Trump, who's been quoted as repeatedly asking his "security advisers" why we can't use nuclear weapons, and who's clung to the "never take options off the table" cliché so tenaciously it's hard to rule out any place he might not bomb. Relevant to this is Jeffrey Lewis: Our Nuclear Procedures Are Crazier Than Trump, arguing against the current "launch under attack" strategy which gives a president "a four-minute window to decide whether or not to initiate an irreversible apocalypse." I would add that I think that the only nation that has ever actually used nuclear weapons against civilian targets, the US should be going out of its way to reassure the world that won't happen again. Instead, Trump and his ilk are so insecure they feel to need to remind the world how terrifying they really are.

  • Seth Stevenson: If Sean Penn Were the Democratic Nominee: Possibly the dumbest political article of the year, and that's saying something. The whole idea is counterfactual, counterlogical even: "Imagining a world where the wackadoo candidate is in the other party" -- I guess they can dream, but the fact is that the Republican Party has actively embraced fantasy and myth and carefully channeled rhetoric while decrying science and, you know, that "reality-based" stuff, like facts, so there's little there to guard against unhinged candidates -- indeed, at least half of the original field of sixteen qualified. The closest thing to "wackadoo" on the Democratic side was Jim Webb, who didn't even make it to Iowa. As for Penn, you can look at his Wikipedia page to get a thorough list of his political activism, but as far as I can tell his main transgression against political correctness has been a tendency to get too close to officially despised foreign leaders like Hugo Chavez. I can't say as that sort of thing bothers me (in which case he suggests Kanye West, or "Ben from Ben and Jerry's") -- the point is he assumes there must be some balance on the Democratic side no matter how wacko the Republicans get, and second, he wants to show that a great many Democrats would follow that "unfit, paranoid, unstable Democratic nominee" as blindly as most Republicans are following Trump.

    Of course, this article assumes other fallacies. One is that the individual at the head of the ticket should matter much more than the party the ticket represents. I think nowadays that's largely due to the Commander in Chief fetish, itself due to the fact that the US is (and has been for 75 years now) a state perpetually at war all around the world. We tend to assume that having a decisive Commander in Chief has a huge effect on how effectively those wars are prosecuted, where in fact the built-in, unquestioned forces behind those wars usually winds up dictating how tragically foolish presidents wind up. An older view is that the personal moral character of the president matters a lot, whereas it rarely counts for anything. What we get instead are parties -- each president brings a whole layer of administration into power, and leaves behind a cohort of judges, and those choices are mostly tied to party. So to the extent that parties represents blocks of voters, why is it so strange that those voters would back their party regardless of how qualified and capable the ticket head is? Obviously, a lot of people who vote for Trump will really be voting for their party, some in spite of the candidate, but that applies (perhaps even more than usual) to the Democratic side as well. In neither case does it represent a serious misjudgement. However, only on the Republican side does it reflect a belief in complete nonsense and hysteria unrooted in interests or even reality.

  • Some more election links noted:

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Daily Log

Started to write a possible post, but gave up. I may add those links to a Weekend Update and try again. Draft here:

Kansas had its primary election on Tuesday. We voted, almost as an afterthought as there was little to choose from on the Democratic side -- two candidates each for Senate and House but neither was very attractive and neither has any chance whatsoever of winning in November. I didn't pay much attention to the Republican side either, in part because the heavily contested races I was aware of were districted elsewhere. Still, some interesting things happened. Some of them are reported here: GOP Voters Stage Major Revolt Against Brownback's Kansas Experiment. You may recall that in recent years the right-wing, backed by the Kochs and the Chamber of Commerce, waged war against everyone considered a "moderate Republican," successfully enough that the State Legislature has been even more crazed than Governor Sam Brownback -- you remember, the one-time presidential candidate who gave up a safe Senate seat to prove his executive genius by transforming Kansas according to radical right-wing ideology: a transformation which has bankrupted the state, while dragging its economy down, far behind neighboring states and the nation.

This week's primary doesn't really constitute a revival of moderation in the Republican Party -- I doubt we'll ever see statewide Republican nominees like Mike Hayden or Peter Graves or Nancy Kassebaum or even, I can't believe I'm saying this, former right-wing darling Bob Dole again. Still, a half dozen of the most dysfunctional legislators got kicked out, while Carolyn McGinn -- once again a Chamber of Commerce target -- eeked through. More dramatically, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (an abrasive leader of the Tea Party Caucus, later the Freedom Caucus) got beat by Roger Marshall in a rare case where the Kochs and the Chamber took opposite side. Huelskamp has been in trouble since his first term when he voted against the Farm Bill -- bread and butter for a district that has virtually nothing going but agribusiness. (In fact, Huelskamp so irritated the House Republican leadership they kicked him off the Agriculture Committee, a position his district had automatically qualified for.) Marshall raised about $3 million for his campaign, most reportedly coming from out of state. Still, Huelskamp matched him commercial for commercial -- I never saw one without also seeing the other, and the slanders were pretty horrific. Good chance more than $5 million went into this primary.

Actually, I'm going to miss Huelskamp a little bit. He was one of the few true believers in "small government" libertarianism, consistent enough that he was reliably opposed to big government infringements on civil liberties like the Patriot Act, and at least critical of the biggest government project of all: the military-industrial complex. He could also be counted on to oppose corporate giveaways of all kinds, which is why he tangled so often with the patronage-oriented House leadership (the successors of Tom DeLay). Marshall ran ads accusing Huelskamp of voting with Democrats more often than any other Kansas representative. He will, instead, be a totally orthodox Republican, which is to say a dependable corporate hack. Given the district, there's no chance a Democrat will beat Marshall in November. (I wonder if he could somehow run as a Libertarian?)

On the other hand, there's one Republican incumbent not mentioned in the TPM article I won't miss at all, and that's Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who lost to David Dennis, who's been on the State School Board. In that race, Dennis is more of a moderate, and Peterjohn is more of a horse's ass -- his obsession is reducing property taxes (he owns a lot of rental property), but he's always eager to wreck anything involving government, and lately he's joined a right-wing cabal that have pitted county and city against each other. Good riddance.

The primary results suggest that this should be a year for gains by the Democratic Party in Kansas, but the old problems persist -- not least a dearth of talented candidates, and very little support for them. Bernie Sanders took over 70% of the caucus vote back in March, but the Democratic nominee for Senate is a deficit hawk, and the nominee for 4th District House is anti-choice (we voted against both of them, to no avail). And both will face candidates with more than a million dollars to spend, plus all the Kochs' "dark money."


I've been wanting to mention this piece by Seth Stevenson -- in fact, nominate it as the dumbest political opinion piece I've read this year. The subtitle is "Imagining a world where the wackadoo candidate is in the other party," and the assumption is that both parties are equivalent in general, even if one of them toppled over the deep end this year. He's basically saying that it's not so bad that many Republicans are sticking with their wackadoo candidate this year out of some misguided sense of party loyalty, because if the shoe was on the other foot and the Democrats had nominated an ill-tempered incompetent like Donald Trump (and if the Republicans had instead nominated someone sane) Democrats would still stick with their own wack job.

If that seems somehow plausible to you, first try imagining who the Democratic equivalent of Donald Trump might be. Stevenson did, and the worst he could come up with was actor Sean Penn:

The debates begin. Penn's performance exposes policy ignorance, an unwillingness to do his homework, and a general dimness swirled with arrogance. But there he is, always at the center of the stage, always getting the most attention, fighting with the moderators. To his supporters, he can do no wrong. They point to his humanitarian work after Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. They argue that the pseudo-journalistic trips he took to Pakistan and Iran constitute foreign policy experience.

And then the bomb drops: Penn wins Iowa. He's on his way.

Stop here, my Democrat friends, and ask yourself how you'd react. Would you willingly cede the White House to, say, Ted Cruz if it meant keeping Sean Penn away from the levers of power? Or would you consider voting for Cruz just to stop Penn?

Now, I don't know much about Sean Penn (aside from a few movies he's been in), but it's hard to believe he'd be remotely as bad as Ted Cruz. (I mean, Donald Trump's better than Cruz. Ben Carson is better than Cruz. Bobby Jindal? OK, I'm not so sure about that one.) Nor does it help when he offers examples of Penn "deal-breakers" like: "Maybe he reiterates his respect for Hugo Chavez and declares there's much we could learn from the way he ran Venezuela." Actually, that wouldn't phase me, and I wonder why it should bother Stevenson. Then he adds: "Maybe he vows to disarm all U.S. police forces." OK, that's more than I could possibly hope for, but it worked well for quite some time in the UK -- certainly makes more sense than arming every last civilian so they can police themselves.

Then he concedes Cruz might be too much of an extremist, so he offers "Mitt Romney/John Kasich" as an alternative -- guys with marginally better politics than Cruz and marginally better manners than Trump, but really pretty interchangeable. On the other hand, matching any major Republican candidate to anyone on the Democratic side is really problematical.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26875 [26851] rated (+24), 423 [431] unrated (-8).

Not a particularly strong rated count -- especially given that I wrapped up a Streamnotes column, but still finding exceptional numbers of A- records, and they take more time than B or low B+ records. Also, almost everything below is jazz, and most of it (aside from the Hersch oldies) came from my mail queue (down lower now than it's been in about three months).

One mistake from Streamnotes is that I omitted the Rent Romus album cover. I'll rectify that in the faux blog, but probably not in the Serendipity version. (Not sure how the relative performance of those is holding up. I have managed to keep adding new entries to Serendipity, but rarely see them, and find it more work to edit.)

Surprise star this week is Peter Kuhn, who plays clarinet, bass clarinet, and some sax, and recorded a bit 1979-81, dropped out for a long stretch, and re-surfaced last year. I didn't recall the name, but thanks to Rick Lopez' dilligence I did list his albums in the discography to my mammoth William Parker-Matthew Shipp Consumer Guide (from 2003, I think). I tried to find Kuhn's other albums for Hat and Soul Note on Rhapsody (err, ugh, Napster), but only tracked down The Kill (misfiled under Denis Charles -- seems to have been his real name, although I notice now that I used the Americanized "Dennis" last week, something else to fix).

Getting pretty close to doing a major update to Robert Christgau's website: not many new articles -- latest is his review of Jon Savage's 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded -- and no new-old pieces (maybe someone should organize a scavenger hunt), but I finally managed to bring the Consumer Guide database up to the moment (July 29). Now if only I can remember that bug (revision incompatibility) I had to work around to import the new database. I'll tweet when I get it done.


New records rated this week:

  • Joey Alexander: My Favorite Things (2014 [2015], Motéma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Karlis Auzins/Lucas Leidinger/Tomo Jacobson/Thomas Sauerborn: Mount Meander (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Cortex: Live in New York (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Fred Hersch: Sunday Night at the Vanguard (2016, Palmetto): [cd]: A-
  • Steffen Kuehn: Leap of Faith (2015-16 [2016], Stefrecords): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Peter Kuhn Trio: The Other Shore (2015 [2016], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Peter Kuhn/Dave Sewelson/Gerald Cleaver/Larry Roland: Our Earth/Our World (2015 [2016], pfMentum): [bc]: A-
  • Joey Locascio: Meets the Legend (2016, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Merzbow/Keiji Haino/Balasz Pandi: An Untroublesome Defencelessness (2016, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Modular String Trio: Ants, Bees and Butterflies (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • William Parker: Stan's Hat Flapping in the Wind (2015 [2016], Centering/AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roji: The Hundred Headed Woman (2016, Shhpuma/Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rising Colossus (2015 [2016], Edgetone): [cd]: A-
  • Jerome Sabbagh/Simon Jermyn/Allison Miller: Lean (2014 [2016], Music Wizards): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Slavic Soul Party: Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite (2014 [2016], Ropeadope): [cd]: A-

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

  • Peter Kuhn: No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-1979 (1978-79 [2016], NoBusiness, 2CD): [cd]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Fred Hersch/Charlie Haden/Joey Baron: Sarabande (1986 [1987], Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Fred Hersch/Steve LaSpina/Jeff Hirshfield: ETC (1988, RED): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Fred Hersch Trio: Dancing in the Dark (1992 [1993], Chesky): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Hersch: The Fred Hersch Trio Plays . . . (1994, Chesky): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Hersch: Point in Time (1995, Enja): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Fred Hersch Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2002 [2003], Palmetto): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fred Hersch/Norma Winstone: Songs & Lullabies (2002 [2003], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Hersch Trio: Everybody's Song but My Own (2010 [2011], Venus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michael Moore/Fred Hersh: This We Know (2008, Palmetto): [r]: B+(**)
  • Red Fox Chasers: I'm Going Down to North Carolina: The Complete Recordings of the Red Fox Chasers (1928-31) (1928-31 [2009], Tompkins Square, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)


Jul 2016 Sep 2016