Monday, May 29, 2017
Music: Current count 28187  rated (+21), 387  unrated (-10).
As this weekly post falls on Memorial Day, I'd like to dedicate it
our fallen heroes: not those who lost their lives in the many pointless
wars this nation has waged since shortly before I was born, but to those
who spoke, wrote, and often demonstrated against those wars, especially
those who recognized how tightly war was bound up with social and economic
injustice, who saw the struggle against both as equally necessary.
Foremost in my mind today are Alice Powell and Mary Harren, who late
in their lives became good friends as well as comrades, and Elizabeth
Fink, one of the finest, most steadfast, and most principled legal
minds of our generation. I could, of course, come up with a few dozen
more names of people I've known, and many more who inspired me from
a distance -- David Dellinger is one of the latter I often find myself
returning to. And, thankfully, there are many more still living, still
struggling to turn minds and souls against America's fascination with
empire and its attendant inequality and injustice.
Among the living one I should mention is Gail Pellett, who I knew
briefly in St. Louis in the early 1970s. She was a graduate student
in the sociology department at Washington University, and I was in
several classes with her and ran into her socially and politically.
She graduated and left for Boston, then a couple years later moved
to New York, working in public radio and teaching journalism. In
1980 she got a job as a "foreign language expert" for Radio Beijing
in China, and spent a year there trying to fit in and ultimately
getting rejected (or at least dejected). A couple years ago she
wrote a memoir of her time in China,
Forbidden Fruit, which I recently read. Terrific book, taught
me a lot about the post-Mao transition in China -- the scars of the
Cultural Revolution and the fitful reforms of Deng Xiaoping's zig
and zag toward economic reform and prosperity minus democracy. But
it also filled in some earlier and later history of Gail I never
knew, and reminded me how much I adored her when our paths crossed.
Also note all the music she mentions. Those years were the ones that
got me interested in music and its social context, so she probably
had something to do with all that.
Relatively light week of record processing: partly because I was
distracted with all the Trump nonsense, partly because I took some
time off to paint the fence and cook, partly because I'm having a
lot of trouble making up my mind about good-but-not-great albums.
Two of those inched into the A- column this week, with a couple more
falling arbitrarily short (Cuong Vu was probably the most tempting,
followed by Diet Cig and Klaus Treuheit, with Shakira most volatile
(only 2 plays, could go either way), and I still haven't made up my
mind on Riverside after 6-7 plays).
Feeling a big nostalgic, so I made fried chicken, biscuits &
gravy, and green beans tonight -- the chicken and gravy like my mother
taught me (and they came out near-perfect), but I cheated a bit on the
rest (much to the meal's detriment: I used a microwave bag of green
beans and some really old Bisquick that didn't rise). Just for us, so
I wasn't too embarrassed, but I can do better.
Looks like I need to post Streamnotes tomorrow or Wednesday.
Draft file currently has 106 albums, so the post will be lighter
than usual, not that I've slacked off too badly this month.
Still don't have many good non-jazz leads to chase down.
New records rated this week:
- Amok Amor [Christian Lillinger/Petter Eloh/Wanja Slavin/Peter Evans]: We Know Not What We Do (2016 , Intakt): A-
- Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (2013 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Daddy Issues: Deep Dream (2017, Infinity Cat): [r]: A-
- Diet Cig: Swear I'm Good at This (2017, Frenchkiss): [r]: B+(***)
- Fred Frith/Hans Koch: You Are Here (2016 , Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
- Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator (2017, ATO): [r]: B+(*)
- José James: Love in a Time of Madness (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
- B.J. Jansen: Common Ground (2016 , Ronin Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
- Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet (2017, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
- Ed Maina: In the Company of Brothers (2017, self-released): [cd]: B
- Mumpbeak: Tooth (2017, Rare Noise): [cdr]: B
- Simona Premazzi: Outspoken (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Tom Rizzo: Day and Night (2015 , Origin): [cd]: B
- Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte With Iggy Pop: Loneliness Road (2017, Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Shakira: El Dorado (2017, Sony Latin Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (2016 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Cuong Vu 4-Tet: Ballet (2017, Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond (2016 , Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Itaru Oki/Nobuyoshi Ino/Choi Sun Bae: Kami Fusen (1996 , NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Independence Hall Jazz Band: Louis: The Oliver Years (2002, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Ignacio Berroa Trio: Straight Ahead From Havana (Codes Drum Music): August 7
- Roger Davidson: Oração Para Amanhã/Prayer for Tomorrow (Soundbrush): June 14
- Rick Davies: Thugtet (Emlyn)
- Brian McCarthy Nonet: The Better Angels of Our Nature (self-released)
- Kyle Motl: Solo Contrabass (self-released)
- The New Vision Sax Ensemble: Musical Journey Through Time (Zak Publishing): June 12
- Simona Premazzi: Outspoken (self-released)
Sunday, May 28, 2017
Three fairly prominent figures died in the last couple days -- at
least prominent enough to warrant articles in the Wichita Eagle: Jim
Bunning, Greg Allman, and Zbigniew Brzezinski. Naturally, I go back
furthest with Bunning. I became conscious of baseball in 1957, when
I was six, and for many years I could recite the all-star teams from
that (and practically no other) year. Bunning was the starting pitcher
for the AL, vs. Curt Simmons for the NL. That was the year Cincinnati
stuffed the ballot boxes, causing a scandal by electing seven position
players to the NL team. Commissioner Ford Frick overruled the voters
and replaced Gus Bell and Wally Post with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.
In my memory, he also picked Stan Musial over Ted Kluszewski at 1B
and Eddie Matthews over Don Hoak at 3B, but he stopped short and didn't
pick the equally obvious Ernie Banks vs. Roy McMillan. According to the
Wikipedia page, Musial actually won, and Hoak (and McMillan and
2B Johnny Temple and C Ed Bailey) started. My memory of the AL team
somehow lost 1B Vic Wertz (no idea who played there, since I was
pretty sure it wasn't Moose Skowron, on the team as a reserve) and
2B Nellie Fox (I thought Frank Bolling, who didn't make the team --
Casey Stengel liked to stock his bench with Yankees, so he went with
Bunning won the game, pitching three scoreless innings while
Simmons walked in two runs. Biggest surprise from the game summary
was that Bell pinch-hit for Robinson (no doubt the only time that
ever happened, despite being teammates for many years) and came up
with a two-run double. Bunning had his best season in 1957, going
20-8, although he also won 19 in 1962, and after he was traded to
Philadelphia in 1964 had three straight 19-win years, winding up
with a 234-184 record and a lot of strikeouts (2855). He played
during a period (1955-71) when W totals were especially depressed --
I worked out a system for adjusting W-L totals over the years but
don't have the data handy (one significant result was that Cy Young,
Walter Johnson, and Warren Spahn came out with almost identical
adjusted W-L totals). But also Bunning spent most of his career as
the star on losing teams, so that also reduced his career standing.
Still, a marvelous pitcher. He was also one of the more militant
leaders in the baseball players union, but after he retired he
turned into an extreme right-wing crank and got elected to the
Senate from Kentucky, where his two terms went from dismal to worse.
If there was a Hall of Fame for guys kicking the ladder away after
they used it, he'd be in.
I have far less to say about Allman, but nothing negative. His
most recent albums were engaging and enjoyable, and early in his
career he contributed to some even better ones.
People much younger than me might remember Brzezinski for his
biting criticism of GW Bush's Iraq fiasco. He was the Democrats'
original answer to Henry Kissinger, a foreign policy mandarin with
a deep-seated hatred of the Soviet Union and anything even vaguely
communist, and he seemed to be the dominant force that bent Jimmy
Carter's his initial foreign policy focus on human rights toward
an unscrupulously anti-communist stance. Still, decades later, after
the fall of the Soviet Union, even after Carter wrote his essential
book Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, Carter stuck to his line
that his signature peace treaty between Israel and Egypt was driven
primarily by his desire to curtail Soviet influence. It's not that
Brzezinski offered any real break from the rabid anti-communism of
previous administrations so much as he kept Carter from changing
course, and in their Iran and Afghanistan policies they set the
stage for everything the US has butchered and blundered ever since --
including Trump's "Arab NATO" summit last week.
Last week when I was reading John D Dower's new book The Violent
American Century: War and Terror Since World War II I ran across
a paragraph I wanted to quote about how Reagan both adopted and extended
policies begun under the Carter administration, while simultaneously
belittling and slandering Carter. It seemed to me that we are witnessing
Trump making the same move. But since then Zbigniew Brzezinski died,
so I figure in his honor I should start with the previous paragraph:
Although Carter failed in his bid for a second term as president his
"doctrine" laid the ground for an enhanced US infrastructure of war,
especially in the Greater Middle East. Less than two months after his
address, Carter oversaw creation of a Rapid Deployment Joint Task
Force that tapped all four major branches of the military (army, navy,
air force, and marines). Within two years, this evolved into Central
Command (CENTCOM), responsible for operations in Southwest Asia,
Central Asia, and the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean, initiating what
one official navy historian called "a period of expansion unmatched in
the postwar era. Simultaneously, Carter's national security adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski launched the effective but ultimately nearsighted
policy of providing support to the Afghan mujahedeen combating Soviet
forces in their country. Conducted mainly through the CIA, the
objective of this top-secret operation was in Brzezinski's words, "to
make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible."
Carter's successor Ronald Reagan inherited these initiatives and
ran with them, even while belittling his predecessor's policies. In
his presidential campaign, Reagan promised "to unite people of every
background and faith in a great crusade to restore the America of our
dreams." This, he went on -- in words that surely pleased the ghost of
Henry Luce -- necessitated repudiating policies that had left the
nation's defense "in shambles," and doing "a better job of exporting
If Trump seems less committed to "exporting Americanism" than Reagan
(or Luce, who coined the term/slogan "American century"), it's not for
lack of flag-waving bluster, arrogance, or ignorance. It's just that
decades of excoriating "weak leaders" like Carter, Clinton and Obama,
and replacing them with "strong" but inept totems like Reagan, the
Bushes, and Trump have taken their toll. The lurches toward the right
have weakened the once-robust economy and frayed social bonds, and
those in turn have degraded institutions. And while it's easy to put
the blame for this decay on a right-wing political movement dedicated
to the aggrandizement of an ever-smaller circle of billionaires, the
equally important thing I'm noticing here is how completely Carter,
Clinton, and Obama internalized the logic of their/our enemies and
failed to plot any sort of alternative to the right's agenda, which
ultimately has less to do with spreading "the American way of life"
than with subjugating the world to global capital. Indeed, it appears
as though the last people left believing in Luce's Americanism are
the hegemonic leaders of the Democratic Party.
I wound up completely exhausted and disgusted from last week's
compilation of Trump atrocities (see my
Midweek Roundup). I know I said, shortly after Trump's inauguration,
that "we can do this shit every week," but I'm less sure now --
not to mention I'm doubting my personal effectiveness.
In particular, the Montana election loss took a toll on my psyche.
Then I saw the following tweet (liked by someone I thought I liked):
"I wonder what Bernie has learned from his massive loss and that of
his scions, Mello, Feingold, Teachout, Thompson, Quist. Probably
nothing." Quist, in Montana, ran anywhere from 6-12% ahead of Clinton
(at least in the counties I've seen). So did Thompson here in Kansas.
They lost, but at least they ran, they gave voters real choices, and
they got little or no support from the Clinton-dominated national
party (which has made it their business to reduce party differences
to a minimum, even as the Republicans stake out extreme turf on the
right). The others I haven't looked at closely, but Bernie wasn't
the one who lost to Donald Trump. What lessons should he learn from
those defeats? Offer less of an alternative? Take his voters for
granted? Further legitimize the other side? Clinton Democrats have
been doing those things for 25 years now, and look where they've
Meanwhile, a few quick links, probably little commentary -- but
these things pretty well speak for themselves.
Some scattered links this week in Trump world:
Esme Cribb: Trump Lashes Out at Media Upon Return to US: 'Fake News
Is the Enemy!' I can remember when "fake news" was self-identified,
the successor of what we used to call satire, its fakeness intended to
help sharpen a point. Now, for Trump at least, it's just any report you
don't want to face up to. But already Trump has done so much he needs
to deny that he's broadening his targets. For more, see
Peter Maas: Donald Trump's War on Journalism Has Begun. But Journalists
Are Not His Main Target. The "main targets" referred to are sources,
those disclosing to journalists what Trump's administration is doing.
If government was "of, by, and for the people," you'd think it would be
ok for said people to see just what was happening, but that's not in
Trump's scheme of things. Also:
Olivia Nuzzi: Trump's Love-Hate Relationship With Anonymous Sourcing.
David Dayen: Trump's "America First" Infrastructure Plan: Let Saudi
Arabia and Blackstone Take Care of It
Chauncey DeVega: 'We Have an Obligation to Speak About Donald Trump's
Mental Health Issues . . . Our Survival as a Species May Be at Stake':
I think there's something to speak about here -- it all has a certain
perverse satisfaction -- but I'm skeptical that it will do any good,
and I think it's been a big mistake all along to focus on Trump and
not on the Republican policies he's committed to (especially the ones
he explicitly attacked before the election).
Henry Farrell: Thanks to Trump, Germany says it can't rely on the United
States. What does that mean? Another view:
David Frum: Trump's Trip Was a Catastrophe for US-Europe Relations.
Also on the NATO meeting:
Fred Kaplan: The Tussle in Brussels. And then there's:
Elisabeth Braw: Germany Is Quietly Building a European Army Under Its
Rebecca Gordon: Trump Is Trying to Cover Up His Lies by Destroying
Information: "For an administration that depends on ignorance,
public knowledge is enemy number one."
Maggie Haberman/Glenn Thrush/Julie Hirschfeld Davis: Trump Returns to
Crisis Over Kushner as White House Tries to Contain It: So it turns
out that Kushner omitted multiple meetings with various Russians when
he applied for his security clearance. Also that he tried to set up
some kind of "back channel" communications link with Russia that would
bypass normal security protocols. Many more stories on Kushner, like:
Jeet Heer: Why Trump Is a Salesman With Autocrats and a Slumlord
With Allies. Heer also wrote, back on May 15,
Donald Trump Killed the "Indispensable Nation." Good! ("Trump
has ushered in a new era of American hegemony, one in which the
hegemon is adrift, mercurial, and utterly irresponsible.") Both
of these pieces are sidelong glances at a "superpower" which
expects the world to bow and cater to its whims without expecting
or getting much of anything in return -- well, beyond catching
some of the chaos mean indifference engenders.
Paul Krugman: It's All About Trump's Contempt
Cezary Podcul: Trump's New Bank Regulator: Lawyer Who Helped Banks
Charge More Fees: "Keith Noreika helped big banks avoid state
laws protecting consumers. As head of the Office of the Comptroller
of the Currency, he now has the power to override those state laws."
Michael D Shear/Mark Landler: Trump Ends Trip Where He Started; At Odds
With Alies and Grilled on Russia: In particular, he got several
earfulls on his refusal to endorse the Paris climate accords. He says
he will make a decision on that next week -- sure, he's spent the last
two years campaigning against it, but he's already broken dozens of
campaign promises. One wonders whether any of the other G7 leaders
added credible threats. I haven't heard anyone propose this, but why
shouldn't the other 194 nations that signed the accord levy sanctions
on nations that refuse to cooperate on what is truly a global problem?
For one thing, sanctions would have a real effect in lowering emissions --
most obviously by depressing the American economy. They could go further
and freeze US assets. They could deny airspace rights to US flights,
especially by the military (a significant global polluter).
Matt Shuham: WH Budget Chief: 'I Hope' Fewer People Get Social Security
John Wagner/Robert Costa/Ashley Parker: Trump considers major changes
amid escalating Russia crisis
Stephen M Walt: What's the Point of Donald Trump's Afghan Surge?
Five questions for McMaster. Meanwhile:
Ruchi Kumar: War in Afghanistan Is Killing Children in Record Numbers
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though mostly still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Andrew J Bacevich: The Beltway Foreign-Policy 'Blob' Strikes Back
Ari Berman: Democrats Are Launching a Commission to Protect American
Democracy From Trump: Trump's first (and thus far only) special
commission was launched to investigate "election integrity" -- i.e.,
why so many likely Democrats were allowed to vote. That threatens to
hit the Democrats where they live, so in this case at least they're
doing something on their own. I think they should be doing a lot more
of this, including running a "shadow cabinet" that continually tracks
everything the Trump billionaires and lobbyists are up to.
Linda J Bilmes: Iraq and Afghanistan: The $6 trillion bill for America's
longest war is unpaid
Michelle Chen: Why Are Canada's Prescription Drugs So Much Cheaper
Jason Ditz: US Is Killing More Civilians in Syria Air War Than Assad
Is: Thought I'd mention this since I read a Charles Krauthammer
column last week (look it up if you want it) that decried Assad's
"genocidal war" in Syria. By the way:
Samuel Oakford: US officials confirm their Coalition allies have
killed 80 civilians -- but none will accept responsibility.
David Hajdu: Bold-Sounding Things: "Doesn't every political resistance
need a soundtrack?"
Daniel Politi: White Supremacist in Portland Kills Two Men Who Tried
to Stop His Racist Rants: This in turn elicited a deep background
Alana Semuels: The Racist History of Portland, the Whitest City in
Carol Schaeffer: How Hungary Became a Haven for the Alt-Right
Matt Taibbi: The Democrats Need a New Message: This was Taibbi's
reaction to the Democrats' loss to billionaire/goon Greg Gianforte
in the Montana special election. It's worth noting that Democrat Rob
Quist ran 13% points better than Hillary Clinton did in November,
although I can also note that local Democrats have won a number of
statewide races in the not-too-distant past, so I had reason to be
more optimistic here than in the Kansas race (Gianforte won this one
by 6.5%; Ron Estes won in KS by 6.8%). I think the key paragraphs
Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low
approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has
lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back
to November, when it was at 45 percent.
The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair
over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys
have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging
the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile
foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton
in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.
To be sure, prospects for Democrats look better further out, but
that's because most people haven't been paying attention to all the
shit Republicans are pulling, and in most cases the adverse effects
won't hit home for months or even years, by which time it will be
too late. Still, one reason people haven't been paying attention is
that Democrats keep talking about Trump personally rather than the
Republicans universally, and a large segment of Americans have shown
themselves to be impervious to anything you say about Trump.
As for the old message, Taibbi cites
Jeff Stein: Study: Hillary Clinton's TV ads were almost entirely
Hillary Clinton's campaign ran TV ads that had less to do with policy
than any other presidential candidate in the past four presidential
races, according to a new study published on Monday by the Wesleyan
Clinton's team spent a whopping $1 billion on the election in all --
about twice what Donald Trump's campaign spent. Clinton spent $72 million
on television ads in the final weeks alone.
But only 25 percent of advertising supporting her campaign went after
Trump on policy grounds, the researchers found. By comparison, every other
presidential candidate going back to at least 2000 devoted more than 40
percent of his or her advertising to policy-based attacks. None spent
nearly as much time going after an opponent's personality as Clinton's
Clinton's ad strategy had, I think, the perverse effect of inoculating
Trump against further personal attacks and not framing issues that the
Democrats could follow up on post-election. It conveyed to voters that
issues don't matter -- only personalities and character -- and as such
Clinton offered little help down-ballot. Conversely, most Republican
money was spent down-ballot, and that created a powerful momentum to
capture Congress as well as to elect Trump. But then the Clintons have
a long history of sabotaging their party mates -- all the better to
concentrate their deal-making opportunities with donors (as well as
their retirement bonuses).
For a more optimistic accounting of Montana, see:
Matthew Yglesias: Republicans' 7-point win in last night's Montana
election is great news for Democrats; for more pessimistic views, see:
Andrew O'Hehir: Wake Up, Liberals: There Will Be No 2018 'Blue Wave,' No
Democratic Majority and No Impeachment; and
Ed Kilgore: 6 Takeaways From Montana's Special Election.
Rebecca Traister: Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny.
And Worried. "The surreal post-election life of the woman who would
have been president." Long piece, not unsympathetic, not without
interest, especially on problems of sexual politics. You might also
be interested in
Katie Serena: Hillary Clinton Roasts Donald Trump in Wellseley College
Commencement Speech, where she "even took a whack at humor,"
introducing herself as "the former president of the Wellseley College
Young Republicans" and reminiscing about "how she and her peers were
'furious' over the election of Richard Nixon." She could have used
some of that fury lately, but instead she's "OK."
Joan C Williams: The Dumb Politics of Elite Condescension: Author
also has a book, White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness
Dave Zirin: A Lynching on the University of Maryland Campus, and
Why I Called the Murder of Richard Collins III a Lynching.
What a bummer this is all turning into. Nor can I say it's different
than I expected. And it's really unhealthy to go through life with so
many occasions to say "I told you so."
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Didn't do a Weekend Roundup on Sunday, not for lack of material
but because I had something better to do. Still, this stuff has been
piling up at an incredible rate, with no likelihood of abating any
time soon. One thing I didn't get to is the terror bombing at an
Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, UK, which killed 22, mostly
young girls. The bomber was from Libya, set loose by NATO's entry
into civil war there, itself prefigured by the 2003 US-UK invasion
of Iraq, and indeed decades of UK and US intervention in the area,
originally to exploit resources (and open the Suez Canal), then to
support repressive crony governments, and ultimately just to sell
arms and encourage everyone to kill each other. When atrocities like
this happen, it's always proper not just to condemn the ones who
directly did this but to recall and curse those US/UK politicians
who paved the way, including Democrats like Obama and the Clintons,
Labourites like Blair, as well as the usual right-wingers.
Some quick links on Manchester:
Trump's Thursday schedule includes a meeting of NATO, where UK Prime
Minister Theresa May is expected to use the Manchester bombing as an
to formally join fight against Isil. No one expects Donald Trump
to be the voice of reason at this meeting: even without NATO's "help"
US Killed Record Number of Civilians in Past Month of ISIS Strikes.
Also on Thursday, Montana will elect a new House member. See
Both Parties Are Spinning Hard in Montana's Strange, Evolving Special
Ed Kilgore/Margaret Hartmann: Montana GOP Candidate Allegedly 'Body Slams'
Journalist, Is Charged With Assault.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpworld:
Dean Baker: Will President Trump Make Rust-Belt Manufacturing Great
Again? No evidence so far. Baker also wrote
A Job Guarantee and the Federal Reserve Board.
Sharon Begley: Trump wasn't always so linguistically challenged. What
could explain the change? Some people who have researched Trump's
various utterances from decades ago argue that he wasn't always such
a scattered, incoherent moron:
For decades, studies have found that deterioration in the fluency,
complexity, and vocabulary level of spontaneous speech can indicate
slipping brain function due to normal aging or neurodegenerative
disease. STAT and the experts therefore considered only unscripted
utterances, not planned speeches and statements, since only the
former tap the neural networks that offer a window into brain function.
The experts noted clear changes from Trump's unscripted answers
30 years ago to those in 2017, in some cases stark enough to raise
questions about his brain health. They noted, however, that the same
sort of linguistic decline can also reflect stress, frustration,
anger, or just plain fatigue.
Begly also wrote:
Psychological need to be right underlies Trump's refusal to concede
Russell Berman: The Trump Organization Says It's 'Not Practical' to
Comply With the Emoluments Clause
Bridgette Dunlap: Trump's Abortion Policy Isn't About Morality -- It's
Mike Konczal: How the "Populist' President Is Creating an Aristocracy
Sharon Lerner: Donald Trump's Pick for EPA Enforcement Office Was a
Lobbyist for Superfund Polluters: Meet Susan Bodine.
Eric Lipton: White House Moves to Block Ethics Inquiry Into Ex-Lobbyists
Dozens of former lobbyists and industry lawyers are working in the
Trump administration, which has hired them at a much higher rate than
the previous administration. Keeping the waivers confidential would
make it impossible to know whether any such officials are violating
federal ethics rules or have been given a pass to ignore them.
Dahlia Lithwick: Is Donald Trump Too Incapacitated to Be President?
The 25th amendment to the constitution would seem to be the simplest
way to dispose of the increasingly erratic Donald Trump. Whereas
impeachment requires a simple majority of the House and a two-thirds
super-majority of the Senate to convict, all the 25th amendment takes
is the Vice President and a majority of the cabinet to decide that
the President is "incapacitated but not dead." Still, this approach
suffers from the fact that so many of the people who would have to
sign off were chosen by Trump primarily for their own incompetence
(a list I would start with Mike Pence himself):
Moreover, so many of the Cabinet officials who might rightly affirm
that Trump is unable to discharge his duties are similarly unable to
discharge their own. Trump's chief infirmity -- the vanity, wealth,
and self-regard that was mistakenly confused with effective leadership --
is actually shared by the vast majority of his Cabinet, most of whom --
in the manner of any individual Kardashian -- seem to prize money and
power more than they prize governance or democracy. For instance, it's
abundantly clear that neither Betsy DeVos nor Ben Carson are fit to
execute their own Cabinet positions. Are they also to be summarily
removed? Jeff Sessions has gone along with the worst of Trump's plans,
drafting the legal justification for the stalled-out Muslim ban. If we
can see clearly enough to judge Trump unfit, surely Sessions is as
We already know that the people with the power to stop Trump -- the
Republicans in the House and Senate who declare themselves "troubled"
and "concerned" by his actions -- are so hell-bent on destroying the
regulatory state, harming the weak, imposing Christianity on nonbelievers,
and giving tax breaks to the wealthy that Trump's fitness raises no
alarms. Unfortunately, that isn't a DSM-IV level diagnosable pathology.
It's what we call conservatism in America.
Lauren McCauley: Comcast Threatens Legal Action Against Net Neutrality
Proponents: FCC chairman Ajit Pai is working on rescinding the
"net neutrality" rules, which currently require internet service
providers (like Comcast) to provide equal access to all websites.
Without those rules, they'd be free to pick and choose, and to
scam both providers and users.
Jose Pagliery: Trump's casino was a money laundering concern shortly
after it opened: Old history, but recently dug up through a FOIA
The Trump Taj Mahal casino broke anti-money laundering rules 106 times
in its first year and a half of operation in the early 1990s, according
to the IRS in a 1998 settlement agreement. . . .
Trump's casino ended up paying the Treasury Department a $477,000
fine in 1998 without admitting any liability under the Bank Secrecy Act.
Jamie Peck: Billionaire Betsy DeVos wants to scrap student debt
forgiveness. Surprised? After WWII the American economy was
growing fast and science was held in high esteem, so government
worked hard to expand access to higher education, to make it
affordable and accessible to many more people, to build up a
much better educated workforce (and citizenry). Then, from the
1980s on, the economy slowed, collage came to be viewed more as
a certification program for getting ahead (or not falling back),
and costs skyrocketed. Now we've entered into a stage where the
rich want to keep the advantages of education to themselves, or
at the very least make everyone else pay dearly for the privilege.
And that's the mindset of rich people like DeVos and Trump, who
inherited their fortunes. So, sure, this policy makes perfect
sense to them, while condemning everyone else to servitude and
CJ Polychroniou/Marcus Rolle: Illusions and Dangers in Trump's
"America First" Policy: An Interview With Economist Robert Pollin
Priebus: Trump Considering Amending or Abolishing 1st Amendment:
One of the scarier things Trump said during the campaign was how he
wanted to change libel laws so that people with thin skins and deep
pockets (like himself) can sue people who criticize (or make fun of)
them. Libel laws are primarily limited by the first amendment (freedom
of speech and press), although one always has to worry that the courts
will carve out some kind of exception (as they did, for instance, to
prosecute "obscenity"). It's not inconceivable that Trump could pass
something like that and pack the courts to uphold it, although it's
also not very likely. But repealing the first amendment is certainly
way beyond his dreams, and if he recognizes that that's what it would
take, his scheme is pretty much dead. Still, useful to know that his
respect for American democracy is so low that he'd even consider the
prospect. But didn't we already know that?
Shaun Richman: Republicans Want to Turn the National Labor Relations
Board Into a Force for Union Busting: I already thought it was,
but I suppose it could get even worse.
Jeremy Scahill/Alex Emmons/Ryan Grim: Trump Called Rodrigo Duterte to
Congratulate Him on His Murderous Drug War: "You Are Doing an Amazing
According to one former hitman, Duterte formed an organization called
the "Davao Death Squad" -- a mafia-like organization of plainclothes
assassins that would kill suspected criminals, journalists, and
opposition politicians, often from the backs of motorcycles. Multiple
former members of the group have come forward and said that they
killed people on Duterte's direct orders.
Duterte has even bragged that he personally killed criminals from
the back of a motorcycle. "In Davao I used to do it personally," he
told a group of business leaders in Manila. "Just to show to the guys
[police officers] that if I can do it, why can't you."
In 2016, Duterte campaigned on a policy of mass extermination for
anyone involved in the drug trade. "I'd be happy to slaughter them.
If Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have me," Duterte said
after his inauguration in September.
Despite human rights concerns, the U.S. has long considered the
Philippines a military ally, and under Obama the U.S. gave the country's
military tens of millions of dollars in weapons and resources per year.
The U.S. government does not provide lethal weapons directly to the
Philippine National Police, which has a decadeslong history of
extrajudicial killings. But it does allow U.S. weapons manufacturers
to sell to them directly. In 2015 the State Department authorized more
than $250 million in arms sales from U.S. defense contractors to
security forces in the Philippines.
Nate Silver: Donald Trump's Base Is Shrinking: His overall approval
numbers haven't dropped this much, but those who "strongly approve" of
Trump has dropped "from a peak of around 30 percent in February to just
21 or 22 percent of the electorate now." Meanwhile, the number of people
who "strongly disapprove" of him has shot up "from the mid-30s in early
February to 44.1 percent as of Tuesday."
Matthew Stevenson: Is Trump the Worst President Ever? Posted back
on February 17, so too early for a fair hearing, but it's not really
his point to answer the question ("such a milestone could be a tall
order. He would need to match Nixon's paranoia and arrogance with
Lyndon Johnson's military incompetence, and then throw in Chester
Arthur's corruption and maybe Harding's lust for life") -- just to
provide a quick review for your history buffs.
Amy B Wang: Sinkhole forms in front of Mar-a-Lago; metaphors pour
Matthew Yglesias: Trump isn't a toddler -- he's a product of America's
culture of impunity for the rich: Notes that both
Ross Douthat and
David Brooks have recently tried to explain Trump away as "a toddler"
(so that's the kind of original thinking that lands you a job writing
opinion for the New York Times?):
My 2-year-old son misbehaves all the time. The reason is simple: He's
He stuck his foot in a serving bowl at dinner Tuesday night. He
screams in inappropriate situations. He's terrified of vacuum cleaners.
He thinks it's funny to throw rocks at birds. He has poor impulse control
and limited understanding of the consequences of his actions.
But he's also, fundamentally, a good kid. If you tell him no, he'll
usually listen. If you remind him of the rules, he'll acknowledge them
and obey. He shows remorse when his misdeeds are pointed out to him,
and if you walk him through a cause-and-effect chain he'll alter his
behavior. Like all little kids, he needs discipline, and he's got a lot
to learn. But he is learning, and he has some notion of consequences
and right and wrong.
Trump is not like that -- at all. . . .
He's 70 years old. And he's not just any kind of 70-year-old. He's
a white male 70-year-old. A famous one. A rich one. One who's been rich
since the day he was born. He's a man who's learned over the course of
a long and rich life that he is free to operate without consequence.
He's the beneficiary of vast and enormous privilege, not just the ability
to enjoy lavish consumption goods but the privilege of impunity that
America grants to the wealthy.
Scattered links on Trump's holy war trek:
Peter Beinart: What Trump Reveals by Calling Terrorists 'Losers':
So why is Trump putting ISIS in the same category in which he places
Rosie O'Donnell? Because for him, America's primary goal is not freedom
or tolerance. It's success. Trump espouses no deeply held political,
religious, or moral doctrine. He sees government through the lens of
business. And thus, he's more comfortable with the language of winning
and losing than the language of right and wrong. That's why he's so
obsessed with the margin of his electoral victory and the size of his
crowds. It's why he responds to articles critical of him by saying that
the newspapers that published them are "failing." For Trump, losing is
worst thing you can do.
If there's a silver lining here, it's that people who judge right
and wrong (or good and evil) are often far more deranged, precisely
because their value judgments are more deeply buried in their personal
history and circumstances. It's interesting how quickly Trump's prejudices
seem to melt away when he actually meets such obviously successful people
as the leaders of China, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia (and, one might add,
Russia). Maybe he needs state visits to Iran and North Korea? I might
add that for normal people, being called a "loser" is less taunting
(and less inaccurate) than what Bush called the 9/11 terrorists:
Bryan Bender: Israeli Officers: You're Doing ISIS Wrong: Israel
has its own foreign policy objectives, and they've long been peculiarly
at odds with its supposed ally, the United States. When, for instance,
the US was supporting Iraq's war against Iran, Israel was helping Iran --
even to the point of selling Iran American weapons (which was OK with
Reagan as long as some of the profits were channeled to the Contras in
Nicaragua, which Reagan was legally barred from funding on his own --
you know, the "Iran-Contra Scandal"). Israel has repeatedly intervened
in Syria, not to promote any constructive agenda, just to balance off
the forces to keep the war going longer. But if they had to choose,
they'd rather see ISIS come out ahead than Hezbollah, and now they're
casting aspersions about the US for tilting the other direction. The
bottom line is that while the US always assumes that the goal is peace
and stability -- even if that's hard to discern from what the US does --
Israel never wants peace or stability: they seek continual turmoil and
conflict, because any lasting peace would involve them settling with
the Palestinians, and that's the one thing they can't consider. When
this finally sinks in, you'll begin to understand how schizophrenic
US policy is in the region. We keep thinking we have allies in the
region, but actually all we have are alignments: temporary, fragile,
counterproductive, and often downright embarrassing.
Natasha Bertrand: Flabbergasted anchor points out to commerce secretary
why there wasn't a 'single hint of a protester' in Saudi Arabia:
Wilbur Ross was delighted by the reception the Trump entourage received
in Saudi Arabia ("there was not a single hint of a protester anywhere
there during the whole time").
James Carden: What Explains Trump's Sharp About-Face on Saudi Arabia?
I don't quite buy that the Trump administration really has an "obsession
with Iran" -- that's just a clever way to curry favor with people who
still have deep-seated resentment against post-Shah iran. It's obvious
that Israel turned on Iran only once Iraq was squashed in 1991 because
they needed an "existential security threat" to talk about whenever
brought up the Palestinians. (For the long history of this, see Trita
Parsi's 2007 book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of
Israel, Iran, and the United States.) Saudi Arabia was threatened
by Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1979 revolution -- effectively he
challenged Saudi pre-eminence in the holy places of Islam, which hit
the Kingdom very close to home. But nothing since then justifies the
Saudi's evident obsession with Iran -- other than the ease with which
anti-Iranian rhetoric ingratiates themselves with the US. Before the
Saudis got all worked up over Iran, their desires to purchase American
arms were frustrated by the Israel lobby -- the two states were, after
all, nominal enemies. Now they seem to be virtual allies inasmuch as
they share a common enemy, but isn't the real reason that matters their
new desire to become an effective hegemon over the Sunni Arab world?
Meanwhile, first Obama and now Trump have found it convenient to sell
arms to the Saudis: effectively, it's a jobs program that never has to
navigate through Congress or even hit the US budget. The new thing is
that Trump's finally selling it as such, but he's picked a terrible
time to do so: pre-Salman the Saudis never used their expensive toys,
but lately they've been increasing violence and chaos everywhere they
reach, and entangling the US as they go.
I should work this in somewhere and this seems as good a place as
any: the visceral reaction most Americans had to the self-declaration
of an Islamic State would have been just as easy to stir up against
the real Islamic State: Saudi Arabia. This didn't happen because the
Saudis have a lot of oil and money, and because they feign allegiance
and (perhaps rent?) alliance to the United States. They also may have
seemed less threatening for lack of territorial ambitions, but they
have invaded Yemen, attempted to buy Lebanon (through Rafik Hariri),
supported proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and largely treat
the Persian Gulf sheikdoms as vassals. Although they've bought lots
of American arms for a long time, they never organized them into an
effective military for fear of a coup -- until Salman acceded to the
throne and they launched the war in Yemen. Until recently they had
enough money to buy loyalty, but they're faced now with both sinking
oil prices and declining reserves -- along with buying more arms,
that means belt-tightening elsewhere, and the most obvious waste is
the bloated and often embarrassing royal family. The odds of a coup
in the near future have shot up, and if/when it happens it is most
likely to adopt the IS model with its renewed Caliphate. It may be
possible to rout ISIS from the cities of Upper Mesopotamia, but the
idea of a Caliphate will survive, as it has since the 7th Century,
and no one could adopt it more readily then the regime that controls
Mecca and Medina -- a regime armed to the teeth thanks to Obama and
Patrick Cockburn: Trump's Extravagant Saudi Trip Distracts from His
Crisis at Home
Andrew Exum: What Progressives Miss About Arms Sales: Thinks "Trump
had a great visit to Saudi Arabia" -- great for him, great for the Saudis
"and other Arab Gulf states, and -- last but not least -- it was a great
visit for magical, glowing orbs." Especially great was the "deliverable":
"$110 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia -- with an additional $240
billion committed over a 10-year period." He then chides "progressives"
for not celebrating:
I want to spend a little time talking about one of the reasons why the
trip went so well. I'll warn you: This is a somewhat taboo subject for
progressive foreign-policy types. The subject, friends, is arms sales.
Progressives don't like arms sales very much, but they need to pay
attention to them, because they're one big way Republicans are fighting
for -- and winning -- the votes of working-class Americans who have
traditionally voted for Democrats.
As I've pointed out elsewhere, Obama (considered a "progressive"
in some parts) has been using arms sales, especially to dictatorial
Arab States and Eastern Europe, as a jobs program for much of his
two terms. For many years selling arms to the Saudis seemed harmless
enough -- they never used them, and they had lots of dollars we
wanted back -- but eventually these arms sales started to make the
world more conflict-prone and dangerous: US relations with Russia
deteriorated as Obama kept pushing NATO closer to Russia's borders,
and the Saudis and Qataris started using their arms, first in Libya
and even more dramatically in Yemen. While the Saudis have generally
tried to align their foreign interventions -- until recently mostly
cash and propaganda -- with the US, they've always cast their efforts
in their own terms, which from the founding of the tribe with its
Wahhabist trappings in the late 18th century has always been framed
as jihad. Jihadist warfare has actually been very rare in Islamic
history, but since the Saudis started spending billions to promote
their peculiar flavor of Salafism it's become ubiquitous, more often
than not rebounding back against the US, who so encouraged the Saudis
to frame their opposition to Communism (and Nasserism and Baathism,
nationalist movements seen as Soviet proxies) in religious terms.
Further complicating this is that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies
are among the most reactionary and repressive states in the world.
By feeding them arms -- and by little things like Trump participating
in that sword dance and orb touching -- the US becomes complicit not
only in their jihadism but also in their suppression of human rights.
One effect of this is that US leaders have lost control of their own
policy, and while this has become increasingly evident over the past
year -- the tipping point was Saudi Arabia's attack on Yemen -- the
event that people will remember is Trump's visit, where the formerly
"great" America has been reduced to grovelling for arms sales (or,
if you're a pseudo-progressive, "jobs").
Exum may be right that many defense contractor workers voted for
Trump, but that's only after the Democrats abandoned the unions that
were formerly common -- e.g., Boeing shut down their Wichita factory
after office workers there unionized, moving their operations to
union-free South Carolina and Texas. Still, what Chalmers Johnson
liked to call Military Keynesianism has steadily declined in value
ever since WWII, and there are plenty of healthier things progressives
can push for. Meanwhile, it's no accident that Republicans like Trump
have thrived in the increasingly vicious atmosphere of violence and
hate generated by perpetual war.
Kareem Fahim: After assurances by Trump, Bahrain mounts deadliest raid
in years on opposition
Emma Green: Pope Francis, Trump Whisperer? Article is interesting,
but let me first point to the picture, which shows Melania and Ivanka
wearing headware (veils), in marked contrast to their scarfless
appearance in Saudi Arabia.
Fred Kaplan: Trump's Sunni Strategy: "The president wants America to
take sides in the Middle East's sectarian rivalry. That won't end well."
Actually, it's already started badly. As recently at the 1970s there was
essentially no violent conflict between Sunni and Shi'a, but then the
Saudis started pushing their Salafist sectarianism, Ayatollah Khomeini
challenged their control of Mecca, and the Saudis backed the US-Pakistani
promotion of jihadism in Afghanistan. In the 1990s the US tried to raise
up Shi'a resistance in Iraq, which became the basis of a sectarian civil
war after the US invasion in 2003 -- one where the US played both sides
against one another. Then the US wound up opposing both sides in Syria
through various proxies it has no real control over, including the Saudis
and Qataris, both backing jihadist groups. Year after year this muddled
strategy has only produced more war and more backlash.
Rashid Khalidi: Why Donald Trump's 'Arab Nato' would be a terrible
Paul Pillar: Trump's Riyadh Speech: Bowing to the Saudi Regime
David Shariatmadari: Who better to lecture Muslims than Islam expert
Donald Trump? Worse still, Trump's big speech in Saudi Arabia was
mainly written by Steven Miller, although the result was little more
than a sop -- for someone so belligerent toward strangers, it doesn't
seem to take more than a little shameless flattery to win Trump over.
This is not only hard to defend morally. Siding with Saudi Arabia and
antagonising Iran in order to weaken jihadism won't work, to put it
mildly. Though the Saudi kingdom has taken part in military action
against Isis, its state textbooks are deemed acceptable in Isis-run
schools. It has backed militant Islamist rebels in Syria, and continues
to export an extremely intolerant version of Islam.
Trump cut a weird figure at Murabba Palace on Saturday night, bobbing
along to a traditional sword dance like someone who'd stumbled into the
wrong wedding reception.
Richard Silverstein: Trump's Saudi Soliloquy: "one of the most
hypocritical speeches in American political history." Curious that
I have yet to see a single post which contrasts Trump's Riyadh speech
with the Cairo speech Obama gave early in his presidency, even though
the latter turned out to be pretty hypocritical as well. Still, reading
Silverstein's comments I'm more stuck by the extraordinary amount of
falsehood and nonsense in the speech. Silverstein also wrote a bit
about the Jerusalem leg of Trump's tour:
Trump Selfie with Israeli MK Features Two Moral Degenerate Birds of a
Feather. The selfie Trump was cornered into was with Oren Hazan,
who bills himself "the Israeli Trump."
Paul Woodward: Trump struts onto the world stage only to become a
laughingstock: Also cites
Susan B Glasser: 'People Here Think Trump Is a Laughinstock'.
Scattered links on Trump/Comey/Russia:
Former CIA Chief Tells of Concern Over Possible Russia Ties to Trump
Campaign: Unsigned NY Times article on John Brennan's testimony
and other things. Also:
Greg Miller: CIA director alerted FBI to pattern of contacts between
Russian officials and Trump campaign associates; and
Yochi Dreazen: Obama's CIA chief just offered a Trump-Russia quote
for the ages. I'm still not a fan of anyone charging anyone with
treason, but Brennan's earlier quote about Trump speaking to the CIA
post-inauguration remains apt: a "despicable display of
Vera Bergengruen: Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed -- after
being paid as its agent. Also:
Mark Mazzetti/Matthew Rosenberg: Michael Flynn Misled Pentagon About
Russia Ties, Letter Says; and
Karoun Demirjian: Flynn takes 5th on Senate subpoena as a top House Democrat alleges new evidence of lies.
Karoun Demirjian/Devlin Barrett: How a dubious Russian document influenced
the FBI's handling of the Clinton probe
Adam Entous/Ellen Nakashima: Trump asked intelligence chief to push
back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence:
He made his appeals to Daniel Coats (DNI) and Adm. Michael S Rogers
(NSA), "urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence
of collusion during the 2016 election."
Chris Hedges: The Dying Republic: A Vast Disconnect Between Faux Values
and the Corporate Controlled Anti-Democratic Reality
Dara Lind: It's becoming increasingly clear that Jared Kushner is
part of Trump's Russia problem
Ryan Lizza: Trump's Damning Responses to the Russia Investigation
Josh Marshall: The President Lawyers Up: The lawyer is Marc Kasowitz,
who has made a nice living defending Trump in civil suits, including the
big one against Trump University. Note that Kasowitz is the partner of
Joe Lieberman, the former CT senator whose name briefly seemed to be at
the top of Trump's short list to become FBI Director.
Joshua Matz: Donald Trump's panoply of abuses demand more than a
Josh Meyer: Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction
Josh Marshall: The Continuing Triumph of Trump's Razor: Marshall
assumes that his term is self-evident, but in case you missed it, it's
Urban Dictionary: "When seeking an explanation for the behavior of . . .
Donald J. Trump, always choose the stupidest possible explanation."
Philip Shenon: Trump's Worst Nightmare Comes True: So he fires James
Comey, and gets Robert Mueller instead. Also on Mueller:
Karen J Greenberg: 4 Reasons Why Robert Mueller Is an Ideal Special
Josh Marshall: Thoughts on the Special Counsel Appointment.
Matthew Yglesias/Alex Ward: This week, explained: spies, special counsel,
and Flynn: And, upon further reflection, Yglesias' next post was:
The case for impeaching Trump -- and fast.
Meanwhile, Mick Mulvaney released a new budget, titled A
New Foundation for American Greatness:
John Cassidy: The Trump Administration's Budget Charade:
In March, the Trump Administration released a so-called skinny budget,
which contained the broad outlines of its spending plans. The proposed
cuts in domestic and international programs were so draconian,
mean-spirited, and misguided that I termed it a Voldemort budget, and
many other commentators offered similar reviews. On Tuesday, the White
House released the full version of its budget, and, if anything, the
details are even more disturbing.
The document describes how the Trump Administration would shred the
social safety net, particularly Medicaid, which provides health care to
the poor, to finance tax cuts for corporations and rich households. On
top of this, the budget's revenue and deficit projections are so
contingent upon wishful thinking and accounting sleights of hand that
they are virtually meaningless.
Benjamin Dangl: Trump's Budget Expands Global War on the Backs of the
Denise Lu/Kim Soffen: What Trump's budget cuts from the social safety
Trudy Lieberman: Donald Trump to Hungry Seniors: Drop Dead
Jim Newell: Trump's Biggest Broken Promise:
The most black-and-white broken promise of President Donald Trump's
early tenure has been his administration's treatment of Medicaid. On
the campaign trail, he promised not to cut the health care program
that covers more than 70 million low-income people. "I'm not going
to cut Social Security like every other Republican, and I'm not going
to cut Medicare or Medicaid," Trump said in an interview during the
campaign that was then posted on his official web site. "Every other
Republican is going to cut, and even if they wouldn't, they don't
know what to do because they don't know where the money is. I do."
Charles P Pierce: Make No Mistake: This Is Not a 'Trump Budget':
This is a Republican budget, a movement conservative budget, a product
of the tinpot economic theory and the misbegotten Randian view of human
nature towards which every serious Republican has pledged troth since
the days of Reagan, a government-sanctioned fulfillment of all the
wishes that Paul Ryan wished over the keg during the college experience
that our contributions to Social Security helped buy him.
Mulvaney, a Tea Party fanatic, held a press conference Tuesday morning
to shill for this slab of Dickensian offal, and listening to him I got
the feeling that, not only is Mulvaney of a different political persuasion,
but that he was raised in a different dimensional space. There are individual
atrocities a'plenty: zeroing out Meals on Wheels; an outright assault on
the government's role in science; a butchery of Medicaid that only makes
marginal sense if the dead-fish healthcare bill passes first; shredding
any EPA efforts to combat climate change; and hefty cuts to the SCHIP
program for children's health, food stamps, and the Earned Income Tax
Credit. These are Republican proposals, movement conservative proposals,
proposals that any Republican candidate would be proud to take to the
Iowa caucuses in 2020.
Matt Shuham: WH Budget Center: 'I Hope" Fewer People Get Social Security
Marshall Steinbaum: Your Economics Are On Backwards: Why Trump's Budget
Will Not Spur Growth: As noted elsewhere, the case for balancing
the budget is based on high growth stimulated by lower taxes for the
rich. Steinbaum explains why this doesn't work:
The reason regressive tax cuts don't spur growth is that, rather than
incentivizing investment or employment, lower rates for top earners
only encourage them to negotiate for higher salaries. Under President
Eisenhower, the top marginal income tax rate was 90 percent. This rate
created a de facto maximum income, because it simply made no sense to
demand exorbitant pay packages. Instead, companies spent these dollars
elsewhere -- either in expanded capacity or higher wages for their
workers. Not shockingly (except, perhaps, to conservatives), growth
Today's economy is the opposite: Rates are so low that an additional
dollar of income for the rich running or owning businesses is almost
always more appealing than spending that additional dollar on investment
or wages. And growth is sluggish, at best.
For an example of how far rewards at the top have gone, see
Sam Pizzigati: Walmart's $237 Million Man: How Americans Subsidize
Inequality. Also recommended for more general issues is
In Conversation: Brad DeLong and Marshall Steinbaum, an interview
with Heather Boushey -- all three edited After Piketty: The Agenda
for Economics and Inequality. Interesting comment here from DeLong:
Ronald Reagan was absolutely awful for the manufacturing jobs of the
Michigan Reagan Democrats. He pushed the dollar up by 50 percent. And
lo and behold, that just sent Midwestern manufacturing a signal that
it should shut down. Today, the dollar is up by 10 percent since Trump's
election, and whatever legislation rolls through Congress is likely to
involve a large tax decrease for the rich, in which case we will see
another bigger dollar cycle than we have now. Let the dollar go up by
another 10 percent, and that's a hit to the manufacturing employment
that is much, much larger than China's entry into the World Trade
Organization or any plausible effects of the North American Free
Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump's budget relies on magic economic growth;
The dumb accounting error at the heart of Trump's budget. From the
But budgets are important as statements of values. One clear headline
value of the Trump budget is an overwhelming preference for cutting
taxes on high-income families over providing food, medical care, housing
assistance, and other support to low-income families.
The growth accounting mess shows a parallel value -- or, rather,
lack of value -- placed on the idea of governing with integrity. . . .
Trump's White House is just going through the motions. They're supposed
to release a budget proposal, so they released a budget proposal. Whether
or not it makes any sense is a matter of total indifference to them. But
they've now kicked the can to congressional Republicans in an awkward
way, since if Congress wants to enact a budget, they need to enact a
real one with details filled in. Meaning they can't possibly match the
unrealistic aspirations Trump has laid out for them.
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Max Boot: The Seth Rich 'Scandal' Shows That Fox News Is Morally
Beth Gardiner: Three Reasons to Believe in China's Renewable Energy Boom:
Some astonishing numbers here, like "China added 35 gigawatts of new solar
generation in 2016 alone" and that coal consumption "fell in 2016 for the
third straight year." Meanwhile, back in the USA:
Dahr Jamail: Scientists Predict There Will Be No Glaciers in the
Contiguous US by 2050 -- but Trump Is Stomping on the Gas Pedal.
Paul Krugman: Trucking and Blue-Collar Woes: Starts with a chart on
"wages of transportation and warehousing workers in today's dollars,
which have fallen by a third since the early 1970s." He further explains
Why? This is neither a trade nor a technology story. We're not importing
Chinese trucking services; robot truck drivers are a possible future, but
not here yet. The article mentions workers displaced from manufacturing,
but that's a pretty thin reed. What it doesn't mention is the obvious
Unfortunately the occupational categories covered by the BLS have
changed a bit, so it will take someone with more time than I have right
now to do this right. But using the data at unionstats we can see that
a drastic fall in trucker unionization took place during the 1980s: 38
percent of "heavy truck" drivers covered by unions in 1983, already down
to 25 percent by 1991. It's not quite comparable, but only 13 percent of
"drivers/sales workers and truck drivers" were covered last year.
In short, this looks very much like a non tradable industry where
workers used to have a lot of bargaining power through collective action,
and lost it in the great union-busting that took place under Reagan and
Krugman speculates that "the great majority of the people whose chance
at a middle-class life was destroyed by those political changes voted for
Trump." But he doesn't follow up. Why did they vote for Trump? It sure
wasn't because Trump promised to bring unions back, because he never did.
All they got from Trump was a chance to vent their spleen. But Clinton
didn't offer to bring back unions either. Maybe she offered them a chance
to go back to school somewhat cheaper, but even that wasn't clear. If you
want to have a middle class, you have to pay middle class wages to
blue-collar workers. And if you aren't willing to go that far, everything
you say about "middle class" is cant.
Elsewhere, Krugman linked to
Sarah Birnbaum: An Economist reporter dishes on Trump's 'priming the pump'
interview, including the story of how Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue saved
So Sonny Perdue literally asked his staff to draw up a map of the bits
of America that had voted for Donald Trump and the bits of America that
do well from exporting grain and corn through NAFTA. [The map] showed
how these two areas often overlap. So he went in, said to Donald Trump,
"Actually, Trump America, your voters, they do pretty well out of NAFTA."
And the president said, "Oh. Then maybe I won't withdraw from NAFTA."
Evidently there was no one around to point out that those same
grain and corn exports was what drove so many Mexican peasants from
their farms to seek employment in the US -- the single most dramatic
effect of NAFTA wasn't the loss of American factory jobs but the
decimation of Mexican agriculture due to the flood of cheaper US
grain. But then, the piece also includes a quote from David Rennie,
describing the "atmosphere" of the Oval Office:
It's kind of like being in a royal palace several hundred years ago,
with people coming in and out, trying to catch the ear of the king.
That's the feel at the Trump Oval Office. He likes to be surrounded
by his courtiers. . . .
And the role of some pretty senior figures, including cabinet
secretaries, was to chime in and agree with whatever the president
had just said, rather than offering candid advice.
There was a moment with Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary.
We were talking [to Trump] about China and currency manipulation.
On the campaign trail, Trump was very ferocious about [calling China
a currency manipulator.] [In our interview], he said, "As soon as I
started talking about China being a currency manipulator, they cut
it out." Actually that's not true. China [stopped manipulating the
currency] two or three years ago.
What was striking was, when he made that point, Steve Mnuchin,
the Treasury secretary, chimed in and said, "Oh yeah. The day he
became president, they changed their behavior!" And factually,
that's just not right. It's quite striking to see a cabinet
secretary making that point in that way.
Laura Secor: The Patient Resilience of Iran's Reformers: While
Trump was forging his anti-Iran coalition in Saudi Arabia, Iran had
a presidential election, where 75% of the electorate turned out and
57% of the voters reëlected Hassan Rouhani, the "moderate reformer"
who signed the deal halting Iran's "nuclear program," over a much
more conservative, anti-Western opponent. Also:
Hooman Majd: Iran Just Prove Trump Wrong;
Muhammad Sahimi: As Iran Elects a Moderate, Trump Cozies up to its
Terrorist Enemy Saudi Arabia.
Matt Taibbi: Roger Ailes Was One of the Worst Americans Ever:
Makes a good case, but that got me wondering who were the ten worst
Americans ever. Naturally, the list tends toward political figures,
because their misdeeds tend to be amplified in ways that mere bank
robbers and serial killers can never attain (compare, e.g., Ted
Bundy and McGeorge Bundy, although at least Ted was solely culpable
where McGeorge was wrapped up in groupthink and depended on others
to do the actual dirty work. Here's a quick, off the top of my head,
list, in more-or-less chronological order:
- Aaron Burr, who made the first blatant attempt to turn the young
republic into a kleptocracy; he could have been our Yeltsin or Suharto
or Mubarak or Mobuto.
- John C. Calhoun, the would be architect of slavocracy and de facto
designer of the use of "states rights" to perpetuate white supremacy.
- John Wilkes Boothe, whose assassination of Abraham Lincoln ended
any chance for a graceful reconstruction (not that such was actually
- John D. Rockefeller, whose ruthlessness turned business into empire
building on a grand scale.
- J. Edgar Hoover, whose iron control of the FBI created a bureaucracy
that could cower presidents.
- Joseph McCarthy, whose witch hunts elevated the "paranoid style" so
common in American politics to an unprecedented level of viciousness.
- Richard Nixon, for many things including his singular lack of scruples
when it came to winning elections.
- Henry Kissinger, the foreign policy mandarin who exported dirty wars
all around the world.
- Antonin Scalia, the judge and legal theorist whose "originalism" set
new standards for sophistry in support of right-wing politics.
- Dick Cheney, the prime driver behind the so-called "global war on
terrorism"; i.e., the poisonous projection of American power into every
corner of the globe.
Can Ailes crack that list? That's a tall order, but I wouldn't dismiss
the suggestion out of hand. One might argue that the conservative backlash
that lifted Nixon and Reagan was just a matter of re-centering politics
after exceptionally liberal periods, but the right-wing resurgence from
1994 onward has almost exclusively been manufactured by a broad network
of well-funded behind-the-scenes actors and their success is mostly due
to the creation of a hardcore propaganda network, of which Ailes' Fox News
has been the flagship. The only other individual to rise out of this swamp
to a comparable level of notoreity has been Charles Koch -- another prime
candidate, especially if we expand the list a bit.
Back to the story, Taibbi writes:
Moreover, Ailes built a financial empire waving images of the Clintons
and the Obamas in front of scared conservatives. It's no surprise that
a range of media companies are now raking in fortunes waving images of
Donald Trump in front of terrified Democrats.
It's not that Trump isn't or shouldn't be frightening. But it's
conspicuous that our media landscape is now a perfect Ailes-ian dystopia,
cleaved into camps of captive audiences geeked up on terror and disgust.
The more scared and hate-filled we are, the more advertising dollars
come pouring in, on both sides.
Trump in many ways was a perfect Ailes product, merging as he did the
properties of entertainment and news in a sociopathic programming package
that, as CBS chief Les Moonves pointed out, was terrible for the country,
but great for the bottom line.
The the nth time, Taibbi exaggerates the symmetry, because right and
center have very distinct approaches to reality, not to mention vastly
different political agendas. Right-wing fear and loathing of Clinton/Obama
had less to do with policy than with style, and only touched reality when
they caught the Democrats doing something corrupt. Clinton and Obama, at
least, almost never actually changed anything, so heaping scorn on them
seemed to have little effect. The media might be just as happy ridiculing
Trump -- indeed, the effort bar is pretty low there -- but less obviously
(especially to the media) Trump and the Republicans are doing real damage,
undermining our welfare and way of life, and it's pretty scandalous just
to think of that as entertainment.
Alex Tizon: My Family's Slave: "She lived with us for 56 years. She
raised me and my siblings without pay. I was 11, a typical American kid,
before I realized who she was."
Whew! Think I'll spend the next couple days away from the computer,
out back painting the fence.
Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Music: Current count 28166  rated (+25), 397  unrated (+3).
I spent pretty much all of Sunday and Monday cooking birthday dinner
for my sister, Kathy, after spending a good chunk of Saturday shopping.
During that time I mostly played oldies, especially 50 Coastin'
Classics, which never sounded better. She requested a couple Indian
curries "and all the fixin's" so I did what I could. I wound up making
(mostly from Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking):
- Lamb brained in aromatic cream sauce: Rogani gosht, with
chunks of lamb and potatoes.
- Fish in velvet yogurt sauce: Pacific cod, but I substituted
coconut cream for the yogurt.
- Smooth buttered cabbage
- Smoked eggplant with fresh herbs: ok, roasted eggplant (and
Japanese at that), with frozen peas
- Green beans with coconut and black mustard seeds
- Fragrant buttered greens: spinach, kale, collard greens
with fried potatoes
- Patiala pilaf: minus the fried onion garnish
- Okra and yogurt salad: fried okra folded ito raita
- Tomato, onion, and cucumber relish: from Madhur Jaffrey
- Hot Hyderabad tomato relish: well, maybe not so hot
- Banana tamarind relish: cheated, using tamarind paste
- Major Grey chutney: mango chutney, from a web recipe
- Sweet lemon pickle with cumin: ok, made this way back, so
just pulled from refrigerator
Half of the dishes were made on Sunday then reheated, again taking
hints from Sahni. I had hoped to make kadhi (chickpea dumplings in
yogurt sauce), but got cold feet, then added several relishes/salads
that seemed easier. Too many dishes, but not many complaints: the
lamb and fish were luxurious, the four vegetables dishes superb,
the rice a little bland but sumptuous, the yogurt/okra lovely, the
chutneys/pickles intense. I meant to fry up some frozen, store-bought
paratha but it slipped my mind in the rush to serve everything (which,
by the way, was on scheduled time).
For dessert we had spiced tea, flourless chocolate cake, and
store-bought vanilla ice cream.
We had eight people for dinner. Fairly extravagant, but I've made
at least three larger Indian dinners -- a birthday dinner in NJ
consumed 22 onions, whereas this one only took 10. Aside from the
chutneys, the tomato-cucumber-onion (the least impressive dish),
and the rice, not a lot of leftovers. Seems like a lot of work, but
I don't get many chances to do something nice for others, nor to
feel like I'm actually being productive -- e.g., as opposed to just
reacting to the worldwide train wreck. (Expect a belated Weekend
Roundup mid-week, and a Streamnotes by end-of-month.)
The jazz guides are up to 661 + 527 pages, still less than midway in
the Jazz '80s-'90s database file. I never expected the 20th century to
reach 700 pages, but that now seems likely. Still, I think, only has 1/4
to 1/3 as many records as The Penguin Guide, which has long been
my bible. The 21st century file should still more than double in length,
and it's not inconceivable that the pair will top 2000 pages.
One side effect of that work is that every now and then I check
Napster for missing jazz records, as I did with banjoist John Gill's
early work. I was pleased to find many recordings on Stomp Off, long
one of the best trad jazz labels. As you're probably aware, most of
my higher picks are avant-garde, but I've always had a soft spot for
trad jazz, and even more so for small group swing (which I swear was
the cradle of rock and roll). So I went on a bender here, checking
out Gill, his trumpet buddies Duke Heitger and Chris Tyle, and records
I had missed by two pianists I liked, Ted Des Plantes and Keith Nichols.
Biggest problem here is that they're hard to sort out on just one or
two plays -- they nearly all sound good, but differentiating isn't as
easy. Second biggest problem is that Stomp Off is probably the most
media-adverse label in the world -- they don't have a website, and
almost none of their records are listed by Discogs -- so it's been
very hard to get any info on them (the most reliable source is The
Penguin Guide, plus occasionally I've found back cover scans which
at least give credits, release dates, and song lists. Probably quite
a few more to check out in weeks to come.
In contrast, new jazz seems to sit in my changes for 3-4 plays
regardless of whether it's much good or not, so I'm making slow
progress through the queue. (The unpacking below is longer than
usual because I forgot to post last week's intake.) And the only
non-jazz records I checked out last week were two from Robert
Expert Witness (couldn't find the newer, and longer, Daddy
Issues last week, but it's there now, so next week). I'm just not
aware of much I want to seek out there, at least for now.
New records rated this week:
- Daddy Issues: Can We Still Hang (2015, Infinity Cat, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Girlpool: Powerplant (2017, Anti-): [r]: B
- Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Madness (2017, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(**)
- Rebecca Hennessy's Fog Brass Band: Two Calls (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (2015 , Euonymous): [cd]: B+(***)
- Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: Onward (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin (2017, Accurate): [cd]: B+(***)
- Eve Risser/Benjamin Duboc/Edward Perraud: En Corps: Generation (2016 , Dark Tree): [cd]: B+(**)
- Sult/Lasse Marhaug: Harpoon (2017, Conrad Sound/Pica Disk): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Joris Teepe & Don Braden: Conversations (2009-16 , Creative Perspective Music): [cd]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Midnight Stomp (1991, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Shim-Sham-Shimmy Dance (1997 , Stomp Off): [r]: A-
- John Gill's San Francisco Jazz Band: Turk Murphy Style (1989 , GHB): [r]: A-
- John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile" (1991, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- John Gill's Novelty Orchestra of New Orleans: Headin' for Better Times (1992 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- John Gill's Dixie Serenaders: "Listen to That Dixie Band!!" (1997 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(**)
- John Gill's Jazz Kings: "I Must Have It!" (2004, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Learn to Croon: John Gill & His Sentimental Serenaders Remember Bing Crosby (2009 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(**)
- Duke Heitger and His Swing Band: Rhythm Is Our Business (1998-99 , Fantasy): [r]: A-
- Duke Heitger's Big Four: Prince of Wails (2001, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Duke Heitger With Ken Mathieson's Classic Jazz Band: Celebrating Satchmo (2010, Lake): [r]: B+(**)
- Sergey Kuryokhin: The Ways of Freedom (1981 , Leo Golden Years of New Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
- Keith Nichols & the Cotton Club Orchestra: Harlem's Arabian Nights (1996 , Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
- Chris Tyle's New Orleans Rover Boys: A Tribute to Benny Strickler (1991, Stomp Off): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
- Bill Cunliffe: Bachanalia (Metre): June 2
- Art Fristoe Trio: Double Down (Merry Lane): June 2
- Gato Libre: Neko (Libra)
- Terry Gibbs: 92 Years Young: Jammin' at the Gibbs House (Whaling City Sound)
- The Brett Gold New York Jazz Orchestra: Dreaming Big (Goldfox)
- Innocent When You Dream: Dirt in the Ground (self-released): May 26
- Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Find the Common, Shine a Light (Greenleaf Music): June 16
- Christian Lillinger/Petter Eloh/Wanja Slavin/Peter Evans: Amok Amor (Intakt)
- Quinsin Nachoff's Ethereal Trio (Whirlwind): May 19
- Vadim Neselovskyi Trio: Get Up and Go (Blujazz): May 19
- Larry Newcomb Quartet With Bucky Pizzarelli: Living Tribute (Essential Messenger): June 2
- Riverside [Dave Douglas/Chet Doxes/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas]: The New National Anthem (Greenleaf Music): June 16
- Elliott Sharp With Mary Halvorson and Marc Ribot: Err Guitar (Intakt)
- John Stein/Dave Zinno: Wood and Strings (Whaling City Sound)
- Dylan Taylor: One in Mind (Blujazz)
- Urbanity: Urban Soul (Alfi)
- Shea Welsh: Arrival (Blujazz)
Monday, May 15, 2017
Music: Current count 28141  rated (+22), 397  unrated (-2).
A bit surprised that the rated count isn't any higher. I couldn't
think of much to stream on Napster, so decided to focus on the jazz
queue, and most of those records were instantly forgettable. However,
the two I did like took a lot of time -- Amado was pretty automatic,
but still got many plays before I finally wrote something, while
Miwa had to overcome my normal "that's nice" reaction to piano trio.
The other new A- record was reviewed by Robert Christgau
here. (Christgau also published a piece in the Voice last week:
Songs of Love and War: Syria's Omar Souleyman.)
I keep expecting a new Downloader's Diary from Michael Tatum any
day now, so thought I should check before posting this, and found
instead something he posted back on February 20:
Orts from the 2016 Table -- just three reviews: American Honey
(A+), Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (A), and De La Soul
and the Anonymous Nobody (B). I should add them to his
Archive -- but later this week,
I think, or maybe when the first 2017 column appears.
I didn't do anything for Mother's Day other than write my long
Weekend Roundup, but the day before I tried making one of the
few non-traditional dishes from my childhood: Spanish rice with pork
chops. I made it the way Mom might have made it: using Zatarain's
boxed rice kit (add water, a can of diced tomatoes, butter). As best
I recall, she browned the pork chops, then baked them with the rice,
but I did it all on the stove top, starting the rice in one pot while
I browned the chops in a deep skillet. I then dumped the partly cooked
rice on top of the chops, covered, and turned the heat low to finish.
The mix had long-grain rice, dried onions, and spices. It wouldn't be
hard to come up with a scratch recipe -- Google has many suggestions.
Mom almost never made rice -- this was the only real dish I can recall,
but I vaguely remember her making Minute Rice as a side some time.
Much later I taught her how to make Chinese fried rice to go with
1-2-3-4-5 Spare Ribs, but she most often just made the latter --
especially after she got my sister to pre-mix the ingredients, so she
just ad to measure out 1/2 cup.
I hope to write up some sort of cookbook/food memoir built around
her cooking (but with a few of my things slipped in). I have her
recipe cards, but they're mostly disappointing and unrepresentative:
too many things that she collected from friends and family to be
polite -- way too many casseroles and jello salads -- but never made
again. The main things that are well covered are cakes, cookies, and
candy. Virtually absent are meats (she fried, or sometimes roasted,
them), gravy, and vegetables (mostly boiled to death). I don't recall
her ever consulting a cookbook (though she may have had one, possibly
Betty Crocker) but she did crib recipes off cans and boxes, which is
where she got the idea for baking fried steak in mushroom soup. I've
tried recreating some of her dishes, and had generally good results,
so that will eventually go into the book.
Other big project last week was to repaint the steel fence on the
south side of the back yard. Got everything scraped earlier last week,
then painted primer on 2 (of 7) penels on Saturday. Slow going, will
probably take most of this week to finish (or longer, allowing for
New records rated this week:
- Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (2015 , NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
- David Binney: The Time Verses (2016 , Criss Cross)
- Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976 (1976 , Delmark/Sackville): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bryan and the Aardvarks: Sounds From the Deep Field (2017, Biophilia): [cdr]: B-
- Duo Baars Henneman & Dave Burrell: Trandans (2016 , Wig): [cd]: B
- Dominique Eade & Ran Blake: Town and Country (2015-16 , Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(*)
- Craig Fraedrich With Trilogy and Friends: All Through the Night (Summit)
- Grandaddy: Last Place (2017, 30th Century/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Mats Holmquist: Big Band Minimalism (2015 , Summit): [cd]: C+
- Jentsch Group Quartet: Fractured Pop (2009 [2017, leur de Son): [cd]: B+(*)
- Kehlani: SweetSexySavage (2017, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
- Les Amazones d'Afrique: Republique Amazone (2017, RealWorld): [r]: A-
- Jesse Lewis/Ike Sturm: Endless Field (2017, Biophilia): [cdr]: B
- Migos: Culture (2017, QC/YRN/300): [r]: B+(***)
- Yoko Miwa Trio: Pathways (2016 , Ocean Blue Tear Music): [cd]: A-
- Michael Morreale: Love and Influence (2013-16, Blujazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
- Noertker's Moxie: Druidh Penumbrae (2011-15 , Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
- Paramore: After Laughter (2017, Fueled by Ramen): [r]: B+(***)
- Jeannie Tanner: Words & Music (2017, Tanner Time, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
- Trichotomy: Known-Unknown (2016 , Challenge): [cd]: B+(***)
- Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Five (2016 , OA2): [cd]: B
- Ronny Whyte: Shades of Whyte (2016 , Audiophile): [cd]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976 (1976 , Delmark/Sackville): [cd]: B+(**)
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Arthur Protin asked me to
comment on a recent interview with linguist George Lakoff:
Paul Rosenberg: Don't think of a rampaging elephant: Linguist George
Lakoff explains how the Democrats helped elect Trump.
Lakoff has tried to promote himself as the liberal alternative
to Frank Luntz, who's built a lucrative career polling and coining
euphemisms for Republicans. I first read his 2004 primer, Don't
Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate,
which consolidated ideas from his earlier Moral Politics: How
Liberals and Conservatives Think -- a dichotomy he's still
pitching as "the strict father/nurturent parent distinction." I've
never liked this concept. I'll grant that conservatives like the
flattering "strict father" construct, not least because it conflates
family and society, in both cases celebrating hierarchical (and,
sure, patriarchal) order, and there's something to be said for
recognizing how they see themselves. But the alternative family
model isn't something I'd like to see scaled up to society, where
nurturing morphs into something patronizing, condescending, and
meddlesome, and worse still that it grants the fundamentally wrong
notion that what's good for families is equally good and proper
for society and government. This is just one of many cases where
Lakoff accepts the framing given by Republicans and tries to game
it, rather than doing what he advises: changing the framing. I
don't doubt that his understanding of cognitive psychology yields
some useful insights into how Democrats might better express their
case -- especially the notion that you lead with your values, not
with mind-numbing wonkery. But it's not just that Democrats don't
know how best to talk. A far bigger problem is that Democrats lack
consensus on values, except inasmuch as they've been dictated by
the need to collect and coalesce all of the minorities that the
You see, back in Nixon days, with Kevin Phillips and Pat Buchanan
doing the nerd-work, Republicans started strategizing how to build
a post/anti-New Deal majority. They started with the GOP's core base
(meaning business), whipped up a counterculture backlash (long on
patriotism and patriarchy), and lured in white southerners (with
various codings of racism) and Catholics (hence their about face on
abortion), played up the military and guns everywhere. The idea was
to move Nixon's "silent majority" to their side by driving a wedge
between them and everyone else, who had no options other than to
become Democrats. The Democrats played along, collecting the votes
Republicans drove their way while offering little in return. Rather,
with unions losing power and businesses gaining, politicians like
the Clintons figured out how to triangulate between their base and
various moneyed interests (especially finance and high-tech).
Lakoff is right that Clinton's campaign often played into Trump's
hands. While some examples are new, that's been happening at least
since Bill Clinton ran first for president in 1992. Clinton adopted
so many Republican talking points -- on crime and welfare, on fiscal
balance, on deregulating banks and job-killing trade deals -- that
the Republicans had nowhere to go but even further right. For more
on Clinton and his legacy, see Thomas Frank's Listen, Liberal!
Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? The key point
is that Clinton almost never challenged the values Republicans tried
to put forth. Rather, he offered a more efficient (and slightly less
inhumane) implementation of them. Indeed, his administration oversaw
the largest spurt of growth in the wealth of the already rich. If
the rich still favored Republicans, that was only because the latter
promised them even more -- maybe not wealth, but more importantly
power. That Clinton left the rich unsatisfied was only part of the
problem his legacy would face. He also left his voters disillusioned,
and his post-presidency buckraking left him looking even more cynical
and corrupt, in ways that could never be spun or reframed.
So Hillary Clinton's own political career started with two big
problems. One was that she was viewed as a person whose credentials
were built on nepotism -- not on her own considerable competency,
except perhaps in marrying well -- and even when she seemed to be
in charge, he remained in her shadow. The second was that she
couldn't separate herself from the legacy of ashes -- the demise
of American manufacturing jobs, the concentration of wealth for
a global financial elite. Indeed, with her high-paid speeches to
Wall Street, she seemed not just blind but shameless. Her husband
had refashioned the Democratic Party into a personal political
machine, both by promoting personal cronies and by losing control
of Congress (a source of potential rivals), leaving her with a
substantial but very circumscribed fan base.
As for Hillary's campaign, as Lakoff says, the focus was
The Clinton campaign decided that the best way to defeat Trump was
to use his own words against him. So they showed these clips of Trump
saying outrageous things. Now what Trump was doing in those clips was
saying out loud things that upset liberals, and that's exactly what
his followers liked about him. So of course they were showing what
actually was helping Trump with his supporters.
Lakoff doesn't say this, but the lesson I draw was that Clinton's
big failure was in treating Trump as an anomalous, embarrassing
personal foe, rather than recognizing that the real threat of a
Trump administration would be all of the Republicans he would
bring into government. She thought that by underplaying partisan
differences she could detach some suburban "moderates" to break
party ranks, and that would make her margin. Her indifference
to her party (and ultimately to her base) followed the pattern
of her husband and Barack Obama, who both lost Democratic control
of Congress after two years, after which they were re-elected but
could never implement any supposed promises. You can even imagine
that they actually prefer divided power: not only does it provide
a ready excuse for their own inability to deliver on popular (as
opposed to donor-oriented) campaign promises, it makes them look
more heroic staving off the Republican assault (a threat which
Republicans have played to the hilt). When Harry Truman found
himself with a Republican Congress in 1946, he went out and waged
a fierce campaign against the "do-nothing Congress." That's one
thing you never saw Clinton or Obama do.
So, sure, you can nitpick Clinton's framing and phrasing all
over the place. A popular view in my household is that she lost
the election with her "deplorables" comment, but you can pick
out dozens of other self-inflicted nicks. I saw an interview
somewhere where a guy said that "everything she says sounds
like bullshit to me" where Trump "made sense." Maybe she could
have been coached into talking more effectively, but the subtext
here is that the guy distrusts her and (somehow) trusts Trump.
Lakoff is inclined to view Trump as some kind of genius (or at
least idiot savant) for this feat, but my own take is that
Hillary was simply extraordinarily tarnished goods. Democrats
have many problems, but not recognizing that is a big one.
Lakoff has a section on "how Trump's tweets look":
Trump's tweets have at least three functions. The first function is
what I call preemptive framing. Getting framing out there before
reporters can frame it differently. So for example, on the Russian
hacking, he tweeted that the evidence showed that it had no effect
on the election. Which is a lie, it didn't say that at all. But the
idea was to get it out there to 31 million people looking at his
tweets, legitimizing the elections: The Russian hacks didn't mean
anything. He does that a lot, constantly preempting.
The second use of tweets is diversion. When something important
is coming up, like the question of whether he is going to use a
blind trust, the conflicts of interest. So what does he do instead?
He attacks Meryl Streep. And then they talk about Meryl Streep for
a couple of days. That's a diversion.
The third one is that he sends out trial balloons. For example,
the stuff about nuclear weapons, he said we need to pay more
attention to nukes. If there's no big outcry and reaction, then he
can go on and do the rest. These are ways of disrupting the news
cycle, getting the real issues out of the news cycle and turning
it to his advantage.
Trump is very, very smart. Trump for 50 years has learned how
to use people's brains against them. That's what master salesmen do.
The three things may have some validity, but Lakoff lost me at
"very, very smart." Much empirical observation suggests that he's
actually very, very stupid. Indeed, much of the reason so many
people (especially in the media) follow him is that they sense
they're watching a train wreck. But also he gets away with shit
because he's rich and famous and (now) very powerful. But can you
really say tweets work for Trump? As I recall, his campaign shut
down his Twitter feed the week or two before the election, just
enough to cause a suspension in the daily embarrassments Trump
Lakoff goes on to talk about how advertisers use repetition
to drum ideas into brains, giving "Crooked Hillary" as an example.
Still, what made "Crooked Hillary" so effective wasn't how many
times Trump repeated it. The problem was how it dovetailed with
her speeches and foundation, about all the money she and her
husband had raked in from their so-called public service. It may
have been impossible for the Democrats to nominate an unassailable
candidate, but with her they made it awfully easy.
For a more detail exposition of Lakoff's thinking, see his
Understanding Trump. There is a fair amount to be learned here,
and some useful advice, but he keeps coming back to his guiding
"strict father" idea, and it's not clear where to go from there.
As someone who grew up under a strict (but not very smart or wise)
father, my instinct is to rebel, but I wouldn't want to generalize
that -- surely there are some fathers worthy of emulation, and I
wouldn't want to condemn such people to rule by the Reagans, Bushes,
and Trumps of this world. The fact is that I consider conservative
family values as desirable, both for individuals and for society.
On the other hand, such family life isn't guaranteed to work out,
nor is it all that common, and I've known lots of people who grew
up just fine without a "strict father." But more importantly, the
desired function of government isn't at all analogous to family.
This distinction seems increasingly lost these days -- indeed,
important concepts like public interest and countervailing power
(indeed, checks and balances) have lost currency -- but that's
in large part because the Democrats have followed the Republicans
in becoming whores of K-Street.
Still, I find what Lakoff and, especially, Luntz do more than
a little disturbing. They're saying that we can't understand a
thing in its own terms, but instead will waver with the choice
of wording. It's easy to understand the attraction of such clever
sophistry for Republicans, because they often have good reason
to cloak their schemes in misleading rhetoric. Any change they
want to make is a "reform." More underhanded schemes get more
camouflage -- the gold standard is still Bush's plan to expedite
the clearcutting of forests on public lands, aka the "Healthy
Forests Initiative." Similarly, efforts they dislike get labels
like Entitlement Programs or Death Taxes or Obamacare. And so much
the better when they get supposedly neutral or even opposition
sources to adopt their terminology, but at the very least they
make you work extra hard to reclaim the language.
Republicans need to do this because so much of their agenda
is contrary to the interests of many or most people. But I doubt
that the answer to this is to come up with your own peculiarly
slanted vocabulary. Better, I think, to debunk when they're
trying to con you, because they're always out to con you. Even
the "strict father" model of hierarchy is a con, originating
in the notion that the social order starts with the king on
top, with its extension to the family just an afterthought.
But they can't very well lead with the king, given that we
fought a foundational war to free ourselves from such tyranny.
Indeed, beyond the dubious case of "strict fathers" it's hard
to find any broad acceptance of social hierarchy in America --
something Democrats should give some thought to.
On the other hand, Democratic (or liberal) euphemisms and
slogans haven't fared all that well either, and to the extent
they obfuscate or distort they undermine our claims to base
our political discourse in the world of fact and logic. Aside
from "pro-choice" I can't think of many examples. (In contrast
to "right-to-life" it actually means something, but I believe
that a more important point is that entering into an extended
responsibility requires a conscious choice -- pregnancy doesn't,
but the free option of an abortion makes parenthood a deliberate
choice. But I also think that deciding to continue or abort a
pregnancy is a personal matter, not something the state should
involve itself in. So there are two reasons beyond the frivolous
air of "choice.")
There is, by the way, a growing body of literature on the low
regard reason is held in regarding political matters. One book I
have on my shelf (but somehow haven't gotten to) is Jonathan
Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by
Politics and Religion (2012); another is Drew Westen's
The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the
Fate of the Nation (2007). These books and similar research
provide hints for politicians to try to scam the system. They
also provide clues for honest citizens trying to foil them.
The big news story this week was Trump's firing of FBI Director
James Comey. This has forced me to revisit two positions I have
tended to hold in these pages. The first is that when people would
warn of some likely coup, I always assumed they meant that some
organization like the US military might step in to relieve Trump
of his power. This, pretty clearly, was not going to happen: (1)
the US military still has some scruples about things like this;
and (2) Trump is giving them everything they want anyway, so what
reason might they have to turn on him? Trump's firing of Comey
isn't a coup, because Trump was already in power. It was a purge,
and not his first one -- he fired all those US Attorneys, and
several other people who dared to question him. But those were
mostly regular political appointees, so to some extent they were
expected. As I understand it, the FBI Director enjoys the job
security of a ten-year term, so Trump broke some new ground in
firing Comey. It seems clear now that Trump will continue to
break new ground in purging the federal government of people he
disagrees with -- to an extent which may not be illegal but is
already beyond anything we have previously experienced.
Second, I tended to disagree with the many people who expected
Trump not to survive his 4-year term. I would express this in odds,
which were always somewhat a bit above zero. I still don't consider
a premature termination of some sort to be likely, but the odds have
jumped up significantly. I don't want to bother with plotting out
various angles here. Just suffice it to say that he's become a much
greater embarrassment in the past week. In particular, I don't see
how he can escape an independent prosecutor at this point. Sure,
he'll try to stall, like he has done with his tax returns, but I
think the Russia investigation will be much harder to dodge. Also,
I think he's dug a deeper hole for himself there. It seems most
likely that Comey would have done to him what he did to Hillary
Clinton: decide not to prosecute, but present a long list of
embarrassments Democrats could turn into talking points (after
all, he's a fair guy, and that would balance off his previous
errors). Hard to say whether an independent prosecutor would do
anything differently. Probably depends on whether he draws some
partisan equivalent of Kenneth Starr.
Meanwhile, some links on the purge:
Max Boot: Trump Keeps Acting Like He Has Something to Hide
Jonathan Chait: Trump Has Sparked the Biggest Political Crisis Since
Trump Is Trying to Control the FBI. It's Time to Freak Out.
Esme Cribb: UN Ambassador Defends Comey Firing: Trump Is 'CEO of the
Country': Nikki Haley, adding "He can hire and fire whoever he
wants." Actually, many of his hires must first be approved by the US
Senate. And most government employees are protected by civil service
laws. CEOs often have similar restrictions, but Haley seems to think
they possess enough absolute power for the president to envy, much
as CEOs often envy the power of absolute monarchs and dictators.
Tim Dickinson: The Totally Deserved but Deeply Troubling Firing of
Bridgette Dunlap: Trump's Surprise at Comey Firing Fallout Is a Scary
James Fallows: Five Reasons the Comey Affair Is Worse Than Watergate:
"The underlying offense"; "The blatancy of the interference"; "The nature
of the president"; "The resiliency of the fabric of American institutions";
and "The cravenness of party leaders."
Travis Gettys: Comey Furious Over Trump Team's Smear Campaign -- and
He's Prepared to Respond
Charles Krauthammer: A political ax murder: Not that he minds
("Comey had to go") but still "brutal even by Washington standards.
(Or even Roman standards. Where was the vein-opening knife and the
Michael Kruse: 'He Doesn't Give a Crap Who He Fires': "The only
people who aren't surprised by Trump's dismissal of James Comey are
the people who've watched his whole career."
Kathleen Parker: A theory: Trump fired Comey because he's taller:
Probably the most benign spin, but one that occurred to my wife,
so I figure it's worth mentioning.
David Rothkopf: Is America a Failing State?
The brazen firing of Comey is an escalation. If Trump is allowed to
get away with this and appoint a lackey as chief investigator into
his team's alleged wrongdoing, the world will see the United States
as a failing state, one that is turning its back on the core ideas
on which it was founded -- that no individual is above the law and
that those in the government, at every level including the president,
work for the people.
Michael S Schmidt: In a Private Dinner, Trump Demanded Loyalty. Comey
Bruce Shapiro: Comey's Firing Is Worse Than the Saturday Night
Andrew Sullivan: Trump Just Incriminated Himself
Jeffrey Toobin: Firing Comey Was a Grave Abuse of Power: "In
1974, Republicans put country before Party and told Nixon it was
time to go. Today's G.O.P. seems unlikely to live up to its
Laurence H Tribe: Trump must be impeached. Here's why. I wouldn't
normally bother with such an unlikely scenario, but consider the
source. For more on Tribe, see:
Dahlia Lithwick: How the President Obstructed Justice. In an
unrelated matter, Tribe had made some news recently:
Ryan Koronowski: One of the Nation's Most Respected Constitutional
Scholars Sells Out to Nation's Largest Coal Company.
By firing James Comey, Trump as put impeachment on the table.
Some scattered links this week in the Trumpiverse:
Robert L Borosage: Donald Trump Is Waging a War on Workers
Rosa Brooks: Donald Trump Is America's Experiment in Having No
Government: For example:
Meanwhile, President Trump froze most federal hiring, ensuring, for
the experiment's sake, that the executive branch is also short-staffed
at middle and lower levels. Similarly, Trump has asked Congress to slash
the budgets for most civilian agencies, in the hopes that those employees
who remain will be unable to fund any programs. He has moved quickly to
eliminate many of the regulations put into place by previous governments,
leaving private sector actors more free to pollute the environment and
fleece the general public. This week, President Trump announced his
intention to precipitously slash corporate taxes as well, in an apparent
effort to reduce federal revenues and thus further reduce the federal
government's ability to function.
Elisabeth Garber-Paul: Jeff Sessions Orders Harsher Sentences, Taking
US Policy Back to the 1980s
Peter Maass: Birth of a Radical: Profile of Steve Bannon protégé
Gareth Porter: Will Trump Agree to the Pentagon's Permanent War in
Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria?
Micah Schwartzman/Mark Joseph Stern: How Trump Will Transform the
Federal Courts: Republicans have been systematically nominating
younger judges, on the theory that they'll stay in power longer,
resulting through natural selection in a disproportionately conservative
bench. Trump's influence will also be furthered by McConnell keeping
open "more than 100 court vacancies" (double the number open when
Obama became president).
Steven W Thrasher: Trump voter fraud commission is a shameless white
power grab: Hard to think of anything America needs less than a
kangaroo court led by Mike Pence and Kris Kobach coming up with new
schemes to keep even more people from voting. Still, voter suppression
has already helped Republicans get elected, for instance in Wisconsin:
Ari Berman: Wisconsin's Voter-ID Law Suppressed 200,000 Votes in 2016
(Trump Won by 22,748); Berman also wrote:
Trump's Commission on 'Election Integrity' Will Lead to Massive Voter
James Traub: Donald Trump Is the President America Deserves: Author
normally covers politics in France, which after spurning Marine Le Pen
seems relatively sane and sensible.
Matthew Yglesias: The latest Trump interview once again reveals appalling
ignorance and dishonesty
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
Jessica Bonanno: Progressive Senators Are Going Big for Employee
Ownership of the Businesses They Work At: Specifically, Bernie
Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand. I'm a big fan of employee-owned
businesses: they promise to harmonize labor-management relations,
and they inherently incentivize workers to contribute as much as
possible. This strikes me as preferable even to unions, which give
workers more power and a fairer share of profits but work mostly
through adversarial conflict. Gar Alperovitz has written much
about this. Thomas Geoghegan has focused more on Germany's
co-determination system, which gives workers board seats but
not actual equity.
Ariel Dorfman: What Herman Melville Can Teach Us About the Trump Era:
"He would point out that what plagues us are the sins of the past coming
home to roost: America's tolerance of bigotry and blindness to its own
Tom Engelhardt: The Globalization of Misery. Also new at TomDispatch
Danny Sjursen: America's Wars and "More" Strategy; and
William Hartung: Ignoring the Costs of War. From the latter:
Even on the rare occasions when the costs of American war preparations
and war making are actually covered in the media, they never receive
the sort of attention that would be commensurate with their importance.
Last September, for example, the Costs of War Project at Brown University's
Watson Institute released a
paper demonstrating that, since 2001, the U.S. had racked up $4.79
trillion in current and future costs from its wars in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Pakistan, and Syria, as well as in the war at home being waged by the
Department of Homeland Security. . . .
On the dubious theory that more is always better when it comes to
Pentagon spending (even if that means less is worse elsewhere in
America), Trump is requesting a $54 billion increase in military
spending for 2018. No small sum, it's roughly equal to the entire
annual military budget of France, larger than the defense budgets
of the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan, and only $12 billion less
than the entire Russian military budget of 2015.
Henry Farrell: Cybercriminals have just mounted a massive worldwide
attack. Here's how NSA secrets helped them. Also:
Sam Biddle: Leaked NSA Malware Is Helping Hijack Computers Around
Richard Kreitner: 'Trump Is Just Tearing Off the Mask': An Interview
with Eric Foner: Who has a new book: Battles for Freedom: The
Use and Abuse of American History.
Nina Martin: The Last Person You'd Expect to Die in Childbirth:
"The US has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world,
and 60 percent are preventable."
Sophia A McClennen: The DNC's elephant in the room: Dems have a problem --
it's not Donald Trump: Some sobering numbers here:
Trump currently has a 45.1[*] percent favorability rating, one of the lowest
for any president in the history of polling. But Democrats fare worse.
The DNC has only a 38.8 percent favorability rating.
A January Gallup poll indicated that party identification is at record
lows, with 42 percent identifying as independents, 29 percent as Democrats,
and 26 percent as Republicans. A recent Washington Post poll showed that
the DNC trailed both Trump and the GOP when voters were asked if the party
was "in touch" with their concerns. In fact, only 28 percent of those
polled felt the party was connected with issues that matter to them. . . .
The elephant in the room for the DNC isn't Trump or the GOP or Bernie
bros or Russian hackers; it is its own elitist, corporatist, cronyist,
corrupt system that consistently refuses to listen to the will of the
people it hopes to represent. Thus far, though, DNC leadership has
refused to take these issues seriously. It's a strategy that smacks
of arrogance and hubris. And it's a politics that looks a lot more
like the GOP than a party invested in helping the little guy.
[*] Latest figure at 538 is 40.6% approve Trump, 53.4% disapprove.
Jacob Sugarman: The Financial Crisis That Spawned Austerity, Corporatized
the Democratic Party and Gave the World Donald Trump: Interview
with Kim Phillips-Fein, who has a new book about New York City's
default in 1975: Fear City: New York City's Fiscal Crisis and the
Rise of Austerity Politics.
Matt Taibbi: Free Lunch for Everyone: Review of Rutger Bregman's
book, Utopia for Realists, which "argues that money should be
free and a 15-hour work week sounds about right." Taibbi also wrote
The War in the White House, which prematurely cited April 5-7
as "the most crucial [period] in the history of America's last
president, Donald John Trump." Mostly about Steve Bannon, whose
power was curtailed during said period, yet a month later he's
started to look like the sane one. The fact that someone with
the imagination and flair of Taibbi can't write a piece on Trump
that doesn't seem hopelessly dated two weeks hence is possibly
the scariest statement you can make about the president.
Stephen M Walt: 'Mission Accomplished' Will Never Come in Afghanistan
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Trump fired James Comey as FBI Director yesterday. I was surprised,
inasmuch as I was under the impression that the staggered 4-year terms
for FBI Directors (his started in 2013, so would have ended later this
year anyway) protected his job from the customary housecleaning when
a new president takes office. Laura mentioned to me that Comey had
stood up to the Bush White House in 2004. I remembered that the Deputy
AG had, but didn't think that was Comey. I researched this a bit and
she was right. I wrote her with what I found:
Looks like you were right: Comey was Deputy AG from December 2003
to August 2005. In March 2004, as acting AG while Ashcroft was
hospitalized, he "refused to certify the legality of central aspects
of the NSA program." He appointed Patrick Fitzgerald as special
counsel to investigate the "Plame Affair" after Ashcroft recused
himself. In 2005 he "endorsed a memorandum approving the use of 13
enhanced interrogation techniques" by the CIA (although he later
claimed he opposed the techniques, not on legal but on policy
grounds). Obama appointed him to head FBI in September 2013. In
between, he was General Counsel and Senior VP for Lockheed Martin,
then General Counsel for Bridgewater Associates, then Senior Research
Scholar at Columbia Law School. He was registered Republican until
2016, when he changed registration to Independent. Before 2003, he was
US Attorney for Southern District of New York, where he investigated
the Bill Clinton pardon of Marc Rich, and successfully prosecuted
I did recall that Comey had a previous adversarial relationship
with the Clintons (some would say vendetta) dating back to the Rich
pardon. I was struck at the time by the lengths Comey went to in his
initial statement on the Email server matter to impugn and smear
Hillary Clinton, even though the point of his statement was to clear
her from possible prosecution. His later statement about re-opening
the investigation turned out to be the pivotal moment in the 2016
presidential election, damaging Clinton's campaign in ways that his
later clearance could not repair.
Monday, May 08, 2017
Music: Current count 28119  rated (+23), 399  unrated (+3).
Something I missed for yesterday's
Weekend Roundup, but two TPM stories gave me pause:
White House Blames Obama for Trump Hiring Flynn, and
Obama Warned Trump Not to Hire Flynn as National Security Adviser.
Seems typical that Trump would do the opposite of what Obama recommended
then blame Obama when he turned out to be right. This illustrates the
extraordinary extent to which Trump has based his own agenda on the
desire to reflexively undo everything Obama has done over the past
eight years -- to effectively erase the Obama administration from
American history. Moreover, this contrasts sharply with Obama's own
considered efforts to maintain continuity when he replaced GW Bush,
despite the latter's dreadful legacy of failure.
I've long felt that Obama's emphasis on continuity was terrible
political strategy -- he gave up the option of continuing to blame
the lingering problems he inherited (like the Great Recession and
the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq) on the person/party
responsible for them, he made it possible for Americans to forget
and forgive. The astonishing result was that two years later the
Republicans could surge back as the party of resentment against
America's corrupt elites. I've long felt that Obama cut not just
his own but his party's throat because he bought so deeply into
the myths of American Exceptionalism, and that compelled him to
rationalize and defend his country even when it had gone wrong.
Trump, clearly, has no such scruples or ideals, so it's hardly
surprising that his reflexive contempt of Obama so often strikes
against Obama's idealized America. One might expect his blind
contempt to backfire more often than it has, but unfortunately
the Democrats are still more inclined to defend their cherished
myths -- e.g., Hillary's "America's always been great" -- than
to recognize real problems, identify their causes, and propose
I'd also like to add that in thinking about the French elections
I posted a tweet, which I'll expand a bit here to get past the 140
One difference between elections in France and US is that French
media never let you forget Le Pen is a fascist, while US media never
notices our native fascism.
My point is that an honest recollection of what Republicans have
done and tried to do since Reagan would have shown them to be as
dastardly and disreputable as the Vichy-rooted National Front. But
the media insists on treating Republicans -- even ones as vile as
Trump, Cruz, and Ryan -- as respectable Americans, even though that
requires massive amnesia. I'm reminded once again of Tom Carson's
metaphor of America (embodied in the quintessentially all-American
Mary Ann) as a perpetual virgin, regrowing her hymen after every
act of intercourse. Unfortunately, the only people still suckered
by this myth of American purity are elite Democrats, and their
disconnection from reality is killing their party and sacrificing
Not much to say about music this week. Rated count is down,
probably just because I've been slow, though I can point to
repairing a fence as a distraction, and I took a couple breaks
to make nice dinners-for-two (since our social entertaining
seems to have withered to nothing). I did find a good record
from Buffalo (one of my favorite towns) --
or perhaps I should say it found me. Among the
high B+ list (all jazz) the pecking order is probably: Fiedler,
Oh, Dickey, Durkin. Three of those came from Napster, as did
four jazz records from the next tier down (Preservation Hall,
Watson, the two Parker duos). Still have a couple dozen CDs in
the mail queue, but lately they haven't been amounting to much.
Still, this week's unpacking looks relatively promising.
Expert Witness last week featured several rap records:
Kendrick Lamar's Damn (an A- here last week), two
each by Migos and Future (haven't heard yet). He also publisher
two pieces last week:
Who the Fuck Knows: Covering Music in Drumpfjahr II (something he did
for the EMP Conference), and
Rob Sheffield Explores How the Beatles Live on Inside Our Heads.
There's also an interview Tom Slater did with him at
Modest progress collecting the Jazz Guide reviews: currently at
635 + 436 pages, through Eliane Elias in the
Jazz '80s file (27%).
New records rated this week:
- Buffalo Jazz Octet: Live at Pausa Art House (2016 , Cadence Jazz): [cd]: A-
- Whit Dickey/Mat Maneri/Matthew Shipp: Vessel in Orbit (2017, AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(***)
- Andrew Durkin: Breath of Fire (2016, PJCE): [r]: B+(***)
- Feist: Pleasure (2017, Interscope): [r]: B
- Joe Fiedler: Like, Strange (2017, Multiphonics Music): [r]: B+(***)
- David Gilmore: Transitions (2016 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(*)
- Pasquale Grasso/Renaud Penant/Ari Roland: In the Mood for a Classic (2014 , ITI Music): [r]: B+(**)
- Larry Ham/Woody Witt: Presence (2016 , Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
- Tristan Honsinger/Antonio Borghini/Tobias Delius/Axel Dörner: Hook, Line and Sinker (De Platenbakakkerij): [dvd]: B+(*)
- Keith Karns Big Band: An Eye on the Future (2015 , Summit): [cd]: C+
- Oliver Lake Featuring Flux Quartet: Right Up On (2016 , Passin' Thru): [r]: B
- Gregory Lewis: Organ Monk: The Breathe Suite (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Willie Nelson: God's Problem Child (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
- Linda May Han Oh: Walk Against Wind (2016 , Biophilia): [cd]: B+(***)
- William Parker & Stefano Scodanibbio Duo: Bass Duo (2008 , Centering): [r]: B+(**)
- Sarah Partridge: Bright Lights & Promises: Redefining Janis Ian (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band: So It Is (2017, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
- Chuck Prophet: Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins (2017, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(*)
- Günter Baby Sommer: Le Piccole Cose: Live at Theater Gütersloh (2016 , Intuition): [r]: B+(*)
- Torben Waldorff: Holiday on Fire (2016 , ArtistShare): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bobby Watson: Made in America (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
- Alex Wintz: Life Cycle (2016 , Culture Shock Music): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Joëlle Léandre & William Parker: Live at Dunois (2009, Leo): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Gonçalo Almeida/Rodrigo Amado/Marco Franco: The Attic (NoBusiness)
- Anemone [Peter Evans/John Butcher/Frederic Blondy/Clayton Thomas/Paul Lovens]: A Wing Dissolved in Light (NoBusiness): cdr
- Joseph Bowie/Oliver Lake: Live at 'A SPACE' 1976 (Delmark/Sackville)
- Fred Frith/Hans Koch: You Are Here (Intakt)
- B.J. Jansen: Common Ground (Ronin Jazz): June 23
- Mat Maneri/Evan Parker/Lucian Ban: Sounding Tears (Clean Feed): advance, May 26
- John McLean/Clark Sommers Band: Parts Unknown (Origin): May 19
- Itaru Oki/Nobuyoshi Ino/Choi Sun Bae: Kami Fusen (NoBusiness): cdr
- Mason Razavi: Quartet Plus, Volume 2 (OA2): May 19
- Tom Rizzo: Day and Night (Origin): May 19
- Paul Rutherford/Sabu Toyozumi: The Conscience (1999, NoBusiness)
- Joris Teepe & Don Braden: Conversations (Creative Perspective Music): May 30
- Klaus Treuheit/Lou Grassi: Port of Call (NoBusiness): cdr
- Paul Tynan & Aaron Lington Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Five (OA2): May 19
- Jürg Wickihalder/Barry Guy/Lucas Niggli: Beyond (Intakt)
Sunday, May 07, 2017
I originally planned on writing a little introduction here, on how
bummed I've become, partly because I'm taking the House passage of
Zombie Trumpcare hard -- my wife likes to badmouth the ACA but it
afforded me insurance for two years between when she retired and I
became eligible for Medicare, and it's done good for millions of
other people, reversing some horrible (but evidently now forgotten)
trends -- and partly because the 100 days was just a dry run for
still worse things to come. But I wound up writing some of what I
wanted to say in the Savan comment below.
One thing that's striking about the Trumpcare reactions is how
morally outraged the commentators are ("one of the cruelest things,"
"war on sick people," "moral depravity," "sociopathic," "hate poor
and sick people," "homicidal healthcare bill"). If you want more
details, follow the Yglesias links: he does a good job of explaining
how the bill works. It's also noteworthy how hollow and facetious
pretty much everything the bill's supporters say in defense of it
is. I've offered a few examples, but could easily round up more.
I've added a link on Democrats-still-against-single-player (a group
which includes Nancy Pelosi and Jon Ossoff, names mentioned below).
Let me try to be more succinct here: single-payer is the political
position we want to stake out, because it's both fairly optimal and
simple and intuitive. If you can't get that, fine, compromise with
something like ACA plus a "public option" -- an honest public option
will eventually wind up eating the private insurance companies and
get you to single-payer. But you don't lead with a hack compromise
that won't get you what you want or even work very well, because
then you'll wind up compromising for something even worse. We should
remember that Obama thought he had a slam dunk with ACA: he lined up
all of the business groups behind his plan, and figured they'd bring
the Republicans along because, you know, if Republicans are anything
they're toadies for business interests. It didn't work because the
only thing Republicans like more than money is power. (They're so
into power they were willing to tank the economy for 4 or 8 years
just to make Obama look bad. They're so into power they held ranks
behind Trump even though most of the elites, at least, realized he
was a hopeless buffoon.)
On the other hand, the shoe is clearly on the other foot now: it's
the Republicans who are fucking with your health care, and they're
doing things that will shrink insurance rolls by millions, that will
raise prices and weaken coverage, that will promote fraud and leave
ever more people bankrupt. Those are things that will get under the
skin of voters, and Republicans have no answer, let alone story. The
other big issue noted below is the environment. The EPA is moving
fast and hard on policies that will severely hurt people and that
will prove to be very unpopular -- maybe not overnight, but we'll
start seeing big stories by the 2018 elections, even more by 2020,
and air and water pollution is not something that only happens to
I didn't include anything on how these changes have already affected
projections for 2018 elections, because at this point that would be
sheer speculation. To my mind, the biggest uncertainty there isn't
how much damage the Republicans will do (or how manifest it will be)
but whether Democrats will develop into a coherent alternative. That's
still up for grabs, but I'll see hope in anything that helps bury the
generation of party leaders who were so complicit in the destruction
of the middle class and in the advance of finance capital. To that
end, Obama's $400,000 Wall Street speech clearly aligns him with the
problems and not with the solutions.
[PS: This section on the French election was written on Saturday,
before the results came in. With 98% reporting, Emmanuel Macron won,
65.8% to 34.2% for Marine Le Pen.
TPM's post-election piece included a line about how the election
"dashed [Le Pen's] hopes that the populist wave which swept Donald
Trump into the White House would also carry her to France's presidential
Elysee Palace." I don't see how anyone can describe Trump's election
as a "populist wave" given that the candidate wasn't a populist in
any sense of the word -- not that Le Pen is either. Both are simple
right-wingers, who advance incoherent and mean-spirited programs by
couching them in traditional bigotries. While it's probable that the
center in France is well to the left of the center in the US, a more
important difference is that Trump could build his candidacy on top
of the still-respected (at least by the mainstream media) Republican
Party whereas Le Pen's roots trace back to the still-discredited
Vichy regime. But it also must have helped that Macron had no real
history, especially compared to the familiar and widely-despised
Hillary Clinton. (Just saw a tweet with a quote from Macron: "The
election was rly not that hard I mean . . . how despised do you have
to be to get beaten by a fascist am I right?" The tweet paired the
quote with a picture of Hillary.)
[More reaction later, but for now I have to single out
Anne Applebaum: Emmanuel Macron's extraordinary political achievement,
especially for one line I'm glad I never considered writing: "Not since
Napoleon has anybody leapt to the top of French public life with such
speed." She goes on to explain: "Not since World War II has anybody won
the French presidency without a political party and a parliamentary base.
Aside from some belated endorsements, he had little real support from
the French establishment, few of whose members rated the chances of a
man from an unfashionable town when he launched his candidacy last
year." She makes him sound like Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the
president in the TV series Designated Survivor -- which despite
much centrist corniness is a pleasing escape from our actual president.]
France goes to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president. The
"outsider" centrist Emmanuel Macron is favored over neo-fascist
Marine Le Pen -- the latter frequently described as "populist" in
part because Macron, a banker and current finance minister, is as
firmly lodged in France's elites as Michael Bloomberg is here. The
polls favor Macron by a landslide, less due to the popularity of
the status quo than to the odiousness of Le Pen. One interesting
sidelight is how foreigners have weighed in on the election -- one
wonders whether the French are as touchy as Americans about outside
interference. For instance, Barack Obama endorsed Macron --
Yasmeen Serhan: Obama's Endorsement of Macron -- as did, perhaps
more importantly, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis --
Daniel Marans: Top European Economist Makes the Left-Wing Case for
Emmanuel Macron, or in Varoufakis' own words,
The Left Must Vote for Macron. On the other hand, Le Pen's foreign
supporters include Donald Trump --
Aidan Quigley: Trump expresses support for French candidate Le Pen --
and Vladimir Putin --
Anna Nemtsova/Christopher Dickey: Russia's Putin Picks Le Pen to Rule
France. And while
Putin tells Le Pen Russia has no plans to meddle in French election,
on the eve of the election the Macron campaign was rocked by a hacked
email scandal: see,
James McAuley: France starts probing 'massive' hack of emails and documents
reported by Macron campaign, and more pointedly,
Mark Scott: US Far-Right Activists Promote Hacking Attack Against
Macron. [PS: For a debunking of the "leaks," see
Robert Mackey: There Are No "Macron Leaks" in France. Politically
Motivated Hacking Is Not Whistleblowing. Evidently a good deal
of this isn't even hacking -- just forgery meant to disinform.]
One likely reason for Putin to support Le Pen is the latter's
promise to withdraw France from NATO. The interest of Trump and US
far-right activists is harder to fathom -- after all, even fellow
fascists have conflicting nationalist agendas, and nationalist
bigots ultimately hate each other too much to develop any real
solidarity, even where they share many prejudices. For instance,
why should Trump applaud Brexit and further damage to European
unity? Surely it can't be because he gives one whit about anyone
John Nichols argues that Obama's endorsement of Macron
Is an Effort to Stop the Spread of Trumpism, but while right-wing
nationalist movements have been gaining ground around much of the world,
it's hard to see anything coherent enough to be called Trumpism, much
less a wave that has to be stopped anywhere but here. Obama may have
good reasons for publicizing his endorsement, and may even have enough
of a following in France to make his endorsement worth something, but
given his recent buckraking it could just as well be meant to solidify
his position among the Davos set. Besides, I haven't forgotten his
proclamation that "Assad must go" -- his assumption of America's right
to dictate the political choices of others, which had the effect of
tying America's diplomatic hands and prolonging Syria's civil war.
At this stage I'm not sure I even want to hear his position on any
American political contest -- least of all one having to do with
leadership of the major political party he and the Clintons ran into
Big news this week is that the Republicans passed their "health
care reform" bill -- most recently dubbed "Zombie Trumpcare 3.0" --
in the House. They had failed a while back because they couldn't
get enough votes from the so-called Freedom Caucus, but solved that
problem by making the bill even worse than it was. Some links:
Jamelle Bouie: The GOP's Passage of Trumpcare Is One of the Cruelest
Things the Party Has Ever Done:
[PS: Top Comment: "Time to face the truth. The wealthy in this country
are parasites. 99% of the wealth, 90% of all new wealth and they need
to take more from those with nothing."]
Michael Corcoran: The GOP Declares War on Sick People: The Moral Depravity
of Trumpcare's Passage
Chauncey DeVega: The Republican Party Is Sociopathic: If You Didn't
Know That Already, the Health Care Bill Should Make It Clear; also
by same author:
The 'Pro-Life' Party Has Become the Party of Death: New Research
on Why Republicans Hate Poor and Sick People.
Adam Gaffney: Donald Trump's homicidal healthcare bill will kill some,
and enrich others
Travis Gettys: You're Not Safe From Republicans' Obamacare Replacement
if You Get Your Insurance Through Work: Key thing here is that the
ACA established some minimal standards for all health insurance plans,
and the Trumpcare bill weakens those standards, so in more cases the
insurance you thought you had will prove worthless.
Kelly Hayes: The ACA Repeal: Our Lives Are at Stake, So Now What?
Michael Hayne: If Trumpcare Ends Up Happening, Up to 7 Million Veterans
Could See Their Health Care Ruined
Sarah Kiff: Tom Price says Americans will "absolutely not" lose Medicaid
under GOP plan. That's not true.
Daniel Politi: Republican Congressman: "Nobody Dies Because They Don't
Have Access to Health Care": I reckon I could find dozens of
articles about inane comments from pro-Trumpcare Republicans.
Aaron Rupar: HHS Secretary Price argues people with pre-existing
conditions should pay more; also
Fox News host says health care for people with pre-existing conditions
is a 'luxury'. Things like this make you wonder how dumb people
can be if they think their political identity demands it. The fact is
that everyone has a "pre-existing condition" sooner or later. In the
old days, you could sometimes maintain insurance coverage by continuity --
by sticking with a job and its insurance plan if it didn't weed you out
at the start, but now it's even harder to keep lifetime jobs. I also
knew some people who were able to get community-rated individual plans,
and maintained their continuity through hell and high water, because
they would never be able to switch to another insurance program. The
ACA helped fix those problems, and thereby helped make sure that health
insurance would actually insure you when you needed it. Anyone who
wants to go back to a system which encourages insurance companies to
drop anyone they think might cost them is simply crazy -- especially
given that the pre-ACA system allowed costs to skyrocket way beyond
virtually anyone's ability to pay as you go.
Jon Schwarz: Paul Ryan's Spokesperson Can't Be Bothered Coordinating
Her Lies About Trumpcare With the White House's Lies
Matthew Yglesias: AHCA is a betrayal of all the GOP's promises on health
Matthew Yglesias: Republicans' health bill takes $600 billion out of
health care to cut taxes for the rich;
How Paul Ryan gained moderate votes for AHCA by making it more extreme;
AHCA: Donald Trump celebrated Obamacare repeal by lying about what the
Joel Dodge: The Case Against Single-Payer: Meant more to be a
case for some sort of "public option," which as I recall was mostly
opposed because it was viewed as a stalking horse for single-payer,
especially out of the fear that a "public option" would turn out to
be so popular private insurance wouldn't be able to compete. Still,
it's hard at this point to see the political advantage of pushing
"public option" over single-payer. The latter is intrinsically more
efficient in that it eliminates the overheads of marketing and the
need to generate profits, as well as fracturing the insurance pool.
That leaves lots of issues figuring out what is/isn't covered and
how much providers are paid -- things that market competition can
help with, but everywhere else single-payer systems have managed
to do more/less satisfactorily. Dodge cites Georgia Democrat Jon
Ossoff as rejecting single-payer in favor of "incremental progress
based upon the body of law on the books" -- something I have no
problem with, but I don't see that sort of tinkering-with-ACA as
making the necessary political impact. Single-payer gets the core
idea of equal coverage as a right across. If anything, it doesn't
go far enough. Why not start building public-interest health care
providers, and see how well the private sector competes with
Some scattered links this week directly tied to Trump:
Coral Davenport: EPA Dismisses Members of Major Scientific Review
The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members
of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics
call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency's
regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.
A spokesman for the E.P.A. administrator, Scott Pruitt, said he would
consider replacing the academic scientists with representatives from
industries whose pollution the agency is supposed to regulate, as part
of the wide net it plans to cast. "The administrator believes we should
have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on
the regulated community," said the spokesman, J. P. Freire.
The dismissals on Friday came about six weeks after the House passed
a bill aimed at changing the composition of another E.P.A. scientific
review board to include more representation from the corporate world.
President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A.,
pushing for deep cuts in its budget -- including a 40 percent reduction
for its main scientific branch -- and instructing him to roll back major
Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. In
recent weeks, the agency has removed some scientific data on climate
change from its websites, and Mr. Pruitt has publicly questioned the
established science of human-caused climate change.
Justin Elliott/Derek Kravitz/Al Shaw: Meet the Hundreds of Officials
Trump Has Quietly Installed Across the Government; follow ups:
Derek Kravitz: Remember Those Temporary Officials Trump Quietly
Installed? Some Are Now Permanent Employees;
Ariana Tobin/Derek Kravitz/Al Shaw: You Helped Us Find Hires the White
House Never Announced, Including a Koch Brothers Alum.
Keith Ellison: The Great Recession hurt millions. Now, Republicans
want to risk a repeat: They call this the Financial Choice Act,
because it will vastly increase the range of options bankers enjoy
to screw you, especially by killing the Consumer Financial Protection
Bureau, the agency created after the 2008 meltdown to protect against
fraud. Also see:
Jill Abramson: Dismantling Dodd-Frank: Donald Trump's Valentine's gift
to Wall Street.
Michelle Goldberg: Ivanka Trump's Book Celebrates the Unlimited
Possibilities Open to Women With Full-Time Help
Bruce Goldstein: How Trump's Skewed View of Rural America and Agriculture
Threatens the Welfare of Farmworkers
Gabrielle Gurley: Trump's Disastrous Decision to Ruin America's Prize
Dahlia Lithwick/Elliot Mincberg: Trump's religious liberty executive
order reads like it was lawyered to death.
Josh Marshall: Why They're So Scared About Mike Flynn: Reaction
to two new stories deepening the mess Flynn created and left behind --
not something I'm terribly interested in because ever since Michael
Hastings' Rolling Stone article on McChrystall it's been clear
to me that Flynn was an erratic and unscrupulous hustler no one should
ever trust. (Many think Obama fired McChrystall for insubordination,
but it was Flynn who actually said the nastiest shit about Obama, as
he continued to do even after Obama appointed him DIA head -- one of
Obama's all-time worst appointments, by the way.) After leaving the
military, Flynn only became unreliable, pimping himself to foreign
governments while ingratiating himself to the Trump campaign. What
he actually accomplished with all his double-dealing isn't clear, or
even that interesting, to me, but I'm sure there are cautionary tales
to be learnt here. (For one, that luck in wartime allows officers
wholly unsuited for command to rise far beyond their competency --
a famous, albeit far-removed, case might be George Armstrong Custer.)
Trump's attraction to Flynn may have been because they shared common
paranoias, but Flynn's interest in Trump was probably just that he
was an easy mark. I suppose we're lucky that the pair of them didn't
do more damage than they did, but we're not exactly out of the woods
Ashley Parker/John Wagner: Kushner has a singular and almost untouchable
role in Trump's White House: And I thought nepotism was bad under
the Bushes. Also, note how the family is making out:
Emily Rauhala/William Wan: In a Beijing ballroom, Kushner family pushes
$500,000 'investor visa' to wealthy Chinese
Nomi Prins: The Empire Expands: Not the America One, but Trump's:
Just a taste:
The ways that Jared, "senior adviser to the president," and Ivanka,
"assistant to the president," have already benefited from their links
to "Dad" in the first 100 days of his presidency stagger the imagination.
Ivanka's company, for instance, won three new trademarks for its products
from China on the very day she dined with President Xi Jinping at her
father's Palm Beach club.
In a similar fashion, thanks to her chance to socialize with Japanese
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, her company could be better positioned for
deal negotiations in his country. One of those perks of family power
includes nearing a licensing agreement with Japanese apparel giant Sanei
International, whose parent company's largest stakeholder is the
Development Bank of Japan -- an entity owned by the Japanese government.
We are supposed to buy the notion that the concurrent private viewing of
Ivanka's products in Tokyo was a coincidence of the scheduling fairy.
Yet since her father became president, you won't be surprised to learn
that global sales of her merchandise have more or less gone through the
Corey Robin: Think Trump is an authoritarian? Look at his actions,
not his words: I pretty much agree with Robin here -- as "strong
leaders" go Trump has such a weak grasp of the mechanics of power
that he tends to be ineffective regardless of his malign desires --
especially compared to the views of someone like Timothy Snyder (see
"It's pretty much inevitable" that Trump will try to stage a coup and
overthrow democracy). Still, I don't take much comfort in his
ineptitude -- he still has enough power and enough willing actors
(including the sort ready to take their own initiative) to do a lot
Leslie Savan: A Hundred Days of Trump Denial: Unlike Savan, I
never expected Trump to somehow step down or go away let alone be
impeached or (as the 25th amendment seems to allow) be declared
incompetent. In fact, I'm not even sure he's a greater embarrassment
than Ronald Reagan was, although this time many more people can see
through his act, and his supporting cast is far more craven (not
that Reagan's didn't want to be, they just hadn't yet lost all sense
of shame). The fact is that Trump, like Reagan and the Bushes, will
wind up doing a great deal of damage to the country. It just won't
happen overnight or over 100 days. It will incrementally seep into
the system, like water and wind tearing apart mountains, and when
it does, it will be so thorough people line Clinton and Obama won't
be able to repair it -- although perhaps others, with more insight
and more fortitude, might do better at finding ways to rebuild on
the tattered landscape.
Lucy Steigerwald: Justice for No One Except Jeff Sessions; also:
Marjorie Cohn: Jeff Sessions' Department of Injustice. Sessions
probably has the highest profile of any Trump appointee, particularly
given how arbitrarily he can change enforcement priorities. Still,
there is likely to be a lag between when he decides to do something
and when it really changes situations.
Steven W Thrasher: The war on drugs is racist. Donald Trump is embracing
it with open arms
Douglas Williams: Trump's civil war comments master the Republican
art of downplaying slavery
Also a few links less directly tied to Trump, though sometimes still
to America's bout of political insanity:
David Atkins: The Argument Over Why Clinton Lost Is Over. Bernie Was
Right. Now What?
It has been a long, knock-down drag-out battle, but the ugly intramural
conflict over why Clinton lost to Trump is finally over. New polls and
focus groups conducted by Clinton's own SuperPAC Priorities USA shows
that while racism and sexism had some effect, the main driver of Trump's
victory was economic anxiety, after all. The data showed that voters who
switched from Obama to Trump had seen their standards of living decline
and felt that the Democratic Party had become the party of the wealthy
and unconcerned about their plight. . . .
fThose who try to win elections for a living also aren't looking
forward to fighting the full power of the financial and pharmaceutical
interests in addition to the regular armada of right-wing corporate
groups. It would be much easier for electoral strategists if Democrats
could unlock a majoritarian liberal bloc with a "rising tide lifts all
boats" ideology that doesn't greatly inconvenience the urban donor class.
Consultants aren't exactly looking forward to trying to win elections
against interest groups angered by arguing for renegotiating NAFTA,
punishing corporations for sending jobs overseas, raising the capital
gains tax rate, and cutting health insurance companies out of the broad
American marketplace. But that's exactly what they're going to have to
do if want to win not only the presidency, but the congressional seats
and legislatures dominated by increasingly angry suburban and rural
voters. Not to mention angry young millennials of all identities who
have essentially been locked out of the modern economy by low wages
combined with outrageous cost of living, especially in the housing
market that has uncoincidentally been such a major investment boon
for their lucky parents, grandparents, and the financial industry.
Patrick Cockburn: Fall of Raqqa and Mosul Will Not Spell the End for
Isis: One should recall, first of all, that Raqqa and Mosul weren't
conquered by Isis so much as abandoned by hostile but ineffective central
governments in Damascus and Baghdad. Before, pre-Isis was just another
salafist guerrilla movement, as it will remain once its pretensions to
statehood have been removed. And the Iraqi government is no more likely
to be respected and effective in Mosul than it was before. (I have no
idea about what happens to Raqqa if Isis falls there -- presumably not
Assad, at least not right away.)
Richard Eskow: Who's Behind the Billionaire PAC Targeting Elizabeth
Warren? Well, not just Warren. They're looking to muddy the waters
for any Democratic candidate conceivable in 2020. The group is America
America Rising was formed in 2013 by Matt Rhoades, the director of Mitt
Romney's failed 2012 presidential campaign, and it represents the worst
of what our current political system offers. Its goal is not to debate
the issues or offer solutions to the nation's problems. Instead, the PAC
gets cash from big-money donors and spends it trying to tear down its
The Republican National Committee's "autopsy" of its 2012 presidential
loss reportedly concluded that the party needed an organization that
would "do nothing but post inappropriate Democratic utterances and act
as a clearinghouse for information on Democrats."
Mehdi Hasan: Why Do North Koreans Hate Us? One Reason -- They Remember
the Korean War. Bigger problem: they don't remember it ending,
because for them it never really did: they're still stuck with the
sanctions, the isolation, the mobilization and felt need for constant
vigilance. One might argue that the regime has used these strictures
to solidify its own rule -- that in some sense they're more satisfied
with a continuing state of crisis than anything we'd consider normalcy,
but we've never really given them that option. America's failure to
win the Korean War was an embarrassment, and no one since then has
had the political courage to admit failure and move on. Hence, we're
stuck in this cycle of periodic crises.
Terror Is in the Eye of the Beholder, John Dower wrote a bit
about Korea, after noting how the US dropped 2.7 million tons of
bombs in Europe and 656,400 tons in the Pacific:
The official history of the air war in Korea (The United States Air
Force in Korea 1950-1953) records that U.S.-led United Nations air
forces flew more than one million sorties and, all told, delivered
a total of 698,000 tons of ordnance against the enemy. In his 1965
memoir Mission with LeMay, General Curtis LeMay, who directed the
strategic bombing of both Japan and Korea, offered this observation:
"We burned down just about every city in North and South Korea both . . .
We killed off over a million civilian Koreans and drove several million
more from their homes, with the inevitable additional tragedies bound
Other sources place the estimated number of civilian Korean War dead
as high as three million, or possibly even more. Dean Rusk, a supporter
of the war who later served as secretary of state, recalled that the
United States bombed "everything that moved in North Korea, every brick
standing on top of another."
Americans killed in the Korean War totaled 33,739, a little more
than 1% of the number of Koreans killed, so sure, we remember the war
a bit less ominously. Dower's new book is The Violent American
Century: War and Terror Since World War Two.
Michael Howard: Let's Call Western Media Coverage of Syria by its Real
Name: Propaganda: Starts off with two paragraphs on Ukraine -- same
story. The bottom line is that all parties work hard to control how news
is reported, and the country is too dangerous for journalists not aligned
with some special interest to search out or verify stories. Howard also
Stephen Kinzer: The media are misleading the public on Syria, who
Reporting from the ground is often overwhelmed by the Washington consensus.
Washington-based reporters tell us that one potent force in Syria, al-Nusra,
is made up of "rebels" or "moderates," not that it is the local al-Qaeda
franchise. Saudi Arabia is portrayed as aiding freedom fighters when in
fact it is a prime sponsor of ISIS. Turkey has for years been running a
"rat line" for foreign fighters wanting to join terror groups in Syria,
but because the United States wants to stay on Turkey's good side, we hear
little about it. Nor are we often reminded that although we want to support
the secular and battle-hardened Kurds, Turkey wants to kill them. Everything
Russia and Iran do in Syria is described as negative and destabilizing,
simply because it is they who are doing it -- and because that is the
official line in Washington.
Mark Karlin: Government Has Allowed Corporations to Be More Powerful
Than the State: An interview with Antony Loewenstein, author of
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, so it
focuses on corporations profiting from disasters around the world.
That's interesting and revealing, but I would have taken the title
in a different direction. What I've found is that we've allowed
corporations so much control over their workers that a great many
people are effectively living under totalitarian rule, at least
until they quit their jobs (and in some cases beyond -- I, for
instance, was forced to sign a no-compete agreement that extended
for years beyond my employment). And that sort of thing has only
gotten worse since I retired.
Jonathan Ohr: 100 senators throw their bodies down to end UN 'bias'
against Israel: including Bernie Sanders, although his line about
not writing the letter (just signing on) was kind of funny.
Nate Silver: The Comey Letter Probably Cost Clinton the Election:
FBI czar James Comey spent a couple days last week testifying before
Congress on his strategic decision to announce, on October 28 before
the November 8 election, that the FBI was investigating a fresh batch
of Hillary Clinton's emails, reopening a case that had been closed
several months before. As Silver notes, "the Comey letter almost
immediately sank Clinton's polls," starting a spiral that cost her
a polling lead she had held all year long. There are, of course,
lots of factors which contributed to her loss, but this is one of
the few that can be singled out, precisely because the "what if"
alternative was itself so clear cut -- Comey could simply have held
back (which would have been standard FBI policy) and nothing would
have happened. Many people have made this same point, not least the
candidate herself, but Silver backs it up with impressive data and
reasoning. He recognizes that the swing was small, and shows how
even a small swing would have tilted the election. He also makes
a case that somewhat larger swing (what he calls "Big Comey") was
likely. The way I would put this is: Clinton has been dogged by
scandals constantly since her husband became president in 1993 --
the first big one was "Whitewater" and there had been a steady
drumbeat of them all the way through Benghazi! and the emails and
speaking fees and Clinton Foundation. Clinton had somehow managed
to put those behind her by the Democratic Convention, when she
opened up her largest polling lead ever (although, something I
found troubling at the time, she never seemed able to crack 50% --
her 10-12% leads were more often the result of Trump cratering).
What the Comey letter did was to bring all the fury and annoyance
of her past scandals back into the present. Trump's final ad hit
that very point: maybe we have lots of difficult problems, but
voters had one clear option, which was to get rid of Clinton and
all the scandals, both past and future. And that was the emotional
gut reaction that swung the election -- even though a moment's
sober reflection would have realized that Trump is far worse in
every negative respect than Clinton.
Silver points his piece toward a critique of the media, which
consistently played up Clinton scandals while laughing off Trump's,
and I think more importantly made no effort to critique let alone
to delegitimize the right-wing propaganda machine. Still, he
doesn't really get there. For more on this, see:
Richard Wolfe: James Comey feels nauseous about the Clinton emails?
That's not enough
John Stoehr: Nancy Pelosi Is the Most Effective Member of the
Resistance: News to me. One thing I do know is that Republicans
still get a lot of mileage out of slamming Pelosi and smearing
anyone remotely connected to her. I can see where that's unfair
and even horrifying, but writing a puff piece about her doesn't
help. Moreover, it's not as if she's all that dependable. When
Trump launched all those cruise missiles at a Syrian base, she
jumped up and applauded. And she's as blind a devotee of Israel
as anyone in Congress. Maybe she does have a keen sensitivity to
injustice, but it's never interfered with her realpolitik.
Less impressed with Pelosi is
Klaus Marre: Dems Have Difficult Time Capitalizing on Trump Presidency
of Blunders; also:
Sam Knight: Pelosi Refuses to Back Single Payer, Despite GOP Deathmongering
Suddenly Taking Center Stage.
Steve W Thrasher: Barack Obama's $400,000 speaking fees reveal what
few want to admit: "His mission was never racial or economic
justice. It's time we stop pretending it was." It does, however,
suggest that his real mission -- what many people take to be the
real meaning of the phrase "American dream" -- is not just to be
accepted and respected by the very rich, but to join them. As the
Clintons have shown, one way to become rich in America is to get
yourself elected president. And as has been pretty convincingly
demonstrated, anything the Clintons can do, Obama can do much
Monday, May 01, 2017
Music: Current count 28096  rated (+32), 396  unrated (-1).
Most of what's listed below appeared in Saturday's
Streamnotes, so old news
there. I made a last minute stab at checking out some 2017 non-jazz
releases, and continued that after the column posted. No additional
A-list albums after the column, but Body Count's Bloodlust
came close -- actually a remarkable album, just one I didn't want to
give the extra spins that probably would have moved it over the A-
cusp. Ardor & Zeal is a bit less in every respect, including a
bit less irritating to a metal-phobe like myself. For Christgau on
those two records, look
Christgau also praised the new
Brad Paisley record, the biggest flop of four (I think) overrated
full-A records he's found this year (Jens Lekman, New Pornographers,
Khalid -- OK, I gave the latter an A-, the others high B+). I like
Paisley in small doses, but he never seems to approach album-length
without wearing out his welcome, either because his Nashville rock
gets boring or because he says something stupid (often both, like
here). After grading, I read a bunch of Facebook comments on Bob's
review, and it seemed like quite a few were closer to my position.
On the other hand, I don't have any non-jazz this year remotely
close to full-A: the non-jazz set of the
2017 list-in-progress are (with
Christgau grades where known): Orchestra Baobab (A-), Run the Jewels
(A-), XX, Jesca Hoop, Kendrick Lamar, Tinariwen (**), Craig Finn (B+),
Conor Oberst (A-), Syd (A-), Arto Lindsay, Matt North (A-), Angaleena
Presley (A-), Colin Stetson, Khalid (A-). (I normally count Stetson
as jazz -- he's a saxophonist -- but he crossed over into post-rock
and that's where pretty much all of his critic/fan bases are.) That's
14 records, vs. 22 jazz records (38.9% non-jazz), actually not far
from what I had before the EOY lists started rolling in last year.
But before last week's 5-0 the split was 9-to-22 (29.0% non-jazz),
so I was right to shift focus. I'd do a better job of keeping up
if more people I trusted wrote more often. Maybe we'll see some
4-month lists soon.
As you may have noticed, I bumped up the grade on Stanley Cowell's
Departure #2. I was on the fence at the time, but hedged low
until I remembered how much better it was than the 4-5 good Cowell
records I played after it. Really pleased that so many SteepleChase
albums have appeared on Napster. Lots to catch up on there.
New records rated this week:
- Arca: Arca (2017, XL): [r]: B
- Body Count: Bloodlust (2017, Century Media): [r]: B+(***)
- Peter Campbell: Loving You: Celebrating Shirley Horn (2016 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Cloud Nothings: Life Without Sound (2017, Carpark): [r]: B+(**)
- Rodney Crowell: Close Ties (2017, New West): [r]: B+(***)
- Brian Eno: Reflection (2017, Warp): [r]: B+(**)
- Gas: Narkopop (2017, Kompakt): [r]: B
- Chris Greene Quartet: Boundary Issues (2016 , Single Malt): [cd]: B
- Marien Hassan/Vadiya Mint El Hanevi: Baila Sahara Baila (2015, Nubenegra): [r]: A-
- Mariem Hassan: La Voz Indómita (del Sahara Occidental) (2017, Nubenegra): [r]: B+(***)
- Billy Jones: 3's a Crowd (2017, Acoustical Concepts): [cd]: B
- Kendrick Lamar: Damn (2017, Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope): [r]: A-
- Allegra Levy: Cities Between Us (2016 , SteepleChase): [cd]: B+(***)
- Arto Lindsay: Cuidado Madame (2017, Northern Spy): [r]: A-
- Mas Que Nada: Sea Journey (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: B
- Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked at Me (2017, PW Elverum & Sun): [r]: B+(*)
- Matt North: Above Ground Fools (2017, self-released): [r]: A-
- Brad Paisley: Love and War (2017, Arista Nashville): [r]: B
- Michael Pedicin: As It Should Be: Ballads 2 (2016 , Groundblue): [cd]: B+(*)
- Angaleena Presley: Wrangled (2017, Thirty Tigers): [r]: A-
- Priests: Bodies and Control and Money and Power (2014, Don Giovanni, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Priests: Nothing Feels Natural (2017, Sister Polygon): [yt]: B+(**)
- Jason Rigby: Detroit-Cleveland Trio: One (2016 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [cd]: B+(***)
- Scott Routenberg Trio: Every End Is a Beginning (2017, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
- Sarah Shook & the Disarmers: Sidelong (2015 , Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
- Jared Sims: Change of Address (2017, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(***)
- Colin Stetson: Sorrow: A Reimagining of Gorecki\'s 3rd Symphony (2016, 52Hz): [r]: B-
- Colin Stetson: All This I Do for Glory (2017, 52Hz): [r]: A-
- Stormzy: Gang Signs & Prayer (2017, Merky): [r]: B+(*)
- Vagabon: Infinite Worlds (2017, Father/Daughter): [r]: B+(*)
- Valerie June: The Order of Time (2017, Concord): [r]: B+(**)
- Zeal & Ardor: Devil Is Fine (2016 , MKVA): [r]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Outro Tempo: Electronic and Contemporary Music From Brazil, 1978-1992 (1978-92 , Music From Memory): [r]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Mariem Hassan: Mariem Hassan Con Leyoad (2002, Nubenegra): [r]: B+(***)
- Stanley Cowell Trio: Departure #2 (1990, SteepleChase): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dominique Eade & Ran Blake: Town and Country (Sunnyside): June 9
- Jason Kao Hwang: Sing House (Euonymous): May 5
- Ed Maina: In the Company of Brothers (self-released): May 6
- Bob Merrill: Tell Me Your Troubles: Songs by Joe Bushkin (Accurate): May 19
- Mumpbeak: Tooth (Rare Noise): advance, May 26
- Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte With Iggy Pop: Loneliness Road (Rare Noise): advance, May 26