Monday, April 23, 2018
Music: current count 29604  rated (+34), 362  unrated (-3).
Made a decent sized dent in the new jazz queue, especially over the
weekend when I found it easier to just pull something out than try to
figure out what to look up on Napster. I did, however, chase down a
few recommendations from
Phil Overeem, and
Robert Christgau. Though not on his list yet, I think it was Monsen
on Facebook who mentioned that the Ex have a new record out. Someone
wondered who they were, so I pointed out I had rated
24 of their records (7 A-).
Probably inappropriate for me to rate the new one as high as I did on
a single Bandcamp play, but the grade was pretty clear by midway, and
only got better from there out. For more, see Bandcamp Daily's
A Guide to (Nearly) Four Decades of Dutch Punks The Ex).
The Ex came out of a Expert Witness discussion on the best records
of 2018 (so far). One name that popped up frequently and is both on
Monsen's and Overeem's lists is JPEGMAFIA's Veteran. Hip-hop,
very (as they say) experimental. I didn't get into it at all, but I
had a somewhat easier time with his earlier Black Ben Carson.
Also from that thread, Jeffrey Lewis' Works by Tuli Kupferberg.
In some ways I think the older "A Loot-Beg Bootleg" sounds
better -- just Lewis and two women who sometimes sing, versus the
mass singalong on the new album -- but I've had a soft spot for
Kupferberg, and even if he weren't dead he'd never be able to frame
his work in better light.
I continue to have problems with Christgau's picks. I don't think
there's been one I've said "yeah!" to since Shopping's The Official
Body (2/23), although I liked Laurie Anderson's Landfall
more than he did, and already had Amy Rigby's The Old Guys at
A-. Some I reviewed respectably earlier but haven't replayed: Taylor
Childers' Purgatory, Alvvays' Antisocialites, Yo La Tengo's
There's a Riot Going On, and Rapsody's Laila's Wisdom.
But few have been as disappointing as Jinx Lennon's Grow a Pair.
And while I wasn't much impressed with Superchunk's What a Time
to Be Alive, it tops Monsen's list. I also noted that Milo Miles
raved about Mast's Thelonious Sphere Monk last week. And Overeem
wrote a rave review of
Tracey Thorn's Record. He also likes the Lewis Kupferberg
album, plus two of my recent favorites: John Prine's The Tree of
Forgiveness and Sons of Kemet's Your Queen Is a Reptile.
Of the B+(***) records below, one that stands out is William
Parker's Lake of Light. It's a quartet of aquaphones, so
sounds like harps and percussion under water -- a bit too weird
for me, but maybe not for you.
The Armstrongs are just some mop up after last week's not especially
recommended Pops Is Tops box. The Nightclubs would make
a nice time capsule entry as it tracks the evolution of Armstrong's
1950s All Stars, although there are better examples of live Armstrong
from the era, including all four CDs in The California Concerts.
Ambassador Satch strays from his usual live show, as if he
worried that Europeans were still expecting ODJB dixieland, so he
decided to show them how it's really done. Probably the best "Tiger
April ends next Monday, so it would seem a good idea to wrap up a
Streamnotes post by Friday/Saturday. Despite my distractions earlier
this month, the draft file currently holds 90 records (14 A- or A)
so it's shaping up as a pretty solid month.
I want to note that I received a couple dozen personal letters
over recent weeks, and I was touched and comforted by those who
wrote -- some with fond memories, other from people I've never
met but who clearly appreciate my work and care. I have yet to
respond to any of those letters, for which I apologize. Sometime
sooner or later I hope to, but for now I want all of you to know
how thankful I am for your friendship and concern.
New records rated this week:
- Chris Byars: New York City Jazz (2016 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Tim Daisy/Michael Thieke/Ken Vandermark: Triptych (2016 , Relay): [bc]: B+(**)
- Tim Daisy: Music for Lying Still (2017, Relay, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Tim Daisy's Fulcrum Ensemble: Animation (2017 , Relay): [r]: B+(***)
- The Ex: 27 Passports (2018, Ex): [bc]: A
- Johan Graden: Olägenheter (2017 , Moserobie): [cd]: B+(**)
- Tim Heidecker: Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs (2017, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B
- Lauren Henderson: Ármame (2016 , Brontosaurus): [cd]: B+(*)
- Monika Herzig: Sheroes (2016 , Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)
- Il Sogno: Birthday (2015 , Gotta Let It Out): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jon Irabagon Quartet: Dr. Quixotic's Traveling Exotics (2016-17 , Irabbagast): [cd]: B+(**)
- Roger Kellaway Trio: New Jazz Standards Vol. 3 (2017 , Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jinx Lennon: Grow a Pair!!! (2018, Septic Tiger): [r]: B+(*)
- James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor: Radiant Imprints (2018, OFF): [r]: A-
- Jeffrey Lewis: Works by Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010) (2018, Don Giovanni): [r]: A-
- Dave Liebman/John Stowell: Petite Fleur: The Music of Sidney Bechet (2017 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
- The Maguire Twins: Seeking Higher Ground (2017 , Three Tree): [cd]: B+(*)
- Todd Marcus: On These Streets (A Baltimore Story) (2017 , Stricker Street): [cd]: B
- Ashley McBryde: Girl Going Nowhere (2018, Warner Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
- Diane Moser: Birdsongs (2017 , Planet Arts): [cd]: B
- Michael Moss/Accidental Orchestra: Helix (2016 , 4th Stream): [cd]: B+(**)
- William Parker: Lake of Light: Compositions for AquaSonics (2017 , Gotta Let It Out): [cd]: B+(***)
- The Rempis/Daisy Duo & Guests: Dodecahedron (2017 , Aerophonic, 2CD): [bc]: B+(**)
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rogue Star (2017 , Edgetone): [cd]: B+(***)
- Derek Senn: Avuncular (2016, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
- Spectral [Dave Rempis/Darren Johnston/Larry Ochs]: Empty Castles (2017 , Aerophonic): [r]: B+(**)
- Frank Wagner: Frank Wagner's Floating Holiday (2016 , MEII): [cd]: B
- Dan Weiss: Starebaby (2018, Pi): [cd]: B
- Håvard Wiik Trio: This Is Not a Waltz (2016 , Moserobie): [cd]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Louis Armstrong: The Nightclubs (1950-58 , Dot Time): [r]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Louis Armstrong: Satchmo Serenades (1949-53 , Verve): [r]: B+(**)
- Louis Armstrong: Ambassador Satch (1955 , Columbia/Legacy): [r]: A-
- Louis Armstrong: Louis and the Good Book (1958 , Verve): [r]: B
- Louis Armstrong: Louis Armstrong and His Friends (1970, Flying Dutchman): [r]: B+(*)
- JPEGMAFIA: Black Ben Carson (2016, Trashfuck): [bc]: B+(*)
- Jeffrey Lewis & the Jrams: "A Loot-Beg Bootleg" (2014 , self-released): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Benito Gonzalez/Gerry Gibbs/Essiet Okon Essiet: Passion Reverence Transcendence: The Music of McCoy Tyner (Whaling City Sound): April 27
- Juan Andrés Ospina Big Band: Tramontana (self-released): April 20
- Kristo Rodzevski: The Rabbit and the Fallen Sycamore (self-released): May 25
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Another week where I ran out of time before I ran out of links.
Indeed, one I couldn't get to is
Chris Bertram: Is there too much immigration? I also noticed that
John Quiggin has been publishing chapters to his forthcoming book
Economics in Two Lessons on
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that mattered this week, explained:
Michael Cohen had some fun in court; A baby went to the Senate floor
(Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth's); Democrats got some good news
in Senate polling; Mike Pompeo took a secret trip to North Korea.
Other Yglesias posts:
There's no good alternative to building more homes in expensive cities.
Trump tweets: "The crime rate in California is high enough." California is
a safer-than-average state. Trump thinks more immigrants, more crime,
but opposite is true.
11 House Republicans call for prosecutions of Clinton, Comey, Lynch, and
others: The most charitable explanation is that the call is just meant
"to try to muddy the waters in the media," but I should note that in some
countries (e.g., Brazil and Russia) prosecuting political enemies has
moved beyond the drawing board. I'm sure we could come up with a matching
list of Bush cronies who Obama neglected to prosecute (although his DOJ
did go after John Edwards). Still, prosecuting prosecutors for failing
to prosecute cases that no reasonable person would view as winnable
(n.b., the Edwards and Menendez cases failed), is pretty extreme.
James Comey isn't the hero we deserve. But he's the hero we need.
The gist of Yglesias' argument is here:
But to react to Comey's charges against Trump with a comprehensive
assessment of his entire career is to miss the point. James Comey is a
critical figure of our time not because of any particular decision,
right or wrong, that he made during his tenure in government. He's
important because he exemplifies values -- most of all, the pursuit
of institutional independence and autonomy -- whose presence among
career officials safeguards the United States against the threat of
The greatest safeguard we have against the dangers of Trump's
highly personalized style of leadership and frequently expressed
desire to reshape all institutions to serve his personal goal is
that officials and bureaucrats have the power to say no. Comey,
whatever else he did, said no to his boss and was fired for his
trouble. America needs more government officials who are willing
to take that stand. In many ways, Comey is not the hero the United
States deserves. But in a critical moment, he may be the hero we need.
Still, further down in the article Yglesias gives a pretty chilling
account about Comey's prosecutorial mindset and institutional loyalties.
Comey, for instance, holds up his prosecution of Martha Stewart (for
"covering up a crime she didn't commit") as exemplary: "the Comey view
is that true justice is treating Martha Stewart just as shabbily as
the cops would treat anyone else." Also:
Comey's handling of the 2016 campaign was essentially in the tradition
of FBI directors acting on behalf of their agency's institutional goals.
Knowing that the Obama administration was reluctant to fight publicly
with the FBI over the matter while congressional Republicans were
relatively eager, he slanted his decision-making on both the Russia
and email investigations toward the interests of the GOP. As Adam Serwer
writes, "the FBI is petrified of criticism from its conservative
detractors, and is relatively indifferent to its liberal critics."
And over the course of 2016, it showed -- when Mitch McConnell wanted
Comey to keep quiet about Trump and Russia, he did. When Trump-friendly
elements among the rank and file wanted him to speak up about Anthony
Weiner's laptop, he did.
On Comey, also see:
Matt Taibbi: James Comey, the Would-Be J. Edgar Hoover. On the FBI's
use of its own power to cover its own ass, see:
Alice Speri: The FBI's race problems are getting worse. The prosecution
of Terry Albury is proof. By the way, shouldn't the Espionage Act
be reserved for disclosing secrets to foreign governments? Albury's
"crime" was leaking documents to the press (i.e., the American people).
Richard Cohen's privilege, explained: Long-time Washington Post
columnist, known for courageously standing up against "too much diversity"
and complaints about the "privilege" enjoyed by white males like himself.
I find much talk about "privilege" annoying myself, but then I don't sit
on his perch ("and because the demographic of put-upon older white men
does, in fact, exert disproportionate influence over American social and
economic institutions, there continues to be a well-compensated and not
very taxing job for him into his late 70s"). Yglesias provides some back
story, but doesn't mention that Alex Pareene featured Cohen in his annual
"hack lists" at Salon (tried to find a link but got blocked by Salon's
"ad blocker" blocker -- probably why I stopped reading them, although I
had less reason to when their better writers left).
Richard Clarinda and Michelle Bowman, Trump's new Fed appointees,
explained: "Two boring, competent, well-qualified, industry-friendly
Donald Trump's corruption means he'll never be a "normal" commander
in chief: Mostly about Syria, more generally the Middle East,
where Trump has numerous business entanglements. "We don't know who's
paying Trump -- or whom he listens to."
Comey interview: "I thought David Petraeus should have been prosecuted".
Zack Beauchamp: Syria exposes the core feature of Trump's foreign policy:
contradiction: Many aspects of Trump's foreign policy are mired in
contradiction (or at least incoherence), but it seems unfair to single
out Syria as a Trump problem. Ever since the civil war there started
it has been a multifaceted affair. Since US foreign policy has long
been driven by kneejerk reactions, even under the much more rational
Obama the US found itself opposing both Assad and his prime opponents
in ISIS, leading to a policy which can only be described as nihilism.
What Trump added to this fever swamp of contradictions was sympathy
for pro-Assad Russia and antipathy for pro-Assad Iran. Meanwhile,
America's two main allies in the region (Israel and Turkey) have
each doubled down on their own schizophrenic involvements.
Amy Chozick: 'They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President': Excerpt
from Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One
Intact Glass Ceiling, yet another journalist's campaign chronicle,
a reminder of how pathetic her obsession turned out to be. Not clear who
"they" were in the title, other than the American people, but had she
really understood that truth, why did she run in the first place? Why,
given the inevitability of defeat, did she keep us from nominating a
candidate who actually could have defeated Donald Trump? I doubt that
Chozick has any such answers. Instead, we find her apologizing for
getting caught up in such distractions as parsing John Podesta's
hacked emails instead of seeing the broader context, not least that
the email dump was timed to take attention away from the leak of
Trump bragging about assaulting women ("grab them by the pussy").
Robert Fisk: The search for truth in the rubble of Douma -- and one
doctor's doubts over the chemical attack; also
Patrick Cockburn: We Should be Sceptical of Those Who Claim to Know
the Events in Syria: Of course, Trump jumped at the opportunity
to bomb Syria before anyone really verified that reports of a chemical
weapons attack were true. That is, after all, how American presidents
prove their manhood.
Steve Fraser: Teaching America a Lesson: About the national effort
to forget that class was ever a concept rooted in reality. From Fraser's
new book, Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion
(Yale University Press). Also at TomDispatch:
Tom Engelhardt: A Tale of American Hubris.
Zachary Fryer-Biggs: Rudy Giuliani is Trump's new lawyer. His history
with Comey could spell trouble.
William Greider: American Hubris, or, How Globalization Brought Us
Donald Trump: Unpack this a bit: "It was 'free trade' mania,
pushed by both major political parties, that destroyed working-class
prosperity and laid the groundwork for his triumph." Unpack that some
more, why don't you? What made "free trade" such a problem was decline
in union power, especially due to a politically rigged union-free zone
in the US South, combined with decreasing domestic investments in
infrastructure and education (also politically engineered), plus
growing pressure on the rich to seek new sources of wealth abroad.
To blame all of that on "free trade" confuses mechanism with cause.
Trump benefited not from free trade so much as from that confusion.
More importantly, Democratic politicians suffered because it looked
like they had sold out their base to rich donors. (As, indeed, they
had.) Note that The Nation has another piece this week with
the same pitch line:
Michael Massing: How Martin Luther Paved the Way for Donald Trump.
It's as if they wanted to make the leap from tragedy to farce in a
single issue. In an infinite universe, I guess you'll eventually find
that everything leads to Donald Trump. That's a lot of inevitability
for a guy who only got 46.1% of the vote.
Umair Irfan/Eliza Barclay: 7 things we've learned about Earth since the
last Earth Day: i.e., in the last year.
Jen Kirby: Mike Pompeo reportedly met with North Korean leader Kim Jong
Un: This is less interesting than the bilateral talks between North
and South Korea, which actually seem to be getting somewhere, but does
indicate that the planned summit between Trump and Kim may actually come
to pass. Past efforts to bridge differences between the US and DPRK have
generally been sabotaged by mid-level US staff -- one recalls the frantic
efforts of Sandy Berger and others to derail Jimmy Carter's mid-1990s
agreement. One might expect a neocon like Pompeo to throw a few monkey
wrenches into the efforts, and indeed he may still, but it's also clear
that Mattis and the DOD have no appetite for launching a war against
North Korea, so maybe it's not such a bad idea to negotiate a little.
Robin Wright: With Pompeo to Pyongyang, the U.S. Launches Diplomacy
with North Korea.
Wright also wrote:
The Hypocrisy of Trump's "Mission Accomplished" Boast About Syria.
Actually, Trump is establishing a track record of acting tough and
making flamboyant and reckless threats then pulling his punches. It's
sort of the opposite of Theodore Roosevelt's maxim to "speak softly
and carry a big stick" -- only sort of, because he has expanded the
murderous drone program, encourage Saudi Arabia to escalate their
bombing of Yemen, sent more troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, so it's
clear that he has no respect for world peace or human life. Moreover,
his pugnacious stance is making the world more dangerous in many ways,
not least by the contempt he projects on the rest of the world (and
on a good many Americans).
Noah Kulwin: The Internet Apologizes . . . Picture shows a weeping
cat, with a couple of tweets from "The Internet": "We're sorry. We didn't
mean to destroy privacy. And democracy. Our bad."
Why, over the past year, has Silicon Valley begun to regret the foundational
elements of its own success? The obvious answer is November 8, 2016. For all
that he represented a contravention of its lofty ideals, Donald Trump was
elected, in no small part, by the internet itself. Twitter served as his
unprecedented direct-mail-style megaphone, Google helped pro-Trump forces
target users most susceptible to crass Islamophobia, the digital clubhouses
of Reddit and 4chan served as breeding grounds for the alt-right, and
Facebook became the weapon of choice for Russian trolls and data-scrapers
like Cambridge Analytica. Instead of producing a techno-utopia, the internet
suddenly seemed as much a threat to its creator class as it had previously
been their herald.
Fifth years ago I wouldn't have had a moment's hesitation as to the
problem here: capitalism. That may seem like a quaint, old-fashioned
analysis -- even I would be more inclined these days to speak of market
failures and distortions -- but it's basically true and was totally
predictable from the onset. For instance, the very first time I heard
of WWW it was in the context of a question: how can we make money off
of this? Sure, people may have had trouble imagining how pervasive,
how all-consuming, it would be. And it may not have been obvious how
few companies would wind up monopolizing such a huge slice of traffic.
But from the start, every business plan imagined monopoly rents --
Microsoft's picked up their favored term ("vig") from the Mafia -- at
the end of the rainbow. As practically everyone realized, the key to
the fortune would be what economists called "network effects" --
hence every serious contender started off by offering something for
free, figuring on hooking you first, eating you later. Had we been
smarter, we might have placed some roadblocks in their way: antitrust,
privacy regulations, free software, publicly funded alternatives.
But that wasn't the American Way, especially in the post-Cold War
glow of capitalist triumphalism. One great irony here is that while
right-wingers like to complain about popularly elected government
"picking winners and losers" in free markets, the reality is that
the not-so-free markets are deciding who wins our supposedly free
After the intro, the article moves on to "How It Went Wrong, in
15 Steps," through the words of 14 "Architects" -- a mix of techies
and businessfolk. The 15 steps:
- Start With Hippie Good Intentions . . .
- Then mix in capitalism on steroids.
- The arrival of Wall Streeters didn't help . . .
- . . . And we paid a high price for keeping it free.
- Everything was designed to be really, really addictive.
- At first it worked -- almost too well.
- No one from Silicon Valley was held accountable . . .
- . . . Even as social networks became dangerous and toxic.
- . . . And even as they invaded our privacy.
- Then came 2016. [Donald Trump and Brexit]
- Employees are starting to revolt.
- To fix it, we'll need a new business model . . .
- . . . And some tough regulation.
- Maybe nothing will change.
- . . . Unless, at the very least, some new people are in charge.
Useful, although one could imagine alternative ways of threading
the analysis. Step 12, for instance, says "we'll need a new business
model," then offers: "Maybe by trying something radical and new --
like charging users for goods and services." New? That's the way
thousands of exclusive newsletters aimed at business already work.
What makes them viable is a small audience willing to pay a high
premium for information. You could switch to this model overnight
by simply banning advertising. The obvious major effect is that
it would cause a major collapse in utility and usage. There would
be a lot of other problems as well -- more than I can possibly list
here. Still, true that you need a new business model. But perhaps
we should consider ones that aren't predicated on capitalist greed
and a vastly inequal society?
The article also includes a useful list of "Things That Ruined
- Cookies (1994)
- The Farmville vulnerability (2007) [a Facebook design flaw that
made possible the Cambridge Analytica hack]
- Algorithmic sorting (2006) ["it keeps users walled off in their
own personalized loops"]
- The "like" button (2009)
- Pull-to-refresh (2009)
- Pop-up ads (1996)
designers take over your computer and control your experience. It is
the technological layer enabling everything else on the list (except
Speaking of alternate business models, Kulwin also did an interview
with Katherine Maher about "Wikipedia's nonprofit structure and what
incentive-based media models lack":
'There Is No Public Internet, and We Are the Closest Thing to It'.
David Leonhardt: A Time for Big Economic Ideas: For the last forty
years, the Republican "small government" mantra has sought to convince
us that we can't do things that help raise everyone's standard of living,
indeed that we can't afford even to do things that government has done
since the 1930s. On the other hand, they've pushed the line that markets
rigged so the rich get richer is the best we can hope for. And they've
been so successful that even Leonhardt, trying to reverse the argument,
doesn't come close to really thinking big. One of my favorite books back
fifty years ago was Paul Goodman's Utopian Essays & Practical
Proposals. A while back I opened up a book draft file with that
as a subtitle. Haven't done much on it yet, but not for lack of big
German Lopez: The Senate's top Democrat just came out for ending federal
marijuana prohibition: Chuck Shumer, who has a bill to that effect
(as does Cory Booker). Lopez also wrote:
John Boehner just came out for marijuana reform. Most Republicans
agree. Being a Republican, Boehner did more than accede to public
opinion. He figured out a way to get paid for doing so. I'm reminded
of gambling, which when I was growing up was regarded as one of the
worst sources of moral rot anywhere. However, as it became the fount
of several Republican-leaning fortunes, the guardians of our moral
virtue learned to embrace it. Indeed, lotteries have become a major
source of tax revenues in many states (especially here in Kansas).
Andrew Prokop: Andrew McCabe's criminal referral, explained:
This may give second thoughts to some of the people who ponied up
a half-million bucks to help McCabe sue for his pension and other
possible damages from his politically motivated firing. Still,
this doesn't seem like much of a criminal case. The charge is
that "McCabe lacked candor about his role in leaks about a Clinton
investigation." The leak was one designed to correct a report that
he wasn't being tough enough on Clinton. Clearly, whatever McCabe
was, he wasn't a partisan Democratic mole in the FBI. On the other
hand, his new friends probably figure that any lawsuit that forces
the government to expose documents is bound to turn up something
embarrassing for Trump and Sessions.
Prokop also wrote:
The DNC just sued Russia and the Trump campaign for 2016 election
meddling. Hard to see what the value of this suit is, as it is
critically dependent on on-going (and far from complete) investigations
to establish linkage between the various parties. Moreover, I have two
fairly large reservations. One is that I don't generally approve of
using US courts to sue over foreign jurisdictions, especially cases
highly tainted with prejudice. (The 9/11 lawsuits are an example.) The
other is that I see this as a time-and-money sink for the Democrats,
at a time when they have more important things to focus on: winning
elections in 2018 and 2020. For more on the lawsuit, see:
Glenn Greenwald/Trevor Timm: The DNC's lawsuit against WikiLeaks poses
a serious threat to press freedom:
The DNC's suit, as it pertains to WikiLeaks, poses a grave threat to
press freedom. The theory of the suit -- that WikiLeaks is liable for
damages it caused when it "willfully and intentionally disclosed" the
DNC's communications (paragraph 183) -- would mean that any media outlet
that publishes misappropriated documents or emails (exactly what media
outlets quite often do) could be sued by the entity or person about
which they are reporting, or even theoretically prosecuted for it, or
that any media outlet releasing an internal campaign memo is guilty of
"economic espionage" (paragraph 170):
This is effectively the same point Trump tried to make during his
2016 campaign when he argued that libel laws should be passed which
would allow aggrieved parties like himself to sue for damages. Indeed,
throughout his career Trump has been plagued by leaks and hacks (i.e.,
journalism). You'd think that the DNC would appreciate that we need
more free press, not less. Makes it look like they (still) prefer to
work in the dark.
Brian Resnick: Trump's next NASA administrator is a Republican congressman
with no background in science: Jim Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, once ran
the Air and Space Museum in Tulsa. Hope he realizes that unlike many
government agencies, when/if he causes NASA to crash and burn it will
Emily Stewart: Nobody knows who was behind half of the divisive ads
on Facebook ahead of the 2016 election: Half were linked to
"suspicious groups"; one-sixth of those were linked to Russia.
Beyond Alt: The Extremely Reactionary, Burn-It-Down-Radical, Newfangled
Far Right: A smorgasbord, written by a dozen or more writers with
links to even more material. Certainly much more info than I ever wanted
to know about the so-called alt-right. One aside mentions a symmetrical
"alt-left," but notes that alt-leftists hate being called that. Right.
Saturday, April 21, 2018
It's been eight months since
my last Book Roundup -- a major lapse on my part. I started working
on this a few months back, then lost track again. At this point I suspect
I'm far enough behind that I'll need two more columns just to catch up,
but at this point I'm only 15 books into the next one, so don't expect
them to come out bang-bang-bang like previous catch-ups. One thing that
will slow down the pace a bit is that I've started to simply note the
existence of additional books following the forty I've written something
on. Usually this is because I don't have anything non-obvious to say.
Often, it's just that the book is worth knowing about, but unlikely to
be worth reading. Some I may return to eventually, should I change my
Given my delays, I've actually managed to read several of these
books: Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity, David Frum:
Trumpocracy, Mark Lilla: The Once and Future Liberal,
and Sean Wilentz: The Politicians & the Egalitarians. I'm
also about 400 pages into Steve Coll: Directorate S, and I've
bought copies but haven't yet gotten to Jennifer M Silva: Coming
Up Short, Amy Siskind: The List. I can't really say that
any of these books are "must read," but I have learned things from
My main complaint about the Coll book is that by focusing on
the CIA, ISI, and NDS (the Afghan counterpart) he's very rapidly
skipped over the most ill-fated US decisions, like the conviction
that the US can simply dictate Pakistan's behavior, and the blanket
rejection of any possible Taliban role. But he also only barely
touches on the CIA's continued support of their Afghan warlord
clients even after the Karzai government was formed. I'm currently
up to 2009, with McChrystal still in charge of the surging military,
and Holbrooke still among the living (if not among the functional) --
two things I know will change soon.
Kurt Andersen: Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire
(2017, Random House): Big picture history of America, strikes me
as like one of those creative writing assignments meant to let your
imagination run wild -- probably helps that the author has a couple
of novels to his credit. Still, shouldn't be hard to fill up 480 pp.
with stories of America's tenuous love/hate relationship to reality.
Nor has the election and regime of Donald Trump given us reason to
doubt that we're living in a Fantasyland. And clearly Trump was on
the author's mind -- probably the reason Alec Baldwin hired him as
co-author of their cash-in book, You Can't Spell America Without
Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year
as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody).
Benjamin R Barber: Cool Cities: Urban Sovereignty and the Fix
for Global Warming (2017, Yale University Press): Political
and cultural theorist, wrote a book I was impressed by back in 1971,
Superman and Common Men: Freedom, Anarchy and the Revolution,
and a couple dozen books since then: two that intrigued me but always
seemed a bit too flip were Jihad vs. McWorld: How Globalism and
Tribalism Are Reshaping the World (1996) and Consumed: How
Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens
Whole (2007). Turned his eye toward cities with his 2013 book,
If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities,
to which this is a sequel, focusing on the relative energy efficiency
of cities. Sad to read that he died, about a month after this book
Ronen Bergman: Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of
Israel's Targeted Assassinations (2018, Random House):
Big (756 pp) book by the Yedioth Ahronoth military analyst.
I doubt there are many secrets here -- Israel has a long history of
bragging about its secret agency exploits -- but the scale of the
killings may come as a surprise. Some time ago, I spent time looking
at a database of prominent Palestinians, and the sheer number of
them killed by Israel was pretty eye-opening.
Max Boot: The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American
Tragedy in Vietnam (2018, Liveright): Another attempt to find
a scapegoat for the American failure in Vietnam, in this case arguing
that if only American leaders had followed the advice of CIA operative
Lansdale everything would have worked out for the better. This is an
appalling argument in lots of ways. For one thing, Lansdale did have
an outsized influence on the decision to cancel elections and stick by
Diem's corrupt and vicious regime. Beyond that, Lansdale's successors
were always going to view the war as a test of American resolve and
power, and they were always going to be contemptuous of the Vietnamese
and profoundly uninterested in their welfare. The real tragedy of the
war in Vietnam was the failure of America's class of strategic thinkers
to learn some humility and restraint following their imperial overreach,
as is evidenced by repeated failures in numerous more recent wars.
Paul Butler: Chokehold: Policing Black Men (2017,
New Press). One of several recent books on how the criminal justice
system is stacked against black men, written by a former federal
prosecutor who's been there and done that. Previously wrote Let's
Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice (2009). Also see: Angela
J Davis, ed: Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution, and
Imprisonment (2017, Random House); Jordan T Camp/Christina
Heatherton, eds: Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis
Led to Black Lives Matter (paperback, 2016, Verso Books).
Ta-Nehisi Coates: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American
Tragedy (2017, One World): A collection of essays, some new,
including "Fear of a Black President," "The Case for Reparations,"
and "The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration" -- important
work. Still, I never quite got the feeling that "we were in power"
during Obama's two terms, even the first two years when Democrats
had large majorities in Congress but let Max Baucus decide life and
death issues; meanwhile Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense and
Ben Bernanke chaired the Fed.
Steve Coll: Directorate S: The CIA and America's Secret
Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan (2018, Penguin Press):
Coll's second book about America's misadventure in Afghanistan
(and schizophrenic alliance with Pakistan), bringing the story
started in Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan,
and Bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
(2004) up to date. Of course, the post-9/11 US invasion and still
ongoing occupation of Afghanistan hasn't exactly been a secret,
but presumably this focuses more on the CIA role there rather
than chronicling the ham-fisted DOD and their NATO proxies. No
doubt an important book, but I expect it leaves much uncovered.
Peter Cozzens: The Earth Is Weeping: The Epic Story of
the Indian Wars for the American West (2016, Knopf; paperback,
2017, Vintage Books): Covers every front over a 30 year stretch,
1861-1891, during which white Americans fought numerous wars,
brokered treaties (and often broke them), ultimately herding Native
Americans into a few barren reservations and closing the frontier.
Author worked for the State Department, and has written a number
of military histories of the Civil War.
Larry Derfner: No Country for Jewish Liberals
(2017, Just World Books): A Jewish journalist from Los Angeles,
typically liberal, moved to Israel and surveys the intolerant,
closed, often vicious society he encounters. I've maintained
for some time now that constant war even more than greed and
corruption (both plenty in evidence) has been responsible for
so many Americans abandoning their liberal traditions. Same
thing applies to Israel, even more so given the relative
intensity of their militarism (a universal draft, for Jews
anyway) and their incessant cult of victimhood.
EJ Dionne Jr/Norman J Ornstein/Thomas E Mann: One Nation
After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the
Desperate, and the Not-Yet-Deported (2017, St Martin's
Press): Quickie from three authors who've made careers explaining,
as Dionne put it in his 1992 book, Why Americans Hate Politics --
the others are best known for their 2012 dissection of Congress,
It's Even Worse Than It Looks. Dionne seems to be the
unshakable optimist -- another of his titles is They Only Look
Dead: Why Progressives Will Dominate the Next Political Era --
but these days I find the assumption that there will still be "one
nation after Trump" to be ungrounded.
Barbara Ehrenreich: Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness,
the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer
(2018, Twelve): Seems to be a sequel to her 2009 book Bright-sided:
How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined
America, her critical instincts sharpened by another decade of
getting older (78) and more acquainted with mortality. I've been
expecting her to write a major book on the high cost of being poor
in America -- a subject she's written several essays about recently.
Hope she gets to that. I might also wish she'd explore the inner
madness of the Trump voter, but she anticipated all that in her
1989 book Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class.
Jesse Eisinger: The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department
Fails to Prosecute Executives (2017, Simon & Schuster):
Investigates the fact that none of the bank executives responsible
for the 2008 meltdown and ensuing recession were ever charged with
crimes (although eventually a number of substantial fines were paid
by newly profitable companies the public had bailed out, most often
leaving their management in place). Nor is it just bankers who seem
to be able to get away with whatever. Blames timid prosecutors, but
to make sense of it all you'd have to work through the lax regulation
companies are subjected to, and the widespread respect civil servants
seem to have for money and well-heeled executives.
Neil Faulkner: A People's History of the Russian Revolution
(paperback, 2017, Pluto Press): One-hundred years later, emphasizes
the revolutionary parts of the Russian Revolution, the parts that
tore down one of the most corrupt and decadent aristocracies in Europe
and tried to build a broad-based alternative -- before violence and
paranoia took its toll. In today's post-Soviet era we're inclined to
see the revolution and its aftermath as continuous tragedy, which is
only true if you forget the injustices of the world it swept away.
Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist
Analyzes the Age of Trump (2017, William Morrow): Argues
that Trump is not technically insane, but raises many pertinent
questions about whether America as a whole. The opening section on
truths Americans reject and myths they embrace is a garden variety
liberal list, but this gets more interesting when he goes on to
root our understanding of psychology in Darwin rather than Freud.
Tricky terrain: I think easy psychological labels are misleading,
yet don't doubt that deeply seated mental processes are serving us
poorly when we think about politics these days.
David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American
Republic (2018, Harper): Former Bush speechwriter, has of
late argued that Republicans should pay more heed to the needs of
their base voters and less to their moneyed elites, which makes
him sympathetic with the popular impulse of Trump's campaign and
critical of the reality of his administration. Useful mostly for
detailing the myriad ways Trump is bound up in corruption, and
unflinching in its criticism of other Republicans for condoning
and enabling his treachery. Would be more trenchant if only he
realized that corruption is the coin of the Republican realm --
not just a side-effect of a political philosophy dedicated to
making the rich richer but a way of keeping score.
David Goodhart: The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and
the Future of Politics (2017, Hurst): British editor of
Prospect magazine, wrote a previous book The British Dream:
Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration, takes the Brexit
vote and Trump's win as signposts for a right-wing revolt he deems
to be populist. I regard those wins as flukes: possible only because
serious economic interests were lucky enough to find themselves with
enemies that could be blamed for all the evils of neoliberalism. Most
elections don't break quite like that -- e.g., the post-Brexit UK
Linda Gordon: The Second Coming of the KKK: The Ku Klux Klan
of the 1920s and the American Political Tradition (2017,
Liveright): The original KKK was formed in the 1970s to restore
white supremacy in the South through the use of terror. Its work
was largely done by the 1890s with the adoption of Jim Crow laws
across the South and into parts of the North. In the 1910s Woodrow
Wilson extended Jim Crow to the federal government, and the movie
Birth of a Nation romanticized the old KKK, leading to a
resurgence that grew beyond the South. This is the history of the
latter movement, how it grew and why it crumbled (not that remnants
haven't survived to the present day).
David Cay Johnston: It's Even Worse Than You Think: What
the Trump Administration Is Doing to America (2018, Simon
& Schuster): Journalist, has written several books on how the
economic system is rigged for the rich, and has also written a
couple of books about one such rich person in particular: Donald
Trump. Therefore, he started well ahead of the learning curve
when Trump became president. Hopefully he goes deeper as a result.
Probably a good companion to Amy Siskind: The List: A Week-by-Week
Reckoning of Trump's First Year.
Gilles Kepel: Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the
West (2017, Princeton University Press): French political
scientist and Arab expert, wrote Jihad: The Trail of Political
Islam (2000 in French where the subtitle was Expansion et
Déclin de l"Islamisme; 2002 in English with an afterward on
how 9/11 seemed like a desperate ploy to reverse the decline --
thanks mostly to GW Bush it worked), with a steady stream of books
since then. This covers recent terror attacks in France and their
socioeconomic context. Also new is a thin book by the other famous
French jihad expert, Olivier Roy: Jihad and Death: The Global
Appeal of Islamic State (2017, Oxford University Press).
Sheelah Kolhatkar: Black Edge: Inside Information, Dirty
Money, and the Quest to Bring Down the Most Wanted Man on Wall
Street (2017, Random House): About Stephen A Cohen and
SAC Capital, although the former was never indicted for his
hedge fund's insider dealing.
Robert Kuttner: Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism?
(2018, WW Norton): Could have filed this with the warnings against
right-wing populism, but this goes deeper, seeing the global expansion
of capitalism since the 1970s, and especially the tendency of those
same capitalists to game supposedly democratic systems, at the root
of the crisis. The problem has less to do with authoritarian wannabes
and their fans than with corporate managers and financiers seeking to
exempt business from any form of public restraint. The results may
still bear some formal resemblance to democracy, but not the kind
where most people can force the system to treat them fairly. When
you think of it that way, the question becomes "has democracy
survived global capitalism"? One could answer "no."
Brandy Lee: The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists
and Mental Health Experts Assess a President (2017, Thomas Dunne
Books): The "consensus view of two dozen psychiatrists and psychologists
[is] that Trump is dangerously mentally ill and that he presents a clear
and present danger to the nation and our own mental health." Sounds
about right, but then I recall having long ago become a fan of Thomas
Szasz's work, particularly his The Myth of Mental Illness, and
I myself have been diagnosed as mentally ill by various shrinks, both
credentialed and not. Indeed, I doubt it would be hard to sketch out
unflattering psychological portraits of anyone who's become president
since 1900 (I'm hedging a bit on McKinley but Teddy Roosevelt was mad
as a hatter, and half of his successors are comparably easy pickings).
Indeed, there's little reason to expect that people we elect to the
nation's highest (and presumably most coveted) office should be even
close to "normal." On the other hand, Trump is certainly an outlier,
especially in his lack of understanding how government works, perhaps
even more importantly in his lack of concern for how his acts affect
people. Psychologists have compiled a thick book of diagnoses for
traits like that (e.g., see "sociopath"), but much of that behavior
can also be explained by looking at his class background -- how he
inherited and then played with his wealth, parlaying it for fame in
his peculiarly own ego-gratifying terms. Moreover, psychoanalyzing
him misses the fact that he rules through other people, who while
having their own fair share of foibles have aligned thermselves
with Trump more for political and/or ideological reasons -- and
that, I think, is where we should focus our critiques. (Not, mind
you, that I doubt Trump's stark-raving bonkers.)
Mark Lilla: The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity
Politics (2017, Harper Collins). Short essay rushed out
following the Trump election. Argues that liberals need to seek
the moral high ground by focusing on universal rights and values
instead of what he sees as their recent indulgence in cultivating
"identity groups." "Identity politics" is a term much bandied
about, near-meaningless with ominous overtones, probably because
the right has been rather successful at fragmenting people into
tribes and motivating them to vote to thwart the plans of rival
tribes. On the other hand, literally everyone votes because of
some identity they've developed -- which need not be ethnic or
racial or religious, but could just as well be class or even a
sense of the positive value of diversity. Liberalism would be
an identity too, except that liberals have been running away
from the label for 30-40 years now, which has only encouraged
conservatives to pile on. Lilla at least is trying to reassert
some universal values.
Angela Nagle: Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From
4Chan and Tumblr to Trump the Alt-Right (paperback, 2017,
Zero Books): Short (156 pp) survey of "culture war" rants on the
internet, mostly from the "alt-right" but takes a few jabs at
supposed lefties for balance. Argues that there's way too much
of this stuff, and (I think) that we'd be better off with more
taste and mutual respect (as long as that doesn't seem like
some sort of radical leftist stance).
Rachel Pearson: No Apparent Distress: A Doctor's Coming-of-Age
on the Front Lines of American Medicine (2017, WW Norton):
By "front lines" she means the leaky bottom of the safety net,
where patients can get diagnosed but are left untreated because
they too indigent or not indigent enough.
Kim Phillips-Fein: Fear City: New York's Fiscal Crisis and
the Rise of Austerity Politics (2017, Metropolitan Books):
In 1975 New York City risked bankruptcy, and one famous newspaper
headline read: "Ford to City: Drop Dead." Banker Felix Rohatyn
intervened, staving off the crisis but forcing the city to adopt
various changes, including ending its practice of free college.
Phillips-Fein previously wrote an important book on the rise of
the right in America: Invisible Hands: The Making of the
Conservative Movement From the New Deal to Reagan (2009),
and sees this as yet another chapter in that rise -- all the
more notable today as austerity is the right's standard answer
to public debt.
Steven Pinker: Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason,
Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018, Viking): Author of
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,
continues expanding his case for optimism at a time when contrary
evidence is so overwhelming it threatens to bury us. I think he
has a point -- indeed, a number of them -- but one shouldn't fail
to notice that anti-Enlightenment, anti-Progressive thinking has
grabbed considerable political power (at least in the US), so much
so that most Americans regard war as a permanent condition, and
many see no problem with inequality hardening into oligarchy.
Robert B Reich: The Common Good (2018, Knopf):
For better or worse, a true liberal. His most famous book, The
Work of Nations (1991), was built around one of the worst ideas
of our time -- one which, I might add, was the reason Bill Clinton
hired him as Secretary of Labor -- and also offered one of the
sharpest observations of how life was changing due to increasing
inequality. The latter: how the rich were separating and isolating
themselves from everyone else, most obviously by moving into gated
communities and even more rarefied spaces (like Trump Tower and
Mar-A-Lago). The former: his idea how Americans could survive the
ongoing process of financial globalization, including the decline
of manufacturing industries, by retraining workers to become what
he called "symbolic manipulators." In point of fact, it was never
possible for more than a tiny sliver of American workers to become
"symbol manipulators," it was a convenient rationalization for
neoliberals like Clinton to embrace globalization and growing
inequality. One might argue that ever since Reich left Clinton's
cabinet, he has been trying to do penance for his role there.
He's written another dozen books, trying to defend key liberal
ideas and save capitalism in the process. This at least is on a
key idea that has taken a beating from conservatives: the idea
that there is "a common good" as opposed to numerous individual
goods that markets allow competition for. He also notes that the
common good is built from "virtuous cycles that reinforce and
build" as opposed to "vicious cycles that undermine it." We have
been stuck in the latter for decades now, and it's cumulatively
taking a huge toll. So this is an important concept, even if I
don't particularly trust the messenger.
Richard Rothstein: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of
How Our Government Segregated America (2017, Liveright):
Going back as far as the 1920s, argues that what we think of as de
facto segregation has been significantly shaped by law and public
policy, even after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 supposedly put an
end to all that.
Jennifer M Silva: Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in
an Age of Uncertainty (paperback, 2015, Oxford University Press):
Short book based on one-hundred interviews with young working class adults
in Massachusetts and Virginia, finding their opportunities limited and
fleeting as the right-wing attack on unions and the welfare state has
focused more on kicking the ladder out for future generations than on
wrecking the lives of their elders. Silva also did interviews for Robert
D Putnam's Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis.
Amy Siskind: The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump's
First Year (2018, Bloomsbury): "A national spokesperson,
writer and expert on helping women and girls advance and succeed" --
a noble career, no doubt, derailed by her decision to compile weekly
blog posts on all the unprecedentedly strange things Trump and his
minions have done as they were reported. Early on she came up with
6-9 items per week, but over time that list grew to as many as 150,
a quantity that not only means much is slipping through the cracks
even in our 24/7 news obsession, but which has overloaded and numbed
our sense of outrage and even our ability to analyze. This compiles
a year of those reports, a mere 528 pages. Good chance this will
endure as an essential sourcebook for the year.
Ali Soufan: Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden
to the Rise of the Islamic State (2017, WW Norton): Former
FBI agent, famed for his expert interrogation of terror suspects --
he's the subject of a chapter in Lawrence Wright's The Terror
Years: From Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State, and author of the
book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War
Against al-Qaeda (2011).
Cass R Sunstein: #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of
Social Media (2017, Princeton University Press): Occasionally
interesting MOR Democratic theorist, takes his shot here at trashing
the internet for propagating self-selected, self-confirming nonsense
that divides people into hostile camps incapable of empathy with or
understanding of anyone but themselves. This, of course, has been
pretty much the high-brow critique of media since Gutenberg, the
main point that it detracts from people blindly following whatever
experts are sanctified by whoever has the power to do that sort of
thing. I suppose there's some truth this time around, but I'd look
at the vested interests using social media for their propaganda (ok,
they call it advertising) before concluding that "the media is the
Charles J Sykes: How the Right Lost Its Mind (2017,
St Martin's Press): Former "longtime host of the #1 conservative
talk-radio show in Wisconsin," now "a regular contributor to MSNBC,"
features a Trump-like hat on the cover and evidently focuses on how
conservatives wound up flocking to Trump. Sounds like he's failed
to make the necessary distinction between why the Right lost its
mind and things the Right did after having lost its mind. The former
would be an interesting book, although it actually isn't so mysterious:
the only real political principle behind conservatism is the defense
of wealth and privilege, and that's intrinsically a hard sell in a
real democracy, so the Right has to hide their soul behind a lot of
incidental sales pitches. The latter is just sad and pathetic, like
so much recent American history.
Heather Ann Thompson: Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison
Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy (2016, Pantheon; paperback,
2017, Vintage Books): A major history of the 1971 Attica prison
uprising, its brutal suppression, and the decades-long legal fight
that followed. When this happened my philosophy 101 professor at
Wichita State was so disturbed he ditched his lesson plan to talk
about what happened. Later I became friends with a lawyer who put
most of her career into this case, the extraordinary Elizabeth Fink,
so it feels like I've tracked this story all my life. The enduring
lesson is how much contempt and disdain people in power have for
the people they condemn as criminals, and how that hatred and fear
can lead them to do things as bad or worse.
Katy Tur: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest
Campaign in American History (2017, Dey Street Books): NBC
News correspondent assigned to cover Trump's campaign, where she
evidently fact-checked, challenged, and generally made herself a
nuissance, while visiting 40 states and filing 3800 live television
reports. Sounds like it must have been much worse than "craziest"
Richard White: The Republic for Which It Stands: The
United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896
(2017, Oxford University Press): A new volume in The Oxford History
of the United States, originally planned by C. Vann Woodward and
Richard Hofstadter back in the 1950s, with the first volumes appearing
in 1982 (Robert Middlekauff on 1763-1789) and 1988 (James M. McPherson
on the Civil War), and David M. Kennedy (whose 1929-1945 volume came
out in 1999) taking over after Woodward's death. Each of the eleven
period volumes (plus a 12th on US foreign relations) is close to 1000
pages, and the few I've looked at (3 remain unpublished) are remarkably
Sean Wilentz: The Politicians & the Egalitarians: The
Hidden History of American Politics (paperback, 2017, WW
Norton): A major historian, though much more reliable on The
Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln than on
The Age of Reagan: A History 1974-2000, offers a book
of scattered essays, mostly book reviews. Useful for reminding
ourselves how prevalent the egalitarian impulse is in American
history, and how often pragmatic politicians fall short of even
their own professed ideals.
Lawrence Wright: The Terror Years: From Al-Qaeda to the
Islamic State (2016; paperback, 2017, Vintage Books): Author
of one of the best general histories of Al-Qaeda and 9/11, The
Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006), updates
the story with scattered pieces -- mostly profiles of more or less
related individuals although nothing like a comprehensive update
of the ensuing history.
Other recent books also noted without comment:
Alec Baldwin/Kurt Andersen: You Can't Spell America Without
Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as
President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody) (2017, Penguin
Krystal Ball: Reversing the Apocalypse: Hijacking the
Democratic Party to Save the World (2017, Pelican Media).
Hillary Rodham Clinton: What Happened (2017, Simon
James Comey: A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership
Melinda Cooper: Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and
the New Social Conservatism (2017, Zone Books).
Corey R Lewandowski/David N Bossie: Let Trump Be Trump:
The Inside Story of His Rise to the Presidency (2017,
Keith Olbermann: Trump Is F*cking Crazy (This Is Not a Joke)
(2017, Blue Rider Press).
Leo Panitch/Sam Gindin: The Making of Global Capitalism:
The Political Economy of American Empire (paperback, 2013,
Yanis Varoufakis: Talking to My Daughter About the Economy:
A Brief History of Capitalism (paperback, 2017, The Bodley
Michael Wolff: Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House
(2018, Henry Holt).
John Ziegelman/Andrew Coe: A Square Meal: A Culinary History
of the Great Depression (2016; paperback, 2017, Harper).
Monday, April 16, 2018
Music: current count 29570  rated (+21), 365  unrated (-6).
Looks like rated count tanked, but four of the albums listed below
are 2-CD, one 3-CD, and one is 4-CD. Granted, I didn't give the multiple
sets (aside from Ivo Perelman) extra spins. My two new A- records got
at least four plays. The only question I had about the other -- a 2-CD
reissue of the first half of Anthony Braxton's 4-CD Willisau (Quartet)
1991 -- was whether it would rise to a full A, but I noted a couple
of off spots, and figured my original A- grade would hold (albeit a high
one). On the other hand, I carved out three separate grades for original
albums collected in Louis Armstrong's Pops Is Tops: The Complete
Verve Studio Albums and More. Finally an Armstrong box you don't
need, although to the extend you can isolate the leader's vocals and
occasional trumpet from Russ Garcia's orchestra, you might beg to
differ. The album with Oscar Peterson isn't so great either. If you
want to hear Satch singing show tunes, try challenging him, as Ella
Fitzgerald did: see Ella and Louis and, even better, Ella
and Louis Again.
The Arild Andersen album took a while because it never quite hit
me as strong as Live at Belleville, his first album with tenor
saxophonist Tommy Smith. The John Prine album was even more marginal.
Touted as his first album of original songs since 2005's Fair and
Square, one might have hoped that Trump raised up his political
hackles like Bush did, but he chose to sing about something less
depressing: death -- or at least it's less depressing given his
spin on the afterlife. He looks bad, and sounds worse, but bears
a message of forgiveness for damn near everyone. Feels a lot like
You Want It Darker, which is about as much a decline from
I'm Your Man as this is from The Missing Years.
Folks get old and decrepit, and maybe you should appreciate them
a little before they die.
Two near misses. After seven volumes of The Art of Perelman-Shipp
last year, I was feeling a little fatigue in facing three more duo CDs.
I played the third disc enough to be impressed, but was glad I didn't
have to sort them all separately. I was even more impressed by George
Coleman on the Brian Charette disc. He's showing remarkable vigor for
an 82-year-old, but was somewhat better served on 2016's A Master
Speaks. The other B+(***) this week is a bass duo recovered from
1994 -- a rather self-limiting format, but really doesn't sound like
a bass duo at all. More like an interesting but oblique soundtrack.
Unpacking was very skimpy last week, but I folded Monday's mail in
so it looks closer to normal below. Still, didn't factor those into
the unrated count, so we're a bit out of sync. I have quite a bit of
One significant addition to the website is that I've resurrected a
set of pages on my late sister's
Sacred Space project, from 2002. I
had these pages tucked into a corner of my website before they got
trashed by my ISP. I was able to salvage the text files, but had to
scrounge through my stuff to locate a CD-ROM with the images. At
this point I've done little more than update the HTML. I still need
to annotate the images (I'll need help for that; even more help
would be to find better images, as many of these are awful fuzzy),
add image links to the portal pages, and add links from the
Checklist to the portal
pages. I probably need to transpose most of the images, and make
thumbnails so they can be presented more sensibly (instead of just
I could also use some more historical details. The project was
originally displayed at Wichita State University, and has had at
least one other presentation, but has mostly been in storage. It
was officially directed by Diane Thomas Lincoln (who died in
2012), but I recall Kathy talking about the portal concept much
earlier, and I've always regarded her as the driving force behind
the project. WSU had agreed to re-present the project this summer --
something Kathy was very much looking forward to.
New records rated this week:
- Arild Andersen: In-House Science (2016 , ECM): [dl]: A-
- Jakob Bro: Returnings (2016 , ECM): [r]: B
- Brian Charette/George Coleman: Groovin' With Big G (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra Berlin: Ninety-Nine Years (2017 , Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
- Gerry Hemingway/Samuel Blaser: Oostum (2015 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(*)
- The Doug MacDonald Quintet/The Roger Neumann Quintet: Two Quintets: Live Upstairs at Vitello's (2017 , Blujazz, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
- Erin McDougald: Outside the Soirée (2018, Miles High): [cd]: B+(**)
- Michael Morreale: MilesSong: The Music of Miles Davis (2016 , Summit, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
- Meg Okura/Sam Newsome/Jean-Michel Pilc: NPO Trio Live at the Stone (2016 , Chant): [bc]: B+(*)
- Meg Okura & the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Ima Ima (2018, Chant): [bc]: B+(*)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Oneness (2017 , Leo, 3CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- John Prine: The Tree of Forgiveness (2018, Oh Boy): [r]: A-
- Jim Snidero & Jeremy Pelt: Jubilation! Celebrating Cannonball Adderley (2017 , Savant): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Spin Cycle [Scott Neumann/Tom Christensen]: Assorted Colors (2017 , Sound Footing): [cd]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Louis Armstrong: Pops Is Tops: The Complete Verve Studio Albums and More (1957 , Verve, 4CD): [r]: B
- Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Willisau) 1991 Studio (1991 , Hatology, 2CD): [r]: A-
- Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: After the Fall (1998 , ECM, 2CD): [dl]: B+(**)
- Kirk Lightsey/Harold Danko, Shorter by Two: The Music of Wayne Shorter Played on Two Pianos (1983 , Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
- Barre Phillips/Motoharu Yoshizawa: Oh My, Those Boys! (1994 , NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Louis Armstrong: Louis Under the Stars (1957 , Verve): [r]: B+(*)
- Louis Armstrong: I've Got the World on a String (1957 , Verve): [r]: B
- Louis Armstrong/Oscar Peterson: Louis Armstrong Meets Oscar Peterson (1957, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Yelena Eckemoff: Desert (L&H Production): May 4
- Dave Gisler Trio: Rabbits on the Run (Intakt): May 20
- Fred Hersch Trio: Live in Europe (Palmetto): May 11
- Angelika Niescier Trio: The Berlin Concert (Intakt): May 20
- Henry Threadgill: Double Up Plays Double Up Plus (Pi): May 18
- Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg: Dirt . . . and More Dirt (Pi): May 18
- The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2018 Radio Broadcasts (self-released)
- The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Best of the Jazz Heritage Series Volume 1 (self-released)
Sunday, April 15, 2018
John Bolton started work as Trump's new National Security Adviser on
Monday. On Friday, Trump ordered a massive missile attack on Syria. Those
who warned about Bolton, like
Fred Kaplan, have been vindicated very quickly. Presumably, what took
Trump and Bolton so long was lining up British and French contributions
to the fusillade, to make this look less like the act of a single madman
and more like the continuation of a millennium of Crusader and Imperialist
attacks on Syria. For a news report on the strike, long on rhetoric and
short on damage assessment, see
Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neft, Ben Hubbard: U.S., Britain and France
Strike Syria Over Suspected Chemical Weapons Attack. Two significant
points here: (1) the targets were narrowly selected to represent Syria's
alleged chemical weapons capability (which raises the question of why, if
the US knew of these facilities before, it didn't insist on inspections
under Syria's Russia-brokered agreement to give up its chemical weapons --
more rigorous inspections could have kept the alleged chemical attacks
from ever happening, as well as saving Syria from "retaliatory" strikes);
(2) the US and its cronies consider this round of strikes to be complete
(Trump even used the phrase
"Mission Accomplished" to describe them).
I suppose the good news here is that while Russia is unhappy about
the strikes, Trump and Bolton (and "Mad Dog") have limited themselves
to a level of aggression unlikely to trigger World War III. On the other
hand, what Trump did was embrace one of the hoariest clichés of American
politics: the notion that US presidents prove their mettle by unleashing
punitive bombing strikes on nations incapable of defense or response.
The first example I can recall was Reagan's bombing of Libya in 1986,
although there were previous examples of White House tantrums, like
Wilson sending Pershing's army into Mexico to chase down Pancho Villa
in 1916-17. After Reagan, GHW Bush launched grudge wars against Panama
and Iraq, but the art (and hubris) of bombing on a whim was more fully
developed and exploited by Bill Clinton, especially in Iraq. Clinton
got so much political mileage out of it that GW Bush bombed Iraq his
first week in office, just to show that he could.
Still, what makes it a cliché is not just that other presidents
have done it. People who play presidents on TV and in the movies do
it also, if anything even more often and reflexively. I first noticed
this in The West Wing -- I didn't watch much TV during its
1999-2006 run, but it seems like nearly every episode I did catch
saw its otherwise reasonable President Bartlett ordering the bombing
of someone or other. Just last week President Kirkman of Designated
Survivor unleashed a rashly emotional attack on a fictional
country based on even shoddier intelligence than Trump's. A couple
weeks ago in Homeland the US bombed Syria against President
Elizabeth Keane's orders, simply because her Chief of Staff thought
it would provide some useful PR spin. When all of pop culture calls
out for blood, not to mention advisers like Bolton, it's impossible
to imagine someone like Donald Trump might get in their way.
The usual problem with clichés is that they're lazy, requiring
little or no thought or ingenuity. Politicians are even more prone
to clichés than writers, because they rarely run any risk saying
whatever they're most expected to. Some people thought that Trump,
with his brusque disregard for "political correctness," might be
different, but they sadly overestimated his capacity for any form
of critical thought. On the other hand, Washington is chock full
of foreign policy mandarins trapped in the same web of clichés,
even as it's long been evident that their plots and prescriptions
don't come close to working. And nowhere have knee-jerk reactions
been more obvious than with Syria, where America's effort to fight
some and promote other anti-Assad forces is effectively nihilist.
Rational people recoil from situations where there is no solution.
Trump, on the other hand, takes charge.
Some more links on the fire this time in Syria:
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that drove politics this week: House
Speaker Paul Ryan is retiring from Congress; Mr. Zuckerberg went to
Washington; The FBI raised Michael Cohen's office (doesn't he mean
"raided"?); James Comey started promoting his book. The latter point
mentions what I would have picked as a key story: the pardon for
Scooter Libby -- one of the dozen or so most obnoxious things Trump
has personally done so far. Perhaps even bigger is the latest Trump
assault on Syria. While the missile launch occurred after Yglesias
was done for the week, the PR pitch lurked over the entire week.
Other Yglesias posts this week:
James Comey admits that his read of the polls may have influenced his
handling of the Clinton email probe: Yglesias adds: "A damning
admission." I'm inclined to take it more at face value, as (belated)
recognition that he was letting his decisions be dictated by what he
expected the perceived reactions might be. In particular, he was much
more concerned about what Republicans might say had he done the normal
thing and kept quiet about an ongoing investigation until the FBI had
actually reviewed the evidence; and that he was completely clueless
to how his rumor-mongering might affect the Democrats, the election,
and the fate of the nation. And he reaches for the facile excuse that
based on polls he expected Clinton to win anyway so he figured nothing
he could do would change things, although what he did was the single
most important factor in tilting the election toward Trump. Even today,
Comey's claim to have acted even-handedly is tone deaf to the actual
temper of the political divide. While he is forthright in condemning
Trump, he manages to make himself look to Trump supporters like a hack
spouting partisan rancor -- and therefore he's unlikely to convince
anyone of anything other than their presuppositions.
For more on the book, see:
Jen Kirby: 5 eye-popping revelations from James Comey's book excerpts:
- Trump was obsessed with the so-called "pee tape"
- Comey has some things to say about Jeff Sessions
- Comey is airing his Trump grievances. Like, really airing them.
- Comey says the Trump administration reminded him of his days prosecuting
- Comey defends his handling of the Clinton email investigation -- and
makes it seem as if everyone else has absolved him too
Also, not for me but maybe for you:
Alex Ward: Why James Comey isn't the hero you think he is.
Donald Trump sold out to Paul Ryan, not the other way around.
John Kelly's diminished standing in the Trump administration, in one
photo: Not actually the first time Kelly has been photographed with
his hand over his face. Probably not the last either. The suggestion is
that it's not true that Kelly has no sense of shame. More likely he just
has no principles.
The RNC's new Lyin' Comey website, explained: One of the era's
more cynical attempts at negative psychology.
Interestingly, though, the Lyin' Comey site does not really dedicate
much attention (if any) to rebutting anything in particular Comey
said about Trump.
Instead, its main focus is pointing out that between October 2016
and Comey's firing in May 2017, Democrats had a lot of mean things
to say about him.
Mark Zuckerberg has been apologizing for reckless privacy violations since
he was a freshman.
House Speaker Paul Ryan was the biggest fraud in American politics.
Ryan's decision to give up his Congressional seat in 2018 has led to a
lot of commentary, but this is the one key point -- reiterated in
Paul Krugman: The Paul Ryan Story: From Flimflam to Fascism:
Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed
was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone
name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit
made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his
supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor?
voted against the Simpson-Bowles debt commission proposal not
because of its real flaws, but because it would raise taxes and fail
to repeal Obamacare.
And his "deficit reduction" proposals were
always frauds. The revenue loss from tax cuts always exceeded any
explicit spending cuts, so the pretense of fiscal responsibility came
entirely from "magic asterisks": extra revenue from closing unspecified
loopholes, reduced spending from cutting unspecified programs. I called
flimflam man back in 2010, and nothing he has done since has called
that judgment into question.
More on Ryan:
For what it's worth, I think Ryan's decision makes sense on three
counts: (1) Ryan is one of the most despised political figures in the
nation right now, and in 2018 every Democrat running for the House is
going to be running against Ryan (much as every Republican since 2010
has run against Nancy Pelosi); I'd bet that the Kochs have polling
showing this liability, so they helped nudge him into backing out and
trying to protect his brand for more opportune times; (2) after being
Speaker, becoming Minority Leader is one of the shittiest jobs in US
political life (sure, Pelosi did it, but QED); (3) I believe Ryan that
he won't run for president in 2020, but someone is going to primary
Trump, and if that results in a Trump exit or a contested convention
Ryan wants to position himself as the compromise/unity choice -- the
same strategy that got him the Speakership. Of course, he could just
cash in and become a lobbyist, but his sponsors probably still think
he still has a political future.
Scott Pruitt's ethics problems are conservative ideology in action.
I was thinking of articulating this somewhat differently: that conservatives
are exceptionally prone to corruption because they believe that private
gain is more important than public welfare, and doubly so to the extent
they're able to create a world where private wealth is the only source
of future security. Yglesias' main point is "conservatives don't believe
in the EPA's mission," which correlates with the idea that corruption is
fine as one way to hobble a bureaucracy they don't want to work. For the
case in point, any money Pruitt wastes on security and luxury travel and
fancy furniture is money unavailable for enforcing clean air and water
laws. Similarly, conservatives seek to direct funding away from welfare
to defense, not because they so value defense but because money spent
there almost never increases public welfare. And conservatives -- John
Bolton is a good example -- favor foreign policies that increase risk
and fear, because they promote greater defense spending.
The American Chopper Meme, explained. The Pruitt one near the end
makes an interesting point.
The Bell Curve is about policy. And it's wrong. About Charles
Murray, the reference to his 1994 book The Bell Curve, which
attempted to salvage racism by using statistics rather than utterly
discredited genetic claims. The most charitable interpretation one can
make about Murray's data is that it shows that racial discrimination
has been somewhat successful at disadvantaging blacks. Still, I'm
surprised to see anyone bringing this lame horse up, especially
after the book was thoroughly rebutted in
Russell Jacoby/Naomi Glauberman, eds.: The Bell Curve Debate.
Still, as Yglesias notes, Murray is still active, still spreading
politically motivated nonsense, as much about class as race. I guess
I shouldn't be so surprised. After all, if you're dumb enough to
believe Trump is on your side, you're probably dumb enough to think
Charles Murray is smart.
The case against Facebook. I can't say as I'm following either
Facebook or the angst over it, but if you are, also see:
Matt Taibbi: Can We Be Saved From Facebook? and
Watching Facebook and Senate Hypocrisy in Real-Time.
Tara Golshan: Trump is calling backsies on exiting the Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade deal: Significantly, he's being lobbied by
Republicans, especially from agricultural states.
Umair Irfan: Scott Pruitt's actions at the EPA have triggered a half-dozen
investigations. Also note that Pruitt's penchant for corruption preceded
his move to Washington. See:
Sharon Lerner: Why Did the EPA's Scott Pruitt Suppress a Report on
Corruption in Oklahoma?
Mark Kalin: List-Making as Resistance: Chronicling a Year of Damage Under
Trump: Interview with Amy Siskind, author of The List: A Week-by-Week
Reckoning of Trump's First Year. Where most journalists have tried to
make their living off Trump's Twitter feed, Siskind prefers to chronicle
what's actually been happening. Doubt she's got it all -- the book is a
mere 528 pages -- but it should be a good start. For an excerpt, see
Amy Siskind: Yes, We Are Like Frogs in Boiling Water With Trump as
Carolyn Kormann: Ryan Zinke's Great American Fire Sale.
Paul Krugman: What's the Matter With Trumpland? Mostly true as far
as he goes, but the key point isn't the liberal platitude that the most
successful areas are those with the most educational opportunities and
cultural attraction for educated workers (including immigrants). It's
that declining areas have been making political choices that make their
prospects even worse.
That new Austin et al. paper makes the case for a national policy of
aiding lagging regions. But we already have programs that would aid
these regions -- but which they won't accept. Many of the states that
have refused to expand Medicaid, even though the federal government
would foot the great bulk of the bill -- and would create jobs in the
process -- are also among America's poorest.
Or consider how some states, like Kansas and Oklahoma -- both of
which were relatively affluent in the 1970s, but have now fallen far
behind -- have gone in for radical tax cuts, and ended up savaging
their education systems. External forces have put them in a hole,
but they're digging it deeper.
And when it comes to national politics, let's face it: Trumpland
is in effect voting for its own impoverishment. New Deal programs and
public investment played a significant role in the great postwar
convergence; conservative efforts to downsize government will hurt
people all across America, but it will disproportionately hurt the
very regions that put the G.O.P. in power.
I doubt it's disproportionate. After all, wealthier "blue states"
have much more to lose, but it's certainly the case that nothing
Trump and the Republicans will actually do will help to even out
regional economic differences. Actually, we've been through this
debate before. In the 1930s southern Democrats saw the New Deal as
a way out of their impoverishment, but from about 1938 on most of
the leading southern Democrats broke with Roosevelt, fearing that
too much equality would upset their racial order, even if (perhaps
even because) it raised living standards. Of course, they didn't
reject all federal spending in their districts. They became the
most ardent of cold warriors. (On the New Deal, see Ira Katznelson:
Fear Itself: The New Deal and the Origins of Our Time. As
for the cold warriors and their money train, James Byrne, John
Stennis, and Carl Vinson were major figures.)
Krugman also wrote
Unicorns of the Intellectual Right, to remind us about the
"intellectual decadence" and "moral decline" of right-leaning
In macroeconomics, what began in the 60s and 70s as a usefully
challenging critique of Keynesian views went all wrong in the 80s,
because the anti-Keynesians refused to reconsider their views when
their own models failed the reality test while Keynesian models,
with some modification, performed pretty well. By the time the
Great Recession struck, the right-leaning side of the profession
had entered a Dark Age, having retrogressed to the point where
famous economists trotted out 30s-era fallacies as deep insights.
But even among conservative economists who didn't go down that
rabbit hole, there has been a moral collapse -- a willingness to
put political loyalty over professional standards. We saw that most
recently in the way leading conservative economists raced to endorse
ludicrous claims for the efficacy of the Trump tax cuts, then tried
to climb down without admitting what they had done. We saw it in the
false claims that Obama had presided over a massive expansion of
government programs and refusal to admit that he hadn't, the warnings
that Fed policy would cause huge inflation followed by refusal to
admit having been wrong, and on and on.
German Lopez: Trump is already trying to call off his attorney general's
war on marijuana.
Alex Ward: Mike Pompeo, your likely new -- and Trump-friendly -- secretary
of state: When Pompeo first ran for Congress, I had him pegged as a
straight Koch plant with a quasi-libertarian economic focus, which I
actually found preferable to his predecessor (Christian Fascist and
Boeing flack Todd Tiahrt). However, his resume included a West Point
education, and he soon emerged as a hardline neocon militarist. What
brought him to Trump's attention was his demagogic flogging of Hillary
Clinton and the Benghazi!!! pseudo-scandal. I can't imagine Trump
nominating anyone who isn't "Trump-friendly," so I wouldn't get too
agitated about that. Right now the problem with Pompeo isn't that he's
simpatico with Trump; it's that his nomination shows that Trump is
buying into Pompeo's neocon worldview -- although I'd also worry that
Pompeo's tenure at CIA has made him even more contemptuous of law and
diplomacy than he was before. Also see:
Ryan Grim: Mike Pompeo Could Go Down if Senate Democrats Decide to
Jennifer Williams: Trump just pardoned Scooter Libby: If you recall
the case (way back in 2007), you'll recall that Libby was the only one
convicted by a special prosecutor investigation into the politically
motivated unmasking of a CIA agent -- an act that Libby doesn't seem
to have been involved in, but Libby's perjury and obstruction prevented
those actually guilty from ever being charged. At the time, GW Bush
commuted Libby's three-year prison sentence, evidently afraid that if
he didn't, Libby would switch sides and rat out other Bush operatives.
Libby wound up paying a fine and spending two years on probation, but
that's well in the past right now, so the pardon at this point barely
affects Libby's life. So it's hard to read this as anything other
than a blanket promise to his underlings that even if they do get
caught up in his scandals and convicted, as long as they don't
implicate Trump the president will protect them. It is, in other
words, a very deliberate and public way of undermining the Mueller
investigation. I'm not sure if it violates US law on obstruction
of justice, but UK law has a term that surely applies: perverting
the course of justice. For more, see:
Dylan Scott: Democrats are kind of freaking out about Trump's Scooter
Libby pardon and what it means.
By the way, I'm not sure that the two are linked, but Libby was
Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, and Cheney never had
the same sort of influence over the Bush Administration after Libby
left. Of course, the other explanation is that Cheney's dominance
early on had backfired, especially after the 2006 election debacle.
Cheney also lost a key ally when Donald Rumsfeld got sacked, and
was further embarrassed as his approval ratings sank under 20%.
Gary Younge: Trump and Brexit Are Symptoms of the Same Failure to Reckon
With Racism: Having lived both in UK and US, Younge seems the failure
to deal with racism as leading not just to dysfunction but to dementia,
with Brexit and Trump just two flagrant examples.
The argument about which country is, at present, the most dysfunctional
is of course futile, since the answer would render neither any less
dysfunctional. Britain set itself an unnecessary question, only then to
deliver the wrong answer. Those who led us out of the European Union had
no more plans for what leaving would mean than a dog chasing a car has
to drive it. Not only do we not know what we want; we have no idea how
to get it, even if we did.
Monday, April 09, 2018
Music: current count 29549  rated (+32), 371  unrated (+4).
Fairly normal week in terms of overall rated count, but above average
in A-list records. That's basically because I finally got a chance to
pay some attention to some leads (e.g.,
Phil Overeem convinced me to listen to the Sonny Rollins reissue,
and reminded me to take another look for No Age). Note that the Nik
Bärtsch Ronin album doesn't drop until May 6. When I was trying to
March Streamnotes I was
rather desperate to find a couple more A-list albums, and the Bärtsch
download seemed like a prospect -- but I couldn't find time to dig it
up. A few years ago I tried holding back reviews of albums I got to
ahead of release date, but found that nobody much cared, so I gave
up on the extra complication.
Miles Davis/John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Sons of Kemet, and a few
lesser items appeared on the album ballots for Downbeat's Critics
Poll. I cast a ballot last week, while collecting
usual notes. As it happens,
I was feeling pretty miserable at the time, so after I got through the
new/old album questions, I pretty much coasted, in most cases voting
for whoever I voted for the previous year. Even more so, the sections
in the notes where I list "first pass" picks from their offered ballot
went unchecked and unchanged. On the other hand, it doesn't look like
whoever at Downbeat put this year's ballot together put a lot
of work into revision either.
I'm not a big fan of trying to rank musicians, so I'm not bothered
by my reduced diligence this year. (I have less objection to sorting
them out into broad tiers, like the ones I've noted for their Hall of
Fame nominees.) The one category I did give some serious thought to
was Hall of Fame, where I voted for: Roswell Rudd (5), George Russell
(3), and Anthony Braxton (2). I've voted for Russell every year since
I started receiving invitations, and if you don't know why, take that
as your homework assignment. I've voted for Braxton off-and-on, and
would say that he's the most deserving living musician who hasn't
been voted in yet (now that Lee Konitz finally got the nod). This
year is the 50th anniversary of his first albums, Three Compositions
of New Jazz and For Alto, and while those aren't personal
favorites, I have him down for 20 A/A- albums, and that's just the
tip of a very massive iceberg.
As for Rudd, he died last year, and one thing I've noticed in
past critics polls is how they tend to flock to whoever was the
most famous musician who died in the past year. (Indeed, I think
Konitz finished 2nd or 3rd to just-dead guys a half dozen times
or more.) Rudd's long been a personal favorite -- I count 10
A+/A/A- records under his name, and he's played on close to ten
more filed under other names -- so I figured I should join in
on this expected wave. Problem is, Downbeat didn't list
his name on their ballot, and winning on write-ins is probably
I spent a lot of time thinking about the Baseball Hall of Fame
back in the 1990s, and much of what I learned applies here too.
The key questions you have to ask is how large a set of candidates
from the past you wish to honor, and how many comparable newcomers
appear each year. The Rock and Roll HOF grows at a rate of 5-or-6
per year (down from 10/year when founded in 1986), which is probably
too much -- aside from the question of whether they're picking the
best ones, which judging from the 11 2017-18 inductees I'd say they
aren't (the most credible picks are Tupac Shakur and Nina Simone,
not that I would have picked either. On the other hand, Downbeat's
HOF grows at a rate of 2/year: one picked by the Critics Poll, the
other by their Readers Poll. While the DBHOF started earlier (1952)
and has recently added a few extras through a Veterans Committee,
the current total is still just 150. That strikes me as both too
few and falling well behind the rate at which new jazz musicians of
that calibre are appearing. I explain this more in the notes file.
Of course, one problem is that few of the DB critics are
into avant-jazz. (Just one bit of proof there: Christian McBride
regularly wins as best bassist, while William Parker regularly
languishes down in the 7-10 spots.) Still, once in a blue moon
someone on the cutting edge manages to get recognized there. One
of the first died last week: pianist Cecil Taylor, 89. I'm afraid
I'm not a huge fan, but he has done some amazing work. I saw him
once, and left early, figuring he'd keep recycling stuff I've
already heart for the rest of his second set. Still, I wasn't
upset or disappointed. And I've heard a bunch of albums by him
that I seriously recommend. From my database, all A- or above:
- Jazz Advance (1956 , Blue Note)
- Love for Sale (1959, Blue Note)
- The World of Cecil Taylor (1960, Candid) [A]
- Air (1960, Candid)
- Nefertiti, the Beautiful One Has Come (1962 , Revenant 2CD)
- Silent Tongues (1974, Arista/Freedom)
- One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye (1978 , Hat Art 2CD)
- The Eighth (1981 , Hatology)
- Olu Iwa (1986, Soul Note)
- The Feel Trio: Looking (Berlin Version) (1989 , FMP)
- The Feel Trio: Celebrated Blazons (1990 , FMP)
- The Willisau Concert (2000 , Intakt)
That a dozen records, out of forty I've heard, out of two or three
times that many he released. I'm not sure you really need that many,
but then I'm "not a big fan" -- those who are never seem to be able
to get enough. The Penguin Guide, for instance, credits Taylor
with more 4-star albums than any other jazz artist (including Duke
Ellington, Miles Davis, and the even more prolific Anthony Braxton).
Unlikely he'll ever be matched -- though it wouldn't hurt to look
into some of his successors, especially Irène Schweizer and Satoko
New records rated this week:
- Nik Bärtsch's Ronin: Awase (2017 , ECM): [dl]: A-
- Nat Birchall: Cosmic Language (2018, Jazzman): [r]: B+(***)
- Martin Blume/Tobias Delius/Achim Kaufmann/Dieter Manderscheid: Frames & Terrains (2016 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz (2012-14 , Origin): [cd]: A-
- Anat Cohen/Fred Hersch: Live in Healdsburg (2016 , Anzic): [r]: B+(*)
- Lucy Dacus: Historian (2018, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
- Victor Gould: Earthlings (2017 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
- Mary Halvorson: Code Girl (2016 , Firehouse 12, 2CD): [bc]: B+(*)
- Modern Mal: The Misanthrope Family Album (2017, Mal): [r]: B+(*)
- Patricia Nicholson/William Parker: Hope Cries for Justice (2017 , Centering): [cd]: B+(***)
- Danielle Nicole: Cry No More (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
- No Age: Snares Like a Haircut (2018, Drag City): [r]: A-
- Peripheral Vision: More Songs About Error and Shame (2018, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
- Roberta Piket: West Coast Trio (2017 , 13th Note): [cd]: B+(*)
- Chris Platt Trio: Sky Glow (2017 , self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Marvin Pontiac: The Asylum Tapes (2017, Strange and Beautiful): [r]: A-
- Noah Preminger: Genuinity (2017 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
- Scott Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Without a Trace (2015-17 , Origin): [cd]: B
- Jay Rodriguez: Your Sound: Live at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(**)
- Alex Sipiagin: Moments Captured (2016 , Criss Cross): [r]: B
- Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is a Reptile (2018, Impulse!): [r]: A-
- Superorganism: Superorganism (2018, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
- John Surman: Invisible Threads (2017 , ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
- Salim Washington: Dogon Revisited (2018, Passin' Thru): [bc]: B+(***)
- Wreckless Eric: Construction Time & Demolition (2018, Southern Domestic): [bc]: B+(***)
- Pablo Ziegler Trio: Jazz Tango (2017, Zoho): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Derek Bailey & Company: Klinker (2000 , Confront, 2CD): [r]: B
- Miles Davis & John Coltrane: The Final Tour [The Bootleg Series Vol. 6] (1960 , Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): [r]: A-
- Wynton Marsalis Septet: United We Swing: Best of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Galas (2003-07 , Blue Engine): [cd]: B+(*)
- Sonny Rollins: Way Out West [Deluxe Edition] (1957 , Craft): [r]: A
- We Out Here (2018, Brownswood): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last two weeks:
- Daniel Carter/William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Seraphic Light (AUM Fidelity): May 18
- Detroit Bop Quintet: Two Birds (TQM): April 20
- Robert Diack: Lost Villages (self-released): April 13
- District Five: Decoy (Intakt): April 27
- Mary Halvorson: Code Girl (Firehouse 12, 2CD)
- Dave Holland: Uncharted Territories (Dare2): advance, May 11
- Kira Kira: Bright Force (Libra): April 27
- Lello Molinari: Lello's Italian Job Volume 2 (Fata Morgana Music): May 1
- Reggie Quinerly: Words to Love (Redefinition Music): April 20
- Samo Salamon/Tony Malaby/Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving Breathing (Clean Feed)
- Rob Schwimmer: Heart of Hearing (Sunken Heights Music): June 1
- Edward Simon: Sorrows & Triumphs (Sunnyside): April 20
- Hans Teuber & Jeff Johnson: Deuce (Origin): April 20
- Alexander Von Schlippenbach/Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity - 50 Years (Intakt): April 20
- Woodwired: In the Loop (Uta)
- WorldService Project: Serve (Rare Noise): advance, April 27
Sunday, April 08, 2018
Meant to write an intro, but ran out of time. So let's cut to the
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: The week's main political stories, explained: The
trade war with China heated up: Trump announced tariffs on a wide range
of Chinese exports; China responded with tariffs on US exports; the stock
market panicked, then bounced back. Scott Pruitt is suddenly in ethics
trouble. Teachers are on strike in Oklahoma and Kentucky. Democrats scored
a big win in Wisconsin. More Yglesias pieces:
Tom Hundley: India and Pakistan are quietly making nuclear war more
likely: "Both countries are arming their submarines with nukes."
Umair Irfan: 5 lies Scott Pruitt told this week about his mounting
scandals. Irfan also wrote
Scott Pruitt's bizarre condo scandal and mounting ethics questions,
explained. For Pruitt's background, see
David Roberts: Tribalism put Scott Pruitt in power. It may not be enough
to save him. Roberts means several different things by "tribalism,"
ranging from the belief that following conservative ideology is doing
God's work to simple service to America's "resource industries":
Tribalism explains why Pruitt hired an enormous security team, built a
$43,000 security phone booth, avoids flying coach, hires political
cronies without Senate confirmation, exiles anyone who questions him,
boxes out career staff, works to diminish the influence of scientists,
meets almost exclusively with industry groups, and has issued agency
talking points playing down the threat of climate change.
However deluded Pruitt may be, a perhaps simpler explanation would
be he's simply corrupt. Also:
Rebecca Leber: Making America Toxic Again;
Margaret Talbot: Scott Pruitt's Dirty Politics. It shouldn't be
a surprise when Trump's underlings get caught up in scandals: their
whole belief system celebrates naked and brutal greed, so while they
toil to make the rich richer, they can't help but feel entitled to
their share of the spoils. I suppose what's unique about Pruitt is
the siege mentality he brought to the job -- hence the millions he's
spent on isolating himself from the public and his own department.
He clearly knows that his agenda to reverse fifty years of clean air
and water regulations is vastly unpopular. He's clearly bracing for
revolt. One example is
Matt Shuham: Collins: Pruitt Is 'Wrong Person' to Lead EPA 'On Policy
Grounds Alone': Of course, I've been saying that all along, but
it's good to see anyone (especially a Republican senator) able to see
the fire through the smoke.
At the same time Pruitt is likely to be fired for his scandals,
there's a curious effort -- possibly promoted by Pruitt himself --
to promote him to Attorney General. See
Andrew Prokop: The Scott Pruitt for attorney general rumor Trump
just angrily tweeted about, explained.
Dahlia Lithwick: Secret Handshake: "The depressing truth at the
center of the O'Reilly and Trump settlement agreements."
Suresh Naidu/Eric Posner/Glen Weyl: More and more companies have monopoly
power over workers' wages. That's killing the economy.
Anna North: What would America look like without Roe v. Wade? These
teenagers are finding out: Article doesn't really live up to its
title, but the story it tells is tragic and shows how stupid some
government bureaucrats can be when they let rigid political beliefs
dictate policy. You'd think that even ardent Trump nativists would
see some merit to allowing teenage refugee girls to get an abortion
rather than give birth to new citizens. One of the more chilling
stories I've read about the Trump administration. North also wrote:
How Trump helped inspire a wave of strict new abortion laws, and
Plenty of conservatives really do believe women should be executed
for having abortions.
Mark Perry: Steve Coll's Directorate S is Disturbing Account of
U.S. Mistakes After 9/11: I'm about 200 pages into Coll's book,
which thus far isn't nearly as disturbing as it should be. I've noted
several key points so far: the US categorically rejected any sort of
negotiations that might have shorted the rush to war; the CIA, which
got the jump over DOD by being able to move into Afghanistan quicker,
favored cash deals with warlords over state-building with Karzai or
anything that might have reduced stress or aided development; the CIA
introduced a torture regime which they had no experience with, and
which almost immediately backfired; the US made no effort to reduce
tensions between Pakistan and India, which ultimately were the main
driving force behind Pakistani "duplicity" -- the tendency to salute
the US flag while pursuing their own interests; meanwhile, Rumsfeld
was preoccupied with invading Iraq, while totally hand-waving the
problem of what to do following "catastrophic success." That brings
us to about 2004, before American involvement in Afghanistan really
fell apart. The book goes much further, and no doubt more problems
will become clearer. The one common denominator among every American
involved -- even Afghan-born Zalmay Khalilzad. ambassador 2003-05
before moving on to Iraq -- was their total indifference to how the
occupying American warriors were perceived by locals.
By the way, one tragic side story. When Hillary Clinton and Jack
Reed, US Senators, came to Afghanistan to support the war (and talk
about all the great things Americans were doing for Afghan women),
they were met by a VIP support convoy, which on their way had hit
and killed an Afghan woman pedestrian (and didn't stop, per security
Emily Stewart: Trump threatens a "big price" after reports of deadly
chemical attack in Syria: Just a week or two ago, Trump was talking
about withdrawing American troops from Syria following the dissolution
of ISIS as its capital in Raqqa was captured. But ever since Obama
declared that use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a "red line"
warranting US armed response anti-Assad forces have promoted reports
of chemical weapons use to goad the US into further involvement.
Obama backed down after Assad agreed to destroy all of his chemical
weapons, which should have been the end of the issue. However, in
April 2017 Trump bit on another report and ordered punitive cruise
missile strikes. I've never been convinced that Assad directed the
Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, but hawks were conveniently able
to keep the US pinned down in the Syrian Civil War for another year
afterward, and that history is clearly being repeated here. Lindsey
Graham, in particular, is going out of his way to goad Trump into
further bombing. As for the effect of last year's salvo, see
Fred Kaplan: Lost in Syria: "One year after Trump launched missiles
at Syria, we still don't know what he's trying to accomplish there."
By the way, I'm sure you've heard all about the poisoning of
former Russian spy Sergei Skirpal in London -- especially how the
UK and US have decided to retaliate against Russia's "chemical
weapons attack" by chucking dozens of Russian diplomatic personnel
out. Less likely that you've seen this:
Jason Ditz: Ex-Spy Skirpal Recovering Rapidly, Hospital Confirms.
American media is so slanted that it's easy to get the ball rolling
on a story that blames the Russians, and nearly impossible to reverse
it. I don't doubt that there is much to be critical of Putin and his
country for, but often the point of such stories here is to advance
a (Neo) Cold War agenda that threatens world peace.
Alexia Underwood: Sisi won Egypt's election. That doesn't mean he's
safe. People complain about Putin rigging the Russian presidential
election, but at least he had opposition and Russians had a choice.
(Not very good choices, as at least one potential opposition candidate
was excluded from the ballot.) But there's nothing fair about Egypt's
election, where Sisi got 97% of the vote, defeating "the only other
candidate, Mousa Mostafa Mousa, who was publicly known to be a strong
supporter of the president."
Monday, April 02, 2018
No Music Week
No real point doing a "Music Week" post this week. I spent pretty
much all of the week playing old favorites from the travel cases, so
the rated count for the week was a mere +2. I also haven't catalogued
the week's incoming mail -- not that there's much to report. So I'll
roll those into next week's post, which should be back to normal.
I was preoccupied last week with my sister Kathy's memorial, on
Saturday afternoon, and a family-and-friends get-together on Sunday.
I tried to do what I could to help out, which mostly meant cooking
a lot of food. For the reception following the service, I baked six
cakes (sweet potato bundt with a glaze; oatmeal stout with a broiled
topping; applesauce with raisins and walnuts in a loaf pan; and three
9x13 sheet cakes: fall spice, carrot, and chocolate) plus two pans of
For a savory snack alternative, I fixed Barbara Tropp's Chinese
Crudités. I filled up three half-sheet baking pans with piles of
vegetables cut into bite-sized chunks, some steamed (cauliflower,
brussels sprouts), most blanched (asparagus, baby corn, broccoli,
carrots, green beans, snap peas, zucchini) or raw (green/red/yellow
bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery, cucumber). I bought a bag
of brussels sprouts, way more than I needed, so I roasted half of
them and added them to the tray. The vegetables could be dipped
in four Chinese sauces: a rather spicy sesame, a very garlicky
peanut, dijon mustard, and sweet and sour.
We also made a Moroccan fruit salad (apples, nectarines, pears,
pineapple, banana, mejdol dates, macerated in orange juice and honey),
a similar berry salad (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries), and
For the Sunday get-together, I ordered barbecue meats from Hog
Wild and made four large side dishes: baked beans topped with bacon;
a Russian potato salad with smoked salmon, olives, capers, and dill;
a sweet and sour cole slaw (nothing creamy), and mast va khiar (a
Persian cucumber-yogurt with scallions, golden raising, black walnuts,
and mint). I figured there'd be enough leftover dessert, and there
was (barely). Several people helped with the cooking, especially Josi
Hull on Friday and Mike, Morgan and Kirsten Saturday night.
Even before the cooking, much of the week was spent shopping and
reconnoitering. I bought some very large bowls and baking sheets,
and more cake pans than I actually used. Also things like tongs for
serving and various containers for moving food around. I dumped a
lot of tasks onto Josi, like picking up plates and plasticware and
ice. The church people helped as well, especially with coffee and
Ram planned out the memorial service ("celebration of life), and
wrote and printed up the notes. He also set up a
website with a selection of
Kathy's writings, a (very partial) gallery of artwork, and a form
for submitting "memories and reflections," promising to compile the
latter into book form. (I started to collect some notes on
my website as well.) The service was,
well, unlike any I had ever attended.
Kathy joined the UU Church shortly after she moved back to Wichita,
following a few months when she stayed with me in New Jersey. As
children, we attended Disciples of Christ churches -- they were
evangelical but not fundamentalist, preferring the New Testament
(especially the Gospels) to the Old. As a young teen, I got very
involved in the church, but a few years later I turned against it
and the rest of the family lost interest, if not in religion at
least in church-going. I flipped over into an extreme rationalism,
but to the extent I ever bothered to try to understand it, Kathy
flopped the other direction. Like me, she went through a period
of examining all of the world's religions, but where I wound up
rejecting them all, she found ways to synthesize them.
The one religion she felt the closest affinity to was Wicca,
and she discovered that there was a sizable faction of Wiccans
at the First UU Church in Wichita (sometimes, I gather, at odds
with the other main faction, Humanists). Kathy joined First UU
in 1991 (actually after she had started leading moon dances) and
was very active off and on. I knew a little bit
about Unitarians because I went through a phase where I looked
into the history of early Protestant sects, especially Puritans,
and I've read some modern feminist essays on medieval witchcraft,
but I've never spent any time on Wicca, even having an expert in
the family. So the rituals, chants, and song about the Goddess
that opened and closed the service were lost on me. One of the
songs, I think, was from
a book Kathy wrote/compiled.
In between were a couple dozen tributes/memoirs by various people
Kathy had touched. My brother Steve recalled the first time he saw
Kathy, through a hospital window. My nephew Mike remembered Kathy as
the first person to reveal that unorthodox opinions and unconventional
lifestyles were even possible. (Kathy had an unofficial gay marriage
ceremony when Mike was a teen, but the relationship didn't last long.
She had a shorter still heterosexual marriage much earlier, but the
father of her son was a casual acquaintance I never met, who played
no role in Ram's life.) My cousin Ken Brown recounted how close our
When Kathy got pregnant, she came to stay with us in New Jersey.
After a few months, I got a job in Massachusetts, and we decided
Kathy should return to Wichita. When she got here, she moved in
with two other pregnant women, Cassandra and Lydia, and the three
had baby boys within days of each other, the six (and eventually
a few more) forming an extended family even long after they moved
apart. Cassandra, Lydia, and a third woman I didn't know spoke
about this unique relationship, and the third woman sang a Lakota
funeral song -- a remarkable moment.
Many more people spoke about Kathy's full moon dances and other
spiritual/community efforts. One colleague from the WSU art department
spoke, as did several former students. One student Kathy effectively
adopted was Matt Walston, who's become a
notable artist in his own right.
Kathy and Matt had talked about death, and one wish Kathy had was that
Matt make a "death mask" from her face. (Matt had some experience at
making masks, like
this one.) Matt made molds and distributed several papier maché
masks, while his wife, Carrie Armstrong, gave emotional testimony.
Laura talked about how much she was amazed by Kathy's art. Only one
speaker wandered off subject, ending the session on a bit of an off
There was some discussion of the "Sacred Spaces" project, which
Kathy had been a driving force behind c. 2002. It's long been in
storage, but WSU had agreed to exhibit it this summer, and Kathy
had been talking to Mike about shooting a film around it. Several
people vowed to make sure that still happens. I used to have a
gallery of photos from the exhibit up on my site, but they got
wiped out in a spat with the ISP. I just found the original CDR,
so I'll make an effort to get them restored soon.
One thing we screwed up was not making any sort of announcements
at the end of the service. Matt had set up a room with some of
Kathy's art and a plaster death mask people could paint on, but
most people weren't aware of that. It also took a while to set
up my food, so many people took off before they got a chance to
enjoy -- and I missed a number of people I wanted to talk to.
Nonetheless, about 85-90% of the food was eaten. My estimate is
that we had about 160 people present (the chapel holds 125, so
the others had to sit on folding chairs in the foyer, and it
looked like 30-40 people there).
The Sunday get-together was anticlimactic. Some people didn't
know about it and had travel plans to get away. I figured it would
drag on well past the advertised 1 PM start, so we didn't make
much of an effort to get there early, and it turned out that most
of the people who came had left by the time we got there. (I had
sent the food ahead, so nobody missed us that bad.) We got there
at 3:30, and stayed until 6 or so. I got back in time to cobble
Roundup last night. But not early enough to do a Music Week
today. Next time. Also, sometime this week I'll try to fill out a
Downbeat Critics Poll ballot (assuming it's not too late
yet -- I didn't even consider working on it when I got the ballot
Sunday, April 01, 2018
I was prepared to skip this weekly exercise completely: I spent most
of the last week preparing for my sister's funeral (or "celebration of
life" as the official title went) and related social gatherings. But
with the last such event ended this afternoon, and with various guests
taking their leave, I found myself wanting to do something "normal."
Not that much of what follows can be considered "normal" in any other
regard. I recently read Allen Frances' Twilight of American Sanity:
A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump, which fell rather short
of its titular ambition. Although there are occasional references to
commonplace psychology, he mostly focuses on ubiquity and persistence
of "delusional thinking" -- mostly defined as failure to recognize a
long list of liberal political creeds. I don't have much quarrel with
his platform planks, but I'm more suspicious of economic/class factors
than psychological ones. Where I think insight into psychology might
be helpful is in trying to model human behavior given the complexity
of the world and our various limits in apprehending it. It's certainly
credible that psychological traits that were advantageous in primitive
societies malfunction in our changing world, but how does that work?
And what sort of adjustments would work better?
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: The 4 stories that drove this week in politics:
David Shulkin is out at Veterans Affairs; Oklahoma teachers are going
on strike; Conservative media feuded with Parkland students; Trump
gave a weird speech: "one of the rambling, factually challenged
addresses for which he's famous. . . . Trump will continue to walk
the line between dishonest, uninformed, and inarticulate in a way
that keeps people guessing."
Other Yglesias pieces:
Trump-era politics is a surreal nightmare and we can't wake up:
"Diving back in kind of reminds me of Charlton Heston waking from his
space travel to discover that he's on a planet run by orangutans.
Except instead of orangutans, we have the Republican Party."
Ousted VA secretary blasts privatization in a New York Times op-ed:
The effect, I think, is to frame his firing as a policy dispute. Sure,
there is a major policy divide between an ideological faction that wants
to privatize VA health care and those, including virtually all veterans
groups, who like the current fully socialized system. The privatisers
were able to push Shulkin out not by winning their policy argument, but
by characterizing Shulkin as insufficiently loyal to Trump.
David Shulkin is out as secretary of veterans affairs.
Let's not repeal the 2nd Amendment: Former Supreme Court justice
John Paul Stevens wrote an op-ed:
Repeal the Second Amendment -- not a new idea as Stevens previously
included changes to the second amendment in his 2014 book Six Amendments:
How and Why We Should Change the Constitution. Yglesias argues that
even under the precedent-setting Heller ruling, which Stevens dissented
from and cites as reason for amending the constitution, there is still a
lot of leeway for sensible regulation of guns -- indeed, much more than
there is political will to implement. Moreover, just as Heller reversed
over a hundred years of precedents, Yglesias proposes that new Supreme
Court justices could reverse Heller. As a practical matter, he's probably
John Williams will likely be the next president of the New York Fed:
"He's got a track record of poor forecasting and weak regulation."
Stormy Daniels' 60 Minutes interview raises 2 critical questions she
- How many other sexual partners has Trump paid hush money to?
- How many foreign intelligence services know about one or more of
Joy Crane/Nick Tabor: 501 Days in Swampland: "A constant drip of
self-dealing. And this is just what we know so far . . ."
Dylan Curran: Are you ready? Here is all the data Facebook and Google
have on you.
Barbara Ehrenreich: It Is Expensive to Be Poor.
If anything, the criminalization of poverty has accelerated since the
recession, with growing numbers of states drug testing applicants for
temporary assistance, imposing steep fines for school truancy, and
imprisoning people for debt. Such measures constitute a cruel inversion
of the Johnson-era principle that it is the responsibility of government
to extend a helping hand to the poor. Sadly, this has become the means
by which the wealthiest country in the world manages to remain complacent
in the face of alarmingly high levels of poverty: by continuing to blame
poverty not on the economy or inadequate social supports, but on the poor
Thomas Frank: Dow dreamers show Trump's war on elites is pure fantasy:
On Larry Kudlow and Kevin Hassett.
Ann Hulbert: Today's Rebels Are Model Children: "The young protesters
now on the march are responsible and mature -- and they're asking adults
to grow up."
Stephen Kinzer: Efraín Ríos Montt, Guatemalan Dictator Convicted of
Genocide, Dies at 91.
Jen Kirby: Here are 6 of the most bizarre things Trump said in his
Paul Krugman: Putting the Ex-Con in Conservatism.
Anna North: How Trump helped inspire a wave of strict new abortion laws.
Richard Silverstein: IDF Murders 17 Gazans, Wounds 1,400 in Great Return
March Protest; also
Robert Mackey: Israel Opens Fire on Palestinian Protesters in Gaza;
Trump Envoy Blames "Hostile March"; also
James North: 'NY Times' covers up Israel's killing of nonviolent protesters
along the Gaza border; and
Philip Weiss: A brief, unhappy history of Israeli massacres.
Matt Taibbi: Is the Two-Party System Doomed?: Reflecting on a
comparative politics essay (US, France, UK) by Thomas Piketty called
Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right. I don't quite get it, but:
But having two parties sponsored by the same donors simply can't work
in the long-term. The situation ends up being what a Colombian politician
once deemed "two horses with the same owner."
From Mitt Romney's idiotic tirade against "the 47%" to Hillary
Clinton's recent remarks about how she won all the "dynamic" parts of
America, our political leaders have consistently showed that they don't
see or understand the levels of resentment out there.
Papers like Piketty's are a warning that if the intellectuals in both
parties don't come up with a real plan for dealing with the income
disparity problem before someone smarter than Donald Trump takes it
on, they're screwed. Forget nativists vs. globalists. Think poor vs.
rich. Think 99 to 1. While Washington waits with bated breath for the
results of the Mueller probe, it's the other mystery -- how do we fix
this seemingly unfixable economic system -- that is keeping the rest
of the country awake at night.
Taibbi notes that Trump at least took advantage of the resentments
of the excluded, even if all he had to offer were lies. It's likely
to be hard to pull that off again given his track record, but worth
recalling that the only thing that made him seem credible in 2016 was
how completely the Clintons had been discredited.
Danny Vinik: How Trump favored Texas over Puerto Rico.