September 2018 Notebook
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Monday, September 17, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30328 [30295] rated (+33), 277 [271] unrated (+6).

Had a rough week, including a moment when all of the stress I had been accumulating seemed to implode, then emanate outward in a scream and a shudder. One thing that did break was my progress through the new jazz queue. I ran into an album that under the circumstances was unbearable. I imagine I'll go back to it later this week and give it a fair shake, but that wasn't going to happen last week. Instead, I slipped two CDs into the changes, choice encounters between saxophonist and pianist -- Lester Young and Oscar Peterson for starters, then Ben Webster with Art Tatum -- and that's remained my wake-up ritual ever since: long enough for breakfast, reading what's left of the local newspaper, and a little work on the jigsaw puzzle. Later in the day I'd pull up some jazz on Napster, or if I needed to get away from the computer, some r&b from the travel cases. Somehow managed to fix a nice dinner for the people who were kind enough to tear down and pack my late sister's big art project -- currently in a truck on the road to Vancouver, WA. Greek shrimp, green beans, salad, rice, and an applesauce cake, as I recall.

Wound up with mostly old jazz this week, in most cases starting with albums Nate Chinen picked as the "129 Essential [Jazz] Albums of the Twenty-First Century." I copied them down, checked my database, and figured out I hadn't heard nearly a sixth of them (21, so 16.2%). I've since knocked that down to five that don't seem to be on Napster. In some cases my curiosity led me to related albums, picking up two extra albums by Danilo Pérez and John Scofield, one by Cassandra Wilson, but none of those cases filled in all of the holes in my listening. The one exception was Trio 3 (Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille) -- not coincidentally the only of the 16 records to get an A- -- and they got me to take another look at the great Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. I've made a couple of previous dives through her catalog, especially the piano-drum duos (I especially recommend the ones with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre), so much of what was left was solo -- something I rarely follow well let alone get into, but she's really special. Also gave me an excuse to dig deeper into her label, Intakt -- something I've long wanted to do.

One thing I did manage to do (in an unsatisfying, hacked up way) last week was set up WordPress for Notes on Everyday Life. I had previously built websites for this domain in 2004 based on Drupal and in 2014 based on WordPress, but both were eventually wiped out in server catastrophes. Neither was a major loss, in that the writing also existed in my notebook. So I was pleased that I found the "Intro" I wrote in 2014, but I got confused by the default widget setup so it's still not usable. I have a half-assed idea to fill it up with fragments from old notebooks, hoping that the category and tag system will bind those bits into more coherent wholes. Given that I've already gone through and collected the political writings, it should be relatively straightforward to start picking things out.

I have two more WordPress blogs to set up, including one for music writings. Would like some advice and direction on the latter, and ultimately some help. I've continued to collect music writings and non-jazz reviews into book form. I'm up to 2012 now, with close to 2000 pages in two books, so there's quite a bit of content that could be used as a starting point.


New records rated this week:

  • Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: Flyin' Through Florida (2018, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • John Kruth & La Società dei Musici: Forever Ago (2018, Ars Spoletium): [r]: A-
  • Joey Morant: Forever Sanctified (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones (2018, Chronograph): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Logan Richardson: Blues People (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B-
  • Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (2018, Pyroclastic): [cd]: B-
  • Jay T. Vonada: United (2017 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • VWCR [Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley/Sylvie Courvoisier/Tom Rainey]: Noise of Our Time (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • David Binney: South (2000 [2001], ACT): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Blade Fellowship: Perceptual (2000, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chicago Underground Quartet: Chicago Underground Quartet (2000 [2001], Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra/Irène Schweizer: Radio Rondo/Schaffhausen Concert (2008 [2009], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Always Let Me Go: Live in Tokyo (2001 [2002], ECM, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joëlle Léandre/Yves Robert/Irène Schweizer/Daunik Lazro: Paris Quartet (1985-87 [1989], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maggie Nicols/Irène Schweizer/Joëlle Léandre: Les Diaboliques (1993 [1994], Intakt): [r]: B
  • Danilo Pérez: Danilo Pérez (1992 [1993], Jive/Novus): [r]: B+(*)
  • Danilo Pérez: PanaMonk (1996, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Danilo Pérez: Motherland (2000, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas (1976 [1977], FMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Hexensabbat (1977 [1978], FMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas/Hexensabbat (1976-77 [2002], Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Live at Taktlos (1984 [1906], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 1 (1990 [1992], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 2 (1990 [1992], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Many and One Direction (1996, Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Irène Schweizer/Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Live Willisau & Taktlos (1998-2004 [2007], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • John Scofield: Blue Matter (1986 [1987], Gramavision): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Scofield: Hand Jive (1993 [1994], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Scofield: Works for Me (2000 [2001], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Co Streiff/Irène Schweizer: Twin Lines (1999-2000 [2002], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio 3: Encounter (1999 [2001], Passin' Thru): [r]: A-
  • Trio 3 + Irène Schweizer: Berne Concert (2007 [2009], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio 3 + Geri Allen: At This Time (2008 [2009], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Cassandra Wilson: Blue Skies (1988. JMT): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cassandra Wilson: Belly of the Sun (2002, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alchemy Sound Project: Adventures in Time and Space (ARC)
  • Danny Bacher: Still Happy (Whaling City Sound)
  • Jake Ehrenreich: A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs (self-released)
  • Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (Pi): October 5
  • The Marie Goudy 12tet featuring Jocelyn Barth: The Bitter Suite (self-released): October 12
  • Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan II (Rataplan): September 21
  • Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet: Human Resources (Creative Nation Music): November 9
  • Jared Sims: The New York Sessions (Ropeadope): October 12
  • Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii: Intelset (Alister Spence Music)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Once again, way too much to report to cover in the limited time I left myself this weekend. Especially given that I had to take a few hours out to attend a talk by Lawrence Wittner on How Peace Activists Saved the World from Nuclear War. As Wittner, author of at least three books on anti-nuke protests, pointed out, the main factor inhibiting nuclear powers from using their expensive weapons was fear of public reproach, something that was made most visible by the concerted efforts of anti-war and anti-nuke activists. Needless to say, he pointed out that this struggle is far from over, and arguably may have lost some ground with Trump in power. Trump, indeed, seems to be triply dangerous on this score: fascinated with the awesome power of nuclear weapons, convinced of his instincts for holding public opinion, and indifferent to whatever harm he might cause.


Some scattered links this week:

  • Scattered pieces by Matthew Yglesias:

    • Who's overrated and who's underrated as a 2020 Democratic presidential prospect? The one piece I care least about, partly because I think that it's far more important for Democrats to elect federal and state legislators, and for that matter state and local administrators, than the president. Most issues can be ranked on two axes: importance and urgency. The presidential election isn't until 2020, even including the seemingly interminable primary season, whereas there are important elections happening real soon. But also, and one can point to at least 25 years of experience here, I'd much rather have a solid Democratic Congress than a crippled Democratic president (which is a charitable description of the last two, maybe three). But if you are curious, the current betting lines (and that's really all they are) rank: Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Cuomo, Opray Winrey, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy. Nothing but minor nits in the article: Yglesias argues for Klobuchar vs. Gillibrand; Dylan Matthews for Michael Avenati vs. Winfrey; Ezra Klein advises "buy [LA mayor Eric] Garcetti, sell [CA governor Jerry] Brown." Previous editions of this article -- it promises to stick with us like a bad cough -- aimed higher, arguing that Harris is overrated vs. Sanders, that Biden and Kaine should be more evenly matched, and that Cuomo has pretty clearly blown his shot (he's since pretty definitively announced he's not running).

    • Andrew Cuomo has won himself another term, but his presidential aspirations are dead: "Somewhat ironically, it was actually Cuomo's presidential aspirations that, in retrospect, have ended up dooming his presidential aspirations. . . Cuomo zigged [right] when the national party zagged [left]." The good news for him was that he enjoyed a 20-to-1 fundraising advantage over challenger Cynthia Nixon, as well as solid support from what remains of the Democratic Party machine in New York. In short, he won his primary the same way Clinton defeated Sanders in New York in 2016. Also see: Matt Taibbi: Cuomo's Win: It's All About the Money.

    • George W. Bush is not a resistance leader -- he's part of the problem:

      The best way to think about Bush-style pseudo-resistance is that it's a hedge against the risk that the Trumpian political project collapses disastrously.

      In that case, Republicans are going to do what they've done so many times before and keep all their main policy commitments the same but come up with some hazy new branding.

      After the Gingrich-era GOP was rejected at the polls in 1998 as too mean-spirited, Bush came into office as a warm and fuzzy "compassionate conservative." When he left office completely discredited, a new generation of GOP leaders came to the fore inspired by the hard-edged libertarianism of the Tea Party and its critique of "crony capitalism." That then gave way to Donald Trump, a "populist" and "nationalist," who coincidentally believes in all the same things about taxes and regulation as a Tea Party Republican or a compassionate conservative or a Gingrich revolutionary.

      For better or worse (well, okay, for worse) the elite ranks of the American conservative movement are inspired by a fanatical belief that low taxes on rich people constitute both cosmic justice and a surefire way to spark economic growth. This assumption is wrong and also makes it impossible for them to coherently govern in a way that serves the concrete material interests of the majority of the population, leading inevitably to a politics that emphasizes immaterial culture-war considerations with the exact nature of the culture war changing to fit the spirit of the times.

      The disagreement over whether Trump is a jerk and the more nice-guy approach of Bush is better is a genuine disagreement, but it's fundamentally a tactical one. When the chips are on the table, Bush wants Trump to succeed. He just wants the world to know that if Trump does fail, there's another path forward for Republicans that doesn't involve rethinking any of their main ideas.

    • The controversy over Bernie Sanders's proposed Stop BEZOS Act, explained: "You need to take him seriously, not literally." The proposed act is just a way of showing (and with Amazon personalizing) the fact that one reason many companies can get away with paying workers less than a living wage is that many of those workers can compensate for low wages with the public-funded "safety net" -- food stamps, medicaid, etc. Such benefits not only help impoverished workers; they also effectively subsidize their employers. Of course, there are better ways to solve this problem, and indeed Sanders is in the forefront of pushing those ways. (Also see: James Bloodworth: I worked in an Amazon warehouse. Bernie Sanders is right to target them.)

  • Jon Lee Anderson: What Donald Trump Fails to Recognize About Hurricanes -- and Leadership: Before the storm hit, Trump tried to do the right thing and use his media prominence to make sure people were aware of the threat Hurricane Florence posed: as he most memorably put it, the storm "is very big and very wet." But aside from that one public service bit, everything else he made about himself, bragging about his "A+" damage control efforts in Texas and Florida last year, and blaming the disaster in Puerto Rico on Democrats and "fake news." I doubt that FEMA has ever done that great of a job, especially in an era where public spending is shrinking in addition to being eaten up by corruption (while at the same time disasters are becoming ever more expensive), but having the program run by people as insensitive and deceitful as Trump only makes matters worse.

    By the way, this has been a rather weird hurricane season, with more activity in the Pacific (including two major hurricanes impacting Hawaii, and, currently Typhoon Mangkhut ravages Philippines, Hong Kong, and southern China), while most Atlantic storms have been taking unusual routes (which partly explains why they've been relatively mild). It's not unusual for storms to follow the East Coast from Florida up through the Carolinas, but I can't recall any previous storm hitting North Carolina from straight east, then moving southwest and stalling before eventually curving north and back out to sea, as Florence is doing. (Wikipedia says Hurricane Isabel, in 2003, "took a similar path," but actually it came in from further south, with more impact in Virginia.) While Florence has caused a lot of damage to the Carolinas so far, one thing you should keep in mind is that winds there have generally been 70-80 mph less than what hit Puerto Rico a year ago. More rain and flooding, perhaps, but much less wind.

    More links on hurricanes, past and present:

  • Dean Baker: The bank bailout of 2008 was unnecessary. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke scared Congress into it. I think Baker's basically right, although at the time I didn't have a big problem with the $700 billion bank bailout bill -- nor, later, using some of the bailout funds to prop up the auto industry. I think it's appropriate for government to step in and prevent the sort of panics and collapse that big business is prone to, but I think it's even more appropriate to provide a strong safety net and a firm universal foundation for all the people who work and live in that economy. The problem is that propping up the banks kept the people who ran them into the ground in power, and once they were rescued, they actively worked against helping anyone else. Obama did manage to get a stimulus spending bill passed, but it was by most estimates less than half of what was actually needed to make up for the recession. (Coincidentally, it was capped at $700 billion, the same figure as the bank bailout bill. The banks, by the way, got way more than $700 billion thanks to Fed policies that basically gave them unlimited cash infusions, possibly as much as $3 trillion.) The recovery was further hampered by a Republican austerity campaign, whipped up by debt hysteria, partly on the hunch that keeping the economy depressed would make Obama, as Mitch McConnell put it, "a one-term president," and partly due to their ardor in shrinking government everywhere (except the military, police, and jails).

    Ten years after the collapse of Lehman, some more links:

    Matthew Yglesias' third Weeds newsletter made the following claim:

    President Obama's No. 1 job was to rescue the ruined economy he inherited, and he didn't do it.

    Yglesias, following an article by Jason Furman, argues that Obama failed because he didn't get Congress to pass an adequate stimulus bill. Congress did pass a $700 billion bill, but much of that was in the form of tax breaks, which turned out to have little effect. The size of the package was almost identical to the bank bailout bill passed under Bush, as if that was some sort of ceiling as to how much the government could spend on any given thing. (It's also very similar in size to the Defense budget, not counting supplemental funding for war operations.) I think it's more accurate to say that Obama did a perfectly adequate job of rescuing the banking industry, but once that was done it was impossible to get sufficient political support to rescue anyone else. Moreover, any hope that the banks, once restored to profitability, would somehow lift the rest of the economy out of the abyss, have been disproven. We might have known that much before, given the extent to which financial profits, even before the recession, were driven by predatory scams. There's no better example of the influence of money on politics, as well as its "I've got mine, so screw yours" ethics.

  • Zack Beauchamp: It happened there: how democracy died in Hungary. In 2010, Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party won a sufficient landslide to not only control Hungary's parliament but to rewrite its constitution, which they proceeded to do in such a way as to rig future elections in their favor, and make it nearly impossible for future governments to undo their policies. When I first read about this, I immediately realized that this would be the model for the Republicans should they ever achieve comparable power in the US. These days, Hungary looks like the model for a whole wave of illiberal despots, with Putin and Trump merely the most prominent.

  • James Fallows: The Passionless Presidency: Fairly long critique of Jimmy Carter's management style by a journalist who spent a couple years as one of Carter's speechwriters: mostly a catalog of idiosyncrasies he never felt the need to reconsider let alone learn from. Carter was one of the smartest and most personally decent people ever elected president, but few people regard him as a particularly good president, either based on results or popularity. It's long been recognized that he voluntarily sacrificed popularity with, for example, his recession-inducing battle against inflation, his appeal for conserving energy, and his Panama Canal treaty (to pick three backlashes Reagan's campaign jumped on. And lately we've had reason to question some of his goals and intentions, like his deregulation efforts, his undermining of trade unions, and his escalation of American "security interests" in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Fallows dances around these issues, partly by never really concerning himself with the substance of Carter's presidency, or for that matter its historical context. One thing that struck me at the time was that Carter started out wanting to find a moral center for US foreign policy, but somehow that quickly decayed into a more intensely moralistic gloss on the policy he inherited (mostly Kissinger's realpolitik with some high-sounding Kennedy-esque catch phrases). The immediate result was a revival of the Cold War in ever more uncompromising terms.

  • Sean Illing: The biggest lie we still teach in American history class: Interview with James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, which came out in 1995 and has sold some two million copies. He says: "The idea that we're always getting better keeps us from seeing those times when we're getting worse." Also:

    For example, if we want to make our society less racist, there are certain things we'll have to do, like we did between 1954 and 1974. During this time, you could actually see our society become less racist both in attitudes and in terms of our social structures.

    If we want to make society more racist, then we can do some of the things we did between 1890 and 1940, because we can actually see our society becoming more racist both in practices and in attitudes. So by not teaching causation, we disempower people from doing anything.

    By teaching that things are pretty much good and getting better automatically, we remove any reason for citizens to be citizens, to exercise the powers of citizenship. But that's not how progress happens.

    Nothing good happens without the collective efforts of dedicated people. History, the way it's commonly taught, has a way of obscuring this fact.

    Also, when asked about "the age of Trump":

    I actually think our situation is far worse than it was in the past. For example, our federal government, under Nixon and Johnson, lied to us about the Vietnam War, but they never made the case that facts don't matter or that my facts are as good as your facts.

    They assumed something had to be seen as true in order to matter, so they lied in order to further their agenda.

    Trump has basically introduced the idea that there is no such thing as facts, no such thing as truth -- and that is fundamentally different. He is attacking the very idea of truth and thereby giving his opponents no ground to stand on at all. That's a very dangerous road to go down, but that's where we are.

    Illing also has a good interview with David Graeber: Bullshit jobs: why they exist and why you might have one.

  • Anna North: The striking parallels between Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas: People tend to forget that the main reason Thomas' offenses were so shocking at the time was that he was actually in charge of the government department that was responsible for policing sexual harassment in the workplace. He should, in short, have been uniquely positioned to know the law, and personally bound to follow it. Of course, as a partisan Republican hack, he could care less about such things, but the example gave us a fair glimpse not just into his personal character but into his future legacy as a jurist. Kavanaugh's"#MeToo" problem (see Bonan Farrow/Jane Mayer: A Sexual-Misconduct Allegation Against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stirs Tension Among Democrats in Congress) doesn't strike me as of quite the same order, but there is a real parallel between how Thomas and Kavanaugh were groomed as political cadres infiltrating the Supreme Court. And confirming Kavanaugh will give him the opportunity to do something vastly more destructive to American women than he could ever have done in person. My main caveat is: don't think that all these guys care about is sexual domination; they're also really into money.

  • Nomi Prins: Cooking the Books in the Trump Universe. Or, as The Nation retitled this piece, "Is Donald Trump's Downfall Hidden in His Tax Returns?"

  • Jim Tankersley/Keith Bradsher: Trump Hits China With Tariffs on $200 Billion in Goods, Escalating Trade War.

  • Sandy Tolan: Was Oslo Doomed From the Start? I would like to think it could have worked, and maybe in Rabin hadn't been killed, and had Clinton taken seriously his role as honest broker, and had the UN (with US consent) weighed in on the illegality of the settler movement, but in retrospect it's clear that Oslo was a weak footing that faced very formidable opposition -- virtually all on the Israeli side (not that the deal lacked for Arab critics). The reason Oslo happened was Israel desperately needed a break and a breather from the Intifada. Rabin's vow to "break the bones" of the Palestinians had turned into a public relations disaster, at the same time as the Bush-Baker administration was exceptionally concerned with building up its Arab alliances. But also, Rabin recognized that Arafat was very weak -- partly because the Intifada had gotten along well without him, partly because his siding with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War undercut his support from other Arab leaders -- and was desperate to cut any kind of deal that would bring him back from exile. Rabin realized that bringing Arafat back was the sort of ploy that would look like a lot while giving up next to nothing. In particular, Rabin could still placate the Israeli right by accelerating the settlement project. Meanwhile, the security services, the settlers, and the right-wing political parties plotted how to kill the deal, and any future prospect for peaceful coexistence. As Nolan notes:

    For me, each successive trip has revealed a political situation grimmer and less hopeful than the time before.

    What's made the situation so grim isn't the demise of "the two-state solution," which only made sense as a way as a stop-gap way to extract most Palestinians from the occupation without demanding any change from Israeli nationalism. What's grim is that more and more Israelis have become convinced that they can maintain a vastly inequal and unjust two-caste hierarchy indefinitely. They have no qualms about violence, which they rationalize with increasingly blatant racism, and for now at least they have few worries about world public opinion -- least of all about the US since Donald Trump, who's been totally submissive to Netanyahu, took office.

    Also see:

  • Max Ajl: Trump's decision to close the PLO Embassy says more about the future of the US than the future of Palestine.

  • Avi Shlaim: Palestinians still live under apartheid in Israel, 25 years after the Oslo accord.

  • Edward Wong: US Is Ending Final Source of Aid for Palestinian Civilians.

  • Jon Schwarz/Alice Speri: No One Will Be Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords.

  • James Vincent: EU approves controversial Copyright Directive, including internet 'link tax' and 'upload filter': "Those in favor say they're fighting for content creators, but critics say the new laws will be 'catastrophic.'" For more of the latter position, see Sarah Jeong: New EU copyright filtering law threatens the internet as we knew it. This sounds just extraordinarily awful. In a nutshell, the idea is to force all content on the internet to be monetized, with a clear accounting mechanism so that every actor pays an appropriate amount for every bit of content. In theory this should provide financial incentives for creative people to produce content, confident their efforts will be rewarded. In practice, this will fail on virtually every conceivable level. The most obvious one is that only large media companies will be able to manage the process, and even they will find it difficult and fraught with risk. Conversely, content creators will find it next to impossible to enforce their rights, so in most cases they will sell them cheap to a whole new layer of parasitic copyright trolls. The metadata required to manage this whole process will rival actual content data in mass, and lend itself to all sorts of hacking and fraud. And most likely, all the headaches will drive people away from generating content -- even ones formerly willing to do so gratis -- so the overall universe of content will shrink. It would be much simpler to do away with copyright and try to come up with incentives for creators that don't depend on taxing distribution. That could be combined with funding of alternatives to the current rash of media monopolies, reducing the ability of companies to convert private information into cash.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Daily Log

Bunch of stuff happened over the last several days. Also a lot of mental strain on the perennial "what is to be done?" question, so even if none of this is worth preserving, maybe it will help me sort things out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Daily Log

First stab at a NOEL post. Didn't really come together, got interrupted, shifted to Weekend Roundup.

Matthew Yglesias has resurrected his Weeds pop-up newsletter. I've found Yglesias to one of be the most consistently useful of Trump-era analysts, but one area where he's waffled on has been the top-line economic indicators. On the one hand, he sees Trump's decent numbers as being continuous with growth trends under Obama. On the othar hand, in his newsletter he credits Trump for stimulating the economy through tax cuts and deficit spending, while slamming Obama for not doing enough back in 2009 when the economy was severely tanking.

President Obama's No. 1 job was to rescue the ruined economy he inherited, and he didn't do it.

At least not all the way. He took office in late January 2009 amid catastrophic conditions, and by the time he passed the baton to Donald Trump eight years later, things were a lot better but a substantial output gap remained. That's why even though I think Trump's policies are detrimental to the long-term economic outlook of the United States, Trump was able to boost growth in 2018 with fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts and increased spending.

Why didn't the economy fully recover under Obama? Not enough fiscal stimulus. . . .

But from a forward-looking perspective, the key point isn't who specifically got it wrong -- it's that the Democratic Party collectively didn't get the job done when they had the votes and every incentive to want a full and rapid recovery.

Much of the quote I skipped over had to do with Blue Dog Democrats, a group which grew significantly in the 2006 election and worked to undermine relatively progressive policy proposals in 2009-11, when the Democrats still had majority control of Congress, but weren't able to do much with it. Not surprising that people who were around at the time, like Jason Furman (the . . .

Monday, September 10, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30295 [30261] rated (+34), 271 [278] unrated (-7).

Pretty average week, maybe skewed a bit more than usual toward jazz, as I continued adding jazz albums to my Music Tracking file (up to 2062 records now, 913 of them jazz). As the week started, I was still playing catch up with the late Randy Weston. After that, new adds to the tracking file steered me to various jazz artists -- Gordon Grdina, Tord Gustavsen, Scott Hamilton, Uwe Oberg. Also made a dent in my incoming queue. Only three non-jazz albums this week -- two from Christgau (who also noted Kali Uchis' Isolation as an HM, but I have it at A-).

I'm not expecting to get much work done this coming week. My late sister's big art project will be dismantled toward the end of the week, and either packed up and hauled somewhere (still, as far as I know, undetermined) or tossed into the trash. Some relatives are likely to show up for this, but I don't have any details. (I'm feeling really out of the loop here.) This summer has been an awful slog for me. Don't know whether I'll be relieved or shattered when the week is over.

Meanwhile, I've dropped the ball on my server project, and for that matter on long-delayed maintenance work on Robert Christgau's website. Probably won't make much progress there until this week's dust settles, but I've started to think about the tasks again, after blanking out a week ago.


Still reading books on Russia, although nothing new is quite as enlightening at David Satter's 2003 book, Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State. Satter's more recent The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep reprises his sensational charge that the FSB was responsible for the 1999 terror bombings of apartments in Moscow (pictured) and elsewhere, providing the perfect provocation for Putin to demolish Chechen independence and consolidate his grip on Russian political power. Of course, this sounds much like so many 9/11 conspiracy theories, especially with its cui bono rationales, but it's hard to imagine how else an unknown insider like Putin could have overcome the morass Boris Yeltsin's presidency had left Russia in. I'm midway through the book, just reading about the massacres in the Moscow theater and the Beslan school. Satter suggests these terrorist attacks may also have been guided by the FSB as provocations -- by this point support for the Chechen War was again flagging, so they laid the ground for another round of Russian escalation -- but thee's less evidence and rationale behind those charges. Later chapters should move on to the Ukraine crisis in 2014, but they are bound to be brief.

Masha Gessen, in The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, follows several (mostly) elite families from Glasnost on -- some semi-famous, most liberal dissenters but also neo-fascist ideologist Alexander Dugin (you might think of him as Putin's Steve Bannon). I think the key thing here is that while she doesn't excuse Yeltsin and Putin, she sees the return to totalitarianism as a mass preference rather than as something the leaders inflicted on the people. Reading the book, it occurred to me that the main reason for this was that 70 years of Communist rule had left people so cynical about the left critique of capitalism that it's since been impossible to form a significant democratic socialist opposition to the self-dealing oligarchy that took over with Yeltsin.

The least satisfactory book is Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, although I did find useful how he tracked Gessen's history from a slightly broader perspective. Snyder is a historian who has specialized in the war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to control Eastern Europe (his big book is Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin), but he's never rasped the difference between fascism and communism, so he readily falls for the Cold War ploy of treating both as totalitarianism, making it easy to see Putin as the unification of both evils. He even finds a forgotten philosopher, Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) as the key ideologist behind Putinism. (Gessen, on the other hand, starts with psychological studies of Homo sovieticus, ties them to the "authoritarian personality" studies of Adorno and Arendt, and charts how those traits have persisted under Putin.) Snyder likes to call the Ilyin-Putin idea "the politics of eternity" -- sounds a bit like thousand-year Reich extrapolated to infinity, but smells more like bullshit.

Gessen, by the way, has a piece I should have mentioned yesterday, The Undoing of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin's Friendship, and How It Changed Both of Their Countries. Clinton's decision to bomb what was left of Yugoslavia over Kosovo offended Yeltsin, both by harming an important relationship for Russia and by making Russia look weak and helpless when faced with American hostility. It also re-established NATO as a counter-Russian threat, and set a precedent for the US to unilaterally start wars elsewhere (e.g., Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003). It also changed Russia:

What was seen as a unilateral American decision to start bombing a longtime Russian ally emboldened the nationalist opposition and tapped into a deep inferiority complex. Sensitive to these sentiments, Yeltsin responded that May by celebrating Victory Day with a military parade in Red Square, the first in eight years. In fact, military parades took place all over the country that year, and have been repeated every year since. What was even more frightening were a series of nongovernmental Victory Day parades by ultranationalists. That these public displays, some of which featured the swastika, were tolerated, and in such close proximity to celebrations of the country's most hallowed holiday, suggested that xenophobia had acquired new power in Russia. Later that year, Yeltsin anointed Vladimir Putin his successor and signed off on a renewed war in Chechnya. This offensive, designed to shore up support for the country's hand-picked new leader, was both inspired and enabled by Kosovo. It was a dare to the United States, an assertion that Russia will do what it wants in its own Muslim autonomy.

One thing that should be clear by now is that Clinton and other independent western actors like George Soros actively intervened in Russian politics in the 1990s, in support of Yeltsin, they never cared the least for the welfare of Russia, or even for making their supposed friendly politicians look good. Clinton just assumed that Russia would never be a problem again, no matter how much popular enmity he caused. Bush and Obama took much the same tack with Putin, who actually did a pretty decent job of humoring them as long as that proved possible, but in the end, sure, he pushed back. My evolving view of Putin is that he is a smart, canny politician, careful to maintain his popularity as well as his hand on the levers of power in Russia. But, unlike Snyder, I don't see him as a person of strong ideological conviction. It's true that he embraces various conservative/nationalist positions, but most likely because that's where his natural political base is. He exercises a discomforting degree of control over the media and all forms of political discourse, and he has done some unsavory things with his power, but he also seems to have some sense of limits, unlike many dictators we can recall. In short, he seems like someone the US can work with, and that would be better for all concerned than the recent spiral of escalating offenses.

Still, one should be clear about the ways of power, in Russia, in the United States, everywhere. Change what you can, and don't get suckered into projects that can only make matters worse (e.g., ones involving real or even just mock war).


Recommended music links:

  • The Last of the Live Jazz Reviewers: An Interview With Nate Chinen. Book includes a list of "The 129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century (So Far)." I should dig this list up and see how it jives with my own lists. But for now, note that Chinen has written about some of them here, and is promising more. [PS: Made a stab at this, but can't find the list for 2014-2017, so I only have 100 albums in list: 17 I haven't heard, grade breakdown for rest: A: 2, A-: 23, B+: 44 (16-10-10), B: 7, B-: 5. That's not far from my usual intersection with jazz critics polls, but given that he's only picking 5-7 records per year, and I regularly find over 50 A/A- jazz albums per year, I'm surprised the spread didn't skew a bit higher. PPS: Picked up the missing entries.]


New records rated this week:

  • Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (2018, TWIN, EP): [r]: A-
  • Dave Ballou & BeepHonk: The Windup (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Carter/Hilliard Greene/David Haney: Live Constructions (2017 [2018], Slam): [r]: B
  • Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (2018, HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • George Colligan: Nation Divided (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver (2018, L&H Production, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Equity & Social Justice Quartet: Argle-Bargle or Foofaraw (2018, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Fred Frith Trio: Closer to the Ground (2018, Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Gordon Grdina/François Houle/Kenton Loewen: Live at the China Cloud (2017, Big in Japan): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Ejdeha (2018, Songlines): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Other Side (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scott Hamilton: Meets the Piano Players (2016 [2017], Organic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton: The Shadow of Your Smile (2017, Blau): [r]: A-
  • Scott Hamilton: Moon Mist (2018, Blau): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hieroglyphic Being: The Replicant Dream Sequence (2018, Moog Recordings Library) **
  • Hinds: I Don't Run (2018, Mom + Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra: Down a Rabbit Hole (2015-17 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Yves Marcotte: Always Know Monk (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ernest McCarty Jr./Theresa Davis: I Remember Love (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Myriad 3: Vera (2018, ALMA): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Uwe Oberg/Heinz Sauer: Sweet Reason (2017 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Jason Stein: Spiritual Prayers (2018, Leo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Rudi Mahall: Kindred Spirits (2018, Leo, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • University of Toronto 12Tet: When Day Slips Into Night (2018, UofT Jazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Andrés Vial: Andrés Vial Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One (2017 [2018], Chromatic Audio): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra: Turkish Delight (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: Changing Places (2001-02 [2003], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rudi Mahall: Quartett (2006 [2007], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Uwe Oberg: Work (2008 [2015], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Weston: Portraits of Thelonious Monk: Well You Needn't (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Weston: Portraits of Duke Ellington: Caravan (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Self Portraits: The Last Day (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Marrakech in the Cool of the Evening (1992 [1994], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Earth Birth (1995 [1997], Verve): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (Pyroclastic)
  • Steven Taetz: Drink You In (Flatcar/Fontana North)

Daily Log

From Nate Chinen's "The 129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century (So Far)," with my grades (where avaiable) in brackets.

2000

  1. Jim Black's AlasNoAxis, AlasNoAxis (Winter & Winter) [***]
  2. Brian Blade Fellowship, Perceptual (Blue Note) [**]
  3. Kurt Elling, Live in Chicago (Blue Note) [B]
  4. Nils Petter Molvaer, Solid Ether (ECM) [A]
  5. Danilo Perez, Motherland (Verve) [*]
  6. David Sánchez, Melaza (Columbia) [B+]
  7. David S. Ware, Surrendered (Columbia) [A-]

2001

  1. Chicago Underground Quartet, Chicago Underground Quartet (Thrill Jockey) [**]
  2. The Claudia Quintet, The Claudia Quintet (Blueshift CRI) [Cuneiform: [A-]
  3. Marilyn Crispell/Paul Motian/Gary Peacock, Amaryllis (ECM) [B+]
  4. Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Next Step (Verve) [B+]
  5. John Scofield, Works for Me (Verve) [**]
  6. Matthew Shipp, New Orbit (Thirsty Ear) [B+]

2002

  1. Ben Allison, Peace Pipe (Palmetto)
  2. Tim Berne, Science Friction (Screwgun)
  3. Keith Jarrett Trio, Always Let Me Go (ECM) [**]
  4. Wayne Shorter Quartet, Footprints Live! (Blue Note) [A-]
  5. Luciana Souza, Brazilian Duos (Sunnyside) [B+]
  6. Tomasz Stanko Quartet, Soul of Things (ECM) [A-]
  7. Cecil Taylor, The Willisau Concert (Intakt) [A-]
  8. Cassandra Wilson, Belly of the Sun (Blue Note) [*]

2003

  1. The Bad Plus, These Are the Vistas [A-]
  2. David Binney, South (ACT) [**]
  3. Terence Blanchard, Bounce (Blue Note) [**]
  4. Jane Ira Bloom, Chasing Paint (Arabesque) [A-]
  5. Fred Hersch Trio, Live at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto) [***]
  6. Dave Holland Quintet, Extended Play: Live at Birdland (ECM) [**]
  7. Ahmad Jamal, In Search of Momentum (Dreyfus) [**]

2004

  1. Geri Allen, The Life of a Song (Telarc) [A-]
  2. Don Byron, Ivey-Divey (Blue Note) [A-]
  3. Frank Kimbrough, Lullabluebye (Palmetto) [B]
  4. Tony Malaby Trio, Abode (Sunnyside) [A-]
  5. Medeski Martin & Wood, End of the World Party (Just in Case) (Blue Note) [B+]
  6. Brad Mehldau Trio, Anything Goes (Warner Bros.) [***]
  7. Mulgrew Miller Trio, Live at Yoshi's Volume One (Maxjazz) [B]

2005

  1. Amina Figarova, September Suite (Munich) [B+]
  2. Guillermo Klein, Una Nave (Sunnyside) [B+]
  3. Pat Metheny Group, The Way Up (Nonesuch) [*]
  4. Paul Motian/Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano, I Have the Room Above Her (ECM) [***]
  5. Sonny Rollins, Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone) [A-]
  6. Jenny Scheinman, 12 Songs (Cryptogramophone) [A-]
  7. Cuong Vu, It's Mostly Residual (Intoxicate) [B]
  8. Miguel Zenón, Jíbaro (Marsalis Music) [A-]

2006

  1. Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar) [A]
  2. Dave Douglas Quintet, Meaning and Mystery (Greenleaf) [*]
  3. Andrew Hill, Time Lines (Blue Note) [***]
  4. Christian McBride, Live at Tonic (Ropeadope) [***]

2007

  1. Michael Brecker, Pilgrimage (Heads Up) [**]
  2. The Nels Cline Singers, Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone) [**]
  3. Robert Glasper, In My Element (Blue Note) [*]
  4. Herbie Hancock, The Joni Letters (Verve) [B-]
  5. Lionel Loueke, Virgin Forest (ObliqSound) [*]
  6. Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Congo Square (Jazz at Lincoln Center)
  7. Bill McHenry, Roses (Sunnyside) [**]
  8. Joshua Redman, Back East (Nonesuch) [A-]

2008

  1. J.D. Allen Trio, I Am I Am (Sunnyside) [***]
  2. Anat Cohen, Notes from the Village (Anzic) [A-]
  3. Fieldwork, Door (Pi) [A-]
  4. Bill Frisell, History, Mystery (Nonesuch) [A-]
  5. Mary Halvorson Trio, Dragon's Head (Firehouse 12) [A-]
  6. Charles Lloyd, Rabo de Nube (ECM) [***]
  7. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Kinsmen (Pi) [A-]
  8. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Avatar (Blue Note) [**]

2009

  1. Five Peace Band, Five Peace Band Live (Concord) [John McLaughlin/Chick Corea: **]
  2. Fly, Sky & Country (ECM) [*]
  3. Vijay Iyer Trio, Historicity (ACT) [A-]
  4. Darius Jones, Man'ish Boy (Aum Fidelity) [A-]
  5. Steve Lehman Octet, Travail, Transformation and Flow (Pi) [A-]
  6. Joe Lovano's Us Five, Folk Art (Blue Note) [***]
  7. Myra Melford's Be Bread, The Whole Tree Gone (Firehouse 12) [A-]
  8. Trio 3/Geri Allen, At This Time (Intakt) [A-]
  9. Matt Wilson Quartet, That's Gonna Leave a Mark (Palmetto) [A-]

2010

  1. Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi) [B]
  2. The Cookers, Warriors (Jazz Legacy) [***]
  3. Kneebody, You Can Have Your Moment (Winter & Winter) [*]
  4. Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Deluxe (Clean Feed) [*]
  5. Jason Moran, Ten (Blue Note) [***]
  6. Paradoxical Frog, Paradoxical Frog (Clean Feed) [*]

2011

  1. Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds) [*]
  2. Gilad Hekselman, Hearts Wide Open (Le Chant du Monde) [*]
  3. Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, 40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho) [B-]
  4. Gretchen Parlato, The Lost and Found (ObliqSound) [B-]

2012

  1. Ravi Coltrane, Spirit Fiction (Blue Note) [**]
  2. Tom Harrell, Number Five (HighNote) [*]
  3. Masabumi Kikuchi Trio, Sunrise (ECM) [***]
  4. Donny McCaslin, Casting for Gravity (Greenleaf) [***]
  5. Linda Oh, Initial Here (Greenleaf) [***]
  6. Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform) [***]

2013

  1. Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam) [**]
  2. The New Gary Burton Quartet, Guided Tour (Mack Avenue) [**]
  3. Ben Monder, Hydra (Sunnyside) [B-]
  4. Gregory Porter, Liquid Spirit (Blue Note) [B-]
  5. Chris Porter, The Sirens (ECM) [***]
  6. Matana Roberts, COIN COIN Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonhile (Constellation) [**]
  7. Craig Taborn Trio, Chants (ECM) [***]

2014

  1. Ambrose Akinmusire, The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint (Blue Note) [B-]
  2. Flying Lotus, You're Dead! (Warp) [**]
  3. Billy Hart Quartet, One Is the Other (ECM) [B]
  4. Hedvig Mollestad Trio, Enfant Terrible (Rune Grammofon)
  5. Loren Stillman and Bad Touch, Going Public (Fresh Sound New Talent) [***]
  6. Mark Turner Quartet, Lathe of Heaven (ECM) [**]
  7. David Virelles, Mbókò (ECM) [**]

2015

  1. Amir ElSaffar's Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi) [A-]
  2. Makaya McCraven, In the Moment (International Anthem) [***]
  3. Mike Moreno, Lotus (World Culture)
  4. Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, A New Kind of Dance (482) [A-]
  5. Tomeka Reid Quartet, Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear) [A-]
  6. Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare) [**]
  7. Jen Shyu and Jade Tongue, Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi) [B-]
  8. Henry Threadgill's Zooid, In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi) [A-]
  9. Kamasi Washington, The Epic (Brainfeeder) [**]

2016

  • Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio, Back Home (Word of Mouth) [***]
  • Kris Davis, Duopoly (Pyroclastic) [***]
  • Jeff Parker, The New Breed (International Anthem) [B]
  • Shabaka and the Ancestors, Wisdom of Elders (Brownswood) [*]
  • Tyshawn Sorey, The Inner Spectrum of Variables (Pi) [***]
  • Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution (Concord) [B]
  • 2017

    1. Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem) [**]
    2. Nubya Garcia, Nubya's 5ive (Jazz Re:freshed) [**]
    3. Ron Miles, I Am a Man (Yellowbird) [***]
    4. Nicole Mitchell, Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE) [**]
    5. Roscoe Mitchell, Bells for the South Side (ECM) [***]
    6. Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue) [*]
    7. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, The Centennial Trilogy (Ropeadope) [**]
    8. 2018

      1. Maria Grand, Magdalena (Biophilia) [**]
      2. Julian Lage, Modern Lore (Mack Avenue) [B]
      3. Dafnis Prieto Big Band, Back to the Sunset (Dafnison) [***]
      4. Logan Richardson, Blues People (Ropeadope) [B]
      5. Dan Weiss, Starebaby (Pi) [B]

      My grade count:

      • A: 2
      • A-: 29
      • B+: 8
      • B+(***): 25
      • B+(**): 27
      • B+(*): 15
      • B: 19
      • B-: 8
      • U: 5

      Artists with post-2000 A/A- records, but picked with lesser grades:

      • Ben Allison (3)
      • J.D. Allen (2)
      • Tim Berne (2)
      • Chicago Underground (2)
      • Nels Cline (2)
      • Steve Coleman (2)
      • Marilyn Crispell (3)
      • Ravi Coltrane (1)
      • Kris Davis (3)
      • Dave Douglas (4)
      • Fred Hersch (4)
      • Dave Holland (3)
      • Keith Jarrett (2)
      • Chris Lightcap (1)
      • Charles Lloyd (5)
      • Joe Lovano (3)
      • Wynton Marsalis (1)
      • Donny McCaslin (1)
      • Medeski Martin & Wood (1)
      • Brad Mehldau (1)
      • Nicole Mitchell (2)
      • Roscoe Mitchell (1)
      • Jason Moran (3)
      • Paul Motian (1)
      • Linda Oh (1)
      • Chris Porter (2)
      • Logan Richardson (1)
      • Gonzalo Rubalcaba (1)
      • Matthew Shipp (11)
      • Wadada Leo Smith (7)
      • Tyshawn Sorey (3)
      • Craig Taborn (1)
      • Cassandra Wilson (1)

      Of course, several artists listed with had A/A- before 2000 but not since:

      • Terence Blanchard (1)
      • Herbie Hancock (3)
      • Tom Harrell (1)
      • Andrew Hill (11)
      • Ahmad Jamal (2)
      • Christian McBride (1)
      • Pat Metheny (1)
      • David Sánchez (2)
      • John Scofield (2)
      • Mark Turner (1)

      Sunday, September 09, 2018

      Weekend Roundup

      This is how last week started, with a few choice tidbits from Bob Woodward's new book, Fear: Trump in the White House: Philip Rucker/Robert Costa: Bob Woodward's new book reveals a 'nervous breakdown' of Trump's presidency As Aaron Blake (in The Most damning portrait of Trump's presidency yet -- by far):

      Bob Woodward's book confirms just about everything President Trump's critics and those who closely study the White House already thought to be the case inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It's also completely stunning.

      The book doesn't go public until 9/11 -- wouldn't you like to have been a "fly on the wall" for the marketing sessions that picked that date? -- but not much that's been reported so far is surprising. I've long suspected that Trump ordered a plan to pre-emptively attack North Korea, and that the military brass refused to give him one, but that story didn't strike Blake as important enough to even mention. (He does cite Trump's tantrum over Syria: "Let's fucking kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the fucking lot of them.") Still, the main effect of the book leaks was simply to get the mainstream press to return to such quickly forgotten stories, and to provoke more reactions to feed the 24-hour cable news cycle.

      One such reaction was the now infamous New York Times anonymous op-ed piece, I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, reportedly by "a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure." Again, this has mostly been reported as a dis of Trump, but it is actually a very scary document, revealing that even as deranged as Trump is, he's not the most despicable and dangerous person in his administration. When the author claims "like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations," they're not doing it out of any sense of higher loyalty to law and the constitution. They're doing it to advance their own undemocratic, rigidly conservative political agenda. And if these people are really "the adults in the room," as competent as they think, they'll probably wind up doing more real harm to the people than Trump could ever do on his own.

      Of course, the op-ed launched a huge guessing game as to the author. Trump played along, tweeting something about "TREASON" and urging Atty. General Jeff Sessions to investigate (although on further reflection I doubt he'd really welcome another DOJ investigation of his staff). And, of course, everyone who is anyone in the administration has denied responsibility -- hardly a surprise given that a willingness to stand up for truth and take responsibility for one's actions were disqualifying marks for any Trump administration job. Besides, as John Judis notes, "I'd look for whoever in the administration most vociferously denounces the author of the op-ed."

      For an overview, see Andrew Prokop: Who is the senior Trump official who wrote the New York Times op-ed? -- although you'd have to go to the links to come up with possible names and reasons. Jimmy Kimmel noticed the unusual word "lodestar" and came up with a reel of Mike Pence using the word in a half-dozen different speeches. (Colbert ran the same revelation a day later.) Actually, that suggests Pence's speechwriter, whoever that is. Indeed, there are dozens of anonymous little folk you've never heard of scurrying around the West Wing offices, where they could stealthily carry on the "good fight" of enforcing rightist orthodoxy. It's not like anyone had ever heard of Rob Porter before he got fired, but his precise job was to shuffle papers for Trump's signature.

      The other thing to remember about Pence is that he was the main person responsible for staffing the Administration after Trump got elected, so he's likely the main reason why all these totally orthodox conservatives have been empowered and turned loose to wreak havoc on the administrative state -- indeed, on the very notion that the government is meant to serve the people and promote the general welfare of the nation.

      Additional links on Woodward and/or the Anonymous op-ed:

      • Masha Gessen: The Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed and the Trumpian Corruption of Language and the Media:

        The Op-Ed section is separate from the news operation, but, in protecting the identity of the person who wrote the Op-Ed, the paper forfeits the job of holding power to account. . . . By publishing the anonymous Op-Ed, the Times became complicit in its own corruption.

        The way in which the news media are being corrupted -- even an outlet like the Times, which continues to publish remarkable investigative work throughout this era -- is one of the most insidious, pronounced, and likely long-lasting effects of the Trump Administration. The media are being corrupted every time they engage with a nonsensical, false, or hateful Trump tweet (although not engaging with these tweets is not an option). They are being corrupted every time journalists act polite while the President, his press secretary, or other Administration officials lie to them. They are being corrupted every time a Trumpian lie is referred to as a "falsehood," a "factually incorrect statement," or as anything other than a lie. They are being corrupted every time journalists allow the Administration to frame an issue, like when they engage in a discussion about whether the separation of children from their parents at the border is an effective deterrent against illegal immigration. They are being corrupted every time they use the phrase "illegal immigration."

      • David A Graham: We're Watching an Antidemocratic Coup Unfold: Graham basically agrees with David Frum (see This Is a Constitutional Crisis, a piece I read then decided wasn't important enough to cite) that acts by White House staff to subvert Trump's presidential directives constitute some kind of attack on American democracy, even though they both agree that Trump is crazy, demented, stupid and cruel. I think they're way overreacting. On the one hand, it's simply not reasonable that any president -- even one elected with a much less ambiguous mandate than Trump was -- should have the power to dictate the acts of everyone who works under the executive branch. The fact is that everyone who works for government has to satisfy multiple directives, starting with the constitution and the legal code, and in many cases other professional codes, labor contracts, and job descriptions. On the other hand, every organization involves a good deal of delegation and specialization, and virtually all managers expect subordinates to push back against ill considered directives. Most of the concrete cases Woodward cites are occasions where rejecting Trump's directives is fully appropriate. The author of the "we are the resistance" op-ed is a different case because he (or, unlikely, she) is claiming a higher political right to go rogue, but in the absence of specific cases that isn't even clearly the case. What we probably do agree on is that Trump himself thinks he should have more direct power over his administration than he does in fact have, and this is more painfully obvious than is normally the case because he tends to make exceptionally dreadful decisions, because in turn he's uninformed, impetuous, unwilling to listen to expertise, and unable to reason effectively. Given the kind of person Trump is, occasional staff resistance is inevitable, and should be recognized as the normal functioning of the bureaucracy. (Graham actually cites a previous example of this: "Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, worried by Richard Nixon's heavy drinking, instructed generals not to launch any strikes without his say-so -- effectively granting himself veto power over the president.")

      • Greg Sargent: Trump's paranoid rage is getting worse. But the White House 'resistance' is a sham.<

      • David Von Drehle: The only solid bet is on Trump's panic (but the op-ed was probably Jared): I'm mostly linking to this because my wife's been offering opinions on who did it all week, and her latest pick is Kushner. I don't buy this for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the op-ed reads like the work of an ideological purist -- something I seriously doubt of Kushner. (I also doubt Kushner could write it without a lot of help -- whatever else you may think, it is very well crafted.) On the other hand, the bottom third about the Mueller investigation makes perfect sense, and gives you a lot to think about. The public hasn't seen Trump's tax returns, but "Mueller almost certainly possesses" them. Also financial transaction records from Deutsche Bank, "which also coughed up $630 million in fines in 2017 to settle charges of participating in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme."

      Concurrently, the Senate Judiciary Hearing has been holding hearings on Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Bret Kavanaugh. Some links:


      Some scattered links this week:

      • Matthew Yglesias: No summary of the week, but he wrote some important pieces this week:

        • John McCain's memorial service was not a resistance event: Cites Susan Glasser's New Yorker article for its ridiculous resistance meme -- something I wrote about last week. As noted, McCain's occasional dissent from Trump rarely had anything to do with policy, and when it did it was usually because Trump has never been as steadfastly pro-war as McCain. (Arguably Trump is so impetuous and erratic he's ultimately more dangerous, but I don't believe that.) Sure, one might imagine a principled conservative opposition to Trump, but Republicans gave up any hint of such principles ages ago (e.g., when Arthur Vanderberg welcomed the military-industrial complex, when Barry Goldwater sided with segregation, when Richard Nixon decided winning mattered more than following the law, when all Reagan and Bush decided to sacrifice abortion rights for political expediency, when right-wing jurists ruled that free speech rights are proportional to money, and that anything that tips an election in your favor is fair play). But it's real hard to find any actual Republican politicians who adhere to such conservative principles. On the other hand, there is a real resistance, not just to Trump but to the whole conservative political movement.

          Also on McCain: Eric Lovitz: John McCain's Service in Vietnam Was a Tragedy.

        • Trump's White House says wages are rising more than liberals think: This gets pretty deep in the weeds, trying to make "the best case for Trump: surging consumer confidence," but concluding "wage growth isn't zero, but it's still pretty low." My hunch is that it feels even worse, because Trump's anti-union and other deregulation efforts are aimed at increasing corporate power both over workers and consumers, while those and other policies shift risk onto individuals.

        • Republicans are preparing to disavow Trump if he fails -- then come back and try the same policies: You've heard this one before: every time conservatives get political power, they screw things up -- Reagan ended in various scandals from HUD to S&Ls to Iran-Contra, Bush I in a rash of short wars and recession, Bush II with his endless wars and even huger recession, and now Trump with his ticking cacophony of time bombs -- but bounce back by claiming that their ideas never got a fair chance. As the subhed puts it, 'Conservatism can never fail, only be failed." Indeed, Trump's catastrophic failure now seems so ordained that some Republicans are already heading for the exits and shelters, preparing themselves for the next wave of resurgent conservatism. Paul Ryan is the most obvious example.

        • Republicans are arguing that Medicare-for-all will undermine Medicare: Same old strategy they've always used, sowing FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to rally the uninformed and easily confused against any proposed change. Still, seems a little far fetched, especially coming from the party that tried to stop Medicare from passing in the first place, the same one that periodically comes up with new schemes to weaken it.

        • Obama wants Democrats to quit their addiction to the status quo. Alternate title, the one actually on the page: "Obama just gave the speech the left's wanted since he left office." Actually, the left wanted him to step up 9-10 years ago, back when he was in a position to do more than just talk. And while he embraces the "new idea" of Medicare for All, ten years ago that was actually better understood program than the one the Democrats passed and Obama got tarred and feathered with. Yglesias wonders how effective Obama speaking out might be. To my mind, the key thing that he's signaling is that mainstream Democrats shouldn't fear the party moving to the left. Rather, they need to keep up with their voters. For more on Obama's speech, see Dylan Scott: The 7 most important moments in Obama's blistering critique of Trump and the GOP: Starts with "It did not start with Donald Trump."

      • Tara Golshan/Ella Nilsen: Trump says a shutdown would be a "great political issue" 2 months from the midterms: On the surface this seems like a monumentally stupid thing to say. I think we've had enough experience lately with playing chicken over budget shutdowns that it's pretty clear that whoever initiates the shutdown loses. If Trump doesn't get this by now, that can only suggest he's, well, some kind of, you know, moron.

      • Dara Lind: Trump's new plan to detain immigrant families indefinitely, explained: Some highlights:

        • Tighten the standards for releasing migrant children from detention
        • Detain families in facilities that haven't been formally approved for licenses
        • Give facilities broad "emergency" loopholes for not meeting standards of care
        • Make it easier for the government to revoke the legal protections for "unaccompanied" children
      • Ernesto Londono/Nicholas Casey: Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers: Takeaway quote: "Maduro has long justified his grip on Venezuela by claiming that Washington imperialists are actively trying to depose him, and the secret talks could provide him with ammunition to chip away at the region's nearly united stance against him." Trump has also talked up staging an outright US military invasion.

      • German Lopez: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's disastrous handling of a police shooting tanked his reelection bid: Emanuel announced he won't run for third term, even though he had already raised $10 million for the campaign.

      • Rick Perlstein/Livia Gershon: Stolen Elections, Voting Dogs and Other Fantastic Fables From the GOP Voter Fraud Mythology: A long history, going back to Operation Eagle Eye, launched by Republicans convinced that the 1960 presidential election was stolen from Richard Nixon.

      • Greg Sargent: Trump's latest rally rant is much more alarming and dangerous than usual:

      • Dylan Scott: The 4 House GOP scandals that could tip the 2018 midterms, explained: Scott Taylor, Chris Collins, Duncan Hunter, Rod Blum. "Democrats' 2018 message is that Republicans are corrupt."

      • Felicia Sonmez: Trump suggests that protesting should be illegal: Tempted to file this under Kavanaugh above, given that the key tweet was in response to protesters at the Senate hearings (most of whom were in fact arrested), but the first example in the article refers to him lashing out at "NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, and further examples include the "Giant Trump Baby" in London. Also related: John Wagner: Trump suggests libel laws should be changed after uproar over Woodward book. Actually, changing libel laws to allow him to sue anyone he thinks defamed him was something he campaigned on in 2016 -- something at the time I didn't think stood a chance of passing, but still revealed much about his worldview. Treating dissent and even criticism as criminal is a common trait of the class of political figures we commonly describe as dictators. Trump has long shown great sympathy for such figures, which only adds to the notion that he aspires to be a dictator as well.

      • Kay Steiger: 4 winners and 3 losers from Brett Kavanaugh's many-hour, multi-day confirmation hearings: Simpler version: "Winner: Trump. Loser: women and people of color." Another loser: "civil libertarians," although I'd read that more broadly.

      • Alex Ward: A North Korea nuclear deal looks more likely to happen now. Here's why. The sticking points seem to be matters of who does what first. Advisers like Bolton seem to have convinced Trump that the only way to get Kim to do what he says he wants to do is to keep applying maximum pressure, even though that mostly suggests that the US is the one who can't be trusted to deliver unforced promises. Take the issue of formally ending "the state of war" between the US and North Korea. What possible reason is there for Trump not to do this (and for that matter not to do it unilaterally and unconditionally)? Ward doesn't really provide reasons for optimism on that account, but that North and South are continuing to meet and negotiate in good faith does give one reason for hope. On some level, if both Koreas agree the US should have little say in the outcome.

        Also nominally on Korea, but more directly connected to matters of resistance/insubordination by Administration staff opposed to Trump's "worst inclinations," see: Fred Kaplan: Is Mattis Next Out the Door? Woodward reported that Mattis defused Trump's "Let's kill the fucking lot of them" directive on Syria by directing his staff "we're not going to do any of that." That's not the only case where Mattis has acted to restrain Trump, but this is a case where Mattis is trying to overrule Trump's directive to suspend provocative war exercises in Korea. Evidently Trump got wind of this one and publicly redressed Mattis. That's often the prelude to a purge (although Mattis, like Sessions, could be relatively hard to get rid of).

      Not really news, but other links of interest:

      • Mary Hershberger: Investigating John McCain's Tragedy at Sea: Originally published in 2008, so not an obit. Before McCain got shot down over Hanoi, another confusing incident in the navy pilot's accident-prone career. Side note I didn't know:

        [McCain's] first effort at shaping that narrative received a remarkable boost when the May 14, 1973, edition of U.S. News & World Report gave him space for what is perhaps the longest article the magazine had ever run, a 12,000-word piece composed entirely of his unedited and often rambling account of his prisoner-of-war experience. Ever since, McCain has added compelling details at key points in his political career. When his stories are placed beside documented evidence from other sources, significant contradictions often emerge.

        That initial piece was written well before McCain ran for office (1982, AZ-1 House seat; in 1986 he ran for the Senate, succeeding Barry Goldwater). Every politician has a back story, but few have made that story so central to their political ambitions as McCain has.

      • Nathaniel Rich: The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet: A review of William T. Vollmann's magnum opus on global climate change, Carbon Ideologies, a single work published in two volumes, No Immediate Danger and No Good Alternative. "Honest" because he regards the fate of life on earth as intractably locked in.

        Most of the extensive interviews that dominate Carbon Ideologies are thus conducted with men who work in caves or pits to produce the energy we waste. If "nothing is more frightful than to see ignorance in action" (Goethe), these encounters are a waking nightmare. Oil-refinery workers in Mexico, coal miners in Bangladesh, and fracking commissioners in Colorado are united in their shaky apprehension of the environmental damage they do, not to mention the basic facts of climate change and its ramifications. "Mostly their replies came out calm and bland," Vollmann reports, though this doesn't prevent him from recording them at length, nearly verbatim. On occasion his questions do elicit a gem of accidental lyricism, as when an Indian steelworker at a UAE oil company, asked for his views on climate change, replies, "Now a little bit okay, but in future it's very danger." It's hard to improve on that.

        By the way, in What Will Donald Trump Be Remember For? Tom Engelhardt argues that the thing Trump will be longest remembered for is his contribution to the global roasting of the planet. He comes to that conclusion after a long list of the relatively stupid but trivial things Trump gets into the news cycle every day with. Trump's love affair with fossil fuels (especially "beautiful clean coal") will certainly rank as one of those "Nero fiddling while Rome burns" cases, but Engelhardt is also skipping over a harrowing number of less likely but still catastrophic breakdowns, including a major economic depression, several wars (worst case nuclear), some kind of civil war, a military coup, the end of democracy and freedom as we once knew it.

      • Maj. Danny Sjursen: The Fraudulent Mexican-American War (1846-48): A brief history of America's most nakedly imperialist war.

      Saturday, September 08, 2018

      Daily Log

      Monday, September 03, 2018

      Music Week

      Music: current count 30261 [30216] rated (+45), 278 [275] unrated (+3).

      Posted Streamnotes on Thursday, figuring it was foolish to think I could find any more A-list records on the last day of August. But part of that problem was that I was looking for August-released pop, and none of the obvious picks -- Ariana Grande, Mitski, Nicki Minaj, Blood Orange, even that Methodist Hospital album Christgau recommended -- did the trick. After posting, I switched to new jazz, and came up with three A- avant-jazz albums in short order (Schnell, Rempis-Piet-Daisy, Hegge).

      Actually, what steered me toward the Clean Feeds was Chris Monsen's 2018 favorites, which lists Mia Dyberg at 18 and Chris Pitsiokis at 29 (also Hegge at 34), but not Schnell (or Carlos Bica). Monsen also lists two more Clean Feeds: The Heat Death's The Glenn Miller Sessions and Jon Rune Strøm Quintet's Fragments, which I had previously reviewed at B+(**). I have one other A- Clean Feed this year: Angles 3's Parede, and six more at B+(***):

      • Jonas Cambien Trio: We Must Mustn't We (Clean Feed)
      • Sean Conly: Hard Knocks (Clean Feed)
      • Marty Ehrlich: Trio Exaltation (Clean Feed)
      • Igor Lumpert & Innertextures: Eleven (Clean Feed)
      • Matt Piet & His Disorganization: Rummage Out (Clean Feed)
      • Samo Salamon/Tony Malaby/Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving Breathing (Clean Feed)

      I haven't done the research, but there's a good chance that my Clean Feed grades have slipped a bit (and are otherwise more slapdash) since they stopped sending me physical CDs. (Certainly I'm slower in getting to them.) The Rempis album turned up in my effort to flesh out the jazz listings in my Music Tracking file. Strikes me as the best thing he's done all year (I have four more albums of his in my Year 2018 file.) I spent a fair amount of work last week trying to identify more 2018 jazz releases, adding 363 new entries to the file (was 1498 albums, now 1885, 806 of them jazz). The original purpose of this list is to build a list of things that might be interesting to hear, but it also provides a framework for aggregating EOY lists, including the Jazz Critics Poll.

      I got most of them by looking at the 2018 jazz album list under Discogs: 5,727 records (vs. 12,849 for 2017, 13,394 for 2018). Obviously, I didn't add everything. I just picked out artists that I more/less recognized, things on well-regarded labels, and a few others that looked interesting. For instance, of the 50 albums on the first page, I list 11 (*5 added this week): Chris Burn*, Verneri Pohjola*, Globe Unity, Henri Texier*, Skadedyr, YoshimiO, Kamaal Williams, Sylvie Courvoisier, Jerry Granelli*, Dinosaur*, Terence Blanchard. Many records appeared multiple times (e.g., separate listings for CD, LP, and Downloads), so we're looking at more like 1,500 distinct titles. picked up some reissues, but skipped even well known ones where they didn't seem to offer anything new. After that, I took a look at Free Jazz Collective's reviews, and also All About Jazz's reviews, although I didn't get very far back there before I started running into uncertain dates. (Maybe this link will work better.)

      Under "old music," I noticed a new vinyl reissue of Roland Kirk's Domino, and felt like streaming it, then one thing led to another. Still a few later albums I haven't heard, but I don't have a lot of hope for them. Then I noticed a Zoot Sims record in a search (I was actually looking for Tom Abbs' new Hawthorne), and felt like hearing him. Finally, Randy Weston died (92, elected to Downbeat's Hall of Fame just last year). Here's an obituary by Giovanni Russonello; another by Harrison Smith. My grade list is here, with Carnival (1974) and Khepara (1998) my personal picks (plus three more A- records).


      Noteworthy links I missed in yesterday's Weekend Roundup:


      Recommended music links:

      Also, I'll be posting another batch of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez Q&A sometime Tuesday. You can always get the latest first at that link.


      New records rated this week:

      • Carlos Bica & Azul: Azul in Ljubljana (2015 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
      • Blood Orange: Negro Swan (2018, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
      • Rodney Crowell: Acoustic Classics (2018, RC1): [r]: B+(*)
      • Mia Dyberg Trio: Ticket! (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
      • Jason Eady: I Travel On (2018, Old Guitar): [r]: B+(***)
      • Robbie Fulks/Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild! (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: A-
      • Ariana Grande: Sweetener (2018, Republic): [r]: B
      • Shay Hazan: Good Morning Universe (2017 [2018], NoBusiness, EP): [cdr]: B+(*)
      • Hegge: Vi Är Ledsna Men Du Får Inte Längre Vara Barn (2017, Particular): [sp]: B+(***)
      • Bjørn Marius Hegge Trio: Assosiasjoner (2018, Particular): [sc]: A-
      • William Hooker Trio: Remembering (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
      • Pablo Ledesma/Pepa Angelillo/Mono Hurtado/Carlo Brandan: Gato Barbieri Revisitado (2017 [2018], Discos ICM): [bc]: B+(**)
      • The Mekons 77: It Is Twice Blessed (2018, Slow Things): [r]: A-
      • Methodist Hospital: Giants (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
      • Parker Millsap: Other Arrangements (2018, Okrahoma): [r]: B+(*)
      • Nicki Minaj: Queen (2018, Young Money/Cash Money): [r]: B+(***)
      • Mitski: Be the Cowboy (2018, Dead Oceans): [r]: B
      • The Necks: Body (2018, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(**)
      • Tami Neilson: Sassafrass! (2018, Outside Music): [r]: B+(**)
      • Peter Nelson: Ash, Dust, and the Chalkboard Cinema (2018, Outside In Music): [r]: B+(**)
      • Chris Pitsiokos CP Unit: Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
      • Dave Rempis/Matt Piet/Tim Daisy: Throw Tomatoes (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: A-
      • Schnell [Pierre Borel/Antonio Borghini/Christian Lillinger]: Live at Sowieso (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
      • Tom Zé: Sem Você Não A (2017, Circus): [r]: B+(***)

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

      • Kaoru Abe/Sabu Toyozumi: Mannyoka (1976 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
      • Choi Sun Bae Quartet: Arirang Fantasy (1995 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
      • Alexander Von Schlippenbah/Aki Takase: Live at Café Amores (1995 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-

      Old music rated this week:

      • Cachao Y Su Combo: Descargas Cubanas (1957 [1994], Planart): [r]: A-
      • Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe (2013, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
      • Roland Kirk: Introducing Roland Kirk (1960, Argo): [r]: B+(*)
      • Roland Kirk: Domino (1962, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
      • Roland Kirk: Reeds & Deeds (1963, Mercury): [r]: B+(**)
      • Roland Kirk: Kirk in Copenhagen (1963 [1964], Mercury): [r]: A-
      • Roland Kirk: I Talk With the Spirits (1964 [1965], Limelight): [r]: B+(*)
      • Roland Kirk: Left & Right (1968, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
      • Rahsaan Roland Kirk & the Vibration Society: Rahsaan Rahsaan (1970, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
      • Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata (1971, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
      • Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Blacknuss (1972, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
      • Zoot Sims: Hawthorne Nights (1977 [1994], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(*)
      • Zoot Sims: Suddenly It's Spring (1983 [1992], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
      • Randy Weston: Solo, Duo, Trio (1954-56 [2900], Milestone): [r]: B+(*)
      • Randy Weston: Get Happy With the Randy Weston Trio (1955 [1995], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
      • Randy Weston Trio + Cecil Payne: With These Hands . . . (19565 [1996], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
      • Randy Weston Trio/Cecil Payne: Jazz A La Bohemia (1956 [1990], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
      • Randy Weston: Little Niles (1958 [1959], United Artists): [r]: B+(***)
      • Randy Weston Trio + 4 Trombones: Destry Rides Again (1959, United Artists): [r]: B+(***)
      • Randy Weston: Destry Rides Again/Little Niles (1958-59 [2012], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
      • Randy Weston: African Cookbook (1964 [1972], Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)


      Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

      • Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist: Together (Summit)
      • Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: Flyin' Through florida (Summit)
      • Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones (Chronograph)
      • Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: From Maxville to Vanport (PJCE)
      • Scott Routenberg Trio: Supermoon (Summit)
      • Andrés Vial: Andrés Vial Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One (Chromatic Audio): September 28
      • Jay T. Vonada: United (Summit)

      Sunday, September 02, 2018

      Weekend Roundup

      Had a lazy, bewildering week, where I didn't get any work done on the server/websites, so I wound up with nothing better to do on Sunday than gather up another Weekend Roundup.


      Some scattered links this week:

      • Julia Azari: Is Trump's Legitimacy at Risk? I generally don't care to get into these polling things, but while I've been feeling more pessimistic the last couple weeks about the public's ability to see through Trump's relentless torrent of scandal and outrage, it turns out that his approve/disapprove ratings have actually taken a sudden plunge: down to 40.3% approve, 54.5% disapprove. Similarly, the generic Congress split now favors the Democrats 48.8% to 39.4%. I don't have any real explanation for this. Maybe the attempts to use McCain's death to shame Trump are paying off? Maybe, with the first convictions of Manafort and Cohen's guilty plea, the Russia probe is finally drawing blood. I've long felt that there's a fair slice of the electorate that simply wishes public embarrassments to go away. In fact, I think most of those voters turned on Hillary Clinton, not so much because they thought she was guilty of anything as because they knew that if she was elected president, we'd wind up enduring years of feverishly hyped pseudo-scandal charges. It could also be how poorly Trump and his flacks are handling all the charges: they are acting pretty guilty of something, especially in their appeals to shut the investigation down. It's also possible that their inability to make progress with North Korea is costing them.

        For a quick reminder of what stinks in the Trump administration, see: Matthew Yglesias: Here's House Republicans' list of all the Trump scandals they're covering up.

      • Natasha Bertrand: Trump's Top Targets in the Russia Probe Are Experts in Organized Crime. Also by Bertrand: New York Prosecutors May Pose a Bigger Threat to Trump Than Mueller. Also notable: David A Graham: Why Trump Can't Understand the Cases Against Manafort and Cohen: "The president is used to operating in a business milieu where white-color crime is common and seldom prosecuted aggressively."

      • Jason Ditz: US Strategy in Syria: 'Create Quagmires Until We Get What We Want': Quotes a Trump official as saying, "right now, our job is to help create quagmires [for Russia and the Syrian regime] until we get what we want." This reminds me of something I've occasionally wondered about over the years: Could the US have negotiated an end to the Vietnam War where power was ceded over to the DRV but with amnesty so that no one who had sided with the US during the war would be jailed or discriminated against once power changes hands? Such an agreement could include an exile option, such that if the DRV really wanted to get rid of someone, or if someone really couldn't abide living on in the DRV, that person could go elsewhere. One might also have hoped to negotiate further rights guarantees, but amnesty with the exile option covers the worst-case scenarios without making much of an imposition on DRV sovereignty. As far as I know, the US never even broached this possibility. And it's possible the DRV wouldn't have agreed, or would have reneged after US forces left, but still it would have shown that the US felt some responsibility to the people it recruited to fight what ultimately proved to be a very selfish and egotistical war.

        One can ask the same thing about Syria, or Afghanistan for that matter. At this point, it looks like Assad will prevail, at least in reoccupying the last major holdout region, in Idlib. After that, it's not clear: Syria has been wrecked, millions have been driven into refugee camps and/or abroad, the economy has cratered, a lot of people have offended the regime, and the regime has long tended to harshly punish any sign of dissidence. Meanwhile, some level of guerrilla activity is likely to continue, especially if the foreign powers that have repeatedly funneled arms and fighters into Syria don't put a stop to it. This would, in short, seem to be a situation that sorely needs a negotiated end. And taking the restoration of the Assad regime as a given, the only other real consideration is the welfare of the Syrian people. Yet, here we have Trump's flack saying we don't want to soften the landing in any way: we want to keep forcing Syria and Russia into untenable situations ("quagmires") because we have blind faith that eventually Assad will collapse and we'll get out way. One obvious rejoinder here is that Libya's regime did collapse, and the US got nothing worthwhile out of the resulting chaos. Nor has Yemen panned out in our favor.

        Needless to say, if Kissinger and Nixon weren't smart enough to figure this out for Vietnam, I don't hold much hope Bolton and Trump. Of course, with Nixon and Kissinger, the problem wasn't brains -- they simply never cared about Vietnamese people, certainly way less than they cared for their cherished Cold War myths. Not that either can detest human welfare more than Bolton and Trump. For more on Idlib, see: Louisa Loveluck: A final Syrian showdown looms. Millions of lives are at risk. Here are the stakes. Also: Simon Tisdall: Russia softens up west for bloodbath it is planning in Syria's Idlib province.

      • Larry Elliott: Greece's bailout is finally at an end -- but has been a failure: Most obviously for Greece, which continues to be mired in a deep recession, but austerity has slowed recovery all across the Eurozone. E.g., see: Marina Prentoulis: Greece may still be Europe's sick patient, but the EU is at death's door.

      • James K Galbraith: Why do American CEOs get paid so much? In 1965, which is now remembered as some sort of golden age for the middle class, CEO pay averaged 20 times what median workers made -- a disparity which hardly qualifies as equality. Today the ratio is 312 to 1. Much of that comes in the form of stock, which nominally tracks future expected profit. With such incentives, CEOs focus on short-term gains, often by taking on risk, short-changing r&d, and squeezing employees.

      • Elizabeth Kolbert: A Summer of Megafires and Trump's Non-Rules on Climate Change: A Los Angeles Times headline: "Trump Tweets While California Burns." Trump's tweets included blaming the fires on "bad environmental laws," while he was busy trying to get rid of Clean Air Act rules that would limit pollution from coal-fired power plants.

        But perhaps what's most scary about this scorching summer is how little concerned Americans seem to be. . . . As a country, we remain committed to denial and delay, even as the world, in an ever more literal sense, goes up in flames.

      • Paul Krugman: For Whom the Economy Grows: As you probably know, the government works constantly to track GDP growth, which is why, for instance, we can officially identify, date and measure recessions. Chuck Schumer has introduced a bill to take the next step and figure out who pockets that growth. For instance, one oft-noted statistic was that during the first few years of recovery from the 2008-09 recession, no less than 97% of the economy's gains went to the top 1% of income recipients. Looking at that statistic, it's no wonder why most Americans scarcely noticed that there was any recovery at all. The same dynamic probably applies today. We hear, for instance, Trump bragging about how strong the economy is, but unless you own a lot of stock and have a high income, you probably haven't noticed any personal change.

      • Laura McGann: Obama's McCain eulogy would be banal under any other president: I thought it significant that Obama sent a written message to be read at Aretha Franklin's funeral, but showed up in person for McCain's. He's ever the politician, even though he never looked as happy on the job as he did watching Aretha perform a few years back. One might argue that he was a mere fan to Aretha, where the four years he and McCain overlapped in the Senate gave them a personal connection, perhaps even one that tempered their twelve years in political opposition. There's nothing wrong with treating political foes civilly, and it's often possible to respect people you disagree with (sometimes even profoundly). One might even claim that in death at last McCain brought forth some sort of centrist political miracle, bringing the opponents who defeated him in two presidential campaigns (GW Bush was the other one) and assorted other bigwigs of both political parties and the media empires that promote and lord over them. On the other hand, those paying tribute included Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, Henry Kissinger, Lindsay Graham, Warren Beatty, Jay Leno, Michael Bloomberg, "and a plethora of current and former senators and cabinet secretaries from both parties." In other words, people who have much more in their common perch atop America's far-flung imperial war machine than they do with the overwhelming majority of Americans. So, of course Obama's remarks were banal. As much as anyone, he's fluent in the coded language these elites use to speak to one another, as well as the platitudes they lay on the public. All this would be completely unremarkable but for the one guy in American politics who broke the code and trashed the platitudes, and still somehow got elected to the office McCain could never win: President Donald Trump. The point of McGann's piece is that Obama's mundane address should be taken as a subtle critique of Trump, but to what point? There are many problems with Donald Trump, but his being impolitic isn't a very important one. I get the feeling that many Democrats think that by cozying up to the dead McCain they're scoring points against the nemesis Trump. They're not -- at least not with anyone they need to convince to resist Trump. Moreover, they're doing it on McCain's turf, on his terms, which is to say they're lining up with the most persistent war hawks of the last 50-60 years. (You do know who Kissinger is, don't you?) When Obama praises how much McCain loves his country, he's talking about a guy who never shied away from a possible war, who never regretted a war he supported, who never learned a single lesson about the costs of war. Back in Vietnam, the saying went: "in order to save the village, we had to destroy it." Since returning from Vietnam, McCain's adopted that irony as the pinnacle of patriotism. Of course, as a conservative Republican, he's found other ways to save villages by destroying them.

        If you're not sick of reading about McCain by now, here are some more links:

        • Susan B Glasser: John McCain's Funeral Was the Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet: She doesn't give us numbers to back up the "biggest" claim, but no church could hold the 500,000 to 1,000,000 people at the January 2017 Women's March on Washington right after the Trump inauguration. Maybe by "biggest" she's thinking quality over quantity? Her subhed: "Two ex-Presidents and one eloquent daughter teamed up to rebuke the pointedly uninvited Donald Trump." (The ex-presidents you know about, and more on the daughter below.) I understand that many people find Trump so repulsive that they will rejoice at any sign of rejecting him, but with McCain you don't get much -- is the disinvite of Trump anything more than a personal spat between two notoriously thin-skinned politicians? -- plus you're cuddling up to a lot of unsavory baggage. Nor has McCain really differed from Trump on much. FiveThirtyEight has a tool for tracking how often Senators vote with Trump, and McCain scores 83.0% and, factoring in Trump's margin in his state, that places him just above Ted Cruz and Joni Ernst. To paraphrase Trump himself, I prefer resistance heroes who don't get captured by the enemy. PS: More names of those on hand -- remember, this was invitation-only: John Boehner, David Petraeus, Leon Panetta, Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Paul Ryan, John Bolton, John Kelly, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Hillary Clinton. OK, to not muddy the effect, I left out Elizabeth Warren -- aside from the obvious disconnects, I'm pretty sure she's the only one to come from a working-class family. I'm not saying that she shouldn't have attended. Just that no one should mistake this crowd for one of her rallies. PPS: OK, here's the "gag me" line:

          Heads nodded. Democratic heads and Republican ones alike. For a moment, at least, they still lived in the America where Obama and Bush and Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney could all sit in the same pew, in the same church, and sing the same words to the patriotic hymns that made them all teary-eyed at the same time. When the two Presidents were done speaking, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" blared out. This time, once again, the battle is within America. The country's leadership, the flawed, all too human men and women who have run the place, successfully or not, for the past few decades, were all in the same room, at least for a few hours on a Saturday morning.

        • Andrew Prokop: Meghan McCain's eulogy: "The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again": Leave it to the daughter (and conservative media icon) to co-opt Hillary Clinton's slogan, as plain a case of "Emperor's New Clothes" rhetoric as has ever been foisted on the American public, but of course this is just the crowd to lap it up. The following paragraph is even stirring, at least until your final "what the fuck"?

          The America of John McCain is the America of Abraham Lincoln: fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and suffering greatly to see it through. The America of John McCain is the America of the boys who rushed the colors in every war across three centuries, knowing that in them is the life of the republic. And particularly those by their daring, as Ronald Reagan said, gave up their chance at being husbands and fathers and grandfathers and gave up their chance to be revered old men. The America of John McCain is, yes, the America of Vietnam, fighting the fight even in the most forlorn cause, even in the most grim circumstances, even in the most distant and hostile corner of the world, standing even defeat for the life and liberty of other people in other lands.

        • Matthew Yglesias: The fight over renaming the Russell Senate Office Building after John McCain, explained: I thought this was a terrible idea. Then I remembered who Richard Russell was, so I wouldn't mind tearing down his name. Still, one could do a lot better than McCain. At the head of the list, I'd put the two senators who voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution that authorized LBJ to escalate the Vietnam War: Ernest Gruening and Wayne Morse. I'd pick Morse: he served longer, straddled both parties (initially elected as a progressive Republican before becoming a Democrat), and he held (or for all I know may still hold) the record for the longest filibuster speech -- a very Senator-y thing to do.

        • Laura McGann: John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the rise of reality TV politics: Yeah, not his brightest hour picking Palin to be his running mate, hailing that as "a team of mavericks." But being McCain, he's never had to apologize for anything, but he always has an excuse for everything: "After being diagnosed with cancer, McCain still defended Palin's performance but said he regretted not picking [Joe] Lieberman as his running mate."

        • Matt Taibbi: Why Did John McCain Continue to Support War? More on Vietnam, but also Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria -- hey, what about the one that got away, Georgia? McCain's constant lust for war, as well as his blindness to the consequences of those wars, has been a constant in our political lives since he first campaigned for the House. Indeed, he was probably recruited for just that purpose. But Taibbi is right that McCain didn't cause the wars he promoted. Rather, America has a problem (dating back to WWII) in thinking that military force is the answer to all our problems in the world. It is that mindset that keeps the warmakers in business. And that's why we should feel shame and horror when people we look to for peace honor someone like McCain.

        • Rebecca Solnit: John McCain was complex. His legacy warrants critical discussion: I can't really agree, although she makes valid points on Jefferson and Lincoln, and indeed most people are complex. Still, McCain's always struck me as a shallow opportunist. I even think his militarism was just a role he was born into, and plays just because it's easy and expected.

        • Doreen St. Félix: Aretha Franklin's Funeral Fashion Showed Us How to Mourn.

      • Richard Silverstein: Trump to Defund UNWRA to Eliminate Palestinian Refugee Status, Right of Return: This is supposed to be the stick after Jared Kushner's "deal of the century went splat. The idea seems to be that without UN recognition and US aid five million Palestinians will give up their refugee status and stop pestering Israel about their so-called Right of Return. The effect is that Palestinian leaders will stop kowtowing to insincere and unprincipled American advice, rightly seeing the US as a puppet of Israel, extraneous to any possible peace process. Good chance US support in Europe will further diminish, although there could be lots of reasons for that.

      • Emily Stewart: A grand jury will investigate whether Kris Kobach intentionally botched voter registration in 2016: Normally, intent is harder to prove than actually doing something, but in Kobach's case, intent is pretty much his campaign platform. Kobach won the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas after an extremely close race, and the poll mentioned here has Kobach leading Democrat Laura Kelly 39-38, with "independent" Greg Orman at 9. Much debate in these parts about who Orman will spoil the election for.

      • Emily Stewart: Trump's supposedly spending Labor Day weekend "studying" federal worker pay after freezing it. Not that lip service has ever been worth much, but over the last decade Republicans have lost any sort of decency regarding organized labor or for that matter all working Americans. Cancelling a schedule 2.1% that has already been eaten up by inflation is petty and vindictive, especially after his $1.5 trillion tax cut for businesses and the super-wealthy. Also see: Paul Krugman: Giving Government Workers the Shaft. Also: Robert L Borosage: Donald Trump Has Betrayed American Workers -- Again and Again.

      • Matt Taibbi: The Cuomo-Nixon Debate Was a Preview of Democrat-DSA Battles to Come: "Democrat Sith Lord Gov. Andrew Cuomo slimed his way past the corporate money issue and attacked Cynthia Nixon's celebrity."

      • Matthew Yglesias: Trump's continued indolent response to Hurricane Maria is our worst fears about him come true:

        Speaking to reporters briefly at the White House, Donald Trump repeated the most consequential of the many lies of his presidency -- that the federal government did a "fantastic job" in its response to last year's Hurricane Maria catastrophe that killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico.

        That's a line that Trump has maintained ever since he made a belated visit to the island after two straight weekends golfing, followed by the observation that "it's been incredible the results that we've had with respect to loss of life."

        In fact, the results they had with respect to the loss of life were awful. Awful in terms of the sheer number of dead, but also awful in terms of the reluctance from the very beginning to deliver an accurate death count. That the disaster turned out to be deadlier even than Hurricane Katrina is shocking, and the fact that it took the government until this week to finally acknowledge that fact is an entirely separate shock.

        More on Trump's incompetence, including his instinct to turn "everything into a culture war." For more on Puerto Rico itself, see: Alexia Fernández Campbell: Puerto Rico is asking for statehood. Congress should listen.

      • Matthew Yglesias: The big idea that could make democratic socialism a reality: I haven't had time to digest this, but it's called the American Solidarity Fund, which would invest government funds and pay out returns to all Americans.

      Saturday, September 01, 2018

      Daily Log

      Facebook comment (response to Greg Magarian) on the shuttering of the Village Voice:

      I started subscribing to the Voice as a teenager in Wichita (although I'm pretty sure I got to The New York Free Press first). The writer I best remember from the period was Jill Johnston, but I was able to recover Christgau's 1969 articles from my folks' attic. Bob recruited me to write for him in 1975, and I moved to NY in 1976. Also his fault I wound up writing about jazz. Still, the Voice has been dying for 20-30 years, less the victim of capitalism than of a series of unfortunate owners. Pretty muchdied for me when they stopped answering my mail, c. 2011. Still, has been nice to see them publish new work by Matos and C. Cooper in the last year.

      Laura posted on Facebook one of my 2003 comments on the coming war with Iraq, adding "Thanks McCain, Bush, and all the others that facilitated this and did not try to stop it." I commented:

      One thing largely forgotten today is that the Iraq War lobby started in Washington 6-10 years before 9/11, coalescing in a group that called itself PNAC (Project for a New American Century), which did everything it could to get Clinton to bomb Iraq (not that he needed much prodding). Most of those neocon warmongers, including many Bush hired in 2001, initially supported McCain for president in 2000 (and returned to him in 2008). Most Americans voted against McCain's wars twice, but got them anyway (well, some of them: not yet Iran or Russia), partly because so many people who should know better tout McCain as a "war hero" -- rather than identifying him as the war criminal he's always been.


      Aug 2018