Sunday, January 20, 2019
The shutdown, or as
David Frum put it, "the President's hostage attempt," goes on,
revulsing and alienating government workers and the public on top
of the revulsion and alienation they first felt when he took office
and started to self-destruct the government. (The exception, or so
we're told, is the ICE border agent union, which relishes the idea
of moving from the backwaters of law enforcement to the closest
thing we've ever had to Hitler's SS.) As I've noted before, the
first and foremost job of every Chief Executive is to keep things
working. In many regards Trump had already broken the organizations
he was responsible for running before he shuttered offices and
halted paychecks (e.g., see the story below on EPA prosecutions).
His new cudgel is blunter, and dumber.
The first thing that popped into my mind when Trump insisted on
shutting down the government is that this is why we don't negotiate
with terrorists. Except I couldn't use that, because I believe that
we should negotiate with terrorists, with hostage-takers, with all
manner of brutes and bullies. I'd even be willing to quote Winston
Churchill, something about "jaw-jaw" being better than "war-war."
But Trump sees this as a test of power, to be resolved by bending
Congressional Democrats into submission. The reason terrorists have
such a poor reputation for negotiating is that, like Trump, they're
insatiable. Republicans have played this budget chokehold card many
times since 1995, always coming back for more, so what Trump is
doing is completely in character. The difference this time is that
Democrats didn't win a major election just to let Trump trod all
over them. They were voted in to resist Republican tyranny, and
this is their first serious test.
One thing I feel I need to decide this week (or, let's say, by the end
of January, at latest) is whether I'm going to try to write my unsolicited
advice book for Democrats in 2020. Say it takes three months to write, two
to get edited and published, that gets us to July, by which time we'll
probably have a dozen Democrats running for President. (I'm counting four
right now: Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, and Tulsi
Wikipedia lists more I wasn't aware of, plus an announcement pending
from Kamala Harris tomorrow.) But that's just a measure of how soon what
Matt Taibbi likes to call "the stupid season" will be upon us. I have no
interest in handicapping the race, or even mentioning candidates by name.
I'm more interested in historical context, positioning, and what I suppose
we could call campaign ethics: how candidates should treat each other, the
issues, the media, the voters, and Republicans. And note that the book is
only directed toward Democrats who are actually concerned enough to get
involved in actual campaigns. Even there, it won't be a "how to" book. I
don't really know anything about running a campaign. It's more why we need
candidates in the first place, and what those candidates should say.
Some rough ideas for the book:
I'm thinking about starting off with a compare/contrast between Donald
Trump and George Washington. They are, by far, the richest Americans ever
to have won office, and otherwise couldn't be more unalike (unless I have
to deal with GW's ownership of slaves, which suggests some similar views on
race). The clearest difference is how we relate to money, and how we expect
politicians with money to serve.
I'd probably follow this up with brief compare/contrasts between Trump
and selected other presidents. I might find various presidents that offer
useful contrasts on things like integrity, diligence, intelligence, care,
a sense of responsibility, a command of details, tolerance of corruption.
I doubt I'd find any president Trump might compare favorably to, but it
might be helpful to make the effort.
Then I want to talk about political eras. Aside from Washington/Adams,
there are four major ones, each dominated by a party, each with only two
exceptions as president:
- From 1800-1860, Jefferson through Buchanan, interrupted only by two Whig
generals (and their VPs, since both died in office, Harrison especially
- From 1860-1932, Lincoln through Hoover, interrupted only by two two-term
Democrats (Cleveland and Wilson).
- From 1932-1980, Roosevelt through Carter, interrupted only by two two-term
Republicans (Eisenhower and Nixon/Ford).
- From 1980-2020, Reagan through Trump, interrupted only by two two-term
Democrats (Clinton and Obama).
There's quite a bit of interesting material I can draw from those periods.
Each starts with a legendary figure, and ends with a one-term disaster. (I
suppose you could say that about Washington/Adams as well, but that's a
rather short descent for an era.) In each, the exceptions substantially
resemble the dominant party. But the Reagan-to-Trump era does reflect an
anomaly: each of the first three eras started with a shift to a broader
and more egalitarian democracy, whereas Reagan was opposite. Each era had
a mid-period nudge in the same direction (Jackson/Van Buren, Roosevelt,
Kennedy/Johnson, but also GW Bush). Of course, the anti-democratic tilt
of Reagan-to-Trump needs some extra analysis, both to show how it could
run against the long arc of American history and why after 1988 it was
never able to post commanding majorities (as occurred in previous
I then posit that in 2020 the goal is not just to defeat Trump
but to win big enough to launch a new (and overdue) era. This will be
the big jump, but I think if Democrats aim big, they can win big --
and it will take nothing less to make the necessary changes. This is
possible because Republicans, both with and without Trump, have boxed
themselves into a corner where all of their beliefs and commitments
only serve to further hurt the vast majority of Americans. It will be
tough because Republicans still have a stranglehold on a large segment
of the public. But this spell can be broken if Democrats look beyond
the conciliatory tactics and marginal goals that marked the campaigns
of Obama and the Clintons.
At some point this segues into a lesson on the need for unity
and tolerance of diversity within the Democratic Party. I'll probably
bring up Reagan's "11th commandment," which served Reagan well but
has since been lost on recent Tea Partiers and RINO-bashers (although
the post-election fawning over Trump suggests that Republicans will
come around to backing anything that wins for them).
I'll probably wind up with a brief survey of issues, which
will stress flexibility and feedback within a broad set of principles.
I can imagine later doing a whole book on this, but this would just
offer a taste.
Book doesn't need to be more than 300 pages, and could be as short
as half that. It is important to get it out quickly to have any real
impact. I would consider working with a co-author, especially someone
who could carry on to do much of the promotion -- something I'm very
unlikely to be much good at.
While I can imagine that this could be worth doing, I can also think
of various reasons not to bother. The obvious one is that I haven't been
feeling well, having a good deal of back pain, and having a trouble with
my eyes -- things that have taken a toll from my normal workload over
the last few months. I also seem to be having more difficulties coming
up with satisfactory writing. I spent a lot of time yesterday trying
to write up a response to a particularly annoying Facebook rant, and
never did come up with anything I felt like sharing. I am especially
bothered by self-destructive arguments I see both on the left and the
right of the Democratic Party spectrum, and this sometimes tempts me
to throw up my hands and leave you all to your fates. On the other
hand, sometimes this tempts me to think that all the help you need
is a little clarity that I fancy I can provide.
Just knocked this much off the top of my head, in two sets of a
couple hours each, so this is very rough. Next step will be to try
to flesh out a bit more outline, maybe 3-5 times the length, with a
lot of bullet points. That would be the goal for the next 7-10 days.
If I manage that, I'll circulate it to a few friends, then make a
decision whether to proceed. The alternative project at this point
is probably a memoir, which is something that can take however much
time it takes (or however much I have left).
Comments welcome, and much appreciated.
Meanwhile, some scattered links this week:
Time to break the silence on Palestine: "Martin Luther King Jr.
courageously spoke out about the Vietnam War. We must do the same when
it comes to this grave injustice of our time."
Impeach Donald Trump: "Starting the process will rein in a president
who is undermining American ideals -- and bring the debate about his
fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs." Even after the
2016 election made impeachment possible in the House, I didn't have
any enthusiasm for this particular agenda. But I noticed this line:
"The question that determines whether an act is impeachable, though,
is whether it endangers American democracy." I'm not sure that really
defines the principle, but it sure describes Trump. Long piece, pretty
BuzzFeed's controversial Cohen story raises question: Did Trump want to be
President? "His campaign was a marketing venture. That's why he didn't
want to put business on hold."
The huge problem with Mueller's Trump-Russia probe that no one talks
The disturbing, surprisingly complex relationship between white identity
politics and racism: interview with Ashley Jardina, author of White
To those who think we can reform our way out of the climate crisis:
"Our only hope is to stop exploiting the earth -- and its people."
Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East.
David A Graham:
Trump's entire shutdown approach, encapsulated in one tweet.
"Tell Me How This Ends" "America's muddled involvement with Syria.
How Trump's EPA is letting environmental criminals off the hook, in one
chart: "Referrals for criminal prosecutions for environmental crimes
are at a 30-year low."
The controversy around Trump's fast-food football feast, explained.
Trump's companies boosted foreign worker visa use to 10-year high.
Trump's Star Wars fantasy: "The president is proposing the most ambitious
and costly missile defense system since the Reagan era. It won't make us any
safer." I lobbed my wisecrack under Jason Ditz's piece, above. If you look
at this sanely, there are maybe 8-10 countries around the world that this
system might theoretically defend us from, and they are (with good reason)
more afraid of us than we are of them. Why can't we just negotiate a stand
down where we each give up the offensive capability this prays to shoot
down? That would be much safer and much less expensive, especially for the
US (the only nation rich and deranged enough to try to deploy a complete
defensive system, as well as the only nation with a trillion dollar plan
to rebuild its entire nuclear arsenal; other nations wouldn't have to do
more than countermeasures, such as the "dumptruck full of gravel" that
Chalmers Johnson wrote about -- enough to destroy every satellite around
the earth). Of course, it's possible that space-based anti-missile systems
never were a serious technical idea. Back when Reagan first unveiled his
"Star Wars" fantasy, Doonesbury suggested that its SDI acronym really
meant SFI: Strategic Funding Initiative: i.e., a scam for contractors
to soak up billions of dollars.
Trump and Putin's cone of seclusion: On the lack of notes on meetings
between Trump and Putin. Title sounds like a flashback reference to Don
Adams' TV spy comedy, Get Smart's
cone of silence.
Supporters of Confederate monuments had a very bad week: "The battle
over Confederate monuments is still raging -- and states are losing.".
There are no "feel-good" government shutdown stories: "The government
shutdown is causing a lot of people to suffer. There's nothing good about
The malign incompetence of the British ruling class: "With Brexit, the
chumocrats who drew borders from India to Ireland are getting a taste of
their own medicine."
The weekend's Trump-Russia news, explained: Big story here is
Adam Goldman/Michael S Schmidt/Nicholas Fandos: FBI opened inquiry
whether Trump was secretly working on behalf of Russia, but the
timing says more about the FBI's defense instincts in response to
the Comey firing than anything Trump had done.
Trump used to brag about the click-in online polls his former fixer
tried to rig.
Here's one fight the Green New Deal should avoid for now: "The smart
political move is leaving the question of what counts as clean energy as
open as possible."
Trump is looking for a new way to cut Medicaid -- without Congress.
Congress has 7 big ideas to cut drug prices. Here's how they work.
Any/all would help (and I can think of a few more), but my preferred
solution is: "7. Rip up our patent system and start from scratch."
Actually, I'd be willing to phase the patent system out, first by
incrementally reducing the 17-year term down to zero, in the meantime
replacing the monopoly grant with arbitrated licensing fees. As this
phases in, you shift research and development costs to "open source"
public development, which in the long run will be more effective. I'd
also try to internationalize this system, inviting other countries to
share in, and add to, the cost savings and development bounty. The
article talks about prizes as incentive for private development. I
think there is a place for that, but it shares with patents the
problem of being a high-risk, high-reward startegy, and tends to
reinforce secrecy. I'd rather see more development subsidized up
front, so there is very little risk, with prizes more as a way of
recognition and reputation-building.
House Democrats are frustrated the shutdown is drowning out the rest
of their agenda.
William Barr and the crucial role of the Justice Department.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to raise taxes on the rich -- and Americans
- Robert Wright:
How Trump could wind up making globalism great again: I found this
after I wrote the introduction above, but this confirms my basic insight
into Trump's "art of the deal":
A few days before the 2016 election, journalist Andrew Sullivan wrote
this about Donald Trump: "He has no concept of a nonzero-sum engagement,
in which a deal can be beneficial for both sides. A win-win scenario is
intolerable to him, because mastery of others is the only moment when he
is psychically at peace." . . .
Still, in Trump's hierarchy of bliss, dominance does seem to rank at
the top. "I love to crush the other side and take the benefits," he wrote
in a book called Think Big. "Why? Because there is nothing greater.
For me it is even better than sex, and I love sex." He went on to observe:
"You hear lots of people say that a great deal is when both sides win.
That is a bunch of crap. In a great deal you win -- not the other side.
You crush the opponent and come away with something better for yourself."
. . .
Now we've got a president who not only resists playing nonzero-sum
games but actively fans emotions that impede the wise playing of them.
And as if that weren't enough, the fanning of those emotions can
recalibrate the games, making lose-lose outcomes even worse than they
would be otherwise. . . . Trump's policy instincts make good governance
hard, and his political style makes the consequences of bad governance
Most of the piece goes into Trump's trade deal strategy, which is a
lot like his strategy everywhere else: to demolish his opponent no
matter how much it winds up hurting himself. Then there is this:
Alternative histories are speculative. But the general principle makes
sense: If your policies [Bush in Iraq, Obama in Syria and Libya] bring
instability that in turn breeds fear and hatred, then candidates who
thrive on those things are more likely to get elected. So if there's a
chunk of international law designed to prevent instability -- such as
the UN charter's constraints on transborder aggression -- maybe you
should pay some attention to it, especially if you're going to go around
singing the praises of the rules-based international order [he quoted
Iraq War supporter George Packer, chastising Trump for this]. Yet many
American politicians who sing those praises also championed the Iraq
and Libya adventures.
That those people include Hillary Clinton -- the only alternative to
Trump in the 2016 election -- tells you how far the American political
system is from taking global governance seriously. On the one hand, we
had a candidate who ostensibly supported the UN charter but casually
disregarded it. On the other, we had Trump, who denounced various US
military adventures but disdains the international law that stands in
opposition to military adventurism.
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Marianne Cowan Pyeatt posted this on Facebook:
For many, many years there were so many things going on behind the
scenes and all we got was propoganda. We didn't know that govt in DC
had been overtaken by socialists and that the exucation system was
being used to indoctrinate socialism. Given that the MSM is completely
and utterly a tool of the left, Social media is the only platform left
to many people. I'm sorry if you are tired of political posts. But, we
Are literally talking about losing the identity and values of our nation
to a group that has quietly manipulated us for decades. Maybe a political
post had never changed your mind, but, you can't say that you are only
hearing one side these days.
You know, back in 1966, I dropped out of high school in Wichita, KS,
in part because I disliked the schools force-feeding me their political
and cultural dogmas. I started reading on my own, looking for things
that helped make sense of the world around me -- at the time, the big
issues were the Vietnam War and racial turmoil. Within two years, still
a teen in Wichita, I embraced socialism. Fifty years later, having worked
for a living while still reading vast amounts of history and economics,
my views have moderated somewhat, but I still believe that the only way
to secure personal freedom and high living standards for everyone is
through social democracy. That's been a lonely view -- at least until
Bernie Sanders showed that the label is no longer poison and the ideas
have genuine popular appeal. Still, you can't be talking about real
socialists (like me) because we don't secretly control anything. Mass
media in America is owned and controlled by the rich, which includes a
smattering of social liberals among a majority of staunch conservatives.
It's the latter who have endowed and directed secretive societies that
have endeavoured to infiltrate public institutions and to dominate public
discourse -- some of the more notorious examples are the Federalist
Society's certification of right-wing judges and ALEC's lobbying of
state legislatures. Forerunners of these groups have been ranting
about socialists since the 1890s, a tactic which really took off
with the McCarthy "red scare" of 1947-54. As your post shows, some
people continue to be taken in by this paranoid fear of subversives --
probably in part because they rightly feel that they have been losing
their freedom to today's ascendant "robber barons" (most other people
have the same feeling, but lack the conceit to blame their woes on an
imaginary left). But we socialists are not your enemy. We offer the
only viable path out of the ever-tightening noose of a short-sighted,
self-interested, out-of-control plutocracy.
Marianne is the wife of a second cousin in Mountain Home, Arkansas.
She is normally a fine person, the mother of three lovely (now mostly
grown) children. Her husband is a government worker -- a county health
inspector -- and she's done office work (I've never delved into the
details). But somewhere along the line she got active in Republican
politics, and convinced her husband to follow suit. I don't know for
sure, but I rather figured that her mother had much to do with her
politics. I never met the mother (now deceased), but she was German,
and according to stories I've heard complained bitterly about how
ordinary Germans like herself were mistreated after losing the war,
blamed for the war, etc. Not sure why she immigrated to the US, but
it seemed to have liberated her from the "collective shame" that was
customary in Germany in the 1950s, allowing her "inner Nazi" to come
out. (Not that any of the stories tried to depict her as a neo-Nazi,
but, you know, that's something I'm rather quick to sniff out -- in
part, I suppose, because I've known Germans who were not.)
My cousin (her mother-in-law) is a solid anti-war Democrat, and I
recall a lot of political strife in the family over the Iraq War. Our
great-great-grandfather was a Union officer in the Civil War, after
which he moved to that Ozark niche in Arkansas -- a patch of two (and
a half) counties that was solidly Republican ever since, even when the
rest of the state was 95% Democrat. He held office as a Republican, and
the family was pretty solidly Republican when my mother was growing up,
but my cousin's father (my uncle Ted) switched to the Democrats with
FDR. He was a deeply compassionate man, touched by the poverty of the
Great Depression, and legendary for his efforts to help neighbors down
on their luck -- a sense of ethics that has been passed down, although
it has met a stone barrier in Marianne.
I also wanted to comment on Allen Lowe's post:
to me Bernie's biggest problem is a lot of his supporters; not all
of you, I mean, some of my best friends . . .
The problem with a lot of these people is that anyone who doesn't
go with Bernie, advocate for Bernie, report on Bernie, endorse Bernie,
or do Bernie with everything, is a sellout. That's really the view of
a certain core of his followers. And I gotta admit, it means I will
never support Bernie, because if he wins I gotta listen to these nuts
for another bunch of years. And I do think Bernie has done a lot of
good for the party, and we owe him a lot.
Now remain calm, as I said, you are not ALL like that. But enough
of you are to make me wanna turn heel and run away (or run train outta
the station, whatever the hell that means).
I wrote back (after tons of other comments):
Going back to the original post, it sounds like you're pretty desperate
to find a reason to slam Sanders. The closest analogy I can come up with
is that a person might like a band's music but decide not to go to one of
their concerts because you don't like the people who show up there. The
difference is that at the concert you're all there together, but after an
election neither you nor any other voter has real access to a candidate.
It's a different kind of participation. But more importantly, you don't
seem to understand how "selling out" works. If Sanders wins, you're not
stuck with four more years of Sanders supporters accusing you of selling
out. Half of them will be accusing Sanders of selling out, and the other
half will either shut up or lamely defend him. Your fear is only realized
if Sanders loses and some other highly compromised candidate wins instead,
leaving his supporters nothing to do but backbite people who "knew better"
but failed to support him. Of course, supporters of every other candidate
tend to do the same thing. If Sanders seems to have more of them, it's
because more people see him as making a difference that matters. If you
weren't so committed to opposing him, you might appreciate that more.
One thing I noted in the comments was Terri Hinte complaining that
Sanders had voted against the Magnitsky Act ("he and Rand Paul, birds
of a feather?"). I wasn't aware of that, but count it as one more reason
in his favor. The United States government should not be arbitrarily
judging and punishing foreign individuals because someone decides that
their business runs counter to America's supposed interests. Maybe there
should be an international tribune that can do that, according to some
kind of consensus international law, but this is just one of a number
of cases where the US has arrogated itself to be sole judge-and-jury
over the rest of the world.
oh come on, Tom, that's not how it works; he lost the last
campaign, and it pretty much neutralized his crazies; they were quiet
until the latest election. And this ain't a concert, so it's a bad
comparison. He wins, and like the tsuris the Dems are having now with
the progressive caucus, his people feel empowered, and they are all
over us like white on Condoleezza Rice. There are many other
politicians with just as many or more followers; he doesn't have a
plurality on people who think he's making that difference (though I
think he has made a crucial difference, btw). But I do see his
followers or their types as already attaching themselves to the "we
are the only pure ones" bandwagon, so it may just be too late. I know
and like a lot of these people, and can work with them, but about
every day I encounter one of 'em popping up on a thread. They remind
me of nothing so much as the student radicals I know in the '60s who
used to stand up at every meeting and shout "we gotta burn it all
down." They were always right and everyone else was a sellout. And
there are enough of them now to start a fire.
My first possible reply went like this:
Not much to actually respond to here. Sure, I know people who are too
"purist" to vote for any Democrat, but I wouldn't call them "crazies" --
they're not violent, and they can be counted on to demonstrate for good
causes. All the Sanders supporters I know -- and I stood three hours in
a caucus line that voted 3-to-1 for Sanders -- are reasonable people.
After 2016, they were the ones people who organized the run for Mike
Pompeo's House seat, and they came closer to winning than any Democrat
had since Dan Glickman last won in 1992 -- with zilch support from the
national Party, which was putting all its effort into a losing contest
in Georgia. What tsuris? There's a legitimate debate within the Party
as to whether Democrats would be more successful if they moved toward
the left. I can see both sides there, but suspect that left policies
(if implemented) would be more effective -- and one thing Democrats
sorely need are tangible results.
I didn't post that. Tried a second attempt, and got so frustrated I
commented it out of the notebook.
Monday, January 14, 2019
Music: current count 30949  rated (+36), 263  unrated (+3).
Rated count remains healthy despite my various disabilities. The
breakdown shifted rather dramatically toward "recent reissues, compilations,
and vault discoveries" -- probably because I finally added a few rather
deep compilation-oriented lists to my
EOY Aggregate and its
Old Music companion,
including the complete
Poll: Reissues/Historical list. Some other late-breaking polls I
The James Brown compilation topped the Ye Wei list, and could have rated
higher had I spent more time with it. The FOLC is one of those retro-rock
things Phil Overeem especially loves. I was vaguely aware that a lot of
Sun Ra had been reissued last year, so when my first two picks turned out
to be especially good, I tried out a bunch more. Trying to figure out the
lay of the land, I jotted down a list of 85 more Sun Ra albums on Napster
that I haven't heard. I should return to them at some point.
There is a new
XgauSez over on
Robert Christgau's website, as well as the
2018 Dean's List. I wanted to get the reviews caught up, but in
the end decided just to post the list. Still don't feel up to starting
the planned site redesign, and probably shouldn't risk it until I do.
I gather there is a Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll in the works,
so that will probably wrap up my EOY list madness. Christgau held back
his point assignments for the poll, although I wouldn't expect them to
post ballots this year after they failed last year. Christgau will be
writing some kind of piece for the poll. For the first time in 15+
years I didn't get an invite, so I find myself losing interest. Much
more info can be mined from my own EOY Aggregate anyway.
New records rated this week:
- Art Brut: Wham! Bang! Pow! Let's Rock Out (2018, Alcopop!): [r]: B+(**)
- David Binney: Here & Now (2018, Mythology): [r]: B-
- Itamar Borochov: Blue Nights (2018 , Laborie Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
- Peter Brotzmann & Fred Lonberg-Holm: Ouroboros (2011 , Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
- Chuck Deardorf: Perception (2017-18 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- The Delines: The Imperial (2019, El Cortez): [r]: B+(***)
- Bryan Ferry and His Orchestra: Bitter-Sweet (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
- Joe Fiedler: Open Sesame (2018 , Multiphonics Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Miho Hazama: Dancer in Nowhere (2018 , Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**)
- Janczarski & McCraven Quintet: Liberator (2016 , ForTune): [bc]: B+(*)
- Brandon Lopez: Quoniam Facta Sum Vilis (2018, Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
- Loretta Lynn: Wouldn't It Be Great (2006-17 , Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
- Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (2016-17 , Whirlwind, 2CD): [cd]: A-
- May Okita: Art of Life (2018 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (2018, Flying Dolphin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Zeal and Ardor: Stranger Fruit (2018, MVKA): [r]: B+(*)
- Denny Zeitlin/Buster Williams/Matt Wilson: Wishing on the Moon (2009 , Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Gordon Beck Quartet: When Sunny Gets Blue (1966-68 , Another Planet): [r]: B+(*)
- James Brown & the Famous Flames: The Federal & King Singles As and Bs 1956-61 (1956-61 , Acrobat, 2CD): [r]: A-
- Feeling Kréyol: Las Palé (1988, Strut, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!! And Rights!! (, FOLC): [bc]: A-
- Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa (Soundway): [r]: B+(**)
- Guy Lafitte: His Tenor Sax & Orchestra 1954-1959 (1954-59 , Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
- Guy Lafitte: Quartet & Sextet Sessions 1956-1962 (1956-62 , Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
- Dave McKenna: In Madison (1991 , Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
- John Prine: Live in Asheville '86 (1986 , Oh Boy): [bc]: B+(**)
- Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Sun Ra With Pharoah Sanders & Black Harold: Judson Hall, New York, Dec. 31, 1964 (1964 , Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(**)
- Sun Ra: Astro Black (1972 , Modern Harmonic): [r]: B+(*)
- Sun Ra: The Cymbals/Symbols Sessions: New York City 1973 (1973 , Modern Harmonic, 2CD): [bc]: B+(***)
- Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Discipline 99 (Out Beyond the Kingdom Of) (1974 , Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(**)
- Sun Ra: Of Abstract Dreams (1974-75 , Strut): [r]: A-
- Sun Ra and His Arkestra: Taking a Chance on Chances (1977 , Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B+(***)
- Sun Ra: God Is More Than Love Can Ever Be (1979 , Cosmic Myth): [r]: A-
- Sun Ra: Sun Ra Plays Gershwin (1951-89 , Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B
- Jesse Sharps Quintet & P.A.P.A.: Sharps and Flats (2004 , Nimbus West/Outernational Sounds): [r]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Sun Ra and His Myth Science Arkestra: We Travel the Space Ways (1960 , Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B+(*)
Grade (or other) changes:
- Joshua Redman/Ron Miles/Scott Colley/Brian Blade: Still Dreaming (2017 , Nonesuch): [r]: [was B+(**)] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Moppa Elliott: Jazz Band/Rock Band/Dance Band (Hot Cup, 2CD): February 14
- Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul: Around Again (TUM)
- Alexander Hawkins: Iron Into Wind: Piano Solo (Intakt)
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
- Human Feel [Chris Speed/Andrew D'Angelo/Kurt Rosenwinkel/Jim Black]: Gold (Intakt)
- Greg Murphy Trio: Bright Idea (Whaling City Sound)
- Tom Rainey Trio With Mary Halvorson and Ingrid Laubrock: Combobulated (Intakt)
- Dave Rudolph Quintet: Resonance (self-released)
- Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love: An Oratorio of Seven Songs (TUM): February 15
- Ernie Watts Quartet: Home Light (Flying Dolphin)
Sunday, January 13, 2019
For many years now, I've identified two major political problems
in America. The most obvious one is the nation's habit and obsession
with projection of military power as its leverage in dealing with
other nations. As US economic power has waned, and as America shed
its liberal ideals, it's become easier for others to challenge its
supremacy. In turn, American power has hardened around its military
and covert networks, placing the nation on a permanent war footing.
This near-constant state of war, since 1945 but even more blatantly
since 2001, has led to numerous social maladies, like domestic gun
violence and the xenophobia leading to the current "border crisis."
The other big problem is increasing inequality. The statistics,
which started in the 1970s but really took off in the "greed is good"
1980s, are clear and boring, but the consequences are numerous, both
subtle and pernicious. It would take a long book to map out most of
the ways the selfish pursuit and accumulation of riches has warped
business, politics, and society. One small example is that when GW
Bush arbitrarily commanded the world to follow his War on Terror lead
("you're either with us or against us"), he was assuming that as US
President he was entitled to the same arbitrary powers (and lack of
accountability) corporate CEOs enjoyed.
I used to wonder how Reagan was able to affect such a huge change
in America despite relatively sparse legislative accomplishments --
mostly his big tax cut. The answer is that as president he could send
signals to corporate and financial leaders that government would not
interfere with their more aggressive pursuit of power and profit.
Reagan's signals have been reiterated by every Republican president
since, with ever less concern for scruples or ethics or even the
slightest concern for consequences. All Trump has done has been to
carry this logic to its absurdist extreme: his greed is shameless,
even when it crosses into criminality.
Still, what the government lockout, now entering its fourth week,
shows, is that we may need to formulate a third mega-ailment: we seem
to have lost our commitment to basic competency. We should have seen
this coming when politicians (mostly Republicans) decided that politics
trumps all other considerations, so they could dispute (or ignore) any
science or expertise or so-called facts they found inconvenient. (Is
it ironical that the same people who decry "political correctness"
when it impinges on their use of offensive rhetoric are so committed
to imposing their political regimen on all discussions of what we
once thought of as reality?)
A couple things about competency. One is that it's rarely noticed,
except in the breech. You expect competency, even when you're engaging
with someone whose qualifications you can properly judge -- a doctor,
say, or a computer technician, or a mechanic. You also expect a degree
of professional ethical standards. Trust depends on those things, and
no matter how many time you're reminded caveat emptor, virtually
everything you do in everyday life is built on trust. We can all point
to examples of people who violated your trust, but until recently such
people were in the minority. Now we have Donald Trump. And sure, lots
of us distrusted him from the start of his campaign. He was, after all,
vainglorious, corrupt, a habitual liar, totally lacking in empathy, his
head full of mean-spirited rubbish.
On the other hand, even I am shocked at how incapable Trump has been
at understanding the most basic rudiments of his job. There's nothing
particularly wrong with him having policy views, or even an agenda, but
the most basic requirement of his job is that he keep the government
working, according to the constitution and the laws as established per
that constitution -- you know, the one he had to swear to protect and
follow when he took his oath of office. There have been shutdowns in
the past -- basically ever since Newt Gingrich decided the threat would
be a clever way to extort some policy concessions from Bill Clinton --
but this is the first one that was imposed by a president.
His reason? Well, obviously he's made a political calculation, where
he thinks he can either bully the Democrats into giving him something
they really hate ($5.7 billion so he can brag about how he's delivering
that "big, beautiful wall" he campaigned on) and thereby restore his
"art of the deal" mojo from the tarnish of losing the 2018 "midterms"
so badly, or rouse the American people (his base, anyway) into blaming
the Democrats for all the damage the shutdown causes. Either way, he
feels that his second-term election in 2020 depends on this defense of
political principle. Besides, he hates the federal government anyway --
possibly excepting the military and a few other groups currently exempt
from the shutdown -- mostly because he's bought into the credo that
"politics is everything, and everything is politics" (which makes most
of the Democrat-leaning government enemy territory).
On the other hand, all he's really shown is that he's unfit to hold
office, because he's forgotten that his main job is to keep the United
States government working: implementing and enforcing the laws of the
land, per the constitution. One might argue that using his office for
such a political ploy is as significant a violation of his trust as
anything else he's done. Indeed, one might argue that it is something
he should be impeached for (although that would require a political
consensus that has yet to form -- not that he isn't losing popularity
during this charade).
Some scattered links this week:
Trump's Hannity interview reveals a president out of touch with
But this is the crux of the matter. He doesn't consider this issue very
important. It's not important enough for him to offer Democrats anything
of substance in a legislative swap, and it's not important enough for him
to have bothered to learn anything about the issue or even develop a
specific proposal. He is imposing huge costs on a huge number of people,
but he personally is suffering nothing more than the indignity of hanging
out in the White House.
And he's so unselfconscious that he actually threw himself a pity party
in the midst of all the problems he's causing. There's no apology here for
the inconvenience, followed by an explanation of why he's doing it. Because
he's not sorry. He wants us to feel sorry for him. And that, in some ways,
is the most disturbing thing of all.
Yglesias focuses on the workers who aren't getting paid, but there
are much larger potential costs to many more people if you can factor
in the work that doesn't get done, and the signals not doing this work.
Much of what the government does is meant to keep companies honest and
trustworthy. Losing that doesn't seem to bother Trump, and indeed most
people may not notice the loss -- until it's too late.
FBI agents' union slams Trump, says the shutdown is harming national
The more Trump talks, the less likely it is he'll get his precious steel
slats: "To get things done, the president needs to shut up." That
Trump keeps trying to make political hay out of the lockout suggests
he's only concerned with the political optics. (On the other hand, if
it isn't talked about on Fox & Friends, is it even real to
Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020: "Americans want outsiders,
reformers, and fresh faces, not politicians with decades of baggage."
In particular, "Why nominate another Iraq hawk?" With Clinton on the
shelf, it's hard to think of any Democrat with more easily attacked
baggage than Biden. (John Kerry has similar problems -- some exactly
the same. And sure, Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emmanuel were on track to
catch up, but they're already pretty thoroughly discredited.) Biden
is a guy that some in the media enjoy touting and that most Democrats
would settle for, but no one really likes him. (You do know that
Leslie Knope's "hots" for him was a joke, don't you?)
It's not just that Biden, despite his currently strong polling, would
make for a weak candidate if he runs. The entire spectacle of once again
re-fighting every intraparty battle from the past two generations of
Democratic Party politics would be bad for almost everyone at a time
when Democrats should be talking about their ideas for the future rather
than raking over the past.
The real crisis is that Trump has no idea what he's doing.
The shutdown is intractable because Trump's wall is ridiculous and
Republicans know it: "Conservatives won't trade the wall for anything
good because they know it's a bad idea.".
Taxing the rich is very popular; it's Republicans who have the radical
position: "But TV news anchors are rich."
Networks giving Trump free airtime on Tuesday refused to air Obama's 2014
The "skills gap" was a lie: "New research shows it was the consequence
of high unemployment rather than its cause." Nothing on who knew better at
the time, although I suspect that when I start looking around, Dean Baker
and Paul Krugman will have something to say on that.
Trump confronts the prospect of a 'nonstop political war' for
The impact of the government shutdown is about to snowball.
Shutdown means EPA pollution inspectors aren't on the job.
Living on a quagmire planet: "Honestly, this could get a lot
Before Trump, Steve King set the agenda for the wall and anti-immigration
Searching for a substantive response to Trump's hateful speech:
"Shutting down the government over the border wall is to policy what
writing a pouty letter to Kim Jong Un is to diplomacy, and the leader
of the Senate opposition should have no part in elevating it." Then
Gessen finds the response she's looking for, from Alexandria
The one thing that the President has not talked about is the fact that
he has systematically engaged in the violation of international human
rights on our border. He has separated children from their families.
He talked about what happened the day after Christmas -- on the day of
Christmas, a child died in [Customs and Border Protection] custody.
The President should not be asking for more money to an agency that
has systematically violated human rights; the President should be
really defending why we are funding such an agency at all. Because
right now what we are seeing is death, right now what we are seeing
is the violation of human rights, these children and these families
are being held in what are called hieleras, which are basically
freezing boxes that no person should be maintained in for any amount
of time. . . . He is trying to restrict every form of legal immigration
there is in the United States. He is fighting against family reunification,
he's fighting against the diversity visa lottery. . . . This is systematic,
it is wrong, and it is anti-American.
Unthinkable: 50 moments that define an improbable presidency: I'll
just list them, and you can go to the page for links and details:
- Donald Trump touches the magic orb
- A cabinet officer likes private planes too much
- The president praises the congressman who body-slammed a reporter
- An overcompensating press secretary lies about crowd size
- Trump tells the Boy Scouts about a hot New York party
- A name-calling feud ends with the secretary of state's ouster by tweet
- The WikiLeaks president goes silent
- The nation loses its consoler in chief
- The first president to complain about an election he won
- Trump waits 19 months to pick his science adviser
- The president's most trusted adviser is his own gut
- A White House economist creates facts for the president
- Trump holds a top secret confab on the Mar-a-Lago dining terrace
- The president just wants to go home
- Trump threatens to strip security clearances from his critics
- Mueller's "witch hunt" is good at finding witches
- Trump leads the country to the longest government shutdown in American history
- The chief justice of the United States corrects the president
- Trump disseminates Soviet propaganda
- The White House punishes a CNN reporter for asking questions
- The buck stops over there
- The president tries to kick transgender service members out of the military
- Trump tweets the wisdom of Mussolini
- Turkish agents assault protesters near the White House
- Trump helps the Saudis cover up a murder
- "We're gonna have the cleanest air"
- The president can't stop talking about carnage
- America gets a first daughter
- The UN General Assembly laughs at the president
- Rain stops Trump from honoring the dead
- The president learns about separation of powers
- The president learns about the Justice Department
- The president lies constantly
- Trump threatens to press his "nuclear button"
- Public humiliation comes for everyone in the White House
- The CIA dead become a TV prop
- You know you're in a constitutional crisis when . . .
- Trump mocks Christine Blasey Ford to a cheering crowd
- A new term enters the presidential lexicon: "shithole countries"
- Trump throws paper towels at Puerto Ricans
- "I have the absolute right to pardon myself"
- The president calls his porn-star ex-paramour "horseface"
- Trump picks the wrong countries for his travel ban
- Trump declares war on black athletes
- James Comey is fired
- Putin and Trump talk without chaperones
- The president still hasn't released his tax returns
- "Very fine people on both sides"
- Children are taken from their parents and incarcerated
Saddest thing about this list? I didn't have to look any of them up.
Second saddest thing? The umbrella didn't even make the cut.
Confronting "Alternative Facts": "A Twenty-First-Century Incredibility
Chasm: Life in the United States of Trump."
Bricks in the Wall: A history of US efforts to fortify the border
with Mexico, starting in 1945 with a 10-foot high chain link fence that
stretched 5 miles near Calexico, CA, built with materials that had been
used in Japanese-American internment camps. Grandin has a new book on
the subject: The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border
Wall in the Mind of America.
As Democratic elites reunite with neocons, the party's voters are becoming
far more militaristic and pro-war than Republicans: I can't help but
think Greenwald has cherry-picked a few facts here and turned them into a
gross slander of the Democratic Party base.
Jack Healy/Tyler Pager:
Farm country stood by Trump. But the shutdown is pushing it to the breaking
Why so many people who need the government hate it: "Everyone benefits
from welfare. Here's why most people don't know that." Interview with
Suzanne Mettler, author of The Government-Citizen Disconnect.
"If individual citizens withdraw from public life, the only people in society
who have power are those with lots of economic power."
"We have to find a way to recapture that sense of the government as an
instrument of good in our lives, and we have to stop thinking of it as the
"If we become more and more anti-government, we're against ourselves.
We're against our own collective capacity to do anything."
Trump's ties to the Russian mafia go back 3 decades: Interview with
Craig Unger, author of House of Trump, House of Putin.
Trump's big libertarian experiment: "Does contaminated food smell
"Government," declared Ronald Reagan in his first Inaugural Address, "is
not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." Republicans
have echoed his rhetoric ever since. Somehow, though, they've never
followed through on the radical downsizing of government their ideology
But now Donald Trump is, in effect, implementing at least part of the
drastic reduction in government's role his party has long claimed to favor.
If the shutdown drags on for months -- which seems quite possible -- we'll
get a chance to see what America looks like without a number of public
programs the right has long insisted we don't need. Never mind the wall;
think of what's going on as a big, beautiful libertarian experiment.
Seriously, it's striking how many of the payments the federal government
is or soon will be failing to make are for things libertarians insist we
shouldn't have been spending taxpayer dollars on anyway.
Melting snowballs and the winter of debt.
Elizabeth Warren and her party of ideas: The tide has turned:
Today's G.O.P. is a party of closed minds, hostile to expertise,
aggressively uninterested in evidence, whose idea of a policy argument
involves loudly repeating the same old debunked doctrines. Paul Ryan's
"innovative" proposals of 2011 (cut taxes and privatize Medicare) were
almost indistinguishable from those of Newt Gingrich in 1995.
Meanwhile, Democrats have experienced an intellectual renaissance.
They have emerged from their 1990s cringe; they're no longer afraid to
challenge conservative pieties; and there's a lot of serious, well-informed
intraparty debate about issues from health care to climate change.
The corrupting falsehoods of Trump's Oval Office speech.
Trump's advisers push for emergency declaration -- while assuming it'll be
stopped in court.
Democrats need to think way bigger on guns: Doubts about focusing
on background checks.
All 20 previous government shutdowns, explained. In my introduction,
I blamed the phenomenon on Newt Gingrich, but most of these were prior
to 1985 (mostly when Reagan was president). This doesn't go into further
threats made by Gingrich and later Republican threats aimed at Obama,
although it does include the 2013 shutdown. Related:
Javier Zarrancina/Li Zhou: The astonishing effects of the shutdown, in
Trump's typos reveal his lack of fitness for the presidency.
Trump has concealed details of his face-to-face encounters with Putin
from senior officials in administration.
Ocean warming is accelerating faster than thought, new research
As the planet has warmed, the oceans have provided a critical buffer.
They have slowed the effects of climate change by absorbing 93 percent
of the heat trapped by the greenhouse gases humans pump into the
"If the ocean wasn't absorbing as much heat, the surface of the land
would heat up much faster than it is right now," said Malin L. Pinsky,
an associate professor in the department of ecology, evolution and natural
resources at Rutgers University. "In fact, the ocean is saving us from
massive warming right now."
But the surging water temperatures are already killing off marine
ecosystems, raising sea levels and making hurricanes more destructive.
US carbon emissions surged in 2018 even as coal plants closed.
Eric Schmidt/Mark Landler:
Pentagon officials fear Bolton's actions increase risk of clash with
National parks are getting trashed amid the government shutdown.
This strikes me as one of the most telling stories of the lockout.
I've spent a lot of time working late in offices, and as such I've
noticed people coming in to clean them up every night. It turns out
that it takes a lot of work to keep any place inhabited by humans
from turning into a dump, but most office workers, clocking in and
out on expected schedules, never see that.
The US isn't really leaving Syria and Afghanistan: Author sees
mostly technical problems, largely because the US military is much
better at building bases than dismantling them -- especially when
it wants to do one and not the other. There's also the problem of
not having a coherent plan let alone viable allies. And up and down
the command chain there are people who can't be trusted not to fake
a crisis or provocation if it serves their agenda. Whenever you give
someone like John Bolton the opportunity to explain what Trump means,
it's likely to spin around 180 degrees.
The government shutdown is hurting America's diplomats -- and
Pompeo and his Bible define US policy in the Middle East:
Pompeo's speech had three dimensions: it was anti-Obama, anti-Iran, and
in favor of so-called traditional allies, as Robert Malley, the president
of the International Crisis Group and a senior National Security Council
staffer in the Obama Administration, told me. "The first reflects a
politicization of foreign policy for which it is hard to conjure up a
precedent. The second an ideological obsession that does not comport with
reality. And the third an implicit celebration of an autocratic status quo
that masquerades as a tribute to stability. Pompeo's self-proclaimed message
was that America is a force for good. Whether that ever was the case, his
speech was proof that, today at least, it plainly is not."
For more on Pompeo's speech/mission:
Monday, January 07, 2019
Music: current count 30913  rated (+39), 260  unrated (+9).
The 13th Annual Jazz Critics Poll results were published by NPR early
Saturday morning, with two pieces by Francis Davis:
The 2018 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll: Top 50 new albums (blurbs by
various authors on top ten), five additional blurbs on "Solitary No. 1s"
(records that only received one vote, a 1st place, including one I wrote
on The Music of Anders Garstedt), and one blurb and top ten (or
less) standings for the other categories: Reissues/Historical, Debuts,
Wayne Shorter Travels the Spaceways, with Davis's own year summary
plus his own annotated ballot.
As has been the case since 2009, I tabulated all of the ballots and
formatted them and complete totals
here. Since I posted
all that, I've had to update the files a few times. Most troubling
were cases where I counted votes for the wrong record by an artist
(one of the Esperanza Spalding votes should have been for her 2017
album; two of the Mingus votes should have gone to Live in Montreux
1975. Other problems were routine typos, but all (so far) have
been easy to fix.
Bigger problem is that I never got copied on Richard Scheinin's
ballot, so it didn't get counted. Still unresolved what to do about
that, but I took the trouble to dig his top-25 list out of his
and added it into my
EOY Aggregate. I've
also added the entire new and historical album lists, but thus
far I haven't dipped into the individual ballots. I've started
to pick up individual ballots from
All About Jazz writers (only a few of whom voted in JCP), and
before long I'll take a look at the
JJA member lists (which I wasn't able to find until today).
I'm also doing some mop-up on rock/pop lists, but I'm starting
to skip lists of little/no interest (chiefly metal). Don't know
how long I'll keep this up, as the EOY list season is basically
done, and the
223 lists I currently
have logged give a pretty fair picture, at least in rock/pop,
hip-hop, and (somewhat less) electronica.
While most of the records below are 2018 releases I've noted on
lists and am belatedly checking out, two of the new A- albums are
2019 releases (and another by Quinsin Nachoff will show up in next
week's report). I'm also treating Eric Dolphy's Musical Prophet
as a 2019 release: physical CDs don't hit the market until Jan. 26,
although a digital release came out Nov. 23, and enough critics
heard and voted for it to finish 3rd in JCP -- alas, not me, not
that it would have cracked my ballot (even if I didn't follow my
recent rule of only voting for historical records I have physical
So the only new A- this week from the 2018 lists turns out to
be Spiritualized, which at 49 was the highest-rated album I hadn't
heard yet. I once loved their 1997 album, Ladies and Gentlemen
We Are Floating in Space, but last time I checkec them out the
record got a B-. Wound up playing the new one three times. Next few
EOY Aggregate records I haven't heard don't seem more promising:
Julia Holter, Iceage, Kurt Vile, Deafheaven, Anna Calvi, Cat Power,
Drake, Troye Sivan, Ghost, Lump, MGMT, Daughters, Florence + the
Machine, Jorja Smith, Elvis Costello, First Aid Kit. I'll probably
play a few of those before end of January.
Among the top 50 JCP albums, I've managed to hear 47. The exceptions
are numbers 50 (Elio Villafranca), 48 (Noah Preminger/Frank Carlberg),
and 1 (Wayne Shorter). None of those are available on Napster or
Bandcamp, nor do I recall any download offers. Shorter's Emanon
is a 3-CD live set with a hard-cover graphic novel costing $53.82 on CD
and $156.38 on vinyl. Not sure how well this was serviced -- I don't
even get email from Blue Note these days, which hasn't been a problem
given that everything else they release is available on Napster, and
since they decided to bet on hip-hop fusion they haven't released much
that's worth hearing. (This year: two ***, from Rosanne Cash and Charles
Lloyd/Lucinda Williams; two **, from Kenny Barron and Dave McMurray;
five *: Ambrose Akinmusire, Terence Blanchard, Nels Cline, GoGo Penguin,
José James; five B or worse.)
On the other hand, I've only heard 5 of the top-ten historical,
with Dolphy's Musical Prophet the only physical (too late).
Francis Davis remarked to me that the new albums list seemed to be
governed by "more is better": 3-CD Shorter (and Sorey); 2-CDs from
Akinmusire, Coleman, Halvorson, Salvant, Washington, plus separates
that could have been joined by Threadgill and Thumbscrew (we counted
the former separately, but merged the latter), plus 6-CD monsters
from Okazaki and Kimbrough -- all in the top-20. But the real home
of gigantism is the historical list, where the top 8 were all 2-CD
or more, topped by the 21-CD The Art Ensemble of Chicago and
Associated Ensembles and the 11-CD Sextet Parker 1993.
(I had naively assumed that the latter was just a repackaging of
Braxton's brilliant Charlie Parker Project 1993, so didn't
bother investigating further, but the full digital is available on
Bandcamp. I should take a close look at the site and see what
else is accessible.
I've been tempted to revisit several albums after seeing how they
placed in various lists. The only one with a regrade so far is Tierra
Whack's 15-minute EP Whack World. When Christgau placed it in
his top-10, I thought it might overcome my prejudice against EPs. Even
without the video, it feels remarkably full. I also gave Mitski's
Be the Cowboy (last week's
Christgau A-, number 2 in my EOY Aggregate) another chance, but didn't
for a moment feel like moving my grade above B. I'm usually a sucker
for a well-crafted pop album, but there are several this year that do
precious little for me (Robyn, Ariana Grande; I like Sophie a bit more,
but a recent retry didn't help it). Right now re-listening to Joshua
Redman's Still Dreaming (number 2 for Francis Davis), which
will probably get a small bump.
Just finished reading Suzy Hansen's Notes on a Foreign Country:
An American Abroad in a Post-American World, which winds up with
a thoroughly damning critique of US foreign policy, not least because
it pains her so much to admit to it all. But the cinch for her seems
to have been returning to the US (Brooklyn, Mississippi) and seeing
first-hand how the imperialist bile rots the nation from the inside.
At a more detail level, she illustrates without coming to any real
conclusions the ambivalences she feels about Kemal and Erdogan and
their respective cults with their peculiar ways of both dovetailing
with and rebelling against American hegemony.
New records rated this week:
- 6lack: East Atlanta Love Letter (2018, LoveRenaissance/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
- Christopher Ali Solidarity Quartet: To Those Who Walked Before Us (2018, Jazz Och Solidaritet): [r]: B+(**)
- Atmosphere: Mi Vida Local (2018, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(**)
- Baco Exu Do Blues: Bluesman (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
- Blue Standard: A Good Thing (2018 , Big Time): [cd]: B
- Benjamin Boone/Philip Levine: The Poetry of Jazz: Volume Two (2012-18 , Origin): [cd]: A-
- Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (2018, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
- The Coathangers: Live (2018, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: B+(**)
- CupcakKe: Eden (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
- Kris Davis/Matt Mitchell/Aruán Ortiz/Matthew Shipp: New American Songbooks: Volume 2 (2018, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
- Dos Santos: Logos (2018, International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
- Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart: Live at Jazz Standard: Saturday (2015 , Greenleaf Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Fire!: The Hands (2018, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
- Tim Hecker: Konoyo (2018, Kranky): [r]: B
- Carlos Henriquez: Dizzy Con Clave: Live From Dizzy's Club Coca Cola (2018, RodBros Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Here's to Us: Animals, Wild and Tame (2018, Hoob Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
- Rolf Kühn: Yellow + Blue (2018, Edel/MPS): [r]: B+(**)
- Jon Lundbom Big Five Chord: Harder on the Outside (2018 , Hot Cup): [cd]: B+(***)
- Mad Crush: Mad Crush (2018, Upon This Rock, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Adrianne Lenker: Abysskiss (2018, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(*)
- Jack Mouse Group: Intimate Adversary (2017 , Tall Grass): [cd]: B+(*)
- Grant Peeples & the Peeples Republik: Settling Scores Vol. II (2018, Gatorbone): [r]: B+(**)
- Rae Sremmurd: SR3MM (2018, Ear Drummer/Interscope, 3CD): [r]: B
- Rejoicer: Energy Dreams (2018, ,Stones Throw): [bc]: B+(**)
- Jay Rock: Redemption (2018, Top Dawg/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
- Jeff Rosenstock: Post- (2018, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
- Greg Saunier/Mary Halvorson/Ron Miles: New American Songbooks Volume 1 (2017, Sound American): [bc]: B+(**)
- Boz Scaggs: Out of the Blues (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
- Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: B+(**)
- Spiritualized: And Nothing Hurt (2018, Fat Possum): [r]: A-
- Stephan Thelen: Fractal Guitar (2015-18 , Moonjune): [cd]: A-
- Martin Wind: Light Blue (2017 , Laika): [r]: B-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (1963 , Resonance, 3CD)
- Svein Finnerud Trio: Plastic Sun (1970 , Odin): [r]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Chicago Farmer: Midwest Side Stories (2016, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
- Eric Dolphy: In Europe Vol. 1 (1961 , Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
- Eric Dolphy: In Europe, Vol. 2 (1961 , Prestige/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
- Eric Dolphy: In Europe/Volume 3 (1961 , Prestige/OJC): [r]; B+(***)
- Eric Dolphy: Conversations (1963, FM/Vee Jay): [r]: B+(***)
- Eric Dolphy: Iron Man (1963 , West Wind): [r]: B+(***)
Grade (or other) changes:
- Tierra Whack: Whack World (2018, self-released, EP): [r]: [was: B+(***)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Ran Blake/Clare Ritter: Eclipse Orange (Zoning): February 15
- Itamar Borochov: Blue Nights (Laborie Jazz): February 1
- Samantha Boshnack's Seismic Belt: Live in Santa Monica (Orenda): March 15
- Sheldon Brown Group: Blood of the Air (Edgetone)
- Chuck Deardorf: Perception (Origin): January 18
- Joe Fiedler: Open Sesame (Multiphonics Music): February 25.
- Miho Hazama: Dancer in Nowhere (Sunnyside): February 8
- Christoph Irniger Pilgrim: Crosswinds (Intakt): January 18
- Michael Kocour: East of the Sun (OA2): January 18
- Dave Meder: Passage (Outside In Music): February 8
- Quinsin Nachoff's Flux: Path of Totality (Whirlwind): February 8
- May Okita: Art of Life (Origin): January 18
- Jamie Saft/Steve Swallow/Bobby Previte: You Don't Know the Life (RareNoise): cdr, January 25
- Wing Walker Orchestra: Hazel (Ears & Eyes): February 15
Names I had to add death dates for (*names I was aware of): Misha
Alperin, Charles Aznavour, Robert Barry, Eddie Campbell, Eddie
Clearwater, Vic Damone, Nathan Davis, Sonny Fortune, *Aretha Franklin,
*Roy Hargrove, Fred Hess, Algia Mae Hinton, Morgana King, Denise
LaSalle, Lazy Lester, Didier Lockwood, Kasse Mady [Diabaté], Geoffrey
Oryema, Perry Robinson, Philip Tabane, Marlene VerPlanck, Bill
Watrous, Tad Weed, Tony Joe White, Wesla Whitfield, *Nancy Wilson.
Sunday, January 06, 2019
Another pretty awful week, followed by a few hours grabbing a few
links in case I ever want to look back and see what was happening,
other than my own misery.
One point I've been wanting to make is that over quite some number
of presidential administrations, I've noticed a pattern. At first,
presidents are overwhelmed and wary of screwing up, so they tend to
defer to their staff, in many ways becoming prisoners of whoever
they happened to install -- usually the choice of their staff plus
the party's unelected Washington insiders. However, presidential
staff are usually careful to flatter their boss, faking fealty, and
over time all that deference (even if insincere) bolsters the ego
of whoever's president. Meanwhile the president gets comfortable,
even a bit cocky about his accomplishments, so starts to impose his
opinions and instincts. There are often further stages, and two-term
presidents tend to go to seed six years in (Eisenhower and Reagan
are obvious examples; Nixon didn't get that far; Clinton, Bush II,
and Obama were sidelines with enemy-controlled Congresses). But
we've clearly made the transition from Trump being the front man
to actually being in charge, running an administration and party
that is increasingly deferential to his every whim. And while most
of us thought Trump was pretty nuts to start with, he used to stay
comfortably within the Republican Party playbook. But increasingly,
his chaos and madness are becoming uniquely his own. Sure, he still
has to walk back an occasional notion, like his decision to withdraw
ground troops from Syria. He may even find he has to give up on his
budget extortion ploy (aka, the shutdown).
Lots of bad things are likely to come from this, but one can hope
that two recent trends will only take firmer and broader root. The
first is the understanding that what's wrong with Trump and what's
wrong with the Republican Party are the same things, all the way
down to their shared contempt for democracy and the people. The
second, an outgrowth of the first, is that the Democratic Party is
changing rapidly from a party that opportunistically tries to pass
itself off as a "kinder, gentler version" of conservative/neoliberal
orthodoxy to one that is serious about solving the real problems of
war and powerlessness and inequality that have hurt the vast majority
of American voters so grievously since Reagan.
I didn't write much about these themes below, but there's plenty
of evidence to back them up.
Some scattered links this week:
Trevor Aaronson/Ali Younes:
US ramps up bombing of ISIS in Eastern Syria following Trump withdrawal
No, Trump cannot declare an 'Emergency' to build his wall.
Rachel M Cohen:
Could expanding employee ownership be the next big economic policy?
The great illusion of The Apprentice: "Even more than wealth,
the reality-TV show promised its viewers accountability."
What does Donald Trump think about when he thinks about "wall"?
What the President could do if he declares a State of Emergency.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts expected to announce retirement, giving Democrats
hope of a blue Kansas. Actually, the Democrats would enjoy better odds
running against Roberts, who (much to their surprise) nearly lost in 2014,
than against a generic (but much younger and very likely more right-wing)
Greg Grandin/Elizabeth Oglesby:
Washington traind Guatemala's mass murderers -- the the Border Patrol played
Ryan Grim/Glenn Greenwald:
US Senate's first bill, in midst of shutdown, is a bipartisan defense of
the Israeli government from boycotts.
Moscow's little-noticed Islamic-outreach effort: "Russia is promoting
Islamic moderation in unison with Arab powers -- and further cementing its
position in the Middle East."
The philosopher redefining equality: "Elizabeth Anderson thinks we've
misunderstood the basis of a free and fair society."
The real story behind the Havana Embassy mystery.
The Lethal Crescent: Where the Cold War was hot. Book review of
Paul Thomas Chamberlin: The Cold War's Killing Fields: Rethinking
the Long Peace.
A brief guide to David Bernhardt, Ryan Zinke's replacement at the Interior
Robert D Kaplan:
Time to get out of Afghanistan: "The United States is spending beyond
its means on a mission that might only be helping its strategic rivals."
Kaplan has been a hawk on Afghanistan at least since his 1990 celebration
of the CIA-sponsored Soldiers of God: With the Mujahidin in Afghanistan,
and even before 9/11 he's frequently hired on as a paid consultant to the
US military, while writing propaganda like Imperial Grunts: The American
Military on the Ground. So fair to say, if he's throwing in the towel,
the "mission" is totally fucked.
What you need to know about Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's new far-right
The Blob: Ben Rhodes and the crisis of liberal foreign policy. Book
review of Rhodes: The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White
The Green New Deal is good for the planet -- and the Democratic
Rep. Ro Khanna on Afghanistan: "Trump's instincts to withdraw are correct,
but the tactical implementation matters".
Trump's border wall demand is constitutionally illegitimate.
CIA's Afghan Forces leave a trail of abuse and anger: "The fighters
hold the line in the war's toughest spots, but officials say their brutal
tactics are terrorizing the public and undermining the US mission."
Rather telling, at this late date, that the author still thinks there
is a "US mission" in Afghanistan. Also that Afghan Forces' tactics are
any more brutal than what the US has been doing there for the last 18
(or is it 41?) years.
House Democrats officially unveil their first bill in the majority: a
sweeping anti-corruption proposal: "Democrats will take up voting
rights, campaign finance reform, and a lobbying crackdown -- all in
their first bill of the year."
An alternative reflection for 2018 -- thank you note to writers who
nurtured my mind and soul.
Middle-class shame will decide where America is headed: "Who can appeal
to the people who feel the cost like they've gotten a raw deal?"
In Trump's mind, all deals are private. 'Public interest' means nothing
to him: "At least a scoundrel knows when he is doing wrong. But the
president is blind to the very idea of public interest."
The Green New Deal, explained: "An insurgent movement is pushing Democrats
to back an ambitious climate change solution."
Trump's bizarre Rose Garden news conference shows why he's impossible to
negotiate with: "Unhinged, incoherent, oblivious, and dangerous.".
This map shows where in the world the US military is combatting
terrorism -- where "terrorism" is basically anything that
challenges American political and economic power.
It's good to talk about impeaching the motherfucker.
Why Trump taking credit for low gas prices is a bad idea.
In 2019, let's finally retire 'electability'.
The House Democrats' best path forward: "To counter Donald Trump, and
to prepare for 2020, the Party needs to think big."
Iraq's post-ISIS campaign of revenge: "The corruption and cruelty of
the state's response to suspected jihadis and their families seem likely
to lead to the resurgence of the terror group."
Steven K Vogel:
Elizabeth Warren wants to stop inequality before it starts: "Redistribution
is important, but it comes too late." On the other hand, we're not talking
about a future threat. It's already too late.
2019 will be the worst year of Donald Trump's life.
Now Mattis admits there was no evidence Assad used poison gas on his
Trump just warned the shutdown could last for years. That's pretty
Tuesday, January 01, 2019
Noted in my twitter feed yesterday, a quote from Donald J. Trump in
2013: "A shutdown falls on the President's lack of leadership. He can't
even control his party and get people together in a room. A shutdown
means the president is weak."
Possible 50-word piece for NPR:
Joakim Milder/Fredrik Ljungkvist/Mathias Landraeus/Filip
Augustson/Fredrik Rundkvist: The Music of Anders Garstedt
Swedish trumpeter Garstedt left a scant legacy when he died at
age 31, but 18 years later five [former] bandmates revive his music
brilliantly. The two saxophonists (Milder and [Fredrik] Ljungkvist
bob and weave, while pianist [Mathias] Landraeus anchors a free-ranging
rhythm section: tricky postbop as coherent as classic swing.
Added this in the cover letter (much more than 50 words):
You have several obvious options here. Cover only gives the last
names, so you can save space by dropping the first names, but then you
have to add them to the review. If you leave them in the credit,
scratch the bracketed [Fredrik] and [Mathias] in the text. My normal
practice in cases like this (and I mostly write super-terse reviews)
is to spell them out up front, but you may want to budget your space
differently. You can also save space by dropping the bassist
(Auguston) and drummer (Rundkvist). They are much less recognized than
the first three. You could drop Landraeus, in which case you could get
rid of the parenthetical, since "two saxophonists" matches the two
remaining names names are saxophonists (Ljunkvist also plays some
clarinet, but I already skipped over that.) You could even reduce the
credit to Joakim Milder. Ljungkvist is better known in US, but Milder
is a couple years older and may have a better connection to Garstedt
(really hard to tell).
I dropped [former] when trimming words, but it might help
clarify. I originally had "vibrant" instead of "coherent" and don't
have much of a preference. Maybe "as classic swing" should be changed
to "as any classic"? Thought about adding "wax and wane" after "bob
and weave," but didn't think I had the space.
Two tenor saxes (latter also credited with soprano and clarinet), plus
piano-bass-drums. The composer was Swedish, played trumpet, died in
2000 at age 31, didn't leave any records under his own name, not many
side credits either (one each with Fredrik Norén and Christian
Falk). The musicians claim ties to him, and bring his music
brilliantly to life.