Monday, February 25, 2019
Music: current count 31174  rated (+29), 252  unrated (+3).
So-so week, rated count actually a good deal more than I expected, given
all the distractions. Since I went to weekly review dumps, I guess that
means that the last Monday of the month is the closing date for the archive
Streamnotes (February 2019) --
posted at the same time as this Music Week.
February's record total of 123 (91 new) is quite a bit less than
January's 201 (153 new).
Still listening more to 2018 than 2019 records (15-4 below), even
a couple hitherto unnoticed 2017 releases. Should probably write a
longer intro, but not feeling it at the moment.
New records reviewed this week:
- Jakob Anderskov: Mysteries (2017 , ILK): [r]: B+(**)
- Julian Argüelles: Tonadas (2017 , Edition): [r]: B+(**)
- Rafiq Bhatia: Breaking English (2018, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
- Carsie Blanton: Buck Up (2019, So Ferocious): [r]: A-
- Martin Blume/Wilbert De Joode/John Butcher: Low Yellow (2016 , Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(**)
- Dinosaur: Wonder Trail (2018, Edition): [r]: B
- Endangered Blood: Don't Freak Out (2018, Skirl): [r]: A-
- Hot 8 Brass Band: On the Spot (2017, Tru Thoughts): [bc]: B+(**)
- Hot 8 Brass Band: Take Cover (2019, Tru Thoughts, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
- Ohmme: Parts (2018, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(**)
- On the Levee Jazz Band: Swinging New Orleans Jazz (2018, Big Al): [bc]: A-
- Pilgrims [John Wolf Brennan/Tony Majdalani/Marco Jencarelli]: Oriental Orbit (2017, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
- Chris Potter: Circuits (2019, Edition): [r]: B-
- RAM: RAM 7: August 1791 (2018, Willibelle): [r]: B
- Dave Rempis/Brandon Lopez/Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (2018 , Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
- Valee: GOOD Job, You Found Me (2018, GOOD Music, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Kate Vargas: For the Wolfish & Wandering (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Gboyega Adelaja: Colourful Environment (1979 , Odion Livingstone): [r]: B+(**)
- African Scream Contest 2 (1970s , Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(***)
- Dur Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2, & Previously Unreleased Tracks (1986-87 , Analog Africa, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Orhestre Abass: De Bassari Togo (1972 , Analog Africa, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds From Benin & Togo 70s (1970s , Analog Africa): [r]: A-
- Carsie Blanton: Ain't So Green (2005, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
- Carsie Blanton: Idiot Heart (2012, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
- Carsie Blanton: Not Old, Not New (2014, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(**)
- Carsie Blanton: So Ferocious (2016, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(*)
- Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Skadra Degis (2007 , Skirl): [bc]: B+(***)
- Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Norman (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
- Endangered Blood: Work Your Magic (2012 , Skirl): [r]: B+(***)
- Kitchen Orchestra/Alexander Von Schlippenbach: Kitchen Orchestra With Alexander Von Schlippenbach (2013, Whats Cooking): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Atomic: Pet Variations (Odin)
- Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (A.T. Music)
- Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (Alfa Projects)
- Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (Hopscotch) [A-]
Sunday, February 24, 2019
When I started this exercise, I reassured myself that I would just go
through the motions, collecting a few notes that I may wish to refer back
to after the 2020 election. While I've written very little on it, I've
thought a lot more about my four-era synopsis of American history, and
I'm more convinced than ever that the fourth -- the one that started in
1980 with Ronald Reagan -- ends definitively with Donald Trump in 2020.
I doubt I'll ever manage to write that book, but it's coming together
pretty clearly in my mind. I'll resist the temptation to explain how
and why. But I will offer a couple of comments on how this affects the
Democratic presidential field. For starters, it is very important that
the Democrats nominate someone who is not closely tied to Reagan-era
Democratic politics, which means the Clintons, Obama, and Joe Biden.
Those politicians based their success on their ability to work with
Reagan-era constraint and tropes, and those have become liabilities.
It's time for a break, which could mean an older candidate with clear
history of resisting Clinton-Obama compromises (like Bernie Sanders)
or a younger candidate who's simply less compromised. Second point is
that Republicans have become so monolithically tied to Trump, while
Trump has become so polarizing, that no amount of "moderation" is
likely to gain votes in the "middle" of the electorate. On the other
hand, these days "moderation" is likely to be seen as lack of principles
and/or character. In this primary season I don't see any reason not
to go with whichever Democrat who comes up with the best platform.
Still, there is one trait I might prefer over a better platform,
which is dedication to advancing the whole party, and not just one
candidate or faction.
I don't intend to spend much time or space on candidates, but
I did note Bernie Sanders' joining the race below, a piece on his
foreign policy stance (which has more to do with the shortcomings
of other Democrats), as well as a couple of policy initiatives
from Elizabeth Warren -- who's been working hard to establish her
edge there. I've been running into a lot of incoherent spite and
resentment against Sanders, both before and since his announcement,
often from otherwise principled leftists, especially directed
against hypothetical "purists" who disdain other "progressives"
as not good enough. I'm far enough to the left that no one's ever
good enough, but you make do with what you can get. I sympathize
Steve M.'s tweet:
Everyone, pro and anti Bernie: Just grow the fuck up. He's in the
race. Vote for him, don't vote for him, let the process play out,
then fight like hell to enact whoever wins the nomination. STOP
DOING 2016 BATTLE REENACTMENTS.
Of course, if Hillary throws her hat in, all bets are off.
Some scattered links this week:
Sanders has an advantage, and it's not about economics: "He has put
forward a foreign policy vision that pits democratic peoples everywhere
against illiberalism at home and abroad." I wish he was better still --
Laura blew up about some comments he made the other day on Venezuela,
but he's not as kneejerk reflexive as most Democrats, or as gullible
when someone pitches a war as humanitarian -- but he's closer to having
a framework for thinking about America's imperial posture than almost
anyone with a chance to do something about it. By far the biggest risk
Democrats are running is the chance they may (as Hillary was) be tarred
as the war party.
Ted Galen Carpenter:
How NATO pushed the US Into the Libya fiasco: I think this was pretty
obvious at the time, although once the US intervened, as it did, the war
quickly became something all sides could blame on America -- particularly
as the US had a long history that had only grown more intense under Bush
and Obama of absent-minded intervention in Islamic nations. Obama later
said that he regretted not the intervention per se but not planning better
for the aftermath -- an indication of lack of desire or interest, not that
Bush's occupation of Iraq turned out any better. (Of course, the fiasco in
Iraq was also excused as poorly planned, but no one doubted the interest
and excitement of the Bremer period as Americans tried to refashion Iraq
in the image of, well, Texas.) One point that could be better explained
is that Europe (especially France and Italy) had long-standing commercial
ties to Libya, which America's anti-Qaddafi tantrums (at once high-handed,
capricious, arbitrary, and indifferent to consequences) had repeatedly
undermined. After NATO fell in line behind the US in Afghanistan and (for
the most part) Iraq, Europeans felt America owed them something, and that
turned out to be Libya. That all these cases proved disappointing should
prove that NATO itself was never the right vehicle for dealing with world
or regional problems.
US foreign policy is for sale: "Washington think tanks receive millions
of dollars from authoritarian governments to shape foreign policy in their
favor." Not just authoritarian governments, although you could argue that
the most obvious exception, Israel, qualifies. For that matter it seems
likely that many other nations (democracies as well as dictatorships) are
every bit as active in buying American foreign policy favors -- so much so
that singling out the "authoritarians" is just a rhetorical ploy. Original
TomDispatch. By the way, in the latter, Tom Engelhardt quotes from
Stephen Walt's new book, The Hell of Good Intentions: America's
Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy:
[T]he contemporary foreign policy community has been characterized less
by competence and accountability and more by a set of pathologies that
have undermined its ability to set realistic goals and pursue them
effectively. To put it in the bluntest terms, instead of being a
disciplined body of professionals constrained by a well-informed public
and forced by necessity to set priorities and hold themselves accountable,
today's foreign policy elite is a dysfunctional caste of privileged
insiders who are frequently disdainful of alternative perspectives and
insulated both professionally and personally from the consequences of
the policies they promote.
Although "good intentions" often fail, Walt is being overly generous
in accepting them at face value. Up to WWII, US foreign policy was almost
exclusively dictated by private interests -- mostly traders and financiers,
with an auxiliary of missionaries. WWII convinced American leaders that
they had a calling to lead and manage the world, so they came up with a
great myth of "good intentions," although those were soon shattered as
they embraced slogans like "better dead than red."
How the failure of our foreign wars fueled nativist fanaticism: "For
nearly two centuries, US politicians have channeled extremism outward.
But the frontier is gone, the empire is faltering, and the chickens are
coming home to roost." Adapted from Grandin's new book, The End of the
Myth: From the Frontier to the Border in the Mind of America.
Had the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq not gone so wrong, perhaps
George W. Bush might have been able to contain the growing racism within
his party's rank and file by channeling it into his Middle East crusade,
the way Ronald Reagan broke up the most militant nativist vigilantes in
the 1980s by focusing their attention on Central America. For nearly two
centuries, from Andrew Jackson forward, the country's political leaders
enjoyed the benefit of being able to throw its restless and angry citizens --
of the kind who had begun mustering on the border in the year before 9/11 --
outward, into campaigns against Mexicans, Native Americans, Filipinos, and
Nicaraguans, among other enemies.
But the occupations did go wrong. Bush and his neoconservative advisers
had launched what has now become the most costly war in the nation's history,
on the heels of pushing through one of the largest tax cuts in the nation's
history. They were following the precedent set by Reagan, who in the 1980s
slashed taxes even as he increased the military budget until deficits went
sky-high. Yet the news coming in from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere began
to suggest that Bush had created an epic disaster. Politicians and policy
intellectuals began to debate what is and isn't torture and to insist that,
whatever "enhanced interrogation" was, the United States had a right to do
it. Photographs from Abu Ghraib prison showing US personnel cheerfully
taunting and torturing Iraqis circulated widely, followed by reports of
other forms of cruelty inflicted on prisoners by US troops. Many people
were coming to realize that the war was not just illegal in its conception
but deceptive in its justification, immoral in its execution, and corrupt
in its administration.
Every president from Reagan onward has raised the ethical stakes,
insisting that what they called "internationalism" -- be it murderous wars
in impoverished Third World countries or corporate trade treaties -- was
a moral necessity. But the disillusionment generated by Bush's war on
terrorism, the velocity with which events revealed the whole operation
to be a sham, was extraordinary -- as was the dissonance. The war,
especially that portion of it allegedly intended to bring democracy to
Iraq, was said to mark a new era of national purpose. And yet a coordinated
campaign of deceit, carried out with the complicity of reporters working
for the country's most respected news sources, had to be waged to ensure
public support. The toppling of Saddam Hussein was predicted to be a
"cakewalk," and US soldiers, according to Vice President Dick Cheney,
would "be greeted as liberators." But Cheney still insisted that he needed
to put in place a global network of secret torture sites in order to win
the War on Terror.
As thousands died and billions went missing, the vanities behind not
just the war but the entire post-Cold War expansionist project came to
a crashing end. . . .
War revanchism usually takes place after conflicts end -- the Ku Klux
Klan after World War I, for example, or the radicalization of white
supremacism after Vietnam. Now, though, it took shape while the war
was still going on. And border paramilitarism began to pull in not
only soldiers who had returned from the war but the veterans of older
Notes:  Of course, "channeling" racism wasn't something Bush II
worried about, after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I had built their winning
presidential campaigns by cultivating it. It was by then part of the
Republican brand.  What about the Red Scares
following both World Wars? Even wars that were definitely won seem to
have left a hunger for more, starting with the search for scapegoats.
 Or should we say, the war abroad dragged on even after most Americans
lost interest in or commitment to it?
Trump rolls out massive corporate-style campaign structure for 2020.
Elizabeth Warren's universal child care plan, extended: More evidence
that Warren is running away from the pack in producing serious thinking
about and proposals for policy. For another, see: German Lopez:
Elizabeth Warren's ambitious plan to fight the opioid epidemic,
'Sustain and ongoing' disinformation assault targets Dem presidential
candidates: "A coordinated barrage of social media attacks suggests
the involvement of foreign state actors." I bet not just those scary
foreign state names but PACs and slush funds all over the world, any
outfit with a cross to bear or an interest to push.
The Trump administration is finalizing plans to strip funding from Planned
The war on Venezuela is built on lies. Also related:
Timothy M Gill:
Why is the Venezuelan government rejecting US food supplies?
We can surely debate the cruelty of Maduro's domestic policies and his
inability and unwillingness to seriously combat the economic crisis,
perhaps in an effort to benefit his cronies. Yet, Maduro is not incorrect
about the U.S.'s disingenuous behavior.
At the same time that the U.S. is portraying itself as a literary
protagonist with its supplies situated on the Colombia-Venezuela border,
its policies are intensifying hardships for Venezuelan citizens. If it
truly wanted to help Venezuelans, it could work through international
and multilateral institutions to send aid to Venezuela, push for dialogue,
and take some options off the table, namely military intervention.
Above all, the U.S. is currently damaging the Venezuelan economy with
its sanctions, and its supplies on the border will do very little to solve
the crisis writ large. If sanctions haven't felled governments in Iran or
Syria, to name just two examples, it doesn't seem likely that they will
fall the Maduro government any time soon. They'll only perpetuate suffering
and ultimately generate acrimony towards the country.
The US has put this kind of pressure on nations before, imposing huge
popular hardships as punishment for the government's failure to surrender
to American interests. Crippling sanctions failed to break North Korea
and Cuba. Iraq held out until the US invaded, then resisted until American
troops withdrew. Syria descended into a brutal civil war. The US is on a
path of goading Maduro into becoming the sort of brutal dictator that
Assad became. One might cite Nicaragua as the exception, where the
Sandinista regime relinquished power to US cronies, for what little
good it did them.
US counterterrorism missions across the planet: "Now in 80 countries,
it couldn't be more global." See the
Why are Democrats trying to torpedo the Korea peace talks? That's a
good question. You'd think that Democrats would realize by now that the
conflicts created and exacerbated by America's global military posture
undermine both our own security and any prospects for achieving any of
their domestic political goals.
"Democrats should support diplomacy, and remember the most important
president in this process is Moon Jae-in, not Donald Trump," Martin
said. "Moon's persistent leadership toward reconciliation and diplomacy
with North Korea represents the fervent desire of the Korean and
Korean-American people for peace. Members of Congress from both parties
should understand that and support it, skepticism about Trump and Kim
Inside the secretive US air campaign in Somalia: "Since Trump took
office, figuring out whom the US is killing and why has become nearly
Thomas Friedman is right: Pie doesn't grow on trees. Taibbi is the
reigning champ of parsing Friedman's blabber, but instead of translating
his pie metaphors into English, Taibbi is so overwhelmed by the moment
he just transcribes them into page-straddling German nouns. The Friedman
piece in question:
Is America becoming a four-party state? I would start by sketching
this out as a 2x2 chart, labeling the vertical columns Republicans and
Democrats. The top row for leaders of both parties who think that all
you need is growth (which mostly means pandering to big business); the
bottom row for the resentful masses who feel they haven't been getting
their fair share of all that growth. I imagine this less as four squares
than as a capital-A. The top row is narrowed, the partisan differences
marginal, while the bottom row diverges as to who to blame. Friedman
pines for the good old days when all elites of both parties had to do
was compete with each other to better serve the rich, when no one on
either side stooped to pandering to the masses.
Bernie enters the 2020 race with defiant anti-Trump rhetoric.
Does Washington know the difference between dissent and disinformation?
Revisiting the American Nazi supporters of "A Night at the Garden":
A seven-minute documentary film nominated for an Oscar, based on a 1939
pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, and its relevance today.
Roger Stone's and Jerome Corsi's time in the barrel: "Why the mismatched
operatives matter to Trump -- and to the Mueller investigation."
Presumed Guilty: A book review of Ken Starr: Contempt: A Memoir
of the Clinton Investigation, a reminder of the days when so-called
Independent Investigators really knew how to run a witch hunt. Perhaps
the new piece of information here is the extreme contempt that Starr
and his minions, including Brett Kavanaugh, held for Hillary Clinton.
The House will vote Tuesday on blocking Trump's national emergency.
Monday, February 18, 2019
Music: current count 31145  rated (+42), 249  unrated (-2).
Still killing time fiddling with the Pazz & Jop ballots and my
EOY Aggregate list. As I'm only selectively adding P&J voters'
ballots to the count, I've been perturbing the standings a bit, nudging
Cardi B (which I like more) into 4th over Pusha T and Low (which I don't
like, although it's far from their worst) down to 10th, under Noname and
Parquet Courts (which I do like). Reminds me of something I used to do
in my late teens, when I could create my own book lists by mixing real
bestseller with other books I was drawn to, including a lot of titles
from Pantheon, Grove Press, and Monthly Review Books. The EOY Aggregate
remains more rooted in reality, but factoring in my own grades and lists
from favored critics and fellow travelers does add a (useful, I think)
bias to the thing.
Non-Jazz EOY lists
have evened out a bit, 63-58, with one late-discovered A- in each
this week. Also found my first 2019 non-jazz A-, against 12 jazz
A/A- records (although Leyla McCalla's Capitalist Blues
could be called non-jazz, and two more of that dozen feature
I pulled a couple old unrated CDs off the shelf this week, now
in "old music" below. I should note that French blues collection
is part of a series. I also own The Prewar Vocal Jazz Story
(1923-45, released 1996), which is in my database as a full A.
I gave it a spin last week, and it would be hard to improve on.
Had I spent more time with The Prewar Blues Story, I might
have concluded it's every bit as authoritative. There are more
volumes in the series, all long out of print, but likely to be
worthwhile if you stumble upon one. Booklets are pretty good.
Expert Witness, I spent some more time with Alex Chilton
reissues -- although I was actually primed with
last week's review of Big Star's Live at Lafayette's Music
Room. I had reviewed Ocean Club '77 back when
it came out,
but gave it another shot, and a better grade.
Last week I started replacing my rated albums lists with my
review notes. Working methodology is to collect the list in a
scratch file and retain it in the notebook, while only swapping
the reviews in for the
Still a bit awkward for me, but I trust more timely reviews in
smaller than monthly chunks will be more useful.
New records rated this week:
- Asleep at the Wheel: New Routes (2018, Bismeaux): [r]: B+(*)
- Bad Bunny: X 100PRE (2018, Rimas Entertainment): [r]: B+(*)
- J Balvin: Vibras (2018, Universal Latino): [r]: B+(**)
- Blueprint: Two-Headed Monster (2018, Weightless): [r]: A-
- Moses Boyd Exodus: Displaced Diaspora (2018, Exodus): [r]: B+(***)
- BTS: Love Yourself: Tear (2018, Big Hit): [r]: B
- Mariah Carey: Caution (2018, Epic): [r]: B
- Hayes Carll: What It Is (2019, Dualtone): [r]: A-
- Cypress Hill: Elephants on Acid (2018, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
- Michael Dease: Reaching Out (2017 , Posi-Tone): [r]: B
- Michael Dease: Bonafide (2018, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
- Michael Dessen Trio: Somewhere in the Upstream (2016 , Clean Feed): [s]: B+(***)
- José Dias: After Silence, Vol. 1 (2017 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
- Erin Rae: Putting on Airs (2018, Single Lock): [r]: B+(*)
- Kinky Friedman: Circus of Life (2018, Echo Hill): [r]: B+(*)
- Joshua Hedley: Mr. Jukebox (2018, Third Man): [r]: B
- Muncie Girls: Fixed Ideals (2018, Buzz): [r]: B+(**)
- Murs: A Strange Journey Into the Unimaginable (2018, Strange Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Thiago Nassif: Três (2015 , Foom): [r]: A-
- Larry Ochs/Nels Cline/Gerald Cleaver: What Is to Be Done (2016 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
- Carly Pearce: Every Little Thing (2017, Big Machine): [r]: B-
- Rich Pellegrin: Down (2014 , OA2): [cd]: B
- Scott Robinson: Tenormore (2018 , Arbors Jazz): [cd]: A-
- Shad: A Short Story About a War (2018, Secret City): [bc]: B+(*)
- Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (2018 , ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(***)
- Jorja Smith: Lost & Found (2018, FAMM): [r]: B+(**)
- Ricardo Toscano: Quartet (2018, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
- Jeff Tweedy: Warm (2018, dBpm): [r]: B+(**)
- Jack White: Boarding House Reach (2018, Third Man/Columbia): [r]: B-
- Kelly Willis: Back Being Blue (2018, Premium): [r]: B+(*)
- Luke Winslow-King: Blue Mesa (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Big Star: Live on WLIR (1974 , Omnivore): [r]: B+(**)
- Alex Chilton: From Memphis to New Orleans (1985-89 , Bar/None): [r]: A-
- Fred Hersch Trio: Heartsongs (1989 , Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
- King of the Road: A Tribute to Roger Miller (2018, BMG, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- 1930s Jazz: The Singers (1930-38 , Columbia): [cd]: B+(**)
- 1930s Jazz: The Small Combos (1930-39 , Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
- 1940s Jazz: The Singers (1940-49 , Columbia): [cd]: B+(***)
- Best of Blues Records Presents: The Prewar Blues Story [La Grande Époque du Blues 1926-1943] (1926-43 , Best of Blues, 2CD): [cd]: A-
- Alex Chilton: Bach's Bottom (1975 , Razor & Tie): [r]: B+(*)
- Alex Chilton: Like Flies on Sherbert (1979 , Last Call): [r]: B
Grade (or other) changes:
- Alex Chilton: Ocean Club '77 (1977 , Norton): [r]: [was: B+(**)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (Piloo): February 22
- Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (self-released)
- Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (Sunnyside): March 15
- Urbanity: Urbanity (Alfi) **
The Wichita Eagle dropped Non Sequitur from its comics page, responding
to the fake news "outrage" over a largely invisible "Fuck Trump" buried in
a "coloring book" comic. I wrote this to the Eagle:
Please reconsider your hasty decision to drop Non Sequitur from the comics
page. For that matter, please consider bring Doonesbury back -- it's always
been much more than political commentary. Your efforts to impose your sense
of political correctness on something that's first and foremost entertainment
diminishes the value of your sadly declining product. It would also save us
from having to reconsider whether your paper is worth what we pay for it.
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Another weekly batch of links and comments. At some point I started
shunting pieces on Trump's "state of emergency" declaration to the end,
but a few are scattered in the main list. Also wound up adding more
"related" links under first-found stories. More time might let me sort
out a better pecking order. But at this point I'm mostly going through
the motions, to establish a record for possible later review. Book
idea is still germinating. Last couple weeks have been especially
trying for me, and this coming one looks likely to be worse.
Some scattered links this week:
The real national emergency is Trump's incompetence.
Today's national emergency declaration from Donald Trump is an obvious
fraud, detectable if nothing else by the reality that various White House
and congressional officials have been teasing it as a possibility for
months. In a real emergency, you act fast.
In a fake emergency, you act when you've decided the political timing
is right as part of a larger ass-covering move because you need to back
down from an ill-advised congressional fight that, itself, followed from
an ill-advised campaign promise. . . .
First the shutdown and now the "emergency" both stem from the basic fact
that Trump will neither admit his whole wall spiel was BS nor decide to
act like someone who genuinely wants a wall and make a deal to get it.
Instead, a lot of people's time and money is now going to be wasted on
litigation while money is taken away from duly authorized programs and
sent instead to a construction project nobody really wants. This is not
the worst thing anyone has ever done in American politics -- it's not
even close to being the worst thing Trump has ever done -- but it's
arguably the most absurd.
And it raises, once again, the fundamental question about Trump. When
you have a president who can't handle relatively banal problems like a
disagreement over a $5 billion appropriation for a pet project, what's
going to happen to us when a real crisis hits?
California high-speed rail and the American infrastructure tragedy,
New York is better off without Amazon's HQ2: "Without significant
reform of land use, an influx of tech jobs would've hurt the city ore
than helped it."
The real stakes in the 2020 primary aren't about legislation:
"Foreign policy, personnel, priorities, regulation, and economic
management matter most."
The case for hiring more police officers.
The controversy over Ilhan Omar and AIPAC money, explained.
Related: Richard Silverstein:
Israel lobby seeks to muzzle Ilhan Omar, sabotage democratic resurgence.
The fight between Ilhan Omar and Elliott Abrams, Trump's Venezuela envoy,
explained: "It revealed the real divides in American foreign policy."
One should add: it was notable because those divides are scarcely ever
talked about in Washington. After reviewing Abrams' criminal history,
and sorting the "divide" into three baskets:
These are obviously stylized differences, with individual advocates in
these debates taking more nuanced views. But which of these three visions
you're closest too, broadly, shapes the way you think about and approach
various questions in American foreign policy. If you think the United
States is typically a force for good in the world, you tend to be more
comfortable with American intervention in foreign conflicts. If you
think America is a meddling imperialist power, not so much.
The debate between Abrams and Omar is, really, a debate about these
visions. But it's also a debate about a very real policy question
currently facing the US: Should the US militarily intervene -- or
intervene at all, in any way, even diplomatically -- in Venezuela?
This isn't quite right. The fact is that the US government has
historically (over more than 100 years), including (but not limited
to) landing troops in the country, and it has always done so in favor
of local elites aligned with American business interests. Indeed, it
is pretty clear that the US has repeatedly attempted to overthrow
the democratically elected Chavez and Maduro governments, always
in support of the same elites. Clearly, US backing for Guaidó is
just one more step in the neverending effort to seize Venezuela's
government and turn it against the Venezuelan people.
One can imagine a left government in America having a very different
foreign policy, one that would break with centuries of past exploits
and stop opposing the aspirations of people around the world to take
democratic power and implement policies that would provide for fair
and equitable distribution of each nation's wealth, regardless of its
impact on American business interests. However, there's little chance
of that happening, even if some relatively left-leaning Democrat were
to win the presidency in 2020. Short of that, the most practicable
foreign policy option is to resist US intervention, even in cases
where one is tempted to argue that intervention would be some kind
of humanitarian venture -- of course, the fact that "humanitarian
intervention" has been cited repeatedly and has accumulated a totally
dismal track record makes it that much easier to dismiss the canard
out of hand. (Not that it isn't a big part of the Trump case for
intervening in Venezuela.)
The Green New Deal is what realistic environmental policy looks like.
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
A record number of US workers went on strike in 2018: "Working-class
Americans haven't been this fed up with their employers since the 1980s."
Not sure how they're qualifying "record": chart looks like since 1986,
but there were higher totals literally every year from 1947-83. Still,
last year towers over every year 2001-17.
Gaby Del Valle:
Amazon scrapped its New York City plans. Some residents are elated -- others
are disappointed. E.g., "Real estate developers who had bet that Amazon's
presence in Long Island City would drive up rents were stunned." Still,
nearly every other city in America is groveling at Amazon's feet, because
it's easy to see the benefits of a new development (even if government
winds up kicking back all of its taxes to the company), and hard to see
the broader effects (as Yglesias does in the article above). Still, there
is another story yet to be told: why does Amazon think they're going to
need all those extra "headquarters" workers? What's the business model
there? You know there must be one, and it must involve capturing a lot
of what's currently other companies' business.
Related: Jeremiah Moss:
A dispatch from the anti-Amazon victory party; Derek Thompson:
Amazon got exactly what it deserved -- and so did New York.
The larger truth is that corporate subsidies, including the $3 billion
package offered to Amazon, are often pernicious and usually pointless.
Studies show that these sorts of measures "have no discernible impact
on firm expansion, measured by job creation." Yet every year, local
governments spend more than $90 billion to move headquarters and
factories between states, a wasteful zero-sum exercise whose cost is
more than the federal government spends on affordable housing, education,
or infrastructure. In the most garish example of corporate-welfare
absurdity, Foxconn, the Taiwanese manufacturing company, solicited up
to $4 billion in subsidies from Wisconsin in exchange for a factory
and tens of thousands of workers. Now it's an open question whether
that facility will ever get built.
But even the less garish examples are galling. New York City doesn't
have an employment problem; it has a housing-affordability problem.
Donald Trump is President and anything is possible: This sounds
a lot like my book outline:
In the resulting atmosphere of crisis and upheaval, a new coalition
can bring a new reconstructive president to power. When that happens,
Skowronek wrote, governing priorities are "durably recast," and a
"corresponding set of legitimating ideas becomes the new common sense."
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a reconstructive president. So was Ronald
Reagan. The assumptions of New Deal liberalism governed American politics
from 1932 to 1980. The assumptions of the conservative movement have
dominated thereafter, though perhaps not for much longer.
Viewed through this schema, Donald Trump's presidency looks more like
the end of a cycle than the end of the Republic. Throughout the 2016
presidential campaign and the early months of the Trump administration,
the constitutional law professors Jack Balkin and Sanford Levinson
exchanged letters arguing about the durability of our system; the
letters will be published this spring as a book, "Democracy and
Dysfunction." Balkin is the more sanguine of the two, in part because
he sees Trump fitting into Skowronek's model.
Trump's presidency, wrote Balkin, could be what Skowronek called
"disjunctive," meaning one "in which a president allied with an aging
political regime promises to restore its dominance and former greatness,
is unable to keep all of the elements of his coalition together, and as
a result presides over the regime's dissolution."
The latter line reminds me of James Buchanan, who remains as Trump's
only serious rival for "worst president ever."
How Trump's swamp works now.
Eugene V Debs and the endurance of Socialism.
4 winners and 4 losers from the funding bill and emergency declaration:
Winners: federal employees; 2020 Democrats; immigration detention;
Congressional oversight. Losers: the "power of the purse"; Mitch McConnell;
"Build the wall"; federal contractors.
Colin Kaepernick's collusion grievance against the NFL, explained.
Related: Jemele Hill:
Kaepernick Won. The NFL Lost.
Alec MacGillis and ProPublica:
The original underclass: "Poor white Americans' current crisis shouldn't
have caught the rest of the country as off guard as it has."
Bill and Melinda Gates and the problem of the "good billionaire":
Of course, nothing here on how Gates got all that money.
Andrew G McCabe:
Every day is a new low in Trump's White House: From the Trump-fired
former deputy director of the FBI, who now has a book, The Threat:
How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump: "The
president steps over bright ethical and moral lines wherever he encounters
them. Everyone in America saw it when he fired my boss. But I saw it
firsthand time and again."
Elizabeth Warren wants to ban the US from using nuclear weapons first.
A California coalition is tackling one of the hardest, unsexiest parts of
climate policy: "Decarbonizing buildings: it's tedious, but oh so
Utah Republicans have officially blocked their state's voter-approved
Israel elections: the vultures are circling Netanyahu: Election is
on April 9. Open question is whether Netanyahu will be indicted before
then, and if so, how toxic that will make him.
What Brett Kavanaugh's dishonest anti-abortion dissent reveals about his
Supreme Court agenda.
The US held a global summit to isolate Iran. America isolated itself
instead. Related: Kathy Gilsinan:
The Trump Administration can't get a united front against Iran;
The Trump Administration looks more isolated and incompetent than ever at
this week's anti-Iran conference;
Warsaw summit was a failure for Trump -- but a win for Netanyahu;
Netanyahu calls on Arab states to join war against Iran.
Some more links on the "emergency" declaration:
Friday, February 15, 2019
Monday, February 11, 2019
Music: current count 31103  rated (+41), 251  unrated (-2).
Last week I speculated about possibly changing the Music Week format
to offer my reviews in weekly doses, so you get information sooner and
in what should be more digestible doses (20-40 records per week instead
of 100-200 records at the end of the month). As I thought about it, I
realized that I could still archive the reviews in monthly chunks, and
announce that file when it becomes public. So, I'm trying that approach
this week. Actually, there is a bit of surplus here: a few records that
appeared in last week's
that I got to after posting
January 2019 Streamnotes.
I haven't really figured the workflow out yet. What I'm thinking is
that I'll collect Music Week in the
notebook as usual, then swap in the
reviews when I create the blog post file. Still some room for sloppy
errors here, even with all the redundancy. Rated count report this
week is slightly higher than actual because I came up short and found
a half-dozen unregistered grades -- probably over the last 3-4 weeks,
as that's about when I last checked the ungraded list.
The Village Voice Pazz & Jop poll came out last week. I didn't
vote, as I wasn't invited (for the first time since when? 2002?).
They only listed the top 100 albums, and didn't include vote counts
(just points). I scraped a copy of the
ballot data but haven't yet done anything to clean up the data to
make it more useful. I added the top-100 rank and a few dozen select
voter ballots to my
EOY Aggregate, but haven't
done the one thing that would be most useful: make sure all of the
records that got votes but didn't crack the top 100 get recognized in
the EOY Aggregate. In recent years somewhere between 1400 and 2000
records got votes (from 400+ voters). This year should be pretty close
to those numbers. My EOY Aggregate currently lists 3216 new records
(plus 367 reissues/compilations/etc.). I'd guess that there are at
least 100 records in the ballot fine print that I've missed. Whether
it's worth pursuing this any further is hard to say.
The P&J winner this year was Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour,
but my EOY Aggregate favors Janelle Monáe's Dirty Computer, by
a pretty solid margin. Musgraves also won
Uproxx's slapdash critics poll, although by a closer margin. I've
had Monáe in the lead since the second week of counting, and for most
of this time Musgraves was in 3rd, behind Mitski's Be the Cowboy.
Musgraves did lead
Metacritic's aggregate (98.5 to 97 points), but Monáe led at
of the Year, with Mitski second and Musgraves a fairly distant
third (364-353-295 points).
Acclaimed Music Forums has had Monáe ahead from the start, with
Musgraves down at 7th as of February 6 (including P&J), after
Monáe, Low, Idles, Pusha T, Mitski, and Robyn). I'm not able to
access the latter's spreadsheets, but they break lists down by US,
UK, and other, and include a lot of the latter. I think it's fair
to say that Musgraves benefits from US bias, not so much because
American critics prefer her to Monáe as because non-Americans
don't. Idles seems to be the band with the greatest UK bias (3
at AMF, 35 P&J, followed by Arctic Monkeys (11 at AMF, 43
I keep putting off trying to write up some commentary on the
EOY lists, and will have to punt again this week. I will note
that Wayne Shorter's Emanon, which won top album in our
Jazz Critics Poll,
finally appeared on Napster last week. I played it and while I
suspected that it was overrated, I was really surprised at how
painful it was to listen to. The orchestra side was one of the
worst I've heard, but the live quartet sides were little better
(despite momentary exceptions).
By the way, I posted a new edition of Robert Christgau's
Xgau Sez questions and answers. I was struck by this line:
you don't review an album properly by listening once and jotting
down your thoughts but by immersing over time and then spending
hours finding words to convey your response, all hours in which
you can't listen to anything else.
Actually, I do the exact opposite of this. Most of the notes
below are based on a single play of an album, often while I was
distracted trying to write something about a completely different
topic. Worse still, sometimes I didn't even manage to jot down my
thoughts: I found myself at the end of an album with a proximate
grade impression but no details and no self-analysis as to why I
felt the way I did -- and most importantly, no desire to correct
my lapse by listening to the record again. At this point I don't
even feel like trying to justify the way I work.
On the other hand, I will note that it increasingly seems like
I'm working under a cloud of doubts about my ability to express
myself clearly -- even in matters of much greater import than which
underground rapper might be worth your while. (There are several
this week, and the odds that I got the pecking order right aren't
especially good.) Maybe that's why I'm having so much trouble
moving on from this EOY list nonsense?
New records rated this week:
- Ace of Cups: Ace of Cups (2018, High Moon): [r]: B+(*)
- Aceyalone & DJ Fatjack: 43rd & Excellence (2018, That Kind of Music): [r]: A-
- Ralph Alessi: Imaginary Friends (2018 , ECM): [r]: B+(*)
- Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (2018 , Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
- Dem Atlas: Bad Actress (2018, Rhymesayers): [r]: B
- August Greene: August Greene (2018, Fat Beats): [r]: B+(**)
- Chuck D as Mistachuck: Celebration of Ignorance (2018, SpitSLAM): [r]: B+(***)
- Double Dee & Steinski: Lesson 4: The Beat (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
- Mats Eilertsen: And Then Comes the Night (2018 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Sue Foley: The Ice Queen (2018, Stony Plain): [r]: B+(***)
- Nick Grinder: Farallon (2018 , self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- G Herbo: Humble Beast (2017, Machine): [r]: B+(*)
- G Herbo & Southside: Swervo (Machine/Epic/Cinematic/150 Dream Team/808 Mafia): [r]: B+(*)
- Charlotte Hug & Lucas Niggli: Fulguratio: Live at Ad Libitum 2016 (2016 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
- Mick Jenkins: Pieces of a Man (2018, Cinematic): [r]: B+(*)
- Cody Jinks: Lifers (2018, Rounder): [r]: B+(*)
- Darren Johnston/Tim Daisy: Crossing Belmont (2017, Relay): [bc]: B+(***)
- K.A.A.N.: Subtle Meditation (2018, Redefinition): [bc]: A-
- José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Fragments of Always (2016 , FMR): [bc]: B+(***)
- José Lencastre Nau Quartet: Eudaimonia (2018, FMR): [bc]: B+(**)
- Marlowe: Marlowe (2018, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
- Leyla McCalla: Capitalist Blues (2019, Jazz Village): [r]: A-
- Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (2019, The Royal Potato Family): [r]: A-
- Ulysses Owens Jr.: Songs of Freedom (2018 , Resilience Music): [r]: B+(*)
- Phonte: No News Is Good News (2018, Foreign Exchange): [r]: B+(**)
- Verneri Pohjola/Maciej Garbowski/Krzysztof Gradziuk: Gemstones (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
- Javier Santiago: Phoenix (2016 , Ropeadope): [r]: B
- Shannon Shaw: Shannon in Nashville (2018, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
- Wayne Shorter: Emanon (2015-16 , Blue Note, 3CD): [r]: B-
- Vestbo Trio: Gentlemen . . . (2019, Dog Hound): [bc]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Big Star: Live at Lafayette's Music Room (1973 , Omnivore): [r]: B+(*)
- A Certain Ratio: acr:set (1980-94 , Mute): [r]: B+(*)
- The Louvin Brothers: Love and Wealth: The Lost Recordings (1952-55 , Modern Harmonic, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Make Mine Mondo! (1958-69 , Ace): [r]: B
- Neil Young: Songs for Judy (1976 , Reprise): [r]: B+(**)
- Jeb Bishop & Tim Daisy: Old Shoulders (2012, Relay): [bc]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (Origin): February 15
- Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (RareNoise): advance, February 22
- Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (RareNoise): advance, February 22
- Rich Pellegrin: Down (OA2): February 15
- Scott Robinson: Tenormore (Arbors Jazz): April 5
A Certain Ratio: ACR:Set (1980-94 , Mute):
Make Mine Mondo! (, Ace):
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Nothing much on Korea this week, other than
Trump announces second Kim summit will be in Hanoi, Vietnam, a few
weeks out (Feb. 27-28). The
Wichita Peace Center was pleased
to host a couple of events last week when Professor
Nan Kim from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, author of
Memory, Reconciliation, and Reunions in South Korea: Crossing the
Divide (2016), an activist in
Women Cross DMZ
Twitter). I expect
we'll be seeing a lot of speculation and spin on Korea over the next
few weeks, especially from neocons so enamored with perpetual war --
but also from Democrats hoping to score cheap points against Trump.
I've written a fair amount about Korea over the years. I won't try
to recapitulate here, but here's a bit from a letter I wrote last
year, with links to various key writings:
I wrote up some further comments on the Korea situation in the intro
August 26, 2018 Weekend Roundup blog post.
I was born in October, 1950, the same week as the Chinese entry, a
date which marked the maximal US advance in the peninsula. I wrote
several pages about this in a memoir. I've written a fair amount about
Korea over the years -- mostly when US presidents threatened to blow
it up. For instance:
Many lesser references, including virtually every month since March 2017.
I've also been known to make a pretty decent kimchi, and a couple dozen other
On nuclear weapons, I wrote a fairly substantial
post on Aug. 6, 2005,
another on Aug. 21,
I've read Rhodes' four books on nuclear weapons, plus quite a bit more.
I believe that Kurlansky's
2nd point is generally correct
["Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use
them"], but nuclear weapons are something of an exception: most politicians,
even ones as ill-disposed toward peace as Kennedy and Krushchev, seem to
have drawn a line there, so I tend not to worry as much as most of us
One thing I hadn't thought much about until Saturday was the economic
problem of unifying Korea. I was aware of the German "model" -- and thought
at the time that people were following a lot of bad ideas (e.g., totally
shuttering the East German auto industry because their cars weren't good
enough to sell in the West). But I didn't follow it much later -- I do
know more about the economic failures in Russia, especially in the 1990s,
when as David Satter put it, "[Russia's reformers] assumed that the initial
accumulation of capital in a market economy is almost always criminal, and,
as they were resolutely procapitalist, they found it difficult to be
strongly anticrime. . . . The combination of social darwinism, economic
determinism, and a tolerant attitude toward crime prepared the young
reformers to carry out a frontal attack on the structures of the Soviet
system without public support or a framework of law." (Quote in my
17/04 notebook, referring back to
Anyhow, I now think the utter impossibility of unifying the two Korean
economies is an important point -- one of several that Americans don't
seem to have a clue about.
I'll add one comment here. One thing I was struck by in Trump's State
of the Union address was this:
On Friday, it was announced that we added another 304,000 jobs last month
alone -- almost double what was expected. An economic miracle is taking
place in the United States -- and the only thing that can stop it are
foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations.
If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war
and investigation. It just doesn't work that way!
My bold. Of course, the point everyone noticed was his plea that for
the good of the country (i.e., Trump) Democrats must give up their efforts
to investigate (e.g., Trump, for possible crimes or other embarrassments).
Of course, he had no hope of getting his way there, even if his intent was
truly threatening -- e.g., that if the Democrats investigated him, he might
start a "wag the dog" war as a diversion, hoping the people would blame
the Democrats. Still, I think the quote does show that when his personal
financial interests aren't slanted otherwise, Trump is inclined to favor
peace. The saber-rattling over Iran is clearly a case where the corrupt
money (from Israel and the Saudis) is able to make Trump more belligerent.
Venezuela is another case where Trump's corrupt influences may lead to
war. But Korea is one case where the major influencers -- even if you
discount Russia and China -- are pushing Trump toward war, so it offers
a rare opportunity to claim success at achieving peace. Granted, the
neocons and the defense industry don't like it, but they may be just
as happy to pivot to higher budget, lower risk "threats" like Russia
and China. That's one of several reason to be cautiously optimistic
that Trump might be able to deliver a peaceful outcome. On the other
hand, I think that Democrats need to be very cautious, lest Trump be
able to make them out to be dangerous, war-thirsty provocateurs. I
still believe that a major reason Trump beat Clinton in 2016 was that
she came off as the more belligerent (e.g., her claims to superiority
in "the commander-in-chief test").
Some scattered links this week:
Dear Howard Schultz, you don't understand the American Dream: "The
phrase was coined by a banker-turned-Pulitzer prize-winning historian
[James Truslow Adams] who believed in the redistribution of wealth and
thought culture was more important than money." For another 'Dear Howard"
piece, see: Michael Tomasky:
Howard Schultz is wrong about 'both sides.' It's Republicans who ruined
America's original identity politics: Long piece by the author of the
book, Behold, America: The Entangled History of "America First" and
"the American Dream" (2018). I quickly grow bored of talk of identity
politics, but can draw the point that when Mark Lilla argued for a return
to "pre-identity liberalism," he would have had trouble finding such a
time in the past.
The brutal economy of cleaning other people's messes, for $9 an hour:
Review of Stephanie Land's book, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay and a Mother's
Will to Survive. Foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote about house
cleaning in Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America (2001).
I remember reading a book along these same lines a bit earlier -- don't
recall the title or author, too early to show up in my reading lists. I
don't recall it as being quite this grim, but I wouldn't be surprised to
find working conditions have deteriorated. I also read Sarah Smarsh's
recent memoir, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke
in the Richest Country on Earth, which is about how hard it is to
break out of the traps Stephanie Land fell into.
Asked to stop investigations, House digs in.
Russian-style kleptocracy is infiltrating America: "When the USSR
collapsed, Washington bet on the global spread of democratic capitalist
values -- and lost." Sentence would make more sense if you dropped the
adjective "democratic," as indeed most American policy-makers had no
qualms about doing. It would actually be more accurate to say that
Russian-style kleptocracy is simply the adoption of American-style
capitalism without the countervailing powers that keep its excesses
in check. As such, Russia has become a model for the US right as they
seek to enshrine the profit motive as the only force that matters in
American policy. [By the way, I was thinking of the Satter quote in
the introduction above here, but when I wrote this not planning on
looking it up.] That we don't think of kleptocracy as American owes
much to tradition:
America's fear of kleptocracy goes back to its founding. . . . The perils
of corruption were an obsession of the Founders. In the summer of 1787,
James Madison mentioned corruption in his notebook 54 times. To read the
transcripts of the various constitutional conventions is to see just how
much that generation worried about the moral quality of public behavior --
and how much it wanted to create a system that defined corruption more
expansively than the French or British systems had, and that fostered a
political culture with higher ethical ambitions.
In her important history, Corruption in America, Zephyr Teachout,
a legal scholar and liberal activist, argues that during the country's first
200 years, courts maintained the Founders' vigilance against corruption. For
a good chunk of American history, a number of states criminalized lobbying
in many forms, out of a sense that a loosening of standards would trigger
a race to the bottom. That near-phobia now looks quaint, and also prescient.
The political culture, the legal culture, the banking culture -- so much of
the culture of the self-congratulatory meritocratic elite -- have long since
abandoned such prudish ways.
Samuel G Freedman:
In revering Trump, the religious right has laid bare its hypocrisy:
Not that it matters: hypocrisy is as American as violence and apple pie.
Sure, I (for one) was turned off evangelical christianity by hypocrisy,
but anyone who might follow my lead must have noticed the problem long
before Trump. The fact is that hypocrisy is a bedrock faith: the whole
point is that it doesn't matter what you do, only that you say the right
things in public. And that's a litmus test that even someone as flawed
and compromised as Trump can pass. This actually is the polar opposite
of Calvinism, which maintained that one's fate was determined by works
and God's grace, irrespective of public piety. Born-again christianity
is a religion fashioned to appeal to lazy sinners, folk constantly in
need of forgiveness. Of course, Trump is their hero.
How Trump's State of the Union guests embodied his politics of fear and
A cruel war on immigrants.
A confederacy of grift: "The subjects of Robert Mueller's investigation
are cashing in."
Allegra Kirkland/Josh Kovensky:
Why Trump's inauguration was so sleazy, even for Washington.
What to expect when you're expecting to eliminate private
Lachlan Markay/Asawin Suebsaeng/Maxwell Tani:
Private eyes detail inner workings of National Enquirer 'blackmail'
machine: a story bigger than Jeff Bezos' penis. More: Allyson
Ronan Farrow says he also faced 'blackmail efforts from AMI' for reporting
on the National Enquirer, Trump. Also: Molly Olmstead:
The National Enquirer started doing shady things long before this Jeff
Why disaster capitalists are praying for a no-deal Brexit.
The Supreme Court has blocked a Louisiana abortion law -- for now.
Why the wall will never rise: For one thing, buying up border land
is very expensive and time-consuming.
The Green New Deal will never work: I haven't (and probably can't)
read this closely enough to decide whether I agree, let alone whether
Pesca actually believes what he's written. I do share his skepticism
about aiming for 100% of pretty much anything. I'm not sure that 100%
renewable energy is even desirable much less practical, but I am sure
that the direction the Green New Deal proposes is the right one, and
I'm not seriously worried about whether the last few steps will be
worth the trouble. Similarly, it may be impossible to achieve complete
equality, but we can do much better than now, and right now we'd be
much better off moving in that direction.
Pesca makes an offhand remark: "Similarly, there is a jealousy of
the detail-free triumphs of the right as expressed by
Shadi Hamid. It looks like Hamid's another guy who makes
his living as a confusing contrarian; e.g.:
There's now an official Green New Deal. Here's what's in it.
The Green New Deal, explained [updated]. By the way, this seems to be
a Trump tweet:
I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with
their Green New Deal. It would be great for the so-called "Carbon
Footprint" to permanently eliminate all Planes, Cars, Cows, Oil, Gas
& the Military - even if no other country would do the same.
Most likely he thinks he's being sarcastic, but if you filter out
the nonsense it reads as an endorsement. When I tried to cut/paste,
Twitter displayed a long thread of replies, most of which were truly
dumb, many offensive and demeaning. I take it that's a cross section
of the Twitterverse -- something I'm normally spared because I only
follow a couple dozen generally sane feeds.
For a better example of sarcasm, consider Michael Musto's response
to a Trump tweet with a picture of him, Melania, and Baron, and the
caption: "Name a better family, i'll wait": Musto's reply: "I'll start:
Trump has no clue how to strike a deal with Dems. His State of the Union
speech proved it.
Chris Christie's Agonizing New Memoir: "The inside story of the man who
welcomed Donald Trump into the political mainstream and got nothing in
But Christie -- who releases his book amid "news" he "won't rule out" a
presidential run in 2024 -- can't give up the dream of being taken seriously.
So Let Me Finish ends up being a furious allegory about the perils
of not being as smart as you think you are.
Christie was once an insider favorite to succeed Barack Obama as president.
He was the Beltway's idea of a "crossover" political star, i.e. mean enough
to parallel park over a homeless person, but maybe able to name three good
movies. . . .
He was probably headed to the White House -- until his staff was caught
intentionally causing traffic jams on the George Washington bridge. . . .
"Bridgegate" instantly changed Christie's rep, from an asshole with a
future to just an asshole.
The first half of Let Me Finish shows Christie boasting about
what a mean, uncompromising, double-dealing negotiator he is. He spends
the second part, about Trump, complaining about being the victim of such
That freezer is watching you: "The Microsoft-backed Cooler Screens is
testing targeted ads in pharmacy frozen food aisles." There are lots of
things wrong with America these days, but advertising is truly the bane
of our existence.
Thursday, February 07, 2019
Someone should write an opinion piece arguing that Democrats shouldn't
quit at the first hint of scandal, or demand that other Democrats quit.
Be aware, acknowledge mistakes, learn, make amends, but stick with it
and continue to serve.
Monday, February 04, 2019
Music: current count 31062  rated (+29), 253  unrated (+2).
Rated count down from 40+ in recent weeks, mostly because I finally
took the time to plow through Anthony Braxton's 11-CD Sextet (Parker)
Bandcamp). Only gave it one pass (spread over three days), but loved
nearly every minute of it. I pulled the original 1995 2-CD release out,
Charlie Parker Project 1993, thinking it might be time to bump it
up from A-, and played the live disc in the car today, but couldn't hear
enough to make much difference. There is more super-long Braxton on his
Bandcamp, if I ever
find time to dig into it.
Streamnotes appeared last
week, with 201 record reviews. That is up from 138 in December, 186 in
August (the most of any 2018 month). I looked back through 2013 and
didn't find a month/column with more records (185 in November 2013 was
the highest 2013-17 total). As I noted back on
August 30, 2018, my
single column record was 206 records on
November 8, 2009, but
that was before I settled on monthly posts, so covered 41 days.
I've thought a bit about going back to posting weekly, which would
basically mean 20-40 records per post. I could still collect them in
monthly files for archival purposes. Doing it weekly would be timelier,
and involve more easily digested chunks. It's also been suggested that
I should hold back reviews until release dates. Readers noted that of
the 8 2019 A/A- releases I touted in January, only 3 had actually been
released when my column came out. No commitment yet, but I'll think
I decided that for album tracking purposes, 2018 ended on January 31,
2019 -- the date of my
frozen album list. I'll keep
adding records to the
working album list until January 31,
2020 (a month later than my usual deadline, as I noticed this year that
I was finding out about late 2017 releases only when I saw 2018 EOY
lists). These are marked in a distinct color, which helps me keep track
of some stats. I'm still adding records to the 2018
Non-Jazz best-of lists,
and will probably do that well into next fall. I'm also still adding to
Music Tracking 2018 file, but the
rate has slowed down as I've largely stopped adding to the
2018 EOY Aggregate (and its
reissues/old music edition).
The Music Tracking file is the easiest way I have of counting how
many 2018 releases I've heard/graded: 1091. This also shows that
the jazz share was 735 (67.3%). Some other genre totals: hip-hop
(88), electronica (38), country (33), world (32), metal (3). Some
other genres have switches, but I don't have data for them to use.
I figured out a solution to the database update character set
problem I mentioned last week. Importing an ISO-8859-1 mysqldump
file using PhpMyAdmin somehow corrupts the file, even with explicit
character set flags. But the command line interface read the file
correctly, and once stored in the database the PHP code was able
to handle it correctly. I was also able to fix a problem with the
RSS feed, where the
HTTP header and XML header were reporting different character sets.
I'm still confused by Firefox, where the "Page Info" dialog still
claims "text encoding: windows-1252." I hate it when diagnostic
tools lie to you -- in part because you have to prove that no other
explanation is possible, and that's a lot more work than finding
a workaround -- but that seems to be the case here.
I did finally manage to port the RSS code I wrote for Christgau
my own website. Same basic problem in
that I have to manually edit the description file. I've never used
RSS, and was surprised to find that built-in support for it was
recently dropped by Firefox. In principle, it should be very useful
for me -- especially when compiling Weekend Roundup posts. If you
can recommend a reader, let me know. Also let me know if you're
having any problems with these RSS feeds. I still intend to port
the Q&A system. Shouldn't be much work, especially now that
I seem to be working my way past some of the technical problems
I've been plagued with recently. Next priority issue for me is to
be able to reboot my main machine cleanly. At the moment, I have
a batch of software updates waiting reboot. Would be good to post
this update before I risk that.
New records rated this week:
- Armand Hammer: Paraffin (2018, Backwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(**)
- Bhad Bhabie: 15 (2018, BHAD Music): [r]: B+(**)
- Jon Cleary: Dyna-Mite (2018, FHQ): [r]: B+(*)
- Elvis Costello & the Imposters: Look Now (2018, Concord): [r]: B-
- Marilyn Crispell/Tanya Kalmanovitch/Richard Teitelbaum: Dream Libretto (2018, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
- Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio: Outliers (2017 , Papillon): [cd]: B+(**)
- Dessa: Chime (2018, Doomtree): [r]: A-
- Yelena Eckemoff/Manu Katché: Colors (2017 , L&H Production): [cd]: B+(***)
- Scott Hamilton Trio: Live at Pyatt Hall (2017 , Cellar Live): [r]: B+(**)
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (2014-15 , Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: A
- Julia Holter: Aviary (2018, Domino): [r]: B
- Sarathy Korwar and Upaj Collective: My East Is Your West (2018, Gearbox): [r]: B+(**)
- Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (2018 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Ahmoudou Madassane: Zerzura (2018, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(**)
- Metric: Art of Doubt (2018, Metric/BMG): [r]: B+(***)
- Van Morrison: The Prophet Speaks (2018, Exile): [r]: B+(**)
- Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (2018 , Orenda): [cd]: B+(***)
- Popcaan: Forever (2018, Mixpak): [r]: B+(**)
- Protoje: A Matter of Time (2018, Easy Star): [r]: B+(*)
- Zhenya Strigalev: Blues for Maggie (2017 , Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(*)
- Tony Tixier: Life of Sensitive Creatures (2016 , Whirlwind): [bc]: B+(**)
- The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Global Reach (2018 , self-released): [cd]: C
- Nate Wooley & Torben Snekkestad: Of Echoing Bronze (2015 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Anthony Braxton: Sextet (Parker) 1993 (1993 , New Braxton House, 11CD): [bc]: A-
- Asnake Gebreyes: Ahadu (1988 , Buda Musique): [r]: B+(***)
- Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms (1975 , Strut): [r]: B+(*)
- The Paranoid Style: Rock & Roll Just Can't Recall + 3 (2015 , Bar/None, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Cecil Taylor: Conversations With Tony Oxley (2008 , Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Ehud Asherie Trio: Wild Man Blues (Capri): March 15
- Nick Grinder: Farallon (self-released)
- Jim Piela: Out of Orbit (Orenda)
- Anna Webber: Clockwise (Pi): February 22
Sunday, February 03, 2019
We watched Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 11/9 last night. Here's
a review by
Owen Gleiberman, which hits most of the key points. Seems to me he
should have cut it into two separate movies: one on Trump (with more
coverage of what he did after taking office), the other on the Flint
water crisis (rather than just using his home town as his pet way of
contextualizing world events). The Flint story winds up turning Obama
into the goat (if not the villain, still Rick Snyder), which would
have been more effective without Trump all over the map.
The Trump parts are more interesting. Moore treats Trump's presidential
run as a publicity stunt -- as he's done before, but this time he went
through with it only because NBC fired him for racist comments, only to
find his fan's adoration in his early rallies. His decimation of his
Republican opponents, then of Hillary Clinton, is a piece of story that
Moore could open some eyes on, in large part because Moore doesn't flinch
when Trump's absurdity and cruelty come simultaneously into focus. Indeed,
his whole sequence of Trump and Ivanka is extremely creepy. However, after
the election, instead of delving into the profound corruption and malign
neglect that has been so evident, he settles for a long lament on the end
of democracy and the rise of fascism. He can be creepy there, too, as with
the Trump voiceover of stock Hitler/Third Reich newsreel footage, with
side glances at Putin and Duterte and commentary by Timothy Snyder. I
don't see that as necessarily unfair -- in fact, when I first noticed
the Nazi rallies I expected a segue to Fred Trump in the 1930s at Madison
Square Garden -- but it's far from the most important or enlightening
thing a filmmaker like Moore could come up with.
One story I don't delve into below is the flap over Virginia Governor
Ralph Northam, something involving racist photos in his college yearbook,
which has elicited howls of indignation and calls for his resignation from
many Democrats and leftists -- Elizabeth Warren and Barbara Ehrenreich are
two names that popped up in my twitter feed (full disclosure: I follow
Ehrenreich but not Warren or any other office-holders). I suppose if I
knew more details I might think differently, but my first reaction is that
I find these calls deeply troubling, both on practical grounds and because
they display an arrogant self-righteousness I find unbecoming. Sooner or
later, Democrats need to learn to forgive themselves -- especially those
who show some capacity to learn from their mistakes. I understand that
Northam is no great shakes as a Democrat, but I'd rather see him become
a better one (if that's possible).
On the other hand, I don't want to turn this into a diatribe against
"purism" -- if real leftists (like Ehrenreich) insist on holding folks
to higher standards, God bless them.
Some scattered links this week:
Bernie Sanders's new plan to supercharge the estate tax, explained:
I'm more partial to this idea than I am to
Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax proposal, because it's hard to value
assets until they're liquidated, and property taxes tend to force people
to liquidate assets at inopportune times. On the other hand, death seems
to be the perfect time to force liquidation. I also like the idea of
progressive brackets -- indeed, I'd like to see that applied to other
income taxes, such as capital gains and corporate earnings. When the
Democrats get around to reversing the Trump tax cut, they might keep --
or even slightly lower -- the reduced rate for small/less-profitable
companies while increasing the rate as profits increase. With capital
gains and other forms of unearned income -- which could include gifts
and estates -- I'd tax progressively based on lifetime earnings, so
people get a break early on to build up savings while limiting the
accumulation of the very rich. But within the current estate tax
framework, the only problem I see with Sanders' proposal is that the
top marginal rates should be higher. We also need to take a good look
at foundations, which for over a century now have been created mostly
to evade estate taxes. Some do some good, but many don't, and none
should be allowed to perpetuate themselves indefinitely.
That time Donald Trump proposed a 14.5 percent wealth tax.
Lindsey Graham floats a dangerously irresponsible escalation of the slat
New RNC poll spun as good news for Trump is actually full of terrible news
Justice Democrats, the group aiming to create many Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes,
Stacey Abrams's new essay on identity politics reveals why she's a
rising star: Linking to this only because I may have to write
something about the tangle of "identity politics" in America today.
I figure identity is at best a heuristic, an easy (perhaps too easy)
way of telling who's for or against your interests. Also, Abrams is
right that much of what we recognize as "identity politics" is due
to stereotyping and discrimination. However:
As a result, Abrams argues, minority groups face two choices: either
ignore their own oppression or engage in some form of so-called
identity politics. Asking minorities to eschew identity politics
is tantamount to asking them to ignore their own oppression. . . .
In Abrams's view, critics like Fukuyama are functionally telling
people like her to sit down and shut up.
Abrams also finds the alleged alternative, a class-focused
politics, unpersuasive. She points to the Democratic party's
nationwide victories in 2018 as evidence that candidates can run
on identity issues and win (although Abrams herself did not).
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
Job growth in January was phenomenal. Wage growth was pathetic.
Can Elizabeth Warren and Adam Smith, defying Trump, persuade Americans to
get serious about nuclear-arms control? This Smith is in the House
(D-VA), co-sponsor with Warren of a bill that thinks about the unthinkable,
and remoes the most obvious of those "options on the table," declaring:
"It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first."
It's both difficult and incredibly important to make the case for
The remarkably selective outrage on the right about Roger Stone's arrest.
For a different perspective on the arrest, see Rachel Marshall:
Roger Stone shows how much better it is to get arrested when you're rich.
Top 10 ways that the United States is the most corrupt country in the
David Enrich/Jesse Drucker/Ben Protess:
Trump sought a loan during the 2016 campaign. Deutsche Bank said no.
The Trump-Russia investigation and the mafia state.
William Hartung/Mandy Smithberger:
The Pentagon's revolving door spins faster: E.g., Boeing's Patrick
Shanahan, Trump's new acting secretary of defense.
Trump's brilliant strategy to dismember US dollar hegemony: Actually,
this ranges much further, and "brilliant" is ironic, as only his neocon
bumbling and short-sighted "America first" accelerate the collapse. The
administration's plot to take over Venezuela looms large. CounterPunch
has several more pieces related to Venezuela worth citing here (the fact
that the publisher touts its "fearless muckraking" allows a critical
clarity the mainstream lacks in such matters; I'll also include
Lack of intelligence: "Trump's latest attacks on his own intelligence
agencies are galling, even by his standards." Actually, I'd say this is
a case where both parties are guilty of the same thing: selecting "facts"
to fit their own political interests. Trump may do this less artfully,
not least because he rarely bothers to even collect "facts," but the
security heads have always pursued their own objectives.
Military intervention in Venezuela would be a catastrophe.
Attack of the fanatical centrists: E.g., Howard Schultz, Michael
Bloomberg, people whose wealth and ego makes them think they're the
center of the world, when in fact they are extreme fringe.
The Venezuela calumny: "If screaming about a failing petrostate is
all you have, you've lost the argument." Still, not so much about
Venezuela, other than to point out the ridiculousness of thinking
you can reject more egalitarian American reformists by identifying
them with Chavez and Maduro.
Elizabeth Warren does Teddy Roosevelt: "Taxing the superrich is
an idea whose time has come -- again."
Democrats need to make getting rid of the electoral college a top priority:
No, they don't. Sure, it's unfair, but so are lots of things -- like the
humongous deviation from "one person, one vote" that is the US Senate --
but it would take a constitutional amendment, and given that Republicans
are 4-0 in cases where the electoral college differed from the popular vote
(the two recent cases you remember, and two in the 19th century when voter
suppression allowed Democrats to run up big "popular" margins in the South),
and given that Republicans don't care much for democracy in the first place,
they're not going to cooperate. In fact, what it would probably take is a
constitutional convention, which would be more likely to make the situation
worse than better. The priority for Democrats should be winning elections
by such huge margins that structural iniquities don't matter. A good start
there would be to make sure that everyone can vote, and that everyone has
a party worth voting for. Nichols, by the way, writes about five articles
like this every week, and while his heart is usually in the right place,
most of them are as half-assed as this one.
Ann Coulter on believing Trump's wall promises: "OK, I'm a very stupid
Jerome Corsi's claims about Roger Stone, WikiLeaks, and the Access Hollywood
tape, explained. For more on Corsi, see the
deeper dive into his history that Jane Coaston and Prokop wrote last
An expert on human blind spots gives advice on how to think: Interview
with psychologist David Dunning.
Another billionaire presidential candidate who doesn't get it: Howard
Schultz, although this much is true about all of them:
We need a government that understands the lives and struggles of ordinary
Americans and can craft policies to help them. Billionaires generally won't,
regardless of their intentions, because it's human nature to be generally
clueless about those with less privilege than you.
These governors are showing what happens when you campaign on climate
action and win: "There's a flurry of green political news at the
The plight of the political convert: On Derek Black and Max Boot,
who recently moved from right to left, and their antecedents.
Almost half of voters are dead set against voting for Trump.
Mitch McConnell, enemy of the vote.
The great Middle East head-fake: Sixty-eight Senators, including 22
Democrats, voted for a resolution opposing Trump's spastic gestures to
withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. But before you get too riled
up about the "bipartisan vote," note: "Every Senate Democrat who's even
rumored to be running for president voted nay."
The constitutional idea that Congress does the declaring of wars, while
presidents only command them, is designed to give voters extra input on
this most crucial of decisions, i.e. when we're going to risk American
lives (to say nothing of foreign ones).
But Congress has been abdicating that responsibility for a while now.
Two successive presidents made a joke of it, expanding limited authorization
to go after 9/11 terrorists into nearly two decades of open-ended Middle
East missions. We were bombing seven countries when Trump took office, and
probably 99 percent of voters couldn't have named them.
When Trump tried to withdraw troops from two countries, what happened?
Congress, snoring on this issue since at least 2001, threw a fit that the
president was acting unilaterally.
Howard Schultz: America's new banality supervillain: Review of the
ex-Starbucks honcho's book as he angles to become America's second
billionaire president, realizing (unlike Michael Bloomberg) that he
can't really pass as a Democrat and that Trump has him blocked on
Once you get past the somewhat interesting "avenging my loser Dad"
portions, the rest of the book is just collections of clichés lifted
variously from the campaign-lit and CEO-bio genres. Schultz's mind
is a giant T-shirt.
He goes to Gettysburg and learns "Experience . . . is the clay of
wisdom." Entrepreneurship is like "raising a child." (Forbes
alone has done that headline at least twice.)
"Magic," he writes, "is not reserved for selling pie and coffee.
It can extend to any endeavor -- like trying to create jobs."
368 pages of this!
The US is withdrawing from a nuclear arms treaty with Russia. An arms race
might be next. Well, isn't that the point? As far back as the 1950s,
Americans have believed they have an inherent advantage in arms races: deep
pockets. One might even argue that Reagan's "Space Wars" missile defense
initiative was the perfect arms race gambit: one so ridiculously expensive
the Russians couldn't even compete in. That seems to be the idea behind
the trillion dollar nuclear arms buildup proposed under Obama, and for
that matter in Trump's "Space Force." Still, behind these schemes is the
core neocon idea: that the US must maintain a posture of total military
dominance over any conceivable rival. That such a state is unachievable
is hidden behind a veil of sleazy, seductive rhetoric. More important is
that it is not desirable, either for us or the rest of the world. Whatever
flaws may exist in the now-discarded INF treaty should be resolved with
greater arms limitations, not an accelerated arms race.