Thursday, October 31, 2019
Another batch of 40 brief notes on recently published books -- the
third I've published this year, after
March 15 and
June 1. Actually, a good deal more than 40 books mentioned below,
as I've tacked on lists of related books where it seemed appropriate
and useful -- in some cases, the list is probably the point. Inclusion
in a list doesn't guarantee that I'll never write a book up separately,
but usually satisfies my sense of duty.
While the dates above seem to suggest a regular, orderly process,
I only managed to do this
once in 2018, and twice in 2017
I feel like I'm working my way out of a deep hole. Indeed, I have 55
more-or-less written entries in my scratch file for later, so I could
do a fourth one next week, or at least by the end of the year. Oh,
and that doesn't count the merely noted titles that follow the top
40 -- 46 more of them in the file, but I'll list some of them to end
Worth noting that I have read (or am working on) the books I have
cover art for on the right. Kate Brown's book on Chernobyl is probably
the "best read" of the bunch. Just started Poniewozik's Audience of
One, and he's scoring points from the very start (unlike, say, Tim
Alberta, who wants you to regard John Boehner and Paul Ryan as normal,
decent human beings). I checked out Astra Taylor's Democracy May Not
Exist but We'll Miss It When It's Gone, but ran out of time before
I got deep enough into it to count. I bought a copy of Stanley Greenberg's
RIP GOP, but haven't gotten to it yet -- I figure it's next in
queue after Poniewozik, but a lot of what I've read recently has been
plucked opportunistically from the city library.
It occurs to me that I should probably do a whole piece on music,
but these days I never find the time to read up on what's supposed to
be my specialty. Still, I have a handful of music books in the draft
file, starting with Robert Christgau's Book Reports: A Music Critic
on His First Love, Which Was Reading, and John Corbett's Pick
Up the Pieces: Excursions in Seventies Music. I also started a
list entry on cookbooks, which could grow into a specialized post --
not least because I do regularly buy and use cookbooks.
Tim Alberta: American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the
Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump (2019,
Harper). It's pretty easy now to see how everything Republicans did
from 1968 to 2016 paved the way for electing this crass, bigoted
grifter and sham. Nixon laid the foundation with his crass appeals
to racists and reactionaries, his Orwellian "peace with honor" (a
tactical retreat covered by real and feigned escalation), above all
his conviction that winning is the only thing that matters, and
that excuses all manner of criminality. Reagan put a sunnier face
on an even darker heart. Ditto the Bushes, less artfully. Alberta
only picks up this digression in 2008, with the Sarah Palin boomlet,
and 2009, with the Tea Party eruption, then goes on to show how
Trump won the party over, delivering the one thing they craved most
of all: winning. Of course, you know all of that, but Alberta puts
you in the rooms as the party brass figures it out and comes to
terms with their debasement. Some other recent books on how we got
- Jim Acosta: The Enemy of the People: A Dangerous Time to Tell
the Truth in America (2019, Harper).
- Dale Beran: It Came From Something Awful: How a Toxic Troll
Army Accidentally Memed Donald Trump Into Office (2019, All
- Barry Levine/Monique El-Faizy: All the President's Women:
Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator (2019, Hachette Books).
- Amanda Marcotte: Troll Nation: How the Right Became
Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set on Ratf*cking Liberals, America,
and Truth Itself (2018, Hot Books).
- Joy-Ann Reid: The Man Who Sold America: Trump and the
Unraveling of the American Story (2019, William Morrow).
- Rick Reilly: Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump
(2019, Hachette Books).
- Nathan J Robinson: Trump: Anatomy of a Monster
(paperback, 2017, Demilune Press).
- Michael Wolff: Siege: Trump Under Fire (2019,
Binyamin Appelbaum: The Economists' Hour: False Prophets,
Free Markets, and the Fracture of Society (2019, Little
Brown): A history of the growing influence and power of economists
from 1969, when economists were kept to the basement of the Federal
Reserve, to 2008, when the world transformed by their fundamentalist
faith in markets crashed and nearly burned. In between, business and
political interests looked to economists for help, and many economists
strove to service their masters. One line I noted: "Conservatism was
a coalition of the powerful, defending the status quo against threats
real and imagined." More recent books on economics:
- Abhijit V Banerjee/Esther Duflo: Good Economics for Hard
Times (2019, Little Brown).
- David G Blanchflower: Not Working: Where Have All the Good
Jobs Gone? (2019, Princeton University Press).
- Heather Boushey: Unbound: How Inequality Constricts Our Economy
and What We Can Do About It (2019, Harvard University Press).
- Thomas Philippon: The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on
Free Markets (2019, Belknap Press).
- Katharina Pistor: The Code of Capital: How the Law Creates
Wealth and Inequality (2019, Princeton University Press).
- Robert J Shiller: Narrative Economics: How Stories Go Viral
& Drive Major Economic Events (2019, Princeton University
- Jean Tirole: Economics for the Common Good (2017;
paperback, 2019, Princeton University Press).
- Janek Wasserman: The Marginal Revolutionaries: How Austrian
Economists Fought the War of Ideas (2019, Yale University
Kathleen Belew: Bring the War Home: The White Power Movement
and Paramilitary America (2018; paperback, 2019, Harvard
University Press): Locates the roots of the alt-right/white power
movement less in opposition to the civil rights movement than in
reaction against the loss of the Vietnam War -- though either way
you can see how Richard Nixon's "silent majority"/"Southern strategy"
conjured up the seething hatred of this movement, which Trump has
only stoked further. More recent books on the racist right-wing
- Kyle Burke: Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist
Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War
(2018, University of North Carolina Press).
- George Hawley: The Alt-Right: What Everyone Needs to
Know (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
- Daryl Johnson: Hateland: A Long, Hard Look at America's
Extremist Heart (2019, Prometheus).
- George Lipsitz: The Possessive Investment in Whiteness:
How White People Profit From Identity Politics (1998;
revised and expanded edition, paperback, 2006; 20th anniversary
edition, paperback, 2018, Temple University Press).
- Michael Malice: The New Right: A Journey to the Fringe of
American Politics (2019, All Points Books).
- Elizabeth Gillespie McRae: Mothers of Massive Resistance:
White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy (2018, Oxford
- Angie Maxwell/Todd Shields: The Long Southern Strategy:
How Chasing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics
(2019, Oxford University Press).
- Jonathan M Metzl: Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of
Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland (2019, Basic
- David Neiwert: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in
the Age of Trump (2017; paperback, 2018, Verso).
- Christian Picciolini: White American Youth: My Descent Into
America's Most Violent Hate Movement -- and How I Got Out
(paperback, 2017, Hachette Books).
- Eli Saslow: Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former
White Nationalist (paperback; 2019, Anchor Books).
- Alexandra Minna Stern: Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate:
How the Alt-Right Is Warping the American Imagination (2019,
- John Temple: Up in Arms: How the Bundy Family Hijacked Public
Lands, Outfoxed the Federal Government, and Ignited America's Patriot
Militia Movement (2019, BenBella Books).
- Vegas Tenold: Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the
Rebirth of White Nationalism in America (2018, Bold Type
- Mike Wendling: Alt-Right: From 4Chan to the White House
(paperback, 2018, Pluto Press).
Marcia Bjornerud: Timefulness: How Thinking Like a Geologist
Can Help Save the World (2018, Princeton University Press):
After my first wife died, I went through a period of several years
where most of what I read was on geology, ranging from semi-popular
books like John McPhee's I-70 quartet (later collected as Annals
of the Former World) through some very technical
texts on plate tectonics, plus a lot of paleontology and contemporary
earth science. I suppose a big part of the attraction came from the
vast time frameworks geologists routinely deal with, but I was also
much impressed by the logic behind the science: how geologists work
and think. Since 9/11, I've denied myself the indulgence of pursuing
such pleasant interests. Otherwise this book would jump to the top
of my reading list. Some other geology books that caught my eye:
- Michael J Benton: Dinosaurs Rediscovered: The Scientific
Revolution in Paleontology (2019, Thames & Hudson).
- Marcia Bjornerud: Reading the Rocks: The Autogiography of
the Earth (2005; paperback, 2006, Basic Books).
- Lewis Dartnell: Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human
History (2019, Basic Books).
- William E Glassley: A Wilder Time: Notes From a Geologist
at the Edge of the Greenland Ice (paperback, 2018, Bellevue
- Mary Caperton Morton: Aerial Geology: A High-Altitude Tour
of North America's Spectacular Volcanoes, Canyons, Glaciers, Lakes,
Craters, and Peaks (2017, Timber Press).
- Donald R Prothero: The Story of Life in 25 Fossils:
Tales of Intrepid Fossil Hunters and the Wonders of Evolution
(2015, Columbia University Press).
- Donald R Prothero: The Story of the Earth in 25 Rocks:
Tales of Important Geological Puzzles and the People Who Solved
Them (2017, Columbia University Press).
Kate Brown: Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the
Future (2019, WW Norton): History of the 1986 nuclear plant
explosion at Chernobyl, Ukraine, Soviet Union, but less on the
explosion than on the disaster it spread, especially the faulty,
fitful efforts to understand (or in some case not) the widespread
effects of the radiation it left. Author has written a couple of
books leading up to this one, and there's been a spate of recent
books on Chernobyl and so forth:
- Svetlana Alexievich: Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History
of a Nuclear Disaster (2005; paperback, 2019, Dalkey Archive
Press): This is the classic book everyone draws on. The author later
won the Nobel Prize for Literature for her oral histories of WWII and
the postwar Soviet Union.
- Kate Brown: A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland
to Soviet Hinterland (2004; paperback, 2005, Harvard University
- Kate Brown: Dispatches From Dystopia: Histories of Places
Not Yet Forgotten (2015, University of Chicago Press).
- Kate Brown: Plutopia: Nuclear Families, Atomic Cities, and
the Great Soviet and American Plutonium Disasters (2013;
paperback, 2015, Oxford University Press).
- Charles A Castro: Station Blackout: Inside the Fukushima
Nuclear Disaster and Recovery (2018, Radius).
- Adam Higginbotham: Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story
of the World's Greatest Nuclear Disaster (2019, Simon &
- Andrew Leatherbarrow: Chernobyl 01:23:40: The Incredible True
Story of the World's Worst Nuclear Disaster (paperback, 2016,
- Serhii Plokhy: Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear
Catastrophe (2018, Basic Books).
- Silent Bill: Of Dust and Echoes: A Tour of the Chernobyl
Exclusion Zone (paperback, 2019, self-published).
Elizabeth C Economy: The Third Revolution: Xi Jinping and the
New Chinese State (2018, Oxford University Press): A history
of China since Xi Jinping came to power, bringing a series of reforms
distinct enough from Deng Xioping's "second revolution" reforms to
merit the title. I'm not really up enough on the subject to judge, but
it seems that China has found a very different path to development --
one that Americans are especially ill-prepared to understand. Other
recent books on contemporary China:
- Elizabeth C Economy/Michael Levi: By All Means Necessary: How
China's Resource Quest Is Changing the World (2014; paperback,
2015, Oxford University Press).
- Graham Allison: Destined for War: Can America and China Escape
Thucydides's Trap? (2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
- Yuen Yuen Ang: How China Escaped the Poverty Trap
(2016, Cornell University Press).
- Yukon Huang: Cracking the China Conundrum: Why Conventional
Economic Wisdom Is Wrong (2017, Oxford University Press).
- Sulimaan Wasif Khan: Haunted by Chaos: China's Grand Strategy
From Mao Zedong to Xi Jiping (2018, Harvard University Press).
- Bruno Maçães: Belt and Road: A Chinese World Order
- George Magnus: Red Flags: Why Xi's China Is in Jeopardy
(2018, Yale University Press).
- Dinny McMahon: China's Great Wall of Debt: Shadow Banks, Ghost
Cities, Massive Loans, and the End of the Chinese Miracle (2018,
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).
- Tom Miller: China's Asian Dream: Empire Building Along the New
Silk Road (paperback, 2017, Zed Books).
- Carl Minzner: End of an Era: How China's Authoritarian Revival
Is Undermining Its Rise (2018, Oxford University Press).
- Klaus Mühlhahn: Making China Modern: From the Great Qing to
Xi Jinping (2019, Belknap Press).
- Evan Osnos: Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith
in the New China (2014; paperback, 2015, Farrar Straus and
- William H Overholt: China's Crisis of Success (paperback,
2018, Cambridge University Press).
- Robert S Ross/Jo Inge Bekkevold, eds: China in the Era of Xi
Jinping: Domestic and Foreign Policy Challenges (paperback, 2016,
Georgetown University Press).
Richard J Evans: Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History
(2019, Oxford University Press): A big (800 pp) biography of a great
historian, born in Egypt of 2nd generation British parents, orphaned
at 14 in 1931, living in Berlin at the time, fleeing to England when
the Nazis came to power, joined the Communist Party, went on to write
major histories of Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries. The author
is a notable historian in his own right, his writings including three
major books on Nazi Germany (The Third Reich Trilogy).
Adam Gopnik: A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure
of Liberalism (2019, Basic Books): A staff writer for The
New Yorker, seems like he's mostly written about innocuous topics,
like art, travel, food, and (mostly) himself, so this foray into
political philosophy ("a manifesto rooted in the lives of people
who invented and extended the liberal tradition") comes as a bit of
a surprise. Or maybe just to me, as his bibliographic note opens
with a fairly long list of essays he has published on political
figures. The central section of the book consists of three parts: a
"manifesto," followed by chapters on "Why the Right Hates Liberalism"
and "Why the Left Hates Liberalism" (the longest). If he's honest,
the reasons are very different: the right fears any challenge to
hierarchical order, while the left sees liberals as too willing to
compromise their principles, because in a world of individualism
self-interest is ultimately decisive. I recall being very critical
of liberalism back in the late 1960s, when it seemed to be hegemonic.
I've softened my stance since then: as the right has emerged as the
greater threat, liberals offer a respectable stance and critique.
- Richard Ebeling: For a New Liberalism (paperback, 2019,
American Institute for Economic Research).
- Robert Kuttner: The Stakes: 2020 and the Survival of American
Democracy (2019, WW Norton).
- Deirdre Nansen McCloskey: Why Liberalism Works: How True
Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All
(2019, Yale University Press.
- James Traub: What Was Liberalism? The Past, Present, and
Promise of a Noble Idea (2019, Basic Books).
Stanley B Greenberg: RIP GOP: How the New America Is Dooming
the Republicans (2019, Thomas Dunne Books): Pollster, worked
for Clinton and Obama, seems like he's been peddling rosy futures to
mainstream liberals for more than two decades now: Middle Class
Dreams: Building the New Majority (1995, Crown); The New Majority:
Toward a Popular Progressive Politics (ed. with Theda Skocpol, 1997,
Yale University Press); The Two Americas: Our Current Political
Deadlock and How to Break It (2004, Thomas Dunne Books); It's
the Middle Class Stupid! (with James Carville, listed first, and
probably to blame for the title, not least the missing comma; 2012,
Blue Rider Press); America Ascendant: A Revolutionary Nation's
Path to Addressing Its Deepest Problems and Leading the 21st Century
(2015, Thomas Dunne Books). This one seems more plausible, as it shifts
the focus to Republicans with their failing programs and declining
Victor Davis Hanson: The Case for Trump (2019,
Basic Books): The author is supposedly expert on ancient Greek
military history, but he's been such a shameless right-wing hack
for so long his credentials don't carry much weight any more --
other than perhaps to make him the natural leader of the parade
of hacks and hysterics with recent books defending their Fearless
Leader, campaigning for him, and (most often) slandering his
- Conrad Black: Donald J Trump: A President Like No Other
- Don Bongino: Exonerated: The Failed Takedown of President
Donald Trump by the Swamp (2019, Post Hill Press).
- L Brent Bozell III/Tim Graham: Unmasked: Big Media's War
Against Trump (2019, Humanix Books).
- Tucker Carlson: Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class
Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018, Free
- Jason Chaffetz: Power Grab: The Liberal Scheme to Undermine
Trump, the GOP, and Our Republic (2019, Broadside Books).
- Jerome R Corsi: Killing the Deep State: The Fight to Save
President Trump (2018, Humanix Books).
- Alan Dershowitz: The Case Against Impeaching Trump
(2018, Hot Books).
- John L Fraser: The Truth Behind Trump Derangement Syndrome:
"There Is More Than Meets the Eye" (paperback, 2018, JF).
- Newt Gingrich: Understanding Trump (2017, Center
- Newt Gingrich: Trump's America: The Truth About Our Nation's
Great Comeback (2018, Center Street).
- Newt Gingrich: Trump vs China: Facing America's Greatest
Threat (2019, Center Street).
- Sebastian Gorka: Why We Fight: Defeating America's Enemies --
With No Apologies (2018, Regnery).
- Sebastian Gorka: The War for America's Soul: Donald Trump,
the Left's Assault on America, and How We Take Back Our Country
- Charles Hurt: Still Winning: Why America Went All In on Donald
Trump -- And Why We Must Do It Again (2019, Center Street).
- Gregg Jarrett: The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear
Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump (2018; paperback, 2019,
- Gregg Jarrett: Witch Hunt: The Story of the Greatest Mass
Delusion in American Political History (2019, Broadside Books).
- Corey R Lewandowski/David N Bossie: Trump's Enemies: How the
Deep State Is Undermining the Presidency (2018, Center Street).
- Lily Manchubel: Too Far Left: An Eroding United States Democratic
Republic: Anecdotal Observations of President Obama's Administration Left
Leaning Cultural Shift, Poor Foreign and Domestic Government Policies;
Versus That of Trump's More Right of Center Programs (paperback,
2019, Lulu Publishing Services): Deserves some sort of award for cutest
- Jeffrey Lord: Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and the New American
Populism vs. the Old Order (2019, Bombardier Books).
- Matt Margolis: Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us
From Barack Obama's Legacy (paperback, 2019, Bombardier Books).
- Andrew C McCarthy: Ball of Collusion: The Plot to Rig an Election
and Destroy a Presidency (2019, Encounter Books).
- Bill O'Reilly: The United States of Trump: How the President
Really Sees America (2019, Henry Holt).
- Jeanine Pirro: Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against
the Anti-Trump Conspiracy (2018, Center Street).
- Jeanine Pirro: Radicals, Resistance, and Revenge: The Left's
Plot to Remake America (2019, Center Street).
- Allen Salkin/Aaron Short: The Method to the Madness: Donald
Trump's Ascent as Told by Those Who Were Hired, Fired, Inspired --
and Inaugurated (2019, All Points).
- Michael Savage: Trump's War: His Battle for America
(2017, Center Street).
- Roger Stone: The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story
of How Donald Trump Really Won (paperback, 2019, Skyhorse).
- Kimberley Strassel: Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump
Haters Are Breaking America (2019, Twelve).
- Donald Trump Jr: Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and
Wants to Silence Us (2019, Center Street).
Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining
Decisions (2019, Rosetta Books): Inside adviser to Clinton
(via Gore) in the 1990s, and to Obama from campaign to transition,
recounts the personnel and policy decisions made by Obama during
his transition and first few months which sharply limited the set
of options that could be entertained to halt the collapse of the
financial sector and to rebuild an economy that had been decimated
by banking risks. One thing that was especially shocking was how
little consideration was given to anyone other than Tim Geithner
and Larry Summers for roles which ultimately prevented Obama from
doing anything but protect the bankers who caused the recession.
Hundt's own pet project during this period was setting up a program
for infrastructure development, but it was killed by Summers on the
assumption that the recession would be so short-lived that only
short-term spending was needed. Other memoirs and assessments of
the Obama years (skipping the most obvious right-wing rants):
- Brian Abrams: Obama: An Oral History (2018, Little
- Jonathan Chait: Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics
and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail (2017, Custom House).
- Pat Cunnane: West Winging It: An Un-presidential Memoir
(paperback, 2018, Gallery Books).
- Michael D'Antonio: A Consequential President: The Legacy of
Barack Obama (2017, Thomas Dunne Books).
- Andra Gillespie: Race and the Obama Administration: Substance,
Symbols, and Hope (2019, Manchester University Press).
- Mark Greenberg: Obama: The Historic Presidency of Barack
Obama: 2,920 Days (2017, Sterling): Photo blog.
- Valerie Jarrett: Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West
Wing and the Path Forward (2019, Viking).
- David Litt: Thanks, Obama: My Hopey, Changey White House
Years (2017; paperback, 2018, Ecco).
- Alyssa Mastromonaco: Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? And
Other Questions You Should Have Answers to When You Work in the White
House (2017; paperback, 2018, Twelve).
- Gautam Raghavan, ed: West Wingers: Stories From the Dream
Chasers, Change Makers, and Hope Creators Inside the Obama White House
(paperback, 2018, Penguin Books).
- Ben Rhodes: The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White
House (2018; paperback, 2019, Random House).
- Pete Souza: Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents (2018,
- Beck Dorey Stein: From the Corner of the oval: A Memoir
(2018, Spiegel & Grau).
- Julian Zelizer, ed: The Presidency of Barack Obama: A First
Historical Assessment (paperback, 2018, Princeton University
Press). Previously edited The Presidency of George W Bush: A First
Historical Assessment (paperback, 2010, Princeton University Press).
Nancy Isenberg/Andrew Burstein: The Problem of Democracy:
The Presidents Adams Confront the Cult of Personality (2019,
Viking): A dual biography of father and son, the second and sixth
presidents of the US, each limited to a single, controversial term
as they were the exceptions to the Virginia planters who dominated
the early democracy, a forum they worked in if never totally approved
of. Not sure what the "cult of personality" was -- Benjamin Franklin,
George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson are mentioned,
and they no doubt qualify. Isenberg previuosly wrote White Trash:
The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America. Burstein has
written books on Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Lincoln, and Washington
Irving. His most intriguing title was Democracy's Muse: How Thomas
Jefferson Became an FDR Liberal, a Reagan Republican, and a Tea
Party Fanatic, All the While Being Dead (2015; paperback, 2017,
University of Virginia Press).
Stuart Jeffries: Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt
School (2016, Verso): A group biography of the Frankfurt School,
an important intersection of German Marxist thinkers who came together
around 1923, and remained outside of (and often opposed to) the Soviet
circle, ultimately having great influence in the development of the New
Left in 1960s Europe and America. The standard book on the subject is
Martin Jay: The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt
School and the Institute for Social Research 1923-1950 (1973),
which appeared when I was deeply immersed in these thinkers. Related:
- Perry Anderson: The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci
- Deborah Cook: Adorno, Foucault, and the Critique of the West
(paperback, 2018, Verso).
- Howard Eiland/Michael W Jennings: Walter Benjamin: A Critical
Life (2014; paperback, 2016, Belknap Press).
- Peter E Gordon: Adorno and Existence (2016, Harvard
- Martin Jay: Reason After Its Eclipse: On Late Critical
Theory (paperback, 2017, University of Wisconsin Press).
- Stefan Müller-Doohm: Adorno: A Biography (2004;
paperback, 2009, Polity).
- Stefan Müller-Doohm: Habermas: A Biography (2016,
- Eric Oberle: Theodor Adoro and the Century of Negative
Identity (paperback, 2018, Stanford University Press).
Eric Kaufmann: Whiteshift: Populism, Immigration, and the Future
of White Majorities (2019, Harry N Abrams): Tempted to file this
in the long list of books about how threatened white identity is shaping
American and European politics, but this is a much bigger (624 pp), broader,
deeper, and presumably more nuanced undertaking. Still, the very subject
lies somewhere between unsavory and offensive. The basic truth is that
when Europe started its project to conquer and colonize the world, it
became inevitable that the conquered peoples would seep back into Europe
and eventually change it: domination never lasts.
Naomi Klein: On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New
Deal (2019, Simon & Schuster): Bestselling Canadian
whose critique of capitalism started with globalization -- No
Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (2000) -- and evolved
as the neoliberal market engulfed politics -- The Shock Doctrine:
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) -- and the environment --
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014).
Her vision of the Green New Deal is way to fight back, but beneath
it all is an ever-sharpening critique of capitalism.
- Kate Aronoff/Alyssa Battistoni/Daniel Aldana Cohen/Thea
Riofrancos: A Planet to Win: Why We Need a Green New Deal
(paperback, 2019, Verso Books): Foreword by Naomi Klein.
- Larry Jordan: The Green New Deal: Why We Need It and
Can't Live Without It -- and No, It's Not Socialism! (paperback,
2019, Page Turner Books).
- Ann Pettifor: The Case for the Green New Deal
(2019, Verso Books). Previously wrote: The Production of Money:
How to Break the Bankers (2017; paperback, 2018, Verso Books).
- Jeremy Rifkin: The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel
Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to
Save Life on Earth (2019, St Martin's Press).
Nicholas Lemann: Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and the
Decline of the American Dream (2019, Farrar Straus and Giroux):
Profiles of "three remarkable individuals who epitomized and helped
create their eras": Adolf Berle (of FDR's "brain trust"), Michael Jensen
(of Harvard Business School), and Reid Hoffman (a Silicon Valley venture
capitalist). Presumably the first two correspond to the Roosevelt and
Reagan eras. Harder to figure where that third avatar is dragging us,
but as the title suggests, the author is looking not at where we want
to go, but where how the era's great profiteers intend to con us.
Christopher Leonard: Kochland: The Secret History of Koch
Industries and Corporate Power in America (2019, Simon &
Schuster): Focuses more on the business behind the political forces
that Jane Mayer wrote about in Dark Money: The Hidden History of
the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016).
Jill Lepore: This America: The Case for the Nation
(2019, Liveright): A short (160 pp) postscript, I would guess, to
last year's massive These Truths: A History of the United States,
described as an "urgent manifesto on the dilemma of nationalism and
the erosion of liberalism in the twenty-first century." Sees American
history as a struggle between liberal and illiberal nationalism, and
tries to buck up the former at a time when many liberal-minded folks
see nationalism as an atavistic regression. Lepore's earlier The
Story of America: Essays on Origins (paperback, 2013, Princeton
University Press) started with the same problems, exploring them in
scattered essays, as historians are prone to do.
Rachel Maddow: Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State
Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth
(2019, Crown): The MSNBC pundit's obsession with Russia has been
aired so thoroughly since the 2016 debacle that this book is likely
to rise to the level of self-parody, but somewhere along the line
Maddow discovered that Russia is a petro-state, and broadened her
aim to include the international oil industry, finding particularly
juicy stories in Oklahoma earthquakes.
Daniel Markovits: The Meritocracy Trap: How America's
Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class,
and Devours the Elite (2019, Penguin Press): I thought the
best previous book on "meritocracy" was Chris Hayes' Twilight
of the Elites: America After Meritocracy, which made it clear
that "meritocracy" was little more than a deceptive argument for
maintaining the class dominance of established elites. Markovits
takes the further step of arguing that "meritocracy now ensnares
event hose who manage to claw their way to the top, requiring rich
adults to work with crushing intensity, exploiting their expensive
educations in order to extract a return." Related:
- James Bloodworth: The Myth of Meritocracy (2019,
- Lani Guinier: The Tyranny of Meritocracy: Democratizing
Higher Education in America (2015; paperback, 2016, Beacon
- Nicholas Lemann: The Big Test: The Secret History of the
American Meritocracy (1999; paperback, 2000, Farrar Straus
- Jo Littler: Against Meritocracy: Culture, Power and Myths
of Mobility (paperback, 2017, Routledge
- Stephen J McNamee: The Meritocracy Myth (4th
edition, paperback, 2018, RL).
- Michael Schwalbe: Rigging the Game: How Inequality Is Reproduced
in Everyday Life (paperback, 2014, Oxford University Press).
Branko Milanovic: Capitalism, Alone: The Future of the System
That Rules the World (2019, Belknap Press): Economist, wrote
Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization,
Aims at a big picture, noting capitalism's considerable material
benefits as well as its moral failings, trying to weigh such factors.
Someone more optimistic might frame this as "post-capitalism," but
he sees nothing beyond -- just a long struggle to keep from devouring
Alexander Nazaryan: The Best People: Trump's Cabinet and
the Siege on Washington (2019, Hachette Books): Attempts
to look past Trump's personality and showmanship, but doesn't get
deep enough to see the real effects of his administration. Rather,
he offers us a rogues gallery of Trump's cabinet-level deputies,
who more often than not turn out to reflect the vanity and avarice
of their leader. Curiously, doesn't cover the whole cabinet, with
scarcely any mentions at all of State, Defense, Justice, or Homeland
Security. It might be interesting to contrast this with John Nichols'
Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Giude to the Most Dangerous
People in America, written and rushed into print almost as soon
as the initial cabinet picks were announced.
Martha C Nussbaum: The Monarchy of Fear: A Philosopher Looks
at Our Political Crisis (2018, Simon & Schuster): Teaches
philosophy in a law school, author of twenty-somebooks, won the 2016
Kyoto Prize ("the most presigious award available in fields not eligible
for a Nobel" -- she accepted this the day after the Trump election, so
it's a starting point), knows her Greeks and checks back with them
regularly, also knows some psych and is not above folding in a little
empirical research from the social sciences. Key concerns here are
fear, disgust, and envy -- feelings which contribute to and exacerbate
our struggles with everyday life, not least in politics.
Robert L O'Connell: Revolutionary: George Washington at War
(2019, Random House): Looking for something to round out my evaluation
of the USA's first president -- my gut tells me he presents a stark and
illustrative counterpoint to the latest (or maybe last?) president --
I picked this up and found it fascinating. Far from hagiography, it
presents us with a flesh-and-blood figure, molded by the events of
war but always with a fine sense of political mission.
Daniel Okrent: The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics and the
Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European
Immigrants Out of America (2019, Scribner): Probably spent
more time as an editor than anything else, first attracting notice
for his baseball fandom, but lately has been writing substantial,
sweeping books on history: Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller
Center (2003), Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition
(2010), and now this book on the racist and xenophobic movement to
pass the 1923 law that radically restricted immigration to the United
States. As timely now as those working to resurrect that movement.
George Packer: Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the
American Century (2019, Knopf): Major (608 pp) biography of
the late diplomat, whose career started with the American War in
Vietnam, and ended with his failure to make any headway as Obama's
special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Along the way, he gained
a modicum of fame for brokering the Dayton Accords which ended the
war between Serbia and Bosnia. Reviewers have focused on how both
author and subject supported the Bush War in Iraq despite knowing
better -- for Holbrooke it was a calculated cost of his ambitions
to become Secretary of State (had Hillary Clinton won in 2008; with
Obama winning, she settled for that position, and wrangled Holbrooke
the Afghanistan/Pakistan portfolio). I suppose it's naïveté that
lets Packer think Holbrooke's a worthy subject for such a massive
effort. In the end, though, Holbrooke is a prime example of the
moral and political bankruptcy of "the American era." And Packer's
too competent a journalist not to expose that, even if he doesn't
want to admit it.
Raj Patel/Jason W Moore: A History of the World in Seven Cheap
Things (2017; paperback, 2018, University of California Press):
A sweeping critique of capitalism, the force that cheapens things, in
this case: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. This may
slight what strikes me as the main effect of cheapening, which is that
it makes things more plentiful. Moore previously wrote Capitalism in
the Web of Life (paperback, 2015, Verso), which treats capitalism as
a "world-ecology," Patel previously wrote Stuffed and Sarved: The
Hidden Battle for the World Food System (2008), and The Value of
Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (2010).
James Poniewozik: Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television,
and the Fracturing of America (2019, Liveright). TV critic
for the New York Times, traces Trump's long history of promotion and
exposure on the tube, alongside the evolution of television from three
major networks to "today's zillion-channel, internet-atomized universe,
which sliced and diced them into fractious, alienated subcultures."
I've long suspected that too much TV isn't a good thing -- the classic
treatment is Neal Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, which
I've seen this likened to -- but fragmentation would seem to limit the
appeal of someone like Trump. Indeed, it took no effort to ignore him
until he ran for president, and the news masters found their love/hate
obsession with him. So I suspect there are more levels to this than
a mere TV critic can develop, although that may be a good place to
Corey Robin: The Enigma of Clarence Thomas (2019,
Metropolitan Books): Author of The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism
From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (or, as recently reprinted,
to Donald Trump), takes a shot at reconciling contradictions
in the far right Supreme Court Justice, from his early embrace of
black nationalism to the extreme conservatism he is known for --
another species of "reactionary mind," determined more by what he
reacts so virulently to more than anything he believes in.
Brian Rosenwald: Talk Radio's America: How an Industry Took
Over a Political Party That Took Over the United States (2019,
Harvard University Press): This goes back to 1988, when "desperate for
content to save AM radio, top media executives stumbled on a new format
that would turn the political world upside down." They may have only
been seeking profits, but rage and reaction was quickly recognized as
effective conservative propaganda, an easy way to move a mass of voters
to support the right-wing agenda. After the Republican debacle in 2008,
the dynamic changed, as mass rage wound up leading the politicians, and
in Donald Trump ("the kind of pugnacious candidate they had been demanding
for decades") they put their own chump in charge.
Bernie Sanders: Where We Go From Here: Two Years in the
Resistance (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): These days most major
election campaigns kick off with a book to introduce the candidate
and set the tone for the campaign. But in 2016, Sanders waited until
his campaign was over before releasing his, allowing him to open with
a memoir, then tack a manifesto on at the end. He called it Our
Revolution: A Future to Believe In, and it was pretty credible
for the genre. This one is reportedly sketchier, but even if he's
just recounting his reaction to events, he's likely to give you
insights you won't pick up from the usual sources. Elsewhere in
the 2020 campaign wave (some are a bit old, more are on the way;
some are by non-candidates, but fit the mold; I've written about
Elizabeth Warren's book previously):
- Stacey Abrams: Minority Leader: How to Lead From the Outside
and Make Real Change (2018, Henry Holt).
- Michael Bennet: The Land of Flickering Lights: Restoring
America in an Age of Broken Politics (2019, Atlantic Monthly
- Joe Biden: Promise Me, Dad: A Year of Hope, Hardship, and
Purpose (2017, Flatiron).
- Michael Bloomberg: Bloomberg by Bloomberg (2nd edition,
- Cory Booker: United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and
Advancing the Common Good (2016; paperback, 2017, Ballantine
- Pete Buttigleg: Shortest Way Home: One Mayor's Challenge and
a Model for America's Future (2019, Liveright).
- Julian Castro: An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up From My American
Dream (2018, Little Brown).
- John K Delaney: The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided
Nation (2019, Henry Holt).
- Tulsi Gabbard: Is Today the Day? Not Another Political Memoir
- Kirsten Gillibrand: Off the Sidelines: Raise Your Voice,
Change the World (2014; paperback, 2015, Ballantine Books).
- Kamala Harris: The Truths We Hold: An American Journey
(2019, Penguin Press).
- John Hickenlooper: The Opposite of Woe: My Life in Beer and
Politics (2016, Penguin Press).
- Jay Inslee/Bracken Hendricks: Apollo's Fire: Igniting America's
Clean Energy Economy (2007, Island Press): Pre-campaign book,
establishes his bona fides to run on climate change issue.
- Amy Klobuchar: The Senator Next Door: A Memoir From the
Heartland (2015, Henry Holt; paperback, 2016, University of
- Jeff Merkley: America Is Better Than This: Trump's War Against
Immigrant Families (2019, Twelve).
- Beto O'Rourke/Susie Byrd: Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big
Business of Dope in the US and Mexico (paperback, 2011, Cinco
Puntos Press): Old book, so not a campaign primer.
- Tim Ryan: Healing America: How a Simple Practice Can Help Us
Recapture the American Spirit (paperback, 2018, Hay House).
Previously wrote A Mindful Nation (2012), and The Real Food
- Howard Schultz: From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine
the Promise of America (2019, Random House).
- Joe Sestak: Walking in Your Shoes to Restore the American
Dream (paperback, 2015, Infinity).
- Elizabeth Warren: This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save
America's Middle Class (2017, Metropolitan Books).
- Marianne Williamson: A Politics of Love: A Handbook for a New
American Revolution (2019, HarperOne). Also note: Healing the
Soul of America (20th anniversary edition, paperback, 2018, Simon &
- Andrew Yang: The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's
Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future
(2018, Hachette Books).
Isabel Sawhill: The Forgotten Americans: An Economic Agenda for
a Divided Nation (2018, Yale University Press); Economist at the
"centrist" Brookings Institute, stresses the importance of "mainstream
values, such as family, education, and work." Detractors decry her as left
wing nut job . . . the logic of know it all 5th grader and the mind set
of a soviet thug." Chapters include "Why Economic Growth Is Not Enough,"
"The Limits of Redistribution," "A GI Bill for America's Workers," "A
Bigger Role for the Private Sector" and "Updating Social Insurance."
That all seems pretty modest to me, but "conservatives" can't so much
as acknowledge the problem without flying off half-cocked. Makes one
wonder why bother to appeal to them anyway.
Tom Segev: A State at Any Cost: The Life of David Ben-Gurion
(2019, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Big (816pp) biography of Israel's
first Prime Minister, by one of Israel's most important historians.
Few national leaders in our time have more completely defined their
nations -- Attaturk comes to mind as the closest comparable figure,
although Mao and Castro ruled longer and more forcefully. Even today,
it's possible to map most currents in Israeli political life to one
facet or another of Ben Gurion complex view of his mission. Other
recent books relating to Israel:
- Seth Anziska: Preventing Palestine: A Political History From
Camp David to Oslo (2018, Princeton University Press).
- Khaled Elgindy: Blind Spot: America and the Palestinians,
From Balfour to Trump (2019, Brookings Institution Press).
- Noura Erakat: Justice for Some: Law and the Question of
Palestine (2019, Stanford University Press).
- Michael R Fischbach: Black Power and Palestine: Transnational
Countries of Color (2018, Stanford University Press).
- Michael R Fischbach: The Movement and the Middle East: How
the Arab-Israeli Conflict Divided the American Left (2019,
paperback, Stanford University Press).
- Matti Friedman: Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the
Birth of Israel (2019, Algonquin Books).
- Micah Goodman: Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy
of the Six-Day War (2018, Yale University Press).
- Daniel Gordis: We Stand Divided: The Rift Between American Jews
and Israel (2019, Ecco Books).
- Sara Yael Hirschhorn: City on a Hilltop: American Jews and
the Israeli Settler Movement (2017, Harvard University Press).
- Amy Kaplan: Our American Israel: The Story of an Entangled
Alliance (2018, Harvard University Press).
- Susie Linfield: The Lions' Den: Zionism and the Left From
Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky (2019, Yale University Press).
- Shaul Mitelpunkt: Israel in the American Mind: The Cultural
Politics of US-Israeli Relations, 1958-1988 (2018, Cambridge
- Ilan Pappe: The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the
Occupied Territories (paperback, 2019, Oneworld).
- Dennis Ross/David Makovsky: Be Strong and of Good Courage:
How Israel's Most Important Leaders Shaped Its Destiny (2019,
Public Affairs): Ben-Gurion, Begin, Rabin, Sharon ("a leader who
tells the settlers to give up the dream").
JC Sharman: Empires of the Weak: The Real Story of European
Expansion and the Creation of the New World Order (2019,
Princeton University Press): They say "history is written by the
victors," and for 500 years we've been reading about how Europe's
maritime conquest of the world reflected superior technology (and,
less fashionably these days, genes and religion). This thin (216 pp)
book tries to flip that argument on its head, asserting that the
conquest "is better explained by deference to strong Asian and African
polities, disease in the Americas, and maritime supremacy earned by
default because local land-oriented polities were largely indifferent
to war and trade at sea." Some of these ideas resemble the ones Jared
Diamond put forth in Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human
Societies (1997), but both underestimate the amount of greed,
bad faith, and knavery involved. The pattern I see most clearly is
that European contact always started a corrosion of traditional
social, economic, and political ties well before Europeans were
able to seize control.
Jake Sherman/Anna Palmer: The Hill to Die On: The Battle for
Congress and the Future of Trump's America (2019, Crown):
Congress beat reporters for Politico report on the two year stretch
when Republicans controlled both the White House and both houses of
Congress, rehashing the jockeying behind the "repeal and replace" of
Obamacare, the massive corporate tax giveaway, the Brett Kavanaugh
nomination, and the partial government shutdown.
Matt Taibbi: Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes Us Despise
One Another (2019, OR Books): Journalist, covers elections
and other scandals for Rolling Stone, a path paved by Hunter
Thompson, so he's all but expected to get a little gonzo. Outside
the mainstream hive, he's written some of the sharpest analysis of
the media's coverage of elections, starting with Spanking the
Donkey: Dispatches From the Dumb Season (2005), but I thought
his quickie book on 2016, Insane Clown Posse: Dispatches From
the 2016 Circus failed to rise to the absurdity of events he
was forced to cover. In some ways, this book looks like a do-over,
but rather than stare straight into the sun, he's focusing on the
mediaa, and how they got blinded not just by events but by their
devil's bargain with the mega-corporations that employ them. Two
appendices: "Why Rachel Maddow is on the Cover of This Book," and
"An Interview with Noam Chomsky." I guess Sean Hannity's appearance
on the cover (on the red side vs. Maddow on the blue) requires no
further explanation. Taibbi has long had a habit of burnishing his
independence by attacking both parties, or both right and left,
even when there's no equivalence.
Astra Taylor: Democracy May Not Exist: But We'll Miss It When
It's Gone (2019, Metropolitan Books): Ruminations on a much
declaimed and frequently confused political principle, something we're
taught to believe in, to pride ourselves in, yet not take too seriously,
as it's been much abused by self-interested elites. That those abuses
seem to increased, both in frequency and in crassness, in recent years
is probably due to increasing inequality. Author also has a documentary
film, What Is Democracy?, and another film on Marxian philosophe
Adam Tooze: Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed
the World (2018, Viking): Economic historian, has a couple of
major works: Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the
Nazi Economy (2007), and The Deluge: The Great War, America
and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931 (2014). This sums
up the decade following the 2008 crash. There have been a lot of books
about the immediate causes of the crash.
David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After
Warming (2019, Tim Duggan Books): A general primer on global
warming, albeit one that goes beyond presenting what we know to look
at, and take seriously, the worst case scenarios scientists imagine --
hence the title -- without blunting the impact by parading the usual
list of "what we can do about it" palliatives. Reviews tend toward
hyperbole: "the most terrifying book I have ever read," and "the most
important book I have ever read." May be a good lead in for yet another
list of recent climate books (I started one earlier under Jeff Goodell
but they do keep coming):
- Mike Berners-Lee: There Is No Planet B: A Handbook for the
Make or Break Years (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University
- Amitav Ghosh: The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the
Unthinkable (paperback, 2017, University of Chicago Press).
- Andreas Malm: Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the
Roots of Global Warming (paperback, 2016, Verso Books).
- Greta Thunberg: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference
(paperback, 2019, Penguin Books).
Brenda Wineapple: The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson
and the Dream of a Just Nation (2019, Random House): This is
probably number one on the short list of events that could have changed
American history had it gone slightly differently. As it was, Andrew
Johnson did much to weaken and undo plans to empower freed slaves and
reconstruct the south more equitably. Those years he held power made
it easier for white southerners to reclaim power and create a racist
order that prevailed into the 1960s, with remnants still evident today.
Wineapple previously wrote the broader period history, Ecstatic
Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848-1877 (2013;
paperback, 2014, Harper Perennial). More on impeachment history
(expect more on impeachment news soon):
- Frank O Bowman III: High Crimes and Misdemeanors: A History
of Impeachment for the Age of Trump (2019, Cambridge University
Other recent books noted with little or no comment:
HW Brands: Heirs of the Founders: Henry Clay, John Calhoun
and Daniel Webster, the Second Generation of American Giants
(2018, Doubleday; paperback, 2019, Anchor Books).
Bill Bryson: The Body: A Guide for Occupants (2019,
Gail Collins: No Stopping Us Now: The Adventures of Older
Women in American History (2019, Little Brown).
Jay Cost: The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton,
James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy
(2018, Basic Books).
Kathleen Day: Broken Bargain: Bankers, Bailouts, and the Struggle
to Tame Wall Street (2019, Yale University Press).
Larry Diamond: Ill Winds: Saving Democracy From Russian Rage,
Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency (2019, Penguin Press).
Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White
People to Talk About Racism (paperback, 2018, Beacon Press).
Ronan Farrow: Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy
to Protect Predators (2019, Little Brown).
Silvia Federici: Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the
Politics of the Commons (paperback, 2018, PM Press).
Aaron Glantz: Homewreckers: How a Gang of Wall Street Kingpins,
Hedge Fund Magnates, Crooked Banks, and Vulture Capitalists Suckered
Millions Out of Their Homes and Demolished the American Dream
(2019, Custom House).
Garrett M Graff: The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History
of 9/11 (2019, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster).
Gerald Horne: The Apocalypse of Settler Colonialism: The Roots
of Slavery, White Supremacy, and Capitalism in Seventeenth-Century North
America and the Caribbean (paperback, 2018, Monthly Review Press).
Tom LoBianco: Piety & Power: Mike Pence and the Taking
of the White House (2019, Dey Street Books).
George Monbiot: Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an
Age of Crisis (paperback, 2018, Verso Books).
Philip Mudd: Black Site: The CIA in the Post-9/11 World
Margaret O'Mara: The Code: Silicon Valley and the Remaking
of America (2019, Penguin Press).
Samantha Power: The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir
(2019, Dey Street Books).
Susan Rice: Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting
For (2019, Simon & Schuster).
Christopher Ryan: Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress
(2019, Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster).
Tatiana Schlossberg: Inconspicuous Consumption: The Environmental
Impact You Don't Know You Have (2019, Grand Central Publishing).
Rebecca Solnit: Whose Story Is This? Old Conflicts, New
Chapters (paperback, 2019, Haymarket Books).
The Washington Post: The Mueller Report (paperback,
Gary Younge: Another Day in the Death of America: A Chronicle
of Ten Short Lives (2016; paperback, 2018, Bold Type Books).
Monday, October 28, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 32276  rated (+28), 224  unrated (+0).
Birthday last week, so I lost a day to cooking, most of another to
shopping and prep. I usually like to do something new and extraordinary,
but had a terrible time settling on a theme and menu this year. Finally,
the final decision was made by Laura, in favor of an idea Max Stewart
floated: fire up the grill and made burgers. That seemed pretty ordinary
to me, but in fact I can't recall ever grilling hamburgers (I've grilled
or smoked pretty much everything else). Turned out to be a pretty good
idea. I picked up a new cookbook (The Ultimate Burger), and came
up with three variations: teriyaki pork burgers with grilled pineapple,
salmon burgers with tomato chutney, and good old bacon cheeseburgers.
Even took a shot at making some potato buns (although I bought more for
backup, mostly brioche and pretzel buns).
For side dishes, I did baked beans, two potato salads, coleslaw, corn
and tomato salad, and my standard cucumber-yogurt thing. And for dessert,
I stuck with my original choice: Mom's
coconut cake, served with
vanilla ice cream. Had nine people, and everyone seemed pleased.
October archive (see link above) is wrapped up and indexed. Not much
to say about this week's haul, except perhaps that
The Daisy Age was the surprise A+ in Robert Christgau's first new
Consumer Guide under his
And It Don't Stop
subscription newsletter, and the only new CD I've bought in 3-4 months
(not that I couldn't have assembled the play list from Napster). Back
when I was writing
Recycled Goods, I tried to get on Ace
Records' promo list, but never got so much as a reply. So I was pretty
jealous when Bob told me a few years back that they had started sending
him records. This looks like the
tenth of their records he's reviewed since 2013. (If anyone cares,
I'd review every damn one.)
Some of the old music this week were rap records from that vintage
(1989-95). Also filled in some EST back catalogue, after reviewing
their Live in Gothenburg as an A- last week (which makes it,
in my humble estimation, their best record ever).
Best-reviewed albums from the week of 10-25 (according to my
metacritic file (4+ counting
my grades in brackets, but paren totals don't count my grades):
Anna Meredith: FIBS (9);
Rex Orange County: Pony (5);
Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Colorado (5);
Blaenavon: Everything That Makes You Happy (4);
Cigarettes After Sex: Cry (4) [***];
Hana Vu: Nicole Kidman/Anne Hathaway (4).
Kanye West: Jesus Is King (2).
Best-reviewed albums from 10-18:
Floating Points: Crush (13);
Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 2) (9);
Caroline Polachek: Pang (9);
Battles: Juice B Crypts (7);
Clipping: There Existed an Addiction to Blood (7);
Patrick Watson: Wave (5);
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (3) [***].
New records I want to track down:
The Bad Plus: Activate Infinity;
Lakou Mizik: HaitiaNola;
Nellie McKay: Bagatelles;
Van Morrison: Three Chords & the Truth.
Also out since last week, previously graded:
Randy Brecker/Ada Rovatti: Brecker Plays Rovatti: Sacred Bond [**];
Jeff Denson/Romain Pilon/Brian Blade: Between Two Worlds [*];
Laszlo Gardony: La Marseillaise (Sunnyside) [**];
Carmen Sandim: Play Doh (Ropeadope) [*];
Leo Sherman: Tonewheel (Outside In Music) [*];
Esbjorn Svensson Trio: EST Live in Gothenburg (2001, ACT -2CD) [A-].
New records reviewed this week:
- Big Thief: Two Hands (2019, 4AD): [r]: B+(**)
- The Nat Birchall Quartet: The Storyteller: A Musical Tribute to Yusef Lateef (2019, Jazzman): [r]: B+(**)
- Daniel Carter/Julian Priester/Adam Lane/Reggie Sylvester/David Haney: Live Constructions Volume 2 (2018 , Slam): [r]: B+(*)
- Daniel Carter/Stelios Milhas/Irma Nejando/Federico Ughi: Radical Invisibility (2018 , 577): [bc]: B+(**)
- Cigarettes After Sex: Cry (2019, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
- Harry Connick Jr.: True Love: A Celebration of Cole Porter (2019, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
- Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Four (2018 , Long Song): [cd]: B+(***) [11-08]
- Binker Golding: Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers (2018 , Gearbox): [cd]: A-
- Kim Gordon: No Home Record (2019, Matador): [r]: B+(***)
- Homeboy Sandman: Dusty (2019, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
- Miles Okazaki: The Sky Below (2019, Pi): [cd]: B+(***)
- Anne Phillips: Live at the Jazz Bakery (2019, Conawago): [cd]: B-
- Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis (2019, Constellation): [r]: B+(***)
- Rocket 808: Rocket 808 (2019, 12XU): [r]: B
- Michael Jefry Stevens & the Mountain Chamber Jazz Ensemble: The Poet Is in the House (2019, ARC): [bc]: B
- Devin Brahja Waldman: Brahja (2019, RR Gems): [cdr]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- The Daisy Age (1989-94 , Ace): [cd]: A
- Saadet Türköz/Elliott Sharp: Kumuska (2007 , Intakt): [r]: B+(*)
- Black Sheep: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing (1991, Mercury): [r]: B+(**)
- Brand Nubian: Foundation (1998, Arista): [r]: B+(***)
- Fu-Schnickens: Greatest Hits (1992-95 , Jive): [r]: B+(***)
- Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Plays Monk (1996, Superstudio Gul): [r]: B+(**)
- Esbjörn Svensson Trio: Winter in Venice (1997, Superstudio Gul; , ACT): [r]: B+(*)
- Esbjörn Svensson Trio [EST]: From Gagarin's Point of View (1999, ACT): [r]: B+(**)
- Esbjörn Svensson Trio [EST]: Good Morning Susie Soho (2000, ACT): [r]: B+(***)
- E.S.T.: Leucocyte (2007 , ACT): [r]: B+(**)
- E.S.T. [Esbjörn Svensson Trio]: 301 (2007 , ACT): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dave Douglas: Engage (Greenleaf Music) [11-08]
- Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction (Out of Your Head) [11-01]
- Johnny Griffin & Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis: Ow! Live at the Penthouse (1962, Reel to Reel) [12-06]
- Remy Le Boeuf: Assembly of Shadows (SoundSpore) [11-01]
- The Daisy Age (1989-94, Ace)
Sunday, October 27, 2019
Been distracted, so chalk this up as another week going through the
motions, keeping open the option of looking back at this presidential
term week-by-week as it unfolded. More time might have given me chance
to group links on the same basic stories, as well as to build a bit
more structure around everything. Started collecting on Saturday,
after which the Baghdadi assassination story broke, John Conyers died,
and Trump was greeted with boos and chants of "lock him up" at the
Some scattered links this week:
Jared Bernstein/Dean Baker:
Blame the economic policies, not the robots.
Trump has officially weaponized the Justice Department to go after his
A top Trump student loan official just resigned, calling for debt
forgiveness. Related: Sarah Jones:
Trump-appointed student loan official resigns: "Stop the insanity."
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
The GM strike has officially ended. Here's what workers won and lost.
Republicans want victimhood without being victimized.
The right saw the outrage at Trump's "lynching" tweet as another example
of liberal hypocrisy.
The final outcome of the multiple Syrian wars is now in sight. By
the way, a letter here notes that:
Jeff Halper, in his 2015 book, suggested that people across the world
exercising their democratic right to challenge their governments'
misrule were becoming "Palestinianised" and the rulers were becoming
For a case in point, the letter included a link to: Nasim Ahmed:
'Palestinanised' Chileans revolt against their "Israelised'
Tulsi Gabbard is right, and Nancy Pelosi wrong. It was US Democrats who
helped cultivate the barbarism of Isis.
Typhoon Hagibis kills dozens and causes "immense damage" in Japan.
Max Fisher/Amanda Taub:
The global protest wave, explained: "It's not your imagination, and
the last few months are not an outlier: Mass protests are on the rise
- Democracy is stalling out
- Social media makes protests likelier to start, likelier to balloon
in size and likelier to fail
- Social polarization is way up
- Authoritarian learning
For more, Fisher and Declan Walsh also wrote:
From Chile to Lebanon, protests flare over wallet issues. Fisher
The US turned Syria's north into a tinderbox. Then Trump lit a match.
More articles on various ongoing protests:
Trump warns US 'may have to get in wars': "The president specifically
threatens to hit Iran 'like they've never been hit before' if the regime
Bernie Sanders vows to revive criminal prosecutions of CEOs for unfair
The problem of political advertising on social media.
President Trump is obsessed with stealing Syria's oil.
Everyone is denouncing the Syrian rebels now slaughtering Kurds. But didn't
the US once support some of them?
Jeff Hauser/Eleanor Eagan:
House Democrats are failing to protect farmers from Trump: "The
administration is letting agribusiness monopolies run amok."
Californians face more blackouts as fire risk remains high.
We can't actually keep Syria's oil, but Lindsey Graham wants Trump to
think we can: More paragraphs than I can quote here explain why
the scheme is "preposterous." Still, it was the one trick that moved
Trump to reverse his withdrawal, which is something Graham believes
in more than reason:
These geopolitical arguments didn't move Trump an inch. So Sen. Lindsey
Graham -- Trump's most loyal political defender but also a fervent
advocate for the Kurds -- shifted tactics to focus on something he
figured the president would understand: finances. According to NBC
News, Graham and Jack Keane -- an influential retired Army general
who, back in 2007, persuaded President George W. Bush to order a "surge"
of troops to Iraq -- brought maps into the Oval Office, showing Trump
the network of oil fields across the region, including in Syria.
The argument about oil was flimflam, and Graham and Keane knew it.
Citing a defense official, NBC noted that "while the emphasis on oil
in Syria is intended to convince the president that the U.S. military
is valuable, securing the oil fields is not a military strategy. U.S.
troops will not actually be guarding the oil fields."
The ruse was reminiscent of the time, early in the administration,
when Trump wanted to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan, to the
alarm of several officials. Trump paid no attention to arguments about
counterterrorism or the balance of power, so the officials shifted
tactics. Pentagon officials started talking about "rare-earth metals"
in Afghan soil -- something that had never been in previous briefing
books. Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, then the national security adviser,
showed Trump old photographs of Kabul in the 1970s, in which young
women were seen wearing miniskirts. See, McMaster told the president,
Afghanistan hasn't always been a graveyard of empires; it's been a
"normal" country in the past, and it can be again.
Trump not only reversed his decision to pull out -- he doubled
the number of troops that President Barack Obama, toward the end of
his term, had kept in.
Graham, Keane, and many others wanted to keep some U.S. troops in
Syria. Trump did not. So they made up a phony argument to get him to
change his mind. It worked.
The US has 50 nuclear bombs in Turkey. Why?
Trump's four horsemen: "The president is unleashing autocrats to
create a Middle East apocalypse." Casts the "four horsemen" as Erdogan,
Assad, Khamanei, and Putin, but he missed a few, especially the leaders
of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and let's not forget Israel. Also Trump,
who get criticized for stepping back then overcompensates by plunging
forward, his "withdrawal" from Syria almost instantly reversed by an
invasion to seize Syrian oil fields, while sending more forces to Saudi
Arabia (once again, aimed at oil fields).
Ivan Krastev/Stephen Holmes:
How liberalism became 'the god that failed' in Eastern Europe.
459,000 working-class white male Wisconsinites didn't vote in 2016.
An untapped potential Trump resource in what's currently the key
Recapping impeachment: Bill Taylor returns for one last mission.
Rudy and Hunter Biden both worked for the same Romanian kleptocrat.
USDA watchdog to investigate Department's alleged suppression of climate
How centrist Democrats botched the 2020 primary. I'd put less
emphasis on the names than on bigger problems with the paradigm.
The inescapable fact is that centrist Democrats -- Clinton, Obama,
and their natural followers -- have failed on both fronts: they
haven't been able to deliver real gains to the party rank and file,
and even with their timid programs and compromises they haven't
been able to keep the Republicans out of power. The left offers
tangible answers to both problems: they promote real answers to
the real problems faced by the party base, and they work hard to
convince you that they'll follow through if given the chance.
Also, one more reason: from the 1980s through Hillary Clinton in
2016, successful Democrats (like Republicans) were the ones most
able to raise money from well-heeled donors. In 2016, Bernie
Sanders came up with way to raise money that doesn't depend on
PACs and fat cats, and Warren has followed his path. The whining
you hear from centrists these days is mostly because the left is
no longer dependent on their support. Of course, names do have
some impact. Aside from Hillary and Biden, the two best-known
pro-business centrists are probably Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emmanuel,
but their failures and scandals have kept them from even running.
Eric Lipton/Jesse Drucker:
Symbol of '80s greed stands to profit from Trump tax break for poor
TPM's deep dive on the conservative deep state: A series of articles
investigating right-wing political organizations, not necessarily within
the state but trying to align state policy with their political interests.
Some articles in this series:
US air pollution deaths increased by 9,700 a year from 2016 to 2018.
Pennsylvania lawmakers want to ban abortion before many people know
The zombie campaign: Joe Biden is the least formidable front-runner
AI could be a disaster for humanity. A top computer scientist thinks
he has the solution: "Stuart Russell wrote the book on AI and is
leading the fight to change how we build it."
The week in impeachment inquiry news, explained.
The Obamanauts: Review of eight books on Obama in the White House,
asking the question: "What was the defining achievement of Barack
Obama?" Jonathan Chait thinks that's
a dumb question, and tries to construct a defense of Obama against
such "left-wing attacks."
Team Trump's efforts to spin Mulvaney's quid pro quo confession are not
Trump's lynching comparison shows there's no bottom to his sense of
victimhood. Still, I take a certain gratification in that Trump
seems to be acknowledging that lynching is a bad thing, although more
likely with him it's more a matter of who's doing what to whom. (Same
with witch hunts.)
Update complete: US nuclear weapons no longer need floppy disks.
You know, I still have a couple of 8-inch floppy disk drives in the
basement. Admittedly, I haven't used them since the 1980s. Also have
the S-100 bus Z-80 computer I bought them for, with 64K of no-wait-state
static RAM, and some orange plastic levers for toggling in binary boot
programs. Also have a 1998-vintage computer with a 3.5-inch not-floppy
removable disk drive. In between, there were 5.25-inch floppy disks. I
have a bunch of those, but no computer I can read them in. Probably
some marginally interesting baseball data on those. Maybe record lists,
occasional scraps of writing.
Trump's press conference announcing the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
is peak deranged Trump.
William Barr, Trump's new Roy Cohn.
Everyone is a Russian asset. Hillary Clinton and her close supporters
have been especially quick to make such charges. Taibbi doesn't talk about
his own experience as a target of such slurs, but I've noticed he gets it
Out with the old, in with the Young.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
James D Walsh:
'The force of Trump's lying has ruptured the space-time continuum':
Steve Schmidt on impeachment: Interview with Schmidt, an ex-GOP
(Never Trump) pundit at MSNBC, who says:
My perspective is that the Republican Party is profoundly corrupted by
Donald Trump and it has been corrupted by a tolerance for all and any
type of amoral and immoral behavior. Tolerance for astounding levels of
corruption and exposure of hypocrisy from the religious far-right leaders
like Falwell, to everybody who screamed and shouted about some perfidious
act that Obama or the Clintons allegedly committed. Trump has remade the
Republican Party into an isolationist, grievance-driven, resentment-driven
On the other hand, he still loathes the Democratic Party, and sees
them as doomed. He notes, I think correctly, "A debate about stupid
things benefits Donald Trump." He's specifically talking about Kamala
Harris' argument that Trump should be banned from Twitter, but I see
a much more pervasive example in the mass media, where every issue is
reduced to stupid.
Sarah Westwood/Caroline Kenney:
Mayor and college officials in city where Trump spoke Friday give changing
numbers of student attendees at speech. Trump spoke in Columbia, SC, at
"historically black" Benedict College, by invitation only to a crowd of 200.
Note that: "only about 10 were actual students from the college." New York
Magazine linked to this under the title, "Man of the white people."
What's good for Putin is not always bad for America: "Syria isn't a
zero-sum game between Russia and the United States, so let's stop talking
about it that way."
It's time to broaden the impeachment inquiry: "The House should be
asking questions about Trump's dealings with Turkey, Russia, Saudi Arabia,
and others." He's not broadening it much, and the three nations mentioned
are easy to demagogue on, because they resonate with recent and/or ancient
popular prejudices. But surely there's as much "smoke" around Israel, but
no one wants to look in that direction (even though they wouldn't have to
look much further than Sheldon Adelson).
Saturday, October 26, 2019
Made birthday dinner. Had a horrible time trying to figure out what
to do this year, then had a rough time trying to invite people. I've
been wanting to make Mom's coconut cake, and that argued against most
of the international cuisines I've explored in years past. Jerry came
up with the idea of just grilling some hamburgers, and after I came
up with a couple of alternatives, Laura voted for hamburgers. I looked
around and picked up a copy of The Ultimate Burger, and there
I found a few interesting new things to try, which I figured might fit
in nicely with some old standby dishes. Final menu:
- Grilled bacon burgers
- Grilled teriyaki pork burgers: with grilled pineapple and onion.
- Crispy salmon burgers with tomato chutney
- Smoky grilled potato salad: with grilled onions and bacon.
- Smoked salmon vinaigrette: Russian potato salad recipe, with
olives, capers, and dill.
- Buttermilk coleslaw
- Fresh corn and tomato salad
- Rebecca's baked beans: topped with bacon.
- Mast Va Khiar: Persian yogurt-cucumber with mint, scallions,
sultanas, and black walnuts.
- Coconut cake: with vanilla ice cream.
I toyed with the idea of baking my own rolls, and I wound up trying
to make a batch (8) of potato rolls. I screwed them up coming and going,
but they weren't bad, and I used them with the salmon. But for backup,
I bought two packages each of brioche buns and pretzel buns (8 of each).
They were at least as good, and a lot more cost-effective. Also bought
a package (4) of gluten-free (chia-rice) buns, which no one ate.
I bought two packages of Yoder thick bacon. Tried one batch of the
cookbook recipe where you cover the bacon with water, then boil the
water off and brown what's left. I can't say as it's a better method:
definitely slower, may drain less fat off (you get less left over in
Jerry ran the grill, and I was swamped inside, with various things
running late. I had figured most of the hamburgers would be topped
with blue cheese, but I also bought thick slices of colby, and that's
what Jerry used. The pork burgers were to be topped with teriyaki
sauce, but Jerry put the blue cheese on them. I tried reconstructing
a pork burger according to recipe, and it was pretty good, but by
then hardly anyone else was interested.
I forgot to serve the coleslaw. Wasn't missed, and frankly wasn't
as good as the non-creamy slaw I've made before, but belonged with
I undercooked the cake icing, so it thinned out a bit before serving
(misremembered the temperature, so stopped the syrup at 232F, instead
of 240F from past experiments). Cake was very moist. A guest brought
a pan of brownies, so some guests opted for them.
Wound up with nine people after a string of last-minute invites all
panned out (24 hours before it was looking like we'd just have 4). I
got a little flustered in the endgame, but wasn't as worn out once it
was served as I've been in recent years. Enjoyed the company.
Monday, October 21, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 32248  rated (+36), 224  unrated (-5).
As of late Sunday. Monday's mail unpacked below but not counted
Last couple weeks I've barely been able to scratch out two A-
records. In fact, only one of the last six weeks yielded more than
three, but I'm up to a nearly unprecedented nine here (E.S.T. a late add).
One reason is I did something different last week, in that I jotted down
a list of seven "new records I most want to track down." I found all seven,
and got four A- records there (Jaimie Branch, Chris Knight, L'Orange
& Jeremiah Jae, Kelsey Waldon). Although I must admit that part
of the reason I did that was that Knight and Waldon were riding
multiple A/A- streaks, and L'Orange/Jae's previous also came in
at A-. Nor was Branch much of a surprise. Had I looked further, I
would also have flagged Crosscurrents Trio (Dave Holland has his
own streak going), and maybe the two new Intakt releases.
Also got a couple pleasant surprises out of the promo queue.
My other main source this week was
Saving Country Music: I added their top-reviewed albums to my
metacritic file, but
the winners there were the expected ones from Knight and Waldon.
Adds to this and my
tracking file help keep me up to
date. For instance, I can tell you the best-reviewed new records of
the week (10-18):
Battles: Juice B Crypts (6);
Foals: Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost (Part 2) (6);
Clipping: There Existed an Addiction to Blood (5);
Floating Points: Crush (4);
Caroline Polachek: Pang (4);
Patrick Watson: Wave (4).
Best-reviewed new records of the previous week (10-11):
Big Thief: Two Hands (17);
Kim Gordon: No Home Record (12);
Elbow: Giants of All Sizes (9);
Richard Dawson: 2020 (8).
New records I most want to track down:
Homeboy Sandman: Dusty;
Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Four: Memphis;
Also out 10-18, listed below or previously graded:
Gebhard Ullmann: MikroPULS [A-];
Michael Formanek: Even Better [***];
Petros Kampanis: Irrationalities [**];
Derel Monteith: Connemara [**];
Chris Speed: Respect for Your Toughness [**];
Chip Stephens/Stenn Wilson: Sadness & Soul [**];
John Yao: How We Do [**];
Rez Abbasi: A Throw of Dice by the Silent Ensemble [*];
Derel Monteith: Quantity of Life [*];
Carrie Wicks: Reverie [*];
Katerina Brown: Mirror [B];
Dan McCarthy: City Abstract [B].
Old records this week were mostly the result of collecting several
recent decade-or-two best-of lists. I've started to copy these down,
mostly to provide a checklist against my own listening. There weren't
many titles I hadn't heard, but I had totally missed Chromatics and
Joanna Newsom, so now I know something. You can find the lists with
my grades here (original links in the files):
One more week left in October, promises to have more than the usual
batch of distractions. Had a "furnace tuneup" last week, which left
both the system and us pretty confused, so I need to call them back
and get to the bottom of that. Weather itself has been up and down,
enough so to remind me that as much as I hate the heat, the cold is
actually more painful. Birthday coming up, so I'll take a day or two
cooking something. I usually do a broad tasting menu from some exotic
cuisine (started with Chinese, then Indian, then Turkish; finally got
to French last year), but I'm feeling more like comfort food this year
(or maybe I just really want to end it with
Mom's coconut cake).
Last two big meals have been Hungarian, so I'm done with that for
a while (although I still want to make the dumplings at some point,
possibly the rabbit goulash and/or the venison meatballs, and for
that matter the somloi trifle and/or the dobos torte -- the two
insanely classic Hungarian desserts). Just not this week. Two more
big projects are putting together a new computer, and doing a major
cleanup/reorganization of the tools in the basement and garage.
Decided to buy the computer parts after my secondary machine
temporarily crapped out a week ago. Eventually got it to boot, but
it's been so slow I've dragged my feet something awful on website
work. But rather than buy something cheap to replace the secondary
machine, I figured I should jump whole hog into a new primary unit.
Well, "half hog": went with the $200 AMD Ryzen 2700 CPU (8 cores,
my main machine), but much cheaper than the $565 Ryzen 3900 (twice
again as fast); 64G of DDR 3000 SDRAM, instead of the 128G maximum;
a 1TB M.2 slot SSD; on-board graphics (serious gamers could double
the price of their computer here); a mid-range 750W power supply;
and a relatively cheap box (because I still want a built-in DVD
drive, which the fancy boxes no longer support). Where I did splurge
was on a new 32-inch monitor UHD monitor. Should be relatively easy
to put it together and load up Xubuntu. One resolution is to only do
UTF-8 on the new box, so to get the extra speed, I'll have to convert
The basement/garage project will be a lot more work, and take a
lot more out of my music time. I'm sick and tired of not being able
to find tools I know I have. I expect to wind up with an inventory,
in some kind of database or spreadsheet, with everything a bit
neater. Perhaps success there will lead to a second project, to
start to unburden the house of excess stuff, including a few books
and CDs. At one point I thought of donating the latter to a library,
and never went through with that (and feel less inspired every time
they name another building after the Kochs). Open to ideas there.
Haven't done any significant work on my 2020 election book, but
keep thinking about it. The book I'm currently reading on George
Washington has some relevance, as he has one thing in common with
Trump (extraordinary riches) but is otherwise Trump's polar opposite
(well, aside from the race thing).
New records reviewed this week:
- Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia (2016-19 , Ropeadope): [r]: B+(**)
- Michaela Anne: Desert Dove (2019, Yep Roc): [r]: B+(*)
- Bonnie Bishop: The Walk (2019, Thirty Tigers): [r]: B+(**)
- Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise (2018 , International Anthem): [r]: A-
- Chromatics: Closer to Grey (2019, Italians Do It Better): [r]: B
- Crosscurrents Trio [Dave Holland/Zakir Hussain/Chris Potter]: Good Hope (2018 , Edition): [r]: A-
- Croy & the Boys: Howdy High-Rise (2019, Spaceflight): [r]: B+(**)
- Michael Formanek Very Practical Trio/Tim Berne/Mary Halvorson: Even Better (2019, Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
- Bill Frisell: Harmony (2019, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Dream Time (2019, Enja): [r]: B+(**)
- Gethen Jenkins: Western Gold (2019, 5 Music): [r]: B+(*)
- Georgette Jones: Skin (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
- Roger Kellaway: The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway (2010 , IPO): [cd]: A- [11-01]
- Chris Knight: Almost Daylight (2019, Drifters Church): [r]: A-
- L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: Complicate Your Life With Violence (2019, Mello Music Group): [r]: A-
- Doug MacDonald & the Tarmac Ensemble: Jazz Marathon 4: Live at Hangar 18 (2019, DMAC, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
- Dan McCarthy: City Abstract (2019, Origin): [cd]: B
- Mike & the Moonpies: Cheap Silver & Solid Country Gold (2019, Prairie Rose): [r]: B+(*)
- Joshua Redman & Brooklyn Rider: Sun on Sand (2019, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(**)
- Reut Regev R*Time: Keep Winning (2019, Enja): [r]: A-
- Chris Speed Trio: Respect for Your Toughness (2018 , Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
- Chip Stephens/Stenn Wilson: Sadness & Soul (2018 , Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
- Gebhard Ullmann/Hans Lüdemann/Oliver Potratz/Eric Schaefer: MikroPULS (2017 , Intuition): [cd]: A-
- Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines (2019, Oh Boy): [r]: A-
- Alice Wallace: Into the Blue (2019, Rebelle Road): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Ernest Hood: Neighborhoods: Memories of Times Past (1975 , Freedom to Spend): [r]: B
- Esbjörn Svensson Trio: E.S.T. Live in Gothenburg (2001 , ACT, 2CD): [cd]: A- [10-25]
- Barney Wilen: Live in Tokyo '91 (1991 , Elemental Music, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Chromatics: Kill for Love (2012, Italians Do It Better): [sc]: B+(***)
- Joanna Newsom: The Milk-Eyed Mender (2004, Drag City): [r]: B+(*)
- Joanna Newsom: Ys (2006, Drag City): [r]: B
- Joanna Newsom: Have One on Me (2010, Drag City, 2CD): [r]: B
- Reut Regev: This Is R*Time (2008 , Ropeadope): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Calabria Foti: Prelude to a Kiss (Moco) [11-01]
- Jerome Jennings: Solidarity (Iola) [11-09]
- Per Texas Johansson: Stråk På Himlen Och Stora Hus (Moserobie)
- Fredrik Ljungkvist Trio: Atlantis (Moserobie)
Sunday, October 20, 2019
Half a week here, after my
Roundup came out on Thursday. Still too exhausted to write an
Some scattered links this week:
Jedediah Purdy has an idea that could save us from capitalism and the
climate crisis: Interview with Purdy about his latest book, This
Land Is Our Land. Article doesn't live up to its premise, not all
Purdy's fault, but I've never found his books all that satisfying.
Tulsi Gabbard calls Hillary Clinton "the queen of warmongers" in her
latest clash with top Democrats. A point which was pretty obvious
after Clinton called Gabbard "the favorite of the Russians." Clinton
is also still bear-baiting Jill Stein; see Tessa Stuart:
Green Party torches Hillary Clinton for claiming Jill Stein is 'totally'
a Russian asset. I've seen people attempt to defend Clinton on this
(e.g., Charles P Pierce:
Hillary Clinton is more than qualified to judge the effectiveness of
foreign-influenced candidates), but they're rubbing salt into a
still tender wound. Russian interference in 2016 is well established
as a fact, but neither explains nor excuses Clinton's loss to Trump,
nor does it make Trump unworthy (although lots of other things do)
let alone brand him as some kind of Russian stooge. Moreover, such
charges appear to have the intent of worsening US-Russian relations,
at a time when better relations with Russia would be helpful on many
issues. When Clinton attacks Gabbard and Stein as "favorites of the
Russians," she's really warning Democratic candidates that Russia is
bad and they should repeat her 2016 sabre-rattling mistakes. That the
net effect of her attacks has been to increase Gabbard's popularity
only underscores how irrelevant Clinton has become. For something
much deeper on Gabbard, see Kerry Howley:
Tulsi Gabbard had a very strange childhood. [PS: Robert Wright
on Clinton's attacks:
Virality and virulence. Another valuable Wright post:
How the New York Times distorts our view of Syria.]
The US has backed 21 of the 28 'crazy' militias leading Turkey's brutal
invasion of northern Syria: "Former and current US officials have
slammed the Turkish mercenary force of 'Arab militias' for executing
and behading Kurds in northern Syria. New data from Turkey reveals that
almost all of these militias were armed and trained in the past by the
CIA and Pentagon."
Wildfires are raging in Lebanon. Experts say they saw this coming.
"Fires are burning across Lebanon during a record heatwave."
The man who rigged America's election maps: "How Tom Hofeller shifted
the balance of power by taking gerrymandering to the extreme."
William D Cohan:
"There is definite hanky-panky going on": The fantastically profitable
mystery of the Trump chaos trades: "The president's talk can move
markets -- and it's made some futures traders billions. Did they know
what he was going to say before he said it?" Related: Jake Johnson:
Democrats demand federal investigation of 'suspicious' stock sales linked
to Trump's economy-shifting trade war moves. Also:
Hey Securities and Exchange Commission, if you are watching. Someone is
trading on insider info.
Ocasio-Cortez credits Sanders for her political awakening at Bernie's
comeback rally in Queens.
Trump is right: Ending the endless wars starts in Syria. This is a
little mealy-mouthed, but not exceptionally so for a House Representative
(R-OH): I'd reject "after 9/11, America had a clear cause for war in
Afghanistan" and some of the chest-beating about America's military,
but this shows that some Republicans are eager to claim the mantel of
peace, especially when Democrats cede that ground. Also note:
Republican voters are largely backing Trump's withdrawal from Syria.
Syria critic Lindsey Graham reverses stance, says Trump's policy could
succeed. It's getting really hard to overstate how completely Trump
has the Republican Party under his thumb.
Socialism doesn't work? An emerging middle class of Bolivians would
beg to differ.
Existential threat versus existential crisis: "The Great Depression
and the Climate Crisis, New Deals then and now."
Adam Goldman/William K Rashbaum:
Review of Russia inquiry grows as FBI witnesses are questioned:
After complaining about "witch hunts," Trump and Barr order up one
more to their liking.
It's not news that Trump is corrupt. What's new is how he is succeeding
in corrupting our government.
For the first time, workers are paying a higher tax rate than investors
and owners: "The proximate cause of the shift was Trump's 2017 tax
cut, which dramatically slashed taxes on corporate profits and estates."
Bernie Sanders hasn't killed identity politics: Maybe not, but he's
defined an identity that transcends the usual boxes that Democratic Party
proponents of "identity politics" like to tick off, partly because he's
revived an old identity "centrist" Democrats have been trying to wash
their hands of (the working class), and partly because he has no desire
to make those other distinctions.
Trump isn't bringing any troops home. In fact, he has sent an additional
14,000 troops to the Mideast since May. It's just another con.
The UK Parliament just blew up Boris Johnson's Brexit plans:
"Parliament just voted the make the prime minister seek a Brexit delay,
even if his deal passes." Kirby previously wrote:
The UK and EU have a new Brexit agreement. But it's not a done deal
yet. More on Brexit:
Syria, the Kurds, Turkey and the US: Why progressives should not support
a new imperial partition in the Middle East.
Trump can't stop bragging to foreign leaders about his resorts.
Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez make a show of force in
Messages show Boeing employees knew in 2016 of problems that turned
deadly on the 737 Max.
Biden's attacks on Medicare for All undermine the entire Democratic
Trump's choice to bring G7 to his own resort would violate conflict-of-interest
law, if he weren't President.
Mujib Mashal/Thomas Gibbons-Neff:
Civilian casualties reach highest level in Afghan War, UN says.
Aaron David Miller/Eugene Rumer/Richard Sokolsky:
What Trump actually gets right about Syria: First paragraph back
peddles a bit: "Trump's assessment of the situation [in Syria] is not
entirely wrong." Still, their main points are spot on, even if they
aren't flattering to the American ego: "The US-Kurdish relationship
was never going to last"; "Russia is the key power broker in Syria";
"Assad is here to stay"; "There won't be a second caliphate"; and
"Syria is not a vital US interest." Turns out that Miller wrote a
book back in 2014 (ergo, pre-Trump): The End of Greatness: Why
America Can't Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President.
From a note on the book: "Americans are adrift in a kind of Presidential
Bermuda Triangle suspended between the great presidents we want and
the ones we can no longer have. . . . Indeed, greatness is too rare
to be relevant in our current politics, and driven as it is by
nation-encumbering crises, too dangerous to be desirable." Good
thing he got this book written before Trump came around, else he
would have had to incorporate a twist too deranged to anticipate:
a "stable genius" with "unmatched wisdom" who blundered his way
into crisis only to find himself totally lacking in whatever it
takes for "greatness" to emerge.
Why Republicans should be worried about their chances of retaking the
Adam K Raymond:
World's least self aware person, Donald Trump Jr, attacks Bidens for
Staring down Donald Trump, the same elephant in every room.
We are not "all Greta Thunberg," but all of us know what it's like to
be ambushed by Donald Trump. He pops up on your social media feed with
hateful words and impulsive policy announcements. He flickers on TV
screens in bus terminals and airport departure lounges, forever looming
over your shoulder. He barges unbidden into your dreams. It is a condition
of being alive in America in 2019. No matter who you are or what you're
trying to accomplish, whether you're a 16-year-old working to save the
planet or an ordinary citizen trying to make it through the day with
some peace of mind intact, you will inevitably confront the specter of
Trump, drifting into the frame in a cloud of disorder and bad vibes.
Even the president's most dedicated enablers scan the sky warily,
awaiting today's cyclone, the next reckless, capricious twist of the
plot. The door swings open, the president enters, all heads turn. The
camera whips around, and suddenly, everything else -- better angels,
higher ideals, common decency, common sense, beauty, truth -- blurs
into the background.
Matthew Rosenberg/Kevin Roose:
Trump campaign floods web with ads, raking in cash as Democrats struggle.
The miseducation of Mean Pete: "Once the Rhodes Scholar version of
Mister Rogers, Buttigieg has become the snarling incarnation of anti-left
rage." You know, I've long suspect that a big part of the pitch centrist
Democrats make to their donors, even if only implicit, is that they will
help business by, among other favors, keeping the left contained. That's
part of why Clinton and Obama hardly ever lifted a finger to help labor,
and it's part of why they felt few qualms about surrendering control of
Congress, thereby giving up any chance of implementing the progressive
platforms they successfully ran for president on. Buttigieg has done an
impressive job of raising money from those same donors, only he's having
to be much more explicit about carrying their water, and in 2019 those
donors are much more worried by the left than they are by Trump and
the Republicans. His eagerness to do that has made him a viable niche
candidate, but when it comes to converting money to votes he may find
himself pinned down way too narrowly. A related article from June 25:
Do Pete Buttigieg's donors know him better than we do?: "The South
Bend mayor has become a darling to Silicon Valley and Wall Street elite.
That alone is a red flag."
What I learned from the debate: Democrats still can't level with voters
about the American empire. Related: Alex Emmons:
Trump's chaotic Syria exit puts anti-war 2020 Democrats in a delicate
spot. Schwarz also wrote:
The US is now betraying the Kurds for the eighth time.
'A threat to democracy': William Barr's speech on religious freedom
alarms liberal Catholics.
Media alarmed by US pullout from Syria -- which didn't actually happen.
US justice department resumes use of death penalty and schedules five
As Trump fumes, GOP advances real party goal of making federal judiciary
When the dream of owning a home became a nightmare: "A federal
program to encourage black homeownership in the 1970s ended in a flood
William Barr's wild misreading of the First Amendment.
A new report suggests Trump may have committed financial crimes.
The French economist who helped invent Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax:
Trump loves dictators. Erdogan is the latest to take advantage of that.
I don't think it's right to call Erdogan a dictator. He holds his office
due to winning a reasonably open election (although he has used surviving
an attempted military coup as an excuse for consolidating power in ways
that may undermine future democracy). Many of the other "dictdators" Trump
seems to admire were also elected, including Putin (Russia), Modi (India),
Bolsonaro (Brazil), and Duterte (Philippines), but so was the only one
Trump has actually called a dictator: Maduro (Venezuela). Clearly, he
has little appreciation of, or concern for, the democratic process -- no
surprise, given that he was elected with the flimsiest popular mandate of
any of the above, but also because right-wingers are always contemptous
of democracy, perhaps because even they suspect that their rule is
The Syrian ceasefire the US brokered is already falling apart.
Top Trump official throws Giuliani under the bus in impeachment inquiry
Impeachment is too important to leave to Congress -- it's going to take
mass mobilization. I don't want to rain on anyone's desire to march,
but I don't really buy this, even before discounting the inapplicability
of various foreign examples. If impeachment happens, it's going to be
done on narrow legalistic grounds, and it's not going to change power
dynamics in any way. Mike Pence would replace Trump as president, he's
pretty much hand-picked the cabinet anyway, and Congress would remain
divided and ineffectual as at present. Sure, it's merited, and sure, it
would be a chastising lesson for future presidents. Most of all, it
presents an educational opportunity. But nothing significant can change
until the 2020 elections, so that's where most of that pent-up energy
should be directed. Well, that and keeping the frameworks for the rest
of the political struggle viable, because even if the Democrats win big
in 2020, we're still going to need a peace and social justice movement,
union organizing, environmental awareness, and so forth.
Thursday, October 17, 2019
Sometime Wednesday afternoon it occurred to me that I might as well
go ahead and round up the first rush of Democratic debate links for
the Weekend Roundup. Then I wondered whether I could just dispatch
them early, in a Midweek Roundup (something I've done a couple times,
but not often). So here's what I rounded up by bedtime. Not many
comments, other than to note that the "conventional wisdom" on Syria
is not only worse than what Tulsi Gabbard has to say, it's worse
than Donald Trump (see, e.g., his dismissal of Lindsey Graham,
Some scattered links this week:
Graham threatens to become Trump's "worst nightmare" in escalating
feud: This promises to be more fun than Graham's two-plus years
of utter sycophancy, but amidst all the insanity Trump has spouted
over the last week, he sure has Graham's number:
Trump, however, doesn't seem to particularly care what his closest
Senate ally thinks.
"Lindsey Graham would like to stay in the Middle East for the next
thousand years, with thousands of soldiers fighting other people's
wars," Trump told reporters on Wednesday afternoon. "I want to get
out of the Middle East."
Trump said Graham ought to focus on "the judiciary" and investigating
Trump's "deep state" conspiracy theory instead.
"That's what the people of South Carolina want him to focus on,"
the President said. "The people of South Carolina don't want us to
get into a war with Turkey, a NATO member, or with Syria. Let them
fight their own wars."
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
No one has a damn clue how many jobs will be lost to automation.
Putin is on a victory lap of the Middle East. I suspect this is
overstated, and of little practical import, but it does reflect the
fact that the US has seen its reputation as a benefactor and power
erode after decades of incoherent, reckless, and obsessive actions
(not least its subservience to Israel). Moreover, America's position
is likely to deteriorate further, especially as American public
opinion turns against Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, and Egypt -- a
conjuncture of Islamophobia on the right and anti-authoritarianism
on the left. Trump's unique contribution to this is that he's
convinced many despots in the Middle East that they no longer have
to choose between the US and Russia.
Turkey's Syria invasion rapidly backfiring for Ankara.
Israel prepares to turn Bedouin citizens into refugees in their own
American Brexit: "It's not just Britain headed for the subbasement
of imperial history."
Turkey's Erdogan presses offensive in Syria boosted by a nationalist
surge at home. Doesn't that often happen in the early days of a
war, before blowback occurs and the consequences sink in?
Bernie Sanders's plan to reshape corporate America, explained.
Extorting Ukraine is bad enough, but Trump has done much worse.
Ben Hubbard, et al:
In Syria, Russia is pleased to fill an American void.
The racial pessimism of Clarence Thomas: Interview with Corey Robin,
whose new book is The Enigma of Clarence Thomas.
Trump 'surprised' the grieving parents of a British teen at the White
Moderators and rivals pound Warren on middle-class tax-hike evasions.
It's a rather dumb question, implying that middle class people aren't
paying for health insurance now, where in fact they're paying through
the nose into a scheme that squeezes them harder every year.
Sorry, but Democrats need to talk about Hunter Biden. "Trump won't
In 2016, Bernie Sanders famously refused to attack Clinton's emails in
the debates. "The American people are sick and tired about hearing about
your damn emails," he said to applause. The result was that rather than
Democrats realizing how damaging that story was -- and how ineffective
Clinton was at putting it to rest -- during the primary, they found that
out in the general election. And yes, the media deserves the blame for
the coverage decisions, but Democrats can't simply assume the media won't
make the same mistakes in 2020. The lesson of Clinton's emails is that
unfair smears can help Donald Trump get elected.
One thing that might help here would be to never let an answer to
this question go more than one sentence without bringing up Trump and
his family of leeches. Then feel free to point out more examples of
families profiting from their genes, like the Bushs, the Cheneys, the
Romneys, and (sure) the Kennedys. Nepotism is an endemic problem in
America, but it's worse in times of greater inequality and corruption,
like now. Maybe go on and offer a back-handed compliment to the Bidens,
who at least have the decency to recognize that even the appearance
of impropriety is something that needs to be avoided. Of course, this
approach would work better if the candidate isn't Joe Biden, but even
he could handle the question much better than he did in the debate.
Forth Worth officer charged with murder in killing of black woman in
her own home.
Dylan Matthews, et al:
5 winners and 3 losers from the October Democratic presidential debate.
Winners: Bernie Sanders; Elizabeth Warren; Pete Buttigieg; opioid epidemic
activists; universal basic income. Losers: Tulsi Gabbard; Joe Biden; free
trade. My biggest problem with these judgments concerns Gabbard. Zack
Beauchamp charges her with "a series of blatantly false statements,"
but the first one he points out is "the regime change war we've been
waging in Syria." He flatly asserts that "The US is not waging a war of
regime chance in Syria (as Biden pointed out later in the debate)," but
the US was an early supporter of anti-Assad forces, way before ISIS
emerged as a factor in the war. ISIS gave the US an excuse to use air
power and ground troops in Syria, but the US never wavered in its
opposition to the Assad government (even while fighting ISIS undercut
the opposition and helped Assad stay in power). Beauchamp repeats the
"regime change war" canard several times, and applauds Buttigieg for
his "succinct and devastating" putdown of Gabbard: "You can put an
end to endless war without embracing Donald Trump's policy, as you're
doing." But Gabbard has been much more consistently opposed to Trump
on Syria than her critics, who seem to have forgotten how we got into
this horrible, nasty war in the first place. You can read the debate
Here's what the 2020 Democrats are saying about Trump's Syria policy.
Warren's statement there isn't bad: "We need to get out but we need to
do this through a negotiated solution." A President Warren might even
be able to do that. Indeed, the best solution to all of America's many
foreign policy problems would be negotiation, aimed at replacing the
myopic projection of American power with mutually beneficial international
frameworks. But Gabbard is less deluded by American myth than any other
candidate, and that clarity helps her here. (Where she falls down is not
having the commitment to justice that you see with Sanders, or for that
matter with Warren.) But Trump is incapable of negotiating anything, not
least because he has no sense of decency himself, so his own sloppy exit
is probably the best one can hope for now. You could even say that what
he's done is accidentally brilliant: by double-crossing first the Kurds
then the Turks in rapid succession, he has pivoted US policy in favor of
consolidating Assad's power, which is at present the only viable path to
peace in Syria. No reason to think he was smart enough to figure that
out himself, but maybe Vladimir Putin was. Trump's unique contribution
was in being too insensitive to object.
Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou:
House Republicans joined Democrats in condemning Trump's actions in
Syria. Vote was 354-60.
Ronan Farrow's new book is a reminder of how silencing women helped
Trump get elected: Book is called Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies,
and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators. Also on the book: Daniel
Ronan Farrow: National Enquirer shredded secret Trump documents.
The fourth 2020 Democratic presidential debate, explained in under 25
Documents reveal hospital industry is leading fight against Medicare for
Tom Steyer shouldn't be running for president.
There are only 5 candidates still standing after the latest Democratic
debate: He's counting Joe Biden out, which seems a bit premature,
so you can probably guess the rest: Warren, Sanders, Harris, Buttigieg,
and Klobuchar. Assumption seems to be that the latter two-three will
pick up "moderate" support as Biden falters/flails. I think that may
misread much of Biden's support: what they like about him is that he
comes off as a solid, old-fashioned Democrat, safe and respectable,
at a time when Republicans have every structural advantage and have
never been more dangerous. Others may have similar platforms, but no
one else has that particular vibe, or comes close.
California's deliberate blackouts were outrageous and harmful. They're
going to happen again.
Giuliani's $500,000 payout from Fraud Guarantee reveals the hypocrisy of
his attacks on Hunter Biden: "Giuliani is staunchly opposed to cashing
in on political connections -- unless he's doing it."
Mick Mulvaney's role in the latest Trump scandal just deepened.
Trump wants to erase protections in Alaska's Tongass National Forest,
a storehouse of carbon.
Kamala Harris's call to suspend Trump's Twitter account, explained.
"It's complicated." I rather doubt that. Steve M.
This is why it's not worth shutting down Trump's Twitter.
In Democratic debate, more evidence that Ukrainegate helps Biden:
"The more Democrats rally around Joe Biden, the clearer Donald Trump's
Is this Elizabeth Warren's Democratic Party?
Monday, October 14, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 32212  rated (+29), 229  unrated (+0).
Cutoff was Sunday evening, after posting
Weekend Roundup. Didn't have all of the unpacking done, so unrated
count is a bit low. The two A- records came early in the week. Both
are available on Bandcamp:
Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou. There's a good chance that The Rough
Guide to the Roots of Country Music might have hit A- on a second
or third play, but not having the booklet, having to spend close to
an hour checking dates, and the suspicion that I've heard everything
there elsewhere didn't dispose me to be especially generous.
I saw a little bit (maybe 10%) of Ken Burns' Country Music
PBS series. Not much there I didn't already know, but thought what
I saw was pretty useful -- certainly didn't strike me as distorted
and deceptive, like his Jazz series. As far as I can tell,
the only product tie-ins are called The Soundtrack, available
in both a 2-CD edition and a 5-CD box. I don't like streaming boxes --
actually, I don't have the patience, in large part because it's hard
to break them up in to listenable chunks, and there's no booklet to
help you keep score -- so I probably won't bother, but the tracklists
look impeccable. Probably not as good as Classic Country Music:
A Smithsonian Collection (also 5-CD), but better than Columbia
Country Classics (from 1990, also 5-CD). Virtually no overlap with
Rough Guide, for reasons that hardly need explication.
I read about the Exbats in last week's
Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide. If the link doesn't seem to
work, maybe you should subscribe? I was pleased to find my previous
A- picks for Chance the Rapper and Tyler Childers as good or better.
Also that he found more than I did in Black Midi, Chuck Cleaver,
Rapsody, and Sleater-Kinney. Some folks have asked about
on a new schedule, fourth Wednesday of each month, and subscribers
will get it delivered to their mailboxes.
Continuing to plug things into my
metacritic files, which
is helping me keep up to date. For instance, I can tell you the
best-reviewed new records of the week (10-11):
Big Thief: Two Hands (15);
Kim Gordon: No Home Record (12);
Elbow: Giants of All Sizes (8).
Best-reviewed new records of the previous week (10-04):
Angel Olsen: All Mirrors (24) [*];
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Ghosteen (22);
Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayin¿ (16) [***];
Wilco: Ode to Joy (10);
DIIV: Deceiver (9).
New records I most want to track down:
Yazz Ahmed: Polyhymnia;
Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die II: Bird Dogs of Paradise;
Bill Frisell: Harmony;
Abdullah Ibrahim: Dream Time;
Chris Knight: Almost Daylight;
L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: Complicate Your Life With Violence;
Kelsey Waldon: White Noise/White Lines.
New records reviewed this week:
- Rez Abbasi: A Throw of Dice by the Silent Ensemble (2017 , Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(*) [10-19]
- Mats Åleklint/Per-Åke Holmlander/Paal Nilssen-Love: Fish & Steel (2018 , PNL): [bc]: B+(***)
- Simone Baron & Arco Belo: The Space Between Disguises (2019, GenreFluid): [cd]: B- [11-08]
- Katerina Brown: Mirror (2019, Mellowtone Music): [cd]: B [10-18]
- Cashmere Cat: Princess Catgirl (2019, Mad Love/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Drumming Cellist [Kristijan Krajncan]: Abraxas (2019, Sazas): [cd]: A-
- David Finck: Bassically Jazz (2019, Burton Avenue Music): [r]: B+(*)
- Ras Kass: Soul on Ice 2 (2019, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
- Krokofant: Q (2019, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B
- Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (2019, Outside In Music): [cdr]: B
- Little Brother: May the Lord Watch (2019, Imagine Nation Music/For Members Only/Empire): [r]: B+(**)
- Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Song for the Big Chief (2017 , PNL): [bc]: B+(**)
- Bernie Mora & Tangent: No Agenda (2019, Rhombus): [cd]: C+
- Poncho Sanchez: Trane's Delight (2019, Concord Picante): [r]: B
- Louis Sclavis: Characters on a Wall (2018 , ECM): [r]: B+(*)
- Mike Stern-Jeff Lorber Fusion: Eleven (2019, Concord): [r]: C+
- Tinariwen: Amadjar (2019, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
- Kiki Valera: Vivencias En Clave Cubana (2018 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***) [10-16]
- Rodney Whitaker: All Too Soon: The Music of Duke Ellington (2017 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***) [10-16]
- Barrence Whitfield Soul Savage Arkestra: Songs From the Sun Ra Cosmos (2019, Modern Harmonic): [r]: B+(**)
- Carrie Wicks: Reverie (2019, OA2): [cd]: B+(*) [10-16]
- Young M.A: Herstory in the Making (2019, M.A Music/3D): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- The Exbats: E Is 4 Exbats (2016-18 , Burger): [r]: B+(***)
- Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou: Anou Malane (1994 , Sahel Sounds): [r]: A-
- The Rough Guide to the Roots of Country Music: Reborn and Remastered (1926-33 , World Music Network): [r]: B+(***)
- Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Indent: Antioch College/Yellow Springs, Ohio/March 11, 1973 (1973 , Black Sun): [r]: B+(***)
- Cecil Taylor: Mysteries: Untitled (1961-76 , Black Sun): [r]: B+(**)
- The Exbats: A Guide to the Health Issues Affecting Rescue Hens (2016, Burger): [r]: B+(**)
- The Exbats: I've Got the Hots for Charlie Watts (2018, Burger): [r]: B+(***)
- Rodney Whitaker: Ballads and Blues: The Brooklyn Sessions (1998, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
- Barrence Whitfield & the Savages: Soul Flowers of Titan (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Binker Golding: Abstractions of Reality Past and Incredible Feathers (Gearbox)
- Dan McCarthy: City Abstract (Origin) [10-16]
- Mute: Mute (Fresh Sound New Talent) [12-13]
- One O'Clock Lab Band: Lab 2019 (UNT) [11-22]
- Kiki Valera: Vivencias En Clave Cubana (Origin) [10-16]
- Rodney Whitaker: All Too Soon: The Music of Duke Ellington (Origin) [10-16]
- Carrie Wicks: Reverie (OA2) [10-16]
Sunday, October 13, 2019
Trump has gotten a lot of flack this week for his decision allowing
Turkey to invade Syria. Turkey's attack is directed not at the Syrian
government or ISIS but at the Kurdish militias in norther Syria, which
Turkish strong-man Erdogan regards as a potential security threat, as
presumingly giving aid and comfort to Turkey's own Kurdish minority.
The Kurdish militias had not only opposed the Syrian government, which
hardly anyone in America has a kind word for, but also operated as
allies or proxies in America's war against ISIS. Hence, the complaints
you hear most often are that Trump has abandoned a trusted US ally,
and that the invasion is likely to head to a humanitarian disaster --
the emphasis shifting from neocons to their liberal enablers. The
only support Trump has found has come from paleocons like Rand Paul
who want the US to draw back from foreign wars, but don't much care
if the rest of the world destroys itself.
One problem is that Trump (or for that matter Obama) has never had
a coherent strategy on Syria, or for that matter anywhere else in the
Middle East. A reasonable goal would be to maintain peace among stable
governments, biased where possible toward broad-based prosperity with
power sharing and respect for human rights. Obama might have agreed
with that line at the start of Arab Spring, but he soon found that ran
against the main drivers of American Middle East policy: Israel's war
stance, the Arabian oil oligarchies, Iranian exiles, arms merchants,
and scattered pockets of Christians (except in Palestine) -- forces
that had never given more than occasional lip-service to democracy and
human rights, and were flat-out opposed to any whiff of socialism.
Obama was able to help nudge Mubarak aside in Egypt, but when the
Egyptians elected the wrong leaders, he had second thoughts, and didn't
object to the military restoring a friendly dictatorship. Obama had no
such influence in Libya and Syria, so when their leaders violently put
demonstrations down, some Americans saw an opportunity to overthrow
unfriendly regimes through armed conflict. It is fair to say that Obama
was ambivalent about this, but he wound up overseeing a bombing campaign
that killed Qaddafi in Libya, and he provided less overt support to some
of the Syrian opposition forces, and this led to many other parties
intervening in Syria, with different and often conflicting agendas.
It's worth stressing that nothing the US has attempted in the
Middle East has worked, even within the limited and often incoherent
goals that have supposedly guided American policy, let alone advancing
the more laudable goals of peace and broad-based prosperity. Iraq and
Afghanistan have shown that the US is incapable of standing up popular
government after invasion and civil war. Libya suggests that ignoring
a broken country doesn't work any better. But Syria is turning out to
be an even more complete disaster, as the ancien regime remains as the
only viable government. Assad owes his survival to Russia's staunch
support, but also to the US (and the Kurds), who defeated his most
potent opposition: ISIS.
What needs to be done now is to implement a cease fire, to halt all
foreign efforts to provide military support for anti-Assad forces, to
reassert the Assad government over all of Syria, to convince Assad not
to take reprisals against disarmed opponents, and to start rebuilding
and repatriating exiles. Trump's greenlighting of the Turkish invasion
does none of this, and makes any progress that much harder -- not that
there is any reason to think that Trump has the skills and temperament
to negotiate an end to the conflict, even without this blunder.
The only American politician who begins to have the skills to deal
with problems like Syria is Bernie Sanders, because he is the only one
to understand that America's interests -- peace, prosperity, cooperation
everywhere -- are best served when nations everywhere choose governments
that serve the best interests of all of their own peoples (socialism).
Everyone else is more/less stuck in ruts which insist on projecting the
so-called American values of crony capitalism and militarism, the goal
to make the world subservient to the interests of neoliberal capital.
In this regard, Trump differs from the pack only in his reluctance to
dress up greedy opportunism with high-minded aspirations (e.g., Bush's
feminist program for Afghanistan). Trump's freedom from cant could be
refreshing, but like all of his exercises in political incorrectness,
it mostly serves to reveal what a callous and careless creature he is.
Short of Sanders, it might be best to concede that America is not
the solution to the world's woes, that indeed it is a major problem,
so much so that in many cases the most helpful thing we could do is
to withdraw, including support for other countries' interventions.
Syria is an obvious good place to start. On the other hand, replacing
American arms and aims with Turkish ones won't help anyone (not even
PS: After writing the above, Trump ordered the last US
troops out of Syria. That in itself is good news, but everything
else is spiraling rapidly out of control. Meanwhile, Syrian Kurds
are looking for new allies, and finding Assad (see Jason Ditz:
Syrian Kurds, Damascus reach deal in Russia-backed talks).
Some scattered links on this (some of which are just examples of
what I've been complaining about):
Some scattered links this week:
High crimes and misdemeanors of the fading American Century.
The climate crisis and the failure of economics.
Why Trump's fourth Secretary of Homeland Security just resigned:
Kevin McAleenan, "acting" Secretary for six months now..
Impeachment tentacles spread throughout Trump's team.
What the BLM shake-up could mean for public lands and their climate
Trump's undeclared state of emergency: "Trump is counting on his
base to endorse his increasingly open law-breaking."
Trump signed an executive order about how much he hates Medicare-for-all:
"The order's intent is to promote Medicare Advantage but it has a lot of
vague language" -- mostly intended to undermine the Medicare Trump claims
Ellen DeGeneres, George W Bush, and the death of uncritical niceness.
US and China reach a "phase one" trade deal: "President Donald Trump
announced an agreement to delay tariffs and for China to buy agricultural
"They murdered this woman": Texans outraged after an officer shoots a
black woman in her own home.
The case for prosecuting the Sacklers and other opioid executives.
Bernie Sanders takes aim at the DNC with his new anti-corruption plan.
Charles P Pierce:
Donald Trump: xenophobe in public, international mobster in private.
This climate problem is bigger than cars and much harder to solve:
Heavy industry is responsible for around 22 percent of global CO2 emissions.
Forty-two percent of that -- about 10 percent of global emissions -- comes
from combustion to produce large amounts of high-temperature heat for
industrial products like cement, steel, and petrochemicals.
To put that in perspective, industrial heat's 10 percent is greater than
the CO2 emissions of all the world's cars (6 percent) and planes (2 percent)
combined. Yet, consider how much you hear about electric vehicles. Consider
how much you hear about flying shame. Now consider how much you hear
about . . . industrial heat.
Not much, I'm guessing. But the fact is, today, virtually all of
that combustion is fossil-fueled, and there are very few viable
low-carbon alternatives. For all kinds of reasons, industrial heat
is going to be one of the toughest nuts to crack, carbon-wise.
Dig beneath the world's far-right governments -- you'll find fossil
David K Shipler:
Punishing the poor for being hungry: "The Trump administration wages
war on food stamps."
Anti-free-speechers still aren't taking their own arguments seriously.
A critique of Andrew Marantz, author of Antisocial: Online Extremists,
Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, as
Free speech is killing us: "Noxious language is causing real-world
violence. What can we do about it?"
We're in a permanent coup. Getting a little paranoid here, arguing
that as bad as Trump is, the "U.S. intelligence community" that seems
out to get him is actually more sinister.
The forgotten trauma of a forgotten war: "As the world looks away,
death stalks the Democratic Republic of Congo."
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Kenneth P Vogel:
Giuliani's Ukraine team: In search of influence, dirt and money.
It took decades, but the anti-New Deal crusaders have triumphed:
"A decades-long campaign by a handful of well-heeled foundations has
succeeded in laundering ideas through academia into law."
Tuesday, October 08, 2019
Update: Actual configuration, purchased 10/15:
- AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 8-Core 3.7GHz Socket AM4 PM 16976: [$199.99]
- ASRock X570 Steel Legend AM4 AMD X570 Motherboard Combo w/CPU: $379.98
- G.SKILL TridentZ 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3000: $289.99
- Intel 660p Series M.2 2280 1TB PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4 3D2, QLC SSD: $99.99
- Corsair RM750 750W ATX12V v2.52/EPS12V v2.92 Full Modular Power Supply: $114.99
- Lite-On DVD Burner Black SATA iHAS124-14 OEM: $16.99+$1.99
Thought I'd do a little new computer shopping (Newegg). Possible
- CPU: Compare to 2012: AMD Fx-8150 PM 8250 $199.99; top passmark
now: 32,946; best sub-$200: 16,976 (AMD Ryzen 7 2700X):
- AMD Ryzen 9 3900X 12-Core 3.8GHz Socket AM4 PM 31847: $564.99
- AMD Ryzen 7 3700X 8-Core 3.6GHz Socket AM4 PM 23883: $329.99
- [*] AMD Ryzen 7 2700X 8-Core 3.7GHz Socket AM4 PM 16976: $199.99
- AMD Ryzen 7 2700 8-Core 3.2GHz Socket AM4 PM 15080: $178.99
- AMD Ryzen 7 1700X 8-Core 3.4GHz Socket AM4 PM 14812: $169.99
- AMD Ryzen 5 2600X 6-Core 3.6GHz Socket AM4 PM 14362: $159.99
- AMD Ryzen 5 2600 6-Core 3.4GHz Socket AM4 PM ?: $119.99
- AMD Ryzen 5 1600 6-Core 3.2GHz AM4 PM 12279: $114.82
- AMD Ryzen 3 3200G 4-Core 3.6GHz AM4 PM 8016: $94.99
- AMD Ryzen 3 2200G 4-Core 3.5GHz AM4 PM 7324: $87.99
- AMD Ryzen 3 1200 4-Core 3.1GHz AM4 PM 6792: $59.99
- AMD FX-8350 Vishera 8-Core 4.0GHz Socket AM3+ PM ?: $197.29
- AMD FX-6350 PM 6954: $?
- AM4 Motherboards: All AMD4 ATX, most X570 chip set:
- ASUS ROG STRIX X570-E Gaming: 4x288 memory slots (128GB Max), 2xPCI Express 4.0x16, 1xPCI Express, 8xSATA 6GBs, Radeon Vega Graphics, multi-VGA, SupremeFX High Definition Audio, 2.5G LAN, Wireless 2x2 Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth, 7xUSB 3.2: $326.99
- ASRock X570 Taichi: $299.99
- ASRock X470 Taichi: $269.99
- [*] ASRock X570 Steel Legend WiFi: $199.99
- ASUS TUF Gaming X570-Plus: $199.59
- ASUS Prime X470-Pro: 64GB RAM max (DDR4 4x288, 2400-3600), video, audio, 1GB LAN: $149.99
- ASRock X570 Phantom Gaming 4: $148.99
- ASUS ROG STRIX B-450-F Gaming: 64GB Max, PCI Express 3.0x16, : $129.99
- AM4 Motherboards: All AMD4 Micro-ATX:
- ASUS TUF B-450M-Plus Gaming: AMD 8450 chipset, 4x288 DDR4 (64GB max), 1 PCI Express 2.0x16, 1 PCI Express 2.0x1, 2+4xSATA 6GB/s, Radeon Vega graphics, 10/100/1000 LAN: $99.36
- RAM: DDR4 SDRAM:
- Corsair Vengeance LPX 128GB (4x32GB) DDR4 2400: $579.99
- Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (2x32GB) DDR4 3000: $324.99
- Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3200: $319.99
- Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3000: $285.99
- G.SKILL TridentZ 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3600: $329.99
- [*] G.SKILL TridentZ 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3000: $289.99
- G.SKILL Ripjaws V 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3600: $289.99
- G.SKILL Ripjaws V 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 3200: X[$249.99] $322.05
- G.SKILL Ripjaws V 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 2666: $269.99
- G.SKILL Aegis 64GB (4x16GB) DDR4 2133: $219.99
- SSD:; SSD PCI Express 4.0 Hyper M.2 SSD is faster:
- Samsung 860 EVO 2.5" 1TB SATA III: $129.99
- Western Digital 3D NAND 2.5" 1TB SATA III: $114.99
- Intel 660p M.2 2280 1TB PCIe NVMe 3.0 x4 3D2: $109.99
- Samsung 860 EVO 2.5" 500GB SATA III: $74.99
- Cases: ATX
- Corsair Crystal 570X Glass Mid Tower: $189.97
- LIAN LI PC-011 Dynamic Razer Edition Mid Tower: $164.99
- Phanteks Eclipse P600S Antracite Gray Steel/Tempered Glass Mid Tower: $149.99+$6.99
- Thermaltake Core X71 Tempered Glass Full Tower: $142.52
- Antec Nine Hundred Black Steel Mid Tower: $132.90
- Phanteks Enthoo PH-ES614P_BK Black Steel/Plastic Full Tower: $99.99+$6.99
- Antec Performance Series P110 Luce Mid Tower: $99.99
- Antec Three Hundred Two Black Steel Mid Tower: $94.77
- Corsair Carbide SPEC-06 Black Steel/Plastic/Tempered Glass Mid Tower: $89.99
- Corsair Carbide SPEC-05 Black Steel/Plastic/Acrylic Mid Tower: $65.99
- DIYPC D480-W-RGB White Mid Tower: $58.99
- Fractal Design focus G White Mid Tower: $54.97+$7.99
- Power Supplies: ATX12V/EPS12V, full modular:
- Corsair RMx series: 1000W: $199.98; 850W: $129.99; 750W: $119.89; 650W: $114.99; 550W: $99.99
- Corsair RM series: 850W: $124.98; 750W: $114.99; 650W: $104.99
- Corsair CX series: 550W: $64.99; 450W: $59.99
- EVGA SuperNOVA: 1000W: $184.37; 850W: $139.99; 750W: $160.99, 650W: $161.98; 550W: $109.99
- Thermaltake Toughpower Grand: 850W: $124.00; 750W: $94.99; 650W: 92.99
- Thermaltake Smart Pro: 750W: $86.00
- CD/DVD Burners: SATA
Monday, October 07, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 32183  rated (+27), 229  unrated (+10).
Slow start on the week, partly because I flushed Monday's listening
September Streamnotes, and
ended this Sunday night. Partly because the Kevin Sun 2-CD album sat
in the changer four days while I slowly made up my mind. Sun's album
never quite matched his Trio debut, nor is the George Coleman
album quite as terrific as his The Master Speaks, but in the
end both came close enough. Among the also-rans, Laurie Anderson's
spoken word over Tibetan ghost music came closest, and might deserve
further attention. Turns out Phil Overeem likes the album a lot
(number 9 on his
latest list. Also found my two good vault albums there. More to
follow next week.
I added those and a few others to my
metacritic file. In turn
I checked out several of the better-rated albums I hadn't bothered
with, but didn't find I enjoyed it much. Most I'm pretty sure of, but
artists like Angel Olsen, Bon Iver, and Jessica Pratt just make me
wonder if I'm getting too old for this shit. Also in the "don't do
it for me" category are fairly ordinary rockers like Cherry Glazerr,
Sleater-Kinney, and Girl Band.
Got a lot of mail last week (today's take is listed below but not
counted above). I'm noting future release dates as I get them, also
when I do reviews. The queue is usually sorted FIFO, as I suspect
keeping it sorted by release date would be a big hassle. Upcoming
week may be less than usual, as I have some house projects, plus a
bit of cooking coming up. Then some medical shit, before Trump takes
that away, too.
New records reviewed this week:
- Laurie Anderson/Tenzin Choegyal/Jesse Paris Smith: Songs From the Bardo (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: B+(***)
- Ben Bennett/Zach Darrup/Jack Wright: Never (2018, Palliative): [bc]: B+(*)
- Bon Iver: I,I (2019, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B
- Danny Brown: Uknowhatimsayin¿ (2019, Warp): [r]: B+(***)
- Cherry Glazerr: Stuffed & Ready (2019, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B
- George Coleman: The Quartet (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: A-
- The Comet Is Coming: The Afterlife (2019, Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
- Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons (2018 , Pyroclastic): [r]: B+(***)
- Girl Band: The Talkies (2019, Rough Trade): [r]: B+(*)
- Robert Glasper: Fuck Yo Feelings (2019, Loma Vista): [r]: B+(*)
- Mika: My Name Is Michael Holbrook (2019, Republic/Virgin EMI): [r]: B+(**)
- Simon Nabatov: Readings: Red Cavalry (2018 , Leo): [r]: B+(*)
- Simon Nabatov: Readings: Gileya Revisited (2018 , Leo): [r]: B+(*)
- Angel Olsen: All Mirrors (2019, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
- Jessica Pratt: Quiet Signs (2019, Mexican Summer): [r]: B-
- Carmen Sandim: Play Doh (2019, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(*) [10-25]
- Sleater-Kinney: The Center Won't Hold (2019, Mom + Pop): [r]: B
- Tyshawn Sorey and Marilyn Crispell: The Adornment of Time (2018 , Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
- Kevin Sun: The Sustain of Memory (2019, Endectomorph Music, 2CD): [cd]: A- [11-15]
- Tegan and Sara: Hey, I'm Just Like You (2019, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(**)
- Andrés Vial/Dezron Douglas/Eric McPherson: Gang of Three (2019, Chromatic Audio): [cd]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Fania Goes Psychedelic (1967-71 , Craft Latino): [r]: B+(***)
- World Spirituality Classics 2: The Time for Peace Is Now (1970s , Luaka Bop): [r]: B+(***)
- Bertrand Denzler Cluster: Y? (1998 , Leo Lab): [r]: B+(***)
- Bertrand Denzler/Norbert Pfammatter: NanoCluster 02/2000 (2000, Leo Lab): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Rez Abbasi: A Throw of Dice by the Silent Ensemble (Whirlwind): October 19
- Katerina Brown: Mirror (Mellowtone Music): October 18
- Drumming Cellist [Kristijan Krajncan]: Abraxas (Sazas)
- Lorenzo Feliciati/Michele Rabbia: Antikythera (RareNoise): cdr, October 25
- Satoko Fujii/Joe Fonda: Four (Long Song): November 8
- Francesco Guerri: Su Mimmi Non Si Spara! (RareNoise): cdr, October 25
- Roger Kellaway: The Many Open Minds of Roger Kellaway (IPO): November 1
- Doug MacDonald & the Tarmac Ensemble: Jazz Marathon 4: Live at Hangar 18 (DMAC): October 15
- Bernie Mora & Tangent: No Agenda (Rhombus)
- The Niro Featuring Gary Lucas: The Complete Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas Songbook (Esordisco): November 8
- Northern Ranger: Eastern Stranger (self-released, EP)
- Miles Okazaki: The Sky Below (Pi): October 25
- Anne Phillips: Live at the Jazz Bakery (Conawago)
- Chip Stephens/Stenn Wilson: Sadness & Soul (Capri): October 18
- Dave Stryker: Eight Track Christmas (Strikezone): November 1
- Esbjörn Svensson Trio: E.S.T. Live in Gothenburg (2001, ACT, 2CD): October 25
- Gebhard Ullmann/Hans Lüdemann/Oliver Potratz/Eric Schaefer: MikroPULS (Intuition): October 18
- Brahja Waldman: Brahja (RR Gems): cdr
Sunday, October 06, 2019
Once again, ran out of time before I could get around to an
introduction. The impeachment story rolls on, and Trump is getting
weirder and freakier than ever. Meanwhile, more bad shit is happening
than I can get a grip on. And what's likely to happen when the new
Supreme Court gets down to business. Once you tote up all the damage
Trump's election directly causes, you need to look up "opportunity
Some scattered links this week:
A second whistleblower on Trump and Ukraine is coming forward.
Trump wants to shoot people in the legs. The United States' closest ally
already does that. It's long been clear to me that a big part of the
love US right-wingers have for Israel is envy: they wish their own country
to become as brutal, as imperious, as militarist as Israel has proven to
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
The US border security industry could be worth $740 billion by 2023.
A shocking number, but it was already worth $305 billion in 2011.
Why Trump, facing impeachment, warns of civil war.
Just how swampy are US-Saudi arms deals?
The post-Saddam Hussein settlement in Iraq is on the brink of collapse.
How to get away with gerrymandering.
Mining the future: Climate change, migration, and militarization in
US test fires ICBM, declares it a 'visible message of national security'
("which flew 4,200 miles from California to the Marshall Islands"):
a non-story compared to North Korea test-firing smaller missiles or
China "showing off arms in a parade," despite being pointed toward
China and North Korea.
Trump's impeachment polling is historically unprecedented.
James K Galbraith:
This 50-year-old economic book helps explain the corporate republic we
live in: On James K Galbraith's The New Industrial State
Donald Trump's 'maximum pressure' campaign against Iran has backfired.
Team Trump's 2020 strategy is Clinton Cash all over again.
But wouldn't the likelihood of it working be dependent on the Democrats
nominating a candidate like Hillary Clinton?
The difference between leaking and whistle-blowing in the Trump White
House. Refers to a new book by Tom Mueller on the history of
whistle-blowing: Crisis of Conscience, and notes:
An effective whistle-blower stays below the radar while methodically
collecting information; staying power and an ability to remain
inconspicuous are key. The person who blew the whistle on Trump and
Ukraine appears to possess both of these qualities, and others: the
complaint is meticulously documented and worded with exquisite care.
By its very existence, the document blows the whistle on the Trumpian
style -- hasty, sloppy, overblown, and unsubstantiated.
Other opponents of Trumpism within the government have leaked rather
than blown the whistle. No sooner was the President inaugurated than
members of the White House staff told reporters that the President
acted like a "clueless child," had no interest in intelligence reports,
spent his time watching TV, and was largely kept out of the decision-making
process. These stories, which began in January of 2017, quickly grew
familiar, and the more bizarre the reality they described, the greater
their normalizing effect.
Tara Golshan/Ella Nilsen:
Elizabeth Warren's new remedy for corruption: a tax on lobbying.
Trump's war on California and the climate.
How the Saudi oil field attack overturned America's apple cart:
"For all their overwhelming firepower, the U.S. and its allies can
cause a lot of misery in the Middle East, but still can't govern
the course of events."
The 2 companies that place all those ads at the bottom of webpages are
combining: "Taboola is buying Outbrain."
Some impeachment-shy Democrats just fear it will backfire, as
do some impeachment-shy "progressive" pundits. One worry is no doubt
Trump campaign to drop bomb on Biden in early voting states:
Trump's reelection effort "will air over $1 million in anti-Biden
commercials in Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada" --
probably the most blatant attempt to influence other party primary
voting since Nixon's "dirty tricks" campaign against Edmund Muskie
in 1972. This almost looks like Trump baited the Democrats into
impeaching him, just for the free publicity.
What will Republicans do if Trump goes down? A rather silly
exercise in handicapping the Republican bench. Trump is more likely
to die suddenly or become debilitated than to be convicted by this
Senate, in which case Republicans could scramble but would probably
figure Pence the best shot at saving Trump's legacy. The fact is
that Trump not only owns the public perception of the Party, he's
the only one with proven ability to convince a significant bloc of
far-from-wealthy voters to cut their own throats. Kilgore also
Is there any chance the GOP is about to turn on Trump?
Here we go: Supreme Court accepts first big post-Kavanaugh abortion
Will progressive Democrats 'move to the center' when facing Trump?
Could be, but Sanders and Warren have spelled out their platforms so
extensively that it will be hard for them to run on anything else --
at most, they'll concede that some things they want will be lesser
priorities as long as significant numbers of Democrats aren't on
board. Should they is another question. It looks to me like Trump's
going to try to run to the left of centrist Democrats, presenting
them as corrupt and himself as the champion of working people and as
the defender of Social Security and Medicare. Moreover, he'll make
mincemeat of any Democrat as hawkish as Hillary Clinton. Sure, it
will all be lies, but he's done it before, and it's not clear how
much credibility four years of broken promises has cost him. The
one Democrat he can't feint left of is Sanders, and in that case
he may not try, figuring red-baiting will do the trick. The big
advantage that Sanders has, even over Warren, is that no one doubts
his sincerity or his integrity, and up against Trump those are the
characteristics that matter most. Of course, compared to Trump, any
Democrat should be able to score those points, but moving to the
lame, corrupt, ineffective center won't help them. Only moving to
the left will.
Nixon's defenders claimed he was a victim of a 'coup.' So did Clinton's.
Only a story now because Trump's claiming that too -- started, in fact,
back during the Mueller inquiry.
How oceans rise and die on a warming planet: As Jane Lubchenco, a
former US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration administrator,
puts it: "The ocean today is higher, warmer, more acidic, less productive,
and it holds less oxygen."
As a result, coral reefs are bleaching a ghostly white, and, although
some can recover, others are dying at a rapid rate. Monster storms are
persistent. Marine heat waves -- projected to increase fiftyfold if
current trends continue -- are depleting fisheries. Ocean acidification
is severely harming all sorts of species, which then harms people, too,
since many of these species are critical to local economies. Glaciers
are melting faster with consequences for people in the mountains and
on the coasts alike.
A Trump hotel mystery: Giant reservations followed by empty rooms:
"The House is investigating whether groups tried to curry favor with
Trump by booking rooms at his hotels but never using them."
Snowden in the labyrinth: Review of Edward Snowden's memoir,
Why almost no one is guilty of treason, explained: "Adam Schiff isn't
guilty of treason, nor is Donald Trump, and neither is just about any
other person you can think of." Then why not just expunge the word from
The invention of the conspiracy theory on Biden and Ukraine.
Trump's DOJ just escalated the fight over whether religion is a license
This California highway boondoggle shows why we need more infrastructure
funding: And why "public-private partnerships are a poor replacement
for robust federal investment in infrastructure."
Jeremy Corbyn or no-deal Brexit? The UK might have to choose.
Democrats have subpoenaed the White House in the next phase of their
Warren and Sanders raised significantly more money than Biden in the
third quarter. Biden came in fourth, also trailing Pete Buttigieg.
Or, as ABC put it,
Warren surpasses Biden in latest fundraising haul but falls short of
Sanders. I've seen a meme (probably from the Sanders campaign, but
I can't find a viable link) which lists the "top donors by profession"
for Biden (president of company, managing partner, real estate developer,
lawyer, investor), Warren (psychologist, scientist, editor, librarian,
psychotherapist), and Sanders (teacher, nurse, farmer, truck driver,
waiter/waitress, construction). For a similar breakdown along these
lines, see Karl Evers-Hillstrom:
Sanders or Warren: Why gets more support from working-class donors?
Toluse Olorunnpia/Amy Goldstein:
Trump attacks Democrats' health care plans and pledges to protect Medicare
during political speech to Florida retirees. The big lie is on,
but note that Trump is signaling that he intends to run to the left
of Democrats on health care, even though what he means is something
President Trump blasted his potential Democratic presidential rivals
in a highly political speech here Thursday, telling a group of senior
citizens that "maniac" Democrats would rip away their health care,
decimate their retirement accounts and prioritize undocumented
immigrants over U.S. citizens.
"All of the Democrat plans would devastate our health care system,"
Trump said during a visit to The Villages, where he signed an executive
order designed to expand the private-sector version of Medicare that
Here's what Charles P Pierce wrote about the same Trump speech:
The President* is a blight, but watch what the conservative movement's
up to behind him: "They're coming for Medicare, folks." Pierce
blogs more often than I feel like citing, but some of his best
titles last week:
The real reason Amber Guyger was convicted. An off-duty white
police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in his apartment
in Texas. Against odds, she was charged and convicted of murder.
Police officers have killed over a thousand people a year in recent
years: Of those killed by police since 2005, less than 100 officers
have been arrested, only 35 officers have been convicted -- and, as
of March, only three of them of murder. Less than 1 percent of all
officers are convicted when their victim is Black -- even though
Black people are three times more likely than white people to be
killed by police.
Packnett credits the verdict to a fully integrated jury. However,
before you start thinking that justice is starting to work in America,
note: Anya van Wagtendonk:
Joshua Brown, a key witness in the murder trial against Amber Guyger,
was fatally shot.
A new book argues that Trump is television in human form: On
James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television,
and the Fracturing of America.
Poniewozik almost wants to rate Trump as a great postmodern thinker,
but the problem is that Trump does not think. Nonetheless, Trump is a
great postmodern feeler, who intuits and responds to the stimuli of
electronic media with the dark brilliance of an idiot savant, in the
sure belief that only suckers care about objective truth. Poniewozik
calls Trump's daily performance qua Trump a manifestation of
"lizard-brain postmodernism -- the salesman's intuition that the
cartoon of a thing was more powerful to people than the thing itself."
William Rivers Pitt:
Trump is spreading fear because he fears impeachment: The one thing
about the impeachment inquiry that I find most perplexing is why Trump
has reacted with such crazed panic. Surely he knows that the Republican
Senate will never remove him from office. And given that there is zero
chance of the Republican Party denying him nomination for a second term,
the only contest that really matters is the 2020 election. Yet every day
he squirms, rants, raves, acting out in ways that not only don't offer
any practical defense against the charges but really make most people
question his competency and even sanity.
Rudy Giuliani welcomes you to Eastern Europe: "So much about the
Trump administration seems pulled from the playbook of a post-Soviet
kleptocracy." Other Putin critics, like Masha Gessen, have said much
the same thing, most likely because that's what they're used to seeing.
I doubt Trump is consciously taking Putin as a model (no matter how
sympathetic he is). Rather, cynical oligarchs don't have many options
in how to spin their corruption.
The incredibly damning Ukraine texts from State Department officials,
Richard V Reeves:
Now the rich want your pity, too: "If the wealthy are so stressed
out, whose fault is that?"
"Stupid Watergate" is worse than the original. A game effort to
make the case, anyway, not least by pointing out that both scandals
started as efforts to rig elections and as such were attacks on our
faith in democracy. But even though I don't doubt that a Trump
dictatorship would be even more malign than a Nixon one, the only
dimension where Trump is way ahead of Nixon is stupid, and I don't
see how that makes it worse. What might make it worse is that most
Republicans today are so shameless and so desperate to cling onto
power that they've lost the capacity to understand when their
president breaks bad.
The Earth just had its hottest September on record: For what little
it's worth, Wichita bucked the trend all summer long, but got with the
program for September: possibly not a record, but hottest month we've
had all year, still above 90F on 9/30 (but 49F as I write this).
How disinformation reaches Donald Trump.
Eric Schmitt/Maggie Haberman/Edward Wong:
Trump endorses Turkish military operation in Syria, shifting US
policy: What's the Kurdish word for people who are recruited,
used up, and carelessly discarded? Once "comrades-in-arms," now
more like "losers."
Jeremy Singer-Vine/Kevin Collier:
Political operatives are faking voter outrage with millions of made-up
comments to benefit the rich and powerful. Case in point: 22 million
public comments submitted to FCC on net neutrality regulations.
Impeach all presidents: Sure, it's hard to think of any recent US
president who hasn't committed high crimes along the way, especially
in using the US military to kill people in other countries. Even Nixon's
Watergate crimes paled in comparison to other things he did, like his
coup in Chile and his escalation in Indochina. Some Democrats will tell
you that Trump forced them to impeach, but it's always been a process
that has been selectively used for distinct political purposes. On the
other hand, when you can impeach, why not? The charges brought against
Clinton were bullshit, but at the time I urged convicting him, because
he had done other things that merited removing him from office (e.g.,
his bombing operations in Iraq, which his Republican foes usually
Jeff Stein/Tom Hamburger/Josh Dawsey:
IRS whistleblower said to report Treasury political appointee might have
tried to interfere in audit of Trump or Pence.
Mulvaney predicts post-impeachment landslide. "Mulvaney also
believes that the longer the impeachment process drags on, the better
it is, politically, for Trump." Impeachment also seems to be spurring
small donors, which is not a resource Trump had in 2016. I don't doubt
that Mulvaney's attitude exists, especially among Trump's inner circle
of sycophants, but I think it's more likely that less-committed voters
will get sick and tired of all the noise, especially given how erratic
Trump has been acting.
The 'whistleblower' probably isn't: "It's an insult to real
whistleblowers to use the term with the Ukrainegate protagonist."
Anton Troianovski/Chris Mooney:
Radical warming in Siberia eaves millions on unstable ground.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Rick Perry's spent a lot of time in Ukraine. Now he's caught up in the
impeachment inquiry. For more on Perry, see: Chas Danner:
What we know about Trump's bizarre attempt to blame Rick Perry for the
Trump's close-call diplomacy with Iran's President.
How I helped hack democracy: An excerpt from the author's book,
Mindf*ck: Cambridge Analytics and the Plot to Break America.
Li Zhou/Hannah Brown:
1999 vs. 2019: Senate Republicans' attitudes on impeachment sure have
changed a lot: Many examples, first two Lindsey Graham and Mitch
Thursday, October 03, 2019
Zhanna Pataky visited Eastern Europe this summer, and came back wanting
to cook something Hungarian. We had previously collaborated on a couple of
Russian dinners, and I'm always game for a new cuisine. Did some shopping
at Amazon, and wound up buying one cookbook: Silvena Johan Lauta: The
Food & Cooking of Hungary. Here's a first stab at a possible menu:
- Hungarian Goulash: a beef stew, with onion, tomato, green
bell pepper, potatoes, spices (paprika, caraway), served with Hungarian
Dumplings. Alternative: Rabbit Goulash Stew: as above but with
rabbit instead of beef, chicken stock, potatoes or dumpling on side;
or Venison Goulash: similar, with venison shoulder instead of
beef, chicken stock, carrot and parsnip, potatoes or dumpling on side.
- Hungarian Dumplings: egg, flour, herbs; serve with bacon
and butter. Alternative: any other dumpling dish, like Oregano and
Cumin Dumplings, Transylvanian Dumplings with Olives,
Herb Semolina Dumplings, or Pinched Noodles.
- Feta and Paprika Bruschetta: ciabatta bread slices, toasted,
topped with feta, cream cheese, spices (mustard, cumin, paprika); suggest
serve with tomato salad (not in recipe; picture shows red onion garnish,
with tomatoes and cucumbers on side).
- Transylvanian Stuffed Mushrooms: button (or baby portabella?)
mushrooms, stuffed with ricotta, thyme, bacon); suggest serve with green
- Hungarian Cold Buffet Salad with Mustard: cooked and diced
ham, frankfurters, potato, carrot, peas, eggs, green beans, gherkins,
with dijon mustard, parsley, and mayonnaise (home-made).
- Pan-fried Pike with Cream and Dill Sauce: white fish fillets,
flour, fried in butter with wild mushrooms; sauce, on side, is fish stock,
white wine, cream, and fresh dill. Alternative: Trout in Horseradish
Sauce: trout, poached with root vegetables (carrot, parsnip, onion),
with sour cream, horseradish; serve with boiled potatoes and steamed
- Hungarian Chocolate Almond Torte: cake with dark chocolate,
butter, eggs, brown sugar, ground almonds, 2 tbs. flour (so not quite
flourless); topped with ganache and almond topping. Alternative:
Hungarian Pancakes with Pecan Filling: thin pancakes filled
with pecans, golden raisins, lemon zest, apricot jam, cinnamon,
sugar; and/or a fruit dessert, like Walnut Baked Prunes:
prunes, orange juice and zest, sour cream, bread crumbs, walnuts,
butter; or Roasted Pears With Honey: pears, butter, rosemary,
balsamic, honey. Other options from elsewhere (see below) include
Somloi Trifle ("Hungary's favorite dessert") and Dobos
Torte (from The Gourmet Cookbook).
Some other dishes that caught my eye, but are probably de trop:
- Chicken and Paprika Stew with Sour Cream: cubed chicken breast,
onion, tomato, green bell pepper, sour cream, paprika.
- Venison Meatballs: ground venison and veal, bread crumbs, egg,
formed into meatballs, dusted with flour, fried; sauce with chicken stock,
sour cream, paprika, herbs.
- Pancakes with Creamy Feta Cheese and Wild Garlic: crepes,
filled with feta, yogurt, sour cream, wild garlic leaves.
- Pearl Barley Salad with Grapes and Pistachio Nuts: pearl
barley (cooked), tomato, green bell pepper, cucumber, white seedless
grapes, parsley, mint, toasted pistachio nuts.
I've previously made goulash from the recipe in The Gourmet
Cookbook. It's a bit more complicated than this one, but similar.
It's one of only four Hungarian recipes in the book. Chicken Paprika
is another -- again, similar to above, but calls for thighs. The
other two are desserts: Chocolate-orange Dobostorte, and Hungarian
chocolate mousse cake bars. The former is very complex and ornate,
with eight layers of sponge cake (white, with orange zest), glazed
with orange syrup, separated by layers of chocolate buttercream,
topped by a layer of caramel, the sides covered with buttercream
and hazelnuts. The bars are also quite complex, with chocolate cake
layers, apricot jam, a chocolate mousse filling, a whipped cream
filling, and a chocolate glaze. The cake layers are baked in a
10x15 pan, then cut into bars after assembling.
Most of the goulash recipes I see on the internet call for
ground beef and elbow macaroni (some adding cheddar cheese) --
some of these are explicitly labeled American Goulash. Flat egg
noodles are sometimes used. Ones explicitly labeled "Hungarian
Goulash" start with beef cubes. The most minimal is just beef,
onion, and paprika. Others add tomato, bell pepper, carrot and/or
potato, also extra flavors (one has brown sugar and balsamic
vinegar). Most are served over separately-cooked egg noodles.
Lots of soups in the cookbook, but since it's at most practical
to serve one, and since Goulash counts (as would Chicken Paprika),
I've ignored the others.
Some other recipes I've noticed while searching for Hungarian
- Sour Cherry Soup
- Strawberry Soup
- Beef Paprikash with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
- Hungarian Short Ribs
- Garlic Pork Rib Roast with Parsley Potatoes
- Grandma Schwartz's Rouladen: beef top round
- Meat Stew (Porkolt)
- Shepherd's Noodles (Pasztortarhonya): bacon, sausage, tarhonya (some
kind of noodle).
- Crispy Pork Belly
- Baked Garlic Paprika Chicken
- Butternut Goulash
- New World Stuffed Cabbage
- Beef & Rice Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- Cucumber Salad: sour cream or vinegar.
- Hungarian-Style Green Beans
- Layered Potatoes (Rakott Krumpli): potatoes, eggs, sausage, sour
- Potato Pancakes (Lapcsznka)
- Pickled Sweet Peppers
- Stuffed Peppers (Toltott Paprika)
- Vegetable Stew (Lecso): a paprika stew, variations: egg, sausage.
- Fozelek: another vegetable stew (no translation).
- Cabbage & Noodles (Haluski)
- Horseradish Deviled Eggs
- Fried Dough (Langos): topped with sour cream and cheese; note this
tops several lists.
- Palacsinta (Crepes)
- Cheese Noodles (Turos Csusza)
- Fried Cheese (Rantott Sajt): Swiss or mozzarella dredged in egg and
breadcrumbs, then fried.
- Apple Strudle
- Cardamon-Blackberry Linzer Cookies
- Cookie Crust Deep-Dish Apple Pie
- Hungarian Nut Rolls
- Hungarian Walnut Cookies: more like rugelach.
- Layered Pastry (Flodni): walnut, apple, poppyseed, jam.
- Somloi Trifle (Somloi Galuska): three types of sponge cake (plain,
walnut, chocolate), raising, walnuts, drizzled with dark chocolate rum
sauce, topped with whipped cream.
- 5 Layer Cocoa Slices
- Mezes Kremes: a layered cake with glaze and filling.
- Kugler Cake: ground almond cake with chocolate filling.
- Zserbo/Gerbeaud Slice: multi-layered torte with chocolate top.
- Hungarian Decadent Chocolate Cake
PS: Talked with Zhanna today. She wants to cook two recipes:
a thick goulash, using her mother's recipe (Russian, from Kazakhstan,
I think), and something with sausages and noodles. She suggested I do
chicken paprika, a salad, and a cake. I want to do one of the dumpling
recipes, or maybe just the pinched noodles. Adding the chicken (and
sausage) leaves no room for fish or meatballs. I still like the feta
bruschetta, but think I'll pick the pearl barley salad over the cold
buffet salad (which could really be a one-dish meal). I'll probably
go with the chocolate almond torte, although the solmoi torte is
still tempting. Agreed on Friday, October 18 as the date.