Thursday, January 23, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 32640  rated (+26), 228  unrated (-1).
Three days late with this, but the cutoff was late Sunday night,
so this is still an honest week's listening report. While I was not
honoring my self-imposed schedule, I did continue to listen, so my
scratch file for next week includes an additional 21 records -- a
pace which will probably top 40 next week. Maybe more: it's tempting
to run late next week so I can close January near the end of the
month (instead of final Monday, the 27th this year). I usually do
freeze exercise the end
of January: that being my signal to stop monitoring
EOY lists and move on
to the new year.
Actually, you'll find my first 2020 A- record below, as well as
a few more 2020 releases. Most of the CDs in my promo queue are
still future releases, so I'm noting release dates in cases that
aren't out yet. I noticed on Facebook Phil Freeman noting that he
already has over 100 promo records in his 2020 spreadsheet. I have
a quarter of that, but might not be so far behind if I downloaded
all the links that cross my mail. Thus far I've done none, but I
am pleased to be getting mail from Astral Spirits now.
I've added quite a bit of jazz to my EOY Aggregate, including the
NPR Jazz Critics Poll
totals for new albums and reissues, plus about two-thirds of the critic
ballots -- my first pass rule was to only list critics I had listed in
previous years. This has pushed Kris Davis' poll-winning Diatom
Ribbons to 33rd overall, the top-rated jazz album. I re-played the
record when the poll dropped, but didn't feel like raising my initial
B+(***) grade. I have maybe a dozen more records I feel like I should
retry -- mostly Christgau picks that I liked but didn't spend much time
with on first pass, like: Danny Brown, Stella Donnelly, The National,
The Paranoid Style, Purple Mountains, Rapsody. Not much elsewhere has
me wondering. Indeed, while my
tracking file shows that there are
literally thousands of unheard records that someone likes, I'm having
a lot of trouble identifying ones that seem promising for me.
I also added in the totals from something called
Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll. This is a fan poll which has existed
for twenty-some years, but got more attention this year with Village
Voice having abandoned their signature poll. I got an invite to join
a while back, but never voted. I did, however, go through the ballots,
and picked out fifty or so names I recognized -- mostly folks I had
counted ballots from in past years. In the past I've been inclined to
use P&J as an endpoint, testing how well my own lists anticipated
the results, and in the process finding various biases of the critics
polled. Still, nothing like what we see with this self-selected fan
community. Purple Mountains won in a landslide, as both hip-hop and
pop votes were pretty depressed. On the other hand, certain Christgau
favorites did surprisingly well (e.g., The Paranoid Style at 17, 75
Dollar Bill at 8).
New records reviewed this week:
- Harry Allen/Mike Renzi: Rhode Island Is Famous for You (2019, GAC): [r]: B+(***)
- Beans on Toast: Cushty (2017, Xtra Mile): [r]: B+(**)
- Beans on Toast: A Bird in the Hand (2018, Beans on Toast Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Beans on Toast: The Inevitable Train Wreck (2019, Beans on Toast Music): [r]: A-
- Pip Blom: Boat (2019, Heavenly): [r]: B+(***)
- Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York: Entity (2019 , Libra): [cd]: B+(***) [02-14]
- Gordon Grdina/Matt Mitchel/Jim Black: Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio (2019 , Skirl): [cd]: B+(**)
- Scott Hamilton Quartet: Danish Ballads . . . & More (2019, Stunt): [r]: A-
- Scott Hamilton: Jazz at the Club: Live From Societeit De Witte (2018 , O.A.P.): [r]: B+(***)
- Scott Hamilton: Street of Dreams (2019, Blau): [r]: B+(***)
- Irreversible Entanglements: Homeless/Global (2019, International Anthem -EP): [bc]: B+(**)
- Aly Keďta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalan Teban (2019 , Intakt): [r]: A-
- Peter Lemer Quintet: Son of Local Colour (2018 , ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)
- Andrew Munsey: High Tide (2019, Birdwatcher): [r]: B+(**)
- Rex Orange County: Pony (2019, RCA): [r]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume One (2001-17 , Trugroid/Avantgroidd): [r]: B+(***)
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume Three (1999-2017 , Trugroid/Avantgroidd): [r]: B+(***)
- Miles Davis: The Lost Quintet (1969 , Sleepy Night): [r]: B+(**)
- Smokey Haangala: Aunka Ma Kwacha (1976 , Séance Center): [r]: B+(*)
- ICP Tentet: Tetterettet (1977 , Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A-
- Sun Ra Arkestra: Live in Kalisz 1986 (1986 , Languidity): [bc]: A-
- Laurie Spiegel: Unseen Worlds (1991 , Unseen Worlds): [r]: A-
- June Tyson: Saturnian Queen of the Sun Ra Arkestra (1968-92 , Modern Harmonic/Sundazed): [r]: B+(**)
- Hank Williams: The Complete Health & Happiness Recordings (1949 , BMG, 2CD): [r]: A-
- Harry Allen Quartet: London Date (2015 , Trio): [bc]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- John Ellis and Andy Bragen: The Ice Siren (Parade Light) [03-20]
- Gilfema: Three (Sounderscore) [04-03]
Sunday, January 19, 2020
Last week's 6-candidate mini-debate reminded us that the Iowa Caucuses
are fast approaching: February 3. It will be the first opportunity any
Americans have to vote for candidates, the remnants of a field that has
been reduced by half mostly through the whims of donors and the media.
Unfortunately, the Americans voting will be Iowans. I was reminded of
this by John Kerry, campaigning these days for Joe Biden. Kerry scored
a surprise win in Iowa in 2004, kicking off an ill-fated campaign that
resulted in a second term for GW Bush and Dick Cheney. As I recall, a
lot of weight then was put on the idea of "electability," with many of
Kerry's supporters figuring that Kerry's military record would sway
voters against Bush. They miscalculated then, yet they're still in
position to choose our fates.
I've been rather sanguine about the Democratic nominating process
so far, but closing in on the start of actual voting, everyone is
starting to get on my nerves. Even Sanders, who has by far the best
analyses and positions, and the most steadfast character, but who
I fear the media will never respect much less accept, and who will
be hounded repeatedly with mistruths and misunderstandings. (The
articles below that explicitly call out CNN will give you pretty
glaring examples of what I mean.) Even Warren seems to have decided
that the way to gain (or save) votes from Sanders is by resorting
to half-truths and innuendo. I discuss one example below, but the
whole pre-debate dust-up reflects very poorly on her, not least
because it was done in ways that leave scars over trivial issues.
Meanwhile Biden seems to be getting a free pass as he's blundering
I haven't been bothered much by the so-called moderates' plans,
because no matter who wins it's effectively the right-most half of
the party in Congress that will be passing laws and setting policy.
But it does bother me that they've spent so much time trashing
Medicare for All. In don't have a problem advocating half-measures
to ameliorate the present system here and there, and figure that
as a practical matter that's how reform will have to happen, but
even the most reticent Democrat should realize that single-payer
would be a better solution, and is a necessary goal. They really
should acknowledge that, even if they doubt its practicality. But
instead they're attacking it on grounds of costs and/or choice,
which is simply ignorant.
I'm also rather sick of the "electability" issue, not least
because I'm convinced that no one really understands the matter,
because it's unprovable (except too late), and because it invites
strong opinions based on nothing more than gut instincts. Still,
I write about it several places below. Clearly, I have my own
opinions on the matter, but can offer no more proof for them
than you can for yours. I only wish to add here that one more
thing I believe is that the election will turn not on whether
the Democrats nominate one candidate or another but on whether
Americans are so sick and tired of Trump they'll vote for any
Democrat to spare themselves. And in that case, why not pick
the better Democrat?
Some scattered links this week:
Ocean temperatures hit record high as rate of heating accelerates.
Who do record ocean temperatures matter?
Bernie Sanders's lonely 2017 battle to stop Iran sanctions and save the
Trump's evil is contagious: "The president has shown us exactly what
happens when good people do nothing."
Lisa Friedman/Claire O'Neill:
Who controls Trump's environmental policy?: "Among 20 of the most
powerful people in government environment jobs, most have ties to the
fossil fuel industry or have fought against the regulations they are
now supposed to enforce." Names, faces, resumes. E.g., David Dunlap,
Deputy head of science policy at EPA, former chemicals expert for
Koch Industries, earlier VP of the Chlorine Institute (representing
producers and distributors); currently oversees EPA's pollution and
toxic chemical research.
Dan Froomkin:, in a series called Press Watch:
The willful ambiguity of Putin's latest power grab.
Why do Trump supporters support Trump? Book review of Michael Lind:
The New Class War: Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite.
A fairly critical one, as the reviewer thinks Lind is a bit gullible
when he attributes economic fears to Trump voters.
Yes, the UK media's coverage of Meghan Markle really is racist. We
just finished streaming this season of The Crown, which reaffirmed
our understanding that the British monarchy is a preposterous institution
inhabited by ridiculous people. The series reached the 25-year mark in
Elizabeth II's reign, finding her lamenting the steady decline of the
nation and the decay of its imperial pretensions, to which we could only
add that the next 25 (actually 40 now) years would be even worse for
British pretensions of grandeur. Few things interest me less than the
bickerings of the Windsors, or surprise me less than that the few who
still cling to monarchist fantasies would resort to racism when pushed
into a corner. Indeed, back in the 1990s when I worked for a while in
England, I was repeatedly struck by the casual racism of white Brits
(even those quick to frown on American racism).
Phyllis Bennis on Dem debate: Support for combat troop withdrawal is
not enough to stop endless wars. Bennis noted:
You know, I think one of the things that was important to see last
night was that all of the Democratic candidates, including the right
wing of the group, as well as the progressives, as well as Bernie
Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, were vying with each other essentially
to see who could be more critical of the Iraq War. They all have said
that at various points, but last night it was very overt that this
was a critical point of unity for these candidates. Now, whether that
says much about the prospects for the Democratic Party is not so
clear, but I thought that was an important advance, that there's a
recognition of where the entire base of half this country is, which
is strongly against wars.
The center blows itself up: Care and spite in the 'Brexit election'.
"Flood the zone with shit": How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy:
"The impeachment trial probably won't change any minds. Here's why." Not
his usual interview piece (although he cites interviews along the way).
Makes many important points; for example:
As Joshua Green, who wrote a biography of Bannon, explained, Bannon's
lesson from the Clinton impeachment in the 1990s was that to shape the
narrative, a story had to move beyond the right-wing echo chamber and
into the mainstream media. That's exactly what happened with the
now-debunked Uranium One story that dogged Clinton from the beginning
of her campaign -- a story Bannon fed to the Times, knowing that the
supposedly liberal paper would run with it because that's what
mainstream media news organizations do.
In this case, Bannon flooded the zone with a ridiculous story not
necessarily to persuade the public that it was true (although surely
plenty of people bought into it) but to create a cloud of corruption
around Clinton. And the mainstream press, merely by reporting a story
the way it always has, helped create that cloud.
You see this dynamic at work daily on cable news. Trump White House
adviser Kellyanne Conway lies. She lies a lot. Yet CNN and MSNBC have
shown zero hesitation in giving her a platform to lie because they see
their job as giving government officials -- even ones who lie -- a
Even if CNN or MSNBC debunk Conway's lies, the damage will be done.
Fox and right-wing media will amplify her and other falsehoods; armies
on social media, bot and real, will, too (@realDonaldTrump will no doubt
chime in). The mainstream press will be a step behind in debunking --
and even the act of debunking will serve to amplify the lies.
Australia's weird weather is getting even weirder.
Joe Biden is still the frontrunner but he doesn't have to be.
"Biden is surviving on the myth that he's the most electable Democrat.
The Democratic debates' biggest (electoral) losers, by the numbers.
Elizabeth Warren usually makes well-reasoned arguments to advance
carefully thought-out plans, but I found her debate point on the
superior electability of women (or maybe just Amy Klobuchar and
herself) to be remarkably specious and disingenuous. She said:
I think the best way to talk about who can win is by looking at
people's winning record. So, can a woman beat Donald Trump? Look
at the men on this stage. Collectively, they have lost 10 elections.
The only people on this stage who have won every single election
that they've been in are the women, Amy and me.
She went on to add that she was "the only person on this stage
who has beaten an incumbent Republican any time in the past 30
years." The time limit was especially critical there, as Bernie
Sanders defeated an incumbent Republican to win his House seat
in November 1990 -- 30 years ago, if you do some rounding up.
The time limit also excluded Joe Biden from comparison, as his
first Senate win (defeating Republican incumbent J. Caleb Boggs),
was in 1972, 48 years ago. One could also point out that Warren's
win over "Republican incumbent" Scott Brown in 2012 wasn't really
an upset: Brown had freakishly won a low turnout special election
in 2010 in a heavily Democratic state -- the only one that had
rejected Reagan in 1984, one that hadn't elected a Republican to
the Senate since Edward Brooke (1967-79) -- which made him easy
pickings in 2012.
PolitiFact ruled that Warren's quoted statement was true, but
the only way they got to 10 was by counting three "ran and lost
for president" elections -- two for Biden (1988 and 2008), one
for Sanders (2016). Sanders had 6 of the other 7 losses, all from
early in his career, the House race in 1988 (against Peter Smith,
who he beat in 1990). The other loss was Pete Buttigieg's first
race, in 2010 for Indiana state treasurer, against a Republican
incumbent in a solidly Republican state. One could say lots of
things about this data set, but Warren's interpretation is very
peculiar and self-serving -- so much so I was reminded of the
classic sociology text, How to Lie With Statistics.
If you know anything about statistics, it's that sample size
and boundary conditions are critical. Comparing two women against
four men (one who's never run before, the other much younger so
he's only managed three races, two of them for mayor) isn't much
of a sample. The 30-years limit reduces it even more, excluding
a period when Biden and Sanders were undefeated. That's a lot of
tinkering just to make a point which is beside the point anyway.
When I go back to Warren's quote, the first thing that strikes me
is that the premise is unproven ("the best way to talk about who
can win is by looking at people's winning record") and frankly
suspect. I can think of dozens of counterexamples even within
narrowly constrained contexts, but that just distracts from the
larger problem: that running for president is vastly different
from running for Senator or Mayor. (Biden's experience running
for VP may count for something here, but not much.) Moreover,
running against Trump poses unique challenges, just because he's
so very different (as a campaigner, at least) from the Republicans
these candidates have faced and (more often than not) beat in the
past. In fact, the only data point we have viz. Trump is the 2016
presidential election, which showed that Hillary Clinton could not
beat him (at least in 2016 -- and please spare me the popular vote
numbers). Indeed, based on history, we cannot know what it takes
to beat Donald Trump, but if you wish to pursue that inquiry, all
you can really do is construct some metric of how similar each of
the candidates is to Clinton. Even there, the most obvious points
are likely to be misleading: Clinton is a woman, and had a long
career as a Washington insider cozy to business interests (like,
well, I hardly need to attach names here). On the other hand,
Trump today isn't the same as Trump in 2016. Still, there is
some data on this question, not perfect, but better than the
mental gymnastics Warren is offering: X-vs-Trump polls, which
pretty consistently show Biden and/or Sanders as the strongest
head-to-head anti-Trump candidates. Maybe they could falter
under the intense heat of a Trump assault. Maybe some other
candidate, once they become better known, could do as well.
But at least that polling is based on real, relevant data --
a far cry from Warren's ridiculous debate argument.
: Brown got 51.9% of 2,229,039 votes in 2010; in 2012, with
Obama at the head of the ticket, Warren got 53.7% of 3,154,394
votes, so turnout in the special election was only 70.6% of what
it was in the regular election. Aside from the turnout difference,
Obama/Biden carried Massachusetts in 2012 with 60.7%, leading
Warren by 7 points -- one could say she coasted in on their
coattails. Warren did raise her margin in 2018, to 60.4%, a bit
better than Clinton's 60.0% in 2016.
No Senator is less popular in their own state than Susan Collins:
Yeah, but when she loses in 2020, she'll never have to go there again.
She can hang her shingle out as a lobbyist and start collecting the
delayed gratuities she is owed for selling out her constituents and
what few morals she ever seemed to profess.
New evidence shows a Nunes aide in close conversation with Parnas.
Trump signed a "phase one" trade deal with China. Here's what's in it --
and what's not.
The case for Elizabeth Warren: Second in Vox's slow release of
"best-case" arguments for presidential candidates, following
Matthew Yglesias on Bernie Sanders.
Joe Biden's agreeable, terrific, very good, not at all bad week.
But, by all appearances, the fact that Biden is no longer capable of
speaking in proper English sentences will be no impediment to his
political success -- in the Democratic primary, anyway.
Bernie isn't trying to start a class war. The rich are trying to finish
Trump tax cuts gave $18 billion bonus to big banks in 2019.
Bernie Sanders' foreign policy is too evidence-based for the Beltway's
The fundamental cause of all this rabid irrationality is simple: America's
foreign-policy consensus is forged by domestic political pressures, not
the dictates of reason. Saudi Arabia's oil reserves may no longer be
indispensable to the U.S. economy, but its patronage remains indispensable
to many a D.C. foreign-policy professional. Israel may no longer be a
fledgling nation-state in need of subsidization, but it still commands
the reflexive sympathy of a significant segment of the U.S. electorate.
Terrorism may not actually be a top-tier threat to Americans' public
safety, but terrorist attacks generate more media coverage than fatal
car accidents or deaths from air pollution, and thus, are a greater
political liability than other sources of mass death. And the Pentagon
may have spent much of the past two decades destabilizing the Middle
East and green-lighting spectacularly exorbitant and ill-conceived
weapons systems, but the military remains one of America's only trusted
institutions, and its contracts supply a broad cross section of capital
with easy profits, and a broad cross section of American workers with
5 takeaways from the Democratic debate in Iowa:"
- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren's friendship has seen better days.
- In hindsight, Joe Biden probably shouldn't have voted for the Iraq War.
- Tom Steyer wants you to know that he will put his children's future above
"marginal improvements for working people." [This, by the way, is an
unfair and misleading dig at Steyer for opposing USMCA. Given that
Steyer is famous as a billionaire, you might think "his children's
future" has something to with the estate tax, but (like Sanders) he
is rejecting USMCA for its failure to make any positive step toward
limiting climate change.]
- Amy Klobuchar made one-half of a very good point. [But only as part
of "an argument against tuition-free public college."]
- Iowans' fetishization of politeness (and/or, the Democratic field's
political cowardice) is a huge gift to Biden.
Jim Naureckas/Julie Hollar:
The big loser in the Iowa debate? CNN's reputation.
Heather Digby Parton:
Lev Parnas spins wild tales of Trumpian corruption -- and we know most
of them are true.
Trump targets Michelle Obama's signature school nutrition guidelines on
Lev Parnas's dramatic new claims about Trump and Ukraine, explained.
One-term presidents: Will Donald Trump end up on this ignominious
list? Various things I'd qibble with, starting with "the list
starts out well" -- I'd agree that John Adams and John Quincy Adams
were great Americans with mostly distinguished service careers, but
the former's Alien and Sedition Acts were one of the most serious
assaults ever on democracy, and his lame duck period was such a
disgrace that Trump will be hard-pressed to top -- and his decision
to omit one-termers who didn't run for a second, like the lamentable
John Buchanan. But this dovetails nicely with one of my pet theories:
that American history can be divided into eras, each starting with
a major two-term president (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt,
and, sad to say, Reagan) and each ending with a one-term disaster
(Adams, Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, Trump?). I can't go into detail
here, but will note that each of these eras ended in profound
partisan divides, based on real (or imagined) crises in faith in
hitherto prevailing orthodoxies. That's certainly the case today.
The Reagan-to-Trump era is anomalous in its drive to ever greater
levels of inequality, corruption, and injustice, which have found
their apotheosis in Trump.
Trump is a remorseless advocate of crimes against humanity.
Key architect of 2003 Iraq War is now a key architect of Trump Iran
policy: Remember David Wurmser? He was a major author of the 1996
neocon bible A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm
(which advocated "pre-emptive strikes against Iran and Syria"), author
of the 1999 book Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam
Hussein, worked for VP Dick Cheney, helped "stovepipe" intelligence
in the build-up to the Iraq War. After Bush, he cooled his heels in the
employ of right-wing think tanks, then landed a Trump administration
job thanks to John Bolton.
The Netherlands has universal health insurance -- and it's all private:
Sure, you can make that work. Their system is much like Obamacare, with
an individual mandate and "a strongly regulated market," so "more than 99
percent" are covered, insurance companies have few options to rip off
their customers. Also "almost every hospital is a nonprofit," and subject
to government-imposed cost constraints. None of this proves that the Dutch
system is better than other systems with single-payer insurance, but that
it would be an improvement over America's insane system. TR Reid wrote an
eye-opening book on health care systems around the world, showing there
are lots of workable systems with various wrinkles: The Healing of
America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care
(2009). I don't recall much from Netherlands there, but he did especially
focus on Taiwan and Switzerland, because they were relative late-adopters,
and their systems were implemented by right-of-center governments. The
Swiss system basically kept everything private, but imposed strict profit
limits. Until then, Switzerland had the second highest health care costs
in the world (after the US, which it had tracked closely). Afterwards,
Swiss costs held flat -- still the second most expensive, but trailing
the US by a growing gap. So, sure, the Swiss came up with a better system
than they had (or we have now), but one that's still much more expensive,
with slightly worse results, than countries like France and Japan, which
seem to have found a better balance between cost and care. [PS: For
another data point, see Melissa Healy:
US health system costs four times more to run than Canada's single-payer
William Barr: The Carl Schmitt of our Time. You know, the eminent
Nazi jurist and political theoretician.
Trump just hired Jeffrey Epstein's lawyers: Alan Dershowitz and
Kenneth Starr -- I'm not even sure Epstein was the low point of either
legal career (even if we don't count Trump yet). Many more articles
point this out. One that seems to actually be onto something is:
Laura Ingraham praises Trump for putting together a legal team
straight from "one of our legal panels".
Is there a way to acknowledge America's progress? He makes a fairly
substantial list of things that do mark progress (certainly compared to
when I was growing up), yet, as he's very aware, there's Trump, his cabal
of Republicans, and the moneyed forces that feed and feast on his and
their corruption. If those who oppose such trends tend to overstate the
peril of the moment, it's because we see future peril so very clearly.
Still, I reckon those who can't (or won't) see anything troublesome at
all will find the hyperbole disconcerting, and I don't know what to do
about that, beyond trying to remain calm and reasoned. This piece is
followed by "But can they beat Trump?": where Sullivan tries to weigh
the Democratic field purely on electability consideration. He's most
withering on Warren, and most sympathetic to Biden, but gives Sanders
the edge in the end. His list of positives is worth reading:
I have to say he's grown on me as a potential Trump-beater. He seems
more in command of facts than Biden, more commanding in general than
Buttigieg or Klobuchar, and far warmer than Elizabeth Warren. He's a
broken clock, but the message he has already stuck with for decades
might be finding its moment. There's something clarifying about having
someone with a consistent perspective on inequality take on a president
who has only exacerbated it. He could expose, in a gruff Brooklyn accent,
the phony populism, and naked elitism of Trump. He could appeal to the
working-class voters the Democrats have lost. He could sincerely point
out how Trump has given massive sums of public money to the banks,
leaving crumbs for the middle class. And people might believe him.
On the other hand, he argues that "the oppo research the GOP throws
at him could be brutal," and gives examples that impress me very little.
Most of them are sheer red-baiting, and I have to wonder how effective
that ploy still is. Sure, many liberals of my generation and earlier
find this very scary, but well after the Cold War such charges have
lost much of their tangible fear -- even those liberals who still hate
Russia must realize that the problem there now is oligarchs like Trump,
not Bolshevik revolutionaries. Sure, Trump attacking Bernie is going
to be nasty and brutish, but I expect it will be less effective than
Trump attacking Biden as a crooked throwback to the Washington swamp
of the Clintons and Obama -- charges that Bernie is uniquely safe from.
There's also a third piece here, "Of royalty, choice, and duty," about
Chance Swaim/Jonathan Shorman:
Kansas energy company abandons plans for $2.2 billion coal power plant.
This is a pretty big victory for envrionment-conscious Kansans, but
the irony is that it comes at a point when virtually all political
obstacles against been overcome. In the end, the company decided
that coal-fired electricity is simply a bad investment. Kansans
have followed this story for more than a decade, at least since
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius halted development on the plant expansion.
After she left to join Obama's cabinet, her successor reversed
course, and Gov. Sam Brownback was a big booster, but Obama's EPA
became an obstacle. Under Trump, all the political stars have
aligned to promote coal, but the economics have shifted so much
that coal use is declining all across the nation. Despite frantic
efforts by the Kochs and Trump, wind power has become a major
source of electricity in Kansas (fossil fuels account for less
than half of Kansas electricity -- nuclear also helps out there).
And thanks to Obama's support for fracking, natural gas has also
become cheaper relative to coal. So it looks like we've lucked
out, and been spared from the worst effects of having so corrupt
a political system in Topeka and Washington. For that matter,
Sunflower Electric Power Corp. has lucked out too, being saved
from such a bad investment.
CNN's debate performance was villainous and shameful: "The 24-hour
network combines a naked political hit with a cynical ploy for ratings."
11 US troops were injured in Iran's attack. It shows how close we came
Trump wanted to repeal an anti-corruption law so US businesses could bribe
foreigners. Based on a new book by Washington Post reporters Philip
Rucker and Carol Leonnig: A Very Stable Genius: Donald J Trump's
Testing of America. For more, see: Ashley Parker:
New book portrays Trump as erratic, 'at times dangerously uninformed'.
Also, by the authors, Carol D Leonnig/Philip Rucker:
'You're a bunch of dopes and babies': Inside Trump's stunning tirade
against generals. For another book review, see Dwight Garner:
A meticulous account of Trump's tenure reads like a comic horror
story. Also see the comment by Steve M:
In which I normalize Trump, up to a point, which quotes from the
above, and adds:
Well, actually, it is normal. Trump is a Republican. Both conservatives
and the mainstream media agree that a Republican can't insult the troops,
by definition. Only Democrats (and people to the left of the Democrats)
can insult the troops.
This is part of a larger problem that's plagued us over the past
forty years. The world of politics has been incapable of reacting with
sufficient outrage to Iran-contra, George W. Bush's post-9/11 toadying
to the Saudis and Iraq War debacle, and Trump's Putin bootlicking
because, performatively, Reagan, W, and Trump were all military-lovers
and flag-wavers. The conventional wisdom is that right-wingers are
correct: The telltale sign of disloyalty to America is insufficient
jingoism. If you're a Republican, you're never a menace to America,
even if you're actively doing it harm.
21 Saudi military trainees in the US are being sent home for anti-US
media and child porn. Evidently the two traits weren't mutually
exclusive, as the subsets numbered 17 and 15. Real reason was the
Saudi trainee who went on a shooting spree
at a Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida. Said trainee was
killed, so isn't one of the 21.
Trump has apparently wanted to kill Soleimani for quite a while -- since
as far back as 2017.
Let them fight!: "A great nation deserves a raucous and argumentative
primary, not a fake demonstration of unity." Choice line here: "If Warren
saw this as a way to innocuously smarm her way to the top . . ."
Joe Biden skates by again. Notes that none of the other candidates
are really attacking Biden, who remains the front-runner:
This pattern of behavior raises, to me, a real worry about a potential
Biden presidency. Not that his talk of a post-election Republican Party
"epiphany" is unrealistic -- every candidate in the field is offering
unrealistic plans for change -- but that he has a taste for signing on
to bad bargains. There's potential for a critique of Biden that isn't
just about nitpicking the past or arguing about how ambitious Democrats
should be in their legislative proposals, but about whether Biden would
adequately hold the line when going toe-to-toe with congressional
Jet crash in Iran has eerie historical parallel: You mean in 1988,
when the US "accidentally" shot down an Iranian airliner, killing 290
people? Doesn't excuse this time, nor does this time excuse that time.
Both were unintended consequences of deliberate decisions to engage in
supposedly limited hostilities. They reflect the fact that the people
who made those decisions are unable to foresee where their acts will
take them and/or simply do not care. And while it's difficult to weigh
relative culpability, the fact that the US alone sent its forces half-way
around the world to screw up must count for something. For more examples,
see Ron DePasquale:
Civilian planes shot down: A grim history.
Thursday, January 16, 2020
Wrote this as a facebook comment, in response to a post of a link to
Matt Taibbi: CNN's Debate Performance Was Villainous and Shameful.
There's a classic sociology textbook called "How to Lie With
Statistics." Warren's assertion about election histories could have
been a prime example. When talking about the perfect record of women
winning elections, the sample size was 2. When talking about male
candidates losing elections, the sample size was 3 (Steyer has never
run before, so has never lost). I can't imagine where she found 10
losses, except maybe in presidential primaries (Biden's run but never
won one; Bernie's lost more than 10, but also won a fair number). Then
she claims she was the only one to have defeated an incumbent
Republican (in her case Scott Brown) in the last 30 years: the
qualifier necessary because Sanders did just that in 1990, as Biden
did in 1970 (beating J Caleb Boggs). Warren is capable of making
sensible, well-reasoned points, so why resort to such specious
Monday, January 13, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 32614  rated (+39), 229  unrated (+0).
I've finally heard that NPR's Jazz Critics Poll will be published
tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 10 AM. I've been given advance URLs for
poll results and for the accompanying
essay by Francis Davis.
No time to write much more.
still not indexed.
EOY Aggregate still a work in progress. My own EOY lists for
growing. Did play a couple of 2020 releases last week. Going
back and forth between the
2019 tracking files reminds
me of the cartoon depictions of the decrepit old man representing
the old year giving way to the new year baby. Every year we get
older, but 2019 hurt more than most.
New records reviewed this week:
- Franck Amsallem: Gotham Goodbye (2018 , Jazz & People): [r]: B+(***)
- John Bailey: Can You Imagine? (2019 , Freedom Road): [cd]: B+(**) [01-20]
- Lea Bertucci: Resonant Field (2017 , NNA Tapes): [r]: B+(*)
- Black to Comm: Seven Horses for Seven Kings (2019, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B
- Boy Harsher: Careful (2019, Nude Club): [r]: A-
- Bremer/McCoy: Utopia (2019, Luaka Bop): [r]: B
- Diabel Cissokho: Rhythm of the Griot (2019, Kafou Music): [r]: B+(**)
- Theo Croker: Star People Nation (2019, Sony Masterworks): [r]: B
- Czarface: The Odd Czar Against Us (2019, Silver Age): [r]: A-
- Czarface: A Double Dose of Danger (2019,Silver Age, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Jeff Davis: The Fastness (2019, Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(***)
- Bertrand Denzler/Dominic Lash: Pivot (2019, Spoonhunt): [bc]: B-
- Mr Eazi: Life Is Eazi, Vol. 2: Lagos to London (2018, Banku Music)
- Ekiti Sound: Abeg No Vex (2019, Crammed Discs): [r]: B+(**)
- Go: Organic Orchestra & Brooklyn Raga Massive: Ragmala: A Garland of Ragas (2018 , Meta, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Laurence Hobgood: Tesseterra (2019, Ubuntu Music): [r]: B+(**)
- Christopher Hollyday & Telepathy: Dialogue (2019 , Jazzbeat Productions): [cd]: B+(**) [01-17]
- Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
- Michael Janisch: Worlds Collide (2019, Whirlwind): [r]: B+(**)
- Lauren Jenkins: No Saint (2019, Big Machine): [r]: B+(**)
- Henry Kaiser/Anthony Pirog/Jeff Sipe/Tracy Silverman/Andy West: Five Times Surprise (2018 , Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(**)
- Egil Kalman & Fredrik Rasten: Weaving a Fabric of Winds (2019, Shhpuma): [r]: B
- Sarathy Korwar: More Arriving (2019, The Leaf Label): [r]: A-
- Kim Lenz: Slowly Speeding (2019, Blue Star): [r]: B+(**)
- Christian Lillinger: Open Form for Society (2018 , Plaist Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Brian Lynch Big Band: The Omni-American Book Club: My Journey Through Literature in Music (2019, Holistic MusicWorks): [r]: A-
- Brad Mehldau: Finding Gabriel (2017-18 , Nonesuch): [r]: B
- Microtub: Chronic Shift (2018 , Bohemian Drips): [r]: B
- J. Pavone String Ensemble: Brick and Mortar (2019, Birdwatcher): [r]: B
- The Regrettes: How Do You Love? (2019, Warner Brothers): [r]: B+(***)
- Mark Ronson: Late Night Feelings (2019, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
- Gary Smulyan & Ralph Moore Quintet: Bird's Eye Encounter! (2018 , Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
- Jim Snidero: Project-K (2019 , Savant): [cd]: B+(***) [01-24]
- Earl Sweatshirt: Feet of Clay (2019, Tan Cressida/Warner, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Tuba Skinny: Some Kind-a-Shake (2018 , self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
- William Tyler: Goes West (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Endless Boogie: Vol. I, II (2005 , No Quarter, 2CD): [r]: A-
- Martial Solal: And His Orchestra: 1956-1962 (1956-62 , Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
- Horace Tapscott With the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Flight 17 (1978 , Nimbus/Outernational): [bc]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Jazz Party (Troubadour Jass) [02-07]
- John Vanore: Primary Colors (Acoustical Concepts) [02-07]
Sunday, January 12, 2020
As actual voting is just around the corner, I've started to stray from
my no-campaign pledge. Part of this is that my wife has gotten much more
involved, and is regularly reporting social media posts that rile her up.
She's strong for Bernie, and I've yet to find any reason to argue with her.
Several pieces below argue that only X can beat Trump. For the record, I
don't believe that is true. I think any of the "big four" can win -- not
that there won't be momentary scares along the way. Trump has some obvious
assets that he didn't have in 2016: complete support of the Republican
political machine, which has been remarkably effective at getting slim
majorities to vote against their interests and sanity; so much money
he'll be tempted to steal most of it; and even more intense love from
his base. On the other hand, he has a track record this time, and he's
never registered an instant where his approval rating has topped 44%.
Plus I have this suspicion that one strong force that drives elections
is fear of embarrassment. Thanks to the Hillary Clinton's unique path
to the nomination, that worked for Trump in 2016, but no one on the
Democratic side of the aisle is remotely as embarrassing as Trump --
well, Michael Bloomberg, maybe. He's the only "major" candidate I can
see Trump beating. Indeed, if he somehow manages to buy the Democratic
nomination, I could see myself voting for a third party candidate.
I'm not saying he would be worse than Trump, but a Democratic Party
under him would never be able to right the wrongs of the last 40+
One indication of the current political atmosphere is that Trump's
"wag the dog" attack on Iran didn't budge public opinion in the least
(except, perhaps, in favor of Bernie among the Democrats). Trump walked
back his war-with-Iran threat, no doubt realizing that the US military
had no desire to invade and occupy Iran, and possibly seeing that the
random slaughter of scattered air attacks would merely expose him
further as a careless monster. Still, he did nothing to resolve the
conflict, and won't as long as his Saudi and Israeli foreign policy
directors insist on hostile relations. He sorely needs a consigliere,
like James Baker was to Bush Sr., someone who could follow up on his
tantrums and turn them into deals (that could have been made well
before). All he really needs to do to open up Iran and North Korea
is to let the sanctions go first, to establish some good will, and
let those countries be sucked into normalcy with mutually beneficial
trade. Most other foreign policy conflicts could be solved without
much more effort. And he has one advantage that no Democrat will:
he won't have a psycho like Donald Trump constantly attacking him
from the right, arguing that every concession he makes is a sign of
weakness. The only deal he's delivered so far (USMCA) is a fair test
case. It sailed through without serious objection because the only
person deranged enough to derail it kept his mouth shut.
More links on Iran, war, and foreign policy:
Trump's "Mission Accomplished" moment?
Tucker Carlson is not your new best friend: "The Fox News host's
antiwar stance doesn't erase all that other ugliness."
Will this billionaire-funded think tank get its war with Iran?
"The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies' militaristic influence
on US policy toward Iran is working. Suleiman's assassination is evidence
The Iraq War hawks are back: "Some of the biggest backers of the Iraq
War sure have a lot of opinions on Iran."
The West is still buying into nonsense about Iran's regional influence.
Sean Collins/Jen Kirby:
A Ukrainian plane crashed in Iran: What we know: "Iran has admitted
to accidentally shooting down the plane."
'History has proven her right': Barbara Lee's anti-war push succeeds on
Karen J Greenberg:
Killing Qassim Suleimani was illegal. And predictable. As this
piece notes, America's history of assassinating foreign leaders goes
back at least to 1960, with Patrice Lumumba ("success") and Fidel
Castro ("failed"), but had been prohibited in 1976, and only returned
to favor with GW Bush's Global War on Terror. I'd add that what really
turned it into fashion was envy of Israel's "targeted killings," which
really picked up in the 1980s.
Shane Harris/Josh Dawsey/Dan Lamothe/Missy Ryan:
'Launch, launch, launch': Inside the Trump administration as the
Iranian missiles began to fall. Key point here is that Iran
tipped off Iraq well before the missile strike, and Iraq passed
the information on to the US, so as to minimize casualties. Zero
casualties made it easier for Trump to stand down after the strike,
which was evidently just for show. As I recall, Trump did the same
thing, tipping Russia on a big US strike against a Syrian air base:
another big show that did little effective damage.
John Hudson/Missy Ryan/Josh Dawsey:
On the day US forces killed Soleimani, they targeted a senior Iranian
official in Yemen. They missed, but they did hit someone. For more,
see: Alex Emmons:
US strike on Iranian commander in Yemen the night of Suleimani's
assassination killed the wrong man.
The case against killing Qassem Soleimani: Interview with Dina
Esfandiary. Vox paired this with
The case for killing Qassem Soleimani, where Alex Ward interviewed
Bilal Saab. Both are so-called experts (Saab a former Trump flunky),
sharing a lot of DC groupthink about Iran (and the US -- the "against"
case regards Iran as every bit as evil and duplicitous as "for" does).
No one dares venture that a reason to argue against the killing is that
it's bad (both practically and, dare we say?, morally) for any country
to go around killing people in other countries.
Samya Kullab/Qassam Abdul-Zahra:
US dismisses Iraq request to work on a troop withdrawal plan.
Michael McFaul/Abbas Milani:
The minimal value of Trump's 'maximum pressure' on Iran. I wrote
some about sanctions under Nichols below, but left out one point:
even when sanctions have devastating impact on the target nation's
people, they are rarely effective at deposing political leaders or
toppling their governments. The obvious example is that the only
communist countries to hold fast after 1989-92 were the ones the
US subjected to the most vindictive pressure: North Korea, Vietnam,
Cuba, and China.
Bush's Iraq hawks had Trump's back this week.
Trump's Twitter threats against Iran cultural sites borrow from the ISIS
playbook: Could also have mentioned the Taliban's destruction of
ancient Buddhist monuments in Afghanistan.
Sanctions are economic warfare. There's an unnecessary word in that
title: Sanctions are warfare, meant to impoverish an "enemy," to cripple
their economy, ultimately to impose widespread suffering on all of the
people in the target country. The most extreme sanctions are literally
designed to starve the "enemy" into submission. Americans (like Trump)
like them, not just because they are effective in imposing pain, but
because they are asymmetrical. The economies of the US and its "allies"
(some should be called "co-conspirators"; others are more like hostages)
are so large that they can easily absorb the pain of not dealing with
the target country, while the target is prevented from engaging in
normal trade with much or most of the world. This size difference
means that no proportionate response in kind is possible. That's why
long-term victims of US sanctions like North Korea and Iran wind up
seeking other countermeasures, such as developing nuclear weapons --
as we've seen, the only measure that seems to get American attention.
Trump didn't back down from starting a war with Iran last week. He
actually escalated on ongoing war -- one that won't end until the US
suspends its sanctions against Iran, and permits Iran to normalize
its relations with the rest of the world.
Trump's conflict with Iran exposed the real difference between Biden
and Sanders. Good chance this has something to do with Sanders'
recent poll advances. First thing Laura told me after the Soleimani
assassination was "Trump just elected Bernie president."
Nathan J Robinson:
How to avoid swallowing war propaganda. Robinson also has a recent
book out, Why You Should Be a Socialist, as well as an earlier
one, Trump: Anatomy of a Monster (2017). Here's an
interview by Teddy Ostrow. The interview piece offers links to
highly critical pieces he wrote about Pete Buttigieg
About Pete) and Joe Biden
Chum). He turned me off a while back with a piece I don't recall
well enough to look up now -- possibly something snippy about Bernie
Sanders, but his latest thoughts on the campaign are worth reading:
Everyone is getting on the Bernie train. For example:
We need a candidate who fully understands the stakes. They need to know
the source of what has gone wrong and have a radical alternative. . . .
They can't capitulate before the fight starts. They need
to have a moral seriousness that shows they take the pain of others
seriously. They need to fill people's souls, to assuage their fears,
to challenge them to be their best selves, and to present a vision of
the beautiful world that could be if humanity got its act together,
versus the horrendous world that will be if we allow the deadly logic of
nuclear weapons and climate change to continue unfolding. This moment
demands something, a kind of power, we have never before mustered, a
resolve we have never before felt, a breadth and depth of vision we
have never before dared to pursue.
I cut a line from that paragraph: the one that starts "they can't
be some tepid compromiser." He's talking about Elizabeth Warren, and
I've been deluged today from her supporters taking umbrage that one
of Sanders' staffers suggested that she is the "second best" candidate,
so I figured we could do without the side-swipe. But I will note that
Robinson has a long paragraph on Warren that is pretty devastating:
look for the one that starts, "Personally I have long believed that
Elizabeth Warren would be a disaster against Donald Trump." Some of
his points don't bother me much, but "She is evasive where Bernie is
frank" does cut to the quick.
Iran plane crash likely caused by violations of international law -- by
both Tehran and Trump.
Donald Trump is the war crimes president. In his dreams, maybe.
He certainly lacks the elementary sense of right and wrong to steer
clear of war crimes, but neither does he have the track record of
GW Bush, let alone a Richard Nixon, and he still ranks well behind
others, notably Harry Truman (still the only person in history to
order the use of nuclear weapons on cities). On the other hand,
those presidents used larger wars to camouflage their crimes, and
probably didn't feel much kinship with the soldiers who carried
their directives out, let alone those who exceeded their orders.
Trump, on the other hand, has probably caught up with his reviled
predecessor Obama, who himself set records for "targeted killings."
Moreover, Trump's pardon of "Navy SEAL Commander Eddie Gallagher,
a rogue soldier who routinely shot civilians in Iraq for the hell
of it, and finally stabbed to death a barely conscious captive
young ISIS fighter who was the lone survivor of a missile hit on
an enemy house," shows a personal bloodlust beyond any president
I can recall.
The administration's deceptions about the Soleimani strike are a big
The House sent a major message about checking the president's war powers
on Iran. Now why don't they follow it up with another impeachment
article? By the way, this time it appears that Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo
are also equally culpable, so why not name them too?
Some scattered links this week:
The Trump administration is still struggling to get its story straight
on why it killed Soleimani. Some curious phrasing, from Defense
Secretary Mark Esper: "What the President said with regard to the four
embassies is what I believe as well."
Nancy Pelosi explains what Democrats gaind by holding onto the articles
Trump encourages new anti-government protests in Iran.
The Trump administration wants the Supreme Court to not rule on Obamacare
until after the 2020 election.
Another earthquake hits Puerto Rico, with aftershocks expected: A
6.4 on Tuesday, then a 5.9 on Saturday, with many aftershocks (45 and
counting of at least 3.0).
Trump has created a loophole to allow pipelines to avoid environmental
review. Refers to the Lisa Friedman article, below. When I first
read reports about this rule change, it was phrased vaguely in terms
of generic infrastructure projects, like bridges and roads, and meant
to cut through costly bureaucracy on projects where the environmental
impact was obviously limited. Pipelines are another story. They leak,
and the environmental impact of leaks is enormous. And at this point,
it's probably impossible to argue that a new pipeline won't increase
global warming, so eliminating that consideration is a life-and-death
matter to pipeline developers.
As Australia fires kill animals and destroy property, costs of climate
change become clear: "For those spuriously claiming climate ambition
comes at a cost, let Australia's black summer serve as a potent reminder
that inaction does, too."
Trump cited GOP Senate impeachment pressure as reason to kill Soleimani:
"You're not supposed to use foreign policy that way." Not that such
scruples stopped Bill Clinton when he was impeached.
Maybe nominating Michael Bloomberg for president isn't a crazy idea:
Chait's reasoning is that "only [Bloomberg] can outspend Trump five to
one." That's putting a lot of faith in the power of money to buy elections,
especially through lavish spending on TV. How's that working out? See:
Bloomberg and Steyer $200m spend on TV ads: "Steyer's spending in
South Carolina is beginning to slowly move the polls: he is now placed
fifth with 5% of projected Democratic voters." However, he's stuck at
1.5% nationally. Bloomberg is supposedly doing better nationwide --
I've seen polls as high as 7% -- but he's not even in the race for
Iowa or New Hampshire, nor has he qualified for a single debate, so
all he has going is his TV ad buy, and even there his selling point
is "Trump = bad," not Bloomberg offers unique hope for the real
problems the country faces. (Also see:
Michael Bloomberg outspent the entire Democratic field in TV ads last
week.) Sure, it might be nice if the Democrats could draw on
Bloomberg's deep pockets, but Bloomberg himself is by far the
most reactionary, elitist, offensive candidate in the running (a list
which, by the way, still includes John Delaney). [PS: Also see:
Michael Bloomberg is open to spending $1 billion to defeat Trump,
"even if the nominee was someone he had sharp differences with, like
Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren."]
Iraq War at 154: Who voted for it, who didn't, and where are they
Donald Trump's worst deal: The shady story of Trump Tower Baku.
Miriam Elder/Ruby Cramer:
Donald Trump is starting to fixate on Bernie Sanders.
The global war on error: "No, that's not a typo." And yes, error
is winning, handily.
What an Elizabeth Warren presidency would look like. This is paired
with Daniel Denvir:
What a Bernie Sanders presidency would look like. Both are pretty
good, although I'd give Sanders the edge for a foreign policy which
is based on principles of justice for all, and a political strategy
which promises to venture out to states beyond the "blue wall." I
don't think Warren is opposed to either point, but her instincts for
landing on the right side are less sure. The other thing about Warren
is that her appeal hasn't spread beyond college-educated professionals.
That should change if she's nominated, much like Buttigieg will wind
up with strong support from blacks if he makes it to November, but
Bernie has so far done a better job of broadening his base. In
These Times and didn't bother attempting to assay other Democratic
Party candidates. I doubt anyone really has a clue what a Buttigieg
presidency might look like. On the other hand, we can picture a Biden
one all too well.
John F Harris:
'He is our OJ': "Readers explain why they're standing with Trump during
impeachment." Author also wrote:
Impeachment and the crack up of the conservative mind.
As Australia burns, its leaders are clinging to coal.
Boeing employees mocked FAA and 'clowns' who designed 737 Max. As
one internal email put it, "this airplane is designed by clowns, who
are in turn supervised by monkeys." Reminds me of a friend who worked
for Boeing, telling me of a company meeting where a manager bragged,
"this isn't your father's Boeing any more." For the record, my father
retired from Boeing as soon as he could draw his pension, and refused
to ever fly in a Boeing airplane.
What will another decade of climate crisis bring?
Trump's art of the steal: "How Donald Trump rode to power by parroting
other people's fringe ideas, got himself impeached for it -- and might
Study links Medicaid expansion to 6 percent reduction in opioid overdose
A new study finds increasing the minimum wage reduces suicides.
Mark Mazzetti/Ronen Bergman/David D Kirkpatrick:
Saudis close to Crown Prince discussed killing other enemies a year
before Khashoggi's death.
Tabula rasa: Volume one. Part of his "old-person project" -- writing
about what he never got around to writing about. I'm a big McPhee fan,
but this isn't especially promising.
The Trump administration's subtle, devious plan to dismantle abortion
rights: "The Supreme Court could quash the right to an abortion
entirely through procedural shenanigans."
The Trump administration has finalized an agreement to deport asylum
seekers back to Honduras.
Trump tried to get E Jean Carroll's lawsuit dismissed. It didn't work.
The future of America's context with China: "Washington is in an
intensifying standoff with Beijing. Which one will fundamentally shape
the twenty-first century?" Reminiscent of the 19th Century's "Great
Game" between Britain and Russia -- a contest which said much about
the self-absorption of so-called great powers, not least their inability
to consider that the rest of the world might have other plans.
The most popular crook in America: Larry Hogan, the "very popular"
Republican governor of Maryland. For more, see Eric Cortellessa:
Who does Maryland's governor really work for? Pareene writes:
I've argued that, in many respects, the presidency of Donald Trump
is more "normal" than some people would like to admit. That is, it's a
logical end point of where conservatism has been moving, rather than an
inexplicable break from a system that was working as intended. But even
so, in his personal behavior and incendiary rhetoric, Trump is aberrant --
and, it should always be noted, he is deeply unpopular. The country, by
and large, doesn't want what Trump has wrought. His election was both
overdetermined and something of a bizarre fluke, which would, arguably,
not have happened had it not been for geography and our illogical modern
interpretation of archaic founding documents.
Hogan, on the other hand, is exactly the "normal" to which politicians
like Joe Biden promise to return us when they try to speak into existence
a Republican Party that they can "work with."
How political fact-checkers distort the truth: "Glenn Kessler and
his ilk aren't sticking to the facts. They are promoting a moderate
How to dump Trump: Rick Wilson on Running Against the Devil.
Wilson is "a top Republican strategist with 30 years' experience," and
that's the title of his new book, a sequel to his 2018 book Everything
Trump Touches Dies.
Charles P Pierce: He writes more than a dozen short
posts a week,
many interesting, although for me it gets tiresome to delve
through all of them when I usually have some other source for the
same story (usually covered in more depth). Still, some titles
that caught my eye this week:
Pelosi: House will send impeachment articles to the Senate next week.
What will happen to the Trump toadies? "Look to Nixon's defenders,
and the Vichy collaborators, for clues." Steve M. has his doubts:
Frank Rich's delusions of cosmic justice.
The equality conundrum. Much nitpicking, not sure he comes up with
Kansas has reached a deal to expand Medicaid, covering 150,000 people.
Not a "done deal," as there are still Republicans who will fight it.
Amy Davidson Sorkin:
In Ohio, Trump lists the sacrifices he makes for the nation.
Installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational
Elizabeth Warren's new plan to reform bankruptcy law, explained
Bernie Sanders can unify Democrats and beat Trump in 2020. Surprised
to see this, given that Yglesias last tried his "electability" argument
to push Amy Klobuchar, and more generally given his designation as the
2019 "neoliberal shill of the year." This is supposed to be the "first
in a Vox series making the best case for each of the top Democratic
contenders," but I haven't noticed any of the others yet. Meanwhile,
there's Katelyn Burns:
Sanders tops latest Iowa poll, but the 2020 Democratic primary is still
a four way race.
The US-Saudi alliance is deeply unpopular with the American people.
The strong economy is an opportunity for progressives. Claims that
"voters are happy with the economy," citing a
CNN poll where 76 percent of voters rate economic conditions as
either "very good" or "somewhat good." Includes a chart that shows
that "pick-up in wage growth has come from low-wage industries" --
something I've seen others cite, but what I haven't seen is a chart
that distinguishes between low-wage workers who got raises due to
minimum wage increases compared with purely economic effects on the
labor market. There's no reason to attribute the former to Trump or
the Republicans -- just the opposite. And while raises for low wage
workers help, the poor are still poor, and prices -- Yglesias cites
child care as a major concern -- eat up a good chunk of income. But
even if Yglesias is right that most people are no longer worried
about the economy, he's also right that Democrats have other issues
to run on:
But one nice thing about a strong labor market is that it creates
political space to finally pay attention to the myriad social problems
that can't be solved by a "good economy" alone -- things like child
care, health care, college costs, and environmental protection -- that
during, the Obama years, tended to be crowded out by a jobs-first
Good times, in other words, could be the perfect opportunity to
finally tackle the many long-lingering problems for which progressives
actually have solutions and about which conservatives would rather not
Friday, January 08, 2010
Need to write something (75 words) for NPR on the Steve Lehman album:
Steve Lehman Trio + Craig Taborn: The People I Love (Pi)
The alto saxophonist extends his string of boundary-pushing albums by
rediscovering the middle ground between his trio and the larger groups
he has lately favored. Matt Brewer (bass) and Damion Reid return from
his Dialect Fluorescent trio, while pianist Taborn harmonizes, comps,
disrupts, and waxes eloquent. Could be his most conventional postbop
effort, but that's only because he's pushed the envelope so far with
such complete command.
- Prelude (T+L): short, just sax and piano.
- Ih Calam & Ynnus: fast riffing over hard piano chords
- Curse Fraction: slower, airier sax lines, piano comping
- qPlay (Autechre):
- Interlude (T+L):
- A Shifting Design (Kurt Rosenwinkel): recorded 2018 in CA
- Beyond All Limits:
- Echoes/The Impaler (latter by Jeff "Tain" Watts):
- Chance (Kenny Kirkland):
- Postlude (T+L):
Monday, January 06, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 32575  rated (+37), 230  unrated (+2).
I might as well go ahead and post this, as I'm nowhere near getting
to a reasonable breakpoint. I haven't even done the indexing for last
Streamnotes file. Nor do
I have much to add on EOY lists. Latest I have on NPR's posting of the
Jazz Critics Poll results is "end of this week or beginning of next."
I've since got a request to write a little something by Thursday, so
I'd say early next week is the more likely date.
All of the promos in my queue are 2020 releases, so I figured they
could wait as I try to mop up what I've missed from 2019. Also, when
I've been away from the computer, the CDs I've been playing have been
old jazz: some Ellington, Hawkins, Webster, and a lot of Armstrong --
an especially pleasant surprise to find Armstrong's terrific Newport
sets on the computer.
The B+(***) record with the most potential is the Sturgill Simpson.
I only gave it one play, and really wasn't in the mood for an arena
rock album -- much closer to that than to neotrad or neocosmopolitan
coutry, a trend that Nashville artists like Eric Church have pursued
of late. Still, an impressive performance, his third straight B+(***)
in my book. On the other hand, Omar Souleyman's fifth straight A- was
an easy call, not that I can keep any of them straight. Didn't hurt
to be reminded of the humanity that the US has tried so hard to snuff
out for decades now.
Also nice to find a new electronica artist I really like.
New records reviewed this week:
- Acid Arab: Jdid (2019, Crammed Discs): [r]: B+(*)
- Joe Armon-Jones: Turn to Clear View (2019, Brownswood): [bc]: B
- Blacks' Myths: Blacks' Myths II (2019, Atlantic Rhythms): [bc]: B+(**)
- Burna Boy: African Giant (2019, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
- Crazy P: Age of the Ego (2019, Walk Don't Walk): [r]: B+(***)
- Fruit Bats: Gold Past Life (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(*)
- (Sandy) Alex G: House of Sugar (2019, Domino): [r]: B
- Geometry [Kyoko Kitamura/Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris/Tomeka Reid]: Geometry of Distance (2018 , Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(*)
- Ghost Rhythms: Live at Yoshiwara (2019, Cuneiform): [dl]: b>B+(*)/li>
- Hash Redactor: Drecksound (2019, Goner): [r]: B+(**)
- William Hooker: Symphonie of Flowers (2019, ORG Music): [r]: B+(**)
- IPT: Diffractions (2018 , ForTune): [r]: B+(***)
- The Japanese House: Good at Falling (2019, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(*)
- Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel (2019, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(*)
- Anna Meredith: FIBS (2019, Moshi Moshi): [r]: B
- The Messthetics: Anthropocosmic Nest (2019, Dischord): [bc]: B+(*)
- Moor Mother: Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes (2019, Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(**)
- Gurf Morlix: Impossible Blue (2019, Rootball): [r]: B+(**)
- Ralph Peterson & the Messenger Legacy: Legacy Alive: Volume 6 at the Sidedoor (2019, Onyx Productions): [r]: B+(**)
- Portico Quartet: Memory Streams (2019, Gondwana): [r]: B+(*)
- Sturgill Simpson: Sound & Fury (2019, Elektra): [r]: B+(***)
- Omar Souleyman: Shlon (2019, Mad Decent/Because): [r]: A-
- Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: The Peyote Dance (2019, Bella Union): [r]: B+(*)
- Soundwalk Collective With Patti Smith: Mummer Love (2019, Bella Union): [r]: B+(**)
- Special Request: Vortex (2019, Houndstooth): [bc]: A-
- Special Request: Bedroom Tapes (2019, Houndstooth): [bc]: B+(***)
- Special Request: Offworld (2019, Houndstooth): [bc]: A-
- Vinnie Sperrazza/Jacob Sacks/Masa Kamaguchi: Play Sonny Rollins (2018 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(*)
- Tropical Fuck Storm: Braindrops (2019, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(*)
- Summer Walker: Over It (2019, Interscope): [r]: B
- Yola: Walk Through Fire (2019, Easy Eye Sound/Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Fred Anderson Quartet: Live Volume V (1994 , FPE): [bc]: B+(***)
- Louis Armstrong & His All Stars: The Complete Newport 1956 & 1958 Recordings (1956-58 , Legacy, 2CD): [r]: A-
- Guy Clark: The Best of the Dualtone Years (2006-13 , Dualtone, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Jaye P. Morgan: Jaye P. Morgan (1976 , Wewantsounds): [bc]: B
- John Prine: Chicago '70 (1970 , Hobo): [r]: B+(***)
- Patrice Rushen: Remind Me: The Classic Elektra Recordings 1978-1984 (1978-84 , Strut): [bc]: B+(*)
- Ben Webster/Don Byas: Giants of the Tenor Sax (1944-45 , Commodore): [cd]: B+(**)
- Ben Webster and His Quartet: Wayfaring Webster (1970 , Daybreak): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Valery Ponomarev Big Band: Live! Our Father Who Art Blakey: The Centennial (Summit) [01-17]
- Purna Loka Ensemble: Metaraga (Origin) [01-17]
Sunday, January 05, 2020
In his 2019 State of the Union address, Donald Trump warned:
An economic miracle is taking place in the United States -- and the
only thing that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous
partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation,
there cannot be war and investigation. It doesn't work that way!
the quote slightly differently: as Trump saying that
the only things that could stop America (by which he meant himself)
are partisan investigations and stupid wars. Trump has blundered his
way into both now.
After the Democrats won the House in 2018, it was inevitable that
they would start investigating the Trump administration's rampant
corruption and flagrant abuses of power, something Republicans in
Congress had turned a blind eye to. It was not inevitable, or even
very likely, that Trump would be impeached. Speaker Pelosi clearly
had no desire to impeach, until Trump gave them a case where he had
run so clearly afoul of national security orthodoxy that Democrats
could present impeachment as fulfillment of their patriotic duty.
On closer examination, it's possible that the only war Trump was
thinking of in the speech was one of Democrats against himself, but
he had waged a successful 2016 campaign as the anti-war candidate --
a challenge given his fondness for bluster and violence, but one made
credible by his opponent's constant reminders that she would be the
tougher and more menacing Commander in Chief. But as president he's
followed his gut instincts, and escalated his way to approximate war
with Iran: not his first stupid war, but the first unquestionably
attributable to his own folly.
The simplest explanation of how Trump got into war against Iran
is that he basically auctioned US foreign policy off to the highest
bidders, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia. (One should recall that
Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson is also Benjamin Netanyahu's
fairy godfather.) Israel and Saudi Arabia wanted Trump to tear up
Obama's anti-nuclear arms agreement with Iran, so he did. They wanted
Trump to strangle Iran with extra sanctions, so he did. They also
wanted Trump to directly attack "Iranian-backed" militias in Iraq
and Syria, so once again he did their bidding. That belligerence
and those escalations have gotten us to exactly where we are, and
it was all totally unnecessary, if only Trump had attempted instead
to build on the good will Obama originally established. Granted,
Obama could have gone further himself toward opening up cordial
relations with Iran, but he too was limited by Israel and Saudi
Arabia -- indeed, the letter of his agreement was meant to satisfy
Israeli and Saudi demands that Iran halt nuclear weapons efforts,
and indeed was the only possible approach that achieve those demands.
The only thing that opposition to the treaty proves is that the
demands weren't based on serious fears -- they were nothing but
political posturing, meant to scam gullible Americans.
The only other explanation I can think of is that Trump has an
unannounced foreign policy agenda, which basically inverts Theodore
Roosevelt's dictum: "speak softly but carry a big stick." Perhaps
Trump realizes that America's "stick" isn't nearly as intimidating
as it was during the era of the Roosevelts, so he's compensating
by shouting, often incoherently. Even if he doesn't realize the US
has lost the respect and trust it once enjoyed -- in decline due to
years of increasing selfishness and numerous bad decisions, further
exacerbated by Trump's "America first" rhetoric -- the frustration
of defiance must boil his blood. Whatever insight he once had about
investigations and wars has long since been buried in the hubris of
his rantings. That loss of clarity makes him even stupider than
usual, leading him beyond blunders to crimes, against us and even
The result is that once again we're praying, and not for the
redemption of the inexcusable behavior of the Trump administration,
but for the greater sanity of Iran's leaders, the discipline not
to play into Trump's madness. Unfortunately, Americans have never
shown much aptitude for learning from their mistakes. Indeed, the
only people who have ever learned anything from war were those
who lost so badly their folly could not be shifted elsewhere --
e.g., Japan after WWII. Iran's eight-year war with Iraq wasn't a
full-fledged defeat, but Iranians suffered horribly, and that has
surely dampened their enthusiasm for war. On the other hand, the
sanctions they already face must feel like war, without even the
promise of striking back.
PS: I wrote the above, and most of the comments below, on
Saturday, before this story broke: Riley Beggin:
Iraqi Parliament approves a resolution on expelling US troops after
Soleimani killing. As I wrote below, this would be the best-case
scenario. Since Iraq appears to have no control over what US forces
based there actually do, the only way Iraqis can escape being caught
in the middle is to expel the Americans. Moreover, it's hard to see
how Trump could keep troops in Iraq without the consent of Iraq's
government. Note that this won't end the threat of war. The US still
has troops and navy based around the Persian Gulf, from which it can
launch attacks against Iran. But expulsion should extricate Iraq from
being in the middle of Trump's temper tantrum.
On the other hand, Mike Pompeo has already rejected Iraq's vote,
saying, "We are confident that the Iraqi people want the United States
to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign." See
Pompeo sticks up for US presence as Iraq votes to eject foreign
Here are some links on Trump and Iran:
The US has no friends left in Iraq.
Trump's Iran war has begun. One thing that bothers me about this
and similar pieces is the repeated assertion that "neither side wants . . .
a full-scale war." It's quite possible that no one in a position of
real power in Iran wants such a thing, as the US has undoubted power
to literally destroy every inch of Iran, killing nearly all Iranians
and leaving the country an uninhabitable wasteland. But it clearly is
the case that there are some Americans, in or close to the government,
who want nothing less than full-scale war against Iran, and they have
been bankrolled by Israel and Saudi Arabia, who see an American war
against Iran as furthering their own "Middle East ambitions."
Neither the US nor Iran appears to want a full-scale conflict, meaning an
extended US bombing campaign inside Iran's borders or a ground invasion.
Such a conflict would be devastating to both sides. However, when two
enemies like these start openly shooting at each other, neither side
wants to be seen as the one who blinks first. The result is a cycle of
attacks and counterattacks, which has the potential to spiral outside
of anyone's control.
The closest recent analogy may be the Egyptian-Israeli
Attrition, over the Suez Canal between the 1967 and 1973 wars.
Egypt vacillated between armed attacks and peace proposals, and
eventually regained the Canal and the Sinai Peninsula through the
1979 Camp David Accords. That's a case where the indecisiveness
of the border skirmishes lead to a larger war, and the threat of
further wars led to the US-brokered agreement. However, US-Iran
is a fundamentally dissimilar conflict. A closer conflict model
might be the UK-China Opium Wars of the 1840s, where an imperial
power, protected from counterattack by thousands of miles, waged
war on the periphery of a country it couldn't conquer and occupy,
to secure commercial demands meant to enrich itself and to weaken
and impoverish its opponent. Same thing happened between the UK
and Iran, only there Britain was able to secure the concessions
they desired -- most profitably, control over Iranian oil -- with
more pedestrian measures: bribes. Also recall that Iranian enmity
against the US started with the CIA coup in 1953, which restored
foreign control over Iran's oil, most of which went to American
companies. American enmity against Iran started in 1979, when the
revolution reclaimed Iran's oil for its people.
The embassy attack revealed Trump's weakness [01-01]: "By abandoning
diplomacy, the president risks war, humiliation, or both -- and has put
himself at Iran's mercy." This was written before the assassination of
Soleimani, so could arguably be charged with taunting Trump to show how
tough he really is -- or how dumb he really is. That's always a risk to
dwelling on how much America's military-based influence has declined of
late -- especially with presidents who'd rather be seen as tough than
as smart. (McGeorge Bundy made that distinction between Johnson and
Kennedy, but the split between Trump and Obama is even more glaring.)
On the other hand, America's military looks weakened because it's been
much overused since 2001. While the damage it has wrought all across
the Middle East and North Africa is staggering, the people who fight
us now are by definition the ones who have survived the slaughter,
who have learned the limits of "shock and awe," and who have been
hardened against further threats. Trump's flaks have described the
mass murder as establishing a deterrent, but deterrents are mental
constructs; examples are mere atrocities. True that the US could kill
many more people: with nuclear weapons, tens or even hundreds of
millions, but that would make it impossible even for us to deny
what kind of monsters we've become. (And make no mistake, America's
wars abroad are driven mostly by domestic politics, by self-image.)
On the other hand, the US still has much leverage diplomatically.
The Iran deal that Trump tore up is ample testimony to how far Iran
was willing to sacrifice its sovereign rights to appease the US and
Europe. It's equally clear that North Korea would shelve its nuclear
arsenal in exchange for an economic opening -- basically the same
deal that the US happily offers South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, even
Communist China and Vietnam. The problem is that Trump has no clue
how "the art of the deal" really works. His only mode is bullying,
which does little more than create resistance, while exposing the
real limits of his power.
The assassination of Suleimani escalates the threat of war:
"President Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal nearly
two years ago started the US down this path with Iran."
Iran just outplayed the United States -- again [12-31] (not that
I give a shit what Boot thinks on this).
Trump's Iran aggression deserves full-throated opposition. Related:
Anti-war protesters organize around US following killing of Iranian
general. By the way,
we had a protest in Wichita, which drew about 150 people. Also,
look at this.
Trump thinks attacking Iran will get him reelected. He's wrong.
Trump's attacks on Obama were the purest form of projection. They reflect
his cynical belief that every president will naturally abuse their powers,
and thus provide a roadmap to his own intentions.
And indeed, Trump immediately followed the killing of Qasem Soleimani
by metaphorically wrapping himself in the stars and stripes. No doubt he
anticipates at least a faint echo of the rally-around-the-flag dynamic
that has buoyed many of his predecessors. . . .
But presidents traditionally benefit from a presumption of competence,
or at least moral legitimacy, from their opposition. Trump has forfeited
his. He will not have Democratic leaders standing shoulder to shoulder
with him, and his practice of disregarding and smearing government
intelligence should likewise dispel any benefit of the doubt attached to
claims he makes about the necessity of his actions. Trump has made it
plain that he views American war-fighting as nothing but the extension
of domestic politics. We should believe him.
Martin Chulov/Ghaith Abdul-Ahad:
Iran ends nuclear deal commitments as fallout from Suleimani killing
Iraq's worst fears have come true -- a proxy war is on its doorstep.
Some other recent Cockburn columns:
Trump and his team are lying their way to war with Iran.
Trump tweets threat to commit war crimes in Iran.
Trump's Soleimani assassination: It's all about the oil. Actually,
the article doesn't make much of a case for that -- not that control
of Iranian oil wasn't the prime consideration in the 1953 CIA coup in
Iran, or in Britain's numerous interventions over the previous century.
But the most immediate effect of war around the Persian Gulf is the
effect it has on driving worldwide oil prices up, which makes it a
bonanza for oil companies all around the world. On the other hand,
peace with Iran would risk flooding the market with cheap Iranian oil,
which would hurt profits everywhere else.
Iran loses its indispensable man: "The killing of Qassem Soleimani
robs the regime of the central figure for its ambitions in the Middle
East." I'd take this argument with several grains of salt, as the US,
Israel, and Saudia Arabia have long made a habit of exaggerating Iran's
"ambitions in the Middle East," and have had considerable success at
getting the US media to repeat their claims. His killing would only
make a critical difference if: he had substantial autonomy in directing
Quds Force operations outside of Iran, and his successors are inclined
now to change their strategy and tactics. It's hard to imagine the
assassination of any US general (at least since US Grant) making such
a difference. If anything, it's more likely that the vacuum will set
off a contest to see which of his possible successors will be the
most militantly vengeful.
The dangers posed by the killing of Qassem Suleimani. In 2013,
Filkins wrote a previous profile of Suleimani:
The shadow commander.
Graham E Fuller:
US foreign policy by assassination.
The Soleimani assassination: "The long-awaited beginning of the
end of America's imperial ambitions."
Prominent Iraq War supporters think Soleimani killing was a great
Falih Hassan/Tim Arango/Alissa J Rubin:
A shocked Iraq
reconsiders its relationship with the US: "The killing of General
Suleimani, intended as a shot against Iran, could accelerate an
Iranian objective: pushing the United States military out of Iraq."
This is probably the best-case scenario: Iraq tells the US to remove
its troops, if not necessarily to close its embassy. The government
in Iraq is already unpopular, and siding with the US when Trump is
ordering bombing within Iraq is bound to be massively unpopular.
War with Iran.
A second airstrike against Iranian targets in Iraq: what we know:
"The attack comes one day after a major escalation in US-Iranian
Why Trump assassinated Soleimani and what happens next.
Trump just declared war on Iran: "There is no other way to look
at the killing of Qassem Soleimani."
Trump once again proves himself clueless on Iran and North Korea.
It's time to worry about war with North Korea again. "The logjam stems
from the fact that both leaders are, in their own ways, delusional." I
didn't link to this last week, because Kaplan likes to parrot much of
the conventional Washington blather on North Korea, but North Korea and
Iran are linked in several critical ways: both nations have long been
isolated from any contact, let alone normal trade, with the West; that
isolation in both cases started with acts of war, which the US has never
made any effort to resolve; both have sought to force an opening through
the intimidation of building themselves up as nuclear powers; the US
regards both regimes as utterly abhorent, so refuses any reconciliation
without regime change, which they hope to achieve by impoverishment and
starvation. There are minor differences: notably that North Korea has
been isolated longer, and has developed a serious arsenal of weapons
that could inflict real damage, both on neighbors and as far away as
the continental US; and that US "allies" Israel and Saudi Arabia have
been more aggressive at pushing the US to escalate the conflict with
Iran -- not that Japan and, until recently, South Korea haven't been
hostile to North Korea, thereby reinforcing American instincts. The
US feels entitled to judge other countries, and to punish the ones it
disfavors with sanctions, thinking them somehow more merciful than
outright war. That may make sense when the sanctioned nation refuses
even to negotiate, but both North Korea and Iran have both made it
clear that they want more normalized relations with the US and others.
Trump's refusal to offer any sanctions relief even after three summits
is perverse and self-defeating, which is why Kim is tempted to return
to his previous threats and taunts. Trump's treatment of Iran is even
more contemptuous. Maybe in his business experience, Trump suffers no
consequences when he imperiously demands submission from suitors, but
the world doesn't work like that. The US sanctions regime doesn't let
North Korea or Iran simply take their business elsewhere.
Biden: Trump is 'incredibly dangerous and irresponsible' as the 'walls
The US can only lose in war with Iran. I take it as axiomatic
that no side can win in war. The most you can say is that some sides
lose more than others, but in the long run that evens out as well.
But one thing to note here is that the US has a lot more to lose
than Iran (currently impoverished by cruel sanctions) has -- perhaps
as large an asymmetry as the differences in destructive power.
Fox News is already accusing Democrats who question Trump of being
aligned with Iran. E.g.,
Sean Hannity calls for Trump to discard rules of engagement with Iran
and "bomb the living hell out of them".
As Sanders and Warren vow to block war with Iran, Biden and Buttigieg
offer better-run wars. That seems a little unfair, as the salient
point Biden and Buttigieg are making is that they offer leadership
smart enough not to make such blunders (although they could have been
clearer on the point). But the fact is nobody knows how to run wars
better. The common denominator is always what Donald Rumsfeld called
"the military we have," and efforts to make that military smarter,
more agile, more sensitive, more responsive, more principled, have
After Mossad targeted Soleimani, Trump pulled the trigger.
Extreme inequality will fuel Middle East turmoil and uncertainty into
the new year. Posted Dec. 12, so before the latest specifics, but
relevant nonetheless. Author also wrote
Resolving Lebanon's crisis.
Killing Soleimani was worse than a crime: "It was a blunder."
Always the optimist -- well, at the launch of a war, anyway.
Trump faces swift backlash for killing Soleimani as Iraqi Parliament
votes to expel US troops. Note especially this:
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi has made some shocking revelations
that put the assassination of Soleimani in a completely different light.
He told the Iraqi parliament on Sunday that he "was supposed to meet
Soleimani on the morning of the day he was killed, he came to deliver
me a message from Iran responding to the message we delivered from Saudi
If this account is true, Trump -- perhaps deliberately -- acted to
scuttle an effort to reduce tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Nathan J Robinson:
How to avoid swallowing war propaganda: "Cutting through bad
arguments, distractions, and euphemisms to see murder for what it
Trump's tweets about Obama using war with Iran to win reelection are
very awkward now: "In order to get elected, Obama will start a
war with Iran." So, if he believed that worked, is Trump "wagging
the dog" now?
Trump's predictions not only turned out to be false, but the irony is
that instead of starting a war, the Obama administration's diplomacy
resulted in the multilateral Iran nuclear deal. Now that he's president,
however, Trump has gone down a very different path, unilaterally pulling
the US out of the nuclear deal, pursuing a "maximum pressure" campaign
aimed at crippling Iran's economy, and assassinating the head of the
country's paramilitary forces.
It's no secret by now that many of Trump's attacks on his political
foes are projection. He's spent months accusing former Vice President
Joe Biden of corruption, despite the fact that Trump himself is arguably
the most corrupt president in American history. He called Obama "a total
patsy" for Russia even though he's never been able to bring himself to
say a cross word about Russian President Vladimir Putin. He also attacked
Hillary Clinton for purportedly silencing women who accused her husband
of sexual misconduct at the same time Trump's lawyer was making illegal
hush payments to women to cover up affairs.
Missy Ryan/Josh Dawsey/Dan Lamothe/John Hudson:
How Trump decided to kill a top Iranian general. One problem with
having an egotistical moron as president is that it's awfully easy for
underlings to steer him in ill-considered directions.
David E Sanger:
For Trump, a risky gamble to deter Iran: "The goal was to prove American
resolve in the face of Iranian attacks." The effect was to challenge Iran
to show greater resolve in the face of even larger American attacks.
With Suleimani assassination, Trump is doing the bidding of Washington's
most vile cabal.
9 big questions about Qassem Soleimani's killing, answered by an expert:
interview with Suzanne Maloney, deputy director of foreign policy at the
Trump vows to target '52' sites if Iran retaliates for Soleimani death.
I don't know about you, but I associate this class of threat with Nazi
Germany, which promised to kill a hundred random people for every German
soldier killed in their occupation of the Balkans. I can't think of any
other examples, although Israel approaches that ratio, at least in Gaza.
I've long said that American neocons suffer from Israel-envy, as they
try to incorporate more and more elements of Israel's occupation strategy
into American foreign policy (e.g., targeted assassinations).
Mohammad Ali Shabani:
Donald Trump's assassination of Qassem Suleimani will come back to haunt
The real risk of assassinating Soleimani.
Trump lit a fire by exiting the Iran deal & poured gasoline on
it by assassinating Soleimani.
Qassim Suleimani's killing will unleash chaos: "Revenge is not a
Democrats warn of the dangers of war while Republicans fall in line
after the killing of Iran's Qassem Soleimani. I thought Warren's
blame-Soleimani-first tweet was lame, then I read Klobuchar's: "Our
immediate focus needs to be on ensuring all necessary security
measures are taken to protect U.S. military and diplomatic personnel
in Iraq and throughout the region." Not even Sanders, whose opposition
to an Iran war was unequivocal, said the obvious: "what the fuck are
American troops doing in Iraq in the first place?" The only Democratic
tweet to make a key point was by Tim Kaine, blessed with the clarity
of hindsight: "Trump's decision to tear up a diplomatic deal that was
working and resume escalating aggressions with Iran has brought us to
the brink of another war in the Middle East." Understand that much and
you won't get snowed by the propaganda.
Trump threatens Afghan Armageddon. Quotes Trump: "If we wanted to
fight a war in Afghanistan and win it, I could win that war in a week.
I just don't want to kill 10 million people."
The killing of Qassem Suleimani is tantamount to an act of war.
Some scattered links this week:
If Ukraine is impeachable, what's Afghanistan?: "A misguided war that
drags on inconclusively for more than 18 years is, I submit, a great
Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to put himself above the law: "The
Israeli prime minister's latest attempt to avoid jail time further
demonstrates his treat to democracy."
Marketing psychiatric drugs to jailers and judges: "Drug companies
are courting jails and judges through sophisticated marketing efforts."
Can we survive the post-truth era? "How Donald Trump's perverse brand
of B.S. took over American politics."
Trump covering up scheme to use Justice Department to punish CNN.
EPA's scientific advisers warn its regulatory rollbacks clash with
established science. I suspect they also violate the laws that
established the EPA in the first place. I'd like to see Democrats
in the House write up another impeachment article over this.
Australia is committing climate suicide: "As record fires rage, the
country's leaders seem intent on sending it to its doom." Related:
Anti-war protesters were right about Afghanistan. Amen, and about
time someone said so. I believed that going to war in Afghanistan was
the original sin, the cardinal mistake from which every other atrocity
of the Global War on Terror flowed. I was in New York on 9/11. I lost
someone dear to me. She was a secretary in the World Trade Center, and
I spent time grieving with her family. I also went to the first anti-war
demonstration I could (in Union Square Park). I started blogging around
then, and I've never regretted an anti-war post. That 80% of Americans
at the time supported Bush's insane and cruel "crusade" only shows how
thoroughly our brains had been permeated by the militarism this country
has relished since WWII. (By the way, Bernie Sanders recently admitted
that his 2001 vote for the war was a grave mistake, going so far as to
acknowledge that Barbara Lee was the only member of Congress to vote
against the war.)
Trump rule would exclude climate change in infrastructure planning.
The legacy of destructive austerity: "The deficit obsession of
2010-2015 did permanent damage." I've often thought that the Democrats
made a major mistake in not reversing the Bush tax cuts (and for good
measure raising rates on estates, capital gains, and the top bracket) as
soon as they took over Congress and the Presidency in 2009. They could
have deferred some of the tax increases on account of the recession,
but at least they would have defused most of the deficit alarms. As
it was, they waited until after they lost the 2010 election, at which
point their leverage was lost.
Chelsea Manning spent most of the last decade in prison. The UN says her
latest stint is tantamount to torture.
The war on the war on cancer: "Trump's gutting of toxics regulations
will mean higher profits for polluters and higher cancer rates for the
Iowa and New Hampshire are skewing coverage of the Democratic primary:
"If not for the polling results in those two states, no one would be
talking about Sanders." I normally don't bother with horserace journalism,
but this strikes me as especially egregious. According to 538, Sanders
is in second place nationwide, with 17.8% (behind Biden's 27.5%, ahead
of Warren's 15.0%, way ahead of Buttigieg's 7.7%). Sure, he's running
closer in Iowa (20.6%, second to Biden's 22.0%, ahead of Buttigieg's
19.4%, Warren's 13.3%, and Klobuchar's 7.0%), and he leading in New
Hampshire (21.3%, to 21.1% for Biden, 14.4% for Warren, and 13.7% for
Buttigieg; Klobuchar is next at 4.9%). LeTourneau spends most of her
space complaining about how white Iowa and New Hampshire are -- point
taken -- but the main thing those two states have going for them is
the intensity and intimacy of campaigning there. That they vote first
makes them inherently newsworthy. I'd also add that they are real swing
states, as opposed to South Carolina, which has only voted Democratic
once since 1960 (Carter in 1976). LeTourneau just wants to call the
other 48 states for Biden, race over. Nor does she care that Sanders
led all Democrats in
fundraising last quarter, with Buttigieg also leading Biden. The
real question is why various sectors of the media were conspicuously
ignoring Sanders for much of last year. LeTourneau shows how much they
still want to.
Man who gutted voting rights says Americans 'take democracy for
granted': "John Roberts wants you to know that the unelected
judges who keep sidelining voters and empowering plutocrats are
the guardians of our democracy."
Trump's tent cities are on the verge of killing immigrant children.
Gregory P Magarian:
Trump's most tragic legacy will be seen in ranks of judiciary
Former Navy SEAL capitalizes on newfound fame: "After receiving
presidential clemency, Edward Gallagher has left the SEALs to become
a pitchman and conservative activist." Related: Charles P Pierce:
Make no mistake. Edward Gallagher will be a star of the Republican
At every opportunity, Trump recklessly degrades American justice.
California now requires solar panels on all new homes. That's not
necessarily a good thing.
India: Intimations of an ending: "The rise of Modi and the Hindu
Astra Taylor talks about crushing debt, the 2020 race, and why we don't
live in a democracy.
Goodbye to William Greider, a great American Democrat.
Trump campaign plagued by groups raising tens of millions in his name:
"Outside entities are raising huge money in Trump's name, despite disavowals
from the campaign, and spending little of it on 2020." No surprise that
there's a swamp of fraud surrounding Trump. He inspires it, and they're
nothing if not gullible.
Entire West Virginia correctional officer class fired following
investigation into Nazi salute photo.
2019: A year the news media would rather forget.
A Biden nomination means a second Trump term: "Democrats are desperate
for a win, but desperation doesn't usually lead to clear thinking." This
doesn't even bother with his shaky record or his middling program, but
focuses on the rudiments of campaigning: "shockingly weak fundraising;
a low energy campaign with no volunteer base; an inability to campaign
vigorously." In the end, Waters-Smith proposes a better candidate. For
more, see his
Why you should take a chance on the socialist.
Thursday, January 02, 2020
Wanted to save this quote from Nicholas Lemann's Transaction Man:
The Rise of the Deal and the Decline of the American Dream
[Reid] Hoffman became one of the country's major political
donors. He gave a million dollars to Priorities USA, a Democratic
Party political action committee whose main project at that moment was
getting Barack Obama reelected as president. [Mark] Pincus gave a
million dollars too. That brought both of them into Obama's circle,
perhaps not as intimately as Adolf Berle had been in Franklin
Roosevelt's, but not casually either. What radio had been for
Roosevelt, a new mass medium that offered unprecedented possibilities
for a politician who wanted to connect with the public, the new online
networks -- which by now had far bigger audiences than newspapers,
radio, or television -- were for Obama.
The White House hired a former LinkedIn executive, DJ Patil, as its
first chief data scientist. LinkedIn provided proprietary data about
the employment market to the White House, to be used in the annual
"Economic Report of the President." When the website associated with
Obama's health-care reform legislation had an unsuccessful debut,
Hoffman was part of a group of Silicon Valley executives that
organized a rescue operation. Pincus had been granted a
forty-five-minute private audience with Obama in the Oval Office,
where he gave the president a PowerPoint presentation on "the
product-management approach to government," and he also spoke to Obama
on the phone occasionally. Hoffman regularly attended meetings and
dinners at the White House, including a small gathering in 2015 to
discuss Obama's postpresidential future, and he organized a meeting in
Silicon Valley to advise the people who were setting up Obama's
foundation on how to harness the power of social networks. On Obama's
regular visits to Silicon Valley, Hoffman was usually on the list of
people who saw him.
Silicon Valley was also, by now, an important Democratic Party
business interest group. Obama was friendly to a number of the
Valley's political causes, such as permitting generous allotments of
H-1B visas, under which technology firms can hire engineers from
abroad; net neutrality, which forbade Internet service providers from
charging higher prices to heavy users of video, music, and gaming
services; and a new law, opposed by Obama's own financial regulators,
that permitted online sales of stock in technology start-ups. The
Obama administration gave a $465 million loan to Tesla, the electric
car company founded by Hoffman's friend Elon Musk. When the White
House gave a state dinner for Xi Jinping, the president of China and
therefore the person who controlled access to the most important
growth market for LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman (in a tuxedo!) and Michelle
Yee were among the guests. On Hoffman's office wall were framed
photographs, impossible for any visitor to miss, of himself with
Obama, Bloomberg, and Bill Clinton. Once, at a private meeting for big
donors from the entertainment industry, one of the guests asked Obama
why he had sided with Silicon Valley over Hollywood during a fierce
regulatory battle over copyright law in 2011 and 2012. Hollywood, ,the
makers of content, was for stricter protections, and Silicon Valley,
whose business was to distribute as much material as it could for
free, was against them. Silicon Valley won. (In this instance, and
others, one of Silicon Valley's lobbying techniques was to mobilize
its vast user base in support of its political goals.) It's simple,
Obama told his Hollywood supporters: they do a lot more to help me out
than you guys do.
The book features three subjects: Adolf Berle, representing the New
Deal art of balancing large organizations and countervaling powers;
Michael Jensen, an economist who led the fight to make "shareholder
value" the sole pursuit of corporations; and Reid Hoffman, a Silicon
Valley financier whose major company was LinkedIn. Mark Pincus is a
close Silicon Valley associate of Hoffman's. His main company was a
gaming outfit, Zynga.
Wednesday, January 01, 2020
After fixing some bugs in the
music tracking file, I see that I've
rated 1073 albums released in 2019: 308 from CDs, 765 from downloads and
streaming. Of those, 684 were jazz (63.7%, 98.7% of the CDs). A-list
Jazz: 74 new + 21 historical
(reissues and vault music); for
Non-jazz: 61 new + 11
historical. I think these numbers are slightly up from 2018, at least
at this date -- I've continued to add records to the various files, so
it's hard to come up with exact comparisons.
As of now, I have 1238 rated 2018 releases (803 jazz, 64.8%). A-list
jazz: 67 + 26; non-jazz: 58 + 8. I tried compressing this into a tweet:
Some numbers: reviewed/rated 1073 2019 releases (684 jazz); jazz
A-list: 74 new + 21 historical; non-jazz: 61 + 11. Jazz 44% from CD
promos; non-jazz virtually all from streaming. A-lists up this year
(vs. 67+26, 58+8, a year later; 2018 total now 1238).