Monday, March 30, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 33007  rated (+36), 219  unrated (+7).
Not an exceptional week, but as expected, rated count topped 33000.
Unless things change, that's more a measure of time than anything else.
I'd reckon my average haul per week is about 30, so I chalk up another
thousand every 30-35 weeks, roughly 7-8 months. Looking back, I crossed
32000 the week of September 2, 2019, so I must be averaging a bit more.
This week got off to a slow start, but picked up speed when I delved
into Pharoah Sanders' back catalog. Didn't find anything there I had
missed as good as Tauhid (1966), Village of the Pharoahs
(1973), Africa (1987), Welcome to Love (A+ in 1990), or
Crescent With Love (1992).
Spent some time last week adding recent reviews to my Jazz Guide
draft files. Got up to December, so I should finish that task this week.
Page counts up to 835 (20th Century, 335k words) and 1855 (21st, 857k
words). I'm also collecting non-jazz capsules (827k words, but works out
to 1928 pages with a less dense font). The guides are sorted by artist,
so that can get tedious. The non-jazz capsules are just collected in
order published, so that's easier.
You can download the guides
here. They are in LibreWriter ODT
LibreOffice is free software,
with a word processor, spreadsheet, database, presentation editor, and
other programs -- presumably everything that's in Microsoft Office. You
can download and install it on Linux, Microsoft, and Apple computers, at
no charge. You can import most file formats (including Microsoft Word),
and can use it to generate PDF and HTML files. You can probably open an
ODT file in Microsoft Word (post-2010 releases).
I doubt if these are very useful, other than that they consolidate
widely scattered reviews by artist, in some kind of order (by recording
date for 20th, release date by 21st). It would be an insane amount of
work to turn these into a useful guides: the most obvious step would
be to move the biographies to the artist heads, even though that may
reduce most record "reviews" to mere grades. I'm thinking now that it
may be best to copy them to a website (perhaps using
Mediawiki?). Presumably, the current editing is a necessary step
in that direction (although it also feels like a time sink).
March had five Mondays, so more records than usual this month:
186. The monthly archive is
New records reviewed this week:
- Lakecia Benjamin: Pursuance: The Coltranes (2020, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Nearly Blue (2019 , Savant): [cd]: A-
- Andy Bianco: NYC Stories (2020, Next Level): [r]: B+(*)
- Vito Dieterle: Anemone (2018 , Ride Symbol): [cd]: B+(***)
- Vito Dieterle/Joel Forrester: Status Sphere (2019 , Ride Symbol): [cd]: B+(**)
- Amina Figarova Edition 113: Persistence (2018 , AmFi): [cd]: B
- Monika Herzig: Eternal Dance (2019 , Savant): [cd]: B+(*)
- Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (2020, Warner): [r]: A-
- Harold Mabern: Mabern Plays Mabern (2018 , Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
- Christian McBride: The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons (2013 , Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
- Thollem McDonas/William Parker/Nels Cline: Gowanus Sessions II (2012 , ESP-Disk): [bc]: B+(**)
- Arúan Ortiz With Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera: Inside Rhythmic Falls (2019 , Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
- Painted Faces: Tales From the Skinny Apartment (2017 , ESP-Disk): [r]: B-
- Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test: Vision for Rhythm (2020, Jazzheads): [cd]: B+(*) [05-22]
- Radical Empathy Trio: Reality and Other Imaginary Places (2017 , ESP-Disk): [bc]: B+(*)
- Dave Sewelson: More Music for a Free World (2018 , Mahakala Music): [r]: A-
- SFJazz Collective: Live: SFJazz Center 2019: 50th Anniversary: Miles Davis In a Silent Way and Sly & the Family Stone Stand! (2019 , SFJazz): [r]: B+(**)
- Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History (2015 , Impulse!): [r]: A-
- Kandace Springs: The Women Who Raised Me (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B
- Ohad Talmor: Long Forms (2015 , Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
- Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (2020, Merge): [r]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Antoinette Konan: Antoinette Konan (1986 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(*)
- New Improvised Music From Buenos Aires (2012-17 , ESP-Disk): [bc]: B+(***)
- Charlie Parker: The Savoy 10-inch LP Collection (1944-48 , Craft): [r]: B+(**)
- Pharoah Sanders: Live in Paris 1975 (1975 , Transversales Disque): [r]: B+(**)
- John Coltrane Featuring Pharoah Sanders: Live in Seattle (1965 , Impulse!, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
- Harold Mabern: The Iron Man: Live at Smoke (2018, Smoke Sessions, 2CD): [r]: A-
- Charlie Parker: In Sweden 1950: The Complete Recordings (1950 , Storyville): [bc]: B+(**)
- Pharoah Sanders: Deaf Dumb Blind (Summun Bukmun Umyun) (1970, Impulse!): [r]: B+(***)
- Pharoah Sanders: Thembi (1970-71 , Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
- Pharoah Sanders: Black Unity (1971, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
- Pharoah Sanders: Live at the East (1971 , Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
- Pharoah Sanders: Love in Us All (1972-73 , Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
- Pharoah Sanders: Love Will Find a Way (1978, Arista): [r]: B
- Pharoah Sanders: Save the Children (1998, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
- Pharoah Sanders/Graham Haynes: With a Heartbeat (2003, Evolver): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Harrison Argatoff: Toronto Streets Tour (self-released -19)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Nearly Blue (Savant)
- Jeff Hamilton Trio: Catch Me If You Can (Capri) [07-17]
- Monika Herzig: Eternal Dance (Savant)
- Samo Salamon/Igor Matkovic/Kristijan Krajncan: Common Flow (Sazas)
- Samo Salamon/Igor Matkovic/Kristijan Krajncan: Rare Ebb (Sazas)
- Diane Schuur: Running on Faith (Jazzheads) [05-08]
- The TNEK Jazz Quintet: Plays the Music of Sam Jones (TNEK Jazz)
- Sophie Tassignon: Mysteries Unfold (RareNoise) [04-24]
- Lou Volpe: Before & After (Jazz Guitar) [04-01]
John Chacona posted a food photo of kiyiana, and Shelly Rae Barnard
followed up with a recipe:
Sauté 1/2 c chopped tomato, 1/3 c chopped kalamata [olives], and 1/4 c
fresh oregano in 2 T olive oil, until liquid from tomato evaporates.
Pour mixture of 4 beaten eggs, 1/3 c crumbled feta, and 1/4 c grated
romano; allow to cook on med-med/low heat until you can flip half the
omelette over the other. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and pepper.
Was tempted by this, but couldn't find eggs on last grocery trip,
and I'd have to substitute dried oregano.
Diane Kochilas has something similar in The Food and Wine of
Greece: Kayianas (p. 270): adds sausage, omits oregano (and the
parsley garnish), replaces the olives with a green bell pepper, the
cheeses with 1/2 cup kefalotyri (or parmesan).
Kochilas also has a Kayianas recipe
on the web, which includes the olives and oregano (albeit less,
with fresh mint an alternative), adds garlic, omits the sausage and
pepper, and garnishes with parsley. The feta/romano mix strikes me
as a good substitute for kefalotyri (which I've only found once in
Wichita, using for saganaki -- most often I use haloumi for that).
Sunday, March 29, 2020
News this week is pretty much all coronavirus. Most striking number
below is Anthony Fauci's projection that coronavirus will kill more
than 100,000 Americans, and that millions will be infected. The US now
has more confirmed cases than any other nation -- even China, despite
a head start and nearly four times as many people (see
How the US stacks up to other countries in confirmed coronavirus
cases; note the graphs, which plot spread over time; also
note how little testing has actually been carried out in the US).
Or, if you're more concerned about money than people, the number of
new unemployment filings last week broke the previous record, by a
factor of five. We're now seeing projections that unemployment will
shoot to 20%, and that this quarter's GDP will drop by more than 10%.
For comparison, the total drop in the 2008 "Great Recession" over two
quarters was 4.3%. Congress passed a $2 trillion "stimulus" bill late
last week. I'd call it more of a stopgap. I'm especially struck by
how eager Republicans are to break the bank when one of their own is
president, compared to how chintzy and vindictive they are when a
Democrat is in the White House. Much like Republicans managed to
undermine Obama's $700 billion stimulus bill in 2009, Democrats
worked hard to make this bill more fair to workers and the newly
unemployed than Trump initially wanted.
Ran through this rather quickly, without many comments. You can look
up the technical stuff yourself (here's the
American Prospect has a relatively good political-oriented series,
including David Dayen's "COVID-19 Daily" briefs). Occasionally I note
speculation on what happens "after" -- still, I find this impossible
given that I don't have any real idea how far this falls apart, or
when (if ever) a "new normal" stabilizes. I've seen pieces comparing
coronavirus to global warming, but don't find them to be very credible
(yet). Also, not much below on politics. Nothing in the last week (or
month) has convinced me that Biden is the right person to take on Trump,
yet it feels unseemly to try to convince his Democratic supporters of
that at this particular moment. It seems significant that
this poll shows only 24% of Biden supporters to be very enthusiastic,
vs. 53% of Trump supporters. (His 24% not only compares poorly to Trump,
but to Hillary Clinton's lame 32% four years ago.)
Some scattered links this week:
Davey Alba/Sheera Frenkel:
Medical expert who corrects Trump is now a target of the far right:
"Dr. Anthony Fauci, the administration's most outspoken advocate of
emergency virus measures, faces a torrent of false claims that he is
mobilizing to undermine the president."
Oil price may fall to $10 a barrel as world runs out of storage
Andrew J Bacevich:
Judgment Day for the national security state: The coronavirus and the
real threats to American safety and freedom.
If sanitation workers don't work, nothing works.
Pandemic economics: 'much worse, very quickly'.
Republicans are using the pandemic to push anti-abortion and anti-trans
agendas. Needless to say, I agree with this New York Times editorial:
Make abortion more available during the pandemic -- not less.
GOP Groundhog Day: Why do we keep electing Republicans? They're no good
Team Trump tried to bully the ICC into dropping war crimes probe but
The man who knew: "An interview with Barry Lynn, whose prediction
about the dangers of centralizing our manufacturing has sadly come true
amid the coronavirus outbreak."
Bonanza for rich real estate investors, tucked into stimulus package.
What Trump is doing in the Middle East while you are distracted by
The pandemic is driving media consumption way up. But ad sales are falling
Coronavirus, anxiety, and the profound failure of rugged individualism:
Interview with Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections: Why You're
Depressed and How to Find Hope, where he: "advances an argument that
is both radical and obvious: Depression and anxiety are more than just
chemical imbalances in the brain; they are also products of our distinct
social environments -- social environments that have left our core
psychological needs unmet."
As Congress pushes a $2 trillion stimulus package, the "how will you
pay for it?" question is tossed in the trash. Probably where it
belongs, but one can't help but note the partisan asymmetry: when a
Republican is in the White House, Republicans in Congress are more
than willing to spend whatever it takes, but elect a Democrat and
they're always whining about deficits and insisting on austerity --
not least to make an Obama look bad. How they escape blame for their
machinations is hard to fathom, but controlling their own propaganda
networks helps. Also the fact that Democrats see their base broadly
as including not just the vanishing middle class but also business
and the poor (who are always hardest hit in a crisis) makes them
willing to help Republicans, where the opposite is rarely true.
Secret US intelligence files provide history's verdict on Argentina's
Dirty War: "Recently declassified documents constitute a gruesome
and sadistic catalog of state terrorism."
Neither Biden nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo: Figured this would be a
pan of the mini-boomlet touting NY Governor Andrew Cuomo as a possible
relief pitcher for a flagging Biden, but I found Levine plying the
"parallels between [Cuomo] and FDR":
Two governors of New York state, both from established political
families -- the one patrician, the other old-school "ethnic" and
therefore, by sympathy and conviction, working class -- both
non-ideological but, by nature, experimental and open to measures
that right wingers would, at best, be wary of or would, more likely,
FDR was hardly a "socialist" in the usual sense of the term. He
had no quarrel with private ownership of means of production. Quite
to the contrary, his aim not at all to move beyond capitalism, but
only to save it from the capitalists.
To that end, he was amenable to the kinds of social democratic
measures that Sanders and, in her own way, Warren favor. The New
Deal was many things, but at least sometimes and in some respects,
it had a counter-systemic thrust that linked it to the socialist
tradition, in much the way that Sanders' "democratic socialism" does.
Cuomo seems cut from a similar cloth.
That's true enough for FDR, but I have my doubts about Cuomo,
who's been tightly aligned with business interests (above all the
huge finance sector) all along, during a period of history when
political support has been unprecedentedly transactional. As I've
noted before, FDR wasn't predisposed to look left, but while he
tried a broad mix of left/right proposals, he found that the most
successful came from the left. Cuomo might find the same, but I
wouldn't rate him as more likely to do so than Biden, who at
least seems to have some empathy for working people, something
Cuomo has never been noted for. Indeed, the other big difference
between FDR and Cuomo was the former's polio, which gave him a
sense of how the high and mighty could be humbled. Also on Cuomo:
The fate of the news in the age of the coronavirus.
How the world's richest country ran out of a 75-cent face mask.
Tom Coburn, the Senate's "Dr. No," has died at 72.
Trump's reckless promotion of hydroxychloroquine to fight coronavirus,
This is what an opposition party it supposed to sound like: "Bernie
Sanders's moral outrage and devastating sarcasm struck back against a
GOP assault on poor and low-income workers."
A sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden has ignited a firestorm
The coronavirus may hit rural America later -- and harder: "Rural
communities 'tend to be older, with more chronic illness,' making people
more at risk of severe Covid-19."
Heather Digby Parton:
Bernie Sanders wins the Democrats Abroad primary. This doesn't mean
much, but it's the only primary this week.
Paul R Pillar:
The nationalist response to the coronavirus.
America's Crisis Daddy Andrew Cuomo exploits coronavirus panic to push
bail reform rollback in New York.
Germany has relatively few deaths from coronavirus. Why? Not
mentioned here, but the one thing I know about German health care
is that they keep patients in hospital much longer than elsewhere --
especially compared to the US, where prices are astronomical and
stays patients are often rushed out with excessive haste. What
that suggests to me is that Germany has more beds and nurses per
capita than elsewhere, which is exactly what you'd want in face
of a pandemic.
How do 3 million newly unemployed people get health care?
Who will win the fight for a post-coronavirus America?
Confronting the long history of massive inequality: Interview with
Thomas Piketty, author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century
and now Capital and Ideology.
After Richard Burr's coronavirus scandal, will the government finally
crack down on congressional insider trading?
Anya van Wagtendonk:
Trump says he won't comply with key transparency measures in the
coronavirus stimulus bill: "The administration says it won't
provide documentation for audits into $500 billion in corporate
Emily Todd VanDerWerff:
The coronavirus has given Trump something he's always wanted: A chance
to totally take over TV.
Bigger brother: Review of Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance
Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.
Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen:
Monday, March 23, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 32971  rated (+36), 212  unrated (-4).
I did a bit of website work last week. Robert Christgau told me
that he's working on a piece on his wife Carola Dibbell's novel,
The Only Ones, which is set
in a post-pandemic dystopia, something more immediately imaginable
this week than a month or two ago. Her website got wrecked when my
server bit the dust last year, and I've been slow to rebuild it, so
he wanted me to do some work on that: in particular, to restore the
with its collection of links to reviews and interviews. I did that,
and fiddled with the menus a bit. He also sent me Carola's 1998
B-52s piece, and I scrounged up a previously missing 2003
A bigger chunk of work was taking a
twitter thread Carola wrote in September 2019 about her cancer
treatment, and formatting it as a
plain old web page. This still needs some work. I haven't yet
figured out how to do the video links. The images are handled a
bit better, but still not right. With one exception, I'm using
the ones cached by Twitter, but they're in various sizes, given
somewhat uniform treatment by transformations and windowing in
the CSS code. The thing that would help the most would be to
vertically center the clipping rectangle over the image, instead
of positioning it from the top. That's more/less what Twitter is
doing, but don't quite see how.
I did set it up so you can click on an image and see the original,
although that may not be obvious. I'll try to do some more work on
this in the next week or two. One thing worth checking out is the
Bibliography, particularly if you can find and submit any of
the currently missing pieces. My plan is to move the archive from
Christgau's website to Carola's, probably duplicating their joint
Three 2019 releases in this week's A- haul: two (Jeb Bishop, Wojtek
Mazolewski) didn't appear on any 2019 lists, so I'm including them on my
2020 list; the other (Ben Webster
in Denmark) was one that I knew about and looked for, but it's only
recently become accessible via Storyville Records'
page. Also found the first volume to the Hank Jones set I reviewed
last week, and a few more items of interest. Storyville is a Danish
label which has specialized in picking up archival recordings of
American stars, especially on tour in their environs. Also a fair
number of releases by Scandinavian artists. I'm looking forward to
exploring the label further.
I will flag a slight caveat on Irreversible Entanglements: I'm
not fully satisfied with my understanding of the record, but I
usually limit Bandcamp releases to two plays, after which I go
with my best guess. I also gave an A- to their eponymous first
album, and a B+(**) to their EP. On the other hand, I've never
given Moor Mother (vocalist Camae Ayewa) better than a B+(**) for
her hip-hop albums. I like the jazz group quite a bit, but she's
still something of a mystery to me.
Still another week before I have to close out March Streamnotes.
Assuming a normal week, the rated count should clear 33,000.
PS: Just heard that pianist Mike Longo, 83, is a casualty
of the Covid-19 pandemic -- see Nate Chinen's
obituary. I have four of his albums in my database, notably [B+(***)]
Step On It, a 2013 trio with Bob Cranshaw and Lewis Nash.
New records reviewed this week:
- Daniel Bingert: Berit in Space (2019 , Moserobie): [cd]: B+(***)
- Jeb Bishop Flex Quartet: Re-Collect (2015 , Not Two): [r]: A-
- Jeb Bishop/Jaap Blonk/Weasel Walter/Damon Smith: JeJaWeDa: Poineer Works Vol. 1 (2019, Balance Point Acoustics): [bc]: B+(*)
- CP Unit: One Foot on the Ground Smoking Mirror Shakedown (2018 , Ramp Local): [r]: B+(***)
- Aaron Diehl: The Vagabond (2020, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
- Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: Earth (2018 , Whaling City Sound): [r]: B+(*)
- Fire! Orchestra: Actions (2018 , Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
- Elliot Galvin: Live in Paris at Fondation Louis Vuitton (2018 , Edition): [r]: B+(*)
- Naama Gheber: Dearly Beloved (2019 , Cellar Music): [cd]: B+(**) [04-10]
- The Good Ones: Rwanda, You Should Be Loved (2019, Anti-): [r]: B+(*)
- Alex Goodman: Impressions in Blue and Red (2019 , Outside In Music, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- The Haden Triplets: The Family Songbook (2020, Trimeter): [r]: B+(**)
- Paul Heaton/Jacqui Abbott: Manchester Calling (2020, Virgin EMI): [r]: B+(**)
- Lisa Hilton: Chalkboard Destiny (2019, Ruby Slippers): [r]: B+(**)
- Idle Hands: Solid Moments (2019 , Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(*)
- Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You? (2019 , International Anthem): [bc]: A-
- Nils Landgren & Jan Lundgren: Kristallen (2018 , ACT Music): [r]: B+(**)
- Thomas Marriott: Trumpet Ship (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
- Wojtek Mazolewski Quintet: When Angels Fall (2019, WMQ/Agora Muzyka): [r]: A-
- Roscoe Mitchell With Ostravska Banda: Performing Distant Radio Transmission Also Nonaah Trio, Cutouts for Woodwind Quintet and 8.8.88 (2019 , Wide Hive): [cd]: B+(*) [03-27]
- Shunzo Ohno: Runner (2019 , Pulsebeats): [cd]: B [04-03]
- Charles Pillow Ensemble: Chamber Jazz (2019 , Summit): [r]: B
- Jure Pukl: Broken Circles (2019 , Whirlwind): [r]: B+(**)
- Tim Shaghoian: Gentle Beacons (2019 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- 16-17: Phantom Limb (1995-2018 , Trost): [r]: B
- Duke Ellington: Uppsala 1971 (1971 , Storyville): [r]: B+(**)
- Hank Jones: In Copenhagen: Live at Jazzhus Slukefter 1983 (1983 , Storyville): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ben Webster: Ben Webster's First Concert in Denmark (1965 , Storyville): [bc]: A-
- Jeb Bishop: 98 Duets (1998, Wobbly Rail): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jeb Bishop Trio: 2009 (2009, Better Animal): [r]: B+(***)
- Jeb Bishop: Three Valentines & Goodbye (2016 , 1980): [bc]: B
- Dexter Gordon: Atlanta Georgia May 5, 1981 (1981 , Storyville): [bc]: B+(***)
- Archie Shepp/Don Cherry/J.C. Moses/John Tchicai/Don Moore: Archie Shepp & the New York Contemporary Five (1963 , Storyville): [bc]: A-
- Archie Shepp/Lars Gullin Quintet: The House I Live In (1963 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Ben Webster: At Montmartre 1965-1966 (1965-66 , Storyville): [bc]: B+(**)
- Ben Webster: In Norway (1970 , Storyville): [bc]: B+(**)
- Ben Webster: Live at Stampen Stockholm 1969-1973 (1969-73 , Storyville): [bc]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Vito Dieterle: Anemone (Ride Symbol)
- Vito Dieterle/Joel Forrester: Status Sphere (Ride Symbol)
- Amina Figarova: Persistence (AmFi)
- Grégoire Maret/Romain Collin/Bill Frisell: Americana (ACT Music) [04-24]
- Vanderlei Pereira and Blindfold Test: Vision for Rhythm (Jazzheads) [05-22]
Sunday, March 22, 2020
I usually start gathering links with Matthew Yglesias's
page at Vox. For a while I was putting his links up front -- back
when he was writing a regular "most important stories of the week"
feature -- but later I moved him back into alphabetical order. This
week he wrote quite a bit, and I commented there with a few things
I might have saved for an introduction, so decided to list him first.
One subject I didn't get to is business bailouts. Probably premature
for that anyhow, although the option to postpone debt and rent payments,
bankruptcy and foreclosure, is something that will be needed soon. Also,
bridging loans, with various restrictions -- just enough to keep dormant
businesses viable when/if the time comes to re-open them. I should also
note that while I'm skeptical/hostile to short-term stimulus proposals,
I do think it would be a good idea to start moving on longer-term efforts,
like Green New Deal. One big problem with the 2009 stimulus package was
the failure to include any infrastructure projects that weren't "shovel
ready." (Reed Hundt's book, A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining
Decisions makes this point.) We need a lot of infrastructure work
going forward, and that needs to be factored into any recovery plan.
There's going to be an attempt to stampede Congress to pass all sorts
of business bailouts, because that's the way the whole system is designed
to work. You and I are lucky if we have representatives who even remotely
care about us (given where I live, I'm especially unlucky in that regard),
but business interests have scads of lobbyists looking for profit angles,
and lots of politicians already in their pockets.
As this plays out, we
would do well to recall what happened in 2008-09: we heard a deafening
cry for help from the big banks, which unquestioningly had to be bailed
out to keep the economy from collapsing. They indeed got what they wanted --
a $700 billion slush fund and much more through the Fed's back door -- and
survived, quickly returning to profitability, even as the rest of the
economy continued collapsing. And once the banks were safe, only the most
marginal efforts were made to help anyone else. (The auto industry bailout
was a comparatively paltry effort, saddled with stringent requirements
the banks never had to face.)
I was sympathetic to the bank bailouts at the time, but dismayed by
the failure to protect more of the economy, especially the workers who
wound up bearing the brunt of the recession. Only later on did I see an
alternative approach that should have been obvious: let the businesses
fail, but protect the workers and other people at the bottom. Business
would bounce back, and the change of ownership would ultimately be a
healthy thing. That sort of turnover may be even more beneficial this
time: when/if the economy recovers, it is almost certain to be changed
significantly from the one before the crash, reflecting changed views
of what matters and how we want to live. We may, for instance, find
that we still need airlines, but not as many. The cruise ship industry
is probably finished, and would that be such a bad thing? A much larger
potential collapse is in fossil fuels: even before the crash, demand
for coal was falling, as were oil prices, and both will fall further
as recession lowers demand. Given how they contribute to climate change,
I don't see any reason to encourage their rebound. (In fact, this would
be a good time for a stiff carbon tax.) On the other hand, we may decide
that we need to have health care systems for all, including some excess
capacity even before the next crisis. The list, no doubt, goes on and on.
While it's easy to jot down what you'd like to see happen, it's much
harder to even guess about how this crisis will play out in the minds
and attitudes of people around the world. Will we learn and adapt, or
flail about, trying to force the new world into our old minds? I can't
help but wonder whether the panic over Covid-19 hasn't been preconditioned
by the (mostly denied) fear of global warming. A large political segment
seemed determined to ignore or even denounce the science of climate change,
only to find themselves desperate for scientific direction when faced with
the pandemic: there is something immediate and personal about the latter
that climate change never triggered. (I'm reminded of the adage about
there being no atheists in foxholes. It seems there are no science-deniers
in emergency rooms.) The 2008 financial collapse, like previous recessions,
could be written off to bad business practices and even to periodic cycles,
but this one is a direct assault on one's worldview. No one can predict
where that kind of psychic shock may lead.
Meanwhile, I've been plodding through Adam Gopnik's A Thousand
Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism. I picked it up
in the library, thought it might be interesting to read an unapologetic
defense of liberalism. I grew up believing in what Louis Hartz called
"the liberal tradition in America," only to find that self-proclaimed
liberals in the 1960s had turned into pretty unsavory characters --
especially in their rabid anti-communism, most immediately evident in
their support for near-genocidal war against the Vietnamese. At the
time, there wasn't much of a conservative threat (Barry Goldwater won
the Republican nomination in 1964 but lost in a landslide), so I came
to view "cold war" liberalism as the main enemy of fairness, decency,
and justice in American politics. I read books like Kenneth Minogue's
The Liberal Mind and Robert Paul Wolff's The Poverty of
Liberalism (but no longer remember the specific critiques), and
I delved further into Marxist critiques (not really of liberalism,
but of its handmaiden, capitalism), and came to identify with the
New Left (which was openly contemptuous of the Sino-Soviet orbit of
Communist regimes, but more focused on our own world, especially of
America's world-straddling hegemony).
But I stopped reading Marxist analyses after I left college, and
while my practical political impulses never changed much, I've found
myself growing sympathetic to liberal reformers over time, notably
of Keynes in economics. Ever since I was a teenager, I've had a soft
spot for utopian imagination, and I've often returned to that over
the years, at least as teleology. But I lost whatever desire I might
have had for revolution, and as I've aged have become increasingly
willing to settle for liberal reformism, even in tiny. So I thought
I might be open to Gopnik's formulation. Unfortunately, all he has
to offer is a weird mixture of dashed hopes and anti-left vitriol.
Regardless of whatever ideals liberals think they hold dear, their
main function in politics today (and basically over the last 50-100
years) seems to be to castigate anyone who still believes that the
liberty secured by a few in the great bourgeois revolutions of the
past should be extended to everyone (i.e., the left).
I probably should have read David Sessions' review,
The emptiness of Adam Gopnik's liberalism, before I wasted my
We might not have expected much more from Gopnik, but A Thousand
Small Sanities' aimless joyride of free-associated clichés and
its stubborn refusal to look at reality may indicate more broadly how
little the American establishment has learned since the turn of the
century. The climate crisis, more than anything, has highlighted the
inadequacy of the liberal orthodoxy's self-congratulatory moderation
and celebration of glacial incrementalism. It poses, in stark terms,
the need for dramatic action and the inescapability of confronting
the powerful interests behind the deadly carbon economy. The rapid
degradation of the planet has made radicalism rational and incrementalism
a kind of civilizational death drive. In this context, Gopnik's blissful
ignorance reads not as comical but as deeply sinister.
The Democratic Party split in 1968 over the Vietnam War, with many
of the hawks winding up as neoconservatives (a mostly Republican clan
which still exerts powerful influence over today's Democratic hawks,
especially the Clintons). Democrats are further split between middle
class professionals and the working class base, with most successful
Democrats (including Obama and the Clintons) gaining among the former
while thanklessly banking the dwindling votes of the latter. In 2016
and 2020, those splits became clearer, with the left (dovish, mostly
working class) rallying behind Bernie Sanders and the "moderates" (or
merely cautious liberals, including hawks and/or professionals)
ultimately flocking to Joe Biden.
Gopnik is an atavism in this split world, railing against a left
that no longer exists in favor of an idealized center that is unable
to accomplish anything (not least because their anti-left instinct
keeps it from building a broad base, and because they are always
willing to sell their reforms short). The key chapter in Gopnik's
book is "Why the Left Hates Liberalism," but it should really be
called "Why Liberals Hate the Left," where you could just as easily
substitute "Masses" or "People" for "Left." But then it's hard to
explain that without giving the impression that liberals are simply
self-satisfied snobs -- dilettantes who imagine liking the idea of
more people enjoying their comforts, but who hardly ever lift a
finger to help them.
Some scattered links this week:
The unprecedented tsunami of unemployment insurance claims, explained.
The numbers are indeed staggering, and it's impossible to see how a
system which is mostly funded at the state level can cope with them.
We need to realize that unemployment insurance is the first line of
defense against recession, and focus efforts there -- long before we
consider handing cash out to people who still have jobs, who probably
won't use it (at least until the pandemic starts to abate) to restart
the economy. Under the section "How to change unemployment insurance":
That means making the program much more generous so as to come close
to fully covering lost earnings, relaxing eligibility requirements so
that people don't need to be actively hunting for a new job, and also
expanding the purview of the program to cover people who are having
their hours cut rather than people who are being laid off. This last
change is particularly important. All throughout the food service
sector, employers are currently trying to grapple with conversion
to take-out only and reduced demand, which combine to greatly reduce
their need for workers.
Senate Republicans' cash assistance plan is far too limited.
I'm not opposed to "direct cash assistance" programs in general, but
this doesn't strike me as the time to think about such things. You
can think of recessions as having two phases: crash and recovery (of
course, it you don't do anything, there's also likely to be a trough
in the middle where the two phases cancel each other out). You need
a different focus in each. During the crash phase, you want to slow
down the crash and you want to protect people from as many of the bad
things that occur in a crash as possible. This is the work of stabilizers,
like unemployment insurance (which is nicely targeted to the immediate
problem), and of regulatory limits. An obvious example of the latter is
to halt foreclosures, utility disconnects, etc. Some of these things
kick in automatically, which is part of the reason the 2008 collapse,
which was initially as sharp as the one in 1929, didn't fall nearly as
far. (Another reason is that government was a much larger segment of
the economy, and it didn't panic like the private sector did.) Once the
crash is stabilized, you shift focus to recovery, and that's where
stimulus spending pays dividends. Of course, these rules were worked
out to deal with financial recessions (like 2008 and 1929). What we're
experiencing now is very different. We're seeing a similar collapse in
demand, but it's not because people lack money but lots of people are
suddenly afraid of going out and spending their money. In normal times,
if you give people more money, they'll spend it, but not now, at least
not until the fear lessens significantly. Given the pandemic, recession
is as much a solution as it is a problem, so maybe we should focus more
on fighting the pandemic and reducing the recession's collateral damage
than on jumping ahead to recession recovery initiatives.
Of course, if Republicans are willing to propose direct cash measures,
it's hard for people on the left not to join in, and argue for programs
that are fairer and more generous -- as Yglesias does here, and
Mike Konczal (see
The stimulus plan that we need now) and others do elsewhere. Yglesias
points out that the Republican plan offers "little help for those who
need it most," that "backward-looking data doesn't predict present needs,"
and "parents really need help" -- all good points. As for "it's a good
time to go big," I'd say that even if we "go big" -- which I'd agree is
the only way out -- we still have to be smart about picking our shots.
They say "never let a serious crisis go to waste," but that doesn't mean
you can use the occasion to throw in every wish you might have.
America's mass transit agencies need a bailout, too. Actually,
they deserve increase public funding at all times, shifting revenues
away from fares. They perform an immense public service, something
that we all should want (even people who continue to prefer cars).
Joe Biden wins the Florida Democratic primary.
The coronavirus election: "Weeds" podcast.
Joe Biden's effort to heal the breach with Elizabeth Warren on bankruptcy,
explained: "A flip-flop with a long and dramatic backstory." I'll just
add that although Warren's plan would be a big improvement, I can think of
some other things that should be factored into bankruptcy proceedings. In
particular, I'd like to see some way to restructure bankrupt companies so
that they can survive as employee-owned.
Democrats' choice is clearer than ever: Fight Trump or fight for
revolution. The headline oversimplifies the author's point,
which isn't really that Biden is the only option to "fight Trump" --
indeed, many of us don't regard him as the most promising candidate
to run against Trump. Rather, the question is whether the problems
we face are superficial (e.g, Trump) or systemic.
Biden believes America is experiencing a crisis -- a pandemic, but
more broadly Donald Trump's presidency -- that requires a new and
different leader. Sanders believes that the basic long-standing
structure of America's politics and economic system is a crisis.
Biden argued that Democrats need to unite and beat Trump in order
"to restore this country's soul." Sanders said we need to talk more
about "the power structure in America," namely, "the billionaires who
contribute money to political campaigns" thus allowing them to "control
the legislative agenda."
The Democrats screwed up: "Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders
have been outflanked by opponents embracing big spending ideas to
address the coronavirus recession." I'm not so sure they screwed up.
When Democrats propose big spending they always get hammered, not
least from the deficit scolds in their own party. On the other hand,
hardly anyone complains when the Republicans want to spend, so why
not let them pick a number, and show how it can be more effectively
spent, to the greater good? Of course, you can also note that the
number isn't really big enough. The only way to really screw up is
to let the deficit scolds lead the attack. If Democrats become the
party of forced austerity, they'll be finished. In fact, Obama did
great harm to the party in his limited embrace of austerity after
The deep ideological roots of Trump's botched coronavirus response:
"How the GOP's decades-long war on expertise sabotaged America's fight
against the pandemic."
Intelligence reports warned about a pandemic in January. Trump reportedly
This wouldn't have happened if Hillary Clinton had won: Clickbait:
only reason I clicked was to see who'd be so stupid to write this, and
I wasn't disappointed. This, in turn, led me to a link for Josh Rogin:
Don't blame 'China' for the coronavirus -- blame the Chinese Communist
Party. Pick a more politically correct way to express your bigotry
David Edward Burke:
How conservatives have rigged our politics: Review of Caroline
Fredrickson: The Democracy Fix: How to Win the Fight for Fair Rules,
Fair Courts, and Fair Elections.
The coronavirus calls for wartime economic thinking: The only real
precedent for this is WWII, but lots of things are different. For one
thing, WWII demanded more production, whereas Covid-19 only requires
minor reallocations of resources, producing more medical supplies and
(hopefully) treatments. It turns out that some of this is already being
done with the Defense Production Act. WWII also enforced rationing, but
it's hard to see how that would work now, or even whether it would be
supported. But clearly Covid-19 calls for a different kind of economic
The Peace Corps isn't just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of
the coronavirus. It's firing them.
There's no such thing as unskilled labor.
Zolan Kanno-Youngs/Annie Karni:
Under the virus's cloak, Trump pursues long-sought policies.
The incompetence pandemic.
Bloomberg bails on anti-Trump super-PAC.
Big Pharma prepares to profit from the coronavirus.
The GOP's relief bill is too right-wing for the right's own good.
Trump's latest coronavirus press briefing was a disastrous failure in
David J Lynch/Heather Long:
US economy deteriorating faster than anticipated as 80 million Americans
are forced to stay at home: "Already, it is clear that the initial
economic decline will be sharper and more painful than during the 2008
Airlines are asking the US government for a $50 billion bailout. Should
they get it?
Senators allegedly dumping stocks as the market tanks is why some people
think senators shouldn't own stock.
March 17 primaries: Live results. Biden swept last Tuesday's three
primaries (Ohio's was postponed), winning in: Arizona (44.02% to 31.98%
for Sanders, with others still getting votes: Bloomberg 9.86%, Warren
6.58%, Buttigieg 4.68%, Klobuchar 1.26%, Gabbard 0.52%); Florida (61.83%
to Sanders 22.83%, Bloomberg 8.49%, Buttigieg 2.30%, Warren 1.91%,
Klobuchar 1.00%, Gabbard 0.51%); and Illinois (59.03% to Sanders 36.02%,
Bloomberg 1.52%, Warren 1.41%, Buttigieg 0.58%, Gabbard 0.58%, Yang
Saudi Arabia is now a murderous, one-man dictatorship, with US elite
complicity, superb new book reveals: Review of Ben Hubbard: MBS:
The Rise to Power of Mohammed Bin Salman.
Gabby Orr/Lara Seligman:
Trump team's new mission: Defend the 'wartime president'. I suppose
you could point out that no incumbent president has ever lost an election
in the middle of a war, but one should add that Truman and Johnson opted
out, their parties going on to lose. I've said before that this campaign
is going to be pretty disgusting. Here's an example of how disgusting:
Even former Vice President Joe Biden, who is close to securing his spot
as Trump's Democratic challenger in the 2020 election, described the
coronavirus outbreak in warlike terms. Speaking to supporters from his
Delaware home after a series of primary victories Tuesday, Biden said,
"Tackling this pandemic is a national emergency akin to fighting a war."
"This is a moment where we need our leaders to lead, but it is also
a moment where the choices and decisions we make as individuals, and
collectively as a people, will make a big difference in the severity
of the outbreak," Biden said.
An outside adviser to the Trump campaign said the president's 2020
team is hoping to capitalize on Trump's new messaging strategy by launching
a series of digital ads as soon as next week that highlight the president's
efforts to battle the "invisible enemy" -- a phrase Trump has recently used
to describe the respiratory syndrome, which can be deadly. A Trump campaign
spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
"I wouldn't mind seeing the Trump campaign expend some resources to
communicate to his supporters that this is important," Fratto said. "And
if he has to use wartime language to do it, it's in all of our interests
to let him."
Here's why giving every American $1,200 is a really bad idea: "Let's
give the money to the millions of laid-off workers -- and in large enough
amounts to make a difference."
Prophets of instability: "How finance broke the modern corporation."
Review of Nicholas Lemann: Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal and
the Decline of the American Dream.
I live in the first US city ordered to "shelter in place." Here's what
it's like. "The Bay Area has shut down. Can it buy us the time we
Ohio orders halt to "nonessential" abortions in preview of battle that
could go national.
Pompeo and Netanyahu paved a path to war with Iran, and they're pushing
Trump again. Related:
The 9 most important unanswered questions about Covid-19.
Nathan J Robinson:
Notes on a nightmare #1: The virus and us, and
Notes on a nightmare #2: Suffering and politics: "Why this is so
terrifying and how the existing political response is failing us."
These link to several broad economic proposals:
Betsy Woodruff Swan:
DOJ seeks new emergency powers amid coronavirus pandemic: "One
of the requests to Congress would allow the department to petition
a judge to indefinitely detain someone during an emergency."
Barbara Ehrenreich is not an optimist, but she has hope for the
future: Interview with the author, who has a new book out, Had
I Known: Collected Essays. Worth noting that one of her most
prescient books was Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle
Class (1990). On the other hand, she spoke too soon in naming
her collection of 1980s columns The Worst Years of Our Lives.
The left is bigger than Bernie Sanders.
Congress just passed a bill that will guarantee free coronavirus testing
for all Americans: "It also expands paid sick days and paid leave for
a subset of workers." Those are good things, but creating an extra special
fund for things that should be universally covered already adds complexity
and nuisance to a system that is already full of it. For instance, I have
Medicare, but every time I use it I have to answer questions about things
like black lung because they have their own special funding. And this extra
complexity makes it easier to leave out people who should be covered.
Monday, March 16, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 32935  rated (+38), 216  unrated (-7).
Nothing much to say here. We're in a self-imposed lockdown, perhaps
related to pandemic fears but with overtones of disappointment and maybe
disgust at the world around us. Being "retired," and not uncomfortable,
that's a luxury we can afford.
One technical matter I should note is that I've decided to add to the
2020 tracking file and associated lists
records released in 2019 that I never noted in the
2019 tracking file. This mostly affects the
2020 metacritic file, which I've
been building up to reflect favorable reviews as compiled by
various sources -- the first big
chunk came from December 2019 releases that Dave Sumner mentioned in his
The Best Jazz on Bandcamp: January 2020.
I've always allowed for previous-year records to appear in current
lists, especially for items that I received promos of after January 1,
or sometimes for records that I simply had no cognizance of until after
the calendar rolled over. The first example like that this year was
François Carrier's Wide, released in Dec. 2019. I decided a fair
test for this would be whether the record appeared in my music tracking
list, since that incorporated everything that showed up in any tracked
EOY list for 2019 (5170 records in the tracking file; 4912 in the EOY
aggregate files). Since I only decided on this course last week, there
may be a few records caught in the lurch.
Most of the carryover records were released in late 2019, but technically
I'm allowing any unlisted 2019 records to appear in the 2020 lists. That
includes the Schlippenbach-Narvesen Duo record below, which I certainly
knew existed (but couldn't previously find) but somehow escaped my 2019
lists. (Also Duke Ellington's Uppsala 1971, which we'll deal with
next week.) On the other hand, Muriel Grossmann's Reverence, out
Dec. 15, 2019, had appeared on a couple of minor 2019 lists, so remains
there, despite my "discovery" of it among Sumner's picks. So it's all a
bit arbitrary, but is at least a system. (Occurs to me that I could go
back into the 2019 list and pull out release dates after Thanksgiving --
Francis Davis's Jazz Critics Poll cutoff -- and include them in both
lists. Need to think on that, but that might be the right thing to do.)
Under old music, I did take a flyer on some one Swamp Dogg records,
since nearly all of them appear to have cropped up on Napster and/or
the artist's Bandcamp.
I didn't exactly
get done, though I
did get a bit exhausted. I'm still a big fan of his 1996 compilation,
Best of 25 Years: F*** the Bomb, Stop the Drugs, as well as
his 1970 debut, Total Destruction to Your Mind (which, if I
recall correctly, didn't even figure in the comp).
Looked for but didn't find the Vol. 1 to go with the Hank
Jones vault issue. Was pleased to find a Bandcamp page for an earlier
Schlippenbach-Nardesen Duo release, but it only had two "bonus" tracks
on it, not enough for a review. They did sound pretty good.
New records reviewed this week:
- Steve Beresford & John Butcher: Old Paradise Airs (2019 , Iluso): [bc]: B+(*)
- Raoul Björkenheim: Solar Winds (2019 , Long Song): [r]: B+(***)
- Cornershop: England Is a Garden (2020, Ample Play): [r]: A-
- Day Dream: Originals (2019 , Corner Store Jazz): [cd]: B+(**) [03-27]
- John DiMartino: Passion Flower: The Music of Billy Strayhorn (2019 , Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**) [04-10]
- Liberty Ellman: Last Desert (2019 , Pi): [cd]: B+(***) [03-27]
- Fat Tony & Taydex: Wake Up (2020, Carpark, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Harrison²: Trout in Swimwear (2019 , self-released): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Kirk Knuffke: Brightness: Live in Amsterdam (2020, Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(*)
- Urs Leimgruber/Andreas Willers/Alvin Curran/Fabrizio Spera: Rome-ing (2018 , Leo): [r]: B+(**)
- Hayoung Lyou: Metamorphosis (2019 , Endectomorph Music): [cd]: B+(***) [04-17]
- Megan Thee Stallion: Suga (2020, 300 Entertainment, EP): [r]: A-
- Stephen Riley: Oleo (2018 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Caroline Rose: Superstar (2020, New West): [r]: B
- Felipe Salles Interconnections Ensemble: The New Immigrant Experience: Music Inspired by Conversations With Dreamers (2019 , Tapestry, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
- Carl Saunders: Jazz Trumpet (2019 , Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
- Schapiro 17: New Shoes: Kind of Blue at 60 (2019 , Summit, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***) [04-03]
- Schlippenbach/Narvesen Duo: Liminal Field (2018 , Not Two): [bc]: A-
- Paul Shaw Quintet: Moment of Clarity (2019 , Summit): [cd]: B+(***) [03-27]
- Shopping: All or Nothing (2020, FatCat): [r]: A-
- Jay Som: Anak Ko (2019, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(**)
- Moses Sumney: Grae: Part 1 (2020, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B
- Swamp Dogg: Sorry You Couldn't Make It (2020, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(**)
- Torres: Silver Tongue (2020, Merge): [r]: B+(*)
- Oded Tzur: Here Be Dragons (2019 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: Air Power! (2019 , self-released): [cd]: B-
- U.S. Girls: Heavy Light (2020, 4AD): [r]: B-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Hank Jones Trio: Live at Jazzhus Slukefter Vol. 2 (1983 , Storyville): [r]: B+(***)
- Arthur Russell: Iowa Dream (1974-85 , Audika): [r]: B+(*)
- Marc Benham: Fats Food: Autour De Fats Waller (2016, Frémeaux & Associés): [r]: B+(*)
- Martin Creed: Thoughts Lined Up (2016, Telephone): [r]: B+(***)
- Swamp Dogg: 13 Prime Weiners, Everything on It: The Best of Swamp Dogg (1970-76 , War Bride): [r]: A-
- Swamp Dogg: You Ain't Never Too Old to Boogie (1976 , Essential Music Group): [r]: B+(**)
- Swamp Dogg: Don't Give Up o Me: The Lost Country Album (1976 , Essential Music Group): [r]: B+(*)
- Swamp Dogg: Finally Caught Up With Myself (1977 , Essential Music Group): [r]: B+(*)
- Swamp Dogg: An Opportunity . . . Not a Bargain!!! (1977 , Essential Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
- Swamp Dogg: Swamp Dogg (1982 , Essential Music Group): [r]: B
- Swamp Dogg: Resurrection (2007 , Essential Music Group): [r]: B
Grade (or other) changes:
- Gerald Beckett: Mood (2019 , Pear Orchard): [cd]: erroneously listed label as Summit: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Naama Gheber: Dearly Beloved (Cellar Music) [04-10]
- Thomas Marriott: Trumpet Ship (Origin) [03-20]
- Tim Shaghoian: Gentle Beacons (Origin) [03-20]
Sunday, March 15, 2020
News this week was totally dominated by the coronavirus pandemic.
A good overview is Dylan Matthews:
9 charts that explain the coronavirus pandemic. (For more, see:
A coronavirus reading guide for the perplexed, the anxious, and the
obsessive.) This has produced
a lot of political and economic turmoil, most obviously (or at least
best reported) in the United States. The Trump administration, which
has worked so hard over the last three years at proving how incompetent,
corrupt, and politically blinded government can be, has come off as
insensitive, uncaring, and bumbling -- especially the president and
his inner tier of henchmen. The one concern they do seem to have is
how the disease effects the economy -- especially as the economy has
long seemed to be the silver lining in their own political fortunes.
The most obvious effects have been the cancellation of nearly all
public gatherings (including the NCAA "March Madness" tournaments
and the NBA season) and major (mostly but not all self-imposed)
reductions in travel. That, in itself, is a big chunk taken out
of the economy, with ripple effects to follow. I expect this will
extend to a psychology averse to spending, which will persist for
months or years.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden has continued to mop up Democratic primaries,
winning Mississippi, Missouri, Michigan, Idaho, and probably even
Washington last week. (Bernie Sanders did win in North Dakota.) More
states will vote soon, but unless Biden stumbles catastrophically
there is no chance Sanders can catch up. There is a debate between
Sanders and Biden tonight. It should clearly favor Sanders, but I
doubt it will have any effect. We seem to be primed for disaster,
and willing to settle for just barely less.
Some scattered links this week:
Our worst crisis since 2008 . . . and we have an idiot at the helm:
When this piece appeared in my mailbox, I
Sasha Abramsky's title is pretty obvious, but how quickly one forgets
that we had "an idiot at the helm" in 2008 as well, and that worse than
idiocy, all Bush/Trump proposals bail out the rich while hurting everyone
The difference, of course, is that Bush was accustomed to being a
"front man," and therefore to deferring to others. When the 2008 crisis
hit, he didn't have a clue what to do, so he simply got out of the way,
leaving the administration's response to Hank Paulson (his Secretary
of Treasury, and more importantly a former CEO of Goldman Sachs). Of
course, Bush didn't get out of the way after 9/11. He led the charge
into war, first with Afghanistan and then with Iraq. Of course, he
surrounded himself with people inclined to rush to war, just as he
surrounded himself with big bankers. Trump is no different in that
regard, but finds it much harder to get out of the way.
Kamiar Alaei/Arash Alaei:
How Iran completely and utterly botched its response to the coronavirus.
Object lesson here on "what happens when you make health policy subservient
to politics," a statement which succinctly describes Trump's own instincts
and those of his most devoted followers.
'Assault on democracy': A sitting federal judge takes on John Roberts,
Trump and Republicans: Lynn S Adelman.
The US-Taliban deal won't bring real peace, but it could reduce the
bloodshed. Related: Daniel R DePetris:
Could Donald Trump get tricked into staying in Afghanistan?
Landing at Dulles Airport, I encountered a case study in how to spread
This is not the moment for progressives to despair: "Disappointed
supporters of Bernie Sanders can actually get a lot of what they want
through the medium of Joe Biden." As I've been saying for some time
now, the answers are on the left. If Biden wants to be effective, he's
going to have to move left to adopt them. In some ways, this is like
Roosevelt in 1932. He wasn't a leftist. He was at best a pragmatist
who was willing to try anything that might work. His major achievements
in the first 100 days, and in the months that followed, were scattered
all over the map, but the ones that worked were on the left, and that's
where he increasingly looked for them. He backed his way into the most
progressive presidency in American history. In some ways that was only
possible because he wasn't pigeonholed as a leftist.
The only treatment for coronavirus is solidarity. Related: Eric
We need social solidarity, not just social distancing.
Trump's 7 worst statements on the coronavirus outbreak.
I ran the White House pandemic office. Trump closed it.
What would a proper coronavirus stimulus plan look like? Some good
ideas here, also some not-so-good ones. I personally doubt that drops
of cash would help much: reduced demand has more to do with distancing
and prudence brought on by fear of mortality than with a shortfall of
money, even among those most in need of it. Pumping money faster won't
change that, although it would help if/when the fear abates. Much more
useful now is patching the floor in the safety net. I've been saying
for some time that short of a really nice Medicare-for-All system, we
could start by providing bare-bones universal coverage starting with
a few obvious needs, and coronavirus testing and treatment just leaped
to the top of that list. You could then expand that list gradually --
child care and accidents are obvious needs -- and expect private health
insurance, relieved of those expenses, to start to wither away, turning
eventually into supplemental policies like many Medicare recipients
still buy. It also seems like a good idea to just accept that there's
going to be more unemployment as long as the pandemic is raging, and
focus on making that less painful for those who lose their jobs.
Trump's discordant display of nativism in a pandemic.
Who gets forgotten in a pandemic: "The only certainty is that rich
countries and rich classes will focus on saving themselves to the exclusion
of international solidarity and medical aid." Davis has thought about this
longer than most: fifteen years ago he wrote a book, The Monster at Our
Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu.
Trump first proposed a payroll tax cut six months ago: "And here's why
it doesn't make sense as an economic response to the coronavirus."
Daniel W Drezner:
The unique incompetence of Donald Trump in a crisis.
Jesse Drucker/Jessica Silver-Greenberg:
Trump administration is relaxing oversight of nursing homes.
A survival guide for the coronavirus economy.
How the coronavirus pandemic fuels Trump's autocratic instincts.
Well, crisis always brings instincts to the fore. I know a guy who
after 9/11 argued that we should allow more guns on planes. I think
that the pandemic shows that we are more dependent on science than
ever, that social trust is extremely important, that private interest
is usually suspect, and that we need a trustworthy government all the
time -- not just in times of crisis. But Trump? Of course, he thinks
we need more Trump. By the way, this New Yorker
cover sums him up aptly.
Biden in 2020 vs. Clinton in 2016 (vs. Sanders) in Michigan.
Thomas Piketti goes global. Review of his new book, Capital and
The Trump administration plans to kick 700,000 off food stamps during
a pandemic. That's what "work requirements" mean as recession lays
workers off. That's exactly what sane poeple don't want. For an update,
see Zeeshan Aleem:
Citing coronavirus concerns, a federal judge blocks the Trump administration's
food stamp cuts. The House's coronavirus bill would also help here.
Coronavirus will also cause a loneliness epidemic: "We need to take
both social distancing and the 'social recession' it will cause
Big Pharma prepares to profit from the coronavirus.
The GOP's ideological sickness is going to get people killed.
The man behind Trump's Facebook juggernaut: Brad Parscale.
The Fed's $1.5 trillion loan injection, explained.
Nolan D McCaskill:
America shuts down: "From the Capitol to California, officials are
taking aggressive new measures to limit social interactions."
Bernie winning battle of ideas, Biden winning nomination.
Trump's failing coronavirus response is standard issue Republicanism
Democrats have finally struck a deal with the White House on a coronavirus
package. Sensible stuff, a far cry from Trump's own wishes: free
coronavirus testing, emergency paid sick days, emergency paid leave,
expanded unemployment insurance, expanded food security. The bill was
passed by the House, but note: Anya van Wagtendonk:
The House coronavirus bill's paid leave provision would leave out
millions of workers. Also: Li Zhou:
The Senate won't consider urgent coronavirus legislation until next
Netanyahu says 'all humanity is in same boats' fighting virus -- except
The dismantled state takes on a pandemic: "Conservatives won their
war on Big Government. Their prize is a pandemic."
The Democrats' cult of pragmatism: "Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and
other moderates claim they Get Things Done -- but not because they actually
do get things done." Not to quibble overly, but my impression is that they
do get things done -- just the wrong things. Pareene offers an illuminating
example: when Andrew Cuomo won his third term, finally securing a large
Democratic majority, the New York legislature passed 935 bills, only to
have Cuomo veto 169 of them.
Trump wouldn't save you from this pandemic even if he could: "This
administration has always prioritized Wall Street over working Americans.
Its response to the coronavirus will be more of the same." [Same piece at
4 astonishing signs of coal's declining economic viability. Note,
however, that Japan is trying to buck the trend. Umair Irfan:
Why the world's third-largest economy is still betting on coal.
In a word: Fukushima.
Cass R Sunstein:
The right way for presidents to address 'fear itself': "The Great
Depression was worse than coronavirus. Yet FDR found a way to warn and
reassure all Americans, all at once." No American president ever has
handled a crisis as adroitly as Roosevelt dealt with the bank runs in
his first month in office. I suspect we're too divided and distrustful
to give anyone the same chance these days, but Trump has none of the
qualities that made FDR a viable leader. Still, I doubt it's possible
to dispel fear from this particular crisis.
Bernie's last chance: "Heading into a one-on-one debate with Joe Biden,
Bernie Sanders should not go gentle into that good night." At this point,
I doubt that Sanders is going to try to attack or embarrass Biden, but I
do expect he'll stick to his issues, especially to point out that the
coronavirus pandemic is yet another reason we need Medicare-for-All, as
well as a competent, dilligent, and concerned leader in the White House.
If Biden fails to present himself as such, Bernie's (and our) loss will
be all the more a shame.
Anya van Wagtendonk:
The White House reportedly tried to poach a German company working on a
coronavirus vaccine: "Trump reportedly wanted the vaccine to be "only
for the United States." Actually, I've been wondering what happens if a
Chinese company finds and patents the first vaccine. Americans may start
to question the sanctity of patent law (which is actually the main issue
in most modern "trade" deals).
The US retaliatory strikes on an Iran-backed militia in Iraq, briefly
The Saudi Arabia-Russia oil war, explained. One surprise for me
is the chart showing that the United States has extended its lead as
the world's leading crude oil producer, to 18% of the world total,
vs. 12% for Saudi Arabia and 11% for Russia. I knew that the US had
been the top producer before its decline following the 1969 "peak
oil" moment, and had languished in 2nd or 3rd ever since -- passed
first by Saudi Arabia, then by Russia. I knew that with Obama's
support for fracking, the US had rebounded recently, and moved into
first place, but didn't realize by this much. As the article points
out, fracking is expensive, so Saudi and Russian oil are cheaper to
produce. When prices decline, they remain profitable, while more
expensive resources (especially Canada's vast shale oil deposits)
can become prohibitively expensive. Surprised also that Venezuela
has dropped off the list. Also that China and Brazil are up there:
both are net importers who've never been noted as major producers
(although Brazil has long been interested in biofuels, which seems
to have been factored in; come to think of it, that may explain
why the US share seems so excessive, although I've never thought
that biofuel was that big a deal). Related: Juan Cole:
"A toothpick in a tsunami": US big oil faces bankruptcy as prices
plunge 30% on Saudi expansion. Also: Scott L Montgomery:
The oil shock of 2020 appears to be here -- and the pain could be wide
and deep. Still, a bit odd to describe falling oil prices as
Monday, March 09, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 32897  rated (+41), 223  unrated (-21).
Close to a year ago, an old friend approached me about creating a
game that hopefully would help torpedo Joe Biden's presidential run,
mostly by exposing and publicizing many of the dastardly deeds he has
been party to. My friend offered to put some money up, and I got him
in contact with a game designer and offered to help on tech questions,
but I wasn't very enthusiastic about the project. Not sure what exactly
my feelings were: on the one hand, I figured Biden would fall apart as
a viable candidate without any push from me; on the other hand, I had
a vague sense of wanting to stay aloof from the fray, so while I was
pretty certain that Sanders was my favorite, I've tried not to judge
any of the other candidates harshly, figuring the best thing was to let
the campaign play out. That other hand seems to be playing out now, and
I'm finding it rather depressing.
Michigan votes tomorrow. In 2016 Clinton was heavily favored there,
but Sanders pulled out an upset victory, which helped keep his campaign
credible through the rest of the primaries. Sanders had taken over the
polling lead there in early February, and has steadily built up his
share ever since (from 23.8% to 31.6%), but in the last few days Biden
has opened up a huge lead, currently polling 54.8% (from a low of 17.0%
on Feb. 24, just 14 days ago). And that's just the average: one poll
has him leading 65% to 24%.
Nationwide polling, which had Sanders in first place from Feb. 11
(22.0% to 21.6% for Biden, 13.5% for Warren, 12.7% for Bloomberg, 9.0%
for Buttigieg, 3.7% for Klobuchar) through March 3 (29.0% to 18.1%)
has now flipped all the way to 51.6% for Biden to 33.5% for Sanders.
That's pushed FiveThirtyEight's Democratic Primary odds for Biden up
to 99 in 100, effectively declaring Biden the inevitable winner. But
isn't this all very peculiar? It's remarkable that Sanders increased
his polling share while he was on top, and has continued to increase
them even as Biden shot past him. Biden hasn't gained any ground from
Sanders. He's merely swept up everyone else.
Still, you have to wonder, how much do people really know (or for
that matter care) about Biden? As Vice President, he rarely (if ever)
had an opportunity to voice his own opinion on anything. His Senate
career is public record, but little publicized and mostly forgotten.
His plagiarism scandal is ancient history. And while Republicans are
going to make hay out of his family's efforts to make money off his
career, his fellow Democrats did little to air the issue. Indeed, in
the last two weeks the only Democrats who had to face much criticism
were Sanders and Bloomberg. When he did face some scrutiny, back in
Iowa and New Hampshire, he took a beating.
I doubt my friend's game would have shifted public opinion, but
you have to wonder about how uninformed his new supporters are, and
whether knowing more would have made any difference. It feels like
they were stampeded by their fear of Trump into making a decision
they're likely to regret. I'm feeling the regret now, big time. For
more personal reasons, I've been pretty bummed out for a while now,
which has only gotten worse considering this wave. I started working
Roundup post on Thursday, and it was a hard, cruel slog. All
year I've been viewing this election through my "four eras" model,
where the Reagan-to-Trump era is held to be ending, replaced by a
dramatically new era. A defining characteristic of political eras
is that opposition parties tend to think like the dominant ones.
Clinton and Obama were remarkable politicians, but they inevitably
danced to the Republicans' tune. I didn't require that the new era
be ushered in by a leader as different as Sanders, but I did think
that the one candidate least able to make the transition was Biden,
as he was the most thoroughly ingrained with Reagan-era thinking.
Biden's nomination means that my big idea has turned from hopeful
to tragic. Here we had this tremendous opportunity to turn things
around, and squandered it by nominating the one candidate least
able to make the break -- even assuming he beats Trump to get the
If Biden continues to win like this, I'm tempted so say I'm done
with politics. I'll vote for Biden against Trump in November, and
I'll vote for local Democrats (unless Vern Miller runs again, which
is pretty unlikely). But I don't see what else I have to offer. I
may go back to the drawing board and write some long-term (which is
to say utopian) political essays. But political analysis for the
foreseeable future is going to turn on questions of mass delusion --
not just last week's Biden surge, but similarly irrational turns
like the one that elected Trump in 2016. (Hint: in both cases, the
surge occurs at the same time the candidate is largely hidden, the
decisive negative focus pointed elsewhere, and the media unclear
on how it's being played.)
Quite a few records this week, with close to half of them coming
from my promo queue, which I cut in half. Such attention was overdue,
but I was also having trouble figuring out which records to look up
on Napster and Bandcamp, so in some ways this was just easier. Not
as many finds this week as last, but three A- records is a pretty
Was delighted to get some promos from the Polish label
Fundacja Sluchaj, then
disappointed that they turned out to be rather marginal. I also
received a copy of Georg Graewe/Ernst Reijseger/Gerry Hemingway:
Concertgebouw Brugge 2014, which I had previously graded
B+(**) based on their Bandcamp stream. I reviewed 15 of their
records in 2019 -- the only A- was Agustí Fernandez: One Night
at the Joan Miró Foundation, with Awatair: Awatair Plays
Coltrane, Brad Barrett: Cowboy Transfiguration, and
François Carrier: Nirguna at B+(***). A- records from
previous years: Barry Guy: Barry Guy @ 70 (2018), and
Evan Parker/RGG: Live @ Alchemia (2017).
Shouldn't be so hard to identify new records worth streaming now
that I have my
2020 metacritic file
up and running. I'm tracking all but the metal grade lists (80+)
on AOTY and Metacritic (but looking less often at the latter, as
it takes more work). I'm also factoring in a few other review
sources (including All About Jazz, Downbeat, and Free Jazz
Collective) and lists (like Phil Overeem's
latest), and I've started to look at Bandcamp's guides. The
latter got me to thinking about 2019 releases that only got noticed
after January 1. In recent years I've been very hard-assed about
filing them in their calendar years, but if I do that I lose track
of them. Besides, EOY lists (including Jazz Critics Poll) are almost
always slightly out of sync with the calendar. I finally decided the
rule should be: any late 2019 record that didn't get any points in
2019 EOY Aggregate will
be counted as new in the 2020 list. Of course, that means I have to
go back to a few reviews that I initially skipped, so things are a
bit inconsistent at the moment.
New records reviewed this week:
- Bad Bunny: YHLQMDLG (2020, Rimas): [r]: B+(**)
- Gerald Beckett: Mood (2019 , Summit): [cd]: B
- Boogat: El Gato Y Los Rumberos (2020, Ray-On, EP): [r]: B
- Benjamin Boone With the Ghana Jazz Collective: Joy (2019 , Origin): [cd]: B [03-20]
- Caribou: Suddenly (2020, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
- François Carrier/Tomek Gadecki/Marcik Bozek/Michel Lambert: Wide (2018 , FMR): [cd]: B+(***)
- Brandy Clark: Your Life Is a Record (2020, Warner): [r]: A-
- Jeremy Cunningham: The Weather Up There (2020, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(**)
- Denzel Curry & Kenny Beats: Unlocked (2020, PH/Loma Vista, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Davido: A Good Time (2019, RCA): [r]: B+(***)
- Sarah Elgeti Quartet With Friends: Dawn Comes Quietly (2019 , Gateway Music): [cd]: B
- Vincent Glanzmann/Gerry Hemingway: Composition O (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [cd]: B+(***)
- Joyce Grant: Surrounded by Blue (2019 , Craftedair/Blujazz): [r]: B
- Wolfgang Haffner: Kind of Tango (2019 , ACT Music): [r]: B
- JC Hopkins Biggish Band: New York Moment (2019 , Twee-Jazz): [cd]: B+(**) [04-05]
- Christopher Icasiano: Provinces (2018 , Origin): [cd]: B
- Charles Lloyd: 8: Kindred Spirits (Live From the Lobero) (2018 ,Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
- Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley: Known/Unknown (2018 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [cd]: B+(*)
- Denise Mangiardi: Brown Book (2019 , Alice's Loft Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Joe McPhee/John Edwards/Klaus Kugel: A Night in Alchemia (2018 , Not Two): [r]: A-
- Pat Metheny: From This Place (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
- Nutria: Meeting in Progress (2019 , Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B+(***)
- Agnes Obel: Myopia (2019 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
- Kassa Overall: I Think I'm Good (2020, Brownswood): [r]: B+(*)
- Keith Oxman: Two Cigarettes in the Dark (2018 , Capri): [cd]: B+(***) [03-20]
- Jonah Parzen-Johnson: Imagine Growing Up (2020, We Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
- Gloria Reuben & Marty Ashby: For All We Know (2018 , MCG Jazz): [cd]: B+(**)
- Reverso [Frank Woeste/Vincent Courtois/Ryan Keberle]: The Melodic Line (2019 , Out Note): [cd]: B+(*)
- Suzanna Ross: Is Bewitched* . . . *Not Bothered, Not Bewildered (2019 , self-released): [cd]: B [03-20]
- Chanda Rule + Sweet Emma Band: Hold On (2018 , Blujazz/PAO): [cd]: B+(**)
- The Secret Sisters: Saturn Return (2020, New West): [r]: B+(*)
- Sestetto Internazionale: Live in Munich 2019 (2019 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [cd]: B+(***)
- Sløtface: Sorry for the Late Reply (2020, Propeller): [r]: B+(***)
- Curt Sydnor: Deep End Shallow (2019 , Out of Your Head): [cdr]: B- [03-20]
- The Third Mind: The Third Mind (2020, Yep Roc): [r]: A-
- Waclaw Zimpel: Massive Oscillations (2020, Ongehoord): [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Brent Jensen: The Sound of a Dry Martini: Remembering Paul Desmond (2002 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- New Stories: Speakin' Out (1999 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Daniel Bingert: Berit in Space (Moserobie) [03-13]
- Roscoe Mitchell With Ostravska Banda: Performing Distant Radio Transmission Also Nonaah Trio, Cutouts for Woodwind Quintet and 8.8.88 (Wide Hive) [03-27]
Sunday, March 08, 2020
The Democratic presidential primary took a dramatic turn over the
last ten days. The relevant event sequence:
- Joe Biden became the immediate favorite when he announced his run
for president. His polls held relatively solid well into last fall,
when he started to lose ground in the intensely contested bellwether
states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
- About the same time, Bernie Sanders caught up and passed Elizabeth
Warren in the polls, becoming the main challenger to Biden, and more
generally to the Democratic Party establishment.
- As Biden began to fail, billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg
entered the race, as did Deval Patrick. The latter had no traction, but
Steyer spent $100 million to make a splash in Nevada and South Carolina,
and Bloomberg $500 million on Super Tuesday states. All that advertising
money didn't help them much as candidates (Steyer finished 5th in Nevada
and 3rd in South Carolina; Bloomberg's sole Super Tuesday win was in
American Samoa, where Tulsi Gabbard finished second), but they defined
issues that ultimately helped Biden.
- Sanders won the popular vote in Iowa, increased his margin in New
Hampshire, and won a very solid margin in Nevada. Meanwhile, Biden had
faltered badly in Iowa (4th place in first-round voting, 14.9%) and in
New Hampshire (5th place, 8.4%). Sanders pulled ahead of Biden in
national polls for the first time, and was widely considered to be
the front-runner in the race.
- With the "threat" of Sanders firmly established, and Bloomberg
pretty severely hobbled in his first debate performance, panic ensued
among mainstream Democrats. They lashed out frantically at Sanders,
but cooler heads realized that Biden was their most viable alternative,
and they organized a raft of endorsements and money to inject into his
struggling campaign. He had always polled better in South Carolina than
any other "early state" -- and his most effective "moderate" opponents
(Buttigieg, Klobuchar) had never had any organization or appeal there,
so it's not like they had any other options.
- Following an endorsement by Rep. Jim Clyburn, Biden bounced back
with a very strong showing in South Carolina -- not as high as he
had polled for most of 2019, but stronger than most of us expected.
- Biden's South Carolina win became a signal for Democratic Party
regulars to unite behind him, against Sanders (and Warren, who helped
split the progressive vote). Steyer, Steyer, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar
ended their campaigns, the latter two endorsing Biden.
- Biden won big on Super Tuesday, winning 10 states (Alabama,
Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma,
Tennessee, Texas, Virginia) vs. 4 for Sanders (California, Colorado,
Utah, Vermont). See breakdown below.
- After Super Tuesday, Bloomberg withdrew and endorsed Biden. He
also promised to keep his campaign organizations active, redirected
at supporting Biden, so in effect he's running a huge pro-Biden PAC.
[PS: This opens him to charges like:
Fox's Ingraham Angle labels Michael Bloomberg a "puppet master".]
- Warren also withdrew, without making an endorsement. She has,
however, spent most of the week bad-mouthing Sanders supporters for
their alleged misbehavior toward her campaign.
I imagine someone will eventually emerge claiming to be the genius
behind Biden's transformation, but it's possible there's no conspiracy
here. It's not that I can't identify actors or linkages -- you can be
pretty certain that when David Brooks wrote his "never Bernie" column
or when James Carville crawled out from under his rock to declare that
nominating Bernie would be insanity that there were people (and money)
behind the scenes pushing them forward. To my mind, the most suspicious
sign was Harry Reid's endorsement of Biden only after the Nevada
caucus, where he might have had an effect similar to Jim Clyburn's in
South Carolina. Sanders' big Nevada win both drove his enemies together
and set up expectations that made Biden's South Carolina win look even
One lesson from this is that Sanders' appeal is limited, mostly to
people who understand his key issues -- a trait he shares with Warren,
although until now, one could imagine him not being so limited by it.
Also, that he is not immune from media attacks, which have accelerated
to new heights recently, and that seems to have scared many people into
looking for a safer choice. Why Biden should be that choice isn't very
clear, other than that he's the only one unlikely to get shafted by the
people who've run the Democratic Party into the ground since the 1970s.
Even people who substantively agree with Sanders, and who respect and
admire him, have non unreasonable fears that the money people behind
the party will do anything to undermine him (a faction that Bloomberg
gave an explicit face to), even if that results in Trump winning a
There are a lot of Democrats who only have one real concern in 2020:
who can beat Trump? Biden has never seemed like a very solid answer to
that question, but if you can't have someone progressive, at least he
seems less limited than Bloomberg, Buttigieg, or Klobuchar. He has a
long record of going along with whatever the party wanted -- be it wars,
free trade deals, favors to the big banks -- without ever picking up
the scent of ideology. He represents continuity with the Clintons and
Obama, but wasn't necessarily culpable for their failures. He can still
feign an emotional attachment to the working class, even though in the
end he always winds up siding with the moneyed interests. He comes off
as a cipher you can project your hopes onto. He is, for instance, the
favorite candidate both of blacks and of culturally conservative whites
(the kind most likely to be racists). The South has a lot of both, and
that's where he cleaned up on Super Tuesday.
The weak link in Biden's campaign is Biden himself. He's 77, looks
fit for that age, but it's easy to find clips where his mind wanders
and his mouth goes elsewhere. He failed miserably in the first two
contests this year, where voters have a year or more to check the
candidates out up close. On the other hand, he won several states on
Super Tuesday where he never appeared, and didn't have much if any
campaign presence. He has a long record with a lot of dubious votes
and speeches, and he'll get a lot of flack over that record. It is
far from certain that he can withstand the intense scrutiny that a
presidential campaign will entail. Sanders is unlikely to go beyond
Biden's political record, but expect the Republicans to be ruthless
not just at picking apart Biden's weaknesses but on inventing things
from whole cloth. His mental agility, such as it is, will be tested
Sanders will continue to contest the nomination. As Yglesias points
out (see below), next month's primaries present some rough challenges
for Sanders, and he is playing catch up now, in a process which is
biased (if not necessarily rigged) against him. He has gained one big
thing from Super Tuesday: he now has a single opponent to define
himself against. He needs to do three things viz. Biden: he needs to
emphasize the moderation of his views and ingratiate himself with the
main current of the Democratic Party (which, issue-wise, is now well
to the left of Biden's record, although it's important to make those
positions less threatening and more intuitively reasonable); he needs
to expose Biden's dangerous incompetency, and the risks the Party is
taking in entrusting him with the nomination; and he needs to convince
voters that he can be much more effective than Biden at standing up
That may be a tall order, but I for one am already convinced on all
three counts. The challenge will be in making those points resonate
with less informed voters, and in effectively dodging the flak that
the media will hurl at him, based on prejudices that are already
When I started thinking about what to say this week, I came up with
three possible scenarios for Elizabeth Warren. She's since taken one
of those off the table, so I won't belabor it, but simply note that
had she stayed in the race, she would have needed to do two things.
The most obvious one is to attack Biden's personal competency (while
respecting, if not necessarily agreeing with, "moderate" positions).
The other is that she would need to catapult herself to the front of
Bernie's movement, usurping his positions but arguing that she would
be more effective at implementing them. The hope would be that after
the near-death experience of Super Tuesday, Bernie's supporters may
be more open to her taking charge, especially if she proves herself
the more effective opponent to Biden. She could even wind up making
Bernie her VP. Of course, this would have been difficult to pull off,
and she wouldn't have much time, especially for the period when she
is dividing the progressive vote. But she was pretty effective at
knocking Bloomberg off his chariot, and she could go after Biden more
directly than 78-year-old Bernie.
Her other choices were to quite the race (as she's done) and pitch
herself to be VP either under Bernie or Biden. She could conceivably
be very effective in that role. The problem with going with Bernie is
that it's an uphill fight. The question with the latter is whether
Biden thinks he needs her that much (after all, many Biden backers
hate her as much as they fear and loathe Sanders). The plus side is
that it would end the primary process almost immediately, limiting
the risk that Bernie might expose Biden's ineptitude. Besides, VPs
are historically insignificant (but given Biden's age and problems
and Warren's vigor, she could take advantage of the role).
Bernie Sanders says he will drop out if Biden gets plurality coming
into Dem convention. He's argued that Biden should do much the
same thing if Sanders is leading going into the convention, but with
his reserve of unelected second-round delegates, Biden hasn't agreed.
This anticipates a graceful exit if his campaign can't rebound in the
couple months remaining. I can't blame Bernie if Democrats prefer to
go with Biden and his long record of indifference and failure. Greg
Magarian commented in Facebook on the article:
Bernie Sanders promises to make the nomination of Joe Biden painless
if the moderate is leading come July. He says Elizabeth Warren deserves
time and space to decide her own path forward. He won't run on a unity
ticket with Biden because two old white guys is at least one too many.
If you've been swallowing, or parroting, the tired narrative that
Sanders is nothing but a crazy, misogynistic ideologue who constantly
trashes the party and only cares about himself, I respectfully suggest
that you listen to what the man says -- all of it, not just the pieces
that fit your ingrained narrative. He's an exceptionally decent politician,
with plenty of flaws, who's in this to help people.
Elsewhere in my Facebook feed are a bunch of diatribes against
Sanders, some complaining about his "arrogance" (for running in the
first place?), many more explicitly aimed at his supporters, accusing
us of all sorts of vile behavior. I try not to take this personally,
but after repeated slanders it's hard not to feel some solidarity with
the victims. Sure, maybe some people say some things that are ill-advised.
I'll even admit that I can say some disrespectful and even hurtful things
about politicians I seriously disagree with, but I usually try to focus
on issues and rarely project my critiques onto ordinary people who merely
happen to favor someone I don't. The most famous recent case of a campaign
generalizing about its opponent's followers was Hillary Clinton's "basket
of deplorables," and that proved to be bad politics as well as a gross
generalization. She was, of course, talking about Trump supporters, who
by definition are at least willing to tolerate one of the most hateful,
corrupt, and dishonest campaigns in US history, but even so, calling
people names just turns them off and estranges them further. I'm sick
and tired of being called names by partisans of Democratic candidates
who themselves have little to offer and not enough self-consciousness
to recognize their own past failures.
Of course, in addition to the name-calling every now and then you
have to fend off some plain old faulty logic. For example:
If money is everything in politics, why is Biden, who has recently spent
so little compared to other candidates, doing so well? Well, you can say
it's all those "elites" and secret oligarchs, but I don't buy it (no pun
Start with a faulty premise (money isn't everything in politics) and
pile on other misleading and spurious claims. Biden started with name
recognition, credibility, and long-standing political links -- things
that even with incredible amounts of spending Bloomberg and Steyer were
unable to buy in such a short time, things that even more legitimate
politicians like Klobuchar and Buttigieg were unable to compete with.
So when the election pivoted to becoming a race to stop Sanders, the
choice who benefited most was the obvious one, Biden. On the other
hand, do you really think that Biden, who can barely put together two
coherent sentences in a row, was brilliant enough to pull this off?
You don't have to be very conspiracy-oriented to suspect that there
are "elites" and oligarchs lurking in the background, pulling on the
various strings that orchestrated this turnaround. After all, we live
in a world where these sorts of things happen all the time. And that
doesn't necessarily mean they have Biden in their pocket, but he is
the beneficiary of their machinations, and if he does get elected,
he will very likely wind up paying for their favors.
The Super Tuesday breakdown by state (delegates in parens, vote
if 5% or more):
- Alabama: Biden 63.3% (44), Sanders 16.5% (8), Bloomberg 11.7%, Warren 5.7%.
- Arkansas: Biden 40.5% (17), Sanders 22.4% (9), Bloomberg 16.7% (5), Warren 10.0%.
- California: Sanders 33.7% (186), Biden 26.4% (148), Bloomberg (13.6% (15), Warren 12.7% (5), Buttigieg (5.6%).
- Colorado: Sanders 36.1% (20), Biden 23.6% (10), Bloomberg 20.5% (9), Warren 17.3% (1).
- Maine: Biden 34.1% (11), Sanders 32.9% (9), Warren 15.7% (4), Bloomberg 12.0%.
- Massachusetts: Biden 33.6% (37), Sanders 26.7% (29), Warren 21.4% (25), Bloomberg 11.8%.
- Minnesota: Biden 38.6% (38), Sanders 29.9% (27), Warren 15.4% (10), Bloomberg 8.3%, Klobuchar 5.6%.
- North Carolina: Biden 43.0% (67), Sanders 24.1% (37), Bloomberg 13.0% (4), Warren 10.5% (2).
- Oklahoma: Biden 38.7% (21), Sanders 25.4% (13), Bloomberg 13.9% (2), Warren 13.4% (1).
- Tennessee: Biden 41.7% (33), Sanders 25.0% (19), Bloomberg 15.5% (10), Warren 10.4% (1).
- Texas: Biden 34.5% (111), Sanders 30.0% (102), Bloomberg 14.4% (10), Warren 11.4% (5).
- Utah: Sanders 34.6% (12), Biden 17.4% (2), Bloomberg 16.7% (2), Warren 15.5%, Buttigieg 9.8%.
- Vermont: Sanders 50.8% (11), Biden 22.0% (5), Warren 12.6%, Bloomberg 9.4%.
- Virginia: Biden 53.2% (66), Sanders 23.1% (31), Warren 10.7% (2), Bloomberg 9.8%.
Some scattered links this week:
James Arkin/Marianne Levine:
Biden, Bullock boost Dems' Senate hopes. Bullock didn't have much
to offer as a presidential candidate, but in states like Montana we'll
take whatever we can get, and that state could do much worse. One might
make a case that Sanders would be an asset to down-ballot races if he
could dramatically boost turnout, but that isn't clearly established.
On the other hand, I don't doubt that him heading the ticket would be
a lightning rod for Democrats trying to run in red-ish districts, and
don't have any real answer for that (other than that, in the longer
term, Sanders' programs will do much more to solve serious problems,
especially in red-ish districts).
Sanders faces a challenging 30 days in his quest to defeat Biden.
Elizabeth Warren's exit interview is a warning for the dirtbag left.
I'm really getting tired of being called names by politicians trying to
distance themselves from the left. Isn't "dirtbag" just a nastier, more
direct way of saying "deplorable"? And what exactly is it that makes us
on the left so deplorable? Wanting health care, education, affordable
housing and food secured as a right? Wanting clean air and water, and
a stable environment? Wanting an end to war and violence? Wanting an
end to racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination? Wanting the
political process to be free of distortions caused by privileging money?
Of course, it's possible that some of the people who habitually attack
leftists think they want some of those things, too, but what chance do
they have of succeeding when they spend so much effort attacking people
they should be allying with? [PS: The term "dirtbag left" seems to be
a self-description from the podcast Chapo Trap House, something
I've never heard and know next to nothing about. They did an interview
with Sanders, which Beauchamp and/or Warren seem to think is enough to
implicate them in every bit of crude humor they allegedly indulge in.]
Netanyahu wins big in Israel's elections -- but not enough to secure
full control. One section here is called "The big policy stakes
of the Israeli election," but it's hard for me to find any. The one
sticking point of contention is whether Netanyahu should be protected
from going to jail for his corruption.
Matt Gaetz made light of coronavirus by wearing a gas mask. Now one of
his constituents has died.
Mike Bloomberg's belly flop was a great moment for democracy.
As a Super Tuesday state resident, I ask you to trust me on this: you
could not escape Bloomberg's presence on air, online, and in your mailbox.
He spent more to win the presidential election than any general election
candidate in American history, and he reached that lofty perch nine months
before Election Day. That doesn't even include what he spent to buy
political support, from candidates he previously showered with campaign
contributions and mayors whose initiatives he funded through his philanthropy.
Thomas B Edsall:
We're the closest we've ever been to campaign finance reform:
Talk about understatements: "But the fight is far from over." The
thing that I remember is that after the 2008 election, Democrats
controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency yet didn't
lift a finger to limit the role of private money and the influence
of big donors. Maybe that was because Obama significantly outraised
McCain? And that he recognized that as the incumbent president, he'd
be able to do that again in 2012?
David A Farenthold/Joshua Partlow/Jonathan O'Connell/Carol
Newly obtained documents show $157,000 in additional payments by the
Secret Service to Trump properties.
Judge slams Barr, orders review of Mueller report deletions.
Elizabeth Warren should endorse Bernie Sanders -- not for him, but for
herself and her mission: "Warren stayed out of the 2016 Democratic
primary, and it hurt her badly."
John F Harris:
2020 becomes the dementia campaign: "Biden and Trump partisans trade
charges of senility in an era of aging candidates."
The enthralling brutality of Elizabeth Warren: "What it felt like
watching her go in for the kill." Part of what makes her so attractive
as a vice-presidential nominee.
The US-Taliban agreement is not a peace deal: "It's not even a
Wall Street, encouraged by Biden's wins, breaks out its checkbooks:
"Fearful of the more progressive candidates, some finance executives
had sidelined themselves from the elections until Mr. Biden surged."
Sanders can't lead the Democrats if his campaign treats them like the
enemy. That seems like a fair point, but then consider the subhed:
"What Bernie needs to learn from Biden." Biden is the favorite of the
professional party elite because he's perfectly in tune with their
cater to business interests while only occasionally giving lip service
to the party's rank-and-file voters. Those same elites see Sanders not
just as an outsider but as the leader of a revolt against their rule.
Biden's 'Bernie brothers' remark lights up social media.
Trump is a disaster for abortion rights -- but Joe Biden can't be trusted
to fight for choice. E.g., see Lisa Lerer:
When Joe Biden voted to let states overturn Roe v. Wade.
Bernie's revolution failed. But his movement can still win.
Joe Biden's new plan to end the opioid epidemic is the most ambitious
in the field.
Mike Bloomberg spent $500 million to win nothing but American Samoa.
Living in Kansas, and using the DVR or streaming services for most of
what I do watch, I got through the period without watching any Bloomberg
commercials, so I can't say for sure, but Bloomberg got into the race
because Biden was faltering, only to find that hardly anyone liked him.
If Bloomberg's ads broadly supported "moderate" candidates, they likely
helped Biden as much or more than they garnered votes for Bloomberg --
who may be just as happy to have salvaged Biden's flagging candidacy as
he would have been had he wound up being the "moderate" standard bearer.
Had he won the nomination, I'm convinced that Bloomberg would be a total
disaster against Trump. Still, it's a testimony to Sanders that Bloomberg
feared and hated him enough to spend $500 million just to run interference
Mark Mazzetti/Adam Goldman:
Erik Prince recruits ex-spies to help infiltrate liberal groups.
Chris Matthews's misogyny shaped political journalism for a generation.
Matthews "retired" last week, after a string of faux pas -- most notoriously
his comparison of Sanders' win in Nevada to the Nazi invasion of France
(an analogy that would have been more apt or at least more amusing had
he saved it for Biden's Super Tuesday avalanche). My only lament is that
I figure it's likely that he'll unretire to Fox, where his being a lout
and an asshole will be deemed an asset, and left unchecked.
Ashley Parker/Yasmeen Abutaleb/Lena H Sun:
Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the
The next Democratic debate will feature a much smaller stage: Just
Sanders and Biden.
The delegate math for Biden and Sanders after Super Tuesday, explained.
After Super Tuesday, Biden is ahead 184-106. That margin is quite a bit
less than Hillary Clinton's lead over Sanders at this time in 2016 (but
California voted much later back then).
Five ways William Barr is turning America into a dictatorship.
Nathan J Robinson:
Democrats, you really do not want to nominate Joe Biden. Also wrote
Time to fight harder than we've ever fought before, and
What the stakes are.
After Super Tuesday, Joe Biden is a clear favorite to win the nomination:
latest odds have Biden 8 in 9, no majority 1 in 12, Sander 1 in 50. But
Micah Cohen hedges a bit:
Confidence interval: Sanders still hasa shot.
Could Democrats win the battle against Trump but lose the war against
The Republicans, determined to maintain a plutocracy-friendly policy
regime when it comes to taxes, regulation, and public investment (not
to mention voting rights and access to democracy) have had no choice
but to pitch reactionary white chauvinism to white voters in a bid to
stay viable. Trump's triumph in their 2016 primary simply transformed
the subtext into text. Democrats, hobbled by the interests of the donor
class that Hillary Clinton and now Biden represent, have limped along
by promising to be somewhat less poisonous compared to the
alternative. . . .
The platforms of Elizabeth Warren and especially Sanders -- taxes
to smash America's concentrations of wealth, a national job guarantee,
Medicare-for-all, an end to the student debt crisis, a Green New Deal,
a resuscitated labor movement -- demonstrate an ambition and urgency
that at least come close to matching the severity of the challenge.
Should Democrats best Trump, they will have two years (four, if they're
lucky) to pass such changes.
If, however, Democrats don't meaningfully address these problems --
dying jobs and dying communities and dying hope for the future -- it
will only further empower and embolden Republican arguments pitting
working Americans against each other, that government isn't the answer,
and that immigrants and minorities are to blame, while leaving voters
wondering what the point of the Democratic Party is. That's one way we
end up with an even more extreme version of Trump next time around.
Jack Welch's legacy looks very different than it did 20 years ago.
Related: Stephen Meyer:
Jack Welch is dead. Neoliberalism lives on.
How fear of Bernie Sanders has driven the great consolidation in the
Democratic race: "Voters didn't suddenly discover a passion for
Mike Bloomberg is proof that you can't buy a presidency. On the other
hand, Donald Trump is proof that you can, if you can overcome the insularity
of your class and locale -- something the much richer Bloomberg couldn't
To rebound and win, Bernie Sanders needs to leave his comfort zone:
"Current and former staffers say Sanders has run a great campaign --
except when it comes to taking on Democrats like Joe Biden by name.
Can he fix that?" I doubt he can, and I doubt he wants to, not only
because he is an exceptionally decent person but because he realizes
that backlash against exposing Biden's faults will hurt his campaign
against Trump, and won't help his long-term goal of winning through
The Alabama Republican Senate runoff is bad news for Jeff Sessions:
He came in second with 31.65%, trailing Tommy Tuberville, setting up a
runoff. Roy Moore came in fourth this time, with 7.15%.
Monday, March 02, 2020
Expanded blog post,
Music: Current count 32823  rated (+33), 244  unrated (-1).
[PS: Made some changes below, fixing a bad typo, and noting that
Buttigieg (as well as Klobuchar) has endorsed Biden. Beto O'Rourke
has also endorsed Biden.]
Might as well sweep up some loose ends missed from yesterday's
Roundup, starting with
Amy Klobuchar drops out of the 2020 presidential race. I didn't
expect this until after Super Tuesday, where she still had a chance
to win her home state, Minnesota. Instead, she's headed to Dallas to
endorse Joe Biden. She may figure this "bold move" puts her in good
stead to become Biden's VP pick, but I doubt there's a deal: the
nomination is still pretty far off, so Biden needs to reserve his
options, and she's really not that important.
When I started writing about Dylan Matthews'
If anti-Bernie Democrats were serious, they'd unite around Joe Biden
right now, it was still just a piece of armchair quarterbacking.
I figured all the candidates had already sunk so many resources into
Super Tuesday -- just three days after South Carolina, and tomorrow
as I write -- that the sensible thing for all to do would be to let
that play out. That Steyer, who had focused hard on South Carolina,
saw his third-place finish as the end there wasn't a big surprise,
but Buttigieg and Klobuchar never had a prayer in South Carolina,
and could easily have waved away their inevitable failures there.
(Buttigieg finished a respectable fourth there, with 8.25%, ahead
of Warren's 7.06%. Admittedly, Klobuchar's 6th place 3.15% was a
pretty poor showing.)
The main, and perhaps the only, reason candidates drop out of the
presidential race is the money dries up. Steyer had his own money,
so we can fairly assume he made his own decision. But Buttigieg and
Klobuchar were dependent on donors, and big donors at that, so they
were finished as soon as their donors' calculations drifted elsewhere.
Indeed, both coupled their withdrawals with endorsements of Biden --
even though Buttigieg's donors seemed closer to Bloomberg, who having
sunk a lot of money into Super Tuesday is still in the race. Still,
part of the calculation here is recognition that Bloomberg has failed
to establish himself as anywhere near as effective a candidate as
Biden -- a pretty low bar. Assuming the polls are correct that Biden
beats Bloomberg everywhere, you'll hear a lot next week about how
Bloomberg split the "moderate" vote, putting pressure on him to drop
out soon. After all, Bloomberg got into the race for fear that Biden
would stumble. He was right that Biden did, but himself proved to be
even more hapless.
In some circles, you'll also hear complaints about Warren splitting
the progressive vote. (E.g., Sarah Jones:
The most progressive thing Warren can do is leave the race.) It's
certainly the case that if she can't win Massachusetts (and/or her
native state of Oklahoma) it's hard to imagine where else she could
win. While in theory she could still be a compromise pick at a
deadlocked convention, I doubt that having lost everywhere is going
to persuade delegates whose prime concern is nominating a candidate
who can beat Trump. Still, I have to respect that she's not caving in on
the eve of the big election -- even if all that shows is that her
donors aren't as fickle as the ones who decided that Biden's 49% in
South Carolina -- a state he's polled over 60% in most of last year --
makes him a juggernaut. And, frankly, her spirited evisceration of
Bloomberg earns respect, even from those of us who prefer Sanders.
Bloomberg may be trying to buy votes from the "moderate lane" but
he's really just a "Never Trump" Republican, and his nomination would
be the end of the Democratic Party as a source of hope for the vast
majority of Americans.
We'll know more in a couple days. By the end of the week, the race
may be down to just Sanders and Biden, to be decided over the next
few months in large battleground states from New York to Illinois.
Those split only slightly in favor of Clinton in 2016, with Clinton
winning in party strongholds (like NYC and Chicago) and Sanders
everywhere else. Sanders is better organized this year. Clinton and
Biden have various tradeoffs, which don't necessarily favor one or
I didn't write much about coronavirus yesterday, but we should
stress one key point: while many health issues are non-contagious,
and therefore even systemic failure only has piecemeal effects, this
sort of contagious pandemic affects not just the individuals who get
sick, but also the public that interacts with them. Therefore, this
puts exceptional emphasis on public health. The US, where
illness is most often seen as little more than an opportunity for
business to exploit, is especially ill-prepared for this -- and
would be even if the people who in charge of the public response
weren't ridiculously incompetent, especially at the Trump-Pence
level. (Nonetheless, I did feel it was premature to point out
pieces like this one: Ryu Spaeth:
The coronavirus is Trump's worst nightmare.
The virus has exposed another pretty major systemic weakness,
starting with the stock market crash last week. For more on this,
see Charlie Warzel:
Coronavirus will test our new way of life. As Warzel explains,
the search for extreme economic efficiency has left most businesses
with fragile supply lines, so local disruptions quickly hit other
locations, or even become global shortages.
I expected to find more pieces on the prevalence of "irritable
mental gestures" at this year's CPAC, but most must have already
vanished in the blogroll scrolls. Here's one I missed, touching
on themes I did notice: Osita Nwanevu:
At CPAC, the socialists are coming to get you.
Back to music, an exceptional number of A- records this week, all
(but one) in the "new music" domain. Three came from my queue (Kenny
Barron, Al Gold, TorbjÖrn Zetterberg). One was a leftover from December
2019 that only showed up in Dave Sumner's January edition of
The best jazz on Bandcamp. There is quite a bit of back catalog by
Muriel Grossmann, so I should probably search further, but it's
also possible that Llorenç Barceló's organ is what made the difference
this time. Guitarist Ross Hammond was known to me, but looks like he
has a bunch of records I've also missed.
Of the others, the late rapper Mac Miller's swansong is the biggest
surprise, and the only record here that's been
widely praised. (Well, further
down the list there's Grimes, and further still Destroyer, 070 Shake, J
Hus, and Beatrice Dillon.) The Evan Parker/Paul Lytton duo is the third
straight A- from Intakt -- but the Tim Berne Snakeoil, despite the return
of Marc Ducret from his best-ever period, didn't quite make it four
straight. I suppose I should have resisted Waco Brothers' retreads,
but couldn't. Stuck in my brain ever since:
Bill the Cowboy." [PS: Only after my initial draft did I figure
out that these are reissues instead of remakes.]
I did an update to Robert Christgau's
website last week, then didn't
get around to making a public announcement (beyond the one on the website
itself), or even my promised update to the "tech" mailing list. Added to
the website are all the pieces from
And It Don't Stop subscription newsletter. We had always planned on
adding them sooner or later, but it proved difficult to nail down just
when (even after I went ahead and did it). As subscribers know, some
content there is restricted to those who pay for it ($5 per month), and
some is free. I believe you can subscribe to just get the free stuff,
but haven't tested that. The restricted material is primarily the new
Consumer Guides, as they demand by far the most work to research and
write, so it was felt that they should be withheld for a fairly long
period, so subscribers get a sense of exclusivity for their money. The
number they came up with is eight months, so I locked that in to the
Consumer Guide columns. It was also (eventually) decided to embargo
the free material for one month, but that happened after my update, so
what got through is already unlocked. In the future, I'll apply the
one-month lock on free articles, but not on
Xgau Sez, because
it's easiest (for now) just to plug it into the pre-existing unlocked
A couple more technical details. I added an
And It Don't Stop
menu selection under "Writings," which leads you to a directory where
most of the free articles reside (exceptions are Xgau Sez,
2019 Dean's List,
Consumer Guides (currently
stubs, which will unlock when the time comes). I added a feature to the
directory index code to pick up descriptions (copied from the article
subheds) and add them to the listing, which should make it easier to
identify articles. It also adds a HMTL "meta description" declaration,
which may help Google (and others) with their indexing. The same format
could be used for adding "meta keywords" declarations, but I'm not doing
that yet. The changed code is commonly used throughout the site, so one
could go back through the thousand-plus articles and use it to add
descriptions and/or keywords -- a daunting but not impossible task.
(One reason I did it here was that Christgau had already written text
that I could use for the purpose.)
I've also added And It Don't Stop entries to the
which gives you a serial index by date. Long ago I had planned to
eventually replace these flat files with database queries, which
would be more flexible for searching by date, publication, maybe
even subject or keywords. Never did that, and didn't even bother
imposing the five-year chunk rule to what used to be "2010-2014"
(but now is "2010-" and continuing to grow). We would be better
off if we did all of the indexing from the database, but I keep
dragging my feet on the project, so it remains conceptual.
I haven't added the new consumer guide entries to the database
yet. It appears as though they, too, have to be timelocked, so
anything I did now wouldn't be visible to you for another 4-5
months. The obvious way to do this is to modify the SQL code to
pull out the "ent_date" table entry, then write some PHP code to
drop the review and grade on entries less than eight months old.
I'd have to track down all of the places where this code exists
(probably 10-20), standardize the tables, and pass them through
a filter to enforce the timelock. Not hard, but I haven't yet
finished converting all of the database code to work with PHP 7,
so that needs to be done at the same time.
One thing I'd like to do at the same time is to grab a list of
newsletter subscribers and use it to validate users, so subscribers
can see the latest reviews on the website as well as via And It
Don't Stop. Substack doesn't seem to have any useful API for this,
so I'd have to hack something less dynamic. Not impossible, but a
something I've avoided so far).
It bothers me that I've made so little progress on this project.
The last few weeks have been especially depressing, extending several
months of lethargy. I keep thinking that once I finish the weekly posts,
I'll get to doing some real work. Will see what happens tomorrow.
New records reviewed this week:
- 070 Shake: Modus Vivendi (2020, GOOD Music/Def Jam): [r]: B+(*)
- Terry Allen and the Panhandle Mystery Band: Just Like Moby Dick (2020, Paradise of Bachelors): [r]: B+(***)
- Kenny Barron/Dave Holland Trio Featuring Johnathan Blake: Without Deception (2019 , Dare2): [cd]: A- [03-06]
- Antoine Berjeaut: Moving Cities (2017 , I See Colors): [bc]; B+(**)
- Tim Berne's Snakeoil: The Fantastic Mrs. 10 (2019 , Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
- Calle Loiza Jazz Project: There Will Never Be Another You (2019 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Chicago Farmer: Flyover Country (2020, Chicago Farmer): [r]: A-
- Destroyer: Have We Met (2020, Merge): [r]: B+(*)
- Beatrice Dillon: Workaround (2017-19 , Pan): [r]: B+(**)
- Yelena Eckemoff: Nocturnal Animals (2018 , L&H Production, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
- Nick Finzer: Cast of Characters (2019 , Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(*)
- Al Gold: Al Gold's Paradise (2020, self-released): [cd]: A- [03-06]
- Grimes: Miss Anthropocene (2020, 4AD): [r]: B+(***)
- Muriel Grossmann: Reverence (2019, RR Gems): [r]: A-
- Ross Hammond/Oliver Lake/Mike Pride: Our Place on the Wheel (2020, Prescott): [r]: A-
- The Heliocentrics: Infinity of Now (2020, Madlib Invazion): [r]: B+(***)
- J Hus: Big Conspiracy (2020, Black Butter): [r]: B+(**)
- Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Music of Wayne Shorter (2015 , Blue Engine, 2CD): [r]: B-
- Dawda Jobarteh: I Met Her by the River (2018, Stern's Africa): [r]: B
- Mike McGinniss/Elias Bailey/Vinnie Sperrazza: Time Is Thicker (2020, Open Stream Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Mac Miller: Circles (2018 , Warner): [r]: A-
- John Moreland: LP5 (2020, Old Omens): [r]: B+(**)
- Tami Neilson: Chicka Boom! (2020, Outside): [r]: B+(**)
- Never Weather: Blissonance (2019 , Ridgeway): [cd]: B+(*)
- Evan Parker/Paul Lytton: Collective Calls (Revisited) (Jubilee) (2019 , Intakt): [r]: A-
- Dan Rosenboom: Absurd in the Anthropocene (2020, Gearbox): [r]: B+(**)
- Torbjörn Zetterberg & Den Stora Fragan: Are You Happy (2019 , Moserobie): [cd]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Terry Allen + Panhandle Mystery Band: Pedal Steal + Four Corners (1985-93 , Paradise of Bachelors, 3CD): [r]: B+(*)
- Mogadisco: Dancing Mogadishu, Somalia 1972-1991 (1972-91 , Analog Africa): [r]: B+(***)
- The John Tchicai Quartet: Live at the Stone (2007 , Minus Zero): [bc]: B+(*)
- Waco Brothers: Resist! (1995-2005 , Bloodshot): [r]: A-
- Evan Parker/Agustí Fernández: The Voice Is One (2009 , Not Two): [r]: B+(***)
- Evan Parker & Joe McPhee: What/If/They Both Could Fly (2012 , Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(***)
- Waco Brothers: Waco Express: Live and Kickin' at Schuba's Tavern, Chicago (2008, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
- Waco Brothers & Paul Burch: The Great Chicago Fire (2012, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- François Carrier/Tomek Gadecki/Marcik Bozek/Michel Lambert: Wide (FMR)
- Day Dream: Originals (Corner Store Jazz) [03-27]
- Alex Goodman: Impressions in Blue and Red (Outside In Music, 2CD) [03-13]
- Hayoung Lyou: Metamorphosis (Endectomorph Music) [04-17]
- Shunzo Ohno: Runner (Pulsebeats) [04-03]
- Carl Saunders: Jazz Trumpet (Summit)
Sunday, March 01, 2020
Joe Biden gets his first primary win in South Carolina, winning by a
larger margin than
polls had indicated. With 99.91% reporting, Biden had 48.45%, Bernie
Sanders 19.91%, Tom Steyer 11.34%, Pete Buttigieg 8.24%, Elizabeth Warren
7.06%, Amy Klobuchar 3.15%, and Tuli Gabbard 1.28%. He will have three
days to enjoy the win before Super Tuesday next week.
Before the election, Nate Silver posited
three possible Super Tuesday projections estimates based on how
well Biden does in South Carolina. According to the "Biden wins big"
scenario, Biden is expected to win Texas, North Carolina, Virginia,
Tennessee, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Arkansas next week, with Klobuchar
favored in Minnesota, and Sanders ahead in California, Massachusetts,
Colorado, Utah, Maine, and Vermont. Bloomberg will be on the ballot
then, but Silver doesn't expect him to win any states. His best bets
seem to be in Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Virginia (with 28-25% share of
delegates). That would leave Sanders with 39% of committed delegates,
Biden 29%, Bloomberg 13%, Warren 10%, Buttigieg 6%, Klobuchar 3%.
Sanders best upset prospects are in Virginia, Minnesota, Oklahoma,
and Texas (where he's led several polls; see
NBC News polls: Sanders has the edge in Texas, is tied with Biden in
Following his big win in Nevada, a bunch of Bernie Sanders pieces,
including a lot of hysteria from Democratic Party elites and "Never
Trumpers," and a little more on the race:
Pete Buttigieg drops out of the presidential race. Given how little
time there is between South Carolina's primary and "Super Tuesday," and
how much of an outlier South Carolina is compared to other Democratic
primaries, I'm surprised that anyone would fold up their campaign between
the two, but we now have two candidates (Steyer and Buttigieg) doing just
that. Given that Steyer was self-funded, you can be pretty sure that his
decision was his own. It makes some sense: in the rich egomaniac lane,
he was certain to get crowded out by the even richer Michael Bloomberg,
so at least he's exiting on a plateau. Buttigieg, however, came into the
race as one of the poorest and least promising of candidates, and he's
actually had a pretty remarkable run. He may have never had the money or
oganization to run a national campaign, and his prospects weren't great,
but he would certainly do better on Super Tuesday than he did in South
Carolina, so why not give it a few more days? I have no doubt that the
answer was that his donors pulled the plug, hoping to move his votes to
Biden or Bloomberg in a frantic effort to stop Sanders. I never shared
the level of contempt directed toward Buttigieg from Sanders supporters,"
but I do think he hurt himself and his future credibility by going so
far out of his way to badmouth Sanders. I think he could have tried to
bridge the gap between business and its many victims, in a way which
would help reduce the social toll while still growing a healthy economy.
He could, in short, have made himself seem concerned and committed, as
well as cautious and pragmatic, but he didn't. Rather, he let himself
be a spokesperson for a bunch of rich assholes who discarded him as
soon as he became inconvenient. As Molly Ivans put it, "lie down with
dogs, get up with fleas." [PS: I finally got around to reading Masha
The queer opposition to Pete Buttigieg, explained, and found I
couldn't care less. Her conclusion, that "he is profoundly, essentially
conservative," explains why his gayness turned out to be so boring.]
What David Brooks gets wrong about Bernie Sanders: "The New York Times
columnist is a perfect exemplar of the baseless centrist freakout about
Sanders's supposed authoritarianism." Brooks' column is titled
No, not Sanders, not ever, where the guy who got rich voicing
conservative attacks on liberals declares "I'll cast my lot with
democratic liberalism," which for him means anyone but Sanders.
Beauchamp answers by quoting a Jedediah Britton-Purdy tweet:
The Sanders campaign is an effort to make real the principles of personal
dignity, autonomy, free association, plurality, & self-development
that liberalism prizes. To say the opposite sells criminally short both
liberalism and Sanders.
The case for Bernie Sanders: "Despite his age, he promises a true
break from the past." Part of a series, with: Michelle Goldberg on
Elizabeth Warren; Ross Douthat on
Joe Biden; Frank Bruni on
Pete Buttigieg; David Leonhardt on
Amy Klobuchar; and David Brooks shilling for
Mike Bloomberg. Bouie also wrote:
The Trumpian liberalism of Michael Bloomberg: "He may be running as
the anti-Trump, but when it comes to the politics of racial control,
there is a resemblance."
Fear powered Joe Biden's South Carolina victory.
Rather, it suggests another calculation at work. There's a yawning chasm
between black people's recognition that we deserve better from the political
order and our belief that elected officials will deliver it. More likely
than not, Biden didn't win South Carolina because he built the best case
for himself. He won because black people have seen what it looks like when
he fails them. Saturday was not a glowing endorsement of his candidacy. If
anything, it was a concession to a politics of fear.
Thomas L Friedman:
Dems, you can defeat Trump in a landslide: The idiot-savant of the
New York Times argues for a "national unity" ticket, combining Sanders
and Bloomberg, with cabinet-level positions for everyone from Mitt
Romney (Commerce Secretary) and William McRaven (Defense Secretary) to
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (UN Ambassador). Once again, Friedman shows
off his boundless faith in the benevolence of the rich and famous. I
wonder if he realizes that the track record for pairing antagonists
on the presidential ticket has a pretty checkered record: especially
Lincoln-Johnson and Harrison-Tyler, where death elevated unpopular
vice-presidents who were politically opposite to their mandate, but
I can think of other Friedmanesque dream tickets that could have gone
as badly (e.g., Jefferson-Burr, Jackson-Calhoun).
What Bernie Sanders should have said about socialism and totalitarianism
in Cuba: Actually, I don't have any problem with what Sanders said,
except that I might have been more impolitic in pointing out that Castro
started with one of the most corrupt and savagely inequal nations in
Latin America -- a state can can be traced to its last-in-the-hemisphere
abolition of slavery and to colonialism by American economic interests --
and struggled heroically to fashion one of the most egalitarian ones,
despite constant hostility from the US, including the imposition of
crippling blockades and sanctions. I'd also point out that America's
hostility had nothing to do with concern for the civil or human rights
of the Cuban people, and everything to do with spite engendered by
Castro's expropriation of American business property and the threat
international companies felt from the existence of the revolutionary
government. I'd also point out that anti-communism in America has
always been dictated by business interests, and has been especially
effective at undermining unions and the left inside as well as beyond
US borders. It also bugs me when emigres from the Soviet bloc have so
completely internalized cold war propaganda that they continue to use
it reflexively to promote militarist, anti-left, and anti-democratic
Who's afraid of Bernie Sanders?
To deny Sanders victory if he conjures up a plurality rather than a
clear majority is to make Sanders's evaluation of the party its epitaph.
Democrats would confirm to the public that the party isn't working for
anyone who isn't well-educated and well-off -- and that they don't
really want to change. They would damage not only their credibility
but the lives of the nation's poor, for whom another Trump term would
Bloomberg has hired the vice chairs of the Texas and California Democratic
Joe Biden has a long history of giving Republicans what they want:
"For Republicans, Joe Biden has long been the ideal negotiating partner --
because he's so willing to cave in on most anything Republicans want."
A excerpt from the author's forthcoming book, Yesterday's Man: The
Case Against Joe Biden.
If anti-Bernie Democrats were serious, they'd unite around Joe Biden
right now. This is basically a taunt, but ego aside (and sure,
that's a big aside) Bloomberg got into the race because he doubted
Biden's up to the task. Biden's first win doesn't prove otherwise,
but his comeback does seem to reflect a belated recognition that
the other "center lane" candidates no longer look promising -- as
Jonathan Chait argues:
Joe Biden now the only Democrat who can stop Bernie Sanders.
Heading into Super Tuesday, Biden gets big funding boost, although
"big" here is still way short of what Sanders is raising, let alone how
much Bloomberg is spending. [PS: Buttigieg dropping out looks like his
donors pulled the rug out from under him to move votes to Biden. By the
way, the ducks are lining up:
Wasserman Schultz endorses Joe Biden for president.]
Bernie Sanders posts a record $46.5 million February fundraising haul.
The selling of the Democratic primary. [PS: Pareene tweet: "my no-irony
take is that Biden would've won in 2016 but he's incoherent now and it
would be deeply irresponsible to nominate him."]
Bernie Sanders can beat Trump. Here's the math.
Charles P Pierce:
The biggest challenge for the Sanders campaign is its own premature
triumphalism. Sample bloviage:
Bernie Sanders has surrounded himself with people so utterly pure in
their own opinion of themselves that they object to compromises that
they themselves made. . . . Bernie Sanders is not a Democrat.
He is an independent who quadrennially cosplays as a Democrat because
he wants to run for president. For this, he should be eternally grateful
that a) nobody makes the point that at least Ralph Nader had the stones
to be an independent and run as an independent; and b) that he is running
now and not back in the days when there really was a Democratic
establishment that would have been able to crush him like a bug. . . .
It turns out that many of the Bernie stans can be more insufferable in
victory than they were in defeat. I say this in all love and Christian
fellowship: Bernie Sanders and his more fervent followers and the many
sanctimonious ratfckers who run his campaign can fck right off.
It's hard to tell where the various smear campaigns against Sanders
supporters start and end (if indeed they have any limits at all). I'm
not involved in the campaign, and I doubt I know anyone who is, but it's
hard not to feel personally insulted by such blanket slanders. Makes
me feel like one of Hillary Clinton's deplorables, which I guess we
were even before she took aim at Trump's minions.
Admittedly, I'm less bothered when Pierce applies his vocabulary to
What a day it's been for the paranoid little terrarium that is the
modern conservative mind, or
Trump's coronavirus press conference was the apotheosis of 40 years
of Republican philosophy.
Sanders' most rabid fans on the left no improvement over Trump's on
the right. Pitts is nationally syndicated, and the Wichita Eagle
runs his weekly column as its sole token liberal alternative to Cal
Thomas, Marc Thiessen, and a host of other reactionary cranks. This
is the most disappointing column I've ever read from him, as he casts
even wider shade on Sanders' supporters than Pierce did (while also
reminding us that Sanders is not a real Democrat). A self-appointed
moderate, Pitts likes to assume that left and right are symmetrical,
so he asserts that "Sanders could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth
Avenue and not lose any supporters" -- Trump has actually made that
boast about his supporters, many of whom are into guns and violence.
But more basically, you don't get to the left without developing the
critical and moral faculties to question the use and abuse of power
and wealth, and that makes it impossible to blindly follow anyone --
for examples of Das Führerprinzip, look to the right.
Tom Steyer drops out of the presidential race: "It turns out
Democratic voters were not seeking their own billionaire to save them
from Trump." One might argue that they were waiting for a richer,
more obnoxious billionaire. The jury's still out on Bloomberg, but
Steyer's campaign casts doubts on how easily one rich guy can buy
Bernie Sanders' plans may be expensive but inaction would cost much
America's crisis of trust and the one candidate who gets it. He
identifies a core problem: "how to break out of the doom loop and
get on a trajectory of better governance and rising trust." His one
candidate is Warren, "on the right track, substantively," but "on
the wrong track, politically."
Bernie Sanders is winning his war on cable news. My primal fear
is that the so-called liberal media, much more than the hapless DNC,
is going to go all-out to sabotage Sanders' candidacy. For example:
There's little love for Bernie Sanders on the television news circuit.
After his landslide win in Saturday's Nevada caucuses, MSNBC host Chris
Matthews compared the victory to Nazi Germany's successful invasion of
France in 1940. Also on MSNBC, James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton's
1992 campaign, deemed it a big win for Vladimir Putin. On CBS, former
Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel fretted that Democrats were making
a suicidal choice in going for Sanders. Donna Brazile, the former
Democratic National Committee chair turned Fox News contributor, and
Joe Lockhart, the former Clinton administration press secretary and
current CNN contributor, were irked by a Sanders tweet that read:
"I've got news for the Republican establishment. I've got news for
the Democratic establishment. They can't stop us." . . . Trump has
a cable news channel in his pocket -- Sanders does not. His campaign
has responded by building a media infrastructure that could withstand
attacks from mainstream networks. So far, it's worked wonders.
Is Bernie the American version of Jeremy Corbyn? Gulp.
Why Bernie Sanders drives so many people out of their minds.
For whatever it's worth, my take on the presidential election is that
as long as it remains a referendum on Trump and his Republican cohort,
any at-all-reasonable Democratic candidate (which includes Sanders and
Biden but maybe not Bloomberg) will beat Trump. He is, after all, very
unpopular, both as a person and even more so for his issues and policies.
The only way Trump wins is if he can make the campaign be about his
opponent (as he did in 2016), and find in that opponent flaws that he
can exploit to make "persuadable" swing-votes fear that opponent more
than they are disgusted with him. This will be harder for him to do
this time around, because he has his own track record to defend, and
unless you're very rich and/or very bigoted, he hasn't done much for
On the other hand, all Democratic candidates have tics and flaws
that a savvy campaigner can exploit. We can debate endlessly on which
"flaws" are most vulnerable and which are most easily defensible. My
own theory is that "red baiting," which we've seen a huge burst of
this past week (and not just at CPAC or on Fox, where the approach
is so feverish it's likely to be extended against Bloomberg), is a
spent force, but one Republicans won't be able to resist. On the
other hand, Sanders is relatively secure against the charges of
corruption and warmongering that were so effective against Hillary
Clinton, and could easily be recycled against Biden.
On the other hand, I do have some sympathy for "down ballot"
candidates for Congress who worry that having a ticket led by a
candidate with such sharply defined views as Sanders has will hurt
their chances in swing districts. At some point, Sanders needs to
pivot to acknowledge and affirm the diversity of opinions within
the Democratic Party. A model here might be Ronald Reagan's "11th
commandment" (never speak ill of a fellow Republican). That didn't
stop Reagan from orchestrating a conservative takeover of the
party, but it make it possible for the few surviving liberals
in the party to continue, and it made it possible for Republicans
to win seats that hard-line conservatives couldn't.
A Sanders nomination would be the most radical shift in the
Democratic Party since 1896, when populist William Jennings Bryan
got the nod to succeed arch-conservative Grover Cleveland. Bryan
lost that election badly, and lost two of the next three, partly
as a result of Democratic Party sabotage, partly because Theodore
Roosevelt outflanked him with a more modern progressivism. My
generation is more likely to recall George McGovern's epic loss
in 1972, also occasioned by deep splits within the Party bosses,
but McGovern and 1968 nominee Hubert Humphrey had very similar
backgrounds and programs -- their big divide was over the Vietnam
War. Nixon did a very effective job of getting McGovern portrayed
as a far-out radical, while covering up his own negatives (at least
until after the election -- he wound up resigning in disgrace).
Trump will certainly try to do the same to Sanders (or for that
matter to any other Democrat), and Republicans have been remarkably
successful at manipulating media and motivating their voters, so
one has to much to worry about. Indeed, I've been fretting a lot
this past week, and will continue to do so until the election is
Some scattered links this week:
How will Trump's Supreme Court remake America?
The war on Israeli democracy: "Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has
attacked the foundations of democracy. If he wins his 2020 reelection
bid, things could get a lot worse." Ignoring the more basic fact that if
you're Palestinian, things are already a lot worse.
The Trump-Modi lovefest is sickening.
Watch Trump fondle an American flag at CPAC: Making Americana porn
Daniel R DePetris:
RIP, Libya. For more background, see Ted Galen Carpenter:
How Barack Obama's good 'intentions' destroyed Libya.
James K Galbraith:
The past and future of antitrust. Review of Matt Stoller's book,
Goliath: The 100-Year War between Monopoly Power and Democracy.
Evidently Stoller regards the replacement of Wright Patman by Henry
Reuss in 1975 as chairman of the House banking committee as a turning
point against antitrust enforcement. I remember both: I never thought
much of Patman's progressive reputation, but I had a lot of respect
for Reuss, especially as one of the first half-dozen Representatives
to oppose the Vietnam War. Turns out Galbraith worked for Reuss.
Under Trump, income growth slows across US, including in key battleground
The case that America's in decline: Interview with conservative
pundit Ross Douthat, who has a new book called The Decadent Society:
How We Became the Victims of Our Own Success.
Can you really negate your carbon emissions? Carbon offsets,
When a pandemic meets a personality cult: "The Trump team confirms
all of our worst fears."
How Christian nationalism drives American politics: Interview with
Andrew Whitehead, author of Taking America Back for God: Christian
Nationalism in the United States. Also mentions Katherine Stewart's
book (out next week), The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous
Rise of Religious Nationalism. Not sure what either book has to add
to Chris Hedges' 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right
and the War on America, other than the plentiful examples offered
by Trump and Pence.
America's bad paid sick leave policy could make the coronavirus outbreak
James B Stewart/Jesse Drucker:
Milken had key allies in pardon bid: Trump's inner circle: "Rudolph
Giuliani and Sheldon Adelson were among those who asked President Trump
to pardon a symbol of 1980s greed."
The real meaning of 'religious liberty': A license to discriminate.
Trump is pushing a dangerous, false spin on coronavirus -- and the media
is helping him spread it.
Russia isn't dividing us -- our leaders are.
Hosni Mubarak's death and despotic rule, briefly explained.
Trump announces the US and Taliban will soon sign a peace deal. A
couple days later: Riley Beggin:
The US and Taliban sign agreement meant to end America's longest war.
"The US has agreed to pull all of its troops from Afghanistan within 14
months" -- i.e., after Trump's presidential term ends, dependent on the
Taliban negotiating a further deal with the Afghan government.