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Monday, September 21, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34056 [34007] rated (+49), 216 [217] unrated (-1).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Fontaines DC: A Hero's Death (2020, Partisan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Robert Gordon: Rockabilly for Life (2020, Cleopatra): [r]: B+(*)
  • Frank Gratkowski/Simon Nabatov/Dominik Mahnig: Dance Hall Stories (2017 [2020], Leo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Safar-e-Daroon (2018 [2020], Songlines): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gordon Grdina: Prior Street (2019 [2020], self-released): [bc]: B
  • Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperrazza/Chris Tordini: The Choir Invisible (2018 [2020], Intakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tee Grizzley: The Smartest (2020, 300 Entertainment): [r]: B+(***)
  • GuiltyBeatz: Different E.P (2020, Banku Music, EP): [yt]: B+(*)
  • Haiku Hands: Haiku Hands (2020, Mad Decent): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tigran Hamasyan: The Call Within (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring (2020, Big Machine): [r]: B+(**)
  • I Think You're Awesome: Suite to Be You and Me (2019 [2020], Jaegar Community): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Sherman Irby's Inferno (2012 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Black Brown & Beige (2018 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Rock Chalk Suite (2019 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Christopher Crenshaw's the Fifties: A Prism (2017 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Ever Fonky Lowdown (2019 [2020], Blue Engine, 2CD): [r]: B-
  • Vic Juris: Let's Cool One (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kaze & Ikue Mori: Sand Storm (2020, Libra): [cd]: B+(***)
  • La Lucha: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (2019 [2020], Arbors): [r]: B
  • Jacám Manricks: Samadhi (2018 [2002], Manricks Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Adam Niewood: Blue as a Whistle (2018 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Nussbaum: Leadbelly Reimagined (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pretenders: Hate for Sale (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Psychedelic Furs: Made of Rain (2020, Cooking Vinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dan Reeder: Every Which Way (2020, Oh Boy): [r]: B
  • Rumer: Nashville Tears: The Songs of Hugh Prestwood (2020, Cooking Vinyl): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scenes: Trapeze (2020, Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): [cd]: A-
  • Greg Spero + Spirit Fingers: Peace (2020, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Henri Texier: Chance (2020, Label Bleu): [r]: B+(**)
  • Throttle Elevator Music: Emergency Exit (2020, Wide Hive): [r]: B+(*)
  • Azu Tiwaline: Draw Me a Silence Part II (2020, IOT, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kali Uchis: To Feel Alive (2020, Virgin EMI/Interscope, EP): [r]: B
  • Village of the Sun Feat. Binker & Moses: Village of the Sun/Ted (2020, Gearbox, EP): [bc]: B
  • Greg Ward/Jason Stein/Marcus Evans/Chad Taylor/Matt Lux: 85bears (2020, Ears & Eyes): [bc]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Borah Bergman/Perry Anderson/Steve Swell/Ray Sage: Quartets Trios Duos (2007 [2020], Mahakala Music): [cd]: A-
  • The Claire Daly Band: Rah! Rah! (2008 [2020], Ride Symbol): [cd]: B+(**) [10-02]
  • Dudu Pukwana: Dudu Phukwana and the "Spears" (1968-69 [2020], Matsuli Music): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Frank Gratkowski Quartet: Spectral Reflections (2001 [2003], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Frank Gratkowski Quartet: FacioB+(***)
  • Last Exit: Headfirst Into the Flames: Live in Europe (1989 [2008], DMG/ARC): [bc]: A-
  • Selwyn Lissack/Friendship Next of Kin: Facets of the Univers (1969 [2014], Downtown Music Gallery): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Gwigwi Mrwebi: Mbaqanga Songs (1967 [2006], Honest Jons): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pretenders: Break Up the Concrete (2008, Shangri-La Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pretenders: Live in London (2009 [2010], E1/Stroboscopic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pretenders: Alone (2016, BMG): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Waller and the Deltas: Surfin' Wild (1963 [1995], Sundazed): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Osvaldo Golijov/The Silkroad Ensemble: Falling Out of Time (In a Circle) [10-09]
  • Tobin Mueller: What Survives: Radio Edits (self-released)
  • Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: Kites and Strings (One Trick Dog) [10-16]
  • Walter White: BB XL (Walter White Music)
  • Nate Wooley: Seven Storey Mountain VI (Pyroclastic) [10-16]

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Aside from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my main takeaway for the week is that I'm seeing a lot of articles trying to promote the election chances of Donald Trump, or at least make you real nervous. One of the more self-consciously rational ones is Ed Kilgore: A rational case for Trump winning the election without stealing it. A bit less rational is Michael Kruse: Trump is riding high. Can he keep from blowing it?. I suppose this sort of thing is good for clicks, and may impress upon Democrats the need for extra vigilance. The "rational" basis seems to be that Trump's approval ratings are little (if any) worse than they've ever been, and there's also the Electoral College skew, the well-oiled Fox propaganda machine, and a lot of "dark money" up to "dirty tricks" (and I suppose you can throw the omnipotent Russians into the mix). But there's also a lot of irrational, often downright magical thinking involved. I cite a few articles in this cluster below, but I'm not in general interested in speculative paranoia. There are plenty of real things to fear these days. Nor do I wish to prejudge the malevolence and malignancy of the American people. If Trump wins, that case will be proven, and if not, faith in democracy -- even one as compromised as ours -- will be vindicated.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg opens up a seat on the Supreme Court, which has emerged as the ultimate arbiter of vice and virtue in the nation today. The fact that at age 87, with a series of grave illnesses, she clung onto her "appointment for life" shifts our focus away from her life and accomplishments to the political import of allowing Donald Trump to appoint her successor, subject only to the confirmation of Mitch McConnell's Republican Senate. The politicization of the Court is not new, although it has taken on a heightened and more desperate tone with recent polarization. From roughly 1940-80, we were fortunate to have had a Supreme Court that interpreted the Constitution in ways that expanded personal freedom and promoted social justice. This was a consequence of Franklin Roosevelt's long tenure as president and the legacy he left, which Republican Dwight Eisenhower rarely challenged, and which John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson extended. The most important achievement of the New Deal Court was its rulings against Jim Crow laws, although it's worth noting that their effect was limited until serious civil rights legislation was passed under Johnson. This period lasted long enough to let people forget that before Roosevelt, the Supreme Court had been by far the most reactionary branch of government. Conservatives railed against the Court, and Richard Nixon mounted the first significant right-wing attack on the civil rights and social justice the New Deal Court promoted. Ever since, the right has mounted an hysterical campaign to take away the rights granted by the Court -- especially abortion, but also the constitutional right to privacy free choice is based on -- and to secure ever greater privileges for the rich (as evidenced most clearly by the Court's recent claim that unlimited campaign spending is protected "free speech").

In recent years, the Court has been precariously balanced between Republican-nominated conservatives and Democratic-nominated liberals, with the former holding a 5-4 majority. The vacancy caused by the death of Antonin Scalia in February, 2016 should have given Obama the chance to flip the court 5-4 in favor of the liberals, but Mitch McConnell's Republicans controlled the Senate and refused to even hold hearings much less risk a vote on Obama's nominee (Merrick Garland, actually chosen for his centrist credentials). Their argument then was that with the election on the horizon, the appointment should be reserved for the incoming president, not the outgoing "lame duck." Needless to say, that is an argument you won't be hearing McConnell make this time, even though the election is much closer now (46 days after Ginsburg's death, vs. eight months after Scalia's).

All of this (and more) is covered in the following links. Perhaps the best place to start is Ian Millhiser: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy, and the future of the Supreme Court, explained.


By the way, just read that Stephen F Cohen (81) died. He's written extensively on Russia and Putin, consistently arguing against restarting the Cold War and de-escalating the anti-Russia hysteria among Democrats since the 2016 election, without being uncritical of Putin. He will be missed, but if Trump is soundly defeated in November he may not be as essential as he's been over the last four years.

I'm also saddened to note that Diane Wahto (80) has died here in Wichita. She was a friend and an ally, a former chair of the Wichita Peace group.


Some scattered links this week:

Kate Aronoff: The Biden adviser who gives climate activists nightmares: Ernest Moniz, Obama's secretary of energy, nuclear physicist, "good friend" of the fossil fuel industry. Under Moniz, oil companies overcame Hubbert's Peak to increase US oil and gas production past its 1969 peak. Since then, he's cashed in on the favors he doled out to the industry.

Andrew Bacevich: The China conundrum: deterrence as dominance: "Does it really make sense to begin an arms race with China when there are so many other areas for competition and collaboration?" Democratic defense apparatchik Michele Flournoy, oft-touted as Biden's likely Secretary of Defense, thinks so. She is being provocative, as well as stupid.

Dean Baker:

  • Robert Samuelson hangs it up. I said my piece about Samuelson last week. Still, more here worth pointing out.

    Samuelson notes the work that Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner, along with Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke did to combat the Great Recession, and then says "but that doesn't excuse their failure to anticipate the housing boom and to preempt the bust." This is absolutely right. . . .

    Unfortunately, Samuelson also gives this trio credit for avoiding a second Great Depression. That's just a fairy tale they tell to children to justify shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars to the richest people in the country, to save their banks from their own incompetence. There is nothing about the situation in 2008-09 that would have forced us to endure a second Great Depression. We know the secret of getting out of a depression. It's called "spending money."

    Unfortunately, that trio made sure that most of the money went to bankers, which turned out to be a very inefficient use of stimulus cash (but nice for bankers, sure).

  • Trade wars are class wars: Even more than Klein and Pettis say: A note on the book Trade Wars Are Class Wars, by Matthew Klein and Michael Pettis.

Moriah Balingit/Laura Meckler: Trump alleges 'left-wing indoctrination' in schools, says he will create national commission to push more 'pro-American' history. If anything, the opposite is the problem: "Yet educators and students say that Trump is wildly out of touch with what happens in public school classrooms, where the United States is still held up as a beacon of freedom and democracy, and a moral leader." That assertion was dubious even when I was growing up, which was one reason the more I read into US history, the more critical I became of American foreign (and for that matter domestic) policy. Trump is calling for more (not less) indoctrination, because he wants to make sure that Americans blindly follow leaders like himself. I find this proposal exceptionally horrifying, not just because it perpetuates a mythology which reinforces problems and issues we've failed to own up to but more basically it attacks the very principle that truth matters, and that historians are responsible for uncovering truth within the context of time past. It is, in short, a demand that we give up the ability to think critically and act morally.

Zack Beauchamp: Conservative media is setting the stage for delegitimizing a Biden victory.

Medea Benjamin/Leonardo Flores: The US needs a new 'Good Neighbor' policy toward Latin America: Reminds me how one of Mexico's 19th century presidents lamented: "Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States." For 30 years after the Spanish-American War, America treated Latin America with "gunboat diplomacy" -- repeatedly invading countries and installing puppet regimes. Franklin Roosevelt tried to turn this around with his Good Neighbor Policy, and generally did, until the Cold War spread and gave he US excuses to overthrow a dozen or more countries, starting with Guatemala in 1953.

Jonathan Blitzer: The private Georgia immigration-detention facility at the center of a whistle-blower's complaint.

John Cassidy:

Jonathan Chait:

Fabiola Cineas:

Aaron Ross Coleman: Congress's failure to pass stimulus has had a devastating -- and predictable -- effect on minority groups.

Chas Danner: The 2020 hurricane season is officially out of names. Only other year when they "went Greek" for extra names was 2005, which wound up with 27 named storms, but took an extra month to get there (three storms were so large that year their names were retired: Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). For a full rundown on this year's storms, see Wikipedia. Since this article, Tropical Storm Beta was named, and is gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico as it heads for Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Teddy, a Category 4 (the second largest this year, after Laura), is still active, but well off the Atlantic coast, threatening Bermuda, and likely to wind up hitting Nova Scotia. Tropical Storm Vicky petered out after hitting the Cabo Verde Islands, and Tropical Storm Alpha veered east into Portugal and Spain. Tropical Storm Wilfred is still active, well out in the Atlantic and slowly heading toward the East Coast. Because storms are named when they reach tropical storm level (tropical depressions are just numbered) the names sometimes seem out of sequence. The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends on November 30, but note that there were already 4 named storms (all tropical storms with 45-60 mph winds) before the season started, so norms don't seem to be working this year.

Katherine Eban: "That's their problem": How Jared Kushner let the markets decide America's COVID-19 fate. I was referred to this piece by Libby Watson: Jared Kushner's psychopathic incompetence: "The White House's most cynical opportunist can't even get amorality right." Eban wrote:

At the end of July, writing for Vanity Fair, I revealed that Kushner had commissioned a robust federal COVID-19 testing plan, only to abandon it before it could be implemented. One public health expert in frequent contact with the White House's official coronavirus task force said a national plan likely fell out of favor in part because of a disturbingly cynical calculation: "The political folks believed that because [the virus] was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

The story struck a nerve, partly because it painted a picture of what might have been: The administration could have invested in a national testing system at a scale that could have greatly limited the number of cases and deaths. Instead the U.S. is on track to pass the grim milestone of 200,000 official COVID-19 deaths this month. With just 4% of the world's population, we now account for 20% of global deaths from the virus. . . .

Part of the answer almost certainly lies in the deep-seated belief, held by Kushner, President Trump, and their loyalists, that the federal government not only should not, but cannot play an effective leading role in responding to the pandemic, owing to its lumbering bureaucracy and onerous rules. At almost each step they have ignored the expertise of career officials and dismissed those with relevant experience as counterproductive meddlers. Trump famously calls them the Deep State.

Tom Engelhardt: Fire and fury like the world has never seen: One thing I've never been able to fathom is why some people think the "second coming of Christ" would be a good thing. My grandfather was the first to broach that subject with me, when he asked me whether I thought the founding of Israel would harken the day (the only thing I can remember him ever asking me). I don't recall answering. He came from along line of farmers whose intellectual interests began and ended with the Book of Revelations. (My father was the last of that line, and his ideas were pretty unconventional. My own take was that Revelations was to the Bible what a punchline was to a joke: if somehow you managed to swallow the set up, something that would make you finally realize it has all been a farce.) As it turns out, David Lloyd George thought just that when he signed the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and British rule over Palestine seemed designed to further that scenario (to the extent it seemed designed at all). There are at least a dozen recent books on how Trump is paving the way for the end times -- and those are just the ones by his more fanatic supporters. As something of a born-again atheist, I have no faith in heavenly kingdoms, either on earth or elsewhere, but I do recognize the impulses of crazed leaders to burn and leave it all in ruins. Early in his term, Trump famously threatened "fire and fury" should North Korea defy him. As Engelhardt notes:

And in every way imaginable, Donald Trump delivered as promised. He's been uniquely fiery and furious. In his own fashion, he's also been a man of his word. He's already brought "fire and fury" to this country in so many ways and, if he has anything to say about it, he's just gotten started.

Don't doubt for a second that, should he be losing on November 3rd (or beyond, given the mail-in vote to come), he'll declare electoral fraud and balk at leaving the White House. Don't doubt for a second that he'd be happy to torch that very building and whatever, at this point, is left of the American system with it before he saw himself "lose."

Since he is, in his own fashion, a parody of everything: a politician, a Republican, an autocrat, even a human being, he sums up in some extreme (if eerily satiric) fashion human efforts to destroy our way of life in these years. In truth, fiery and furiously fueled, he's a historic cloud of smoke and ash over us all.

John Feffer: Trump's scorched-earth doctrine: "Trump is doing whatever he can to make it impossible for his successor to resolve some of the world's most intractable problems." This article could have been 5-10 times as long (for instance, it never mentions Venezuela or Cuba, Bolivia or Brazil, or Somalia, where Trump has now bombed more than Bush and Obama combined). Maybe he's making some progress on disengagement from Afghanistan and Iraq, although nothing you can bank on. And he does seem to have dodged the worst case scenario he was headed for with North Korea, but again he's failed to work out any form of deal. Feffer has been working up to this piece, as in his A memo to the next president.

Matt Ford: Bill Barr's titanic lack of self-awareness: I don't see why it's so hard to understand Barr. Subhed says "he claims to be just a public servant," but Republicans since Margaret Thatcher have repeatedly argued that there is no public interest, therefore no such thing as a public servant. All people are simply self-interested, and for Republicans self-interest means looking at everything purely in terms of political advantages. In Barr's case, "everything" is law, and law is simply a tool to be used for advancing his party and himself. He's smarter about it than Trump is, but that's a pretty low bar. More on Barr this week:

Susan B Glasser: "It was all about the election": The ex-White House aide Olivia Troye on Trump's narcissistic mishandling of Covid-19: "The first staffer on the coronavirus task force to go public tells The New Yorker that America's pandemic response was 'derailed by the person at the very top.'"

Glenn Greenwald: The US-supported coup in Bolivia continues to produce repression and tyranny, while revealing how US media propaganda works.

Benjamin Hart: Trump administration to ban WeChat and TikTok from app stores beginning Sunday. Allegedly there is a national security angle here, but it also seems likely that Trump is doing this just to force the apps to be sold to "American" companies, in which case it's hard to imagine that some sort of graft isn't involved. More:

Pamela Karlan: Our most vulnerable election: Review of Lawrence Douglas: Will He Go?: Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.

Stephen Kinzer: Back off Venezuela already: "The American campaign against socialist leader Nichoas Maduro is only hurting the people of the country." And reminding Venezuelans that the United States has always favored business interests over the people. [Unfortunately, the Boston Globe makes it impossible for occasional readers to access articles on their website.]

Jen Kirby: Are China and Iran meddling in US elections? It's complicated. I'm sure that nearly every government in the world sees their fate affected by US elections, but few can do anything about it, and little of what they do can have any real effect -- in part because "meddling" usually produces an adverse reaction. Israel is the only real exception inasmuch as they can appeal for support from two groups of voters: Israel-minded Jews, and (more significantly and successfully of late) Apocalypse-minded Christians. But nobody much talks about Israel's efforts.

Ezra Klein:

  • There are no good choices: "In shifting so much responsibility to individual people, America's government has revealed the limits of individualism."

  • Race, policing, and the universal yearning for safety: Interview with Phillip Atiba Goff, of the Center for Policing Equity.

  • A progressive vision to make America great: Interview with Klein's partner at Vox, Matthew Yglesias, about his book: One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. "In it, he argues that the path to ensure American greatness and preeminence on the world stage is a combination of mass immigration, pro-family policy, and overhauling America's housing and transportation systems." Yglesias is an often astute critic of right-wing political efforts, but he also won last year's "Neoliberal Shill" award, mostly for the sort of "policy vision" he presents in the book. I often cite Yglesias, but haven't rushed out to buy the book. Last week I cited a critical review: Jacob Bacharach: The emptiness of Matthew Yglesias's biggest idea. Bacharach's sharpest jibe:

    But what does it mean when a columnist or a pundit writes "a book"? Swift reads, even when they number in the many hundreds of pages, volumes like David Brooks's The Second Mountain or Paul Krugman's Arguing With Zombies or Thomas Friedman"s "flat world" diptych tend to collect a set of superficially counterintuitive arguments and insights that upon closer inspection almost always resolve themselves into the preexisting, commonsense notions that their intended readership already assumes to be true.

    I can see the argument that if America wants to "remain number one," it may be helpful to swell the population to a level comparable with China and India, but I don't get what's so important about "remaining number one." If America's self-appointed role as global hegemon is failing (as certainly appears to be the case), maybe the answer isn't to compete harder but to find a path to cooperation that precludes the need for anyone to be hegemonic? And while I'm open-minded about immigration, I don't see a tripling of the current population as necessarily good for our quality of life. Indeed, I'm inclined to be skeptical about the real value of growth -- which is, as always, the main thing "neoliberal shills" have to peddle. Here's another review of Yglesias' book: Felix Salmon: Matthew Yglesias thinks there should be 'One Billion Americans'.

Paul Krugman: The GOP plot to sabotage 2021: In refusing to even negotiate a new relief/stimulus package, Republicans are signifying two things: they don't think any new legislation will help them at the polls in November; and if they lose, their intention is to leave the nation in the worst possible shape for the Democrats in January. Of course, if the Republicans retain control of the Senate, they'll do all they can to make Biden look bad, much as they did to Obama in the recession he inherited. You'd think this calculation would be obvious -- and something Democrats could rally voters against. But Republicans were no less blatant in 2008-09, and somehow managed to ride obstruction to a major rebound victory in 2010. Even if they lose in November, they feel invincible, because no one really calls them on their most malevolent impulses. Even less remarked upon is how this works as extortion. The basic argument is that if you don't elect Republicans, they are going to cause so much destruction that you'll regret the affront. Of course, normal, sane people would never give in to that sort of bullying. Yet time and again the American voters do -- at least, enough of them in our severely skewed electoral system to let them claim victory and use their powers to profit the 1% and undermine everyone else.

Eric Levitz: It is not undemocratic to call Trump's presidency 'illegitimate'.

Martin Longman:

German Lopez:

Jane Mayer: For Mitch McConnell, holding the Senate is the highest priority.

Harold Meyerson: A Rorschach test for establishment liberalism. A note, which serves as an introduction, to a New York Times feature on the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman's essay, "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits": Greed is good. Except when it's bad.

Ian Millhiser:

Kiana Moore: "They didn't see me as innocent": "Can you remember your first experience with the police? For these 9 Black and brown people, the encounters would shape their sense of safety forever." Also see Amber Ruffin shares a lifetime of traumatic run-ins with police, a week's worth of memoirs Seth Meyers broadcast the week after George Floyd was killed.

Nicole Narea:

Ella Nilsen: The ways Democrats could retake the Senate majority, explained. I rarely link to these horserace pieces, but flipping the Senate (and ending the filibuster) are essential for Biden and the Democrats to have any effectiveness at all. Would be especially delicious should South Carolina and Kentucky retire Graham and McDonnell.

Timothy Noah: The good life that Keynes promised America got stolen: "A new study shows in electrifying terms the extent to which 45 years of income inequality destroyed the prosperity we should all be enjoying."

Osita Nwanevu:

  • The ridiculous war-gaming of the 2020 election: "Trump's opponents are so concerned that he might steal the election that they have forgotten to worry that he might simply win it."

  • The cultural permanence of Donald Trump: "Trumpism has become America's latest civic religion, and it won't be voted out of office in November." Presumably what he means to say is that even if Trump is voted out of office in November, Trumpism will survive as a political legacy and continue to affect elections indefinitely into the future. I rather doubt that. A big part of Trump's allure is his reputation as a winner, and losing will wipe that out -- even if his apologists come up with lots of excuses. Also, although his retail political skills are pretty meager, it is really hard to think of anyone else who is seriously rich/successful yet with his slovenly reality TV persona seems approachable and acceptable to the clods who adore him. Mainstream Republican donors had no interest in Trump until he won, and will have no interest in him if he turns out to be a loser. They will carry on, looking for newer, more convincing cons to carry on their graft.

Trita Parsi:

Deborah Pearlstein: How the government lost its mind: "Over the past 50 years, America has given up on the Enlightenment-era ideals of its Founders -- and the country's coronavirus disaster is the result."

Cameron Peters: Trump's Nevada rally was an exercise in delegitimizing voting -- and denying reality: "Trump keeps holding potential superspreader events in the middle of a pandemic."

Lili Pike: What wildfires in Brazil, Siberia, and the US West have in common: "Climate change and mismanagement are fueling large, uncontrolled fires around the world." More on fire:

Katha Pollitt: Melania Trump really doesn't care: "A new book by her ex-best friend shows how the first lady sold her soul." The book is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff's "tell-not-quite-all" Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady. By the way, article opens with a picture of Trump and Melania kissing. Reminded me of the cartoon show Bojack Horseman. Weirdest thing about that show was when different species (e.g., with horse or dog heads) try to kiss.

Andrew Prokop: Bob Woodward's new book Rage, and the controversies around it, explained. "What did Trump know about the coronavirus? And what did Woodward know?" It's occurred to me that Woodward might have been trying to make Trump look more knowledgeable about coronavirus in February than he was, although when you listent to the tapes, you quickly realize that he didn't know much -- the value of the tapes was in contrast to the even dumber things he later said publicly. It's also possible that Woodward didn't grasp even what Trump said, and that the import of the quotes only became evident near publication time when publishers were searching through the book for tidbits they could market. It's even possible that Woodward's conclusions about Trump fitness were suggested by editors after having read the book. More on Rage:

  • Jonathan Chait: Noted bibliophobe Donald Trump claims he read 466-page Woodward book in 1 night.

  • Isaac Chotiner: Bob Woodward's bad characters: Evident sources include Robert O'Brien, James Mattis, and Dan Coats ("Of Woodward's three main characters, Coats's journey is the most pathos-filled.") The book starts with O'Brien:

    We are only two pages in, which is usually about the moment in a Woodward book when you can guess whether a subject has coöperated: if he has, he almost certainly comes out looking well. Three pages later, a week has passed, and Woodward casually notes that O'Brien, appearing on CBS, has just said about the virus, "Right now, there's no reason for Americans to panic. This is something that is a low risk, we think, in the U.S." Another author might note the dissonance between O'Brien's public and private statements; Woodward does not even allude to it. But this is typical of Woodward's White House-centric narratives: inconsistencies pile up; narrative threads are dropped and then recovered without any notice of the ways in which they have altered in the interim. In a 1996 review of his books, Joan Didion wrote, "Those who talk to Mr. Woodward, in other words, can be confident that he will be civil ('I too was growing tired, and it seemed time to stand up and thank him'), that he will not feel impelled to make connections between what he is told and what is already known, that he will treat even the most patently self-serving account as if untainted by hindsight." . . .

    And yet Woodward appears as unequipped to grapple with Trump as the erstwhile members of his Cabinet were. Whether Woodward and his sources are aware or disengaged, cynical or naïve, takes on extra importance because of the unique challenges and outrages of our era, in which a willingness to abide Trump has sat side by side with an inability to understand his malignancy. . . .

    One of the issues that marred Woodward's Bush books, despite their interest, was his willingness to believe less-than-honest people. That is an even bigger problem in the Trump era, which has outdone the Bush years in dishonesty and features an outrageous number of people whose only motive for serving in government seems to be personal glory or wealth. If this is not enough to make anyone pine for Dick Cheney, the lying at least makes it even more vital that journalists doubt what they hear and think carefully about what to weed out or explain. I somehow have trouble believing that Lindsey Graham is, as Woodward recounts, worried that the judiciary is becoming "too partisan" or that much can be gleaned from Jared Kushner's endless monologues on leadership. The problem goes beyond the details. In one conversation, Mattis and Tillerson discuss the importance of State and Defense working together and beefing up the diplomatic corps; a reader who did not follow the news in 2017 would be surprised to learn that Tillerson was simultaneously embarking on gutting the State Department. . . .

    Even Woodward's worst books contain an astonishing number of fascinating details, but those who have lamented the failure of our institutions to stand up to Trump are unlikely to be surprised by the mind-set of the people who populated them. Acceptance of how far we have fallen would have meant not only reappraising the country many of them loved but also the Party many of them belonged to. But the alternative explanation for their behavior is no better: they knew what was coming and -- whether out of a sense of decorum or partisanship or cowardice -- refused to say so.

  • Constance Grady: Bob Woodward withheld his Trump revelations for months. Was that wrong? "Book publishing doesn't consider ethical questions to be its business. Increasingly, that's a problem."

  • Fred Kaplan: Trump comes off even worse in Woodward's Rage than you've heard.

  • Aaron Rupar: New Woodward audio is the starkest illustration yet of how Trump misled about coronavirus.

David Roberts: 4 astonishing signs of coal's declining economic viability: "Coal is now a loser around the world."

Aja Romano: What we know about a deadly shooting in Rochester, New York: "Two people are dead and 16 injured after a shooting at a party."

Aaron Rupar:

  • "There has to be retribution": Trump's chilling comments about extrajudicial killings, briefly explained.

  • Trump's ABC town hall revealed a president disconnected from reality: "He faced tough questions from voters -- and had few answers." Subheds: Trump won't even acknowledge that systemic racism is a thing; Trump has no shame about just making stuff up; This is your brain on Fox News.

    Along similar lines, Trump told a voter who asked him about immigration that he'll unveil new legislation "in a very short time" -- a talking point he often uses to buy time when he doesn't really have a plan.

    On the topic of law and order -- one that Trump is trying to make a centerpiece of his campaign -- Stephanopoulos grilled him on a disconnect between what he said back in 2016 and what he's saying now.

    "You promised four years ago at the Republican Convention, 'I'm gonna restore law and order in this country,'" he pointed out.

    Trump's response was that he has -- if you disregard all the large cities that are run by Democrats (so, most of them).

    Trump went on to compare the unrest that took place in American cities over the summer with the fall of Berlin in 1945, seemingly unaware of how that analogy reflects on his stewardship of the country.

  • Trump's dark National Archives speech was white resentment run amok: "It's just nonsense to believe that America isn't racist." Related:

    • Nancy LeTourneau: Is America strong enough to confront its racist past? Clever of her to flip the tables and present Trump as weak, but the real issue with him is that he rejects Americans' common understanding of ideals: especially the central importance of equality.

      That is precisely what threatens both Trump and his supporters. To confront the role that racism plays in our society is a two-step process. First of all, we must recognize that, since our founding, U.S. institutions have been grounded in white supremacy. Secondly, in order to ensure that our principles of equality and justice apply to everyone, those institutions have to change.

      That first step presents an obstacle for people like Trump, who view any admission of error as a sign of weakness. During his speech on Thursday, the president said that the narratives being pushed by the left resemble the anti-American propaganda of our adversaries, concluding that "both groups want to see America weakened, derided and totally diminished."

      But Trump's approach is the one that broadcasts weakness. It takes strength to examine ourselves, identify shortcomings, and correct them to the best of our ability. . . .

      In many ways, what is on the ballot in November are these two views of what it means to be an American. Are we a country that is too afraid to even admit our shortcomings, or are we strong enough to be self-critical and seize our power to continue the process of aligning the country with our highest ideals?

Tom Scocca: Crowd cheers as the President gloats about this one time the cops shot a reporter with a rubber ballot for no reason.

Liliana Segura: Trump prepares to execute Christopher Vialva for a crime he committed as a teenager: "Vialva is the first Black man to face execution during Trump's killing spree. He is set to die on September 24." Vialva has spent more time on death row than he lived before he was sentenced to die.

Alex Shephard:

    Why aren't voters blaming Donald Trump for the bad economy?: "Tens of millions are unemployed, hungry, and behind on the rent. But the economy is barely registering as an election issue." Just spitballing here, but Trump got no credit for the "great" economy because for most people it wasn't all that great, but has the "bad" economy since the pandemic broke out really been that bad? The massive first-round of stimulus spending made up for a lot -- one result being that Americans did a lot of saving during the lockdown. On the other hand, there's a tweet here based on an article interviewing construction workers in Ohio, which is totally deluded. Doesn't say much for the cognitive skills of the American people.

  • Barack Obama's memoir is set to be the biggest book of this year. That's pretty depressing considering that his main claim to fame was providing us a brief and unhappy respite between two much more disastrous Republican presidents.

  • Why does The Washington Post publish this Never-Trump drivel? Singles out a recent op-ed by AEI flunky Danielle Pletka, where her "principles" go into full wobble: "I never considered voting for Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year."

Danny Sjursen: September 14, 2001: The day America became Israel: The date was when Congress voted, with just one dissent (Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA) to give GW Bush a blank check for starting his Global War on Terror. Three days earlier, planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon near DC, killing close to 3,000 people. I was in Brooklyn at the time, visiting friends, and we watched a lot of TV that day. One thing I saw was stock video of Palestinians cheering and burning US flags, released by Israel shortly after the attacks. Later during the day, I saw the grinning mugs of Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres bragging about how good the attacks were for Israel, predicting that now Americans will see the world the way Israelis do. (Ariel Sharon was PM of Israel at the time, but his limited English didn't merit prime time, nor did his perpetual scowl.) 9/11 gave the neocons recently installed in key government positions by Bush and Cheney the opportunity they've been waiting for. The neocons may have started as fanatic Cold Warriors, but in the 1990s they formed an alliance with Israel's right-wing to scuttle the Oslo Peace Process and confront both the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors from a stance of absolute, uncompromising power. With Sharon's accession to power, their relationship to Israel shifted from support to envy: their most fervent hope was for the US to impose its absolute power on the world, as Israel was doing in its own little corner. Whence came mantras like "axis of evil" and "real men go to Tehran." You can argue about how well that stance has served Israel: the conflict with the Palestinians will never end until Israel grants them some semblance of justice, but the costs of dominance are within politically acceptable bounds, as long as BDS doesn't hamper business, and the next Intifada is no more efficient than the last. And for now, Israel has nothing to fear from formerly hostile neighbors. The thrust of Kushner's (which is to say Israel's) diplomacy has been to form a united political front between Israel and Arab despots who fear Iran and their own people and other Arabs and hope they will be more secure with hoards of sophisticated American and Israeli arms. Speaking of which, more on the Kushner deal:

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Smoke on the water, lies burning in the sky. Starts with a bunch of photos of what Oregon looks like these days.

Matt Stieb: Federal officials considered using a 'heat ray' against DC protesters.

Farah Stockman: What I learned from a list of Trump accomplishments: "Facts are vital. But they are not sufficient." An introduction and executive summary of A fact-checked list of Trump accomplishments, where the list itself "consisted of 123 bullet points posted on the Conservative Hangout Facebook page in May." The thing I found most interesting here is that in order to make Trump look good, the listers most often selected "facts" designed to make Trump look more liberal than he is. Liberals may be embarrassed about using the word to describe themselves, but conservatives are shameless in recognizing that liberal policies are more popular than their own -- hence the need to hide and lie about them.

Once you strip away the misleading claims from this list of accomplishments, you are left with what Mr. Trump has delivered: tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations -- No. 84. Deregulation for banks and businessmen -- No. 97. Judges for the evangelicals -- No. 109. Tariffs on Chinese steel for the steelworkers -- No. 113. And after those tariffs sparked a trade war, bailouts for farmers -- No. 72. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem, for conservative Jews and evangelicals -- No. 110.

To Mr. Trump's supporters, those are real accomplishments. But are they worth more than Mr. Trump's failures, during a deadly pandemic? More than his broken promises? More than what he has destroyed? That's the question facing voters in November. Maybe this list of his true accomplishments needs to be weighed against a list of what he has dismantled over these last four years. Anybody got one? I'd be happy to fact-check it.

Derek Thompson: The reason Trump isn't trying to save the economy: "He is stuck in a Pollyannaish fantasy of his own making."

Alex Ward: The bogus Steve Bannon-backed study claiming China created the coronavirus, explained.

Matthew Yglesias:

  • America needs a democratic revolution: "Fixing systemic inequities in voting power should be a high priority for Democrats." Sure, the Electoral College, the extreme rural skew of the Senate, the gerrymandering of House districts, are all structural defects that skew and deform democracy, but they are essentially impossible to fix without overhauling the Constitution, and that's impossible as long as one major party thinks those iniquities work in its favor, especially a party with no scruples for democratic process. By all means, feel free to shame the Republicans for attempting to undermine democracy and turn government into a self-perpetuating grift and patronage machine, but don't for a moment think Democrats can afford to wait until the structural problems are fixed before delivering better policy and service when and wherever they manage to win some power. Also, note that the biggest inequity in American politics isn't geographical. It is money, which cut across party lines deeply enough that Democrats in 2009 made no effort to limit campaign spending or lobbying, even though they had the presidency and large majorities in Congress. Sure, it's unfair that the Electoral College is so skewed that a Democrat might have to win the popular vote by more than 5% to break even, but presidential elections have swung as much as 22% (61%-39%). There's no reason Democrats can't formulate a winning campaign, especially given that Republicans seem to have deliberately chosen policies so extreme and unpopular they can only win by exploiting structural inequities. The Democrats' biggest problem has loss of credibility, caused by failing to deliver on the modest promises of their centrist leaders. Whining about how the system is stacked against them isn't a viable excuse. After all, stacked systems are something workers face every day. They don't need to be told the system is unfair. They need leaders who can challenge and beat it anyway.

  • "Reopening" isn't enough to save bars and restaurants -- the US needs a bailout.

Li Zhou:

Monday, September 14, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34007 [33954] rated (+53), 217 [212] unrated (+5).

Got a late start writing today. I had the idea yesterday that I'd finally try to make lasagna -- something I've never tried before, although I have been known to make a pretty awesome pastitsio. Back when I first had the idea -- well over a year ago -- most of the recipes I consulted called for oven-ready noodles, so that's what I bought and still had on hand. I started with Mark Bittman's classic lasagna recipe, and made the bolognese sauce yesterday, but ran out of time and saved it overnight. Bittman called for boiled noodles, but all I had was oven-ready, so I wound up mostly following the box recipe -- adding an extra cup of water to my reduced meat sauce to make sure the noodles had plenty of liquid. Made pretty much every mistake possible in assembling the loaf, and it looked pretty ugly when it came out of the oven. Not bad, but the noodles were the weak link.

A bit surprised the rated count is so high, but my method for getting there was pretty conducive to quantity over writing. I searched through my tracking file for records I had given a medium/high priority to (basically 2 vs. 1, on what I had originally conceived of as a 3-to-0 scale, but haven't been using the ends). Currently I have 164 records at priority 2, mostly jazz. I started the week adding Saving Country Music picks to my metacritic file, so there's a fair number of alt-country albums in this week's crop. I also stumbled my way onto the Aerophonic Records Bandcamp, where Dave Rempis has been releasing a lot of his old tapes (a fairly common strategy for musicians sidelined by the pandemic). I also rummaged through my Downloads directory, sorted out what I had accumulated, and created a log to manage it better.

My other splurge this week was from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide, which aside from a few records I had previously given various B+ grades to (Chicks, No Age, No Joy, Taylor Swift -- I revisited No Age, see below), and Nat King Cole's Jumpin' at Capitol (released in 1990, an A- from way back, and not the only one), had a lot of things I hadn't heard. Only one I couldn't find was The Human Hearts, which back in 2012 released another Christgau A- I never managed to hear. Surprised I didn't like Billy Nomates more, especially given that I like Sleaford Mods a lot more than Bob does, but maybe that was the point?

Christgau, by the way, published his guide to volunteering to work on the side of sanity and civilization in the 2020 election today: Vote! It Ain't Illegal Yet!. He's practiced what he preaches for many years now. I know a couple others who volunteer regularly to help with campaigns, but no one who's put more into it. All I can manage to do is to write up some obvious truths (as I've been doing weekly in my Weekend Roundups; for the Trump era, you can download this [odt format], which isn't totally up to date).

I usually spend a fair amount of time updating the metacritic file on Mondays before posting this, but decided I'd rather get this out at a decent hour, and catch up later. Also thought I'd do a books post this week, but didn't make much progress on that, given the sheer length of yesterday's Weekend Roundup (1738 lines, 12816 words, making it the longest ever, eclipsing 1601/11281 from two weeks back)..


New records reviewed this week:

  • The 81's: 2 Things & 118 Others (2020, The 81's): [r]: B+(**)
  • 100 Gecs: 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues (2020, Dog Show): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jessi Alexander: Decatur County Red (2020, Lost Creek Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pedro Melo Alves: In Igma (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B-
  • American Aquarium: Lamentations (2020, New West): [r]: B+(**)
  • Antibalas: Fu Chronicles (2020, Daptone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience: To Know Without Knowing (2020, Agogo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Teodross Avery: Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk (2020, WJ3): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jon Balke: Discourses (2019 [2020], ECM): [r]: B
  • Ballister: Znachki Stilyag (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: A-
  • J Balvin: Colores (2020, Universal Latin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 1 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 2 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): [r]: A-
  • Afel Bocoum: Lindé (2020, World Circuit): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bonjintan: Dental Kafka (2018 [2020], Trost): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alan Braufman: The Fire Still Burns (2019 [2020], Valley of Search): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Cardenas: Blue Has a Range (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Lynn Cassiers: Yun (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B
  • Ernesto Cervini: Tetrahedron (2019 [2020], Anzic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath (2020, Agent Love): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vladislav Delay: Rakka (2020, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vladislav Delay/Sly Dunbar/Robbie Shakespeare: 500-Push-Up (2020, Sub Rosa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Donato: A Young Man's Country (2020, Cosmic Country Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Engines: Wooden Legs (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Frazey Ford: U Kin B the Sun (2020, Arts & Crafts): [r]: B+(**)
  • Arna Georgia: Yes Girl (2020, Arna Georgia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tom Guarna: Spirit Science (2019 [2020], Destiny): [cd]: B+(*) [09-18]
  • Russ Johnson/Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Isaiah Spencer/Jeremy Cunningham: Harmattan (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Knxwledge: 1988 (2020, Stones Throw): [bc]: B
  • The Magnetic Fields: Quickies (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Arlo McKinley: Die Midwestern (2020, Oh Boy): [r]: B
  • Cahalen Morrison: Wealth of Sorrow (2020, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parish: Interactivity (2018 [2020], Cuneiform): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nas: King's Disease (2020, Mass Appeal): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy Nomates: Billy Nomates (2020, Invada): [r]: B+(***)
  • Oddisee: Odd Cure (2020, Outer Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gregory Porter: All Rise (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Triple Tube (2019 [2020], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rempis Percussion Quartet: The Long Haul (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): [r]: A-
  • Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): [cd]: A-
  • Bobby Rush: Rawer Than Raw (2020, Deep Rush): [r]: B+(***)
  • Christian Sands: Be Water (2020, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Axiom (2020, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp/Raw Poetic/Damu the Fudgemunk: Ocean Bridges (2020, Redefinition): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gary Smulyan: Our Contrafacts (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stillefelt: Stillefelt (2019 [2020], Stoney Lane): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Peter Stampfel & the Bottlecaps: Demo '84 (1984 [2020], Don Giovanni): [r]: A
  • Triage: Live at the Velvet Lounge (2005 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Good Ol' Persons: Anywhere the Wind Blows (1989, Kaleidoscope): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Devin Gray/Ryan Ferreira/Jonathan Goldberger/Chris Tordini: Devin Gray's Fashionable Pop Music (2012 [2016], Rataplan): [bc]: B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • No Age: Goons Be Gone (2020, Drag City): [r]: [was: B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Borah Bergman/Perry Anderson/Steve Swell/Ray Sage: Quartets Trios Duos (2007 [2020], Mahakala Music)
  • Chad Fowler/WC Anderson: Lacrimosa (Mahakala Music)
  • Lafayette Gilchrist: Now (Lafayette Gilchrist Music, 2CD) [10-02]
  • Hazar: Reincarnated (IAN Productions)
  • Joachim Mencel: Brooklyn Eye (Origin) [09-18]
  • Markus Rutz: Blueprints: Figure Two: New Designs (OA2) [09-18]
  • Scenes: Trapeze (Origin) [09-18]
  • Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List (self-released)

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

I picked this up on Facebook, forwarded by a couple of friends. I thought it might do more good here:

If you're active in the BLM movement (or even if you're just Black), you're getting posts on your feed about Biden and Harris's pro-police records.

If you're an environmentalist, you're getting posts on Biden's past support of fossil fuels.

If you're LGBT, you're reading articles about Harris defending California's policy of not providing gender reassignment surgery to trans inmates.

If you want universal health care, there's a post on your page about how Bernie was robbed and Biden is in Big Pharma's pocket.

If you're for immigrant rights, there is an article in your top 20 right now about Obama being the "deporter in chief."

This is especially true if you live in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Arizona.

None of these articles are wrong. Most of them lack context, and may err by omission, but they're not fake news. The organizations paying Facebook to show them to you, on the other hand, or paying "influencers" to share them . . . those are fake. They don't care about Black lives, or the environment, or trans people, or health care, or immigrants. They only want one thing.

They want you to not vote in November. Or vote third party, which is the same thing.

Whether it's a troll cubicle farm in Novgorod or a right wing think tank in Richmond, microtargeting allows them to aim directly at your feels and feed your outrage, disgust and sense of powerlessness.

They can't get you to vote for Trump, but they might get you to not vote against him.

Don't fall for it. Elect Biden. Flip the Senate. Then get back to work in 2021. Elect more Bernies and Warrens and AOCs and Jamaals in the primaries. Keep moving the Overton window. Scare the lukewarm Democrats you've just elected into doing the right thing. Hold Biden to the platform commitments he made to Sanders delegates, and push him to go beyond.

Because unlike Republicans, Democrats CAN be steered, persuaded, shamed, flattered, or convinced to take action. Obama didn't start out favoring gay marriage, or cannabis legalization. Hell, LBJ wasn't for desegregation, until he was.

Put Trump where he belongs, in the hands of the SDNY attorneys. Let Ruth Bader Ginsberg retire. Vote. And wear your mask. Thanks.

Copy. Paste. Speak the truth to the world.

We're less than two months away from the election. An insane amount of money is being raised and spent to sway that election, and it will be used to try to manipulate you in all kinds of ways. Beware that most of the money comes from rich people with their own private agendas -- indeed, a lot of it is coming through "dark money" fronts intended to avoid transparency and accountability. Misinformation and dirty tricks are likely to come so fast and furious you'll never be able to sort them out. On the other hand, you really only have to know a few things to decide this election: we live in a very complex world which requires expertise and trustworthiness to function; trust depends on respect and empathy for other people; a democratic government ("of, by, and for the people") is essential because it is the only basis for fair and just management of this complexity. Republicans have repeatedly failed to run competent government, partly because they are hold many people in contempt, and partly because they see political power only in terms of their ability to reward their donors and lock in their own power. While conservatives have failed for many years, they have rarely exposed their own incompetence as blatantly and hopelessly as they have under the leadership and direction of Donald Trump. He is a disaster and an embarrassment. He and his party deserve to be driven from the halls of power, and the only way to do that is to elect Democrats: Joe Biden for president, and the other Democrats running for Congress and state and local office. The more complete the rout, the better. It's easy to say this is the most important election of our lifetimes, but it may be more accurate to say that if we fail to take our country back this time, this may be one of the last chances we get.


Some scattered links this week:

Danielle Allen: The flawed genius of the Constitution: "The document counted my great-great-grandfather as three-fifths of a free person. But the Framers don't own the version we live by today. We do. The document is our responsibility now."

Nancy J Altman: Trump really does have a plan to destroy Social Security. The linchpin here is eliminating the payroll taxes that fund Social Security. Trump has already suspended collection of those taxes until the end of the year, producing a short-term stimulus and a slightly longer-term liability. The idea is that when the bill comes due, people will feel the pinch, and demand relief from the tax. As half of the tax is deducted from workers' checks, they would see a slight increase in take-home pay, but few would manage to save enough to make up for the eventual loss of retirement income. The other half is paid by companies, who could use the savings to pay workers more, but more likely will pocket the profit. Franklin Roosevelt thought that the regressive payroll tax would protect the program against predatory business efforts, but he didn't anticipate the short-sighted nihilism of Trump's generation. By the way, Glenn Kessler tries to argue that Trump has no such plan: see Biden campaign attacks a Trump Social Security 'plan' that does not exist. The gist of Kessler's argument seems to be that Trump says so many incoherent things, and does so little to clarify them, that you can't attribute anything as deliberate as a plan to him.

Kate Aronoff: Trump's fire sale of public lands for oil and gas drillers: "The Bureau of Land Management is rushing to auction off sites ahead of a potential Biden presidency."

Peter Baker: More than ever, Trump casts himself as the defender of White America.

Katrin Bennhold: Trump emerges as inspiration for Germany's far right.

Megan Cassella: 'A tale of 2 recessions': As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles. This goes far in explaining why the Republicans have no interest in another stimulus bill, while the Democrats see the need for something much more dramatic:

Recent economic data and surveys have laid bare the growing divide. Americans saved a stunning $3.2 trillion in July, the same month that more than 1 in 7 households with children told the U.S. Census Bureau they sometimes or often didn't have enough food. More than a quarter of adults surveyed have reported paying down debt faster than usual, according to a new AP-NORC poll, while the same proportion said they have been unable to make rent or mortgage payments or pay a bill.

And while the employment rate for high-wage workers has almost entirely recovered -- by mid-July it was down just 1 percent from January -- it remains down 15.4 percent for low-wage workers, according to Harvard's Opportunity Insights economic tracker.

Zak Cheney-Rice: Police riots and the limits of electoral solutions.

Matthew Choi: Trump says Pentagon chiefs are accommodating weapons makers. Once in a while he goes off on an antiwar lark, without recognizing any discrepancy from his actual record. Related:

Jane Chong: Donald Trump, constitutional grift, and John Yoo: An overly long review of Yoo's Defender in Chief: Donald Trump's Fight for Presidential Power. You may remember Yoo as the lawyer in GW Bush's White House who came up with the most incredible legal rationalizations for Cheney's torture policy. "There isn't a lot more to Yoo's argument than his insistence that executive energy is a good and constitutional thing." Still, he usually waits until a Republican is in the White House before deciding for dictatorship.

Jane Coaston: The pro-Trump, anti-left Patriot Prayer group, explained.

Jelani Cobb: Our long, forgotten history of election-related violence: "President Trump has sparked dangerous lawlessness, but killing and destruction linked to political antagonisms are nothing new for this country." Still, I don't find it very reassuring that his first example dates from 1856.

Dan Diamond: Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19: "The politically appointed HHS spokesperson and his team demanded and received the right to review CDC's scientific reports to health professionals."

Anne Diebel: Trumps on the couch: Review of Mary L Trump's Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man. Sooner or later, Donald Trump will no longer darken our doors, and from that point on I'll have no desire to ever read about him again. Indeed, the only one of a dozen books I've read to date that reveals much worth knowing about Trump is TV critic James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America, and that's because he bothered to sort out the meaning of so-called "reality TV" -- something I've never had the slightest interest in actually watching. The only other book that seems like it might be enlightening is his nieces's psychobiography, and that's largely because she takes a broader and deeper view of his family.

Jason Ditz: Biden says stay in Mideast, increase military spending: Well, that's not exactly what he said -- the only exact quote here is "forever wars have to end," but he isn't acknowledging that what makes them "forever" is America's military footprint in the Middle East. Ditz's subhed is also an exaggeration: "Biden wants to refocus on fighting Russia." He said that NATO has been "worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia," which could be ominous but is probably just a reflection on Trump's passive-aggressive stance. Still, statements like this give Trump some room to paint Biden as the warmonger in the campaign --l admittedly less credible than the same charge against Hillary Clinton, but the track record is that both have supported wars and the military pretty much in lockstep.

Nayantara Dutta: Neighbors are gathering online to give and get things they need right now: "In 'Buy Nothing' and gifting groups around the country, communities are connecting over free stuff." This is something I'd like to see happening, not least because I'm one of those guys (my wife calls us hoarders) who can't abide the idea of throwing things away that might be useful to other people, but who's too lazy to find people to give them to. I could imagine a neighborhood online exchange for browsing and ordering, with delivery so you don't have to go in to shop, and pickup of anything you care to pass on. You'd need a warehouse, a computer system, some sorters and deliverers, and someone would have to make decisions about recycling or trashing items that nobody wants. An open source software project could service many of these, and possibly add higher level interchanges to move surplus items into other locations with more needs. You could skim some stuff off to sell on the free market, and possibly finance some of the operation that way.

Steve Early/Suzanne Gordon: Under Trump, military veterans and service members have been 'losers': Trump's Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants "to trim $2 billion allocated for direct care for 9.5 million active-duty personnel, military retirees, and dependents over the next five years." Gordon is the author of a book, Wounds of War: How the VA Delivers Health, Healing, and Hope to the Nation's Veterans.

Tim Elfrink: Police shot Portland slaying suspect without warning or trying to arrest him first, witness says. Michael Reinoehl was a suspect in the shooting of a pro-Trump "Patriot Prayer" counter-protester in Portland, making it hard to determine whether the shooting had been in defense (of self or others). By the way, Aaron Rupar quotes Trum on this: "This guy was a violent criminal, and the US Marshals killed him. And I'll tell you something -- that's the way it has to be. There has to be retribution." The thread I pulled this from disputes that federal marshals were the ones who killed Reinoehl. Dean Baker comments further: "I guess courts and trials are too complicated for little Donnie Boy to understand." As Richard Silverstein summed up this story, Trump urges summary execution of protesters.

Tom Engelhardt: The great, great fall, or American carnage from a pandemic President.

John Feffer: Trump and the troops: "The alternative to Trump is not the glorification of military service. It's promoting the kind of service that gets fewer people killed."

Thomas Frank: We need to reclaim populism from the right. It has a long, proud leftwing history. Excerpt from Frank's recent book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, which I recently read, and generally liked. As a Kansan, I've spent a fair amount of time reading about the People's Party, and for that matter the Socialist Party (which one had a significant foothold in southeast Kansas). I appreciate Frank's brief history of the 1896 and 1936 elections. I do, however, think that there is a significant difference between the "liberal anti-populists" Frank attacks in the modern Democratic Party and the "anti-populism" of 1896 and 1936, and that difference matters going forward. I'll also note that part of the problem in 1896 was that silver wasn't a very good answer to the deflationary pressures of the time -- the Greenback Party of the 1870s was actually on a better track.

Andrew Freedman/Timothy Bella: Western wildfires break records as devastating toll on lives and homes begins to emerge.

Stanley B Greenberg: How Trump is losing his base: "Focus groups with working-class and rural voters show the deep health care crisis in America, and trouble for Trump's re-election." Makes sense, but the polls are showing Trump has a very consistent level of support, so if he's losing base votes, how is he compensating? Alexander Sammon argues that Trump's making up his losses among seniors with Latino votes -- see: The Biden-Trump demographic switcheroo.

Sue Halpern: How the Trump campaign's mobile app is collecting massive amounts of voter data. I didn't even know such a thing existed, but of course it does -- Biden has one, also, and the contrast is revealing:

By contrast, the new Biden app still collects data on users, but it outlines the specific uses of that data and doesn't automatically collect the e-mail and phone numbers of users' friends and family. "Unlike the Biden app, which seeks to provide users with awareness and control of the specific uses of their data, the Trump app collects as much as it can using an opt-out system and makes no promises as to the specific uses of that data," Samuel Woolley, the director of the propaganda research project at the University of Texas's Center for Media Engagement, told me. "They just try to get people to turn over as much as possible."

Also note:

The policy also notes that the campaign will be collecting information gleaned from G.P.S. and other location services, and that users will be tracked as they move around the Internet. Users also agree to give the campaign access to the phone's Bluetooth connection, calendar, storage, and microphone, as well as permission to read the contents of their memory card, modify or delete the contents of the card, view the phone status and identity, view its Wi-Fi connections, and prevent the phone from going to sleep. These permissions give the Trump data operation access to the intimate details of users' lives, the ability to listen in on those lives, and to follow users everywhere they go. It's a colossal -- and essentially free -- data-mining enterprise. As Woolley and his colleague Jacob Gursky wrote in MIT Technology Review, the Trump 2020 app is "a voter surveillance tool of extraordinary power."

I learned this firsthand after downloading the Trump 2020 app on a burner phone I bought in order to examine it, using an alias and a new e-mail address. Two days later, the President sent me a note, thanking me for joining his team. Lara Trump invited me (for a small donation) to become a Presidential adviser. Eric Trump called me one of his father's "FIERCEST supporters from the beginning." But the messages I began getting from the Trump campaign every couple of hours were sent not only to the name and address I'd used to access the app. They were also sent to the e-mail address and name associated with the credit card I'd used to buy the phone and its SIM card, neither of which I had shared with the campaign. Despite my best efforts, they knew who I was and where to reach me.

Rebecca Heilweil: Right-wing media thrives on Facebook. Whether it rules is more complicated.

Patrick Hingsley: Fire destroys most of Europe's largest refugee camp, on Greek island of Lesbos.

Umair Irfan: The orange skies and smoky air from Western wildfires, explained: "Air pollution may be the most dangerous element of the massive fires." Also: "Unprecedented": What's behind the California, Oregon, and Washington wildfires. More:

John Ismay: At least 37 million people have been displaced by America's War on Terror: A new report from Brown University's Costs of War project. "That figure exceeds those displaced by conflict since 1900, the authors say, with the exception of World War II." Also:

Sarah Jeong: The Battle of Portland: "How mass protests against racist police brutality sparked a historic federal crackdown on dissent." Extensive report.

The responsibility to de-escalate the conflict lay on the side that had the guns, rather than the side that was hurling eggs by the carton. But the feds were being directed by officials who were ranting at Congress about violent anarchists and a president who was calling the dweebiest city in America a "beehive of terrorists."

Fred Kaplan: Is America in the early stages of armed insurgency? Counterinsurgency strategist David Kilcullen thinks so. I think there is a lot of potential for isolated violence from the right, certainly if Trump loses, perhaps as likely if he wins. The big uncertainty is how Trump, Republicans, and their propaganda network responds to the violence -- the full-throated support given for Kyle Rittenhouse is chilling, even hard to imagine a mere four years ago.

Aishvarya Kavi: 5 takeaways from Rage, Bob Woodward's new book about Trump: Bob Woodward's second book on Trump drops on Sept. 15, so the press is awash with publicity leaks. Like 2018's Fear, was based on personal interviews, its title reduced to a four-letter word the subject can relate to. This seems like the piece to start with. The big revelation appears to be that Trump was able to speak knowledgeably and coherently about the coronavirus threat in early February, at a time when he was downplaying it publicly and doing nothing to reduce the threat. Many people blame Woodward for not reporting what he knew at the time, suggesting the news might have helped save lives. Of course, saving lives isn't Woodward's idea of good journalism. Selling books is. Here are Kavi's 5 takeaways:

  • Mr. Trump minimized the risks of the coronavirus to the American public early in the year.
  • Two of the president's top officials thought he was "dangerous" and considered speaking out publicly. Jim Mattis and Dan Coats. "Ultimately neither official spoke out."
  • Mr. Trump repeatedly denigrated the U.S. military and his top generals.
  • When asked about the pain "Black people feel in this country," Mr. Trump was unable to express empathy.
  • Mr. Woodward gained insight into Mr. Trump's relationship with the leaders of North Korea and Russia.

Offhand, I wouldn't rate any of these are breakthrough insights, but that's about par for Woodward, who regularly gets too close to his subjects to see them clearly. Other Rage pieces:

Ibram X Kendi: The violent defense of white male supremacy.

Glenn Kessler: Trump keeps bragging about imaginary auto plants in swing states.

Jen Kirby: The UK threatens to renege on the Brexit deal it signed with the EU just a year ago.

Ezra Klein: Black Republicans, Donald Trump, and America's "George Floyd moment": Interview with historian Leah Wright Rigueur, author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican.

John Knefel: Police and racist vigilantes: Even worse than you think.

Nicholas Kristof: 'We're no. 28! And dropping!': "A measure of social progress finds that the quality of life has dropped in America over the last decade, even as it has risen almost everywhere else."

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America's.

"The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action," Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. "It's like we're a developing country."

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being -- nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more -- to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.

What Brazil and Hungary have in common with the US is far-right government. That they've suffered a bit less than the US is probably because those far-right governments have been hegemonic for shorter times: the US has been controlled by conservative Republicans (and the occasional ineffective neoliberal Democrat) since 1980, so inequality has progressed further, especially in eating into the social fabric. Porter is wrong to say the US is like "a developing country." Developing countries are developing -- making progress, even if fitfully. The US is a devolving country, its industries devoured by predatory capitalists, its workers marginalized, its society wracked by fear and loathing. It's still in the top quarter of the list, because it was once on top, but declining steadily -- maybe never to the point of the bottom rung, of countries that aren't even developing. They are mired in war, which is even more corrosive than private equity. On the other hand, the right's fascination with guns and private militias suggests that too could befall us.

Paul Krugman:

Claire Lampen: The Justice Department is reportedly trying to shield Trump from a rape lawsuit. E Jean Carroll claims that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room 25 years ago. She sued Trump for libel, and a court ordered him to provide a DNA sample and deposition. The DOJ intervention has stopped the case, at least for now.

Rob Larson: A quick guide to what is going on with the economy: A pretty substantial review up through July.

Eric Levitz:

  • The conservative case for organized labor: Interview with Oren Cass, a former Mitt Romney adviser who runs the think tank American Compass. Occasionally you run across Republican operatives who think that the Party needs to provide some economic aid for its working class voters, but those aren't the conservative ideologues who control the party. On the other hand, I don't see labor leaders abandoning their agenda to use government to extend worker rights -- unlike Samuel Gompers, who before the New Deal opposed laws regulating things like child labor because he felt they disincentivized workers from joining his union. One can imagine a few conservatives accepting unions as preferale to government regulation, but only the most elite-oriented unions are willing to overlook masses of non-union workers dragging the labor market down. And most conservatives are so invested in the notion that owners should wield absolute power that they're unwilling to consider any kind of power-sharing arrangement. Also note:

  • The GOP is no longer the pro-business party. Levitz is one of New York most dependable left-wing writers, so he's on a rather strange kick now. But sure, business has actually done much better with Democratic presidents than with Republican ones. Clinton was especially proud of that fact, and that's probably why they feel so good about raking in all those lucrative speaking deals. It's also true that Obama, Hillary Clinton, and now Biden have been raising more money than their Republican opponents. On the other hand, Republicans still have a lot of business support, especially in old, reactionary and/or predatory industries, especially among capitalists who are more focused on power than wealth.

    To be sure, Trump has done a great deal to benefit corporate America's incumbent executives, especially those looking to maximize their own wealth in the run-up to retirement. Through his regressive-tax cuts and deregulatory measures, the president has saved major U.S. firms and their shareholders a bundle. The nation's six largest banks alone have pocketed $32 billion as a consequence of Trump's policies. And for America's most socially irresponsible enterprises, this administration has been a true godsend. Since taking power, the Trump White House has, among other things, expanded the liberty of coal companies to dump mining waste in streams, pushed to preserve the rights of retirement advisers to gamble with their clients' money, freed employers from the burden of logging all workplace injuries, and ended discrimination against serial labor-law violators in the bidding process for government contracts.

    But the Republican Party is too corrupted by rentier and extractive industries -- and too besotted with conservative economic orthodoxy -- to advance the long-term best interests of American capital. . . .

    Contra ruling-class reactionaries' self-flattering dogmas, private enterprise is -- and always has been -- reliant on competent statecraft. Conservatives recognize capital's reliance on "big government" in the realm of military defense. But in the Anthropocene, emergent diseases and climate change pose at least as large a threat to capital accumulation as any hostile foreign power. Meanwhile, in a globalized economy beset by chronic shortfalls of demand and periodic financial shocks, the GOP's resilient skepticism about economic stimulus renders the party an uncertain friend to corporate America in its times of need. Granted, the party has largely fulfilled its duty to reflate asset prices and shore up credit markets this year. But the strength of the recovery (such as it is) is at least partly attributable to policies that originated with Democrats, and which the GOP accepted only grudgingly in March and has since refused to renew. As is, there is every reason to think that American businesses (especially small ones) would be better off if Pelosi's caucus could set fiscal policy by fiat.

Martin Longman: We can't endure much more bad leadership. He starts with some examples of how little decisions by leaders add up, for some reason starting with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and tracing from there through 9/11 and the Global War on Terror -- things which indeed reflect bad leadership but really have more proximate causes. Trump gets several mentions later on, but his real example is SD governor Kristi Noem's decision not to cancel the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis. The result:

Nineteen percent of the 1.4 million new coronavirus cases in the U.S. between Aug. 2 and Sept. 2 can be traced back to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held in South Dakota, according to researchers from San Diego State University's Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies.

That's more than 266,000 cases, with a public health cost of $12.2 billion. As for Trump, he's not just a bad leader in the sense that Clinton, the Bushes, and even Obama were -- by following conventional political "wisdom" into one cul de sac after another. He's bad on an absolutely cosmic scale. He's seeded the government with mini-versions of himself: pompous, arrogant, corrupt, vain, and stupid, and led them to believe that they are protected from legal and political consequences (even though he's ultimately had to fire many of them). One can imagine an inept leader surviving on the competencies of his staff, but Trump precluded that possibility both through his staffing -- sure, Pence was responsible for most of them, but over time Trump has managed to weed out most of the ones who weren't sufficiently sycophantic (or for that matter psycho) -- but also by insisting that nothing is real but in terms of its us-vs-them political impact. Trump's instinct was to look only at the political implications of coronavirus, to see how he could use it as a tool of divide and conquer. As such, he inevitably politicized things like mask wearing that most leaders would have taken pains to depoliticize. Longman stresses that many times he's argued that we need better leaders. What's more clear is that we need less bad leaders -- leaders who can put aside their political angles when the events dictate otherwise. However, Trump has gone way beyond such concepts as good and not bad. The problem with Trump's leadership is not just that it's bad; it's that he's so embarrassingly incompetent he's a distraction from everything.

German Lopez:

Bruno Maçães: How fantasy triumphed over reality in American politics. Author has a new book, History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America, from which this is adapted. He is stuck with the idea of a "new world order," and flat out declares "the proposition that the whole planet is on a course to embrace Western liberalism is no longer credible," but doesn't seem to have any better suggestions. He is right that in voting for Reagan in 1980 America turned away from the limits of the real world and decided to live in a fantasy -- one that's become progressively desperate as evidenced by Trump's "make America great again."

Amanda Marcotte: Trump, you're no FDR or Winston Churchill -- but you're a lot like Charles Lindbergh: "Trump defends coronavirus lies to comparing himself to wartime leaders -- but he's closer to the Nazi apologists." This doesn't mention Nick Adams's recent book, Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization, which is ridiculous enough (on both counts) to need no review, nor does it mention Fred Trump's attachment to Lindbergh's "America First" movement (although it does note Donald Trump's use of the slogan and penchant for evoking fascist memes).

Perhaps the difference between the two men is that Lindbergh, as despicable a person as he may have been, became famous for doing something that required courage, intelligence and skill, which was to become the first person to fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean.

Trump, on the other hand, has spent his life bouncing from one failed venture to another, cheating and grifting to create the illusion of enormous wealth and great success. And so while Lindbergh eventually had to concede reality, Trump will never quit believing he can flim-flam his way through this crisis, no matter how many corpses pile up in his wake.

Nolan D McCaskill: Trump team says history will vindicate him on coronavirus: "Top advisers blame everyone but the president for the nation's plight during the pandemic."

Media Matters: This group watches Fox News so you don't have to. I'm convinced that nothing affects politics more these days than Fox's hermetically sealed alternate universe. I saw Matt Taibbi complain recently that MSNBC is "even more partisan" than Fox, and that nearly everyone who says they trust the New York Times for news identifies as a Democrat, but the latter at least doesn't try to lock their readers in a bubble of misinformation. (I watch so little MSNBC I can't really speak of them.) Some recent headlines give you a taste both of what Trump says and (more importantly) what he hears:

Ian Millhiser:

Tom Nichols: This Republican Party is not worth saving: "No one should ever get a second chance to destroy the Constitution."

Timothy Noah: Trump's OSHA is fining companies pennies for pandemic violations.

Olivia Nuzzi: There's still a reason for Trump rallies, for Trump at least: "The MAGA rallies -- which aren't technically MAGA rallies -- are helping the president workshop his campaign message in real time."

The rallies are a salve for the Tinkerbell syndrome that afflicts the president. He is first a showman, and his connection with an audience is life-sustaining -- a source of dopamine and a form of catharsis more powerful than any grenade-throwing exercise of a tweet. And they provide him with a sort of spiritual poll: a sense of how things are going, based on his animalistic crowd-aura-reading abilities.

On the other hand, you have to wonder about the quality of feedback he's getting from the small minority of Americans who adore him enough to risk their lives to gratify his ego.

Listening to him, it can sound like he's been unable to make sense of what has happened in America under his watch.

"This is the most important election in the history of our country. I wouldn't say that lightly," he said. "And frankly, I thought the last one was, and I said it, but they've gone to a level that nobody even thought possible. These people have gotten stone-cold crazy."

Antonio Olivo/Nick Miroff: ICE flew detainees to Virginia so the planes could transport agents to DC protests. A huge coronavirus outbreak followed.

George Packer: Are we on the cusp of an era of radical reform that repairs America's broken democracy? Alternate title: America's plastic hour is upon us.

Beneath the dreary furor of the partisan wars, most Americans agree on fundamental issues facing the country. Large majorities say that government should ensure some form of universal health care, that it should do more to mitigate global warming, that the rich should pay higher taxes, that racial inequality is a significant problem, that workers should have the right to join unions, that immigrants are a good thing for American life, that the federal government is plagued by corruption. These majorities have remained strong for years. The readiness, the demand for action, is new.

What explains it? Nearly four years of a corrupt, bigoted, and inept president who betrayed his promise to champion ordinary Americans. The arrival of an influential new generation, the Millennials, who grew up with failed wars, weakened institutions, and blighted economic prospects, making them both more cynical and more utopian than their parents. Collective ills that go untreated year after year, so bone-deep and chronic that we assume they're permanent -- from income inequality, feckless government, and police abuse to a shredded social fabric and a poisonous public discourse that verges on national cognitive decline. Then, this year, a series of crises that seemed to come out of nowhere, like a flurry of sucker punches, but that arose straight from those ills and exposed the failures of American society to the world.

Alex Pareene: What if Democrats just promised to make things work again? "It's actually a rarity to hear a politician explicitly promise to govern effectively." "Most Americans, like most people, simply want things to work."

Martin Pengelly:

Cameron Peters:

  • Trump's Nevada rally was an exercise in delegitimizing voting -- and denying reality: "Trump keeps holding probable superspreader events in the middle of a pandemic."

  • Why Mike Bloomberg plans to spend $100 million boosting Biden in Florida. Nothing to get excited about here -- no one has done more to discredit the idea of money's ability to influence elections than Bloomberg, but the main thing his spending couldn't overcome was the inherent weakness of the messenger. On the other hand, one could argue that his spending was very effective at getting people to vote for Joe Biden, who not only handily beat Bloomberg but won a bunch of states he didn't seriously campaign in. Florida was one of those states -- a particularly important one. Personally, I have no faith Florida will ever do the right thing, but it offers Bloomberg an opportunity to earn some favors with Biden. One thing about Bloomberg is that his motives are pretty transparent: he hates the left much more than he's bothered by the Republicans, and sees centrist Democrats as a much more effective prophylactic against popular revolt threatening his class privileges. If billionaires like Bloomberg can't deliver the presidency to Biden, their future in the Democratic Party will be as tarnished as Hillary Clinton's. Also see: Dexter Filkins: Who gets to vote in Florida? One reason Florida disappoints so often is that Republican jiggering of the election process there is often decisive. While there is little doubt that Republicans will try to cheat everywhere they can this year, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, and (of course) Florida are exceptionally vulnerable.

Lili Pike: China has quietly vaccinated more than 100,000 people for Covid-19 before completing safety trials. China was the first nation hit by Covid-19, and from that point seemed (to me, at least) likely to be the first nation to get a grip on the disease, possibly gaining some sort of strategic advantage vs. other countries (especially given the US obsession with "intellectual property" rents). Looking back, China was remarkably effective at containing the virus, with per capita infection rates so low one wonders if they've fudged the numbers. But also, unlike the US, the Chinese government retains the ability and will to direct private industry to further public goals, so they can pursue things like vaccine development much more aggressively than others can. Also, given their closed political system, they have little motivation to publicize developments before they are known to work -- compare to Trump's promises on a vaccine before the end of the year, or his touting of a plasma treatment that hadn't been cleared. So it's not a surprise that China seems to have jumped into the lead on vaccine development -- just news. Also, this should give you pause when thinking about Trump's plans for an "America first" vaccine controlled by corporate behemoths. From its inception, Covid-19 was a world pandemic, which demanded full international cooperation. Trump has repeatedly sabotaged that, and the US has suffered a lot as a result, and we're likely to suffer even more.

Paul R Pillar: Putting America on the wrong side of war crimes.

Michael Rea: How the evangelical movement became Trump's "bitch" -- and yes, I know what that word signifies: "As an evangelical myself, I can see how far the movement has sunk -- even to betraying its own ideal of masculinity."

James Risen: Senate report shows what Mueller missed about Trump and Russia. Also:

David Roberts: What's causing climate change, in 10 charts.

Nathan J Robinson: The case for degrowth: When the shutdowns happened back in March, a friend asked whether they would force us to start thinking about degrowth. The concept has been floating around for a while. Indeed, it's almost inevitable once you consider the impossibility of infinite economic growth, but it also builds on critiques of GDP -- turns out that measuring all economic activity fails to recognize any difference in value between activities (like building a house, or blowing one up and having to build another -- the latter produces more GDP, but one less house). Robinson reviews Jason Hickel's new book: Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World, and also spend considerable time with Mariana Mazzucato's The Value of Everything.

Philip Rucker/Josh Dawsey/Yasmeen Abutaleb: Trump fixates on the promise of a vaccine -- real or not -- as key to reelection bid.

Aaron Rupar:

Robert J Samuelson: Goodbye, readers, and good luck -- you'll need it: "What 50 years of writing about economics has taught me." Not much. He's been a hedgehog, his one big idea that inflation is bad. I read his book, The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath, where he insisted that the inflation of the 1970s was even worse than the depression of the 1930s. My parents lived through both, and while they may have been luckier than some in the 1970s, their view was the exact opposite. Perhaps because they learned to avoid debt and save in the 1930s they saw nothing but benefits from the 1970s: their costs were manageable (no debt, not even a mortgage), my father's wages grew substantially (thank God for unions), and their savings reaped pretty high interest (without having to become criminals). Samuelson's last piece before this one was Don't forget about inflation. I thought about complaining about it at the time but didn't, so when I saw this one, I figured I'd best get my last word in. I was pointed to this one by Alex Pareene, who tweeted: "this guy sucks and in incalculable but significant ways has made the future worse for all of us with his bad ideas and arguments dating back decades." Pareene also referred me to Brad DeLong: Carbon blogging/Robert J Samuelson is a bad person.

Jeff Satterwhite: The right-wing worldview is one of scarecrows and scapegoats. Argues that conservatives obsess over three "scarecrows": They will take out safety; They will take our liberty; They will take our culture. He doesn't offer a list of "scapegoats"; presumably they is all you need to know.

Jon Schwarz: 3,000 dead on 9/11 meant everything. 200,000 dead of Covid-19 means nothing. Here's why. "To America's leaders, our lives have value only insofar as they can be used to create a desired panic." Schwarz gives a number of examples of what were called cassus belli events -- excuses for launching wars. He mentions, for instance, the "Tonkin Gulf Incident" where US ships were fired on by North Vietnamese, but no one was injured. He doesn't mention Israel's sinking of a US ship during the 1968 Six Day War, where all Americans on board perished, but that wasn't a cassus belli, because the US had no desire to fight Israel.

Bush wanted a pretext to do a lot of things that were unnecessary, while Trump wanted an excuse to do nothing when, in fact, a lot really needed to be done.

Liliana Segura: Trump's execution spree continues at federal killing ground in Indiana: "More federal executions have been carried out in 2020 than in the past 57 years combined."

Adam Serwer: Will the United States belatedly fulfill its promise as a multiracial democracy?

Surveying the protests, Trump saw a path to victory in Nixon's footsteps: The uprisings of 2020 could rescue him from his catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. The president leaned into his own "law and order" message. He lashed out against "thugs" and "terrorists," warning that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Ahead of what was to be his comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, Trump tweeted, "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis" -- making no distinction between those protesting peacefully and those who might engage in violence.

In this, Trump was returning to a familiar playbook. He was relying on the chaos of the protests to produce the kind of racist backlash that he had ridden to the presidency in 2016. Trump had blamed the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri -- a response to the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer -- on Barack Obama's indulgence of criminality. "With our weak leadership in Washington, you can expect Ferguson type riots and looting in other places," Trump predicted in 2014. As president, he saw such uprisings as deliverance.

Then something happened that Trump did not foresee. It didn't work.

Trump was elected president on a promise to restore an idealized past in which America's traditional aristocracy of race was unquestioned. But rather than restore that aristocracy, four years of catastrophe have -- at least for the moment -- discredited it.

Christianna Silva/James Doubek: Fascism scholas says US is 'losing its democratic status': Interview with Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I've read that book and think it's pretty good, finding a middle ground between accounts which take a overly strict historical definition (like Robert Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism) and leftists (like myself) who instantly smell fascism in every form of right-wing reaction. The NPR article links to Elias Bures: Don't call Donald Trump a fascist, which reviews Stanley's book and others (including one of Dinesh D'Souza's most ridiculous ones, accusing the left of fascism -- a trope Jonah Goldberg beat to death in Liberal Fascism). I think it depends a lot of who you're talking to. Many of us older folk on the left have a deep understanding of fascism, which provides a ready framework for recognizing much of what Trump and other conservatives say and do. Moreover, some Trump artifacts (like his ads where all the "bad guys" are Jews) echo fascist memes much too closely for comfort. On the other hand, more (mostly younger) people don't, in which case this quickly devolves to name-calling (which is all it ever was to Goldberg and D'Souza). Were I to construct a 0-10 F-Scale for how fascist politicians are, I'd peg Reagan and the Bushes in the 3-5 range, and Trump more like 7-8: too low to be a precise definition, but high enough one can't help but think about it. For a taste, here are some recent links that use the F-word:

Phillip Smith: Oregon is on the cusp of a major drug reform: Decriminalizing everything. It's likely that the number of states where marijuana is legal will increase this year, as it has nearly every election since Colorado voters approved. It's an easy call, given that it's arguably more benign than already legal alcohol and tobacco. Other drugs are a harder call, but prohibition hasn't worked any better with them than it did with alcohol or marijuana. I would go further than this proposal, but it's still much better than any state has yet done.

Roger Sollenberger: Tucker Carlson: "If we're going to survive as a country, we must defeat" Black Lives Matter: Excuse me, but what the fuck does this mean? What can "defeat" possibly mean? Arrest all the leaders and supporters of BLM? Wouldn't that just incite more people to pick up the struggle? What about anyone who even sympathizes with the notion that black people deserve the same rights and respect enjoyed by whites? Even if somehow you managed to do that, what kind of country would you have left? One with more people in jail than out? One the rest of the world -- which in case you haven't noticed is mostly non-white -- regards as an unspeakably vile rogue nation? Or maybe Carlson would be satisfied just to acquit all the cops who kill unarmed blacks, and beat back every effort to "defund" or otherwise reform the police? Wouldn't that just make BLM seem more important and more necessary than ever? The only way movements rooted in a fundamental quest for justice go away is when they achieve all or at least a significant chunk of their goals. Racist rants, even from perches like Fox News, just add to the conviction that movements like BLM are necessary.

Emily Stewart: Give everybody the internet. I agree, and would go a bit further. We also need public options to compete against all of the major commercial aps on the internet.

Matt Stieb:

Peter Stone: How William Barr is weaponizing the Justice Department to help Trump win.

David Swanson: In memoriam: Kevin Zeese is irreplaceable. Zeese, an activist lawyer, died last week. Includes some links, including two pieces co-authored by Margaret Flowers: We're in a recession, and it's likely to get worse (Mar. 19), and We don't have to choose between our health and the economy (May 19).

Astra Taylor: The end of the university: "The pandemic should force America to remake higher education."

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: How Trump could win: "The President consistently trails Joe Biden in polls, but political strategists from both parties suggest that he still has routes to reëlection." On the one hand, they're fucking with you. On the other, we have so little faith in our fellow voters, in the media that feeds them misinformation, and in the arcane system they have to navigate in order to vote, that we're full of doubts, and the fear of getting this wrong can be all-consuming.

Alex Ward:

Libby Watson:

  • Covid patients are receiving eye-popping bills. It's not all Trump's fault. "even a well-crafted plan would have been no match for our inept health care system."

  • The two Joe Bidens: "One talks of an 'FDR-size presidency,' the other works to calm Wall Street nerves. Which one will create the post-pandemic future?" The one that gets elected? Otherwise, do we even have a future?

  • America's callous indifference to death: "The Covid-19 pandemic serves as a reminder that even in an election year, our politics are ideologically predisposed to a malign neglect."

    Just two years ago, a hurricane in Puerto Rico killed at least as many people as died on 9/11, and our government's response was pathetic. The help provided has never come close to matching the need: As of July, the "first major program to rebuild houses hasn't completed a single one even though tens of thousands of homes still have damaged roofs nearly three years after Maria," according to NBC. Such neglect might be familiar to people in North Carolina or Texas, where people who had not yet recovered from one hurricane were upended again by another just a year or two later.

    The implication here is that government responded to 9/11 but not to "natural" disasters. True that victims of 9/11 received relatively generous compensation, but the overwhelming majority of what was spent following 9/11 did its victims no good whatsoever, and most of it created further problems -- even the toll of American soldiers killed in the subsequent wars far exceeded the number killed by terrorists, and the money spent, which gained us nothing, could have been put to good use at home. Politicians respond to deaths when it suits them, in ways that suit them.

Joshua Yaffa: Is Russian meddling as dangerous as we think? "The spectre of foreign manipulation looms over the coming election. But in focusing on the tactics of the aggressors we overlook out weaknesses as victims."

Jia Lynn Yang: Are we more divided now than ever before? Review of James A Morone's new book, Republic of Wrath: How American Politics Turned Tribal, From George Washington to Donald Trump. The two-party system has always been tribal, and always polarizing, but what's happened recently is that since 1980 the division has become increasingly right vs left. Before it was not uncommon to see greater diversity within a major party than between presidential candidates, but that started to change in 1980 when conservatives took over the Republican Party and won the presidency, using that success to sweep up all conservatives among Democrats. That was a winning formula for a while, but eventually turned GOP moderates into Democrats, and pushed the Democratic Party leftward (although so far you cannot say the left has come close to capturing the Democratic Party).

Matthew Yglesias:

Yglesias, by the way, has a new book, One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. For a review, see:

Li Zhou: The Senate just failed to pass more stimulus amid a struggling economy. Here's why. "Republicans were simply using the vote to send a message."


Further notes:

From Twitter:

  • Sahil Kapur: It is remarkable how thoroughly "repeal and replace Obamacare" has been exposed as a policy mirage, after hundreds of millions of dollars poured into an assault that shaped countless elections and helped define U.S. politics in the 2010s.

  • Mike Konczal: A bugaboo of mine: there is no noteworthy insider-access or policy-friendly conservative reporting, research, or books on why this collapsed in 2017. There's no Jacob S Hacker's Road to Nowhere[: The Genesis of President Clinton's Plan for Health Security] equivalent. Just nothing.

    There are dozens of reports on why cap-and-trade failed in 2010, marquee ones that break into schools of thought of where to go next.

    It's just silence on the Right. The two major recent initiatives, Social Security privatization and ACA repeal, gone as if they never existed.

Jacob Hacker later tweeted:

For what it's worth, Paul Pierson & I did write out own post-mortem -- though it's definitely not an insider-access or policy-friendly conservative account: The Dog That Almost Barked: What the ACA Repeal Fight Says about the Resilience of the American Welfare State.

From Michael Hull, on Twitter:

OTD 49 years ago the State of New York murdered 39 people at Attica prison.

They planned the brutality, tortured the survivors, and began destroying evidence the same day.

They've denied it for decades, but I got pictures.

The video will be posted to my Vimeo page and available for download by anyone who wants it.

That's the goal - we want writers, artists, thinkers, people of all disciplines and representing every pocket of society to use this material as a vehicle to talk about their town.

It's time for the rebellion and retaking at Attica prison to be reconsidered through the lens of the modern abolitionist movement. It's time for more people to have their say on this brutal event.

It's time for New York to stop hiding this evidence.

Mike also has a Facebook page on the archive and his movie based on the archive, Surrender Peacefully: The Attica Massacre, with a link to the trailer.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33954 [33914] rated (+40), 212 [215] unrated (-3).

Another week that started slow but hit 33 records Sunday evening, before I realized I was going to take an extra day. Spent that extra time listening to bassist Gary Peacock, who died last week (85). Wikipedia credits him with a dozen albums as a leader. Discogs expands that list to 69, picking up collaborations with his name further down the artist line. Including side credits, Wikipedia winds up at 98. He started 1958 with Bud Shank, with Bill Evans in 1963, and on two landmark 1964 albums: Tony Williams' Life Time and Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity. He recorded 10 albums with Paul Bley (mostly after Bley married his wife, Annette), and 22 with Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio. His most impressive album as a leader was probably Tales of Another (1977), with Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, well before Standards (1983). Ethan Iverson tweeted that he thought Mr. Joy was a masterpiece. I checked it out, under far from ideal circumstances, and concur.

Running into technical problems with Napster, which may mean I need to consider a new streaming provider. I have two computers, and Napster is behaving badly on the new one: search and selection are very slow, actually streaming music virtually impossible. Rebooting offers a temporary workaround. On the other hand, the older computer plays it fine, but the speakers have some unexplained static. Haven't spent any serious time debugging this, but it's one reason I spent more time on Bandcamp this week.

I don't have much more to say at this point. I do have a new batch of answers to reader questions. Ask more.


New records reviewed this week:

  • The Blam Blams: Opening Night (2020, LunaSea Media): [bc]: B
  • Bully: Sugaregg (2020, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(*)
  • Burna Boy: Twice as Tall (2020, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hayes Carll: Alone Together Sessions (2020, Dualtone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kathleen Edwards: Total Freedom (2020, Dualtone): [r]: B
  • Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbutt: Live in Graz (2019 [2020], Multiphonics Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Finbury: American Nocturnes (2019 [2020], Green Flash Music): [cd]: C+
  • Jason Foureman and Stephen Anderson: Duo (2020, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jacob Garchik: Clear Line (2018 [2020], Yestereve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Karen Jonas: The Southwest Sky & Other Dreams (2020, Yellow Brick): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sukyung Kim: Lilac Hill (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): [cd]: B+(*)
  • La Pingo's Orquesta & Todd Clouser: Midwest/Bajio (2020, Ropeadope Sur): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Bettye Lavette: Blackbirds (2020, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dua Lipa & the Blessed Madonna: Club Future Nostalgia (2020, Warner): [r]: B+(***)
  • Meridian Brothers: Cumbia Siglo XXI (2020, Bongo Joe): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Vee Mukarati: Vital Signs (2020, Primrose, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • No Joy: Motherhood (2020, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zephaniah OHora: Listening to the Music (2020, Last Roundup): [r]: A-
  • Okuden Quartet [Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Hamid Drake]: Every Dog Has His Day but It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter (ESP-Disk, 2D): [cd]: A-
  • Old 97's: Twelfth (2020, ATO): [r]: B+(***)
  • Angel Olsen: Whole New Mess (2020, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B
  • Ryan Porter & the West Coast Get Down: Live in Paris at New Morning (2020, World Galaxy): [r]: B+(***)
  • PVRIS: Use Me (2020, Warner): [r]: B
  • Dan Rosenboom: Points on an Infinite Line (2020, Orenda): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sara Schoenbeck/Wayne Horvitz: Cell Walk (2020, Songlines): [r]: B
  • Sneaks: Happy Birthday (2020, Merge): [bc]: B+(***)
  • South Florida Jazz Orchestra: Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza (2020, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Fumi Tomita Featuring David Detweiler: Celebrating Bird/A Tribute to Charlie Parker (2020, Next Level): [cd]: B+(***) [09-25]
  • Toots & the Maytals: Got to Be Tough (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ulf Wakenius: Taste of Honey (2019 [2020], ACT Music): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe/Four Men Only: Complete Recordings (1968-73 [2020], NoBusiness -3CD): [cd]: A-

Old music:

  • Paul Bley: Mr. Joy (1968, Limelight): [yt]: A-
  • EABS: Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda): Live at Jazz Club Hipnoza (Katowice) (2018, Astigmatic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • EABS: Slavic Spirits (2019, Astigmatic): [bc]:
  • Gary Peacock: December Poems (1977 [1979], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gary Peacock/Art Lande/Elliott Zigmund: Shift in the Wind (1980 [1981], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gary Peacock: Voice From the Past - Paradigm (1981 [1982], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gary Peacock: Guamba (1987, ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner: Oracle (1993 [1994], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wayne Shorter: The Best of Wayne Shorter (1964-69 [1988], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • EABS: Puzzle Mixtape (2012-15 [2016], Astigmatic): [bc]: [was: B+(*)] B+(**)
  • Wayne Shorter: Adam's Apple (1967 [1987], Blue Note): [r]: [was: B] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kaze & Ikue Mori: Sand Storm (Libra) [09-18]
  • Jacám Manricks: Samadhi (Manricks Music)
  • Okuden Quartet [Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Hamid Drake]: Every Dog Has His Day but It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter (ESP-Disk, 2CD)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (ESP-Disk)

Monday, September 07, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Nearly everything here was complete late Sunday night, but I was having trouble framing the comics, and felt the need to write a bit of introduction, so I decided to sleep on it. Found the Trump tweet and the Carter quote after I got up. Added a couple links while wrapping up, but all articles that date from Sunday or earlier. I managed to find a few pieces on the late David Graeber, but none yet on Kevin Zeese, a lawyer and (like Graeber) another prominent Occupy figure, who died suddenly on Sunday. Music Week will probably be delayed a day this week. These delays weren't planned, but happy Labor Day.


Here are a pair of New Yorker cartoons that go a long ways toward illustrating and explaining the cognitive disconnect between Republicans and Democrats these days. The third was posted by Mary Anne Trump (her caption), and picked up from a friendly Facebook feed:

"It's days like this that make me wonder if I should be tweeting more or golfing more. . . ."
"Wow, for a lawless hellscape that Joe Biden is somehow responsible for, it seems like a nice day!"
Downtown Portland in smoldering ruins. Notice the fear on everyone's face as they await the arrival of antifa.

Having family and friends in the Portland area, I've seen numerous contrasting pictures like this, which makes the news media fixation on fires and looting seem all the more anomalous. I wrote a comment under the latter picture:

What terrifies Republicans isn't chaos, which they think they can bludgeon into submission, but the prospect of diverse people living together and enjoying richer and more rewarding lives as a result. Why they find this threatening has never been clear to me. In my experience, and I come from a long line of farmers and small town folk, when given a welcoming opportunity, most actually enjoy themselves.

I suppose I may sound condescending or patronizing, but I started narrow-minded and provincial and made my own way into and around the cosmopolitan world, often finding open doors and welcoming faces -- a tendency toward kindness which my old world actually prided itself on. I won't deny that cosmopolitans have their own prejudices, which may appear as hostile but more often sympathetic. It's as easy to find liberals who accept the idea that their opposites are clinging to a way of life threatened by the modern world. I don't think that is true. At any rate, I don't see the gap as unbridgeable, although one needs to reject the political incentives that drive us apart. And while both sides have attempted to make hay by appealing to the prejudices of their bases, as we see above, it's the Republicans who have most gravely distorted reality.

One more clause I wish to draw your attention to is "they think they can bludgeon into submission." It doesn't work like that. The world we live in is so complex and interconnected that the only way we can manage it is through massive cooperation, which depends on good faith and respect, which depends on justice for all. No people submits forever, but all people can join together in an order which is universally viewed as fair and just. Might doesn't make right, and the more brutally and viciously it is employed, the more resistance it generates, the more harm it winds up doing to all concerned. I could cite hundreds of examples. I doubt I could find an exception. Even seemingly complete domination either perpetuates indefinitely (e.g., Israel over Palestine) or ends with integration (America and the Indians, albeit imperfectly).

I'll add one more related point to this: there has been much talk recently about democracy ending in America, but note that such an end would not ensure that the immediate victors will stay in power and enjoy their privileges indefinitely. It merely means that change can only occur through violence, at great collateral cost. As I recall, Winston Churchill used to say "democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all the rest." What he meant was that while he didn't like having to submit to the will of the people, he preferred that to losing his head (the pre-democratic method of disposing of unwanted monarchs). The British people regularly grew tired of Churchill and voted him out, only to vote him in again as their memories faded. Democracy in America has worn thin and ragged over recent decades, with most of the blame due to the influx of money -- something both parties bear responsibility for, but only the Republicans defend the practice as a class prerogative, and Republicans have made the most conspicuous efforts to tilt the table in their favor, exploiting the unequal representation locked into the Constitution, and using their legislative clout to further gerrymander districts. And this year, Trump has created doubts about the integrity of the voting process, such that neither side is likely to believe the count, no matter what it is.

One thing you won't see much of below is reports on polls and other voting irregularities. Partly because there is a lot of wild-eyed speculation going on, but mostly because I have little faith that anything we say now will have any predictive significance for November. One thing that was interesting was that the contested Massachusetts Democratic primary brought out an unprecedented huge vote for a primary. That is one data point suggesting that the November vote won't be significantly suppressed by the pandemic.


Got up this morning and first thing I read was this paragraph from Zachary D Carter: The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, which does a nice job of framing what I wrote above:

Keynes had crafted an innovative philosophical cocktail. Like Burke, he feared revolution and social upheaval. Like Karl Marx, he envisioned a great crisis on the horizons for capitalism. And like Lenin, he believed that the imperialist world order had reached its final limits. But alone among these thinkers, Keynes believed all that was needed to solve the crisis was a little goodwill and cooperation. The calamity he foresaw in 1919 was not something inevitable, hardwired into the fundamental logic of economics, capitalism, or humanity. It was merely a political failure, one that could be overcome with the right leadership. Whereas Marx had called for revolution against a broken, irrational capitalist order, Keynes was content to denounce the leaders at Versailles and called for treaty revisions. As with Burke, it was revolution itself that Keynes hoped to avert. But he was optimistic, blaming capitalist instability and inequality as the fuel for social upheaval rather than democracy.

I took a shine to Marxism back in the late 1960s, but gave up on it by the mid-1970s, not because I changed my mind but because the insights I had gained there had become second nature, while I lost anything more than a passing commitment to the political program. I moved from opposition to one specific war (Vietnam) to a general pacifism, and I increasingly appreciated the value of incremental reforms versus sharp breaks. I became more tolerant, which is not to say uncritical, of liberals, and I found much that I actually liked in Keynes. (Robert Skidelsky's 2009 book, Keynes: The Return of the Master, offered a good introduction.) He sought to resolve conflicts by arguing ideas, and he retained a radical understanding of the good life which has eluded most economists -- so much so that they refer to their trade as "the dismal science." The quote above was in the section discussing his book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919). Reading Keynes on the arrogant, ignorant, and pompous politicians of the day sheds comparable light on Trump today. Looking forward to discussion of Keynes' view of the future of work, which somehow still remains in our future, assuming we get that far.


Some scattered links this week:

Kate Aronoff: Elon Musk thinks his treatment of workers is a "trade secret".

Dean Baker: Trump's 'America First' vaccine agenda may leave us last: "By using the usual patent monopoly framework rather than international open-source collaboration, the coronavirus vaccine may prove both elusive and more costly for Americans."

Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman: Trump fans strife as unrest roils the US.

BBC: International Criminal Court officials sanctioned by US. "The Hague-based ICC is currently investigating whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan."

Zack Beauchamp: Donald Trump is inciting violence. "His audience is tens of millions of people. Only a tiny percentage need to act to severely disrupt this country's politics."

Riley Beggin:

  • Trump eliminates federal antiracism training, calling it "a sickness": "A White House memo directing an end to the programs said the trainings are 'anti-American propaganda' and must stop." Trump means to stamp out "critical race theory," or more generally anything that impugns white people as ever having been racist, as benefiting from racism, or that just hurts their feelings. On the other hand:

    Trump has said the Black Lives Matter movement is a "symbol of hate" and has called those protesting police brutality "thugs." He's threatened to end protests by sending US troops into American cities, saying ongoing antiracism protests amount to "domestic terror."

    Throughout his presidency, Trump has vehemently opposed protesters' and officials' efforts to take down Confederate statues and has begun to promote a "law and order" campaign message that has included a racist dog whistle pledge to protect "suburban housewives" from "inner city" crime.

    And the president has consistently declined to condemn brazenly racist comments or actions. For instance, when a supporter in a retirement community was filmed shouting "white power" while driving a golf cart bedecked with Trump memorabilia in June, he retweeted it.

  • Jacob Blake speaks about being shot by a police officer: "It's nothing but pain".

  • The fight over defunding Stars and Stripes, explained. I've seen articles both blaming Trump for shutting down the Pentagon's house propaganda organ and crediting Trump for saving it.

Jake Bittle: This is what Trumpism after Trump looks like: Profile of Laura Loomer, "proud Islamophobe," QAnon supporter, Republican nominee for Congress.

Bob Brigham:

Rosa Brooks: What's the worst that could happen? This is rather ridiculous: war gaming various election scenarios, under the aegis of a group that calls itself the Transition Integrity Project, hiring "players" like Bill Kristol and John Podesta to simulate how R and D strategists would react to the various scenarios.

John Cassidy: Donald Trump's incitements to violence have crossed an alarming threshold.

Fabiola Cineas/Sean Collins/Anna North: The police shooting of Jacob Blake, explained: "Blake's shooting has inspired intense protests, a professional sports strike, and fiery rhetoric from President Trump."

Patrick Cockburn: Trump at the RNC: Echoes of Saddam.

Aaron Ross Coleman:

Summer Concepcion: Ex-staffers at DeJoy's former business say he reimbursed them for donations to GOPers.

Chris D'Angelo: Trump is trying to greenwash his appalling environmental record before the election.

Jason Ditz:

  • Pentagon accuses China of massing anti-satellite weapons:

    This is the latest in a series of Pentagon reports on what China "probably" intends, which are all policies which would justify the various US military programs associated with them. In this case, the formation of Space Force was done with an eye toward China threatening US satellites.

    Problem is that while Space Force could destroy Chinese satellites, it is not capable of protecting US ones, and the US has many more, and depends on them for offensive weapons systems like the "precision bombs" it employed in Iraq. As Chalmers Johnson noted over a decade ago, all China (or any other nation) would have to do to wipe out all US satellite resources would be to "launch a dumptruck full of gravel" into space. The only "defense" the US has against such threats is not to provoke the Chinese (or others) into feeling the need to level the playing field against an obvious US military advantage. For another US China scare report, see Pentagon: China could pull ahead of US military by 2049. Hard to say which is the more ridiculous presupposition: that "pulling ahead" of the US military is something that has any practical import, or that with Donald Trump president now we seriously need to worry about things that might happen as far away as 2049. For another one of these, see Alex Ward below, on China possibly doubling its nuclear arsenal in ten years.

  • Pompeo: Whole world uniting against China.

  • Israel attacks airport in Syria's central city of Homs.

  • Pompeo tells Venezuela opposition to boycott election.

Adam Eichen: The GOP remains loyal to corporations and lobbying groups over Americans. Covid hasn't changed that.

Paul Farrell: David Graeber dead: Anthropologist & anti-capitalist thinker behind 'we are the 99%' slogan dies at 59.

Also worth linking to some of David Graeber's work (also see the listing at The Anarchist Library):

Matt Ford: The Republicans' absurd quest to turn Biden into Trump: "The president's reelection campaign is now an obsessive exercise in psychological projection." Another way to look at this: has there ever in history been a better time for someone like Trump to run against an incumbent president like Biden? Only one problem with that scenario.

Andrew Freedman/Diana Leonard: Heat 'rarely ever seen' is forecast to roast West by the weekend, with wildfires still burning. Freedman followed this up with: California faces record-setting 'kiln-like' heat as fires rage, causing injuries.

Susan B Glasser: The 2020 election, a race in which everything happens and nothing matters: "If a pandemic that has killed nearly two hundred thousand Americans can't significantly hurt Trump's support, can anything?"

Hallie Golden/Mike Baker/Adam Goldman: Suspect in fatal Portland shooting is killed by officers during arrest. Of course, unlike, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three and killed two BLM protesters in Kenosha, but was taken into custody live. Michael Forest Reinoehl, "antifa supporter," now unable to testify what happened in the shooting he is accused of. Article quotes Attorney General William Barr: "the streets of our cities are safer." Isn't that what they always say after the police kills a "suspect"?

Elizabeth A Harris/Alexandra Alter: Trump books keep coming, and readers can't stop buying. Picture collects 19 book covers. I haven't read any of those, although I have read a dozen others (see below). The article notes that "in the last four years, there have been more than 1,200 unique titles about Mr. Trump, compared to around 500 books about former President Barack Obama and his administration during Mr. Obama's first term." I tried to publish a fairly exhaustive list of Trump books on May 16, including a few advance notices on books that were scheduled up through October, but my list ran out at 294. Some they mentioned that I missed:

  • Michael Cohen: Disloyal: (2020, Skyhorse)
  • Edward Klein: All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump (2017, Regnery)
  • Carlos Lozado: What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era (2020, Simon & Schuster)
  • Lee Smith: The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020, Center Street)
  • Mary L Trump: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020, Simon & Schuster)
  • Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady (2020, Gallery)
  • Bob Woodward: Rage (2020, Simon & Schuster)

Most of those are recent releases (Woodward's is due Sept. 15, Lozado's Oct. 6), but Klein's screed simply slipped my net. I should do another books post. Not sure what more there is to net, but there is: John W Dean: Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers, and (of course) Donald Trump Jr: Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats' Defense of the Indefensible. For whatever it's worth, here are a few books I did read (on Trump, his administration, and/or the 2016 election, as well as a few less Trump-centric but still topical tracts, most recent first):

  • Thomas Frank: The People, NO: The War on Populism and the Fight for Democracy (2020, Metropolitan Books)
  • Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Economic Inequality (2020, Liveright)
  • David Bromwich: American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They Befell Us (2019, Verso Books)
  • Sarah Kendzior: Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America (2020, Flatiron Books)
  • Joan C Williams: White Working Class: |Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (2020, Harvard Business Review Press)
  • Ezra Klein: Why We're Polarized (2020, Simon & Schuster)
  • Stanley B Greenberg: R.I.P. G.O.P.: How the New America Is Dooming the Republicans (2019, Thomas Dunne Books)
  • James Poniewozik: Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America (2019, Liveright) -- the most insightful book on Trump per sé.
  • Tim Alberta: American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump (2019, Harper)
  • Alexander Nazaryan: The Best People: Trump's Cabinet and the Siege on Washington (2019, Hachette Books)
  • Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How It Might Be Saved (2019, Liveright)
  • Michael Lewis: The Fifth Risk (2018, WW Norton) -- a brief and understated exposé of what Trump has done to the ability of government to function.
  • Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (2018, Harper Collins)
  • Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2018, Tim Duggan Books)
  • Katy Tur: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (2017, Dey Street Books)
  • Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump (2017, William Morrow)
  • David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (2018, Harper)
  • Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign (2017, Crown)
  • Mark Lilla: The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (2017, Harper Collins)
  • Mark Singer: Trump and Me (2016, Duggan Books)
  • Matt Taibbi: Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus (2016, Spiegel & Grau)

More pieces on Trump books:

Benjamin Hart: Black man died of asphyxiation after officers placed hood on him: "Rochester police put a 'spit hood' over Daniel Prude's head, then pinned him to the ground for two minutes. Seven officers have now been suspended."

Eoin Higgins: The Bush rehabilitation trap: "Democrats' insistence on redeeming pre-Trump Republicans will corrupt the party's agenda and spoil the chance for real social reform." Another excuse to link to: Will Ferrell returns to SNL as George W Bush, with a reminder: "I was really bad." Maybe I'd start cutting Bush some slack if he goes on air and admits as much. Still, such contrition wouldn't erase his actual record -- especially the warmongering, which is the one trait of his presidency he can't fob the blame off on the far-right Republicans Cheney staffed his administration with. Still, even his efforts to work with Democrats to solve common problems, like No Child Left Behind and Medicare D, have proven disastrous. Laura mentioned an article about Obama's "biggest mistake," and I immediately thought of several, most importantly his reluctance to repeatedly blame the damaged conditions he inherited on Bush. Not doing so gave Republicans a pass, allowing them to paint the fruits of their failed ideology as somehow being Obama's fault. That doomed Democrats in the 2010 elections, and all the Republicans had to do from then on was to obstruct -- which he also failed to clearly pin responsibility for. Obama's second biggest mistake was proclaiming Afghanistan "the right war," and wasting his first term trying to get it on track. Third was failing to repeal the Bush tax cuts in 2009 when he had the votes to do so. He spent the rest of his terms fighting debt fear and austerity pressures that would have been greatly relieved if he had restored those taxes. But the "biggest mistake" the article pointed to was the bombing of Libya -- see Stephen Kinzer: Obama's 'Biggest Mistake' is still wreaking havoc. The quotes actually come from Obama, but all he meant was "his failure to anticipate the after-effects," not the bombing itself. In failing to appreciate that belligerent acts have logical consequences, Obama proved to be as ignorant and reckless as his predecessor.

Michael Hudson: How an "act of God" pandemic is destroying the West: The US is saving the financial sector, not the economy. In fact, now that the financial sector appears safe from its March panic, the Republicans seem to be done with everyone else.

Harmeet Kaur: Covid-19 has killed more law enforcement officers this year than all other causes combined. "At least 101 officers have died from Covid-19, while at least 82 have died by other means, as of Thursday, according to ODMP. . . . Gunfire is the second-highest cause of death, which has killed at least 31 officers this year." Meanwhile, the number of people killed by police: 679 so far this year, 1,013 in the past year.

Sunil Khilnani: Isabel Wilkerson's world-historical theory of race and caste: Review of Wilkerson's new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, where a central argument is that India's long-established caste system -- outlawed in the Indian Constitution of 1950 -- provides insights into racism in America (and, what the hell, Nazi Germany).

Ezra Klein:

  • Can anything change Americans' minds about Donald Trump?: "The eerie stability of Trump's approval rating, explained."

    On August 27, 2019, President Donald Trump held a 41.3 percent approval rating and a 54.2 percent disapproval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight's poll tracker. During the 365 days that followed, Trump became the third president impeached by the House of Representatives; America assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani; more than 200,000 Americans died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus; the unemployment rate rose from 3.7 percent to 10.2 percent; the US banned incoming travel from Europe, China, and Brazil; an estimated 12 million people lost health insurance coverage; Trump pardoned Roger Stone, who was facing jail time for dirty tricks on the president's behalf; and George Floyd's murder sparked a nationwide movement protesting for racial justice -- to which officials responded by tear-gassing demonstrators in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, so Trump could pose for a photograph holding a Bible.

    That is, of course, a bitterly incomplete list of a grimly consequential year in American history. But you'd never know it simply by following Trump's poll numbers. On August 27, 2020 -- one year later, and the day Trump used the White House as a backdrop for his convention speech -- FiveThirtyEight had Trump at 42.2 percent approval and 54.3 percent disapproval. Everything had happened, and politically, nothing had mattered. Or, at the least, not much had changed.

    "It's really remarkable," says Jennifer Victor, a political scientist at George Mason University. "The stability of Trump's numbers are almost unbelievable."

    Trump's approval ratings have ranged a mere 14 points (35-49%), compared to a range of 27 for Obama (40-67%), 65 for Bush II (25-90%), 36 for Clinton (37-73%), 52 for Bush I (29-81%), 33 for Reagan (35-68%). The Bush high marks were inflated by war, and deflated by recession. Reagan, Clinton, and Obama each started in recession, and presided over sustained recoveries. Trump was the first president not to get a "good will" bump after taking office, largely because of the way he campaigned and won. He was, instead, met with unprecedented demonstrations and vows of resistance, the first "women's march" overshadowing his poorly-attended inauguration. That may have helped to lock in his supporters, who viewed his regime as embattled from day one, and have since stubbornly resisted news of disasters that many of us considered inevitable consequences of his election.

  • What the Iraq disaster can teach us about Trump. Interview with Robert Draper, author of To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq.

Natasha Korecki/Christopher Cadelago: With a hand from Trump, the right makes Rittenhouse a cause célèbre.

Paul Krugman:

Robert Kuttner: The Biden do not reappoint list: "A third succession of Wall Street Democrats would be a disaster. Here are the names to look out for." Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Mike Froman, Steve Rattner, Jeff Zients, Bruce Reed, plus a list of big names like Mike Bloomberg and Jamie Dimon and another of "lesser names." Since this piece was published, Zients was added as "co-chair" to Biden's transition team. See: Alex Thompson: Biden transition team shapes up with Obama-Biden alum hires.

Nancy LeTourneau: Trump's attack on Booker would be laughable if it wasn't so racist.

Eric Lipton: How Trump draws on campaign funds to pay his legal bills.

Martin Longman:

Michael Luo: American Christianity's white-supremacy problem: "History, theology, and culture all contribute to the racist attitudes embedded in the white church." There's plenty of this to go around, but Christian churches were incubators for abolitionism in the 19th century, and committed clergy and laity have been prominent in every antiwar and civil rights movement since.

David J Lynch/Carol D Leonnig/Jeff Stein/Josh Dawsey: Tactics of fiery White House trade adviser draw new scrutiny as some of his pandemic moves unravel. Fiery? Some new euphemism for "full of shit"?

Bill McKibben: How fast is the climate changing?: It's a new world, each and every day: Is McKibben's flair for hyperbole really helping? He has a knack for taking an isolated insight and blowing it up into a gross generalization, effectively obliterating his insight. Something a reasonable person could argue: practically every day we discover some new incident that helps reveal the greater depths of climate change. That's not the same as saying the world is changing every day. For most of us, most of the time, that's simply untrue, or at least untrue in terms that register with our senses. McKibben got into this habit with the title of his first book on climate change, The End of Nature. His argument there was that we can never know nature because we've changed the climate. In some sense he was onto something, but that's because humans have used technology to alter and dominate nature in many ways -- releasing greenhouse gases to raise air temperature was merely one of many ways, if anything, one of the least conscious of the many changes. On the other hand, he totally loses track of one of nature's most significant characteristics, which is its ability to evolve in response to changes, ranging from astronomical to human. Of course, he isn't the only environmentalist to have such anthropocentric conceits about the world. The very phrase "save the Earth" has all sorts of hidden assumptions about what kind of Earth it is one wants to "save." Surely you know that the Earth is almost all rock, and totally oblivious to changes on its surface. Surely you realize that life didn't need human beings for nearly four billion years, and could carry on happily should humans disappear.

Ian Millhiser:

Max Moran: Mick Mulvaney: A frustrated wrecking ball: "The former top Trump official is seething that civil servants want to do their jobs well."

Mick Mulvaney's career reached its logical endpoint last week when he announced he'd started a new hedge fund focused on exploiting deep knowledge of regulatory trends in the financial services sector. "I can't think of anyone better to read the tea leaves, if you will, of what is going to come next from Congress or any one of the slew of federal regulators out there," said Mulvaney's new business partner Andrew Wessel, lending high praise to what amounts to official corruption.

There are few public sycophants quite as shameless as Mulvaney when it comes to doing the bidding of financial loan sharks. Thanks to his slavish devotion to the cult of personality around a president he once called "a terrible human being," Mulvaney has gone from being the payday-loan industry's favorite congressman to Trump's director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's internal destructor, the acting White House chief of staff, and finally, the prestigious and rarefied job of Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.

Yet Mulvaney seems to be leaving public service unsatisfied. You see, despite his best efforts, financial regulation still, well, exists. And annoyingly, it seems there are hardworking people who still want it to, you know, exist.

I would have edited that last line to say "work" instead of repeating "exist." Also:

For too long, we've denigrated civil servants as lazy, wasteful, and parasitic -- terms and frames which are wrongheaded and highly racialized. The resulting anti-government fervor gave us the catastrophes of the Bush and Trump presidencies. It's an important point that bears repeating: People who hate government tend not to be very good at it.

If Biden wants to prove that he won't be like Trump or Mulvaney, if he wants to prove that his government will indeed restore dignity in America, there's a simple and powerful step he can take: Trust in government, and commit to appointing career civil servants to top jobs running the agencies they understand. If nothing else, it will severely piss off Mick Mulvaney.

Nicole Narea: How Trump made it that much harder to become a US citizen.

Ella Nilsen: Joe Biden makes the case Donald Trump has already made America more dangerous.

Timothy Noah: Wall Street's greedy indifference to human misery: "The disparity between the soaring stock market and struggling Americans perfectly epitomizes the country's grotesque inequality."

JC Pan: Rotting produce, vacant luxury apartments, and fake scarcity in a pandemic: "Leaving essentials like food and shelter to the whims of the market produces an extreme kind of disorganization." At the very least, this shows that markets don't respond very quickly or aptly to unpredicted events.

James Pasley: Trump frequently accuses the far-left of inciting violence, yet right-wing extremists have killed 329 victims in the last 25 years, while antifa members haven't killed any, according to a new study. I suppose the killing of a Trump militia man in Portland might be the first, if not self-defense, which will be hard to prove after police killed the alleged shooter.

Kevin Peraino: When America's Cold War strategy turned corrupt: Pretty much from its inception. After all, the point was to defend and promote business around the world, not least against its foes in labor. Review of Scott Anderson: The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War -- a Tragedy in Three Acts. Covers the years 1944-56; the spies are Michael Burke, Edward Lansdale, Peter Sichel, and Frank Wisner.

Cameron Peters:

Daniel Politi: Trump took art from ambassador's home in Paris, but pieces were fakes and replicas.

Andrew Prokop: The debate over whether unrest will help Trump win, explained.

John Quiggin: The economic consequences of the pandemic: Title for a book he's working on, which has recently spawned two articles: Have we just stumbled on the biggest productivity increase of the century?, on shifting work from office to home, and The end of the goods economy. Two more recent notes by Quiggin: What's with the stock market?, and Intangibles = monopoly.

Emily Rauhala/Yasmeen Abutaleb: US says it won't join WHO-linked effort to develop, distribute coronavirus vaccine.

Kate Riga: In first interview since FBI firing, Strzok frets about Trump-Russia unknowns; and Eric Tucker: Strzok calls attacks from Trump 'outrageous' and 'cruel'. Fired FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok starts to flog his Sept. 8 book: Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J Trump. More:

David Roberts: Big Oil's hopes are pinned on plastics. It won't end well. "The industry's only real source of growth probably won't grow much." Related:

Aaron Rupar:

Giovanni Russonello: Jazz has always been protest music. Can it meet this moment? Related: Alan Scherstuhl: Jazz is built for protests. Jon Batiste is taking it to the streets.

Michael J Sandel: Disdain for the less educated is the last acceptable prejudice: He's talking about among Democrats. As Donald Trump and many more attest, prejudices are rampant within the Republican Party -- maybe more against the highly educated but against the less educated as well, even as Republicans occasionally flatter the latter in order to con them. Sandel wrote The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good, the latest of a series of books that debunk the idea that we should be ruled by "the best and the brightest" (as David Halberstam dubbed the Kennedy meritocrats) -- Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy is the one I read and recommend, but Daniel Markovits: The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite adds to the critique. One thing Sandel notes is that Joe Biden "is the first Democratic nominee in 36 years without a degree from an Ivy League university." Still, he seems to be confusing education with "credentialism" -- his word, an interesting choice given how Jane Jacobs took the shift in focus from education to credentials to be a sure sign of Dark Ages Ahead. While many Democrats have made the mistake of seeing education as the key to advancement and therefore a painless answer to inequality -- Robert Reich was a pioneer in this regard -- but what makes that a mistake is ignoring all other factors. For instance, it's safe to say that the dearth of blue collar workers in Congress has more to do with lack of money and connections than prejudice. At least most Democrats see education as a universal desire and opportunity, and knowledge and science as general virtues -- unlike many Republicans, who find free thinking suspiciously dangerous. Also see:

Greg Sargent: These old quotes from Trump make his attacks on Biden look even more pathetic: "Violence on a president's watch is only his fault when that president is Barack Obama."

Walter Shapiro: America is not reliving 1968: "Sure, Donald Trump is harnessing Richard Nixon's law and order rhetoric, but that doesn't mean it will work."

Alex Shephard: The media is falling for Trump's law and order con.

Matt Shuham: With itchy trigger fingers, some right wingers predict the next civil war has finally arrived.

Timothy Snyder: What ails America: Specifically, a diary of botched medical care.

Roger Sollenberger: Ted Cruz seeks abortion pill ban, claims pregnancy is not "life-threatening".

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Sometimes they choke: Usual grabbag of points and asides, but I was struck by the chart (from 538) which argues that Biden has to win the popular vote by more than 3 points to reach a 50% chance of winning the electoral college. Next item shows the gerrymandered map of a "suburban Houston" House district. Then after some Markey-Kennedy points, he notes that the Postal Servie paid $14M to XPO Logistics, a company USPS head Louis DeJoy has a significant stake in, over the last 10 weeks. Also, I wanted to quote this:

MAGA loves America. MAGA hates the government. MAGA loves the man who runs the government they hate. MAGA loves history. MAGA hates the State. MAGA loves the statues of the historical figures who built the State they hate.

Other notes include that the US trade deficit reached its highest level in 12 years, and that "peak oil" is back, with US production on the decline again, after reaching its second peak (the first was in 1969).

Margaret Sullivan:

Emily VanDerWerff: One good thing: Stephen Colbert is looser, funnier, and angrier in quarantine.

Alex Ward:

Libby Watson: Covid patients are receiving eye-popping bills. It's not all Trump's fault. "His plan to help with hospital charges is poorly designed. But even a well-crafted plan would have been no match for our inept health care system."

Peter Wehner: Why Trump supporters can't admit who he really is:

During last week's Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker insisted that life under a Biden presidency would be dystopian. . . . "They're not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether," a St. Louis couple who had brandished weapons against demonstrators outside their home, told viewers. "Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats' America."

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And "anything" turns out to be quite a lot.

Michael Patrick Welch: Lake Charles was destroyed by Hurricane Laura. America has already moved on. "Like Katrina before it, Hurricane Laura has exposed disturbing inequalities -- and the rest of the nation's fundamental indifference."

Ben White: Trump's rebound story meets mounting bankruptcies: "Local business site Yelp found that 55 percent of the firms that closed during the worst of the pandemic beginning in March are now permanently shuttered."

Jill Wine-Banks: Don't forget about the Steve Bannon indictment. Seems like there may be more to come.

Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump is the president: "Whose America is it, explained." After noting that while campaigning in 2016, Trump said: "the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored." Trump never explained how he would work his magic, but he didn't. "Murder is on the rise again after ticking down for a few years, and acts of looting and vandalism are occurring in cities across the country." Subheds:

  • Trump is defunding the police
  • Trump encourages bad policing
  • Trump leaves no way out

Conclusion:

But what does Trump have on tap beyond angry tweets and absurd posturing? He's been the president for years, and he's flailing even with the issues he does want to talk about. Vice President Mike Pence ended his speech last week by asking the American people to let him and Trump "Make America great again, again." In context, it was essentially a request for a mulligan on Covid-19, which is absurd. But it's exactly what Trump is pushing on crime as well -- that we should just ignore the parts of the presidency where his ideas don't work and his administration fails on its own terms.


Aug 2020