Monday, February 27, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 42 albums, 8 A-list,
Music: Current count 39680  rated (+42), 40  unrated (-2: 12 new, 28 old).
I'm growing weary of writing about music, so I'll let these reviews
post without introduction. As you can see, I'm still enjoying what I
listen to for background, even if my engagement is more limited, and
the notes more cryptic.
On the other hand, I put quite a bit of effort into yesterday's
of Which, and I've added a couple more notes today. A cursory
glance at the news today shows a torrent of demented thinking. Just
in the New York Times, ranging from Damon Linker:
My Fellow Liberals Are Exaggerating the Dangers of Ron DeSantis (it
"almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump"; my emphasis
on his slender thread of hope; but note that he's still upset that LBJ
"exaggerated" Goldwater's inclination toward nuclear annihilation with
the 1964 "daisy ad"; Goldwater never aired a comparable scare ad about
how Johnson would lead us into a quagmire in Vietnam, because he was
totally on board with escalating the war there), to Ross Babbage:
A War With China Would Be Unlike Anything Americans Faced Before
(he wants us to rise to the challenge, largely by obscuring what the
real risks may be; 20 years ago Chalmers Johnson explained how easily
an adversary like China could destroy America's satellite capability,
which is useful for GPS and phone calls, but essential for targeting
advanced weapons, and that's just one example Babbage doesn't think
I will note that I've cached a
frozen copy of my
2022 list. The latter will still
be updated, at least through the end of 2023, as I find more things,
but I haven't been looking very hard of late. The EOY
non-jazz lists will
also be updated as needed, but perhaps not that long. Also got my
out of the way.
New records reviewed this week:
- Don Aliquo: Growth (2022 , Ear Up): [cd]: B+(**)
- Iris DeMent: Working on a World (2023, Flariella): [sp]: A-
- Margherita Fava: Tatatu (2022 , self-released): [cd]: A- [03-10]
- Thomas Heberer/Ken Filiano/Phil Haynes: Spontaneous Composition (Corner Store Music '22): [bc]: B+(**)
- Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (2022 , Soul Song): [cdr]: B+(***) [03-03]
- Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (2023, Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Iris DeMent: The Trackless Woods (2015, Flariella): [sp]: B+(*)
- Lionel Hampton: Ring Dem Bells [Bluebird's Best] (1937-40 , RCA Bluebird): [sp]: A-
- Lionel Hampton: Vol. 2: The Jumpin' Jive: The All-Star Groups: 1937-39 (1937-39 , RCA Bluebird): [sp]: A-
- Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra: Midnight Sun: The Original American Decca Recordings (1946-47 , MCA): [r]: B+(**)
- George Haslam: Duos East West (1997 , Slam): [sp]: B+(***)
- George Haslam/Paul Hession: Pendle Hawk Carapace (2002, Slam): [sp]: B+(**)
- George Haslam/Borah Bergman/Paul Hession: The Mahout (2003 , Slam): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jon Hazilla Trio: Tiny Capers (2001, Double-Time): [sp]: B+(**)
- Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton (1989 , Jazz Haus Musik): [bc]: B+(***)
- Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: What a Wonderful World (2001 , Jazz Haus Musik): [bc]: B+(**)
- Peter Herborn: Large One (1997 , Jazzline): [sp]: B+(**)
- John Hicks: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Seven (1990 , Concord): [sp]: B+(***)
- John Hicks: Impressions of Mary Lou (1998 , HighNote): [sp]: B+(***)
- Andrew Hill: Grass Roots (1968, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(*)
- Andrew Hill: Grass Roots [Connoisseur Series] (1968 , Blue Note): [sp]: B+(*)
- Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice (1969 , Blue Note): [r]: B
- Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice [Connoisseur Series] (1969-70 , Blue Note): [r]: B-
- Andrew Hill Trio: Invitation (1974 , SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
- Andrew Hill: Spiral (1974-75 , Arista/Freedom): [r]: A-
- Andrew Hill: Divine Revelation (1975 , SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
- Andrew Hill Trio: Strange Serenade (1980, Soul Note): [sp]: B+(***)
- Andrew Hill: Faces of Hope (1980, Soul Note): [sp]: B+(*)
- Dave Holland Quintet: Points of View (1997 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Dave Holland Quintet: Not for Nothin' (2000 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Yuri Honing: Seven (2001, Jazz in Motion/Challenge): [sp]: B+(**)
- Elmo Hope Ensemble: Sounds From Rikers Island (1963 , Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
- Shirley Horn: May the Music Never End (2003, Verve): [sp]: A-
- Wayne Horvitz: 4 + 1 Ensemble (1998, Intuition): [sp]: B+(***)
- Dick Hyman & John Sheridan: Forgotten Dreams: Archives of Novelty Piano (1920's-1930's) (2001 , Arbors): [sp]: B+(***)
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Yarona (1995, Tiptoe): [sp]: A-
- Abdullah Ibrahim: Cape Town Flowers (1997, Tiptoe): [sp]: B+(**)
- Bobby Marchan: There's Something on Your Mind: The Greatest Hits (1960-72 , Fuel 2000): [sp]: B+(**)
- The New York Allstars: Oh, Yeah! The New York Allstars Play More Music of Louis Armstrong (1998, Nagel Heyer): [sp]: B+(***)
- The New York Allstars: Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop: The New York Allstars Play Lionel Hampton: Volume One (1998 , Nagel Heyer): [r]: A-
- Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time (1957-58 , Ace): [sp]: A-
- Huey "Piano" Smith: That'll Get It: Even More of the Best (, Westside): [sp]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Sara Caswell: The Way to You (Anzic) [03-03]
- Mark Feldman/Dave Rempis/Tim Daisy: Sirocco (Aerophonic) [04-28]
Phil Freeman posted the "My Fellow Liberals" article on Facebook,
with the comment:
All these "really, must you be so *shrill* when screaming about incipient
fascism" essays should end with the line, "Of course, I'll be fine no
matter what happens."
I added this comment:
The Times op-ed section love running stuff like this (e.g., I remember
their "Brett Kavanaugh isn't so bad" piece). Still, you'd think they
could find a more convincing argument than that DeSantis "almost
certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump" (love how the editor
inserted "Mr." but let the rest slide). And his example of Democrats
exaggerating the dangers of their opponents is LBJ's "daisy ad"
against Goldwater? LBJ was pretty awful, but I'm still glad we didn't
have to experience Goldwater being president while Vietnam went
sideways. It's not obvious to me that the assertion that Goldwater
might have used nuclear weapons is very far off base, given a pretty
well established track record of always favoring the most hawkish
I tossed out this comment on EW, response to a question about
import albums omitted from Christgau's CG 70s book:
I've wanted to sift through the ACN and add to the CG database notes
on albums that never got proper reviews, but never found the time. I
recall a favorable reference to Ronnie Lane's "One for the Road" --
one of the 1970s' best albums. I don't recall any mention of Brinsley
Schwarz's "New Favourites," but that's another one.
Joe Yanosik responded with his own efforts to read Christgau's tea
That would be awesome. Of course, I maintain those "recommended but
ungraded" album titles in my database and have grubbed grades on most
of them over the years. Recycables, for example:
- Elmore James: Shake Your Moneymaker: The Best of the Fire Sessions (Buddah) A
- Elmore James: Blues Kingpins (Virgin) A-
- Alan Jackson: Greatest Hits Volume II (Arista) A-
- George Strait: 50 Number Ones (MCA Nashville) (Not an A record)
- Merle Haggard: The Essential Merle Haggard: The Epic Years (Epic/Legacy) A-
- The Animals: Retrospective (Abkco) Unknown
- Roky Erickson: I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology (Shout! Factory) Unknown but likely NOT an A record
- Bert Williams - all those Archeophone CDs - (None are A records)
- Macy Gray: The Very Best of Macy Gray (Epic) A-
- Blind Willie McTell: Statesboro Blues (Bluebird/BMG Heritage) (Not an A record)
- Blind Willie McTell: The Early Years 1927-1933 (Yazoo) A- or A
- Digital Underground: Playwutchyalike: The Best of Digital Underground (Tommy Boy/Rhino) (Not an A record)
- Bruce Cockburn: Anything Anytime Anywhere: Singles 1979-2002 (Rounder) (unknown)
- Phoebe Snow: The Very Best of Phoebe Snow (Columbia/Legacy) A-
- Buddy Guy & Junior Wells: Play the Blues (Rhino Handmade) A-
- T-Bone Walker: The Best of the Black & White and Imperial Years (Metro Blue) (not an A record)
- Burning Spear: The Best of Burning Spear: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection (Island) A
- Count Basie and His Orchestra: America's #1 Band: The Columbia Years (Columbia/Legacy) A-
- Now That's Chicago! (Legacy) A
- Dwight Yoakam: The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam (Reprise/Rhino) A
- Waylon Jennings: Ultimate Waylon Jennings (RCA Nashville/BMG Heritage) A
- Joan Armatrading: Love and Affection: Classics (1975-1983) (A&M) (unknown)
- Fats Waller: The Centennial Collection (Bluebird) (Not an A record)
- Harry Belafonte: The Essential Harry Belafonte (Legacy) (Not an A record)
- Pete Seeger: The Essential Pete Seeger (Legacy) (Not an A record)
- Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time With Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: The Very Best of, Volume 1 (Westside) A-
- The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: This Is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band Collection (Shout! Factory) (unknown)
- For Jumpers Only! (Delmark) (Unknown but likely NOT an A record)
- The Sound of the City: Memphis (EMI) A-
- Memphis Celebrates 50 Years of Rock & Roll (BMG) (unknown but likely an A record)
- Mystikal: Prince of the South...The Hits (Jive/Zomba) (unknown but likely an A record)
- Ol' Dirty Bastard: The Definitive Ol' Dirty Bastard Story (Elektra/Rhino) (unknown)
- Sarah Vaughan: Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy) (not an A record)
- Santana: The Essential Santana (Legacy) (unknown)
- Earth Wind & Fire: The Essential Earth Wind & Fire (Legacy) A- or A
- The Jesus and Mary Chain: 21 Singles 1984-1998 (Warner Bros/Rhino) A-
- A Flock of Seagulls: Platinum and Gold Collection (RCA) A-
- Lightnin' Hopkins: Blues Kingpins (Virgin) A-
- Roxy Music: The Early Years (Virgin) (unknown)
- The Move: Great Move! The Best of the Move A-
- Slade: Get Yer Boots On: The Best of Slade (not an A record)
- Bill Doggett: The Very Best of Bill Doggett: Honky Tonk (Collectables) (choice cuts)
- Yo La Tengo: Prisoners of Love (Matador) A for the 2-CD version only, not 3-CD
- Neil Young: Greatest Hits (Reprise) A- or A
- Youssou N'Dour: 7 Seconds: The Best of Youssou NDour (Columbia/Legacy) (not an A record)
- Youssou N'Dour & Le Super Etoile: Le Grand Bal Bercy 2001 Vol. 2 (unknown)
Discussion moved on to the Move, so I added:
Since you mentioned the Move, back in the early 1970s, when I finally
had enough money to shop for quality stereo equipment, I used to bring
a copy of "The Best of the Move" with me to stores, and insisted that
they play "Brontosaurus." I wanted to hear all that bass, but also
that super treble break.
Note that Cliff Ocheltree recommended "my favorite issue (reissue?)
of 2021": Brinsley Schwarz: Live on the Road: 1974-1975, a 4-CD
box on Wasabi (Amazon for $58.65, which gave me pause).
Sunday, February 26, 2023
Speaking of Which
Started early, with the Bobert tweet at the bottom, then the
Wirestone piece I picked up from Facebook, because I doubted I'd
be able to find them come weekend. Then found Responsible Statecraft's
anniversary series on Ukraine (starting with the Kinzer piece), and
I was off and running. Also note the mini-essay following the MJT
nonsense. I've contemplated collecting a few dozen such ideas under
an old Paul Goodman title, Utopian Essays & Practical
Proposals. Although it would take a constitutional amendment,
this is one of the practical ones.
[PS: Added a couple minor notes on Feb. 27. I should add that
the Wichita Eagle's top front page story today was Josef Federman:
Israeli settlers rampage after Palestinian gunman kills 2 in West
Bank. It's important to stress that this is not a single event,
occasioned by a single event. Israeli settlers have been attacking
Palestinians with more/less impunity for years now, including in
the days leading up to the two settlers being killed. The change
since the last election is that settlers who have gotten away with
crimes against Palestinians in the past have now been elected to
the government, and are using their position to encourage further
attacks. For another report, see:
Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian towns in revenge for
shooting. When officials incited Russian mobs to attack Jews
in Tsarist Russia, the massacres were called Pogroms. The same
word is completely appropriate here. The only thing new about the
"new government" is that they're making no effort to hide or to
sanitize their virulence. Hence, even in Wichita people who once
admired and supported Israel are now getting a glimpse of just
what the cult of Zionism has become.]
Top story threads:
Trump, DeSantis, et al.: Slow week for Trump, while he's
awaiting the Georgia indictments. Meanwhile, DeSantis is pranking
as usual, and a couple minor figures have entered the 2024 race.
Nia Prater: [02-23]
George Santos Wants to Make the AR-15 America's 'National Gun'.
Marjorie Taylor Greene's National Divorce: Her terminology
may have been influenced by having just
divorced her husband of 29 years. While I wouldn't presume that
her divorce was amicable, it was certainly a lot simpler and cleaner
than dividing the Federal Government between Red and Blue States --
especially given that said government has a trillion dollar military
operating all around the world, with enough firepower to destroy the
world many times over. Given that virtually every nation that has/has
been divided has done so in war (including the US in the 1860s), the
risk is off the charts.
Greene defends her proposal by saying,
"Everyone I talk to says this." Obviously, her circle of acquaintances
doesn't amount to much. It clearly excludes the 40% or so Democrats in
Red States who would be stranded, including majorities in nearly every
actual city. It also ignores Republicans who realize that they're much
better off in the United States than they would be in the third-world
dystopia that Republican policies lead to -- a contrast that will only
grow as Democrats gain effective power in the Blue States, finally free
of the dead weight of the Red. (Even now, the Federal government sends
considerably more money to Red States than it collects in taxes, a net
transfer that presumably would end with division.)
So the first thing that needs to be said about her proposal is that
there's no reason to take it seriously. It has no political support
beyond the small and delusional right-wing faction that Greene has
become the public voice of, and a similarly small faction of the left
who are sick and tired of Republican obstruction when we are faced
with problems that require bold and imaginative action.
Speaking of which, I've had this idea kicking around for a while, on
how to restructure Congress so it actually represents virtually all of
the American people (instead of a bare majority, mostly selected by a
tiny slice of donors). The idea is that within any congressional district,
the top two (or possibly more) vote getters would be elected, with the
district's vote a fraction, according to how many votes each candidate
received. You could sweeten the pot a bit and round the winner up to a
percentage point, and the second (and lesser) votegetters down, so the
winner of a close race might get 0.51 votes, and the loser 0.49. But the
first big advantage of this system would be that 100% of voters would
have an elected representative, whereas under the current system, as
many as 49% might not.
There are other advantages. Gerrymanders would cease to matter,
because all they would do is shift fractional votes from one district
to another. This also significantly reduces the importance (payback)
of money in elections. Third parties would complicate things, but not
that much. It would matter little whether districts got larger or
smaller than at present. You could also calculate vote weights based
not on percentages but on actual votes, so districts with high turnout
would be better served than ones with low turnout. You could also use
actual votes to deal with grossly unequal districts, such as states
represented in the Senate. (Which would solve that problem, although
eliminating the Senate would also work.)
Israel: I wanted to comment on the Parsi article, then
found Beinart, then created a section, which (as usual) snowballed.
Elsewhere I offer two definitions of "forever war," but Israel
suggests a third: a war that you protract endlessly because you're
less interested in the goal than the process. This is practicable
only when your enemy is incapable of hitting back effectively. As
such, this process resembles hunting more than it does war:
Peter Beinart: [02-19]
You Can't Save Democracy in a Jewish State.
Neve Gordon: [02-24]
The Problem with Israel's So-Called 'Crisis of Democracy'.
Ibrahim Khaliliye: [02-16]
Israel sees reliance on Palestinian health workers as a 'threat to
Ruth Margalit: [02-20]
Itamar Ben-Gvir, Israel's Minister of Chaos.
Trita Parsi: [02-21]
By caving to Israel, Biden opens the door to war. This is a minor
point, but Israel has actually been at war with Iran for several years
now. In the text, Parsi describes his fear of "starting a disastrous
war with Iran." The war Israel has been fighting, mostly by bombing
Iranian forces and allies in Syria, by cyberwarfare, and by targeted
assassinations of Iranian scientists, has been kept below the disaster
level because Iran hasn't responded in kind, let alone escalated. It's
possible that the US is complicit in some of these acts, but unlikely.
In 1967 and 1973, the US and Russia brokered deals to quickly end wars.
In 1978, Jimmy Carter effectively ordered Israel to end its intervention
in Lebanon (something Reagan didn't do in 1982, leading to a 17-year
occupation where the only tangible result was Hizbullah). In 1991, GHW
Bush effectively ordered Israel to report to Madrid for peace talks.
However, since then, the US has given up on even trying to tell Israel
what to do. At least as of Trump's withdrawal from JCPOA, now Israel is
giving the orders, and all American presidents have the guts to do is
Mitchell Plitnick: [02-25]
Israel has quietly annexed the West Bank and Biden stays silent.
Claire Porter Robbins: [02-23]
How Israeli youth helped usher in the farthest right-wing government
Richard Silverstein: [02-22]
IDF Nablus Massacre: 11 Dead, 100 Injured, 6 Critically.
Philip Weiss: [02-23]
US Ambassador Tom Nides says Palestinians don't need rights, they just
need 'money': With his "'biggest fear' that Israel has 'lost the
narrative' on US campuses," you could easily get confused about which
country Nides actually works for.
Ukraine War: The one-year anniversary of Russia's Feb. 24,
2022 invasion is bringing out a lot of rear-view mirror gazing, as well
as fresh rounds of bluster from Messrs. Biden, Putin, and Zelensky. I
pretty much said my piece on this war, or at least its historical
context, in my
23 Theses piece back on April 19, but I add to a few of those points
below, and reiterate most of them. It is important to stress that one
year ago, despite a vast history fraught with errors and atrocities on
every side, one person could have prevented this war from happening:
Vladimir Putin. But a year later, responsibility for continuing the
war largely rests on his opposite counterpart, Joe Biden. I fear he
isn't up to the task (although I worry more about the company he
Connor Echols: [02-24]
Diplomacy Watch: China's peace plan draws mixed reactions: China
presented a proposal, which Zelensky at least had the good sense not
to reject out of hand (unlike the US). Echols also wrote: [02-21]
How the Ukraine war helped the arms trade go boom.
Gregory Afinogenov: [02-24]
Peace in Ukraine Isn't Coming Soon: Something here that you rarely
(if ever) read elsewhere concerns the internal restructuring of Ukraine
to make it more neoliberal, i.e., a better investment for Europe and
America. On the other hand, limiting speech and banning parties isn't
a particularly good look for Team Democracy. Better known is how Russia
has become more repressive.
Daniel Bessner: [02-23]
How the war in Ukraine has challenged left-wing restrainers.
One of the more problematic pieces this week from the Quincy Institute's
Responsible Statecraft, where the idea that the US should exercise
considerable restraint in dealing with the world is foundational --
while the website appeals to both left and right, the focus on restraint
is intrinsically conservative (even when mouthed by Obama as "don't do
stupid shit"). To refer to "left restrainers" is not only infelicitous,
it also shortchanges the diversity of opinion on the left. Aside from
left-rooted converts to massive armed support for Ukraine (like Bernie
Sanders aide Matt Duss, who figures so large in this article -- partly
because Bessner's definition of the left is tied to the Sanders campaign --
that if lefties had to have licenses, his would be suspended), I can count
at least four left-oriented position groups: the pacifists (Medea Benjamin
might be an example), who see all warring sides as wrong, even if they
have trouble figuring out how to disengage them; the international law
visionaries (Phyllis Bennis is prominent here); advocates of international
solidarity (deriving from the old communist left, where the solution to
war is revolution by workers on both sides; I don't have a prominent
current example); and the anti-imperialists, who see Zelensky as a tool
of the same old imperialism, and therefore hope that Putin can thwart
the west (Max Blumenthal is an example; if I could, I'd suspend the
licenses of this group as well). And, of course, there are hybrids and
in-betweeners as well. I draw on all four, but I don't see how the first
three allow one any measure of sympathy or support for Putin.
Eli Clifton: [02-24]
Ukraine War is great for the portfolio, as defense stocks enjoy a banner
year: "The top five US weapons firms outperformed major Wall Street
indexes in the last year, mostly on the backs of American taxpayers."
Andrew Cockburn: [02-22]
We were promised 'economic shock and awe' against Russia: "But one
year after its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Moscow looks poised to weather
the worst of Western sanctions." Just last week Biden was talking about
new, even more crippling sanctions. But one clear lesson from the last
year is that sanctions have had minimal impact on Russia. Nor is there
any reason to expect that further sanctions will make any difference.
I was skeptical a year ago, and even more so now. But while sanctions
have a miserably poor record of motivating desired political behavior,
the one thing they really do is express the desire to hurt a country.
So not only did they fail to end the war; they continue to give Russians
a reason to fight on.
Jonathan Guyer: [02-21]
Biden and Putin's dueling speeches show why the end of the Ukraine war
is a long way off. Both sides feel the need to show strength and
determination, without betraying any doubt as to the rightness of their
cause, or allowing the possibility of compromise. Guyer thought about
this a bit more, and wrote: [02-24]
How Ukraine could become America's next forever war. "Next" is
something of a misnomer, given that it's already happening. However,
the phrase is telling. It could mean one of two things: one is that
you're fighting against a foe that cannot be defeated and will never
give up, in which case your only out is to find some accommodation;
the other is that you're really confused about your goals, so it's
easier to keep fighting than to reconsider. Vietnam is an example of
the former; the Global War on Terror the latter. Russia in Ukraine
has elements of both: neither side can be defeated, so the war has
turned into a game of chicken; meanwhile both sides have gotten so
wrapped up in their own propaganda neither can see a way to back
Ellen Ioanes: [02-26]
Here's what arming Ukraine could look like in the future: France,
Germany, and the UK have floated a proposal to arm Ukraine on their
own, independent of American control.
Fred Kaplan: [02-21]
The Game Putin Is Really Playing by Threatening a Nuclear Weapons
Treaty, on Putin's declaration that Russia is suspending its
participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty; and [02-24]
How the Ukraine War Is Likely to End. As he rules out a "total
war solution," "end" can only mean some sort of agreement, for which
he offers little grounds for hope.
Stephen Kinzer: [02-21]
Putin & Zelensky: Sinners and saints who fit our historic narrative:
"Think about why the West wants to invoke WWII and the Cold War here,
and then ask whether it's been productive." Actually, the "West" started
invoking WWII in the runup to Bush's Iraq War, probably because Vietnam
didn't poll so well. I doubt it's a coincidence that two of the loudest
anti-Russia hawks in academia (Anne Applebaum and Timothy Snyder) have
books to sell you about Stalin's atrocities in Ukraine, while others
(like Michael McFaul) have careers in think tanks subsidized by the war
machine. Meanwhile, recycling Cold War propaganda against Putin works
because he's Russian and no one who matters cares about the differences.
Zelensky's Churchill act also works, because he knows it's just a role,
so he can ignore most of Churchill's career, and not get called on it.
As Kinzer points out: "As far back as 1873,
an American cartoonist depicted Russia as a hairy monster vying with
a handsome Uncle Sam for control of the world. That archetype resonates
across generations. Like most populations, Americans are easily mobilized
to hate whatever country we are told to hate. If that country is Russia,
we have generations of psychic preparation."
Charles A Kupchan: [02-24]
US-West must prepare for a diplomatic endgame in Ukraine: The only
possible endgame is diplomatic, but that means offering Putin some kind
of graceful exit -- something the armchair generals in Washington and
Brussels seem to be having too much fun to contemplate.
Marlene Laruelle: [02-25]
This is far from over: Sobering lessons from Ukraine. These
aren't organized very nicely, so let me offer my own:
- Russia has totally burnt its bridges to the West. NATO is stronger
than ever, and while it's not a real threat to Russia, it is an insult,
and won't be going away. Russia is presumably still popular in the
separatist regions, but they've totally lost the rest of Ukraine.
Even if they negotiate an end to sanctions, it will be a long time
before they recover lost business with Europe.
- Ukraine, minus any parts that vote to stay with Russia, will be
tightly integrated into the EU.
- Militarily, there has been a huge home-field advantage, which
doesn't bode well for Ukrainian hopes to retake Russian ethnic areas.
The big Russian advantages (air power, strategic depth) haven't been
very effective, while discipline, morale, and logistic support have
been weaknesses. Western arms have allowed Ukraine to move from a
guerrilla defensive operation to more conventional operations, but
territorial gains have been minor. The result is unwinnable for both
- The US has so little credibility in the Global South that it has
failed to isolate Russia and strangle it economically. The utility
of sanctions as a weapon is seriously in doubt.
- The costs of continued military operations on both sides are high
and growing. While the West is better able to afford them, there is
no reason to expect that Russia will be starved out of the war any
- The toll on the Ukrainian people is, of course, immense, with
millions of refugees in Europe and Russia. Much of Ukraine is being
turned into a complete wasteland.
- While the risk of nuclear war is small, it demands respect, and
that means that both sides need to curtail their ambitions. We have
seen little indication of that in this anniversary's rhetoric.
Anatol Lieven: [02-20]
Russia was defeated in the first three weeks: Basically true, both
militarily and politically. Russia's offensive in the south from Crimea
was actually pretty effective, although short of capturing Odesa it made
little difference. But their blitzkrieg toward Kyiv and Kharkiv stalled,
turning into a "40-mile-long traffic jam" that became easy pickings for
Ukraine. I'm skeptical that even had Russia troops captured Kyiv, the
west half of Ukraine would have folded, so it was just a matter of time
before Putin realized he bit off more than he could chew. And politically,
Putin gave NATO something it hadn't had since 1992: a reason to exist.
There was never a chance that western hawks who had kept the organization
on life support wouldn't jump on the opportunity to fight (especially as
they could do so through proxies). The problem since then is that the
Russian defeat, which Putin would be hard-pressed not to admit, still
hasn't been as total as the victory the resurgent NATO powers crave.
If only the warmongers understood that there is no such thing as
victory in war. The only decision is when do you cut your losses?
And the only answer is the sooner the better.
Aryeh Neier: [02-24]
Will the West Be Serious About Crimes Against Humanity This Time?
"In the 1990s, the Western powers were slow to move against Serbian
butcher Slobodan Milosevic. We can't make that mistake again." Yes we
can, and sure we will. Milosevic and several of his henchmen are the
only ones who had to face the ICC, because they were the only ones who
fell out of power with no one to protect them. Putin may be worse, but
he'll never face the ICC, because even if Russia puts him out to pasture,
he won't be vulnerable like that, and no one else is going to be able
to touch him. Same, I might add, for Henry Kissinger, and a long list
of others. I came to grips with this with Richard Nixon, who never got
anything like the punishment he deserved, but once he was driven from
power and shamed, anything more ceased to matter. Besides, if you want
to get serious about "crimes against humanity," you have to catch them
much sooner than when they get mixed up in war. The time to stop Hitler
wasn't when he crossed some line at Wannsee or even Kristallnacht but
when (or before) he came to power.
Vijay Prashad: [02-26]
The global South refuses pressure to side with the West on Russia:
Actually, most have voted to condemn Russia's invasion, but very few
have agreed to enforce economic sanctions against Russia.
William Ruger: [02-23]
'Ukraine maximalists' on the Right still dominate. But for how long?
Ever since Arthur Vandenberg in 1948, Democrats could always count on
overwhelming Republican support for foreign wars, with some Republicans
(like Barry Goldwater and John McCain) reliably overexcited. Meanwhile,
the Democratic rank-and-file tended to become more dovish, encouraging
Republicans to pile on, painting Democrats as spineless appeasers even
as their leaders overcompensated with macho posturing (none more than
Hillary Clinton). The prowar consensus has held up on Ukraine, with
Democrats especially reluctant to break ranks -- part loyalty to Biden,
part because they've been sold the line that Putin (not unlike Trump)
is a sworn enemy of democracy. On the other hand, a few Republicans
(most notably Trump) are wavering, for various reasons -- the worst
being that some (e.g., Josh Hawley) would rather go to war with China,
followed closely by the ones who like Putin as a fellow fascist. What
worries me is that unless Biden can steer this war toward a diplomatic
conclusion, the Democratic Party will be so mired in the war machinery
that they'll never be able to deliver on their core promises, and
Republican do-nothingism will seem like the saner course.
Alex Shephard: [02-23]
Republicans Are Ready to Abandon Ukraine: "The GOP is turning against
continued support for Ukrainians fighting off a Russian invasion." As I
noted above, some are hedging their bets, but most Republicans love the
arms merchants too much to throw cold water on their party. Republicans
will, of course, abandon Ukraine as soon as the war is over and the US
is called on to rebuild a country which sacrificed everything so our war
gamers could think they were "degrading" the Russian military threat.
Robert Wright: [02-23]
The Ukraine Archives: Summaries and links to a remarkable series
of pieces on the war, going back to Jan 24, 2022: "How cognitive
empathy could have prevented the Ukraine crisis" -- did you know
there was a crisis a full month before invasion?
Joe Lauria: [02-24]
More Evidence Emerges That US Wanted Russia to Invade: Slant here
is anti-American (some evidence for that) and pro-Russian (more of a
stretch). It is, of course, likely that some American deep state-types
decided early on that Putin was less pliant than Yeltsin and should
be viewed as a threat (or could be propped up as one), so they came
up with a scheme to flip Ukraine and use that as leverage to entrap
Putin. I've always thought that pro-western lobbying in Ukraine had
less to do with US strategic interests than with European business,
as the rewards there were much closer to home, but sure, Victoria
Nuland, and all that. Whether 2014 counts as a coup or a popular
uprising is open to debate: the presence of plotters (including
Nuland) doesn't preclude the latter. One may also debate the extent
to which the 2014 separatist uprisings in Crimea and Donbas were
spontaneous or orchestrated from Moscow, although it didn't take
long before Putin was calling the shots.
In any case, subsequent
elections legitimated the shift in power (no doubt more than would
have been the case had Crimea and Donbas not split off). What's
much murkier is the political machinations after Zelensky ran on
a peace platform, then ultimately emerged as Ukraine's top warrior.
In particular, no one that I'm aware of has written up a thorough
diplomatic history from Zelensky's election to the invasion, but
it's safe to say that the Biden administration encouraged Zelinsky
to demand more, and that Putin grew increasingly alarmed. I doubt
this was meant to provoke an invasion (as Lauria claims), but it
was certainly meant to corner Russia. We've seen some evidence
(not provided here) that Putin tried diplomacy before resorting
to force: there are reports of the US and UK lobbying Zelensky
to reject Russian overtures. The US also went to great lengths
to publicize the Russian troop buildup, and to threaten sanctions
and other retaliation. At the time, I noted that the US risked
goading Putin to attack. I don't know that to have been their
intent, but they were surprisingly well prepared when Putin made
Still, regardless of any American designs -- something one should
always be skeptical of, given how poorly past designs have played
out -- it was Putin, for reasons wholly of his own, who deliberately
walked into this "trap." Lauria concludes, "the question is whether
Russia can extricate itself from the U.S. strategy of insurgency and
economic war." I doubt that he can, and not because he's ideologically
wedded to KGB-recidivism, to atavistic dreams of reviving imperial
glory, or the sheer nihilism of ending western civilization, but
because bullies can't stand to back-peddle, and because politicians --
and that's what he really is -- get so easily trapped in the rhetoric
that initially gained them success. He needs to find a new game, but
I doubt he has the imagination for that.
The real question going forward is whether Biden and/or Zelensky
can see clear to let Russia loose. No one can afford a "forever war,"
no matter how much pleasure you take in making your enemy squirm.
Christine Ahn: [02-22]
When Jimmy Carter went to North Korea: "Ever the peacemaker, he met
with Kim Il Sung in 1994 and helped freeze Pyongyang's nuclear weapons
program for over a decade." The secret of Carter's success was that he
met with them personally, and he agreed to reasonable proposals. The
Clinton administration was shamed into accepting his fait accompli, but
in due course reneged on its promises and sabotaged the deal, which was
finally buried by Bush, and in due course by North Korea testing nuclear
bombs and missiles. Trump's brief flirtation with Kim Jong Un produced
a lull in the testing, which might have been formalized into an end to
hostilities, but Trump's underlings (e.g., John Bolton and Mike Pompeo)
made sure that didn't happen either.
For more on Korea, see:
Brooks Barnes: [02-23]
The Billionaire's Daughter Knows What You're Thinking: Elizabeth
Koch, daughter of Charles Koch, the second generation feudal lord of
Wichita. Cited because it may be interesting, but I haven't invested
the time to tell you why. So I'll pass this over to Ian Millhiser:
"A fascinating window into what becomes of a useless person who never
had to worry about anything important her entire life. And a strong
policy argument for higher estate taxes."
Thomas Floyd/Michael Cavna: [02-25]
'Dilbert' dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist's racist
rant. Noted because I've read "Dilbert" for a long time, but only
because it was there in the paper. Long ago, it was occasionally clever
or observant about office culture, but it started to lose its moorings
when Adams quit his day job, leaving him to recycle his clichés. My
wife quit reading it years ago, and I doubt I'll miss it much. Should
the strip be canceled? That's something I'd almost never do, not least
because he doesn't deserve to martyr himself (which may well have been
his intent, as he no doubt believes the "woke mob" is out to get him).
Besides, his statements, at least as quoted in the article, are more
stupid than inflammatory (not that I'm not much of a stickler on either
count). How could anyone construct a poll with a question like "are you
ok with white people" and expect straight, meaningful answers? On the
other hand, how could anyone jump to his conclusions without being a
dangerously deranged racist?
[PS: The Wichita Eagle ran "Dilbert" on Sunday, but canceled the
strip as of Monday. They replaced it with something called "Pooch
Café," which, yes, is marginally funnier. On the other hand, has
any comic strip in the last 10-20 years done more than "Dilbert"
to make white guys look clueless and/or stupid?]
I didn't go looking for anything to tack onto this, but then there
Shirin Ghaffary: [02-21]
Social media used to be free. Not anymore. As Facebook joints Twitter
in trying to squeeze more money out of their users, as if they weren't
imposing enough already. Granted, the push is mostly aimed at businesses,
which are already used to paying for publicity, but at some point the
platforms will start to bleed users, and that the value of that publicity
will depreciate. Thing is, it would be possible to publicly fund social
media platforms that provide the desired connectivity without harvesting
data and trying to monetize it through advertising. And they would be
less of a drain on society than the current monopolistic rackets.
Clare Malone: [02-25]
Watching Tucker Carlson for work: "You don't know Fox News until
you are watching it for a job."
Timothy Noah: [02-21]
How the GOP Lost Its Brain: "Today's Republican Party is driven
by egos and power rivalries, not ideas. The GOP once had ideas --
lots of them. The problem was that they were unpopular and bad."
Isn't the answer obvious? At some point, unpopular and bad ideas
become liabilities. And besides, they never were anything but props
for hitting on some irrationally emotional point -- one they've
since found they can jump to with hysterics endlessly repeated by
their propaganda machine. Turns out all those brains were merely
Evan Osnos: [02-26]
Sliding toward a new Cold War: Russia and Ukraine come up, but
this is mostly about China, which is by far the more serious force.
Still, this is remarkably short on reasons why China might be
considered a threat. They just, you know, are, mostly
because we understand so very little about them, or for that
matter ourselves. Osnos turns to George Kennan for guidance,
quoting a new biography that Kennan "spent the four years from
1944 to 1948 promoting the Cold War, he devoted the subsequent
forty to undoing what he and others had wrought." The point should
be obvious: starting wars is much easier than ending them.
Nathan J Robinson: [02-23]
Why the Right Hates Social Security (And How They Plan to Destroy It):
Interview with Alex Lawson, of Social Security Works.
Derek Willis: [02-24]
After a Decade of Tracking Politicians' Deleted Tweets, Politwoops Is
No More: "Service changers after Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter
have rendered it impossible for us to continue tracking these tweets."
Clay Wirestone: [02-09]
'No future!' If Rep. Kristey Williams has her way, there won't be a
next generation of Kansans: "Destroying public education will
drive parents, students and teachers out of the Sunflower State for
good." First, let's dial the hyperbole back a bit, and dispense with
the Johnny Rotten analogies. The Republican chair of K-12 Education
is pushing a voucher bill, designed to siphon public education money
into private schools, with "little or no oversight on expenditures,
little to no oversight for student achievement." Choice sounds like
a good thing, and one can argue that having to compete for students
should make schools work harder to satisfy students and parents. But
does it really work like that? For starters, it's the rule rather
than the exception that privatization of public services leads to
more cost while returning less value. This is part profit-seeking
(which includes a strong impulse toward fraud, unless it is checked
by regulation, which itself adds to the overhead), and part due to
the lost efficiencies of scale (including more specialized teachers,
less administrative overhead, shared technology, lots of things, but
not necessarily larger classroom size). Second, vouchers divide public
support for public schools, worsening current underfunding. Third, if
vouchers don't cover the whole cost of private schooling (which isn't
likely, given its inefficiency), they increase religious isolation and
class-stratification (which has always been a selling point for elite
private schools; but they're not the ones driving this agenda, as their
clients always have been able to afford paying their own way).
Still, the advocates of voucher programs are remarkably myopic. In
looking to exempt their children from the taint of public schooling
(be it secular and/or non-elitist), they blithely ignore the others,
who they consign to run-down, under-resourced schools that teach little
and increasingly resemble detainment centers -- until their inmates
escape and struggle to survive in a world that has shown them nothing
but disdain. If, then, they turn to crime, they can finally look forward
to the public finally spending serious money on them, in the guise of
punishment. Even if they don't, most will never gain the skills that
we need to run an increasingly complex and fragile economy. What a
By the way, there are specific Kansas angles here, some mentioned in
the article. In recent years, Johnson County has grown largely based on
the reputation of its public school system (compared to the Missouri
suburbs around Kansas City). The author is worried that wrecking public
schools in Kansas will reverse that trend, resulting in a mass exodus
(although having once fled Missouri, I'm not so sure they want to head
back). A possibly bigger problem is rural Kansas, which has already lost
so many people that school districts are struggling just to hold on, let
alone to adapt to times that require more and better education.
James Thompson forwarded this Twitter interchange:
Lauren Bobert: One thing you can be sure of - I'll never
Leslieoo7: I'm sure of that. To be woke requires awareness,
an enlightened mind, exposure to different cultures and different
types of people. It requires maturity to realize that not everyone
looks like you or thinks like you and that's okay.
Woke is the antonym of ignorance.
Michael Thrower offered a list of "10 Great Very Short Econ Books"
(≤ 200 pages)
- Diane Coyle: GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
- Albert O Hirschman: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline
in Firms, Organizations, and States -- how consumers influence
- Jesper Roine: Pocket Piketty: A Handy Guide to Capital in the
- Eric Lonergan/Mark Blyth: Angrynomics
- Joan Robinson: An Essay in Marxian Economics
- Avner Offer: Understanding the Private-Public Divide: Markets,
Governments, and Time Horizons -- argues that state can plan
long-term where markets can't.
- Alex Cobham: The Uncounted -- how statistics can be distorted
by power relations.
- Richard A Easterlin: An Economist's Lessons on Happiness: Farewell
- Dean Baker: The Conservative Nanny State
- Lee Elliot Major/Stephen Machin: Social Mobility: What Do We
Know and What Should We Do About . . . ?
Monday, February 20, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 45 albums, 6 A-list,
Music: Current count 39638  rated (+45), 42  unrated (-0: 14 new, 28 old).
I wrote quite a bit of
of Which yesterday. When I got up today, I noticed I still had
a tab open to an especially deluded Washington Post op-ed called
How to break the stalemate in Ukraine, so I added a couple
paragraphs on it. By "breaking the stalemate" they basically mean
blowing it up and risking WWIII. Of course, they assume that won't
happen. Even though they start from characterizing Putin as a
psychotic tyrant set on empire expansion, they assume he is still
sane enough to accept the humiliation of defeat (and that he doesn't
dare offend China).
Wichita Eagle had an article today denying that Biden would visit
Kyiv after Warsaw. Of course, he did land in Kyiv, on his way to
Warsaw. I don't mind the security-directed deception. I won't even
mind the sabre rattling if it's followed up with serious attempt
to settle the war. I understand the logic, but I'm still skeptical
that the hot air helps in any way.
Apologies for not relegating the politics to the bottom of this
post, after the notes on the music. But no notes this week. I need
to get this out of the way so I can get to dinner tonight, and don't
have much to say anyway.
The Best of Ace Records Volume 2: The R&B Hits as I post this.
Five songs there by the late Huey "Piano" Smith.
New records reviewed this week:
- Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (2022 , Origin): [cd]: A-
- Scott Hamilton: Talk to Me, Baby (2022, Blau): [sp]: B+(***)
- Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles (2023, One Trick Dog): [cd]: B+(*)
- Markus Rutz: Storybook (2023, Jmarq): [cd]: B+(**)
- Greg Ward's Rogue Parade: Dion's Quest (2021 , Sugah Hoof): [cd]: B-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Walter Blanding: The Olive Tree (1999, Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(**)
- Free Jazz Quartet: Premonitions (1989, Matchless): [yt]: B+(***)
- Chico Freeman: Chico (1977, India Navigation): [sp]: B+(***)
- Chico Freeman: Kings of Mali (1977 , India Navigation): [yt]: B+(**)
- Chico Freeman: The Outside Within (1978 , India Navigation): [yt]: A-
- Chico Freeman: No Time Left (1979, Black Saint): [sp]: B+(***)
- Chico Freeman/Von Freeman: Freeman & Freeman (1981 , India Navigation): [sp]: B+(***)
- Chico Freeman: You'll Know When You Get There (1988 , Black Saint): [sp]: B+(***)
- Don Friedman: My Romance: Solo Piano (1996 , SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(***)
- Richard Galliano: Concerts Inédits (1996-98 , Dreyfus, 3CD): [r]: A-
- Vincent Gardner Quintet: Elbow Room (2005, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Charles Gayle Quartet: More Live at the Knitting Factory: February, 1993 (1993, Knitting Factory Works, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Michael Gibbs: Michael Gibbs (1970, Deram): [yt]: A-
- The Michael Gibbs Orchestra: Big Music (1988-90 , ACT): [yt]: B+(***)
- Jon Gordon: The Things You Are (2005 , ArtistShare): [sp]: B+(***)
- Stéphane Grappeli/Michel Petrucciani: Flamingo (1995 , Dreyfus): [sp]: B+(**)
- Benny Green/Russell Malone: Jazz at the Bistro (2002 , Telarc): [sp]: B+(**)
- Bobby Hackett and His Jazz Band: Coast Concert (1955 , Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
- Bobby Hackett/Jack Teagarden: Jazz Ultimate (1957 , Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
- Bobby Hackett: Hello Louis! Bobby Hackett Plays the Music of Louis Armstrong (1964, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
- The Bobby Hackett Quartet Plus Vic Dickenson: This Is My Bag (1968 , Project 3): [r]: B+(**)
- Charlie Haden/Egberto Gismonti: In Montreal (1989 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Magico (1979 , ECM): [sp]: B+(*)
- Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Folk Songs (1979 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins/Enrico Pieranunzi: First Song (1990 , Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
- Jim Hall: Jazz Guitar (1957, Pacific Jazz): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jim Hall: Dialogues (1995, Telarc): [sp]: B+(***)
- Bengt Hallberg: Time on My Hands (1994-95 , Improkomp, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
- Scott Hamilton: From the Beginning (1977-78 , Concord, 2CD): [sp]: A-
- Scott Hamilton: Tenorshoes (1979 , Concord): [sp]: B+(***)
- Albert King: The Very Best of Albert King [Blues Masters: The Essential Blues Collection] (1960-73 , Rhino): [cd]: A-
- Return to Forever: The Anthology (1973-76 , Concord, 2CD): [cd]: C
- Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy (1973, Polydor): [cd]: C
- Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Where Have I Known You Before (1974, Polydor): [sp]: C+
- Return to Forever Featuring Chick Coera: No Mystery (1975, Polydor): [sp]: C-
- Return to Forever: Musicmagic (1977, Columbia): [sp]: C-
- Tough Young Tenors: Alone Together (1991, Antilles): [r]: B+(***)
- Junior Wells & the Aces: Live in Boston 1966 (1966 , Delmark): [r]: B+(**)
- Junior Wells: Live at Theresa's 1975 (1975 , Delmark): [r]: B+(***)
Limited Sampling: Records I played parts of, but not enough
to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect,
+ some chance, ++ likely prospect.
- Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 12.5: Compilation II for Improvisers, Jazz Ensemble and Electronics (1990 , Bruce's Fingers): [bc]: ++
- Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 30: Compilation III: For Improvisers, Big Band and Chamber Ensemble (1998, Bruce's Fingers): [bc]: +
- Paul Hession/Alan Wilkinson/Simon H. Fell: Foom! Foom! (1992, Bruce's Fingers): [bc]: +
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict: Denver Sessions (Tapestry) [03-17]
- Sarah Bernadette: Sad Poems on My Phone (Blujazz, EP) [02-13]
- Javier Red's Imaginary Converter: Life & Umbrella (Desafio Candente) [05-12]
- Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place (Pyroclastic) [03-31]
Sunday, February 19, 2023
Speaking of Which
As usual, this is assembled piecewise as I find the pieces, kind of
like an Easter egg hunt. As such, the bits accumulate somewhat randomly,
although given the present political situation some topics inevitably
PS [02-20]: I added a comment on the Washington Post Ukraine editorial.
Top story threads:
Top stories for the week:
DeSantis and Trump: For a primer on these two asshole clowns,
consider how they interact: [02-18]
Inside the collapse of the Trump-DeSantis 'alliance of convenience'.
Lindsey Bever: [2022-05-10]
DeSantis mandates lessons on communism for high school students:
I missed this one at the time (h/t Steven Fraser, below). Florida
passed a law requiring that on Nov. 7 each year, teachers spend at
least 45 minutes lecturing students on the evils of communism. Of
course, back in my day, every day was "Victims of Communism Day,"
which is part of the reason I grew up thinking that everyone in a
position of authority was constantly lying to me. Of course, the
irony is that no one is working harder than DeSantis to make sure
that American students never hear about victims of capitalism, of
racism, of bigotry, of nationalism, of plain stupidity. Many never
will, and presumably that will be good for Republicans, but a few
will get a painful lesson in hypocrisy, and grow up like me.
Ben Burgis: [02-16]
Ron DeSantis Hates Democracy and Freedom.
Fabiola Cineas: [02-15]
Ron DeSantis's war on "woke" in Florida schools, explained.
Steve Contomo/Jeff Zeleny/Fredreka Schouten: [02-19]
Ron DeSantis' use of government power to implement agenda worries some
conservatives. He's pro-corporate, but only as long as the corps
back up his culture war ploys. This sort of abuse of power reminds me
of Tom DeLay's plot to force Washington lobbies to back his cultural
agenda: sure, we'll indulge your corruption, but only if you further
Tim Dickinson: [02-16]
This Christian 'Prophet' Backed Trump in 2020. Now He Says God Favors
DeSantis: Ever notice that God seems to be kinda fickle? Alternate
theory is that his self-proclaimed prophets are phonies.
Henry Louis Gates Jr.: [02-17]
Who's Afraid of Black History?: Link lede was "Ron DeSantis Should
Be Careful of the Company He Keeps."
Margaret Hartmann: [02-13]
Trump's 'Meatball Ron' Nickname Is Better Than 'Ron DeSanctimonious':
Easier to spell, too.
Benjamin Hart: [02-15]
Matt Gaetz Didn't Need That Presidential Pardon After All: Yeah,
but it would have been so cool.
Ed Kilgore: [02-17]
Rick Scott's Revised 'Rescue Plan' Is Still Stuck on Stupid. I
gather he's been shamed into dropping the bit about sunsetting Social
Security and Medicare. I haven't revised my
but even if I credited him with a change of heart, not much else would
have changed. Also see [02-17]:
White House Congratulates Rick Scott For Confessing His Soc Sec Hatin'
ways. It's nice to see the White House not pulling punches over
Scott's trivial concession.
Kenny Stancil: [02-16]
GOP Has Introduced 84 Educational Gag Orders So Far in 2023:
DeSantis is the poster boy for Republican thought control, but is
far from the only one. While you're at it, you might consider the
history of gag rules, especially the famous one from
1836. (If you don't recognize it, maybe a remedial course in
Black History would help?)
Jeff Stein/Josh Dawsey/Isaac Arnsdorf: [02-19]
The former Trump aide crafting the House GOP's debt ceiling playbook:
"The national debt exploded on Russell Vought's watch. Now he wants
Republican lawmakers to play hardball."
Matt Stieb: [02-16]
Here's Every Single Lie Told by George Santos: I've resisted
citing this often-updated article for a month or more, but might
as well log it. Unlike late night comics, I have no particular
interest in this story (other than wondering who was supposed to
do opposition research on him -- I wouldn't want to have that on
my résumé). Also, the title is pretty daunting.
Flying Objects: It's open season, although it's gotten so
silly that even
Biden wants 'sharper rules' on unknown aerial objects.
Ellen Nakashima/Shane Harris/Jason Samenow: [02-14]
US tracked China spy balloon from launch on Hainan Island along unusual
path: This report says the balloon "may have been diverted on an
errant path caused by atypical weather conditions." It also suggests
that, given the balloon was tracked from its launch on Hainan (a large
island in the South China Sea) that the panic that ensued once the
balloon was seen by civilians in Montana was unwarranted. Biden could
have simply announced that we knew about the balloon, had tracked it
since its launch, and considered it harmless.
Chas Danner: [02-18]
Did an F-22 Blow Up an Illinois Club's Hobby Balloon? Perhaps
the doubt is because when a $150 million F-22 shoots a $472,000
AIM-9X Sidewinder at a $100 "pico" balloon there isn't much debris
left to analyze.
Jonathan Guyer: [02-13]
Why the balloon and UFO affairs are a Sputnik moment: "As all
these objects fall, a new space race is rising." The problem starts
with the phrase "Sputnik moment": the original event was turned into
fodder to fuel an arms race that resolve nothing; do the same thing
here and you'll get the same stupid results (or worse).
Fred Kaplan: [02-15]
The Very Serious Lessons We Should Learn From the Balloon Fiasco:
Starts by citing the Nakashima post (above), then adds that both China
and the US blew this incident up into something ridiculous, with their
instinctive claims of innocence, macho posturing, and faux rage. The
net effect was to add fuel to a conflict that neither side really wants.
Not that there aren't factions in the US stupidly spoiling for a fight
(most conspicuously among Congressional Republicans, not that Democrats,
some, following Obama's "pivot to Asia," aren't also encouraging).
Hot Rails to Hell: Mostly on the derailment in East Palestine,
Ohio. Also see Jeffrey St Clair's latest "Roaming Charges" (below) for
a pretty detailed summary.
Ukraine War: The war is approaching its first anniversary,
with a minor Russian offensive near Bakhmut, and not much more news
to report, other than a lot of posturing about how both sides are
resolved to fight on indefinitely, regardless of the costs.
Blaise Malley: [02-17]
Diplomacy Watch: Is the Biden team laying the groundwork for talks?
They still seem to be under the delusion that pre-negotiation posturing
will make a real difference when the only thing that will work is finding
a mutually tolerable agreement -- one that all that posturing, with the
suggestion of bending the enemy to your will, only makes less likely.
Luke Cooper: [01-30]
Ukraine's Neoliberal War Mobilization: "Low taxes, privatization,
and pared-back labor protections could undermine Ukraine's fight
against Russian aggression." One fact that's rarely been mentioned
is that Ukraine's economic performance since independence has been
worse than Russia's. That's a big part of the reason it can make
sense that some parts of Ukraine -- especially ones where Russian
is the first language -- might prefer reunification with Moscow to
continued rule from Kiev. Since the war started, Zelensky has been
pulled toward the US and Europe, mostly by his insatiable demand
for weapons, but nothing comes with no strings attached. He may be
hoping that after spending so much, the west will help Ukraine
rebuild, but in Washington the redevelopment choices are neoliberal
and even worse.
Francesca Ebel/Mary Ilyushina: [02-13]
Russians abandon wartime Russia in historic exodus. "Initial data
shows that at least 500,000, and perhaps nearly 1 million, have left
in the year since the invasion began."
Nicholas Kristof: [02-18]
Biden Should Give Ukraine What It Needs to Win: Some rather huge
hidden assumptions here, starting with the notion that the war can
be won, that Ukraine can win it, that there is a finite recipe of
weapons (and other aid, although Zelensky mostly just wants to talk
about weapons) that can do the trick, and that Biden has it within
his power to deliver them. Also that winning would be a good thing.
Anatol Lieven: [02-14]
Austria should buck the West and welcome Russia to key security
Anton Troianovski/Valerie Hopkins: [02-19]
One Year Into War, Putin Is Crafting the Russia He Craves:
I don't know whether that's an accurate headline, but the images
and descriptions of the propaganda barrage Russia is mounting to
bolster support for the war are unsettling. It's hard to tell how
effective this is, but the idea that defeating Russia in Ukraine
will cause Putin's house of cards to crumble is far from certain.
It's just as likely that, having been brought up on such propaganda,
Putin's successors will be even more gung ho than he is.
Erin Banco/Sarah Anne Aarup/Anastasiia Carrier: [02-18]
Inside the stunning gnrowth of Russia's Wagner Group: The obvious
question this raises is how does Wagner compare with the mercenary
outfits the US uses, like Blackstone?
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [02-16]
The Sy Hersh effect: killing the messenger, ignoring the message.
Remember: means, opportunity, motive. Hersh may not have every detail
right, but can you spin a more plausible story? The main argument
against the US having blown up the pipeline is that it would have
been a really stupid thing to do (if you ever get caught). Again,
I may spend too much time watching crime fiction, but the maxim at
work here is: "criminals do stupid stuff." Ergo, stupidity is not
a defense. It's practically a necessity.
Timothy Snyder: [01-23]
Why the world needs Ukrainian victory: The author, an historian
of the conflicts in 20th century eastern Europe, the study of which
has left him with an outsized hatred of Russia (although at least he
never was a Nazi symp; he started out as a protégé of Tony Judt, who
was perhaps overly excited by the emergence of democratic movements
following the Cold War). I can't imagine what a "Ukrainian victory"
might look like, but I'd be happy to see Russian troops pushed back
to pre-2014 borders (probably what he has in mind), or even to the
separatist borders before last March. Still, the cost of doing so
has already been huge, and will only get worse, so one has to doubt
the value is of protracting the war, especially given the stalemate
of the last six or so months.
Perhaps I might agree that "the world
needs a Russian defeat," but hasn't that already happened? And hasn't
history taught us that defeats (and for that matter "victories") are
often poor predictors of future peace? Perhaps "an utterly defeated
people" (to cite a phrase Israelis have used to describe the goal of
their plot against the Palestinians) isn't the best answer? Still,
Snyder is not just claiming that defeating Russia will be a good
thing in itself. He's arguing that Ukrainian victory will save and
redeem European civilization. And without having the slightest wish
to defend Putin, he's wrong on nearly every point. Quotes are from
his piece (answers to "why does the world need a Ukrainian victory?"),
followed by my brief notes:
- "To halt atrocity. Russia's occupation is genocidal." Not true.
Brutal? Impossible to justify? Sure.
- "To preserve the international legal order." There is no such
thing. Maybe there should be, but there are too many counterexamples,
including the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
- "To end an era of empire." Does this presume that the US, UK,
etc., will dismantle their empires (remember that the US has over
800 military bases abroad) if Russia fails in Ukraine? How does one
cause the other? I don't doubt that some Russians harbor nostalgia
for lost empire, and I don't approve, but fighting to defend fellow
Russians who accidentally found themselves on the wrong side of an
arbitrary border from threats they regarded as existential (one
might say "genocidal," but let's not), is rather limited compared
to, say, the European partition of Africa.
- "To defend the peace project of the European Union." Ukraine is
not part of the EU, so this seems out of bounds. The notion that
Russia is really fighting "against the larger idea that European
states can peacefully cooperate" is specious.
- "To give the rule of law a chance in Russia." Russia has no
shortage of "rule of law," nor is this likely to change regardless
of the outcome of the war. It is true that states at war tend to
become more repressive and less free (as Americans should know,
from our own experience), but what helps is ending the war, not
whether it is counted as a victory or defeat.
- "To weaken the prestige of tyrants." We're so gullible that we
need a war for this? "Fascism is about force, and is discredited
by defeat." Us so-called "premature antifascists" think fascism is
discredited by its acts. Are you suggesting that fascism would be
vindicated by victory?
- "To remind us that democracy is the better system." This assumes
that Russia isn't a democracy, which is the stock propaganda line,
but by most measures it's not much different from Ukraine: both have
elections and multiple parties, with both significantly corrupted by
oligarchs. Ukraine has been more volatile, partly because US and EU
interests have lobbied more there. But unless the war is settled by
some kind of referendum, there is no reason to think that its outcome
will be determined by differences in political system. [*]
- "To lift the threat of major war in Europe." The only reason the
threat exists in the first place is the exclusion of Russia from Europe,
which is defined by NATO and the EU. Defeating Russia in Ukraine may
make Russians meeker, or may make them more bitter and vengeful. Only
cooperation lifts the threat.
- "To lift the threat of major war in Asia." He means "a Chinese
invasion of Taiwan." This would take a long explanation, but in short
that doesn't follow.
- "To prevent the spread of nuclear weapons." More faulty reasoning.
He plays fast and loose here, drawing a conclusion from "if Ukraine
loses," whereas supposedly he's arguing for "Ukrainian victory," as
if there is no middle ground.
- "To reduce the risk of nuclear war." Partly derived from previous,
but also depends on a tautology: a Ukraine victory only happens if
Russia accepts defeat without resorting to nuclear arms, hence the
risk removal is defined into the proposition. Real problem is that
the proposition is the risk. Perhaps reasonable people might conclude
that if the use of nuclear weapons is worse than accepting defeat,
possessing nuclear weapons has no value. But are we dealing with
reasonable people, on either side? And if, perchance, the taboo
against using nuclear weapons is broken, the long-term risk of
nuclear war elsewhere will most likely increase.
- "To head off future resource wars." There is no reason to think
that frustrating this kind of war in one place will dissuade others
from trying it elsewhere. More often than not, the failure of one
war just encourages warriors to try harder next time.
- "To guarantee food supplies and prevent future starvation."
Another case of overgeneralization. Ukraine may be a powerhouse
granary, but pales compared to the threats posed by climate change.
- "To accelerate the shift from fossil fuels." To some extent the
war has already done this, but it is tangential to the outcome, and
in any case is something that should be decided on its own merits,
rather than as a side-effect of war gaming.
- "To affirm the value of freedom." So why not end with something
totally vacuous? Seems par for the course.
[*] When comparing democracies, you might want to consider Julia
Due to Wars and Climate Destruction, US Ranks Worse Than Peers on
'Impunity' Index: "A democratic system of government is insufficient
to fend off impunity." If you're unfamiliar with the concept: "Impunity
is the growing instinct of choice in the global order. It represents a
dangerous world view that laws and norms are for suckers." As best I
can tell, Russia ranks worse than China, which ranks worse than the
US, which is somewhere close to the median on a list of 160 countries.
Washington Post Editorial Board: [02-18]
How to break the stalemate in Ukraine: On reading the title, my
first thought was the way must be to press harder for a ceasefire and
a sensible settlement, since that's the only way the war can possibly
end. But no, they insist that "the West's overarching goal must be
ensuring that the Russian tyrant gains nothing by his aggression.
To allow an outcome that rewards the Kremlin in any way would be a
moral travesty." As opposed to their alternative, which prolongs
and intensifies the destruction and slaughter. They then go into
a long shopping list of weapons systems they want to send Ukraine.
And they insist the US should throw caution to the wind: "But a
principal lesson from the past year is that the risk of escalation
Nuclear weapons? "As for the Russian autocrat, he
has nothing left to escalate with other than manpower and nuclear
weapons. If the West adequately arms Ukraine, he cannot win with
the former and is very unlikely to resort to the latter, which
would alienate his most important ally, China. A tactical strike
by Russia would be one of history's greatest acts of self-immolation,
cementing Russia's pariah status for decades." The logic here is
hard to fathom, especially given that nuclear deterrence depends
on the mutual understanding of logic and nothing more. If the West
doesn't respect Russia's nuclear threat, and no longer shows that
respect by limiting its military response, why shouldn't Russia
follow through on its threat? If Russia is rational enough not to
use nuclear weapons, why isn't it rational enough to negotiate?
After all, it will only be "self-immolation" if the US decides to
retalliate massively -- a separate decision which should make the
US even more of a world pariah than Russia. After all, wouldn't a
US strategic nuclear attack on Russia also be self-immolation?
Thus far, both Biden and Putin have been sane enough not to
paint themselves into a corner where they have to follow through
on the dismal logic of their war strategists. Still, they have to
endure insanity like this editorial.
Peter Beinart: [02-19]
You Can't Save Democracy in a Jewish State. Of course, it's only
ever been a slogan. From 1949-67, Palestinians within the Green line
were able to vote, but subject to martial law, and Palestinians who
fled the atrocities (like the mass murder at Deir Yassin) were denied
re-entry as their homes and land was confiscated. After 1967, martial
law was relieved, but reinstated in the occupied territories, where
Palestinians were denied even the vote. As settlements encroached on
Palestinian lands, a two-tier system of (in)justice was implemented.
Now the right-wing wants to be able to strip citizenship and force
into exile those few Palestinians who still have it, and they want
to prevent the courts from reviewing whatever they do. Yet still
zionists liked to brag that Israel was "the only democracy" in the
region. Given that "democracy" is one of those slogans the US is
supposedly fighting for in Ukraine and elsewhere, you'd think the
loss of it in Israel might matter, but to the folks to direct US
foreign policy, it doesn't.
Ryan Cooper: [02-17]
Elon Musk Shows How Oligarchy Poisons the Speech Commons: "Free
speech is not when one rich guy gets to shout 1,000 times louder than
anyone else." And not just any rich guy: the one who now owns the
platform had Twitter tweak its algorithms to promote Musk's own
tweets. By the way, the least free speech in America is still
advertising, where the volume is simply scaled by money, and the
motives are always suspect, and often downright fraudulent. For
an example, see: Christian Downie/Robert Brulle [02-19]
Research Finds Big Oil's Trade Group Allies Outspent Clean Energy
by a Whopping 27x.
David Dayen: [02-03]
Amazon's Endgame: "The company is transitioning to become an
unavoidable gatekeeper in all commerce." It's really hard to get
a handle on how many angles a company like Amazon is playing to get
control over virtually all consumer spending. ("The real danger from
Amazon is that is invisibly takes a cut from everybody: consumers,
businesses, even governments.") The other thing that's hard to get
a grip on is that while this works mostly due to proximate monopoly
power, it's based on network effects and efficiencies of scale that
are impossible to compete with, so traditional antimonopoly remedies
(divestments, standing up competitors) won't work. What might help
would be to treat those parts of the business as natural monopolies
and strictly regulate them. Or one could create public utilities to
compete with them while eliminating many of the most onerous aspects
of the business (like the capture and sale of personal data). Of
course, a regulatory regime that would expose Amazon's side-dealing
would help make alternatives more competitive.
Huntger DeRensis: [02-15]
How a Super Bowl whitewash of Tillman cover-up was a helpful
reminder. I've long felt that the only reasons people join the
military are delusion and desperation. NFL star Tillman wasn't
desperate. There is some evidence that his delusions were lifting
before he was killed by other American soldiers, but that fact
itself should disabuse one of some of the most common delusions,
including the notion that the military serves the nation in any
substantive way, and that joining it is somehow heroic. much of
what I know about Tillman specifically comes from Jon Krakauer's
book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman,
who takes the whole macho/hero thing very seriously.
Lauren Fadiman: [02-13]
How a For-Profit Healthcare System Generates Mistrust of Medicine.
I haven't been looking for support on such an obvious point, but did
stumble across this:
Steve Fraser: [02-16]
The Spectre of "Woke Communism". Explains that DeSantis's rant
about "woke corporations" isn't a particularly novel idea: irate
right-wingers have a long history of conflating "Bankers and
Also at TomDispatch:
Andrew Bacevich: [02-12]
Tanks for Nuttin': Or "Giving Whataboutism a Chance." Tipped me
off to the silly Snyder piece above. As for "whataboutism": "When
the Russian president embarked on his war in 2022, he had no idea
what he was getting into, any more than George W. Bush did in 2003."
Also: "Classifying Russia as a de facto enemy of the civilized world
has effectively diminished the urgency of examining out own culture
Julia Gledhill/William D Hartung: [02-14]
Merger Mania in the Military-Industrial Complex: Hartung is a
long-term critic of Defense spending, with several books on the
subject, going back to And Weapons for All (1994), and
How Much Are You Making on the War, Daddy? A Quick and Dirty
Guide to War Profiteering in the Bush Administration (2003).
So I'm a bit surprised that in looking at the latest scandals,
they don't mention the wave of defense contractor mergers in the
1990s (like Boeing-Douglas and Lockheed-Martin). Those were
supposedly guided by the Defense Department on the theory that
post-Cold War they wanted to reduce the number of competitors
for a shrinking pie. (Given the infamous "revolving door" take
that assertion with a grain of salt.) Of course, thanks to the
CIA's backing of Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, and the
neocon plot to "garrison the world," the pie actually expanded,
and the megacorporations spawned by the mergers became even more
politically influential than ever -- leading to this latest round
While it made sense during WWII to temporarily convert industry
to war production by guaranteeing high, low-risk profits (contracts
were typically "cost + 10%"), it was foolish to build a permanent
arms industry on that basis, specifically because it created a huge
independent political force lobbying for more war. The result is
that US foreign policy is now largely subordinate to the continued
profit of the arms manufacturers. Absent this corrupt influence, a
sensible foreign policy would focus on the need for peace, fairness,
and cooperation between all nations, instead of splitting the world
into permanent conflict zones. One example is the Abraham Accords,
where Israel and its former Arab enemies puy aside their differences
so that both can freely buy American arms to use against their own
people. Another is the expansion of NATO with its vilification of
Russia, eventually prodding Putin into creating the current Ukraine
bonanza. And then there's the militarization of what are basically
trade disputes with China. The latter hasn't blown up like Russia,
but if/when it does the consequences could be far worse.
Also relevant here is Stephen F Eisenman: [02-17]
The Insecure Superpower.
Amy Goldstein/Mary Jordan/Kevin Sullivan: [02-19]
Former president opts for home hospice care for final days:
Jimmy Carter, 98. I've listed him among the short list of era-ending
one-term presidents, along with Buchanan, Hoover, and Trump (a slightly
looser definition of era might also pick up John Adams, and maybe even
John Quincy Adams). Of those, Carter most resembled Hoover: an extremely
talented technocrat who faced bad times and made them worse through dumb
choices. When I look back now, the thing I'm most struck by is how many
of his choices anticipated turns toward disaster that we now associate
mostly with his successor, Ronald Reagan. He appointed Paul Volcker,
who crashed and burned the economy to smash unions and slay inflation.
He kicked off the fashion for deregulation. He exacerbated the Cold War
with his Olympics shenanigans, and more seriously by arming jihadis in
Afghanistan. He misplayed Iran, leaving a conflict that festers to this
day. He paved the way for the neoliberal turn in the Democratic Party,
a dead weight that still exercises undue influence.
On the other hand,
give him credit for actually doing something constructive about Israel
(even if he mostly rationalized it as countering Soviet influence in
Egypt). He negotiated the Begin-Sadat accord that guaranteed that Israel
would never again have to face a united front of Arab enemies. Less
known is how he backed Israel down from intervening in Lebanon in 1978.
Four years later, Reagan gave Begin the green light, leading to a
17-year occupation that failed in every respect, leaving Hezbollah
as the dominant power. Carter has often been maligned for being
critical of Israel (especially for his 2006 book, Palestine
Peace Not Apartheid, which is worth scanning through, even
though the reality now is worse than apartheid), but he was a truer
friend to Israel in 1978-79 than any of his more popularly obsequious
Also give Carter credit for a remarkable post-presidency, a
record of public service unique in American history, one that
worked on many levels, ranging from the mudane (Habitat for
Humanity) to high diplomacy. (His mission to North Korea, which
Clinton's people subsequently bungled, could well have nipped
that conflict in the bud.) I had hopes that Clinton and/or Obama
might have followed suit, but they opted instead to hobnob with
the rich and grow their fortunes (with the bad faith effectively
killing Hillary Clinton's political ambitions). At root, that's
because Carter was a fundamentally different kind of person --
one rarely seen in American politics. As one recent piece put it,
The un-celebrity president: Shunning riches, living modestly in
Laurie Hertzel: [02-15]
Is owning a lot of books a mark of middle-class smugness? This
popped up in the wasteland of bits that is my morning newspaper,
and rubbed me bad enough I decided to save the link. Smug? Sounds
like someone is insecure.
Ashley Parker/Justine McDaniel: [02-17]
From Freddie Gray to Tyre Nichols, early police claims often
misleading: "Misleading" is putting it mildly.
Can the Republican establishment finally stop Trump this time?
As someone who regards the "Republican establishment" as even more
malevolent than Trump, this is not a contest that interests me, but
you're welcome to consider it. Sure, based on the four years when
Trump was president, you could counter that Trump = the Republican
establishment (for policy, admin, and judges) + a media-obsessed
dose of crazy and extra risk of volatility, and that combination
of risk probably makes him worse. But don't lose sight of how bad
the other blokes are (or their handlers and donors).
A juicy new legal filing reveals who really controls Fox News:
"As Trump spread his stolen election lies, Fox was terrified of
alienating its own audience, emails and texts show." This comes
from Fox internal email collected by the Dominion Voting vs. Fox
Also: Erik Wemple: [02-17]
Fox News is worse than you thought;
and Matt Ford: [02-18]
The Fox News Text Messages Prove the Hosts All Know They're Craven
Liars; and Ben Beckett: [02-18]
Fox News Knew Donald Trump's Election Fraud Claims Were False. They
Broadcast Them Anyway. Texts uncovered in the Dominion Voting
lawsuit against Fox.
The rise of the Trump-Russia revisionists: Latest summary of the
latest analyses of the public reporting of Trump-Russia entanglement,
if you still give a whit. I've said my bit many times over. For this
one, note the chart comparing pre-2016 election search interest in
"Trump Russia" with the alleged Clinton scandals (email, foundation,
wikileaks). Even if Trump was maligned unfairly, the effect was much
less than the insinuation of scandal re Clinton -- something both
the FBI and mainstream media should be ashamed of (and not just
because it tipped the election to Trump, a more disastrous outcome
than the mainstream media, despite all their hyperventilation on
Russia, prepared us for). The other thing that should be noted is
that if reporters had a realistic concept of how political actors
work, they could have dismissed 80% of the bullshit out of hand,
instead of breathlessly repeating it for amusement.
Nathan J Robinson: [02-16]
The Apocalyptic Delusions of the Silicon Valley Elite: Interview
with Douglas Rushkoff on "how the super-rich plan to escape the world
after they've destroyed it." Rushkoff is what you'd call a social
critic, with a dozen-plus nonfiction books (plus some novels) since
1994, most related to tech. His latest is germane here: Survival
of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires. By
the way, I've picked up a copy of Robinson's new book Responding
to the Right. You can read an overview
Jeffrey St Clair: [02-17]
Roaming Charges: Train in Vain: Leads off with a lengthy report
on the East Palestine, Ohio train disaster -- probably the best piece
to read on the subject. Also includes significant sections on the
Seymour Hersh pipeline piece, which he doesn't accept at face value
but also doesn't reject out of hand ("the lack of any follow-up
reporting from the New York Times or Washington Post, to either
confirm or discredit Hersh's story, is one of the more shameful
episodes in a dismal couple of decades for American journalism").
And some pertinent comments on the art of shooting things down,
as well as more statistics and details about prisoning America.
One stat I basically knew is that we're running more than one
mass shooting per day in 2023. One I didn't realize is that there
have been over 1,000 train derailments (basically, 3 per day) for
many year running. Also includes a
L7, about assholes and their wars.
Monday, February 13, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 38 albums, 8 A-list,
Music: Current count 39593  rated (+38), 42  unrated (-6: 14 new, 28 old).
Rated count is high enough, but since I decided not to keep a
tracking file (like I've done for many years, including
2022 with 5046 albums) I've
been blissfully unaware of new non-jazz releases. On the other
hand, there is a long list previously unheard music in my
Penguin Guide 4-star list,
and that suffices for now.
The latest plan is to suck up the recent music reviews into the
book drafts, then empty them out into
a redesigned website, so I figure anything that helps patch up old
gaps is probably worthwhile. On the other hand, I've given up on
trying to stay current. Maybe I'm still enough of a jazz critic to
play catch up later on, but that'll depend on what else I manage
to get going.
This week it's all been catch up. I finally added my Oct. 22
Book Roundup blurbs to my
Book Notes compendium
(beware: count is now 6145 books, 340k words, a file that should
be broken up and stuffed into a database). I've also finally done
the indexing for the
files, including the Music Weeks roll ups.
I'm still planning on doing the frozen snapshot of the
2022 list by the end of
February, although I haven't actually added anything to the
list this week (or last, as best I recall).
Incoming mail has been relatively high the last few weeks, so the
drop to zero this week probably means little.
I wrote a fairly long
Speaking of Which yesterday. One thing I didn't go into is
that Democrats could start to divide over foreign policy, where
Biden has resurrected
the Blob. Left democrats have generally tolerated this, probably
because Biden has been more accommodating on domestic policy, and
because he handled the Afghanistan debacle with aplomb, but there
are lots of obvious pitfalls, including some potential disasters,
that could ultimately split the Democratic Party, not unlike Lyndon
Johnson's Vietnam War. I don't see anyone -- even Sanders or Warren --
taking these risks seriously, let alone trying to steer foreign
policy back onto a saner course. On the other hand, there is a
pretty obvious platform that someone could challenge Biden on --
although the chances of winning in 2024 are miniscule, the odds of
being right in the long run are much greater.
As noted, I ordered a couple of books
from the very prolific Nathan J. Robinson, whose
Current Affairs is by far the most useful of the explicitly
socialist websites I've seen. (I regularly consult
Counterpunch, but find much less there that I feel like forwarding --
Jeffrey St Clair's "Roaming Charges" is an exception, mostly for its
breadth of coverage but also because I don't mind a little snark.)
I'm midway through Timothy Shenk's Realigners, which is to
say I finished the profile on W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) and am deep
inside the one on Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) -- neither of whom
realigned anything, but got tossed back and forth trying to find a
political party they could identify with. That was, of course, much
harder for Du Bois, who I grew up more familiar with.
always been an enigma to me, as I've never understood why so many
people accorded him such great respect and authority. From what I've
read, I don't see that changing. I turned hard against Cold War
Liberals during the Vietnam War, and while he wasn't much of a
presence then, he seems to have been one of their prototypes and
heroes. One thing I didn't know was that he coined the phrase
"the great society," then wound up writing a book called The
Next up is the horrible Phyllis Schlafly, although the chapter
I'm more worried about is the one on Barack Obama, whose idea of
realignment seems to have been to line up Wall Street and Silicon
Valley behind the Democrats, and take the rest of us for a ride
where the superrich pull away from everyone else.
New records reviewed this week:
- Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (2022 , Ayler): [cd]: B+(***)
- Jo Lawry: Acrobats (2022 , Whirlwind): [cd]: A-
- Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls (2022 , Cellar Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (2022 , Troubadour Jass): [cd]: B+(***)
- Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (2022 , Yes): [bc]: A-
- Eldad Tarmu: Tarmu Jazz Quartet (2022 , Queen of Bohemia): [cd]: B+(**) [03-01]
- Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project: Mi Hogar (2022 , Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**) [02-13]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Ray Brown: The Best of the Concord Years (1973-93 , Concord, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
- Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York (2001 , Stretch): [r]: B+(**)
- The Sonny Criss Orchestra: Sonny's Dream (Birth of the New Cool) (1968, Prestige): [yt]: B+(***)
- Meredith D'Ambrosio: It's Your Dance (1985, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
- Lars Danielsson: Poems (1991, Dragon): [r]: A-
- Stefano D'Anna Trio: Leapin' In (1991 , Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
- Stefano D'Anna Quartet: Carousel (1998, Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
- Stefano D'Anna: Runa (2003 , Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
- Carlo Actis Dato: Ankara Twist (1989 , Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
- Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Bagdad Boogie (1992, Splasc(H): [r]: B+(**)
- Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Blue Cairo (1995 , Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(**)
- Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Istanbul Rap (2003 , YVP): [r]: A-
- Wolfgang Dauner/Charlie Mariano/Dino Saluzzi: Pas De Trois (1989, Mood): [r]: B+(**)
- Danny D'Imperio: Blues for Philly Joe (1991 , V.S.O.P.): [sp]: A-
- Danny D'Imperio: Hip to It (1992 , V.S.O.P.): [sp]: B+(**)
- Johnny Dodds: The Chronological Johnny Dodds 1927 (1927 , Classics): [r]: A-
- Arne Domnérus Quartet: Sugar Fingers (1993, Phontastic): [sp]: B+(***)
- Kenny Drew Jr.: Third Phase (1989, Jazz City): [sp]: B+(***)
- Dutch Swing College Band: Live in 1960 (1960 , Philips): [sp]: B+(***)
- Billy Eckstine: Everything I Have Is Yours: The MGM Years (1947-58 , Verve, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
- Marty Ehrlich: Pliant Plaint (1987 , Enja): [r]: B+(**)
- Marty Ehrlich: New York Child (1995 , Enja): [sp]: B+(***)
- Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson: With Eddie Locke and His Friends Feat. Budd Johnson, Tommy Flanagan, Major Holley: Recorded in Concert at St. Peter's Church, NYC, May 20, 1978 (1978 , Storyville): [r]: B+(**)
- Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Three Gentlemen From Chikago (1981, Moers Music): [yt]: B+(**)
- Bill Evans: The Brilliant (1980 , Timeless): [sp]: A-
- John Fedchock: New York Big Band (1992 , Reservoir): [sp]: B+(***)
- Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band (1956 , Vik): [r]: B+(***)
- Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band: Volume 2 (1956 , Vik): [r]: B+(**)
- Dave Liebman: Drum Ode (1974 , ECM): [sp]: A-
- David Liebman/Richard Beirach: Double Edge (1985 , Storyville): [sp]: B+(**)
- Dave Liebman Group: Miles Away (1994 , Owl): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, February 12, 2023
Speaking of Which
Started Friday, but various things distracted me along the way,
and this feels exceptionally jumbled at the moment. For what it's
worth, I started with the Jonathan Chait pieces, and only decided
to include the bit on the Turkey/Syria earthquake very late. Also
appearing late was the Thomas Friedman Biden-to-Israel column.
You'd have to look back at
past weeks to get the context.
Top story threads:
Biden's State-of-the-Union Address: I never watch speeches
like this (or like anything, actually), but I've seen bits since, and
for once the coverage helped. The Sanders quotes in the Kilgore piece
are especially jaw-dropping.
Bill Scher: [02-08]
Biden Concedes Nothing in His State of the Union Address: "A deft,
defiant Democratic president outfoxes the Republicans in front of the
nation and smartly stresses antitrust and consumer rights." Scher
contrasts this with Clinton in 1995 and Obama in 2011, who proposed
spending cuts to placate new Republican majorities in the House.
Part of the reason may be that the Republicans' narrow win has been
widely spun as a failure, so Biden feels less need to triangulate.
But also Democrats are sick and tired of the imperious demands of
the right, and have resolved to fight back, not least because they
have started to have confidence in their own plans, rather than
thinking all they have to do is offer something slightly more
palatable than what the nihilist Republicans are demanding.
Jonathan Chait: [02-10]
Joe Biden Is a Mediocre Liberal: "But he's proved to be a successful
president anyway." This is kind of a silly article, but at least is less
pretentious than another one that I can imagine: that someone slipped
Biden a book on the New Deal, and he decided to adopt FDR's penchant
for just trying things, going whichever direction seemed to work best.
Of course, his options have been limited, given lack of majority support
in Congress. The fault there is in thinking that he's acting according
to some plan. Nothing in his history suggests anything but opportunism,
but that's left him flexible enough to adapt to the times.
David Dayen: [02-10]
The Twilight of the Deficit Hawks: "Democrats have stopped being
the willing partner in a great conspiracy to slash social insurance."
Looks at a deficit hawk group called Committee for a Responsible Federal
Budget, where the board is amply stacked with has-been Democrats who've
long been willing pawns in schemes to cut social welfare. "The problem
for Republicans is that they have always wanted Democrats as willing
partners, in no small part because then they could try to pin the blame
on Democrats. In terms of actual principles, of course, the GOP doesn't
care about deficits; under every Republican president for the last 40
years, it has happily supported giant deficit-busting tax cuts. Democratic
rejection of deficit politics leaves Republicans politically exposed."
Ed Kilgore: [02-08]
Sarah Huckabee Sanders Showed That the GOP Is Truly Not 'Normal'.
The quotes from Sanders' rebuttal speech are so disconnected from
reality it's hard to decipher them as anything but a catechism:
words repeated from memory as a testimony to a faith that is way
beyond experience or perception. She says "the dividing line in
America is no longer between left and right. The choice is between
normal or crazy." She came down clearly on the side of crazy.
Paul Krugman: [02-09]
War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Democrats Are Radicals:
"Delivering the Republican response, Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed
that the United States is divided between two parties, one of which
is mainly focused on bread-and-butter issues that matter to regular
people, while the other is obsessed with waging culture war. This is
also true. But she got her parties mixed up."
Frank Bruni: [02-07]
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Queen of Having It Both Ways.
Paul Waldman/Greg Sargent: [02-08]
Sarah Huckabee Sanders's strange "woke" rant reveals a big GOP
problem: Republicans like to rant about "woke," but how many
people have any idea what it means? (I mean, other than bad people?
Ones true patriots should fear and loathe?)
Eric Levitz: [02-08]
The GOP's Heckles Were a Gift to Biden's Reelection Campaign.
Harold Meyerson: [02-08]
Biden Forges a New Democratic Paradigm: "The president repudiates
the neoliberal ideologies of the past and puts the party on solid
economic and political ground."
Timothy Noah: [02-09]
And Now, the Republicans Are the Party of Defending Businesses That
Rip People Off: "Biden was right to talk about junk fees in his
SOTU. And Republicans are playing into his hand." Nor is it just
junk fees. Once Republicans disposed of the idea of there even being
such a thing as a public interest, they opened the door to all kinds
of profit-seeking, even fraud. Their push to deregulation basically
encourages companies to take all sorts of profitable liberties. And
their efforts to cripple enforcement, not least by the IRS, appear
designed to promote financial crime even in cases they're not able
to explicitly legitimize.
Paul Waldman: [02-10]
Sorry, Republicans, no one should trust your word on Social Security.
Democrats have long accused Republicans of wanting to kill Social
Security and Medicare, and they've always been able to produce
evidence to support their case, but somehow the charge has rarely
had much impact. The charges don't stick because most people doubt
that Republicans would be so foolish as to dismantle such popular
programs. But while there are cranks who want nothing less, serious
Republican efforts aim to merely knick, cripple, and ultimately
eviscerate the program. And often, as with Bush's 2005 privatization
ploy, they are hyped as plans not to kill but to save the programs.
That one failed not just because it was unpopular but because there
was no way to make it work. But many other ploys have slipped into
law: higher eligibility ages, reduced cost-of-living adjustments,
increased co-payments on Medicare -- each designed to make the
program less appealing, and therefore less popular. And no less
ominous are the scams like Medicare Advantage, which add cost to
the program, making it less efficient, and presumably untenable
in the long run. What Democrats finally seem to be wising up to
is that to protect Social Security and Medicare, they need to
improve the benefits -- and watch Republicans squirm to resist,
instead of just issuing denials and carrying on as usual.
By the way, one thing that helps Republican denials of intent
to destroy Social Security and Medicare is their ability to get
the "liberal press" to editorialize on their behalf. See Dean
The Washington Post Wants to Cut Social Security and Medicare
(Yeah, What Else Is New?).
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [02-07]
Biden speeds through Ukraine, China in soaring State of the Union:
"Just 200 words out of a 7300-word speech devoted to a war consuming
our attention -- and $113 billion in resources -- for the last year."
What's the opposite of "wag the dog"? Arthur Vandenberg's prescription
was that in order to sell a massive military outlay, you first have to
scare the hell out of the people. But for Washington today, it's so
reflexive you scarcely have to mention it.
The Republican House: And elsewhere, basically anywhere they
are given license to plunder and a voice to spew their nonsense.
Li Zhou: [02-11]
The House GOP's many, many investigations, explained.
Matt Ford: [02-09]
House Republicans Want to Take Away D.C.'s Right to Govern Itself.
Ed Kilgore: [02-10]
Mitch McConnell Can't Stop Rick Scott's Self-destructive Spree.
Amanda Marcotte: [02-10]
Republicans are now a collection of crybabies: "Republican
narcissism is off-putting to most people, but it does resonate in
the MAGA base, where self-pity over truly dumb stuff is the norm."
Dana Milbank: [02-10]
Yes, weaponization committee. We are all out to get you.
Collects several stories, mostly on how paranoid Republicans feel
victimized, and why none of it is their fault (e.g., "McCarthy
blames Biden for House Republicans State of the Union hooliganism").
Some previous Milbank pieces relevant here: [02-10]
The new House majority uses the levers of power to stoke paranoia;
Can you govern on a lie? House Republicans give it a try.
Abby Zimet: [02-02]
Disorder in the House: Frauds, Dimwits and Grenades 'R Us; also [02-11]
Dispatches From the Cave of Crazy: These People Are Trash.
Jacqueline Alemany/Alice Crites: [02-10]
The making of Anna Paulina Luna: It's not just George Santos who
"embellished" a resume. For more, see Areeba Shah: [02-10]
MAGA Republican's claims about her background in dispute.
Trump and DeSantis: We might as well combine their latest
stunts and blunders, as the differences rarely matter.
Josh Dawsey: [02-11]
Trump campaign paid researchers to prove 2020 fraud but kept findings
secret: Who wants to report there's nothing to report here?
Anthony DiMaggio: [02-10]
White Supremacy 2.0: DeSantis's Big Brother Assault on Higher
Kathryn Joyce: [02-10]
"The Florida of today is the America of tomorrow": Ron DeSantis's
New College takeover is just the beginning of the right's higher
Michael Kranish: [02-11]
After helping prince's rise, Trump and Kushner benefit from Saudi
funds: The real graft we always knew was coming.
Eric Levitz: [02-10]
Liberals Shouldn't Fear Ron DeSantis: This curious title is basically
a rejoinder to an opinion piece by Pamela Paul [02-09] --
What Liberals Can Learn From Ron DeSantis -- which ultimately
come up empty, other than suggesting that if someone as bad as Trump
can win, someone as bad as DeSantis could too. Despite the title,
Levitz doesn't dispute that point. What he argues against is the
idea that a Democrat could better compete against DeSantis by
stealing a bit of his thunder. Given that DeSantis has basically
synthesized the worst of Trump demagoguery, the worst of Pence
sanctimoniousness, and the worst of Ryan economics, I can't think
of anything there you'd want to get closer to. None of those traits
are more than marginally popular much less appealing, so the obvious
thing to do is to hang him on them. All you need is a Democrat who
will go in for the kill. While Biden wouldn't be anywhere near my
first pick, that's one thing he seems to be up for.
Heather Digby Parton: [02-10]
Donald Trump just neutralized Ron DeSantis: "Trump is smartly
running against DeSantis from the right on cultural issues and from
the left on the economy." No real reason to call Trump smart here.
He's running with his instincts, which is go crazy on culture war
trigger issues, and to waffle on economics. DeSantis and all other
Republicans -- especially whoever gets the Koch money -- will leave
him infinite room to assure his supporters he's not that bad. But
all we've seen so far is that he's fond of tariffs, and likes low
interest rates -- Powell was the more dovish of two candidates for
the Fed he was offered, and ultimately not dovish enough for Trump.
Alex Shephard: [02-09]
Trump Gives DeSantis a Taste of His Own Medicine: "After years
of tarring his opponents as groomers and pedophilers, the Florida
governor is on the receiving end of his favorite slur."
Peter Wade: [02-12]
College Board Hits Back at DeSantis Over African American Studies
Alex Bonzini-Vender: [01-20]
What Italy's Failures to Stop Berlusconi Teach Us About Preventing a
Death to Flying Things: That was the nickname of a 19th century
infielder, Bob Ferguson (1845-94), supposedly for his skill at catching
pop ups and line drives, but before long Joe Biden will be laying claim
to it. [PS: And then Biden and Justin Trudeau ordered
a third object shot down over Canadian airspace.]
Ukraine War: Both sides appear to be planning offensives,
confident enough they can ignore the dire need for ceasefire and a
negotiated settlement. Meanwhile, big story was Seymour Hersh's
article on the NordStream pipeline sabotage. Beyond the White House
issuing the expected denial, I haven't seen much commentary,
particularly from the Europeans most directly affected.
Connor Echols: [02-10]
Diplomacy Watch: Lavrov shores up support for Russia in Africa.
Luke Cooper: [01-30]
Ukraine's Neoliberal War Mobilization: "You can't fight wars with
neoliberal economics," but austerity programs have led to fracturing
and war elsewhere (e.g., Yugoslavia). While Ukraine is fighting for
its independence from Russia, it is increasingly indebted to the US
and Europe, whose future generosity is by no means assured: in fact,
the economic regimes long pushed by the US and Germany have more often
led to stagnation and impoverishment.
Dave DeCamp: [02-09]
GOP Resolution to End Support for Ukraine War: Actually, it's just
Matt Gaetz and ten of his cohort, so no one but Kevin McCarthy is likely
to get bent out of shape over this threat. They call it "The Ukraine
Fatigue Resolution," which should make for amusing op-ads. Blaise
Malley [02-09] also has the story:
Gaetz introduces 'Ukraine Fatigue' resolution.
Chris Hedges: [01-29]
Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong. I'm merely noting this, not
having read much by him recently. While his railing against US
imperial hubris is well-founded, it's not clear to me that his
detailed understanding of Ukraine is. I also glanced at Hedges'
Woke Imperialism, which reveals him to be a strange bedfellow
in the anti-woke pile on. I'd say that the ability to recognize
and the desire to oppose one form of discrimination (racial)
would make one more likely to identify and oppose others (even
Seymour Hersh: [02-08]
How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline. Detective stories
have drummed into us the critical trinity of means, opportunity, and
motive. People were quick to point the finger at Russia, but they
could have produced the same effect by closing the valve, without
the enormous future cost of repairs, so that never made any sense.
Ukraine probably had the most motive, but means? Only the US checks
all three boxes (especially with Norway's collusion), but you'd
think exposure would be awfully embarrassing, especially in Germany.
Jeffrey St Clair addresses this in this week's "Roaming Charges"
Anatol Lieven: [02-10]
Crimea Is a Powder Keg. I've been saying all along that there
needs to be an honest referendum on where the people of Crimea want
to align (with Russia or Ukraine). Same for other contested oblasts,
although refugees complicate things, especially in areas which have
seen the most intense fighting. (There are also border issues: do
you hold a referendum over all of Donetsk, or just the portion --
either now or before the 2022 invasion -- controlled by Russia?)
I've also been saying that Ukraine would be better off without the
breakaway territories. That doesn't sit easily with those who want
to inflict the maximum defeat on Russia, but haven't they been
indulged enough already? Lieven's review of Crimean history just
underscores my position.
Eve Ottenberg: [02-10]
The Leopard's Tale: US Weapons Makers on a Marketing Spree.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [02-10]
Pentagon wants to revive top secret commando program in Ukraine.
Much unexplained here, including the word "restart." It's hard to
see how US control of missile targeting intelligence falls short of
US direction of Ukrainian forces.
Dean Baker: [02-05]
Ending the Cesspool in Pharmaceuticals by Taking Away Patent Monopolies,
The NYT Tells Us that Drugs Are Cheap, Government-Granted Monopolies
Make Them Expensive. Baker has been almost alone in flogging this
horse, but it's an important point, and even more important than he
seems to recognize. The problem with patents isn't just that they
grant companies legal power to fleece the public. (One's tempted to
say "tax," given the word's arbitrary overtones.) They also reflect
a worldview where all wealth derives from property, as they create
new classes of property the wealthy can exploit. But they also have
the exact opposite effect of what their proponents claim: they stifle
innovation, by hacking up public knowledge and assigning exclusive
control to companies motivated by mere profit-seeking. The elect
claim them, then exclude others from developing them further. In
a patent-free world, anyone could take an idea, develop it, making
it public for others to develop further, as the knowledge developed
would be gratis everywhere. Perhaps nowhere do we see the corrosive
effects of patents than in world trade talks, where rich countries
insist others submit to their market discipline and pay tribute to
their arbitrary property grants. Pharmaceuticals are simply one of
the most morally hazardous products: patents give companies the
power to demand: "your money or your life." The Covid-19 pandemic
shows how short-sighted this is.
Michael Lind, Case Study in the Perils of Discourse-Poisoning: "How
an intellectual talks himself into believing the GOP is the left-wing
party." What occasioned this was a piece by Lind called
The Power-Mad Utopians, which argues "America needs a broad popular
front to stop the revolution from above that is transforming the country."
Chait summarizes Lind's complaints about what he calls "the 'Green Project'
(support for clean energy), the 'Quota Project' (affirmative action), and
the 'Androgyny Project' (transgender rights)." Chait points out that while
there are factions on the left pushing such arguments, the actual policies
Democrats push fall far short. And he wonders why Lind seems to have
abandoned his earlier focus on class to embrace culture war reaction.
Those of us who have followed Lind know that he occasionally has solid
insights -- he pointed out that libertarianism has indeed been tried,
as what we now call feudalism; his 2004 book on Bush, Made in Texas,
was one of the period's sharpest critiques, building as it did on his
neoconservatism -- he has also on occasion proved remarkably
stupid (as in his 1999 book, Vietnam: The Necessary War).
For what it's worth, I think there is some value in critiquing
utopian tendencies on the left (as on the right). But I'd say
that the way to do that is to elect sensible Democrats who focus
on real problems and how to mitigate or even solve them, as opposed
to naysayers and outrage merchants who have nothing to offer but
force and collateral damage. And I have to point out that sometimes
Lind's cleverness gets the better of him (e.g., what can "The Trump
presidency was the Thermidorian Reaction to the radical Bush
revolution" possibly mean?).
Columbia Journalism Review Had a Different Russiagate Story --
and Spiked It: Chait complains that Jeff Gerth's CJR
essay "worked backward from the conclusion that Trump had been
vindicated and used a parallel to the media's coverage of Iraq's
alleged weapons of mass destruction. . . . Proceeding from the
premise that Trump had been smeared by the press, Gerth attacked
the media's coverage of the issue." He then impugns CJR's motives
by citing "a very different Russia story" they "commissioned, and
killed": one that looked into The Nation's "pro-Russian
stance" (attributed largely to editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and
her late husband, Stephen F. Cohen). I'll leave it to you to sort
out the conflict in Chait's mind.
But I will note that I've always
been sympathetic to Cohen's opposition to efforts to gin up a new
cold war against Russia, which was always central to his critique
of the "Russiagate" hysteria. True, I thought he sometimes tried
too hard to sympathize with Putin, who I've long regarded as a
very repellant political figure -- my worries about regenerating
cold war hysteria have more to do with the damage such attitudes
cause to American domestic and foreign policy, not least the risk
of prodding Russia into war, as has now happened. (While I blame
Putin for intervening in Ukraine both in 2014 and invading in
2022, I seriously doubt that would have happened absent the long
drum-roll of American arms propagandists.)
What bothered me about Russiagate was never the truth or falsity
of the charges -- a mixed record, as far as I can tell -- but the
subtexts: the desire to reconstruct Russia as an enemy worthy of
massive defense budgets (as noted above), and the lame excuse it
provided for Hillary Clinton's 2016 political loss, to which we may
now add the effective submission of the Democratic Party to the
anti-Russia hawks (and in most cases to the anti-China hawks).
On the other hand, I should note that I turned off the Russiagate
hysteria almost as soon as it got cranked up. There was never any
shortage of legitimate reasons to despise Trump, and even he soon
got boring, as focus on his personal outrageousness distracted from
the many horrible things his administration did (and the even worse
things they clearly wanted to do). Perhaps if journalism was my
profession, I might have felt more like Matt Taibbi (or maybe not,
as he's always compensated for his independence with a veneer of
both-sidesism). But on balance I'd say the media has been far more
solicitous of and generous to Trump, and much less critical, than
is objectively merited.
Thomas L Friedman: [02-12]
In 46 Words, Biden Sends a Clear Message to Israel: I doubt the
statement is either as clear or as weighty as Friedman thinks, but
let's start with it:
The genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they
are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, on an
independent judiciary. Building consensus for fundamental changes is
really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can
This misses two key points to focus in on the narrow point of the
value of having an independent judiciary (which is arguably the least
democratic part of US government). The first is that the real genius
of American democracy is that it trends toward equal rights for all
people (imperfectly, fitfully, but each expansion is ultimately one
that we are proud of). On the other hand, Israeli democracy is built
on the systematic exclusion of a large class of people, who are denied
political rights within Israel and human rights in general. And this
has gone on for 75 years, with the full blessing of the "independent
judiciary" Friedman and Biden are so concerned over.
Bob Hennelly: [02-08]
"Cover-up": Workers "know the truth" about the derailment disaster --
why are they being ignored? In Ohio, a train with 150 cars (20
carrying "hazardous materials") derailed and caught fire.
John Herrman: [01-30]
The Junkification of Amazon: "Why does it feel like the company
is making itself worse?" It is. And it's not alone. It's tempting
to attribute this to monopoly leverage, but it's working at smaller
granularity with greater speed than ever before. Google is another
example: they started out offering a fast, relatively high quality
search engine. Now they're basically sucking you into a maze of
insider deals of marginal utility. Amazon started out as a place
where you could buy discounted books your local retailer couldn't
bother stocking. Now it's, well, some kind of insidious racket.
Ed Kilgore: [02-12]
What Would 2024 Look Like for Democrats If Biden Retired?
Not a subject that particularly interests me, but since his SOTU
address helped unify all factions of the Democratic Party behind
his presidency, I suppose one could offer a few observations.
Clearly, his age will be an issue. Health past 80 is always a
worry, but also he's always been prone to gaffes, and from here
on they'll all be attributed to his age. He's never been an
especially persuasive speaker, but it would be nice if Democrats
had one for that role. On the other hand, administrations are
team efforts, and a charismatic leader is hardly needed to
micromanage. The key question won't be who can run government
better, but who can win in 2024.
Biden has one big advantage in that regard. He has proven
willing to work with the democratic wing of the Party, but he
is still acceptable to the neoliberals who, like the Gold
Democrats of 1896 and the Democratic Hawks of 1972 would
rather throw the election than see their party move toward
the left. You no doubt recall that when Sanders took the
lead in 2020, Bloomberg put $500 million into the primaries,
making an ass of himself but stampeding Democrats away from
Sanders and Warren to . . . well, Biden was their sensible
compromise choice, one that despite his many weaknesses kept
the party united enough to defeat Trump. If he can do that
again (or whoever the Trump-wannabe du jour is), I'll be happy.
Of course, Democrats should be developing a deep bench of
potential leaders. Republicans are able to do that because they
are all interchangeable ciphers with agendas set by their donors.
Democrats have a tougher time, because the money people who ran
the Clinton-Obama period did such a poor job of delivering gains
to the party base that the people revolted (Sanders was a catalyst,
and by no means the only one, but he proved that small donations
could compete with the PACs). Consequently, there is a great deal
of unresolved distrust among Democrats, which tends to get papered
over with the more pervasive fear of Republicans.
Kilgore is mostly responding to a piece by Michelle Goldberg:
Biden's a Great President. He Should Not Run Again.
David Lat/Zachary B Shemtob: [02-12]
Trump's Supreme Court Picks Are Not Quite What You Think.
Marginal distinctions, but they know better than anyone that they
never have to answer to his sorry ass again. It's possible that
what kept Scalia and Thomas so tightly bound to right-wing lobbies
is keeping their kin on the payroll.
Louisa Loveluck: [02-10]
In earthquake-battered Syria, a desperate wait for help that never
came. The worst-hit part of Syria is in territory that isn't
under control of the government in Damascus, and while the US and
others have pumped arms into the area, it's not really stable
enough for outside aide to get in, either. Nothing constructive
can happen in a war zone. People need to realize that's a good
reason to settle conflicts, even if not optimally. Also note
that even in Turkey, which is much more stable, politics still
gets in the way: see Jenna Krajeski: [02-09
Turkey's earthquake response is as political as the conditions
that increased the devastation.
[PS: Death toll from the 7.8 earthquake has topped
Stephen Prager: [02-09]
Republicans Are Starting to Discuss Which Groups to Cast Out of Democratic
Society. Sounds like something they'd do, but most of the article is
still on voter suppression, which is not a surefire method (not least
because it stinks).
Nathan J Robinson:
AI Is About to Bring Us Into a Very Creepy New World: "The ability
to defraud and deceive is about to massively escalate." I think that
trust is going to become extremely important in future politics, and
that it's going to be impossible to achieve in a world that puts the
profit motive above all else.
I Have Now Destroyed All of the Right-Wing Arguments at Once:
Robinson has a new book out, Responding to the Right: Brief
Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments. I probably know all of
this already, but ordered a copy for future reference. Also
ordered his 2018 essay collection, The Current Affairs Rules
for Life: On Social Justice & Its Critics, which covers
similar ground, calling out a number of right-wing intellectuals.
I skipped over his Why You Should Be a Socialist, initially
because Amazon didn't offer a paperback (they were too busy pushing
Audible and Kindle). Turns out there is a paperback, for a couple
bucks less than the hardcover, but I don't see much practical value
in calling yourself a socialist, and I see lots of worthwhile things
that can be done short of the label (although not short of getting
called names by Republicans and other fascists).
Robinson notes that right-wingers have their own primers on how
to argue their talking points, like Gregg Jackson's Conservative
Comebacks to Liberal Lies (2006), and Larry Schweikart's 48
Liberal Lies About American History (2008). Looking at the
latter list, roughly one-third are certainly true (like "The Reagan
Tax Cuts Caused Massive Deficits and the National Debt"), one-third
are worded vaguely enough to be debatable (like "The Early Colonies
Were Intolerant and Racist" -- well, they did execute women for
witchcraft, and they did practice race-based slavery, but there
were occasional exceptions), and one-third are things no liberal
has seriously argued (like "John F. Kennedy Was Killed by LBJ and
a Secret Team to Prevent Him from Getting Us Out of Vietnam").
Walter Shapiro: [02-09]
The Democrats Lost the House by Just 6,675 Votes. What Went Wrong?
Some case studies, if you want details.
Jeffrey St Clair: [02-10]
Roaming Charges: Killing in the Name Of . . . : "The US is home
to less than 5 percent of the world's population, but holds 20 percent
of the planet's prisoners." Also: "Through the first week of February,
police in the US had killed at least 133 people -- a 20% increase over
the same period last year." Further notes on ICE border jails, and an
in-depth review of the Seymour Hersh article and reservations.
Monday, February 06, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 21 albums, 1 A-list,
Music: Current count 39555  rated (+21), 48  unrated (+9: 20 new, 28 old).
Took a break after the excesses of
last week and
last month. I spent two
days on a
fried chicken dinner, during which I only played old favorites.
Finally, over the weekend (while writing
Speaking of Which), I finally dug up my unplayed Penguin Guide
4-star list, and started up in
the 'C' section. (I'm deleting as I knock items off.)
Lots of items from that list aren't on streaming (probably most
of them). I've also generally skipped over compilations from familiar
artists, especially material I've heard elsewhere (e.g., a lot of
Louis Armstrong). And sometimes I've had to make adjustments, like
with Eddie Condon's The Town Hall Concerts, where 2-CD sets
have recently (hard to tell how recently) been broken up into
pieces for download/streaming. (For example, The Town Hall
Concerts Five and Six are the first half of the previous
Vol. 3. Also, the Condon twofers on Collectables have
been split up, with one piece of one of them reduced to
EP-length). When I get into an artist like Condon, it's
tempting to go deeper, but for now I've mostly restrained
myself -- I did substitute the Timeless 1928-1931 for
the similar Classics set, and added the 3.5-star In Japan.
Once again, I've neglected my paperwork, including the indexing
for recent Streamnotes files. I also haven't frozen the
2022 list. (Started to, then
noticed that I didn't freeze
2021 until February 28,
so I might keep that consistent this year.) I think I added one
set to the
EOY Aggregate (from
Christian Iszchak, although I should also add the latest from
The 12th Annual Expert Witness Poll
Results have been turned into a web page. The Expert Witness
Facebook group boasts 371 members, but only 43 voted. Would be
nice to have the individual ballots collected (and I don't mean
in a Google spreadsheet, like PJRP uses). I included the ones I
found in my EOY Aggregate (looks like I got 19 of them, plus a
few more that I tracked from independent lists, like:
Chris Monsen, and no doubt others.
We had a small disaster at the
Robert Christgau website,
when a software change made by the ISP broke the database access
code. They fixed the problem fairly quickly, but it shows that I
need to upgrade the code to play nice with PHP 8 (since not breaking
websites seems to be beyond the ken of the PHP developers). I've
been thinking more lately about a revision of the now-22-year-old
website code, and may finally have some time to work on it. We've
long needed to migrate to the UTF-8 codeset, and to make everything
HTML5 proper (about half of the pages are). There is also a lot of
dead PHP 5 code to be cleaned out (PHP 7 broke it, especially the
database code). Also need to fix the viewport for cell phones, and
that probably means redoing the navigation menus, and replacing the
table layout code with divs and spans and more CSS.
Functionality-wise, the main thing I'd like to do is to put all
the page metadata into the database (I'm ok with leaving the page
text in flat files), so the 2001 Voice-centric directory
structure is, if not gone, purely atavistic. This would help make
browsing more flexible. I'd also like to add a category/keyword
system, which again would add many more dimensions for browsing.
Plus I need to do a better job of documenting everything, so the
next poor sod who has to maintain the site has some clue as to
how it works. None of these things, at least codewise, are very
difficult, but there's a ton of data to run through the wringer.
That's probably what's been daunting me for years now.
I've also started to think about rebuilding my website. The
idea here is to create a new directory structure alongside the
old "ocston" framework, then start moving content into it. The
new structure would also be build mostly out of flat files, but
would have a database to index the files, and possibly manage
some structured content (like album grades and/or book blurbs).
I've collected lots of content in
LibreWriter files, but that hasn't
made it any more accessible. So maybe the best solution is to
bust it up again? As I want to eventually organize some of this
writing in book form, a flexible website configuration might be
a useful path forward.
I have an email list for discussing my website plans. If you're
interested in the gritty technical details, let me know and I'll
sign you up. Traffic on the list has been very light, but would
pick up if I ever got my ass in gear.
New records reviewed this week:
- Kwesi Arthur: Son of Jacob (2022, Ground Up Chale): [sp]: B+(**)
- Skip Grasso: Becoming (2022 , Barking Coda Music): [cd]: B
- The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (2022 , Strikezone): [cd]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2003 , ACT): [sp]: B+(***)
- Betty Carter: Look What I Got! (1988, Verve): [sp]: B+(*)
- Ron Carter/Jim Hall: Telephone (1984 , Concord): [sp]: B+(*)
- Soesja Citroen: Soesja Citroen Sings Thelonious Monk (1983 , Timeless): [sp]: B+(**)
- Soesja Citroen: Songs for Lovers and Losers (1996, Challenge): [sp]: B+(**)
- Johnny Coles: New Morning (1982 , Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(***)
- George Colligan: Agent 99 (1999 , SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
- Eddie Condon: 1928-1931 (1928-31 , Timeless): [sp]: B+(**)
- Eddie Condon: The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six (1944, Jazzology): [sp]: B+(***)
- Eddie Condon's All-Stars: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast (1954, Columbia, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Eddie Condon: Bixieland (1955, Columbia): [r]: A-
- Eddie Condon: Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz (1956, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
- Eddie Condon: Bixieland/Treasury of Jazz (1955-56 , Collectables): [r]: B+(***)
- Eddie Condon: In Japan (1964 , Chiaroscuro): [sp]: B+(***)
- Eddie Costa: Classic Costa (1990-91 , Chiaroscuro): [sp]: B+(***)
- Fred Hersch/Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (1994 , Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (Origin) [02-17]
- Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler) [02-09]
- Brad Goode: The Unknown (Origin) [02-17]
- Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (Soul Song) [03-03]
- Manzanita Quintet: Osmosis (Origin) [02-17]
- Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (Troubadour Jass) [02-03]
- Mason Razavi: Six-String Standards (OA2) [02-17]
- Triogram: Triogram (Circle Theory Media) [04-07]
- Dan Trudell: Fishin' Again: A Tribute to Clyde Stubblefield & Dr. Lonnie Smith (OA2) [02-17]
- Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (Ears & Eyes) [02-24]
Sunday, February 05, 2023
Speaking of Which
One of the big stories this week was the saga of a Chinese weather
balloon that at 60,000 feet got caught up in the jet stream and drifted
across Alaska and western Canada, dipping into Montana and cutting a
path through North Carolina and into the Atlantic. There, having
completed its spy mission (if that's what it was), Biden ordered it
blown up -- an act of pure spite and bloody-mindedness. Reports say
he didn't act earlier because he was worried about debris landing
on Americans, but odds of that happening in eastern Montana were
pretty slim. Rather, he gave Republicans and the press three days
to play up their China loathing -- fueled in part by
Blinken canceling a visit to Peking in protest -- then jumped
to the head of the line.
As you may recall, this incident comes about a week after Air
Force General Mike Minihan
predicted war with China in 2025, a prospect he (and therefore
the United States) is currently planning for -- a plan that House
Foreign Affairs Chairman
Michael McCaul heartily endorses. With so much sabre-rattling
in the background, you'd think that Biden would work harder at
smoothing over the tensions, but having been taunted into action,
he scarcely had the resolve to resist.
Some further reading:
Top story threads:
Sometimes it's hard to find the right lead-in piece for what you
know will be a cluster of links.
Debt Limit: Stealing a page from 2011, Kevin McCarthy (or
whoever's pulling his strings) is willing to crash and burn the economy
just to watch Biden squirm. So far, Biden's not falling for it:
- Paul Krugman: [02-02]
Republicans and Debt: Blackmailers Without a Cause.
- Eric Levitz: [02-02]
The GOP Can't Remember Why It Took the Debt Ceiling Hostage.
Li Zhou: [02-01]
The lessons of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, explained by the negotiators
who were there: "Democrats and Republicans took different, sometimes
contradictory, lessons from the last standoff." Democrats realized that
Republicans couldn't be trusted, and didn't care how much damage they'd
do, confident that the media would blame Obama. Republicans thought they
had won a victory, not so much in imposing their will as in turning the
discussion in their favor, by making debt and spending seem like bigger
problems than the sluggish economy they were helping to stall. Pretty
much the same calculation this time, except that in the meantime Trump's
tax cuts blew a hole in the budget, and Biden is less inclined to give
debt reduction the oxygen it needs to derail every other issue he has
As it happens, right after linking to this piece, I read this from
Ryan Cooper's How Are You Going to Pay for That?, where he
minces fewer words on the 2011 doomsday negotiations:
All told, this gruesome incident was a world-historical episode of
moronic policy incompetence. It's as if your house were on fire,
and the mayor and the fire department were arguing furiously about
which grade of gasoline should be sprayed on the blaze.
Cooper's book is very good, but I don't care for his coinage of
the term "propertarianism" as a substitute for terms commonly used
on the new left ("neoliberalism") and old left ("capitalism"). All
of these terms refer to the notion of putting property rights ahead
of human needs, but the problem is not so much property itself as a
particular form of property: capital (as opposed to personal property,
which means something you have exclusive use of, but not necessarily
that produces income or rent). Neoliberalism is slightly different: an
ideology aligned with capital, but couched in the idea of individual
freedom, with contempt for notions of labor and society. Also note
that neoliberalism was another neologism, designed at cross purposes:
its advocates wanted to lay claim to tenets of classical liberalism,
yet dispose of elements like New Deal support for unions (same tactic
used by New Democrats and New Labour).
Trump: I'm sorry to inform you that as the only declared
candidate so far for president in 2024, he's back in the news, and
already stimulating horserace coverage for primaries that supposedly
face him off with this year's favorite media goon, Ron DeSantis.
Maggie Haberman: [02-03]
2016 Trump Campaign to Pay $450,000 to Settle Nondisclosure Agreements
Margaret Hartmann: [02-03]
Trump Could End the Ukraine War 'Immediately,' But It's a Secret:
Note that I'm filing this under Trump, not Ukraine, because it's his
fantasy boast, not something revealing about the war. This is also
where he talks about how "Joe Biden has brought us to the brink of
World War III." Once again, only Trump knows how to save the day.
Charles P Pierce: [01-27]
Trump's Brings Back 1950s Paranoia with Modern Twist: No "Pink-Haired
Communists" in Schools!: "The general Republican assault on public
education isn't slowing down."
Andrew Prokop: [01-31]
Remember the Stormy Daniels "hush money" case against Trump? It's
back. "New York prosecutors are pursuing charges."
Isaac Arnsdorf: [02-05]
Koch network to back alternative to Trump after sitting out recent
primaries. This sounds bad for Trump, but AFP's strong suit is
getting out the vote against Democrats, and that message gets muddled
in a Republican primary, especially against Trump. Still, they could
buy a lot of advertising to harp on the theme that Trump's a loser,
and as such a stalking horse for the evil socialist front party.
Other Toxic Republicans:
Ukraine War (Continued):
Blaise Malley: [02-03]
Diplomacy Watch: Second thoughts on Ukraine retaking Crimea?
Very little to report here. Elsewhere, there is a story that
Biden Offered Putin 20% of Ukraine to End War, but all sides deny
that (no one wants to look reasonable).
Helene Cooper/Eric Schmitt/Thomas Gibbons-Neff: [02-02]
Soaring Death Toll Gives Grim Insight Into Russian Tactics.
"The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is
approaching 200,000, a stark symbol of just how badly President
Vladimir V. Putin's invasion has gone, according to American and
other Western officials." These figures are clearly wild guesses,
exaggerated for propaganda purposes. I referred back to these number
after reading much smaller figures cited by Jeffrey St Clair below.
The difference is that to St Clair, the numbers (which focused more
on civilians) demanded a ceasefire and negotiated settlement; here
they're just another excuse for further punishing Russia, even when
suggesting that Ukrainian losses are comparable.
Bruno Marcetic: [02-03]
Diplomatic Cables Prove Top US Officials Knew They Were Crossing
Russia's Red Lines on NATO Expansion. Of course, one could argue
that the "red lines" were stupid. One could also argue that the US was
daring Russia to do something stupid. The one thing that's inarguable
is what Putin finally did was profoundly stupid.
Israel: As the Palestinian Authority, despite its legendary
corruption, has found it impossible to do business with the new fascist
government, Biden sent Secretary of State Blinken to kiss the ring, to
reassure Netanyahu that nothing he can do will shake American fealty
to the Zionist regime. Meanwhile, efforts in the US and UK are heating
up to police any discussion of Israel's crimes. One of the few sources
still reporting on Israel is
Kate Aronoff: [02-03]
The Biden Administration Has Been Very Good for Big Oil: "Despite
climate legislation passed by Democrats last year, oil companies are
securing loads of drilling deals and posting huge profits."
Rachel DuBose: [01-31]
What can the world learn from China's "zero-Covid" lockdown?
Constance Grady: [02-03]
The mounting, undeniable Me Too backlash: This has less to do with
the ebbing of the "Me Too" moment a few years back than with the long
reaction against the women's liberation movement in the 1970s, which
has scored some recent purely political wins recently, like overturning
Roe v. Wade. Hence, re-reading Susan Faludi's 1991 book, Backlash:
The Undeclared War Against American Women. I will note that while
this reaction is inflicting real damage, it is not especially popular.
So perhaps instead of relitigating points that have sense become common
sense and embedded in popular culture, we should look at the political
anomaly that has given such power to, well, Republicans -- one can add
adjectives to reinforce one's sense of disgust, but doing so suggests
that there are other, more decent Republicans, and there's little to
no practical evidence of that.
Ezra Klein: [02-05]
The Story Construction Tells About America's Economy Is Disturbing:
Declining productivity, ever since the 1970s.
Paul Krugman: [01-30]
Will Americans Even Notice an Improving Economy? That's a good
question. Part of the problem is statistics: few people are aware
of them, and fewer still have any idea how they relate to their own
lives. (Statistics are the only way to make sense of massive amounts
of data, but we'd prefer anecdotes we can relate to. But also there
is the problem of gauging the significance of variations that are
smaller than we normally perceive. This is a big problem with climate
change: each degree warmer is a really big deal, but every day we
experience temperature swings 10-20 times as great.) Part of the
problem is the political bubbles we all live in: as far as I'm
concerned, the Bush and Trump economies were disasters, even if
the nature varied from time to time; Republicans, with far greater
experience at denying reality, thought those times were peachy keen,
only to be devastated by Obama and Biden (despite much higher top
line statistics). But one other source of confusion is that under
both parties, fortune favors the already rich. This is especially
true with the Fed, which supposedly tries to manage employment and
inflation, but actually implements its policy decisions to giving
rich people (via bankers) more or less money at any given point.
So it's quite possible that the economy is going gangbusters, but
none of it is trickling down to you. Conversely, the vacuuming up,
whether through inflation or taxes, is something everyone feels
personally, which makes it relatively easy to exploit politically.
Eric Levitz: [02-03]
The Fed Can Stop Choking the Economy Now: But they keep missing
Powell's target figures for unemployment (er, reducing inflation).
Megan McArdle: [01-29]
The $400K conundrum: Why America's urban rich don't feel that way:
Refers back to the
Todd Henderson case, the guy who in 2010 claimed that it's hard to
get by on a meager $450,000 per year. I
wrote a bit about this back
then. The thing that struck me about Henderson's budget was that most
of the money went for things that a decent modern social democracy would
provide for most people: health insurance, schooling, retirement. Of
course, for his extra money, he's also getting exclusivity: private
instead of public schools. And maybe his children need the extra leg
up his high income provides. McArdle refers to such people as "broke
2-percenter" -- so close to the 1-percent, yet they keep coming up
Louis Menand: [01-30]
When Americans Lost Faith in the News. "The press wasn't silenced
in the Trump years. The press was discredited, at least among Trump
supporters, and that worked just as well. It was censorship by other
means." Menand tries to sketch out the origins of public distrust in
the press. Those origins weren't in the 1950s, when journalists were
all too happy to shill for the CIA, but the more "bad news" -- riots
and anti-war protests -- they reported, the more suspect they became.
Nixon may not have coined the phrase "fake news," but as so often in
arts Trump perfected, Nixon was the originator, his practice of
shooting the messenger only ending when the messengers shot back.
Menand wades through various books, finally Margaret Sullivan's
"memoir slash manifesto" Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and
Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life.
Eve Ottenberg: [02-03]
Egalitarian Paradise Lost: David Graeber and the Pirates of
Madagascar. Review of the late anarchist anthropologist's
second posthumous book, Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real
Eric Reinhart: [02-05]
Doctors Aren't Burned Out From Overwork. We're Demoralized by Our Health
System. It's a big slide from the heyday of the AMA, when doctors
organized as a business racket, to today, when doctors are talking about
the need for unions.
Jeffrey St Clair: [02-03]
Roaming Charges: See No Evil: "There have been at least
52 people killed by police in the US since the fatal beating of
Tyre Nichols on January 7th. In 2021, there were 1055 people killed
by police in the US. In the same year, 31 people were killed by
police in all of Europe. . . . Most of the people killed by police
in 2022 were killed by officers responding to mental health calls,
traffic violations, disturbances, other *non-violent* issues and
situations where no crime was alleged." Examples follow. Behind a
paywall, St Clair also wrote: [01-29]
The Murder of Tyre Nichols and the Death of Police Reform.
Zeynep Tufecki: [02-03]
An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here: Actually, H5N1 avian
flu is already here. It just hasn't broken out as a pandemic in humans
yet. In 2005, Mike Davis took the threat seriously enough to write a
book: The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu.
We should have learned from our Covid-19 experience how better to face
such threats, but a powerful bloc of nihilists (aka Republicans) drew
the opposite lessons, and are working hard to make sure public health
officials never again have the tools to protect public health. Note
that David Quammen, who has followed these threats for decades
and recently wrote Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a
Deadly Virus, wrote a piece about this back on [2022-10-31]:
A Dolphin, a Porpoise and Two Men Got Bird Flu. That's a Warning to
the Rest of Us.
Why Are So Many Americans Dying Right Now? Covid, but that only
explains about half of "excess deaths" since April 2022. The author,
by the way, has written extensively about the pandemic: e.g., [01-04]
9 Pandemic Narratives We're Getting Wrong (although it's not always
clear what he's debunking, let alone whether he's right -- my takeaway
from the Operation Warp Speed narrative is that the economic incentives
that motivated Pfizer and Moderna aren't very trustworthy, and probably
aren't the best approach in the long run), and [2022-12-01]
China Has an Extraordinary Covid-19 Dilemma (China is often viewed
through strange political blinders; I'm not sure this piece is immune,
but it's far from the worst).
Britain's Cautionary Tale of Self-Destruction: Starts off talking
about the death toll from Covid-19, then noting how the entire post-Brexit
economy and political system are ailing. For instance, economists were
asked whether the slowdown in productivity was unprecedented. They did
manage to find a worse case, but that was 250 years ago. Then there's:
"Liz Truss failed to survive longer as head of government than the shelf
life of a head of lettuce." Part of this problem was touched on by
Eshe Nelson [01-09]:
Britain's Economic Health Is Withering With Sick Workers on the
Sidelines. Also: Ellen Ioanes: [02-04]
The labor strikes in Britain are years in the making: "Austerity,
Brexit, wage stagnation and a cost of living crisis have pushed British
workers to the brink."