Wednesday, August 30, 2023
Laura pointed out
this Facebook post by Sarah Schulman on Girls, the Lena Dunham
I watched the whole series more/less as it came out, but Laura gave
up, possibly as early as the second season. I never cared much whether
I liked the characters, although I certainly didn't hate them. I had
lived in New York from 1977-80, but I was old enough (roughly 27-30)
to have a plan that took me from Wichita to New York, and I tried to
focus narrowly on that, so I never had more than a glancing view of
post-college types with the luxury of trying to find themselves in
the city, or the arts bohemianism this particular crowd of would be
writers, artists, singers, etc. gravitated towards. Of course, there
was much more to the city than the show considered -- despite all
its ambitions and pretensions, there was much more to Baltimore than
could ever be fit into The Wire, too.
One point that's right is that the casting of bit players was
often remarkable. I'm less sure that Adam Driver was that great,
but he immediately went on to make a lot of money.
Also found on Schulman's Facebook is this quote from Pauli
In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious.
In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have
lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated.
And what I very often say is that I've lived to see my lost
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
From Brad Luen's 2003 poll. Only listing things I hadn't heard when
the poll was released (18/73 ranked albums):
- The New Pornographers: Electric Version (68 6 20) [B]
- DonaZica: Composição (55 4 25) [A-]
- Ying Yang Twins: Me and My Brother (46 3 20) [B+(***)]
- TV on the Radio: Young Liars (36 3 16) [B]
- Linkin Park: Meteora (35 4 10) [B+(*)]
- King Geedorah: Take Me to Your Leader (31 4 12) [B+(***)]
- Kathleen Edwards: Failer (30 3 10) [B+(*)]
- Constantines: Shine a Light (29 2 19) [B+(*)]
- The Knife: Deep Cuts (25 2 20) [B+(**)]
- Brooks & Dunn: Red Dirt Road (24 2 14) [B]
- Metric: Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (22 2 17) [B+(**)]
- Pernice Brothers: Yours Mine & Ours (17 2 10) [B+(*)]
- The Darkness: Permission to Land (16 3 10) [B]
- T.I.: Trap Muzik (15 2 8) [B+(**)]
- Marcelo D2: A Procura da Batida Perfeita (15 2 10) [A-]
- Rodney Crowell: Fate's Right Hand (15 2 10) [B+(***)]
- My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves (10 2 5) [B]
- Steely Dan: Everything Must Go (10 2 5) [B+(*)]
Also, the following got one vote:
- Adam Beyer: Stockholm Mix Sessions 
- Against Me!: As the Eternal Cowboy 
- Andres: Andres 
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Meeting [B+(*)]
- Baba Zula & Mad Professor: Psychedelic Dance Music [B+(***)]
- Barry Guy & Evan Parker: Studio/Live: Birds and Blades [A-]
- Be Good Tanyas: Chinatown 
- Billy Gilman: Music Through Heartsongs 
- Blur: Think Tank 
- Bobby Bland: Blues at Midnight [B+(**)]
- British Sea Power: The Decline of British Sea Power 
- Burton Gaar: Home of the Blues 
- Calexico: Feast of Wire 
- Caroliner: Wine Can't Do It, Wife Won't Do 
- Celine Dion: One Heart 
- Charles Walker: Number by Heart 
- Chris Watson: Weather Report 
- Clay Aiken: Measure of a Man 
- Coldplay: Clocks 
- Corey Harris: Mississippi to Mali [B+(*)]
- DJ Rolando: Vibrations 
- DMX: Grand Champ 
- Dahl/Anderson/Heral: Moon Water 
- David Allen Coe: Live at Billy Bob's Texas 
- David Banner: MTA2: Baptized in Dirty Water 
- Deana Carter: I'm Just a Girl 
- Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism 
- Deftones: Deftones 
- Dido: Life for Rent 
- Dixie Chicks: Top of the World Tour Live 
- Don Letts: Don Letts Presents the Mighty Trojan Sound 
- Dwight Yoakam: Population Me 
- Dysrhythmia: Pretest 
- Entropic Advance: Monkey with a Gun [B+(**)]
- Essential Logic: Fanfare in the Garden 
- Evanescence: Fallen 
- Exploding Hearts: Guitar Romantic 
- Farmers Manual: RLA 
- Fast Food Rockers: It Never East Being Cheesy 
- Fefe Dobson: Fefe Dobson 
- Fiery Furnaces: Gallowsbird's Bark 
- Gene Watson: Sings 
- Grandaddy: Sumday 
- Groovski: Groovski 
- Hot Boy$: Let 'em Burn 
- Ivan Smagghe: How to Kill the DJ (Part One) 
- James Chance: Irresistible Impulse  - 2013 compilation?
- Jay-Z: S. Carter Collection 
- Jaylib: Champion Sound 
- Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros: Streetcore 
- John Cale: Hobosapiens [B+(***)]
- John Zorn: Masada Guitars 
- Kelly Clarkson: Thankful 
- Kenny Chesney: When the Sun Goes Down 
- Kerri Chandler: Trionisphere 
- Kevin Saunderson: KS02 
- Kylie Minogue: Body Language 
- Lightning Bolt: Wonderful Rainbow 
- Lil' Joe Washington: Houston Guitar Blues 
- Manitoba: Up in Flames 
- Marshall Crenshaw: What's in the Bag? 
- Mighty Mo Rodgers: Red, White and Blues 
- Moodymann: Silence in the Secret Garden 
- Muse: Absolution 
- Mushroom: Mad Dogs and San Franciscans 
- Nancy McCallion and the Mollys: Trouble 
- Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds: Nocturama 
- Opeth: Damnation 
- Otis Taylor: Truth Is Not Fiction 
- Patty Loveless: On Your Way Home [B+(**)]
- Pet Shop Boys: PopArt [A-]
- Pimp Daddy Nash: The New Jazz Science 
- Rachel's: Systems/Layers 
- Rage Against the Machine: Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium 
- Richard Thompson: Old Kit Bag 
- Richard X: Presents His X-Factor Vol. 1 
- Sean Paul: Dutty Rock 
- Shelby Lynne: Identity Crisis 
- The Blood Brothers: Burn Piano Island, Burn 
- The Coral: Magic and Medicine 
- The Exploding Hearts: Guitar Romantic 
- The Fever: Pink on Pink 
- The Living End: Modern Artillery 
- The Thrills: So Much for the City 
- Tom Hamilton: London Fix: Music Changing with the Price of Gold 
- Transllusion: L.I.F.E. 
- Ugly Duckling: Taste the Secret 
- Various artists: Masked and Anonymous 
- Warren Burt: Harmonic Colour Fields 
- Weakerthans: Reconstruction Site 
Holger posted about a NetApp "e-waste, shredding event" scheduled
for Sept. 29, 11-to-1 (AM-to-PM) Friday, Sept. 29, in NetApp parking
lot 44S. Accepts "all personal electronics, including appliances."
I need to look up other options for recycling electronics.
I found these:
- American E-waste Recyclers, 716 S Washington, (316) 871-9858
- Electronix Recyclers Inc, 2955 S Kansas, (316) 425-7060
- ABC Recycling, 815 E Gilbert, (316) 269-2900
Sedgwick County has a pretty good
page on recycling options.
Monday, August 28, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 39 albums, 2 A-list,
Music: Current count 40767  rated (+39), 27  unrated (+8).
Speaking of Which yesterday. Too bad I've never been able to
find a shrink who can explain why I've sat on my political book
idea for two (or twenty) years with nothing to show for it, then
knock out a pretty coherent outline in less than five hours. In
my experience, shrinks can help you out of extreme panic attacks,
but beyond that are useless. Beyond that, you need friends.
One thing I should have mentioned is the
Student Debt Release Tool, from the Debt Collective. If
you have outstanding loans, check it out.
Went to doctors last week, and lab results are grim. No idea
how I'm going to deal with this. (Well, maybe half an idea.)
Also grim is my CD player. I replaced the belts, and put it
back together again, and now I'm getting the same "error" flashed
on the front panel, as it's locked up and refuses to eject the
tray. Best guess is the sensor isn't detecting the presence or
absence of discs. Plan is to take it apart again and see if the
tray is misaligned or the skimpy cable isn't set right. Beyond
that, it probably goes into the trash. A few years back, I wanted
to set up an electronics bench so I could repair equipment like
this. Now that seems beyond my grasp.
Short list of new records reviewed this week. I have more in the
promo queue now than I've had at any point this year, but almost all
of them are September/October releases -- including the James Brandon
Lewis and Todd Sickafoose albums I jumped the gun on. I made up for
that shortfall by following a couple of checklists. The first was one
I had compiled some time ago based on
Will Friedwald: The Great Jazz and Pop Vocals Albums. Phil
Overeem mentioned this list in relation to a course he's teaching,
and discussion turned to a Barb Jungr record I hadn't found at
the time. I found it this time, and wound up playing most of her
I didn't find anything in Soto's list that added to the 17 albums
already on my A-list, although they did lead me to a second Electronic
album that I liked a bit better -- the listed album came in at B+(***).
Still, it was an interesting exercise.
The second checklist was
one I compiled based on Afred Soto's post:
My 50 favorite albums. Turned out there were quite a few albums
on his list that I hadn't heard (or at least rated), so I wound up
spending most of the week filling in the blanks. Thus far, only one
record has eluded me: DJ Sprinkles: Midtown 120 Blues. (I did
find some Spotify playlists, but they were defunct, with links broken.)
I also jotted down the years of the records. I've long suspected that
most of the records one feels strongest attachment to are ones that
came out in one's teens and twenties. That's true of me, and I suspect
that explains most of our divergence. Soto's records fall into these
age bands: 1970-79 (6), 1980-84 (7), 1985-89 (8), 1990-94 (11),
1995-1999 (2), 2000-04 (4), 2005-09 (6), 2010-present (4). I don't
have a comparable list, but in my unsorted
1000 Records list, more
than half of my rock/r&b records came from the 1960s and 1970s
(255/407, or 62.6%; if you throw in rap and techno, and count all
of them as post-1979, it becomes 255/459, or 55.5%).
I had the idea of throwing together a comparison list, taking as
rules: one album for each year there were albums on Soto's list (so
the same age spread); no more than three compilations (Soto had Bryan
Ferry/Roxy Music, Wire, Dolly Parton), counted by source end date;
no more than one jazz album (Soto had Miles Davis). I'm not sure
that other genre matches would help much: Soto has 2 Brazil, 0
other world/latin, 3 rap, 3 country, 8 r&b, 2 (or maybe more)
electronica, the rest pop/rock (of which Sugar is most metal).
My biggest shift would be less r&b, which I thought went into
decline after 1980 and became increasingly muddled, not that I
wasn't able to find exceptions.
I also want to cite Brad Luen's
2003 poll results. He has been doing annual polls in the
Expert Witness Facebook group, decided to do 2003, and rounded
up 39 ballots (which don't seem to be available). I didn't vote,
but I do have a
2003 list published (untouched
since Jan. 1, 2005). Back in the day, I also compiled a
(10 voters, 7 for Buck 65's Talkin' Honky Blues, which
came in 7th in Luen's poll). I doubt I need to checklist the
results, as I've heard nearly all of them, but the exceptions
start at 24 with DonaZica's
which got a boost recently with a Rod Taylor guest post on Luen's
Sixteen 21st century Brazilian albums. Taylor's list deserves
a checklist, but my grasp of Brazilian music is so lame I doubt it
will do me much good. (Looking down at the poll results, there are
more, like Yin Yang Twins at 27, Linkin Park at 37, King Geedorah
at 40, Kathleen Edwards at 41, Constantines at 42, Brooks &
Dunn at 50, etc.
[PS: In scanning the list, I missed The New Pornographers:
Electric Version at 18. I just assumed I had heard it, like
the rest of the group's instantly forgettable albums.]
I don't often link to music, but Dan Ex Machina
posted a single to mark Trump's latest arrest.
done but not indexed yet. Monthly rated list dropped way down to
New records reviewed this week:
- Barb Jungr and Her Trio: My Marquee (2023, Marquee): [sp]: B+(**)
- James Brandon Lewis Red Lily Quintet: For Mahalia, With Love (2023, Tao Forms, 2CD): [cd]: A- [09-08[
- Evan Parker/Matthew Wright Trance Map+ Peter Evans/Mark Nauseef: Etching the Ether (2022 , Intakt): [sp]: B+(**)
- Rachael & Vilray: I Love a Love Song (2022 , Nonesuch): [sp]: B+(*)
- Sebastian Rochford/Kit Downes: A Short Diary (2022 , ECM): [sp]: B
- Todd Sickafoose: Bear Proof (2023, Secret Hatch): [cd]: B+(**) [09-29]
- Kate Soper Feat. Sam Pluta: The Understanding of All Things (2022, New Focus): [sp]: B-
- Aki Takase: Carmen Rhapsody (2023, BMC): [sp]: B+(**)
- Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach: Four Hands Piano Pieces (2021 , Trost): [sp]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Julee Cruise: Floating Into the Night (1999, Sacred Bones): [sp]: B
- Sonic Youth: Live in Brooklyn 2011 (2011 , Silver Current): [sp]: B+(***)
- 808 State: Ex:el (1991, ZTT/Tommy Boy): [sp]: B+(**)
- Aaliyah: Age Ain't Nothing but a Number (1994, Blackground): [sp]: B+(*)
- Aaliyah: One in a Million (1996, Blackground): [sp]: B+(**)
- Aaliyah: Aaliyah (2001, Blackground): [sp]: B+(**)
- Change: The Glow of Love (1980, RFC/Warner Bros.): [sp]: B+(**)
- Duran Duran: Rio (1982, Capitol): [r]: B-
- Electronic: Electronic (1991, Factory): [sp]: B+(***)
- Electronic: Raise the Pressure (1996, Parlophone): [sp]: A-
- Everything but the Girl: Walking Wounded (1996, Atlantic): [sp]: B+(***)
- Amy Grant: Heart in Motion (1991, A&M): [sp]: B
- The Human League: Dare (1981, A&M): [sp]: B-
- Ice Cube: AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (1990, Priority): [sp]: B+(**)
- Barb Jungr: Every Grain of Sand: Barb Jungs Sings Bob Dylan (2002, Linn): [sp]: B+(***)
- Barb Jungr: Waterloo Sunset (2003, Linn): [sp]: B+(**)
- Barb Jungr: Love Me Tender (2004 , Linn): [sp]: B+(*)
- Barb Jungr: Just Like a Woman (Hymn to Nina) (2008, Linn): [sp]: B+(*)
- Barb Jungr: Man in the Long Black Coat: Barb Jungr Sings Bob Dylan (2003-11 , Linn): [sp]: B+(***)
- Barb Jungr: Hard Rain: The Songs of Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen (2014, Kristalyn): [sp]: B+(**)
- Barb Jungr: Shelter From the Storm: Songs of Hope for Troubled Times (2016, Linn): [sp]: B+(*)
- Barb Jungr/John McDaniel: Come Together: Barb Jungr & John McDaniel Perform the Beatles (2016, Kristalyn): [sp]: B+(**)
- Barb Jungr: Bob, Brel, and Me (2019, Kristalyn): [sp]: B
- The London Suede: Dog Man Star (1994, Nude/Columbia): [sp]: B
- Kylie Minogue: Fever (2002, Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
- Róisín Murphy: Overpowered (2007, EMI): [sp]: B+(*)
- Sinéad O'Connor: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (1990, Ensign): [sp]: B+(**)
- Alexander O'Neal: Hearsay (1987, Tabu): [sp]: B+(**)
- René & Angela: Street Called Desire (1985, Mercury): [sp]: B+(***)
- René & Angela: René & Angela (1980, Capitol): [sp]: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Benjamin Boone: Caught in the Rhythm (09-15]
- Mike Clark: Kosen Rufu (Wide Hive) [09-08]
- Scott Clark: Dawn & Dusk (Out of Your Head) [08-25]
- David Ian: Vintage Christmas Trio Melody (Prescott) [09-22]
- Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (Pi) [09-15]
- Astghik Martirosyan: Distance (Astghik Music) [10-06]
- Billy Mohler: Ultraviolet (Contagious Music) [10-13]
- Jessica Pavone: Clamor (Out of Your Head) [10-06]
- Simon Willson: Good Company (Fresh Sound New Talent) [10-13]
- Superposition: Glaciers (Kettle Hole) [08-14]
Sunday, August 27, 2023
Speaking of Which
The Republican Party has been skidding into dysfunction and madness
for decades now -- take your pick when you want to start the plot --
but last week hit a new all-time low. Trump and eighteen others --
some conspiracists and others mere suckers -- had to trek to the
Fulton County Jail to be booked on racketeering charges, something
they turned into the mother of all photo-ops. Meanwhile, eight more
Republicans presidential candidates showed up in Milwaukee for a
Fox-sponsored debate forum, where they were torn between the need
to prove themselves as alpha leaders and the terror of saying
anything that could be construed as out of line with the dogma
propagated by the oracles of the right, ranging from QAnon to
Fox to Trump himself, whose 40+ poll leads exempted him from
having to associate with such meager strivers.
Weeks like this make me think I should dust off my political
book outline and finally get cranking -- although there seems to
be little chance of that happening. Basically, the idea is:
Introduction: The stakes of the 2024 election go way beyond
the usual patronage interests of political parties. This is not
just because Republicans and Democrats are rivals for popularity
and power. The Republicans have become so obsessed with seizing
and exploiting power, and so locked into a rich donor class and
a dwindling, emotionally fraught base, that in their desperation
they've turned against democracy, civil rights, reason, justice,
and civility, leaving them with a political agenda incapable of
addressing growing problems (like climate and war). The signs
are obvious. For example, when Trump lost in 2020, dozens of
Republican-controlled state legislatures passed new laws to
restrict or interfere with voting rights. They've gotten away
with this because they've been organized and ruthless, but also
because Democrats have been ineffective at countering them. The
first parts of the book will explore in more depth how and why
Republicans have gone so wrong. The latter parts will suggest
some ways Democrats can respond more effectively, and when they
do win, govern better.
- History and structure: Here I want to look at the evolution
of the two-party system -- with an aside on why third parties
don't work -- and how it has evolved into a right-left divide.
Part of this is the period scheme I've sketched out before:
Jefferson-to-Buchanan, Lincoln-to-Hoover, Roosevelt-to-Carter,
Reagan-to-Trump. (The first could be divided at Adams/Jackson.
The second might have split with the Populist revolt of Bryan,
but that break was suppressed. Teddy Roosevelt represented a
brief progressive revival within the Lincoln-to-Hoover period,
as Johnson did in Roosevelt-to-Carter. Washington-to-Adams has
a similar pattern, but wasn't long enough for an era.) While
the first three eras each marked a distinct shift to the left,
Reagan is exceptional in moving to the right, so we need to
explore that anomaly: particularly how Reagan's success moved
Democratic leaders to the right, while driving the Democratic
base to the left.
- The Modern Republicans: The core concept that Republicans
are the only true Americans was forged in the Civil War, even
as the Party was split from the start between progressive and
conservative factions. However, with Goldwater conservatives
became ascendant, but it was Nixon to taught them not just how
to win but that winning was the only thing that matters. Nixon's
dirty tricks eventually did him in, but his legacy was to take
every advantage, to undermine opponents at every opportunity.
Reagan and the Bushes did this, while seeming to be nice guys.
Gingrich and Cheney weren't nice at all, and the base liked
them even more -- especially as the Fox cheerleaders kicked in.
After Obama won, Fox got ever nastier, and the Republican sweep
in 2010 went to their heads. Trump was nothing but menace. When
he managed to win without even getting the votes, Republicans
knew they had found their messiah. Even after losing Congress
in 2018, he held firm. And when he lost in 2020, he simply cried
foul, and most Republicans were so invested in him, they played
along. Karl Rove had contrasted self-actualizing Republicans to
"the reality-based community." Trump went him one better, making
his followers believe that reality was just a conspiracy against
- Republicans Against Reality: The problem with Republicans
isn't just that they have no ethics, that they are inextricably
wedded to graft, that the fear and hatred they exploit for votes
rebounds against them, and the contempt they show for everyone
else motivates opposition. They also have really bad ideas, based
on a really poor understanding of how the world works. The theme
for this section is to examine 4-6 problem areas and show how
Republican solutions only make them worse. Some possibilities,
in no particular order:
- Government and the public interest: Reagan's joke and
Norquist's bathtub. Attacks on civil service, including public
sector unions, and expanding political control. Revolving door
and regulatory capture. Privatization. Erosion of the very idea
of public interest.
- Macroeconomic policy, business cycle, wage suppression,
inflation, bailouts for certain businesses.
- Tax policy, increasing inequality, and consequences.
- Mass incarceration, the erosion of civil rights, and the
imposition of repressive thought control (e.g., in education).
- Health care (opposition to anything that might help improve
services and/or contain costs).
- Climate change and disaster management.
- Defense policy, opposition to international treaties/cooperation
(except trade with the requisite graft), the wasteful deployment of
armed forces in the War on Terror, and the reckless provocation of
Russia and China.
Obviously, each of these could be a chapter or even a book on its
own, but they cover a broad swath of major issues, and are typical
of Republican approaches.
- What Democrats Can Do: To counter the Republicans, Democrats
need to do two things: they need to win elections, and they need to
implement policies that deal constructively with problems. Republicans
only do the former, and they do it mostly by convincing people that
they should fear and loathe Democrats. It shouldn't be hard to turn
the tables, given the critique of the previous chapters. Fear and
loathing of Republicans isn't enough to clinch Democratic wins, but
it is pretty widespread by now, at least among people with any idea
of the Republican track record. But the other thing Democrats need
to do is to build trust, and prove themselves trustworthy. Democrats
are most vulnerable when Republicans can turn the tables and paint
them as corrupt and/or out of touch (cf. the check-kiting scandal
of 1994, Obama's aloof and tone-deaf confidence cult in 2010, and
Hillary Clinton's courting of special interests in 2016).
This could be divided into two sections, with one showing how
the Democrats have compromised themselves, especially during the
Reagan-to-Obama era. (It took Trump to finally repulse Democrats
enough to stop tacking toward the center, although Bloomberg and
others rose to do just that in 2020, anything to deny Sanders the
nomination.) It's possible that many of these points may have been
made in earlier sections. The second part would be a recommended
behavior guide for Democratic candidates. I don't see much value
in providing a catalog of possible problem solutions -- a subject
for another book (or several). Rather, the goal is to show ways
Democrats can respond to Republicans in ways that elicit trust
from voters. Democrats need to listen and engage. They need to
keep an open mind, and be flexible enough to change tack when
better (or easier) solutions emerge. They need to balance off
multiple interest groups, and they need to minimize losses when
tradeoffs are necessary. They need to be decent and empathetic.
They need to offer orderly transitions where change is required.
They need to be very reluctant to force changes. They need to
develop the skills to reason down people on all sides who get
hung up on details. They need to respect differences of belief,
and to avoid blanket condemnation. They need to recognize that
there are limits to power, and shy away from overstepping. And
they need to recognize that some things can't be fixed before
they break, so that much of the work ahead will be recovery,
and won't be helped by recriminations.
Afterword: Is there anything left that needs to be said?
At some point, I should explain that the target audience for this
book consists of Democrats who are active in electoral politics, and
are trying to navigate the two requirements noted above: win elections,
and govern to make conditions better. It is also for leftists who are
willing to work within the Democratic Party to advance their ideas,
which often involves coalition-building with people who don't share
many of those ideas. Hopefully, it will help both understand each
other, and join forces, at least for practical purposes. I also
think that Democrats should accept that there are leftists who
don't want to work with them, and not get all bent out of shape
over that. Some Democrats seem to get way more agitated that some
folks voted for a Jill Stein or Ralph Nader than that many more
voted for Trump or Bush (or against Clinton or Gore). I won't go
so far as to say that there are "no enemies on the left," but I
have found that principled refuseniks are more likely to show up
at a demonstration when you really need them than are your local
Democratic Party workers.
The main way the book helps is in providing a historical
framework to how politics has been practiced in America, and a
general sense of how hopelessly divided we are on a number of
important issues. I think this framework will make it easier
to approach issues as they come up in campaigns. The etiquette
guide may also help, but most people inclined to run for office
already know most of it. There I'm more concerned with leftist
readers, who may need to moderate their tactics, if not their
The book is not intended to convince Republicans (even Never
Trumpers) or Mugwumps. That's different task, and may very well
require a different writer. I do think that most people who vote
Republican are very poorly served by their elected representatives.
Maybe a few of them will open the book and discover why, but I'm
not counting on that, and don't regard it as a priority. That does
not mean I see no value in approaching such people politically.
I think literally everyone will ultimately benefit from honest,
flexible, responsible politics -- even billionaires who could take
a big financial hit. But people are different, and need to be
Such a book would ideally be published by early summer 2024,
in order to have any impact on those critical elections. Of course,
it's still likely to be generally useful after the election, and
well into the foreseeable future. My fantasy is that someone will
read it and decide to run. It can't have that impact in 2024, but
there will be many more critical elections to come.
Still, nine months seems like a long time compared to the five
hours I invested knocking the above out off the top of my head.
Too bad I don't have the confidence to commit to that.
Top story threads:
Trump: His week was dominated by the order that he surrender
to the Fulton County Jail, which produced a rather peculiar mug shot,
and the usual senseless blather on Trump's part, and reams of reports
and commentary elsewhere. Pieces on this (and other Trumpiana) are
alphabetized below, with Zhou as an intro, his Wednesday-night debate
diversion at the end.
Li Zhou: [08-24]
Why Trump's surrender is such a big deal: "Everything you need to
know about Trump's arrest, mugshot, and coming arraignment."
Li Zhou/Nicole Narea: [08-25]
A visual guide to the 19 defendants in the Trump Georgia case:
"The mugshots and the charges they face, briefly explained." I have
to wonder about the mugshot process. For one thing, the Sheriff
medallions are different sizes, with Trump's especially small, all
but illegible. Also, Trump's picture is uniquely flattering, his
face sharply etched in shadows while the glare present in most of
the shots is limited to his shiny hair (which, as Warren Zevon once
put it, "is perfect").
Aaron Blake: [08-26]
Trump's Georgia case could get real -- quickly: With 19 defendants,
each relatively free to pursue their own options, including the early
trial date that Trump dreads. It's not unusual for defendants to plead
out during RICO trials, which usually means testifying against their
co-defendants -- of which one stands out as "more equal" than the
Philip Bump: [08-25]
Parsing Trump's post-surrender comments in Georgia.
Will Bunch: [08-27]
Journalism fails miserably at explaining what is really happening to
America: "Momentous week of GOP debate, Trump's arrest gets 'horse
race' coverage when the story's not about an election but authoritarianism."
Margaret Hartmann: [08-22]
Does Trump want me to think he's a flight risk? Well, he
does like to be seen as unpredictable, even though he rarely is. He
does tease a flight to Russia, but surely there must be preferable
retreats for an itinerant billionaire on the lam?
Vinson Cunningham: [08-25]
Trump's mug shot is his true presidential portrait: "He might be
angry in the mug shot; he might even be scared. But he damn sure doesn't
look surprised. Nobody is."
Ankush Khardori: [08-25]
Lock him up? A new poll has some bad news for Trump: Most
Americans believe Trump should stand trial before the 2024
election: 61% to 19% (independents 63% to 14%, Republicans 33%
to 45%). About half of the country believes Trump is guilty in
the pending prosecutions: 51% to 26% (independents 53% to 20%,
Republicans 14% to 64%). Half of the country believes Trump
should go to prison nif convicted in DOJ's Jan. 6 case: 50%
for imprisonment, 16% for probation, 12% financial penalty only,
18% no penalty (independents 51% prison to 14% for no penalty;
Republicans 11% to 43%). They also argue that "a conviction in
DOJ's 2020 election case would hurt Trump in the general
election," and "there is considerable room for the numbers
to get worse for Trump."
Akela Lacy: [08-24]
Georgia GOP gears up to remove Atlanta prosecutor who indicted Donald
Trump: "Lawmakers invoked a new law that's supposed to target
reform DAs. The real targets are Black Democrats." This is evidently
similar to the law that DeSantis has been using to purge Florida of
Democratic District Attorneys. But the grounds stated in the law are
using discretionary powers to not prosecute state laws, so it will
be a stretch to remove Willis for actually prosecuting a case. Not
that Republicans think they need an excuse to trash local democracy.
Amanda Marcotte: [08-21]
Let's pour one out for Mike Lindell: MyPillow Guy wasn't important
enough to get his own indictment. Speaking of unindicted
co-conspirators, Marcotte also wrote about: [08-23]
Roger Stone's hubris exposes Trump's plan: New video shows lawyers
faked distance from Capitol riots.
Patrick Marley: [07-18]
Michigan charges 16 Trump electors who falsely claimed he won the
state: This story is more than a month old, so "the charges are
the first against Trump electors" is still true, but now they're
not also the last. There is also a story by Kathryn Watson: [08-17]
Arizona AG investigating 2020 alleged fake electors tied to Trump.
Looks like there are also investigations in
Kelly McClure: [08-27]
Trump gripes on Truth Social that indictments are keeping him from PGA
championships in Scotland.
Nicole Narea: [08-25]
Why Trump seems to grow more popular the worse his legal troubles
become: "Trump isn't Hitler. But when it comes to the courts,
he's successfully borrowing the Nazi's playbook." But, like, is
any of that actually true? Sure, Trump has a hard core following,
but is it really growing with each indictment? He's good not just
at playing the victim, but in acting defiant, but that's easy given
how much deference his prosecutors have shown him. And is running
40 points above DeSantis, Ramaswamy, Pence, Scott, Haley, Christie,
et al. such an accomplishment? All it suggests that Republicans are
more into circuses than bread
As for Hitler, the best analogy is the one Marx coined comparing
the two Napoleons: the latter was as full of delusion and himself
as the former, but had none of the skills, and few of the grievances,
that made the original such an ill-fated menace. But Trump was never
a failed painter, nor a battered soldier. He wasn't hardened by jail,
and never tried to articulate a vision, even one as perverse as
Mein Kampf. His agenda to "make America great again" was
miraculously achieved on inauguration day, as him being president
was all greatness required. Conversely, as soon as he lost the
presidency, America fell back into the toilet. Hitler, on the
other hand, just started when he ascended to power,
and used it even more ruthlessly than Napoleon, until it consumed
him, destroyed his nation, and wrecked much of the world.
Given that there is little daylight between Trump and Hitler
regarding emotions and morals, we are lucky that Trump is pure
farce: he is stupid, he is lazy, and he understands politics
purely as entertainment (which is the only thing he has any
real aptitude at, although lots of us have trouble seeing even
that). But not being Hitler doesn't make him harmless. He's
created -- not from whole cloth but by building on decades of
resentment and vindictiveness, from Reagan to Gingrich and
especially through the talking heads at Fox and points farther
right -- what may be summed up as the Era of Bad Feelings: a
revival of right-wing shibboleths and fever-dreams that had
mostly been in remission. And then there are the opportunity
costs: things we will pay for in the future because we were
too cheap, or dumb, or distracted to deal with when they were
still manageable (climate, obviously, but also infrastructure,
health care, and perhaps most importantly, peace).
Nonetheless, Narrea has opted to go down this rabbit hole, by
interviewing Thomas Weber, who's written about the comparison in
a forthcoming book,
Fascism in America: Past and Present (along with others
writing on various right-wing movements). I've done considerable
reading into the history of fascism, and as a person on the left,
I've developed a sensitivity to both its politics and aesthetics,
so these questions engage me in ways that most other people will
find pedantic and probably boring. I won't go into all that here,
but will note that even I find this particular discussion rather
David Remnick: [08-22]
The mobster cosplay of Donald Trump.
Jeff Stein: [08-22]
Trump vows massive new tariffs if elected, risking global economic
war: "Former president floats 10 percent on all foreign imports
and calls for 'ring around the collar' of U.S. economy." Unlikely
he's thought this through, but a reason for doing something like
this would be to help balance a trade deficit the US has run since
1970 and never done anything serious about, because the dollar drain
is either held as capital abroad or returned for financial services
and assets in America -- both of which are massive transfers to the
rich both here and elsewhere. But it's unlikely to happen, because
it will upset a lot of apple carts, and those aggrieved interests
will have no problem reframing it as a massive tax on American
consumers, which it would be. For more, see:
Dean Baker: [08-23]
Donald Trump's $3.6 Trillion Dollar Tax Hike: This might look bad
for Republicans to be raising taxes, but the only taxes Republicans
care about are ones that take money from the rich and distribute it
downwards -- those they hate, and do anything in their power to kill.
Tariffs, on the other hand, are taxes on consumption -- the only one
of those Republicans get upset over is the gasoline tax (or worse,
any form of carbon tax). Moreover, tariffs allow domestic businesses
to raise prices and pocket the profits, so they're cool with that,
Paul Krugman: [08-24]
Trump, lord of the ring (around the collar): Krugman hates the
idea for the usual reasons, plus some extras. At least he admits
that the economic inefficiencies are pretty minor. Given that any
taxes raised will be quickly respent, his complaint about the
regressive nature of the tax isn't such a big deal, either. His
bigger point has to do with international relations, although he
could explain it better. Trade makes nations more interdependent,
and less hostile. Unbalanced trade, like the US has been running,
also returns some good will. East Asia (China included) largely
grew their economies on trade surpluses with the US, and that
helps keep most of them aligned militarily aligned with the US
(not China, but it certainly makes China less hostile than it
would be otherwise). Trade wars, on the other hand, undermine
relationships, promote autarky and isolation, or drive other
countries into alliances that bypass the US (e.g., BRICS). The
few countries the US refuses to trade with fester economically
and become more desperately hostile (North Korea, Cuba, Iran,
Venezuela, and now Russia). They are usually so small that it
doesn't cost the US much, but Russia is stressing that, and a
trade war with China would stress everyone.
Caitlin Yilek/Jacob Rosen: [08-27]
Trump campaign says it's raised $7 million since mug shot release.
I had already snagged the Darko cartoon up top before linking to this.
After all, he always does this.
Matt Stieb: [08-23]
The craziest moments from Trump's Tucker Carlson interview.
For more crazy:
Jeanne Whalen: [08-22]
Trump promised this Wisconsin town a manufacturing boom. It never
arrived. Also on this:
DeSantis, and other Republicans: Starts with the Fox dog
and pony show in Milwaukee.
Eric Levitz: [08-24]
Who won (and lost) the first Republican debate: Scorecard format
counts DeSantis and Pence as winners; Ramaswamy, Scott, Haley, and
"your grandchildren" as losers. The knock on Scott was that he tried
to be sensible and was revealed as boring, while Haley tried to be
serious and turned preachy (she "came across as the most informed,
capable, and honest candidate on the stage. In other words, she's
cooked." Levitz didn't mention this, but she was also psychotic on
foreign policy, but sure, in Washington that counts as a synonym
for serious). Ramaswamy, on the other hand, tried to be "the biggest
sociopath at the prep-school debate" only to find out that he "just
isn't [MAGA Americans] kind of conman." That left the candidates
self-respecting Republicans can see themselves in, which is to say
ridiculous ones. As for the rest of us, we don't count to this
crowd. Levitz was much too kind in summing up their agenda for us
as a loss to "your grandchildren." The threat of these politicians
is much more urgent than that.
For more on the debate (let's try to contain this, although it
leaks out, especially in the attention suddenly being paid to Vivek
Intelligencer Staff: [08-23]
34 things you missed at the Republican debate: The live blog, so
LIFO. Levitz skipped over Christie, but he wound up with the third
largest talking share (after Pence and DeSantis). Chait noted how
Christie got booed, and: "Christie picked the most moderate possible
ground to object to Trump's attempt to secure an unelected second
term. That stance was beyond the pale." As for DeSantis as winner:
Hartmann noted "Ron DeSantis almost appears human," while Rupar
conceded that "DeSantis is getting better at making normal human
facial expressions." With Republicans, it seems that journalists
have to take what they can get.
Dan Balz: [08-26]
'Democracy' was on the wall at the GOP debate. It was never in the
conversation. Clearly, they view democracy as the enemy, but
they can't exactly say that in so many words.
Emily Guskin, et al: [08-24]
Our Republican debate poll finds Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy
won: Poll limited to "likely Republican voters," with 29% to 26%.
Nikki Haley came in third with 15%, Pence had 7%, Scott and Christie
4%, Burgum and Hutchinson 1%, 13% had no idea. Comparing pre- and
post-debate polls, Haley got the largest bump (29-to-46%), followed
by Burgum (5-to-12%).
Ed Kilgore: [08-24]
The debate did nothing to diminish Trump's control of the GOP.
Rebecca Leber: [08-24]
The first GOP debate reveals a disturbing level of climate change
denial. The more impossible it becomes to ignore or waive away
the evidence, the more dogmatic they become in rejecting the very
notion, and the more they retreat from any possible compromise. Nor
is this the only example. On virtually every issue, Republicans have
hardened their positions into rigid principles that they will defend
even if it involves wrecking the government. This is in stark contrast
to the Democrats, who have long been willing to compromise anything.
The result makes Republicans look strong (albeit crazy) and Democrats
weak (while getting little sympathy for being sane).
Chris Lehmann: [08-24]
The Donald Trump look-alike contest.
Amanda Marcotte: [08-24]
Why do Republicans even bother with this whole farce? "trump wasn't
there, but we saw why he's leading: GOP voters don't care about substance,
just unjustified grievances." Still, a large swath of mainstram media
took this "debate" as serious news, lending support to the idea that
we should care about what various Republicans think, and that it makes
any difference who they ultimately nominate.
Osita Nwanevu: [08-24]
The first Republican debate was one long stare into a Trump-shaped
Christian Paz: [08-24]
2 winners and 3 losers from the first Republican debate: Winner:
Donald Trump; Loser: Any alternative to Trump; Loser: Ron DeSantis;
Winner: A pre-Trump Republican Party; Loser: Bret Baier and Martha
MacCallum. I don't understand the point of the second "winner," but
the audience reliably booed any least criticism of Trump, of which
there were very few.
Nia Prater: [08-25]
Oliver Anthony didn't love his song being played at the GOP debate:
This should be a teachable moment. As I noted last week, the song's
first two lines could have kicked off a leftist diatribe. That he
then veered into stupid right-wing talking points was unfortunate,
but anyone who believes that working men are getting screwed should
have the presence of mind to see that the billionaires and stooges
on the Milwaukee stage were the problem, not the solution. Also see:
Dylan Scott: [08-25]
What the GOP debate revealed about Republican health care hypocrisy:
"The GOP loves Big Government in health care -- if it's blocking
abortion or trans care."
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-24]
GOP debate bloodbath over Ukraine leaves room for agreement -- on
China: "All agreed Beijing is the greatest threat to the US,
particularly at the American border." Huh? Evidently, they believe
that China is behind the fentanyl being smuggled in from Mexico,
and that the best defense would be a strong offense . . . against
Tony Karon: [10-24]
[Twitter]: "Whether it's Republicans or Democrats, US presidential
elections are conducted as TV game shows. America has entertained
itself to death, as Neil Postman warned it would . . ."
Philip Bump: [08-23]
One in 8 Republicans think winning is more important than election
rules: "Another 3 in 8 apparently think Donald Trump adheres
to those rules." I would have guessed it was more like 7 in 8, at
least if you limit the question to party activists (politicians,
donors, people who work campaigns, think tanks, and their media
flaks), and phrased it in terms that didn't inhibit from expressing
their beliefs. Their core belief is that anything that helps them
win is good, as is anything that can be used to hurt the Democrats.
I could, at this point, list a dozen, a score, maybe even a hundred
examples. This isn't just competitiveness -- Democrats can exhibit
that, too, although they're rarely as ruthless, in part because they
believe in representative democracy, where everyone has a say, and
that say is proportional to popular support. On the other hand,
Republicans believe that power is to be seized, and once you have
it, you should flout it as maximally as you can get away with. At
root, that's because most Republicans (at least most activists)
don't believe in democracy: they don't believe that lots of people
deserve any power or respect at all.
Thomas B Edsall: [08-23]
Trump voters can see right through DeSantis. Interesting. So why
can't they see through Trump?
James Fallows: [08-23]
"What's the matter with Florida?" "The GOP's doomed war against higher
Van Jackson: [08-23]
Vivek Ramaswamy's edgelord foreign policy: What do you get when
you flail senselessly at the "secular gods" of "Wokeism, transgenderism,
climatism, Covidism, globalism"? I had to look "edgelord" up, but here
it is: "a person who affects a provocative or extreme persona," e.g.,
"edgelords act like contrarians in the hope that everyone will admire
them as rebels." But wasn't Nixon's "madman theory" simply meant to
confuse and intimidate others, not to woo voters?
Glenn Kessler: [08-25]
Vivek Ramaswamy says 'hoax' agenda kills more people than climate
change. The Washington Post's Fact Checker says: "Four
Ed Kilgore: [08-25]
Palin's civil war threat is a sign of very bad things to come.
Mostly that Republicans think they'll prevail, if not at the ballot
box (that one's pretty much sailed) then because they own more guns
than Democrats. This assumes that the institutions of justice and
violence, which they've been courting so assiduously all these years,
will bend to the ir demands. That didn't happen on Jan. 6, and it
still seems pretty unlikely, although it happens all the time in the
"shithole countries" Republicans are trying to turn this one into.
Martin Pengelly: [08-25]
Ramaswamy's deep ties to rightwing kingpins revealed: Leonard
Leo and Peter Thiel, for starters.
Charles P Pierce: [08-23]
Gregg Abbott has outdone himself again: "Exactly what are the
upper limits of inhumanity he has to reach before the federal
government does something about this mad stage play?" This time
he sent a busload of refugees from Texas into a hurricane in Los
Angeles, instead of doing the decent thing, which was to lock them
up and wait for a hurriance to hit Texas.
Andrew Prokop: [08-23]
Vivek Ramaswamy's rise to semi-prominence, explained. The first
interesting question is how he got so rich. He started as a hedge
fund analyst investing in biotech, then bought a piece of a company,
which bought rights to an Alzheimer's drug that had repeatedly failed
trials. He hyped the drug into a lucrative IPO, before the drug again
flopped. Meanwhile, he sold off several other "promising" drugs, and
cleaned out, going back into the hedge fund racket, and his intro to
politics via books like Woke, Inc.
Ryu Spaeth: [08-25]
What if Vivek Ramaswamy is the future of politics? Could be, as
long as the media is more concerned with the performance of politics
than with its substance. The most persuasive paragraph here is the
one that shows how Ramaswamy draws on Obama: nothing substantive, of
course, but much performative. So it's fair to say he's not just
aimed at out-Trumping Trump.
[PS: See Tatyana Tandanpolie: [08-24]
Vivek Ramaswamy accused of plagiarizing Obama line at GOP debate.
I wouldn't call that plagiarism. It sounds more like an homage.]
Brynn Tannehill: 
Republicans' border policy proposals are sadistic and would lead to
Prem Thakker: 
Republicans pushed almost 400 "education intimidation" bills in past
Li Zhou: [08-23]
A shooting over a Pride flag underscores the threat of Republican
From my Twitter feed, Peter Baker: "In 1994, 21% of Republicans and
17% of Democrats viewed the other party very unfavorably. Today, 62%
of Republicans and 54% of Democrats do." Mark Jacob
responded: "Call it 'tribalism' ifyou want. But another explanation
is that one political party turned full-on fascist, and the rest of us
found that unacceptable." Baker cites a WSJ piece by Aaron Zitner,
"Why tribalism took over our politics," which offered "an uncomfortable
explanation: Our brains were made for conflict." I haven't read the
piece (paywall), nor do I particularly want to, as it seems highly
unlikely that our brains manifested themselves on such a level only
in the last thirty years.
Matt Ford: [08-25]
The one thing the Supreme Court got right: Blowing up college sports:
"The NCAA's hold on its lucrative status quo looks more vulnerable than
ever, two years after the high court ruled against it." On the other
hand, it would have been better still to blow up the entire business
of college sports, which are a massive drain (financial as well as
mental) on higher education.
Stephanie Kirchgaessner/Dominic Rushe: [08-25]
Billionaire-linked US thinktank behind Supreme Court wealth tax case
Christiano Lima: ]08-24]
Judge tosses RNC lawsuit accusing Google's spam filters of bias.
Ian Millhiser: [08-26]
The edgelord of the federal judiciary: "Imagine a Breitbart
comments forum come to life and given immense power over innocent
people. That's Judge James Ho." Second time I've run across the
word "edgelord" this week: I think it was more accurately applied
to Vivek Ramaswamy (see Van Jackson, above), but the author was
evidently hard-pressed to find words to express his disgust with
Judge Ho. At one point he seems to give up: "There are so many
errors in Ho's legal reasoning that it would be tedious to list
all of them here." But then he comes up with five more paragraphs,
before warning us that "Ho could be the future of the federal
Climate and Environment:
Connor Echols: [08-25]
Diplomacy Watch: Washington's 'wishful thinking' on Ukraine:
Sub is "Russia hawks have no shortage of unrealistic assumptions
underlying their views of the conflict," but one can say the same
thing about American hawks, indeed about all hawks.
Dave DeCamp: [08-20]
US 'fears' Ukraine is too 'casualty averse': This was the
first of a number of recent articles where America's armchair
generals are unhappy, blaming Ukraine's slow counteroffensive on
reluctance to sacrifice their troops. This shows that those who
suggested that America is willing to fight Russia "to the last
dead Ukrainian" were onto something. On the other hand, it also
suggests that Ukraine should reconsider its war goals in terms
of what is actually possible. Some examples include:
Thomas Graham: [08-22]
Was the collapse of US-Russia relations inevitable?.
Branko Marcetic: [08-23]
Are US officials signaling a new 'forever war' in Ukraine? "Now
that Kyiv's counteroffensive is floundering, goal posts in the timing
for talks and a ceasefire are quietly being moved."
Fred Kaplan: [08-21]
No, Biden hasn't messed up an opportunity to end the war in Ukraine:
But he hasn't presented one, either. Rather, as long as Ukraine is willing
to continue fighting, he's happy to keep supplying Ukraine with weapons,
and to duck the question of whether the US has ulterior motives in backing
Anatol Lieven/George Beebe: [08-25]
What Putin would get out of eliminating Prigozhin. The Wagner
Group CEO was presumably among the passengers in a plane that crashed
Thursday. Most commentators jumped to the conclusion that Putin was
behind the crash, because, well, it just seems like something he would
do. This piece doesn't offer any evidence. (Early speculation that the
plane was shot down seems to have fallen out, with a bomb now viewed
as the most likely. Another theory is that Prigozhin faked his death,
with or without Putin's collaboration, but I haven't seen any evidence
of that.) Lieven is usually pretty smart about reading Russian tea
leaves, but he doesn't have much to go on here.
Robyn Dixon/Mary Ilushina: [08-27]
Russia confirms Wagner chief Prigozhin's death after DNA tests.
Fred Kaplan: [08-23]
Why it's easy to see Yevgeny Prigozhin's plane crash as Putin's
Joshua Yaffa: [08-24]
Putin's deadly revenge on Prigozhin.
Paul Sonne/Valeriya Safronova/Cassandra Vinograd: [08-25]
Putin denies killing Prigozhin, calling the idea anti-Putin propaganda:
There's no way short of a confession, of which there is none, to know
if Putin ordered the killing, but he is right that the insinunation is
"anti-Putin propaganda" -- one more instance in a long list of charges
going back to the
1999 Russian apartment bombings, which Putin used as cassus belli
to launch the Second Chechen War, followed by virtually every mishap
that befell any of his political opponents ever since. The idea is to
present him as a ruthless monster who cannot be trusted and negotiated
with, who can only be checked by force, and who must ultimately be
beaten into submission. For all I know, he may indeed be guilty of
many of the charges, but he is still the leader of a large nation
we need to find some way to respect and coexist with, to engage and
work with on problems of global import. The purpose of anti-Putin
propaganda is to prevent that from happening. The results include
the present war in Ukraine, which, as Crocodile Chuck never tires
of reminding me, is what happens when you start believing you own
Around the world:
Back to school:
Jonathan Guyer: [08-23]
BRICS, the economic group of America's rivals and friends alike,
explained: Starting off as an economic forum for five prominent
countries outside the G7 (and more generally, outside US-dominated
networks; all five BRICS founders also meet with G7 members in the
G20), they could expand into a new edition of the Non-Aligned
Movement of 1955, where "as many as
40 countries want to join BRICS." More on BRICS:
Sarang Shidore: [08-24]
BRICS just announced an expansion. This is a big deal. Six new
states will join BRICS: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia,
and UAE. In addition to its confabs, BRICS has its New Development Bank,
which is a potential rival to, or end run around, the US-controlled
World Bank. Of these, Iran is the most explicit challenge to the US, as
Trita Parsi explains.
Celina Della Croce: [08-25]
How US sanctions are a tool of war: The case of Venezuela.
Nick Turse: [08-23]
15 US-backed officers had hand in 12 West African coups. Turse also
At least five members of Niger junta were trained in US;
Niger junta appoints US-trained military officers to key jobs; and
When is a coup not a coup? When the US says so.
More on the US in Africa:
Richard Silverstein: [08-25]
Ben Gvir: Give every Jew a gun.
Adam Bernstein/Robin Webb: [08-26]
Bob Barker, unflappable 'Price is Right' emcee, dies at 99: The
show debuted in 1956. I watched it pretty regularly into the early
1960s, and learned one indelible lesson: how list prices were inflated
to create the sense that sales offer bargains. Before we bought a set
of World Book in 1961, the book I most diligently studied was
the Sears & Roebuck catalog, so my knowledge of real prices was
close to encyclopedic, and the list prices on the show often came as
a shock. Barker didn't join the show until 1972, so I probably never
watched him except in passing. But the persistence of the show is a
tribute to the mass consumer society my generation -- the first to
watch TV from infancy -- was programmed to worship.
Rachel DuRose: [08-25]
AI-discovered drugs will be for sale sooner than you think:
"It takes forever to get drugs on the market. AI could help speed
up the process."
Ronan Farrow: [08-21]
Elon Musk's shadow rule: "How the US government came to rely on
the tech billionaire -- and is now struggling to rein him in." A
long and not unsympathetic profile, which starts from the fact that
Ukraine depended on Musk's Starlink satellite communications network,
which allowed him to shake the US down for profits. But what may have
started as a human interest story is rapidly becoming a morbid one,
the critical flaw not the person necessarily but the power he has
Adam Gopnik: [08-21]
How the authors of the Bible spun triumph from defeat. Reflects
on Jacob L Wright's new book, Why the Bible Began: An Alternative
History of Scriptures and Its Origins (out Oct. 19), which argues
that the secret of the Bible's long-term success was that it provided
a story of underdogs surviving against all odds:
The Jews were the great sufferers of the ancient world -- persecuted,
exiled, catastrophically defeated -- and yet the tale of their special
selection, and of the demiurge who, from an unbeliever's point of view,
reneged on every promise and failed them at every turn, is the most
admired, influential, and permanent of all written texts.
I've read several of Karen Armstrong's books, where she argues
that the major religions invented in the first millennium BCE were
attempts to limit the increasing horror of war -- one things of
the waves of Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks across the Middle
East, but India and China were similarly affected. It's hard to
say they worked: even Christianity, which was untainted by military
power until Constantine, proved to be amenable to state power.
I still find it puzzling that more than two-thousand years later,
the arts of war having advanced to an apocalyptic level, that no
comparable progress has been made in religion, leaving us stuck
grappling with these failed myths. As Gopnik notes, "Wright, like
so many scholars these days, cannot resist projecting pluralist,
post-Enlightenment values onto societies that made no pretense
of possessing them." But what else can he do, other than disposing
of the emotions that cling to belief in religion?
Sarah Jones: [08-25]
What is a university without liberal arts? More on West Virginia
Univeristy -- I noted Lisa M Corrigan:
The evisceration of a public university last week.
Andrea Mazzarino: [08-22]
The violent American century: "The ways our twenty-first century
wars have polarized Americans." I give you an example at the bottom
of this post. It's hard to imagine so many Americans stocking up on
guns as a solution to their concerns for safety and order without
the example of America's near-constant war -- at least since 1941,
but especially since 2001, when the "enemy" became as nebulous and
intimate as an idea.
Jonathan O'Connell/Paul Farhi/Sofia Andrade: [08-26]
How a small-town feud in Kansas sent a shock through American
journalism: The Marion County Record.
Emily Olson: [08-26]
Thousands march to mark the 60th anniversary of MLK's 'I Have a Dream'
Nathan J Robinson:
This is only going to get worse until we make it stop: "Republicans
want to maximize the catastrophic heating of the globe. Democrats want
to pretend to be doing something without taking on the fossil fuel
industry." He starts by declaring that "I turned 34 yesterday." That
means he should have 38 more years left than I have. That calls for
a different perspective -- one I can't quite imagine, leaving me more
in tune with the cad he calls Martha's Vineyard Man.
There should not be "religious exemptions to laws: Or, if there
should be a religious exemption, most likely the law is wrong -- he
gives examples like forced cutting of Rastafarian dreadlocks, or the
allowance for certain Indians to take peyote.
How Rupert Murdoch destroyed the news.
Jeffrey St Clair: [08-25]
Roaming Charges: Through a sky darkly: Usual grabbag opens with
smoke close to his Oregon home, but goes far enough to note that
Europe has had over 1,100 fires this summer (up from a 2006-22
average of 724), offers a
map of Greece, notes the
Devastating floods in Slovenia, and the parade of hurricanes
currently crossing the Atlantic. Much more, of course.
Steve M (No More Mr Nice Blog) wrote a piece [08-23]
Vivek Ramaswamy wants to deport two members of congress (and doesn't
know one was born in America). I'm breaking this out because I
want to quote a big chunk, after he quotes Ramaswamy bitching: "We
need to weed out ingrates like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib who come
to this country and complain about it."
Hey, smart guy -- you know that Rashida Tlaib was born in Detroit,
Omar, of course, is a naturalized citizen (though as Essence
once noted, Omar has been a citizen longer than Melania Trump). It's
true that Omar has said some critical things about America. But do you
know who else "complains about" the U.S.? Every Republican.
Republicans hate the president. They hate most of the laws passed
during liberal administrations, and most of the laws passed in liberal
cities and states. Republicans hate millions of their fellow
citizens. They hate most of the nation's cities. And they have an
inalienable right as Americans to feel all this hate and complain that
America isn't exactly the way they want it to be. But Ramaswamy
doesn't want extend this right -- a right Republicans exercise every
single day -- to Omar and Tlaib.
I'm old enough to remember when "love it or leave it" was on the
lips of every Cold Warrior, but what they really meant by "love it"
was support America's imperialist war in Vietnam. A few years later,
few Americans doubted that Vietnam was one of the worst mistakes the
nation had ever made, but few conceded that antiwar protesters had
been right all along, let alone that they cared more for the country
than the people who led them into such an evil war.
Back then, as well as today, there was/is a certain type of
American who feels the country is theirs exclusively, and that no
one who disagrees with them counts, or should even be allowed to
stay in the country they grew up in. And, as someone with only one
set of immigrant ancestors in the last 200 years (my father's mother's
parents, in the 1870s from Sweden), it especially galls me to be
slandered by relatively arriviste "super-patriots" named Ramaswamy
and Drumpf. (I'm not saying that newcomers can't be real Americans,
but I have noticed a tendency to overcompensate -- as, indeed, my
grandmother did, in totally discarding her Swedish heritage.)
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Alfred Soto published a list of
My 50 favorite albums. Using as a checklist, my grades in brackets:
- Prince: Controversy (1981) [B+]
- Jorge Ben Jor: África Brasil (1976) [A-]
- Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music: Street Life: 20 Great Hits (1972-85) [A-]
- Public Image Ltd: Second Edition (1980) [A-]
- Ghostface Killah: Supreme Clientele (2000) [B]
- Peter Gabriel: So (1986) [A-]
- Aaliyah: Aaliyah (2001) [B+(**)]
- Electronic: Electronic (1991) [B+(***)]
- Alexander O'Neal: Hearsay (1986) [B+(**)]
- Sleater-Kinney: The Hot Rock (1999) [B+]
- Rosanne Cash: King's Record Shop (1987) [A-]
- Steely Dan: Gaucho (1980) [B+]
- Pet Shop Boys: Please (1986) [A-]
- Aretha Franklin: Spirit in the Dark (1970) [A-]
- René & Angela: Street Called Desire (1985) [B+(***)]
- Maxwell: BLACKsummers'night (2009) [B+(*)]
- Wire: The A List (1985-90) [A-]
- The Cure: The Head on the Door (1985) [B+(*)]
- A Tribe Called Quest: The Low End Theory [A-]
- The Go-Betweens: Oceans Apart (2005) [A-]
- Change: The Glow of Love (1980) [B+(**)]
- DJ Quik: The Book of David (2011) [B+(**)]
- Joni Mitchell: Hejira (1975) [B]
- Suede: Dog Man Star (1994) [B]
- Everything But The Girl: Walking Wounded (1996) [B+(***)]
- Kylie Minogue: Fever (2002) [B+(**)]
- DJ Sprinkles: Midtown 120 Blues (2008) 
- Willie Nelson: Shotgun Willie (1973) [B]
- The B-52's: Cosmic Thing (1989) [B+]
- Psychedelic Furs: Forever Now (1982) [B+]
- Garbage: Version 2.0 (1998) [B+]
- Eno/Cale: Wrong Way Up (1990) [A-]
- Duran Duran: Rio (1982) [B-]
- Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings (2016) [A-]
- Dolly Parton: The Essential Dolly Parton (1967-2000) [B+]
- Sugar: Copper Blue (1992) [B-]
- The Chills: Submarine Bells (1990) [A]
- Jesse Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (2020) [A-]
- The Human League: Dare (1981) [B-]
- Lil Wayne: Tha Carter II (2005) [A-]
- Erykah Badu: New Amerykah Part One (4th World War) (2008) [B+(***)]
- Amy Grant: Heart in Motion (1991) [B]
- Roisin Murphy: Overpowered (2007) [B+(*)]
- 808 State: Ex:el (1991) [B+(**)]
- Ice Cube: Amerikkka's Most Wanted (1990) [B+(**)]
- Utah Saints: Utah Saints (1992) [A-]
- Sinead O'Connor: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (1990) [B+(**)]
- Jazmine Sullivan- Reality Show (2015) [B+(***)]
- Gilberto Gil: Expresso 2222 (1972) [B+(**)]
- Miles Davis: Get Up With It (1974) [A-]
Lab results came in high [H]:
- Glucose: 158 (reference range 74-106 mg/dL)
- Creatinine: 1.24 (0.67-1.17 mg/dL) - kidney
- AST/SGOT: 52 (15-37 IU/L) - liver enzyme (aspartate aminotransferase)
- ALT/SGPT: 64 (16-63 U/L) - liver enzyme (alanine aminotransferase)
- Triglycerides: 227 (0-200 mg/uL)
- HgbA1C: 6.5 (4.5-5.9%)
Other lipid figures:
- Cholesterol: 133 (0-200 mg/dL)
- HDL: 27 [L] (40-60 mg/dL)
- LDL: 61 (0-100 mg/dL)
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Margaret Hartmann posted a piece:
Does Trump Want Me to Think He's a Flight Risk? She should do
a follow-up article on his options. I wrote the following to her editors:
Why don't you have Margaret Hartmann (maybe with help from someone
like Matt Stieb) follow up with a piece on the top 5-7 destinations
should Trump decide to flee the country? I'm not sure what the
criteria should be, beyond the minimum of no extradition and fawning
deference to the criminal rich, but you can probably figure that
out. I imagine Russia will be on the list, but hopefully not number
one. That would be self-discrediting.
On a slightly different scenario, I've suggested that if they can't
find an appropriate mainland jail for Trump, maybe they could send him
to house arrest somewhere out of the way, like Saint Helena. Also
seems like Guantanamo might be a compromise destination. That, at
least, will quiet the libs who want to shut the place down.
Monday, August 21, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 32 albums, 2 A-list,
Music: Current count 40728  rated (+32), 19  unrated (-3).
Speaking of Which yesterday (8215 words, 134 links, words
last week's record, but links are up). Since posting, I
added a link to
a piece on Stephen Miller's America First Legal suit against
Target for losing money in a right-wing anti-woke boycott. I saw
this story early in the week, and meant to link to it, but missed
it in the round up rush.
I figured there was no chance I'd hit 30 albums this week,
both due to distractions and a (probably seasonal) shortfall of
tips, but I found some priority jazz albums in my
tracking file, and they
led me to some more, with the Lucas Niggli oldies pushing me
over the top. I've long wanted to hit 100% of Intakt's back
I wound up the week with zero A- records, but thought Noname
and Margaret Glaspy merited another spin (or as it turns out,
three each). Noname was the easier promotion, but the best Glaspy
songs are quite solid, and my main reservation is that sometimes
my mind wanders. Similar exposure might have promoted Neil Young,
or either or both Ivo Perelmans, but I chose not to go there. I
think those grades are solid enough.
I finally did the indexing for
I barely average 30 records per week in July, so I guess this
has been going on longer than I thought. Sometimes it feels
like a pointless grind, but like Speaking of Which, it's one
of the few things I can do these days without too much strain.
Lots of useful information in Philipp Ther's How the West
Lost the Peace, but it doesn't really live up to the promise
of the title. It certainly is true that the West's single-minded
pursuit of neoliberal capitalism caused harm every step of the
way, but equally important was the blind spot that grew unaware
as "defense." That Russia, having been excluded from integration
with Europe both militarily and economically, and coming up on
the short end of both sticks, would revive imperial longings now
seems inevitable, even if completely foolish. Ther understands
this on some level, but in the end comes down so emphatically on
the side of Ukraine that he offers no exit path.
I was thinking I would read Christopher Clark's Revolutionary
Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849
next, but had to go to the doctor today, and wanted to carry a
smaller book. Scrounging through my old shelves, I found a 1962
paperback of EJ Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848,
which leads up to that period. I bought it ages ago (the paperback
price is $1.25), but don't recall ever actually reading it, but
now I have to admit that the first chapter is one of the most
brilliant pieces of historical writing I've ever encountered.
I doubt I'll be able to put it down (even though I just read a
pretty good short overview of the French Revolution in David A
Bell's Men on Horseback: The Power of Charisma in the Age
Correction: The Doug MacDonald album I reviewed
last month as Big
Band Extravaganza was actually titled Edwin Alley, and
credited to Doug MacDonald Trio. Big Band Extravaganza was
January. Both reviews
are so cryptic I doubt anyone noticed, but I've seen several hints
that I screwed up, and balancing the books finally proved it.
New records reviewed this week:
- Anitta: Funk Generation: A Favela Love Story (2023, Republic, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
- Itamar Borochov: Arba (2022 , Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***) [09-09]
- Grian Chatten: Chaos for the Fly (2023, Partisan): [sp]: B+(**)
- Claire Daly With George Garzone: VuVu for Frances (2021 , Daly Bread): [sp]: B+(**)
- Dazegxd & Quinn: DSX.FM (2023, DeadAir, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
- Kent Engelhardt & Stephen Enos: Madd for Tadd: "Central Avenue Swing" & "Our Delight" (2020 , Tighten Up, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- Tianna Esperanza: Terror (2023, BMG): [sp]: B+(***)
- Miya Folick: Roach (2023, Nettwerk): [sp]: B+(**)
- Frog Squad: Special Noise (2023, Mahakala Music): [sp]: B+(*)
- Margaret Glaspy: Echo the Diamond (2023, ATO): [sp]: A-
- Gloss Up: Shades of Gloss (2023, Quality Control): [sp]: B+(**)
- K-Lone: Swells (2023, Wisdom Teeth): [sp]: B+(*)
- Kimbra: A Reckoning (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
- Låpsley: Cautionary Tales of Youth (2023, Believe): [sp]: B+(**)
- Pat Metheny: Dream Box (2021-22 , Modern): [sp]: B+(*)
- Lucas Niggli Sound of Serendipity Tentet: Play! (2023, Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
- Noname: Sundial (2023, self-released): [sp]: A-
- Arturo O'Farrill: Legacies (2023, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(*)
- Okonski: Magnolia (2020-21 , Colemine): [sp]: B+(*)
- Genesis Owusu: Struggler (2023, Ourness/AWAL): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ivo Perelman/Aruan Ortiz/Lester St. Louis: Prophecy (2023, Mahakala Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ivo Perelman/James Emery: The Whisperers (2023, Mahakala Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Bobby Rozario: Spellbound (2019-21 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***) [08-26]
- Tamara Stewart: Woman (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
- David Virelles: Carta (2022 , Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Anthony Branker & Ascent: Spirit Songs (2004 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***) [08-26]
- George Cartwright: The Ghostly Bee (2005 , Mahakala Music): [bc]: B+(*)
- George Cartwright: A Tenacious Slew (2007 , Mahakala Music): [bc]: B+(*)
- Neil Young: Chrome Dreams (1974-77 , Reprise): [r]: B+(***)
- Lucas Niggli Zoom: Spawn of Speed (2000 , Intakt): B+(**) [sp]
- Lucas Niggli Zoom: Rough Ride (2002, Intakt): [sp]: B+(*)
- Lucas Niggli Drum Quartet: Beat Bag Bohemia (2007 , Intakt): [sp]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
Sunday, August 20, 2023
Speaking of Which
Didn't really start until Friday, but by now this pretty much
writes itself. I do notice that I'm dropping more bits of memoir
into the mix. Also that I needn't comment on everything. But do
read the Astra Taylor piece. Not sure when the new book is coming
out, but you probably have time to Democracy May Not Exist:
But We'll Miss It When It's Gone first.
I clicked on a bunch of articles, and ran into the paywall at
The New Republic. Evidently my wife's subscription had
expired. It's probably worth straightening out ($15/year is pretty
decent as these things go), but meanwhile the articles that looked
promising but I wasn't able to read:
Top story threads:
Trump: He got indicted again, and the resulting tsunami
of press earned him his own section, separate from the Republican
Alexander Bolton: [08-14]
GOP sees turnout disaster without Trump. This suggests that
a sizable bloc of Trump supporters will only turn out for him,
so that if Republicans run some other candidate with the same
effective program, a lot of voters are likely to pass. And since
Republicans have alienated most people, they can only continue
to win by thin margins (even trying to rig them, as they do).
It is certainly true that a lot of Trump supporters really hate
many other Republicans -- Mitch McConnell is a good example --
although they hate Democrats so much more that the GOP benefits
when they show up. It's also true that Trump's fans are
spectacularly misinformed about nearly everything, which is
a trait Republican strategists bank on.
Jonathan Chait: [08-15]
Lindsey Graham: Don't indict Trump, or impeach Trump, or vote against
him: Two thoughts here: one is the extended portrait of Graham in
Mark Leibovich's Thank You for Your Servitude, which paints
Graham as an innate lap dog, who once took John McCain as his leader,
a role that, to the surprise of pretty much everyone, Trump has since
assumed (the insecurity to have made that transition is staggering);
the other is the old maxim, "all's fair in love and war." We won't
talk about Graham's love life, but no one in Congress in eons has
exhibited a more kneejerk affection for war. Graham has always seen
politics as war, so as long as Trump can be seen as an effective
warrior (and Graham can hardly see him otherwise), anything can be
excused (and most of it can be celebrated).
Kyle Cheney: [08-15]
Special counsel obtained Trump DMs despite 'momentous' bid by Twitter
to delay, unsealed filings show.
Isaac Chotiner: [08-16]
The benefits and drawbacks to charging Trump like a mobster:
"Racketeering statutes allow prosecutors to arrange many characters
and a broad set of allegations into a single narrative." Interview
with Caren Myers Morrison. Many people have observed that the Trump
indictments are designed to tell stories. Morrison contrasts Georgia
and Smith: "The other one's Raymond Carver, and this is Dickens."
Matthew Cooper: [08-17]
Willis's indictment is "an overwhelming show of force . . . shock
and awe": Interview with Jennifer Taub.
Norman Eisen/Amy Lee Copeland: [08-15]
This indictment of Trump does something ingenious.
Adam Gopnik: [08-16]
There is nothing élitist about the indictments against Trump:
"The judicial system is doing its work, and the former President
has never been a man of the people."
Danny Hakim/Richard Fausset: [08-14]
Two months in Georgia: How Trump tried to overturn the vote.
Trump cancels press conference, will lie in legal filings instead:
On Monday, he promised to unveil on Friday an "Irrefutable REPORT"
about "the 2020 presidential election fraud that took place in
Georgia." Then, big surprise, he bailed.
Melania really doesn't care about Trump's indictment, do u?
I had this theory back in 1988 that one of the reasons Bush won
(besides Willie Horton, you know) was that voters took pity and
decided to spare Kitty Dukakis the ordeal of being First Lady.
She was clearly unstable and easily freaked out during the
campaign, whereas, well, you might not like Barbara Bush, but
you knew she could take it. It's hard for me to gin up any
sympathy for Melania, but maybe someone should take pity on
her. Maybe not as much as I dread a second Trump term, but
putting her through a second term as First Lady seems like a
lot of unnecessary cruelty.
w/Chas Danner: [08-19]
Giuliani begged, but Trump refused to cover his crushing legal
Richard L Hasen: [08-15]
The biggest difference between the Georgia indictment and the Jan. 6
indictment: Race, which enters from several angles, but especially
from Trump, who wasted no time in calling the prosecutor racist.
Quinta Jurecic: [08-15]
Trump discovers that some things are actually illegal: "The cases
against the former president aren't criminalizing politics. They're
criminalizing, well, crimes."
Ed Kilgore: [08-17]
A pardon won't save Trump if he's convicted in Georgia: They've
rigged the system to make pardons virtually impossible.
Ian Millhiser: [08-15]
Will anyone trust these hyper-politicized courts to try Donald
Trump? "The federal judiciary is a cesspool of partisanship,
and now it's being asked to oversee some of the most politically
fraught criminal trials in American history."
Lisa Needham: [08-15]
Trump's Fulton County indictment, unpacked.
Andrew Prokop: [08-15]
The five conspiracies at the heart of the Georgia Trump indictment:
- Trump's effort to get Georgia officials and legislators to change
- Trump's fake electors
- Jeff Clark's effort to have the US Justice Department case doubt
on Georgia results
- Trump allies' effort to influence poll worker Ruby Freeman's
- Trump allies' breach of voting data in Coffee County, Georgia
Matt Stieb: [08-18]
Threats from Trump supporters are piling up against the authorities:
This seems like one of those articles that's going to grow to book
length by the end of the year. The right-wing ecosystem is a cesspool
of hate and malice, so violence is inevitable, and not necessarily
preceded by easily traceable threats (such as the late
Jennifer Rubin: [08-20]
Why Trump's Georgia case likely can't be removed to federal
Charles P Pierce: [08-18]
I'm starting to think Donald Trump is untrustworthy: "He canceled
a Monday presser that was sure to be the mother of all conditions of
Tatyana Tandanpolie: [08-16]
Economic analyst stunned at sources of Jared Kushner's funds:
"Just 1% of investments in Kushner's fund came from sources in the
United States." No doubt Trump has done a lot of disreputable and
dishonest things to get money, but he's never come remotely close
to the heist his son-in-law pulled off, leveraging his multiple
White House portfolios. The 1% figure looks bad, but the really
outrageous number is $3 billion.
Hunter Walker: [08-15]
The full story behind the bizarre episode that led to charges in
Trump's latest indictment: "How Kanye West's publicist, an "MMA
fighter," and a Lutehran pastor teamed up to pressure a Georgia
Amy B Wang/Josh Dawsey: [08-19]
Trump to release taped interview with Tucker Carlson, skipping GOP
Odette Yousef: [08-18]
Threats, slurs and menace: Far-right websites target Fulton County
grand jurors. Follow-up: Holly Bailey/Hannah Allam: [08-18]
FBI joins investigation of threats to grand jurors in Trump Georgia
Li Zhou/Andrew Prokop: [08-16]
Trump's 4 indictments, ranked by the stakes: About what you'd
expect, but the Georgia election case could add up to more time
than the federal election case, and couldn't be pardoned by a
Republican president. (As I understand it, the Georgia governor
doesn't have pardon power like the US president has. To secure
a pardon in Georgia, you have to go before the state parole
board.) The New York charges would also be more difficult to
pardon, but aren't very likely to result in jail time. Ranked
third is the federal documents case. The charges there are
pretty air tight, and the maximum sentences are very long,
plus such cases are usually judged harshly.
James D Zirin: [08-15]
Will the prosecution of Trump have terrible consequences?
"Maybe, but they're likely to be far less terrible than if he
wasn't prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." I'm not
sure I understand either argument. If Trump had quietly faded
into oblivion, as Nixon did, I could see letting these charges
slip by -- although pleading them out would have been better.
But Trump couldn't let it go, so now he really should face a
reckoning with his crimes (at least those he's been charged
with -- no doubt there were many more). Will this have a
chilling effect on the behavior of future presidents? Let's
This is an aside, but I hadn't realized that Gerald Ford
was given a
John F Kennedy Profile in Courage award for pardoning Nixon.
There was nothing conventionally recognizable as courage in that
pardon. It was pure cover-up, meant to short-circuit further
investigations, taking the story out of the press cycle, and
saving Republicans from the continued association. Still, in
one sense the award was completely predictable. In
his 1956 book, Kennedy devoted a chapter to Edmund G. Ross
for voting against impeachment of Andrew Johnson, who had become
president after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and who
used his office to sabotage Reconstruction, speeding the return
of white racist power in the South. Another of Kennedy's profiles
was Robert A Taft, who was praised for his criticism of the
Nurembert Trials of Nazi war criminals.
Zack Beauchamp: [08-17]
The Trump indictments reveal a paradox at the heart of American
democracy: "The Trump cases help us understand how America's
democracy can be both strong and weak at the same time." Last
section sketches out what he calls "the ominous Israeli parallel,"
which is interesting in that few people are willing to take it
seriously, but is not quite the one I would make.
way to make sense of politics among Israeli Jews is to divide it
on two axes: conservative vs. liberal/socialist, religious vs.
secular. The Palestinian "citizens of Israel" are off on the
side, with their own conservative (religious) vs. socialist
(liberal/secular) spread, but they are rigidly excluded from
consideration by Jewish Israelis. The secular/liberal sector
was dominant up to 1978, and still an important factor up to
2000, but have since been largely wiped out, as the right has
taken the lead in fighting the Palestinians, while neoliberal
economic policies have undermined traditional support for
Labor. The religious parties early on were content to seek
special favors from joining Labor coalitions, but with the
rise of the right, they gravitated that way, and recently have
become even more anti-Palestinian.
That same matrix model works reasonably well for the US, at
least if you buy the superficially ridiculous idea that Trump
is the manifestation of the religious right. The key thing is
that the more violence against others, the more people rally
to the cult of violence, which is most clearly represented by
the party of Armageddon.
The big question in Israel is whether the threat to democracy
from the religious right, which thus far Likud has indulged, will
push enough moderate voters into opposition to curb the threat
from the far right -- which threatens not just democracy but
genocide. One could imagine a similar dynamic in America, but
the far-right is mostly out of power here, unable to manufacture
crises (although Abbott and DeSantis are trying), and are faced
with a more deeply democratic/liberal political culture. Still,
that Trump can be seriously considered as a political force, and
that Republicans have had so much luck leveraging their power
bases, means that the threat here is real. To get a better idea
of how real that could be, look no farther than Israel.
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Jonathan Chait: [08-18]
'Lock them up' is now the Republican Party's highest goal:
"It's no longer about policy or even culture war but prosecutorial
revenge." Nobody seems to remember this, but it was GW Bush who
started started the purge of politically unreliable US attorneys
back in 2006 (see
Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy). I don't recall
anything remotely like that under Obama, and Biden hasn't lifted
a finger to curtail the Trump-appointed US attorney prosecuting
Hunter Biden. You'd think that if Republicans genuinely objected
to the partisan nature of being prosecuted by Democrats, they'd
deny that if given the chance they'd do the same thing, but the
opposite appears to be true: they're chomping at the bit. One
pretty good bit here, about Trump:
Trump's legal jeopardy is easily explained: His private sector
record was a long history of shady associations with gangsters
and running scams. His presidency was a continuous procession of
his own advisers pleading with him not to do illegal things while
he complained that his attorneys weren't as unethical as Roy Cohn,
the mob lawyer he once employed.
I wouldn't have bothered with the last clause, as anyone familiar
with Cohn knows that representing the mob was nowhere near the most
unethical thing Cohn did. Also that Cohn was more of a mentor to
Trump than an employee.
PS: Steve M. comments on Chait's piece: [08-18]
Republicans think Democrats stole their act (and are doing it
better), starting with a tweet from Ben Shapiro (if you
don't know who he is, Nathan J Robinson has
written reams on him):
Whatever you think of the Trump indictments, one thing is for certain:
the glass has now been broken over and over again. Political opponents
can be targeted by legal enemies. Running for office now carries the
legal risk of going to jail -- on all sides.
In some sense, that risk has always been there. John Adams passed
laws to criminalize the speech of his political opponents, but he
never got around to prosecuting his vice president, Thomas Jefferson,
who did wind up prosecuting his, Aaron Burr. But for the most part,
politicians behaved themselves, or at least managed to keep above
the fray when their subordinates misbehaved (Grant, Harding, and
Reagan are classic examples; Nixon only escaped with a pardon). But
the idea of using criminal prosecutions for political leverage was
mostly developed against Clinton, a period when "no one is above
the law" was etched on every Republican's lips. Nothing comparable
happened on during the Bush and Obama presidencies, although several
people wrote books urging the impeachment of Bush (Elizabeth de la
Vega was one, in 2006, although the Democratic Congress elected
that year didn't touch it), and (as Chait noted) Shapiro himself
wrote The People Vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against
the Obama Administration, structuring his complaints as a RICO
Trump, on the other hand, was hellbent on prosecuting his opponents
from early in the campaign, when "lock her up" became a rally chant.
He toned back a bit after taking office, probably realizing that he
didn't really have the power to order prosecutions (though Nixon
probably did just that with the Chicago 8 and Daniel Ellsberg), but
where he did have power he exercised it politically (e.g., to fire
James Comey, and to pardon a number of his allies). And in general,
he behaved as someone convinced he was above the law, as someone
who could never be held to account for trampling on the law, as
someone who had no sense of justice other than seizing advantage.
And he was above the law, until he wasn't. Prosecution for his
crimes may be precedent-setting, but the crimes are very carefully
defined, and the evidence overwhelming. As a precedent, it's also
a pretty high bar. If a Democrat did anything comparable, most of
us would have no problems with prosecution.
Beth Harpaz/Jacob Kornbluh: [08-14]
Former Trump adviser Michael Flynn blamed Jews for boarding trains
to Asuchwitz: And "more offensive comments he's made about Jews."
But not a single one involved Israel, so he must be OK.
Ed Kilgore: [08-18]
DeSantis targeting Ramaswamy in a debate a sure sign he's losing:
It's hard to see how calling him an "inauthentic conservative" will
pay off, but bashing Ramaswamy as a Hindu should help DeSantis with
his bigotry bona fides.
Eric Levitz: [08-19]
The rise of the young, liberal, nonwhite Republican
Nia Prater: [08-17]
Trump supporter arrested for threatening to kill Trump's trial
Matt Stieb: [08-18]
James O'Keefe is now under criminal investigation: Conservative
provocateur, recently ousted as CEO of Project Veritas, appears to
be one of those guys whose "favorite charity" is himself.
Ben Terris: [08-17]
Awkward Americans see themselves in Ron DeSantis: I'm not sure
which one this reflects more embarrassingly on: the candidate or
the journalist (who at least asks one further question: "but do
they like what they see?").
Chris Walker: [08-16]
Arkansas rejects credit for AP Black History -- but Europe history
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [08-17]
In Vivek Ramaswamy, the Republicans have something new: This
left me hoping we never have to take him seriously, but fearing
that he's proving much more effective at shoveling bullshit than
his milquetoast competitors.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Aaron Gregg/Jacob Bogage: [08-14]
After conservatives' Target boycott, Stephen Miller group sues over
losses. Miller's group is called America First Legal, "which
bills itself as the conservative movement's 'long-awaited answer
to the ACLU.'" It's unclear whether their mission is simply to
degrade and ultimately destroy Americans' civil liberties, or they
just mean to file lawsuits, like this one, to harass their imagined
The fight over whether courts can ban mifepristone is headed back
to the Supreme Court: "The far-right court just tried to ban
an abortion drug. Here's why you can ignore that."
The case for optimism about the Supreme Court: "There are some
terrible things that even this Supreme Court isn't willing to do."
With power comes some measure of responsibility, I guess -- something
Thomas and Alito never learned, possibly because when they joined
the Court, right-wing agitators were still a minority. Or they may
simply bear in mind the threat that Congress can still restructure
the Court, a chance that goes up the more they embarrass themselves
as political hacks. Roosevelt's "pack the court" scheme wasn't very
popular, but ultimately failed because a majority of the Court read
the tea leaves and decided that Congress could legislate on issues
like child labor after all ("the switch in time that saved nine").
Andrew Perez/Julia Rock: [08-18]
The antiabortion judge with a financial ethics problem: James
Ho, who cast the decisive vote in the mifepristone case Millhiser
wrote about above. His wife, Allyson Ho, has "participated in events
with the Alliance Defending Freedom and accepted honoraria, or speaking
fees, every year between 2018 and 2021."
Climate and Environment: Record-setting high temperatures
here in Wichita, yesterday and today and probably tomorrow. Next week
we'll probably have news about Atlantic hurricanes, as no less than
five suspects have been identified late this week. And while the
rubble of Maui and the evacuation of Yellowknife are the big fire
stories below, there are also big ones in
Sue Halpern: [07-13]
Vermont's catastrophic floods and the spread of unnatural disasters.
Ellen Ioanes: [08-20]
Why Hurricane Hilary is so strange -- and how it could impact
California. Here's the
tracking and forecast.
[PS: There was also
a 5.1-magnitude earthquake, presumably unrelated, although in my
part of the country, water injected into faults does cause earthquakes.]
Benji Jones: [08-18]
9 things everyone should know about Maui's wildfire disaster.
Starts with: 1) This is the nation's deadliest wildfire in more than
a century; 2) More than 2,200 structures in the town of Lahaina were
damaged or destroyed; . . .
Mike Lee/Adam Aton: [08-17]
Electric cars face 'punitive' fees, new restrictions in many states:
"A growing number of conservative states are imposing new taxes on
drivers using electric vehicle charging stations and trying to limit
EV sales." Texas is prominent here, but unbeknownst to me, Kansas has
one too. Part of the rationale has to do with lost gas tax revenues,
but you're also losing a lot of pollution and other rarely recovered
Canada's raging fires have burned the equivalent of Alabama:
"Wildfires continue to rage in Canada, burning twice as much land
as any previous season.
Yellowknife is being evacuated, as there are more than 200
wildfires in the Northwest Territories.
Brutal heat wave developing over central US, with excessive heat watches
in Midwest: It hit 110°F here in Wichita on Saturday, with Sunday
forecast for the same, and another five days of 100°F or higher.
/Diana Leonard/Ian Livingston: [08-19]
Hurricane Hilary barrelling toward California, 'life-threatening'
flooding possible Sunday: Winds are expected to weaken to
tropical storm levels, which would still make it the first such
storm to his southern California since 1939. [PS: Ioanes, above,
Hurricane Nora in 1997 as the most recent similar storm. Its
path was somewhat to the east, so Arizona and Utah were most
Kelsey Piper: [08-17]
We're bad at predicting the future and there's no way around it:
"Technology improves over time, but it's hard to know what that means
when it comes to calculating the social cost of carbon."
Blaise Malley: [08-18]
Diplomacy Watch: Will Russia follow through on Black Sea threats?
"Tensions are gripping the region as Ukraine begins to allow free
passage from its ports past the grain blockade." The end of the
Black Sea Grain initiative, and the subsequent Russian bombing of
Ukrainian ports, not only hurts world food supplies, it also means
suggests that Russia has decided that agreeing to such limits on
its warmaking won't lead to further negotiation. This is at least
partly the result of Ukraine crossing various red lines (mostly
through drone attacks, ranging from Black Sea ships to the Kerch
Strait Bridge to spots in Moscow), and partly due to ever-tightening
sanctions hurting Russia's efforts to export its own agricultural
products. Ukraine, meanwhile, is daring Russia to attack ships in
its newly-christened "humanitarian corridor." Nothing else in this
report suggests any diplomatic progress.
Paul Dixon: [08-15]
Five lessons from Northern Ireland for ending the Ukraine war.
These points are fairly reasonable -- especially the second that
"everyone must win" -- but it seems to me that a partition plan,
decided by popular vote that hands Russia a slice of Ukraine
somewhere between the pre-2022 secession borders and the current
battle lines, would be cleaner and simpler than trying to come
up with a power-sharing agreement under a neutral Ukraine. That
would allow Ukraine to join the EU and (effectively if not quite
completely) NATO, while allowing ethnic Russians the option of
moving east), so the pre-2014 divisions would effectively vanish.
(One wrinkle I would like to see is the option of a revote in 5
years. That would provide both powers with incentives to rebuild
and to rule responsibly.)
Benjamin Hart: [08-14]
How Ukraine's counteroffensive might end: Interview with John
Nagl, now a "professor of warfighting studies at U.S. Army War
College," once regarded as one of the Army's counterinsurgency
gurus. He's pretty gung ho on Ukraine, but he also admits that
Ukraine can't fight the war the way Americans would, and that's
the way he most believes in. He cites a piece by Steve Biddle: [08-10]
Back in the Trenches ("why new technology hasn't revolutionized
warfare in Ukraine") that gets technical about weapons systems and
trench warfare, while ignoring the only fact that matters: that this
war cannot be resolved on the battle field.
John Hudson/Alex Horton: [08-17]
US intelligence says Ukraine will fail to meet offensive's key
goal: "Thwarted by minefields, Ukrainian forces won't reach
the southeastern city of Melitopol, a vital Russian transit hub,
according to a US intelligence assessment."
Michael Karadjis: [08-17]
The Global South's views on Ukraine are more complex than you may
think: "The claim that developing countries are neutral about
the war or even pro-Russian oversimplifies and distorts a more
Paul Krugman: [08-15]
Science, technology and war beyond the bomb: Tries to make a
case that superior technology and "under the surface" tactical
adjustments may still give Ukraine a counteroffensive breakthrough,
analogous to the WWII Battle of the Atlantic. In support of this,
he cites a piece by Phillips P O'Brien: [07-23]
Weekend Update #38, arguing "Please give this time."
Branko Marcetic: [08-14]
Can Washington pivot from its maximalist aims in Ukraine?
Actually, many American presidents have talked themselves into
a blind alley. Truman couldn't accept a Korean armistice that
Eisenhower signed right after he took office. Johnson never got
a chance to negotiate a deal in Vietnam. Perhaps most egregiously,
GWH Bush's insistence that Saddam Hussein was Hitler redux made
it impossible to explain why he stopped the rout at the border
of Kuwait, leading to the grudge match in 2013. Anyone portraying
Ukraine as a life-or-death struggle for democracy is either full
of shit or incapable of thinking two or three moves ahead. Hard
to tell about Biden, but some of his people definitely are both.
Peter Rutland: [08-14]
Why the Black Sea is becoming ground zero in the Ukraine War:
"Kyiv's counteroffensive efforts have focused on cutting Russia
off from Crimea, while the grain export deal continues to falter."
Ted Snider: [08-16]
Why peace talks, but no peace? When I saw this piece, I guessed
it was about the recent conclave in Saudi Arabia which Russia wasn't
invited to -- really more of Ukraine rehearsing its talking points
Kyiv says Jeddah participants back Ukraine territorial integrity in
any peace deal) -- but this goes back to actual talks, both
before and after invasion, which the US and UK helped subvert.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-17]
Bill Kristol leads charge to make Republicans think 'right' on
Ukraine: The neocon founder is juicing over another war,
and has some lobbying money to work with, though probably not
enough to stand up to Trump.
Marcus Walker: [08-20]
Why Russia's war in Ukraine could run for years: "The reason isn't
just that the front-line combat is a slow-moving slog, but also that
none of the main actors have political goals that are both clear and
Lauren Wolfe: [08-14]
In occupied regions, Ukrainians are being forced to accept Russian
passports: While the annexation is not sanction by international
law, the idea that this amounts to genocide mocks the concept.
Joshua Yaffa: [07-31]
Inside the Wagner Group's armed uprising.
Around the world:
Sina Azodi: [08-16]
It's been 70 yrs since the CIA-assisted coup in Iran:
In many ways, the original sin of American Cold War foreign policy --
not the first move, as those as early as 1946 were directed against
actual communist influence and insurgencies, but in the case of Iran,
it was simply a favor to British imperialism and the "Seven Sisters"
of the oil world, which wound up compensating Anglo-Iranian Oil Co.
for its suffering. By 1979, the event was little remembered in the
US, but etched unforgettably in Iran, leading directly to the hostage
crisis and all the subsequent bad blood. Stephen Kinzer's All the
Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror
(2003) is a nice, short book on the subject.
Adriana Beltrán: [08-18]
The high stakes of Guatemala's presidential elections: "The world
is watching as a reformer takes on and tries to reverse the country's
slide into political corruption."
Connor Echols: [08-17]
What will happen to US troops stationed in Niger if the region
Genevieve Glatsky/José María León Cabrera: [08-20]
Security is the main worry as Ecuador votes on Sunday. Here's what
to know. It looks like leftist candidate Luisa Gonzalez leads
the voting, with "business scion" Daniel Noboa in second-place,
advancing to the run-off on Oct. 15.
Uki Goni: [08-14]
Far-right outsider takes shock lead in Argentina primary election:
"Former tantric sex coach and Donald Trump admirer Javier Milei
has said he thinks the climate crisis is 'a socialist lie'." If
elected, it sounds like he could become the worst president
anywhere (although his party did poorly in Congressional races).
For another report:
Jack Nicas/Natalie Alcoha/Lucia Cholakian Herrera: [08-14]
Far-right libertarian wins Argentina's presidential primary:
With 30% of the vote, which puts him in the October 22 runoff.
The system is
pretty confusing, as the first round included primaries within
party coalitions, but it looks like the runoff will be between Milei,
Sergio Massa (21%, "center-left"), Patricia Bullrich (17%, "right-wing"),
and two others who cleared the 1.5% minimum: Juan Schiaretti (a
"non-Kirchnerist Peronist"), and Myriam Bregman ("a lawyer, human
rights and women's rights activist"). Eliminated are coalition
primary runners up Horacio Rodriguez Lareta (11%) lost to Bullrich
(which suggests the PRO vote is 28%), and Juan Grabois (6%) lost
to Massa (which would give FR 27%), so the top three coalitions
are pretty close, and a second runoff on November 19 seems likely.
Sarah Dadouch: [08-14]
Who is Javier Milei, Argentina's right-wing presidential front-runner?
Neve Gordon: [08-18]
The true face of Israel's protest movement. Cites a
"glowing profile" of Israeli particle physicist Shikma Bressler,
then adds some nuances the New York Times missed.
Ellen Ioanes: [08-20]
What's at stake in Guatemala's elections: "Anti-corruption
presidential candidate Bernardo Arévalo is heavily favored in
polls." Meanwhile. the conservative establishment is trying to
get him removed form the ballot.
James Park/Mike Mochizuki: [08-18]
Camp David summit: A trilateral march toward instability?
The war council between the US, Japan, and South Korea met,
and decided to stroke each other to the exclusion of any more
serious issues of war and peace.
[PS: Fred Kaplan [08-18] has a different view:
Why Biden's summit with Japan and South Korea is a big deal.
He also gives Biden more credit on China than is clear to me: [08-11]
Biden's delicate dance with China.]
Roni Caryn Rabin: [08-15]
Growing segregation by sex in Israel raises fears for women's
rights: As this makes clear, Israel is moving way beyond
Dean Baker: [08-15]
Getting beyond copyright: There are better ways to support creative
Paul Cantor: [08-18]
The other 9/11: Next month will mark the 50th anniversary of
the US-supported coup in Chile, where democratically elected
president Salvador Allende was killed, as were many more (the
final figure cited here is 3000), and replaced by Augusto Pinochet's
dictartorship. Henry Kissinger was chief among the conspirators,
and this figures prominent in his long list of crimes against
humanity. Pinochet remained in power until 1990, and turned
Chile into a laboratory for Milton Friedman's neoliberal economic
theories, which needless to say were disastrous.
Robert Sherrill: [1988-06-11]
William F Buckley lived off evil as mold lives off garbage:
An old piece, basically a review of John B Judis: William F
Buckley, Jr: Patron Saint of the Conservatives, which includes
a section on Buckley's junkets to Chile to help Pinochet. Sherrill
was 89 when he died in 2014. I remember reading his eye-opening
1968 book, Gothic Politics in the Deep South, which helped
clarify some memories I had of visiting Arkansas when Orval Faubus
was still governor. I also read, and occasionally drop the title
of, Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to
Lisa M Corrigan: [08-16]
The evisceration of a public university: "West Virginia University
is being gutted, and it's a preview for what's in store for higher
Carter Dougherty: [05-22]
A new vision for a just financial system: A laundry list of
mostly good ideas, but the one that always strikes me as key is
"provide public banking," which leads me to ask, what do we need
all these other crooks and predators for? I don't anticipate
outlawing them, and I can see likely value for innovation around
the margins, but most banking transactions can be done simply
and cheaply by a common non-profit, and that can easily extend
into large classes of routine loans (credit cards, mortgages,
small business loans, etc.).
Rachel DuRose: [08-12]
What's going on with your lightbulbs? Perhaps they're right
that "incandescent lightbulbs aren't banned," but they're getting
harder to find, not that I've looked in 10-20 years, at least
since LED manufacturers stopped trying to charge you for the
5-10 incandescent bulbs you might have bought during the expected
lifetime of the LED bulb. I've moved to LEDs wherever possible:
the main exception are places where only halogens seem to work;
my happiest switch was finding I could replace fluourescent
tubes with LEDs without having to rewire around the ballast,
and they are many times better.
Jordan Gale: [08-18]
An intimate look at Portland's housing crisis: "The ongoing
housing crisis in Portland, Ore., has desensitized us to the real
people who have been affected." A photo essay.
Peter E Gordon: [08-08]
President of the Moon Committee: "Walter Benjamin's radio years."
German literary critic, associated with Frankfurt School but legendary
in his own right, 1892-1940 (committed suicide when jailed while trying
to flee the Nazis). This collects what survives of radio transcripts
from 1927-33, a wide-ranging commentary meant to be more readily
accessible than his usual writings.
Constance Grady: [08-17]
How does Elon Musk get away with it all? "The billionaire's
heroic image is built on media praise, breathless fans, and . . .
romance novel tropes." But hasn't he also become the object of
intense ridicule, based on not just that he's a rich asshole but
that he flaunts that image endlessly. Or am I missing something?
And what's unusual about rich assholes getting away with things?
Sure, Donald Trump is turning into an exception, but think of
all the things he got away with before his luck turned. And as
a rich asshole, he still has such enormous advantages, he may
still get away with it.
Lauren Michele Jackson: [08-17]
The "-ification" of everything: "it's an interesting combination
of trying to do something original that is, in fact, already quite
derivative. That's how culture works."
Chalmers Johnson: [08-13]
Coming to terms with China: This is a piece written back in
2005 by the former CIA analyst (1931-2010), who wrote a series
of books I recommend highly: Blowback: The Costs and Consequences
of American Empire (2000; rev. 2004); The Sorrows of Empire:
Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2006);
Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic (2007);
and Dismantling the Empire: America's Last Best Hope
(2010). In one of those books, he published a thought experiment
as to how China could disable America's entire satellite network
(all it would take would be to "launch a dumptruck full of gravel"
into earth orbit), and how crippling that would be. This is a
sober analysis of trends already clear in 2005 as China was
emerging as a fully independent world power. He ends with the
question: "Why should China's emergence as a rich, successful
country be to the disadvantage of either Japan or the United
States?" In particular, he warns that: "History teaches us that
the least intelligent response to this development would be to
try to stop it through military force." Yet we clearly do have
strategists in Washington whose intelligence is that low.
Mike Joy: [08-15]
Critics of 'degrowth' economics say it's unworkable -- but from an
ecologist's perspective, it's inevitable. Looks like it was
David Attenborough who said, "someone who believes in infinite
growth is either a madman or an economist." Even some economists
realized that infinite growth can't possibly happen (although I
failed to find the quote; I vaguely remember Kenneth Arrow). One
of the big differences between eco-activists and Democrats is that
the latter see growth as the solution to all problems, whereas we
(putting on that hat, which isn't my only one) see it as one of
the most intractable of political problems. But at some point, I
think it does have to come into play, as I don't see any viable
Stephen Kearse: [08-17]
The return of Nonane: "In her new album, Sundial, the
rapper melds her activism and artistry seamlessly." Before I heard
this album, I ran into complaints of anti-semitism, a kneejerk
reaction to guest Jay Electronica namedropping "Farrakhan sent
me." So this review is first of all interesting to me because
the reviewer didn't even notice the offense, casually grouping
Jay Electronica with Billy Woods among "the fellow rap mavericks,"
with an oblique reference to a different line. Expect my review
in the next Music Week. I wish I was as sure of her political
acumen as Kearse is, but I also doubt that it really matters.
The patronizing moralism of David Brooks: "In a series of recent
essays, the New York Times columnist has pronounced all social
ills the result of deficient moral fiber among individuals." Reminds
me of a Bertolt Brecht line, but the English translations leave much
to be desired. ("Grub first, then ethics"? More like "morality is a
self-satisfying luxury for those who have eaten." Not that Brecht
couldn't be pithy, as in: "What keeps mankind alive? Bestial acts.")
Still, isn't it possible to accept Brooks' analysis and simply ask
"so what"? If problems are caused by "deficient moral fiber," why
should that prevent us from solving the problems? Does it sound like
too much work? Or is it possibly the sense of righteousness that
accrues to people who can afford to look down their noses at others?
It's even possible that people who "lack morals" now might develop
some once their baser needs are met. On the other hand, I rather
doubt that the conservative approach, which is to let people rot in
their squalor, or just lock them away or worse, gives "morals" a
very good reputation, or sets a positive example.
Interesting note toward the end here about Christopher Lasch.
I read much of his early work, but never got to The Culture of
Narcissism, which as Lehman notes is widely cited by social
scourges like Brooks. Lehman defends Lasch as much misunderstood,
which certainly sounds credible to me. After all, the amount of
stuff Brooks misunderstands seems boundless.
The new bard of the right: More than you need to know about a
country song by Oliver Anthony, "Rich Men North of Richmond,"
which earns its conservative bona fides by bitching about how
taxes are spent on poor people (without, of course, noting the
vastly larger sums spent making rich people richer).
PS: Listened to the
song and double-checked the
lyrics. First verse could just as easily have turned left
("I've been sellin' my soul, workin' all day/ Overtime hours for
bullshit pay"), but then he makes a couple fairly major blunders.
You know about the punching down on welfare, which has been a
right-wing trope for more than fifty years, but the other one
still surprises me: "These rich men north of Richmond/ Lord
knows they all just wanna have total control." This notion that
"liberal elites" (which is what his phrase means, after stripping
away the gratuitous Confederate angst) want "total control" is
ridiculous on many levels, yet it is the common thread of
right-wing paranoia (e.g., Bill Gates' nanobots disseminated
through Covid vaccines). Such control, despite the diligent
efforts of regimes like China and Israel, is impossible, and
even if it were possible, no liberals would want it: central
tenets of liberalism include that all people should think for
themselves, and respect for (or at least tolerance of) different
thinking by others.
Conservatives, on the other hand, are opposed to those tenets,
which makes their aversion that liberals want "total control" look
like some kind of projection. On a practical level, this leads them
to prevent students from being exposed to facts and ideas that may
undermine their preferred beliefs, and where possible to ban those
ideas from the public, while using the power of the state for harsh
repression of any sign of dissidence.
A couple more comments on this song:
Gregory P Magarian: [08-20]
The revealing case of a Kansas judge and a search warrant:
The Marion, KS police raided the offices of a small-town newspaper
that had upset a local business owner.
Orlando Mayorquin: [08-20]
Store owner is fatally shot by man who confronted her about Pride
Flag. Her murderer was later tracked down and killed by police,
further proof that while guns are good for committing crimes, they're
not much good for self-defense.
Christian Paz: [08-14]
How two pop culture Twitter accounts turned into the internet's
wire service: "Are Pop Crave and Pop Base the future of
political journalism?" Noted out of curiosity, which so far
isn't sufficient to render an answer. I am, however, skeptical,
and not just about these particular portals but about "political
journalism" in general.
Andrew Prokop: [08-17]
The mystery of Hunter Biden's failed plea deal: "Incompetence,
malfeasance, or politics?" My best guess is mixed motives, undone
by politics. The plea deal was a way for the prosecution to score
a win, while Biden gets to put the case behind him without too much
pain. But neither motive was strong enough to overcome the politics,
where Republicans have been harping on "the Biden crime family" way
before Biden ran in 2020. Without this drumbeat of harassment, I
doubt the case would ever have been prosecuted, regardless of the
defendant's name. In any case, credit Republicans with extraordinary
chutzpah for juggling their political campaign against Biden while
while still decrying political motives in re Trump.
Sigal Samuel: [08-18]
What normal Americans -- not AI companies -- want for AI:
"Public opinion about AI can be summed up in two words: Slow.
Down." One significant polling result is: "82 percent of American
voters don't trust AI companies to self-regulate." One proposal
is that: "At each phase of the AI system lifecycle, the burder
should be on companies to prove their systems are not
harmful." Even this seems like a two-edged sword, as "harmful"
can mean different things to different people. I'm inclined to
limit ways companies can profit from AI, such as requiring the
software to be open source, so we can get lots of eyes evaluating
it and flagging possible problems. That would slow things down,
but also help assure us that what does get released will be used
constructively. If AI seems like a sudden emergence in the last
couple years, it's because companies have hit the point where
they have products to sell to exploit various angles. Given that
most new business development is predatory, that's something one
should be wary of.
Jeffrey St Clair: [08-18]
The night the cops tried to break Thelonious Monk. No "Roaming
Charges" this week, but this is worth perusing. It recounts the
story of how Monk took a rap for the more fragile Bud Powell in
1951, and how Monk got blackballed by NYC, so he couldn't perform
live during the period when he cut some of the most groundbreaking
albums in jazz history. I first encountered these stories in Geoff
Dyer's fictionalized But Beautiful, which I've always loved
(although I know at least one prominent Monk fan who flat out hates
Astra Taylor: [08-18]
Why does everyone feel so insecure all the time? One of the
smartest political writers working today, offers an introduction
to her forthcoming book, The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together
as Things Fall Apart, where among much more she picks up on
Barbara Ehrenreich's "fear of falling" theme (title of her "1989
study of the psychology of the middle class"). The more recent
term is precarity. Much of this is quotable, as I'm reminded by
tweets quoting her:
The relatively privileged have "rigged a game that can't be won,
one that keeps them stressed and scrambling, and breathing the
same smoke-tinged air as the rest of us."
"Insecurity affects people on every rung of the economic ladder,
even if its harshest edge is predictably reserved for those at
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [05-29]
The long afterlife of libertarianism: "As a movement, it has
imploded. As a credo, it's here to stay." Review of The
Individualists: Radicals, Reactionaries, and the Struggle for the
Soul of Libertarianism, by Matt Zwolinski and John Tomasi,
while roping in several other books. This reminds me that one of
my jobs, back in the mid-1970s, was typesetting reprints of several
Murray Rothbard books -- for the Kochs, as it turned out -- so I
got deep into the weeds of his arguments for privatized police and
fire departments, among everything else. Thus I was able to make
sense out of Michael Lind's quip: that libertarianism had been
tried and had failed; it was just called feudalism at the time.
(Can't find the exact quote.) It's easy to imagine the Kochs as
feudal lords, because that's how they run their company (and
would like to run the country), which not coincidentally leaves
precious little liberty but anyone but the lords. Still, when
governments do become overbearing, which is sadly much of the
time, it's tempting to fall back on the libertarians for sharp
critiques. It's just impossible to build anything that works
from negative platitudes. As I think back, the new left was
much smarter to focus not on government, which was a tool and
rarely monolithic, but on power itself. I don't recall when I
first ran across the maxim "power corrupts, and absolute power
corrupts absolutely," but it was well before I turned left,
yet it remains as one of the great truths of our times.
Saturday, August 19, 2023
I wrote this Facebook comment about Giuliani and 9/11 (response to
I was stuck in NYC for 9/11 and about three weeks after that, mostly
in a small apartment in Brooklyn with a couple of news junkies who
kept the TV on all day long, so I caught a lot of that even when I
didn't want to. All I knew about Giuliani was stuff I had read in the
Voice and heard from my friends, who all despised him. But after a few
days, I was moved to comment that he was actually doing a pretty good
job. Unlike most politicians, he actually had an ongoing crisis to
attend to, and he did so with admirable diligence. He didn't hog the
spotlight. He was sober, and showed just enough emotion to assure you
that he cared, without detracting from the job. Liz Fink agreed with
me, and no one was more acutely critical of politicians and
prosecutors than she was. (E.g., I never had the slightest hope for
Robert Mueller, because she had tangled with him and gave me the
lowdown.) But a few days later, Giuliani started reading his press
raves, and it immediately went to his head, as he started talking
about how he should run for a third term. So he went from Mensch to
asshole overnight, and as far as I can tell, never looked back. I
always assumed that he had that capacity deep inside, even though it
rarely appeared, either before or since. You might compare GW Bush's
handling of 9/11 or Katrina, where he was instantly tone-deaf. Trump,
of course, is not even that.
Monday, August 14, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 34 albums, 2 A-list,
Music: Current count 40696  rated (+34), 22  unrated (+10).
I published another substantial
Speaking of Which last night (8500 words, 115 links), probably
the longest this year (or for that matter, since I started the
June 18, 2021. I used the old "I can't figure out how to write
about this, but here's sort of what I was thinking" trick for the
long intro on why the longer you stretch out the Russo-Ukraine War,
the worse it is for everyone.
I got off to a very slow start this week, partly because I made
a fairly fancy
Chinese dinner on Tuesday. I had gone to Thai Binh for some pantry
items (hoisin sauce, ground bean sauce, dark soy sauce) and wound up
picking up some eggplant, baby bok choy, and two packages of pork: a
fresh ham, and a chunk of pork side. I made red-cooked ham with the
former, twice-cooked pork with the latter: two of my favorite dishes,
and they both turned out splendid. I sliced and broiled the eggplant,
and topped it with spicy peanut sauce. The bok choy were parboiled
and stir-fried. I substituted velveted shrimp for ham in my usual
fried rice. And made pineapple upside down cake for dessert. Pretty
painful, but very delicious.
I did some tests, then sent my Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1300 scanner
back to Amazon. Some nice features -- I especially like feeding
photo prints in from the front, which is very fast -- but the scans
were of mixed quality, and most importantly I never got it working
with my Linux computer (despite it being on the SANE compatibility
list), so the workflow sucked. Probably the best scan I got out of
my parents' wedding picture. I have a HP OfficeJet which can do
flat-bed scans, but doesn't work well either. I wish I had sent it
back in time, as it's probably the worst purchase I've ever made.
Still on my list of things to do is to call HP and try to get some
answers, why like the printer is recognized but refuses to print
anything. Also why I can do test scans using Xsane, but not final
scans. Also haven't fully resolved my email problem, but I did
question. Could use some more.
Right now, the top technical task is to get my wife's Linux
computer running again, after a boot error. Could be that the
hard drive is toast. I ordered some parts for any eventuality,
and will get to that tomorrow. One pleasant surprise was being
able to pick up a 1TB SSD for $60. Last one I bought was a
quarter that size for a bit more. Also ordered a KVM switch,
as all my old ones are PS2/VGA medusae.
I did finally get the belts for my CD changer (from Greece, it
turns out), so now if only I can remember how to reassemble it.
That'll clear up some major clutter, as I had to take literally
everything out of the box to get to the bottom belt.
One technical win is that dug into the C++ program that converts
my music database input files to produce the web pages in my
index. I wanted to make it
possible to pass HTML entities through, so I could embed them
in my source files. (I'm still stuck using the Latin-1 codeset,
where the program converts all of the non-ASCII characters to
HTML entities, as well as "&" to "&" -- which was
I had a bit less trouble finding music to listen to this week.
August Consumer Guide came out. The new records (see reviews
below) mostly landed at B+(**), as did many of the ones I had
already gotten to (my grades in brackets):
- Amaarae: The Angel You Don't Know (Golden Child '20) [A-]
- Amaarae: Fountain Baby (Interscope) [A-]
- Miles Davis: Bitches Brew Live (Columbia '11) [B+(***)]
- Fokn Bois: Coz of Moni 2 (Fokn Revenge) (Pidgen Music '14) [B+(**)]
- Lori McKenna: 1988 (CN/Thirty Tigers) [A-]
- Nia Archives: Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against the Wall (Hijinx/Island) [B+(*)]
- Palehound: Eye on the Bat (Polyvinyl) [B+(**)]
- SZA: SOS (Top Dawg Entertainment) [B+(**)]
That leaves a new Wreckless Eric album I haven't found yet.
I'll also note that Greg Morton offered a stinging rebuke to the
Lori McKenna album on Facebook (link hard to find, but somewhere in
As someone with no children of my own, I took "Happy Children" to
be a nice sentiment, but as an unhappy child myself, Greg's review
hit a personal chord.
Beyond that I mostly checked out albums from Pitchfork's
The Best Music of 2023 So Far, and their recent
Out This Week columns. Neither were great sources for A-list
albums -- Bambii is my favorite of the high B+ albums. I'll also
note that Anohni topped Phil Overeem's
latest list, explaining "Even if I wasn't a Missourian,
where cruelty is our state adjective, it would have knocked me out."
I gave it two plays to make sure I wasn't knocked out, but it's not
unusual for me to register the melodrama but not the context. I'll
also note that back when I lived in St. Louis, I started pronouncing
the state name "mis'-ery" (sometimes preceded by "state of"). That
was no more far-fetched than the locals' butchering of the city's
many old French placenames (e.g., Grav-oise, Carondo-lette,
De-boliver, the River Despair).
I got a lot of incoming mail this week, most of which doesn't
actually drop until September (or sometimes October). I tracked
down a Henry Hey download after noticing him on the Pete McCann
album, but couldn't find anything on the album -- turns out it's
not released until October -- so I held off on it. Pretty good
piano trio. I have a lot of download links saved away. I should
go through them and check out a few, but it often seems like more
hassle than it's worth.
New records reviewed this week:
- Rauw Alejandro: Playa Saturno (2023, Duars Entertainment/Sony Music Latin): [sp]: B+(**)
- Anohni and the Johnsons: My Back Was a Bridge for You to Cross (2023, Secretly Canadian): [sp]: B+(**)
- Bambii: Infinity Club (2023, Innovative Leisure, EP): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Baseball Project: Grand Salami Time (2023, Omnivore): [sp]: B+(**)
- Blue Lake: Sun Arcs (2023, Tonal Union): [sp]: B+(**)
- Christian Dillingham: Cascades (2021 , Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***) [09-01]
- Dream Wife: Social Lubrication (2023, Lucky Number): [sp]: B+(***)
- Jad Fair and Samuel Lock Ward: Happy Hearts (2023, Kill Rock Stars): [sp]: B+(**)
- Girl Ray: Prestige (2023, Moshi Moshi): [sp]: B
- Home Is Where: The Whaler (2023, Wax Bodega): [sp]: B+(**)
- John La Barbera Big Band: Grooveyard (2023, Origin): [cd]: B+(*) [08-26]
- Lil Tjay: 222 (2023, Columbia): [sp]: B+(**)
- Lindstrøm: Everyone Else Is a Stranger (2023, Smalltown Supersound): [sp]: B+(**)
- Damon Locks/Rob Mazurek: New Future City Radio (2023, International Anthem): [sp]: B+(*)
- Pete McCann: Without Question (2022 , McCannic Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Haviah Mighty: Crying Crystals (2023, Mighty Gang): [sp]: B+(**)
- Blake Mills: Jelly Road (2023, New Deal/Verve Forecast): [sp]: B
- Matt Otto: Umbra (2022-23 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Ted Piltzecker: Vibes on a Breath (2022 , OA2): [cd]: B+(*) [08-26]
- Yunè Pinku: Babylon IX (2023, Platoon, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
- Knoel Scott/Marshall Allen: Celestial (2022 , Night Dreamer): [sp]: B+(***)
- Travis Scott: Utopia (2023, Cactus Jack/Epic): [sp]: B+(**)
- Snooper: Super Snõõper (2023, Third Man): [sp]: B+(***)
- Techno Cats: The Music of Gregg Hill (2022-23 , Cold Plunge): [cd]: B+(*)
- Kris Tiner/Tatsuya Nakatini: The Magic Room (2023, Epigraph): [cd]: B+(**)
- TisaKorean: Let Me Update My Status (2023, Jazzzy): [sp]: B
- Tujiko Noriko: Crépuscule I & II (2023, Editions Mego, 2CD): [sp]: B
- Veeze: Ganger (2023, Navy Wavy): [sp]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Nastyfacts: Drive My Car + 2 (1981 , Left for Dead, EP): [bc]: A-
- Taylor Swift: Speak Now (Taylor's Version) (2023, Republic): [sp]: A-
- Džambo Aguševi Orchestra: Brasses for the Masses (2020, Asphalt Tango): [sp]: B+(**)
- Mighty Sam McClain: Give It Up to Love (1993, Audioquest): [sp]: B+(***)
- Kris Tiner: In the Ground and Overhead: 14 Miniatures for Muted Trumpet (2020, Epigraph, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Farida Amadou/Jonas Cambien/Dave Rempis: On the Blink (Aerophonic) [10-10]
- Anthony Branker & Ascent: Spirit Songs (Origin) [08-26]
- Michael Echaniz: Seven Shades of Violet (Rebiralost) (Ridgeway) [09-08]
- Kent Engelhardt & Stephen Enos: Madd for Tadd: "Central Avenue Swing" & "Our Delight" (Tighten Up) [08-25]
- Bobby Kapp: Synergy: Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (Tweed Boulevard) [09-01]
- John La Barbera Big Band: Grooveyard (Origin) [08-26]
- Pete McCann: Without Question (McCannic Music) [08-04]
- Matt Otto: Umbra (Origin) [08-26]
- Ted Piltzecker: Vibes on a Breath (OA2) [08-26]
- Darden Purcell: Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood (Origin) [09-15]
- Bobby Rozario: Spellbound (Origin) [08-26]
- Brandon Sanders: Compton's Finest (Savant) [08-25]
- Techno Cats: The Music of Gregg Hill (Cold Plunge) [08-14]
- Kris Tiner/Tatsuya Nakatini: The Magic Room (Epigraph) [08-04]
- Vin Venezia: The Venetian (Innervision) [10-20]
- Maddie Vogler: While We Have Time (Origin) [09-15]
- Bobby Zankel/Wonderful Sound 8: A Change of Destiny (Mahakala Music) [09-22]
Sunday, August 13, 2023
Speaking of Which
Midweek I thought I had an idea for a real essay on an important
issue. I then flailed for a couple days, ultimately writing nothing.
That's not unusual these days, making me despair of ever writing
anything worth being taken seriously. Then on Friday I pulled up
my template for this weekly compendium, and started scanning the
usual sources, and words came pouring out. I'm at 6600 mid-Sunday
afternoon, and still writing.
The piece I had in mind was a reaction to Roger Cohen: [08-06]
Putin's Forever War. I cited this piece last week, and wrote:
An extended portrait of a Russia isolated
by sanctions and agitated and militated by a war footing that seems
likely to extend without ends, if not plausibly forever. I suspect
there is a fair amount of projection here. The US actually has been
engaged in forever wars, boundless affairs first against communism
then against terrorism (or whatever you call it). Russia has struggled
with internal order, but had little interest in "a civilizational
conflict" until the Americans pushed NATO up to its borders. On the
other hand, once you define such a conflict, it's hard to resolve it.
The US has failed twice, and seems to be even more clueless in its
high stakes grappling with Russia and China.
I don't doubt that there is substance in this piece, but note also
that it fits in with a propaganda narrative that posits Putin as an
irreconcilable enemy of democracy, someone who will seize every
opportunity to undermine the West and to expand Russia.
I'd have to research prior uses, but "forever war" seems to have
appeared as a critical response to America's War on Terror, given
its vague rationale and arguably unattainable goals, but the terms
"endless war" and
war" go back farther, and have been applied to the US for cases
like Vietnam and Central America (which goes back to the "gunboat
diplomacy" of Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, and Wilson, which returned
in different guise with Reagan, Bush, and Clinton). But the Cold
War as a whole fits the term, as it was directed more against
working class and anti-colonial revolts everywhere, and not just
the Soviet Union that was imagined directing them. The Cold War
lost a bit of steam when the Soviet Union disbanded in 1991, but
continues to this day, most conspicuously against North Korea and
Cuba, but also more obliquely (I'm tempted to say aspirationally)
China and Russia.
Despite these examples, "forever war" isn't a popular idea in
America. At least through my generation, we grew up expecting quick,
decisive wars: big wars like WWII took less than four years, WWI
about half that, even the Civil War a few months more; Korea was
largely decided in the first year, but stretched out to three as
Truman refused to sign off; smaller wars were usually over quickly,
as were Bush's in Panama and Kuwait. Vietnam was viewed as "endless"
mostly by the Vietnamese, as they had struggled for independence
against China, France, and Japan before the Americans -- Gen. Tran
Van Don wrote a 1978 book to that effect. In America the preferred
word was "quagmire," reflecting a decision to get into something
that war couldn't fix, rather than evoking a struggle that would
go on for generations.
Throughout history, most protracted wars occurred on the margins
of empires. If you recognize America as an empire -- a word that
Jefferson was fond of, although lately it's fallen out of favor,
even as the evidence of 800+ bases around the world, and fingers
in the affairs of virtually every country, prove the point --
"forever wars" are all but inevitable. Especially since the US
built its permanent war machine, linked to an industrial complex
whose profits depend on projecting potential enemies, which will
supposedly be deterred by the terror the US could unleash upon
But deterrence is a frail, fragile concept, one that works only
as long as the country being deterred doesn't feel threatened. The
Soviet Union jealously guarded what Stalin regarded as his sphere
of influence, but had no real ambitions beyond that. Revolutions
would have to come on their own, as happened in China, Vietnam,
and Cuba. Most countries don't admit to feeling threatened, as it's
easy enough to humor the Americans, and possibly advantageous to
local elites. On the other hand, when Al Qaeda took a couple pot
shots at American power, the doctrine of deterrence, built on the
concept of America as the world's sole hyperpower, dictated war,
even if the US had to invent proxy countries to invade. This show
of absolute power only revealed its vulnerability.
But Islamic jihadists turned out to be only minor nuisances,
leading to endless skirmishes in places like Somalia and Niger,
while the arms merchants looked back longingly on the good old
days of the Cold War, when weapons systems were expensive and
didn't really have to work (e.g., the F-35), so they've fomented
a propaganda offensive against Russia and China -- the latter still
passes as communist, and the former is still Russian, so it's been
easy to revive old tropes. Finally, they hit pay dirt in Ukraine,
where they've been remarkably successful at avoiding any thought
of compromise, leaving endless war as the only thinkable option.
Of course, they're not selling it as an endless war. They hold
out a promise of Ukraine recapturing all of the Russian-occupied
territory, even regions that had rejected Kyiv's pivot to the West
in 2014. All winter we were regaled with stories about how Ukraine's
"spring offensive" would drive back Russia (provided we delivered
sufficient weapons). The optimism hasn't abated since the delayed
"counteroffensive" started in June, but they've made virtually no
net progress. In the long run, Russia has three big advantages:
a much larger economy, much more depth in soldiers, and they are
fighting exclusively on Ukrainian territory (although the native
population of Crimea and Donbas have always favored Russia, so
even if Ukraine regains ground, they may lose the defensive edge
way before they meet their goals).
The other hope is that Russia's will to fight might flag, given
how extensive sanctions have isolated the Russian economy. Again,
there is scant evidence of this, and sanctions may just as well
have hardened Russian resolve. There is also no reason to believe
that Putin's hold on Russia's political structure is slipping or
fragmenting. Sensible people would recognize this as a stalemate,
and attempt to find some negotiated compromise, but hawks on both
sides are working hard to keep that from happening.
Cohen's article is important for showing how Putin is organizing
support for extending the war indefinitely by portraying it as a
defense of Russian civilization against the West. In such a war,
the stakes are so high that the only option is to fight until the
threat gives up. We should find this prospect very disconcerting,
and should take pains to assure Russia that we're still looking
forward to a peace where we can coexist, work together, and prosper.
But America has its own coterie of civilizational warriors, who
have been stoking this war most of their lives. They insist that
Putin has been plotting revenge against the West since 1991, with
the immediate goal of restoring the Soviet Union borders, moving
on to restore the Russian Empire, and beyond that who knows? Most
of these people are Russophobes dating back to the Cold War, and
they may well have good reason for their prejudices, but turning
them into ideological principles makes them useless in a world
where war is so destructive that almost any kind of peace is
There must be people in the Biden administration to understand
that such demonization of Russia (and China) risks developing into
a war of unimaginable dimensions. There must be people who realize
that cooperation is essential to keep economies functioning, to
transition away from fossil fuels, to save human life as we know
it. Yet they are cornered by arms merchants and strategists and
ideologues who are willing to risk all that just for some patch
of ground that ultimately means nothing.
I've insisted all along that there are ways to negotiate not just
an end to this war but a lasting peace based on mutual respect and
interests. The unwillingness on all sides in doing this is rooted
in misinformation and disrespect. Cohen's article shows one set of
myths taking root in Russia. Perhaps by examining those, we can also
start examining our own.
I suppose that's one way to end a piece. Obviously, much more can
be said. I refer you back to my original
23 Theses piece, and to the weekly sections on Ukraine
Speaking of Which
since Putin's invasion in late February, especially the Feb. 26, 2022
Speaking of Ukraine, where I heaped plenty of blame on Putin,
but also wrote:
The real question is whether the US can come out of this with a
generous, constructive approach to world order -- something far
removed from the arrogance that developed after the Cold War, that
drove us into the manifest failures of the Global War on Terror.
Looking around Washington it's hard to identify anyone with the
good sense to change direction.
earlier, I was already writing about the war drums beating, starting
with "possibly the most dishonest and provocative [tweet] I've ever
seen," and including links to titles like: Army of Ukraine lobbyists
behind unprecedented Washington blitz; America's real adversaries
are its European and other allies; Why every president is terrible
at foreign policy now; and (just to show you I wasn't only thinking
about Ukraine/Russia) Some Trump records taken to Mar-a-Lago clearly
marked as classified, including documents at 'top secret' level.
I also ended with an 11-paragraph PS that worked up to this:
I don't know of anyone with a soft spot for Putin. I do know people
who consider him less of a threat to world peace than the leaders of
the country that spends more than 50% of the world's total military
expenditures, the country that has troops and 800+ bases scattered
around the world, the country that has (or works for people who have)
business interests everywhere, a country that does a piss poor job of
taking care of its own people and has no conception of the welfare of
others, a leadership that so stuck in its own head that it can't tell
real threats from imaginary ones, that projects its own most rabid
fears onto others and insists on its sole right to dictate terms to
I also wrote a fairly long piece on Ukraine and Russia back on
January 27, 2022:
NATO pushes its logic (and luck?). Not much more before that,
at least relative to everything else, but it's interesting to
scroll back, finding lots of stories that still reverberate,
and comments that are mostly still appropriate.
Top story threads:
Trump: The indicted one continues to draw enough comment
to merit his own section, mostly on his legal predicaments, as he
as nothing else substantive to offer -- other than an exceptionally
robust selection of "irritable mental gestures" (Lionel Trilling's
description of "conservative thought," which has only grown more
apt over seventy-plus years).
Holly Bailey: [08-12]
Georgia prosecutor to begin presenting 2020 election case next week
to grand jury: Promises, promises.
Zack Beauchamp: [08-11]
The constitutional case that Donald Trump is already banned from being
president: "Two conservative lawyers make a strong 14th Amendment
argument. But the politics of their theory are very, very dicey." I
don't really buy the "strong" arguments that Trump should be banned,
let alone the idea that doing so would help preserve democracy.
Jonathan Chait: [08-09]
Prosecuting Trump will only make Republicans crazier, warns law prof:
Bush henchman Jack Goldsmith
wrote the op-ed Chait's reacting to: [08-08]
The prosecution of Trump may have terrible consequences. I can
think of reasons why the prosecution may come to naught, but Trump's
acts were so egregious that I can't blame the the system for trying
to defend its conception of law and order. Goldsmith offers impeachment
as a preferable remedy but, you know, been there, done that, found it
didn't really work. Chait asks the obvious rhetorical question: "How
much crazier can they get, though?" It's beginning to seem limitless.
Matthew Cooper: [08-04]
"The jury is not going to believe" Trump's defense in the January 6
trial: Interview with Jennifer Taub: "The problem here is Merrick
Garland. In March 2021, when Garland was sworn in, he should have
appointed a special counsel. There's almost nothing in this indictment
that they would not have had earlier if they had had the special
counsel. We could have had an indictment a year ago. This would
have been resolved."
Ankush Khardori: [08-10]
Is it possible Trump will strike a plea deal to avoid prison?
That's what a sensible person would do, especially one with the
intrinsic advantages of Trump. But it would be political suicide.
His strength is that he always fights back, even when faced with
overwhelming odds. Take that away, and what does he have left?
Chris Lehman: [08-11]
A federal judge warned Trump not to make "inflammatory statements":
Or more precisely, "statements that might amount to witness intimidation
or jury tampering," which reads much more narrowly, given that Trump
makes nothing but inflammatory statements. Now the question is whether
the judge's warning will be enforced (e.g., by finding Trump in contempt
of court and/or revoking his bail). I seriously doubt the judge will do
either, although judge Chutkan has issued a novel threat: see Kyle
Judge warns Trump: 'Inflammatory' statements about election case could
Timothy Noah: [08-08]
The commentariat lets Donald Trump off the hook: The thing is
that while there's no reason for sensible people to take anything
that Trump says seriously, there really are seriously deranged
individuals looking to him for inspiration and direction as to
who to hit in his name. So while Trump himself isn't competent
enough to organize a mugging or a hit, it's not inconceivable
that one of his fans might get the hint and try to please him.
A responsible person would recognize that anyone who has that
sort of influence needs to speak cautiously. Trump simply isn't
that kind of person.
Jose Pagliery: [08-11]
Inside one 'egregious' mistake from Trump's Florida Judge Aileen
Nia Prater: [08-10]
Trump is going after Fani Willis before he even gets indicted:
Have you noticed how Trump attacks every Black person who crosses him as
"RACIST"? Can't he conceive of any other reason someone might not
Christopher Robertson/Russell M Gold: [08-10]
Legal scholars reject Trump complaints: Prosecutors treating him
"a lot better" than most defendants: "We wish that our clients
received the advantages that prosecutors are giving Trump." It
would be more accurate to admit that most defendants are treated
harshly and imperiously, because prosecutors have the power to
do that. Trump is the exception, not just because he's white and
rich and massively lawyered up, but because he brings intense
public scrutiny to the case, forcing everyone to be on their best
behavior -- something almost unheard of in the American system of
Areeba Shah: [08-10]
Trump's Twitter account may be key "part of the puzzle" for Jack
Smith to "prove intent": This explains the rationale for the
subpoena. You can speculate over Elon Musk's obstruction, for
which see Tatyana Tandanipolie: [08-09]
Twitter fined $350K for not complying with Jack Smith subpoena
because they wanted to tip off Trump.
Alex Shephard: [08-10]
Trump as a big weakness, but his rivals don't want to exploit it:
"The former president has been an electoral liability three cycles
in a row. Why not mention it?" But they do at least allude to it,
and it surely gets an airing behind closed doors, especially in
the establishment campaign committees, but there's not much they
can do about it as long as Trump holds sway over a majority of
the base. And it's not as if mainstream Republicans are all that
popular. They depend a lot on gerrymanders, and they're masters
of nasty campaigning, but they're lucky if they break even, and
when they do win, their support quickly collapses. Besides, while
Trump lost some possible votes, he won a lot of crossover votes
in 2016, and even in 2020. And he wins on attitude and conviction,
which is what juices the base. Take that away and what do you
still have left? "Good government" conservatism? Ha!
Jonathan Swan/Ruth Igielnik/Shane Goldmacher/Maggie
How Trump benefits from an indictment effect: "In polling,
fund-raising and conservative media, the former president has
turned criminal charges into political assets."
Betsy Woodruff Swan/Kyle Cheney: [08-08]
Special counsel still scrutinizing finances of Trump's PAC.
Joan Walsh: [08-11]
Please, please stop blaming "progressives" for Donald Trump's
fascism: My first reaction was: yeah, that's Walsh's job (cf.
her rants about Jill Stein, Cornel West, even
Bernie Sanders). Then I read the article, and found out that
this time she's dumping on Michael Schaeffer: [08-11]
Please, please stop with the progressive hero worship of Jack Smith
and Tanya Chutkan. (Not in the title, but in the illustration,
note Robert Mueller, making the point succinctly enough that the
rest of the article is redundant.) I'm not even sure who the
"progressives" are here, but they're obviously not much to the
left of Walsh. It's worth recalling that all of these people were
selected because they would be viewed as impartial by people in
the middle of the political spectrum, and that they will bend over
backwards to prove their impartiality before they're done. Sure,
it's reassuring that they're willing to level the most inarguable
charges against someone as flagrantly evil as Trump, but they're
not heroes; they're just doing their job, within the limits of
their power and understanding thereof.
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Fabiola Cineas: [08-10]
DeSantis is still standing by Florida's revisionist Black history.
Nate Cohn: [08-10]
It's not Reagan's party anymore: "Our latest poll leaves little
doubt that Donald J. Trump has put an end to that era." This piece
could be an exhibit in How to Lie With Statistics. The very
concept of "Reagan's party" is pretty nebulous. He represented one
faction in a more diverse party, but was at least tolerant of the
other factions. Since the Hastert Rule, Republicans have become so
homogenized that they only move in lockstep. Hence the transition
from Paul Ryan to Trump has been like a school of fish all turning
in unison. Especially spurious is the definition of "Reagan's
three-legged stool": all three are vaguely but perversely defined,
with Reagan himself clearly opposed to the leg defined as "prefer
reducing debt to protecting entitlements" (debt exploded under
Reagan's tax cuts and defense build up, while he raised taxes to
shore up Social Security); "think America should be active abroad"
is way too vague (what about "think Iran-Contra was a good idea"?);
and "oppose same-sex marriage" wasn't even an issue for Reagan,
whose contempt for gays was summed up in his hopes for the AIDS
plague (thankfully, the government didn't actually follow his
lead on that one). No doubt the GOP as evolved since Reagan, but
it's usually been to universalize his most perverse impulses.
In that, we should be wary of excusing him just because later
generations of Republicans became even nastier and more brutish.
Reagan, like Nixon before him, set the tone, which hasn't changed
all that much with Trump. It's just become more shameless.
Ed Kilgore: [08-09]
Ohio blows up the Republican plan to block abortion rights:
Going back to the progressive era, Ohio allows citizens to petition
for a vote on a possible state constitutional amendment, which can
pass with a simple majority of votes. One is scheduled for November
to consider an amendment that will ensure abortion rights as a matter
of state constitutional right. After Kansas voted down 59-41% a state
amendment to remove a constitutional right to abortion, Republicans
in Ohio panicked, and pushed an amendment vote up to Tuesday, to
change the state constitution to require a supermajority of 60% to
pass future amendments. That's what got voted down this week, 57-43%,
allowing the November amendment to be decided by a majority vote.
Further evidence that no gimmick is so obscure or undemocratic for
Republicans to try if they see some advantage. Also that people are
wising up to their tricks.
Dan Lamothe/Hannah Dormido: [08-12]
See where Sen. Tommy Tuberville is blocking 301 military promotions:
I couldn't care less about the promotions, which are mostly general
officers, but it is notable how Senate rules allow one moron to cause
so much obstruction.
Rebecca Leber: [08-11]
An insidious form of climate denial is festering in the Republican
Party. They've basically reverted to shouting their denials
louder, as if that makes them more convincing. Not that Republicans
are unwilling to do something about "climate" if their incentives
are aligned: they're pushing a "Trillion Trees Act," which is
basically Bush's "Healthy Forests Initiative" warmed over (i.e.,
clearcut forests and replace them with tree farms). They also
want to, quoting Kevin McCarthy, "replace Russian natural gas with
American natural gas, and let's not only have a cleaner world, but
a safer world." That's wrong in every possible direction.
Jose Pagliery/Josh Fiallo: [08-09]
'Weak dictator' Ron DeSantis ousts another prosecutor he dislikes:
Orlando-area prosecutor Monique Worrell, a Democrat who won her district
with 67% of the votes. DeSantis previously suspended Tampa prosecutor
Andrew Warren. For more, see Eileen Grench: [03-04]
Florida prosecutor reveals real reasons she landed in DeSantis'
Nikki McCann Ramirez: [08-10]
DeSantis says drone strikes against Mexican cartels are on the table:
I'd like to see this table, the one people are constantly piling stupid
ideas on, just to show they're so tough and brainless.
Michael Tomasky: [08-09]
Please, House Republicans, be crazy enough to impeach Joe Biden:
"If Kevin McCarthy does what his unhinged caucus wants him to do, he
may as well hand over his speakership to the Democrats." It's generally
believed that impeaching Clinton hurt the Republicans (Democrats in
1998 picked up 5 seats in the House, and held even in the Senate,
defying the usual shift to the party out of the White House). They
had a better case then, and a slight hope they might panic Clinton
into resigning. Conversely, it's hard to say that the first Trump
impeachment helped the Democrats (who lost seats in 2020, but took
the White House; after the second, they lost the House in 2022).
A Biden impeachment would be even more obviously a flagrant partisan
ploy, and is even more certain of failure. All it would do is expose
how unhinged Republican rhetoric has become. So I'm not worried that
they might bring it on.
Scott Waldman: [08-07]
DeSantis's Florida approves climate-denial videos in schools.
Noah Weiland: [08-13]
After end of pandemic coverage guarantee, Texas is epicenter of Medicaid
losses: "Texas has dropped over half a million people from the
program, more than any other state." In the early days of the pandemic,
Trump and the Republicans panicked -- most likely because the stock
market crashed -- and begged Democrats to pass a relief bill. What
Schumer and Pelosi came up with was remarkable, and saved the day,
while Republicans became increasingly upset that they had done
anything at all. The emergency reforms all had sunset dates, but
should have been the basis for extended reforms. Voters failed to
reward Democrats for what they did -- the tendency is to assume
that a disaster averted would never have happened -- and now the
American people (especially in "red states") are paying the price.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Lee Harris: [08-07]
Biden admin to restore labor rule gutted in 1980s.
Robert Kuttner: [08-08]
Biden's New Hampshire blunder. Biden, or the DNC that he controls,
decided to promote South Carolina (which Biden won in 2020) ahead of
Iowa and New Hampshire (which Biden lost, both, badly, although as
the incumbent he'd be very unlikely to lose them in 2024). Folks in
New Hampshire put a lot of stock in being first in the nation. Aside
from ego, it draws a lot of tourist dollars in the middle of winter.
I've always thought this was a really terrible idea, and could write
reams on why, but right now it's simply a boat that doesn't need
rocking, fueled by rationales that don't need airing (e.g., NH is
too white; on the other hand, SC is too Republican; NH gets a lot
of press, but up third, SC has actually had more impact lately).
Jason Linkins: [08-12]
This week's Republican faceplant has a 2024 lesson for Democrats:
No matter how great Bidenomics is, the really persuasive reason to
vote for Democrats is to save us from Republicans. There are many
examples one can point to, but the stripping of abortion rights is
one of the clearest and most impactful.
Chris Megerian/Terry Tang: [08-08]
Biden creates new national monument near Grand Canyon, citing tribal
heritage, climate concerns.
Jeff Stein: [08-12]
5 key pillars of President Biden's economic revolution: run the
economy hot; make unions stronger; revive domestic manufacturing
through green energy; rein in corporate power; expand the safety
Climate and Environment:
Umair Irfan: [08-10]
This strange hurricane season may take a turn for the worse:
"Oceans are at record high temperatures, but El Niño is keeping a
lid on tropical storms in the Atlantic." According to
Wikipedia, there were three named storms in June (before the
season officially started), but only one in July, and none so far
in August. You might also check out the trackers for
Pacific hurricanes (Dora, which crossed open seas, impacted Hawaii's
fires with strong winds);
Pacific typhoons (Mawar, which passed by Japan, was severe;
Doksuri, which hit Fujian and dumped record rainfall as far inland
as Beijing, and Khanun, which landed in Korea, were "very strong,"
as is Lan, currently approaching Japan); and
Indian Ocean cyclones (Mocha, which hit Bangladesh, and Biparjoy,
which hit Gujarat, were especially severe).
Benji Jones: [08-11]
How Maui's wildfires became so apocalyptic: "A large hurricane,
drought, and perhaps even invasive grasses have fueled the devastating
fires in Hawaii."
Kate Aronoff: [08-11]
WHO head on Hawaii: This is the "new normal." Actually, "normal" no
Kellen Browning/Mitch Smith: [08-13]
'We need some help here': West Maui residents say government aid is
scant: Haven't they heard Reagan's quip about "the seven scariest
words in the English language"? Seriously, it was a joke, and when
disaster hits, it isn't even that.
David Gelles, et al: [08-13]
The clean energy future is arriving faster than you think: Sure,
not fast enough, but after decades of talk with little to show for
it, this is starting to look real. Part of a series, including:
Matt Stieb: [08-11]
There will be more Mauis: "The dangers of high winds and dry
grassland make for a dangerous wildfire formula, and not just in
Hawaii." Interview with Nick Bond.
Dan Stillman: [08-11]
Unrelenting Hurricane Dora makes history by becoming a typhoon:
The difference between a hurricane and a typhoon is the international
date line: in the east Pacific, they're hurricanes; in the west, they're
typhoons. Dora started up as a tropical wave that crossed over Central
America into the Pacific, intensifying to Category 4 south of Cabo San
Lucas, Mexico, on August 2-3, and has headed pretty much due west ever
since, passing south of Hawaii but close enough to whip up the winds
that fanned fires in Maui, and it's still headed west, varying between
Categories 2 and 4. It seems to finally be degrading now, and the
forecast shows it curving north.
Molly Taft: [08-11]
Should climate protesters be less annoying? Sure. And I don't
see how some of these examples help. But it's so hard to get heard
that acts of desperation are all but inevitable, and are increasingly
likely as more and more cautiously reasoned projections turn into
hard facts (like the Maui fires this week). And if, for instance,
Kim Stanley Robinson's Ministry for the Future is prophetic,
there's going to be a lot more of what we like to call "eco-terrorism"
in the near future, before serious people finally get serious about
solving the problem. Even when the protesters turn offensive, turning
away from the real problem to condemn them is a waste. They'll go
away when you fix the problem, and until then should only be a
reminder that you haven't.
Connor Echols: [08-11]
Diplomacy Watch: China looms large at Ukraine 'peace summit' --
which wasn't in any practical sense about peace, but was intended
to rally support for Ukraine's non-negotiable points. Echols also
America's top 5 weapons contractors made $196B in 2022.
George Beebe: [08-10]
The myth of a strong postwar Ukraine. It's easy to spin glib
prognoses about a postwar Ukraine, but there are many more questions
than answers. For starters, recall that Ukraine from 1991-2014 fared
even worse under capitalism than Russia. For all its vaunted democracy,
politics in Ukraine were dominated by oligarchs, whose dealings may
have oriented them East or West, without benefit to the masses. While
the West has been happy to provide arms that have devastated much of
the country, they have poor track records when it comes to rebuilding.
Postwar Ukraine is certain to be much poorer than prewar Ukraine. Nor
is the task of resettling millions of refugees likely to go easy. And
a significant slice of a generation is likely to be marred by war,
both physically and psychically. Compared to the existential crises
of war, the question of whether various patches of land wind up on
one side of the border or not is almost trivial -- no matter what
the war architects think at the moment. Everyone loses at war, and
everyone begrudges their losses. Beebe would like to reassure us
that "ending the conflict sooner" still offers "better prospects,"
but there's no calculating how much has been lost, and how much more
there still is to lose.
PS: In reading Philipp Ther: How the West Lost the Peace,
I'm reminded of the mass migrations after the fall of the communist
states in East Europe, especially from East to West Germany. Basically,
the most skilled and mobile workers left, leaving their old countries
impoverished. Something similar happened to Russia and Ukraine with the
departure of many Jews to Israel (and some to the US). Millions of
Ukrainians have already left to escape the war. I wouldn't be surprised
if most of those who can hack it in the West stay there, rather than
return to their bleak and broken homeland. A second point is that the
aid promised to the former communist states rarely amounted to much,
and usually came saddled with debt and neoliberal nostrums that made
a corrupt few rich but left most people much poorer. Maybe postwar
aid will be more enlightened this time, but there is much reason to
remain skeptical. EU membership will bring some redistribution, but
with strings, and will make it easier for Ukrainians to stay in the
West (or if they haven't already, to move there). And America has an
especially poor track record of rebuilding the nations it has ravaged.
Sure, the Marshall Plan helped, but that was 70 years ago, and really
just an indirect subsidy of American business, with strings.
Ted Snider: [08-09]
The Poland-Belarus border is becoming a tinderbox: Wagner Group
forces are training new the NATO border. And now
Poland plans to move around 10,000 troops to border with Belarus.
Neither side appears to be asking "what can go wrong"? The Poles
argue that the move will deter Belarus from misbehavior, but isn't
that what NATO is supposed to guarantee? And given the NATO umbrella,
doesn't Poland's move look like a threat?
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-10]
Biden asks Congress for $25 billion in new Ukraine aid: The lion's
share of a $40 billion emergency spending request, bundled with disaster
aid requests Congress will be hard-pressed to reject. Vlahos previously
Most Americans don't want Congress to approve more aid for Ukraine
war, with Republicans more reticent than Democrats. Still, Biden
hasn't had any trouble getting Republican votes for Ukraine (or for
anything that goes "boom"). Also:
Michael Arria: [08-10]
AIPAC eyes another round of Democratic races, brings Jeffries group to
Juan Cole: [10-10]
Israel's crisis is not about democracy but occupation.
Middle East Eye:
Israeli finance minister freezes funds for Palestinian citizens of
Israel: "Far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich also holds
up educational grants for Palestinians." Looking at this site's
Occupation links, this one struck me as exceptional. Israel was
founded on a compromise whereby Palestinians who had stayed in
Israel throughout the 1948-51 war would be considered citizens of
Israel, but those who had left the country would not, and had their
property confiscated. Palestinian citizens of Israel could vote,
but even so were subject to military law up to 1967, and subject
to other discriminatory laws. This citizenship could have been a
step toward normalizing relations, but a few months after military
law was ended within the Green Line (Israel's pre-1967 borders),
Israel went to war to occupy parts of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.
The people in those occupied territories were subjected to military
rule, without even basic rights of citizenship. As Israelis set up
settlements in the occupied territories, there emerged a two-tier
system of justice. Under recent right-wing governments, there has
been a movement not just to extend settlements in the West Bank
but to strip Israeli-Palestinian citizens of rights dating from
the 1952 compromise, so that this two-tier system is being imposed
in all of Israel. Smotrich's decisions seem deliberately intended
to fan protest within Israel, which can be used as pretext for ever
more violent repression. A glance at the other headlines shows where
this is heading:
Israeli forces kill Palestinian in raid on Tulkarm refugee camp;
Israeli forces kill Palestinian man in West Bank raid;
'Systemic abuse' by Israeli settlers displaces yet another Palestinian
'Watershed moment': Over 700 academics equate Israeli occupation with
apartheid. The letter is here, called
The elephant in the room (the signature list is now up to 1400).
One of the more famous names on the list is Benny Morris, a historian
who did important work in documenting the Nakba expulsions, before
swinging hard to the political right around 2000. His Righteous
Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999 was
a pivotal book for me.
Richard Silverstein: [08-11]
Israel: Chronicle of a genocide foretold.
Around the world:
Ben Armbruster: [08-11]
How US media builds public support for confrontation with China:
"A recent NBC Nightly News threat hyping segment exemplifies the fourth
estate's complicity in a march to a new cold war with Beijing."
Kate Aronoff: [08-10]
Britain's hot new import from America: The climate culture wars.
Ryan Grim/Murtaza Hussain: 
Secret Pakistan documents US pressure to remove Imran Khan. This
was supposedly part of a shakedown when Khan balked at supporting US
on Ukraine. Yet it's hard to think of any other cases where the US
cracked the whip this effectively, so there must be more to this
More on Pakistan:
Jonathan Guyer: [08-11]
Biden's risky Persian Gulf bet: Quotes Emma Ashford: "We're
talking about putting Marines in harm's way to try to deter Iran
from attacking ships, because we're not willing to look at any of
the other political options." The one thing we should have learned
from the Ukraine war is that sanctions and deterrence are more
likely to provoke war than to prevent it. Also:
Trita Parsi: [08-04]
With Marines on Persian Gulf vessels, is Biden risking war with
Iran? Parsi comments that "it is impressive how MBS has played
Biden," but with Saudi Arabia and Iran normalizing relations under
a Chinese-brokered agreement, a more likely explanation is that
this is just further proof that Israel is running American foreign
Taiwo Hassan: [08-08]
Niger coup brings West Africa to brink of war: ECOWAS threatens
to intervene to restore the previous ("democratically elected")
Ellen Ioanes: [08-12]
What could still go wrong with the US-Iran prisoner swap.
Middle East Eye: [08-11]
Iran nuclear deal opponents conspired to oust US special envoy Robert
Malley. The former not only include the usual suspects in Israel,
Saudi Arabia, and Washington, but "certain hardline and influential
elements within Tehran and out of government, without President Ebrahim
Raisi's consent and awareness." There have been rumors, which I never
bothered citing here, of an imminent revival of the anti-nuke deal
with Iran. Hamstringing Malley, who is one of the few Americans to
have actually worked out deals in the Middle East, is one way to keep
any deal from happening.
Li Zhou: [08-10]
A shocking assassination highlights escalating violence in Ecuador.
Li Zhou/Jen Kirby: [08-09]
A deadly shipwreck illustrates the tragedy behind Europe's migration
William Astore: [08-08]
An exceptional military for the exceptional nation: "Recall that,
in his four years in office, Donald Trump increased military spending
by 20%. Biden is now poised to achieve a similar 20% increase in just
three years in office. And that increase doesn't even include the cost
of supporting Ukraine in its war with Russia -- so far, somewhere
between $120 billion and $200 billion and still rising." Also:
The greatest trick the U.S. military ever pulled was essentially
convincing us that its wars never existed. As Norman Solomon notes
in his revealing book, War Made Invisible, the
military-industrial-congressional complex has excelled at camouflaging
the atrocious realities of war, rendering them almost entirely invisible
to the American people. Call it the new American isolationism, only this
time we're isolated from the harrowing and horrific costs of war itself.
America is a nation perpetually at war, yet most of us live our lives
with little or no perception of this. There is no longer a military draft.
There are no war bond drives. You aren't asked to make direct and personal
sacrifices. You aren't even asked to pay attention, let alone pay (except
for those nearly trillion-dollar-a-year budgets and interest payments on
a ballooning national debt, of course). You certainly aren't asked for
your permission for this country to fight its wars, as the Constitution
demands. As President George W. Bush suggested after the 9/11 attacks,
go visit Disneyworld! Enjoy life! Let America's "best and brightest"
handle the brutality, the degradation, and the ugliness of war, bright
minds like former Vice President Dick ("So?") Cheney and former Secretary
of Defense Donald ("I don't do quagmires") Rumsfeld.
Astore cites the
Costs of War Project,
that "roughly 937,000 people have died since 9/11/2001" thanks to the
Global War on Terror, which has thus far run up a bill of $8 trillion.
Of course, GWOT gets little press these days: George Will has dismissed
it recently as the
"era of Great Distraction" -- insisting we return to focus on the
more lucrative Cold War rivalry with Russia and China.
Dean Baker: [08-07]
Taxing share buybacks: The cheapest tax EVER! Baker is right on
here. Share buybacks would be easy to tax, and hard to evade. They
would only take money that's already on the table, and if that tips
the decision as to whether to buy, that's not something anyone else
needs to worry about. Besides, share buybacks are basically a tax
Ross Barkan: [08-03]
Has the socialist moment already come and gone? "Bernie and AOC
helped build a formidable movement. Since Biden took office, we've
seen its reach -- and its limits." Well, what do you want? Sanders
was uniquely able to expand his ideological base of support because
he's one of the few politicians in Washington whose integrity and
commitment are unimpeachable. But also because he's actually willing
to work hard for very modest improvements. He's inspired followers,
but thus far no significant leaders. But does that matter? The
possibility of a resurgent independent left is restrained, as it's
always been in America and Western Europe, by two overwhelming
forces: one is fear of fascism on the far right (Republicans); the
other is the possibility of ameliorative reform from the center
(Democrats). Why risk the former and sacrifice the latter just for
the sake of a word ("socialism," or whatever)? On the other hand,
as long as Democrats -- even such unpromising ones as Biden -- are
willing to entertain constructive proposals from the left, why not
Colin Bradley: 
Liberalism against capitalism: "The work of John Rawls shows that
liberal values of equality and freedom are fundamentally incompatible
Robert Kuttner: [08-07]
Eminent domain for overpriced drugs: "Exhibit A is the case of
the EpiPen. It should cost a few dollars rather than the $600 or
more charged by monopolist Viatris."
Althea Legaspi: [08-12]
Record labels file $412 million copyright infringement lawsuit against
Internet Archive: First of all, the
Archive is one of the great treasures of modern civilization.
A lawsuit against them is nothing less than an assault on culture and
our rights to it. Second, there are mechanisms under current law
for dealing with copyright disputes short of lawsuits. They aren't
necessarily fair or just, but they exist. It's possible that the
labels have exhausted these, but that seems unlikely, given the
ridiculous claims they are making about lost revenue from free
dissemination of 50-to-100-year-old recordings that are already
in the public domain in much of the world (just not the US, due
mostly to Disney lobbyists). Rather, this appears to be malicious
and vindictive, which is about par for the rentier firms that are
pursuing it. Of course, it would be nice to write better laws
that would if not tear down the paywalls that throttle free speech
will at least allow them to expire in a timely fashion.
Miles Marshall Lewis: [08-09]
In 50 years, rap transformed the English language bringing the Black
vernacular's vibrancy to the world: Part of a series of pieces on
the 50th anniversary of rap music, which I'm sure will provide ample
target practice for anyone who finds "the paper of record" more than
a bit pretentious and supercilious. This one focuses on five words
(dope, woke, cake, wildin', ghost), which represent less than 1% of
what one could talk about. Links toward the bottom to more articles,
including Wesley Morris: [08-10]
How hip-hop conquered the world. I'm going to try to not get too
bent out of shape.
Julian Mark: [08-12]
'Unluckiest generation' falters in boomer-dominated market for homes:
"The median age of a first-time homebuyer climbs to 36, as high interest
rates and asking prices further erode spending power." First I heard of
the term (see Andrew Van Dam:
The unluckiest generation in U.S. history), the more common one
being "millennials" (born 1981-96). Van Dam's chart lists ten
generations, each spanning stretches that average twenty years
(min. 17, max. 30, start dates in order from 1792, 1822, 1843,
1860, 1883, 1901, 1925, 1946, 1965, 1981, ending in 1996; no data
for 1997 and beyond). I've never put much stock in these labels,
but have given a bit of thought to which years were the luckiest,
and concluded that men born between 1935 and 1943 hit the sweet
spot: the depression was waning, they were too young for WWII
and (mostly) Korea, too old for Vietnam; they started work in
the boom years of the 1950s, and many were well positioned to
benefit from inflation in the 1970s; they moved off farms and
into cities; many were the first in their families to go to
college. They drove big, gas-guzzling cars, and quite a few
retired to putter around the country in RVs. I have a half-dozen
cousins who fit that profile to a tee. On the other hand, I never
liked the Boomer designation, as it seemed to actually have three
subsets: the leading edge got ahead of the expansion of education
in the 1960s, which by the time I got there was already cooling;
the middle got diverted to Vietnam; and the tail end had to fend
off Reagan. Still, it's hard to feel when you get into your
seventies, even if that's some kind of proof.
Of course, no generational experience is universal.
Women were better off born after 1950, as career options opened
up in the 1970s, and abortion became legal. What is pretty clear
is that prospects have dimmed for anyone born after 1980. It also
seems pretty likely that unless there are big changes, those born
after 1997 will be even more unlucky. But it's more possible than
ever for young people to understand what made some lucky and what
doesn't, and to act accordingly.
Still, this particular article is more about housing prices than
generations. The median US home sold in 2023 for $416,100, up 26%
from 2020, which is pushing the age of first-time buyers up and up,
to 36 from 29 in 1981. I'm beginning to think we made a big mistake
long ago in treating houses not just as necessities but as stores
of wealth and vehicles for investment.
Steven Lee Myers/Benjamin Mullin: [08-13]
Raids of small Kansas newspaper raises free press concerns: "The
search of the Marion County Record led to the seizure of computers,
servers and cellphones of reporters and editors."
James Robins: [08-08]
The 1848 revolutions did not fail: "The year that Europe went to
the barricades changed the world. But it has not left the same impression
on the public imagination as 1789 or 1917." Review of Christopher Clark:
Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World,
1848-1849. This is a piece of history I've neglected, although I
have a theory -- partly informed by Arno Mayer's The Persistence of
the Old Regime, perhaps by Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution,
and more generally by Marx -- that 1848 marked the end of bourgeois
revolutions, as the rising of workers convinced the bourgeoisie and
the aristocracy that they had more in common. Clark has an earlier
book, The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914, so
perhaps he's looking backwards as well. China Miéville has another
book on 1848, from a different perspective: A Spectre, Haunting:
On the Communist Manifesto.
Nathan J Robinson: [08-11]
You either see everyone else as a human being or you don't:
"It's obviously morally abominable to booby-trap the borders with
razors. But some people think desperate migrants deserve whatever
cruelties we inflict on."
Aja Romano: [08-11]
The Montgomery boat brawl and what it really means to "try that in a
small town": The viral fight valorized Black resistance -- and
punctured Jason Aldean's racist 'small town' narrative."
Jeffrey St Clair: [08-11]
Roaming Charges: Mad at the world. Seems like every week brings
another story like this one:
An Arkansas woman called 911. When the cops arrived, an officer was
frightened by her Pomeranian, shot at the dog and missed, hitting the
woman in the leg. The cop then tries to tell her the bullet hole in
her leg is probably just a
scratch from the dog.
Monday, August 07, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 26 albums, 4 A-list,
Music: Current count 40662  rated (+26), 12  unrated (-2).
I published another
Speaking of Which yesterday (5691 words, 93 links). Could
have written much more, but couldn't find the time, and by
Sunday evening the will was flagging as well.
I have even less to say about this week's music, or for that
matter this past week. I'm making minor progress on my technical
projects, but still have a lot more to do. Posting this early
will open up some time on Monday. One thing I did get done last
week was a trip to Thai Binh, as I was running low on hoisin
sauce. While there, I picked up some pork and eggplants, so I
need to cook dinner on Tuesday, and make time for all that
entails. At last, a project with a reasonable expectation of
Christian Iszchak wrote a longer review of
Flang Dang. I heard the mid-1970s albums when they came out,
but haven't played them in ages, and probably only have them on vinyl
(if that). I had the record in my
tracking file, but hadn't pursued
it. But I had checked out a couple of his
albums. I also remember his earlier group, Amen Corner, but didn't
register anything by it in my
I didn't get July's indexing done (or at least I don't remember
doing it), so maybe next week.
New records reviewed this week:
- Aline's Etoile Magique: Eclipse (2023, Elastic): [cd]: B+(**) [08-25]
- Bdrmm: I Don't Know (2023, Rock Action): [sp]: B+(*)
- Gordon Beeferman/Michael Evans/Michael Foster/Shelley Hirsch: Glow (2021 , Tripticks Tapes): [bc]: B+(*)
- Will Bernard & Beth Custer: Sky (2023, Dreck to Disk): [cd]: B+(*) [09-05]
- Geof Bradfield Quintet: Quaver (2021 , Calligram): [cd]: B+(***)
- The Clientele: I Am Not There Anymore (2023, Merge): [sp]: B+(*)
- Bethany Cosentino: Natural Disaster (2023, Concord): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ember: August in March (2022 , Imani): [cd]: A- [08-11]
- Foo Fighters: But Here We Are (2023, Roswell/RCA): [sp]: B-
- Michael Foster: The Industrious Tongue of Michael Foster (2022, Relative Pitch): [sp]: B+(*)
- Leo Genovese/Demian Cabaud/Marcos Cavaleiro: Estrellero (2023, Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)
- Georgia: Euphoric (2023, Domino): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Ghost: Vanished Pleasures (2023, Relative Pitch): [sp]: B+(***)
- Cory Hanson: Western Cum (2023, Drag City): [sp]: B+(*)
- J Hus: Beautiful and Brutal Yard (2023, Black Butter): [sp]: B+(**)
- Mike Jones Trio: Are You Sure You Three Guys Know What You're Doing? (2022 , Capri): [cd]: B+(**) [08-18]
- Andy Fairweather Low: Flang Dang (2023, Last Music): [sp]: A-
- Lowcountry: Lowcountry (2023, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(***)
- Chad McCullough: The Charm of Impossibilities (2022 , Calligram): [cd]: A-
Jesper Nordberg: Trio (2023, Gotta Let It Out): [bc]: B+(***)
- Kresten Osgood/Bob Moses/Tisziji Muñoz: Spiritual Drum Kingship (2022 , Gotta Let It Out): [bc]: A-
- Chuck Owen and the WDR Big Band: Renderings (2019-21 , MAMA): [cd]: B+(***)
- Susanne Sundfør: Blómi (2023, Bella Union): [sp]: B+(*)
- Tainy: Data (2023, Neon16): [sp]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Abdul Wadud: By Myself: Solo Cello (1977 , Gotta Groove): [bc]: B+(**)
- Ember With Orrin Evans: No One Is Any One (2020 , Sunnyside): [bc]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Adam Birnbaum: Preludes (Chelsea Music Festival) [10-10]
- Itamar Borochov: Arba (Greenleaf Music) [09-09]
- Christian Dillingham: Cascades (Greenleaf Music) [09-01]
- Darrel Grant's MJ New: Our Mr. Jackson (Lair Hill) [10-06]
- Chuck Owen and the WDR Big Band: Renderings (MAMA) [07-21]
- Claudia Villela: Cartas Ao Vento (Taina Music) [09-08]
Sunday, August 06, 2023
Speaking of Which
Trump's third indictment led off the week, so naturally he
hogged the news. He complains about being singled out, as if
he's the only president ever to get caught running a byzantine
scam to reverse election results. If anything, he's the one
getting special favors. Anyone else trying to incite violence
against witnesses would at least get a gag order, or more
likely be remanded to jail for the duration.
Top story threads:
Trump: He gets his own section again this week, because
he got indicted again, and this time it's the big one, the case
we've been waiting for. Well, not all of it, but stripped down to
the most basic and unassailable points.
Scott R Anderson, et al: [08-01]
Trump Jan. 6 indictments: The statutes.
Zack Beauchamp: [08-04]
I regret to report the economic anxiety theory of Trumpism is back:
David Brooks wrote
another column, so now we have to contemplate it? Just because he
wonders, "what if we're the bad guys here?" Look, Brooks has never not
been a bad guy. That he sometimes quarrels with Trump doesn't redeem
him. He's the kind of elite that everyone can find fault with. As for
the notion that white blue-collar workers support Trump because of
economic anxiety, that's never been conscious. If they understood the
concept of precarity, they could figure out that Trump wasn't going
to help them. Rather, it's a theory of false consciousness: something
people like to believe as an alternative to facing the truth. It's
also a political proposition: do things to reduce such anxieties and
win some of their votes back. But if you want to understand why folks
vote for Trump, I'm afraid that the answer has nothing to do with
policy, ideology, or even culture. They like his style, and there's
really not much more to him than that.
Jamelle Bouie: [08-05]
Republicans chose their fate when they chose to shield Trump.
Luke Broadwater/Maggie Astor: [08-06]
Trump calls for judge's recusal as his lawyer deems effort to overturn
election 'aspirational': From anyone else, this might be written
off as "playing the refs," accusing the judge of bias to get the odd
call just to show she isn't. Still, Trump makes it look like a mere
tantrum. Above all, he's trying to litigate the case on his home turf,
which is the adoring media.
Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: [08-04]
Feds alert judge to Trump's 'If you go after me, I'm coming after you!'
post: Sounds like a threat to intimidate witnesses, something few
judges in America would tolerate. Cheney previously wrote: [08-03]
Inside the courtroom: Donald Trump, Jack Smith and a historic glance,
which included a "standard list of warnings: Trump could be arrested
and jailed if he violates any of his release conditions -- including
a vow not to commit any crimes and not to 'obstruct the administration
of justice' by attempting to influence or retalliate against any
witnesses." That is exactly what Trump has since done, although he
has yet to be jailed for violating those conditions.
Isaac Chotiner: [08-03]
A former federal prosecutor explains the latest Trump indictment:
Interview with Mary McCord.
Alan Feuer/Ben Protess/Maggie Haberman: [08-05]
Trump's legal team is enmeshed in a tangle of possible conflicts.
Several have given evidence in various cases. Boris Epshteyn seems
to be the leading candidate for one of the unindicted co-conspirators
in the January 6 case. It's hard to get good help when your boss keeps
turning you into co-defendants.
Donell Harvin: [08-05]
Here's the intelligence assessment of Donald Trump that the government
can't write: "While generally highly decentralized and fractured,
violent extremist groups have begun to mesh over a unifying figure:
Trump. . . . Trump's willingness to fan the worst flames and division
is why, in my assessment, he is currently the greatest threat to our
Spencer S Hsu/Carol D Leonnig/Tom Jackman: [08-04]
If Trump is convicted, Secret Service protection may be obstacle to
imprisonment. I still have to ask, does he need Secret Service
protection in jail? I mean, jails are supposed to be safe, right?
Ankash Khardori: [08-02]
The most important criminal prosecution in American history: "Despite
the risks, the Justice Department's case against Trump is necessary and
Ruth Marcus: [08-06]
How Trump will fight back in court: This is long on legal minutiae,
which is to say it's nothing that Trump understands or cares about.
Trump himself will fight back the only way he knows: politically. And,
as usual, it will work effectively with his base, while offending and
repelling everyone else, most likely including the judge, and .
Josh Marshall: [08-05]
John Eastman comes clean: Hell yes we were trying to overthrow the
Christian Paz: [08-02]
Trump has been indicted for something Americans seem to have
Charlie Savage: [08-04]
How Jack Smith structured the Trump election indictment to reduce
Jason Smith: [06-16]
A two-tiered justice system: This phrase has been kicked around a
lot recently, with Republicans like Missouri Congressman Smith arguing
that the second tier was created by Democrats to prosecute opponents
like Donald Trump. Actually, the phrase goes back much further, being
used to describe a wide range of discriminatory practices, such as
much longer sentences for crack cocaine vs. powdered cocaine. It's
usually brought up in defense of people who get the short end of the
stick, ranging from
Glenn Greenwald to
Elizabeth Warren. I can also refer you to an analysis showing
Trump to be the beneficiary of two-tierism: Vera Bergengruen:
Pentagon leaker and Trump are a test of 'two-tiered' justice system.
My own take is that the most obvious tier division in the American
justice system is between defendants who can afford top attorneys
and those who get stuck with public defenders. Trump is very much
in the former group, even if one has doubts about how "top" his
actual attorneys are.
Isaac Stanley-Becker/Spencer S Hsu: [08-01]
Trump is charged under civil rights law used to prosecute KKK violence:
Not that it was effectively used after Reconstruction ended, but it has
been used recently.
Asawin Suebsaeng/Adam Rawnsley: [08-04]
Jack Smith has an indictment. Trump as a massive plan for revenge.
The authors also wrote: [08-01]
Trump's plan to save himself: Scapegoat his coup lawyers: At
least three of which (Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman)
were unnamed co-conspirators in the indictment, so doesn't blaming
them just prove the prosecution's case?
Michael Tomasky: [08-04]
Donald Trump's lawyer is dumber than Donald Trump: Peter Lauro,
but he's not the only one:
They will say anything, do anything, attack anything, allege anything,
lie about anything, repeat anything, proclaim anything, insinuate
anything, and imply anything. Except of course anything that's true.
They are turning the country and its principles upside down. They are
fomenting a furious army of acolytes who own a lot of guns. When Trump
is convicted here, as it appears he will be, given that his lawyer just
admitted to it, what will they do?
Peter Wade: [08-06]
Trump: I will 'IMMEDIATELY' ask for new judge, new venue in Jan. 6
trial. I'd like to see some statistics on how often change of
venue is granted in federal cases.
Katy Waldman: [08-03]
Trump's subdued courtroom appearance: Trump likes to imagine himself
as one of his Superman NFTs, and he talks a strong and defiant game in
his arena appearances, but there's little evidence of his bravado when
faced with a judge, or for that matter in small meetings with foreign
leaders or even his own staff. Some Democrats want the trials to be
televised so people can see the evidence, but if they were, it may be
more damaging to just watch him squirm and fidget.
Jeff Wise: [08-03]
Could Trump get tossed off 2024's ballots? Even if the 14th Amendment
applied to Jan. 6, 2021, which is a stretch, and even if Trump was guilty
of inciting that "insurrection," which is not something he's been charged
with, this would be a bad idea politically: one that would both reinforce
his "folk hero" status and drive his more fanatical followers to greater
flights of lawlessness. He needs to be beat at the ballot box, and the
bigger margin the better. But to deny him a run would be to discredit
the very democracy you want to save from him.
Li Zhou: [08-01]
Why Trump's PAC is almost broke.
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Paul Krugman: [07-31]
Goldilocks and the Bidenomics bears: "It's hard to overstate how
good the U.S. economic news has been lately. It was so good that it
didn't just raise hopes for the future; it led to widespread rethinking
of the past." After noting Larry Summers' plea for "many years of very
high unemployment," Krugman goes on to say: "And as I said, we've had
an astonishing recovery in jobs and G.D.P., which puts the sluggish
recovery of the 2010s to shame; indeed, it suggests that the failure
to achieve quick recovery from the financial crisis was a huge economic
tragedy." Then he wrote another column expanding on that: [08-01]
Frying pans and fiscal policy. Looking at the first two charts
there, the slow recovery from the 2008-09 recession up through 2016
can largely be explained by the Republican gospel of austerity, which
they dropped as soon as Trump took office. But especially in 2009-10,
when Democrats had Congressional majorities, Obama's "confidence men"
deserve much of the blame (especially Summers, who like Geithner and
Furman didn't get invites to return from Biden; the term was the title
of Ron Suskind's 2011 book on Obama's economic team, due to their
belief that the key to recovery was Obama projecting confidence about
the recovery; at the time, Krugman ridiculed them for their belief in
"the confidence fairy").
Eric Levitz: [08-04]
America's economic outlook keeps getting better: "Productivity and
real wages are rising."
Bill Scher: [08-04]
Don't expect Biden to get credit for the economy anytime soon.
Cites Clinton and Obama as Democratic presidents who saw sustained
economic growth during their terms, but got so little credit for it
that the voters replaced them with Republicans, leading to massive
redistribution toward the rich, and major recessions. I have some
theories about why things work out this way. One is that Democrats
can be counted on to support measures to stimulate the economy --
as they did with legislation to help Bush in 2008 and Trump in 2020 --
while Republicans insist on austerity when Democrats are in charge,
figuring that the president will be blamed for their own acts. Key
here is that Republicans are much more adept at blaming Democrats
for anything and everything, whereas Democrats prefer to frame their
policies positively, and are eager to compromise them to receive the
thin veneer of bipartisan support.
Emily Stewart: [08-01]
Can Joe Biden convince Americans the economy is actually good?
"Bidenomics, or the real story of a sort of made-up thing."
Law, order, and the courts:
Shera Avi-Yonah: [08-05]
Jim Crow-era lifetime ban on felons voting is unconstitutional, court
Radley Balko: [07-02]
Half the police force quit. Crime dropped. One case, and maybe not
a typical one, but worth looking at. The quitting started when a black
was appointed police chief, so you can guess who quit.
Neil Gross: [08-01]
People get scared and buy a gun. Here's what happens next. Their
new guns get stolen?
Ellen Ioanes: [08-05]
In Texas, a temporary win for abortion rights: "Vague health
exceptions to extreme abortion bans aren't just a Texas problem."
Eric Levitz: [08-03]
Conservatives: Punishing coup leaders is authoritarian: I might
be more sympathetic to this argument had they made it during the
trial of the Chicago 8/7. I certainly developed a distaste for the
laws against seditious conspiracy after seeing them used against the
fringe left in the 1970s. My friend Elizabeth Fink was a defense
one of those trials, which I recall as being a colossal waste
based on pure political vindictiveness. By the way, Robert Mueller
was the US Attorney in Massachusetts when those charges were filed,
although he had left office before the trial. At least the Jan. 6
seditious conspiracy trials resulted in convictions, probably because
that was exactly what they attempted to do. On the other hand, the
Proud Boys never stood a chance of carrying out a coup. They were at
most tools for higher-placed politicians, specifically Donald Trump.
That Trump hasn't been charged with seditious conspiracy suggests
that the Special Prosecutor realizes it would be a bullshit charge,
one that the state could only safely prosecute against chumps.
Needless to say, these conservatives aren't really bothered by
authoritarianism, as long as it's directed at their enemies,
while sparing their allies and agents.
Kelly McClure: [08-05]
Clarence Thomas bought a $267,000 RV using funds from a Democratic
donor. Democratic? "Anthony Welters, a former executive at
UnitedHealthCare who worked alongside Thomas in the Reagan
administration," but who donated big to Obama, netting an
Li Zhou: [08-04]
How a Mississippi case of police brutality emphasizes the need for more
Climate and Environment:
Kate Aronoff: [07-31]
What Florida's corals look like after catastrophic bleaching:
"What's alarming about this year's bleaching event is just how
quickly the corals died."
Tom Engelhardt: [08-03]
Extremely extreme: After a paragraph summarizing the shocking climate
news from this summer, he segues into the self-appointed leader of the
"Me-First" movement: Donald Trump. Sure, he did a lot of bad things as
president, only a small fraction of which he's since been indicted for,
but his sins of omission will be judged by history even more harshly,
including four years of doing nothing (beyond his active obstruction)
on climate change.
Georgina Rannard/Mark Poynting/Jana Tauschinski/Becky Dale:
Ocean heat record broken, with grim implications for the planet.
Ukraine War: Regarding the counteroffensive, Robert Wright
writes in [08-04]
Biden's Ukraine quagmire:
This week a widely followed Twitter account called War Mapper
quantified the amount of terrain Ukrainian forces have retaken
since the beginning of their counter-offensive two months ago. The
net gain is a bit over 100 square miles. So the fraction of Ukrainian
territory occupied by Russia has dropped from 17.54 percent to 17.49
This gain has come at massive cost: untold thousands of dead
Ukrainians, untold thousands of maimed Ukrainians, and lots of
destroyed weapons and armored vehicles.
At this rate of battlefield progress, it will be six decades
before Ukraine has expelled Russian troops from all its territory --
the point before which, President Zelensky has said, peace talks
are unthinkable. And at this rate of human loss, Ukraine will run
out of soldiers long before then -- and long before Russia does.
In short: Recent trend lines point to a day when Ukraine is
vulnerable to complete conquest by Russia. For that matter, the
counter-offensive has already made Ukraine more vulnerable to a
Russian breakthrough in the north, where Ukrainian defensive lines
were thinned out for the sake of the offensive in the south. . . .
The resolve is admirable. But have things really come to this?
We're throwing Ukrainian men into a meat grinder week after week in
hopes that maybe Putin's regime will collapse, and maybe this
will be good for Ukraine?
Emphasis in original. This last line is followed by reasons such
a collapse may not be good for anyone. Another
source points out that Russia has actually gained ground in the
north, while the counteroffensive has been grinding away in the south.
He also cites a series of tweets by a
Tatarigami_UA. Of course, much of this argument depends not just on
the amount of land gained but on the resources spent and other damages,
and on how much depth both sides have for reinforcements. While the US
and its allies can provide Ukraine with enough war matériel to fight
indefinitely, Russia has a big long-term advantage in manpower it can
commit to the fight. Russia also has two more big advantages: it can
hit virtually all of Ukraine, where Ukraine can barely nick territory
within prewar Russia (e.g., through recent drone attacks on Moscow,
or most recently [08-04]
Ukraine strikes Russian commercial port with drones for first time).
And Russia has nuclear weapons, which aren't terribly useful in the
war but should give one pause when hoping for any kind of militarily
Also, I haven't seen anyone really put this info together, but it
looks to me like Ukraine is becoming much more cavalier at hitting
Russian targets behind various "red lines": in Crimea, the Black Sea,
and in Russia itself. Russia is responding with more purely punitive
attacks (i.e., nowhere near the front, such as on Black Sea ports).
Until recently, US aid was conditioned on Ukraine restraint, but that
seems to be going by the wayside.
Blaise Malley: [08-04]
Diplomacy Watch: Ukraine War 'peace talks' this weekend, but Russia
Roger Cohen: [08-06]
Putin's Forever War: An extended portrait of a Russia isolated
by sanctions and agitated and militated by a war footing that seems
likely to extend without ends, if not plausibly forever. I suspect
there is a fair amount of projection here. The US actually has been
engaged in forever wars, boundless affairs first against communism
then against terrorism (or whatever you call it). Russia has struggled
with internal order, but had little interest in "a civilizational
conflict" until the Americans pushed NATO up to its borders. On the
other hand, once you define such a conflict, it's hard to resolve it.
The US has failed twice, and seems to be even more clueless in its
high stakes grappling with Russia and China..
Geoffrey Roberts: [08-02]
The trouble with telling history as it happens: More a reaction to
than a review of Serhii Polkhy's new book,
The Russo-Ukrainian War: The Return of History, which no matter
how expert or up-to-date ("early 2023") is
quickly passed by events, and inevitably swayed by unproven propaganda.
I've read Plokhy's The Gates of Europe: A history of Ukraine
and found it useful, although I already had a pretty decent grounding
when I wrote my
Izzeddin Araj: [08-01]
Israel's judicial crisis is not surprising: "Israel's settler-colonial
ideological mission not only impacts Palestinians but prevents the country
from being a democracy for Jews as well."
Jonathan Guyer: [08-03]
Biden wants to bring Israel and Saudi Arabia together. But why?
"And who will actually get the most out of it? (Hint: Not Americans or
Palestinians.)" I haven't thought much about this, but can note that
Fred Kaplan and
Richard Silverstein are very critical. I see three obvious problems:
one is that, especially in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has a history of armed
aggression, not the sort of country you want to tie yourself to; I'm
a bit less worried than Kaplan about Saudi Arabia tarnishing America's
brand as a supporter of democracy, but autocratic states are by their
very nature brittle, so while you may like the current leadership (God
knows why), that could change any moment (cf. Iran); and as long as
Israel dictates American foreign policy, we're stuck holding the bag
for whatever commitments Israel makes (usually war tech, although I've
also read that the Saudis want nuclear tech). The tricky part with all
of these Abraham Accord deals is that they depend on Israel moderating
its treatment of Palestinians to not embarrass their new partners, but
Israel's domestic political dynamics are only becoming more violent and
abusive, effectively sabotaging the deals.
Jonathan Kuttab: [08-03]
Why the Israeli judicial protest movement is bound to fail: "The
time has come for Israeli Jews and their supporters to answer whether
they believe in human equality or will continue to insist on Jewish
Israel expanded an apartheid law last week: "Israel broadened a
racist law that allows communities to exclude non-Jews based on 'social
and cultural cohesion.'" This is one of 65 laws in Adalah's
Discriminatory Laws Database.
Jewish supremacy won't end from within. BDS is still the only hope.
It's increasingly hard to argue that sanctions can persuade countries
to change their core policies -- more likely the isolation they enforce
only makes the rulers more recalcitrant, and sometimes more belligerent --
but they are something one can do to register disapproval short of war,
and they can be adopted by individuals and groups even short of persuading
states to act. Can it work? I doubt it. Up to 2000, Israeli politicians
at least made gestures -- often, we now know, in bad faith -- to maintain
good will from the US and Europe. Thereafter, the US capitulated, giving
Israel's right-wing a green light to do whatever they want, certain of
blind, uncritical American support. A reversal of that policy, where the
US joins the rest of the world in deploring Israeli human rights abuses,
while working to ensure Israel's security by negotiating normal relations
with Israel's supposed enemies (especially Iran and Syria), wouldn't
necessarily have any impact on Israeli politics, but it's the only
thing that might. Meanwhile, civilian efforts to support BDS is the
only game in town.
Philip Weiss: [08-02]
Israel advocates finally condemn skunkwater -- now that it's being
used on Jews.
Jeff Wright: [07-30]
Another North American church names Israeli apartheid: "The Christian
Church (Disciples of Christ) has declared that 'many of the laws, policies
and practices of the State of Israel meet the definition of apartheid as
defined in international law.'" Although I'm about as lapsed as a person
can be, I grew up in that church, and took it seriously enough that they
awarded me a Boy Scout God & Country medal. They are evangelicals,
but not Old Testament fundamentalists. On the other hand, their focus on
the New Testament has led many members (like my grandfather) to focus on
"Revelations," which is the gateway to "Christian Zionism." But they have
always been fundamentally decent people, and in the end that seems to
have won out.
Around the world:
Clay Risen: [08-05]
Charles J. Ogletree Jr, 70, dies; at Harvard Law, a voice for equal
Nathan J Robinson:
Does Hunter Biden matter? "Republicans believe the president's son
is at the center of the corruption scandal of the century. Democrats
think Hunter is a non-issue and the worst allegations are mere conspiracy
theory." This is pretty thorough, and cuts the Bidens less slack than I
would, but I can't quarrel much with his conclusion: "I certainly think
we have ample evidence that Hunter Biden is scummy and Joe Biden is
dishonest." It still doesn't answer the question raised up top: "Should
voters care, and how much?" If Democrats offered a clear alternative to
the graft that Republicans seem to revel in, they should be able to
overcome a few embarrassing slips. But while Obama campaigned against
money in politics back in 2008, he made no effort once he got elected
to change a system that happened to give him (if few Democrats) a big
advantage. Biden also seems comfortable with moneyed interests, even
though they're always accompanied by the smell of corruption. Still,
corruption isn't the only issue voters have to weigh. There are many
other issues, some much more important. Even if you believe the worst
about the Bidens, you should think back on the 1991 Louisiana governor
race, where voters were advised:
Vote for the crook: It's important.
Is the critique of consumerism dead? "Today's left seems less
inclined to critique advertising, consumerism, and pop culture."
Another piece tied into Barbie, which since I haven't seen
yet I should reserve judgment on, but it's clearly not tied into
Mattel's PR machine. Still, my first reaction is "boring," perhaps
because that's all stuff I examined so critically in the 1970s I
feel like I'm unlikely to come up with anything new. I will note
that although related, those are three different things.
Advertising is an industry which presents a view of products (and
the world) that is distorted to further the ends of its sponsors --
mostly to make more money, although political advertising has darker
goals). And by the way, advertising is not free speech. It is very
expensive speech, sponsored by special interests but ultimately paid
for by the people it targets. It is almost always intrusive and
Consumerism is a political reaction to corporate malfeasance. It
attempts to give consumers rights and recourse against advertising,
and beyond that against malign products, whether by design or defect.
As we are all consumers, this movement is potentially universal, but
it tends to wax and wane as business practices become normalized. It's
possible that Robinson is thinking of something slightly different,
which doesn't have a good name. This is the idea that consuming is an
essential occupation of everyday life, a panacea for all our needs and
desires. That is, of course, an idea advertising is meant to stoke, and
one we may be better off learning to live with at a level well short of
an addiction or compulsion, but it's impossible to blot it out.
Pop art is simply art that reflects and reacts to popular consumable
objects. Growing up when and where I did, it always struck me as perfectly
normal: even if eventually it seemed a bit shallow, that shallowness was
as real as the world it represented. Robinson spends a lot of time on
what a leftist should make of this, and ultimately doesn't reach much
of a conclusion. Maybe because it's not a problem we need to solve.
Climate denial may escalate into a total rupture with reality:
If I were his editor, I'd be tempted to strike "may" from that title,
although I can see that it leaves open reason for contemplation, even
though the evidence is pretty conclusive. At this point, the really
dogmatic denialists aren't even the fossil industry shills who have
an obvious economic stake but others whose objections aren't based
on any understanding of science or economics, and their evidence,
well, isn't evidence at all.
Nomi Prins explains the difference between the market and the
economy: Interview with the former Goldman Sachs trader, turned
journalist, whose intro omits her 2009 book It Takes a Pillage,
which as I recall was the first to expose/explain how far the banking
bailouts went beyond the $700 billion slush fund Congress appropriated.
She talks about her new book: Permanent Distortion: How Financial
Markets Abandoned the Real Economy Forever.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [08-01]
Americans' trust in military hits 'malaise era' territory. This
sounds like good news to me, although the numbers still have quite
a ways to fall. So does the
recruitment crisis. Now if only some politicians could see the
wisdom of cutting back on war spending. The pressure for more remains
Alissa Wilkinson: [08-04]
Lessons from a Barbenheimer summer: The fad of releasing serious,
thought-provoking movies appears to be over. (This week's most-hyped
releases are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and
The Meg 2: The Trench. Beware the colons.) The two movies are
still generating commentary, especially Oppenheimer.
William Hartung: [08-02]
Oppenheimer and the birth of the nuclear-industrial complex.
Jeffrey St Clair: [08-04]
Little Boy and Fat Man earrings: a nuclear parable: An excerpt
from St Clair's book, Grand Theft Pentagon, following by a
Roaming Charges, much of which (including digs at Pence, RFK Jr, and
"slit their throats" DeSantis I'm tempted to quote. Here's a taste:
- DeSantis reminds me of Phil Gramm, the TX politician who amassed
millions from banks and oil companies and seemed to be the prohibitive
favorite in '96 GOP primaries, but was soon exposed as just a mean SOB
with no real political skills at all other than shaking down corps for
- When DeSantis' campaign ran low on money and he began firing staffers,
he hired them to fill
government-funded positions in Florida instead.
- More than half ($5 million, in fact) of the funds in RFK, Jr's
SuperPAC came from Timothy Mellon, scion of the Mellon banking fortune,
who has denounced social spending as "slavery redux," donated $53 million
to state of Texas border wall construction fund, and gifted $1.5 million
toward the legal defense of Arizona's vicious anti-immigration law.
I can't call it a tweet, and certainly won't call it a truth, but
after Trump deemed "really quite vicious" Nancy Pelosi's quip about
him in court ("I saw a scared puppy"), he wasn't satisfied with just
being the victim. He added: "She is a Wicked Witch whose husbands
journey from hell starts and finishes with her. She is a sick &
demented psycho who will someday live in HELL!" True gentleman he
is. Salon, which never misses a tweet, covers this story
Another tweet, from Younis Tirawi, in Jenin: "Israeli occupation
forces fired 300 bullets on a car with 3 Palestinian fighters inside.
After they all were killed, they kept their bodies inside the car,
pulled it and paraded with their bodies home to the occupation
military camp near Dotan."
Also from Noga Tarnopolsky: "Israeli National Security Minister
Itamar Ben Gvir, convicted eight (8!) times of terrorism &
hate crimes, says a medal of valor ought to be awarded to his
Jewish Power activist Elisha Yered, a suspect in the murder of
19-year-old Palestinian Qosai Mi'tan."