Monday, September 25, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 35 albums, 4 A-list,
Music: Current count 40918  rated (+35), 30  unrated (-2).
Seems like I had very little to show for the first half of the
week. I finally resolved to deal with a couple major technical
problems: why email from my server often fails to reach its intended
destination, and why my printer/scanner rarely functions properly:
jobs sent to print get held up in a blocked queue, which reblocks
itself when you try to enable it; and Xsane shows you test scans,
but craps out when you try to get the actual scan data (but for
some reason Simplescan works -- you just lose all of the fancier
I blame the latter on Hewlett-Packard, which has now eclipsed
Apple as my most hated company in greater Silicon Valley (i.e.,
I'm not excluding Microsoft, which thanks to many years of total
avoidance is now no worse than 3rd). The former problem is harder
to assign blame for, but most of the problems have come with Gmail
accounts, and Google has made getting help virtually impossible,
so 4th (with a star)?
I can't report unequivocal success in either case, but I'm a
bit more hopeful. Email delivery is tied up with the rather fluid
notion of reputation. When the problem first appeared, I was
forwarding a lot of server admin email to my Cox account, then
throwing almost all of it away. Cox's email forwarders seem to
have gotten tired of this, so they started blackballing me, and
eventually I got nothing. That's when I noticed I was having
trouble with Gmail, as well. I devised a workaround for the
server admin email, so now I store it locally, and fetch it
using POP (after which I filter the excess baggage out, as
before). I set up a couple more email accounts like this for
special purposes (such as the
When I retested things last week, I found that server
mail is being delivered on Cox. Some further tests showed that
most of the mail going to Gmail is also being delivered, but
that some of it is going to users' spam folders. Of course,
hardly any of us have the presence of mind to check whether
anything worthwhile turns up flagged as spam. I still get a
few spam-related bounce messages on the server, and don't
really know what to do about them, other than to alert the
people who were supposed to receive the mail, and hope they
can persuade Google to fuck up less, but that's tough.
As for the printer, my next move is to crawl under the
desk and hook up a USB cable, which HP doesn't like but seems
to allow. I also spent most of a day working on a website I
host. I converted the hand-coded version to WordPress a couple
years ago, but never got the client's sign off, so both versions
have been online but dormant. The intervening time left a bunch
of digital cobwebs I needed to clean up, and I had to write up
a guide to how it all works.
Then, midweek, I decided I wanted to push to get a
post out ahead of the usual Sunday
of Which. I managed to pull both off, but it was a huge amount
of work -- during which I finally managed to give a cursory listen
to a few recent records. Note that there are a couple music-related
links in Speaking of Which: one on Sam Rivers, one on Nick Shoulders,
plus something on Jann Wenner. I've been doing that for a bit: it's
easier than trying to add a links section to Music Weekl, and I'm
not that big on compartmentalization.
I do have a couple things to add on Wenner. Conservatives scream
"cancel culture" any time anyone has the temerity to challenge them,
but what really gets their goat is the exposure that they're not
always the ones in charge -- you know, the ones doing the canceling.
They have a lot of trouble understanding why anyone in a position
of property and power could turn on them. After all, the whole point
of conservatism is to protect the rich and powerful from the masses.
Wenner, as far as I can tell, has never been one of them politically,
but he is a very rich guy, who achieved a power base by being the owner
of a prominent publication, and he has a lot of practice (practically
a whole lifetime) acting on his privileges. During his entire tenure, he
has made thousands of decisions, big and small, often arbitrary according
to his whims and prejudices. My very distant impression is that the
magazine's success is largely due to more talented people managing to
work around his idiosyncrasies, but I've heard various stories of him
stepping in, and invariably they're turns for the worse. Since he's
retired, he no longer has an organization dedicated to keeping him
from exposing his ignorance and incompetence, and that's what you're
seeing in this "scandal": the real Jann Wenner, a rich, tone-deaf
As for his book, no one would care about him peddling a set
of interviews with famous old (and in a couple cases now dead)
white guys. He could even keep the title (The Masters).
Even if you had a second thought on seeing the seven bold names
on the cover, by the time you read "By Jann S. Wenner" you'd
know: of course, those were just the kind of guys he'd love to
hang with, and being the fount of free publicity, who would hang
with him. His problem was in trying to pass this conceit off as
some sort of meritocracy. And, needless to say, the really weak
link was Wenner himself. His further dissembling about blacks
and women -- things absolutely no reasonable person would think
of much less utter -- just dug him deeper into the pit of his
This week closes out the
archive. I'm not going to hold this up to do the usual indexing.
(Oops, I still haven't done
That probably doesn't matter to you, but it's fairly important for
me when I can't remember whether or when I reviewed something
Not much to say about this week's records. Three high HM pop
records (Doja Cat, Underscores, Yeule) got at least two plays each.
Doja Cat might benefit from more, but my irritation with glitch
pop both means that I'm done with those and that some of you will
probably love them much more than I can imagine. At some point
I'll have to admit that I'm just too comfortable in my ears to
keep up with all this cutting edge shit.
The Fujiwara album has some upside, too, but I took its thinness
as a limit, even though it's a big part of the concept. The match up
with Brennan and Reid is inspired, perhaps even by our Jazz Poll,
where both won Debut Album recently. Billy Bang fans should know
about the Jazz Doctors reissue, especially the previously unreleased
second half. (Frank Lowe fans can pass.)
The Estes album was one of Clifford Ocheltree's daily picks.
Nice to wake up to his posts, which very often make me want to
search out something (or, if I'm lucky, pull it off my shelves).
Brad Luen, by the way, has a
good review of Olivia Rodrigo, and features three jazz albums
I only found out about Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky's July 10, 2023
death this week. Much of his work remains hard to find, but the
Zentralquartett albums on Intakt are all superb, as is The
Salmon, with Michael Griener (drums). I'm playing another I
just found, for next week.
The Zoh Amba record got me looking through my cache of download
links from 577 Records. (I ignore most downloads links, but have
been saving those, then forgetting them.) Two more records (so far)
for next week. I've been meaning to trawl through this trove, so
perhaps this will get me moving.
I'm starting to think about the Francis Davis Jazz Poll this year --
that's one thing I need working email lists for -- so I'm starting
to get serious about whittling down my queue. Still, got a lot of
mail last week, so the net effect was negative.
New records reviewed this week:
- Zoh Amba/Chris Corsano/Bill Orcutt: The Flower School (2023, Palilalia): [bc]: B+(*)
- Be Your Own Pet: Mommy (2023, Third Man): [sp]: B+(**)
- Johnathan Blake: Passage (2023, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(**)
- Benjamin Boone: Caught in the Rhythm (2019-21 , Origin): [cd]: A-
- Doja Cat: Scarlet (2023, Kemosabe/RCA): [sp]: B+(***)
- Michael Echaniz: Seven Shades of Violet (Rebiralost) (2023, Ridgeway): [cd]: B+(*)
- Tomas Fujiwara: Pith (2023, Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(***)
- Vince Gill & Paul Franklin: Sweet Memories: The Music of Ray Price & the Cherokee Cowboys (2023, MCA Nashville): [sp]: B+(*)
- Carlos Henriquez: A Nuyorican Tale (2023, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Per Texas Johansson: Den Sämsta Lönningen Av Alla (2023, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(***)
- Per Texas Johansson: Orkester Omnitonal (2023, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(***)
- Low Cut Connie: Art Dealers (2023, Contender): [sp]: B
- Buddy & Julie Miller: In the Throes (2023, New West): [sp]: B+(**)
- Kylie Minogue: Tension (2023, BMG): [sp]: B+(**)
- Willie Nelson: Bluegrass (2023, Legacy): [sp]: B+(*)
- Octo Octa: Dreams of a Dancefloor (2023, T4T LUV NRG, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
- Joel Paterson: Wheelhouse Rag (2021 , Jalopy): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ivo Perelman/Matt Moran: Tuning Forks (2023, Ibeji Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Pink Monads: Multiple Visions of the Now (2022 , 4DaRecord): [cd]: B+(**)
- Brandon Sanders: Compton's Finest (2023, Savant): [cd]: B+(**)
- Matthew Shipp: The Intrinsic Nature of Shipp (2023, Mahakala Music): [sp]: B+(**)
- Nick Shoulders: All Bad (2023, Gar Hole): [sp]: B+(**)
- Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet: Precipice (2022 , ARC): [cd]: A-
- Underscores: Wallsocket (2023, Mom + Pop): [sp]: B+(***)
- Vin Venezia: The Venetian (2023, Innervision): [cd]: B+(**) [10-20]
- Yeule: Softscars (2023, Ninja Tune): [sp]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- François Carrier Ensemble: Openness (2006 , Fundacja Sluchaj, 3CD): [dl]: A-
- Alan Goldsher: The Complete Pocket Sessions (2019 , Gold Note): [sp]: B-
- The Jazz Doctors: Intensive Care: Prescriptions Filled [The Billy Bang Quartet Sessions 1983/1984] (1983-84 , Cadillac): [sp]: B+(***)
- Roberto Magris & the JM Horns: High Quote (2012 , JM): [cd]: B+(*)
- Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: Luten at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (2011 , Jazzwerkstatt): [sp]: B+(***)
- Mark Reboul/Roberta Piket/Billy Mintz: Seven Pieces/About an Hour/Saxophone, Piano, Drums (2004 , ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)
- Sleepy John Estes: The Legend of Sleepy John Estes (1962 , Delmark): [sp]: A-
- Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky/Conny Bauer: Wanderung Durch Den Thüringer Wald (2011 , Jazzwerkstatt): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky: Ein Nachmittag in Peitz (1981 , Jazzwerkstatt): [sp]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Flying Pooka! [Dani Oore & Florian Hoefner]: The Ecstasy of Becoming (Alma) [09-01]
- Carlos Henriquez: A Nuyorican Tale (self-released)
- Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (Impulse!)
- Per Texas Johansson: Orkester Omnitonal (Moserobie) [06-10]
- Per Texas Johansson: Den Sämsta Lönningen Av Alla (Moserobie) [06-10]
- Sunny Kim/Vardan Ovsepian/Ben Monder: Liminal Silence (Earshift Music) [11-10]
- Andrew Krasilnikov: Bloody Belly Comb Jelly (Rainy Days) [09-29]
- Jeff Lederer With Mary LaRose: Schoenberg on the Beach (Little (i) Music) [10-06]
- Myra Melford's Fire and Water Quintet: Hear the Light Singing (RogueArt) [11-03]
- Quinsin Nachoff: Stars and Constellations (Adyhâropa) [10-13]
- Pink Monads: Multiple Visions of the Now (4DaRecord) [07-24]
- Joe Santa Maria: Echo Deep (Orenda) [11-03]
- Michael Jefry Stevens Quartet: Precipice (ARC) [05-05]
- Yuhan Su: Liberated Gesture (Sunnyside) [11-10]
- Ben Winkelman: Heartbeat (OA2) [09-15]
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Speaking of Which
Got a late start, as I thought it was more important to get my
Roundup post out first. Still, I didn't have much trouble
finding pieces this week. Seems like there should be more here
on the UAW strike, but I didn't land on much that I hadn't
Top story threads:
Trump, DeSantis, and other Republicans: Trump did very
little of note last week, so it's time to merge him back into the
Mariana Alfaro/Marisa Iati: [09-22]
As UAW strike expands, here's where the 2024 presidential candidates
stand. They all blame Biden. Everything's Biden's fault, all the
time, doesn't matter what. But also, Tim Scott wants to see all the
striking workers fired. He didn't explain how they're going to hire
replacement workers. Maybe by spending billions of dollars moving
their plants to South Carolina, like Boeing did?
Ryan Cooper: [09-19]
The GOP is the party of corrupt oligarchy: "In Texas, Attorney
General Ken Paxton escaped conviction after being impeached."
Gabriella Ferrigine: [09-19]
Giuliani says it's a "shame" he's being sued by ex-lawyer:
Robert Costello, whose firm claims they are still owed $1.35
Kelly Garrity: [09-20]
DeSantis: Humans are 'safer than ever' from effects of climate
change: "The comments come less than a year after Hurricane
Ian left more than 100 people dead in Florida."
Joan E Greve: [09-21]
McCarthy says hard-right Republicans 'want to burn whole place down'.
For the first time ever, McCarthy couldn't even pass a Defense spending
Carl Hulse: [09-23]
The wrecking-ball caucus: How the far right brought Washington to its
knees: "Right-wing Republicans who represent a minority in their
party and in Congress have succeeded in sowing mass dysfunction,
spoiling for a shutdown, an impeachment and a House coup." But in
this they're just following the playbook of past Republican leaders
like Newt Gingrich and Dick Cheney, pressing every available lever
for maximum impact.
Spencer Kimball: [09-22]
United Auto Workers files labor complaint against Sen. Tim Scott for
saying striking workers should be fired.
Jason Linkins: [09-22]
The looming government shutdown is not the fault of dysfunction:
"There's only one culprit for the chaos gripping Capitol Hill -- the
Republican Party." Advice to Democrats: "There's no need to get
involved. What Republicans are enduring can't be solved by rational
people appealing to better natures that don't exist."
Nicole Narea: [09-18]
How Florida became the center of the Republican universe: "Why
Florida went red -- and will probably stay that way." This is part
of a series of pieces Vox is running on
The United States of Florida.
Naomi Nix/Cat Zakrzewski/Joseph Menn: [09-23]
Misinformation research is buckling under GOP legal attacks:
"An escalating campaign, led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and other
Republicans, has cast a pall over programs that study political
disinformation and the quality of medical information online."
Norman J Ornstein/Donald F Retti: [09-22]
GOP prez wannabes' plans for government: dangerous -- and really
dumb: "Each wants to shrink government more than the last.
And none of them knows a lick about how the federal government
Matthew Petti: [09-22]
Nikki Haley thinks China is coming for your brain.
Emily Tamkin: [09-22]
Why the GOP fell in love with Hungary: "The central European
country isn't exactly the right-wing paradise many Republicans
portrait it as." But it does provide practical examples in rigging
a political system for perpetual one-party rule.
Li Zhou: [09-21]
The Republican vs. Republican feud behind the government shutdown
Biden and/or the Democrats: I was expecting more interest
in the Franklin Foer book, but the bottom two articles are about it
here. Biden's foreign policy issues are treated elsewhere, as is the
breaking Menendez scandal.
Kate Aronoff: [09-21]
Biden takes a tiny step toward a Roosevelt-style climate
revolution: He's creating a Civilian Climate Corps, almost a
homage to Roosevelt's CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). While the
new group may also plant some trees, I suspect it will wind up
mostly on the back side of climate change: not prevention, but
Perry Bacon Jr: [09-19]
There's a simple answer to questions about Biden's age. Why don't
Democrats say it? "Yes, there's a chance Vice President Harris
becomes president -- and that would be fine."
Marin Cogan: [09-22]
Why Biden's latest gun violence initiative has activists
optimistic: By executive order, Biden is creating a new White
House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, which won't do much, but
will surely talk about it more.
Oshan Jarow: [09-21]
We cut child poverty to historic lows, then let it rebound faster
than ever before: "The expanded child tax credit was a well-tested
solution to child poverty." Since it has expired, the case is clearer
Robert Kuttner: [09-20]
Winning the ideas, losing the politics: "Progressives have won the
battle of ideas. And reality has been a useful ally. No serious person
any longer thinks that deregulation, privatization, globalization, and
tax-cutting serve economic growth or a defensible distribution of income
and wealth." Biden has "surprisingly and mercifully" broke with the
"self-annihilating consensus" of neoliberalism that gripped and hobbled
the Democratic Party from Carter through Obama. Meanwhile, "Republicans
have become the party of nihilism." So why do Republicans still win
elections? Whatever it is -- some mix of ignorance and spite -- is
what Democrats have to figure out a way to campaign against, before
the desruction gets even worse.
Kuttner recommends a piece by Caroline Fredrickson: [09-18]
What I most regret about my decades of legal activism: "By focusing
on civil liberties but ignoring economic issues, liberals like me got
defeated on both." She recalls the opposition to Reagan's nomination
of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. Liberals objected to Bork's views
on race and abortion, but completely ignored his influential reframing
of antitrust law. (For my part, I always understood that Sherman was
written to protect businesses from monopolies. The idea that its intent
existed for consumer protection was as far from "originalism" as
possible.) She also points to Ted Kennedy's pivotal role providing
liberal blessing for right-wing business initiatives, and Democratic
Supreme Court appointments being "far more business-friendly than
Democratic appointees of any other Court era." It should give us
pause that ever since 1980, income and wealth inequality has grown
even more when Democrats were in the White House. Republicans sat
the table with tax cuts and deregulation, but also depressed wages
and the economy. Democrats grew the economy, giving that much more
to the rich. Biden shows signs of breaking with some, but not all,
Nathaniel Rakich: [09-20]
Democrats have been winning big in special elections: "That could
bode well for them in the 2024 elections."
Amy Davidson Sorkin: [09-10]
The challenges facing Joe Biden: "A new book praises the
President's handling of the midterms, but the midterms are
beginning to feel like a long time ago." The book, of course,
is Franklin Foer's The Last Politician.
David Weigel: [09-12]
In books, Biden is an energetic leader. Too bad nobody reads them.
This was occasioned by Franklin Foer's book because, what else is
available? (Actually, he mentions two more books -- the same two in
my latest Book Roundup.)
Legal matters and other crimes: The Supreme Court isn't
back in session yet, but cases are piling up.
Joshua Kaplan/Justin Elliott/Alex Mierjeski: [09-22]
Clarence Thomas secretly participated in Koch network donor
events. For more on this, see Dahlia Lithwick/Mark Joseph
Clarence Thomas' latest pay-to-play scandal finally connects all
Robert Kuttner: [09-12]
The stealth attack on the power to tax: "The Supreme Court could
overturn a well-established form of federal taxation."
The Supreme Courrt's new term will be dominated by dangerous and
The Supreme Court will decide if Alabama can openly defy its
decisions: "Alabama's racially gerrymandered maps are back
before the Supreme Court, this time with a dollop of massive
The Supreme Court showdown over social media "censorship," explained:
"A rogue federal court effectively put the Republican Party in charge
of social media, and now the justices have to deal with this mess."
In two separate cases, the Fifth Circuit Court ruled that the Biden
administration cannot ask Facebook to remove content (e.g., that
promotes terrorism, or spreads lies about public health), and also
that the state of Texas can force Facebook (or any other social
media company) to post things that violate the company's standards.
"These two decisions obviously cannot be reconciled, unless you
believe that the First Amendment applies differently to Democrats
A new Supreme Court case could trigger a second Great Depression:
"America's Trumpiest court handed down a shockingly dangerous decision.
The Supreme Court is likely, but not certain, to fix it." The Fifth
Circuit decided that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
shouldn't exist, due to a technicality that they're almost certainly
Climate and environment:
Avishay Artsy: [09-22]
A climate scientist on how to recognize the new climate change
denial: Interview with Michael [E.] Mann, who's written at
least four books on climate change, most recently Our Fragile
Moment: How Lessons From Earth's Past Can Help Us Survive the
Lenny Bernstein, et al: [09-23]
Ophelia causes widespread flooding as storm marches up East Coast,
and Matthew Cappucci: [09-21]
Warnings issued ahead of storm set to batter the Mid-Atlantic,
This has been a very weird
Atlantic hurricane season, with wind shear inhibiting the
development of storms, but with ocean waters so abnormally hot
that the few storms that manage to form intensify very rapidly
Idalia is the prime example: it only formed off the coast of
Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, but reached 130 mph winds before
crossing Florida. Ophelia formed north of the Bahamas, but had
70 mph winds when it hit North Carolina. Meanwhile, hurricanes
like Don, Margot, and Nigel turned north well before reaching
North America -- Lee came closer, landing in Nova Scotia.
Scott Dance: [09-23]
Why September's record-warm temperatuers have scientists so
Brady Dennis: [09-22]
A saltwater wedge climbing the Mississippi River threatens drinking
water. New Orleans' water supply is at risk. "The Corps has
secured barges to bring in water [approximately 15 million gallons
next week] to help treatment plants reduce salinity and ensure safe
Benji Jones: [09-21]
I visited a beautiful coral reef in 2022. What I saw there this
summer shocked me.
Rebecca Leber: [09-21]
What climate activists mean when they say "end fossil fuels".
Ian Livingston: [09-22]
Atmospheric river, early-season bomb cyclone to hit Pacific
Kasha Patel: [09-24]
Scientists found the most intense heat wave ever recorded -- in
Antarctica: In March 2022, temperatures spiked 70°F above
Veronica Penney/John Muyskens: [08-16]
Here's where water is running out in the world -- and why.
Economic matters, including labor: The UAW strike is
escalating. It looks like the
Writers Guild has a tentative deal, after a lengthy strike,
while the actors strike continues. Republicans blame all strikes on
Biden, probably for raising the hopes of workers that they might get
a fairer split of the record profits they never credit Biden for.
Do people really expect prices to fall back to pre-pandemic
levels? No, unless you're a Republican, then you'll run by
promising miracles after you win, then forget about them the
Quick thoughts on the UAW strike: "Low pay of autoworkers;
Higher productivity can mean less work, not fewer workers; CEO
pay is a rip-off; Auto industry profits provide some room for
higher pay; Inflated stock prices for Tesla and other Wall
Street favorites have a cost; It is not an issue of electric
vs. gas-powered cars; The UAW and Big Three are still a really
David Dayen: [09-21]
Amazon's $185 billion pay-to-play system: "A new report shows that
Amazon now takes 45 percent of all third-party sales on its website,
part of the company's goal to become a monopoly gatekeeper for economic
Inflation is down, disinflation denial is soaring: So, is the
denial fueled by people who have a vested interest in blaming Biden
for inflation? The same people who always root for economic disaster
when a Democrat is president (and who often contribute to it)? You
Making manufacturing good again: "Industrial jobs aren't
automatically high-paying." They do tend to have relatively high
margins, but whether workers see any of that depends on leverage,
Harold Meyerson: [09-18]
UAW strikes built the American middle class.
Ukraine War: Since Russia invaded in February 2022, I've
always put Responsible Statecraft's "Diplomacy Watch" first in this
section, but there doesn't seem to be one this week. They've
redesigned the website to make it much harder to tell, especially
what's new and what isn't.
Around the world:
Zack Beauchamp: [09-20]
The wild allegations about India killing a Canadian citizen,
explained: "The killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar
in Canada has exposed a big problem for US foreign policy." There's
a list here that limits foreign assassinations to "the world's most
brutal regimes -- places like China, Russia, Iran, and Saudi Arabia,"
conveniently ignoring the US and Israel.
Edward Hunt: [09-23]
US flouts international law with Pacific military claims.
Ellen Ioanes: [09-23]
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, explained: This is one of
a half-dozen (or maybe more) cases where the 1991 dissolution of
the Soviet Union eventually resulted in border disputes: this one
between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the latter including a region that
is primarily Armenian. This developed almost immediately into a
war, which has fluctuated and festered ever since. Several others
revolted: in Georgia and Moldova, where Russia favored separatists,
while brutally suppressing Chechen separatists. Crimea and Donbas
in Ukraine also: they didn't detonate until the pro-west coup in
2014, but now are engulfed in what is effectively a world war.
It would have been sensible to recognize these flaws at the time,
and set up some processes for peaceful resolution, but the US has
embraced every opportunity to degrade Russian power, while Russia
has become increasingly belligerent as it's been backed into a
Daniel Larison: [09-22]
Rahm Emmanuel in Japan, goes rogue on China: When Biden appointed
him ambassador to Japan, I figured at least that would keep him from
doing the sort of damage he did in the Obama White House. And here he
is, trying to start WWIII. For more details, see [09-20]
White House told US ambassador to Japan to stop taunting China on
Bryan Walsh: [09-22]
Governments once imagined a future without extreme poverty. What
Merrill Goozner: [09-12]
As dementia cases soar, who will care for the caregivers?
Anita Jain: [09-15]
Should progressives see Sohrab Ahmari as friend or foe? He has
a book, Tyrany, Inc.: How Private Power Crushed American Liberty --
and What to Do About It, which I wrote something about but didn't
make the cut in yesterday's
Book Roundup. He's right about some things, wrong about others,
a mix that gives him to obvious political leverage, so does it
matter? The key question is whether he decides to be friend or
foe, because if he aligns with the Democrats he can hope for a
seat at the table, and he'll find people who agree with him on
most of his issues (but probably not the same people all the time).
But Republicans are never going to support his economic critique,
not so much because they love capitalism (although about half of
them do) as because they believe in hierarchical order, and rich
capitalists are clustered at the top of that totem pole.
Peter Kafka: [09-21]
Why is Rupert Murdoch leaving his empire now? At 92, he's
turned control over to one of his sons, Lachlan Murdoch. More:
Michelle Goldberg: [09-21]
The ludicrous agony of Rupert Murdoch: Draws on Michael Wolff's
"amusingly vicious and very well-timed book," The Fall: The End
of Fox News and the Murdoch Dynasty.
In his tortured enabling of Trump, Murdoch seems the ultimate symbol
of a feckless and craven conservative establishment, overmatched by
the jingoist forces it encouraged and either capitulating to the
ex-president or shuffling pitifully off the public stage. "Murdoch
was as passionate in his Trump revulsion as any helpless liberal,"
writes Wolff. The difference is that Murdoch's helplessness was
Few people bear more responsibility for Trump than Murdoch. Fox
News gave Trump a regular platform for his racist lies about Barack
Obama's birthplace. It immersed its audience in a febrile fantasy
world in which all mainstream sources of information are suspect,
a precondition for Trump's rise.
Alex Shephard: [09-21]
Rupert Murdoch made the world worse: And he got very rich
Omid Memarian: [09-14]
Lawrence Wright on why domestic terrorism is America's 'present
enemy'. Interview with the author of The Looming Tower,
one of the first important books on Al Qaeda after 9/11.
Osita Nwanevu: [09-20]
The mass disappointment of a decade of mass protest: "The
demonstrations of the last decade were vast and explosive --
and surprisingly ineffective." Review of Vincent Bevins: If
We Burn: The Mass Protest Decade and the Missing Revolution.
Mostly not about America, although I can't think of any protests
here that have been notably successful. But the author starts
with Tunisia and Arab Spring, where protests were often brutally
repressed, turning into civil wars and attracting other nations
for bad or worse. But despite many bad tastes, not all of them
have been failures. And even those that failed leave you with
the question: what else could one have tried?
Andrew Prokop: [09-22]
The indictment of Sen. Bob Menendez, explained: "He and his
wife were given gold bars, a car, and envelopes of cash, prosecutors
say." How long before he joins Republicans in complaining about how
the Justice Department has been politically weaponized? This isn't
his first run in with the law. While he managed to dodge jail last
time, and even got reëlected afterwards, Democrats should do whatever
they can to get rid of him, especially as doing so wouldn't cost them
a Senate seat. It would also get rid of the most dangerous foreign
policy hawk on their side of Congress.
Gabriela Riccardi: [09-21]
Luddites saw the problem of AI coming from two centuries away:
"A new book surfaces their forgotten story -- along with their
prescience in a new machine age." The book is Brian Merchant:
Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against
Big Tech. Ned Ludd's army has long been decried, becoming
synonymous with the futile, kneejerk rejection of progress, but
we shouldn't be so quick to insist that any new technology that
can be created must be used. Indeed, we've already decided not
to use a number of chemicals that have ill side effects, and
that list is bound to grow. Certain weapons, like poison gas and
biological agents, have been banned, and others like depleted
uranium should be. There is growing reluctance to nuclear power.
Biotech and AI raise deep concerns. Of course, it would be better
to settle these disputes rationally rather than through breaking
machines, but where no resolution seems possible -- the use of
fossil fuels is most likely -- sabotage is a possibility.
Rich Scheinin: [09-22]
How Sam Rivers and Studio Rivbea supercharged '70s jazz in New
York: "On the saxophonist's centennial, Jason Moran and other
artists celebrate his legacy." I'd put it more like: jazz (at
least the free kind) nearly was effectively on life support in
the 1970s. Rivers, both by example and patronage, revived it.
Of course, he wasn't alone. There was Europe, where the most
important labels of the 1980s were founded. But in New York,
it re-started in the lofts, especially chez Rivers.
Dylan Scott: [09-22]
Another Covid-19 winter is coming. Here's how to prepare.
Nick Shoulders: [09-24]
Country music doesn't deserve its conservative reputation:
"the genre isn't inherently right-wing -- it can also broadcast
the struggles and aspirations of the working class." Shoulders
is a singer-songwriter from Fayetteville, interviewed here by
Willie Jackson. I grew up with a lot of Porter Waggoner and
Hee Haw, but didn't take country music seriously until
I met George Lipsitz, who was a leftist who became a country
music fan through organizing. I didn't need much persuasion:
all you have to do is listen. Of course, that doesn't mean
there isn't a market for jingoism in country music: any time
someone cuts a right-wing fart, you can be sure it will go
viral. Shoulders, by the way, wrote an In These Times piece
Fake twang: How white conservatism stole country music.
I haven't heard his albums, but will check out All Bad,
at least, for next Music Week.
Jeffrey St Clair: [09-22]
Roaming Charges: Then they walked: Starts with more horror stories
of what cops do and get away with. One story from
Reuters "documented more than 1,000 deaths related to police
use of tasers." Much more, of course. There's a chart of new
Covid-19 hospitalizations by state. Number 1, by a large margin,
is Florida, followed by Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana.
There's a fact check on a David Brooks tweet, complaining that
a hamburger & fries meal at Newark Airport cost him $78:
"This is why Americans think the economy is terrible." Same
meal was found for $17, but that didn't factor in the bar tab.
If you can stand more: Timothy Bella: [09-23]
David Brooks and the $78 airport meal the internet is talking
I didn't bother reading any of the Jann Wenner scandal last
week, but St Clair couldn't resist: "There's nothing more satisfying
than to watch a pompous bigot, who has paraded his misogyny and
racism for decades with a sense of royal impunity, suddenly implode
with his own hand on the detonator." He then excerpts the
interview, meant to promote The Masters: Conversations With
Bono, Dylan, Garcia, Jagger, Lennon, Springsteen, Townshend.
A couple days later, Wenner was kicked off his board seat at the
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and denounced by most of the staff
at Rolling Stone. Most likely he'll wind up as an example
in some future book about "cancel culture." Also on Wenner:
Jia Tolentino: [09-10]
Naomi Klein sees uncanny doubles in our politics: An interview
with the author of Doppelganger.
After the Brooks flare up above, someone recommended a 2004
article by Sasha Issenberg:
David Brooks: Boo-Boos in Paradise.
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Last Book Roundup was on
2023, following only two in 2022. My practice then was to
only post once I've accumulated a batch of 40 book notes. They
aren't really reviews, because they are almost all based on
reading about the books (e.g., but not exclusively, on Amazon).
However, in recent years, I've added lists of related books to
many entries, plus I add on an unmetered "briefly noted" list,
so the absolute number of books mention has grown, making the
posts huge. Last time I speculated I might cut the main list
in half, to 20 books. This time I had 23 when I decided I should
push this out, and much more due diligence to do, so I settled
on 30. Next time will be 20 -- and hopefully less than six months.
Draft file still has 88
partial drafts, 202 noted books. I've included a few books that
haven't been published yet (dates in brackets) in the supplemental
lists, but not as main or secondary listings.
The books on the right are ones I have read (or in Clark's
case, have started -- I'm about 100 pages in). Two of those
are in the supplementary lists. The second Hope Jahren is more
timely, but I read (and wrote up) the memoir first. The Ther
book I hoped would offer more insights into Ukraine, but had
more to say about politics in Germany, Italy, and Poland.
Still, someone needs to write a book that lives up to the
Several other books noted below are in my queue, waiting
for my limited attention:
- Cory Doctorow: The Internet Con
- Franklin Foer: The Last Politician
- Astra Taylor: The Age of Insecurity
I should also mention, in my queue, Samuel Moyn's previous book:
Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented
War. If I didn't have so much pending, I'd seriously consider
adding Naomi Klein: Doppelganger. The title is a bit too
clever, but the notion of finding perverse mirror images in the
right-wing fever swamp is profound, maybe because it articulates
something that's been smacking us upside the head for decades now.
The long list of books I filed under Rufo is full of examples.
These are books that cry out not for political debate but for
As Klein notes, they often start with a kernel of truth -- often
one that we on the left would at least partly agree with -- then
twist it around, often blaming us for problems that their side
actually caused, playing up their victimhood, less for sympathy
from others than to stir up anger within their own identity cult.
After all, it's not like they have any sympathy for suffering of
victims outside their orbit. I've tracked quite some number of
these right-wing tracts over the years, and they are clearly
becoming more and more deranged.
The supplemental Iraq list is unusual here, in that it includes
some books that are quite old, simply because I missed them at the
time. (Christopher Hitchens is an example I don't have to scratch
my head over missing. Victor Davis Hanson is one that was pretty
ridiculous when it was written, but all the more so in hindsight.
And Judith Miller was one held back until she thought the coast
was clear.) The implicit backdrop to this list is the long list
of books I've noted previously. These are collected in one
huge file (6398 books,
350k words). At some point I should split this up into thematic
guides. (A grep for "Iraq" finds 323 lines, which is probably
close to 200 books. "Israel" finds 601 lines. "Trump" 780.
Here are 30 more/less recent books of interest in politics,
the social sciences, and history, with occasional side trips,
and supplementary lists where appropriate:
Michael D Bess: Planet in Peril: Humanity's Four Greatest
Challenges and How We Can Overcome Them (2022, Cambridge
University Press): Fossil fuels and Climate Change; Nukes for War
and Peacetime; Pandemics, Natural or Bioengineered; Artificial
Intelligence. One thing that distinguishes all four is the need
for international cooperation, which involves "taking the United
Nations up a notch." He even tries to anticipate "rogues, cheaters,
and fanatics," but only leaves six pages for the chapter on "What
Could Go Wrong?"
Christopher Clark: Revolutionary Spring: Europe Aflame and
the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849 (2023, Crown): Major
historical work (896 pp). I've moved on to it after reading EJ
Hobsbawm's The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848, which covered
its six decades with remarkable concision, but didn't offer many
details of the revolutionary events of 1848. People like to brag
about how much wealth capitalism has bestowed on the world, but
through 1848 only a very few had anything to show for it, and the
new laboring class (including significant numbers of women and
children) were mired in misery. Hobsbawm mentions various crop
failures, famines, and crashes of the 1840s that did much to
provoke revolt. But also, with nearly every nation in Europe
gripped by absolute monarchy, the emerging business class had
their own reasons, and ideology, for revolution. My thinking
was that 1848 marked the end of an age of bourgeois revolution
that started in America in 1775 and ended in 1848, after which
the capitalists found they had more in common with aristocrats
than with the newly militant proletariat, especially when the
monarchies catered to the nouveaux riches they found themselves
dependent on. One thing that Clark stresses is that even where
the revolutions were successfully repressed, the victors were
never able to restore their ancien regime.
NW Collins: Grey Wars: A Contemporary History of US Special
Operations (2021, Yale University Press): Tries to present
a broad picture of how elite military units have been used going
back to 1980 (Desert One), without giving away too much, least of
all anything that might damage reputations or question motives.
More on special ops and clandestine war:
- Matthew A Cole: Code Over Country: The Tragedy & Corruption
of SEAL Team Six (2022, Bold Type Books).
- Annie Jacobsen: Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Secret History of
CIA Paramilitary Armies, Operators, and Assassins (2019, Little
Brown; paperback, 2020, Back Bay Books).
- Sean Naylor: Relentless Strike: The Secret History of Joint
Special Operations Command (2015, St Martin's Press; paperback,
2016, St Martin's Griffin).
- Ric Prado: Black Ops: The Life of a CIA Shadow Warrior
(2022, St Martin's Press): Ex-CIA.
- Dan Schilling/Lori Chapman Longfritz: Alone at Dawn: Medal
of Honor Recipient John Chapman and the Untold Story of the World's
Deadliest Special Operations Force (2019, Grand Central).
Cory Doctorow: The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means
of Computation (2023, Verso): Science fiction writer, with
Rebecca Giblin, co-wrote Chokepoint Capitalism: How Big Tech
and Big Content Captured Creative Labor Markets, plus more
listed below. First liine: "This is a book for people who want
to destroy Big Tech." Unclear to me how you can do that (not
that I don't understand the desire for interoperability), but
his explanation of why is succinct and pretty compelling. Two
parts: one about "seizing," the other answers to a bunch of
"what about" questions.
- Cory Doctorow: Information Doesn't Want to Be Free: Laws
for the Internet Age (paperback, 2015, McSweeney's).
- Cory Doctorow: Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present
Moment (paperback, 2020, Tor Books): Fiction, sort of.
- Cory Doctorow: How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism
(paperback, 2021, Medium Editions).
Cara Fitzpatrick: The Death of Public School: How
Conservatives Won the War Over Education in America
(2023, Basic Books): Looking back, the surprise may be that
public schooling ever got to be so popular in America in the
first place. Before 1800 (or possibly 1830), schooling was
largely the province of churches, and even then only for the
training of a select few. But with the scientific and industrial
revolutions of the 19th century, building on the enlightened
liberalism of the nation's founding, public education grew,
even if it was sometimes sold as a means to naturalize and
domesticate unruly immigrants. Some religions, especially
Roman Catholics, continued to hold out for their own schools --
when I was growing up, I knew kids who went, and was aware
their parents fretted over the costs -- and the rich had their
own private schooling. The private school movement got a boost
with the fight against desegregation, and Republicans found
political opportunities on at several fronts: vouchers would
appeal to the Catholic voters they started courting as part of
Nixon's "emerging Republican majority," and charter schools
would fit their privatization propaganda, and hurt teacher
unions (who tended to support Democrats). Since then, the
Republican Party has only gotten dumber, meaner, and more
self-destructive. I doubt that means the battle is over, as
the world itself has only become more complex and demanding
of expert knowledge (as well as judicious politics), and
that stuff has to be taught.
- Justin Driver: The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the
Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind (2018,
Pantheon; paperback, 2019, Vintage Books).
- Jack Schneider/Jennifer Berkshire: A Wolf at the Schoolhouse
Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School
(2020, New Press).
Franklin Foer: The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's
White House and the Struggle for America's Future (2023,
Penguin Press): Journalist, writes for Atlantic, has three
previous books, none with obvious political subjects (e.g., How
Soccer Explains the World), so this effort at doing insider
reporting of Biden's first two years is possibly novel, and almost
unique compared to hundreds of scandal seekers who have gone after
Trump. I've never liked Biden, so it may be faint praise to admit
that he's the first president in my lifetime who has surprised me
in pleasing ways -- of course, not always, and often not as much
as I would have liked -- and I'm curious about how that happened.
Foer seems to credit Biden himself for political pragmatism, but
the bigger question is why they decided to respond to big problems
in serious ways, as opposed to the studied downplaying of everything
under Obama, let alone the madcap fits of Trump.
Also on Biden (not much):
- Gabriel Debendetti: The Long Alliance: The Imperfect
Union of Joe Biden and Barack Obama (2022; paperback, 2023,
- Chris Whipple: The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden's
White House (2023, Scribner).
Meanwhile, the right has been busy pumping out anti-Biden tracts:
- Nick Adams: The Most Dangerous President in History
(2022, Post Hill Press): All you need to know about him is that he
wrote Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization
- Todd Bensman: Overrun: How Joe Biden Unleashed the Greatest
Border Crisis in US History (paperback, 2023, Bombardier Books).
- Jason Chaffetz: The Puppeteers: The People Who Control the
People Who Control America (2023, Broadside Books): Pictured
as puppets on cover: Biden, Schumer, Harris, Warren, Schiff?
- Joe Concha: Come On, Man!: The Truth About Joe Biden's
Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Presidency (2022,
- Jerry Dunleavy/James Hasson: Kabul: The Untold Story of
Biden's Fiasco and the American Warriors Who Fought to the End
(2023, Center Street).
- Jamie Glazov: Obama's True Legacy: How He Transformed
America (paperback, 2023, Republic Book Publishers).
- Alex Marlow: Breaking Biden: Exposing the Hidden Forces
and Secret Money Machine Behind Joe Biden, His Family, and His
Administration (2023, Threshold Editions). [10-03]
- Mark R Levin: The Democrat Party Hates America
(2023, Threshold Editions).
- Kimberley Strassel: The Biden Malaise: How America
Bounced Back From Joe Bidel's Dismal Repeat of the Jimmy Carter
Years (2023, Twelve).
Joshua Frank: Atomic Days: The Untold Story of the Most
Toxic Place in America (2022, Haymarket Books): Hanford
Nuclear Reservation, in Washington, initially built as part of
the Manhattan Project, the site along the Columbia River where
the plutonium used on Hiroshima was created from uranium and
extracted, a process that extended long after the war. The site
now contains some 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, with
a cleanup price tag of $677 billion (and counting).
Thomas Gabor/Fred Guttenberg: American Carnage: Shattering
the Myths That Fuel Gun Violence (paperback, 2023, Mango):
They enumerate 37 myths, most of which you'll find dubious (many
downright bonkers) even without the supporting documentation, in
eleven chapters, each with its "bottom line" summary. We've been
around this block several times before, so there's not much new
to add, but:
- Thomas Gabor: Carnage: Preventing Mass Chootings in
America (paperback, 2021, Booklocker.com).
- Mark Follman: Trigger Points: Inside the Mission to Stop
Mass Shootings in America (2022, Dey Street Books).
- Cameron McWhirter/Zusha Elinson: American Gun: The True
Story of the AR-15 (2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
- Katherine Schweit: Stop the Killing: How to End the Mass
Shooting Crisis (2021, Rowman & Littlefield; 2nd ed,
paperback, 2023, Colvos).
- Katherine Schweit: How to Talk About Guns With Anyone
(paperback, 2023, 82 Stories).
Peter Heather/John Rapley: Why Empires Fall: Rome, America,
and the Future of the West (2023, Yale University Press):
Heather a historian of the late- and post-Roman period, Rapley a
political economist. Reminds me that Cullen Murphy wrote a similar
book in 2007: Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate
of America. Unlikely that any of these authors asks the obvious
question: what good are empires anyway? Sure, when Rome fell, it
was promptly sacked by Germanic tribes (most famously the Vandals),
because that's how the world worked then. But fates like that have
been rare since 1945, unless you consider the IMF analogous. Most
Americans might very well be better off without an empire. Same
for the world.
Peter J Hotez: The Deadly Rise of Anti-Science: A
Scientist's Warning (2023, Johns Hopkins University
Press): Doctor, has written several books on public health,
and has stepped up recently to counter the vast torrent of
anti-vaccine nonsense coming from all (but mostly right-wing)
quarters. Note that Amazon offered me a "similar items" list:
virtually all of them were by anti-vax quacks (most notably
- Peter J Hotez: Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel's Autism:
My Journey as a Vaccine Scientist, Pediatrician, and Autism Dad
(paperback, 2020, Johns Hopkins University Press).
- Peter J Hotez: Preventing the Next Pandemic: Vaccine
Diplomacy in a Time of Anti-Science (2021, Johns Hopkins
Walter Isaacson: Elon Musk (2023, Simon &
Schuster): Big biography (688 pp), by the "biographer of genius,"
or so the hype goes: his previous subjects include Leonardo Da
Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, Jennifer Doudna, and
Steve Jobs. You may think you know enough about him already,
but this seems to be another case where the father almost makes
the son sympathetic (others include Charles Koch and Donald
Trump, though at this point they should be recognized as evil
in their own right).
Also on Musk:
- Ben Mezrich: Breaking Twitter: Elon Musk and the Most
Controversial Corporate Takeover in History (2023, Grand
- Jonathan Taplin: The End of Reality: How 4 Billionaires
Are Selling a Fantasy Future of the Metaverse, Mars, and Crypto
(2023, Public Affairs): Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Zuckerberg, and Marc
Andreesen -- "the biggest wallets paying for the most blinding lights."
Hope Jahren: Lab Girl (2016, Knopf; paperback,
2017, Vintage): Memoir of growing up in a Norwegian-American
household in Minnesota to become a paleobotanist, through grad
school in California and teaching posts in Atlanta, Hawaii, and
finally Norway, each with her main interest, a lab full of mass
spectrometers and such. The most striking chapter is one on her
pregnancy off the meds that kept her centered. Also chronicles
Bill, her slightly more eccentric lab assistant who followed
her from post to post. She also wrote:
- Hope Jahren: The Story of More: How We Got to Climate
Change and Where to Go From Here (2021, Delacorte;
paperback, 2020, Vintage): Carefully balanced, one of the best
written books on the subject, a clearheadedness which recognizes
that the real solution for the problem of more is simply less.
Siddharth Kara: Cobalt Red: How the Blood of the Congo
Powers Our Lives (2023, St Martin's Press): Investigation
into cobalt mining in Congo -- a mineral increasingly in demand
for the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries used by everything from
smart phones to vehicles, which Congo supplies 75% of the world
market for. If you've read Adam Hochschild's King Leopold's
Ghost, you may think that the exploitation of this former
Belgian colony couldn't get worse, but independence under Mobutu
defined the word kleptocracy, and since his demise, Congo has
been ravaged by the world's longest and most devastating wars.
And as always, nothing adds to human suffering more quickly than
a rush for treasure.
More recent books on Africa (actually very hard to search for
- JP Daughton: In the Forest of No Joy: The Congo-Océan
Railroad the the Tragedy of French Colonialism (2021,
- Dipo Faloyin: Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright
Continent (2022, WW Norton).
- Stuart A Reid: The Lumumba Plot: The Secret History of the
CIA and a Cold War Assassination (2023, Knopf).
- Walter Rodney: How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
(paperback, 2018, Verso).
- Walter Rodney: Decolonial Marxism: Esays From the
Pan-African Revolution (paperback, 2022, Verso).
- Henry Sanderson: Volt Rush: The Winners and Losers in
the Race to Go Green (paperback, 2023, Oneworld): Congo
- James H Smith: The Eyes of the World: Mining the Digital
Age in Eastern DR Congo (paperback, 2017, University of
- Jason K Stearns: The War That Doesn't Say Its Name: The
Unending Conflict in the Congo (paperback, 2023, Princeton
- Susan Williams: White Malice: The CIA and the Covert
Recolonialization of Africa (2021; paperback, 2023,
Naomi Klein: Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World
2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Canadian left-political writer,
one who has regularly shown a knack not just for understanding
our world but for formulating that in politically meaningful ways --
perhaps most famously in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster
Capitalism (2007). New book is more personal, based as it is on
the public frequently getting her confused up with Naomi Wolf, who
wrote the third-wave feminist classic The Beauty Trap (1991),
and who, like Klein, was involved in Occupy Wall Street. Since then,
Wolf has veered erratically toward the right, and especially promoting
Covid misinformation. Odd, though, that the blurb info on this book
doesn't mention Wolf by name.
- Naomi Wolf: Facing the Beast: Courage, Faith, and Resistance
in a New Dark Age (paperback, 2023, Chelsea Green).
Melvyn P Leffler: Confronting Saddam Hussein: George W Bush
and the Invasion of Iraq (2023, Oxford University Press): A
"fair and balanced" reappraisal of the debates and process that led
to Bush's decision to invade Iraq, based on new interviews with
"dozens of top officials" and "declassified American and British
documents." Leffler has a long history of supporting American war
Some of his previous books, plus other recent books on Iraq:
- Melvyn P Leffler: A Preponderance of Power: National Security,
the Truman Administration, and the Cold War (1992; paperback,
1993, Stanford University Press).
- Melvyn P Leffler: The Specter of Communism: The United States
and the Origins of the Cold War, 1917-1953 (1994, paperback,
Hill & Wang).
- Melvyn P Leffler: For the Soul of Mankind: The United States,
the Soviet Union, and the Cold War (2007; paperback, 2008, Hill
- Melvyn P Leffler: Safeguarding Democratic Capitalism: US
Foreign Policy and National Security, 1920-2015 (2017;
paperback, 2019, Princeton University Press).
- Lisa Blaydes: State of Repression: Iraq Under Saddam Hussein
(2018; paperback, 2020, Princeton University Press).
- Rolf Ekéus: Iraq Disarmed: The Story Behind the Story of
the Fall of Saddam (2022, Lynne Rienner): Head of UNSCOM
(Special Commission on Iraq): By one of the CIA operatives.
- Sam Faddis: The CIA War in Kurdistan: The Untold Story of
the Northern Front in the Iraq War (2020, Casemate).
- Samuel Helfont: Iraq Against the World: Saddam, America, and
the Post-Cold War Order (2023, Oxford University Press): Naval
War College professor searches through Iraqi foreign policy documents
to try to build a case that Saddam Hussein had it coming.
- Steven Simon: Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American
Ambition in the Middle East (2023, Penguin Press): Sounds a
critical note, but credentials include NSC staff, State Department,
RAND Corporation, and other "think tanks."
Back on the 20th anniversary, I also collected this list of older
Iraq books that I hadn't otherwise cited. Most of these are old, some
- Thabit AJ Abdullah: Dictatorship, Imperialism and Chaos:
Iraq Since 1989 (paperback, 2006, Zed Books).
- Zaid Al-Ali: The Struggle for Iraq's Future: How Corruption,
Incompetence and Sectarianism Have Undermined Democracy (2014,
Yale University Press).
- Nora Bensahel: After Saddam: Prewar Planning and the Occupation
of Iraq (paperback, 2008, RAND).
- Judith Betts/Mark Pythian: The Iraq War and Democratic
Governance: Britain and Australia Go to War (paperback, 2020,
- Hans Blix: Disarming Iraq: The Search for Weapons of Mass
Destruction (2004, Pantheon; paperback, 2005, Bloomsbury):
Head of UN weapons inspection team.
- Pratap Chatterjee: Iraq, Inc.: A Profitable Occupation
(paperback, 2004, Seven Stories Press): Went on to write a 2009 book on
- Don Eberly: Liberate and Leave: Fatal Flaws in the Early
Strategy for Postwar Iraq (2009, Zenith Press).
- James Dobbins: Occupying Iraq: A History of the Coalition
Provisional Authority (paperback, 2009, RAND).
- Jessica Goodell/John Hearn: Shade It Black: Death and
After in Iraq (2011, Casemate): Marine Corps Mortuary Unit
- Peter L Hahn: Missions Accomplished? The United States and
Iraq Since World War I (paperback, 2011, Oxford University
- Victor Davis Hanson: Between War and Peace: Lessons From
Afghanistan to Iraq (paperback, 2004, Random House): Like
"don't count your chickens until the eggs are hatched"? The section
on Iraq is called "The Three Week War." It includes a chapter:
"Donald Rumsfeld, a Radical for Our Time."
- Christopher Hitchens: A Long Short War: The Postponed
Liberation of Iraq (paperback, 2003, Plume).
- Bill Katovsky/Timothy Carlson: Embedded: The Media at War
in Iraq: An Oral History (2003; paperback, 2004, Lyons Press).
- John Keegan: The Iraq War: The Military Offensive, From
Victory in 21 Days to the Insurgent Aftermath (2004, Knopf;
paperback, 2005, Vintage).
- Dina Rizk Khoury: Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom,
and Remembrance (paperback, 2013, Cambridge University Press):
Explores the near-constant culture of war in Iraq going back to the
1981-88 war with Iran.
- Judith Miller: The Story: A Reporter's Journey
(paperback, 2016, Simon & Schuster).
- Ronan O'Callaghan: Walzer, Just War and Iraq: Ethics as
Response (paperback, 2021, Routledge).
- David L Phillips: Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction
Fiasco (paperback, 2006, Basic Books).
- Lawrence Rothfield: The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting
of the Iraq Museum (2009, University of Chicago Press).
- Nadia Schadlow: War and the Art of Governance: Consolidating
Combat Success Into Political Victory (paperback, 2017, Georgetown
University Press): Case studies on 15 American wars, from Mexico (1848)
to Iraq. There's a chapter on Afghanistan (before Iraq), but nothing on
- Gary Vogler: Iraq and the Politics of Oil: An Insider's
Perspective (2017, University Press of Kansas): Former
ExxonMobil exec, ORHA oil consultant.
Jill Lepore: The Deadline: Essays (2023, Liveright):
Harvard historian, has written books on a wide range of subjects,
from King Phillip's War to the Simulmatics Corporation, and to round
it all out, These Truths: A History of the United States,
all the while knocking out a wide range of historically astute essays
for The New Yorker. This collects 640 pp of them.
David Lipsky: The Parrot and the Igloo: Climate and the
Science of Denial (2023, WW Norton): Seems like every batch
has a hook on which I hang the most recent batch of climate change
books. This is the latest "big idea must-read book," meant to
finally batter down the door of resistance, even though he must
know that the problem isn't resistance but diversion, all the
sneaky little side-trips politicans can be enticed along rather
than biting off a task that exceeds their patience and talent.
His aim is to convince you through stories (he's mostly written
fiction and memoir before this), and they're less about the
underlying science, which you probably know (and are tired of)
by now, and more about the arts of denial -- not that I doubt
there's science behind it but I still insist it's mostly art.
Other recent books on climate:
- Neta C Crawford: The Pentagon, Climate Change, and War:
Charting the Rise and Fall of US Military Emissions (2022,
The MIT Press).
- Geoff Dembicki: The Petroleum Papers: Inside the Far-Right
Conspiracy to Cover Up Climate Change (2022, Greystone
Books): Reveals that at least by 1959 top oil executives were aware
that burning their products will cause catastrophic global warming.
- John Gertner: The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic
Journey Into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future
(2019; paperback, 2020, Random House).
- Robert S Devine: The Sustainable Economy: The Hidden Costs
of Climate Change and the Path to a Prosperous Future
(paperback, 2020, Anchor).
- Jeff Goodell: The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and
Death on a Scorched Planet (2023, Little Brown): After
several books that danced around the edges (Big Coal,
How to Cool the Planet [on geoengineering], and The
Water Will Come [rising seas, sinking cities]), he finally
gets to the point. Kim Stanley Robinson, who led off with this
very point in The Ministry for the Future, says: "you
won't see the world the same way after reading it."
- Mike Hulme: Climate Change Isn't Everything: Liberating
Climate Politics From Alarmism (paperback, 2023, Polity):
But it is one thing, a big one, one with a lot of momentum,
making it hard to change even without an alarming level of
- Michael Mann: Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons From
Earth's Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis
- George Marshall: Don't Even Think About It: Why Our
Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change (2014;
paperback, 2015, Bloomsbury).
- Anthony McMichael: Climate Change and the Health of
Nations: Famines, Fevers, and the Fate of Populations
(2017; paperback, 2019, Oxford University Press).
- David W Orr, ed: Democracy in a Hotter Time: Climate
Change and Democratic Transformation (paperback, 2023,
MIT Press): Foreword by Bill McKibben; afterword by Kim Stanley
- Friederike Otto: Angry Weather: Heat Waves, Floods,
Storms, and the New Science of Climate Change (2020;
paperback, 2023, Greystone Books).
- Geoffrey Parker: Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and
Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (2013; paperback,
2014, Yale University Press): 904 pp.
- Rosanna Xia: California Against the Sea: Visions of Our
Vanishing Coastline (2023, Heyday).
Michael Mann: On Wars (2023, Yale University Press):
British-American comparative historical sociologist, wrote a series
of books on The Sources of Social Power, presents this as a
career capstone, surveying the entire history of war, from ancient
to modern, asking why and concluding: "it is a handful of political
leaders -- people with emotions and ideologies, and constrained by
inherited culture and institutions -- who undertake such decisions,
usually irrationally choosing war and seldom achieving their desired
results." While that's true enough of the past, when war was mostly
fought for plunder, and as a contest for esteem among violent males,
does any of that still make sense? Sure, we do still have would-be
warriors, always with their minds stuck in past fantasies, but their
track record over the last century (and perhaps much more) is so
dismal they should be relegated to asylums (or professional sports?).
An honest book, and I have no reason to think that this one isn't,
would show as much, in endless detail, but the very question -- are
wars rational? -- should be unthinkable, but lamentably is still here.
John J Mearsheimer/Sebastian Rosato: How States Think:
The Rationality of Foreign Policy (2023, Yale University
Press): In order for the realist foreign policy to work, one must
start by assuming the underlying rationality in all actors: that
they understand their interests, that they can anticipate how
various strategies will work or fail, and that they can adjust
their strategy to their best advantage. Given that none of
those assumptions are sound, it's hard to imagine why they call
the resulting policy "realism." The authors have been critical
of US foreign policy of late for being too bound up in ideology,
and seek to rein that in with reason, but even their examples
come out cock-eyed: Putin's decision to invade Ukraine may have
been rigorously rational, but it was based on a set of plainly
wrong assumptions, making it clearly a bad decision, one that
has hurt Russia more than Putin could ever have hoped to gain.
Same can be said for Bush in 2003 Iraq, except that the authors
discard that decision in the irrational bucket. The two cases
are remarkably similar, starting with the imagined own interests,
the unacknowledged desire for independence, and the belief that
overwhelming power ("shock and awe") would result in immediate
Samuel Moyn: Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals
and the Making of Our Times (2023, Yale University Press):
In the 1960s, I got very upset at liberals who supported the Vietnam
War. Liberals were on top of the world in 1945, but by 1948 nearly
all of them had been shamed, cajoled, and/or terrorized into turning
on the left, both abroad, where the US converted failing European
colonies into safe havens for further capitalist exploitation, and
at home, where they allowed labor unions to be purged and curtailed.
Liberalism's goal of freeing all individuals seemed revolutionary
compared to the aristocracy, feudalism, and slavery that preceded
it, but freedom was a two-edged sword, leaving losers far more
numerous than winners. With the New Deal, some liberals started
to bridge the gap with the left, offering a "safety net" to help
tame the worst dysfunctions of capitalism. During the Cold War,
liberals split into two camps: one turning neoconservative, the
other still committed to the "safety net" but less so to labor
unions, and not at all to solidarity with workers and the poor
abroad. Moyn tackles this problem through six portraits of early
post-WWII liberals: Judith Shklar, Isaiah Berlin, Karl Popper,
Gertrude Himmelfarb, Hannah Arendt, and Lionel Trilling: not the
first names I thought of, but suitable for purpose, which Moyn
states clearly in his first line: "Cold War liberalism was a
catastrophe -- for liberalism."
Other recent books on liberalism (philosophy and its limits):
- Russell Blackford: How We Became Post-Liberal: The Rise
and Fall of Toleration (paperback, 2023, Bloomsbury).
- Patrick J Deneen: Why Liberalism Failed (2018;
paperback, 2019, Yale University Press): Conservative critic: note
blurbs by Rod Dreher, Ross Douthat, David Brooks, Barack Obama;
also note that Obama's is the most conventionally conservative.
Deneen followed up with:
- Patrick J Deneen: Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal
Future (2023, Sentinel): Wherein he argues for replacing
liberalism with a "pre-postmodern conservativism." I don't know
which is more impossible: convincing the masses to give up on
the promise of equality, or convincing the masters, having
advanced through the "pursuit of happiness" (self-interest),
to care responsibly for their charges.
- Wolfram Eilenberger: The Visionaries: Arendt, Beauvoir,
Rand, Weil, and the Power of Philosophy in Dark Times
(2023, Penguin Press): Another batch of thinkers from Moyn's era,
intersecting with Arendt.
- Christopher William England: Land and Liberty: Henry
George and the Crafting of Modern Liberalism (2023, Johns
Hopkins University Press).
- Edmund Fawcett: Liberalism: The Life of an Idea
(2014; 2nd edition, paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press).
Author also has a mirror volume:
- Edmund Fawcett: Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition
(2020; paperback, 2022, Princeton University Press).
- John Gray: The New Leviathans: Thoughts After Liberalism
(2023, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Philosopher with a long list of
titles -- two I've previously cited are Al Qaeda and What It Means
to Be Modern (2005) and Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and
the Death of Utopia (2007), but there are dozens more, including
Isaiah Berlin: An Interpretation of His Thought (1996).
- Kei Hiruta: Hannah Arendt & Isaiah Berlin: Freedom,
Politics and Humanity (2021, Princeton University Press).
- Luke Savage: The Dead Center: Reflections on Liberalism
and Democracy After the End of History (paperback, 2022,
- Larry Siedentop: Inventing the Individual: The Origins
of Western Liberalism (2014; paperback, 2017, Belknap
- Brad Snyder: The House of Truth: A Washington Salon and
the Foundations of Liberalism (2017, Oxford University
Press): From 1912, with Felix Frankfurter, Walter Lippman, etc.
- Vikash Yadav: Liberalism's Last Man: Hayek in the Age
of Political Capitalism (2023, University of Chicago
Samir Puri: The Shadows of Empire: How Imperial History
Shapes Our World (2021, Pegasus Books): British, of both
Indian and African heritage, an international relations professor
with a background in diplomacy, has a newer book on Ukraine (see
Zygar, below). The cover blurb by neo-imperialist Robert D Kaplan
isn't promising, but there can be little doubt that the centuries
of European imperialism have left lasting marks both on the former
rulers and on the formerly ruled. I've argued that the essential
mission of American foreign policy after WWII was to salvage the
former colonies for capitalism, which mostly involved keeping
local leaders on retainer, often arming them to suppress local
rebellions, sometimes sending American troops in to do the job
(as in Vietnam), and sometimes failing at that (ditto). The
conceit that Americans still have of leading the "free world"
is a residue of the imperial mindset. So was Britain's wish
in 2003 to fight another war in Iraq. So is France's desire
to "help out" in Mali and Niger. So is Russia's notion that
Ukraine should be grateful for their civilization. For most
people, imperialism was revealed as disaster and tragedy by
WWII, but these residues linger on. It's hard to change bad
habits until you're conscious of them. That I take to be the
point of this book.
Also (his book on Ukraine is listed under Mikhail Zygar):
- Samir Puri: Pakistan's War on Terrorism: Strategies for
Combatting Jihadist Armed Groups Since 9/11 (2011,
- Samir Puri: Fighting and Negotiating With Armed Groups:
The Difficulty of Securing Strategic Outcomes (paperback,
- Samir Puri: The Great Imperial Hangover: How Empires Have
Shaped the World (2020; paperback, 2021, Atlantic Books):
Original edition of The Shadows of Empire.
James Risen: The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the Mafia,
and the Kennedys -- and One Senator's Fight to Save Democracy
(2023, Little Brown): A biography of three-term Senator Frank Church,
the last Democrat from Idaho, an early critic of the Vietnam War,
and perhaps best known for his investigations exposing all sorts of
malfeasance by the CIA and FBI -- the Kennedys and the Mafia factor
into this through the CIA plots against Cuba. No figure in American
politics saw his reputation disintegrate more totally than J Edgar
Hoover, and that was largely due to Church's discoveries. As I
recall, the War Powers Act, much ignored by presidents from Reagan
on, was another of his legacies.
Christopher F Rufo: America's Cultural Revolution: How the
Radical Left Conquered Everything (2023, Broadside Books):
That's news to me, but so claims the guy touted as "America's most
effective conservative intellectual [as he] proves once and for all
that Marxist radicals have taken over our nation's institutions."
The "ultimate objective" of this sinister conspiracy? "replacing
constitutional equality with a race-based redistribution system
overseen by bureaucratic 'diversity and inclusion' officials." In
other words, this book is too stupid to even make fun of. Such a
vast incomprehension is only to be pitied. (By the way, if you do
want to make any sense of this, consider that the Marx and later
leftists as the true apostles of Enlightenment liberalism, the
ones who truly aspired to liberty and justice for all, as opposed
to the would-be elites who jumped off the revolutionary train as
soon as they secured their rights. "Thinkers" like Rufo recall
that red-baiting worked once, so they assume it will work again.
Had they actually read some Marx, they'd recall the quip about
history repeating first as tragedy, then as farce.)
Of course, there is more right-wing paranoid delusion coming your
- Joe Allen: Dark Aeon: Transhumanism and the War Against
Humanity (2023, War Room Books): Foreword by Stephen K
Bannon claims the politics, although paranoia about globalists
and cyborgs is not exclusively right-wing.
- Glenn Beck/Justin Haskins: Dark Future: Uncovering
the Great Reset's Terrifying Next Phase (2023, Forefront
Books): Amazon flags this as "Best Seller in Fascism."
- Jerome R Corsi: The Truth: About Neo-Marxism, Cultural
Maoism, and Anarchy: Exposing Woke Insanity in an Age of
Disinformation (2023, Post Hill Press): A list of
subjects that nobody knows less about, starting with "truth."
- Ted Cruz: Unwoke: How to Defeat Cultural Marxism in
America (2023, Regnery): US Senator (R-TX).
- Dinesh D'Souza: United States of Socialism: Who's Behind It.
Why It's Evil. How to Stop It. (2020, All Points Books).
- Frank Gaffney/Dede Laugesen: The Indictment: Prosecuting
the Chinese Communist Party & Friends for Crimes Against America,
China, and the World (2023, War Room Books): "thanks to the
American elites they have captured in every sector of our society."
- Richard Hanania: The Origins of Woke: Civil Rights Law,
Corporate America, and the Triumph of Identity Politics
(2023, Broadside Books).
- Alex Jones/Kent Heckenlively: The Great Awakening:
Defeating the Globalists and Launching the Next Great Renaissance
- Jesse Kelly: The Anti-Communist Manifesto (2023,
- Ian Prior: Parents of the World, Unite!: How to Save Our
Schools From the Left's Radical Agenda (2023, Center Street).
- Vivek Ramaswamy: Nation of Victims: Identity Politics, the
Death of Merit, and the Path Back to Excellence (paperback,
2023, Center Street): Republican presidential candidate.
- Jason Rantz: What's Killing America: Inside the Radical
Left's Tragic Destruction of Our Cities (2023, Center
Street). Then why has living in them never seemed more desirable?
- Michael Savage: A Savage Republic: Inside the Plot to
Destroy America (2023, Bombardier Books): Presumably
he's talking about someone else's plot that he imagines he has
some insight into, rather than his own -- but after three Trump
books, wouldn't a mea culpa be in order?
- Ben Shapiro: The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized
America's Institutions Against Dissent (2021, Broadside Books).
- Liz Wheeler: Hide Your Children: Exposing the Marxists
Behind the Attack on America's Kids (2023, Regnery): OANN
host, a "titan of conservative media." [09-26] Previously wrote:
- Liz Wheeler: Tipping Points: How to Topple the Left's
House of Cards (2019, Regnery).
- Xi Van Fleet: Mao's America: A Survivor's Warning
(2023, Center Street).
- Kenny Xu: School of Woke: How Critical Race Theory
Infiltrated American Schools & Why We Must Reclaim Them
(2023, Center Street).
It's worth noting that not everyone on this team right wants to
seem insane. Some have written more sensible-sounding books, but
they're usually based on the same paranoid assumptions. E.g.:
- Greg Lukianoff/Rikki Schlott: The Canceling of the American
Mind: Cancel Culture Undermines Trust and Threatens Us All -- but
There is a Solution (2023, Simon & Schuster).
- Teresa Mull: Woke-Proof Your Life: A Handbook on Escaping
Modern, Political Madness and Shielding Yourself and Your Family
by Living a More Self-Sufficient, Fulfilling Life (paperback,
2023, Crisis Publications): Paranoia as self-help, including: learn
to guard against "toxic empathy."
- Dave Rubin: Don't Burn This Country: Surviving and Thriving
in Our Woke Dystopia (2022, Sentinel). Also wrote:
- Dave Rubin: Don't Burn This Book: Thinking for Yourself in
an Age of Unreason (2020, Sentinel).
- Will Witt: Do Not Comply: Taking Power Back From America's
Corrupt Elite (2023, Center Street). Also wrote:
- Will Witt: How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies:
Taking on Liberal Arguments With Logic and Humor (2021,
Paul Sabin: Public Citizens: The Attack on Big Government
and the Remaking of American Liberalism (2021, WW Norton):
The New Deal produced a broad consensus that government could work
with business (especially big business) and labor unions to benefit
everyone. This was attacked relentlessly by conservative business
interests, especially after 1970 when productivity slowed, inflation
increased, and businesses decided they should be more predatory in
order to maintain their expected level of profits. Nicholas Lemann
sums up this shift in his Transaction Man: The Rise of the Deal
and the Decline of the American Dream (2019). Sabin's throwing
another wrinkle into this story, arguing that the 1960-70s advent
of "environmentalists, social critics, and consumer advocates like
Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, and Ralph Nader" also contributed to
the erosion of liberal faith in government. This strikes me as a
bit far-fetched, as it's hard to imagine who they might expect
other than a democratic government might stand up for public
interests. It is true that the reputation of liberal politicians
as public servants was damaged by various mistakes -- chief of
which was the Vietnam War -- as well as a massive increase in
corporate lobbying and media. But it is also true that "public
citizens" accomplished much of what they had set out to before
the political tide turned conservative. Where they failed was
in not securing enough political power to protect the public's
gains against the corporate lobbyists and political money.
Joanna Schwartz: Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable
(2023, Viking): UCLA law professor, teaches courses on civil procedure,
police accountability, and public interest lawyering. Police are very
rarely held accountable for their prejudices, mistakes, judgment lapses,
and unnecessary violence, as they are shielded by many layers, starting
with their willingness to lie and cover for each other, their unions,
administrators, lawyers (including prosecutors), judges, and enablers
among the "law and order" politicians.
More on police violence:
- Justine Barron: They Killed Freddie Gray: The Anatomy of
a Police Brutality Cover-Up (2023, Arcade).
- Devon W Carbado: Unreasonable: Black Lives, Police Power,
and the Fourth Amendment (2022, New Press).
- Ben Cohen: Above the Law: How "Qualified Immunity" Protects
Violent Police (paperback, 2021, OR Books).
- Keith Ellison: Break the Wheel: Ending the Cycle of Police
Violence (2023, Twelve): Minnesota Attorney General, charged
and convicted the police responsible for killing George Floyd.
- Jamie Thompson: Standoff: Race, Policing, and a Deadly
Assault That Gripped a Nation (2020, Henry Holt).
- Ali Winston/Darwin BondGraham: The Riders Come Out at Night:
Brutality, Corruption, and Cover-Up in Oakland (2023, Atria
Richard Norton Smith: An Ordinary Man: The Surprising Life
and Historic Presidency of Gerald R Ford (2023, Harper):
A massive production (832 pp) for the House minority leader from
Michigan, who got drafted to be Vice President to help bury the
tarnished Spiro Agnew, then elevated to President to pardon and
escape Richard Nixon, who then managed to hold off Ronald Reagan
and secure the Republican nomination in 1976, only to lose to
Jimmy Carter -- which set Reagan up nicely for 1980, in what
really was one of the most adversely consequential elections
of our lifetime. In his time, Ford was a guy who no one really
hated, because he never was that important. But Republicans
managed to name an aircraft carrier for him, and now he gets
a big biography, even though the title admits he wasn't up to
Norman Solomon: War Made Invisible: How America Hides
the Human Toll of Its Military Machine (2023, New Press):
Author has several books on media, as well as two previous ones
on war: War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning
Us to Death (2005), and his memoir, Made Love, Got War:
Close Encounters With America's Warfare State. This starts
the selling of the Global War on Terror after 9/11, with how it
was exploited when it was popular, and how as enthusiasm faded
it gradually got swept out of sight. Still, one needs to look
further back to get the point: Vietnam was touted as the "living
room war" as daily broadcasts showed the war degenerating into
a hopeless quagmire as dissent grew. If the military learned
anything from that war, it was the importance of better managing
the press. That seemed to work in the 1990 Gulf War, and the
many embedded journalists in the 2003 drive to Baghdad did as
they were told, but Iraq fell apart even faster than Vietnam,
so the press was virtually shut down after Bremer left, with
very few reporters free to dispute press office claims, and
diminishing interest in finding out more.
- Norman Solomon: False H ope: The Politics of Illusion
in the Clinton Era (paperback, 1994, Common Courage
- Norman Solomon: The Trouble With Dilbert: How Corporate
Culture Gets the Last Laugh (paperback, 1997, Common
- Martin A Lee/Norman Solomon: Unreliable Sources: A
Guide to Detecting Bias in News Media (1990; paperback,
1998, Lyle Stuart).
- Norman Solomon: The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media:
Decoding Spin and Lies in the Mainstream News (paperback,
2002, Common Courage Press).
- Norman Solomon/Jeff Cohen: The Wizards of Media Oz:
Behind the Curtain of Mainstream News (paperback, 2002,
Common Courage Press).
- Norman Solomon/Reese Ehrlich: Target Iraq: What the
News Media Didn't Tell You (paperback, 2003, Context
Astra Taylor: The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as
Things Fall Apart (paperback, 2023, House of Anansi Press):
Author of important books on democracy and the internet, activist
in Occupy Wall Street and the Debt Collective, as sharp and as
broadly knowledgeable as anyone writing today. These essays were
written for the CBC Massey Lectures, but sum up a world view,
for a world where politicians pride themselves as guardians of
our security, while plunging us into ever greater precarity.
Peter Turchin: End Times: Elites, Counter-Elites, and the
Path of Political Disintegration (2023, Penguin Press):
Attempts to work out a scientific framework for comparative history,
or rather claims to have worked one out, with a vast range of data
points ("CrisisDB"), and is now intent on applying it to the anomaly
that is present-day America. Much of this hangs on his concept of
the over-production of elites (themselves a slippery concept, given
that one can be elite in something without having effective power
over anything else). The ability to jump so widely makes for a heady
mix, but you mostly wind up grasping at hints.
Mikhail Zygar: War and Punishment: Putin, Zelensky, and the
Path to Russia's Invasion of Ukraine (2023, Scribner): A year
after the invasion comes the first wave of books trying to explain
how and why it happened -- most mixed in with more than a dollop of
self-serving propaganda. This is one of the more credible prospects
(at least I've found interviews with him to be credible): Zygar, a
Russian now based in Berlin, has many years as an independent
journalist, which got him close enough to write and distant enough
to publish All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir
Putin. He starts here by going deep into history to show how
Russians and Ukrainians came to hold very different views of each
other -- a basic cognitive dissidence that American hawks, stuck
with their own myths, show no interest in.
Other recent books on the conflict (Matthews and Plokhy are most
comparable, and Puri offers an interesting viewpoint;
others are more specialized, running the range of views; none
strike me as pro-Russian, but a couple are critical of the US):
- Gilbert Achcar: The New Cold War: The United States,
Russia, and China From Kossovo to Ukraine (paperback,
2023, Haymarket Books).
- Dominique Arel/Jesse Driscoll: Ukraine's Unnamed War:
Before the Russian Invasion of 2022 (paperback, 2023,
Cambridge University Press): Noted as "new edition," but not
clear when the old edition was published.
- Yevgenia Belorusets: War Diary (paperback, 2023,
- Medea Benjamin/Nicolas JS Davies: War in Ukraine: Making
Sense of a Senseless Conflict (paperback, 2022, OR Books):
Co-founder of antiwar group Codepink.
- Mark Edele: Russia's War Against Ukraine: The Whole
Story (paperback, 2023, Melbourne University Press).
- Alexander Etkind: Russia Against Modernity
(paperback, 2023, Polity): It's hard to disentangle Russia's war
in Ukraine from the growth of a reactionary political philosophy
(e.g., Alexsandr Dugin) that leads to such irredentism.
- Ian Garner: Z Generation: Into the Heart of Russia's
Fascist Youth (2023, Hurst): Think tank guy, "focuses on
Soviet and Russian war propaganda," believes it is believed.
- Luke Harding: Invasion: The Inside Story of Russia's
Bloody War and Ukraine's Fight for Survival (paperback,
2022, Vintage): Guardian journalist.
- Maximilian Hess: Economic War: Ukraine and the Global
Conflict Between Russia and the West (2023, Hurst): Analyst
for Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. Key thing
here is that the economic war has been going on since 2014.
- Andrey Kurkov: Diary of an Invasion (2023, Deep
Vellum): Novelist, based in Kyiv.
- Aaron Maté: Cold War, Hot War: How Russiagate Created
Chaos From Washington to Ukraine (paperback, 2023, OR
Books). Grayzone podcaster, works with Matt Taibbi. I think
there's something to this, but Grayzone sells it so hard they
come off as Russian propagandists.
- Owen Matthews: Overreach: The Inside Story of Putin and
Russia's War Against Ukraine (2023, Mudlark): British
journalist, former Newsweek Moscow bureau chief.
- Jade McGlynn: Russia's War (2023, Polity):
British "specialist in Russian media, memory, and foreign policy"
at King's College, London.
- Sergei Medvedev: A War Made in Russia (paperback,
2023, Polity): Based in Helsinki, previously wrote:
- Sergei Medvedev: The Return of the Russian Leviathan
(paperback, 2019, Polity): Putin and the "archaic forces of imperial
- Iuliia Mendel: The Fight of Our Lives: My Time With
Zelenskyy, Ukraine's Battle for Democracy, and What It Means for
the World (2022, Atria/One Signal): Ukrainian journalist,
Zelensky's former press secretary.
- Christopher Miller: The War Came to Us: Life and Death
in Ukraine (2023, Bloomsbury): Financial Times
journalist, based in Kyiv.
- David Petraeus/Andrew Roberts: Conflict: The Evolution of
Warfare From 1945 to Ukraine (2023, Harper).
- Serhii Plokhy: The Russo-Ukrainian War: The Return of
History (2023, WW Norton): Historian, has written books on
Russia, also The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine.
- Bartosz Popko: Stories From Ukraine: The True Price
of War (paperback, 2022, self-published): Collects 18
- Samir Puri: Russia's Road to War With Ukraine: Invasion
Amidst the Ashes of Empires (2023, Biteback): British, of
Indian heritage via Africa, was an international observer at five
Ukrainian elections. Previously wrote: The Great Imperial
Hangover: How Empires Have Shaped the World.
- Samuel Ramani: Putin's War on Ukraine: Russia's Campaign
for Global Counter-Revolution (2023, Hurst): British
- Serhii Rudenko: Zelensky: A Biography (paperback,
- Gwendolyn Sasse: Russia's War Against Ukraine
(paperback, 2023, Polity): "Einstein Professor for the Comparative
Study of Democracy and Authoritarianism" in Berlin.
- Philipp Ther: How the West Lost the Peace: The Great
Transformation Since the Cold War (paperback, 2023,
Polity): Covers a wide swath of European politics after 1989,
as does his earlier book:
- Philipp Ther: Europe Since 1989: A History
(2016; paperback, 2018, Princeton University Press).
- Serhiy Zhadan: Sky Above Kharkiv: Dispatches From the
Ukrainian Front (2023, Yale University Press).
Additional books, noted without comments other than for clarity.
I reserve the right to return to some of these later (but probably
won't; many are here because I don't want to think about them
Michele Alacevich: Albert O Hirschman: An Intellectual
Biography (2021, Columbia University Press): Second biography
I've seen, after Jeremy Adelman: Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey
of Albert O Hirschman (2013), reportedly stronger on Hirschman's
Charles Camic: Veblen: The Making of an Economist Who Unmade
Economics (2020, Harvard University Press).
Rachel Chrastil: Bismarck's War: The Frano-Prussian War and
the Making of Modern Europe (2023, Basic Books).
James C Cobb: C Vann Woodward: America's Historian
(2022, The University of North Carolina Press).
Trae Crowder/Corey Ryan Forrester/Drew Morgan: The
Liberal Redneck Manifesto: Draggin' Dixie Outta the Dark
(paperback, 2017, Atria).
Trae Crowder/Corey Ryan Forrester: Round Here and Over
Yonder: A Front Porch Travel Guide by Two Progressive Hillbillies
(Yes, That's a Thing) (2023, Harper Horizon).
Sandrine Dixson-Declève/Owen Gaffney/Jayati Ghosh/Jorgen
Randers/Johan Rockström/Per Espen Stoknes: Earth for All: A Survival
Guide for Humanity (paperback, 2022, New Society): "A Report
to the Club of Rome (2022) Fifty Years After The Limits to Growth
Robert Elder: Calhoun: American Heretic (2021,
Roland Ennos: The Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and
the Construction of Civilization (2020, Scribner).
Samuel G Freedman: Into the Bright Sunshine: Young Hubert
Humphrey and the Fight for Civil Rights (2023, Oxford
Newt Gingrich: March to the Majority: The Real Story of
the Republican Revolution (2023, Center Street): Memoir
of the 1994 election that made Gingrich Speaker of the House.
Josh Hawley: The Masculine Virtues America Needs
(2023, Regnery): US Senator (R-MO), famous Jan. 6 track star.
David Horowitz: I Can't Breathe: How a Racial Hoax Is Killing
America (2021, Regnery).
Robert Kagan: The Ghost at the Feast: America and the Collapse
of World Order, 1900-1941 (2023, Knopf): Carries on from his
2006 book, Dangerous Nation: America's Foreign Policy From Its
Earliest Days to the Dawn of the Twentieth Century.
Patrick Radden Keefe: Empire of Pain: The Secret History of
the Sackler Dynasty (2021, Doubleday).
Cody Keenan: Grace: President Obama and Ten Days in the
Battle for America (2022, Mariner Books): Obama speechwriter,
focuses on the speeches of 10 days in June 2015.
Keith Kellogg: War by Other Means: A General in the Trump
White House (2021, Regnery).
Michael G Laramie: Queen Anne's War: The Second Contest for
North America, 1702-1713 (2021, Westholme).
Marc Levinson: The Box: How a Shipping Container Made the
World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger (2nd edition
paperback, 2016, Princeton University Press).
Marc Levinson: Outside the Box: How Globalization Changed
From Moving Stuff to Spreading Ideas (2020, Princeton University
Robert Lighthizer: No Trade Is Free: Changing Course,
Taking on China, and Helping America's Workers (2023,
Broadside Books): Trump's US Trade Representative.
Stephen A Marglin: Raising Keynes: A Twenty-First-Century
General Theory (2021, Harvard University Press): 928 pp.
Ben Mezrich: The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short
Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall
Street to Its Knees (2021, Grand Central).
Walter Benn Michaels/Adolph Reed Jr: No Politics but Class
Politics (paperback, 2023, Eris).
Adolph L Reed Jr: The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives
James Rickards: Sold Out: How Broken Supply Chains, Surging
Inflation, and Political Instability Will Sink the Global Economy
Peter Robison: Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the
Fall of Boeing (2021, Doubleday; paperback, 2022, Anchor).
Kermit Roosevelt III: The Nation That Never Was: Reconstructing
America's Story (2022, University of Chicago Press).
Julio Rosas: Fiery (But Mostly Peaceful): The 2020 Riots
and the Gaslighting of America (2022, DW Books): Sees
ANTIFA under every rock.
Mike Rothschild: The Storm Is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a
Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything (2021,
Marco Rubio: Decades of Decadence: How Our Spoiled Elites
Blew America's Inheritance of Liberty, Security, and Prosperity
(2023, Broadside Books).
Kohei Saito: Karl Marx's Ecosocialism: Capital, Nature,
and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy (paperback,
2017, Monthly Review Press).
Kohei Saito: Marx in the Anthropocene: Towards the Idea
of Degworth Communism (paperback, Cambridge University
Press): Argues that Marx had a long-suppressed ecological critique
Craig Shirley: April 1945: The Hinge of History
(2022, Thomas Nelson): Wrote Newt Gingrich's authorized biography.
Thomas Sowell: Social Justice Fallacies (2023,
David Stasavage: The Decline and Rise of Democracy: A Global
History From Antiquity to Today (2020, Princeton University
Greg Steinmetz: American Rascal: How Jay Gould Built Wall
Street's Biggest Fortune (2022, Simon & Schuster).
James B Stewart/Rachel Abrams: Unscripted: The Epic Battle
for a Media Empire and the Redstone Family Legacy (2023,
Penguin Press): The struggle for succession at Paramount Global.
Cass R Sunstein: How to Interpret the Constitution
(2023, Princeton University Press).
Owen Ullmann: Empathy Economics: Janet Yellen's Remarkable
Rise to Power and Her Drive to Spread Prosperity to All
(2022, Public Affairs).
Volker Ullrich: Germany 1923: Hyperinflation, Hitler's
Putsch, and Democracy in Crisis (2023, Liveright).
Nikki Usher: News for the Rich, White, and Blue: How Place and
Power Distort American Journalism (2021, Columbia University
Press). Studying recent trends in newspapers, including the New York
Maurizio Valsania: First Among Men: George Washington and the
Myth of American Masculinity (2022, Johns Hopkins University
Thomas D Williams: The Coming Christian Persecution:
Why Times Are Getting Worse and How to Prepare for What Is to
Come (2023, Crisis Publications): Catholic theologian.
Saturday, September 23, 2023
Monday, September 18, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 36 albums, 7 A-list,
Music: Current count 40883  rated (+36), 28  unrated (+1).
New releases have started to pick up after the late-summer
doldrums, so it's been easier to find things to listen to. One
help was Robert Christgau's
September Consumer Guide. Four full-A albums, three of them
hyped enough I got to them previously: Olivia Rodrigo (A last
week), Ashley McBryde and Speedy Ortiz (below, but written up,
and commented on in Facebook, before the CG appeared). Both got
multiple plays, with diminishing returns. Not that I can't hear
why other people like them so much, but my own pleasure wore
thin fast. I'm hardly the only guy to get cranky as he gets
old, but felt it here.
Nothing wrong with the Bobbie Nelson/Amanda Shires album, but
doesn't strike me as a big deal either. Nor do I find comparisons
to brother Willie's Stardust or Lady Gaga's Bennetts very
helpful. As a jazz critic, I listen interpretations of standards
all the time, so I need to be more discerning (or maybe again I'm
just being cranky). On the other hand, I thought the Muldaur/Thompson
record added something significant, albeit not revolutionary, to
the original duets.
The rest are below, aside from the ones I had previously dealt
with: Rodney Crowell (**), Gloss Up (**), Killer Mike (***), Janelle
Monae (A-), Thelonious Monk (B+), and Noname (A-, though I found
several places where I hadn't updated the original *** grade). I
might have given up too fast on the first two, but haven't rechecked.
Discogs doesn't give a release date for my Monk box (3-CD), and the
outside of the box doesn't help, but inside there's a hint that it
came out in 1988. I can't find anything I wrote on it, so it was
probably pre-2003. I also didn't grade the individual discs, as I
sometimes did later -- but there's little to differentiate this set.
I also picked up some suggestions from Brad Luen's
Countrypop Life: Love and Theft. I still haven't tackled Morgan
Wallen (or Bailey Zimmerman), and everyone else I'm either up or
down on, but it's a good guide. I'll also note that I have tabs open
Sidney Carpenter-Wilson, and
Steve Pick -- none of which I've exhausted.
I also took a look at Magnet's "30 for 30" lists by
Dan Weiss and
Thomas Reimel. Not very useful as checklists, as I've heard
everything on the Weiss list, and I've only missed 2 items on
Reimel's (although I had to look more up, as who remembers bands
like Guided by Voices and Interpol?). I tried jotting down a list
myself (or two, one comparable for non-jazz, one with zero overlap
for jazz): in the
notebook. I spent
less than an hour on each, so they're pretty iffy -- especially
the jazz one. I'd be delighted if Magnet had any interest in
running my list. (I was assuming they had no interest in jazz,
but I now see a
review of Rempis Percussion Quartet's Harvesters in
Essential New Music section -- as well as another Guided by
Voices album I haven't heard.)
The new Lehman album is in a tight race with James Brandon Lewis's
For Mahalia, With Love for jazz album of the year. It took me
longer to get comfortable with, but that's the kind of prickly record
it is. The other Lehman thing is one of the first things I noted in
my infrequent "Limited Sampling" section, panned with a U-, so I was
very surprised when it came through. By the way, the aforementioned
Harvesters is currently a top-five jazz album this year.
The Mike Clark album was another surprise -- not the first time
he's surprised me, but he's got one of those names that gets easily
mixed up with many others. Before I played Clark, I came within a
hair of giving his long-time collaborator Eddie Henderson an A-,
but afterwards this is the place to hear him.
Still starting each day off with something old from the stacks.
This morning: Tampa Red. Playing a new-old François Carrier/Tomasz
Stanko box at the moment, which is sublime background.
New records reviewed this week:
- The Chemical Brothers: For That Beautiful Feeling (2023, Virgin EMI): [sp]: B+(*)
- Mike Clark: Kosen Rufu (2022 , Wide Hive): [cd]: A-
- Dave and Central Cee: Split Decision (2023, Neighbourhood, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
- The Handsome Family: Hollow (2023, Loose): [sp]: A-
- Eddie Henderson: Witness to History (2022 , Smoke Sessions): [sp]: B+(***)
- Irreversible Entanglements: Protect Your Light (2023, Impulse!): [sp]: A-
- Laufey: Bewitched (2023, AWAL): [sp]: B+(*)
- Steve Lehman/Orchestre National de Jazz: Ex Machina (2023, Pi): [cd]: A-
- Ashley McBryde: The Devil I Know (2023, Warner Music Nashville): [sp]: B+(**)
- Mitski: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We (2023, Dead Oceans): [sp]: B+(*)
- Victoria Monét: Jaguar II (2023, RCA): [sp]: B+(**)
- Megan Moroney: Lucky (2023, Sony Music Nashville): [sp]: B+(***)
- Jenni Muldaur/Teddy Thompson: Once More: Jenni Muldaur & Teddy Thompson Sing the Great Country Duets (2021-23 , Sun): [sp]: A-
- Bobbie Nelson and Amanda Shires: Loving You (2023, ATO): [sp]: B+(***)
- Pretenders: Relentless (2023, Rhino): [sp]: B+(*)
- Joshua Redman: Where Are We (2023, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(**)
- Doug Richards Orchestra: Through a Sonic Prism: The Music of Antonio Carlos Jobim (2022 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jeff Rosenstock: Hellmode (2023, Polyvinyl): [sp]: B+(*)
- Speedy Ortiz: Rabbit Rabbit (2023, Wax Nine): [sp]: B+(*)
- Chris Stamey: The Great Escape (2023, Car): [sp]: B+(*)
- Teddy Thompson: My Love of Country (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
- Tirzah: Trip9love (2023, Domino): [sp]: B+(*)
- Alex Ventling/Hein Westgaard: In Orbit (2021 , Nice Things): [bc]: B+(**)
- Maddie Vogler: While We Have Time (2022 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Morgan Wade: Psychopath (2023, Ladylike/RCA): [sp]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Atmosphere: Sad Clown Bad Dub II (2000, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [bc]: B+(**)
- John Blum: Nine Rivers (2013 , ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(**)
- Pharoah Sanders: Pharoah (1976 , India Navigation): [sp]: B+(***)
- Pharoah Sanders: Pharoah [Expanded Edition] (1976-77 , Luaka Bop): [bc]: B+(***)
- Steve Lehman: Xenakis and the Valedictorian (2020, Pi): [dl]: A-
- Jenni Muldaur: Jenni Muldaur (1992, Reprise): [sp]: B
Grade (or other) changes:
- Otis Spann: Otis Spann Is the Blues (1960, Candid): [cd]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Jeff Coffin/Jordan Perlson/Viktor Krauss: Coffin/Perlson/Krauss (Ear Up) [09-15]
- Caroline Davis' Alula: Captivity (Ropeadope) [10-13]
- Tomas Fujiwara: Pith (Out of Your Head) [09-15]
- Carlos Henriquez: A Nuyorican Tale (self-released) [09-15]
- Elsa Nilsson's Band of Pulses: Pulses (Ears & Eyes) [10-06]
- Brad Turner Quintet: The Magnificent (Cellar) [09-22]
- Peter Xifaras: Fusion (Music With No Expiration) [10-01]
Sunday, September 17, 2023
Speaking of Which
Started this on Friday, not with much enthusiasm, so many of the
early links I collected are just that. The comment on Levitz under
"Legal matters" is probably where I got started, after which I found
the Current Affairs interview.
I've tried of late to articulate moderate positions that one
might build a viable political consensus around, but lately I'm
despairing, not so much of the popular political potential as
of the probability that nothing possible will come close to what
is actually needed.
Back when I was a teenage schizophrenic, I was able to pursue
the two paths -- on the one hand I poured over political stats
as nerdishly as Kevin Phillips, on the other I immersed myself
in utopian fantasy writing -- without ever trying to reconcile
them. As an old man, I find once boundless time closing in, and
Just a few years ago, I was thinking that the
worst failures in American politics were opportunity costs:
wasting time and resources that could be used on big problems
while doing stupid things instead (like $800B/year on useless
"defense" spending). But it's looking more and more like the
problem is one of cognitive dysfunction, where there is little
to no hope of convincing enough of a majority that problems
are problems, and that their fantasies aren't.
Top story threads:
Trump: He was having a slow week, until NBC offered
him a free infomercial (see Berman, below). He is now virtually
assured of the Republican nomination, but also of a margin of
free publicity even exceeding his bounty in 2016 and 2020.
Ari Berman: [09-17]
The mainstream media still hasn't learned anything about covering
Donald Trump: Trump appeared on NBC's Meet the Press
in what was billed as "his first broadcast network interview since
leaving office," with Kristen Welker, nd, well, you can guess the
rest. NBC did a "fact check" after the fact, without attempting to
challenge the myriad lies it went ahead and broadcast.
Frank Bruni: [09-11]
Trump is really old, too. I don't follow Bruni's columns, but
fyi, I found links to these more/less recent ones:
Kelly McClure: [09-15]
Prosecutors seek limited gag order after Trump's election case
statements lead to harassment.
Benjamin Wallace-Wells: [09-16]
The futility of the Never Trump billionaires. Paul Woodward
titled his excerpt
People are drastically underestimating the prospect of a second
Trump presidency, which sounds like something very different.
The Never Trump billionaires, like Charles Koch, are trying to
deny Trump the Republican nomination, which is going to be tough,
partly because their libertarian economics has near-zero support
even in the Republican Party, and partly because Trump is really
good at appealing to the base's prejudices and vanities. But the
chances of Trump getting elected is distinctly less than his odds
of getting the nomination of a Party that works 24/7 to make most
Americans fear and despise them. For Trump to win, there has to
be a fairly major meltdown on the Democratic ticket, which with
Biden and Harris already slotted is something hard to rule out.
As for the Never Trumpers, don't expect them to help defeat
Trump if/when he's nominated. Koch will continue to bankroll
Republicans down ballot, and every Republican on the ballot
will dutifully support the ticket. Division with in the Party
is a chimera, because what binds the Party together, especially
the cruelty, the graft, and the contempt for democracy, is far
stronger than the quibbles of a few elites over Trump.
DeSantis, and other Republicans: The Florida governor
has done little to justify being singled out, but Steve M [09-17]
Ron DeSantis is still first runner-up, based on a recent
straw poll. He also argues, "I'd like DeSantis to be the
nominee, because he appears to be a much weaker general election
candidate than Trump," and has some charts that seem to support
Olivia Alafriz: [09-16]
Texas Senate acquits AG Ken Paxton on all corruption charges:
His impeachment moved me to ask the question, "when was the last
time an office holder was deemed too corrupt for the Texas lege?"
Since I never got an answer, I don't know whether they lowered
the bar, or never had one in the first place. But this was the
only opportunity since Nixon for Republicans to discipline one
of their own, and they've failed spectacularly.
Jonathan Chait: [09-13]
Mitt Romney and the doomed nobility of Republican moderation:
"The party's last antiauthoritarian walks away." It's silly to
get all bleary-eyed here. He isn't that moderate, noble, and/or
antiauthoritarian. Chait quotes Geoffrey Kabaservice, totally
ignoring the face that Romney ran hard right from day one of his
2012 (or for that matter his 2008) campaign, going so far as to
pick Koch favorite Paul Ryan as his VP. And he's old enough to
make his age concerns credible. And he's rich enough he doesn't
need the usual post-Senate sinecure on K Street. That he also
took the opportunity to chide Biden and Trump is also typical
of his considerable self-esteem. But it also saves him the
trouble of having to run not on his name but on his record --
much as he did after one term as governor of Massachusetts.
Also on Romney:
Sarah Jones: [09-13]
The enemies of America's children. This could be more partisan,
not that Joe Manchin doesn't deserve to be called out, but he's
only effective as a right-wing jerk because he's backed up by a
solid block of 49-50 Republicans.
Nikki McCann Ramirez: [09-14]
DeSantis lived large on undisclosed private flights and lavish
trips: What is it about Republican politicians that makes
them think that just because they cater to every whim of their
billionaire masters, they're entitled to live like them?
Bill Scher: [09-14]
A shutdown will be the GOP's fault, and everyone in Washington knows
Matt Stieb: [09-15]
New, gentler Lauren Boebert booted from Beetlejuice
musical: Another reminder that the most clueless thing a
politician can say to a cop is: "do you know who I am?"
[PS: Later updated: "New, gentler Lauren Boebert apologizes for
Tessa Stuart: [09-16]
The GOP is coming after your birth control (even if they won't
Li Zhou: [09-13]
Republicans' unfounded impeachment inquiry of Biden, explained:
"House Speaker Kevin McCarthy backed an inquiry despite no evidence
of Biden's wrongdoing." More on impeachment:
Jonathan Chait: [09-13]
Republicans already told us impeachment is revenge for Trump:
"They did it to us!"
Peter Baker: [09-14]
White House strategy on impeachment: Fight politics with politics.
comments: "Are House Republicans really trying to impeach President
Biden, or do they just want him under a cloud of suspicion?" The only
way impeachment succeeds is if the other party break ranks. For a brief
moment, Clinton seemed to consider the possibility of resigning, then
decided to rally his supporters, and came out ahead. (In American
Crime Story, Hillary was the one who straightened out his spine.)
That was never a possibility with Trump, but at least the Democrats
had pretty compelling stories to tell -- whether that did them any
good is an open question. Now, not only is there no chance that Biden
and the Democrats will break, the only story Republicans have is one
their sucker base is already convinced of. So "cloud of suspicion"
seems to be about all they can hope for.
Biden and/or the Democrats: Big week for Democratic Party
back-biting. I find this focus at the top of the ticket silly and
distracting. True, Trump decided that "America is Great Again" the
moment he took office, but Democrats surely know that inaugurating
Biden was just the first step, and that lots of big problems were
left over, things that couldn't be solved quickly, especially as
Republicans still held significant levers of power and press, and
were doing everything possible to cripple Democratic initiatives.
So why do Democrats have to run on defending their economy, their
immigration, their crime, their climate, etc.? They can point to
good things they've done, better things they've wanted to do, and
above all to the disastrous right shift in politics since 1980.
Is that so hard to understand?
Liza Featherstone: [09-15]
We need bigger feelings about Biden's biggest policies: "Anyone
who doesn't want Trump to serve another term must learn to love the
Inflation Reduction Act, and despise those who seek its destruction."
This sentiment runs against every instinct I have, as I've spent all
my life learning to deconstruct policies to find their intrinsic
flaws and their secret (or more often not-so-secret) beneficiaries.
IRA has a lot of tax credits and business subsidies for doing things
that are only marginally better than what would happen without them.
Even if I'm willing to acknowledge that's the way you have to operate
in Washington to get anything done, I hate being told I need to be
happy about it. But as a practical matter, none of these things --
and same is true of the two other big bills and dozens or hundreds
of smaller things, many executive orders -- would have been done
under any Republican administration, Trump or no Trump. And while
what Biden and the Democrats have accomplished is still far short
of what's needed, sure, they deserve some credit.
Eric Levitz: [09-13]
The case for Biden to drop Kamala Harris: "The 80-year-old
president probably shouldn't have an exceptionally unpopular
heir apparent." What's unclear here is why she's so unpopular.
The whole identity token thing may have helped her get picked,
works against her being taken seriously, but probably makes her
even harder than usual to dump. But before becoming Biden's VP
pick, she was a pretty skilled politician, so why not put her
out in public more, get her doing the "bully pulpit" thing
Biden's not much good at anyway, give her a chance?
Andrew Prokop: [09-12]
Why Biden isn't getting a credible primary challenger: "Many
Democrats fear a challenge would pave the way to Trump's victory."
Responds to a question raised by
Jonathan Chait with my default answer, and pointing to four
cases where incumbent presidents were challenged (Johnson in 1968,
Ford in 1976, Carter in 1980, and Bush in 1992) that resulted in
the other party winning. Chait, by the way, replies here: [09-15]
Challenging Biden is risky. So is nominating him. Steve M
comments here: [09-15]
Do we really want to endure the 2028 Democratic primary campaign
in 2024? Evidently, there's also a David Ignatius piece, but
wrong about pretty much everything, so I haven't bothered.
Katie Rogers: [09-11]
'It is evening, isn't it?' An 80-year-old President's whirlwind
trip: Raises the question, will the New York Times ever again
publish an article on Biden that doesn't mention his age? I don't
know whether his trip to India and Vietnam was worthwhile, either
for diplomatic or political reasons. I am not a fan of his efforts
to reinvigorate American leadership after the chaotic nonsense of
the Trump years: somehow, I rather doubt that "America's back" is
the message the world has been clamoring for.
I was taken aback by Heather Cox Richardson's
tweet on this article (my comment
here), but her write up on
September 11, 2023 is exceptionally clear and straightforward,
much better reporting than the NY Times seems capable of.
Legal matters and other crimes:
Josh Gerstein/Rebecca Kern: [09-14]
Alito pauses order banning Biden officials from contacting tech
platforms. The case has to do with whether the government
can complain to social media companies about their dissemination
of false information about the pandemic. One cherry-picked judge
thinks doing so violated the free speech rights of the liars
whose posts were challenged, so he issued a sweeping ban against
the government. (That's what Alito paused, probably because the
case is so shoddy he knows it won't stand.)
For a laugh, see Jason Willick: [09-15]
Worried about Trump? You should welcome these rulings against
Biden. This is bullshit for two reasons. One is that rulings
like this are deeply partisan, so there's no reason to expect
that a restriction on a Democratically-run government would also
be applied to a Republican-run one. And secondly, Republicans
(especially Trump) would be promoting falsehoods, not trying to
correct them. We already saw a perfect example of this in Trump's
efforts to gag government officials to keep them from so much as
mentioning climate change.
Eric Levitz: [09-12]
Prisons and policing need to be radically reformed, not abolished.
This is not a subject I want to dive into, especially as I pretty
much agree with all nine of the issues he talks about (6 where
abolitionists are right, 3 where they are wrong). One more point
I want to emphasize: we use an adversarial system of prosecutors
and defenders, each side strongly motivated to win, regardless
of the truth. More often than not, what is decisive is the
relative power of the adversaries (which is to say, the state
beats individuals, but also the rich beat the poor, which gives
rich defendants better chances than poor defendants). Some of
this is so deeply embedded it's hard to imagine changing it,
but we need a system that seeks the truth, and to understand
it in its complexity (or simple messiness).
questions the desire for retribution driving long sentences,
but I also have to question the belief that long sentences
and harsh punishments (which is part of the reason why jails
are so cruel) deter others from committing crimes. Sure, they
do, except when they don't (e.g., mass murder as a recipe for
suicide by cop), but the higher the stakes, the less motive
people have to admit the truth. Also, as in foreign policy,
an emphasis on deterrence tends to make one too arrogant to
seek mutually-beneficial alternatives. A lot of crimes are
driven by conditions that can be avoided or treated.
Finally, we need to recognize that excessive punishment is
(or should be) itself criminal, that it turns us into the people
we initially abhor, a point rarely lost on the punished. And one
which only makes the punishers more callous. The big problem
with capital punishment isn't that it's cruel or that it's so
hard to apply it uniformly or that some people don't deserve
it. The problem is that such deliberate killing is murder, and
as done by the state is even colder and more deliberate than
the murders being avenged.
Andrew Prokop: [09-14]
The indictment of Hunter Biden isn't really about gun charges:
"Prosecutors are moving aggressively because the plea deal fell
apart. But why did it fall apart?"
By the way, no one's answered what seems to me the obvious
question: has anyone else ever been prosecuted for these "crimes"
before (standalone, as opposed to being extra charges tacked onto
something else)? Also, doesn't the Fifth Amendment provide some
degree of protection even if you don't explicitly invoke it?
Li Zhou: [09-15]
The fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants is caught in an
endless court fight: "The high stakes of the latest DACA
Current Affairs: [09-15]
Exposing the many layers of injustice in the US criminal punishment
system: Interview with Stephen B Bright and James Kwak, authors of
The Fear of Too Much Justice: Race, Poverty, and the Persistence of
Inequality in the Criminal Courts. Particularly check out the
section on privatized probation companies, which have come about due
to the belief that "the private sector can do things better than the
government," and that "there is a lot of legal corruption at all levels
Climate and environment:
Scott Dance: [09-15]
Odds that 2023 will be Earth's hottest year have doubled, NOAA
Nadeen Ebrahim/Laura Paddison: [09-15]
Aging dams and missed warnings: A lethal mix of factors caused Africa's
deadliest flood disaster: The weather is known as
Storm Daniel, "the deadliest and costliest Mediterranean tropical-like
cyclone ever recorded, which affected Greece, Bulgaria, and Turkey as
well as Libya, where heavy rains (more than 16 inches in Al-Bayda)
caused two dams to fail, resulting in flooding that killed over 11,000
people in Derna.
Also on Libya:
Rebecca Leber: [09-13]
Climate disasters will happen everywhere, anytime. I must
say, I wasn't expecting fires in Maui and Louisiana, or storm
flooding in Death Valley and Libya, just to pick several of
the more outlandish examples.
Kylie Mohr: [09-12]
Wildfires are coming . . . for New Jersey?
Paul Street: [09-15]
Too bourgeois: Jeff Goodell's The Heat Will Kill You First:
Book review, compliments Goodell's research and storytelling skills,
then unloads on him for not putting the blame squarely on capitalism,
and concluding with a list of books that make his very point.
A Camden Walker/Justine McDaniel/Matthew Cappucci:
Lee makes landfall in Nova Scotia with sustained winds of 70 mph.
Down from Category 5, but still an extremely rare hurricane to hit
Canada, after doing damage to the coasts from Rhode Island to Maine.
The trajectory calls for it to pass over the Gulf of St. Lawrence
and northern Newfoundland.
The UAW strike:
Ukraine War: I find it curious that despite all the
"notable progress" the New York Times has claimed for Ukraine's
counteroffensive (most recently,
retaking the village of Andriivka), they haven't updated
maps page since June 9. Zelensky is coming to America next
next week, to speak at the UN and to meet Biden in Washington.
Israel: This is 30 years after the Oslo Accords, which
promised to implement a separate Palestinian state in (most of) the
Occupied Territories, after an interval of "confidence building"
which Israel repeatedly sabotaged, especially by continuing to
cater to the settler movement. The agreements put the Intifada
behind, while seeding the ground for the more violent second
Intifada in 2000, brutally suppressed by a Sharon government
which greatly expanded settlement activity. The PLO was partly
legitimized by Oslo, then reduced to acting as Israeli agents,
and finally discredited, but was kept in nominal power after
being voted out by Hamas, ending democracy in Palestine.
Eye has a whole series of articles on this anniversary,
including Joseph Massad:
From Oslo to the end of Israeli settler-colonialism.
Iran: One step forward (prisoner swap), one step back (more
sanctions as the US tries to claim Iranian protests against police
brutality and repression of women -- issues the US is not exactly
a paragon of virtue on).
Around the world:
Ana Marie Cox: [09-14]
We are not just polarized. We are traumatized.
Constance Grady: [09-13]
The big Elon Musk biography asks all the wrong questions: "In
Walter Isaacson's buzzy new biography, Elon Musk emerges as a callous,
chaos-loving man without empathy." Proof positive that no one should
be as rich and powerful as he is, and not just because he is who he
Sean Illing: [09-12]
Democracy is the antidote to capitalism: Interview with Astra
Taylor, who has a new book: The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together
as Things Fall Apart.
Noel King: [09-15]
5 new books (and one very old one) to read in order to understand
capitalism: A podcast discussion. The old one is The Wealth
of Nations, by Adam Smith, which is somewhat more nuanced and
sophisticated than is commonly remembered. (For one thing, the
"invisible hand" is basically a joke.) The new ones:
- Jennifer Burns: Milton Friedman: The Last Conservative
- David Gelles: The Man Who Broke Capitalism: How Jack Welch
Gutted the Heartland and Crushed the Soul of Corporate America --
and How to Undo His Legacy (2022)
- Martin Wolf: The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism (2023)
- Jason Hickel: Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the
I'm not sure what I'd recommend instead, but here are a
couple ideas: George P Brockway's
The End of Economic Man: Principles of Any Future Economics
is my bible on economics, so I'd gladly swap
it for Smith. Zachary D Carter's The Price of Peace: Money,
Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes is all you
need on Friedman, plus a lot more. There are lots of books on
recent economic plunder. I'm not sure which one(s) to recommend,
but Jeff Madrick's Age of Greed: The Triumph of Finance and
the Decline of America, 1970s to the Present is good on the
bankers, and the Jacob Hacker/Paul Pierson books, from The
Great Risk Shift to Let Them Eat Tweets, are good on
the politics (also Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew).
Hope Jahren's The Story of More is an elegant if somewhat
less political alternative to Hickel.
Dylan Matthews: [09-14]
Lead poisoning could be killing more people than HIV, malaria, and
car accidents combined.
Kim Messick: [09-09]
The American crack-up: Why liberalism drives some people crazy.
Andrew O'Hehir: [09-14]
Naomi Klein on her "Doppelganger" -- the "other Naomi" -- and
navigating the far-right mirror universe. Klein's new book
is Doppelganger: A Trip Into the Mirror World, which
starts by noting the tendency people have of confusing her with
Naomi Wolf, then goes beyond that to show how much propaganda
from the right picks up memes from the left and twists them for
the opposite effect.
Jacob Bacharach: [09-06]
Is Naomi Klein's Doppelganger weird enough? Criticism
that promises more than it delivers, perhaps tipped off by the
by far most unflattering pics of the Naomis I've seen.
Laura Wagner: [09-11]
In Naomi Klein's Doppelganger, Naomi Wolf is more than a
Adrienne Westenfeld: [09-12]
Naomi Klein's double trouble: An interview with the author.
Democracy Now: [09-14]
Naomi Klein on her new book Doppelganger & how conspiracy
culture benefits ruling elite: I watched this, which is a
good but not great interview, but the reason I looked it up was
a turn of phrase that struck me as peculiar. Klein notes that:
When I would confess to people I knew that I was working on this
book, sometimes I would get this strange reaction like, "Why would
you give her attention?" There was this sense that because she was
no longer visible in the pages of The New York Times or on
MSNBC or wherever, and because she had been deplatformed on social
media -- or on the social media that we're on -- that she just
didn't exist. And there was this assumption that "we," whoever we
are, are in control of the attention, and so if this bigot gets
turned off then there's no more attention.
Of course, the New York Times reference is the one that
sticks in my craw, because I've never viewed them as "we," or even
bothered to read the thing on my own dime (or whatever it costs
these days, which is surely lots more). Klein's point is that
there is a lucrative right-wing media universe that welcomes and
supports people who lose their perch among the moderate elites.
My complaint is that the Times excludes more viewpoints
from the left than it does from the right, and those from the
left are essential to understanding our world (whereas those
from the right are mostly promoting misunderstanding).
Jeffrey St Clair: [09-15]
Roaming Charges: Just write a check. First fourth of the column
is devoted to outrageous police behavior: example after example,
impossible to summarize more briefly. Then he moves on to the War
Scott Wilson: [09-15]
Outflanked by liberals, Oregon conservatives aim to become part of
Idaho. There are several such secessionist movements, including
rural parts of Washington and California, where the population is
so sparse their reactionary leanings have little effect at the state
level. I only mention this because Greg Magarian did, adding: "Huh --
living in a state where your political opponents get to impose their
values on you. I wonder what the &@%$# that's like." Magarian lives
in St. Louis, so he very well knows what that's like. One could
imagine St. Louisans opting to join Illinois. If that happened,
and especially if Kansas City also defected to Kansas (which is
closer to tipping Democratic than Missouri would be without its
two big cities, and would also save Kansas from trying to poach
their teams), the rest of Missouri might as well be part of Arkansas.
In states where Republicans hold power, they're constantly passing
state laws to disempower local governments that may elect Democrats.
Florida and Texas have gotten the most press on that front lately,
but they've done that all over the map, a bunch of times even here
in Kansas. I'm not aware of Democrats behaving like that.
I finished reading EJ Hobsbawm's brilliant and encyclopedic
The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848. Only disappointment
was that I expected more details on the 1848 revolutions, but
Hobsbawm just tiptoes up to the brink, satisfied as he is with
the "two revolutions" of his period (French and Industrial, or
British). I still have Christopher Clark's Revolutionary
Spring: Europe Aflame and the Fight for a New World, 1848-1849
on the proverbial bedstand, but I also have several more books
I'd like to get to. I need to make a decision tonight.
Books post is still in progress, with 23 (of a typical 40)
books in the draft main section, and 62 partials and 229 noted
books. Looking back at the
April 28, 2023 Book Roundup, I see that I was thinking
of cutting the chunk size down, perhaps to 20, to get shorter
and more posts, but also because the length of 40 has grown
significantly with supplemental lists. I need to think about
that. I certainly have much more research I can (and should)
do. The current
draft file runs 15,531
words, of which about 1/3 is in the finished section.
Thursday, September 14, 2023
Magnet is celebrating their 30th anniversary by publishing top
30 album (of 1993-2022) lists by their writers. I often take such
lists as suggestions of things to check out, but I didn't expect
Dan Weiss to name anything I hadn't heard, and that's true --
didn't even have to check. I was less certain of
Thomas Reimel, where I hadn't heard two:
The Decemberists: Picaresque;
Death Cab for Cutie: Transatlanticism;
the Johnny Cash record I caught up to just last week.
Other I had to look up:
Guided by Voices: Alien Lanes [B];
Built to Spill: Keep It Like a Secret [A-];
Interpol: Turn on the Bright Lights [C+]
I took a couple minutes to put my a list of my own together.
Started by grepping the
1000 records file for
the appropriate years, which gave me a list of 498. Also decided
to exclude jazz (normally about half of my EOY lists), so as to
have something comparable. Also no compilations or EPs, and only
one pick per artist, per their rules.
- Lily Allen: It's Not Me, It's You (2009, Capitol)
- Pet Shop Boys: Very (1993, Capitol)
- Leonard Cohen: Live in London (2009, Columbia)
- Manu Chao: Clandestino (1998, Ark 21)
- Lyrics Born: Later That Day . . . (2003, Quannum Projects)
- Cornershop: Handcream for a Generation (2002, Beggars Banquet)
- Iris Dement: My Life (1994, Warner Bros.)
- Buck 65: Talkin' Honky Blues (2003, Warner Music Canada)
- Dave Alvin: King of California (1994, Hightone)
- Mavis Staples: We'll Never Turn Back (2007, Anti-)
- K'Naan: The Dusty Foot Philosopher (2008, IM Culture)
- Pavement: Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994, Matador)
- Jimmie Dale Gilmore: Spinning Around the Sun (1993, Elektra)
- DJ Shadow: The Private Press (2002, MCA)
- Todd Snider: The Devil You Know (2006, New Door)
- Liz Phair: Exile in Guyville (1993, Matador)
- The Coup: Party Music (2001, 75 Ark)
- Amy Rigby: Diary of a Mod Housewife (1996, Koch)
- Beck: Odelay (1996, DGC)
- The Roots: Rising Down (2008, Def Jam)
- L7: Hungry for Stink (1994, Slash/Reprise)
- Los Lobos: Colossal Head (1996, Warner Bros.)
- NERD: In Search of . . . (2002, Virgin)
- Hayes Carll: Trouble in Mind (2008, Lost Highway)
- John Prine: Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings (1995, Oh Boy)
- Maria Muldaur and Her Garden of Joy: Good Time Music for Hard Times (2009, Stony Plain)
- The Ex: 27 Passports (2018, Ex)
- Randy Newman: Harps and Angels (2008, Nonesuch)
- Bruno Mars: Doo-Wops and Hooligans (2010, Elektra)
- Chris Knight: Little Victories (2012, Drifter's Church)
Easy to do a jazz list at the same time, so why not?
- Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (2006, Sound Grammar)
- David Murray: Long Goodbye: A Tribute to Don Pullen (1997, DIW)
- Billy Bang: Vietnam: The Aftermath (2001, Justin Time)
- Mark Lomax II & the Urban Art Ensemble: 400 Years Suite (2020, CFG Multimedia)
- Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do (2000, Milestone)
- William Parker: Sound Unity (2005, AUM Fidelity)
- James Carter: The Real Quietstorm (1995, Atlantic)
- Don Pullen: Ode to Life (1993, Blue Note)
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (2007, Hot Cup)
- Billy Jenkins: True Love Collection (1998, Babel)
- Alex Von Schlippenbach/Axel Dörner/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Uli Jennessen: Monk's Casino: The Complete Works of Thelonious Monk (2005, Intakt)
- Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go (2004, High Two)
- Doc Cheatham and Nicholas Payton (1996, Verve)
- Jon Faddis: Teranga (2006, Koch)
- Aly Keïta/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele (2016, Intakt)
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (2019, Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
- Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (2013, Sunnyside)
- Vandermark Five: Target or Flag (1998, Atavistic)
- David Sanchez: Obsesion (1998, Columbia)
- Adam Lane: New Magical Kingdom (2006, Clean Feed)
- Tyshawn Sorey Trio + 1 With Greg Osby: The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism (2022, Pi)
- Steve Lehman: Mise en Abîme (2014, Pi)
- Rich Halley/Dan Raphael/Carson Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket (2009, Pine Eagle)
- Paraphrase [Tim Berne/Drew Gress/Tom Rainey]: Pre-Emptive Denial (2005, Screwgun)
- Anthony Braxton: 20 Standards (Quartet) 2003 (2005, Leo)
- Sheila Jordan/Cameron Brown: Celebration (2005, High Note)
- Nils Petter Molvaer: Solid Ether (2000, ECM)
- East Axis [Matthew Shipp/Allen Lowe/Gerald Cleaver/Kevin Ray]: Cool With That (2021, ESP-Disk)
- Houston Person/Ron Carter: Chemistry (2016, HighNote)
- Jewels and Binoculars: Ships With Tattooed Sails (2007, Upshot)
Wednesday, September 13, 2023
Christgau Consumer Guide came out, with full A for Olivia Rodrigo,
Ashley McBryde, and Speedy Ortiz, and a *** for Noname. Alfred Soto
commented on the latter:
I'm surprised he didn't mention Jay Electronica's anti-Semitic verse.
Well -- we agree on Speedy Ortiz, Ashley McBryde (I think), and Olivia
In retrospect, I think I wrote too much about it, probably because it
was flagged so prominently here. I don't doubt that Farrakhan is an
anti-semite, and I don't have any interest in promoting him, but
reacting that way to the mere mention of his name isn't necessary and
could just as easily be construed as racist (which it may or may not
be). Pouncing on one red flag line among 9-10 songs makes it look like
you're putting your own agenda above anything else the artist has to
say (and in this case it's not even the artist saying it). As for the
big three, agree to disagree: I love the Rodrigo, detest the McBryde,
and couldn't be more indifferent to Speedy Ortiz. Probably my problem:
I don't think I've been so turned off by MOR since the early 1990s.
I should have said "dislike" instead of "detest," which at the
moment I substituted for "hate." "MOR" stands for "middle of the
road," which is an older term for lame FM rock, but these days
suffices for "alt/indie," roughly anything between folk/pop and
Tuesday, September 12, 2023
I tweeted (somehow, "X-ed" doesn't strike me as a word):
In my local paper today: George F Will: "Economically ailing China
suffers from a case of Leninism." I don't think I've ever seen an
article where an author knows less about his subject, or draws more
ridiculous conclusions from his ignorance.
Monday, September 11, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 36 albums, 5 A-list,
Music: Current count 40847  rated (+36), 27  unrated (-7).
I rushed through another
Speaking of Which Sunday (5873 words, 91 links). As I noted
there, I started working on a books post, so got a late start,
but still managed to write quite a bit. One item of possible
interest here is that I collected several links on the Olivia
Rodrigo album, reviewed below. It's currently rated 86/17 at
AOTY, which puts it as 25 on the year, so behind Boygenius,
Caroline Polachek, Foo Fighters, and Young Fathers among albums
with 17+ reviews.
I added a link to Molly Jong-Fast: [09-05]
Can Joe Biden ride "boring" to reelection?. I had included
several links about Biden's weak polling numbers, even though
I regard such stories are generally worthless. But they reflect
a severe misunderstanding of politics (cliché: "the art of the
possible") and government (which should be boring to all but
the most dedicated wonks). While it's always easy to blame the
American people for their ignorance, shouldn't we start with
the media, who are actually paid to report on things they show
little evidence of (or interest in) understanding? Biden's
fate in 2024 is going to depend on people getting better
informed (and smarter) than they evidently are now.
I've also added a postscript on Biden's diplomatic trip:
more specifically on how it's misreported and misunderstood.
As much as I've been pleasantly surprised by Biden's domestic
policy accomplishments, I've been alarmed by his foreign
policy (his "reworking of global relationships"), especially
how completely most of the Democratic Party has fallen into
line behind Ukraine as America's war party (a reputation they
earned in WWII, which then tricked them into taking the lead
in the Cold War).
You might also want to take a look at this
picture of Trump and his fans.
My listening scheme is mostly an extension of
last week's checklists, picking up stragglers, and moving on.
I did get to the end of DownBeat's jazz albums ballot,
with only a John Zorn album unheard. Reissues/historical were
harder to find, but I picked up a few of those, too. But also,
new releases get an uptick in September.
Bassist Richard Davis died last week, so I took a look there,
which led me to Elvin Jones, and then to Bennie Wallace.
Sometime last week, I commented on a Chris Monsen Facebook
post, regarding James Brandon Lewis's For Mahalia, With Love
a couple weeks back). I figured the comment was lost, but it
popped up again, so let's preserve it here:
By the way, "These Are Soulful Days," the bonus disc in the 2CD set
but only a download code with the 2LP, is one of the best sax-with-strings
things ever. On the other hand, the gospel pieces, fine as they are,
sent me searching back for David Murray's "Spirituals" and "Deep River."
New records reviewed this week:
- Jon Batiste: World Music Radio (2023, Verve): [sp]: B+(**)Billy Childs: The Winds of Change (2023, Mack Avenue): [sp]: B+(**)
- Theo Croker: By the Way (2023, Masterworks, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
- Open Mike Eagle: Another Triumph of Ghetto Engineering (2023, Auto Reverse): [sp]: B+(***)
- Darrell Grant's MJ New: Our Mr. Jackson (2018 , Lair Hill): [cd]: B+(**) [10-06]
- José James: On & On (2023, Rainbow Blonde): [sp]: B+(*)
- Bobby Kapp: Synergy: Bobby Kapp Plays the Music of Richard Sussman (2023, Tweed Boulevard): [cd]: B+(**)
- Pascal Le Boeuf: Ritual Being (2016-19 , SoundSpore): [cd]: B+(***)
- Vince Mendoza/Metropole Orkest: Olympians (2023, Modern): [sp]: B-
- Joni Mitchell: Joni Mitchell at Newport (2022 , Rhino): [r]: B
- Todd Mosby: Land of Enchantment (2022 , MMG): [cd]: B
- Jean-Michel Pilc: Symphony (2021 , Justin Time): [sp]: B+(*)
- Darden Purcell: Love's Got Me in a Lazy Mood (2023, Origin): [cd]: B+(**) [09-15]
- Olivia Rodrigo: Guts (2023, Geffen): [sp]: A
- Romy: Mid Air (2023, Young): [sp]: A-
- SLUGish Ensemble: In Solitude (2023, Slow & Steady): [cd]: B+(**) [09-15]
- Smoke DZA & Flying Lotus: Flying Objects (2023, The Smoker's Club, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
- Speaker Music: Techxodus (2023, Planet Mu): [sp]: B+(**)
- Melissa Stylianou: Dream Dancing (2018 , Anzic): [sp]: B+(**)
- Ulaan Passerine: Sun Spar (2021 , Worstward): [sp]: B
- Sachal Vasandani & Romain Collin: Still Life (2022, Edition): [sp]: B-
- Claudia Villela: Cartas Ao Vento (2023, Taina Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Hein Westgaard Trio: First as Farce (2022 , Nice Things): [cd]: A-
- Ben Wolfe: Unjust (2021 , Resident Arts): [sp]: B+(***)
- Lizz Wright: Holding Space: Live in Berlin (2022, Blues & Greens): [sp]: B+(**)
- Bobby Zankel/Wonderful Sound 8: A Change of Destiny (2022 , Mahakala Music): [cd]: B+(***) [09-22]
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Brian Blade Fellowship: Live From the Archives: Bootleg June 15, 2000 (2000 , Stoner Hill): [r]: B
- Charlie Parker: The Long Lost Bird Live Afro-Cubop Recordings (1945-54 , RockBeat): [r]: B+(***)
- Johnny Cash: American V: A Hundred Highways (2003 , American): [r]: B+(***)
- Richard Davis: One for Frederick (1989 , Hep): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Fugs: The Fugs' Second Album (1966 , Fantasy): [sp]: B+(**)
- Elvin Jones and Richard Davis: Heavy Sounds (1968, Impulse!): [sp]: A-
- Elvin Jones: Poly-Currents (1969 , Blue Note): [sp]: B+(***)
- Richard Thompson: (Guitar, Vocal): A Collection of Unreleased and Rare Material 1967-1976 (1967-76 , Island): [sp]: B
- Richard Thompson: Mirror Blue (1994, Capitol): [sp]: B+(**)
- Richard Thompson: Mock Tudor (1999, Capitol): [sp]: B+(**)
- Bennie Wallace: Big Jim's Tango (1982 , Enja): [sp]: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Sara Serpa & André Matos: Night Birds (Robalo Music) [09-29]
- Hein Westgaard Trio: First as Farce (Nice Things) [09-01]
Sunday, September 10, 2023
Speaking of Which
I started to work on a books post this week, which caused some
confusion when I ran across reviews of books I had recently written
something about. I'm guessing I have about half of my usual batch,
so a post is possible later this week, but not guaranteed. I'm
still reading Eric Hobsbawm's brilliant The Age of Revolution:
1789-1848, which is absolutely jam-packed with insights --
probably why I drone on at such length below on liberalism and its
discontents. I got deep enough into it to order three books:
- Franklin Foer: The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's
White House and the Struggle for America's Future (2023,
- Cory Doctorow: The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means
of Computation (2023, Verso)
- Astra Taylor: The Age of Insecurity: Coming Together as
Things Fall Apart (paperback, 2023, House of Anansi Press)
I didn't bother with any reviews of Foer this week (there are
several), although I mentioned the book
week. I figured I'd wait until I at least get a chance to
poke around a bit. I have a lot of questions about how Biden's
White House actually works. I'm not big on these insider books,
but usually the outside view suffices -- especially on someone
as transparent as Trump. Two I read on Obama that were useful
- Ron Suskind: Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington,
and the Education of a President (2011, Harper).
- Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining
Decisions (2019, Rosetta Books).
Suskind was a reporter who had written an important book on
the GW Bush administration (The One Percent Doctrine: Deep
Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11). Hundt
was a participant, but not an important nor a particularly
successful one, so he took his time before weighing in.
Top story threads:
Holly Bailey: [09-08]
Georgia special grand jury recommended charging Lindsey Graham
in Trump case. We now know that the Grand Jury actually
recommended prosecution of 38 people, but the prosecutor
streamlined the case to just 19 defendants. It's easy to
imagine the case against Graham, who was especially aggressive
in trying to bully Georgia officials into throwing the election
to Trump. But it's also easy to see how prosecuting Graham, and
for that matter Georgia Senators (at the time) Loeffler and
Perdue, could distract from focusing on the ringleader.
Amy Gardner: [09-08]
Judge denies Mark Meadows's effort to move Georgia case to federal
court: This was the first, and probably the most credible, such
appeal, so it doesn't look good for the other defendants.
Alex Guillén: [09-07]
Trump's border wall caused 'significant' cultural, environmental
damage, watchdog finds. Rep. Raúl Grijalva put it more bluntly:
"This racist political stunt has been an ineffective waste of
billions of American taxpayers' dollars."
Nicole Narea: [09-06]
January 6 rioters are facing hundreds of years in prison combined.
What does it mean for Trump? Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio
was sentenced to 22 years for seditious conspiracy, the longest
individual sentence yet. Jeffrey St Clair notes (link below) that
Tarrio was initially offered a plea deal of 9-11 years, in "a
textbook case of how prosecutors use plea deals to coerce guilty
pleas and punish those who insist on their constitutional right
to a trial." He lists four more Proud Boys who received sentences
approximately double of what they were offered to plea out.
Tori Otten: [09-07]
Guilty! Trumpiest Peter Navarro convicted of contempt of Congress.
Charles P Pierce: [09-08]
Get a load of the letter Fulton County DA Fani Willis sent Jim
Jordan: "I didn't think there were this many ways to tell
somebody to fck off."
Jack Shafer: [09-08]
Donald Trump destroyed horse race journalism: "At least for
now." I guess it's hard to enjoy a good horse race when something
more than your own bet depends on it. Like whether there'll ever
be another race. Especially when you have to spend so much time
scanning the grounds for snipers and ambulances, which are the
only things about this race you haven't seen before.
Li Zhou: [09-07]
Trump faces another big legal loss in the E. Jean Carroll case.
No More Mister Nice Blog: [09-08]
So why wasn't Trump impeached for emoluments?:
It's a shame, because much of America struggled to understand the
point of the first impeachment, whereas an emoluments impeachment
would have been extremely easy for ordinary citizens to grasp: If
you use your status as president to cash in, that's illegal.
Simple. Relatable. It's like stealing from the cash register. And
he was allowed to get away with it.
The question is probably rhetorical, but the obvious answer is
that there was a faction of Democrats who thought that national
security was the only unassailable moral high ground that exists,
therefore everyone would get behind it. In the end, it persuaded
no one who wasn't going to vote to impeach Trump for any of dozens
of things anyway. Ironically, the key witnesses against Trump at
the time have become the Washington's biggest Ukraine hawks, with
the same "security Democrats" cheering them the loudest. And still
Republicans are trying to get Hunter Biden prosecuted, so you
didn't even win the battle, much less the war.
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Fabiola Cineas: [09-08]
Republicans in Alabama still want to dilute the Black vote:
"Here's why the state's congressional maps were just struck down --
again." Interview with Michael Li.
Prachi Gupta: [09-05]
Vivek Ramaswamy and the lie of the "model minority": "The
Asian American candidate is peddling a dangerous message."
Ben Jacobs: [09-07]
RFK Jr.'s Republican-friendly Democratic presidential campaign,
explained. One revealing stat here is that his approval rate
is 28% among Democrats, 55% among Republicans.
Sarah Jones: [09-08]
'Pro-Life' or 'Pro-Baby,' Republicans can't outrun abortion.
Robert Kuttner: [09-06]
US Steel and the Fake Populism of JD Vance: I don't doubt that
Kuttner is right, but when I read Vance's op-ed,
America cannot afford to auction off its industrial base, I
was surprised how persuasive he was. Not that I buy the "national
defense" crap, but there is something to be said for local rather
than foreign owners. Of course, my preferred local owners would
be the employees themselves, whose stake would indeed be local.
Nicole Narea: [09-05]
The impeachment trial of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton,
explained: Or how evil do you have to be to get your fellow
Republicans to turn against you?
Will Norris: [09-06]
DeSantis loves stepping on Florida municipalities, thwarting the
Michael Tomasky: [09-08]
Jim Jordan and Wisconsin Republicans know the law -- they just don't
care: "Conservatism is no longer defined by resistance to liberal
progress -- it's all about destroying the pillars of our democracy."
Maegan Vazquez/Amy B Wang: [09-10]
GOP presidential hopefuls take renewed aim at efforts to combat
covid. It's probably unfair to say that they want you to die,
but it's not inaccurate to say they don't care. And they really
hate the idea that government might respond to a pandemic by
trying to keep you well.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
Peter Baker/Katie Rogers: [09-10]
Biden forges deeper ties with Vietnam as China's ambition mounts:
Further proof that the only thing that can get American foreign policy
past a grudge is to spite another supposed foe.
Jonathan Chait: [09-09]
Biden or Bust: Why isn't a mainstream Democrat challenging the
president? The simple answer is that no one wants to risk
losing, not so much to Biden as to a Republican who should be
unelectable but still scares pretty much everyone shitless.
The greater left of the party isn't that unhappy with Biden,
at least as long as they don't have to think much about foreign
policy (which, frankly, is pretty awful, but so were Obama and
Clinton). The neolibs aren't that unhappy either, and they're
the ones most likely to sandbag anyone to Biden's left. Second
answer is money. Nobody's got any (unless Bloomberg wants to
run again, and that would really be stupid). But if Biden did
drop out, ten names would pop up within a month.
Lisa Friedman: [09-06]
Biden administration to bar drilling on millions of acres in
Alaska: This reverses leases granted in the late days of
the Trump administration, but only after [04-23]
Many young voters bitter over Biden's support of Willow oil
drilling, also on Alaska's north slope.
Molly Jong-Fast: [09-05]
Can Joe Biden ride "boring" to reelection? "His administration is
getting a lot done for the American people, yet its accomplishments
don't get the same media attention as Trumpian chaos."
Andrew Prokop: [09-08]
Should we trust the polls showing Trump and Biden nearly tied?
You have much more serious things to worry about than polls, but
what I take from this is that Democrats haven't really figured out
how to talk about their political differences, and the mainstream
media isn't very adept at talking about politics at all. There are
obvious, and in some ways intractable, reasons for this. The idea
of merely reporting the news gives equal credence to both sides
regardless of truth, value, or intent. Republicans are masters at
blaming everything bad on Democrats, while crediting them nothing.
Democrats are reluctant to reciprocate, especially as we've been
conditioned to dismiss their infrequent counterattacks as shrill
and snotty. The double standards are maddening, but somehow we
have to figure out ways to get past that. The differences between
Trump and Biden, or between any generic Republican and Democrat
you might fancy, are huge and important. At some level you have
to believe that it's possible to explain that clearly. But until
then, you get stupid poll results.
Legal matters and other crimes:
Climate and environment:
Kate Aronoff: [09-08]
World's wealthiest countries gather to admit continued failure to
address climate change: The G20.
Umair Irfan: [09-09]
The Southern Hemisphere, where it's winter, has been really hot
Rebecca Leber: [09-08]
The oil industry's cynical gamble on Arctic drilling: "Companies
like ConocoPhillips are banking on a future filled with oil."
Rebecca Leber/Umair Irfan: [09-09]
The world's brutal climate change report card, explained: In
subheds: Coil, oil, and natural gas need to go; Everyone is doing
something, but everyone needs to do more.
Ian Livingston/Jason Samenow: [09-08]
A first: Category 5 storm have formed in every ocean basin this
year. One of them,
Hurricane Lee, is still well out in the Atlantic, and expected
to turn north before it gets to Florida and the Carolinas, but
could affect New England or (more likely) the Canadian Maritimes
(Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence).
Aja Romano: [09-06]
The Burning Man flameout, explained: "Climate change -- and
schadenfreude -- finally caught up to the survivalist cosplayers."
Connor Echols: [09-08]
Diplomacy Watch: Inquiry finds 'no evidence' South Africa armed
Russia. No meaningful diplomacy to report. The website has
a new design, which I don't like, mostly because it makes it
much harder to find new pieces on the front page.
Ben Armbruster: [09-05]
Why blind optimism leads us astray on Ukraine: "The
pre-counteroffensive debate in the US was dominated by claims of
'victory' and 'success' despite available evidence predicting it
wouldn't meet key goals." This is similar to the Confidence Fairy,
where Obama and his people seemed to think that the key to recovery
from the 2008 meltdown was projecting confidence that the economy
was really just fine. The effect of such thinking on war strategy
is even worse: any doubt that war aims will succeed is scorned as
giving comfort to the enemy, so everyone parrots the official line.
The final withdrawal from Afghanistan was hampered by just this
kind of thinking. The article includes a wide sampling of such yes
men cheering each other on into thinking it would all work out.
I've tried to take a different position, which is that it doesn't
matter whether the counteroffensive gains ground or not. In either
case, the war only ends when Russia and the US -- with Ukraine's
agreement, to be sure, but let's not kid ourselves about who
Putin's real opponent is -- decide to negotiate something that
allows both sides to back down. And the key to that isn't who
controls how many acres, but when negotiators find common ground.
Until then, the only point to the war is to disillusion hawks on
Ben Freeman: [06-01]
Defense contractor funded think tanks dominate Ukraine debate:
A lengthy report, finding that "media outlets have cited think
tanks with financial backing from the defense industry 85 percent
of the time."
Jen Kirby: [09-07]
Are the US and Ukraine at odds over the counteroffensive?
Daniel Larison: [09-07]
Hawks want Biden to take the fight with Russia global:
"Walter Russell Mead thinks the West can wear down Russia by
attacking it everywhere." The first question I have is: isn't
it global already, or is he really arguing for escalating with
military action? (Syria and Mali are mentioned.) The bigger
question is why do you want to fight Russia in the first
place? I can see defending Ukraine, but the hawks seem to
be starting from the assumption the US should wage war
against Russia, and Ukraine is just an excuse and tool for
Anatol Lieven: [09-06]
Afghanistan delusions blind US on Russia-Ukraine: "If
Washington forgets the war's lessons, its mistakes are likely
to be repeated."
Robert Wright: [09-08]
Logic behind Ukraine peace talks grows: This is a pretty good
summary of an argument that I think has been obvious if not from
day one, at least since Russia retreated from its initial thrust
at Kyiv: that neither side can win, nor can either side afford to
Common Dreams: [09-02]
US to begin sending controversial depleted uranium shells to
Ukraine: The shells are effective at piercing tank armor,
but they ultimately disintegrate, leaving toxic and radioactive
uranium in the air, water, and soil. They were used extensively
in Iraq, and the results have been tragic; e.g., Sydney Young:
Depleted Uranium, Devastated Health: Military Operations and
Environmental Injustice in the Middle East; and Dahr
Iraq: War's legacy of cancer.
Around the world:
Daniel Handel: [09-05]
We're finally figuring out if foreign aid is any better than handing
out cash: "The rise of cash benchmarking at USAID, explained."
What we know about Morocco's deadly earthquake: "A massive quake
near Marrakesh on Friday night has killed more than 2,000."
What's behind Africa's recent coups: Gabon, Niger, Burkina
Faso, Mali. And not just recent: worldwide, "from 1950 through
January 2022, there had been 486 coup attempts, 242 of which
were successful." For Africa, the numbers were 214 and 106,
ahead of 146 and 70 for Latin America.
Nicole Narea: [09-07]
Latin American abortion rights activists just notched another win
in Mexico: "The Mexican Supreme Court decriminalized abortion
nationwide. It's a big deal for the whole region."
Haris Zargar: [09-04]
India: Why Modi is fueling anti-Muslim riots ahead of 2024
Dan Balz: [09-09]
What divides political parties? More than ever, it's race and
ethnicity. That's what a report from the American Political
Science Association (APSA) says. My first reaction was: that's
a shame. My second was the suspicion that they got that result
because that's all they could think of to measure. It's always
possible to think of other questions that could scatter the
results in various directions. And my third is that this is
mostly an indictment of the news media, which seems completely
incapable of explaining issues in ways that people can relate
Elon Musk's strange new feud with a Jewish anti-hate group,
explained: So Musk is suing the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) . . .
for defamation? He blames them for a 60% loss of advertising revenue,
which couldn't possibly have been caused by anything he did?
Chris Rufo's dangerous fictions: "The right's leading culture
warrior has invented a leftist takeover of America to justify his
very real power grabs." Rufo's book is America's Cultural
Revolution: How the Radical Left Conquered Everything. Rufo
is the guy whose rant on Critical Race Theory launched recent
efforts by DeSantis and others to ban its teaching, even though
it never had been taught, and thereby censoring the very real
history of racial discrimination in America, lest white people
be made to feel bad about what their ancestors did. CRT was
developed by legal scholars to show that some laws which were
framed to appear race-neutral had racist intent. This refers
to the Critical Theory developed by mid-20th century Marxists
like Theodor Adorno and Herbert Marcuse, which was very useful
in detecting how capitalism and authoritarianism permeated and
refracted in popular culture.
I spent a lot of time studying Critical Theory when I was young.
(I recently cracked open my copy of Dialectic of Enlightenment
and was surprised to find about 80% of it was underlined.) It really
opens your eyes to, and goes a long way toward explaining, a lot of
the features of the modern world. But having learned much, I lost
interest, at least in repeating the same analyses ad nauseum. (To
take a classic example, I was blown away when I read How to Read
Donald Duck, but then it occurred to me that one could write
the same brilliant essay about Huckleberry Hound, Woody Woodpecker,
and literally every other cartoon or fictional character you ran
into.) But while Critical Theory appealed to people who wanted to
change the world, it was never a plan of action, much less the plot
to take over the world that Rufo claims to have uncovered.
Beauchamp does a nice job of showing up Rufo's paranoia:
Rufo cites, as evidence of the influence of "critical theory"
across America, diversity trainings at Lockheed Martin and Raytheon
that used the term "white privilege" and similar concepts in their
documents. This, he argues, is proof that "even federal defense
contractors have submitted to the new ideology."
But the notion that American arms manufacturers have been taken
over by radicals is ridiculous. Lockheed Martin builds weapons to
maintain the American war machine. It is not owned or controlled in
any way by sincere believers in the Third Worldist anti-imperialism
of the 1960s radicals; it is using the now-popular terms those
radicals once embraced to burnish its own image.
Rufo is getting the direction of influence backward. Radicals
are not taking over Lockheed Martin; Lockheed Martin is co-opting
So Rufo is not wrong that some radical ideas are penetrating
into the institutions of power, including corporations. Where he
is bonkers is in thinking that the ideas are power, plotted by
some malign adversary bent on total control, trying to force us
to think (gasp!) nice thoughts. What's scary is the mentality
that views any hint of civility or accommodation as a mortal
threat. Beauchamp continues, in terms that will probably drive
Rufo even crazier:
Historically, liberalism has proven quite capable of assimilating
leftist critiques into its own politics. In the 19th and 20th
centuries, liberal governments faced significant challenges from
socialists who argued that capitalism and private property led to
inequality and mass suffering. In response, liberals embraced the
welfare state and social democracy: progressive income taxation,
redistribution, antitrust regulations, and social services.
Reformist liberals worked to address the concerns raised by
socialists within the system. Their goal was to offer the
immiserated proletariat alternative hope for a better life
within the confines of the liberal democratic capitalist order --
simultaneously improving their lives and staving off revolution.
Meanwhile, conservatives like Rufo resisted every such reform,
often histrionically, even ones they eventually came to accept
Jonathan Chait: [09-07]
Samuel Moyn can't stop blaming Trumpism on liberals. I only
mention this because I recently spent a lot of time writing up a
book blurb on Moyn's Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War
Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times. I'll save the
details, but note that Chait is upset because his heroes and
his muddle-of-the-road philosophy were critiqued -- he says,
incoherently. What happened was that after 1945, the New Deal
coalition was deliberately split as most traditional liberals
(like Chait, but he came much later) turned against the left,
both abroad and at home, as part of a bipartisan Cold War
consensus. They were pretty successful for a while, and with
Lyndon Johnson even did some worthwhile things (civil rights
and Medicare were big ones), but they neglected the working
class base of the party, while throwing America into nasty
(and in the case of Vietnam, hopeless) wars. So instead of
building on the significant progress of the New Deal, the
Democratic Party fell apart, losing not just to Republicans
but to its own neoliberal aspirants. How that brought us to
Trump is a longer and messier story, but it certainly got us
Reagan, and the rot that followed.
PS: I wrote this paragraph before the one above on Beauchamp,
so there's a bit of disconnect. Beauchamp talks about "reformist
liberals," which diverge somewhat from Moyn's "cold war liberals."
Chait thinks of himself as one of the former, but shares the
latter's aversion to the left. Classical liberalism contained
the seeds for both: first by individualizing society, breaking
down the traditional hierarchy, then by declaring that every
individual should have the right to "life, liberty, and pursuit
of happiness." It turns out that in order for any substantial
number of people to enjoy liberty, they need to have support
of government. Some liberals understood, and others (including
Hayek and Friedman) simply didn't care. Cold War liberals
wound up on both sides, but even those who still supported
reforms undercut them by fighting the left as much or more
than the right.
Rachel M Cohen: [09-05]
Is public school as we know it ending? Interview with Cara
Fitzpatrick, who thinks so, as in her book title: The Death
of Public School: How Conservatives Won the War Over Education
Richard Drake: [09-08]
Gabriel Kolko on the foreign policy consequences of conservatism's
triumph: I occasionally still crack open Kolko's brilliant
books on US foreign policy (both subtitled The World and United
States Foreign Policy, The Politics of War: 1943-1945,
and The Limits of Power: 1945-1954), but it's been some time
since I thought of his earlier The Triumph of Conservatism: A
Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916 (1963). The
point there is that while the progressive movement sought to limit
the manifest evils of capitalism, the actual reforms left big
business and finance in pretty good shape -- as was evident in
the post-WWI period, all the way to the crash in 1929.
Drake goes into the later books, but this piece doesn't do
much to clarify how the "triumph of conservatism" in 1916 led
to the "politics of war" in 1943. In this, I must admit I'm a
little rusty on my William Appleman Williams, but "democracy"
in Wilson's "making the world safe" slogan could just as easily
been replaced with "capitalism." That was exactly what happened
in the later 1943-54 period, when Roosevelt did so much to
revive Wilson's reputation, while forever banishing opponents,
including remnants of the anti-imperialist movement from 1898,
to obscurity as "isolationists."
Kolko's formulation also does a neat job of solving the
debate about whether Wilson was a progressive or a conservative:
he was the former to the ends of the latter. Nowadays we dwell
more on Wilson's racism, which we associate with the right, but
in his day the two weren't strangers, even if what we still
admire about the progressive idea suggests they should have
Zeke Faux: [09-06]
That's what I call ponzinomics: "With Sam Brinkman-Fried, Gisele,
and a credulous Michael Lewis at the zenith of crypto hype." On first
glance, I thought this might be a review of Lewis's forthcoming book
on Bankman-Fried (coming Oct. 3: Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall
of a New Tycoon), but it's actually an excerpt from Faux's new
book, Number Go Up: Inside Crypto's Wild Rise and Staggering
Fall, about a conference in 2022 where Lewis was talking about
Bankman-Fried "as if he were presenting a prize to his star pupil."
Constance Grady: [09-08]
The sincerity and rage of Olivia Rodrigo: One class of story
I invariably skip past is "most anticipated," especially with
albums, because interesting albums rarely get the advanced hype
to make such lists. (TV and movies fare a bit better, because
there are many fewer of them, at least that you'll ever hear
about.) But I gave this one a spin as soon as the banner popped
up on Spotify, and then I gave it a second. If you don't know,
she's a 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Los Angeles, whose
2021 debut Sour won me and practically everyone else over
immediately (RIAA has certified it 4x Platinum). Her new one,
Guts is her second, and I'll review it (sort of) next
For now I just want to note that she's getting newsworthy
Adam Hochschild: [09-05]
The Senator who took on the CIA: Frank Church. Review of James
Risen/Thomas Risen: The Last Honest Man: The CIA, the FBI, the
Mafia, and the Kennedys -- and One Senator's Fight to Save
Whizy Kim: [09-08]
The era of easy flying is over: "Lessons from a summer of
hellish flights." As far as I'm concerned, it's been over for
at least 20 years, about the time when it became obvious that
deregulation and predatory profit seeking were going to devour
the last shreds of decency in customer service.
Karen Landman: [09-07]
Covid is on the rise again, but it's different now: "Covid
transmission continues to ebb and flow -- but at least the latest
Pirola variant isn't too menacing."
Prabir Purkayastha: [09-08]
Is intellectual property turning into a knowledge monopoly?
The question almost answers itself, given that the current laws
defining intellectual property include grants of monopoly (with
minor exceptions, like mechanical royalties for broadcast use
of songs). The question of "knowledge" is a bit fuzzier, but
there is real desire to claim things like "know how" as property
(read the fine print on employee contracts). A patent can keep
others making the same discovery independently from their own
work, and the tendency to chain patents can keep competition
away almost indefinitely. Copyrights, as the word makes clear,
are more limited, but once you start talking derivative works,
the line gets harder to draw. Moreover, the smaller granularity
of fair use gets, the more likely accidental reuse becomes. How
serious this is depends a lot on how litigious "owners" are,
but in America, where so much seems to depend on wealth, we
are very litigious indeed. This piece is excerpted from the
author's book: Knowledge as Commons: Towards Inclusive
Science and Technology (LeftWord, 2023).
Ingríd Robeyns: [08-28]
Limitarianism: academic essays: Author has edited a book,
Having Too Much: Philosophical Essays on Limitarianism,
with various academic papers on the problem of having too much
stuff. Fortunately, they read their own book and decided to
make it available through
Open Book Publishers, so it doesn't add to your surplus of
Dylan Scott: [08-07]
The NFL season opener is also the kickoff for the biggest gambling
season ever: "How America became a nation of gamblers -- and
what might happen next." Few things make me more pessimistic for
the future of the nation.
Norman Solomon: [09-07]
Venture militarism on autopilot, or "How 9/11 bred a 'War on
Terror' from Hell: America's response to 9/11 in the lens of
history." Seems like every week brings enough new stories about
America's bloated, wasteful, stupid, ineffective, but still
really dangerous war culture, even beyond the ones that fit
securely under "Ukraine" and "World." This gets to the big
picture, being adapted from the introduction to Solomon's new
book, War Made Invisible: How America Hides the Human Toll
of Its Military Machine. The focus here is less on what
war is and does than on how it is talked about, to make it
seem more valorous and/or less cruel than it is, or just as
often, how it's not talked about at all, allowing most of us
to go about our daily lives with no sense of what the US
government is actually doing, let alone why.
Melissa Garriga/Tim Biondo: [09-08]
The Pentagon is the elephant in the climate activist room:
"The US military is the world's largest institutional oil consumer.
It causes more greenhouse gas emissions than 140 nations combined
and accounts for about one-third of America's total fossil fuel
Maha Hilal: [09-05]
22 years of drone warfare and no end in sight: "Biden's rules
on drone warfare mask continued violent islamophobia." Author
wrote the book Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the
War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience Since 9/11, so that's
her focus, but one could write much more about the seductiveness
of drone warfare for the gamers who increasingly run the military,
with their huge budgets to waste while risking none of their own
Jeffrey St Clair: [09-08]
Roaming Charges: The pitch of frenzy. Lots here, as usual,
including some links I've cited elsewhere. One I'll mention here
is a tweet by anti-woke pundit Richard Hanania: "Jimmy Buffett
taught Americans to hate their jobs and live for nights and
weekends so they could stuff themselves with food and alcohol."
Actually, he picked that trope up from country music, where he
sold most of his records before being reclassified as Adult
Contemporary. The classic formula was to transpose Saturday
night and Sunday morning, but many singers never got to the
latter (or only did so in niche albums).
PS: I mentioned Biden's stop in Vietnam above, but hadn't
seen this article: Katie Rogers: [09-11]
'It is evening, isn't it?' An 80-year-old president's whirlwind
trip. Which focuses more on his age and foibles than on the
diplomatic mission, showing once again that the mainstream press
would rather focus on appearance than substance. Why does "the
rigors of globe-trotting statesmanship" even matter? I'd rather
prefer to have fewer photo-ops and more actual communication.
But the reason I bring this piece up isn't to rag on the sorely
atrophied art of journalism yet again. I found
this tweet by Heather Cox Richardson, which pointed me to the
article, even more disturbing:
Here's what I don't get: this administration's reworking of global
relationships is the biggest story in at least a generation in
foreign affairs -- probably more. Why on earth would you downplay
that major story to focus on Biden's well-earned weariness after
an epic all-nighter?
No doubt Biden has been very busy on that front, but it's hard
to tell what it all means, which makes it hard to agree that it's
big, harder still that it's good. GW Bush did at least as much
"reworking," but his assertion of imperial prerogatives wound up
undermining any possibility of international cooperation, and
more often than not backfired. Obama tried to unwind some of
Bush's overreach, and negotiated openings with Iran and Cuba,
but left the basic unilateral posture in place. Trump did more
in less time, but was too erratic, greedy, and confused to set
a clear direction.
Biden, on the other hand, is mostly intent
on patching up the mess Trump made, without addressing any of
the underlying problems. And because he's left the imperial
hubris unchecked, he's actually worsened relations with many
countries, of which Russia and China are the most dangerous.
On the other hand, even though Ukraine has brought us near a
precipice, he hasn't actually plunged into disaster yet, as
Bush did. It's still possible that, having reëngaged, he
could move toward a more cooperative relationship with an
increasingly multipolar world. But you can't call this a
"story" without some sense of how it ends, and that's far
from clear at the moment.
Monday, September 04, 2023
Expanded blog post,
Tweet: Music Week: 44 albums, 6 A-list,
Music: Current count 40811  rated (+44), 34  unrated (+7).
Speaking of Which last night: 135 links, 8610 words. Started
Thursday, and let some things like the baseball memoir, the note
on Golda Meir, and the Hobsbawm introduction just flow. Also added
the Jimmy Buffett obituary late, after I found the note on his
politics. By then I had gone back for a few of his records, below.
Looking back over it, I see a dozen spots where I should (or at
least could) write much more. I've made some minor edits, but it
certainly needs much more.
The only thing that kept the rated count from cratering was
working off a checklist, in this case the unheard records from
2003 poll results (in the
notebook), hence a
lot of 2003 releases under Old Music. I've hit everything that
got ranked, but very few of the single-vote records.
The records rarely got
more than one play, so they piled up pretty fast. Aside from
the Pet Shop Boys, which a second play would most likely lift
to full A, Marcelo D2 made the grade the fastest.
I got another
food plate, if you're into that. The diet is going fitfully,
but I believe I'm entitled to clean up leftovers and dated pantry
items. It was orders of magnitude better than the microwave fish
from the night before, or whatever I had last night and have
already blotted from memory.
After taking it apart and reassembling it, the upstairs CD
player finally decided to start working, but only after I ordered
a replacement -- something I found pretty embarrassing. But
it is the last such model still available (an Onkyo), and the last
unit Amazon had in stock, so I figure I'll keep it as a collector's
item. Next day, the downstairs CD player reverted to its bad habit
of instantly withdrawing the tray before I could put a new disc in,
so if I shoot it, I'll already have a replacement.
After much nagging, I filled out a ballot for the DownBeat
Readers Poll. My notes are
here. Note that I'm only picking from the ballot choices they
offer, which miss a lot of worthy albums (at least 80% of my A-lists:
2023) and a great many notable
musicians (especially from Europe, but also more avant or more retro
than their MOR niche).
The demo queue continues to grow, and I'm probably farther behind
than I've been a decade (give or take). One reason I've let it slide
is that only 5 (of 35) are out yet, and most won't be released until
pending list is sorted by
release date, but my basket isn't, so sometimes I slip up and jump
the gun (as with Birnbaum, below; future dates noted at the end of
Still no indexing on last month's
Expecting more 100°F weather this week. It's often hot here until
the last week of September.
New records reviewed this week:
- Adam Birnbaum: Preludes (2023, Chelsea Music Festival): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die Fly or Die Fly or Die ((World War)) (2022 , International Anthem): [sp]: B+(***)
- Scott Clark: Dawn & Dusk (2021-22 , Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(**)
- Kris Davis Diatom Ribbons: Live at the Village Vanguard (2022 , Pyroclastic, 2CD): [cd]: A-
- Homeboy Sandman: Rich (2023, Dirty Looks): [sp]: B+(**)
- Superposition: Glaciers (2019-22 , Kettle Hole): [cd]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Sonny Stitt: Boppin' in Baltimore: Live at the Left Bank (1973 , Jazz Detective): [sp]: A-
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: The Meeting (2003, Pi): [sp]: B+(*)
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: Sirius Calling (2003 , Pi): [sp]: B+(*)
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: Chi Congo (1972, Decca): [sp]: B+(**)
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live in Paris (1969 , Charly, 2CD): [sp]: B+(**)
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live Part 1 (1969 , BYG): [sp]: B+(**)
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live Part 2 (1969 , BYG): [sp]: B+(**)
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: Live in Berlin (1979 , West Wind, 2CD): [sp]: B+(*)
- Baba Zula/Mad Professor: Ruhani Oyun Havalan (Psychebelly Dance Music) (2003, Doublemoon): [sp]: B+(***)
- Bobby Blue Bland: Blues at Midnight (2003, Malaco): [sp]: B+(**)
- Brooks & Dunn: Red Dirt Road (2003, Arista Nashville): [sp]: B
- Jimmy Buffett: A White Sport Coat and a Pink Crustacean (1973, ABC): [sp]: B+(***)
- Jimmy Buffett: Living and Dying in 3/4 Time (1974, ABC): [sp]: B
- Jimmy Buffett: Havana Daydreamin' (1976, ABC): [sp]: B+(*)
- Jimmy Buffett: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes (1977, ABC): [sp]: B+(**)
- Jimmy Buffett: Son of a Son of a Sailor (1978, ABC): [sp]: B+(*)
- John Cale: Hobo Sapiens (2003, EMI): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Constantines: Shine a Light (2003, Sub Pop): [sp]: B+(*)
- Rodney Crowell: Fate's Right Hand (2003, DMZ/Epic): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Darkness: Permission to Land (2003, Atlantic): [sp]: B
- DonaZica: Composição (2003, Tratore): [sp]: A-
- Kathleen Edwards: Failer (2003, Zoë): [sp]: B+(*)
- Entropic Advance: Monkey With a Gun (2003, Symbolic Insight): [sp]: B+(**)
- Barry Guy/Evan Parker: Studio/Live: Birds & Blades (2001 , Intakt, 2CD): [sp]: A-
- Corey Harris: Mississippi to Mali (2003, Rounder): [sp]: B+(*)
- King Geedorah: Take Me to Your Leader (2003, Big Dada): [sp]: B+(***)
- The Knife: Deep Cuts (2003, V2): [sp]: B+(**)
- Linkin Park: Hybrid Theory (2000, Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
- Linkin Park: Meteora (2003, Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
- Patty Loveless: On Your Way Home (2003, Epic): [sp]: B+(**)
- Marcelo D2: Looking for the Perfect Beat [A Procura Da Batgida Perfeita] (2003, Mr. Bongo): [sp]: A-
- Metric: Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003, Last Gang): [sp]: B+(**)
- My Morning Jacket: It Still Moves (2003, ATO): [sp]: B
- The New Pornographers: Electric Version (2003, Matador): [sp]: B
- Pernice Brothers: Yours, Mine & Ours (2003, Ashmont): [sp]: B+(*)
- Pet Shop Boys: Pop Art: The Hits (1985-2003 , Parlophone, 2CD): [sp]: A-
- Steely Dan: Everything Must Go (2003, Warner Bros.): [sp]: B+(*)
- T.I.: Trap Muzik (2003, Atlantic/Grand Hustle): [sp]: B+(**)
- TV on the Radio: Young Liars (2003, Touch & Go, EP): [sp]: B
- Ying Yang Twins: Me & My Brother (2003, TVT): [sp]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Afro Peruvian New Trends Orchestra: Cosmic Synchronicities (Blue Spiral) [10-01]
- Ron Blake: Mistaken Identity (7ten33 Productions) [10-13]
- John Blum: Nine Rivers (ESP-Disk) [09-01]
- Bowmanville: Bowmanville (StonEagleMusic) [10-01]
- Arina Fujiwara: Neon (self-released) [10-02]
- George Gee Swing Orchestra: Winter Wonderland (self-released) [11-01]
- Ivan Lins: My Heart Speaks (Resonance) [09-15]
- Todd Mosby: Land of Enchantment (MMG)
- Madre Vaca: Knights of the Round Table (Madre Vaca) [11-21]
- Colette Michaan: Earth Rebirth (Creatrix Music) [10-15]
- Mark Reboul/Roberta Piket/Billy Mintz: Seven Pieces/About an Hour/Saxophone, Piano, Drums (2004, ESP-Disk): [09-01]
Sunday, September 03, 2023
Speaking of Which
I've been reading my old paperback copy of Eric Hobsbawm's
The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848 (1962, my paperback is
a New American Library pocket edition I've had for 50+ years --
retail $1.25, so it's bound as densely as it was written. I've
always been reluctant to read old books, but this one may get
me to change my mind, or at least continue to his sequels. The
first chapter, in particular, describes the European world so
compactly yet completely that you approach the French Revolution
thinking you know all the background you need. The next three
chapters -- one on the industrial revolution in Britain, the
next on France, and a third on the Napoleonic wars -- are every
bit as compact and comprehensive.
Much of the book is quotable, but I was especially struck by
the line at the bottom of this paragraph, from Part II, where
he goes back and surveys how ownership and use of land changed
during those revolutions (p. 191, several previous lines added
For the poor peasant it seemed a distinctly hard bargain. Church
property might have been inefficient, but this very fact recommended
it to the peasants, for on it their custom tended to become
prescriptive right. The division and enclosure of common field,
pasture, and forest merely withdrew from the poor peasant or cottager
resources and reserves to which he felt he (or he as a part of the
community) had a right. The free land market meant that he probably
had to sell his land; the creation of a rural class of entrepreneurs,
that the most hard-hearted and hard-headed exploited him, instead or,
of in addition to, the old lords. Altogether the introduction of
liberalism on the land was like some sort of silent bombardment which
shattered the social structures he had always inhabited and left
nothing in its place but the rich: a solitude called freedom.
The significance and relevance here has to do with the phenomenon
where former peasants leaned to the right politically, taking more
comfort in the memory of feudal bonds to lord and church. Liberalism
here means proto-capitalism, or what CB MacPherson more descriptively
called "possessive individualism." The later Luddite revolt grew from
a similar impulse, as does Trumpism today. In all these cases, the
satisfaction of joining the right is purely emotional, as the right
is every bit as controlled by people who saw in capitalism a path to
ever greater exploitation.
The difference between conservatism and
liberalism today is that one offers a better afterlife for their
deference, and the other offers a rarely achieved hope for better
in this life. The difference between liberals and the left is that
one idealizes individuals each responsible only to themselves, and
the other emphasizes solidarity, arguing that our fates are shared,
and therefore our responsibility is to each other. Liberals like
to call Trumpists, and their antecedents back to the Dark Ages,
populists, because they look down on common people as ignorant and
prejudiced (or as one put it memorably, "deplorable"). Leftists
hate that designation, because they feel kinship with all people,
not just because that's how solidarity works, but because they
see many of those people being critical of capitalism, even when
they aren't very articulate about why.
Top story threads:
Jeff Amy: [08-31]
Efforts to punish Fani Willis over Trump prosecution are 'political
theater,' Georgia Gov. Kemp says. It seems unlikely that the
Republican threats to remove Willis will go anywhere without
Kemp's support, but this whole episode only underscores the point
that the party that wants to use the justice system as a political
weapon is the Republican. Such politicization is a two-edged sword.
Sure, it can involve prosecuting your opponents, but it also means
protecting your partisans from paying for their crimes.
Trump's pardons were often for political allies, like Michael
Flynn, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Joe Arpaio, Dinesh D'Souza, and
seven former Republican congressmen, including Duke Cunningham.
Nor was Trump the first Republican to excuse and shelter their
own criminals. Gerald Ford pardoned Nixon, but let the rest of the
Watergate criminals serve their sentences. GHW Bush pardoned the
Iran-Contra felons. GW Bush
commuted Scooter Libby's prison sentence (later
Trump pardoned Libby). But that's just one aspect of how politics
determines Republican attitudes to law enforcement. Republicans have
pushed for draconian enforcement of borders, drugs, and "fraud" in
voting and welfare, but are extremely lax when it comes to antitrust
cases, environmental disasters, and tax evasion. They've created a
culture of corruption where they've lost all sense of right and
Maggie Astor: [08-31]
Offering few details, Trump says he knows how Republicans should
Andrew Jeong: [09-02]
Trump lawyers evoke 1931 trial of 'Scottsboro boys' in election
case. The reference is described by one law professor as
Nicole Narea: [08-31]
Trump could soon be in big legal trouble for inflating his net worth.
This is New York's civil case against his business, so no jail jeopardy,
but it cost him up to $250 million and result in him and his family
being banned from doing business in New York.
Heather Digby Parton: [08-30]
Republicans demand a ransom: Defund the prosecution of Donald Trump
or else: Or else they'll force a government shutdown.
Nia Prater: [08-31]
It turns out Trump probably didn't get $2.2 billion richer in 2014:
You mean, he lied?
Ben Protess/Jonah E Bromwich/William K Rashbaum: [08-30]
Trump, under oath, says he averted 'nuclear holocaust': I'll
leave this to Dean Baker, who tweeted: "It's pretty funny that Donald
Trump apparently thinks he prevented a nuclear holocaust and we're
supposed to worry that Joe Biden is senile."
Jennifer Rubin: [09-01]
What responsible media coverage in the Trump era would look like:
I.e., "if the media stopped normalizing the MAGA GOP."
Myah Ward: [09-03]
Meet the white Trump official behind the launch of Black Americans for
DeSantis, and other Republicans:
Dan Balz: [09-02]
Is America ready for another impeachment? McCarthy thinks maybe so.
Hard part is figuring out what for.
[PS: Also see Peter Baker: [09-02]
Biden team isn't waiting for impeachment to go on the offensive.]
Michael Barajas: [09-01]
The "chief lawbreaking officer" of Texas finally faces trial:
"Ken Paxton evaded scandal -- criminal indictments, a staff revolt,
a whistleblower lawsuit -- for years. But his impeachment trial
starts in the Texas Senate on Tuesday." Which raises the question,
when was the last time an office holder was deemed too corrupt for
the Texas Lege? (As Molly Ivins liked to call it. She, of course,
Emma Brown/Peter Jamison: [08-29]
The Christian home-schooler who made 'parental rights' a GOP rallying
cry: "On a private call with Christian millionaires, home-schooling
pioneer Michael Farris pushed for a strategy aimed at siphoning billions
of tax dollars from public schools." I have mixed feelings about this,
in large part because I have bitter memories of my own public schooling,
but also I think most parents are incompetent at teaching children (mine
sure were, even if they had the time, which they didn't), and also because
I really hate the idea that children "are given by God to the parents,"
who can tyrannize them at will -- I'd say there's much more need for a
children's bill of rights than one for parents. I also have this view,
based on personal experience, that while adults should be free to adopt
any religion they fancy, imposing one on children is cruel. More generally,
I think all this indoctrination focus (either for or against, and those
who claim to be against public school indoctrination are usually the
strongest advocates of imposing it themselves) simply misses the point,
which is that people will react or rebel as they see fit. One of the
few pieces that seems to understand this is Sarah Jones: [04-08]
Children are not property. I'm so impressed by that piece, I've
kept it open ever since it appeared.
Chauncey DeVega: [09-01]
From RICO charges to loyalty pledges: Trump's transformation of the
GOP into a crime mob is complete. The article quotes
Shawn Rosenberg saying something which is the core point of
chapter two of my political book (except that I drew the conclusion
from Richard Nixon):
Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have weaponized the idea
that the rule of law, democracy and democratic norms and institutions
do not matter, because all that matters is the end result. Winning at
any cost. You go for what you believe is right, and you get it in
whatever way you can.
DeVega also cites
a new poll from the Washington Post/FiveThirtyEight showing
"evidence of how a significant percentage of Republican voters
support candidates who break the law if it helps them to win
elections and get power."
Francis Suarez drops out. Will the other 2024 duds follow?
I don't see why they're calling him a "dud": he got his name in the
press when he became the last to announce, and he got his name in
again when he became the first to quit. That's two more times than
If Mitch McConnell goes, the Senate could get very scary.
I don't see any reason to get sentimental over that old coot.
It's not like he hasn't done immense damage over his long term
as Senate party leader. Even if the leadership goes to someone
much worse (like Rick Scott), as opposed to just a little worse
(like John Thune/Cornyn/Barrasso), it's hard to run the Senate
as tightly as the House, especially when the margins are so
Lisa Mascaro: [08-29]
Conservative groups draw up plan to dismantle the US government and
replace it with Trump's vision.
Nicole Narea: [08-30]
A Florida hurricane and shooting are testing Ron DeSantis: I've
always thought that DeSantis's slogan
Make America Florida was a threat that would turn people away,
not something the rest of America would be attracted to. So this
week's brought more proof. On the other hand, faced with disaster,
even DeSantis recognizes he needs to tone it down a bit. One thing
you have to admit about Florida Republicans is that no matter how
much they complain about the federal government's spending, they
never take their hands back from a handout after a hurricane.
Andrew Prokop: [08-29]
The "I would simply . . ." candidate: Vivek Ramaswamy, who has
an easy answer for everything, because he doesn't understand much
of anything -- just how to con gullible people.
Greg Sargent: [08-30]
Nikki Haley's emotional plea about racist 'hate' takes a wrong
turn. "Why can't Haley just decry a horrifying white-supremacist
attack and leave it at that?" No, she also has to remind us not to
"fall into the narrative that this is a racist country." So when an
obvious racist kills someone, she feels the need to defend everyone
else -- really her fellow Republicans, who have so often exploited
racism for political gain, at least since 1964 -- from being tarred
as racists. Very few people actually believe that this has to be a
racist country, but most do get suspicious when you start denying
that it ever was: that's a lot of history to sweep under the rug,
all the way up to yesterday's newspaper.
Emily Stewart: [08-31]
The conservative boycott playbook is kind of working: "From Bud
Light to Target, right-wing anger at 'woke capitalism' is scaring
Kirk Swearingen: [08-20]
Guns, Republicans and "manliness": We all suffer from the right's
mental health crisis. Author also wrote: [09-03]
Can't we all get along? Actually, no -- not when the other side
behaves like that, rather belatedly in response to pretty dumb [08-02]
David Brooks column.
Li Zhou: [08-28]
White supremacy is at the heart of the Jacksonville shooting.
Biden and/or the Democrats:
EJ Antoni: [08-31]
Bidenomics robs from the poor, gives to donor class: This piece
of hackwork showed up in my local paper, along with Ryan Young: [09-01]
Don't let politicians take credit for economic recovery. Together
they give you a sense of how flailing and incoherent right-wing attacks
on Bidenomics have become: on the one hand, don't credit Biden for any
recovery, because that's just good old capitalism at work (an article
that none of them wrote when Trump or Reagan were president, but became
a staple during the much stronger recoveries under Clinton and Obama);
on the other blame everything bad on Biden, and imply that corruption
is the root of everything Democrats do (talk about projection). Antoni
is particularly ripe for his concern over "the radical disconnect
between Washington's ruling elites and working-class folks." It may
be true that much of the extra spending Biden accomplished -- the first
recovery act, the barely-bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the big
Inflation Recovery Act -- has passed through the hands of companies
that donated to Democrats (and usually Republicans, who get even more
of their money from rich donors), but most of that money has trickled
down, creating jobs that wouldn't have existed otherwise, and raising
wages in the process.
Both parties do most of their public spending
through companies, but Biden has done a much better job than previous
Democrats at seeing that spending benefit workers -- and indeed in
improving the leverage of workers throughout the labor market. Maybe
you can criticize him for not doing enough, but he clearly would have
done more if he had more Democrats in Congress (and better ones than
Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema). As for "robbing the poor," the only
evidence he has is inflation, which is simply the result of companies
actively taking advantage of supply shortages and growing demand --
lots of reasons for both, and I suppose you could blame Biden for
adding to the demand side, by giving jobs and raising wages. These
are, after all, complex issues, with many factors, but to the extent
you can isolate Biden's contribution, it clearly has helped large
segments of the economy.
[PS: Both links include author pics. I hate it when people make
assumptions about character based on looks, but I must admit I was
taken aback by this pair -- perhaps by how young they appear, and
how smiley when their messages are so disingenuous.]
Jessica Corbett: [08-30]
Biden admin proposes 'much-needed' overtime protections for 3.6
Lee Harris: [08-07]
Biden Admin to restore labor rule gutted in 1980s.
Ben Jacobs: [09-01]
Sidelined and self-sabotaged: What The Last Politician says
about Kamala Harris. Franklin Foer's book, subtitled Inside Joe Biden's
White House and the Struggle for America's Future, is coming out
this week (Sept. 5). I've never been much of a Harris fan, but I've
also thought they should be using her more, and trying to build her
up, to make the 2024 campaign more of a team effort, reassuring voters
of continuity, should Biden's age get the better of him. Republicans
are going after her anyway, so why not lean into it and feature her
more?. For a bit more on the book, see this
Playbook column. There is also an excerpt on Afghanistan in
Harold Meyerson: [08-07]
Buybacks are down, production is up: "Bidenomics has begun to
de-financialize the economy."
Toluse Olorunnipa: [09-02]
Biden surveys Hurricane Idalia's damage in Florida, without DeSantis:
There is a photo of DeSantis (looking annoyed) with Biden after Hurricane
Ian a couple years ago. Such photo ops are normal, but Republicans often
take flak for mingling with the enemy, much as Trump did for posing with
Kim Jong Un. I wonder how much of this is because the White House Press
has nothing useful to do, but maybe if they were given fewer useless ops
they might think of something?
[PS: I see a
tweet with a New York Times: "Biden Won't Meet DeSantis in Florida
During Tour of Hurricane Damage"; but wasn't it DeSantis refusing to
meet Biden, not the other way? On the other hand, Rick Scott wasn't
afraid of having
his picture taken with Biden. DeSantis is such a wuss!]
Dylan Scott: [08-30]
Medicare's first-ever drug price negotiations, briefly explained:
Seems like a very modest first step, but looking at the list prices,
you can see how "serious money" adds up. (For you youngsters, back in
the 1970s, Sen. Everett Dirksen quipped: "a billion here, a billion
there, before long you're talking serious money"). After this ten,
another batch of fifteen are to follow. There is much more that should
be done. Such high prices are purely the result of government-granted
patent monopolies. The law could change the terms of patent use from
monopolies to some form of arbitration. Or (my preference) we could
end patents all together. And yes, I filed this under Biden/Democrats
because there is zero change of getting even this much relief when
Republicans are in power. Also see:
Legal matters: Ok, sometimes I mean illegal matters.
Obviously, Trump's crimes are filed elsewhere.
Adam Gabbatt: [08-30]
Kyle Rittenhouse sued by estate of man he killed at Kenosha anti-racism
protest: Also being sued, law enforcement departments: "They did
not disarm him. They did not limit his movement in any way. They did
not question him. They did not stop him from shooting individuals
after he started. They did not arrest him, detain him, or question
him even after he had killed two people." He is also facing two
other suits, by other people he shot (or their estates).
Caroline Kitchener: [09-01]
Highways are the next antiabortion target. One Texas town is resisting.
This sounds ridiculous, but it allows anyone to sue anyone they suspect
of "abortion trafficking," and is just a localization of a more general
trend of criminalizing assistance from friends and concerned citizens.
Conservatives think that such laws will only be used by their people
to harass others, but it's hard to imagine limits to such a potential
expanse of litigation.
Judd Legum: [08-31]
Top North Carolina judge faces potential sanctions for talking about
racial discrimination. Anita Earls, "the only Black woman on the
court, is under investigation by the state's Judicial Standards
Commission, a body largely comprised of conservative judges appointed
by North Carolina Chief Justice Paul Newby."
Amber Ferguson: [09-01]
Ohio police release video of officer fatally shooting pregnant
Alan Feuer/Zach Montague: [08-31]
Proud Boys lieutenant sentenced to 17 years in Jan. 6 sedition case:
Joseph Biggs. Prosecutors had asked for 33 years. Another Proud Boy
leader, Zachary Rehl, was sentenced to 15 years. Biggs' sentence was
the second-longest handed down, following the 18 years given to Oath
Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes.
Tom Jackman: [09-01]
Proud Boys leader gets 18 years, matching longest Jan. 6 punishment
to date: Ethan Nordean. Dominic Pezzola also received a 10-year
Ian Millhiser: [08-29]
America's Trumpiest court just put itself in charge of nuclear
Judge James Ho strikes again. "Much of the Fifth Circuit appears
to be intentionally trying to sow chaos throughout the federal
government, without any regard to consequences."
Climate and Environment: Hard to find anything about it
in the US press, but they're having a rip-roaring typhoon season
in East Asia this year; e.g.:
Typhoon Saola makes landfall in China's coast after slamming Hong
As Typhoon Haikui barrels into Taiwan, thousands are evacuated.
These are big storms hitting heavily populated areas. Back in early
August, there was this: [08-02]
Heaviest rainfall in 140 years drenches Beijing while Typhoon
Khanun hits Japan's Okinawa. You may recall that in 2022 they
held the Winter Olympics in Beijing, so it's not exactly a place
you expect to be ravaged by tropical storms.
Jacob Bogage: [09-03]
Home insurers cut natural disasters from policies as climate risks
grow. So what happens when you can't buy (or can't afford)
insurance against actual risks? At some point, I predict that the
insurance industry will be taken over by the federal government,
because no one else can afford to underwrite it.
Matthew Cappucci: [09-01]
Idalia is gone, but peak hurricane season is looming. What's next?
There are four named storms in the middle of the Atlantic (Franklin,
Gert, Idalia, and José), where the only thing they're likely to hit
is Bermuda. Another one, Katia, is likely to appear this week, but
not much is expected of it. Beyond that, each tropical wave coming
off Africa could develop into something big.
Umair Irfan/Benji Jones: [08-30]
Why Hurricane Idalia is so dangerous, explained in 7 maps.
On the other hand: Dan Stillman: [08-31]
Hurricane Idalia wasn't as bad as feared. Here are 5 reasons.
Hit at low tide; weakened just before landfall; hit an area with
lower population; moved relatively fast; the forecast was extremely
accurate. The day difference is explains the tone shift. It's normal
to try to scare people before the fact, then to soothe them after.
Still, with sources like these, it's hard to calibrate the right
level of hysteria.
Taylor Lane: [09-03]
Monsoon rain leaves Las Vegas roads flooded.
Rebecca Leber: [08-31]
There's been a shift in how we think about climate change:
Interview with "environmental psychologist" Lorraine Whitmarsh.
My quotes, because it seems to me like less a subspecialty than
a subject of investigation, but in a world with a shortfall of
answers there's always a market for "experts" (again, my quotes).
Sophia Tesfaye: [09-03]
Thousands trapped at Burning Man after historic flooding.
Li Zhou: [08-30]
How Louisiana -- one of the nation's wettest states -- caught on
Ukraine War: The New York Times insists
Ukraine's offensive makes progress. Elsewhere, we are warned:
Ukraine tells counteroffensive critics to 'shut up'. Meanwhile,
Sen. Richard Blumenthal says
US is getting its 'money's worth' in Ukraine because Americans aren't
dying, which suggests ulterior motives and double standards.
More stories follow, but plus ça change, etc. Even if the
counteroffensive breaks the Russian line,
doing things in the next month or two (before winter) they haven't
even hinted at in the last three months, Ukraine will remain far
short of their goal of expelling Russia from their pre-2014 borders,
and will have no real leverage to force Russia to capitulate to
their terms. And even if they could expel Russia, they'd still be
locked in a state of war until a truce was negotiated.
The only way out is to find a combination of tradeoffs
that is agreeable both to Russia and to Ukraine, and (not that they
have any business dictating terms to Ukraine) to Biden, who is
engaged in his own shadow war with Putin, and has possibly decisive
chips to play (sanctions, trade, security assurances).
Diplomacy Watch: The search for an endgame in Ukraine.
Can sanctions help win peace? According to this report, not likely:
"Not only does economic warfare not work because it ends up hurting the
people it claims to help, but it can stand in the way of diplomacy."
I don't think that is quite right. Sanctions can, and should, be
considered a chit for negotiation, but that only works if one is
willing to relinquish them as part of an agreement. The problem is
when sanctions are seen as permanent, foreclosing negotiation. For
instance, sanctions against Saddam Hussein's Iraq demanded regime
change, not something Hussein could reasonably negotiate. Under
such conditions, sanctions are acts of kabuki warfare, symbolic
yet reflecting hostility and a desire to harm -- a meaning that
targets cannot fail to detect, but which, due to the arbitrariness
and overreaching hubris of American foreign policy, especially the
belief that enemies can only respond to a show of force, makes it
nearly impossible to defuse. US sanctions against Russia started
way before Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and have only escalated
with each offense, paving the way to the present war, and possibly
to much worse.
The report is from International Crisis Group: [08-28]
Sanctions, Peacemaking and Reform: Recommendations for US Policymakers.
One key quote there is: "Sanctions can only help bring parties to the
table for peace talks, and provide leverage when they get there, if
negotiators can credibly promise meaningful and enduring sanctions
The U.S. does not always make clear what parties can do that will
lead to sanctions relief. In some cases, Washington has not laid out
any such steps or it has outlined steps that are unrealistic. In
others, the U.S. was never willing to lift sanctions in the first
place. Elsewhere, Washington's communication on sanctions has been
vague, leaving targets in the dark about what might lead to reversal.
Targets can be unsure why they were sanctioned, as members of
Venezuela's electoral authority reported in 2020, or have learned
about the designations second- or thirdhand (a former Congolese
official found out about his listing from the newspaper and some
FARC members learned from listening to the radio). Some never see
the full evidence underpinning the designations -- even if they
lobby the Treasury Department. Without clarity on why they were
sanctioned and what they can do to be delisted, targets have
little incentive to make concessions in exchange for relief.
A big part of the problem is that the neocon view that talking
is a sign of weakness, and liberal-interventionist conviction that
America's unique moral legitimacy makes it a fair and necessary
judge of everyone else, has driven diplomacy from Washington,
leaving American foreign policy as little more than "irritable
David Bromwich: [08-29]
Living on a war planet (and managing not to notice): Raises
the question (at least to me): if the war in Ukraine hadn't come
along, would America have invented it? ,Leaving aside the second
question (did it?), the withdrawal from Afghanistan left some
kind of void in the minds of that class of people whose sole
concern is America's military position in the world? Wars give
them meaning in life, and after twenty years of frustration in
Afghanistan and Iraq, Ukraine is some kind of dream: industry
is stoked delivering arms and explosives, while it's someone
else doing the fighting and bleeding, someone else having their
lives upended. The plotters in America haven't had so much fun
since Afghanistan in the 1980s -- another time when every dead
Russian was counted as a blow for freedom. But mostly it just
helped perpetuate the conflict, with no domestic political cost.
So of course they refuse to negotiate. Why spoil such a good thing?
After citing Roger Cohen's recent propaganda piece
Forever War), he notes that "Mikhail Gorbachev finally emerges
as the hero of this story," then adds:
Nowhere quoted, however, is the Gorbachev who, between 2004 and 2018,
eight op-eds to the New York Times, the sixth of which
focused on climate change and the eighth on the perilous renewal
of a nuclear arms race. Gorbachev was deeply troubled by George W.
Bush's decision to withdraw from the 1972 Antiballistic Missile
Treaty (which Putin
called a "mistake") and Donald Trump's similar decision to pull
out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Does anyone
doubt that Gorbachev would have been equally disturbed by the Biden
virtual severance of diplomatic relations with Russia?
Daniel Brumberg: [08-30]
The Russia-Ukraine Jeddah meeting reflects a changing global
Stephen F Eisenman: [09-01]
Some people will hate me for writing this: End the war!
Sounds like some people already do. Every war starts with efforts
to suppress doubters and dissenters in one's own ranks, which no
one doubts happened in Russia this time, but has been relentless
here as well (albeit stopping short of arrests, unlike the World
Wars and, in some cases, Vietnam). Lately we've been warned that
casting doubt on the counteroffensive's prospects is catering to
Russia, and that even suggesting talks should begin before Ukraine
is ready implies we're eager to sell them out. My counter is that
the war will never end until negotiators on all sides decide to
end it, and that you'll never know whether that is even possible
until you've set up a forum for negotiation.
Ellen Francis: [09-02]
Nobel Prize foundation scraps plan to invite Russia, Belarus after
criticism: Ukraine may be having trouble with their counteroffensive,
but they're winning regularly at shaming international bodies into
petty slighting of Russia.
Keith Gessen: [08-29]
The case for negotiating with Russia: Draws on RAND analyst
Samuel Charap, co-author of the 2016 book, Everyone Loses: The
Ukraine Crisis and the Ruinous Contest for Post-Soviet Russia.
Since then, everyone has continued to lose, the pace accelerating
with the February, 2023 invasion. I'd argue that all wars are, as
he puts it, "negative-sum games," but the case here is especially
But among "defense intellectuals," that's a minority view --
in my formulation, it would probably disqualify you permanently
from employment. Gessen quotes Eliot A. Cohen as saying:
Ukraine must not only achieve battlefield success in its upcoming
counteroffensives; it must secure more than orderly Russian
withdrawals following cease-fire negotiations. To be brutal
about it, we need to see masses of Russians fleeing, deserting,
shooting their officers, taken captive, or dead. The Russian
defeat must be an unmistakably big, bloody shambles.
The implicit assumption is that it's possible to inflict such
a defeat on Russia without further escalation or recourse: that
Putin (or some other Russian who might ascend to power) will take
such a catastrophic defeat gracefully, as opposed to, say, blowing
the world up. Note that if Putin is really as irreconcilable as
people like Cohen make him out to be, that's exactly what he would
do in that circumstance.
Joe Lauria: [08-29]
US victim of own propaganda in Ukraine War.
Few Russians wanted the war in Ukraine -- but they won't accept a Russian
defeat either. As bad as Putin has been -- for America, for Europe,
even (especially?) for Russia -- replacing him could get a lot worse.
The kind of embarrassing, punishing defeat that Cohen (above) demands
has been tried before, especially at Versailles after WWI, and tends
to backfire spectacularly.
Sarkozy vilified for speaking uncomfortable truths about Ukraine:
The quorted sections from Sarkozy's book seem pretty reasonable to me.
I've said all along that we should allow for internationally-supervised
referenda in the disputed territories. If Crimea, say, wants to be part
of Russia, it should be. Granted, it's harder to do now than it was
before the invasion, but it should be possible. I think that a similar
procedure should also be used to resolve disputes in Georgia, Serbia,
and elsewhere. If Scotland wishes to avail itself of a referendum, we
should allow it. It's easy enough to propose solutions on other issues
as well. But at some point Russia has to see NATO as a purely defensive
pact -- which NATO could help make more plausible with less war-gaming,
something that should be but doesn't have to be reciprocal -- and the
EU as simply an economic club, which Russia could conceivably join.
On the other hand, the US and allies need to see a path to dropping
the sanctions against Russia, and reintegrating Russia into the world
economy. Granted, there are problems with the way Russia runs itself,
but that's really their own business. One thing that would help would
be an international treaty providing a right to exile, so real or
potential political prisoners in any country could appeal to go to
some other country. It's hard to get a country like Russia to agree
to peaceful coexistence, but a necessary first step would be to tone
down the criticism, the meddling, the menace, and the isolation. In
the long run, none of us can afford this level of hostility.
Alice Speri: 
Prigozhin's legacy is the global rise of private armies for hire.
Al Jazeera: [09-03]
Israel's Netanyahu calls for deportation of Etitrean refugee
Jonathan Coulter: [09-03]
A seditious project: "Asa Winstanley's book shows how the Israel
lobby facilitated the influence of a foreign government's interests
in dictating who gets to lead the Labour Party, causing the downfall
of Jeremy Corbyn." The book is Weaponizing Anti-Semitism: How
the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn. Of course, the
Lobby is also active trying to purge any whiff of criticism from
the Democratic Party, but Corbyn was their biggest victim, all the
more critical as the Labour Party replaced him with the second
coming of Tony Blair ("Bush's poodle").
Nada Elia: [08-30]
Golda: A failed attempt to boost Israel's propaganda: There is
a new movie about the Israeli Prime Minister (1969-74), with Helen
Mirren in the title role. Looking at the film's plot on
Wikipedia, I see that it focuses on the 1973 war, when initial
setbacks led Meir to prepare to use nuclear weapons, and the immediate
aftermath, which led to recriminations over allowing those setbacks.
But it also notes: "Anwar Sadat, who like Golda Meir publicly speaks
English, agrees to establish diplomatic relations to Israel in
exchange for the return of the Sinai Peninsula." Sadat offered
that shortly after the war, but Meir didn't agree to any such deal.
That was Menachim Begin in 1979, under heavy pressure from Jimmy
Carter. By the way, one of the few stories I like about Meir is
how she casually referred to Begin, when he joined the war cabinet
in 1967, as "the fascist." (Begin doesn't appear in the film's cast,
although there are a bunch of generals, and Liev Schreiber playing
Although the 1973 war occurred at the pinnacle of Meir's political
career, I doubt her leadership was any more decisive than Levi Eshkol's
was in 1967. In both wars, the key character was Moshe Dayan, and the
difference was that he was the aggressor in 1967, but in 1973 he had
to play defense, which wasn't as much fun, especially as it punctured
the air of invincibility he had built up through 1967. The key lesson
of 1973 is that if you refuse to negotiate with your enemies, as Meir
had done, they may eventually decide that their only option is war,
and at that point all sorts of bad things can happen. But to make
sense out of 1973, you need a lot more context than they're likely
to provide, especially given the usual propaganda mission.
I imagine that a more interesting film could be made about Meir
when she was younger, about how she became the only woman in the
Histadrut and Mapai inner circles, where she probably overcome the
default sexism by becoming the toughest character in the room --
not unlike Mirren's character in Prime Suspect. That would
have been a tougher movie to sell, especially without Mirren, and
it would be hard to present those times accurately, and easy to
wallow in post-facto mythmaking.
Having gone on at this length about Meir, I should close with a
quote of hers, which in my mind is possibly the most obnoxiously
self-flattering thing any political figure ever said:
When peace comes we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the
Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive
them for having forced us to kill their sons. Peace will come when
the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.
But peace hasn't happened, and this attitude goes a long way to
explaining why. More on Golda:
Sonja Anderson: 
The real history behind the 'Golda' movie: A fairly detailed
biographic sketch of Meir's life, but very little to explain the
conflict leading to the 1973 war.
David Klion: [09-01]
The strange feminism of Golda. Regarding director Nattiv's
motives: "The answer seems to be that he is more interested in
rescuing the dignity of Israel's founding generation in the context
of its current political crisis." Still, that generation was at the
root and heart of Israel's later militarism and apartheid. To hold
them up as models barely rebukes Netanyahu and Ben Gvir for bad
Joseph Massad: [08-31]
Ben Gvir's racist comments are no different from those if Israel's
founders. Quotes from Theodor Herzl, Chaim Weizmann, Vladimir
Jabotinsky, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, even the usually circumspect
Peter Shambrook: [08-25]
Policy of Deceit: Britain and Palestine, 1914-1939: An extract
from a new book of that title. One of the first books I read on the
subject was Tom Segev: One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs
Under the British Mandate, which I recommend, although there
is certainly more detail that can be added.
Richard Silverstein: [08-29]
Why the US must not add Israel to its visa waiver programme.
Around the world:
Sarah Dadouch: [08-23]
Saudi forces killed hundreds of Ethiopians at Yemen border, report
Brian Finucane: [07-17]
Dangerous words: The risky rhetoric of US war on Mexican cartels:
"War talk will only serve to strain US-Mexico ties." This has mostly
come from Republicans, including Trump, DeSantis, and Lindsey Graham,
who want to outdo each other in declaring the cartels to be "foreign
terrorist organisations" and bombing them as indiscriminately like
the US bombs Somalia. More:
Ellen Ioanes: [08-27]
Zimbabwe's elections herald more of the same.
Jen Kirby: [08-29]
China's economy is slowing down. What gives? Interview with Stephen
Morgan. I'm not making much sense out of it. China's GDP growth forecast
for 2023 is 5 percent. That's less than the ten-percent growth of recent
years, but it's still double the worldwide growth rate. It's like he's
trying to measure China with rules they've never been held to.
Paul Krugman: [08-21]
How scary is China's crisis?; and [08-31]
Why is China in so much trouble? I've come to be pretty skeptical
of the China doomsayers, because, well, they've always been wrong. So
I take these pieces with the usual measure of salt, but at least there's
a plausible kernel of substance here: it seems that a big slice of the
wealth China has accumulated has been channeled into a huge real
estate bubble, which is a surefire recipe for panic and recession.
That happened here in 2008, and Washington went into a tizzy, trying
at least to save the banking class, while leaving the rest of us to
adjust on our own. So if China does reach its own "Minsky moment,"
as Krugman notes: "the next few years may be quite ugly." But does
it have to be? China managed its way through 2008 better than most,
and same for 2020, especially compared to the armchair quarterbacks
in the US financial press.
Krugman, by the way, also wrote: [08-28]
The paranoid style in American plutocrats, about the not-so-curious
vortex of "the three C's: climate denial, Covid vaccine denial, and
cryptocurrency cultism," especially common among tech moguls.
Branko Marcetic: [08-31]
The BRICS expansion isn't the end of the world order -- or the end of
Rachel DuRose: [08-30]
The US has new Covid-19 variants on the rise. Meet Eris and Fornax.
Bill Friskics-Warren: [09-02]
Jimmy Buffett, roguish bard of island escapism, is dead at 76:
I wasn't going to mention this here, but No More Mister Nice Blog
picked out a selection of rabid hate comments from Breitbart on
how awful his politics were (see
Jimmy Buffett, Stalinist Nazi). Warms my heart more than his
music ever did (and let's face it, I'd never turn down a "Cheeseburger
in Paradise," although I must admit I've never gone to one of his
restaurants for one). Few things drive right-wingers crazier than
finding out a rich guy identifies with Democrats. By the way, this
blog is almost always worth reading, but his piece
Public Options is especially striking, as one that gets personal --
unusual for an author whose last name is M.
Sean Illing: [08-30]
Is the populist right's future . . . democratic socialism?
Interview with Sohrab Ahmari, explaining "why precarity is breaking
our politics." You see some of this happening in multiparty systems
in Europe, where it's possible to combine safety net support with
conservative social concerns, resulting in a party that could ally
with either right or left, but at least this two-party system has
little choice to offer: you can get a better break on economics
with the Democrats, but you have to accept living in a diverse
and predominantly urban country; on the other hand, if you insist
on the old "family values," you can get some lip-service from
Republicans, but in the end their embrace of oligarchy will hurt
you. I think such people should be more approachable by Democrats,
but I'm even more certain that as long as they back Republicans,
they will be screwed.
Eric Levitz: [08-31]
Was American slavery uniquely evil? Not sure why this came up,
other than that some right-wingers are irate about the tendency to
view all (or at least many) things American as evil. As Levitz
points out, all slave systems shared many of the same evils. One
could argue that America was more exploitative because American
slaveholders were more deeply enmeshed in capitalism, but it's
hard to say that the French in Haiti and the British elsewhere
in the Caribbean were less greedy. You can argue that America was
more benign, because after the import of slaves ended, the numbers
increased substantially, while elsewhere, like in Brazil, imports
barely kept up with deaths. Plus there were many more slave revolts
in Brazil and the Caribbean than in the US -- but still enough in
the US to keep the masters nervous. As for reparations, which comes up
tangentially here, I don't see how you can fix the past. But it
would be possible to end poverty in the near future, and to make
sure everyone has the rights they need going forward. History
neither precludes nor promises that. It just gives you lots of
examples of what not to do again.
By the way, Levitz cites a piece he wrote in 2021 about Israel
and Palestinian rights:
Why is this geopolitical fight different from all other fights?
He offers three reasons, and admits one more ("Israel's role in the
Christian right's eschatology is also surely a factor"). He omits
one or two that have become even more salient since then: Israel
is an intensely militarist nation, which makes it a role model for
Americans (and some Europeans) who want an even larger and more
aggressive military front. Israel is also the most racially and
religiously stratified nation, with discriminatory laws, intense
domestic surveillance, and strong public support for establishment
religion, and some Americans would like to see some or all of that
here, as well. I only quibble on the count because the prejudices
seem to go hand-in-hand. On the other hand, many of the moderate
and left people who have begun to doubt the blind support given
Israel by nearly all politicians started with alarm at what
Israel's biggest right-wing boosters want to also do to America.
Amanda Moore: [08-22]
Undercover with the new alt-right: "For 11 months, I pretended to
be a far-right extremist. I discovered a radical youth movement trying
to infiltrate the Republican Party." But they're pretty obvious about
Jason Resnikoff: [08-31]
How Bill Clinton became a neoliberal: Review of a book by Nelson
Lichtenstein and the late Judith Stein (who started work on the book
that Lichtenstein picked up): A Fabulous Failure: The Clinton
Presidency and the Transformation of American Capitalism. First
I have to question whether the notion that Clinton wasn't any kind
of neoliberal before he became president. The premise of the New
Democrat movement was the promise to be better for business than
the Republicans were, and Clinton's long tenure as governor of
Arkansas, as WalMart and Tyson grew from regional to national
businesses, suggests that he was good at it. Clinton certainly
wasted no time throwing labor under the bus to pass NAFTA.
Sam Roberts: [09-02]
Bill Richardson, champion of Americans held overseas, dies at 75:
Former governor of New Mexico, served 14 years in Congress, was
Secretary of Energy, held various diplomatic posts, including US
Ambassador to the United Nations, ran for president in 2008, and
engaged in more freelance diplomacy than anyone but Jimmy Carter.
Curiously, there is only one line here about North Korea ("he
went to North Korea to recover the remains of American soldiers
killed in the Korean War," as if he had nothing more to talk to
Nathan J Robinson:
"Conservatism" conserves nothing: "Whatever 'conservatism' is,
it does not involve the conservation of a stable climate, or the
polar ice caps, or the coral reefs, or the global food supply."
The rejoinder is that the nation and the world are too far gone
to be satisfied with just preserving the status quo, which is
why others are more likely to call them reactionaries: they see
change they don't like, and react fitfully, contemptuously, often
violently. But not all change bothers them: what they hate above
all is any challenge to the privileges of wealth, or any limit to
their ability to accumulate more. Given that one of the easiest
ways to get rich is to suck wealth from the earth, conservation
is not only not in their portfolio, it's something they dread --
etymology be damned.
As cruel as it's possible to be: This week's example is Fox
host Jesse Waters, who wants to make homeless people feel more
ashamed for their misfortune, and argues that "the deaths of
homeless people are a form of cosmic justice."
Kenny Torrella: [08-31]
The myths we tell ourselves about American farming. One I
should write more about, one of these days.
Bryan Walsh: [09-01]
What America can learn from baseball (yes, baseball): "Baseball
fixed itself by changing its rules. The country should pay attention."
I used to know a lot about baseball. I could recall back to the 1957
all-star game lineups. (You know, the one where the Reds stuffed the
ballot box so Gus Bell and Wally Post got more votes than Hank Aaron
and Willie Mays.) And I looked up the rest. I was part of a club a
friend started called Baseball Maniacs, out of which Don Malcolm
started publishing his Big Bad Baseball annuals. (Malcolm
was my co-founder on
Terminal Zone, and he published
my Hall of Fame study, I think in the
1998 Annual.) Then with the
1994 lockout, I lost all interest, and never returned, although
I'm slightly more aware this year than I have been since 1994.
The difference is getting the "electronic edition" of the local paper,
which is padded out with a ridiculously large sports section. While
I speed click through everything else, that got me to following
basketball more closely, so I wondered if I might pick up a bit of
baseball while waiting for the season to change. A little bit is
about right: I land on the standings page, so I know who's leading
and who's beat, and sometimes look at the stats, but that's about
all. I do know a bit about the rules changes, because I've read a
couple pieces on them.
Walsh's point is that when people get too
good at cornering the rules, it helps to change them up a bit. In
baseball, that mostly means shorter games (not that they've gotten
much shorter: Walsh says they've been dialed back to the 1980s,
but I remember games that barely exceeded two hours). Walsh has
plenty of other examples of "operating under a rule book that is
out of date," many involving the gridlock in Congress. But baseball
at least has incentive to change (although it took an insanely long
time for the NL to accept the DH, even though watching pitchers try
to hit was embarrassing even back in the 1950s).
Li Zhou: [08-31]
Marijuana could be classified as a lower-risk drug. Here's what that
means. Well, for starters it would reduce the quantity of complete
nonsense the government swears on, which might make them more credible
about drugs that pose real dangers beyond mere bad habits.
meme titled "When the actual dictionary completely nails it." The
text offers a dictionary definition:
trumpery, n.; pl. trumperies, [Fr.
tromperie, from tromper, to deceive, cheat.]
- deceit, fraud. [Obs.]
- anything calculated to deceive by false show; anything externally
splendid but intrinsically of little value; worthless finery.
- things worn out and of no value; useless matter; trifles; rubbish;
This idolatrous trumpery and superstition.
Trump's German family name used to be Drumpf. After a brief search,
I'm unclear as to exactly when, where, and why the name change occurred,
but it does seem like a deliberate choice, if not necessarily a fully