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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Speaking of Which

Delayed, probably July 1, which will in turn push Music Week back another day.

Saturday, June 29, 2024

Daily Log

Nathan Cadman mentioned on Facebook that he bought a wok, and asked for advice and recipes. I wrote:

I didn't learn how to cook Chinese until I threw away my wok, and I still don't use one, but I've learned enough to appreciate them. Although you can do pretty much everything with it, the one thing it's really good for is all-in-one stir-fries. A cheap steel one is better than expensive stainless or anything nonstick -- assuming you maintain the patina. The fact that the steel does not retain heat like All Clad is a virtue, allowing you to turn the heat up or down efficiently. (Of course, if you have an electric, except perhaps for induction, you won't be able to do that.) In any case, the key is to get it really hot, then work really fast. That means you have to do all of your prep ahead of time, and arrange it so you can grab whatever you need exactly when you need it. Chinese is 90% prep, 10% fire drill. Once you understand that, it's easy. Some of your prep is pre-cooked, which can be done at leisure. For instance, boil or steam your rice, let it cool, break it up, then lay it out with everything else for a quick stir-fry. Some things can cook during the stir-fry, but others should be partly-cooked ahead of time -- eggs, velvet shrimp, peppers and carrots and zucchini that need more than a minute to cook on their own, peas (which I parboil for about 30 seconds). Fried rice is probably the best dish to start with. My standard one is with diced ham, fried egg, sauteed red bell pepper, scallions, some peas, and pine nuts. Another uses leeks and velvet shrimp (marinated in egg white/wine/corn starch then boiled 45 seconds; it will finish cooking in the stir-fry). But those are mostly sides for me. For a single dish, you can load it up with more veggies and/or meats. Another good wok dish is pad thai. Here's my recipe.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 46 albums, 12 A-list

Music: Current count 42549 [42503] rated (+46), 22 [22] unrated (+0).

Updated: look for change bar below.

I perhaps foolishly agreed to write up an article on William Parker, this year's deserving recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award, and a feature evening of performances, at the 2024 Vision Festival, in New York last week. I figured I could dust off the Parker/Shipp Consumer Guide I wrote up back in 2003, and add a few odds and ends about later albums. It turned out not to be not quite that simple.

For one thing, when I finally rounded up all the reviews I had written on albums he had played on, the count came to 249. I then had to go back and check for false positives (the 2003 CG also included albums with Shipp but no Parker, and a few extras by artists in their circle), and for omissions. In this, I was massively aided by being able to consult Rick Lopez's William Parker Sessionography, but I was also slowed by its completeness and accumulation of fascinating detail. Back in the notes for my 2003 CG, I collected a select but fairly extensive discogrpahy. As I needed something similar to keep track of what I was doing, I started to update it, and that wound up taking a lot of time.

By last Thursday, I had gotten so flustered and panicked that I decided I had to give up trying to multitask and just focus on the Parker essay. I had started to write some introductory comments for the week's Speaking of Which, so I stopped there, and vowed to do no more until the piece was done. (I'm belatedly posting that introduction today, but with no news links or comments. Second, I resolved to only play Parker albums until I finished. I later relaxed that to allow myself to play and review albums I hadn't heard before, which is where most of the albums below came from.

I finally sent the essay in yesterday. No word yet on when (or I suppose if) it will be published. I decided that the best way to proceed from here is to post the partial Speaking of Which intro (which already had a sequence number) along with the Music Week reviews, then start on new blog posts for the usual dates next week. Of course, it's never that simple. This also turns out to be the last Music Week in June, so I have to wrap up one month's Streamnotes archive, and open up another.

I also have a jammed up pile of other work I need to crack on with, more email problems, plus home tasks, health troubles, etc. More stuff in flux, but I've droned on enough for here and now.

PS: [06-27] My piece on William Parker has been posted on ArtsFuse now: Jazz Commentary: Celebrating Bassist William Parker's Lifetime of Achievement. I have some notes to go along with this, but they're not really ready for presentation yet, so I'll work on them and have more to say later. Note that I did add the two books I referred at the end to my Recent Reading sidebar and roll.

I changed the status of June Streamnotes to "final," added the Music Week text, and compiled the 2024 and Artists indexes.

Next on my plate is to do some work on the Carola Dibbell and Robert Christgau websites, or maybe something with email, or maybe just get dinner first -- things I need to square away before getting to the mid-year Jazz Critics Poll (which I should send out notices on by Monday, assuming email works by then). But I'm really itching to open up a Speaking of Which draft file, as even with my recent blackout it's pretty obvious that there's an insane amount of important news to note and (mostly) bemoan.

PPS: I was going to apologize for not being able to figure out how to move the right-margin change mark inside the album cover pics so it's clearly tied to the changed text, but then it dawned on me to allow an option to put the change bar on the left, which should be good enough for now.

If the change bar doesn't appear for you, that's because your browser is using a cached CSS file. CTRL-SHIFT-R fixes this in Firefox. I also had to fix a ton of mistakes in the aforelinked Parker-Shipp CG file. I knew it wasn't ready, but should at least have made sure it loaded. That much is fixed now.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Fox Green: Light Over Darkness (2024, self-released): [cdr]: A-
  • Joel Futterman/William Parker: Why (2020 [2024], Soul City Sounds): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Andrea Grossi Blend 3 + Jim Black: Axes (2023 [2024], We Insist!): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jared Hall: Influences (2022 [2024], Origin): [cd]: B+(***) [06-21]
  • Jihee Heo: Flow (2023 [2024], OA2): [cd]: B+(**) [06-21]
  • Arushi Jain: Delight (2024, Leaving): [sp]: B-
  • Kneecap: Fine Art (2024, Heavenly): [sp]: A-
  • Jim Kweskin: Never Too Late: Duets With Friends (2024, Storysound): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jon Langford: Gubbins (2023, self-released): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jon Langford & the Bright Shiners: Where It Really Starts (2024, Tiny Global Productions): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Joe McPhee With Ken Vandermark: Musings of a Bahamian Son: Poems and Other Words (2021 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Star Splitter [Gabriele Mitelli/Rob Mazurek]: Medea (2022 [2024], We Insist!): [sp]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Tony Oxley: Angular Apron (1992 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Tomasz Stanko Quartet: September Night (2004 [2024], ECM): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Mars Williams & Hamid Drake: I Know You Are but What Am I (1996 [2024], Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: A-
  • Mars Williams/Darin Gray/Chris Corsano: Elastic (2012, Corbett vs. Dempsey): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Peter Brötzmann/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Song Sentimentale (2015 [2016], Otoroku): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Rob Brown Trio: Breath Rhyme (1989, Silkheart): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rob Brown Quartet: The Big Picture (2003 [2004], Marge): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Cappello & Jeff Albert With William Parker: New Normal (2015 [2016], Breakfast 4 Dinner): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Kevin Coyne/Jon Langford/The Pine Valley Cosmonauts: One Day in Chicago (2002 [2005], Spinney): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jeremy Danneman: Lady Boom Boom (2013 [2016], Ropeadope): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jeremy Danneman: Help (2013 [2016], Ropeadope): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jeremy Danneman: Lost Signals (2013 [2016], Ropeadope): [sp]: A-
  • Jeremy Danneman and Sophie Nzayisenga: Honey Wine (2015 [2017], Ropeadope): [sp]: A-
  • Jeremy Danneman and the Down on Me: The Big Fruit Salad (2022, Ropeadope): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Die Like a Dog Quartet Featuring Roy Campbell: From Valley to Valley (1998 [1999], Eremite): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Sophia Domancich/Hamid Drake/William Parker: Washed Away: Live at the Sunside (2008 [2009], Marge): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Hamid Drake & Sabir Mateen: Brothers Together (2000 [2002], Eremite): [sp]: A-
  • Farmers by Nature [Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn]: Love and Ghosts (2011 [2014], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Peter Kuhn: Ghost of a Trance (1979-80 [1981], Hat Hut): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: The Legend of LL (2015, Country Mile): [bc]: A-
  • Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: President of Wales (2019, Country Mile): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Jemeel Moondoc Quintet: Nostalgia in Times Square (1985 [1986], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jemeel Moondoc Vtet: Revolt of the Negro Lawn Jockeys (2000, Eremite): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jemeel Moondoc & the Jus Grew Orchestra: Spirit House (20000, Eremite): [sp]: A-
  • Jemeel Moondoc With Dennis Charles: We Don't (1981 [2003], Eremite): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Joe Morris/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: Altitude (2011 [2012], AUM Fidelity): [sp]: B+(**)
  • William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Mass for the Healing of the World (1998 [2003], Black Saint): [sp]: A-
  • William Parker Quartet: Live in Wroclove (2012 [2023], ForTune): [sp]: B+(***)
  • William Parker: For Those Who Are, Still (2000-13 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 3CD): [r]: A-
  • William Parker/David Budbill: What I Saw This Morning (2014 [2016], AUM Fidelity): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Bologna (1987 [1988], Leo): [r]: A-
  • The Cecil Taylor Unit: Live in Vienna (1987 [1988], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor: Tzotzil Mummers Tzotzil (1987 [1988], Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • David S. Ware Trio: Passage to Music (1988, Silkheart): [r]: B+(***)
  • David S. Ware Quartet: Cryptology (1994 [1995], Homestead): [yt]: A-
  • David S. Ware: Organica (Solo Saxophones, Volume 2) (2010 [2011], AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: Lost on Land & Sea (2023, Country Mile): [bc]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Fox Green: Holy Souls (self-released '22)
  • Fox Green: Light Darkness (self-released)
  • Frank London/The Elders: Spirit Stronger Than Blood (ESP-Disk) [06-07]
  • Michael Pagán: Paganova (Capri) [07-19]
  • Jerome Sabbagh: Heart (Analog Tone Factory) [08-30]
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii: Aloft (Libra) [07-12]
  • Thollem: Worlds in a Life, Two (ESP-Disk) [04-05]

 

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I woke up Thursday morning with my usual swirl of thoughts, but the one I most felt like jotting down is that I prefer to take an optimistic view of the 2024 elections, contrary to the prospect of doom and gloom many rational people fear. I find it impossible to believe that most Americans, when they are finally faced with the cold moment of decision, will endorse the increasingly transparent psychopathology of Donald Trump. Sure, the American people have been seduced by right-wing fantasy before, but Reagan and the Bushes tried to disguise their aims by spinning sunny yarns of a kinder, gentler conservatism.

Even Nixon, who still outranks Trump as a vindictive, cynical bastard, claimed to be preserving some plausible, old-fashioned normality. All Trump promises is "taking back" the nation and "making America great again": empty rhetoric lent gravity (if not plausability) by his unbridled malice toward most Americans. Sure, he got away with it in 2016, partly because many people gave him the benefit of doubt but also because the Clinton spell wore off, leaving "crooked Hillary" exposed as a shill for the money-grubbing metro elites. But given Trump's media exposure, both as president and after, the 2024 election should mostly be a referendum on Trump. I still can't see most Americans voting for him.

That doesn't mean Trump cannot win, but in order to do so, two things have to happen: he has to make the election be all about Biden, and Biden has to come up seriously short. One can ponder a lot of possible issues that Biden might be faulted for, and come up with lots of reasons why they might but probably won't matter. (For example, the US may experience a record bad hurricane season, but will voters blame Biden for that and see Trump as better?) But we needn't speculate, because Biden already has his albatross issue: genocide in Gaza. I'm not going to relitigate his failures here, but in terms of my "optimistic view," I will simply state that if Biden loses -- and such an outcome should be viewed not as a Trump win but as a Biden loss -- it will be well deserved, as no president so involved in senseless war, let alone genocide, deserves another term.

So it looks like the net effect of my optimism is to turn what may look like a lose-lose presidential proposition into a win-win. We are currently faced with two perilous prospects: on the one hand, Biden's penchant for sinking into foreign wars, which he tries to compensate for by being occasionally helpful or often just less miserable on various domestic policies; on the other, Republicans so universally horrible we scarcely need to list out the comparisons. Given that choice, one might fervently hope for Biden to win, not because we owe him any blanket support, but because post-election opposition to Biden can be more focused on a few key issues, whereas with Trump we're back to square one on almost everything.

But if Biden loses, his loss will further discredit the centrist style that has dominated the Democratic Party at least since Carter. There are many problems with that style, most deriving from the need to serve donors in order to attract them, which lends them an air of corruption, destroying their credibility. Sure, Republicans are corrupt too, even more so, but their corruption is consistent with their values -- dog-eat-dog individualism, accepting gross inequality, using government to discipline rather than ameliorate the losers -- so it comes off as honest, maybe even courageous. But Democrats are supposed to believe in public service, government for the people, and that's hard to square with their individual pursuit of power in the service of wealth.

So, sure, a Trump win would be a disaster, but it would free the Democrats from having to defend their compromised, half-assed status quo, and it would give them a chance to pose a genuine alternative, and a really credible one at that. I'd like to think that Democrats could get their act together, and build that credible alternative on top of Biden's half-hearted accomplishments. It would be nice to not have to start with the sort of wreckage Trump left in 2021, or Bush left in 2009, or that other Bush left in 1993 (and one can only shudder at the thought of what Trump might leave us in 2029). But people rarely make major changes based on reasoned analysis. It usually takes a great shock to force that kind of change -- like what the Great Depression did to a nation previously in love with Herbert Hoover, or like utter defeat did to Germany and Japan in WWII.

If there was any chance that a Trump win in 2024 would result in a stable and prosperous America, even if only for the 51% or so it would take for Republicans to continue winning elections, we might have something to be truly fearful of. But nothing they want to do works. The only thing they know how to do is to worsen problems, which are largely driven by forces beyond their control -- business, culture, climate, war, migration -- and all their lying, cheating, and outright repression only rub salt into the wounds. When people see how bad Republican rule really is, their support will wither rapidly.

The question is what Democrats have to do to pick up the support of disaffected Trumpers. One theory is to embrace the bigotry they showed in embracing Trump. A better one would be promise the grit, integrity, independence, and vision that Trump promised by couldn't deliver on, partly because he's a crook and con man who never cared, but largely because he surrounded himself by Republicans who had their own corrupt and/or deranged agendas.


I had more thoughts I wanted to write up, mostly involving what I like to think of as dialectics, but which can be defined as how seemingly stable states can suddenly be transformed into quite different states. One example was how Germans went from being Nazis to fawning Israelphiles, while Israelis became the new Nazis. Alas, no time for that here, but the theme is bound to recur.


I didn't get around to gathering the usual links and adding my various comments this week. Better luck next time.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Daily Log

Transcribing a bit of mail from RogueArt on William Parker. They list four books of interviews. The albums in the email (all on RogueArt, my grades in brackets):

  • Steve Swell's Fire Into Music: For Jemeel Fire From the Road (2004-2005) (2023) [A-]
  • William Parker/Matthew Shipp: Re-union (2021) [-]
  • Matthew Shipp String Trio: Symbolic Reality (2019) [-]
  • Steve Swell Soul Travelers: Astonishments (2020) [A]
  • Matthew Shipp: Magnetism(s) (2017) [-]
  • Eloping With the Sun: Counteract This Turmoil Like Trees and Birds (2016) [-]
  • Matthew Shipp Quartet/Declared Enemy: Our Lady of the Flowers (2015) [-]
  • Steve Swell Quintet: Soul Travelers (2016) [A-]
  • The Turbine!: Entropy/Enthalpy (2015) [-]
  • Alexandre Pierrepont/Mike Ladd: Maison Hantée (2008) []
  • Hamid Drake & Bindu: Blissful (2008) []
  • William Parker Double Quartet: Alphaville Suite (2007) [-]
  • Steve Swell's Fire Into Music: Swimming in a Galaxy of Goodwill and Sorrow (2007) [-]
  • Peter Kowald/Laurence Petit-Jouvet: Off the Road (2007)
  • Declared Enemy: Salute to 100001 Stars: A Tribute to Jean Genet (2006)

The email continues:

CELEBRATING WILLIAM PARKER
ROULETTE, BROOKLYN
TUESDAY JUNE 18th, 6 pm
Mantra, Roots & Rituals, Trail of Tears (excerpt),
Raining on the Moon, The Ancients,
William Parker & Huey's Pocket Watch

So, Vision Festival 2024 will start on Tuesday June 18th with the night dedicated to William Parker and will end on Sunday June 24 with Marshall Allen & the Sun Ra Arkestra to celebrate Marshall Allen 100th anniversary.

And also in between Devalois Fearon Dance, James Brandon Lewis, Chad taylor, Mattthew Shipp Trio, Tarbaby (O. Evans, E. Revis, N. Waits), Jen Shyu, Ingrid Laubrock, Darius Jones Quintet, James Blood Ulmer Black Rock Trio, Isaiah Barr duo "Red Zone", Miriam Parker Core-Edge Quartet, Fred Moten, Cooper-Moore, Ava Mendoza, Melanie Dyer's Incalculable Likelihood, Amina Claudine Myers, Jason Kao Hwang, Oliver Lake, Patricia Nicholson, Matana Roberts Coin Coin, Thollem McDonas, Isaiah Collier, Rob Brown/Steve Swell quartet . . .

Nate Chinen has done an interview with Parker: William Parker, Sound Sage. Full audio seems to require a subscription, but page has a 1:07 excerpt, plus a transcript from Sept. 23, 2022.

Arts for Art founded Vision Festival in 1996 in New York City. This year is their 26th.

Parker is described here as "legendary bassist, composer, improvisor, multi-instrumentalist, author and community leader." Further down, also mentions: poet, educator.

Gargi Shindé notes: "To the community he calls home in the Lower East Side of New York City, the professional accomplishments of William Parker are not separate from his humanitarian vision to heal a world severed by capitalistic greed and hyper commodification of culture. Global consequences of American imperialism, labor exploitation, disenfranchisement in literacy and education, and aggressive urban gentrification -- William's creative repertoire is an unceasing response to the perpetually shifting targets of socio-political disenfranchisement."

Past winners of Vision Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award:

  • past: Amina Claudine Myers, Andrew Cyrille, Dave Burrell, Peter Brötzmann, Milford Graves
  • 2022: Wadada Leo Smith, Oliver Lake
  • 2024: William Parker

Opening night (6/18/2024) schedule:

  • 6:00: Mantra: Lisa Sokolov
  • 6:30: Roots & Rituals: Parker, Joe Morris, Joshua Abrams, Mixashawn Rozie, Jackson Krall, Juma Sultan, Michael Wimberly, Hamid Drake, Isaiah Parker
  • 7:15: Trail of Tears (excerpt): Andrea Wolper, AnneMarie Sandy, Mara Rosenbloom, James Brandon Lewis, Rozie, Parker, Drake
  • 8:30: Raining on the Moon: Parker, Rob Brown, Steve Swell, Eri Yamamoto, Drake, Leena Conquest
  • 9:15: The Ancients: Parker, Isaiah Collier, William Hooker, Dave Burrell, Miriam Parker (dance)
  • 10:00: William Parker & Huey's Pocket Watch: Brown, Aakash Mittal, Isaiah Barr, Alfredo Colon, Dave Sewelson, Swell, Colin Babcock, Taylor Ho Bynum, Diego Hernandez, Colson Jimenez, Hans Young Binter, Juan Pablo Carletti, Ellen Christi, Kyoko Kitamura, Patricia Nicholson

Programs continue for six days, until Sunday 6/23, when "Marshall Allen & the Arkestra: Celebrates Marshall's 100th Birthday."

Monday, June 17, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 43 albums, 9 A-list

Music: Current count 42503 [42460] rated (+43), 22 [31] unrated (-9).

Going through a very busy stretch, but not sure what I really have to talk about here. I do have a fairly hefty bunch of records to report on, partly aided by recent consumer guides by Robert Christgau, Christian Iszchak, Brad Luen, and Michael Tatum. Still, I'm not sure I've caught up with any of them. I barely got through the I Am Three records Chris Monsen recommended -- their first album I previously had at B+(***) but it, too, sounds terrific, as is often the case with freewheeling Mingus.

The Jasmine In Session comps were recommended by Clifford Ocheltree. I resisted the Eddie Taylor until this morning, when I woke up with songs from it in my head. The recommendation list goes deeper, but so far that's all I've sprung for.

I have a request to write something about William Parker, on the occasion of his Vision Fest Lifetime Achievement Award. Back in 2003 I wrote a fairly extensive consumer guide to the work of Parker and/or Matthew Shipp (who was more my initial interest), and I've tried to keep up since then, including his two new albums below. So I figured: write 3-4 paragraphs of glowing intro, then tack on a dozen (or two) capsule reviews. Whether it's as easily done as said remains to be seen. All I've done so far has been to collect the reviews from the work files: current count is 249, but at the moment I'm listening to a 2009 record I had missed, and I'll probably come up with a few more. (RogueArt sent out email highlighting their 15 Parker albums, of which I've only heard 3 -- thanks mostly to Steve Swell).

What research I've done so far has mostly been humbling. Parker has four volumes of Conversations that I can't begin to get to. I just ordered a copy of Cisco Bradley's Universal Tonality: The Life and Music of William Parker, but won't have time to get very deep into. I do have a copy of Rick Lopez's marvelous The William Parker Sessionography (to 2014; also online, but only up to 2020). But I could easily fritter away all of my scant remaining time just checking items off -- although the annotation is so distracting I might never finish.

Meanwhile, I've burned up a fair amount of time with my metacritic file, to which I've started to add mid-year best-of ("so far") lists. It's still pretty spotty at present, and skewed toward the Christgau-friendly Expert Witness critics -- which has paid off in elevating Waxahatchee over Smile, with Billie Eilish and Beyoncé gaining ground, followed by Vampire Weekend, Adrianne Lenker, Hurray for the Riff Raff, and Maggie Rogers. I only have three A-list albums in the top ten, but Christgau has five in the top six (even though I haven't factored his grades in yet).

The mid-year lists I have are noted in the legend. While the first ones started showing up around June 1, in past years they've peaked in late June, with a few stragglers in July. I haven't noticed any jazz lists yet, so I'm thinking about running my own. I have the mailing list and software from the Francis Davis Jazz Critics Poll, and evidently have time to kill.

The biggest time-kill remains Speaking of Which, which again topped 10,000 words on Sunday, with minor additions today.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Actress: Statik (2024, Smalltown Supersound): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Africatown, AL: Ancestor Sounds (2024, Free Dirt): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Bruna Black/John Finbury: Vã Revelação (2024, Green Flash): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: Songs My Mom Liked (2024, Origin): [cd]: B+(***) [06-21]
  • Etienne Charles: Creole Orchestra (2018 [2024], Culture Shock): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Charli XCX: Brat (2024, Atlantic): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Devouring the Guilt: Not to Want to Say (2021 [2024], Kettle Hole): [cd]: B+(***)
  • DJ Anderson do Paraiso: Queridão (2023 [2024], Nyege Nyege Tapes): [sp]: B
  • Ducks Ltd.: Harm's Way (2024, Carpark): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Phillip Golub: Abiding Memory (2024, Endectomorph Music): [cd]: B+(**) [06-21]
  • Grandaddy: Blu Wav (2024, Dangerbird): [sp]: B
  • Alex Harding/Lucian Ban: Blutopia (2024, Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Hermanos Gutiérrez: Sonido Cósmico (2024, Easy Eye Sound): [sp]: A-
  • Mike Holober & the Gotham Jazz Orchestra: This Rock We're On: Imaginary Letters (2023, Palmetto, 2CD): [cd]: B
  • Homeboy Sandman: Rich II (2024, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • I Am Three: In Other Words (2024, Leo): [sp]: A-
  • Kaytranada: Timeless (2024, RCA): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The Libertines: All Quiet on the Eastern Esplanade (2024, Casablanca/Republic): [sp]: B
  • Raul Midón: Lost & Found (2024, ReKondite ReKords): [sp]: C+
  • Andy Milne and Unison: Time Will Tell (2024, Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ol' Burger Beats: 74: Out of Time (2024, Coalmine): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Alicia and Michael Olatuja: Olatuja (2022-24 [2024], Whirlwind): [sp]: B+(*)
  • One for All: Big George (2022 [2024], Smoke Sessions): [sp]: B+(*)
  • William Parker/Cooper-Moore/Hamid Drake: Heart Trio (2021 [2024], AUM Fidelity): [cd]: A- [06-21]
  • William Parker & Ellen Christi: Cereal Music (2024, AUM Fidelity): [cd]: B+(***) [06-21]
  • Rob Parton's Ensemble 9+: Relentless (2023 [2024], Calligram): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Porij: Teething (2024, Play It Again Sam): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Kenny Reichert: Switch (2023 [2024], Calligram): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Brandon Ross Phantom Station: Off the End (2024, Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Shaboozey: Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going (2024, Republic/Empire): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Flavio Silva: Eko (2024, Break Free): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Uncle Waffles: Solace (2023, Ko-Sign/Encore): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Kiki Valera: Vacilón Santiaguero (2024, Circle 9 Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Good Trouble (2023 [2024], Palmetto): [cdr]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Broadcast: Spell Blanket: Collected Demos 2006-2009 (2006-09 [2024], Warp): [sp]: B
  • Love Child: Never Meant to Be 1988-1993 (1988-93 [2024], 12XU): [sp]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Big Walter Horton: In Session: From Memphis to Chicago 1951-1955 (1951-59 [2019], Jasmine): [cd]: A-
  • Ducks Ltd.: Get Bleak (2019 [2021], Carpark, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Floyd Jones/Eddie Taylor: Masters of Modern Blues (1966 [1994], Testament): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Maggie Nicols/Silke Eberhard/Nikolaus Neuser/Christian Marten: I Am Three & Me: Mingus' Sounds of Love (2018 [2019], Leo): [sp]: A-
  • Skikamoo Jazz: Chela Chela Vol. 1 (1993-95 [1995], RetroAfric): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Shikamoo Jazz: East African Legends Live (1995 [2022], RetroTan): [sp]: A-
  • Eddie Taylor: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957 (1953-57 [2016], Jasmine): [cd]: A-
  • Eddie Taylor: I Feel So Bad (1972, Advent): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jody Williams: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1954-1962 (1954-62 [2018], Jasmine): [cd]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kim Cass: Levs (Pi) [06-28]
  • Jon De Lucia: The Brubeck Octet Project (Musæum Clausum) [07-12]
  • Mathias Højgaard Jensen: Is as Is (Fresh Sound New Talent) [05-31]
  • Brian Landrus: Plays Ellington & Strayhorn (Palmetto) [07-12]
  • Miles Okazaki: Miniature America (Cygnus) [07-19]
  • Matthew Shipp: The Data (RogueArt) * [06-17]

 

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I picked up a couple new projects this week, which has put me in a dither, but I got up Sunday morning and stuck with this, making my usual rounds (though not much time on X), and figure I've collected and written enough. (Would be nice to add some more music mid-year lists, but I may add them in a Monday update.)

I'm reading Steve Hahn's Illiberal America: A History, well into the chapter on neoliberals who proved their "neo" by going "il" -- quite a bit of Bill Clinton there, but not so much Buchanan/Perot, who pop up in a book review toward the end here. No doubt there's still a lot of Trump to come.

PS: Laura Tillem reposted a poem she wrote for "a poetry slam, for international day of peace celebration in Wichita."


Initial count: 202 links, 9,929 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): on music.


Top story threads:

Israel: This remains, as it has since the Hamas revolt on Oct. 7, 2023, our top story, both in terms of its overall impact and the extent and volatility of news coverage. After going through several permutations, I've found it useful to break the stories up into three groups. This one covers the political concerns and the conflicts within Israel (including Gaza, and neighboring areas like Lebanon that Israel is in direct conflict with). We should be clear that what the IDF is doing in Gaza is genocide, and is intended as such. We should also be clear that Israel practices systematic discrimination and sporadic terror against Palestinians outside of Gaza which, while not rising to the intensity of genocide, should be universally condemned.

The most common word for these policies and practices is "apartheid" -- a word used by South Africa to describe their peculiar implementation of racist segregation, drawn largely on the American example. While there are subtle differences in Israel's implementation, the word is good enough for practical use. One major problem with genocide in Gaza is that it provides cover for increasing violence in the broader practice of apartheid.

The second section concerns diplomatic relations between Israel and the US, and political directives regarding Israel within the US. Israel's ability to carry out genocide in Gaza is directly related to US military, political, and diplomatic support, and this extends to efforts to suppress free speech and to influence elections within the US. (It is, for instance, impossible to see AIPAC as an American interest group given that it operates in lockstep with Israeli foreign policy.)

Student demonstrations, on the other hand, fall into a third subject grouping, "Israel vs. world opinion." This also includes the ICC/ICJ genocide cases, world diplomatic activity aside from that by Israel and the US, and more general discussions of what charges of genocide and antisemitism mean.

America's Israel (and Israel's America):

  • As'ad AbuKhalil: [06-11] Biden's Saudi deal.

  • Michael Arria:

  • Ramzy Baroud: [06-15] America crawls further into global isolation by backing Gaza genocide.

  • Jonathan Chait: [06-08] Why on Earth is Chuck Schumer inviting Netanyahu to address Congress? "It's hard for me to think of an explanation for Schumer's action other than sheer spinelessness."

  • Isaac Chotiner: [06-11] Is Biden's Israel policy cynical or naïve? "Evaluating eight months of the President's attempt to moderate Netanyahu's bombing campaign in Gaza." Interview with Matt Duss, of the Center for International Policy, former chief foreign-policy adviser to Bernie Sanders. Worth quoting at length when asked "what can you imagine a different Democratic Administration doing?":

    Well, I think a different Democratic Administration could have taken this issue more seriously before October 7th. That's not to say we needed another round of the usual peace process. But there have been alarms sounded about Gaza for many, many years by international N.G.O.s; certainly by Palestinians, constantly; by Israeli security officials; by members of Congress, including my former boss. The idea that we could just kind of kick the Palestinians into the corner and manage the problem without any real consequences -- that was revealed as a fantasy on October 7th.

    After October 7th, I hope and think any Democratic Administration would've done immediately what President Biden did: show full support, full solidarity, and really spend time with what occurred on October 7th in all its horror, and stand by Israel as it defended its people.

    At some point though, and fairly quickly, it became clear that what was going to be carried out in Gaza was not just self-defense. It became clear very quickly that this was a war of revenge. We have countless statements from Israeli government officials, many of which have been collected in South Africa's case in the International Court of Justice, which includes accusations of genocide. And we can see with our own eyes the kind of tactics that are being used on densely populated civilian areas in Gaza. A different Democratic Administration might've taken that much more seriously and acted with much more urgency much sooner.

    It's hard to imagine what a different Democrat could have done pre-October 7th. Obama, who almost certainly knew better, managed next to nothing helpful in eight years. There have been ways for an American president to impress upon Israel the need to take some constructive steps, but there has been little political urgency to do so, especially given the influence of pro-Israel donors in our oligarchic political system. While Sanders certainly knows better, I doubt he would have risked whatever political capital he had to bang his head against against a very recalcitrant Netanyahu.

    The next two paragraphs fairly describe what Sanders did, but ineffectively without the portfolio of the presidency. The rush to rally to Israel's defense was nearly universal in Washington, although what was really needed was to lean hard -- starting in private -- against Israel's armed response, as it was instantly clear that the intent would be genocidal, and that would lock Israel into a disastrous public relations spiral while doing virtually nothing for Israel's long-term security.

    One more point to stress here: Biden's failure to anticipate and correct for Israel's horrific response -- indeed, his failure to comprehend the problem despite following Israel closely for over fifty years -- is not simply attributable to the corrupt influence of the Israel lobby. It is deeply ingrained in America's own habitual response to security issues, which especially with the neocons under Clinton and Bush took Israel as the model for managing the threat of terrorism.

  • Zachary Cohen/Katrie Bo Lillis: [06-07] CIA assessment concludes Netanyahu is likely to defy US pressure to set a post-war plan for Gaza.

  • Juan Cole: [06-15] How Netanyahu and fascists in his coalition shot down the Biden peace plan.

  • Joshua Keating: [06-12] The perplexing state of Gaza ceasefire negotiations, explained: "The problem is that it's not clear either side wants a ceasefire." Beware of explanations that start off with a patently false subhed. Literally every single Palestinian, even ones claiming to represent whatever's left of Hamas, want a ceasefire, and have been pleading for one ever since the rupture on Oct. 7 was closed. It's Israel that doesn't want a ceasefire, which is due to three factors: the first is that they're doing well over 99% of the firing, and they like those odds; they also think that the more Palestinians they kill, and the more of Gaza they destroy and render uninhabitable, the closer they'll be to their goal, which is the complete the removal of Palestinians from Eretz Israel; and as long as the US is willing to provide ammo and run diplomatic cover, they see no need for restraint, let alone for disengagement. Much of Netanyahu's power in Israel is tied to the reputation he's built as someone who can cower American presidents, and in that regard, Biden has been a very dependable ally.

    The "negotiations" also involve hostages, but this, too, is very asymmetrical. Hamas took 250 during the Oct. 7 attacks, not so much to exchange them for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel (thousands of them, a number which has increased rapidly since Oct. 7) as to inhibit Israel's attacks. In short, their value was to press for a truce (Hamas likes the term "hudna"), but trades for temporary ceasefires and prisoners offer little respite and diminished protection. And now, after eight months, with half of the hostages exchanged, and many more killed by Israeli fire, the remaining hostages are down to about 80. And at this point, Netanyahu is unwilling to give up his war just to get hostages back. If anything, the hostages do Netanyahu more good if "Hamas" keeps them, as they give him an excuse to keep attacking. At this point, Palestinians would be better off just freeing the hostages, in the probably vain hope that doing so might generate some good will. But that's hard for "Hamas" to do, because without the hostages, do they even exist any more?

    More on Biden's proposal and the "negotiations":

    • Dave DeCamp:

    • Adam Hanieh: [06-14] Why the fight for Palestine is the fight against US imperialism in the region: There is a lot of useful history in this piece, but I don't particularly subscribe to its thesis and drift. US imperialism was real enough but has become increasingly incoherent, especially once it lost its Cold War compass in the 1990s, so that these days it's mostly a sleazy game of graft, with a hugely expensive logistics network but no coherent vision, at least beyond nursing a few old grudges (like Iran and North Korea). British colonialism is even more of a ghost. That you can find echoes and innuendos in Israel is no surprise, but these days it's the Israelis who are pulling American and British strings, for their own purposes, with hardly any regard for whatever the West may want. The article claims that Israel and the Gulf monarchies are "two pillars [that] remain the crux of American power in the region today." But they're really just playing their own games, as likely to trip the US up as to help it.

    • David Hearst: [06-14] Blinken is dragging the US ever deeper into Israel's quagmire.

    • Adam Johnson: [06-11] Media keeps playing along with fiction there is an "Israel ceasefire deal" "Don't squint too hard, one may notice Israel is clear they have no intention to 'end the war.'" By the way, Johnson also published an interesting piece by "a Palestinian-American quantitative researcher focusing on disinformation and censorship in mass media," under the pseudonym "Otto": [2023-11-15] "Massacred" vs "Left to Die": Documenting media bias against Palestinians Oct 7-Nov 7: "A quantitative analysis of the first month of conflict, reveals how dehumanization is baked into the ideoogical cake of cable news."

    • Fred Kaplan:

      • [06-12] Why there's so much confusion about the Israeli peace plan: Uh, because as articulated it's not actually an Israeli plan. Because there is no Israeli plan -- not for peace, anyway. And since permanent conflict with periodic acts of war doesn't much need forethought, there's no plan for that either.

      • [06-13] Hamas's counteroffer is neither realistic nor serious. But only if you start from the assumption that Israel's demands -- which, though never clearly articulated, are roughly: Hamas frees all the hostages, gives up its struggle for Palestinian rights, and surrenders its leader for summary execution -- are the very definition of serious and realistic. In any normal world, the argument that Israel should withdraw its military from Gaza and refrain from further attacks would be completely reasonable.

    • MEE Staff: [06-13] Hamas demands Israel end Gaza blockade as part of ceasefire deal.

    • Mitchell Plitnick: [06-15] Blinken's lies about Hamas rejecting a ceasefire reveal the Biden administration's true intentions: "The Biden administration is playing a shell game with the Gaza ceasefire that aims to trick the Democratic base into thinking meaningful action is taking place to end fighting while still allowing Israel to continue its genocidal campaign."

    • Ishaan Tharoor: [06-12] Israel shrugs at Palestinian civilian casualties. So does Hamas. "In new report, Hamas's leader in Gaza is said to describe Palestinian civilian deaths as 'necessary sacrifices.'" I'm inclined to dismiss anything attributed to Hamas, as I regard them as a spent force, one at present only being propped up by Israel in their need to identify an enemy not quite as inclusive as every Palestinian. But the idea that martyrdom is preferable to subjection and slavery runs deep in the human psyche, so we shouldn't be surprised to find it articulated by Hamas speakers (especially ones removed from the fray). We should reject such sentiments, of course, but also be clear that the blame for them, and for the sacrifices they demand, belongs squarely on those whose power has made only those choices seem possible.

    • Spencer Ackerman: [06-03] 'Phase 2': The shape of Israeli rejectionism to come: "Biden has declared that Israel's reasonable war aims have been achieved. Netanyahu is in no position to agree."

  • Jim Lobe: [06-12] That stinks: Global opinion of US goes down the toilet.

  • Blaise Malley: [06-14] GOP trying to drive wedge between Dems with Israel votes.

  • Stephen Semler: [06-12] Washington is not telling truth about the Gaza pier: "They say food is 'flowing' to the people, but data shows the opposite."

    • Tareq S Hajjaj: [06-14] The story of the US 'floating dock' built from the rubble of Gaza's homes: "The U.S. said it was constructing a floating pier off Gaza's coast to deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. However, the real reason it exists is to protect American interests in the region."

    • Ahmed Omar: [06-11] Gaza resistance sources say fear is rising US pier will be used for forced displacement of Palestinians: "Critics warn the U.S.-constructed pier off Gaza's coast is being used for military purposes. Now a source in the Gaza resistance says there are indications it will be used to facilitate the forced displacement of Palestinians." They have good reason to be fearful. Most of the Palestinian refugees in Beirut were stampeded onto British ships in Jaffa, as they fled the indiscriminate shelling by the Irgun in 1948, the Israelis having their preference for killing all Palestinians at Deir Yassin. With Egypt resisting their efforts to drive Gazans out through the Sinai, the pier and the ever-obliging Americans will increasingly look like some kind of final solution.

  • Emily Tamkin:

  • Prem Thakker: House votes to block US funding to rebuild Gaza.

Israel vs. world opinion:

Election notes:

Trump:

And other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Yasmeen Abutaleb: [06-16] Biden, Obama warn of Trump dangers in star-studded L.A. fundraiser.

  • David Atkins: [06-07] Democrats should run against the Supreme Court: "And they should take on more than the overturning of Roe v. Wade. They ought to campaign against the whole Trump-enabled, rights-stealing, gift-taking conservative supermajority." Of course they should, and to some extent they clearly are, although their message hasn't been fully articulated yet. But it shouldn't be: if we win, we're going to pack the Court. It should be to win big in Congress and the Presidency, then pass popular laws, daring the Court to strike them down. Either the Court will back down, or discredit itself. Either way, win more elections, and appoint better judges. Eventually, like FDR, you will win.

  • Zachary D Carter: [06-10] Inflation is not destroying Joe Biden.

  • David Dayen:

  • Chauncey DeVega:

  • Pramila Jayapal: [06-03] The Congressional Progressive Caucus agenda for 2025.

  • Eric Levitz: [06-13] Biden is on track to beat inflation and lose the presidency: "The data on prices is getting better, but the public's disapproval of the president remains unchanged."

  • David Masciotra: [06-14] Hillary Clinton, truth teller: "Republicans, the media, and plenty of Democrats were shocked -- shocked! -- to hear her say anti-Israel protestors don't know Middle Eastern history and to suggest prejudice might animate a large swatch of Trump voters." As soon as I saw this title, my mind offered a quick edit to the title: "truth teller for sale." Of course, that's not totally accurate: she is so attuned to the whims and wishes of her donors that she doesn't have to wait for the checks to clear. But is what she says about those who protest against Israeli policies true? I don't doubt that she's a very smart person who has been thoroughly schooled in the fine arts of hasbara, but I'm pretty sure I know a lot more Middle Eastern history than she does, and for good measure I'd drop American history into the mix. (Actually, her quote seems to be "that most 'young people' don't know the history of 'many area of the world, including our own country.'")

    Or at least, I understand what I know a lot better than she does. Not for a minute did I ever think invading Iraq would be a good idea. As for other protestors, some may be less knowledgeable, but some know even more than I do: for instance, the author picks on Juan Cole ("an academic popular with the hard left who consistently defends the brutality of Iran and flirts with antisemitism" -- link on Iran, which actually goes to a 2006 article by neocon-convert Christopher Hitchens, but not on antisemitism), who has written many useful books on the region and who runs a website that has consistently earned its "Informed Comment" moniker for more than 20 years.

    While understanding history can help you sort out arguments, which side you take depends more on how you respond to one very simple question: does the sympathy/respect you feel for Jews in Israel allow for or deny sympathy/respect for Palestinians? Or you can reverse the question either way (swap the people, or swap the sentiment to "disdain/disinterest"). Any way you slice it, people who respect all others as people will recoil from the treatment of Israelis against Palestinians, and therefore be critical of the current Israeli regime. History may help you to understand why this particular state happened, and maybe even how it might be changed. It will certainly suggest much about what happens if the current hatreds are allowed to continue and fester. But whether you care depends more on what kind of person you are. And Hillary Clinton's insensitivity and arrogance tells you much about what kind of person she is, which is someone whose only guiding principle is the pursuit of power. The willingness to say unpleasant things in that cause doesn't make you an oracle. It may just mean you're an asshole.

    By the way, Masciotra doesn't stop with Clinton's shilling for the Israel lobby. He still wants to defend her 2016 campaign "basket of deplorables" gaffe, which even she apologized for at the time. He seems to think that if she hadn't spilled the beans, nobody would have realized that lots of racists supported Trump because they recognized in him a fellow racist. (Clinton didn't put it that precisely. She said "deplorable" instead of racist, a code that her fellow liberals recognized while it just seemed snobby to the racists. And by saying "many" she got taken for "most," leaving the rest free to take umbrage over the generalization.) He also bothers to quote and defend Clinton's "truth" about Bernie Sanders: "Nobody likes him, nobody wants to work with him. He got nothing done." You'd think that a truther would be more concerned with what Sanders was proven right about than with how much lobby-backed legislation he lent his name to, but evidently not. What did Clinton ever accomplish that wasn't in the service to well-heeled lobbyists? I mean, aside from losing an election to Donald Trump?

  • Nicole Narea: [06-11] Biden's overlooked campaign to protect Americans from Big Business: "Many Americans are focused on inflation, but from Big Tech to junk fees, Biden is advancing a pro-consumer agenda." I think this sort of thing is very important, and a very stark contrast to the Trump embrace of kleptocracy, fraud, and business criminality (which, as should be clear by now, he not only enables and excuses, but has vast experience engaging in).

  • Christian Paz: [06-12] Are LGBTQ voters about to abandon Biden? One of those things I refuse to worry about. If Democrats could ever figure out how to get most of the votes from all the people who would be better served by Democrats rather than Republicans winning, they wouldn't have to subdivide their message into constituent identity groups, many of which don't want to hear about each other, let alone what they perceive as pandering to others. On the other hand, if you do identify as a member of a group Republicans are orchestrating hate against, are you really going to hurt yourself just so you can spite Biden? At some point between now and November, you're going to have to wake up and smell the sewer, and decide whether drown in it or escape. Then do the grown up thing and vote.

  • Stephen Prager:

  • Michael Tomasky: [06-14] There's a new "silent majority" out there -- and it is not conservative: "Ever since Richard Nixon used the phrase, it's been a Republican thing. But the Republicans are the extremists now, and the Silent Majority isn't what it was in 1969." I think there's a lot to be said for this point, but it's hard to figure out how to use it.

  • Dylan Wells: [06-15] Meet the 24-year-old trying to solve Biden's problems with young voters: "Eve Levenson, the Biden campaign's national youth engagement director, may have one of the hardest jobs in American politics." Maybe because it's defined by a meaningless artifact of polling?

Hunter Biden: The jury convicted him on all three counts, with a possible maximum sentence of 25 years in jail. I'm surprised that I find this as disturbing as I do. I never liked the father, and find the son to be nothing but nepotistic scum. But he was charged with a crime that shouldn't be illegal, and convicted on evidence that shouldn't be admissable, only because Republicans in Congress (and the Special Prosecutor's office, and evidently the courts) through a hissy fit when he agreed to plead the charge down to near-nothing (more of a compromise than he should have had to do). That the jury went along with this sham is just more evidence of how rigged the system is against defendants. Moreover, because the defendant isn't Trump, Democrats are biting their tongues and expressing their pride in a very corrupt justice system, while Biden won't consider a pardon because he believes that would look bad (like he's playing politics with justice) -- totally the opposite of what Trump has done all along.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • American Prospect: Their June 2024 issue promises to expose: "How Pricing Really Works: The many innovations corporations have devised to get you to pay more." Here are some articles:

    • [06-14] The underbelly of the grocery store: "Nothing you see on the shelves is there by accident." How "junk fees, price-fixing, shrinkflation, personalization, and data collection -- come together at the grocery store. Every product's placement, every advertisement, every coupon is a function of marketing wizardry and hardball tactics, in a bid for the eyes and wallets of consumers."

    • [06-14] Lina Khan: Extraction exterminator: "The Federal Trade Commission chair plays a key role in preventing exploitative pricing schemes from taking root." An interview.

    • Bilal Baydoun: [06-14] Taming the pricing beast: "The government has a variety of strategies to protect the public from price-gouging and information advantages over the consumer."

    • David Dayen: [06-04] One person one price: "Digital surveillance and customer isolation are individualizing the prices we pay."

    • David Dayen/Lindsay Owens: [06-03] The age of recoupment: "How power, technology, and opportunity have come together to gouge consumers."

    • Jarod Facundo: [06-12] War in the aisles: "Monopolies across the grocery supply chain squeeze consumers and small-business owners alike. Big Data will only entrench those dynamics further."

    • Luke Goldstein: [06-05] Three algorithms in a room: "A growing number of industries are using software to fix prices. Law enforces are beginning to fight back."

    • Sarah Jaffe: [06-07] The urge to surge: "Businesses are hiking prices to take advantage of consumers. They learned it from Uber."

    • Hassan Ali Kanu: [06-06] Loaded up with junk: "Extra profits are the only explanation for many fees businesses charge."

    • Robert Kuttner: [06-13] Fantasyland general: "Hospital pricing is impenetrable to consumers and regulators alike. The result: increased costs and profits, and wasteful reliance on armies of middlemen."

    • Joanna Marsh: [06-10] The one-click economy: "Digital subscriptions are here to stay. What should we do about that?"

    • Kalena Thomhave: [06-11] What we owe: "The big banks behind the rising cost of credit."

Ukraine War and Russia:

America's empire and the world:

  • Jess Craig: [06-12] We're in a new era of conflict and crisis. Can humanitarian aid keep up? "Utter neglect of displaced people has become the new normal."

    Last year, more than 360 million people worldwide needed humanitarian assistance. To cover the costs of aid, the United Nations appealed to global donors -- primarily governments but also philanthropic individuals and institutes -- for a record $56 billion.

    But even as humanitarian needs peaked, funding for aid dwindled to its lowest levels since 2019. Less than half of that $56 billion was raised. As a result, the gap between global humanitarian funding needs and donor contributions reached its highest level in more than 20 years.

    And that's not the worst part. What funding was available was not allocated equitably across the world's crises. Conflicts in the Global South went vastly underfunded. Last week, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), a major humanitarian organization, published its annual ranking of the world's most neglected displacement crises. Nine of 10 were in Africa.

  • Ellen Ioanes:

    • [06-10] Why Europe is lurching to the right: "Far-right parties made big gains in EU Parliament elections -- and that's already having an effect." One thing I'll admit is that I've never had the slightest understanding of how the EU Parliament works or what, if anything, it is capable of doing. As near as I've been able to figure out, the EU seems to be a cloistered bureaucracy mostly concerned with economic matters, tightly controlled by a neoliberal oligarchy that is very well insulated against possible encroachments from the Democratic left -- who when they do manage to win elections, get beat down like Syriza in Greece. It is similarly unclear whether the right can have any real impact in the EU Parliament, although I suppose it might afford them an arena the one thing they specialize in, which is irritable gesticulating. Also on the EU elections:

    • [06-13] The fracturing of South African politics, explained: "What the defeat of the party that ended apartheid means for South Africa."

  • Hafsa Kanjwal: [06-13] How India is implementing the 'Israel model' in Kashmir.

  • Peter Oborne: [06-11] Tory Britain is about to fall. But what follows could be far worse: "The Conservatives have traditionally acted as a buffer against fascist forces. But after the impending electoral defeat, Farage and the far right are poised to win control of the party."

  • Vijay Prashad: [06-07] Migrating workers provide wealth for the world.


Other stories:

Erin Blakemore: [06-08] Tens of millions of acres of cropland lie abandoned, study shows: "The biggest changes took place around the Ogallala Aquifer, whose groundwater irrigates parts of numerous states, including Colorado, Texas and Wyoming."

Vivian Gornick: [06-06] Orgasm isn't my bag: A review of Trish Romano: The Freaks Came Out to Write: The Definitive History of the Village Voice, the Radical Paper That Changed American Culture. If it seems like I'm collecting reviews of this book, perhaps that means I should write my own. I read it, and perhaps more importantly, I lived it -- starting as a clueless subscriber in the 1960s.

Balaji Ravichandran: [06-12] Imperialilsm isn't in the past. Neither is the damage it did. A review of Charlotte Lydia Riley: Imperial Island: An Alternative History of the British Empire. Few subjects are more deserving of "a withering indictment" than the British Empire. The "damage done" to the rest of the world has been extensively documented, although little of it has sunk into the Churchill-worshipping cliques in the US and UK. What's far less well understood are the lingering distortions within British politics, and not just for the feedback immigration, which has become conspicuous of late.

Nathan J Robinson: [2018-12-07] Lessons from Chomsky: "Some things I've learned from his writings . . ."

Becca Rothfeld: [06-13] Donald Trump didn't spark out current political chaos. The '90s did. Review of John Ganz: When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists, and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s. Histories of 1990s US politics tend to feature the main event of Gingrich vs. Clinton, but I can see where focusing on fringe-crazy might offer some insights. Also on Ganz:

Music and other arts:

David Hajdu: [06-11] Seeing ourselves in Joni Mitchell: Review of Ann Powers' "deeply personal biography of Joni Mitchell": Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell. For another review:

Brad Luen: [06-16] Semipop Life: A very high shelf.

Michael Tatum: Books read (and not read): June 2024: I jumped straight to Trish Romano's The Freaks Came Out to Write, as that's the one I've actually read.

Midyear reports: I've been factoring these into my metacritic file.


A friend posted this on Facebook:

I am super critical of Biden's kneejerk support for Netanyahu but I agree 100% with my friend Linda L. Gebert who write this . . . "Please anyone, tell a young person that not voting or voting for a third-party candidate will only help Trump win -- we have to vote for Biden if we want to preserve women's health rights, our healthy economy, good relations with leaders of other countries, etc. . . ."

I offered this comment:

Rather than trying to weigh out positives and negatives on issues, or pondering the curse of lesser-evilism, another way to approach this is to accept that whoever wins is going to do lots of things that you oppose, so ask yourself who would you rather protest against? Biden's not so great on anything you mentioned, but at least with him, you don't have to start with arguments that even Biden agrees with.

I also added a link to Nathan J Robinson: No Leftist Wants a Trump Presidency.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 39 albums, 3 A-list

Music: Current count 42460 [42421] rated (+39), 31 [36] unrated (-5).

I published a pretty long Speaking of Which Sunday night (209 links, 12260 words). I fixed a couple typos, added a few more items, and a lot of words today -- the latter mostly came from extensive quotes of two articles I had flagged to include but didn't get to in time. I've also been including links to music pieces, which lately have mostly been mid-year lists I've factored into my metacritic file.

I lost a couple days of listening time when I fixed a couple of small dinners, one mostly Chinese, the second more Italian. I rarely cook, let alone entertain, these days, so it's nice to see that I still have some skills.

When I did manage to listen, I racked up records fast, possibly because I did more EPs than usual (7), and also because quite a few records inspired minimal commentary.

I mentioned it in Speaking of Which, but let me add an extra plug for the return of Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary, this one (52). In the aforementioned metacritic file, I'm giving his grades the same weight I give Robert Christgau's and my own's (although I haven't added many in yet).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Altus: Mythos (2024, Biophilia): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Oren Ambarchi/Johan Berthling/Andreas Werlin: Ghosted II (2024, Drag City): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Bab L' Bluz: Swaken (2024, Real World): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Evan Nicole Bell: Runaway Girl (2024, Humingbird, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Blue Lab Beats: Blue Eclipse (2024, Blue Adventure): [sp]: B
  • Aziza Brahim: Mawja (2024, Glitterbeat): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Cakes Da Killa: Black Sheep (2024, Young Art): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Madi Diaz: Weird Faith (2024, Anti-): [sp]: A-
  • John Escreet: The Epicenter of Your Dreams (2023 [2024], Blue Room Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Maria Faust Jazz Catastrophe: 3rd Mutation: Moth (2023 [2024], Bush Flash): [sp]: A-
  • Sierra Ferrell: Trail of Flowers (2024, Rounder): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Margaret Glaspy: The Sun Doesn't Think (2024, ATO, EP): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Ariana Grande: Eternal Sunshine (2024, Republic): [sp]: B+(**)
  • The Haas Company [Featuring Andy Timmons]: Vol. 1: Galactic Tide (2024, Psychiatric): [cd]: B
  • Marika Hackman: Big Sigh (2024, Chrysalis): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jake Hertzog: Longing to Meet You (2024, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Home Counties: Exactly as It Seems (2024, Submarine Cat): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Simone Keller: Hidden Heartache (2022 [2024], Intakt): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Lola Kirke: Country Curious (2024, One Riot, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Jon Langford & the Men of Gwent: Lost on Land & Sea (2023, Country Mile): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Bruce Lofgren Group: Earthly and Cosmic Tales (2024, Night Bird): [cd]: B
  • Lucy Rose: This Ain't the Way You Go Out (2024, Communion): [sp]: B+(*)
  • MIKE & Tony Seltzer: Pinball (2024, 10k, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Mk.gee: Two Star & the Dream Police (2024, R&R Digital): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Willie Nelson: The Border (2024, Legacy): [sp]: A-
  • Nubiyan Twist: Find Your Flame (2024, Strut): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Yvonnick Prené/Geoff Keezer: Jobim's World (2023 [2024], Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Bruno Råberg Tentet: Evolver (2024, Orbis Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Rapsody: Please Don't Cry (2024, Jamla/Roc Nation): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Raze Regal & White Denim Inc.: Raze Regal & White Denim Inc. (2023, Bella Union): [sp]: B
  • A. Savage: The Loft Sessions (2024, Rough Trade, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Shygirl: Club Shy (2024, Because Music, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ballaké Sissoko/Derek Gripper: Ballaké Cissoko & Derek Gripper (2024, Matsuli Music): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Connie Smith: Love, Prison, Wisdom and Heartaches (2024, Fat Possum): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Vince Staples: Dark Times (2024, Def Jam/Blacksmith): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Oded Tzur: My Prophet (2023 [2024], ECM): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Faye Webster: Underdressed at the Symphony (2024, Secretly Canadian): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Amber Weekes: A Lady With a Song: Amber Weekes Celebrates Nancy Wilson (2024, Amber Inn): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kelly Willis/Melissa Carper/Brennen Leigh: Wonder Women of Country (2024, Brooklyn Basement, EP): [sp]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • The Power of the Heart: A Tribute to Lou Reed (2024, Light in the Attic): [sp]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • None


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bruna Black/John Finbury: Vã Revelação (Green Flash) [05-14]
  • Kiki Valera: Vacilón Santiaguero (Circle 9 Music) [05-31]

Sunday, June 09, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I'm posting this after 10PM Sunday evening, figuring I'm about worn out, even though I've only hit about 80% of my usual sources, and am finding new things at a frightening clip. I imagine I'll add a bit more on Monday, as I work on what should be a relatively measured Music Week. There is, in any case, much to read and think about here. Too much really.

I have two fairly major pieces on Israel that I wanted to mention before I posted Sunday night, but didn't get around to. They're big, and important, enough I thought about putting them into their own post, but preferred to stick to the one weekly post. I didn't want to slip them into the regular text as mere late finds, so thought I'd put them up here first, easier to notice. But I already wrote a fairly lengthy intro, which I think is pretty good as an intro, so I finally decided to put the new pieces after the old intro, and before everything else.


I thought I'd start here with a quote from Avi Shlaim, from his introduction to one of the first books to appear the Oct. 7, 2023 attacks from Gaza against Israel and Israel's dramatic escalation from counterterrorism to genocide (Jamie Stern-Weiner, ed.: Deluge: Gaza and Israel from Crisis to Cataclysm):

The powerful military offensive launched by Israel on the Gaza Strip in October 2023, or Operation Swords of Iron to give it its official name, was a major landmark in the blood-soaked history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was an instant, almost Pavlovian response to the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7. The attack caught Israel by complete surprise, and it was devastating in its consequences, killing about 300 Israeli soldiers, massacring more than 800 civilians, and taking some 250 hostages. Whereas previous Hamas attacks involved the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip on southern Israel, this was a ground incursion into Israeli territory made possible by breaking down the fence with which Israel had surrounded Gaza. The murderous Hamas attack did not come out of the blue as many believed. It was a response to Israel's illegal and exceptionally brutal military occupation of the Palestinian territories since June 1967, as well as the suffocating economic blockade that Israel had imposed on Gaza since 2006. Israel, however, treated it as an unprovoked terrorist attack that gave it a blank check to use military force on an unprecedented scale to exact revenge and to crush the enemy.

Israel is no stranger to the use of military force in dealing with its neighbors. It is a country that lives by the sword. Under international law, states are allowed to use military force in self-defense as a last resort; Israel often employs force as a first resort. Some of its wars with the Arabs have been "wars of no choice," like the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948; others have been "wars of choice," like the Suez War of 1956 and the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. Wars are usually followed by the search for a diplomatic resolution of the conflict. When one examines Israel's record in dealing with the Arabs as a whole, however, the use of force appears to be the preferred instrument of statecraft. Indeed, all too often, instead of war being the pursuit of politics by other means, Israeli diplomacy is the pursuit of war by other means.

Also, a bit further down:

Deadlock on the diplomatic front led to periodic clashes between Hamas and Israel. This is not a conflict between two roughly equal parties but asymmetric warfare between a small paramilitary force and one of the most powerful militaries in the world, armed to the teeth with the most advanced American weaponry. The result was low-intensity (but for the people in Gaza, still devastating) conflict which took the form of primitive missiles fired from inside the Gaza Strip on settlements in southern Israel and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) counter-insurgency operations designed to weaken but not to destroy Hamas. From time to time, Israel would move beyond aerial bombardment to ground invasion of the enclave. It launched major military offensives into Gaza in 2008-09, 2012, 2014, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

Israeli leaders used to call these recurrent IDF incursions into Gaza "mowing the lawn." This was the metaphor to describe Israel's strategy against Hamas. The strategy did not seek to defeat Hamas, let alone drive it from power. On the contrary, the aim was to allow Hamas to govern Gaza but to isolate and weaken it, and to reduce its influence on the West Bank. Israel's overarching political objective was to kep the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government geographically separate so as to prevent the emergence of a unified leadership. In this context, Israel's periodic offensives were designed to degrade the military capability of Hamas, to enhance Israeli deterrence, and to turn the civilian population of Gaza against its rulers. In short, it was a strategy of managing the conflict, of avoiding peace talks, of using the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah as a sub-contractor for Israeli security on the West Bank, and of containing Palestinian resistance within the open-air prison of the Gaza Strip.

Shlaim opens the next paragraph with "This strategy lay in tatters following the Hamas attack," but that's just a momentary reflection of Israeli histrionics plus a bit of wishful thinking. The latter was based on the hope that Israelis would recognize that the old strategy had backfired, and needed to be revised. But the histrionics were at most momentary, and quickly evolved into staged, as Netanyahu and his gang realized the attacks presented a opportunity to escalate the conflict to previously unthreatened levels, and in the absence of meaningful resistance have seen little reason to restrain themselves.

Israel has a very sophisticated propaganda operation, with a large network of long-time contacts, so they sprung immediately to work, planting horror stories about Hamas and Palestinians, while pushing rationales for major war operations into play, so Israel's habitual supporters would always be armed with the best talking points. That they were so prepared to do so suggests they know, and have known for a long time, that their actions and programs aren't obviously justifiable. They know that their main restraint isn't the threat of other powers, but that world opinion will come to ostracize and shame them, like it did to South Africa. It's not certain that such a shift in world opinion will sway them -- the alternative is that they will shrivel up into a defensive ball, like North Korea, and there would certainly be sentiment in Israel for doing so (here I need say no more than "Masada complex").

Israel has, indeed, lost a lot of foreign support, including about 80% of the UN General Assembly. But though all of that, the US has remained not just a reliable ally to Israel, but a generous one, and a very dutiful one, even as Israel is losing support from the general public. Netanyahu is Prime Minister by a very slim and fractious coalition in Israel, but when he speaks in Congress, he can rest assured that 90% of both parties will cheer him on -- a degree of popularity no American politician enjoys.


I meant to include these two major pieces, but missed them in the rush to post Sunday night.

Adam Shatz: Israel's Descent: This is a major essay, structured as a review of six books:

While most of these books go deep into the history of Zionist attempts to claim exclusive representation for the Jewish people -- a topic Sand previously wrote about in The Invention of the Jewish People (2009) and The Invention of the Land of Israel (2012) -- and that features further down in the review, the first several paragraphs provide one of the best overviews available of the current phase of the conflict. I'm tempted to quote it all, but especially want to note paragraphs 4-8, on why this time it's fair and accurate to use the term "genocide":

But, to borrow the language of a 1948 UN convention, there is an older term for 'acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group'. That term is genocide, and among international jurists and human rights experts there is a growing consensus that Israel has committed genocide -- or at least acts of genocide -- in Gaza. This is the opinion not only of international bodies, but also of experts who have a record of circumspection -- indeed, of extreme caution -- where Israel is involved, notably Aryeh Neier, a founder of Human Rights Watch.

The charge of genocide isn't new among Palestinians. I remember hearing it when I was in Beirut in 2002, during Israel's assault on the Jenin refugee camp, and thinking, no, it's a ruthless, pitiless siege. The use of the word 'genocide' struck me then as typical of the rhetorical inflation of Middle East political debate, and as a symptom of the bitter, ugly competition over victimhood in Israel-Palestine. The game had been rigged against Palestinians because of their oppressors' history: the destruction of European Jewry conferred moral capital on the young Jewish state in the eyes of the Western powers. The Palestinian claim of genocide seemed like a bid to even the score, something that words such as 'occupation' and even 'apartheid' could never do.

This time it's different, however, not only because of the wanton killing of thousands of women and children, but because the sheer scale of the devastation has rendered life itself all but impossible for those who have survived Israel's bombardment. The war was provoked by Hamas's unprecedented attack, but the desire to inflict suffering on Gaza, not just on Hamas, didn't arise on 7 October. Here is Ariel Sharon's son Gilad in 2012: 'We need to flatten entire neighbourhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn't stop with Hiroshima -- the Japanese weren't surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing.' Today this reads like a prophecy.

Exterminationist violence is almost always preceded by other forms of persecution, which aim to render the victims as miserable as possible, including plunder, denial of the franchise, ghettoisation, ethnic cleansing and racist dehumanisation. All of these have been features of Israel's relationship to the Palestinian people since its founding. What causes persecution to slide into mass killing is usually war, in particular a war defined as an existential battle for survival -- as we have seen in the war on Gaza. The statements of Israel's leaders (the defence minister, Yoav Gallant: 'We are fighting human animals, and we will act accordingly'; President Isaac Herzog: 'It is an entire nation out there that is responsible') have not disguised their intentions but provided a precise guide. So have the gleeful selfies taken by Israeli soldiers amid the ruins of Gaza: for some, at least, its destruction has been a source of pleasure.

Israel's methods may bear a closer resemblance to those of the French in Algeria, or the Assad regime in Syria, than to those of the Nazis in Treblinka or the Hutu génocidaires in Rwanda, but this doesn't mean they do not constitute genocide. Nor does the fact that Israel has killed 'only' a portion of Gaza's population. What, after all, is left for those who survive? Bare life, as Giorgio Agamben calls it: an existence menaced by hunger, destitution and the ever present threat of the next airstrike (or 'tragic accident', as Netanyahu described the incineration of 45 civilians in Rafah). Israel's supporters might argue that this is not the Shoah, but the belief that the best way of honouring the memory of those who died in Auschwitz is to condone the mass killing of Palestinians so that Israeli Jews can feel safe again is one of the great moral perversions of our time.

A couple paragraphs later, Shatz moves on to "Zionism's original ambition," which gets us into the books, including a survey of how Israel's supporters have long sought to quell any Jewish criticism of Israel, eventually going so far as to declare it anti-semitic. I find this particular history fascinating, as it provides some counterweight to the claim that Zionism was intrinsically racist and, if given the power and opportunity, genocidal. Just because this is where you wound up doesn't mean this is where you had to go.

Again, there is much to be learned and thought about everywhere in this article. Let's just wrap up with a few more choice quotes:

  • But the tendency of Israeli Jews to see themselves as eternal victims, among other habits of the diaspora, has proved stronger than Zionism itself, and Israel's leaders have found a powerful ideological armour, and source of cohesion, in this reflex. [This has made them] incapable of distinguishing between violence against Jews as Jews, and violence against Jews in connection with the practices of the Jewish state.

  • Today the catastrophe of 1948 is brazenly defended in Israel as a necessity -- and viewed as an uncompleted, even heroic, project.

  • The last eight months have seen an extraordinary acceleration of Israel's long war against the Palestinians.

  • Benjamin Netanyahu is a callow man of limited imagination . . . [but] his expansionist, racist ideology is the Israeli mainstream. Always an ethnocracy based on Jewish privilege, Israel has, under his watch, become a reactionary nationalist state, a country that now officially belongs exclusively to its Jewish citizens.

  • But this was no accident: conflict with the Arabs was essential to the Zionist mainstream. . . . Brit Shalom's vision of reconciliation and co-operation with the indigenous population was unthinkable to most Zionists, because they regarded the Arabs of Palestine as squatters on sacred Jewish land.

  • This moral myopia has always been resisted by a minority of American Jews. There have been successive waves of resistance, provoked by previous episodes of Israeli brutality: the Lebanon War, the First Intifada, the Second Intifada. But the most consequential wave of resistance may be the one we are seeing now from a generation of young Jews for whom identification with an explicitly illiberal, openly racist state, led by a close ally of Donald Trump, is impossible to stomach.

  • For all their claims to isolation in a sea of sympathy for Palestine, Jewish supporters of Israel, like the state itself, have powerful allies in Washington, in the administration and on university boards.

  • For many Jews, steeped in Zionism's narrative of Jewish persecution and Israeli redemption, and encouraged to think that 1939 might be just around the corner, the fact that Palestinians, not Israelis, are seen by most people as Jews themselves once were -- as victims of oppression and persecution, as stateless refugees -- no doubt comes as a shock.

  • Operation Al-Aqsa Flood thrust the question of Palestine back on the international agenda, sabotaging the normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, shattering both the myth of a cost-free occupation and the myth of Israel's invincibility. But its architects, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, appear to have had no plan to protect Gaza's own people from what would come next. Like Netanyahu, with whom they recently appeared on the International Criminal Court's wanted list, they are ruthless tacticians, capable of brutal, apocalyptic violence but possessing little strategic vision. 'Tomorrow will be different,' Deif promised in his 7 October communiqué. He was correct.' But that difference -- after the initial exuberance brought about by the prison breakout -- can now be seen in the ruins of Gaza.

  • Eight months after 7 October, Palestine remains in the grip, and at the mercy, of a furious, vengeful Jewish state, ever more committed to its colonisation project and contemptuous of international criticism, ruling over a people who have been transformed into strangers in their own land or helpless survivors, awaiting the next delivery of rations.

  • The 'Iron Wall' is not simply a defence strategy: it is Israel's comfort zone.

There is a lot to unpack here, and much more I skipped over -- a lot on US and other protesters, even some thoughts by Palestinians -- but for now I just want to offer one point. If Israel had responded to the Oct. 7 "prison break" with a couple weeks (even a month) of indiscriminate, massive bombardment, which is basically what they did for the first month, then ended it with a unilateral cease-fire, with the looming threat to repeat if Hamas ever attacked again, their wildly disproportionate response would have more than reestablished their "deterrent" credibility.

Those who hated Israel before would have had their feelings reinforced, but those who hadn't hated Israel wouldn't have turned against Israel. (Sure, some would have been shocked by the intensity, but once it ended those feelings would subside. The UN, the ICJ, the ICC wouldn't have charged Israel. The word genocide would have gone silent. The protests would have faded, without ever escalating into encampments and repression. Israel could have washed its hands of governing Gaza, leaving the rubble and what, if anything, was left of Hamas to the international do-gooders, and simply said "good riddance."

The Shatz article helps explain why Israel didn't do that. It is strong on the psychology that keeps Israelis fighting, that keeps them from letting up, from developing a conscience over all of the pain and hate they've inflicted. But it misses one important part of the story, which is the failure of the Biden administration to restrain Israel. Over all of its history, Israel has repeatedly worked itself into a frenzy against its enemies, but it's always had the US to pull it back and cool it off, usually just before its aggression turns not just counterproductive but debilitating. You can probably recite the examples yourself, all the way up to GW Bush and Obama, with their phony, half-hearted two-state plans. Often the restraint has been late and/or lax, and no Israeli ever publicly thanked us for keeping them from doing something stupid, but on some level Israelis expected external restraint, even as they plotted to neutralize it. So when they finally went berserk, and Biden wasn't willing to twist arms to tone them down, they just felt like they had more leeway to work with.

So the piece missing from the Shatz article is really another article altogether, which is what the fuck happened to America, who in most respects is a decent human being, and the rest of America's political caste (some of whom aren't decent at all), couldn't generate any meaningful concern much less resistance against genocide vowed and implemented by Israel? There's a long story there, as deep and convoluted as the one behind Israel, but it should be pretty obvious by now if you've been paying any attention at all.

The second piece I wanted to mention is:

Amira Haas: [06-04] Starvation and Death Are Israel's Defeat. I'm scraping this off Facebook, because the original is behind a paywall. My wife read this to our dinner guests recently, which made me a bit uneasy, because I don't like the use of the word "defeat" here (see my Ali Abunimah note below), although I suppose there could be some language quirk I'm missing, like the difference between "has lost" and "is lost." Israel has not lost the war, but Israel is very lost in its practice. Still, I take this mostly as a cri de coeur, and am grateful for that.

Israel was defeated and is still being defeated, not because of the fact that at the start of the ninth month of this accursed war, Hamas has not been toppled.

The emblem of defeat will forever appear alongside the menorah and flag, because the leaders, commanders and soldiers of Israel killed and wounded thousands of Palestinian civilians, sowing unprecedented ruin and desolation in the Gaza Strip. Because its air force knowingly bombed buildings full of children, women and the elderly. Because in Israel people believe there is no other way. Because entire families were wiped out.

The Jewish state was defeated because its politicians and public officials are causing two million three hundred thousand human beings to go hungry and thirsty, because skin ailments and intestinal inflammation are spreading in Gaza.

The only democracy in the jungle was overwhelmingly defeated because its army expels and then concentrates hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in increasingly smaller areas, labeled safe humanitarian zones, before proceeding to bomb and shell them. Because thousands of permanently disabled people and children with no accompanying adults are hemmed in and suffering greatly in those targeted humanitarian areas.

Because mounds of garbage are piling up there, while the only way to dispose of them is to set them on fire, spouting toxic emissions. Because sewage and excrement flow in the streets, with masses of flies blocking one's eyes. Because when the war ends, people will return to ruined houses chock full of unexploded ordnance, with the ground saturated with toxic dangerous substances. Because thousands of people, if not more, will come down with chronic diseases, paralyzing and terminal, due to that same pollution and those toxic substances.

Because many of those devoted and brave medical teams in the Gaza Strip, male and female doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and paramedics and yes -- including people who were supporting Hamas or on its government's payroll -- were killed by Israeli bombs or shelling. Because children and students will have lost precious years of study.

Because books and public and private archives went up in flames, with manuscripts of stories and research lost forever, as well as original drawings and embroidery by Gazan artists, which were buried under the debris or damaged. Because one cannot know what else the mental damage inflicted on millions will bring about.

The defeat, forever, lies in the fact that a state that views itself as the heir of the victims of genocide carried out by Nazi Germany has generated this hell in less than nine months, with an end not yet in sight. Call it genocide. Don't call it genocide.

The structural failure lies not in the fact that the G-word was affixed to the name "Israel" in the resounding petition filed by South Africa at the International Court of Justice. The failure lies in the refusal of most Israeli Jews to listen to the alarm bells in this petition. They continued supporting the war even after the petition was filed in late December, allowing the petition's warning to become a prophecy, and for doubts to be obliterated in the face of additional cumulative evidence.

The defeat lies with Israel's universities, which trained hordes of jurists who find proportionality in every bomb that kills children. They are the ones providing military commanders with the protective vests, of repeated cliché: "Israel is abiding by international law, taking care not to harm civilians," every time an order is given to expel a population and concentrate it in a smaller area.

The convoys of displaced people, on foot, in carts, on trucks overloaded with people and mattresses, with wheelchairs carrying old people or amputees, are a failing grade for Israel's school system, its law faculties and history departments. The debacle is also a failure of the Hebrew language. Expulsion is "evacuation." A deadly military raid is an "activity." The carpet bombing of entire neighborhoods is "good work by our soldiers."

Israel's monolithic nature is another reason for and proof of utter defeat, as well as being emblematic of it. Most of the Jewish-Israeli public, including opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu's camp, was taken captive by the notion of a magical total victory as an answer to the October 7 massacre, without learning a thing from past wars in general and from ones against the Palestinians in particular.

Yes, the Hamas atrocities were horrific. The suffering of the hostages and their families is beyond words. Yes, turning the Gaza Strip into a huge depot of weapons and ammunition ready to be used, through an imitation of the Israeli model, is exasperating.

But the majority of Israeli Jews let the drive for revenge blind them. The unwillingness to listen and to know, in order to avoid making mistakes, is in the DNA of the debacle. Our all-knowing commanders did not listen to the female spotters, but they mainly failed to listen to Palestinians, who over decades warned that the situation cannot continue like this.

The seeds of defeat lay in protesters against the judicial overhaul rejecting the basic fact that we have no chance of being a democracy without ending the occupation, and that the people generating the overhaul are the ones striving to "vanquish" the Palestinians.

With God's help. The failure was inscribed back then, in the first days after October 7, when anyone trying to point out the "context" was condemned as a traitor or a supporter of Hamas. The traitors turned out to be the real patriots, but the debacle is ours -- the traitors' -- as well.

In looking this piece up, I found another at Haaretz worth notice for the title:

Dahlia Scheindlin: [06-10] Will the real opposition stand up: Is anyone trying to save Israel from Netanyahu, endless war and isolation? "Benny Gantz's unsurprising departure from the Netanyahu government won't strengthen the opposition, because Israel barely has one worthy of the name."

The Shatz piece doesn't have links, but a casual reference there to "philosemitic McCarthyism" led me to search out this piece:

Susan Neiman: [2023-10-19] Historical reckoning gone haywire: "Germans' efforts to confront their country's criminal history and to root out antisemitism have shifted from vigilance to a philosemitic McCarthyism that threatens their rich cultural life."

That, in turn, led me to Neiman's recent review of Shatz's book The Rebel's Clinic: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon:

Susan Neiman: [06-06] Fanon the universalist: "Adam Shatz argues in his new biography of Frantz Fanon that the supposed patron saint of political violence was instead a visionary of a radical universalism that rejected racial essentialism and colonialism."


Initial count: 209 links, 12260 words. Updated count [06-10]: 235 links, 15800 words.

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Israel: As I'm trying to wrap this up on Sunday, I must admit I'm getting overwhelmed, and possibly a bit confused, by the constant roll call of atrocities Israel is committing. There appears to be not just one but several instances of mass slaughter at Nuseirat refugee camp. There is also "late news" -- later than the earliest reports below -- including the Benny Gantz resignation, that are captured in various states of disclosure below. While I've generally tried to group related reports, that's become increasingly difficult, so my apologies for any lapses in order. These are truly trying times. And yet the solution of a simple cease-fire is so blindingly obvious.

America's Israel (and Israel's America): The Biden administration, despite occasional misgivings, is fully complicit in Israel's genocide. Republicans only wish to intensify it -- after all, they figure racism and militarism are their things.

  • Janet Abou-Elias: [06-06] Who's minding the stockpile of US weapons going to Israel? "Congress has further weakened constraints on a special DOD arms reserve, which is spread over multiple warehouses and lacks a public inventory."

  • Michael Arria: [06-06] The Shift: Netanyahu is going back to Washington: "Benjamin Netanyahu's upcoming speech to Congress will be his fourth, giving him the most of any foreign leader. He's currently tied with Winston Churchill at three. He was invited by the leadership from both parties. Who says bipartisanship is dead?" More on the Netanyahu invite:

  • Matthew Mpoke Bigg: [06-05] Here's a closer look at the hurdles to a cease-fire deal: "Neither Israel nor Hamas have said definitively whether they would accept or reject a proposal outlined by President Biden, but sizable gaps between the two sides appear to remain." NY Times remain masters at both-sidesing this, but Israel is the only side that's free to operate deliberately, so lack of "agreement" simply means that Israel has refused to cease-fire, despite what should be compelling reasons to do so. More on the Biden (presented as Israel) proposal:

    • Ali Abunimah: [05-31] Biden admits Israel's defeat in Gaza: Author seeks to poke Biden in the eye, but quotes Biden's actual speech, adding his annotation. Mine would differ, but the exercise is still worthwhile. I'd never say Israel has been defeated in Gaza, except perhaps to say that Israel has defeated itself (although I'd look for words more like degraded and debilitated, as I hate the whole notion that wars can be won -- I only see losers, varying in the quantities they have lost, but less so the qualities, which afflict all warriors).

      I haven't been following his publication, but I've been aware of Abunimah for a long time. He's written a couple of "clear-eyed, sharply reasoned, and compassionate" books on the subject: One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impassed (2007: not remotedly agreeable to Israel, but not wrong either, and would have "avoided all this mess" -- quote's from a Professor Longhair song, about something else, but hits the spot here); and The Battle for Justice in Palestine (2014; my Books note was: "tries to remain hopeful")

    • Fred Kaplan:

  • Sheera Frenkel: [06-05] Israel secretly targets US lawmakers with influence campaign on Gaza War: "Israel's Ministry of Diaspora Affairs ordered the operation, which used fake social media accounts urging U.S. lawmakers to fund Israel's military, according to officials and documents about the effort."

  • Ellen Ioanes: [06-05] What happens if Gaza ceasefire talks fail. "Nearly 40 Palestinians in Rafah will die each day due to traumatic injuries if Israel continues its incursion, according to a new analysis." How they came up with that figure, which they project to 3,509 by August 17, boggles the mind. Israel has been known to kill more than that with a single bomb. And note how they're breaking out "traumatic injuries" into a separate category, presumably to separate them out from starvation deaths and who knows what else? For that matter, "traumatic" is about a pretty tame generic word for blown to bits and/or incinerated, which is what Israel's bombs are actually doing, as well as burying bodies under tons of rubble. When we commonly speak of trauma, usually we mean psychological injuries -- something which in this case no one has come close to quantifying.

    And can we talk about this passive-voiced "if talks fail." Biden announced what he called "Israel's plan," and Hamas basically agreed to it, so who is still talking? The thus-far-failing talks Ioanes alludes to here are exclusively within Israel's war cabinet, where failure to agree to anything that might halt the war is some kind of axiom.

  • Alon Pinkas: [06-06] Biden wants an end to the Gaza war. But he is finally realising Netanyahu will block any attempts at peace. This has been more/less the story since about a month into the war. although it took Biden much longer to dare say anything in public, and he's still doing everything possible to appease Israel. If, after a few weeks of their savage bombing of Gaza, Israel had unilaterally ceased fire, no one would doubt their deterrence. Everyone would have understood that any attack on them would be met with a disproportionately savage response. They could then have turned their backs and walked away, simply dumping responsibility for Gaza and its people, which they have no real interest in or for, onto the UN. The hostages would have been freed, even without prisoner swaps. The ancillary skirmishes with Hezbollah and the Houthis would have ended. Months later, no one would be talking about genocide, or facing charges from the ICC. Israel's relations with the US would be unblemished. And Israel's right-wing government would still have a relatively free hand to go about its dispossession of and terror against Palestinians in the West Bank. This didn't happen because Biden didn't dare object to Israel's genocidal plans, because he's totally under their thumb -- presumably due to donors and the Israel lobby, but one has to wonder if he just doesn't have a streak of masochism. Even now that he's writhing in misery, he still can't bring himself to just say no.

  • Mitchell Plitnick: [06-08] The Biden administration must stop Israel before it escalates in Lebanon: "There are dangerous signs Israel intends to escalate attacks on Lebanon and raise the stakes with Hezbollah. If it does, the risk of a regional war grows enormously. The only way out is to end the fighting in Gaza." More evidence that the theory of deterrence is a recipe for disaster. To rally American support, Israel has tried to paint its genocide in Gaza as a sideshow to its defense against Iran, the mastermind behind the "six front" assault on Israel -- because, well, Americans hate Iran, and are really gullible on that point. To make this war look real, Israel needs to provoke Hezbollah, which is easy to do because Hezbollah also buys into the theory of deterrence, so feels the need to shoot back when they are shot at. This is close to spiraling out of control, but a ceasefire in Gaza would bring it all to an abrupt close. A rapprochement between the US and Iran would also be a big help, as it would knock the legs out from under Israel's game-playing.

  • H Scott Prosterman: [06-06] How Trump and Netanyahu are tag-teaming Biden on Gaza.

    Before these men served, no Israeli leader had ever dared to interfere in US electoral politics. Trump openly campaigned for Bibi. It's almost as if they ran on the same ticket in 2020. The political survival of both men is dependent on generating political outrage among their bases, because they have nothing else to run on.

  • Philip Weiss:

    • [06-02] Weekly Briefing: The political and moral consequences of hallowing Trump's verdict while nullifying the Hague: "Joe Biden wants it both ways. He wants Democrats to stop criticizing genocide but he also wants the Israel lobby's support. Thus, he has a ceasefire plan in one hand, and an invitation to Netanyahu, a war criminal, to speak to Congress in the other." Pretty good opening here:

      Joe Biden is trying to end the war in Gaza. He's not trying that hard. But he's trying.

      Biden knows that the Democratic base is on fire. He knows that for a certain bloc of voters in American society -- Genocide is not acceptable. Sadly, most people will go along fine with a genocide. That's what history tells us and what the U.S. establishment is demonstrating right now. Samantha Power wrote a whole book about the Sarajevo genocide and launched a great career but now she's a top Biden aide and just keeps her head down. It's not fair to single her out -- because all the editorial writers and politicians have a similar stance. It's a terrible thing that so many civilians and babies are being killed by American weaponry in Gaza, but hey, look what Hamas did on October 7. That's the ultimate in whatabboutery. What about Hamas? While we are burning up civilians.

    • [06-09] Weekly Briefing: 274 Palestinian lives don't matter to the Biden administration: "A week culminating with the massacre of 274 Palestinians in Gaza provided further evidence -- though none is needed -- that anti-Palestinian bias is simply a rule of American politics, and today maybe the leading rule."

    • [06-09] 'Allow me to share a story that touched me deeply' -- Harry Soloway on Palestinian resistance.

Israel vs. world opinion:

  • Yuval Abraham/Meron Rapoport: Surveillance and interference: Israel's covert war on the ICC exposed: "Top Israeli government and security officials have overseen a nine-year surveillance operation targeting the ICC and Palestinian rights groups to try to thwart a war crimes probe."

  • Yousef M Aljamal: [06-07] Israel's progression from apartheid to genocide: "The unfolding genocide in Gaza is the latest chapter in Israel's attempt to remove Palestinians from their land. All those calling for a ceasefire should join in the longer-term efforts to dismantle Israeli apartheid."

  • Michael Arria: [06-03] San Jose State University professor says she was suspended over her Palestinian activism: "Last month Sang Hea Kil, a justice studies professor at the San Jose State University, was placed on a temporary suspension because of her Palestine activism."

  • Ramzy Baroud: [06-06] End of an era: Pro-Palestinian language exposes Israel, Zionism.

  • Reed Brody: [06-06] Israel's legal reckoning and the historical shift in justice for Palestinians.

  • Chandni Desai: [06-08] Israel has destroyed or damaged 80% of schools in Gaza. This is scholasticide: This is another new word we don't need, because it just narrows the scope of a perfectly apt word we're already driven to use, which is genocide. The lesson we do need to point out is that genocide isn't just a matter of counting kills. If the goal is to ending a type of people, it is just as effectively advanced to destroying their homes, their environment, their culture and historical legacy. Counting the dead is easy, but much of the devastation is carried forward by its survivors, and those impacts are especially hard to quantify.

  • Connor Echols/Maya Krainc: [06-04] House votes to sanction ICC for case against Israeli settlers: "The bill, which is unlikely to pass the Senate, would punish US allies and famous lawyer Amal Clooney."

  • Richard Falk:

  • Abdallah Fayyard: [06-05] It's not Islamophobia, it's anti-Palestinian racism: "Anti-Palestinian racism is a distinct form of bigotry that's too often ignored."

  • Joshua Frank: [06-05] It's never been about freeing the hostages: "Israel's scorched-earth campaign will cruelly shape the lives of many future generations of Palestinians -- and that's the point."

  • Philippe Lazzarini: [05-30] UNRWA: Stop Israel's violent campaign against us. How violent?

    As I write this, our agency has verified that at least 192 UNRWA employees have been killed in Gaza. More than 170 UNRWA premises have been damaged or destroyed. UNRWA-run schools have been demolished; some 450 displaced people have been killed while sheltered inside UNRWA schools and other structures. Since Oct. 7, Israeli security forces have rounded up UNRWA personnel in Gaza, who have alleged torture and mistreatment while in detention in the Strip and in Israel.

    UNRWA staff members are regularly harassed and humiliated at Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank including East Jerusalem. Agency installations are used by the Israel security forces, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups for military purposes.

    UNRWA is not the only U.N. agency that faces danger. In April, gunfire hit World Food Program and UNICEF vehicles, apparently inadvertently but despite coordination with the Israeli authorities.

    The assault on UNRWA has spread to East Jerusalem, where a member of the Jerusalem municipality has helped incite protests against UNRWA. Demonstrations are becoming increasingly dangerous, with at least two arson attacks on our UNRWA compound, and a crowd including Israeli children gathered outside our premises singing "Let the U.N. burn." At other times, demonstrators threw stones.

    PS: The day after this op-ed was published, Israel replied as directly and emphatically as possible: [06-06] Israel strike on Gaza school kills dozens. Israel claims "the compound contained a Hamas command post." Perhaps Netanyahu should brush up on The Merchant of Venice, where the "wise judge" allowed that Shylock could take his "pound of flesh" but could spill no blood in the process. Of course, Netanyahu is unlikely to get beyond the thought that Shakespeare was just being antisemitic. On the other hand, the notion that one wrong does not allow you to commit indiscriminate slaughter isn't novel.

  • Natasha Lennard/Prem Thakker: Columbia Law Review refused to take down article on Palestine, so its board of directors nuked the whole website.

  • Eric Levitz: [06-03] Israel is not fighting for its survival. I mentioned this piece in an update last week, but it's worth reiterating here.

  • Branko Marcetic: [06-03] The corporate power brokers behind AIPAC's war on the Squad: Their investigation "reveals the individuals behind AIPAC's election war chest: nearly 60% are CEOs and other top executives at the country's largest corporations." I haven't cited many articles so far on AIPAC's crusade against Democrats who actually take human rights and war crimes seriously, but they are piling up. Bipartisanship is a holy grail in Washington, not because either side treasures compromise but because a bipartisan consensus helps to exclude critics and suppress any further discussion of an issue that those in power would rather not have to argue for in public. Cold War and trade deals like NAFTA are other classic examples, but support for Israel has been so bipartisan for so long it defines the shape of reality as perceived all but intuitively by politicians in Washington. But apartheid and genocide are unsettling this equation, disturbing large numbers of Democratic voters, so AIPAC is reacting like its Israeli masters, by cracking the whip -- the same kneejerk reaction we see when university administrators move to arrest protesters. Both are turns as sharply opposed to the basic tenets of liberal democracy as liberal Democrats routinely accuse Republicans of. That both are driven primarily by the extraordinary political influence of money only exposes the sham that our vaunted democracy has become under oligarchy.

  • Qassam Muaddi: [06-03] Against a world without Palestinians: "If the world as it is cannot abide Palestinian existence, then we will have to change the world." This piece makes me a bit queasy, but I recognize that is largely because I've never accepted the conditions under which it was written, and always preferred to think of Palestinians as just another nationality, like all others, with its harmless parochial quirks. But the effort to deny them recognition, and to erase their memory, has been a longstanding project in Israel.

    In early days, this was done through pretense (see A land without a people for a people without a land and denial (see Golda Meir's oft-repeated There was no such thing as Palestinians). Norman Finkelstein wrote about all that in Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995; revised 2003), especially his critique of Joan Peters' 1984 book, From Time Immemorial.

    Another book that was very insightful at the time (2003) was Baruch Kimmerling: Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians -- reissued in 2006 with the new subtitle, The Real Legacy of Ariel Sharon. Kimmerling's precise meaning is still operative, although since then the methods have become much cruder and more violent. Sharon, of course, would turn in his grave at the suggestion that he engaged with tact. I'll never forget the expression on his face when Bush referred to him as "a man of peace." Even if you dispute that the Gaza war fully counts as genocide, it is impossible to deny that politicide is official policy.

    I'm sure there are more recent books on the subject, like Rebecca Ruth Gould: Erasing Palestine: Free Speech and Palestinian Freedom (2023), which deals specifically with the canard that "pro-Palestinian" statements should be banished as anti-semitic. But another aspect of this piece is the notion that the Palestinian survival is redemptive, potentially for everyone. I can't say one way or the other, but I will say that this reminds me of a book I read very shortly after it came out in 1969: Vine Deloria, Jr.: Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. As an American, I find it completely natural to think of Zionism as a settler-colonial movement, as was European-settled America. There are many aspects to this: if I wanted to launch a career as a scholar, I'd research and write up some kind of global, comparative study of how other settlers and natives viewed the American-Indian experience. (Sure, there's enough for a book just on Israel, but I'd also like to see some bit on Hitler's use of America's "frontier myth.")

    Suffice it for now to draw two points here. The first is that what permanently ended Indian violence against settlers was the US army calling off its own attacks, and restraining settlers from the free reign of terror they had long practiced. Indians were "defeated," sure, but they would surely have regrouped and fought back had they been given continued cause. The second is that "Custer died" is pretty damn generous given all of the sins it's been allowed to redeem.

  • Jonathan Ofir: [06-02] Netanyahu is back and leading the polls, all thanks to the ICC: "In Israel, a potential arrest for crimes against humanity can help boost the popularity of a politician. That itself is a telling indictment."

  • Edith Olmsted: [04-27] Pro-Israel agitator shouts 'kill the Jews,' gets everyone else arrested: "Around 100 protesters were arrested on Saturday at a pro-Palestine encampment at Northeastern University, but not the one whose hate speech got everything shut down."

  • James Ray: [06-05] Do you condemn Hamas? How does it matter? This was a question every concerned thinking person was asked at the moment of the October 7, 2023 attacks, although there was never any forum by within which disapproval of Hamas could have affected their acts. There were, at the time, many reasons why one might "condemn Hamas," ranging from the pure immorality of armed offense to the political ramifications of provoking a much more powerful enemy, including the probability that Israelis would use the attacks as a pretext for unleashing much greater, potentially genocidal, violence of their own. But even acknowledging the question helped suppress the real question, which is whether you approve of the way Israel has exercised power over Gaza and wherever Palestinians continue to live.

    Many of us who have long disapproved of Israel's occupation were quick to condemn Hamas, only to find that our condemnations were counted as huzzahs for much more devastating, much more deadly attacks, a process which continues unabated eight months later, and which will continue indefinitely, until Israel's leadership (or its successors) finally backs off, either because they develop a conscience (pretty unlikely at present) or some calculation that the costs of further slaughter can no longer be justified. Given this situation, I think it no longer makes any sense to condemn Hamas, as all doing so does is to encourage Israel to further genocide.

    I'm not even sure there is a Hamas any more -- sure, there are a couple blokes in Syria who once had connections with the group, and who continue to negotiate to release hostages they don't actually have, but for practical purposes what used to be Hamas has dissolved back into the Palestinian people (as Israel makes clear every time they allegedly target "high value" Hamas operatives while killing dozens of "human shields" -- something which, we should make clear, Israel has no right to do). If, at some future point, the war ends, and Palestinians are allowed to form their own government -- which is something they've never been permitted to do (at least under Israeli, British, Ottoman, or Crusader rule) -- and some ex-Hamas people try to reconstitute the group, that would be a good time to condemn them. Otherwise, focus on who's responsible for the devastation and violence. It's not Hamas.

    In this, I'm mostly responding to the title. The article is a bit more problematical, as it does a little arm-chair analysis of "when armed struggle becomes material necessity." Clearly, a number of the Palestinian groups listed here decided that it did become necessary, and they proceeded to launch various attacks against Israeli power, of which Oct. 7 was one of the most dramatic (at least in a long time; the revolt in 1937, and the war in 1948, were larger and more sustained; the 2000-05 intifada killed slightly fewer Israelis over a much longer period of time). Still, before one can condemn the resort to armed struggle, one needs to ask the questions: Were there any practical non-violent avenues for Palestinians to redress their grievances (of which they had many)? It's not obvious that there were. (Short for a long survey of who missed which opportunities for opportunities for peace -- as the oft-quoted Abba Eban quip comes full circle.)

    I was thinking of a second question, which is how effective have all those efforts at armed resistance been? The answer is not very, and the prospects have probably diminished even further over time, but that's easier for someone far removed like myself to say than for someone who's directly involved. But in that case, the question becomes: how desperate do you have to be to launch a violent attack against a power that's certain to inflict many times as much violence back at you? If you've been following the political dynamics within Israel, especially with the rise of Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, but also for the long decline of Labor (starting with the assassination of Rabin) through the rise of Netanyahu, with the marginalization of the corrupt and pliant PA and the exclusion of Hamas, Palestinian prospects for achieving any degree of decent human rights have only grown dimmer. During this period, I believe that most Palestinians favored a non-violent appeal to world opinion, hoping to shift it to put pressure on Israel through BDS. However, thanks to Israel's machinations, Hamas maintained just enough privacy and autonomy in Gaza to stage an attack, with nothing other than fear as a constraint, so they took matters into their own hands. I feel safe in saying that a democratic Gaza would never have launched such an attack. Which is to say that responsibility for the attack lay solely on Israel, for creating the desperate conditions that made the attack seem necessary, and for not allowing any other peaceable outlets for their just grievances.

    One should further blame Israel for post-facto justifying the Hamas attack. This is a point that Israelis should understand better than anyone, because they have been trained to celebrate the uprising of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto, even though it was doomed from the start. I don't want to overstate the similarities, but I don't want to soft-pedal them either. Such situations are so rare in history as to necessarily be unique, but they do excite the imagination. Although Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas, they seem to be doing more than anyone to build Hamas up, to restore their status as the Palestinians who dared to fight back. Because Israel has never really minded a good fight. It's peace they really cannot abide -- and that is what makes them responsible for all of the consequent injustice and violence, the first of many things you should blame Israel for.

    And as Hamas -- at least as we understand it -- wouldn't exist but for Israel, when you do condemn Hamas, make sure it's clear that the blame starts with Israel.

  • Hoda Sherif: [06-06] 'The generation that says no more': Inside the Columbia University encampments for Palestine: "Students at Columbia University continue to disrupt business as usual for Gaza and have birthed a radical re-imagining of society in the process."

  • Yonat Shimron: [04-29] How unconditional support for Israel became a cornerstone of Jewish American identity: Interview with Marjorie N. Feld, author of The Threshold of Dissent: A History of American Jewish Critics of Zionism.

  • Tatiana Siegel: [06-06] Hollywood marketing guru fuels controversy by telling staffers to refrain from working with anyone 'posting against Israel': The Hollywood "black list" returns.

Trump:

  • Charlie Savage/Jonathan Swan/Maggie Haberman: [06-07] If Trump wins: Nothing new here that hasn't been reported elsewhere, but if you find the New York Times a credible source, believe it. (I should write more on this piece next week.)

  • David Corn: [06-06] Trump's obsession with revenge: a big post-verdict danger.

  • Michelle Cottle/Carlos Lozada: [06-07] The 'empty suit' of Trump's masculinity: With Jamelle Bouie and David French.

  • Chas Danner: [06-06] Trump can no longer shoot someone on fifth avenue. Well, his "New York concealed carry license was quietly suspended on April 1, 2023, following his indictment on criminal charges," leading him to surrender two guns, and move one "legally" to Florida. If he shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, he could be charged with illegal possession of a firearm, but if he could previously get away with murder, it's hard to see him more worried now.

  • Maureen Dowd: [07-28] The Don and his badfellas. She has fun with this, but seems to get to an inner truth:

    Trump is drawn to people who know how to dominate a room and exaggerated displays of macho, citing three of his top five movies as "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "Goodfellas" and "The Godfather."

    As a young real estate developer, he would hang out at Yankee Stadium and study the larger-than-life figures in the V.I.P. box: George Steinbrenner, Lee Iacocca, Frank Sinatra, Roy Cohn, Rupert Murdoch, Cary Grant. He was intent on learning how they grabbed the limelight.

    "In his first big apartment project, Trump's father had a partner connected to the Genovese and Gambino crime families," said Michael D'Antonio, another Trump biographer. "He dealt with mobbed-up suppliers and union guys for decades.

    "When Trump was a little boy, wandering around job sites with his dad -- which was the only time he got to spend with him -- he saw a lot of guys with broken noses and rough accents. And I think he is really enchanted by base male displays of strength. Think about 'Goodfellas' -- people who prevail by cheating and fixing and lying. Trump doesn't have the baseline intellect and experience to be proficient at governing. His proficiency is this mob style of bullying and tough-guy talk."

  • Abdallah Fayyad:: [06-04] Trump's New York conviction is not enough: "If the federal government wants to uphold democracy and the rule of law, it can't leave convicting Trump to the states."

  • Phil Freeman, in a [06-01] Facebook post, summed up Trump's post-verdict appearances almost perfectly (assuming you get what by now must be a very esoteric reference):

    Donald Trump is officially in his "Lenny Bruce reading his trial transcripts to audiences that came in expecting jokes" era. Hope everyone's ready for five solid months of rambling, self-pitying speeches about how unfair everyone is to him, 'cause that's what's coming, from today till November 5.

  • Matt Ford: [06-09] The right's truly incredible argument for weakening consumer safety: "A baby products company and an anti-woke activist group are trying to weaken a critical consumer watchdog agency. If one of their cases reaches the Supreme Court, we're all in trouble."

  • Michelle Goldberg: [06-07] Donald Trump's mob rule: Starts with an anecdote from Peter Navarro, currently in prison for contempt of Congress, describing how his Trump ties "make him something of a made man," both with guards and inmates. "One of the more unsettling things about our politics right now is the Republican Party's increasingly open embrace of lawlessness. Even as they proclaim Trump's innocence, Trump and his allies revel in the frisson of criminality."

    There's a similar dichotomy between Trump and his enemies: He represents charismatic personal authority as opposed to the bureaucratic dictates of the law. Under his rule, the Republican Party, long uneasy with modernity, has given itself over to Gemeinschaft. The Trump Organization was always run as a family business, and now that Trump has made his dilettante daughter-in-law vice chair of the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party is becoming one as well. To impose a similar regime of personal rule on the country at large, Trump has to destroy the already rickety legitimacy of the existing system. "As in Machiavelli's thought, the Prince is not only above the law but the source of law and all social and political order, so in the Corleone universe, the Don is 'responsible' for his family, a responsibility that authorizes him to do virtually anything except violate the obligations of the family bond," [Sam] Francis [a white nationalist who has become posthumously influential among MAGA elites] wrote. That also seems to be how Trump sees himself, minus, of course, the family obligations. What's frightening is how many Republicans see him the same way.

  • Sarah Jones: [06-06] The anti-abortion movement's newest lie: Are they going after contraception next?

  • Ed Kilgore:

    • [06-06] GOP primaries prove Trump has thoroughly dominated the party.

    • [06-08] Trump doubles down on plan for huge spending power grab.

      But arguably some of the most important second-term plans involve Team Trump's dark designs on the so-called swamp of the federal bureaucracy. Their interest in tearing down the civil service system is well-known, along with a scheme to fill vacant positions created by mass firings of non-partisan professional employees and their replacement via a so-called Schedule F of political appointees chosen for all the top policy-making jobs in the executive branch. The purpose of placing these MAGA loyalists throughout the bureaucracy isn't just to ride herd on such bureaucrats as remain in federal departments and agencies. These new commissars would also serve as Trojan Horses charged with advising the Trump high command on how to eliminate or disable executive branch functions the new order dislikes or can do without.

  • Ben Mathis-Lilley:

  • Kim Phillips-Fein: [06-04] The mandate for leadership, then and now: "The Heritage Foundation's 1980 manual aimed to roll back the state and unleash the free market. The 2025 vision is more extreme, and even more dangerous." This is part of an issue on Project 2025, which includes pieces like:

  • James Risen:

  • Greg Sargent: Trump's bizarre moments with Dr. Phil and Hannity should alarm us all.

  • Alex Shephard: [06-06] The billionaires have captured Donald Trump.

  • Matt Stieb: [06-09] The time Trump held a national security chat among Mar-a-Lago diners: "When he strategized about North Korea on a golf-resort patio, it was an early indication of how crazy his administration would get."

  • Ishaan Tharoor: [05-31] Netanyahu and Putin are both waiting for Trump: "Some foreign leaders may be holding out for a Trump victory." It's not just that they can expect to be treated more deferentially by Trump. It's also that they have a lot of leverage to sabotage Biden's reëlection chances, which are largely imperiled by the disastrous choices Biden made in allowing wars in Ukraine and Gaza to open up and to drag on indefinitely.

  • Michael Tomasky: It's simple: Trump is treated like a criminal because he's a criminal.

And other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Jeet Heer: Showing contempt for young voters is a great way for Democrats to lose in November: "Hillary Clinton's arrogance already lost one election. And if Joe Biden follows her example, it can easily cost another."

  • Annie Linskey/Siobhan Hughes: [06-04] Behind closed doors, Biden shows signs of slipping: "Participants in meetings said the 81-year-old president performed poorly at times. The White House said Biden is sharp and his critics are playing partisan politics." My wife found this very disturbing, but I find it hard to get interested, beyond bemoaning the obvious obsession of much of the media and some of the public with his age. Perhaps some day I'll write out my thoughts on aging politicians, but I don't feel up to it now, and expect I'll have many opportunities in the future. But I do have a lot of thoughts, which lead to a mixed bag of conclusions: about Biden (who I've never liked, and am very chagrined with over certain key policies), Democrats (who are so terrified, both of Trump and of their own rich donors, that they're unwilling to risk new leadership), the presidency (where the staff matters much more than the head or face), and the media (which has turned that face into some kind of bizarre circus act, relentlessly amplifying every surface flaw), and maybe even the people (we suffer many confusions about aging). Also on this:

    • Angelo Carusone tweeted about this piece: "The person who wrote that deceitful WSJ attack piece on Biden age is the same reporter who a few years ago (while at WaPo) had to delete a tweet for taking a jab at Biden as he visited his late son, wife and daughter's graves."

    • Greg Sargent: [06-06] Sleazy WSJ hit piece on Biden's age gets brutally shredded by Dems: "After a new report that dubiously hyped President Biden's age infuriated Democrats, we talked to a leading media critic about the deep problems with the press this sage exposes."

  • Blaise Malley: [06-05] 'We are the world power': Biden offers defense of US primacy: "In TIME interview, president talks up foreign policy record, offers few details on what second term would hold."

  • Nicole Narea: [06-04] Biden's sweeping new asylum restrictions, explained: "Biden's transparently political attack on asylum put little daylight between him and Trump." Some more on immigration:

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

Economic matters:

  • Paul Krugman: Famed economist and New York Times token liberal columnist, I've paid very little attention to his columns of late, but thought a quick catch-up might be in order. His more wonkish pieces, especially on the recurring themes of inflation and budgets, are informative. And while he seems especially loathe to criticize Biden from the left, he is pretty clear when he focuses on the right.

Ukraine War and Russia:

  • Connor Echols: [06-07] Diplomacy Watch: What's the point of Swiss peace summit? It's not to negotiate with Russia, which won't be attending. Zelensky has a "10-point peace plan, which demands the full expulsion of Russian troops from the country and the prosecution of top Kremlin officials," which suggests he still thinks he can "win the war." I seriously doubt that, while I also see that Ukrainians have much more to lose if the war is prolonged.

  • Dave DeCamp: [05-30] France may soon announce it's sending troops to Ukraine for training.

  • Joshua Keating: [06-05] The US tests Putin's nuclear threats in Ukraine: "Allowing Ukraine to fire Western weapons into Russia strengthens an ally, but risks violating an unknown red line." I thought the "red line" was pretty loudly proclaimed. They're basically testing whether Putin is serious (which has usually been a bad idea, but the idea of him escalating directly to nuclear arms is pretty extreme, even for him). Also, it really isn't obvious how taking occasional pot shots inside Russia "strengthens Ukraine." Russia has more capability to strike Ukraine than vice versa, so once you factor the reprisals in it's unlikely that there will be any net gains, or that such gains could actually be realized through negotiation. And since negotiation is really the only avenue for ending this war, that's where the focus should really be.

  • Constant Méheut: [06-09] Ukrainian activist traces roots of war in 'centuries of Russian colonization': "One Ukrainian researcher and podcaster is a leading voice in efforts to rethink Ukrainian-Russian relations through the prism of colonialism." Mariam Naiem. I don't doubt that there is some value in this approach, but I can also imagine overdoing it. We tend to view colonialism through a British prism, perhaps with variations for France, maybe even Spain/Portugal, each of which varied, although the power dynamic was similar.

  • Theodore Postol: [06-05] Droning Russia's nuke radars is the dumbest thing Ukraine can do: "Attacks on the early warning system actually highlights the fragility of peace between the world's nuclear powers."

  • Reuters: [06-05] Russia to send combat vessels to Caribbean to project 'global power,' US official says: "Naval exercises spurred by US support for Ukraine are likely to include port calls in Cuba and Venezuela, says official." Nothing to be alarmed of here. (My first thought was how Russia sent its Baltic Sea fleet all the way around Africa in 1905, only to have it sunk in the Sea of Japan, an embarrassment that triggered the failed revolution of 1905.) But it does show that the era where only "sole superpower" US was arrogant enough to try to project global naval power is coming to a close. Also:

    • Guardian: [06-06] Russia nuclear-powered submarine to visit Cuba amid rising tensions with US. By the way, The Guardian remains a reliable source for news and opinion with an anti-Russian slant, as evidenced by:

    • Pjotr Sauer:

    • Léonie Chao-Fong: [06-05] Putin says Trump conviction 'burns' idea of US as leading democracy: Funny guy.

    • Patrick Wintour: [06-08] 'We're in 1938 now': Putin's war in Ukraine and lessons from history. The Guardian's "diplomatic editor," this could become a classic in the abuse of history for political ends, although he offers a nice feint in this:

      As Christopher Hitchens once wrote, much American foolishness abroad, from Korea to Vietnam to Iraq, has been launched on the back of Munich syndrome, the belief that those who appease bullies, as the then British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, sought to do with Adolf Hitler in Munich in 1938, are either dupes or cowards. Such leaders are eventually forced to put their soldiers into battle, often unprepared and ill-equipped -- men against machines, as vividly described in Guilty Men, written by Michael Foot, Frank Owen and Peter Howard after the Dunkirk fiasco. In France, the insult Munichois -- synonymous with cowardice -- sums it up.

      But then he quotes Timothy Snyder, and reverts to the stereotype that Putin is Hitler's second coming, an expansionist so implacable that he will continue besieging us until we finally gather up our courage and fight back. The problem here isn't just that Putin is not Hitler, but that this isn't even a valid portrait of Hitler, who had specific territorial ambitions that were conditioned by his times and place -- when "the sun never sets on the British Empire," presided over by a country no larger or more developed than Germany, while the vast land mass to Germany's east looked to him like the American West, promising Lebesraum for the superior Aryan race. Putin may conjure up the occasional odd fantasy of Peter the Great or Vlad the Impaler, not something we can take comfort in, but in an unconquerable world, nationalism is a self-limiting force, which falls far short of the ambitions of Hitler or the inheritance of Churchill.

  • Ted Snider: [06-04] Why Zelensky won't be able to negotiate peace himself: "The way out is to transcend bilateral talks to include moves toward a new, inclusive European security architecture."

America's empire and the world:


Other stories:

Associated Press: [06-06] Charleston bridge closed as out-of-control ship powers through harbor: In South Carolina, another 1,000ft ship, narrowly avoided knocking down another major bridge, as happened in Baltimore recently.

Kyle Chayka: [05-29] The new generation of online culture curators: "In a digital landscape overrun by algorithms and AI, we need human guides to help us decide what's worth paying attention to." This isn't meant as an advertisement, but perhaps it is an idea for one:

The onslaught of online content requires filtering, whether technological or human, and those of us who dislike the idea of A.I. or algorithms doing the filtering for us might think more about how we support the online personalities who do the job well.

Ivan Eland: [06-03] Finding a foreign policy beyond Biden and Trump: "There has to be an option that would allow the US to engage and protect its interests without aggressive primacy."

Tom Engelhardt: [06-04] Making war on Planet Earth: The enemy is us (and I'm not just thinking about Donald Trump).

AW Ohlheiser: [06-06] Why lying on the internet keeps working. Reviews, or at least refers to, a forthcoming book: \ Renée DiResta: Invisible Rulers: The People Who Turn Lies Into Reality, with what I suppose is a second-order subhed: "If You Make It Trend, You Make It True."

Kelsey Piper: [06-07] Where AI predictions go wrong: "Both skeptics and boosters are too sure of themselves."

Tejal Rao: [06-07] His 'death by chocolate' cake will live forever: "The chief Marcel Desaulniers, who died last month, had an over-the-top approach to dessert, a sweet counterpoint to the guilt-ridden chocolate culture of the time."

Music and the arts:

Mike Hale: [06-05] 'Hitler and the Nazis' review: Building a case for alarm: "Joe Berlinger's six-part documentary for Netflix asks whether we should see our future in Germany's past."

Tom Maxwell: [04-12] How deregulation destroyed indie rock across America: "On the corporate capture of regional radio stations." What happened with The Telecommunications Act of 1996, enacted by Newt Gingrich and signed by Bill Clinton: "The act . . . became a checkered flag for a small number of corporations to snap up commercial radio stations across the country and homogenize playlists." Excerpted from Maxwell's book, A Really Strange and Wonderful Time: The Chapel Hill Music Scene: 1989-1999.

Michael Tatum: A Downloader's Diary (52): June 2024.

Midyear reports: I've been factoring these into my metacritic file.


My nephew Ram Lama Hull dredged up a 2016 Facebook "memory" where he wrote "I'm likely voting 3rd party, and encourage everyone in Kansas to do the same." He didn't say who, but had a libertarian streak as well as the family's left-leanings. However, this year he writes:

I've changed my stance. I still stand by this as a general principle, but I voted Democrat in 2020, and will do so in 2024: even if my vote doesn't shift the electoral college results, I want to do my part to push for a Democratic mandate in the popular vote.

I added this comment:

I moved back to KS in 1999. In 2000, I voted for Nader, figuring that the Gore campaign was so invisible he might not even get as many votes as Nader. Bush won bit (58.04%), while Nader only got 3.37%, less than one-tenth of Gore's 37.24%. I drew two conclusions from this: one is that Kansas has a very solid minority that will show up as Democrats no matter how little effort one makes to reach them. (You can also see this in Moran's Senate results, where he rarely cracks 60% despite outspending his opponents as much as 100-to-1.) And second, if you ever want to get to a majority, you have to first win over your own Democrats. I'm very upset with Biden at the moment over his foreign policy (not just but especially Israel), but by now I've become pretty used to lesser-evilism.

Monday, June 03, 2024

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 44 albums, 2 A-list

Music: Current count 42421 [42377] rated (+44), 36 [31] unrated (+5).

I had a really miserable night and morning. I often complain about my eyesight, but get along ok, as long as I don't try to read CD booklets (one excuse why my reviews have gotten sparer) or try to file CDs alphabetical-by-artist (one reason everything is such a mess). I went to the eye doctor in April, and he told me I should consider cataract surgery. They set up an appointment, but couldn't with their preferred partner get one until June 3, and then couldn't get me an afternoon appointment. I knew it was coming up this week, but didn't realize it was Monday until the day before. I had put off paperwork and research, figuring it could wait until my usual posts, then had to rush out Speaking of Which, to get a bit of time to prepare.

I hate morning appointments: not only does it cut into my normal sleep schedule, simply knowing that I will have to get up early keeps me from getting any sleep at all. It also didn't help that we had thunderstorms rolling through into the morning. When the alarm went off, I was exhausted and exasperated. Then my wife found a phone message saying that the surgeon's office had a power outage, so they had moved all of their appointments to a different location, ten miles farther east, so a 5-minute drive would become 35-40 minutes. My wife called and canceled the appointment. When I finally got up, I called them. They offered me the same appointment time in the distant place, but wouldn't allow me the time to get there. So we rescheduled, pushing the fateful date back to July 29, but at least I got an afternoon appointment.

I probably shouldn't dread this like I do. We know lots of other people who have had the surgery and come out better for it -- Some with adverse side-effects, but as far as I know, all of those were temporary. And I'm less ignorant about what's involved than I was 24 hours ago -- although much of it does seem to depend on the actual examination. I'm not able to go back to sleep, so will spend the rest of the day feeling jet-lagged and irritable. But before long I should rest up, and put it out of mind, at least until the next panic on July 28.

The early start means I should get this posted at a reasonable hour, although other factors could lead me to use the rest of the day. I've added two small items to Speaking of Which as of 3pm, and more are likely. I also have some catch up bookkeeping to do. And I would like to fiddle with the metacritic file a bit. [PS: One thing I did manage to do was to count albums listed by Christian Iszchak and Steve Pick in their respective Substacks.

Seems like a very high ratio of B+(***) to A- this week (21-2), suggesting that some of those could have benefited from a bit more attention. (I did give two plays for at least a third of the 21; another third could just as easily have landed lower, but got the benefit of doubt; Anycia, Ferragutti, and Popul are the ones I may still wonder about.)

It always pains me when I see zombie birthday notices on Facebook friends, but "Bill Xcix Phillips's birthday is today" always hits me hardest, not only because he was a dear friend and great mentor but because I first heard of his passing when I wished him a "happy" in response to one of those notices. Facebook is a hideous thing in oh so many ways, but these residual bits of long-distance connection are what keep pulling me back in.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Allie X: Girl With No Face (2024, Twin Music): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Anycia: Princess Pop That (2024, United Masters): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Chief Keef: Almighty So 2 (2024, 43B): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jamale Davis: Run With the Hunted (2024, SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
  • On Ka'a Davis: Here's to Another Day and Night for the LWA of the Woke (2024, Tzadik): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ekko Astral: Pink Balloons (2024, Topshelf): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti & Frank Rosaly: Mestizk (2023, International Anthem): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Myriam Gendron: Mayday (2024, Thrill Jockey): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Gilbert Holmström: Peak (2023 [2024], Moserobie): [cd]: A-
  • Daniel Humair/Samuel Blaser/Heiri Känzig [Helveticus]: Our Way (2022 [2024], Blaser Music): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Six Hands Open as One (2023 [2024], Fundacja Sluchaj): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Old Man Luedecke: She Told Me Where to Go (2024, Outside): [sp]: B
  • Mach-Hommy: #Richaxxhaitian (2024, Mach-Hommy): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Rob Mazurek: Milan (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jesus Molina: Selah (2024, Dynamo Production): [sp]: B
  • Kacey Musgraves: Deeper Well (2024, MCA Nashville): [sp]: A-
  • Old Mountain: Another State of Rhythm (2023 [2024], Clean Feed): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Fabiana Palladino: Fabiana Palladino (2024, Paul Institute/XL): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Bolis Popul: Letter to Yu (2024, Deewee): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Pouty: Forget About Me (2024, Get Better): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Pylon Reenactment Society: Magnet Factory (2024, Strolling Bones): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Terre Roche: Inner Adult (2024, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Omar Souleyman: Erbil (2024, Mad Decent): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Split System: Vol I (2022, Legless): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Split System: Vol. II (2024, Legless): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: Blackgrass: From West Virginia to 125th St (2024, Oh Boy): [sp]: B+(***)
  • TGB: Room 4 (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Peter Van Huffel's Callisto: Meandering Demons (2022 [2024], Clean Feed): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Kamasi Washington: Fearless Moment (2024, Young): [sp]: B+(***)
  • WoochieWobbler: Is My Future Bright? (2024, 3455092 DK, EP): [sp]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Stan Getz: Unissued Session: Copenhagen 1977 (1977 [2024], SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
  • The Jazz Dispensary: The Freedom Sound! The People Arise (1963-76 [2024], Craft): [sp]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Gary Bartz Quintet: Libra (1967 [1968], Milestone): [yt]: B+(*)
  • Gary Bartz NTU Troop: Home! (1969 [1970], Milestone): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Gary Bartz Quintet: Reflections on Monk: The Final Frontier (1988 [1989], SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Ran Blake: The Blue Potato and Other Outrages . . . Solo Piano by Ran Blake (1969, Milestone): [sp]: B+(**)
  • The Dungills: Africa Calling (1963, Vee-Jay): [yt]: B-
  • Billy Gault: When Destiny Calls: The Music of Billy Gault (1974 [1975], SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Humair: Quatre Fois Trois (1996-97 [1997], Label Bleu): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Daniel Humair/Jerry Bergonzi/J.-F. Jenny-Clark: Open Architecture (1993, Ninety-One): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Humair/Samuel Blaser/Heiri Känzig: 1291 (2020, Outnote): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Larry Levan: The Sleeping Bag Sessions (1982-86 [2017], Sleeping Bag): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jackie McLean Featuring Gary Bartz: Ode to Super (1973, SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: Little Jerry Williams Anthology (1954-1969) (1954-69 [2000], SDEG): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: I Need a Job . . . So I Can Buy More Auto-Tune (2022, Don Giovanni): [sp]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jared Hall: Influences (Origin) [06-21]
  • Jihee Heo: Flow (OA2) [06-21]
  • Big Walter Horton: In Session: From Memphis to Chicago 1951-1955 (Jasmine)
  • Clarence Penn: Behind the Voice (Origin) [06-21]
  • Anthony Stanco: Stanco's Time (OA2) [06-21]
  • Eddie Taylor: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1953-1957 (Jasmine)
  • Jody Williams: In Session: Diary of a Chicago Bluesman 1954-1962 (Jasmine)

Sunday, June 02, 2024

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I never bother looking for an image for these posts, but sometimes one pops up that just seems right. I picked it up from a tweet, where Ron Flipkowski explains: "Trump bus crashes into a light pole today on the way to Staten Island rally for Trump." Dean Baker asks: "How fast was the light pole going when it hit the Trump bus?"

I need to post this early, which means Sunday evening, rather than the usual late night, or not-unheard-of sometime Monday. I did manage to check most of my usual sources, and wrote a few comments, going especially long on Nathan Robinson on Trump today. But no general or section introductions. Maybe I'll find some time later Monday and add some more links and/or comments. If so, they will be marked as usual. Worst case, not even Music Week gets posted on Monday.


Initial count: 184 links, 9173 words. Updated count [06-05]: 194 links, 9598 words.

Local tags (these can be linked to directly): Nathan Robinson on Trump; on music.


Top story threads:

Israel:

America's Israel (and Israel's America): The Biden administration, despite occasional misgivings, is fully complicit in Israel's genocide. Republicans only wish to intensify it -- after all, they figure racism and militarism are their things.

Israel vs. world opinion:

Election notes:

Trump: Guilty on all counts!

  • Intelligencer Staff: Donald Trump found guilty on all counts: live updates. Titles will change with updates: on [05-31] this turned into "Trump will appeal: Live updates." This seems to have picked up the baton from what has long been the best of the "live update" posts on the trial:

  • Sasha Abramsky: Trump's "tough guy" act is put to the test: "The former president's felony conviction follows weeks of Trump repositioning himself as a politically persecuted martyr -- and an American gangster."

  • Maggie Astor: [06-02] Lara Trump, RNC leader, denounces Larry Hogan for accepting Trump verdict: So much for Reagan's "11th commandment."

  • Zack Beauchamp: [05-30] Why the ludicrous Republican response to Trump's conviction matters: "Republicans are busy attacking the legitimacy of the American legal and political system." Not that there's no room for critiquing how it works, including who it favors and why it's stacked against many others, but Republicans have staked out many positions as the party of criminality. In Trump they have their poster boy.

  • Ryan Bort: [05-31] Trump is cashing in on his criminal conviction.

  • Ben Burgis: [05-31] The rule of law being applied to Trump is good.

  • Sophia Cal: [06-02] Guilty verdict fuels Trump's push for Black voters: Because they know what it feels like to be victimized by the criminal justice system? It's going to be hard to spin this as anything but racist.

  • Jonathan Chait:

    • [05-30] Trump's conviction means less than you might think: Once again, his instinct is to argue with imaginary readers, about whom he knows bupkis. It could just as easily mean more than you think. Sure, "a lot depends on what happens next." And, I dare say, on what happens after that. He dwells on analogies of negligible value, like foreign leaders who wound up in jail (but thankfully skipping over ones who returned to power, like Lula da Silva, or Berlusconi -- a better match for Trump), but has an amusing paragraph on one of Trump's heroes, Al Capone. But before making that obvious point ("life isn't fair, nor is the legal system," but it's better to get a habitual criminal on a technicality than to let him get away with everything), Chait gets the story straight:

      In a global sense, Trump's conviction in a court is not just fair but overdue. He has been flouting the law his entire adult life. Trump reportedly believed he enjoyed legal impunity due to his relationship with Manhattan's prosecutor, though the basis for that belief has never been established. The extent of his criminality has oddly escaped notice, perhaps overshadowed by his constant offenses against truth and decency, or perhaps because people tend to think stealing is a crime when you aim a gun at a clerk but not when you create phony companies and bilk the Treasury.

      Once he ascended to the presidency, Trump's criminality only grew. He issued illegal orders constantly, flummoxing his staff. He attempted (with unrecognized partial success) in turning the powers of the Justice Department into a weapon against his enemy, which was in turn an expression of his criminal's view of the law: as an inherently hypocritical tool of the powerful against the weak.

      The incongruity of the Manhattan case as the venue for Trump's legal humiliation is that it did not represent his worst crimes, or close to it. The case was always marginal, the kind of charge you would never bring against a regular first-time offender. It was the sort of charge you'd concoct if the target is a bad guy and you want to nail him for something.

    • [05-31] Does the conservative rage machine go to 11? "Republicans are now so angry, they want a candidate who will threaten to lock up his opponent." You understand, don't you, that they're just working the refs, like they always do. They're also normalizing the behavior they claim to be victimized by. They don't see a problem with prosecuting political opponents. They just think they should be immune, while everyone else is fair game.

    • [05-30] Bush torture lawyer John Yoo calls for revenge prosecutions against Democrats: "Poor, innocent Donald Trump must be avenged."

  • Ryan Cooper: [05-31] Alvin Bragg was right, his critics were wrong: "A jury of his peers agreed that Donald Trump deserved to be prosecuted in the Stormy Daniels case."

  • David Corn: [05-30] Trump loses a big battle in his lifelong war against accountability: "His 34 guilty convictions turn this escape artist into a felon."

  • Susan B Glasser: [05-31] The revisionist history of the Trump trial has already begun: "The ex-President's war on truth has an instant new target: his guilty verdict."

  • Margaret Hartmann:

  • Elie Honig: [05-31] Prosecutors got Trump -- but they contorted the law. Former prosecutors and persistent naysayer, admits "prosecutors got their man," but adds: "for now -- but they also contorted the law in an unprecedented manner in their quest to snare their prey."

  • Ed Kilgore: [05-31] How Trump will campaign as a convicted criminal. Premature to write this now, at least until sentencing, and even then there must be some possibility that he'll get some temporary relief from some appellate judge. Eugene Debs ran for president in 1920 when he was in jail, but he couldn't campaign (and his vote totals were way down from 1916 and especially 1912). McKinley never left his front porch in 1896, so that might be a model -- lots of surrogates, backed with lots of money -- if he's stuck at home, but why would a judge allow a convict a free hand to keep doing what got him into legal trouble in the first place? Do drug dealers get to keep dealing until they've exhausted appeals? I've never heard of that. But then I've never seen a criminal defendant treated as delicately or deferentially as Trump before.

  • Eric Levitz: [05-31] The best -- and worst -- criticisms of Trump's conviction: "The debate, explained." This is very good on the technical aspects of the case, and pretty good on the political ones. On purely technical grounds, I could see finding for Trump, although I still have a few questions. The charges that Bragg and/or Merchan are biased and/or conflicted amount to little more than special pleading for favorable treatment. Still, it's hard to avoid the impression that, regardless of the exact laws and their customary interpretations, this case derives from a deeply unethical act that had profoundly damaging consequences for the nation. Cohen already did jail time for his part in this fraud, so why should we excuse Trump, who he clearly did his part for?

    All along, Trump has acted guilty, but unrepentant, arrogantly playing the charges for political gain. There has never been a case like this before, not because Trump used to be president, but because no other defendant has ever pushed his arrogance so far. It's almost as if he was begging to get convicted, figuring not only that he would survive his martyrdom, but that it would cinch him the election. I might say that's a bold gamble, but insane seems like the more appropriate word.

  • Errol Louis: [06-01] The courage of Alvin Bragg's conviction: "Despite the many doubters, the Manhattan DA's steady methodical approach to prosecuting Donald Trump prevailed."

  • Amanda Marcotte: [05-31] Trump is no outlaw, just a grubby, sad criminal.

  • Anna North: [05-31] We need to talk more about Trump's misogyny: "Stormy Daniels reminded us that it matters."

  • Andrew Prokop: [05-30] The felon frontrunner: How Trump warped our politics: "This is the moment Trump's critics have been dreaming of for years. But something isn't right here." There's something very screwy going on here, but this article isn't helping me much.

  • Hafiz Rashid: [05-31] Jim Jordan launches new idiotic crusade after Trump guilty verdict: He wants to subpoena the prosecutors to "answer questions" before his House committee. Scroll down and find another article by Rashid: Trump's most famous 2020 lawyer is one step closer to complete ruin: "Things are suddenly looking even worse for Rudy Giuliani."

  • Andrew Rice: [05-31] What it was like in court the moment Trump was convicted: "Suddenly, the whole vibe changed."

  • Greg Sargent: Trump's stunning guilty verdict shatters his aura of invincibility.

  • p>Alex Shephard: Trump's historic conviction is a hollow victory.

  • Matt Stieb/Chas Danner: [05-31] What happens to Trump now? Surprisingly little. If you ever get convicted or a felony, don't expect to be treated like this. He's still free on bail, at least up to sentencing on July 11 ("just four days before the Republican National Convention starts"). Meanwhile, his political instincts seem to be serving him better than his lawyers are: "Though the campaign's claims have not been verified by FEC filings yet, they say Trump raised an historic $34.8 million in the hours since his conviction."

  • Michael Tomasky: Susan Collins's really dumb Trump defense reveals the GOP's sickness: "The only thing that was more fun yesterday than watching the Trump verdict come in was watching Republicans and assorted right-wingers sputter in outrage."

  • Maegan Vazquez/Tobi Raji/Mariana Alfaro: [06-02] After Trump's conviction, many Republicans fall in line by criticizing trial.

  • Amanda Yen: [06-01] Trump Tower doorman allegedly paid off in hush-money scandal has advice for Trump: Based on a New York Daily News exclusive interview with Dino Sajudin. Scroll down and you also see: [06-03] Trump trial witnesses got big raises from his campaign and businesses.

  • Li Zhou/Andrew Prokop: [05-30] Trump's remaining 3 indictments, ranked by the stakes: "A quick guide to Trump's indictments and why they matter."

More Trump, and other Republicans:

Biden and/or the Democrats:

  • Heath Brown: [06-01] An insurrection, a pandemic, and celebrities: Inside Biden's rocky transition into the White House: An excerpt from a new book, Roadblocked: Joe Biden's Rocky Transition to the Presidency.

  • David Dayen: [05-29] The three barriers to Biden's re-election: "Price increases, a broader economic frustration built over decades, and an inability to articulate what's being done about any of it."

  • Gabriel Debenedetti: [05-30] Does Trump's conviction mean this is a new campaign? "Biden's team hopes it will start a month of contrasts that reframe the race." This is going to be tricky. For instance, all I had heard about Robert De Niro's speech outside the trial was about how he was attacking "pro-Palestinian protesters" -- a claim that has been denied, although the denial seems to have been about something else. One painful memory I have was how in the late months of his 1972 campaign, George McGovern latched onto Watergate as his big issue, and sunk like a rock.

  • Ed Kilgore: [05-30] Biden needs disengaged, unhappy voters to stay home: My first thought was that this is dumb, useless, and if attempted almost certain to backfire. The idea that the more people you get to vote, the more than break for Democrats, dates mostly from 2010, when a lot of Obama's 2008 voters stayed home and Republicans won big. However, the 2010 turnout was almost exactly the same as 2006, when Democrats won big. So while presidential elections always get many more voters than midterms, the partisan split of who's disengaged and/or unhappy varies. However, it probably is true that unhappy and/or ignorant (a more telling side-effect of being disengaged) voters will break for Trump, as they did in 2016 and 2020, so there is one useful piece of advice here, which is don't provoke them (e.g., calling them "baskets of deplorables"). Of course, that's hard, because Republicans are using everything they got to rile them up, and it's not like they won't invent something even if you don't give them unforced errors. So the real strategy has to still be to engage voters on the basis of meaningful understanding and building trust.

  • Eric Levitz: [05-28] One explanation for the 2024 election's biggest mystery: "A theory for why Biden is struggling with young and nonwhite voters." Subheds: "Biden is losing ground with America's most distrustful demographic groups; The Biden 2024 coalition is short on 'tear it all down' voters; Why the Biden presidency might have accelerated low-trust voters' rightward drift."

  • Bill Scher: [05-23] Another Biden accomplishment: 200 judges and counting. Scher also featured this in his newsletter: [05-23] How Democrats are winning the race for the lower courts.

Legal matters and other crimes:

Climate and environment:

  • Marina Dias/Terrence McCoy: [05-28] The climate refugee crisis is here: "Catastrophic flooding in southern Brazil has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. Many say they won't go back."

  • Heather Souvaine Horn: You'd be amazed how many people want big oil charged with homicide: Yes, I would, not least because it suggests they don't understand what homicide means (cf. Israel, which is committing homicide on a massive scale, enough so that it has its own word). "A new poll shows overwhelming support for holding oil and gas companies accountable via the courts." Now, that makes more sense. It may not be the right way to do it, but it's a more immediately accessible mechanism than moving politically to write new regulations to address the problems more directly.

  • Umair Irfan: [05-29] How one weather extreme can make the next one even more dangerous: "We're in an era of compound natural disasters."

  • Mitch Smith/Judson Jones: [06-02] From Texas to Michigan, a punishing month for tornadoes: "More than 500 tornadoes were reported, the most of any month in at least five years, uprooting homes and disrupting lives in cities small and large." May is the most common month for tornadoes, with an annual average of 275.

Economic matters:

  • Dean Baker:

  • Idrees Kahloon: [05-27] The world keeps getting richer. Some people are worried: "To preserve humanity -- and the planet -- should we give up growth?" Review of Daniel Susskind: Growth: A History and a Reckoning, also referring back to other books on growth and degrowth. I've long been sympathetic to degrowth arguments, but I don't especially disagree with this:

    As our economy has migrated toward the digital over the material and toward services over goods, the limits to growth have less of a physical basis than World3 had anticipated. In fact, the most serious limits to growth in the U.S. seem to be self-imposed: the artificial scarcity in housing; the regulatory thickets that tend to asphyxiate clean-energy projects no matter how well subsidized; the pockets of monopoly that crop up everywhere; a tax regime incapable of cycling opportunity to those most in need. The risk of another Malthusian cap imposing itself on humanity appears, fortunately, remote. Meanwhile, the degrowthers' iron law -- that economic growth is intrinsically self-destructive -- has become less and less plausible. "One can imagine continued growth that is directed against pollution, against congestion, against sliced white bread," Robert Solow, a Nobel Prize-winning economist at M.I.T., declared in a rebuttal to "The Limits to Growth" half a century ago.

    It should be obvious that some economic activities are not just useful but essential, while others are wasteful or worse. Whether the sum is positive or negative doesn't tell us which is which, or what we should be doing. The other obvious point is that growth does not balance off inequality, even though many on the Democratic of the spectrum favor pro-growth policies in the hope that they might satisfy both donors and workers. But the usual impact is just more inequality.

  • Whizy Kim: [05-29] What's really happening to grocery prices right now: "Target and Walmart are talking about their price cuts. How big of a deal is it?"

Ukraine War and Russia:

America's empire and the world:


Other stories:

Memorial Day: When I was growing up, folks in my family called it Decoration Day. We visited cemeteries close to the family, or more often sent money to relatives to place flowers on family graves -- many of which served in the military, but few who were killed in wars (which were few and infrequent before 1941, and perpetual ever since). So I always thought of the holiday as an occasion for remembering your ancestors -- not to glory in their wars, or to snub folks who got through their lives without war. Although, I suppose if you have to think about war, it's best to start with the costs, starting with the dead. But they don't end with our cemeteries.

Michael Brenes: [05-31] How liberalism betrayed the enlightenment and lost its soul: A review of Samuel Moyn: Liberalism Against Itself: Cold War Intellectuals and the Making of Our Times.

Dana Hedgpeth/Sari Horwitz: [05-29] They took the children: "The hidden legacy of Indian boarding schools in the United States."

Eóin Murray: [06-01] Without solidarity, the left has nothing: Actually, the left would still have a persuasive analysis of how the world works (along with a critique of the right's failures and injustices), combined with the appropriate ethics. The problem is translating that analysis into effective political action, and that's where the book reviewed here, Astra Taylor and Leah Hunt-Hendrix: Solidarity: The Past, Present, and Future of a World-Changing Idea comes into play.

Rick Perlstein: [05-29] My political depression problem -- and ours: "Granular study of the ever-more-authoritarian right didn't demoralize the author as much as reaction from the left." I'll keep this open, and no doubt write about it some day, probably closer to the election, because I figure there's no point in me panicking about that right now.

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [05-31] Trump's worst crimes remain unpunished: "Trump's policies killed many people in the United States and around the world. Hush money is the least of his crimes. But an honest confrontation of his worst offenses creates complications for a political class that commits crimes routinely." I wouldn't say the hush money case is "the least of his crimes." Even if we limit ourselves to the indicted ones -- not even the tip of a very large iceberg -- I'd rank it above his sloppy handling of classified documents. The hush money case is a good example of how Trump does business, using legal chicanery to dishonestly manipulate what we know about his business and person. (Admittedly, the documents case also provides crucial insights into his pathological character. I wouldn't say that, in itself, should be illegal, but for someone with his political profile, the cover up matters.)

    But for sure on the main point, and not just because no American can ever be prosecuted for the worst things presidents can do -- the criminal justice system in America is designed to protect the property and persons of the rich, and only marginally to regulate and discipline the rich themselves (who are threats to themselves as well as to the public, but are accorded many courtesies denied to less fortunate offenders).

    Still, I wouldn't lead with the number of people who died, either by his command (e.g., through drone strikes) or his incompetence (his mishandling of Covid-19 looms large here, but I'd also factor in how his policies toward Israel and Ukraine contributed to wars there, and I'd consider a few more cases, like Iran and North Korea, that haven't blown up yet, but still could). But that's mostly because I'm more worried about how he's corrupted and steered public political discourse. And that's not just because I fear the end of democracy -- if you follow the money, as you should, you'll see that that ship has already sailed -- but because he has, for many (possibly most) people, soiled and shredded our sense of fairness and decency, including our respect for others, and indeed for truth itself.

    While Trump doesn't deserve sole credit or blame for this sorry state of affairs -- he had extensive help from Republicans, backed by their "vast right-wing conspiracy," who saw his cunning as an opportunity to further their graft, and by naïve media eager to cash in on his sensationalism -- he has been the catalyst for a great and terrible transformation, where he sucked up all the rot and ferment the right has been sowing for decades, stripped it of all inhibitions, and turned it into a potentially devastating political force.

    I've never been a fan of "great man" history, but once in a while you do run across some individual who manages to do big things no one else could reasonably have done. My apologies for offering Hitler as an example, but I can't imagine any other German implementing the Holocaust -- fomenting hatred to fuel Russian-style pogroms, sure, but Hitler went way beyond that, exercising a unique combination of personal ambition, perverse imagination, and institutional power. Trump, arguably, has less of those qualities, although clearly enough to do some major damage.

    But the comparison seems fanciful mostly because we know how Hitler's story ended. Try putting Trump on Hitler's timeline. Four years after Hitler became chancellor was 1937, with the Anschluss and Kristallnacht still in the future -- war and genocide came later, and while there were signs pointing in that direction, such prospects were rarely discussed. One can argue that Trump made less progress in his first term than Hitler in 1933-37, mostly due to institutional resistance, but also lack of preparation on his part -- Hitler had a decade after the Munich putsch failed, during which he built a loyal party, whereas Trump found himself depending on Reince Preibus and Mike Pence for key staffing decisions. The one advantage Trump gained in four years out of power is that he's prepared to use (and abuse) whatever power he can wangle in 2024. So one shouldn't put much trust in his past failures predicting future failure. He wants to do things we can't afford to discount.

    By the way, Robinson points out something I had forgotten, that he had previously written a whole book on Trump: Trump: Anatomy of a Monstrosity, which came out a bit too late, on Jan. 17, 2017, but was reprinted with an afterword in time for the 2020 election, under a new title: American Monstrosity: Donald Trump: How We Got Him, How We Stop Him (which only seems to be available direct from OR Books). By the way, since I was just speaking of Hitler, let's slip the following 2018 article in out of order:

  • [2018-07-04] How horrific things come to seem normal: This tracks how Hitler was covered in the New York Times, from November 21, 1922 (p. 21, "New popular idol rises in Bavaria") to 1933:

    Here's a final tragic bit of wishful thinking from his appointment as chancellor in 1933: "The composition of the cabinet leaves Herr Hitler no scope for the gratification of any dictatorial ambition."

    Let's hope future historians are not driven to compile a similar record for Trump -- although I wouldn't be surprised to find books already written on the subject.

  • [05-28] No leftist wants a Trump presidency: "Let's be clear. The right poses an unparalleled threat. Left criticism of Democrats is in part about preventing the return of Trump."

  • [05-30] The toxic legacy of Martin Peretz's New Republic: Interview with Jeet Heer, who "has written two major essays about the intellectual legacy of the New Republic magazine's 70s-2000s heyday" (actually 1974-2012): From 2015 The New Republic's legacy on race; and [05-14] Friends and enemies: "Martin Peretz and the travails of American liberalism." Heer actually likes Peretz's memoir, The Controversialist: Arguments With Everyone, Left, Right and Center.

  • [05-29] Presenting: The Current Affairs Briefly Awards!: "The best, the worst, and everything in between." I won't attempt to excerpt or synopsize this. Just enjoy, or tremble, as the case may be.

  • [04-15] Why new atheism failed: I was surprised to see him publish outside his own journal, then surprised again to find that this is a "subscriber only" article. It's probably similar to this older one: [2017-10-28] Getting beyond "new atheism"; or for that matter, what he has to say about the subject in his books, Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments, and The Current Affairs Rules for Life: On Social Justice & Its Critics.

Li Zhou: [05-31] The MLB's long-overdue decision to add Negro Leagues' stats, briefly explained. The statistics come from 1920-48, so there is still a large patch of history between 1870-1920 that is unaccounted for, and the official seasons were much shorter (60 vs. 150 games), so counts are suppressed. We can't replay history, but this helps understand it.

Also, some writing on music/arts:

Ryan Maffei: {03-28] Somebody explain the early '80s to me (in popular-musical terms, of course). Facebook thread, collecting 205 comments. I don't have time to focus on this, but wanted to bookmark it for possible future reference. The 1980s were my personal desert years. In 1980 I moved from NYC to NJ, gave up writing for jobs writing software, bought very little beyond Robert Christgau's CG picks -- maybe 50-75 LPs a year, only moving into CDs relatively late (well after moving to Massachusetts in late 1984). In the mid-1990s I started buying lots more CDs, and doing a lot of backtracking (before my initial heavy 1970s period, also all jazz periods), but never really filled in the numerous holes in my 1980s, so I still have some unquenched curiosity this may help with. By the way, this comment, from Greg Magarian, was the one that caught my eye:

Just love. I can't pretend to be dispassionate; '80-'89 for me were junior high, high school, college. Every day was discovery. All flavors of UK punk fallout. Following Two Tone and UB40 into original ska and reggae. US indie rock flowering everywhere and coming to stages near me. MTV exposing me to everything from MJ to Faith No More. Record store bargain bins that tricked my white urban ass into exploring soul and country. Coaxing my friends on a hunch at the multiplex to ditch The Karate Kid for Purple Rain and being changed forever. Checking out any early hip-hop 12-inch I could get my hands on. Bad Dylan and good Springsteen. 60s nostalgia as a romantic ideal. Warming up to superstar albums through their five or six durable singles. Making mixtapes for girls. Borrowing records to tape from friends and friends of friends and dudes whose apartments I stumbled into.

Li Zhou: [05-29] The Sympathizer takes on Hollywood's Vietnam War stories: "HBO's new miniseries centers Vietnamese voices -- and reframes the consequences of war." I can't say as I enjoyed watching it, but I suppose it wrapped up better when the two time tracks finally converged, and I got used to the annoying tick of showing events in multiple varying versions to reflect the vagaries of memory. Zhou likes that it introduces Vietnamese voices to a genre that's seen a lot of American navel-gazing, but it's still impossible to show any generosity to Vietnamese communists -- The Three Body Problem was even harsher in its depiction of Chinese communists. My wife tells me the novel is brilliant, and that there's more story left, so I expect another season. I read Viet Thanh Nguyen's Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, and he's clearly a very smart and basically decent guy.

Listening blogs:

Mid-year reports:


May 2024