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Monday, September 28, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25572 [25544] rated (+28), 437 [436] unrated (+1).

Cut this week short, closing it on Sunday afternoon so I can move on to packing. I'll be on the road for the next 2-3 weeks, driving straight east to New York City, then some less straight route back. Not sure about internet access, especially while we are in New York. At any rate I won't have the computers, tools, books, and gear I use to produce these posts, so don't expect much here. Lot of stuff still in the queue, and there will be more before I get back. Ulrich Gumpert album is sounding pretty good at the moment, but I should hold back on it.

Time may have contributed to the dip in rated count, but also note the sheer number of A- records this week. Most of them took 4-5 plays -- only New Order and the older Hooker were obvious picks from the start, and I still don't think the new MOPDtK is as good as most of the old ones (although Jon Irabagon has a field day). The Pop Group, the Specials, and Madness got extra plays in just missing, too. The latter came out of the Pitchfork 1970s list (well, not Madness, but it seemed like the moment). Very little left there that I haven't heard, just a couple records that aren't on Rhapsody.

John Lee Hooker's Don't Turn Me From Your Door was a suggestion from Phil Overeem. There are, of course, dozens of Hooker albums I haven't heard, but On Vee-Jay 1955-1958 was on Robert Santelli's blues list, number 18. Metric is probably the most marginal of the A- records, something that became more apparent after I played New Order.

New records rated this week:

  • Bob Albanese: Time Remembered (2012 [2015], Mayimba): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ezra Furman: Perpetual Motion People (2015, Bella Union): [r]: A-
  • Miho Hazama: Time River (2015, Sunnyside): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Metric: Pagans in Vegas (2015, Metric): [r]: A-
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Mauch Chunk (2015, Hot Cup): [cd]: A-
  • Caili O'Doherty: Padme (2015, Odo): [cd]: B+(**)
  • New Order: Music Complete (2015, Mute): [r]: A-
  • The Pop Group: Citizen Zombie (2015, Freaks R Us): [r]: B+(*)
  • Noah Preminger: Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (2015, self-released): [cd]: A-
  • Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment: Surf (2015, self-released): [r]: A-
  • John Wojciechowski: Focus (2015, Origin): [cd]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Madness: One Step Beyond . . . (1979, Stiff): [r]: B+(**)
  • Madness: Absolutely (1980, Stiff): [r]: B
  • Madness: Complete Madness (1979-82 [1982], Stiff): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Pop Group: Y (1979 [2007], Radar): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Pop Group: For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? (1980, Rough Trade): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Saturday Night Fever [The Original Movie Sound Track] (1976, Polydor): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Specials: The Specials (1979, Chrysalis): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Specials: More Specials (1980, Chrysalis): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Specials: The Singles Collection (1979-84 [1991], Chrysalis): [cd]: A-
  • Suicide: Suicide (1977, Red Star): [r]: B
  • Suicide: Suicide (1980, Antilles/ZE): [r]: B+(**)
  • This Are Two Tone (1979-82 [1983], Chrysalis): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Marnix Busstra: Firm Fragile Fun (Buzz Music)
  • Rich Halley 4: Eleven (Pine Eagle)
  • Scott Hamilton & Jeff Hamilton Trio: Live in Bern (Capri): October 20
  • Harth/Fischer/Daemgen: Confucius Tarif Reduit (Spore Point)
  • Keigo Hirakawa: And Then There Were Three (self-released)
  • Innerroute: Fourmation (self-released): October 15
  • Matt Mitchell: Vista Accumulation (Pi): October 16
  • Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare)
  • Martin Speicher/Peter Geisselbrecht/Jörg Fischer: Spicy Unit (Spore Print)
  • Manuel Valera & Groove Square: Urban Landscape (Destiny)
  • Galen Weston: Plugged In (Blujazz)
  • Patrick Williams: Home Suite Home (BFM)

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Get Down and Boogie (1974-76 [1976], Casablanca): A dance sampler label promo mixed onto two non-stop sides, the first with two tracks each from Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer, the second breaking disco discipline with two funk classics from Parliament. I was reminded of this by Christgau's Saturday Night Fever review, and tried to assemble a songlist on Rhapsody, but most of the lesser lights were AWOL. B+

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Weekend Roundup

With the weekend approaching, I had one entry (on drug pricing) in the draft file. Don't have time to add much, but I do have some open tabs I want to take note of before I go offline:

  • Paul Krugman: Religions Are What People Make Them:

    The current crop of Republican presidential candidates is accomplishing something I would have considered impossible: making George W. Bush look like a statesman. Say what you like about his actions after 9/11 -- and I did not like, at all -- at least he made a point of not feeding anti-Muslim hysteria. But that was then.

    Reason probably doesn't do much good in these circumstances. Still, to the extent that there are people who should know better declaring that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with democracy, or science, or good things in general, I'd like to recommend a book I recently read: S. Frederick Starr's Lost Enlightenment: Central Asia's Golden Age From the Arab Conquest to Tamerlane. It covers a place and a time of which I knew nothing: the medieval flourishing of learning -- mathematics, astronomy, medicine, philosophy -- in central Asian cities made rich by irrigated agriculture and trade.

    As Starr describes their work, some of these scholars really did prefigure the Enlightenment, sounding remarkably like Arabic-speaking precursors of David Hume and Voltaire. And the general picture he paints is of an Islamic world far more diverse in its beliefs and thinking than anything you might imagine from current prejudices.

    Now, that enlightenment was eventually shut down by economic decline and a turn toward fundamentalism. But such tendencies are hardly unique to Islam.

    People are people. They can achieve great things, or do terrible things, under lots of religious umbrellas. (An Israeli once joked to me, "Judaism has rarely been a religion of oppression. Why? Lack of opportunity.") It's ignorant and ahistorical to claim unique virtue or unique sin for any one set of beliefs.

    A couple quick points: Bush understood that American intervention in the Middle East wouldn't work without local allies, which the US at least had to go through the motions of cultivating. One side effect of this is that Americans and Arabs would develop attachments which would eventually result in many of the latter coming to the US (much as had happened with Cuba and Vietnam). Islamophobes should have understood this dynamic from the beginning, and as such should have resisted Bush's imperial ventures. Of course, they didn't do that -- they're not very bright, but at least they understood that Bush's wars in the Middle East were wars against the people there. Not so clear that either side understood that long-term wars there would only increase intrinsic Islamophobia among Americans, but that's probably the easiest lesson one could have deduced from a study of America's wars.

    The ending of the Arab enlightenment didn't correspond to economic downturn so much as military defeat, primarily by the Mongols and Turks. (A similar thing happened in Spain, first with the Moors then the Christians.) Of course, once the Mongols sack Baghdad it's hard to rebuild the economy. We've seen that in real time with the American occupation, which by most accounts was considerably less brutal.

    In Israel, Jewish military power has turned Judaism into a religion of oppression -- indeed a remarkably nasty one. Perhaps that "lack of opportunity" has prevented any safeguards from evolving. Indeed, one can point to episodes where Christian rule was at least as brutal -- the Spanish Inquisition, for one.

  • Andrew Pollack: Drug Goes From $13.50 a Tablet to $750, Overnight: The drug is Daraprim, a 62-year-old generic which was acquired by "Turing Pharmaceuticals, a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager." The first thing you learn in MBA school is that the price of something has nothing to do with its cost: it's simply what the market will bear. For a drug that can be the difference between life and death, a seller can get away with a pretty steep price. Under such circumstances, there's little difference between "smart business" and the highwayman's motto, "your money or your life." What's unusual here is that the drug is generic, so in principle there's nothing to stop other companies from competing, and competition should bring the price down to something related to costs. However, as the article shows, there are ways an operator can create and exploit a temporary monopoly -- even where none should exist. One the article doesn't mention goes back to MBA school doctrine: if all the smart operators look for is huge margin opportunities, they'll never bother to compete a price down -- which leaves the first mover with monopoly rents.

    The article gives several other examples of extortionate price increases. I've seen other reports that couple of them have been rolled back, basically by shaming the companies, although I suspect that the real leverage is that a few large insurance companies and, ultimately, the government are the main buyers of pharmaceuticals -- and while you may be powerless, they less committed to your health than to their own bottom line.

    Dean Baker tweeted: "We don't negotiate firefighters' pay when they show up at the burning house, why would we pay for drugs this way?" Baker argues that we should End Patent Monopolies on Drugs. I agree with everything Baker says here:

    The United States stands out among wealthy countries in that we give drug companies patent monopolies on drugs that are essential for people's health or lives and then allows them to charge whatever they want. Every other wealthy country has some system of price controls or negotiated prices where the government limits the extent to which drug companies can exploit the monopoly it has given them. The result is that we pay roughly twice as much for our drugs as the average for other wealthy countries. This additional cost is not associated with better care; we are just paying more for the same drugs. [ . . . ]

    A monopoly that allows drug companies to sell their drugs at prices that can be hundreds of times the free market price has all the problems economics predicts when governments interfere with the market. Drug companies routinely mislead doctors and the public about the safety and effectiveness of their drugs to increase sales. The cost in terms of bad health outcomes and avoidable deaths runs into the tens of billions of dollars every year.

    Drug companies also spend tens of millions on campaign contributions and lobbying to get [even] longer and stronger patent protection. The pharmaceutical industry is one of the main forces behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and its demands for stronger patent protections is one of the main obstacles to reaching an agreement with the other countries.

    We don't need patent monopolies to support research. We already spend more than $30 billion a year financing research through the National Institutes of Health. Everyone, including the drug companies, agrees that this money is very productive. We could double or triple this spending and replace the patent supported research done by the drug companies. With the research costs paid upfront, most drugs would be available for the same price as a bottle of generic aspirin.

    Still, as Pollack's article proves, the problem with drug pricing isn't just patents. Purchasers also need more leverage in negotiating prices -- by consolidating their purchasing power and by promoting more competitive options.

Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted; i.e., I don't have time for this shit right now):

Daily Log

I wrote this letter to Roy Wenzl at the Wichita Eagle, responding to an article he wrote on how inhospitable Wichita has become to entrepreneurship (Entrepreneurship in Wichita -- a best-known trait now old history?):

As I was reading your story today, I recalled an incident from long ago (1976). I was a typographer, working at a printing shop downtown ("Letters, Inc.") and I was out-producing everyone else in the shop, but the small raises I had been getting under the original owner had dried up when he quit for medical reasons and left his idiot son in charge. After many months, I finally asked for a raise, and I was told that was impossible: that I was already earning the maximum wage for my work, and that if I really needed to make more money, I should move to a higher-wage market -- like Tulsa. All that did was confirm my suspicion that Wichita businessmen were the dumbest species on earth. I quit, announcing my intention to move to New York City (I knew better than Tulsa). Of course, they came back with a raise offer, even a parking spot. I moved back to Wichita in 1999 when my parents' health was fading. I was able to keep my job in NJ, telecommuting, although that fell apart after a couple years. I dreaded the prospect of having to work for any of the morons who run businesses here -- a fear that was confirmed, for instance, when one company offered me $12.50/hour to develop a database application that was being outsourced from China (their two previous programmers had failed utterly; I had a spotless record as a consulting software engineer but was used to getting $50/hour back east). I thought about starting a business, something with an open source software approach to home automation. I wrote a business plan, talked to a bunch of people, never found the right mix of talent, so I never got around to finding out how bad the financial situation here was. (Of course, I suspected.) One thing I did notice was that T-1 lines, for instance, cost about 4-5 times as much here as they did in California. So I wound up kind of wasting away here, supported by my wife (who had kept her job through two moves, from Boston to NJ to Wichita). We're retired now, so I'm not fretting this, but nothing you wrote surprised me.

The politicians, of course, believe the way to grow the economy here is to poach freeloading businesses from elsewhere with tax and other incentives. Even in the rare cases when that works, the companies never develop the commitment to the community home-grown businesses have, and they're just as likely to flutter away after the next sweet deal. Similarly, when home-grown businesses are sold off to big conglomerates (as has happened with Beech, Cessna, and Lear Jet) their new owners start to look at Wichita as a curse rather than a blessing, and the whole community suffers for the greed of the heirs.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Elizabeth Fink (1945-2015)

Elizabeth Fink was an attorney who spent her entire career defending and fighting politically-charged cases, especially against the abuse of power by state and federal authorities. She never suffered any delusions about the innocence and/or righteousness of her clients -- not that some weren't innocent and/or justified -- but she fully recognized how stacked the system is against them, and struggled relentlessly to tilt that system back toward justice. As she said, "justice is what everyone deserves and no one gets." And it should be noted that she was exceptionally effective in the courtroom: as Laura Stevens put it, "Liz had outstanding results in her work, winning case after case that was a loser for almost anyone else." Persistent too: "This applies to Attica not on the facts, which were compelling, but on the process, which would have defeated most people before the first 20 years expired."

Liz died on Tuesday, September 22, at age 70, in Brooklyn. She had increasingly dire kidney and heart problems, which forced her to give up her practice a couple years ago. In her last week she was approaching renal failure, and had a hemodialysis shunt installed. She took a short walk on Sunday and fell, possibly breaking her hip. In the hospital, her heart stopped. Laura Stevens, a dear friend ever since college, had spent the previous week with Liz (this is from a personal letter):

Through the whole week we were together, we had a good time with each other, talked for many hours, but her condition was awful. She had the beginning of renal failure . . . Her heart condition also exhausted her, so she couldn't walk any distance. Across the street was the maximum. She had a few comfortable hours a day in the later afternoon.

She didn't want to die, still being interested in "what comes next." She didn't want to live this way either, and was facing medical care she didn't want and didn't have confidence in. They can leave you worse off; we've all seen that, and she was truly wary. She still read voraciously, and listened to music with relish. She played it very loud, being very hard of hearing, but it gave her great pleasure. . . . I was always impressed with how much she took away from it, insights she'd have about the music and things that had been said on the program.

She is survived by her brother, photographer Larry Fink, and by numerous friends who miss her dearly.

The following pieces will give you a quick guide to her career (although each misses much):

Liz grew up in a left-wing family in Brooklyn, keeping a equally committed but less doctrinaire version of her family's politics. (I know little about her father, who died before I met her, but her mother -- I knew her as Sylvia Kleinman -- was always involved in something political, notably the Gray Panthers. She once walked off Charlie Rose's show because she didn't think he was taking her seriously.) Liz went to Reed College and graduated in 1967. That's where she met "the two Lauras" and they remained lifelong friends -- Laura Stevens, introduced above, and Laura Tillem, who later met and married me. In 1971, the Attica prison revolt was murderously put down on orders from NY Governor Nelson Rockefeller. The state's first instinct there was to prosecute prisoners, among other things charging them with the deaths of the nine prison guards who had been held hostage and were shot and killed by the invading troops. When Liz graduated from Brooklyn Law School, she joined the defense team, helped get the charges dropped, and filed suit against the state, resulting in several trials and the settlement in 2000. She stuck through the entire ordeal. Even in her last days she was working on organizing her archives and trying to force New York to release still-secret documents.

I first met Liz shortly after Laura Tillem and I got together. We were living in Boston, and Liz came up frequently -- the "Ohio 7" sedition case was tried in Springfield, so Liz stayed there for the duration of the trial. (Some info here: "the longest and most expensive trial in the history of Massachusetts, . . . When the trial ended with no convictions, it also turned out to be one of the most controversial -- and highly criticized -- trials . . ." -- I remember that we talked at great length about what a staggering waste of public resources the trial was. As I recall the amount of money the government wasted was about five times the capitalization of the start-up company I was working for at the time.) After the trial, she came to Boston less, but we went to New York more. We met up once at her mother's house in New Jersey. On a couple occasions Liz and her mother rented a house way out on Long Island and invited lots of their friends out. Once we flew to Portland for a Reed Reunion -- that was the first time I met Laura Stevens. When Sylvia died we dropped everything and drove to Brooklyn. (A few months earlier Sylvia closed up the NJ home and moved into an assisted living apartment in Brooklyn.) When we moved to NJ, Liz came out many times, including to one of my notorious birthday dinners. After we moved to Wichita, Liz and Laura Stevens stopped on a cross-country drive. We were staying at Liz's when 9/11 happened, and I wound up staying there a month. As Liz's health declined, Laura made several trips to New York to help out. I only made one, in May 2014, at a point when she was doing relatively well.

In listing all these encounters, I can't help but feel like I'm bragging, but really I count myself as incredibly lucky. I've heard that when Laura and I first got together, Liz's only question was whether I was "smart enough" for her. I'm pretty sure I passed muster, but really, the most imposing intellect I've ever encountered was Liz's. She read more than anyone I've ever known, comprehended it all, was always incisive in her critiques, and could speak eloquently and poignantly without ever losing your interest. She was, in short, dazzling. One regret I have is that I never saw her in a courtroom, one of the few places where such rigor may prove decisive. A greater regret is that she always resisted my pleas to write. I would have been satisfied had she found a scribe to follow her around and jot down stories (like Ralph Leighton did for Richard Feynman). Terrific stories, thousands of them. If we're lucky, her friends will recall many of them, but too many are already lost. She may have been right that she could never write as well as her favorite writers, but her voice deserves an oral legacy as rich as, well, the other bard who passed this week, Lawrence Peter Berra.

But that was just one of many facets to this remarkable person. I'd like to close by quoting several memories that people have written to her Facebook timeline. I hope at some point to collect these and more on the Friends of Liz Fink webpage.

Gideon Oliver [Sept. 22 at 11:04pm]:

I loved Elizabeth Fink very much and was lucky to have her as a mentor and friend. Beyond that, I don't have words about this yet.

Gideon Oliver [Sept. 22 at 11:35pm]:

Starting at :45 - Elizabeth Fink on the courthouse steps, spitting fire and speaking truth to power: Woman linked to Al-Qaida won't answer attempted murder charges in US.

Lamis Deek [Sept. 23 at 2:11am]:

She was also more beautiful than she knew, more beautiful than the world wanted her to be. Good night dear Elizabeth Fink.

Nancy Alisberg [Sept. 23 at 8:02am]:

So sad to hear of the death of Elizabeth Fink. Friend, mentor, neighbor.

Cynthia Skow [Sept. 23 at 9:07am]:

The world lost a true warrior for justice yesterday and I lost a hero. Elizabeth Fink, rest in power!

Lamis Deek [Sept. 23 at 11:53am]:

Few, far too few, people lived with the integrity Elizabeth Fink did . . . her love was active, full and given to those who need it most in ways that really count. Her life, her practice was ruled by the most important rules "if you're OK, I'm OK" and "Dare to struggle dare to win." She was a school unto herself.

Farewell fallen comrade and teacher.

Fahd Ahmed [Sept. 23 at 1:14pm]:

I'm not big on hero-izing people.

But Elizabeth Fink was one of those people who changed me forever within a few minutes.

I was lucky to have been trained to be a lawyer "on your own terms" (ie. don't let the system define who you are and what you do). But I really learned what it meant within a few minutes of meeting Liz, and definitely the first time I saw her in court. From how she walked about, where she scattered (very intentionally) her belongings, how she talked to court officers and judges, etc. Absolutely outrageous woman. And I absolutely loved it.

It was a measured "fuck you and your whole damn system" approach, while making sure to keep the client at center. Tremendous fierceness against the system and tremendous love and care for the people.

A genuine peoples lawyer who understood the nexus of her work with mass movements.

It was an honor to know you, and to work with you. And I forever take what I learned into all of my work beyond lawyering.

You and your fire will be missed.

Pat Rowbotton [Sept. 23 at 2:53pm]:

Liz fought hard with brilliance and creativity. Saw the Ohio 7 to freedom - no one ever fought as hard or won as much.

Meg Handler [Sept. 24 at 10:06am]:

'Dare to struggle; dare to win.' - Elizabeth Fink

This week, we lost one fierce lady. Liz was tough, brilliant and funny and she committed her life to fighting social injustice. I knew Liz thru her brother Larry. She was like family to me. When 800 of us were wrongfully arrested during the RNC in 2004, and I was asked if I had a lawyer who could be called, I said Liz Fink. It turned out Liz and a few other civil rights lawyers were already down in the courtroom arguing for our release. At that moment I knew I was in good shape, that myself and the other wrongfully arrested, would be taken care of. It took 10 years . . . and in the end, it did get taken care of. 10 years was nothing for the likes of Liz, she fought for the Attica inmates for 25 years. She always fought the good fight. She will be missed by many.

Susan Slovak [Sept. 24 at 11:28am]:

She was always gutsy and brave, even in high school. I so admired her integrity and intelligence, even then. She will be so very very missed.

Gideon Oliver [Sept. 24 at 5:27pm]:

Elizabeth Fink accepting the proclamation and a key to the city of Venice, Italy, for the return of Silvia Baraldini. From Michael Deutsch's article "Frank and Liz" published in the National Lawyers Guild - NYC Chapter 2006 Spring Fling Journal. PRESENTE.

Gideon Oliver [Sept. 24 at 5:35pm]:

Elizabeth Fink talking about the Ohio 7 trial and a whole lot more - "Hundreds of law enforcement personnel from across the Northeast came to campus and protested the event the evening it took place. . . ." - h/t Michael Deutsch: Part 4 "The Great Sedition Trial" issues from the trial 11.12.09.

Rachel J-s [Sept. 25 at 12:41am]:

My mom's best friend Elizabeth Fink died this week. I knew her my whole life, from vivid memories of her not letting me win at monopoly when I was 6, to giving me the keys to her apartment when I moved to New York City when I was 20. She was insanely generous with me and many other people, a wealth of historical knowledge about the American left, and taught me about serious, delicious food, before foodie was a term. I really can't quite believe she won't be opening her apartment door, suggesting something amazing for lunch and telling me to take her dog for a walk, the next time I'm in Brooklyn.

Debbie Hrbek [Sept. 25 at 7:10am]:

Please watch, and share, this powerful presentation by my mentor, the wonderful Elizabeth Fink, who died on Tuesday. Such an inspiration to young lawyers about the importance of fighting the good fight. [Second link to Part 4 "The Great Sedition Trial" issues from the trial 11.12.09.]

Gideon Oliver [Sept. 25 at 3:54pm]:

Long, amazing, and worthwhile interview w/ Elizabeth Fink from Black Panther doc "What We Want, What We Believe" posted to Robert Boyle's page - It's amazing to hear Liz talk about Dhoruba Bin-Wahad - this is history everyone should know, and just a ton of Liz being Liz - YouTube.

Carmen Jeannette Levasseur [Sept. 25 at 9:30pm]:

Liz Elizabeth Fink drove my sisters and I to and from family visits for years. She was a grounded force in a time of chaos. She always let me sit in front.

Bobby Quackenbush [Sept. 25 at 9:45pm]:

"Jeopardizing the Republic. I think I'd like that on my tombstone." - Elizabeth Fink

Ben Feinberg-Gerner [Sept. 25 at 11:35pm]:

Elizabeth Fink at her finest: fiery, passionate, deeply funny. Ever the watchwoman for the Constitutional protections we all have -- even when our government would rather overlook them in the name of policy or expedience.

The details of the case in question make her speech a bit tricky to follow, but what matters here in the underlying message and Liz's passion for justice. [Third link to Part 4 "The Great Sedition Trial" issues from the trial 11.12.09].

Edward Hershey [Sept. 26 at 2:05am]:

Usually glad to see The New York Times quote a passage of mine but not this time because it is at the end of Elizabeth Fink's obituary. I met Liz in Buffalo in 1974 when I covered the trial of 2 inmates charged with inciting the Attica Prison insurrection. She was on the defense team. She returned for her 40th Reed College reunion and I profiled her in the alumni magazine Still Fighting]. She was true to her principles every step of the way.

Finally, here's a recent photo, from an interview Mike Hull filmed:

Elizabeth Fink 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Daily Log

Music Week

Music: Current count 25544 [25500] rated (+44), 434 [436] unrated (-2).

I haven't played any Hatology records since last week's Rhapsody Streamnotes, although I expect I will before October's installment -- I'm still updating my checklist, and there's still lots to do (plus I'm finding a few older Hat Art releases). The only Hat A this week (and it's a full A) is Horace Tapscott's The Dark Tree, the latest reissue of a pair of albums I've long treasured.

My latest tangent as been 1970s pop/rock. As I was checking out the new Giorgio Moroder Michael Tatum recommended, I noticed that Moroder's 1977 album From Here to Eternity was on a list Pitchfork had assembled of The Top 100 Albums of the 1970s. As usual, I was tempted to fill in all the holes, and doubly so for Moroder -- as background for the new one, and because it's an album I used to own but somehow hadn't listed in the database. (I was on Casablanca's mailing list for a while in the late 1970s.)

Turns out that I had previously graded 85/100 albums -- the '70s were my decade, after all. My homework: Nick Drake, T. Rex, Neu!, Can, Saturday Night Fever, Pop Group, Suicide, Specials, Tim Buckley, Cluster, Faust, Van Halen, Nilsson, Throbbing Gristle, King Crimson -- someone at Pitchfork is really into Krautrock. I knocked about half of those off this week. Their list exhibits some unsurprising biases -- among pop/rock entries, 42 Brits but only 8 Afro-Americans, same as the number of Krautrock albums -- but did include 5 jazz albums (4 Miles Davis + 1 Herbie Hancock). There was a severe dry spell in the mid-1970s: only 9 albums for 1974-76. Unlike many lists, they weren't shy about picking 2nd, 3rd, or 4th albums by favorites: 4 each for David Bowie, Miles Davis, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd; 3 for Can, Brian Eno, Iggy and/or the Stooges; 2 for The Clash, Elvis Costello, Nick Drake, King Crimson, Kraftwerk, Fela Kuti, Ramones, Talking Heads, Neil Young. Still, I can't complain about the overall quality (unlike many recent lists): they picked 10 A+ albums, another 25 A albums, 25 more A-, and only 7 albums B or lower (only Van Halen much lower).

On the other hand, some missing artists: Captain Beefheart, Ornette Coleman, Derek and the Dominos, Nick Lowe, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Marley, Kate & Anna McGarrigle, Van Morrison, Mott the Hoople, New York Dolls, Parliament, Pere Ubu, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Lou Reed, Patti Smith, Steely Dan, Donna Summer, Bill Withers. I was tempted to offer an alternative list, but it could easily be as long.

By the way, the new Moroder album is unique in his catalog: it's like a compilation of productions for other singers as opposed to the robotized disco albums he released under his own name. At least Moroder's old Casablanca records are on Rhapsody (but not, alas, his 1969 That's Bubblegum). I tried assembling a playlist to match Casablanca's disco sampler Get Up and Boogie, but came up short by half.

All the new jazz I had this week was three high-B+ HMs until I gave Ochion Jewell a couple extra spins. Although he may be more impressed that he got Lionel Loueke to play on two tracks, the secret ingredient is the pianist and drummer from Dawn of Midi, offering many surprises. Preoccupied as I've been elsewhere, there's quite a bit of new jazz in the queue.

New records rated this week:

  • The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: 10 (2015, Zoho): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Animation: Machine Language (2014 [2015], Rare Noise): [cdr]: B
  • John Fedchock Quartet: Live: Fluidity (2014 [2015], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ochion Jewell Quartet: Volk (2015, self-released): [cd]: A-
  • Keith Kelly Ask Not: A Grand Apparatus, Discarded (2014 [2015], Edgetone): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Maddie & Tae: Start Here (2015, Dot): [r]: B+(*)
  • Josh Maxey: Celebration of Soul (2015, Miles High): [cd]: B
  • Bob Merrill: Cheerin' Up the Universe (2013 [2015], Accurate): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Giorgio Moroder: Deja-Vu (2015, RCA): [r]: A-
  • Pere Ubu: Carnival of Souls (2014, Fire): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One to Love (2015, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Aram Shelton/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Frank Rosaly: Resounder (2014 [2015], Singlespeed Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rotem Sivan Trio: A New Dance (2015, Fresh Sound New Talent): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Weeknd: Beauty Behind the Madness (2015, Republic): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree (1989 [2014], Hatology, 2CD): [r]: A
  • Amara Touré: 1973-1980 (1973-80 [2015], Analog Africa): [r]: B+(***)

Old records rated this week:

  • Can: Tago Mago (1971, United Artists): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ornette Coleman: The Empty Foxhole (1966 [1967], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nick Drake: Pink Moon (1972, Island): [r]: B+(*)
  • Faust: Faust IV (1973, Virgin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Faust: Something Dirty (2011, Bureau B): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Heart and Sack (1998, Leo Lab): [r]: A-
  • Pandelis Karayorgis: Seventeen Pieces: Solo Piano (2004, Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Franz Koglmann: O Moon My Pin-Up (1997 [2001], Hatology): [r]: B
  • Franz Koglmann: An Affair With Strauss (1999, Between the Lines): [r]: B+(**)
  • Franz Koglmann: Venus in Transit (2001, Between the Lines): [r]: B+(**)
  • Franz Koglmann: Fear Death by Water (2003, Between the Lines): [r]: B
  • Urs Leimgruber/Joëlle Léandre/Fritz Hauser: No Try No Fail (1996 [1997], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Giorgio Moroder: Knights in White Statin (1976, Oasis): [r]: B+(*)
  • Giorgio Moroder: From Here to Eternity (1977, Casablanca): [r]: B
  • Neu!: Neu! (1972, Brain): [r]: A-
  • Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Sings Newman (1970, Buddha): [r]: B-
  • Harry Nilsson: Nilsson Schmilsson (1971, RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Harry Nilsson: Pussy Cats (1974, RCA): [r]: B
  • T. Rex: Electric Warrior (1971, Reprise): [r]: B+(**)
  • T. Rex: The Slider (1972, Reprise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Horace Tapscott/Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: The Call (1978 [2012], Nimbus West): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott with the Pan-Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Live at I.U.C.C. (1979 [2006], Nimbus West, 2CD): [bc]: A-
  • Horace Tapscott: Lighthouse 79, Vol. 1 (1979 [2009], Nimbus West): [r]: B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott: Lighthouse 79, Vol. 2 (1979 [2009], Nimbus West): [r]: B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott: The Tapscott Sessions Vol. 8 (1984 [1997], Nimbus West): [r]: B+(***)
  • Van Halen: Val Halen (1978, Warner Brothers): [r]: C+

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado: This Is Our Language (Not Two)
  • Randy Bernsen: Grace Notes (Jericho Jams)
  • Marcelo Dos Reis/Angélica V. Salvi: Concentric Rinds (Cipsela)
  • Bill Kirchner: An Evening of Indigos (Jazzheads, 2CD): October 16
  • Frank Kohl Quartet: Invisible Man (Pony Boy): October 2
  • Adam Larson: Selective Amnesia (Inner Circle Music): November 3
  • Daniel Levin/Rob Brown: Divergent Paths (Cipsela)
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Maucha Chunk (Hot Cup): October 27
  • Oscar Perez: Prepare a Place for Me (Myna): October 13
  • Michael Sarian & the Chabones: The Escape Suite (self-released): November 3
  • Ike Sturm + Evergreen: Shelter of Trees (Kilde): November 10
  • Bastian Weinhold: Cityscape (Frame Music): November 3

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Harry Nilsson: Greatest Hits (1967-74 [1978], RCA):
  • T. Rex: Great Hits (1972-73 [1973], EMI): B+

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Short post this week. Got a late start, and didn't get beyond the usual US political campaign grist. Rest assured though that the Middle East remains as fucked as ever, that Europe is struggling with a refugee crisis, that Greece is stuck with a choice between two defeatist parties, that the rich still aren't satisfied, and environmental disasters are still multiplying. Meanwhile, our "best and brightest" reporters are mired in what Matt Taibbi calls "the stupid season."

  • David Atkins: Why Does the Press Continue to Get It So Wrong on Donald Trump?: Why do pundits, and for that matter pretty much all of the mainstream press, keep getting popular political opinions wrong?

    Conservatives will claim that journalists are liberal and don't understand Republican politics. Perhaps, but progressives have made equally scathing critiques of the press for years in their underestimation of progressive populist sentiment and elevation of centrist candidates. It's less that the political press is liberal, and more that it is trapped' in a bubble inhabited by the wealthy and powerful. [ . . . ]

    But more importantly, there is a bias in the press toward political neutrality and the perception of balance. After a debate in which Republican candidates peddled an endless string of falsehoods and fantasies, the political press has a crisis on its hands: let it all slide and simply transcribe the lies without challenge, or contribute to a perception of "liberal bias" by actually calling out the falsehoods and holding the candidates accountable?

    Trump presents a similar problem. Trump's extremist positions on immigration and foreign policy, combined with his vulgar, racist and sexist remarks, are so obviously appalling that for him to continuously lead the GOP field not only proves the Mann/Ornstein thesis that the Republican Party has grown uniquely extreme, but also shows that problem extends beyond Republican Party leadership to the actual voters themselves. Even more, the fact that Trump's apostasy on taxes and healthcare has not significantly damaged him is a demonstration that GOP voters are not actually so committed to the libertarian supply-side economics of the Republican Party as they are to using the power of government to benefit traditionally powerful whites at the expense of women and minorities.

    This a problem for the press. As long as Trump leads, it's impossible to maintain the fiction of equally extreme "both sides do it" partisanship. As long as Trump rules (and, to a lesser extent, that Bernie Sanders continues to rise on the left) it's also increasingly difficult to pretend that "moderates" in either party are actually the center of public opinion, rather than caterers to a unique brand of corporate-friendly upper-class comfort that labels itself as moderate without holding any legitimate claim to the title.

    Acknowledging those realities would force the press to start reporting the fundamentals of American politics as they stand today:

    First, that the Republican base wants a rebel leader to take their country back from the inconvenience of being nice to women, gays and minorities;

    Second, that the wealthy Republican establishment and its center-right Third Way Democratic counterparts don't actually have a legitimate base of voters, but rather illegitimate institutional capture of government via legalized bribery; and

    Third, that the rest of the country wants liberal public policies that would resemble a Scandinavian government, but most of them are so turned off by the futility of the American political process that not enough of them turn out to vote to make a real difference outside of the bluest states.

    The first two of these points could be phrased better but are pretty self-evident. The Republican Party is an uneasy coalition of leaders and followers: the former that segment of the wealthy that seeks to gain through zero-sum strategies (reducing taxes, suppressing wages, growing monopolies, exchanging wealth for debt, arbitrage); the latter various segments of gullible single-issue voters (racists, religious bigots, anti-abortion, pro-gun, flag wavers, anything that distracts one from class). The appeal to the latter is a combination of flattery (you're the real Americans) and demagoguery (they're hell-bent on destroying your life). That coalition is unstable because the leaders are actively undermining the followers' material basis, and this fracturing only increases as the leaders gain power. It may be possible for a politician to crack this coalition by running against the elites, but I don't see any reason to expect Trump will do that. Rather, as his own billionaire sponsor, his potential independence worries the elites and offers some hope to the gullible followers. Still, I don't see it panning out: even if his understanding of class never extends beyond his own bottom line, you know where he's going to land on every significant issue.

    The third point is the controversial one, because the main obstacle a significant extension of social democratic policies faces comes not from the Republicans -- who would cut their base's throats to achieve their goal of reducing government -- as from the mainstream Democrats, who chase after campaign money with the avarice of Republicans but at least have some scruples against wrecking the status quo (not that they always have the wisdom, as shown by their support for wrecking Carter-Glass banking regulation). The public may very well want more than the Democrats are offering, but without unions or other groups pressuring the Democrats to deliver, they'll keep playing defense (with the occasional fumble).

  • Josh Marshall: The War Party: Responding to the Republican dog and pony show, Marshall points out that when foreign policy issues came up, "Trump may have been silent because he just doesn't know enough details or doesn't care enough about them to engage," while the others "turned not so much to foreign policy as to each candidate trying to outdo the other in embracing the sort of petulant unilateralism that made the aughts such a disaster for the United States. It was, to put it simply, a race to embrace Bush foreign policy on steroids." I wouldn't give Trump much of a pass here -- he has, after all, claimed he's "the most militaristic person there is" (see Scott Eric Kaufman and Glen Healy -- the latter defending Trump by arguing that his boast is the "biggest lie" of a pathological braggart). Still, Marshall is right to focus on Rubio and Fiorina, who pundits like to praise for their ability to spew this shit with a straight face.

    Let's start with Marco Rubio, who has tried to carve out a space as the candidate of the neoconservatives in exile. Joe Klein saw him as the clear winner of the debate with a crisp and incisive command of national defense policy. "To my mind, Marco Rubio won that debate with his obvious fluency on a range of topics . . . Marco Rubio is becoming a force to be reckoned with -- on the debate stage. He is fluent, smart and bold."

    That is not what I saw at all.

    I agree that Rubio continues to come off as likable and he makes no obvious mistakes in these encounters. I actually think that just by dint of process of elimination he has a substantial better shot at the nomination that most people realize. But in his recitations on foreign policy he doesn't come off as knowledgable or seasoned. He comes off as someone who has obligingly internalized, in a kind of rote manner, the wisdom of Bill Kristol to get the money of Sheldon Adelson. There is a strong DC insider appetite for these nostrums. So it's not just the money. But these are dangerous, discredited ideas that were tried and failed miserably under the last Republican President. Indeed, they failed so miserably that even in President Bush's second term the standard-bearers were largely ushered aside in favor of a slightly more realist approach to cleaning up the messes created in the first term.

    If there is one thing the country does not need it is another impressionable foreign policy neophyte who comes under the influence of this war-addicted DC coven.

    Next is Carly Fiorina. I entirely agree that she had a strong, commanding debate. She seemed particularly focused and knowledgable on national security questions as she rattled off a number of things she would do to take a more aggressive posture toward America's adversaries and rivals.

    Unless of course you actually have any idea what you're talking about. In which case, the things she said seemed quite different. At a broad level, it's the same kind of confrontational and dangerous foreign policy that got the country into trouble a decade ago. But as Ezra Klein explains here, Fiorina's list of proposed actions were a mix of things that were irrelevant to the questions at hand, are already happening, or things that operate on a time scale such that they can't have any real affect on the challenges she suggests they're aimed at countering. The dangerous ground of half-knowledge. Or policies as puzzle pieces with no larger picture or understanding.

    I think the appeal the necons have among Republicans now is tied up with the right's obsession with condemning all things Obama. It is, after all, an extremist doctrine, one that takes common assumptions of the cold war security state and through a combination of logical rigor and macho posturing drives them to seductive but untenable extremes. It's worth recalling that the neocons' original nemesis was none other than Henry Kissinger, no minor war criminal himself, so casting Obama as cowardly and unpatriotic was easy. (Lazy and shameless too: after all, the crime they wailed about in Benghazi! wasn't Obama's running an illegal CIA operation there or getting it blown up but not spouting the correct anti-Islamic bigotry afterwards -- i.e., the one that would justify further disastrous intervention.)

    The neocon parlor game of rhetoric is hard to beat in the salons of Washington, even though it has never been shown to work in the real world -- where America isn't omnipotent, where American efforts to "shock and awe" other into submission merely publicize the moral rot that somes with superpower hubris. The neocons always have the excuse that their principles were compromised by weaklings who didn't believe and didn't try hard enough. The real antidote to neoconism is to question the assumptions -- something Obama and Clinton never had the guts to do, because the institutional power of the security state is too entrenched. Some of the leading dimwits of the Tea Party movement were tempted in that direction, but Michelle Bachmann fizzled before she could articulate much, and Rand Paul let himself be convinced that only by prevaricating could he win the nomination -- leaving himself no principle to stand on.

    Marshall's conclusion:

    The attitude of embattlement and grievance that currently animates the Republican party is something we're quite familiar with in the domestic sphere but it's even more present in the outlook abroad. It is a dangerous thing to take a coalition which feels embattled, victimized and disempowered and put them in charge of the most powerful military in the world. A coalition like that, with an untrained hand at the helm, guided by terrible advisors is a recipe for disaster.

  • Philip Weiss: Coulter's point is that Republicans pander on Israel to win donors, not voters: I referred to the Republican presidential debate above as a "dog and pony show" -- a phrase that back in my corporate days we used to refer to any staged presentation (to customers, to investors, or to anyone else you hoped to deal with). I was looking for an alternative turn of phrase, but also I was a bit uncomfortable with "debate" -- that suggests a high-minded collegiate contest being scored by experts, and while many pundits are conceited enough to think of themselves that way, that wasn't necessarily the judgment the candidates were looking for. Some were mostly intent on selling themselves to potential voters, while some were no doubt more concerned with donors. It now occurs to me that the latter may have been the main focus, one that resonates with my "dog and pony show" quip: after all, who bothers to watch a dog or horse race unless they have some money riding on the result?

    Coulter is a thoroughly obnoxious pundit, one who built her entire career by heaping hateful invective on liberals, a torrent so vile it's consumed her, turning her into such a fount of hatred that she's lost the ability to distinguish between former friends and foes. It wouldn't surprise me if her "fucking Jews" tweet reveals anti-semitism because her hate has become so universal, although it sounds as much like her usual stock in trade. Still, the sequence of her tweets shows she's at least trying to think through what she's seeing. She quickly figures out that Republican appeals on Israel aren't meant to curry favor with Jewish voters, because there aren't that many of them, and most vote Democratic anyway. She considers whether it's "to suck up to the Evangelicals" -- they are more numerous, and they're a key target constituency for Republicans: many see Israel as an essential step toward the second coming of Jesus, the "end times" and all that. (I've known people obsessed with that, although you don't read much about them as it's considered impolite to talk about such delusions.) But in the end Coulter decides the candidates are pitching their donors, and she comes up with this tweet, which despite everything is pretty much on target:

    How to get applause from GOP donors: 1) Pledge to start a war 2) Talk about job creators 3) Denounce abortion 4) Cite Reagan 5) Cite Israel.

    Worth noting that (1) is an implicit case of (5), not that war with Iran isn't the only pledge, but if it wasn't Iran it'd be someone else on Israel's "existential threat" list -- ISIS, for one, is looming. Coulter's hot button issue at the moment seems to be nativism, which whenever it has erupted in American history has been rooted in racism (and often linked to anti-semitism, although these days the semites are much more often Muslim). Nativism has also tended to be associated with autarky and isolationism, and Coulter seems to be leaning that way -- if you don't want foreigners coming to America, you shouldn't go around the world starting wars and stirring up distress, like America's liberal interventionists have been doing ever since FDR. One could build a coherent conservative argument around such notions, but I have yet to hear one from Trump or Coulter or even Rand Paul. Part of the problem there is that Fascists in the 1930s discredited those notions for generations. Part is that capital -- the money of the superrich who think they run the GOP -- has become so globalized that any real autarky has become unimaginable. And while it's not clear that global capital really requires America's military sprawl, no Republican has come around to asking that question.

    In a sense, (3) has become the core point: not so much that the money Republicans hate abortion, but abortion has become a litmus test issue, something no Republican can question without being drummed out of the tribe. But then all the points are increasingly like that: litmus tests, articles of faith, self-commitments. They draw applause because Republicans love to applaud themselves. But they're increasingly self-selecting themselves into a power-losing minority.

    By the way, we can thank Netanyahu for moving Israel out of the realm of bipartisan consensus and into the Republican column. That will eventually free the Democrats of a terrible burden. As Weiss puts it:

    One good result of this conversation will be more Jews condemning Sheldon Adelson and Norman Braman and the Republican Jewish Coalition moneybags for trying to have a war with Iran, more Jews declaring that they aren't Zionists.

    As for Coulter's (4) point, see: Jon Schwarz: Seven Things About Ronald Reagan You Won't Hear at the Reagan Library GOP Debate: "And maybe that's appropriate -- since if Reagan stood for anything as president, it was creating a completely fictionalized version of the past."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Rhapsody Streamnotes (September 2015)

Pick up text here.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25500 [25453] rated (+47), 436 [426] unrated (+10).

Once again I spent most of the week trawling through the Hatology releases on Rhapsody. The A- rate, which had been declining the last two weeks, even got a bump to 32% (8/25, counting one older Hat Art release; last week was 20.6% [6/29], previous 28.5% [6/21]; previous database was 36.1% [26/72]). I had previously reported on the Myra Melford title (Alive in the House of Saints), but further research revealed that the 2001 Hatology reissue had been expanded to 2CD from the 1993 Hat Art release I previously listened to (then, erroneously, substituted the later cover for). It's one of those "more is more" records, never flagging for a moment.

Among the others, the biggest surprise was Austrian saxophonist Max Nagl. His earlier Ensemble album is pretty much as good as the one I picked, and the Big Four records are more than interesting. The Konitz-Solal duo is the most marginal of the picks, probably because I expected more than just support from the pianist, but it is a lovely outing for Konitz, and sometimes that's enough. Jimmy Lyons shows up on two terrific albums: one an oddly named trio, the other soaring over ane specially energetic pianist named Cecil Taylor. I had some trouble playing Taylor's solo disc: a third cut that played long after I thought the album finished should have prodded me to give it another spin, but I let it go. It's a little annoying that Hat only reissued the first of two Garden sets. Sometimes their latest reissues have combined pairs of separate discs (e.g., Horace Tapscott's The Dark Tree), and now we're starting to see them splitting 2-CD sets up (as with Anthony Braxton's Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993). Strange company.

What helped me sort this out was the compilation of a complete Hatology Checklist file, based on the label's own discography plus a lot of checking into Discogs. This shows that I still have yet to get to 73 records (although there may be some redundancies there, plus there are a couple of rejiggered reissues of records I've previously heard -- the 2-CD The Dark Tree is bound to be as great as the older separate CDs). I also haven't dealt with their "contemporary composition and new music" label, Hat[now]Art, but it appears that most of their albums are also on Rhapsody now. Right now, I'm more tempted to add the older Hat Musics and Hat Art labels, as some of the latter's titles have also appeared on Rhapsody.

I may take a break from Hat this week as I try to wrap up a Rhapsody Streamnotes column: something like 167 records in the draft file already, but perhaps a little short on new music. I did add three new jazz albums to the 2005 A-list this week -- two with drummer Mike Reed (whom I expect good things from, but not necessarily flute albums). Also good to hear that Mort Weiss is working again.

Still, I doubt if I'll find much more new music soon enough for this month's column. Robert Christgau's revived Expert Witness hasn't been offering much I agree with so far -- second A- we agree on in four weeks is Shamir's Ratchet (first was Boz Scaggs' A Fool to Care), although I'll note that I did only give Jamie XX's In Colour a single cursory spin. (The only one I hadn't heard this week, Diplo's Random White Dude Be Everywhere, got two plays. The massive Funkadelic HM, another 2014 album, just got one, and had settled into its grade slot an hour before it expired.)

More to check out in Michael Tatum's latest, A Downloader's Diary (42): Ezra Furman, Freedy Johnston, Giorgio Moroder. He had already tipped me off to Songhoy Blues (which I had, along with Bassekou Kouyate, Ashley Monroe, and Mountain Goats, at A-, with Tal National and Yo La Tengo just short at high B+ (I'm not as pleased or amused or whatever the verb should be with Nellie McKay's trawl through '60s pop). Also, can the duds (Iris DeMent, Neil Young) really be so bad? If I don't get to them this week, I will next time. (Or maybe not: I've looked for DeMent but her record isn't yet on Rhapsody.)

For those of us who count things, note that Tatum has logged his first thousand Downloader's Diary albums (current count = 1001). See his Archive, in particular the Index. By the way, if someone wants to contribute a banner and suggest a revised color scheme (or a whole new skin) let us know.

New records rated this week:

  • Beat Funktion: Olympus (2015, DO Music): [cd]: B
  • Dheepa Chari: Patchwork (2015, self-released): [cd]; B-
  • Funkadelic: First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (2014, The C Kunspyruzhy, 3CD): [r]; B+(*)
  • Michael Gallant Trio: Live Plus One (2015, Gallant Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Chris Golinski/Tim McNally/Boaz Roberts: Rodeo (2015, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Darius Jones Quartet: Le Bébé de Brigitte (Lost in Translation) (AUM Fidelity): [r]; B+(**)
  • Michael Kocour: Wherever You Go, There You Are (2014 [2015], OA2): [r]; B+(*)
  • Lona Kozik/Chris Golinski: Spelaeology (2015, Edgetone): [r]; B+(*)
  • Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed: Artifacts (2015, 482 Music): [cd]: A-
  • Mike Reed's People Places & Things: A New Kind of Dance (2015, 482 Music): [cd]: A-
  • Mort Weiss: Mort Weiss Is a Jazz Reality Show (2015, SMS Jazz): [cd]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Peter Brötzmann/Joe McPhee/Kent Kessler/Michael Zerang: Tales Out of Time (2002 [2015], Hatology): [r]; A-
  • Diplo: Random White Dude Be Everywhere (2012-14 [2014], Mad Decent): [r]; B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor: Garden 1st Set (1981 [2015], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)

Old records rated this week:

  • Bobby Bradford-John Carter Quintet: Comin' On (1988 [2011], Hatology): [r]; A-
  • Clusone 3: An Hour With . . . (1998 [2000], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Marc Copland Trio: Haunted Heart (2001 [2010], Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • Marc Copland: Marc Copland And . . . (2002 [2003], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Marc Copland: Solo: Time Within Time (2004 [2005], Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • Pierre Favre Singing Horns: Souffles (1997 [1998], Intakt): [r]; B+(***)
  • Pierre Favre: European Chamber Ensemble (1999 [2000], Intakt): [r]; B+(***)
  • Guillermo Gregorio/Mats Gustafsson/Kjell Nordeson: Background Music (1998, Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • ICP Orchestra: Jubilee Varia (1997 [1999], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Isotope 217: The Unstable Molecule (1997, Thrill Jockey): [r]; B+(*)
  • Isotope 217: Utonian_Automatic (1999, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pandelis Karayorgis/Nate McBride/Curt Newton: Betwixt (2007 [2008], Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • Pandelis Karayorgis: System of 5 (2008 [2011], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: System of 5 (2008 [2011], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Franz Koglmann: Orte Der Geometrie (1989 [1990], Hat Art): [r]; B
  • Lee Konitz/Martial Solal: Star Eyes 1983 (1983 [2009], Hatology): [r]; A-
  • Lee Konitz/Don Friedman/Attilla Zoller: Thingin' (1995 [2010], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Jimmy Lyons & Sunny Murray Trio: Jump Up (1980 [2012], Hatology): [r]; A-
  • Myra Melford: Alive in the House of Saints (1993 [2001], Hatology, 2CD): [r]; A-
  • Max Nagl: Daily Bullet (1996 [1998], Leo Lab): [r]; B+(*)
  • Max Nagl Ensemble: Ramasuri (2000 [2001], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Max Nagl/Steven Bernstein/Noël Akchoté/Bradley Jones: Big Four (2001 [2002], Hatology): [r]; B+(***)
  • Max Nagl/Steven Bernstein/Noël Akchoté/Bradley Jones: Big Four Live (2005 [2007], Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • Max Nagl Ensemble: Quartier Du Faisan (2004 [2005], Hatology): [r]; A-
  • Lauren Newton: Filigree (1982 [1008], Hatology): [r]; B+(*)
  • Michel Portal/Léon Francioli/Pierre Favre: Arrivederci Le Chouartse (1980 [2002], Hatology): [r]; A-
  • Sun Ra Arkestra: Sunrise in Different Dimensions (1980 [2010], Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • Cecil Taylor Unit: The Eighth (1981 [2006], Hatology): [r]; A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gonçalo Almeida/Tobias Klein/Martin van Duynhoven: Vibrate in Sympathy (Clean Feed)
  • Art "Turk" Burton and Congo Square: Spirits: Then & Now (ATB): October 2
  • De Beren Gieren: One Mirrors Many (Clean Feed)
  • Benoit Delbecq/Miles Perkin/Emile Biayenda: Ink (Clean Feed)
  • East West Quintet: Anthem (self-released): October 13
  • Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: The Puzzle (Whaling City Sound)
  • Gerry Gibbs Thrasher Dream Trio: Live in Studio (Whaling City Sound)
  • Ulrich Gumpert Quartett: A New One (Intakt)
  • Dale Head: Swing Straight Up (Blujazz)
  • Left Exit: Mr K (Clean Feed)
  • The Liberation Music Collective: Siglo XXI (self-released)
  • Hans Luchs: Time Never Pauses (OA2): September 18
  • Whitney Marchelle: Dig Dis (Blujazz)
  • Joe McPhee/Jamie Saft/Joe Morris/Charles Downs: Ticonderoga (Clean Feed)
  • Ben Patterson: For Once in My Life (Origin): September 18
  • Noah Preminger: Pivot: Live at the 55 Bar (self-released): October 6
  • Tom Rainey Trio: Motel Grief (Intakt)
  • Scottish National Jazz Orchestra/Makoto Ozone: Jeunehomme: Mozart Piano Concerto No 9 K-271 (Spartacus): advance, September 4
  • Susana Santos Silva/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Hampus Lindwall: If Nothing Else (Clean Feed)
  • Snik: Metasediment Rock (Clean Feed)
  • Ben Winkelman Trio: The Knife (OA2): September 18
  • John Wojciechowski: Focus (Origin): September 18

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Diplo: Random White Dude Be Everywhere (2012-14 [2014], Mad Decent): B+(***) [rhapsody]

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Friday was the 14th anniversary of the 2001 Al-Qaeda "attack" against America, when nineteen Arabs (mostly Saudis) hijacked four airliners and committed suicide by flying those planes into iconic buildings in New York City and Virginia (and a Pennsylvania corn field). The media went berserk, describing all of America as "under attack." The political class decided this was war, and vowed to return the fight back to foreign lands -- which, after all, is the only experience any of them had ever had of war. Within days the intelligentsia, including way too many who had identified with the left, launched a pre-emptive attack on pacifists and anyone else who tried to talk reason -- especially anyone who expressed doubts that America was wholly innocent of wrong-doing.

I experienced those "attacks" from a barely comfortable distance, visting a friend, staying in her apartment above Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn. I could stick my head out the window and see the smoking (still-standing) towers, and could watch masses of people trudging home on foot as the subways were stopped. One of my first thoughts was that I knew it wasn't an atomic bomb because the pedestrians' panic had subsisted a mere three miles into Brooklyn. I tried to imagine what it must be like to be under siege in Sarajevo -- the most graphic experience of war from the 1990s -- and concluded that this wasn't at all like that. War wasn't something that ordinary people in New York felt that day. War was just a concept in the fevered minds of the people who talk on TV. For people who were in lower Manhattan that morning, of course, it was immediate: a disaster on a scale no one had experienced or was prepared for. But just a few miles away from "ground zero" more than anything else it was damn inconvenient. Like the Con Ed blackout I lived through in the 1970s. Well, in some ways worse, but on that order.

Of course, if you knew someone who was killed that day, it also had a tragic dimension. I knew one such person, a niece (the wife of my first wife's nephew), and I spent a fair amount of time the next two weeks with the family, so I did feel something other than inconvenienced. But I didn't experience that as war, but as random, sudden, violent, shattering -- like when my uncle was killed by a drunk driver, leaving his wife and three pre-teen children to fend for themselves. My niece had two children, one so young he'd never remember her. The manner of her death was obscenely worse, giving us days of uncertainty and months before they identified some of her DNA in the megatons of rubble. And something like that happened to nearly 3,000 other people, their families and friends, in not much more than an instant. Still, that's only about one in 2700 New Yorkers (or one in 94000 Americans, just barely one-thousandth of 1%). No one else I knew in New York in those weeks had such bad luck.

I wish someone would sift through the new coverage and punditry we saw on TV those first few days and edit a fair sampling of the insanity we saw. I clearly remember Shimon Peres and Benjamin Netanyahu smiling and cackling about how this was "very good" for Israel, and John Major lecturing on how much the Uk could teach America about how to handle terrorism. I remember a bit of fuzzy nighttime footage of a rocket explosion near Kabul being aired over the presumptive banner line "America Strikes Back." I remember the junior senator from New York, Hillary Clinton, standing on the Capitol steps and daring Al-Qaeda to take their best shot at her. I spent much of the day thumbing through a book of photographs called Century, looking at images of the real wars that plagued the past century while the phony warriors nattered on TV. It helped to keep it all in perspective, something almost everyone was losing.

For me, it wasn't hard to see that no good would come of such war fever. But how much bad would come was always hard to grasp, or even imagine. One might cite the nominal costs of 14 years of non-stop war, of endless war, of war with no prospect of victory or redemption -- over 6,700 US soldiers dead, many more maimed (physically and/or psychologically), trillions of dollars spent, and many times that much death, destruction, and destabilization that those wars have inflicted abroad -- but I'm ever more worried about the cognitive toll those wars have taken on American society, indeed on the ability of Americans to think clearly and to engage the world constructively.

Another thought I had on 9/11 was even rarer, and I think more profound: it occurred to me that the "attacks" were a "wake up call" -- a reminder to look into your own self to see whether anything you've done might have contributed to this tragedy. Needless to say, no notion was more unwelcome in post-9/11 America. The idea isn't to partition blame. Rather, it is to make certain that we do not spread the blame with future acts. Within a few months the United States had done just that: protected against self-awareness, obsessed by a sense of self-righteous victimhood, Bush marshaled the full force of American military power not against the individuals who plotted 9/11 but against whole nations of people who had nothing to do with the "attacks." He thereby greatly compounded the crime many times over, something he could do because so few Americans questioned the assumptions he made: that America's fortunes depended on the world's fear of America's military power; that the "attacks" had been an affront to that power, which could only be restored by reassertion; and that the United States, due to its unique virtue, was uniquely entitled to project that power over the rest of the world; and that the American people would continue to support a bold leader (like Bush) who would restore America to its rightful greatness.

It is difficult to overstate the amount of hubris, let alone ignorance, that feeds this worldview. Fourteen years later, by any objective measure, the stance has failed. Yet when Obama, recognizing that America's power to impose its will on Iran's leaders and people was limited, resorted to negotiating a framework that would at least ensure that Iran could not develop nuclear weapons -- the same "hot button" issue that Bush had used to provoke his ill-fated war in Iraq -- every single Republican senator and presidential candidate rose in opposition. Their objections have nothing to do with what Iran may or may not do. They object to the deal because it represents a retreat from their belief that American might (American greatness) is the answer to all problems in the world.

Nonetheless, it is not just the Republicans who continue to cling to these core assumptions. You'd be hard pressed to find any example where Obama has rethought why America is involved in the Middle East, or reconsidered what effect that involvement has had. The Iran deal is merely a change of tactics: he continues to assume that Iran is America's (and Israel's) mortal enemy, and that it meant to escape the omnipresent threat of American (and Israeli) attack by developing its own nuclear deterrence. The difference is that Obama chose a more realistic, more effective, and less risky method of preserving nuclear monopoly than, say, Bush did while allegedly pursuing the same goals viz. Iraq.

Of course, realism, effectiveness, and risk-limits are among the things Republicans hate about the deal. They suggest that Obama is not a true believer in America's greatness. Perhaps they even recall the Bush-era neocon mantra, "anyone can go to Baghdad; real men go to Tehran." Obama isn't their idea of a real man. Simple as that.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Josh Marshall: You'll Want to Read This: Marshall, in his intro and outro, shows he doesn't really known what to make of "TMP Reader JB" -- "no one bats 1000% at this" [presumably he means a batting average of 1.000, which means 100% of at bats turned into base hits] -- but it's helpful that he published it last year and reminded us of it this year.

    Could an attack happen tomorrow? Of course. But once every 13 years would still be an anomalous event, not a systemic threat. Remember the talk as the rubble smoldered of hundreds, maybe thousands, of "sleeper cells" lurking out there, waiting to strike? Well, we now know there were none at the time, and apparently none were formed even after we have fought two wars and killed thousands of innocent civilians since 9/11. One would think our actions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etcetera would spawn at least a few motivated and effective enemies bent on revenge through domestic attacks. Apparently not.

    So, ironically, if we had done absolutely nothing in response to 9/11 aside from hold funerals and shake our heads in disbelief, we would have been no less safe than we are now after two useless wars, trillions of dollars and thousands of lives lost, and a decade of taking off our shoes for domestic flights. I'm not saying this was obvious when 9/11 happened. Far from it. I was just as freaked out as anyone else at the time and I think it would have been foolish to ignore the threat. But the fact is if we had we would have been far better off, because as it turns out there were not hundreds of other Mohammed Attas out there in the wings. In fact, there were none, at least not with any meaningful capabilities (which would exclude folks like the shoe bomber and the Tsarnaev brothers). We know this to be the case because if such people did exist we would have been hit 100 times over by now. It is too damn easy to sow terror and chaos with motivation and even a below average IQ. Think Newtown or D.C. sniper.

    A few sad teenagers have committed far, far more domestic terror attacks than all the Islamic militants in the world over the past decade, and that is an outcome I think very few would have predicted, myself included, in the aftermath of 9/11. I'm sure the Rudy Giuliani set would love to take credit for the lack of attacks, but I think any serious expert on stopping domestic terrorism attacks would agree that the only way to bat as close to 1000 as we have is if your enemy is fictional.

    This is a little confused, but the basic point is surely correct: that the long-term incidence of terror attacks is extremely marginal and doesn't justify such major expense as wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, while those wars generated a lot of resistance locally, they don't appear to have generated any blowback inside the homeland. This suggests that Bin Laden's focus on the "far enemy" hasn't found any further adherents. (This may be changing in that ISIS has started to encourage sympathetic "lone wolf" attacks against hostile countries like the US and France, but that appears to be secondary to their recruitment campaigns, and it's not clear that they are organizing such attacks.)

    I would stress three points: (1) that the current and future incidence of terror attacks would go way down if the US wasn't intervening and otherwise supporting violence in the Middle East; (2) that continued US support for violence, including support for repressive measures by corrupt and reactionary regimes in the region, will build up a reservoir of ill will that will be increasingly difficult to defuse over time; and (3) the longer we engage in wars in the Middle East, the more Islamophobic our domestic population becomes, and that prejudice is likely to generate more jihadi recruitment and/or "lone wolf" incidents. So while I agree with "JD" that the actual incidence of domestic terror events doesn't justify the outsized response, I would also argue that the "war on terror" generates a lot more terror than would otherwise happen.

    This doesn't mean I'm against TSA security efforts (I can think of a half-dozen things about airlines that bother me worse), or that I object to the government keeping track of who's buying fertilizer or AK-47s (not that anyone's doing the latter). I do think some of the law enforcement efforts go too far. Like so much wartime hysteria in the nation's history, they are less intended to protect the public than to drive a wedge between the war agenda and people who might question it. From the Alien and Sedition Acts of the 1790s to the PATRIOT Act in the wake of 9/11, war fever has repeatedly tarnished the democracy and freedom allegedly being fought for, often in ways that once peace returned would be looked back on with embarrassment. (The one exception, by the way, was the War of 1812, scrupulously managed by the one president who understood the constitution above all others, James Madison.)

  • Mark Z Barabak: Republican voters turn their rage against party establishment: Front page article in Wichita Eagle this morning, but I can't find it on their website:

    After years of raging against President Obama, unhappy conservatives have a new target for their anger and disgust: the Republicans in Congress.

    The GOP seized control of the House in 2010 and four years later took the Senate. Yet even with those majorities, Republican lawmakers have failed to achieve such conservative priorities as rolling back Obamacare, their derisive name for the national health care law, or cracking down harder on illegal immigration.

    The controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline is no closer to being built -- indeed, it may soon be dead -- tough anti-abortion legislation has languished in the Senate, and a fiercely disputed nuclear deal with Iran seems virtually certain to take effect, despite near-unanimous opposition from Republicans in Congress.

    In short, as many see it, the promise of the 2010 tea party movement and its 2014 echo have been dashed on the marble steps of the Capitol.

    "People feel betrayed," said Greg Mueller, a longtime conservative activist and campaign strategist. "They feel like they keep working and fighting to elect Republicans to get us back to a limited-government approach to life, and all they get is more spending, more taxes and people who are afraid to fight liberal Democrats."

    What a bunch of conceited, whiny, self-important, ignorant assholes! In 2008, after nearly eight years of the most inept and corrupt Republican Administration in history, 69,498,516 Americans voted for change, for Barack Obama as president, 9.55 million more than voted for his Republican opponent, and they elected a heavily Democratic Congress with a supposedly "fillibuster-proof" Senate, and what did we get for all that effort? Not much. Then a few thousand bitter enders hold a few rallies, wave flags and spout Revolutionary War slogans, and the media goes crazy for them, and the Kochs write them checks, and all of a sudden they feel entitled to run the country their Party had just spent eight years driving to ruin. (Remember the bit about how Obama was running ruinous deficits? During the middle of a recession the Republicans created and were doing everything they could to extend?) And even after all that Tea Party enthusiasm, Obama was easily reelected in 2012 -- no longer promising change, just sanity relative to the parched earth obstructionism of the Republicans.

    I'm pretty sure no one on the right feels more disappointment in their elected partisan leaders than I do. Obama spent most of his presidency unwilling to even speak up for the promises he made in his 2008 campaign, much less to act to stand up for the people who voted for him (a big part of why so many didn't vote in 2010 -- turnout dropped from 129 to 82 million -- and 2014, handing Congress to the big money-backed Republican minority). But though I complain, I'm too used to losing to whine. My first political efforts, after all, opposed the Vietnam War. The rule of thumb is that politicians may appeal to the voters during a campaign, but once the ballots are counted they have to operate in a world dominated by moneyed (and other hidden) interests, a world of obstacles for anyone marginally on the left. Conservatives should rationally see such unelected power as their final bulwark against change, and indeed that's what happened to Obama. On the other hand, the whiners aren't rational. They expect their favored politicians to serve their every whim, no matter how dumb and debilitating: why not shut down the government in order to prevent women from choosing Planned Parenthood as their health care provider? Who needs Social Security checks anyway? And if it wasn't Planned Parenthood, it would be something else -- shutting down the government has become an annual ritual with them, anything "to get us back to a limited-government approach to life." (Anything, that is, but defunding the military, the government's most bloated and inefficient and, nonetheless, counterproductive bureaucracy.)

  • Paul Krugman: Charlatans, Cranks, and Apparatchiks:

    The Jeb! tax plan confirms, if anyone had doubts, that the takeover of the Republican Party by charlatans and cranks is complete. This is what the supposedly thoughtful, wonkish candidate of the establishment can come up with? And notice that the ludicrous claim that most of the revenue effects of huge tax cuts would be offset by higher growth comes from economists who, like Jeb!, are very much establishment figures -- but who evidently find that the partisan requirement that they support voodoo outweighs any fear of damage to their professional reputations.

    While the intellectual implosion of the GOP is obvious, however, it's less obvious what is driving it. Or to be more specific, stories that explain why one set of crank ideas flourish don't seem to work well for other sets of crank ideas.

    Krugman examines two cases of crank economic ideas -- opposition to expansionary economic policy and claims that cutting taxes on the rich will grow the economy -- and finds their rationales are different, but doesn't go much beyond that. I think the former case is more cynical: Republicans only oppose expansionary monetary policy when Democrats are in office and might get credit for growing the economy; otherwise, well, Cheney said "deficits don't matter" and Nixon said "we're all Keynesians now." Sure, there's some residual Gold-buggery in the Ron Paul camp, but that's marginal.

    As for reducing taxes on the rich, that's a policy constant that has been served by every conceivable rationale -- Lafferism is only one such ploy for the exceptionally gullible. And while rank and file Republicans may not get excited about creating a more inequal society, they'll usually buy the notion that tax cuts should be matched by spending cuts, especially subsidies to "those people." But if Krugman is having trouble finding "a general theory of crankification," that's because he's looking at economics, not politics. Once Republicans decided that any argument that sounded remotely plausible could be used to support their favored policies, validity ceased to be one of their concerns. Then they found that by cultivating the ignorance and illogic of their followers they could greatly expand their crackpot arguments and, well, the rest is show biz.

  • Middle East links: Seems like more war all the time. Perhaps unfair to blame all that on the region's number one arms supplier. Kind of like blaming junkies on pushers.

    • Yousef Munayyer: Gaza is already unlivable:

      The United Nations said on Sept. 1 that the Gaza Strip could become unlivable by 2020 without critical access to reconstruction and humanitarian supplies.

      For Gaza's beleaguered residents, none of this is surprising. Gaza is already uninhabitable and has been on a fast track to a complete collapse. The U.N. issued similar warnings three years ago, even before last summer's 50-day war, which left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead and countless others injured -- most of them civilians.

      "Three Israeli military operations in the past six years, in addition to eight years of economic blockade, have ravaged the already debilitated infrastructure of Gaza," the latest U.N. report said. "The most recent military operation compounded already dire socioeconomic conditions and accelerated de-development in the occupied Palestinian territory, a process by which development is not merely hindered but reversed."

      Actually, what's needed isn't humanitarian aid but a political agreement that splits Gaza free from the isolation and deprivation imposed by Israel (and, for that matter, Egypt's dictatorship).

    • Sara Yael Hirschhorn: Israeli Terrorists, Born in the USA: Did you ever wonder why so many of the illegal settlers in the West Bank, especially the ones most notorious for acts of violence, originally came from the United States? This piece doesn't delve very deeply into why, aside from mentioning the model of Meir Kahane, but I can think of several factors that might predispose Americans to seek out a situation where they can lord it over others with impunity. Israel is one such place. For a current example of such impunity, see Palestinians in Duma are angry that no one has been charged for murders, after 38 days.

      By the way, but I don't see much fundamental difference between these young Americans to go to Israel to join the settler movement, or for that matter to serve in the IDF, and those who go to Syria to fight for ISIS. Both derive from mistaken senses of identity. Both get to mistreat people and feel superior for doing so. Sure, the US government tolerates one case while pushing the other -- even when the other doesn't happen (see Adam Goldman: An American family saved their son from joining the Islamic State. Now he might go to prison.)

    • Nima Shirazi: Slaughtering the Truth and the False Choice of a War With Iran: Anne-Marie Slaughter supports the Iran Deal, for bad reasons, because she's a bad thinker:

      Five years after supporting the invasion of Iraq, Slaughter was annoyed by the "gotcha politics" of being held accountable for her bad judgment, grousing in The Huffington Post that "debate is still far too much about who was right and who was wrong on the initial invasion."

      In 2011, after leaving the State Department, Slaughter lent her full-throated support to the NATO bombing campaign in Libya, extolling herself as a champion of humanitarianism and democracy and then hailing the operation as an unmitigated success. It's been anything but.

      A year later, she was calling for US allies to arm rebel forces against the Assad government in Syria, writing in The New York Times, "Foreign military intervention in Syria offers the best hope for curtailing a long, bloody and destabilizing civil war."

      In 2013, Slaughter openly lamented her support for the invasion of Iraq a decade earlier. "Looking back, it is hard to remember just how convinced many of us were that weapons of mass destruction would be found," she wrote in The New Republic. "Had I not believed that, I would never have countenanced any kind of intervention on purely humanitarian terms."

    • Nicola Abé: The Vanishing: Why Are Young Egyptian Activists Disappearing? Back around 1970 I read a book by Egyptian Marxist Anouar Abdel-Malek (1924-2012) called Egypt: Military Society which argued that the military in Egypt was the sometimes hidden/often not backbone power in the nation. I was reminded of this in 2011 when Mubarak was moved out of power in response to mass demonstrations, and shortly later when the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi was deposed by a military coup. Arguably, Morsi overshot his mandate and abused his power, but the same is true of the new dictator, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

      More than four years after the Egyptian revolution, the government headed by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is cracking down on unwelcome journalists, former revolutionaries and, most of all, Islamists. In the name of fighting terror, laws are enacted that limit freedom of the press and freedom of expression. In some cases, government forces are breaking the country's laws, in what sometimes feels like a retaliation campaign against those who drove out former dictator Hosni Mubarak and believed in democracy.

      Young people are being detained -- on the street, at work and at home. They are interrogated without arrest warrants or access to an attorney, and their family members are kept in the dark about their whereabouts. There were occasional cases like these already under Mubarak, but since Interior Minister Magdy Abdul Ghaffar came into office in March, the police are disappearing scores of people, especially members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the new regime collectively treats as terrorists. Human rights activists believe there are up to around 800 such cases in Egypt today.

    • Eric Schmitt/Ben Hubbard: US Revamping Rebel Force Fighting ISIS in Syria: The American decision to fight both Assad and ISIS (and possibly other anti-Assad and/or anti-ISIS forces) with hired local proxies continues to be plagued by . . . well, everything. It is one measure of the blind faith Americans put in armed force that they are stuck in this schizophrenic nightmare.

      The Pentagon effort to salvage its flailing training program in Turkey and Jordan comes as the world is fixated on the plight of thousands of refugees seeking safety in Europe from strife in the Middle East, including many fleeing violence of the Syrian civil war and oppression in areas under the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS. Officials in Washington and European capitals acknowledge that halting this mass migration requires a comprehensive international effort to bring peace and stability to areas that those refugees are now fleeing.

      The 54 Syrian fighters supplied by the Syrian opposition group Division 30 were the first group of rebels deployed under a $500 million train-and-equip program authorized by Congress last year. It is an overt program run by United States Special Forces, with help from other allied military trainers, and is separate from a parallel covert program run by the CIA.

      After a year of trying, however, the Pentagon is still struggling to find recruits to fight the Islamic State without also battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, their original adversary.

    • A Downward Spiral: The Saudi war in Yemen, where the Saudi attack on the local Houthi tribe has been joined by Qatar, UAE, Egypt, and (soon) Sudan, in one of the most naked examples of belligerent aggression the world has seen recently:

      The action certainly has the whiff of revenge. Onlookers have already been questioning what the coalition's campaign, now in its sixth month, hopes to achieve. It is unclear how much support Iran has given to the Houthis, which is one of the main justifications for the coalition's action. Quashing the Shia Houthis is nigh on impossible. Gulf officials and media talk bombastically of preparations to take back Sana'a from them and reinstall Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi as president (the Houthis drove him out of the country in March). But Yemen has long been treacherous territory for foreign invaders, and Gulf armies are relatively inexperienced.

      Since committing ground troops in August, the coalition has taken control of Aden, the southern port city, and is advancing on Taiz. But it is struggling in Maarib, the gateway to Sana'a, where the extra troops, backed by armoured vehicles and missile launchers, are said to be massing. The fighting will only get harder since the Houthis' remaining strongholds are in mountainous redoubts.

      The high toll exacted on civilians may be losing the coalition the support of allied fighters on the ground, a mixture of tribesmen, units of the fractured army and Islamist types including al-Qaeda fighters. "Everyone has now lost someone," says Mr Boucenine. He says civilians make up an increasing proportion of the dead, now approaching 5,000.

    • Amanda Marcotte: Conservatives' Freakout Over Iran Has Absolutely Nothing to Do With Iran: Picture is from the Trump-Cruz rally against the Iran Deal. I saw a bit of Trump talking there and it was the first time he really scared me.

      Obama's plan looks like a done deal, but now the clowns are spilling out, honking their noses and trying to get attention by screaming about how we're all going to die now. As Nick Corasanti of the New York Times reports, a veritable who's-who of unserious but self-important demagogues, led by known foreign policy experts Donald Trump and Sarah Palin, have descended on DC to impart their collective wisdom about diplomacy, which appears to amount to implying that the president's testicles aren't big enough.

      Ted Cruz in particular seems to think that this is his moment to prove to the doubters that he is a big tough guy who gets things done because he's tough and that's what tough guys do. He, along with other House conservatives, is leading a plan to derail the deal by harping on legal technicalities, with Rep. Peter Roskam fully admitting it's a "process argument."

      Now we have Rep. Louie Gohmert threatening to resign over all this. Clearly, Congress will be bereft of this leading luminary who graces this country with conspiracy theories about Jade Helm, how ISIS is being snuck in by Mexican drug dealers, and how God will destroy the country for legalizing same-sex marriage.

      In other words, two of the worst Republican traits of the past 20 years -- pointless obstructionism for the sole purpose of sticking it to the Democrats and mindless demagoguery about the nefarious Middle Eastern threat to convince voters of your manhood -- are joining together to create a massive, misshapen beast that represents everything that's gone wrong with politics in the 21st century.

    • "Jimmy Carter's cancer is God's punishment for his behavior toward Jews," says leading Israeli newspaper: Stuff like this make you think God's some kind of jerk, or maybe I just mean people who presume to speak for Him? Carter's negotiation of the 1979 peace treaty between Sadat and Begin was a great gift of peace for Israel, one that has lasted to this day, even though Begin reneged on the promise of "autonomy" for Palestinians, and three years later squandered the blessing of peace by invading Lebanon.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25453 [25408] rated (+45), 426 [429] unrated (-3).

Spent nearly the whole week listening to old jazz from Werner Uehlinger's Hatology label (or hatOLOGY, as he prefers), knocking off another 29 albums this week. As expected, the quality (at least as reflected in my grades) is dropping a bit: 6 A- records this week, so 20.6%, down from 28.5% (6/21) last week and 36.1% (26/72) from the previous database. Three of those six were from Anthony Braxton, so that won't happen again, and one of the others featured Ellery Eskelin -- I'm only aware of one more record by him that I haven't heard, something called Arcanum Moderne. Still, the next few weeks -- I have a list of 55 more Hatology albums I haven't heard yet, and I'm only up to about 2006 in Discogs' listings -- are bound to reveal some surprises.

As the rated count shows, I've been working very fast. Two Braxton albums fell just short, mostly because at the time I didn't feel like giving either a second spin (the one with Max Roach was most deserving of further attention). I pulled the earlier Urs Leimgruber albums off my unplayed shelf. The first (Statement of an Antirider) was by far the best solo sax album I've heard in the last two weeks, out of way too many. I played it twice, wrote it up as an A-, then dialed it back a notch. I took a couple flings on related non-Hat albums (Ran Blake, Anthony Ortega) but they didn't turn up much.

Not much new jazz this week, but I did manage to check out three new albums with saxophonist Jon Irabagon. I was surprised to note that I had only given one of his own albums an A- in the past -- 2010's Foxy -- because he must have more than a dozen side credits rated that or higher (mostly MOPDTK, but most recently Barry Altschul & 3Dom Factor: Tales of the Unforeseen). I took a look at his website calendar for July-August and he was working virtually every day, with almost as many different groups. He may be spreading himself thin, but he sure gets around.

I expected better things from the Dave Douglas (with Irabagon) and Irabagon (with Tom Harrell) and gave them plenty of line. Nice things on both, but neither managed to break out of the postbop mold. Still, I came up with one superb album for the week, from guitarist Liberty Ellman. He writes good parts for all three of his horns, and I love Jose Davila's thumping tuba, but the solo that always grabs my attention is by alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. Ellman gets a lot of side credits for mixing, including the last several albums by Lehman and almost everything else on the label they share, Pi. This is the third A-list album of four releases on Pi, the highest batting average of any label (pretty much year after year, by the way, so don't let the small sample size fool you). The others are Henry Threadgill's In for a Penny, In for a Pound and Amir ElSaffar's Crisis are the others; I have Steve Coleman's Synovial Joints way down at B+(***), and a fifth release, Jen Shyu's Sounds and Cries of the World just arrived and in the queue.

Probably have enough for a Rhapsody Streamnotes column, but I feel like I'm in the middle of all this Hat stuff. (I do: 128 records; but just 48 new, only 5 A-.) Also, I don't know how useful this file is (even to myself), but I fixed some typos in Music Tracking 2015 so now at least it's viewable. I also added everything in AMG's weekly "featured releases" up through last Friday, although I haven't gone through the other "review sources" in at least three months.

Having an absolutely miserable day today -- perhaps a cold on top of the worst allergies I can remember since moving west. Comes on the second straight 100-degree day here, although only the seventh such day this year. (It may be a record hot year for the world world, but not for Kansas.)

Happy Labor Day: a good day to remember that working people, and not profits or property, built everything you hold dear in America.

New records rated this week:

  • Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart (2015, Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ellery Eskelin: Solo Live at Snugs (2013 [2015], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Liberty Ellman: Radiate (2014 [2015], Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Jon Irabagon: Behind the Sky (2014 [2015], Irabbagast): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jon Irabagon: Inaction Is an Action (2015, Irabbagast): [cd]: B
  • Dave McDonnell Group: The Time Inside a Year (2014 [2015], Delmark): [cd]: B+(*)

Old records rated this week:

  • Albert Ayler: Lörrach, Paris 1966 (1966 [2002], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy Bang & Dennis Charles: Bangception, Willisau 1982 (1982 [1998], Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • Burkhard Beins, Martin Pfleiderer & Peter Niklas Wilson: Yarbles (1996 [1997], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ran Blake: Plays Solo Piano (1965 [2013], ESP-Disk): [r]: B
  • Ran Blake: Painted Rhythms: The Compleat Ran Blake Volume II (1985 [1988], GM): [r]; B
  • Ran Blake & Anthony Braxton: A Memory of Vienna (1988 [2009], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ran Blake: Something to Live For (1998 [1999], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ran Blake: Horace Is Blue: A Silver Noir (1999 [2000], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Braxton: Quintet (Basel) 1977 (1977 [2001], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Anthony Braxton: Performance (Quartet) 1979 (1979 [2007], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Anthony Braxton: Open Aspects (Duo) 1982 (1982 [1993], Hat Art): [r]: B+(**)
  • Anthony Braxton: Seven Compositions (Trio) 1989 (1989 [2008], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Anthony Braxton: Wesleyan (12 Alto Solos) 1992 (1992 [1995], Hat Art): [r]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Santa Cruz) 1993 (1993 [1997], Hat Art, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Daniele D'Agaro/Ernest Glerum/Han Bennink: Strandjutters (2002 [2003], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Daniele D'Agaro/Jeb Bishop/Kent Kessler/Robert Barry: Chicago Overtones (2004 [2005], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Paul Dunmall/John Adams/Mark Sanders: Ghostly Thoughts (1996 [1997], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Ellery Eskelin With Andrea Parkins and Jim Black: One Great Night . . . Live (2007 [2009], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Guillermo Gregorio: Ellipsis (1997, Hatology): [r]; B+(**)
  • Guillermo Gregorio Trio: Red Cube(d) (1998 [1999], Hatology): [r]; B+(*)
  • Richard Grossman Trio: Even Your Ears (1990-92 [1998], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Richard Grossman Trio: Where the Sky Ended (1989-92 [2000], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jeanne Lee/Ran Blake: The Newest Sound Around (1961 [1962], RCA Victor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Urs Leimgruber: Statement of an Antirider (1988 [1989], Hat Art): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Urs Leimgruber/Adelhard Roidinger/Fritz Hauser: Lines (1990 [1994], Hat Art): B+(*)
  • David Liebman: Colors (2002 [2003], Hatology): [r]: B-
  • Dave Liebman: The Distance Runner (2004 [2005], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Liebman/Ellery Eskelin/Tony Marino/Jim Black: Renewal (2007 [2008], Hatology): [r]; A-
  • David Liebman/Ellery Eskelin/Tony Marino/Jim Black: Non Sequiturs (2011, Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Manuel Mengis Gruppe 6: The Pond (2007 [2008], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Manuel Mengis Gruppe 6: Dulcet Crush (2008 [2010], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Ortega: Earth Dance (1955-56 [2004], Fresh Sound): [r]: B
  • Anthony Ortega: New Dance (1966-67 [2003], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Anthony Ortega: Afternoon in Paris (1966-2005 [2007], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Max Roach/Anthony Braxton: One in Two -- Two in One (1979 [2004], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Prism (1993 [2000], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matthew Shipp String Trio: By the Law of Music (1996 [2002], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Laurie Antonioli & Richie Beirach: Varuna (Origin): September 18
  • Randy Brecker: Randy Pop: Live (Piloo): September 18
  • Willem Breuker Kollektief: Angoulême 18 Mai 1980 (Fou, 2CD)
  • Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed: Artifacts (482 Music): October 30
  • Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue: Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi): September 18
  • Rotem Sivan Trio: A New Dance (Fresh Sound New Talent)

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Weekend Roundup

This week's scattered links:

  • Billmon: Once the best political blogger in the country, he gave that up only to return as an excessively prolific tweeter, often spewing out cryptic numbered series of 140-charactertudes that could be collected and polished up into respectable blog posts. Consider this transcribed (and slightly edited) example:

    If GOP was hoping party's enraged wingnuts would calm down, tug forelocks and vote for approved establishment candidates, today's dual Senate defeats on Iran deal, Planned Parenthood will be about as helpful as a couple of snorts of pure crystal meth. Endless frustration of GOP's BS promises of sweeping victories -- "We'll END Obamacare! We'll STOP the baby killers!" -- that can't be kept is a big part of what's whipped the lumpen GOP into such a frenzy of hate and rage. But instead of becoming more skeptical of BS promises of "final victory," lumpen GOP is becoming even more passionate about demanding it. And so a fraud like Trump or a laid back fanatic like Carson can still be seen as the saviors who will make good on the BS promises.

    This reminds me that the most persistent character trait of Republicans ever since Reagan has been their sense of being entitled to lord it over America -- a sense so deeply felt that they are gobsmacked by every shred of evidence to the contrary. And I'm talking less about the elites, who actually do exercise considerable power whenever they can buy or rent it, than the rank and file, the chumps who loyally vote Republican, who think they alone are the country and that everyone who disagrees with them is alien scum. Only exaggerated egos can sustain their sense of entitlement despite perceptions of victimhood. They get that way through flattery, by constantly being reminded by politicians and pundits that they are the true Americans, the source of the nation's greatness and, if only they can regain power, redemption.

    Billmon's also been bothering to post poll results, like:

    Trump favorables:
    All adults: 37/59
    Whites: 48/49
    Hispanics: 15/82
    Blacks: 15/81
    ABC/Post poll
    Ain't Ronny Reagan's America any more, Donald

    "70% of 18-29-year-olds see Trump unfavorably, +12 points since July." His base is white equivalent of Last of the Mohicans

    More evidence that America is slipping away from the self-anointed chosen people.

  • Ed Kilgore: The Ultimate Jerking Knee of Anti-Obamaism: Obama used his executive powers to order the federal government to change the designated name of a large heap of rock in the middle of Alaska from Mt. McKinley to Denali. I was surprised because I thought the deal had been done in 1980 when Denali National Park and Reserve was established, but evidently some dolt at the US Board on Geographic Names didn't get (or honor) the memo. Indeed, the official name in Alaska has long been Denali, as Julia O'Malley explains here. Still, Republicans -- especially those trotting around the country campaigning for president -- blew a gasket. Kilgore sees this as one more example of knee-jerk anti-Obamaism:

    Yet here we have Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee -- so far -- attacking the move and promising (Trump) or demanding (Huck) that it be stopped. There is zero plausible rationale other than hostility to Obama and all his infernal works. If it spreads, that will be incontestable.

    When I first heard about this, I found Ohio politicians like Bob Portman complaining, making me think they should find a mountain in Ohio to name after McKinley (and, while they're at it, a slightly smaller one for Harding)? But I can think of at least two other reasons for their agita. One is that having totally sandbagged Obama's legislative agenda, they've long been primed to cry foul any and every time he uses the routine executive powers of an office that he was popularly elected to twice -- even on something this innocuous. But the other is that Republicans have become obsessed with naming things after themselves, so this seems like backsliding. Their campaign kicked into high gear when they formed a full-time lobby to get things named after Ronald Reagan, figuring that if they could plaster his name everywhere he might achieve exalted Washington-Lincoln status. We've seen fruits of this campaign locally with the VA Hospital named for Robert Dole and the airport named for Eisenhower. (Koch Arena, of course, wasn't a political decision; its naming was bought the old-fashioned way.)

  • Ed Kilgore: Defending the God-Given Liberty of County Clerks to Ignore Duties They Don't Like: Evidently there's a county clerk in Kentucky who's gotten attention by refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples -- something recently established as "the law of the land." She regards her refusal to be a matter of religious conscience, but doesn't feel strongly enough to resign her position, which would be the principled thing to do. Rather, she feels entitled to keep her job and use it to discriminate against people she doesn't like, to prevent them from one of their legal rights. She has no legal basis to stand on, although there are a few politicians -- including a "Tea Party dude" named Matt Bevin who's running for governor in Kentucky -- who would like to invent a legal right for at least some people to impose their bigotry on others according to some definition of religious conscience. They key word in that last line is "some" because there are way too many weird tenets in way too many religions to generalize any such "right" -- it doesn't take much imagination to see that the result would be chaos. On the other hand, respect for religious conscience isn't a bad principle. But the way to honor it isn't to turn it into a way to obstruct and frustrate justice. It's to allow the conscientious objector to step back and be replaced by someone amenable to the situation. For the clerk, that means resign and find some new job that doesn't present her with such moral qualms. For a pharmacist, say, who objects to filling prescriptions for birth control, that may even mean finding a new profession. (No business can afford to keep extra staff on hand to compensate for the "religious convictions" of staff that refuse to do their job.) Still, none of these recent examples compel people to do things against their principles like the military draft did, and which military enlistment contracts still do. I strongly believe that any soldier should be able to resign at any moment when faced with an understanding that one's task may be illegal, unethical, and/or immoral. However, even given how much I hate war, I wouldn't go so far as to insist that conscientious objectors be retained in military posts so they can undermine the operation. Rather, I'd hope that enough people would object to bring the whole operation into question.

    Admittedly, resigning a position, possibly even changing a career path, involves an economic cost. If politicians wish to support more people exercising conscientious objection, they could help cushion those costs -- e.g., by providing unemployment compensation for anyone who resigns on principle. But that's not what Bevin, et al., want. All they want is to undermine civil rights by allowing self-righteous cranks to muck up the system. That's why this clerk is their poster child.

  • Norman Pollack: The Trump Phenomenon: This Is Getting Serious: News coverage of US presidential campaigns has been abysmal for a long time, and seems to get worse as a function of how long the campaigns last and how much money is spent on them. One problem this year is having to slog through so much rubbish about Donald Trump's "populism" -- the word they're looking for is "popularity," itself a highly circumscribed property when the only people you're sampling are those who show up for Republican campaign events. I figured the writer most likely to debunk this nonsense is the one who introduced me to the history of the People's Party -- checking back, the book I recall was The Populist Mind (1967), which he edited; he also wrote The Populist Response to Industrial America: Midwestern Populist Thought (1962); The Just Polity: Populism, Law, and Human Welfare (1987), and The Humane Economy: Populism, Capitalism, and Democracy (1990). And he makes a clear distinction between populism and the gruff Trump is peddling. The latter is what he calls "neo-fascism," something he doesn't see Trump pushing so much as pandering:

    Yet Trump is less important than the American people, who, thirsting for strong leadership, pathetic in their wallowing in contrived fear, brought on by decades of gut redbaiting and subliminally-wrought and manipulative anticommunism, place him on a political-ideological pedestal tokening authoritarian submissiveness. America, not Trump himself, is the primary explanation for his standing.

    The political culture is one of uncritical acceptance of war, business, militarism (in truth neo-fascism corrected for eroding Constitutional principles still in place), a long-term historical process in the shaping of a hierarchical capitalist structure, value system, and class relationships. Old Glory is self-immolating, its fabric torn asunder by unreasoning fear (an inflexible societal framework, in essence, counterrevolutionary in scope and substance, because opposed to social change in recognition that property, class, privilege might be questioned if critical judgment were encouraged and allowed to operate freely), and by frustration over obstacles to US unilateral global hegemony. This is not something new, fear being a weapon in the elites' arsenal, permanent, yet trotted out, intensified, when they sense a mass awakening and/or restiveness usually associated with war and its aftermath.

    This neo-fascist impulse is summed up in the mass craving for a strong leader -- the word that expresses it perfectly is Führerprinzip (this is one of those cases where a German word is clearer than anything I could say in English). They can only hope Trump is the Führer of their dreams -- clearly most other Republican candidates aren't, being mere puppets of their billionaire sponsors (most obviously, I'd say, Walker and Rubio). It's safe to say that Trump will ultimately disappoint, if not as Hitler did then at some lower level of catastrophe and/or corruption. Given Trump's track record I'd bet on the latter. Few figures in our time have more consistently pursued fame as a means to fortune. Give him "the most powerful office in the world" and you can be sure he won't rule as the humble servant of the people who voted for him. He will only have his own self-interest to guide him.

    I've never seen anyone mention this, but the obvious model for Trump as a politician is Silvio Berlusconi, the media mogul who became prime minister of Italy three times between 1994 and 2011. Forbes pegs Berlusconi's net worth at $7.7 billion, almost double the $4 billion Trump is supposedly worth, although Berlusconi was certainly worth less before he became prime minister. As it happens, there is a new book out: Being Berlusconi: The Rise and Fall From Cosa Nostra to Bunga Bunga, where we find that along with his great fortune and political triumphs, he also "became bogged down by his hubris, egotism, sexual obsessions, as well as his flagrant disregard for the law."

    His followers say America wants and needs a Great Leader, but the more I look at Trump, the more he looks like a cheap knock off of Silvio Berlusconi.

    Still, otherwise intelligent reporters keep buying at least part of the Trump = populism meme (like Pollack, they're usually people who don't have a very high opinion of most white Americans. E.g., Matt Taibbi: The Republicans Are Now Officially the Party of White Paranoia. Taibbi follows up a quick rundown of how oligarchy works followed by a dubious example of Trump breaking rank:

    They donate heavily to both parties, essentially hiring two different sets of politicians to market their needs to the population. The Republicans give them everything that they want, while the Democrats only give them mostly everything.

    They get everything from the Republicans because you don't have to make a single concession to a Republican voter.

    All you have to do to secure a Republican vote is show lots of pictures of gay people kissing or black kids with their pants pulled down or Mexican babies at an emergency room. Then you push forward some dingbat like Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin to reassure everyone that the Republican Party knows who the real Americans are. [ . . . ]

    Trump has pulled all of those previously irrelevant voters completely out of pocket. In a development that has to horrify the donors who run the GOP, the candidate Trump espouses some truly populist policy beliefs, including stern warnings about the dire consequences companies will face under a Trump presidency if they ship American jobs to Mexico and China.

    All that energy the party devoted for decades telling middle American voters that protectionism was invented by Satan and Karl Marx during a poker game in Brussels in the mid-1840s, that just disappeared in a puff of smoke.

    And all that money the Republican kingmakers funneled into Fox and Clear Channel over the years, making sure that their voters stayed focused on ACORN and immigrant-transmitted measles and the New Black Panthers (has anyone ever actually seen a New Black Panther? Ever?) instead of, say, the complete disappearance of the manufacturing sector or the mass theft of their retirement income, all of that's now backing up on them.

    What fakes people out, I think, is that the more ideologically rigorous Republican moneymen (starting with the Kochs) are so wary of Trump, not so much because they think he's not on their side as because he's not (yet) in their pocket. That'll change soon enough when they realize his shtick is just shtick.

    For another piece that takes Trump populism seriously, see David Atkins: Why Donald Trump Will Defeat the Koch Brothers for the Soul of the GOP:

    In order to understand how Donald Trump continues to dominate the Republican field despite openly promoting tax hikes on wealthy hedge fund managers, hinting support for universal healthcare and other wildly iconoclastic positions hostile to decades of Republican dogma, it's important to note the that the Republican Party was teetering on the edge of a dramatic change no matter whether Trump had entered the race or not. [ . . . ]

    As for Wall Street? Most Republican voters can't stand them. The majority of the Republican base sees the financial sector as crony capitalist, corrupt liberal New Yorkers who got a bailout. Most GOP voters won't shed a tear if Trump raises taxes on the hedge fund crowd.

    Donald Trump reassures these voters that the "wrong kind of people" won't be getting any freebies on his watch. That's all they really care about -- so if Trump supports universal healthcare it's simply not that big a deal.

    And this ultimately is what the real GOP realignment is going to look like: less racially diverse corporatism, and more socialism for white people. It stands to reason. Blue-collar white GOP voters aren't about to forget decades of fear-based propaganda, and their economic position remains precarious enough that they still need the welfare state help.

    The first point to remember is that no politician can, and many don't even want to, deliver on all campaign promises. Second, it's especially far fetched to think that Trump will, not least because there's scant evidence he really believes in any of this -- especially the "socialism for white people" planks Atkins touts. If/when he gets elected, he'll have to work with a Republican party that has been leaning the other way hard for years -- especially on taxes and benefits, but also on things like trade and capital flows. He could try to push some things through with Democratic support, but that runs the risk of losing not the base so much as the media machine that has kept the GOP so united of late. If I had to guess, I'd expect him to demagogue anti-immigrant positions -- that, after all, is his trademark issue -- but he'll accommodate all the usual interest groups, notably the banks, oil, and the military, and I doubt he'll do anything to undermine the predatory nature of the health care industry (though he'll preserve some form of rebranded, "fixed" Obamacare). But he won't do anything to slow down much less reverse the increasing inequality that is undoing the white middle class. He may get a short term blip because a lot of voters are gullible, but he can't build a realignment on delivering nothing but hot air.

    Trump's slogan is to Make America Great Again, but he can't deliver on that because nothing he knows how to do will work. He is popular now because his jingoism resonates with a certain type of mainstream Republican, but you shouldn't confuse popularity with populism. The latter is a set of principled beliefs. The former is fleeting, most of all for frauds and crooks, and every experience we've had suggests that's all he is.

    PS: It will be interesting to see whether Trump support manages to break off some of the odder chinks in the conservative worldview. The most likely candidates are schemes like the flat tax and the various privatization schemes for Social Security/Medicare -- programs that are very popular among the GOP base but under attack from the libertarian-oriented (i.e., Koch-financed) think tanks. Right now the groups that seem to be most upset by Trump are Koch fronts: having entered this election cycle planning on spending $900 million to finally take control of the whole nation, they've suddenly found themselves on the defensive, in a fight over the mindset of the Republican Party. And they're liable to find that a lot of their pet issues are deeply unpopular even among the party faithful: for instance, their rabid anti-wind push couldn't even pass the neanderthal Kansas legislature, and the exemption that businessmen get from state income tax was only saved by Brownback's unwillingness to compromise on the point.

    There's probably a formal model for this somewhere, but just thinking off the top of my head, let me try to sketch one out. In any political party, there are some stances that are widely held by the masses, and multiple others that are held by the elites. The elites control the media, the think tanks, and in normal times the discussion -- a mix of their own concerns plus a little red meat to keep the masses riled up. Until Trump came along, the race was between a bunch of whores sucking up to the party's top money men, the cream of the elites. Any of those guys would have been acceptable to the masses, but none of them really satisfied their craving for a strong charismatic leader, a Führer. Trump changed all that, mostly by appealing directly to the masses (bypassing the elites) by seizing on a mass hot-button issue, immigration. (The elites are generally pro-immigration, correctly seeing it as good for business and bad for labor, although they often bite their tongue so as not to stir up the shit storm Trump raised.)

    My sense of the Republican masses is: people who basically feel economically secure (unless they own small business); are cynical about government but less so about business; regard wealth and self-sufficiency as signs of virtue, and poverty as a personal failing; regard hierarchies as normal, and tend to defer to strong male figures; strongly identify with like groups, especially the nation. You can probably tune this further. The GOP has been very effective at cultivating single-issue voters, like gun nuts (I added "self-sufficiency" thinking of them), anti-abortion zealots (male-dominated hierarchies has a lot to do with this), and the military (ditto). I could add something about people who aspire to be rich and vote their dreams, but such people mostly fall into hierarchies, and that's sort of a self-serving cliché -- besides, most of the mass base know they'll never get rich (many are already on Social Security), they're just satisfied with their lot. Obviously, most are white and native-born over at least a couple generations -- but there are exceptions, including such over-compensating strivers as Rubio, Cruz, Jindal, Santorum (and I suppose I should add Carson). I didn't include religion in part because I'm not convinced that Republicans have any edge there (let alone monopoly), although they may be more clannish, dogmatic, and bigoted about their religion.

    I also didn't include prejudice or stupidity in this list, mostly because I think they are effects of the way Republican elites manipulate their mass base rather than defining factors of membership. The unavoidable fact is that the mass base is incredibly misinformed about just about everything -- something easy to blame on the right-wing media and their knack for spinning facts and spicing them up with "dog whistle" nuance, something the mass base doesn't just buy into but gobbles up with disturbing relish. Still, this ignorance is a weak spot for the mass base, one that's likely to fracture whenever contrary facts break through -- which happens regularly as Republican programs inevitably blow up.

  • Iran Deal links:

    • Celestine Bohlen: Europe Doesn't Share US Concerns on Iran Deal:

      Given the sound, fury and millions of dollars swirling around the debate in Washington over the Iranian nuclear deal, the silence in Europe is striking. It's particularly noticeable in Britain, France and Germany, which were among the seven countries that signed the deal on July 14.

      Here in France, which took the toughest stance during the last years of negotiation, the matter is settled, according to Camille Grand, director of the Strategic Research Foundation in Paris and an expert on nuclear nonproliferation.

      "In Europe, you don't have a constituency against the deal," he said. "In France, I can't think of a single politician or member of the expert community who has spoken against it, including some of us who were critical during the negotiations."

      Mr. Grand said the final agreement was better than he had expected. "I was surprised by the depth and the quality of the deal," he said. "The hawks are satisfied, and the doves don't have an argument."

    • Grace Cason/Jim Lobe: Committee for the Liberation of Iraq Members on Iran Deal: As you've probably noticed by now, most of the people who brought you the Iraq War are opposed to Obama's Iran Deal. This article provides an exhaustive rundown:

      Virtually all of the political appointees who held foreign-policy posts under George W. Bush -- from Elliott Abrams to Dov Zakheim, not to mention such leading lights as Dick Cheney, John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Eric Edelman, and "Scooter" Libby -- have all assailed the agreement as a sell-out and/or appeasement with varying degrees of vehemence, if not vituperation.

      The piece especially covers the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq (CLI), which was set up in November 2002 to sell the war -- "a classic letterhead organization (LHO), a collection of individuals with widely varying degrees of knowledge about Iraq gathered together by the Bush White House, PNAC, and Chalabi." Of that group, Chalabi seems to be the only one to favor the deal. Many others are quoted, the most flamboyant being Bernard Lewis, who said that "for Iran's leadership, mutually assured destruction is 'not a deterrent, it's an inducement.'" They did find four CLI members who supported the deal, and several others, ranging from James P. Hoffa to Donald Rumsfeld, who have yet to weigh in.

    • Fred Kaplan: How the Iran Deal Will Pass -- and Why It Should: This runs through a lot of opposition arguments and knocks them down. Then ponders the politics, which is subject to a different form of reasoning:

      The biggest source of uncertainty, among some vote counters, is that the whole exercise is a bit theatrical. Because Obama has said he would veto a rejection, all the Republicans and a few Democrats feel that they have leave to succumb to political pressures. They can vote "no," and satisfy their party whips or constituents, without shouldering any responsibility for their actions.

      The irony and danger of this is that, the safer Obama's margins seem, the more Democrats might defect, believing that the deal will pass without their support. But if enough Democrats act on that calculation, the outcome could shift -- maybe enough to override a veto, even though none of the swing voters has that intention.

      This can happen in a political system, such as ours today, that encourages legislators to take their jobs less than seriously.

    • Paul R Pillar: The Iran Issue and the Exploitation of Ignorance: Most of this is on public polling, which confirms here, as it has on many other occasions, that most Americans are ignorant and/or stupid. He then moves on to cases where opponents have sought to exploit this ignorance by spinning minor details into supposed problems -- the "24 day" issue is an example -- but he also points out that supporters can use the issue as an opportunity for educating the public (e.g., Congressman Jerrold Nadler Statement on the P5+1 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action).

    • Stephen M Walt: The Myth of a Better Deal:

      The most obvious example of magical thinking in contemporary policy discourse, of course, is the myth of a "better deal" with Iran. Despite abundant evidence to the contrary, opponents of the JCPOA keep insisting additional sanctions, more threats to use force, another round of Stuxnet, or if necessary, dropping a few bombs, would have convinced Iran to run up the white flag and give the United States everything it ever demanded for the past 15 years. The latest example of such dubious reasoning is the New York Times's David Brooks, who thinks an agreement where Iran makes most of the concessions is a Vietnam-style defeat for the United States and imagines that tougher US negotiators (or maybe war) would have produced a clear and decisive victory.

      Never mind that while the United States ramped up sanctions, Iran went from zero centrifuges to 19,000. Never mind that there was no international support for harsher sanctions and that unilateral US sanctions wouldn't increase the pressure in any meaningful way. Never mind that attacking Iran with military force would not end its nuclear program and only increase Iran's interest in having an actual weapon. Never mind that the deal blocks every path to a bomb for at least a decade. And never mind that the myth of a "better deal" ignores Diplomacy 101: To get any sort of lasting agreement, it has to provide something for all of the parties.

      The next paragraph has another good line but I wanted to stop on the "Diplomacy 101" point. Deals shouldn't turn into contests of power, in part because they're never really zero-sum games. When both sides are equal in power, their deals can be expected to find mutual benefits that exceed either party's losses. But when power is inequal, when one side has to make concessions to the other, it becomes essential that the more powerful side limit those concessions to what will be viewed as just. Failure to do so breeds resentment, both against the unjust treaty and the powerlessness it demonstrates. The classic example, of course, was Versailles, where the reparations Germany was forced to pay fueled a revolt that led to an even deadlier war. I'd worry more that the deal was stacked too much against Iran than that the US negotiators could have held out for something more punitive. The US did not enter these negotiations with a much of a reputation for justice, at least in Iranian eyes, and reneging on the deal (as the Republicans propose) will only sully America's reputation further.

      Needless to say, no nation has a worse reputation for turning negotiations into contests of power than Israel (the main reason the power-crazed neocons so love and envy it).

    • Gareth Porter: Barak's tales of Israel's near war with Iran conceal with real story: A tale of frantic sabre-rattling, designed more for show than as a real military action (kind of like Nixon's "Madman" feint).

      The latest episode in the seemingly endless story of Israel's threat of war followed the broadcast in Israel of interviews by Barak for a new biography. The New York Times' Jodi Rudoren reported that, in those interviews, Barak "revealed new details to his biographers about how close Israel came to striking Iran." Barak "said that he and Mr Netanyahu were ready to attack Iran each year," but claimed that something always went wrong. Barak referred to three distinct episodes from 2010 through 2012 in which the he and Netanyahu were supposedly manoeuvering to bring about an air attack on Iran's nuclear programme.

      The bulk of the article show how Obama used Israel's threats to gain UN agreement on harsher sanctions against Iran.

    • Trita Parsi/Reza Marashi: Obama's Real Achievement With the Iran Deal:

      In his speech at American University on August 5, Obama made clear that the Iran nuclear deal is a product of him leading America away from the damaging over-militarization of America's foreign and national security policies following the September 11th attacks. "When I ran for President eight years ago as a candidate who had opposed the decision to go to war in Iraq, I said that America didn't just have to end that war -- we had to end the mindset that got us there in the first place," Obama said. "It was a mindset characterized by a preference for military action over diplomacy."

      But a single foreign-policy achievement, however historic and momentous, a mindset does not change. Particularly if the debate surrounding the deal remains deeply rooted in the old, militaristic mindset. Herein lies the Obama administration's own shortcomings in the debate. While the president made clear his aim to shift America's security mindset, most of the arguments employed to convince lawmakers to support to deal are rooted in the mindset that led America into Iraq, not in the mindset that enabled the diplomatic victory with Iran.

      The Iraq war mindset is one where strength above all else produces security. An attitude that, in the words of Obama, "equates security with a perpetual war footing." This mindset, in turn, produces a fear of not projecting strength; of looking weak. As the president pointed out in his speech, "Those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive, while dismissing those who disagreed as weak -- even appeasers of a malevolent adversary."

      This desire to look strong, borne out of this mindset, continues to define the debate over the Iran deal. It has led some supporters of the deal to highlight the military justifications behind their support, even though this defeats the larger purpose of the deal itself: To shift the paradigm from militarism to diplomacy.

      But Obama's line about wanting to change the way we think about war had turned into a joke long ago by the man himself. Whatever doubts he may have had before, they evaporated pretty quickly once his minions started calling him "commander in chief," as he started racking up his own personal body count -- as I recall, the first person he directly, personally ordered assassinated was a Somali pirate, and the list has grown much longer since then. Obama didn't change the way we think about war; war changed the way we think about Obama (not, of course, that the Republicans can be accused of thinking here).

      Even Obama's great diplomatic breakthrough has all the marks of a military campaign, deftly executed to line up a broad front of allies whose combined leverage was so great that Iran saw no alternative but to surrender its Ayatollahs' dreams of nuclear apocalypse. Admittedly, Obama did (at least for the moment) effect a change within American military strategy, preferring a clean surrender signed by Iran's leaders, who remain in place to enforce it, to the usual American military clusterfuck -- you know, invade a country, kill people indiscriminately, destroy the infrastructure to commit mass mayhem, buy off the most corruptible elements and turn them into the face of occupation, then spend eternity putting down guerrilla insurrections. Nonetheless, Obama reserved the latter option in case the deal doesn't work out. You'd think his opponents would at least take heart in that. But then you'd also think that anyone who grasped the alleged problem would recognize that an agreement with positive incentives for compliance will be much more effective than disagreement with random punishments and unpredictable reprisals, which is all that Netanyahu, Lieberman (take your pick), and their ilk have to offer.

      As the debate over the Iran deal concludes and the next policy crisis comes to the fore, both Obama's friends and foes would be wise to take his advice: "Resist the conventional wisdom and the drumbeat of war. Worry less about being labeled weak; worry more about getting it right."

      Indeed, if the Iran nuclear deal solely prevents an Iranian bomb but fails to shift the security paradigm in America towards peace building through diplomacy rather than the militarism of perpetual warfare, then truly a historic opportunity will have been lost.

      Changing the way we think about war will take some leadership who's already changed the way they think, but when it happens we'll look back on this debate and wonder how both sides could have been so drunk on force.

    • Noam Chomsky: On the Iran Deal: I might say he's a little long-winded, but he makes so many solid points the piece comes off as a breath of fresh air. For instance:

      Turning to the next obvious question, what in fact is the Iranian threat? Why, for example, are Israel and Saudi Arabia trembling in fear over that country? Whatever the threat is, it can hardly be military. Years ago, US intelligence informed Congress that Iran has very low military expenditures by the standards of the region and that its strategic doctrines are defensive -- designed, that is, to deter aggression. The US intelligence community has also reported that it has no evidence Iran is pursuing an actual nuclear weapons program and that "Iran's nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy."

      The authoritative SIPRI review of global armaments ranks the US, as usual, way in the lead in military expenditures. China comes in second with about one-third of US expenditures. Far below are Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are nonetheless well above any western European state. Iran is scarcely mentioned. Full details are provided in an April report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which finds "a conclusive case that the Arab Gulf states have . . . an overwhelming advantage of Iran in both military spending and access to modern arms."

      Iran's military spending, for instance, is a fraction of Saudi Arabia's and far below even the spending of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Altogether, the Gulf Cooperation Council states -- Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE -- outspend Iran on arms by a factor of eight, an imbalance that goes back decades.

      Next up is the "existential threat" that Iran is said to present to nuclear-armed Israel. And of course Chomsky brings up the 1953 coup, American arms sales to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, etc. I suspect he goes a little too far in belittling Iran's efforts to recruit allies around the Middle East -- their interventionism pales in comparison to what the US and even Saudi Arabia has done, but that doesn't make it constructive. Also, their human rights record, including religious intolerance (particularly against the Baha'i) leaves a lot to be desired -- although, again, maybe not in comparison to our great ally, Saudi Arabia.

  • Also noted:

    • Jason Diltz: Four US Troops Among Six Injured in Sinai IED Blasts: I can't say I was aware of any US troops anywhere in Egypt, but here you go, in harm's way. Evidently they are part of an observer group demanded by Israel to monitor Egyptian forces in Sinai, but Egyptian forces there are mostly fighting other Egyptians, some allegedly affiliated with ISIS. Rather than admitting that their presence has become a complicating factor, doing neither Egypt nor Israel any good, the sensible thing would be to move those troops out, lest they become an excuse for sending more in. But it seems like that's just what the military wants to do: to send more firepower in and escalate the conflict.

    • Jason Diltz: 45 UAE Troops, 10 Saudis, and 5 Bahrainis Killed in Yemen War: Saudi Arabia's intervention in Yemen has mostly involved killing Yemenis from the air, but as you can see here the Saudis and their Gulf allies actually have "boots on the ground," as 60 deaths in a two-day span clearly shows. Not clear whether the US is actively or merely passively supporting the Saudi effort, but as the Saudis' main arms supplier this is effectively yet another American proxy war effort.

    • DR Tucker: Everything in Moderation: Part II: Starts with a quote from a Rachel Maddow monologue back in 2010, but relevant to much of the above:

      At the top of the show today, we talked about the myth of bipartisanship, the futility of Democrats, including the president, wasting time trying to persuade Republicans to go along with them on policies that are good for the country. [ . . . ]

      None of this is a secret, which is the most important thing to understand about it. Republicans right now do not care about policy. By which I mean, they will not vote for things that even they admit are good policies . . .

      And they are unembarrassed about this fact. They are not embarrassed. Charging them with hypocrisy, appealing to their better, more practical, more what's-best-for-the-country patriotic angels is like trying to teach your dog to drive.

      It wastes a lot of time. It won't work. And ultimately the dog comes out of the exercise less embarrassed for failing than you do for trying.

    • The bulk of the piece has to do with climate change, but it could just as well be the Iran Deal or pretty much anything else. Republicans can't imagine a better outcome to the "manufactured crisis" than the one Obama handed them, but they've negotiated a deal which lets them sputter on about the deal, secure that nothing they do will undermine the deal, and confident that no one will remember their pig-headedness come next election.

      This feeling Republicans have that nothing can stick to them was hugely reinforced when they took control of Congress in 2010, only four years after Iraq and Katrina wiped them out in 2006, only two years after they caused the largest recession since the 1930s. This sense that no matter what they do they'll never have to pay for it is about the only thing that explains their intransigence on global warming and health care.

      By the way, Tucker is also saying very laudatory things about Barack Obama's Arctic Blast speech. I haven't read or seen the speech, so will take his word (with the usual grain of salt). However, I have been saying all along that even if Obama can't legislate solutions he should be using his pulpit to speak about problems, so this seems to be a step in the right direction. I just wish his convictions on war/peace and economic equality were more laudable.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25408 [25368] rated (+40), 429 [426] unrated (+3).

Christgau makes a big point about never writing about an album until he is sure what he thinks about it, including a firm grade. I've never been so certain about anything, or at least about music, so I've always regarded my grades as provisional approximations. That doesn't mean that I don't take due diligence. I very rarely grade an album A- on one play, although I also rarely give a second play to a B+(*) to give it a chance to rise of fall a notch, or a B- to see how bad it really is. Still, it seems like the line between B+(***) and A- is unusually cloudy this week. The Barry Altschul album and a couple of the old Hat discs are pretty solid, but all the rest of the A- records are borderline. Some of the B+(***) come close, too -- in particular, it's tempting to bump up everything Ellery Eskelin does, while on the other hand, I rarely get excited enough by Paul Bley and/or Jimmy Giuffre.

I finished digging through the ECM records on MPE. They only go back to March (or maybe later, as the label's German and US release dates aren't always the same), so there are still some 2015 ECM releases I missed -- notably everyone's favorite, Jack De Johnette's Made in Chicago. Despite the "[dl]" notation below, everything I rated was based on streaming, and the user interface requires me to login again every time I finish an album, so there's a built-in bias against second plays. The only ECM record I downloaded was Elina Duni's, and I haven't tried burning a copy yet, but it struck me as something I'd be willing to do a little work to hear again. (She's an Albanian folk singer, but works with a first-rate Swiss jazz group, Colin Vallon's piano trio.) Falling just short of that are two other B+(***) albums by Gary Peacock and Stefano Battaglia -- good records, but not as exceptional.

Jerry Bergonzi's new record is probably the most borderline of all. I must have played it six, maybe as many as eight, times, and every time I was ready to file it as a high B+ I'd hear something special -- always from the tenor saxophonist. The problem is he get diluted with a second horn -- no knock on Phil Grenadier, whose trumpet sparkles throughout, but I prefer Bergonzi's trios and quartets, albums like Tenor Talk and Simply Put.

After Christgau declared Stuff Like That There Yo La Tengo's "loveliest album ever," I almost reflexively considered it an A-, but then I looked up Fakebook in my database and was reminded that I had only given it a B+(*) -- the best thing about their covers album was that it showed that they owned some of the same esoteric records I did. Aside from the Hank Williams, this new batch of covers is even more esoteric, sometimes a plus, sometimes not. And while it is lovely -- it reminded me of one of those later, hitless Everly Brothers albums -- much of the middle wasn't especially distinguished. But it ends on a song so good I started having second thoughts. Just didn't follow up on them.

Going into the week, it wasn't clear what I would do down in the old music section, but last week I had followed the new Gary Peacock album with an older Paul Bley duet, Partners -- a 4-star from the Penguin Guide list, and that got me to looking at what else Rhapsody had from Bley that I hadn't heard before. That's when I discovered that Rhapsody had added a sizable chunk of the Hatology (aka Hat Hut and Hat Art and Hat Now) catalogue. Hat was one of a handful of European labels that rescued avant-jazz in the late 1970s -- the only more important label, at least for American avant-gardists, was Black Saint/Soul Note (in Italy), with DIW (Japan) coming a bit later, and Leo (UK) and FMP (Germany) focusing more on European artists.

Checking back through my database, I had previously rated 72 Hat albums, and had another 109 in the "shopping" list. To give you a taste, all of the following are rated A- or higher ([A] so marked):

  • Ray Anderson/Han Bennink/Christy Doran: Cheer Up (1995, Hat Art)
  • Anthony Braxton: Dortmund (Quartet) 1976 (1976, Hat Art)
  • Anthony Braxton: Eight (+3) Tristano Compositions 1989 (1989, Hat Art)
  • Anthony Braxton: Willisau (Quartet) 1991 (1991, Hat Art, 4CD)
  • Anthony Braxton: Charlie Parker Project 1993 (1993, Hat Art, 2CD)
  • Dave Burrell: Windward Passages (1979 [1994], Hat Art)
  • Clusone Trio: Soft Lights and Sweet Music (1993, Hat Art)
  • Dave Douglas: Constellations (1995, Hat Art)
  • Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: One Great Day (1996 [1997], Hatology)
  • Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: 12 (+1) Imaginary Views (2001 [2002], Hatology)
  • Ellery Eskelin: Ten (2004, Hatology)
  • Steve Lacy/Roswell Rudd: School Days (1963 [1994], Hat Art)
  • Steve Lacy: Morning Joy: Live at Sunset Paris (1986, Hat Art) [A]
  • Jon Lloyd: Four and Five (1998, Hatology)
  • Joe McPhee: Oleo and A Future Retrospective (1982 [1992], Hat Art)
  • Joe McPhee: Linear B (1990 [1991], Hat Art)
  • Manuel Mengis: Into the Barn (2004 [2005], Hatology)
  • David Murray: 3D Family (1978 [2006], Hatology)
  • Matthew Shipp: The Multiplication Table (1998, Hatology)
  • Matthew Shipp: Expansion, Power, Release (1999 [2001], Hatology)
  • Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree: 1 (1989, Hat Art) [A]
  • Horace Tapscott: The Dark Tree: 2 (1989, Hat Art)
  • Cecil Taylor: One Too Many Salty Swift and Not Goodbye (1978 [1980], Hat Art, 2CD)
  • Vienna Art Orchestra: From No Time to Rag Time (1982 [1983], Hat Art) [A]
  • Vienna Art Orchestra: The Minimalism of Erik Satie (1983-84, Hat Art)
  • John Zorn: News for Lulu (1987, Hat Art)

So that's 26 A/A- records, before I added six this week (plus one more after the cutoff, so next week). Possible I'm loosening up the curve: I'd expect the percentage of A-/A records to decline over time, having cherry-picked the best prospects early on. Indeed, it has: the legacy share is 36.1% (26/72), whereas this week's haul is down to 28.5% (6/21). I expect it will drop further as I keep tapping into this resource. By the way, I've run across a couple cases where cuts are missing. If that seems minor, I may just hedge, but Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy: Live at Dreher Paris 1981 was reduced from 4CD to three cuts (all takes of "Round Midnight"), so there's nothing a critic can do about that.

Also, I haven't found much here that predates the launch of the Hatology (or as they prefer to style it, "hatOLOGY") label. There are several weird things about Hat's business model. One is that they tout their releases as "limited editions" -- usually that means a run of 3000 units -- so their most popular titles tend to run out of print, while they periodically binge and put the rest on deeply discounted sales (I've picked up a lot of titles for $5 or less over the years). Currently Hatology is used both for new releases and reissues of out-of-print titles.

One pair of grades is worth breaking down. The two Joe McPhee discs are both solo, one coming in at A-, the other B-. As near as I can figure it, McPhee's 1976 album Tenor was his answer to Anthony Braxton's 1969 For Alto, an album often held to be brilliant as well as uncompromising -- Penguin Guide awarded it one of their crowns -- but which I've always found to be plug ugly (I gave it a D based on an LP I no longer own). Tenor takes the same approach and, given the larger horn, digs even deeper. If I were to revisit For Alto (and I do have the CD somewhere) I would probably bump it up some, but I found myself anxious for Tenor & Fallen Angels to end long before it did. On the other hand, As Serious as Your Life varies the instruments -- McPhee is also a superb trumpet player (actually, pocket cornet here), and will astonish you on crashing piano, and he adds some electronics to a couple cuts so he actually has a beat to bounce off, so it winds up being a very different album.

The Tony Coe album is another Penguin Guide 4-star that I found while looking for Hat releases -- he has a couple of them, a long association with Derek Bailey and/or Tony Oxley, an avant side far removed from his roots with Humphrey Lyttelton in Britain's trad jazz movement. Could be this swing album sounded even better as a break from all the avant-jazz. At any rate, I found it delightful.

One more thing to note: with the author's permission, I've revamped the Michael Tatum archive. Hopefully in the future we'll add some more old pieces, but for now it has all of the A Downloader's Diary columns (including his latest), all properly indexed, a total of 978 albums.

New records rated this week:

  • John Adams/San Francisco Symphony/Michael Tilson Thomas: Absolute Jest/Grand Pianola Music (2013 [2015], SFS): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barry Altschul & 3Dom Factor: Tales of the Unforeseen (2014 [2015], TUM): [cd]: A-
  • Stefano Battaglia Trio: In the Morning: Music of Alec Wilder (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]; B+(***)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll (2012 [2015], Savant): [cd]: A-
  • Elina Duni Quartet: Dallëndyshe (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Daniel Fortin: Brinks (2015, Fresh Sound New Talent): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Roberto Magris: Enigmatix (2013 [2015], JMood): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Stephan Micus: Nomad Songs (2012-14 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Olavi Trio: Oh, La Vie! (2013 [2015], TUM): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Enrico Rava Quartet/Gianluca Petrella: Wild Dance (2015, ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Andy Sheppard: Surrounded by Sea (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Savina Yannatou/Primavera en Salonico: Songs of Thessaloniki (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Yo La Tengo: Stuff Like That There (2015, Matador): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Manu Katché: Touchstone for Manu (2004-12 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Steve Lacy: Shots (1977 [2015], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe McPhee: As Serious as Your Life (1996 [2014], Hatology): [r]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • Paul Bley/Jimmy Giuffre/Steve Swallow: The Life of a Trio: Sunday (1989 [1990], Owl: [r]: B+(***)
  • Paul Bley: 12 (+6) in a Row (1990 [2008], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tony Coe: Some Other Autumn (1971 [1983], Hep): [r]: A-
  • Ellery Eskelin: Forms (1990 [2004], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Kulak 29 & 30 (1997 [1998], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ellery Eskelin & Han Bennink: Dissonant Characters (1998 [1999], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: The Secret Museum (1999 [2000], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Giuffre 3: Emphasis, Stuttgart 1961 (1961 [1993], Hat Art): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimmy Giuffre 3: Flight, Bremen 1961 (1961 [1993], Hat Art): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Giuffre/Paul Bley/Steve Swallow: Emphasis & Flight 1961 (1961 [2003], Hatology, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mary Halvorson/Reuben Radding/Nate Wooley: Crackleknob (2006 [2009], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Lacy: Clinkers (1977 [2000], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Lacy: N.Y. Capers & Quirks (1979 [2000], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Steve Lacy: New Jazz Meeting Baden-Baden 2002 (2002 [2006], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
  • David Liebman/Ellery Eskelin/Tony Marino/Jim Black: Different but the Same (2004 [2005], Hatology): [r]; B+(*)
  • Joe Maneri Quartet: Coming Down the Mountain (1993 [1997], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joe Maneri Quartet: Tenderly (1993 [1999], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee: Tenor & Fallen Angels (1976-77 [2000], Hatology): [r]: B-
  • Myra Melford Trio: Alive in the House of Saints (1993, Hat Art): [r]: A-
  • Myra Melford & Han Bennink: Eleven Ghosts (1994 [1996], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Misha Mengelberg: The Root of the Problem (1996 [1997], Hatology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sleaford Mods: Wank (2012, Deadly Beefburger): [bc]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Bob Albanese: Time Remembered (Mayimba): October 2
  • Bob Belden's Animation: Machine Language (Rare Noise): September 25
  • Marcelo dos Reis/Luis Vicente/Theo Ceccaldi/Valentin Ceccaldi: Chamber 4 (FMR)
  • Michael Gallant Trio: Live Plus One (Gallant Music): October 9
  • Ochion Jewell Quartet: Volk (self-released): September 29
  • Bob Merrill: Cheerin' Up the Universe (Accurate): September 4
  • Mike Reed's People Places & Things: A New Kind of Dance (482 Music)
  • Aram Shelton/Fred Lonberg-Holm/Frank Rosaly: Resounder (Singlespeed Music)

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • John Adams: Nixon in China (1988, Elektra/Nonesuch, 3LP): Having enjoyed the composer's early minimalism (e.g., Light Over Water) and been amused by his treatment of extracts from his big opera project (The Chairman Dances) I plopped down big bucks for the whole box and found . . . pure opera, with the usual atrocious singers crawling their way through the usual tortured libretto to music I scarcely remember any more. C+
  • Christopher Hobbs/John Adams/Gavin Bryars: Ensemble Pieces (1975, Obscure): One of the first four releases on Brian Eno's short-lived record label, as I recall the most classical-sounding of the bunch. B

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Iran Deal

I want to start with the text of a short speech that Laura Tillem gave at a demonstration at the office of Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Koch). It does a nice job of summarizing the basic points in favor of the Iran Deal, which Pompeo, in typically kneejerk fashion, opposes.

One thing the opponents of this deal are not doing is listen to the experts. . . . for example The Israeli experts who say "Iran capitulated," who say "every path to a bomb we know of is blocked," who say "on balance, not a bad deal," who say "we can live with it." They are not listening to the UN inspectors, who got it exactly right before the Iraq War, they say that this inspection regime is more thorough than any ever have been. Why would they say these things if they were not sure? Why would they risk their reputations?

And why are the European countries already eagerly investing in Iran because of this agreement? They sure don't seem worried that this will destabilize the Middle East, as the opponents of the deal say. If they are investing it means they expect More stability after this agreement, not less. If this deal was so bad as to let Iran bomb and terrorize everywhere, as the politicians claim, why would these business people risk their money, any more than the experts would risk their reputations? No, in fact, the deal is better for the Middle East, better for the Iranian people, and better for us, (because you know, not a war) better than any alternative by a mile. Only the politicians will not admit it, they not only can't accept the idea that the US might come to an agreement with Iran; they can't stand that the US would even meet with Iranians in person.

The opponents of this deal say the ruling mullahs are bad, but by rejecting this deal they are hurting only the reform movement there, the people who will ultimately change that system for the better, the people who elected a more reform-minded president to replace the hostile Ahmadenijad. What a smack in the face it would be to the millions of Iranian young people who are excited and hopeful about this agreement. Which also points to what is so good about this agreement: it will mean more access to and from other countries, more access to more ideas, more opportunities for students to study here, etc.

And finally, as an American Jew, it is beyond infuriating to see Netanyahu speak for "the Jews." As a Newton resident said recently, "Does the Westboro Baptist Church speak for "the Christians"? In fact, more US Jews support the agreement than oppose it.

We wish there were a brave Republican, and what better place than Kansas, where they all claim to be "independent" and "open-minded," a brave one who would step up and say Yes to peace.

Of course, this is tailored a bit for the Wichita, Kansas audience. The appeal to "open-minded" and "independent" Republicans is partly because the Republicans have such a stranglehold on elective office in Kansas, but such people have been scarce since the Great 2010 Purge. Still, but Sens. Roberts and Moran embraced Obama's normalization efforts with Cuba (as well as his TPP nonsense), and both opposed Obama's request for authorization to use force against Syria (although they didn't object when Obama didn't ask, as in Libya or later in Syria once ISIS clouded the issue). On the other hand, Pompeo, like Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, never saw a war he didn't want to jump into (he's a West Point grad, has run aerospace and oil businesses, rushed to the head of the NSA fan club, and did yeoman service as one of the Republicans' Benghazi! clowns -- he's so intransigent he made Bill Kristol's dream list of "October Surprise" presidential candidates).

The case for supporting the Iran Deal is so overwhelming you have to question the sanity (and/or ethics) of anyone opposing it. Netanyahu opposes it, as far as I can discern, for three reasons: (1) because he is in principle opposed to anything that reduces the usefulness of a marketable enemy (Iran is the prime example, because Americans remain prejudiced against the people who overthrew their beloved Shah, and because Israeli leaders need foreign distractions to avoid talking about the Palestinians); (2) because the internal political dynamics of Israel favors right-wing leader who prove their toughness by never compromising with anyone (even though Israelis negotiated in private with the PLO pre-Oslo, when they refused to agree on a shape of a table for public meetings, and are reportedly negotiating in secret with Hamas now -- if/when such negotiations bear fruit, you can be sure that right-wing leaders like Netanyahu will condemn and undermine them); and (3) Netanyahu has made a personal ploy to bind his party to the Republicans in some sort of grand anti-Obama coalition, which thus far the Republicans are playing along with (among other things, this makes Netanyahu look to his homies like a big player in American politics, and encourages Americans to view Likud as the unified face of Israel). None of these reasons have to do with the effectiveness of the Deal at curbing the Iranian nuclear weapons threat, suggesting Netanyahu never took the threat seriously in the first place. (Gareth Porter wrote a whole book to that effect: Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare [2014]. Trita Parsi wrote an earlier [2007] book, Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States, on the relationship of Iran and Israel over time, pointing out that Israel discovered an existential threat in Iran not when the Ayatollahs came to power but when a new enemy was required after Iraq was disarmed in 1991.)

Obama, on the other hand, seems to have taken the Iranian threat seriously, inasmuch as he bothered to build a coalition with Russia and China that put serious teeth into sanctions, then used that leverage to negotiate a strictly verifiable Deal that ensures that Iranian nuclear technology cannot for many years, if indeed ever, be used to build nuclear weapons. Anyone who took the Iranian threat seriously should be delighted by the Deal, and anyone who isn't -- that is, anyone who claims the previous regime of harsh sanctions, clandestine warfare, and periodic threats of Israel and/or the US bombing select targets would be more effective than inspections based on official agreements -- cannot be taken seriously.

That means Netanyahu and his AIPAC cronies, and it also means the Republicans. The latter's rejection of the Deal is little more than an effort to tarnish one of Obama's signature accomplishments, built on the casual prejudice that Obama and the Democrats are intrinsically weak on security, and the even more casual assumption that Republicans, by snarling more, are tougher. (I won't bother demolishing this, in large part because I think Obama is already way too belligerent for the nation's good.) So most Republicans see this as a game, one they've been playing without much evident downside (forgetting Bush-Cheney), so they don't expect anyone to call them on their warmongering. On the other hand, it's interesting that they agreed to a process they cannot possibly win -- Obama only needs to sustain a veto, which can be done by the Democratic minorities in either house -- so no matter how much they rant and rave the deal will go through. And if, say, Ronald Reagan's demagogic attacks on Jimmy Carter's Panama Canal Deal in 1980 are any indication, they'll never act on what they're threatening now. (Indeed, even when Reagan's VP became president and invaded Panama, he didn't make any effort to renege on ceding the Canal to Panama.)

Still, the Republicans' hot air campaign isn't harmless. Nor should it be painless for them. Every Republican who votes against the Deal should have to account for their stance in the next elections. They should be painted as warmongers: a party that so loathes the idea of diplomacy that they'd rather shoot first, and a party that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, believes that a quick show of force is the answer to all of America's problems in the world. In particular, their opposition to the Iran Deal shows the hollowness of their now common regrets over the Iraq War -- one that was started by Bush in 2003 over the same "WMD" charges, where Bush not only refused to negotiate but insisted that UN inspectors, which had not shown any evidence that Iraq had the alleged WMD, stop their work. What Obama has done is diametrically opposite to what Bush did with Iraq. It very predictably ensures that: (1) Iran will not be able to develop nuclear weapons for the duration of the deal, well beyond 10 years; (2) Iran will continue to be ruled by a stable government, and will not collapse into chaos as Iraq has done; (3) America will not earn new legions of enemies due to attacking another country. In doing this deal, it's hard to see any real cost to the US. Maybe some US defense contractors might lose some Persian Gulf business if Iran seems to be less of a threat. And oil prices may dip as Iran's oil enters the world market. But is that the platform Republicans want to run on in 2016: more arms jobs and higher gas prices? You can see the attraction for someone like Pompeo, but how many Americans actually live in the pockets of the defense and oil industries? -- as compared to, say, how many only pay the bills?

(Lest you object that letting Iranian oil out into the world market would accelerate global warming, that's attacking the problem at the wrong end, with the wrong solution. Right now the main cause of cheap oil is conservation, and the main effect is to make particularly nasty oil, such as the Alberta Tar Sands, uneconomical.)

On the other hand, the cost of a war to topple and replace Iran's regime would run into trillions of dollars (first approximation: Iraq + Afghanistan + another 50%) -- given the GOP's tax lock that adds to a national debt they already deem insupportable (although they won't say that if there's a Republican deficit -- most of the run up came under Reagan and "deficits don't matter" Cheney). The side-effects of such a war are incalculable, but one is that it will validate the argument that the only defense against American/Israeli aggression is to develop nuclear deterrence. Republicans might try to argue that harsher sanctions would suffice to contain Iran, but the only example of such they can point to is nuclear-armed North Korea, probably the most dangerously deranged state in the world today (unless you count Israel and the US -- i.e., the countries which actually do attack other countries with no thought to the consequences).

The biggest problem I see with the deal is that it shows Obama and the Democrats to be not only smart and shrewd but rigorous and tough. The latter trait allows them to sell the deal on the grounds that it will be effective at ending a threat, burying the fact that Iran has never actually threatened to develop, let alone use, nuclear weapons. It allows the Democrats to continue portraying Iran as an international scourge, when in fact the balance of wrongs between the US and Iran is tilted the other way. And by continuing to demonize Iran, we give up opportunities to align with Iran to help stabilize the Middle East. Not that Iran's interests naturally align with America's, but mutual engagement might help both countries move towards peace, stability, democracy with respect for minority rights, open trade -- the sort of things that are mutually agreeable precisely because they are universally aspired to.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25368 [25326] rated (+42), 426 [426] unrated (+0).

Another big, busy week. Rhapsody Streamnotes came out on Wednesday, so some of this week's loot appeared there. I've added a Comments section to the archive file. The comments in question were scraped from emails from Facebook, mostly in response to a notice I posted. I don't know whether I'll do this as a regular feature. Depends mostly on whether I get feedback that adds to the long-term value of the piece: the clincher this time was Clifford Ocheltree's discography note on Huey "Piano" Smith. Other valuable points/tips are that the A-rated Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink album, Welcome Back, is on Bandcamp (as is about one-third of Intakt's catalog, including A- from this year: Schlippenbach Trio, Marilyn Crispell/Gerry Hemingway, Chico Freeman/Heiri Känzig, Christoph Irniger Trio, and Oliver Lake/William Parker -- looks like a "label of the year"), and that Phil Overeem's "Mid-August Top 50" list -- a big help for me recently -- can be found on his blog. (I've added his blog to my "Music" list on the left.)

Since then I've spread out in all directions. I complained some while back that Rhapsody got rid of their interface for browsing new releases in genres, but it turns out that they merely hid it -- no doubt, as they like to say, "to improve your experience." As I tweeted, I took a look at their new folk releases and picked out three, all rated B+(***) below: Bobby Bare Jr: Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost); Lindi Ortega: Gloryville; and Rod Picott: Fortune. I then turned to country but didn't do so well (Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Shelby Lynne).

Another resource that offered some things to check out is Robert Christgau's new iteration of Expert Witness at Noisey. Unfortunately, the first two weeks haven't yielded anything that I've been tempted to A-list (Miguel came closest the first week, while I had dismissed Sam Smith with prejudice when the first hype appeared; Hop Along is just too idiosyncratic vocally, and I panned Go! Team when it came out, but I rather like Girlpool). Don't mean to complain, just noting a minor anomaly. I'd also like to plug We Are Nots over any of the girl-rock bands in the second column. And wonder when he'll get to Sleaford Mods? The new one is the third A- I've listed (with their singles comp just a notch lower). And the old ones are on Bandcamp, so you don't have to take my word (or wait for Bob's):

Another new resources is that I finally figured out how to use MPE Player to get recent ECM releases. They only go back a few months, so they don't have this year's early releases, including several I missed (Jack DeJohnette, Julia Hulsmann, Kenny Wheeler; I did manage to hear downloads, now lost, of Tim Berne, Jakob Bro, Vijay Iyer, and Chris Potter). Awkward interface, puts a premium on getting the record right the first pass, but does seem to have a download feature if I find anything worth hearing again. (The Gary Peacock Trio, with Marc Copland and Joey Baron, comes closest so far. PS: Tried downloading Elina Duni Quartet, which seems to have worked.)

The Miles Davis boxes were done in one pass. I might have given the Acrobat an A- if I had the actual box, but Rhapsody only made the first half available (as Volume 1) and doesn't offer the booklet. The selling point is that you're catching John Coltrane in transition from sideman to superstar, a moment of some historical value, but not as rewarding musically as the later recordings where he really made his mark. I haven't seen enough of Acrobat's boxes to have any real guess as to the documentation. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure that Legacy's documentation and packaging are first rate. And I've heard nearly all of the music there -- Rhapsody dropped a couple tracks from the first disc -- albeit only once. Of that, I'm quite certain that the second and third discs are really superb -- not that I'd pick them above the best live sets already available from the period (the various Plugged Nickel packages from 1965, Live-Evil and Dark Magus from 1970-73). The fourth disc is more marginal (more like the Fillmores). The first I'm less certain about: it has the most reissued material, mostly from Miles Davis at Newport 1958, which when it came out in 2001 I dismissed with a B. Sounded better than that this time, but not quite A-list. Again, that's just one play (with a break midway), but it's also not stuff I have to recondition my ears to grasp.

The old stuff this week is background to the new. I own a copy of Love and Peace but never got around to it, so I was particularly anxious to knock that off my todo list. The two disco albums and two live jazz albums could be described as varying degrees of competent. I'm still missing a well-regarded 1992 album, Keeping Tradition, but I've heard most of Bridgewater's later work, and it doesn't come close to the Silver set. Partners I had listed under Peacock -- a 4-star Penguin Guide record -- but careful inspection reveals Paul Bley gets top billing. I suppose I should go back and look through Bley's back catalog to see what I'm missing. I currently have 20 records graded, including his dazzling 1953 Introducing Paul Bley (with Mingus and Blakey), his 1958 Quintet (with Ornette Coleman), his 1965 ESP-Disk (Closer), and one more A-.

Still working on the long-promised update to Robert Christgau's website. Any day now.

New records rated this week:

  • Beegie Adair/Don Aliquo: Too Marvelous for Words (2015, Adair Music Group): [cd]: A-
  • JD Allen: Graffiti (2015, Savant): [cd]: A-
  • Takeshi Asai: French Trio Vol. 2 (2014 [2015], De Trois Cités): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bobby Bare Jr.: Don't Follow Me (I'm Lost) [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (2015, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater: Dee Dee's Feathers (2014 [2015], Okeh): [r]: B+(**)
  • Greg Cohen: Golden State (2014, Relative Pitch): [r]: B+(**)
  • Darts & Arrows: Altamira (2015, Ears & Eyes): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mathias Eick: Midwest (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Electric Squeezebox Orchestra: Cheap Rent (2014 [2015], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Clay Giberson: Minga Minga (2013 [2015], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Girlpool: Girlpool (2014, Wichita, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Girlpool: Before the World Was Big (2015, Wichita): [r]: B+(**)
  • Giovanni Guidi Trio: This Is the Day (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell: The Traveling Kind (2015, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Will Herrington: Solace (2015, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Hommage à Eberhard Weber (2015, ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Hop Along: Painted Shut (2015, Saddle Creek): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keith Jarrett: Creation (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: E-MO-TION (2015, Interscope/Schoolboy Silent): [r]: B+(***)
  • Joanna Gruesome: Peanut Butter (2015, Slumberland): [r]: B+(*)
  • Anders Jormin/Lena Willemark/Karin Nakagawa: Trees of Light (2013 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Shelby Lynne: I Can't Imagine (2015, New Rounder): [r]: B
  • Merzbow/Balasz Pandi/Mats Gustafsson/Thurston Moore: Cuts of Guilt/Cuts Deeper (2014 [2015], Rare Noise, 2CD): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • The Montgomery Hermann Quinlan Sextet: Hear, Here (2015, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Richard Nelson/Aardvark Jazz Orchestra: Deep River (2015, Heliotrope): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lindi Ortega: Faded Gloryville (2015, Last Gang): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gary Peacock Trio: Now This (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Rod Picott: Fortune (2015, Welding Rod): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sleaford Mods: Key Markets (2015, Harbinger Sound): [r]: A-
  • Grant Stewart: Trio (2014 [2015], Cellar Live): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Torn: Only Sky (2014 [2015], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Juli Wood Quartet: Synnkä Metsä (Dark Forest) (2015, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Tad Britton: Cicada (1992-93 [2015], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Continental Drifters: Drifted: In the Beginning & Beyond (1992-2001 [2015], Omnivore, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Miles Davis: All of You: The Last Tour 1960 (1960 [2014], Acrobat, 4CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Miles Davis: Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975 [The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4] (1955-75 [2015], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): [r]: A-
  • Keith Jarrett: Barber/Bartók (1984-85 [2015], ECM New Series): [dl]: B-
  • Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City: Experiments in Latin Music 1970-77 (1970-77 [2015], Soul Jazz, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Huey "Piano" Smith: Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu (1956-62 [2012], Hallmark): [cd]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • Paul Bley/Gary Peacock: Partners (1989 [1991], Owl): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater: Dee Dee Bridgewater (1976, Atlantic): [r]: B
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater: Dee Dee Bridgewater (1980, Elektra): [r]: B-
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater: Live in Paris (1986 [1987], Impulse): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater: Live in Montreux (1990 [1991], Verve): [r]: B
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater: Love and Peace: A Tribute to Horace Silver (1994 [1995], Verve): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • JD Allen: Graffiti (Savant)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Rigamaroll (Savant)
  • João Camões/Rodrigo Pinheiro/Miguel Mira: Earnear (Tour de Bras)
  • Dave Douglas Quintet: Brazen Heart (Greenleaf Music): October 2
  • Jon Irabagon: Behind the Sky (Irabbagast): September 15
  • Jon Irabagon: Inaction Is an Action (Irabbagast): September 15
  • Dave McDonnell Group: The Time Inside a Year (Delmark): August 21
  • Fred Randolph: Song Without Singing (Creative Spirit): August 28
  • The Dan Trudell Trio: Dan Trudell Plays the Piano (self-released): September 15
  • Mort Weiss: Mort Weiss Is a Jazz Reality Show (SMS Jazz)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Miles Davis: Miles Davis at Newport 1955-1975 [The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4] (1955-75 [2015], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): A- [rhapsody]
  • Nu Yorica! Culture Clash in New York City (1970-77 [2015], Soul Jazz): B+(***) [rhapsody]

  • Huey "Piano" Smith: Serious Clownin': The History of Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns (1956-60 [1986], Rhino): A
  • Huey "Piano Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time: The Very Best Of, Volume 1 (1956-62 [1997], Westside): U
  • Huey "Piano" Smith: This Is . . . Huey "Piano" Smith (1956-62 [1998], Music Club): A-
  • Huey "Piano" Smith: Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu ([2012], Hallmark): A-

Added grades for remembered LPs from way back when:

  • Huey "Piano" Smith: Serious Clownin': The History of Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns (1956-60 [1986], Rhino): A

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:

  • Josh Marshall: Breaking: Nuclear Stuff Really Complicated:

    But they've had an extremely difficult time making substantive arguments against the deal because according to almost all technical experts it is about as tight and comprehensive and total a surveillance regime as we've ever seen. Ever. Iran will not have a nuclear weapon under any circumstances for 10 to 20 years. Unless they choose to cheat. And if they do, the U.S. and the international community will almost certainly catch them and catch them before they're able to weaponize. But here's the problem -- that's only the opinion of people who actually know what they're talking about.

    Marshall follows this up with examples of stories based on ignorance and innuendo that supposedly show flaws in the inspections process, and cites the appropriate authorities on why they're false. I don't see any point in going down these various rat holes. The most comprehensive rebuttal I've seen is from Uzi Even, an Israeli physicist who's built nuclear weapons, who studied the deal and concluded: "the deal was written by nuclear experts and blocks every path I know to the bomb." The only exception I would take to Marshall's "nuclear stuff is complicated . . . so it's important to consult the people who know about nuclear stuff, people called scientists" is that the details of the inspection process only really matter if you assume that Iran actually was working on developing nuclear weapons, and that they secretly intend to continue on that path after sanctions are lifted, once Iran opens up to foreign investment and can trade freely with the rest of the world -- in short, starts to become a normal country.

    I think that Ayatollah Khamanei drew a sharp line in the sand with his fatwa declaring nuclear weapons contrary to Islam, so while Iran certainly wanted to show the world its mastery of nuclear technology, including the fuel cycle, and possibly thereby gain some deterrence against the long-present threat of foreign attack, they never had any intention of moving from capability to weaponization. Hence, it makes sense to me that Iran would agree to an inspections process that foreclosed any possibility of doing what they hadn't intended on doing in the first place -- especially in exchange for ending the sanctions, which were extremely offensive to Iran in the first place.

  • Dan Simpson: The United States owns part of Europe's migrant problem: If anything, he understates American responsibility. Even though most of the political pressure for intervention in Libya came from Europe, the model (as well as the firepower) came from the US. Nor should one ignore US impacts further south in Africa, especially in countries like Somalia and Mali. (Ironically, Libya used to be able to absorb many migrants from war-torn Africa.)

    The biggest problem of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa at the moment is massive migration.

    It is a result of American direct and indirect war-making in recent years in those regions. Most Americans regard the problem as someone else's. We get away with it because people don't think the matter through.

    The United States is responsible for two aspects of the problem. The first is that we have massively disrupted the societies and economies of the countries that are producing the refugees through war. The second source of our responsibility is that our role in the overthrow of the government in Libya turned that country into a rat's nest of chaos and non-government. The result is that Libya has come to serve as the jumping-off point for the boatloads of African and other refugees jamming their way into Southern Europe and even trying to cross the English Channel.

    A quick glance at the countries of origin of the refugees make America's role clear. They are Afghans, Iraqis, Libyans and Syrians, nationals of countries where we have tried to determine what government should be in power, including by raining countless bombs and drone-mounted missiles down on them. In each of these countries, America has destroyed order and the economy, making life unbearable and employment unobtainable. Put another way, we have turned Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria into countries that people are desperate to escape, no longer able to imagine their lives there given the dangerous, lawless cauldrons the countries have become.

    But I also blame Europe for not having the smarts and guts to stand up to the American neocons' misguided and mistaken efforts to transform the world through fire. (GW Bush: "Sometimes a show of force by one side can really clarify things." Quoted in Ron Suskind: The One Percent Doctrine.)

  • Stephen M Walt: So Wrong for So Long: Why neoconservatives are never right: Well, some of the reasons anyway:

    Getting Iraq wrong wasn't just an unfortunate miscalculation, it happened because [the neocons'] theories of world politics were dubious and their understanding of how the world works was goofy. [ . . . ]

    For starters, neoconservatives think balance-of-power politics doesn't really work in international affairs and that states are strongly inclined to "bandwagon" instead. In other words, they think weaker states are easy to bully and never stand up to powerful adversaries. Their faulty logic follows that other states will do whatever Washington dictates provided we demonstrate how strong and tough we are. This belief led them to conclude that toppling Saddam would send a powerful message and cause other states in the Middle East to kowtow to us. If we kept up the pressure, our vast military power would quickly transform the region into a sea of docile pro-American democracies. [ . . . ]

    Today, of course, opposition to the Iran deal reflects a similar belief that forceful resolve would enable Washington to dictate whatever terms it wants. As I've written before, this idea is the myth of a "better deal." Because neocons assume states are attracted to strength and easy to intimidate, they think rejecting the deal, ratcheting up sanctions, and threatening war will cause Iran's government to finally cave in and dismantle its entire enrichment program. On the contrary, walking away from the deal will stiffen Iran's resolve, strengthen its hard-liners, increase its interest in perhaps actually acquiring a nuclear weapon someday, and cause the other members of the P5+1 to part company with the United States. [ . . . ]

    Fourth, as befits a group of armchair ideologues whose primary goal has been winning power inside the Beltway, neoconservatives are often surprisingly ignorant about the actual conditions of the countries whose politics and society they want to transform. Hardly any neoconservatives knew very much about Iraq before the United States invaded -- if they had, they might have reconsidered the whole scheme -- and their characterizations of Iran today consist of scary caricatures bearing little resemblance to Iran's complicated political and social reality. In addition to flawed theories, in short, the neoconservative worldview also depends on an inaccurate reading of the facts on the ground.

    Walt lists a couple more reasons neocons are always wrong, and misses or only glances on a few more. One is that they're extremely squeamish about dealing with people they perceive as enemies -- i.e., people who don't show the proper submissive repose to the righteousness of their power. Neocons not only can't accept the idea that the US might come to an agreement with Iran; they can't stand that the US would even meet with Iranians in person. In some ways, their insistence on only dealing with the world by projecting force derives from insecurities about personal (they would say moral) hygiene.

    Walt correctly notes that "the neoconservatives' prescriptions for US foreign policy are perennially distorted by a strong attachment to Israel," but doesn't add that the obvious motive behind that attachment is envy: they want the US to confront the whole world with the same arrogance and contempt Israel projects in its neighborhood. One can make a pretty good argument that such policies don't even benefit Israel let alone are scalable worldwide.

    Despite the terminology, there is nothing especially new about neocon-ism. The core idea first emerged following the development of nuclear bombs and the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: that's when the US became the world's sole superpower, a moment of omnipotence the neocons have been yearning to regain ever since (hence all the "end of history" brouhaha after the collapse of the Soviet Union). Aside from the early Bush-Cheney administration, they've rarely been able to dictate American policy, but the delusions of power their ideas spring from has been a driving force behind America's post-WWII war machine -- indeed, they've spun up an entire ideology (calcified into a secular religion) that nearly all American politicians are swamped by. This, despite the fact that every war started with the assumption that American power will prevail, and every fiasco with the notion that nothing unmanageably bad could occur.

    But even before the bomb, neocon-ism rested on a conservative doctrine that goes back millennia: the master-slave relationship, the eternal backbone of American conservatism, and of empires everywhere. Conservatism has always depended on two assumptions so deep you can only accept or reject them: one is that some people are (usually innately) superior to others and therefore should be privileged to rule; the other is that contrary to the first can (meaning should) ever change over time. But critics as far back as Hegel understood that the relationship wasn't timeless: that over time the master engenders opposition that ultimately undoes slavery. By the same measure, the projection of American power creates resistance, something no amount of belief in enduring superiority can overcome. Jonathan Schell called this "the unconquerable world."

  • More Iran links:

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Eric Foner: Struggle and Progress: An wide-ranging interview with one of the most important historians working today.

  • Reynard Loki: Environmentalists Blast Obama's Decision to Let Shell Drill in Arctic: I recall something about Republican presidential platforms always ticking off the same five or so bullet items, one of which was energy self-sufficiency for the US, generic blather for loosening up environmental regulations and importing a lot more Canadian crude (which in the tar sands tundra is very crude indeed), possibly with something about "clean coal" (the oxymoron to end all oxymorons). I don't expect Obama will ever get any credit for it, but during the time Obama has been president that plank has largely been realized. For one thing, by delaying the Keystone Pipeline he hasn't solved the problem with Canadian imports. Nor has he done it with coal, although you have to give wind and solar some credit there. Actually, it's mostly been North Dakota's Bakken field plus a lot of fracking -- which he hasn't raised a finger to slow down despite environmental concerns. But the one big thing Obama has done to promote the oil industry has been to open up a lot more offshore drilling -- this article reports on Shell's project to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Still, I doubt Obama's offshore license has had much effect yet: just when he was opening up the Atlantic, BP blew a major spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that gummed up the works.

  • Aman Sethi: At the Mercy of the Water Mafia: On the edges of Delhi.

    In conversations, Sanghwan is annoyed by concerns about the sustainability of his small empire, about the short-term nature of his profits compared with his work's potentially devastating long-term implications. Such questions, he says, demonize the poor and water providers like him, while letting the rich and the government off the hook. He claims he would welcome efforts to lay a proper pipe network in his neighborhood, but given the government's track record, he isn't holding his breath.

  • Chris Sullentrop: The Kansas Experiment: Long article by the nephew of Kansas Republican legislator Gene Sullentrop. Kinship opened a few doors, not that the lowdown on Brownback's dog or his preferred basketball strategies humanizes him, much less renders his obsessions sensible. Still, the nephew provides a fair accounting of the session's fiscal crisis. He does drop in the line about how "the state is a petri dish for movement conservatism, a window into how the national Republican Party might govern if opposition vanished." But he doesn't even mention 80% of the vile insanity that was passed by the legislature in addition to the education cuts and regressive tax increases.

  • Steve Weintz: Worst Idea Ever: Dropping Nuclear Bombs During the Vietnam War: As I recall, there was occasional loose talk all during the long American War in Vietnam about using nuclear weapons. At the time the US was putting a lot of effort into reducing the size of nuclear weapons to try to come up with something that could be used for "tactical" strikes as opposed to obliterating entire cities. They even managed to deploy an Atomic Bazooka (1961-68) -- a portable launcher that could shoot a 10-20 kiloton (i.e., Hiroshima/Nagasaki-sized) bomb about three miles. Weintz reports on some recently declassified documents, which show that the possible use of "tactical nukes" in Vietnam was seriously studied, and wasn't rejected for the obvious moral and political reasons -- the Mandarins doing the studying didn't want to look "soft" -- but because they couldn't figure out a way to make them work effectively.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thinking About the Unthinkable

Christian Appy: America's Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 Years Later: On Aug. 6, 1945, the US obliterated the Japanese city of Hiroshima with a single bomb. Three days later they repeated that feat with Nagasaki, demonstrating that the "total war" that had been fought for the past six years (actually, longer in China) would turn much more destructive in the future. Japan surrendered a couple weeks later, pretty much on terms they had (too discreetly) proposed in the weeks before Hiroshima: clearer messages could have spared us all the ordeal of nuclear warfare (but then mutual respect and understanding might have spared us so much more). I know people who every year mark the anniversary of Hiroshima with vigils, not because they remember the 100,000+ victims there any different than the other 60 million lives the war took. They mark Hiroshima because the weapon the US introduced there still looms over us with its threat to instantly devastate life as we know it. And they mark it because our own nation -- not the only one to possess such weapons but the only one to have actually used them on an "enemy" people -- has still not demonstrated the maturity and modesty necessary to put the age of nuclear terror behind us. Two pieces of evidence here: one is that the US, despite having negotiated a deal (the NPT) where the world's nuclear powers promise to dismantle their arsenals in exchange for the rest of the world pledging to never develop such weapons, continues to build new bombs and formulate war plans assuming their use; the other is that the US has engaged in conventional and guerrilla warfare almost continuously since WWII ended, using its nuclear weapons as an umbrella for an empire of bases that girdle the world, allowing the US to poke its nose into nearly every country around the world (and shun the few -- at least the little ones -- that deny its hegemony). Or maybe the second is just the reason and effect of the first. Another way to phrase the second is that the US has repeatedly failed to support international efforts to resolve conflicts (especially its own) without resorting to war. So where many thought the advent of nuclear weapons would make further wars unthinkable, American defense mandarins not only embraced the horror -- the classic is Herman Kahn's Thinking About the Unthinkable -- but have resuscitated the concept of limited war and applied it repeatedly (even though they've virtually never achieved their stated goals).

I understand and appreciate anti-nuclear protesters, especially in the 1960s (which led to the Test Ban Treaty and the NPT) and in the 1980s (which led to several arms reduction treates between the US and USSR). I also fully appreciate that Japan would have surrendered in 1945 regardless of whether the US bombed Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Nonetheless, those bombings don't bother me more than the rest of the war. I feel that it was inevitable that the bombs would be used once developed, and the end of WWII was as appropriate as any time could be: they were the icing on the cake, as if the fire-bombings of Dresden and Tokyo weren't enough, or the German death camps, or the Rape of Nanking, or the starvation of Bengals far from the fighting lines. They remind us, among other things, that by the end of the war the US had descended to the barbarity of its enemies -- that indeed the real enemy was war, and that it had morally crippled those it didn't kill outright. That realization gave rise to the UN as a forum for preventing future wars -- a failure nearly from the start, but at least the fear of another Hiroshima many times over, of what came to be called MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), forced powers with no good will whatsoever to pull back from brinksmanship. Arguably, nuclear deterrence also thwarted a fourth India-Pakistan war in 2002, and has kept Israel safe from attack since 1973 -- no Arab nation even thinks of such a thing, even though Israel continues to strike Syria whenever it feels like it. I think it's fair to say deterrence works, but also that its driving force is fear, the effect of which is to preserve and nurture hostility or worse: our so-called "limited wars."

Appy does a good job of reviewing Truman's "decision" to bomb Hiroshima:

Truman understood, of course, that if Hiroshima was a "military base," then so was Seattle; that the vast majority of its residents were civilians; and that perhaps 100,000 of them had already been killed. Indeed, he knew that Hiroshima was chosen not for its military significance but because it was one of only a handful of Japanese cities that had not already been firebombed and largely obliterated by American air power. U.S. officials, in fact, were intent on using the first atomic bombs to create maximum terror and destruction. They also wanted to measure their new weapon's power and so selected the "virgin targets" of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In July 1945, Secretary of War Henry Stimson informed Truman of his fear that, given all the firebombing of Japanese cities, there might not be a target left on which the atomic bomb could "show its strength" to the fullest. According to Stimson's diary, Truman "laughed and said he understood." [ . . . ]

By 1945, most Americans didn't care that the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not committed Japan's war crimes. American wartime culture had for years drawn on a long history of "yellow peril" racism to paint the Japanese not just as inhuman, but as subhuman. As Truman put it in his diary, it was a country full of "savages" -- "ruthless, merciless, and fanatic" people so loyal to the emperor that every man, woman, and child would fight to the bitter end. In these years, magazines routinely depicted Japanese as monkeys, apes, insects, and vermin. Given such a foe, so went the prevailing view, there were no true "civilians" and nothing short of near extermination, or at least a powerful demonstration of America's willingness to proceed down that path, could ever force their surrender. As Admiral William "Bull" Halsey said in a 1944 press conference, "The only good Jap is a Jap who's been dead six months."

Appy also writes about changing American attitudes to Hiroshima, which most recently appear to have hardened. For example, he writes about Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 bestseller, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption:

The book is decidedly a page-turner, but its focus on a single American's punishing ordeal and amazing recovery inhibits almost any impulse to move beyond the platitudes of nationalistic triumphalism and self-absorption or consider (among other things) the racism that so dramatically shaped American combat in the Pacific. That, at least, is the impression you get combing through some of the astonishing 25,000 customer reviews Unbroken has received on Amazon. "My respect for WWII veterans has soared," a typical reviewer writes. "Thank you Laura Hillenbrand for loving our men at war," writes another. It is "difficult to read of the inhumanity of the treatment of the courageous men serving our country." And so on.

Unbroken devotes a page and a half to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, all of it from the vantage point of the American crew of the Enola Gay. Hillenbrand raises concerns about the crew's safety: "No one knew for sure if . . . the bomber could get far enough away to survive what was coming." She describes the impact of the shockwaves, not on the ground, but at 30,000 feet when they slammed into the Enola Gay, "pitching the men into the air."

Also see Susan Southard: Entering the Nuclear Age, Body by Body, on the bombing of Nagasaki -- adapted from her new book, Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War. The second bomb has been much less documented than the first -- Southard seems to be aiming for a belated companion to John Hersey's first-on-the-scene reporting in Hiroshima. Lest you forget the immediate experience:

The five-ton plutonium bomb plunged toward the city at 614 miles per hour. Forty-seven seconds later, a powerful implosion forced its plutonium core to compress from the size of a grapefruit to the size of a tennis ball, generating a nearly instantaneous chain reaction of nuclear fission. With colossal force and energy, the bomb detonated a third of a mile above the Urakami Valley and its 30,000 residents and workers, a mile and a half north of the intended target. At 11:02 a.m., a superbrilliant flash lit up the sky -- visible from as far away as Omura Naval Hospital more than 10 miles over the mountains -- followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of 21,000 tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed.

At its burst point, the center of the explosion reached temperatures higher than at the center of the sun, and the velocity of its shock wave exceeded the speed of sound. A tenth of a millisecond later, all of the materials that had made up the bomb converted into an ionized gas, and electromagnetic waves were released into the air. The thermal heat of the bomb ignited a fireball with an internal temperature of over 540,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Within one second, the blazing fireball expanded from 52 feet to its maximum size of 750 feet in diameter. Within three seconds, the ground below reached an estimated 5,400 to 7,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Directly beneath the bomb, infrared heat rays instantly carbonized human and animal flesh and vaporized internal organs.

As the atomic cloud billowed two miles overhead and eclipsed the sun, the bomb's vertical blast pressure crushed much of the Urakami Valley. Horizontal blast winds tore through the region at two and a half times the speed of a category five hurricane, pulverizing buildings, trees, plants, animals, and thousands of men, women, and children. In every direction, people were blown out of their shelters, houses, factories, schools, and hospital beds; catapulted against walls; or flattened beneath collapsed buildings.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were simple kiloton-range devices. The fusion-powered bombs first tested in the early 1950s were as much as a thousand times more powerful. J. Robert Oppenheimer famously argued against developing fusion bombs because the real-world targets were too small. Edward Teller was able to convince the US military not only to go ahead but to strip Oppenheimer of his security clearance, excluding him from future influence. With hawks like Teller clearing out all possible opposition, it shouldn't be surprising that virtually every proposal of a pre-emptive nuclear strike came from the US. Until the Soviet Union developed its own bomb, many hard-core anti-communists agitated for "preventive war." When American efforts in Korea stalled and Vietnam went from bad to worse, many hawks saw nukes as a way to snatch victory from defeat. Nixon's version of this was what he called his "Madman Strategy": the idea was to convince the Soviets that he was so crazed he'd risk destroying the world to avoid losing Vietnam. By the 1980s, Andropov was so unnerved by America's "first strike" threats that the Soviets almost started a nuclear war by accident. Even recently, the US was promoting the idea of nuclear bombs as "bunker busters" to "take out" deeply buried infrastructure in Iran and North Korea. In fact, every time an American politician makes a point about "not taking options off the table," the world hears a threat to use nuclear weapons. No wonder the US is so flustered by Iran: every time we look at them, we see a mirror image of the US. (Israel, of course, has the same problem.)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Rhapsody Streamnotes (August 2015)

Pick up text here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25326 [25277] rated (+49), 426 [432] unrated (-6).

Huge rated count. I got off to a fast start when I decided to fill in the records I hadn't previously heard by Kurt Elling and Alan Jackson, both with new records last week. I've never cared for Elling, but he has a huge reputation, including four Penguin Guide 4-stars. Main thing I found out was that his exuberance on the first two albums makes his mannerisms more palatable. After Elling, Jackson cleaned my ears out, and the albums were so short they piled up fast. Still best, I think, to approach his early work through compilations, like 1995's The Greatest Hits Collection, or 2007's more economical 16 Biggest Hits. His new one, Angels and Alcohol, was A- last week. (Elling's new Passion World came in at C: by my reckoning his worst ever, not that Night Moves or 1619 Broadway were much better.)

The next thing that happened was that Phil Overeem posted a list on Facebook of his top 50 albums so far this year. I jotted them down in my notebook, and tallied up that 25 of the 34 I had heard were rated B+(***) or higher. That's close enough to my taste that I tried tracking down the rest. I managed to find 11 of the missing 16, and the first three (79rs Gang, Nots, Mdou Moctar) came in at A- (as did, later on, Dead Moon). Overeem's list also included the new Sonics album (***), which led me to their back catalog and a belated A- for their 1965 debut. Of the remaining five, I managed to find bits of Big Chief Don Pardo and Golden Comanche (New Orleans Indians) and the Reactionaries (pre-Minutemen D. Boon from 1979) -- not enough to rate but both sounded promising. That leaves three albums to keep an eye open for: Jack DeJohnette, Made in Chicago; Iris DeMent, The Trackless Woods; and J.D. Allen, Graffiti.

I had, by the way, tracked down Coneheads (***) and The Red Line Comp (*) from earlier Overeem notices -- I would never have known about them otherwise. One thing I had trouble with was hip-hop: three albums (two from Overeem's list -- Doomtree and Vince Staples -- plus Future) wound up at B+(***). I gave them two plays each, all were pretty good, but they didn't come through quite clearly enough to grade higher. That seems to be happening a lot -- others on my 2015 list: Joey Badass, Action Bronson, Cannibal Ox, Rae Sremmurd. Or maybe that's just a normal break: A- hip-hop so far: BBNG/Ghostface Killah, Heems, Kendrick Lamar, Murs.

Michael Tatum, who's resumed his A Downloader's Diary, recommended Songhoy Blues -- a close second, I think, to Moctar's soundtrack. Overeem also recommended the new Tamikrest (**), so I went back and filled in the old ones, netting Toumastin. Mamman Sani (Overeem picked his 2013 album) is also from Niger, but not in the dessert blues genre -- more like spacey electronic minimalism. It was a big help for me finding Sahel Sounds on Bandcamp -- will probably explore some more older titles later on.

That didn't leave a lot of time for my current jazz queue, but I moved Irène Schweizer to the front and was dazzled: not a surprise given that her previous record with Han Bennink was an A -- one of 4 A records I credit her with (plus 5 A-). A really great pianist, and a pretty great percussionist too. The one I still recommend to start with is her 2006 2-CD compilation, Portrait. Maybe I should change its grade to A+.

Biondini (*), Braden (*), Halvorson (***), Harris (**), Letizia (**), Maestro (*), Mazzarella (***), and Orozco (**) also came from the new jazz queue, but I had to grab James Brandon Lewis (A-) from Rhapsody. I did find some mail on the record, apparently with a watermarked download link I never bothered with. No telling how many records like that slip past me. My pre-crash system for dealing with download links is still broken -- Firefox refuses to connect to a mail server that has self-signed SSL certificates, even after storing the exception, so my message-passing mechanism is broken. Also, all the ECM links I had are stale now, and I find myself not caring enough to get them refreshed. Similarly, I hardly ever deal with the world music links I get from Rock Paper Scissors: true that a high percentage of important world music comes through them, but also true that that's a small slice of what they promote. I keep getting disabused of the concept that I can cover it all. There needs to be some meeting of the willing for this to work, but this week at least it seems to have worked pretty well.

Robert Christgau found a new outlet for his Expert Witness -- I still think of it as The Consumer Guide -- column, at Noisey, promising a new one every Friday. Last week's covered three "love men" he likes more than I do: Miguel (***), Jason Derulo (*), and (most surprising) Sam Smith (B- last time I heard it), with Tinashe (**) and Oceaán (* -- the only one I hadn't previously checked out) in the HMs. Once again, he's catching up to make up for the downtime since Medium sacked him in early June. I've noticed, for instance, that there were 17 albums on his 2013 Dean's List that he never caught up with when he moved from MSN to Cuepoint. (My plan is to add stubs in his website database for those records -- presumably all A- or A, but not my place to say. I'm also looking through earlier lists to see if anything else should be stubbed -- thus far I've found three albums, but it's a slow slog to check everything.)

By the way, I am getting closer to doing an update of Christgau's website. I've already uploaded a number of fixes since the ISP's server change ("upgrade") broke some old code, but the long delay demanded by Medium and my own procrastination kept me from doing an update to the CG database. Right now, I have everything from Medium in my local copy, and I'm working through some proofreading (my heroes there are George Allan and Lucas Fagen). Probably later this week, assuming I don't hold it up to do more stub work. (I've long thought that the artist pages should list albums that don't have proper CG reviews but do have significant mentions in lists or ACN, so that's a long-term project.)

I should also mention that I got a notice today that Carola Dibbell's recent novel, The Only Ones, is now available as an audiobook, narrated by Sasha Dunbrooke.

New records rated this week:

  • 79rs Gang: Fire on the Bayou (2015, Sinking City/Urban Unrest): [r]: A-
  • Gregg Allman: Gregg Allman Live: Back to Macon, GA (2014 [2015], Rounder, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Luciano Biondini: Senza Fine (2014 [2015], Intakt): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Don Braden: Luminosity (2010-14 [2015], Creative Perspective Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jay Collins and the Kings County Band: Rivers Blues and Other People (2012, Sundown): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doomtree: All Hands (2015, Doomtree): [r]: B+(***)
  • Future: DS2 (2015, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mary Halvorson: Meltframe (2014 [2015], Firehouse 12): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Lafayette Harris, Jr. Trio: Bend to the Light (2011 [2015], Airmen): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Gaetano Letizia/Mike Clark/Wilbur Krebs: Froggy & the Toads (2015, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • James Brandon Lewis: Days of FreeMan (2015, Okeh): [r]: A-
  • Shai Maestro Trio: Untold Stories (2014 [2015], Motema): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Nick Mazzarella Trio: Ultraviolet (2015, International Anthem): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mdou Moctar: Afelan (2013, Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Mdou Moctar: Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai [Original Soundtrack Recording] (2015, Sahel Sounds): [bc]: A-
  • Nots: We Are Nots (2014, Goner): [dl]: A-
  • Obnox: Know America (2015, Ever/Never): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Oceaán: The Grip (2014, B3SCI, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • César Orozco & Kamarata Jazz: No Limits for Tumbao (2015, Alfi): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (2015, Intakt): [cd]: A
  • Songhoy Blues: Music in Exile (2015, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • The Sonics: This Is the Sonics (2015, Revox): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vince Staples: Summertime '06 (2015, Def Jam, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tamikrest: Taksera (2015, Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Dead Moon: Live at Satyricon (1993 [2015], Voodoo Doughnut): [r]: A-
  • Phil Haynes: Sanctuary (1999 [2015], Corner Store Jazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Mammane Sani et Son Orgue: La Musique Electronique du Niger (1978 [2013], Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Mamman Sani: Taaritt (1985-88 [2014], Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(**)
  • J.B. Smith: No More Good Time in the World for Me (1965-66 [2015], Dust-to-Digital, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old records rated this week:

  • Kurt Elling: Close Your Eyes (1994 [1995], Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Kurt Elling: The Messenger (1994-96 [1997], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kurt Elling: This Time It's Love (1997-98 [1998], Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Kurt Elling: Flirting With Twilight (2001, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Kurt Elling: Man in the Air (2003, Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Alan Jackson: Here in the Real World (1989, Arista): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alan Jackson: Don't Rock the Jukebox (1991, Arista): [r]: A-
  • Alan Jackson: A Lot About Livin' (and a Little 'Bout Love) (1992, Arista): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alan Jackson: Everything I Love (1996, Arista): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alan Jackson: High Mileage (1998, Arista): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alan Jackson: Under the Influence (1999, Arista): [r]: B
  • Alan Jackson: When Somebody Loves You (2000, Arista): [r]: B
  • Alan Jackson: Like Red on a Rose (2006, Arista Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Sonics: Here Are the Sonics (1965, Etiquette): [r]: A-
  • The Sonics: Boom (1966, Etiquette): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tamikrest: Adagh (2010, Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tamikrest: Toumastin (2011, Glitterbeat): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Barry Altschul & 3Dom Factor: Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM): September 18
  • Tad Britton: Cicada (Origin): August 21
  • Electric Squeezebox Orchestra: Cheap Rent (OA2): August 21
  • Liberty Ellman: Radiate (Pi): August 21
  • Garrison Fewell: Invisible Resonance Trio (Creative Nation Music): September 25
  • Clay Giberson: Minga Minga (Origin): August 21
  • Josh Maxey: Celebration of Soul (Miles High)
  • Olavi Trio: Oh, La Vie! (TUM): September 18
  • Juli Wood Quartet: Synnkä Metsä (Dark Forest) (OA2): August 21


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Weekend Roundup

I just saw a tweet by Ben Norton (author of an article linked to below). It consists of two lists: "places bombed by the US" and "places where ISIS is growing." The lists are identical: "Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan." The only chance the US has of breaking that identity would be for the US to bomb more non-Muslim countries.

Some scattered links this week:

  • William D Cohan: How Wall Street's Bankers Stayed Out of Jail: "After the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s, more than 1,000 bankers were jailed." However, after the much larger 2008 financial crisis? One, even though plenty of wrongdoing was uncovered:

    Since 2009, 49 financial institutions have paid various government entities and private plaintiffs nearly $190 billion in fines and settlements, according to an analysis by the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. That may seem like a big number, but the money has come from shareholders, not individual bankers. (Settlements were levied on corporations, not specific employees, and paid out as corporate expenses -- in some cases, tax-deductible ones.) In early 2014, just weeks after Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, settled out of court with the Justice Department, the bank's board of directors gave him a 74 percent raise, bringing his salary to $20 million.

    The more meaningful number is how many Wall Street executives have gone to jail for playing a part in the crisis. That number is one. (Kareem Serageldin, a senior trader at Credit Suisse, is serving a 30-month sentence for inflating the value of mortgage bonds in his trading portfolio, allowing them to appear more valuable than they really were.)

    The authors quote several sources arguing that, despite all those fines paid by companies, "the evidence does not show clear misconduct by individuals." What this suggests to me is that we as a country (at least our prosecutors, who are usually pretty vigilant about such things) have radically changed our view of individual responsibility for ethical behavior: either we consider things ethical now that were deemed unethical two decades ago (especially in pursuit of corporate and/or personal profits), or we think that individuals (extending up to corporate CEOs) no longer have sufficient autonomy to be considered responsible for their own actions. I suppose there is a third possibility (or factor), which is that the political system has become so corrupt that it's become all but unthinkable to prosecute the donor class. But no matter how you slice this, it speaks volumes about the moral rot that goes hand-in-hand with a world of increasing inequality and decreasing democracy.

  • Conor Friedersdorf: A Letter to Donald Trump Supporters With One Big Question:

    Dear Donald Trump Supporters:

    You're fed up. This much I understand. You're fed up with politicians who say one thing on the campaign trail, like that they're going to stop illegal immigration, and then do another in Washington; you're fed up with insiders who rig the system for their benefit at your expense; and you're fed up with coastal media elites and their insular subculture. [ . . . ]

    What I don't understand is why you think a President Trump would treat us better. If you elect the billionaire, what makes you think that he will use whatever talents that he possesses to address your grievances rather than to benefit himself? After all, he's a man who has zealously pursued his self-interest all his life. [ . . . ]

    Right now, Trump is telling you all the things you want to hear.

    There was a time when his two ex-wives and the many former business partners he has since sued felt the same way. Those relationships didn't work out very well for them.

    Why do you think that you'll fare better?

    "Trump brags about making a lot of money in Atlantic City, then ditching the place as it slid into misery," Michael Brendan Dougherty observed in The Week. "Believing Trump will bring America back is as foolish as believing he would bring Atlantic City back. Unlike Rubio and Bush, he's a free man -- and perfectly willing to walk away and say it was your fault, but that he enjoyed the ride anyway."

    Trump is a billionaire, you say, so he won't need to pander to special interests -- unlike other Republicans, he can ignore the business lobby and stop illegal immigration.

    But that makes no sense. Granted, Trump has all the money he'll ever need, yet that's been true for decades, and he's continued to expend a lot of effort to earn still more money. Like other men with significant, diversified business holdings -- some of them hotels and golf courses, no less! -- a large supply of cheap immigrant labor is in his personal financial interests. If the business elite is for illegal immigration, he is the business elite! And he'll face the exact same political incentives as every other elected Republican from George W. Bush to John McCain. [ . . . ]

    Instead you're just taking him on faith. Why? Does Trump strike you as a person who is unusually inclined to keep his word? Someone who never flip-flops? Come on.

    On the other hand, there's already a Trump Fulfills Campaign Promise article out -- clearly, the bar's so low it doesn't take much.

    Also see Stanley Aronowitz: The Real Reason Donald Trump Embarrasses the GOP:

    At the debate and numerous public appearances, Trump has matter-of-factly stated that he is an equal opportunity donor to Republican and Democratic candidates -- not for the purpose of civic duty or altruism, but in exchange for influence. He has openly deemed his gifts to politicians a business expense. He went so far as to declare, before 24 million viewers at the debate, that he uses his donations to obtain favors from legislators who are all too eager to bow to his requests. He not-so-subtly implies that politicians are bought and paid for by him and other financial moguls. And he expects a fair return for those dollars, measured in policy rewards like zoning adjustments, subsidies for building projects and long-term tax relief.

    In short, he lets the cat out of the bag about something the political system has spent more than a century to disguise.

  • Fred Kaplan: Shallow Jeb: Jeb Brush tried to burnish his foreign policy cred with a 40-minute speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Kaplan describes it as "a hodgepodge of revisionist history, shallow analysis, and vague prescriptions." The main revisionist claim is the assertion that the Petraeus "surge" in Iraq was a big success which gave the US a "hard-won victory," which was in turn squandered by Obama's withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in 2011. Every word in that claim is false, but it has already become gospel among Republican presidential aspirants. From such false premises, all sorts of insane inferences can be made.

    Later in Tuesday night's speech, Bush said that the Iraq surge can serve as a model for how "Islamic moderates can be pulled away from extremist forces" in Syria. I doubt that he was proposing to send 100,000 U.S. troops to Syria, as his brother did in Iraq -- an idea that would appeal to almost no American generals or voters. But what he was proposing isn't at all clear. [ . . . ]

    He did say, "In all of this," referring to the fight against jihadists, "the United States must engage with friends and allies, and lead again in that vital region." Which friends and allies does he mean? The Saudis try to rope us into a savage, fruitless war against the Houthi rebels, whom it portrays as Iranian proxies. The Turks lend us an air base to step up strikes against ISIS but then use the moment of goodwill as cover to attack their bigger enemy, the Kurds, who rank as the jihadists' most potent foe (and to whom Bush promised in his speech to send heavy armaments). ISIS derives much of its strength from the deep disunity of its natural foes, some of whom are our allies, some of whom aren't. "Action, coordination and American leadership," the solutions Bush calls for, are more complex than he -- and many other Republicans who have never held national office -- seems to recognize.

    He criticized Obama for drawing a "red line" against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons, then failing to follow through. Many of Obama's defenders have filed the same complaint. But what would Bush do? "Under my strategy," he said, "the aim would be to draw the [Syrian] moderates together and back them up as one force . . . not just in taking the fight to the enemy but in helping them to form a stable moderate government once ISIS is defeated and Assad is gone." How would he do this? By replicating his brother's surge in Iraq. After all, he added with blithe confidence, "the strategic elements in both cases [Iraq circa 2007 and Syria today] are the same" -- thus demonstrating that he and his speechwriters have no understanding of the tangled politics in Syria or of what made the Iraqi surge work to the extent that it did.

    The most malleable concept here is "Islamic moderates" -- the proper definition seems to be "Muslims who are willing to follow the US lead," which actually says less about them than about us. Following the Surge -- which if you recall at the time escalated the violence without any tangible results -- a number Sunni tribal leaders in Iraq made a deal with the US where in exchange for money and protection from Shiite militias and the central Iraqi government they turned against Al-Qaeda in Iraq, thereby becoming "Islamic moderates." When the US left, the deal broke down, and the same tribal leaders discovered they would be better off siding with ISIS than with the Maliki government. Clearly, for them becoming "radicals" or "moderates" is mere tactics.

    I don't think I've mentioned this before, but for some insight into where Bush's money comes from, see Nomi Prins: All In: The Bush Family Goes for Number Three (With the Help of Its Bankers). You don't think he's running for president on brains or looks, now do you?

  • Matt Riedl: Kris Kobach comments on how GOP has done on six key issues: Kansas' Secretary of State is probably more wired into ALEC and its push to enact right-wing legislation at the state level, so it's interesting both what he considers the critical issues and how he measures progress. The six: "guns, abortion, elections, illegal immigration, taxation and spending, and courts." He likes what Kansas has done on the first three: "constitutional carry" means criminals as well as citizens don't have to get permits or have any training to carry guns; late-term abortions have been banished in Kansas, though he doesn't mention that the trick there was extralegal: the murder of Dr. George Tiller; and Kobach himself has been empowered to prosecute his imaginary "election fraud" cases. He's had more trouble pushing his anti-immigrant laws (hint: there are business interests in the state that profit from cheap labor). On taxes, he touts the Brownback cuts that have brought disaster, but bemoans this year's regressive tax increase that was needed to keep the state solvent. As for the courts, he complains about "no accountability" and says "we need to have a court that's not activist in striking things down." The main complaint Republicans have with the Kansas Supreme Court is that the Court has ruled that the State Constitution requires adequate funding of local schools, and that messes with their tax/spending cut agenda. But then Kobach has such a peculiar notion of constitutionality that he's constantly running into trouble with the courts.

  • Some Iran Deal links:

    • Abbas Milani/Michael McFaul: What the Iran-Deal Debate Is Like in Iran: Long story short, most Iranians -- especially the sort of people who westerners hope will moderate the Revolution -- support the deal, while many of those who are heavily invested in Iran's opposition to the west are opposed to the deal (much like their hawkish counterparts in the US and Israel -- indeed the rationales and tactics are almost equivalent):

      Conservative opponents of the deal tend to emphasize its near-term negative security consequences. They point out that the agreement will roll back Iran's nuclear program, which was intended to deter an American or Israeli attack, and thereby increase Iran's vulnerability. They have denounced the system for inspecting Iranian nuclear facilities as an intelligence bonanza for the CIA. And they have issued blistering attacks on the incompetence of Iran's negotiating team, claiming that negotiators caved on many key issues and were outmaneuvered by more clever and sinister American diplomats.

      And yet such antagonism appears to be about more than the agreement's clauses and annexes. The deal's hardline adversaries also seem concerned about the same longer-term consequences that the moderates embrace. For instance, IRGC leaders must worry that a lifting of sanctions will undermine their business arrangements for contraband trade. In a not-too-discreet reference to these concerns, Rouhani declared them to be "peddlers of sanctions," adding that "they are angry at the agreement" while the people of Iran pay the price for their profiteering. Over time, more exposure to the wider world of commerce is likely to diminish if not destroy the IRGC's lucrative no-bid government contracts for infrastructure and construction projects.

      Perhaps more threatening for this coalition is the loss of America as a scapegoat for all domestic problems. The conservatives need an external enemy to excuse their corrupt, inefficient, and repressive rule. Some have even suggested that the United States is trying to do to Iran what it did to the Soviet Union in the late 1980s, when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev foolishly trusted U.S. President Ronald Reagan and sought closer ties with the West. The result was the collapse of the Soviet regime.

      Obviously, some conservatives like Ayatollah Khamanei are not too worried about the deal bringing down the political system, but he probably has a broader view of the system than the Revolutionary Guards do. Conversely, Reagan's opening to Gorbachev was opposed by nearly all of Reagan's cold war advisers, who were convinced to the end that the Evil Empire's reform efforts were just a feint to get the US to lower its guard. Deal critics who keep bringing up Iranian mobs chanting "death to America" are every bit as far estranged from reality.

    • Michael R Gordon: Head of Group Opposing Iran Accord Quits Post, Saying He Backs Deal: The group, United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) was founded by Gary Samore several years ago to agitate for harsh sanctions against Iran over its suspected (alleged) nuclear program. However, Samore concluded that the deal does in fact address his concerns, so he's come out in favor of it, saying, "I think President Obama's strategy succeeded. He has created economic leverage and traded it away for Iranian nuclear concessions." UANI, in turn, rejected the deal, nudged him out, and replaced him with a more politically dependable flack, Joe Lieberman (you remember: McCain's favorite "useful idiot"). Samore, by the way, is still very anti-Iran.

      He is also not convinced that Iran will continue to adhere to the accord once economic sanctions are lifted. Even so, he argues, the accord will put the United States in a stronger position to respond than a congressional rejection would.

      "We will have bought a couple of years, and if Iran cheats or reneges we will be in an even better position to double down on sanctions or, if necessary, use military force," Mr. Samore said. "If I knew for certain that in five years they would cheat or renege, I'd still take the deal."

      He'd take the deal because he seems to be one of the few people who was actually worried about Iran's "nuclear program" -- as opposed to the many who have cynically manufactured the spectre of an Iranian bomb to show off their own toughness. Had those people actually been worried, they would have been hard pressed to favor a strategy -- continued sanctions and threats of war -- that would only push Iran's efforts further underground over one that fully discloses whatever Iran is doing.

    • Richard Silverstein: Israeli Ex-Security Chiefs Endorse Iran Nuclear Deal: Thirty-six of them, although some appear more interested in the bonanza of military hardware Obama is offering Israel. The fact is that Israeli opinion at all levels is very divided on the deal, so you'd think that Americans -- especially those whose primary loyalty is to Israel -- would be equally divided. But Netanyahu has made a big deal out of rejecting the deal -- and I suspect this is for pure political reasons, as it benefits him to show his right-wing supporters that he can stand up to America and even kick her around a little -- and AIPAC is less an Israeli front than the Likud's Washington PAC.

    • Mel Levine: On Iran, a regrettable rush to judgment: A former congressman (D-CA 1983-93) and AIPAC board member comes out in favor of the Iran deal, arguing that "my friends in AIPAC and some of my friends in Israel have made a regrettable rush to judgment in immediately opposing the Iran agreement and doing so in ways likely to cause long-term harm to Israel, especially in terms of Israel's vital need for bipartisan support in the United States."

    • Daniel Levy: Israel's Iran Deal Enthusiasts: An authoritative summary of Israeli reaction to the Iran Deal, which roughly breaks down: against are the politicians and pundits, especially Netanyahu; in favor are the security and science czars (Uzi Even, a physics professor and former senior scientist at the Dimona nuclear reactor, concluded "the deal was written by nuclear experts and blocks every path I know to the bomb"). Levy goes on to explain Israel's strategly:

      Israel led the push to isolate Iran via focusing on its nuclear program and the nonproliferation imperative. That took some chutzpah, given that Israel sits on the Middle East's only nuclear weapons stockpile -- but before milk and honey, Israel has always been a land flowing with chutzpah. Israel assumed that either its own Washington lobby could indefinitely hold U.S. negotiators to an unrealistically maximalist negotiating position or that Iran would never offer a pragmatic compromise or both. For as long as the deadlock held, Iran would remain at least a permanently sanctioned pariah; regime change was the preferred alternative, successful diplomacy was never the goal.

      The bet paid off pretty well for the better part of two decades. Despite its size and lack of natural regional allies, Israel has enjoyed a degree of unchallenged regional hegemony, freedom of military action, and diplomatic cover that it is understandably reluctant to concede or even recalibrate. Israel's status has been underwritten by U.S. preeminence in the region, which offered other countries there a binary choice: Either side with the United States and, by extension, go easy on Israel or stand against it and be isolated or worse (see: Iraq).

    • Ben Norton: AIPAC spending estimated $40 million to oppose Iran Deal:

      In the first half of 2015, AIPAC spent approximately $1.7 million lobbying Congress to oppose the deal. Yet this is mere chump change compared to what it has since funneled into advertisements and lobbying.

      AIPAC created a new tax-exempt lobbying group in July called Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran. The sole purpose of the organization is to oppose the Iran deal -- which, in spite of the name of the group, will in fact prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons (weapons the Iranian government denies ever even seeking in the first place, and for which there is not a shred of evidence) in return for an end to Western sanctions on the country.

      Citizens for a Nuclear Free Iran is spending up to $40 million to place anti-Iran deal ads in 35 states, according to the Times, up from a previous estimate of $20 million. This figure may increase even more as the 60-day period in which Congress can review the deal draws to a close.

      Part of AIPAC's lobbying effort involves flying members of Congress to Israel for some intensive Hasbara; for instance, see: AIPAC taking all but 3 freshmen Congresspeople to Israel in effort to sabotage Iran deal.

    • Gareth Porter: Don't Expect Much Change in Post-Vienna US Middle East Policy: That's basically because Obama is pushing the deal not as a diplomatic breakthrough which buries past sins and opens up a future of US-Iranian cooperation but as a narrow arrangement which reliably contains Iran's malevolent nuclear ambitions while changing nothing else. (Porter previously complained about this in Obama's Line on the Iran Nuclear Deal: A Second False Narrative. You can get a sense of Porter's take on Iran's nuclear program from his book title, Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.)

      There are obviously some differences between the administration and its pro-Israel and Saudi critics regarding Iran's regional role. Otherwise Obama would not even acknowledge the possibility of discussions with Iran in the future. But it would be a mistake to ignore the degree to which Obama's weakness in the face of the lobby's arguments about the regional dimension of the agreement reflects its acceptance of the basic premises of those arguments -- just as it has accepted the lobby's premise that Iran has been trying obtain nuclear weapons.

      Obama and senior administration officials have repeated many times in the past two years the mantra that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and that its regional role is destabilizing. Key US national security institutions also continue to reinforce that hoary political line on Iran as well. The well-worn habits of mind of senior officials and institutional interest will certainly continue to impose severe limits on the administration's diplomatic flexibility with regard to both Iran and Saudi Arabia through the end of the Obama administration.

      As you should recall, Netanyahu has been harping about the Iranian threat since day one of the Obama administration. Most likely his real concern was to deflect any desire Obama might have to pressure Israel into a settlement with the Palestinians, but Obama seems to have taken Netanyahu's talk at face value. He then came up with a real solution to the hypothetical problem -- unlike Netanyahu's unilateral bombing fantasies, which would only have made matters worse -- so I suppose it makes sense that he's talking like his real solution addresses a real problem, but it also feeds the opposition's rhetoric. On the other hand, it's hard to believe that any of the deal's opponents ever thought Iran was serious about developing nuclear weapons -- otherwise, they'd embrace the real solution. (Indeed, there are a few such people.) Still, the real payoff of an Iran deal would come if the US and Iran could work together on diplomatic solutions, especially in Syria and Iraq (where both nations oppose ISIS).

  • Other Middle East links:

    • Omar Ashour: Rabaa's massacre: The political impact: After Egypt's military coup removed democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi and his government, the regime cracked down violently on protesters, killing at least 600 in one 10 hour stretch in 2013. The author compares this to other notorious government "crimes against humanity."

    • Michael Young: Talks suggest the endgame is afoot in Syrian crisis: Reports on Russian efforts to negotiate some form of resolution on Syria with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the US, aimed at a compromise between the old Syrian regime (with or without Assad) and whatever qualifies as "moderate" opposition -- supposedly Jaysh Al Fatah is involved ("including the Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra") but ISIS/ISIL is out. This occurs in the wake of a series of government defeats, weakening Assad's position. It also seems like a sane turn, unlike the US's schizo attacks both on Assad and ISIS, or Turkey's similar attacks both on ISIS and the Kurds.

    • Nancy LeTourneau: "The Obama Method" and Potential Realignment in the Middle East: The interesting news here is that Iran will hold talks with the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Syria and Yemen. Iran supports Assad in Syria (GCC members have helped finance oppositions groups, including Salafist Jihadis) and has backed the Houthis in Yemen (Saudi Arabia is bombing the Houthis there), so this is a case where both sides should talk because the shooting has been intolerable. Such talks aren't tied to the US-Iran Deal, but the Deal makes them much more likely to happen, even to be productive.

      Also see the author's President Obama on Finding Openings. Mostly quotes from journalists Obama recently engaged, he talked about how Nixon didn't know how his overture to China might work out at the time, but he saw that as an example of the sort of "openings" he looked to create. LeTourneau adds:

      That is an incredibly wise grasp of how history works -- even for the most powerful person on the planet. It is a striking rebuke of much that we hear from would-be Republican leaders these days who presume that a President of the United States can control world events via military dominance. For those with some knowledge of history, it is especially important given that the discussion is taking place about a country where we tried that back in 1953 and paid the price for it via the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

      She also quotes the rarely lucid Tom Friedman:

      What struck me most was what I'd call an "Obama doctrine" embedded in the president's remarks. It emerged when I asked if there was a common denominator to his decisions to break free from longstanding United States policies isolating Burma, Cuba and now Iran. Obama said his view was that "engagement," combined with meeting core strategic needs, could serve American interests vis-a-vis these three countries far better than endless sanctions and isolation. He added that America, with its overwhelming power, needs to have the self-confidence to take some calculated risks to open important new possibilities -- like trying to forge a diplomatic deal with Iran that, while permitting it to keep some of its nuclear infrastructure, forestalls its ability to build a nuclear bomb for at least a decade, if not longer.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Marshall Ganz: Organizing for Democratic Renewal: Essay written in 2007 (h/t Nancy LeTourneau: Balancing Private Wealth With Public Voice). Ganz starts off by quoting Sidney Verba ("Democracy is based on the promise that equality of voice can balance inequality of resources.") and Alexis de Tocqueville ("In democratic countries, knowledge of how to combine is the mother of all other forms of knowledge; on its progress depends that of all the others." I think his key insight is:

    But only by joining with others could we come to appreciate the extent to which our fates are linked, gain an understanding of our common interests, and make claims on the political power we needed to act on those interests.

    The notion of a public interest, which in pre-Bowling Alone days was taken for granted, has taken a beating over the last 30-40 years, reducing American democracy into a raw contest between private interests. Still, the public even now gets some lip service, as one politician after another asserts that the private profits they seek will somehow be good for everyone. (My favorite example remains Bush's giveaway to the timber industry, happily named the Healthy Forests Initiative.)

  • Christina Larson: The End of Hunting? Essay from 2006, arguing that "only progressive government can save a great American pastime." Good description of Kansas' open access program. (I'm not aware of the state's recent ultra-right turn endangering this program, but it has resulted in steep rises for hunting and fishing licenses. And the Republicans' lust to pre-emptively exterminate the lesser prairie chicken -- lest the species' endangered status cramps local oil interests -- is nothing short of shameful.)

  • Rick Perlstein: The New Holy Grail of GOP Primaries: Piece touches on several Republican presidential candidates, their benefactors, and the idiot press. Here's just one story, featuring Ohio Governor John Kasich:

    "Randy Kendrick, a major contributor and the wife of Ken Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, rose to say she disagreed with Kasich's decision to expand Medicaid coverage, and questioned why he'd said it was 'what God wanted.'" Kasich's "fiery" response: "I don't know about you, lady. But when I get to the pearly gates, I'm going to have to answer what I've done for the poor."

    Other years, before other audiences, such public piety might have sounded banal. This year, it's enough to kill a candidacy:

    "About 20 audience members walked out of the room, and two governors also on the panel, Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, told Kasich they disagreed with him. The Ohio governor has not been invited back to a Koch seminar."

    Which is, of course, astonishing. But even more astonishing was the lesson the Politico drew from it -- one, naturally, about personalities: "Kasich's temper has made it harder to endear himself to the GOP's wealth benefactors." His temper. Not their temper. Not, say, "Kasich's refusal to kowtow before the petulant whims of a couple of dozen greedy nonentities who despise the Gospel of Jesus Christ has foreclosed his access to the backroom cabals without which a Republican presidential candidacy is inconceivable."

    To see how consequential the handing over of this kind of power to nonentities like these is, consider the candidates' liabilities with another constituency once considered relevant in presidential campaigns: voters. Chris Christie's home state approval rating, alongside his opening of a nearly billion-dollar hole in New Jersey's budget, is 35 percent. While Christie has only flirted with federal law enforcement, Rick Perry has been indicted. Scott Walker's approval rating among the people who know him best (besides David Koch) is 41 percent, and only 40 percent of Wisconsinites believe the state is heading in the right direction. Bobby Jindal's latest approval rating in the Pelican State is 27 percent. Senator Lindsey Graham announced his presidency by all but promising he'd take the country to war; Jeb Bush by telling Americans they need to work more. Rick Santorum not so long ago made political history: he lost his Senate seat by 19 points, an unprecedented feat for a two-term incumbent.

  • Richard Silverstein: Transforming the US into Clone of Israeli National Security State: Article lists many points where techniques and technologies Israel developed for controlling the Palestinians have been promoted and often applied by the US, both in operations abroad (e.g., targeted assassinations) and at home (often by local police departments). One of the most alarming things about Israel is how eagerly many Americans follow its model for dealing with the world.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Daily Log

Mom's Meatloaf recipe, per Josi Hull:

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 eggs (slightly beaten)
  • 2 slices white bread, toasted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper (to taste)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. After toasting the bread, crumble and put into milk, just to soften.
  3. Combine ingredients. Put into a loaf bread pan, or if using a 9x11 baking dish, form in center leaving 1.5-2 inches around the sides. You can add new potatoes and/or other root vegetables around the edges, to roast in the meatloaf juices.
  4. Bake at 350F for one hour.
  5. Put under broiler to brown the top, then serve.

I always recall her making this with potatoes. I also recall the meatloaf being even better the next day, cold in sandwiches (with nothing else, although now I could imagine some nice garnishes like thinly-sliced red onion).

For my improvised variation on the recipe, look here.

Phil Overeem's mid-August list (my grades added, just to keep track, especially to identify the unheard albums; late grades in parens as well as brackets):

  1. Jack DeJohnette: Made in Chicago (ECM) []
  2. Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie: December Day (Legacy -14) [B]
  3. Kendrick Lamar: to pimp a butterfly (Aftermath) [A-]
  4. Iris DeMent: The Trackless Woods (Flariella) []
  5. Africa Express: Terry Riley's "In C"--Mali (Transgressive -14) [***]
  6. Kate Tempest: Everybody Down (Big Dada -14) [A]
  7. 79rs Gang: Fiyo on the Bayou (Sinking City) [(A-)]
  8. Nots: We Are Nots (Goner -14) [(A-)]
  9. J.D. Allen: Graffiti (Savant) []
  10. Low-Cut Connie: Hi Honey (Ardent) [A-]
  11. Mdou Moctar: Soundtrack to the film Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (Sahel Sounds) [(A-)]
  12. Coneheads: L.P.1. aka "14 Year Old High School PC-Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $$$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L.P." (Erste Theke Tontraeger) [***]
  13. Sufjan Stevens: Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty) [***]
  14. Heems: Eat Pray Thug (Megaforce) [A-]
  15. The Paranoid Style: Rock and Roll Just Can't Recall (self-released) [***]
  16. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop) [A-]
  17. The Close Readers: The Lines are Open (Austin -14) [A-]
  18. Dwight Yoakam: Second Hand Heart (Warner Brothers) [B]
  19. Tamikrest: Taksera (Glitterbeat) [(**)]
  20. Mammane Sani et son Orgue: La Musique Electronique du Niger (Sahel Sounds -13) [(***)]
  21. Shamir: Racket (XL) [A-]
  22. Dead Moon: Live at Satyricon (Voodoo Doughnut) [(A-)]
  23. Alex Chilton: Ocean Club '77 (Norton) [**]
  24. Mbongwana Star: From Kinshasa (World Circuit) [A-]
  25. Bob Dylan: Shadows in the Night (Sony) [C]
  26. Various Artists: Burn, Rubber City, Burn (Soul Jazz) [***]
  27. Henry Threadgill & Zooid: In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi) [A-]
  28. Young Fathers: White Men are Black Men Too (Ninja Tune) [**]
  29. Big Chief Don Pardo and Golden Comanche: Spirit Food (self-released) []
  30. Swamp Dogg: The White Man Made Me Do It (S.D.E.G.) [*]
  31. Various Artists: The Red Line Comp (self-released) [*]
  32. Pop Staples: Don't Lose This (Anti-) [**]
  33. Bob Marley & The Wailers: Easy Skankin' in Boston, 1978 (Tuff Gong) [A-]
  34. Sleater-Kinney: No Cities to Love (Sub Pop) [*]
  35. Leo Bud Welch: I Don't Prefer No Blues (Big Legal Mess) [***]
  36. Mountain Goats: Beat the Champ (Merge) [A-]
  37. Obnox: Know America (Ever/Never) [(*)]
  38. Vince Staples: Summertime '06 (Def Jam) [(***)]
  39. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard: Django & Jimmy (Legacy) [A-]
  40. Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni: Ba Power (Glitterbeat) [A-]
  41. Vijay Iyer: Break Stuff (ECM) [***]
  42. J.B. Smith: No More Good Time in the World For Me (Dust-To-Digital) [(**)]
  43. Doomtree: All Hands (Doomtree) [(***)]
  44. The Sonics: This is The Sonics (Revox) [(***)]
  45. Kasey Musgraves: Pageant Material (Mercury) [***]
  46. The Falcons: The World's First Soul Group--The Complete Recordings (History of Soul -14) [A-]
  47. Sonny Simmons and Moksha Samnyasin: Nomadic (Svart -14) [***]
  48. Reactionaries: 1979 (Water Under the Bridge) []
  49. James McMurtry: Complicated Game (Complicated Game) [A-]
  50. Rae Sremmurd: StremmLife (Eardruma) [***]

Unheard: 16; Graded: A: 1, A-: 14; ***: 10; **: 3; *: 3; B: 2; C:1. 25/34 rated *** or higher.

[Adding in later grades: Unheard: 5; Graded: A: 1, A-: 18; ***: 14; **: 5; *: 4; B: 2; C:1. 33/45 rated *** or higher.]

Monday, August 10, 2015

Music Week

Music: Current count 25277 [25234] rated (+43), 432 [451] unrated (-19).

I hit the bottom of the Spin 1985-2014 list early in the week. Of 300 records, I've not heard/rated 290. That leaves the following (not on Rhapsody, Christgau grades in brackets):

  1. Metallica: Master of Puppets (1986, Elektra)
  2. Bikini Kill: The Singles (1998, Kill Rock Stars) [A-]
  3. Guided by Voices: Bee Thousand (1994, Scat) [B-]
  4. Dr. Dre: The Chronic (1992, Death Row) [C+]
  5. Kate Bush: Hounds of Love (1985, EMI America) [B]
  6. Primal Scream: Screamadelica (1991, Sire) [N]
  7. Aaliyah: One in a Million (1996, Blackground) [S]
  8. The Field: From Here We Go Sublime (2007, Kompakt)
  9. The Books: Thought for Food (2002, Tomlab)
  10. Kompakt: Total 4 (2002, Kompakt)

I've been told that most/all of these records are on YouTube, but haven't tried looking them up there. My final grade distribution is at the bottom of the file. Basically: A or A+: 29 (10.0%), A-: 80 (27.5%); B+: 114 (29.3%); B: 45 (15.5%); B- or lower: 22 (7.5%). When the list first came out I was missing 81 of them, so I've heard 71 since mid-May. I don't see a similar grade breakdown in my notebook at the time, but I did note that I had 103 records rated A- or above. That's up to 109 now, so I picked up 6 new A- records (8.4% of the adds, way down from the initial 44.9% A- (or better: i.e., 103/229). I picked up 4 new B- or below albums, which was also down from my initial rate (5.6% vs. 9.9%). The big growth came in B albums, up by 20 (28.1%) vs. 25 initially (11.3%). Records could wind up graded B for lots of reasons, but the most common is uninspired competency. Of course, you may just write this off as my relative indifference to the alt/indie rock that's Spin's bread and butter. Probably some truth to that. But it's not like I hate every alt/indie record. Lots of good ones on the list.

With that project done, I wanted to focus on the books posts, and not think much about what I was listening to. This time I went into the new jazz queue and cleared out a lot of stuff I've been skipping over. No great finds there, although avant fans will enjoy Louie Belogenis' Blue Buddha project, and Stefan Keune's vinyl-only release offers quite a rush. Still, I probably enjoyed Dan Brubeck's tribute to his parents even more -- just didn't give it a second spin, mostly because it's a double but also because brother Chris has also tapped into the family well, with similarly fine results.

Another high HM is the new Miguel album. I played it several times, went back to his debut, and even gave his sophomore album another shot. Tatum tells me it takes time to sink in, but that's not how I work -- and when I do give a record extra time, it's almost always because it's giving me something back. Still, I like the album much more than I do its widely admired predecessor -- don't get that one at all, even though I nudged its grade up a notch. Tatum, by the way, reviews Wildheart in his revived A Downloader's Diary (41). Biggest surprise for me there was the A grade for Young Thug's Barter 6 -- talk about someone who needs time to sink in! I gave it one spin and a B+(**) a while back. That's one I'm not in any hurry to revisit, but maybe Christgau will weigh in? Of course, our biggest grade difference was over Sleater-Kinney, but you know how that goes. Still, a great column. I should get around to archiving it sometime.

Note: I cut the week off a bit short last night, so I didn't pick up today's mail (most notably, new albums by guitarists Liberty Ellman and Garrison Fewell). The Rhapsody Streamnotes draft file is up around 90 albums even though August is less than one-third over, so I should start thinking about posting it up.

Also, the CDR of Howard Riley: 10.11.12 (NoBusiness) didn't have any music on it I could hear. It's one of their vinyl-only releases, probably solo piano, something of intrinsically limited interest to me, but he's a musician I've been wanting to hear more of. I did track down two of his early Columbia releases -- Angle (1969) and The Day Will Come (1970), both A- in my book -- but I've only heard one later record, a B+(*) live solo. According to my records, he has another 21 records which Penguin Guide gave 3.5 or 4 stars to, so a major figure, at least in their book.

New records rated this week:

  • Alessio Alberghini/Garrison Fewell: Inverso (2014 [2015], Floating Forest): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Baltazanis: End of Seas (2015, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bastet: Eye of Ra (2015, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Louie Belogenis: Blue Buddha (2015, Tzadik): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Karl Berger/Kirk Knuffke: Moon (2013-14 [2015], NoBusiness, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Michael Blum/Jim Stinnett: Commitment (2015, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Dan Brubeck Quartet: Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave & Iola Brubeck (2013 [2015], Blue Forest, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Casa: Futuro (2012 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B
  • Kasey Chambers: Bittersweet (2015, Sugar Hill): [r]: B
  • The Coneheads: L.P. 1 (2015, Erste Theke Tonträger, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Convergence Quartet: Owl Jacket (2013 [2015], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Easton Corbin: About to Get Real (2015, Mercury Nashville): [r]: B
  • Benjamin Duboc/Jean-Luc Petit: Double-Basse: This Is Not Art (2013 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Kurt Elling: Passion World (2015, Concord): [r]: C
  • Field Music: Music for Drifters (2015, Memphis Industries): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nick Finzer: The Chase (2014 [2015], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Laszlo Gardony: Life in Real Time (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Albert "Tootie" Heath/Ethan Iverson/Ben Street: Philadelphia Beat (2014 [2015], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paul Hubweber/Frank Paul Schubert/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Clayton Thomas/Willi Kellers: Intricacies (2014 [2015], NoBusiness, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Alan Jackson: Angels and Alcohol (2015, Capitol Nashville): [r]: A-
  • Stefan Keune/Dominic Lash/Steve Noble: Fractions (2013 [2015], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Lama + Joachim Badenhorst: The Elephant's Journey (2015, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Frantz Loriot/Manuel Perovic Notebook Large Ensemble: Urban Furrow (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Miguel: Wildheart (2015, RCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • Larry Newcomb Quartet: Live Intentionally! (2015, Essential Messenger): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Matt Panayides: Conduits (2014 [2015], Pacific Coast Jazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Evan Parker/Joe Morris/Nate Wooley: Ninth Square (2014 [2015], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Simon Phillips: Protocol III (2015, Phantom): [cd]: B
  • Robert Sabin: Humanity Part II (2014 [2015], Ranula Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Brianna Thomas: You Must Believe in Love (2015, Sound on Purpose): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Helen Tzatzimakis: Soulfully (2014 [2015], Cobalt Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Brad Allen Williams: Lamar (2012-13 [2015], Sojourn): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Mark Winkler: Jazz and Other Four Letter Words (2015, Cafe Pacific): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:

  • Charlie Haden/Gonzalo Rubalcaba: Tokyo Adagio (2005 [2015], Impulse): [r]: B+(*)
  • Daniel Smith: Jazz Suite for Bassoon (1995-97 [2015], Summit): [cd]: B

Old records rated this week:

  • The Deftones: White Pony (2000, Maverick): [r]: B+(*)
  • Green Day: Kerplunk (1992, Lookout): [r]: B+(*)
  • Green Day: Nimrod (1997, Reprise): [r]: B+(**)
  • Green Day: Warning (2000, Reprise): [r]: A-
  • Green Day: American Idiot (2004, Reprise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Miguel: All I Want Is You (2010, Jive): [r]: B+(**)

Grade changes:

  • Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream (2012, RCA): [r]; [was: B] B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Beegie Adair/Don Aliquo: Too Marvelous for Words (Adair Music Group): September 4
  • Luciano Biondini: Senza Fine (Intakt)
  • João Camões/Jean-Marc Foussat/Claude Parle: Bien Mental (Fou)
  • Robin Eubanks Mass Line Big Band: More Than Meets the Ear (ArtistShare): advance, November 20
  • Phil Haynes: Sanctuary (1999, Corner Store Jazz): September 29
  • Miho Hazama: Time River (Sunnyside): advance, October 2
  • Roberto Magris: Enigmatix (JMood)
  • Richard Nelson/Aardvark Jazz Orchestra: Deep River (self-released)
  • Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (Intakt)

   Mar 2001