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Monday, April 15, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31371 [31344] rated (+27), 252 [251] unrated (+1).

May just be seasonal allergies, but feeling too lousy to even take a stab at writing an introduction. I still have XgauSez to edit and post before I go to bed tonight, so need to get onto that while I can.

A couple of notes, though. I've been talking about moving computers around for a month or more. I finally got that done this week. Best thing so far is that I have two relatively uncluttered desks to work on, instead of one hopelessly messy one. Also I moved the speakers above the desk, where they sound better and I can access the controls. (Also, now both computers have speakers. Subwoofers are still under the desk, where they should be, and that space is less cluttered than before. No website work yet, but I should get to that soon.

Delighted to see Michael Tatum's A Downloader's Diary (49) finally posted. I checked out a couple of his recommendations below (also found a new live Pet Shop Boys he didn't mention). Also continuing to pick albums off from Phil Overeem's 25% through the briar patch list.

Finally, I finally did manage to cast a Downbeat Critics Poll ballot, a day past the deadline, but seems likely to be counted (not that I could ever tell from the results). I didn't do a very good job of collecting notes this time, but here is what I have.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Charlotte Adigery: Zandoli (2019, Deewee, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Etienne Charles: Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 (2019, Culture Shock Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ben Lamar Gay: Confetti in the Sky Like Fireworks [This Is Bate Bola OST] (2018 [2019], International Anthem): [r]: B
  • Ariana Grande: Thank U, Next (2019, Republic): [r]: B+(**)
  • William Hooker: Cycle of Restoration (2018 [2019], FPE): [r]: B+(*)
  • Amber Mark: Conexão (2018, Virgin EMI, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (2019, Blue Engine): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Xose Miguélez: Ontology (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Billy Mohler: Focus! (2019, Make): [cd]: A-
  • OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (2016 [2019], TUM): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Nicki Parrott: From New York to Paris (2019, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jeremy Pelt: Jeremy Pelt the Artist (2018 [2019], HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Agenda (2019, X2, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Inner Sanctum (2018 [2019], X2): [r]: A-
  • Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (2018 [2019], Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ruby Rushton: Ironside (2018 [2019], 22a): [r]: B
  • Jim Snidero: Waves of Calm (2019, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (2019, Strikezone): [cd]: B+(**)
  • James Suggs: You're Gonna Hear From Me (2018, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (2018 [2019], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Warren Vaché: Songs Our Fathers Taught Us (2019, Arbors): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Louis Armstrong: Sparks, Nevada 1964! (1964 [2018], Dot Time): [r]: A-
  • Imamu Amiri Baraka: It's Nation Time: African Visionary Music (1972 [2018], Motown): [r]: B+(***)
  • Duke Ellington: In Coventry, 1966 (1966 [2018], Storyville): [r]: B
  • Ben Lamar Gay: 500 Chains (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ben Lamar Gay: Grapes (2013-14 [2018], International Anthem): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ben Lamar Gay/Edinho Gerber: Benjamin E Edinho (2011-13 [2018], International Anthem, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joanne Grauer: Introducing Lorraine Feather (1978 [2018], MPS): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kankyo Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environental and New Age Music 1980-1990 (1980-90 [2019], Light in the Attic): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (Summit)
  • Larry Koonse: New Jazz Standards Vol. 4 (Summit)
  • Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (Uncle Marvin Music): May 17
  • Sam Ospovat: Ride Angles (Skirl)
  • Marcos Silva: Brasil: From Head to Toe (Green Egg): May 3

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Weekend Roundup

I don't feel up to writing much about Julian Assange, but following his arrest in London, I anticipate that I'll find a bunch of links this week and should collect them together. Assange is an Australian, a computer programmer who came up with Wikileaks, a system to collect and publish anonymously submitted documents. That's always seemed like a noble endeavor, an aid in exposing how the rich and powerful conspire in private to manipulate and profit, and for a while he seemed to be doing just that. He quickly ran afoul of those powers, most notably the US government, which set out to charge him with various crimes, and quite possibly orchestrated a broader smear campaign against him. Assange, in turn, sought asylum from criminal charges, and since 2012 has been sheltered by the Ecuadorean embassy in London. I don't know how much Assange has had to do with Wikileaks since 2012 (or how much freedom he has had to do anything), but his brand name wound up playing a role in Trump's 2016 campaign when it framed the release of hacked emails from the Clinton campaign. One effect of the DNC dump was to expand the Democratic side of bipartisan outrage against Assange, especially as Clinton's drones tried to paint him as a Putin accomplice.

I don't have strong opinions about Assange one way or the other, but I did welcome his release of leaked documents on the Iraq War and the US State Department. (See my September 2, 2010 entry, Troops, on the "Collateral Murder" video, anti-war vet Ethan McCord, and a related speech by Barak Obama -- what I said then is still pretty relevant today.) Releasing the DNC emails didn't particularly bother me either, although the timing was suspicious (immediately after the release of Trump's Access Hollywood tape, allowing the media to spin scandal on top of scandal), as was the lack of any RNC/Trump campaign emails to balance the picture.

Anyhow, the Assange links:

Let's also break out multiple links on Israel's elections:

Scattered links on other topics this week:

Monday, April 08, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, April archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31344 [31312] rated (+32), 251 [249] unrated (+2).

Back in business. I figured all it would take to get Napster working again was a reboot -- it broke following a software update that didn't require one but involved a new Flash module, so I suspected that threw things out of sync. Still, I didn't want to do that for other reaasons, but was forced to when the computer freaked out and gave me a swizzle patterned screen. That suggested something far worse, but the reboot fixed that too.

Working Napster gave me a chance to catch up with the last couple weeks of Robert Christgau picks -- Stella Donnelly/Sharon Van Etten and Pedro the Lion/Jason Ringenberg -- where only the B+ record didn't disappoint. (Actually, I couldn't find Ringenberg's Stand Tall on Napster, but was able to fish a Soundcloud link from my email trash, so thanks to the publicist.) Guess I'm still missing the Ariana Grande/Amber Mark week -- I had the former's Sweetener way down at B, a grade split matching Mitski's Be the Cowboy, but haven't heard the more recent one.

Took a dive into George Strait after panning his new one, mostly because I noticed an unheard Christgau A- in the database (Something Special), and it panned out. I had his first Greatest Hits (1985) at A-, so it made sense to check out its source albums (just three of them). I'm not sure that grade holds up, but didn't recheck it. Still, after dismissing most of his songs as unmemorable, I've wound up with "You Look So Good in Love" stuck in my mind all week.

Other records suggested by various sources, most prolifically Phil Overeem. The tip on Angel-Ho came from breathless hype in The Nation ("Angel-Ho is the future of pop music"). I dug up Petra Van Nuis after she wrote to me (so sometimes that works). Strait and Mandy Barnett just showed up in Napster's featured lists.

Making fair progress on most projects, although not enough on moving the computer. (Will do that after I post this, I promise.) Biggest one is a new piece of badly-needed pantry shelving, which needs one more coat of paint before I drag it in and bolt it to the wall. I have a couple more projects in that space, ready to roll as soon as the first one is operational. Still, more projects seem to present themselves all the time. Dug up a couple plastic drawers full of CDs today, and my wife argued that I should get rid of them (something about the hoarding being psychotic). I had a plan a couple years back to start donating CDs to a local library, but never followed through on it -- partly because I was working on the Jazz Guide, maybe because they kept naming various buldings after the Kochs. The reason for having a substantial library is to look things up, but I'm fast losing my ability to do so, not to mention my prospects of ever writing anything worthwhile on the subject.

Still, the project I feel more pressing need for is to come up with a system so I can quickly identify where all my tools (and hardware) are. I'm forever thrashing, trying to find things I know I have somewhere, sometimes even having to buy more tools to replace those I've lost (most recently, a set of hole saws). In fact, thrashing seems to be the word for the week, maybe even the season.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Angel-Ho: Death Becomes Her (2019, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (2019, T N' T Music): [cd]: A-
  • Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (2019, XM): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (2019, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jordon Dixon: On! (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (2019, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Earle & the Dukes: Guy (2019, New West): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fleurine: Brazilian Dream (2018 [2019], Pure Imagination): [cd]: B+(**)
  • George Freeman: George the Bomb! (2018 [2019], Blujazz/Southport): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (2019, Resonance): [cd]: B
  • Girls on Grass: Dirty Power (2019, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pablo Lanouguere Quintet: Eclectico (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jenny Lewis: On the Line (2019, Warner Bros.): [r]: B+(*)
  • Helado Negro: This Is How You Smile (2019, RVNG Intl): [r]: B+(*)
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (2018 [2019], Storyville): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Pedro the Lion: Phoenix (2019, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jason Ringenberg: Stand Tall (2019, Courageous Chicken): [sc]: A-
  • Royal Trux: White Stuff (2019, Fat Possum): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sir Babygirl: Crush on Me (2019, Father/Daughter, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Honky Tonk Time Machine (2019, MCA Nashville): [r]: B
  • Terraza Big Band: One Day Wonder (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (2019, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Petra Van Nuis & Dennis Luxion: Because We're Night People (2018, String Damper): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Zinno Unisphere: Stories Told (2018 [2019], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Twentieth Anniversary Mixtapes: Groiddest Schnizzits: Volume Two (2001-17 [2019], Trugroid/Avantgroidd): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Mandy Barnett: I Can't Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson (2013, Rounder): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Comet Is Coming: Channel the Spirits (2016, The Leaf Label): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Strait Country (1981, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: Strait From the Heart (1982, MCA): [r]: B
  • George Strait: Right or Wrong (1983, MCA): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Strait: Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind (1984, MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: Something Special (1985, MCA): [r]: A-
  • George Strait: The Best of George Strait [20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection] (1983-93 [2002], MCA Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Strait: 50 Number Ones (1982-2004 [2004], MCA Nashville, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi, 2CD): April 26
  • Art "Turk" Burton: Ancestral Spirits (T N' T Music): May 3
  • George Freeman: George the Bomb! (Blujazz/Southport)
  • Wynton Marsalis: Bolden: Music From the Original Soundtrack (Blue Engine): April 19
  • Xose Miguélez: Ontology (Origin): April 19
  • Billy Mohler: Focus! (Make)
  • New Orleans Jazz Orchestra: Songs: The Music of Allen Toussaint (Storyville): April 19
  • OGJB Quartet [Oliver Lake/Graham Haynes/Joe Fonda/Barry Altschul]: Bamako (TUM): May 17
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track III (Strikezone): May 3
  • Fumi Tomita: The Elephant Vanishes (OA2): April 19
  • Dann Zinn: Day of Reckoning (Origin): April 19

Sunday, April 07, 2019

Weekend Roundup

One of my principles here is not to bother with politician horserace links, especially presidential candidates. One thing I've long held is that a president is only as good as his (or someday her) party, so the big question to ask any presidential candidate is: what are you going to do to get your party elected and make it an effective force? Still, every now and then I have opinions on specific people. When Greg Magarian griped about Tim Ryan and Michael Bennet getting a burst of press attention, as have recent stories about Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg raising great gobs of money, I commented:

Worth noting that O'Rourke and Buttigieg are principled neoliberals, and are raising money as such. They can do that because their youth and inexperience hasn't saddled them with the sort of baggage the Clinton establishment bears. That's bad news for Biden, who would be the obvious next-in-line for Clinton's donors if they didn't suspect that the brand is ruined. They may also be thinking that running someone young and outside might help crack Sanders' lead among young voters -- something Biden has no prayer of doing.

The one candidate I've been hearing the most (and most negative) about is Joe Biden. He hasn't announced yet, but evidently the decision has been made, the timing around Easter. Biden has led recent polls, but that can be attributed to his much greater name resolution. I've always figured the decision would turn on whether he's willing to risk his legacy on a very likely loss, but I suppose the decision will turn mostly on whether he can line up sufficient funding. (I had some doubts that Bernie Sanders would run, but when I saw his early funding reports, I immediately realized I was being silly.) Clearly, he didn't run in 2016 because Hillary Clinton had locked up most of his possible funding. That's less obvious this year, but a lot of competitive candidates have jumped in ahead of him.

Biden isn't awful, but he has a lot of baggage, including a lot of things that wound up hurting Clinton in 2016 (like that Iraq War vote). Some of those things could hurt him in the primaries, especially his rather dodgy record on race and crime, and with women. Other things, like his plagiarism scandal, will hurt him more in the general election. But the big problem there is that he was a Washington insider and party leader for so long that he makes it easy for Republicans to spin this election into a referendum on forty years of Democratic Party failures. Obama was largely able to avoid that in 2008, but Clinton couldn't in 2016.

Also, there is the nagging suspicion that he isn't really a very good day-to-day candidate. Last time he ran for president he was an also-ran, unable to get more than 1-2% of the vote anywhere. He got the VP nod from Obama after Clinton decided she'd rather be Secretary of State, and one suspects that the Clintons pushed for Biden as VP because they didn't regard him as a serious rival in 2016 (when a sitting VP would normally have the inside track to the nomination). And he's exceptionally prone to gaffes. He managed to avoid any really bad ones running with Obama, but running on his own he'll get a lot more scrutiny and pressure. Nobody thinks he's stupid or evil -- unlike Trump, whose base seems to regard those attributes as virtues -- but nobody is much of a fan either (well, except for the fictional Leslie Knope, which kind of proves the point).

For more, if you care, see Michelle Goldberg: The wrong time for Joe Biden:

Beyond gender, on issue after issue, if Biden runs for president he will have to run away from his own record. He -- and by extension, we -- will have to relive the debate over the Iraq war, which he voted to authorize. He'll have to explain his vote to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which, by lifting regulations on banking, helped create the conditions for the 2008 financial meltdown. (Biden has called that vote one of the biggest regrets of his career.) In 2016, Hillary Clinton was slammed for her previous support of the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which contributed to mass incarceration. Biden helped write the law, which he called, in 2015, the "1994 Biden crime bill." . . . No one should judge the whole span of Biden's career by the standards of 2019, but if he's going to run for president, it's fair to ask whether he's the right leader for this moment. He is a product of his time, but that time is up.

Other political news last week included the death of Ernest Hollings, the long-time South Carolina senator, at 97. I was, well, shocked to see him referred to in an obituary as a populist -- a thought that had never crossed my mind. I would grant that he was not as bad as the Republicans who served in the Senate alongside him (Strom Thurmond and Lindsey Graham), or his Republican successor (Jim DeMent). Still, those are pretty low standards.

By the way, a couple of non-political links below: subjects I used to follow closely in more carefree times. See if you can pick them out.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, April 01, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, March archive (incomplete).

Music: current count 31312 [31297] rated (+15), 249 [253] unrated (-4).

Rated count way down, about half of what I consider a solid week. When I dropped to 29 last week, I described that as a "lazy week." Could say that again, but the real reason for the drop off is that the Flash plugin on my computer is fucked up, making it impossible to use Napster (or, for that matter, Spotify). That left me with playing CDs (9) and using Bandcamp (6), and I didn't really have much to choose from or look for on either. Unplayed CD queue is currently only 7 deep, and I don't just randomly play unknowns on Bandcamp. On the other hand, the Bandcamps generally got two spins, and the CDs more than that (I'd guess Larry Fuller got 7-8 plays -- not that I needed more than 2, but it made for pretty pleasant background music). All that lead to a couple anomalies. Only one A- is the lowest weekly total in quite some time, and I'm actually not real solid on it -- I've never been much of a Betty Carter fan, and should probably go back and check some of her earlier releases (and re-check The Audience With Betty Carter, which I have at B- even though it wears a Penguin Guide crown). It could be that I promoted it at the last minute because I came up with nothing else.

The other anomaly is the high percentage of B+(***) grades (8/15). Certainly the multiple replays helped out. At this point, I'm pretty sure the jazz records (especially the CDs) have plateaued, but three of the Bandcamps might merit further investigation: Mekons, Quelle Chris, and Mdou Moctar. I think I have those three pegged right, but they're close, and it's worth noting that I have the immediately previous albums by all three at A- (It Is Twice Blessed, Everything's Fine, and Blue Stage Sessions).

Priorities for the coming week will be to reconstruct my crashed tax file, finish (paint) a new pantry shelf, and finally get my computers rearranged and reconnected (hopefully fixing the Napster problem, and allowing me to get onto some website work). Also have my DownBeat Critics Poll invite, so that will be another (pretty much wasted) chunk of time. One website task I did manage to get done last week was to build a book page for Robert Christgau's new essay collection, Book Reports: A Music Critic on His First Love, Which Was Reading, due out from Duke University Press on April 12. Info and various links on that page. Still to be done is the nasty task of embargoing most of the pieces that appear in the book, so this is your last change (for several years) to squirrel away free copies of most of the book.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Michaël Attias: Ëchos La Nuit (2018 [2019], Out of Your Head): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Blu & Oh No: A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night (2019, Native Sounds): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Chord Four: California Avant Garde (2016 [2018], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (2018 [2019], Capri): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ross Hammond & Sameer Gupta: Mystery Well (2018, Prescott): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mekons: Deserted (2019, Bloodshot): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Mdou Moctar: Ilana: The Creator (2019, Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (2018 [2019], Leo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (2018 [2019], Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Quelle Chris: Guns (2019, Mello Music Group): [bc]: B+(***)
  • SOL Development: The SOL of Black Folk (2019, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992 [2019], Blue Engine): [cd]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Romain Collin: Tiny Lights: Genesis (XM): April 12
  • Jordon Dixon: On! (self-released): June 7
  • Polly Gibbons: All I Can Do (Resonance): April 19
  • Pablo Langouguere Quintet: Eclectico (self-released): May 31

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Started late, figuring I'd "just go through the motions," and I'm giving up with maybe half of my usual sources unexamined. Anyhow, this should suffice as a sample on what's gone on this past week.

One piece I intended to link to was an article in the Wichita Eagle a few days ago about sex abuse in the local Catholic diocese, going back to the 1960s or earlier. My closest neighborhood friend attended Catholic schools and often talked about how sex-obsessed the priests were -- not that he was himself abused, but something I found completely baffling at the time. That was something I often wondered about When the scandals in Boston and elsewhere were finally exposed, but until this article appeared I had never seen mention of Wichita. Can't find the article on the Wichita Eagle website -- although I did find an earlier one, KBI investigating clergy sex abuse cases in Kansas, asks victims to come forward, mostly on Kansas City, KS.

Some scattered links this week:

Daily Log

New York Post Mueller Madness brackets:

  • Rachel Maddow (MSNBC host) + + + +
  • Ana Navarro (CNN contributor) - Maddow
  • John Oliver (HBO "Last Week Tonight" host) + - Maddow
  • Donny Deutsch (MSNBC contributor) - Oliver
  • "Morning Joe" (MSNBC) - Brennan
  • John Brennan (MSNBC national security analyst) + + - Maddow
  • Don Lemon (CNN anchor) + - Brennan
  • Chris Hayes (MSNBC host) - Lemon
  • Bill Kristol (The Bulwark editor) + - Chait
  • Natash Bertrand (The Atlantic writer) - Kristol
  • Ryan Lizza (Esquire correspondent) - Chait
  • Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine writer) + + + - Maddow
  • Paul Krugman (New York Times columnist) + - Boot
  • Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post blogger) - Krugman
  • Max Boot (Washington Post columnist) + + - Chait
  • Adam Davidson (New Yorker writer) - Boot
  • Alec Baldwin (SNL actor) + + - Colbert
  • Brian Ross (ABC former correspondent) - Baldwin
  • Chuck Lorre ("The Big Bang Theory" producer) - Kimmel
  • Jimmy Kimmel (ABC "Jimmy Kimmel Live" host) + - Baldwin
  • Stephen Colbert (CBS "The Late Show" host) + + + - Maddow
  • Ken Dilanlan (NBC intelligence reporter) - Colbert
  • Joy Behar (ABC "The View" co-host) - Avenatti
  • Michael Avenatti (Stormy Daniels' lawyer) + - Colbert
  • Benjamin Wittes (Brookings Institute senior fellow) + - Milano
  • Molly McKew (information warfare expert) - Wittes
  • Alyssa Milano (actress) + + - Griffin
  • Seth Abramson (University New Hampshire professor) - Milano
  • Kathy Griffin (commedian) + + + - Colbert
  • Laurence Tribe (Harvard Law School professor) + - Griffin
  • Robert De Niro (actor) - Tribe

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Daily Log

Got this letter from David Akalugo:

I peruse your site regularly & I have to say thanks since it's a useful treasure trove & a nice contrast to Robert Christgau's work (comparing grades helps).

I searched Bob Dylan on your site recently & noticed you graded Blood on the Tracks as a B, which stunned me since most (Christgau included) regard it as a classic. what's the reason(s) why you disagree with the consensus? I'd love to know.

My reply:

I'm afraid the grade conceals how intensely I dislike "Blood on the Tracks." I never was a folk music fan, and the only Dylan I owned before moving to St. Louis c. 1972 was "Rainy Day Women" (which I loved), so when I finally started listening to his albums -- everyone I knew there had most of them -- I found myself out of sync with the prevailing opinions. That was the case with pretty much everything -- in the late 1960s I mutated from believing in everything Americans were supposed to hold dear to scrutinizing (and often rejecting) all the cant I heard. My problems with Dylan only got worse as he released new albums. I found myself reacting almost precisely opposite to Christgau (who was a mentor and would soon become a friend) and his rock critic consensus building, which (as someone who was pretty insecure and habitually uncertain) was rather fitful for me. I think at the time everyone was looking at Dylan's decline and trying to find shards of hope, with most latching onto "Blood" as his second coming. I actually wrote an A- review at the time (see: "Rekord Report 3"), but looking back at it I can now see the resentment building. It bubbled over after Christgau panned two records I had initially liked much more: "Desire" and Bette Midler's "Songs for the New Depression" (with a Dylan duo). I eventually graded both down to B, but that only made me hate "Blood" more. After that, I gave up on Dylan, and didn't listen to anything until I found myself enjoying "Good as I Been to You" in 1992 (or maybe it was the Traveling Wilburys in 1988). Since then I've been through nearly everything. "Blood" still turns my stomach, although "objectively" it's well crafted with memorable songs -- Maria Muldaur and Bettye LaVette have picked up some for their own superb albums. So discounting my personal baggage it's probably an OK album. But as the grader I feel I'm still entitled to a little pique.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, March archive (complete).

Music: current count 31297 [31275] rated (+22), 253 [251] unrated (+2).

I expected a "lazy week," so my lowest rated count this year shouldn't be a surprise. Was real low until the weekend, when I settled down to write up a lengthy Weekend Roundup. Even then, I ran into a problem when Napster stopped playing (could search and select records, but couldn't fetch any music). Probably the Flash plugin got hosed, and could get restarted by rebooting, but I had too much stuff up in the air to bother). Played some CDs -- the week's three two A- and one B+(***) records. Beyond that, I mostly searched on Bandcamp (9 this week, vs. 5 on Napster). Trad jazz pianist James Dapogny died last week. I went looking for missing records and couldn't find any -- I especially recommend Original Jelly Roll Blues (1993) and Hot Club Swing: Small Group Swing (1994) -- but that led me to singer and sometime duo-partner Carol Leigh. Still, neither of the records below involve Dapogny.

I didn't get around to moving the computer last week, even though I had planned to do it right after last week's Music Week. I'm going to swear off predicting when I'm going to get that done. Weather should be relatively nice next week, and I have a couple of woodworking projects on tap, so that may be more fun. Took a couple of days last week making a rather spectacular dinner. Menu, as best I recall:

  • Roasted chicken with fennel, clementines, and arak [Ottolenghi]: sub ouzo for arak.
  • Sweet potato gratin [Ottolenghi].
  • Cauliflower bacon gratin [Greenspan].
  • Pumpkin gorgonzola flan [Greenspan]: did one large one instead of individuals.
  • Spiced butter carrots [Greenspan].
  • Piperade stir-fry [Greenspan].
  • Orange & olive salad [Greenspan, but I mostly did Wolfert from memory].
  • Profiteroles [Reichl], with coffee/chocolate chip ice cream and hot fudge sauce.

I used a lot of eggs and cream. I originally wanted to do veal marengo [Greenspan], but the one grocery store that routinely stocks veal chops had none (no veal at all, no lamb, seafood counter already shut down. I've made that chicken recipe a number of times, so was able to amend my shopping list from memory. Might even have been an improvement on the veal, although that's another marvelous dish. I had to make the fudge sauce and assemble the profiteroles after dinner, and couldn't serve them all at once, but our guests coped.

This is the last Monday in March, so my Streamnotes (March 2019) file is complete.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Cyrille Aimée: Live (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cyrille Aimée: Move On: A Sondheim Adventure (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B
  • Chat Noir: Hyperuranion (2018 [2019], RareNoise): [cdr]: B
  • Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Channels (2017 [2019], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Ex Hex: It's Real (2019, Merge): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Paolo Fresu/Richard Galliano/Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum III (2018 [2019], ACT): [r]: B+(**)
  • ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: First Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 [2018, ICP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: Second Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 [2018], ICP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Anthony Joseph: People of the Sun (2018, Heavenly Sweetness): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (2018 [2019], RareNoise): [cdr]: A-
  • Dan McCarthy: Epoch (2019, Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sean Noonan: Tan Man's Hat (2018 [2019], RareNoise): [cdr]: B
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ancestral Recall (2019, Ropeadope): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dexter Story: Bahir (2019, Soundway): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Urbanity: Urbanity (2018 [2019], Alfi): [cd]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Sun Ra and His Spirit of Jazz Cosmos Arkestra: WUHY Radio Philadelphia 1978 (1978 [2019], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Townes Van Zandt: Sky Blue (1973 [2019], Fat Possum): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Aceyalone: All Balls Don't Bounce (1995, Capitol): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Aceyalone: A Book of Human Language (1998, Project Blowed): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Carol Leigh: Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night (1984 [1996], GHB): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carol Leigh/Dumouster Stompers: Back Water Blues (1993 [2016], GHB): [r]: B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Michaël Attias: Ëchos La Nuit (Out of Your Head): April 5
  • Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992, Blue Engine): March 29
  • Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Channels (Intakt)
  • Fleurine: Brazilian Dream (Pure Imagination)
  • Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (Capri): May 17
  • Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (Outside In Music): May 24
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (ESP-Disk)
  • Terraza Big Band: One Day Wonder (Outside In Music): May 3
  • Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (ESP-Disk)
  • Dave Zinno Unisphere: Stories Told (Whaling City Sound)

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller handed a report in to Attorney General Bill Barr on Friday, and Barr released a letter to Congress "summarizing" the report, spun primarily to let Trump off the hook. Publication of the full report would be a fairly major news story, but all we have to go on now is just Barr's spin. For example, see: Tierney Sneed: Barr: Evidence Mueller found not 'sufficient' to charge Trump with obstruction. That's always seemed to me to be the probable outcome. Anyone who thought Robert Mueller would treat Trump like Ken Starr and his crew did the Clintons clearly knew nothing about the man. Moreover, letting Barr break the news is resulting in much different headlines than, say, when James Comey announced that he didn't find sufficient evidence to charge Hillary Clinton with any crimes in her email case. At the time, Comey buried the conclusion and spent 90% of his press conference berating Clinton for her recklessness and numerous other faults. You're not hearing any of that from Barr, although when the final report comes out -- and presumably if not released someone will manage to leak it -- the odds that someone else less in Trump's pocket could have reported it more critically of Trump are dead certain. As I write this, reactions are pouring in. For instance: William Saletan: Look at all the weasel words Bill Barr used to protect Trump.

No time to unpack this now, and probably no point either. I started to write something under Matt Taibbi below, wasn't able to wrap it up neatly, and left it dangling. I'll return to the subject at some point, hopefully with better perspective. But I would like to make two points here. One is that anyone who tried to pin the word "treason" on Trump has committed a grave mistake. The word assumes that we are locked in a state of war that is fixed and immutable, something that we are not free to make political decisions over. It is, in short, a word that we should never charge anyone with, even a scoundrel like Trump. Moreover, it is a word that through its assumptions indicts its user much worse than its target. Those Democrats who used it should be ashamed and apologetic. (Needless to say, the same goes for Republicans who hurled the same charge at Obama and the Clintons.)

The second point is that we need to recognize that what we allow politicians (like Trump, or for that matter the Clintons) to get away with legally is a much bigger scandal than whether they ever get caught violating the law. Indeed, if you take the Mueller Report as exonerating Trump, you're inadvertently arguing that anything a person can get away with is fair and acceptable.

Little bit of insight I picked up from Greg Magarian on Facebook:

It's so fucking easy to be conservative. That's maybe the gratest under-the-radar reason to hate conservatives: because all they have to do is stand around and let the world keep sucking.

Best news I've seen this week: A century with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, March 18, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, March archive (so far).

Music: current count 31275 [31246] rated (+29), 251 [252] unrated (-1).

Rated count down, probably by a lot mid-week, but I spent a lot of time on the computer hacking out Book Roundup then Weekend Roundup, and made up ground late. I checked and found that this was the third week in the last two months with exactly 29 records. Would have been more except that this has been another banner A-list week.

Two came out of my jazz queue -- David Berkman, not out until April 5, and Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico -- and they qualify as news. Three were tipped off by Phil Overeem (Little Simz, Dave, and Robert Forster -- although the first two took a revisit before I became convinced). One (Todd Snider) was written up by Robert Christgau (along with Leyla McCalls's Capitalist Blues and Our Native Daughters' Songs of Our Native Daughters, both A- here in previous weeks). I was tipped off to the final one (Matt Brewer) by a Chris Monsen tweet. Various other sources led me to lower-rated records, but somehow the best tips keep coming from friends.

I've put off my office/computer reorganization, but should buckle down and get it done this week (tomorrow I hope, after I get this post up and get some fresh light to work with. Still some things unclear about how it's all going to get put back together.

Getting some decent weather after several rough months. (The "bomb cyclone" was kind of a dud here, although it lived up to its billing a hundred miles north of here, even more so between there and Denver.) Maybe I'll take some time and work on the yard and/or my nephew's house. Also still stuck with a lot of stress over myriad health issues -- but generally looks like a lazy week coming up.

New records reviewed this week:

  • 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League (2019, Gamebread/Def Jam): [r]: B+(**)
  • Abhi the Nomad: Marbled (2018, Tommy Boy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (2018 [2019], self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (2018 [2019], Palmetto): [cd]: A-
  • Matt Brewer: Ganymede (2018 [2019], Criss Cross): [r]: A-
  • Chai: Punk (2019, Burger): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: B+(***)
  • Theon Cross: Fyah (2017-18 [2019], Gearbox): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave: Psychodrama (2019, Neighbourhood): [r]: A-
  • Joey DeFrancesco: In the Key of the Universe (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (2018 [2019], Iyouwe): [cd]: B
  • Robert Forster: Inferno (2019, Tapete): [r]: A-
  • Girlpool: What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019, Anti-): [r]: B
  • Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (2016 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (2018 [2019], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Julian Lage: Love Hurts (2018 [2019], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(***)
  • 4WD [Nils Landgren/Michael Wollny/Lars Danielsson/Wolfgang Haffner]: 4 Wheel Drive (2018 [2019], ACT): [r]: B-
  • Little Simz: Grey Area (2019, Age 101): [r]: A-
  • Nivhek: After Its Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (2019, Yellow Electric): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: A-
  • Sigrid: Sucker Punch (2019, Island): [r]: B+(**)
  • Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless): [r]: A-
  • Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (2018 [2019], Alfa Projects): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Tynan: Quartet (2016 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (2018 [2019], Taina Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Sheck Wes: Mudboy (2018, Cactus Jack/GOOD Music/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nate Wooley: Columbia Icefield (2017 [2019], Northern Spy): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • James Booker: Vol. 1: At Onkel Po's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976 (1976 [2019], Jazzline): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kid Creole & the Coconuts: Live in Paris 1985 (1985 [2019], Rainman): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (Origin): April 12
  • Chord Four: California Avant Garde (self-released): May 3
  • Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (self-released): March 26
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (Leo)

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Stories that caught folks' interest this week included an airplane that aims to crash, mass slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand, and the revelation that some rich people got caught trying to cheat their way into getting their kids enrolled by elite colleges (as opposed to the proper way, which is to give the colleges extra money). On the latter, I'd like to quote Elias Vlanton (on Facebook):

Missing the Forest for the Trees: A few rich people bribed their kids into elite colleges. So what? The real scandal is an educational system that favors rich students over poorer ones (regardless of color) from the first day of pre-K through crossing the graduation stage, diploma in hand. If every bribing parent is jailed, the real injustice of social inequality will remain. Ending it is the real task.

The post was accompanied by a photo of some of Elias's students, who look markedly different from the students caught up in this scandal. This seems to be one of the few crimes in America with a means test limiting it to the pretty rich. Actually, I feel a little sorry for the parents and children caught up in this fraud -- not so much for being victimized (although they were) as for the horrible pressures they put upon themselves to succeed in a world that is so rigorously rigged by the extreme inequality they nominally benefit from. I got a taste of their world when I transferred to Washington University back in 1973. That was the first time I met student who had spent years prepping for SATs that would assure entrance to one of the nation's top pre-med schools. It was also where I knew students who tried (and sometimes managed) to hire others to write papers and to take graduate school tests -- so I suppose you could say that was my first encounter with the criminal rich. I always thought it was kind of pathetic, but it really just reflects the desperation of a pseudo-meritocracy. And true as that was then, I'm sure it's much more desperate and vicious today.

One more thing I want to mention here: I saw a meme on Facebook forwarded by one of my right-wing relatives. It read:


I suppose the intent was to complain about news coverage of the mass shooting in New Zealand, where a "white nationalist" slaughtered 50 Muslims, implying that the "fake news" media is playing favorites again, acting like Muslim lives are more valuable than Christian lives. I thought I should at least check that claim out. Google offered no evidence of such an attack, at least yesterday. However, I did find that two bombs had been set off on January 27, 2019, at a Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, in the Philippines, killing 20 people. There's a pretty detailed Wikipedia page on the attack, so that could be the event the meme author is referring to. I've also found an article in the New York Times, although the emphasis there is more on the growth of ISIS within the long-running Islamic separatist revolt -- which started immediately after he US occupied the Philippines in 1898, and has flared up repeatedly ever since, most recently in response to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (one of Trump's favorite strongmen). (Also another article in CNN.) The context stripped from the meme doesn't excuse the atrocity, but it does help explain American media's limited interest. I have several links on the New Zealand shooting below, and they too reflect our rather parochial interest in the subject. Although pretty much everyone deplores the loss of life in all terrorist atrocities, the New Zealand one hit closer to home (for reasons that will be obvious below -- see, e.g., Patrick Strickland).

Some scattered links this week:

Friday, March 15, 2019

Book Roundup

I've fallen way behind here. The last Book Roundup appeared way back on April 21, 2018, eight months after the previous one on August 18, 2017 (full list and archive is here, but it's one long file). The way this works is I pick 40 books per post, and write a few words on each, mostly based on descriptions and comments at Amazon, plus whatever else I happen to know or find. (Given the long delays, I've actually read thirteen books from this batch,[1] and bought several more.) I've been known to do multiple posts in quick succession when I catch up from far behind, and will likely follow this one up with another (or two or maybe three) in pretty quick order.

In addition to the chosen 40, I list many more books in uncommented lists, either under selected books where they seem to be related, or at the end. I've included related book lists all along, especially when I would find a cluster of related titles and didn't find reason to comment on them individually. More recently I started appending a generic list of books without comment, and since they're easy, I've turned them into a time-saving measure (which also makes the list more comprehensive). Again, due to the long lead time here, you'll find more below than ever before.

In the past, I've added extra lists of paperback reissues of books I've previously noted -- especially books I had since read and wanted to write more about. None of them this time, but perhaps in the future. As far as domain, the chose books are primarily on politics, history, and the social sciences (especially economics), although I'll make an exception here and there, whatever strikes my fancy. My main reason for doing this is to familiarize myself with what people are writing about issues I care about.

[1]: Read: Gregg Carlstrom: How Long Will Israel Survive?; John Dower: The Violent American Century; Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again; Thomas Frank: Rendezvous With Oblivion; Robert Gerwarth: The Vanquished; Masha Gessen: The Future Is History; David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep; Jill Lepore: These Truths; Kevin Peraino: A Force So Swift; Michael Ruhlman: Grocery; Quinn Slobodan: Globalists; Sarah Smarsh: Heartland; Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom. Waiting on the shelf: Tom Engelhardt: A Nation Unmade by War; Steve Fraser: Class Matters; Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It.

Alan I Abramowitz: The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump (2018, Yale University Press): One of several recent books that try to make sense of recent changes in partisan alignment, especially as right and left have become more stuck with their limited party options. This one focuses on "an unprecedented alignment of many different divides: racial and ethnic, religious, ideological, and geographic." OK, with Trump, mostly racial. Other recent books:

  • Avidit Acharya/Matthew Blackwell/Maya Sen: Deep Roots: How Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah: The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity (2018, Liveright).
  • Morris P Fiorina: Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party Sorting, and Political Stalemate (paperback, 2017, Hoover Institution Press).
  • Bernard L Fraga: The Turnout Gap: Race, Ethnicity, and Political Inequality in a Diversifying America (paperback, 2018, Cambridge University Press).
  • Francis Fukuyama: Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
  • Matt Grossman/David A Hopkins: Asymmetric Politics: Ideological Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Asad Haider: Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of Trump (paperback, 2018, Verso).
  • Marc Hetherington/Jonathan Weiler: Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America's Great Divide (2018, Houghton Mifflin).
  • David A Hopkins: Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics (paperback, 2017, Cambridge University Press).
  • Daniel J Hopkins: The Increasingly United States: How and Why American Political Behavior Nationalized (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • Ashley Jardina: White Identity Politics (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
  • Donald R Kinder/Nathan P Kalmoe: Neither Liberal nor Conservative: Ideological Innocence in the American Public (paperback, 2017, University of Chicago Press).
  • Steve Kornacki: The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth of Political Tribalism (2018, Ecco Books).
  • Amanda Marcotte: Troll Nation: How the Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set on Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself (2018, Hot Books).
  • Michele F Margolis: From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • Lilliana Mason: Uncivil Agreeement: How Politics Became Our Identity (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • David Neiwert: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (2017, Verso).
  • Benjamin L Page/Martin Gilens: Democracy in America? What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It? (2017, University of Chicago Press).
  • Greg Sargent: An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics (2018, Custom House).
  • Kay Lehman Schlozman/Henry E Brady/Sidney Verba; Unequal and Unrepresented: Political Inequality and the People's Voice in the New Gilded Age (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Bill Schneider: Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable (2018, Simon & Schuster).
  • John Sides/Michael Tesler/Lynn Vavreck: Identity Crisis: The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Salena Zito/Brad Todd: The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics (2018, Crown).

Andrew J Bacevich: Twilight of the American Century (2018, University of Notre Dame Press): A collection of essays since 9/11/2001, 480 pages. He's a conservative anti-war, anti-intervention, soldier-turned-scholar, has written a bunch of books in the meantime, including: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (2005); The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (2008); Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War (2010); Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country (2013); and America's War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (2016). Entitled to a lot of "I told you so's."

Becky Bond/Zack Exley: Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big Organizing Can Change Everything (paperback, 2016, Chelsea Green): A primer for grass roots political change, written by two "digital iconoclasts" who have worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Title probably a nod to Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. There are actually quite a few activist primers out recently, such as:

  • Andrew Boyd, ed: Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution (paperback, 2016, OR Books).
  • Adrienne Maree Brown: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
  • Charlene A Carruthers: Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements (2018, Beacon Press).
  • Mark Engler/Paul Engler: This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century (2016, Nation Books).
  • Laura Grattan: Populism's Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy in America (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Sarah Jaffe: Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (2016, Nation Books).
  • LA Kauffman: Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of American Radicalism (paperback, 2017, Verso Books).
  • LA Kauffman: How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing and Resistance (2018, University of California Press).
  • George Lakey: How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning (2018, paperback, Melville House).
  • Amanda Litman: Don't Just March, Run for Something: A Real-Talk Guide to Fixing the System Yourself (paperback, 2017, Atria Books).
  • Jane F McAlevey: No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age (2016, Oxford University Press).
  • Sroja Popovic: Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World (paperback, 2015, Spiegal & Grau).
  • Jonathan Matthew Smucker: Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
  • Micah White: The End of Protest: A New Playbook for Revolution (paperback, 2016, Knopf Canada).

Bryan Caplan: The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money (2018, Princeton University Press): As a high school dropout, I should sympathize with the argument that our education system is inefficient and ineffective, that much of what is taught there is of little value, and that people can learn essential life skills otherwise. And that should be even more true now than it was when I was in school, as the system since then has evolved into more of a credentials mill than a source for widespread knowledge development. Elements of Caplan's critique are certainly correct, but his proposal -- spend less on general education and more on vocational training -- misses some key points. In particular, in an increasingly complex technological civilization people need more knowledge just to function as responsible citizens. Just as important, they need to be able to reason independently, and to continue to learn for the rest of their lives. I managed to do that, for the most part in spite of my formal education, but rather than throwing everyone else into the deep end to see who swims, wouldn't more people be better off if we changed the educational system to help people learn and develop -- rather than just train people for the jobs we think we need now?

Gregg Carlstrom: How Long Will Israel Survive? The Threat From Within (2017, Oxford University Press): A decade ago, Richard Ben Cramer wrote what I thought the best single book on the intractable problem of the Zionist State's continuing domination over the Palestinian people in Greater Israel. His simple thesis was that Jewish Israel was divided into a half-dozen very distinct tribes that were being held together by their common enemy: the people they displaced in settling Israel. Thus, they had to keep feeding the conflict, lest they lose themselves as a people. That's what they've done since then, ever more intransigently, to the point where it's rotting the nation from within. We got our first really good picture of how pervasive this is in Max Blumenthal's 2013 book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (not that close readers couldn't recognize the problem much earlier, even before the 1948 War of Independence). Carlstrom adds a few more years onto Blumenthal's story. Not pretty, although I suspect that had he waited a year or two into the Trump era, where the US has totally given up any pretense of independence, the story would be even grimmer.

Elizabeth Catte: What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia (paperback, 2018, Belt Publishing): Examines the history of Appalachia (especially West Virginia) and various stereotypes that have been popularized, especially by J.D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of Family and Culture in Crisis (2016), a book that journalists discovered looking for explanations of why Trump was so successful there.

Amy Chua: Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (2018, Penguin Press): Stresses the role of group identity in elections both in the US and abroad. Chua has in the past been especially sensitive (maybe a bit chauvinistic too) to how the Chinese diaspora rose to economic prominence and political antipathy all around southeast Asia -- cf. World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability -- so I imagine she builds on that here, a much broader (though not necessarily deeper) foundation than our recent carping about identity politics.

Tom Engelhardt: A Nation Unmade by War (paperback, 2018, Haymarket): Another collection of essays from the author's TomDispatch website, where he and a few dozen regular contributors have meticulously chronicled the frustrations and failures of the post-9/11 "global war on terror" -- a vain and desperate defense of the worldwide empire American neocons claimed as its triumph over communism. Actually, that empire had always been based on more than a little self-delusion, and its costs and contradictions had already become evident when one of Engelhardt's writers, Chalmers Johnson, wrote The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic (2004). Engelhardt follows up, recounting the attendant chaos and confusion. Also, by other Engelhardt writers:

  • John Dower: The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • John Feffer: Splinterlands: A Novel (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books): a novel.
  • John Feffer: Frostlands: Book Two of the Splinterlands Series (paperbck, 2018, Haymarket Books).
  • Greg Grandin: The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America (2019, Metropolitan Books).
  • Alfred W McCoy: In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • Nomi Prins: Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World (2018, Nation Books).
  • Daniel A Sjursen: Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge (2015, ForeEdge).
  • Rebecca Solnit: Call Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays) (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
  • Nick Turse: Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War and Surival in South Sudan (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books).

Ronan Farrow: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence (2018, WW Norton): Based on interviews with Secretaries of State from Henry Kissinger to Rex Tillerson, this reports on the decline of the US State Department. There is certainly an interesting book to be written on this, but it needs to be paired with the increasing power of military and intelligence sectors, and how both reflect a shift as Washington politicians have lost faith in international institutions and law, preferring to act unilaterally (at most giving lip service to an ad hoc "coalition of the willing"). In the "sole superpower" view of neocons like John Bolton, diplomacy is disparaged not just as ineffective but as an admission of weakness. The curious thing is that there is absolutely no evidence that the US acting on its own is anyway near as effective as diplomacy. Such a book would also note that the shift to the now dominant neocon view has mostly been driven by a blind, unthinking "alliance" with Israel, such that the more Israel defies international law and censure, the more isolated, bitter, and ineffective the US becomes.

Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (2018, Ecco Books): Author of a well-regarded novel, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, sees America has stuck in some sort of eighty-year cycle, leading to crises -- the first two were the Civil War and the Great Depression -- requiring major upheavals to put the nation back on track. Much of the book is election reporting, which sounds like old (and much too rehashed) news, but none of the books I've seen so far really makes sense of 2016's nonsense, so maybe we should give continuously referring back to history a chance. One thing that's a pretty safe bet is that Fountain's not going to argue that Trump is the answer to the present crisis, unlike Lincoln and Roosevelt. Still, even as Fountain writes about 2016 and the bad feelings evident there from all sides, his real subject is the coming crisis -- 2020, maybe even 2024, surely not much further out. But even there, don't expect history to repeat itself. Buchanan and Hoover were procrastinators, not least because they didn't see any way out of their dilemmas, but Trump is a man of action, corroding and breaking everything he touches. It's only a matter of time before his damage can no longer be shrugged away as fake news.

Thomas Frank: Rendezvous With Oblivion: Reports From a Sinking Society (2018, Metropolitan Books): Collection of scattered essays, which makes this seem less coherent than Frank's recent string of books -- Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (2016), Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right (2012), The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation (2008) -- although the net effect does much to prove how prescient The Wrecking Crew's analysis was.

Steve Fraser: Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American Delusion (2018, Yale University Press): The story of how the subject of class has repeatedly been expunged from American history and consciousness, taking a half-dozen case moments from the Mayflower to Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech as examples. Fraser wrote about this same subject more broadly in The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power (2015), noting that with Occupy Wall Street the pendulum was suddenly flipping back.

Robert Gerwarth: The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End (2016; paperback, 2017, Farrar Straus and Giroux): On November 11, 1918, Germany surrendered, signing an armistice ending the war they launched in 1914 by invading Belgium and France. For Western Europe (and America), that ended what was then called the Great War, but by then the Russian Tsar had been overthrown, replaced by a revolutionary Soviet, and multi-ethnic empires in Austria-Hungary and Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) had also collapsed. For several years after, war, revolution, and reaction continued in Eastern Europe, at least up to 1923 when the Communists consolidated power in Russia and a nationalist government in Turkey had driven both foreign and native Greeks from Asia Minor. In the longer term, the Treaty of Versailles, dictated by the victorious imperialist powers of Britain and France, was widely viewed as unjust, an insult that festered and grew into a second, even more deadly World War. Another recent book that covers this territory is Prit Buttar: The Splintered Empires: The Eastern Front 1917-21 (2017; paperback, 2018, Osprey), the fourth volume in Buttar's history of the Eastern front, following: Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914 (2014; paperback, 2016, Osprey); Germany Ascendant: The Eastern Front 1915 (2015; paperback, 2017, Osprey); and Russia's Last Gasp: The Eastern Front 1916-17 (2016; paperback, 2017, Osprey).

Masha Gessen: The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia (2017; paperback, 2018, Riverhead): Chronicles the failure of Russia to develop a liberal democracy after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Soviet Communism, by tracking a small number of individuals -- mostly intellectuals, descendents of Soviet-era elite families who tended to become liberal opponents of Yeltsin and Putin. Tends to view the willingness to submit to an authoritarian state as rooted in psychology rather than as the sort of ideological belief system Timothy Snyder claims. Other books by Gessen and/or on Putin and Russia:

  • Masha Gessen: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012; paperback, 2013, Riverhead).
  • Masha Gessen: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot (paperback, 2014, Riverhead).
  • Masha Gessen: Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region (2016, Schocken).

  • Masha Gessen: Never Remember: Searching for Stalin's Gulags in Putin's Russia (2018, Columbia Global Reports).
  • Stephen F Cohen: War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine to Trump & Russiagate (paperback, 2019, Hot Books).
  • Mark Galeotti: We Need to Talk About Putin: How the West Gets Him Wrong (paperback, 2019, Penguin Random House).
  • Nina Krushcheva/Jeffrey Tayler: In Putin's Footsteps: Searching for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia's Eleven Time Zones (2019, St Martin's Press).
  • Michael McFaul: From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin's Russia (2018, Houghton Mifflin).
  • Arkady Ostrovsky: The Invention of Russia: The Rise of Putin and the Age of Fake News (2016; paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).
  • Peter Pomerantsev: Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia (paperback, 2015, PublicAffairs).
  • David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin (2016; paperback, 2017, Yale University Press).
  • Angela Stent: Putin's World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest (2019, Twelve).
  • Shaun Walker: The Long Hangover: Putin's New Russia and the Ghosts of the Past (2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Tony Wood: Russia Without Putin: Money, Power and the Myths of the New Cold War (2018, Verso).
  • Mikhail Zygar: All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of Vladimir Putin (2016; paperback, 2017, PublicAffairs).

Steven M Gillon: Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism (2018, Basic Books): Officially, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired by governor Otto Kerner (D-IL), a group appointed by President Lyndon Johnson following riots in Newark and Detroit. They took a fairly hard look at racism and poverty, and recommended bold new programs to end both. You'd think that was the right in line with Johnson's "Great Society" agenda, but Johnson rejected the report, and Nixon built his campaign -- especially in his 1972 bid to pick up Wallace voters -- on race baiting. Gillon regards the failure to follow up on the report as a failing of liberalism, but what really damaged Johnson and Humphrey was their leading role in the Vietnam War, followed by the crippling loss to Nixon, and later to Reagan.

Anand Giridharadas: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World (2018, Knopf): As more and more of the world's wealth sinks into the clutches of the very rich, a few of them are stepping up with offers of philanthropic aid, offering to somehow turn the world they're sucking dry into a better place -- without, of course, undermining their exalted place in it. Related:

  • David Callahan: The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy in a New Gilded Age (2017, Knopf; paperback, 2018, Vintage Books).
  • Daniel Raventós/Julie Wark: Against Charity (paperback, 2018, Counterpunch).
  • Rob Reich: Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy and How It Can Do Better (2018, Princeton University Press).

Jeff Goodell: The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (2017; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books): Makes sense: Earth climate warms, ice melts, flows into sea, which rises, flooding coastlines, where many of the world's largest cities are. Goodell has written several books related to climate change, like Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future (2007), and How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate (2010). Every Roundup the shelves of climate change books grows ever more imposing:

  • Jeffrey Bennett: A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About the Science, the Consequences, and the Solutions (paperback, 2016, Big Kid Science).
  • Peter Brannen: The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions (2017; paperback, 2018, Ecco).
  • Ashley Dawson: Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (2017, Verso).
  • Barbara Finamore: Will China Save the Planet? (paperback, 2018, Polity).
  • Joshua S Goldstein/Staffan A Qvist: A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow (2019, PublicAffairs).
  • Hal Harvey: Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for Low-Carbon Energy (paperback, 2018, Island Press).
  • Paul Hawken, ed: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).
  • Robert Henson: The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change (2nd edition, paperback, 2019, American Meteorological Society).
  • Albert C Hine/Don P Chambers/Tonya D Clayton/Mark R Hafen/Gary T Mitchum: Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and Options (2016, University Press of Florida).
  • Dhar Jamail: The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (2019, New Press).
  • Lucy Jones: The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us (and What We Can Do About Them) (2018, Doubleday).
  • Thomas E Lovejoy/Lee Hannah, eds: Biodiversity and Climate Change: Transforming the Biosphere (paperback, 2019, Yale University Press).
  • Michael E Mann/Lee R Kump: Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC (2nd edition, paperback, 2015, DK).
  • Michael E Mann/Tom Toles: The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy (paperback, 2018, Columbia University Press).
  • Todd Miller: Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and Homeland Security (paperback, 2017, City Lights).
  • Robert Muir-Wood: The Cure for Catastrophe: How We Can Stop Manufacturing Natural Disasters (2016, Basic Books).
  • Dustin Mulvaney: Solar Power: Innovation, Sustainability, and Environmental Justice (paperback, 2019, University of California Press).
  • Jeff Nesbit: This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America (2018, Thomas Dunne Books).
  • Orrin H Pilkey/Linda Pilkey-Jarvis/Keith C Pilkey: Retreat From a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change (2016; paperback, 2017, Columbia University Press).
  • Kim Stanley Robinson: New York 2140 (2017; paperback, 2018, Orbit): a novel, sure, but illustrates Goodell's point, exactly.
  • Mary Robinson: Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future (2018, Bloomsbury).
  • Joseph Romm: Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know (2nd edition, paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Elizabeth Rush: Rising: Dispatches From the New American Shore (2018, Milkweed Editions).
  • Roy Scranton: We're Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and Climate Change (paperback, 2018, Soho Press).
  • Mark C Serreze: Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the Melting Arctic (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Varun Sivaram: Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar Energy and Power the Planet (2018, MIT Press).
  • Jeffrey St Clair/Joshua Frank: The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (paperback, 2018, Counterpunch).

  • Peter Wadhams: A Farewell to Ice: A Report From the Arctic (2016, Allen Lane; paperback, 2017, Oxford University Press).
  • Joel Wainwright/Geoff Mann: Climate Leviathan: A Political Theory of Our Planetary Future (2018, Verso).
  • David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming (2019, Tim Duggan Books).

Chris Hedges: America: The Farewell Tour (2018, Simon & Schuster): Author has become increasingly gloomy about the state of the nation -- one might trace this through such books as American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America (2007), Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of the Spectacle (2009), The Death of the Liberal Class (2010), The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress, and Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (2015), winding up with this combination of high moral outrage and down-and-out journalism. Seems to mostly be reissued columns, which makes for a relatively scattershot book.

Michael Isikoff/David Corn: Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump (2018, Twelve): With the Mueller investigation not even done rounding up even the usual suspects, this is probably just a quickie trying to sum up what little is known about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. What is pretty clear is that Russia-backed hackers weighed in forcefully for Donald Trump, although it seems like sheer scapegoatism to credit the Russians with more influence than the Kochs and Mercers and other quasi-independent Trump backers. I'd be especially surprised if they have any "inside story" on why Putin would wager such a risky bet. Most of the speculation I've seen seems to be little more than projection. Isikoff and Corn wrote a decent book on the Iraq War (Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War), which recommends this over most competing books, like:

  • Seth Abramson: Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed America (2018, Simon & Schuster).
  • Luke Harding: Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win (paperback, 2017, Vintage Books).
  • Seth Hettena: Trump/Russia: A Definitive History (2018, Melville House).
  • Greg Miller: The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy (2018, Custom House).
  • Malcolm Nance: The Plot to Hack America: How Putin's Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election (paperback, 2016, Skyhorse).
  • Malcoln Nance: The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin's Spies Are Winning Control of America and Dismantling the West (2018, Hachette).
  • Greg Olear: Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia (paperback, 2018, Four Sticks Press).
  • Roger Stone: The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Donald Trump Really Won (paperback, 2019, Skyhorse).
  • Craig Unger: House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018, Dutton.
  • Clint Watts: Messing With the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News (2018, Harper).

Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President: What We Don't, Can't, and Do Know (2018, Oxford University Press): A subject sure to be much written about, especially as the Mueller investigation sorts through and eventually discloses (or leaks) its evidence, but for now this is probably the most comprehensive, detailed analysis we have of what Russian hackers did in 2016 and what the effect was (see Jane Mayer's article in The New Yorker). Jamieson has written/contributed to a bunch of books analyzing elections, going back to Everything You Think You Know About Politics . . . and Why You're Wrong (2000, Basic Books).

Jill Lepore: These Truths: A History of the United States (2018, WW Norton): House historian for The New Yorker, her less popular early work includes The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity (1998), and New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (2005), which prepared her well to write a book about the use and abuse of history by the Tea Party Movement (The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American History). This is, as advertised, a single-volume history of American political life and ideals, at once huge (960 pp) and schematic, with an eye for telling details (many I never knew).

Daniel J Levitin: Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era (paperback, 2017, Dutton): Interesting case example of what happens when Donald Trump gets elected president. Levitin is a neuroscientist who's written books like The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, and A Field Guide to Lies and Statistics: A Neuroscientist on How to Make Sense of a Complex World (which in a saner world would just be a basic update of Darrell Huff's 1954 classic How to Lie With Statistics). So he started with a recognition that human brains are fighting a losing battle against complexity, "information overload," and the flood of calculated misinformation, then panics when he sees where the nonsense he had tried to reason with has gotten us. This new title is actually just a revision of his Field Guide, where circumstances actually seem to call for a fresh review. I expect more books along these lines will appear. For now, I also note:

  • Julian Baggini: A Short History of Truth: Consolations for a Post-Truth World (2017, Quercus).
  • Bruce Bartlett: The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating Facts From Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks (paperback, 2017, Ten Speed Press).
  • Matthew D'Ancona: Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight Back (paperback, 2017, Ebury Press).
  • Brooke Gladstone: The Trouble With Reality: A Rumination on Moral Panic in Our Time (paperback, 2017, Workman).
  • Michiko Kakutani: The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the Age of Trump (2018, Tim Duggan Books).
  • Hector Macdonald: Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality (2018, Little Brown).
  • Lee McIntyre: Post-Truth (paperback, 2018, MIT Press).
  • Cailin O'Connor/James Owen Weatherall: The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread (2018, Yale University Press).
  • Sophia Rosenfeld: Democracy and Truth: A Short History (2018, University of Pennsylvania Press).
  • Ryan Skinnell, ed: Faking the News: What Rhetoric Can Teach Us About Donald J Trump (paperback, 2018, Societas).

Michael Lewis: The Fifth Risk (2018, WW Norton): Journalist, has written a stack of very readable books, nominally on finance and business but mostly about interesting people. This one goes into three government bureaucracies -- the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce -- and finds people who for years now have been doing useful, important work there, and takes a look at what Trump and his minions are doing to those people and all that work. Mostly they are shredding data, and purging the departments of the workers with the expertise to collect and analyze that data. It seems that facts and data have become troublesome for profit seekers in industries that have Trump's ear. This is refreshing compared to the reporters who get all the muck they can rake from twitter feeds, the Washington gossip mill, and playing "gotcha" watching talk shows. Sure, those things are symptomatic of the rot in Washington, but the real stink you're going to have a hard time escaping will be coming from out-of-the-way places, like Lewis' chosen departments.

John Meacham: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels (2018, Random House): Biographer, has written books on Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, and GHW Bush, takes a sweeping look at American history, specifically the struggles for expanding rights and greater economic opportunity -- a legacy that we (as opposed to certain conservatives) take pride in when we think of American history (as opposed to numerous other threads that we increasingly find shameful).

Yascha Mounk: The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger & How to Save It (2018, Harvard University Press): The election of Donald Trump has produced a tidal wave of books on how the ignorant masses are rising up to turn to fascism against liberal democracy, as if the effete corruption of the Clintons actually represented the latter. To the extent that Trump gives off the stink of authoritarianism, such books may be warranted, but the bigger problem is how the center-left parties have turned their backs on their natural supporters. Not sure what Mounk's proposal is, but the way to save democracy is to make it pay off. More books along these lines:

  • Yascha Mounk: The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and the Welfare State (2017, Harvard University Press).
  • Madeleine Albright: Fascism: A Warning (2018, Harper).
  • Wendy Brown/Peter S Gordon/Max Pensky: Authoritarianism: Three Inquiries in Critical Theory (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
  • William Davies: Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of Reason (2019, WW Norton).
  • Barry Eichengreen: The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance and Political Reaction in the Modern Era (2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Erica Frantz: Authoritarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • William S Galston: Anti Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy (2018, Yale University Press).
  • Henry A Giroux: American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism (paperback, 2018, City Lights).
  • Benjamin Carter Hett: The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic (2018, Henry Holt).
  • John B Judis: The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and the Revolt Against Globalization (paperback, 2018, Columbia Global Reports).
  • Brian Klaas: The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy (2017, Hot Books).
  • Steven Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt: How Democracies Die (2018, Crown).
  • David Neiwert: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump (2017, Verso).
  • Pippa Norris/Ronald Ingelhart: Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit, and Authoritarian Populism (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University Press).
  • David Runciman: How Democracy Ends (2018, Basic Books).
  • Timothy Snyder: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century (paperback, 2017, Tim Duggan Books).
  • Cass R. Sunstein: Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America (paperback, 2018, Dey Street Books).

Lawrence O'Donnell: Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election and the Transformation of American Politics (2017, Penguin Press): Broadcast journalist, something I assume moves him to the shallow end of the pool, but this is not a bad time to take another look at the 1968 election: like 2016, a time when a very unpopular and untrustworthy Republican managed to eke out a victory because many people trusted the establishment Democrat even less, most of all because the latter was associated with the longest and bleakest war(s) in American history.

Kevin Peraino: A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of Modern China, 1949 (2017, Crown; paperback, 2018, Broadway Books): Chronicles a single turning-point year as Mao's revolutionary forces swept through the major cities of eastern China, while Chiang Kai-Shek's nationalists retreated to Taiwan, and Madame Chiang -- a major figure in her own right -- was frustrated in her lobbying efforts in New York and Washington. Some more context would have been useful -- fortunately I had previously read James Bradley's The China Mirage: The hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, which laid out the romantic relationship between missionary-minded Americans and the Soong family (most notably Mme. Chiang). Still, I don't know much about Mao's gains up to 1949, or American thinking on China until the blame game of "who lost China?" took over, after the fact. Some more recent historical books on China:

  • Richard Bernstein: China 1945: Mao's Revolution and America's Fateful Choice (2014, Knopf; paperback, 2015, Vintage).
  • Wang Hui: China's Twentieth Century: Revolution, Retreat and the Road to Equality (paperback, 2016, Verso).
  • Daniel Kurtz-Phelan: The China Mission: George Marshall's Unfinished War, 1945-1947 (2018, WW Norton).
  • Rana Mitter: Forgotten Ally: China's World War II, 1937-1945 (2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; paperback, 2014, Mariner).
  • Stephen R Platt: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War (2012, Knopf; paperback, 2012, Vintage).
  • Stephen R Platt: Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China's Last Golden Age (2018, Knopf)
  • David J Silbey: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China: A History (2012; paperback, 2013, Hill and Wang).
  • Helen Zia: Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution (2019, Ballantine Books).

Michael Ruhlman: Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America (2017, Henry N Abrams): Food writer, first noticed (by me at least) for his memoirs on studying to become a chef -- The Making of a Chef (1997) and The Soul of a Chef (2000) although I also have his tip books The Elements of Cooking (2007) and Ratio (2009) but only one of his cookbooks -- Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing (2005) -- rarely if ever used (although it sure seems like a good idea). This is a history of grocery stores, bound to be interesting -- as one reviewer put it, "a lot of memoir, a smattering of rants, endless lists."

Quinn Slobodan: Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism (2018, Harvard University Press): A history of neoliberal thinkers starting with Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, their roots in the old Hapsburg Empire, their Geneva School in the 1920s-30s, moving in to the Mount Pelerin Society up to the World Trade Organization. Focus is mostly on Europeans, with some political support from the US right but neither author nor subject seems to have much respect for American economists like Milton Friedman. One thing that is striking is that while the degree of overt racism varied, all were concerned with replacing crumbling colonial regimes with private ownership, in effect ensuring that imperialism would survive by privatizing it.

Sarah Smarsh: Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth (2018, Scribner): Author "was born a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side." Grew up on a farm thirty miles west of Wichita (also in Wichita), and seems to have kicked the fates of her mother and grandmother, while still remembering enough to write movingly about people like herself.

Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2018, Tim Duggan Books): Historian, has written a couple of major books on the especially bloody and cruel war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia for eastern Europe. I've long been bothered by his tendency to treat Hitler and Stalin as political equivalents, a sloppiness broad enough to let him slip Putin into the same mold. His key here is the obscure Vladimir Ilyin, offered here as the architect of a "politics of eternity" which binds Putin to the totalitarians of yore. Snyder does his best to chronicle Putin's offenses against liberal democracy, up to and including his shadow war with Ukraine, but his focus on ideology (and demonizing Putin) slights other possible factors, like the economy. Despite the subtitle, Europe and America are scarcely mentioned.

Jason Stanley: How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them (2018, Random House): Philosophy professor at Yale, previously wrote How Propaganda Works (2015). Focuses on actual politics in the US here, which means you can count him among the minority who believe that certain common political ideas and strategies fit the F-word framework. One obvious point makes it into his subtitle: the rallying of a self-considered nationalist core into a political movement defined in opposition to all sorts of others that diverge from the model. Republican propaganda has increasingly been build around that focus from Nixon to Reagan to Bush to Trump. The second obvious point is the willingness of the fascist leaders to run roughshod over democratic processes, to reduce law to a tool of power, and to use violence as a means for asserting their power. The Republicans aren't yet as vicious and brutal as fascists under Musolini and Hitler, but they lean that way, and their followers respond emotionally (if rarely phsyically) to their taunts.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (2018, Random House): Fourth in a series of books that seek to approximate a logic of how the world works -- Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan started off by looking at statistics and its exceptions. One point here is that the world is run by determined minorities imposing their will. Other points: "For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing"; "Ethical rules aren't universal"; "Beware of complicated solutions (that someone was paid to find)." The title -- a phrase I've always found suspicious -- is also given unconventional examination: "Never trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back to haunt them." Maybe, but I also don't trust people who want you to put more of your skin in their game. They're looking to make you pay for their mistakes.

Sandy Tolan: Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land (2015, Bloomsbury USA): Author of one of the best books ever on the Israel/Palestine conflict -- The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (2007) -- returns with another very specific, concrete story of Palestinian and Israeli musicians transcending the conflict through "the power of music," but also "determination and vision."

Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How It Might Be Saed (2019, Liveright): Political analyst, writes for Daily Beat and New York Review of Books, a resolute centrist adrift in a world where the center hasn't held. Starts with a "chronology of polarization" that almost exactly matches the four era division I've been threatening to write about. His command of history is strong, even if I'd nitpick a bit. Ends with a "fourteen-point agenda to reduce polarization" that strikes me as mostly crap, some specific ("reduce college to three years and make year four a service year"), some vague ("vastly expand civics education"). And like most centrists, he's much more bothered by the left than the right ("insist on a left that doesn't contribute to the fracture"). I probably need to read this, but I'm not likely to be happy with it.

Lawrence Tribe/Joshua Matz: To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment (2018, Basic Books): For some people, it's impossible to think of the colossal mistake American voters made in November 2016 without thinking of rectifying it through given constitutional means: impeachment -- a feeling which goes deeper with each scandal or other embarrassment (i.e., almost daily). The rest of us don't deny the requisite "high crimes and misdemeanors" the constitution calls for, but recognize that impeachment has been a purely political matter since it was first contemplated as a way to get rid of the almost universally loathed John Tyler. Tyler dodged impeachment; Andrew Johnson was impeached but not removed from office; Richard Nixon wound up resigning before the House voted. Bill Clinton was impeached in the most cynical of all such affairs, but Republicans in the Senate never had a prayer of mustering the two-thirds majority. As long as Republicans hold power in Congress Trump is safe, not least because Trump has done very little that offends them. Still, if you want to read about impeachment (or the 25th amendment, which allows the cabinet to stage a political coup with mere consent of Congress), there are plenty of books to choose from. Tribe is probably first choice because of his long practice writing about the Supreme Court -- most recently Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution (paperback, 2015, Picador). Also recent:

  • Jeffrey A Engel/Jon Meacham/Timothy Naftali/Peter Baker: Impeachment: An American History (2018, Modern Library).
  • Alan Dershowitz: The Case Against Impeaching Trump (2018, Hot Books).
  • Elizabeth Holtzman: The Case for Impeaching Trump (2019, Hot Books).
  • Allan J Lichtman: The Case for Impeachment (2017; paperback, 2018, Dey Street Books).
  • Barbara A Radnofsky: A Citizen's Guide to Impeachment (paperback, 2017, Melville House).
  • Cass R Sunstein: Impeachment: A Citizen's Guide (paperback, 2017, Harvard University Press).

Siva Vaidhyanathan: Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy (2018, Oxford University Press): Author of an eye-opening book on Google -- The Googlization of Everything (and Why We Should Worry) (2011), with previous books on Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Proprety and How It Threatens Creativity (2003), and The Anarchist in the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking the Real World and Crashing the System (2004). Not a technophobe or luddite, but casts a wary on the business manipulations of your formerly private life. Some other recent books on web society:

  • Ken Auletta: Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else) (2018, Penguin Press).
  • Yochai Benkler/Robert Faris/Hal Roberts: Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • James Bridle: New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future (2018, Verso).
  • Talina Bucher: If . . . Then: Algorithmic Power and Politics (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Virginia Eubanks: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (2018, St Martin's Press).
  • Franklin Foer: World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Press).
  • Donna Freitas: The Happiness Effect: How Social Media Is Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost (2017, Oxford University Press).
  • Scott Galloway: The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google (2017; paperback, 2018, Portfolio).
  • Tarleton Gillespie: Custodians of the Internet: Platform, Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social Media (2018, Yale University Press).
  • Alexander Halavais: Search Engine Society (2nd edition, paperback, 2017, Polity).
  • Matthew Hindman: The Internet Trap: How the Digital Economy Builds Monopolies and Undermines Democracy (2018, Princeton University Press).
  • Tera Karppi: Disconnect: Facebook's Affective Bonds (paperback, 2018, University of Minnesota Press).
  • Jaron Lanier: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018, Henry Holt).
  • Roger McNamee: Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe (2019, Penguin Press).
  • Martin Moore: Democracy Hacked: How Technology Is Destabilising Global Politics (2018, Oneworld).
  • Safiya Umdia Noble: Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (paperback, 2018, NYU Press).
  • Corey Pein: Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey Into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley (2018, Metropolitan Books).
  • Bruce Schneier: Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World (2018, WW Norton).
  • PW Singer/Emerson T Brooking: Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media (2018, Eamon Dolan).
  • Jamie Suskind: Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech (2018, Oxford University Press).
  • Zeynep Tufekci: Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragiity of Networked Protest (2017; paperback, 2018, Yale University Press).
  • Tim Wu: The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age (paperback, 2018, Columbia Global Reports).

Sean Wilentz: No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery at the Nation's Founding (2018, Harvard University Press): Wide-ranging American historian -- his masterpiece is The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, but he's also written (much less reliably) The Age of Reagan: A History 1974-2008 (2008). Here he expands on a theme that Jill Lepore emphasizes in These Truths: A History of the United States: that many of the founders of the American Republic were conscious of the problem of slavery, especially as it contradicted their revolutionary appeals to liberty and equality.

Bob Woodward: Fear: Trump in the White House (2018, Simon & Schuster): I suppose every time I do one of these I should pick out a recent Trump book and hang a list under it. This one is probably the best-selling, with its usual load of insider dirt. Some others:

  • Amanda Carpenter: Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us (2018, Broadside Books).
  • Stormy Daniels: Full Disclosure (2018, St Martin's Press).
  • Justin A Frank: Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President (2018, Avery).
  • Major Garrett: Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency (2018, All Points Books).
  • Marvin Kalb: Enemy of the People: Trump's War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy (2018, Brookings Institution Press).
  • Laurence Leamer: Mar-A-Lago: Inside the Gaes of Power at Donald Trump's Presidential Palace (2019, Flatiron).
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman: Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House (2018, Gallery Books).
  • John Nichols: Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America (paperback, 2017, Nation Books).
  • Bill Press: Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Donald Trump (and One to Keep Him) (2018, Thomas Dunne Books).
  • April Ryan: Under Fire: Reporting From the Front Lines of the Trump White House (2018, Rowman & Littlefield).
  • Cliff Sims: Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House (2019, Thomas Dunne Books).
  • Sean Spicer: The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the President (2018, Regnery).
  • GB Trudeau: #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump (paperback, 2018, Andrews McMeel).
  • Rick Wilson: Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever (2018, Free Press).

Robert Wuthnow: The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural America (2018, Princeton University Press): I get why farmers and small town dwellers find the federal government distant and aloof, but what makes them think they're so different from other people in America? Part of this is that they're more invested in a cult of self-sufficiency: they feed themselves, fend for themselves, and don't see why others shouldn't do so as well. Such views have made them easy pickings for the cynical political manipulators on the right, but they are probably justified in their suspicion that the changes in what Hillary Clinton calls "the more dynamic parts of the nation" is at the root of their relative decline. Wuthnow previously wrote Small Town America: Finding Community, Shaping the Future (paperback, 2016, Princeton University Press).

Also noted:

Anne Applebaum: Red Famin: Stalin's War on Ukraine (2018, Doubleday).

Michael Beschloss: Presidents of War: The Epic Story, From 1807 to Modern Times (2018, Crown).

Max Boot: The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right (2018, Liveright).

Preet Bharara: Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime, Punishment, and the Rule of Law (2019, Alfred A Knopf).

Timothy Caulfield: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty & Happiness (2015; paperback, 2016, Beacon Press).

Amy Chozick: Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling (2018, Harper).

Chris Christie: Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics (2019, Hachette).

James R Clapper: Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence (2018, Viking).

Mike Davis: Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx's Lost Theory (2018, Verso).

Michael Eric Dyson: What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America (2018, St Martin's Press).

Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (2017, Bloomsbury).

Norman G Finkelstein: Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom (2018, University of California Press).

Doris Kearns Goodwin: Leadership: In Turbulent Times (2018, Simon & Schuster).

Alan Greenspan/Adrian Wooldridge: Capitalism in America: A History (2018, Penguin Press).

David Harvey: Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic Reason (2017, Oxford University Press).

Seymour M Hersh: Reporter: A Memoir (2018, Knopf).

Eric Holt-Giménez: A Foodie's Gide to Capitalism (paperback, 2017, Monthly Review Press).

Robert Kagan: The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World (2018, Knopf).

Robert D Kaplan: Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes America's Role in the World (2018, Random House).

Naomi Klein: The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists (paperback, 2018, Haymarket Books).

Stephen Kotkin: Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Press).

Andrew G McCabe: The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump (2019, St Martin's Press).

Ralph Nader: To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn't Too Late to Reverse Course (2018, Seven Stories Press).

Catherine Nixey: The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World (2018, Houghton Mifflin).

Michelle Obama: Becoming (2018, Crown).

David Quammen: The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life (2018, self-published).

Alissa Quart: Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford America (2018, Ecco).

Ben Rhodes: The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House (2018, Random House).

Dani Rodrik: Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World Economy (2017, Princeton University Press).

Helena Rosenblatt: The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient Rome to the Twenty-First Century (2018, Princeton University Press).

Arundhati Roy/John Cusack: Things That Can and Cannot Be Said: Essays and Conversations (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books).

Bernie Sanders: Where We Go From Here (2018, Thomas Dunne Books).

Neil Sheehan/Hedrick Smith/EW Kenworthy/Fox Butterfield/James L Greenfield: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War (paperback, 2017, Racehorse Publishing).

Robert Skidelsky: Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics (2018, Yale University Press).

Neil deGrasse Tyson/Avis Lang: Accessory to War: The Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military (2018, WW Norton).

Yanis Varoufakis: Adults in the Room: My Battle With the European and American Deep Establishment (2017, Farrar Straus and Giroux).

Alex Von Tunzelmann: Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and Eisenhower's Campaign for Peace (2016; paperback, 2017, Harper).

Vicky Ward: Kushner, Inc. Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (2019, St Martin's Press).

Thomas Weber: Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi (2017, Basic Books).

Gordon S Wood: Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Books).

Lawrence Wright: God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State (2018, Knopf).

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Daily Log

Saving this because it's on the fleeting medium of Twitter, although I'm not sure it deserves much better. Final four in Neoliberal Shill of the Year bracket (started with 64): Tyler Cowen, Scott lincicome, Alan Cole, Matthew Yglesias. That lead Yglesias to tweet this thread:

  • As we enter the Final Four, I'd like to address a major criticism of my candidacy -- the perception that "Yglesias isn't a neoliberal at all, just some kind of zoning guy."

    For starters, false!

  • I'm out here shilling for the merits of carbon pricing, for congestion pricing, for optimism about the trajectory of global living standards over the past two generations, etc.

    But the housing issue is supremely important to the cause of neoliberal globalism!

  • There are plenty of regulations here and there that one can criticizing, but if you want to seriously make a difference to middle class living standards through regulatory reform housing is the only area that's big enough to move the needle.

  • Immigrants, of course, are going to need a place to live.

    Absent a policy framework for abundant housingthen immigration becomes a zero-sum scramble for scarce resources in you end up with Brexit.

  • And of course there's trade -- sustaining "manly" blue collar jobs has been neoliberal globalism's Achilles heel.

    But you know what's not getting outsourced to China? Construction jobs! But we need to make sure those investments can happen in productive areas.

  • In short, a heavy emphasis on land use issues is the cornerstone of any successful neoliberal shill agenda.

    Vote Yglesias to maintain the open society!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Music Week

Expanded blog post, March archive.

Music: current count 31246 [31207] rated (+39), 252 [257] unrated (-5).

Surprised the rated count is so high, as the week went by in a daze -- often literally, as the latest correction for my failing eyesight disorts my rectangular view of the world into a slightly tilted trapezoid. I feel lucky not to have fallen down, but have had numerous mishaps where I reach for something (say, an elevator button) and miss. Not sure whether I should go back and complain, or count my blessings that details have gotten a lot sharper. Still, one bummer is that the eyes and/or glasses have contributed to a reading slump.

Also, I had a moment of terror mid-week, when my computer screen went black. Problem seems to be a relatively new LG monitor lost power, but I haven't fully checked that out. I swapped in an older Samsung monitor, which worked, but isn't quite a sharp. I went out and bought a new HP 25-inch monitor, but don't have it plugged in yet. I've had a plan for some time now to rearrange my work area, so this disruption complicated things -- and in my dazed mental state slowed me down even further. I keep letting little things get in the way. For instance, I decided that it would be better to cut a hole in the side of the desk to route wires through, then couldn't find my hole saws. After spending a couple days looking everywhere, I broke down and bought a new set -- but haven't gotten around to using them yet. I seriously intend to do so after I get this posted.

One thing the new arrangement will let me do is use two computers again. I'll use the second computer for some much procrastinated website development. One thing I need to do for the Christgau and other websites is convert the character set from ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) to UTF-8. It's hard to work with two different character sets on the same computer. And I don't want to commit myself to changing everything over at once, so this seems like a sensible migration path. I have everything I need to do this now. Still not looking forward to painful crawling around the floor to get it all hooked up. More details on the tech advisory mail list as I get it all working.

As for this week's music, I worked my way down to the bottom of Phil Overeem's end-of-February 2019 list, leaving four records unheard: three I couldn't find (DKV/Joe McPhee, All the Young Droogs, and the Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet) plus the Bob Mould record I have yet to look for). Meanwhile, Overeem has moved on with a March list I haven't gotten to (although two records there -- by James Brandon Lewis and Rosie Flores -- are listed below, having gotten to them on my own).

This week's regrades were Robert Christgau's EW picks this week. I had played them previously, liked the music, didn't get much out of the words, so I thought they merited an extra listen. Like the music even more, still didn't get much out of the words (Malibu Ken is reportedly funny, which I usually get even if I don't get it all; I'd say Serengeti is funnier). Also caught up with Christgau's previous week alt-rap picks, which I liked a bit less. Maybe too avant, the exact opposite of the old school People Under the Stairs, easily my favorite hip-hop album this week.

Only B+(***) record below I might have cut short is the Branford Marsalis, which sounds a lot like his good ones -- easily his best since 2012's Four MFs Playin' Tunes, which was more pointedly titled. Old music by Chick Corea and Stanley Turrentine was suggested by Napster -- evidently a couple of those are new digital reissues.

Trying my hand at stuffed peppers (with lamb, currants, pine nuts, and feta cheese), a dish I've never done before. It never seemed suitably fancy for a main course, yet too big for a side dish, especially in a typical feast with so many sides no one would want a whole pepper. On the other hand, might be perfect for a single-dish dinner for two.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Bali Baby: Resurrection (2018, Twin, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bali Baby: Bubbles Bali (2019, Billmania Media): [r]: B+(**)
  • Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (2019, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (2017 [2019], Piloo): [cd]: B
  • Czarface/Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface (2019, Silver Age): [r]: B+(**)
  • Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle (2019, International Anthem): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dreezy: Big Dreez (2019, Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • FAVX: Welfare (2018, Miel de Moscas/Burger, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (2018, Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (2017 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Hama: Houmeissa (2019, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(*)
  • Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Illuminated Silence (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Brian Krock: Liddle (2018 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Lapis Trio: The Travelers (2017 [2019], Shifting Paradigm): [cd]: B+(*)
  • James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: A-
  • David Liebman/Jeff Coffin/Victor Wooten/Chester Thompson/Chris Walters/James DaSilva: On the Corner Live! The Music of Miles Davis (2015 [2019], Ear Up): [r]: B+(**)
  • Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (2018 [2019], Okeh): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Sessions (2018 [2019], Third Man): [r]: A-
  • Jessica Pavone: In the Action (2018 [2019], Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
  • People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, the P (2019, Piecelock 70): [r]: A-
  • Powder: Powder in Space (DJ Mix) (2019, Beats in Space): [r]: B+(**)
  • Psymun: All Killer No Filler (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Idris Rahman/Leon Brichard/Tom Skinner: Wildflower (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Alfredo Rodriguez/Pedrito Martinez: Duologue (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rüfüs Du Sol: Solace (2018, Reprise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Catherine Russell: Alone Together (2019, Dot Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dua Saleh: Nur (2019, Against Giants, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • The Specials: Encore (2019, Island): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (2018 [2019], A.T. Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tallawit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo (2011 [2018], Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
  • David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (2015-18 [2019], ECM): [r]; B+(***)
  • Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (2017 [2019], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Trevor Watts/Stephen Grew: Let It Be: Live in Liverpool (2018 [2019], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Travailler, C'est Trop Dur: The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent ([2018], Swallow, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Chick Corea: The Complete "Is" Sessions (1969 [2002], Blue Note, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chick Corea: The Song of Singing (1970 [1989], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chick Corea: Verve Jazz Masters 3 (1972-78 [1993], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Bricktop (2015 [2016], Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Stanley Turrentine: Comin' Your Way (1961 [1987], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Aesop Rock and Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)
  • Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: [was B+(**)] B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dan McCarthy: Epoch (Origin)
  • Paul Tynan: Quartet (Origin)
  • Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (Taina Music): April 12

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Weekend Roundup

No introduction, other than to note that I hadn't planned on including anything on the Ilhan Omar controversy, mostly because I still haven't bothered to track down what she said and/or apologized for. I'm pretty careful to make sure that nothing I say that's critical of Israel can be misconstrued as anti-semitic, but that canard is used so often (and so indiscriminately) by Israel's hasbarists that it feels like a waste of time to even credit the complaints.

One more note is that I expected to find more on the record-setting 2018 trade deficit, but all I came up with was the Paul Krugman post below, where the main point is that Trump is stupid, specifically on trade and tariffs but actually on pretty much everything. Krugman's explanation that trade deficits reflect a savings shortfall doesn't really tell me much. As best I can understand it, deficits are a means by which wealth transfers from consumers to the rich -- primarily the foreign rich, but much of that money comes back to domestic rich for investments and sales of inflated assets. I remember some years ago William Greider proposed a blanket, across-the-board tax on imports aimed at restoring a trade balance -- evidently such a thing is OK under WTO rules, and it would get around the balloon problem Krugman refers to -- but I've never heard about it since. Strikes me as a good idea (although I'm not sure how it would interact with exchange rates).

Also thought a bit about writing an op-ed on Trump and Korea. Specifically, I wanted to pose a rhetorical question to Trump, to ask him why he lets people like John Bolton undermine his chances for forging a signature world peace deal, and securing a legacy as something other than, well, you know, a demagogue and a crook.

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, March 04, 2019

Daily Log

Scraped from a twitter image: Neoliberal Shill Bracket:

The Neolib Podcast Region:
 1. @economeager - Rachael Meager               + +
       Asst Prof LSEEcon STICERD_LSE development & econometrics
16. @secretarycarson
 8. @mnolangray                                 +
 9. @neeratanden
 5. @ModeledBehavior - Adam Ozimek              +
12. @jneeley78
 4. @tylercowen - Tyler Cowen                   + + + +
13. @ZacharyCraves
 6. @DKThomp
11. @karlbykarlsmith - Karl  Smith              +
      "do you even FRED bro?"
 3. @willwilkinson - Will Wilkinson             + + +
      Niskanen Center VP for Research, NY Times, Vox
14. @CathyReisenwitz
 7. @senatorshoshana - Shoshana Weissmann       + +
      RSI digital media manager
10. @ianbremmer
 2. @calebwatney                                +
15. @Timodc

The Sticker Club Region:
 1. @s8mb - Sam Bowman                          + +
      used to run ASI; "I invented neoliberalism"
16. @nihilistspicer -
      "antifa DSA who happens to know Econ 101"
 8. @titonka
 9. @erikbryn                                   +
 5. @jbarro                                     +
12. @ebwhamilton
 4. @scottlincicome - Scott Lincicome           + + + +
      trade lawyer, Cato Institute
13. @ernietedeschi
 6. @lymanstoneky
11. @NKaeding                                   + +
 3. @glenweyt                                   +
14. @BillKristol
 7. @AlexNowrasteh - Alex Nowrasteh             + + +
      Cato Institute analyst of immigration policy
10. @svaneksmith
 2. @hamandcheese - Samuel Hammond
      Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy, Niskanen Center
15. @ahardtospell - Alex Muresianu              +
      Economic policy and memes; LoConservative, AmConMag, dcexaminer, ArcDigi

The Reviving Neoliberalism Region:
 1. @BetoORourke
16. @ComfortablySmug                            +
 8. @salonium                                   + +
 9. @clark_packard
 5. @AlanMCole - Alan Cole                      + + + +
      Business economics and public policy Wharton, tax policy guy, high
      priest emeritus of DBCFT
12. @CardiffGarcia
 4. @patrickc                                   +
13. @bkavoussl
 6. @dylanmatt - Dylan Matthews
      "my tweet portal is whack"
11. @asymmetricinfo - Megan  McArdle            + + +
      DC blogger, "Live From the WTC"
 3. @ossoff
14. @sonyaellenmann                             +
 7. @Austen                                     + +
10. @kylebrussell
 2. @jaredpolis                                 +
15. @qjurecic

The Meetup Region:
 1. @Noahpinion - Noah Smith                    + + +
      Bloomberg opinion writer, chief neoliberal shill 2018
16. @NeeraJKA
 8. @KarlMuth
 9. @jodiecongirl                               +
 5. @Austan_Goolsbee                            + +
12. @TheStalwart
 4. @delong - Brad DeLong                       +
13. @byrdinator
 6. @_TamaraWinter                              + +
11. @MarcGoldwein
 3. @MarkLutter
14. @JosephMajkut                               +
 7. @willmacaskill
10. @jaketapper                                 +
 2. @mattyglesias - Matthew Yglesias            + + + +
15. @zck

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31207 [31174] rated (+33), 257 [252] unrated (+5).

Lots of good records this week, mostly early 2019 releases that I checked out after Phil Overeem posted his Best Rekkids of '19 - End of Febru-weary Edition, with "30 pretty damn decent releases." I had previously heard N:

  1. Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside -18) [B+(*)]
  2. Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes) [A]
  3. Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet (Resonance -3CD) [A-]
  4. Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (ESP-Disk) [B+(***)]
  5. Bad Bunny: X 100PRE (Rimas Entertainment -18) [B+(*)]

I sampled 11 more below, coming up with 5 A-, 3 B+(***), 1 B+(**), 1 B-, 1 C. I looked up but didn't find 4 more (DKV, All the Young Droogs, M'dou Moctar, and the Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet -- a 2018 release I've looked for several times) -- basically only got down to 14, but Michael Tatum recommended Our Native Daughters, so I prioritized that, as well as the jazz releases (Ward, Ill Considered).

The DKV (Ken Vandermark sax trio with Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake) is a 6-CD box on the Catalytic Bandcamp, but they only have 3 tracks available -- far short of anything I can review in good conscience. Until they stopped providing full albums a little over a year ago, I tried to review everything they released (missing only a few monster sets), but gave up after that, finishing 2018 with 8 unreviewed Ken Vandermark titles in my music tracking file (plus various of his cohort, including Overeem's favorite, Joe McPhee) -- certainly one reason why my 2018 Best Jazz list came up shorter than recent years.

I also took a fairly deep dive into Ill Considered, a British jazz quartet (sax, bass, drums, extra percussion), made possible by their Bandcamp page -- only skipped An Ill Considered Christmas (see Phil Freeman's review). Rhythmically, they remind me of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin, but rawer, with a lot more sax appeal.

Missing from this week's A-list is James Brandon Lewis' An Unruly Manifesto. I was all ready to write it up based on a download when an actual CD showed up in a package from Relative Pitch, but when that happened I decided I wanted to listen some more. When I stopped writing Jazz Consumer Guide for the Village Voice, I stopped requesting review copies. But only some publicists stopped sending records, so I kept writing up what I got, filling in obvious holes by streaming. For the last 3-4 years, the one US label I most regretted not getting service from (and not being able to find on a streaming service) was Relative Pitch. (Well, Tzadik was competition, after they pulled their releases from Rhapsody.) So this package was the week's most pleasant surprise. Will get to them soon (with Lewis first).

I decided I was done with the EOY Aggregate mid-week, but today I figured I'd add in the albums I graded but hadn't shown up in any other list. I got tired of that pretty quickly -- last one I added was Chrome Hill's The Explorer (Clean Feed) -- so decided not to hold this post up for closure. The late adds to the file moved it back a bit toward the consensus of aggregators like Acclaimed Music; e.g., Pusha T reclaimed 4th from Cardi B, and in the biggest shift, Low rose to 8 over Noname and Parquet Courts. Also, the Arctic Monkeys (which I dislike even more than Double Negative) is back to up a tie at 16 (with Kali Uchis).

Expect an XgauSez later tonight. I keep postponing my website redesign work, mostly because everything sucks here. But I did decide that one thing I need to do is to move my computer back to the old desk, making it possible to use a second (presently inaccessible) computer for development work. To that end, I ordered another UPS, which is here waiting to be plugged in, ready for the move. (Has been for a week, but any day now.) When I get going, I'll explain why this matters to my "tech advisory" mail list. If you'd like to join in on that discussion (or just lurk), let me know and I'll sign you up. I expect to have plenty of questions, and could use the help.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Aesop Rock & Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): [r]: B+(**)
  • Atomic: Pet Variations (2018 [2019], Odin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Marcia Ball: Shine Bright (2018, Alligator): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium (2019, IOT): [r]: A-
  • R.L. Boyce: Rattlesnake Boogie (2018, Waxploitation): [r]: B+(*)
  • Robert Ellis: Texas Piano Man (2019, New West): [r]: B
  • Rosie Flores: Simple Case of the Blues (2019, The Last Music Company): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fidel Fourneyron: ¿Que Vola? (2019, No Format): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (1985-2018 [2019], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered (2017, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A
  • Ill Considered: Live at the Crypt (2017, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 3 (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A-
  • Ill Considered: Live at Total Refreshment Centre (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Live in Camden Town (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ill Considered: Live in Nantes (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 5 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 6 (2018 [2019], Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A-
  • Kel Assouf: Black Tenere (2019, Glitterbeat): [r]: A-
  • Rebecca Kilgore/Bernd Lhotzky: This or That (2017, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri (2019, OutHere): [r]: A-
  • Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (2018 [2019], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Pat Martino: Formidable (2017, High Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (2017 [2019], RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Joe McPhee/John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee (2019, Trost): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: A-
  • Kassa Overall: Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz (2018 [2019], self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • RGG/Verneri Pohjola/Samuel Blaser: City of Gardens (2017 [2018], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ustad Saami: God Is Not a Terrorist (2019, Glitterbeat): [r]: C
  • Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (2017-18 [2019], Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**) [03-15]
  • Greg Ward Presents Rogue Parade: Stomping Off From Greenwood (2017 [2019], Greenleaf Music): [r]: B-
  • Anna Webber: Clockwise (2017 [2019], Pi): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars: Sewele (1986 [2019], Strut): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Atomic: There's a Hole in the Mountain (2012 [2013], Jazzland): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Rosie Flores: Girl of the Century (2009, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rebecca Kilgore/The Harry Allen Quartet: Live at Feinstein's at Loews Regency: Celebrating "Lady Day" and "Prez" (2011, Arbors): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (Palmetto): April 5
  • Chat Noir: Hyperuranion (RareNoise): cdr, March 29
  • Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (Iyouwe): March 15
  • Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (Relative Pitch)
  • Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (Relative Pitch)
  • Brian Krock: Liddle (Outside In Music): April 26
  • Lapis Trio: The Travelers (Shifting Paradigm)
  • James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (Relative Pitch)
  • Sean Noonan: Tan Man's Hat (RareNoise): cdr, March 29
  • Jessica Pavone: In the Action (Relative Pitch)
  • Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (Relative Pitch)
  • Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (Outside In Music): March 22

Saturday, March 02, 2019

Weekend Roundup

Three fairly major stories dominated the news this past week: Trump walking away from his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un without even making a serious proposal or showing any interest in long-range peace; Michael Cohen's congressional testimony, where he made a case that his own crimes were directed by Trump; and Trump's "free-form" speech at CPAC's annual convention. We'll take these in order, then conclude with the leftovers, including some stories that are actually bigger and more ominous than the headline grabbers: a dangerous border skirmish between nuclear powers India and Pakistan, US escalation against Venezuela, the impending indictment of Israeli PM Netanyahu, the usual gamut of Washington scandals, and some hopeful legislation that Democrats are introducing (and campaigning on).

Some links on Korea and the summit failure:

Some links on Cohen and this week in the "witchhunt":

Monday, February 25, 2019

Music Week

Music: current count 31174 [31145] rated (+29), 252 [249] unrated (+3).

So-so week, rated count actually a good deal more than I expected, given all the distractions. Since I went to weekly review dumps, I guess that means that the last Monday of the month is the closing date for the archive Streamnotes (February 2019) -- posted at the same time as this Music Week. February's record total of 123 (91 new) is quite a bit less than January's 201 (153 new).

Still listening more to 2018 than 2019 records (15-4 below), even a couple hitherto unnoticed 2017 releases. Should probably write a longer intro, but not feeling it at the moment.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Jakob Anderskov: Mysteries (2017 [2018], ILK): [r]: B+(**)
  • Julian Argüelles: Tonadas (2017 [2018], Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rafiq Bhatia: Breaking English (2018, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carsie Blanton: Buck Up (2019, So Ferocious): [r]: A-
  • Martin Blume/Wilbert De Joode/John Butcher: Low Yellow (2016 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dinosaur: Wonder Trail (2018, Edition): [r]: B
  • Endangered Blood: Don't Freak Out (2018, Skirl): [r]: A-
  • Hot 8 Brass Band: On the Spot (2017, Tru Thoughts): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Hot 8 Brass Band: Take Cover (2019, Tru Thoughts, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ohmme: Parts (2018, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(**)
  • On the Levee Jazz Band: Swinging New Orleans Jazz (2018, Big Al): [bc]: A-
  • Pilgrims [John Wolf Brennan/Tony Majdalani/Marco Jencarelli]: Oriental Orbit (2017, Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Chris Potter: Circuits (2019, Edition): [r]: B-
  • RAM: RAM 7: August 1791 (2018, Willibelle): [r]: B
  • Dave Rempis/Brandon Lopez/Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (2018 [2019], Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
  • Valee: GOOD Job, You Found Me (2018, GOOD Music, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kate Vargas: For the Wolfish & Wandering (2018, self-released): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Gboyega Adelaja: Colourful Environment (1979 [2018], Odion Livingstone): [r]: B+(**)
  • African Scream Contest 2 (1970s [2018], Analog Africa): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dur Dur of Somalia: Volume 1, Volume 2, & Previously Unreleased Tracks (1986-87 [2018], Analog Africa, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Orhestre Abass: De Bassari Togo (1972 [2018], Analog Africa, EP): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • African Scream Contest: Raw & Psychedelic Afro Sounds From Benin & Togo 70s (1970s [2008], Analog Africa): [r]: A-
  • Carsie Blanton: Ain't So Green (2005, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carsie Blanton: Idiot Heart (2012, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carsie Blanton: Not Old, Not New (2014, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carsie Blanton: So Ferocious (2016, So Ferocious): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Skadra Degis (2007 [2008], Skirl): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Andrew D'Angelo Trio: Norman (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Endangered Blood: Work Your Magic (2012 [2013], Skirl): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kitchen Orchestra/Alexander Von Schlippenbach: Kitchen Orchestra With Alexander Von Schlippenbach (2013, Whats Cooking): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Atomic: Pet Variations (Odin)
  • Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (A.T. Music)
  • Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (Alfa Projects)
  • Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (Hopscotch) [A-]

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Weekend Roundup

When I started this exercise, I reassured myself that I would just go through the motions, collecting a few notes that I may wish to refer back to after the 2020 election. While I've written very little on it, I've thought a lot more about my four-era synopsis of American history, and I'm more convinced than ever that the fourth -- the one that started in 1980 with Ronald Reagan -- ends definitively with Donald Trump in 2020. I doubt I'll ever manage to write that book, but it's coming together pretty clearly in my mind. I'll resist the temptation to explain how and why. But I will offer a couple of comments on how this affects the Democratic presidential field. For starters, it is very important that the Democrats nominate someone who is not closely tied to Reagan-era Democratic politics, which means the Clintons, Obama, and Joe Biden. Those politicians based their success on their ability to work with Reagan-era constraint and tropes, and those have become liabilities.

It's time for a break, which could mean an older candidate with clear history of resisting Clinton-Obama compromises (like Bernie Sanders) or a younger candidate who's simply less compromised. Second point is that Republicans have become so monolithically tied to Trump, while Trump has become so polarizing, that no amount of "moderation" is likely to gain votes in the "middle" of the electorate. On the other hand, these days "moderation" is likely to be seen as lack of principles and/or character. In this primary season I don't see any reason not to go with whichever Democrat who comes up with the best platform. Still, there is one trait I might prefer over a better platform, which is dedication to advancing the whole party, and not just one candidate or faction.

I don't intend to spend much time or space on candidates, but I did note Bernie Sanders' joining the race below, a piece on his foreign policy stance (which has more to do with the shortcomings of other Democrats), as well as a couple of policy initiatives from Elizabeth Warren -- who's been working hard to establish her edge there. I've been running into a lot of incoherent spite and resentment against Sanders, both before and since his announcement, often from otherwise principled leftists, especially directed against hypothetical "purists" who disdain other "progressives" as not good enough. I'm far enough to the left that no one's ever good enough, but you make do with what you can get. I sympathize with Steve M.'s tweet:

Everyone, pro and anti Bernie: Just grow the fuck up. He's in the race. Vote for him, don't vote for him, let the process play out, then fight like hell to enact whoever wins the nomination. STOP DOING 2016 BATTLE REENACTMENTS.

Of course, if Hillary throws her hat in, all bets are off.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Jamelle Bouie: Sanders has an advantage, and it's not about economics: "He has put forward a foreign policy vision that pits democratic peoples everywhere against illiberalism at home and abroad." I wish he was better still -- Laura blew up about some comments he made the other day on Venezuela, but he's not as kneejerk reflexive as most Democrats, or as gullible when someone pitches a war as humanitarian -- but he's closer to having a framework for thinking about America's imperial posture than almost anyone with a chance to do something about it. By far the biggest risk Democrats are running is the chance they may (as Hillary was) be tarred as the war party.

  • Ted Galen Carpenter: How NATO pushed the US Into the Libya fiasco: I think this was pretty obvious at the time, although once the US intervened, as it did, the war quickly became something all sides could blame on America -- particularly as the US had a long history that had only grown more intense under Bush and Obama of absent-minded intervention in Islamic nations. Obama later said that he regretted not the intervention per se but not planning better for the aftermath -- an indication of lack of desire or interest, not that Bush's occupation of Iraq turned out any better. (Of course, the fiasco in Iraq was also excused as poorly planned, but no one doubted the interest and excitement of the Bremer period as Americans tried to refashion Iraq in the image of, well, Texas.) One point that could be better explained is that Europe (especially France and Italy) had long-standing commercial ties to Libya, which America's anti-Qaddafi tantrums (at once high-handed, capricious, arbitrary, and indifferent to consequences) had repeatedly undermined. After NATO fell in line behind the US in Afghanistan and (for the most part) Iraq, Europeans felt America owed them something, and that turned out to be Libya. That all these cases proved disappointing should prove that NATO itself was never the right vehicle for dealing with world or regional problems.

  • Ben Freeman: US foreign policy is for sale: "Washington think tanks receive millions of dollars from authoritarian governments to shape foreign policy in their favor." Not just authoritarian governments, although you could argue that the most obvious exception, Israel, qualifies. For that matter it seems likely that many other nations (democracies as well as dictatorships) are every bit as active in buying American foreign policy favors -- so much so that singling out the "authoritarians" is just a rhetorical ploy. Original link to TomDispatch. By the way, in the latter, Tom Engelhardt quotes from Stephen Walt's new book, The Hell of Good Intentions: America's Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy:

    [T]he contemporary foreign policy community has been characterized less by competence and accountability and more by a set of pathologies that have undermined its ability to set realistic goals and pursue them effectively. To put it in the bluntest terms, instead of being a disciplined body of professionals constrained by a well-informed public and forced by necessity to set priorities and hold themselves accountable, today's foreign policy elite is a dysfunctional caste of privileged insiders who are frequently disdainful of alternative perspectives and insulated both professionally and personally from the consequences of the policies they promote.

    Although "good intentions" often fail, Walt is being overly generous in accepting them at face value. Up to WWII, US foreign policy was almost exclusively dictated by private interests -- mostly traders and financiers, with an auxiliary of missionaries. WWII convinced American leaders that they had a calling to lead and manage the world, so they came up with a great myth of "good intentions," although those were soon shattered as they embraced slogans like "better dead than red."

  • Greg Grandin: How the failure of our foreign wars fueled nativist fanaticism: "For nearly two centuries, US politicians have channeled extremism outward. But the frontier is gone, the empire is faltering, and the chickens are coming home to roost." Adapted from Grandin's new book, The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border in the Mind of America.

    Had the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq not gone so wrong, perhaps George W. Bush might have been able to contain the growing racism within his party's rank and file[1] by channeling it into his Middle East crusade, the way Ronald Reagan broke up the most militant nativist vigilantes in the 1980s by focusing their attention on Central America. For nearly two centuries, from Andrew Jackson forward, the country's political leaders enjoyed the benefit of being able to throw its restless and angry citizens -- of the kind who had begun mustering on the border in the year before 9/11 -- outward, into campaigns against Mexicans, Native Americans, Filipinos, and Nicaraguans, among other enemies.

    But the occupations did go wrong. Bush and his neoconservative advisers had launched what has now become the most costly war in the nation's history, on the heels of pushing through one of the largest tax cuts in the nation's history. They were following the precedent set by Reagan, who in the 1980s slashed taxes even as he increased the military budget until deficits went sky-high. Yet the news coming in from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere began to suggest that Bush had created an epic disaster. Politicians and policy intellectuals began to debate what is and isn't torture and to insist that, whatever "enhanced interrogation" was, the United States had a right to do it. Photographs from Abu Ghraib prison showing US personnel cheerfully taunting and torturing Iraqis circulated widely, followed by reports of other forms of cruelty inflicted on prisoners by US troops. Many people were coming to realize that the war was not just illegal in its conception but deceptive in its justification, immoral in its execution, and corrupt in its administration.

    Every president from Reagan onward has raised the ethical stakes, insisting that what they called "internationalism" -- be it murderous wars in impoverished Third World countries or corporate trade treaties -- was a moral necessity. But the disillusionment generated by Bush's war on terrorism, the velocity with which events revealed the whole operation to be a sham, was extraordinary -- as was the dissonance. The war, especially that portion of it allegedly intended to bring democracy to Iraq, was said to mark a new era of national purpose. And yet a coordinated campaign of deceit, carried out with the complicity of reporters working for the country's most respected news sources, had to be waged to ensure public support. The toppling of Saddam Hussein was predicted to be a "cakewalk," and US soldiers, according to Vice President Dick Cheney, would "be greeted as liberators." But Cheney still insisted that he needed to put in place a global network of secret torture sites in order to win the War on Terror.

    As thousands died and billions went missing, the vanities behind not just the war but the entire post-Cold War expansionist project came to a crashing end. . . .

    War revanchism usually takes place after conflicts end -- the Ku Klux Klan after World War I, for example, or the radicalization of white supremacism after Vietnam.[2] Now, though, it took shape while the war was still going on.[3] And border paramilitarism began to pull in not only soldiers who had returned from the war but the veterans of older conflicts.

    Notes: [1] Of course, "channeling" racism wasn't something Bush II worried about, after Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I had built their winning presidential campaigns by cultivating it. It was by then part of the Republican brand. [2] What about the Red Scares following both World Wars? Even wars that were definitely won seem to have left a hunger for more, starting with the search for scapegoats. [3] Or should we say, the war abroad dragged on even after most Americans lost interest in or commitment to it?

  • Alex Isenstadt: Trump rolls out massive corporate-style campaign structure for 2020.

  • Sarah Kliff: Elizabeth Warren's universal child care plan, extended: More evidence that Warren is running away from the pack in producing serious thinking about and proposals for policy. For another, see: German Lopez: Elizabeth Warren's ambitious plan to fight the opioid epidemic, explained.

  • Natasha Korecki: 'Sustain and ongoing' disinformation assault targets Dem presidential candidates: "A coordinated barrage of social media attacks suggests the involvement of foreign state actors." I bet not just those scary foreign state names but PACs and slush funds all over the world, any outfit with a cross to bear or an interest to push.

  • Anna North: The Trump administration is finalizing plans to strip funding from Planned Parenthood.

  • John Pilger: The war on Venezuela is built on lies. Also related: Timothy M Gill: Why is the Venezuelan government rejecting US food supplies?

    We can surely debate the cruelty of Maduro's domestic policies and his inability and unwillingness to seriously combat the economic crisis, perhaps in an effort to benefit his cronies. Yet, Maduro is not incorrect about the U.S.'s disingenuous behavior.

    At the same time that the U.S. is portraying itself as a literary protagonist with its supplies situated on the Colombia-Venezuela border, its policies are intensifying hardships for Venezuelan citizens. If it truly wanted to help Venezuelans, it could work through international and multilateral institutions to send aid to Venezuela, push for dialogue, and take some options off the table, namely military intervention.

    Above all, the U.S. is currently damaging the Venezuelan economy with its sanctions, and its supplies on the border will do very little to solve the crisis writ large. If sanctions haven't felled governments in Iran or Syria, to name just two examples, it doesn't seem likely that they will fall the Maduro government any time soon. They'll only perpetuate suffering and ultimately generate acrimony towards the country.

    The US has put this kind of pressure on nations before, imposing huge popular hardships as punishment for the government's failure to surrender to American interests. Crippling sanctions failed to break North Korea and Cuba. Iraq held out until the US invaded, then resisted until American troops withdrew. Syria descended into a brutal civil war. The US is on a path of goading Maduro into becoming the sort of brutal dictator that Assad became. One might cite Nicaragua as the exception, where the Sandinista regime relinquished power to US cronies, for what little good it did them.

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Stephanie Savell: US counterterrorism missions across the planet: "Now in 80 countries, it couldn't be more global." See the map.

  • Tim Shorrock: Why are Democrats trying to torpedo the Korea peace talks? That's a good question. You'd think that Democrats would realize by now that the conflicts created and exacerbated by America's global military posture undermine both our own security and any prospects for achieving any of their domestic political goals.

    "Democrats should support diplomacy, and remember the most important president in this process is Moon Jae-in, not Donald Trump," Martin said. "Moon's persistent leadership toward reconciliation and diplomacy with North Korea represents the fervent desire of the Korean and Korean-American people for peace. Members of Congress from both parties should understand that and support it, skepticism about Trump and Kim notwithstanding."

  • Amanda Sperber: Inside the secretive US air campaign in Somalia: "Since Trump took office, figuring out whom the US is killing and why has become nearly impossible."

  • Emily Stewart:

  • Matt Taibbi:

    • Thomas Friedman is right: Pie doesn't grow on trees. Taibbi is the reigning champ of parsing Friedman's blabber, but instead of translating his pie metaphors into English, Taibbi is so overwhelmed by the moment he just transcribes them into page-straddling German nouns. The Friedman piece in question: Is America becoming a four-party state? I would start by sketching this out as a 2x2 chart, labeling the vertical columns Republicans and Democrats. The top row for leaders of both parties who think that all you need is growth (which mostly means pandering to big business); the bottom row for the resentful masses who feel they haven't been getting their fair share of all that growth. I imagine this less as four squares than as a capital-A. The top row is narrowed, the partisan differences marginal, while the bottom row diverges as to who to blame. Friedman pines for the good old days when all elites of both parties had to do was compete with each other to better serve the rich, when no one on either side stooped to pandering to the masses.

    • Bernie enters the 2020 race with defiant anti-Trump rhetoric.

    • Does Washington know the difference between dissent and disinformation?

  • Margaret Talbot: Revisiting the American Nazi supporters of "A Night at the Garden": A seven-minute documentary film nominated for an Oscar, based on a 1939 pro-Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, and its relevance today.

  • Jeffrey Toobin: Roger Stone's and Jerome Corsi's time in the barrel: "Why the mismatched operatives matter to Trump -- and to the Mueller investigation."

  • Alex Ward:

  • Sean Wilentz: Presumed Guilty: A book review of Ken Starr: Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation, a reminder of the days when so-called Independent Investigators really knew how to run a witch hunt. Perhaps the new piece of information here is the extreme contempt that Starr and his minions, including Brett Kavanaugh, held for Hillary Clinton.

  • Li Zhou: The House will vote Tuesday on blocking Trump's national emergency.

   Mar 2001