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Monday, October 15, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30473 [30430] rated (+43), 286 [282] unrated (+4).

Another week with much more old music than new. One chunk of old music was an attempt to fill in a few holes after baritone sax great Hamiet Bluiett's death. Other A- Bluiett records my database:

  • Hamiet Bluiett: Live at Carlos 1: Last Night (1986 [1998], Just a Memory)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Young Warrior, Old Warrior (1995, Mapleshade)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio (1997, Mapleshade)
  • World Saxophone Quartet: Selim Sevad: A Tribute to Miles Davis (1998, Justin Time)
  • Hamiet Bluiett/D.D. Jackson/Kahil El'Zabar: The Calling (2001, Justin Time)
  • World Saxophone Quartet: Political Blues (2006, Justin Time)

I didn't follow up with World Saxophone Quartet albums I may have missed. I didn't care for their early work -- thought they needed something extra beyond the four-sax harmonics, as the few records I wound up liking proved. Still, Napster filed a couple under Bluiett's name, reminding me that I was missing some.

I was pointed to the rest of the "old music" by Will Friedland's new book, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. I made a list of the 57 albums reviewed at great depth there, found that I had only heard a third of them (19/57), and vowed to improve myself. Usually I went straight to the selected album, but sometimes I dug a little deeper -- e.g., wound up playing all of Blossom Dearie's Verve albums, a couple of extras from Doris Day and Rosemary Clooney, and a second Matt Dennis album (that got compiled into a single CD with the pick). On the other hand, I figured Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald would have turned into vast time sinks (plus I already have 15 Cole and 36 Fitzgerald albums graded; Ella at Zardi's was a vault music album from last year, and too good to skip). I felt more need to check out Billy Eckstine (4 records), but I've never been that much of a fan. As for Robert Goulet, his is a name I remembered from my youth but hadn't heard in as many years -- a mistake I'm not likely to repeat soon.

I'll try to knock off some more this week: Judy Garland, Eydie Gormé, Dick Haymes, Peggy Lee, Marilyn Maye, Carmen McRae, Anita O'Day, Della Reese, a dozen more. Friedland's list is skewed pretty strongly to the string-drenched pop of the first few years of the LP era -- basically the pre-rock and anti-rock I grew up rebelling against, so it's not very promising ground for me. Also not finding everything, so I'll probably stop close to 80% (missing so far: Lena Horne, Barb Jungr, Bobby Troup).

I did manage a milestone on one months-long project. I've spent a couple years now collecting bits of text from my on-line notebook. My first pass picked up all the capsule reviews of jazz albums, which I sorted into two book files: one on records from 2000 forward, the other on records recorded earlier (20th century). Those volumes added up to 765 pp (pre-2000) and 1650 pp (post-2000). I then went back through the notebooks and started pulling out all of the political notes (four volumes: 1590 pp 2001-08, 1768 pp for 2009-12, 1666 pp for 2013-16, and 858 pp since 2017), plus another file for various personal notes (memoir, health crises, dinners, deaths, plus some movies and tv: another 780 pp).

When I finished those, I realized that there were still a couple of major chunks of writing unarchived from the notebook: non-jazz capsule reviews (1863 pp) and miscellaneous music writings (e.g., intros to my CG posts, year-end notes, obits: 1735 pp). I finished my initial pass on Sunday, so the total for the nine volumes is 12,685 pages, which works out to about 5.4 million words.

While most of what I've written since 2001 is either in the notebook or accessibly linked from it, I still need to look at other files on the website and fold them in where appropriate. Biggest chunk here is probably the longer music reviews, but I also have fragments of book drafts and project plans, and other things. Would be nice if I can recover my email files -- lost in my early-summer server crash, but perhaps not hopelessly. Other things I need to do:

  • Make a pass comparing the misc. music notes to the political files, eliminating redundancies (e.g., political paragraphs stuck in the middle of Music Week posts).
  • Make a pass comparing the non-jazz capsule reviews with the jazz guides to eliminate redundancies.
  • I need to bring the earlier book files up to date, picking up more recent notebooks and Streamnotes posts.
  • The non-jazz capsule reviews are currently organized by date posted. They should be reorganized by genre and artist name.
  • The books currently exist as LibreWriter files, with at least some versions available on my website. I need to straighten that out, decide what I want to make available, and write up some sort of introduction to all that.
  • I also need to look into alternate formats. PDF files are one possibility, but they are much larger than the LW files. Perhaps more useful would be some sort of Ebook format. I'm aware of some free tools for conversion, but haven't used them yet.

Ultimately, I see these files as resources for constructing various other books and/or websites. Laura has read through the first of the political files (2001-08), but we haven't yet had any substantial discussions on where she thinks it should go. I have various scattershot ideas on these things, but won't try to develop them here and now. I understand that essentially no one will want to sit down and read any of these "books" straight through, I find that a fair amount of the writing has held up over time (some still useful, some even amusing). One good thing for me about this process is that it's given me something tangible (and relatively non-taxing) to do over the past two year. But now it's starting to come to a point where I need to move on: pick a project (or two or three) and focus on that. End of the year might be a good deadline for wrapping this up and figuring that out.

A couple more notes:

Allen Lowe (on Facebook) recommended a 20-CD box from Sony (Canada) called The Perfect Roots & Blues Collection. This looks like a series of CDs Sony/Legacy issued in the early 1990s. If so, I've heard (and own) nearly all of them, and I agree that they've been a really superb series. Even at Amazon's own price ($93.99) it's a bargain, but they have dealers in the UK offering it for much less.

When I looked it up, I noticed another tempting 20-CD box, Jazz From America on Disques Vogue -- jazz recorded by American artists in Paris late 1940s/early 1950s. RCA released a series of these in the early 1990s. I have a dozen or more, most quite good.

I've never bought any of Sony's massive boxes, so I can't speak as to packaging and documentation, but I did write a bit about The Perfect Jazz Collection back in November 2011. For me, and possibly for you, the problem's always been owning so many of the packaged albums the big boxes, even when quite cheap, are still not cost-effective. Still, one can imagine others these sets would be perfect for. Sony also has massive collections of Miles Davis and Johnny Cash, as you can well imagine.

I also want to point out two books that came out last week, that my wife, Laura Tillem, edited:

Both authors live here in Wichita, and are good friends of ours.

New records rated this week:

  • David Ake: Humanities (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Myra Melford's Snowy Egret: The Other Side of Air (2017 [2018], Firehouse 12)
  • Kjetil Møster/John Edwards/Dag Erik Knedal Andersen: Different Shapes/Immersion (2014 [2018], Va Fongool): [r]: B+(*)
  • Aaron Parks: Little Big (2018, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Marc Ribot: Songs of Resistance 1942-2018 (2018, Epitaph): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Anne Sajdera: New Year (2018, Bijuri): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jared Sims: The New York Sessions (2018, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii: Intelset (2017 [2018], Alister Spence Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mike Steinel Quintet: Song and Dance (2017 [2018], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Patrick Zimmerli Quartet: Clockworks (2017 [2018], Songlines): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Ella Fitzgerald: Ella at Zardi's (1956 [2017], Verve): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Fred Astaire: The Astaire Story (1952 [2017], Verve, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fred Astaire: Steppin' Out: Astaire Sings (1952 [1994], Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tony Bennett and Bill Evans: Together Again (1976 [2003], Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Birthright: A Solo Blues Concert (1977, India Navigation): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Resolution (1977 [1978], Black Saint): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: "Dangerously Suite" (1981, Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Ebu (1984, Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamiet Bluiett & Concept: Live at Carlos 1 (1986 [1997], Just a Memory): [r]: A-
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Sankofa/Rear Garde (1992 [1993], Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: Live at the Village Vanguard: Ballads and Blues (1994 [1997], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hamiet Bluiett: With Eyes Wide Open (2000, Justin Time): [r]: A-
  • Rosemary Clooney/Duke Ellington: Blue Rose (1956 [2008], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rosemary Clooney: Rosie Solves the Swingin' Riddle! (1961 [2004], RCA/Bluebird): [r]: A-
  • Rosemary Clooney: Everything's Coming Up Rosie (1977, Concord): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rosemary Clooney: Sings the Lyrics of Johnny Mercer (1987, Concord): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nat 'King' Cole: St. Louis Blues (1958, Capitol): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doris Day and Harry James: Young Man With a Horn (1950 [1954], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Doris Day: Day by Day (1956, Columbia): [r]: B
  • Doris Day: Day by Night (1957, Columbia): [r]: B
  • Doris Day: 16 Most Requested Songs (1945-58 [1992], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Doris Day/Robert Goulet: Annie Get Your Gun (1963, Columbia Masterworks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Blossom Dearie: Give Him the Ooh-La-La (1957 [1958], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blossom Dearie: Once Upon a Summertime (1958, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Blossom Dearie: My Gentleman Friend (1959, Verve): [r]: A-
  • Blossom Dearie: Blossom Dearie Sings Comden and Green (1959, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Blossom Dearie: Soubrette: Blossom Dearie Sings Broadway Hit Songs (1960, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Dennis: Plays and Sings Matt Dennis (1954, Trend): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Dennis: Dennis, Anyone? (1955, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Dennis: Plays and Sings Matt Dennis: Live in Hollywood (1954-55 [2011], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy Eckstine: Billy's Best (1957-58 [1995], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ella Fitzgerald: Lullabies of Birdland (1947-54 [1955], Decca): [r]: A-
  • Benny Goodman/Rosemary Clooney: Date With the King (1956, Columbia, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Robert Goulet: 16 Most Requested Songs (1960-69 [1989], Columbia): [r]: C
  • Beaver Harris 360 Degree Music Experience: Beautiful Africa (1979, Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Blossom Dearie: Blossom Dearie (1956 [1957], Verve): [r]: [was: B+]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Amu: Weave (Libra)
  • Ethan Ardelli: The Island of Form (self-released): November 2
  • Bobby Broom & the Organi-sation: Soul Fingers (MRi)
  • Don Byron/Aruán Ortiz: Random Dances and (A)tonalities (Impakt)
  • Richie Cole: Cannonball (RCP): October 26
  • Randy Halberstadt: Open Heart (Origin): October 19
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Pepper Vol. 10: Toronto (1977, Widow's Taste, 3CD): November 2
  • Lucas Pino's No Net Nonet: That's a Computer (Outside In Music): October 19
  • Kristen Strom: Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett (OA2): October 19

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Weekend Roundup

The big story of the week seems to be the evident murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He had moved from Saudi Arabia to Virginia, but entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to "finalize some paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his Turkish fiancée." He never emerged from the consulate. The Turkish government has much evidence of foul play, and there are reports that "US intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to 'capture' Khashoggi" -- something they made no attempt to warn Khashoggi about.

Some links (quotes above are from Hill, below):

The week started with Nikki Haley's resignation as US ambassador to the UN, but a week later it's hard to find any mention of it. Then the Florida panhandle got demolished by Hurricane Michael. Then there was some sort of White House summit between Trump and Kanye West. Meanwhile, elections are coming.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: Superior ruthlessness isn't why Republicans control the Supreme Court: "They had some good luck -- and, most importantly, they had the votes." After their losses in 2016, all the Democrats could do to derail the Kavanaugh nomination was to convince the public that he was a really terrible pick, and opinion polls show that they did in fact make that case. However, as we've seen many times before, Republicans are fine with ignoring public opinion (at least as long as they keep their base and donors happy), so they're eager to exploit any power leverage they can grab, no matter how tenuous. Democrats (in fact, most people) regard that as unscrupulous, which Republicans find oddly flattering -- backhanded proof that they hold convictions so firm they're willing to fight (dirty) to advance them. Some Democrats have come to the conclusion that they need to become just as determined to win as the Republicans -- e.g., David Faris's recent book: It's Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics. Several problems with this: one is that there are still Americans that believe in things like fair play and due process, and those votes should be easy pickings for Democrats given how Republicans have been playing the game; another is that past efforts by Democrats to act more like Republicans haven't fared well -- they're never enough to appease the right, while they sure turn off the left. But what Democrats clearly do have to do is to show us that they take these contests seriously. I didn't especially like turning the Kavanaugh nomination into a #MeToo issue, but that did make the issue personal and impactful in a way that no debate over Federalist Society jurisprudence ever could.

    Other Yglesias pieces:

    • Trump's 60 Minutes interview once again reveals gross ignorance and wild dishonesty.

    • People don't like "PC culture" -- not that many of them can tell you what "PC culture" means (only that it consists of self-appointed language police waiting to pounce on you for trivial offenses mostly resident in their own minds). Refers to Yascha Mounk: Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture, which doesn't much help to define it either. To me, "PC culture" is exemplified by the God-and-country, American exceptionalist pieties spouted by Democratic politicians like Obama and the Clintons -- a compulsion to say perfectly unobjectionable things because they know they'll be attacked viciously by the right (or for that matter by center/leftists wanting to show off for the right) for any hint of critical thought. On the other hand, on some issues Republicans are policed as diligently -- racism is the one they find most bothersome, mostly because catering to the insecurities of white folk is such a big part of their trade. Of course, if we had the ability to take seriously what people mean, we might be able to get beyond the "gotcha" game over what they say.

    • Trump's dangerous game with the Fed, explained.

    • Trump's USA Today op-ed on health care is an absurd tissue of lies.

    • The case for a carbon tax: A carbon tax has always made sense to me, mostly because it helps to counter a currently unregulated externality: that of dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Two key ideas here: one is to implement it by joint international agreement (Yglesias suggests the US, Europe, and Japan, initially, but why wait for the US?), then grow it by charging tariffs against non-members; the other is to start low (to minimize short-term impact) and make the taxes escalate over time. Yglesias contrasts a carbon tax to David Roberts: It's time to think seriously about cutting off the supply of fossil fuels. This reminds me that major oil players have every now and then "advocated" a carbon tax, specifically when threatened with proposals like Roberts'. Unfortunately, it looks like the only way to get a carbon tax passed is to threaten the oil companies with something much more drastic. No one has much faith in reason anymore.

    • Immigrants can make post-industrial America great.

    • Trump's successful neutering of the FBI's Kavanaugh investigation has scary implications: Trump evidently got the rubber stamp, ruffle no feathers investigation of Brett Kavanaugh he wanted, showing that Comey replacement Christopher Wray can be trusted to protect his party.

      The White House got away with stamping on an FBI investigation. Think of it as a dry run for a coming shutdown of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

      It's easy to forget, but the existence of a Russia inquiry isn't a natural fact of American life. Barack Obama was president when it began, and then in the critical winter of 2016 to 2017, many Republicans, particularly foreign policy hawks, were uneasy with Trump and saw an investigation as a useful way to force him into policy orthodoxy. When Comey was fired, enough of that unease was still in place that many Republicans pushed for a special counsel to carry things forward.

      Trump, however, has clearly signaled his desire to clean house and fire Mueller after the midterms. And the Kavanaugh fight has shown us (and, more importantly, shown Trump) that congressional Republicans are coming around to the idea that independence of federal law enforcement is overrated. His White House, meanwhile, though hardly a well-oiled machine, has demonstrated its ability to work the levers of power and get things done.

      If the GOP is able to hold its majority or (as looks more likely, given current polling) pick up a seat or two, a firm Trumpist majority will be in place ready to govern with the principle that what's good for Trump is good for the Republican Party, and subverting the rule of law is definitely good for Trump.

  • Stavros Agorakis: 18 people are dead from Hurricane Michael. That number will only rise. Category 4, making landfall with winds of 155 mph, the third-most intense hurricane to hit the continental US since they started keeping count (after an unnamed Labor Day storm in 1935 and Camille in 1969) -- i.e., about as strong as the hurricane that the Trump administration couldn't cope with in Puerto Rico.

  • Ryan Bort: The Georgia Voter Suppression Story Is Not Going Away.

  • Juan Cole: 15 Years after US Occupied Iraq, it is too Unsafe for Trump Admin to Keep a Consulate There.

  • Joe Klein: Michael Lewis Wonders Who's Really Running the Government: Book review of Lewis's The Fifth Risk, which looks at what Trump's minions are doing to three government bureaucracies: the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce. Mostly they are shredding data, and purging the departments of the workers with the expertise to collect and analyze that data. Lewis explains why that matters -- a welcome relief from those journalists who are satisfied with reporting the easy stories about stupid Trump tweets and hi-jinks.

  • Paul Krugman: Goodbye, Political Spin, Hello Blatant Lies: I try my best to avoid political ads, but got stuck watching a jaw dropper for Wichita's Republican Congressman Ron Estes, who spent most of his 30 seconds talking about how hard he's been working to save Medicare. Wasn't clear from what, since the only imminent threat is from his fellow Republicans, and his key votes to repeal ACA and cut corporate taxes and saddle us with massive deficits sure don't count. Estes isn't what you'd call a political innovator -- the main theme of his ads last time was that a vote for him would thwart Nancy Pelosi's nefarious designs on the Republic -- so most likely his ads this time are being repeated all across the nation. Also by Krugman: The Paranoid Style in GOP Politics.

  • Dara Lind: The Trump administration reportedly wants to try family separation again.

  • Anna North: Why Melania's response to Trump's alleged affairs was so weird:

    In some ways, it's a relief that the first lady is rarely called upon to perform the thankless task of trying to convince the country that her husband respects women. But it's also a sign of something darker: Plenty of Americans know the president doesn't respect women, and a lot of them don't care. They may even like it.

  • Sandy Tolan: Gaza's Dying of Thirst, and Its Water Crisis Will Become a Threat to Israel.

Daily Log

Been compiling my last two "books" from the notebook, and finally caught up to the present moment. Miscellaneous Music Writings comes to 1735 pages (718k words). Non-Jazz Capsule Reviews is 1863 pages (806k words). I need to make a second pass through the book files, and weed out bits from the music writings that really belong in either the political or personal books. Also cut out any jazz reviews from the capsule book. (I was pretty sloppy about that in the beginning, when the review posts were more scattershot). That will probably knock a hundred pages off each. I also need to take another look at the lists and such I dropped from the Misc. book, and be more consistent about what I include and what I don't. That'll probably add some material back.

Next step beyond that would be to go back to the non-notebook writings that should be considered. I figure I'll add the pre-2000 stuff in the appendix.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30430 [30390] rated (+40), 282 [280] unrated (+2).

Everything below is jazz. Most of it is new stuff I wasn't serviced on (unless someone sent me a download link which I didn't open; i.e., it was streamed, either from Napster or Bandcamp). Only a couple of CDs I did receive, mostly because I took so long making up my mind about the Jonathan Finlayson record (A-, but just barely). Most of my tips came from Phil Freeman's monthly Ugly Beauty column at Stereogum. Biggest find there was the trove of Japanese jazz from the 1970s (for once, the sampler is the place to start). The only old music was a Penguin Guide 4-star I had missed, by a saxophonist who showed up on at least three of this week's new discs (to best effect with Matt Penman).

I've walked Freeman's columns back to March, which gets increasingly into things I've already heard. One thing I didn't know was that Buell Neidlinger died back on March 16. He was the bassist in Cecil Taylor's 1956-61 groups -- in at least one case the album was initially under his name (New York City R&B). My database credits him with four A- records from the 1980s: Swingrass '83, Across the Tracks, Rear View Mirror, and Locomotive (all recorded 1979-87, but most got delayed releases -- Swingrass '83 was the first I noticed, and fell in love with.

The great baritone saxophonist Haimet Bluiett also died last week. I need to take some time and dive into his dicography -- I see, for instance, that Napster has Birthright, a PG 4-star from 1977. Some A- records I have heard: Live at Carlos I: Last Night; Young Warrior, Old Warrior; Makin' Whoopee: Tribute to the Nat King Cole Trio; The Calling. Bluiett also batted clean up in the World Saxophone Quartet, and he was particularly prominent on their best-ever Political Blues.

I did a little work on my project of collecting the last bits from my on-line notebook into book form. I'm up to February 2015 with a volume of miscellaneous music notes (1343 pp) and another of non-jazz capsule reviews (1515 pp). I doubt the former (which largely consists of introductions like this one) will be of any real interest, but think it would be handy to get it into searchable form. It turns out that 2011-13 were big years for misc. notes, mostly because that was when Robert Christgau's Expert Witness at MSN encouraged comments, and that resulted in a lot of community commentary. I jotted down pretty much everything I contributed -- often answering questions on recommended CDs, or extemporaneously venting on subjects like Charlie Parker.

I always figured my non-jazz capsule reviews were too spotty for any sort of reference book/website, but it turns out that there are enough of them to provide a decent starting point if other people got interested in adding to them.

I interrupted work on this to post another batch of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez questions and answers. At some point I'd like to adapt that framework to offer a similar service here. I've struggled for many years to crank out pieces I think might be of public interest. It might be a relief to let other people direct me for a while.

I noticed this week that Tom Smucker has finally published a whole book on what's long been one of his favorite topics: Why the Beach Boys Matter. I have a copy on order. Ironically, my own original foray into rock criticism came from arguing with Don Malcolm over the Beach Boys. I'm surprised he never got around to writing his own book. Also noticed and ordered a copy of a new edition of Vince Alletti's The Disco Files 1973-78. I actually knew both Vince and Tom during my few years in New York, so I consider them old friends.

Posting of this got delayed as I was trying to figure out when I was done with Weekend Roundup. I had started intending to write something different on Brett Kavanaugh, but never really got past the preface. I have some sympathy for the argument that something that happened over 35 years ago shouldn't permanently tar a person. I think that many interactions between the sexes are confusing, and best forgotten. I think we should be more tolerant and forgiving of what are often just human foibles. On the other hand, I'm not sure that of my general sensitivities actually offer Kavanaugh much benefit. I could see why a normal person might not recall details or motives of the charges, but such a person would at least recognize the horror and pain behind the charges, and sympathized with the victim. Kavanaugh didn't do that. His blanket denial effectively repeated the original attacks. And his insistence that the charges were purely political, a "hit job" ordered by the Democrats, pure "borking," effectively said that he thought he should be exempt from his actions and consequences purely because of his politics.

As it turned out, Kavanaugh's final testimony was one of the most disgusting performances I have ever seen -- something that should have disqualified him all by itself. Before you can forgive sins, you first must recognize them and make amends. Kavanaugh didn't come close to doing that. Indeed, his entire career, and the broader agenda of the political movement he furthers, offers little more than repeated examples of the strong trampling the weak and the rich abusing the poor.

New records rated this week:

  • Joey Baron/Robyn Schulkowsky: Now You Hear Me (2016 [2018], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jakob Bro: Bay of Rainbows (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mike Clark & Delbert Bump: Retro Report (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Drums & Tuba: Triumph! (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Espen Eriksen Trio With Andy Sheppard: Perfectly Unhappy (2018, Rune Grammofon): [r]: A-
  • Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (2018, Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Nick Finzer's Hear & Now: Live in New York City (2018, Outside In): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Vinny Golia Sextet: Trajectory (2017 [2018], Orenda/Nine Winds, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan II (2016 [2018], Rataplan): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet: Human Resources (2017 [2018], Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • José James: Lean on Me (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Kavuma: Kavuma (2017 [2018], Ubuntu Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shai Maestro: The Dream Thief (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave McMurray: Music Is Life (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ryan Meagher: Lost Days (2017 [2018], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ryan Meagher: Evil Twin (2018, PJCE): [r]: B
  • Allison Miller/Carmen Staaf: Science Fair (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe Morris/Ben Hall/Andria Nicodemou: Raven (2016 [2017], Glacial Erratic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Moskus: Mirakler (2016-17 [2018], Hubro): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wolfgang Muthspiel: Where the River Goes (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Penman: Good Question (2017 [2018], Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Madeleine Peyroux: Anthem (2018, Decca): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mikkel Ploug/Mark Turner: Faroe (2018, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • R+R=Now: Collagically Speaking (2018, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant: The Window (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christian Sands: Reach Further EP (2017-18 [2018], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christian Sands: Facing Dragons (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • JP Schlegelmilch/Jonathan Goldberger/Jim Black: Visitors (2018, Skirl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elliott Sharp Carbon: Transmigration at the Solar Max (2018, Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chad Taylor: Myths and Morals (2018, Ears & Eyes): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson: Temporary Kings (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Turre: The Very Thought of You (2018, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jeff "Tain" Watts: Travel Band: Detained in Amsterdam (2017 [2018], Dark Key): [r]: B+(***)
  • Walt Weiskopf: European Quartet (2017 [2018], Orenda): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chip Wickham: Shamal Wind (2017 [2018], Lovemonk): [r]: B

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

  • Tohru Aizawa Quartet: Tachibana Vol. 1 (1975 [2018], BBE): [bc]: A-
  • Takeo Moriyama: East Plants (1983 [2018], BBE): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Calm Waters Rolling Swells & Roiling Seas: A Whaling City Sampler (2004-17 [2018], Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B
  • J Jazz: Deep Modern Jazz From Japan 1969-1984 (1969-84 [2018], BBE): [r]: A-
  • Ralph Thomas: Eastern Standard Time (1980 [2018], BBE): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Mark Turner: In This World (1998, Warner Brothers): [r]: A-

Grade (or other) changes:

  • The Internet: Hive Mind (2018, Columbia): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Claus Højensgård/Emanuele Mariscalco/Nelide Bendello: Høbama (Gotta Let It Out)
  • Jacobson/Friis/Maniscalco + Karlis Auzixs: Split: Body/Solo (Getta Let It Out): advance
  • Kyle Nasser: Persistent Fancy (Ropeadope)
  • Nikita Rafaelov: Spirit of Gaia (Gotta Let It Out)

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Story of the week: It's official: Brett Kavanaugh just became the least popular Supreme Court justice in modern history. The Senate vote was 50-48, almost a straight party vote. The Republican advantage in the Senate is 51-49 (counting Angus King and Bernie Sanders as Democrats). Trump's first Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, was confirmed by 54-45, with all Republicans and three Democrats (Manchin, Heitkamp, and Donnelly). Opposition was clearly political: Republicans had made it so by their refusal to even hold so much as a hearing on Merrick Garland, Obama's moderate nominee for the seat, turning it into a spoil for the 2016 election winner. But other than being cut from the same political cloth, Gorsuch had no personal baggage that made his nomination controversial.

Republicans have dreamed and schemed of reversing the Court's "liberal bent" -- really just an honest belief that the Constitution protects individual and minority civil rights -- ever since Nixon's "southern strategy" nominated Clement Haynsworth and, failing that, G. Harrold Carswell in 1969. The Republican campaign took an even more extremist turn when Reagan nominated the blatantly ideological Robert Bork in 1987 (after having slipped Antonin Scalia by in 1986). But only with GW Bush did Republicans consistently apply a rigorous ideological litmus test to their nominees. (Bush's nomination of Harriet Myers was quashed by hard-liners who didn't trust her to be conservative enough. They were still livid that his father's appointment didn't turn out to be as reliably reactionary as Scalia and Clarence Thomas.)

Kavanaugh turned out to be a very different story (from Gorsuch), yet the result was nearly the same. Only one Democrat (Manchin) voted for Kavanaugh, while one Republican opposed the nomination (Murkowski, who wound up not voting in an offset deal with an absent Republican senator). The first problem Kavanaugh faced was that he would replace Anthony Kennedy, who's run up a dreadful record in recent years but was still regarded as a moderate swing vote between the two polarized four-member camps. Kavanaugh would tilt that balance 5-4, allowing conservatives to rule almost arbitrarily for their political sponsors. Second, he was a person whose entire career was spent as a political operative: most notably as part of the Ken Starr prosecution of Bill Clinton, and later in the Bush White House where he argued for ever greater presidential power (at least for Republicans). A big part of the early debate over his nomination concerned discover of the paper trail of his partisan activities against Clinton and for Bush. His supporters in the White House and Congress made sure that those documents were never made available, and as such the extent of his partisan corruption was never properly aired.

His record as a DC Circuit Court judge was also largely unexamined, although his ruling, since overturned, against a detained immigrant girl who wanted to obtain an abortion, is a pretty clear signal that his views on abortion show no respect for "settled law." This case also shows his contempt for immigrants and refugees, his willingness to apply the law differently for different classes of people, and his reticence to restrain abuses of government power (at least against some people). I've long believed that the proper role for the Supreme Court is to build on the best aspirations of the Constitution to make government serve all the people, to protect the rights of minorities and individuals from the all-too-common abuses of power. Through much of my life, the Court at least leaned in that direction -- often not as hard as I would like, but their rulings against segregation, to defend a free press, to establish a nationwide right to abortion and most recently to marriage, have been major accomplishments, consistent with the understanding of America I grew up with, as a free, just, and egalitarian nation (ideals we haven't always achieved, but that we most often aspired to).

So, when I'm faced with the question of whether a given person should be given the responsibility of serving on the Supreme Court, the only question that matters to me is whether that person will understand and shape the rule of law in ways that promote greater freedom, equality, and justice, or not. After a fair investigation, I see nothing whatsoever that suggests to me that Brett Kavanaugh is a person who should be entrusted with that responsibility. In fact, what evidence I've seen suggests that he would actually be worse than any of the four partisan conservative judges currently on the court. To my mind, that should have been enough to settle the matter -- although between the fact that Republicans tend to vote as an arbitrary pack, and the tendency of many "moderate" Democrats to defer to Republican leadership, that wouldn't have been enough to defeat Kavanaugh.

However, Kavanaugh's confirmation didn't solely hinge on whether he'd be a good or bad Justice. It wound up turning on whether he was guilty of sexual assault, and whether he lied under oath about that charge (and ultimately about many other things). With these charges, Kavanaugh's confirmation wound up recapitulating that of Clarence Thomas back in 1991. The charges are slightly different. Thomas was accused of making grossly inappropriate office comments, which was especially grievous given that he ran (or mis-managed) the Reagan administration office responsible for regulating such matters. The initial charge against Kavanaugh was that as a high school student he had committed a drunken assault on a girl, which stopped barely short of rape. (Others subsequently came forward to charge Kavanaugh with other acts of drunken, sexually charged loutishness, but none of those women were allowed to testify or further investigated.)

You can read or spin these charges in various ways. On the one hand, sexual assault (Kavanaugh) is a graver charge than sexual harassment (Thomas); on the other, Kavanaugh was younger at the time and the event took place at a party when he was drunk, whereas Thomas was at work, presumably sober, and effectively the boss of the person he harassed. It is unclear whether this was an isolated incident for Kavanaugh, or part of a longer-term pattern (which is at least suggested by subsequent, uninvestigated charges, plus lots of testimony as to his drinking). Still, the one thing that was practically identical in both cases is that both nominees responded with the same playbook: blanket denials, while their supporters orchestrated a smear campaign against the women who reluctantly aired the complaints, while trying to portay the nominees as the real victims. Thomas called the charges against him a "lynching." Kavanaugh's preferred term was "hit job." Neither conceded that as Supreme Court nominees they should be held to a higher standard than criminal defendants. In the end, in both cases, marginal Senators wound up defending their vote as "reasonable doubt" against the charges. There was, after all, nothing admirable about being charged or defending themselves in such a disingenuous way. Both cases have wound up only adding to the cynicism many of us view the Courts with.

I'll tack on a bunch of links at the end which will round up the details as we know them, as well as other aspects of the process, not least the political rationalizations and consequences. But one thing that I think has been much less discussed than it should be is that neither Thomas nor Kavanaugh promoted or defended themselves on their own. I don't know who was the first Supreme Court nominee to hire lawyers and publicists to coach in the confirmation process, but the practice goes back before Thomas. I was reminded of this when John Kyl was appointed to fill the late John McCain's Senate seat. At the time Kyl was working for a DC law form representing Kavanaugh for his confirmation, so Kyl instantly became Kavanaugh's most secure vote. That nominees need help managing their egos and loose tongues was certainly proved by Bork, who managed to alienate and offend 58 Senators (almost all of whom had previously voted for Scalia, not exactly known for his tact). Mostly this handling means to make sure that the nominee doesn't say anything substantive about the law that may raise the hackles of uncommitted Senators, so the handlers only get noticed in the breech of an inadvertent gaffe. However, when something does go wrong, the first decision is whether to fight or flee -- since Nixon fought for Haynsworth (and lost), over a dozen nominees have simply withdrawn, often when faced with far less embarrassing charges than Thomas or Kavanaugh. As we saw with Myers, a nominee with no natural Democratic support can be brought down by a handful of vigilant Republicans, allowing the fringe of the party to insist on a harder candidate.

With a 51-49 majority, it wouldn't have taken much more than two Republicans to force Trump to withdraw Kavanaugh, but in the end only Murkowski opposed, and she was offset by Manchin (not that Pence wouldn't have been thrilled to cast a 50-50 tiebreaker). A couple of Republicans waffled a bit, but Collins and Flake have a long history of feigning decency then folding, and most simply don't care how bad a candidate looks (e.g., they voted for Betsy DeVos). They're quite happy to win with a bare minimum of votes, even when the polls are against them (e.g., their corporate income tax giveaway), figuring they can always con the voters again come election day. The problem with replacing Kavanaugh with a less embarrassing candidate came down to timing: restarting the process would have pushed it past the election into lame-duck territory, and possibly into the next Congress, which will likely have fewer Republicans (although not necessarily in the Senate). Never let it be said that the Republicans have missed an opportunity to gain an advantage -- and there are few prize they covet more than control of the Supreme Court.

Further links on the Cavanaugh Nomination:

Some scattered links this week:

Monday, October 01, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30390 [30365] rated (+25), 280 [273] unrated (+7).

Week got wiped out several different ways. Helped a friend fix a huge Russian dinner on Friday. Shopped for that on Wednesday, having to hit up nine (or was it eleven?) stores along the way, then spent from Thursday afternoon to something like 4AM doing prep for another 6-7 hours of cooking on Friday. Wound up with way too much food, but much of it was magnificent. Only the dessert disappointed, an attempt at Prague cake which I now understand doesn't resemble the real thing at all.

Then Saturday I developed a fever with no other symptoms, and I basically shut down over the weekend -- so no Weekend Roundup, even following one of the more outrageous weeks of the Trump era. (Not like there won't be plenty more as bad or worse.) I started reading Jill Lepore's massive (or schematic, depending on your point of view) These Truths: A History of the United States. She starts by quoting the preamble to the US Constitution, and I realized it to offer not a practical description of the federal government but a vision statement of what that government should aspire to. The same, of course, could be said of the first lines of the Declaration of Independence, which Lepore also mentions.

What I then realized is that the standard for all three "separate and equal" branches of government should be their efforts to achieve these founding aspirations. We were fortunate, at least for the first half of my life, to have a Supreme Court that took those aspirations seriously, especially in its assertion of civil rights even while the other branches dragged their heels. Since Nixon, the right-wing has made a determined effort to overturn those rulings and to strip us of our rights, not least by stacking the courts with people who oppose the aspirations the nation was founded on. With the hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, we got a good view of just what kind of person would gladly do such things. Regardless of whether Kavanaugh has committed sexual assault and/or perjury, he's made it abundantly clear that he's unfit for the Supreme Court, or for that matter for the judgeship he currently holds.

Maybe I'll write more on that later in the week. My most immediate task is to get September's Streamnotes organized and posted. Thinking about the dinner, then not thinking at all, I totally missed the end of the month. I can backdate what I have, making it look like I did it on time and before doing this. The latter, at least, is mostly true.

I'm not sure what comes next. I can always return to compiling my last two books from the notebooks (non-review music notes, non-jazz reviews; I'm currently stalled in May, 2013). I could take a look at Pitchfork's The 2000 Best Albums of the 1980s -- the music decade I paid the least attention to at the time. Another possible source of unheard records is Will Friedland's latest book, The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums. I picked up the book at the library, and while there is zero chance that I'll read it through, the actual album list isn't prohibitively long (probably 40-50 albums, half already heard). On the other hand, the new jazz queue has grown a bit (26 albums at the moment), so I should pay some attention to that.

New records rated this week:

  • Dmitry Baevsky/Jeb Patton: We Two (2018, Jazz & People): [r]: A-
  • Tony Bennett & Diana Krall: Love Is Here to Stay (2018, Verve/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Art Jazz Collective: Armor of Pride (2018, HighNote): [r]: B
  • Geof Bradfield: Yes, and . . . Music for Nine Improvisers (2018, Delmark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jonathan Butler: Close to You (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: C+
  • Noname: Room 25 (2018, self-released): [bc]: A-
  • Eddie Palmieri: Full Circle (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: From Maxville to Vanport (2018, PJCE): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ned Rothenberg/Hamid Drake: Full Circle: Live in Lodz (2016 [2017], Fundacja Sluchaj): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steven Taetz: Drink You In (2018, Flatcar/Fontana North): [cd]: B
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2018 Radio Broadcasts (2018, self-released, 3CD): [cd]: C
  • Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFUNK: Wet Robots (2017 [2018], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Gene Ammons: The Gene Ammons Story: Gentle Jug (1961-62 [1992], Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gene Ammons: Gentle Jug Volume 2 (1960-71 [1995], Prestige): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gene Ammons: The Boss Is Back! (1969 [1993], Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bud Powell: Jazz Giant (1949 [1957], Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bud Powell: Piano Interpretations by Bud Powell (1955 [1959], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bud Powell: The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4: Time Waits (1958 [1999], Blue Note): [r]: A-
  • Bud Powell: Strictly Confidential (1964 [1994], Black Lion): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bud Powell: Salt Peanuts (1964 [1988], Black Lion): [r]: B

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Don Byron/Aruán Ortiz: Random Dances and (A)tonalities (Intakt)
  • David Dominique: Mask (Orenda): November 9
  • Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet: Time Like This (Intakt)
  • Aaron Goldberg: At the Edge of the World (Sunnyside): November 16
  • Aaron Parks: Little Big (Ropeadope): October 19
  • Subtone: Moose Blues (Laika): October 26
  • Harry Vetro: Northern Ranger (T.Sound): October 19

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Streamnotes (September 2018)

Pick up text here.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Daily Log

Back mid-summer, Zhanna Pataki proposed that we cook Russian food together at some point in the fall. She finally suggested Friday, September 28, so I agreed. Her plan was to do a basic menu:

  • Borscht: soup of cabbage, beets, potatoes, etc.
  • Chebureki: turnovers stuffed with ground beef
  • Salad: cucumbers, tomatoes, etc.

That would have been enough, but she invited me to add a little something to the meal, and, well, I got a bit carried away:

  • Machanka: roasted pork belly with gravy
  • Pelmeni: lamb-filled dumplings with adjika butter
  • Armenian roasted vegetables: cabbage, carrots, celery, anise, brussels sprouts, bell peppers, tomatoes.
  • Potatoes in Sour Cream: plus bacon and onions.
  • Moldovan eggplant salad: in a tomato-prune sauce, with pine nuts.
  • Lamb liver and red pepper salad
  • Riga rye bread
  • Smoked whitefish salad
  • Marinated red bell peppers
  • Spiced feta cheese
  • Prague cake

We had about three times as much food as we needed, especially since three guests didn't show up. I actually had a couple more recipes that I shopped for, but didn't bother making. (I have little doubt that the Armenian pumpkin dolmas would have been amazing, and I'm thinking I'll take a crack at them later in the week. However, I doubt anyone would have bothered with the Georgian red bean salad, and I didn't even have a specific recipe for the mushrooms I bought. I made stock for the gravy, and wound up with a lot left over, so I should come up with some kind of stew in the near future -- or maybe a beet-less borscht.)

I thought the machanka/gravy and pelmeni were especially amazing -- each would have been a first-rate main course. Not my intent, but the menu above is pretty much listed from best to worst. The only real problem was the Prague cake: the sponge cake basically collapsed, so it wound up way too thin (I had to cut three layers from less than one inch) and dry (the cocoa possibly burning a little). The custard between layers was OK, but I wound up pouring too much ganache on top, so that layer wound up thicker than a cake slice. Also, when it didn't seem to set up quickly enough, I put the whole thing into the refrigeraor, so wound up serving it hard and cold.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30365 [30328] rated (+37), 273 [277] unrated (-4).

Seemed likely to me that the rated count would fall this week, but I kept plugging at it, mostly picking records from Napster's Featured list, and they added up, even offering a couple surprises. Actually, early on I wrapped up the last of the Nate Chinen picks I could find, winding up with only 5 (of 129) records unrated (Ben Allison, Tim Berne, Wynton Marsalis, Hedvig Mollestad, Mike Moreno). I also checked out one of the late Big Jay McNeely's compilations -- picked the one with dates in the title, although I checked them against his singles discography to be sure. Don't recall why I didn't go further, but it wasn't easy figuring out when various things were recorded.

The Featured list did get me to new vault tapes from Stella Chiweshe, Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerard, and Prince -- none extraordinary. I also noticed a Bikini Kill album -- one that I had already heard, but I took another look for two that I had missed that Christgau had A-listed, and found them (after having missed them previously). I actually wound up liking their early demo tape (Revolution Girl Style Now) even more. Also new on Napster is Posi-Tone, a mainstream jazz label run by Marc Free. I got their records for a while, but largely stopped paying them any heed when service went to download-only. Streaming is enough easier to get me interested again, and the Art Hirahara album is a big step forward -- I would say a big surprise, but I never doubted Donny McCaslin could play this well. (I've just never heard it on any of his own records.)

Best of the B+(***) records is probably Dafnis Prieto's album. I'm feeling a little guilty about not giving it another spin, but just not that up for Latin big band. (Could say the same thing for Eddie Palmieri's Full Circle, which could be one of his best.) Didn't pay much attention to the new jazz queue this past week -- partly due to a clutter/misfiling lapse, and partly because I've been playing Ben Webster's Soulville nearly every morning. Guess it's time to nudge that grade up to A+.

Rough week for me, both physically and mentally. Had to work on the old car to get it to start, and decided I also needed to wash it. Also wound up washing the not-quite-so-old car -- jobs that were easy a decade ago but grueling these days. Another task I finally tackled last week was installing new insulation on the coolant pipes on a mini-split air conditioner. Back in July when the main AC went out, we noticed that the insulation on the mini had worn out and split, causing it to ice up and reducing its effectiveness. Back then a friend helped me tear out the old and install new, but I couldn't find the right size material, and made a mess out of it, with the oversized material not fitting into the raceway.

I had to go shopping for new insulation tubes and possibly a new raceway. I eventually found some 3/8-inch split tubes with tape closure, so bought them. I tore the old mess out, installed the new insulation, and eventually was able to tuck it all inside the old raceway (with a few extra cuts). Took 4-5 hours, plus another trip to the hardware store, but finally got it done. Another day I was worn out at the end of. Also doesn't totally fix the cooling problem, but does make it a bit better. By the time I got it done, the heat spell had broken, so I may be able to put off getting it serviced until next year.

Mental stress is harder to explain. Did a couple of things on the server, but still way short of the necessary tasks. Did a minor update, including a new XgauSez, on the Robert Christgau website, but still haven't straightened out the links and filled in the missing stubs for Carola Dibbell. One of the XgauSez questions was about jazz albums of the 1950s/1960s, and Christgau referred to my website for suggestions. Best link I could offer him was this one, but it really doesn't answer the question. So after fretting several days, I started working on a better answer page, but that's turned out to be a lot more work than I've been able to do. I did a preliminary sort for the 1950s and 1960s, but only based on the one database file linked above. Took a lot of time to get next to nothing.

Also spent some time collecting music notes and non-jazz album reviews from the Notebook. Picked up about a year over the course of a week, bringing me up to February 2013. Close to 1000 pages in each volume (actually, 1015 + 1308). At least those projects are straightforward, things I can keep plodding at, and in fairly short order get done.

What bothers me more are the things I can't get started. I still have people I want to call about my sister's death back in March, and others I called them but haven't since. I've been hoping to visit family in Oklahoma and Arkansas since, well, it's been more than two years since I've gotten out of town. I've been meaning to reorganize my cookbooks, and clean out and update my spice racks -- bought new bottles for that more than a year ago. I'm bothered that I haven't even looked at the stack of library books I have due Wednesday (including Chris Hedges' America: The Farewell Tour and David Cay Johnston's It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration Is Doing to America; probably nothing in those I don't already know, but I'm certainly could learn something from Ajax Hacks: Tips & Tools for Creating Responsive Web Sites -- well, pub date was 2006, so may be kind of obsolete.) Probably going to wind up sending them all back, only one (mostly) read.

Nor do I anticipate this week becoming suddenly productive. Actually, just the opposite. A Russian friend wanted me to help do some down-home cooking, so I'll be whipping up an assortment of zakuski, side dishes, and a dessert for Friday night dinner. Will probably do something horrible to my back, but otherwise should be fun . . . at last.

New records rated this week:

  • Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist: Together (2018, Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Eminem: Kamikaze (2018, Aftermath/Shady/Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy F Gibbons: The Big Bad Blues (2018, Concord): [r]: B+(*)
  • Art Hirahara: Sunward Bound (2017 [2018], Posi-Tone): [r]: A-
  • Lyrics Born: Quite a Life (2018, Mobile Home): [r]: A-
  • Paul McCartney: Egypt Station (2018, Capitol): [r]: B-
  • Mike Moreno: 3 for 3 (2016 [2017], Criss Cross): [r]: B+(*)
  • Willie Nelson: My Way (2018, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dafnis Prieto Big Band: Back to the Sunset (2018, Dafnison): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Kristjan Randalu: Absence (2017 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ratatet: Heroes, Saints and Clowns (2017 [2018], Ridgeway): [cd]: B
  • Scott Routenberg Trio: Supermoon (2018, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Trygve Seim: Helsinki Songs (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Swamp Dogg: Love, Loss, and Auto-Tune (2018, Joyful Noise): [r]: B
  • Szun Waves: New Hymn to Freedom (2016-17 [2018], The Leaf Label): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Live (2016 [2018], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Doug Webb: Fast Friends (2018, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft/Prins Thomas: Bugge Wesseltoft & Prins Thomas (2018, Smalltown Supersound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mike Westbrook: Starcross Bridge (2017 [2018], Hatology): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Stella Chiweshe: Kasahwa: Early Singles (1974-83 [2018], Glitterbeat): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard: Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969 (1965-69 [2018], Free Dirt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Prince: Piano and a Microphone 1983 (1983 [2018], NPG/Warner Bros.): [r]: B

Old music rated this week:

  • Bikini Kill: Revolution Girl Style Now (1991 [2015], Bikini Kill): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bikini Kill: Bikini Kill (1992, Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bikini Kill: Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (1992 [1993], Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bikini Kill: The Singles (1993-95 [1998], Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Terence Blanchard: Bounce (2003, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Cookers: Warriors (2011, Jazz Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Huggy Bear: Our Troubled Youth (1992 [1993], Kill Rock Stars, EP): [r]: B
  • Ahmad Jamal: In Search of Momentum (2003, Birdology/Dreyfus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lionel Loueke: Virgin Forest (2006 [2007], ObliqSound): [r]: B+(*)
  • Big Jay McNeely: The Best Of (1948-1956) (1946-58 [2010], Master Classics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trygve Seim: Different Rivers (1998-99 [2000], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Loren Stillman + Bad Touch: Going Public (2012 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz (1995-96 [1997], Jazzland): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft: It's Snowing on My Piano (1997, ACT): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bugge Wesseltoft: New Conception of Jazz: Live (2000-02 [2003], Jazzland): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Abundance (Anzic): October 5
  • Colin Edwin & Lorenzo Feliciati: Twinscapes Vol. 2: A Modern Approach to the Dancefloor (RareNoise): advance, October 26
  • Myra Melford's Snowy Egret: The Other Side of Air (Firehouse 12): November 2
  • John Moulder: Decade: Memoirs (Origin)
  • Anne Sajdera: New Year (Bijuri): November 2
  • Tyshaw Sorey: Pillars (Firehouse 12, 3CD): October 12
  • Mike Steinel Quintet: Song and Dance (OA2)
  • Brad Whiteley: Presence (Destiny): October 5

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Got a late start this week, figuring I'd just go through the motions, but got overwhelmed, as usual.

Was reminded on twitter that Liz Fink died three years ago. Also pointed to this video biography. I couldn't tell whether the dog snoring sounds were in the video, given that the same dog was camped out under my desk (not the poodle pictured in the video, the legendary Sheldon).

Some scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Yglesias: Kavanaugh and Trump are part of a larger crisis of elite accountability in America: Two pretty good quotes here. The first gives you most of the background you need to judge Kavanaugh:

    An honest look at his career shows that it's extraordinarily undistinguished.

    Born into a privileged family that was well-connected in Republican Party politics, Kavanaugh coasted from Georgetown Prep, where he was apparently a hard partier, into Yale, where he joined the notoriously hard-partying secret society Truth & Courage, and then on to Yale Law School.

    Soon after graduating, he got a gig working for independent counsel Ken Starr -- a plum position for a Republican lawyer on the make because the Starr inquiry was supposed to take down the Clinton administration. Instead, it ended up an ignominious, embarrassing failure, generating an impeachment process that was so spectacularly misguided and unpopular that Democrats pulled off the nearly impossible feat of gaining seats during a midterm election when they controlled the White House.

    Kavanaugh clerked for Alex Kozinski, an appeals court judge who was well known to the lay public for his witty opinions and well known to the legal community as a sexual harasser. When the sexual harassment became a matter of public embarrassment in the wake of the #MeToo movement, Kavanaugh professed to have simply not noticed anything amiss -- including somehow not remembering Kozinski's dirty jokes email distribution list.

    Despite this inattention to detail, Kavanaugh ended up in the George W. Bush White House, playing a critical behind-the-scenes role as staff secretary to an administration that suffered the worst terrorist attack in American history, let the perpetrator get away, invaded Iraq to halt the country's nonexistent nuclear weapons program, and destroyed the global economy.

    Kavanaugh then landed a seat on the DC Circuit Court, though to do so, he had to offer testimony that we now know to have been misleading regarding his role in both William Pryor's nomination for a different federal judgeship and the handling of some emails stolen from Democratic Party committee staff. On the DC Circuit, he issued some normal GOP party-line rulings befitting his career as a Republican Party foot soldier.

    Now he may end up as a Supreme Court justice despite never in his life having been involved in anything that was actually successful. He has never meaningfully taken responsibility for the substantive failures of the Starr inquiry or the Bush White House, where his tenure as a senior staffer coincided with both Hurricane Katrina and failed Social Security privatization plan as well as the email shenanigans he misled Congress about, or for his personal failure as a bystander to Kozinski's abuses.

    He's been a man on the make ever since his teen years, and has consistently acted with the breezy confidence of privilege.

    The second quote wraps Trump up neatly. Every now and then you need to be reminded that however much you loathe Trump personally, his actual track record is even more nefarious than you recall:

    The most striking thing about Trump's record, in my view, is how frequently he has been caught doing illegal things only to get away without paying much of a price. His career is a story of a crime here, a civil settlement there, but never a criminal trial or anything that would deprive him of his business empire or social clout.

    Back in 1990, he needed an illegal loan from his father to keep his casinos afloat. So he asked for an illegal loan from his father, received an illegal loan from his father, and was caught by the New Jersey gaming authorities receiving said illegal loan from his father. But nothing really happened to him as a result. He paid a $65,000 fine and moved on.

    This happened to Trump again and again before he began his political career. From his empty-box tax scam to money laundering at his casinos to racial discrimination in his apartments to Federal Trade Commission violations for his stock purchases to Securities and Exchange Commission violations for his financial reporting, Trump has spent his entire career breaking various laws, getting caught, and then essentially plowing ahead unharmed.

    When he was caught engaging in illegal racial discrimination to please a mob boss, he paid a fine. There was no sense that this was a repeated pattern of violating racial discrimination law, and certainly no desire to take a closer look at his various personal and professional connections to the Mafia.

    If Trump had been a carjacker or a heroin dealer, this rap sheet would have had him labeled a career criminal and treated quite harshly by the legal system. But operating under the rules of rich-guy impunity, Trump remained a member of New York high society in good standing -- hosting a television show, having Bill and Hillary Clinton attend his third wedding as guests, etc. -- before finally leaning into his lifelong dalliances with racial demagoguery to become president.

    Over the course of that campaign, he wasn't only credibly accused of several instances of sexual assault -- he was caught on tape confessing -- but he won the election anyway, and Congress has shown no interest in looking into the matter.

    Other Yglesias pieces:

    More Kavanaugh links:

  • Michelle Alexander: We Are Not the Resistance: New NY Times opinion columnist, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010), the book that brought its subject into mainstream political discourse. Here she bravely tries to turn the table, arguing "Donald Trump is the one who is pushing back against the new nation that's struggling to be born."

    Resistance is a reactive state of mind. While it can be necessary for survival and to prevent catastrophic harm, it can also tempt us to set our sights too low and to restrict our field of vision to the next election cycle, leading us to forget our ultimate purpose and place in history.

    The disorienting nature of Trump's presidency has already managed to obscure what should be an obvious fact: Viewed from the broad sweep of history, Donald Trump is the resistance. We are not.

    Those of us who are committed to the radical evolution of American democracy are not merely resisting an unwanted reality. To the contrary, the struggle for human freedom and dignity extends back centuries and is likely to continue for generations to come. . . .

    Donald Trump's election represents a surge of resistance to this rapidly swelling river, an effort to build not just a wall but a dam. A new nation is struggling to be born, a multiracial, multiethnic, multifaith, egalitarian democracy in which every life and every voice truly matters.

  • Daniel Bessner: What Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Think About the South China Sea? Sub hed is more to the point: "the rising left needs more foreign policy. Here's how it can start." Basic point:

    Left-wing politics is, at its heart, about giving power to ordinary people. Foreign policy, especially recently, has been about the opposite. Since the 1940s, unelected officials ensconced in bodies like the National Security Council have been the primary makers of foreign policy. This trend has worsened since the Sept. 11 attacks, as Congress has relinquished its oversight role and granted officials in the executive branch and the military carte blanche. Foreign policy elites have been anything but wise and have promoted several of the worst foreign policy blunders in American history, including the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

    The left should aim to bring democracy into foreign policy. This means taking some of the power away from the executive and, especially, White House institutions like the National Security Council and returning it to the hands of Congress. In particular, socialist politicians should push to reassert Congress's long-abdicated role in declaring war, encourage more active oversight of the military and create bodies that make national security information available to the public so that Americans know exactly what their country is doing abroad.

    Bessner goes on to outline four areas: Accountability, Anti-militarism, Threat deflation, and Internationalism. That's a good start, an outline for a book which I'd like to see but could probably write myself. One thing that isn't developed enough is why this matters. US foreign policy has always been dominated by business interests -- the Barbars Wars, the War of 1812, and the "Open Door" skirmishes in East Asia were all about supporting US traders, the Mexican and Spanish Wars were more nakedly imperialist; even after WWII, CIA coups in Guatemala and Iran had clear corporate sponsors. Such ventures had little domestic effect -- a few special interests benefited, but unless they escalated into world wars few ordinary Americans were affected. That changed after WWII, when the anti-communist effort was broadly directed against labor movements, and wound up undermining worker representation here, concentrating corporate power and dragging domestic politics to the right, subverting democracy and increasing inequality. Finance and trade policies were even more obviously captured by corporate interests. Corporations went global, exporting capital to more lucrative markets abroad. US trade deficits were tolerated because the profits could be returned to the investment banks and hedge funds that dominated the elite 1%. Meanwhile, nearly constant war coarsened and brutalized American society, making us meaner and more contemptuous, both of other and of ourselves. Harry Truman started the Cold War and wound up destroying our own middle class. GW Bush started the Global War on Terror, and all we have to show for it is Donald Trump -- a seething bundle of contradictions, blindly lashing out at the foreign policy he inherited and totally in thrall to it. So sure, the Rising Left needs a new foreign policy, and not just because the world should be treated better but because we should treat ourselves better too.

  • Sean Illing: Americans have a longstanding love of magical thinking: One more in a long series of superficial interviews with authors of recent books. This one is with Kurt Andersen, whose Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire intrigued me as possibly insightful in the Trump era -- still, when I thumbed through the book, it struck me as possibly just glib and superficial, or maybe just too obvious. It's long been clear to me that in 1980 America voted for a deranged fantasy (Reagan) over sober reality (Carter), and since then it's been impossible to turn back -- not least because the Clinton-Obama Democrats have chosen to fight conservative myths with neoliberal ones. Andersen quote:

    I've been familiar with Trump for a long time, and I was one of the first people to write about him back in the '80s. I started paying attention to him before a lot of other people did. There's nothing there. He's a showman, a performance artist. But he's a hustler like P.T. Barnum.

    As I was writing this book in 2014 and 2015, I saw that Trump was running for president and I realized, about halfway through the book, that I had to reckon with this stupid -- but deadly serious -- candidacy.

    Watching it was strange, though. I was finishing the book and getting to the part about modern politics, and here's Trump about to win the nomination. It was as though I had summoned some golem into existence by writing this history, of which he, as you say, is the apotheosis.

  • Umair Irfan: Ryan Zinke to the oil and gas industry: "Our government should work for you": And Zinke's department, to say the least, already does.

    Irfan has also been following Hurricane Florence. See: Hurricane Florence's "1,000-year" rainfall, explained; and Hog manure is spilling out of lagoons because of Hurricane Florence's floods. Coal ash is another concern: Steven Murfson/Brady Dennis/Darryl Fears: More headaches as Florence's waters overtake toxic pits and hog lagoons; and, following up, Dam breach sends toxic coal ash flowing into a major North Carolina river; also: Kelsey Piper: How 3.4 million chickens drowned in Hurricane Florence.

  • Naomi Klein: There's Nothing Natural About Puerto Rico's Disaster. In many ways you can say the same thing about North Carolina's disaster, although Puerto Rico had to face a much more powerful storm with a lot less government aid.

  • German Lopez: There have been 263 days in 2018 -- and 262 mass shootings in America.

  • Dana Milbank: America's Jews are watching Israel in horror. Not a columnist I regularly read, least of all on Israel, but take this as a signpost that in Israel "the rise of ultranationalism tied to religious extremism, the upsurge in settler violence, the overriding of Supreme Court rulings upholding democracy and human rights, a crackdown on dissent, harassment of critics and nonprofits, confiscation of Arab villages and alliances with regimes -- in Poland, Hungary and the Philippines -- that foment anti-Semitism" is beginning to worry some previously staunch supporters.

    A poll for the American Jewish Committee in June found that while 77 percent of Israeli Jews approve of Trump's handling of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, only 34 percent of American Jews approve. Although Trump is popular in Israel, only 26 percent of American Jews approve of him. Most Jews feel less secure in the United States than they did a year ago. (No wonder, given the sharp rise in anti-Semitic incidents and high-level winks at anti-Semitism, from Charlottesville to Eric Trump's recent claim that Trump critics are trying to "make three extra shekels.") The AJC poll was done a month before Israel passed a law to give Jews more rights than other citizens, betraying the country's 70-year democratic tradition.

    On the other hand:

    Netanyahu is betting Israel's future on people such as Pastor John Hagee of Christians United for Israel, featured at the ceremony for Trump's opening of the Jerusalem embassy. Hagee once said "Hitler was a hunter" sent by God to drive Jews to Israel. Pro-Israel apocalypse-minded Christians see Israel as a precursor to the second coming, when Jews must convert or go to hell.

    On the other hand, for the one Jewish-American who counts the most (to Trump, anyway): Jeremy W Peters: Sheldon Adelson Sees a Lot to Like in Trump's Washington.

  • Trita Parsi: The Ahvaz terror attack in Iran may drag the US into a larger war: On the same day that Trump Lawyer Giuliani Says Iran's Government Will Be Overthrown, gunmen attacked a parade in Ahvaz (southwestern Iran, a corner with a large Arabic population), killing 29. Iran's Rouhani blames US-backed Gulf states for military parade attack, specifically Saudi Arabia and the UAE -- the prime movers of the US-backed intervention in Yemen. This follows the September 7 fire-bombing of the Iranian consulate in Basra, Iraq, which in turn follows months of bellicose talk directed by the Trump administration (e.g., Nikki Haley, Mike Pompeo, John Bolton, and Giuliani) at Iran, following constant lobbying by Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel to get the US to pull out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

  • Dick Polman: Donald Trump Might Be the 'Client From Hell': That's almost a commonplace by now, this article repeating all of the usual charges except the one that Trump doesn't pay his bills. Early on I doubted the investigation would ever get anywhere near Trump, but Sessions had to recuse himself after getting caught in a lie about not meeting any Russians, then Trump tried to intercede for Flynn and wound up throwing himself into the fray by firing Comey. Even so, Trump could have sat tight and let a few of his underlings get sacrificed. However, it's never just been a legal issue for Trump. It's also a political one, and he seems to intuitively grasp that he can spin the investigation as a "witch hunt" and rally his base with that. To some extent he's succeeded doing just that, and in so doing he's galvanized his base against an ever-expanding array of scandals. But his base, even having captured nearly all of the Republican Party faithful, is still a minority position. And to pretty much everyone else, he's managed to look guilty as hell. By looking and acting guilty, he's inviting further investigation. A lawyer who's any good would worry about the legal exposure, and keep it as far as possible away from the spotlight. On the other hand, Trump's main lawyer right now is Rudy Giuliani, a flack who like Trump is primarily interested in political gain.

  • Andrew Prokop: The Times's big new Rod Rosenstein story has major implications for Mueller's probe: Seems overblown as a story. Even if it's true, which I wouldn't bet on, it's a big jump from wondering whether the president is competent to using his office to unfairly plot against Trump. On the other hand, the firing of Andrew McCabe shows that there are powerful people in the Trump administration who are willing to use innuendo and gossip to punish DOJ employees they consider hostile to Trump.

  • Alex Ward: Trump's China strategy is the most radical in decades -- and it's failing. Also related: Dean Baker: Trump's Tariffs on Chinese Imports Are Actually a Tax on the US Middle Class. I think both of these pieces are overstated, but more important miss the main point. China has an industrial policy, while the US doesn't (well, except for arms and, barely, agribusiness). To boost exports, you need two things: supply, and an open market. The Chinese government works both sides of that equation, as indeed does the government of nation with a successful export-led growth program. So when China gains access to a market, China has made sure that it has companies producing products for that market. US trade treaties try to open markets for American exporters, but they do little to develop suppliers -- they expect capitalism to magically fill the supply gap, which could happens but most often won't. Nor is the problem there simply that the US doesn't have an industrial policy to make sure we're building products we can successfully export. It's also that US corporations are free to invest their capital elsewhere -- basically wherever they expect the highest return. And there is no real pressure on them to reinvest their profits in American workers -- either from the government or labor unions. So, Trump is right when he complains that China has been ripping us off for many years. However, he doesn't have the right tools for turning this around, and with his carte blanche for corporate power he refuses to even consider doing what needs to be done. But that doesn't mean that someone who cared about American workers couldn't do much better.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30328 [30295] rated (+33), 277 [271] unrated (+6).

Had a rough week, including a moment when all of the stress I had been accumulating seemed to implode, then emanate outward in a scream and a shudder. One thing that did break was my progress through the new jazz queue. I ran into an album that under the circumstances was unbearable. I imagine I'll go back to it later this week and give it a fair shake, but that wasn't going to happen last week. Instead, I slipped two CDs into the changes, choice encounters between saxophonist and pianist -- Lester Young and Oscar Peterson for starters, then Ben Webster with Art Tatum -- and that's remained my wake-up ritual ever since: long enough for breakfast, reading what's left of the local newspaper, and a little work on the jigsaw puzzle. Later in the day I'd pull up some jazz on Napster, or if I needed to get away from the computer, some r&b from the travel cases. Somehow managed to fix a nice dinner for the people who were kind enough to tear down and pack my late sister's big art project -- currently in a truck on the road to Vancouver, WA. Greek shrimp, green beans, salad, rice, and an applesauce cake, as I recall.

Wound up with mostly old jazz this week, in most cases starting with albums Nate Chinen picked as the "129 Essential [Jazz] Albums of the Twenty-First Century." I copied them down, checked my database, and figured out I hadn't heard nearly a sixth of them (21, so 16.2%). I've since knocked that down to five that don't seem to be on Napster. In some cases my curiosity led me to related albums, picking up two extra albums by Danilo Pérez and John Scofield, one by Cassandra Wilson, but none of those cases filled in all of the holes in my listening. The one exception was Trio 3 (Oliver Lake, Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille) -- not coincidentally the only of the 16 records to get an A- -- and they got me to take another look at the great Swiss pianist Irène Schweizer. I've made a couple of previous dives through her catalog, especially the piano-drum duos (I especially recommend the ones with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre), so much of what was left was solo -- something I rarely follow well let alone get into, but she's really special. Also gave me an excuse to dig deeper into her label, Intakt -- something I've long wanted to do.

One thing I did manage to do (in an unsatisfying, hacked up way) last week was set up WordPress for Notes on Everyday Life. I had previously built websites for this domain in 2004 based on Drupal and in 2014 based on WordPress, but both were eventually wiped out in server catastrophes. Neither was a major loss, in that the writing also existed in my notebook. So I was pleased that I found the "Intro" I wrote in 2014, but I got confused by the default widget setup so it's still not usable. I have a half-assed idea to fill it up with fragments from old notebooks, hoping that the category and tag system will bind those bits into more coherent wholes. Given that I've already gone through and collected the political writings, it should be relatively straightforward to start picking things out.

I have two more WordPress blogs to set up, including one for music writings. Would like some advice and direction on the latter, and ultimately some help. I've continued to collect music writings and non-jazz reviews into book form. I'm up to 2012 now, with close to 2000 pages in two books, so there's quite a bit of content that could be used as a starting point.

New records rated this week:

  • Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: Flyin' Through Florida (2018, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • John Kruth & La Società dei Musici: Forever Ago (2018, Ars Spoletium): [r]: A-
  • Joey Morant: Forever Sanctified (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones (2018, Chronograph): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Logan Richardson: Blues People (2018, Ropeadope): [r]: B-
  • Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (2018, Pyroclastic): [cd]: B-
  • Jay T. Vonada: United (2017 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • VWCR [Ken Vandermark/Nate Wooley/Sylvie Courvoisier/Tom Rainey]: Noise of Our Time (2017 [2018], Intakt): [cd]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • David Binney: South (2000 [2001], ACT): [r]: B+(**)
  • Brian Blade Fellowship: Perceptual (2000, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chicago Underground Quartet: Chicago Underground Quartet (2000 [2001], Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barry Guy/London Jazz Composers Orchestra/Irène Schweizer: Radio Rondo/Schaffhausen Concert (2008 [2009], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: Always Let Me Go: Live in Tokyo (2001 [2002], ECM, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joëlle Léandre/Yves Robert/Irène Schweizer/Daunik Lazro: Paris Quartet (1985-87 [1989], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maggie Nicols/Irène Schweizer/Joëlle Léandre: Les Diaboliques (1993 [1994], Intakt): [r]: B
  • Danilo Pérez: Danilo Pérez (1992 [1993], Jive/Novus): [r]: B+(*)
  • Danilo Pérez: PanaMonk (1996, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Danilo Pérez: Motherland (2000, Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas (1976 [1977], FMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Hexensabbat (1977 [1978], FMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Wilde Señoritas/Hexensabbat (1976-77 [2002], Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Live at Taktlos (1984 [1906], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 1 (1990 [1992], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Piano Solo Vol. 2 (1990 [1992], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Irène Schweizer: Many and One Direction (1996, Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Irène Schweizer/Fred Anderson/Hamid Drake: Live Willisau & Taktlos (1998-2004 [2007], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • John Scofield: Blue Matter (1986 [1987], Gramavision): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Scofield: Hand Jive (1993 [1994], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Scofield: Works for Me (2000 [2001], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Co Streiff/Irène Schweizer: Twin Lines (1999-2000 [2002], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio 3: Encounter (1999 [2001], Passin' Thru): [r]: A-
  • Trio 3 + Irène Schweizer: Berne Concert (2007 [2009], Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio 3 + Geri Allen: At This Time (2008 [2009], Intakt): [r]: A-
  • Cassandra Wilson: Blue Skies (1988. JMT): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cassandra Wilson: Belly of the Sun (2002, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Alchemy Sound Project: Adventures in Time and Space (ARC)
  • Danny Bacher: Still Happy (Whaling City Sound)
  • Jake Ehrenreich: A Treasury of Jewish Christmas Songs (self-released)
  • Jonathan Finlayson: 3 Times Round (Pi): October 5
  • The Marie Goudy 12tet featuring Jocelyn Barth: The Bitter Suite (self-released): October 12
  • Devin Gray: Dirigo Rataplan II (Rataplan): September 21
  • Hofbauer/Rosenthal Quartet: Human Resources (Creative Nation Music): November 9
  • Jared Sims: The New York Sessions (Ropeadope): October 12
  • Alister Spence/Satoko Fujii: Intelset (Alister Spence Music)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Weekend Roundup

Once again, way too much to report to cover in the limited time I left myself this weekend. Especially given that I had to take a few hours out to attend a talk by Lawrence Wittner on How Peace Activists Saved the World from Nuclear War. As Wittner, author of at least three books on anti-nuke protests, pointed out, the main factor inhibiting nuclear powers from using their expensive weapons was fear of public reproach, something that was made most visible by the concerted efforts of anti-war and anti-nuke activists. Needless to say, he pointed out that this struggle is far from over, and arguably may have lost some ground with Trump in power. Trump, indeed, seems to be triply dangerous on this score: fascinated with the awesome power of nuclear weapons, convinced of his instincts for holding public opinion, and indifferent to whatever harm he might cause.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Scattered pieces by Matthew Yglesias:

    • Who's overrated and who's underrated as a 2020 Democratic presidential prospect? The one piece I care least about, partly because I think that it's far more important for Democrats to elect federal and state legislators, and for that matter state and local administrators, than the president. Most issues can be ranked on two axes: importance and urgency. The presidential election isn't until 2020, even including the seemingly interminable primary season, whereas there are important elections happening real soon. But also, and one can point to at least 25 years of experience here, I'd much rather have a solid Democratic Congress than a crippled Democratic president (which is a charitable description of the last two, maybe three). But if you are curious, the current betting lines (and that's really all they are) rank: Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Cuomo, Opray Winrey, Tim Kaine, Chris Murphy. Nothing but minor nits in the article: Yglesias argues for Klobuchar vs. Gillibrand; Dylan Matthews for Michael Avenati vs. Winfrey; Ezra Klein advises "buy [LA mayor Eric] Garcetti, sell [CA governor Jerry] Brown." Previous editions of this article -- it promises to stick with us like a bad cough -- aimed higher, arguing that Harris is overrated vs. Sanders, that Biden and Kaine should be more evenly matched, and that Cuomo has pretty clearly blown his shot (he's since pretty definitively announced he's not running).

    • Andrew Cuomo has won himself another term, but his presidential aspirations are dead: "Somewhat ironically, it was actually Cuomo's presidential aspirations that, in retrospect, have ended up dooming his presidential aspirations. . . Cuomo zigged [right] when the national party zagged [left]." The good news for him was that he enjoyed a 20-to-1 fundraising advantage over challenger Cynthia Nixon, as well as solid support from what remains of the Democratic Party machine in New York. In short, he won his primary the same way Clinton defeated Sanders in New York in 2016. Also see: Matt Taibbi: Cuomo's Win: It's All About the Money.

    • George W. Bush is not a resistance leader -- he's part of the problem:

      The best way to think about Bush-style pseudo-resistance is that it's a hedge against the risk that the Trumpian political project collapses disastrously.

      In that case, Republicans are going to do what they've done so many times before and keep all their main policy commitments the same but come up with some hazy new branding.

      After the Gingrich-era GOP was rejected at the polls in 1998 as too mean-spirited, Bush came into office as a warm and fuzzy "compassionate conservative." When he left office completely discredited, a new generation of GOP leaders came to the fore inspired by the hard-edged libertarianism of the Tea Party and its critique of "crony capitalism." That then gave way to Donald Trump, a "populist" and "nationalist," who coincidentally believes in all the same things about taxes and regulation as a Tea Party Republican or a compassionate conservative or a Gingrich revolutionary.

      For better or worse (well, okay, for worse) the elite ranks of the American conservative movement are inspired by a fanatical belief that low taxes on rich people constitute both cosmic justice and a surefire way to spark economic growth. This assumption is wrong and also makes it impossible for them to coherently govern in a way that serves the concrete material interests of the majority of the population, leading inevitably to a politics that emphasizes immaterial culture-war considerations with the exact nature of the culture war changing to fit the spirit of the times.

      The disagreement over whether Trump is a jerk and the more nice-guy approach of Bush is better is a genuine disagreement, but it's fundamentally a tactical one. When the chips are on the table, Bush wants Trump to succeed. He just wants the world to know that if Trump does fail, there's another path forward for Republicans that doesn't involve rethinking any of their main ideas.

    • The controversy over Bernie Sanders's proposed Stop BEZOS Act, explained: "You need to take him seriously, not literally." The proposed act is just a way of showing (and with Amazon personalizing) the fact that one reason many companies can get away with paying workers less than a living wage is that many of those workers can compensate for low wages with the public-funded "safety net" -- food stamps, medicaid, etc. Such benefits not only help impoverished workers; they also effectively subsidize their employers. Of course, there are better ways to solve this problem, and indeed Sanders is in the forefront of pushing those ways. (Also see: James Bloodworth: I worked in an Amazon warehouse. Bernie Sanders is right to target them.)

  • Jon Lee Anderson: What Donald Trump Fails to Recognize About Hurricanes -- and Leadership: Before the storm hit, Trump tried to do the right thing and use his media prominence to make sure people were aware of the threat Hurricane Florence posed: as he most memorably put it, the storm "is very big and very wet." But aside from that one public service bit, everything else he made about himself, bragging about his "A+" damage control efforts in Texas and Florida last year, and blaming the disaster in Puerto Rico on Democrats and "fake news." I doubt that FEMA has ever done that great of a job, especially in an era where public spending is shrinking in addition to being eaten up by corruption (while at the same time disasters are becoming ever more expensive), but having the program run by people as insensitive and deceitful as Trump only makes matters worse.

    By the way, this has been a rather weird hurricane season, with more activity in the Pacific (including two major hurricanes impacting Hawaii, and, currently Typhoon Mangkhut ravages Philippines, Hong Kong, and southern China), while most Atlantic storms have been taking unusual routes (which partly explains why they've been relatively mild). It's not unusual for storms to follow the East Coast from Florida up through the Carolinas, but I can't recall any previous storm hitting North Carolina from straight east, then moving southwest and stalling before eventually curving north and back out to sea, as Florence is doing. (Wikipedia says Hurricane Isabel, in 2003, "took a similar path," but actually it came in from further south, with more impact in Virginia.) While Florence has caused a lot of damage to the Carolinas so far, one thing you should keep in mind is that winds there have generally been 70-80 mph less than what hit Puerto Rico a year ago. More rain and flooding, perhaps, but much less wind.

    More links on hurricanes, past and present:

  • Dean Baker: The bank bailout of 2008 was unnecessary. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke scared Congress into it. I think Baker's basically right, although at the time I didn't have a big problem with the $700 billion bank bailout bill -- nor, later, using some of the bailout funds to prop up the auto industry. I think it's appropriate for government to step in and prevent the sort of panics and collapse that big business is prone to, but I think it's even more appropriate to provide a strong safety net and a firm universal foundation for all the people who work and live in that economy. The problem is that propping up the banks kept the people who ran them into the ground in power, and once they were rescued, they actively worked against helping anyone else. Obama did manage to get a stimulus spending bill passed, but it was by most estimates less than half of what was actually needed to make up for the recession. (Coincidentally, it was capped at $700 billion, the same figure as the bank bailout bill. The banks, by the way, got way more than $700 billion thanks to Fed policies that basically gave them unlimited cash infusions, possibly as much as $3 trillion.) The recovery was further hampered by a Republican austerity campaign, whipped up by debt hysteria, partly on the hunch that keeping the economy depressed would make Obama, as Mitch McConnell put it, "a one-term president," and partly due to their ardor in shrinking government everywhere (except the military, police, and jails).

    Ten years after the collapse of Lehman, some more links:

    Matthew Yglesias' third Weeds newsletter made the following claim:

    President Obama's No. 1 job was to rescue the ruined economy he inherited, and he didn't do it.

    Yglesias, following an article by Jason Furman, argues that Obama failed because he didn't get Congress to pass an adequate stimulus bill. Congress did pass a $700 billion bill, but much of that was in the form of tax breaks, which turned out to have little effect. The size of the package was almost identical to the bank bailout bill passed under Bush, as if that was some sort of ceiling as to how much the government could spend on any given thing. (It's also very similar in size to the Defense budget, not counting supplemental funding for war operations.) I think it's more accurate to say that Obama did a perfectly adequate job of rescuing the banking industry, but once that was done it was impossible to get sufficient political support to rescue anyone else. Moreover, any hope that the banks, once restored to profitability, would somehow lift the rest of the economy out of the abyss, have been disproven. We might have known that much before, given the extent to which financial profits, even before the recession, were driven by predatory scams. There's no better example of the influence of money on politics, as well as its "I've got mine, so screw yours" ethics.

  • Zack Beauchamp: It happened there: how democracy died in Hungary. In 2010, Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party won a sufficient landslide to not only control Hungary's parliament but to rewrite its constitution, which they proceeded to do in such a way as to rig future elections in their favor, and make it nearly impossible for future governments to undo their policies. When I first read about this, I immediately realized that this would be the model for the Republicans should they ever achieve comparable power in the US. These days, Hungary looks like the model for a whole wave of illiberal despots, with Putin and Trump merely the most prominent.

  • James Fallows: The Passionless Presidency: Fairly long critique of Jimmy Carter's management style by a journalist who spent a couple years as one of Carter's speechwriters: mostly a catalog of idiosyncrasies he never felt the need to reconsider let alone learn from. Carter was one of the smartest and most personally decent people ever elected president, but few people regard him as a particularly good president, either based on results or popularity. It's long been recognized that he voluntarily sacrificed popularity with, for example, his recession-inducing battle against inflation, his appeal for conserving energy, and his Panama Canal treaty (to pick three backlashes Reagan's campaign jumped on. And lately we've had reason to question some of his goals and intentions, like his deregulation efforts, his undermining of trade unions, and his escalation of American "security interests" in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan. Fallows dances around these issues, partly by never really concerning himself with the substance of Carter's presidency, or for that matter its historical context. One thing that struck me at the time was that Carter started out wanting to find a moral center for US foreign policy, but somehow that quickly decayed into a more intensely moralistic gloss on the policy he inherited (mostly Kissinger's realpolitik with some high-sounding Kennedy-esque catch phrases). The immediate result was a revival of the Cold War in ever more uncompromising terms.

  • Sean Illing: The biggest lie we still teach in American history class: Interview with James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, which came out in 1995 and has sold some two million copies. He says: "The idea that we're always getting better keeps us from seeing those times when we're getting worse." Also:

    For example, if we want to make our society less racist, there are certain things we'll have to do, like we did between 1954 and 1974. During this time, you could actually see our society become less racist both in attitudes and in terms of our social structures.

    If we want to make society more racist, then we can do some of the things we did between 1890 and 1940, because we can actually see our society becoming more racist both in practices and in attitudes. So by not teaching causation, we disempower people from doing anything.

    By teaching that things are pretty much good and getting better automatically, we remove any reason for citizens to be citizens, to exercise the powers of citizenship. But that's not how progress happens.

    Nothing good happens without the collective efforts of dedicated people. History, the way it's commonly taught, has a way of obscuring this fact.

    Also, when asked about "the age of Trump":

    I actually think our situation is far worse than it was in the past. For example, our federal government, under Nixon and Johnson, lied to us about the Vietnam War, but they never made the case that facts don't matter or that my facts are as good as your facts.

    They assumed something had to be seen as true in order to matter, so they lied in order to further their agenda.

    Trump has basically introduced the idea that there is no such thing as facts, no such thing as truth -- and that is fundamentally different. He is attacking the very idea of truth and thereby giving his opponents no ground to stand on at all. That's a very dangerous road to go down, but that's where we are.

    Illing also has a good interview with David Graeber: Bullshit jobs: why they exist and why you might have one.

  • Anna North: The striking parallels between Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas: People tend to forget that the main reason Thomas' offenses were so shocking at the time was that he was actually in charge of the government department that was responsible for policing sexual harassment in the workplace. He should, in short, have been uniquely positioned to know the law, and personally bound to follow it. Of course, as a partisan Republican hack, he could care less about such things, but the example gave us a fair glimpse not just into his personal character but into his future legacy as a jurist. Kavanaugh's"#MeToo" problem (see Bonan Farrow/Jane Mayer: A Sexual-Misconduct Allegation Against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stirs Tension Among Democrats in Congress) doesn't strike me as of quite the same order, but there is a real parallel between how Thomas and Kavanaugh were groomed as political cadres infiltrating the Supreme Court. And confirming Kavanaugh will give him the opportunity to do something vastly more destructive to American women than he could ever have done in person. My main caveat is: don't think that all these guys care about is sexual domination; they're also really into money.

  • Nomi Prins: Cooking the Books in the Trump Universe. Or, as The Nation retitled this piece, "Is Donald Trump's Downfall Hidden in His Tax Returns?"

  • Jim Tankersley/Keith Bradsher: Trump Hits China With Tariffs on $200 Billion in Goods, Escalating Trade War.

  • Sandy Tolan: Was Oslo Doomed From the Start? I would like to think it could have worked, and maybe in Rabin hadn't been killed, and had Clinton taken seriously his role as honest broker, and had the UN (with US consent) weighed in on the illegality of the settler movement, but in retrospect it's clear that Oslo was a weak footing that faced very formidable opposition -- virtually all on the Israeli side (not that the deal lacked for Arab critics). The reason Oslo happened was Israel desperately needed a break and a breather from the Intifada. Rabin's vow to "break the bones" of the Palestinians had turned into a public relations disaster, at the same time as the Bush-Baker administration was exceptionally concerned with building up its Arab alliances. But also, Rabin recognized that Arafat was very weak -- partly because the Intifada had gotten along well without him, partly because his siding with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War undercut his support from other Arab leaders -- and was desperate to cut any kind of deal that would bring him back from exile. Rabin realized that bringing Arafat back was the sort of ploy that would look like a lot while giving up next to nothing. In particular, Rabin could still placate the Israeli right by accelerating the settlement project. Meanwhile, the security services, the settlers, and the right-wing political parties plotted how to kill the deal, and any future prospect for peaceful coexistence. As Nolan notes:

    For me, each successive trip has revealed a political situation grimmer and less hopeful than the time before.

    What's made the situation so grim isn't the demise of "the two-state solution," which only made sense as a way as a stop-gap way to extract most Palestinians from the occupation without demanding any change from Israeli nationalism. What's grim is that more and more Israelis have become convinced that they can maintain a vastly inequal and unjust two-caste hierarchy indefinitely. They have no qualms about violence, which they rationalize with increasingly blatant racism, and for now at least they have few worries about world public opinion -- least of all about the US since Donald Trump, who's been totally submissive to Netanyahu, took office.

    Also see:

  • Max Ajl: Trump's decision to close the PLO Embassy says more about the future of the US than the future of Palestine.

  • Avi Shlaim: Palestinians still live under apartheid in Israel, 25 years after the Oslo accord.

  • Edward Wong: US Is Ending Final Source of Aid for Palestinian Civilians.

  • Jon Schwarz/Alice Speri: No One Will Be Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Oslo Accords.

  • James Vincent: EU approves controversial Copyright Directive, including internet 'link tax' and 'upload filter': "Those in favor say they're fighting for content creators, but critics say the new laws will be 'catastrophic.'" For more of the latter position, see Sarah Jeong: New EU copyright filtering law threatens the internet as we knew it. This sounds just extraordinarily awful. In a nutshell, the idea is to force all content on the internet to be monetized, with a clear accounting mechanism so that every actor pays an appropriate amount for every bit of content. In theory this should provide financial incentives for creative people to produce content, confident their efforts will be rewarded. In practice, this will fail on virtually every conceivable level. The most obvious one is that only large media companies will be able to manage the process, and even they will find it difficult and fraught with risk. Conversely, content creators will find it next to impossible to enforce their rights, so in most cases they will sell them cheap to a whole new layer of parasitic copyright trolls. The metadata required to manage this whole process will rival actual content data in mass, and lend itself to all sorts of hacking and fraud. And most likely, all the headaches will drive people away from generating content -- even ones formerly willing to do so gratis -- so the overall universe of content will shrink. It would be much simpler to do away with copyright and try to come up with incentives for creators that don't depend on taxing distribution. That could be combined with funding of alternatives to the current rash of media monopolies, reducing the ability of companies to convert private information into cash.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Daily Log

Bunch of stuff happened over the last several days. Also a lot of mental strain on the perennial "what is to be done?" question, so even if none of this is worth preserving, maybe it will help me sort things out.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Daily Log

First stab at a NOEL post. Didn't really come together, got interrupted, shifted to Weekend Roundup.

Matthew Yglesias has resurrected his Weeds pop-up newsletter. I've found Yglesias to one of be the most consistently useful of Trump-era analysts, but one area where he's waffled on has been the top-line economic indicators. On the one hand, he sees Trump's decent numbers as being continuous with growth trends under Obama. On the othar hand, in his newsletter he credits Trump for stimulating the economy through tax cuts and deficit spending, while slamming Obama for not doing enough back in 2009 when the economy was severely tanking.

President Obama's No. 1 job was to rescue the ruined economy he inherited, and he didn't do it.

At least not all the way. He took office in late January 2009 amid catastrophic conditions, and by the time he passed the baton to Donald Trump eight years later, things were a lot better but a substantial output gap remained. That's why even though I think Trump's policies are detrimental to the long-term economic outlook of the United States, Trump was able to boost growth in 2018 with fiscal stimulus in the form of tax cuts and increased spending.

Why didn't the economy fully recover under Obama? Not enough fiscal stimulus. . . .

But from a forward-looking perspective, the key point isn't who specifically got it wrong -- it's that the Democratic Party collectively didn't get the job done when they had the votes and every incentive to want a full and rapid recovery.

Much of the quote I skipped over had to do with Blue Dog Democrats, a group which grew significantly in the 2006 election and worked to undermine relatively progressive policy proposals in 2009-11, when the Democrats still had majority control of Congress, but weren't able to do much with it. Not surprising that people who were around at the time, like Jason Furman (the . . .

Monday, September 10, 2018

Music Week

Music: current count 30295 [30261] rated (+34), 271 [278] unrated (-7).

Pretty average week, maybe skewed a bit more than usual toward jazz, as I continued adding jazz albums to my Music Tracking file (up to 2062 records now, 913 of them jazz). As the week started, I was still playing catch up with the late Randy Weston. After that, new adds to the tracking file steered me to various jazz artists -- Gordon Grdina, Tord Gustavsen, Scott Hamilton, Uwe Oberg. Also made a dent in my incoming queue. Only three non-jazz albums this week -- two from Christgau (who also noted Kali Uchis' Isolation as an HM, but I have it at A-).

I'm not expecting to get much work done this coming week. My late sister's big art project will be dismantled toward the end of the week, and either packed up and hauled somewhere (still, as far as I know, undetermined) or tossed into the trash. Some relatives are likely to show up for this, but I don't have any details. (I'm feeling really out of the loop here.) This summer has been an awful slog for me. Don't know whether I'll be relieved or shattered when the week is over.

Meanwhile, I've dropped the ball on my server project, and for that matter on long-delayed maintenance work on Robert Christgau's website. Probably won't make much progress there until this week's dust settles, but I've started to think about the tasks again, after blanking out a week ago.

Still reading books on Russia, although nothing new is quite as enlightening at David Satter's 2003 book, Darkness at Dawn: The Rise of the Russian Criminal State. Satter's more recent The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep reprises his sensational charge that the FSB was responsible for the 1999 terror bombings of apartments in Moscow (pictured) and elsewhere, providing the perfect provocation for Putin to demolish Chechen independence and consolidate his grip on Russian political power. Of course, this sounds much like so many 9/11 conspiracy theories, especially with its cui bono rationales, but it's hard to imagine how else an unknown insider like Putin could have overcome the morass Boris Yeltsin's presidency had left Russia in. I'm midway through the book, just reading about the massacres in the Moscow theater and the Beslan school. Satter suggests these terrorist attacks may also have been guided by the FSB as provocations -- by this point support for the Chechen War was again flagging, so they laid the ground for another round of Russian escalation -- but thee's less evidence and rationale behind those charges. Later chapters should move on to the Ukraine crisis in 2014, but they are bound to be brief.

Masha Gessen, in The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, follows several (mostly) elite families from Glasnost on -- some semi-famous, most liberal dissenters but also neo-fascist ideologist Alexander Dugin (you might think of him as Putin's Steve Bannon). I think the key thing here is that while she doesn't excuse Yeltsin and Putin, she sees the return to totalitarianism as a mass preference rather than as something the leaders inflicted on the people. Reading the book, it occurred to me that the main reason for this was that 70 years of Communist rule had left people so cynical about the left critique of capitalism that it's since been impossible to form a significant democratic socialist opposition to the self-dealing oligarchy that took over with Yeltsin.

The least satisfactory book is Timothy Snyder's The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America, although I did find useful how he tracked Gessen's history from a slightly broader perspective. Snyder is a historian who has specialized in the war between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to control Eastern Europe (his big book is Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin), but he's never rasped the difference between fascism and communism, so he readily falls for the Cold War ploy of treating both as totalitarianism, making it easy to see Putin as the unification of both evils. He even finds a forgotten philosopher, Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954) as the key ideologist behind Putinism. (Gessen, on the other hand, starts with psychological studies of Homo sovieticus, ties them to the "authoritarian personality" studies of Adorno and Arendt, and charts how those traits have persisted under Putin.) Snyder likes to call the Ilyin-Putin idea "the politics of eternity" -- sounds a bit like thousand-year Reich extrapolated to infinity, but smells more like bullshit.

Gessen, by the way, has a piece I should have mentioned yesterday, The Undoing of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin's Friendship, and How It Changed Both of Their Countries. Clinton's decision to bomb what was left of Yugoslavia over Kosovo offended Yeltsin, both by harming an important relationship for Russia and by making Russia look weak and helpless when faced with American hostility. It also re-established NATO as a counter-Russian threat, and set a precedent for the US to unilaterally start wars elsewhere (e.g., Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003). It also changed Russia:

What was seen as a unilateral American decision to start bombing a longtime Russian ally emboldened the nationalist opposition and tapped into a deep inferiority complex. Sensitive to these sentiments, Yeltsin responded that May by celebrating Victory Day with a military parade in Red Square, the first in eight years. In fact, military parades took place all over the country that year, and have been repeated every year since. What was even more frightening were a series of nongovernmental Victory Day parades by ultranationalists. That these public displays, some of which featured the swastika, were tolerated, and in such close proximity to celebrations of the country's most hallowed holiday, suggested that xenophobia had acquired new power in Russia. Later that year, Yeltsin anointed Vladimir Putin his successor and signed off on a renewed war in Chechnya. This offensive, designed to shore up support for the country's hand-picked new leader, was both inspired and enabled by Kosovo. It was a dare to the United States, an assertion that Russia will do what it wants in its own Muslim autonomy.

One thing that should be clear by now is that Clinton and other independent western actors like George Soros actively intervened in Russian politics in the 1990s, in support of Yeltsin, they never cared the least for the welfare of Russia, or even for making their supposed friendly politicians look good. Clinton just assumed that Russia would never be a problem again, no matter how much popular enmity he caused. Bush and Obama took much the same tack with Putin, who actually did a pretty decent job of humoring them as long as that proved possible, but in the end, sure, he pushed back. My evolving view of Putin is that he is a smart, canny politician, careful to maintain his popularity as well as his hand on the levers of power in Russia. But, unlike Snyder, I don't see him as a person of strong ideological conviction. It's true that he embraces various conservative/nationalist positions, but most likely because that's where his natural political base is. He exercises a discomforting degree of control over the media and all forms of political discourse, and he has done some unsavory things with his power, but he also seems to have some sense of limits, unlike many dictators we can recall. In short, he seems like someone the US can work with, and that would be better for all concerned than the recent spiral of escalating offenses.

Still, one should be clear about the ways of power, in Russia, in the United States, everywhere. Change what you can, and don't get suckered into projects that can only make matters worse (e.g., ones involving real or even just mock war).

Recommended music links:

  • The Last of the Live Jazz Reviewers: An Interview With Nate Chinen. Book includes a list of "The 129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century (So Far)." I should dig this list up and see how it jives with my own lists. But for now, note that Chinen has written about some of them here, and is promising more. [PS: Made a stab at this, but can't find the list for 2014-2017, so I only have 100 albums in list: 17 I haven't heard, grade breakdown for rest: A: 2, A-: 23, B+: 44 (16-10-10), B: 7, B-: 5. That's not far from my usual intersection with jazz critics polls, but given that he's only picking 5-7 records per year, and I regularly find over 50 A/A- jazz albums per year, I'm surprised the spread didn't skew a bit higher. PPS: Picked up the missing entries.]

New records rated this week:

  • Bali Baby: Baylor Swift (2018, TWIN, EP): [r]: A-
  • Dave Ballou & BeepHonk: The Windup (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Carter/Hilliard Greene/David Haney: Live Constructions (2017 [2018], Slam): [r]: B
  • Cyrus Chestnut: Kaleidoscope (2018, HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • George Colligan: Nation Divided (2017 [2018], Whirlwind): [r]: B+(*)
  • Yelena Eckemoff: Better Than Gold and Silver (2018, L&H Production, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • The Equity & Social Justice Quartet: Argle-Bargle or Foofaraw (2018, Edgetone): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Fred Frith Trio: Closer to the Ground (2018, Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Gordon Grdina/François Houle/Kenton Loewen: Live at the China Cloud (2017, Big in Japan): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Ejdeha (2018, Songlines): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: The Other Side (2018, ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scott Hamilton: Meets the Piano Players (2016 [2017], Organic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton: The Shadow of Your Smile (2017, Blau): [r]: A-
  • Scott Hamilton: Moon Mist (2018, Blau): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hieroglyphic Being: The Replicant Dream Sequence (2018, Moog Recordings Library) **
  • Hinds: I Don't Run (2018, Mom + Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ayn Inserto Jazz Orchestra: Down a Rabbit Hole (2015-17 [2018], Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Yves Marcotte: Always Know Monk (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ernest McCarty Jr./Theresa Davis: I Remember Love (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Myriad 3: Vera (2018, ALMA): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Uwe Oberg/Heinz Sauer: Sweet Reason (2017 [2018], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Jason Stein: Spiritual Prayers (2018, Leo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Rudi Mahall: Kindred Spirits (2018, Leo, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • University of Toronto 12Tet: When Day Slips Into Night (2018, UofT Jazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Andrés Vial: Andrés Vial Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One (2017 [2018], Chromatic Audio): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Western Michigan University Jazz Orchestra: Turkish Delight (2018, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: Changing Places (2001-02 [2003], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rudi Mahall: Quartett (2006 [2007], Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Uwe Oberg: Work (2008 [2015], Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Weston: Portraits of Thelonious Monk: Well You Needn't (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Randy Weston: Portraits of Duke Ellington: Caravan (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Self Portraits: The Last Day (1989 [1990], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Marrakech in the Cool of the Evening (1992 [1994], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Randy Weston: Earth Birth (1995 [1997], Verve): [r]: B+(*)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Cory Smythe: Circulate Susanna (Pyroclastic)
  • Steven Taetz: Drink You In (Flatcar/Fontana North)

Daily Log

From Nate Chinen's "The 129 Essential Albums of the Twenty-First Century (So Far)," with my grades (where avaiable) in brackets.


  1. Jim Black's AlasNoAxis, AlasNoAxis (Winter & Winter) [***]
  2. Brian Blade Fellowship, Perceptual (Blue Note) [**]
  3. Kurt Elling, Live in Chicago (Blue Note) [B]
  4. Nils Petter Molvaer, Solid Ether (ECM) [A]
  5. Danilo Perez, Motherland (Verve) [*]
  6. David Sánchez, Melaza (Columbia) [B+]
  7. David S. Ware, Surrendered (Columbia) [A-]


  1. Chicago Underground Quartet, Chicago Underground Quartet (Thrill Jockey) [**]
  2. The Claudia Quintet, The Claudia Quintet (Blueshift CRI) [Cuneiform: [A-]
  3. Marilyn Crispell/Paul Motian/Gary Peacock, Amaryllis (ECM) [B+]
  4. Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Next Step (Verve) [B+]
  5. John Scofield, Works for Me (Verve) [**]
  6. Matthew Shipp, New Orbit (Thirsty Ear) [B+]


  1. Ben Allison, Peace Pipe (Palmetto)
  2. Tim Berne, Science Friction (Screwgun)
  3. Keith Jarrett Trio, Always Let Me Go (ECM) [**]
  4. Wayne Shorter Quartet, Footprints Live! (Blue Note) [A-]
  5. Luciana Souza, Brazilian Duos (Sunnyside) [B+]
  6. Tomasz Stanko Quartet, Soul of Things (ECM) [A-]
  7. Cecil Taylor, The Willisau Concert (Intakt) [A-]
  8. Cassandra Wilson, Belly of the Sun (Blue Note) [*]


  1. The Bad Plus, These Are the Vistas [A-]
  2. David Binney, South (ACT) [**]
  3. Terence Blanchard, Bounce (Blue Note) [**]
  4. Jane Ira Bloom, Chasing Paint (Arabesque) [A-]
  5. Fred Hersch Trio, Live at the Village Vanguard (Palmetto) [***]
  6. Dave Holland Quintet, Extended Play: Live at Birdland (ECM) [**]
  7. Ahmad Jamal, In Search of Momentum (Dreyfus) [**]


  1. Geri Allen, The Life of a Song (Telarc) [A-]
  2. Don Byron, Ivey-Divey (Blue Note) [A-]
  3. Frank Kimbrough, Lullabluebye (Palmetto) [B]
  4. Tony Malaby Trio, Abode (Sunnyside) [A-]
  5. Medeski Martin & Wood, End of the World Party (Just in Case) (Blue Note) [B+]
  6. Brad Mehldau Trio, Anything Goes (Warner Bros.) [***]
  7. Mulgrew Miller Trio, Live at Yoshi's Volume One (Maxjazz) [B]


  1. Amina Figarova, September Suite (Munich) [B+]
  2. Guillermo Klein, Una Nave (Sunnyside) [B+]
  3. Pat Metheny Group, The Way Up (Nonesuch) [*]
  4. Paul Motian/Bill Frisell/Joe Lovano, I Have the Room Above Her (ECM) [***]
  5. Sonny Rollins, Without a Song: The 9/11 Concert (Milestone) [A-]
  6. Jenny Scheinman, 12 Songs (Cryptogramophone) [A-]
  7. Cuong Vu, It's Mostly Residual (Intoxicate) [B]
  8. Miguel Zenón, Jíbaro (Marsalis Music) [A-]


  1. Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar) [A]
  2. Dave Douglas Quintet, Meaning and Mystery (Greenleaf) [*]
  3. Andrew Hill, Time Lines (Blue Note) [***]
  4. Christian McBride, Live at Tonic (Ropeadope) [***]


  1. Michael Brecker, Pilgrimage (Heads Up) [**]
  2. The Nels Cline Singers, Draw Breath (Cryptogramophone) [**]
  3. Robert Glasper, In My Element (Blue Note) [*]
  4. Herbie Hancock, The Joni Letters (Verve) [B-]
  5. Lionel Loueke, Virgin Forest (ObliqSound) [*]
  6. Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Congo Square (Jazz at Lincoln Center)
  7. Bill McHenry, Roses (Sunnyside) [**]
  8. Joshua Redman, Back East (Nonesuch) [A-]


  1. J.D. Allen Trio, I Am I Am (Sunnyside) [***]
  2. Anat Cohen, Notes from the Village (Anzic) [A-]
  3. Fieldwork, Door (Pi) [A-]
  4. Bill Frisell, History, Mystery (Nonesuch) [A-]
  5. Mary Halvorson Trio, Dragon's Head (Firehouse 12) [A-]
  6. Charles Lloyd, Rabo de Nube (ECM) [***]
  7. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Kinsmen (Pi) [A-]
  8. Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Avatar (Blue Note) [**]


  1. Five Peace Band, Five Peace Band Live (Concord) [John McLaughlin/Chick Corea: **]
  2. Fly, Sky & Country (ECM) [*]
  3. Vijay Iyer Trio, Historicity (ACT) [A-]
  4. Darius Jones, Man'ish Boy (Aum Fidelity) [A-]
  5. Steve Lehman Octet, Travail, Transformation and Flow (Pi) [A-]
  6. Joe Lovano's Us Five, Folk Art (Blue Note) [***]
  7. Myra Melford's Be Bread, The Whole Tree Gone (Firehouse 12) [A-]
  8. Trio 3/Geri Allen, At This Time (Intakt) [A-]
  9. Matt Wilson Quartet, That's Gonna Leave a Mark (Palmetto) [A-]


  1. Steve Coleman and Five Elements, Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi) [B]
  2. The Cookers, Warriors (Jazz Legacy) [***]
  3. Kneebody, You Can Have Your Moment (Winter & Winter) [*]
  4. Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth, Deluxe (Clean Feed) [*]
  5. Jason Moran, Ten (Blue Note) [***]
  6. Paradoxical Frog, Paradoxical Frog (Clean Feed) [*]


  1. Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds) [*]
  2. Gilad Hekselman, Hearts Wide Open (Le Chant du Monde) [*]
  3. Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, 40 Acres and a Burro (Zoho) [B-]
  4. Gretchen Parlato, The Lost and Found (ObliqSound) [B-]


  1. Ravi Coltrane, Spirit Fiction (Blue Note) [**]
  2. Tom Harrell, Number Five (HighNote) [*]
  3. Masabumi Kikuchi Trio, Sunrise (ECM) [***]
  4. Donny McCaslin, Casting for Gravity (Greenleaf) [***]
  5. Linda Oh, Initial Here (Greenleaf) [***]
  6. Wadada Leo Smith, Ten Freedom Summers (Cuneiform) [***]


  1. Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, Brooklyn Babylon (New Amsterdam) [**]
  2. The New Gary Burton Quartet, Guided Tour (Mack Avenue) [**]
  3. Ben Monder, Hydra (Sunnyside) [B-]
  4. Gregory Porter, Liquid Spirit (Blue Note) [B-]
  5. Chris Porter, The Sirens (ECM) [***]
  6. Matana Roberts, COIN COIN Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonhile (Constellation) [**]
  7. Craig Taborn Trio, Chants (ECM) [***]


  1. Ambrose Akinmusire, The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier to Paint (Blue Note) [B-]
  2. Flying Lotus, You're Dead! (Warp) [**]
  3. Billy Hart Quartet, One Is the Other (ECM) [B]
  4. Hedvig Mollestad Trio, Enfant Terrible (Rune Grammofon)
  5. Loren Stillman and Bad Touch, Going Public (Fresh Sound New Talent) [***]
  6. Mark Turner Quartet, Lathe of Heaven (ECM) [**]
  7. David Virelles, Mbókò (ECM) [**]


  1. Amir ElSaffar's Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi) [A-]
  2. Makaya McCraven, In the Moment (International Anthem) [***]
  3. Mike Moreno, Lotus (World Culture)
  4. Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, A New Kind of Dance (482) [A-]
  5. Tomeka Reid Quartet, Tomeka Reid Quartet (Thirsty Ear) [A-]
  6. Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare) [**]
  7. Jen Shyu and Jade Tongue, Sounds and Cries of the World (Pi) [B-]
  8. Henry Threadgill's Zooid, In for a Penny, In for a Pound (Pi) [A-]
  9. Kamasi Washington, The Epic (Brainfeeder) [**]


  • Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio, Back Home (Word of Mouth) [***]
  • Kris Davis, Duopoly (Pyroclastic) [***]
  • Jeff Parker, The New Breed (International Anthem) [B]
  • Shabaka and the Ancestors, Wisdom of Elders (Brownswood) [*]
  • Tyshawn Sorey, The Inner Spectrum of Variables (Pi) [***]
  • Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution (Concord) [B]
  • 2017

    1. Jaimie Branch, Fly or Die (International Anthem) [**]
    2. Nubya Garcia, Nubya's 5ive (Jazz Re:freshed) [**]
    3. Ron Miles, I Am a Man (Yellowbird) [***]
    4. Nicole Mitchell, Mandorla Awakening II: Emerging Worlds (FPE) [**]
    5. Roscoe Mitchell, Bells for the South Side (ECM) [***]
    6. Cécile McLorin Salvant, Dreams and Daggers (Mack Avenue) [*]
    7. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, The Centennial Trilogy (Ropeadope) [**]


    1. Maria Grand, Magdalena (Biophilia) [**]
    2. Julian Lage, Modern Lore (Mack Avenue) [B]
    3. Dafnis Prieto Big Band, Back to the Sunset (Dafnison) [***]
    4. Logan Richardson, Blues People (Ropeadope) [B]
    5. Dan Weiss, Starebaby (Pi) [B]

    My grade count:

    • A: 2
    • A-: 29
    • B+: 8
    • B+(***): 25
    • B+(**): 27
    • B+(*): 15
    • B: 19
    • B-: 8
    • U: 5

    Artists with post-2000 A/A- records, but picked with lesser grades:

    • Ben Allison (3)
    • J.D. Allen (2)
    • Tim Berne (2)
    • Chicago Underground (2)
    • Nels Cline (2)
    • Steve Coleman (2)
    • Marilyn Crispell (3)
    • Ravi Coltrane (1)
    • Kris Davis (3)
    • Dave Douglas (4)
    • Fred Hersch (4)
    • Dave Holland (3)
    • Keith Jarrett (2)
    • Chris Lightcap (1)
    • Charles Lloyd (5)
    • Joe Lovano (3)
    • Wynton Marsalis (1)
    • Donny McCaslin (1)
    • Medeski Martin & Wood (1)
    • Brad Mehldau (1)
    • Nicole Mitchell (2)
    • Roscoe Mitchell (1)
    • Jason Moran (3)
    • Paul Motian (1)
    • Linda Oh (1)
    • Chris Porter (2)
    • Logan Richardson (1)
    • Gonzalo Rubalcaba (1)
    • Matthew Shipp (11)
    • Wadada Leo Smith (7)
    • Tyshawn Sorey (3)
    • Craig Taborn (1)
    • Cassandra Wilson (1)

    Of course, several artists listed with had A/A- before 2000 but not since:

    • Terence Blanchard (1)
    • Herbie Hancock (3)
    • Tom Harrell (1)
    • Andrew Hill (11)
    • Ahmad Jamal (2)
    • Christian McBride (1)
    • Pat Metheny (1)
    • David Sánchez (2)
    • John Scofield (2)
    • Mark Turner (1)

    Sunday, September 09, 2018

    Weekend Roundup

    This is how last week started, with a few choice tidbits from Bob Woodward's new book, Fear: Trump in the White House: Philip Rucker/Robert Costa: Bob Woodward's new book reveals a 'nervous breakdown' of Trump's presidency As Aaron Blake (in The Most damning portrait of Trump's presidency yet -- by far):

    Bob Woodward's book confirms just about everything President Trump's critics and those who closely study the White House already thought to be the case inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It's also completely stunning.

    The book doesn't go public until 9/11 -- wouldn't you like to have been a "fly on the wall" for the marketing sessions that picked that date? -- but not much that's been reported so far is surprising. I've long suspected that Trump ordered a plan to pre-emptively attack North Korea, and that the military brass refused to give him one, but that story didn't strike Blake as important enough to even mention. (He does cite Trump's tantrum over Syria: "Let's fucking kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the fucking lot of them.") Still, the main effect of the book leaks was simply to get the mainstream press to return to such quickly forgotten stories, and to provoke more reactions to feed the 24-hour cable news cycle.

    One such reaction was the now infamous New York Times anonymous op-ed piece, I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration, reportedly by "a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure." Again, this has mostly been reported as a dis of Trump, but it is actually a very scary document, revealing that even as deranged as Trump is, he's not the most despicable and dangerous person in his administration. When the author claims "like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations," they're not doing it out of any sense of higher loyalty to law and the constitution. They're doing it to advance their own undemocratic, rigidly conservative political agenda. And if these people are really "the adults in the room," as competent as they think, they'll probably wind up doing more real harm to the people than Trump could ever do on his own.

    Of course, the op-ed launched a huge guessing game as to the author. Trump played along, tweeting something about "TREASON" and urging Atty. General Jeff Sessions to investigate (although on further reflection I doubt he'd really welcome another DOJ investigation of his staff). And, of course, everyone who is anyone in the administration has denied responsibility -- hardly a surprise given that a willingness to stand up for truth and take responsibility for one's actions were disqualifying marks for any Trump administration job. Besides, as John Judis notes, "I'd look for whoever in the administration most vociferously denounces the author of the op-ed."

    For an overview, see Andrew Prokop: Who is the senior Trump official who wrote the New York Times op-ed? -- although you'd have to go to the links to come up with possible names and reasons. Jimmy Kimmel noticed the unusual word "lodestar" and came up with a reel of Mike Pence using the word in a half-dozen different speeches. (Colbert ran the same revelation a day later.) Actually, that suggests Pence's speechwriter, whoever that is. Indeed, there are dozens of anonymous little folk you've never heard of scurrying around the West Wing offices, where they could stealthily carry on the "good fight" of enforcing rightist orthodoxy. It's not like anyone had ever heard of Rob Porter before he got fired, but his precise job was to shuffle papers for Trump's signature.

    The other thing to remember about Pence is that he was the main person responsible for staffing the Administration after Trump got elected, so he's likely the main reason why all these totally orthodox conservatives have been empowered and turned loose to wreak havoc on the administrative state -- indeed, on the very notion that the government is meant to serve the people and promote the general welfare of the nation.

    Additional links on Woodward and/or the Anonymous op-ed:

    • Masha Gessen: The Anonymous New York Times Op-Ed and the Trumpian Corruption of Language and the Media:

      The Op-Ed section is separate from the news operation, but, in protecting the identity of the person who wrote the Op-Ed, the paper forfeits the job of holding power to account. . . . By publishing the anonymous Op-Ed, the Times became complicit in its own corruption.

      The way in which the news media are being corrupted -- even an outlet like the Times, which continues to publish remarkable investigative work throughout this era -- is one of the most insidious, pronounced, and likely long-lasting effects of the Trump Administration. The media are being corrupted every time they engage with a nonsensical, false, or hateful Trump tweet (although not engaging with these tweets is not an option). They are being corrupted every time journalists act polite while the President, his press secretary, or other Administration officials lie to them. They are being corrupted every time a Trumpian lie is referred to as a "falsehood," a "factually incorrect statement," or as anything other than a lie. They are being corrupted every time journalists allow the Administration to frame an issue, like when they engage in a discussion about whether the separation of children from their parents at the border is an effective deterrent against illegal immigration. They are being corrupted every time they use the phrase "illegal immigration."

    • David A Graham: We're Watching an Antidemocratic Coup Unfold: Graham basically agrees with David Frum (see This Is a Constitutional Crisis, a piece I read then decided wasn't important enough to cite) that acts by White House staff to subvert Trump's presidential directives constitute some kind of attack on American democracy, even though they both agree that Trump is crazy, demented, stupid and cruel. I think they're way overreacting. On the one hand, it's simply not reasonable that any president -- even one elected with a much less ambiguous mandate than Trump was -- should have the power to dictate the acts of everyone who works under the executive branch. The fact is that everyone who works for government has to satisfy multiple directives, starting with the constitution and the legal code, and in many cases other professional codes, labor contracts, and job descriptions. On the other hand, every organization involves a good deal of delegation and specialization, and virtually all managers expect subordinates to push back against ill considered directives. Most of the concrete cases Woodward cites are occasions where rejecting Trump's directives is fully appropriate. The author of the "we are the resistance" op-ed is a different case because he (or, unlikely, she) is claiming a higher political right to go rogue, but in the absence of specific cases that isn't even clearly the case. What we probably do agree on is that Trump himself thinks he should have more direct power over his administration than he does in fact have, and this is more painfully obvious than is normally the case because he tends to make exceptionally dreadful decisions, because in turn he's uninformed, impetuous, unwilling to listen to expertise, and unable to reason effectively. Given the kind of person Trump is, occasional staff resistance is inevitable, and should be recognized as the normal functioning of the bureaucracy. (Graham actually cites a previous example of this: "Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, worried by Richard Nixon's heavy drinking, instructed generals not to launch any strikes without his say-so -- effectively granting himself veto power over the president.")

    • Greg Sargent: Trump's paranoid rage is getting worse. But the White House 'resistance' is a sham.<

    • David Von Drehle: The only solid bet is on Trump's panic (but the op-ed was probably Jared): I'm mostly linking to this because my wife's been offering opinions on who did it all week, and her latest pick is Kushner. I don't buy this for a lot of reasons, but mostly because the op-ed reads like the work of an ideological purist -- something I seriously doubt of Kushner. (I also doubt Kushner could write it without a lot of help -- whatever else you may think, it is very well crafted.) On the other hand, the bottom third about the Mueller investigation makes perfect sense, and gives you a lot to think about. The public hasn't seen Trump's tax returns, but "Mueller almost certainly possesses" them. Also financial transaction records from Deutsche Bank, "which also coughed up $630 million in fines in 2017 to settle charges of participating in a $10 billion Russian money-laundering scheme."

    Concurrently, the Senate Judiciary Hearing has been holding hearings on Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Bret Kavanaugh. Some links:

    Some scattered links this week:

    • Matthew Yglesias: No summary of the week, but he wrote some important pieces this week:

      • John McCain's memorial service was not a resistance event: Cites Susan Glasser's New Yorker article for its ridiculous resistance meme -- something I wrote about last week. As noted, McCain's occasional dissent from Trump rarely had anything to do with policy, and when it did it was usually because Trump has never been as steadfastly pro-war as McCain. (Arguably Trump is so impetuous and erratic he's ultimately more dangerous, but I don't believe that.) Sure, one might imagine a principled conservative opposition to Trump, but Republicans gave up any hint of such principles ages ago (e.g., when Arthur Vanderberg welcomed the military-industrial complex, when Barry Goldwater sided with segregation, when Richard Nixon decided winning mattered more than following the law, when all Reagan and Bush decided to sacrifice abortion rights for political expediency, when right-wing jurists ruled that free speech rights are proportional to money, and that anything that tips an election in your favor is fair play). But it's real hard to find any actual Republican politicians who adhere to such conservative principles. On the other hand, there is a real resistance, not just to Trump but to the whole conservative political movement.

        Also on McCain: Eric Lovitz: John McCain's Service in Vietnam Was a Tragedy.

      • Trump's White House says wages are rising more than liberals think: This gets pretty deep in the weeds, trying to make "the best case for Trump: surging consumer confidence," but concluding "wage growth isn't zero, but it's still pretty low." My hunch is that it feels even worse, because Trump's anti-union and other deregulation efforts are aimed at increasing corporate power both over workers and consumers, while those and other policies shift risk onto individuals.

      • Republicans are preparing to disavow Trump if he fails -- then come back and try the same policies: You've heard this one before: every time conservatives get political power, they screw things up -- Reagan ended in various scandals from HUD to S&Ls to Iran-Contra, Bush I in a rash of short wars and recession, Bush II with his endless wars and even huger recession, and now Trump with his ticking cacophony of time bombs -- but bounce back by claiming that their ideas never got a fair chance. As the subhed puts it, 'Conservatism can never fail, only be failed." Indeed, Trump's catastrophic failure now seems so ordained that some Republicans are already heading for the exits and shelters, preparing themselves for the next wave of resurgent conservatism. Paul Ryan is the most obvious example.

      • Republicans are arguing that Medicare-for-all will undermine Medicare: Same old strategy they've always used, sowing FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to rally the uninformed and easily confused against any proposed change. Still, seems a little far fetched, especially coming from the party that tried to stop Medicare from passing in the first place, the same one that periodically comes up with new schemes to weaken it.

      • Obama wants Democrats to quit their addiction to the status quo. Alternate title, the one actually on the page: "Obama just gave the speech the left's wanted since he left office." Actually, the left wanted him to step up 9-10 years ago, back when he was in a position to do more than just talk. And while he embraces the "new idea" of Medicare for All, ten years ago that was actually better understood program than the one the Democrats passed and Obama got tarred and feathered with. Yglesias wonders how effective Obama speaking out might be. To my mind, the key thing that he's signaling is that mainstream Democrats shouldn't fear the party moving to the left. Rather, they need to keep up with their voters. For more on Obama's speech, see Dylan Scott: The 7 most important moments in Obama's blistering critique of Trump and the GOP: Starts with "It did not start with Donald Trump."

    • Tara Golshan/Ella Nilsen: Trump says a shutdown would be a "great political issue" 2 months from the midterms: On the surface this seems like a monumentally stupid thing to say. I think we've had enough experience lately with playing chicken over budget shutdowns that it's pretty clear that whoever initiates the shutdown loses. If Trump doesn't get this by now, that can only suggest he's, well, some kind of, you know, moron.

    • Dara Lind: Trump's new plan to detain immigrant families indefinitely, explained: Some highlights:

      • Tighten the standards for releasing migrant children from detention
      • Detain families in facilities that haven't been formally approved for licenses
      • Give facilities broad "emergency" loopholes for not meeting standards of care
      • Make it easier for the government to revoke the legal protections for "unaccompanied" children
    • Ernesto Londono/Nicholas Casey: Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers: Takeaway quote: "Maduro has long justified his grip on Venezuela by claiming that Washington imperialists are actively trying to depose him, and the secret talks could provide him with ammunition to chip away at the region's nearly united stance against him." Trump has also talked up staging an outright US military invasion.

    • German Lopez: Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel's disastrous handling of a police shooting tanked his reelection bid: Emanuel announced he won't run for third term, even though he had already raised $10 million for the campaign.

    • Rick Perlstein/Livia Gershon: Stolen Elections, Voting Dogs and Other Fantastic Fables From the GOP Voter Fraud Mythology: A long history, going back to Operation Eagle Eye, launched by Republicans convinced that the 1960 presidential election was stolen from Richard Nixon.

    • Greg Sargent: Trump's latest rally rant is much more alarming and dangerous than usual:

    • Dylan Scott: The 4 House GOP scandals that could tip the 2018 midterms, explained: Scott Taylor, Chris Collins, Duncan Hunter, Rod Blum. "Democrats' 2018 message is that Republicans are corrupt."

    • Felicia Sonmez: Trump suggests that protesting should be illegal: Tempted to file this under Kavanaugh above, given that the key tweet was in response to protesters at the Senate hearings (most of whom were in fact arrested), but the first example in the article refers to him lashing out at "NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, and further examples include the "Giant Trump Baby" in London. Also related: John Wagner: Trump suggests libel laws should be changed after uproar over Woodward book. Actually, changing libel laws to allow him to sue anyone he thinks defamed him was something he campaigned on in 2016 -- something at the time I didn't think stood a chance of passing, but still revealed much about his worldview. Treating dissent and even criticism as criminal is a common trait of the class of political figures we commonly describe as dictators. Trump has long shown great sympathy for such figures, which only adds to the notion that he aspires to be a dictator as well.

    • Kay Steiger: 4 winners and 3 losers from Brett Kavanaugh's many-hour, multi-day confirmation hearings: Simpler version: "Winner: Trump. Loser: women and people of color." Another loser: "civil libertarians," although I'd read that more broadly.

    • Alex Ward: A North Korea nuclear deal looks more likely to happen now. Here's why. The sticking points seem to be matters of who does what first. Advisers like Bolton seem to have convinced Trump that the only way to get Kim to do what he says he wants to do is to keep applying maximum pressure, even though that mostly suggests that the US is the one who can't be trusted to deliver unforced promises. Take the issue of formally ending "the state of war" between the US and North Korea. What possible reason is there for Trump not to do this (and for that matter not to do it unilaterally and unconditionally)? Ward doesn't really provide reasons for optimism on that account, but that North and South are continuing to meet and negotiate in good faith does give one reason for hope. On some level, if both Koreas agree the US should have little say in the outcome.

      Also nominally on Korea, but more directly connected to matters of resistance/insubordination by Administration staff opposed to Trump's "worst inclinations," see: Fred Kaplan: Is Mattis Next Out the Door? Woodward reported that Mattis defused Trump's "Let's kill the fucking lot of them" directive on Syria by directing his staff "we're not going to do any of that." That's not the only case where Mattis has acted to restrain Trump, but this is a case where Mattis is trying to overrule Trump's directive to suspend provocative war exercises in Korea. Evidently Trump got wind of this one and publicly redressed Mattis. That's often the prelude to a purge (although Mattis, like Sessions, could be relatively hard to get rid of).

    Not really news, but other links of interest:

    • Mary Hershberger: Investigating John McCain's Tragedy at Sea: Originally published in 2008, so not an obit. Before McCain got shot down over Hanoi, another confusing incident in the navy pilot's accident-prone career. Side note I didn't know:

      [McCain's] first effort at shaping that narrative received a remarkable boost when the May 14, 1973, edition of U.S. News & World Report gave him space for what is perhaps the longest article the magazine had ever run, a 12,000-word piece composed entirely of his unedited and often rambling account of his prisoner-of-war experience. Ever since, McCain has added compelling details at key points in his political career. When his stories are placed beside documented evidence from other sources, significant contradictions often emerge.

      That initial piece was written well before McCain ran for office (1982, AZ-1 House seat; in 1986 he ran for the Senate, succeeding Barry Goldwater). Every politician has a back story, but few have made that story so central to their political ambitions as McCain has.

    • Nathaniel Rich: The Most Honest Book About Climate Change Yet: A review of William T. Vollmann's magnum opus on global climate change, Carbon Ideologies, a single work published in two volumes, No Immediate Danger and No Good Alternative. "Honest" because he regards the fate of life on earth as intractably locked in.

      Most of the extensive interviews that dominate Carbon Ideologies are thus conducted with men who work in caves or pits to produce the energy we waste. If "nothing is more frightful than to see ignorance in action" (Goethe), these encounters are a waking nightmare. Oil-refinery workers in Mexico, coal miners in Bangladesh, and fracking commissioners in Colorado are united in their shaky apprehension of the environmental damage they do, not to mention the basic facts of climate change and its ramifications. "Mostly their replies came out calm and bland," Vollmann reports, though this doesn't prevent him from recording them at length, nearly verbatim. On occasion his questions do elicit a gem of accidental lyricism, as when an Indian steelworker at a UAE oil company, asked for his views on climate change, replies, "Now a little bit okay, but in future it's very danger." It's hard to improve on that.

      By the way, in What Will Donald Trump Be Remember For? Tom Engelhardt argues that the thing Trump will be longest remembered for is his contribution to the global roasting of the planet. He comes to that conclusion after a long list of the relatively stupid but trivial things Trump gets into the news cycle every day with. Trump's love affair with fossil fuels (especially "beautiful clean coal") will certainly rank as one of those "Nero fiddling while Rome burns" cases, but Engelhardt is also skipping over a harrowing number of less likely but still catastrophic breakdowns, including a major economic depression, several wars (worst case nuclear), some kind of civil war, a military coup, the end of democracy and freedom as we once knew it.

    • Maj. Danny Sjursen: The Fraudulent Mexican-American War (1846-48): A brief history of America's most nakedly imperialist war.

    Saturday, September 08, 2018

    Daily Log

    Monday, September 03, 2018

    Music Week

    Music: current count 30261 [30216] rated (+45), 278 [275] unrated (+3).

    Posted Streamnotes on Thursday, figuring it was foolish to think I could find any more A-list records on the last day of August. But part of that problem was that I was looking for August-released pop, and none of the obvious picks -- Ariana Grande, Mitski, Nicki Minaj, Blood Orange, even that Methodist Hospital album Christgau recommended -- did the trick. After posting, I switched to new jazz, and came up with three A- avant-jazz albums in short order (Schnell, Rempis-Piet-Daisy, Hegge).

    Actually, what steered me toward the Clean Feeds was Chris Monsen's 2018 favorites, which lists Mia Dyberg at 18 and Chris Pitsiokis at 29 (also Hegge at 34), but not Schnell (or Carlos Bica). Monsen also lists two more Clean Feeds: The Heat Death's The Glenn Miller Sessions and Jon Rune Strøm Quintet's Fragments, which I had previously reviewed at B+(**). I have one other A- Clean Feed this year: Angles 3's Parede, and six more at B+(***):

    • Jonas Cambien Trio: We Must Mustn't We (Clean Feed)
    • Sean Conly: Hard Knocks (Clean Feed)
    • Marty Ehrlich: Trio Exaltation (Clean Feed)
    • Igor Lumpert & Innertextures: Eleven (Clean Feed)
    • Matt Piet & His Disorganization: Rummage Out (Clean Feed)
    • Samo Salamon/Tony Malaby/Roberto Dani: Traveling Moving Breathing (Clean Feed)

    I haven't done the research, but there's a good chance that my Clean Feed grades have slipped a bit (and are otherwise more slapdash) since they stopped sending me physical CDs. (Certainly I'm slower in getting to them.) The Rempis album turned up in my effort to flesh out the jazz listings in my Music Tracking file. Strikes me as the best thing he's done all year (I have four more albums of his in my Year 2018 file.) I spent a fair amount of work last week trying to identify more 2018 jazz releases, adding 363 new entries to the file (was 1498 albums, now 1885, 806 of them jazz). The original purpose of this list is to build a list of things that might be interesting to hear, but it also provides a framework for aggregating EOY lists, including the Jazz Critics Poll.

    I got most of them by looking at the 2018 jazz album list under Discogs: 5,727 records (vs. 12,849 for 2017, 13,394 for 2018). Obviously, I didn't add everything. I just picked out artists that I more/less recognized, things on well-regarded labels, and a few others that looked interesting. For instance, of the 50 albums on the first page, I list 11 (*5 added this week): Chris Burn*, Verneri Pohjola*, Globe Unity, Henri Texier*, Skadedyr, YoshimiO, Kamaal Williams, Sylvie Courvoisier, Jerry Granelli*, Dinosaur*, Terence Blanchard. Many records appeared multiple times (e.g., separate listings for CD, LP, and Downloads), so we're looking at more like 1,500 distinct titles. picked up some reissues, but skipped even well known ones where they didn't seem to offer anything new. After that, I took a look at Free Jazz Collective's reviews, and also All About Jazz's reviews, although I didn't get very far back there before I started running into uncertain dates. (Maybe this link will work better.)

    Under "old music," I noticed a new vinyl reissue of Roland Kirk's Domino, and felt like streaming it, then one thing led to another. Still a few later albums I haven't heard, but I don't have a lot of hope for them. Then I noticed a Zoot Sims record in a search (I was actually looking for Tom Abbs' new Hawthorne), and felt like hearing him. Finally, Randy Weston died (92, elected to Downbeat's Hall of Fame just last year). Here's an obituary by Giovanni Russonello; another by Harrison Smith. My grade list is here, with Carnival (1974) and Khepara (1998) my personal picks (plus three more A- records).

    Noteworthy links I missed in yesterday's Weekend Roundup:

    Recommended music links:

    Also, I'll be posting another batch of Robert Christgau's Xgau Sez Q&A sometime Tuesday. You can always get the latest first at that link.

    New records rated this week:

    • Carlos Bica & Azul: Azul in Ljubljana (2015 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
    • Blood Orange: Negro Swan (2018, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
    • Rodney Crowell: Acoustic Classics (2018, RC1): [r]: B+(*)
    • Mia Dyberg Trio: Ticket! (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
    • Jason Eady: I Travel On (2018, Old Guitar): [r]: B+(***)
    • Robbie Fulks/Linda Gail Lewis: Wild! Wild! Wild! (2018, Bloodshot): [r]: A-
    • Ariana Grande: Sweetener (2018, Republic): [r]: B
    • Shay Hazan: Good Morning Universe (2017 [2018], NoBusiness, EP): [cdr]: B+(*)
    • Hegge: Vi Är Ledsna Men Du Får Inte Längre Vara Barn (2017, Particular): [sp]: B+(***)
    • Bjørn Marius Hegge Trio: Assosiasjoner (2018, Particular): [sc]: A-
    • William Hooker Trio: Remembering (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
    • Pablo Ledesma/Pepa Angelillo/Mono Hurtado/Carlo Brandan: Gato Barbieri Revisitado (2017 [2018], Discos ICM): [bc]: B+(**)
    • The Mekons 77: It Is Twice Blessed (2018, Slow Things): [r]: A-
    • Methodist Hospital: Giants (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
    • Parker Millsap: Other Arrangements (2018, Okrahoma): [r]: B+(*)
    • Nicki Minaj: Queen (2018, Young Money/Cash Money): [r]: B+(***)
    • Mitski: Be the Cowboy (2018, Dead Oceans): [r]: B
    • The Necks: Body (2018, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(**)
    • Tami Neilson: Sassafrass! (2018, Outside Music): [r]: B+(**)
    • Peter Nelson: Ash, Dust, and the Chalkboard Cinema (2018, Outside In Music): [r]: B+(**)
    • Chris Pitsiokos CP Unit: Silver Bullet in the Autumn of Your Years (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
    • Dave Rempis/Matt Piet/Tim Daisy: Throw Tomatoes (2017 [2018], Astral Spirits): [bc]: A-
    • Schnell [Pierre Borel/Antonio Borghini/Christian Lillinger]: Live at Sowieso (2017 [2018], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
    • Tom Zé: Sem Você Não A (2017, Circus): [r]: B+(***)

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

    • Kaoru Abe/Sabu Toyozumi: Mannyoka (1976 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
    • Choi Sun Bae Quartet: Arirang Fantasy (1995 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
    • Alexander Von Schlippenbah/Aki Takase: Live at Café Amores (1995 [2018], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-

    Old music rated this week:

    • Cachao Y Su Combo: Descargas Cubanas (1957 [1994], Planart): [r]: A-
    • Blood Orange: Cupid Deluxe (2013, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
    • Roland Kirk: Introducing Roland Kirk (1960, Argo): [r]: B+(*)
    • Roland Kirk: Domino (1962, Mercury): [r]: B+(*)
    • Roland Kirk: Reeds & Deeds (1963, Mercury): [r]: B+(**)
    • Roland Kirk: Kirk in Copenhagen (1963 [1964], Mercury): [r]: A-
    • Roland Kirk: I Talk With the Spirits (1964 [1965], Limelight): [r]: B+(*)
    • Roland Kirk: Left & Right (1968, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
    • Rahsaan Roland Kirk & the Vibration Society: Rahsaan Rahsaan (1970, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
    • Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Natural Black Inventions: Root Strata (1971, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
    • Rahsaan Roland Kirk: Blacknuss (1972, Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
    • Zoot Sims: Hawthorne Nights (1977 [1994], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(*)
    • Zoot Sims: Suddenly It's Spring (1983 [1992], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
    • Randy Weston: Solo, Duo, Trio (1954-56 [2900], Milestone): [r]: B+(*)
    • Randy Weston: Get Happy With the Randy Weston Trio (1955 [1995], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
    • Randy Weston Trio + Cecil Payne: With These Hands . . . (19565 [1996], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
    • Randy Weston Trio/Cecil Payne: Jazz A La Bohemia (1956 [1990], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
    • Randy Weston: Little Niles (1958 [1959], United Artists): [r]: B+(***)
    • Randy Weston Trio + 4 Trombones: Destry Rides Again (1959, United Artists): [r]: B+(***)
    • Randy Weston: Destry Rides Again/Little Niles (1958-59 [2012], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
    • Randy Weston: African Cookbook (1964 [1972], Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)

    Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

    • Randy Brecker & Mats Holmquist: Together (Summit)
    • Stan Kenton Legacy Orchestra: Flyin' Through florida (Summit)
    • Al Muirhead's Canadian Quintet: Undertones (Chronograph)
    • Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble: From Maxville to Vanport (PJCE)
    • Scott Routenberg Trio: Supermoon (Summit)
    • Andrés Vial: Andrés Vial Plays Thelonious Monk: Sphereology Volume One (Chromatic Audio): September 28
    • Jay T. Vonada: United (Summit)

    Sunday, September 02, 2018

    Weekend Roundup

    Had a lazy, bewildering week, where I didn't get any work done on the server/websites, so I wound up with nothing better to do on Sunday than gather up another Weekend Roundup.

    Some scattered links this week:

    • Julia Azari: Is Trump's Legitimacy at Risk? I generally don't care to get into these polling things, but while I've been feeling more pessimistic the last couple weeks about the public's ability to see through Trump's relentless torrent of scandal and outrage, it turns out that his approve/disapprove ratings have actually taken a sudden plunge: down to 40.3% approve, 54.5% disapprove. Similarly, the generic Congress split now favors the Democrats 48.8% to 39.4%. I don't have any real explanation for this. Maybe the attempts to use McCain's death to shame Trump are paying off? Maybe, with the first convictions of Manafort and Cohen's guilty plea, the Russia probe is finally drawing blood. I've long felt that there's a fair slice of the electorate that simply wishes public embarrassments to go away. In fact, I think most of those voters turned on Hillary Clinton, not so much because they thought she was guilty of anything as because they knew that if she was elected president, we'd wind up enduring years of feverishly hyped pseudo-scandal charges. It could also be how poorly Trump and his flacks are handling all the charges: they are acting pretty guilty of something, especially in their appeals to shut the investigation down. It's also possible that their inability to make progress with North Korea is costing them.

      For a quick reminder of what stinks in the Trump administration, see: Matthew Yglesias: Here's House Republicans' list of all the Trump scandals they're covering up.

    • Natasha Bertrand: Trump's Top Targets in the Russia Probe Are Experts in Organized Crime. Also by Bertrand: New York Prosecutors May Pose a Bigger Threat to Trump Than Mueller. Also notable: David A Graham: Why Trump Can't Understand the Cases Against Manafort and Cohen: "The president is used to operating in a business milieu where white-color crime is common and seldom prosecuted aggressively."

    • Jason Ditz: US Strategy in Syria: 'Create Quagmires Until We Get What We Want': Quotes a Trump official as saying, "right now, our job is to help create quagmires [for Russia and the Syrian regime] until we get what we want." This reminds me of something I've occasionally wondered about over the years: Could the US have negotiated an end to the Vietnam War where power was ceded over to the DRV but with amnesty so that no one who had sided with the US during the war would be jailed or discriminated against once power changes hands? Such an agreement could include an exile option, such that if the DRV really wanted to get rid of someone, or if someone really couldn't abide living on in the DRV, that person could go elsewhere. One might also have hoped to negotiate further rights guarantees, but amnesty with the exile option covers the worst-case scenarios without making much of an imposition on DRV sovereignty. As far as I know, the US never even broached this possibility. And it's possible the DRV wouldn't have agreed, or would have reneged after US forces left, but still it would have shown that the US felt some responsibility to the people it recruited to fight what ultimately proved to be a very selfish and egotistical war.

      One can ask the same thing about Syria, or Afghanistan for that matter. At this point, it looks like Assad will prevail, at least in reoccupying the last major holdout region, in Idlib. After that, it's not clear: Syria has been wrecked, millions have been driven into refugee camps and/or abroad, the economy has cratered, a lot of people have offended the regime, and the regime has long tended to harshly punish any sign of dissidence. Meanwhile, some level of guerrilla activity is likely to continue, especially if the foreign powers that have repeatedly funneled arms and fighters into Syria don't put a stop to it. This would, in short, seem to be a situation that sorely needs a negotiated end. And taking the restoration of the Assad regime as a given, the only other real consideration is the welfare of the Syrian people. Yet, here we have Trump's flack saying we don't want to soften the landing in any way: we want to keep forcing Syria and Russia into untenable situations ("quagmires") because we have blind faith that eventually Assad will collapse and we'll get out way. One obvious rejoinder here is that Libya's regime did collapse, and the US got nothing worthwhile out of the resulting chaos. Nor has Yemen panned out in our favor.

      Needless to say, if Kissinger and Nixon weren't smart enough to figure this out for Vietnam, I don't hold much hope Bolton and Trump. Of course, with Nixon and Kissinger, the problem wasn't brains -- they simply never cared about Vietnamese people, certainly way less than they cared for their cherished Cold War myths. Not that either can detest human welfare more than Bolton and Trump. For more on Idlib, see: Louisa Loveluck: A final Syrian showdown looms. Millions of lives are at risk. Here are the stakes. Also: Simon Tisdall: Russia softens up west for bloodbath it is planning in Syria's Idlib province.

    • Larry Elliott: Greece's bailout is finally at an end -- but has been a failure: Most obviously for Greece, which continues to be mired in a deep recession, but austerity has slowed recovery all across the Eurozone. E.g., see: Marina Prentoulis: Greece may still be Europe's sick patient, but the EU is at death's door.

    • James K Galbraith: Why do American CEOs get paid so much? In 1965, which is now remembered as some sort of golden age for the middle class, CEO pay averaged 20 times what median workers made -- a disparity which hardly qualifies as equality. Today the ratio is 312 to 1. Much of that comes in the form of stock, which nominally tracks future expected profit. With such incentives, CEOs focus on short-term gains, often by taking on risk, short-changing r&d, and squeezing employees.

    • Elizabeth Kolbert: A Summer of Megafires and Trump's Non-Rules on Climate Change: A Los Angeles Times headline: "Trump Tweets While California Burns." Trump's tweets included blaming the fires on "bad environmental laws," while he was busy trying to get rid of Clean Air Act rules that would limit pollution from coal-fired power plants.

      But perhaps what's most scary about this scorching summer is how little concerned Americans seem to be. . . . As a country, we remain committed to denial and delay, even as the world, in an ever more literal sense, goes up in flames.

    • Paul Krugman: For Whom the Economy Grows: As you probably know, the government works constantly to track GDP growth, which is why, for instance, we can officially identify, date and measure recessions. Chuck Schumer has introduced a bill to take the next step and figure out who pockets that growth. For instance, one oft-noted statistic was that during the first few years of recovery from the 2008-09 recession, no less than 97% of the economy's gains went to the top 1% of income recipients. Looking at that statistic, it's no wonder why most Americans scarcely noticed that there was any recovery at all. The same dynamic probably applies today. We hear, for instance, Trump bragging about how strong the economy is, but unless you own a lot of stock and have a high income, you probably haven't noticed any personal change.

    • Laura McGann: Obama's McCain eulogy would be banal under any other president: I thought it significant that Obama sent a written message to be read at Aretha Franklin's funeral, but showed up in person for McCain's. He's ever the politician, even though he never looked as happy on the job as he did watching Aretha perform a few years back. One might argue that he was a mere fan to Aretha, where the four years he and McCain overlapped in the Senate gave them a personal connection, perhaps even one that tempered their twelve years in political opposition. There's nothing wrong with treating political foes civilly, and it's often possible to respect people you disagree with (sometimes even profoundly). One might even claim that in death at last McCain brought forth some sort of centrist political miracle, bringing the opponents who defeated him in two presidential campaigns (GW Bush was the other one) and assorted other bigwigs of both political parties and the media empires that promote and lord over them. On the other hand, those paying tribute included Joe Biden, Joe Lieberman, Henry Kissinger, Lindsay Graham, Warren Beatty, Jay Leno, Michael Bloomberg, "and a plethora of current and former senators and cabinet secretaries from both parties." In other words, people who have much more in their common perch atop America's far-flung imperial war machine than they do with the overwhelming majority of Americans. So, of course Obama's remarks were banal. As much as anyone, he's fluent in the coded language these elites use to speak to one another, as well as the platitudes they lay on the public. All this would be completely unremarkable but for the one guy in American politics who broke the code and trashed the platitudes, and still somehow got elected to the office McCain could never win: President Donald Trump. The point of McGann's piece is that Obama's mundane address should be taken as a subtle critique of Trump, but to what point? There are many problems with Donald Trump, but his being impolitic isn't a very important one. I get the feeling that many Democrats think that by cozying up to the dead McCain they're scoring points against the nemesis Trump. They're not -- at least not with anyone they need to convince to resist Trump. Moreover, they're doing it on McCain's turf, on his terms, which is to say they're lining up with the most persistent war hawks of the last 50-60 years. (You do know who Kissinger is, don't you?) When Obama praises how much McCain loves his country, he's talking about a guy who never shied away from a possible war, who never regretted a war he supported, who never learned a single lesson about the costs of war. Back in Vietnam, the saying went: "in order to save the village, we had to destroy it." Since returning from Vietnam, McCain's adopted that irony as the pinnacle of patriotism. Of course, as a conservative Republican, he's found other ways to save villages by destroying them.

      If you're not sick of reading about McCain by now, here are some more links:

      • Susan B Glasser: John McCain's Funeral Was the Biggest Resistance Meeting Yet: She doesn't give us numbers to back up the "biggest" claim, but no church could hold the 500,000 to 1,000,000 people at the January 2017 Women's March on Washington right after the Trump inauguration. Maybe by "biggest" she's thinking quality over quantity? Her subhed: "Two ex-Presidents and one eloquent daughter teamed up to rebuke the pointedly uninvited Donald Trump." (The ex-presidents you know about, and more on the daughter below.) I understand that many people find Trump so repulsive that they will rejoice at any sign of rejecting him, but with McCain you don't get much -- is the disinvite of Trump anything more than a personal spat between two notoriously thin-skinned politicians? -- plus you're cuddling up to a lot of unsavory baggage. Nor has McCain really differed from Trump on much. FiveThirtyEight has a tool for tracking how often Senators vote with Trump, and McCain scores 83.0% and, factoring in Trump's margin in his state, that places him just above Ted Cruz and Joni Ernst. To paraphrase Trump himself, I prefer resistance heroes who don't get captured by the enemy. PS: More names of those on hand -- remember, this was invitation-only: John Boehner, David Petraeus, Leon Panetta, Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Paul Ryan, John Bolton, John Kelly, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Hillary Clinton. OK, to not muddy the effect, I left out Elizabeth Warren -- aside from the obvious disconnects, I'm pretty sure she's the only one to come from a working-class family. I'm not saying that she shouldn't have attended. Just that no one should mistake this crowd for one of her rallies. PPS: OK, here's the "gag me" line:

        Heads nodded. Democratic heads and Republican ones alike. For a moment, at least, they still lived in the America where Obama and Bush and Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney could all sit in the same pew, in the same church, and sing the same words to the patriotic hymns that made them all teary-eyed at the same time. When the two Presidents were done speaking, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" blared out. This time, once again, the battle is within America. The country's leadership, the flawed, all too human men and women who have run the place, successfully or not, for the past few decades, were all in the same room, at least for a few hours on a Saturday morning.

      • Andrew Prokop: Meghan McCain's eulogy: "The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again": Leave it to the daughter (and conservative media icon) to co-opt Hillary Clinton's slogan, as plain a case of "Emperor's New Clothes" rhetoric as has ever been foisted on the American public, but of course this is just the crowd to lap it up. The following paragraph is even stirring, at least until your final "what the fuck"?

        The America of John McCain is the America of Abraham Lincoln: fulfilling the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and suffering greatly to see it through. The America of John McCain is the America of the boys who rushed the colors in every war across three centuries, knowing that in them is the life of the republic. And particularly those by their daring, as Ronald Reagan said, gave up their chance at being husbands and fathers and grandfathers and gave up their chance to be revered old men. The America of John McCain is, yes, the America of Vietnam, fighting the fight even in the most forlorn cause, even in the most grim circumstances, even in the most distant and hostile corner of the world, standing even defeat for the life and liberty of other people in other lands.

      • Matthew Yglesias: The fight over renaming the Russell Senate Office Building after John McCain, explained: I thought this was a terrible idea. Then I remembered who Richard Russell was, so I wouldn't mind tearing down his name. Still, one could do a lot better than McCain. At the head of the list, I'd put the two senators who voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution that authorized LBJ to escalate the Vietnam War: Ernest Gruening and Wayne Morse. I'd pick Morse: he served longer, straddled both parties (initially elected as a progressive Republican before becoming a Democrat), and he held (or for all I know may still hold) the record for the longest filibuster speech -- a very Senator-y thing to do.

      • Laura McGann: John McCain, Sarah Palin, and the rise of reality TV politics: Yeah, not his brightest hour picking Palin to be his running mate, hailing that as "a team of mavericks." But being McCain, he's never had to apologize for anything, but he always has an excuse for everything: "After being diagnosed with cancer, McCain still defended Palin's performance but said he regretted not picking [Joe] Lieberman as his running mate."

      • Matt Taibbi: Why Did John McCain Continue to Support War? More on Vietnam, but also Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria -- hey, what about the one that got away, Georgia? McCain's constant lust for war, as well as his blindness to the consequences of those wars, has been a constant in our political lives since he first campaigned for the House. Indeed, he was probably recruited for just that purpose. But Taibbi is right that McCain didn't cause the wars he promoted. Rather, America has a problem (dating back to WWII) in thinking that military force is the answer to all our problems in the world. It is that mindset that keeps the warmakers in business. And that's why we should feel shame and horror when people we look to for peace honor someone like McCain.

      • Rebecca Solnit: John McCain was complex. His legacy warrants critical discussion: I can't really agree, although she makes valid points on Jefferson and Lincoln, and indeed most people are complex. Still, McCain's always struck me as a shallow opportunist. I even think his militarism was just a role he was born into, and plays just because it's easy and expected.

      • Doreen St. Félix: Aretha Franklin's Funeral Fashion Showed Us How to Mourn.

    • Richard Silverstein: Trump to Defund UNWRA to Eliminate Palestinian Refugee Status, Right of Return: This is supposed to be the stick after Jared Kushner's "deal of the century went splat. The idea seems to be that without UN recognition and US aid five million Palestinians will give up their refugee status and stop pestering Israel about their so-called Right of Return. The effect is that Palestinian leaders will stop kowtowing to insincere and unprincipled American advice, rightly seeing the US as a puppet of Israel, extraneous to any possible peace process. Good chance US support in Europe will further diminish, although there could be lots of reasons for that.

    • Emily Stewart: A grand jury will investigate whether Kris Kobach intentionally botched voter registration in 2016: Normally, intent is harder to prove than actually doing something, but in Kobach's case, intent is pretty much his campaign platform. Kobach won the Republican nomination for governor of Kansas after an extremely close race, and the poll mentioned here has Kobach leading Democrat Laura Kelly 39-38, with "independent" Greg Orman at 9. Much debate in these parts about who Orman will spoil the election for.

    • Emily Stewart: Trump's supposedly spending Labor Day weekend "studying" federal worker pay after freezing it. Not that lip service has ever been worth much, but over the last decade Republicans have lost any sort of decency regarding organized labor or for that matter all working Americans. Cancelling a schedule 2.1% that has already been eaten up by inflation is petty and vindictive, especially after his $1.5 trillion tax cut for businesses and the super-wealthy. Also see: Paul Krugman: Giving Government Workers the Shaft. Also: Robert L Borosage: Donald Trump Has Betrayed American Workers -- Again and Again.

    • Matt Taibbi: The Cuomo-Nixon Debate Was a Preview of Democrat-DSA Battles to Come: "Democrat Sith Lord Gov. Andrew Cuomo slimed his way past the corporate money issue and attacked Cynthia Nixon's celebrity."

    • Matthew Yglesias: Trump's continued indolent response to Hurricane Maria is our worst fears about him come true:

      Speaking to reporters briefly at the White House, Donald Trump repeated the most consequential of the many lies of his presidency -- that the federal government did a "fantastic job" in its response to last year's Hurricane Maria catastrophe that killed nearly 3,000 people in Puerto Rico.

      That's a line that Trump has maintained ever since he made a belated visit to the island after two straight weekends golfing, followed by the observation that "it's been incredible the results that we've had with respect to loss of life."

      In fact, the results they had with respect to the loss of life were awful. Awful in terms of the sheer number of dead, but also awful in terms of the reluctance from the very beginning to deliver an accurate death count. That the disaster turned out to be deadlier even than Hurricane Katrina is shocking, and the fact that it took the government until this week to finally acknowledge that fact is an entirely separate shock.

      More on Trump's incompetence, including his instinct to turn "everything into a culture war." For more on Puerto Rico itself, see: Alexia Fernández Campbell: Puerto Rico is asking for statehood. Congress should listen.

    • Matthew Yglesias: The big idea that could make democratic socialism a reality: I haven't had time to digest this, but it's called the American Solidarity Fund, which would invest government funds and pay out returns to all Americans.

    Saturday, September 01, 2018

    Daily Log

    Facebook comment (response to Greg Magarian) on the shuttering of the Village Voice:

    I started subscribing to the Voice as a teenager in Wichita (although I'm pretty sure I got to The New York Free Press first). The writer I best remember from the period was Jill Johnston, but I was able to recover Christgau's 1969 articles from my folks' attic. Bob recruited me to write for him in 1975, and I moved to NY in 1976. Also his fault I wound up writing about jazz. Still, the Voice has been dying for 20-30 years, less the victim of capitalism than of a series of unfortunate owners. Pretty muchdied for me when they stopped answering my mail, c. 2011. Still, has been nice to see them publish new work by Matos and C. Cooper in the last year.

    Laura posted on Facebook one of my 2003 comments on the coming war with Iraq, adding "Thanks McCain, Bush, and all the others that facilitated this and did not try to stop it." I commented:

    One thing largely forgotten today is that the Iraq War lobby started in Washington 6-10 years before 9/11, coalescing in a group that called itself PNAC (Project for a New American Century), which did everything it could to get Clinton to bomb Iraq (not that he needed much prodding). Most of those neocon warmongers, including many Bush hired in 2001, initially supported McCain for president in 2000 (and returned to him in 2008). Most Americans voted against McCain's wars twice, but got them anyway (well, some of them: not yet Iran or Russia), partly because so many people who should know better tout McCain as a "war hero" -- rather than identifying him as the war criminal he's always been.

    Friday, August 31, 2018

    Daily Log

    From Greg Magarian, on Facebook:

    This essay [Kelly Hayes: John McCain's Victims Are a Part of His Story] is spot on. After five days, the gushing of praise for McCain has hardened into an aggressive denial of this rich white right-winger's lust for war and his decades-long crusade against virtually every decent, beneficient public policy. He hurt countless people. Almost everything he believed was egregiously wrong. Like every Reaganite drone, all he really cared about was enriching the wealthy and protecting the powerful. His only notable talent was for self-promotion -- he fooled us into revering him, and now he's fooling us from beyond the grave.

    When I looked at Hayes' piece, I noticed that the top "trending" piece at Huffpost was 7 of the Most Heartbreaking Moments From Joe Biden's Eulogy for John McCain. I didn't click on that one. The only one I could imagine is Biden getting up to deliver a eulogy in the first place, but I didn't really think my opinion of Biden is high enough for heartbreak.

       Mar 2001