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Monday, October 16, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28781 [28766] rated (+15), 402 [401] unrated (+1).

Second short-count week in a row, following a +17 last week. No surprise for me, as we played host for a visiting friend from Boston. I spent one day cooking a nice dinner -- Moroccan, main dish was cod marinated in chermoula and baked over potatoes and tomatoes; sides were a roasted eggplant salad, roasted red bell peppers with goat cheese, a carrot salad, an olive-orange-onion salad, and a sweet potato-olive salad; dessert was a mixed fruit salad with honey and orange blossom water. Next day we drove out to Quivira NWR, Cheyenne Bottoms, and back through Lindsborg. Ate at Country Crossing in Yoder on the way out, and Swedish Crown in Lindsborg on the way back. Third day we drove around Wichita, dining at Molino's (Mexican). Anyhow, knocked about half of my week out, and I never really got back into it.

I did manage a small bit of progress on the Jazz Guides. I'm up to 51% in the Jazz 2000's file, which puts me at Julian Lage, and gives me 1197 pages. One metric I've been using suggests that I have 157 pages to go (1354 total), but that doesn't account for group entries that I've set aside -- probably another 50-75 pages. The 20th Century Guide is still stuck at 749 pages, so I'm 54 short of 2000 combined. That'll probably be a milestone to mark with a tweet, hopefully later this week.

One minor note on the list below. I was reminded of the Mose Allison compilation, which Christgau had given an A- to, by its conspicuous (albeit alphabetical) slotting on Phil Overeem's latest list. The record isn't available on Napster, but I was able to line up 23/24 songs, and figured that's close enough. Not quite as good as I'd like, although I could imagine the booklet and a few more plays pushing it over the line. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I could assemble an A- compilation, although I've yet to find any available record that quite makes the grade.

I expect I'll get closer to 30 records next week, although I'm likely to run into a few distractions. Also having trouble figuring out what to listen to on Napster, although my own new jazz queue is pretty deep right now, so there's that.

I should also note that some space has opened up on the server, so for a while I should be back to normal there. Still think I should move it all, but the immediate need is less urgent.

Laura Tillem had a nit to pick with my outrage at Trump and Tillerson for withdrawing the US from UNESCO yesterday. She blamed Obama. I'm not sure of the exact chronology or responsibility, but in 2011 the US stopped paying dues to UNESCO because they admitted Palestine as a full member. This was evidently mandated by a law passed by Congress -- I don't know whether it was signed by Obama, but wouldn't be surprised if it was. In 2012, Obama asked Congress to restore funding for UNESCO, and was turned down. In 2015 UNESCO passed a resolution that Israel took offense to -- something having to do with Jerusalem -- and at some point UNESCO designated the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron as a World Historical site, and made the faux pas of designating it as part of Palestine. But disagreements happen with international organizations. What I was more concerned with was the American refusal to participate and engage, which is consistent and largely dictated by neocon (imperialist) doctrine. Indeed, it should be pointed out that Israel didn't announce that it's leaving UNESCO until after the US did, supposedly on its behalf. I might also note that the US-Israeli decision casts further doubt that either nation has any real commitment to "the two-state solution," which has been official policy, at least in the US, at least since the early 1990s. If the US actually supported its own policy, you'd expect it to help establish international recognition of a Palestinian state even before Israel formalized the deal. Instead, since GW Bush the US has routinely subordinated its own policies and interests to Israel -- a blank check surrender which Obama and Trump have continued.

There is, I think, an interesting book to be written about how the critique of internationalism and, especially, the UN, has grown from a fringe cult like the 1950s John Birch Society into a hegemonic idea that dictates American foreign policy, affecting both parties.

New records rated this week:

  • Rez Abbasi: Unfiltered Universe (2016 [2017], Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ellery Eskelin: Trio Willisau Live (2015 [2016], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Andrew Lamb/Warren Smith/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum (2016 [2017], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Rob Luft: Riser (2017, Edition): [r]: B
  • Liudas Mockunas: Hydro (2015-16 [2017], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (2017, Hot Cup): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Johnny O'Neal: In the Moment (2017, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Teri Parker: In the Past (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa (2014 [2017], TUM): [cd]: A-
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (2014-15 [2017], TUM): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Yosvany Terry/Baptiste Trotignon: Ancestral Memories (2017, Okeh): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charles Thomas: The Colors of a Dream (2017, Sea Tea): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Lizz Wright: Grace (2017, Concord): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Mose Allison: I'm Not Talkin': The Soul Stylings of Mose Allison 1957-1971 (1957-71 [2016], BGP): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ernesto Cervini's Turboprop: Rev (Anzic)
  • Corey Christiansen: Dusk (Origin): October 20
  • Richie Cole: Latin Lover (RCP): October 20
  • Marc Devine Trio: Inspiration (ITI): October 13
  • Sinne Eeg: Dreams (ArtistShare)
  • ExpEAR & Drew Gress: Vesper (Kopasetic): November 15
  • Lorenzo Feliciati: Elevator Man (RareNoise): advance, November 17
  • Satoko Fujii Quartet: Live at Jazz Room Cortez (Cortez Sound): October 20
  • Adam Hopkins: Party Pack Ice (Ad-Hop Music)
  • Lisa Mezzacappa: Glorious Ravage (New World)
  • Diana Panton: Solstice/Equinox (self-released)
  • Roswell Rudd/Fay Victor/Lafayette Harris/Ken Filiano: Embrace (RareNoise): advance, November 17
  • Idit Shner: 9 Short Stories (OA2)

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Every week since January has featured multiple stories about how Donald Trump (and/or the Republicans) are corrupting government, undermining democracy, degrading our short- and long-term economic prospects, and quite often endangering world peace. Still, most of those stories could be understood as some combination of the greed, demagoguery, and narrow-minded ignorance that constitutes what passes as the conservative world-view. But some things happened this week that makes me think Trump has crossed a previously unknown line into a qualitatively new level of, well, I'm groping for words, trying to avoid "evil," so let's call it derangement. The US withdrawal from UNESCO was the first such story, followed by the trashing of the agreement with Iran to terminate their "nuclear program," but then there was Trump's executive order to undermine Obamacare -- an act of pure spite following the Republican failure to repeal the ACA. As Ezra Klein's tweet explains:

Trump's new policy will increase premiums by 20%, cost the government $194 billion, increase the deficit, destabilize insurance markets, and increase the number of uninsured Americans. There is nothing it makes better; it's pure policy nihilism.

Sure, I've often felt like Republicans generated their policy ideas from a deep well of spite and vindictiveness, with scant concern for consequences because deep down they really didn't give a shit about anyone other than themselves (actually, a small subset of the fools they manipulating into voting for them). But usually you could also discern a positive slant, like their fondness for helping predatory businesses rip everyone else off. Trump certainly isn't beyond that, especially for his own businesses, but he mostly leaves such matters to his subordinates -- after all, their experience in business and lobbies gives them a command of detail he lacks, as well as motives he doesn't disapprove of.

That's should have left Trump free to focus on "big picture" items, but not understanding them either, he's been preoccupied with petty feuds and tone-deaf publicity stunts, but his hatred for Obama is so great that he'll gladly sign any executive order that wipes out any hint of his predecessor's legacy. That's the source of much of his policy nihilism, although he's occasionally broken new ground, as with his UNESCO withdrawal -- ending 72 years of more/less trying to work with the rest of the world's nations for the common good.

I suppose what this really means is that for the first time since he took office, I've come around to the view that Trump is actually worse than the run-of-the-mill Republicans in Congress and now in his cabinet and office. I've long resisted that view, partly because the media bend over backwards to excuse and legitimize the latter, and partly because even though I disapprove of Trump's obvious character flaws (e.g., racism, sexism, xenophobia, vanity, violence, mendacity, ostentatiousness, sheer greed) I prefer to judge people on what they do rather than what they think or believe. (Indeed, those flaws are pretty common in America, but most people have enough of a superego to try to limit their exposure and maintain social decorum -- Trump, as is becoming more obvious every day, does not.)

On the other hand, let's not forget that Trump started to wander off after giving his little rant about Obamacare, and it was Mike Pence who grabbed him by the sleeve and dragged him back to actually sign the executive order. That's an image to keep in mind if, say, Trump is finally dispatched as too much of an embarrassment -- and here I have to agree with Steve Bannon that the odds favor a cabinet coup using the 25th amendment to Congress taking the more arduous road to impeachment.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Aaron Blake: Almost half of Republicans want war with North Korea, a new poll says. Is it the Trump Effect? Actually, a plurality, 46-41% in favor of a preemptive strike against North Korea. Other polls produce different results, possibly depending on how the question is phrased. I doubt if even 1% of the Republicans polled have any understanding of North Korea's preparations for responding to such an attack, hence of the risks and likely costs of starting a war there. On the other hand, one may expect Mattis, Tillerson, and the upper ranks of the uniformed to at least have some idea: thousands of pieces of artillery that can reach Seoul (population 10 million, metro area 25 million), the range of rockets that can reach further (up to the US mainland), a few dozen nuclear warheads (some with hydrogen boost), the vast array of defensive tunnels, one of the largest military forces in the world. The latest assessment I've seen is that the US would prevail in such a war (assuming China does not intervene, as it did in 1950), but it wouldn't be easy and the costs would be great. Tillerson was recently quoted as saying he'll continue negotiating "until the first bomb falls" -- it's hard to take much comfort in that given that Trump's been quoted as saying his Secretary of State is wasting his time. Moreover, see Choe Sang-Hun: North Korean Hackers Stole U.S.-South Korean Military Plans, Lawmaker Says, including a "decapitation plan" for an attack targeting Kim Jong-Un. Also note the report that Trump Wanted Tenfold Increase in U.S. Nuclear Arsenal -- while beyond ridiculous, such a report would play directly into North Korea's paranoia. Indeed, Trump is playing Nixon's Madman theory much more convincingly than the Trickster ever did. (For a recent review, see Garrett M Graff: The Madman and the Bomb. Among other things, this article points out how elated Trump was in ordering the "Mother of All Bombs" dropped in Afghanistan, adding "All the previous worries about the potential of a deranged president to use a nuclear button irrationally have been multiplied.") Lately Trump has made a number of bold unilateral moves, evidently meant to reassure his base that he can act dramatically on their prejudices. The more he senses support for striking North Korea, the more likely he is to do it.

  • Tina Brown: What Harvey and Trump have in common: Harvey is Weinstein, the movie mogul and current poster boy for serial sexual abuse. Brown left her job at The New Yorker to work for him, and this is what she found out:

    What I learned about Harvey in the two years of proximity with him at Talk was that nothing about his outward persona, the beguiling Falstaffian charmer who persuaded -- or bamboozled -- me into leaving The New Yorker and joining him, was the truth. He is very Trumpian in that regard.

    He comes off as a big, blustery, rough diamond kind of a guy, the kind of old-time studio chief who lives large, writes big checks and exudes bonhomie. Wrong. The real Harvey is fearful, paranoid, and hates being touched (at any rate, when fully dressed).

    Winning, for him, was a blood sport. Deals never close. They are renegotiated down to the bone after the press release. A business meeting listening to him discuss Miramax deals in progress reminded me of the wire tap transcripts of John Gotti and his inner circle at the Bergin Hunt and Fish Club in Queens. "So just close it fast, then fuck him later with the subsidiary rights." . . .

    Harvey is an intimidating and ferocious man. Crossing him, even now, is scary. But it's a different era now. Cosby. Ailes. O'Reilly, Weinstein. It's over, except for one -- the serial sexual harasser in the White House.

    For more Weinstein dirt, see Ronan Farrow: From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein's Accusers Tell Their Stories. As for Trump, see: Jessica Garrison/Kendall Taggart: Trump Given a Subpoena for All Documents Relating to Assault Allegations.

  • Daniel José Camacho: Trump's marriage to the religious right reeks of hypocrisy on both sides: Well, sure, but hypocrisy is an old friend of Christianity in every stage of American history, and you can probably find prime examples at least as far back as Constantine, who realized how useful the religion could be for sanctifying his own political power. Christianity is, above all else, a remarkably forgiving religion, as long as you attest to its power by begging for its mercy. In country music, for instance, whatever you do on Saturday Night can be atoned for and made right on Sunday Morning, and the latter is all that really matters to the clergy -- after all, confession confirms their authority. The political right has never had a problem with that. They love the idea of hierarchy so much they strive to emulate it on earth, ruled, of course, by themselves, conferring favors upon their favored clergy. Of course, if you don't buy into this arrangement, your cynicism may lead you to charge them with hypocrisy. Indeed, the whole scam is as easy to see through as "The Emperor's New Clothes," but that only makes the believers more angry and vindictive -- hence, the rise of the Religious Right parallels liberal secularization, with its increasing militancy (and, looking at Trump, I'm inclined to add desperation) bound up with a feeling of embattled isolation that right-wing media and politicians have cynically encouraged. Still, the problem is less Christian backlash against secular culture -- something that is real but deeper and more complex than the political backlash it is often confused with[*] -- than that con artists from Reagan to Trump have often managed to wrap their scams up in various traditional pieties, as if that excuses otherwise shameless behavior.

    [*] Note that Christianity predates capitalism, so contains a strain of anti-materialist sentiment that has never been fully reconciled with modern commerce. It even predates Constantine's state religion, before which it was resolutely anti-state and anti-war, so even today a large segment of the peace movement finds its inspiration in religion (and not just Christianity).

  • William D Hartung: Here's Where Your Tax Dollars for 'Defense' Are Really Going:

    The answer couldn't be more straightforward: It goes directly to private corporations and much of it is then wasted on useless overhead, fat executive salaries, and startling (yet commonplace) cost overruns on weapons systems and other military hardware that, in the end, won't even perform as promised. Too often the result is weapons that aren't needed at prices we can't afford. If anyone truly wanted to help the troops, loosening the corporate grip on the Pentagon budget would be an excellent place to start.

    The numbers are staggering. In fiscal year 2016, the Pentagon issued $304 billion in contract awards to corporations -- nearly half of the department's $600 billion-plus budget for that year. And keep in mind that not all contractors are created equal. According to the Federal Procurement Data System's top 100 contractors report for 2016, the biggest beneficiaries by a country mile were Lockheed Martin ($36.2 billion), Boeing ($24.3 billion), Raytheon ($12.8 billion), General Dynamics ($12.7 billion), and Northrop Grumman ($10.7 billion). Together, these five firms gobbled up nearly $100 billion of your tax dollars, about one-third of all the Pentagon's contract awards in 2016. . . .

    The arms industry's investment in lobbying is even more impressive. The defense sector has spent a total of more than $1 billion on that productive activity since 2009, employing anywhere from 700 to 1,000 lobbyists in any given year. To put that in perspective, you're talking about significantly more than one lobbyist per member of Congress, the majority of whom zipped through Washington's famed "revolving door"; they moved, that is, from positions in Congress or the Pentagon to posts at weapons companies from which they could proselytize their former colleagues.

    The weapons systems are the big ticket items, but there is much more, including some 600,000 private contractors doing all sorts of things, with little effective management, while companies like Erik Prince's Blackwater lobby to privatize more combat jobs.

  • Sean Illing: 20 of America's top political scientists gathered to discuss our democracy. They're scared. Many interesting idea here; e.g.:

    Nancy Bermeo, a politics professor at Princeton and Harvard, began her talk with a jarring reminder: Democracies don't merely collapse, as that "implies a process devoid of will." Democracies die because of deliberate decisions made by human beings.

    Usually, it's because the people in power take democratic institutions for granted. They become disconnected from the citizenry. They develop interests separate and apart from the voters. They push policies that benefit themselves and harm the broader population. Do that long enough, Bermeo says, and you'll cultivate an angry, divided society that pulls apart at the seams. . . .

    Due to wage stagnation, growing inequalities, automation, and a shrinking labor market, millions of Americans are deeply pessimistic about the future: 64 percent of people in Europe believe their children will be worse off than they were; the number is 60 percent in America.

    That pessimism is grounded in economic reality. In 1970, 90 percent of 30-year-olds in America were better off than their parents at the same age. In 2010, only 50 percent were. Numbers like this cause people to lose faith in the system. What you get is a spike in extremism and a retreat from the political center. That leads to declines in voter turnout and, consequently, more opportunities for fringe parties and candidates. . . .

    Consider this stat: In 1960, 5 percent of Republicans and 4 percent of Democrats objected to the idea of their children marrying across political lines. In 2010, those numbers jumped to 46 percent and 33 percent respectively. Divides like this are eating away at the American social fabric. . . .

    But for all the reasons discussed above, people have gradually disengaged from the status quo. Something has cracked. Citizens have lost faith in the system. The social compact is broken. So now we're left to stew in our racial and cultural resentments, which paved the way for a demagogue like Trump.

    One thing I would stress here is that "the erosion of democratic norms" -- voter suppression, gerrymandering, obstruction tactics, tolerance for "dirty tricks," the ever-increasing prerogatives of money -- has largely been spawned within the Republican Party, which is to say the party most desperately committed to inequality, order, privilege, and hierarchy. The article offers stats about the growing number of Americans who look favorably on a military dictatorship, but neglects to break them down by party. Still, it's worth noting that Democrats have often played into the hands of anti-democratic forces, especially those who have been most successful at toadying for donors. Although Obama, for instance, campaigned against the baleful influence of money in 2008, he managed to raise so much more of it than McCain, so Democrats didn't bother to use their majorities to address the issue.

  • Sarah Jaffe: Bernie Sanders Isn't Winning Local Elections for the Left:

    "Bernie Wins Birmingham" is convenient shorthand for those who have no idea what actually goes on in Birmingham. But Bernie Sanders and the group his 2016 campaign inspired, Our Revolution, are not winning elections in places like Birmingham or Jackson, Mississippi, which in June elected a mayor who's promised, "I'll make Jackson the most radical city on the planet." Activists in Birmingham and Jackson and Albuquerque and Long Island are winning them -- left-wing activists who've toiled for years in the trenches, working with a new wave of organizers from Black Lives Matter and other insurgent groups, who bring social-media savvy and fired-up young voters into the mix.

    Still, the title leans too hard the opposite way. Bernie is helping, especially to provide a nationwide support framework. Conversely, helping build local power bases helps build the nationwide movement, either for Bernie (who certainly could have used some local help in Mississippi and Alabama during the 2016 primaries) or whoever vies most successfully for his movement. Conversely, although Hillary may have given up her dream of running in 2020, her crowd is still more focused on containing (or combatting) the left than on winning elections: see Bob Moser: Clintonian Democrats Are Peddling Myths to Cling to Power. Anyone who bothers to remember McGovern's tragic 1972 loss to Nixon should heap shame on those Democrats who betrayed their party's nominee for the most devious and crooked politician in American history -- much more numerous than the tiny fraction of Sanders supporters who couldn't stomach Clinton in 2016. The so-called New Democrats have discredited themselves doubly: first by repeatedly surrendering the Party's New Deal/Great Society legacy to increasingly regressive Republicans in the name of political expediency, then by losing to the vilest candidate the GOP could muster.

  • Fred Kaplan: Certifiable Nonsense: As usual with Slate, the link title is better: "President Trump's Most Dishonest Speech Yet," adding "His announcement on the Iran deal might also be his most dangerous speech yet." Certainly true about his dishonesty, even though there's lots of competition. But most dangerous? More dangerous than his taunting of North Korea, which actually has nuclear warheads as well as more powerful missiles? Well, the two are related:

    Pulling out would also damage our posture, and possibly trigger catastrophe, in other global hot spots. If our face-off with North Korea is to end without war, it will require some sort of diplomatic settlement. But who will want to negotiate with the United States, and who would believe any deal Trump would sign or guarantee he would make, if he pulls out of the Iran deal, even though Iran is abiding by its terms?

    Also see:

  • Sarah Kliff: Trump's acting like Obamacare is just politics. It's people's lives. This is the piece Klein linked to in his tweet above, so it starts by spelling out the bottom line. One key thing Trump's order does is to end payments to insurance companies protecting against losses due to adverse selection. This wouldn't be a problem in a single-payer system with truly universal coverage, but splitting the market into multiple segments means that some will be cost more than others. If insurance companies had to bear that risk, some would drop out and the rest would raise their prices. And that's exactly what they will do under Trump's executive order.

    Ending these payments raises premiums for anyone who uses Obamacare: older people, younger people, sicker people, and healthy people. And it puts an already fragile Obamacare marketplace at greater risk of a last-minute exodus by health plans who assumed that the government would pay these subsidies -- and don't think they can weather the financial hit.

    The Trump administration has, since taking office, cut the Obamacare open enrollment period in half. Instead of 90 days to sign up, enrollees will now get 45. The Trump administration has cut the Obamacare advertising budget by 90 percent -- and reduced funding for in-person outreach by 40 percent. Regional branches of Health and Human Services abruptly pulled out of the outreach events they have participated in over the last four years. . . .

    Trump's larger presidential agenda has focused on unwinding Barack Obama's legacy. He's more focused on destroying his nemesis than trying to replace, to fix, or to improve Obama's biggest accomplishments from the Iran deal to environmental regulation.

    On health care, there are going to be immediate and very real consequences for Americans. There are real people who stand to be hurt by an administration that has actively decided to make a public benefits program function poorly.

    Also see:

  • Michael Kruse: The Power of Trump's Positive Thinking: Yet another attempt to plumb Trump's psyche, trying to impose order on a mental process that strikes most of us as supremely chaotic:

    "I've had just about the most legislation passed of any president, in a nine-month period, that's ever served," he said this week in an interview with Forbes, contradicting objective metrics and repeating his frequent and dubious assertion of unprecedented success throughout the first year of his first term as president.

    The reality is that Trump is in a rut. His legislative agenda is floundering. His approval ratings are historically low. He's raging privately while engaging in noisy, internecine squabbles. He's increasingly isolated. And yet his fact-flouting declarations of positivity continue unabated. For Trump, though, these statements are not issues of right or wrong or true or false. They are something much more elemental. They are a direct result of the closest thing the stubborn, ideologically malleable celebrity businessman turned most powerful person on the planet has ever had to a devout religious faith. This is not his mother's flinty Scottish Presbyterianism but Norman Vincent Peale's "power of positive thinking," the utterly American belief in self above all else and the conviction that thoughts can be causative, that basic assertion can lead to actual achievement. . . .

    What Peale peddled was "a certain positive, feel-good religiosity that demands nothing of you and rewards you with worldly riches and success," said Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse, the author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. "It's a self-help gospel . . . the name-it-and-claim-it gospel." . . .

    Peale, then nearly 80 years old, officiated Trump's wedding in 1977. In 1983, shortly after the opening of Trump Tower, Trump credited Peale for instilling in him a can-do ethos.

    The piece cites various critiques of various self-help pitches, some of which fit Trump to a tee, then notes that no one who has been studied has anywhere near the power Trump has, so "the Trump presidency is uncharted territory." Of course, Peale is only one significant influence on Trump's thinking and behavior. There's also Roy Cohn, a very different and much more nefarious mentor. And there's Trump's Nazi/KKK-aligned father, and probably a few more. Some writer could build a great novel out of such clay. Unfortunately, the real thing isn't a work of fiction.

  • Dara Lind: Leaked memos show Jeff Sessions's DOJ aims to undermine due process for immigrants. Sessions is one of those "public servants" in the Trump administration that's willing to overlook getting tweet-slapped by Trump because he has important agenda work to do. This is one prime example (others include ending civil rights and antitrust enforcement).

  • James Mann: The Adults in the Room: A piece on how the generals (Kelly, Mattis, McMaster) and Boy Scout (Tillerson) Trump has surrounded himself with are keeping the ship of state afloat, their "maturity" in sharp contrast to the president's lack thereof:

    Following the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, the meaning of the words "adult" and "grownup" has undergone a subtle but remarkable shift. They now refer far more to behavior and character than to views on policy. This is where Kelly, McMaster, Mattis, and (to a lesser extent) Tillerson come in; "grownup" is the behavioral role that we have assigned to them.

    For the first time, America has a president who does not act like an adult. He is emotionally immature: he lies, taunts, insults, bullies, rages, seeks vengeance, exalts violence, boasts, refuses to accept criticism, all in ways that most parents would seek to prevent in their own children. Thus the dynamic was established in the earliest days of the administration: Trump makes messes, or threatens to make them, and Americans look to the "adults" to clean up for him. The "adults," in turn, send out occasional little public signals that they are trying to keep Trump from veering off course -- to educate him, to make him grow up, to keep him under control. When all else fails, they simply distance themselves from his tirades. Sometimes such efforts are successful; on many occasions, they aren't.

    Leaving aside the question whether Trump's immaturity is a matter of his spoiled upbringing, sociopathy, or some kind of dementia (what we usually mean when we speak of people his age undergoing "a second childhood"), what I find most incongruous here is the notion that we should consider generals to be grown-ups. We are, after all, talking about people who dress up in uniforms with flashy medals, who prance about and play with guns or, at their rank, maneuver soldiers around battlefields. Those are all things that I enjoyed in my pre-teens but rapidly grew out of, especially as I became conscious of the very grim and senseless war my country was fighting in Vietnam. Ever since then, I figured those who pursued military careers to be stuck in some kind of adolescence, at least until PTSD disabuses them of their fantasies. Maybe generals are different, although I don't see why, and I doubt they often function well outside of the closed system that selected them. (Tillerson, of course, didn't fall for the military fantasy, but he got a taste of the worldview in the Boy Scouts, and his advancement through the ranks of Exxon was every bit as cloistered -- something we see in his performance as Secretary of State.)

    I also couldn't help but notice this piece: Eric Scigliano: The Book Mattis Reads to Be Prepared for War With North Korea. The book is T.R. Fehrenbach's This Kind of War, originally published in 1963, evidently focused on the importance of putting "boots on the ground" while recognizing how little America's scorched earth air bombardment had accomplished. No idea what lessons Mattis draws from this, other than ego-stroking from a fellow Marine. As I recall, the first thing I read about Mattis (back in early Iraq War days) stressed what an intellectual he was, with his vast library of war books. I flashed then on Robert Sherrill's book title, Military Justice Is to Justice as Military Music Is to Music, and figured "military intellectuals" were likely to be similarly debased.

  • Donald Macintyre: Tony Blair: 'We were wrong to boycott Hamas after its election win': Only eleven years too late. I don't recall whether Blair has issued his mea culpa for the Iraq War or any of the dozens of other things he's famously screwed up, but it's worth noting this one. One thing we should always work toward is getting groups to lay down their arms and work to advance their cause through an electoral framework. The Hamas electoral victory in 2006 offered an opportunity to restart the "peace process" that Barak and Sharon aborted in 2000, with broader Palestinian representation than was ever possible under Arafat. Of course, Sharon wanted no part in any peace process, and Blair and Bush sheepishly went along, not simply adding more than a decade to the conflict but allowing Israel's illegal settlement actions to sink ever deeper roots into the West Bank.

  • Andrew Restuccia: Bannon promises 'season of war' against McConnell, GOP establishment: Specifically, "to challenge any Senate Republican who doesn't publicly condemn attacks on President Donald Trump." On the one hand, I'm tempted to say, "let the bloodletting begin"; on the other, while it will be easy to characterize Bannon's insurgents as extremists, his willingness to challenge oligarchy gives him a potential popularity that establishment Republicans as Mitch McConnell lack. Bannon argues here that "money doesn't matter anymore" -- while that's certainly not true, his "grass roots organizing" was able to negate Hillary's huge fundraising advantage. Seemingly unrelated, also note that:

    [Bannon] also appeared to hint that the administration was planning to soon declare that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization and move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, perhaps as soon as next week.

    But a senior administration official disputed that such an announcement was in the works for next week.

  • Philip Rucker/Ed O'Keefe: Trump threatens to abandon Puerto Rico recovery effort: Among the many things Trump has threatened to blow up this past week, one of the most vexing is the quasi-colonial relationship of the US to Puerto Rico. Trump has vacillated between taking responsibility for recovery and attempting to disown the island, to write it off like one of his bad debts. Here he declares Puerto Rico's infrastructure a disaster before the storm. There he lectures on the sanctity of debts accured by state and local government there. Political sentiment in the US generally favors aid, but I suspect his base is more antagonistic. The banks, on the other hand, would probably prefer a bailout before anything drastic happens. Puerto Ricans recently voted for statehood, which Republicans in Congress are likely to block if they think there's any reason -- like a racist, xenophobic president -- doing so might not add to the GOP majority. Indeed, Trump has already started to follow through on his threats to withdraw aid by allowing a temporary waiver to the Jones Act to expire.

    Meanwhile, a couple recent reports from Puerto Rico:

  • Gabriel Sherman: "I Hate Everyone in the White House!": Trump Seethes as Advisers Fear the President Is "Unraveling": Stephen Colbert's comment on this headline was: "This means up until now, he's been raveled." Inside you get lines like "One former official even speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike." And: "According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term." All very gossipy. Too much smoke to tell where the fire actually is.

  • Emily Shugerman: US withdraws from Unesco over 'anti-Israel bias': "The US helped found Unesco in the wake of the Second World War, with the aim of ensuring peace through the free flow of ideas and education." I found this shocking, even though it's long been clear that the US has its most anti-education and anti-free speech administration in history, and possibly its most anti-peace one as well. The most disturbing thing here is the extent to which anti-UN prejudice has permeated Republican ideology (and make no mistake about it, this is a purely partisan view). But even as a go-it-alone (i.e., isolationist) "America first" stance, it's pretty self-deprecating: if the stated rationale is true, this as much as admits that tiny Israel has taken charge of US foreign policy; the alternative theory, that "Mr Tillerson simply wanted to stem outgoings," also reflects poorly on the US, as much as admitting that "the richest country in the world" can't afford to contribute to preserving heritage and supporting education in poorer countries.

  • Pieces by Matthew Yglesias this week:

Special bonus link: Dalia Mortada: A Taste of Syria: A recipe for a Syrian dish, fatteh, "a hearty dish of crispy pita bread beneath chickpeas and a luscious garlic-yogurt-tahini sauce." I should note that the picture appears to have a sprinkling of ground sumac (or maybe Aleppo pepper) not listed in the recipe.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Daily Log

Saw this article in the Wichita Eagle today: Kaitlyn Alanis: Koch Industries to add disruptive innovation to business. I tweeted:

Princeling Chase Koch to head up Koch Industries' new clichés division, basically a VC outfit run by feudal lords.

"Disruptive innovation" was a very popular notion back when I was at SCO (1998-2000), with various management types having their own pet ideas of who was disrupting whom. I argued that free Linux was disrupting their Unixware business, and would kill it unless they figured out some way to make the transition to being a Linux shop. Top management, of course, disagreed. They even hired DI guru Clayton Christensen to address their annual meeting and reassure them that they were the real disrupters. Less than a year after they cut me loose, all SCO could do was try to sue Linux for allegedly copying bits of proprietary code. Needless to say, that didn't work either. But the whole episode left me with a distaste for Christensen, who lost his credibility when he turned from researcher to arbiter.

Nor was that the only time I've seen management types jump on a hot conceptual bandwagon without understanding it or even caring much. Way back around 1980, I recall Varityiper execs reading In Search of Excellence and waxing eloquent about how they were transforming the company into a paragon of excellence.

Sara Driscoll came to visit from Boston, arriving Tuesday and flying out on Friday. I took the Tuesday chill-down period as an opportunity to cook. I offered her various ethnic and main dish choices, and she picked Moroccan and fish. I found all the recipes I needed in the first section of Claudia Roden's Arabesque:

  • Roast Cod with Potatoes and Tomatoes (76)
  • Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Salad (42)
  • Carrot Salad with Cumin and Garlic (47)
  • Orange, Olive and Onion Salad (48)
  • Roast Peppers and Chickpeas with Fresh Goat Cheese (51)
  • Sweet Potato Salad (52)
  • Fruit Salad with Honey and Orange Blossom Water (126)

Nice thing was that only the fish was served hot, so everything else could be done in advance, at my leisure. I roasted the eggplant and red bell peppers the night before, and did some other prep (although now I can't remember just what: I probably boiled the sweet potatoes, and julienned and maybe parboiled the carrots, although both required further cooking to finish; I marinated the olives in olive oil and orange zest; I used canned chickpeas, so I may have drained and skinned them). I used frozen pacific cod, so the fillets didn't have any skin to slit. I mixed the goat cheese with some leftover Bulgarian feta, not called for in the recipe, but I was thinking of a similar Spanish tapa that used goat cheese and gorgonzola. The orange zest idea came from a Turkish variant of the orange-olive-onion salad, but I kept the cuts and herbs from the Moroccan recipe. The fruit was a mix of bartlett pears, fuji apple, pineapple, banana, peach, mejdol dates, and dried cranberries -- the latter wasn't in the recipe but seemed like an interesting idea. The recipe had a few other suggestions, but I'm not much of a fruit fan, so went with things I liked (or didn't mind).

On Wednesday, we took a fairly long drive into the country. Got up before noon and stopped in Yoder at Carriage Crossing for lunch, before driving on to Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, southeast of Great Bend. We drove through the southern half, seeing pelicans, herons, coots and other ducks, but skipped the northern half to move on to Cheyenne Bottoms -- northeast of Great Bend. Windy out, not much actually on the lake, but more birds (especially herons) back in the marshes on the other side of the slightly elevated dirt road. When we finally circled around, we got on US-156 to K-4 then east to Lindsborg. I rather wanted to stop at Marquette, where my grandparents are buried, and Coronado Heights, but people were anxious to move on to dinner. We ate at the Swedish Crown in Lindsborg. Dark when we got out, so we hopped onto I-135 and the quick drive back to Wichita.

Drove around Wichita a bit the next day, winding up at Molino's for dinner -- one of our better (and more unusual) Mexican restaurants.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28766 [28749] rated (+17), 401 [404] unrated (-3).

Light week all around. I spent several days working on a fairly extravagant dinner. I had checked out a copy of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods from the local library, thinking I'd try a few dishes before I had to check the book back in. I made fourteen of them, counting some basic ones that got folded into other recipes (like the Apple-Pear Sauce, which went into Grandma Fay's Applesauce Cake, and the Everything Bagel Butter, perfect for spreading on the Seeded Honey Rye Pull-Apart Rolls). The cookbook has recipes for basic DIY ingredients: the one recipe I botched was the Sauerkraut, needed for Wine-Braised Sauerkraut and Mushrooms, itself a component to the Braised Sauerkraut and Potato Gratin. So I wound up buying Bubbies Sauerkraut for the Gratin, but my Sauerruben came out perfect, so I think the Sauerkraut would have worked if I had been more careful to keep the cabbage submerged.

While cooking, I went back to the travel cases, so I listened to a lot of great music, even if I have little to report. In fact, the two A- records below were things I wrote a bit about last week, so it was all downhill from last Monday. After cooking, I wrote up recipes and notes on the meal, but they're in the notebook. I haven't been able to update the website, so you probably won't be able to find them. (But note: I see a bit of disk space opened up, so maybe I can wrap this up and get it up there before it closes again. If you see album covers, that's a good sign I managed an update.)

Next week is likely to be short as well. We have a guest midweek, so will be spending time with her -- showing off the town, and maybe some of the countryside, and cooking a bit (Moroccan tomorrow night).

New records rated this week:

  • Tony Allen: The Source (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Blue Note All Stars: Our Point of View (2017, Blue Note, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Open Mike Eagle: Brick Body Kids Still Daydream (2017, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yedo Gibson/Hernâni Faustino/Vasco Trilla: Chain (2016 [2017], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Gordon Grdina Quartet: Inroads (2017, Songlines): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Dylan Jack Quartet: Diagrams (2017, Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Pierre Kwenders: Makanda at the End of Space, the Beginning of Time (2017, Bonsound): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ian O'Beirne's Slowbern Big Band: Dreams of Daedelus (2016 [2017], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Wojciech Pulcyn: Tribute to Charlie Haden (2016 [2017], ForTune): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tom Rainey Obbligato: Float Upstream (2017, Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Kamasi Washington: Harmony of Difference (2017, Young Turks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tal Yahalom/Almog Sharvit/Ben Silashi: Kadawa (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)

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

  • Chévere (2017, Parma): [cd]: B

Old music rated this week:

  • Gordon Grdina's Box Cutter: New Rules for Noise (2007, Spool): [r]: B+(***)
  • New Lost City Ramblers: Volume II: Out Standing in Their Field (1963-73 [1993], Smithsonian/Folkways): [r]: A-
  • Trevor Watts/Peter Knight: Reunion: Live in London (1999 [2007], Hi 4 Head): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Trevor Watts/Veryan Weston: Dialogues in Two Places (2011 [2012], Hi 4 Head, 2CD): [bc]: B+(**)

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Very little time to work on this, but here are a few things I noted. The big story of the week probably should be Puerto Rico, especially how poorly America's quasi-benevolent gloss on colonialism has wound up serving the people there, but that would take some depth to figure out -- much easier to make fun of Trump pitching paper towels. Aside from the Las Vegas massacre, the media's favorite story of the week was Tillerson calling Trump a "fucking moron," then quasi-denying it, followed by reports of his "suicide pact" with fellow embarrassed secretaries Mattis and Mnuchim. Meanwhile the Caribbean cooked up another hurricane, Nate, which landed midway between Harvey and Irma, reported almost cavalierly after the previous panic stories. How quickly even disaster becomes normalized these days!

Obviously, many more stories could have made the cut, if only I had time to sort them out. Still, this is enough bad news for a taste, especially since so much of it traces back to a single source.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Harry Enten: Trump's Popularity Has Dipped Most in Red States.

  • Thomas Frank: Are those my words coming out of Steve Bannon's mouth? "My critique of Washington is distinctly from the left, and it's astonishing to hear conservatives swiping it." I've long been bothered by how Frank's taunting of the right-wing base got them to demand more from their political heroes. It's also true that Frank's exposure of the neoliberal rot in the heart of Washington's beltway has played into Trump rhetoric. Indeed, it's probable that Frank's Listen, Liberal undercut Hillary much worse than anything Bernie Sanders ever said or did -- a distinction that Hillary's diehard fans don't make because most of Frank's readers supported Bernie. Frank points out that Republicans offer no real fixes for his critiques. So why don't Democrats pick up the same critique and flesh it out with real solutions? Probably because Hillary and company were so content with sucking up to their rich donors, but now that we know that doesn't work, why can't they learn?

  • Josh Marshall: More Thoughts on the Externalities of Mass Gun Ownership: This in turn cites David Frum: The Rules of Gun Debate, which points out a basic truth that hardly anyone wants to admit:

    Americans die from gunfire in proportions unparalleled in the civilized world because Americans own guns in proportions unparalleled in the civilized world. More guns mean more lethal accidents, more suicides, more everyday arguments escalated into murderous fusillades.

    Marshall goes on to point out that the sheer popularity of guns is making the problem worse for everyone -- he speaks of "externalities," although the game model is closer to an arms race. But Frum also notes:

    o in a limited sense, the gun advocates are right. The promise of "common sense gun safety" is a hoax, i.e. Americans probably will not be able to save the tens of thousands of lives lost every year to gun violence -- and the many more thousands maimed and traumatized -- while millions of Americans carry guns in their purses and glove compartments, store guns in their night tables and dressers. Until Americans change their minds about guns, Americans will die by guns in numbers resembling the casualty figures in Somalia and Honduras more than Britain or Germany.

    It's truly hard to imagine that this change will be led by law. . . . Gun safety begins, then, not with technical fixes, but with spreading the truthful information: people who bring guns into their homes are endangering themselves and their loved ones.

    Specifically on Las Vegas, note I'm not going to criticize Caleb Keeter -- the guitarist who "has had a change of heart on guns."

  • Dylan Matthews: Trump reignites NFL protest controversy by ordering Mike Pence to leave a Colts game: Pence showed up for a Colts game to stand for the national anthem, then left in protest of players who took a knee during the anthem. Pure PR stunt, and a huge insult to NFL fans, who pay good money to watch the game, even if that means enduring the pre-game pomp. Worse, Trump is so locked into his echo chamber he thinks he's making a winning point.

  • Jeremy W Peters/Maggie Haberman/Glenn Trush: Erik Prince, Blackwater Founder, Weighs Primary Challenge to Wyoming Republican: Billionaire brother of Betsy DeVos, like her made his money inheriting the Amway fortune but built a lucrative side business providing mercenaries for the Global War on Terror, most recently in the news lobbying the Trump administration to privatize the war in Afghanistan -- if you wanted to write a new James Bond novel about a megalomaniacal privateer, you wouldn't have to spruce his bio up much. He hails from Michigan, but isn't the first to think Wyoming might be a cost-effective springboard to the Senate and national politics (think Lynne Cheney). Behind the scenes here is Steve Bannon, who's looking for Trump-like candidates to disrupt the Republican Party. He's likely to come up with some pretty creepy ones, but Prince is setting the bar awful high.

  • Andrew Prokop: Trump's odd and ominous "calm before the storm" comment, not really explained: This followed Trump's dressing down of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for trying to talk to North Korea (not to mention Tillerson's description of Trump as a "fucking moron"). As Prokop admits, there is no real explanation for Trump's elliptical remarks, but as I see it, he's doing a much more convincing act of Nixon's Madman Theory than the Trickster ever managed.

  • David Roberts: Friendly policies keep US oil and coal afloat far more than we thought.

  • Dylan Scott: How Trump is planning to gut Obamacare by executive order.

  • Matthew Yglesias: Puerto Rico is all our worst fears about Trump becoming real:

    To an extent, the United States of America held up surprisingly well from Inauguration Day until September 20 or so. The ongoing degradation of American civic institutions, at a minimum, did not have an immediate negative impact on the typical person's life.

    But the world is beginning to draw a straight line from the devastation in Puerto Rico to the White House. Trump's instinct so far is to turn the island's devastation into another front in culture war politics, a strategy that could help his own political career survive.

    One problem Trump has, even if it doesn't explain his administration as a whole, has been the relative shortfall of news on Puerto Rico -- especially from the Trump whisperers at Fox (see Druhmil Mehta: The Media Really Has Neglected Puerto Rico). A lot of people, and not just immigration-phobes like Trump, have is seeing Puerto Rico as part of the USA, even though everyone there has American citizenship and are free to pick up and move anywhere in the country. Also see: Harry Enten: Trump's Handling of Hurricane Maria Is Getting Really Bad Marks.

    The notion that Trump hasn't done a lot of damage to the country yet is mostly delayed perception. His regulatory efforts have allowed companies to pollute more and engage in other predatory practices, but it takes a while to companies to take advantage of their new license. The defunding of CHIP (the Children's Health Insurance Program) didn't immediately shot off insurance, but it will over several months. Those who lose their insurance may not get sick for months or years, but across the country these things add up. Trump's brinksmanship with North Korea hasn't blown up yet, but it's made a disaster much more likely. Some of these things will slowly degrade quality of life, but some may happen suddenly and irreversibly. That people don't notice them right away doesn't mean that they won't eventually. One thing politicians hope, of course, is that bad things happen they won't be traced back to responsible acts. Indeed, Republicans have been extraordinarily lucky so far, to no small extent because Democrats haven't been very adept as explaining causality. Yglesias returns to this theme in Trump's taste for flattery is a disaster for Puerto Rico -- and someday the world;

    The scary message of Puerto Rico -- like of the diplomatic row between Qatar and Saudi Arabia before it -- is that a man who often seemed like he wasn't up to the job of being president is, in fact, not up to the job of being president.

    At times, of course, his political opponents will find this comforting or even to be a blessing. His inability to involve himself constructively in the Affordable Care Act debate, for example, likely saved millions of people's Medicaid coverage relative to what a more competent president might have pulled off.

    But when bad luck strikes, the president's problems become everyone's problems. And in Puerto Rico we're seeing that the president's inability to listen to constructive criticism -- and his unwillingness to incentive people to give it to him -- transforms misfortune into catastrophe.

    This tendency to cut himself off from uncomfortable information rather than accept frank assessments and change course has impacted Trump's legislative agenda, peripheral aspects of his foreign policy, and now a part of the United States of America itself.

    If we're lucky, maybe the global economy will hold up, we won't have any more bad storms, foreign terrorists will leave us alone, and somehow we'll skate past this North Korea situation. Maybe. Because if not, we're going to be in trouble, and the president's going to be the last one to realize it.

    Yglesias says "we'd better hope Trump's luck holds up," but he doesn't sound very hopeful. I'm reminded of the famous Branch Rickey maxim, "luck is the residue of design." Rickey was talking about winning baseball games, but losing is the residue of its own kind of design. It was GW Bush's bad luck that the economy imploded on his watch, but his administration and his party deliberately did a lot of things that hastened that collapse, so it's not simply that they were unlucky.

    Other pieces by Yglesias last week: The 4 stories that defined the week: Dozens were massacred in Las Vegas; Trump flew to Puerto Rico; Tax reform is looking shaky; and Morongate rocked the Cabinet. One aspect of the latter story: "due to the structure of his compensation and certain quirks of tax law, [Tillerson will] be hit with a $71 million tax bill on the proceeds [of cashing out his Exxon stock] unless he stays with the government for at least a year." Other pieces: Meet Kevin Warsh, the man Trump may tap to wreck the American economy: to replace Janet Yellen as chair of the Federal Reserve; After Sandy Hook, Trump hailed Obama's call for gun control legislation; Trump's reverse Midas touch is making everything he hates popular; After a year of work, Republicans have decided nothing on corporate tax reform.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Daily Log

Cooked dinner for last night. I checked a cookbook out from the local library, thinking I would see what I could do with it before the due date. The book is Jeffrey Yoskowitz & Liz Alpern: The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods. I have a couple other Jewish cookbooks, most notably Claudia Roden: The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York, which has been my bible for Ashkenazi recipes (less so the much larger Sephardic section, which is rather redundant to my many middle eastern cookbooks, including Roden's own Arabesque), as well as a few Israeli cookbooks (especially Yotam Ottolenghi's Jerusalem: A Cookbook). So I mostly looked for things I hadn't made before.

Since I had two weeks to work with, my first idea was to look at the pickles, most of which took 5-10 days to cure. I went out and shopped for cucumbers, green beans, cabbage and turnips, but didn't find suitable cucumbers, and the green beans went bad before I could use them. The Sauerkraut looked promising, but I picked a poor jar to hold it, and the cabbage wasn't totally submerged. After a few days it grew mold above the water line and became discolored, so I pitched it. I didn't have any such problems with the turnips, so the Sauerruben worked as advertised. That was the only early dish I kept, although I also made a small batch of Mustard Slaw, and a second batch for the dinner.

The dinner menu wound up as follows:

The gratin was partly botched: I forgot to cover the casserole with foil, so it wasn't clear from looking at it that the potatoes were a bit undercooked. The dough for the rolls may have been a bit dry. They didn't rise as much as expected, and came out a bit heavy, but very tasty. Hard to fault anything else. The chicken and the fish were the most popular; the gratin, salad, slaw and kugel the least, and the applesauce and gribenes were barely noticed. I didn't realize what the problem with the gratin was until I wrote up the recipe, but it seemed a bit off at the time. The other dishes were quite good -- especially the kugel, which was light in texture but very flavorful, although it looked rather dull, like turkey dressing. The rolls weren't much of a hit either, although I think I ate three.

I did the shopping on Tuesday, thinking I'd cook on Thursday. Due to a scheduling snafu, that got moved to Friday, so I skipped Wednesday and started cooking on Thursday. I started by making the apple-pear sauce. I roasted the squash, fixed the wine-braised sauerkraut and mushrooms, and cooked the cauliflower and mushrooms for the kugel. For mushrooms, I had some dried porcini, plus one package each of fresh shiitakes and oyster mushrooms, plus a pound of baby portabellas. I hydrated the porcini, then mixed them all together, splitting the combination into two batches for the two dishes. I made the horseradish sauce (which was supposed to sit for 24 hours before using) and the butter. I made the slaw, and finally baked the cake. Jerry Stewart came over and helped a bit in the afternoon, although I didn't really get going until evening, and wound down around 2AM.

On Friday I got up at noon, and Jerry again came over. I started the bread, then mixed up the terrine and popped it into the oven, followed shortly by the kugel. I took a package of chicken thighs (4), skinned them, and trimmed off most of the fat. I put the skin and fat into a non-stick skillet and put it on low heat for the schmaltz and gribenes. Meanwhile I put the skinned thighs in a pot, covered them with water, and slowly cooked them -- adding some sliced ginger to the stock. I cut up the chicken, trimmed some fat off and put it into the schmaltz pan, then browned the chicken pieces. They were a little too tight in the pan I used, so I decided to use a large roasting pan instead (too large, actually). I moved the chicken to the roasting pan and painted the pieces with the glaze. I sautéed the onion, carrots, and prunes in the original pan, added some water to loosen the brownings up, then added all that to the roasting pan.

Jerry shredded the cheese, sliced the potatoes, and assembled the gratin. He also chopped the kale and assembled the salad. I couldn't find any hazelnuts or almonds, so suggested using the cashews instead, and toasted them while the oven was warming up for the gratin and chicken. I formed the rolls and got them ready to bake, painting them with egg and seeds. I have two ovens, so used the gas one at 400F for the gratin and chicken, the electric at 350F for the rolls. When those three dishes were baking, we had a moment of calm after setting the table and putting everything else into serving bowls. Dinner was a little late because I was tardy getting things into the oven, but it went very smoothly after that.

I copied down the relevant recipes. I suppose there are more things in the book that would be interesting to try some time. There are a lot of low-level from scratch recipes: making butter, sour cream, cream cheese, farmers cheese, pickles, sauerkraut, matzoh, bagles, bialys, corned beef, pastrami -- things that require a lot of DIY commitment. On the other hand, I don't think I'll ever buy applesauce again -- the only I've ever actually liked has been homemade (and I'd say my old recipe is better than this one; I also doubt that the latke and chopped liver recipes here are better than the ones I use). Still, this book opened my eyes to a few things, which probably makes it worth owning.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28749 [28719] rated (+30), 404 [398] unrated (+6).

I wrapped up September's Streamnotes on Saturday. I couldn't update the website, so the only workable link at present is here. Inability to update means that eight cover pics of A- records won't be found. Same for the seven A- records in the list below (only one not in Streamnotes). Still no idea when I'll manage to straighten this mess out. There are so many things to do I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around it all.

The one new record was recommended by Phil Overeem, as he expanded his 2017 My Fav-O-Rite New and Old Records of 2017 list to 85. I'm not much of a Cajun fan, but the latest Lost Bayou Ramblers album hits the spot.

I tried closing the week on Sunday, but found a couple more incoming records on my messy desk, so I figured I should at least add them, and wound up updating the rated totals as well. One thing I notices was that I hadn't recorded the grade (A-) for Samo Salamon Sextet: The Colours Suite, so most likely that didn't get registered in its appropriate Music Week post. Things slowed down after posting on Saturday. I've been playing new jazz in FIFO order, but decided to let the September Intakt releases jump the line. Both -- an Irène Schweizer duo with Joey Baron and a second record by Tom Rainey's Obbligato quintet -- are somewhat less than I hoped for (well, expected), but still close enough I wound up sinking a lot of time in them. Schweizer has a lot of drummer duos on record, and the ones with Han Bennink and Pierre Favre are nothing short of astonishing. I've long admired Baron, but he doesn't bring out the same spark in the pianist. Rainey's record is tougher to decide -- I'm not really much good with subtle, and there's a lot of that here.

I tried to catch up with Robert Christgau's recent picks, and was most impressed by L'Orange. The 2015 album with Jeremiah Jae had the special mix of sound and words that Christgau recognized, but I was every bit as taken by the 2016 collaboration with Mr. Lif, in part because its Orwellian dystopia seems amusingly quaint next to the actual hell we're (mostly) living through. I woke up this morning to news of last night's mass shooting in Las Vegas, with TPM offering as its lead story: White House: 'Premature' to Talk Gun Control in Wake of Las Vegas Shooting. "Too late" would have been more like it, but with an average of one mass shooting per day (273 times in the first 273 days of this year, counting 4+ people shot as a "mass shooting"), timing doesn't really seem to be the question. (For a level-headed summary of the facts: German Lopez: Gun violence in America, explained in 17 maps and charts.)

I come from a family chock full of hunters, and I grew up with guns in my home and in the homes of most of my relatives. My father took a course on how to do taxidermy, so I also grew up surrounded by stuffed dead animals -- they were my specialty at school show-and-tells (the rattlesnakes were the biggest hits, but the badger and owl were the stars). The Idaho relatives are more likely to have stuffed bear and moose. One of them not only hunts; he makes his own antique rifles to get back closer to the pioneer spirit. My father and most of his generation served as soldiers, and that's still pretty common among the Arkansas-Oklahoma relatives. So I'm not someone who gets riled up easily over guns. Nor do I think it's government's job to protect us from every possible harm -- especially self-harm (one of those charts shows that guns kill many more people through suicide than murder -- I'd like to see the same chart include accidents and "justified" self-defense, which is surely the smallest slice of the pie). Still, I do have a problem with stupid, and there's way too much of that -- on both sides, but it's far from distributed evenly.

It's also important to realize that when people understand a problem, they can if not fix at least ameliorate it. In this regard, I noticed two tweets today. One pointed out that "The Onion has run this story verbatim five times since 2014, switching out only city, photo, and body count" (link). The story title: "No Way to Prevent This," Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens." The other was The Onion's own tweet: "Americans Hopeful This Will Be Last Mass Shooting Before They Stop On Their Own For No Reason." Probably the single most obvious point one can draw from the Las Vegas shooting is that it would have been much less destructive had a federal law banning assault weapons not been allowed to expire back when Bush was president. (The latest count I've seen is 59 dead, 525 injured. That takes a lot of bullets over a mere 15 minutes.) Sure, it's not like Congress authorized the massacre, but that Congress could have prevented it (and some lesser cases) had they maintained existing law. You can blame them not doing so on NRA lobbying ($3,781,803 donations to current members of Congress), but I think it has more to do with continuous war since 2001, habituating us to the notion that all we need to solve problems is more firepower.

I bring up the lapse of law because Congress has just allowed several other important laws to expire, replacing them with nothing but anarchy and cowardice. As Rep. Joe Kennedy III listed them:

  • Healthcare for low-income kids
  • Community health centers
  • Loans for low-income college students

This story is unlikely to make the network news, especially on a day with so much bloodshed, but over time they will affect many more lives than the shooter in Las Vegas, and some of those effects will be dire. Again, these are not new things that we cannot do. They are things that we have been doing -- things that we actually should be doing better -- but are stopping because we've elected a Congress that can't be bothered even maintaining a semblance of civilization. (Isn't there a quote somewhere, to the effect that taxes are what we pay for civilization? One reason these laws are lapsing is that Congress is preoccupied with slashing taxes -- no doubt figuring that if they focus on helping the wealthy civilization will take care of itself.)

Speaking of dead people, Tom Paley and Tom Petty passed in the last few days. [The Petty report may have been premature.] The former was a founder of the legendary folk group New Lost City Ramblers. Their early work, before Paley left in 1962, was their best. The latter is a well known rocker, although the first image that pops into my mind is the girl in Silence of the Lambs singing along to "American Girl" in the car on her way to being kidnapped.

New records rated this week:

  • Atomic: Six Easy Pieces (2016 [2017], Odin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lena Bloch & Feathery: Heart Knows (2017, Fresh Sound New Talent): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Collective Order: Vol. 2 (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Fat Tony: MacGregor Park (2017, First One Up, EP): [bc]: A-
  • Four Tet: New Energy (2017, Text): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Hofbauer: Ghost Frets (2016 [2017], Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Eric Hofbauer: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 4: Reminiscing in Tempo (2017, Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • L'Orange & Jeremiah Jae: The Night Took Us in Like Family (2015, Mellow Music Group): [bc]: A-
  • L'Orange & Mr. Lif: The Life & Death of Scenery (2016, Mello Music Group): [bc]: A-
  • Lost Bayou Ramblers: Kalenda (2017, Rice Pump): [r]: A-
  • Matt Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace (2017, Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Chris Parker: Moving Forward Now (2017, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: The French Press (2017, Sub Pop, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron: Live! (2015 [2017], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Lyn Stanley: The Moonlight Sessions: Volume Two (2017, A.T. Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Stik Figa: Central Standard Time (2017, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Summit Quartet: Live in Sant' Arresi (2016 [2017], Audiographic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Fred Thomas: Changer (2017, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nestor Torres: Jazz Flute Traditions (2017, Alfi): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Trio Da Kali and Kronos Quartet: Ladilikan (2017, World Circuit): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vector Families: For Those About to Jazz/Rock We Salute You (2017, Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Ken Wiley: Jazz Horn Redux (2014 [2017], Krug Park Music): [cd]: B+(*)

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

  • Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Talk Tight (2015 [2017], Sub Pop, EP): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • James Brown: Cold Sweat (1967, King): [r]: A-
  • L'Orange & Stik Figa: The City Under the City (2013, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(*)
  • L'Orange & Kool Keith: Time? Astonishing? (2015, Mello Music Group): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Fred Thomas: Everything Is Pretty Much Entirely Fucked (2002, Little Hands): [r]: B+(*)
  • Fred Thomas: All Are Saved (2015, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Borderlands Trio [Stephan Crump/Kris Davis/Eric McPherson]: Asteroidea (Intakt): October 15
  • Cowboys and Frenchmen: Bluer Than You Think (Outside In Music): October 13
  • Jason Paul Curtis: These Christmas Days (self-released): November 24
  • Jeff Dingler: In Transit (self-released)
  • Hans Hassler: Wie Die Zeit Hinter Mir Her (Intakt): October 15
  • Steve Hobbs: Tribute to Bobby (Challenge): January 8
  • Bob Ferrel: Bob Ferrel's Jazztopian Dream (Bob Ferrel Music): October 6
  • Danny Janklow: Elevation (Outside In Music)
  • Alma Micic: That Old Feeling (Whaling City Sound)
  • Nicole Mitchell and Haki Madhubuti: Liberation Narratives (Black Earth Music)
  • Paul Moran: Smokin' B3 Vol. 2: Still Smokin' (Prudential): October 29
  • Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group: Three Minutes to Four (Whaling City Sound)
  • Adam Rudolph: Morphic Resonances (M.O.D. Technologies): October 20
  • Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Achille Succi: Planets of Kei: Free Sessions Vol. 1 (Not Two)
  • Marta Sánchez Quintet: Danza Imposible (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • The U.S. Army Blues: Swinging in the Holidays (self-released)
  • Deanna Witkowski: Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns (Tilapia)
  • Mark Zaleski Band: Days, Months, Years (self-released): October 6

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Hard to get psyched up for this week, what with my website woes, having sunk a lot of time into yesterday's Streamnotes, and various other malaises. Two pieces of relative good news this week: the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal-and-decimate Obamacare failed to advance to a vote; and HHS Secretary Tom Price, one of the Cabinet's most obnoxious secretaries, was forced to resign. Hurricane Marie is much reduced and well out to sea, heading toward Ireland, and no new Atlantic hurricanes have been named. On the other hand, that just leaves the destruction Marie wrought in Puerto Rico in the media spotlight, with the Trump administration all but cursing the Spanish-American War (wasn't that the first great MAGA crusade?). Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing "tax reform" with no evident ability to make their numbers add up.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Karen DeYoung, et al: Trump signed presidential directive ordering actions to pressure North Korea: This included extensive cyberwarfare operations against North Korea. Not clear on exact chronology, but this suggests that much of the confrontation with North Korea was precipitated by Trump's direction.

  • Anne Gearan: The swamp rises around an administration that promised to drain it:

    Candidate Trump would have been appalled.

    "A vote for Hillary is a vote to surrender our government to public corruption, graft and cronyism that threatens the very foundations of our constitutional system," Trump said during an Oct. 29 speech.

    He went on to describe his broader belief that public corruption and cronyism were eating away at voters' faith in government -- a situation he would remedy.

    "I want the entire corrupt Washington establishment to hear and to heed the words I am about to say," Trump said. "When we win on Nov. 8, we are going to Washington, D.C., and we are going to drain the swamp." . . .

    Trump's critics say no one should be surprised that he hasn't followed through on his campaign promise. They argue that the mere idea of a flamboyantly rich New York real estate mogul as the champion of workaday lunch buckets in Middle America was silly.

    "The tone on this stuff gets set at the top," said Brian Fallon, spokesman for Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign and a former Justice Department official in the Obama administration.

    "Tom Price's wasteful jet-setting is not causing Trump embarrassment because it violates any kind of reform mind-set within the Trump administration. No such mind-set exists," Fallon said. "It is simply because Price got caught and is reminding everyone of how Trump has turned Washington into an even bigger swamp than it was in the first place."

    Of course, it was ridiculous to ever think that Trump, let alone a Congress run by Republicans, would so much as lift a finger to try to curtail the influence of money in Washington or more generally in politics. It was easy to tar Hillary on this account, given how much she seemed to prefer courting donors to voters, given how brazenly the Clintons had cultivated influence peddling (going back to Arkansas, when he was Governor and she sat on the WalMart board), and given how they had risen from bankruptcy to considerable wealth cashing in their chips after he left office in 2001. But while Democrats from Grover Cleveland to Barack Obama provided a measure of background corruption in government, it was the self-styled "party of greed" that hosted our most notorious corruption scandals: Grant's Credit Mobilier, Harding's Teapot Dome, Reagan's HUD scandals and Iran-Contra, and too many squalid affairs under Bush-Cheney to name. But never before have the Republicans nominated someone as rapacious and as shameless as Trump. Tom Price ran into trouble not by offending Trump's ethics but his ego, by acting like he's entitled to the same perks as the boss. If anyone ever doubted that "public corruption, graft and cronyism that threatens the very foundations of our constitutional system," Trump will show them.

  • David A Graham: Why Does Trump Keep Praising the Emergency Response in Puerto Rico? "The president's insistence that he's doing a great job sits uneasily with stories of desperation in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria."

    Part of this seems to be Trump's struggle to project empathy, which he displayed in the early days after Hurricane Harvey, where he excelled at the inspirational, rah-rah, we will rebuild aspects of presidential response, but found it very hard to show he felt the pain of Gulf Coast residents. (By contrast, he has expressed caution about what to do in Puerto Rico, tweeting, "The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!") Another part is Trump's tendency toward puffery: In all situations, for his entire career, his impulse has been to magnify and celebrate his own prowess and success, and so he's doing that here too. But that fake-it-till-you-make-it approach understandably rankles people like Yulín.

    Damning as this is, it's way too kind to Trump, already forgetting that he did a completely dreadful job of showing empathy in Texas -- although at least there he made a little effort to fake it. AT least he acknowledges that Texas is part of "his" America, something that he doesn't feel with Puerto Rico. A couple more sample pieces on how the Trump administration is handling the Puerto Rico crisis: Trump Attacks Critics of Puerto Rico Aid Effort: 'Politically Motivated Ingrates'; FEMA Administrator Swipes at San Juan Mayor, Those Who 'Spout Off' About Aid.

  • Sarah Kliff: Obamacare repeal isn't dead as long as Republicans control Congress: In fact, lots of horrible things will keep coming up as long as Republicans control Congress. A couple weeks ago my cousin asked me who I'd like to see the Democrats nominate in 2020, and my response was that it doesn't matter until Democrats can start winning state and local races, especially for Congress. One thing I continue to fault both Clinton and Obama on is their loss of Congress two years into their first terms, and their failure to build up effective coattails even when they won second terms. Hillary Clinton spent a ton of time raising money, but didn't build up any down-ticket strength to build her own candidacy on -- a big part of the reason she lost. Without Congressional support, neither Clinton nor Obama got more than a tiny percentage of their platforms implemented, and that failure in turn ate at the credibility of their promises -- something Hillary paid dearly for, which in turn is why we're suffering through Trump and the Republican Congress.

  • Paul Krugman: Shifts Get Real: Understanding the GOP's Policy Quagmire: I mentioned in the intro that Republican plans don't add up: they want big cuts in tax brackets, especially for corporations from 35% to 20%, and they want to eliminate the estate tax altogether, but even a few of those things would bust the budget. "Reforms" to simplify the code and eliminate current deductions could offset at least some of the cuts, but those all look like tax increases to those who currently benefit, and their lobbies are out in force to keep that from happening. Even busting the budget is a problem given the Senate's no-filibuster "reconciliation" path. So while everyone in the majority caucus is sworn to cut taxes, getting there may prove difficult.

    Right now it looks as if tax "reform" -- actually it's just cuts -- may go the way of Obamacare repeal. Initial assessments of the plan are brutal, and administration attempts to spin things in a positive direction will suffer from loss of credibility on multiple fronts, from obvious lies about the plan itself, to spreading corruption scandals, to the spectacle of the tweeter-in-chief golfing while Puerto Rico drowns. . . .

    One important goal of ACA repeal was to loosen those constraints, by repealing the high-end tax hikes that paid for Obamacare, hence giving a big break to the donor class. Having failed to do that, Rs are under even more pressure to deliver the goods to the wealthy through tax cuts.

    But deficits are a constraint, even if not a hard one. Now, Republicans have always claimed that they can cut tax rates without losing revenue by closing loopholes. But they've always avoided saying anything about which loopholes they'd close; they promised to shift the tax burden away from their donors onto [TK], some mystery group. It was magic asterisk city; it was "Don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree" on steroids. . . .

    So what were they thinking? My guess is that they weren't thinking. What we learned from health care was that after 8 years, Republicans had never bothered to learn anything about the issues. There's every reason to believe that the same is true for the distribution of tax changes, which Paul Ryan called a "ridiculous" issue and presumably nobody in his party ever tried to understand.

    So now the lies and willful ignorance are catching up with them -- again.

    An earlier Krugman post ( Unpopular Delusions and the Madness of Elites) notes some polling and adds:

    There really is no clamor, even among Republicans, for tax cuts on the wealthy and corporations. And overall public opinion is strongly against.

    Nor is there a technocratic case for these cuts. There is no evidence whatsoever that tax cuts produce great economic outcomes -- zero, zilch, nada. The "experts" who claim otherwise are all hired guns, and notably incompetent hired guns at that.

    Yet faith in and demands for tax cuts remains; it's the ultimate zombie idea. And it's obvious why: advocating tax cuts for the rich and inventing rationales for those cuts is very lucrative.

    also, in Voodoo Gets Even Voodooier:

    That said, Trumpcuts are an even worse idea than Reaganomics, and not just because we start from much higher debt, the legacy of the financial crisis, which cut deeply into revenue and temporarily boosted spending. It also matters that we start from a much lower top tax rate than Reagan did. . . . So even if you believed that voodoo economics worked under Reagan -- which it didn't -- it would take a lot more voodoo, in fact around 4 times as much, for it to work now.

    Which makes you wonder: how can they possibly sell this as a responsible plan? Oh, right: they'll just lie.

  • Peter O'Dowd: 18-Hour Vietnam Epic Is Lesson on Horror of 'Unleashing Gods of War': Actually, the interview isn't that interesting, except for a long quote on the Burns-Novick documentary from Daniel Ellsberg:

    I think there were some some major omissions that are quite fundamental that disturbed me quite a bit, although the overall thing is very impressive.

    First of all, the repeated statement that this was a civil war on which we were taking one side, I think it's profoundly misleading. It always was a war in which one side is entirely paid, equipped, armed, pressed forward by foreigners. Without the foreigners, no war. That's not a civil war. And that puts -- it very much undermines, I'd say, a fundamentally misleading statement at the very beginning in the first five minutes or so of the first session.

    I don't see anything in the Pentagon Papers, 7,000 pages, that could be called good faith by anybody, in terms of the American people, our values, our Constitution. This was a war, as I say initially, to keep Vietnam a French colony. And that was not admitted to the American people. It was well known inside. We preferred that they be at war, and there was never a year that there would have been a war at all without American money in the end. So I thought that was extremely misleading.

    I'll probably write some more about Vietnam later, but I do want to add one comment on the last episode, which features heavily the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC. The design suggests a gash in the earth, one side lined with black marble engraved with the names of 58,318 Americans who died perpetuating this war. I find it impossible to look at this wall and not imagine extending it upward to include the three million Vietnamese who also died. It seems extraordinarily conceited, even more so misleading, to omit those names. Of course, if you want to preserve the gash-in-the-earth visual effect, you could dig a deeper hole instead of building the wall up hundreds of feet.

  • Alex Pareene: You Are Jonathan Chait's Enemy: Chait is complaining "about the 'dangerous consequences' of the left's use of the label 'white supremacist' to describe Donald Trump, the alt-right, and American conservatism in general," in what Pareene describes as "just another paint-by-numbers 'the greatest threat to free speech in the nation today is college students heckling an asshole' column."

    Chait is policing the way the left does politics because he does not want the left-wing style of doing politics to gain prominence.

    Something that is well-known to people who've read Chait for years, but may not be apparent to those who just think of him as a standard-issue center-left pundit who is sort of clueless about race, is that he is engaged in a pretty specific political project: Ensuring that you and people like you don't gain control of his party.

    Pareene's getting a bit touchy here, but he's not the only one suspicious that so-called centrists relish attacking the left while offering the right undeserved respect and legitimacy -- which in the long run works in their favor. The problem with centrism is that the track record doesn't show that taking such a conciliatory stance delivers much in the way of tangible benefits -- indeed, if anything it shows retreats while the right grows stronger and more aggressive. It seems time to ask whether stronger leftist critiques might turn out to be more effective, especially with people who don't start out with a strong political stance. For instance, why not refer to people as white supremacists who may merely be garden variety racists? -- especially people like Trump who seem so comfortable aligned with undoubted white supremacists like the KKK?

  • David Rothkopf: The NSC is 70 this week -- and the first thing it ever did was meddle in a foreign election: In 1947, created by the National Security Act, its first paper ("NSC 1") approved by Truman to covertly meddle in elections in Italy, "trying to counter the effects of the Soviets to support the rise of the Italian Communist Party," no mention of the popularity the PCI gained by resisting Mussolini and the German occupation. Of course, the CIA went on to do much more than merely game foreign elections; e.g.: Vincent Bevins: In Indonesia, the 'fake news' that fueled a Cold War massacre is still potent five decades later:

    Gen. Suharto, then the head of the army's strategic reserve command and relying on support from the CIA, accused the powerful Communist Party of orchestrating a coup attempt and took over as the military's de facto leader. Over the next few months, his forces oversaw the systematic execution of at least 500,000 Indonesians, and historians say they may have killed up to 1 million. The massacre decimated the world's third-largest Communist Party (behind those of the Soviet Union and China), and untold numbers were tortured and killed simply for allegedly associating with communists.

    The military dictatorship that formed afterward, led by Suharto, made wildly inaccurate anti-communist propaganda a cornerstone of its legitimacy and ruled Indonesia with U.S. support until 1998.

  • Alex Thompson/Ryan Grim: Kansas Won't Expand Medicaid, Denying a Lifeline to Rural Hospitals and Patients: Well, some, like the one in Independence, are already dead. Gov. Brownback, who vetoed the bill to expand Medicaid, has been nominated to a State Department post to hector the world on God, but Lt. Gov. Colyer promises to veto future bills as well, so no relief in sight.

  • Zeynep Tufekci: Zuckerberg's Preposterous Defense of Facebook: It's become clear that Russia created hundreds of clandestine Facebook accounts and used them and Facebook's advertising system to spread misinformation about the 2016 election. People are upset about that because they don't like the idea of a foreign power attempting to tilt an American election, possibly as a general principle but often just because it's Russia attempting to undermine Hillary Clinton and/or to elect Trump. Still, doesn't the US do the same thing to other countries? And don't both parties and their donors do the same thing to each other? I have no doubt that Facebook makes the general problem much worse, mostly because it allows unprecedentely precise, even intimate, targeting by whoever's willing to put the money into it. Advertisers have been trying to refine targeting for decades, but they've mostly been concerned with efficiency -- getting the most cost-effective set of buyers to consider a standard product pitch. Political advertising is different because votes are different from purchases, and, given limited choices, negative advertising is often more effective. Until recently, we could limit this damage by requiring disclosure of whoever is buying the advertising. Facebook undermines this paradigm in several ways: it helps advertisers hide their identity, and thereby avoid responsibility for any damages; it allows messages to be very narrowly tailored; its effect is amplified by viral "sharing"; it precludes any systematic effort to recall or correct misinformation. Americans have long been lulled into the lure of advertising, which offers to pay for entertainment and news while only demanding a small (and initially distinct) slice of your time. And we've basically gone along with this scheme because we haven't noticed what it's doing to us -- much like a lobster doesn't notice heating water until it's much too late. It's going to be difficult to unravel all these levels of duplicity and to restore any measure of integrity to the democratic process. But two things should be clear by now: the fact that someone like Donald Trump got elected president shows that our system for informing ourselves about the world is badly broken; and that as long as powerful forces -- I'd start with virtually all corporations, most Republicans, and many Democrats, and throw in a few more special interest groups (not least the CIA and the post-KGB -- believe that they benefit from this system there will be much resistance to changing it. Indeed, it probably has to be defeated before it can be changed.

    By the way, Matt Taibbi has a relevant piece: Latest Fake News Panic Appears to Be Fake News, wherein he suggests:

    The irony here is that the solution to so much of this fake news panic is so simple. If we just spent more time outside, or read more books, or talked in person to real human beings more often, we'd be less susceptible to this sort of thing. But that would take effort, and who has time for that?

  • Matthew Yglesias: 4 stories that really mattered this week: i.e., more than Trump's spat with the NFL: Obamacare repeal died again; Puerto Rico is in crisis; Republicans rolled out a tax cut plan; Roy Moore won the GOP nomination in Alabama. Other recent Yglesias posts: Trump is proposing big tax hikes on vulnerable House Republicans' constituents (ending deductability of state and local taxes [SALT], a big deal in upscale suburban districts); A House Republican explains why deficits don't matter anymore: Mark Walker says "It's a great talking point when you have an administration that's Democrat-led" -- this just confirms what we've already observed, as when Nixon declared "we're all Keynesians now" when he wanted more deficit spending to prop up his re-election economy, or Cheney declared "deficits don't matter," yet Clinton and Obama were constantly pounded over deficit spending; Trump keeps saying Graham-Cassidy failed because a senator's in the hospital; Nobody wants Donald Trump's corporate tax cut plan: "Americans overwhelmingly want large businesses to pay more taxes rather than less"; The Jones Act, the obscure 1920 shipping regulation strangling Puerto Rico, explained; Trump's plan to sell tax cuts for the rich is to pretend they're not happening; Democrats ought to invest in Doug Jones's campaign against Roy Moore; Angela Merkel won in a landslide -- now comes the hard part; Donald Trump versus the NFL, explained.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Daily Log

Been watching the Burns-Novick Vietnam, moving into Richard Nixon era last night. Heavy stress there on Nixon's promises to end the war, though no mention of Eisenhower's 1952 promise to end Korea War -- which gave Nixon a credibility he didn't deserve. While Nixon ultimately did withdraw from Vietnam, he did it in the most cynical, destructive way possible. He was the prototype for those "all options on the table" guys, including feigning nuclear war with Soviet Union thinking the threat would get them to force Vietnam to "negotiate" -- capitulate enough to give him a "face-saving exit." He pledged "peace with honor." He extended the war four (or was it seven?) more years, only proving how brutal and barbarous "the land of the free" could be. Reflecting back, the 1968 election was the beginning of the end of democracy in America. It all began with the lies Lyndon Johnson used to justify his war, starting with the phony Tonkin Gulf incident. Burns-Novick mention in passing that the long-term effect of the Tet Offensive was to expose those lies and shatter the faith of Americans in the credibility of their political figures, but the point is lost in body counts -- the only metric the US military had. I tried to reflect on this in a tweet, but 140 characters proved too short:

Re Vietnam: in 1968 Americans finally realized they had been lied to, so how do they fix? Richard Nixon! Faith in democracy poisoned then.

For me, 1972 (the first election I voted in) was an even more bitter blow, because (as with Bush in 2004) Nixon had lost any shred of plausible ambiguity by then.

I saw an ad for willing to provide some information on one's family name. I plugged in Hull, and found out:

  • Name Meaning: variant of Hill 1. from a pet form of Hugh.
  • 3,219,194 historical documents with Hull on Ancestry.
  • Name distribution of Hull Families: US, England/Wales, Scotland; states with 348-694 Hull families: New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, California; Kansas was in 117-347, including all other states in Midwest except Minnesota and Dakotas, plus MA, CT, NJ, MD, WV, TN, GA, FL, OK, TX, and WA. All other states have at least 1 Hull family.
  • Hull family origin: England (210), Ireland (161), Germany (81), Great Britain (46), Scotland (23), Sweden (16).
  • Hull immigration information: chart only shows 1851-1891. Peak numbers: 58 (1851), 44 (1881), 40 (1852, 1854, 1888), 37 (1853, 1887), 36 (1883, 1891), 35 (1882), 34 (1880), 31 (1855), 31 (1873), 30 (1866).
  • Hull family occupations: farmer 39% (+4% vs. general public), although "farming" and "farm laborer" were both 2% (-1%). Only other occupation above average was carpenter at 3% (+1%).
  • Hull Civil War service records: 1303 Union, 405 Confederate.

My own known Hull ancestor came to the Pennsylvania circa 1800, a political refugee after the failure of the 1798 revolt in Ireland. His grandson homesteaded Hodgeman County in western Kansas around 1868, near where my father (his great-grandson) was born in 1923.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28719 [28690] rated (+29), 398 [392] unrated (+6).

As I'm writing this, there is no free disk space available to my server account, so I won't be able to update the website. That was the situation last night as well when I went to add my Weekend Roundup post, but just in time a sliver opened up and I was able to make the update -- my first in over a week (I was able to sneak my post on Bill Phillips up by deleting a huge file and pushing the single file up). If you're reading this (at least in the "faux blog" I lucked out again. I dread having to move the website, but unless something changes soon I'll have to. The problem isn't the static files, which I have on my work machine. The big problem is the blog, which will surely be lost. Due (I assume) to disk quotas (or possibly some other bottleneck) I haven't been able to dump the blog database for several years now. And the ISP, ADDR.COM, has for all intents and purposes stopped providing any form of support -- at this point it's rather surprising that they've even kept the machines running. Oddly enough, I have been able to store new blog posts lately, so that may still work.

As for this week's music, I'm surprised the rated count is as high as it is. I got off to a very slow start last week. Surprisingly, the two A- records this week were the first two I rated, and they got 5-6 plays each. I picked up some speed as I got into less interesting albums, but what salvaged the week was a side effect of reading the latest Rolling Stone paean to their birth year, 1967: 50 Essential Albums of 1967. This was written by David Fricke and Robert Christgau, expanded a bit from their 2007 survey of the same year, The 40 Essential Albums of 1967. Christgau had actually written a Consumer Guide to 1967 back in 1977, the only such retrospective Consumer Guide he ever wrote -- I added those entries to his Consumer Guide database, leaving a never-filled hole for 1968 and into 1969, when he started writing his monthly columns.

I made a list and decided to check out the records I didn't have ratings for, and picked up a few extras along the way. The closest thing to a find was David Lindley's early band Kaleidoscope's Side Trips, although the only songs that stuck in my head afterwards were Donovan's two title singles and the Youngbloods' "Get Together." Still, a surprising number of albums weren't on Napster: Bobby "Blue" Bland's Touch of the Blues, The Four Tops' Reach Out, B.B. King's The Jungle, Moby Grape, The Best of Wilson Pickett, Procol Harum, Diana Ross and the Supremes' Greatest Hits, Dionne Warwick's Golden Hits/Part One -- just found James Brown's Cold Sweat under "various artists," so next week for that.

No jazz on their list. I figured I could rectify that, but a quick search through my database suggests that 1967 was a sub-par year for jazz -- maybe the poorest of the decade. Major jazz labels went into sudden decline after 1965, although there was a partial rebound in 1969 with the emergence of fusion and an avant-garde rebound, both aided by new artists and labels in Europe. But for 1967 (and I could be off slightly, as I'm more likely to have recording than release dates in the database) I only count 2 A records and 15 A- (partial checking revealed 2 more A- recorded in 1967 were released later). Sorted approximately:

  1. Duke Ellington: And His Mother Called Him Bill
  2. Johnny Hodges: Triple Play
  3. Miles Davis: Nefertiti
  4. Jackie McLean/Ornette Coleman: New and Old Gospel
  5. McCoy Tyner: The Real McCoy
  6. John Coltrane: Interstellar Space
  7. Jimmy Rushing: Every Day I Have the Blues
  8. Miles Davis: Sorcerer
  9. Stan Getz: Sweet Rain
  10. Gordon Beck: Experiments With Pops
  11. Don Ellis: Electric Bath
  12. Antonio Carlos Jobim: Wave
  13. Keith Jarrett: El Juicio (The Judgment)
  14. Pete La Roca: Turkish Women at the Bath
  15. Bobby Hutcherson: Oblique
  16. Thad Jones/Mel Lewis: Live at the Village Vanguard
  17. Tony Scott: Tony Scott

No progress to report on Jazz Guides. The Streamnotes draft file for September has 122 reviews. I should post it this week, no later than the end of month (Saturday), if I can get the website working. Quite a bit of new jazz in the queue right now -- partly because I managed to account for today's mail from Lithuania. I'd hate to see the unrated count top 400 again, so I should focus more there. One reason I slacked off last month was that most of the new records had much later release dates. Of course, with September waning, we're nearly there.

New records rated this week:

  • Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (2017, Saponegro): [cd]: A-
  • Richard X Bennett: Experiments With Truth (2017, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Richard X Bennett: What Is Now (2017, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jean-François Bonnel and His Swinging Jazz Cats: With Thanks to Benny Carter (2017, Arbors): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tomas Fujiwara: Triple Double (2017, Firehouse 12): [cd]: A-
  • Philipp Gerschlauer/David Fiuczynski: Mikrojazz: Neue Expressionistische Musik (2016 [2017], Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Lauren Kinhan: A Sleepin' Bee (2017, Dotted i): [cd]: B
  • Florian Hoefner: Coldwater Stories (2016 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Emi Meyer: Monochrome (2009-16 [2017], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Debbie Poryes Trio: Loving Hank (2017, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Franciszek Pospieszalski Sextet: 1st Level (2016 [2017], ForTune): [bc]: B
  • Umphrey's McGee: Zonkey (2016, Nothing Too Fancy): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Dick Hyman: Solo at the Sacramento Jazz Festivals 1983-1988 (1983-88 [2017], Arbors): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sun Ra and His Astro-Infinity Arkestra: My Brother the Wind Vol. 1 (1969 [2017], Cosmic Myth): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sun Ra and His Astro-Infinity Arkestra: My Brother the Wind Vol. 2 (1969-70 [2017], Cosmic Myth): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Bee Gees: Bee Gees' 1st (1967, Atco): [r]: B
  • Bee Gees: Horizontal (1968, Atco): [r]: C
  • Bee Gees: Idea (1968, Atco): [r]: C+
  • Bee Gees: Odessa (1969, Atco): [r]: C
  • Tim Buckley: Goodbye and Hello (1967, Asylum): [r]: B+(*)
  • Donovan: Sunshine Superman (1966, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Donovan: Mellow Yellow (1967, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kaleidoscope: Side Trips (1967, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • B.B. King: Blues Is King (1966 [1967], Bluesway): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Serpent Power: The Serpent Power (1967, Vanguard): [r]: B
  • The Youngbloods: The Youngbloods (1967, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Youngbloods: Earth Music (1967, RCA Victor): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rez Abbasi: Unfiltered Universe (Whirlwind): November 10
  • Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Magic Triangle (NoBusiness): CDR
  • Chévere (Parma)
  • Mark Dresser: Modicana (NoBusiness): CDR
  • Harris Eisenstadt/Mivos Quartet: Whatever Will Happen That Will Also Be (NoBusiness): CDR
  • Yedo Gibson/Hernâni Faustino/Vasco Trilla: Chain (NoBusiness)
  • Andrew Lamb/Warren Smith/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: The Sea of Modicum (NoBusiness): CDR
  • Roberto Magris Sextet: Live in Miami @ the WDNA Jazz Gallery (JMood)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition: Agrima (self-released): CDR, October 21
  • Liudas Mockunas: Hydro (NoBusiness): CDR
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Paint (Hot Cup): October 20
  • Teri Parker: In the Past (self-released): October 20
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Solo: Reflections and Meditations on Monk (TUM): October 20
  • Wadada Leo Smith: Najwa (TUM): October 20
  • Charles Thomas: The Colors of a Dream (Sea Tea)
  • Ton-Klami [Midori Takada/Kang Tae Hwan/Masahiko Satoh]: Prophecy of Nue (1995, NoBusiness)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Biggest news for me is that the server I use for is wedged, with no disk space available for uploading updates. I may (or may not) be able to insert this post into the blog software (which I've had problems with in the past, but evidently uses its own separate storage), but cannot update the "faux blog" (which I've been linking to for the last year-plus). The ISP,, seems to be on auto-pilot, with all of their support tools broken and no one responding even to email. I know I've threatened this in the past, but I suppose I have to bite the bullet and move the site. That will be a pain for me, and disruptive for the world -- as if I don't have enough problems already.

Some fairly large topics I have nothing on below: Hurricane Maria and the mass destruction of Dominica and Puerto Rico; devastating earthquakes in Mexico; elections in Germany which gave the far-right AfD party seats in parliament; the never-ending Russia investigation (starring Paul Manafort and Facebook this week); Betsy DeVos' latest efforts to make college a safe haven for rapists; a revised anti-Muslim travel ban; the ongoing protests against police brutality and injustice in St. Louis (special hat tip to Greg Magarian and Bronwen Zwirner on the ground there); and, of course, the big deal of protesting the national anthem at NFL football games (and Trump's hate tweets against those who do) -- the latter is the subject of the first five articles at Slate, and evidently the top trending hashtag(s) at Twitter (Jeffrey Goldberg tweet: "The President of the United States is now in a war with Stephen Curry and LeBron James. This is not a war Trump will win").

Some more reviews of Hillary Clinton's What Happened and comments on the 2016 election:

  • Glenn Greenwald: The Clinton Book Tour Is Largely Ignoring the Vital Role of Endless War in the 2016 Election Result:

    Part of that is the discomfort of cognitive dissonance: the Democratic branding and self-glorification as enemies of privilege, racism, and violence are directly in conflict with the party's long-standing eagerness to ignore, or even actively support, policies which kill large numbers of innocent people from Pakistan, Libya, and Somalia to Yemen, Iraq, and Gaza, but which receive scant attention because of the nationality, ethnicity, poverty, distance, and general invisibility of their victims.

    Actually, Hillary gets hurt in several ways: because she always rose to support the wars, no one can identify with her as a war critic; because she was actually in office during much of this time (as senator and especially as secretary of state) she bears some responsibility for the failure of the wars to accomplish their proclaimed goals; and the simple fact is that after 15 years of continuous war Americans are poorer and meaner than they would have been otherwise, and Republicans feed on that.

  • Katherine Krueger: Hillary Clinton Will Never Understand What Happened:

    Those looking for mea culpas will get them, but only up to a point, and always closely followed by qualifications. . . . She then pivots to consider the "strong headwinds" her scrappy little $623 million campaign-that-couldn't was up against. . . .

    Most of all, Clinton can't understand why young voters were won over by Sen. Bernie Sanders. And it is here where the essential cynicism underlying her worldview -- and which ultimately played a key role in her doom -- comes most sharply into focus. For Clinton, politics are fundamentally about pragmatism, where strategic concessions and horse-trading with Republicans necessarily means sacrificing ideals for the ultimate good of Getting (Some) Things Done. To her, change within the system is needed and worthy, but the system itself can never change. . . .

    After a career built on steadfastly upholding the status quo, Clinton didn't share the anger of the people she sought to govern, because, to her, the state of the U.S. is not something to be angry about. Even as she criss-crossed the country talking with veterans and moms and immigrants, their problems were never her problems. As her fellow Americans continue to lose their jobs and homes and fall into medical debt and struggle with opioid addictions, the system Clinton has for years fought to keep intact is humming along just fine. The fact that racism, militarism, inequality, and religious fundamentalism pervade this country, or that poor people are being consumed by the gears of our economy and left exhausted in its dust, is not something to get "angry" about. In Clinton's words, "It's always been thus."

  • Jon Schwartz: Hillary Clinton doesn't understand why the corporate media is so bad:

    The New York Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, et al., are gigantic corporations -- in most cases owned by even larger ones. And the job of giant corporations is not to inform American citizens about reality. It's not to play a hallowed role in the history of a self-governing republic. It's to make as much profit as possible. That in turn means the corporate media will never, ever be "liberal" in any genuine sense and will be hostile to all politicians who feint in that direction.

    From that perspective, the media's performance in 2016 was a shining, glorious success. As Les Moonves effused just as the primaries were starting, Donald Trump's campaign was "good for us economically. . . . Go Donald! Keep getting out there!" The entire Hieronymus Bosch-like nightmare, said Moonves, "may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." CNN made $1 billion in profits during the election year, far more than ever before.

  • Matthew Yglesias: What really happened in 2016, in 7 charts: The key one is the monumental unpopularity of both candidates. Still, in that comparison, the odd thing is that Trump ranks much worse than Clinton, yet more people who disliked Trump voted for him than people who disliked Clinton voted for her. Why was that? My best guess is that having no real track record, people significantly underestimated how damaging Trump would be, whereas she was much more of a known, and one of the main things you knew was she would be dogged by and endless procession of (mostly) fake scandals as long as she was in the public eye. Trump exploited this by asking the question: "what have you got to lose?"

  • Joshua Holland: How Right-Wing Media Played the Mainstream Press in the 2016 Election: Not on Hillary's book, but this is the piece she should have read before writing up her excuses.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Andrew J Bacevich: Past All Reason: Review of the 18-hour Ken Burns-Lynn Novick documentary The Vietnam War and, to some extent, the war itself. The series remains focused on its American audience, going out of its way to stress the patriotism and idealism of American soldiers (though less so of America's political leaders and generals). But it shies away from war propaganda, mostly because they make extensive use of Vietnamese voices (from all sides) and video -- putting human faces on people long caricatured in American minds.

    Burns and Novick pay surprisingly little attention to why exactly the United States insisted on butting in and why it subsequently proved so difficult to get out. Their lack of interest in this central issue is all the more striking given the acute misgivings about a large-scale US intervention that Lyndon Johnson repeatedly expressed in the fateful months between late 1964 and early 1965.

    The anguished president doubted that the war could be won, didn't think it was worth fighting, and knew that further expansion of US involvement in Vietnam would put at risk his cherished Great Society domestic-reform program. . . . Despite his reservations, Johnson -- ostensibly the most powerful man in the world -- somehow felt compelled to go ahead anyway. Yet Burns and Novick choose not to explore why exactly Johnson felt obliged to do what he did not want to do.

    Our present situation makes the question all the more salient. The US war in Afghanistan, although smaller in scale than the war in Vietnam, has dragged on even longer. It too has turned out to be a misbegotten enterprise. When running for the presidency, Donald Trump said as much in no uncertain terms. But President Trump -- ostensibly the most powerful man in the world -- has not turned his skepticism into action, allowing America's longest war to continue. . . . As Trump has affirmed, even (or perhaps especially) presidents must bow to this pernicious bit of secular theology.

    According to Burns and Novick, the American war in Vietnam was "begun in good faith, by decent people." It comes closer to the truth to say that the war was begun -- and then prolonged past all reason -- by people who lacked wisdom and, when it was most needed, courage.

    Other reviews:

    Whereas I found the first four episodes valuable, the biases in the fifth (January-July 1967) started to get out of hand. It's not clear yet whether Burns-Novick will wind up adopting the position that the only reason the US lost in Vietnam was that the American people let the Vietnamese down -- the early episodes seemed to recognize that the American neo-colonial project never had a chance, but their take on the Tet Offensive suggests the opposite. Also, as is still the case in St. Louis today, their cameras love to seek out violence in antiwar protests, and their narrative goes out of its way to stress the that there was still much pro-war support -- what Nixon would come to call "the silent majority" (something I expect we'll hear much more about in later episodes).

  • Sarah Kliff: I've Covered the GOP repeal plans since day one. Graham-Cassidy is the most radical. It surely says something about rank-and-file Republicans these days that each and every time their "repeal-and-replace" bills fail to pass, they go back to the drawing board to come up with something even more damaging.

    While other Republican plans essentially create a poorly funded version of the Affordable Care Act, Graham-Cassidy blows it up. The bill offered by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy takes money from states that did a good job getting residents covered under Obamacare and gives it to states that did not. It eliminates an expansion of the Medicaid program that covers millions of Americans in favor of block grants. States aren't required to use the money to get people covered or to help subsidize low- and middle-income earners, as Obamacare does now.

    Plus, the bill includes other drastic changes that appeared in some previous bills. Insurers in the private marketplace would be allowed to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, for example. And it would eliminate the individual mandate as other bills would have, but this time there is no replacement. Most analysts agree that would inject chaos into the individual market.

    The right has employed the back-to-the-states scam before, but it strikes me as especially explosive here: whereas now we have a unified national debate about health care policy, this bill will turn health care info a burning issue for fifty state political contests -- an area where Republicans have gained considerable power recently not least due to the widespread perception that states don't matter much. That strikes me as a big political risk: both to their own control in competitive states, and because at least some blue states will use those block grants to implement single-payer schemes (not that they won't be inhibited by cutbacks and other regulations).

    More on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill:

  • Fred Kaplan: Trump's Reasons for Scrapping the Iran Deal Are the Definition of Self-Destructive. Also see the Trita Parsi pieces below.

  • John Nichols: Bernie Sanders Just Gave One of the Finest Speeches of His Career: "Outlining a vision of an America on the side of peace and justice, the senator shredded Trump's brutish foreign policies." Sanders gave his speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri -- the site of several famous world affairs speeches, including the one in 1946 when Winston Churchill coined the term "iron curtain," to some extent starting the Cold War. This is especially noteworthy because Sanders has long shied away from challenging the precepts of American foreign policy. Some more links:

    Sanders' speech stands in especially stark contrast to Trump's UN speech. For more on that, see:

  • Evan Osnos: The Risk of Nuclear War With North Korea: A long "letter from Pyongyang," which Osnos recently visited for a tightly guided tour. While he wasn't able to meet many people, or see many things, that first-person experience gives him a leg up on Trump, his generals, Nikki Haley, or pretty much anyone else in the administration. The portrait he paints of Kim Jong Un is actually pretty scary, but the balance of terror is firmly if cavalierly dominated by Washington.

    There is also scattered support for a less confrontational option, a short-term deal known as a "freeze for freeze." North Korea would stop weapons development in exchange for a halt or a reduction in U.S.-South Korean military exercises. Proponents say that a freeze, which could be revoked if either side cheats, is hardly perfect, but the alternatives are worse. Critics say that versions of it have been tried, without success, and that it will damage America's alliance with the South. Thus far the Trump Administration has no interest. "The idea that some have suggested, of a so-called 'freeze for freeze,' is insulting," Nikki Haley, the U.N. Ambassador, said before the Security Council on September 4th. "When a rogue regime has a nuclear weapon and an ICBM pointed at you, you do not take steps to lower your guard."

    Outside the Administration, the more people I talked to, the more I heard a strong case for some level of diplomatic contact. When Obama dispatched James Clapper to Pyongyang, in 2014, to negotiate the release of two prisoners, Clapper discovered that North Korea had misread the purpose of the trip. The government had presumed that he was coming in part to open a new phase in the relationship. "They were bitterly disappointed," he said. Clapper's visit convinced him that the absence of diplomatic contact is creating a dangerous gulf of misperception. "I was blown away by the siege mentality -- the paranoia -- that prevails among the leadership of North Korea. When we sabre-rattle, when we fly B-1s accompanied by jet escorts from the Republic of Korea and Japan, it makes us feel good, it reassures the allies, but what we don't factor in is the impact on the North Koreans."

    The striking thing about the Haley quote is how easily North Korea could justify taking the same stance. North Koreans surely recall that prominent US generals advocating nuking Korea during the 1950-53 war. And while it's only been since the 1960s that the US has had ICBMs capable of hitting Korea, the US has had conventional bombers within striking distance since that war. So what gives us the right to insist that North Korea lower its guard? If it's that the US should be trusted, that isn't a very convincing argument. Another quote:

    Our grasp of North Korea's beliefs and expectations is not much better than its grasp of ours. To go between Washington and Pyongyang at this nuclear moment is to be struck, most of all, by how little the two understand each other. In eighteen years of reporting, I've never felt as much uncertainty at the end of a project, a feeling that nobody -- not the diplomats, the strategists, or the scholars who have devoted their lives to the subject -- is able to describe with confidence how the other side thinks. We simply don't know how Kim Jong Un really regards the use of his country's nuclear arsenal, or how much North Korea's seclusion and mythology has distorted its understanding of American resolve. We don't know whether Kim Jong Un is taking ever-greater risks because he is determined to fulfill his family's dream of retaking South Korea, or because he is afraid of ending up like Qaddafi.

    More on Korea this week:

    A recent poll shows that Trump is especially untrusted by Americans to deal with North Korea (see Trump seen by 66 percent in US as doing more to divide than united country): the "trust to act responsibly handling North Korea" is 37% favorable, 62% negative, compared to which US military leaders score 72-27% favorable. The notion that military leaders are both competent and trustworthy is widely held, though I'd be hard pressed to cite any evidence showing it should be. One cautionary piece is: Stephen Kinzer: America's Slow-Motion Military Coup. He notes that "given the president's ignorance of world affairs, the emergence of a military junta in Washington may seem like welcome relief," then goes on to offer some reasons to worry. There's been much talk of a coup since Trump took office, but that seems unlikely as long as Trump lets the junta do whatever they want. The only time I've actually worried that the military brass might move against civilian government was when Clinton was elected in 1992, but his surrender to the chiefs was so complete they didn't have to flex a muscle. Obama proved to be every bit as supine, not even bothering to replace Bush's Secretary of Defense (although after Gates quit, he went through a series of safe names: Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, and Ash Carter).

  • Gary Rivlin/Michael Hudson: Government by Goldman: "Gary Cohn is giving Goldman Sachs everything it ever wanted from the Trump administration." Important, in-depth article, goes well beyond explaining why Cohn hasn't resigned in disgust, which he certainly felt after Trump's embrace of the Nazis in Charlottesville.

    There's Ultimately no great mystery why Donald Trump selected Gary Cohn for a top post in his administration, despite his angry rhetoric about Goldman Sachs. There's the high regard the president holds for anyone who is rich -- and the instant legitimacy Cohn conferred upon the administration within business circles. Cohn's appointment reassured bond markets about the unpredictable new president and lent his administration credibility it lacked among Fortune 100 CEOs, none of whom had donated to his campaign. Ego may also have played a role. Goldman Sachs would never do business with Trump, the developer who resorted to foreign banks and second-tier lenders to bankroll his projects. Now Goldman's president would be among those serving in his royal court.

    Who can say precisely why Cohn, a Democrat, said yes when Trump asked him to be his top economic aide? No doubt Cohn has been asking himself that question in recent weeks. But he'd hit a ceiling at Goldman Sachs. In September 2015, Goldman announced that Blankfein had lymphoma, ramping up speculation that Cohn would take over the firm. Yet four months later, after undergoing chemotherapy, Blankfein was back in his office and plainly not going anywhere. Cohn was 56 years old when he was invited to Trump Tower. An influential job inside the White House meant a face-saving exit -- and one offering a huge financial advantage. . . .

    The details of the president's "$1 trillion" infrastructure plan are similarly favorable to Goldman. As laid out in the administration's 2018 budget, the government would spend only $200 billion on infrastructure over the coming decade. By structuring "that funding to incentivize additional non-Federal funding" -- tax breaks and deals that privatize roads, bridges, and airports -- the government could take credit for "at least $1 trillion in total infrastructure spending," the budget reads.

    It was as if Cohn were still channeling his role as a leader of Goldman Sachs when, at the White House in May, he offered this advice to executives: "We say, 'Hey, take a project you have right now, sell it off, privatize it, we know it will get maintained, and we'll reward you for privatizing it.'" "The bigger the thing you privatize, the more money we'll give you," continued Cohn. By "we," he clearly meant the federal government; by "you," he appeared to be speaking, at least in part, about Goldman Sachs, whose Public Sector and Infrastructure group arranges the financing on large-scale public sector deals.

  • Jon Schwartz: The History Channel is finally telling the stunning secret story of the War on Drugs: A four-part documentary. Much of it seems to involve the CIA, which has repeatedly forged alliances with drug traffickers -- in Laos, Nicaragua, and most recently in Afghanistan.

    That core truth is: The war on drugs has always been a pointless sham. For decades the federal government has engaged in a shifting series of alliances of convenience with some of the world's largest drug cartels. So while the U.S. incarceration rate has quintupled since President Richard Nixon first declared the war on drugs in 1971, top narcotics dealers have simultaneously enjoyed protection at the highest levels of power in America.

    This might be a good place to mention Sheelah Kolhatkar: The Cost of the Opioid Crisis -- an awful piece which tries to quantify the economic costs of opioid overdoses by toting up lost hours worked and similar metrics. I don't doubt that these deaths add up to some kind of crisis, but you need to back up a bit and frame this issue in terms of two much larger, less acute crises: one is the "war on drugs," which has accomplished little other than to make people really stupid about what drugs do; the other is the for-profit health care system, which has veered inconsistently on pain management, doing first too little then too much and probably, if the crisis-mongers get their way, reverting to too little. The big money is in prescribing pills, not in monitoring treatment.

  • Matt Taibbi: The Madness of Donald Trump: Starts by noting that Trump's August 22 speech in Phoenix was "Trump's true coming-out party as an insane person." Goes on to try to draw fine distinctions between Campaign Trump, who was crazy in ways that seemed to work, and President Trump, whose craziness is becoming more and more dysfunctional. After considering the possibility that America deserves Trump, he pulls out the DSM and comes up with a diagnosis:

    Everyone with half a brain and a recent copy of the DSM (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, used by shrinks everywhere) knew the diagnosis on Trump the instant he joined the race. Trump fits the clinical definition of a narcissistic personality so completely that it will be a shock if future psychiatrists don't rename the disorder after him.

    Grandiosity, a tendency to exaggerate achievements, a preoccupation with "fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love," a belief in one's specialness (which can only be understood by other special people), a need for excessive admiration and a sense of entitlement -- sound like anyone you know?

    Trump's rapidly expanding list of things at which he's either a supreme expert or the Earth's best living practitioner would shame even great historical blowhards like Stalin or Mobutu Sese Seko.

    Taibbi's points on Trump's losing war with the English language are more to the point (though "he makes George W. Bush sound like Vladimir Nabokov" shows how quickly we forget). He tries to take some comfort by viewing Trump as just desserts for a country with so much blood and oppression staining its history, but Trump's too deranged to deliver a lesson on karma. For more on the madness, see: Alex Morris: Trump's Mental Health: Is Pathological Narcissism the Key to Trump's Behavior? One note here deserving caution is a study that "found that 18 of the first 37 presidents met criteria for having a psychiatric disorder," although some ailments, like depression, "do not typically lead to psychosis or risky decision-making." More interesting is this paragraph:

    When it comes to presidents, and perhaps all politicians, some level of narcissism is par for the course. Based on a 2013 study of U.S. presidents from Washington to George W. Bush, many of our chief executives with narcissistic traits shared what is called "emergent leadership," or a keen ability to get elected. They can be charming and charismatic. They dominate. They entertain. They project strength and confidence. They're good at convincing people, at least initially, that they actually are as awesome as they think they are. (Despite what a narcissist might believe, research shows they are usually no better-looking, more intelligent or talented than the average person -- though when they are, their narcissism is better tolerated.) In fact, a narcissist's brash leadership has been shown to be particularly attractive in times of perceived upheaval, which means that it benefits a narcissist to promote ideas of chaos and to identify a common enemy, or, if need be, create one.

    I've long noted something like this: the tendency of people in times of crisis to rally around whoever seemed to be the most self-confident. I figure that's something we learned in our early evolution, something that back in primitive times worked well enough it didn't get erased through natural selection. However, in modern times such "emergent leaders" rarely turn out to be wise choices.

    By the way, Taibbi has another piece out: Steve Bannon Splits From Trump: Hilarity Ensues. This is about the Republican Senatorial primary runoff between Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill Jeff Sessions' seat and is backed by Trump and McConnell, and Roy Moore, the former judge with the Moses complex who is backed by Bannon. In this contest, you'd have to say that Strange is the lesser evil, but the margin is so thin I find it hard to care. I'm even tempted to think that we might be better if they elect the greater embarrassment (Moore), although that's pretty much what happened with Trump.

    By the way, there are more Alabama races down ballot. See: Christina Cauterucci: Some of the US's Creepiest Anti-Abortion Men Are Running for Office in Alabama.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Daily Log

There's a new Rolling Stone piece co-credited to David Fricke and Robert Christgau, titled 50 Essential Albums of 1967. This expands on an earlier, shorter piece Fricke and Christgau did (back when?), which in turn superseded Christgau's Consumer Guide to 1967 (19 records, including B or lower grades for The Byrds: Younger Than Yesterday, Clear Light, Country Joe and the Fish, The Doors, Arlo Guthrie: Alice's Restaurant, The Mothers of Invention: Absolutely Free).

I figured I should compile the new list and grade any records I previously missed. My grades in brackets:

  1. The Beach Boys: Smiley Smile [B+]
  2. The Beach Boys: Wild Honey [A]
  3. The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour [A-]
  4. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band [A]
  5. The Bee Gees: Bee Gees' 1st [B]
  6. Big Brother and the Holding Company [B+]
  7. Bobby "Blue" Bland: Touch of the Blues [?]
  8. James Brown: Cold Sweat [?]
  9. Tim Buckley: Goodbye and Hello [B+(*)]
  10. Buffalo Springfield: Buffalo Springfield Again [B+]
  11. The Byrds: Younger Than Yesterday [C+]
  12. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band: Safe as Milk [A-]
  13. Country Joe and the Fish: Electric Music for the Mind and Body [B+(*)]
  14. Cream: Disraeli Gears [A-]
  15. Donovan: Mellow Yellow [B+(**)]
  16. The Doors [A-]
  17. The Doors: Strange Days [B+]
  18. Bob Dylan: John Wesley Harding [A]
  19. The Four Tops: Reach Out [?]
  20. Aretha Franklin: I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You [A]
  21. The Grateful Dead [A-]
  22. Arlo Guthrie: Alice's Restaurant [A-]
  23. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Are You Experienced [A-]
  24. The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Axis: Bold as Love [A-]
  25. The Hollies: Evolution [A-]
  26. Mississippi John Hurt: The Immortal [A]
  27. Jefferson Airplane: After Bathing at Baxter's [B+(**)]
  28. Jefferson Airplane: Surrealistic Pillow [B+]
  29. Kaleidoscope: Side Trips [B+(***)]
  30. B.B. King: Blues Is King [B+(**)]
  31. B.B. King: The Jungle [?]
  32. The Kinks: Something Else by the Kinks [B+(**)]
  33. Love: Forever Changes [A-]
  34. Moby Grape [?]
  35. The Moody Blues: Days of Future Passed [C-]
  36. Van Morrison: Blowin' Your Mind! [A]
  37. Wilson Pickett: The Best of Wilson Pickett [?]
  38. Pink Floyd: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn [A]
  39. Procol Harum [?]
  40. Otis Redding and Carla Thomas: King and Queen [A-]
  41. The Rolling Stones: Between the Buttons [A]
  42. The Rolling Stones: Flowers [A-]
  43. The Serpent Power [B]
  44. Diana Ross and the Supremes: Greatest Hits [?]
  45. Howard Tate: Get It While You Can [A-]
  46. The 13th Floor Elevators: Easter Everywhere [A-]
  47. The Velvet Underground & Nico [A+]
  48. Dionne Warwick: Golden Hits/Part One [?]
  49. The Who: The Who Sell Out [B+]
  50. The Youngbloods [B+(**)]

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Bill XCIX Phillips

I was dawdling on Facebook last night, and clicked on "Notifications," wondering what (if anything) that might do. I scrolled down the widget, and noticed that someone I didn't recognize commented on something I had written, so I was curious and clicked. That someone was the sister of Bill Phillips, telling me that he had died back in January. I got a Facebook notice that Bill's birthday was June 3, so (something I don't often do) I sent him a little note. The response came on June 8, but . . . well, I checked my email trash and there was no mention of it among 1628 deleted Facebook messages. Somebody's algorithm sure sucks. I should have noticed something was amiss when he stopped posting after January 3, but I just didn't pay that much attention, even less than usual this year.

I first met Bill around 1978-79. I was working for a typesetting shop in New York City, and the co-owner decided to buy a computer and hire a consultant to set up an accounting system. The computer was a low-end PDP-11, and Bill was the consultant (or maybe just the guy the consultant assigned to do the work). At the time I was trying to read electronics textbooks, thinking I might go back to college and study engineering. I was making slow progress, especially on the analog stuff, but at some point I picked up a book on programming in Pascal and it seemed like the easiest thing in the world. I decided to buy a personal computer. My first choice was something called the Pascal Microengine, but when the dealer couldn't deliver, I settled for an Apple II. I wrote some trivial programs in Basic, but my real interest was designing my own typesetting systems software. I talked to Bill about this, and we wound up pitching the co-owner on the idea. He gave us an allowance to buy some hardware, and I wrote a 300-page functional spec for a distributed, networked multinode editing ("front end") system.

By the time we gave up on the project, Bill had steered me toward programming in C and using an editor called MINCE (a recursive acronym for "MINCE Is Not Complete Emacs" -- basically, a text editor inspired by Richard Stallman's LISP-based EMACS editor, written in C to run on a Z-80 microprocessor). MINCE came with partial source code, and the documentation was the author's Master's Thesis. Both turned out to be remarkably fine tutorials, and Bill was my first brilliant mentor. I left Wizard in 1980 and landed a job as a Software Engineer at Varityper in East Hannover, NJ. Varityper made "direct-entry" phototypesetters, which set type incrementally as you keyed the text and commands in. But they had just started a project to build a multi-user system not unlike the one I had designed, so they hired me to consult on that, then wound up throwing a number of tricky programming assignments my way. I spent the next three years there, then moved to Massachusetts to work for Compugraphic, their largest competitor, and a year later moved on to a start-up working on color prepress software for package design: Contex Graphics Systems.

While I was learning lots of new things in my various jobs, Bill was mostly stuck babysitting legacy systems in New York, which left him in something of a rut. We kept in touch over those years: not close, but I knew he was having trouble finding work in New York, and that he was especially fond of Boston. When I started taking on management duties, I had the opportunity to hire a couple of consultants, so I offered Bill a job, and a place to stay until we turned it into a regular job, and he and his wife Jane moved to Cambridge. Over the next couple years, Contex went through a lot of ownership trouble, eventually being sold to Xyvision shortly before their main business ("tech pubs" systems, again similar to my original design) crashed. I had to lay Bill off then, and I don't think he ever made much of a living again. But Jane had found a decent job, he loved Cambridge, and he was very active in local computer clubs, so he was reasonably content. I saw him socially, and tried to rope him into my Ftwalk project, but he resisted.

After I left Massachusetts and wound up back in Kansas, I picked his brain for various projects -- among other things, he made a contribution to After Jane died in late 2011 he moved back to New York. I saw him at least three times there -- most recently in June 2016. He had gotten into political interests, adopting "XCIX" as his middle name to signify solidarity with the 99%, and was the first person I knew to get involved in the Bernie Sanders campaign. For some reason we had never talked about politics back in our initial period -- though we talked a lot about music (not that we had much in common: he turned me on to some quality folk music, but by then he was mostly into new age, and I was more into punk, funk, and avant-jazz).

First inkling I had of his politics must have been in 1989 when Abbie Hoffman died, and Jane (I think it was) suggested they should go to the funeral to show solidarity. I didn't get the impression they had a direct connection, but that does say something about where they came from. As I'm writing this, I realize there's so much about him I don't know. He was born in Queens, a few years older than me but I'm not sure how many -- not a lot -- and was living in Queens when I first met/visited him. His mother was still alive when he moved back to New York. He had two sisters, I think, but I never met either. They had a son, who was close to ten when I first met him. Went to college in Binghampton, and at least for a while turned into a Dead Head. Last I knew they didn't seem to be close, but I don't think I ever met the son as an adult. Toward the end he seemed worn and weary, and felt trapped. He talked like he might leave New York, possibly for Washington State, but I doubt he had the energy.

I do remember lots of little things. He always had a beard, which I can't remember not being grizzled white but it may have been blond way back when. He always looked rumpled, moving slow and speaking softly. He liked model trains and western shirts -- had a whole rack of them bought mail-order from Sheplers, the famous outfitter in my own home town. (I had a few myself, though I regarded them more as a joke. But I don't think I ever saw his trains.) He used the alias "Old Professor Bear," and called his web business Shoestring Projects. He spent most of his disposable income on books and records, especially books, and lived in a constant state of hopeless clutter -- no doubt a big part of the reason he had such trouble picking up and moving. I was taken aback at one point when he was at Contex and I noticed the title, How to Work for a Jerk -- but I already owned the same title.

He liked assembly code, working "close to the machine," and his favorite programming stories were clever optimizations. At one point I was taken with the ideal of "simple and elegant." He came back with: "but why make something simple and elegant when you can make it complex and wonderful." Not really the words of a first-rate engineer, but he made a marvelous mentor, and a fine friend. One of the sweetest, most generous people I've ever known.

I'm really staggered that we've lost him.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Daily Log

Wrote the following on Facebook, in response to a post about Robert Christgau's Shea Wong tweet:

I wrote about the Shea Wong thread Bob indirectly linked to in my Weekend Roundup, but I doubt I was able to convey how totally awful it was on so many levels -- it didn't even do a decent job of making its case (certainly not the one Bob intended). But that was partly because I took the "you're totally fucked up" personally -- maybe he wasn't thinking of me, as I voted for Hillary in November and advised my readers to do the same, but I do know people who refused to vote for Hillary on principle, and most of them are working much harder to support worthy causes (not least to resist Trump) than I am. More generally, I think it's bad form for anyone who claims to be progressive to go around smearing or blaming people to their left -- those are the very people you grow a base from, and they deserve respect.

Got some kind reaction in return, including "Amen" (Greg Magarian), "We love you Tom" (Dan Weiss), and "That beautifully sums up what Joey and I were going round and round about above" (Richard Cobeen). Also from Greg Teta: "Fk their principle. Look who's in the White House!" I responded to the latter comment: "If you have such contempot for principles, why do you care who's in the White House?"

I suppose I could have added, "If not principles, what do you think the problem with Trump actually is? Main possibility that leaves is some kind of fashion statement -- that he's so gross (or gauche)? Hillary would certainly help in that regard. War, inequality, corruption, dozens of other serious problems -- not so much."

Monday, September 18, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28690 [28650] rated (+40), 392 [376] unrated (+16).

Did almost nothing last week but listen, all jazz except for a couple items Phil Overeem recommended in tweets, only three albums coming from my recently expanding CD queue. The majority (22+5/40) of the records were Clean Feed/Shhpuma releases I never got in the mail -- I just brought up their 2017 releases pages and found it all on Napster, so easy enough. Nothing bad or especially good there: high was two B+(***), low three B. I rather expected more given that I had previously logged six A- records on Clean Feed (three on CD, three streamed). I don't believe this includes their September releases (I have some email on such, but lately they've gotten into making life difficult).

I did manage a push forward on compiling the Jazz Guide(s) last week. Up to John Hébert in the Jazz Post-2000 file (39%), which brings the post-2000 guide to 1140 pages. I was at 29% a week ago, so if I keep up the slog I still have six weeks to go (plus the groups I've shunted to the side). I'm still estimating it will hit 1500 pages, although the estimating formula I've been using shows it a bit shorter (1375, down from 1425, but that doesn't account for group entries).

By the way, some very bad political news since yesterday's already grim Roundup: John McCain announced he will "regrettably" vote for the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal (see Arizona Governor Backs O'care Repeal, Likely Securing McCain's and Flake's Votes). The Graham-Cassidy bill is in many ways even worse than the previous Repeal/Replace bills, reminding us that as with the House bills, the key to getting more Republican support is to make the legislation even more vicious.

Perhaps even more disturbing is this report: U.S. warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with North Korea. I think the last time that precise headline was used was 1914: "Austria-Hungary warns that time is running out for peaceful solution with Serbia." By the way, it was Rex Tillerson delivering the threat. Isn't he supposed to be the adult in the Trump playpen? Slightly less ominous but still way past the cusp of sanity, there's a picture of Trump and Netanyahu shaking hands under the title Trump on Withdrawing From Iran Nuclear Deal: 'You Will See Very Soon'.

Of course, we've seen plenty of hints already of these things, but it's part of human nature to discount worst-case scenarios.

New records rated this week:

  • Alfjors: Demons 1 (2015 [2017], Shhpuma, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chino Amobi: Paradiso (2017, NON): [r]: B
  • Michaël Attias Quartet: Nerve Dance (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chamber 4: City of Light (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Zack Clarke: Random Acts of Order (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kaja Draksler Octet: Gledalec (2016 [2017], Clean Feed, 2CD): [r]: B
  • Harris Eisenstadt Canada Day Quartet: On Parade in Parede (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mats Gustafsson & Craig Taborn: Ljubljana (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B
  • João Hasselberg & Pedro Branco: From Order to Chaos (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Honest John: International Breakthrough (2015-16 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Humcrush: Enter Humcrush (2014-15 [2017], Shhpuma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kokotab: Flying Heart (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luis Lopes: Love Song (2015 [2016], Shhpuma): [r]: B
  • Tony Malaby/Mat Maneri/Daniel Levin: New Artifacts (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luís José Martins: Tentos -- Invenções E Encantamentos (2017, Shhpuma): [r]: B+(*)
  • Meridian Trio: Triangulum (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mind Games [Angelika Niescier/Denman Maroney/James Ilgenfritz/Andrew Drury]: Ephemera Obscura (2013 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • MIR 8: Perihelion (2017, Shhpuma): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jonah Parzen-Johnson: I Try to Remember Where I Come From (2017, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mario Pavone: Vertical (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Rempis Percussion Quartet: Cochonnerie (2015 [2017], Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
  • Dave Rempis: Lattice (2017, Aerophonic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • ROVA Saxophone Quartet/Kyle Bruckmann/Henry Kaiser: Steve Lacy's Saxophone Special Revisited (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vitor Rua and the Metaphysical Angels: Do Androids Dream of Electric Guitars? (2017, Clean Feed, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rune Your Day: Rune Your Day (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Angelica Sanchez Trio: Float the Edge (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Selva: The Selva (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Matthew Shipp Quartet: Not Bound (2016 [2017], ForTune): [bc]: A-
  • Tommy Smith: Embodying the Light: A Dedication to John Coltrane (2017, Spartacus): [r]: A-
  • Wadada Leo Smith/Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ikue Mori: Aspiration (2016 [2017], Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • David Stackenäs: Bricks (2013 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rain Sultanov: Inspired by Nature (2017, Ozella): [r]: B+(**)
  • Trespass Trio: The Spirit of Pitesti (2015 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)

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

  • Vincent Ahehehinnou: Best Woman (1978 [2017], Analog Africa): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Anthony Braxton: Quartet (Warsaw) 2012 (2012 [2013], ForTune): [bc]: A-
  • Mario Pavone: Sharpeville (1985 [2000], Playscape): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mario Pavone Nu Trio: Remembering Thomas (1999, Knitting Factory Works): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mario Pavone/Michael Musillami: Op.Ed (2001, Playscape): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mario Pavone Nu Trio/Quintet: Orange (2003, Playscape): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trevor Watts & Veryan Weston: At Ad Libitum (2013 [2015], ForTune): [bc]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Lena Bloch & Feathery: Heart Knows (Fresh Sound New Talent): September 25
  • Collective Order: Vol. 2 (self-released): September 29
  • Corey Dennison Band: Night After Night (Delmark)
  • Ghost Train Orchestra: Book of Rhapsodies Vol II (Accurate): October 20
  • Gordon Grdina Quartet: Inroads (Songlines)
  • Eric Hofbauer: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 4: Reminiscing in Tempo (Creative Nation Music): November 3
  • Dylan Jack Quartet: Diagrams (Creative Nation Music): September 22
  • Matt Mitchell: A Pouting Grimace (Pi): September 29
  • Roscoe Mitchell: Duets With Anthony Braxton (1976, Sackville/Delmark)
  • Ian O'Beirne's Slowbern Big Band: Dreams of Daedelus (self-released)
  • Chris Parker: Moving Forward Now (self-released): October 6
  • Tom Rainey Obbligato: Float Upstream (Intakt)
  • Irène Schweizer/Joey Baron: Live! (Intakt)
  • Sky Music: A Tribute to Terje Rypdal (Rune Grammofon)
  • Lyn Stanley: The Moonlight Sessions: Volume Two (A.T. Music): October 6
  • Trio S: Somewhere Glimmer (Zitherine)
  • Tal Yahalom/Almog Sharvit/Ben Silashi: Kadawa (self-released)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Weekend Roundup

This has been another week when I could have spent every waking hour compiling stories and still not covered it all. There is nothing below on Korea, where there have been new missile tests, new even more vicious sanctions, and the usual threats of nuclear annihilation -- one story I was tempted by was on how the new UN sanctions attempt to choke off North Korean exports of clothing (evidently one of their major sources of foreign currency). Nothing on Nikki Haley's bluster, nor on Trump's forthcoming UN speech. Nothing on Burma's attacks on the Rohynga. (Wasn't opening up Burma Hillary Clinton's big coup as Secretary of State?) Nothing on US threats to close the embassy in Cuba. Only the most general comments on Yemen-Syria-Iraq. Nothing on Israel/Palestine, which ever deeper into an abyss of inhumanity, even while Netanyahu and family are in legal trouble. Nothing on the latest ISIS bombing in London, nor on Trump's inane tweets about it. Very little on the big hurricane season, other natural disasters, and how well (or more likely miserably) the feds are dealing with them. Nothing on voter suppression (although Kris Kobach has been busy on that front). Nothing on Jeff Sessions refusal to investigate civil rights abuse in St. Louis, nor on protests against same, nor on Missouri's governor's preference for meeting protests with a show of military force. Nothing on Harvard's failed chemistry experiment, where they tried to mix Mike Pompeo and Chelsea Manning. Nothing on the Russia investigation, where an interesting side-story has developed over Facebook advertising. Very little on so-called tax reform. Nothing on rape on college campuses, although Betsy De Vos seems to be set on making it more difficult to punish. Nothing on DACA, not even Trump's alleged DACA deal with Democrats nor the way Republicans blew up after it was reported. And I'm sure there were dozens of other stories I could have found worthy.

On the other hand, maybe there's too much on Hillary Clinton's campaign memoir, What Happened, and also on the Democrats' intra-party struggles. Perhaps that has something to do with our preoccupation with talk-about-talk. But most other stories just add to the cumulative weight of moral rot in the Trump regime. The new books by Clinton (in her backhanded way) and Sanders (much less reviewed, probably because it's much less gossipy) point forward -- as does Sanders' new "Medicare for All" bill (please stop calling it "Berniecare").

Just before posting, I noticed this piece by Jay Rosen: Normalizing Trump: An incredibly brief explainer. It offers a short list of things "most every journalist who covers Trump knows:

  1. He isn't good at anything a president has to do.
  2. He doesn't know anything about the issues with which he must cope.
  3. He doesn't care to learn.
  4. He has no views about public policy.
  5. Nothing he says can be trusted.
  6. His "model" of leadership is the humiliation of others.

He adds: "If nothing the president says can be trusted, reporting what the president says becomes absurd." That reminded me of a piece I noticed but didn't figure was worth pursuing -- until it became perfectly illustrative: Elliot Hannon: A Ranking of Trump's Sunday Morning Tweets From Least to Most Insane.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Dean Baker: Adults in the Room: The Sordid Tale of Greece's Battle Against Austerity and the Troika: Review of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis's book, Adults in the Room. The Troika is the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Greece had run up large debts then fell into a major depression after 2007, losing 25% of its GDP -- all the worse because Greece had joined the Eurozone, leaving it at the mercy of an EU dominated by Germany. To make good on those debts, the Troika was set on forcing Greece into extreme austerity, combined with massive privatization of public assets -- a "solution" that Varoufakis understood not merely to be vicious but untenable. What happened is little short of gruesome.

  • Ross Barkan: Universal healthcare in America? Not a taboo now, thanks to Bernie Sanders: Sanders introduced his "Improved Medicare for All" last week, remarkably co-sponsored by sixteen Democratic Senators.

    Other related links:

  • Ariel Dorfman: A Tale of Two Donalds: Dorfman wrote a seminal essay, a masterpiece of Marxist cultural criticism, back in 1971, How to Read Donald Duck, one I read avidly when it was translated (and, if memory serves, published in Radical America). Here he updates his analysis to encompass that other Donald. I suppose some times history repeats itself, first as farce and then as tragedy. Other recent TomDispatch pieces:

    Here's a sample quote from Sjursen:

    Take a good, hard look at the region and it's obvious that Washington mainly supports the interests of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt's military dictator, and various Gulf State autocracies. Or consider the actions and statements of the Trump administration and of the two administrations that preceded it and here's what seems obvious: the United States is in many ways little more than an air force, military trainer, and weapons depot for assorted Sunni despots. Now, that's not a point made too often -- not in this context anyway -- because it's neither a comfortable thought for most Americans, nor a particularly convenient reality for establishment policymakers to broadcast, but it's the truth. . . .

    While President Trump enjoyed a traditional sword dance with his Saudi hosts -- no doubt gratifying his martial tastes -- the air forces of the Saudis and their Gulf state allies were bombing and missiling Yemeni civilians into the grimmest of situations, including a massive famine and a spreading cholera epidemic amid the ruins of their impoverished country. So much for the disastrous two-year Saudi war there, which goes by the grimly ironic moniker of Operation Restoring Hope and for which the U.S. military provides midair refueling and advanced munitions, as well as intelligence.

    Engelhardt notes how a president supposedly obsessed with winning has surrendered his administration to three of America's "losingest generals": H.R. McMaster, John Kelly, and "Mad Dog" Mattis. For instance, consider McMaster:

    Then-Colonel H.R. McMaster gained his reputation in 2005 by leading the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment into the Iraqi city of Tal Afar and "liberating" it from Sunni insurgents, while essentially inaugurating the counterinsurgency tactics that would become the heart and soul of General David Petraeus's 2007 "surge" in Iraq.

    Only one small problem: McMaster's much-publicized "victory," like so many other American military successes of this era, didn't last. A year later, Tal Afar was "awash in sectarian violence," wrote Jon Finer, a Washington Post reporter who accompanied McMaster into that city. It would be among the first Iraqi cities taken by Islamic State militants in 2014 and has only recently been "liberated" (yet again) by the Iraqi military in a U.S.-backed campaign that has left it only partially in rubble, unlike so many other fully rubblized cities in the region. In the Obama years, McMaster would be the leader of a task force in Afghanistan that "sought to root out the rampant corruption that had taken hold" in the American-backed government there, an effort that would prove a dismal failure.

    Meanwhile, see if you can discern any hope in these recent reports from Afghanistan: Helene Cooper: US Says It Has 11,000 Troops in Afghanistan, More Than Formerly Disclosed; Rod Nordland: US Expands Kabul Security Zone, Digging in the Next Decade; Mujib Mashal: US Plan for New Afghan Force Revives Fear of Militia Abuses; Max Fisher/Amanda Taub: Why Afghanistan's War Defies Solutions.

  • Thomas Frank: Hillary Clinton's book has a clear message: don't blame me: Clinton's campaign memoir, What Happened, was released last week, generating enough publicity to put her back in the spotlight. Before publication we were treated to various sections where she tried to blame Bernie Sanders and/or his supporters for her loss, which fit in with the general perception that she's not one to take responsibility for her own mistakes. I haven't looked at the book, and have no desire to read it, so I don't know how fair those charges are. But really, one could write a huge book about Hillary and all the ways the world has treated her unfairly -- to her advantage as well as to her detriment. Frank, too, tells us more about his own focus on populism, although this seems likely to be a fair summary:

    She seems to have been almost totally unprepared for the outburst of populist anger that characterized 2016, an outburst that came under half a dozen different guises: trade, outsourcing, immigration, opiates, deindustrialization, and the recent spectacle of Wall Street criminals getting bailed out. It wasn't the issues that mattered so much as the outrage, and Donald Trump put himself in front of it. Clinton couldn't.

    To her credit, and unlike many of her most fervent supporters, Hillary Clinton doesn't deny that this web of class-related problems had some role in her downfall. When she isn't repeating self-help bromides or calumniating the Russians she can be found wondering why so many working-class people have deserted the Democratic party.

    This is an important question, and in dealing with it Clinton writes a few really memorable passages, like her description of a grotesque campaign stop in West Virginia where she was protested by a crowd that included the former CEO of the company that owned the Upper Big Branch mine, where 29 coal miners died in 2010.

    But by and large, Clinton's efforts to understand populism always get short-circuited, probably because taking it seriously might lead one to conclude that working people have a legitimate beef with her and the Democratic party.

    Countless inconvenient items get deleted from her history. She only writes about trade, for example, in the most general terms; Nafta and the TPP never. Her husband's program of bank deregulation is photoshopped out. The names Goldman Sachs and Walmart never come up.

    Besides, to take populism seriously might also mean that Bernie Sanders, who was "outraged about everything," might have had a point, and much of What Happened is dedicated to blasting Sanders for challenging Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Given that he later endorsed her and even campaigned for her, this can only be described as churlish, if not downright dishonest.

    That Clinton might have done well to temper her technocratic style with some populist outrage of her own only dawns on her towards the end of the book, by which point it is too late.

    Not to mention impossible. Hillary Clinton simply cannot escape her satisfied white-collar worldview -- compulsively listing people's academic credentials, hobnobbing with officers from Facebook and Google, and telling readers how she went to Davos in 1998 to announce her philosophy.

    Other posts on Clinton's book:

    • James Fallows: Why Hillary Clinton's Book Is Actually Worth Reading: "It's the rare interesting work by a politician -- and it offers an important critique of the press." Fallows stresses how often Hillary does take responsibility for losing, although when he quotes her, you get this (Fallows' emphasis):

      I don't understand why there's an insatiable demand in many quarters for me to take all the blame for losing the election on my own shoulders and quit talking about Comey, the Russians, fake news, sexism, or anything else. Many in the political media don't want to hear about how those things tipped the election in the final days. They say their beef is that I'm not taking responsibility for my mistakes -- but I have, and I do again throughout this book. Their real problem is that they can't bear to face their own role in helping elect Trump, from providing him free airtime to giving my emails three times more coverage than all the issues affecting people's lives combined.

    • Hadley Freeman: America's vitriol towards Clinton reveals a nation mired in misogyny: But is it really? No doubt there are pockets of misogyny that somehow escaped the women's liberation movement of the 1970s and the growing feminist consciousness which has largely settled into common sense, much as there are pockets of racism left untouched by the 1960s civil rights movement. And clearly, Clinton brings misogynistic slurs to the forefront, if only because those who most hate her lack the imagination to craft anything new -- much as many of those who hated Obama reverted to racist vitriol. On the other hand, had she won -- which she would have if only the constitution's framers put a little more care into how elections work -- we'd be complimenting ourselves for how enlightened we've become (much as we did with Obama's election in 2008). Granted, that Donald Trump, as unreconstructed a racist/sexist as we can imagine these days, sure looks like a setback, but could there be some other reason?

    • Sarah Leonard: What Happened by Hillary Clinton review -- entertainingly mean but essentially wrong-headed: For example:

      It feels tiresome to explain this, but many Americans consider bankers the enemy, and voters wanted her to pick a side. The fact that she couldn't see that reveals a fundamental problem with her politics. And it isn't symbolic -- America's particular form of political corruption is rarely a simple exchange of cash for laws. Instead, as a famous Princeton study has shown, wealthy institutions like banks exercise substantial influence over legislative outcomes through the softer power of lobbying and campaign donations, while average people and their institutions exercise almost none. It is laughable that an American politician would be indignant about her right to accept money from banks. . . .

      She primarily attributes her loss to what she calls "tribal politics" -- a blend of racism, sexism and economic discontent -- and FBI director James Comey's press conference days before the election. She may be right about Comey shifting enough white swing voters to ultimately cost her the race. But Clinton's relationship to populism is more complicated.

      "Tribal" isn't the word I would choose for racism and sexism, but there is something primitive about those traits. However, economic discontent is something quite different, something that only looks quaint and irrational if you're able to make ten years average wages for a single speech to bankers.

    • Sophia A McClennen: The great Hillary Clinton paradox:

      As Clinton blames Sanders for disrupting the party and causing "lasting damage" to her campaign she fails to notice the various advantages she had. From her biased treatment by the DNC to the superdelegates to her $150 million war chest (twice Trump's) to the backing of mega-stars from Bruce Springsteen to Beyoncé to Oprah to her massive list of media endorsements, Clinton had plenty of support. She had more endorsements from newspapers than either Reagan or Obama.

      This brings me back to the paradox. There is no doubt that Trump ran a sexist campaign, but that doesn't mean that the Sanders campaign was sexist too. And there is no doubt that some of those who voted for Trump are sexist, but not all of them are.

      McClennan then cites Emily Ekins: The Five Types of Trump Voters: the type Ekins dubs American Preservationists are closest to the racist/sexist/xenophobic stereotype, but they only number 20% of Trump voters (not that such views don't lap over into other "types"). Still, the "lasting damage" Sanders wrought has an Emperor's New Clothes air: it assumes that no one would have noticed that Hillary wasn't an immaculate progressive if only Sanders hadn't pointed out her shortcomings. There is some truth to this: I, for instance, had early on resigned myself to her inevitability, mostly because I thought that she alone among Democrats could raise the sort of money necessary to compete with the Kochs. Obviously, her fundraising prowess came at a cost, which had been painfully evident over the last four Democratic presidential terms, but it wasn't hard to imagine how much worse any name Republican would be. Sanders changed my calculus, not by telling me anything I didn't already know about Clinton, but simply by offering better policies, and backing them up with a credible history of integrity that Clinton lacked.

      Still, this raises an interesting question: if Clinton actually thought that Sanders had undermined her in the primaries, why didn't she make a more dramatic effort to heal the chasm, specifically by making Sanders her running mate? Granted, she did give up some ground on the platform, but personnel is a more serious predictor of policy than campaign platitudes. It wouldn't have been an unusual move, and Sanders would have been an asset to the campaign (unlike Tim Kaine, who at best helped a little in Virginia). Like Gore in 2000 when he picked Joe Lieberman, and like Bill Clinton in 1992 when he picked Gore, Hillary signaled with her VP pick that she was going to go her own way, paying no heed and owing no debts to the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party." So, again like Gore, she now finds herself blaming the left for her own campaign's shortfall after her bad bet that there were more money and votes to be had by snubbing the left than by embracing it.

      McClennan also wrote: A tale of two leaders of the left: New books by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton emphasize their differences.

    • Jeff Spross: This Hillary Clinton would've won: Specifically, this hinges on the book's revelation that Hillary considered pushing for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) scheme.

    • David Roberts: Hillary Clinton's "coal gaffe" is a microcosm of her twisted treatment by the media: Even more than her "basket of deplorables" comment, Hillary singles her taken-out-of-context "We're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business" as the one comment she regrets most. Still, had the media put the one line in its actual context (even just its paragraph), and noted that Clinton was proposing a $30 billion plan to help communities hit by the declining coal market rebuild their economies, her comment may not have been interesting, but shouldn't have been crippling. Still, the media, prodded by right-wing agitators, made it so:

      There is one and only one reason to pluck out that sentence and make a story of it: to try to hurt Clinton politically by lying about her meaning and intentions. . . .

      From the media's perspective, "Clinton garbled a sentence" is true but not particularly newsworthy. "Clinton boasted about putting coal miners out of work" is false but definitely newsworthy (and damaging to Clinton) if it were true. In other words, there's no honest reason to make this "gaffe" a story at all. . . .

      Right-wing operatives and media figures watch Clinton intensely. Anything she says or does that can be plausibly (or implausibly) spun to appear maleficent, they spin. A vast echo chamber of blogs, "news" sites, radio stations, cable news shows, and Facebook groups takes each one of these mini faux scandals and amplifies the signal.

      If one of the faux scandals catches on enough and dominates right-wing media long enough, then a kind of alchemy occurs. The question facing mainstream outlets is not, "Why aren't you writing about what Clinton said?" That question is easy to answer: It's a nothingburger. The question becomes, "Why aren't you writing about the scandal over what Clinton said?"

      Reputable mainstream journalists don't have to pretend that Clinton meant the ridiculous thing right-wing media says she meant. They can just report that "some interpreted Clinton to mean [ridiculous thing]," and hey, that's technically true. The fact that a bunch of right-wing political and media hacks feigned outrage becomes the story.

    • Jon Schwarz: Hillary Clinton Doesn't Understand Why the Corporate Media Is So Bad:

      Then there's Clinton's peculiar affection for the New York Times. Yes, she says, it has often viewed her "with hostility and skepticism," but "I've read the Times for more than 40 years and still look forward to it every day. I appreciate much of the paper's terrific non-Clinton reporting." . . .

      Since Clinton has no structural critique of the press, why does she believe she was so badly mauled in 2016? The only explanation she presents is that the rules are different for her personally. . . .

      In the end, Clinton's ideas about the media demonstrate that, more than anything, she badly needed to watch the Noam Chomsky documentary "Manufacturing Consent" or get a subscription to the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting newsletter. Then she could have approached her campaign with fewer illusions, and with a much greater chance of winning.

      Instead, she's left with the bitter observation that the press "want me to stop talking. If it's all my fault, then the media doesn't need to do any soul searching." But that's the whole point: The corporate media doesn't have a soul. It just has a balance sheet.

    • Jeffrey St. Clair: Hillary Happened: The late Alexander Cockburn's Mini-Me, better known recently for his virulent, supposedly left-wing attacks on Bernie Sanders, manages to save some bile for Hillary and her book, occasionally managing to be witty -- to no small part because Hillary's never looked much good from the left, even against the vile backdrop of attacks from the right. Favorite line: "Clinton was miscast from the beginning as a political candidate for elected office. Her skills and temperament were more suited to the role of political enforcer in the mode of Thomas Cromwell or John Ehrlichman."

    • Rebecca Traister: Hillary Clinton Is Finally Expressing Some Righteous Anger. Why Does That Make Everyone Else So Mad?

      People have been reacting with atavistic censure to Hillary Clinton for decades, and she's been expected to simply absorb it all without returning fire. There are shirts, as she writes in What Happened, that feature an image of Trump holding her bloody severed head aloft; others, which she doesn't mention, read "Hillary Sucks, But Not Like Monica."

      You can disagree with Clinton; you can reasonably acknowledge that some of her pique does sound defensive. But she's not lying; she's not inciting violence. She's not freaking out about crowd size or claiming that antifa protesters are as bad as neo-Nazis or suggesting that protesters be taken away on stretchers.

    • Shea Wong: Let's talk for a second about #ImWithHer . . .: I was steered to this twitter thread by Robert Christgau (via DailyKos), who tweeted:

      Hillary haters owe it to history and their own integrity to read this. She's not perfect. You're totally fucked up.

      I'm not sure Bob would count me among the "Hillary haters" -- I voted against her in two caucuses, but voted for her against Trump, and didn't consider any of those choices to be close calls. To say "she's not perfect" omits volumes of serious detail -- although nothing I couldn't personally overlook compared to Trump. On the other hand, I do know people who swear they'd never vote for her -- not that any of them hated her enough to vote for Trump. Still, I take offense that they, let alone we, are "totally fucked up." They are, for starters, people who can be counted on to oppose senseless, fruitless wars that Hillary has always been eager to support -- and that one might reasonably expect her to start in the future. I don't agree with their voting decision, but I have to respect them: at the end of the day, they're comrades, while Hillary skews somewhere between "lesser evil" and "lesser good." Still, I'm open to reading something that makes a case for her -- indeed, many of the reviews I've cited in this section give her credit. But this thread is something quite different. This isn't "excellent" (as hpg put it), or enlightening, or even coherent, and I have to wonder about sane. Obviously much of problem is twitter, both for chunking and for the nine distracting and irrelevant videos Wong inserted. As best I can discern, Wong's rant boils down to two salient points: Hillary was the victim of a vile and unrelenting torrent of misogynistic smears, and that was mostly the fault of Bernie and the left ("We watched progbros parrot trump talking points, and vice versa, to the point if you covered avatar/bio you couldn't tell the difference"). Wong then concludes: "If she could be torn down that easily. So could any of us." I'm not sure Wong is right even on the first point. By far the most effective attack was the "Crooked Hillary" meme. One might dispute this, especially in comparison to Trump, but it has nothing to do with her gender. The second point is certainly false, running opposite to the very principles that define the left, and continued harping on it by diehard Hillary fans reeks of old-fashioned liberal red baiting.

  • Josh Marshall: More Thoughts on the Intra-Democratic Divide: Meant as a follow-up to his commentary on Ta-Nehisi Coates' The First White President ( Thoughts on the First White President). To oversimplify a bit, Coates argues that racism remains the fundamental dividing line in American politics, one that cannot be erased by cleverly attempting to fashion a class-based appeal to working class Trump supporters. Marshall looks to have it both ways: agreeing that Coates is right on racism, but still stressing the need to recapture some Trump supporters, probably by appealing to them on economic grounds -- but he kind of makes a muddle out of it. Let's try to clear up this confusion:

    1. "Identity politics" will always be with us: it's the default mode of most voters -- not necessarily just "low information" but it's especially prevalent there. Unless you know better, the safe and sensible vote is to follow the people you identify with -- usually people most like yourself. Everyone does it. I know a good deal more about politicians than most folk, but every now and then I find myself choosing between two people I don't know anything substantial about, so I fall back on my prejudices -- the most common identity there is partisan, and while I don't especially identify with Democrats, I've learned that Republicans are dangerous (and often demented).
    2. Of course, it's just as easy to vote against categories you don't identify with, and political parties have found it efficient to focus on that. The Republican Party was founded on the interests of independent farmers and manufacturers ("vote yourself a homestead, vote yourself a tariff") but given its solid Northern protestant homogeneity soon took to rallying against its opponents, deriding the Democrats as the party of "rum, Romanism and rebellion." In the 1970s, Richard Nixon and the architects of The Emerging Republican Majority saw an opportunity to expand the party's base to pick up two major blocks of white Democrats: protestants in the South and catholics (mostly) in the North. They used coded appeals to racism, but wrapped them up with God and guns and sheer avarice into a package that was very flattering to their targets, and repulsive to the groups they rallied against. The latter had little choice but to align with the Democrats, even if it wasn't clear what they were supporting. The key point here is that the Democrats didn't deliberately build their recent coalition: as with their late-nineteenth-century coalition, they got the odds and ends after the Republicans had seized the middle ground.
    3. In both centuries, it appeared as though Republican efforts to rally its chosen people against the margins was destined to run against demographic trends -- mostly driven by immigration. Republican identity politics found its greatest success in the 1920s, with prohibition and a hard turn against immigration. In recent years, some Democratic Party strategists have started to flirt with their own identity politics, calculating that the groups the Republicans have left them with will grow into a new Democratic majority. This idea is attractive to Democratic Party elites because it lets them think they can bank on winning votes without having to offer the voters tangible value.
    4. As usual, the Republicans have been on the leading edge of this dynamic. As Thomas Frank pointed out in What's the Matter With Kansas?, Republican elites had constructed a scam where the base would vote for causes they were passionate about (guns, anti-abortion, anti-immigrant) but all elected Republicans would do is to cater to their donor class. Since Frank wrote, the GOP has seen an upheaval as the base have forced their concerns onto the party agenda. Nowhere has this been more drmatic, much to our detriment, than here in Kansas. As Frank pointed out in Listen, Liberal, the same elite/mass split exists in the Democratic Party -- it's easy to note Democratic governors and majors who are every bit as deep in donor pockets as the most corrupt Republicans (e.g., Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emmanuel). And indeed, what we saw in 2016 was a rank-and-file revolt against the elites of both parties -- unsuccessful, sure, because Clinton was still able to keep enough Democrats in line, and because Trump was a fraud, but both served notice that the gap between what parties run on and what they try to deliver needs to close.
    5. Republican identity politics never recognized as such because the white protestants (and later catholics) that made up their core were so ubiquitous -- until recently, when they've become minorities in many urban areas, including the nation's most booming economies. This added a sense of fear, urgency, and despair to the Trump vote, and the result was a small but significant shift in the white vote against the Democrats, especially away from the coasts. Democrats are divided on this: some argue that Democrats should focus more on class (economics, inequality) to broaden their base to bring back some of those white voters; others regard the white voters as lost causes, atavisms, who will fade away as the nation becomes ever more urban and globalized. Some of the former have characterized the latter as "engaging in identity politics" -- this strikes me as misguided and self-destructive.
    6. At this point we can dispense with the Republicans, aside from noting that Republican rule invariably ends not from demographic misjudgments but from corruption and disastrous economic crashes that (temporarily anyhow) expose the folly of their pro-business ideology -- on the other hand, Democratic rule usually ends when people get a sense of recovery and stability, and grow reckless and fickle again.
    7. The Democratic Party is divided today, with the emergence of a faction which focuses on reducing inequality and securing real economic gains for the vast majority of the American people, and another which caters to wealthy urban liberals and promises to somehow protect various targets from vicious Republican attacks. The former still lack power in the party, although their grass roots visibility has grown significantly over the past year. The latter still has their rich donor base and a grip on the levers of party power, but they also have a track record of failure -- most embarrassingly to Trump in 2016. It is unlikely that this divide will heal soon, but they do have dangerous enemies in common -- which should help focus the mind.
    8. I am getting to where I have very little patience for the still-prevalent internecine sniping between these camps. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't argue about important matters of policy, like the tendency of the Clinton and Obama admins to undermine unions, to promote job-killing trade deals, to allow financiers to take over our industries and run them to ground, to increase mass incarceration, to allow the national security state to withdraw ever further from the purview of the people they're supposed to serve -- and one should add the global war on anything that affronts American egos, which is an issue that even Bernie Sanders has treated as a sort of "third rail."
    9. Whereas Republicans can at least make short-term gains merely by cranking up the volume of their social polarization, Democrats have to respond rationally and systematically. First thing they (especially the elites) need to do is to shift their program to emphasize a tangible return to the people they expect and hope will vote for them -- even if that means becoming less responsive to their donors. Second, they need to make the donors realize that the viability of the party depends on the party delivering benefits to its base -- and in fact that the country as a whole would gain by forging a more equitable economy and society. And third, those who wish to appeal to the more white workers need to convince them that they cannot prosper without helping everyone -- that Republican demagoguery offers them nothing but ruin, and that only the Democrats are offering them a hand up.
  • Josh Marshall: The Real Problem With Equifax:

    It now seems clear that the massive data breach at Equifax was caused not simply by aggressive hackers but by clear and potentially negligent security errors by Equifax itself. But fundamentally, this isn't a security problem. It's a market failure and a legal and regulatory failure. . . .

    In some cases consumers would rebel. That would solve the problem. But that's actually a key part of the problem: consumers aren't Equifax's customers. They're the product. You're the product. Banks and other lenders like credit agencies because they offer a systematized and standardized way of evaluating risk. The banks are the customers. Credit rating agencies would prefer never to deal with consumers at all. They only do so when forced to or, more recently, as they've developed a secondary business in selling consumers services to help them protect themselves against errors or security breaches by credit rating agencies.

  • Bill McKibben: Stop talking right now about the threat of climate change. It's here; it's happening: Massive hurricanes, record high temperatures and wildfires on the west coast, drought in North Dakota -- and that's just seven days in the US. Other related links:

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 most important stories in politics this week: Senate Republicans threw an Obamacare repeal Hail Mary: Senators Cassidy and Graham proposed repealing ACA and replacing it with that old standby: block grants to the states; DREAMer deal: Trump's over-dinner deal with Shumer/Pelosi; Berniecare: kiss-of-death label for Sanders' "Medicare for All" bill; Tax reform is coming soon, maybe. Other Yglesias pieces this week (skipping the ones on Apple's product announcements, which would only be of interest if they explained the predatory nature of Apple hype, which they don't): Berniecare leaves enormous discretion to the executive branch; Trump should actually do what he's pretending he'll do on tax reform; The Trump administration's big new anti-leak memo leaked last night; Medicare-for-all is nothing like "repeal and replace"; Donald Trump is making the single-payer push inevitable. I'm not happy Yglesias keeps referring to "Berniecare," but he does offer a pretty fair description of the Republican alternatives:

    Repeal and replace wasn't just a slogan that covered up some internal disagreements. It was a lie. Repeal and replace was an effort to bridge a fundamentally unbridgeable gap between the American people's complaints about the ACA -- premiums, deductibles, and copayments that were too high -- and the Republican Party donor class's complaints about the ACA: that it levied too much in taxes. This left Republican legislators not just with some difficult trade-offs to grapple with, but with the difficult question of how to break the news to the American people that the outcome of their legislation was going to bear no resemblance whatsoever to what had been promised.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28650 [28627] rated (+23), 376 [369] unrated (+7).

Light count, mostly because I missed three days from the middle of the week -- would have been much lower had I not hit Rhapsody hard on the weekend. On Wednesday, I took a long day trip to see my extraordinary cousins in Independence, KS. Left around noon, and got back after midnight. Actually, night before I made a chocolate cake for the occasion (much to the disappointment of those hoping for a my mother's legendary coconut cake, but I had so little time I went with simple and surefire). Friday I cooked a Turkish dinner for seven (if you're interested, I did a brain dump in the notebook). Thursday I had a doctor's appointment, then went shopping, and finally started cooking. Worn out after that, and aggravated by a couple stupid kitchen mishaps (plus a couple pieces of technology that completely discredit my reputation as a smart shopper).

Many of the records below came from Phil Overeem's latest 2017-to-date list: only things I haven't heard there now are the two AUM Fidelity jazz releases (William Parker and David S. Ware), Obnox: Niggative Approach (only 4/12 cuts on Bandcamp), and the Nots' single (or so I assume). Public Enemy was available as a free download for a week or so, but that's dried up and the only copy I found was on YouTube. Could be that more plays might raise it a notch -- ditto for Shabazz Palaces -- but I'd say odds are equal that they wouldn't. The worst, no surprise, were Dylan's songbook albums: the 2016 one was on Overeem's 2016 list but I hadn't noticed it on Napster until now.

My grade breakdown from Overeem's list: 20 A-, 14 ***, 17 **, 11 *, 3 B, 1 C+, 4 unheard. This week's only A- record comes from his list, a case where Ghana and Mozambique meet somewhere in Europe. I don't have a breakdown for how many I actually have CDs for -- probably not many (ok, 5, all but one jazz).

Haven't done anything on the jazz guides in 2-3 weeks, so my hopes of wrapping them up -- first draft, just raw collection -- by the end of the month are pretty slim. I've been stuck 29% of the way through Post-2000 Jazz, which leaves me with 1638 more artists in the file (plus 173 deferred groups), plus some relatively minor (but hard to estimate) mop up. No idea how long that will take, but the obvious answer is forever if I don't get started again.

I thought I had posted the first two links below, where various former writers and other workers at the Village Voice write about the past on the occasion of the Voice terminating its print edition, but they were still stuck in my scratch file. The others continue the thread.

I was reminded of the anniversary of 9/11/2001 today by a small article in the Eagle and a couple of items on the comics page. Theme was "never forget." So why the fuck is that? What exactly have sixteen years of obsessing over the outrage, picking at the scab, and flailing at our supposed enemies gotten us? We would have been better off to have treated it like a bad hurricane: grieved, consoled, rebuilt, moved on. And it's not as if Americans never forget. They had already forgotten why the people who hijacked and crashed those planes did so, leaving them with no better understanding of what happened than "hate our freedoms" and "axis of evil." Indeed, most Americans have forgotten lots of big things, like slavery and genocide against Indians, so why not this? The only real reason is that some people have agendas that exploit memory. Bush and company saw 9/11 as their ticket to launch a vast and endless war to reassert neocon supremacy. Most Democrats had compatible agendas, based largely on their supposed superiority at winning wars (e.g., Peter Beinart's book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win the War on Terror).

This fetish of victimhood on 9/11 mocks our annual remembrance of the 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor: both supposedly signify how an innocent and peace-loving people got dragged into war by a dastardly attack on a "day of infamy," but Americans in 2001 could hardly be described as innocent or peace-loving -- certainly not by anyone aware of the US Defense budget. The other WWII event we still celebrate isn't the end of the war: it's D-Day, when US troops landed in France -- not nearly the turning point of the war that the Soviet victory at Stalingrad was, but the best we can lay claim to. The agenda of Pearl Harbor + D-Day is to make us feel good about war, and pass those Defense budgets. (Peace people also remember Hiroshima, and again there is an agenda: to remind us that nuclear holocaust is still a real possibility.)

For once, I'm not alone in voicing these views. See: Paul Krugman: The Day Nothing Changed.

New records rated this week:

  • Django Bates: Saluting Sgt. Pepper (2016 [2017], Edition): [r]: B
  • João Barradas: Directions (2017, Inner Circle Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Lips: Satan's Graffiti or God's Art (2017, Vice): [r]: B+(*)
  • Action Bronson: Blue Chips 7000 (2017, Vice/Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Don Bryant: Don't Give Up on Love (2017, Fat Possum): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brian Charette Circuit Bent Organ Trio: Kürrent (2017, Dim Mak): [r]: B+(*)
  • Damaged Bug: Bunker Funk (2017, Castle Face): [r]: B
  • Dave Douglas With the Westerlies and Anwar Marshall: Little Giant Still Life (2016 [2017], Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Mike Downes: Root Structure (2016 [2017], Addo): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bob Dylan: Fallen Angels (2016, Columbia): [r]: C+
  • Bob Dylan: Triplicate (2017, Columbia, 3CD): [r]: C+
  • Erica Falls: Home Grown (2017, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gato Preto: Tempo (2017, Unique): [r]: A-
  • Garland Jeffreys: 14 Steps to Harlem (2017, Luna Park): [r]: B+(*)
  • LCD Soundsystem: American Dream (2017, DFA/Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Lopato: Gendhing for a Spirit Rising (2017, Global Coolant, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Public Enemy: Nothing Is Quick in the Desert (2017, Enemy): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star (2017, Sub Pop): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Shabazz Palaces: Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines (2017, Sub Pop): [bc]: B+(**)

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

  • James Luther Dickinson: I'm Just Dead I'm Not Gone (Lazarus Edition) (2006 [2017], Memphis International): [r]: B+(***)
  • Joe King Kologbo & the High Grace: Sugar Daddy (1980 [2017], Strut): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shina Williams & His African Percussionists: Agboju Logun (1984 [2017], Strut, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Neil Young: Hitchhiker (1976 [2017], Reprise): [r]: B+(***)
  • Zaïre 74: The African Artists (1974 [2017], Wrasse, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music rated this week:

  • Bulbul: Hirn Fein Hacken (2014, Exile on Mainstream): [r]: B+(**)
  • David S. Ware: Live in the Netherlands (1997 [2001], Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Richard X Bennett: Experiments With Truth (Ropeadope)
  • Richard X Bennett: What Is Now (Ropeadope)
  • Florian Hoefner: Coldwater Stories (Origin): September 15
  • Emi Meyer: Monochrome (Origin): September 15
  • Debbie Poryes Trio: Loving Hank (OA2): September 15
  • Nestor Torres: Jazz Flute Traditions (Alfi): September 15
  • Ken Wiley: Jazz Horn Redux (Krug Park Music)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weekend Roundup

Back in 2001, I knew that most of my friends in New York didn't like Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but I couldn't tell you why. (Well, I had heard about his stop-and-frisk policies, but that hadn't really sunk in.) I was visiting a friend, Liz Fink, in Brooklyn on 9/11, so I wound up spending a lot of time over the next week watching Giuliani, and I noticed something interesting. At every press conference, Giuliani managed to convey the right tones: sympathy, concern, dedication, and competent management in the face of crisis. He was, in short, both a professional and a human being -- a stark contrast to most of the country's politicians (most memorably GW Bush and Hillary Clinton), who had nothing tangible to do so they spent all of their time posturing. Even Liz granted my point. Of course, Giuliani's spell didn't last. After the immediate crisis waned, he started reading his press. It swelled his head, and he turned (returned?) to being an asshole, but it was interesting to watch at the time.

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have given some other Republicans the opportunity to put their vicious ideological programs aside and come out as human beings. Governors Greg Abbott and Rick Scott seem to have mostly passed that test. Donald Trump failed, painfully and pathetically. (If you doubt me, read Josh Marshall: He Can't Even Fake It.) But even he managed to have one decent moment this week: he negotiated a deal with the Democratic leadership in Congress to pass $15.3 billion in aid to rebuild after Harvey, and to extend the federal debt ceiling to allow that money to be spent. Of course, there never was any doubt that Democrats would vote to extend the debt ceiling or to fund disaster relief. Trump needed the deal to bypass the Republican right-flank, with ninety House Republicans opposed. I haven't looked at the vote list, so don't know how many of the curmudgeons hail from Texas or Florida. I didn't see enough of Ted Cruz this week to answer Is Ted Cruz Human? but I understand he no longer thinks the reasons he voted against Sandy aid should apply to Harvey. It might not matter if Trump or Cruz are sociopaths if their politics showed some empathy and concern, but it doesn't -- making their personality defects all the more glaring.

With the Republicans solidly in control of government all across the disaster zone, the one silver lining is that none of them are quoting Ronald Reagan this week, who famously said:

The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help.

The fact is that when disaster strikes, no one can be heard saying "the markets are going to fix this in no time." Their first instinct is to look to the government for help, because deep down they understand that in a democratic republic, government belongs to, is accountable to, and works for the people and their general welfare. The old joke is that "there are no atheists in foxholes"; equally so, there are no libertarians in hurricanes. I'm not going to slam anyone for looking to socialize the costs of natural disasters. Rather, I'd argue that socialism would be a good thing, not just for such extraordinary events but for everyday life. And if you only come to realize that now, well, that's better than never.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Ross Barkan: Trump cut a deal with the Democrats. Is a new era upon us? Probably not. Trump takes his policy cues from Fox & Friends, plus whatever Paul Ryan throws his way. In theory he has some in-house experts, but they turn out to be guys like Nick Mulvaney, who lie and con him, then go out and brag about it to the media. Nothing any of them want can get any Democratic support at all -- which given how corrupt Democrats are regarded as being is a pretty astonishing statement -- so he has little option except to depend on the narrow Republican majority, and that is constantly endangered by a right-wing faction that doesn't care what they wreck so long as they can push the party to the right. The Harvey aid/debt ceiling deal worked because Democrats have no desire to do what Republicans did for eight years: sabotaging the government hoping folks would blame Obama. And Trump had to do it because Texas is his turf, because federal disaster aid mostly supports the business class that voted so heavily for him, because letting government spending halt in the middle of a disaster recovery would be insane, and because he couldn't trust Republicans to get the job done. There may be similar cases where sanity dictates that he offer something to get Democrats on board: if he really does want to legitimize DACA, that's a possibility, but it's going to be hard to do any broader immigration legislation without tripping over many red lines. Health care and taxes are other issues where the Republican desire to do something insanely destructive is too great to compromise. The other question is whether Democrats should make a habit of bailing Trump out of his own partisan chasms. Democrats have had a terrible track record with such "grand bargains" in the past, and they should be extra wary now.

  • Bryan Bender: Trump review leans toward proposing mini-nuke: Back around 1950, Robert Oppenheimer was asked why he was opposed to developing "the super" (the hydrogen bomb). His answer was because the targets were too small. In the following decades, ever-larger hydrogen bombs became all the rage, until their wholesale use threatened to cause something called "nuclear winter." At the same time, the US and Russia worked hard on miniaturizing nuclear weapons, producing mini-nukes that could be lobbed by artillery (hoping, like WWI's poison gas, that the wind didn't shift to blow the radiation back on your own troops). The fear about small ("tactical") nuclear weapons has always been that we wouldn't fear them enough to not use them. Precisely this reasoning made them prime targets for arms talks, with Bush I agreeing to remove tactical nukes from Europe and Korea, for the time de-escalating the Cold War. This news is especially alarming because Trump has long seemed to be fascinated with using such weapons: indeed, this article is about a review "which Trump established by executive order his first week in office" -- as if he had nothing better to do.

  • Ta-Nehisi Coates: The First White President: Of course, many other presidents have happened to be white -- a streak that ran up to 41 until Barack Obama was elected in 2008 -- but what makes Trump unique isn't the color of his skin so much as his resolve to restore the office's racial identity, especially by obliterating any trace of Obama: "The fact of a black president seemed to insult Donald Trump personally. He has made the negation of Barack Obama's legacy the foundation of his own." Various things here I'd quibble with -- the paragraph on Mark Lilla's "The End of Identify Liberalism," followed by three on George Packer's "The Unconnected," could support a whole post -- but this is a view that deserves respect. For instance, his overly succinct summary of the last decade:

    When Barack Obama came into office, in 2009, he believed that he could work with "sensible" conservatives by embracing aspects of their policy as his own. Instead he found that his very imprimatur made that impossible. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced that the GOP's primary goal was not to find common ground but to make Obama a "one-term president." A health-care plan inspired by Romneycare was, when proposed by Obama, suddenly considered socialist and, not coincidentally, a form of reparations. The first black president found that he was personally toxic to the GOP base. An entire political party was organized around the explicit aim of negating one man. It was thought by Obama and some of his allies that this toxicity was the result of a relentless assault waged by Fox News and right-wing talk radio. Trump's genius was to see that it was something more, that it was a hunger for revanche so strong that a political novice and accused rapist could topple the leadership of one major party and throttle the heavily favored nominee of the other.

    I would add three notes to this: (1) conservatives were never serious about their wonk schemes, which were never more than red herrings meant to distract and derail real reforms; (2) the right-wing would have fought back against any white Democrat elected president in 2008 in much the same terms, although it may have resonated differently (oddly enough, the fact that Americans had elected a black president seemed to loosen some of the political inhibitions against overt racism, encouraging racists to come out into the open -- a trend Trump's election has only increased); (3) the "hunger for revanche" was real but not broad enough to elect Trump; that was only possible because the Democrat was so compromised and reviled, and Republicans were so united in their opportunism.

    Closing paragraph:

    It has long been an axiom among certain black writers and thinkers that while whiteness endangers the bodies of black people in the immediate sense, the larger threat is to white people themselves, the shared country, and even the whole world. There is an impulse to blanch at this sort of grandiosity. When W.E.B. Du Bois claims that slavery was "singularly disastrous for modern civilization" or James Baldwin claims that whites "have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white," the instinct is to cry exaggeration. But there really is no other way to read the presidency of Donald Trump. The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president -- and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.

    The Atlantic's print magazine cover story is "The Trump Presidency: A Damage Report": Jeffrey Goldberg sets the tone: The Autocratic Element: Can America recover from the Trump administration?, interviews David Frum ("The thing I got most wrong is that I did not anticipate the sheer chaos and dysfunction and slovenliness of the Trump operation . . . We'd be in a lot worse shape if he were a more meticulous, serious-minded person."), and introduces pieces by Eliot A. Cohen, Jack Goldsmith, and Coates.

  • Sarah Kliff: This is the most brazen act of Obamacare sabotage yet:

    The Trump administration has let funding for Obamacare's $63 million in-person outreach program lapse, leading to layoffs and confusion among nonprofits that enroll vulnerable populations in coverage. . . .

    The sudden funding halt comes at a critical time for the Affordable Care Act. Navigator groups were just beginning to ramp up outreach for the health law's open enrollment period, which begins November 1. Now, some have done an about-face: They've canceled outreach work and appointments with potential enrollees because they have no budget to cover those costs.

    No outreach should translate into fewer sign-ups, hence more adverse selection in the insured population, which threatens to cut into insurer profits, who will respond by raising prices, demanding more subsidies. Trump will argue that this proves Obamacare is imploding. Kliff also wrote Trump has found another way to undermine Obamacare. Kliff regularly includes links at the bottom to other health care pieces. Notable here is Elana Schor: Chris Murphy's stealthy single-payer pitch. Sen. Murphy is proposing that all individuals and business be able to buy Medicare through the Obamacare exchanges -- i.e., Medicare becomes the "public option," but more notable is that this allows an easy migration from business group plans.

  • Caitlin MacNeal: Haley Says North Korea 'Begging for War': Isn't this what psychologists like to call projection? That's when you attribute your own thoughts to someone else (projecting yourself onto the other person). This happens a lot, especially to people who lack self-awareness, even more so to those who lack respect, empathy, and concern for others, who can't be bothered with even trying to understand them. As a social trait, this sort of thing is annoying, but the misunderstandings it leads to rarely matter. Among the powerful, it can be dangerous, and in this case can lead to nuclear war. Of course, Haley is not the only one in Trump's administration spouting ignorant bluster. Mattis has promised to respond to "any threat" with "massive military response": the problem there is that "any threat" is a very low threshold, especially given that Trump's administration takes such umbrage over North Korea's missile and bomb tests, repeatedly describing them as threats. Most of all there's Trump, with his "hell and fury like never seen before" and "we'll see." Frankly, this is a crisis which wouldn't exist if the US simply ignored it, but having made such a big deal out of missile and bomb tests in the past, they see continued tests as an insult and challenge to their superpower egos -- again, they're projecting their own world-hegemonic ambitions onto another state, one that the US has tried to destroy for 67 years now (not so literally since 1953, more passive-aggressively, but while the conflict drifted in and out of American consciousness, it's always been a pressing fact-of-life in North Korea).

    Several other thoughts here: long ago American presidents generally appointed UN Ambassadors that reflected favorably on the country -- Adlai Stevenson and Andrew Young come to mind -- but at some point that changed, the result being a string of ambassadors whose job seemed to be to display contempt for the UN and the principles it was founded on (Madeline Albright, John Bolton, and Nikki Haley are examples). As this happened, American speeches at the UN ceased being honest attempts to engage with the world and were increasingly focused for domestic political consumption. Although several others have had notable politican careers, Haley is relatively unique in the baldness of her political ambitions -- indeed, one suspects that she came up with the idea of campaigning for the post by watching House of Cards, where First Lady Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) hopes to launch her own political career by getting her husband to nominate her for UN Ambassador.

    Some more pieces on North Korea:

    • Andrew J Bacevich: Seven Steps to a Saner US Policy Towards North Korea: A few quibbles, though. First, I don't see this, even with his later carve-out "apart from Fox and a handful of outliers": "The national media is obsessed with Trump and is determined to bring him down." Obsessed maybe: he's a buffoon and a public menace, which makes him news/entertainment-worthy, and they certainly love that, but I don't see the media pressuring or panicking Trump into starting a war. I also think he overestimates the value of deterrence and ignores the desperation induced by ever-tightening sanctions. The greatest risk is becoming too successful at boxing North Korea in, leaving them with no alternatives.

    • Robert Parry: How 'Regime Change' Wars Led to Korea Crisis: Specifically Iraq and Libya, which were wars the US felt safe to pursue because neither target had sufficient power -- atom bombs and the missiles to deliver them -- to deter US aggression. But more generally, from WWII on, the US goal in war has always been to unconditionally destroy its enemies and replace them with new states subverient to America.

    • Jacob G Hornberger: Sanctions Are an Act of War: I'd qualify this by saying that certain limited sanctions, like the BDS campaigns against South Africa and Israel, are a useful means of highlighting deplorable behavior without even suggesting the threat of war. On the other hand, US sanctions against North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and several others were clearly meant as low-intensity proxies of war, backed up by threat of destruction and designed in such a way that the targets may find no recourse. South Africa, for instance, was able to escape sanctions by allowing free and democratic elections, and lifting the sanctions did not depend on the result.

    • Ariane Tabatabai: What the Iran Deal Can Teach America About North Korea: "If credibility depends in part on a country's willingness to follow through on military threats, surely it also depends on whether it abides by diplomatic commitments." It seems pretty obvious that Obama's Iran Deal could serve as a model for North Korea: both are countries long isolated, marginalized, and threatened by the US, and both decided to defend themselves by developing nuclear power and missile technology into a deterrent against American attack; in both cases the US responded with sanctions and even graver threats. With Iran, this was resolved diplomatically, and there seems little reason why the same couldn't be done with North Korea (in fact, the same dispute flared up in the 1990s and was resolved by Jimmy Carter, acting independent of the Clinton administration; Carter's agreement was accepted by Clinton, but broke down as the US, especially under GW Bush, failed to keep its end of the deal, resulting in North Korea restarting its nuclear program). Unfortunately, Trump seems committed to scuttling the Iran deal, learning nothing from it. If he does so, he will signal to North Korea that the US cannot be trusted to follow through with its diplomatic commitments. Indeed, the US decision to attack Libya after it had agreed to dismantle its own nuclear program has already been noted by North Korea's leaders.

  • Sophia A McClennen: A tale of two leaders of the left: New books by Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton emphasize their differences: Clinton finally finished her campaign memoir, What Happened; Sanders published his memoir Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In before 2016 expired, and now has a slimmed-down primer, Bernie Sanders' Guide to Political Revolution.

    The contrast between high priced VIP tickets to an event for a memoir about losing the election and a down-to-earth how-to guide for progressive politics aimed at young readers offers us clear evidence of the vastly different ways that Clinton and Sanders see their roles as national leaders.

    Sanders is looking forward and Clinton is looking back. Sanders is engaging the young and working to build momentum for his progressive agenda. Clinton is naming names, bristling at her unfair loss and cashing in. . . .

    And, while Clinton mocks Sanders for his idealistic desire to think big, Sanders starts his book reminding readers that his views are those of the bulk of Americans: "On major issue after major issue, the vast majority of Americans support a progressive agenda." For Clinton, though, the progressive agenda wanted by the majority is nothing more than the hocus pocus of magic abs or the dreams of those who want a pony. . . . She literally sees political vision as nothing but a fantasy. She has so thoroughly imbibed the corporatist, pro-status quo version of the Democratic party that she can't even notice how pathetically uninspiring her positions are for those young voters she referred to as basement dwellers on the campaign trail.

    Against the snarky, negative tone of Clinton's book, Sanders offers his readers a combination of political passion and practical advice. When it refers to him personally, it does so by quoting a Sanders tweet that links to the issue being covered. The tweets are used to show how Sanders has been standing up for these issues for years. It is a technique that privileges the cause, not the ego.

    This is one thing that separates Sanders from the political pack. I was talking to my cousin last week and she complained that with Elizabeth Warren it's always "I'll fight for you," somehow making the it all about her. She noted that Sanders wasn't like that, nor was Obama. None of us mentioned Clinton. Some things are too obvious to speak of.

  • Michael Paarlberg: Why Verrit, a pro-Clinton media platform, is doomed to fail: "The website has been blasted for its unsubtle propaganda. There is a reason it works for Republicans and not Democrats."

    Brainchild of Clinton hyper-loyalist Peter Daou, the "media venture for the 65.8 million" (referring to Clinton's popular vote tally) offers up treacly quotes and random factoids, readymade for social media and "verified" by the site, so that you can be sure Clinton really did say "America is once again at a moment of reckoning."

    Within days, it won the endorsement of Madame Secretary herself and the mockery of everyone else, due in part to its founder's fondness for all caps and getting in fights on Twitter. . . .

    Thus there's far less appetite among Democrats for the type of unsubtle propaganda that Verrit traffics. One can see it in the way Fox News trounces MSNBC in viewership: Republicans see Fox as the only news source they can trust in media landscape that does not align with their values. Democrats would rather just read the New York Times. . . .

    In theory, Democrats could be open to more ideological conflict, now that they are shut out of all three branches of government, the majority of statehouses, and have little to lose. And a smarter media outlet might be able to tap into that demand. But it would be one catering to a very different party than the Democrats currently are, one that sees itself as a social movement, with a broader vision for how the world should look, and a willingness to use media as a blunt instrument to get there. One that looks curiously like what Clinton's main rival for the nomination was pushing.

    But if there's one group that Daou hates more than Republicans, it's Bernie Sanders supporters.

    I followed Daou's blog for a while, citing him once in 2006, then maybe a dozen times in 2010-12, but I wasn't aware that he worked for Clinton in 2008, and haven't noticed him since 2012. I wouldn't have expected him as a "Hillary superfan," but clearly she does have some kind of cult (cf. Abby Ohlheiser: Inside the huge, 'secret' Facebook group for Hillary Clinton's biggest fans; Ohlheiser also got stuck with investigating Verrit, here: What even is Verrit, the news source endorsed by Hillary Clinton?), and the timing here coincides with Clinton's campaign memoir, which evidently features a number of attempts to blame Bernie for her loss. All of this is happening at a time when there are literally hundreds of stories each week about how Trump and the Republicans are scheming and acting against the majority of Americans: you'd think that would be reason enough to bury the hatchet and unite Hillary and Bernie supporters, but Daou seems more intent on smearing Bernie than on resisting Trump (see Who's Paying Peter Daou to Smear Bernie Sanders and the Left?). I wouldn't discount the power of money here, but I'll also note that it's pretty much inevitable that centrists will spend more of their time attacking and distancing themselves from the left, because that's how they curry favor with their well-to-do patrons. For another view: Jack Shafer: This Pro-Hillary Website Looks Like North Korea Agitprop.

  • Matthew Yglesias: The 4 stories that defined the week, explained: Hurricane Irma battered the Caribbean; Donald Trump ended DACA; Donald Trump changed his tune on DACA; Democrats stuck a deal with the White House. Other Yglesias links: The debt ceiling deal is a template for how Trump can get things done; Trump is souring on his top economic aide for the worst possible reason ("Gary Cohn is too tough on Nazis"); 5 different things people mean when they say we need to revive antitrust -- more like different aspects of the general problem of concentrating corporate power; Stanley Fischer announces resignation, opening yet another Fed vacancy for Trump ("good news for people who like risky banking"); Trump's arguments on DACA contradict his position on the travel ban; Trump isn't delivering his own DACA policy because he's cowardly and weak; The looming fight over "tax reform," explained ("in the end, it's about a tax cut for the rich"); The case for immigration ("America's openness to people who want to move here and make a better life for themselves is fuel for that greatness" -- how ironical, or dumb, does that make a anti-immigrant politician so obsessed with the nation's greatness?); Seattle should make a pitch to be Amazon's 2nd headquarters -- this skirts the real issue of why Amazon needs a second corporate headquarters in these times when every company is looking to make management leaner (and meaner), though he does offer this:

    And from the company's point of view, the best part is that it will also set off an irresistible race to the bottom as cities compete to shower subsidies on the company in hopes of luring the proposed 50,000 jobs spread across 8 million square feet of offices at an average compensation of $100,000 a piece.

    I'd like to see federal legislation to make it illegal (or at least prohibitive) for states and local entities to bid for corporate favors. Boeing, in particular, has engaged in this peculiar combination of bribery and extortion so regularly you'd think they had decided that their "core competency" was political influence peddling, not airframes. This process damages losing states and cities without notably helping the winning bidders.

    The "Case for Immigration" piece is long and covers a lot of good points. I suspect one could construct a counter-argument, a "Case Against Immigration," but it couldn't argue for economic growth -- indeed, it would try to make a virtue out of conservation that can only be achieved with zero or negative growth -- and it certainly wouldn't bruit the word "greatness" anywhere. Indeed, it would call for dismantling America's world hegemony, which both pushes and pulls immigration.

Took a quick look at some Hurricane Irma news before posting. The storm is moving north at about 14 mph, so its crawl up Florida's Gulf Coast is pretty slow. I saw some live broadcasts while the eye was over Naples about 6PM EST, and I've seen some later video showing Naples pretty severely flooded. I suppose it's good that the eye has moved inland: almost straight north through Fort Myers to about 35 miles east of Sarasota at 10PM EST, but the current forecast track has it shifting northwest to pass straight through Tampa, then briefly out to sea before landing again west of Ocala. It should weaken faster over land, regenerate some over water, but the storm is so large it's producing storm surges and tropical-storm-force winds along the east coast as well as the west. Looks like it will move into Georgia around 2PM Monday, and Tennessee 2PM Tuesday, stalling there and dumping a lot of rain.

Saturday, September 09, 2017


I fixed a substantial meal on Friday. Two of the expected guests didn't show up, so we had five, including Gretchen Eick and Mike Poage, who are departing this week to take up teaching posts in Bosnia through next May. Gretchen had mentioned to me how much she liked the borek she had there. That's a dish I recognized from Turkish cookbooks, most familiarly as cigar-shaped phyllo pastries filled with cheese (although there are many other fillings as well as flat triangles similar to Greek spankopita. Turkish is probably my favorite of the world's great cuisines, but it's been a while since I fixed any, so I figured this was time.

My own favorites are yogurtlu (or iskender) kebap and imam bayildi, so that was my first idea. However, I would have to do the kebabs with lamb chunks instead of doner, and the stuffed eggplant would depend on getting small ones, which can be tricky here. I ran into quite a few problems over the week. First I had trouble finding my favorite Turkish cookbook, Ayla Algar's Classical Turkish Cooking, so I tried to construct a menu from other sources: mostly Ozcan Ozan's The Sultan's Kitchen, but I also looked at Carol Robertson's Turkish Cooking, Claudia Roden's Arabesque, Paula Wolfert's The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, Sarah Woodward's The Classic Mediterranean Cookbook, Tess Mallos' The Complete Middle East Cookbook, and Diane Kochilas' The Food and Wine of Greece. I wound up sketching out a very tentative menu with things like "some eggplant dish TBD," and expanding the shopping list to open up options I'd figure out later.

Then the week got upended: I found out Tuesday that my cousins were in Independence, KS, and would be leaving Friday, so the only chance I had to see them was to drive out on Wednesday, not getting back until after midnight. Thursday I had a doctor's appointment, and Laura came with me, so I tried to limit my stops (Asia Bazaar, Yoder Meats, Dillons -- I would have gone a couple more places had I been on my own). The limited stops left me with two large Japanese eggplant and two fairly large regular eggplant, so no imam bayildi. I also failed to find suitable bread for the yogurtlu kebap, and I was only able to get one Karoun yogurt, so went with Greek Gods for the rest.

Exhausted and confused, I wound up getting very little prep done Thursday night, and came out with very little firmly decided about the menu. I had bought a leg of lamb for the yogurtlu kebap, and did manage to get it defrosted, cut up, and marinated. I took the bone, some trimmings, an onion, some spices, parsley, and scallions and threw them into a stock pot, even though I didn't have any clear need for the stock. I also made a cake for dessert, so that was out of the way. I had by then decided not to make a rice or other starch dish, and I wasn't going to have any dips, and probably not a yogurt dish (there would be yogurt in the kebabs and elsewhere). I forgot to buy green beans, but found a package in the freezer. I knew I was going to have to make my own bread, but was indecisive about which recipe. I knew I was going to have to grill the lamb -- a task I'd prefer to delegate, but there was no one to handle that. But since I would be firing up the grill, I figured I might as well use it to roast the eggplant and peppers, so I couldn't prep them the night before. It was a frustrating and unproductive evening, leaving me in bad shape for Friday.

The final menu turned out to be:

  • Yogurtlu Kebap (Roasted Lamb Cubes with Yogurt, Roasted Tomato Sauce, Peppers, and Frothy Butter) (Algar 108), made with Pide (Flat Bread) (Algar 186).
  • Sigara Boregi (Filo Cheese Rolls) (Algar 62), with Feta-Cream Cheese Filling.
  • Kala Lahana Salatasi (Collard Green Salad with Yogurt-Garlic Sauce) (Ozan 124): cooked with rice, onion, tomato, and green bell pepper.
  • Kisir (Bulgur Salad) (Ozan 130): with tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, parsley, mint.
  • Green Beans (Algar 130): cooked with onion and tomato.
  • Smoked Eggplant Salad with Walnuts, Jalapenos, and Yogurt (Algar 152): used the Japanese eggplant here.
  • Walnut Torte (Kochilas 303): drenched in syrup, served with whipped cream.

I was going to make a lentil-bulgur salad, and cooked a batch of lentils, but used an old package and they came out too mushy to stand out in a salad, so I pitchen them and switched to the Kisir recipe. Although the bulgur was ready, I didn't get the rest of the salad done until the guests arrived, so it was very rushed, and not as well dressed as it should have been. The eggplant was also assembled at the last possible moment, but came out better.

I started the bread after breakfast (around noon), but it took close to four hours before I could bake it. I made a half recipe, having decided I only needed it for the yogurtlu kebap. I almost never make bread, so every step is a mystery and a chore. I used my KitchenAid mixer to do the kneading, reminding myself how much I hate that machine. (While I was in Independence, my cousin, who bakes cinnamon buns and dozens of loaves of bread each week for her farmer's market, had a Bosch mixer that looked really lovely. Wish I could unload the KitchenAid and buy one.) Shaping the bread was especially difficult, so I wound up with this irregular blob 6-10 inches wide and up to 18 inches long. I painted it with some egg and it browned up nicely, forming bubbles erratically.

I put the green beans and the collard greens on early, so they were finished and out of the way. I mixed up the cheese filling for the borek: 9 oz. feta, 6 oz. cream cheese, parsley, scallions (substituting for chives), two eggs. Recipe called for small eggs but I had large, making the mix too thin, so I added more feta, and when I found that a bit too salty, some plain goat cheese. The hard part was wrapping. I thawed a pound of phyllo dough, then cut it into 6x12-inch strips, rolling up a spoonful in each and placing them on a parchment-lined baking pan. I ran out of pan before I ran out of materials, but decided that was enough. Not sure how long it took, but it killed any chance of finishing dinner in time. I held off baking them until later. When the recipe time at 350F failed to brown them, I cranked the oven up to 375F and got the result I wanted.

Before I could bake the borek, I needed to fire up the grill. Putting the lamb on skewers turned out to be another hassle, with the marinade slopping all over. I rubbed the marinade over the eggplants (2 Japanese, 2 regular), 3 red bell peppers, 4 hatch peppers, 2 jalapenos, and 2 poblanos, and threw them on the hot grill. Then as I opened up space, I added skewers of lamb. That at least went surprisingly fast, bagging up the peppers to peel them later. One problem was that I stupidly started to pick up one of the skewers, burning my right thumb and a finger. The pain would throw me off for the rest of the meal, and it got worse when I chopped into a fingernail on my left hand while cutting bread into squares. By then the guests had arrived, so I wound up directing them to finish various tasks while I stood by bleeding.

I took some shortcuts with the tomato sauce, and didn't pay it quite enough attention. I used a large can of diced tomatoes instead of starting with fresh and roasting them. I added half a chopped-up poblano. I should have made more sauce, and when it got a bit dry should have added some moisture -- had I really been on the ball I could have used some of the lamb stock. After the sauce had cooked down, I added the lamb to heat them up. After I cut my finger, I had a guest assemble the yogurtlu kebap: started with a large serving dish, laid out the bread squares, brushed them with melted butter, added a layer of yogurt-garlic sauce, then the tomato-lamb, then more yogurt, then more butter. Finally, I cut the hatch peppers into large chunks and laid them out around the edge of the dish. A simply fabulous dish, although not quite the best I've ever made.

Meanwhile, I tried to mix up the eggplant. I skinned and chopped up the Japanese eggplants, added one of the jalapenos, a couple handfuls of black walnuts, some yogurt, kalamata olives, garlic, parsley, a little lemon juice and vinegar. Recipe calls for green bell pepper, but I probably used the roasted red bell pepper instead. Not as spectacular as the imam bayildi, but quite delicious.

Served it all. Some guests took pictures, but I don't have any. I did, at least, stop bleeding. Everyone thought the food was pretty good -- myself included. After we cleared the plates away, I whipped cream and served it with the cake.

I've fixed quite a few Turkish dinners over the years, including at least two birthday dinners, and an especially memorable one I cooked over a wood fire outside a cousin's rustic cabin in Idaho. Still, part of my confusion here was that I only wound up fixing two dishes that I had made previously: the yogurtlu kebap and the walnut torte (I had made pide a couple times, but usually bought bread). I had enough groceries I could have made several more dishes, but didn't have the time, and they would have been too much anyway. I should make some of those things over the next several days.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Music Week

Music: Current count 28627 [28590] rated (+37), 369 [374] unrated (-5).

Some of this came out in the August Streamnotes, posted on Wednesday as I decided that waiting for the end of the month wouldn't net much more of major interest. Chalk that up as one of those "watched pot never boils" stories: after closing, I came up with the five A-list jazz albums to the right, plus a Swet Shop Boys EP I didn't know existed (see Christgau's Expert Witness -- by the way, third week in a row where he featured a record I had previously A-listed: Waxahatchee's Out in the Storm, Hamell on Trial's Tackle Box, and Swet Shop Boys' Cashmere; on the other hand, I panned Algiers' The Underside of Power with a B-).

Tips on the jazz albums came from all over, notably from Francis Davis returning to the Village Voice to write about Kirk Knuffke. The John Escreet album was one I was vaguely aware of (it came out in 2016 and got some Critics Poll votes) but didn't bother looking up until I saw it on Phil Overeem's latest 2017-to-date list. Similarly, Nate Wooley is on Chris Monsen's 2017 list; and DEK Trio (like Barry Altschul last week) has been recently reviewed by Tim Niland (to do list: Matt Lavelle, Matthew Shipp, Mette Rasmussen). On the other hand, Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith's Erroll Garner tribute came from my queue -- secret weapon there is the late pianist Geri Allen channeling the master so expertly you'll wonder if it was recorded posthumously in heaven.

Those records led me off on several tangents, which you can easily map out from the following list.

Also regarding the Village Voice, I added a bunch of recent Voice articles to Carol Cooper's website today. Interesting stuff, including a couple of tips I should follow up on.

Tweeted on Nikki Haley Says North Korea 'Begging for War':

Classic projection as Nikki Haley is the one begging for war, repeatedly tightening sanctions noose to provoke one.

It's getting hard to explain the Trump Administration without resorting to psychological concepts, because their disconnection from reality goes so far beyond quirks and ordinary neuroses. I stumbled across a guy the other day talking about an unprecedentedly deranged leader and it sure sounded like he was talking about Trump. Only context eventually pointed to Kim Jong-un, a person you can be virtually certain he knows absolutely nothing about. I wrote some more about Haley in the notebook today. Maybe I'll fold that into Weekend Roundup, if we get that far.

A secondary point: I entered the URL into the tweet like I usually do, but Twitter picked up a picture, the title, and a lead and put them into a box like I often see, but that never happens with my own posts. There must be some trick to that -- something websites do to tell Twitter what to use in a link. Wish I knew whatever that is.

[PS: Just after posting, I noticed this Max Blumenthal tweet:

Neocons rented the vacant space in Nikki Haley's head. Lindsey Graham was the broker, Sheldon Adelson the lender.

Tweet included a link to Jim Lobe: Nikki Haley: Neocon Heartthrob. Blumenthal's "vacant space" snark may be offensive, but Lobe notes that Haley's "most influential adviser" is Graham's former chief counsel, and that Adelson contributed $250k to Haley's "A Great Day" slushfund, five times as much as number two-ranked Koch Industries.]

New records rated this week:

  • Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Incidentals (2014 [2017], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Stanley Cowell: No Illusions (2015 [2017], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • DEK Trio: Construct 1: Stone (2016 [2017], Audiographic): [bc]: A-
  • DEK Trio: Construct 2: Artfacts (2017, Audiographic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • DEK Trio: Construct 3: Ovadlo 29 (2017, Audiographic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Chet Doxas: Rich in Symbols (2017, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John Escreet: The Unknown: Live in Concert (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Filthy Friends: Invitation (2017, Kill Rock Stars): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Gailloreto's Jazz String Quintet: The Pythiad (2016 [2017], Origin Classical): [cd]: B-
  • Gogol Bordello: Seekers and Finders (2017, Cooking Vinyl): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kesha: Rainbow (2017, Kemosabe/RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kirk Knuffke: Cherryco (2016 [2017], SteepleChase): [r]: A-
  • Ernest McCarty Jr. & Jimmie Smith: A Reunion Tribute to Erroll Garner (2017, Blujazz): [cd]: A-
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark: The Punishment of Luxury (2017, White Noise): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lewis Porter/Phil Scarff Group: Three Minutes to Four (2017, Whaling City Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Saint Etienne: Home Counties (2017, Heavenly): [r]: B+(***)
  • San Francisco String Trio: May I Introduce to You (2016 [2017], Ridgeway): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Unhinged Sextet: Don't Blink (2016 [2017], OA2): [cd]: B
  • Swet Shop Boys: Sufi La (2017, Customs, EP): [r]: A-
  • Carl Winther & Jerry Bergonzi: Inner Journey (2016 [2017], SteepleChase LookOut): [r]: B+(***)
  • Nate Wooley: Knknighgh (Minimal Poetry for Aram Saroyan) (2016 [2017], Clean Feed): [r]: A-

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

  • George Freeman: 90 Going on Amazing (2005 [2017], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Mono No Aware (2017, Pan): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Prine: September 78 (1978 [2017], Oh Boy): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • DEK Trio: Burning Below Zero (2014 [2016], Trost): [r]: B+(***)
  • John Prine: Prime Prine: The Best of John Prine (1971-75 [1976], Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • John Prine: Pink Cadillac (1979, Asylum): [r]: B
  • John Prine: Storm Windows (1980, Asylum): [r]: A-
  • John Prine: John Prine Live (1986, Oh Boy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Saint Etienne: Good Humor (1998, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Saint Etienne: Sound of Water (2000, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
  • Saint Etienne: Finisterre (2002, Mantra): [r]: B+(**)
  • Saint Etienne: Travel Edition 1990-2005 (1991-2004 [2004], Sub Pop): [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen]: On Tour: Toronto/Rochester (2001, Cadence): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Trio-X [Joe McPhee/Dominic Duval/Jay Rosen]: Journey (2003, CIMP): [bc]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Diablo en Brooklyn (Saponegro): September 22
  • Eric Hofbauer: Ghost Frets (Creative Nation Music)
  • Lauren Kinhan: A Sleepin' Bee (Dotted i)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • John Prine: September 78 (1978 [2017], Oh Boy): B+(***)
  • John Prine: Prime Prine: The Best of John Prine (1971-75 [1976], Atlantic): A-
  • John Prine: John Prine Live (1988, Oh Boy): B+(*)
  • Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (2015 [2017], ECM, 2CD): B+(***)

   Mar 2001