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Monday, August 22, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27020 [26996] rated (+24), 359 [357] unrated (+2).

Spent much of last week trying to pull yesterday's Book Roundup post together, barely scratching up my quota (40) although I still have a dozen tabs open with more books, and those will lead to even more. Still, I imagine we'll have to wait for September/October to get a new batch. I didn't find any of this batch compelling enough to order, although I gave some thought to Barbara Ehrenreich's progeny -- Ben Ehrenreich (The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine) and Rosa Brooks (How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon), David Daley's Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, Steve Fraser's The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America. I might have added new books by Thomas Piketty and Jeremy Scahill, but they mostly remind me that I still haven't read older (and probably more important) books by them (Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, both sitting patiently on my shelf).

On the other hand, I've already discovered that I missed two books by James K. Galbraith: Welcome to the Poisoned Chalice: The Destruction of Greece and the Future of Europe (2016, Yale University Press), and Inequality: What Everyone Needs to Know (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press). I do intend to pick both of them up soon, and maybe also Joseph Stiglitz' The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe (2016, WW Norton). It's not so much that I feel a need to bone up on these subjects -- I think I understand the Euro issues pretty well (although I don't know much about the supposedly labrinthine EU bureaucracy), and I've been on record that increasing inequality is the main political problem of our time. Actually, I think I'll learn more about inequality from the Euro books, as it seems to me that Europe has, at least in terms of economic issues, been turned as far to the right by globalizing business interests (code name: neoliberalism) as the US, albeit without nearly as much focus on wrecking security nets as here -- although that's likely to change as inequality increases, and the code name there is austerity; Britain, for instance, avoided the Euro trap, but suffered a politically self-induced recession anyway).

Rated count isn't anything to brag about, especially given that nearly half of it came from a deep dive into Barbara Dane's discography, and I didn't come up with anything I'd missed there nearly as good as her Anthology of American Folk Songs (1959) or her surprising new one, Throw It Away. Don Ewell and the Chambers Brothers were side trips from Dane. I also thought about taking a dive into Chucho Valdés after listening to somewhat less than half of his 2015 album, Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac), last week, but didn't get very far. I actually saw him live here shortly after we moved to Wichita -- the Village Vanguard album from the same period has long sat on my unrated shelf, and I'm sorry to say it doesn't quite live up to the memory, not that it isn't quite some show.

The other new A- record this week is from Atmosphere, a Minnesota alt-rap duo I've been habitually giving high B+s to ever since their 1997-2002 A- streak (Overcast!, Lucy Ford, God Loves Ugly). I wrote it up after two spins, then was taken aback to find Dan Weiss panning it (4/10) in Spin, so much so that I replayed it from the second cut ("Ringo" -- Weiss calls it "terribly unfunny" and says it "might be the worst song they've ever made"). Still, the extra play only reinforced my initial impressions. (The album actually has mixed reviews -- 71/6 at etacritic, favorable reviews at AV Club and Exclaim, another pan at Pitchfork -- latter doesn't bother me at all.) Still not sure I didn't underestimate their 2014 album Southsiders, which Weiss likes and Christgau gave an A- to, but I gave them both basically the same shot. But that could also be said of their many in-between albums -- I've heard 10 overall, but have missed a couple along the way.

Wasn't clear from Christgau's review of Mestre Cupijó, but it looks to me like the 2014 record is a compilation based on four 1973-78 LPs. Sounds to me closer to Colombia than to Brazil, but that's partly explained by geography, and possibly also by its vintage. I haven't heard The Rough Guide to Ethiopian Jazz yet, or any of Christgau's other recent world music picks (although I do have a download of Senegambia Rebel awaiting my attention).

It's getting harder to do basic research on downloaded/streamed albums here, which is to say it's getting harder to write reviews. Part of this is that AMG added some new JavaScript to their site that totally breaks it for me, so they're no longer usable as a reference site. I suppose one might blame this on me, as I'm still doing my writing work on a machine running Ubuntu 12.04, and the Firefox browser there is horribly buggy, crashing every 2-3 days. The longer I wait the harder it gets to upgrade -- at this point I almost have to rebuild the system from scratch, something I don't look forward to. I did, however, manage to upgrade my secondary system -- the one I use for music streaming -- from 14.04 to 16.04. Took all night, but I'm pleased to say nothing serious broke.

Good chance I'll go ahead and post Streamnotes sometime this week rather than waiting for the tail end of August. Currently have 101 records in the draft file, including 16 A-. Perhaps a bit long on jazz since I've mostly been picking unserviced, previously unheard records off Downbeat's album ballot. Will be glad to see August gone, although here at least it's been pretty mild compared to past years (hint: grass is still green).

New records rated this week:

  • Livio Almeida: Action and Reaction (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Atmosphere: Fishing Blues (2016, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall: Throw It Away . . . (2016, Dreadnaught Music): [cd]: A-
  • Grace Kelly: Trying to Figure It Out (2016, Pazz Productions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Masabumi Kikuchi: Black Orpheus (2012 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Zach Larmer Elektrik Band: Inner Circle (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Le Boeuf Brothers + Jack Quartet: Imaginist (2014 [2016], Panoramic/New Focus): [cd]: B-
  • Mack Avenue Superband: Live From the 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival (2015 [2016], Mack Avenue): [r]: B
  • Christian McBride Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2014 [2015], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nine Live: Sonus Inenarribilis: Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark (2016, Mulatta): [cd]: B
  • Nils Økland: Kjølvatn (2012 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Sundae + Mr. Goessl: Makes My Heart Sway (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Chucho Valdés: Tribute to Irakere (Live in Marciac) (2015, Jazz Village): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Joe Castro: Lush Life: A Musical Journey (1954-66 [2015], Sunnyside, 6CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mestre Cupijó E Seu Ritmo: Siriá (1973-78 [2014], Analog Africa): [r]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • The Chambers Brothers: Time Has Come: The Best of the Chambers Brothers (1966-71 [1996], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barbara Dane: Trouble in Mind (1957 [2011], Stardust): [r]: B+(*)
  • Barbara Dane/Earl 'Fatha' Hines and His Orchestra: Livin' With the Blues (1959 [2013], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barbara Dane: On My Way (1962 [2013], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Barbara Dane & Lightning Hopkins: Sometimes I Believe She Loves Me (1961-65 [1996], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(**)
  • Barbara Dane/The Chambers Brothers: Barbara Dane and the Chambers Brothers (1966, Folkways): [r]: B+(*)
  • Barbara Dane: FTA! Songs of the GI Resistance (1970, Paredon): [r]: B+(***)
  • Barbara Dane: I Hate the Capitalist System (1973, Paredon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Don Ewell: Denver Concert (1966 [2004], Storyville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Irakere: The Best of Irakere (1978-79 [1994], Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chucho Valdés: Live at the Village Vanguard (1999 [2000], Blue Note): [cd]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kris Davis: Duopoly (Pyroclastic, 2CD): September 30
  • Le Boeuf Brothers + Jack Quartet: Imaginist (Panoramic/New Focus): October 14
  • Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Changes (Hot Cup, EP): advance, September 30
  • Tom McCormick: South Beat (Manatee): August 26
  • Northern Winds and Voices: Inside/Outside (Sisällä/Ulkona) (Edgetone)
  • Sonic Liberation 8: Bombogenic (High Two)
  • Florian Wittenburg: Eagle Prayer (NurNichtNur)

Daily Log

Spent Sunday cooking, coming up with a very tasty dinner. Mostly Chinese, menu:

  • Fried Mountain Trout with Ginger [Charmaine Solomon, Mastering the Art of Chinese Cooking, p. 67]: couldn't find whole trout, so wound up substituting three slightly larger whole Bronzini -- a Greek "sea bass," probably farmed but pretty tasty.
  • Glazed Chicken Wings [Solomon, p. 26]: braised in a very rich sauce, reduced to a glaze.
  • Stir-Fried Bok Choy, [Irene Kuo, The Key to Chinese Cooking, p. 388]: used baby bok-choy.
  • Szechuan Eggplant, [Kuo, p. 402]: used Japanese eggplant, Chef Chow hot bean paste instead of hot oil.
  • Mushrooms in Hoisin Sauce [Kuo, p. 384]: recipe calls for oyster sauce, but substituted hoisin; used fresh shiitake mushrooms instead of straw/button.
  • Shrimp, Leek and Pine Nut Fried Rice [Barbara Tropp, The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking, p. 408]
  • Pineapple Upside-Down Cake: meant to use my mother's recipe but couldn't find it, so I went with this one; used fresh instead of canned pineapple, omitted the maraschino cherries, added 1/2 cup chopped pecans to the base, and had to bake it much longer (is 325F really the right temp?); served with Edy's Slow Churned Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

I wanted to make soft-shell crabs, but evidently missed the season. Wichita Fish used to keep them frozen, but they were out. Looking for the trout was another hassle: lots of red filets, but no full fish. Again, Wichita Fish used to keep them frozen, and I've often seen them at the best of the Dillons. Found the Bronzini at Whole Foods -- an awful store in oh so many ways. Didn't know what I was getting, but worked out pretty well. I've made the trout recipe close to ten times, including once in Idaho with fish we just caught. But as I was shopping I developed a fear that I'd have to pick out a totally different main dish.

For dessert I first thought of ice cream, since Chinese meals are always dairy-defficient, then of pineapple, which is often served in Cantonese restaurants. I've been collating my mother's recipe cards, so it wasn't much of a leap to pineapple upside-down cake à la mode. It's been a long-time family staple, and was one of three cakes I made in my mother's kitchen the day after she died -- I figured we should have them after the funeral (we also bought some barbecue), plus I thought it would be good to use up some of her pantry, which was always stocked in case a dozen relatives dropped in unannounced at midnight. I've made it a couple times since, and will probably find the recipe in the other card box when I finally find it. (As she was losing her eyesight, she copied some recipes onto larger cards. That's actually a more useful box, as it omits the dozens of casseroles and jello salads she picked up from other family and friends but hardly ever cooked herself.)

One plus was that I did hack together a preliminary index of the old recipe box. I can then use that to start a table of contents for a book of her recipes, my remembrances of her food, and a few further thoughts on the subject (probably a few of my own recipes -- maybe I'll sneak the new pineapple upside-down cake recipe in. One problem is that she never wrote down most of the dishes she made frequently. There is, for example, no chicken and dumplings (or biscuits or noodles -- I have the dumplings recipe because I had her write it down for me long ago), no brown beans and ham, no fried steak with mushroom gravy, no meatloaf, no roast beef, no cornbread, no sausage gravy, no green beans with bacon, for that matter virtually no meats (usually pan-fried with gravy made from the drippings) or vegetables (usually boiled -- most of them I grew up hating). I have most of the cakes (but not the one with the toasted oat topping -- I have my own version of that with ingredients she never dreamed of using, like Guinness Stout), but few pies and no cobblers.

I've synthesized recipes for a few of those (like the meatloaf) or found other recipes that fill the bill (sometimes better, like this pineapple upside-down cake). I need to make a survey of the relatives to see what they have written down. And I'll need to do some experimenting -- e.g., I never much liked pies, so never got the hang of making crusts or the various fillings. Also, I'm inclined to provide recipes from scratch in many cases where she used mixes -- e.g., I can't every recall her making cornbread or brownies except from Jiffy boxes. (I haven't made a cake from a mix in my adult life, and I make really good brownies from scratch, but even I reach for the Bisquick box when I make chicken and biscuits.) Also, the Spanish rice and pork chops recipe I found -- a dish she made dozens of times -- calls for Minute Rice, which would be pretty embarrassing. Actually, my recollection is that she made the seasoned rice out of a box, browned the pork chops, and baked them together, sort of like a paella although she didn't know that concept. She made a lot of box recipes -- "shake and bake" chicken, that sort of thing. Maccaroni and cheese was probably a box. Pizza definitely was -- I personally made dozens of Chef Boyardee pizzas with ad hoc toppings, mostly hamburger, onion, green bell peppers, and topped with shredded Velveta; that was the main thing I cooked as a teenager.

Work notes:

  • Mestre Cupijó E Seu Ritmo: Siriá (1973-78 [2014], Analog Africa): A- [rhapsody]

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Book Roundup

Time for another collection of 40 short notes on recent books -- my modest attempt to keep track of what's being published primarily in the fields of politics, history, economics, and social science (not that other personal interests don't slip in occasionally). These are mostly gathered by trolling around Amazon, checking my "recommended" lists, following up on cross-references, reading (and occasionally quoting) the hype, blurbs, sometimes even reviews. Few of these books I have any in-depth knowledge of, so they hardly constitute reviews. Last batch of these came out on July 7, before that April 26.

Christopher H Achen/Larry M Bartels: Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government (2016, Princeton University Press): Political scientists argue against the conventional view that voters make rational political choices by pointing out how their views at least as much shaped by primordial identities, a hint of what's become obvious as the red-blue divide has gone beyond analysis and prescription to selective embrace of facts. Still, title suggests something more, like pointing out how these distortions have opened up opportunities for politicians to do things contrary to the positions they adopt when campaigning. Those things are mostly favors for special interests -- favors that wouldn't stand a chance if "representatives" were actually responsive to voter views.

Mehrsa Baradaran: How the Other Half Banks: Exclusion, Exploitation, and the Threat to Democracy (2015, Harvard University Press): "The United States has two separate banking systems today -- one serving the well-to-do and another exploiting everyone else." Actually, I doubt the "well-to-do" are served all that well either, but the "payday lenders" and "check cashing services" that people frozen out of the legit banking system deserve a harsher word than "exploiting." Baradaran advocates a "postal banking" system that would provide minimal cost banking services to everyone.

Samuel Bowles: The Moral Economy: Why Good Incentives Are No Substitute for Good Citizens (2016, Yale University Press): Lectures -- I imagine this poised against the Thaler/Sunstein notion of nudges which assumes that wise managers can concoct incentives that lead seemingly free economic actors to do good deeds, although he could be countering the older laissez-faire conceit that markets miraculously do good on their own. It was, after all, no coincidence that the new vogue for Friedman, etc., in the 1980s was accompanied by rejection of public interest and a coarsening of civil concern.

Rosa Brooks: How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales From the Pentagon (2016, Simon & Schuster): Law professor, New America Foundation fellow, married a Green Beret, was a "senior advisor at the U.S. State Department" and "a counselor to the US defense undersecretary for policy from 2009 to 2011," but also daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, one of America's finest lefty journalists: I'm not sure how all that adds up (blurb suggests: "by turns a memoir, a work of journalism, a scholarly exploration into history, anthropology and law, and a rallying cry"), or whether. An excerpt I read pushes a Walmart analogy way beyond ridiculousness, especially in assuming that the military, like Walmart, produces tangible and desirable (albeit shoddy and ethically dubious) goods. The military has, for instance, become the only big government institution beloved by conservatives out to discredit all other big government. Part of this is that, as Brooks points out, it crowds out saner alternatives, yet that's not just successful lobbying from organized interest groups -- an important group of Pentagon boosters simply don't want sane.

Noam Chomsky: Who Rules the World? (2016, Metropolitan Books): Another essay collection, so not wholly devoted to the title question -- probably just as well, as there's no good answer. Still likely to include his usual rigorous accounting of US misbehavior in the world (one chapter is "The US Is a Leading Terrorist State"). Other recent Chomsky titles I haven't noted before: How the World Works (paperback, 2011, Soft Skull Press); On Anarchism (paperback, 2013, New Press); Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures, 1969-2013 (paperback, 2014, Haymarket Books); What d Kind of Creatures Are We? (2015, Columbia University Press); On Palestine (with Ilan Pappé, paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books); Because We Say So (paperback, 2015, City Lights); also several reprints of older books (mostly from Haymarket Books), and the DVD Requiem for the American Dream.

Stephen S Cohen/J Bradford DeLong: Concrete Economics: The Hamilton Approach to Economic Growth and Policy (2016, Harvard Business Review Press): An argument that history is key to understanding how the American economy grew, and a compact history of government intervention in the American economy going all the way back to Alexander Hamilton.

David Cole: Engines of Liberty: The Power of Citizen Activists to Make Constitutional Law (2016, Basic Books): Points out a number of cases where Supreme Court rulings merely formalized changes in public opinion brought about by political activism -- sample cases include marriage equality and the individual right to bear arms, but it isn't hard to think of more cases, including the 1930s reversal on New Deal programs.

David Daley: Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy (2016, Liveright): Title evidently a technical term coined by a Nixon operative to boast about some of the "dirty tricks" used to tilt the 1972 presidential election his boss's way, but is generalized here to cover the story of how the recent deluge of GOP-leaning money has helped that party to gain political power way beyond what you'd expect in a representative democracy. Gerrymandering is one not-so-secret aspect of this. Lesser known is the REDMAP project -- especially how the Republicans targeted state legislatures -- that opened up so many opportunities to stack the deck.

Charles Derber/Yale R Magrass: Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society (2016, University Press of Kansas): Not just schoolyard bullying, but we live in a society that increasingly lets the rich and powerful bully the poor and weak, that prizes wealth and power, treats their lack as a personal disgrace. These are all consequences of inequality, but they also correlate with the US stance as the world's superpower, the one nation that is free to tower over and bully all others. This is one book that seems to get all that: "The larger the inequalities of power in society, or among nations, or even across species, the more likely it is that both institutional and personal bullying can become commonplace."

Dan DiMicco: American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness (2015, St. Martin's Press): Former CEO of Nucor, "the largest and most profitable U.S. steel company" although as far as I an tell they mostly melt down and recycle in non-unionized plants far from America's old Rust Belt. Recently DiMicco was named to Trump's economic advisory board, with the strategic word "Greatness" hinting this book might be a blueprint for Trump's agenda. Still, I doubt there's anything new here: there's still a good deal of manufacturing in America, and such companies can be profitable if you can keep the vulture capitalists who dominate Trump's board from bleeding them dry. The bigger problem is how to get more of the profits of business back into the paychecks of workers, and there DiMicco is more problem than solution.

Tamara Draut: Sleeping Giant: How the New Working Class Will Transform America (2016, Doubleday): Cover features the banner "FIGHT FOR $15 AND A UNION." The new working class isn't the old blue collar one, but "more female and racially diverse" employed in bottom end service jobs that don't pay enough to live on much less secure the old notion of middle class equality. A decade ago Draut wrote Strapped: Why America's 20- and 30-Something Can't Get Ahead, and they've only fallen further behind, which is why they're (finally) fighting back.

Ben Ehrenreich: The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine (2016, Penguin Press): American journalist, son of Barbara Ehrenreich, has also written a pair of novels, details considerable time spent in Israel/Palestine observing the military occupation, and perhaps more importantly the people subject to that occupation.

Rana Foroohar: Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business (2016, Crown Business): If I recall correctly, the title comes from Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign speech where he derided the 47% of Americans who owe no federal income tax as "takers" -- as parasites living off the better off classes (i.e., those without effective tax dodge scams). Still, another reading is possible: some businesses still make things, but others (notably Romney's Bain Capital) just take profits out of the economy through various financial shenanigans. Everyone knows that the latter have grown enormously over recent decades. What this book does is explore the effect of all this financial "taking" on the older practice of making things, which as everyone also knows has declined severely in America. Pretty sure the two are linked. Hope this book helps explain why.

Robert H Frank: Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of Meritocracy (2016, Princeton University): Short book, argues that the rich tend to underestimate the role of luck in their success, or overestimate the role of merit -- flip sides of the same coin.

Steve Fraser: The Limousine Liberal: How an Incendiary Image United the Right and Fractured America (2016, Basic Books): The term dates from the 1969 New York mayoralty election, about the same time the "hard hat" riots against antiwar protesters reinforced Nixon's idea that a conservative "silent majority" had been victimized by "liberal elites" -- a term that ultimately had more traction than "limousine liberal." Fraser recently wrote about how Americans lost their sense of class struggle in The Age of Acquiescence: The Life and Death of Organized Wealth and Power, to which this adds a significant case study.

Chas W Freeman Jr: America's Continuing Misadventures in the Middle East (paperback, 2016, Just World Books): Former US diplomat, was denied a job in the Obama administration because he was considered unacceptably equivocal about Israel. Shortly after that, he wrote America's Misadventures in the Middle East (paperback, 2010, Just World Books). Presumably this is all new material, succinct even, as it only runs 256 pages.

Michael J Graetz/Linda Greenhouse: The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right (2016, Simon & Schuster): Of course, the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts moved even further to the right, but Nixon's appointment of Warren Burger to replace Earl Warren started the rightward shift. This book explains how and why. I'll add that this represented a reversion to form for the Supreme Court up to the New Deal. Maybe now we should recognize how fortunate we were to have grown up in an era when the Supreme Court took an active interest in expanding individual and civil rights.

Karen J Greenberg: Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State (2016, Crown): Having written a book on Guantanamo and edited one called Torture Papers, the author is in a position to sum up the marginal rationalizations used to trample two centuries of legal principle just to facilitate the security state's defense of its own power and secrets. While many of these examples were started by the Bush administration in its initial panic over 9/11, most have been continued under Obama, with some policies -- like extrajudicial killings -- greatly extended.

Seymour M Hersh: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden (2016, Verso): Short book on how the US sent a team of Navy SEALs deep into Pakistan to assassinate the nominal leader of Al-Qaida. Hersh casts doubt on many of the stories the Obama administration spread about its exploit.

Elizabeth Hinton: From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America (2016, Harvard University Press): Author starts with Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, which includes a simultaneous "war on crime," a set of policing policies that Republicans (and Bill Clinton) kept building up while at the same time tearing down the welfare programs. It is probably no accident that Johnson's programs were launched while America was increasingly mired in war in Vietnam, and even less so that police became more militarized during the so-called War on Terror. In between you get the War on Drugs. The idea there was probably that in post-WWII America "war" is the magic word for unity and determination, but after Vietnam most Americans were tired of war, and anti-drug laws criminalized a wide swath of society, which gave increasingly well-financed police a wide license to pick and choose. The result is that "the land of the free" became the world's most pervasive prison state.

David Cay Johnston: The Making of Donald Trump (2016, Melville House): Journalist, previously wrote a couple books on how the political system is rigged to favor the rich -- Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else and Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill). Not an in-depth biography (288 pp), but probably as good as any quick primer on the Republican nominee. Other new books on Trump (aside from the jokes I mention under Trump's own book): Michael D'Antonio: The Truth About Trump (paperback, 2016, St Martin's Griffin -- reissue of 2015 book Never Enough: Donald Trump and the Pursuit of Success; Michael Kranish/Marc Fisher: Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power (2016, Scribner); Marc Shapiro: Trump This! The Life and Times of Donald Trump, an Unauthorized Biography (paperback, 2016, Riverdale Avenue Books); Mark Singer: Trump and Me (2016, Mark Duggan Books); and, of course, GB Trudeau: Yuge! 30 Years of Doonsebury on Trump (paperback, 2016, Andrews McNeel).

Mark Landler: Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle Over American Power (2016, Random House): Journalist, interviewed over 100 "inside sources" to discover that Clinton was invariably hawkish as Secretary of State, while Obama usually started skeptical but often gave in to the hawks he surrounded himself with -- far be it from to seriously reject any orthodoxy. I doubt Landler further explores how often Obama's policies backfired, as he seems more entranced with his "team of rivals" collaboration story -- the common ground of those alter egos.

Marc Lynch: The New Arab Wars: Uprisings and Anarchy in the Middle East (2016, PublicAffairs): Wrote The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East (2012), a more hopeful title but in case after case popular uprisings have given way to civil war, as the ancien regimes have violently clung to power, as jihadists have come to the fore, and as foreign governments (notably the US) have interfered to advance poorly understood interests.

Benjamin Madley: An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873 (2016, Yale University Press): There is evidence that the population of Native Americans was reduced by as much as 90% from pre-Columbian levels to the end of the 19th century, and it's not much of a stretch to call that genocide. This book deals with just one narrow front, in California where the native population dropped from about 150,000 to 30,000 in the years covered -- roughly the period of California's Gold Rush. On the same subject: Brendan C Lindsay: Murder State: California's Native American Genocide, 1846-1873 (paperback, 2015, University of Nebraska Press). Related: John Mack Faragher: Eternity Street: Violence and Justice in Frontier Los Angeles (2016, WW Norton).

George Monbiot: How Did We Get Into This Mess? Politics, Equality, Nature (2016, Verso): British journalist, has written about science (degree in Zoology), climate change, and all sorts of political matters, which gives him a broad view of the "mess" of our times. This one's an essay collection, columns written 2007-15, that illustrate his title rather than exploring it systematically. Still, I did track down the title piece, which indicts neoliberalism traced back to the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947.

Peter Navarro: Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World (2015, Prometheus Books): Another Trump "economic adviser," the only one with any academic credentials, which as this book shows means zilch. Trump has a whole range of complaints about China ranging from currency manipulation to short-changing on patent rents. But Navarro sees something different: a mirror image of the US expanding its economic grasp into Asia under a cloak of the threat/promise of military power. The implication is that if the US ever backs down, China will pounce -- certainly not that China's military was built as a defense against intimidation from the world's sole superpower." Navarro previously co-wrote (with Greg Autry): Death by China: Confronting the Dragon -- A Global Call to Action (2011, Pearson Press). Chinese-American conflict has become a staple, both for business writers and empire strategists; e.g.: Thomas J Christensen: The China Challenge: Shaping the Choices of a Rising Power (2015, WW Norton); Thomas Finger: The New Great Game: China and South and Central Asia in the Era of Reform (paperback, 2016, Stanford University Press); Aaron L Friedberg: A Contest for Supremacy: China, America, and the Struggle for Mastery in Asia (paperback, 2012, WW Norton); Lyle J Goldstein: Meeting China Halfway: How to Diffuse the Emerging US-China Rivalry (2015, Georgetown University Press); Robert Haddick: Fire on the Water: China, America, and the Future of the Pacific (2014, Naval Institue Press); Bill Hayton: The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia (paperback, 2015, Yale University Press); Anja Manuel: This Brave New World: India, China and the United States (2016, Simon & Schuster); Liu Minglu: The China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era (2015, CN Times Books); Henry M Paulson Jr: Dealing With China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower (2015, Twelve); Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China's Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower (paperback, 2016, St Martin's Griffin); also, one I've mentioned before: Robert D Kaplan: Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific (2014; paperback, 2015, Random House); and one I somehow didn't mention, Henry Kissinger: On China (2011; paperback, 2012, Penguin Books).

Daniel Oppenheimer: Exit Right: The People Who Left the Left and Reshaped the American Century (2016, Simon & Schuster): Profiles that go "deep into the minds of six apostates -- Whitaker Chambers, James Burnham, Ronald Reagan, Norman Podhoretz, David Horowitz, and Christopher Hitchens." Reagan seems an odd choice for any book concerned with the mind, but the rest are far from original thinkers, more like notorious cranks, and can only be counted as reshaping the century in the sense that they allowed themselves be used as tools for the right-wing. Some blurb writers I respect liked this book, but it's hard to see why it should matter.

Thomas Piketty: Why Save the Bankers?: And Other Essays on Our Economic and Political Crisis (2016, Houghton Mifflin): Author of the major work on economic inequality Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014), picks these scattered essays from a monthly column published in France (2008-15).

Ari Rabin-Havt and Media Matters: Lies, Incorporated: The World of Post-Truth Politics (paperback, 2016, Anchor): Author previously co-wrote (with David Brock) The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network Into a Propaganda Machine and The Benghazi Hoax: The Truth Behind the Right's Campaign to Politicize an American Tragedy. The PR outfits may have started out just trying to spin the truth, but they quickly found themselves creating whole untruths from scratch, and what worked for tobacco and climate denial was seized upon by the right-wing for their own political machinations.

Yakov M Rabkin: What Is Modern Israel? (paperback, 2016, Pluto Press): Argues that Zionism is rooted not in anything Jewish but in Protestant Christianity's reading of Biblical prophecy, compounded by "Europeean ethnic nationalism, colonial expansion, and geopolitical interests." That doesn't quite explain why the idea came to be embraced by many Jews, both among those who settled in Israel and among those scattered elsewhere.

Andrés Reséndez: The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Slavery in America (2016, Houghton Mifflin): Before Columbus imported slaves from Africa, he tried enslaving the natives he "discovered." The Spanish crown supposedly ended this practice in 1542, but by then slavery had already had a calamatous effect on decimating native populations, and the story didn't end there. Most likely an eye-opening, pathbreaking book.

Jeremy Scahill: The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program (2016, Simon & Schuster): Previously wrote about early US use of drones for extrajudicial assassinations in 2013's Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield. Since then drones have become ever more central to Obama's continuation of Bush's Global War on Terror, which makes this an important book.

Jean Edward Smith: Bush (2016, Simon & Schuster): Big (832 pp) history of the eight years when GW Bush was pretty clearly the worst president the United States has ever had to suffer through, written to remind us of just that fact, all the more urgent since so many media hacks and even President Obama -- originally elected when the memory was clear in the minds of the electorate -- have let so much of his record slip from their minds.

Jason Stahl: Right Moves: The Conservative Think Tank in American Political Culture Since 1945 (2016, University of North Carolina Press): Surveys the history of right-wing financiers' efforts to stand up a faux academia to propagate their pet theories, and increasingly to fabricate their own facts, in hopes of dressing up their self-interested politics. But academia turned out to be too grand a vision, as they descended ever more into cranking out made-to-order political propaganda. And they've increasingly turned into a jobs program for conservative politicians, a security net for out-of-work ideologues.

Robert Teitelman: Bloodsport: When Ruthless Dealmakers, Shrewd Ideologues, and Brawling Lawyers Toppled the Corporate Establishment (2016, PublicAffairs): During the 1970s there arose a mania for building companies by mergers and acquisitions, a practice which led to the growth of diversified conglomerates as well as big companies snuffing out their competitors. Not clear to me whether Wall Street led the way or jumped on the bandwagon, but this went hand-in-hand with the financialization of the American economy, a process which increased inequality in lots of ways. The ideologues come into play with their justification of the supreme importance of shareholder value, regardless of who gets hurt.

Donald J Trump: Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America (paperback, 2016, Threshold Editions): Cover an orange smudge on an American flag against a not quite uncloudy blue sky, a vast improvement over Trump's scowl on the hardcover that came out last November as Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again. Like the title swap, the juxtaposition between crippled and great is so confusing it's hard to tell which is the past and which is the future. Meanwhile, the short (170 pages gets you to "Acknowledgments") campaign prop is full of such simplistic pablum you could use it for a second grade reader -- if, that is, you don't mind turning our children into sociopaths. By the way, if you want more Trumped-up propaganda, check the usual suspects: Ann Coulter: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome! (2016, Sentinel); Dick Morris/Eileen McGann: Armageddon: How Trump Can Beat Hillary (2016, Humanix Books); Wayne Allyn Root: Angry White Male: How the Donald Trump Phenomenon Is Changing America -- and What We Can All Do to Save the Middle Class (2016, Skyhorse Publishing).

Yanis Varoufakis: And the Weak Suffer What They Must?: Europe's Crisis and America's Economic Future (2016, Nation Books): Economist, became Finance Minister when the leftist Syriza party won in Greece, precipitating a crisis within the Eurozone resulting in Greece being forced to suffer punitive austerity and Varoufakis leaving the government in disgust. This appears to aim at something more general, but the author's unique experience offers a distinct starting point. Varoufakis has a similar previous book, The Global Minotaur: America, Europe and the Future of the Global Economy (3rd ed, paperback, 2015, Zed Books).

Dov Waxman: Trouble in the Tribe: The American Jewish Conflict Over Israel (2016, Princeton University Press): There have always been segments of the Jewish population in the US that have been critical of Israel, but especially after the 1948 and 1967 wars Israel enjoyed deep support among American Jews. That has begun to shift, mostly along generational lines, as Israel has moved hard to the right politically, as its militarism and human rights abuses have proven ever more difficult to justify on security grounds. This book looks at that, and to do so fairly you have to look at the issues that underly these divisions.

Edward O Wilson: Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life (2016, Liveright): Legendary biologist/entomologist (the study of bugs), has increasingly turned to writing about how much damage people have done to the natural world, and at 86 isn't done yet. He has a case, and his anger is justified. Still, the notion that the earth cares, much less is fighting back, is a fanciful conceit, flattering to the same people who scarcely comprehend what they are doing -- not so much to the earth as to ourselves.

Richard D Wolff: Capitalism's Crisis Deepens: Essays on the Global Economic Meltdown (paperback, 2016, Haymarket): Lefty economist, has been tracking economic crisis since 2009's Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It, and for that matter did something about it, being closely associated with the Occupy Movement. Short, topical pieces written over several years.

Other recent books also noted:

  • Walter R Borneman: MacArthur at War: World War II in the Pacific (2016, Little Brown)

  • Todd G Buchholz: The Price of Prosperity: Why Rich Nations Fail and How to Renew Them (2016, Harper)

  • James Carville: We're Still Right, They're Still Wrong: The Democrats' Case for 2016 (2016, Blue Rider Press)

  • Diego Gambetta/Steffen Hertog: Engineers of Jihad: The Curious Connection Between Violent Extremism and Education (2016, Princeton University Press)

  • Fawaz A Gerges: A History of ISIS (2016, Princeton University Press)

  • William N Goetzmann: Money Changes Everything: How Finance Made Civilization Possible (2016, Princeton University Press)

  • Max Hastings: The Secret War: Spies, Ciphers, and Guerrillas, 1939-1945 (2016, Harper)

  • Marc Lamont Hill: Nobody: Casualties of America's War on the Vulnerable, From Ferguson to Flint and Beyond (2016, Atria)

  • Sean Jacobs/Jon Sooke, eds: Apartheid Israel: The Politics of an Analogy (paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books)

  • Garry Kasparov: Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped (2015, Public Affairs)

  • John Kay: Other People's Money: The Real Business of Finance (2015, Public Affairs)

  • Mervyn King: The End of Alchemy: Money, Banking, and the Future of the Global Economy (2016, WW Norton)

  • Robert F Worth: A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, From Tahrir Square to ISIS (2016, Farrar Straus and Giroux)

Previously mentioned books (book pages noted where available), new in paperback:

  • Thomas E Mann/Norman J Ornstein: It's Even Worse Than It Looks Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism (2012; rev ed, paperback, 2016, Basic Books)

  • David Swanson: War Is a Lie (2010; second edition, paperback, 2016, Just World Books)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Daily Log

Any chance I can recall enough films to fill out a #fav7films? Let's see:

  • Babette's Feast
  • Before Sunrise
  • Hairspray
  • Johnny Dangerously
  • Made in Heaven
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou?
  • Stars and Bars

I also see there's a #7FavTVShows:

  • The Avengers
  • Fargo
  • Justified
  • The Mentalist
  • The Rogues

Monday, August 15, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26996 [26901] rated (+95), 357 [420] unrated (-63).

Early last week I got up and found my new jazz queue was practically empty -- at least didn't have anything I particularly wanted to listen to. I wound up playing something from the travel case for breakfast, then took a look at the Downbeat ballot albums list I had saved and started looking things up on Rhapsody. By the end of the day, I had two very solid A-list albums: new works by George Coleman and David Murray I wasn't aware existed. I kept looking up ballot albums for the rest of the week, but didn't find any more A-list. The tally so far: [A-] 2, [***] 4, [**] 4, [*] 7, [B] 2. That brings the percentage of the 186 ballot albums I've heard up from 60.21% to 70.43%. That also skews the grade curve down a bit, although it still centers on mid-B+ (was 26-35-20, now 30-39-27). That leaves 58 albums, the majority most likely not on Rhapsody.

At some point I started wondering why, if the queue was empty, the unrated count was stuck around 440 even though it had been down around 400 before I took my June trip and fell behind. So I took a close look at the ratings database and found nearly sixty albums that I had done but hadn't written down the grade for. The actual newly rated count this week is close to the 36 albums listed below -- a pretty healthy weekly count, but way short of the humanly impossible 96 reported above. As I've explained before, the unrateds shot up over a decade ago when Wichita's local record stores went out of business and I bought boxloads of stuff I still haven't gotten to. The list also includes some LPs I didn't remember well enough to jot down when I first constructed the ratings list in the late 1990s -- of course, I wonder now how many of those I still have, since I sold off most of my vinyl in 1999. There are also a few promos from the mid-'00s that I didn't get to but didn't dispose of, but probably no more than a dozen promos from this decade -- I've been doing a pretty good job of getting through the new stuff even if I haven't made much progress with the old.

At some point I should make a serious effort to knock down that backlog, even if it just means reclassifying things I no longer have (or cannot find). That would be one of those decluttering projects we talk about doing but I never seem to be able to find time for. Besides, even if the promo stream is drying up -- this month's dearth is partly seasonal but last week's haul is one of the lamest ever. (Two more records arrived today, but I'm pretty sure if I hadn't held last Monday's mail back I'd be empty below. As it is, I won't be empty next week, but might not see a rebound either.)

I made phat thai last week, and finally jotted down the recipe I use -- been meaning to do that for some time, especially as I take various liberties with the cookbook (which, by the way, Michael Tatum recommended to me). Laura doesn't like bean sprouts, and I don't like cayenne, so I leave those things out (but I've found that a couple dried Chinese chili peppers don't hurt, as long as I pitch them before serving). Nice thing about the dish is that I can do all the prep, including soaking, and cook the thing in less than an hour. And with shrimp in the freezer, the only thing I have to worry about having fresh is the scallions.

I've had a few recipes online for many years, but I've been pretty erratic about adding to them. In fact, I have two sets, one "old" (which dates to 2000) and "new" (which starts in 2007, using a newer look and feel). At one point I meant to convert all the "old" to "new" format, and develop the code to where everything is cross-indexed by ingredients, cuisine, and even dinner party (so one can tell which dishes went together, even how often I make them -- if I bothered to keep track). But I never finished that code, never converted all the "old" to "new," and have only sporadically added things, mostly when I wanted to pass a recipe on. This is actually one of those, and this time I added some new code to display a picture of the finished dish. Looks pretty good, I think.

New records rated this week:

  • Greg Abate & Phil Woods with the Tim Ray Trio: Kindred Spirits: Live at Chan's (2014 [2016], Whaling City Sound, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Karrin Allyson, Many a New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein (2015, Motéma): [r]: B
  • Peter Bernstein: Let Loose (2016, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Black Trio: The Constant (2015 [2016], Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Terri Lyne Carrington: The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul (2015, Concord): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Coleman: A Master Speaks (2015 [2016], Smoke Sessions): [r]: A-
  • Paquito D'Rivera: Jazz Meets the Classics (2012 [2014], Paquito/Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Paquito D'Rivera & Quinteto Cimarron: Aires Tropicales (2012 [2015], Paquito/Sunnyside): [r]: B-
  • Paquito D'Rivera/Armando Manzanero: Paquito & Manzanero (2016, Paquito/Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
  • Oran Etkin, What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman (2015, Motéma): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sullivan Fortner: Aria (2014 [2015], Impulse!): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wycliffe Gordon: Somebody New (2015, Blues Back): [r]: B+(**)
  • Stacey Kent: Tenderly (2015 [2016], Okeh): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kirk Knuffke: Lamplighter (2014 [2015], Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
  • Camila Meza: Traces (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Otis Was a Polar Bear (2016, Royal Potato Family): [r]: B+(**)
  • Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio: Perfection (2015 [2016], Motéma): [r]: A-
  • Quinsin Nachoff: Flux (2012 [2016], Mythology): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Aaron Neville: Apache (2016, Tell It): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paal Nilssen-Love Large Unit: Ana (2015 [2016], PNL): [bc]: A-
  • Adam O'Farrill: Stranger Days (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Arturo O'Farrill Sextet: Boss Level (2013 [2016], Zoho): [r]: B+(*)
  • Francisco Pais Lotus Project: Verde (2016, Product of Imagination): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Aaron Parks/Thomas Fonnesbaek/Karsten Bagge: Groovements (2014 [2016], Stunt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sergio Pereira: Swingando (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jim Rotondi: Dark Blue (2015 [2016], Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ches Smith: The Bell (2015 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Bill Stewart: Space Squid (2014 [2016], Pirouet): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Basement Blues (2012-15 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Miroslav Vitous: Music of Weather Report (2010-11 [2012], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Charenée Wade: Offering: The Music of Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson (2015, Motéma): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Irène Schweizer/Léon Francioli/Pierre Favre: Musical Monsters (1980 [2016], Intakt): [cd]: A-
  • Daunik Lazro/Joëlle Léandre/George Lewis: Enfances 8 Janv. 1984 (1984 [2016], Fou): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Joe McPhee/Paal Nilssen-Love: Candy (2007-14 [2015], PNL, 7CD): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Penny Penny: Shaka Bundu (1994 [2013], Awesome Tapes From Africa): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pylon: Live (1983 [2016], Chunklet): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Quinsin Nachoff: Flux (Mythology): September 16
  • Nine Live: Sonus Inenarribilis: Nine Live Plays the Music of John Clark (Mulatta): October 7

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Weekend Roundup

First a few loose ends left over from yesterday's Trump post:

  1. For more on populism, see Russell Arben Fox: Ten Theses on Our Populist Moment: He quotes Damon Linker's monumentally stupid claim that "Trump may be the purest populist to receive a major-party presidential nomination in the nation's history," but the Linker also argues that:

    Populism doesn't have a fixed agenda or aim toward any particular policy goal, like liberalism, progressivism, conservatism, libertarianism, or socialism. It's a style -- one that favors paranoia and conspiracy-theorizing, exaggeration of problems, demonization of political opponents (politicians but also private citizens), and most of all extravagant flattery of "the people" (which the populist equates with his own supporters, excluding everyone else).

    In other words, Linker has his own private definition of Populism. To most other people, what he's describing is the propaganda pitch of fascism to the masses (as opposed to the pitch made behind closed doors to the oligarchy). So it shouldn't be surprising that recent examples are mostly Republican ("From Newt Gingrich . . . to Sarah Palin . . . and Donald Trump") as the Republican conservative project is so similar in intent to the fascist project. Fox himself comes up with a more sensible definition ("whatever articulation of economic justice, community protection, and local democracy one comes up with"), but he's ambivalent about calling it Populism. I haven't researched this, but I suspect part of the problem is that Populism has always been a label to attack the movement -- the proper name back in the 1890s was the People's Party -- and it was chosen by high-handed snobs who despised the people even more than the dead-end thinking of isms. Even today, I suspect that most of the people who regard Trump as a Populist do so because they regard "the people" as too ignorant, too intemperate, too irrational even to look out for their own interest. Of course, many of those same people also decry true economic populism as well, hoping that by linking Trump and Sanders they can dispose of both.

  2. If you take one thing away from the Trump post, it should be that Trump's real problems are endemic to the Republican Party and its conservative ideologues and propagandists. Sure, Trump lacks the message discipline of a GW Bush and the ideological fervor of a Dick Cheney, but in the end he always retreats to the orthodox party line. And that's what doesn't work, and that's what you should really fear about him or any of the other party leaders.

  3. On the other hand, what the party leaders hate about Trump is his loose mouth. They understand that belief in their economic ideas and their foreign policy doctrine depends on strict repetition, on never allowing a morsel of doubt to creep into the discussion. If you ever stop and think about whether the free market optimally solves all economic equations or whether the world would descend into chaos if the US ever stopped projecting its global superpowerness, you might realize that those doctrines, upon which rests so much privilege and luxury for the fortunate few, are in fact remarkably flawed. Trump is so ignorant and so uninhibited that he simply can't be trusted to keep those cherished myths inviolate.

  4. One thing that the Trump debacle should impress upon people is that the idea that successful businessmen are really great problem solvers and managers, and especially that those are skills that can be transferred to politics and government, is sheer nonsense. Could be that some are, but circumstance and luck count for a lot, as does starting out with a fortune, as Trump did.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Andrew Bacevich: The Decay of American Politics: "An Ode to Ike and Adlai," major party nominees of sixty years ago -- the author's "earliest recollection of national politics," somewhat more vaguely mine as well (I turned six just before the election). I'm not quite as nostalgic about this pair, but Eisenhower was a centrist who, like previous Republican nominees Thomas Dewey and Wendell Wilkie, had no desire much less delusions of rolling back the redefinition of what the federal government meant and did known as the New Deal. And Eisenhower was so respected that if in 1952 he had declared his party differently he might most likely would have been nominated by the Democrats. Stevenson was an eloquent, highly respected liberal, no less adored albeit by a narrower base. From his conservative perch, Bacevich underrates Stevenson, and Hillary Clinton as well, although as a long-time critic of American foreign policy and militarism he has no trouble marshalling his arguments against the latter:

    When it comes to foreign policy, Trump's preference for off-the-cuff utterances finds him committing astonishing gaffes with metronomic regularity. Spontaneity serves chiefly to expose his staggering ignorance.

    By comparison, the carefully scripted Clinton commits few missteps, as she recites with practiced ease the pabulum that passes for right thinking in establishment circles. But fluency does not necessarily connote soundness. Clinton, after all, adheres resolutely to the highly militarized "Washington playbook" that President Obama himself has disparaged -- a faith-based belief in American global primacy to be pursued regardless of how the world may be changing and heedless of costs. [ . . . ]

    So while a Trump presidency holds the prospect of the United States driving off a cliff, a Clinton presidency promises to be the equivalent of banging one's head against a brick wall without evident effect, wondering all the while why it hurts so much.

    Bacevich at least concedes that both candidates are representative of their parties, each having mastered what it takes to get nominated. And as such, he regards them less as flukes than as symptoms of some underlying shifts. He blames "the evil effects of money," and "the perverse impact of identity politics on policy." He doesn't unpack these points nearly well enough, so let me take a shot:

    • Money seems pretty obvious: he links to Lawrence Lessig's "brilliant and deeply disturbing TED talk. Of course, money has bought political influence in America for a long time -- Karl Rove's hero William McKinley would never have been elected president without the backing of wealthy patrons -- but Eisenhower was sought out by backers of both parties because he was already hugely popular, and because in the 1950s popular appeal was still worth more than money. That's changed over the years, utterly so in 2016. The Republican candidates were all selected by their billionaire backers -- Trump, of course, had an advantage there in being his own billionaire, which made him look a little less shady even though his own business history was plenty suspect. Clinton, on the other hand, cornered all the party's big money donors, so she would have ran unopposed had Sanders not come up with a novel way of financing a competitive campaign.

    • The matter of identity politics is somewhat subtler. In a sense it's always existed -- indeed, it seems to be the dominant factor in "third world" countries with weak democratic traditions, like Pakistan and post-Saddam Iraq. If you've read Kevin Phillips' The Emerging Republican Majority (1969), you'll recall that most of his arguments about shifting political alignments were based on demographics. Early in the 20th century the Republican Party was preponderately northern and protestant, mostly white but most blacks who could voted Republican, while the Democratic Party represented a mix of northern Catholics and Jews along with southern whites. Economic factors occasionally appeared, but were often secondary: northern farmers shifted to the Democrats with Bryan, while labor more slowly shifted from R to D, especially with the New Deal. Phillips' scheme was for the Republicans to capture southern whites and northern Catholics -- Nixon started the former with his "southern strategy" and the latter came to be known as "Reagan Democrats." Still, I think Bacevich is getting at something more. Back in the 1950s America was, in self-concept if not quite reality, a homogeneous middle-class nation with a single mass market. Since then, America has become a good deal less homogeneous: immigration, which was suppressed in the 1920s, has greatly increased, as has inequality. But just as importantly, advertisers and media programmers have learned to target specific niche audiences, and politicos have followed their lead -- to the extent that even news and political opinion shows are now targeted to specific factions. In this atmosphere, identity has taken on increased significance.

      Still, political parties have to distinguish themselves somehow, and the main alternative to identity is class, something that became clearer when Franklin Roosevelt sided with the labor movement in the 1930s. Nixon and Reagan tried to counter this by pushing identity to the fore, which should have sharpened the class division of parties, but Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton went out of their way to screw over their labor supporters, and were able to get away with that as labor unions lost membership and clout, and as Republican hostility to non-whites, immigrants, gays, and anyone of a liberal disposition pushed those groups toward the Democrats. That the result appears to be "identity politics" mostly speaks to the fact that the sense of national unity that was forged during the New Deal and World War II has been fractured, most emphatically by economic inequality.

    Bacevich skips over here because he wants to move to say this:

    The essential point here is that, in the realm of national security, Hillary Clinton is utterly conventional. She subscribes to a worldview (and view of America's role in the world) that originated during the Cold War, reached its zenith in the 1990s when the United States proclaimed itself the planet's "sole superpower," and persists today remarkably unaffected by actual events. On the campaign trail, Clinton attests to her bona fides by routinely reaffirming her belief in American exceptionalism, paying fervent tribute to "the world's greatest military," swearing that she'll be "listening to our generals and admirals," and vowing to get tough on America's adversaries. These are, of course, the mandatory rituals of the contemporary Washington stump speech, amplified if anything by the perceived need for the first female candidate for president to emphasize her pugnacity.

    Bacevich then adds a third explanation: "the substitution of 'reality' for reality" -- the idea, facilitated by mass media and the PR industry, that well-managed perceptions count for more than what actually happens. Bacevich cites Daniel Boorstin's 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseydo-Events in America, written a mere decade after Americans started learning to see the world through the selective images beamed to their television screens. He could also have mentioned Joe McGinniss' The Selling of the President 1968 (1969), on Richard Nixon's PR campaign.

  • John Holbo: Is the Cato Institute a, Your Know, Libertarian Think-Tank? Article about libertarians bitching about the Libertarian Party ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld. That's not a fight I care to get into, but I will say that, regardless of their stands on issues, Johnson and Weld were two of the more decent and respectable Republican governors of the last few decades. I have less sense of Johnson, but Weld did one commendable thing that I don't think any other politician of either party has done, which is to (admittedly only partially) free up a toll road. I'd like to see a national program established to convert toll roads and bridges to the (free) interstate highway system, and to outlaw the construction of new toll roads. As far as I know that's on no political agenda -- I'm not even sure libertarians would support it, but they should. But that aside, I linked to this piece to quote a comment from "derrida derider" which seems about right:

    When thinking of libertarians I always think of Lenin's aphorism about anarchists -- "fine people, but an ideology for children."

    Because the hook libertarianism always get stuck on is that we are social animals where every action we take affects someone else. So the JS Mill stuff that "you are free to do what you like so long as you don't hurt anyone else" in practice comes down to a choice of "you are free to do lots of stuff which will really hurt other people" or "you are free to anything I judge will not hurt me."

    The first is so obviously untenable that actually existing "libertarians" adopt the second -- that is, they are in fact conservatives engaged in JK Galbraith's conservative project throughout the ages -- to find a higher justification for selfishness. So it's no surprise to find that they are usually in the same political bed as conservatives.

    E.g., the Kochs may think they're for freedom in the abstract, but they're mostly for freedom for themselves, to make money at everyone else's expense. It was libertarians like the Kochs that led Mike Konczal to write We Already Tried Libertarianism -- It Was Called Feudalism.

  • David E Sanger/Maggie Haberman: 50 G.O.P. Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation's Security 'at Risk':

    Fifty of the nation's most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump "lacks the character, values and experience" to be president and "would put at risk our country's national security and well-being."

    Mr. Trump, the officials warn, "would be the most reckless president in American history."

    The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States' moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has "demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding" of the nation's "vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values" on which American policy should be based. And it laments that "Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself."

    "None of us will vote for Donald Trump," the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans "have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us."

    You'd think this would be good news for Clinton, but what they're accusing Trump of not understanding is the unexamined foundation of every foreign policy disaster of recent decades. Trump half discerns this, but in the end he decides they're only doing this for spite and personal gain -- i.e., the reasons Trump himself would use:

    Late Monday, Mr. Trump struck back. The signatories of the letter, he said in a statement, were "the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place." He dismissed them as "nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power."

    Mr. Trump correctly identified many of the signatories as the architects of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But he also blamed them for allowing Americans "to die in Benghazi" and for permitting "the rise of ISIS" -- referring to the 2012 attacks on the American mission in Libya and the spread of the Islamic State, both of which occurred during the Obama administration. At the time, most of Mr. Trump's Republican foreign policy critics were in think tanks, private consultancies or law firms, or signed on as advisers to the Republican hopefuls Mr. Trump beat in the primaries.

    If Trump was smarter he'd figure out a way to turn the tables and cast Hillary as the intemperate, dangerous warmonger and point to the hawks who are abandoning him and (in many cases) embracing her as further proof. It's not happening because he's fully absorbed the party line that all of America's problems abroad are because Obama is weak (or some kind of America-hating traitor), so he feels the need to continually reassert his own toughness, even though he's so shallow and erratic this comes across as recklessness. A good recent example is his refusal to concede that there are any conditions where he'd rule out the use of nuclear weapons.

    Meanwhile, many neocon hawks have moved past dissing Trump and on to supporting Clinton. In particular, see:

  • Some campaign-related links:

    • Sedgwick County Republican chairman: 'Hold your nose' and vote Trump: Catchy new slogan here in Wichita. Latest SurveyUSA poll shows Trump still leading in Kansas, 44-39%, close enough for 538 to give Clinton a 17.3% chance of winning Kansas. In related Wichita Eagle articles, Governor Sam Brownback reiterated his firm support for Trump (he does, after all, have a lot of experience holding his nose). Also Sen. Pat Roberts was named as a Trump adviser on agriculture (i.e., agribusiness, in whose pocket Roberts has spent much more time than he has in Kansas).

    • John Cassidy: Why Trump's Crazy Talk About Obama and ISIS Matters: More hectoring on "right-wing populist movements," charging that Trump is out to create a neo-fascist America First movement that will outlive his own scattershot candidacy. I agree with Steve M's critique, No, he's just parroting what he's heard from Fox and the GOP. But as I pointd out the other day, Trump not only hears Republican "dog whistles," he responds to them like a dog (apologies, of course, to anyone who thinks I just insulted their best friend).

    • Maureen Dowd: The Perfect GOP Nominee: Hillary Clinton, of course: "They already have a 1-percenter who will be totally fine in the Oval Office, someone they can trust to help Wall Street, boost the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, cuddle with hedge funds, secure the trade deals beloved by corporate America, seek guidance from Henry Kissinger and hawk it up -- unleashing hell on Syria and heaven knows where else."

    • Lisa Lerer/Ken Thomas: What Have We Learned From Hillary Clinton's Tax Returns? She released them for 2015 last week, presumably to taunt Trump. Headline figure was that Bill and her reaped $10.6 million, which seems like quite a bit for run a foundation and get most of their money (some $6 million) from speaking fees. They've also released earlier tax returns, showing that they've made $139 million from 2007-2014 -- I suspect that's more than any other ex-president has owned, a remarkable reward (not that Clinton, as president, didn't make other people even more money). These figures put them in the lower rungs of the 1%, so one may wonder where their allegiances actually lie.

    • Ryan Lizza: What We Learned About Trump's Supporters This Week: The main thing is that Jonathan Rothwell, a researcher at Gallup, did a deep dive into their polling database to see whether Trump's base of support comes from economic distress caused by trade deals and immigration, and finds that it doesn't. He finds that Trump's supporters "are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relative high household incomes, and perhaps the contradiction there leads to economic anxiety. They're also socially isolated: it's easier to hold stereotyped views of immigrants if you don't know any. No real news here for anyone who's been paying attention.

    • Mark Joseph Stern: "Second Amendment People" Solutions: Argues "Trump's Clinton 'joke' was no coincidence. The GOP espouses a right to bear arms whose logical conclusion is political assassination."

    • Benjamin Wallace-Wells: The Real Scandal of Hillary Clinton's E-Mails: Well, to save you some scanning, it's that there is none, other than the cozy access donors have to politicians for decades now.

Finally, a few links for further study (ran out of time to comment):

Saturday, August 13, 2016


One of the more annoying themes pundits like to spin about Donald Trump is how he represents some sort of populist backlash against the elites who run the country. To do so coherently you have to construct strawmen both of the elites and of the people. Coming up with a definition of elites that does not include Trump is an especially daunting challenge: he is, after all, extremely rich, very famous, a guy who flies around in private planes and helicopters, who lives in a postmodern castle in the heart of Manhattan. Sure, elite could mean many other things that Trump decidedly is not: brilliant scientists, stellar athletes, remarkable chefs and fashion designers, actors who can play someone other than themselves. But rich and famous counts for a lot in America: it gets you invited to hobnob with politicians and gives you free access to the media, privileges that, having been born rich, Trump has enjoyed nearly all his life.

Then there are the people. You can't have populism without people, but Trump's people aren't exactly a random cross-section of America -- what Bill Clinton referred to when he said he wanted a cabinet that looks like America (not that the one he picked wasn't a good deal richer and fancier dressed). Trump's cross-section is skewed white, older, and male (in almost exclusively to mostly order). But doesn't populism also have to signify some kind of economic revolt? It did in the 1990s when the Populist Party emerged in response to the worst recession American capitalism suffered (only exceeded by the Great Depression of the 1930s, and maybe the Bush meltdown of 2008). And it's certainly true that there is an economic revolt brewing all across America today, where poverty is increasing and most Americans above the poverty line are mired in stagnant wages, rising prices, and often crushing debt, while business (especially the financial sector) has recovered from 2008 and is posting record profits, with virtually all of the gains accruing to the billionaire class.

But it's not Trump's people who are behind this revolt -- those who really are down and out (or just struggling to get ahead) voted for Sanders or Clinton (if they voted at all). As Nate Silver shows (see The Mythology of Trump's 'Working Class' Support), Trump voters are significantly better off than median (average household income is $72K, about even with Cruz with but less than the $90K of Kasich and Rubio voters). They are, in short, comfortable enough they can afford to indulge their prejudices in false solutions and a candidate who won't help them in the least.

If anyone had any illusions that Trump's economic program would be a boon for billionaires and disaster for everyone else, the candidate dispelled them in two quick moves last week. First, he announced his team of economic advisers. For a quick rundown, see Andrew Ross Sorkin: Donald Trump's Economic Team Is Far From Typical, Patricia Cohen: Trump's Economic Team: Bankers and Billionaires (and All Men) and Evan Popp/Josh Israel: Donald Trump Announces Economic Policy Team: 13 Men -- not sure why these authors chose to focus on sex when the team is homogeneous in more extraordinary ways, such as their finance portfolios, and their PAC experience. Most are billionaires, and most built their fortunes on predatory financial shenanigans -- most notoriously John Paulson, who rigged up the Abacus Fund to bet against the mortgage bubble. A few may dabble in manufacturing ventures -- Steve Feinberg's company makes AR-15 assault rifles -- but only one has a manufacturing company at the base of his resume (Dan DiMicco, formerly of Nucor). None are economists, unless you count Stephen Moore (whose peerless record of bad predictions qualified him to be employed as Chief Economist at the Heritage Foundation).

Two of the advisers do have books that might be seen as signposts of a Trumpian economic nationalism, but they point in different directions, underscoring the incoherence of Trump's own blather: DiMicco's American Made: Why Making Things Will Return Us to Greatness (2015), and Peter Navarro's Crouching Tiger: What China's Militarism Means for the World (2015), but like so much of Trump's thinking they don't exactly fit together. Navarro, for instance, is more concerned with protecting business interests in East Asia against Chinese domination than bringing jobs back to America. I have no idea how DiMicco intends to rebuild America's manufacturing base, but most of Trump's advisers do have proven records of bankrupting companies and sending jobs elsewhere.

The absence of any credible economists is especially striking. Sorkin's article explains that even long-term Republican partisans like Glenn Hubbard and Greg Mankiw are keeping their distance from Trump. Sorkin also lists some major Republican donors who have been staying away -- the people Trump picked mostly paid plenty for the proximity, and are all in position to more than make their investment back if Trump wins. Trump got a lot of credit during the primaries by not being beholden to the billionaires who backed his candidates, but as you can see from this list, that's all over now. Of course, if you're smart you should have realized that being your own billionaire backer doesn't convey one iota of independence from the billionaire class -- it merely harmonizes the corruption.

Perhaps Trump could have clarified all this in his "major economic speech" in Detroit (transcript here), but when it comes down to brass tacks, Trump has little to offer other than tax breaks and deregulation for the already rich, who will then magically take their gains and invest them in American jobs -- just like they did with the tax breaks and deregulation of the Reagan and Bush eras? (Amusing quote from Trump's China-bashing section: "Just enforcing intellectual property rules alone could save millions of American jobs. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, improved protection of America's intellectual property in China would produce more than 2 million more jobs right here in the United States." Collecting more intellectual property tariffs is the major purpose of TPP, which Trump claims he opposes.)

As Isaac Chotiner noted, the speech "was meant for Republican bigwigs as much as for passionate Trump voters" -- actually, I'd say much more for the bigwigs, as he pulled his punches on doing anything meaningful about balancing the trade deficit -- he just expects miraculous effects there from giving businesses free money. (By the way, the trade deficit actually is a boon to the finance industry, and a major driver of inequality. Some of that money shipped abroad goes to workers abroad, but a large slice of it goes to businesses, many of whom reinvest their profits in American banks which help drive up the prices of assets, benefitting the rich, not least the sticky-fingered bankers.)

The speech offers an avalanche of numbers abstracted from dubious sources, so it helps to follow with the fact checkers, like Fact-checking Donald Trump's speech to the Detroit Economic Club, to get a rough idea how selective Trump's writers were with facts and how outrageously they could spin them. I particularly appreciate this for the full context to Hillary's quote about putting "a lot of coal companies and coal miners out of business" -- actually very thoughtful on how we need to help workers and regions impacted by technology and trade, touching even. But still, you only get a rough idea -- there's much more in the speech that could have been critiqued (like, e.g., the intellectual property crap I cited above), plus it would help to provide more context for Trump's sources (e.g., when he cites the Institute for Energy Research, are you aware that it's a Koch front group?).

Some critical links in response to the speech follow. I'm again struck by how hard it is for some pundits to let go of the notion that Trump is some sort of populist. As should be glaringly obvious by now, there is no economic dimension to Trump's so-called populism. He is too much a part of the rich in America to find any fault with them. Sure, he finds fault in some trade deals, but not because he opposes trade or wants to restore tariffs -- it's just that those agreements were badly negotiated, something a more skilled dealmaker like himself wouldn't have done and could easily fix. How, however, is mysterious, presumably magic, because he doesn't have any coherent program other than his boundless faith in himself.

So what makes Trump a populist? Well, it's all in the eyes of the beholder, isn't it? Deep down, Trump's campaign is based on little more than demagogic appeals to racism and xenophobia. It celebrates a subset of the nation that is white, native-born, and Christian, and flatters them as the true Americans, the people this country used to belong to, people who feel entitled to take the country back from the traitorous scum that let those foreigners and deviants and gave them jobs and power, and that cultivates their votes.

Trump's pitch is the classic right-wing scam, first pioneered by the fascists of the 1920s and 1930s. So why dignify Trump as a populist, a movement from the 1890s which sought to elevate common people (mostly farmers at the time) by reining in the predatory practices of the rich, instead of deriding him as a fascist? I think it's because a certain class of pundit always viewed fascism and populism as two faces of the same thing: an expression of the ignorant prejudices of the lower orders. This betrays a good deal of ignorance both about the history of fascism and the current composition of Trump's movement: both have more to do with middle class fears of the masses but ultimately depend most of all on their real masters, the rich.

Robert O. Paxton, in The Anatomy of Fascism, argues that fascist movements developed in countries where aristocratic classes had been unable to repackage their political interests to have any real appeal in democratic elections. In essence, the fascists were able to broaden the appeal of conservatives by agitating the middle classes, playing to their fears of communist revolution and their various prejudices and hatreds and offering redemption through a renewed, often violent, cult of nationalism. To my mind, Paxton's focus on democratic appeal is overly narrow, as he uses it to deny that various murderous conservatives like Francisco Franco were really fascists. Curiously, his definition doesn't exclude Trump or, for that matter, much of the Republican Party at least since Newt Gingrich became party leader in the House. For twenty years (at least) Republicans have shamelessly campaigned to increase the power and wealth of the already rich, to vastly increase the degree of inequality among Americans, and they have done this by rallying a large slice -- middle-class and up, white, Christian, patriotic in the sense of being pro-military -- to their cause.

Of course, Republicans haven't advertised themselves as fascists -- Americans fought a World War to rid the world of fascism, and sought afterwards to characterize communism as an allied disorder (coming up with "totalitarianism" to group the two as opposed to our system of democracy and free enterprise). In particular, ever since Nixon launched his "southern strategy" and claimed "the silent majority" as his base, Republicans have been careful to "dog whistle" their appeals to racism. The only thing that makes Trump exceptional is that his anti-immigrant stance has been overtly racist -- certainly it doesn't extend to his Slovenian wife or his Scottish mother or his German grandparents -- and that he has refused to dissociate himself with the hard-core racists who have flocked to his campaign. (Has any presidential nominee ever had fewer American-born ancestors?) I suppose you can see from this why pundits who can't tell you the difference between fascism and populism might get confused, but is there anything more to it?

Well, Mussolini got his start leading a gang that smashed the heads of strikers. Trump hasn't done that, but he has encouraged his supporters to acts of violence against demonstrators, and most recently asked his "second amendment people" to stop his opponent, Hillary Clinton (after his convention chanted "lock her up"). Again, Republicans since Nixon have occasionally "dog whistled" their support for violence against their perceived enemies -- in particular, recall Nixon's embrace of "hard hats" who cracked the heads of peace protesters. And the threats made against Obama and Clinton by lesser Republicans and their fans are beyond counting.

I suppose you could add two more technical issues, but I suspect they're beyond the radar of most pundits. Trump's opposition to trade deals -- what you might call economic nationalism, although to be fair he doesn't -- recalls the fascist concern for autarky. And Trump's more explicit "America First" foreign policy stance threatens to fight wars with no concern for the casualties inflicted elsewhere -- hence his insistence on keeping the option of nuclear weapons "on the table" -- although there is little reason to think he would start wars for foreign conquest (as Mussolini and Hitler did). These aspects have created a huge schism within the Republican establishment, not because they point toward fascism but because they threaten to undermine the profits of global-minded businesses. Republican-leaning capitalists have been remarkably obtuse in not understanding that they've made much more money under Clinton and Obama than under Bush, but many are finally, belatedly realizing that Trump would be even worse for them than Bush was.

Just because Trump is a demagogue preying on the worst instincts of a once-powerful segment of the American people does not make him a populist, even if it makes him somewhat popular. After Detroit, that at least is one term that should never be associated with him. As for fascist, I won't argue no -- as a leftist I've long been hypersensitive to even the slightest whiff of fascism -- but I don't regard Trump as exceptionally fascist (e.g., as compared to Cruz and Kasich). I don't see him doing fascist things, but I don't see him undoing the present security state, and he may make things somewhat worse, especially for people who don't pass muster as white.

That's because what he really is isn't any sort of ideologue. He's simply a dog -- a guy who's been hearing all those Republican "dog whistles" for so long he assumes everyone can hear them, that they define reality. And as such, he campaigned on the basis of what he and all the other Republican dogs heard, oblivious to the tact and decorum the whistlers have worked so hard at cultivating. Trump should be a hugely popular figure in this world, because he's practically the only public person who speaks their understanding of the truth. On the other hand, the true conservatives who have been manipulating this electorate, especially the ones who bought wholesale into economic orthodoxy and the ones who are most obsessed with preserving America's worldwide hegemony are aghast, as well they should be.

Just as I won't deny that Trump is a fascist, I won't deny that his election would be catastrophic. It's not so much what he would do as what him winning would say about the American people: that we're so jaded we'd fall for a crude and ignorant media celebrity who understands nothing and has nothing to offer but discredited clichés, with a side of hate to pin our self-loathing on. Above all, his election would encourage the worst sort of racist revanchists, people who until Trump's rise were consigned to the farthest margins of political discourse. But it would also repopulate government with run-of-the-mill conservative spearchuckers, who would multiply the corrupt rot of the Bush administration, and that may do more damage in the long run.

Trump has been sinking in the polls, even since I started writing this. He seems to have learned that the only way to shift one horrid gaffe from the news cycle is to commit another one -- like his "2nd amendment people" threat, or his claim that Obama and Clinton "founded ISIS." Still, no matter how far Trump sinks, Clinton has been unable to push her share above 50%. If Trump wins it will say more about her than about him. Still, Trump only has one real chance: he needs all his dogs to vote, and he needs much of the rest of America to not bother. For that to happen, Clinton will have to prove remarkably uninspiring and/or a dangerous warmonger (her obsession with the "commander-in-chief test" worries me). But also Trump will have to stop pissing off most of the country, and at this point that seems pretty unlikely.

A few more links on the speech:

Pierce, by the way, started his article with a somewhat unrelated reference to "a popular Republican strategist named Rick Wilson," who wrote an op-ed hoping that Trump be defeated so utterly his memory is forever purged from conservative consciousness. Pierce goes on to note:

You will see more of this as the campaign grinds on -- movement conservative Republicans attempting to separate their party from the inevitable consequence of the way they've all done politics since the Reagan people invited the god-botherers into the tent where the racists invited in by Nixon were already jamming up the bar service. [ . . . ]

Jesus H. Christ on a biscuit, can we stop with the Party of Lincoln crapola?

You forfeited the right to that title the moment that Harry Dent sat down to write a memo. You are now the Party of Calhoun, the party of voter suppression. Hell, I don't know what "constitutional conservatism" even means any more, except to note that it seems to involve radical Tentherism and a desire to roll back the effects of Amendments 13-15.

When conservatives set out to take over the country, they set themselves up with a tough task: to somehow convince a majority of Americans to enrich the 1% at their own expense. They did it by assembling as many single-issue constituencies as they could stand under their umbrella, and even then the few victories they scored were often marked by subterfuge -- remember Bush's "compassionate conservatism"? What about his promise to never engage in "nation building"? When Bush cratered the economy, they didn't readjust to the changed reality. They invented their own, in an echo chamber that was totally disconnected from reality (take another look at that fact checking linked to above), and within this world they found their champion in Donald Trump. That puts them in quite a bind: if, having rounded up all the hate groups, and all the fools, they still lose, and lose badly, the only option left for reaching new voters is to abandon their pursuit of inequality, but how can they do that given the way a handful of billionaires dominate the party?

Daily Log

Tweet for above piece:

Trump is no populist, and people who confuse racist demagogues with populists know nothing; fascist? that's closer:

Early drafts for post above:

While Trump was trying to shore up his support among billionaires and their lackeys, his campaign was springing other leaks, notably: David E Sanger/Maggie Haberman: 50 G.O.P. Officials Warn Donald Trump Would Put Nation's Security 'at Risk':

Fifty of the nation's most senior Republican national security officials, many of them former top aides or cabinet members for President George W. Bush, have signed a letter declaring that Donald J. Trump "lacks the character, values and experience" to be president and "would put at risk our country's national security and well-being."

Mr. Trump, the officials warn, "would be the most reckless president in American history."

The letter says Mr. Trump would weaken the United States' moral authority and questions his knowledge of and belief in the Constitution. It says he has "demonstrated repeatedly that he has little understanding" of the nation's "vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances and the democratic values" on which American policy should be based. And it laments that "Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself."

"None of us will vote for Donald Trump," the letter states, though it notes later that many Americans "have doubts about Hillary Clinton, as do many of us."

You'd think this would be good news for Clinton, but what they're accusing Trump of not understanding is the unexamined foundation of every foreign policy disaster of recent decades. Trump half discerns this, but in the end he decides they're only doing this for spite and personal gain -- i.e., the reasons Trump himself would use:

Late Monday, Mr. Trump struck back. The signatories of the letter, he said in a statement, were "the ones the American people should look to for answers on why the world is a mess, and we thank them for coming forward so everyone in the country knows who deserves the blame for making the world such a dangerous place." He dismissed them as "nothing more than the failed Washington elite looking to hold onto their power."

Mr. Trump correctly identified many of the signatories as the architects of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath. But he also blamed them for allowing Americans "to die in Benghazi" and for permitting "the rise of ISIS" -- referring to the 2012 attacks on the American mission in Libya and the spread of the Islamic State, both of which occurred during the Obama administration. At the time, most of Mr. Trump's Republican foreign policy critics were in think tanks, private consultancies or law firms, or signed on as advisers to the Republican hopefuls Mr. Trump beat in the primaries.

If Trump was smarter he'd figure out a way to turn the tables and cast Hillary as the intemperate, dangerous warmonger and point to the hawks who are abandoning him and (in many cases) embracing her as further proof. It's not happening because he's fully absorbed the party line that all of America's problems abroad are because Obama is weak (or some kind of America-hating traitor), so he feels the need to continually reassert his own toughness, even though he's so shallow and erratic this comes across as recklessness. A good recent example is his refusal to concede that there are any conditions where he'd rule out the use of nuclear weapons.

Still, her greatest risk is that she'll blunder ahead and make the case for Trump -- because she, too, is determined not to be viewed as weak. (In fact, she'd rather be viewed as part of what Obama referred to as the "do stupid shit" faction than be seen as backing away from a fight.) I heard this just the other day when she charged that Trump is unfit to be "president and commander and chief," and made it sound like president was by far the less significant title -- like her deepest ambition is to seen as leading the nation in war.

Some more links here:

Since I started working on this post, Trump has bombed two more news cycles, first by calling on "2nd Amendment People" to "stop" Clinton, then by accusing Obama and Clinton of "founding ISIS." The former, of course, was a joke, but the Secret Service wasn't amused. The second should have been, but evidently Trump is dead serious.

By the way, the Pierce article cited above starts with an aside on "a popular Republican strategist named Rick Wilson," who wrote an op-ed urging that Trump be defeated so utterly his memory is purged forever from conservative consciousness. Pierce notes:

You will see more of this as the campaign grinds on -- movement conservative Republicans attempting to separate their party from the inevitable consequence of the way they've all done politics since the Reagan people invited the god-botherers into the tent where the racists invited in by Nixon were already jamming up the bar service. [ . . . ]

Jesus H. Christ on a biscuit, can we stop with the Party of Lincoln crapola?

You forfeited the right to that title the moment that Harry Dent sat down to write a memo. You are now the Party of Calhoun, the party of voter suppression. Hell, I don't know what "constitutional conservatism" even means any more, except to note that it seems to involve radical Tentherism and a desire to roll back the effects of Amendments 13-15.

Admittedly, populism means different things to different people. To me, it's mostly the rural cooperatives in western Kansas that were the longest-lasting achievement of the 1990s Populist Party. But others treat that Party and William Jennings Bryan's absorption of much movement support into the Democratic Party as an atavistic response to urbanization and the rise of America as a manufacturing and financial power which decayed into nativism and racism, notably in the south (e.g., Tom Watson, who started out as a fiery orator and wound up as a bitter racist governor of Georgia).

Indeed, for many pundits populism has become synonymous with demagogic appeals to racism and xenophobia -- traits they readily attribute to the masses (at least the White Christian variety) . . .

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Downbeat Readers Poll

Voted today in Downbeat's Readers Poll: link here, go ahead and vote. Didn't intend on posting this, but took notes and finally decided my ballot might be of some small interest. In the Reader's Poll you only get one vote in each category. They conduct the poll using Survey Monkey, offering you a ballot of many suggestions for each category (usually two to five dozen, but up to 186 for Best Album) and the option to write something in. I almost always vote from the ballot, especially for albums even though my own lists prefer many things they left out. I list the categories below, my pick in bold (or bold italic for write-ins), followed by a few ballot items that I jotted down as possibilities on the first pass. Rarely I add a comment.

This is much quicker than filling out their Critics Poll ballot. My notes on that experience are here.

  • Hall of Fame: Anthony Braxton; Han Bennink, Paul Bley, Don Byas, Don Cherry, Abdullah Ibrahim, Illinois Jacquet, Professor Longhair, Sam Rivers, George Russell, Pharoah Sanders, Cedar Walton. (I usually pick Russell, but thought Braxton might have more chance. Obvious write-in candidates: Louis Jordan, Jimmy Rushing, Mal Waldron.)
  • Jazz Artist: Henry Threadgill; Anthony Braxton, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Douglas, Fred Hersch, Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, Ken Vandermark.
  • Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing; The Bad Plus, Microscopic Septet, Rova. (Write-in here. I generally don't like voting for artist name groups, and these made up approx. 90% of the ballot, so I thought an act of rebellion was in order.)
  • Big Band: Ken Vandermark Resonance Ensemble; Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra, Either/Orchestra, ICP Orchestra, London Jazz Composers Orchestra, Vienna Art Orchestra. (Another write-in, doesn't always bear Vandermark's name, but let's be clear. Haven't noticed the other candidates being very active.)
  • Jazz Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Henry Threadgill, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi '16); other A- on ballot: Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi); Barry Altschul 3dom Factor, Tales of the Unforeseen (TUM); Erik Friedlander, Oscalypso (Skipstone); Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto); Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM '16); Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi); Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct of Jazz (Thirsty Ear); Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, A New Kind of Dance (482 Music); Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup); Nate Wooley Quintet, (Dance To) The Early Music (Clean Feed); Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music); Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live At 55 Bar (self release); Ochion Jewell Quartet, VOLK (self release); Sonny Rollins, Holding The Stage: Road Shows, Vol. 4 (Doxy/OKeh). Two full A albums not on ballot: Irène Schweizer/Han Bennink: Welcome Back (Intakt 8/15); Aly Keita/Jan Galega Brönnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo-Yele (Intakt 1/16). Only one Intakt album on ballot (Aruan Ortiz); guess they had to save room for: Concord/Telarc/MCG Jazz (11), ECM (11), Blue Note (10), Mack Avenue (10), Smoke Sessions (9), Sunnyside (9), Columbia/OKeh (7), HighNote/Savant (7), Motema (7). Clean Feed (5) did best among imports (after ECM, which is distributed by Universal in US so is really in a different league). Pi placed four records; they released six albums in 2015 and four so far this year.
  • Historical Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard (Resonance); other A- records: Blind Alfred Reed, Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital '16); Bobby Rush, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (Omnivore); Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert by the Sea (Sony Legacy); Miles Davis, Miles Davis At Newport: 1955-1975 The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy); Various Artists, The Rough Guide to the Blues Songsters (Rough Guide).
  • Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith; Ralph Alessi, Steven Bernstein, Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen, Kirk Knuffke, Brian Lynch, Tomasz Stanko.
  • Trombone: Roswell Rudd; Ray Anderson, Jeb Bishop, Joe Fiedler, George Lewis, Phil Ranelin, Steve Swell.
  • Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome; Jan Garbarek, Evan Parker, Bob Wilber.
  • Alto Saxophone: François Carrier; Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Marty Ehrlich, Jon Irabagon, Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Steve Lehman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Joe McPhee, Charles McPherson, Ted Nash, Henry Threadgill, Bobby Watson, Miguel Zenón, John Zorn.
  • Tenor Saxophone: Ivo Perelman; Harry Allen, JD Allen, Peter Brötzmann, James Carter, Charles Gayle, George Garzone, Jon Irabagon, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, Joe McPhee, David Murray, Larry Ochs, Evan Parker, Houston Person, Chris Potter, Ken Vandermark.
  • Baritone Saxophone: Brian Landrus; Hamiet Bluiett, Vinny Golia, Mats Gustafsson, Scott Robinson, Colin Stetson, Joe Temperley, Ken Vandermark.
  • Clarinet: Michael Moore; Evan Christopher, Anat Cohen, Eddie Daniels, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, David Krakauer, Michel Portal, Perry Robinson, Louis Sclavis.
  • Flute: Nicole Mitchell.
  • Piano: Myra Melford; Kenny Barron, George Cables, Uri Caine, Marilyn Crispell, Satoko Fujii, David Hazeltine, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, Keith Jarrett, Misha Mengelberg, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn. Huge ballot omission (was tempted to write her in): Irène Schweizer.
  • Keyboard: Jamie Saft; Nik Bärtsch, Uri Caine, Wayne Horvitz, John Medeski, Matthew Shipp, Craig Taborn, Gary Versace.
  • Organ: Gary Versace; Brian Charette, Mike LeDonne.
  • Guitar: Mary Halvorson; Rez Abbasi, John Abercrombie, Nels Cline, Liberty Ellman, Bill Frisell, Joe Morris, Marc Ribot.
  • Bass: William Parker; Ben Allison, Arild Andersen, Omer Avital, Stephan Crump, Mark Dresser, Michael Formanek, Drew Gress, John Hébert, Mark Helias, Dave Holland, Marc Johnson, Eric Revis, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman.
  • Electric Bass: Steve Swallow.
  • Violin: Jenny Scheinman; Charles Burnham, Jason Kao Hwang, Carlos Zingaro.
  • Drums: Andrew Cyrille; Han Bennink, Jim Black, Gerald Cleaver, Jack DeJohnette, Hamid Drake, Gerry Hemingway, John Hollenbeck, Lewis Nash, Bobby Previte, Matt Wilson.
  • Vibraphone: Karl Berger; Jason Adasiewicz, Khan Jamal, Joe Locke, Matt Moran, Warren Smith.
  • Percussion: Han Bennink; Kahil El'Zabar, Marilyn Mazur, Adam Rudolph, Warren Smith, Dan Weiss.
  • Miscellaneous Instrument: Erik Friedlander (cello); Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud), Edmar Castaneda (Colombian harp), Howard Johnson (tuba), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), Grégoire Maret (harmonica), David Murray (bass clarinet), Bob Stewart (tuba).
  • Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole.
  • Female Vocalist: Catherine Russell; Ernestine Anderson, Patricia Barber, Sheila Jordan, Diana Krall, René Marie, Mary Stallings, Fay Victor.
  • Composer: Carla Bley; Ben Allison, Steve Lehman, Henry Threadgill, John Zorn.
  • Arranger: Steven Bernstein.
  • Record Label: Intakt; Clean Feed, Delmark, No Business, Pi Recordings, anyone that sends me promos.
  • Blues Artist or Group: Dave & Phil Alvin; Guy Davis, Taj Mahal, Otis Taylor, James Blood Ulmer.
  • Blues Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Various Artists, God Don't Never Change: Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator); only other A- record: The Ragpicker String Band, The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog).
  • Beyond Artist or Group: Laurie Anderson; Erykah Badu, Courtney Barnett, Beyoncé, Chance the Rapper, Leonard Cohen, Flying Lotus, Future, Grimes, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kendrick Lamar, Willie Nelson, Parquet Courts, Rihanna, The Roots, Tinariwen, Kanye West, Neil Young.
  • Beyond Album (Released June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016): Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade '16); other A- records: Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers '16); Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool '16); Ashley Monroe, The Blade (Warner Bros. Nashville); BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown '16); Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep (Redwing '16); Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion (604/Schoolboy/Interscope); Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book (self release '16); Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone (Motown/Control Freaq); Ezra Furman, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union); Grimes, Art Angels (4AD); Rihanna, Anti (Westbury Road/Roc Nation '16).

I copied the full album ballots into the notebook as a check on how much I've heard (and still have to dig up). Of 186 new jazz albums, I've heard 112 (60.21%), grades breaking: [A-] 15, [***] 26, [**] 35, [*] 20, [B] 10, [B-] 4, [C+] 1, [C] 1, [C-] 1. I could do the same thing for Historical and Blues but my cut is extremely low. I have nothing to say about Beyond other than that records so labeled aren't what we used to call "far out."

PS: Later added (or found) more grades: [A-] 2, [***] 4, [**] 4+1, [*] 7+1, [B] 2.

Album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • Aaron Diehl, Space Time Continuum (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Adam O'Farrill, Stranger Days (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Al Di Meola, Elsyium (Valiana/Songsurfer)
  • Alfredo Rodríguez, Tocororo (Mack Avenue '16) [**]
  • All Included, Satan In Plain Clothes (Clean Feed '16) [***]
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom, Otis Was A Polar Bear (The Royal Potato Family) [**]
  • Amir ElSaffar & Two Rivers Ensemble, Crisis (Pi) [A-]
  • Andy Sheppard Quartet, Surrounded By Sea (ECM) [**]
  • Anthony Wilson, Frogtown (Goathill)
  • Antonio Sánchez, The Meridian Suite (CAM Jazz)
  • Ari Hoenig, Pauper & The Magician (Ah-ha)
  • Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, Cuba The Conversation Continues (Motéma) [***]
  • Arturo O'Farrill Sextet, Boss Level (Zoho) [*]
  • Arturo Sandoval, Live At Yoshi's (Alfi)
  • Aruán Ortiz, Hidden Voices (Intakt '16) [***]
  • Avishai Cohen, Into The Silence (ECM '16) [**]
  • Barry Altschul 3dom Factor, Tales Of The Unforeseen (TUM '15) [A-]
  • Ben Monder, Amorphae (ECM) [B]
  • Ben Williams, Coming Of Age (Concord) [B-]
  • Bill Charlap Trio, Notes From New York (Impulse! '16) [*]
  • Bill Frisell, When You Wish Upon A Star (OKeh '16) [B]
  • Bill Stewart, Space Squid (Pirouet '16) [*]
  • Blue Buddha, Blue Buddha (Tzadik) [***]
  • Bob Mintzer Orchestra, Get Up! (Manchester Craftsmen's Guild) [*]
  • Brandee Younger, Wax & Wane (Revive)
  • Bret Higgin's Atlas Revolt, Bret Higgin's Atlas Revolt (Tzadik)
  • Brian Bromberg, Full Circle (Artistry Music)
  • Brian Landrus, The Deep Below (Blueland) [***]
  • Camila Meza, Traces (Sunnyside) [B]
  • Carlos Henriquez, The Bronx Pyramid (Blue Engine) [**]
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant, For One To Love (Mack Avenue) [*]
  • Charenee Wade, Offering: The Music Of Gil Scott-Heron And Brian Jackson (Motéma) [***]
  • Charles Lloyd & The Marvels, I Long To See You (Blue Note '16) [**]
  • Charlie Hunter Trio, Let The Bells Ring On (Self Release '16) [***]
  • Ches Smith, The Bell (ECM)
  • Chick Corea & Béla Fleck, Two (Concord) [B]
  • Chris Dingman, The Subliminal And The Sublime (Inner Arts) [*]
  • Christian McBride Trio, Live At The Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Stretch Music (Ropeadope/Stretch Music) [*]
  • Chucho Valdés, Tribute To Irakere (Live In Marciac) (Jazz Village)
  • Cory Henry, The Revival (Ground Up)
  • Cyrille Aimée, Let's Get Lost (Mack Avenue '16) [*]
  • Daniel Freedman, Imagine That (Anzic)
  • Danilo Pérez/John Patitucci/Brian Blade, Children Of The Light (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Dave Douglas Quintet, Brazen Heart (Greenleaf) [**]
  • Dave Douglas, High Risk (Greenleaf) [**]
  • Dave Liebman Group, The Puzzle (Whaling City Sound) [***]
  • David Gilmore, Energies Of Change (Evolutionary Music)
  • Dee Dee Bridgewater & Irvin Mayfield, Dee Dee's Feathers (OKeh) [**]
  • Don Braden, Luminosity (Creative Perspective) [*]
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith, Evolution (Blue Note) [B]
  • Dylan Howe, Subterranean (Motorik)
  • Enrico Pieranunzi, Proximity (Cam Jazz)
  • Enrico Rava Quartet with Gianluca Petrella, Wild Dance (ECM) [**]
  • Erik Friedlander, Oscalypso (Skipstone) [A-]
  • Esperanza Spalding, Emily's D+Evolution (Concord) [B]
  • Fred Hersch, Solo (Palmetto) [A-]
  • George Cables, In Good Company (High Note)
  • George Coleman, A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions) [A-]
  • Gilad Hekselman, Homes (Jazz Village)
  • GoGo Penguin, Man Made Object (Blue Note) [***]
  • Grace Kelly, Trying To Figure It Out (Pazz) [*]
  • Greg Abate & Phil Woods with the Tim Ray Trio, Kindred Spirits: Live At Chan's (Whaling City Sound) [**]
  • Gregory Porter, Take Me To The Alley (Blue Note)
  • Harold Mabern, Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions) [B]
  • Heads Of State, Search For Peace (Smoke Sessions) [**]
  • Henry Threadgill, Old Locks And Irregular Verbs (Pi '16) [A-]
  • Herlin Riley, New Direction (Mack Avenue '16) [*]
  • Hiromi, Spark (Telarc)
  • Hugo Carvalhais, Grand Valis (Clean Feed) [**]
  • Ingrid Laubrock, Ubatuba (Firehouse 12) [**]
  • Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM '16) [A-]
  • Jacob Garchik, Ye Olde (Yestereve) [**]
  • Jaimeo Brown Transcendence, Work Songs (Motéma) [***]
  • Jamison Ross, Jamison (Concord)
  • Jane Monheit, The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald (Emerald City '16) [*]
  • Jason Roebke, Every Sunday (Clean Feed) [**]
  • Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra, Live In Cuba (Blue Engine) [**]
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, The Abyssinian Mass (Blue Engine) [C-]
  • JD Allen, Americana: Musings On Jazz And Blues (Savant)
  • Jeff "Tain" Watts, Blue, Vol. 1 (Dark Key)
  • Jeff Denson Trio, Jeff Denson Trio + Lee Konitz (Ridgeway) [*]
  • Jeremy Pelt, #Jiveculture (HighNote)
  • Jim Rotondi, Dark Blue (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Joel Harrison 5, Spirit House (Whirlwind)
  • Joey DeFrancesco, Trip Mode (High Note)
  • John Fedchock New York Big Band, Like It Is (MAMA) [**]
  • John Hébert, Rambling Confessions (Sunnyside) [*]
  • John McLaughlin & 4th Dimension, Black Light (Abstract Logix)
  • John Pizzarelli, Midnight McCartney (Concord)
  • John Raymond & Real Feels, Real Feels (Shifting Paradigm '16) [***]
  • John Scofield, Past Present (Impuse!) [***]
  • Jon Irabagon, Behind The Sky (Irabbagast) [**]
  • Julian Lage, Arclight (Mack Avenue '16) [*]
  • Karrin Allyson, Many A New Day: Karrin Allyson Sings Rodgers & Hammerstein (Motéma) [B]
  • Ken Peplowski, Enrapture (Capri '16) [***]
  • Kendrick Scott, We Are The Drum (Blue Note) [B]
  • Kenny Barron Trio, Book Of Intuition (Impulse! '16) [**]
  • Kenny Burrell, The Road To Love (HighNote)
  • Kenny Werner, The Melody (Pirouet) [**]
  • Kirk Knuffke, Lamplighter (Fresh Sound New Talent) [**]
  • Kneebody & Daedelus, Kneedelus (Brainfeeder) [***]
  • Krakauer's Ancestral Groove, Checkpoint (Table Pounding '16) [***]
  • Kris Davis Infrasound, Save Your Breath (Clean Feed) [**]
  • Ku-Umba Frank Lacy & Mingus Big Band, Mingus Sings (Sunnyside) [B-]
  • Kurt Elling, Passion World (Concord) [C]
  • Liberty Ellman, Radiate (Pi) [A-]
  • Lina Nyberg, Aerials (Hoob Jazz)
  • Lionel Loueke, GAÏA (Blue Note) [**]
  • Lizz Wright, Freedom & Surrender (Concord)
  • Logan Richardson, Shift (Blue Note '16) [*]
  • London, Meader, Pramuk & Ross, The Royal Bopsters Project (Motéma) [B]
  • Lucian Ban Elevation, Songs From Afar (Sunnyside)
  • Luciana Souza, Speaking In Tongues (Sunnyside)
  • Luis Perdomo, Montage (Hot Tone '16) [*]
  • Mack Avenue Superband, Live From The 2015 Detroit Jazz Festival (Mack Avenue)
  • Makaya McCraven, In The Moment (International Anthem) [***]
  • Manuel Valera & Groove Square, Urban Landscape (Destiny) [**]
  • Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare) [**]
  • Marc Copeland, Xenith (Innervoice)
  • Marcus Strickland's Twi-Life, Nihil Novi (Blue Note)
  • Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet, Family First (Beat Music Productions)
  • Marlene VerPlanck, The Mood I'm In (Audiophile)
  • Marquis Hill, The Way We Play (Concord '16) [***]
  • Mary Halvorson, Meltframe (Firehouse 12) [***]
  • Matt Parker Trio, Present Time (BYNK '16) [**]
  • Matt Wilson's Big Happy Family, Beginning Of A Memory (Palmetto '16) [***]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio, The Conduct Of Jazz (Thirsty Ear) [A-]
  • Matthew Stevens, Woodwork (Whirlwind)
  • Melissa Aldana, Back Home (Wommusic '16) [***]
  • Metheny/Garbarrek/Burton/SWR Big Band, Hommage À Eberhard Weber (ECM) [*]
  • Michael Formanek's Ensemble Kolossus, The Distance (ECM '16) [***]
  • Miho Hazama, Time River (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Mike Moreno, Lotus (World Culture Music)
  • Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, A New Kind Of Dance (482 Music) [A-]
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Mauch Chunk (Hot Cup) [A-]
  • Murray/Allen/Carrington, Perfection (Motéma '16) [A-]
  • Nate Wooley Quintet, (Dance To) The Early Music (Clean Feed) [A-]
  • Nicole Mitchell/Tomeka Reid/Mike Reed, Artifacts (482 Music) [A-]
  • Noah Preminger, Pivot: Live At 55 Bar (Self Release) [A-]
  • Ochion Jewell Quartet, VOLK (Self Release) [A-]
  • Omar Sosa, JOG (Otá)
  • Oran Etkin, What's New? Reimagining Benny Goodman (Motema) [***]
  • Orrin Evans, The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions) [***]
  • Paquito D'Rivera, Paquito & Manzanero (Sunnyside) [*]
  • Parks/Fonnesbaek/Bagge, Groovements (Stunt '16) [**]
  • Pat Metheny, The Unity Sessions (Nonesuch)
  • Pete McCann, Range (Whirlwind) [*]
  • Peter Bernstein, Let Loose (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Peter Erskine, Dr. Um (Fuzzy Music)
  • Ralph Alessi, Quiver (ECM '16) [***]
  • Ralph Peterson Trio, Triangular III (Onyx/Truth Revolution)
  • Randy Brecker, RandyPOP! (Piloo) [B]
  • Renee Rosnes, Written In the Rocks (Smoke Sessions '16) [B]
  • Robert Glasper, Covered (Blue Note) [**]
  • Robin Eubanks, More Than Meets The Ear (ArtistShare) [*]
  • Romero Lubambo, Setembro: A Brazilian Under The Jazz Influence (Sunnyside)
  • Roscoe Mitchell, Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa)
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis, Azul Infinito (Greenleaf '16) [**]
  • Snarky Puppy, Culcha Vulca (Ground Up '16) [C+]
  • Snarky Puppy, Family Dinner Volume 2 (GroundUp '16) [B-]
  • Sonny Rollins, Holding The Stage: Road Shows, Vol. 4 (Doxy/OKeh '16) [A-]
  • Stacey Kent, Tenderly (OKeh) [***]
  • Stanley Clarke/Jean-Luc Ponty/Bir'li Lagrène, D-Stringz (Impulse!)
  • Steve Davis, Say When (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Sullivan Fortner, Aria (Impuse!) [***]
  • Sun Ra Arkestra, Live At Babylon (In + Out) [**]
  • Terell Stafford, BrotherLee Love (Capri) [**]
  • Teri Lyne Carrington, The Mosaic Project: Love And Soul (Concord) [**]
  • The Power Quintet, High Art (HighNote)
  • The Stryker/Slagle Band Expanded, Routes (Strikezone '16) [***]
  • Theo Croker, Escape Velocity (OKeh Sony Masterworks '16) [*]
  • Tigran Hamasyan, Luys I Luso (ECM) [B-]
  • Tom Harrell, First Impressions (High Note)
  • Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap, The Silver Lining: The Songs Of Jerome Kern (Columbia) [*]
  • Tyshawn Sorey, The Inner Spectrum Of Variables (Pi '16) [***]
  • Various Artists, Born To Be Blue: Music From The Motion Picture (Rhino)
  • Various Artists, Miles Ahead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Columbia)
  • Various Artists, Revive Music Presents Supreme Sonacy, Vol. 1 (Revive/Blue Note)
  • Vijay Ayer/Wadada Leo Smith, A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM '16) [**]
  • Vincent Herring, Night And Day (Smoke Sessions) [*]
  • Wadada Leo Smith & John Lindberg, Celestial Weather (TUM) [***]
  • Wayne Horvitz, Some Places Are Forever Afternoon (11 Places For Richard Hugo) (Songlines) [***]
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, Intercambio (Patois) [*]
  • Wycliffe Gordon with the Dimartino/Osland Jazz Orchestra, Somebody New (Blues Back) [**]
  • Yellowjackets, Cohearence (Mack Avenue)

Historical album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • Abbey Lincoln, Sophisticated Abbey (HighNote)
  • Al Cohn/Jimmy Rowles, Heavy Love (Elemental)
  • Albert "Tootie" Heath, Kwanza (The First) (Elemental)
  • Albert Ayler, Bells/Prophecy - Expanded Edition (ESP-Disk)
  • Albert Collins & The Icebreakers, Live At Rockpalast - 1980 (Rockpalast)
  • Art Pepper, Live At Fat Tuesday's (Elemental)
  • Barry Harris, Barry Harris Plays Tadd Dameron (Elemental)
  • Béla Fleck, Drive (Rounder)
  • Bill Evans, Some Other Time: The Lost Session From The Black Forest (Resonance)
  • Billie Holiday, Banned From New York City Live (Uptown) [***]
  • Blind Alfred Reed, Appalachian Visionary (Dust to Digital '16) [A-]
  • Bob Dylan, The Bootleg Series Vol. 12: The Cutting Edge 1965-1966 (Columbia)
  • Bobby Rush, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History of Bobby Rush (Omnivore) [A-]
  • Brad Mehldau, 10 Years Solo Live (Nonesuch)
  • Carl Hall, You Don't Know Nothing About Love (Omnivore)
  • Charlie Haden & Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Tokyo Adagio (Impulse!/UMC) [*]
  • Count Basie, Netherlands On Kurhaus Concert 1954 (Doctor Jazz)
  • David S. Ware/Apogee, Birth Of A Being (AUM Fidelity) [***]
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Conny Plank Session (Gronland) [**]
  • Ella Fitzgerald, Jazz At The Philharmonic: The Ella Fitzgerald Set (Verve '16) [*]
  • Ella Fitzgerald, Live At Chautauqua, Vol. 1 (Dot Time Legends)
  • Erroll Garner, The Complete Concert By The Sea (Sony Legacy) [A-]
  • Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra: A Voice On Air (1935-1955) (Sony Legacy)
  • Fred Hersch, Sarabande (Sunnyside)
  • Jaco Pastorius, JACO: Original Soundtrack (Columbia/Legacy)
  • James Cotton, Mighty Long Time (New West)
  • Jimmy Heath, Picture Of Heath (Elemental)
  • Joe Castro, Lush Life: A Musical Journey (Sunnyside)
  • Joe Louis Walker, Live In Istanbul [DVD] (MVD)
  • John Abercrombie, The First Quartet (ECM) [**]
  • John Coltrane, A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters (Impuse!)
  • John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Live In '67 (Forty Below)
  • Kenny Wheeler/John Taylor, On The Way To Two (Cam Jazz)
  • Kurt Cobain, Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings (Universal)
  • Larry Coryell: Aurora Coryellis (Purple Pyramid)
  • Larry Young: In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance '16) [***]
  • Magic Sam Blues Band, Black Magic (Delmark)
  • Maynard Ferguson, Live From San Francisco (Omnivore)
  • Maynard Ferguson, Storm (Omnivore)
  • Miles Davis, Miles Davis At Newport: 1955-1975 The Bootleg Series Vol. 4 (Sony Legacy) [A-]
  • Mose Allison, American Legend: Live In California (Ibis Recordings)
  • National Jazz Ensemble directed by Chuck Isreals, Featuring Gerry Mulligan (Dot Time)
  • Pinetop Perkins & Jimmy Rogers, Genuine Blues Legends (ELROB)
  • Sam Most, From The Attic Of My Mind (Elemental)
  • Sarah Vaughan, Live At Rosy's (Resonance)
  • Sheila Jordan, Better Than Anything: Live (There) [***]
  • Shirley Horn, Live At The Four Queens (Resonance)
  • Simon & Garfunkel, The Concert In Central Park (Vinyl Reissue) (Columbia/Legacy)
  • Sonny Sharrock, Ask The Ages (M.O.D. Technologies)
  • Stan Getz & Joao Gilbert, Getz/Gilberto '76 (Resonance)
  • Stan Getz, Moments In Time (Resonance)
  • Stone The Crows, Stone The Crows/Ode To John Law (Angel Air)
  • Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings At The Village Vanguard (Resonance) [A-]
  • The Flaming Lips, Heady Nuggs: 20 Years After Clouds Taste Metallic 1994-1997 (Warner Bros.)
  • The Isley Brothers, The Complete RCA Victor And T-Neck Album Maasters (Sony Legacy)
  • The Velvet Underground, Loaded: Re-Loaded The 45th Anniversary Edition (Atlantic)
  • UMO Jazz Orchestra with Michael Brecker, Live In Helsinki 1995 (Random Act)
  • Various Artists, French New Wave: Original Jazz On Film Recordings, 1957-62 (JOF)
  • Various Artists, Night Flight To Dakar (Elemental)
  • Various Artists, The Complete Bee Hive Sessions (Mosaic)
  • Various Artists, The Rough Guide To The Blues Songsters (Rough Guide) [A-]
  • Weather Report, The Legendary Tapes: 1978-1981 (Legacy)
  • Wes Montgomery, In The Beginning (Resonance)
  • Wes Montgomery, One Night In Indy (Resonance)
  • Xanadu All-Stars, Night Flight To Dakar (Elemental Music)

Blues album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • Albert Cummings, Someone Like You (Blind Pig)
  • Amy Black, The Muscle Shoals Sessions (Reuben)
  • Andra Faye & Scott Ballantine, Coulda Woulda Shoulda (VizzTone)
  • Anthony Geraci, Fifty Shades Of Blue (Delta Groove)
  • Arlen Roth, Slide Guitar Summit (Aquinnah)
  • Brad Vickers, That's What They Say (Man Hat Tone)
  • Buddy Guy, Born To Play Guitar (RCA)
  • Chris Yakopcic, The Next Place I Leave (Yako)
  • Christian Collin, Spirit Of The Blues (C-Train)
  • Dalannah & Owen, Been Around A While (Quest)
  • Danielle Nicole, Wolf Den (Concord)
  • Dave & Phil Alvin, Lost Time (Yep Roc) [*]
  • Eric Bibb & JJ Milteau, Lead Belly's Gold (Stony Plain)
  • Eric Clapton, I Still Do (Bushbransch/Surfdog)
  • Gary Clark Jr., The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim (Warner Bros.)
  • Georgie Bonds, Hit It Hard (Roadhouse Redemption)
  • Guy Davis, Kokomo Kidd (M. C.) [*]
  • Guy King, Truth (Delmark)
  • Heather Crosse, Groovin' At The Crosse Roads (Ruf)
  • Henry Gray & Bob Corritore, Blues Won't Let Me Take My Rest (Delta Groove)
  • Ironing Board Sam, Super Spirit (Big Legal Mess)
  • Jason Vivone & The Billy Bats, The Avenue (Self Release)
  • Jeff Plankenhorn, SoulSlide (Lounge Side)
  • Jimmy Burns, It Ain't Right (Delmark)
  • Joe Bonamassa, Blues Of Desperation (J&R Adventures)
  • John Del Toro Richardson, Tengo Blues (JRCD)
  • John Mayall, Find A Way To Care (Forty Below)
  • Johnny Rawls, Tiger In A Cage (Catfood)
  • Julie Rhodes, Bound To Meet The Devil (Self Release)
  • Karen Lovely, Ten Miles Of Bad Road (Kokako)
  • Keb' Mo', Live: That Hot Pink Blues Album (Kind of Blue)
  • Keith Stone, The Prodigal Returns (Self Release)
  • Kim Nalley, Blues People (Self Release)
  • King Louie & LaRhonda Steele, Rock Me Baby (Self Release)
  • Lara Price, I Mean Business (Price Productions)
  • Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams (Red House)
  • Lazer Lloyd, Lazer Lloyd (Lots of Love)
  • Mighty Mike Schermer, Blues In Good Hands (VizzTone)
  • Mighty Sam McClain & Knut Reiersrud, Tears Of The World (ACT)
  • Mitch Woods, Jammin' On The High Cs (Club 88)
  • Nicole Willis & The Soul Investigators, Happiness In Every Style (Timmion)
  • Paul Nelson Band, Badass Generation (Friday Music/Sony)
  • Robert Cray, 4 Nights Of 40 Years Live (Provogue)
  • Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, Father's Day (Stony Plain)
  • Sam Butler, Raise Your Hands! (Severn)
  • Shemekia Copeland, Outskirts Of Love (Alligator) [*]
  • Sonny Landreth, Bound By The Blues (Mascot)
  • Tad Robinson, Day Into Night (Severn)
  • The Jimmys, Hot Dish (Brown Cow)
  • The Nightowls, Fame Sessions (SuperSonic)
  • The Ragpicker String Band, The Ragpicker String Band (Yellow Dog) [A-]
  • Tim Williams, So Low (Lowden Proud)
  • Tommy Castro, Method To My Madness (Alligator)
  • Toronzo Cannon, The Chicago Way (Alligator '16) [*]
  • Various Artists, God Don't Never Change: Songs Of Blind Willie Johnson (Alligator)
  • Various Artists, Muddy Waters 100 (MRI)
  • Various Artists, The Rough Guide To Bottleneck Blues (Rough Trade '16) [***]
  • Walter Trout, Battle Scars (Provogue)
  • Wee Willie Walker, If Nothing Ever Changes (Little Village Foundation)

Beyond album nominees (my grades in brackets):

  • A$AP Ferg, Always Strive And Prosper (RCA)
  • Adele, 25 (XL/Columbia) [B]
  • Aesop Rock, The Impossible Kid (Rhymesayers '16) [A-]
  • Allen Toussaint, American Tunes (Nonesuch '16) [**]
  • Anderson .Paak, Malibu (Steel Wool '16) [A-]
  • Andrew Bird, Are You Serious (Loma Vista)
  • Animal Collective, Painting With (Domino)
  • Anonhi, Hopelessness (Secretly Canadian '16) [*]
  • Ashley Monroe, The Blade (Warner Bros. Nashville) [A-]
  • Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Ségal, Musique De Nuit (Six Degrees)
  • Banda De Los Muertos, Banda De Los Muertos (Barbes)
  • Beach House, Depression Cherry (Sub Pop) [B]
  • Beach House, Thank Your Lucky Stars (Sub Pop) [***]
  • Beach Slang, The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us (Polyvinyl) [B]
  • Beyoncé, Lemonade (Parkwood Entertainment/Columbia)
  • Big Grams, Big Grams (Epic)
  • Billy Gibbons & The BFG's, Perfectamundo (Concord)
  • BJ The Chicago Kid, In My Mind (Motown '16) [A-]
  • Bob Mould, Patch The Sky (Merge)
  • Bonnie Raitt, Dig In Deep (Redwing '16) [A-]
  • Brian Eno, The Ship (Warp '16) [*]
  • Car Seat Headrest, Teens Of Denial (Matador '16) [***]
  • Carly Rae Jepsen, Emotion (604/Schoolboy/Interscope) [A-]
  • Cee-Lo Green, Heart Blanche (Atlantic) [*]
  • Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book (Self Release '16) [A-]
  • Charles Bradley, Changes (Daptone '16) [*]
  • Chvrches, Every Eye Open (Virgin EMI) [**]
  • Coldplay, A Head Full Of Dreams (Parlophone/Atlantic)
  • Corinne Bailey Rae, The Heart Speaks In Whispers (Caroline Records)
  • Darlene Love, Introducing Darlene Love (Wicked Cool/Columbia)
  • David Bowie, Blackstar (Columbia '16) [***]
  • Dawes, All Your Favorite Bands (HUB) [B-]
  • Deafheaven, New Bermuda (Anti-) [*]
  • Deantoni Parks, Technoself (Leaving/Stones Throw)
  • Death Grips, Bottomless Pit (Third Worlds/Harvest)
  • Death Grips, Interview 2016 (Third Worlds/Harvest)
  • Deerhunter, Fading Frontier (4AD) [***]
  • Dr. Dog, The Psychedelic Swamp (ANTI-)
  • Drake, VIEWS (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic '16) [*]
  • Empress Of, Me (Terrible/XL) [*]
  • Eric Bachmann, Eric Bachmann (Merge)
  • Eric Church, Mr. Misunderstood (EMI Nashville) [**]
  • Erykah Badu, But You Caint Use My Phone (Motown/Control Freaq) [A-]
  • Explosions in the Sky, The Wilderness (Temporary Residence Limited)
  • Ezra Furman, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union) [A-]
  • Fetty Wap, Fetty Wap (RGF/300) [B-]
  • FKA twigs, M3LL155X (Young Turks) [C+]
  • Florence and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (Island) [B]
  • Foxes, All I Need (Sign Of The Times)
  • Freddie Gibbs, Shadow Of A Doubt (ESGN)
  • Future, Evol (A1/Freebandz/Epic)
  • Grimes, Art Angels (4AD) [A-]
  • Grupo Fantasma, Problemas (Blue Corn)
  • James Blake, The Colour In Anything (Polydor '16) [B-]
  • Jamie xx, In Colour (Young Turks) [***]
  • Janet Jackson, Unbreakable (Rhythm Nation/BMG) [*]
  • Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free (Southeastern) [*]
  • Jeff Lynne's ELO, Alone In The Universe (Columbia)
  • Jen Shyu, Sounds And Cries Of The World (Pi) [B-]
  • Jeremih, Late Nights (Mick Schultz/Def Jam)
  • Joanna Newsome, Divers (Drag City)
  • John Jorgenson, Divertuoso/From The Crow's Nest (Cleopatra)
  • Julia Holter, Have You In My Wilderness (Domino) [B]
  • Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material (Mercury Nashville) [***]
  • Kanye West, Life Of Pablo (GOOD/Def Jam '16) [***]
  • Kendrick Lamar, Untitled Unmastered (Top Dawg/Aftermath/Interscope '16) [***]
  • Kevin Gates, Islah (Breadwinners' Association/Atlantic '16) [*]
  • King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Nonagon Infinity (ATO)
  • Kurt Vile, B'Lieve I'm Goin Down . . . (Matador) [B]
  • Lalah Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway Live! (eOne Music)
  • Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon (Interscope/Polydor) [***]
  • Leon Bridges, Coming Home (Columbia) [*]
  • Lil B / Chance the Rapper, Free (Self Release)
  • Loretta Lynn, Full Circle (Sony Legacy '16) [**]
  • Lucinda Williams, The Ghosts Of Highway 20 (Highway 20)
  • M83, Junk (Naïve/Mute)
  • Mac Demarco, Another One (Captured Tracks)
  • Mac Miller, GO:OD AM (Warner Bros./REMember)
  • Mavis Staples, Livin' On A High Note (ANTI-/Epitaph '16) [**]
  • Miguel, Wildheart (ByStorm/RCA) [***]
  • Milo, So The Flies Don't Come (Ruby Yacht/The Order Label) [**]
  • Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats (Stax) [*]
  • Parquet Courts, Human Performance (Rough Trade '16) [A-]
  • Pinegrove, Cardinal (Run For Cover '16) [*]
  • Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect (Hardly Art) [**]
  • PUP, The Dream Is Over (Royal Mountain/SideOneDummy '16) [C+]
  • Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool (XL '16) [B]
  • Ray LaMontagne, Ouroboros (RCA)
  • Richard Thompson, Still (Fantasy/Proper) [***]
  • Rihanna, Anti (Westbury Road/Roc Nation '16) [A-]
  • Ryan Adams, 1989 (PAX AM)
  • Savages, Adore Life (Matador)
  • School of Seven Bells, SVIIB (Vagrant)
  • Shye Ben Tzur / Jonny Greenwood / The Rajasthan Express, Junun (Nonesuch)
  • Sia, This Is Acting (Monkey)
  • Son Little, Son Little (ANTI-)
  • Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, So Familiar (Rounder)
  • Sturgil Simpson, A Sailor's Guide To Earth (RJ Records '16) [***]
  • Sun Kil Moon, Universal Themes (Caldo Verde) [***]
  • Sunn O))), Kannon (Southern Lord)
  • Tame Impala, Currents (Modular/Universal/Fiction/Interscope) [*]
  • The 1975, I Like It When You Sleep . . . (Polydor '16) [*]
  • The Internet, Ego Death (Odd Future/Columbia) [**]
  • The Monkees, Good Times! (Rhino)
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness (XO/Republic) [*]
  • Thundercat, The Beyond / Where The Giants Roam (Brainfeeder) [B]
  • Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy (Merge) [B]
  • Twin Peaks, Down In Heaven (Grand Jury)
  • Ty Segall, Emotional Mugger (Drag City)
  • Various Artists, Day Of The Dead (4AD)
  • Various Artists, Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (Atlantic) [**]
  • Vince Staples, Summertime '06 (Def Jam/ARTium/Blacksmith) [***]
  • Wavves X Cloud Nothings, No Life For Me (Ghost Ramp)
  • Weezer, Weezer (Crush Music/Atlantic)
  • White Out, Accidental Sky (Northern Spy) [**]
  • Wilco, Star Wars (dPbm) [***]
  • Willie Nelson, Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin (Sony Legacy '16) [B]
  • Xenia Rubinos, Black Terry Cat (Anti-)
  • Yo La Tengo, Stuff Like That There (Matador) [***]
  • Yoni & Geti, Testarossa (Joyful Noise)

Monday, August 08, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26901 [26875] rated (+26), 420 [423] unrated (-3).

Another week that's liable to make people think I'm an easy grader, or at least one that has a few soft spots that make him an easy mark: six A- records, eleven (or twelve counting the grade change) high B+, that's something like 65%. In my defense, several things came into alignment this past week. Main one was that I did a major update of Robert Christgau's website, which got me rumaging through recent EW lists for things I hadn't gotten to yet, which yielded two solid A- records (Konono No. 1, Lori McKenna) and a bunch of just-unders (Leland Sundries, Dawn Oberg, Walter Salas-Humara, older Lori McKenna). I also caught up with a purple patch in the new jazz queue: a batch of Clean Feeds, plus new albums by old favorites Stephan Crump and Steve Lehman. Also stumbled upon some old records I had been looking for (Peter Kuhn, Ellery Eskelin, Audio One), looked up some big-name recent jazz I didn't get in the mail (Kenny Garrett, Charlie Hunter, Joe Lovano, Markus Stockhausen). Didn't leave much time for bottom trawling. In this company, the dud of the week was Garrett's Do Your Dance -- something I might of suspected given that he snagged the cover of Downbeat (nearly all of my old JCG duds had been on Downbeat's cover).

I don't usually make a point of linking to music, but the search for Crump's cover led me to his Bandcamp page. Note that to start with the first cut, you have to scroll down to the song listing and pick it from there. More records there, including some early ones I should check out, but I don't see my favorite one, 2010's Reclamation. I reviewed this from CD, but Bandcamp is one of the best things that's happened for someone who wants to review a broad swathe of records like I do. Also, I think, good for customers, who among other things get to sanity check reviewers like me.

While I'm at it, here's a YouTube link for the song of the week, Dawn Oberg's "Republican Jesus", from her short 2015 LP Bring. Probably the most pointed political song since Todd Snider's "Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight White White American Male" -- actually more pointed since the analysis is deeper and more detailed, but the subject is pretty much the same.

A couple things I could use some feedback on:

  • Does Spotify (or any other non-Apple streaming source) have much that Rhapsody/Napster doesn't? I ran into this question because there's at least one Lori McKenna album I couldn't find on Rhapsody or Bandcamp that seems to be on Spotify. I tried Spotify's "free" service back when it came out (at least in the US) and managed to write up a couple albums based on it, but generally hated everything about it (the ads, of course, but also the search and the general greediness of the application).

  • Are there any MP3 players which can be managed from Linux more or less as seemlessly as iPods under iTunes on Windows (or presumably Macs, something I refuse to even consider)? I have an iPod Nano which I haven't used since my last Windows computer bit the dust (fittingly, during one of those "automatic software updates"). Someone mentioned Sansa Clip to me: from what I gather you can mount it and poke files into it, but not much more. Searching this question gives me a lot of Linux applications like Amarok, XMMS, and RhythmBox -- something else I should learn more about, but not what I'm asking.

Follow the Contact link for an email address, or comment on Facebook of something like that.

New records rated this week:

  • Audio One: The Midwest School (2014, Audiographic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Carate Urio Orchestra: Ljubljana (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Stephan Crump: Stephan Crump's Rhombal (2016, Papillon): [cd]: A-
  • Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Fierce Silence (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kenny Garrett: Do Your Dance! (2016, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hieroglyphic Being: The Disco's of Imhotep (2016, Technicolour): [r]: B+(***)
  • Charlie Hunter: Everybody Has a Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth (2016, Ground Up/Decca): [r]: B+(***)
  • Konono No. 1/Batida: Konono No. 1 Meets Batida (2016, Crammed Discs): [r]: A-
  • The Kropotkins: Portents of Love (2015, Mulatta): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Lehman: Sélébéyone (2016, Pi): [cd]: A-
  • Leland Sundries: Music for Outcasts (2016, L'Echiquier): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lori McKenna: The Bird & the Rifle (2016, CN/Thirty Tigers): [r]: A-
  • Dawn Oberg: Bring (2015, Blossom Theory): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jason Roebke Octet: Cinema Spiral (2014 [2015], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Walter Salas-Humara: Work: Part One (2015, Sonic Pyramid): [r]: B+(**)
  • Walter Salas-Humara: Explodes and Disappears (2016, Sonic Pyramid): [r]: B+(***)
  • Susana Santos Silva/Lotte Anker/Sten Sandell/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Jon Fält: Life and Other Transient Storms (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Stirrup: Cut (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Markus Stockhausen/Florian Weber: Alba (2015 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)

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

  • Joe Lovano Quartet: Classic! Live at Newport (2005 [2016], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)

Old music rated this week:

  • Ellery Eskelin/Andrea Parkins/Jim Black: Arcanum Moderne (2002 [2003], Hatology): [r]: A-
  • Peter Kuhn Quartet: The Kill (1981 [1982], Soul Note): [r]: A-
  • Leland Sundries: The Foundry EP (2012, L'Echiquier): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lori McKenna: Paper Wings and Halo (2000, Orcheard): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lori McKenna: Pieces of Me (2001, Signature Sounds): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lori McKenna: The Kitchen Tapes (2001 [2004], Gyrox): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lori McKenna: Bittertown (2004, Signature Sounds): [r]: B+(**)

Grade changes:

  • Dawn Oberg: Rye (2012, Blossom Theory): [r]: [was: B+(*)] B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jim Black Trio: The Constant (Intakt): advance, August 24
  • Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Irène Schweizer/Léon Francioli/Pierre Favre: Musical Monsters (1980, Intakt): advance, August 24
  • Barbara Dane with Tammy Hall: Throw It Away . . . (Dreadnaught Music): August 19
  • Peter Kuhn/Dave Sewelson/Gerald Cleaver/Larry Roland: Our Earth/Our World (pfMentum)
  • Francisco Pais Lotus Project: Verde (Product of Imagination): September 23
  • John Stowell/Michael Zilber Quartet: Basement Blues (Origin): August 19

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Weekend Roundup

I want to start with a paragraph from John Lanchester: Brexit Blues:

Immigration, the issue on which Leave campaigned most effectively and most cynically, is the subject on which this bewilderment is most apparent. There are obviously strong elements of racism and xenophobia in anti-immigrant sentiment. All racists who voted, voted Leave. But there are plenty of people who aren't so much hostile to immigrants as baffled by them. They feel left behind, abandoned, poor, ignored and struggling; so how come immigrants want to come here, and do so well when they get here? If Britain is broken, which is what many Leave voters think, why is it so attractive? How can so many people succeed where they are failing? A revealing, and sad, piece in the Economist in 2014 described Tilbury, forty minutes from London, where the white working class look on resentfully as immigrants get up early and get the train to jobs in the capital which, to them, seems impossibly distant. 'Most residents of the town, one of England's poorest places, are as likely to commute to the capital as fly to the moon.'

The evidence on immigration is clear: EU immigrants are net contributors to the UK's finances, and are less likely to claim benefits than the native British. The average immigrant is younger, better educated and healthier than the average British citizen. In other words, for every immigrant we let in, the country is richer, more able to pay for its health, education and welfare needs, and less dependent on benefits. They are exactly the demographic the UK needs.

Not sure of the numbers, but offhand this sounds like a pretty fair description of immigrant America as well -- maybe there is a slightly larger slice of unskilled immigrant workers because the US has much more agribusiness, but a lot of the immigrants I know are doctors and engineers, and I suspect that immigrants own a disproportionate share of small businesses. One widely reported figure is that Muslims in America have a higher than average per capita income, so it's hard to see them as an economic threat to the middle class -- they're part of it. One thing we do have in common with Britain is that anti-immigrant fervor seems to be greatest in places with damn few immigrants. (Trump's third strongest state -- see below -- is the formerly Democratic stronghold of West Virginia, which is practically hermetically sealed from the rest of the US.) Whether that's due to ignorance and unfamiliarity or because those areas are the ones most left behind by economic trends -- including the ones most tied to immigration -- isn't clear (most observers read into this picture what they want to see).

Lanchester makes another important point, which is that the Brexit referendum succeeded because the single question cut against the grain of the political party system: "To simplify, the Torries are a coalition of nationalists, who voted out, and business interests, who voted in; Labour is a coalition of urban liberals, who voted in, and the working class, who voted out." I suspect that if we had a national referendum on TPP you'd see a similar alignment against it (and it would get voted down, although the stakes would be far less). On the other hand, Trump vs. Clinton is going to wind up being a vote along party lines, not an alignment of outsiders against insiders or populists against elitists or any such thing.

Some scattered links this week:

  • David Auerbach: Donald Trump: Moosbrugger for President: Long piece, finds an analogue for Trump in Robert Musil's novel, The Man Without Qualities, left incomplete by the author's death in 1942:

    The character who concerns us is Christian Moosbrugger, a working-class murderer of women who becomes an object of fascination for many of the characters in the novel and of the Vienna they inhabit. During his trial for the brutal murder of a prostitute, he becomes a celebrity, due to his cavalier and eccentric manner. [ . . . ] His "discipline" is akin to Trump's nebulous "art of the deal," not a teachable trade but an esoteric, innate property that makes him better than others -- a Macguffin. Trump is not a murderer; unlike Moosbrugger, he does not need to be. Trump was fortunate enough to begin with his father's millions and the ability to achieve dominance without physical violence. For Moosbrugger, violence was the only option available to him. Moosbrugger is no more a "murderer" than Trump is a "politician." They perpetrate amoral (not immoral) acts not out of their characters but out of a lack of character.

    Of course, if Trump becomes president, he will become a murderer -- much like Obama before him, by signing off on the assassination of alleged enemies (and, to use a time-worn phrase, fellow travelers). GW Bush and Bill Clinton too, but they had a head start as governors signing death warrants for condemned felons.

    I also like Auerbach's line:

    Trump's political rise is a product of the commodification of attention. As the ballooning of new media and analytics have facilitated the microscopic examination of consumer attention, the analysis has been performed with indifference to the consequences of that attention. Just as Donald Trump does not care why he is loved, worshipped, and feared -- no matter what the consequences -- we have seen massed content production turn to clickbait, hate clicks, and propaganda in pursuit of viewer eyes. By mindlessly mirroring fear and tribalism, the new media machine has produced a dangerous amount of collateral damage.

    It seems like it took a couple years after he became president before psychologists started probing the mind of GW Bush, but now we are already blessed with Dan P McAdams: The Mind of Donald Trump -- better safe than sorry, I suppose. Here he is just getting warmed up:

    Researchers rank Richard Nixon as the nation's most disagreeable president. But he was sweetness and light compared with the man who once sent The New York Times' Gail Collins a copy of her own column with her photo circled and the words "The Face of a Dog!" scrawled on it. Complaining in Never Enough about "some nasty shit" that Cher, the singer and actress, once said about him, Trump bragged: "I knocked the shit out of her" on Twitter, "and she never said a thing about me after that." At campaign rallies, Trump has encouraged his supporters to rough up protesters. "Get 'em out of here!" he yells. "I'd like to punch him in the face." From unsympathetic journalists to political rivals, Trump calls his opponents "disgusting" and writes them off as "losers." By the standards of reality TV, Trump's disagreeableness may not be so shocking. But political candidates who want people to vote for them rarely behave like this.

  • Gabriella Dunn: Bipartisan frustration over Kansas disability system: 'Legislature be damned': Part of Gov. Brownback's program for making Kansas a model state for emulation all across America and for resuscitating his presidential ambitions was his program to harness the magic of private enterprise to "reform" the moribund bureaucracy of the state's Medicaid program. He called this stroke of genius KanCare. Now, well, it's worked about as well as the rest of his programs:

    The Medicaid system has been riddled with problems recently. More than 3,000 disabled Kansans are on waiting lists for services, and the state says a seven-year wait is typical.

    The state also has a backlog of applications for Medicaid that started mounting a year ago when the state switched the computer system used to process the applications. The committee was told on Thursday that nearly 4,000 Kansans have been waiting more than 45 days for their applications to be processed. In mid-May that number was above 10,000.

    Part of the art of shrinking government "to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub" is to pick on areas that most people don't immediately recognize what's happening. Slacking off on maintenance is one such area, and helping people with disabilities is another. Things have to get pretty bad before they get noticed, and even then the full impact is hard to absorb. Still, even Kansans have started to wise up. For one thing, see GOP Voters Stage Major Revolt Against Brownback's Kansas Experiment. Not really as "major" as one might hope, but until this year Republican primaries have been killing fields for our so-called moderates. This year six Brownback-affiliated state senators, including Majority Leader Terry Bruce, got axed, as did Tea Party favorite Rep. Tim Huelskamp, one of the few "small government" conservatives in Congress to oppose such real government threats as NSA's domestic spying programs -- but his real problem was agribusiness, who flooded the primary with some $3 million in mostly out-of-state dark money. (Huelskamp spent a couple million himself, largely from the Koch network.) Not mentioned in the article is that Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who unlike Huelskamp has no redeeming virtues, was also knocked off -- again, his ideological fervor ran afoul of local business interests. On the other hand, the Democratic primary was a very depressing affair, with hardly any competent candidates rising to challenge the unmitigated disasters wrought by Brownback and company.

  • Diana Johnstone: Hiroshima: The Crime That Keeps on Paying, but Beware the Reckoning: Each August 6 marks yet another anniversary of our bloody inauguration of the age of nuclear destruction. I found this bit, following an Eisenhower quote expressing misgivings about dropping the atom bomb, interesting:

    As supreme allied commander in Europe, Eisenhower had learned that it was possible to work with the Russians. US and USSR domestic economic and political systems were totally different, but on the world stage they could cooperate. As allies, the differences between them were mostly a matter of mistrust, matters that could be patched up.

    The victorious Soviet Union was devastated from the war: cities in ruins, some twenty million dead. The Russians wanted help to rebuild. Previously, under Roosevelt, it had been agreed that the Soviet Union would get reparations from Germany, as well as credits from the United States. Suddenly, this was off the agenda. As news came in of the successful New Mexico test, Truman exclaimed: "This will keep the Russians straight." Because they suddenly felt all-powerful, Truman and Byrnes decided to get tough with the Russians.

    In his book Atomic Diplomacy: Hiroshima and Potsdam, Gar Alperovitz argued that the US used the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to intimidate Russia. This twist is more plausible: that having used it for whatever reason, it then installed an arrogance in Truman and his circle that made them more aggressive in postwar diplomacy, and that made Stalin more defensive (which in turn, in some cases, made him more aggressive -- e.g., in Berlin and Korea, although in both cases he was largely provoked to lash out).

    Also on Hiroshima, see Ward Wilson: The Bomb Didn't Beat Japan . . . Stalin Did. By the way, I wrote more about Hiroshima in May 2016 and August 2015, and several times earlier (e.g., August 2008).

    Of course, the question of presidential control of "the nuclear launch codes" came up with respect to the notoriously thin-skinned and impulsive Donald Trump, who's been quoted as repeatedly asking his "security advisers" why we can't use nuclear weapons, and who's clung to the "never take options off the table" cliché so tenaciously it's hard to rule out any place he might not bomb. Relevant to this is Jeffrey Lewis: Our Nuclear Procedures Are Crazier Than Trump, arguing against the current "launch under attack" strategy which gives a president "a four-minute window to decide whether or not to initiate an irreversible apocalypse." I would add that I think that the only nation that has ever actually used nuclear weapons against civilian targets, the US should be going out of its way to reassure the world that won't happen again. Instead, Trump and his ilk are so insecure they feel to need to remind the world how terrifying they really are.

  • Seth Stevenson: If Sean Penn Were the Democratic Nominee: Possibly the dumbest political article of the year, and that's saying something. The whole idea is counterfactual, counterlogical even: "Imagining a world where the wackadoo candidate is in the other party" -- I guess they can dream, but the fact is that the Republican Party has actively embraced fantasy and myth and carefully channeled rhetoric while decrying science and, you know, that "reality-based" stuff, like facts, so there's little there to guard against unhinged candidates -- indeed, at least half of the original field of sixteen qualified. The closest thing to "wackadoo" on the Democratic side was Jim Webb, who didn't even make it to Iowa. As for Penn, you can look at his Wikipedia page to get a thorough list of his political activism, but as far as I can tell his main transgression against political correctness has been a tendency to get too close to officially despised foreign leaders like Hugo Chavez. I can't say as that sort of thing bothers me (in which case he suggests Kanye West, or "Ben from Ben and Jerry's") -- the point is he assumes there must be some balance on the Democratic side no matter how wacko the Republicans get, and second, he wants to show that a great many Democrats would follow that "unfit, paranoid, unstable Democratic nominee" as blindly as most Republicans are following Trump.

    Of course, this article assumes other fallacies. One is that the individual at the head of the ticket should matter much more than the party the ticket represents. I think nowadays that's largely due to the Commander in Chief fetish, itself due to the fact that the US is (and has been for 75 years now) a state perpetually at war all around the world. We tend to assume that having a decisive Commander in Chief has a huge effect on how effectively those wars are prosecuted, where in fact the built-in, unquestioned forces behind those wars usually winds up dictating how tragically foolish presidents wind up. An older view is that the personal moral character of the president matters a lot, whereas it rarely counts for anything. What we get instead are parties -- each president brings a whole layer of administration into power, and leaves behind a cohort of judges, and those choices are mostly tied to party. So to the extent that parties represents blocks of voters, why is it so strange that those voters would back their party regardless of how qualified and capable the ticket head is? Obviously, a lot of people who vote for Trump will really be voting for their party, some in spite of the candidate, but that applies (perhaps even more than usual) to the Democratic side as well. In neither case does it represent a serious misjudgement. However, only on the Republican side does it reflect a belief in complete nonsense and hysteria unrooted in interests or even reality.

  • Some more election links noted:

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Daily Log

Started to write a possible post, but gave up. I may add those links to a Weekend Update and try again. Draft here:

Kansas had its primary election on Tuesday. We voted, almost as an afterthought as there was little to choose from on the Democratic side -- two candidates each for Senate and House but neither was very attractive and neither has any chance whatsoever of winning in November. I didn't pay much attention to the Republican side either, in part because the heavily contested races I was aware of were districted elsewhere. Still, some interesting things happened. Some of them are reported here: GOP Voters Stage Major Revolt Against Brownback's Kansas Experiment. You may recall that in recent years the right-wing, backed by the Kochs and the Chamber of Commerce, waged war against everyone considered a "moderate Republican," successfully enough that the State Legislature has been even more crazed than Governor Sam Brownback -- you remember, the one-time presidential candidate who gave up a safe Senate seat to prove his executive genius by transforming Kansas according to radical right-wing ideology: a transformation which has bankrupted the state, while dragging its economy down, far behind neighboring states and the nation.

This week's primary doesn't really constitute a revival of moderation in the Republican Party -- I doubt we'll ever see statewide Republican nominees like Mike Hayden or Peter Graves or Nancy Kassebaum or even, I can't believe I'm saying this, former right-wing darling Bob Dole again. Still, a half dozen of the most dysfunctional legislators got kicked out, while Carolyn McGinn -- once again a Chamber of Commerce target -- eeked through. More dramatically, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (an abrasive leader of the Tea Party Caucus, later the Freedom Caucus) got beat by Roger Marshall in a rare case where the Kochs and the Chamber took opposite side. Huelskamp has been in trouble since his first term when he voted against the Farm Bill -- bread and butter for a district that has virtually nothing going but agribusiness. (In fact, Huelskamp so irritated the House Republican leadership they kicked him off the Agriculture Committee, a position his district had automatically qualified for.) Marshall raised about $3 million for his campaign, most reportedly coming from out of state. Still, Huelskamp matched him commercial for commercial -- I never saw one without also seeing the other, and the slanders were pretty horrific. Good chance more than $5 million went into this primary.

Actually, I'm going to miss Huelskamp a little bit. He was one of the few true believers in "small government" libertarianism, consistent enough that he was reliably opposed to big government infringements on civil liberties like the Patriot Act, and at least critical of the biggest government project of all: the military-industrial complex. He could also be counted on to oppose corporate giveaways of all kinds, which is why he tangled so often with the patronage-oriented House leadership (the successors of Tom DeLay). Marshall ran ads accusing Huelskamp of voting with Democrats more often than any other Kansas representative. He will, instead, be a totally orthodox Republican, which is to say a dependable corporate hack. Given the district, there's no chance a Democrat will beat Marshall in November. (I wonder if he could somehow run as a Libertarian?)

On the other hand, there's one Republican incumbent not mentioned in the TPM article I won't miss at all, and that's Sedgwick County Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, who lost to David Dennis, who's been on the State School Board. In that race, Dennis is more of a moderate, and Peterjohn is more of a horse's ass -- his obsession is reducing property taxes (he owns a lot of rental property), but he's always eager to wreck anything involving government, and lately he's joined a right-wing cabal that have pitted county and city against each other. Good riddance.

The primary results suggest that this should be a year for gains by the Democratic Party in Kansas, but the old problems persist -- not least a dearth of talented candidates, and very little support for them. Bernie Sanders took over 70% of the caucus vote back in March, but the Democratic nominee for Senate is a deficit hawk, and the nominee for 4th District House is anti-choice (we voted against both of them, to no avail). And both will face candidates with more than a million dollars to spend, plus all the Kochs' "dark money."

I've been wanting to mention this piece by Seth Stevenson -- in fact, nominate it as the dumbest political opinion piece I've read this year. The subtitle is "Imagining a world where the wackadoo candidate is in the other party," and the assumption is that both parties are equivalent in general, even if one of them toppled over the deep end this year. He's basically saying that it's not so bad that many Republicans are sticking with their wackadoo candidate this year out of some misguided sense of party loyalty, because if the shoe was on the other foot and the Democrats had nominated an ill-tempered incompetent like Donald Trump (and if the Republicans had instead nominated someone sane) Democrats would still stick with their own wack job.

If that seems somehow plausible to you, first try imagining who the Democratic equivalent of Donald Trump might be. Stevenson did, and the worst he could come up with was actor Sean Penn:

The debates begin. Penn's performance exposes policy ignorance, an unwillingness to do his homework, and a general dimness swirled with arrogance. But there he is, always at the center of the stage, always getting the most attention, fighting with the moderators. To his supporters, he can do no wrong. They point to his humanitarian work after Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. They argue that the pseudo-journalistic trips he took to Pakistan and Iran constitute foreign policy experience.

And then the bomb drops: Penn wins Iowa. He's on his way.

Stop here, my Democrat friends, and ask yourself how you'd react. Would you willingly cede the White House to, say, Ted Cruz if it meant keeping Sean Penn away from the levers of power? Or would you consider voting for Cruz just to stop Penn?

Now, I don't know much about Sean Penn (aside from a few movies he's been in), but it's hard to believe he'd be remotely as bad as Ted Cruz. (I mean, Donald Trump's better than Cruz. Ben Carson is better than Cruz. Bobby Jindal? OK, I'm not so sure about that one.) Nor does it help when he offers examples of Penn "deal-breakers" like: "Maybe he reiterates his respect for Hugo Chavez and declares there's much we could learn from the way he ran Venezuela." Actually, that wouldn't phase me, and I wonder why it should bother Stevenson. Then he adds: "Maybe he vows to disarm all U.S. police forces." OK, that's more than I could possibly hope for, but it worked well for quite some time in the UK -- certainly makes more sense than arming every last civilian so they can police themselves.

Then he concedes Cruz might be too much of an extremist, so he offers "Mitt Romney/John Kasich" as an alternative -- guys with marginally better politics than Cruz and marginally better manners than Trump, but really pretty interchangeable. On the other hand, matching any major Republican candidate to anyone on the Democratic side is really problematical.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26875 [26851] rated (+24), 423 [431] unrated (-8).

Not a particularly strong rated count -- especially given that I wrapped up a Streamnotes column, but still finding exceptional numbers of A- records, and they take more time than B or low B+ records. Also, almost everything below is jazz, and most of it (aside from the Hersch oldies) came from my mail queue (down lower now than it's been in about three months).

One mistake from Streamnotes is that I omitted the Rent Romus album cover. I'll rectify that in the faux blog, but probably not in the Serendipity version. (Not sure how the relative performance of those is holding up. I have managed to keep adding new entries to Serendipity, but rarely see them, and find it more work to edit.)

Surprise star this week is Peter Kuhn, who plays clarinet, bass clarinet, and some sax, and recorded a bit 1979-81, dropped out for a long stretch, and re-surfaced last year. I didn't recall the name, but thanks to Rick Lopez' dilligence I did list his albums in the discography to my mammoth William Parker-Matthew Shipp Consumer Guide (from 2003, I think). I tried to find Kuhn's other albums for Hat and Soul Note on Rhapsody (err, ugh, Napster), but only tracked down The Kill (misfiled under Denis Charles -- seems to have been his real name, although I notice now that I used the Americanized "Dennis" last week, something else to fix).

Getting pretty close to doing a major update to Robert Christgau's website: not many new articles -- latest is his review of Jon Savage's 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded -- and no new-old pieces (maybe someone should organize a scavenger hunt), but I finally managed to bring the Consumer Guide database up to the moment (July 29). Now if only I can remember that bug (revision incompatibility) I had to work around to import the new database. I'll tweet when I get it done.

New records rated this week:

  • Joey Alexander: My Favorite Things (2014 [2015], Motéma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Karlis Auzins/Lucas Leidinger/Tomo Jacobson/Thomas Sauerborn: Mount Meander (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Cortex: Live in New York (2015 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
  • Fred Hersch: Sunday Night at the Vanguard (2016, Palmetto): [cd]: A-
  • Steffen Kuehn: Leap of Faith (2015-16 [2016], Stefrecords): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Peter Kuhn Trio: The Other Shore (2015 [2016], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • Peter Kuhn/Dave Sewelson/Gerald Cleaver/Larry Roland: Our Earth/Our World (2015 [2016], pfMentum): [bc]: A-
  • Joey Locascio: Meets the Legend (2016, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Merzbow/Keiji Haino/Balasz Pandi: An Untroublesome Defencelessness (2016, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Modular String Trio: Ants, Bees and Butterflies (2014 [2016], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • William Parker: Stan's Hat Flapping in the Wind (2015 [2016], Centering/AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roji: The Hundred Headed Woman (2016, Shhpuma/Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rising Colossus (2015 [2016], Edgetone): [cd]: A-
  • Jerome Sabbagh/Simon Jermyn/Allison Miller: Lean (2014 [2016], Music Wizards): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Slavic Soul Party: Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite (2014 [2016], Ropeadope): [cd]: A-

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

  • Peter Kuhn: No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-1979 (1978-79 [2016], NoBusiness, 2CD): [cd]: A-

Old music rated this week:

  • Fred Hersch/Charlie Haden/Joey Baron: Sarabande (1986 [1987], Sunnyside): [r]: A-
  • Fred Hersch/Steve LaSpina/Jeff Hirshfield: ETC (1988, RED): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Fred Hersch Trio: Dancing in the Dark (1992 [1993], Chesky): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Hersch: The Fred Hersch Trio Plays . . . (1994, Chesky): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Hersch: Point in Time (1995, Enja): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Fred Hersch Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (2002 [2003], Palmetto): [r]: B+(***)
  • Fred Hersch/Norma Winstone: Songs & Lullabies (2002 [2003], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fred Hersch Trio: Everybody's Song but My Own (2010 [2011], Venus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michael Moore/Fred Hersh: This We Know (2008, Palmetto): [r]: B+(**)
  • Red Fox Chasers: I'm Going Down to North Carolina: The Complete Recordings of the Red Fox Chasers (1928-31) (1928-31 [2009], Tompkins Square, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Weekend Links

After the big post on the Democratic National Convention and the mad scramble to wrap up July's Streamnotes, I figured I'd skip attempting a Weekend Roundup today. I started this in the Notebook, then decided what the hell, might as well share it. Tried to avoid adding comments. Read the links at your leisure and the comments will probably be obvious. Some links:

One quote from these pieces I want to single out: from the Frum article, a quote from an anonymous Trump supporter:

"The Putin thing. You think you've really nailed Donald with the Putin thing. Get it through your head: Our people are done fighting wars for your New World Order. We fought the Cold War to stop the Communists from taking over America, not to protect Estonia. We went to Iraq because you said it was better to fight them over there than fight them over here. Then you invited them over here anyway! Then you said that we had to keep inviting them over here if we wanted to win over there. And we figured out: You care a lot more about the "inviting" part than the "winning" part. So no more. Not until we face a real threat, and have a real president who'll do whatever it takes to win. Whatever it takes.

My emphasis. Funny thing is that the first time I heard "New World Order" in the last decade -- I think the phrase goes back to people in the first Bush administration, circa the first Iraq War -- was in the house of a Trump supporter. He attributed it to Obama, and was greatly bothered by the whole idea. Democrats are vulnerable to this because they grew up in the internationalist tradition from Wilson to Roosevelt to Johnson, and the Carters and Clintons and Obamas have just sheepishly followed in line. It started just helping US companies do business abroad, evolved into a protection racket for global capitalism, and eventually became a self-serving monster, starting wars just to punish countries for disrespecting our omnipotence. This never meant anything to most Americans aside from the fears they were dictated, but after Eisenhower beat Taft in 1952 the Republicans were always in on the deal, so nobody had a chance to hear otherwise -- until Trump. This is a big risk for Hillary: her political education has taught her to always spout the Washington establishment's clichés and, if pressed, always to hedge on the side of being more hawkish. Against Trump, especially viz. Russia, she could easily convince people that she's the dangerous maniac (as well as that she's weak -- not willing to do "whatever it takes" because she's hung up on sensitivities to foreigners and international law).

I also might have noted that on Saturday 538's Who will win the presidency? showed Clinton and Trump dead even at 50.0%, with Trump enjoying a slight edge in electoral votes (269.4 to 268.2) but Clinton still leading the popular vote (46.3 to 45.5%, with Gary Johnson at 6.9% and Jill Stein off the chart). Clinton's decline nudged Florida, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, and New Hampshire into the Trump column. On Sunday new polls bumped Clinton up to 51.0%, 270.2-267.4 in the electoral college, 46.3-45.4% popular vote, but didn't tip any states. Right now, the closest state is Pennsylvania, only D+0.8, followed by Nevada R+0.9, Florida R+1.2, and Virginia D+1.2. Clinton has been sinking since FBI Director James Comey's press conference put the private email server issue to rest (at least the threat of a possible indictment), so the RNC bounce had some prior momentum. We're not seeing much of a DNC bounce yet -- at least it's not coming as fast as what was taken as a RNC bounce did. (Silver footnote from the article cited above: "Although interestingly, if you chart the numbers, it's not easy to distinguish Trump's convention bounce from a continuation of the previous trend toward him.")

Don't know if this has been factored in, but RABA Research's post-DNC poll has Clinton ahead of Trump 46-31% (7% for Johnson, 2% for Stein), a big bump from their post-RNC/pre-DNC poll, which Clinton led 39-34%. (Still, aren't the undecided remains awfully large here? Seems like a lot of people don't want to face the choice they've been given.)

Daily Log

We've been binge watching Inspector George Gently on Netflix. Got to an episode this week where a character made quiche lorraine for dinner, which reminded me that I hadn't made that dish since, well, I left St. Louis forty years ago. At the time, it was one of the few things in my repertoire, although I don't remember how it got there, and rather suspect that I wasn't much into making and rolling out the pastry crust. So I resolved to try again, finding a recipe in Reichl's Gourmet Cookbook. Made the crust from scratch, baking it using kidney beans for pie weights. Had a relatively old but unopened package of uncured bacon in the refrigerator, so I wound up frying all of it (50% more than the eight slices called for, but being cut thick it may have been even more). Also added a cup of shredded gruyere to the custard mix (four whole eggs plus two yolks, 2 cups cream, 1 cup milk, 1 tsp salt, grated a little nutmeg) -- the cookbook had an alternative recipe called Ultimate Quiche which included the cheese and upgraded the cream to crème fraiche. Laura had asked me whether the quiche had gruyere, so seeing that I decided to indulge her. I made a mistake baking the quiche: I put the pan on a cookie sheet and some aluminum foil and placed it on the bottom rack -- I was afraid it might boil over -- so it didn't cook in time. I wound up moving it to the top rack (leaving the hot sheet below), and after 15 minutes or so it finally looked (and tested) done. Took a picture. I should have let it cool down some before cutting. As it was, I struggled to get a slice out for Laura, and just wound up spooning my slice out -- a hideous pile of scrambled eggs, but tasted pretty good. Leftovers served cold the next day were even better, pretty close to perfect.

Looking through the Gourmet Cookbook I ran across other famous dishes I wanted to try. Bought groceries for ghoulash and pastisio, and will fix them in coming days. Also need to do something with the beans I used as pie weights. Gourmet suggests a red bean and bacon soup, but another pound of bacon doesn't have a lot of appeal at the moment.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Streamnotes (July 2016)

Pick up text here.

Friday, July 29, 2016

DNC Update

The first day of the Democratic National Convention put the party's best face forward. It featured Michelle Obama, a couple of prominent senators who could have mounted credible campaigns for what Howard Dean once called "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party" -- Al Franken and Elizabeth Warren -- but didn't dare run up against the the Clinton machine, and one guy who did have the guts to try, and who damn near won, because he had the issues and integrity to pose a real alternative to the party's comfort with the status quo: Bernie Sanders. It offered a glimpse of what might have been, and more than hinted that Hillary Clinton might have learned something from Sanders' "political revolution."

I didn't see Michelle's speech, which was by all accounts monumental. I did catch bits of Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, and all of the speeches by Warren and Sanders -- both superb, and in the former's slam on Trump and the latter's mapping of his agenda to her platform more than she could have hoped for. Could be that if the occasion presents itself she's opportunistic enough to slide to the left. At least in presenting this night she showed some recognition that she understands what the Democratic base wants. Not that she didn't keep three more days open to pander to the donors.

One retrospectively nice thing about the first night was that I didn't hear a single mention of foreign policy, war, America's vast military-security-industrial complex, and all the mayhem that they have caused. This is odd inasmuch as those issues weigh heavily in any comparison between Sanders and Clinton, but expected in that they still loom as major differences. It's not so much that Sanders has promised much change from fifteen years of "war on terror" -- the self-perpetuating struggle to shore up American hegemony over a part of the world which has suffered much from it -- as that Clinton's instinctive hawkishness promises even more turmoil as far out as anyone can imagine. Of course, the jingoism would come back in subsequent nights, but for Monday at least one could hope for a world where such things would no longer be worth fretting over.

I skipped the second night completely, including Madeleine Albright's neocon horror show and Bill Clinton's soggy valentine valentine ("not quite first-spouse speech").

Also missed the third night when Tim Kaine, Joe Biden and Barack Obama spoke. I gather that Obama spoke in his usual mode, as a pious Americanist, a super-patriot proud of his country's deep liberal roots, validated by his own elevation to the presidency. He may not have reconciled Republicans and Democrats in the real world, but he's unified us all in his own mind, and that's such a pretty picture only those with their heads implanted in their asses can fail to take some measure of pride. Even if he hasn't fully convinced the talking heads of the right, hasn't he at least made it ludicrous for people like Trump and Cruz and Ryan to argue that they can "bring us together" in anything short of a concentration camp?

I paid even less attention to Hillary Clinton's speech, which I gather was superbly crafted and broadly targeted. John Judis faulted her for not weasel-wording enough on immigration -- after all, Trump already set the bar on that issue awfully low. Paul Krugman tweeted: "I keep talking to people asserting that she'll 'say anything,' but last night she clearly only said things she really believes. Socially (very) liberal, wonkish with center-left tilt on economic and domestic policy, comfortable with judicious use of military power. So, do we people realize that HRC's speech didn't involve any pandering at all? It was who she is." Either that, or Krugman's fooled himself into thinking he's looking at her when he's looking in the mirror.

But rather than ruminating more on this -- at some point I do have to just post what I have and catch up with what I missed sometime later -- let me point you to a long piece on the many complaints people have had lodged against her since she came to prominence in 1992: Michelle Goldberg: The Hillary Haters. Goldberg comes up with a long list illustrated by real people: "She strikes me as so programmed and almost robotic"; "She is disingenuous and she lies blatantly"; "I think she's more of a Republican than a Democrat"; "If I could make her a profit she'd be my best friend"; "She is a sociopath"; "She feels like she's above the law, and she's above us peasants." Reading this list (and the article that expands on them) I'm not sure which I'd rather argue: for one thing, none of these strike me as particularly true, but even if they were true they don't strike me as good reasons not to vote for her (at least given the Republicans she's run against). On the other hand, the Goldberg line that the editors pulled out as a large-type blurb -- "Americans tend not to like ambitious women with loud voices" -- does strike me as being at the root of much opposition to her (and also helps explain why some people, and not just women, like her so much even when they disagree with much of her policy record).

I had rather high hopes for Bill Clinton after his 1992 campaign, which were quickly diminished after he cozied up to Alan Greenspan and capitulated to Colin Powell and sunk ever lower pretty much month by month over eight years. By 1998 I would have voted to impeach him, not because I cared about the Republicans' charges but because I was so alarmed by his bombings of Iraq and elsewhere, acts I considered war crimes (even if I didn't fully comprehend how completely they set the table for the Bush wars that followed). Even so, I thought he might redeem himself after leaving office, much as Jimmy Carter had done. However, it's been hard to see his Foundation as anything other than the vehicle for a political machine, one intent on returning him to power through proximity to his wife. My view was influenced by the fact that through the 1980s most of the women who had become governors in the South were nothing more than proxies for their term-limited husbands. Nor had I ever been a fan of political dynasties, a view that became all the more bitter after the Bore-Gush debacle.

Of course, Hillary was different from all those other Southern governors' wives, and I recognized that -- even admired her at first, a view that diminished as her husband got worse and worse but never quite sunk so low. Still, her own record of policy and posturing in the Senate, as Secretary of State, and campaigning for president, never impressed me as especially admirable -- and sometimes turned out to be completely wrong, as with her Iraq War vote. Given a credible alternative in 2008 -- one that would break the tide of nepotism and dynasty building, and one that offered what seemed at the time like credible hope -- I supported Obama against her. Of course, I was later disappointed by many things that I thought Obama handled badly -- all too often noticing folks previously associated with Clinton in critical proximity -- but I also appreciated how much worse things might have been had a wacko warmonger like McCain or an economic royalist like Romney had won instead. Again this year I found and supported an alternative to Hillary -- one I felt could be trusted to stand up to the Republicans without degrading into what I suppose we could call Clintonism. In the end, she wound up beating Sanders, something I don't ever expect to be happy about. But we're stuck with her, and all I can say is that we owe it to her to treat her honestly and fairly. Which means rejecting all the mean, vicious, repugnant, and false things people and pundits say about her, while recognizing her limits and foibles, and resolving to continue saying and doing the right things, even if doing so challenges her. After all, what really matters isn't whether we're with her. It's whether she's with us. That's something she's actually made some progress towards this week -- not that she doesn't still have a long ways to go.

Some links:

  • George Zornick: Welcome to the 2016 DNC, Sponsored by Special Interests: Points out that these are the first presidential conventions since 1968 for which there is no government financing, leaving the parties at the mercy of private donors and loose regulations.

  • The Atlantic is doing daily coverage of the DNC, with lead-in pieces and lots of short notes from their many writers. See Day 1: Bernie Gives in to Hillary, Day 2: The First Lady to Become the Nominee, Day 3: Obama Endorses Hillary as America's Best Hope, Day 4: Hillary Clinton Begins Building Her Coalition. The comments jerk in and out of chronological sequence, some are scattered and many are trivial, but they probably give you as thorough an idea of what's happened as sitting on a cable new station (or surfing between them whenever anything annoying happens, which is often).

  • Molly Ball: The Long Fall of Debbie Wasserman Schultz: The Sanders campaign has been feuding with the Democratic Party Chair since she tried to stack the debate schedule to ensure minimum press coverage. Her bias was unsurprising given how effective the Clintons were at clearing the field of potential challengers, and of course became even more obvious with last week's Wikileaks dump of her emails, but she would probably have been dumped anyway.

    Few Democrats will miss Wasserman Schultz, who was widely seen as an ineffective leader. She was a poor communicator whose gaffes often caused the party headaches; a mediocre fundraiser; and a terrible diplomat more apt to alienate party factions than bring them together. "Only Donald Trump has unified the party more," Rebecca Katz, a Democratic consultant who supported Sanders in the primary, told me wryly. [ . . . ]

    The litany of Wasserman Schultz's offenses during the primary was familiar to supporters of Sanders and other Clinton rivals: scheduling debates at odd times, shutting Sanders out of the party's data file, stacking convention committees with Clinton supporters. But her tenure was rocky long before that -- in fact, within a month of her being named in 2011 to finish the term of Tim Kaine, who had just been elected to the Senate, Democrats were starting to grumble about her. When her term ended after Obama's reelection, there was more sniping about her leadership, and Obama's advisors urged him to bring in someone new, but Wasserman Schultz made it clear she wouldn't go without a fight, according to reports at the time and my sources inside the DNC. And so the White House chose the path of least resistance and kept her in.

    "Good fucking riddance," one former top DNC staffer during her tenure told me of Wasserman Schultz's ouster. "But she was convicted for the wrong crime." Critics charged that Wasserman Schultz treated the committee as a personal promotion vehicle, constantly seeking television appearances and even urging donors to give to her personal fundraising committee. A different former staffer went so far as to compare her personality to Donald Trump's, describing a "narcissism" that filtered everything through her personal interests.

    The larger issue, many Democrats told me, was the White House's lack of concern with the health of the party, which allowed the DNC to atrophy. "There's a lot of soul-searching and reckoning to be done going forward about the role of the party," Smith said. Obama won the nomination by running against the party establishment, and once he got into office converted his campaign into a new organization, Organizing for America. It was technically a part of the DNC, but in reality served as a rival to it that redirected the party's organizing functions, effectively gutting its field operation. The weakened DNC bears some of the responsibility for the epic down-ballot losses -- in Congress, state offices, and legislatures -- that have occurred during Obama's presidency.

    "The president doesn't give a shit about the DNC, and he's the only one with the leverage to do something about it," said Jamal Simmons, a Democratic consultant and commentator who has advised the DNC. "Barack Obama made it abundantly clear that he didn't care about the DNC, so why have that fight?" [ . . . ]

    The irony to many of Wasserman Schultz's critics was that if she was, in fact, trying to "rig" the primary for Clinton, she didn't do it very well, and by antagonizing Sanders supporters she might have even helped power Clinton's opposition. "She had lost trust from every corner of the party," said Mo Elleithee, a former communications director for the DNC under Wasserman Schultz. "Congressional Democrats had lost trust in her, the White House had lost trust in her, the Clinton campaign was rapidly losing trust in her. So once she started to lose the grassroots, which was her only strength, she had nothing left."

  • Timothy B Lee: DNC email leaks, explained: A fair introduction to the Wikileaks dump of some 20,000 DNC emails. Key lines: "The email trove contains some embarrassing revelations but no bombshells"; "The hack included a lot of donors' personal information"; and "There's significant evidence linking the attacks to the Russian government." I'm not so sure about the latter point, which has been repeated so many times that it's turning into an assumption -- see, e.g., Patrick Tucker: Was Russia Behind the DNC Hack? and Isaac Chotiner: Is the DNC Hack an Act of War?. It's easy to be sloppy here because anti-Russian prejudice is such a well-practiced art in Washington that it's almost second nature. (For instance, we routinely hear that Putin is a dictator, even though he's in power by virtue of having clearly been elected in competitive contests. Also, Putin is easily charged with being the aggressor in places like Georgia and Ukraine -- ignoring that the US engaged in covert campaigns in both to turn governments there against Russia.) It's easy to imagine that Democrats jumping on the opportunity to blame Russia -- it certainly helps distract from the embarrassments in the emails itself, and it's the sort of rhetoric that Americans have long fallen for. The big problem here is that the US seems hell-bent to resurrect some sort of Cold War against Russia, as seems clear by the steady advance of NATO forces toward Russia's borders and the imposition of crippling economic sanctions on Russia's already depressed economy. Given all this, it's pretty easy to imagine Russia "striking back" via cyberwarfare -- after all, the US is already heavily invested in that sort of mischief. On the other hand, the stakes -- chiefly embarrassing the already discredited Debbie Wasserman Schultz -- are pretty low.

    On the other hand, this gives Democrats who have already shown a knack for Putin-baiting an opportunity to rehash the supposed ties between Putin and Trump, which must be true because Trump hasn't shown much relish at joining in on the Putin-bashing as have the Democrats -- one of the few areas where Trump has been significantly less crazy and reckless than Clinton. Possibly the most extreme statement of this is Franklin Foer: Putin's Puppet:

    Vladimir Putin has a plan for destroying the West -- and that plan looks a lot like Donald Trump. Over the past decade, Russia has boosted right-wing populists across Europe. It loaned money to Marine Le Pen in France, well-documented transfusions of cash to keep her presidential campaign alive. Such largesse also wended its way to the former Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, who profited "personally and handsomely" from Russian energy deals, as an American ambassador to Rome once put it. [ . . . ]

    There's a clear pattern: Putin runs stealth efforts on behalf of politicians who rail against the European Union and want to push away from NATO. He's been a patron of Golden Dawn in Greece, Ataka in Bulgaria, and Jobbik in Hungary. [ . . . ]

    Donald Trump is like the Kremlin's favored candidates, only more so. He celebrated the United Kingdom's exit from the EU. He denounces NATO with feeling. He is also a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. Trump's devotion to the Russian president has been portrayed as buffoonish enthusiasm for a fellow macho strongman. But Trump's statements of praise amount to something closer to slavish devotion. [ . . . ] Still, we should think of the Trump campaign as the moral equivalent of Henry Wallace's communist-infiltrated campaign for president in 1948, albeit less sincere and idealistic than that. A foreign power that wishes ill upon the United States has attached itself to a major presidential campaign.

    Most of this is fantasy stitched into conspiracy -- not that I doubt that Putin has pitched some money at right-wing (ultra-nationalist) political movements in Europe, but Russians got a raw deal in the '90s when they opened their doors to capitalism, leaving them defensive and nostalgic for a leader that demanded more respect. One can argue whether he is one, or whether he's succumbed to the corruption of the Yeltsin era, or whether his occasional flex of muscle is productive, but it's absurd to claim he intends to destroy Europe and America, and even more so to think he can do so by cyberhacks -- especially ones that at most reveal their victims to have been fools.

    On the other hand, the neocon idea that they can push and prod a nation with a staggering number of nuclear weapons into a powerless little corner is dangerous indeed -- and that's what Clinton risks by slipping into Cold War revanchism. As for Trump, he's demonstrating a truism: that people and nations that do business together are less likely to confront each other militarily. Indeed, the real distinction between America's "allies" and "enemies" almost exactly correlates with ease of doing business together -- which is why, of course, neocons are so eager to impose sanctions on countries like Russia and Iran (and why they turn a blind eye to the real Islamic state, Saudi Arabia, and why they are so eager to quash Boeing's airliner deal with Iran).

    For more on Trump's business dealings with Russia, see Josh Marshall's initial post, Jeffrey Carr's fact-check, and Marshall's riposte. I do admit that all this leaves me with a serious question: if Trump's business ties to Russia compromise his ability to put his own finances aside and serve the interests of the American people, what about the rest of his business interests? As I recall, the Kennedys put all of their vast inherited wealth into blind trusts when they went into politics. Wouldn't it be fair and reasonable to insist that Trump do the same thing?

    PS: Marshall later tweeted: "Everything else aside, let's stop talking about 'red-baiting,' 'McCarthyism.' Russia's not a communist or a left state. That's silly." Sure, there's no reason to think that Trump has fallen under the spell of Bolshevism, but anti-Russian rhetoric both before and after the fall of Communism has been remarkably consistent -- in both cases Russia is casually charged with plotting the destruction of Europe and America, and motives are rarely discussed (mostly because they would make one wonder "really?"). And today's Putin-baiting works so effortlessly because yesterday's red-baiting so effectively greased the slide. Moreover, although Russia may have moved from left to right since 1990, America's unelected "security state" is still run by the same people who cut their teeth on the Cold War, and who will to their deaths view Russia as the enemy. Does anyone really think that the US is surrounding Russia with anti-ballistic missile rings because we're worried about oligarchy and corruption?

  • Gideon Lewis-Kraus: Could Hillary Clinton Become the Champion of the 99 Percent? The political winds have changed since the early '90s brought the Clintons and their "blue dog" DLC coalition to Washington, so opportunist that Hillary has always been, could she blow back the other way? One thing that's happened is that as the right-wing "think tanks" have lost touch with reality, left-leaning ones have matured -- the article here features Felicia Joy Wong of the Roosevelt Institute, and also singles out long-time Clinton economic adviser Joseph Stiglitz (who's moved steadily leftward since the '90s), whose Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy is a full-fledged political platform. Another thing is that Bernie Sanders nearly beat her running further to the left than anyone previously imagined possible. Still, very little here about Clinton:

    To Wong, though, much of the hand-wringing about Clinton is beside the point. People like to kibitz on the subject of who a politician "really" is, to claim that some votes or statements or gaffes or alliances are deeply revealing and others merely accidents, frivolities or improvisatory performances. We isolate and label a politician's essence in the hope we might predict with certainty how she'll behave in the future. But in Wong's view, the question of who a politician is -- and above all who this particular presidential candidate is -- is irrelevant. Her strategy is to proceed in public as if the candidate is certain to rise to the occasion. [ . . . ]

    "After all," Wong said to me more than once, "she is unknowable. Nobody can know her. I certainly can't know her. All I can go by is what is on the public record, and who she's got around her. I'm sure I'll be disappointed again. Over the next few months, we'll all be disappointed again. But I'm only optimistic because there's evidence for me to be that way."

    When people talk about Hillary as a "genuine progressive" I can't help but scoff: where's the evidence, anyone? On the other hand, it has occurred to me that the situation might nudge her in the right direction. I even came up with a precedent, Woodrow Wilson: early in his administration he oversaw a number of progressive reforms, even though he really didn't have a progressive bone in his body -- he also adopted Jim Crow as federal policy, started two fruitless wars with Mexico, blundered into the big war in Europe, implemented the most draconian assault on civil liberties in the nation's history, and was so ineffective in negotiating the end of the war that he was soundly rejected both at home and abroad. Still, if Wilson can be remembered as a progressive, maybe the bar isn't too high for Clinton. Of course, you might argue that FDR was another one who rose to progressivism because the circumstances dictated it.

    Also along these lines: Mark Green: Is Hillary Ready for a Progressive 'Realignment'?, and Katrina vanden Heuvel: Hillary Clinton Can Become the Real Candidate of Change.

  • Allegra Kirkland: Conservatives Stunned by How Much They Liked Obama's DNC Speech: There's an old Mort Sahl joke where he quotes Charlton Hesston as saying that he hopes his children will some day live in a fascist dictatorship, then quips that if Hesston was more perceptive he'd be a happy man today. One of the great absurdities of our times is that conservatives have been so hateful to Obama, who has always gone out of his way to embody and celebrate their most cherished and most hackneyed myths. As I've said before, Barrack Obama is a man whose conservatism runs so deep he's incapable of imagining a world where Jamie Dimon isn't still head of JP Morgan-Chase. There has never been a better "poster child" for the American Dream than him, yet many self-proclaimed conservatives have insisted on attacking him, insisting that he is perversely bent on destroying the very nation had flattered him so by electing him president. That's never been credible, but it's taken eight years and the counterexample of Donald Trump for it to sink into these numbskulls.

    Pundits who fundamentally disagree with the majority of Obama's policies expressed grudging admiration for an optimistic speech that praised America's inclusive democracy. It provided a stark contrast to the ominous address about the threats facing the United States that Donald Trump gave at last week's Republican convention in Cleveland.

    Some suggested that Obama's speech, which quoted the Declaration of Independence and framed the U.S. as a "light of freedom, dignity and human rights," did a better job at expressing conservative values than Trump's did.

    In some ways we're fortune that they were so dense. Give his lifelong habit of sucking up to power and his earnest desire for "bipartisan" solutions, there's no telling what "compromises" he might have made had the Republicans not been so obstructionist. His continuation of the Bush wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, his revival of the war in Iraq and Syria, his expansion of loosely targeted assassinations via the drone program, and his relentless defense of America's secret police against whistleblowers have been among the darket blots on his administration -- all cases where Republicans have cheered him on and taunted him to do even worse. Even today, Obama remains the last significant politician supporting TPP. In time conservatives will appreciate what they missed and lost -- much like today they hail the once-hated Harry Truman for blundering his way into the Cold War. But their blinders are a necessary part of their identity: whenever you look back at American history for something inspiring, something to be proud of, you necessarily have to embrace some aspect of liberal tradition. What makes Obama such a great conservative is his liberalism, and that's what they cannot abide, even less admit -- at least until they've found themselves stuck with Trump, a convervative standard bearer who promises to usher a smaller, poorer, meaner America -- and all he has to do is call it Great. That makes Trump the perfect anti-Obama, logically the ideal candidate for everyone who bought the anti-Obama vitriol of the last eight years. If some conservatives are having second thoughts, maybe they're more perceptive than we thought.

  • Shibley Telhami: Are Clinton's supporters to the right of Sanders's on the Middle East? Hardly. Telhami has been polling on questions like this for years:

    Over the past few years, I have asked Americans about their attitudes on American policy toward Israeli settlements. In a November 2015 poll, 49 percent of Democrats expressed support for imposing sanctions or harsher measures on Israeli settlements. In a May 2016 poll, 51 percent of Democrats expressed the same view (within the margin of error of the November poll).

    Those expecting Clinton's backers to be less supportive of such measures than Sanders's are in for a surprise: 51 percent of Sanders's supporters wanted punitive measures imposed, and 54 percent of Clinton's expressed the same opinion -- a statistical tie. In contrast, only 24 percent of Trump supporters voiced support for such measures.

    Telhami asks a number of similar questions, again finding no real differences between Clinton and Sanders supporters' views, so he asks "why are candidates' rhetoric different when supporters' views are similar?" He doesn't really answer this clearly, but two reasons seem obvious to me: one is that Clinton has two levels of donors, and the big shots -- the ones who kick in enough to get personal contact -- are rabidly pro-Israel, so they pull her in that direction; Sanders, on the other hand, draws nearly all of his financing from his base, so he leans that direction. But also, both Sanders and Clinton start out exceptionally pro-Israel, partly because the Israel lobby has become so hegemonic in Washington, partly because the very powerful defense complex is so intertwined with Israel. Sanders is also Jewish, and of an age when Israel was a much more attractive proposition. Still, I would imagine that while there is no general difference in opinion between Sanders and Clinton supporters, those who are very concerned about the issue should favor Sanders -- if only because Clinton has boxed herself into a hole from which she has effectively committed to do nothing whatsoever to help resolve the conflict. Sanders at least understands something that political expediency doesn't allow Clinton to admit: that Palestinians must be treated as human beings. This makes me wonder how many other issues there are where Clinton supporters are well to the left of their candidate.

  • Clare Foran: Can Jill Stein Lead a Revolution? Nothing here suggests to me that she can -- not that there's much here to suggest what she stands for or why that matters -- it's mostly about Bernie supporters who aren't reconciled to Hillary, a number that's likely to drop by half come election day. The fact that Stein is in Philadelphia this week suggests she realizes that the real forum for the left isn't her third party effort -- it's the Democratic Party, which Bernie came close to winning over, and even after Hillary's win is still where most of the people "the revolution" needs do their business. Still, neither Foran nor Jordan Weissmann (in Jill Stein's Ideas Are Terrible. She Is Not the Savior the Left Is Looking For) talk about the one idea that could make a difference, which is to play up the fear that Hillary's hawkishness could be even more self-destructive than Trump's brutishness, and that people who believe that America should radically retrench from the ambition to be the world's sole hegemon need to withdraw their votes from both. That at least is an argument, one that needn't depend on the tired homily that both sides are equivalent, and one that might scare or shame Hillary enough that she makes an effort not to alienate the large number of antiwar voters who otherwise see her as preferable to Trump. Of course, Stein will still lose half of her sympathizers on election day (as will libertarian Gary Johnson), just because votes aren't worth so much that they have to be perfect.

  • Michelle Goldberg: The DNC Has Been a Rousing Success. So Why Am I Terrified? Basically because she doesn't trust the American people to do the sane thing:

    One of the unofficial slogans of this election, at least among the green room flotsam and millennial ironists on Twitter, is "nothing matters." It's an expression of weary incredulity at each new Trumpian outrage that should be the end of him but isn't. This election isn't a contest of ideology. It's certainly not about experience or competence. It's being fought at the level of deep, unconscious, Freudian drives. Trump promises law and order, but he is the Thanatos candidate, appealing to the people so disgusted by the American status quo that they're willing to blow it up. Clinton is the candidate of dull, workmanlike order and continuity. She once described herself as a "mind conservative and a heart liberal," but her convention has almost been the opposite, with the most liberal platform in decades married to a show of sunny, orderly patriotism. "America is already great!" is as anti-radical slogan as can be imagined. The question in this election is whether the forces of stability are a match for those of cynical nihilism. This convention has been, for the most part, impeccably choreographed. Will it matter? Will anything?

    That "mind conservative/heart liberal" thing tells me that she's bought the conservative line hook and sinker: only conservatives think that liberalism is an ailment of the heart, and only people hopelessly mired in the past fail to recognize that conservatism has become a form of mental derangement. (I would concede that a conservative ethos is a good thing for a person to have, provided you understand that it doesn't work for social/political/economic matters. It's all good and well any person to be self-sufficient, but as a society we need mutual respect, concern, and help.)

    My own great fear is watching Hillary one-on-one in the debates as Trump goads her into World War III.

    On the other hand, see: Jamelle Bouie: The Democrats Make Their Pitch to a New Silent Majority. Not my favorite turn of phrase, but they started making this pitch in 2012, when after four years when it seemed like only the Tea Party could get media attention Obama won the presidential election rather easily. (Still, only 57.5% came out to vote in 2012, less than the 62.3% who voted in 2008 when Obama won even more handily.) I'm less impressed by the Wednesday lineup than Bouie is ("figures of authority -- all white men -- who in different ways sought to delegitimize Donald Trump and persuade the most Republican-leaning whites with degrees to switch sides and abandon the GOP") -- Leon Panetta, Admiral John Hutson, Michael Bloomberg -- but they do suggest that a swath of the establishment realizes they'd be better off with Hillary, and not rocking the boat has much to do with that. I think it is the case that an awful lot of Americans don't like to rock the boat -- otherwise why would they have stuck with so many losers for so long?

Plus a few shorts:

PS: Incorrectly credited a TPM editorial to Josh Marshall. Author was John Judis, as corrected above.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26851 [26822] rated (+29), 431 [435] unrated (-4).

Much better than average week of mail: two packages from Clean Feed in Portugal, one from Fou in France, the new Steve Lehman from Pi, and a new Stephan Crump with Ellery Eskelin and Tyshawn Sorey. Didn't quite make the 30 rated mark, although there's some chance that I missed counting something (found two of those earlier today). Not sure why given that I hardly ventured outside the house (temperature was into triple digits all week, and that's not the "feels like" figure although it certainly does). Probably because I mostly worked from the new jazz queue, and made an effort to play some downloads I've collected but find annoying to bother with. I think Thumbscrew got five plays before I gave up on it, but others got cut short -- Anat Fort, perhaps. Two HMs I probably should have given another spin: Domo Genesis and André Gonçalves. The former is a rapper and I've been having a lot of trouble parsing them on Rhapsody. The latter is very minimal-concept electronica (although on a jazz label).

The Fred Hersch Solo is from last year. It finished 11th in the Jazz Critics Poll, second highest among records I hadn't heard (after 3rd place Jack DeJohnette, ahead of Roscoe Mitchell at 31 and Brad Mehldau at 34). Its publicist didn't service me at the time, probably recognizing that I'm usually a wet blanket as far as solo piano is concerned, but I found it on her annual wrap up (along with Ran Blake's solo Ghost Tones, 27th in the Poll). I'm duly impressed after two plays, although I'm still undecided about Hersch's new trio (which I did receive), tauntingly titled Sunday Night at the Vanguard -- either A- or very high B+ (find out next week, or probably sooner, as I should have a Rhapsody Streamnotes column sometime this week).

Rich Halley and The Paranoid Style also got quite a bit of play, both winding up slightly above the A- line. The saxophonist's album is a bit scattered with more unison playing than I'd like and the trombonist very hit-and-mess plus I'm never sure what Vince Golia is up to, but it has more thrilling moments than anything I can recall in the last couple months. I'm still having trouble with Elizabeth Nelson's sociopolitical theorizing, but ultimately went with the review she provided in a lyric: "it can't all be that bad because it's also entertaining."

New records rated this week:

  • Jon Balke: Warp (2014 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
  • Aaron Bennett/Darren Johnston/Lisa Mezzacappa/Tim Rosaly: Shipwreck 4 (2015 [2016], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Andando el Tiempo (2015 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Bradford/Hafez Modirzadeh: Live at the Open Gate (2013 [2016], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Brothers Osborne: Pawn Shop (2016, EMI Nashville): [r]: B+(*)
  • Toronzo Cannon: The Chicago Way (2016, Alligator): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cavanaugh: Time and Materials (2015 [2016], Mello Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Suzanne Dean: Come to Paradise (2016, Ship's Bell Music): [cd]: B
  • Fail Better!: Owt (2014 [2016], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Anat Fort Trio/Gianluigi Trovesi: Birdwatching (2013 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Gaudi: EP (2016, RareNoise, EP): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Domo Genesis: Genesis (2016, Odd Future): [r]: B+(***)
  • André Gonçalves: Currents & Riptides (2016, Shhpuma): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tord Gustavsen: What Was Said (2015 [2016], ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Rich Halley 5: The Outlier (2015 [2016], Pine Eagle): [cd]: A-
  • Fred Hersch: Solo (2014 [2015], Palmetto): [dl]: A-
  • Hinds: Leave Me Alone (2016, Mom + Pop): [r]: B
  • Lefteris Kordis: Mediterrana (Goddess of Light) (2013-15 [2016], Inner Circle Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Elektra Kurtis & Ensemble Elektra: Bridges From the East (2016, Elektra Sound Works/Milo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Tina Marx: Shades of Love (2007 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Anthony E. Nelson Jr.: Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak (2016, Music Stand): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Os Clavelitos: Arriving (2016, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • The Paranoid Style: Rolling Disclosure (2016, Bar/None): [r]: A-
  • Tommy Smith: Modern Jacobite (2015 [2016], Spartacus): [cd]: B-
  • Jim Snidero: MD66 (2016, Savant): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Peggy Stern: Z Octet (2015 [2016], Estrella Productions): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Thumbscrew: Convallaria (2015 [2016], Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Brahja Waldman: Wisdomatic (2016, Fast Speaking Music): [cdr]: A-
  • Nate Wooley/Hugo Antunes/Jorge Queijo/Mario Costa/Chris Corsano: Purple Patio (2012 [2016], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B

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

  • Putumayo Presents: Blues Party (1968-2013 [2016], Putumayo World Music): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Arthur Williams: Forgiveness Suite (1979 [2016], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Karlis Auzins/Lucas Leidinger/Tomo Jacobson/Thomas Sauerborn: Mount Meander (Clean Feed)
  • Carate Urio Orchestra: Ljubljana (Clean Feed)
  • Cortex: Live in New York (Clean Feed)
  • Stephan Crump: Stephan Crump's Rhombal (Papillon): September 13
  • Whit Dickey/Kirk Knuffke: Fierce Silence (Clean Feed)
  • Daunik Lazro/Joëlle Léandre/George Lewis: Enfances 8 Janv. 1984 (Fou)
  • Steve Lehman: Sélébéyone (Pi): August 19
  • Joey Locascio: Meets the Legend (Blujazz)
  • Modular String Trio: Ants, Bees and Butterflies (Clean Feed)
  • Roji: The Hundred Headed Woman (Clean Feed)
  • Susana Santos Silva/Lotte Anker/Sten Sandell/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Jon Fält: Life and Other Transient Storms (Clean Feed)
  • Stirrup: Cut (Clean Feed)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Weekend Roundup

First, some leftover (or late-breaking) links on Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and last week's Republican National Convention:

  • Matt Taibbi: Trump's Appetite for Destruction: That was the week that was. Some highlights, but not necessarily the best jokes:

    It wasn't what we expected. We thought Donald Trump's version of the Republican National Convention would be a brilliantly bawdy exercise in Nazistic excess.

    We expected thousand-foot light columns, a 400-piece horn section where the delegates usually sit (they would be in cages out back with guns to their heads). Onstage, a chorus line of pageant girls in gold bikinis would be twerking furiously to a techno version of "New York, New York" while an army of Broadway dancers spent all four days building a Big Beautiful Wall that read winning, the ceremonial last brick timed to the start of Donald's acceptance speech . . .

    But nah. What happened instead was just sad and weird, very weird. The lineup for the 2016 Republican National Convention to nominate Trump felt like a fallback list of speakers for some ancient UHF telethon, on behalf of a cause like plantar-wart research. [ . . . ]

    That the press seemed let down by the lack of turmoil on the streets was odd, given that the Trump convention itself was, after all, a historic revolt.

    Thirteen million and three hundred thousand Republican voters had defied the will of their party and soundly rejected hundred-million-dollar insider favorites like Jeb Bush to re-seize control of their own political destiny. That they made perhaps the most ridiculous choice in the history of democracy was really a secondary issue.

    It was a tremendous accomplishment that real-life conservative voters did what progressives could not quite do in the Democratic primaries. Republican voters penetrated the many layers of money and political connections and corporate media policing that, like the labyrinth of barricades around the Q, are designed to keep the riffraff from getting their mitts on the political process.

    But it wasn't covered that way. What started a year ago as an amusing story about a clown car full of bumbling primary hopefuls was about to be described to the world not as a groundbreaking act of defiance, but as a spectacular failure of democracy. [ . . . ]

    We could never quite tell what [Trump] was: possibly the American Hitler, but just as possibly punking the whole world in the most ambitious prank/PR stunt of all time. Or maybe he was on the level, birthing a weird new rightist/populist movement, a cross of Huey Long, Pinochet and David Hasselhoff. He was probably a monster, but whatever he was, he was original.

    Then came Thursday night.

    With tens of millions of eyes watching, Trump the Beltway conqueror turtled and wrapped his arms around the establishment's ankles. He spent the entirety of his final address huddled inside five decades of Republican Party clichés, apparently determined to hide in there until Election Day. [ . . . ]

    But it wasn't new, not one word. Trump cribbed his ideas from the Republicans he spent a year defaming. Trump had merely reprised Willie Horton, Barry Goldwater's "marauders" speech, Jesse Helms' "White Hands" ad, and most particularly Richard Nixon's 1968 "law and order" acceptance address, the party's archetypal fear-based appeal from which Trump borrowed in an intellectual appropriation far more sweeping and shameless than Melania's much-hyped mistake. [ . . . ]

    In the end, Trump's populism was as fake as everything else about him, and he emerged as just another in a long line of Republican hacks, only dumber and less plausible to the political center.

    Which meant that after all that we went through last year, after that crazy cycle of insults and bluster and wife wars and penis-measuring contests and occasionally bloody street battles, after the insane media tornado that destroyed the modern Republican establishment, Trump concluded right where the party started 50 years ago, meekly riding Nixon's Southern Strategy. It was all just one very noisy ride in a circle. All that destruction and rebellion went for nothing. Officially now, he's just another party schmuck.

  • Rick Perlstein: Mr. Trump, You're No Richard Nixon: Paul Manafort promised that Trump's acceptance speech would be based on Nixon's 1968 speech, but as Perlstein says, "I've studied Richard Nixon. And you're no Richard Nixon." He goes on to explain:

    And, contra Manafort, there was a hell of a lot of "happy talk" in Nixon's speech. That was the soul of its success. Nixon was fond of a spiritual ideal he learned in his Quaker youth: "peace in the center." This speech's very logic was saturated by it -- that a God-spark of grace lay buried underneath America's currently, temporarily degraded circumstances: the "quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting," heirs to "world's oldest revolution, which will never grow old."

    Sure, it was in some respects a rhetorical con: Nixon identified that quiet voice with a certain type of American, the "good people," the "decent people; they work and they save, and they pay their taxes, and they care." But his conception of this core -- which he later, with a more snarling tinge, tagged the "Silent Majority" -- was considerably more gracious than the angry, cornered victims, straining to lash out at their tormenters, that Trump had in mind last night. Nixon stepped back from that brink, granting them a charitable core and calling them to further charity: "They know that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it is a good place for all of us to live in." Later, he said, "Just to be alive in America, just to be alive at this time, is an experience unparalleled in history. Here is where the action is."

    Try imagining those words coming out of Donald Trump's mouth. Try to imagine them getting the warm, extended applause that they got from the Republicans of 1968. [ . . . ]

    But the single most telling divergence between Trump's acceptance speech and its Nixonian model, and the easiest to forget, comes down to this: Nixon never said it would be easy. Trump says nothing else. It was the theme of his convention.

    Nixon: "And so tonight I do not promise the millennium in the morning. I do not promise that we can eradicate poverty and end discrimination, eliminate all danger of war in the space of four or even eight years."

    Trump: "I have a message for all of you: The crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end." (That was what the teleprompter said. Trump spontaneously added, "and I mean very soon.") "Beginning on January 20th 2017, safety will be restored."

    Trump, again: "We are going to defeat the barbarians of ISIS." (Again, that was the teleprompter version; he added, "And we're going to defeat them fast.") And then these words on the teleprompter -- "we must work with all of our allies who share our goal of destroying ISIS and stamping out Islamic terror" -- followed by his own hasty interposition: "Doing it now, doing it quickly, we're going to win, we're going to win fast!" [ . . . ]

    It all came down to Donald Trump's own patented brand of alchemical magic: turning coal into diamonds, bending steel with his mind. After all, "Our steelworkers and miners are going back to work. With these new economic policies, trillions of dollars will start flowing into our country. This new wealth will improve the quality of life for all Americans."

  • Benjamin Wallace-Wells: The Strangely Quiet Streets of Cleveland: As Taibbi pointed out in the piece above, protesters and counter-protesters in Cleveland for the RNC were vastly outnumbered by journalists, many evidently hoping for some street-fighting to fuel the notion that Trump's 1968 Nixon rip-off had some relevance to the real world. The fact is not many people showed up, and nothing much happened.

    One feature of American politics right now is a sensitivity to the influence of the fringe. The campaigns of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, and the angry call-and-response of Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter, have raised the possibility of new forces at work, and a popular anthropology has followed. People like the young white nationalist writers Richard Spencer and Milo Yiannopoulos have become ubiquitous, because they fit the general story and because they suggest something new. But in Cleveland the people who embraced the racial grievances of the Convention were not the bearded conspiracists of the fringe but the delegates themselves.

  • David Frum: Donald Trump's Bad Bet on Anger: Compares Trump's speech to Nixon's from 1968 and also mentions Pat Buchanan's in 1992, citing Michael Barone's observation that "Buchanan would no nowhere in politics because Americans aren't angry people, and they don't trust angry people with power." That observation will certainly be tested this year.

    But unlike Richard Nixon, Donald Trump is not speaking for a silent majority. He is speaking for a despairing minority.

    The range and reach of Trump's voice will be inescapably limited by all the people he does not speak to. He does not speak to those rising and thriving in today's America. He does not speak to entrepreneurs and business owners. He does not speak to people who work in creative industries or the sciences or technology. He does not speak to those who feel emancipated by the lifting of inherited cultural and physical limits. He does not speak to those who feel that this modern age, for all its troubles, is also a time of miraculous achievement and astonishing possibility.

    I've compared Donald Trump to William Jennings Bryan, who forfeited the chance in 1896 to build an alliance of all those discontented with industrial capitalism because he only truly felt at home with rural people -- and could not refrain from inflammatory language about cities and city people. Tonight this comparison seems even more valid than ever. Trump's right about the shock of globalization and the disruption of migration. But it's not enough to be right to become president, as Henry Clay famously quipped. You have to be right in the right way and at the right time. You have to be the right messenger to carry the right message.

    Actually, Trump's not even very right on "the shock of globalization and the disruption of migration" -- those are fairly minor problems (to the extent they are problems at all), ones that could have been handled by more sensible policies and a greater commitment to a "safety net" to help out those few people who were hurt. (Same for those unemployed coal miners and their depressed communities, although their plight was caused by something else entirely.) Still, one has to wonder how many people actually believe the Republicans' endlessly repeated message of America's economic and cultural and political decline under Obama. Compared to Bush, I can't find a single objective indicator of such decline: the economy has grown steadily, (as has been much commented on) crime rates continue to decline, and the number of American soldiers killed or maimed abroad is also down. Sure, none of these metrics are as good as they should be, but much of the blame there belongs with the Republican stranglehold on Congress (and so many state governments -- Wisconsin vs. Minnesota is an especially telling example).

    This is the first I've seen of the Bryan comparison, and there is something interesting to it, but it's also a bit misleading. For one thing, the two major political parties in the 1890s weren't polarized by class like they are now: there were progressive movements in both parties, struggling against oligarchic control of each. Bryan led a revolt in the Democratic Party against extreme conservatives like Grover Cleveland, and the conservatives got their revenge by throwing the election to McKinley (something they repeated in 1972, and would have been tempted to do this year had Sanders won). So, sure, it's interesting that Bryan didn't have the temperament to rally urban workers and blacks (most of whom voted Republican back then). And, sure, neither does Trump, but one other similarity is that both embraced simplistic and ultimately non-credible solutions: silver for Bryan, and walls and barricades for Trump. Also, Bryan was a heroically decent politician (not unlike McGovern later, but much preachier), whereas Trump is a greedy self-centered asshole -- and while the latter may be a better fit for our times, it's still not clear how many people have sunk to his level.

  • Corey Robin: Check Your Amnesia, Dude: On the Vox Generation of Punditry: Feedback from Trump's foreign policy interview (which I wrote about last time) included a tweet from Peter W. Singer: "It is the most irresponsible foreign policy statement by a presidential nominee of any party in my lifetime." Robin notes that "Barry Goldwater said the US should consider using tactical nukes in Vietnam," but that was before Singer was born, so he concentrated on various outrageous Ronald Reagan pronouncements. Robin goes on to make some generalizations about "the Vox generation of pundits" that may (or may not) be insightful (I'm not sure), but his "Update" is worth quoting. There he's responding to Matt Yglesias attacking Trump for having "proven time and again he's much too lazy to do the job." Robin responds with four bullet items from Ronald Reagan, then adds:

    Yglesias's complaint is a frequently heard among liberals. As Alex Gourevitch reminded me, they said the same thing about George W. Bush. Remember all those vacations he took? (879 days, or 30% of his time in office.)

    But here's the thing: Ronald Reagan (or George W. Bush] wasn't terrifying because he was lazy. Do we honestly think that if he had worked harder he would have been less terrifying? When your entire belief system is jackboots and smiles, it doesn't get less scary because you work harder; the opposite, in fact. Honestly, I'm thankful Reagan was as lazy as he was. God only knows how much more havoc he might have wreaked had he been awake during those precious afternoon nap hours.

    Likewise, Donald Trump. The notion here is that if he had more knowledge of the things he talks about, if he just worked harder at his job, his positions would be moderated. Like Ted Cruz?

    On the other hand, laziness at the top allowed those they had (perhaps carelessly) appointed to lower positions to do considerable damage (as bit Reagan in the HUD and Iran-Contra scandals, although the machinations of Ed Meese's Justice Department were probably more damaging in the long run; Bush may have been the primary instigator of his war and terror regime, but he stocked his administration with people who would not only go along but would push him further). There is no reason to think Trump will pick better underlings. Exhibit A: Mike Pence.

As for the rest of the world, some scattered links:

  • John Quiggin: Anti-militarism: A short piece on definitions.

    My case for anti-militarism has two main elements.

    First, the consequentialist case against the discretionary use of military force is overwhelming. Wars cause huge damage and destruction and preparation for war is immensely costly. Yet it is just about impossible to find examples where a discretionary decision to go to war has produced a clear benefit for the country concerned, or even for its ruling class. Even in cases where war is initially defensive, attempts to secure war aims beyond the status quo ante have commonly led to disaster.

    Second, war is (almost) inevitably criminal since it involves killing and maiming people who have done nothing personally to justify this; not only civilians, but soldiers (commonly including conscripts) obeying the lawful orders of their governments.

    Quiggin allows an exception for "humanitarian intervention" which is neither well-developed nor well-critiqued. Most actual wars justified on "humanitarian" grounds have turned out to have bad consequences -- Iraq and Libya are pretty clear recent examples -- often because the motives of the "humanitarians" are never quite pure but also because no amount of good intentions ever really compensates for the criminal killing inextricably bundled into war. (As I recall, Noam Chomsky has cited two wars that he approved of: India's 1971 war with Pakistan which spun Bangladesh off as an independent country, and the 1999 UN defense of the former Portuguese colony of East Timor against forced annexation by Indonesia. Both resulted in independent states which were not subsequently controlled or dominated by interveners -- which isn't to say they didn't have their own reasons that were only loosely cloaked in "humanitarian" rhetoric.)

    Advocates of "humanitarian intervention" point to the high death tolls in places like Rwanda where no military jumped in, or to Syria now (although how anyone could think there's been no intervention in Syria is way beyond me). The fact is that nobody knows whether fewer people would have died in Rwanda had outside powers intervened, because no one know what the effect would be of Euroamericans, with their long histories of racism and colonialism, coming in and shooting up the place, killing people on both sides ostensibly to keep them from killing each other. Nor does anyone have any idea what the invaders would have done after the shooting stopped (although with the US, UK, France and others, the temptation would have been to set up shop and recoup expenses; i.e., neocolonialism).

    It's easy enough to conjure up a fantasy that some omnipotent foreign force could march through Syria and end the civil war there by killing anyone who resists (assuming, of course, you could keep all the other foreign forces from supporting their own favorite factions), but would such a force be willing to turn the spoils over to the Syrian people and let them decide to do whatever they wished with their country -- just without the resort to violence. We've seen the US in a position to do just that at least twice (in Afghanistan and Iraq) and neither time the US was capable of even feigning neutrality. The odds the US might do the right thing in Syria are even slimmer, given that the Americans who plot wars (and imagine them to be humanitarian) already see Syria as a microcosm of region- and world-wide rivalries with "enemies" like Russia and Iran and both Islamist and secular (socialist) tendencies in all Arab nations and "allies" having as many conflicting views and aims as Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, France, the UK, and its former (but still reigning) emirates and vassals.

    As Quiggin notes, we are now well into the hundredth anniversary of the original Great War. The reaction to that horror was to demilitarize, but that world was still driven by dreams of empire, and the inequitable settlement left Germany hungering for another shot and Japan and Italy thinking they were still on the rise, so there followed another, even more devastating and frightful war, capped by the emergence of a bomb capable of devastating whole cities in seconds. Again, nearly everyone hoped to render war obsolete and impossible. Some measures were taken, starting with declaration of a universal "rights of man" that if truly honored would render the old reasons for war -- chiefly, empire and plunder -- obsolete. It would be smart to revisit those ideas and try to reinvigorate them. Because clearly piling one armed outrage on top of another isn't working.

  • Matt Taibbi: Democrats Will Learn All the Wrong Lessons From Brush With Bernie: This came out after the California and New Jersey primaries in early June. I don't recall whether I saw it at the time, but it's still timely with the Democratic National Convention up this coming week.

    Politicians are so used to viewing the electorate as a giant thing to be manipulated that no matter what happens at the ballot, they usually can only focus on the Washington-based characters they perceive to be pulling the strings. Through this lens, the uprising among Democratic voters this year wasn't an organic expression of mass disgust, but wholly the fault of Bernie Sanders, who within the Beltway is viewed as an oddball amateur and radical who jumped the line.

    Nobody saw his campaign as an honest effort to restore power to voters, because nobody in the capital even knows what that is. In the rules of palace intrigue, Sanders only made sense as a kind of self-centered huckster who made a failed play for power. And the narrative will be that with him out of the picture, the crisis is over. No person, no problem.

    This inability to grasp that the problem is bigger than Bernie Sanders is a huge red flag. As Thacker puts it, the theme of this election year was widespread anger toward both parties, and both the Trump craziness and the near-miss with Sanders should have served as a warning. "The Democrats should be worried they're next," he says.

    But they're not worried. Behind the palace walls, nobody ever is.

    Since then we have seen Sanders having some influence on the Democratic Party platform, although many issues remained firmly within Clinton parameters (Israel, for one). Clinton has even moved a bit toward free college, but with numerous caveats. On the other hand, picking Tim Kaine as her running mate showed no desire to reward or even acknowledge Sanders' voters -- not that Kaine is so awful, just that he offers nothing Clinton doesn't already have.

  • Michael Tomasky: Can the Monster Be Elected? It may seem like I should have filed this under Trump, but on the cover of The New York Review of Books this was titled "Will She Win?" with a less than flattering picture of Hillary Clinton. Inside it's nominally a review of two books: John Sides/Lynn Vavreck: The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election, and Christopher H. Achen/Larry M. Bartels: Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, not that he has much to say about either. Nor does he make a case that either candidate is a monsters (although Trump, and for that matter Clinton, are vivid enough you can confirm your own conclusions. Rather, his main argument is that not much actually changes in an election. He points out, for instance, that in December 2011 Obama was leading Romney in the polls by four points, and eleven months later Obama won by the same four points. "Nothing that happened seems to have made any difference. [ . . . ] The whole race, and all those billions of dollars spent on it, might as well never have happened." He attributes most of this to polarization, the process by which most people have locked themselves into one party/worldview regardless of candidate. One could take such an analysis and argue that Trump, at least, is something different, but Tomasky doesn't go there. He sees Clinton winning, narrowly but solidly, for the usual reason: there's just not so much so wrong that most people will risk such a seemingly radical change. Indeed, Sides and Vavreck argue that "Mitt Romney's crucial error was his relentless hammering away at the terrible economy," because that message then strayed so far from reality. Yet they don't draw the obvious conclusion, that Trump is painting a far more extreme picture, even farther from reality, and offering "solutions" that can hardly be described as anything but magic. So for me a key question is why so many on the left are so terrified by Trump. By all evidence, he is less trigger-happy than McCain, and less of an economic royalist than Romney -- those two were my idea of really scary candidates -- but he is racist like we've rarely seen in recent years, he seems excited by violence, he has extraordinary delusions of grandeur, but those are all things sensible candidates would ridicule, not fear. Those who fear him seem to think he has some special yoke on the white working class, a group they seem to fear and despise as if they've been locked in a theatre and force fed Richard Nixon speeches -- but also a group that they know New Democrats have screwed over and abandoned, something they should feel guilty for.

  • Several pieces on Turkey:

    • Mustafa Akyol: Who Was Behind the Coup Attempt in Turkey? Argues that it was, indeed, followers of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, so Erdogan's insistence that the US arrest Gulen and turn him over to Turkey isn't so far-fetched.

      The Gulen community is built around one man: Fethullah Gulen. His followers see him not merely as a learned cleric, as they publicly claim, but the "awaited one," as I have been told in private. He is the Mahdi, the Islamic version of the Messiah, who will save the Muslim world, and ultimately the world itself. Many of his followers also believe that Mr. Gulen sees the Prophet Muhammad in his dreams and receives orders from him.

      Besides Mr. Gulen's unquestionable authority, another key feature of the movement is its cultish hierarchy. The Gulen movement is structured like a pyramid: Top-level imams give orders to second-level imams, who give orders to third-level imams, and it goes on like that to the grass roots.

      What does the group do? Its most visible activities include opening schools, running charities that provide social services to the poor and maintaining "dialogue centers" that preach love, tolerance and peace. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. I personally have spoken many times at Gulen institutions as a guest, and met modest, kind, lovable people.

      But, as one disillusioned Gulenist told me last year, "there is a darker side of the movement, and few of its members know it as it is." For decades, the movement has been infiltrating Turkey's state institutions, like the police, judiciary and military. Many believe that some Gulenists, taking orders from their imams, hide their identities and try to rise through these institutions in order to capture state power.

      The Turkish army has long been a bastion of Kemalist secularism, but Akyol argues that an alliance of Erdogan and the Gulenists effectively purged the armed forces of secularists, and that the coup itself was precipitated by Erdogan's efforts to purge the Gulenists from the military.

    • Dov Friedman: The Causes of the Coup Attempt in Turkey: A History of the Usual Suspects: Much more on the history of Islamist movements in Turkish history, including the 1997 "postmodern coup" which deposed Welfare Party Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan and send Fethullah Gulen into exile. When democracy was restored, Erdogan's AKP rose to power, and formed an alliance with the Gulenists to counter the secular bias in the military and government bureaucracy. That alliance fell apart after 2012:

      The rift only widened. Gulen himself voiced criticisms of the government's handling of the May 2013 Gezi protests, when the government's grip on power momentarily appeared to wobble. In October of that year, the government proposed legal changes to close university entrance exam prep schools -- a key source of Gulenist revenue and youth recruitment.

      In December 2013, the Gulenists revealed evidence of large-scale corruption that reached all the way to the highest ranks of the AK Party, implicating Erdogan himself, his family, and key ministerial allies. The attempted coup de grace failed. Erdogan survived the crisis and unleashed a backlash of sustained intensity that continues to this day. He purged Gulenist sympathizers from every part of the bureaucracy, closed Gulenist media organizations, punished Gulenist-owned companies, and orchestrated the insolvency and takeover of the formerly Gulenist-aligned Bank Asya. Since this eruption, Erdogan has taken every opportunity to accuse the Gulenist movement of functioning as an illegal parallel state subverting institutions and engaging in terrorism.

      Another factor here is the breakdown of peace talks with the Kurds, increasing aggressiveness of the Turkish military against Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, and Turkey's own rather schizophrenic approach to Syria (promoting anti-Assad forces, allowing the US to bomb ISIS from Turkey, trying to undermine Syria's Kurds, and finding itself targeted by ISIS terrorists). It's just not clear how these factors play out, in part because the main effect of the coup attempt has been to allow Erdogan to greatly accelerate his power grab within Turkey.

      Ever the opportunist, Erdogan has recognized an opening to amass the formalized broad powers he seeks -- and long sought, even before the failed coup. This is why the Erdogan loyalist-controlled judicial appointments board sacked 2,745 judges within hours of the coup. The government has been in the slow process of remaking the judiciary -- one of the last state institutions not entirely under thumb. The purges have only deepened -- with more than 50,000 suspended or detained, among them teachers, civil servants, and university administrators. The AK Party government has accelerated the process in a way that would not have been possible without the coup attempt.

Friday, July 22, 2016

RNC Update

I started this on day two of the Republican National Convention, and it just kept growing as the writing came in. Still doesn't cover day four, with Trump's monumental acceptance speech, very well, but you can kind of fill that in given all you already know about Trump. Some late-breaking pieces include Trump Just Rehashed Literally Every Feud He's Ever Had With Cruz, John Nichols: If Trump's Speech Sounded Familiar, That's Because Nixon Gave It First, Charles Pierce: Donald Trump Sold Us Fear. Next Comes the Wrath, Margaret Doris: And Then the Balloons Dropped, and Then the World Started Coming to an End, Nate Silver: Donald Trump Goes 'All-In.' How Will Clinton Respond?, DD Guttenplan: The RNC Is a Disaster -- So Why Can't I sleep at Night, Ben Cohen: The RNC Was Not the End of the GOP, It Was Its Rebirth as a Fascist Party, Andrew O'Hehir: After that diabolical, masterful performance, Donald Trump could easily end up president, and New Media Guru Clay Shirky Drops 'Stop Trump' Tweetstorm on White Liberals. The latter posts may seem alarmist, but 538's Election Forecast has reduced Clinton's "chance of winning" to 58.5% (from 77.2% as recently as on July 11). That suggests that Trump did indeed get a bounce from the Convention, even though I can't recall one that looked more haggard and repulsive. Actually, most of that drop occurred before the convention, following the FBI's report on Hillary Clinton's email server affair.

The links below come from a mix of left, liberal, and mainstream sites -- I don't bother with anything on the far right, although my wife has a weak spot for Fox News (especially on days most embarrassing to the right), so I watched more of that than I would have if it were up to me. In my youth, I used to watch party conventions gavel to gavel, but haven't for many decades, especially as they became ever more tightly programmed for propaganda effect. But also the coverage has changed, so you have a lot more commentary on the side, fewer interviews with delegates, and even some of the speeches get skipped (in part because they've become ever more predictable). I did manage to watch late-night coverage by Stephen Colbert and Seth Myers, much of which could have been scripted before events -- not that I have any reason to think they missed their marks.

One theme you'll see much of below is the notion that Donald Trump is the vilest and scariest candidate any party has ever nominated. Indeed, you'll find Wichita's own mild-mannered centrist Davis Marritt describing the prospect of a Trump triumphant as "democracide." Or as Seth Myers put it: "Donald Trump's campaign manager, Paul Manafort, told reporters that, 'once Donald Trump is accepted by the American people as someone who can be president the race will be over with.' I assume he means the human race."

I can't think of any level on which I admire or even like Trump, but I can't view him as uniquely apocalyptic. Rather, I think the rot has been setting into the Republican Party for decades now, and any of the sixteen original candidates would have been more/less equally atrocious. In strictly policy terms most of the candidates were much worse than Trump -- not that he's consistent enough to trust, but rigor made Cruz perhaps the worst of all. And even in terms of personality and temperament, I'm not not certain that Trump is worse than Carson or Jindal or Huckabee or Santorum or even Chris Christie. Still, there is one area where Trump stands out: he's given vent to, and effectively legitimized, racism to a degree that no American politician, at least on the national stage, has dared since George Wallace. And the effect of his example has been to elicit the worst instincts in his followers -- indeed, diehard racists from all around the world have flocked to his cause. He's especially horrible in that regard, which would be reason enough to oppose him. I doubt that even most of his followers back him there, although they are the sort that can be amazingly blind to racial slurs, and he has clearly earned points with them for refusing to back down any time he offends the imaginary "code of political correctness" -- what we more generally refer to as civil decency.

Then there is the charge that Trump is a fascist, or would be our first fascist president. I don't think it took his Mussolini tweets or his father's Hitler fetish to show that his temperament and belief system leaned that way. There was, for instance, his endorsement of street violence by his supporters, and his more general way with hateful speech. And even before him segments of his party have been obsessed with enforcing their notions of religious morality on the population, and in undermining democracy -- both preventing their opponents from being able to vote and allowing business interests to flood campaigns with money and false advertising. Moreover, Trump's expressed a desire for extraordinary powers, including the ability to purge the government of Democrats. He hardly seems like someone whose oath to "defend and protect the constitution" would be worth much.

Then there's his goal of "making America great again" -- a claim, a project, that reeks of war and imperialism, although it is far from clear how he intends to accomplish that, or even what he means. (Clinton, on the other hand, will counter that "America has never not been great," and will embrace American exceptionalism on her way to continuing the same world-hegemonic ambitions of her predecessors, even though the entire project has been patently absurd for decades now. Trump may be less predictable and more dangerous because of his combination of ignorance and petulance, but she is more certain to continue the bankrupt policies of the last fifteen years.) For one thing, he fancies himself more the dealmaker than the conquistador, and sees America's interests as more economical than ideological.

However, there is one area of American life where near-totalitarian power exists, and that is Trump's area: business. Not since the 1920s, if ever, have businesses had more control over their employees than they have now -- a fact that Trump has flaunted on his TV show given the flourish with which he fires underlings who in any way displease him. No doubt he will expect the same powers as President -- indeed, his plans may depend on them -- and he will certainly promote them. Anyone concerned about Trump's potential for fascism should start by looking at the culture he comes from. Indeed, that culture is a rich source of reasons why Trump should not be president.

Next week, we move on to the Democratic Convention, where Hillary Clinton will be nominated as the only realistic alternative to Donald Trump. One hopes that she will be able to present herself as a much different person than Trump, and also that she will show that America need not be the dystopia that fires the desire for a Führer like Trump. That's going to be a tall order.

Some links:

  • Ezra Klein: Donald Trump's speech introducing Mike Pence showed why he shouldn't be president:

    Back in May, E.J. Dionne wrote that the hardest thing about covering Donald Trump would be "staying shocked." Watching him, day after day, week after week, month after month, the temptation would be to normalize his behavior, "to move Trump into the political mainstream."

    But today helped. Trump's introduction of Mike Pence was shocking. Forget the political mainstream. What happened today sat outside the mainstream for normal human behavior. [ . . . ]

    Even when he did mention Pence, he often managed to say exactly the wrong thing. "One of the big reasons I chose Mike is party unity, I have to be honest," Trump admitted midway through his speech, at the moment another candidate would have said, "I chose Mike because he'll be a great president." Trump then segued into a riff on how thoroughly he had humiliated the Republican establishment in state after state. Thus he managed to turn Pence from a peace offering into a head on a pike, a warning to all who might come after.

    When Trump finally stuck to Pence, at the end of his lengthy speech, he seemed robotic, bored, restless. He recited Pence's accomplishment like he was reading his Wikipedia page for the first time, inserting little snippets of meta-commentary and quick jabs as if to keep himself interested.

    The final humiliation was yet to come: Trump introduced Pence and then immediately, unusually, walked off the stage, leaving Pence alone at the podium.

    When Trump initially picked Pence I was pretty upset. The one thing I always gave Trump credit for was his rejection of the economic nostrums that had were the bedrock of the conservative movement, that obviously had proven so hurtful to the vast majority of the Republican base but were locked into Republican dysfunction by the donor class. Yet picking Pence tied him to the same program of devastation that his voters had just rejected -- the only saving grace was that Pence seems never to have had an original thought, unlike figures like Gingrich, Brownback, and Cruz who have pioneered new ways of degrading America. But what I hadn't realized was how utterly colorless Pence was -- Trump needn't have denigrated him so, as he was quite capable of humiliating himself. Indeed, in his speech he uttered the best joke line of the convention: "Trump is a man known for his large personality, a colorful style and lots of charisma, so I guess he was looking for some balance." Funny line, but he made it seem pathetic.

  • Ezra Klein: Donald Trump's nomination is the first time American politics has left me truly afraid: I've always been more focused on policy, so I found the extreme ideological neoconservatism of McCain and the equally extreme ideological neoliberalism of Romney, combined with the eagerness of both to kowtow to the neofascist Christian right, scarier than the scattered heterodoxy and opportunism of Trump, but Klein crafts a pretty strong case, with sections on (follow the link for details):

    • Trump is vindictive.
    • Trump is a bigot.
    • Trump is a sexist.
    • Trump is a liar.
    • Trump is a narcissist.
    • Trump admires authoritarian dictators for their authoritarianism.
    • Trump is a conspiracy theorist.
    • Trump is very, very gullible.
    • Trump doesn't apologize, and his defensiveness escalates situations.
    • Trump surrounds himself with sycophants.
    • Trump has proven too lazy to learn about policy.
    • Trump as run an incompetent campaign and convention.
    • Trump is a bully.
    • Trump has regularly incited or justified violence among his supporters.

    Not specifically on the convention but on the candidate, see Jane Mayer: Donald Trump's Ghostwriter Tells All -- based on the co-author of Trump's Art of the Deal, which he now feels would be better titled Sociopath. (James Hamblin examines the evidence for that claim in Donald Trump: Sociopath?.) Mayer recounts Schwartz's attempts to elicit information for the book from Trump:

    After hearing Trump's discussions about business on the phone, Schwartz asked him brief follow-up questions. He then tried to amplify the material he got from Trump by calling others involved in the deals. But their accounts often directly conflicted with Trump's. "Lying is second nature to him," Schwartz said. "More than anyone else I have ever met, Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true, or at least ought to be true." Often, Schwartz said, the lies that Trump told him were about money -- "how much he had paid for something, or what a building he owned was worth, or how much one of his casinos was earning when it was actually on its way to bankruptcy." [ . . . ]

    When challenged about the facts, Schwartz says, Trump would often double down, repeat himself, and grow belligerent. This quality was recently on display after Trump posted on Twitter a derogatory image of Hillary Clinton that contained a six-pointed star lifted from a white-supremacist Web site. Campaign staffers took the image down, but two days later Trump angrily defended it, insisting that there was no anti-Semitic implication. Whenever "the thin veneer of Trump's vanity is challenged," Schwartz says, he overreacts -- not an ideal quality in a head of state.

    Trump's response to this piece, unsurprisingly, has been to threaten to sue Schwartz. See Mayer's follow-up, Donald Trump Threatens the Ghostwriter of The Art of the Deal.

  • George Saunders: Who Are All These Trump Supporters?: Many anecdotes in the article, including some about how some Trump supporters seem to relish violence, but this is close to a fair definition:

    The Trump supporters I spoke with were friendly, generous with their time, flattered to be asked their opinion, willing to give it, even when they knew I was a liberal writer likely to throw them under the bus. They loved their country, seemed genuinely panicked at its perceived demise, felt urgently that we were, right now, in the process of losing something precious. They were, generally, in favor of order and had a propensity toward the broadly normative, a certain squareness. They leaned toward skepticism (they'd believe it when they saw it, "it" being anything feelings-based, gauzy, liberal, or European; i.e., "socialist"). Some (far from all) had been touched by financial hardship -- a layoff was common in many stories -- and (paradoxically, given their feelings about socialism) felt that, while in that vulnerable state, they'd been let down by their government. They were anti-regulation, pro small business, pro Second Amendment, suspicious of people on welfare, sensitive (in a "Don't tread on me" way) about any infringement whatsoever on their freedom. Alert to charges of racism, they would pre-counter these by pointing out that they had friends of all colors. They were adamantly for law enforcement and veterans' rights, in a manner that presupposed that the rest of us were adamantly against these things. It seemed self-evident to them that a businessman could and should lead the country. "You run your family like a business, don't you?" I was asked more than once, although, of course, I don't, and none of us do.

    It seems like a lot of liberal writers have this fixed idea of Trump's supporters as an ignorant, embittered white lumpenproletariat, ground down by globalized business and lashing out at the blacks and immigrants who they see as gaining from their misfortune and the overeducated urban liberals who help them. (For example, see Davis Merritt: The day of GOP's democracide arrives: "Consider that [Trump] has drawn millions of votes from America's unhappiest, most dispossessed people by inflaming their righteous grievances and deepest fears for their future.") But in fact Trump's supporters are relatively well off -- I've seen a study that indicates that their average family income is about $20,000 over the national average. Of course, some of that is that they're white and they're mostly older, and both of those skew the median up. I see them as basic conformists: the kind of people who get promoted at work not just because they work hard but because they suck up to the boss and adopt his worldview, as well as conforming to the time-tested verities of faith and patriotism. Such people believe that they earned their success, and that others could do the same if only they conformed to the social order like they did. There's nothing terribly wrong with this -- my recommendation for anyone who wants to succeed in America is to adopt a conservative lifestyle -- but several factors work to twist their worldview. One is that their success isn't generalizable: their success, their promotions, etc., depend on bypassing other people, deemed less worthy mostly because they are less able to conform. Second, these people tend to live in homogeneous suburbs where they rarely encounter diversity -- of course, when they do see other kinds of people as human like themselves, they make exceptions, but not often enough to shed their generalizations. Third, they experience the distant world through a media that is finely tuned to flatter themselves and shock them with the horrors of the outside world -- especially those that threaten their worldview.

    That media, of course, is a key part of a political project launched by the conservative business class in the 1970s, aimed at making sure that as America declined in the world the pinch wouldn't be felt by themselves. Richard Nixon came up with the basic concept in what he called the "silent majority" and sought to agitate them into becoming a loyal political force. Later, under Reagan, they were rebranded the "moral majority." After Clinton won in 1992 -- conservative economic ideas were already proving to be disastrous for America's once vast middle class -- the media effort went into overdrive with its scorched earth attacks on "liberal elites," and that only intensified after Obama's win in 2008 (following the incompetence revealed in eight disastrous years of Bush's aggressive conservative agenda). Many of us have had no trouble rejecting this agenda, but much of the targeted audience have bought it all, bringing electoral success to a party which seems bound and determined to dismantle much of the framework that makes our country and world livable. Saunders has an explanation for this:

    Where is all this anger coming from? It's viral, and Trump is Typhoid Mary. Intellectually and emotionally weakened by years of steadily degraded public discourse, we are now two separate ideological countries, LeftLand and RightLand, speaking different languages, the lines between us down. Not only do our two subcountries reason differently; they draw upon non-intersecting data sets and access entirely different mythological systems. You and I approach a castle. One of us has watched only "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," the other only "Game of Thrones." What is the meaning, to the collective "we," of yon castle? We have no common basis from which to discuss it. You, the other knight, strike me as bafflingly ignorant, a little unmoored. In the old days, a liberal and a conservative (a "dove" and a "hawk," say) got their data from one of three nightly news programs, a local paper, and a handful of national magazines, and were thus starting with the same basic facts (even if those facts were questionable, limited, or erroneous). Now each of us constructs a custom informational universe, wittingly (we choose to go to the sources that uphold our existing beliefs and thus flatter us) or unwittingly (our app algorithms do the driving for us). The data we get this way, pre-imprinted with spin and mythos, are intensely one-dimensional.

    I don't get the castle example, but you can substitute many other concepts/events and see clear divides -- torture comes to mind, as I'm currently reading James Risen's Pay Any Price. Still, the left/right breakdown doesn't depend solely on one's chosen ideological envelope: one chooses that envelope based on other factors, perhaps most importantly whether you can see yourself or can empathize with the victim of some act. The RNC made it very clear that Republicans are deeply moved by violence against police, yet their only concern about police who kill unarmed black is the racism they perceive in the Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

    For an example of how absurd this can get, see Kansas Senate president: Obama 'has stoked the fires of anger and hostility' toward police. Susan Wagle is rarely the dumbest Republican in Kansas, yet she took the prize this time attempting to reap political gain from a tragic shooting. Of Obama, she said: "He's our national leader. We take his responses very seriously, and I think his role should be one of being an encourager for people to get along and for people to build relationships and for police to be fair in their treatment of all people and for the public to appreciate their role in our communities." It's obvious to me that that's exactly what he's always done, yet she refuses to recognize that and goes further to accuse him of the opposite, based on absolutely nothing but her visceral hatred of the man. That sort of carelessness about facts and views and the motives of people is endemic in her party.

  • Christine Aschwenden: There's Probably Nothing That Will Change Clinton or Trump Supporters' Minds: Another iteration of Saunders' conclusions (with gratuitous equivalencies about Clinton -- the author is evidently one of those "both sides do it" middle-of-the-roaders):

    To his ardent supporters, Donald Trump is an exemplar of power and status. Donald Trump is going to make America great again. He'll put America First. He refuses to be silenced by the thought police. He's so rich, he can't be bought. He speaks his mind. He'll get the job done.

    To those who oppose him, he's a racist, misogynistic, narcissistic buffoon. Repeated lies, racist statements and attacks on women have led many people, including some prominent conservative donors, to conclude that Trump is unfit to be president, yet these missteps don't seem to bother his supporters much. Trump told a campaign rally in January that, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters, OK? It's incredible."

    Trump's claim might seem like an exaggeration, played up for drama, but research suggests that once people board the Trump train, there's little that can prod them to jump off. (You could probably say something similar about Hillary Clinton supporters.) As much as we like to think that we use reason to evaluate evidence and come to conclusions, "It really goes back assward, a lot of times," said Peter Ditto, a psychologist at University of California, Irvine. "People already have a firm opinion, and that shapes the way they process information." We hold beliefs about how the world works and tend to force new information to fit within these pre-existing narratives.

    There's also this, which reminds me of Goebbels' "big lie" principle:

    Detractors shake their heads over Trump's habit of repeating lies that have already been publicly debunked. (PolitiFact has documented at least 17 times when Donald Trump said one thing and then denied it, and they've found that only five of the 182 Trump statements they evaluated were true, while 107 of them were false or "pants on fire" false.) But this strategy might not be as foolish as it seems. Work by political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler has shown that once an incorrect idea is lodged in someone's mind, it can be hard to overturn and corrections can actually strengthen people's belief in the misperception via the "backfire effect." When presented with information that contradicts what they already believe about controversial issues or candidates, people have a tendency to counterargue. They draw on the available considerations, malign the source of unwelcome information and generate ways to buttress the position they are motivated to take. As a result, they can end up becoming surer of their misconceptions, Nyhan said.

  • Jeff Carter: Terrifying politics aside, let's take a moment to lavish in the supreme weirdness of the RNC spectacle:

    Say what you will about Donald Trump's almost infinite ignorance about every issue confronting the country, there is nobody, absolutely and unequivocally nobody, who can stage a Trump adore-a-thon better than Donald Trump. It's going to be huge! The best convention ever convened! The best speakers ever gathered! It will have the best platform ever conjured forth by a political party (not that Trump will ever read it or know what's in it, but it'll be great!). Xenophobes, Klansmen, White Nationalists, misogynists, Birthers and other Republican constituency groups will be gathered as one to sing hosannas to Donald Trump.

  • Heather Digby Parton: Fear and loathing of Clinton:

    After Melania Trump left the stage people began filtering out of the hall since she'd been billed as the main attraction but the speeches went on and on afterwards with a bizarre, rambling speech from retired general Michael Flynn that sounded like it too was plagiarized -- from "Dr. Strangelove." Senator Joni Ernst spoke to a hall that was two thirds empty and there were even more people speaking late into the night after she was done. For a convention that was supposed to be showbiz slick, the first night certainly had a haphazard feeling to it.

  • Tierney Sneed/Lauren Fox: Gloomy Old Party: GOP Clings to Themes of Threats, Violence, and Betrayal:

    The night's other prevailing theme -- besides America is going to hell -- is that Hillary Clinton is going to prison.

    "Hillary Clinton is unfit to be president. We all know she loves her pantsuits. Yes, you know what's coming. We should send her an e-mail and tell her she deserves a bright orange jumpsuit," said Colorado Senate candidate Darryl Glenn, merging two of the GOP's favorite Hillary memes into one.

    Later in the night the convention crowd broke out into chants of "lock her up."

    The rhetoric provided a theme around which the fractured Republican Party could rally. They may not all see Trump as their white knight, but they were united in fear about the state of the world and the country.

    Incarcerating Clinton may actually be a minority position among GOP delegates. There is, for instance, this: Trump Adviser: Clinton Should Be 'Shot for Treason' Over Benghazi Attack. But really, judging from the tone of the speakers and the crowd chants, many won't be satisfied until they see her head on a spike. And while Trump is amazingly quick to recant any time he says something that offends conservative orthodoxy, he has never shied away from his followers' penchant for racism and violence, even here: The Trump Campaign Is Now Wink-Winking Calls to Murder Clinton:

    Calls for violence or the killing of a political opponent usually spurs the other candidate to totally disavow the person in question. Frankly, it's a pretty new thing for a prominent supporter of a prominent politician to call for killing opposing candidates at all. But the Trump campaign is still "incredibly grateful his support" even though "we don't agree" that Clinton should be shot.

  • Emily Plitter: Trump could seek new law to purge government of Obama appointees: When I first read this headline, I wondered whether Trump was jealous of Turkish president Erdogan, who has started a massive purge of the Turkish military and bureaucracy to get rid of anyone who had gone along with the coup attempt (or more generally, anyone hostile to the ruling AKP party). Turns out this is more focused at a small number of appointees whose jobs are reclassified as civil service. Still, such a law would be a step toward such a purge, and could be used to further politicize the civil service -- as, e.g., GW Bush did when he fired a couple dozen federal prosecutors who weren't adequately following his partisan program.

  • Lauren Fox/Tierney Sneed: 'I Feel Like I Am Living a Dream': The GOP Convention From the Inside:

    [Mary Susan Rehrer, a delegate from Minnesota] said she was floored so many in the media had walked away from Monday night's convention with the similarities between Melania's speech and Michelle Obama's in 2008 as their headline.

    "I'm in business, OK, and I speak for a living as one of the things that I do. All the best stuff is stolen and there is nothing original, so it's all hocus pocus," Rehrer said. "We're supposed to share."

  • Daniel Victor: What, Congressman Steve King Asks, Have Nonwhites Done for Civilization?: From one of those panel discussions that have filled up the airways during the RNC, this one on MSNBC chaired by Chris Hayes with Iowa Rep. King as the only far right voice:

    "If you're really optimistic, you can say this was the last time that old white people would command the Republican Party's attention, its platform, its public face," Charles P. Pierce, a writer at large at Esquire magazine, said during the panel discussion.

    In response, Mr. King said: "This whole 'old white people' business does get a little tired, Charlie. I'd ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?"

    "Than white people?" Mr. Hayes asked.

    Mr. King responded: "Than Western civilization itself that's rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America, and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That's all of Western civilization."

    I see this mostly as an example of how Trump's ascendancy has loosened the tongues of white supremacists. But I can't say as it's helpful to have their opinions freely expressed again -- and make no mistake that such opinions had a long run as freely spoken, to extraordinarily cruel effect. But even if his assertion is true -- and you can't say "western civilization" without conjuring up, at least in my mind, Gandhi's quote that "that would be a nice idea" -- what does King think that means? That white people deserve due respect? Sure. That white people are entitled to special privileges in our democracy? Not really. I think that Pierce is wrong: that white Republicans would rather go down with the ship than diversify, clinging to their control of "red states" even if they cease to be competitive nationally. Of course, a different kind of Republican Party could incubate in "blue states" but it's hard to see how they gain traction after the party has so totally succumbed to conservative extremism. If the core idea of Republicanism is to help rich business interests against labor and the poor, that isn't a very promising platform on which to build a political majority: that's why they've had to resort to racism, religious bigotry, and militaristic jingoism in the first place. What else do they have?

    Article includes several reaction tweets. My favorite, not included, is from Jason Bailey: "Steve King must have the shittiest iTunes library."

  • Scott Eric Kaufman: Ted Cruz refuses to endorse Trump: To quote him: "Vote your conscience, for candidates you believe will be faithful to the Constitution." Mario Rubio also tiptoed through his speaking slot without offering a Trump endorsement, while Nikki Haley offered a "tepid semi-endorsement." Other GOP luminaries didn't bother to attend, especially Ohio Governor John Kasich, who was reportedly offered the vice-president slot and who could have justified attending just to promote home-state business, also the Bush clan. But Cruz was widely reviled afterwards, although I don't see how imploring folks to "vote your conscience" implicates one who has none. My main question about Cruz (and for that matter Kasich) is why if he's so adamantly opposed to Trump did he fold up his tent after losing Indiana? Surely there were still Republican voters, especially in California, prepared to resist Trump? The most likely reason is that his billionaire backers pulled the plug, and he was so totally their creature he didn't have the guts to continue on his own. Aside from Trump and Carson, that was the situation with all the Republicans: they ran because they lined up rich backers, and quit as soon as the money ran dry. Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, could hang on to the bitter end because his supporters backed his program, rather than looking for an inside track on favors if he won.

    Martin Longman, by the way, saw the Cruz speech thus: I Thought Trump Sabotaged Cruz. He makes a pretty good case that Trump, who had seen the speech two hours before, timed the disruption to highlight Cruz's treachery, even if it turned him into a martyr:

    In other words, he simply didn't say anything at that particular point in the speech that would logically inspire a spontaneous stomping protest of outrage. On the other hand, if you had read the speech ahead of time and were planning to boo Cruz off the stage, that was the logical point to do it. It was the point in which he failed to say the magic words. That was knowable with the speech in hand, but not knowable if you were just listening to the speech and had no idea what was coming next or how it would end.

    To me, it's clear that Trump coordinated the whole thing, told the New York delegation when to protest, timed his entrance for just that time, prepped his running mate and others to have their talking points ready, and "loved" the result, as he said.

  • David E Sanger/Maggie Haberman: Donald Trump Sets Conditions for Defending NATO Allies Against Attack: Details Trump's latest pontifications on foreign policy, which among other things questioned why the US should foot much of the bill for NATO.

    "This is not 40 years ago," Mr. Trump said, rejecting comparisons of his approaches to law-and-order issues and global affairs to Richard Nixon's. Reiterating his threat to pull back United States troops deployed around the world, he said, "We are spending a fortune on military in order to lose $800 billion," citing what he called America's trade losses. "That doesn't sound very smart to me."

    Mr. Trump repeatedly defined American global interests almost purely in economic terms. Its roles as a peacekeeper, as a provider of a nuclear deterrent against adversaries like North Korea, as an advocate of human rights and as a guarantor of allies' borders were each quickly reduced to questions of economic benefit to the United States.

    The neocons went beserk over this, with Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, John Bolton, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prominent. (Trump flack Scott Brown assures us there's nothing to worry about because Melania "is from that region.") More worrisome to me is that counterattacks have also sprung up among liberals (as opposed to the left, as they frequently are): e.g., in TPM Sara Jerde: The 3 Most Dangerous Things Trump Said in Bonkers NYT Foreign Policy Interview. I don't doubt that the interview was bonkers, but what's so dangerous about these three things? -- "America's role in assisting NATO allies," "Reining in US bases abroad," and "Solving Islamic State unrest through 'meetings'"? In the first place, the US has never actually assisted any allies through NATO. The US uses NATO to threaten Russia, exacerbating tensions that could more easily be reduced through neutrality, trade and openness (as has happened within Europe). Why the US does this is more complex, some combination of neocon "sole super power" supremacism, subsidies for the US defense industry, and providing a fig leaf of international support for America's wars in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and North Africa -- but there's not a single good idea in that mix. Moreover, Trump's right that most US bases abroad are no more than economic subsidies, tolerated because they pay their own way. One could go further and point out that major US base complexes in Germany and Japan, while largely inoffensive to those countries, are critical way stations for America's wars in Asia and Africa. Shutting them down would make it harder for the US to try to solve problems by warfare and would (horror of horrors) make it more important to hold "meetings." (In fairness, I don't think Trump proposed meetings with ISIS; rather, he was talking about Turks and Kurds, and Jerde took license to poison the argument.)

    What I fear happening here is that liberal hawks (Hillary Clinton certainly qualifies) will seize this opportunity to attack Trump as soft on Putin (and ISIS). I am especially reminded of the 1984 debates between Reagan and Mondale, where Mondale proved himself to be the far more rigorous and militant red-baiter -- a stance that did him no good, partly because most people didn't care, partly because Reagan's own "star wars" dreams were so loony he held onto the lunatic right, and possibly because he turned off anyone actually concerned about peace. Trump's interview suggests that he might actually be saner regarding world war than Clinton. It would be a terrible mistake should she prove him right.

    Note that Lyndon Johnson beat Barry Goldwater bad by convincing people that Goldwater would be the dangerous lunatic, even though it was Johnson who insanely escalated the war in Vietnam. Similarly Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt campaigned on their kill at keeping America out of world wars they joined post-election. Even GW Bush was circumspect when campaigning about the wars he hoped we now know he had every intention of launching. So why would Clinton want to present herself as the warmonger in the 2016 race? Insecurity perhaps, or maybe conviction, but clearly not smarts.

    PS: Jeffrey Goldberg has already fired the first shot of Hillary's campaign to out-warmonger Trump: see It's Official: Hillary Clinton Is Running Against Vladimir Putin. Featured blurb: "Unlike Trump, leaders of countries like Estonia believe that the US still represents the best hope for freedom." So why shouldn't tiny, unstrategic countries like Estonia (or Georgia or Israel) be able to usurp and direct American foreign policy simply by uttering a few magic words?

    Unlike Trump, leaders of such countries as Estonia believe that the United States still represents the best hope for freedom. In his interview with Haberman and Sanger, Trump argued, in essence, that there is nothing exceptional about the U.S., and that therefore its leaders have no right to criticize the behavior of other countries: "When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don't think we're a very good messenger."

    PPS: More liberal hawks: Nancy LeTourneau: Trump's Outrageous Foreign Policy Views (in Washington Monthly), and Kevin Drum: Donald Trump Just Invited Russia to Attack Eastern Europe (in Mother Jones).

  • Paul Krugman: The GOP's Original Sin: I'd trace this back a bit further, but lots of bad ideas that fermented in the 1970s only became manifest once Reagan became president.

    What I want to talk about is when, exactly, the GOP went over the edge. Obviously it didn't happen all at once. But I think the real watershed came in 1980-81, when supply-side economics became the party's official doctrine. [ . . . ]

    Yet 35 years ago the GOP was already willing to embrace this doctrine because it was politically convenient, and could be used to justify tax cuts for the rich, which have always been the priority.

    And given this, why should anyone be surprised at all the reality denial and trashing of any kind of evidence that followed? You say economics is a pseudo-science? Fine. First they came for the economists; then they came for the climate scientists and the evolutionary biologists.

    Now comes Trump, and the likes of George Will, climate denier, complain that he isn't serious. Well, what did you think was going to happen?

Bonus link: Michelle Obama's Glorious, Savvy 'Carpool Karaoke' Clip, with James Corden. We've spent much of the last eight years griping about Obama, but will miss her -- and may even miss him. Also see John Stewart Returns to Savage Trump, Hannity: well, he doesn't actually refer to Hannity. Calls him "Lumpy."

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Daily Log

Got this from Robert Christgau re recent posts:

I don't like being in political disagreement with my friends, but this year the prospect of a literally fascist president makes that hard to avoid. So I have on my to-do list a letter about the difference between vanity, sense of entitlement, arrogance, and pride, but this is not that letter. Nor is it a letter about my permanent bad feelings about having voted for Ralph Nader, a man I dislike and disliked a good deal more than I do Bernie Sanders.

The rest of the mail had to do with proofreading corrections, which I have dealt with. I also wrote back:

"Dislike" struck me as an awfully personal way of making a political statement. I thought about writing something further about how people supposedly voted for Bush over Gore because they thought the former would be better company for a beer (a judgment in no way based on fact or even anecdote). Never seemed to me like a good idea to make political decisions based on distant perceptions of interpersonal traits. (Just saw a clip of Trump supporters defending their choice, and of course they have nothing else to go on, so that's all the piece showed.)

Why you should dislike Sanders (or for that matter Nader) is a second question. I don't regret my vote for Nader in 2000, although I did have second thoughts later. In particular, I noted that in Kansas, where Gore did zero campaigning, Gore still outpolled Nader 37.2% to 3.4% (I had imagined it would be much closer). My conclusion from that was that for any left agenda to be successful it would have to first win the Democratic Party, because that's where the allegiance was for most of the people that you'd want to appeal to. Accordingly, I didn't vote for Nader in 2004 -- I voted for Kerry. (Of course, I had a better sense of Bush by that time, and as the incumbent he was more clearly the issue -- and more responsible for the wars, although Kerry had gone along both with Afghanistan and Iraq, whereas Nader would not have consented to either. By the way, I still see no reason to think that Gore would have avoided either war -- he had supported the first Gulf War and as far as I know had backed Clinton's bombing campaigns in Iraq and his "reprisal" strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan -- whereas once again Nader would have made a real difference.)

As for "vanity, sense of entitlement, arrogance, and pride" I don't know what distinctions you see but together they all seem like synonyms for Hillary Clinton. I had pretty much reconciled myself to her inevitability before the campaigns started up, so while I'm disappointed now I'm not struggling with anything -- other than a certain sadness realizing that her election offer no prospect of reversing the major problems of war/empire and inequality. But also there is a glimmer of hope that Sanders' movement might keep her more conscious of the needs of the Democratic base than, e.g., Obama has been.

Still, I was surprised by the number of old lefty friends I ran into on the east coast who were wary of Sanders and committed to Hillary. There seems to be some kind of Icarus complex at work here, where old lefties are so used to losing (and so fearful of the fascist right) they no longer dare to ask for anything -- and so they're willing to settle for nothing. That may be fine for those of us with more savings than we have healthy years left, but most younger people don't have that luxury. Kansas, which is on the cutting edge of Republican-induced pain and suffering, went over 70% for Sanders, and almost all of those people were young and struggling.

Trump will have to be a subject for another time. I could argue both sides of whether he's a fascist, and I'm not sure which I buy (but there's no doubt that his popular appeal is akin to fascism). I admit that I was rather pleased to see him beating Cruz, Rubio, et al. -- impossible to overstate how bankrupt and degenerate "conventional" conservative ideology has become, and it's gratifying to see how little hold it has on the Republican base. Still, he's an horrifying racist, and the effect he's had in terms of drawing out and legitimizing racism has been appalling. And I can't think of any other redeeming features -- maybe there's a 10% chance that he might be significantly better than Hillary on foreign policy, but even more likely he could be much worse. And he's so devoid of anything resembling policy interest that his administration will inevitably be populated by the same flacks and ideologues who would turn up in any other Republican administration.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 26822 [26780] rated (+42), 435 [445] unrated (-10).

High rated count is a combination of factors: I've been taking the new jazz queue FIFO, and ran through a dull patch -- only records that got as many as three plays were Evenfall, Mathias Landaeus, and Joel Miller (more of an art rock album), with only a couple more getting two plays; quite a few EPs and short albums among the streaming picks (the Sheer Mag 7-inchers are really 4-song EPs, the Michete and Wire EPs are 23-29 minute albums, Modern Baseball's LP barely tops 30 minutes), so they go fast. (On the other hand, the Drake album is insanely long.) I continued to check out stuff from various mid-year best-of lists, with the usual mixed results.

I've also been working on Christgau's database, and am finally up to date locally, which is to say almost a year ahead of what you see on the site. I'm waiting for some people (including Bob) to do some proofreading before I update the site. Work on that reminded me to check out The Rough Guide to South African Jazz and God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson -- two records that weren't on Rhapsody when I previously checked, but are now. (Speaking of which, their rebranding as Napster has taken place. Ugh!)

Also checked out Christgau's rap picks from last week: Vic Mensa and Joey Purp. Both good records, but I wound up with reservations about each. Still, Mensa's "16 Shots" is timely, urgent even, and may be something to return to. Purp's mixtape is stronger musically. Still, my picks this week lean toward electropop and new wave. Best I've heard from Wire in over a decade. I counted it as an EP, but it runs eight songs, 25:55.

I've added a "Artist Search" form to the "fake blog" left navigation menu. I would have liked to make it available on all standard pages, but I'm temporarily confused about how to do that. The search page is here.

New Steve Lehman album and a bunch of new Clean Feeds came in the mail today, so it'll be tempting to break FIFO order on the new jazz queue.

Here's an early report from Cleveland where my nephew Mike is covering the Republican Convention for Fusion.

New records rated this week:

  • The Avalanches: Wildflower (2016, Astralwerks): [r]: B
  • James Blake: The Colour in Anything (2016, Polydor): [r]: B-
  • The Michael Blum Quartet: Chasin' Oscar: A Tribute to Oscar Peterson (2015 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Brazzamerica: Brazzamerica (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Corey Christensen: Factory Girl (2015 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Dan Cray: Outside In (2015 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Debo Band: Ere Gobez (2016, FPE): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Diva Jazz Orchestra: Special Kay! (2013 [2016], self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Drake: Views (2016, Cash Money): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Evenfall Quartet: Evenfall (2015 [2016], Blue Duchess): [cd]: A-
  • Cheryl Fisher: Quietly There (2015 [2016], OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sara Gazarek/Josh Nelson: Dream in the Blue (2015 [2016], Steel Bird): [cd]: B
  • Hard Working Americans: Rest in Chaos (2016, Melvin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tim Hecker: Love Streams (2016, 4AD/Paper Bag): [r]: B
  • Marquis Hill: The Way We Play (2016, Concord Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mike Jones Trio: Roaring (2015 [2016], Capri): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Joonsam: A Door (2014 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Corey Kendrick Trio: Rootless (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ron King: Triumph (2016, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Mathias Landaeus: From the Piano (2016, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jessy Lanza: Oh No (2016, Hyperdub): [r]: A-
  • Låpsley: Long Way Home (2016, XL): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alison Lewis: Seven (2016, self-released): [cd]: B-
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: This Unruly Mess I've Made (2016, Macklemore): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vic Mensa: There's Alot Going On (2016, Roc Nation): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michete: Cool Tricks (2015, self-released, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michete: Cool Tricks 2 (2016, self-released, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Joel Miller With Sienna Dahlen: Dream Cassette (2014 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Bob Mintzer: All L.A. Band (2016, Fuzzy Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Modern Baseball: The Nameless Ranger (2011, Lame-O, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Modern Baseball: Holy Ghost (2016, Run for Cover): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maren Morris: Hero (2016, Columbia Nashville): [r]: B
  • Joey Purp: iiiDrops (2016, self-released): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Sheer Mag: II 7" (2015, Wilsuns RC/Katorga Works, EP): [bc]: B
  • Sheer Mag: III 7" (2016, Wilsuns RC/Static Shock, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Skepta: Konnichiwa (2016, Boy Better Know): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sound Underground: Quiet Spaces (2016, Tiny Music): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tegan and Sara: Love You to Death (2016, Vapor): [r]: A-
  • Tweet: Charlene (2016, eOne): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wire: Nocturnal Koreans (2016, Pink Flag, EP): [r]: A-

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

  • The Cucumbers: The Fake Doom Years (1983-1986) (1983-86 [2016], Lifeforce): [dl]: A-
  • God Don't Never Change: The Songs of Blind Willie Johnson (2016, Alligator): [r]: A-
  • The Rough Guide to South African Jazz [Second Edition] ([2016], World Music Network): [r]: A-

Grade changes:

  • Todd Snider: Live: The Storyteller (2010 [2011], Aimless, 2CD): [cd]: was A-, now: A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Fred Hersch: Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto)
  • Steffen Kuehn: Leap of Faith (Stefrecords): July 29
  • Jason Roebke Octet: Cinema Spiral (NoBusiness)
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Rising Colossus (Edgetone)
  • Jerome Sabbagh/Simon Jermyn/Allison Miller: Lean (Music Wizards)
  • Slavic Soul Party: Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite (Ropeadope)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Weekend Roundup

July is a month I can hardly wait to get done with, even though it leaves six or seven weeks of brutal heat to come. This year is about average for Kansas, aside from a surplus of rain that more than wiped out the spring deficit. Fitting that the major party conventions will also be dispatched during this month, although as I'm writing this they still loom: the candidates are settled, so no suspense there, and one of the veeps was revealed this week -- the utterly repugnant Mike Pence -- so the only remaining question is how to what extent each party embarrasses itself in trying to put forth its best face. Most years there is a post-convention bump in the polls. This year there's a fairly good chance for a post-convention slump.

Some prominent news items from this past week:

  • Bernie Sanders gave up his presidential campaign, acknowledging that Hillary Clinton had clinched the nomination, and endorsed her, vowing to do everything in his power to defeat Donald Trump in November -- mostly by repeating the planks of his "political revolution" platform, which Hillary is increasingly obliged to cozy up to.
  • Donald Trump, on the other hand, boxed himself into a corner and got stuck with Cruz-supporter Pence as his VP nominee. Pence is considered a sensible mainstream choice because he rarely initiates the right-wing lunatic programs he invariably winds up supporting. He's acceptable to Trump because he's so pliable he's already reversed himself on all of Trump's campaign platform, setting a fine example for all the other Republicans who had opposed Trump by showing them how a good puppy can roll over and play dead.
  • The UK has a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, committed to carrying out the Brexit referendum, in her own sweet time (and without the possible complication of electing a new parliament). She then picked the more flamboyant and demagogic Boris Johnson as Foreign Minister.
  • Factions of the Turkish military attempted a coup to seize power and oust democratically elected president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been widely criticized lately for recent laws that have restricted popular rights -- a power grab occasioned by worsening relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority and several "terrorist incidents" blamed on ISIS. The coup appears to have failed, with various members of the military being arrested in what threatens to turn into a large-scale purge.
  • Obama decided against a planned withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, changing their engagement orders to initiate offensive operations against the Taliban, thus widening and extending the war there. Escalations against Syria and Iraq continue, putting the US on its most aggressive military stance in years. At the same time, Obama is committing more US/NATO troops to the Russian frontier in Eastern Europe, increasing "cold war" tensions.
  • Eighty-four people were killed by a truck plowing through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, France. The driver was Tunisian, so this is being played up as a "terrorist attack" although there doesn't seem to be any indication that he was politically or religiously motivated. (Which isn't to say the ISIS folks don't dig what he did.)
  • Three police officers were killed in Baton Rouge, a little over a week after Baton Rouge police killed Alton Sterling, starting off a round of Black Lives Matter protests. Early reports show that the shooter was another ex-Marine (like the shooter in Dallas).

Meanwhile, some scattered links this week:

  • Julie Bosman: Public Schools? To Kansas Conservatives, They're 'Government Schools': And like conservatives everywhere, they understand that the first step in demonizing someone or something is establishing what it's called. Until recently, Kansans prided themselves on their public school system (not that my own experience was very positive). That started to change as home schooling became popular for Christian fundamentalists, and turned into something more vicious when Republicans discovered that school teachers might pose a political threat, and more generally that education in the liberal arts and sciences might work against their dogmatically cultivated interests. And lately, of course, it has come down to money: public spending on education adds to deficits and/or taxes.

  • Patrick Cockburn: A Hillary Clinton Presidency Could End Up Letting Isis Off the Hook: Cites a paper by Michele Flournoy, widely considered to be Hillary's likely pick as Secretary of Defense, arguing that the US should refocus its Syria efforts against Assad rather than against ISIS. Still, it's not like she'd switch sides and back ISIS against Assad -- something that might actually work (distasteful as it may be; it's not as if the US has never supported Islamist fanatics before). No, she wants to buck up the pro-American Syrian rebels, the least effective group in the long civil war. Still, that doesn't justify Cockburn's provocative headline: Hillary is enough of a hawk she'd be happy to pound ISIS and Assad alike, and for however long it takes. Cockburn also implies that Hillary would forget the lessons Obama had learned about the futility of war in the Middle East (giving Obama far more credit than he deserves):

    The world may soon regret the passing of the Obama years as a Clinton administration plunges into conflicts where he hung back. He had clearly learned from the outcome of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya in a way that she has not. He said in a speech on terrorism in 2013 that "any US military action in foreign land risks creating more enemies" and that the Washington foreign establishment's tendency to seek ill-considered military solutions was self-defeating. [ . . . ]

    All this is good news for Isis and al-Qaeda, whose spectacular growth since September 11 is mainly due to the US helping to spread the chaos in which they flourish. Obama could see the risks and limitations of military force, but Clinton may play straight into their hands.

    As for Hillary, what I find more worrying is that she still doesn't seem to be totally onboard with Obama's Iran Deal; see Philip Weiss: Iran deal is still imperilled by deep state -- hardliners, Israel lobby, Hillary Clinton. Part of the problem here is that Democrats and GOP are in a race to the bottom on Israel.

  • Donald Johnson: The iron law of institutions versus Bernie Sanders: Cites various editorials at the New York Times, finding them consistently obsessed with demonizing Sanders.

    Clinton supporters at the NYT have been almost uniformly nasty -- they hate Sanders and don't bother concealing it. Ultimately his policy based critiques of Clinton terrifies them and they don't want him or the movement he represents to have any credibility even if he endorses Clinton, because he hasn't retracted his critique. And yes, this does tie in with the Israel-Palestine conflict, because Clinton support for Benjamin Netanyahu flatly contradicts liberal ideals, so she either does this for the money or because she is a militarist like Netanyahu or both. (I think both). They tiptoe around that.

    This is a quibble, but I think Netanyahu is much more racist than militarist, not that they don't share an abiding belief in their respective nation's exceptionalism, especially as exemplified through military prowess (in both cases long in moral decline). But then I guess I'm leaning toward the "money" explanation for Hillary. Despite a term as Secretary of State which should have opened her eyes a bit, she seems completely in thrall to the donor class, which has in turn been completely cowed by Netanyahu, rendered blind to the racism which pervades Israeli political culture.

    It's not just institutions that are bitter over Sanders. Consider this Robert Christgau tweet: "This is more than I thought the progressives would get and has cut into how personally dislikable I find Sanders." "This" is Heather Gautney: How Bernie Sanders Delivered the Most Progressive Platform in Democratic Party History. Christgau is clearly closer on the issues to Sanders than to Hillary but supported the latter, I guess because he found Sanders "personally dislikable" -- I doubt that the two ever met, yet this seems to matter more to him more than, say, the Iraq War vote. There are others I know and respect politically who have directed even worse snark at Sanders, a personal bitterness I find unfathomable -- I certainly can't rationalize it like Johnson does for those New York Times flacks.

  • Martin Longman: Mike Pence Is Not a Conventional Politician: On Trump's Veep:

    Let's start with some things that are being said that simply aren't true. Writing for the BBC, Anthony Zurcher says "In a year that has defied political conventions, he was a very conventional choice."

    But there's absolutely nothing "conventional" about Mike Pence. He is a man who cannot say if he believes in the theory of evolution and has spent twenty years spreading doubt about climate change. He's a man who wants teenage girls (including victims of incest) to get parental consent to use contraceptives, who has done all he can to deny contraception to women of every age, who signed a law mandating that all aborted fetuses should receive proper burials, who supports discrimination against gays and wants to withhold federal funding from any organization that "encourage(s) the types of behaviors that facilitate the spreading of the HIV virus." [ . . . ]

    Obviously, I could go on for a long time highlighting things about Pence that are alarming or ridiculous, but I'm trying to focus on things that set him apart from even mainstream conservatives. I mean, it matters that he loved the idea of fighting in Iraq or that he has rigorously supported the same kinds of free trade agreements that Trump opposes, but he's not alone in those things.

    To the degree that it can be legitimately argued that Pence is "conventional," it's an enormous testimony to how far right the party has drifted since the time of Jack Kemp and Dan Quayle and Poppy Bush and Gerald Ford. But it's actually not true that we've seen someone this far right nominated before. No, not even Palin or Cheney were this radical across the board.

    For more, see Longman's pre-pick Mike Pence Makes Zero Sense as Veep:

    If Trump is using the same theory of the case that McCain used in picking Sarah Palin, that it was necessary to shore up weak support from the Christian conservative base, then we already saw that this is a losing strategy.

    Selecting Pence will drive responsible business leaders even further into Clinton's camp. It will severely alienate women and moderates on social issues. Millennials will flee in panic. And, once the press picks over Pence's congressional record, any reassurance that Trump will have a steady hand to deal with Congress will be completely undermined.

    Pence has actual negative charisma, so he won't win over anyone by being smart or funny or charming.

    Other pieces on Pence: Sean Illing: The sad incurious case of Mike Pence; Nico Lang: Mike Pence is even worse than you think; John Nichols: Trump Pick Pence Is a Right-Wing Political Careerist Who Desperately Wants Out of Indiana; Charles Pierce: Of Course, Donald Trump's Vice Presidential Announcement Was All About Trump; Mike Pence Is a Smooth-Talking Todd Akin; George Zornick: Vice President Pence Would Be a Dream for the Koch Brothers.

  • Ron Paul: Fool's Errand: NATO Pledges Four More Years of War in Afghanistan: Obama may be a "lame duck" as far as appointing new judges is concerned, but no one seems to be using the term as he's laying out the framework that will tie up his successor in hopeless wars through that successor's term: adding troops in Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria (and on the Russian frontier in Eastern Europe). I don't often cite Paul because I don't generally approve of his snark, but this isn't terribly off base:

    President Obama said last week that the US must keep 3,000 more troops than planned in Afghanistan. The real reason is obvious: the mission has failed and Washington cannot bear to admit it. [ . . . ] Where else but in government would you see it argued that you cannot stop spending on a project because you have already spent so much to no avail? In the real world, people who invest their own hard-earned money in a failed scheme do something called "cut your losses." Government never does that. [ . . . ]

    The neocons argue that Iraq, Libya, and other US interventions fell apart because the US did not stay long enough. As usual they are wrong. They failed and they will continue to fail because they cannot succeed. You cannot invade a country, overthrow its government, and build a new country from the ground up. It is a fool's errand and Washington has turned most Americans into fools.

    Paul underestimates the ingenuity of the war crowd. For instance, Mark Perry: How Islamic State Is Getting Beaten at Home -- and Taking Terror Abroad argues that events like Nice show how much progress Obama is making against ISIS in Syria. Perry confuses killing people, which the US is quite proficient at, with providing a viable, peaceful alternative, something the US evidently has no clue how to do. He could have noted that the recent shootings of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge are at least as much a part of the war coming home as the "sudden radicalization" of the truck driver in Nice.

  • Dani Rodrik: The Abdication of the Left: An important economist on globalization issues faults the left in Northern Europe for failing to respond coherently to the negative repercussions for their countries:

    Latin American democracies provide a telling contrast. These countries experienced globalization mostly as a trade and foreign-investment shock, rather than as an immigration shock. Globalization became synonymous with so-called Washington Consensus policies and financial opening. Immigration from the Middle East or Africa remained limited and had little political salience. So the populist backlash in Latin America -- in Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador, and, most disastrously, Venezuela -- took a left-wing form.

    The story is similar in the main two exceptions to right-wing resurgence in Europe -- Greece and Spain. In Greece, the main political fault line has been austerity policies imposed by European institutions and the International Monetary Fund. In Spain, most immigrants until recently came from culturally similar Latin American countries. In both countries, the far right lacked the breeding ground it had elsewhere.

    But the experience in Latin America and southern Europe reveals perhaps a greater weakness of the left: the absence of a clear program to refashion capitalism and globalization for the twenty-first century. From Greece's Syriza to Brazil's Workers' Party, the left has failed to come up with ideas that are economically sound and politically popular, beyond ameliorative policies such as income transfers. [ . . . ]

    A crucial difference between the right and the left is that the right thrives on deepening divisions in society -- "us" versus "them" -- while the left, when successful, overcomes these cleavages through reforms that bridge them. Hence the paradox that earlier waves of reforms from the left -- Keynesianism, social democracy, the welfare state -- both saved capitalism from itself and effectively rendered themselves superfluous. Absent such a response again, the field will be left wide open for populists and far-right groups, who will lead the world -- as they always have -- to deeper division and more frequent conflict.

    We in America have far too little appreciation for the destructiveness of the right's conflicts, not just because we fight our wars far away -- not that US policy in Central America and Haiti hasn't sent waves of emigrés our way, but refugees from US wars in the Middle East mostly head for Europe -- but also because we are reluctant to credit our wars with the right's division and depradation of the middle class here, let alone the growing frequency of sporadic violence.

  • David Smith: Donald Trump: the making of a narcissist: Long profile on a guy you probably think you already know too much about. Still, some of his key insights are based on a profile and book by Mark Singer:

    In the nine years since, Singer has seen nothing to alter his view of Trump as unburdened by a hinterland. "People talk about a private Trump and a public Trump," he says in his Manhattan apartment. "I'm not so convinced because I've seen both and the bombast is there, the obvious extreme self-involvement has always been there. He doesn't have a sense of irony. He's a terrible listener but that's a characteristic of narcissistic people. They're not engaged with anybody else's issues."

  • Tierney Sneed: Forget Trump! The GOP's Convention Platform Makes It the Party of Kris Kobach: Kobach's day job is Secretary of State in Kansas -- i.e., the guy in charge of making sure that undesirables can't vote -- but he's also a notorious moonlighter, crafting dozens of pieces of legislation for Republican state legislatures, most of which are subsequently declared unconstitutional. He was the only Republican of note in Kansas who endorsed Trump before the caucuses (Brownback, Roberts, and Pompeo lined up for Rubio, while Huelskamp -- locked in another primary challenge by farmers who don't appreciate his opposition to farm subsidies -- is still proud to be known as a Cruz supporter), so he had an inside track on Trumpifying the GOP platform, and as usual he's first in line to take credit for feats normal lawyers would find embarrassing. One peculiarly Kansas touch was "language opposing the inclusion of the prairie chicken and sage grouse on the endangered species list" -- oil people find those birds annoying, and Kansas Republicans can hardly wait for them to become extinct, and therefore no longer a threat to the oil bidness.

    For more on the platform, see Donald Trump's weaponized platform: A project three decades in the making. I seriously doubt that Trump came up with any of his idea by reading William S. Lind and/or Paul Weyrich or that he's come up with anything as coherent (if that's the word).

  • Sophia Tesfaye: Will Republicans listen to one of their own? The Senate's only black Republican reveals his own experiences with racial profiling: I've seen reports that the late Philando Castile (shot dead by police in Minnesota) had been repeatedly pulled over by police for minor or imaginary infractions, but it's worth noting that wealth or ideology doesn't prevent this sort of profiling from happening, as Scott's story makes clear.

    But during his speech, the second on policing and race this week, Scott also shared the story of a staffer who was "pulled over so many times here in D.C. for absolutely no reason other than driving a nice car." The staffer eventually traded in his Chrysler for a "more obscure form of transportation" because "he was tired of being targeted."

    He asked his Senate colleagues to "imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops."

    "I do not know many African-American men who do not have a very similar story to tell no matter their profession. No matter their income, no matter their disposition in life," he said. "There is absolutely nothing more frustrating, more damaging to your soul than when you know you're following the rules and being treated like you are not."

    "Recognize that just because you do not feel the pain, the anguish of another, does not mean it does not exist," the Republican reminded his fellow conservatives.

  • Some links on the Turkish coup:

   Mar 2001