Latest Notebook Entries
Index
Latest

2016
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2015
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2014
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2013
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2012
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2011
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2010
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2009
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2008
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2007
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2006
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2005
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2004
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2003
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2002
  Dec
  Nov
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb
  Jan
2001
  Dec
  Oct
  Sep
  Aug
  Jul
  Jun
  May
  Apr
  Mar
  Feb

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27403 [27386] rated (+17), 369 [362] unrated (+7).

I lost track of how many days of listening I lost due to cooking last week. In fact, I lost track of almost everything else, only remembering that I needed to publish November's Streamnotes column when I saw the calendar had turned to December (fortunately, that was soon enough after the moment I was able to backdate the post). That pattern continues here as I'm trying to finish my usual Monday Music Week column well into Tuesday evening.

My Jazz Critics Poll ballot was due on Sunday. I gave up trying to find new things and/or fiddle with the order sometime Saturday, when I dashed off the following:

New releases:

  1. Aly Keita/Jan Galega Bronnimann/Lucas Niggli: Kalo Yele (Intakt)
  2. Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (HighNote)
  3. Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi)
  4. Murray, Allen & Carrington Power Trio: Perfection (Motéma)
  5. George Coleman: A Master Speaks (Smoke Sessions)
  6. Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength & Power (Rare Noise)
  7. JD Allen: Americana (Savant)
  8. Gary Lucas' Fleischerei: Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons (Cuneiform)
  9. Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Periheleon (Aerophonic, 2CD)
  10. Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (Not Two)

Reissues or Historical albums:

  1. Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays (1966, Resonance, 2CD)
  2. Peter Kuhn: No Coming, No Going: The Music of Peter Kuhn, 1978-1979 (NoBusiness, 2CD)
  3. William Hooker: Light: The Early Years 1975-1989 (NoBusiness, 4CD)

Best Vocal album:

  • Gary Lucas' Fleischerei: Music From Max Fleischer Cartoons (Cuneiform)

Best Debut album:

  • Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae (Clean Feed)

Best Latin Jazz album:

  • Sonic Liberation 8: Bombogenic (High Two)

This mostly follows my EOY Jazz List -- the main exception being that I skipped over a Coleman Hawkins compilation I had heard on Rhapsody in favor of three comps that publicists had sent me. On the other hand, I included no less than three records that I didn't get physical copies of in my new releases list (Murray, Coleman, Lucas). I don't recall ever doing that before.

My list strikes me as more mainstream, or more specifically less avant, than usual. No idea whether that represents a mellowing of my taste or just how the cookies crumbled this year. Thus far I haven't gotten any of the ballots back from Francis Davis for my website, and I've only seen two ballots posted on the net (Ken Franckling, Tim Niland). In previous years JJA published member lists that lined up (and in some cases expanded from) critics' lists, but I haven't yet found anything there.

I'm actually not all that curious about how the JCP turns out. OK, I do have a hunch that Henry Threadgill's Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi) will win, but not much faith -- but not much faith. It's more that I can't imagine what the competition can be. (Mary Halvorson? Dave Holland? Vijay Iyer? Steve Lehman? Sonny Rollins? Wadada Leo Smith? Those should all finish top-20, but I don't have more confidence than that.) I've started tallying EOY lists for my own EOY List Aggregate file, but at present I don't have enough jazz to predict anything. (I will go out on a limb and say that the current leader, Canadian crossed-over band BadBadNotGood, won't finish top-40 in JCP -- nor, I hope, will Snarky Puppy.)

On the other hand, the non-jazz lists are starting to take shape (understanding that the early lists skew Anglo and miss out on late-breaking hip-hop). Current top-ten: David Bowie, Radiohead, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, Nick Cave, Angel Olsen, Leonard Cohen, Bon Iver, Anderson Paak, Car Seat Headrest. I figured Beyoncé to win, and she still might (and probably will dominate the Village Voice poll), but right now Bowie's lead is solid (92-61-58-53-52), and he's regularly finished top-5 in US as well as UK lists. Cohen has never polled especially well before, so I figure he and Bowie are riding a rarely-tested dead legend boost. Bowie, Radiohead, and Cave also benefit from the current UK skew, with Cave the most likely to slip on later lists.

Second ten (11-20): Chance the Rapper, Solange, Anohni, Kanye West, A Tribe Called Quest, Mitski, Blood Orange, Kaytranada, Sturgill Simpson, Danny Brown. Tribe is this year's late-breaker (released Nov. 11), rising lately but hard to project how much more. I expected Chance to do better, maybe Brown also. Some of the more promising names further down: Parquet Courts (24), PJ Harvey (27), Kendrick Lamar (29), Drive-By Truckers (34), Rihanna (38), Miranda Lambert (86, but released 11/18).

Speaking of Lambert, you'll noticed that I nudged her grade up a notch from my Streamnotes review. I was sitting on the fence anyway, and what pushed me over was a Greg Morton review, which I'd rather quote here than try to link you to Facebook:

Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings. I hope Bob [Christgau] does a long form on this since the songs aren't just consistently great, but consistently interesting as well. Worthy of thorough track-by-track analysis. I'll give you "Good Ol' Days" as filler and "Covered Wagon" as one road metaphor too many but other than that it sounds to me like a 90-minute song cycle about caring, from the perspective of a modern young women who turns out to be more articulate, successful, and worldly than her raising taught her she could be. Your mileage may vary dependent on how interested you are in that perspective, but my evidence is two days of the album on shuffle. Where no matter the sequence, an hour and a half later you're listening to a song that was as good (and as interesting) as the one that started it. At least an A.

Of course, before committing I did give the record(s) another spin. Seven cuts in I was reminded how long it took me to realize Exile on Main Street was the Stones' best. But fourteen cuts in I killed that line of thinking and settled for a solid A-.


New records rated this week:

  • BadBadNotGood: IV (2016, Innovative Leisure): [r]: B-
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: The Joy of Being (2015 [2016], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The DKV Thing Trio: Collider (2014 [2016], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlie Haden/Liberation Music Orchestra: Time/Life (Song for the Whales and Other Beings) (2011-15 [2016], Impulse): [r]: A-
  • I Am Three: Mingus Mingus Mingus (2015 [2016], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ich Bin Nintendo: Lykke (2016, Shhpuma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Martin Küchen/Mark Tokar/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (2016, NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Lambchop: FLOTUS (2016, Merge): [r]: B
  • Miranda Lambert: The Weight of These Wings (2016, RCA Nashville, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Live the Spirit Residency: Presents the Young Masters 1: Coming of Age (2016, self-released): [cd]: A-
  • Donny McCaslin: Beyond Now (2016, Motema): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mekons: Existentialism (2015 [2016], Bloodshot): [r]: A
  • Myra Melford + Ben Goldberg: Dialogue (2014 [2016], BAG): [r]: B
  • The Monkees: Good Times! (2016, Rhino): [r]: B-
  • Van Morrison: Keep Me Singing (2016, Caroline): [r]: A-
  • The Nu Band: The Final Concert (2012 [2016], NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Alexander von Schlippenbach: Jazz Now! (Live at Theater Gütersloh) (2015 [2016], Intuition): [r]: B+(***)

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

  • Miles Davis Quintet: Freedom Jazz Dance [The Bootleg Series Vol. 5] (1966-68 [2016], Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp Duo: Live in Sant'Anna Arresi, 2004 (2004 [2016], AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dave Burrell and Bob Stewart: The Crave (1994, NoBusiness): cdr
  • François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: The Joy of Being (NoBusiness)
  • Albert Cirera/Hernâni Faustino/Gabriel Ferrandini/Agustí Fernández: Before the Silence (NoBusiness)
  • John Dikeman/Luis Vicente/Hugo Antunes/Gabriel Ferrandini: Salão Brazil (NoBusiness): cdr
  • The Fat Babies: Solid Gassuh (Delmark)
  • Noah Haidu: Infinite Distances (Cellar Live): February 15
  • Irene Kepl: Sololos (Fou)
  • Martin Küchen/Mark Tokar/Arkadijus Gotesmanas: Live at Vilnius Jazz Festival (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Live the Spirit Residency: Presents the Young Masters 1: Coming of Age (self-released)
  • Modus Factor: The Picasso Zone (Browntasaurus)
  • The Nu Band: The Final Concert (NoBusiness): cdr
  • Howard Riley: Constant Change 1976-2016 (NoBusiness, 5CD)
  • Randy Weston: The African Nubian Suite (African Rhythms, 2CD): January 20

Also got a batch of Clean Feeds on Monday which I'll list next week.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Peace Dinner

I ran behind in writing this, so I'll have to postpone Music Week until tomorrow (Tuesday). Unfortunately, nobody I'm aware of thought to take any pictures of the event below, and the evidence is now far gone. Without such documentation, I reckon we're already entering the realm of myth. I figure the least I can do is to write this event up, to establish some sort of paper trail.

Friday night the Peace and Social Justice Center here in Wichita had its annual dinner and business meeting. My little part in that was to plan and direct the menu, preparing food for 62 guests. I spent much of last week hashing out the menu with Janice Bradley and Leah Dannar-Garcia. Leah and I went shopping on Wednesday. I spent about thirteen hours on Thursday at home prepping and in some cases finishing dishes, while Janice and Leah did their own home prep. On Friday about 1 PM we met at Lorraine Avenue Mennonite Church, along with several other people (Pat Cameron, Gretchen Eick, Kathy Hull, Russ Pataki) where the dinner would be held, and started cooking. By 6 PM we had dinner ready to serve. We put small bowls of appetizers and bread on the tables so people could start noshing. And we set up a double-long table for people to serve themselves with the main dishes. The menu was mostly Mediterranean, with dishes from Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel and the Arab countries, plus one salad from Iran:

The appetizer array:

The main dishes:

Dessert:

  • Mutabbaq: filo pastry sheets filled with ricotta and goat cheese.
  • Macedonia: mixed fruit: apples, pears, red and green grapes, strawberries, pineapple, macerated with sugar and citrus juices.
  • Vanilla Cream: vanilla-flavored whipped cream.

The recipes (follow the links) were typically scaled 2 times for the appetizers and desserts (more for the hummus and fruit), the salads 2-3 times, the main dishes 3-4 times (8 lbs fish, 16 lbs chicken). The main thing that limited the scaling was the size of cooking and serving dishes, although several dishes were limited by shopping -- I didn't buy nearly enough kalamata olives, so had a single one pound recipe of tapenade and had to buy extra for the salad. The salads ran out first -- possibly because they were first in the serving line, but we could have fixed another batch of the horiatiki and mast va khiar and served it in the same large bowls. The root vegetables fit neatly into two deep baking dishes, the fish into two shallow ones, and the chicken was optimally packed into my largest pot (16-inch diameter, 6-inches deep).

I made two trays of mutabbaq, and cut them into 60 2.25 x 2.5-inch pieces, so only a couple people missed out. We served them at the counter, on plates, and let people add fruit and/or cream. (I was surprised to see people dolloping the cream on top of the mutabbaq.) The cream, which I had borrowed from a "berries and cream" recipe, was exceptional -- we should have made a second batch. We had a couple cups of caponata and a couple pints of cacciatore left at the end, plus hummus and fruit -- Janice overscaled while I erred on the low side -- but I didn't hear complaints about not cooking enough.

I think it's safe to say that it all came out delicious -- one could even say fabulous. Also that the mix of dishes worked and the tastes complemented one another. (The desserts offered a mix of sweet, tart, and creamy, none of which were overly heavy.) We could have done a better job of pointing out which things were vegetarian (or vegan), which dishes had dairy or gluten or nuts or some other real or imagined hazard -- we published the menu, but that was hardly self-explanatory.

The last few years we had the dinner catered, using various Mexican and Middle Eastern sources, nothing especially memorable. Further back, we tried pot lucks, and I made large main dishes for a couple of those -- jambalaya and cacciatore are the ones I remember -- which often produced better food, but were also inconsistent and chancey. This year, when the board decided to try another pot luck, I suggested that a planned and assigned menu would work better, maybe something Mediterranean like the Ottolenghi menu we fixed for an Alice Powell memorial dinner, but a bit broader (and simpler). Leah, who runs a small organic farm east of town, suggested a seasonal fall menu, which I was fine with, but when I spelled out my proposal she embraced it, and provided invaluable support.

Also invaluable was the kitchen and equipment provided by the church. They had a 10-burner range (which we barely used), with two ovens (exactly what we needed), large baking dishes and bowls, lots of counter space, ample dishes and flatware, and a terrific dishwasher for cleaning up. We also had about the right mix of people helping out. If we were to do it again, the one change I would make would be to get together in that kitchen the night before and do the meze and prep together rather than dividing them up and working at home (especially as I had taken on most of that work myself -- by the end I was so exhausted that I wound up knicking myself a couple times cleaning up a knife). Friday had moments that seemed like chaos, but I managed to keep everything lined up and moving along properly, so it all came together at the appointed time (6 PM).

Also, other people (especially Leah and Russ) took over the clean up when I wore out. I got in line after the salads were gone, and wandered in and out of the actual meeting. The guest speaker was Maxine Phillips, a former executive editor of Dissent Magazine and a vice chair of Democratic Socialists of America, who blogs at religioussocialism.org. She spoke about "Forced Migrations and US Immigration Policy." I didn't catch enough of this to comment, but I will risk saying two things:

  1. Most migration today, especially from Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, is the result of the US (and Europe) exporting neoliberal economic dogmas and the tools of war which are primarily used by complicit local elites against their own people. It's all good and well to sympathize with the victims of economic and military dislocation, but the root causes are embedded in our own political system, so much under the thumb of supra-national corporate interests. In particular, we need to guard against the tendency to militarize our response to every crisis, especially as that knee-jerk reaction primarily serves to avoid self-scrutiny.

  2. Nonetheless, the fact that refugees and emigrants still come here is a testimony to the fact that America (and Europe) still have functioning and (relatively) humane institutions such that most of our citizens are spared the most brutal effects of our economic and military dogmas. And it's worth noting that immigrants generally add to supporting those institutions, and to the economy as a whole, in part because they're more appreciative of them than so many of our embittered "natives" (who have mastered the knack of taking them for granted while doing little to support). Whatever else it may be, net immigration is a vote of confidence in our shared future, something we should appreciate rather than curse.

Unfortuantely, the 2016 election, especially of Donald Trump to the presidency, promises nothing constructive on this front. Indeed, if Trump does manages to reduce immigration it will probably be more due to making our own country less livable than to enforcing draconian laws, and even less to making the rest of the world any less treacherous.

I'm afraid I have rather mixed views on immigration. As someone whose most recent foreign-born ancestors came to America nearly 150 years ago, and whose family preserved not one shred of previous ethnic identity, I've never had any sentimental attachment to the notion that America as a melting pot of immigrants. Nor do I have a problem with the idea that a nation has a right to control its borders and limit immigration. I'll also note that the one period of history when Americans seemed to exhibit the greatest care for one another -- at least in the sense of moving furthest to the left -- was in the 1930-40s, when immigration was largely halted. One wonders whether loosening immigration restrictions in the 1970s didn't contribute somehow to the nation's rightward drift since 1980. (That nearly a third of last year's Republican presidential candidates had at least one foreign-born parent is troubling, to say the least.)

On the other hand, I've known dozens of immigrants, most real fine people, credits to our communities, and they've helped to broaden and deepen our lives. One way, of course, was to share with us the range of food we made for this Peace Dinner (plus a great many other dishes we couldn't include -- things we can explore further in future dinners). Admittedly, most of the immigrants I know are professionals, many citizens, pretty much all with their legal status in order. The only problem I see is with those lacking proper documentation, mostly because their lack of proper credentials leaves them open to exploitation, and that less because I'm sympathetic to their plight than because their vulnerability allows those in power to be more abusive -- and not just to undocumented immigrants.

But Trump's anti-immigrant tirades are not some isolated tick. They are wrapped up in all sorts of mutually reinforcing hatreds meant to appeal to the vanity of increasingly marginalized white voters -- at least those sucker enough to overlook the obvious architects of their demise: the barons of industry and finance, whose pillage of the economy has made everyone more vulnerable. But we need to recognize that what makes this tactic work is how effectively mass fears have been stoked through decades of war. The only way to break that cycle is to insist on peace, which is why organizations like out Peace Center are so important. Please consider a contribution.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Streamnotes (November 2016)

Pick up text here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Peace Dinner Planning

Top-line menu:

Appetizer array:

Dessert:

  • Mutabbaq: cheese-filled pastry, scale x 2.
  • Mixed Fruit: delegated to Janice.
  • Vanilla Cream: scale x 3 (3 cups cream, 1 cup sour cream)

Monday, November 28, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27386 [27362] rated (+24), 362 [379] unrated (-17).

Finally, on Saturday, got my new computer build working, hooked up, and able to stream from Napster. I'm somewhat embarrassed to finally realize that the problem all along was a faulty monitor (a Samsung, like most of the other faulty equipment in the house right now -- my big complaint is a broken ice maker in the refrigerator, and by broken I mean that the plastic tray is badly cracked on both ends, such that the screw drive that moved the ice forward jams). The monitor actually displays internally generated messages fine, but doesn't display the signal coming in through the D-SUB connection. In fact, the manual says the monitor has a self-test feature, and when I tried that the self-test came out OK. But it took weeks for it to finally sink in that the monitor was the problem.

Went out on Black Saturday and picked up a new LG 24-inch monitor for about $140. The new computer works fine with it. The old computer works fine too, so now I have a spare. It had been 5-6 years since I built the old one, so one can argue that I was due for a new one, but I hate to have blundered into it like that. The new one has an 8-core AMD FX-8350 processor, ASUS motherboard and video card (not a fancy one, but has 2GB RAM), plus I have 32GB RAM and a 2TB hard drive, a DVD burner, and a parallel printer port board so I can still hook up to my old HP laser printer. Loaded Xubuntu 16.04 desktop on it, and I've had to load a couple dozen extra software packages so I have a LAMP web server, emacs, gimp, and a few extra applications that looked promising (including a CAD system, an alt-Adobe Illustrator, and a database program for recipes). That's all free software. Had to jump through some extra hoops to get non-free (but zero cost) Adobe Flash (needed by Napster) and gstreamer drivers for playing DVDs. Probably still need some further work, but it's basically functional now. Used a cheap old box, so it's not the most elegant thing in the shop, but should be a solid machine.

Only three Napster streams among the records listed below. I also played the new A Tribe Called Quest (given an A+ last week by Christgau) but didn't get into it enough to pass any sort of judgment. (Two-thirds sounds pretty good, but nothing sounds as great as that grade implies. And it's two discs, and I'm often slow getting into hip-hop records, so I figured it best to return later).l The three rated below only got a single play. Could be that a second play might nudge Common up a notch, but Bruno Mars was disappointing and Pink Martini clearly not their best work. Playing the latest Miles Davis bootleg as I write this, but at 3-CD it's going to take a while.

Besides, I needed to make a serious dent in the incoming jazz queue, which I did. The 2016 pending list is currently down to six albums: no one I've heard of (although I filed one under Ernest Dawkins, whose last three albums came in at A-, so I need to check that one out soon). Jazz Critics Poll ballot due next week, and Francis Davis is already getting anxious about that. I did a preliminary sort on my jazz list a couple weeks ago, but I still expect to fiddle with the order quite a bit (depending on time and whether I can find things, so possibly not before I have to turn a ballot in).

I'm afraid I have no sense whatsoever how that poll is going to go. I currently list 61 A- (or better) new jazz albums. The only one in my top-ten I'm reasonably sure will finish top-ten (probably top-three) is Henry Threadgill's Old Locks and Irregular Verbs. I suppose JD Allen (Americana) and David Murray (Perfection) are possibles; further down my list Steve Lehman, Sonny Rollins, Greg Ward, Jack DeJohnette, Dave Holland, and Fred Hersch seem likely to get a few votes, but I'll be surprised if anything else cracks the top forty. (George Coleman maybe? Rich Halley? Jane Ira Bloom?)

Rather seems more likely that some of my HM records will poll well -- Michael Formanek, Mary Halvorson, Wadada Leo Smith, Tyshawn Sorey -- or records I listed lower -- Darcy James Argue, Kenny Barron, Vijay Iyer, Charles Lloyd -- not much else I've noticed other critics liking, but I'm sure I've missed some things. As for records I've heard of but haven't heard, I scanned through my checklist file and added 13 records to the "estimated to have a 2% chance of A-" list in the EOY Jazz file cited above (also added 19 to the EOY Non-Jazz file). I'll add more as I see some actual EOY lists.

Speaking of EOY lists, the first few have appeared (starting, as usual, in the UK with NME, Mojo, Uncut, and a few record store lists). I put a lot of work into tracking these things last year, and doubted that I would again, but the last few weeks have been so stressful to me that I thought it might be calming to waste some time on them this year. After eight (or so) lists this year looks like this. (Note that I'm already counting my grades, although I've only included those on other lists.) My initial guess was that Beyoncé would win going away, with Chance the Rapper in second, and then, well, I don't know -- AOTY has Nick Cave top-rated based on review averages (a B- as far as I'm concerned), followed by Bon Iver (*), Beyonce (?), Solange (**), Radiohead (B), Frank Ocean (?), Leonard Cohen (A-), A Tribe Called Quest (probably A-), Mitski (*), and Angel Olsen (***). But at least in the UK, David Bowie jumped into a clear lead, followed by Cave, Radiohead, Olsen, Thee Oh Sees, and Iggy Pop, with Beyoncé and Chance back in the 30-40 range.

However, the first American list to appear, from Consequence of Sound, is closer to what I expect: Beyoncé, Chance, Bowie, Ocean, Anohni, Cave, Olsen, Anderson .Paak, Bon Iver, Cohen, Mitski, A Tribe Called Quest (first list appearance for a late release), Radiohead, Blood Orange, Schoolboy Q, Wilco, Tim Hecker, Car Seat Headrest, Solange; plus some further down records that may do better: Kaytranada, Danny Brown, Savages, Kevin Gates, Young Thug, White Lung.

One list that's out that I haven't bothered with is Decibel's. Last year I faithfully tracked all the metal lists, but wound up listening to fewer than five albums, so that much doesn't seem to be worth the effort this year. I suppose that makes my tally a bit less objective, but I'd rather spend my time on things I consider worthy.

I made a mistake last week in listing Heroes Are Gang Leader's new album Flukum, so corrected that and repeated it this week. I liked their previous album this year (Highest Engines Near/Near Higher Engineers) a bit more, but both should be of interest if you're interested in jazz-rap fusion. The two A- records this week are from Ivo Perelman's six-volume set, only marginally better than the others because bass seems to fit in better than piano (or viola or guitar). Could be I downgraded the one with Shipp only because I expected more (it was the one volume I singled out to listen to in the car). Perelman finishes the year with 4 A-, 4 ***, 1 **, 2 * records.

PS: Monday's mail brought a nice package from NoBusiness in Lithuania, and a new Randy Weston 2-CD that officially drops on January 20 (so I can ignore it for a couple weeks). Also email from Steve Swell offering me a couple CDs, so they'll be coming soon. Also, that new Dawkins album is pretty good.


New records rated this week:

  • Aguankó: Latin Jazz Christmas in Havana (2016, Aguankó): [cd]: B
  • Eraldo Bernocchi/Prakash Sontakke: Invisible Strings (2016, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Karl Blau: Introducing Karl Blau (2016, Raven Marching Band): [r]: B
  • Common: Black America Again (2016, Def Jam): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Delegation: Evergreen (Canceled World) (2014-15 [2016], ESP-Disk, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • The Fat Babies: Solid Gassuh (2016, Delmark): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Machine (2016, Moserobie): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Stu Harrison: Volume I (2016, One Nightstand): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Flukum (2016, Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jerome Jennings: The Beast (2016, Iola): [cd]: B+(**)
  • MAST: Love and War_ (2016, Alpha Pup): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1 (2016, Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Whit Dickey: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 2 (2016, Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 3 (2015 [2016], Leo): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Ivo Perelman/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 4 (2016, Leo): [cd]: A-
  • Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 5 (2016, Leo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 6 (2016, Leo): [cd]: A-
  • Pink Martini: Je Dis Oui (2016, Heinz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bobby Previte: Mass (2016, RareNoise): [cdr]: B-
  • Rudy Royston Trio: RisEofOrion (2016, Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Enoch Smith Jr.: The Quest: Live at APC (2016, Misfitme Music): [cd]: C
  • Snaggle: The Long Slog (2016, Browntasaurus): [cd]: B-
  • Basak Yavuz: A Little Red Bug (2016, Things&): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Zarabande: El Toro (2016, AFlo): [cd]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Ella Fitzgerald & Duke Ellington: The Stockholm Concert (1966 [1994], Jazz World): [cd]: B+(***)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Weekend Roundup

I didn't really plan on posting a Roundup this week, but when I looked at Salon's politics section way too may red flags jumped out at me. I'm generally inclined to give Trump a little rope to hang himself, but I'm surprised by the speed with which he's set about the task. I realized that Trump was a guy who spent every waking moment conniving to make money (well, aside from the time spent plotting sexual conquests), and thought it unlikely that he'd change for a moment. But these pieces are mostly self-explanatory, so at least I don't have to annotate them.


Some scattered links this week on all things Trump:


Also a couple things not exactly on the incoming disaster, although not exactly unrelated either:


I don't have much to say about Fidel Castro. I've never held any romantic attachment for Cuba's communist regime, and I don't doubt that it has sometimes been repressive and that its planned economy could have been more dynamic. However, I can't begrudge their early expropriation of foreign (mostly American) assets, and must admit that they've built a literate, highly educated, and for the most part egalitarian society, while maintaining a vibrant culture, all despite cruel economic hardships imposed variously by America and Russia. It's worth remembering that Cuba was the last slaveholder society in the Americas, and the last of Spain's colonial outposts, and after the US seized it in America's 1898 imperialist expansion was only granted "independence" because it was thought easier to run it through local puppet strongmen -- a scandalous series that was only ended by Castro's revolution.

I've long thought that the vitriolic reaction of American politicos to Cuba's real independence and defiance reflected a deep-seated guilt (and embarrassment) about how badly we had mishandled our power there. But it manifested itself as sheer spite, ranging from the CIA's Bay of Pigs invasion and numerous assassination plots the CIA tried to mount against Castro to the long-running blockade -- all of which reinforced Castro's anti-Americanism and made him a hero for underdogs all around the world. Obama's recent normalization of US-Cuban relations finally gives us a chance to be less of an ogre -- although the reflexive instinct is still apparent in recent comments by Trump, Rubio, and others. Hopefully they'll blow this jingoistic thinking out of their systems.

Here are a few scattered comments on Castro from: Tariq Ali; Greg Grandin; Tony Karon (2008); also: Stephen Gibbs/Jonathan Watts: Havana in mourning: 'We Cubans are Fidelista even if we are not communist'; Kathy Gilsinan: How Did Fidel Castro Hold On to Cuba for So Long?.

One quote, from the Karon piece above:

There's been predictably little interesting discussion in the United States of Fidel Castro's retirement as Cuba's commandante en jefe, maximo etc. That's because in the U.S. political mainstream, Cuba policy has for a generation been grotesquely disfigured by a collective kow-towing -- yes, collective, it was that craven Mr. Clinton who signed into law the Draconian Helms-Burton act that made it infinitely more difficult for any U.S. president to actually lift the embargo, and the equally craven Mrs. Clinton appears to pandering to the same crowd -- to the Cuban-American Ahmed Chalabi figures of Miami, still fantasizing about a day when they'll regain their plantations and poor people of color will once again know their place. [ . . . ]

What fascinates me, however, is the guilty pleasure with which so many millions of people around the world revere Fidel Castro -- revere him, but wouldn't dream of emulating his approach to economics or governance. People, in other words, who would not be comfortable actually living in Castro's Cuba, much as they like the idea of him sticking it the arrogant yanqui, his physical and political survival a sure sign that Washington's awesome power has limits -- and can therefore be challenged.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Daily Log

Fielding a request for a possible Mediterranean-themed menu for this year's annual Peace Center dinner:

Appetizer course: What I see here is a platter served to each table (about 6-8 guests per table). We'll need to figure out a way to present this (the ideal solution would be a large lazy susan, but we'd need to replicate it 8-10 times; easier would be to use small disposable bowls, to be passed around within the table).

  • Tapenade (black olive puree) or Garum (same plus capers and anchovies)
  • Melitzanoslata (eggplant dip) or Escalivada (add peppers and tomato)
  • Hummus: chick peas and tahini
  • Butternut squash & tahini spread
  • Chopped liver (or crostini di fegatini): chicken liver
  • Spiced olives
  • Spiced feta cheese (or maybe use a mix of gorgonzola and goat cheese?)
  • Harissa: Tunisian hot sauce
  • Bread: toasted and/or plain pita, and/or crostini

Soups:

  • Harira: chicken stock, lentils, chickpeas, with beef or lamb
  • Minestrone: vegetable stock with small white beans, cabbage, onion, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes (most of my recipes call for meat stock, some for pancetta and prosciutto); or could go with gazpacho (cold tomato-cucumber-onion soup) or some other vegetable soup (your sweet potato soup might fit here)

Salads:

  • Your "fresh greens" salad
  • Greek (horiatiki) salad: some recipes call for lettuce, but in Greece this is a chopped salad with feta cheese
  • Orange-onion-olive salad (Turkish)
  • Carrot salad (Moroccan)
  • Mast va khiar: Persian yogurt-cucumber-scallion-mint with sultanas and black walnuts

Main dishes and vegetables:

  • Maqluba ("upside down"): chicken, eggplant, cauliflower, tomato, rice
  • Baked fish with capers and olives, or baked fish with chermoula
  • Ratatouille or caponata: eggplant, zucchini, etc.
  • Pepperonata
  • Roasted sweet potatoes with dates (recipe calls for figs, but dates are better): with scallions, goat cheese, balsamic reduction
  • Roasted root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, onion, leeks, winter squash

Dessert:

  • Mutabbaq: phyllo sheets around a goat cheese filling, drenched in syrup
  • Macedonia: macerated mixed fresh fruit
  • Egg custard gelato

Monday, November 21, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27362 [27338] rated (+24), 379 [395] unrated (-16).

I expected my computer problems would be solved by now, but seems like they've multiplied. I basically work on three computers. I built my main one close to a decade ago, then upgraded most of it four or so years ago: new motherboard, 8-core AMD cpu, 32GB RAM, kept the old mirrored hard drives. I write on it, and maintain master copies of a half-dozen websites. It's great, but I fell off the update track some while back, so it's still running Ubuntu 12.04, which includes one very annoying flaw: Firefox doesn't handle JavaScript very well, so I avoid it (NoScript helps) but even so it crashes a couple times a week. Ubuntu is now up to 16.04, and at some point I need to break down and do the upgrade(s).

Meanwhile, I've had a second, less powerful Ubuntu computer -- I bought the components there on a pretty limited budget (probably something like $500, maybe five years ago), and I've kept it up to date. I hooked up some Klipsch speakers to it, and used it for streaming music, downloading, and Facebook (one of those JavaScript monsters that kills my main computer). However, a couple months ago I started noticing loud clicks in the audio, and occasional freezes when I would look at DVDs. I tried replacing the power supply, which got rid of the clicks. But then something happened: the video went blank (a deep screensaver option), but wouldn't wake up. I could still log into the machine remotely, and I've been tracking down similar issues and possible fixes, but none have worked. Knowing the computer was old and weak, I decided to buy new components -- AMD 8-core FX cpu, motherboard, 32GB RAM, 2TB hard drive, a fairly cheap ATI Radeon video card. I figured I'd use the recently purchased power supply (a 650W Corsair) and an old box (which previously hosted my wife's computer; when I rebuilt I got her a new mini-tower box).

The old box had a 550W Thermaltake power supply which looked quite viable, so I decided to try an experiment: I swapped power supplies, then stuck my new video card into the old computer. I rebooted, and it came up with proper graphics. I finally was able to listen to a record on Napster (Erroll Garner, below, and got about half-way through the new Miles Davis bootleg before I went to bed). Anyhow, that seemed to work well enough I ordered yet another video card. Then next morning I got up and the video was blanked, and nothing I did made could wake it up. The blackout is so bad not even the BIOS splash screen appears. The monitor, however, displays diagnostic info (analog, digital, no cable). I just remotely did a software update, then reboot. Still no screen. Very frustrating, very perplexing.

Meanwhile, I've built the new computer, except for the new video card I expect to arrive tomorrow. Then I'll plug it in, do a fresh Xubuntu desktop install, and try to patch up the various things I need (emacs, mysql, apache, php, etc.). Should take the better part of a day, if all goes well. Not that anything's gone well in the last month or so. At some point all this frustration threatens to turn into depression.

So, all but one of this week's records were reviewed from CDs, so all are jazz. (I don't think I've bought a single CD all year.) At least I've drained about half of the queue that built up in September and October. Main thing left is six Ivo Perelman discs, giving him ten on the year. All are titled The Art of the Improv Trio then a volume number. First one is pretty good, and most likely they're all like that, so I'll be struggling with marginal distinctions for a couple days -- at least that beats the Xmas CDs, which I figure I'll suffer through sometime closer to the holiday.

I did finally flesh out my first pass at EOY lists: one for Jazz, and the other for Non-Jazz. The former is much larger (61 A-list, 120 HM, 385 other, so 566 total, 8-6-11=25 for reissues/compilations, vs. non-jazz: 41 A-list, 36 HM, 105 other, so 182 total, 11-9-6=26 for reissues/compilations). At this time last year the Jazz A-list was well ahead of the Non-Jazz, but eventually they evened out. That seems less likely this year, but is still possible. Assuming I get Napster up and running again, the ratio of Jazz/Non-Jazz further down the grade scale should reduce somewhat, but hard to see that ever balancing out. Reissues and compilations remain especially hard to get hold of.

No Thanksgiving plans. My wife never wants me to cook on that day, and all the usual friends and family have their own plans, so most likely we'll be home alone. Maybe I'll get some listening done.

Still scanning through the notebooks for stray record reviews. Up to December 2006, where I noticed that I had in fact made Thanksgiving dinner that year. Went Japanese that year:

  • miso soup
  • pan-fried gyoza
  • salmon teriyaki
  • tiny roast potatoes
  • french-cut green beans with peanut sauce
  • grilled Japanese eggplant with spicy peanut sauce
  • agedashi (fried bean curd)
  • pineapple upside down cake

Also planned on sushi rice with grilled unagi (eel), but evidently didn't get that done until the next day. I hardly ever cook Japanese (except for the salmon, one of the easiest really good recipes I know), so this mostly seems unfamiliar (aside from the ringers: the eggplant is one of Barbara Tropp's Chinese fusion recipes, and the cake is my Mom's recipe, an old family standard -- in fact, one of the cakes I made for her funeral reception).


New records rated this week:

  • Sophie Agnel/Daunik Lazro: Marguerite D'Or Pâle (2016, Fou): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tom Collier: Impulsive Illuminations (2014-15 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B
  • Dim Lighting: Your Miniature Motion (2014 [2016], Off): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Triple Exposure (2015 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Clay Giberson: Pastures (2015 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Flukum (2016, Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Erik Jekabson: A Brand New Take (2015 [2016], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Walter Kemp 3oh!: Dark Continent (2015 [2016], Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Frank Kimbrough: Solstice (2016, Pirouet): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jerry Leake: Crafty Hands (2016, Rhombus Publishing): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn: At Ibeam (2015 [2016], Constant Sorrow, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell With an Ocean View (2016, Constant Sorrow): [cd]: A-
  • Thierry Maillard Trio: Ethnic Sounds (2016, Blujazz): [cd]: B-
  • Mamutrio [Lieven Cambré/Piet Verbist/Jesse Dockx]: Primal Existence (2015 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Tom Marko: Inner Light (2016, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Melanie Marod: I'll Go Mad (2016, ITI): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John Moulder: Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit (2014-16, Origin): [cd]: B
  • Moutin Factory Quintet: Deep (2016, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Fredrik Nordström: Gentle Fire/Restless Dreams (2016, Moserobie, 2CD): [cd]: A-
  • Phil Parisot: Lingo (2016, OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (2014 [2016], JCA): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (2016 [2017], Panorama): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Anna Webber's Simple Trio: Binary (2016, Skirl): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Scott Whitfield: New Jazz Standards (Volume 2) (2016, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)

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

  • Erroll Garner: Ready Take One (1967-71 [2016], Legacy): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dr. Mint: Voices in the Void (Orenda): January 21
  • Live Human: Scratch Bop (Cosmic)
  • Mast: Love and War (Alpha Pup): advance, October 7
  • Rudy Royston Trio: RisEofOrion (Greenleaf Music)
  • David Wise: Till They Lay Me Down (self-released): January 6
  • Basak Yavuz: A Little Red Bug (Things&Records): December 15

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Election Roundup

First, a few summary points, many drawing on my previous post-election piece:

  • Hillary Clinton still has a popular vote margin over Donald Trump, one that currently stands at 1,322,095 votes, up nearly one million votes since I checked earlier, and up about 100,000 votes since I started this post. (I've seen a tweet that has Clinton's lead at 1.65 million votes.) Still, that's less than Clinton's margin in New York state alone (1,507,241), a mere 45% of her margin in California (2,904,526). In fact, California topped Hawaii as her best percentage state (61.78%; she won 90.4% in DC). By contrast, Trump's biggest popular win, in Texas, was 813,774, followed by Tennessee (651,073), Alabama (588,841), Kentucky (574,108), Missouri (530,864), Indiana (520,429). Trump topped 60% in 9 states (AL, AR, KY, NB, ND, OK, SD, WV, WY), but most were small.

  • Clinton lost three states that she was heavily favored in by very slim margins: Michigan (0.27%), Wisconsin (0.93%), and Pennsylvania (1.24%). Had she hung on to those three states she would have won the electoral college. It's easy to imagine various technical shifts in her campaign strategy that might have secured those states and won her the election, even without any substantive adjustments to her platform. She was not a hopeless candidate, but was a flawed and for many people uninspiring one, and was not well served by a staff and organization built to flatter her.

  • Voter turnout was down 1.2 points, to 53.7%. Trump was elected president with about 25% of the vote, and Clinton lost with just a hair more. As was widely reported, they were the two least approved candidates in history. Clinton maintained a polling lead throughout the campaign, but was never able to top 50%, her leads varying widely as Trump's numbers waxed and waned. Trump caught a break a week before the election when FBI Director James Comey re-opened Clinton's email troubles, and Trump avoided major blunders in his last week, so his win can be attributed to a lucky break.

  • The Democrats gained two Senate seats and seven House seats, so the party as a whole was not swept up in a Republican tide. More likely she was a drag on down-ticket Democrats. I believe that one of the biggest tactical errors was Clinton's failure to run against what Harry Truman once called "the do-nothing Congress" (Democrats lost control of Congress in 1946, but recovered in 1948 with Truman's come-from-behind campaign). Ultimately we'll see that most of the bad things that happen in the next four years will originate in the Republican Congress, and most of Trump's own disasters will be tied to his forming an extremist Republican administration. The election would have been very different if Clinton had run not on Obama's "successes" but by blaming Republicans for his shortcomings.

  • I think it's safe to say that Bernie Sanders would have been a more formidable candidate for the Democrats. What is certain is that we didn't have any of Clinton's sleazy vulnerabilities. Also that he was far enough removed from the Clinton-Obama mainstream he could have run as a credible change, and that he has shown the ability to rally large and enthusiastic crowds (which Trump did and Clinton did not). Maybe the Republicans could have come up with an effective set of slanders to undo him, but they wouldn't have had the benefits of 24 years of target practice against Clinton. Sanders' real vulnerability was that the Clinton-Obama Democrats would sandbag him (much as previous generations of Democrats did to Bryan and McGovern), but perhaps fear of Trump would have held them in check.

  • Whatever divisions were thought to exist in the Republican party have vanished. The only thing Republicans really care about is winning and ruling, and they really don't care how ugly it looks. And while their current margins are extremely thin, that didn't impose any scruples on Bush and Cheney in 2000 -- another time when the presidential victor lost the popular vote -- and Republicans have only become more vicious and unscrupulous since then. (Trump, for one, never had to feign compassion.)

One thing that we should bear in mind is that many disasters take a long time to fully reveal themselves. That Republican Congress elected in 1946 has had an especially long-lasting impact. George Brockway, for instance, cited a banking "reform" bill that they passed as the first chink in the deregulation that finally sunk the economy in 2008. More obvious was the Taft-Hartley Act, which made it significantly harder to form and maintain labor unions. After that act was passed, the CIO gave up on organizing unions in the South, which left American businesses with an alternative to union labor in the North. That, more than anything else, gradually ate away at the Rust Belt, leading to this year's Democratic debacle.

But then the Democrats haven't been passive observers to the destruction of their party's base. Harry Truman was so militantly opposed to worker strikes after WWII that he inadvertently validated the public opinion behind Taft-Hartley (a bill he vetoed, but his veto was overridden). And one can argue that the Clinton-sponsored NAFTA was the straw that broke the camel's back -- he's certainly the one who gets blamed, even though it was mostly Republicans who voted for the agreement.

On the other hand, the half-life of disasters certainly seems to be quickening, especially as public institutions become more and more corrupt, as wealth and income are distributed ever more inequally, as decades of bad choices slowly add up into harder ones. A lot of the links below concern the destruction of the middle class, especially in the Rust Belt, and raise the question of why even people who are still doing OK have become anxious about the economy. This can only remind me of a book published back in 1989, Barbara Ehrenreich's Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class. And really, she wasn't way ahead of the learning curve. She was merely more perceptive than most people were. Recent books, such as the six recommended in the list below, focus more on those who have fallen, and who can't get up. But fear came first, and Democrats would have been better served had they recognized that, instead of blundering on and pushing more and more people down and out.


Here are a mess of links I've collected, thinking they may be of some interest (more or less alphabetical by author).

  • Scott Alexander: You Are Still Crying Wolf: Title refers to a piece, Frank Bruni: Crying Wolf, Then Confronting Trump, which complains that Democratic denunciations of "honorable and decent men" like McCain and Romney have inoculated many Americans against even more strident warnings about Trump (he cites an essay by Jonah Greenberg, "How the Media's History of Smearing Republicans Now Helps Trump"). Alexander argues that Trump did better than Romney among blacks, Latinos and Asians, then concludes: "The only major racial group where he didn't get a gain or greater than 5% was white people." He then goes on to argue that Trump isn't nearly as racist (i.e., no more than "any other 70 year old white guy") as people think, and that white supremacists -- at least as represented by people like David Duke (who got 3% in his Louisiana Senate campaign) or groups like the KKK (national membership in the 3000-6000 range) are extremely marginal. I think he goes too far in making excuses for Trump, but it does raise the question: given that Republicans have spent forty-some years "dog-whistling" race-charged themes, isn't it possible that Democrats have become hyper-sensitive to that veiled rhetoric? (And conversely, isn't it possible that much of the Republican target audience have grown so accustomed to it they no longer pay it any mind?) On the other hand, Alexander does stress how bizarre he finds Trump:

    16. But didn't Trump . . .

    Whatever bizarre, divisive, ill-advised, and revolting thing you're about to mention, the answer is probably yes.

    This is equally true on race-related and non-race-related issues. People ask "How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that Obama was born in Kenya, if he wasn't racist?" I don't know. How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism? How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that the Clintons killed Vince Foster? How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that Ted Cruz's father shot JFK?

    Trump will apparently believe anything for any reason, especially about his political opponents. If Clinton had been black but Obama white, we'd be hearing that the Vince Foster conspiracy theory proves Trump's bigotry, and the birtherism was just harmless wackiness.

    Likewise, how could Trump insult a Mexican judge just for being Mexican? I don't know. How could Trump insult a disabled reporter just for being disabled? How could Trump insult John McCain just for being a beloved war hero? Every single person who's opposed him, Trump has insulted in various offensive ways, including 140 separate incidents of him calling someone "dopey" or "dummy" on Twitter, and you expect him to hold his mouth just because the guy is a Mexican?

    I don't think people appreciate how weird this guy is. His weird way of speaking. His catchphrases like "haters and losers!" or "Sad!" His tendency to avoid perfectly reasonable questions in favor of meandering tangents about Mar-a-Lago. The ability to bait him into saying basically anything just by telling him people who don't like him think he shouldn't.

  • Krishnadev Calamur: Donald Trump's CIA Pick Made His Name on the Benghazi Committee: That's Mike Pompeo, currently 4th district congressman from Canada, a district which includes Wichita and a half-dozen rural counties. Pompeo was first elected in 2010 when Todd Tiahrt ran for Senate (and lost to Jerry Moran). Tiahrt, who I had long regarded as the worst congressman in America, tried to take back his House seat in 2012, and lost to Pompeo -- at the time I characterized them as R(Boeing) and R(Koch), respectively. Indeed, the Wichita Eagle has an article today titled "Koch Industries, Pompeo's biggest backer, cheers his CIA nomination." In Congress, Pompeo has been a faithful defender of the Koch's brand of laissez-faire, but far more than that he's emerged as one of the House's most rabid neocons -- a fact that was recognized by Bill Kristol when he put Pompeo's name on his short list of vice presidential candidates. At this article points out, Pompeo's was one of the Benghazi Committee's most forceful foes of Hillary Clinton. Indeed, as CIA Director it wouldn't surprise me if he forgoes the Special Prosecutor and just "renders" her to a black site to be tortured until she confesses all. At least, nothing in that sentence violates his understanding of law or morality.

    Martin Longman has more on Pompeo (as well as Flynn and Sessions) here: Trump Makes Three Catastrophic Picks. I do have a bone to pick with one line: "What unites [Pompeo] with Mike Flynn is his outrage about Obama's firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal for disloyalty." Uh, McChrystal was fired for incompetence. If you go back to the Rolling Stone article where all this dirty laundry was aired, you'll find that Flynn was even more outspoken in berating and belittling Obama, yet somehow Obama looked past that to nominate Flynn to be head of the DIA. Sure, that may rank as the worst appointment Obama ever made, but you can't say it was because he was thin-skinned about criticism.

  • Robert Christgau on the End of the World

  • David Dayen: Beware Donald Trump's Infrastructure Plan:

    Does this sound familiar? It's the common justification for privatization, and it's been a disaster virtually everywhere it's been tried. First of all, this specifically ties infrastructure -- designed for the common good -- to a grab for profits. Private operators will only undertake projects if they promise a revenue stream. You may end up with another bridge in New York City or another road in Los Angeles, which can be monetized. But someplace that actually needs infrastructure investment is more dicey without user fees.

    So the only way to entice private-sector actors into rebuilding Flint, Michigan's water system, for example, is to give them a cut of the profits in perpetuity. That's what Chicago did when it sold off 36,000 parking meters to a Wall Street-led investor group. Users now pay exorbitant fees to park in Chicago, and city government is helpless to alter the rates.

  • Elizabeth Drew: How It Happened: Some fairly dumb things here, including a metric comparing votes in counties that have Cracker Barrel vs. Whole Foods stores, and an assertion that the third party vote cost Clinton the election. Also includes this quote from J.D. Vance (author of Hillbilly Elegy):

    "People who are drawn to Trump are drawn to him because he's a little outrageous, he's a little relatable, and fundamentally he is angry and spiteful and critical of the things that people feel anger and spite toward," Vance has said. "It's people who are perceived to be powerful. It's the Hillary Clintons of the world, the Barack Obamas of the world, the Wall Street executives of the world. There just isn't anyone out there who will talk about the system like it's completely rigged like Donald Trump does. It's certainly not something you're going to hear from Hillary Clinton."

  • Jason Easley: It Was a Union Contract, Not Trump, That Kept a Ford Plant From Leaving the US

  • Barbara Ehrenreich: Forget fear and loathing. The US election inspires projectile vomiting: Pre-election piece (sorry I didn't link to it earlier). Still, this works fairly well as a post-mortem:

    [Trump's] supporters -- generally portrayed as laid-off blue-collar workers who, in the absence of unions, have devoted themselves to the cause of whiteness -- cheer on each of his macro-aggressions. To them, he is a giant middle finger in the face of the bipartisan political elite, and the crazier he acts, the more resounding this fuck-you gets. It doesn't matter that most of Trump's assertions can't stand up to fact-checking; ignorance has been enshrined by an entire alternative media, stretching from Fox News to Stormfront on the Nazi-leaning right.

    On the liberal left, tragically, we do not have Bernie Sanders, who would have dispatched Trump's populist pretensions with a wrist flick. But no, representing the side of tolerance, good government and cosmopolitanism, we have the very epitome of Democratic party elitism, a woman who labeled half of Trump's supporters "deplorables," a politician who is so robotic that any efforts to analyze her motives risk the charge of anthropomorphism.

  • Liza Featherstone: Elite, White Feminism Gave Us Trump

  • Matt Feeney: The Book That Predicted Trump: The book touted here is Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2012) -- I'm pretty sure those names are just historical bookends and not meant to imply a general vector of declining intelligence and coherence, as Robin's central thesis is that conservatism, whether you're talking about Burke or John Calhoun or Ronald Reagan or Trump is always pretty much the same thing, for the same reasons: to defend the privileged few against anything that might make us more equal.

    Speaking of books, the New York Times recommends 6 Books to Help Understand Trump's Win:

    • George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
    • Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right (The New Press)
    • J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (Harper)
    • Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company)
    • John B. Judis, The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics (Columbia Global Reports)
    • Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America (Viking)

    I've only read one of these -- Thomas Frank's critique of Clinton's Democrats, a legacy which needs to be critically reviewed by anyone who wants to rebuild the Democratic Party -- but the common theme here is the economic and social stresses felt by the vanishing middle class of white people.

  • Kathleen Frydl: The Oxy Electorate:

    The number of people who cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential race was greater than in 2012, even though, as a state, Ohio recorded a net loss in turnout from the previous election. This pattern holds for nearly all opioid-ravaged counties. And not just in Ohio -- in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan as well, all of them crucial to the presidential election's outcome. In 9 of the Ohio counties that Trump successfully turned from Democrat to Republican, six log overdose rates well above the national norm. All of the Pennsylvania counties that chose Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 have exceptionally high overdose rates, averaging 25 people per 100,000; in none of these counties did vote totals fall.

  • Kathleen Geier: Inequality Among Women Is Crucial to Understanding Hillary's Loss:

    In these white working-class communities, it is the women who have experienced some of the worst hardships. You may have heard of that famous study that showed that showed an unprecedented decline in longevity among white Americans who lack college degrees. But most media reports missed a crucial point: As the statistician Andrew Gelman pointed out, "Since 2005, mortality rates have increased among women in this group but not men." And in addition to economic insecurity and rising mortality rates, working-class women have suffered from another indignity: invisibility. During the campaign, there was a blizzard of articles about the concerns of elite Republican women and white working-class men, but practically nothing about female members of the working class.

  • John Judis: Why Trump Won - and Clinton Lost - and What It Could Mean for the Country and the Parties: Quickie post-mortem, including some things that don't make much sense to me (like the anti-third term pendulum), but one thing I'm struck by is that immigration has different regional effects, and appears particularly threatening when used to break or undermine unions -- meatpackers in Iowa is a case in point. One conclusion I'd draw is that Democrats need to come up with better ways of talking about immigration, because the way this campaign played out they came off as reflexively pro, which raised legitimate questions of how much they cared about people who were born here. Theda Skocpol wrote a rejoinder which pokes a few holes without doing much to fill them in (partly because she feels the need to defend Clinton and to denigrate Sanders).

  • Mike Konczal: Preparing for the Worst: How Conservatives Will Govern in 2017:

    Unlike 2009, the conservative policy agenda is designed to not require any Democratic votes. The idea that a conservative policy agenda would create a dysfunctional system is a feature, not a bug. And the hope that conflicting factions of the GOP will provide opportunities to break them apart are not likely to pan out. But there's some reason for hope, because their overreach and lack of preparedness will give us opportunities. [ . . . ]

    They aren't ready with a replacement for Obamacare. They aren't ready for the heat of privatizing Medicare, or weakening Medicaid. There are constituencies for both, and town halls can be flooded and people organized. Those who desperately wanted a change towards economic security are going to be surprised that the factories aren't coming back and that they signed up for a libertarian kleptocracy instead. But we should also be clear on the challenges of their policy agenda, and that the cracks won't appear by themselves.

    Konczal recommends a book (as do I): Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule (2009) -- no mention of Trump, but lots of things you're going to be seeing. And back on Sept. 21, Konczal wrote a piece that provides useful background here: Trump Is Actually Full of Policy.

  • Michael Kruse: What Trump Voters Want Now: Talking to blue collar Trump voters in Pennsylvania:

    "Your government betrayed you, and I'm going to make it right," Trump told a boisterous crowd at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena less than three weeks before Election Day. "Your jobs will come back under a Trump administration," he said. "Your steel will come back," he said. "We're putting your miners back to work," he said.

    The people here who voted for Trump want all that. They want him to loosen environmental regulations. They want their taxes to go down and their incomes to go up. They want to see fewer drugs on their streets and more control of the Mexican border. They want him to "run the country like a business." And they want this fast. So now comes the hard part for Trump -- turning rhetoric into results. Four years ago, the largely Democratic voters in Cambria County flipped on President Obama, disgusted that he had not made good on his promise of change. What's clear from a series of interviews with Trump supporters here is that they will turn on Trump, too, if he doesn't deliver. [ . . . ]

    But beyond flared tempers in the immediate aftermath of this ugly election, said Rininger and Daloni, the larger point is that this isn't going to work. There's next to no way, they believe, that Trump can deliver on his promises.

    "The infrastructure for the steel is all gone," Daloni said. "It just doesn't exist anymore in Johnstown. It did used to be a steel boomtown, but it was long before Obama was elected. It was decimated, really, before Bill Clinton was elected. The mills were going down in the '70s and '80s."

    The Trump voters say they want change, but Daloni and Rininger say the change has happened already. And despite what Trump promised at the downtown arena a month ago, they believe there's a real chance that Trump's solutions could make things worse. Incomes won't go up -- they'll go down. "I make $32 an hour, with good benefits, and that's because I'm union," Rininger said. "I wouldn't even be f--king close to that if I wasn't union."

    And jobs, they worry, won't come back -- they'll disappear faster. And before long, they said, the only work in Cambria County will be minimum-wage counter jobs at the familiar collection of ring-road fast food-joints. "The service industry, I'm afraid," Daloni said.

    "If Trump starts trade wars," Rininger said, "you hurt us. You hurt our plant" -- which is owned by Swedes, with a CEO from India. And the steel the workers do still make, Rininger said, is sold to Brazil. It's sold around the world.

    Charles Pierce comments: You Can Keep Studying White Working Class Voters, But We Know the Answers.

  • David Leonhardt: The Democrats' Real Turnout Problem: Cites a study by Douglas Rivers of five east-to-midwest swing states that switched from Obama to Trump (plus Minnesota, which was very close):

    In counties where Trump won at least 70 percent of the vote, the number of votes cast rose 2.9 percent versus 2012. Trump's pugnacious message evidently stirred people who hadn't voted in the past. By comparison, in counties where Clinton won at least 70 percent, the vote count was 1.7 percent lower this year.

  • Eric Lichtblau: US Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims: I wouldn't call 6% a surge, but it turns out that's a gross "hate crime" count. The real bottom line:

    There were 257 reports of assaults, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes against Muslims last year, a jump of about 67 percent over 2014. It was the highest total since 2001, when more than 480 attacks occurred in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

  • Ryan Lizza: Donald Trump's First, Alarming Week as President-Elect: Old history, now eclipsed by an even more disturbing second week (e.g., Michael Flynn, Mike Pompeo).

  • Amanda Marcotte: Voter suppression helped make Donald Trump president -- now he'll make it worse

  • Sophia A McClennen: Like a double dose of Dubya: Donald Trump's presidency will be like the George W. Bush disaster -- only worse

  • Michael Moore: 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win: This piece dates from July 21, 2016, so it counts now as prophetic, but was meant more as a warning, from someone who grew up in an industrial Great Lakes state and has spent much of his career chronicling the hard times his people have suffered. Here's the first point:

    I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes -- Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic states -- but each of them have elected a Republican governor since 2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million). Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it's because he's said (correctly) that the Clintons' support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states. When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the governor next-door, John Kasich. . . .

    And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It's 64. All Trump needs to do to win is to carry, as he's expected to do, the swath of traditional red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that'll never vote for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt states. He doesn't need Florida. He doesn't need Colorado or Virginia. Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.

    And that was exactly what happened -- had Clinton held the line in the three closest states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania; forget Ohio) she would have been elected. She is, of course, one of the other four points, but more interesting is what Moore calls "the Jesse Ventura Effect":

    Finally, do not discount the electorate's ability to be mischievous or underestimate how any millions fancy themselves as closet anarchists once they draw the curtain and are all alone in the voting booth. It's one of the few places left in society where there are no security cameras, no listening devices, no spouses, no kids, no boss, no cops, there's not even a friggin' time limit. You can take as long as you need in there and no one can make you do anything. You can push the button and vote a straight party line, or you can write in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. There are no rules. And because of that, and the anger that so many have toward a broken political system, millions are going to vote for Trump not because they agree with him, not because they like his bigotry or ego, but just because they can. Just because it will upset the apple cart and make mommy and daddy mad. And in the same way like when you're standing on the edge of Niagara Falls and your mind wonders for a moment what would that feel like to go over that thing, a lot of people are going to love being in the position of puppetmaster and plunking down for Trump just to see what that might look like.

    Of course, the polls told them that Trump didn't have a chance, that someone sane would catch them when they jumped. Moore also wrote another pre-election piece called 5 Ways to Make Sure Trump Loses, which included this bit:

    So many people have given up on our system and that's because the system has given up on them. They know it's all bullshit: politics, politicians, elections. The middle class in tatters, the American Dream a nightmare for the 47 million living in poverty. Get this straight: HALF of America is planning NOT to vote November 8th. Hillary's approval rating is at 36%. CNN said it last night: No one running for office with an approval rating of 36% has ever been elected president (Trump's is at 30%). Even in these newer polls, 60% still say that Hillary is "untrustworthy to be president." Disillusioned young people stop me every day to tell me they're not voting (or they're voting 3rd Party). This is a problem, folks. Stop ignoring it. You need to listen to them. Chastising them, shaming them, will not work. Acknowledging to them that they have a point, that Hillary Clinton is maybe not the best candidate, . . .

    The rest of the paragraph doesn't make a lot of sense, and maybe acknowledging your candidate's flaws won't convince many people to overlook them, but one way to approach this would be to refocus the campaign on electing Democrats to Congress, both to help her and to keep her honest. And the easiest thing in the world should have been running against our current batch of Congressional Republicans. Of course, it didn't happen, perhaps because the Clintons rarely concern themselves with any but the first person.

  • Toni Morrison: Making America White Again: This is one of sixteen pieces the New Yorker commissioned as Aftermath: Sixteen Writers on Trump's America. See especially Jane Mayer on Trump and the Koch network. Also this from Jill Leopre:

    The rupture in the American republic, the division of the American people whose outcome is the election of Donald Trump, cannot be attributed to Donald Trump. Nor can it be attributed to James Comey and the F.B.I. or to the white men who voted in very high numbers for Trump or to the majority of white women who did, too, unexpectedly, or to the African-American and Latino voters who did not give Hillary Clinton the edge they gave Barack Obama. It can't be attributed to the Republican Party's unwillingness to disavow Trump or to the Democratic Party's willingness to promote Clinton or to a media that has careened into a state of chaos. There are many reasons for our troubles. But the deepest reason is inequality: the forms of political, cultural, and economic polarization that have been widening, not narrowing, for decades. Inequality, like slavery, is a chain that binds at both ends. [ . . . ]

    Many Americans, having lost faith in a government that has failed to address widening inequality, and in the policymakers and academics and journalists who have barely noticed it, see Trump as their deliverer. They cast their votes with purpose. A lot of Trump voters I met during this election season compared Trump to Lincoln: an emancipator. What Trump can and cannot deliver, by way of policy, remains to be seen; my own doubts are grave. Meanwhile, though, he has added weight to the burden that we, each of us, carry on our backs, the burden of old hatreds.

    I agree that inequality infects everything, but would also have blamed war: it's impossible to spend fifteen years at war, even if it only rarely touches us personally (as has oddly been the case with this one), without it coarsening and brutalizing us, and that shows up in an increasingly bitter and violent campaign. Trump evinced by far the more popularly resonant stance, on the one hand disowning misguided conflicts like Bush's Iraq war yet on the other hand showing an unflinching will to inflict violence whenever threatened. Clinton, on the other hand, seemed to follow Obama in thinking that war can be compartmentalized and managed, something that can continue indefinitely without changing us. For more on this point, see: Tom Engelhardt: Through the Gates of Hell: How Empire Ushered in a Trump Presidency.

  • Charles P Pierce: I Am Sure of Nothing Now: Concludes with this quote from Hunter S. Thompson on the 1972 election, the first time I was as grossly disappointed by American voters as this time (not that there haven't been a couple more times sandwiched between):

    This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it -- that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes . . . understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose . . . Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?

  • Sean T Posey: How Democrats lost the Rust Belt in 2016:

    In 1964, 37 percent of Ohio workers belonged to a union; that number fell to 12 percent by 2016, and incomes for the working class tumbled in tandem. It's a similar story in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Republican policies are largely responsible, but Democrats have done little to address the precipitous decline of the working class.

    When Hillary Clinton famously referred to half of Trump's supporters as a "basket of deplorables," it rang hollow for voters who had waited in vain for her to acknowledge their economic plight. Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan helped elect Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. However, for working families, the economic hangover of the post-industrial era never went away. Clinton's campaign failed to fully appreciate their pain.

    A couple years into the "recovery" it was reported that 97% of the gains had been reaped by the 1%. Maybe that number has inched down a bit since then, but that translates as a windfall for the very rich and no recovery for most people.

  • John Quiggin: The dog that didn't bark: One of the most glaring results from the election is that virtually none of the Republicans who had been so critical of Trump early on failed to vote for him in the end. Perhaps that's because socially liberal, economically moderate, or libertarian Republicans have become urban myths -- even though Clinton wasted a lot of time courting them (she did seem to be doing better among the neocons, but it looks like they'll do quite nicely under Trump).

  • Sam Stein: The Clinton Campaign Was Undone by Its Own Neglect and a Touch of Arrogance, Staffers Say

  • Steven Waldman: Did the Decline of Labor Finally Kill the Democrats? Uh, yes.

  • Gary Younge: How Trump took middle America: Lead-in: "After a month in a midwestern town, the story of this election is clear -- when people feel the system is broken, they vote for whoever promises to smash it."

  • Steve Bannon: 'we'll govern for 50 years': A boast that only seems modest next to "Thousand Year Reich." From the cited interview (more of a profile piece than tete-a-tete):

    When Bannon took over the campaign from Paul Manafort, there were many in the Trump circle who had resigned themselves to the inevitability of the candidate listening to no one. But here too was a Bannon insight: When the campaign seemed most in free fall or disarray, it was perhaps most on target. While Clinton was largely absent from the campaign trail and concentrating on courting her donors, Trump -- even after the leak of the grab-them-by-the-pussy audio -- was speaking to ever-growing crowds of 35,000 or 40,000. "He gets it; he gets it intuitively," says Bannon, perhaps still surprised he has found such an ideal vessel. "You have probably the greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan, coupled with an economic populist message and two political parties that are so owned by the donors that they don't speak to their audience. But he speaks in a non-political vernacular, he communicates with these people in a very visceral way. Nobody in the Democratic party listened to his speeches, so they had no idea he was delivering such a compelling and powerful economic message. He shows up 3.5 hours late in Michigan at 1 in the morning and has 35,000 people waiting in the cold. When they got [Clinton] off the donor circuit she went to Temple University and they drew 300 or 400 kids."

    Oh, then there's this final quote: "I am Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors."


As I was putting this post together, I started reading Corey Robin's Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2011), and noted this quote (p. 59) on the asymmetry between left and right, on how hard change is for the former, and how easy reaction is for the latter:

Where the left's program of redistribution raises the questions of whether its beneficiaries are truly prepared to wield the powers they seek, the conservative prospect of restoration suffers from no such challenge. Unlike the reformer or the revolutionary, moreover, who faces the nearly impossible task of empowering the powerless -- that is, of turning people from what they are into what they are not -- the conservative merely asks his followers to do more of what they always have done (albeit, better and differently). As a result, his counterrevolution will not require the same disruption that the revolution has visited upon the country.

My main worry about the Sanders campaign wasn't that he might get slandered and lose his appeal, but that there wasn't a strong enough movement under him to deliver on his promises. And that mattered, of course, because his promises mattered. By contrast, all Trump voters had to do was to put their guy in power. After that, go back to work, and let their new right-thinking leader do what needs to be done. I've never had any inkling why they would trust him with that power, but then I don't think like they do: I learned early to question all authority, and found that when you give a greedy monster more power he only becomes greedier and more monstrous. But in a way, the great appeal of the right is that it offers simplistic solutions, wrapped in a little virus of paranoia which allows them to be used again and again, regardless of their repeated failures.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Golden Oldies (5)

A few more posts as I'm sifting through the old online notebook for a few stray record reviews, and finding a world that looks and sounds eerily familiar, marked by six years of corrupt Republican rule (following eight years of corrupt Clinton and twelve years of even more corrupt Reagan-Bush). This shows that ten years ago I was starting to doubt that some of the damage could ever be reversed. Clearly, eight years of Obama has had little effect -- one statistic is that 97% of the gains of the recovery have been captured by the top 1%, which implies that the overwhelming majority of Americans haven't seen anything vaguely resembling a recovery, no matter what the stock markets say -- and now we're poised for another plunge into disaster.

From February 1, 2006, when "the Liar in Chief gave his State of the Disunion speech":

Of course, not everything Bush has tried has worked out exactly according to plan. But it's hard to tell given that the real plans have always been secret, and that the administration and its pliant, co-opted media have consistently been able to put their spin over. Maybe Iraq was intended to be a cakewalk that would deliver us a steady source of cheap oil, but the worst case scenario -- that Iraqi oil falls off the market, constricting supplies and driving prices up -- works just as well for Bush, and better still for Exxon-Mobil. Maybe John ("no carrot") Bolton's non-proliferation diplomacy was intended to pacify Kim Jong Il, but a nuclear-armed North Korea is just the sort of threat that keeps Japan in line and helps sell anti-missile defense systems. Maybe Bush actually wanted to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden, but the latter's taunts are always good for a bump in the polls. Win-win scenarios like those encourage boldness by insulating Bush from the consequences of screwing up. If Herbert Hoover had been able to spin like Bush, America wouldn't have had that New Deal for the Republicans to try to repeal.

The fact is that most Americans are worse off than they were five years ago. Real wages are down. The real cost of living is up, with energy and health care, education and housing leading the way. Fewer people have jobs; those who do work longer hours for less benefits. Productivity is up, but all of the benefits have gone to management. More people live in poverty. Fewer have health insurance, so more skip non-emergency care. Many people have compensated for their declining incomes by borrowing more, so savings is down and debt is up. The federal budget has gone from a surplus to record deficits. Trade deficits have also hit new record levels. This has been temporarily covered by foreign funds, which own more and more of America's capital and debt. The portion of federal spending on such non-productive expenses as defense, security, and prisons has grown considerably, in turn starving social services and infrastructure investments. Where state and local governments have tried to compensate for loss of federal funds, their tax increases have often swallowed up the federal cuts. Meanwhile, safety nets have been reduced, not least under the guise of tort reform and bankruptcy reform. Environmental protections have been slashed, and the Super Fund clean-up system is defunct. Much of the federal government has been turned into a super-police agency, the Dept. of Homeland Security -- the domestic equivalent of the Dept. of Imperial Security (formerly the Dept. of Defense). The right to privacy (i.e., the right to be secure in one's home and person) has been attacked from every angle: through new laws like the USA PATRIOT Act, through blatantly extralegal acts like NSA spying, through Bush's packing of the courts with right-wing extremists. And on all fronts, whatever competency government once had has diminished as the civil service system has been turned into a major new system of political patronage.

The key idea here is not just that the Republicans are crooks (cf. Jack Abramoff) or scoundrels (cf. Scooter Libby) or both (cf. Tom DeLay): it's that they're building a political machine to perpetuate their control, a brutally efficient Tamany Hall that straddles the entire globe. It's a spectacular vision, but it's already -- long before such new space weapons as the Rods from God come on-line -- showing signs of overreach. The Iraq war may be good for Exxon-Mobil, maybe even for Halliburton, but it's been rough on the US Army, stretched now to the breaking point. And the longer a few thousand insurgents in Iraq are able to tie the US down, the more defiant others become. The Muslim world is still mostly tied down in crony dictatorships, but when democratization comes they won't be so easy to push around. For an example of how this works, cf. Latin America, where anti-US politicos have won every election recently. Moreover, Bush's domestic programs weaken the US economy in nearly every way, making any number of economic disasters possible, on top of the long term rot caused by the right's political attacks on science and education, the closing of opportunities, and the increasing tolerance of graft.

That was written a couple years before the predicted economic disaster got out of hand.

From February 15, 2006, when Dick Cheney went hunting:

The sea change in the media coverage of Dick Cheney's little hunting accident just proves that what goes around comes around. Cheney was the guy who insisted on going full bore ahead on the Republicans' agenda after they squeaked through the tainted 2000 presidential election. His cynical exploitation of ill-gotten power was unprecedented in its scope and depravity. (Not only had Bush taken office under a cloud, compare what he said during the campaign to what they did afterwards to get a glimpse of how disengenuous they were before power corrupted them further. And just as secrets and lies got them into office, secrets and lies followed them everywhere.) Although Cheney hasn't exactly gotten a free ride for all he's done, he's gotten a lot of slack -- the media's customary deference to the powerful, who are often (and this is important) the ones who feed them the spin they report as news. I'm tempted to suggest that the real reason they've turned on Cheney so hard is that he denied them the scoop, but at least part of their bite comes from resentment at having been lied to over and over. The media has a bad case of "kiss up, kick down" (to borrow a phrase used to describe John Bolton), so now that Cheney has gotten himself into a pickle, they can finally show their love.

On March 3, 2006, I wrote a comment about a quote from Robert D. Kaplan, an American journalist who served in the IDF and went on to be a major neocon cheerleader in books about Afghanistan, the Balkans, and The Arabists. I read a lot of his work after 9/11, but had largely given up on him by the time I wrote this:

One thing to remember about Kaplan is that he's consistently argued that democracy is not a viable goal for US (or any imperial) foreign policy. His prescription for Iraq was that the US install an authoritarian regime -- possibly another Baathist, another Saddam but on a tighter leash. Allawi would have suited Kaplan fine had it worked, but by the time the US brought Allawi in it was already too late. The US lost the re-use Saddam's systems of control -- the "decapitation" option -- when Bremer dissolved the Iraq army, or you can go further back to the decision to short-staff the invasion force. This meant that the US depended on the Kurds and Shiites to stabilize Iraq after the invasion, and the price of their participation was de-Baathification. Bush also tied his shoelaces together with his liberation/democracy spiel -- while the US actually did very little very slowly to promote democracy (the two-thirds rule is an especially clever poison pill) the idea is still a dangling sword over the head of the occupation.

Kaplan's books are very readable and quite useful, except when he starts "thinking". Even then his "pragmatism" is rigorous and consistent -- to the point that he insists that imperialism needs a "pagan ethos". His big problem is that his ideals and preferred practices are rooted in some other century. That strikes me as a fatal debilitation in a "pragmatist."

On the other hand, recent news does make the rather sobering case that bad as Saddam was, removing him has led to worse. One thing we need to give some serious consideration to is how it might be possible to ameliorate conditions under Saddam-like dictators without plunging entire countries into the hell of war. As far as I can tell, since 1991 all the US ever did viz. Iraq, and for purely domestic political reasons of the basest sort, was try to make conditions there worse.

By the way, has anyone noticed that in Saddam's show trial, he's being charged with ordering fewer executions than Bush signed off on while governor of Texas?

On May 12, 2006, I wrote a post around quotes about Berlusconi and Nixon that seemed to fit the election results so well I went ahead and posted them here.

On June 22, 2006, I wrote a post called "Clintonistas for Armageddon" -- it's one of those things you forget about because it led to nothing, but it was about an op-ed written by two Clinton war guys, William Perry (Clinton's Secretary of Defense) and Ashton Carter (a Clinton under-secretary, who later became Obama's Secretary of Defense). They were upset about North Korea testing one of its missiles, and urged Bush to pre-emptively fire cruise missiles at the site. While North Korea's missiles (and most likely a couple fission bombs) were works-in-progress, this overlooked that North Korea has thousands of pieces of heavy artillery capable of raining destruction on Seoul. That's not a very smart deterrent to test. I spent some time researching North Korea at that point. Today I'm more struck by the Clinton connection. I led off the post with this line:

One reason we're always stuck in a hopeless, hapless mess in foreign policy is that the people the Democrats hire to staff those positions are for all intents and purposes the same pinheaded warrior wannabes as the ones the Republicans hire.

On June 23, 2006, I wrote a post based on an Eagle article reporting that sociologists are finding that Americans have fewer and fewer close friends (the average dropped from 3 in 1985 to 2). I quoted the piece, then added:

This trend has been going on all my life. It's easy to think back to the '50s and '60s when people actually worried about this -- you don't hear much about alienation any more, but it was so much on the mind that existentialism was invented to salve it. The arch trends all date back to the '50s: the move to the suburbs, the envelopment of passive entertainment, the time demands of careerism. More recent is the notion of Quality Time, another time encroachment that has come about as parenting has been shaped by the career ethic. Another factor is fear: the threat of nuclear destruction dates back to the '50s, but everyday fear of your neighbors has built up slowly over time. (The current obsession with tracking "sex offenders" is a good example.) But then fear may also be a consequence of having fewer friends: as you lose the knack of making friends the rest of the world becomes unapproachable.

The consequences of this for politics are almost too obvious to point out. The more isolated and self-contained people's lives are, the less appreciation people have for others not like them. Passive intake of news and information leaves you vulnerable to manipulation -- especially the sort of manipulation that's become the stock and trade of the new right in America. Most of this nonsense would fall apart at the first dissent, but if you avoid anyone who might think differently, you can wind up convincing yourself of any fool thing.

On July 8 I wrote an untitled piece, a bit of autobiography trying to explain why I write this shit. Interesting to read it a decade later, because sometimes I forget.

I've written a lot on Israel ever since 2001 but haven't quoted much in this series. However, in July 2006 Israel opened a brutal assault on Lebanon, an event Condoleezza Rice memorably dubbed "the birthpangs of a new Middle East." On July 25, I wrote:

The irony in all this is that the neocons got snookered worse than anyone in thinking of Israel as the model the American military should aspire to. The fact is that Israel hasn't had anything resembling a clean military victory since 1967. The War of Attrition with Egypt was exactly that. 1973 was a draw perceived as a psychological defeat. Lebanon was a bloody, pointless mess from the very start, dragged out to 18 years only to give Hezbollah training. The counter-intifadas were like trying to fight roaches by pummelling them with garbage.

To be fair, America hasn't done any better, unless you're still excited by Grenada. Korea was a draw. Vietnam was a flat-out loss. The Cuba invasion never got off the beach. Panama was good for one kidnapping then a hasty retreat. Kuwait left Iraq as an open sore, then you know what happened when they opened that one up again. Afghanistan is a slow burn. The War on Terrorism has left its Most Wanteds at large. The War on Drugs hasn't made a dent. The War on Poverty was quietly abandoned, at least until Bush revised the semantics. The last winner we had was WWII, and that was won by manufacturing, logistics and engineering -- as Billmon points out, not by the will to fight, which the Germans and Russians were far more effective at mustering.

The neocons, both American and Israeli, don't understand a lot of things, but at the top of their list is that, while we like everyone else will fight for our homes, we don't really want to go somewhere else and fight to take or crush someone else's homes, especially when they're willing to fight back, and we might get killed or maimed. The only way the US can staff its military is by promising folks that their tours will be virtually riskless -- which thanks to the neocons is getting tougher and tougher, and it shows. Israel still has universal military draft -- well, nearly universal, except for the Arabs they don't trust and the ultra orthodox who get a pass -- but even they are so used to riskless conflict that the real thing is shocking. The fact is, very few people these days want anything to do with war. The destruction is extraordinary and mutual, the chances of gain are negligible. Why do these war mongers even exist?

Finally (for now, anyway), on September 13, 2006 -- two years before "The Great Recession" became official -- I called this post "The Great Decline":

Yesterday I mentioned a long list of problems the Bush administration has at best ignored, more commonly exacerbated, and in some cases flat out caused. I didn't bother with the tiresome task of enumerating, but Billmon has come up with a reasonable summary, occasioned by the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity:

You can learn a lot about a country in five years.

What I've learned (from 9/11, the corporate scandals, the fiasco in Iraq, Katrina, the Cheney Administration's insane economic and environmental policies and the relentless dumbing down of the corporate media -- plus the repeated electoral triumphs of the Rovian brand of "reality management") is that the United States is moving down the curve of imperial decay at an amazingly rapid clip. If anything, the speed of our descent appears to be accelerating.

The physical symptoms -- a lost war, a derelict city, a Potemkin memorial hastily erected in a vacant lot [the still-empty hole where the WTC used to be] -- aren't nearly as alarming as the moral and intellectual paralysis that seems to have taken hold of the system. The old feedback mechanisms are broken or in deep disrepair, leaving America with an opposition party that doesn't know how (or what) to oppose, a military run by uniformed yes men, intelligence czars who couldn't find their way through a garden gate with a GPS locator, TV networks that don't even pretend to cover the news unless there's a missing white woman or a suspected child rapist involved, and talk radio hosts who think nuking Mecca is the solution to all our problems in the Middle East. We've got think tanks that can't think, security agencies that can't secure and accounting firms that can't count (except when their clients ask them to make 2+2=5). Our churches are either annexes to shopping malls, halfway homes for pederasts, or GOP precinct headquarters in disguise. Our economy is based on asset bubbles, defense contracts and an open-ended line of credit from the People's Bank of China, and we still can't push the poverty rate down or the median wage up.

I could happily go on, but I imagine you get my point. It's hard to think of a major American institution, tradition or cultural value that has not, at some point over the past five years, been shown to be a) totally out of touch, b) criminally negligent, c) hopelessly corrupt, d) insanely hypocritical or e) all of the above.

The next line is: "It's getting hard to see how these trends can be reversed." Then Billmon starts comparing the US to the Soviet Union in the '80s. He recommends a book by David Satter: Age of Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union. I have some other reading planned on the post-fall depression. The thing I find most interesting about Russia isn't the stupidity of the (especially late) Communist years -- it's the absolute collapse of living standards following the fall. We're so used to the idea of progress that we have trouble seeing decline even when the facts are hard to read otherwise. This collapse hit Russia so the hard life expectancy metrics declined. A quarter or more of Russia's GDP vanished. There are other examples scattered around the world, especially war-induced losses like in Iraq, and war-inducing ones in parts of Africa.

In some measures living standards in the US have been declining since roughly 1970. This has been masked by technological progress, by debt accumulation, by scapegoating, and by political delusion. Take medicine, for instance: science and technology have advanced, but insurance and delivery of basic health care has in some cases actually regressed, such that US life expectancy has finally begun to decline, especially compared to other wealthy nations. But the new stuff gets the press and sets the perception. Only when you need it do you find out you can't get it, or it doesn't really work, or something else goes wrong.

Immigration is another source of cover-up. Undocumenteds provide low skill labor that compensates for demotivating our own unskilled labor. There's a lot of scapegoating over that, but more important is legal immigration, which is needed to compensate for our failures to educate and develop knowledge workers -- everyone from school teachers to computer programmers to doctors. Immigration stimulates the economy, but it also levels the world. It's not necessarily a problem per se, but what it covers up is.

Beyond the obvious declines, there's a steady build up of risk and liability, as well as plain old depreciation. I've been reading complaints about not putting enough money into infrastructure for decades now. It's like, if you have a house with termites, it may look fine for years, especially if you don't look very close. Then one day a gust of wind, or just gravity, will bring it down. That's basically what happened to the Alaska pipeline. That's what happened to the New Orleans levees. Katrina wasn't the big storm everyone had so feared, but it was big enough anyway, because we didn't realize how vulnerable we had become.

That sort of rot has been accumulating for a long time -- George Brockway dated a lot of recent economic problems to the Republicans' first attempts to dismantle the New Deal when they took over Congress in the 1946 elections. Laws they passed like Taft-Hartley had little immediate effect, but over time undermined labor unions and working wages and the very principle of equal opportunity. Banking laws, as well as later deregulations, have had similar long-term effects. The long-term dip in growth rates occurred during the Vietnam War, which had many other corrosive effects -- especially as the politicos have dug themselves ever deeper in duplicity and cover-ups.

By now they have to keep denying, they have to keep runing from the truth. Acknowledgment is failure, and as long as they keep from failing they can pretend they're succeeding, which is what keeps the whole scam going. But sometimes failure strikes too suddenly and/or unshakeably to spin. The last five years have shown us some examples like that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Daily Log

First pass on EOY lists. The breakdown for Jazz is: 59 A-list, 116 HM, 370 other (545 total); for Jazz Reissues/Comps: 8 A-list, 6 HM, 10 other (21). The breakdown for Non-Jazz is: 41 A-list, 36 HM, 104 other (181 total); for Non-Jazz Reissues/Comps: 10 A-list, 9 HM, 6 other (25). The jazz/non-jazz split is 75.06% for new records, 48.97% for reissues/compilations.

For comparison, in last year's lists, the Jazz breakdown is: 81 A-list, 147 HM, 448 other (676 total); for Jazz Reissues/Comps: 11 A-list, 11 HM, 15 other (37). The breakdown for Non-Jazz is: 83 A-list, 87 HM, 280 other (450 total); for Non-Jazz Reissues/Comps: 13 A-list, 12 HM, 23 other (48). The jazz/non-jazz split was 60.03% for new records, 43.52% for reissues/compilations.

Compared to last year, we currently have the following shares: New Jazz: 72.83%, 78.91%, 82.58% (80.62% total); Jazz Reissues/Compilations: 72.72%, 54.54%, 66.66% (56.75% total); New Non-Jazz: 49.39%, 41.37%, 37.14% (40.22% total); Non-Jazz Reissues/Compilations: 76.92%, 75.00%, 26.08% (52.08% total).

Monday, November 14, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27338 [27329] rated (+9), 395 [394] unrated (+1).

I spent Tuesday evening following the election results on a pair of computers -- my main writing (work) computer and a Chromebook I use for travel. I mostly used two websites: I followed 538's 2016 Election Night "live coverage and results," and I used the New York Times' Presidential Election Results page, which was the first one I found that gave me a map with red/blue states I could scroll over to see that state's vote totals. My first hint that anything was amiss was early in the evening when I saw that Trump was winning Indiana and Kentucky with 60-61% -- like everyone else, I expected those states to go to Trump, but those margins struck me as a bit on the high side. Still, at that point 538's monitor was still showing Clinton with a 75% chance of winning, and even when her chances started slipping it wasn't very obvious to me what was happening. I thought the Republicans were projected to hold the House way too early, and the Democrats' chances of taking over the Senate collapsed pretty early in the evening, as Indiana and Florida were called quite early. However, by the time I went to bed (about 4AM CST) I was shocked and rather sick.

I remained in a daze for several days (or maybe I'm still in one). I finally sat down and wrote up my analysis on Friday, then sat on it a day, edited some, and finally posted it on Sunday. I figure I'll follow up with a "Roundup" post some time this week (not necessarily waiting until my usual Sunday column -- a practice I'm thinking of discontinuing, unsure as I am of how much "reality" I can stand anymore). You might consider prodding me with questions and/or helping by pointing out particularly interesting links (I've grown rather weary of my usual sources).

Music should be a salve in times like this, but my first reaction was to favor silence -- there seemed to be too much noise, too much stimulus, from an Umwelt that suddenly seemed alien, hostile, and more than a little deranged. Since the election I've watched no conventional television news, nor have I returned to the late-night shows we followed regularly during the campaign. I still get stuff from the web, but aside from the numbers I used in Sunday's list, I haven't gone looking for much -- least of all opinions. Nor have I in any way been tempted to go out and protest -- I gather there have been anti-Trump protests, but have no idea how common they are. More generally, I don't see much point in getting worked up over what bad thing Trump and the Republicans might do (e.g., Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017). There will be plenty of opportunity in the future when we'll have tangible threats to try to stop, so you might as well save your energy for that, or prepare quietly out of sight (better to appear genuinely shocked than blanketly obstructionist).

When I did finally play some music, it was Leonard Cohen's Live in London. Partly I wanted to only hear real good stuff, partly I didn't want to be critical, and partly I had thought of "Democracy Is Coming to the USA" during a fairly optimistic Tuesday afternoon. I didn't know at the time that he had died (although I played it a couple more time after the news broke). After Cohen, I started playing some old jazz I liked, especially Coleman Hawkins. I mostly relied on my travel cases before I started picking things I hadn't heard in years from a nearby shelf. That's where I found the Sonny Criss set below: I had noticed it when looking for ungraded records in the database, so with it I finally returned to grading.

Only late in the week did I give the new jazz queue a chance. The Terrel Stafford looked old-fashioned, and turned out to be a good deal better than his Lee Morgan tribute (not coincidentally because it sounds more like prime Morgan). Rodrigo Amado's album came in the mail during the week, and jumped the queue. I wasn't sure I wanted to hear anything avant -- I had been considering Allen Lowe's latest when the cataclysm disoriented me -- but I have him down for four previous A- records, so he seemed like a pretty good prospect.

Still, only nine records rated this past week. Again, everything here comes from CDs. The computer I normally stream music on is unusable (well, it still prints, and I haven't tried workarounds like setting up an X-server or moving the speakers to a machine that still works, so I guess I haven't been trying very hard). I should remedy that some time this week: I've ordered new parts, so I'm pretty much building a whole new computer. The new one should actually be slightly more powerful than my work machine, so that opens up some possibilities for rebalancing my work.

I'll get to more new jazz next week -- I've gone through five records today since I started work on this post (none very good) -- and when I get the new machine running I should be able to check out some promising things on Napster or elsewhere. Still would be a good idea to drain the new jazz queue, as the Jazz Critics Poll deadline is December 4 -- well before anything else I'm likely to be invited for. (If you're a critic who hasn't gotten an invite and should, let me know and I'll pass you on to Francis Davis -- or you can contact him directly.)

I had rather hoped I'd get my Jazz and Non-Jazz working EOY lists set up by the time I posted this, but it now looks like all you're going to get if you follow the links is stubs. Also, at this point I have to stress that order is very preliminary. I'll get them fleshed out later this week, and will be updating them through the end of the year (and maybe next year as well -- as I've done so far for the 2015 Jazz and Non-Jazz lists).

I should point out that Robert Christgau has a piece on Leonard Cohen: Our Man, the Sophisticate. Christgau also tweeted a recommendation for another Noisey piece on Cohen: Rajeev Balasubramanyam: An American State of Grace: Darkness and Light in Leonard Cohen's Political Imagination. Most likely there are many other worthy pieces on Cohen: e.g., see Richard Gehr, Rob Sheffield, Adam Sweeting.

Comparatively little has been written about another music death last week: Leon Russell. For a few years in the 1970s I thought he was one of the greats (especially his eponymous debut album, plus his work on Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen), and with Hank Wilson's Back it looked like he could be a credible country singer. A couple of really awful albums followed (Stop All That Jazz and Will o' the Wisp) and I quickly lost interest, so I can't say much about his last forty years. I reckon I could say he was the Mac Rebennack of Tulsa, but Tulsa doesn't give a brilliant pianist and outrageous singer much to work with. Still, something else to mourn in one helluva awful week.


New records rated this week:

  • Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (2016, Not Two): [cd]: A-
  • Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Basically Baker Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker (2016, Patois, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Earth Tongues: Ohio (2015 [2016], Neither/Nor, 2CD): [cd]: B
  • Jason Hainsworth: Third Ward Stories (2015 [2016], Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ingrid Laubrock: Serpentines (2016, Intakt): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Yellow Red Blue (2015 [2016], Paint Box): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Felix Peikli & Joe Doubleday: It's Showtime! (2016, self-released): [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Carol Robbins: Taylor Street (2016 [2017], Jazzcats): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Terell Stafford: Forgive and Forget (2016, Herb Harris Music): [cd]: A-
  • Andrew Van Tassel: It's Where You Are (2016, Tone Rogue): [cd]: B+(*)

Old music rated this week:

  • Sonny Criss: The Complete Imperial Sessions (1956 [2000], Blue Note, 2CD): [cd]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (Not Two)
  • Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Machine (Moserobie)
  • Fredrik Nordström: Restless Dreams (Moserobie)
  • Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Whit Dickey: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 2 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 3 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 4 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 5 (Leo)
  • Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 6 (Leo)
  • Enoch Smith Jr.: The Quest: Live at APC (Misfitme Music)
  • Zarabande: El Toro (AFlo)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Democracy's Debacle

I suppose I should write something about last week's election. I've been sick to my stomach all week, feeling chronic maladies that make me wonder how many of the ill consequences I will actually hang on to experience. Admittedly, this reasoned forbiding was made more personal by the death and funeral of a friend and the sufferings of another. It probably didn't help that I've spent so much of my time re-reading old notebooks and blog posts going back to 2001, where I offer a strongly worded and reasoned accounting of the ongoing disaster Billmon liked to refer to as the Cheney Administration. (I haven't gotten up to the Obama era yet -- itself a lengthy chronicle of growing dismay, especially at the mental illness that so many Republicans have fallen into, but also at the haplessness of Democrats, especially Obama.)

Since 2001, I've written some five million words in the notebook. The majority of them have been on music, and I've occasionally mentioned movies, television, books, and more personal matters, but at least one million of those words have been addressed to clearly political topics (especially war). A few people do appreciate what I've had to say, but I've never managed to attract any attention beyond old friends and folks who initially tuned in for music reviews. So when confronted with results like last week's, I can't help but feel that I've wasted fifteen years of my life. I've never been, nor ever will be, a political activist, let alone a nuts and bolts political strategist. I'm starting to feel like I should hang it up, focus on other projects, and let others carry on.

Still, I guess I do have a few things to say. I haven't read many of the post-mortems, least of all the efforts of the usual suspects to shift blame (but for some examples, see Annie Karni: Clinton aides blame loss on everything but themselves). Rather, I did what I usually do, and looked at some numbers. (I mostly got these from Wikipedia and Google, perhaps not the most authoritative sources, but likely to be close to accurate.) First, they show that there was no groundswell of support for Trump. He got 817 thousand votes less than Romney did in 2012 (while losing by 5 million votes), and he only got 168 thousand more votes than McCain in 2008 (while losing by 9.5 million votes). In total votes, the Republican share has been effectively flat over the last three presidential elections. If the voter base has grown (which would be expected given that the population has grown), you could even argue that the Republican share has been declining. They didn't win this time because they gained ground. They merely lost less than Clinton did: she finished with 5.4 million fewer votes than Obama got in 2012, and even so was only done in by a quirk in where those votes were distributed, a bias rigged into the electoral system.

You might wonder about the effect third parties had, but it was negligible. After polling close to 9% for most of the season, Gary Johnson collapsed at the end, receiving 3.22% of the vote. Jill Stein suffered a comparable collapse, dropping from 3% peak polls to less than 1% (0.96%). Both of those candidates ran in 2008, and both did better this time (Johnson was up 2.23%, Stein 0.60%), but their 2.83% increase was a tiny fraction of the increased unfavorable ratings of this year's major party candidates. If Clinton could have magically counted all of Stein's votes, her plurality would have been larger -- as it was, Clinton received 439 thousand more votes nationwide than Trump did -- but even a 1.3% popular vote margin wouldn't have been enough to flip the electoral college in her favor (she would have picked up Michigan and Wisconsin, but not Pennsylvania -- Stein got 48,912 votes in Pennsylvania, but Trump led Clinton by 67,636). At most Stein accounts for one-sixth of Clinton's deficit.

In the end, it's hard to see anyone other than Clinton to blame for that 5.5 million vote drop off. Indeed, one can argue that her deficit was even larger against reasonable expectations. Economic indicators have generally been favorable, and Obama was enjoying his highest approval numbers in a many years. Moreover, Trump was a glaringly deficient, utterly ridiculous opponent: Clinton's poll numbers surged after each of three debates when viewers could see them side-by-side, even more so after the party conventions. She appeared to have the more unified party behind her. And she had more money than Trump (although Trump had pulled ahead of her in "dark money" and benefited from millions the Kochs and others plowed into down-ballot races). So you have to ask: why didn't enough people come out and vote for her?

In some cases they did: she ran ahead of her polls in Nevada, where the "get out the vote" campaign was focused on Latinos (and Democrats feared losing a critical Senate seat). But I have to wonder if she had any effective "ground game" at all in states where polls showed her leading, especially the states that ultimately sunk her: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Could be that Democrats were over-confident there, or just lackadaisical: how many people there didn't vote because they assumed their votes weren't needed? (And how many were turned away by nasty voter suppression laws?) As I understand it, Clinton didn't appear in Wisconsin after the primary. And while she did campaign in Pennsylvania, the big push there was to win over suburban Republicans, not to fortify the party base.

On the other hand, the Koch network seems to have put most of their money into down-ticket races, notably in defending endangered Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida -- all successfully, coincidentally tilting those states for Trump. (Also Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio, where Trump was expected to win -- Clinton didn't even contest Indiana or Missouri, although both states should be competitive. The Democrats did win three close Senate races, all in states Clinton won: Illinois, Nevada, and New Hampshire.)

All along, I basically felt that if Clinton could run a "get out the vote" operation comparable to Obama's in 2008-12, she would win handily. If any lesson has become a commonplace over the last 10-20 years, it's that you win elections by motivating your base and getting them out to vote. The bottom line is that Trump did that, and despite her advantages Clinton did not do an adequate job. What was unusual this year was that the primary motivator was fear and loathing of the other side, and that in turn led voters to excuse a lot of deficiencies in their own candidate. Of the two, Clinton's failure is far more spectacular, and far more damning, than Trump's success.

For starters, Clinton had a lot more to work with than Trump did. No major party candidate had ever had anything like the disapproval ratings of Trump. Moreover, he could be attacked on numerous fronts, starting with the gross dysfunctionality of his party's agenda and their obstruction against any constructive attempts to solve proven problems (e.g., health care, finance regulation, climate change). I think it was a tactical error on Clinton's part to focus instead on personal issues -- a tactic that Trump made irresistibly easy, but doing so exposed her own personality faults to greater scrutiny, and she could go overboard, especially with that "nuclear codes" thing which also reminded voters that the notoriously hawkish and anti-Russian Clinton could just as easily get them blown up. (From Karni's article above: "They explained that internal polling from May showed that attacking Trump on the issue of temperament was a more effective message." Internal? From May?)

Just before the election, Trump rolled out an ad that was quickly dismissed as anti-semitic: the problem was that aside from Clinton, all the "bad" people in the ad were Jewish (although they weren't identified as such); and since what made them "bad" was that they "control the levers of power in Washington," favor "global special interests," and "put money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations," that evokes the old anti-semitic trope of a secretive global Jewish cabal pulling strings all around the world. On the other hand, the thrust of the ad was plainly true (as far as it went): for several decades now, Washington has molded public policy to benefit special interests, especially large financial organizations, and Hillary Clinton was very much a cog in this process. I hadn't heard about the ad when I first saw it, so I was focusing on the explicit message, and for a while I thought it would have made a terrific Jill Stein spot. Then Trump came on, and of course it's ridiculous to think that he'll change any of this -- if ever there was a guy angling to get his share of the graft, it's Trump -- but his final pitch turned out to be prophetic: he proclaimed the election the last chance Americans had to stop Crooked Hillary, and that was one simple, concrete task they could carry out. And so, just enough people voted for Trump (and just not quite enough voted for Clinton) to make that much happen. After one of the most annoying and frustrating campaign seasons in American history, at least some people emerged feeling they had accomplished something. (On the other hand, had Clinton won, most Democrats would merely have been relieved, feeling they had dodged a deadly bullet, but aware that the next four years would be sheer struggle.)

The one clear result from this election is that Clinton is done. Having lost one nomination to Obama, having nearly lost another to Sanders, and now having blown a huge lead against Trump, she is a three-time loser, and at her age there's no way she's going to bounce back. And that's not only good riddance, it's a reprieve -- a chance for the Democratic Party to regroup and rebuild free of the dead weight of the Clinton legacy. Back in 1992 Bill Clinton came to Washington thinking he would show the Democrats a way to win in the post-Reagan oligarchy. All they had to do was to prove to the corporate masters that Democrats would be better for business than the Republicans were. As governor of Arkansas, Clinton had pioneered that formula, helping boost local outfits like Walmart and Tyson grew to become international giants. In Washington, one of the first things he did was to push NAFTA through -- over the protests of labor unions, but pointedly to subdue those unions, to weaken them and thereby proove his loyalty to his business friends. Even though Clinton managed to get reelected in 1996, his strategy could hardly be called a success: he cost the Democrats Congress in 1994, and all of his subsequent legislative accomplishments were compromises that Republicans agreed to because they understood that they only served to undercut the Democratic Party's base.

That was followed by eight years of Bush, which started with budget-busting tax cuts and ended with a complete financial meltdown and the worst depression since the 1930s -- conditions which, along with a similar loss of Congress in 2010, conspired to keep Obama from doing virtually anything significant to help his voters out. (His donors, of course, made out like bandits.) With Obama we effectively got eight more years of Clintonism, most obviously through a raft of Clinton-linked appointments, notably his hawkish secretary of state. What's happened in the 24 years since Clinton came to Washington is that inequality has blown up to unprecedented (nearly unimaginable) levels, we've been plagued by near-permanent war, and the Republicans have somehow convinced most Americans that government-by-Democrats can never work to their benefit. And they've een able to do that largely because Democrats like Hillary Clinton have played along. Her long history of complicity and collusion in all of this is the root of her problems, and it's why roughly a third of the country despises her so much they're willing to risk a fool like Donald Trump as president. (And in a country where 40% of the people have been turned off and never bother to vote, that's all it takes.)


I still find it almost impossible to imagine Trump as president, but I'm even more disturbed by what happened in the Congressional elections. The Republican Congress since 2010 has been nothing short of a public embarrassment. Most Republicans have been inveterate obstructionists, with nearly all adhering to extreme (and dysfunctional) ideological positions. The Democrats should have made Congress the central issue this election, much as Harry Truman won the 1948 election by campaigning against a Republican "do nothing" Congress. And if most Americans had clearly understood that message, they surely would have flipped both the House and Senate to the Democrats. But none of that happened. Sure, Democrats made modest gain: two Senate seats and seven House seats, but that left the Republicans in control of both chambers, with fat chance that Trump use the presidential veto will to tamper down their insanity (as Obama, at least, could do).

The only upside is that presumably Congressional Republicans won't feel compelled to wreck their own president's administration. They'll let him do that himself, although I full well expect them to contribute. The Republicans have been playing a weird game where they never get blamed for their obstruction or inaction. That's been going on since 1994, minus a respite when Bush was president. In effect, they've extorted the American people into giving them complete power this time -- recall that Republicans were promising to hound Clinton even if she won the election, and had vowed never to confirm any of her judicial nominees. A Trump presidency spares us that kind of discord (although he could still order prosecutors to go after Clinton -- something that would smack of petty vindictiveness, not that that's beneath him).

What the Democrats have long needed to do was to rebuild a real, effective party that squarely defends and promotes the interests of the majority of their voters. They haven't done this because the Clintons (and Obama) have been so remarkably successful at raising money from well-heeled donors, notably in finance and high-tech. The Republicans have a long head start building their party from the ground up, recruiting compliant apparatchiki to run for precinct and entry-level offices, giving them a coherent ready-built program and talking points, and promoting those who toe the line most effectively. This has resulted in Republican domination of state and local offices, and their gerrymandering has given the Republicans an edge in the House (even when Democrats get more votes). They have organizations like ALEC crafting pet legislation, plus think tanks and their extraordinary media network.

The Democrats have nothing like this, not least because they don't have a coherent program. They merely promise not to be as awful as Republicans, without even fully explaining why that might be, or what it might entail. If there's a silver lining in this election, it's that the DNC will abandon its "cult of personality" that only supports the person at the top (Clinton or Obama) and start to work toward rebuilding the party from the bottom up, formulating a coherent challenge to Republican right-wing dominance. This election debacle will cost us dearly: most obviously, the era when the courts would use constitutional rights to protect us from oppressive government will come to a quick end.

How bad it might all get is hard to forecast. Trump started his campaign by occasionally straying from conservative orthodoxy, but wound up pledging allegiance to nearly every wretched idea the Republican Party has embraced. As president, the main question will be whether he succumbs to ideologues like Mike Pence and/or Paul Ryan, or whether he resists and takes a less self-destructive course. (He has, for instance, already backtracked on Obamacare.) Same for foreign policy: does he provoke more war, or back away from destructive confrontations? I don't expect in any way that he'll become "Putin's puppet" but there are several areas where a closer relationship with Russia could reduce world tensions. On the other hand, no prospective Trump underling fills me with more dread than Michael Flynn -- I find him far more worrying than Trump's notorious "temperament."

Beyond that I don't really care to speculate. Like Reagan and Bush, his fetish for "free enterprise" and contempt for government will foster unimaginable corruption. Meanwhile, the usual Republican nostrums will fail, often catastrophically. We in Kansas have gotten more than a taste of how bad Republican fantasies can turn out. Now it's your turn. This isn't the first time I've been so sorely disappointed by the American people -- the Nixon landslide in 1972 and the Reagan landslide in 1984, both in spite of overwhelming evidence of malfeasance and sociopathy, were especially terrible, although Bush's narrow win in 2004 was even more painful. But we've grown up in a nation that's been warped by perpetual war with the world, a nation that has come to celebrate inequality and inequity, that has grown vicious and surly even while thinking itself beyond reproach. Trump has finally given America a face as ugly as the reputation we've garnered over decades. It still feels like a bad dream, but some day we must wake up and face ourselves. Hopefully that will be sobering.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Daily Log

My brother and his wife visited this week, and I fixed dinner for them, my sister, and her son on Friday. Menu was Greek, but cut way back from the Birthday Dinner: baked shrimp with feta, lamb/eggplant pastitsio, horiatiki salad, mast va khiar (my Iranian cucumber-yogurt salad). I made New York cheesecake for dessert, which was the meal's undoing. It tasted off, probably because the oven was dirty and I was greeted with a puff of black smoke when I pulled it out. Worse, I put it back into the same oven to set the sour cream topping. I scrubbed the oven down before baking the pastitsio and shrimp, so they weren't affected. The cheesecake actually looked fine, but as Ruhlman keeps insisting, cooks need to taste what they're doing.

They were in town to attend Tony Jenkins' funeral. Steve spoke at the funeral. Gave a nice, somewhat rambling recount of the sixty years we had known Tony. He knew him much better, having lived here all but the last ten years, whereas I lived on the east coast 25 years, so only occasionally saw Tony on visits until we moved here. Fairly large crowd at the funeral. Last couple I had been to were nonagenarians who had outlived most of their friends, so those turnouts had seemed low.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Daily Log

Might as well start with two letters from the Wichita Eagle, published on Friday (November 11). First expresses a reaction I've heard from several people:

The day after the 2016 election I felt the way I felt the day after Sept. 11, 2001: shocked, helpless and terrified. The haters just struck a cataclysmic blow against our country, but this time the haters were our own people. God help us all.

My reaction to 9/11 contained the same emotions, but even at the time I recognized the event as a self-inflicted wound -- the sort of blowback you get when you do the sort of things the US had been doing in the Middle East for decades. And I wouldn't have said the attack was "cataclysmic": watching the event from nearby Brooklyn, I saw it as finite, isolated in time and space. Had we simply treated it as a natural disaster, mourned and rebuilt, we'd be over it by now. But that's not the sort of people we are. We're vain and ignorant, traits that allowed us to be marshalled by a politically opportunistic Fearless Leader into a senseless war of spite and vengeance which multipled the original crime a hundred (maybe by the time we're done a thousand) fold.

The haters who gave us Donald Trump as our new Fearless Leader weren't born that way. They learned their hatred from growing up and living in a near-constant state of war.

Second letter:

The election affirms the free enterprise system vs. socialism.


Here are a couple items from the Eagle's Opinion Line:

Government health care, as with anything federally funded, magically gives the almighty government the power to dictate the terms. They dictate, and you comply, or no federal moola. Obamacare was never about anyone's health; it was always about control.

But here a person with actual health problems begs to differ:

I'm a type 1 diabetic, and my wife is a heart patient. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, no insurer would consider us for health insurance. To all the people who elected the con artist who plans to repeal my insurance: thanks for murdering me. My blood is on your hands.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Election Notes

TPM's "election scoreboards" still (2:42 am) reads: "Clinton 48.8%, Trump 43.5% Spread +5.3%" above the headline "Trump Wins in Stunner."

FiveThirtyEight's final "Chance of winning" was 71.4% for Clinton, including Clinton win chances in Wisconsin (83.5%), Michigan (78.9%), Pennsylvania (77.0%), North Carolina (55.5%), and Florida (55.1%) -- all went for Trump. (Michigan currently less than 15,000 votes; New Hampshire, with its 69.8% chance, is currently 1,500 for Clinton.)

Popular vote is currently 1.3% for Clinton (later figures dropped this to 0.3%, Clinton still ahead: 439,902 votes).

I actually clicked "like" on Kathleen Geier's tweet: "Good fucking riddance to the Clintons & may they never darken the door of American political life again. How did they manage to blow this?"

Robert Christgau tweeted: "As per NYT at this moment, Jill Stein drew more votes than Trump's margin of victory in Wisconsin."

I responded: "When are Clinton's supporters (or Gore's way back in 2000) going to take responsibility for their own candidate's shortcomings?"

Geier retweeted Alec MacGillis, who pointed out: "Hillary Clinton gave 80 paid speeches in 2013-14, for a total of $18 million. Hillary Clinton did not visit Wisconsin once since April."

I knocked off two tweets:

When Clinton came to Washington in 1992, he showed Democrats how to win in the age of oligarchy, by serving the rich more, his voters less.

That strategy barely worked for him then, and has haunted the Democratic Party ever since, leading to this ultimate rebuke.

Turnout in 2012: 54.9% (down 3.3% from 2008). Obama got 65,915,795 votes, Romney 60,933,504. In 2016, Donald Trump got 60,116,240 votes (-817,256 from Romney). Clinton got 60,556,142 (-5,359,114 from Obama). Wikipedia pegs turnout as 56.9%, up 2.0% from 2012, but I don't see how that adds up. Gary Johnson got 4,058,500 votes (3.22%), Jill Stein 1,213,103 (0.96%), Evan McMullin 448,339 (0.36%), Darrell Castle 172,500 (0.14%).

McCain got 59,948,323 votes in 2008, so only 167,917 less than Trump this year, yet lost by 9,550,193 votes (7.28%). Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney (the Green Party candidate) had 900,831 votes combined (0.68%) that year, more than Stein in 2012 but less (-0.32%) than Stein this year.

Stein's 2012 vote was 469,628 (0.36%), so she's up 0.60%, where Clinton is down 3.63% from Obama, so one can argue that Stein captured 1 out of 6 of the missing Obama voters. Johnson was up 2.23%, so arguably he took more votes away. By the way, Obama's drop from 2008 to 2012 was almost totally explained by lower turnout.

As of Sept. 30, Clinton had raised $460M, Trump $224M. As of October 14, Trump had an edge in outside groups, $214M to $171M.

Trump's margin of victory in Michigan currently 13,107 (0.27%); in Wisconsin 27,506 (0.93%); in Pennsylvania 73,224 (1.24%). Clinton won New Hampshire by 2,687 (0.37%).

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Ten Years After

While looking for jazz reviews tonight, I ran across a post I had written on May 12, 2006 -- that's ten-and-a-half years ago -- titled "Mobsters in Suits." At the moment it appears as though the 2016 election is ending in the ugliest way ever: with the Democratic Party nominee winning a clear plurality of the popular (democratic) vote, but the Anti-Democratic Party capturing the quintessentially Republican Electoral College, and thereby electing yet another minority president -- a rich guy with media savvy but no political experience, traits that early in the primaries reminded me of his fellow billionaire and kindred spirit, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. I might as well just quote it here, and leave it to you to figure out the relevance:

Speaking about the erosion of public trust under right-wing -- dare we say Fascist? -- politicians, I was struck by a couple of quotes in Alexander Stille's New York Review of Books piece, "The Berlusconi Show" (May 25, 2006):

If Berlusconi initially entered politics to save his television and financial empire and to defend himself against criminal prosecution, then his political career can only be judged a complete success. But he has achieved much more than that: he almost single-handedly derailed the national corruption investigation known as Operation Clean Hands. He greatly weakened the war against the Mafia. He made it possible for politicians to openly mix public affairs with their private interests, and created a politically slanted television that in many ways anticipated developments in the United States and elsewhere.

It is difficult to exaggerate the degree of popular support for the investigations of public corruption that took place in 1994 when Berlusconi first "entered the playing field." The magistrates who conducted the investigations were highly trusted; and Antonio Di Pietro, the most prominent of the prosecutors, was literally the most popular person in the country -- far more so than Berlusconi himself. Similarly, between 1992 and 1995, prosecutors in Sicily and elsewhere accomplished the semingly impssible by arresting thousands of mafiosi, including the boss of bosses, and helped bring the murder rate in a country of nearly 60 million people down by 50 percent. The Mafia seemed on the verge of defeat. The entry into politics of a billionaire who owned TV stations and the country's leading soccer team and whose company was already under investigation changed the atmosphere; it had the immediate effect of making criminal justice a political issue: any further effort to prosecute Berlusconi or his associates would automatically be seen as a political attack.

[ . . . ]

Berlusconi's prolonged presence in politics has made the entirely abnormal appear normal. Some Italians have accepted that the owner of the largest media company has become prime minister without divesting himself of his interests; no one seems surprised that the parliament contains dozens of his employees, or that they pass laws that help his company. Since a businessman who was already under investigation when he entered politics could become prime minister, hardly anyone seems appalled that he should get his co-defendants and their lawyers elected to parliament so as to give them parliamentary immunity. Nor has there been any serious complaint when these lawyers in parliament write laws to help their clients escape prosecution in cases they might lose at trial.

Other sections of the article talk about how Berlusconi's media empire was able to effectively slander Di Pietro, and how Italy's economy has declined under Berlusconi's rule. In some ways this story is peculiar to Italy. No US media tycoon, despite all the corporate concentration of recent years, has a comparable degree of dominance. Moreover, in the US corporate titans still prefer to rent their politicians rather than taking on the dirty job themselves. Hence, Ken Lay was satisfied backing George Bush -- although in retrospect he might have been better off following in Berlusconi's footsteps.


Clearly, politics in the US is a calling that has lost its appeal to anyone with a sense of self-respect, much less a shred of honesty and integrity. Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone, May 18-June 1, 2006) traces this back to Richard Nixon:

In the Forties or Fifties, in the age of FDR or Ike, you grew up thinking the president was like your dad. If you grew up with Kennedy, he was a handsome young prince living in a castle. Nixon was the first to rule in an era when the president was something gross your parents whispered about at night, like ethnic neighbors or anal sex. These days, the idea of the president as a sort of hideous, power-crazed monster with a lizard brain and a ten-foot erection is almost universal. In fact, we choose our presidents now solely on the basis of their ability to survive a grueling two-year process designed to beat out of a man everything but his most nakedly criminal urges. We ritually assault his friends and family, make him perform acts that would shame a Thai whore -- and if he's still smiling at the end of it all, we pick him. Only a monster, a Nixon, is capable of that finish-line face.

We know that, and we choose him anyway. Why? Because that's who we are. We get off on that sort of thing. The fascination runs very deep. And it's far too late to do anything about it.

The piece concluded with some quotes and comments on Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondents Dinner keynote, which you can look up. As for the relevance of Berlusconi, here's what Kathleen Geier tweeted tonight:

This is an awful night, but keep it in perspective: the relevant comparison to Trump is not Hitler, but Berlusconi. Which is bad enough.

My only additional comment at this time is that while ten years ago I thought America was relatively immune to the sort of criminality that Berlusconi practiced in Italy, it is less so now. How much less remains to be seen, but we have witnessed and suffered through eight years of relentless obstruction and sabotage against Obama's presidency, with essentially no efforts to -- indeed no conception of -- constructively address the nation's myriad problems. And now it seems like the voters have handed two branches of government over to a party hell bent on destruction.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Music Week

Music: Current count 27329 [27287] rated (+42), 394 [423] unrated (-29).

Actual rated count is probably 19 records -- at least that's how many are listed below. Counts for previous weeks are 15-9-19, so I'm in some kind of protracted rut. When I originally computed this week's count I came up with 18, but noticed that was less than I had listed, so I knew that I had failed to record some grade in the database. So I wound up listing all of the unrated records, and compared them to several other sources, and found a couple dozen records I hadn't counted correctly.

Almost everything below was listened to on actual CDs -- I see three exceptions, two from Napster and one from Bandcamp. Reason there is that the computer I use for streaming effectively died last Monday/Tuesday, so I haven't been able to do any of that almost all week. (It's also kept me off Facebook.) The computer isn't actually dead. I can remotely log into it, but either the screen is permanently locked or the display circuitry is dead. I replaced the power supply in that computer a couple weeks ago, and it did seem to resolve a clicking/popping problem in the audio. Also could be that a software "upgrade" triggered the problem -- screen lockouts are not unreported, although the fixes I've seen haven't solved the problem.

My current plan is to order new guts and rebuild the computer, pretty much from scratch (salvaging my new power supply and old hard drive, and re-using an old tower case, but not much else). I've started to shop for components, and have had a tough time settling on anything beyond an AMD FX-8350 AM3+ eight-core processor (for some reason Intel doesn't offer anything cost/performance-competitive). Anyhow, that CPU and comparable components might persuade me to consolidate my writing work on the new listening machine, at which point I can finally upgrade software on my "main" machine. Upgrade the network too. Important things I've been procrastinating on for way too long.

Second time in last three weeks I have no A- (or better) records to report. BassDrumBone was my big hope, and I have both discs three spins, finding much to like but not enough to get excited about. The Richie Cole album is really lovely, Eric Hofbauer strikes a fine balance for Ives-in-jazz, and Nat Birchall adds another worthy chapter to the St. John Coltrane gospel. So, some good records here -- just none cracking the 97 A-list albums already on my 2016 list. I figure I'll format this list into best-of-year format sometime in the next two weeks -- EOY lists traditionally start appearing around Thanksgiving, and it turns out I never ever froze last year's lists (split for jazz and non-jazz).

Also heard that NPR will once again support Francis Davis's Jazz Critics Poll, so I'll help out some there.

Making slow progress collecting jazz reviews. I haven't made any changes to the 21st Century book -- everything I'm scraping up is going into a scratch file for future processing -- but I have continued to add directly to the 20th Century non-book, which recently inched over the 300-page mark. I'm still thinking that what I've written there is far patchier than is needed for a real record guide, but it's getting to where I may have to take it seriously. I have, by the way, continued to use the high grade scale (A- = 9, B = 5) as I've been updating, as opposed to the low scale (A- = 8, B = 4) I used in the first pass at the Jazz CG data. When I get back to the latter, I'm pretty sure I'll switch to the high scale. Pretty much everyone I consulted preferred the low scale, but I haven't made any meaningful distinctions between A+ and A in decades, and it doesn't seem either fair or reasonable to downgrade everything else because I want to insist on some concept of perfection.


I don't expect to get much work done this coming week. For one thing, I'm sad to report that one of my oldest friends, Tony Jenkins, has died. He was 60, has struggled with liver cancer over the past year. He grew up next door, and wound up owning that house -- he was living there when we moved to Wichita in 1999, although he also had another house about a mile northeast, that he and his wife bought when they married. It was one of those tiny houses built for aircraft workers during WWII, and he transformed it into something special, tearing the roof off and building a second story with a master bedroom and bath that spanned the whole house. I spent a lot of time with him while he was doing that, trying to be helpful (but wasn't really), and he inspired much of the work I've done on our own house ever since. Haven't seen him much in the last few years, so his illness really came as shock and regret.

He is survived by his wife Kathy and a rather large dog -- when they got married nearly four decades ago they told us they were going to practice with dogs, and they stuck to that story. Tony once told me he had been surrounded with death all his life, which struck me as excessively morose. But his brother Bobby, who was a couple years older than me (so about eight years older than Tony), was killed in Vietnam -- more than any single thing his senseless death turned me against that atrocious war. He also had a much older brother, Wayne, who died in a car crash before he turned sixty, but I don't think they were close. (I barely knew Wayne, mostly by reputation as a legendary local athlete who turned down a chance to play pro baseball to pursue a lucrative business career.) I don't know when Tony's parents died, but they've been long gone -- certainly before Tony got through his 20s, though probably not while he was still in his teens.

He was a tremendous talker, the sort of guy you might be tempted to wind up a bit just to see where he takes it. He had low expectations in school -- I once prepared a very nice poetry notebook for him (not at all like the blasphemous one I prepped for my brother, the one that got him kicked out of school), and Tony declined to use it because he figured no one would believe it to be his own work. You could call that integrity -- he certainly had that. He worked in construction, doing siding for a while, then mostly ironwork for cement. Hard work, took a toll. But what he did learn, he could be downright perfectionist about. Early on I probably looked down on him as not very smart, but eventually I came to admire him, to respect his very real talents, and to appreciate his steady friendship. He was unique. He is missed, his absence an unfillable void.


New records rated this week:

  • Amendola vs. Blades: Greatest Hits (2015 [2016], Sazi): [cd]: B+(**)
  • BassDrumBone: The Long Road (2013-16 [2016], Auricle, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Martin Bejerano: Trio Miami (2016, Figgland): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Nat Birchall: Creation (2016, Sound Soul & Spirit): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Boi Akih: Liquid Songs (2016, TryTone): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Christiane Bopp/Jean-Luc Petit: L'Écorce et la Salive (2015 [2016], Fou): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Oguz Buyukberber and Simon Nabatov: Wobbly Strata (2014 [2016], TryTone): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree (2016, Bad Seed): [r]: B-
  • Richie Cole: Plays Ballads & Love Songs (2015 [2016], Mark Perna Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Andrew Downing: Otterville (2016, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Trio With Friends: Happy Madness (2016, Summit): [cd]: B-
  • Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band: ¡Intenso! (2016, Clavo): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Eric Hofbauer Quintet: Prehistoric Jazz - Volume 3: Three Places in New England (2016, Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Roger Ingram: Skylark (2015, One Too Tree): [r]: B
  • Nate Lepine Quartet: Vortices (2016, Eyes & Ears): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Delfeayo Marsalis presents the Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Make America Great Again! (2016, Troubadour Jass): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Matt Mayhall: Tropes (2015 [2016], Skirl): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Adam Schneit Band: Light Shines In (2016, Fresh Sound New Talent): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Soul Basement feat. Jay Nemor: What We Leave Behind (2016, ITI): [cd]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Amendola vs. Blades: Greatest Hits (Sazi)
  • Tom Collier: Impulsive Illuminations (Origin)
  • David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Triple Exposure (Origin): November 18
  • Clay Giberson: Pastures (Origin): November 18
  • Stu Harrison: Volume I (One Nightstand): November 18
  • Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Flukum (Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
  • Erik Jekabson: A Brand New Take (OA2): November 18
  • Jerome Jennings: The Beast (Iola): November 18
  • Nate Lepine Quartet: Vortices (Eyes & Ears)
  • Mamutrio [Lieven Cambré/Piet Verbist/Jesse Dockx]: Primal Existence (Origin): November 18
  • Melanie Marod: I'll Go Mad (ITI)
  • Matt Mayhall: Tropes (Skirl)
  • Phil Parisot: Lingo (OA2): November 18
  • Adam Schneit Band: Light Shines In (Fresh Sound New Talent) *
  • Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (Panorama): January 6

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Weekend Roundup

I was sorely tempted to write nothing more about the election until it's all over. I doubt I'll write much below, but when I start out I never know. Part of this is just plain disgust at how the last couple weeks have played out. Part is that I've been sick, and that hasn't helped my mood one bit. A big part of the disgust is simply that Hillary Clinton seems to have blown a huge lead: FiveThirtyEight gave her an 88.1% chance of victory on October 17, 81.5% as late as October 28. Today that's down to 64.5%. In terms of states that posits her as losing six states she was previously leading in: Arizona (her odds there are now down to only 25.8%), Iowa (27.1%), Ohio (32.9%), Florida (47.4%), Nevada (48.0%), and North Carolina (48.4%). That's still based on a 2.8% popular vote margin. Some polls are closer than that, with at least one showing Trump ahead. TPM had a narrower spread yesterday (2.4%) but a larger one today (3.9%, despite Clinton dropping to 45.9% of the vote).

Throughout most of the election, the median state (as far as the electoral college is concerned) has been New Hampshire: if Clinton wins New Hampshire and every other state she's been polling better in, she gets 272 electoral votes and wins the election. She's still given a 61.2% chance in New Hampshire. Trump could win the election by capturing New Hampshire, unless he loses a larger state he holds a slim lead in (Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida are all very close, and early voting looks especially good for Clinton in Nevada). On the other hand, Trump could lose New Hampshire and still win if he pulls an upset in Colorado (where he's currently givens a 26.9% chance) or Pennsylvania (25.9%).

At this stage, the presidential race has been reduced to these nine "battleground" states. Kansas (97.5% R) isn't one of them. In fact, I don't think I've seen a single street sign for either Trump or Clinton. I did see two Trump advertisements last week, and thought they hit an effective note: it is, after all, easy to tag Clinton as the candidate of the status quo, without suggesting how attractive more status quo would be compared to Trumpian change. I haven't seen any Clinton ads, but am haunted by at least one of her soundbytes, where she warns us of the danger of entrusting "America's nuclear codes" to someone as "thin-skinned and impulsive" as Trump. That's probably as carefully phrased as could be, but it mostly reminded me that she is decidedly hawkish, someone who believes strongly in flaunting America's military power, and someone who views the presidency as almost a secondary role to being Commander-in-Chief. Isn't it odd that the numerous "checks and balances" that limit what a president can do aren't sufficient to keep a mad person from blowing up the world? I've said all along that the surest way Clinton could lose would be to remind us of her appetite for war, and she's found an inadvertent way of doing that. I figure that must be part of her blown lead, even though the emails and her linkage to Anthony Weiner (perhaps the most universally reviled man in America right now) have gotten more attention.

By the way, as I was preparing this, FBI Director Comey says agency won't recommend charges over Clinton email, admitting, in his usual backhanded way, that his previous letter about re-opening the Clinton email investigation -- the event that precipitated Clinton's polling losses -- had come to nothing. Too bad we can't inspect the internal FBI emails discussing why he exposed this baseless innuendo in the first place. The FBI has a terrible legacy of politically-minded "investigations" but they've rarely set their sights on someone as mainstream as Hillary Clinton. Once again they've embarrassed themselves.

More I could write about here, but let's wind up this intro with Seth Meyers' "closer look" at the Major Clinton and Trump scandals:

That's a problem for a lot of Americans: They just don't love the two choices. Do you pick someone who's under federal investigation for using a private email server?

Or do you pick someone who called Mexicans rapists, claimed the president was born in Kenya, proposed banning an entire religion from entering the US, mocked a disabled reporter, said John McCain wasn't a war hero because he was captured, attacked the parents of a fallen soldier, bragged about committing sexual assault, was accused by 12 women of committing sexual assault, said some of those women weren't attractive for him to sexually assault, said more countries should get nukes, said that he would force the military to commit war crimes, said a judge was biased because his parents were Mexicans, said women should be punished for having abortions, incited violence at his rallies, called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, called for his opponent to be jailed, declared bankruptcy six times, bragged about not paying income taxes, stiffed his contractors and employees, lost a billion dollars in one year, scammed customers at his fake university, bought a six-foot-tall painting of himself with money from his fake foundation, has a trial for fraud coming up in November, insulted an opponent's looks, insulted an opponent's wife's looks, and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy?

How do you choose?

Problem here is that Meyers is still reducing the election to a choice between two celebrity personalities, as opposed to the real differences between the parties and interests they represent. Not that there are no real issues buried in the Trump litany, nor that some of the personal traits (like his seething contempt for women and non-whites, and for that matter workers) don't portend policy dangers, but one thing this campaign has spared (or cheated) us was an opportunity to debate and vote on two radically different political visions. Imagine how much different this election might be if the choice was Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz? One might learn something there, and emerge from the election with a mandate and a direction. But with Clinton vs. Trump we're stuck with muddled results -- both candidates are widely viewed as crooked, greedy, deceitful, treacherous, untrustworthy, pompous, arrogant, and full of ungrounded bluster -- their few differences attributable to irreconcilable identity allegiances. And even if Clinton wins, her margin isn't going to be nearly large enough to win Congress as well and to force a rethinking of those divisions. Republicans running for Congress have pledged to block her every appointment, to stalemate government and disable her administration from day one. Trump has already convinced most of his supporters that the only way he can lose is if the system is rigged against them.

It's fair to say that America is more divided now than at any election since 1860, which precipitated the Civil War. In terms of ideas and policies, those divisions have been growing since the Goldwater and Reagan campaigns, with conservatives demanding ever more complete domination of government and business, making the state a tool of the rich while eliminating any countervailing support government might provide for working people. Of course, conservatives rarely argue their agenda coherently -- they prefer to describe clear-cutting as their "healthy forests" initiative -- because they're aware that they'd lose. What Trump adds here is an unprecedented degree of paranoia, and a demagogic style that insists on degrading and dehumanizing his opponent and all of her supporters, and that's what's made him so vile and dangerous.


Some scattered (election) links this week:

  • Nate Silver: Election Update: The Campaign Is Almost Over, and Here's Where We Stand

  • Spencer Ackerman: 'The FBI is Trumpland': anti-Clinton atmosphere spurred leaks, sources say:

    This atmosphere raises major questions about how Comey and the bureau he is slated to run for the next seven years can work with Clinton should she win the White House.

    The currently serving FBI agent said Clinton is "the antichrist personified to a large swath of FBI personnel," and that "the reason why they're leaking is they're pro-Trump."

    The agent called the bureau "Trumplandia," with some colleagues openly discussing voting for a GOP nominee who has garnered unprecedented condemnation from the party's national security wing and who has pledged to jail Clinton if elected.

  • David Atkins: Trump Would Be a Radical Policy Disaster:

    This dyspeptic election is finally coming to an end in just a few days amid ugliness the likes of which has not been seen in modern American history. This nastiness has focused on the personal and the irrelevant, from the ridiculous non-scandal of Clinton's emails to the revolting but ultimately superficial fact that Donald Trump apparently carried on an affair for years that we're only just learning about.

    Follow the article if you want the affair link. Read everything else. Still, he missed the policy proposal that bothers me most: one that would make it easier for rich guys like Trump to sue anyone and everyone who said anything negative about them.

  • Jonathan Blitzer: A Scholar of Fascism Sees a Lot That's Familiar With Trump:

    [Ruth] Ben-Ghiat has been broadening her studies ever since the primaries, and is now considering a book-length examination of strongmen, from Mussolini to Trump, with stops in Franco's Spain, Erdogan's Turkey, and Qaddafi's Libya. In the speech of Mussolini, Putin, Trump, and also Berlusconi, Ben-Ghiat notes a pattern: they are at once transparent about their intentions and masters of innuendo. "Trump trails off. He uses ellipses and coded language. He lets his listeners fill in what they want." When Trump seemed to suggest that gun owners should deal with Hillary Clinton themselves, or when he talked about needing to "watch" certain communities out to steal the vote on Election Day, his statements were more powerful for their ambiguity. "It's all about letting listeners convince and mislead themselves," she said.

  • Amy Davidson: Bernie Sanders's Hard Fight for Hillary Clinton: Seems like the Obamas and Joe Biden get all the media notice, but did you know?

    The truth is that Bernie Sanders is very, very angry -- at Donald Trump. He is angry enough to have spent weeks traveling on behalf of Hillary Clinton, speaking for her in union halls and arenas, to students and activists. When he talks, he is entirely Bernie -- "We are going to fight for that democracy; we are not going to become an oligarchy" -- and he hints strongly that he has done some negotiating with her before getting on the stage, and will continue to do so after, as he hopes, she is elected. When praising her positions, he often says "Secretary Clinton has told me" or "Secretary Clinton has promised," as though he knows that it might not work, with the sort of swing audiences he is dispatched to persuade (students, working-class voters), simply to declare that taking these stands is in her nature. But he knows what he wants: for her to win. [ . . . ]

    "There are many, many differences between Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump," Sanders told the crowd. "But there is one that is very, very profound. Are you ready for a very radical thought right now? I don't want anyone to faint! I think we have some paramedics here" -- "paramedics here" is, it turns out, an excellent phrase for demonstrating a Brooklyn accent -- "but I do want to make this announcement. Are you ready for it?" The crowd indicated that it was. "All right. Madam Secretary, you correct me if I'm wrong here; I don't want to misspeak for you -- Secretary Clinton believes in science!" [ . . . ]

    A few hours later, Sanders was off on his own to Iowa. Trump is ahead in that state, in the latest average of polls, by about two and a half points. Sanders had three events scheduled for Friday -- Cedar Falls, Iowa City, Davenport. On Saturday, there would be more.

  • Kerry Eleveld: Latino electorate both on track for historic turnout and routinely undercounted in polls: One tidbit: in 2010, polls showed Republican Sharon Angle leading Harry Reid by 3-5 points, but Reid wound up winning 50.3-44.5%, largely due to a huge 90-10 Latino vote split.

  • Ron Fournier: Hillary Has No One to Blame but Herself: Concerns itself with trivial pursuits like that email server. For insight into the deeper Clinton problem, see: Matt Stoller: How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul. Or Thomas Frank's latest book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? -- although I don't recommend reading the latter until Wednesday (either way).

  • Charles Franklin: Party Loyalty and Defection, Trump v Clinton: Chart tracking polls so both parties with identically high (86.8%) support for their candidates, after Republicans had trailed all year. Defection rates similarly low, although Democrats (6.8%) more so than Republicans (5.2%), the margin growing lately. Billmon's conclusion: "The November non-surprise. The zombies came home."

  • Neil Irwin: A New Movement in Liberal Economics That Could Shape Hillary Clinton's Agenda: The concept is "labor market monopsony," which has to do with how monopoly businesses are not only able to charge rents (fix prices), they're able to use their power to depress labor markets (wages). Ways to ameliorate this problem include higher (and more comprehensive) minimum wages and stronger antitrust action (something Democrats have not been good at, while Republicans have abandoned any pretense of enforcement).

  • Ann Jones: Nasty Women:

    In his own telling, he, not the women he's demeaned or assaulted, is the abused one and he's taking it for us, for America. It's quite a self-portrait when you think about it and should make us appreciate all the more those women who stepped before the cameras, reported his sexual assaults, and left themselves open to further abuse from Trump and his supporters. They have done something rare and brave. [ . . . ]

    On the dark side, you never know what a sore loser and his loyal, bullying, misogynist followers might do. Say, for example, followers of the type who show up outside Hillary rallies with banners reading "Trump that Bitch!"

  • Paul Krugman: Conservative Intellectuals: Follow the Money:

    We're supposed to think back nostalgically to the era when serious conservative intellectuals like Irving Kristol tried to understand the world, rather than treating everything as a political exercise in which ideas were just there to help their team win.

    But it was never like that. Don't take my word for it; take the word of Irving Kristol himself, in his book Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea. Kristol explained his embrace of supply-side economics in the 1970s: "I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities." This justified a "cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or financial problems," because "political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government."

    In short, never mind whether it's right, as long as it's politically useful. When David [Brooks] complains that "conservative opinion-meisters began to value politics over everything else," he's describing something that happened well before Reagan.

  • Paul Lewis/Tom Silverstone: Trump rally protester: I was beaten for a 'Republicans against Trump' sign

  • Martin Longman: Chris Christie Convicted By Proxy in Federal Court: Would be a bigger story if Trump had picked Christie as his running mate, but still . . . for anyone who wants to talk about locking people up, we can start with "two of Chris Christie's 'loyal lieutenants' who were taken down by Section 666 of Title 18 of the United States Code," who now "each theoretically face 20 years in prison (although nothing close to that will be imposed)."

  • Caitlin MacNeal: With the End in Sight, Trump Goes All In on Criminalizing Hillary Clinton

  • John Nichols: Republicans Won't Stop Talking About Impeaching Clinton: Specifically, Sen. Ron Johnson, likely to be defeated in his reelection bid in Wisconsin. But that's only one example.

  • Amir Oren: Comey's Revenge: The Real Reason the FBI Intervened in the Campaign:

    The large spoke [Comey] put into the Hillary Clinton's wheels of victory won't be enough to stop her but could well reduce her coattails enough to keep the Democrats from regaining control of Congress, leaving Washington paralyzed by the warring branches of government. His motive was a personal grudge that Comey has held against Bill Clinton for a decade and a half, along with fresh residue from the investigation he closed this summer against Hillary.

    Oren dates that grudge from Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich and Pinchas Green, financiers who "fled the country as they were about to be indicted for tax evasion and doing business with Iran during the hostage crisis," but who found advocates in Israel's government. But Oren also points out that Comey is a Republican, a deputy attorney general under Bush, but he supported Obama's nomination of Eric Holder as attorney general, and was himself nominated by Obama to be FBI director.

    Also: Yochi Dreazen: The anti-Clinton insurgency at the FBI, explained.

  • Daniel Politi: Key to Trump's More Disciplined Campaign? He No Longer Controls His Twitter Account:

    Although Trump may be keeping some of his thoughts away from the public spotlight, the Times also paints a scary picture of a candidate who is obsessed with getting revenge from those he feels have wronged him. "Offline, Mr. Trump still privately muses about all of the ways he will punish his enemies after Election Day, including a threat to fund a 'super PAC' with vengeance as its core mission," notes the Times.

    The Times piece: Inside Donald Trump's Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks Assurance.

  • John Quiggin: Trump voters are (mostly) Romney voters: Who in turn were mostly Bush voters:

    Trump is getting overwhelming support from self-described Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and almost none from Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents. The same was true for Romney four years ago, and for Bush before him. [ . . . ]

    This makes nonsense of much of the discussion of Trump voters as the dispossessed, protesting against globalisation, predatory capitalism and the destruction of American manufacturing. Conversely, it turns out that the discussion of Romney's "dog whistle" appeals to racism was misconceived. Replacing the dog whistle with a bullhorn has turned out to be no problem for the great majority of those who voted for Romney. [ . . . ]

    Corey [Robin] here at CT and elsewhere has probably been the most consistent exponent of the view that Trump is a traditional Republican, in the line of Goldwater and Reagan. I broadly agree, though I'd put more stress on new developments over the past 20 years or so. Trump's complete disregard for truth, norms of decency and so on, is an extrapolation of a process that's been going on for quite a while, at the popular level with Fox News, birtherism and so on and in the Republican intellectual apparatus with climate denial, zombie economics and attacks on "political correctness."

    The links are to pieces in Jacobin by Corey Robin. They're both worthwhile, but an even better title is Robin's The Conservative Movement Has No Decency. This piece, of course, is mostly about Joseph Welch's 1954 rebuke of Joe McCarthy, but ties in to Trump's denunciation of Khizr Khan after his speech at the Democratic Convention. Still, Trump's outburst wasn't isolated or even uniquely his own. Robin offers many other examples without ever mentioning the abuse conservatives have heaped on Hillary Clinton -- a subject for whole books, likely to sprawl into multiple volumes if she wins.

    Robin titled his latest thoughts on the election Viva Las Vegas! In it he includes a Brecht quote from 1942:

     . . . to present Hitler as particularly incompetent, as an aberration, a perversion, humbug, a pecuilar pathological case, while setting up other bourgeois politicians as models, models of something he has failed to attain, seems to me no way to combat Hitler.

  • Joe Romm: Trump just proposed ending all federal clean energy development

  • Alexis Sottile: The Trump Effect: How Hateful Rhetoric Is Affecting America's Children: Solar, wind, efficiency, batteries, clean cars, and climate science, too.

  • Matt Taibbi: The Fury and Failure of Donald Trump:

    The best argument for a Clinton presidency is that she's virtually guaranteed to be a capable steward of the status quo, at a time of relative stability and safety. There are criticisms to make of Hillary Clinton, but the grid isn't going to collapse while she's in office, something no one can say with even mild confidence about Donald Trump.

    But nearly two-thirds of the population was unhappy with the direction of the country entering the general-election season, and nothing has been more associated with the political inside than the Clinton name. [ . . . ]

    The "scandal" of the Wiki papers, if you can call it that, is that it captured how at ease Clinton was talking to bankers and industrialists about the options for the organization of a global society. Even in transcript form, it's hard not to realize that the people in these rooms are all stakeholders in this vast historical transformation.

    Left out of the discussion over the years have been people like Trump's voters, who coincidentally took the first hit along the way in the form of lowered middle-class wages and benefits. They were also never told that things they cared about, like their national identity as Americans, were to have diluted meaning in the more borderless future.

    This is why the "basket of deplorables" comment rankled so badly. It's not like it was anywhere near as demeaning or vicious as any of 10,000 Trump insults. But it spoke to a factual disconnnect.

  • Matthew Yglesias: The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit story has dominated the campaign

  • Matthew Yglesias: Melania's illegal immigration problem reminds us what Trump's campaign has always been about: OK, now we have proof that she entered the country to work illegally. American nativists should be up in arms: isn't a big part of their spiel how we shouldn't offer amnesty to people who don't follow the rules? Yet if they're so devoted to deep American roots, why are they backing a guy who has only one native-born American ancestor? Unless it matters what kind of immigrants we're talking about?

    Indeed, going back to when the Nixon administration sued Trump for discriminating against black and Latino tenants, Trump's long record of racism isn't really disputable.

    So there's really nothing so surprising about the Melania story. Trump doesn't like immigrants who change the American cultural and ethnic mix in a way he finds threatening and neither do his fans. Europeans like Melania (or before her, Ivana) are fine. I get it, David Duke gets it, the frog meme people get it, everyone gets it.

    But it does raise the question of why mainstream press coverage has spent so much time pretending not to get it. Why have we been treated to so many lectures about the "populist appeal" of a man running on regressive tax cuts and financial deregulation and the "economic anxiety" of his fans?


PS: Just shook up by a 5.3 earthquake centered 3 miles west of Cushing, Oklahoma. Fairly sharp for about 15 second here, unsettled for another 20-30 seconds, but I doubt we suffered any damage. On the other hand, Cushing bills itself as the "pipeline capital" of America, so they have a lot of dangerously fragile infrastructure real close to the epicenter. Happened at 7:44:25 local time.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Daily Log

Music computer on the fritz: seems to have permanently locked display out, which makes it pretty damn useless. Time to upgrade? Components:

  • CPU: AMD FX-0350 Eight-Core Socket AM3+ w/Wraith Cooler: $164.99
  • Motherboard: ASUS 970 Pro Gaming/Aura AM3+ AMD 970 + SB950 ATX (4xDDR3 2133(OC)/1866, 2xPCI 2.0x16, 2xPCI 2.0x1, 2xPCI, 6xSATA 6Gb/s, 1xPS/2, 2xUSB 3.1[Type-A, Red], 8xUSB 2.0, S/PDIF, 8 channel audio, no video): $109.99+2.99
  • RAM: G.SKILL Ares Series 32GB (4x8GB) 240-Pin DDR3 SDRAM 1866 (PC3 14900) Model F3-1866C10Q-32GAB: $191.99
  • Video Card: ASUS Radeon HD 6450 HD6450-SL-2GD3-L 2GB PCI Express 2.1x16: $54.99
  • Hard Drive: Seagate BarraCuda ST2000DM006 2TB 64MB Cache SATA 6.0Gb/s 3.5-inch bare: $69.99
  • DVD Burner: ASUS 24X Black SATA Model DRW-24B1ST/BLK/B/AS: $19.99
  • Parallel Port: SYBA PCI-Express 1-Port Parallel/Printer Card RoHS SD-PEX10005: $15.99

Total: $642.93 + $5.81 shipping - $0.02 = $648.74.

Some other components I considered:

  • CPU:
    • AMD FX-8300 Eight-Core Socket AM3+ (Passmark 7605): $114.99
    • AMD FX-8350 Eight-Core Socket AM3+ (Passmark 8940): $149.99
    • AMD FX-8370 Eight-Core Socket AM3+ (Passmark 8912): $189.99+$1.99
    • AMD FX-9370 Eight-Core (Passmark 9489): $189.99
    • AMD FX-9590 Eight-Core Socket AM3+ (Passmark 10232): $229.99+1.99
  • AM3+ Motherboard:
    • ASUS MSA78L-M/USB3 uATX AMD 760G (ATI Radeon 3000): $54.99
    • ASUS MSA78L-M Plus/USB3 uATX AMD 760G (ATI Radeon 3000): $65.72
    • ASUS M5A97 PLUS AM3+ AMD 970/SB950 ATX (4xDDR3[2133/1866], 6xSATA 6Gbs, 1xPCIe2.0x16[blue], 2xPCIe2.0x1, 3xPCI, 2xPS2, 1xLAN, 8xUSB2.0, 3xAudio): $70.99
    • ASUS M5A97 LE R2.0 AM3+ AMD 970/SB950 ATX: $74.99
    • ASUS M5A99X EVO ATX R2.0 AM3+ AMD 990X + SB950 ATX (DDR3 2133/1866 32GB, 2xPCIe2.0x16[x16,x4], 2xPCIe2.0x1, 1 PCI, 6xSATA 6Gbs, 1xPS2, 2xUSB 3.0, 8xUSB 2.0, 2xeSATA, S/PDIF, 6 Audio, no video): $124.99+3.99
    • Gigabyte GA-990FX-Gaming AM3+ AMD 990FX SATA USB 3.1(2x) USB 3.0(2x) ATX (6xUSB 2.0, 1PS/2, S/PDIF, 5xAudio, 4xDDR3 [2000/1866], 3xPCIx16, 3xPCIx1): $109.99+2.99
    • MSI Gaming 970 ATX AMD 970: $79.99
  • Video Cards:
    • ASUS Radeon HD 6450 DirectX 11 EAH6450 1GB 64-Bit PCI Express 2.1 HDCP: $42.99; 2GB $54.99
    • ASUS Radeon R7 240 DirectX 11.2 R7240-2GD3-L 2GB PCI Express 3.0 HDCP: $73.99
    • (what about Radeon RX 460, RX 480, HD 7950?)
  • Parallel Printer Port:
  • SYBA PCI-Express 1-Port Parallel/Printer Card RoHS SD-PEX10005: $15.99

  •    Mar 2001