Latest Notebook Entries


Monday, August 25, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 23701 [23658] rated (+43), 530 [536] unrated (-6).

Was surprised to see rated count over 40, then looked closer and the subtraction result turned out to be an impossible 143. Looks like I slipped a digit two weeks ago. That was about when I had an editing accident and lost several hundred grades, sending me into a panic trying to figure out how to fix the breach. This seems to be the summer of things breaking -- I still figure that's better than the summers of mysterious lung diseases a few years back. Thinking about it, the 43 count means I've been listening to more Rhapsody, which I'll explain by last week's oversized Streamnotes plus the fact that my pending queue is nearly dry (18 new 2014 records, or 10 not counting this week's unpacking). I can remember days when I had more than 100 unrated in the queue. I still have some items from previous years I haven't gotten to (although only 1 of those was from 2013, a piece of vinyl I should look for), so we're talking real low priority stuff. No wonder my eye is wandering.

This year I decided not to do my all-consuming metacritic file (link is to 2013), but needing some kind of aide de memoire I've kept a running list of albums considered noteworthy and assigned priorities to them to give me something to work with. Recently, it looked like this, but since I was weeding out albums once I had heard them, it was pretty much useless for anyone else. So it occurred to me that it would be better to keep those records in, and for that matter to add my grades (where available). The combined file now looks like this. I've added some options to select based on priority levels, so you can get the old format like this if you have any reason to do so. There's also an option to get an even bigger file with all the "priority 0" records I've noted -- everything mentioned in AMG's weekly featured releases gets noted in the data file, even if I consider it to be of no interest whatsoever. Currently the data file lists 1644 records. Since last year's metacritic files ran to (7868+1100) records, I haven't been looking very hard. But as my queue drains I'll work on that some more. (I especially want to beef up the jazz listings.)

I fell behind on Twitter, wound up having to knock out nine tweets to wrap this up. Even so, I skipped a few of the "old music" albums -- they'll show up next Rhapsody Streamnotes, although you can check out Michael Tatum for Joy Division, below. Wrote one tweet for Jeff Palmer -- an organ player in my database I had no other consciousness of -- but played two albums, both good, but when you trade in Victor Lewis (a drummer I revere) for Rashied Ali you get an extra spark.

Speaking of Twitter, I retwitted one from Mike Konczal last night:

Sad that Michael Katz has passed away. A remarkable scholar, very important to me. Read Tom Sugrue's moving tribute: [link]

I added my own two cents:

Let me add that Michael Katz's history of the early school reform movement as class thought control/socialization was a key insight to me.

Katz wrote a lot of books, but the only ones I read were The Irony of Early School Reform: Educational Innovation in Mid-Nineteenth Century Massachusetts (1968; reissued 2001), and Class, Bureaucracy, and Schools: The Illusion of Educational Change in America (1971; expanded 1975). He found that the early proponents of universal education like Horace Mann -- a name we knew because Wichita named a school for him -- were less concerned with offerng opportunities to Irish immigrants than with socializing them in proper New England ways, and conversely that the Irish resisted such efforts to brainwash them. I read these books when I was a high school dropout with my own intense distrust of an educational system that seemed geared to turn us into regimented factory workers (if we survived the army and Vietnam).

Katz later moved on to write about America's welfare system, in books like In the Shadow of the Poorhouse: A Social History of Welfare in America (1986; expanded 1996), The Undeserving Poor: From the War on Poverty to the War on Welfare (1990), and Improving Poor People: The Welfare State, the "Underclass," and Urban Schools as History (1995), and more recently has published on immigration. Most recently, he wrote Why Don't American Cities Burn? (2011), about a murder in Philadelphia and all the attendant baggage of race and class. I hadn't thought much about Katz until The Undeserving Poor showed up in one of my recent book trawls. Interesting how his career developed. For more, see this In Memoriam by Thomas Sugrue (whose own books include The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (2005), Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North (2008), and Not Even Past: Barack Obama and the Burden of Race).

One more Twitter note, or at least semi-related. Medium is either a spinoff or an independent venture funded with Twitter money -- I don't pretend to understand how it works, but I have heard that they have some money to hire writers, and have hired Robert Christgau to write some Expert Witness/Consumer Guide posts. He has an account now that you can follow. He'll explain it all in an introductory post on September 2, followed by the first actual CG reviews on September 5.

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

  • Auction Project: Slink (2014, self-released): violinist Heather Martin Bixler outshines the leaders, offering shape and substance to the usual postbop [cd]: B+(*)
  • Henry Butler/Steven Bernstein: Viper's Drag (2014, Impulse): band named Hot 9 after Armstrong-Hines, comparisons neither can live up to [r]: B+(***)
  • Calle 13: MultiViral (2014, El Abismo/Sony Music Latin): Puerto Rican rappers with a political agenda, unintelligible to folks like me, but at least I feel it [r]: B+(***)
  • Brian Eno/Karl Hyde: Someday World (2014, Warp): Eno teams up with an inferior singer, so he tries to compensate by writing better songs [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave "Knife" Fabris: Lettuce Prey (2010 [2014], Musea): guitarist into fusion and classical but also makes room for Ran Blake to do his thing [cd]: B-
  • Simone Felice: Strangers (2014, Dualtone): one of the Felice Brothers tries his hand solo, forsaking those nice harmonies [r]: B+(*)
  • The Felice Brothers: Favorite Waitress (2014, Dualtone): minus Simone, turns out they have more fun and edge, even a taste for mayhem [r]: B+(***)
  • FKA Twigs: LP1 (2014, Young Turks): the sort of singer Tricky uses, OK as long as she comes up with music on that level, which isn't often [r]: B
  • Hercules & Love Affair: The Feast of the Broken Heart (2014, Moshi Moshi): EDM, a bit slow, cartoonish even, but that's their shtick, isn't it? [r]: B
  • Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas: Secret Evil (2014, Instant): Detroit group, straight rock & roll with a slight vocal skew, distinctive I'd say [r]: B+(***)
  • Darius Jones/Matthew Shipp: Cosmic Lieder: The Darkseid Recital (2011-13 [2014], AUM Fidelity): dense piano chords slow the saxman down, for better or worse [r]: B+(*)
  • Dr. John: Ske-Dat-De-Dat: The Spirit of Satch (2013 [2014], Concord): a Louis Armstrong tribute that misses its mark on so many levels I never conceived possible before [r]: C
  • Roddy Frame: Seven Dials (2014, AED): singer-songwriter from Aztec Camera, 15 years into a solo career has pop charms but no more dazzle [r]: B+(*)
  • Phil Haynes: No Fast Food: In Concert (2012 [2014], Corner Store Jazz, 2CD): drummer-led trio with Dave Liebman and Drew Gress, all sharp edges for two live discs [cd]: B+(***)
  • Wayne Horvitz: 55: Music and Dance in Concrete (2012 [2014], Cuneiform): i.e., immobile: no swing, no bop, no hop, no strut, just fairly rich chamber jazz [cdr]: B
  • Rebecca Kilgore with the Harry Allen Quartet: I Like Men (2013 [2014], Arbors): title concept could use sharper songs, saxophonist could use more space [r]: B+(*)
  • Ricardo Lemvo/Makina Loca: La Rumba Soyo (2014, Cumbancha): Congolese star draws big beats and brass from salsa, supercharged with soukous guitar [r]: A-
  • John McLaughlin & 4th Dimension: The Boston Record (2013 [2014], Abstract Logix): as the fusion guitarist ages, he eschews transcendence for hard and clunky [r]: B
  • Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation (2011 [2014], Pi): George Russell student, explores high concepts with approaches I rarely care for [cd]: B+(**)
  • Myriad 3: The Where (2014, ALMA): Canadian piano trio, hits a semi-popular niche like EST even if they aren't the influence [cd]: B+(**)
  • Novox: Over the Honeymoon (2014, Label Z Production): French septet with fake funk horns, synths, turntablist, guitarist leader, vocal clutter [cd]: C+
  • Picastro: You (2014, Sonic Clang): intriguing little group, basically slowcore with falsetto vocals, fractured and crazed around the edges [r]: B+(*)
  • Pink Martini & the Von Trapps: Dream a Little Dream (2013 [2014], Heinz): the extra voices add a somber air, belying camp eclecticism from Brahms to ABBA [r]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Pirog: Palo Colorado Dream (2014, Cuneiform): guitar trio with Michael Formanek and Ches Smith, not much flow or groove, feedback helps [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Jeff Richman & Wayne Johnson: The Distance (2014, ITI Music): guitar duets, fancier picking than new age but fills that pleasantry niche [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ritmos Unidos: Ritmos Unidos (2014, Patois): Latin jazz octet from Indiana, Afro-Cuban bata drums, timbales, the distinctive splash of steel pans [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jonah Tolchin: Clover Lane (2014, Yep Roc): NJ singer-songwriter with warm voice and such fine country-folk form he could be new T-Bone Burnett [r]: A-
  • Seth Walker: Sky Still Blue (2014, The Royal Potato Family): blues singer-songwriter, hits paydirt with "Jesus (Make My Bed)" but everything else is a bit tepid [r]: B
  • The Bill Warfield Big Band: Trumpet Story (2013-14 [2014], Planet Arts): Randy Brecker solos, but the trumpet theme is underdeveloped; Vic Juris shines [r]: B+(*)
  • Anna Webber: Simple (2013 [2014], Skirl): sax/flute trio with Matt Mitchell and John Hollenbeck stretching and skewing, best when all three thrash [cd]: B+(***)

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

  • Smoke Dawson: Fiddle (1971 [2014], Tompkins Square):old-fashioned Appalachian solo fiddle, obscure reissue of a legend if playing with Peter Stampfel counts [r]: B+(***)

Old records rated this week:

  • Joy Division: The Best of Joy Division (1979-80 [2008], Rhino): [r]: A-
  • John Lindberg: Luminosity: Homage to David Izenzon (1992-96 [1996], Music & Arts): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Lindberg: Ruminations Upon Ives and Gottschalk (2001 [2003], Between the Lines): [r]: B+(***)
  • Paul Motian Quintet: Misterioso (1986 [1987], Soul Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paul Motian Trio: One Time Out (1987 [1989], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jeff Palmer/John Abercrombie/Arthur Blythe/Victor Lewis: Ease On (1992 [2013], Sledgehammer Blues): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jeff Palmer/Arthur Blythe/John Abercrombie/Rashied Ali: Island Universe (1994, Soul Note): organ player goes avant with Rashied Ali/Arthur Blythe, and John Abercrombie follows suit [r]: A-
  • Ted Rosenthal: My Funny Valentine (2007 [2008], Tokuma): piano trio nicely balanced for playing 11 juicy standards associated with Helen Merrill [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Richard Galliano: Sentimentale (Resonance): September 30
  • Jason Jackson: Inspiration (Jack & Hill Music): October 14
  • Kalle Kalima & K-18: Buñuel de Jour (TUM): September 16
  • Dave Liebman Big Band: A Tribute to Wayne Shorter (Summit)
  • Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger: Reverie (Leo)
  • Carl Saunders: America (Summit)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: The Great Lakes Suites (TUM, 2CD): September 16
  • Tim Sparks: Chasin' the Boogie (Tonewood)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekend Roundup

The first thing to note here is that the Four Wars of 2014 -- Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and Gaza -- are still going strong, and the conflicting interests super- and not-so-super-powers have in them offer excuses enough to frustrate any efforts at mediation. There have also been reports of shelling along the India-Pakistan border in Jammu, and the US is upset about China challenging a US "reconnaissance plane" near the Chinese border.

The least-reported of these conflicts is in the Ukraine, where various "pro-West" or "pro-Europe" forces staged a coup against Russia-leaning President Viktor Yanukovich in February. As Ukraine shifted to the West, various revolts broke out in heavily Russian southwest Ukraine. Crimea declared independence and asked to be annexed by Russia, which Putin readily agreed to. Other separatist militias seized power elsewhere in southeastern Ukraine, and the "pro-West" Kiev government has been trying to suppress the revolt the old-fashioned way, with bombing and strafing. It's unclear to what extent Russia has been actively promoting and supporting the separatists: NATO and Kiev have asserted various instances, and Putin has steadfastly denied them.

The result so far is that the civil war in Donbass (around Dontesk) has resulted in about 4,000 deaths -- I don't think that includes the Malaysian airliner that was shot down, surely an accident but part of the war's "collateral damage." The US has clearly sided with the "pro-Western" government in Kiev and taken a leading roll in attempting to punish Russia with sanctions. No one thinks Russia is totally innocent here, but the US position is the result of a long neocon campaign to advance NATO to Russia's borders, to corner and cower Russia to prevent the emergence of any non-US military or economic power center. And the failure to cover this war is largely due to blithe assumptions of US benevolence and Russian malevolence going back to Cold War dogma, as well as an abiding belief that force is an effective solution to the world's problems.

If the US was not so entangled in its faith in military force, you would see a concerted effort to mediate the four wars. Rather, Obama has embraced force as America's fundamental strategy in all four arenas. (Syria is only slightly murky here: the US dislikes both sides but can't see any option other than searching for a third side to arm.) The US is most directly involved in Iraq, where we've taken a sudden interest in protecting small minorities like Yazidis and Turkmen who have the most propaganda value. Then there is Gaza, where the ceasefire has been repeatedly broken by Israel, still refusing to open Gaza's borders to allow a semblance of normal everyday life. As I've written before, the "truce" terms Hamas offered at the beginning of the recent military hostilities were completely fair and reasonable. Netanyahu's continued rejection of the terms should make you reconsider just who "the terrorists" are in this conflict. The Gaza death count has continued to climb over 2100. Another Israeli civilian was killed in recent days, bringing the total to 4, in one of the most one-sided massacres of recent times.

While it is possible that ISIS is indeed a terrorist group one cannot negotiate with -- at least that's what the hawks want us to believe -- Hamas has practically been begging for a deal since they entered Palestinian electoral politics in 2006. Israel has not only rejected their every overture, Israel repeatedly drags them back into armed conflict. The US is schizophrenic about this: on the one hand we spend a lot of money trying to support the "good Palestinians" over in the West Bank in the vain belief that if we can improve their economic well-being that will help us move toward peace. On the other hand, any time Israel decides to trash whatever good we've done, we applaud and make sure to replenish their arms. I want to quote a section from Josh Ruebner's Shattered Hopes: Obama's Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (p. 190):

Promoting "economic growth" for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation, while simultaneously flooding Israel with the weapons and providing it with the diplomatic protection it needs to entrench this military occupation, is a nonsensical proposition. At best, these policies reveal that the United States is working at cross-purposes; at worst, they signal that it is trying to reconcile Palestinians to their open-air prison existence by making it slightly more palatable. What USAID fails to understand publicly is that Israel's military occupation is specifically designed to de-develop the Palestinian economy, not to encourage Palestinian economic growth.

Israel's eviscertation of teh Palestinian economy is integrally woven into the very fabric of its military occupation in innumerable ways. The hundreds of roadblocks, checkpoints and other barriers to movement that Israel maintains in the West Bank and East Jerusalem inhibit the transportation of people and goods, which forces the ever-increasing localization of the economy. Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip has reduced its population to penury and almost total reliance on international charity for survival. Even before, Israel's formal imposition of the blockade on Gaza in 2007, Israel's earlier destruction of the Gaza Strip's only airport and its prevention of the building of a seaport there had greatly constricted Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from engaging in international trade. Similarly, Israel's wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and its control of the West Bank's border corssings with Jordan, greatly reduce trade opportunities as well. Finally, Israel's widespread razing of Palestinian agricultural land and fruit-bearing trees, along with the expropriation of Palestinian land and water resources for its illegal settlements, have devastated the Palestinian agricultural sector.

The US at least nominally wants peace in Palestine, just not enough to stand up to Israel, which at most wants quiet but is willing to settle for hatred as long as Palestinians remain powerless -- which is one effect of mired in a hopeless economy. In one telling note, it's worth noting that the power plant in Gaza that Israel blows up every few years is insured by the US: Israel breaks it, we pay to fix it, then we pay Israel to break it again. It's a perfect example of government waste, but Americans don't seem able to see that, in large part because we think our interests extend everywhere, we think we have to choose sides everywhere, and we choose those sides on the basis of ignorance and identity.

Some scattered links this week:

  • Ed Kilgore: Jeffords and the GOP's March to the Right: Vermont's last Republican Senator, James Jeffords, has died. He's best remembered for switching parties in 2001, denying Cheney's stranglehold on the Senate. Kilgore drew up a list of "moderate" Republican senators from 1976, just 25 years back, on the even of the Reagan juggernaut, and found 17 (of 38) qualified (not including the likes of Bob Dole and Howard Baker Jr.), adding VP Nelson Rockefeller and (more of a stretch) President Gerald Ford. Since then the Republican Party has been purged as rigorously as Stalin's CP -- the only division today seems to be between those who are categorically insane and those who are merely deranged.

  • Philip Weiss: Hillary Clinton just lost the White House in Gaza -- same way she lost it in Iraq the last time: Some wishful thinking here, but it's worth noting that Clinton has strayed outside the bounds of partisan propriety, notably in attacking Obama's stated intent -- I'm hesitant to call it a policy without more evidence that he's actually trying to follow it -- of "not doing stupid shit."

    Hillary's done it again. Her pro-war comments in that famous interview two weeks ago have painted her into a right wing neoconservative corner. In 2016, a Democratic candidate will again emerge to run to her left and win the party base, again because of pro-war positioning on the Middle East that Hillary has undertaken in order to please neoconservatives.

    The last time it was Iraq, this time it was Gaza. Hillary Clinton had nothing but praise for Netanyahu's actions in Gaza, and echoed him in saying that Hamas just wanted to pile up dead civilians for the cameras. She was "hepped up" to take on the jihadists, she said that Obama's policy of "not doing stupid shit" was not a good policy. She undermined Obama for talking to Iran and for criticizing Israel over the number of civilian casualties in Gaza. She laid all the fault for the massacre at Hamas's door.

    And once again, Hillary Clinton will pay for this belligerency; she won't tenant the White House.

    Weiss knows he's "going out on a limb" so he cites some polling that's worth noting:

    Consider: Gallup says that Israel's actions in Gaza were unjustified in the eyes of the young, people of color, women, and Democrats, and overwhelmingly in some of those categories 51-25% disapproval among the young. 47-35 percent among Democrats, 44-33 among women, 49-25 among nonwhites.

    The problem, of course, is that while the majority of Democrats may have broken from AIPAC over Gaza, how many Democrats in Congress have? Not Elizabeth Warren. Not even Bernie Sanders. Certainly some hypothetical Democrat could score points against Clinton in primaries by painting her as a warmonger and pointing out how her obeissance to AIPAC only serves to prolong conflict in the Middle East, but it's impossible to identify a real Democrat who could effectively make those points. (Dennis Kucinich, for instance, tried twice, failed abysmally, and doesn't even have his House seat to stand on now. Howard Dean pretty much permanently discredited himself when he became a lobbyist for the Iranian terrorist group MEK.)

    The main thing that bothers me about Clinton isn't policy -- not that there aren't many points to disagree on -- so much as the stench of dynasty. More and more the Democratic Party resembles the so-called progressive parties of Pakistan and India, cynically ruled by corrupt families and cliques that needn't offer their supporters anything more than a small measure of protection from the viciousness of their opponents. You'd think that 238 years after the declaration of democracy in America we would have become more sophisticated than that -- indeed, we probably were, but have recently devolved into the present kleptocracy. Obama at least offered a symbolic break from the Bush-Clinton dynasties, but in the end that was only symbolic: his administration was rife with Clinton partisans, and he sealed the party's fate by breaking up the grassroots organization that had elected two Democratic Congresses -- foolishly or cynically preferring to "deal" with lobbyists and Republicans rather than risk democracy within his own party.

  • More Israel Links:

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Patrick Cockburn: How to Ensure a Thriving Caliphate: Excerpt from Cockburn's forthcoming [January 6?] book, The Jihadis Return: ISIS and the New Sunni Uprising. There is a shortage of reliable info about ISIS, as well as a lot of propaganda. (The most laughable was Trudy Rubin claiming to know "The Truth About ISIS.") Not sure this helps a lot either, although the key point that the jihadists derive from the US disruption of Iraq is well taken. More detailed and less inflamatory is The leader of ISIS is 'a classic maneuver warrior', although the tactical comparisons to Genghis Khan strike me as bullshit.

  • Thomas Frank: "Wanted Coltrane, Got Kenny G": Interview with Cornell West, reference is to Obama. "It's not pessimistic, brother, because this is the blues. We are blues people. The blues aren't pessimistic. We're prisoners of hope but we tell the truth and the truth is dark. That's different."

  • Rahawa Haile: Should Musicians Play Tel Aviv? This kicks around the various reasons foreign musicians shouldn't play in Israel, with some asides on other related cases -- apartheid-era South Africa, obviously, but Haile also mentions concerts in "unsavory" dictatorships like Libya (under Gaddafi) and Turkmenistan, plus Stevie Wonder's decision to not bother with Florida after the Zimmerman verdict. Oddly, Haile spends much more time on Israel's often rabid reaction to African refugees -- mostly from Sudan, where Israel tried to score anti-Arab propaganda points -- than with Israel's second- or third-class treatment of Palestinians (actually, those in Gaza are probably more like fourth). (Max Blumenthal's book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel has quite a bit on Israeli racism against African refugees, but that is just one instance of the more general loathing right-wing Israelis hold for nearly all goyim.) Neil Tennant is quoted: "in Israel anyone who buys a ticket can attend a concert." That, of course, depends on what you mean by "in Israel": if you live in Ramallah, 15 miles away, you can't buy tickets to see the Pet Shop Boys in Tel Aviv, nor can you if you live in Gaza, more like 40 miles away. Tennant is not only wrong, he is wrong in a particularly misleading way: his experience of Israel is of a normal, relatively peaceful and prosperous society, which is true enough for the "Tel Aviv bubble" but completely false for much of the territory subject to Israeli state terror. One thing that perpetuates Israeli state terror is the sense that its preferred citizens enjoy of never having to pay a price for their consent to living in such a state. When an international artists boycotts Israel, that at least sends a message that there is some cost to running such a state, even if it's not likely to have any real effect. The fact is that Israel cannot be forced into changing its ways: the only way change will come about is if Israelis become conscious of how far their nation has strayed from international norms of peace and human rights. For that reason I welcome all such boycotts. On the other hand, I don't keep track of who played Israel when or why. (One of the few I recall is Madonna, who made a documentary about a non-concert trip to Israel and the Occupied Territories, which if I recall correctly was very effective in exposing at least part of the brutality of the regime.) Nor do I discriminate against Israeli jazz musicians -- I must have written about close to 100 and I'd be surprised if the grade curve strays from any other national group. They are individuals, and while many may support their political leaders, many do not -- in fact a very large percentage of them are expatriates, living in New York, London, Paris, and elsewhere -- and in any case, as an American I know as well as anyone that there is very little individuals can do about their governments.

  • D.R. Tucker: The Powell Doctrine: Some notes on Lewis Powell, including his notorious US Chamber of Commerce memo that largely laid out the platform for right-wing business' takeover of American politics, and other things, including a defense of Roe. vs. Wade.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Daily Log

Went to a memorial event for the late Alice Powell at the Peace Center. They served tacos. She was a superb cook, and loved to invite people over for political socializing; evidently tacos were one of her specialties in LA, not that I remember them here. But I was asked to provide the ground beef. Having never made tacos in my life, I looked up a recipe, and came up with this, from Emil Lagrasse:


  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 1.5 c onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbs minced garlic
  • 3 tbs ground cumin
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle pepper
  • 1.5 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 c beef broth
  • 1/4 c tomato paste


  1. Heat large frying pan, and add olive oil and onions. Sauté until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cumin and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add beef, breaking up pieces as they cook, until browned, about 8-10 minutes. Season with chipotle pepper and salt.
  3. Dissolve tomato paste in beef broth, and add. Bring to a simmer, starring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Remove and serve.

I used 3 lbs. ground round (15% fat), and "Better Than Bouillion" for the stock. I don't think I quite scaled the garlic and cumin, and cut back a bit on the chipotle pepper and salt. I boiled the meat vigorously until the liquid evaporated.

I also tried a variation on this with 1 lb. ground turkey (about 7% fat). I substituted chicken stock, and added a little cinnamon and paprika.

Lagasse says the 2 lbs. is good for 12-16 taco shells or warmed soft tortillas, and suggests garnishes: grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar, diced tomatoes, minced jalapenos, sour cream, shredded iceburg lettuce, and chopped red onion, with guacamole and salsa on the side.

For the guacamole, mash together: 3 ripe avocados (peeled and chopped), 3 tbs finely chopped yellow onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1 tbs freshly minced cilantro leaves, 2 tbs fresh lime juice, and 1/2 tsp salt.

For the salsa, mix together: 4 large tomatoes (about 2.5 lbs, seeded and chopped), 1 c white onions, 5 tsp minced garlic, 4 serrano peppers (stems and seeds removed, minced), 1/4 c fresh cilantro, 2 tbs fresh lime juice, 1/2 tsp salt.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rhapsody Streamnotes (August 2014)

Pick up text from here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 23658 [23634] rated (+24), 536 [546] unrated (-10).

Not sure why the rated count slipped this past week -- maybe just the drag of the server problems, not to mention the drag of all sorts of everyday hassles. The server problem is that more often than not the database connections used by the serendipity blog software have failed (either not established or dropped), resulting in various cryptic error messages or plain old indefinite hangs. The ISP ( has been even more unresponsive, but through all this time (3-4 weeks now) the server has been up, it's been serving static pages (i.e., everything on the website below ocston), although it's hard for people to tell that when the root index is inaccessible. Moving the whole blog to another database on another server is a huge and daunting task -- one that I don't doubt will be necessary, but still a ways away.

So it occurred to me that a short-term kluge around the database problem would be to write up a bit of PHP code to manage the most recent part of the blog with static files. I have that code sort of working now, so I'll install it and replace the root index page with something that will explain the problem and offer either the "real blog" or the "fake blog" options. In the future, I will initially install new posts using the "fake blog" system, then try the "real blog." I may add some bells and whistles to the "fake blog," but most likely it will just be a temporary bridging system until I can get something stable working.

Trouble finding new A-list albums this week, although three (of four) releases on Driff sorely tempted me -- I had given A- grades to the first two Whammies albums, a Pandelis Karayorgis album (Mi3: Free Advice) was a Jazz CG Pick Hit back in 2007, and Eric Hofbauer's The Blueprint Project was an A- in 2003. But some combination of bad attitude and excessive nitpicking held me back on all three -- as, by the way, it did on the two Punk 45 compilations Jason Gubbels praised last week (couldn't find the third on Rhapsody), and for that matter the first two records after played after I closed this week's tally: Steven Bernstein's Viper's Drag and Anna Webber's Simple. The only new record to top A- was the Calypso comp Michael Tatum wrote about last week -- I'm always a sucker for that beat and wordplay. The other A- doesn't exist on Rhapsody, but I pieced together a mixer list from other resources and came up with 47 (of 48) songs, close enough. Still, I'm of two minds about the record. I can't knock so many great songs, but I'm not sure how useful the compilation really is, or whether I'd even want a copy. And I am sure that if I was the sort of person who liked to put playlists together, I could easily top The Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever -- so much for the title.

Reviews on all these records are accumulating, and should trigger a Rhapsody Streamnotes later this week -- assuming nothing else awful happens in the meantime, these days pretty wishful thinking.

One aside: Publicist Matt Merewitz wrote today to nudge me on the Lee Konitz First Meeting: Live in London Volume 1 album out in June. I wrote back, and thought I might as well share this as it bears repeating:

Got it, filed it as a high B+ (***), same as Enfants Terribles from 2012, slightly better than Standards Live: At the Village Gate (**) on Enja also this year. Could be he records too much and too casually to get anyone excited -- I haven't graded anything by him A- since 1999's Sound of Surprise (although I've missed a lot of albums in that stretch). He continues to play at a very high level at a time when he could just coast on his laurels -- his first really great album, Subconscious-Lee, came out in 1950. I'm not a huge fan, but given how much he's done for how long, I've voted for him for Downbeat's HOF ballot four years straight -- really ridiculous that he hasn't been voted in.

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

  • Laurie Antonioli: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: The Music of Joni Mitchell (2013 [2014], Origin): jazz singer plays the Joni Mitchell songbook straight, just a bit of sax [cd]: B
  • Bolt: Shuffle (2013 [2014], Driff): avant quartet -- Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax), Eric Hofbauer (guitar), cello and drums -- play scratchy, eccentric [cd]: B+(***)
  • Mario Castro Quintet/Strings: Estrella de Mar/Promotional Edition (2014, Interrobang): tough young tenor saxophonist, but quintet cluttered, strings icky, singer? [cd]: B-
  • Collier & Dean: Sleek Buick (2013-14 [2014], Origin): vibes and bass plus friends, makes for bubbly, frothy groove music; sleek? sure; gaudy even [cd]: B
  • Wayne Coniglio/Scott Whitfield: Fast Friends (2012 [2014], Summit): mainstream trombonists play not-quite-standards in a celebration of the horn [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sylvie Courvoisier/Mark Feldman Quartet: Birdies for Lulu (2013 [2014], Intakt): piano and violin, he paints curtains of ice, she breaks them [r]: B+(**)
  • Jorrit Dijkstra: Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland (2013 [2014], Driff): sax choir (including oboe/cor anglais) with schmear of electronics [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jorge Drexler: Bailar en la Cueva (2014, Warner Music Latina): singer-songwriter from Uruguay, sounds like Caetano Veloso with a slightly more eccentric beat [r]: B+(**)
  • Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Afterimage (2014, Driff): Dave Rempis/Keefe Jackson saxes soar and rumble, almost obscuring the superb pianist [cd]: B+(***)
  • Azar Lawrence: The Seeker (2011 [2014], Sunnyside): huge sounding tenor sax man, wearing his Coltrane influences on his sleeve [r]: B+(**)
  • Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers: Hypnotic Eye (2014, Reprise): 35-years on, he's still personable, still lightweight, still catchy (a bit) [r]: B+(*)
  • Rotem Sivan Trio: For Emotional Use Only (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): guitar-bass-drums, doesn't fit easily into known schools but doesn't break far either [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sohn: Tremors (2014, 4AD): Brit singer-songwriter with electronics, Moby-ish if not quite Moby-like [r]: B+(*)
  • Matt Ulery: In the Ivory (2013-14 [2014], Greenleaf Music, 2CD): classical (symphonic/operatic) music from a jazz bassist, so well crafted I can't say I can't stand it [cd]: B+(*)
  • Harvey Wainapel: Amigos Brasileiros Vol. 2 (2013 [2014], Jazzmission): Bay Area sax player rounds up nine groups of Brazilians for some lush lounge music [cd]: B
  • The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3: Live (2014, Driff): avant tribute sextet hits the road, lands in Italy, roughs it up [cd]: B+(***)
  • Walter White: Most Triumphant (2013 [2014], Summit): trumpet player from Michigan; bright, sharp tone, band moves things along smartly [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tom Wolfe: Solerovescent (2014, Summit): guitarist plays bright, grooveful postbop, with Ken Watters on trumpet, both electric & acoustic bass [cd]: B+(*)

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

  • Calypso: Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-1969 (1955-69 [2014], Soul Jazz): the wordslingers are all wits even if the tropes are cliched =k and the riddims help [r]: A-
  • Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66: Stillness (1971 [2014], Universal Sound): a classic according to reprint label, best I can figure title derives from Stephen Stills [r]: B+(*)
  • Punk 45: Underground Punk in the United States of America, Vol. 1: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young (1973-80 [2014], Soul Jazz): pre-Reagan US punk obscurities, not nearly as destructive or incendiary as the compilers would like to think [r]: B+(***)
  • Punk 45: Underground Punk and Post-Punk in the UK 1977-81, Vol. 2: There Is No Such Thing as Society: Get a Job, Get a Car, Get a Bed, Get Drunk! (1977-81 [2014], Soul Jazz): UK punk obscurities, surprisingly catchy in their neoprimitive ways, their social doom and gloom more earned [r]: B+(***)

Old records rated this week:

  • The Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever! (1975-84 [1995], Virgin, 2CD): Sex Pistols, no Clash, but lots of famous songs, more new wave than punk [r]: A-
  • Richard Hell: Spurts: The Richard Hell Story (1973-92 [2005], Rhino): Voidoids mini-best-of, freshly shined up juvenilia, dimly remembered Dim Stars [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Ritmos Unidos (Patois)
  • Salsa de la Bahia: A Collection of SF Area Salsa and Latin Jazz: Vol. 2, Hoy Y Ayer (Patois, 2CD)


  • Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty (Warner Brothers)
  • ¡Mayday x Murs!: ¡Mursday! (Strange Music)
  • Spoon: They Want My Soul (Anti-)
  • Suburban Base Records: The History of Hardcore, Jungle, and Drum 'n' Bass: 1991-1997 (New State, 3CD)

Miscellaneous notes:

  • The Best Punk Album in the World . . . Ever! (1975-84 [1995], Virgin, 2CD): A- [rhapsody]
  • Punk 45: Underground Punk in the United States of America, Vol. 1: Kill the Hippies! Kill Yourself! The American Nation Destroys Its Young (1973-80 [2014], Soul Jazz): B+(***) [rhapsody]

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weekend Roundup

It's been a very distracting week, what with the blog sometimes working and more often not. I've been working on a "pseudo-blog" system that should prove more robust -- throughout the troubles of the last few weeks we've always been able to serve static pages -- and I should unveil that soon. Meanwhile, a few scattered links this week:

  • Matthew Harwood: One Nation Under SWAT:

    When the concept of SWAT arose out of the Philadelphia and Los Angeles Police Departments, it was quickly picked up by big city police officials nationwide. Initially, however, it was an elite force reserved for uniquely dangerous incidents, such as active shooters, hostage situations, or large-scale disturbances.

    Nearly a half-century later, that's no longer true.

    In 1984, according to Radley Balko's Rise of the Warrior Cop, about 26% of towns with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 had SWAT teams. By 2005, that number had soared to 80% and it's still rising, though SWAT statistics are notoriously hard to come by.

    As the number of SWAT teams has grown nationwide, so have the raids. Every year now, there are approximately 50,000 SWAT raids in the United States, according to Professor Pete Kraska of Eastern Kentucky University's School of Justice Studies. In other words, roughly 137 times a day a SWAT team assaults a home and plunges its inhabitants and the surrounding community into terror.

    In a recently released report, "War Comes Home," the American Civil Liberties Union (my employer) discovered that nearly 80% of all SWAT raids it reviewed between 2011 and 2012 were deployed to execute a search warrant.

    You can draw a couple short lines from the US counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to militarized policing: one is that surplus military equipment is often dumped no charge onto police departments (Tom Engelhardt starts with a story about the Bergen County Police Dept. obtaining MRAPs -- armored personnel carriers designed to survive IED attacks.) Another is the relatively high percentage of ex-soldiers in police departments. Another is lack of accountability: with the cult of the troops, it's virtually impossible for the US military to hold any of its personnel accountable for unnecessary or excessive force, and as the police become militarized that ethic (or lack thereof) carries over. (Israel, which used to pride itself on discipline, has lately become as bad or worse.) Then there's the increasing proliferation of guns (and "stand your ground" laws) in the general population. Harwood starts with a story of a Florida man who heard through social media that he was going to be "burned." When the man called the police with the threat, he was told to get a gun and defend himself. The threat arrived in the form of a SWAT team sent to serve a search warrant: seeing the gun, they killed the man. Harwood titles one section, "Being the police means never having to say you're sorry."

    Also see: Sarah Stillman: The Economics of Police Militarism.

  • Elias Isquith: Reagan is still killing us: How his dangerous "American exceptionalism" haunts us today: Always good to read a bad word about "the Gipper," but this piece is more about Hillary Clinton and her recent neocon unveiling in the Atlantic. She's always been eager to show how bellicose she can be, and it certainly doesn't hurt to put some distance between herself and Obama, especially as long as she takes positions that don't get tested in practice. But before going into her, and back to Reagan, I'm reminded of how Gordon Goldstein, in Lessons in Disaster: McGeorge Bundy and the Path to War in Vietnam, quoted Bundy on the contrast between JFK and LBJ: "Kennedy didn't want to be dumb, Johnson didn't want to be a coward." In this, it's tempting to map Obama onto Kennedy, and Clinton onto Johnson. Except that Obama doesn't want to be seen as a coward either, so time and again he backs down and goes with dumb. Clinton is only promising to get to dumb faster.

    Weirdly, Clinton's decision to speak about the U.S.'s role in global politics as if she, in contrast to Obama, was an unapologetic, "old-fashioned" believer in American exceptionalism made her sound like no one so much as Ronald Reagan, the last president who told a humbled America to buck up and forget its recent mistakes. [ . . . ]

    So here's a prediction about Hillary Clinton and the 2016 presidential race. At one point or another, there will be a television ad in which Hillary Clinton will speak of bringing back the former glory of the United States. She'll say it's time to mark an end to nearly 20 years of terrorism, depression, war and defeat. It's time to feel good again about being the leader of the free world. It's morning in America; and everything is great.

    Actually, that sounds like a good idea, especially if she could combine it with a policy shift that gets away from the losing struggles of the last twenty years. One of the interesting things about Reagan is that with a few minor exceptions -- wasting a lot of money on the military and helping turn Afghanistan and Central America into the hellholes they are today -- Reagan was satisfied with "talking the talk" and rarely pushed it too far. For instance, he spent all of 1980 campaigning against Carter's Panama Canal Zone treaty, but once he was elected he didn't lift a finger to change it. On the other hand, Clinton won't be given a pass on her toughness. She'll have to earn it. How successful she may be will depend on how accurately she identifies the malevolent forces that have been dragging America down: namely, the Republicans, and their pandering to the rich and crazy.

  • Saree Makdisi: The catastrophe inflicted on Gaza -- and the costs to Israel's standing:

    Israel's repeated claim that it targets only rocket launchers or tunnels is belied by the scale and nature of the weapons it unloaded on Gaza. Its 2000-pound aerial bombs take down entire buildings along with everyone in them (almost a thousand buildings have been severely damaged or destroyed in such air strikes). Its 155mm howitzer shells have a margin of error of 300 yards and a lethal radius of up to 150 yards from the point of impact. Each of the 120mm flechette shells its tank crews fire burst into a 100 by 300 yard shower of 5,000 metal darts carefully designed to shred human flesh.

    Having sealed Gaza off from the outside world and blanketed almost half of the territory with warnings telling people to flee for their lives (to where?!), Israel has been indiscriminately firing all of these munitions into one of the most densely-inhabited parts of our planet. Entire neighborhoods have been leveled; entire families have been entombed in the ruins of their homes. The catastrophic result of Israel's bombardment is no surprise.

    No surprise -- but also not exactly thought through either; more a matter of casual disregard. For it's not as though Israel has carried out this violence in pursuit of a strategic master plan (its endless prevarications over its objectives in Gaza are the clearest indicator of this). Such gratuitous outbursts of violence (this episode is the third in six years) are, rather, what Israel falls back on in place of the strategic vision of which it is bereft. It can indulge in these outbursts partly because, in the short run at least -- endlessly coddled by the United States, where venal politicians are quick to parrot its self-justifications -- it does not pay a significant price for doing so.

  • Sandy Tolan: Going Wild in the Gaza War: "Going wild" was Tzipi Livni's description of how Israel reacts to any Palestinian provocation they bother to react to. The idea is to overreact so viciously and indiscriminately that the Palestinians will learn to fear offending Israel in any way, settling meekly into their role as "an utterly defeated people." The 2014 edition of "going wild" -- by no means finished yet -- has left over 1,900 Palestinians dead, over 12,000 injured, some 100,000 homeless, many more displaced, pretty much all of 1.8 million people without power or many of the other amenities of civilization, like the ability to shop in the globalized marketplace, or to take a holiday more than 20 miles from home. Those 1.8 million people have certainly been reminded of Israel's carelessness and cruelty. It's hard to see that as a lesson that bodes well for the future. Tolan's first point is that this war could easily have been avoided had Israel and/or the US recognized and worked with Hamas, and he steps through a series of initiatives and "truce" offers that were summarily rejected by Israel and the US -- to this day they insist that "once a terrorist, always a terrorist" (to which Tolan can't help but point out that the leaders responsible "for a horrific massacre in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin and the Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel, killing 91 people" subsequently became Prime Ministers of Israel). Tolan regards Israel as "a deeply traumatized society whose profound anxieties are based in part on genuine acts of horror perpetrated by countless terrorist attacks over decades, and partly on an unspeakable past history of Europe."

    Tragically, Israeli fears have created a national justification for a kind of "never again" mentality gone mad, in which leaders find it remarkably easy to justify ever more brutal acts against ever more dehumanized enemies. At the funeral for the three slain teens, Benjamin Netanyahu declared, "May God avenge their blood." An Israeli Facebook page, "The People of Israel Demand Revenge," quickly garnered 35,000 likes. A member of the Knesset from a party in the nation's ruling coalition posted an article by Netanyahu's late former chief of staff that called for the killing of "the mothers of [Palestinian] martyrs" and the demolition of their homes: "Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there."

    On NPR, Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the U.S., decried the "culture of terrorism" in Palestinian society, adding: "You're talking about savage actions . . . In the case of Israel, we take legitimate actions of self-defense, and sometimes, unintentionally, Palestinian civilians are harmed." That day, the Palestinian teenager Mohammed Khdeir was abducted and burned alive, and soon afterward, Israel began bombing Gaza.

    Within Israel, the act of dehumanization has become institutionalized. These days, Israeli newspapers generally don't even bother to print the names, when known, or the stories of the children being killed in Gaza. When B'tselem, the respected Israeli human rights organization, attempted to take out an advertisement on Israeli radio naming names, the request was denied. The content of the ad, censors declared, was "politically controversial."

    Actually, Israel is more schizophrenic than Tolan admits. One thing you notice over history is the extreme contrast between the confidence (to the point of arrogance) of Israel's top security officials (both in the military and in organizations like Shin Bet) and the dread held by large segments of public. No doubt that scaring the people lets the elites do what they want, but that's as much due to the one thing that both agree on, which is that Israeli Jews are different and infinitely more valuable than anyone else. Their specialness, after all, is the whole point of "the Jewish State." Once you believe that, there is no limit to the dehumanization of others.

  • More Israel links:

    • Dan Glazebrook: Israel's Real Target is Not Hamas: It's any possibility of Palestinian statehood.
    • Sarah Lazare: Only Mideast Democracy? In Midst of War, Israel Clamps Down on Dissent.
    • Dylan Scott: For All the Hype, Does Israel's Iron Dome Even Work?: "The essence of his analysis is this: Iron Dome's missiles almost never approached Hamas's rockets at the right trajectory to destroy the incoming rocket's warhead. . . . And if the warhead is not destroyed, but merely knocked off course, the warhead will likely still explode when it lands, putting lives and property in danger." The underlying fact is that Hamas' rockets almost never do any substantial damage whether they are intercepted or not, and since they are unguided, deflecting them has no appreciable effect on their accuracy (or lack thereof). One question I still haven't seen any reports on is what happens when the shrapnel from Iron Dome rockets lands. As I recall, in 1991 Israel's US-provided Patriot anti-missile system did about as much damage as the Iraqi Scuds they were trying to defend against. That was a heavier system, but another difference was that Israel's censors had less interest in suppressing reports of Patriot failures and blowback. Part of the significance of Iron Dome is that it exemplifies Israel's unilateralist strategy -- Ben Gurion's dictum that "it only matters what the Jews do" -- so any failure is not just a technical problem but a flaw in the strategy. Even if Iron Dome were 85% effective, that would still be a lower success rate than could be achieved by a truce. Also see: Or Amit: Checking under Israel's Iron Dome.
    • Tascha Shahriari-Parsa: Is Israel's Operation Protective Edge Really About Natural Gas? Turns out there's a natural gas field off the Gaza coast, estimated in 2000 to be worth $4 billion, so that may be another angle on Israel's "security demands" to keep the Gaza coast closed, to keep Gaza under occupation and deny any sort of independent Palestinian state.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Jenn Rolnick Borchetta: One nation under siege: Law enforcement's shameful campaign against black America: not on Ferguson -- you don't think that's the only such case, do you?

  • Stephen Franklin: Lawyer: 'We Should Stay on the Parapets and Keep Fighting': The lawyer interviewed here is Thomas Geoghegan, argues both that the labor movement is essential ("People who talk about maintaining the welfare state without a labor movement behind it are kidding themselves. You will not be able to have a full-employment economy without a labor movement") as is working through the courts ("We don't have majority-rule here. We have a lot of gridlock, and lots of checks and balances. Over the years, to break gridlock, you do rely upon the courts to come in from the outside").

  • Paul Krugman: Secular Stagnation: The Book: Funny name for the condition where economies don't bounce back from recessions but drag on with higher unemployment rates and negligible growth for many years -- Japan in the 1990s now looks like merely an early example of a more general trend. There's a new VoxEU ebook with essays on this, something the US is very much affected by at the moment. Krugman explains more here:

  • And let me simply point out that liquidity-trap analysis has been overwhelmingly successful in its predictions: massive deficits didn't drive up interest rates, enormous increases in the monetary base didn't cause inflation, and fiscal austerity was associated with large declines in output and employment.

    What secular stagnation adds to the mix is the strong possibility that this Alice-through-the-looking-glass world is the new normal, or at least is going to be the way the world looks a lot of the time. As I say in my own contribution to the VoxEU book, this raises problems even for advocates of unconventional policies, who all too often predicate their ideas on the notion that normality will return in the not-too-distant future. It raises even bigger problems with people and institutions that are eager to "normalize" fiscal and monetary policy, slashing deficits and raising rates; normalizing policy in a world where normal isn't what it used to be is a recipe for disaster.

  • Martin Longman: On Rick Perry's Indictments: I just wanted to take note of the occasion. It's rare that sitting governors get indicted for anything, and I don't expect much is going to come out of this. Perry's supporters are not only likely to see them as politically motivated, they're likely to take that a proof that Perry's their kind of politician -- one not above getting his hands dirty.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 23634 [23599] rated (+35), 546 [554] unrated (-8).

I've been struggling with MySQL database performance problems at my ISP (ADDR.COM), and got a frightful scare this morning when I realized they not only aren't responding to trouble reports, their "live chat" and "callback" service options are broken, and worst of all I got a message that they're not accepting phone calls. The static pages on the website continue to be served. I can login, update my files, and sometimes even login to the MySQL server. I week or so ago I was able to get an almost complete mysqldump of the blog database, but in three files as I went through the grind table-by-table, and in the end one table was hopelessly lost. Looking at the code that accesses that table, I decided that there's nothing important there, and tried hacking the code to avoid the table. Then I dropped and rebuilt the table, which didn't seem to help but is certainly cleaner. I also tried thinning out the very large "exits" table, which again isn't really useful -- unless one gets obsessive about user use patterns, and I'm not sure even then.

But late today the blog seemed to be working OK, so I posted yesterday's Weekend Update and if luck holds I'll follow up with this post. I'm not under any illusions that this will continue to work, or that I want to continue to do business with ADDR.COM. So I'm working on a couple of things to replant the site. The static pages are no problem, since I have a complete clone of them on a local machine. The blog is a problem in that it's updated on the server and not replicated elsewhere. I use a piece of free software called "serendipity" for it, and it has evolved quite a bit since I last updated the server. So for it I need to download a new copy, then figure out how the database dumps fit in with the new code. I also need to decide whether I want to continue using that code -- I've started using the competing "wordpress" code for other blog projects, mostly because it looks to be easier to train other people to use, and also because it seems to be simpler to keep up to date. And I need to decide whether to move the website to my "hullworks" server -- which has had its own problems lately -- or to go with another virtual server deal.

As a transition strategy, I'm working on a very simple version of blog software, one that uses the file system for storage and a small amount of PHP code to grease the wheels. I have some of it working now, will get more of it tonight, and if need be -- e.g., if I can't post this tonight -- I should be able to put it into use (with a limited data set and no comments or RSS feeds) tomorrow. Right now the main problem is figuring out how to use Apache URI rewrite rules, but that's only necessary to view single posts with more/less compatible pathnames. The bigger problem will be how much old data to collect under what should be temporary riggings.

But enough about my problems. Just finished a pretty productive music week, bringing the Rhapsody Streamnotes draft file up to 56 records (41+1+14). The two A- new jazz records were finds on the outstanding Swiss Intakt label -- one I hadn't noticed from 2013. Intakt also provided two A- old jazz records by Japanese-German pianist Aki Takase (the third A- Takase is on Leo, again accessible to me only through Rhapsody). The Nobu Stowe records had fallen through the cracks from a couple years back. (He's not even listed in Penguin Guide -- their loss.) I'm not normally such a piano fan, so this week is something of a fluke.

New records rated this week:

  • Clarice Assad: Imaginarium (2014, Adventure Music): distinguished Brazilian jazz diva tangos a bit, then trips and falls into the full-fledged operatic [r]: B-
  • Benyoro: Benyoro (2014, self-released): Malian music from New York, mostly yanks but the authenticity is assured at vocals and percussion [r]: B+(***)
  • Bobby Broom: My Shining Hour (2014, Origin): guitarist with soul jazz cred, bass & drums, makes a better album by picking better songs [cd]: B+(**)
  • Diva: A Swingin' Life (2001-12 [2014], MCG Jazz): two editions of drummer Sherry Maricle's hard swinging, brass busting all-female big band [r]: B+(**)
  • Golem: Tanz (2014, Discos Corason): punk-klezmer group led by accordionist-singer Annette Ezekiel Kogan, backed with violin and trombone, goes red hot [r]: A-
  • Michael Griener/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk: Willisau & Berlin (2012-13 [2014], Intakt): Rudi Mahall adds more than an option to trombone trio, more than a dimension too [r]: A-
  • Hans Hassler: Hassler (2011 [2013], Intakt): "the true Swiss king of accordion" with two jazz clarinetists and percussion, feels rushed and cramped [r]: B
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Zone (2014, Greenleaf Music): trombonist, quartet with Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), dense postbop until the lady sings, and sings [cd]: B+(*)
  • Gordon Lee with the Mel Brown Septet: Tuesday Night (2014, Origin): four horns, pianist Lee, bass, drummer Brown, play Lee's tunes, dull, indistinct [cd]: B-
  • Vincent Lyn: Live in New York City (2013 [2014], Budo): pianist and kung-fu master, no doubting his chops but Melissa Aldana (tenor sax) helps a lot [cd]: B+(*)
  • Bob Mamet: London House Blues (2014, Blujazz): Chicago pianist, smooth/crossover rep but this is a sparkling, standards-heavy mainstream trio [cd]: B+(**)
  • Medeski Martin & Wood + Nels Cline: Woodstock Sessions Vol. 2 (2013 [2014], Indirecto): where Scofield sweetened the groove, Cline stomps all over it [r]: B+(***)
  • Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble: Intergalactic Beings (2010 [2014], FPE): mostly roiling around the dirty bass end, so don't fear the flute [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Most: New Jazz Standards (2013 [2014], Summit): the grand old man of jazz flute cuts a record a month before death, and sums up his whole life [cd]: B+(**)
  • Greg Reitan: Post No Bills (2014, Sunnyside): mild-mannered piano trio, mostly covernig fellow (but hipper) mild-mannered pianists [cd]: B+(*)
  • Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa (2014, Cuneiform): drummer-led guitar trio, pushing hard for the proverbial jazz-rock fusion crown, maybe too hard [cdr]: B+(*)
  • Irène Schweizer/Pierre Favre: Live in Zürich (2013, Intakt): Swiss piano great specializes in piano-drums duos, most reliably with Favre [r]: A-
  • Spoon: They Want My Soul (2014, Anti-): Texas rockers with pop hooks go for edgier sound without losing their knack, upping their game [r]: A-
  • Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor/Adam Nussbaum: Singular Curves (2012 [2014], Auand): first sense I've had of what a seductive tenor saxophonist Talmor is [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Aki Takase/La Planète: Flying Soul (2012 [2014], Intakt): piano-clarinet-violin-cello, a recipe for chamber jazz, but Pifarely won't leave it there [r]: B+(***)
  • Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer: Wiring (2013 [2014], Intakt): Oliver Lake's sax supertrio (Reggie Workman, Andrew Cyrille) plus guest, huge talent, some lapses [r]: B+(***)
  • Reggie Watkins: One for Miles, One for Maynard (2014, Corona Music): trombonist, also plays two from Matt Parker (tenor sax), postmodern retro swing [cd]: B+(**)
  • Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo: Duologue (2013 [2014], MCG Jazz): sax-drums duets in the tradition from Ellington to Coleman, further proof of a great drummer [cd]: B+(***)
  • Wooden Wand: Farmer's Corner (2013 [2014], Fire): prolific Brooklyn singer-songwriter, mostly guitar, nice, shambling country-ish air [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Arto Lindsay: Encyclopedia of Arto (1996-2012 [2014], Northern Spy, 2CD): a best-of from his middling years, more recent (and weirder/noisier) live shots [r]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • Michael Griener/Jan Roder/Christof Thewes: Squakk (2008 [2009], Jazzwerkstatt): German avant-trombone trio (Thewes has the horn), after Mangelsdorff/Bauer [r]: B+(**)
  • Oliver Lake: Heavy Spirits (1975 [1995], Black Lion): early album pasted from fragments: solo, w/2 violins, w/trombone-percussion, standard quartet [r]: B+(*)
  • The Oliver Lake String Project: Movement, Turns & Switches (1996, Passin' Thru): composes for string quartet, sometimes piano, plays along, or not [r]: B
  • Oliver Lake Quintet: Talkin' Stick (1997 [2000], Passin' Thru): alto saxophonist in fine form with Geri Allen sharp on piano and Jay Hoggard on vibes [r]: B+(**)
  • Oliver Lake Steel Quartet: Dat Love (2003 [2004], Passin' Thru): alto sax trio plus Lyndon Achee's steel pan drums kinda mellowing everyone out [r]: B+(***)
  • Nobu Stowe-Lee Pemberton Project: Hommage an Klaus Kinski (2006 [2007], Soul Note): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Nobu Stowe & Alan Munshower with Badal Roy: An die Musik (2006 [2008], Soul Note): piano-drums-tabla trio, Stowe's uptempo riffing sets up percussionists [cdr]: A-
  • Nobu Stowe: L'Albero Delle Meduse (2009 [2010], self-released): mystery album of free improvs, Achille Succi's sax probing, scratchy, pianist fills in [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Aki Takase/Alex von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe: Lok 03 (2004 [2005], Leo): hip-hop turntablism mediates as crashing avant pianists bring the noize [r]: A-
  • Aki Takase/Silke Eberhard: Ornette Coleman Anthology (2006 [2007], Intakt, 2CD): bang up piano/alto sax (or clarinet) duets on the big songbook [r]: A-
  • Aki Takase/Louis Sclavis: Yokohama (2009, Intakt): piano-clarinet duets, Sclavis stays true to his ECM cool, Takase tones down, plays it safe [r]: B+(***)
  • Aki Takase/Han Bennink: Two for Two (2011, Intakt): avant piano-drums, the drummer making it easy to swing, to hop, to crash and burn and fly [r]: A-
  • Tama: Rolled Up (2009, Jazzwerkstatt): Aki Takase avant piano trio, block-chorded fury with a little moderation to show who's in control [r]: B+(***)
  • Leroy Vinnegar Sextet: Leroy Walks! (1957 [1989], Contemporary/OJC): trademark walking bass lines buoying a light, almost frothy West Coast group [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Cables to the Ace (Communicating Vessels)
  • Larry Fuller (Capri)
  • The Green Seed: Drapetomania (Communicating Vessels)
  • Phil Haynes: No Fast Food (Corner Store Jazz, 2CD)
  • Hafez Modirzadeh: In Convergence Liberation (Pi)
  • Ed Stone: King of Hearts (Sapphire Music)
  • Rotem Sivan Trio: For Emotional Use Only (Fresh Sound New Talent)
  • Ed Stone: King of Hearts (Sapphire Music)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:

  • Phyllis Bennis: Obama's Iraq airstrikes could actually help the Islamic State, not weaken it: Could be -- at any rate they will more clearly align the US as the enemy of Islam, a meme that's already in fairly broad circulation both there and here (although thus far only Osama bin Laden bothered to construct the "far enemy" theory to strike at the US -- most Jihadists prefer to fight their local devils). For example, TPM reports: Graham Urges Obama Act in Iraq, Syria to Prevent Terrorist Attack in US -- he actually means "to produce terrorist attack in US" since no one in Iraq or Syria would be sufficiently motivated to attack the US unless the US was acting in their own countries. Of course, the idea that the only way to prevent something is to motivate it is a peculiar affliction of the fascist mindset, rooted not in logic but in the taste for blood. (Speaking of warmongers, TPM also reports, Clinton Knocks Obama's 'Don't Do Stupid Stuff' Foreign Policy Approach on Syria -- lest anyone think that if given the chance she would flinch from doing "stupid stuff." In another TPM report, Shock and Awe, Josh Marshall quotes an anonymous long-time Iraq war consultant on ISIS tactics -- similar to Taliban tactics right down to the shiny new Toyota pickups -- and suggests that Obama will see some initial successes against ISIS frontal attacks, at least until they adjust. I've noted before his the first flush of US airpower and advanced weapons creates a false sense of invincibility, "the feel-good days of the war," which soon ends as "the enemy" adjusts tactics and as the US blunders from atrocity to atrocity. So, pace Bennis, the short-run game is likely to look good to the hawks, and being hawks they're unlikely to ever look at something that produces perpetual war as having a downside. No, the problem with Bennis' piece is that she want to argue US policy in Iraq on the basis of what it means to Iraqis, instead of the affect intervening in Iraq will have in the US. Foreign wars are catnip for the right because they propagate hate and violence and they show the government doing nothing to make American lives better (even the ruse that they create jobs has worn thin).

    And, of course, there's always the oil angle: see, Steve Coll: Oil and Erbil. So far, Obama has been more active in defending Kurdish autonomy than backing Iraq's central government. Coincidentally, ExxonMobil and Chevron have made major deals with the Kurds, bypassing the central government. Favorite line here: "ExxonMobil declined to comment."

    Erbil's rulers never quite saw the point of a final compromise with Baghdad's Shiite politicians -- as each year passed, the Kurds got richer on their own terms, they attracted more credible and deep-pocketed oil companies as partners, and they looked more and more like they led a de-facto state. The Obama Administration has done nothing to reverse that trend.

    And so, in Erbil, in the weeks to come, American pilots will defend from the air a capital whose growing independence and wealth has loosened Iraq's seams, even while, in Baghdad, American diplomats will persist quixotically in an effort to stitch that same country together to confront ISIS.

    Obama's defense of Erbil is effectively the defense of an undeclared Kurdish oil state whose sources of geopolitical appeal -- as a long-term, non-Russian supplier of oil and gas to Europe, for example -- are best not spoken of in polite or naïve company, as Al Swearengen [a reference back to HBO's series, Deadwood] would well understand. Life, Swearengen once pointed out, is often made up of "one vile task after another." So is American policy in Iraq.

  • Elias Isquith: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on his growing unpopularity: It's Obama's fault! Brownback won the Republican Party nomination last week, with a 63-37 margin over Jennifer Winn. Winn had no political experience, and no money. Her campaign was managed by a libertarian who came out not of the Tea Party but the Occupy movement. Winn's primary motivation for running was the experience and sense of injustice she felt when her son was arrested for drugs. A big part of her platform was calling for legalization of marijuana. She was not, in other words, a natural fit with any identifiable fragment of the Republican Party in Kansas, and still Brownback -- a sitting governor, two-term Senator, former Congressman, rich, pious, with a postcard family, someone who's never faced a closely contested election in his life -- still couldn't run up a two-to-one margin among his own people. So, yeah, he should take the result as a wake-up call. Instead, he explained:

    "I think a big part of it is Barack Obama," Brownback said, referring to his only securing two-thirds of the primary vote. "[A] lot of people are so irritated at what the president is doing, they want somebody to throw a brick."

    Brownback continued: "I think it's a lot of deep irritation with the way the president has taken the country, so much so that people are so angry about it they're just trying to express it somehow."

    Why Kansas voters would be so irrational as to punish Brownback, who in many ways represents everything Obama does not, for the president's sins, the governor did not say.

    Having just suffered through a big-money Republican primary, it's obvious that Republicans in Kansas are totally convinced that everyone in the country (well, except, you know, for them) utterly can't stand Obama or anything associated with him (especially "Obamacare"), so they've concluded that the sure path to election is to go as far over the top in denouncing Obama as possible. But just working yourself up into ever greater levels of hysteria doesn't make that claim any more credible. On the other hand, Brownback has nearly wrecked the state government he was entrusted with nearly four years ago, and he can hardly blame what he did on anyone else.

    John Cassidy: Memo to Obama's Critics: He's Not Callow Anymore has an explanation why Republicans have turned up the vitriol against Obama, what with the Republican House suing the president while many among them talk of impeachment: "But it isn't his inexperience and glibness that's infuriating them. It's the fact that he's learned to play the Washington power game, and, perhaps, found a way to go around them." What Obama's done with all that executive power hasn't been very impressive -- except in Israel-Iraq-Syria-Ukraine foreign policy, where every step he's taken has been wrong, something Cassidy doesn't appreciate -- but Republicans were so used to pushing Obama around that any attempt to call their bluff is seen as a calamity. (I am, by the way, not very happy with Cassidy's recent posts on the four ISIU wars, nor his defense of Obama in them. Nor are the Republicans much concerned there, except inasmuch as they can paint Obama as weak. Too bad: when they impeached Clinton way back when, I wrote that I would have cast a guilty vote, not on the basis of the charges but due to his mishandling of Iraq. Obama is little if any better now.)

  • Ed Kilgore: The Tea Party Is Losing Battles but Winning the War: Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, so well ensconced in Washington he no longer bothers to own or rent any residency in the state he represents, defeated a rather weird Tea Party challenger named Milton Wolf by a 48-41 margin: Wolf's sound bite description of Roberts was "liberal in Washington, rarely in Kansas." Roberts had never been accused of being a RINO, but fearing Wolf's challenge he became noticeably more dilligent about his conservative bona fides over the last year (before that he was mostly known for routing federal money to agribusiness interests). So Kilgore chalks this up as yet another case of the Tea Party moving the Republican Party to the right even when they fail to get their crackpots nominated. (Wolf, an orthopedist, reportedly had a nasty habit of posting his patients' X-rays on Facebook along with denigrating "humorous" comments.)

  • Ed Kilgore: The "New" Rick Perry: "New" as in he's distancing himself from the "old" Perry who self-destructed in the 2012 presidential race, presumably to run again in 2016.

    As for Perry's famous message of presenting Texas as an economic template for the country, I think it's a mistake to view this as easy, non-controversial mainline GOP rap that the rest of us can live with. What Perry exemplifies is the ancient southern approach to economic development based on systematic abasement of public policy in order to make life as profitable and easy as possible for "job-creators," at any cost. If it sort of "works" (if you don't care about poverty and low wage rates and inadequate health care and deliberately starved public resources) in Texas thanks in no small part to the state's fossil fuel wealth and low housing costs (though as Philip Longman demonstrated in the April/May issue of WaMo, even that level of success is debatable), it sure hasn't ever "worked" in similarly inclined but less blessed places like Mississippi and Alabama, where the local aristocracy has been preaching the same gospel for many decades.

  • Mike Konczal/Bryce Covert: The Real Solution to Wealth Inequality: In The Nation, this appeared as "Tiny Capitalists":

    Democrats and Republicans advocate different solutions to inequality, but both seek to shift financial risk from the state to the individual. Republicans promote the "ownership society," in which privatizing social insurance, removing investor protections and expanding home ownership align the interests of workers with the anti-regulatory interests of the wealthy. Democrats focus on education and on helping the poor build wealth through savings programs. These approaches demand greater personal responsibility for market risks and failures, further discrediting the state's role in regulating markets and providing public social insurance.

    Instead of just giving people more purchasing power, we should be taking basic needs off the market altogether.

    Consider Social Security, a wildly popular program that doesn't count toward individual wealth. If Social Security were replaced with a private savings account, individuals would have more "wealth" (because they would have their own financial account) but less actual security. The elderly would have to spin the financial-markets roulette wheel and suffer destitution if they were unlucky. This is why social-wealth programs like Social Security combat inequality more powerfully than any privatized, individualized wealth-building "solution."

    Public programs like universal healthcare and free education function the same way, providing social wealth directly instead of hoping to boost people's savings enough to allow them to afford either. Rather than requiring people to struggle with a byzantine system of private health insurance, universal healthcare would be available to cover the costs of genuine health needs. Similarly, broadly accessible higher education would allow people to thrive without taking on massive student loans and hoping that their "human capital" investment helps them hit the jackpot.

    Emphasis added to the key point. Aside from moving basic needs off market, we would also be moving them into the realm of society-guaranteed rights. Also, from optional (something enjoyed by an elite) to mandatory (something securely available to all). Conversely, the political agenda of trying to impose greater market discipline over any area of life is meant to increase inequality, and to make its consequences more acute.

  • Paul Krugman: Libertarian Fantasies: I've always had sympathies for libertarian thinking: the lessons of the "don't tread on me" American Revolution were imprinted early, and the notion that the state was out to keep me from enjoying "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" was backed by clear evidence from my teens, most perniciously through the draft and the drug war. However, I eventually realized that while self-interested public menaces like J. Edgar Hoover occasionally worked in the public sector they tended to be the exception, in corporations they were the rule, so ubiquitous that their corruption lapped over and gnawed at the very idea of public service. But things like the continuing drug war show that there is a need for libertarian types. Unfortunately, they rarely stop at defending freedom from real threats. Many become obsessed with false threats, and have no clue how to go from critique to policy, mostly because their anti-government bias blinds them from the possibility of using government for increasing freedom. (For instance, I'd say that the FDA increases my freedom as a consumer by saving me time worrying about contaminated food. You might say that the FDA limits the freedom of food producers to cut costs and poison people, but there are a lot more of us than them, and regulation is a fairly efficient scheme to even out minimal quality costs and avoid a disastrous "race to the bottom.") Krugman has his own examples, concluding:

    In other words, libertarianism is a crusade against problems we don't have, or at least not to the extent the libertarians want to imagine. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the case of monetary policy, where many libertarians are determined to stop the Fed from irresponsible money-printing -- which is not, in fact, something it's doing.

    And what all this means in turn is that libertarianism does not offer a workable policy agenda. I don't mean that I dislike the agenda, which is a separate issue; I mean that if we should somehow end up with libertarian government, it would quickly find itself unable to fulfill any of its promises.

    I read a lot of Murray Rothbard way back when, and he actually spent a lot of time coming up with private sector solutions to functions like justice that are invariably performed by government. I easily understand why a public justice system may become corrupt and repressive -- traits ours exhibits way too often -- but I couldn't see how Rothbard's scheme could every work, even badly. Rothbard's cases for private firefighters and other services were more workable, but everything he came up was vastly more inefficient than what we already have.

  • Gideon Levy: Go to Gaza, see for yourself: An Israeli journalist, recently named by a right-wing Israeli commentator as someone Israel should lock up in a concentration camp:

    Let's talk about Gaza. The Gaza strip is not a nest of murderers; it's not even a nest of wasps. It is not home to incessant rampage and murder. Most of its children were not born to kill, nor do most of its mothers raise martyrs -- what they want for their children is exactly what most Israeli mothers want for their own children. Its leaders are not so different from Israel's, not in the extent of their corruption, their penchant for "luxury hotels" nor even in their allocating most of the budget to defense.

    Gaza is a stricken enclave, a permanent disaster zone, from 1948 to 2014, and most of its inhabitants are third- and fourth-time refugees. Most of the people who revile and who destroy the Gaza Strip have never been there, certainly not as civilians. For eight years I have been prevented from going there; during the preceding 20 years I visited often. I liked the Gaza Strip, as much as one can like an afflicted region. I liked its people, if I may be permitted to make a generalization. There was a spirit of almost unimaginable determination, along with an admirable resignation to its woes.

    In recent years Gaza has become a cage, a roofless prison surrounded by fences. Before that it was also bisected. Whether or not they are responsible for their situation, these are ill-fated people, a great many people and a great deal of misery. [ . . . ]

    But in Hebrew, "Gaza," pronounced 'Aza, is short for Azazel, which is associated with hell. Of the multitude of curses hurled at me these days from every street corner, "Go to hell/Gaza" is among the gentler ones. Sometimes I want to say in response, "I wish I could go to Gaza, in order to fulfill my journalistic mission." And sometimes I even want to say: "I wish you could all go to Gaza. If only you knew what Gaza is, and what is really there."

  • Andrew O'Hehir: Is Obama haunted by Bush's ghost -- or possessed by him? Lots of things have bothered me about Obama, but his disinterest to put any real distance between his administration and the Bush one on issues of war, peace, and security is foremost -- all the more so because by the time Bush left office those policies had been shown to be utterly bankrupt, and because Obama was elected with a clear mandate for change.

    As we were reminded earlier this week, Obama's efforts to separate his own management of intelligence and spycraft from the notorious torture policies of Bush's "war on terror" now look exceedingly murky, if not downright mendacious. Throughout his campaigns and presidential years, Obama has relied on shadow-men like former CIA director George Tenet, former counterterrorism chief and current CIA director John Brennan and director of national intelligence (and spinner of lies to Congress) James Clapper, all of whom are implicated to the eyeballs in "extraordinary rendition" and "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the other excesses of the Bush regime. [ . . . ] Despite all the things he said to get elected, and beneath all the stylistic and symbolic elements of his presidency, Obama has chosen to continue the most fundamental policies of the Bush administration. In some areas, including drone warfare, government secrecy and the persecution of whistle-blowers, and the outsourcing of detainee interrogation to third-party nations, Obama has expanded Bush's policies.

  • Stephen M Walt: Do No (More) Harm: Subtitle: "Every time the U.S. touches the Middle East, it makes things worse. It's time to walk away and not look back." Good argument, but could use a better article. Walt's list of all the things that have gone wrong is detailed and long enough, but when he tries to apply his "realist" paradigm he doesn't come with any clear sense of the American interests in the region that he assumes must exist. (Closest he comes is the desire to keep any [other] nation from controlling the Persian Gulf oil belt, which at the moment is so fragmented it hardly calls for any US action at all. He misses what strike me as the two obvious ones: peace and a sense of equality and justice throughout the region, which would in turn undercut past/current trends toward militant and repressive Islam.) He rejects isolationism, but that may well be the best solution one can hope for given how pathological US intervention has been. (After all, alcoholics are advised to quit, rather than just scale back to the occasional drink non-alcoholics can handle without harm.) He does suggest that the US give up on trying to guide any sort of "peace process" between Israel and the Palestinians. Indeed, he goes to far as to say that we shouldn't bother with Israel's imperious fantasies if that's what they want to do -- evidently being a "realist" means you never have to think in terms of principles. On the other hand, isn't such a total lack of scruples a big part of how the US became the Middle East plague it so clearly is?

  • Israel/Palestine links:

Also, a few links for further study:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Daily Log

Wrote the following in a letter, my first pass to try to pull together thoughts on Robert Christgau's unpublished memoir:

Finished reading Bob's memoir. I got mentioned three times, each time in a laundry list (Riffs contributors, people who moved to New York, friends who got married in the early '80s). Nothing on Laura, but Ellin Hirst wound up with close to five brief mentions (once as part of the "Ell*ns" with Willis). Lots of long name-dropping sections, where hundreds of people move in and out very fast. Georgia had less than ten mentions -- I don't think any carried into a second sentence. Mentions brother Doug less but with more feeling. Greil Marcus and Marshall Berman get a lot of deference as serious thinkers; also Willis. Talks a lot about his/her "theory of pop" but never explains it, and I doubt that it really is a theory -- more like an attitude, self-validating because it comes down to various personal pleasure points. (Reminds me that we never had any deep theory discussions. We mostly just talked about what we liked and didn't. I can imagine him going deeper with Marcus given their shared pan-Americanism and with Berman given their shared pan-Bohemianism, although both strike me as rather shallow.) He takes 6-10 diversions into various pieces of art-crit -- Yeats' poetry, Dreiser and Stead novels, "Mumbo Jumbo," Tom Wesselman's pop-nudes, Steely Dan and Television -- not much more than two pages on any of them. Seems like it speeds up to a blur from about 1975 on, especially in the early 1980s (which I know less about). Ends with Nina's adoption in 1985, totaling about 230 pages -- figure he negotiated the length and wrote to it. One thing that occurs to me is that I wish he had more on Perry Brandston (his "designated teenager," a rather unique part of his approach to reporting).

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Downbeat Readers Poll

I was queried the other day about the deadline for Downbeat's [79th] annual readers poll. Not sure when it is, but voting is currently open (link). I vote in their Critics Poll, which takes a lot more work: we generally pick three candidates in each category, and there are "rising star" subcategories (formerly "talents deserving wider recognition"), but less work means less trouble, so I voted anyway. If you have any degree of interest and expertise, you should too. If you want to compare notes, mine follow:

Hall of Fame: Lee Konitz. He's 87, and the leading candidate for the past decade. What, you want he should die first? Isn't it bad enough you voted for Pat Metheny last year? Others, la crème de la crème on the ballot: Han Bennink, Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, Tommy Flanagan, Abdullah Ibrahim, Illinois Jacquet, Misha Mengelberg, Tito Puente, George Russell, Tomasz Stanko. Baseball HOF thinkers divide between ultra-exclusivists (who doubt that Sam Rice or Al Kaline were really such big stars) and more-inclusivists (who are more likely to think that Bid McPhee and Bill Mazeroski got snubbed). I've usually aligned with the latter (McPhee at least, but maybe not Mazeroski: both era-defining fielders, but the latter didn't have much bat, except on the day he broke my 10-year-old heart). So, sure, many more good names on the ballot -- more than they'll ever get to at the rate of two per year.

Off ballot: Red Allen, Billy Bang, Don Byas, Cab Calloway, Leroy Jenkins, Budd Johnson, Louis Jordan, Herbie Nichols, Pérez Prado, Don Pullen, Don Redman, Jimmy Rushing, Sonny Sharrock, Lucky Thompson, Mal Waldron, David S. Ware, Barney Wilen -- all dead and done. Among the living: Vinny Golia, Sheila Jordan, Joe McPhee, David Murray, William Parker, Houston Person, Roswell Rudd, Irène Schweizer, Bob Wilber, and of course one could add and add and add. Wynton Marsalis is on the ballot, so why not Dave Douglas? Wadada Leo Smith? Dennis González?

Jazz Artist: Anthony Braxton. It's a special year for him. On ballot: Dave Douglas, John Hollenbeck, William Parker, Matthew Shipp, Wadada Leo Smith, Ken Vandermark, John Zorn.

Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing. Off ballot: Ideal Bread, the Whammies.

Big Band: ICP Orchestra. On ballot: Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra. Off ballot: Ken Vandermark/The Resonance Ensemble.

Jazz Album (June 2013-May 2014): Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (Sunnyside '13). Off ballot (and I'm very surprised by this, because the label tends to finish very well in polls but also the artist has earned a real following): Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abîme (Pi '14). [PS: Release date turns out ot be June 24, so the record is eligible next year. I was assuming that everything in my 2014 list is eligible for the ballot, but some of those records were released after May 31, so the lower percentage of 2014 A-list on the ballot should be expected.] I have three other full-A albums listed from the period: William Parker: Wood Flute Songs (AUM Fidelity); Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (Tzadik); and Digital Primitives: Lipsomuch/Soul Searchin' (Hopscotch) -- only Parker is on the ballot.

Total nominated records: 175. My grade breakdown: A (2); A- (15); B+(***) (31); B+(**) (29); B+(*) (18); B (10); B- (9). Ungraded: 61 (34.8%). Last year's ungraded percentage was 31%, so I'm slipping a bit, but not an awful lot. The grade distribution has slipped downward a bit too (overall graded is up 29.5%, but A/A- is down from 20 to 17, and B/B- is up from 8 to 19). The six-month offset makes it hard to compare to my yearly lists, but within 2014 only 11 of my 42 jazz A/A- records (26.1%) were listed on the ballot (Jenny Scheinman, Craig Handy, Regina Carter, Mary Halvorson, Bobby Avey, Dave Douglas, Catherine Russell, Eric Revis, Sonny Rollins, Vijay Iyer, James Brandon Lewis).

Full breakdown on the ballot albums below the fold.

Historical Album (Released June 2013-May 2014): Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII: Live at the Winery (Widow's Taste). Despite my long interest in Recycled Goods, I get very few "historical" albums: only 10 of the 42 (23.8%) on the ballot. Given this small sample, I won't bother with grade breakdowns (other than to note that I had 4 A- records), or whatever competitive off ballot records I had (other than one A- this year: Enrico Pieranunzi: Play Morricone 1 & 2).

Trumpet: Dave Douglas. On ballot: Ralph Alessi, Steven Bernstein, Taylor Ho Bynum, Peter Evans, Rob Mazurek, Randy Sandke, Wadada Leo Smith, Tomasz Stanko. Off ballot: Dennis González, Darren Johnston, Matt Lavelle, Paul Smoker, Warren Vaché, James Zollar.

Trombone: Roswell Rudd. On ballot: Ray Anderson, Joe Fiedler, Curtis Fowlkes, Phil Ranelin, Steve Swell, Steve Turre. Off ballot: Conrad Bauer, Samuel Blaser.

Soprano Sax: Evan Parker. On ballot: Jan Garbarek, Vinny Golia, Bob Wilber. I'm not quite ready to add Dave Liebman, but he tries hard and has become notably more tolerable in the last couple years. Off ballot: Brent Jensen. Few specialists, and nearly everyone plays better on larger saxes (including Parker).

Alto Sax: François Carrier. On ballot: Tim Berne, Anthony Braxton, Ornette Coleman, Mike DiRubbo, Marty Ehrlich, Jon Irabagon, Lee Konitz, Oliver Lake, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Michael Moore, Ted Nash, Dave Rempis, Yosvany Terry, Henry Threadgill, Bobby Watson, Miguel Zenón, John Zorn. Off ballot: Martin Küchen, Steve Lehman, Mark Whitecage.

Tenor Sax: Ellery Eskelin. On ballot: Harry Allen, Jerry Bergonzi, James Carter, Joel Frahm, Jan Garbarek, Jon Irabagon, Charles Lloyd, Joe Lovano, Tony Malaby, Branford Marsalis, Joe McPhee, David Murray, Larry Ochs, Evan Parker, Ivo Perelman, Houston Person, Chris Potter, Sonny Rollins, Grant Stewart, Marcus Strickland, Ken Vandermark. Off ballot: Juhani Aaltonen, Rodrigo Amado, Chris Byars, Rich Halley, Scott Hamilton, Billy Harper, Dave Rempis, Archie Shepp, Tommy Smith, Assif Tsahar.

Baritone Sax: Howard Johnson. On ballot: Hamiet Bluiett, James Carter, Claire Daly, Vinny Golia, Brian Landrus, Scott Robinson, Gary Smulyan, John Surman. Not sure why we hear so little from Bluiett; otherwise no obvious choices, so I thought I'd vote for the tuba great.

Clarinet: Michael Moore. On ballot: Andy Biskin, Don Byron, Evan Christopher, Anat Cohen, Marty Ehrlich, Ben Goldberg, Rudi Mahall, Perry Robinson, Louis Sclavis, Gebhard Ullmann, Mort Weiss. Off ballot: Lajos Dudas, Avram Fefer.

Flute: Juhani Aaltonen. On ballot: Robert Dick, Nicole Mitchell.

Piano: Satoko Fujii. On ballot: Kenny Barron, George Cables, Uri Caine, Marilyn Crispell, Kris Davis, Abdullah Ibrahim, Ethan Iverson, Vijay Iyer, Keith Jarrett, Brad Mehldau, Myra Melford, Misha Mengelberg, Jason Moran, Enrico Pieranunzi, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Matthew d Shipp, Chucho Valdés, Denny Zeitlin. Off ballot: Nik Bärtsch, Ran Blake, Bill Carrothers, Cooper-Moore, David Hazeltine, Pandelis Karayorgis, Joachim Kühn, Steve Kuhn, Russ Lossing, Irène Schweizer, Aki Takase, Albert Van Veenendaal.

ELectronic Keyboard: Nik Bärtsch. Doesn't actually play electronic, which makes what he does all the more remarkable.

Organ: Brian Charette.

Guitar: Marc Ribot. On ballot: Rez Abbasi, Howard Alden, Peter Bernstein, Nels Cline, Bill Frisell, Mary Halvorson, Jeff Parker, Bucky Pizzarelli. Off ballot: Raoul Björkenheim, Pierre Dørge, Marc Ducret, Scott Dubois, Gordon Grdina, Billy Jenkins, Luis Lopes, Pete McCann, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Anders Nilsson, Kevin O'Neil, Samo Salamon, Brad Shepik, Ulf Wakenius.

Bass: William Parker. On ballot: Ben Allison, Arild Andersen, Pablo Aslan, Harrison Bankhead, Avishai Cohen, Mark Dresser, Moppa Elliott, Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, Michael Formanek, Drew Gress, Barry Guy, Charlie Haden, John Hébert, Mark Helias, Dave Holland, Marc Johnson, Christian McBride, Gary Peacock, Eric Revis, Peter Washington, Reggie Workman. Off ballot: Jason Ajemian, Reid Anderson, Michael Bates, Ken Filiano, Adam Lane, John Lindberg, Mario Pavone.

Electric Bass: Steve Swallow.

Violin: Jenny Scheinman. On ballot: Charles Burnham, Regina Carter, Jason Kao Hwang, Aaron Weinstein, Carlos Zingaro.

Drums: Hamid Drake. On ballot: Barry Altschul, Joey Baron, Han Bennink, Jim Black, Gerald Cleaver, Andrew Cyrille, Jack DeJohnette, Joe Farnsworth, Gerry Hemingway, John Hollenbeck, Billy Martin, Lewis Nash, Paal Nilssen-Love, Mike Reed, Tyshawn Sorey, Nasheet Waits, Matt Wilson. Off ballot: Harris Eisenstadt, Pierre Favre, Louis Moholo, Kevin Norton, Warren Smith, Günter Sommer.

Vibes: Kevin Norton. On ballot: Jason Adasiewicz, Joe Locke, Matt Moran, Warren Smith.

Percussion: Han Bennink. On ballot: Kahil El'Zabar, Marilyn Mazur, Satoshi Takeishi.

Miscellaneous Instrument: Rabih Abou-Khalil (oud). On ballot: Erik Friedlander (cello), Howard Johnson (tuba), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello), David Murray (bass clarinet), Bob Stewart (tuba).

Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole.

Female Vocalist: Sheila Jordan. On ballot: Leena Conquest, Diana Krall, René Marie, Catherine Russell, Fay Victor.

Composer: Steve Lehman.

Arranger: Steven Bernstein.

Record Label: Clean Feed.

Blues Artist or Group: Lurrie Bell.

Blues Album (June 2013-May 2014): Leo Welch: Sabougla Voices (Big Legal Mess). I graded eight blues albums from the ballot (2 A-: Leo Welch, Lurrie Bell). My ungraded rate is 90.0% (72 of 80). Not that I dislike blues, but it's not exactly a cutting edge art form.

Beyond Artist or Group: The Roots. Can't really deal with this concept.

Beyond Album (June 2013-May 2014): M.I.A.: Matangi (Interscope). I graded 27 albums from the ballot (4 A/A-: MIA, Arcade Fire, The Road to Jajouka, Janelle Monáe; B+ split 5-7-4; B or lower 7). My ungraded rate is 40.0% (18 of 45).

Looking over my ballot, I'll note several things. One is that I always went with someone on the ballot, even though in a couple slots a write-in might be the better candidate. I do more write-ins in the Critics Poll, but figure the larger voting population here makes them even more invisible (plus they take more time than it's worth). Also, sometimes I skipped the player I generally take as best-established to pick out someone I'm especially fond of (e.g., Eskelin over Murray at tenor sax). Third, in the thinner categories I just grabbed someone and didn't sweat the details. If I filled out the ballot again tomorrow I'd probably make some changes. Indeed, from last year, I changed: Jazz Artist (was Wadada Leo Smith), Big Band (Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra), Trumpet (Wadada Leo Smith), Alto Sax (Oliver Lake, Tenor Sax (David Murray), Baritone Sax (Vinny Golia), Electric Keyboard (Matthew Shipp), Organ (John Medeski), Guitar (Mary Halvorson), Electric Bass (Stomu Takeishi), Drums (Han Bennink), Vibes (Warren Smith), Percussion (Kahil El'Zabar), Miscellaneous Instrument (Howard Johnson), Composer (Ben Allison), Blues Artist (Eric Bibb), Beyond Artist (Neil Young). Those all look like pretty good answers, but so are this year's picks.

Some more detailed information on the albums.

New album lists (graded):

  • William Parker: Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012 (AUM Fidelity) [A]
  • Roswell Rudd: Trombone for Lovers (Sunnyside) [A]
  • Bobby Avey: Authority Melts From Me (Whirlwind) [A-]
  • Regina Carter: Southern Comfort (Sony Masterworks) [A-]
  • The Claudia Quintet: September (Cuneiform) [A-]
  • Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas: Riverside (Greenleaf) [A-]
  • Marty Ehrlich Large Ensemble: A Trumpet in the Morning (New World) [A-]
  • Mary Halvorson/Michael Formanek/Tomas Fujiwara: Thumbscrew (Cuneiform) [A-]
  • Craig Handy: Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith (OKeh) [A-]
  • Vijay Iyer: Mutations (ECM) [A-]
  • James Brandon Lewis: Divine Travels (OKeh) [A-]
  • Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Red Hot (Hot Cup) [A-]
  • Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Second Cities: Volume 1 (482 Music) [A-]
  • Eric Revis Quartet: In Memory of Things Yet Seen (Clean Feed) [A-]
  • Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Volume 3 (Doxy/OKeh) [A-]
  • Catherine Russell: Bring It Back (Jazz Village) [A-]
  • Jenny Scheinman: The Littlest Prisoner (Sony Masterworks) [A-]
  • Jeff Ballard Trio: Time's Tales (OKeh '14) [***]
  • Kenny Barron: Kenny Barron & The Brazilian Knights (Sunnyside '13) [***]
  • Matt Bauder & Day In Pictures: Nightshades (Clean Feed '14) [***]
  • Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow: Trios (ECM) [***]
  • George Cables: Icons & Influences (HighNote) [***]
  • Chicago Underground Duo: Locus (Northern Spy) [***]
  • The Nels Cline Singers: Macroscope (Mack Avenue) [***]
  • Mark Dresser Quintet: Nourishments (Clean Feed) [***]
  • Amir ElSaffar: Alchemy (Pi) [***]
  • Erik Friedlander: Nighthawks (Skipstone) [***]
  • Tord Gustavsen Quartet: Extended Circle (ECM) [***]
  • Tom Harrell: Colors of a Dream (HighNote) [***]
  • Albert "Tootie" Heath/Ethan Iverson/Ben Street: Tootie's Tempo (Sunnyside) [***]
  • Hera with Hamid Drake: Seven Lines (Multikulti Project) [***]
  • Lee Konitz/Dan Tepfer,/Michael Janisch/Jeff Williams: First Meeting: Live In London, Vol. 1 (Whirlwind) [***]
  • David Krakauer: The Big Picture (Table Pounding) [***]
  • Christian McBride Trio: Out Here (Mack Avenue) [***]
  • Medeski Martin & Wood + Nels Cline: Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 2 (Woodstock Sessions) [***]
  • Myra Melford: Life Carries Me This Way (Firehouse 12) [***]
  • Cava Menzies/Nick Phillips: Moment To Moment (Nick Phillips Music) [***]
  • Nicole Mitchell: Intergalactic Beings (FPE) [***]
  • Mark Ribot Trio: Live At The Village Vanguard (PI) [***]
  • Jason Roebke Octet: High/Red/Center (Delmark) [***]
  • Adam Rudolph & Go: Organic Orchestra: Sonic Mandala (Meta) [***]
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant: WomanChild (Mack Avenue) [***]
  • Angelica Sanchez/Wadada Leo Smith: Twine Forest (Clean Feed) [***]
  • Archie Shepp & The Attica Blues Orchestra: I Hear The Sound (Archie Ball) [***]
  • Sons of Kemet: Burn (Naim Jazz) [***]
  • Frank Wess: Magic 201 (IPO) [***]
  • Randy Weston/Billy Harper: The Roots Of The Blues (Sunnyside) [***]
  • Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski: Gathering Call (Palmetto) [***]
  • Geri Allen: Grand River Crossings: Motown & Motor City Inspirations (Motéma) [**]
  • Jane Ira Bloom: Sixteen Sunsets (Outline) [**]
  • The New Gary Burton Quartet: Guided Tour (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • George Colligan: The Endless Mysteries (Origin) [**]
  • Chick Corea: The Vigil (Stretch/Concord) [**]
  • Stephan Crump's Rosetta Trio: Thwirl (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Steve Davis: For Real (Posi-Tone) [**]
  • Paquito D'Rivera & Trio Corrente: Song For Maura (Paquito Records/Sunnyside) [**]
  • Orrin Evans' Captain Black Big Band: Mother's Touch (Posi-Tone) [**]
  • Bill Frisell: Big Sur (OKeh) [**]
  • Dave Holland & Prism: Prism (Dare2) [**]
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Mukashi: Once Upon A Time (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Vijay Iyer/Mike Ladd: Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project (Pi) [**]
  • Stacey Kent: The Changing Lights (Warner Bros.) [**]
  • Brian Landrus Kaleidoscope: Mirage (BlueLand) [**]
  • Mike McGinnis +9: Road*Trip (RKM Music) [**]
  • Mehliana [Brad Mehldau/Mark Guiliana]: Taming The Dragon (Nonesuch) [**]
  • Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell: Azure (ECM) [**]
  • Danilo Pérez: Panama 500 (Mack Avenue) [**]
  • Ed Reed: I'm A Shy Guy (Blue Shorts Records) [**]
  • Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter Two: Mississippi Moonchile (Constellation) [**]
  • Rudy Royston: 303 (Greenleaf Music) [**]
  • Matthew Shipp: Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear) [**]
  • Edward Simon: Venezuelan Suite (Sunnyside) [**]
  • Gary Smulyan/Dominic Chianese: Bella Napoli (Capri) [**]
  • Colin Vallon Trio: Le Vent (ECM) [**]
  • Frank Wess: Magic 101 (IPO) [**]
  • Michael Wollny Trio: Weltentraum (ACT Music) [**]
  • Nate Wooley Sextet: (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship (Clean Feed) [**]
  • David Binney: Lifted Land (Criss Cross '13) [*]
  • Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band: Landmarks (Blue Note) [*]
  • Joshua Breakstone: With the Wind and the Rain (Capri) [*]
  • Peter Brötzman & Steve Noble: I Am Here Where Are You (Trost) [*]
  • Marc Cary: For the Love of Abbey (Motéma) [*]
  • Wayne Escoffery Quintet: Live At Firehouse 12 (Sunnyside) [*]
  • Holly Hofmann: Low Life: The Alto Flute Project (Capri) [*]
  • Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra: Habitat (Justin Time) [*]
  • Mimi Jones: Balance (Hot Tone Music) [*]
  • Romero Lubambo: Só: Brazilian Essence (Sunnyside) [*]
  • Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Strength In Numbers (Summit) [*]
  • Roscoe Mitchell with Craig Taborn & Kikanju Baku: Conversations 2 (Wide Hive) [*]
  • Rufus Reid: Quiet Pride: The Elizabeth Catlett Project (Motéma) [*]
  • Alfredo Rodríguez: The Invasion Parade (Mack Avenue) [*]
  • John Scofield: Überjam Deux (Emarcy/Decca) [*]
  • Wadada Leo Smith & Tumo: Occupy the World (TUM) [*]
  • Helen Sung: Anthem for a New Day (Concord) [*]
  • Chucho Valdés: Border-Free (Jazz Village) [*]
  • Andy Bey: The World According To Andy Bey (HighNote) [B]
  • Etienne Charles: Creole Soul (Culture Shock) [B]
  • Kenny Garrett: Pushing The World Away (Mack Avenue) [B]
  • Joel Harrison 19: Infinite Possibility (Sunnyside) [B]
  • Billy Hart Quartet: One Is The Other (ECM) [B]
  • Pedrito Martinez Group: Pedrito Martinez Group (Motéma) [B]
  • Mark Masters Ensemble: Everything You Did: The Music Of Walter Becker & Donald Fagen (Capri) [B]
  • Roscoe Mitchell with Craig Taborn & Kikanju Baku: Conversations (Wide Hive) [B]
  • Tierney Sutton: After Blue (BFM Jazz) [B]
  • Warren Wolf: Wolfgang (Mack Avenue) [B]
  • Ambrose Akinmusire: The Imagined Savior Is Far Easier To Paint (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Kris Bowers: Heroes + Misfits (Concord) [B-]
  • George Duke: DreamWeaver (Heads Up) [B-]
  • Pat Metheny Unity Group: Kin (Nonesuch) [B-]
  • Ben Monder: Hydra (Sunnyside) [B-]
  • Gregory Porter: Liquid Spirit (Blue Note) [B-]
  • Dianne Reeves: Beautiful Life (Concord) [B-]
  • Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band: Game Changer (Capri) [B-]
  • Trombone Shorty: Say That To Say This (Verve) [B-]

New albums list (ungraded):

  • 3 Cohens: Tightrope (Anzic)
  • John Abercrombie Quartet: 39 Steps (ECM)
  • Ralph Alessi: Baida (ECM)
  • Eric Alexander: Chicago Fire (HighNote)
  • JD Allen: Bloom (Savant)
  • Ben Allison: The Stars Look Very Different Today (Sonic Camera)
  • Fabian Almazan: Rhizome (Blue Note/ArtistShare)
  • The Bad Plus: The Rite of Spring (Sony Masterworks)
  • Diego Barber & Craig Taborn: Tales (Sunnyside)
  • George Benson: nspiration (A Tribute to Nat King Cole) (Concord)
  • Jerry Bergonzi: Intersecting Lines (Savant)
  • Peter Bernstein: Solo Guitar: Live at Smalls (Smalls Live)
  • Stefano Bollani/Hamilton De Holanda: O Que Será (ECM)
  • Jakob Bro: December Song (Loveland)
  • Alan Broadbent: Heart to Heart: Solo Piano (Chilly Bin)
  • Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9: Viper's Drag (Impulse)
  • Marc Cary Focus Trio: Four Directions (Motéma)
  • Brian Charette: The Question That Drives Us (SteepleChase)/li>
  • Cyrus Chestnut: Soul Brother Cool (WJ3)
  • John Clayton with Gerald Clayton: Parlor Series, Volume 1 (ArtistShare)
  • Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra: The L.A. Treasures Project (Capri)
  • Dena DeRose: We Won't Forget You . . . An Homage to Shirley Horn (HighNote)
  • Al Di Meola: All Your Life (Valiana/Songsurfer)
  • Oran Etkin: Gathering Light (Motéma)
  • Roberto Fonseca: Yo (Concord)
  • Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band: Life in the Bubble (Telarc)
  • Fareed Haque: Out Of Nowhere (Charleston Square)
  • Jimmy Heath Big Band: Togetherness: Live at the Blue Note (JLP)
  • Gerry Hemingway: Kernelings (Auricle)
  • Fred Hersch/Julian Lage: Free Flying (Palmetto)
  • Vincent Herring: The Uptown Shuffle (Smoke Sessions)
  • Chuck Israels Jazz Orchestra: Second Wind: A Tribute To The Music Of Bill Evans (SoulPatch)
  • Anne Mette Iversen's Double Life: So Many Roads (Brooklyn Jazz Underground)
  • Javon Jackson: Expression (Smoke Sessions)
  • L.A. 6: Frame of Mind (Jazzed Media)
  • Ellis Marsalis Trio: On the Second Occasion (Elm)
  • Harvey Mason: Chameleon (Concord)
  • John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension: The Boston Record (Abstract Truth)
  • Nicole Mitchell's Sonic Projections: The Secret Escapades of Velvet Anderson (Rogue Art)
  • Stanton Moore: Conversations (Royal Potato Family)
  • Arturo O'Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra: The Offense Of The Drum (Motéma)
  • Aruán Ortiz & Michael Janisch Quintet: Banned In London (Whirlwind)
  • Evan Parker & Joe McPhee: What/If/They Both Could Fly (Rune Grammofon)
  • Evan Parker & Matthew Shipp: Rex, Wrecks & XXX (Rogue Art)
  • Aaron Parks: Aborescence (ECM)
  • Gretchen Parlato: Live In NYC (ObliqSound)
  • Simona Premazzi: The Lucid Dreamer (Inner Circle Music)
  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band: That's It! (Sony/Legacy) [**]
  • Marcus Roberts Trio: From Rags To Rhythm (J-Master)
  • Michelle Rosewoman's New Yor-Uba: 30 Years! A Musical Celebration Of Cuba In America (Advance Dance Disques)
  • Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Jazz Racine Haiti (Motéma)
  • Dr. Lonnie Smith: In The Beginning Volumes 1 & 2 (Pilgrimage)
  • Omar Sosa: Senses (Otá)
  • Dave Stryker: Eight Track (Strikezone Records)
  • Brannen Temple: Temple Underground (Live At Strange Brew Lounge Side) (Lounge Side Records)
  • Ralph Towner/Wolfgang Muthspiel/Slava Grigoryan: Travel Guide (ECM)
  • Ken Vandermark/Mats Gustafsson: Verses (Corbett vs. Dempsey)
  • Bobby Watson & The "I Have a Dream" Project: Check Cashing Day (Lafiya)
  • David Weiss: When Words Fail (Motéma)
  • Martin Wind Quartet: Turn Out The Stars (What If? Music)
  • John Zorn: Dreamachines (Tzadik)

2014 A/A- albums not on ballot (hard to separate out late-2013 releases from 2013 list):

  1. Steve Lehman Octet: Mise en Abîme (Pi)
  2. Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (Tzadik) *
  3. Digital Primitives: Lipsomuch/Soul Searchin' (Hopscotch, 2CD)
  4. Ivo Perelman: The Other Edge (Leo)
  5. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Live Snakes (Accurate)
  6. Kris Davis Trio: Waiting for You to Grow (Clean Feed)
  7. Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Cimmerian Crossroads (Edgetone)
  8. Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 2 (Clean Feed)
  9. Ben Flocks: Battle Mountain (self-released)
  10. Peter Van Huffel/Michael Bates/Jeff Davis: Boom Crane (Fresh Sound New Talent) **
  11. John Hollenbeck/Alban Darche/Sébastien Boisseau/Samuel Blaser: JASS (Yolk) **
  12. Free Nelson Mandoomjazz: The Shape of Doomjazz to Come/Saxophone Giganticus (RareNoise) *
  13. Barbara Morrison: I Love You, Yes I Do (Savant)
  14. Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Liverevil (Hot Cup, 2CD) [**]
  15. Joachim Kühn/Alexey Kruglov: Duo Art: Moscow (ACT) **
  16. Tom Rainey: Obbligato (Intakt) **
  17. Anne Waldman: Jaguar Harmonics (Fast Speaking Music)
  18. François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: The Russian Concerts (FMR)
  19. Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings: 1-4 (Constant Sorrow, 4CD)
  20. Rich Halley 4: The Wisdom of Rocks (Pine Eagle)
  21. Jason Ajemian: Folklords (Delmark)
  22. Sonny Simmons/Delphine Latil/Thomas Bellier: Beyond the Planets (Improvising Beings, 2CD)
  23. Rodrigo Amado: Wire Quartet (Clean Feed)
  24. Mike DiRubbo: Threshold (Ksanti)
  25. Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: Live in Ljubljana (Clean Feed)
  26. The Young Mothers: A Mothers Work Is Never Done (Tektite) *
  27. Kali Z. Fasteau: Piano Rapture (Flying Note)
  28. Andy Biskin Ibid: Act Necessary (Strudelmedia)
  29. Assif Tsahar/Gerry Hemingway/Mark Dresser: Code Re(a)d (Hopscotch)
  30. Cortex: Live! (Clean Feed)
  31. Moskus: Mestertyven (Hubro) **

Historical album lists (graded/ungraded):

  • Gene Ludwig-Pat Martino Trio: Young Guns (HighNote) [A-]
  • Art Pepper: Unreleased Art Vol. VIII: Live at the Winery (Widow's Taste) [A-]
  • Oscar Peterson/Ben Webster: During This Time (Art of Groove) [A-]
  • Various Artists: Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds 1960-1978 (Strut) [A-]
  • Miles Davis: Miles at the Fillmore: Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series Vol. 3 (Legacy) [***]
  • Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4: New York Concerts (Elemental Music) [***]
  • Robert Wyatt: '68 (Cuneiform) [***]
  • Roscoe Mitchell Quartet: Live at "A Space" 1975 (Sackville) [**]
  • Thelonious Monk: Paris 1969 (Blue Note) [**]
  • Stan Getz: Live At Montreux 1972 (Eagle Rock) [B]
  • Duane Allman: Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective (Rounder)
  • Louis Armstrong: The Columbia and RCA Victor Live Recordings of Louis Armstrong & The All Stars (Mosaic)
  • Albert Ayler: Lörrach, Paris 1966 (Hatology)
  • Ran Blake: Ran Blake Plays Solo Piano (ESP-Disk)
  • Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: The Complete Jazz Messengers At The Café Bohemia (Phoenix Records)
  • Michael Bloomfield: From His Head to His Heart to His Hands (Legacy)
  • James Booker: Classified: Remixed And Expanded (Rounder)
  • John Cage: Music of Changes (Hatology)
  • John Carter/Bobby Bradford Quartet: Flight for Four (International Phonograph)
  • Don Cherry: Live in Stockholm (Caprice)
  • John Coltrane: Afro Blue Impressions (Pablo)
  • Miles Davis: The Original Mono Recordings (Sony/Legacy)
  • Herbie Hancock: The Complete Columbia Album Collection 1972-1988 (Sony/Legacy)
  • Donny Hathaway: Never My Love: The Anthology (Rhino)
  • Roy Haynes with Phineas Newborn & Paul Chambers: We Three (Prestige)
  • Earl Hines: Classic Earl Hines Sessions: 1928-1945 (Mosaic)
  • Illinois Jacquet/Leo Parker: Toronto 1947 (Uptown)
  • Clifford Jordan: The Complete Clifford Jordan Strata-East Sessions (Mosaic)
  • Red Mitchell: What I Am (Caprice)
  • Modern Jazz Quartet: Germany 1956-1958: Lost Tapes (Jazzhaus)
  • Jaco Pastorius: Modern American Music . . . Period! The Criteria Sessions (Omnivore)
  • Bud Powell: Birdland 1953 (ESP-Disk)
  • Woody Shaw: The Complete Muse Sessions (Mosaic)
  • Wayne Shorter: Speak No Evil (Blue Note)
  • Sly And The Family Stone: Higher! (Epic/Legacy)
  • Various Artists: The Chicago Blues Box: The MCM Records Story (Storyville)
  • Various Artists: The South Side of Soul Street: The Minaret Soul Singles 1967-1976 (Omnivore)
  • Various Artists: Verve: The Sound of America: The Singles Collection (Verve/Universal)
  • Miroslav Vitous: Magical Shepherd (Warner Bros.)
  • Chick Webb/Ella Fitzgerald: The Complete Chick Webb & Ella Fitzgerald Decca Sessions (1934-1941) (Mosaic)
  • Teddy Wilson: Live at the King of France Tavern (LiSem)
  • Lester Young: Boston 1950 (Uptown)

Blues album lists (graded/ungraded):

  • Lurrie Bell: Blues in My Soul (Delmark) [A-]
  • Leo Welch: Sabougla Voices (Big Legal Mess) [A-]
  • Cyril Neville: Magic Honey (Ruf) [***]
  • John Németh: Memphis Grease (Blue Corn) [**]
  • Eric Bibb: Jericho Road (Stony Plain Music) [*]
  • Luther Dickinson: Rock 'n' Roll Blues (New West) [*]
  • Honey Island Swamp Band: Cane Sugar (Louisiana Red Hot) [B]
  • Joe Louis Walker: Hornet's Nest (Alligator) [B-]
  • Matt Andersen: Weightless (True North)
  • James Armstrong: Guitar Angels (Catfood)
  • Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band: Soul For Your Blues (Blue Dot)
  • Macy Blackman & the Mighty Fines: I Didn't Want to Do It (MamaRu)
  • Rory Block: Avalon: A Tribute to Mississippi John Hurt (Stony Plain)
  • James Bolden Blues Band: No News Jus' the Blues (Real)
  • Joe Bonamassa: Tour De Force: Live in London (J&R Adventures)
  • Ray Bonneville: Easy Gone (Red House)
  • Eden Brent: Jigsaw Heart (Yellow Dog)
  • Mel Brown B-3 Organ Group: More Today Than Yesterday: 16th Anniversary Show: Vol. 2 (self-released)
  • Toronzo Cannon: John the Conquer Root (Delmark)
  • Tommy Castro & the Pain Killers: The Devil You Know (Alligator)
  • Annika Chambers & the Houston All-Stars: Making My Mark (Montrose)
  • The Claudettes: Infernal Piano Plot . . . Hatched! (Yellow Dog)
  • Bob Corritore: Taboo (Delta Groove)
  • The Robert Cray Band: In My Soul (Provogue)
  • Daunielle: Daunielle (Catfood)
  • Guy Davis: Juba Dance (M.C. Records)
  • Lincoln Durham: Exodus of the Deemed Unrighteous (Droog)
  • Omar Dykes: Runnin' With the Wolf (Mascot/Provogue)
  • Tinsley Ellis: Midnight Blue (Heartfixer)
  • Samantha Fish: Black Wind Howlin' (Ruf)
  • Danny Fitzgerald: Danny Fitzgerald & the Lost Wandering Blues and Jazz Band (Lil' Shack)
  • Robben Ford: Day in Nashville (Mascot)
  • Eric Gales Trio: Ghost Notes (Tone Center)
  • Ursula George: One Steady Roll (Tommytiger)
  • Gov't Mule: Shout! (Blue Note)
  • Kara Grainger: Shiver And Sigh (Delta Groove)
  • Grand Marquis: Blues And Trouble (GM)
  • Jim Gustin & Truth Jones: Can't Shed a Tear (Self-Release)
  • Buddy Guy: Rhythm & Blues (RCA/Silvertone)
  • John Hammond: Timeless (Palmetto)
  • Hard Garden: Blue Yonder (Hard Garden Music)
  • The Holmes Brothers: Brotherhood (Alligator)
  • JeConte & the Mali Allstars: Mali Blues (Soulnow)
  • Candye Kane: Coming Out Swingin' (Vizzitone)
  • Keb' Mo': Bluesamericana (Kind of Blue)
  • Dave Keyes: Right Here Right Now (Keyesland)
  • Smokin' Joe Kubek & Bnois King: Road Dog's LIfe (Delta Groove)
  • Dayna Kurtz: Secret Canon, Vol. 2 (Kismet/M.C.)
  • Jonny Lang: Fight For My Soul (Concord)
  • Hugh Laurie: Didn't It Rain (Warner Bros.)
  • Left Lane Cruiser: Rock Them Back To Hell! (Alive Naturalsound)
  • Cathy Lemons: Black Crow (VizzTone)
  • Little Mike & the Tornadoes: All the Right Moves (Elrob)
  • Lonesome Shack: More Primitive (Alive Naturalsound)
  • Moreland & Arbuckle: 7 Cities (Telarc)
  • Mud Morganfield: Blues Is In My Blood (Blues Boulevard)
  • North Mississippi Allstars: World Boogie Is Coming (Songs of the South)
  • Anders Osborne: Peace (Alligator)
  • Charlie Parr: Hollandale (Chaperone)
  • Pork Chop Willie: Love Is The Devil (PCWM)
  • Lou Pride: Ain't No More Love in This House (Severn)
  • Rip Lee Pryor: Nobody but Me (Electro-Fi)
  • Johnny Rawls: Remembering O.V. (Catfood)
  • The Rides: Can't Get Enough (429)
  • Roomful of Blues: 45 Live (Alligator)
  • Bobby Rush with Blinddog Smokin': Decisions (Silver Talon)
  • Tommy Schneller: Cream of the Crop (Cable Car)
  • Kenny Wayne Shepherd: Goin' Home (Concord)
  • The Soul of John Black: A Sunshine State of Mind (Yellow Dog)
  • Dave Specter: Message in Blue (Delmark)
  • Candi Staton: Life Happens (Beracah)
  • Quinn Sullivan: Getting There (SuperStar)
  • George Thorogood & the Destroyers: Live At Montreux 2013 (Eagle Rock)
  • Trampled Under Foot: Badlands (Telarc)
  • Walter Trout: Luther's Blues: A Tribute to Luther Allison (Mascot Records)
  • David Vest: Roadhouse Revelation (Cordova Bay)
  • Watermelon Slim & the Workers: Bull Goose Rooster (Northern Blues)
  • Leslie West: Still Climbing (Mascot)
  • Mike Zito: Gone to Texas (Ruf)
  • Layla Zoe: The Lily (Cable Car)

Beyond album lists (graded/ungraded):

  • M.I.A.: Matangi (Interscope) [A]
  • Arcade Fire: Reflektor (Merge) [A-]
  • Master Musicians of Jajouka: The Road to Jajouka (Howe) [A-]
  • Janelle Monáe: Electric Lady (Bad Boy) [A-]
  • Danny Brown: Old (Fool's Gold) [***]
  • Dawn of Midi: Dysnomia (Thirsty Ear) [***]
  • Deafheaven: Sunbather (Deathwish) [***]
  • Valerie June: Pushin' Against A Stone (Concord) [***]
  • St. Vincent: St. Vincent (Lorna Vista/Republic) [***]
  • Neko Case: The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight . . . (Anti-) [**]
  • Rosanne Cash: The River & the Thread (Blue Note) [**]
  • Ry Cooder: Live In San Francisco (Nonesuch) [**]
  • Sky Ferreira: Night Time, My Time (Capitol) [**]
  • Haim: Days Are Gone (Columbia) [**]
  • Lorde: Pure Heroine (Universal) [**]
  • Mavis Staples: One True Vine (Anti-) [**]
  • Elvis Costello & The Roots: Wise Up Ghost (Blue Note) [*]
  • Disclosure: Settle (Interscope) [*]
  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Give the People What They Want (Daptone) [*]
  • Kanye West: Yeezus (Def Jam) [*]
  • Billie Joe Armstrong/Norah Jones: Foreverly (Reprise) [B]
  • Drake: Nothing Was The Same (Cash Money) [B]
  • Robert Glasper Experiment: Black Radio 2 (Blue Note) [B]
  • Jason Isbell: Southeastern (Southeastern Records) [B]
  • Queens of the Stone Age: . . . Like Clockwork (Matador) [B]
  • Darkside: Psychic (Matador) [B-]
  • Thundercat: Apocalypse (Brainfeeder) [C+]
  • Beyoncé: Beyoncé (Columbia)
  • Booker T: Sound the Alarm (Concord)
  • Childish Gambino: Because the Internet (Glassnote)
  • Dumpstaphunk: Dirty Word (Louisiana Red Hot)
  • Gillet Singleton Duo: Ferdinand (self-released)
  • Angelique Kidjo: Eve (429)
  • Meschiya Lake & the Little Big Horns: Foolers' Gold (self-released)
  • Amos Lee: Mountains of Sorrow, Rivers of Song (Blue Note)
  • Leyla McCalla: Vari-Colored Songs (Music Maker Foundation)
  • Aoife O'Donovan: Fossils (Yep Roc)
  • Robert Randolph & the Family Band: Lickety Split (Blue Note)
  • Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels (Fool's Gold)
  • Anoushka Shankar: Traces of You (Deutsche Grammophon)
  • Tedeschi Trucks Band: Made Up Mind (Sony/Masterworks)
  • Allen Toussaint: Songbook (Rounder)
  • Various Artists: Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2013 (Rhino/Warner Bros.)
  • The Wood Brothers: The Muse (+180 Records)
  • Wooden Shjips: Back To Land (Thrill Jockey)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 23599 [23570] rated (+29), 554 [541] unrated (+13).

Music Week is a day late this week. No holiday schedule or suchlike, just a lot of tsuris, which among other things pushed Weekend Roundup from its usual Sunday to Monday. My blog has been under the weather for a couple weeks now. I've complained to the ISP ( and gotten no help whatsoever (at least none they've explained to me). I did tweak the software (serendipity, or s9y as they prefer) a bit to avoid a table that seems to be damaged and really doesn't do much good. My plan now is to try to rebuild the blog on my own server, and if it proves mobile I may very well move it to another server. The dedicated server I lease remains a problem. I set up four stub accounts there last week, including my first attempt to use WordPress for a website but have a lot to learn there, and I'm still not happy with that ISP. Other computer problems include several flurries of mailing list bounces, some caused by an listing at Spamhaus that erroneously spanned my IP addresses, others by overzealous DMARC processing -- and of course nothing frays my brain cells more than email debugging.

More pedestrian things that have broken during the last week include a faucet/lavatory drain, a toilet, a shade, an oven, and various car problems including an overnight at the garage and two trips to the tire shop. I'm pleased to report that at least I've managed to fix the plumbing issues. I've also been much more agitated than usual about politics -- obviously the situation in Gaza is especially dire, and I agree with Daniel Levy that the US (meaning Obama) could have stopped it at any point (including before anyone noticed), but I am every bit as chagrined with Obama for his mishandling of Iraq and Ukraine, so this point is the lowest regard I've ever held him in.

On the other hand, today is primary day in Kansas, with virtually all the action on the Republican side (not my registration, and only true believers are allowed to vote there). There is a well-funded "tea party" challenge to Sen. Pat Roberts (polls put Roberts ahead by 30 points but I expect it will be much closer), and two incumbent Congressmen face strong challenges: ultra-right Tim Huelskamp burned a lot of bridges in the rural 1st district getting kicked off the Agriculture Committee and voting against the big farm bill. In the 4th district Mike Pompeo (R-Koch) is being challenged by eight-term former congressman Todd Tiahrt (R-Boeing). When in Congress Tiahrt was a DeLay crony with an extreme right social record and a taste for big money, but he's been trying to run to Pompeo's left, attacking him for sponsoring Monsanto's anti-GMO-labelling law and backing NSA spying. A lot of money in that race. Sam Brownback is so unpopular Jennifer Winn will get some votes for governor. Four years ago the right was carrying out a purge of the last of the moderate Republicans, but one of the few who survived is running against neanderthal Richard Ranzau for the Sedgwick County Commission, and another moderate is trying to save us from Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The net result is that we've been flooded in anti-Obama propaganda, none of which has managed to sympathize with the guy. Rather, this feels like the further advance of Dark Ages as politicians who have done nothing but harm promise to create jobs and make government work for us.

Meanwhile, of course, there is music. Much of this appeared in last week's Rhapsody Streamnotes. Since then I've slowed down a bit -- it's just been hard to concentrate. Lot of mail came in last week, and I jumped right into the Clean Feed package. Neither A- was clear the first time through, but I wound up playing them quite a bit.

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

  • Baloni: Belleke (2012 [2014], Clean Feed): string trio (viola-cello-bass) but don't think chamber jazz, more a scratchy, surrealistic slow boil [cd]: B+(**)
  • Kris Berg & the Metroplexity Big Band: Time Management (2014, Summit): bassist-led big band, drew some guest stars including Phil Woods [r]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Branker & Word Play: The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (2014, Origin): mainstream with soul flair and some agitprop, horns striking [cd]: B+(***)
  • Cortex: Live! (2014, Clean Feed): Norwegian group patterned on the classic Ornette Coleman Quartet, fresh as ever retracing paths blazed long ago [cd]: A-
  • John Ellis & Andy Bragen: Mobro (2011 [2014], Parade Light): saxophonist meets playwright equals operetta with occasional honking [r]: B-
  • Danny Fox Trio: Wide Eyed (2012 [2014], Hot Cup): piano trio, nice mix of Evans-esque melodic sense with a more Jarrett-like rhythmic push [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Green Seed: Drapetomania (2014, Communicating Vessels): two rappers, two DJs, the turntable scratches a throwback but there's more to it, rhymes conscious [r]: A-
  • Grenier/Archie Pelago: Grenier Meets Archie Pelago (2014, Melodic): the latter a cello-sax-trumpet chamber trio, the DJ kicks them out onto the dance floor [r]: B+(***)
  • Haitian Rail: Solarists (2014, New Atlantis): avant-jazz thrash between guitar and trombone, the bass and drums (Kevin Shea) adding to the roil [r]: B+(**)
  • Ibibio Sound Machine: Ibibio Sound Machine (2014, Soundway): British group with Nigerian roots and a few ringers, aim for Afrobeat but bracket that with gospel [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazzhole: Blue 72 (2014, Beave Music): acid jazz duo plus female vocalists take the pop hits of 1972, stretch them with slack beats and groove [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jonas Kullhammar/Jørgen Mathisen/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 3: The Ljubljana Tapes (2013 [2014], Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
  • La Roux: Trouble in Paradise (2014, Cherrytree/Interscope): Elly Jackson's vehicle wraps pop hooks around songs about sex and sometimes love (or not) [r]: B+(***)
  • Lake Street Dive: Bad Self Portraits (2014, Signature Sounds): a blues/Southern rock move from a Boston band, singer Rachel Price comes up short in fun [r]: B+(*)
  • Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: Live in Ljubljana (2012 [2014], Clean Feed): bassist has the Mingus touch for avant-retro comps, less group terror [cd]: A-
  • Ingrid Laubrock Octet: Zürich Concert (2011 [2014], Intakt): limited horns (sax, trumpet) layered with guitar-cello-bass strings and accordion [r]: B+(*)
  • Jenny Lewis: The Voyager (2014, Warner Brothers): a smart, nuanced songwriter, but extra guitar blends everything, keeping anything from jumping out [r]: B+(***)
  • ¡Mayday x Murs!: ¡Mursday! (2014, Strange Music): "genre-busting" hip-hop crew + underground rapper, the songs jump the grooves and the rhymes ring true [r]: A-
  • Jessica Lea Mayfield: Make My Head Sing . . . (2014, ATO): singer-songwriter cranks up guitar crunch, supposedly a grunge tribute [r]: B+(**)
  • Roscoe Mitchell: Conversations II (2013 [2014], Wide Hive): second set of improvs with Craig Taborn and Kikanju Baku, a bit less ugly than the first [r]: B+(*)
  • Joe Morris Quartet: Balance (2014, Clean Feed): guitar-bass-drums wrapped in a dark shroud of Mat Maneri viola [cd]: B+(**)
  • Amanda Ruzza/Mauricio Zottarelli: Glasses, No Glasses (2013 [2014], Pimenta Music): guitar-drums but trio, not duo, unsung hero is keyboardist Leo Genovese [cd]: B+(***)
  • 75 Dollar Bill: Olives in the Ears (2014, self-released): lo-fi guitar, Che Chen channelling Arabic modes and Saharan blues, plus drums and guests [bc]: B+(***)
  • Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty (2014, Sub Pop): more "broken boombox boom-bap" chug-a-lugging along, not brilliant but odd enough to wonder [r]: B+(***)
  • Mitch Shiner and the Blooming Tones Big Band: Fly! (2014, Patois): another MAMA big band punches up shlock standards, glad Phil Woods guests [cd]: B-
  • J.J. Wright: Inward Looking Outward (2013 [2014], Ropeadope): pianist, leads trio with Ike Sturm and Nate Wood, stakes out a rumbling beat and rides it [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Cabaret Voltaire: #7885 Electropunk to Technopop (1978-85 [2014], Mute): dadaist dance music, industry standard beats, talkie vocals regimenting [r]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet: Earth Beams (1980, Timeless): I skipped tweeting on most A/P records, but this one has their first inredible stuff [r]: A-
  • George Adams-Dannie Richmond: Gentlemen's Agreement (1983, Soul Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet: Decisions (1984, Timeless): [r]: B+(**)

Grade changes:

  • William Parker: Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012 (2006-12 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 8CD): [was A-] A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Auction Project: Slink (self-released)
  • Baloni: Belleke (Clean Feed)
  • Bolt: Shuffle (Driff)
  • Mario Castro Quintet/Strings: Estrella de Mar/Promotional Edition (Interrobang)
  • Collier & Dean: Sleek Buick (Origin)
  • Cortex: Live! (Clean Feed)
  • Jorrit Dijkstra: Music for Reeds and Electronics: Oakland (Driff)
  • Diva: A Swingin' Life (MCG Jazz): August 5
  • Grand Fatilla: Global Shuffle (self-released)
  • Just Passing Through: The Breithaupt Brothers Songbook Vol. II (ALMA)
  • Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Afterimage (Driff)
  • Jonas Kullhammar/Jørgen Mathisen/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 3: The Ljubljana Tapes (Clean Feed)
  • Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: Live in Ljubljana (Clean Feed)
  • Gordon Lee with the Mel Brown Septet: Tuesday Night (Origin)
  • Joe Morris Quartet: Balance (Clean Feed)
  • Myriad 3: The Where (ALMA)
  • Anthony Pirog: Palo Colorado Dream (Cuneiform): advance, October 14
  • Jeff Richman & Wayne Johnson: The Distance (ITI Music)
  • Dylan Ryan/Sand: Circa (Cuneiform): advance, September 30
  • Harvey Wainapel: Amigos Brasileiros Vol. 2 (Jazzmission): September 2
  • Anna Webber: Simple (Skirl)
  • The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 3: Live (Driff)
  • Steve Wilson/Lewis Nash Duo: Duologue (MCG Jazz): August 5

Monday, August 04, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Running a day behind and coming up short as I try to sum up what's been happening around the world and how Israel/Gaza fits into it. The blog, by the way, has experienced intermittent failures, something the ISP ( has thus far been completely unhelpful at fixing. Sorry for the inconvenience. Music Week will also run a day late (assuming no further outages).

This week's links will once again focus mostly on Israel's continuing assault on Gaza. It is not the only significant war in the world at the moment -- the governments in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine are simultaneously engaged in brutal campaigns to bring their own people back under central state control -- but it is the one that most immediately concerns us in the US, partly because American partisanship in largely responsible for the conflict (i.e., the failure to resolve the conflict peacefully); partly because Israel's thinking and practice in power projection and counterterrorism is seen as an ideal model by many influential American foreign policy mandarins (the so-called "neocons," of course, but many of their precepts have infiltrated the brains of supposedly more liberal actors, notably the Clintons, Kerry, and Obama); and partly because Israel has managed to recapitulate the violence and racism of our own dimly remembered past, something they play on to elicit sympathy even though a more apt reaction would be horror.

I don't want to belittle the three other "civil wars": indeed, the US (almost entirely due to Obama) has actively sided with the governments of Iraq (the US has sent a small number of ground troops and large amounts of arms there) and Ukraine (the US has led the effort to sanction and vilify Russia). On the other hand, the US condemned and threatened to bomb Syria, and has sent (or at least promised) arms to "rebels" there, although they've also (at least threatened) to bomb the "rebels" too. But we also know relatively little about those conflicts, and probably understand less, not least because most of what has been reported has been selected for propaganda effect. For instance, when "separatists" in Ukraine tragically shot down a Malaysian airliner, that story led the nightly news for more than a week, but hardly anyone pointed out that Ukraine had been shelling and bombing separatist enclaves, and that anti-aircraft rockets had successfully shot down at least one Ukrainian military plane before the airliner. (The effective blackout of news of the conflict, including the use of anti-aircraft missiles in the region, should bear at least some measure of blame for the airliner tragedy.) Similarly, we hear much about extreme doctrines of the breakaway "Islamic State" in Iraq, but virtually nothing of the Maliki government practices that have managed to alienate nearly all of northwestern Iraq (as well as the Kurdish regions, which have all but declared their own breakaway state, one that the US is far more tolerant of -- perhaps since it doesn't serve to flame Islamophobic public opinion in the US).

Syria is a much messier problem, for the US anyhow. The state was taken over by the Ba'ath Party in 1963, and led by the Assad family since 1971. Syria fought against Israel in the 1948-49 war, and again in 1967, when Israel seized the Golan Heights, and again in 1973. At various times Syria made efforts to ally itself with the US (notably in the 1990 coalition against Iraq), but several factors prejudiced US opinion against the Assads: the border dispute with Israel and intermittent Syrian support for the PLO, Syria's resort to Russia (and later Iran) as its armaments supplier, the repressive police state and the brutality with which the Assads put down rebellions (e.g., they killed at least 10,000 people in the Hama massacre of 1982 -- a tactic much admired by Israeli military theoreticians like Martin Van Creveld). One might think that Syria's lack of democracy would be an issue, but the US has never objected to other tyrants that could be counted as more reliable allies, such as the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia. But when Assad fired on Arab Spring demonstrations, prejudice turned Obama against Assad, as the revolt became militarized he chipped in guns, as it became Islamicized he waffled. Obama set a "red line" at the use of chemical weapons, and when that appeared to have been violated, he felt it was his place to punish Syria with a round of gratuitous bombings, but Congress demurred, and Putin interceded with an offer by Syria to give up their chemical weapon stocks. Since then, Obama has promised more arms to Syrian "rebels" and also threatened to bomb those rebels connected with the revolt in Iraq, and he ruined his relationship with Putin -- the only real chance to mediate the conflict -- for recriminations over Ukraine. Meanwhile, Israel (always seen as a US ally even though usually acting independently) bombed Syria.

At this point there will be no easy resolution to Syria. One obvious problem is how many foreign countries have contributed to one side or the other (or in the case of the US to both, if not quite all). So the first step would be an international agreement to use whatever pressure they have to get to a ceasefire and some sort of power-sharing agreement, but obvious as that direction is, the other ongoing conflicts make it impossible. Just to take the most obvious example, the US (Obama) is by far more committed to marginalizing Russia in Ukraine than it is to peace anywhere in the Middle East, least of all Israel. Russia is likewise more focused on Ukraine than anywhere else, although it doesn't help that its main interest in Syria and Iraq appears to be selling arms (it supports both governments, making it a US ally in Iraq as well as an enemy in Syria, blowing the Manichaean minds in Washington). Saudi Arabia and Iran are far more invested against or for Syria and Iraq. One could go on and on, but absent any sort of enlightened world leader willing to step outside of the narrow confines of self-interest and link the solution to all of these conflicts, their asymmetries will continue to grind on, and leave bitter legacies in their paths. In Syria alone, over more than three years the estimated death toll is over 250,000. In Iraq estimated deaths since the US exit in 2011 are over 21,000, but much more if you go back to 2003 when the US invaded and stirred up much sectarian strife. (I couldn't say "started" there because US culpability goes back to 1991, when Bush urged Iraqi shiites to rise up against Saddam Hussein, then allowed the Iraqi army to crush them mercilessly, then instigated "no fly" zones with periodic bombings, along with sanctions lasting until the 2003 invasion.)

As for Israel's latest assault on Gaza, in three weeks Israel has killed over 1,800 Palestinians -- I won't bother trying to separate out "civilians" and "militants" since Gaza has no organized military (like the IDF). That may seem like a small number compared to Syria above, but if you adjust for the relative populations (22.5 million in Syria, 1.8 million in Gaza) and length of war (171 weeks for Syria, 3 for Gaza) the kill rate is about five times greater in Gaza (333 per million per week vs. 65 per million per week in Syria). Moreover, the distribution of deaths is extremely skewed in Gaza, whereas in Syria and Iraq (I have no idea about Ukraine) they are close to even (to the extent that "sides" make sense there). The distinction between IDF and "civilians" makes more sense in Israel, especially as nearly all IDF casualties occurred on Gazan soil after Israel invaded. The ratio there is greater than 600-to-one (1800+ to 3), a number we'll have to come back to later. (The first Israeli killed was a settler who was voluntarily delivering goodies to the troops -- i.e., someone who would certainly qualify as a "militant"; another was a Thai migrant-worker, and some tallies of Israeli losses don't even count him.) The number of Israeli soldiers killed currently stands at 64, some of which were killed by Israeli ("friendly") fire. (The first IDF soldier killed was so attributed, but I haven't seen any later breakdowns. There have been at least two instances where an Israeli soldier was possibly captured and subsequently killed by Israeli fire -- IDF forces operate under what's called the Hannibal Directive, meant to prevent situations where Israeli soldiers are captured and used as bargaining chips for prisoner exchanges, as was Gilad Shalit.) Even if you counted those IDF deaths, the overkill ratio would be huge. But without them, it should be abundantly clear how little Israel was threatened by Hamas and other groups in Gaza. In 2013, no one in Israel was hurt by a rocket attack from Gaza. This year, in response to Israel and Egypt tightening Gaza borders, to Israel arresting 500+ people more or less associated with Hamas (many released in the Shalit deal) in the West Bank, and to Israel's intense bombardment now lasting three weeks, more than a thousand rockets were launched from Gaza at Israel, and the result of all this escalation was . . . 3 dead, a couple dozen (currently 23) wounded. Just think about it: Israel gave Gazans all this reason to be as vindictive as possible, and all it cost them was 3 civilian casualties (one of which they don't even count). In turn, they inflicted incalculable damage upon 1.8 million people. The trade off boggles the mind. Above all else, it makes you wonder what kind of people would do such a thing.

A little history here: Zionist Jews began emigrating from Russia to the future Israel, then part of the Ottoman Empire, in the 1880s, following a breakout of pogroms (state-organized or -condoned attacks on Jews) following the assassination of Czar Alexander. Britain went to war against the Ottoman Empire in 1914, and made various promises to both Arabs and Jews of land they would seize from the Ottomans, including Palestine. In 1920 the British kept Palestine as a mandate. They took a census which showed the Jewish population at 10%. The British allowed Jewish immigration in fits and spurts, with the Jewish population ultimately rising to 30% in 1947. Britain's reign over Palestine was marked by sporadic violence, notably the Arab Revolt of 1937-39 which Britain brutally suppressed, using many techniques which Israel would ultimately adopt, notably collective punishment. Meanwhile, the British allowed the Zionist community to form a state-within-the-state, including its own militia, which aided the British in putting down the Arab Revolt. In 1947, Britain decided to wash its hands of Palestine and returned the mandate to the then-new United Nations. The leaders of the Jewish proto-state in Palestine lobbied the United Nations to partition Palestine into two parts -- one Jewish, the other Arab (Christian and Moslem) -- and the UN complied with a scheme that offered Jewish control of a slight majority of the land, Arab control of several remaining isolated pockets (West Bank, West Galilee, Gaza Strip, Jaffa), with Jerusalem a separate international zone. There were virtually no Jews living in the designated Arab areas, but Arabs were more than 40% of the population of the Jewish areas. The Arabs rejected the partition proposal, favoring a single unified state with a two-to-one Arab majority. The Zionist leadership accepted the partition they had lobbied for, but didn't content themselves with the UN-specified borders or with the international zone for Jerusalem. When the British abdicated, Israel declared independence and launched a war to expand its territory, swallowing West Galilee and Jaffa, capturing the west half of Jerusalem, and reducing the size of the Gaza Strip by half. Several neighboring Arab countries joined this war, notably Transjordan, which was able to secure east Jerusalem (including the Old City) and the West Bank (including the highly contested Latrun Salient), and Egypt, which wound up in control of the reduced Gaza Strip. During this war more than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs were uprooted and fled beyond Israeli control, to refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, leaving the land occupied by Israel as 85% Jewish.

Israel signed armistice agreements in 1949-50 with its neighbors. Jordan annexed its occupied Palestinian territories and gave their inhabitants Jordanian citizenship, not that that meant much in an monarchy with no democratic institutions. Egypt didn't annex Gaza; it styled itself as a caretaker for a fragment of a future independent Palestinian state, which left its inhabitants in limbo. Israel passed a series of laws which gave every Jew in the world the right to immigrate to Israel and enjoy citizenship there, and denied the right of every Palestinian who had fled the 1948-50 war to ever return, confiscating the lands of the refugees. Palestinians who stayed within Israel were granted nominal citizenship, but placed under military law. Gazan refugees who tried to return to Israel were shot, and Israel repeatedly punished border incidents by demolishing homes in Gaza and the West Bank. (Ariel Sharon first made his reputation by making sure that the homes he blew up in Qibya in 1953 were still occupied.) Israel was never happy with its 1950 armistice borders. After numerous border incidents, Israel launched a sneak attack on Egypt in 1967, seizing Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula up to the Suez Canal, then quickly expanded the war into Jordan (grabbing East Jerusalem and the West Bank) and Syria (the Golan Heights).

The UN resolution following the 1967 war called for Israel to return all the lands seized during the war in exchange for peace with all of Israel's neighbors. The Arabs nations were slow to respond to this "land-for-peace" proposal, although this was the basis of the 1979 agreement that returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, and would be the basis of subsequent peace proposals backed by every nation in the Arab League -- the sole difference is that Jordan has since renounced its claim to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, so those as well as Gaza might form the basis of an independent Palestinian state, as originally envisioned by the UN. The PLO has agreed to this solution, and Hamas has announced tacit approval (they have what you may call a funny way of putting things, one that unfortunately allowed for a large measure of distortion by Israeli "explainers" [hasbara-ists]). So if Israel ever wanted peace, both with its neighbors and with its current and former Palestinian subjects, that simple deal is on the table (as well as several subsequent ones which allow Israel additional concessions, although those are less universally accepted).

The rub is that Israel has never wanted peace, and nowadays the political consensus in Israel is further than ever from willing to even consider the notion. This is a hard point for most people to grasp -- who doesn't want peace? -- but nothing Israel does makes any sense until you realize this. We can trace this back over history, or you can just look at the current fracas. Israel, after all, could have decided to handle the June 12 kidnapping-murder as a normal police matter. Despite everything they've done since, they haven't caught their two prime suspects, so they couldn't have done less as to solving the crime, and they would have gotten a lot more credit and sympathy. But rather than react as any normal country would, they went out and arrested 500 people who had nothing to do with the crime, and in the process of doing that they killed another nine Palestinians. The rockets, which in any case did no real damage, were primarily a response to the arrests, and more basically to Israel's blockade of Gaza, which is itself a deeper manifestation of Israel's belligerency. Even then, Israel could have ignored the rockets. The decision to start shelling/bombing Gaza was completely their own, as was the decision to send troops into Gaza to destroy tunnels that hadn't caused any actual harm to Israel. In short, all that destruction is the direct result of Israel reacting the way Israel always reacts to provocations: by escalating the level of violence. And that's simply not the way a nation that wants to live in peace behaves.

I can think of several reasons why Israel has chosen to be a state of perpetual war:

  1. The essential precept of Zionism is that anti-semitism is endemic in the world, leaving Jews with no recourse except to separate themselves from everyone else, to retreat to a common defensible redoubt, and to build iron walls around themselves that their enemies cannot breach. Because anti-semitism is eternal, peace is illusory, a temptation to lapse the martial spirit necessary to maintain those walls. The Holocaust only served to reinforce this early view, and has been driven deep into the psyches of subsequent generations. The "iron wall" doctrine was developed by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Proof of how little Zionism has evolved is that Benjamin Netanyahu is the son of Jabotinsky's secretary and main disciple.
  2. The core fact of Zionism is that it created a colonial enclave in a region that was already occupied with the intent of dominating and expanding that region. In order to survive, the colonists had to alienate themselves from their surroundings, to cohere and act as a community, to defend themselves and vanquish the aboriginals. Every successful example (as well as near misses like French Algeria and Afrikaner South Africa) developed the same pathologies of racism and violence, and these are especially sharp in Israel now because the success of the project seems so tenuous.
  3. Israel's early history, especially the wars of 1948 and 1967, are exceptionally susceptible to self-mythologizing, both due to the level of leadership and the semi-miraculous outcomes of those wars: in 1948 Israel declared independence, expanded its UN-specified borders by nearly 50%, and radically consolidated a large Jewish majority despite the combined efforts of the Arab armies; in just six days 1967 Israel won an even more stunning victory over rising Arab nationalists, again greatly expanding their territory. Such wars are seductive, casting a mythic glow over the nation's self-conception that none of the later wars, muffled and muddled as they've been, have managed to erode. Of course, it helps that one can make a case that the 1948 and 1967 wars were necessary -- at least to convince neighboring countries that Israel was a fact they wouldn't be able to forcibly undo.
  4. War is one of the few human endeavors that gives a nation a joint sense of purpose and belonging, at least as long as it is successful (or not too dreadfully disastrous). Israelis tasted that in 1948 and 1967 and ever since they fear losing that sense of unity, of common purpose, identity, fear, and hope. Indeed, every war -- even one that looks so pointless and horrifying as this one does to the rest of the world -- creates a huge spike of support for whoever leads it. You see this elsewhere -- Margaret Thatcher's Falklands War and George H.W. Bush's original Gulf War are textbook examples, although for the US World War II was the one that really hit the spot, putting us so far on top of the world that in many ways, despite many disasters, we still haven't crashed to earth yet -- but perhaps the sense is even stronger in a nation with such broad and deep military service, where the preferred career path in politics or business is promotion in the IDF (or Israel's numerous other security agencies).

Those four points are all true, self-reinforcing in various combinations at various times. They help explain why David Ben-Gurion, for instance, sabotaged his successor for fear that Moshe Sharrett might normalize relations with Israel's Arab neighbors, turning Israel into an ordinary country. They help explain why Abba Eban was so disingenuous following 1967, giving lip service to "land-for-peace" while never allowing any negotiations to take place. They help explain why a long series of Israeli politicians -- Shimon Peres and Ariel Sharon are the two that stand out in my mind -- tied up so much land by encouraging illegal settlements, and why today's West Bank settlers retrace the steps both of the Yishuv's original settlers and of even earlier Americans encroaching on Indian lands. They help explain why Israelis habitually label anyone who crosses them a terrorist (something John Kerry was accused of last week), and why Israel habitually refuses to negotiate with those it sees as enemies. They help explain why Israel places so little value on the life of others. (One irony is that a nation which has no capital punishment for its own citizens, even when one kills a Prime Minister, yet has casually engaged in hundreds of extrajudicial assassinations.)

I've gone on at some length here about Israel's innate tendencies because there seems to be little else directing Netanyahu's process. It used to be the case that the Zionist movement depended on forming at least temporary alliances with foreign powers to advance their goals. For instance, they got the UK to issue the Balfour Declaration and commit to creating a "Jewish homeland" in Palestine. Later, when the UK quit, the nascent Israel depended first on the Soviet Union then on France for arms. Eventually, they found their preferred ally in the US, but for a long time US presidents could limit Israel's worst instincts, as when Eisenhower in 1956-57 pressured Israel into withdrawing from Egypt's Sinai, or when Carter in 1978 reversed an Israeli effort to enter Lebanon's Civil War. (Neither of those limits proved long-lasting: Israel retook Sinai when a more accommodating LBJ was president, and moved recklessly into Lebanon in 1982 under Reagan's indifference.) As late as 1992, voters were sensitive enough to Israel's US relationship to replace obdurate Yitzhak Shamir with the much friendlier Yitzhak Rabin (a former Israeli ambassador to the US and initiator of the Oslo Peace Process -- ultimately a sham, but one that broke the ice with the US, and got him killed by a right-wing fanatic). But since then Bush II turned out to be putty in Ariel Sharon's grubby hands, and Obama has proven to be even more spineless viz. Netanyahu. So whatever limits America might have posed to Israeli excesses have gone by the wayside: Israeli cabinet ministers can accuse Kerry of terrorism just for proposing a ceasefire, confident that such rudeness won't even tempt Congress to hold back on an extra $225M in military aid.

Still, you have to ask, "why Gaza?" Two times -- in 1993 when Israel ceded virtually all of Gaza to the newly formed Palestinian Authority, and in 2005 when Israel dismantled its last settlements in Gaza -- Israel signaled to the world that it had no substantive desire to administer or keep Gaza itself. (It is still possible that Israel could annex all of the West Bank and Jerusalem and extend citizenship to Palestinian inhabitants there -- there are Israelis who advocate such a "one-state solution" there as an alternative to trying to separate out a Palestinian state given the scattering of Israeli settlements in the territory, but there is no way that Israel would entertain the possibility of giving citizenship to Palestinians in Gaza.) However, Israel has continued to insist on controlling Gaza's borders and airspace, and limited its offshore reach to a measly three kilometers. Then in 2006 Palestinians voted for the wrong party -- a slate affiliated with Hamas, which was still listed by the US and Israel as a "terrorist entity" (as was the PLO before it was rehabilitated by signing the Oslo Accords). The US then attempted to organize a coup against Hamas, which backfired in Gaza, leaving the Strip under Hamas control. From that point, Israel, with US and Egyptian backing, shut down the border traffic between Gaza and the outside world -- a blockade which has severely hampered Gaza ever since.

Hamas has since weaved back and forth, appealing for international help in breaking the blockade, and failing that getting the world's attention by launching small rockets into Israel. The rockets themselves cause Israel little damage, but whenever Israel feels challenged it responds with overwhelming violence -- in 2006, 2008, 2012, and now in 2014 that violence has reached the level of war. In between there have been long periods with virtually no rocket fire, with resumption usually triggered by one of Israel's "targeted assassinations." Between 2008-12 the blockade was partially relieved by brisk use of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt. In 2013 Gaza benefited from relatively free above-ground trade with Egypt, but that came to an end with the US-backed military coup that ended Egypt's brief experiment with democracy (another case of the "wrong" people, as viewed by the US and Israel, getting elected). With Egypt as well as Israel tightening the blockade of Gaza, followed by the mass arrest of Hamas people in the West Bank, rocket fire resumed, only to be met by the recent widespread slaughter.

Hamas has thus far insisted that any ceasefire include an end to the blockade. As I've written before, that seems like a completely reasonable demand. Israel has mistreated Gaza ever since occupying it in 1967, and that treatment became even worse after 2005, becoming little short of sadistic. Hamas has even offered to turn its control of the Gaza administration back over to a "unified" PA, which would be backed but not controlled by Hamas. (In my view an even better solution would be to spin Gaza off as an independent West Palestine state, totally free of Israeli interference.) Israel's assertions regarding Gaza are inevitably confused: they claim they need to blockade Gaza for security against missiles that in fact are fired mostly to protest the blockade (the other cases are a weak response to Israel's far more powerful arsenal). On the other hand, Israeli control keeps Gaza from ever developing a normal economy, and Israel's tactics (like targeted assassinations) keep Gaza in a state of constant terror.

Throughout history, there have been two basic approaches to counterterrorism: one is to kill off all the terrorists one-by-one; the other is to negotiate with the terrorists and let them enter into responsible democratic political procedures. The former has worked on rare occasions, usually when the group was extremely small and short-lived (Che Guevara in Bolivia, Shining Path in Peru). The outer limit was probably the Algerian anti-Islamist war of 1991-94 where Algeria killed its way through more than ten generations of leaders before the movement self-destructed, but even there the conflict ended with negotiations and amnesty. Israel's practice of collective punishment pretty much guarantees an endless supply of future enemies. As long as you understand that Israel's intent and desire is to fight forever, such tactics make sense. And as long as Israel can maintain that 600-to-1 kill ratio, someone like Netanyahu's not going to lose any sleep.

Inside Israel military censorship keeps the gory details out of sight and out of mind, reinforcing the unity that makes this such a happy little war, but elsewhere it's all becoming increasingly clear: how flimsy Israel's excuses are, how much they destroy and how indifferent they are to the pain they inflict, indeed how callous and tone-deaf they have become. Moreover, this war shows what chumps the US (and Europe) have become in allying themselves with Israel. No matter how this war ends, more people than ever before are going to be shocked that we ever allowed it to happen. Even more so if they come to realize that there was never any good reason behind it.

Back in June, when all this crisis amounted to was three kidnapped Israeli settler teens and Israel's misdirected and hamfisted "Operation Brother's Keeper," I argued that someone with a good journalistic nose could write a whole book on the affair, one that would reveal everything distorted and rotten in Israel's occupation mindset, possibly delving even into the warped logic behind those kidnappings. Since then, I've been surprised by three things: the scale of human tragedy has become innumerable (at least in a mere book -- only dry statistics come close to measuring the destruction, and they still miss the terror, even for the few people who intuit what they measure); how virulent and unchecked the genocidal impulses of so many Israelis have become (the trend, of course, has been in that direction, and every recent war has seen some outbursts, but nothing like now); and how utterly incompetent and impotent the US and the international community has been (aside from Condoleezza Rice's "birthpangs of a new Middle East" speech during the 2006 Lebanon War, the US and UN have always urged a ceasefire, but this time they've been so in thrall to Netanyahu's talking points they've scarcely bothered to think much less developed any backbone to act). It's a tall order, but this may be Israel's most senseless and shameful war ever.

This week's scattered links:

  • Arno J Mayer: The Future of Israel and the Decline of the American Empire: This originally ran in 2009 following Israel's 2008 war with Gaza, but nothing since has invalidated it.

    Israel is in the grip of a kind of collective schizophrenia. Not only its governors but the majority of its Jewish population have delusions of both grandeur and persecution, making for a distortion of reality as a chosen people and part of a superior Western civilization. They consider themselves more cerebral, reasonable, moral, and dynamic than Arabs and Muslims generally, and Palestinians in particular. At the same time they feel themselves to be the ultimate incarnation of the Jewish people's unique suffering through the ages, still subject to constant insecurity and defenselessness in the face of ever-threatening extreme and unmerited punishment.

    Such a psyche leads to hubris and vengefulness, the latter a response to the perpetual Jewish torment said to have culminated, as if by a directive purpose, in the Holocaust. Remembering the Shoah is Israel's Eleventh Commandment and central to the nation's civil religion and Weltanschauung. Family, school, synagogue, and official culture propagate its prescriptive narrative, decontextualized and surfeited with ethnocentrism. The re-memorizing of victimization is ritualized on Yom Ha Shoah and institutionalized by Yad Vashem.

    Israel uses the Holocaust to conjure the specter of a timeless existential peril, in turn used to justify its warfare state and unbending diplomacy. [ . . . ]

    Although its leaders avoid saying so in public, Israel does not want peace, or a permanent comprehensive settlement, except on its own terms. They do not dare spell these out publicly, as they presume the enemy's unconditional surrender, even enduring submission. Instead the Palestinians continue to be blamed for a chronic state of war that entails Israel's continuing self-endangerment and militarization. [ . . . ]

    Since Israel's foundation, the failure to pursue Arab-Jewish understanding and cooperation has been Zionism's "great sin of omission" (Judah Magnes). At every major turn since 1947-48 Israel has had the upper hand in the conflict with the Palestinians, its ascendancy at once military, diplomatic, and economic. This prepotency became especially pronounced after the Six Day War of 1967. Consider the annexations and settlements; occupation and martial law; settler pogroms and expropriations; border crossings and checkpoints; walls and segregated roads. No less mortifying for the Palestinians has been the disproportionately large number of civilians killed and injured, and the roughly 10,000 languishing in Israeli prisons.

    Mayer, by the way, is one of the most distinguished historians of our times, known especially for his landmark book on Versailles and the post-WWI settlement. More recent books include Why Did the Heavens Not Darken? The Final Solution in History and Plowshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel.

  • Nathan Thrall: Hamas's Chances: In this conflict, Hamas has been made to look bad by rejecting the one-sided ceasefire proposals of Israel, Egypt, and the US (although Israel was the first to gun down the latter, branding John Kerry as a terrorist). Perhaps Hamas simply remembers Israel's duplicity the last time they negotiated a ceasefire (details of that ceasefire have rarely been discussed):

    The 21 November 2012 ceasefire that ended an eight-day-long exchange of Gazan rocket fire and Israeli aerial bombardment was never implemented. It stipulated that all Palestinian factions in Gaza would stop hostilities against Israel, that Israel would end attacks against Gaza by land, sea and air -- including the 'targeting of individuals' (assassinations, typically by drone-fired missile) -- and that the closure of Gaza would essentially end as a result of Israel's 'opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents' free movements and targeting residents in border areas.' An additional clause noted that 'other matters as may be requested shall be addressed,' a reference to private commitments by Egypt and the US to help thwart weapons smuggling into Gaza, though Hamas has denied this interpretation of the clause.

    During the three months that followed the ceasefire, Shin Bet recorded only a single attack: two mortar shells fired from Gaza in December 2012. Israeli officials were impressed. But they convinced themselves that the quiet on Gaza's border was primarily the result of Israeli deterrence and Palestinian self-interest. Israel therefore saw little incentive in upholding its end of the deal. In the three months following the ceasefire, its forces made regular incursions into Gaza, strafed Palestinian farmers and those collecting scrap and rubble across the border, and fired at boats, preventing fishermen from accessing the majority of Gaza's waters.

    The end of the closure never came. Crossings were repeatedly shut. So-called buffer zones -- agricultural lands that Gazan farmers couldn't enter without being fired on -- were reinstated. Imports declined, exports were blocked, and fewer Gazans were given exit permits to Israel and the West Bank.

    Israel had committed to holding indirect negotiations with Hamas over the implementation of the ceasefire but repeatedly delayed them, at first because it wanted to see whether Hamas would stick to its side of the deal, then because Netanyahu couldn't afford to make further concessions to Hamas in the weeks leading up to the January 2013 elections, and then because a new Israeli coalition was being formed and needed time to settle in. The talks never took place. The lesson for Hamas was clear. Even if an agreement was brokered by the US and Egypt, Israel could still fail to honour it.

    Yet Hamas largely continued to maintain the ceasefire to Israel's satisfaction. It set up a new police force tasked with arresting Palestinians who tried to launch rockets. In 2013, fewer were fired from Gaza than in any year since 2003, soon after the first primitive projectiles were shot across the border. Hamas needed time to rebuild its arsenal, fortify its defences and prepare for the next battle, when it would again seek an end to Gaza's closure by force of arms. But it also hoped that Egypt would open itself to Gaza, thereby ending the years during which Egypt and Israel had tried to dump responsibility for the territory and its impoverished inhabitants on each other and making less important an easing of the closure by Israel.

    In July 2013 the coup in Cairo led by General Sisi dashed Hamas's hopes. His military regime blamed the ousted President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, its Palestinian offshoot, for all of Egypt's woes. Both organisations were banned. Morsi was formally charged with conspiring with Hamas to destabilise the country. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and hundreds of Morsi's supporters were sentenced to death. The Egyptian military used increasingly threatening rhetoric against Hamas, which feared that Egypt, Israel and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority would take advantage of its weakness to launch a co-ordinated military campaign. Travel bans were imposed on Hamas officials. The number of Gazans allowed to cross to Egypt was reduced to a small fraction of what it had been before the coup. Nearly all of the hundreds of tunnels that had brought goods from Egypt to Gaza were closed. Hamas had used taxes levied on those goods to pay the salaries of more than 40,000 civil servants in Gaza.

    Thrall also has more details on the "unification" agreement with Fatah, which is widely seen as the main reason Netanyahu singled out Hamas -- not that he really cares which Palestinian faction he refuses to do business with:

    The final option, which Hamas eventually chose, was to hand over responsibility for governing Gaza to appointees of the Fatah-dominated Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, despite having defeated it in the 2006 elections.

    Hamas paid a high price, acceding to nearly all of Fatah's demands. The new PA government didn't contain a single Hamas member or ally, and its senior figures remained unchanged. Hamas agreed to allow the PA to move several thousand members of its security forces back to Gaza, and to place its guards at borders and crossings, with no reciprocal positions for Hamas in the West Bank security apparatus. Most important, the government said it would comply with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by the US and its European allies: non-violence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel. Though the agreement stipulated that the PA government refrain from politics, Abbas said it would pursue his political programme. Hamas barely protested.

    The agreement was signed on 23 April, after Kerry's peace talks had broken down; had the talks been making progress, the US would have done its best to block the move. But the Obama administration was disappointed in the positions Israel took during the talks, and publicly blamed it for its part in their failure. Frustration helped push the US to recognise the new Palestinian government despite Israel's objections. But that was as far as the US was prepared to go. Behind the scenes, it was pressuring Abbas to avoid a true reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. [ . . . ]

    The fears of Hamas activists were confirmed after the government was formed. The terms of the agreement were not only unfavourable but unimplemented. The most basic conditions of the deal -- payment of the government employees who run Gaza and an opening of the crossing with Egypt -- were not fulfilled. For years Gazans had been told that the cause of their immiseration was Hamas rule. Now it was over, their conditions only got worse.

    The June 12 kidnappings took place ten days after the new PA government was formed. That soon led to the current war, which in some ways has given Hamas another lease on life (peculiar as that seems):

    For Hamas, the choice wasn't so much between peace and war as between slow strangulation and a war that had a chance, however slim, of loosening the squeeze. It sees itself in a battle for its survival. Its future in Gaza hangs on the outcome. Like Israel, it's been careful to set rather limited aims, goals to which much of the international community is sympathetic. The primary objective is that Israel honour three past agreements: the Shalit prisoner exchange, including the release of the re-arrested prisoners; the November 2012 ceasefire, which calls for an end to Gaza's closure; and the April 2014 reconciliation agreement, which would allow the Palestinian government to pay salaries in Gaza, staff its borders, receive much needed construction materials and open the pedestrian crossing with Egypt.

    These are not unrealistic goals, and there are growing signs that Hamas stands a good chance of achieving some of them. Obama and Kerry have said they believe a ceasefire should be based on the November 2012 agreement. The US also changed its position on the payment of salaries, proposing in a draft framework for a ceasefire submitted to Israel on 25 July that funds be transferred to Gazan employees. [ . . . ]

    The greatest costs, of course, have been borne by Gaza's civilians, who make up the vast majority of the more than 1600 lives lost by the time of the ceasefire announced and quickly broken on 1 August. The war has wiped out entire families, devastated neighbourhoods, destroyed homes, cut off all electricity and greatly limited access to water. It will take years for Gaza to recover, if indeed it ever does. [ . . . ]

    The obvious solution is to let the new Palestinian government return to Gaza and reconstruct it. Israel can claim it is weakening Hamas by strengthening its enemies. Hamas can claim it won the recognition of the new government and a significant lifting of the blockade. This solution would of course have been available to Israel, the US, Egypt and the PA in the weeks and months before the war began, before so many lives were shattered.

  • More Israel links:

    • Joel Beinin: Racism is the Foundation of Israel's Operation Protective Edge: Quotes Israeli Knesset member Ayelet Shaked, urging the wholesale slaughter of women in Gaza: "Now, this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They must follow their sons. Nothing would be more just. They should go, as well as the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there." Another Israeli urged that the mothers and sisters be raped. "Racism has become a legitimate, indeed an integral, component of Israeli public culture, making assertions like these seem 'normal.' The public devaluation of Arab life enables a society that sees itself as 'enlightened' and 'democratic' to repeatedly send its army to slaughter the largely defenseless population of the Gaza Strip -- 1.8 million people [ . . . ] imprisoned since 1994."
    • Juan Cole: Top 5 Ways the US Is Israel's Accomplice in War Crimes in Gaza: the US shares raw signals intelligence directly with Israel; the US continually replenishes Israel's ammunition; the US pressures Egypt to uphold the blockade of Gaza; "Since 2012, the USA has exported $276 million worth of basic weapons and munitions to Israel"; the US actively opposed nonmember observer state status to Palestine at the UN (which would give Palestine recourse to the International Criminal Court, which would offer a legal pathway for challenging Israeli war crimes).
    • Evan Jones: A Short History of Israeli Impunity: starts with a semi-famous 1891 quote from Ahad Ha'am reporting on the first Zionists in Palestine: "[Our brethren in Eretz Israel] were slaves in their land of exile and they suddenly find themselves with unlimited freedom . . . This sudden change has engendered in them an impulse to despotism as always happens when 'a slave becomes a king,' and behold they walk with the Arabs in hostility and cruelty, unjustly encroaching on them'." Of course, it only goes downhill from there. The rest of the long piece is pure screed, in case that's what you're in the mood for.
    • David Kirkpatrick: Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent: "After the military ouster of the Islamist government in Cairo last year, Egypt has led a new coalition of Arab states -- including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- that has effectively lined up with Israel in its fight against Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip." Israel supporters (David Brooks and Charles Krauthammer are two I recall) are quick to enlist this "coalition" as proof of how out of step Hamas is -- I've even heard Syria added to the list. Each of those has its own peculiar reasons, but net effect is likely to backfire, as it aligns the Arab despots with Israel while relegating the entire Palestinian resistance against Israel to extreme Islamists -- as if they are the only ones with sufficient integrity to defend human rights.
    • Philip Kleinfeld: Racists Are Rampaging Through Israel: Many, many examples. "Israel has never been the kind of free and open society it has tried so hard to project. Racism did not begin with the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir or the beating and attempted lynching of Jamal Julani. 'Zionist doctrine has always pushed society in a very particular direction,' the academic Marcelo Svirsky told me. But it is getting worse. [ . . . ] One of the most striking aspects of this 'phenomenon' is how young the people taking part appear to be. Those posting on social media, running amok in lynch mobs, and crashing leftist rallies with sticks, chains, and brass knuckles are, for the most part, young people -- many in their mid-20s, some in their teens."
    • Stephen Robert: There'll be more Gazas without a two-state solution: The author still hopes for a "two-state solution," but realizes that regardless of what Netanyahu may say when it is convenient, he will never allow that. "The Netanyahu coalition favors a bi-national state, a state where a large percentage of its inhabitants will not be citizens and will be governed without their consent. They will continue, as has been the case for forty-seven years, to be denied the most basic rights of a civil society."
    • Richard Silverstein: Israeli TV Poll, What to Give Barack Obama for His Birthday? 48% Say: Ebola: "Doesn't this tell us quite a bit about the Israeli political environment? The leader of Israel's only real ally in the world is despised so much that Israelis would like to see him dead." As I recall, during Bush's two terms the right-wing hype machine was ever-so-sensitive about any perceived slight against America's president, out of respect for the office and the country if nothing else. But that all went away when Obama was elected -- given the things Republicans routinely say about Obama, it's no wonder that Israelis think it's all right to pile on.
    • Is Iron Dome better at destroying missiles or spreading fear: Quotes a letter: "One commentator rightly said that Iron Dome functions as the Deus-ex-Machina of this war. Everyone but us is convinced it saves lives. We see it more as a psychological warfare device. Curiously, much of the explosion sound that gets people so worked up here is largely produced by the Iron Dome system itself. What is striking if not outright suspicious is that there is hardly any information in the aftermath of interceptions; we know nothing about it and nobody cares."
    • Killings of 2 protesters on 'Day of Anger' brings West Bank deaths to 13, and Palestinian teens assaulted and detained by Israeli soldiers after being attacked by settlers in Hebron: Two more of Kate's extraordinary compendiums of links covering stories rarely reported elsewhere.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Notes on Everyday Life

Back in the early 1970s, I fell in with four other young leftists, mostly fellow students at Washington University in St. Louis. They wanted to publish an underground radical rag, and "Notes on Everyday Life" was their suggested title. This came readily opon the discovery that the personal was political as well as vice versa, and that both were connected to the technology and social relations of production and distribution, something so all pervasive that it permeated all human culture. We were curious about how all this worked, but under it all we were unhappy about the inequities that resulted and the violence that the system depended upon. In 1972, for instance, the US was still engaged in the longest and most dishonest war in the history of the republic, while the US president was engaged in the most cynical and callous acts to date to undermine democracy. We didn't figure we could do much about this, but by poking at the frayed edges of what seemed like a system, we felt we could raise a bit of consciousness, the more questions people would ask about what's worth doing and what isn't.

Little did we know then that forty-some years later the period of time we were so unsettled by would come to resemble a lost golden era, the point in US history when incomes and outcomes were closer to being equitable than before or since, a period of great reforms and transformations, a period of relative reason, one where the courts sided with an expansion of freedom, and after Vietnam one of relative peace and prosperity. But to be fair to ourselves, it now appears as though the tide had already turned -- I now make the "peak oil" year of 1969 to have been pivotal, but the 1970s saw the emergence of an ever more aggressive financial class and the always corruptible American political system soon succumbed.

After a couple years, we moved on: one toward a sociology Ph.D., one wound up teaching remedial high school, one emerged as a slumlord in St. Louis. I became an amateur rock critic and a professional software engineer, only to find post-2001 events push me back into writing more about politics again. Sensing that my website had become torn between those with an interest in music and those preoccupied with politics, I thought it would be a good idea to sort my interests out into two relatively specialized websites, and I named each for an early effort at publishing: Terminal Zone for music, Notes on Everyday Life for more political interests -- admittedly, a division we wouldn't have embraced in the early 1970s, when Notes had much to say about music. Still, those sites floundered, with earlier iterations wiped out by a server failure. The first drafts of both were mostly cloned from my blog. I don't really have a plan at the moment: just two domain names, a dedicated server, and some software to learn.

Certainly one way I might like this to develop would be if some young nerdy types were to pick up on the original ideas we were tuned into and apply them anew. Given how far America has backslid, much of what we thought all but too obvious forty years ago still needs to be broadly relearned.

Daily Log

I've been hearing complaints about my blog being inaccessible, and the last couple times I discarded comments the page failed to load. So I did some exploring. I was able to open the database through the shell interface. Note the following table sizes:

  • serendipity_authors: 1 (user table)
  • serendipity_category: 17 (category labels)
  • serendipity_comments: 529
  • serendipity_config: 89
  • serendipity_entries: 2175 (posts)
  • serendipity_entrycat: 2293 (category associations for posts)
  • serendipity_exits: 305658
  • serendipity_images: 0
  • serendipity_plugins: 17
  • serendipity_references: 4950 (urls referenced in posts)
  • serendipity_referrers: 6594
  • serendipity_suppress: "Can't open file: 'serendipity_suppress.MYI'. (errno: 145)"

More table notes:


  • entry_id int(11) not null default '0'
  • day date not null default '0000-00-00'
  • count int(11) not null default '0'
  • scheme varchar(5) default null
  • host varchar(128) not null default ''
  • port varchar(5) default null
  • path varchar(255) default null
  • primary key (host,day,entry_id)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 23570 [23527] rated (+43), 541 [548] unrated (-7).

Finally got hot here in Wichita last week, so I spent most of my time inside, listening to music, trying to add some flesh to the bones of a Rhapsody Streamnotes column that should be posted before July burns out. The new jazz queue is running low, and much of what remains (possibly including some records below) doesn't officially release until September, so I focused on Rhapsody. So I wound up going for old jazz, glancing at my Penguin Guide 4-star list but digging a little deeper when something caught my fancy -- for instance, Trevor Watts' The Deep Blue was never reviewed by Penguin Guide (although an earlier, similar solo album was). The Chris Anderson and Nancy Harrow twofers also came out later: Anderson I looked up when I was doing his Charlie Haden duo last week, and I noticed Harrow as a side-effect.

The big discovery was Conrad Bauer's wonderful Zentralquartett. I had previously heard (and graded A-) their 2006 album, 11 Songs -- Aus Teutschen Landen, back when I was on Intakt's mailing list, and had long had Plié on my "shopping list," so I expected good things and found even better. Intakt is making more and more of their catalogue available on Rhapsody, and I'm picking them up about as fast as I can find them: 27 in past Streamnotes columns (including a deep dive into Irène Schweizer's work -- her Portrait and Alexander von Schlippenbach's Monk's Casino were the two top releases of my tenure with the label) -- and eight more below. I'll also note that when I received them, their jewel boxes were packed precisely into indestructible mailers, by far the most impressive attention to detail I've seen. (Swiss, you know.)

Not much in the mail this week, but there was one prize, a book by Rick Lopez: The William Parker Sessionography: A Work in Progress. Back cover says, "Attempting a complete historical arc." The book comes to 482 large (8.5x11-inch) pages with 370 illustrations, paperback, weighs 3.2 lbs., and sells for $50 list. The data has long been accumulating on Lopez's website, conveniently in one huge file here, and it chronicles everything Parker played since January 19, 1974 (or February 1, 1974, since Parker noted that he was not at the previous concert), up to the moment. The book, of course, will be instantly obsolete -- the last entry there is for the four sets Parker played at the Nineteenth Annual Vision Festival June 11-15 this year, but it's lovely just to thumb through.

Presumably I got my copy because Lopez used a quote of mine as a blurb: "I want to point out the wonderful discographies that Rick Lopez has produced . . . -- treasure troves of information, some of the finest scholarship available on the internet today." As the plural indicates, Parker has not been the only musician blessed with Lopez's attention, but he has been by far the most prodigious. The quote saves me from writing a review -- not that I won't someday -- but for now let's add that it's also, or should soon be, some of the finest scholarship available in America's finer libraries.

My quote, by the way, comes from a piece I originally wrote for Static in 2003, called Bass Fiddles and Nu Bop: A Consumer Guide to William Parker, Matthew Shipp, et al., which offered Consumer Guide-style reviews to 57 albums. (The link goes to my archive, which includes many additional notes -- that's where you'll find the blurb comment.) The idea for the piece came up after Shipp and Thirsty Ear sent me a huge pile of albums for my Rolling Stone Record Guide entry on Shipp, then Steven Joerg of AUM Fidelity matched that with a deep selection of Parker's work for his label. Several other musicians and label heads helped out, and I made a few strategic purchases. At the time, I distilled a discography from Lopez's data (and other non-Parker sources), listing 259 records, 97 of which I had heard. At some point I should collect all the subsequent reviews and create an updated page -- there must be another 50-100 records since 2003, depending on tightly we narrow the focus on Parker.

A couple more listening notes: I finally broke down and gave the new Miles Davis bootleg one fast 4-hour spin, so the grade there is very perfunctory. The Jarrett-Corea combo is more famous than great, with neither doing what they do best but having fun nonetheless. There's a good chance that comparative listening would have found some chunks (relatively speaking) in this particular set -- certainly Dark Magus and Live at Philharmonic Hall are superior. I note that the one the new release build on is the second weakest of the five -- the worst is the slightly earlier Miles Davis Live at the Fillmore East (March 7, 1970), with Jarrett-Corea the main culprits. Still, I haven't listened to any of those records in years, so it's possible that I was swayed by the reacquaintance with the always attractive trumpet-on-rhythm shtick. On the other hand, the 4-CD set offers more choices that are less exhausting than one 4-hour fly-through. And like I said, listening through my computer I can neither confirm nor deny reports of superior sound. In a set this size, all this matters more than usual. This is one case where I requested a copy and didn't get a reply.

The New Orleans Rhythm Kings also got a relatively cursory one-shot listen. Again, actual CDs would have been a plus, but I was inclined to be generous: I have about half of this on a 1992 Milestone release (the Jelly Roll Morton sides), a set I love, and the sound here (even on computer) is clearly better; the record is a Penguin Guide Crown selection, historically important -- the sort of thing many of us would want to have just to have a proper overview of the history -- and the last third or so simply blew me away. Normally, I wouldn't give a full A to a record heard just once, but consider this a very educated guess.

That's probably true of Cecil Taylor's Silent Tongues as well, but being a single I gave it two spins. What I didn't do was any comparative listening to other Taylor solos, of which there are many. Penguin Guide has this at 4-stars, but they rate two others even higher (For Olim and The Tree of Life, both in their "core collection"). I have those records at B and B+ respectively, last heard long ago and quite possibly underrated. With Taylor as with Tatum, you are probably an all-or-nothing type -- at least most critics are, Morton & Cook included. I'm not: I admire both but don't want to be inundated by either, and I recall I went through a stage where a lot of Taylor's stuff turned me off.

More depth on all of this in Rhapsody Streamnotes, out later this week. Don't know whether I'll continue this pace into August. Maybe travel of something to take a break. By the way, three A- records among the relatively hit-and-miss new records. One was recommended by Jason Gubbels, one came off Chris Monsen's list, one came from both plus Michael Tatum (who gave me the first heads up). Also one A which just popped up in my mailbox.

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

  • Dee Alexander: Songs My Mother Loves (2014, Blujazz): shows Mom has good taste, daughter has the spunk, and Chicago friends help out [cd]: B+(**)
  • Gerald Beckett: The Messenger (2013 [2014], Summit): flute jazz, flittering over boppish sax, sloshing along agreeably [cd]: B
  • Todd Bishop Group: Travelogue (2014, Origin): flighty postbop quartet, with Richard Cole on reeds, Weber Iago (dba Jasnam Daya Singh) on piano [cd]: B
  • Drew Ceccato/Adam Tinkle: Eidolon (2014, Edgetone): sax duo, free and prickly but rather hemmed in, as if wondering when the drummer will appear [cd]: B+(*)
  • Dagens Ungdom: Dagens Ungdom (2014, Metronomicon Audio): Norwegian pop-rock band, reportedly jangly but I'm struck by the elegant flow, not that I know [r]: B+(***)
  • Drumheller: Sometimes Machine (2014, Barnyard): Canadian quintet, alto-trombone-guitar-bass-drums, rotating all around, free-ish but slight [r]: B+(*)
  • Dub Thompson: 9 Songs (2013 [2014], Dead Oceans, EP): EP from two 19-year-olds who have digested postpunk from Pere Ubu on and aren't timid about noize [r]: A-
  • The Equity & Social Justice Quartet: The Whisper of Flowers (2013 [2014], Edgetone): genteel free jazz from the Bay Area people's republic [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott: What Have We Become (2014, Virgin): post-Beautiful Southies struggling in the real world, their sound to comfort [cd]: A-
  • Dave Kain: Raising Kain (2014, Stop Time): guitarist backed with bass and drums, mainstream grooves but not obviously in anyone's school [cd]: B+(**)
  • Søren Kjaegaard/Ben Street/Andrew Cyrille: Syvmileskridt (2014, ILK Music): piano trio, moderate tempos, seems basic but builds stature [bc]: B+(***)
  • La Dispute: Rooms of the House (2014, Vagrant): Michigan post-hardcore grind opens up for Jordan Dreyer's more-spoken-than-sung vocals [r]: B+(***)
  • Le1f: Hey (2014, Terrible/XL, EP): ex-Greedhead rapper/beatmaker makes baby steps to big label stardom, relying on margins between catchy and weird [r]: B+(**)
  • Terry Marshall: Arrival (2014, self-released): run-of-the-mill jazz-funk pianist, heavy with vocals that grow more stilted the jazzier they aim [cd]: C+
  • Bob Mould: Beauty & Pain (2014, Merge): sure it's a comeback, has his trademark sound, even puts that aside for a couple decent songs [r]: B+(**)
  • Real Estate: Atlas (2014, Domino): easy-going, tuneful alt-rock, the gentle lope touched up with a bit of guitar jangle [r]: B+(**)
  • Jochen Rueckert: We Make the Rules (2014, Whirlwind): drummer-led postbop quartet, powered by Lage Lund guitar, flavored by Mark Turner sax [cd]: B+(**)
  • Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (2013 [2014], Tzadik): "rhythm & Jews" thing, honking sax and shofar vying with best-ever Marc Ribot guitar and more [cdr]: A
  • Vinnie Sperrazza: Apocryphal (2012 [2014], Loyal Label): drummer, writes for Loren Stillman-Brandon Seabrook-Eivind Opsvik, alto weepy, guitar powerhouse [cd]: B+(**)
  • Peter Van Huffel/Michael Bates/Jeff Davis: Boom Crane (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): free sax trio, leader jagged but so much more in the bass and drums [r]: A-

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

  • Miles Davis: Miles at the Fillmore (Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3) (1970 [2014], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): four nights complete, funk grooves with trumpet and rough spots [r]: B+(***)
  • Nancy Harrow: Wild Women Don't Have the Blues/You Never Know (1960-62 [2014], Fresh Sound): a breeze with Buck Clayton's stars, second makes her work [r]: B+(***)
  • Craig Leon: Early Electronic Works: Nommos Visiting (1981-82 [2014], Aparté): Ramones producer indulges in Eno-Hassel-like exotica, erring on the pop-dance side [r]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • George Adams/Don Pullen: Don't Lose Control (1979 [1980], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Adams-Don Pullen Quartet: Life Line (1981, Timeless): [r]: B+(*)
  • George Adams & Don Pullen: Melodic Excursions (1982, Timeless): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Chris Anderson Trio: Inverted Image/My Romance (1960-61 [2012], Fresh Sound): little-known Chicago pianist, two buoyant trio albums early, more noticed in 1990s [r]: A-
  • Conrad Bauer: Hummelsummen (2002 [2003], Intakt): wide-ranging solo trombone exercises, subject to the usual limits but gives them a rush [r]: B+(**)
  • Conrad Bauer/Johannes Bauer: Bauer Bauer (1993 [1995], Intakt): two brothers, two trombones, the extra dding harmonic lustre to the limited sonics [r]: B+(**)
  • Conrad Bauer/Peter Kowald/Günter Sommer: Between Heaven and Earth (2001 [2003], Intakt): starts with freaky bass sounds; trombone answers, supersedes [r]: A-
  • Fred Hersch: Fred Hersch Plays Rodgers & Hammerstein (1996, Nonesuch): slyly, artfully, improvising to hide the familiar refrains and make them not matter [r]: B+(***)
  • New Orleans Rhythm Kings: The Complete Set: 1922-1925 (1922-25 [2001], Retrieval, 2CD): pathbreaking early jazz group, with and without Jelly Roll Morton [r]: A
  • Don Pullen: Healing Force (1976, Black Saint): early solo piano, more muscle than finesse, acute rhythmic sense but no signature thrills [r]: B+(**)
  • The Don Pullen Quintet: The Sixth Sense (1985, Black Saint): muddled group, avant rhythm section, postbop/retro horns (Olu Dara, Donald Harrison) [r]: B
  • The Cecil Taylor Quartet: Looking Ahead! (1958 [1990], Contemporary/OJC): sprightly piano trio plus vibes to trick up the odder rhythms, looking but not there yet [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor: Silent Tongues (1974, Arista/Freedom): if not his best solo album, the first to show off his whole bag of tricks without tricking you [r]: A-
  • Cecil Taylor: Algonquin (1999 [2004], Bridge): duo with Mat Maneri, the violin darkly shrouding the powerhouse piano [r]: B+(***)
  • Trevor Watts Moiré Music Trio: Moire (1995, Intakt): alto/soprano sax trio, the repeat patterns built on Paapa Mensah's African drums [r]: A-
  • Trevor Watts: The Deep Blue (2008 [2009], Jazzwerkstatt): solo trick, marvellous sax runs over tasty but clean rhythm tracks of synth & percussion [r]: A-
  • Zentralquartett [Conrad Bauer/Günter Sommer/Ulrich Gumpert/Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky]: Zentralquartett (1990 [2001], Intakt): mixed bag of trombone-drums-piano-alto sax [r]: B+(***)
  • Zentralquartett: Plié (1994, Intakt): Bauer's trombone the engine here, allowing the alto sax to dwell in the stratosphere, rhythm go boogie [r]: A
  • Zentralquartett: Careless Love (1997 [1998], Intakt): so many facets to this group, courting chaos, or minimalism, or waltzing with W.C. Handy [r]: A-
  • Zentralquartett/Synopsis: Auf Der Elbe Schwimmt Ein Rosa Krokodil (1974 [2008], Intakt): the full fury (and youth) of the times, closer spectacular [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Danny Fox Trio: Wide Eyed (Hot Cup)
  • Eric Harland's Voyager: Vipassana (GSI Studios): advance, August 11
  • Rick Lopez: The William Parker Sessionography: A Work in Progress (Centering): book
  • Amanda Ruzza/Mauricio Zottarelli: Glasses, No Glasses (Pimenta Music): September 8
  • Reggie Watkins: One for Miles, One for Maynard (Corona Music): August 26

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Craig Leon: Early Electronic Works: Nommos/Visiting (1981-82 [2014], Aparte): Best known as the producer of rock albums, starting in the 1970s with eponymous LPs Ramones, Blondie, and Suicide along with Richard Hell & the Voidoids' Blank Generation, later Dwight Twilley, The Bangles, and the Go-Betweens' Tallulah, and much later classical albums, but in the early 1980s he released these two albums of electronic music -- too beatwise for "new music" but not snappy enough for techno, closest in spirit to the ambient exotica Jon Hassell was developing, but sui generis nonetheless. [Also available on 2LP as Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos/Visiting (RVNG Intl.); this CD edition appears to be missing one 15:20 track.] A- [rhapsody]

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Scattered links this week, mostly Israel (but what else can one do?). Information is less forthcoming in the world's other hotspots -- Libya has emerged as one, alongside Syria and Iraq, and Ukraine. One thing I wonder about the latter is how intense the fighting has been as the central government attempts to beat down the seccessionists. It seems likely that Russia provided the latter with the BUK missile believed to have shot down the Malaysian Airlines plane, and that the rocket was fired by someone expecting Ukrainian military planes rather than a neutral airliner. The downed airliner should be a cautionary lesson for both sides, but instead has been up as a political tool, to villify Russia, making matters worse rather than better. I don't doubt that there is some amount of villainy on the Russian side, but the other side (Ukraine? Europe? America?) is hardly innocent either, and restarting the Cold War will only be worse for all. At times like this, one needs statesmen. Instead, all we got is Obama, hounded by spooks like Lindsey Graham.

Let's start with a couple twitter images, reportedly Gaza City's Sheijayia neighborhood before and after Israeli bombing. Not the same views, but you get the idea:

Meanwhile, back to the links:

  • Mustafa Akyol: Turkey Can Teach Israel How to End Terror: Turkey had battled Kurdish separatists since 1984, their approach described by one of their generals as "killing all terrorists one by one." A couple years ago Turkey changed its approach, started negotiating with PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, and has largely resolved the problem. (Was it a coincidence that Turkey's change coincided with the ending of their alliance with Israel?)

    The Kurds were not angry at Turkey because they were innately prone to violence. They were angry because Turkey had done something grievously wrong to them. And a peace agreement became possible only when the Turkish public and the state acknowledged this fact.

    If Israel is ever going to achieve peace, Israelis will have to overcome their own self-righteous hawkishness as well -- and abandon the intellectually lazy reflex that explains Palestinian militancy as the natural product of Arab and Islamic culture's supposedly violent nature.

  • Uri Avnery: Once and for All!: Of course, it isn't really this symmetric, but the headline talking points could be solved easily:

    In this war, both sides have the same aim: to put an end to the situation that existed before it started.

    Once And For All!

    To put an end to the launching of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Once And For All!

    To put an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt, Once And For All!

    So why don't the two sides come together without foreign interference and agree on tit for tat?

    They can't because they don't speak to each other. They can kill each other, but they cannot speak with each other. God forbid.

    This is not a war on terror. The war itself is an act of terror.

    Neither side has a strategy other than terrorizing the civilian population of the other side. [ . . . ]

    Both hopes are, of course, stupid. History has shown time and again that terrorizing a population causes it to unite behind its leaders and hate the enemy even more. That is happening now on both sides.

    Avnery didn't point out the greatest symmetry, which is that compliance with the other side's goals would cost nothing and actually benefit both sides. Despite the claims of Israel's most blinded supporters, there is no reason to think that Gazans take any absolute satisfaction in killing Israelis with rockets. Nor, if the rockets stopped, should Israel gain any succor watching Gazans starve. I'm not sure that any Israelis can articulate the real reason they've persisted in keeping Gaza locked up and down. Twice now, Israel has adopted policies which show that they have no long-term desire to keep Gaza: at the start of Oslo when they handed the whole Strip over to the PA, and in 2004 when they dismantled their last settlements in the Strip. One has to wonder why they didn't Cut Gaza Loose -- hand the Gaza Strip off to the UN to form an independent state, more or less as I proposed a couple weeks ago.

    I tried circulating my post around a bit, but got no interest or feedback whatsoever in it. Pro-Palestinians don't like it because they think that splitting off Gaza will make it that much harder to get any sort of independence for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and they may be right. (Assuming no right of return -- I think that's a totally dead prospect given Israel's strength and racism -- it tilts the demographics to the point where Israel might consider granting citizenship to all extant West Bank and Jerusalem Palestinians, although that's likely a long struggle away.) And pro-Israelis don't like it because most Gazans are Israeli refugees with a still legitimate right of return, so at the very least they fear that a Palestinian state might legitimize the refugees' moral case. (If this sounds kind of fishy, it's because it is, but Israelis are raised to see existential threats everywhere; that is, after all, the bedrock Zionism is founded upon.)

    Avnery only sees one way out of the mutual destruction of war-after-war, and that's to do something very similar to what I proposed. So I count him (and the Israeli peace camp) among the people who might advance such a plan. It should also appeal to liberal Zionists, especially outside Israel. It is, for instance, something that should make sense to Kerry and Blair but they can't currently grasp because of their phobia about Hamas and how they see Gaza and Hamas as one. And if they did embrace it, what rejoinder would Netanyahu have? He can't claim that Israeli control in any way benefits Gaza. Nor can he claim that Israel's past and current security efforts are the only way Israel can ensure its own security. The problem with nearly every scheme to resolve the conflict is that it would impose some unacceptable cost to Israel, but cutting Gaza loose doesn't have any costs: it's a scheme that even an implacable stonewaller like Netanyahu can't resist forever. And it would be a positive step, breaking the blockade/rockets cycle that resulted in Israeli escalation and war in 2006, 2008, 2012, and now 2014.

  • Richard Silverstein: Israel's Slaughter, Based on a Lie: Evidently, at least one Israeli "official source" confirms that they realize that Hamas was not responsible for the kidnapping-murder of three Israeli teenagers back on June 12, the event that kicked off a series of events leading to Israel's latest intensive demolition of Gaza. The crime was, instead, the work of a "lone cell" in Hebron. However, Netanyahu sought to use the murders as an excuse to break up the unification deal between Hamas and Fatah. He sent 10,000 IDF troops into the West Bank where they ransacked thousdands of homes, arresting 500 Palestinians (mostly associated with Hamas, many of whom had been in Israeli prisons before being released in last year's prisoner exchange deal), and killing seven. When Hamas protested by shooting off some rockets from Gaza, Israel then began its bombardment and invasion of Gaza, killing well over a thousand more.

    This entire slaughter is based on a lie. And not just a small lie, but a huge, cancerous, evil lie. I do not like to make absolute moral statements if I can avoid it. But there is no doubt in my mind that Bibi Netanyahu is evil. While that doesn't necessarily mean all of Israel is evil, as long as they elect this megalomaniac to office, then all of Israel is culpable in his malevolence. [ . . . ]

    To return to Sheera's tweet, lest anyone question her source, the BBC's Jon Donnison is reporting that Israeli police spokesflack, Mickey Rosenfeld is saying the same thing explicitly.

    On a related matter, several thousand Israelis marched yesterday night in Tel Aviv against the Gaza massacre. It is not easy to do so when 90% of your fellow citizens believe you're being traitorous. I don't know if such protests are enough to exonerate the nation of war crimes. But they are some small solace.

    The lie at the root of the war gives this some resonance with the Bush invasion of Iraq, although lies leading to war are old hat -- the sinking of the Maine in 1898 and the Tonkin Gulf incident in 1964 are two of the more notorious ones in US history. Nor is this anything new for Israel: the false rumors of Syria massing troops on the border in 1967, the assassination of Israel's UK ambassador in 1982 that was used as a pretext for invading Lebanon, and whatever that cockamamie story was in 1956, are just the first examples that jump into mind. Lies and wars go hand-in-hand, first as rationales then to cover up the dirty truth. The only thing remarkable about this war is how fast Israel's lies are being uncovered -- that's partly explained by the prevalence of media but also by how baldfaced the lies are. Sure, Netanyahu is vile, but that's not news either: he was the principal person responsible for destroying the Oslo framework and inciting the second intifada. Since returning to power he's sloughed off the Mitchell and Kerry iniatives and seems well on his way to kicking off a third intifada. But there's no originality in Netanyahu's evil, and little of the personal monstrosity you can find in Ariel Sharon (or Yitzhak Shamir or Menachem Begin or even Yitzhak Rabin, to limit ourselves to Israeli PMs): you can explain everything he's done as the dutiful son of his father, who was Vladimir "Iron Wall" Jabotinsky's secretary in exile in New York. Netanyahu has never enjoyed an original thought in his life. He is, rather, the slave of an old and profoundly wrong idea, which is that the only way Zionism can survive in Israel is by repeatedly beating Palestinians into submission. That idea is what's evil; Netanyahu's is merely its tool.

  • More on Israel's latest war:

    • Kate: Six Palestinians are killed in West Bank in protests of Gaza slaughter: The title piece plus dozens of other reports
    • Helena Cobham: Absence of "peace process" might help Gaza ceasefire negotiations: Main point here is that Abbas has agreed with the Hamas ceasefire proposal, which insists that Israel release the prisoners covered in the Shalit deal who were arrested by Israel in their anti-Hamas sweep of the West Bank, and that the blockade of Gaza be ended. Israel supposedly can't negotiate these points with Hamas because Israel cannot talk to Hamas.
    • Annie Robbins: In Photos: Worldwide protest against Israeli attack on Gaza: Photos and videos of demonstrations from around the world. Also see: Martin Gajsek: Report from historic march on Qalandia checkpoint in solidarity with Gaza.
    • Richard Silverstein: Israel Murders IDF Soldier to Prevent His Capture: Explains the "Hannibal Directive," which basically says that if there is a chance that an IDF soldier might be captured and turned into a bargaining chip (like Gilad Shalit was), the IDF should kill that soldier first. As Silverstein reports, there has been at least one example of that during the present hostilities.
    • Rebecca L Stein: How Israel militarized social media: How the IDF put their best face on for Facebook, Twitter, etc.
    • Al-Haq: Why Israel's legal justifications for 'Operation Proective Edge' are wrong: Israel has made a big deal out of their practice of phoning or other warnings, arguing that if they contact you (or at least try) and their attack subsequently injures you, they are not responsible. To say the least, this assumes they have the right to bomb, and hardly shows any concern for the consequences. Moreover, such calls can themselves be a form of terror. Or they could be misdirecting. This piece focuses mostly on international law, which Israel is in gross violation of.
    • Udi Aloni: The swan song of the Israeli left: Includes a link to the film Forgiveness.
    • Jonathan Freedland: Liberal Zionism After Gaza: A postscript following Freedland's review of Ari Shavit's My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel and John B Judis' Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict. In the latter piece I particularly appreciate Norman Finkelstein's quote on Shavit's "insights": "[they] comprise a hardcore of hypocrisy and stupidity overlaid by a tinsel patina of arrogance and pomposity. He's a know-nothing know-it-all who, if ever there were a context for world's biggest schmuck, would come in second." Shavit's the kind of guy who writes movingly about how Israel force-marched entire towns over the border and into permanent exile, then proclaims the atrocity worthwhile because it now lets him live in a fully Jewish state. (As opposed, I suppose, to a guy like Benny Morris, who uncovered numerous IDF atrocities, only to lament that there weren't more.) In this war as in so many others, liberal Zionists "shoot and cry": as Freedland translates, "the Israeli dove gets to win the admiration of the outside world, Jew and non-Jew alike, but the beauty and sensitivity of his conscience even as the behavior of his country, and the army whose uniform he continues to wear, does not change." And the order is essential: shooting first, by lining up for every war, he assures his comrades of his loyalty, even if he returns to humanity later.
    • Lisa Goldman: The Gaza war has done terrible things to Israeli society: For example: "Peaceful, unarmed [anti-war] demonstrators in Israel's two most liberal cities were physically attacked by ultra-nationalists wielding stones and bottles. In Haifa, nationalist thugs assaulted the Arab deputy mayor, slamming the middle-aged man down on the pavement. In Tel Aviv, they chased anti-war protestors into a cafe and smashed a chair over the head of one of them, even as municipal sirens wailed to announce an incoming rocket from Gaza. The police were ineffective in stopping the violence."
    • Melvin A Goodman: Gaza and the Warsaw Ghetto: A reminder that Gaza resembles nothing so much as a classic ghetto, an open air prison locked down and patrolled from the outside. The most famous one was the Warsaw Ghetto managed by the Nazis in WWII -- one well known in Israel thanks to the valliant but doomed Jewish revolt there, long touted in Israel as one of the few cases where Jews fought back, like good Israelis do today. It is remembered elsewhere for the utter carnage of the Nazi "final solution": they killed over 300,000 Jews in putting the revolt down, laying waste to the entire ghetto. Israel hasn't approached that level of genocide, at least not yet, but they've killed thousands, destroyed uncounted homes and businesses and public buildings and key infrastructure. What keeps Israel from applying its own "final solution"? A mix of conscience, practicality, and concern for world opinion. All of those are wearing thin, especially conscience -- most obviously, Rabbi Dov Lior's ruling in favor of the "destruction of Gaza so that the south should no longer suffer."

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Avi Shlaim: Cursed Victory: Review of Ahron Bregman's new book, Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories (2014, Allen Lane [UK]). The review is itself a good short history lesson, especially on Ehud Barak's ill-fated negotiations with Syria and Arafat. ("Bregman confirms the view I have long held -- that the two principal reasons for the collapse of the summit were Barak's intransigence and Clinton's mismanagement.") I doubt that there's much here we don't already know, although Bregman has a reputation for digging through the documents, which as Avi Raz's recent The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War made clear, show that Israel's opposition to any sort of peace initiative has been a consistent policy all along.

    Bregman describes Israel as "a heavy-handed and brutal occupier." He regards the four decades of occupation chronicled in this book as a black mark on Israeli, and indeed, Jewish history. He finds it depressing that a people that has suffered such unspeakable tragedies of its own can behave so cruelly towards another. The only sign of hope in this otherwise bleak picture is that the occupation may carry within it the seeds of its own demise. By forcing the Palestinians to live in squalor, Bregman concludes, Israel has "hardened those under its power, making them more determined to put an end to the occupation, by violent means if necessary, and live a life of dignity and freedom."

  • On the slaughter of innocents: Unsigned (the author seems to have been involved in Human Rights Watch), but a long and impressive meditation that recounts the history of mass slaughter -- examples include the Mongol practice of sacking cities and similar desires by both sides in WWII -- but is written with Gaza in mind. A couple examples:

    The Israeli architect and philosopher Eyal Weizman has analyzed how groups like Human Rights Watch participate, inadvertently and from admirable aspirations, in the science of war: their "collusion . . . with military and political powers." Their methods involve a shift "from a focus on the victims of war to an analysis of the mechanism of the violations of law." Law itself, once broken, is treated as the chief victim; the individuals whose lives were at stake fade away in the descriptions of the offense almost as they did in the choosing of targets. This elision, however unwanted, is built into the methods. "Today's forensic investigators of violence move alongside its perpetrators, morphing into them," according to Weizman. "Humanitarianism, human rights and international humanitarian law," he writes, "have become the crucial means by which the economy of violence is calculated and managed."

    The Weizman book quoted is The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza (2012, Verso Books). I'm not familiar with that book, but have scanned through his Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation (2007, Verso Books), one of the most deeply revealing looks at exactly how Israel manages its occupation system. The point about how human rights violations can be trivialized as violations of law is evident in all the reports which claim that Gazan rockets constitute a war crime, which in routine course balances off Israel's war crime -- its use of far more deadlier munitions. The real world difference, of course, is proportionality, which in the Israel-Gaza case is crudely visible in death and injury reports and would very likely be even more striking if you could convert the entire war efforts into some common measure of force.

    The focus on civilian casualties generates a strict, technical approach to the question of responsibility. The individual story is subordinated not just to the lawbooks, but to the slide rule. No side can ensure absolutely that it will prevent civilian casualties, as long as it's at war and killing people. So no side is completely devoid of guilt. But since the Geneva Conventions give a certain latitude for trying but failing, even killers can make a claim to innocence as well. The authority to evaluate such shades of inculpation gives enormous power to the human rights investigator and his organization, power over fine mathematical gradations of right and wrong: much greater power than simpler, starker, less technologically advanced modes of assessing morality could endow.

    But this focus buries other questions, broader ones, about responsibility for the conflict as a whole. [ . . . ]

    The aim of Israel's various "operations" in Gaza is not just to take out specific people, but to cow a population. (Even the famous text messages that supposedly warn residents a bomb is about to blast their home have, as Gazans can tell you, at least as much to do with showing off the invisible, terrifying omniscience of a military surveillance system. We know where you are.) Unleashed with that intent behind them, weapons -- however "smart" -- will terrorize, not just target; the very targeting is an aspect of terror, a reminder of superior knowledge as well as superior means, but spillover is equally intrinsic to the effect. The message inevitably exceeds the "purely" military purpose, and the collateral damage itself becomes the point: a sign of exultant excess, the means drowning the end. You can't go on talking about equivalence without acknowledging Israel's military domination, its unmeasurable ability to destroy. And to cap its technological triumph, it is (and has been for forty years) the only state in a thousand-mile radius with nuclear bombs.

    Much more in this piece, such as the line: "The confrontation between popular rebellion and a rapacious settler society isn't just an old, cowboys-and-Indians story that we can look on with disinterest or restrained amusement." (One might note that the US-Indian wars are still taught in the US military academies, and US troops frequently refer to counterinsurgency operations as operating in "Injun territory." Judging from scattered quotes, it would seem that part of Israel's hasbara toolkit is to remind Americans of their struggle to conquer the Indians -- ancient history in the US but a vivid analogy in Israel.)

In local news, sorry to hear that Randy Brown died: a longtime newspaperman, journalism professor, and political dabbler, certainly a positive presence in Wichita. And here's a sampler of his columns. In other Wichita news today, the Eagle published Sen. Jerry Moran's op-ed on why it would be better to let the lesser prairie chicken go extinct than to inconvenience any Kansas oil or gas producers. And in the big money 4th Congressional District primary, the Eagle endorsed vile Mike Pompeo (R-Koch) over evil Todd Tiahrt (R-Boeing). I can't find the candidate questions box, but Tiahrt's professed desire to be a public servant was almost touching, until he added that bit about standing up to special interests. In his sixteen years in the House, no one was a bigger corporate whore. The best you can say for him is that he sold himself cheap, and not a lot of the money stuck to his fingers, so you could buy into his sincerity thing, if only you were part of the public he so dedicated himself to serving. Curiously, Tiahrt's gained in the polls recently by attacking Pompeo's defense of the NSA -- a position he almost certainly wouldn't have thought of had Pompeo not been so rabid on it. If I could ask a debate question it would be about where they stand on the Export-Import Bank: the tea party (and most likely the Kochs) are all agitated against it, but the main beneficiary is Boeing -- and even though Boeing abandoned Wichita, I can't imagine "Tanker Todd" parting with them.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Daily Log

Woke up uncommonly early this morning, to find the following headline at TPM: Israel Hits 30 Gaza Homes, Kills Militant. Of course, it is only Israel's opinion as to who is or is not a militant, but I suppose it's hard to bomb out thirty homes in Gaza and not kill someone who is pissed off at Israel. I still find the de rigeur separating out of "civilians" from total Gazan deaths insulting and pointless. Unlike Israel, Gaza has no military, hence no soldiers in the true sense, and while there are Gazan armed groups -- I suppose you could call them "militias" -- the Gaza City Chief of Police (one of the Hamas officials Israel is most proud of killing) anywhere else would be considered a civil servant.

The Wichita Eagle headline this morning was: "15 dead in attack on UN shelter in Gaza Strip." Doesn't say "Israeli attack" but that's clearly what it was. And while Israel denies targeting UN shelters, the fact is that the UN is deeply hated by the Israeli military, and every time Israel "mows the lawn" they managed to bomb a couple UN facilities (as well as any neighboring Al Jazeera offices).

Monday, July 21, 2014

Music Week

Music: Current count 23527 [23501] rated (+26), 548 [534] unrated (+14).

When I got back from my aunt's funeral, there was a surprisingly large pile of new records waiting. I didn't get around to listing them last week, so this week's haul looks more robust than usual. I do, however, get the sense that I've fallen well out of the realm of being a mainstream jazz critic. This week's unpacking list doesn't quite prove my point -- there are a number of reputable artists there I recognize and welcome (Todd Bishop, Bobby Broom, Wayne Horvitz, Ryan Keberle, Greg Reitan, Steve Swallow, Ohad Talmor, Adam Nussbaum, Matt Ulery) most of the records I get these days are from unknowns, with the occasional cult favorite slipping in. (Two of the latter wound up with A- grades, and I doubt that you'll be reading much about either elsewhere.) Part of this is my fault, of course: formerly reliable publicists at labels like High Note and Sunnyside took my hint and stopped sending, and I've done a poor job following up on available downloads from labels like ECM -- I'm not even sure what I do or don't have there, but haven't had time (or curiosity) to sort that out.

When I got back, I didn't feel like facing the queue, so I took a look at my Penguin Guide list and started playing some old jazz from Rhapsody. First three records were high B+, which seems like par for the course. Then Charlie Haden died so I looked up his duet album with Chris Anderson, and the more I played it the more I was entranced. I then moved on to Earl Hines and Art Tatum -- one of the biggest chunks on the Penguin list was Tatum's Solo Masterpieces, which Morton & Cook love indiscriminately. I had long ago picked up Volume Four and Volume Five (both B+), plus I had a 2003 release, The Best of the Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces (A). So I spent a big chunk of time going through the other six volumes, then for good measure I gave the whole box a spin. Much of it is indeed remarkable, none of it without interest, and I didn't mind the time.

I think the reason I graded the box over its constituent volumes is that when grading the latter the question arises as to which discs are relatively better investments, and the way they are organized makes it impossible to say -- I gave Volume Six an edge mostly because of two or three especially striking songs as opposed to the dozen or so run-of-the-mill Tatums. On the other hand, the box does make sense as a whole, and it is a remarkable accomplishment both within Tatum's career and over the entire history of jazz. Given all that, my nitpicking wasn't enough to drop it below A-. Still, I much prefer The Standard Sessions, which offers livelier performances and concentrates more great songs. Only minor sonic issues, plus my general reserve about solo piano, held it below an A.

I didn't do The Art Tatum Pablo Group Masterpieces because I own and have long graded every one of them. Tatum mostly recorded solo, so the 1954-56 Granz sessions just added to an already huge legacy, but the group sessions are almost the only time Tatum ever appeared in groups -- at least with horns. They vary more in quality, but the best are really extraordinary, both as group efforts and by freeing Tatum from having to carry the rhythm he gets a chance to perform some of his most spectacular embellishments. The best are: Volume Eight (with Ben Webster: A+); Volume Two (with Roy Eldridge: A); Volume Seven (with Buddy DeFranco: A); Volume One (with Benny Carter: A-).

Tatum is as universally revered as Charlie Parker, which may be why I quibble. I'm always reminded of what Tom Piazza wrote in The Guide to Classic Recorded Jazz: "Ask ten pianists to name the greatest jazz pianist ever and eight will tell you Art Tatum. The other two are wrong." I've made a career out of being wrong, so I don't mind telling you that my answer to that question is Earl Hines. He was easily the greatest pianist in 1928 when he (and Louis Armstrong) cut some of the most classic jazz sides ever, and he was dazzling when he toured with Armstrong's 1946 All-Stars. In between he ran a very important big band, and in the 1960s he led a wonderful quartet with Budd Johnson on tenor sax. Later still, he recorded many solo piano albums, including a couple listed below (Tour de Force is probably the first pick, at least the choice title, but these come close). That, in turn, led me to an obscure Johnny Hodges album which couldn't possibly go wrong.

After Tatum and Hines, I pulled out all those jazz vocal albums I've been avoiding and slogged through them. Poet Anne Waldman's album jumped out of that pile. It is a jazz/poetry album somewhat similar to the Rich Halley-Dan Raphael album Children of the Blue Supermarket, which was my favorite album in 2011, although vocally it reminds me more of Patti Smith, with the sax closer to Ornette Coleman (hence my tweet).

Looks like a pretty awful week coming up, both personally and all around the world. I have made some progress on the crashed server, but it's going to be a long while before it's all history.

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

  • Al Basile: Swing n' Strings (2013 [2014], Sweetspot): cornet-playing blues singer with an air of Mose Allison, his idea of strings two guitars [cd]: B+(**)
  • Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra: Shrimp Tale (2013 [2014], Crown Heights Audio Network): pianist, leads 17-piece big band on debut, sharp and contemporary, with a spoken word bit [cd]: B+(*)
  • Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty (2014, Warner Brothers): I've heard dirtier, but rarely with more compelling melodies, hooks, beats, and succinct too [r]: A-
  • Sherie Julianne: 10 Degrees South (2014, Azul Do Mar): Bay Area singer into Brazilian pop tunes, helpfully produced by pianist Marcos Silva [cd]: B
  • Mark Meadows: Somethin' Good (2014, self-released): pianist, likes smooth jazz grooves, and sings some, mostly neo-soul moans and murmurs [cd]: B-
  • Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Cimmerian Crossroads (2014, Edgetone): alto/soprano sax, honors Arthur Blythe, incinerates Ornette Coleman [r]: A-
  • Sia: 1000 Forms of Fear (2014, RCA): voice like Shakira, only no Latin tinge, just an Australian take on British semipop gloom [r]: B
  • Donna Singer: Destiny: Moment of Jazz (2014, Emerald Baby): standards singer, enjoyable when the song is "Where or When," less so on "Yesterday" [cd]: B
  • Isabel Stover: Her Own Sweet World (2010 [2014], self-released): standard singer's debut album, Taj Mahal an outlier, voice and band all contribute [cd]: B+(*)
  • Anne Waldman: Jaguar Harmonics (2014, Fast Speaking Music): a beat era pot I should have known, imagine Patti Smith in a rush backed by Ornette Coleman [cd]: A-

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

  • Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Play Morricone 1 & 2: The Complete Recordings (2001-02 [2014], CAM Jazz, 2CD): [r]: A-

Old records rated this week:

  • Duke Ellington and Ray Brown: This One's for Blanton (1972-73 [2000], Pablo/OJC): the pianist recalls what Jimmy Blanton changed, the bassist builds on him [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Farmer: Out of the Past (1960-61 [1996], Chess): two Argo albums minus one cut each, one trumpet ballads with Tommy Flanagan, the other flugelhorn [r]: B+(***)
  • Charlie Haden: Quartet West (1986 [1987], Verve): Mainstream Haden-style, straddling Ornette-Metheny, with Watts-Broadbent feeding the sentimantal [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlie Haden/Chris Anderson: None but the Lonely Heart (1997, Naim): brittle Chicago pianist and sentimental assist open up touching duets [r]: A-
  • Earl Hines: Blues in Thirds (1965 [1989], Black Lion): solo piano, near the top of his game (i.e., peerless), aside from two spots where he tries to sing [r]: A-
  • Earl Hines: One for My Baby (1974 [1995], Black Lion): more solo piano, strutting and striding through seven marvellous Harold Arlen standards [r]: A-
  • Earl Hines: Plays Duke Ellington, Volume Two (1971-75 [1997], New World): solo piano again, what's left after the 2-CD Volume One, swing with extra razzle [r]: B+(***)
  • Johnny Hodges/Earl "Fatha" Hines: Stride Right (1966, Verve): two stars (plus Kenny Burrell) doing what comes naturally on songs that never grow old [r]: A-
  • Art Tatum: Classic Early Solos (1934-1937) (1934-37 [1991], MCA): not really a stride pianist, too busy and ornate for that, but early on not so much so [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Tatum: The Standard Sessions: 1935-1943 Transcriptions (1935-43 [1991], Music & Arts, 2CD): 2-CD of radio shots, 61 mostly great standards given the full Tatum treatment [r]: A-
  • Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume One (1953 [1992], Pablo/OJC): doing these one-by-one, but impressive as he is I find myself resisting, almost always at [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Two (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Three (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Six (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): [r]: A-
  • Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Seven (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Eight (1953-56 [1992], Pablo/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Art Tatum: The Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces (1953-56 [1991], Pablo, 7CD): [r]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week (plus):

  • Laurie Antonioli: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light: The Music of Joni Mitchell (Origin)
  • Todd Bishop Group: Travelogue (Origin)
  • Anthony Branker & Word Play: The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (Origin)
  • Bobby Broom: My Shining Hour (Origin)
  • The Cellar and Point: Ambit (Cuneiform): advance, October 14
  • Eliana Cuevas: Espejo (ALMA)
  • Dave "Knife" Fabris: Lettucs Prey (Musea)
  • Wayne Horvitz: 55: Music and Dance in Concrete (Cuneiform): advance, August 19
  • Jazzhole: Blue 72 (Beave Music)
  • Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: Zone (Greenleaf Music)
  • Ricky Kej/Wouter Kellerman: Winds of Samsara (Listen 2 Africa)
  • Greg Reitan: Post No Bills (Sunnyside): August 19
  • Mitch Shiner and the Blooming Tones Big Band: Fly! (Patois)
  • Street Priest: More Nasty (Humbler)
  • Steve Swallow/Ohad Talmor/Adam Nussbaum: Singular Curves (Auand): advance, August 5
  • Matt Ulery: In the Ivory (Greenleaf Music)
  • The Bill Warfield Big Band: Trumpet Story (Planet Arts)
  • Walter White: Most Triumphant (Summit)
  • Tom Wolfe: Solerovescent (Summit)
  • J.J. Wright: Inward Looking Outward (Ropeadope): August 19


  • Francis Bebey: African Electronic Music 1975-1982 (2012, Born Bad)
  • Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz and Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978 (Strut, 2CD)
  • Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott: What Have We Become (Virgin)
  • Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music (1953-83, Sterns Music, 2CD)
  • Lady Gaga: Artpop (2013, Interscope/Streamline)
  • Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument: Shemonmuanaye (1985, Awesome Tapes From Africa)
  • Old 97's: Most Messed Up (ATO)
  • The Strypes: Snapshot (Island/Photo Finish)

Daily Log

Looking at sheet plastic for bath/shower edge blocker. Estimates from TAP Plastics:

  • Polyethylene LDPE white, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $17.33 [$29.40]
  • Polyethylene HDPE white (cutting board), 1/2" thick, 8x48: $32.53
  • Polyethylene HyPact VHMW, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $23.87
  • Polypropylene, natural, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $17.33
  • Polycarbonate, clear, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $34.13
  • Acrylic sheet, green edge, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $36.67
  • Cast acrylic, clear, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $33.87
  • Cast acrylic, sign ivory, 1/8" thick, 8x48: $19.07 (other colors seem to be same price)
  • Cast acrylic, transparent light blue, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $36.67
  • Foamed PVC, white, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $11.33
  • Polycarbonate P-12 sheet, clear (diamond texture), 3/16" thick, 8x48: $32.80
  • High-impact PVC, ultra white, 1/4" thick, 8x48: $32.00

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Weekend Roundup

This week's scattered links, but for one reason or another most still focus on Israel (for one thing, this weekend has been much bloodier than the previous week). Having recently read Stephen F Cohen's Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War (2011), I expected to have more to say about the civil war in Ukraine and the shooting down of a Malaysian Airlines airliner, but in my short time I didn't run across much that improved upon speculation (one of the worst pieces was Bob Dreyfuss: Vladimir Putin Should Take Responsibility for the MH17 Shootdown.) As someone who is inclined to suspect that Putin was responsible for the Moscow apartment bombings that he used as a pretext to re-open the Chechen War, there's not much I would put past him, but neither evidence nor logic is yet compelling, and the unfounded charge is actively being used to further estrange relations with Russia, which quite frankly Obama needs to mend even if that means giving up ground in Ukraine. As I wrote below, Obama has made a colossal error in re-entering Iraq, on top of making an almost utter hash of Syria, and the only way out of the latter is some sort of understanding with Russia. Cohen's book, by the way, is very prophetic about Ukraine -- not necessarily about the country itself but about the massive level of cold war hangover America's foreign policy nabobs suffer from and their utter mindlessness in facing anything having to do with Russia. I've long said that the whole neocon vision was for America to behave all around the world with the same reckless dominance fetish that Israel exhibits in the Middle East. In the last two months that's pretty much what we've been seeing. The only real surprise here is how pathetic it makes the leaders look: Netanyahu, for instance, is wailing about how Hamas is forcing Israel to kill Palestinians, as if he, himself, has no control over his government. Nor does Obama seem to be any more in control of his policies. It's really quite shameful.

Nor am I the only one saying these things. Just looking at my recent twitter feed:

Saree Makdisi: It's quite clear that Israel plunged into its bombardment, as usual, without any strategic plan in mind. Quite literally mindless violence.

Roger Cohen: John Kerry says Israel "under siege" by Hamas. Read that once. Read it twice. Three times. It doesn't get any better. We have a problem here.

Ali Abunimah: Remember, Israel could have had a ceasefire any time if it agreed to basic humanitarian conditions for people of Gaza. It refused.

Sana Saeed: In case you're keeping count: this is the third IDF offensive against Gaza since the Obama administration came into office.

[Actually, the third since Obama was elected president, but Operation Cast Lead occurred before Obama took office. I like to refer to it as Israel's pre-emptive strike against the Obama administration.]

Also as Michael Poage noted, today's Kansans for Peace in Palestine demo today in Wichita drew about 500 people. It led on the KWCH News, ahead of a fairly even-handed report on Gaza that put more emphasis on dead Palestinians than on live Israelis whining about rockets.

  • Juan Cole: Falluja and Gaza: Why Counter-Terrorism fails when the Problem is Political: Yeah, but for a while counter-terrorism is a workable excuse to avoid talking about political problems. It simply declares that authorities can manage dissent with violence.

    Just as the enemies of the US ultimately prevailed in Falluja, so the enemies of Israel will prevail in Gaza.

    Oppression and occupation produce resistance. Until the oppression and the occupation are addressed, the mere inflicting of attrition on the military capabilities of the resistance will not snuff it out. Other leaders will take the place of those killed.

    If Israel really wanted peace or relief from Hamas rockets, its leaders would pursue peace negotiations in good faith with Hamas (which has on more than one occasion reliably honored truces). Otherwise, invading Gaza will have all the same effects, good and bad (but mostly bad) that the US invasion of Falluja had on Iraq.

    Also see Cole's Israel's Groundhog Day: Reverse Snowballs and the Horror of Lawn-Mowing.

  • Annie Robbins: Israel is in a pickle:

    Israel is likely in a pickle. Its stated goal for this invasion is to stop the missile fire (and dismantle Hamas's control of the strip). To do that it must locate Hamas' weapons arsenal and thus far, it appears it is clueless as to where they are. Israel doesn't know the extent of weaponry Hamas has amassed, either in quality or quantity. All the blowing up of civilian infrastructure, including homes and hospitals, won't end the rocket fire because it's extremely unlikely any central stash of weaponry is stored in homes, schools, hospitals or mosques. The weapons are probably underground which is why it requires a ground invasion to find them. This is what "deal with the tunnels" means when Obama says "the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels."

    Rudoren claimed Netanyahu "won plaudits from Israeli leftists this week for embracing an Egyptian cease-fire proposal." Win plaudits from media pundits he did, but this was not an Egyptian proposal, it was a proposal cobbled together by Tony Blair after Obama had previously spoken with Netanyahu and offered to help broker a truce (without any input from Hamas). A ceasefire catering to Israel represents nothing more than a surrender for Palestine, a surrender worse than retreating to the status quo of endless occupation because hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in 2011, were rearrested from the West Bank during a pogrom hyped as a response to the claim Hamas kidnapped the 3 Israeli youths, a claim that has never been backed by even a shred of evidence.

  • Nathan Thrall: How the West Chose War in Gaza: Israel's assault on Gaza is really a war on Hamas, more specifically on the willingness of Hamas to participate in a "national consensus" government alongside Fatah.

    Yet, in many ways, the reconciliation government could have served Israel's interests. It offered Hamas's political adversaries a foothold in Gaza; it was formed without a single Hamas member; it retained the same Ramallah-based prime minister, deputy prime ministers, finance minister and foreign minister; and, most important, it pledged to comply with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel.

    Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel's security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. And Israelis who oppose a two-state solution understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace. [ . . . ]

    Hamas is now seeking through violence what it couldn't obtain through a peaceful handover of responsibilities. Israel is pursuing a return to the status quo ante, when Gaza had electricity for barely eight hours a day, water was undrinkable, sewage was dumped in the sea, fuel shortages caused sanitation plants to shut down and waste sometimes floated in the streets. Patients needing medical care couldn't reach Egyptian hospitals, and Gazans paid $3,000 bribes for a chance to exit when Egypt chose to open the border crossing.

    For many Gazans, and not just Hamas supporters, it's worth risking more bombardment and now the ground incursion, for a chance to change that unacceptable status quo. A cease-fire that fails to resolve the salary crisis and open Gaza's border with Egypt will not last. It is unsustainable for Gaza to remain cut off from the world and administered by employees working without pay.

    The weird thing about this story is not so much what Israel has done as how the Obama administration has allowed itself to be paralyzed by the association of Hamas with terrorism. It's not even has if the US has never been willing to reclassify an organization once it wound up on the T-list -- Bush, for instance, made up with Ghaddafi's Libya. But where Israel is involved, Obama suddenly turns chickenshit. It's not just that Netanyahu has outfoxed Obama. It's more like Obama is suffering full-fledged Stockholm Syndrome.

  • More Israel links:

    • 13 IDF soldiers killed in Gaza as Operation Protective Edge death toll climbs to 18: The Palestinian death toll is up to 435, although there is no recognition of that in this piece from the Israeli press. The numbers are increasing quite rapidly as Israel's "ground incursion" proceeds, and while they are still extremely lopsided, this is the first indication that Israel will pay a price for its aggression.
    • Massacre in Gaza: At least 60 killed in Shuja'iyeh, over 60,000 in UN Shelters: This seems to have been the most immediate Israeli response to the loss of 15 Israeli soldiers.
    • Mohammed Omer: Gaza Hospitals Can't Cope. No surprise here, but the problem isn't just increasing demand: it's power plants being disabled, vital supplies being blockaded, and the occasional Israeli bombing of hospitals.
    • Richard Silverstein: Gaza War, Day 14: 18 IDF Dead, 430 Palestinian Dead: Sums up the above, noting "it is precisely this mounting loss of its own soldiers which may cause Israelis to take stock of this bloody mess and step back from the brink. Clearly, Israelis have no sense of proportion or concern when it comes to Palestinian dead."
    • Hamas wants to pile up 'telegenically-dead Palestinians for their cause' -- Netanyahu, on television: Israel's propaganda line is that Hamas is not only responsible for all Palestinian deaths, that they crave more and more Palestinian deaths in their diabolical scheme to shame Israel. Not only is Netanyahu saying this, IDF puppet like David Brooks has put it even more succinctly: "Hamas has basically decided they want to see their own people killed as a propaganda coup." Or as Bill Clinton put it, "in the short and medium term Hamas can inflict terrible public relations damage by forcing (Israel) to kill Palestinian civilians to counter Hamas." Netanyahu has yet to explain why he fell for this dastardly plan, allowing his government and the IDF to be so manipulated by Hamas.
    • Hasbarapocalypse: Naftali Bennett says Hamas committing 'massive self-genocide': I think Bennett (Israel's Economy Minister, head of the second largest party in the latest Knesset elections) gets credit as the first person to describe what's happening in Gaza as "genocide." Most likely he just mangled the talking point, but maybe added a little wish fulfillment.
    • Benjamin Wallace-Wells: Why Israel Is Losing the American Media War: "If Netanyahu is so bothered by how dead Palestinians look on television then he should stop killing so many of them. But his complaint is in itself a concession." The author attributes this to social media exposing more of the actual battleground, but I suspect something that Robbins (above) aludes to: blockaded off as it is, Gaza is becoming increasingly opaque to Israel at the same time it is becoming more transparent to the rest of the world. Moreover, although Israel remains effective at manipulating key parts of the media -- I could assemble a half dozen links on how distorted coverage has been in the Washington Post -- there are just too many alternative sources of news and analysis for them to control. Moreover, there are too many people in the media who know better -- I'm not seeing the link now, but there was an amusing report about Barney Frank feeling he was being ganged up on defending Israel on a CNN interview.
    • Thalif Deen: Why No Vetoed Resolutions on Civilian Killings in Gaza? Partly because Russia and China have vetoed resolutions condemning Assad in Syria, so they don't have a lot of moral authority to go after Israel, and given that all they would get out of it is a bit of embarrassment for the US (a country which has already vetoed hundreds of resolutions on Israel) that's evidently not worth the effort. Turns out all the world's powers have axes to grind -- not with each other so much as with the various people unfortunate enough to fall under the thumbs of their deranged clients.
    • Dead Gazans Missing From Senate Endorsement of Israeli Invasion: All 100 US senators, including some you might expect to know better, voted in favor of an AIPAC-authored, which this piece quotes in toto. While taken as an endorsement of Israel's bombardment and invasion of Gaza, it actually says no such thing: it denounces Hamas rocket attacks (which currently threaten 5 million Israelis), declares them "unprovoked," reaffirms "Israel's right to defend its citizens and ensure the survival of the State of Israel," and demands that Abbas "dissolve the unity governing arrangement with Hamas and condemn the attacks on Israel." To the Senate's knowledge, no Palestinians have been harmed.
    • As Israel attacks Gaza, 110 Palestinians injured and 12 detained in clashes at Al-Aqsa compound: One of Kate's roundups of Israeli press reports, showing among other things that Israel has not let up on arrests in the West Bank, that settlers continue to run amok, and that protests against Israel's operations in Gaza are being brutally suppressed. Also more details on Gaza.
    • Lawrence Weschler: Israel Has Been Bitten by a Bat: Basically a rant, and a couple days old, but worth reading: "I know, I know, and I am bone tired of being told it, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is plenty of blame to go around, but by this point after coming on almost 50 years of Israeli stemwinding and procrastinatory obfuscation, I'd put the proportionate distribution of blame at about the same level as the mortality figures -- which is, where are we today (what with Wednesday morning's four children killed while out playing on a Gaza beach)? What, 280 to 2?" The title refers to rabies.

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Hayes Brown: What You Need to Know About the Tunnels That Bring Life -- and Death -- Into Gaza: Some useful background on the Gaza tunnels that Israel is so desperately attempting to destroy. The key point is that since Israel tightened its blockade of Gaza after removing its settlements in 2005 -- Israel referred to this as "putting Gazans on a diet" -- the tunnels have become an indispensible lifeline, at least partly alleviating the suffering that Israel imposes:

    All told, what passes through the tunnels makes up a substantial portion, if not the vast majority, of the Gazan economy at this point. In October 2011, United Nations figures estimated that "800,000 liters (around 5,000 barrels) of fuel, 3,000 tons of gravel, 500 tons of steel rods and 3,000 tons of cement" passed through the tunnels daily.

    Of course, missiles and other contraband enter Gaza through the tunnels, but as long as the tunnels are needed for importing essentials like food and building materials there will be no popular support for shutting them down.

  • Dahr Jamail: Incinerating Iraq: Probably the best journalist working in Iraq since the US invasion -- see his Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq (2007) -- brings us up to date. From early on the US was responsible for stirring up Sunni-Shiite civil war in Iraq, and when things got out of hand the US was able to shift alliances, offering protection to Sunni tribal leaders willing to turn on "Al-Qaeda in Iraq" and thereby temporarily reducing the violence. When US troops left, they advised Maliki to ease up on the Sunnis, but true to form -- this was, after all, why the Americans installed him in the first place -- he kept pushing down the Sunnis and wound up with an explosion engulfing the northwestern third of Iraq and threatening Baghdad. If Obama had any sense, he would have backed away from Maliki, offering US aid to negotiate a diplomatic solution (preferably extending the talks to Syria, now that Assad isn't looking so awful). Instead, he reaffirmed his support for the discredited post-occupation Iraqi government, the only way Americans seem to know how: by sending bombers, "advisers," and special forces troops, a commitment that will convince Maliki that he doesn't have to reform a thing, that he can win outright, and one that puts Obama on the slippery slope of having to send more and more reinforcements in to stave off a face-loosing debacle. This was possibly the single dumbest decision in month chock full of foreign policy disasters (e.g., Ukraine/Russia, Israel/Gaza, Syria, Afghanistan/Pakistan).

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cut Gaza Loose

Up-to-date information on Israel's latest major siege of Gaza -- dubbed Operation Protective Edge, at least in English (the Hebrew is closer to Solid Rock) -- is scarce and hard to sort out, especially since Israel sent ground troops into Gaza. The latest totals I have are that since July 8 Israeli forces have killed 303 Palestinians, while 1 Israeli soldier and 1 Israeli civilian have died. (The latter, by the way, would easily have met Israel's criterion for declaring a Palestinian a "militant" in the propaganda battles over who killed whom. The former was killed by an Israeli tank shell, "friendly fire." It's worth recalling that a third of the Israeli soldiers killed in 2008's Operation Cast Lead were killed by fellow Israelis.) [A later report now says 341 Palestinians have been killed, with 40,000 people "internally displaced" -- i.e., bombed out of their homes.] One of the more pointed stories I've read recently was reported here by Richard Silverstein:

Two days ago an Israeli navy artillery "sharpshooter" picked out a choice target. Little boys playing soccer on the beach, where their father earned his living as a fisherman. The first shell only killed one of them. The boys, their legs not yet muscled to run fast enough, flew as fast as they could to the beachside tent where foreign reporters congregated. The second shell, finely calibrated to hit them as they fled, struck them and killed another three. Killing children: fine sport in the Israeli navy.

Stories like that are going to be harder to come by since NBC pulled its correspondent from Gaza (who broke that story), Ayman Mohyeldin. CNN also pulled one of its reporters, Diana Magnay, after she reported on how Israelis camp out on hills near the Gaza border to watch and cheer the bombardment. That kind of damage control helps Israel avoid embarrassment, but only temporarily. [The uproar over Mohyeldin has since convinced NBC to send him back to Gaza.]

Past Israeli incursions (2006, 2008, 2012 -- the frequency is reflected in that choice Israeli phrase, "mowing the lawn") have always been met with appeals and pressure for ceasefire, but the Obama administration has been shockingly cavalier about the slaughter and destruction this time. Part of this may be the full court press of the Israel lobby, not least that Obama has been serially beat up by Israel for nearly six years now, but part may also be due to Obama's desire to escalate US involvement in the wars in Iraq and Syria, plus all the reckless hawkishness on Ukraine, plus the 15 people just killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan. They say, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Evidently, Obama is way too busy making war to spare a few moments to plead for peace. And if the US doesn't step up to restrain Israel, who else can?

It's wholly predictable how Israel's current operation will end. Like all of its predecessors going back to 2006, it will end in a ceasefire with Hamas as firmly in charge of Gaza as ever, with Israel in possession of the keys to a ghetto containing 1.8 million trapped, terrorized people. Many buildings will be destroyed, including critical infrastructure -- electric power, sewage treatment, water treatment, hospitals, roads, food resources. A few hundred Palestinians will have been killed, and a few thousand injured -- some intended targets but most just unfortunately in the way, and some like the children on the beach just capriciously targeted by bored soldiers who know that no matter what they do they'll never be punished.

Israel will have destroyed a few tunnels, and the rocket stockpiles will have been more or less depleted -- not that they were ever a threat anyway. (Both sides seem to tacitly agree that the symbolism of Gazans defying Israel and shooting rockets over the walls matters much more than the scant damage they cause.) But in the end the cumulative weight of atrocities will embarrass Israel, as should the increasingly genocidal emotions the war is stirring up among Israelis. Israel is on the verge of losing whatever sympathy and support they had built up -- especially in Europe, but even in the US (with the exception of Congress) they are losing their grip. So they'll wind up about where they started. At least that's Israel's best-case scenario. They could hit some world opinion tipping point -- like they did with Turkey in 2008. Or they could give in to their hawks and crank the war machine up, moving from hundreds to thousands or tens or hundreds of thousands of Palestinian deaths. Or they could ignite a sympathetic intifada in the West Bank, which could link up with ISIS. You can't predict what will happen once you go to war.

One thing that's lost in all the chatter about rockets and atrocities is that there is a very simple solution to the Gaza problem (and hence to all those rockets and atrocities): just cut Gaza loose from Israel and let the people there fend for themselves. For many years, debate over how to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been divided between a "1-state solution" and a "2-state solution." In the latter there are separate Israeli and Palestinian states alongside each other, dividing up the land of the former British mandate of Palestine. Most scenarios call for Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, and a Palestinian state to be created in the remaining 22% of the land: the small Gaza Strip on the west and the larger West Bank (including East Jerusalem) in the east. Other variations are possible, including "mutual land swaps" (which the "Clinton parameters" and the "Geneva Accords" specified) or Israel just keeping more (the de facto result of Israel's "illegal settlements").

In the "1-state solution" Israel keeps all the land, but also has to grant full and equal rights to all the people living on that land. This has the great advantage of avoiding dismantling the settlements or transferring any additional people, but means that Israel, which prides itself as "the Jewish state," would wind up with a rather large percentage of non-Jews, perhaps even a majority. Most Israelis -- at least most Israeli politicians -- don't like either "solution": as Levi Eshkol described the conquests of the 1967 war, "we received a very nice dowry [the land], but we don't really like the bride [the people]." Since then, Israel has devised a sophisticated system for taking the land while excluding the people, denying the latter even basic human rights, corralling them into ever tighter ghettos, and hoping they'll just go away. The cost of this system is that the conflict grinds on forever: for Israel, this means paying for a huge military and police state, engaging in a propaganda war that eventually turns self-deluding, and suffering the corrosive morality of militarism and racism; for Palestinians it means living under a system of extreme regimentation and regulation, one that degrades their humanity and denies them opportunities all people expect as a human right.

Most Israelis, in short, want no solution. They accept their lot as a people that has been oppressed for millennia because they believe that their state (and only their state) can defend them, and must do so now and forever more. Anyone well acquainted with Jewish history can appreciate that position, but most of us recognizes that we are not doomed to endlessly replicate the past: that conflicts can be resolved fairly and equitably, and that when they are they disappear into the depths of the past. The prerequisite for any solution is to see it as possible. Unfortunately, that's been the undoing of both "1-state" and "2-state" solutions: many Israelis reject the former because they can't stand the idea of sharing their state with so many Palestinians, and they reject the latter because they feel that would mean the end of the Zionist project of reclaiming their "promised land."

For some time, Palestinians have indicated they would be happy with any solution. Political elites may tend toward "2-state" because that would carve out a state they could control, while the less ambitious may just welcome the opportunity to participate in Israel's prosperous economy without the present discrimination and conflict. But either way they have been at the mercy of Israel's rejection of any sort of solution, at best hoping that some higher power (like the US) will weigh in to support their aspirations. They problem there is that at the US becomes ever more inequitable internally, it becomes ever less sensitive to the human rights of people elsewhere, and that leads to this current hideous stalemate.

On the other hand, there is no reason for stalemate on Gaza. In 2005, Israel (under Ariel Sharon) withdrew from and dismantled every one of its settlements in the Gaza Strip, and since then there has been no effort on Israel's part to recolonize Gaza. It should be clear to everyone that Israel has no interest in Gaza -- at least, other than the "security threat" an independent Gaza might create. The West Bank and Jerusalem are complicated places where it is hard (if not impossible) to resolve the conflict, but Gaza is simple: Israel doesn't want it, and any interest Gazans have in uniting with a Palestinian state in the West Bank is something that can be dealt with if/when such a state is created. Why not solve the one piece that can be solved now, and cut Gaza free of Israel?

This seems to obvious to me that I'm astonished that no one is pushing the idea. The closest I've seen to a discussion along these lines is the Hamas ceasefire proposal, which promises a 10-year truce in exchange for the following ten provisions:

  1. Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border.
  2. Freeing all the prisoners that were arrested after the killing of the three youths.
  3. Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people.
  4. Establishing an international seaport and airport which would be under U.N. supervision.
  5. Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers.
  6. Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the U.N. and some Arab nations.
  7. International forces on the borders.
  8. Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque.
  9. Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement.
  10. Reestablishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip.

Most of these points are completely reasonable, things that Israel should agree to in any case. They highlight that the basic problem that Gaza has faced since 2005 has been the stranglehold that Israel (and to some extent Egypt) have had over Gaza, and how that's been used to keep Gaza from developing a normal economy and everyday life. In exchange for a more normal life, Hamas is offering a truce -- which is to say, no rockets or mortar shells launched over the wall, and no tunneling under the wall. The demands fall short of sovereignty for Gaza, but they do try to substitute UN for Israeli supervision, and as such they offer some hints as to where Hamas would be willing to limit Gazan sovereignty. One can easily build an independence proposal on top of this ceasefire proposal, and reasonably expect that it would be agreeable to Hamas, the current de facto governor of Gaza.

This is a quick first draft, but this is what I'm thinking of:

  1. This would have to be agreed to by Israel, Hamas, the US, the UN, and Egypt, with additional nations and organizations invited to sign on and participate. The problem here is that the US and Israel regard Hamas as a "terrorist organization," and use that as an excuse to avoid dealing with Gaza diplomatically. Instead, Israel insists on only engaging with Gaza militarily.

  2. The agreement on Gaza should not be regarded as resolving any other issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the status of refugees. The Gaza Strip will be referred to as West Palestine.

  3. The border between Israel and West Palestine will be based on the current wall between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Israel will retain ownership of the wall. West Palestine will exercise sovereignty over all the land on the Gaza side up to the base of the wall.

  4. The UN would assume responsibility for directing the transition of West Palestine to independence within three months of agreement. This includes framing of basic governance law -- a constitution which follows common democratic practices, civil law, protections for basic human rights, and special legal oversight at stated below -- followed by parliamentary and municipal elections. To the extent practicable, existing governmental organizations will continue, subject to UN supervision, during the transitional period. Once a new government is formed, the UN role will be reduced and phased out (except as below). Once formed, West Palestine will join the United Nations, and will be free to join any other international organizations it wishes, and to negotiate and sign international treaties. It will not be allowed to file claims against any other government for acts prior to agreement.

  5. The UN will charter a "development bank" which will manage contributions from donor nations to help rebuild West Palestine. The funds will also act as an insurance plan, with first claim on the funds to Israel to cover any damages caused by acts of terror originating in Gaza. (Conversely, any acts of terror originating in Israel will be judged and charged to Israel. The point here is that any lapses in the peace between Israel and West Palestine, either by government or by individuals, will be converted into cash awards and both governments will be incentivized to reduce any such claims.) The funds should be released at an economically responsible rate. The UN will maintain a special court to judge terrorism claims and to investigate and prosecute corruption.

  6. West Palestine will have no armed forces. Its defense will be ensured by international agreement. Imports will be subject to inspection by the UN (until all agree that this function can be turned over to the West Palestine government). Various armaments, including missiles, mortars, and artillery, will be prohibited. Any illegal armaments currently in the country can be turned over for cash rewards during the first year after agreement.

  7. All militias will be outlawed. All existing political parties will be disbanded (including Hamas and Fatah), and their old names will be disallowed, but political parties under new names can be formed. There will be a general amnesty for acts before agreement. Palestinian prisoners held by Israel will be repatriated to West Palestine, provided that's their request and the government of West Palestine agrees to take them.

  8. The government of West Palestine will have full responsibility for its air and sea space, the latter out to at least 10 kilometers from shore line. Projects will be established for developing airport and seaport facilities. West Palestine will be free to exchange goods with any nations it desires, subject to UN review on prohibited items. Israel and Egypt are encouraged to trade with West Palestine through their land ports.

  9. The UN may at its discretion install monitors on either side of the borders between West Palestine and Israel and/or Egypt. The monitors will have unimpeded access to report any suspected border violations, but will have no responsibility for actually patrolling the borders. The monitors will be withdrawn from a border when both countries (West Palestine and Israel or Egypt) agree.

  10. West Palestine will issue appropriate papers, including passports, for its residents. All residents as of the agreement will be citizens of West Palestine. West Palestinian citizenship will not affect refugee status, although we recommend that Israel and West Palestine join on a program to settle the refugee status of Palestinians displaced from Israel, and to replace current "refugee camps" with permanent housing.

I think this covers six or seven of Hamas' ten points. It allows Gaza to develop a normal economy and civil society. There should be no cases where Israelis continue to hold power over residents of Gaza. Israel's security concerns are satisfied in several ways: by limiting the military power of the West Palestinian state; by outlawing a wide range of military hardware; and by imposing a substantial cost to the state for any acts by Gaza residents which actually harm Israeli life and/or property. On the other hand, Israel is similarly penalized for any hostilities against Gazan life and/or property. If these schemes prove insufficient, it's always possible that Israel could withdraw from the treaty and declare war on West Palestine -- the agreement does not in any way limit Israel's warmaking capability, nor for that matter does it reduce whatever deterrence Israel enjoys from its overwhelming firepower advantage. I didn't include anything about Hamas' demand that Israel back its tanks away from the border because I thought that level of regulation unnecessary -- all that is really necessary is that Israel not fire tank shells, or any kind of ordnance, into Gaza. As long as they are not used, where Israel parks its tanks is of little practical concern.

The imposed constitution is something Gazans may not appreciate, but it greatly expedites the transition to self-rule, and it provides reassurance in many ways that the resulting government will remain democratic and will respect individual rights of all its citizens. The constitution should be broadly open to a mix of capitalist and socialist approaches, to be determined by the legislature. (I suspect this will actually prove to be a bigger sticking point with American ideologists than the lack of a sharia foundation will be with Muslims, although the latter will likely get more print.) The constitution should eventually be amendable, although perhaps not for 10-20 years (subject to UN approval) to give it a chance to work.

The matter of donor money is also critically important, both because it is urgently needed and because it provides an elegant insurance system to reinforce the peace. Personally, I think a lot of that should come from Israel, which I regard as solely responsible for the destruction and degradation of life in Gaza especially in the last decade (although really going back to 1948), but fat chance of that, so the world needs to step up. Eventually, of course, the money will run out and West Palestine will need to stand on its own economy. It is important, therefore, that the government build an efficient tax system. I haven't said anything about currency, figuring that's a detail other people are more competent in. The other especially important thing I've left out is water. I wanted to minimize the burdens imposed on Israel, but some fair allocation of the miniscule Gaza watershed is essential.

There will no doubt be other technical issues to work out. Some may be best worked out bilaterally between Israel and West Palestine. Questions like permits to pray at Al-Aqsa certainly fall in that category. While that may be something Gazans care deeply about, it doesn't strike me as a war-or-peace issue. To gain any agreement, the international community (not least the US) is going to have to put pressure on a very recalcitrant Israeli government, and that's easier to do if the demands are minimal and separable. Israel's security policy regarding Gaza is both malicious and demonstrably ineffective, so that has to change. But while it would be a nice thing to allow more personal travel between countries, that isn't a necessary condition for peace. The only necessary conditions for peace are to stop the bombing, the shooting, the blockade, and to allow all people on all sides to live a normal life. That's what this proposal does.

The decision to disband Hamas in Gaza is largely cosmetic: it will simply make everyone more comfortable to bury past terrorism with the agreement. It also allows Hamas to go on in the West Bank, doing whatever it is they are doing. I thought about adding more strictures separating West Palestine groups from any sort of work in the West Bank. The fact is that after agreement the conditions will be very different and incomparable. The question of refugees is one that may need more thought, as it is one thing that remains a common problem for a free Gaza and an occupied West Bank, but it is a thorny problem, here at least best swept under the rug.

One reason no one talks about a Gaza-only solution is that at least some people on both sides have been seduced by the notion that it is possible to come up with a "final status" resolution. Arguing against this is the fact that no one has come close, but also the more general point that nothing is ever really final. So I think one of the basic principles of resolving this conflict is that we should always do what we can when we can do it, then take stock and consider problems remain and what else can be done about them. I have no doubt that a Gaza-only solution will help move all sides closer to an eventual West Bank solution.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Again They've Gone Too Far

In 2010 Norman Finkelstein wrote a book about Israel's 2008 war on Gaza. His title was "This Time We Went Too Far": Truth and Consequences of the Gaza Invasion. Like Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon, their so-called Operation Cast Lead ended having accomplished nothing so much as the revelation of Israel as a serial committer of atrocities, of crimes against humanity -- acts they tried to cover up with a thin propaganda at once asserting their victimhood and threatening ever graver results should anyone defy or deny their omnipotence. The problem was not just that Israel far exceeded the provocation. The problem was that it was hard to discern any reason for Israel's actions other than to further poison the well. The only thing Israel's leaders fear is peace, so they stir up the pot every few years, hoping to reinforce the "no partner for peace" canard.

They're at it again, and again they've gone way too far -- at least for anyone paying the least attention. Their current operation's pretext dates to June 12, when three Israeli teenaged settlers of the West Bank were kidnapped and killed -- a crime certain to arouse sympathy for Israel even though that involves overlooking the much greater violence committed by Israel in 1967 when they invaded the Jordanian-held West Bank and the 57 subsequent years of military occupation. The best you can say for the "boys" is that they were unwitting pawns in Israel's effort to permanently secure the lands of the West Bank by settling their "chosen" people and privileging them over the people who lived and worked there before they were overrun by war and overwhelmed by police force. That does not mean they deserved to be kidnapped and killed, but neither have thousands of Palestinians who have met similar fates since 1967.

On July 6, I wrote a piece that reviewed what turned out to be the first of two stages (so far) in the current escalation: A Case of Kidnapping and Murder. In short, Israel's response to the crime was not to focus on the killers -- they identified as suspects two members of a Hebron clan that is well known for acting on its own to sabotage relatively peaceful periods in the conflict -- but to use the crime as a pretext for a systematic attack on nearly everyone affiliated with Hamas in the West Bank. Moreover, it should be obvious that Hamas' real offense was that they had agreed to form a unity government with Fatah. That should have been good news for anyone with the least desire for peace, as it meant that for the first time since the failed 2006 coup to overthrow Hamas in Gaza there would be a unified, broadly popular Palestinian representation. But since Israel (above all Netanyahu) hates peace, it became imperative to break the unity government up by showing that Hamas is still committed to terrorism, something which pinning the murders on Hamas would aid. So Israel proceeded to arrest hundreds of Hamas members -- the distinction between arrest and kidnapping here is no more than a thin legal veneer -- and soon had killed more than a dozen Palestinians, and soon enough Israeli racism was riled up so much that a group of Israeli settlers bent on revenge kidnapped and burned to death a Palestinian teenager.

That's about where my previous post ended. Most of this had been limited to the West Bank (although the revenge kidnapping took place in Jerusalem), but Israel was also making menacing gestures toward Gaza, which is still nominally controlled by Hamas. Since then, Israel has repeatedly attacked Gaza, and as a result have faced some measure of rocket fire from groups in Gaza (evidently including Hamas). While I've been on the road, this situation has continued to deteriorate. The following links are my attempt to catch up.

  • A good place to start is by reviewing Richard Silverstein's daily posts:

    • Gaza War: Day 9, 202 Palestinians, 1 Israeli Dead: Israel's ceasefire proposal, rubber-stamped by Egypt and put out "under their letterhead as if it was their own"; Israel suffered its first fatality: "A man who'd collected food parcels at his West Bank settlement and trucked them to Erez Crossing to give to the troops, came under mortar attack and was killed." I've taken the liberty of revising Silverstein's title.
    • Gaza War, Day 8: 180 Palestinian Dead: first ceasefire proposal.
    • Gaza War, Day 7: 174 Palestinian Dead: more on Israel's botched commando raid, although it doesn't seem that Hamas killed any IDF soldiers.
    • In First Gaza Ground Battle, Israeli Commandos Repelled: "This is the same command unit which massacred 10 Turkish activists on the Mavi Marmara." "The air force bombed a rehabilitation center where two disabled women died. It also destroyed the home of Gaza's police chief and the next door mosque during evening prayers. Eighteen worshippers and family members were killed during services, four of them children. 50 more were injured."
    • Israeli Invasion to Begin in "Coming Hours"
    • Gaza War: Day 5, Palestinian Dead: 121: "Today marked the first demonstrations in major world cities against the assault. There was a large protest in London and other places. This must be only the beginning. The U.S. response has been shameful. The Obama administration released a statement denouncing the rockets attacking Israel while making no mention of Israel's indecent attack on Gaza's civilian population."
    • Gaza War: Day 4, 99 Gazan Dead, Half Women and Children, Ground Invasion Imminent: "In at least three separate instances, the air force has deliberately targeted private homes in which families sheltered. In some instances, all or most of the families were wiped out. Israel's claim is that it is targeting the homes of militant leaders. Though those killed were family members, Israel mendaciously claims they were 'human shields.'" "The very notion of calling this invasion by its Israeli bestowed name, Protective Edge, is racist. Why do we accept the IDF's nomenclature? What do Gazans call it? Does anyone care?"
    • Gaza War: Day 3, 72 Palestinians Dead, 13 Children: "Sheera Frenkel writes that the IAF concedes it has already bombed anything of military value in Gaza. Now it's pursuing 'secondary targets,' which it defines as residential homes!"
    • Gaza Invasion: Day 2, 27 Palestinian Dead: "Which begs the question: if Israel invaded the West Bank after three teenagers were murdered, arresting 500, killing 7, and ransacking hundreds of homes just for the hell of it -- after a Palestinian boy was murdered in equally, if not more brutal fashion, are the Palestinians not entitled to vent their rage? Or is it only Israel that has that right?" "The name 'Operation Protective Edge' has no relation to the original Hebrew name, Solid Rock (Tzuk Eytan). The army's hasbara department realized that 'Solid Rock' just would not due for the foreign audience. It connoted military strength, assertiveness and aggression. Those are all qualities that appeal to Israelis, but don't look so good to an international audience already predisposed to think the worst regarding Israeli militarism."
    • Operation Solid Rock, Gaza Invasion, Begins: "All of these deaths are needless of course. They're testimony not just to Israel's obduracy and rejectionism, but to the indifference of the international community which needs to come to its senses and intervene to stop the slow-mo decimation of peace, justice, and Palestinian sovereignty."
  • Robert Naiman: Netanyahu's War: What Is It Good For?: A good short overview of the war, emphasizing that until Netanyahu started his "violent crackdown on Hamas supporters in the West Bank, Hamas hadn't fired a single rocket from Gaza and had largely suppressed fire by smaller jihadi groups."

    There is no plausible story that Netanyahu's war is a just war. As J.J. Goldberg recounts in the Jewish Daily Forward, the justification for Netanyahu's war on Gaza given by the chief spokesman of the Israeli military on July 8 was this: "We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard."

    That is not a just war. There is no just goal offered that killing is supposed to bring about. Killing itself is the goal.

    As Goldberg and Max Blumenthal note, the racist revenge frenzy in the Israeli political system to which Netanyahu's military escalation is purportedly responding was deliberately manufactured by Netanyahu himself.

    He also quotes Goldberg explaining that "The last seven years have been the most tranquil in Israel's history. Terror attacks are a fraction of the level during the nightmare intifada years -- just six deaths in all of 2013." Naiman adds, "The United States government has many levers on Netanyahu." He enumerates several of those, then notes that "All it [the Obama administration] lacks is sufficient public political pressure to use them to force an end to the killing." Still, despite Netanyahu's repeated humiliation of Obama and Kerry, and despite the complete mess they find themselves in over Iraq and Syria, I see no evidence that the US has the will to butt in, even discreetly.

  • Phan Nguyen: How many people have died from Gaza rockets into Israel?: The chart also includes mortar fire from Gaza, so the total is now 28 (including an Israeli killed by mortar fire on July 15, the first and thus far only Israeli death since three Israeli settler teenagers were kidnapped and killed on or near June 12. Before this death, no Israelis were killed by Gaza mortar or rocket fire since November 2012. The piece provides a number of links. Notably, it questions numbers reported on Wikipedia as erroneous (64 deaths reported there). It's worth noting that rocket fire from Gaza varies enormously from year to year according to how restrictive Israel's blockade of Gaza is and how much firepower Israel directs at Gaza (factors that no one seems to keep track of). During 2013, for example, no Israelis were killed or injured by Gazan rocket or mortar fire (a total of 44 incidents). In other words, the factors that determine Gazan rocket fire are almost totally under Israeli control, even if the ultimate responsibility for firing the rockets isn't.

  • Ira Glunts: Hamas offers Israel 10 conditions for a 10 year truce: All ten appear to be completely reasonable, with most focused on opening up trade and commerce in an effort to move Gaza from its current status as an "open air prison" to relative normalcy -- assuming all the points involving UN supervision don't turn onerous. Moreover, few in any way affect everyday life in Israel, although one -- "prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement" -- points toward a future peace settlement, something Israel dreads. It's easy to question the morality of Gazan rocket attacks, especially given how they play into Israel's hands, but if they didn't happen what other leverage would Hamas have to bargain with? Do you really think it would do any good to appeal to Israel's better nature? As for the ten year term, how can anyone believe that after ten years of economic growth and normalcy Palestinians will be eager to return to the old days of the siege? Just hopeless racists, of which Israel (and America) have no shortage.

  • Philip Weiss: Netanyahu says there will never be a real Palestinian state: As far as Netanyahu is concerned, this is at most a bit more explicit than his usual weasel-wording, but he's never done anything to reassure American politicians that he has any interest in their "two state" fantasies, and he's rarely said anything that someone the least bit objective could misconstrue. Weiss also cites a piece by Jeff Halper, Israel's message to the Palestinians: Submit, leave or die, which sums up the deep attitude Netanyahu and many other Israelis have developed, one which has only surfaced more explicitly since early June:

    Operations Brothers' Keeper and Protective Edge represent the imposition of a regime of warehousing, of outright imprisonment of an entire people. The seemingly blind and atavistic destruction and hatred unleashed on the Palestinians over the past few weeks is not merely yet another "round of violence" in an interminable struggle. It is the declaration of a new political reality. The message is clear, unilateral and final: This country has been Judaized: it is now the Land of Israel in the process of being incorporated into the state of Israel. You Arabs (or "Palestinians" as you call yourselves) are not a people and have no national rights, certainly to our exclusively Jewish country. You are not a "side" to a "conflict." Once and for all we must disabuse you of the notion that we are actually negotiating with you. We never have and never will. You are nothing but inmates in prison cells, and we hereby declare through our military and political actions that you have three options before you: You can submit as inmates are required to you, in which case we will allow you to remain in your enclave-cells. You can leave, as hundreds of thousands have done before you. Or, if you choose to resist, you will die.

    Warehousing is worse than apartheid. It does not even pretend to find a political framework for "separate development," it simply jails the oppressed and robs them of all their collective and individual rights. It is the ultimate form of oppression before actual genocide, and in that it robs a people of its identity, its land, its culture and the ability to reproduce itself, it is a form of cultural genocide that can lead to worse. This is what Israel has left the Palestinians, this is the meaning of the bombing of Gaza, the terrorizing of the West Bank -- and the ongoing destruction of Bedouin and Palestinian homes within Israel.

  • Noam Sheizaf: Netanyahu's Bankrupt Strategy:

    Launching military campaigns in Israel is easy: the public idolizes the army and tends to support whatever measures it takes, and the parliamentary opposition rallies behind the government at such moments. Indeed, Benjamin Netanyahu's second campaign in Gaza as prime minister -- and the third the country has launched in less than five years -- was true to form, enjoying nearly unanimous support in Israel, despite heavy civilian casualties on the Palestinian side and the disruption to daily life caused by hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas, including at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Israel's international airport. [ . . . ]

    If Israel does end the war now, Prime Minister Netanyahu will face attacks from his political base on the right and among the settlers. The hard right, with its echo chamber in the media, already senses an opportunity. Amos Regev, the editor of the pro-Netanyahu daily Yisrael Hayom, called in an editorial for bombing Gaza "back to the stone age." Avigdor Lieberman went as far as saying that Israel should seize direct control of the Strip again, and on the eve of the military operation he broke his political pact with Netanyahu and the Likud, though he remains a part of the government. [ . . . ]

    Netanyahu can only blame himself for his political troubles. By demonizing the Palestinian leadership -- Abbas just the same as Hamas -- he raised expectations in the Israeli public for a decisive victory and opened the door for attacks from the right. His refusal to commit to a meaningful political process with the Palestinians, along with his insistence on maintaining the status quo through military superiority alone, will pretty much guarantee that this cycle of violent escalations continues in years to come.

    But isn't that the plan? And in the end, Netanyahu can point out that he did much of what the right wanted, and still kept the US in line. On the US front, Phyllis Bennis sees some progress, just not a lot.

    Joshua Tartakovsky: Israel's Bombardment of Gaza: What Is Different This Time? answers the question with this list:

    What is different, however, this time, is that even some in the US mainstream media that traditionally tends to unquestionably adopt Israel's narrative, began to depict life in Gaza. The Washington Post, for example, posted a video of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip from the ground level, a perspective not often seen on the American press and issued a list of children killed. What is also different, this time, is that Israeli politicians have openly declared the entire Palestinian people to be the enemy, and radical right wing Israelis have staged demonstrations calling for "death to the Arabs." Indeed, the brutal burning to death of a Palestinian child, carried out by Israeli radicals, has indicated the degree to which the anti-Arab incitement has been that severe that the Israeli government may be losing control of the situation. Additionally, this time, unlike in earlier events, Hamas leader Khaled Masha'al issued a statement directly to Israelis arguing they should blame Netanyahu for their current predicament. This time too, unlike in previous attempts, an Israeli ground invasion in Gaza, and even a recapturing of the entire strip, is a realistic possibility. While it is hard to say whether Israel has escalated the situation because of its desire to get rid of Hamas or due to its interest in gas reserves found near the Gaza coast, Israeli citizens, who are rightfully fearful due to the constant rocket attacks, are for the most part still united behind the Israeli government's "Protective Edge" operation, just as they support "Pillar of Cloud" and "Cast Lead" although none of the previous operations has provided them with security or a lasting peace. To what degree the international community will continue to support Israel's actions in Gaza remains to be seen.

    The US has at least counselled against that ground operation, although Israel has "warned" 100,000 residents of Gaza City to evacuate their homes, and Lieberman has argued that "IDF must end operation with control of entire Gaza Strip." [link]

  • David Sheen: Israeli calls for Palestinian blood ring at fever pitch: Just a taste of the hatred -- cataloguing it all would be so tiresome -- but here we have an Israeli Knesset member declaring "the entire Palestinian people is the enemy," advocating its "complete destruction, 'including its elderly and its women,' adding that these must be slaughtered, otherwise they might give birth to more 'little snakes.'" We have a Rabbi calling for "the killing of at least 300 Palestinians, and for scalping their foreskins and taking them as trophies." We have a municipal official in Jerusalem issuing "a similar barely-veiled call to mutilate and murder Palestinians." We have mobs of young Jewish thugs chanting "Death to Arabs" and "Death to Leftists." This outpouring of hatred is still shocking, although it's actually old news, as attested by the legacy of Rabbi Meir Kahane, by the Rabbis who called for Yitzhak Rabin's head (and the dutiful Kahanist who obliged them), by the authors of books (cited in Max Blumenthal's Goliath) on when and why it is permissible to kill goyim. But it shouldn't be surprising: this sort of racist hatred occurs in every society where one social group arrogates itself to a cult of superiority over others.

  • Chris Hedges: Israel Is Captive to Its 'Destructive Process': Cites Raul Hilberg on a well-known but not irrelevant case, then generalizes:

    The belief that a race or class is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. The despised group can never be redeemed or cured -- Hannah Arendt noted that all racists see such contamination as something that can never be eradicated. The fear of the other is stoked by racist leaders such as Netanyahu to create a permanent instability. This instability is exploited by a corrupt power elite that is also seeking the destruction of democratic civil society for all citizens -- the goal of the Israeli government (as well as the goal of a U.S. government intent on stripping its own citizens of rights). Max Blumenthal in his book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel does a masterful job of capturing and dissecting this frightening devolution within Israel. [ . . . ]

    When all this does not work, when it becomes clear that the Palestinians once again have not become dormant and passive, Israel will take another step, more radical than the last. The "process of destruction" will be stopped only from outside Israel. Israel, captive to the process, is incapable of imposing self-restraint.

  • Paul Woodward: Israelis take pride in 'how few' Palestinians they kill: "True. And so what?" Given all the firepower Israel can muster, the fact that they've only killed a little more than 200 Palestinians in more than a week of bombardment interesting, and certainly a measure of restraint, even though the seeming randomness of who gets killed where and the conspicuously high concentration of women and children among the dead doesn't suggest much precision. On the other hand, one could say -- not that I've heard anyone even conjecture it -- that the inability of Gaza's rockets to hit anyone suggests that they are deliberately aimed at nowhere rather than ineptly targeted: that they are in fact meant to be nothing more than symbolic gestures. In some sense the military aspect of the conflict feels like Kabuki theater, where the status quo always returns:

    The current assault on Gaza, like previous ones, has little to do with destroying Hamas or establishing "quietness," as Benjamin Netanyahu puts it. It is a ritual beating whose purpose is to re-assert the authority of the Palestinians' military overlord. [ . . . ]

    On the other side, in spite of Israel's assertions that it exercises restraint, every day we witness new examples of senseless violence -- today with the deaths of Ahed Bakr, aged 10; Zakaria, 10; and two other boys from the Bakr family, both named Mohammad, aged 11 and nine. These children were struck down by an Israeli missile while playing on a beach.

    How can Israel which kills "so few" Palestinians, explain why so many are children and babies?

    Part of the reason is that war is sloppy so while Israel can regulate the overall level of carnage, they can't eliminate accidents, but also it's sort of a distinction without a difference. It's well known that Israel's war logic is to impose such a high price on rebellion that its "enemies" will eventually desist and give up. Part of that price is exacted by killing "militants" (often defined as any "military age" male), but there are many other ways of exacting that price, including house demolitions, expulsions, jail, and killing one's loved ones. The only downside to being so indiscriminate is that people may come to view Israelis as monsters, but as long as they are feared that doesn't seem to bother Israel much.

  • Bob Dreyfuss: The Palestinians Must Put an End to Suicidal Hamas: Usually an astute critic of the Middle East, but I think Dreyfuss has missed the boat here, when he approvingly quotes Bret Stephens, "Israel has no stupider enemy than Hamas." Hamas was almost certainly not responsible for the kidnappings that escalated the current hostilities, and they were even more certainly targeted by Netanyahu in an effort to break up the unity efforts between Hamas and Fatah. It is true that Hamas has hurt its international image by escalating rocket attacks on Israel, and in doing so they've given Israel a widely accepted excuse to inflict massive suffering upon Gaza. On the other hand, they're not deeply compromised by complicity with Israel like Abbas, and as long as Abbas gets nothing for his obsequiousness -- which if Netanyahu gets his way will be forever -- Hamas will maintain its popular credibility. (And if you bother to read their proposed ceasefire terms they might even start to recover from the international smear campaign Israel and the US have waged against them.) They may, as Dreyfuss says, be a "useful boogeyman" to Israel, but he errs in concluding they're "Israel's useful boogeyman."

    For a contrary view on Hamas, see (which also has a lot on Kerry's pathetic diplomacy).

Finally, I want to cite one more piece: John Feffer: Mowing the Lawn in Gaza, which goes back to 2006, to the specific wrong turn that lead to today's seemingly intractable conflict. (Of course, it doesn't explain the entire conflict, which goes back much further, most critically to 1948, but the die was cast even earlier.):

Like the Algerians in 1990 and the Egyptians in 2012, Gazans went to the polls in 2006 and voted for the wrong party. Rather than supporting the secular choice, they cast their ballots for Hamas. Not all Palestinians are Muslim (6 percent or so are Christian). But by opting for the Islamic Resistance Movement -- Hamas, for short -- Gazans had effectively nullified their own ballots.

It didn't matter that the EU and other institutions declared the elections free and fair. The results were what mattered, and Israel's judgment carried the day. Even though the newly elected government extended an olive branch to both Israel and the United States, the Israeli government didn't consider Hamas a legitimate political actor.

"Israel stated that Hamas were terrorists and Western leaders did not challenge this line," writes Cata Charrett in an excellent piece at Mondoweiss. "On the contrary, they refused to meet diplomatically with Hamas leaders, they cut off all possible financing to the newly elected government, and they supported Israel's complete sanction and seizure of Gazan territory." A direct peace overture to President George W. Bush offering a long-term truce went unanswered.

Israel's political leadership -- the PM at the time was Ariel Sharon -- took this position because it wants to sustain a state of military occupation and it dreads any resolution to the conflict. The US political leadership -- that was G.W. Bush -- acceded to Israel because it was stupid (and because the Israel desk was run by foreign agents like Elliott Abrams). Hamas offered a fresh opportunity to work on resolving the conflict, especially if we had been willing to negotiate short-term accommodations (like truces for economic freedom) instead of focusing on "final status" issues, which had proved so difficult for both sides. Moreover, Hamas had credibility from not having been involved in the Arafat deals and decisions, and they offered the prospect of bringing a far greater degree of Palestinian unity to the table than Abbas could ever achieve on his own. However, by rejecting Hamas, the US allowed Sharon and his successors to ignore every US-backed peace proposal.

We should be clear here: while Israel has no desire for peace, the US has no future in the Middle East without it. In its efforts to form a unity government with Fatah, Hamas has offered the US a present, but in order to use it the US now has to stand up to Israel in favor of the sort of ceasefire that Hamas has offered. That's a tall order for Obama and Kerry, one that requires them to rise above their basic political cowardice.

   Mar 2001