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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34756 [34687] rated (+69), 219 [214] unrated (+5).

Worked very fast and hard last week, trying to update the EOY Aggregate file, knocking out a long and troublesome Weekend Roundup, and doing some website maintenance. The extra day contributed to the rated total, but it was mostly a matter of sitting on my ass in front of the computer, rifling through often short albums where I didn't put a lot of thought into what to play next. For instance, I added Jason Gross's new albums list, 152 albums long, which suggested more than I could get at. Later on, I took a different tack, knocking off many of the highest-rated unheard albums from the aggregate. At this point I've heard all but one of the top 190 albums (Nick Cave, at 168, is the only album I haven't heard), although from 191-208 I'm only hitting 50%.

NPR Jazz Critics Poll is unlikely to come out before Friday, and could slip to early next week. I was given until Wednesday noon to turn in a short piece on my top-rated album, Mark Lomax's 400 Years Suite. By the way, NPR just published a statistics piece, Equal at Last? Women in Jazz, by the Numbers, by Lara Pellegrinelli and others, on the distribution of poll picks by sex, up through last year. I doubt I'm betraying any deep confidences in pointing out that the 2020 results (not considered here) are either down significantly from the 2019 peak or comfortably above the long-term trendline.

Here is a spreadsheet of results of the 2020 Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll, compiled from votes by 200 fairly serious fans. (It was originally conceived as a fans' version of the critics-only Village Voice's Pazz & Jop poll, but since the latter's demise has attracted a number of recognizable critics.) The most obvious difference I see, at least compared to The 2020 Uproxx Music Critics Poll, as well as aggregates at Album of the Year and Metacritic, is significantly more Christgau influence. For example, Christgau A- (or higher) picks ranked by PJRP (numbers in parens are rank in AOTY aggregate; including HMs down to 100):

  1. Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters (1)
  2. Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (3)
  3. Bob Dylan: Rough and Rowdy Ways (9)
  4. Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (8)
  5. HAIM: Women in Music Pt. III (10)
  6. X: Alphabetland
  7. Fontaines D.C.: A Hero's Death (16)
  8. Billy Nomates: Billy Nomates
  9. Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath
  10. Drive-By Truckers: The Unraveling
  11. Lucinda Williams: Good Souls, Better Angels
  12. Low Cut Connie: Private Lives
  13. Public Enemy: What You Gonna Do When the Grid Goes Down
  14. Dramarama: Color TV
  15. Brandy Clark: Your Life Is a Record
  16. Kalie Shorr: Open Book: Unabridged *
  17. Hanging Tree Guitars
  18. The Chicks: Gaslighter (64)

* This is an expanded reissue on a new label of a self-released 2019 album Christgau reviewed (grade: A) in February 2020. I expect it will replace the earlier release in his Dean's List. I don't have any inside knowledge of what will appear in his January CG (out tomorrow), but I wouldn't be surprised to see the list expand a bit. (If the skew is not just influence but shared taste, records which did much better in PJRP would be more likely to show up in Christgau's CG. Sault is the obvious test case.)

Sure, the top 8 (plus Fontaines D.C. at 11, but less so X at 10) are consensus picks, but they skew slightly higher here than on the other lists (mostly at the expense of Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift, Perfume Genius, and Dua Lipa -- Christgau graded Swift at B+ and Lipa at ***; their drops from AOTY to PJRP were 4-9 and 5-15). Below 11, the Chicks have the most widespread support, followed by Lucinda Williams.

I should also note that the records in the list above skew white (3 exceptions). Some Christgau A-list albums that didn't make the list: Al Bilali Soudan: Tombouctou; Bktherula: Nirvana; Black Thought: Streams of Thought, Vol. 3: Cane and Abel; City Girls: City on Lock; Kehlani: It Was Good Until It Wasn't; Les Amazones d'Afrique: Amazones Power; Lil Wayne: Funeral; Princess Nokia: Everything Is Beautiful; Serengeti: With Greg From Deerhoof; Serengeti & Kenny Segal: Ajai; Westside Gunn: Pray for Paris.

Note several 2021 releases in today's list -- only one from my queue but not officially out yet. I figured that having listened to one of Ivo Perelman's 2020 releases I should compare with the forthcoming one. Only one previously unheard A- so far from the Jason Gross list cited above. In past years I've found a half-dozen or more, but 2020 has been a rather peculiar year.

Seems like a lot of musicians have died recently. Rapper MF Doom has gotten the most press, and deservedly so. I've lost track of the others, but do recall: Howard Johnson (the tuba player in Gravity), Ed Bruce (who wrote the Waylon-Willie Outlaws' greatest hit), Bobby Few (pianist), Gerry Marsden (of the Pacemakers), Claude Bolling, Frank Kimbrough, David Darling, Harold Budd.

Sheldon Adelson also died. Few rich people have spent more money to make the world a worse place. One can only hope that his most notorious beneficiaries (Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump) won't know what to do without him.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Andre Akinyele: Uniglo Boy (2020, Orange River): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roo Arcus: Tumbleweed (2020, Social Family): [r]: B+(*)
  • Baba Zula: Hayvan Gibi (2020, Night Dreamer/Gulbara): [bc]: A-
  • Bdrmm: Bedroom (2020, Sonic Cathedral): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Big Moon: Walking Like We Do (2020, Fiction): [r]: B
  • Nat Birchall Meets Al Breadwinner: Tradition Disc in Dub (2020, Tradition Disc): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Brothers Osborne: Skeletons (2020, Spinefarm): [r]: B+(*)
  • Playboi Carti: Whole Lotta Red (2020, AWGE/Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Collocutor: Continuation (2018-19 [2020], On the Corner): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marco Colonna & Alexander Hawkins: Dolphy Underlined (2020, Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Coriky: Coriky (2020, Dischord): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Elvis Costello: Hey Clockface (2020, Concord): [r]: B-
  • Crack Cloud: Pain Olympics (2020, Meat Machine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dan Ex Machina: Pity Party Animal (2020, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dan Ex Machina: My Wife (2020, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Dan Ex Machina: Bail Shag EP (2017 [2021], self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ward Davis: Black Cats and Crows (2020, Ward Davis Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dehd: Flower of Devotion (2020, Fire Talk): [r]: B+(*)
  • Helena Deland: Someone New (2020, Luminelle): [r]: B+(*)
  • Diabla Diezco: Memento Mori (2020, Mord): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dogleg: Melee (2020, Triple Crown): [r]: B
  • Dave Douglas: Overcome (2020, Greenleaf Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Earle & the Dukes: J.T. (2021, New West): [r]: A-
  • Bill Fay: Countless Branches (2020, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(**)
  • Future Islands: As Long as You Are (2020, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Melody Gardot: Sunset in the Blue (2020, Bravado): [r]: B
  • Selena Gomez: Rare (2020, Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jerry Granelli: The Jerry Granelli Trio Plays Vince Guaraldi & Mose Allison (2020, RareNoise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Siul Hughes: Stoopkid (2018 [2019], Fake Four): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Siul Hughes: Hueman (2020, Fake Four): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sierra Hull: 25 Trips (2020, Rounder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kelley Hurt/Chad Fowler/Christopher Parker/Bernard Santacruz/Anders Griffen: Nothing but Love: The Music of Frank Lowe (2019 [2020], Mahakala Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Kang Tae Hwan/Hang Hae Jin: Circle Point (2019 [2020], Dancing Butterfly): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Hwyl Nofio: Isolate (2020, Hwyl): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Ital Tek: Outland (2020, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sarah Jarosz: World on the Ground (2020, Rounder): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hermione Johnson: Tremble (2019 [2020], Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Last Dream of the Morning [John Butcher/John Edwards/Mark Sanders]: Crucial Anatomy (2018 [2020], Trost): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lithics: Tower of Age (2020, Trouble in Mind): [r]: A-
  • Luca T. Mai: Heavenly Guide (2018 [2020], Trost): [r]: B
  • Roc Marciano: Marcielago (2019 [2020], Marci): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Roc Marciano: Mt. Marci (2020, Marci): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gia Margaret: Mia Gargaret (2020, Orindal): [r]: B+(*)
  • Branford Marsalis: Ma Rainey's Black Bottom [Original Soundtrack] (2020, Milan): [r]: B
  • Metz: Atlas Vending (2020, Sub Pop): [r]: B
  • Kevin Morby: Sundowner (2020, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jason Palmer: The Concert: 12 Musings for Isabella (2019 [2020], Giant Steps Arts, 2CD): [r]: A-
  • Esmé Patterson: There Will Come Soft Rains (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Shamanism (2020, Mahakala Music): [r]: A-
  • Ivo Perelman Trio: Garden of Jewels (2020 [2021], Tao Forms): [cd]: A- [01-22]
  • Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Aymée Nuviola: Viento Y Tiempo: Live at the Blue Note Tokyo (2019 [2020], Top Stop Music): [r]: A-
  • Samo Salamon & Friends: Almost Alone Vol. 1 (2020, Samo): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jeannie Seely: An American Classic (2020, Curb): [r]: B
  • James Solace: Mind Music (2020, Hot Creations, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • James Solace: Setting Sun/The Light (2020, Four Thirty Two, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Touché Amoré: Lament (2020, Epitaph): [r]: B+(**)
  • Two Weeks Notice: A Calm, Measured Response (2020, Fake Four, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ugly Beauty: Ugly Beauty (2019 [2020], self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Rufus Wainwright: Unfollow the Rules (2020, BMG): [r]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • BBQ With Fred Frith: Free Postmodernism/USA 1982 (1982 [2020], SĹJ): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Erotique New Beat (1989 [2020], Mental Groove): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sun Ra: On Jupiter (1979 [2021], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [r]: B+(***)
  • Buddy Rich: Just in Time: The Final Recording (1986 [2019], Gearbox): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Schlippenbach & Johansson: Onkel Pös Carnegie Hall Hamburg 1978 (1978 [2021], SĹJ): [bc]: A-
  • Soul Love Now: The Black Fire Records Story 1975-1993 (1975-93 [2020], Strut): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Jack Wright/Michael Taylor: Kryptischgasse (2001 [2020], Right Brain, EP): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Jeannie Seely: The Seely Style (1966, Monument): [r]: B
  • Jeannie Seely: Thanks Hank! (1967, Monument): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cristina Vane: Troubled Sleep (2017, self-released): [r]: B+(**)

Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Mark Helias/Tim Berne: Blood From a Stone (2020, Radiolegs): [bc:1/5, 9:07/51:04]: +
  • Evan Parker/Matthew Wright/Trance Map+ [Adam Linson/John Coxon/Ashley Wales]: Crepuscle in Nickelsdorf (2017 [2019], Intakt): [bc: 2/7, 13:48/58:44]: +
  • Manuel Valera New Cuban Express Big Band: José Martí En Nueva York (2019 [2020], Greenleaf Music): [bc: 3/7, 24:19/61:24]: +

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Albare: Albare Plays Jobim Vol. 2 (Alfi)
  • Meridian Odyssey: Second Wave (Origin) [01-15]
  • Grete Skarpeid: Beyond Other Stories (Origin) [01-15]
  • Dave Stryker: Baker's Circle (Strikezone) [03-05]
  • Rodney Whitaker With the Christ Church Cranbrook Choir: Cranbrook Christmas Jazz (Origin) [01-15]
  • Greg Yasinitsky: Yazz Band: New Normal (Origin) [01-15]


  • Mark Lomax, II & the Urban Art Ensemble: 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia)

Daily Log

I need to turn my Mark Lomax notes into a 75-word review for NPR. Fortunately, I've already written more than I need, at least if I count the background from my note on Lomax's 12-CD 400: An Afrikan Epic, my number 3 pick in 2019. The old reviews:

Dr. Mark Lomax, II: 400: An Afrikan Epic (CFG Multimedia -12CD) Drummer, had a Jazz CG Pick Hit in 2010 but only one more album came to my attention, until I got wind of this massive undertaking. Turns out he's been busy, teaching at Ohio State, giving TED Talks, adding to his academic credentials, and recording albums I want a shot at sooner of later. This here is his encyclopedia of African and Afro-American history and lore, organized as 12 parts or albums -- hard to tell with digital these days. The first chunk, which Napster has as The First Ankhcestor, is all drums, primal but also deeply felt and highly developed. He moves on to his extraordinary quartet -- Edwin Bayard (tenor/soprano sax), Dr. William Menefield (piano), and Dean Hulett (bass) -- with some pointed spoken word on the opening of the transatlantic slave trade. They carry most of what follows, especially Bayard (imagine Coltrane, Sanders, and Ayler -- as Sanders put it, "the father, the son, and the holy ghost" -- raised to a higher level. Less sonically appealing are sections done up in strings, but even violins and cellos can't bury the rhythm. Toward the end the drums take over again. Took me a half-dozen sittings over four days just to stream the whole thing, which makes this hugely impractical to review and nearly unfathomable, but it is chock full of magnificent music.

Mark Lomax, II & the Urban Art Ensemble: 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia) Single-disc live presentation of music from the Columbus, Ohio drummer's monumental 12-CD 400: An Afrikan Epic, performed by his superb regular quartet -- Dean Hulett on bass, William Menefield on piano, and most importantly Edwin Bayard on soprano and tenor saxophone -- plus a string quartet. Bayard blows you away every time, but the gospel piano solo is nearly as impressive. Wish I had a CD, and the time to see if even the strings say masterpiece.

Actually, the latter is about the right length, so I probably need to do more compression than anything. How about this?

Mark Lomax, II & the Urban Art Ensemble: 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia) Drummer, should rank as a top composer but remains little known, teaching in Columbus and self-releasing superb albums, culminating in 2019's monumental 400: An Afrikan Epic: 12-hours that capture the whole African-American experience and genius. This 80-minute live précis is all highlights, adding string quartet to his own, with William Menefield's dazzling piano and long-time collaborator Edwin Bayard's titanic saxophone.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Last week, I found myself flashing back to scenes in the 1980 movie Airplane!. It was a very funny spoof of late-1970s disaster movies (especially Airport 1975, but the series of gags I most recall featured the air traffic controller (played by Lloyd Bridges), admitting "this was the wrong week to quit" various vices (cigarettes, booze, cocaine, sniffing glue -- by which point it was smeared all over his face and hair). Well, this was the wrong week to quit Weekend Roundup. My plan was to keep doing it through the Biden inauguration, then free up my weekends. I've collected my posts in four long book files. While I feel obligated to wrap up the Trump term, I'm too old and tired to contemplate doing this for another four years.

Still, last week was one for the book. I grabbed a couple items as early as Friday, but unfortunately I wasn't able to knuckle down and focus on this until mid-afternoon Sunday. So this will probably be shorter (and glibber?) than is deserved. The key events were:

  • A Trump rally in Georgia on the eve of the state's Senate runoff elections.
  • Georgia's election of two new Democratic Senators, which doesn't really give Democrats control of the Senate but gives them a fighting chance of getting appointments confirmed and passing legislation.
  • The extremist politicization of the previously routine counting of the electoral votes by Congress.
  • Trump fomenting an insurrection where his followers attacked, invaded, and (briefly) occupied the Capitol Building, disrupting the counting of electoral votes.
  • The restoration of order, and completion of the counting, showing once again that Biden won the election.
  • The reaction to the violence and disorder, and the still unfolding fallout.
  • Meanwhile, the pandemic got worse than ever, with daily death counts topping 4,000 for the first time.

I'm somewhat ambivalent about what to call the storming of the Capitol. In most regards it resembles the general unruliness of a riot, but the fact that the mob was organized and directed not at a mere symbol of state power but at the literal seat of democracy, where representatives were engaged in a process meant to insure the orderly transfer of power, marks it as an insurrection. Its target also underscores that it was not a protest against state power but a direct attack on democracy, and as such on the fundamental belief that the power of the state is rooted in the will of the people.

Whether it was a coup attempt is a somewhat messier question. Coups (from a French word for a sudden strike) are normally conflicts within the power structure, where one faction (usually from the military and/or the state security groups) moves to seize control of the state. That didn't happen, and I have no reason to think that the US military would do such a thing -- not that they, nor especially the CIA, have scruples about organizing and/or supporting coups abroad.

On the other hand, Trump made no secret of his desire that someone intervene to deliver his re-election. In his methods, he most resembles a monarch (or mob boss) who obliquely wonders whether someone will relieve him of some problem person, then feigns surprise when some underling kills the offender. Trump didn't care who would save him, nor did he worry about the means. He would have been happy had state election officials "found" enough votes to overcome the shortfall. He wanted state legislators to approve alternate electors, regardless of state laws. He repeatedly appealed to the courts. He urged his allies in Congress to challenge the counting, and he ordered his VP to throw the election to him. So when his mob stormed the Capitol, he was briefly optimistic. There is no reason to think he wouldn't have been thrilled to have the mob forced Congress at gunpoint to throw the election to him. And when all his efforts failed, he still gets to walk away pretending he never did anything wrong -- and that he is still the aggrieved party.

Ainsley Earhardt, the blonde sandwiched between the two douchebags at Fox & Friends, offered this emotional plea:

There are 75 million people that voted for President Trump. And they are scared. They are worried about what the future of this country looks like. They are confused and heartbroken that their candidate didn't win and they don't want to be forgotten.

Tony Karon cited this quote, then added:

Whiny white privilege knows no limits, eh? Especially when you monetize it, like FOX News, which profits off disseminating the lies and hatred driving this nonsense.

Actually, I'm all for respecting people's hurt feelings, but where is there any acknowledgement that the 82 million Biden voters care at least as much, as intensely, as existentially as those Trump voters? (Actual totals are closer to 81-to-74 million, but the margin is more than 7 million votes.) I shudder to think what the reaction would be if Trump somehow managed to steal this election, especially after all the damage he's done since unfairly, undemocratically seizing the election in 2016. And, like, we're the side that believes in peace, in equality, in civility, in law, in order, in community, and in reality.

Twitter Chatter

I wound up collecting enough of these to merit their own section (although note that I only started collecting them on Friday (and didn't keep it up), and I only follow a tiny number of feeds -- although retweets expand what I see significantly):

Stephen Colbert:
It'll be a shame if history allows one horrific event on this president's watch to overshadow all the other horrific events on this president's watch.
Kathleen Geier:
I know that 2021 has barely started but this has got to be in the running for headline of the year. [Hawley blames 'woke mob' for cancellation of book day after actual mob stormed Capitol]
Mike Konczal:
That the occupation of the Capitol was far more violent, and had the capacity for far more violence, than I understood while it was happening is the most jarring thing I've learned about the putsch over the subsequent days. It's terrifying.
Yousef Munayyer:
We spend $750 billion annually on "defense" and the center of American government fell in two hours to the duck dynasty and the guy in the chewbacca bikini.
Olivia Nuzzi:
A person who currently advises Donald Trump tells me: "It's all hit him since yesterday: 'You may have legal exposure from yesterday. You definitely have legal exposure from other things. You have less than two weeks to remain ensconced in here with executive privilege.'"
Jeff Sharlet:
A funny-because-it's-awful, awful-because-it's funny thing is that on Parler so many fascists, having finally achieved the uprising they could never before pull off, are doing everything they can to give all the credit to antifa. "What, us?" No, we can't organize shit."
Oliver Willis:
Hope Hicks resigning at this point is like Eva Braun walking out of the bunker and saying "ultimately, he went a little too far at the end."

Georgia and the End of the 2020 Election

On Tuesday, Georgia elected two new US Senators, with Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff defeating incumbents Kelly Loefler and David Perdue. See: Senate live results. Perdue and Loeffler led in the November election (which Trump lost by 11,789 votes), so one can take an extra pleasure in seeing how the runoff system, designed during the Jim Crow era to preserve white supremacy, finally opened the door. From what I can tell, it looks like turnout was more than 90% of the presidential election, which is remarkably high for a runoff election.

As I recall, on the night of the election, the Democrats jumped to an early lead, lost that late in the evening, then came back overnight. Ossoff's win wound up at about 45,000 votes, and Warnock did better (or Loeffler did worse), with a margin of 83,000 votes. There was a lot of speculation that Trump's post-election antics could cost Republicans in this race. I never put much stock in that, but what is unquestionably true is that Democrats stepped up and took the runoff very seriously.

This results in a 50-50 tie in the Senate. As the Vice President can break ties, that should give Democrats the ability to organize and run the processes. Still, as "control" goes that's a pretty tenuous margin, and depends a lot on keeping the most conservative senator(s) happy -- Joe Manchin is the obvious bottleneck here. Not much recent talk about ending the filibuster. If that doesn't happen (and Manchin is on record against changing the filibuster rule), it will be very hard to get any very progressive bills through the Senate. While the tie makes it harder for Republicans to obstruct everything, it relieves them of some of the pressure to cooperate with Biden. Republicans should be in a very good position to regain control of Congress in 2022, if they can avoid blame for whatever goes wrong -- which given the state they've left the nation in is quite a lot.

On Wednesday, Congress met to count and certify the Electoral College votes, with a substantial faction of Republicans trying to steal a win for Trump. Before they got very far, Trump's mob stormed the Capitol, disrupting the proceedings. I cover that in two later sections, but here I'll include stories that relate to the session, both before and after the disruption.

Vox [Dylan Matthews, Ella Nilsen, Zack Beauchamp, Andrew Prokop, Li Zhou, Ian Millhiser]: 5 winner and 2 losers from the Georgia Senate elections. Winners: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff; Joe Manchin (as the most conservative Democrat in the Senate, he can play hardest-to-please, making him the bottleneck for Democratic votes); Stacey Abrams and Georgia organizers; Ketanji Brown Jackson (or Leondra Kruger); more stimulus. Losers: Mitch McConnell; Trump's election discrediting strategy.

Chas Danner: Trump made earlier call to pressure Georgia election investigator.

Jerusalem Demsas: The 14 Republican senators objecting to the Electoral College's certification.

Ella Nilsen: Democrats win the Senate -- by the slimmest margin possible.

Andrew Prokop:

Bill Scher: Electoral College certification is dividing the GOP. Good.

Dylan Scott: "Phenomenal" Black turnout won the Senate for Democrats in Georgia.

Nate Silver: Georgia was a disaster for Republicans, and it's not clear where they can go next.

After last week, though, I'm not sure I'd want to place a lot of money on the GOP in 2022, either. If the Georgia runoffs served as a quasi-midterm, they might suggest that the GOP can't count on the sort of gains that a party typically wins in midterms. As in the primaries leading up to 2010, the GOP is likely to have some vicious intraparty fights, possibly leading it to nominate suboptimal candidates in some races. And with the violence last week and Republican efforts to contest the Electoral College outcome in Congress, Democrats may be very motivated again in 2022, feeling -- not unreasonably -- as though democracy itself may be on the line.

Emily Stewart: David Perdue may follow the Trump playbook on Senate election loss: He ultimately didn't, as the margin of his loss grew throughout Wednesday, eventually hitting 45,000, so he finally conceded. Perdue and Loeffler also backed off from their promise to support Trump's ersatz electors, although Perdue's term had expired before the vote, and Loeffler's ends as soon as Georgia certifies Warnock's win.

Li Zhou: 147 Republican lawmakers still objected to the election results after the Capitol attack.

Trump's Insurrection

One thing I wish I had time to do was to dig up some of the video that exposes the actual and potential violence of the mob's storming of the Capitol Building. It's worth noting that rioters came armed with everything from zip-ties and pepper spray to pipe bombs and Molotov cocktails. Another thing I didn't get to is the threat of further "protests" and more violence around the inauguration.

Devlin Barrett: Trump's remarks before Capitol riot may be investigated, says acting US attorney in DC.

Dan Barry/Mike McIntire/Matthew Rosenberg: 'Our president wants us here': The mob that stormed the capitol.

Zack Beauchamp:

Kim Bellware: Police departments across the US open probes into whether their own members took part in the Capitol riot. I'd venture to say that if they purged the ones who did participate, that would help with some of the other problems that plague police departemnts. Normally I'd oppose any sort of politically-defined job restriction, but the people who actually participated in the violence and insurrection (as opposed to people who merely attended the rally) aren't fit to be police.

Aaron Blake: What Trump said before his supporters stormed the Capitol, annotated.

Sidney Blumenthal: Trump's MAGA insurrectionists were perverse US civil war re-enactors.

Jonathan Chait:

Fabiola Cineas:

  • Whiteness is at the core of the insurrection.

  • Donald Trump is the accelerant: "A comprehensive timeline of Trump encouraging hate groups and political violence." Much of this is familiar, but the sheer length is staggering. Latest entry:

    At an outdoor rally in Washington, DC, Trump turned on Republicans who refused to support his efforts to overturn the election results, calling them weak, and urged Vice President Mike Pence to reject the Electoral College results.

    Trump told listeners, "You will never take back our country with weakness." (Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani also delivered a speech in which he encouraged "trial by combat.") He encouraged them to head to the Capitol to support objections to certification of the vote.

    Hours of violence followed the speech when supporters stormed the US Capitol, as well as state capitols across the country. Capitol Police fatally shot Ashli Babbitt, a Trump supporter, as she and others tried to breach the halls of the Senate. Four others died, including a police officer. Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed a city-wide curfew beginning at 6 pm, and few people were arrested, though many rioters violated the restriction.

    That evening, Trump again equivocated in messages to supporters, making little attempt to try to stop the violence. He later denounced the violence, but refused to clearly state he lost the election. According to the New York Times, he soon expressed regret to White House aides about committing to a peaceful transfer of power and condemning the Capitol attack.

    I don't normally copy links from within quoted text, but the last story seemed especially significant, and turns out to have a lot of information beyond its headline ("Democrats ready impeachment charge against Trump for inciting Capitol mob"). For instance:

    Mr. Trump had told advisers in the days before the march that he wanted to join his supporters in going to the Capitol, but White House officials said no, according to people briefed on the discussions. The president had also expressed interest beforehand in calling in the National Guard to hold off anti-Trump counterprotesters who might show up, the people said, only to turn around and resist calls for bringing those troops in after the rioting by his loyalists broke out.

Aaron C Davis/Rebecca Tan/Beth Reinhard: Several Capitol police officers suspended, more than a dozen under investigation over actions related to rally, riot.

Josh Dawsey/Ashley Parker: Inside the remarkable rift between Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

Jason Del Rey: Shopify hits President Trump where it hurts: His wallet: "The software firm has taken down President Trump's online stores."

Jerusalem Demsas:

Anthony DiMaggio: Fascism by gaslighting: Trump's coup and the grassroots insurrection strategy. Includes a revealing study of Trump speeches, wherein he "spent radically more time fixating on his partisan political opponents than did Obama or Bush."

Attempts to criminalize the Democratic Party via claims that it embraces criminal immigrant-based gang violence. This includes Trump's references to the Democrats as the "party of crime," the party that is "okay with crime" and with "open borders, which means lots of crime." In contrast Republicans and Trump "want tough, strong, powerful borders, and we want no crime." Trump depicts Democratically-controlled "sanctuary cities" -- "which the Democratic Party supports totally -- they love them" -- as the primary focal point "where crime pours in" to the country.

Trump's use of animal metaphors, his depiction of LatinX immigrants as criminals, and his claim that immigrants bring in "tremendous infectious disease," are indistinguishable from eliminationist Nazi propaganda, which characterized Jews as "rats," as a "poison[ous]," "filthy" and "infected" people, as a "plague," and as a criminal "arsonist" and "serpent[ine]" threat to public order and safety. That this simple yet damning comparison between Trumpian and Nazi propaganda is routinely downplayed in American political life is a sign of just how far our politics has deteriorated under Trump in the era of mass fascism-denialism.

Joshua Frank: Fools rush in: Trump, pardons and the tyrant's cult.

Understanding Trump as a cult leader is the only way to truly appreciate the power he wields and the idiocy he manifests. Few others could call upon their legions to storm government buildings with the dashing hope their efforts would make a difference, overturning what they falsely believed was a rigged election. No longer did police lives matter to these twisted Patriots. No longer did America's legal system matter, which shot down one election lawsuit after another. No longer did common sense matter, if the Capitol stormers had any to begin with. Only their President mattered. Only fulfilling his delusional fantasies mattered, and this was worth risking imprisonment and even death for. While the refrain may have been "Make America Great Again," the real mantra echoing through Washington last Wednesday was "Keep Trump President." He had not, after all, lost, according to them. The multiple logics here were murky at best, but the essence of their rhetoric was not.

Shirin Ghaffary: Why Twitter finally banned Trump: "The company suggested that Trump's tweets risk further violence during a critical time for democracy."

Melissa Gira Grant: This isn't an insurrection. It's an alliance.

Miranda Green: Who dies for Donald Trump? Profile of Ashli Babbitt, the one rioter shot and killed by Capitol Police while trying to take over the Capitol building.

Benjamin Hart: Capitol police officer dies after sustaining injuries in riot.

Rebecca Heilweil/Shirin Ghaffary: How Trump's internet built and broadcast the Capitol insurrection: "Online extremists started planning the chaos of January 6 months ago."

Sean Illing: The fantasy-industrial complex gave us the Capitol Hill insurrection: "This is America's brain on misinformation."

Kellie Carter Jackson: The inaction of Capitol Police was by design.

According to the Associated Press, the Capitol Police knew about the potential threat of the riot days before it took place, but rejected offers of help from the National Guard and the FBI. Officials said that they wanted to avoid using federal force against Americans, as they had done this summer. The choice to turn down help amid warnings of an insurrection is as revealing as it is disturbing: Why did law enforcement assume that they'd encounter violence from protesters marching for Black lives in June, but think that a largely white crowd of pro-Trump extremists and conspiracy theorists would remain peaceful? The difference in the Capitol Police's response shocked many who bemoaned the double standard. But police brutality against Black Americans and police inaction toward white Americans is not some surprising anomaly; it is the status quo.

Sarah Jones: This is what Trumpism without Trump looks like.

Peter Kafka: Fox News wants its viewers angry enough to watch but not angry enough to riot. "Guess what happens when you tell people, over and over, that they're being robbed? They may believe you." I don't think that's quite right: they don't care how angry you get; they just don't want to be held culpable for what you do with that anger. Maybe they should change their motto from "we report/you decide" to "we incite/you do the time"?

Robert Klemko/Kimberly Kindy/Kim Bellware/Derek Hawkins: Kid glove treatment of pro-Trump mob contrasts with strong-arm police tactics against Black Lives Matter, activists say.

Paul Krugman: How the Republican Party went feral, and Appeasement got us where we are: "It's time to stand up to the fascists among us."

Akela Lacy: Rep. Cori Bush on Republicans who fueled attack on Capitol: "That blood is on all of their hands".

Nancy LeTourneau: Why the GOP will remain a threat to democracy, even after Trump is gone: Posted Jan. 5, avant le deluge, but even as Trump surged to the forefront of our fears, a point worth remembering. The only thing that the GOP split over certifying electors proved is that Republicans may differ on tactics, but remain united on their fundamental goal of subverting democracy.

Eric Levitz: Impeach and remove Trump now. "He must be frog-marched out of our civic life in disgrace." Agreed, but impeachment won't do that. What's needed is to teach people to recognize what indulging Trump's vanities and paranoia has cost them, so they learn not to let people like Trump back in the halls of power ever again.

Adam Liptak: Can Twitter legally bar Trump? The first amendment says yes: "There are reasons to question the wisdom of recent actions by Twitter in barring President Trump from its site and Simon & Schuster in canceling the publication of Senator Josh Hawley's book. But the First Amendment is on their side."

Mike Ludwig: The Trumps have fueled a far right media monster that is not going away.

Jane Lytvynenko/Molly Hensley-Clancy: The rioters who took over the Capitol have been planning online in the open for weeks.

Andrew G McCabe/David C Williams: Trump's new criminal problem: "The president could face charges for inciting the Capitol riot -- and maybe even for inciting the murder of a Capitol Police officer."

Stephanie McNeal: Here are some of the most horrifying and stunning videos from the assault on the Capitol.

Ian Millhiser: 13 federal criminal laws that the pro-Trump mob may have violated, explained.

Parker Molloy: Desperate not to take responsibility for what they've set in motion, pro-Trump media pivot to conspiracy theories.

Sara Morrison: The Capitol rioters put themselves all over social media. Now they're getting arrested.

Tina Nguyen: MAGA activists plot revenge on Republican 'traitors': "The swift move to vengeance offers a preview of how Trump and his MAGA community plan to reshape the GOP in the coming months."

Anna North: Police bias explains the Capitol riot.

Anna North/Ella Nilsen: The catastrophic police failure at the US Capitol, explained.

Olivia Nuzzi:

Molly Olmstead: What new details tell us about the Capitol rioters' plans.

Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey/Philip Rucker: Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump's failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol.

Madeline Peltz: YouTube terminated Steve Bannon's account. He had blood on his hands after months of calling for revolution and violence.

Andrew Perez/David Sirota: We should know exactly who funded last week's right-wing riot: "Last week's right-wing riot at the Capitol was egged on by politicians and organizations that have received substantial dark-money funding from corporate interests. It's past time to enact reforms to end the era of dark money -- and find out who exactly is bankrolling the anti-democratic far right."

Cameron Peters:

James Poniewozik:

Andrew Prokop: Republican senator: White House aides say Trump was "delighted" as Capitol was stormed: "Sen. Ben Sasse said that, according to senior White House officials, Trump was 'confused' why others weren't as excited."

Frank Rich: The trashing of the republic: "The only response to the carnage in Washington is to banish Trump and his traitorous collaborators from civil society." And how do you do that, given that you don't have the power, and they feed on contempt?

Alexander Reid Ross: Inside the alt-right meltdown after failed Capitol putsch.

Aaron Rupar:

  • Trump turns once and for all against Republicans who won't help him steal the election: "Speaking to protesters from the White House, Trump said, 'We have to primary the hell out of the ones that don't fight.'"

  • How Trump's speech led to the Capitol riot.

    Just before a MAGA mob descended on the US Capitol on Wednesday and caused a riot that killed five people, including a Capitol police officer who was beaten to death, President Donald Trump delivered a speech to his supporters in which he used the words "fight" or "fighting" at least 20 times.

    "We're going to have to fight much harder and Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us," Trump said at one point, alluding to Pence's ultimate refusal to attempt to steal the election for him during that day's hearing where the Electoral College made his loss official.

    "You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength. You have to be strong," he added during the speech in which he pushed long-debunked lies about Joe Biden's convincing victory over him being the product of fraud.

Andrea Salcedo: Republican AGs group sent robocalls urging protesters to the Capitol. GOP officials now insist they didn't know about it.

Neil Schoenherr: WashU Expert: Mob at US Capitol building amounts to insurrection: So says Greg Magarian.

Melody Schreiber: The actual death toll from the pro-Trump won't be known for weeks: "Many who stormed the Capitol in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic did not wear masks. Then they went back to D.C.'s hotels and shops." We've already seen two Democratic Representatives test positive after sheltering with Republicans who refused to wear masks -- Pramila Jayapal and Bonnie Watson.

Alex Shephard: The conservative media really wants you to think the Capitol riot is the left's fault.

Fran Shor: White chickens, coming home to roost. Her backfile includes the book, Weaponized Whiteness: The Constructions and Deconstructions of White Identity Politics, and The long life of institutional white supremacist terror.

Timothy Snyder: The American abyss: "A historian of fascism and political atrocity on Trump, the mob and what comes next."

Like historical fascist leaders, Trump has presented himself as the single source of truth. His use of the term "fake news" echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse ("lying press"); like the Nazis, he referred to reporters as "enemies of the people." . . .

Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet.

Craig Timberg/Drew Harwell: Pro-Trump forums erupt with violent threats ahead of Wednesday's rally against the 2020 election.

Emily VanDerWerff: Is the country falling apart? Depends on where you get your news?

Alissa Wilkinson:

Jennifer Williams: Was the US Capitol attack "domestic terrorism"? Offers definitions by "analysts," "law enforcement," and "politicians/pundits," which vary somewhat. I have reservations, but one thing I'm sure of is that we'll be hearing a lot more about "domestic terrorism" in the near future, and the applicability of the term won't be debatable.

Jennifer Williams/Alex Ward: Trump has the authority to launch nuclear weapons -- whether Pelosi likes it or not: The authors are critical of Pelosi for talking to generals about limiting Trump's ability to launch nuclear weapons, arguing "there is no reason to think Trump plans to randomly nuke anybody." Given how fascinated Trump evidently is with nuclear weapons -- he's championed a budget of more than $1 trillion for new bombs, he threatened North Korea with them, he ended several treaties with Russia limiting them, he wondered whether we could use them on hurricanes -- and how deranged he currently is, I'd say Pelosi has something to worry about. Still, the problem is that no president should have this power -- not just an especially bad one. Unfortunately, that's not a problem Democrats have much power to fix right away. And one they may well forget exists when one of their own gets his itchy fingers on the trigger.

Impeachment and Aftermath

I think we should have learned two things from the impeachment of Clinton: that it's a cheap trick for a House majority to harass an president from the other party, and that it's not an effective way to deal with serious executive malfeasance. Part of the problem is that the constitutional bar is too low in the House and too high in the Senate, but the bigger problem is how both sides (but mostly, and most irrationally, the Republicans) have adopted blinders which allow them to see political opponents as criminals and traitors, and leave them blind to similar faults on their own side. Democrats have been itching to impeach and remove Trump ever since he slipped into office thanks only to the skewed Electoral College vote. And, frankly, he's done much to deserve such condemnation, while making zero effort to ingratiate himself with the majority of the country that voted against him (in 2016, and more emphatically in 2020). Still, I think we have to recognize that impeachment is a political matter, not a moral one. And it is unclear to me that impeaching Trump over the Ukraine scandal did the Democrats any good. So I'm skeptical that a rushed impeachment in the last two weeks of Trump's term is worth the trouble, even given his obvious culpability for the insurrection. Nonetheless, it looks like Democrats will seize on this gesture, as if doing so is the most necessary thing they can do to save democracy. I think they need to focus more on what it takes to win elections.

Erin Banco/Asawin Suebsaeng: Trump officials rush to keep him from sparking another conflict -- at home or abroad.

Charles M Blow: Trump's lackeys must also be punished.

Katelyn Burns: Top Democratic lawmaker says an impeachment vote will come this week: "House Majority Whip James Clyburn said Trump will likely face an impeachment vote by Wednesday."

Paul Campos: Pence should invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office immediately. Pelosi has also argued this, and at this point this seems like the only alternative to her bringing an impeachment vote in the House. One question is whether Pence has the power to win a vote in the Cabinet to do this. I suspect he does, as he was the main person responsible for staffing decisions early on (but figure he lost two votes with the Chao and DeVos resignations). The bigger question is why should he bother. Why isn't it enough just to have his staff bottle Trump up? If Trump can't organize events, speak on camera, tweet, launch a war or a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the inauguration -- why turn him loose (where he can do all but the latter)? Democrats may argue that his behavior was so despicable he needs to be made an example of, but they don't really have the power to do that, and failure could be worse than doing nothing. (Still, how certain can you be that Trump is really bottled up?)

Marjorie Cohn: Trump can be indicted under federal, state and DC laws for his role in Jan. 6. She argues that "Trump must be impeached and removed from office," but I'm more intrigued by the title -- although the specific charges she mentions ("seditious conspiracy" and "inciting insurrection") strike me as a bit on the nebulous side. On the other hand, I don't see a problem with investigating such charges, even if indictment and conviction seem unlikely. Also, if Trump is immune from prosecution due to a self-pardon, wouldn't he lose his 5th Amendment protection to avoid having to answer questions? And wouldn't he still be liable should he perjure himself?

Sean Collins: Americans are divided on wether to remove Trump, according to the polls. The key number here is "69 percent of Republicans saying the president was either not at all or not very much to blame." Even more deranged: "52 percent of Republicans told YouGov that it was actually Biden's fault."

Nicholas Fandos: How to impeach a president in 12 days: Here's what it would take.

Bryan Garsten: Impeach and convict Trump. Congress must defend itself. The problem with this argument is that Congress hasn't defended its constitutional prerogatives for a long time. As they've ceded more and more power to the executive, and adopted the increasing political polarization of the public, members of Congress have reduced themselves to being political team players, subordinate to their party's president, or intractably opposed to an opposition party president. The Judiciary has done a somewhat better job of maintaining its independence, but that's unraveling as well.

John Judis: Democrats: Impeachment is a political trap.

What's the point? To make it impossible for Trump, then 78, to run for office again? Nothing would benefit the Democrats more than another Trump bid.

Politics is not a simple matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of priorities. Yes, Trump did wrong, he is a bad guy. But the country is in the grips of a pandemic -- over 4000 people died on Thursday -- and in December, the country lost 140,000 more jobs. The Democrats have to focus on that not on Trump. The country has spent four years focusing on Trump. It's what he loves. It's his briar patch. Enough is enough, as Lindsey Graham put it.

Fred Kaplan: Trup still has the power to blow up the world.

Annie Karni: On the way out, Melania Trump denounces attacks on her as 'shameful'.

Ed Kilgore:

Ian Millhiser: How Congress can permanently disqualify Trump from office after impeachment. OK, can be done, but odds against it are very steep, as it requires a second vote after a Senate conviction, which requires agreement by two-thirds (so at least 17 Republican Senators).

Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou: Why Democrats are moving toward impeachment -- 12 days before Trump leaves office.

Cameron Peters: Mitch McConnell outlines what a second Trump impeachment trial might look like. Basically, he sees it as a good, inconsequential way to kill time while avoiding dealing with appointments and legislation Biden wants to advance.

Andrew Prokop: Will Trump be impeached or face removal under the 25th Amendment?

Nathaniel Rakich: Slightly more Americans are ready to impeach Trump this time around.

Asha Rangappa: If Trump pardons himself now, he'll be walking into a trap: "Self-pardons threaten the rule of law. The Justice Department would have to charge him."

Katherine Stewart: The roots of Josh Hawley's rage: "Why do so many Republicans appear to be at war with both truth and democracy?" From her backfile, Stewart is author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism; also: Trump or no Trump, religious authoritarianism is here to stay, and Why Trump reigns as King Cyrus: "The Christian right doesn't like the president only for his judges. They like his style." More on Hawley:

Mimi Swartz: Never forget what Ted Cruz did: "The senator has been able to use his Ivy League pedigree as a cudgel. After last week, his credentials should condemn him."

JD Tuccille: Sedition charges are almost always a terrible idea.

Politics as Usual

Some pieces on resignations, regrets, and realignments wound up here, but not enough on the bad jobs report and the need for further economic relief legislation.

Katelyn Burns:

Jen Kirby: Here are the few Republicans who have called for Trump's removal.

Ian Millhiser: America's anti-democratic Senate, in one number: "Once Warnock and Ossoff take their seats, the Democratic half of the Senate will represent 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half."

Terry Nguyen: Millions of students and adult dependents won't receive a $600 stimulus payment.

Dylan Scott:

  • Trump officials are resigning over the US Capitol siege. Here's who's stepped down so far.

  • President Trump won't attend Joe Biden's inauguration. The last sitting US president to skip his successor's inauguration was Andrew Johnson in 1869, when Ulysses S Grant became president. Johnson and Trump have another thing in common: both were impeached, but escaped Senate conviction (Johnson very narrowly). Well, another thing they share is that they're both notorious for making their racism a big part of their public identity. My reaction on hearing this was "good riddance," but others (including the adjudicators at Twitter) took this as evidence that Trump was fomenting violence at the inaugural, and chickenshit that he is, didn't want to be in the line of fire.

Emily Stewart: "Buckle up": Democrats signal they're ready to go on stimulus.

Li Zhou: "I want him out": Lisa Murkowski calls for Trump's resignation. Further qualifications:

Biden's "Build Back"

See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots. Another updated scorecard is Intelligencer's All of president-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees.

Quint Forgey/Natasha Bertrand: For CIA director, Biden taps veteran diplomat William Burns.

Umair Irfan: How Joe Biden plans to use executive powers to fight climate change.

Tyler Pager/Josh Gerstein/Kyle Cheney: Biden to tap Merrick Garland for attorney general.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 22.4 million+ cases (14 day change +34%, total up 1.9 million in last week), 374,389 deaths (+43%), 130,781 hospitalized (+11%). January 7 set records with over 4,100 deaths and more than 280,000 new cases. Vaccination first dose is up to 5.9 million. Vaccination is increasing at a slower rate than cases.

Ariel Gold: Is Israel practicing vaccine leadership or medical apartheid?

German Lopez: America's messy Covid-19 vaccine rollout, explained: "The US was supposed to vaccinate 20 million people in December. It didn't get to 5 million."

Josh Rogin: 1,100 State Department employees got vaccinated. At USAID, zero did.

Matt Stieb: US surpasses 4,000 Covid deaths in a day for the first time.

Around the World

Damelya Aitkhozhina: Russia is cracking down on political performance art. It should listen, not lash out.

Robert Herbst: Jonathan Kuttab's one state vision. Kuttab describes his vision in a short book, Beyond the Two-State Solution (ebook available from Nonviolence International).

John Hudson/Anthony Faiola/Karen DeYoung: On its way out the door, Trump administration names Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.

The decision is a part of a blitz of 11th-hour moves by the Trump administration to push through hard-line policies championed by influential domestic political constituencies, despite the complications they will create for State Department lawyers, humanitarian interests abroad and the incoming Biden administration.

"This blatantly politicized designation makes a mockery of what had been a credible, objective measure of a foreign government's active support for terrorism," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). "Nothing remotely like that exists here. In fact, domestic terrorism in the United States poses a far greater threat to Americans than Cuba does."

Nino Pagliccia: Venezuela: The United States is experiencing what it has generated in other countries with its policies of aggression. The view from another nation Trump has tried to destroy democracy in.

Michael D Swaine: Pompeo makes last hour push to set the US up for confrontation with China.

Other Matters of Interest

Ron Charles: Conservatives crying 'Orwell' are downright Orwellian.

Patrick Cockburn: What Assange's victory really means: A judge in the UK ruled not to extradite Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to the US, where he would face espionage charges and a possible sentence of up to 175 years. Assange remains in jail in the UK. More:

Jariel Arvin: 2020 ties for the hottest year on record. Only surprise here is "ties." Note the map of "US 2020 Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters" (a record-breaking 22 of them).

Matt Gertz: Fox throws in the towel on its "news" side: Fox is shifting its primetime slots from "news" to "opinion."

The message is clear. Fox executives hold the "news"-side figures responsible for the criticism from Trump, outcry from viewers, and the ratings dip that followed the network's decision desk accurately calling first Arizona and then the 2020 election for President-elect Joe Biden. Rather than being rewarded for telling their audience the truth, they are being punished.

Ishmael Reed: The tragedy of Stanley Crouch.

Ben Smith: Heather Cox Richardson offers a break from the media maelstrom. It's working. On the historian's Substack newsletter. Probably worth reading if not for the hassle of the sales pitch.

Jacob Soll: This is the conservative tradition: "A new history traces an anti-democratic politics of hate, repression, paranoia, and revenge to its origins." Review of Edmund Fawcett's book, Conservatism: The Fight for a Tradition.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: White riot, they wanna riot, they wanna riot of their own.

Matt Taibbi: We need a new media system: "If you sell culture war all day, don't be surprised by the real-world consequences." Conclusion is right, but adding just one channel that meets his definition of balance doesn't seem like much of an answer. Moreover, what makes you think he'd be happy if such a thing existed? He condemns the New York Times ("Criticism of Republicans is as baked into New York Times coverage as the lambasting of Democrats is at Fox"), even though their opinion pages are meticulously balanced between center-right and center-center, and they can be counted on to spread establishmentarian takes on everything.

Jeff Wise: Two-mile nose dive by a Boeing 737 in Indonesia as yet unexplained.

PS: A right-wing relative posted a meme saying "63 million Trump voters will never leave him! I am one of them. Are you one of us?" I rarely respond to taunts like that, but this time I commented:

I expect that most will leave him, and sooner rather than later. He's a loser, a whiny self-centered baby, a national embarrassment. Even if you once thought you liked him, before long you'll be glad to be rid of him.

I might have added that even the meme already allowed that 11 million Trump voters had already left him. He replied with something snarky, and I didn't pursue it further, but one other commenter said he didn't understand why folks were so hung up on Trump personally.

Monday, January 04, 2021

Music Week

Expanded blog post, January archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34687 [34643] rated (+44), 214 [212] unrated (+2).

Too late to try to write anything significant here, and doubtful that delaying another day will change much. Still spending a lot of time adding lists to the EOY Aggregate, and still a long ways from catching up. My plan is to stop after folding in the Jazz Critics Poll results, although I'm already feeling like I'm getting diminishing returns. A week ago it seemed like Taylor Swift might be making a run for 4th place, but this week she loses ground to Bob Dylan, and is closer to losing her 5th slot to Waxahatchee (currently -1) and maybe even Dua Lipa (-7).

Fair number of records below, but fewer A-list than is usual at this time of year. Could be I'm getting diminishing returns from the EOY lists, or perhaps I'm the one running out of steam. Picked up my first 2021 rating, but release date was Jan. 1, and it's a follow-up to the week's top rated album. I had the 2020 promo queue cleaned out until Samo Salamon's latest arrived today (not counted in the unrated). I haven't dipped into the 2021 promo queue yet, which is 11 deep. I'll get to them in due course, but figured it would be confusing to consider them early.

Little progress on anything else. Still haven't done the December Streamnotes indexing, nor answered the pending queue of questions. Jazz Critics Poll should be unveiled at NPR later this week, but I haven't heard much detail yet, so wouldn't be surprised to find it slipping a week. Everything is counted, and this year I've forwarded the compiled ballots to the critics, so I expect the error count will be closer to zero than usual. I hope to get some cosmetic development done, but nothing actually depends on it.

New records reviewed this week:

  • 3unshine: We Are 3unshine (2019 [2020], Real Show): [r]: B+(**)
  • AC/DC: Power Up (2020, Columbia): [r]: B
  • Alma: Have U Seen Her? (2020, PME): [r]: B+(**)
  • BbyMutha: Muthaland (2020, The Muthaboard): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brandy: B7 (2020, Brand Nu/Entertainment One): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dean & Britta: Quarantine Tapes (2020, Double Feature): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Drunken Kong: Where We Start (2020, Tronic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dueling Experts: Dueling Experts (2020, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hazel English: Wake Up! (2020, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Erasure: The Neon (2020, Mute): [r]: B
  • R.A.P. Ferreira: Purple Moonlight Pages (2020, Ruby Yacht): [r]: A-
  • R.A.P. Ferreira: Bob's Son: R.A.P. Ferreira in the Garden Level Cafe of the Scallops Hotel (2021, Ruby Yacht): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Full Salon: The Full Salon (2018 [2020], self-released): [bc]: B
  • A Girl Called Eddy: Been Around (2020, Elefant): [r]: B+(*)
  • Marquis Hill: Soul Sign (2020, Black Unlimited Music Group): [r]: B
  • Rui Ho: Lov3 & L1ght (2020, Planet Mu): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hum: Inlet (2020, Earth Analog): [r]: B
  • Illuminati Hotties: Free I.H.: This Is Not the One You've Been Waiting For (2020, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jasmine Infiniti: Bxtch Släp (2020, New World Dysorder): [r]: B+(**)
  • International Teachers of Pop: Pop Gossip (2020, Desolate Spools): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sunny Jain: Wild Wild East (2020, Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: B+(*)
  • Juice WRLD: Legends Never Die (2019 [2020], Grade A/Interscope): [r]: B
  • Maria Kannegaard Trio: Sand I En Vik (2020, Jazzland): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Killers: Imploding the Mirage (2020, Island): [r]: B
  • Sonny Landreth: Blacktop Run (2020, Provogue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bob Mould: Blue Hearts (2020, Merge): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keir Neuringer/Ensemble Klang: Elegies & Litanies (2019 [2020], Ensemble Klang): [bc]: A-
  • Kyle Nix: Lightning on the Mountain (2020, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christopher Parker & Kelly Hurt: No Tears Suite (2020, Mahakala Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Poppy: I Disagree (2020, Sumerian): [r]: B+(*)
  • Soho Rezanejad: Honesty Without Compassion Is Brutality (Volume 1) (2019, Silicone): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Soho Rezanejad: Honesty Without Compassion Is Brutality (Volume 2) (2020, Silicone): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Jeff Rosenstock: No Dream (2020, Polyvinyl): [r]: B
  • Ana Roxanne: Because of a Flower (2020, Kranky): [r]: B+(*)
  • Royce Da 5'9": The Allegory (2020, EOne): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sports Team: Deep Down Happy (2020, Island): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cristina Vane: Old Played New (2020, Blue Tip): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cristina Vane: The Magnolia Sessions (2020, Anti-Corp): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luke Vibert: Luke Vibert Presents Amen Andrews (2020, Hypercolour): [r]: B+(**)
  • Luke Vibert: Luke Vibert Presents Modern Rave (2020, Hypercolour): [r]: B+(***)
  • Luke Vibert: Luke Vibert Presents Rave Hop (2020, Hypercolour): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • London Is the Place for Me 7: Calypso, Palm-Wine, Mento, Joropo, Steel & Stringband ([2019], Honest Jon's): [bc]: B+(**)
  • London Is the Place for Me 8: Lord Kitchener in England 1948-1962 (1948-62 [2019], Honest Jon's): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Uzelli Elektro Saz (1976-1984) (1976-84 [2020], Uzelli): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Don & Dewey: Jungle Hop (1957-64 [1991], Specialty): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ensemble Klang: Tom Johnson: Cows, Chords & Combinations (2009 [2010], Ensemble Klang): [bc]: B+(***)

Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Tim Berne/Matt Mitchell: Spiders (2020, Out of Your Head Untamed): [bc: 1/5, 12:31/42.46]: +
  • Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction: Live at Threes (2020, Out of Your Head Untamed): [bc: 1/3, 3:13/48:11]: +
  • Michael Formanek Quartet: Pre-Apocalyptic (2014 [2020], Out of Your Head Untamed): [bc: 2/7, 22:06/66:08]: ++
  • Steve Lehman: Xenakis and the Valedictorian (2020, Pi, EP): [bc: 1/10, 0:46/9:06]: -
  • Bob Vylan: We Live Here (2020, Venn, EP): [bc: 2/8, 5:20/18:41]: ++
  • Anna Webber: Rectangles (2019 [2020], Out of Your Head Untamed): [bc: 3:39/38:19]: ++
  • Dan Weiss Starebaby: Natural Selection (2020, Pi): [bc: 29:02/78:14]: -

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Hal Galper Quintet: Live at the Berlin Philharmonic 1977 (Origin, 2CD) [01-15]
  • Samo Salamon & Friends: Almost Alone Vol. 1 (Sazas)
  • Amber Weekes: My Romance: A Special Valentin (Amber Inn Productions, EP) [02-14]

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Woke up thinking about a possible introduction, but nine hours later my brain is fried. I not only can't remember what I was thinking, I no longer care. So this feels like a stub, a mere exercise, but I vaguely recall a few hours back thinking this is still a fairly efficient way to digest the week's news. I've learned a few things along the way, and I've written more than usual below.

One thing I will note is that I'm about 3/4 through Kurt Andersen's Evil Geniuses: The Unmaking of America: A Recent History. Much of the book covers a story I've contemplated writing for much of the subject period: he has a fundamental understanding of the mechanics of increasing inequality, and how those levers were plied by Republicans (and way too often Democrats) since the late 1970s. His characterization of the architects of this counterrevolution as "evil geniuses" is well put, although somewhere in that last quarter of the book I expect they will lose the "geniuses" part. (Not that the right-wing is incapable of clever sophistry any more, but as their rationalizations have worn thin, they'd rather just throw their weight around.)

One key idea that I hadn't thought much about is Andersen's theses about change and nostalgia. He describes the 1960s and early 1970s as the period of "peak new," followed by an extended period of reaction and nostalgia. He points out that even fashion, design, and art have ceased changing after 2000, whereas during the 20th century it was relatively easy to identify the decade any photo was taken in. What this means isn't always clear. For instance, he points out that the 2020 election came down to competing nostalgias.

It occurs to me that intense change -- change so substantial and accelerated we're conscious of it happening in real time -- is not only rare in human history, but can largely be consigned to the 20th century. I'm imagining an S-curve where the steep slope is limited to 1900-2000. Not sure what to label the Y-axis: maybe domination of and estrangement from nature? I must admit I am fond of the idea of balancing time/progress on the fulcrum of my birth in 1950. Long ago it occurred to me that there's never been a "generation gap" like the one between my generation and my parents'. As for how dramatic the changes were around 1900, my eyes were first opened up by John Berger's essay, "The Moment of Cubism." Technological change over the 19th century was substantial (and accelerating), but didn't come close to the impact after 1900. Similarly, we haven't stopped since 2000, but the pace seems slowed, and the scale reduced.

Lost track of all the deaths this week, but did want to mention Judy Loganbill, a former Democratic state legislator here in Wichita. The obituary doesn't do her justice. She was a teacher before she got into politics, and she was a lifelong peace activist, who served on the board of the Wichita Peace organization.

I also wanted to mention Dawn Wells, the actress who played Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan's Island, as sort of the archetype of Kansas womanhood. I watched that show religiously, but the role became even more memorable for me through Tom Carson's novel, Gilligan's Wake, where she represents archetypal America in her ability to regain her virginity after every lapse. Where I do have a bone to pick is Carson's genteel treatment of Bob Dole, whose rank in the pantheon of American political scoundrels was fixed in my mind by his scurrilous 1972 campaign against Bill Roy.

That Was the Year That Was

Michelle Cottle: The 2020 high school yearbook of Donald J Trump.

Chauncey DeVega: Top 10 reasons why making year-end lists won't save America. Article doesn't even begin to follow from the title. I think the annual EOY list exercise does two things: it encourages thinking comparatively over a period of time longer than the usual right now; and it usually reinforces the idea that years are much more alike than different. Could be that 2020 will prove the exception. Right now, I feel that movie lists are even phonier than whoever won whatever major league sports titles anyone bothered to hold. On the other hand, books and TV shows have more lead time, and are delivered straight to the home, so they're probably more or less normal. Music? Well, that's harder to say. Nobody toured, so music product meant to promote tours had to be recontextualized, if it made any sense at all. (Taylor Swift and Sturgill Simpson probably made the best use of that change.) At the other extreme, a lot of half-assed DIY product appeared, most soon forgotten. (Brad Mehldau's Suite: April 2000 and Hamell on Trial's The Pandemic Songs are two exceptions.)

Josh Kovensky: It's Rudy! The melting mayor beats Cunningham to become TPM's 2020 Duke of Dukes.

Paul Krugman: 2020 was the year Reaganism died: "The government promised to help -- and it did." Well, not so fast. Government in 2020 was divided, and while some parts of it tried to help (and indeed did), other parts didn't try, or didn't help, or in some cases actively worked to make a bad situation worse. If Reaganism died in 2020, expect a whole year of zombie columns in 2021 -- as you may recall, Krugman spent much of the last decade railing against zombie economics (assumptions proven wrong decades ago, yet still somehow directing politicians to further folly). On the other hand, we should try to remember the brief moment in March when the economy and the stock market collapsed and Republicans were so desperate for something they let Democrats largely craft a bill that actually helped people. Too bad Democrats didn't get (or claim) more credit for that. By the end of the year, Republicans had restored the people's cynicism about the corruption and/or ineffectiveness of government, which left them nicely positioned to obstruct Democratic efforts to solve or reduce problems, without getting blamed themselves.

Jeb Lund: Ron DeSantis is TNR's 2020 Scoundrel of the Year: "An heir to Trumpism, the Florida governor has concealed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and fomented a depraved indifference to human life."

Derek Robertson: The eight pieces of pop culture that defined the Trump era. A pretty maudlin list, half of which totally escaped my attention -- perhaps the lesson is how little pop culture we actually share these days?

Spencer Sunshine: 2020 was a record year for far right violence in the US.

Several publications and writers looked back at what they wrote in 2020, and recommended a few articles:

Trump's Last Days

Felipe De La Hoz: Citing the pandemic, CBP has expelled newborn US citizens with their migrant mothers.

Richard Fausset: Trump calls Georgia Senate races 'illegal and invalid'. I doubt that means anything, but the implication is that he has inside knowledge that the Republicans are losing the elections. The two races are to be decided by the voters on Tuesday. Money and advance voting are off the charts. More:

  • Becca Andrews: Kelly Loeffler blows all the dog whistles at once.

  • Astead W Herndon/Richard Fausset: Georgia Republicans deliver persistent message: Fear the Democrats: "Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are resting their re-election hopes on a strategy that calls more attention to what they're against than what they support." That's pretty true for Republicans everywhere. Roger Marshall's Senate campaign here in Kansas was nothing but a long, primal scream about the dire consequences of a Democrat (any Democrat, even one who spent almost all of her political life as a Republican) ever getting elected from Kansas, and he won by a substantial margin. Still, you have to wonder how much longer they can cry wolf like that -- also, how long they can dodge their own crooked and malignant records.

  • Jonathan Lee Walton: Raphael Warnock's Georgia critics don't understand Black churches: "The prophetic tradition is about loving America -- and holding it to account." Ever notice how right-wingers, including racists, project their fears onto their opponents, expecting them to respond in kind to their hate and ignorance?

Christopher Flavelle: How Trump tried, but largely failed, to derail America's top climate report.

Ryan J Foley: Federal judge in Iowa ridicules Trump's pardons: US District Judge Robert Pratt: "It's not surprising that a criminal like Trump pardons other criminals. But apparently to get a pardon, one has to be either a Republican, a convicted child murderer or a turkey." I don't think Rod Blagojevich qualifies on any of those counts, but Trump recognized a kindred spirit in someone convicted of trying to sell an appointment. What happens when Trump gets tied into a similar influence-peddling scheme?

Amy Gardner: 'I just want to find 11,780 votes': In extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressures Georgia secretary of state to recalculate the vote in his favor.

The rambling and at times incoherent conversation offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still believing he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office.

"There's no way I lost Georgia," Trump said, a phrase he repeated again and again on the call. "There's no way. We won by hundreds of thousands of votes."

More comments:

Shayna Jacobs: NY prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates.

Julius Krein: Donald Trump's influence will evaporate once he leaves office. Here's why.

Andrew O'Hehir: Josh Hawley becomes first GOP senator to contest Biden's certification, likely forcing Jan. 6 fight. But not the last:

Ashley Parker: Trump to give ally Nunes the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Cameron Peters: Louie Gohmert's failed election lawsuit, briefly explained: It's slightly more technical, but the point of the lawsuit was to put aside the votes and let the Vice President decide who becomes President. A Trump-appointed judge dismissed, arguing that Gohmert "lacks standing" to bring such a lawsuit. That may be a technicality, but it's rarely been more obvious. Pence, by the way, seems to have leaned both ways:

Eve Peyser: The time Trump ranted about hair spray quality to coal miners.

Jamil Smith: Trump's lost cause: "The fight underway to keep Trumpism alive post-presidency has an ugly and worrisome precedent in American history." Key term is "lost cause." When I first saw this piece, I figured it might focus more narrowly on Trump's love for the monuments that helped perpetuate the Confederate slavery regime, but this suggests Trump aspires to a greater level of martyrdom.

Michael Stratford: Trump opens up federal dollars for private school vouchers amid pandemic.

Politics as Usual

The last days of the 116th Congress ended with an override of Trump's veto of the Defense Department funding act, and Mitch McConnell blocking Trump's proposal for $2,000 stimulus checks (embraced by Democrats, and passed in the House). Then, as of January 3, the newly elected 117th Congress took over (See: Cameron Peters: A historic new Congress has just been sworn in.) The new Congress has a reduced Democratic majority in the House (but not enough to keep Nancy Pelosi from being elected Speaker), and a reduced and tenuous Republican advantage in the Senate, subject to two runoff elections in Georgia (on Tuesday, January 6), which could result in a 50-50 tie, with Vice President Pence holding the tie-breaker vote until Kamala Harris becomes Vice President on January 20.

David Atkins: House Dems signal bolder action by weakening self-imposed austerity rules. You may (but probably don't) recall how the Democrats in the House celebrated their new majority status in 2019 by adopting unnecessary and counterproductive "PAYGO" rules. Rejecting them this time is less a victory of "progressives" over "centrists" than a win for people who want to be able to do things vs. those who don't.

Daniel Block: The new surprise billing law is an imperfect win.

Sarah K Burris: Nancy Pelosi's house vandalized with dead pig's head. By the way, Mitch McConnell's house was also vandalized, albeit less menacingly, allowing the mainstream media to achieve bipartisan nirvana; see: Meryl Kornfield: Homes of Pelosi, McConnell are vandalized after Senate fails to pass $2,000 stimulus checks.

Ben Ehrenreich: The year of magical thinking in American politics: "Trump campaigned on one kind of nostalgia, while Biden campaigned on another. The less regressive vision won out, but we're still hurtling toward the abyss."

Matt Ford:

Brittany Gibson: How Georgia got organized.

Eric Levitz:

Ian Millhiser: How Bernie Sanders plans to force a vote on $2,000 Covid-19 relief checks. The idea was to hold up the vote on overriding Trump's veto of the Defense Department funding bill, trying to force McConnell into agreeing to a vote on the $2,000 checks Trump wants and the House agreed to. It didn't work, in part because most Democrats were more anxious to override Trump's veto than to pass the checks. For one take on this, see Jake Johnson: Stimulus standoff ends in "Democratic surrender": After McConnell blocks $2,000 checks, Dems move on. Some more pieces on $2K (I also wrote about this under St Clair, below):

Emily Stewart:

Biden Prospects

It was a very quiet news week regarding Biden's staffing picks. See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots. Another updated scorecard is Intelligencer's All of president-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees.

Shikha Dalmia: How Biden can future-proof America's immigration system.

Bruce Gyory: How Biden won: Six hard truths: "Digging into the exit poll data on gender, education, age, and more."

Alex Thompson/Theodoric Meyer: Janet Yellen made millions in Wall Street, corporate speeches.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 20.5 million+ cases (14 day change -5%, total up 1.4 million in last week), 351,068 deaths (flat), 123,614 hospitalized (+10%).

Matthew Chapman: GOP Gov. Kristi Noem called out by federal judge for having "done little" to stop Covid-19 spread.

Sumner Concepcion: WH Covid task force members push back at Trump's bogus claim of inflated death rates.

Dan Diamond: How Trump warped HHS long before Covid-19.

Quint Forgey: Fauci predicts normal life won't return in US before fall 2021: Sounds like another example of him toning down his messaging based on calculations about how much gloom the American people can take. I doubt the old normal will ever return, but sure, by Fall 2021, a new normal for acceptable risk in social and business interactions may be possible. Before that, less so. [PS: Here's a survey of "11 top experts" that predicts "a steady decline in cases by next fall, and back to normal in a few years": Here's how the pandemic finally ends.]

German Lopez: Everyone failed on Covid-19: "The US's coronavirus epidemic is an American failure, not solely a Trump or Republican one." That may be the most general truth, but Trump, Pence, Kushner, and a long list of other Republicans distinctively stamped the mass failure. Also, note that nearly everything that Congress did to lessen the impact of the shutdown and help masses of people through the crisis was driven by Democrats, and often obstructed by Republicans. And while deep biases, like promotion of business needs over everything else, also affected Democratic officials, Republicans were more single-mindedly devoted to that creed, partly because they their contempt for most Americans allowed them to ignore the health and security implications of their preferred policies. Another factor is Republicans' unique fear and ignorance of science. Scientists and public policy wonks have been studying and developing countermeasures for pandemics at least since the 1990s, so when this one hit, public health officials had a good idea what to do. Their success around the world correlates directly with political systems which followed their advice. America's federal system, its long subordination to business interests, and our deeper commitment to individualism, made fighting the pandemic harder here than in most other countries, but you can go back to any date and find political choices that made the situation worse or could have helped. And nearly always you will find Republicans doing the wrong things. Even if you look at the purple map here which purports to show that "Every state has too many Covid-19 cases per capita," the only two states that aren't maximum purple are Hawaii and Vermont.

Anna North: Elected Congress member Luke Letlow has died of Covid-19: "The Louisiana Republican is the first Congress member or member-elect to die from the disease." He was 41. Also note:

Brian Resnick: The worst idea of 2020: "Natural herd immunity" as a pandemic relief strategy.

Rachel Roubein: Trump misses 20 million Covid shot target.

Waler Shapiro: The importance of brutal honesty in this pandemic winter.

Michael D Shear/Maggie Haberman/Noah Weiland/Sharon LaFraniere/Mark Mazzetti: Trump's focus as the pandemic raged: What would it mean for him? Didn't Trump say that after the election Covid-19 would drop out of the news? Maybe he just meant nobody important would talk about it anymore? Indeed, he hasn't said a word. You might take that as further evidence of how extreme his narcissism is.

David Wallace-Wells: America's vaccine rollout is already a disaster. Big problem here is that only a small percentage of the vaccines allotted have actually been administered. A chart in the article works out to about 13.5%. The more current numbers at Bloomberg's vaccine tracker are better, at 32.8% shots used, but still run the risk of vaccine shots expiring unused. By the way, at the moment Kansas is by far the worst state in the nation, with 17.1% of shots used (compared to Mississippi at 25.3% and Alaska at 26.7%, or for that matter Guam at 22.0%). Kansas is also dead last with 0.67% of the population vaccinated (Mississippi has 0.71%, Alaska 2.52%). The Bloomberg stats also go international. The one nation that is far ahead of the pack on vaccination is Israel, with 10% vaccinated. However, see: Oliver Holmes/Hazem Balousha: Palestinians excluded from Israeli Covid vaccine rollout as jabs go to settlers.

Ed Yong: Where year two of the pandemic will take us: "As vaccines roll out, the US will face a choice about what to learn and what to forget."

Around the World

Mike Brand: Why US foreign policy should focus on the root causes of violence.

Michael Crowley/Charlie Savage/Eric Schmitt: Pompeo weighs plan to place Cuba on US terrorism sponsor list: "The move would complicate any effort by the incoming Biden administration to resume President Barack Obama's thaw in relations with Havana."

Jerusalem Demsas: Argentina becomes the first large Latin American country to legalize abortion.

Eric Schmitt: In abrupt reversal of Iran strategy, Pentagon orders aircraft carrier home: "After weeks of escalation and threatening language, the Defense Department is sending mixed messages as the anniversary of the death of an Iranian general nears." A couple days earlier, Schmitt wrote: Pentagon sends more B-52s to Middle East to deter Iranian attacks on US troops. As recently as December 2, Schmitt co-wrote: Trump sought options for attacking Iran to stop its growing nuclear program. More on Iran:

Alex Ward: How military superiority made America less safe: "America's dominance wasn't by happenstance. It was a choice." Interview with Stephen Wertheim, author of Tomorrow the World: The Birth of US Global Supremacy. One interesting thing here is that Wertheim dates the idea of supreme US global power to 1940, before US entry into WWII. Indeed, his short book ends in 1945, with "The Debate That Wasn't," so he doesn't really get into the fateful decision to repurpose the idea of global supremacy as a cudgel in the global class strugle, playing up the threat posed by the Soviet Union and the growth of Communist-led anti-colonial movements.

Other Matters of Interest

Tim Barker: Life Beyond Markets, with Mike Konczal: Interview with Konczal, about his forthcoming book, Freedom From the Market: America's Fight to Liberate Itself From the Grip of the Invisible Hand. [Pub date Jan. 12; I have a copy on order.]

Christopher Ingraham: World's richest men added billions to their fortunes last year as others struggled: "Billionaires have added about $1 trillion to their total net worth since the pandemic began."

Ethan Iverson: Modern Hollywood discovers its jazz 'Soul': Pixar's Christmas release is the best jazz film in a long time. But then, there isn't a lot of competition."

Ian Millhiser: The decline and fall of the American death penalty: "The number of death sentences and executions in the US has fallen off a cliff since the 1990s. 2020 continued that trend." Despite Trump and Barr.

Ellen Nakashima: Microsoft says Russians hacked its network, viewing source code.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: It is what it is, but is that all there is? Lots of things, starting with tweets from Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman opposing "untargeted" $2,000 relief checks. Any other day they'd be complaining that progressives are undermining pragmatic compromises by insisting on ideal solutions. But no one thinks the checks are an ideal solution. The only reason they're on the table is Trump demanded them, and of all the things Trump's willing to go along with, they're not so bad. My own take is that they're not relief (as we normally think of it) but a one-shot experiment with guaranteed income. Sure, some people who get the checks will simply bank them as a hedge against future expenses, but what's wrong with giving people a bit more liquidity? Guaranteed income doesn't stop working when people are able to balance their books; that's actually when it starts making a real difference. Of course, nobody's touting it in those terms. Some other items of note here:

  • "981: the number of people in the US shot and killed by police in 2020." Presumably that includes the one shot and killed by police last week less than two blocks from here, which gave 2020 the record homicide count for Wichita. I expect it will be found justified, and I see no reason to protest such a finding. By the way, two more homicides on Jan. 1 set us on a pace to smash the 2020 record, by a factor of 12.
  • Sketches for US Space Force uniforms and insignia: "They look like uniforms for Nazi school crossing guards."
  • "I was gutted to hear of the death of Barry Lopez, whose Of Wolves and Men and Arctic Dreams exerted a profound, and still lingering, influence on my thinking about the natural world."
  • "On the last day of one of the hottest years on record, featuring some of the most vicious wildfires, hurricanes and cyclones in history, Alaska is about to hit by its strongest storm in more than a century (if not ever)."
  • In lieu of his usual current reading and listening lists, offers lists of "25 best books" and "25 best recordings" (I've heard 24, have 4 A-, most of the rest mid/high B+; I haven't read any of the books, but most look interesting).

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Daily Log

Today's death toll includes: Dawn Wells (Maryann from Gilligan's Island, 82).

Monday, December 28, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (finished).

Music: Current count 34643 [34609] rated (+34), 212 [213] unrated (-1).

Rated count was depressed last week because I spent most of three days cooking a large dinner for Christmas Eve. Note that this was not a large sit-down dinner. We packaged the dinner up for take-out, and guests either came by to pick it up, or I delivered it to their homes. I prepared eight dinners for two, and we scrounged a ninth out of the surplus. I mostly didn't scale quantities up from recipes, but made more dishes, in effect creating a tasting menu. I tried to pick out dishes that didn't have to be served immediately, that retained their flavor and texture, that could be heated up easily, or eaten at room temperature. I thought a combination of Mediterranean dishes might work nicely. Here's the menu I came up with:

  • Paella, with sausage (kielbasa), shrimp, and scallops.
  • Garlic chicken wings.
  • Tuscan spare ribs (a lot of fennel seeds in the rub, and glazed with balsamic vinegar).
  • Tunisian fish (cod), with preserved lemons and olives.
  • Green bean ragout, with potatoes.
  • Cauliflower gratin.
  • Herb pie: onion, kale, chard, arugula, and herbs mixed with cheeses, wrapped in filo, and baked.
  • Greek (horiatiki) salad (a chopped salad with anchovies, olives, and feta).
  • Cucumber-yogurt (mast va khiar), with scallions, sultanas, and black walnuts.

Most importantly, I provided a nice range of desserts:

  • Date pudding, topped with caramel sauce and whipped cream.
  • Tiramisu, made with sponge cake.
  • Oatmeal stout cake, with a toasted topping of oats and pecans in sweetened condensed milk.
  • A chocolate sheet cake topped with black walnut icing.
  • Macadamia nut-white chocolate cookies.
  • Moroccan mixed fruit, in orange juice, honey, and orange blossom water.

The main courses all came out close to perfect. The desserts had all sorts of aesthetic problems, but were still pretty tasty. I had various other social ideas that came to naught: I had a long list of people I wanted to call, but most of my attempts failed, and I soon gave up. I also imagined a virtual get-together, that we never attempted. I bought a new webcam, which is still in the box. After the deliveries, I was exhausted and pretty sore. I've been a hermit ever since, which allowed me to knock out a modest Weekend Roundup, and substantially catch up on my listening shortfall. I kept adding records to the list below up to about midnight Monday, which is what got me over 30. It also allowed me to reduce my queue of 2020-released promos to zero. I thought about extending the week to the end of the month, but after I hit 30, I decided it would be best to release what I have, and free up time going forward.

I figure I still have a month to fiddle with my Year 2020 List before freeze. Likewise, I'll continue adding 2020 albums to my EOY Jazz and Non-Jazz lists -- probably well past the end of January. I remain surprised not only that there are more jazz than non-jazz A-list albums, but that the margin is continuing to increase (currently 76-to-55). I'm less surprised that the imbalance persists among lower grades -- B+(***) is currently 140-to-85 -- because I've simply played a lot more jazz this year than I have before (with the possible exception of the last year or two of Jazz Consumer Guide). I suppose one theory is that I'm quicker and more sure of my jazz grades.

I'm continuing to add to my EOY Aggregate file, although there is not a lot of churn in the rankings. The one high-placed record with some momentum is Taylor Swift's Folklore, which has just passed Waxahatchee for 5th place, and may well bump Bob Dylan from 4th before I'm done. Swift's Evermore seems to have arrived too late, with too little fanfare, to make a dent -- it's currently tied at 117, and has actually dropped a few spots lately.

I've heard the top 97 albums on the list -- was over 100, but Touche Amore and Crack Cloud (two bands I have next to zero interest in) recently rose to 98 and 100. I'm still way behind in adding lists, but my interest is beginning to wane.

Jazz Critics Poll should run at NPR something the week of January 4. I'm hoping to make some minor changes to the layout by then.

Although the December Streamnotes file is closed, I have not yet done the usual indexing, or inserted the usual Music Week notes. I'll get to that later this week.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Annie: Dark Hearts (2020, Annie Melody): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christiane Bopp/Jean-Marc Foussat/Emmanuelle Parrenin: Nature Still (2018 [2020], Fou): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Anthony Braxton/Jacqueline Kerrod: Duo (Bologna) 2018 (2018 [2020], I Dischi Di Angelica): [r]: B+(***)
  • Peter Brötzmann/Maâlem Moukhtar Gania/Hamid Drake: The Catch of a Ghost (2019 [2020], I Dischi Di Angelica): [r]: A-
  • The Bug: In Blue (2020, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Carne Doce: Interior (2020, Tratore): [r]: B+(*)
  • Code Orange: Underneath (2020, Roadrunner): [r]: B
  • Deftones: Ohms (2020, Reprise): [r]: C+
  • Bertrand Denzler/Antonin Gerbal: Sbatax (2019 [2020], Umlaut): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Jean-Marc Foussat/Thomas Lehn: Spie(l)gehungen (2017 [2020], Fou): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Muriel Grossmann: Quiet Earth (2020, RR Gems): [r]: A-
  • The Heliocentrics: Telemetric Sounds (2020, Madlib Invazion): [r]: B+(**)
  • K. Michelle: All Monsters Are Human (2020, EOne): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Koreatown Oddity: Little Dominiques Nosebleed (2020, Stones Throw): [r]: B+(***)
  • KRS-One: Between Da Protests (2020, R.A.M.P. Ent Agency): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Liv.e: Couldn't Wait to Tell You . . . (2020, In Real Life): [r]: B+(*)
  • Masma Dream World: Play at Night (2020, Northern Spy): [bc]: B
  • The Microphones: Microphones in 2020 (2020, PW Elverum & Sun): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Ela Minus: Acts of Rebellion (2020, Domino): [r]: B+(***)
  • Rico Nasty: Nightmare Vacation (2020, Sugar Trap/Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Waylon Payne: Blue Eyes, the Harlot, the Queer, the Pusher & Me (2020, Carnival): [r]: B+(***)
  • RaeLynn: Baytown (2020, Round Here, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hans-Joachim Roedelius: Selbstportrait: Wahre Liebe (2020, Bureau B): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Rother: Dreamimg (2020, Groenland): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sevdaliza: Shabrang (2020, Twisted Elegance): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sorry: 925 (2020, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Swell Quintet Soul Travelers With Leena Conquest: Astonishments (2018 [2020], RogueArt): [cd]: A
  • Thelonious Monster: Oh That Monster (2020, Outliner): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lennie Tristano Centennial Quartet: Live @ Berklee (2020, Altered Music Productions): [r]: A-
  • Why?: Ten Voices (Synesthesia Media, EP): [bc]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Available Jelly: Missolonghi: More From 2004 (2004 [2020], Ramboy): [bc]: B+(**)
  • George Coleman Quintet: In Baltimore (1971 [2020], Reel to Real): [r]: A-
  • Michael Moore/Simon Nabatov: Ancient Sorrow (1998 [2020], Ramboy): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Thelonious Monster: California Clam Chowder (2004, Lakeshore): [r]: A-

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG): [cd]: [was: A-]: A

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Baker's Brew: New Works (Psychosomatic, 2CD) [02-12]
  • Steve Swell/Robert Boston/Michael Vatcher: Brain in a Dish (NoBusiness)
  • Steve Swell Quintet Soul Travelers With Leena Conquest: Astonishments (RogueArt)

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Spent three days this past week working on Christmas Eve dinner. Barely looked at the computer for email, but pretty much enjoyed a total news blackout. Also only played old music I didn't have to write about. Still got occasional reports from my wife about various stupid and/or evil things Trump did. Wound up feeling even more disgust and contempt for him than ever before. I'm surprised that's still possible, but one still learns something every day.

Trump's Last Days

It's beginning to look like Trump's reconciling himself, not to the obvious fact that he lost the election but at least to the realization that nobody's going to save him from the loss and hand him a second term. Thus, he's started to move on to his final, most criminal stage: using his remaining powers to inflict as much damage as possible on the government, the economy, our sense of justice, and his own legacy. It's an appalling thing to witness, and likely to become even more so before Biden takes over on January 20.

Sasha Abramsky: Trump is guilty of sedition and must be brought to justice: "He's violating his oath to protect the Constitution, and every day that he's allowed to remain in power, the threat to our democracy grows." First, sedition (like treason) is a bullshit charge. You might argue that because he is president (still), there should be some limits on what he can say, but there's no practical way to enforce it -- about all you can do is counter that he's being stupid, evil, and/or a gross nincompoop who should be deeply ashamed of himself. Second, it's a little late to say that anyone must be brought to justice, given all those guilty of far worse crimes than throwing a tantrum over losing an election, even if you limit the time frame to this past year.

Isaac Arnsdorf: Inside Trump and Barr's last-minute killing spree: "Private executioners paid in cash. Middle-of-the-night killings. False or incomplete justifications. ProPublic obtained court records showing how the outgoing administration is using its final days to execute the most federal prisoners since World War II."

Shawn Boburg/Dalton Bennett/Neena Satija/Ken Hoffman: Ex-cop hits truck thinking it held 750,000 fraudulent ballots, police say. It held air conditioning parts.

The episode illustrates the extreme and sometimes dangerous tactics that a set of conservative groups have employed in an effort to substantiate President Trump's unproven allegations of widespread voting fraud in the election. Theories about truckloads of missing mail-in ballots, manipulated voting machines and illegal mail-in ballot collections have abounded in far-right circles, despite a lack of credible evidence, leading to threats of violence against election workers and officials.

Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: Trump's latest batch of pardons favors the well-connected.

Kaitlan Collins: Giuliani told to preserve all records as lawyers for Dominion warn legal action is 'imminent': Moves toward a defamation lawsuit by Dominion Voting Systems over the conspiracy treaties floated by Giuliani and Sidney Powell.

Sumner Concepcion: Dominion CEO weighs potential lawsuit against Trump for pushing bogus fraud claims.

Paul Dickinson: I sued Blackwater for the massacre of Iraqi civilians. Trump just pardoned those convicted killers. "Trump's pardon of the Blackwater mercenaries who murdered 14 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square shows the world what justice means in the United States." But the entire war was an unindicted, unprosecuted crime, the culpability increasing all the way to GW Bush at the top. That says all you need to know about the state of justice in the United States. The tiny number of soldiers and mercenaries who did get prosecuted were selected not because they killed and/or tortured Iraqis -- thousands did that, as directed by US policy -- but because they violated orders, so grossly the military felt the need to make an example of them, in order to maintain command order. What the pardons do is to show that the military cannot maintain discipline within its own ranks, let alone act as a viable occupying force. That's something to consider before inserting military forces in foreign countries where they cannot help but self-destruct. Of course, also consider the fact that no occupying military force, no matter how disciplined, can possibly be viewed and respected as just.

Franklin Foer: The triumph of Trump's kleptocracy.

Matt Gertz: Trump's Fox News pardon pipeline: A comprehensive review: "Fox's programming and personalities influenced at least 21 of Trump's acts of clemency -- so far." Update of an article from 2019. Expect another update around January 20.

Michelle Goldberg: Trump's most disgusting pardons.

Spencer S Hsu/Kareem Fahim: Trump administration weighing legal immunity for Saudi crown prince in alleged assassination plot. Mohammed bin Salman is being sued in US courts for his role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Trump could intercede on the Prince's behalf.

Alex Isenstadt: Senior Trump advisers prepare to launch policy group. Brooke Rollins, Larry Kudlow. Other names are more speculative. Kudlow says, "The president is very enthusiastic about this."

Ankush Khardori:

Michael Kranish: Trump vowed to drain the swamp. Then he granted clemency to three former congressmen convicted of federal crimes.

Anita Kumar/Gabby Orr: Inside Trump's pressure campaign to overturn the election.

Anita Kumar/Melanie Zanona/Marianne Levine: 'Complete clusterf---': Trump leaves Washington in limbo: "No one in the White House or on Capitol Hill appears to know what Trump's plan is -- or even if there is one."

The repercussions of inaction could be dramatic. If lawmakers and White House aides can't persuade the president to sign a funding and Covid relief package by Monday, the government will enter the fourth shutdown of Trump's presidency. And millions of Americans had been told to expect another round of direct payments from the government shortly, while businesses across the country were expecting more financial assistance.

Yet Trump left town Wednesday afternoon without saying a word about the bill, departing for Mar-a-Lago, his South Florida resort, where he plans to stay through the new year. And no one seems to know what will happen next.

German Lopez: Trump pardons corrupt members of Congress and allies caught in Russia investigation.

Eric Lipton: In last rush, Trump grants mining and energy firms access to public lands.

Amanda Marcotte: Remember that stupid thing Donald Trump did? Hard as it is to pick, here are the top 10.

Tim Naftali: Trump's pardons make the unimaginable real. Much about Watergate here, how Nixon was tempted to pardon his way out of the jam, but held back, so Trump has already broken new ground in pardoning his accomplices -- and one only wonders how much further he's willing to go. One thing that's clear already is that neither public opinion nor respect for democratic norms will inhibit him.

Erica Newland: I'm haunted by what I did as a lawyer in the Trump Justice Department. Newland worked in the Office of Legal Counsel from 2016-18.

Tina Nguyen: Trump leans on QAnon figures in flailing effort to overturn election.

Paul R Pillar: The big finale: is Trump dangerous enough to start a war? Tricky territory here: calling Trump "dangerous" just strokes his ego. A better word choice is "deranged." Trump seems to be angling for a parting salvo on Iran. He's moving forces into position -- not that there weren't plenty already. But he doesn't have enough time for a full-blown war, and I rather doubt that the Joint Chiefs would go all in for a lame duck president. But there's little reason, other than his innate slothfulness, to think he's not deranged enough to try.

Nikki McCann Ramirez: A far-right architecture obsession just became a Trump executive order -- and Tucker Carlson was the middleman:

On December 21, President Donald Trump signed an executive order designating "classical" architecture the preferred style for federal buildings in Washington, D.C. The order represents the transformation of an far-right obsession into federal law, and the long-gestating effort was aided by Fox host Tucker Carlson earlier this year.

James Risen: Snowden and Assange deserve pardons. So do the whistleblowers Trump imprisoned. Reality Winner is also pictured. Evidently there's been some discussion of pardoning the first two. Indeed, one can argue that Assange was a major asset for Trump in 2016, and that Trump might have fared better in 2020 with Assange free to dig up dirt on Democrats -- something he couldn't do while in jail. (I'd put more emphasis on Trump's job performance as a reason he lost.) Still, I'd be pleased to see any/all pardoned. But if Trump pardons any of them, expect a lot of security-fetish Democrats to throw a conniption fit.

Aaron Rupar: Fox News's post-Trump identity crisis, explained by an expert: Interview with Matt Gertz, of Media Matters.

Maggie Severns: A Trump executive order set the stage for Falwell's political activities.

Ben Smith: The 'red slime' lawsuit that could sink right-wing media: "Voting machine companies threaten 'highly dangerous' cases against Fox, Newsmax and OAN, says Floyd Abrams."

Kimberly Wehle: No, Flynn's martial law plot isn't sedition. But it's not necessarily legal either. "If it incites violence, the former general's proposal to redo the election is not covered by free speech protections."

Matt Zapotosky: Undercutting Trump, Barr says there's no basis for seizing voting machines, using special counsels for election fraud, Hunter Biden.

Matt Zapotosky/Josh Dawsey/Colby Itkowitz/Jonathan O'Connell: Trump pardons Charles Kushner, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone in latest wave of clemency grants.

Politics as Usual

Congress passed a $900 billion Covid-19 relief bill, combined with a $1.4 trillion bill to keep the government from shutting down by allowing all sorts of spending through September. See Ella Nilsen/Li Zhou: Congress has officially passed a $900 billion Covid-19 relief package. Trump whined and pouted without signing the bill (at least as of late Saturday). See: Alexandra Olson/Jill Colvin: Trump fiddles as unemployment benefits are about to expire for millions. Sunday evening, Trump finally signed -- see Seung Min Kim/Jeff Stein/Mike DeBonis/Josh Dawsey: Trump signs stimulus and government spending bill into law, averting shutdown. Or, as the New York Times put it, Trump signs pandemic relief bill after unemployment aid lapses.

FiveThirtyEight: Latest polls of the Georgia Senate runoffs: Basically dead even. I'm not sure why anyone would split their vote, but the numbers show a 0.5% edge for Perdue over Ossoff and a 0.6% edge for Warnock over Loeffler.

Dean Baker:

  • Quick note on the Federal Reserve Board: So Republican Sen. Pat Toomey "insisted on adding language to the pandemic rescue package, stripping the Fed of emergency powers." Granted, the Fed mostly uses its powers to rescue banks and ensure them profits (remember "the Greenspan put"?), the clear intent here is to make the recession longer and deeper under Biden.

    Just for background, we know that the Republicans are perfectly fine with sabotaging the economy in order to hurt the political prospects of a Democrat in the White House. This is exactly what they did under President Obama, as they demanded recovery killing austerity as they feigned concern about deficits. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell openly said that his job was to make Obama a one-term president.

  • Bloomberg is concerned that Janet Yellen's dollar policy may lessen wealth inequality. Of course, Toomey's concern is not just a cynical political ploy. He's also concerned that the rich might suffer.

Eric Levitz: 7 surprisingly good policies buried in the stimulus-omnibus bill.

  1. The most significant climate-change legislation in at least a decade (and arguably ever).
  2. An end to most forms of surprise medical billing.
  3. The most significant anti-money laundering reform in decades.
  4. A simultaneous breakthrough in higher-education and criminal-justice-reform policy.
  5. Two cool new museums.
  6. An expansion of rural broadband.
  7. Medicaid for Marshall Islanders.

German Lopez: Trump vetoes military spending bill, potentially setting up first veto override of his presidency.

Natalie Shure: Congress doesn't care about your surprise ambulance bill.

Emily Stewart: The stimulus bill includes a "historic" provision to expand broadband internet access.

Li Zhou:

Biden Prospects

See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots. Another updated scorecard is Intelligencer's All of president-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees. For an evaluation, see Robert Kuttner: Biden's cabinet: The scorecard so far.

I also want to point out an extensive series of articles, collectively titled Day One Agenda, at The American Prospect. I've linked to some below, and others in previous weeks. Most focus on things that Biden can do with existing executive powers, without having to go hat-in-hand to get support from a hostile Congress. A lot of these are unlikely to happen -- one article,, Joe Biden is unhappy about the Day One Agenda, is conscious enough to argue over it, as does The Day One Agenda polls pretty well -- but the vast scope of these pieces shows that the left is bursting with good ideas for better government. For further debate, see Ryan D Doerfler: Executive orders and smart lawyers won't save us, and the reply by David Dayen: Make progress on all fronts: A response to Jacobin.

Glenn Greenwald: With Biden's new threats, the Russia discourse is more reckless and dangerous than ever: "The US media demands inflammatory claims be accepted with no evidence, while hacking behavior routinely engaged in by the US is depicted as aberrational." My main complaint here is that I don't recall US hacking as ever having been depicted as anything -- aside from rare whistleblower complaints, it's simply not something American media tries to report on.

Jeff Hauser/Erich Pica: The most important Biden appointee no one has heard of: "The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs can determine the scope of the Biden presidency."

Mike Pearl: The green fantasy and messy reality of nuclear power.

Robert Wright: Five things about Gen. Lloyd Austin.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 19.1 million+ cases (14 day change -9%, total up 1.4 million in last week), 333,197 deaths (-71%), 117,344 hospitalized (+11%). Dec. 18 had a peak of 251,447 new cases, with Dec. 26 just barely down to 225,930 -- the drop to 91,922 cases on Christmas day is what's dragging the average down, but that may have more to do with reporting than with testing.

I saw a report last week that 4 of the top 5 counties nationwide for per capita death rates were in Kansas, topped by Edwards County. I had an aunt who used to live in Kinsley there, and I've spent a lot of time there, especially before 1970. The town has declined considerably, with the county population dropping under 3,000, so a small number of deaths makes a big blip. The map above shows an average of 10 cases per 100,000 in Edwards, but 147 in neighboring Pawnee County, and 0 in Hodgeman and Kiowa Counties. (Hodgeman, by the way, was where my great-great-grandfather homesteaded in 1867. My father was born there in 1923, although his birth certificate says Spearville, just over the Ford County line (and just a couple miles from Edwards County).

Dean Baker: Helping the NYT understand its reporting: China's coverup was not the cause of the worldwide spread of the Coronavirus.

Donald G McNeil Jr: How much herd immunity is enough? Without doing any math, my initial guess was that it would take about 80% immunity to significantly reduce the number of cases, and a good deal more to "banish it." Evidently people who should have done the math were throwing out 60-70% estimates, but when pressed recently Fauci is talking 75-85% (publicly, and 90% privately).

Brian Resnick/Umair Irfan: The new UK coronavirus mutations, explained.

Around the World

Andrew J Bacevich: Reflections on Vietnam and Iraq: The lessons of two failed wars. [Reprinted from TomDispatch, minus Tom Engelhardt's introduction.] While I'm pleased to see these two debacles linked in print, the only lesson of Vietnam is that Americans are incapable of learning lessons, even (or perhaps especially) from failures. Perhaps chances are better for Iraq: the memory is less distant, and less clouded by overarching mission -- the "global war on terror" was always more nebulous than the anti-communist crusade, and didn't even fit the situation in Iraq. But the similarities are critical, hence one should draw the same basic lessons: both are wars where the US attempted to impose its capitalist economic system on nations accustomed to resisting colonialism, and did so ultimately with military force, with little (if any) respect for the lives and welfare of the people. Sure, there were moments when the US talked its game of democracy, but it was always conditional on voting for the right politicians. The only things that made Iraq less of a disaster than Vietnam was that the US was able to disunite resistance by inciting civil war (between Kurds and Arabs, and between Shiite and Sunni Arabs), playing each side against the other. I'd draw two basic lessons from these wars: one is that the US has to be more respectful of the people and their welfare, even if that means letting them run their own affairs and organize their society and economy along lines we don't consider ideal; the other is that armed force is not a real option -- it is counterproductive, both in that it destroys the nation one hoped to save, and in that it is corrosive of the moral values of the occupying force. Also at TomDispatch:

  • Tom Engelhardt: Partyland 2020. Subtitle asks "what if, after 9/11, George W Bush had thrown parties?" But if memory serves, Bush did shill for Disneyland immediately after 9/11, while plotting to make his grudge war against Afghanistan even more unwinnable by extending it to Iraq and beyond, promoting an "Axis of Evil" that extended as far as North Korea. As Trump showed with Covid-19, America believes in partying through its wars.

  • Rebecca Gordon: All-War-All-the-Time?

Katrin Bennhold: She called police over a neo-Nazi threat. But the neo-Nazis were inside the police. In Germany.

Chas Freeman: The growing peril of war with China over Taiwan.

Fred Kaplan: Should the US retaliate for Russia's big hack? Any time I read about the need to deter attacks my bullshit detector goes off. Kaplan tries to make a case for nuclear deterrence, and that's not totally wrong, as there is a clear line separating use of nuclear weapons from other weapons, and nuclear weapons represent a clear escalation beyond any other weapons. Still, the main reason nuclear deterrence works is that nobody actually wants nuclear war, so deterrence reinforces preferred behavior. But how is it even possible to deter hacking?

Any assessment must also recognize the following: We do this sort of thing too, and have been doing it for a long time. Our cyberattacks tend to be more focused on specific targets, for specific aims. But the National Security Agency, Cyber Command, and certain units of the CIA have long been carving "backdoors" into foreign networks, roaming around in the critical infrastructure of adversaries, and planting malware that can damage this infrastructure on command.

In 2014, after realizing there was no way for America's vital networks to defend themselves from a sophisticated cyberattack, Cyber Command adopted a policy of "active defense." Defining the concept, Adm. Michael Rogers, the commander at the time, said the "biggest focus" would be "to attempt to interdict the attack before it ever got to us" -- in other words, to get inside the adversary's network, in order to detect him preparing an attack, then deflect or preempt it.

So, before U.S. leaders set about responding to the SolarWinds hack, they should articulate how it differs from the things that we sometimes do -- why the Russians deserve punishment and we don't.

Jessica J Lee: It's time to end the Korean War: "Seventy years into the conflict, Biden can resolve the original forever war."

Ted Snider: Israel-linked assassinations: How much is the US really involved?

Other Matters of Interest

Dave Barry: Dave Barry's year in review 2020: "And we thought past years were awful."

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw: The unacceptable costs of appeasing MAGA Nation: "Why we can't afford to make peace with white supremacists."

Thomas Geoghegan: Labor power is the key to racial equity: "The next big American conversation about race should take place in a union hall." Part of a series called Unbreaking America: "How to fix a country that was already cracking up before Trump came along." Some other pieces:

Parker Molloy: A war on Christmas story: How Fox News built the dumbest part of America's culture war.

New York Times: Remembering some of the artists, innovators and thinkers we lost in the past year. A somewhat idiosyncratic but interesting list, topped by Shere Hite.

Alex Pareene: The return of corporate tax incentives is a bad omen for blue states.

Kirkpatrick Sale: Is society collapsing? Author of the first major history of SDS (1973), recalls a bet he made 25 years ago "that global society led by the United States would collapse in the year 2020 from a confluence of causes created by modern technology out of control." Earlier this year (February 11), before the pandemic really hit, he wrote a short book to make his case for winning the bet (The Collapse of 2020). This is a précis. Not sure that he won the bet, but I'd say he's closer than his "won't even be close" opponent.

Zachary Siegel: The deadliest year in the history of US drug use.

Micah L Sifry: Why did Obama forget who brought him to the dance? "His memoir is strangely silent about the people who organized for him." This reminds me of the adage that while both parties despise their bases, Republicans at least fear theirs, which keeps them aligned. Most Democrats, on the other hand, feel free to turn their backs as soon as the votes are counted.

And as Election Day approaches, Obama writes of his awe at the size of the crowds coming to his rallies and worries about having aroused too much hope, knowing that he might not be able to meet the expectations that some of his followers were pressing on him.

But after his election as president, the grassroots disappears from Obama's story. The amnesia starts the night of his inauguration, when he attended ten formal balls with first lady Michelle Obama, but only the first one, where he was serenaded by Beyoncé, and later one for members of the armed forces, make it into his memoir. The Obama for America staff ball, which was attended by 10,000 staff and where Obama reportedly spoke for 17 minutes, is gone from his memory. White House deputy chief of staff Jim Messina, who managed the White House's relationships with Democratic advocacy organizations, gets barely a mention for his role in the health care reform fight. The organizers who took him to victory in the Iowa caucus, who he says he "would still do anything for," are nowhere in the rest of the book, even as one of them, Mitch Stewart, would come to run Organizing for America at the DNC. . . .

It's no wonder that once Obama entered the White House, he and his team obsessed about how much power the media had to shape the narrative of his presidency. He never understood that when enough people are successfully organized to move en masse, they can actually write history themselves. Instead, he thought he was the author of his story. And apparently, he still does.

Richard Silverstein: Conflating Judaism and Zionism: Bad for the Jews.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Welcome to the malarky factory. A scattershot of useful tidbits. For example, "a handful of giant corporations have spent $8 trillion in unproductive stock buybacks since 2009." I was recently reminded that stock buybacks were illegal before Reagan. It has since helped inflate the stock market, becoming one of the main ways wealth is transferred to the top 1%.

Paul Waldman: What a miserable 2020 revealed about America: "It exposed an impotent political system, a deadly mythology of rugged individualism, and a Republican Party without shame."

Alex Walker: Rush Limbaugh's deranged 2020: From denying the pandemic to supporting a coup. Has anyone ever been more consistently wrong?

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Daily Log

Posted this at Facebook:

Done with my quarantine Xmas Eve dinner. Since we couldn't entertain, I made 8 take-out dinners for two: paella, garlic chicken wings, Tuscan spare ribs (a lot of fennel seeds in the rub, and glazed with balsamic), eggplant parmesan, Tunisian fish (preserved lemons & olives), green beat ragout, cauliflower gratin, "herb pie" (greens and cheese wrapped in filo and baked), mast va khiar (cucumber-yogurt), horiatiki (chopped salad with feta). For dessert: date pudding, tiramisu, chocolate cake, oatmeal stout cake, macadamia-white chocolate cookies, Moroccan mixed fruit. Lots of problems with the desserts. Only picture I took was right after the herb pie came out of the oven, flanked on stove by chicken wings and paella. I'm sore and tired, and kitchen is a wreck. Latter will be cleaned up by tomorrow, but the pain seems here to stay.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34609 [34569] rated (+40), 213 [215] unrated (-2).

No real time to work on this, so I need to rush through. Continuing to update various tracking files (although I've fallen way behind with the EOY aggregate):

I've finished compiling the Jazz Critics Poll, toting up 148 ballots. NPR will publish the results, but I don't know what their schedule is. Full rankings and all the ballots will be available on my website, once NPR has done their thing.

Two fairly major musicians died last week: Jazz pianist Stanley Cowell, and country singer-songwriter K.T. Oslin. Oslin's Love in a Small Town is a personal favorite. Cowell's 1969 album Blues for the Viet Cong was an early breakthrough, seems more radical today than it was then. Here are a couple links:

Here's a link for a new Iris DeMent song: Going Down to Sing in Texas. I haven't seen any reports of a new album coming out, but the song is clearly recent and topical.

I'm going to do a fair amount of cooking this week. We won't be hosting our usual Christmas Eve dinner, and we won't be attending the big Christmas Day bash at my cousin's farm, but I'm planning on delivering "meals on wheels" for 15-20 friends. I'll be listening to music while I cook, but nothing I'll write about, so next week's report should be relatively thin. It will also be the last of the month and year, so I might be tempted to push it out a bit.

New records reviewed this week:

  • 75 Dollar Bill: Little Big Band Live at Tubby's (2020, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
  • 75 Dollar Bill: Live at Cafe Oto Dec. 19, 2019 (2019 [2020], self-released): [r]: A-
  • 75 Dollar Bill: Power Failures (2018 [2020], self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • 75 Dollar Bill Little Big Band: Roulette, March 27, 2017 (2017 [2020], self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bab L' Bluz: Nayda! (2020, Real World): [r]: B+(*)
  • William Basinski: Lamentations (2020, Temporary Residence): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nat Birchall: Mysticism of Sound (2020, Ancient Archive of Sound): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Nat Birchall Meets Al Breadwinner: Upright Living (2020, Tradition Disc): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Nat Birchall Sextet: Exaltation: Live in Athens Vol 1 (2018 [2020], Parafono): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Blu & Exile: Miles (2020, Fat Beats): [r]: A-
  • Jorun Bombay & Phill Most Chill: Jorun PMC (2020, AE Productions): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Phoebe Bridgers: Copycat Killer (2020, Dead Oceans, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Phoebe Bridgers: If We Make It Through December (2020, Dean Oceans, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Brad Brooks: God Save the City (2020, Brad Brooks): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Disclosure: Energy (2020, Island): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Elzhi: Seven Times Down Eight Times Up (2020, Fat Beats): [r]: B+(**)
  • Felt: Felt 4 U (2020, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Matthew Halsall: Salute to the Sun (2020, Gondwana): [r]: B+(***)
  • Headie One X Fred Again: Gang (2020, Relentless, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jihee Heo: Are You Ready? (2020, OA2): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Nicholas Jaar: Cenizas (2020, Other People): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nicholas Jaar: Telas (2020, Other People): [r]: B+(**)
  • Aubrey Johnson: Unraveled (2017 [2020], Outside In Music): [r]: B-
  • Jimmy Johnson: Every Day of Your Life (2019, Delmark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Simone Kopmajer: Christmas (2020, Lucky Mojo): [cd]: B
  • Marlowe [L'Orange & Solemn Brigham]: Marlowe 2 (2020, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Moodymann: Taken Away (2020, Mahogani Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • New Orleans High Society: New Orleans High Society (2020, 1718/Slammin Media): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tivon Pennicott: Spirit Garden (2020, New Phrase): [r]: B
  • Zach Phillips: The Wine of Youth (2020, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Polo G: The Goat (2020, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • ROPE [Frank Paul Schubert/Uwe Oberg/Paul Rogers/Mark Sanders]: Open Ends (2017 [2020], Trouble in the East): [bc]: B+(**)
  • J. Peter Schwalm/Arve Henriksen: Neuzeit (2020, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Sturgill Simpson: Cuttin' Grass Vol. 2 (The Cowboy Arms Sessions) (2020, High Top Mountain): [r]: A-
  • Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter: Plaguesong (2020, ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tell No Lies: Anasyrma (219 [2020], Aut): [r]: B+(**)
  • Papo Vázquez Mighty Pirates Troubadours: Chapter 10: Breaking Cover (2020, Picaro): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Ambiance: Into a New Journey (1982 [2020], BBE): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Misha Mengelberg: Rituals of Transition (2002-10 [2020], I Dischi Di Agelica): [r]: B+(**)
  • Neil Swainson Quintet: 49th Parallel (1987 [2020], Reel to Real): [r]: B+(***)
  • Cecil Taylor: At Angelica 2000 Bologna (2000 [2020], I Dischi Di Angelica): [r]: B+(**)

Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Lisa Mezzacappa Six: Cosmicomics (2020, Queen Bee): [bc: 1/11, 6:25/66:11]: ++

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Christiane Bopp/Jean-Marc Foussat/Emmanuelle Parrenin: Nature Still (Fou)
  • Jean-Marc Foussat/Thomas Lehn: Spie(l)gehungen (Fou)

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Rushed through this, reusing last week's TOC and section breakdown, even though it's getting hard to slot the post-election stories. Also, no doubt because the Electoral College vote was way back on Monday, I didn't run across much there. I suppose I should know better, but I'm still surprised that Trump's still jerking us around. He lost by more than 7 million votes, with Biden getting an absolute majority -- a feat that wouldn't even trigger a runoff in Georgia or Louisiana. The scandal is not that he got beat, but that the Electoral College system is so slanted and undemocratic that the vote there was even close to close. And as I note under a piece in the "fraud" section, if anyone has a right to complain about election counts, it's the Democrats, who significantly trailed the best available polling in select swing states and districts.

I should probably note somewhere that Wichita has been rocked by a series of earthquakes in the last couple days, ranging from 2.7 to 3.7. These are centered inside city limits, about 8-9 miles east and very slightly north of where we live. Newspaper says there were similar quakes around 1948, but nothing like them in my lifetime. They also doubt they have anything to do with fracking, but there are oil wells 15-25 miles northeast of there, on up past El Dorado. We have felt many earthquakes from Harper County, KS, and further down in Oklahoma, which are definitively caused by injection wells.

I am in a rush to wrap this up, as I have a Christmas project I need to be getting to.

Trump's Election Fraud, Etc.

On Monday, the Electoral College voted, as expected: Biden's 306 Electoral College votes make his victory official. Trump continues to contest the election, more desperately than ever.

Jonathan Chait: Trump floats coup plan that's so wild even Rudy Giuliani is terrified. "The crazies are turning on the crazier."

DC Report: Why the numbers behind Mitch McConnell's re-election don't add up. If Trump wasn't making such a ridiculous stink about how his election was stolen, we'd be seeing more stories like this one, about the real mystery of the election, which is where all those damn Republican votes came from. McConnell's approval rate in Kentucky is way down at 39%, but he somehow managed to defeat Democrat Amy McGrath by 19-points. Even more suspicious is Susan Collins' win in Maine, after trailing in literally every poll all year long. And why weren't the presidential races much closer in Florida, Ohio, and Iowa? It's possible to imagine some hidden pockets of Trump/Republican support, but the votes in many swing states/districts broke about as far Republican as poll margins of error allowed.

Igory Derysh: Michael Flynn says Trump could seize every voting machine across the country and "rerun" election.

Peter Dreier: The number of Democratic Socialists in the House will soon double. But the movement scored its biggest victories down ballot.

Andrew Prokop: Alternate electors: The latest far-fetched Trump plan to overturn the election, explained.

Aaron Rupar: Ron Johnson turned the Senate into a platform for discredited election conspiracy theories.

Alex Shephard: Republicans will never accept the election results.

Tessa Stuart: What the Democratic Party can learn from Stacey Abrams' success in Georgia.

Anya van Wagtendonk: Trump is reportedly considering making Sidney Powell a special counsel on election fraud.

Biden Prospects

See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots. Another updated scorecard is Intelligencer's All of president-elect Joe Biden's cabinet nominees.

I've cited a number of articles critical of Biden's cabinet picks -- Jeffrey St Clair is by far the most caustic -- but my own druthers were finally articulated by Walter Shapiro: Give Joe Biden a break: "Sure, some of his Cabinet choices have been puzzling. But what's most important right now is that Biden feels comfortable with the people in his administration." Of course, the left can and should continue to offer advice and recommendations, but I don't see any value in carping. For all his problems, Biden was a lot better than Trump, and Biden's cautious reforms are still much better than what Trump and the Republicans have been doing. Besides, over the long term, the left has better solutions, and many of those will win out eventually, but only once they are embraced by mainstream Democrats, which will only happen when the spectre of Republican power fades.

Kate Aronoff: Biden isn't a lost cause for the left.

Gabriel Debenedetti: A Biden style of government is emerging: Lowest drama possible.

Barry C Lynn: How Biden can transform America: "The country thrived when its leaders broke up monopoly power. The president-elect won't need Congress to do so again." Also see Martin Longman's comment on Lynn's piece, How Biden can have a successful presidency without Congress. More on antitrust:

Alex Pareene: Jen O'Malley Dillon fell into Joe Biden's unity trap. For another take on this same "story":

Aaron Rupar: Biden's post-Electoral College speech was a stinging rebuke of Trump.

Alex Shephard: Sorry, the Hunter Biden story is still not a thing.

Emily Stewart: The debate over Joe Biden cancelling student debt, explained.

Marianne Sullivan/Christopher Sellers: 10 ways Biden should fix the EPA. Biden's appointment of Michael Regan, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, was a start. The 10 ways:

  1. Take quick climate action
  2. Restore the budget and staff
  3. Keep industry out
  4. Make environmental justice a priority
  5. Tackle toxic chemicals
  6. Reinvigorate science
  7. Enforce the law
  8. Upgrade data
  9. Be a stewart of information
  10. Partner with the American public

John Walsh: Can Biden-Harris 'just say no' to the endless war on drugs?

Alex Ward: Progressives, trying to sway Biden, send list with 100 potential foreign policy hires.

Li Zhou: Poll: A majority of voters want Joe Biden to advance policies that promote gender equality.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 17.7 million+ cases (14 day change +13%, total up 1.3 million in last week), 317,120 deaths (+21%), 113,929 hospitalized (+14%). Deaths hit a new high on Wednesday with more than 3,600. "The South is on a worrisome trajectory": Tennessee has the highest per capita rate in the country, while Georgia, Arkansas and South Carolina have all set weekly case records.

Remember when Trump said that after the election you'll never hear about Covid again?

American life has been fundamentally reordered because of the virus. Concerts, parades and high school basketball games continue to be called off. Countless people have found themselves jobless and struggling to afford housing. Many schools and colleges have held few or no in-person classes this fall. More than 397,000 cases have been linked to colleges and universities over the course of the pandemic. Thousands more cases have been identified in elementary, middle and high schools.

One class of story I didn't feel like going into is speculation about vaccine distribution. Anything that big is bound to have snafus, deliberate or not. And sure, in a society with as much inequality as America has, it's inevitable that we'll have line-jumpers and people left out. I will note that I saw a tweet from Cam Patterson claiming that over 1,000 people have been vaccinated at UAMS in Little Rock (where he's Dean, and I might add the best possible person for the job). I take that as a good sign.

Yasmeen Abutaleb/Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey/Philip Rucker: The inside story of how Trump's denial, mismanagement, and magical thinking led to the pandemic's dark winter.

William Booth: Britain tightens lockdowns over virus mutation with 'significantly faster' transmission rates.

Apoorva Mandavilli: The coronavirus is mutating. What does that mean for us?

Lois Parshley: The many strange long-term symptoms of Covid-19, explained.

Brian Resnick: A wild mink in Utah has Covid-19. Veterinarians fear this is just the beginning.

Liz Theoharis: Making sense of mass abandonment amid abundance.

The Economy, Stupid

As I was trying to wrap this up, this story broke: Andrew Taylor: Congress reaches deal on major COVID relief package. As I understand it, the bill combines $900 billion for various relief programs (mostly for small businesses, but also a $300/week unemployment insurance bump -- vs. $600/week under CARES -- combined with a broader federal spending bill, which keeps the government funded through September. I generally skipped articles on negotiations for this bill, other than a couple warning about dire consequences if nothing happened. The bill is still far short of what Pelosi and Shumer were proposing last summer (which the House passed but Mitch McConnell blocked). More on this:

Sasha Abramsky: 2.7 million jobs in the arts have been lost since the pandemic began: "It's past time for the United States to make similar investments to protect the people and institutions who provide us with art, with song, with melody during good times and bad."

John Cassidy: A brazen Republican power play is blocking essential pandemic relief.

Thom Hartmann: Mitch McConnell is holding your community hostage until corporations are able to kill you without consequence. Not the way he's phrase it, but that's about the gist of McConnell's insistence on liability waivers for businesses.

Paul Krugman:

Timothy Noah: Republicans for recession: "How can you tell that the GOP has accepted Biden is the duly elected president? They're trying to destroy the economy."

Anna North: Millions of Americans are about to lose emergency paid leave during the pandemic: "The benefits expire at the end of the year if Congress doesn't act."

Emily Stewart: Whatever Congress does on stimulus, millions of workers are already screwed. "Even if there's another stimulus bill, unemployed workers are likely to see a lapse in benefits."

Still More on Donald Trump

I started this section for articles on the administration (after having broken out the more timely items above) and more generally on the man (and his awful family), but now it's just turning into the garbage bin.

Intelligencer Staff: The all-time funniest photos of President Trump: Funny is not the word that comes to mind here. Embarrassing is closer to the mark, with a bit of pathos thrown in.

Felipe De La Hoz: Trump's most vicious cultists aren't done with America: "They gleefully enabled a corrupt president for years. How will they satisfy their destructive appetites in the years to come?" Cue picture of Stephen Miller.

Susan B Glasser: Trump's new brand is loser.

Nicole Gaudiano: Trump appoints 1776 Commission members in last-minute bid to advance 'patriotic education'.

Jen Kirby: Attorney General Bill Barr contradicted Trump on voter fraud. Now he's resigning. One point is rarely made about Barr: he had a political agenda even before Trump became president, and he remained true to that agenda throughout his tenure. At some point, he realized he could use Trump's vanity to promote his agenda, which led him to write his op-ed on impeachment, which brought him to Trump's attention. He's often characterized as an enabler for Trump's subversion of Justice, but what we've really seen was Barr's own subversion, which he managed with a good deal less brown-nosing than many other Trump supplicants (e.g., Mike Pompeo, who, as I note elsewhere, also had his own private agenda). What Barr's resignation signifies is that he's calculated that from here on out, Trump is more of a liability than an asset. I think it's likely that most people in the Trump administration signed on because they thought they could use the power of the White House to advance their own goals, and they've been willing to suffer numerous indignities along the way. And in the end, most are likely to blame their own failures on Trump. Barr is different only in that he's shrewder, more deliberate, more efficient, and ultimately more dastardly. More on Barr:

Michael Kruse: Is Trump cracking under the weight of losing?

Jonathan V Last: Everyone Trump touches dies: The list.

Eric Lipton: In last rush, Trump grants mining and energy firms access to public lands: "The outgoing administration is pushing through approval of corporate projects over the opposition of environmental groups and tribal communities."

Nicole Narea:

Jonathan Swan: Officials increasingly alarmed about Trump's power grab. A lot of this reads like weird gossip and idle speculation, but Swan cites the New York Times for one of the more bizarre stories:

In and Around the Courts

Ian Millhiser:

Around the World

Gilbert Achcar: The first decade of the Arab revolutionary process.

Anand Gopal: America's war on Syrian civilians: "Bombs killed thousands of civilians in Raqqa, and the city was decimated. US lawyers insist that war crimes weren't committed, but it's time to look honestly at the devastation that accompanies 'targeted' air strikes."

Rebeca Gordon: It's almost twenty years since 9/11: Can we finally stop marching to disaster? Related:.

  • Jacob Silverman: The new language of forever war-making: "The post-9/11 consensus is crumbling, so America's hawks are inventing fresh rhetoric to justify imperialist disasters." Refers to a recent book by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies ("a conservative think tank notorious for lobbying for war against Iran"), with an essay: "Defending Forward: Securing America by Projecting Military Power Abroad." No surprise that they're still hung up with the Vietnam War debacle (the right's version of the German "stab-in-the-back" theory):

    A certain disastrous, interminable American war haunts these writers, but it's not the one you'd think: Panetta and McMaster diagnose their skeptics with Vietnam syndrome, a psychic and societal malady that tends to produce a dim view of American war-making. This "has saddled American strategic thinking for decades," Panetta laments. McMaster attributes it to a "simplistic but widely held belief" that the Vietnam War "had been unjustified and unwinnable."

    If only Vietnam syndrome were a real affliction, it might have saved us from two more protracted, unwinnable wars. Hundreds of thousands of lives would not have been lost. America's true malady is quite the opposite: We don't learn from our imperialistic misadventures. Reading "Defending Forward," one cannot help but fear that 20 years hence, the foreign policy elites of the day -- safely ensconced in think tanks, newspaper op-ed boards, military contractors, Foggy Bottom, and the E-ring of the Pentagon -- will still be making the case for forever war. And they will accuse their critics of suffering from "Afghanistan syndrome."

Conn Hallinan: Space Force: space gravy for contractors and useless for Covid: "Why not deploy diplomats to demilitarize space and save the money for earth-bound problems." Wasn't there a treaty at some point intended to keep space free of weapons systems? If so, there has been a lot of cheating around the edges, or loopholes. The US didn't need a Space Force to launch military systems beyond Earth's atmosphere, although most of the practical uses are in communications, surveillance, and guidance for missiles. As far as I know, China and probably Russia have focused on counter-measures to disrupt US satellite dominance. Needless to say, it's easier and a lot cheaper to wreck some other system than it is to build one that is secure. The big problem with diplomacy is that while it's easy enough to get the "have nots" to agree not to bother (cf. NPT), the "haves" all have political and economic interests promoting further militarization, even when no one has a clear idea what might justify it, or why. However, even simpler than diplomacy would be to just fold its satellite portfolio back into the Air Force and abolish its separate identity. After all, the only thing having a separate Space Force really does is to gin up yet another pointless arms race. Besides, it's not just impractical. It's prima facie ridiculous. Also:

Vijay Prashad: Donald Trump's final act: Snuffing out the promise of democracy in the Middle East.

Philip Weiss: Israel is going to keep on killing Palestinian boys, until US Jews endorse BDS.

Other Matters of Interest

Tahir Amin: We need to take on drug companies' abuse of the patent system. Actually, we really should abolish the whole system. The idea that one person (or worse, company) can file paperwork on an idea and thereby prevent anyone else from thinking up and working on similar ideas is abhorrent to free enterprise, let alone human ingenuity. Worse still is the idea that "owning" an idea entitles one to exact unregulated monopoly rents. The potential for abusing such a system should be obvious, but doesn't depend on thought experiments: we see abuse everywhere we look. Granted, there are ways to "overhaul" the system to make it less onerous: one could reduce patent terms; one could arbitrate reuse rates, and allow others to further develop based on patents; one could eliminate certain classes of patents; one could reject overly broad patent claims; one could deny patents on grounds of obviousness. Still, we'd be better off killing off the whole wretched system.

Siddhartha Deb: The blinding clarity of John Le Carré: "His novels of imperial decline speak to a world that has remained at war since his youth." The famous spy novelist died last week at 89. My wife declared it the "worst day since Reginald Hill died." More on the late novelist:

Peter E Gordon: The scars of democracy: "Theodor Adorno and the crises of liberalism." Review of Adorno's book (a translation of a 1967 lecture), Aspects of the New Right-Wing Extremism.

Sean Illing: Americans don't think like citizens. They think like shoppers. Interview with political scientist Ethan Porter, author of The Consumer Citizen. Illing makes a key point:

Most "consumer citizens" are very bad at understanding how government interacts with their lives. The costs of government (taxes) are very clear, but the benefits of government (public parks, drivable roads, safe food to eat) are harder for people to connect. That's probably unavoidable in a big, complex society like ours, but it also seems like a recipe for incoherent electoral outcomes. . . .

Part of what I'm getting at here is that to be a citizen you have to care about your country and you have to care about the people who make it up, but in a capitalistic society like ours, market logic shapes our relationship to nearly everything, including and especially people. We're not part of some shared project. We're all competing for money, for power, for status, for whatever advantages we can get.

Tyler Kepner: Baseball rights a wrong by adding negro leagues to official records: "More than 3,400 players from seven leagues that operated from 1920 to 1948 will now be considered major leaguers in a move that will shake up the record books." I've spent hundreds of hours scanning Major League record books, all after the 1969 addition of statistics from four early all-white leagues, and indeed know a lot about the 1880's American Association through its stats. I've read several books on the negro leagues and their stars, but have only seen occasional stats cited -- so one thing this signifies is that researchers have finally gotten a credible set of statistics together. As became immediately clear after Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947, the negro leagues were teaming with major-league talent. I started seriously following baseball in 1957, when I was six, and Robinson and Roy Campanella had just retired. A couple years later I recall my cousin and I picking white and black all-star games, and readily conceding that the black teams would win most (despite the white team looking a lot like our cherished major league champs, the New York Yankees). Later I found that Bill Veeck had seriously proposed making that thought experiment real: he owned the Philadelphia Phillies and wanted to field an all-black team. I've long considered integration to be the best thing that ever happened to Major League Baseball. Integrating the record books doesn't remove the tarnish on the Jim Crow era, when white players never officially had to test their talents against black opponents. (By the way, there are many stories of exhibition games, especially in Cuba, where they did, and you can guess how those turned out.) But at least young people, like I was, will get a better picture of the past.

John Koblin/Michael M Grynbaum: CNN and MSNBC fret over post-Trump future. My advice would be to find villains in the Republican Party and hound them mercilessly. That includes the obvious political figures, but also should look at the money people behind the party, the influence and corruption they seek. Sure, that's harder work than just going after Trump, but it dispenses with the easy temptation to try to smear Trump by contrasting him with the occasional Republican who strayed ever so slightly from his grip. People need to understand that the Republican Party is rotten top to bottom. If CNN and MSNBC can't do that, they don't deserve an audience.

Michael Lind: Progressives are a minority in America. To win, they need to compromise. Fair point, but what to compromise on is the rub, especially when the common slam against liberals is that by compromising so readily and by ceding so much ground, they call their own convictions into question.

Carlos Lozada: The great acceleration: "The virus isn't transforming us. It's speeding up the changes already underway." Washington Post book review editor, wrote a book about books about Trump, moves on here to the first speculative votes about the longer-term impact of the pandemic: Nicholas Christakis: Apollo's Arrow: The Profound and Enduring Impact of Coronavirus on the Way We Live; Fareed Zakaria: Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World; John Mickelthwait/Adrian Wooldridge: The Wake-Up Call: Why the Pandemic Has Exposed the Weakness of the West, and How to Fix It.

Ian J Lynch: Why can't the SEC just agree that bribing foreign governments is bad?: "Instead, it's scheduled to gut a rule forcing companies to disclose those bribes."

Andy Lee Roth/Mickey Huff: Corporate fact-checking services shouldn't be our defense against "fake news".

Luke Savage: They said tax cuts for the rich would create jobs. It never happened. Well, they were lying. And they knew they were lying. And most of the rest of us knew they were lying, and many said so at the time. And they did it anyway, knowing they'd be found out, but they didn't care. Related:

Colette Shade: The year we learned to live like life doesn't matter: "How the pandemic put a grotesque new face on the political normalization of brutality."

Jeffrey St Clair: The real resistance begins now: 25 groups that will keep fighting no matter who's president.

Vera Tolz: Short cuts. [article behind paywall, even though we fucking subscribe and I have the hard copy in front of me, but can't see for shit]

Alex Ward: How the US government hack happened, and what it means, explained by an expert: Interview with "cybersecurity expert" Jason Healey. The hack was accomplished by patching spy code into commercial software developed by SolarWinds and used by the various government agencies. More on cybersecurity issues:

  • Thomas P Bossert: I was the Homeland Security adviser to Trump. We're being hacked. Link to this asked even more hysterically "Is the US facing a Cyber Pearl Harbor?" I think the government has become far too cavalier about cyberwarfare, probably because they see it as a net positive, but also because they tend to be indifferent about collateral damage. The only real way to protect against such threats is to negotiate a modus vivendi where no one benefits from cyberattacks. On the other hand, while it seems clear that Russians have enjoyed a peek into US government computer networks, the actual damage is harder to assess, beyond the obvious embarrassment at allowing the breach to happen.

  • Jonathan Chait: Trump won't denounce Russia's hack because he's still subservient to Putin. The inevitable knee-jerk Cold War Liberal reaction. Trump may well be right that "The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control." On the other hand, he may well be confusing old and new Russia hacks, and out of the muddle getting overly defensive. I've never understood the line that Trump, with his wealth and power and ego and vanity, feels subservient to Putin, or anyone else. Sure, he may identify with Putin, because both are oligarchs whose contempt for democracy is cloaked by the trappings of nationalism. But the reason he doesn't fall for the Cold War stereotyping is simple enough: he realizes that both oligarchs have more to fear from their own people than from each other.

  • Fred Kaplan: The government has known about the vulnerabilities that allowed Russia's latest hack for decades -- and chose not to fix them.

  • Nancy LeTourneau: Amidst a massive cyber attack by Russia, Pompeo warns of China threat:

    This demonization of an enemy has become a pattern for Republicans. Ronald Reagan declared that the Soviet Union was an "evil empire" in 1983. As the Cold War ended, a new enemy emerged. Following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush identified an "axis of evil" -- North Korea, Iran, and Iraq -- in order to justify his "war on terror" and invasion of Iraq. Now we're being told that China is our greatest threat.

    The United States does, indeed, face some serious threats. But they come in the form of a pandemic, climate change, income inequality, gun violence, and a racist criminal justice system. Republicans are in denial about those issues -- and have been for a very long time. Perhaps that's why they are so intent on exaggerating a foreign threat that supersedes everything else.

  • Ellen Nakashima/Josh Dawsey: Trump contradicts Pompeo in bid to downplay massive hack of US government, Russia's role. Of course, it's impossible to believe that either of these guys know what they're talking about. Rather, they both use news to reiterate their preconceived notions. That they are opposed is no problem as long as Pompeo remains publicly submissive, and Trump cares about nothing else. Of course, they take Trump's position as "so much like a paid Russian agent." Just as possible that the hack has done no real damage, because the relationship is less adversarial than suits hawks (like Pompeo) who seek to profit from more fright.

  • Raphael Satter/Christopher Bing/Joseph Menn: Hackers used SolarWinds' dominance against it in sprawling spy campaign.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Daily Log

Scratch sheet for planning Christmas menu. More-or-less Mediterrannean theme, probably more "north of" (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey) than "south of" (Morocco, pan-Arab, Persian). Food will be delivered to "guests," who will have to reheat and/or finish to eat in their own homes. I've bought a lot of containers for delivery. Estimate cook for 20-25 people. Not everyone needs to get the same things.

Main dishes:

  • Rice: Paella valenciana [Sp], minus chicken and clams, plus shrimp.
  • Chicken: Garlic wings [Sp].
  • Fish: baked filets (cod? chermoula?).
  • Pork ribs: cola and jam? balsamic glaze? (combo glaze?)
  • Potatoes and/or sweet potatoes?
  • Eggplant: parmesan [It].
  • Green beans: ragout [Gr].

Starters, salads, side dishes:

  • Antipasto?
  • Gougeres [Greenspan]?
  • Gravlax [Greenspan]?
  • Chopped liver [Greenspan]?
  • Piperade [Greenspan]?
  • Cauliflower-bacon gratin [Greenspan]?
  • Chopped salad: horiatiki [Gr].
  • Cucumber-yogurt salad: mast va khiar [Iran].


  • Date pudding.
  • Cake? Flourless chocolate.
  • Tiramisu?
  • Baklava?
  • Cookies?
  • Brownies?

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34569 [34511] rated (+58), 215 [215] unrated (+0).

Another monster week. I seriously doubt that 50 will be the new 30, but the last few weeks have gone that way. The main reason is that I've been shackled to the computer all week. Jazz Critics Poll deadline was Sunday, so I've had a steady stream of ballots to process. Aside from a quick pass at Weekend Roundup, I've spent most of the rest of my time adding EOY lists to my aggregate file. I've fallen pretty far behind this week, but the standings look like they've begun to stabilize. Top five have maintained stable margins since last week: Fiona Apple, Run the Jewels, Phoebe Bridges, Bob Dylan, Waxahatchee. Last week's three-way tie for 6th between Dua Lipa, Haim, and Taylor Swift has broken as Swift has the momentum, then Haim, then Lipa, with Perfume Genius and Sault (Black Is) rounding out the top ten.

Biggest surprise on that list is Sault, whose second album, Untitled (Rise), is also rising, currently at 24. I gave both of the group's 2019 albums A-, but didn't find the new albums as impressive. On the other hand, the first came out as the Black Lives Matter protests broke out last summer, and many people took them as anthemic. Aside from RTJ4, there have been damn few hip-hop albums this year that pop critics have felt obligated to cover. After Run the Jewels, US black rappers are buried pretty far down the list: Freddie Gibbs (43), Megan Thee Stallion (46), Lil Uzi Vert (48), Clipping (66), Lil Baby (96), Open Mike Eagle (105), 21 Savage & Metro Boomin (119), Flo Milli (122), Public Enemy (124), Westside Gunn (125), Childish Gambino (127), Princess Nokia (133). I don't have any good theories why this should be so.[1] I also don't have many on my list (although I've heard all but 1 of the top 53 hip-hop albums): Run the Jewels (4), Enemy Radio (20), Megan Thee Stallion (22), Public Enemy (26), Aminé (31), Megan Thee Stallion EP (32), Black Thought (34), City Girls (38), Moor Jewelry (39), Kehlani (47), Bktherula (48).

[1] OK, here's a theory, from Emily Nussbaum's essay on Jenji Kohan, starting midway in a Kohan quote:

"And right now, the world is just 'Everyone back to their corners.'" In the Trump era, Kohan sees an urge to hunker down with one's own, "to just put your louspeaker up and say, 'This is me, and this is my worldview, and I don't want to know from yours.'"

I don't know about you, but I've heard the word "hunker" more times this year than in the past 70 combined.

I might as well offer my own Jazz Critics Poll ballot here:

New Releases:

  1. Mark Lomax II & the Urban Art Ensemble, 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia)
  2. Rich Halley-Matthew Shipp-Michael Bisio-Newman Taylor Baker, The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle)
  3. Dave Rempis-Jeff Parker-Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten-Jeremy Cunningham, Stringers and Struts (Aerophonic)
  4. Aly Keďta-Jan Galega Bronnimann-Lucas Niggli, Kalan Teban (Intakt)
  5. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Hero Trio (Whirlwind)
  6. Kenny Barron-Dave Holland Trio Featuring Johnathan Blake, Without Deception (Dare2)
  7. Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Artificial Happiness Button (Ropeadope)
  8. Jason Kao Hwang, Human Rites Trio (True Sound)
  9. Dave Glasser, Hypocrisy Democracy (Here Tiz Music)
  10. Kevin Sun, (Un)seaworthy (Endectomorph Music)


  1. Borah Bergman-Perry Robinson-Steve Swell-Ray Sage, Quartets Trios Duos (2007, Mahakala Music)
  2. Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (Dark Tree)
  3. Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe/Four Men Only, Complete Recordings (1968-73, NoBusiness)

Vocal: Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Artificial Happiness Button (Ropeadope)

Debut: Immanuel Wilkins, Omega (Blue Note)

Latin: Aruán Ortiz With Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera, Inside Rhythmic Falls (Intakt)

Attentive readers will notice discrepancies between this ballot and my EOY Jazz List. The main one is that I decided to skip over albums that I have only heard from streaming or downloads. I've done this in the past for the historical category, but don't recall doing so for new releases before -- or maybe I just never had so many before. I've long suspected that CDs I receive are slightly more likely to get better grades than records I stream or download, mostly because I'm more likely to play them more times, so they may have an edge rising up my lists. (It's also likely that I'm a bit more inclined to replay albums on Napster than on Bandcamp, which I've found starts nagging me for a purchase on a third play.) Still, as I receive ever fewer promos, and spend more time streaming, the split has grown. I doubt the decision this year will result in me getting more promos next year. Still, I'm pleased to have been able to vote for the records I did, even though my highly approximate sorting left a bunch of very good records higher up my list:

  1. Ross Hammond/Oliver Lake/Mike Pride: Our Place on the Wheel (Prescott)
  2. Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here by History (Impulse!)
  3. Evan Parker/Paul Lytton: Collective Calls (Revisited) (Jubilee) (Intakt)
  4. Gard Nilssen's Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully the Music Is Yours (Odin)
  5. Broken Shadows: The Tower Tapes #2 (Jazz Club Ferrara)
  6. Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You? (International Anthem)
  7. Jeb Bishop Flex Quartet: Re-Collect (Not Two -19)
  8. Jasper Hřiby: Planet B (Edition)
  9. James Brandon Lewis/Chad Taylor: Live in Willisau (Intakt)
  10. Chad Taylor Trio: The Daily Biological (Cuneiform)
  11. Tani Tabbal Trio: Now Then (Tao Forms)
  12. Schlippenbach/Narvesen Duo: Liminal Field (Not Two -19)
  13. James Brandon Lewis Quartet: Molecular (Intakt)
  14. The Third Mind: The Third Mind (Yep Roc)
  15. Kahil El'Zabar: Kahil El'Zabar's Spirit Groove (Spiritmuse)

While it looks like these records got slighted, I should note that my slotting of them is less certain than where I ranked the CDs. Christgau makes a bit point about only rating records that he's played at least five times -- enough to be highly certain of his grades. I don't limit myself to records I am absolutely certain of -- no doubt partly because I don't have his gift of certainty about anything. I'd rather jot down as much as I know, when I know it, and revise when/if further experience so dictates. Consequently, every grade has an unstated extra dimension of uncertainty, which isn't clear from the ranked list. I've thought about ways to notate this (the simplest is to count plays, not that every spin occurs under equal or even fair circumstances), but decided it would be a bookkeeping nightmare. Besides, there are other dimensions, like time, that add to the fuzziness.

I did make one exception to the CD-only rule, for Mark Lomax's top-rated 400 Years Suite, but only after I broke down and bought a copy. I haven't received it yet, and it's possible I'll change my mind when I do, but I figured I should at least own a copy of what seems most probably the record of the year. As I've noted, I've pretty much given up on buying new music, but I got dispensation from my wife to order a few non-jazz CDs recently: Fiona Apple, Run the Jewels, Lucinda Williams, Lori McKenna -- all albums I graded A-, which Christgau graded A or A+. (See my Non-Jazz EOY list.) Good chance I'll upgrade RTJ4 and move it to the top of my list. I'm less taken by Apple's album, not that it isn't a big deal.

I've followed the same CD-only rule for Reissues/Historial in recent years, not just to favor publicists who service me but also because the category is usually swept by fine but minor additions to he works of major artists -- this year: Thelonious Monk, Sonny Rollins, Charles Mingus, Bill Evans, Art Blakey -- and I'd rather pick out some things that aren't automatically familiar. As I usually don't get these reminders of past glory -- Rollins in Holland is the only one this year -- the rule has been an easy excuse to stock my list with marginal but more interesting fare. That's what I did this year, going with a 3-CD box from NoBusiness that barely made my A- grade over the more obvious Rollins set.

One belated exception to the CD-only rule is the vote for Wilkins as Debut of the Year. Not seeing any debuts in my A-list, I originally left that blank, but was moved to give Wilkins another shot not for sweeping the category (something much hyped Blue Note artists win way too often) but because he did surprisingly well on main lists. I hate leaving form lines blank, so once I came around, I slipped him in. I have a lot of little-known artists in my A-list, but they all have previous records, even if they are even more obscure than their latest.

Next couple weeks should be much less frantic and stressful than the last two have been. I have a project for Christmas that should take me away from the computer, and I'll probably relax with favorite old music as the year winds down. Also thinking about resolutions for the new year. One thing that's pretty clear is that I'll be cutting back on the music tracking (the file has 5019 records so far) and reviewing (1256 records so far, which if not a record isn't far off the mark). Also have a couple of questions to answer this week.

Recommended music links: Dropped this as a regular feature, then this popped up:

New records reviewed this week:

  • Bruce Ackley/Fred Frith/Henry Kaiser/Aram Shelton: Unexpected Twins (2016 [2019], Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Amaarae: The Angel You Don't Know (2020, Golden Child Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • The Avalanches: We Will Always Love You (2020, Island): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Berninger: Serpentine Prison (2020, Book): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bktherula: Nirvana (2020, Warner): [r]: A-
  • Boldy James/Sterling Toles: Manger on McNichols (2020, Sector 7-G): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chouk Bwa and the Ĺngströmers: Vodou Alé (2017-18 [2020], Bongo Joe): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Chubby and the Gang: Speed Kills (2020, Static Shock): [r]: B+(*)
  • DJ Python: Mas Amable (2020, Incienso): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dorian Electra: My Agenda (2020, self-released): [r]: B
  • Dave Douglas: Marching Music (2019 [2020], Greenleaf Music): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Duma: Duma (2020, Nyege Nyege Tapes): [r]: B
  • Dutchavelli: Dutch From the 5th (2020, Parlophone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Roger Eno and Brian Eno: Mixing Colours (2020, Deutsche Grammophon): [r]: B+(*)
  • Four Tet: Sixteen Oceans (2020, Text): [r]: B+(*)
  • David Friesen With Orchestra and Quartet: Testimony (2018-19 [2020], Origin): [cd]: B
  • Gorillaz: Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (2020, Parlophone): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mickey Guyton: Bridges (2020, Capitol Nashville, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hemingway, Phillips & Moore: Slips (2019, Ramboy): [bc]: B+(**)
  • François Houle 4: RECODER (2019 [2020], Songlines): [r]: B+(***)
  • JPEGMafia: EP! (2020, Universal Republic, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kacy & Clayton and Marlon Williams: Plastic Bouquet (2020, New West): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kid Cudi: Man on the Moon III: The Chosen (2020, Republic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kirk Knuffke: Tight Like This (2020, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mário Laginha/Julian Argüelles/Helge Andreas Norbakken: Atlântico (2019 [2020], Edition): [r]: A-
  • David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 1 (2016 [2018], BIG EGO): [r]: B+(**)
  • David Lord: Forest Standards Vol. 2 (2018 [2020], BIG EGO): [r]: B+(**)
  • Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper/9th Wonder/Kamasi Washington: Dinner Party (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Terrace Martin/Robert Glasper/9th Wonder/Kamasi Washington: Dinner Party: Dessert (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Terrace Martin: Village Days (2020, Sounds of Crenshaw/Empire, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gayelynn McKinney and McKinney Zone: Zoot Suit Funk (2020, Beatstix): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Victoria Monét: Jaguar (2020, Tribe, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michael Moore Fragile Quartet: Cretan Dialogues (2019, Ramboy): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The NDR Bigband With Michael Moore: Sanctuary (2019, Ramboy): [bc]: B+(***)
  • PRAED Orchestra: Live in Sharjah (2018 [2020], Morphine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Katie Pruitt: Expectations (2020, Rounder): [r]: B+(*)
  • Saint Jhn: While the World Was Burning (2020, Hitco): [r]: B+(**)
  • Oumou Sangaré: Acoustic (2020, No Format): [r]: B+(**)
  • The John Santos Sextet: Art of the Descarga (2011-15 [2020], Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: B+(***)
  • Alvin Schwaar/Bänz Oester/Noé Franklé: Travellin' Light (2019 [2020], Leo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ray Scott: Nowhere Near Done (2020, Jethropolitan, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Squarepusher: Be Up a Hello (2020, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Emma Swift: Blonde on the Tracks (2020, Tiny Ghost): [r]: B
  • Taylor Swift: Evermore (2020, Republic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jorma Tapio & Kaski: Aliseen (2019 [2020], 577): [r]: B+(***)
  • Laura Toxvaerd: Tidens Strřm (2019, ILK, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Laura Toxvaerd: Drapery (2019, ILK): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kelsey Waldon: They'll Never Keep Us Down (2020, Oh Boy, EP): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Sharhabil Ahmed: The King of Sudanese Jazz ([2020], Habibi Funk): [r]: A-
  • Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time OutTakes (1959 [2020], Brubeck Editions): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Nat King Cole: Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Best of Hittin' the Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) (1938-43 [2020], Resonance): [r]: B+(***)
  • George Lewis: Rainbow Family (1984 [2020], Carrier): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Prince Buster: Roll on Charles Street ([2020], Rock A Shacka): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Prince Buster: Let's Go to the Dance: Rock Steady Selection (1967-68 [2020], Rock A Shacka): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Kalie Shorr: Open Book: Unabridged (2019 [2020], Tmwrk): [r]: A-
  • Masayuki Takayanagi New Direction Unit: Axis/Another Revolvable Thing (1975 [2020], Blank Forms Editions): [r]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Gene Russell: New Direction (1971, Black Jazz; [2020], Real Gone Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gene Russell: Talk to My Lady (1974, Black Jazz): [r]: B+(*)

Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Peter Evans/Joel Ross/Nick Jozwiak/Savannah Harris: Being & Becoming (2019 [2020], More Is More): [bc: 1/5, 9:43/50:11]: ++
  • Peter Evans Ensemble: Horizons (2018 [2020], More Is More): [bc: 2/7, 10:29/42:10]: +
  • Peter Evans: Standards (2020, More Is More): [bc: 1/5, 8:59/39:22]: +

Grade (or other) changes:

  • Serengeti: With Greg From Deerhoof (2020, Joyful Noise): [r]: [was: B+(*)] B+(***)
  • Sunny Sweeney: Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio (2020, Aunt Daddy): [r]: [was: B+(***)]: A-
  • Immanuel Wilkins: Omega (2020, Blue Note): [r]: [was: B+(**)]: A-

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: Social Distancing (Saponegro) [01-29]
  • Zach Phillips: The Wine of Youth (self-released)
  • Alan Sondheim & Azure Carter: Plaguesong (ESP-Disk)
  • Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFunk: We've Had Enough! (ESP-Disk)


  • Mark Lomax, II & the Urban Art Ensemble: 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia)

Monday, December 14, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

I've been paying more attention to EOY album lists, this week than to news. Started collecting this late Saturday evening, but got swamped Sunday with my work compiling Jazz Critics Poll ballots, and that pushed my schedule back a day. Even so, I prioritized collecting links for possible future interest, and refrained from commenting much on them. Perhaps I'll come back mid-week and add some notes, as there is much to talk about here.

The extra day means that the Electoral College has now done its duty and elected Joe Biden president (see: Electoral College vote officially affirms Biden's victory). Also: William Barr is out as Attorney General. And: US virus death toll crosses 300,000 as vaccinations begin (more figures further down, in the usual place).

Trump's Election Fraud and Other Election Matters

Jamelle Bouie: The 'Trump Won' farce isn't funny anymore: "Republicans are now seriously arguing that elections are legitimate only when their side wins."

Ronald Brownstein: The Republican Party's widening assault on American democracy.

Jessica Corbett: Four stabbed after Proud Boys, told by Trump to "stand back and stand by," descended on DC for march.

Garrett Epps: Disbar Ken Paxton -- and then some: Texas Attorney General, who filed the Trump fraudsters' "Hail Mary" lawsuit to overturn elections in states that try harder to practice democracy than Texas does.

Matt Ford: The rabid illiberalism of Trump's desperate election deniers.

Rosalind S Heiderman/Elise Viebeck: 'The last wall': How dozens of judges across the political spectrum rejected Trump's efforts to overturn the election.

Harold Meyerson: Will it really be all over on December 14? That's when the Electoral College votes.

Ella Nilsen: Everything that needs to go right for Democrats to win the Georgia runoffs, explained. More on Georgia:

Cameron Peters:

Jim Rutenberg/Nick Corasanti: 'An indelible stain': How the GOP tried to topple a pillar of democracy.

David Siders: Trump unleashes an army of sore losers.

Margaret Sullivan: Don't buy into Trump's disapproval of Fox News. The network is working hard on his election-denial fantasy.

Biden Prospects

See Building Biden's Cabinet for a survey of who's been selected for Biden's top administration positions, and who's being considered for still open slots.

Medea Benjamin/Nicholas JS Davies: Can Joe Biden's America figure out how to stop creating terrorists? Tempting to quote the whole article for its many examples where the insertion of US forces has only led to more resistance and terror (not least by the US itself). But I'll limit myself to the end:

We have real problems to deal with in this century -- existential problems that can only be solved by genuine international cooperation. We can no longer afford to sacrifice our future on the altar of the Global War on Terror, a New Cold War, Pax Americana or other imperialist fantasies.

Matt Ford: Biden is finding new and inexplicable ways to screw up his cabinet picks.

Fred Kaplan: Looks like Biden will be able to bring back the Iran deal after all.

Dylan Matthews:

Alex Pareene: Is Joe Biden just being stubborn? "A theory about his strangest nominees and appointments." Interesting example:

Take what happened to Marcia Fudge. The Ohio representative was openly lobbying to be made secretary of agriculture, in order to focus the department's attention on hunger and food security. She believed she had the relevant experience for the job and had even gone to the press with plans for what she wanted to do if selected: Her goal, as she explained in an interview last month, was to change the perception that the department only exists to help rural whites.

"As this country becomes more and more diverse, we're going to have to stop looking at only certain agencies as those that people like me fit in," she told Politico. "You know, it's always 'we want to put the Black person in labor or HUD.'"

Then Joe Biden's team put Marcia Fudge in HUD and announced that former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack would be getting his old job back.

Daniel Politi:

Dylan Scott: What Joe Biden could do to bring down drug costs.

Emily Stewart: The debate over Joe Biden cancelling student debt, explained: "45 million Americans have student debt." More on student debt:

Alex Ward:

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 16.4 million+ cases (14 day change +30%, total up 1.6 million in last week), 300,051 deaths (+67%), 109,331 hospitalized (+19%). Dec. 9 was the first day where deaths topped 3,000, the round number above and beyond such infamous days as 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.

Jerusalem Demsas: Study: Allowing evictions during Covid-19 could have caused nearly 11,000 unnecessary deaths.

Laurie McGinley/Carolyn Y Johnson/Josh Dawsey: FDA authorizes the first coronavirus vaccine, a rare moment of hope in the deadly pandemic. Generic headline, but the link I followed to this article focused on the dirty hand of politics: White House orders FDA chief to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Friday or submit his resignation.

The White House actions once again inject politics into the vaccine race, potentially undermining public trust in one of the most crucial tools to end the pandemic that has killed more than 290,000 Americans. It comes in the midst of a process that had been designed to show no shortcuts were taken in reviewing the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine as surveys show many people remain unsure whether they will get the shots.

Given that bureaucrats have an innate tendency to drag their feet under the guise of caution, the political pressure might have been a good thing. Still, much can go wrong in a process driven primarily by profit-seeking and political advantage, where much of the relevant data is kept closed off as proprietary.

Whet Moser: The pandemic's final surge will be brutal.

Achal Prabhala/Arjun Jayadev/Dean Baker: Want vaccines fast? Suspend intellectual property rights.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg: Trump and friends got coronavirus care many others couldn't: "Rudolph W Giuliani became the latest in President Trump's inner circle to boast about the treatment he received for Covid-19, as hospitals across the country ration care."

Peter Wade: Rudy Giuliani brags about getting 'celebrity' virus treatment.

David Wallace-Wells: We had the vaccine the whole time.

F Perry Wilson: A doctor on 9 things that could go wrong with the new vaccines.

Sarah Zhang: The next six months will be vaccine purgatory: "The period after a vaccine is approved will be strange and confusing, as certain groups of people get vaccinated but others have to wait."

Still More on Donald Trump

Jonathan Chait: How Michael Anton's 'Flight 93 Election' essay defined the Trump era.

Sean Illing: A book critic read 150 Trump-era books. Here's what he learned. Interview with Carlos Lozada, author of What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era.

Nicole Narea:

Rachel Ramirez: The high rate of executions during Trump's last weeks in office, explained: "Trump has scheduled more federal executions than any president in at least a century."

William K Rashbaum/Ben Protess/David Enrich: Manhattan DA intensifies investigation of Trump.

Matt Stieb: Trump's last-minute execution spree has begun.

Tim Wu: What really saved the republic from Trump?

Jonathan Zimmerman: What Donald Trump can learn from Grover Cleveland. Premise here is that if Trump runs and wins in 2024, he'll join Cleveland as the only person to win two non-consecutive presidential terms. So how did Cleveland manage to win an election after losing one? Strikes me that the author is overly concerned with the duo's sex scandals, but there are other striking differences -- Cleveland actually won the popular vote in the election he lost -- as well as similarities (Cleveland was probably the most conservative president the US ever had, at least until Trump redefined what that meant).

In and Around the Courts

Jane Mayer: Dianne Feinstein's missteps raise a painful age question among Senate Democrats. Related:

  • Alex Shepherd: The Democrats are too old: "A grim report about Diane Feinstein's cognitive decline underlines a larger problem with the leadership of the party."

Ian Millhiser: The Supreme Court hands down a loss for rogue law enforcement officers -- and a win for the religious right.

Andrew Prokop: Joe Biden's Justice Department will inherit an investigation into Hunter Biden.

Mark Joseph Stern: The Supreme Court rejects opportunity to roll back marriage equality.

Around the World

Jen Kirby:

Jessica J Lee: How we an build on Trump's North Korea policy.

Trita Parsi: House Dems united to support the Iran nuclear deal.

Cameron Peters: Iran's execution of journalist Ruhollah Zam, briefly explained.

Mitchell Plitnick: Israel-Morocco agreement plants long term seeds of conflict.

Elizabeth Shackelford: Why Trump's Somalia gambit won't make anyone happy.

Other Matters of Interest

Tariq Ali: On John Lennon and Mick Jagger.

Bryce Covert: How monopolies have taken over our everyday lives: Review of David Dayen's book, Monopolized: Life in the Age of Corporate Power. By the way, some recent pieces by David Dayen:

Melissa Gira Grant: Nick Kristoff and the holy war on Pornhub: "When Kristof turns his notebook in the direction of women with stories of trauma, the resulting narratives most often fall somewhere between beneficent voyeurism and journalistic malpractice."

Daniel A Hanley: The FTC's strong case against Facebook. More on Facebook:

Sarah Jones: Why is Mitch McConnell so obsessed with liability shields?

Nick Martin: Wall Street vultures are ready to get rich from water scarcity.

Nathan J Robinson:

Luke Savage: How McKinsey, the world's most elite consulting firm, helped turbocharge America's opioid epidemic.

Peter Hammond Schwartz: Why the Democrats failed again: On the cosmological emptiness of liberalism: "Right-wingers have a theory of human nature and the universe. Without such a narrative, liberals will keep losing."

Alex Shepherd: Fox News is in trouble: "The network is facing real, sustained competition from the right for the first time in its history."

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: negative creep. His usual snark about Democrats (not without reason).

For a month now, the Democrats have ceded the airwaves to Trump and some of the most lunatic lawyers in America, while Biden rolls out recycled cabinet picks no one, except a few K Street lobbyists, asked for or wanted. Meanwhile, Pelosi and Schumer can't even get a tiny relief check to the 12 million people about to have their water and heat turned off or face eviction from their homes . . .

Still, lots more here, like a chart which shows that the top 1%'s share of income in India has risen from 6% in 1980 to 21%.

New York Times: This week in obituaries (a few names from a long list):

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Daily Log

Shopping for restaurant take out containers: Purchased:

  • Stack Man plastic w/lids, 200 sets, 2 oz, 1-1/8" h, 2-5/8" d: $9.99
  • Plastic cups with lids, 100 sets, 5.5 oz, 2-3/8" h, 2-7/8" d: $11.99
  • Stack Man plastic round with lids, 48 sets, 8 oz, 1.5" h, 4.5" d: $11.99
  • Stack Man plastic round with lids, 48 sets, 16 oz, 3" h, 4.5" d: $13.49
  • Stack Man plastic round with lids, 48 sets, 32 oz, 5.4" h, 4.6" d: $20.00
  • Iume plastic black with lids, 50 sets, 26 oz, 6.73x3.64x2.46": $17.99
  • Plastic 5x5" clamshell dessert containres, 50 count: $15.99
  • Brown bakery box with window, 20 pieces in 3 sizes: 8 8x8x2.75", 8 8.75x5.75x2.75", 4 10x10x5": $17.99

Not purchased:

  • SafeWare plastic round with lids, 200 sets, 2 oz, : $9.99
  • ProMoze plastic black with lids, 50 sets, 28 oz, 8.75x6x1.75": $23.99
  • ProMoze round plastic black with lids, 50 sets, 28 oz, 2" h, 7.25" d: $23.49
  • ProMoze plastic round deli with lids, 48 sets, 16 oz, 3" h, 4.5" d: $17.49
  • Plastic cups with lids, 100 sets, 4 oz, 1-7/8" h, 2-7/8" d: $10.99
  • Safeware plastic round with lids, 50 sets, 32 oz, 5.5" h, 4.5" d: $24.99
  • 32 oz square clear with lids, 25 sets, 32 oz, : $23.74
  • bakery/pie box with window, 25 sets, 10x10x2.5", white: $23.95
  • b rown pie box with window, 15 sets, 10x10x2.5": $15.99
  • white bakery box with window, 24 sets, 10x10x5": $22.99
  • white bakery box with window, 15 sets, 10x10x5": $18.99
  • brown bakery box with window, 15 sets, 12x12x3": $18.88
  • white bakery box with window, 15 sets, 12x12x3": $18.88
  • brown bakery box with window, 12 sets, 9x9x2.5": $14.99
  • brown bakery box with window, 12 sets, 6x6x2.5": $13.99

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Daily Log

Worksheet for Jazz Critics Poll ballot:

New Albums:

  1. Mark Lomax, II & the Urban Art Ensemble, 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia)
  2. Rich Halley-Matthew Shipp-Michael Bisio-Newman Taylor Baker, The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle)
  3. Dave Rempis-Jeff Parker-Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten-Jeremy Cunningham, Stringers and Struts (Aerophonic)
  4. Aly Keďta-Jan Galega Brönnimann-Lucas Niggli, Kalan Teban (Intakt)
  5. Rudresh Mahanthappa, Hero Trio (Whirlwind)
  6. Kenny Barron-Dave Holland Trio Featuring Jonathan Blake, Without Deception (Dare 2)
  7. Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Artificial Happiness Button (Ropeadope)
  8. Jason Kao Hwang, Human Rites Trio (True Sound)
  9. Dave Glasser, Hypocrisy Democracy (Here Tiz)
  10. Kevin Sun, (Un)seaworthy (Endectomorph Music)


  1. Borah Bergman-Perry Anderson-Steve Swell-Ray Sage, Quartets Trios Duos (2007, Mahakala Music)
  2. Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra, Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (1976, Dark Tree)
  3. Modern Jazz Quartet Karlsruhe/Four Men Only: Complete Recordings (1968-73, NoBusiness)

Vocal: Heroes Are Gang Leaders, Artificial Happiness Button (Ropeadope)

Debut: none

Latin: Aruán Ortiz With Andrew Cyrille and Mauricio Herrera, Inside Rhythmic Falls (Intakt)

Monday, December 07, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, December archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34511 [34444] rated (+67), 215 [210] unrated (+5).

I've been working very fast and very hard, as should be obvious from the ridiculously high rated total this week. I've been counting ballots for the Jazz Critics Poll (71 submitted so far, which is pretty good with six days to go). I've been toting up EOY lists. I've been playing things I'm seeing on these lists, though rarely giving them more than a single spin. (I should give those Schubert albums another shot; also seems likely that one or more of the hip-hop albums might click; on the other hand, Kimbrough got three spins today, thanks to having the CD, which I could play while making soup and coleslaw (separate projects, but both kitchen-based).

All this listening is causing my EOY lists for jazz and non-jazz to churn, but is having surprisingly little effect on the upper reaches. I haven't formally submitted a Jazz Critics Poll ballot, but nothing new has come close to top-ten level. This is probably because I've managed to hear more of what I've heard about this year than in any previous year. For instance, if you look at the current EOY Aggregate file, the top-rated records I haven't heard are:

  1. Deftones: Ohms (Warner Bros) {38}
  2. Code Orange: Underneath (Roadrunner) {24}
  3. Sorry: 925 (Domino) {21}
  4. Gorillaz: Song Machine,Season One: Strange Timez (Parlophone) {20}
  5. The Killers: Imploding the Mirage (Island) {19}
  6. Matt Berninger: Serpentine Prison (Book/Concord) {18}
  7. Helena Deland: Someone New (Luminelle) {18)
  8. AC/DC: Power Up (Columbia) {17}
  9. The Lemon Twigs: Songs for the General Public (4AD) {17}
  10. Touche Amore: Lament (Epitaph) {17}
  11. Nick Cave: Idiot Prayer (Bad Seed) {16}
  12. The Microphones: Microphones in 2020 (PW Elverum & Sun) {16}
  13. Poppy: I Disagree (Sumerian) {16}
  14. BC Camplight: Shortly After Takeoff (Bella Union) {15}
  15. Crack Cloud: Pain Olympics (Meat Machine) {15}
  16. Mark Lanegan: Straight Songs of Sorrow (Heavenly) {15}

Most of these are metal or near-metal -- things I almost never like. The frequency of unheard records increases after that, but I have to scroll down toward 330 to get a screen with more black than green (or blue), and from 582-624 colors outnumber black 27-16 (at 5-6 points, my own votes are starting to have more influence). My coverage of jazz is even deeper. At present, there are 111 albums with 9(2) or higher scores. Of those, I've heard all but the following (11, so less than 10%; I've heard the top 34):

  • Tyshawn Sorey: Unfiltered (self-released)
  • Camila Nebbia: Aura (Ears & Eyes)
  • Michael Formanek Quartet: Untamed . . . Pre-Apocalyptic (Out of Your Head)
  • Peter Evans: Being & Becoming (More Is More)
  • Jason Palmer: The Concert: 12 Musings for Isabella (Giant Steps Arts)
  • Dan Weiss Starebaby: Natural Selection (Pi)
  • Steve Swell: The Center Will Hold (Not Two)
  • Lynne Arriale Trio: Chimes of Freedom (Challenge)
  • George Lewis & Oxana Omelchuk: Breaking News Studio Dan (Ezz-thetics)
  • Tim Ray: Excursions and Adventures (Whaling City Sound)
  • Dave Douglas: Marching Music (Greenleaf Music)
  • 3D Jazz Trio: I Love to See You Smile (DIVA)

I recall looking the first three up on Bandcamp, and didn't find enough cuts to review. (I should recheck them for "Further Sampling," which I'm still doing -- just not very aggressively.) I already have a download of Douglas, so I'll get to that. I was surprised to find that I've only received one record from Pi this year. They usually do a very good job of servicing critics, but cut back when the lockdown hit, and started releasing digital-only home recordings. Besides, I've panned all of Dan Weiss's CDs, so maybe they're keeping track.

As far as the EOY Aggregate is concerned, I continue to cheat in ways designed to make the list more interesting. I ignore exclusive metal magazines -- although enough leaks through that the metal subset of the big list has reached 160 albums (I've heard 2: kind of liked one, and didn't hate the other). I pick up jazz that the big aggregators ignore (including some JJA lists, but I haven't dipped into the JCP ballots yet), and I look out for country and hip-hop lists, and somewhat less aggressively for electronica and world lists. I've heard 42 of the top 50 country/folk/Americana albums (84%, 135 albums listed), 47 of the top 50 hip-hop/rap albums (94%, 214 albums listed), 22 of the top 50 electronica albums (44%, although 9/10 and 14/16, 197 albums listed), and 31 of the top 50 world albums (62%, 80 albums listed).

I've also started to pick off some ballots from the Pazz & Jop Rip-Off Poll, although thus far my standard is to only pick names I've tracked in previous EOY Aggregates (many from Village Voice Pazz & Jop polls, or the Christgauvian Expert Witness Facebook group, so that warps the results toward Christgau's picks, as does the extra points for his grades). One such ballot came from Tom Lane, who followed up by sending me a much longer list via email (which I will count in due course; any reader who deigns to send me a ranked list via email is also likely to get counted).

My EOY lists were up to date as of last Friday (at least based on what I've found on Acclaimed Music Forums), but I've slipped a bit over the weekend. I should also note that I've depended a lot on lists by Phil Overeem, Chris Monsen, and Tim Niland.

One anomaly this week is that I threw in a cover scan for a mere B+(***) record. Just saw Gnod's record in the recommendations of a Bandcamp page, and my interest was piqued enough that I played it -- the only non-new record this week (not that 2017 is that old). Couldn't quite give it an A- (a bit too noise/metal for my taste within the limits of one spin), but wanted the cover anyway. My prerogative.

Current jazz/non-jazz split for new A-list albums: 69/48. Most years eventually even out. Maybe Christgau's December Consumer Guide -- out Wednesday for paying subscribers -- will offer some non-jazz candidates?

By the way, Michaelangelo Matos' new book, Can't Slow Down: How 1984 Became Pop's Blockbuster Year, is coming out this week. I'd still argue for 1964, but he's a good deal younger than me. For a review, check out Jack Hamilton: The Great New Book About the Year That Changed Pop.

By the way, Matos passed along my favorite tweet of the week: "Pro-tip: Never say 2020 can't get any worse!"

New records reviewed this week:

  • Eivind Aarset & Jan Bang: Snow Catches on Her Eyelashes (2020, Jazzland): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Backxwash: God Had Nothing to Do With This Leave Him Out of It (2020, Grimalkin, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Barrage: The Was and Is to Come (2020, Řra Fonogram): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ran Blake/Andrew Rathbun: Northern Noir (2018 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Urs Blöchlinger Revisited: Harry Doesn't Mind (2018 [2020], Leo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Peter Brötzmann/Fred Lonberg-Holm: Memories of a Tunicate (2020, Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Paul Bryan: Cri$el Gems (2020, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • BTS: BE (2020, Big Hit): [r]: B+(*)
  • Conway the Machine: From King to a GOD (2020, Griselda): [r]: B+(***)
  • Conway the Machine/The Alchemist: Lulu (2020, Griselda/ALC, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dezron Douglas & Brandee Younger: Force Majeure (2020, International Anthem): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kurt Elling: Secrets Are the Best Stories (2020, Edition): [r]: B-
  • Enemy Radio: Loud Is Not Enough (2020, SpitSLAM): [r]: A-
  • Fleet Foxes: Shore (2020, Anti-): [r]: B
  • Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Pentas: Tribute to Eric and Chris Stern (2019 [2020], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Future/Lil Uzi Vert: Pluto x Baby Pluto (2020, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • GoGo Penguin: Live From Studio 2 (2020, Decca): [r]: B+(*)
  • Devin Gray: Socialytics (2019 [2929], Rataplan, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Devin Gray/Gerald Cleaver: 27 Licks (2019 [2020], Rataplan): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Connie Han: Iron Starlet (2019 [2020], Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elisabeth Harnik & Steve Swell: Tonotopic Organizations (2019 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Honey Harper: Starmaker (2020, ATO): [r]: B
  • Headie One: Edna (2020, Relentless): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ian Hendrickson-Smith: The Lowdown (2019 [2020], Cellar Live): [r]: B+(**)
  • HHY & the Macumbas: Camouflage Vector: Edits From Live Actions 2017-2019 (2017-19 [2020], Nyege Nyege): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon Irabagon: I Don't Hear Nothin' but the Blues: Volume 3: Anatomical Snuffbox (2019 [2020], Irabbagast): [bc]: B-
  • Keefe Jackson/Jim Baker/Julian Kirshner: So Glossy and So Thin (2018-19 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Jubileum Quartet [Joëlle Léandre/Evan Parker/Agustí Fernández/Zlatko Kaucic]: A Uis? (2018 [2020], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Junglepussy: JP4 (2020, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Will Kimbrough: Spring Break (2020, Daphne): [cd]: A-
  • Mary Lattimore: Silver Ladders (2020, Ghostly International): [r]: B+(*)
  • José Lencastre/Hernâni Faustino/Vasco Furtado: Vento (2018 [2020], Phonogram Unit): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Lil Baby: My Turn (2020, Quality Control): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lil Uzi Vert: Eternal Atake (2020, Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Brian Lisik: Güdbye Stoopid Whirled (2020, Cherokee Queen): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Anna McClellan: I Saw First Light (2020, Father/Daughter): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tkay Maidza: Last Year Was Weird (Vol. 2) (2020, 4AD, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Flo Milli: Ho, Why Is You Here? (2020, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keir Neuringer/Shayna Dulberger/Julius Masri: Dromedaries II (2020, Relative Pitch): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Keir Neuringer & Rafal Mazur: The Continuum (2018 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Guillaume Nouaux: Guillaume Nouaux & the Stride Piano Kings (2019 [2020], self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: Viscerals (2020, Rocket): [r]: B
  • Chris Potter: There Is a Tide (2020, Edition): [r]: B-
  • Abbey Rader/John McMinn: Duo From the Heart (2019 [2020], Abray): [r]: B+(**)
  • Eric Reed: For a Time Such as This (2020, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Matana Roberts & Pat Thomas: The Truth (2018 [2020], Otoroku): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Frank Paul Schubert/Dieter Manderscheid/Martin Blume: Spindrift (2019 [2020], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Frank Paul Schubert/Alexander von Schlippenbach/Martin Blume: Forge (2020, Relative Pitch): [r]: A-
  • Nadine Shah: Kitchen Sink (2020, Infectious Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Skurkar: Skjulte Motiver (2019 [2020], Řra Fonogram): [r]: B+(***)
  • Spillage Village: Spilligion (2020, Dreamville/SinceThe80s/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Bartees Strange: Live Forever (2020, Memory Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Talibam! With Silke Eberhard and Nikolaus Neuser: This Week Is in Two Weeks (2020, ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duval Timothy: Help (2020, Carrying Colour): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kali Uchis: Sin Miedo (Del Amor Y Otros Demonios) (2020, Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Birgit Ulher/Franz Hautzinger: Kleine Trompetenmusik (2018 [2020], Relative Pitch): [bc]: B-
  • Luís Vicente/John Dikeman/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Goes Without Saying, but It's Got to Be Said (2020, JACC): [bc]: A-
  • Fay Victor's SoundNoiseFunk: We've Had Enough! (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)
  • Virtual Company: Virtual Company (2018 [2020], Confront): [bc]: A-
  • Working Men's Club: Working Men's Club (2020, Heavenly): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Victor Chukwu: Akalaka/The Power (1977-79 [2020], BBE): [r]: A-
  • Full Blast [Peter Brötzmann/Marino Pliakas/Michael Wertmüller]: Farewell Tonic (2007 [2020], Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience: Live in Maui (1970 [2020], Experience Hendrix/Legacy, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wolfgang Lackerschmid and Chet Baker: Ballads for Two (1979 [2018], Dot Time): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wolfgang Lackerschmid/Chet Baker: Quintet Sessions 1979 (Dot Time): [r]: B+(***)
  • Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983-1987 (1983-87 [2020], Captured Tracks): [r]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Gnod: Just Say No to the Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine (2017, Rocket): [bc]: B+(***)

Further Sampling:

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.

  • Mark Helias/Tim Berne: Blood From a Stone (2020, Radiolegs): [bc]: +
  • The Human Hearts: Day of the Tiles (2020, self-released, EP): [bc]: -

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Brad Brooks: God Save the City (Brad Brooks)
  • The Grasso-Ravita Jazz Ensemble: Jagged Spaces (Grassvita Music) [01-15]
  • Roderick Harper: Evolving (R.H.M. Entertainment) [01-04]
  • Will Kimbrough: Spring Break (Daphne)
  • Brian Lisik: Güdbye Stoopid Whirled (Cherokee Queen)
  • Gayelynn McKinney and McKinney Zone: Zoot Suit Funk (Beatstix)
  • Larry Newcomb Quartet: Love, Dad (Essential Messenger) [02-05]
  • The Justin Rothberg Group: Hurricane Mouse (self-released) [01-01]


  • Fiona Apple: Fetch the Bolt Cutters (2020, Epic)
  • Mark Lomax, II & the Urban Art Ensemble: 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia)
  • Lori McKenna: The Balladeer (CN)
  • Run the Jewels: RTJ4 (Jewel Runners/RBC/BMG)
  • Lucinda Williams: Good Souls Better Angels (Highway 20)

Sunday, December 06, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

I've been paying more attention to EOY album lists this week than to news. Started collecting this Saturday evening, and figure I got enough.

Trump's Election Fraud

Plus a few more election-related stories, including the Georgia Senate runoffs. Note that: Biden's vote lead over Trump now more than 7 million.

Susan B Glasser: The President is acting crazy, so why are we shrugging it off? Well, we voted him out of office. What more can we do? And unless, in due course, he figures out some way to defy the eviction, why give him the satisfaction of attention? It's not like we don't have anything else to worry about.

Ryan Grim: Goldman Sachs log exposes David Perdue's stock trading claim as a lie. Actually, both Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have notorious stock trading scandals. (Steve M also reminds us that Loeffler is "the wealthiest member of the Senate" and "Loeffler's husband is literally the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange." Another tweet posted this picture of "one of Loeffler's 5 houses.") With enormous sums being spent on this race, scandals like that should be drummed into every voter's noggin. More on Georgia:

Benjamin Hart: Trump funds political future by claiming he won in 2020.

Zach Montellaro/Elena Schneider: Trump's post-election cash grab floods funds to new PAC.

Andrew Prokop:

Aaron Rupar:

Jeff Singer: Ohio's decade-old gerrymander still performed exactly as the GOP intended in 2020.

Peter Slevin: Trump's election-fraud bluster finds an audience.

Matt Stieb: DOJ investigating 'bribery-for-pardon' scheme involving White House.

Biden Prospects

We're starting to see announcements of Biden's picks for the cabinet and key staff positions -- see Joe Biden's cabinet begins to take shape.

Kate Aronoff: The problem with putting a BlackRock alum in charge of greening the economy: "Brian Deese, expected to head the Biden administration's National Economic Council, is a longtime adherent of a disastrous energy strategy."

David Atkins: Media must focus on larger truths during the Biden presidency: I'm not a betting person, but odds of this happening are pretty slim. Presumably they won't have to cope with Trump's "flood the zone with bullshit" approach to PR, but let's face it: they were suckers for bullshit; also a lot of it is endemic to using social media as a PR engine, which Biden's staff will continue to do, even if they're not as flagrantly duplicitous as Trump's staff have been. Atkins also wrote a piece on How do you deradicalize the Republican Party?. Well, it would help if the media got smarter and dug deeper, holding Republicans accountable not just for their frequent gaffes but for the real consequences of their demented programs. After all, what matters more than deradicalizing the Republican Party is defeating them. Do that, and they'll adjust on their own.

Rosa Brooks: It's time for a woman to run the Defense Department. Advertisement for Brooks' former boss, Michele Flournoy, although it could also reflect Brooks' own ambitions. I try to cut her some slack, mostly because her famous leftist mother Barbara Ehrenreich still seems to respect her, and this is one case where coming from a famous family is unlikely to have done her any favors. Still, I couldn't care less about the sex or race or religion of any government agency heads, but I'm unlikely to like anyone under serious consideration for the Defense Department. By the way, see Robert Wright/Conor Echols: Grading candidates for Biden's foreign policy team: Michčle Flournoy (grade even lower than expected; hell, even lower than Antony Blinken's).

Linda Pentz Gunter: In promoting new nuclear power, Biden-Harris back fiction over science.

Ben Jacobs: Harry Reid's former lieutenant on what it's like to fight Mitch McConnell. Interview with Adam Jentleson.

Paul Krugman:

Dylan Matthews: Joe Biden is taking office amid a poverty crisis: "Columbia researchers project that 5 million to 12 million more people will be in poverty in January than a year before."

David Roberts: Joe Biden should do everything at once. Nice to see some thinking about the Obama administration's failures to get things done given a hostile, obstructionist Republican Party. Subheds:

  • Obama's efforts to collect and spend "political culture" were mostly for naught
  • Two-party partisan politics really is a zero-sum game
  • Biden should run a blitz
  • The new rule of partisan politics is to act, not react

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 14.8 million+ cases (14 day change +12%, total up 1.5 million in last week), 282,257 deaths (+48%), 101,190 hospitalized (+27%).

Chas Danner: Rudy Giuliani has tested positive for Covid-19.

Elaine Godfrey: Iowa is what happens when government does nothing.

Kasey Grewe: Headlines don't capture the horror we saw: "I chronicled what Covid-19 did to a hospital. America must not let down its guard."

Carolyn Kormann: Countdown to a coronavirus vaccine.

Robinson Meyer/Alexis C Madrigal: The US has passed the hospital breaking point: "A new statistic shows that health-care workers are running out of space to treat Covid-19 patients."

David Remnick: Atul Gawande on coronavirus vaccines and prospects for ending the pandemic.

David Roberts: The scariest thing about global warming (and Covid-19): "Shifting baselines syndrome."

Dylan Scott: America's failures have led to a new daily record in Covid-19 deaths.

Still More on Donald Trump

Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: Barr taps Durham as special counsel, pushing probe into Biden era. John Durham has been investigating "the origins of the FBI's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election," looking (to little avail) or pin the investigation of Trump on Obama. By designating Durham a Special Counsel, Barr hopes to extend the witch hunt past Jan. 20.

"In an appointment secretly conferred on Durham prior to the election and only disclosed now that Barr concedes there is no evidence of election fraud to overturn the results, Barr is using the special counsel law for a purpose it was not intended: to continue a politically motivated investigation long after Barr leaves office," said House Intelligence chairman Adam Schiff in a statement.

More on Durham:

Jonathan Guyer: The lucrative after life of a Trump official: "Trump's former appointees are profiting from their time in the White House -- H.R. McMaster most of all."

Sarah Jones: White evangelicals made a deal with the devil. Now what?

Michael Klare: Trump's pernicious military legacy: "From the forever wars to the cataclysmic wars."

People seldom notice that Trump's approach to military policy has always been two-faced. Even as he repeatedly denounced the failure of his predecessors to abandon those endless counterinsurgency wars, he bemoaned their alleged neglect of America's regular armed forces and promised to spend whatever it took to "restore" their fighting strength. "In a Trump administration," he declared in a September 2016 campaign speech on national security, America's military priorities would be reversed, with a withdrawal from the "endless wars we are caught in now" and the restoration of "our unquestioned military strength."

Anita Kumar: Trump to restart foreign deals, breaking a post-presidency norm.

Martin Longman: Trump's maddening war against Section 230 which protects digital publishers. "It's not just Democrats for whom January 20th cannot come soon enough."

David Nakamura/Juliet Eilperin/Lisa Rein: As Trump rants over election, his administration accelerates push to lock in policy and staffing gains.

Administration officials are rushing to auction off drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, slash U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, implement new rules to limit drug prices and create a new personnel category for civil servants in policymaking roles that would strip them of most job protections. The Department of Homeland Security is racing to complete an additional 50 miles of wall barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the State and Treasury departments are preparing additional economic sanctions on China and Iran.

Senate Republicans -- who may lose their governing majority in January, depending on a pair of runoffs in Georgia -- are moving swiftly to confirm Trump's conservative picks to the federal courts and other nominees whose tenures will extend into the Biden presidency and beyond.

Sarah Okeson: Trump's ERA clears way for "Bhopal 2" here in the US.

Rachel Ramirez: The high rate of executions during Trump's last weeks in office, explained: "Trump has scheduled more federal executions than any president in at least a century." More specifically:

Brian Resnick: Why Trump taking credit for the Covid-19 vaccines could be a good thing: "After he leaves office, he can help convince supporters to get vaccinated for Covid-19." Wishful thinking, but don't expect he'd do it out of his deep well of public-spiritedness. On the other hand, he could probably make a bundle as a Pharma shill.

David Rohde: William Barr's break with Donald Trump: "The Attorney General is, at long last, defending American democracy." Jeez, he says one thing, carefully worded to technically accurate while a minimum of comfort to his enemies, and some people are eager to acclaim him as an American hero. The best I can say for Barr is that he, unlike Rudy Giuliani (to pick the most obvious example), has always known where the line of the law lies, and how to tripping over it and getting indicted or disbarred. That may occasionally irritate Trump, and feel free to enjoy Trump's agitation, but Barr has actually been a much more effective defender of his client than Giuliani has. If you need a reminder, look back at how Barr handled the Mueller Investigation, showing Mueller a great deal of personal respect while bottling up and defanging the Report. Again, contrast with Giuliani, who accomplished little more than getting his henchmen indicted.

Matthew Rosza: This Marxist philosopher foresaw the rise of Trumpism more than 80 years ago. Title like that I had to click, if nothing else just to get the name. Of course, 80 years ago isn't as far back as it used to be. In fact, it only takes you to 1940, which gives one plenty of time to observe the rise of Adolf Hitler. Sure, Trump isn't Hitler Redux, but you're hardly breaking new ground pointing out similarities. The name is Walter Benjamin, a special interest of mine in a time closer to then than to now, and the key point is:

Benjamin, a Marxist and a Jew who was thus obviously opposed to the Nazis, postulated that modern fascists succeed when they are entertainers. Not just any entertainer -- a circus clown or a juggler-turned-fascist wouldn't do. Specifically, modern fascists were entertainers with a distinct aesthetic, one that appeals to mass grievances by encouraging their supporters to feel like they are personally expressing themselves through their demagogue of choice.

Benjamin's insight, which appears to have been largely forgotten, is that keeping fascism out of power means recognizing how they use aesthetic entertainment to create their movements. That does require us to admit, cringe-inducing though it may be, that Trump is an artist -- albeit a tacky, shallow and transparently self-aggrandizing one. More importantly, his movement, the MAGA crowd, has a distinct aesthetic which he has created and honed for them.

There is, by the way, much more to Benjamin than the essay cited, and much more to he essay than the use it's put to here -- John Berger wrote a whole book, Ways of Seeing, based on the essay. There is much more to be gained by understanding Benjamin within the context of his time than in trying to use him to decipher fascism today. But it is also true that those of us who understood fascism through the critiques of Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and fellow thinkers had a leg up on you dogmatic anti-Marxist liberals. The other point I want to make is that fascist aesthetics are only such when adopted by fascists for fascist political aims. It's not random what fascists choose, but it's not commutative either: you don't become a fascist because you like swastikas or monster trucks or "reality TV," and you don't stop being a fascist because you hold to more conservative aesthetics.

In the Courts

Ian Millhiser:

Around the World

Dave DeCamp: President Trump orders to withdraw the 'majority' of troops from Somalia: "The Plan will reposition troops to neighboring countries to allow for 'cross-border operations'" -- ergo, business as usual, no big change. Also on the Somalia war you probably didn't know about:

Yossi Gurvitz: Israeli court rules that Nation State law calls for discrimination against Palestinian citizens.

Daniel Immerwahr: Fort Everywhere: "How did the United States become entangled in a cycle of endless war?" Review of David Vine's book, The United States of War: A Global History of America's Endless Conflicts, From Columbus to the Islamic State. I'm reminded here of point 2 in Mark Kurlansky's Nonviolence: Twenty-Five Lessons From the History of a Dangerous Idea: "Nations that build military forces as deterrents will eventually use them." Or as Madeleine Albright put it, "What's the point of having this superb military that you're always talking about if we can't use it?" War follows militarism. Put bases all around the world and what you're protecting soon reduces to little more than the bases themselves.

James North: Coverage of Israel's killing of Iranian scientist is marred by inaccuracy and inhumanity.

Richard Silverstein: Iranian authorities: Israeli assassination carried out remotely by satellite.

Alex Ward:

Other Matters of Interest

Jariel Arvin:

Paul Blest: The Democratic Party will keep betraying labor. It's time to launch a workers' party. Article paired with: Jonathan Smucker: Don't abandon the Democratic Party -- take it over. I answered this question after the Ralph Nader debacle in 2000. What bothered me wasn't throwing the election to Bush -- Gore campaigned the way he wanted to -- but the fact that even in Kansas, where Gore didn't campaign at all, he outpolled Nader 10-to-1. I realized then that the people you need to appeal to had already decided to be Democrats, and if anything that's even more true today. Sure, Democratic socialists and neoliberals have huge differences, and are joined today largely by fear of ever greater Republican fascism. But the path of political progress goes through the people, and the people most open to progressive proposals are already in the Democratic Party. Win there, or go home. (Of course, I have no problem with sitting outside practical politics when that's the only space you can be right in -- one of my formative political journals was called The Minority of One. Just don't pretend that doing so is some kind of viable political strategy.)

Zach Carter: The power of ideas and the idea of power: "The progressives won the debate about whether there is a power elite. Now they need to keep the corporate elite from destroying what's left of our democracy."

Jeffrey Frank: Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz tell the full sordid story of Spiro Agnew: A review of their book, Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-Up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House.

Christina Goldbaum/Will Wright: 'Existential peril': Mass transit faces huge service cuts across US.

Eric Levitz:

German Lopez:

Ed Morales: Privatizing Puerto Rico: "The rushed sell-off of the territory's electrical utility is part of a larger move to gut public goods for private profit."

Anna North: The government's failure to provide economic relief is killing people.

Alex Ross: Revisiting Hitler's final days in the bunker: Very hard to read this piece without trying to transpose Trump into Hitler's bunker -- not that Trump is Hitler, let alone that the "radical leftists" besieging Trump's White House are anywhere near as lethal as the Red Army bearing down on Berlin. But psychologically, it must bear some likeness, even if only in Trump's fevered delusions. Sure, Hitler fell harder, but when you start from the pinnacle of Trump's ego, the downfall must feel infinite.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Let's get small: Some snippets:

  • Joe Biden's cabinet is shaping up to be the most diverse group of ideological clones ever assembled.
  • According to Obama's book, the breakdown on intervening in Libya was as follows: Against: Biden, Gates, Mullen, Daley. For: HRC, Rice, Powers, Blinken. He, of course, was conflicted, but bombed Libya anyway.
  • Nancy Pelosi has now served as the leader of the Democrats in the House for as long as Leonid Brezhnev served as General Secretary of the Communist Party, 18 years.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Daily Log

Sent in my ballot for El Intruso's annual poll. I don't particularly like the way this poll is structured, so didn't put much effort into it, and don't stand at all firmly behind my picks. Still, will jot them down here for future reference (since I'll probably get invited again).

  • Musician of the year: Dave Rempis, Matthew Shipp, James Brandon Lewis.
  • Newcomer Musician: Kevin Sun, Luke Stewart.
  • Group of the year: Irreversible Entanglements, Shabaka & the Ancestors, Heroes Are Gang Leaders.
  • Newcomer group: Broken Shadows, Threadbare.
  • Album of the year: Mark Lomax II, 400 Years Suite (CFG Multimedia); Rich Halley, The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle); Dave Rempis, Stringers and Struts (Aerophonic).
  • Composer: Mark Lomax II.
  • Drums: Mark Lomax II, Chad Taylor, Whit Dickey.
  • Acoustic Bass: William Parker, Anne Mette Iversen, Jasper Hoiby.
  • Electric Bass: none.
  • Guitar: Luis Lopes, Samo Salamon, Ross Hammond.
  • Piano: Alexander von Schlippenbach, Matthew Shipp, Marilyn Crispell.
  • Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ: none.
  • Tenor Saxophone: Rich Halley, James Brandon Lewis, Edwin Bayard.
  • Alto Saxophone: Oliver Lake, Dave Rempis, Rudresh Mahanthappa.
  • Baritone Saxophone: Dave Sewelson.
  • Soprano Saxophone: none.
  • Trumpet/Cornet: Jaimie Branch, Luis Vicente.
  • Clarinet/bass clarinet: Jason Stein.
  • Trombone: Steve Swell.
  • Flute: Nicole Mitchell.
  • Violin/Viola: Jason Kao Hwang.
  • Cello: Tomeka Reid, Fred Lonberg-Holm.
  • Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz.
  • Electronics: Rob Mazurek.
  • Others instruments: Aly Keita (balafon).
  • Female Vocals: Camae Ayewa (aka Moor Mother).
  • Male Vocals: none.
  • Record Label: NoBusiness, Moserobie, Astral Spirits.

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Daily Log

Temporary comparison shopping list, for an all-in-one printer (ink jet):

  • $380: HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile [CG61]
  • $300: Canon MegaTank Pixma G7020 [CR65]
  • $280: Canon MegaTank Pixma G4210 [CR67]
  • $270: Canon MegaTank Pixma G6020 [CR64]
  • $250: Brother MFC-J775DW XL [CR65]
  • $230: HP Envy Photo 7885 AiO [CR61]
  • $200: Canon MegaTank Pixma G3200 [CR63]
  • $200: HP Envy Photo 7864 [CR61]
  • $195: HP Envy Photo 7858 AiO [CR61]
  • $180: HP Envy Photo 7155 [CR60]
  • $130: Brother MFC-J895DW [CR69]
  • $110: Canon MegaTank Pixma G3202 [CR63]
  • $110: Canon Pixma TS6320 [CR60]
  • $110: HP Envy 4520 [CR61]
  • $100: Canon PIXMA TS5120 [CR60]
  • $95: Brother MFC-J491DW [CG62]
  • $80: Canon Pixma MG3620 [CR63]
  • $80: Brother MFC-J497DW [CR62]

Color laser printers (CR graphics quality: 5):

  • $600: HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M479dw [CR70]
  • $550: Brother MFC-L8900CDW [CR71]
  • $530: Canon imageCLASS MF733Cdw [CR66]
  • $500: HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M479fdw [CR70]
  • $350: Canon imageCLASS MF642Cdw [CR69]
  • $330: Brother MFC-L3750CDW [CR69]
  • $330: Brother MFC-L3710CW [CR68]
  • $320: Canon Color imageCLASS MF644Cdw [CR69]
  • $240: HP Color LaserJet Pro MFP M180nw [CR63]

Another temporary comparison shopping list, for a bathroom space heater. [Deleted options. Ordered a TaoTronics PTC 1500W Ceramic Tower Oscillating Portable Heater with Remote Control Programmable Thermostat ECO Mode 12H Timer LED Display, Black, Large, for $55.24 + tax.]

Monday, November 30, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (finished).

Music: Current count 34444 [34401] rated (+43), 210 [213] unrated (-3).

Not really sure why I feel so frazzled at the moment. I've been doing a lot of high speed clerical work: counting Jazz Critics Poll ballots (32 so far), adding EOY early lists to my aggregate file, fiddling with my jazz and non-jazz EOY files, and trying to wrap up this post and the November Streamnotes archive, while listening to as much as I can recall, track down, and stomach. The hardest part is deciding what to check out.

Sorry to hear of the death of Kali Z. Fasteau (aka Zusann Kali Fasteau). I wrote to her when I was researching my big William Parker/Matthew Shipp consumer guide. She generously sent me not just what I asked for but her whole catalog, starting with a 1975-77 collection of her work with her late husband, Donald Rafael Garrett, and she kept sending CDs up through her latest, in 2016. She played a wide range of instruments, none especially well, but she was a scene setter and often enough made her eclecticism work. I finally gave one of her records an A-: Piano Rapture (2014), where she finally impressed me with her piano, joined by various guests (notably Kidd Jordan and Mixashawn).

I've continued to fiddle with the format of "records I played parts of, but not enough to grade," including adding them to Streamnotes archive, and adding them to the Year 2020 list (although they are not yet in the EOY lists). I'm not very happy with them yet. But this week I went through most of the unheard records at Tim Berne's Screwgun Records Bandcamp. Only records flagged as ++ continue to be listed in the 2% EOY list prospects. Again, I still haven't made a complete pass through the tracking file to identify most of the albums that meet the 2% standard (but I did drop three of Berne's albums from the list I had, leaving 2).

New records reviewed this week:

  • AVA Trio: Digging the Sand (2018 [2019], Marocco Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Bad Bunny: El Último Tour Del Mundo (2020, Rimas): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alan Barnes + Eleven: 60th Birthday Celebration (2019, Woodville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Beabadoobee: Fake It Flowers (2020, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scott H. Biram: Fever Dreams (2020, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scott H. Biram: Sold Out to the Devil: A Collection of Gospel Cuts by the Rev. Scott H. Biram (Bloodshot): [r]: A-
  • Jeb Bishop: Centrifugal Trio (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Bonny Light Horseman: Bonny Light Horseman (2020, 37d03d): [r]: B
  • Cabaret Voltaire: Shadow of Fear (2020, Mute): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chloe x Halle: Ungodly Hour (2020, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dan Clucas/Jeb Bishop/Damon Smith/Matt Crane: Universal or Directional (2018 [2020], Balance Point Acoustics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shemekia Copeland: Uncivil War (2020, Alligator): [r]: B+(*)
  • Miley Cyrus: Plastic Hearts (2020, RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hermine Deurloo: Riverbeast (2019, Zennes): [dl]: B
  • The End: Allt Är Intet (2019 [2020], RareNoise): [cdr]: C [11-13]
  • John Fogerty: Fogerty's Factory (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(*)
  • Funk Shui NYC: Shark NATO on a Plane (2020, Zoho): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Gisler Trio With Jaimie Branch: Zurich Concert (2019 [2020], Intakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vinny Golia/John Hanrahan/Henry Kaiser/Wayne Peet/Mike Watt: A Love Supreme Electric: A Salvo Inspired by John Coltrane: A Love Supreme & Meditations (2019 [2020], Cuneiform, 2CD): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Jahari Masamba Unit: Pardon My French (2020, Madlib Invazion): [r]: B+(*)
  • Benjamin Koppel/Kenny Werner/Scott Colley/Jack DeJohnette: The Art of the Quartet (2015 [2020], Cowbell Music/Unit, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Benjamin Koppel/Tine Rehling/Henrik Dam Thomsen: Les Mobiles (2019 [2020], Cowbell Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ingrid Laubrock: Dreamt Twice, Twice Dreamt (2019 [2020], Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lionel Loueke: HH (2019 [2020], Edition): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parish/Zach Rowden: Live at Static Age Records (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • The Michael O'Neill Quartet: And Then It Rained (2020, Jazzmo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruno Parrinha/Abdul Moimeme/Carlos Santos: A Silent Play in the Shadow of Power (2020, Creative Sources): [bc]: B-
  • Vanessa Perica Orchestra: Love Is a Temporary Madness (2019 [2020], self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ben Perowsky/John Medeski/Chris Speed: Upstream (2014 [2019], El Destructo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Noah Preminger: Contemptment (2020, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Rempis/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten/Jeremy Cunningham: Stringers and Struts (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [cd]: A- [12-04]
  • Andrew Renfroe: Dark Grey EP (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Ray Russell: Fluid Architecture (2020, Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Luke Stewart: Exposure Quintet (2020, Astral Spirits): [r]: A-
  • The United States Air Force Band: Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Highlights (2019 [2020], self-released): [cd]: B
  • Becky Warren: The Sick Season (2020, Becky Warren): [r]: B+(***)
  • Kate Westbrook & the Granite Band: Earth Felt the Wound (2018-19 [2020], Westbrook): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Bill Evans: Live at Ronnie Scott's (1968 [2020], Resonance, 2CD): [dl]: B+(***)
  • Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 1 (2000 [2020], Circulasione Totale): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Frode Gjerstad/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Minneapolis Vol 2 (2000 [2020], Circulasione Totale): [bc]: B
  • Hanging Tree Guitars (1991 [2020], Music Maker Relief Foundation): [r]: A-
  • Charles Mingus: @ Bremen 1964 & 1975 (1964-75 [2020], Sunnyside, 4CD): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Etran De L'Aďr: No. 1 (2014 [2018], Sahel Sounds): [bc]: A-

Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ probable prospect.

  • Tim Berne: 7 Adobe Probe (2009 [2020], Screwgun): [bc: 1/3, 37:00/75:36] ++
  • Tim Berne/Nasheet Waits: The Coanda Effect (2019 [2020], Screwgun): [bc: 1/2, 9:53/48:57] +
  • Tim Berne: Sacred Vowels (2020, Screwgun): [bc: 2/12, 8:23/41:11] +
  • Matt Mitchell/Tim Berne: 1 (2010 [2020], Screwgun): [bc: 1/5, 11:28/48:01] +
  • Chris Speed/Dave King/Reid Anderson/Tim Berne: Broken Shadows Live (2019 [2020], Screwgun): [bc: 2/9, 13:01/61:43): ++
  • Sun of Goldfinger [David Torn/Ches Smith/Tim Berne]: Congratulations to You (2010 [2020], Screwgun): [bc: 1/3, 13:55/56:28] +

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Guillaume Nouaux: Guillaume Nouaux & the Stride Piano Kings (self-released)

   Mar 2001