Sunday, June 16, 2019
Quite a bit below. After a very depressing/blasé week, I got an early
start on Friday, and started feeling better -- not for the nation or the
world, but pleased to be occupied with some straightforward, tangible work.
One thing I can enjoy some optimism about is the Democratic presidential
campaign. I expected it to be swallowed whole with the sort of vacant,
pious clichés that Obama and the Clintons have been campaigning on for
decades now, but what we're actually seeing is a lot of serious concern
for policy. The clear leader in that regard is Elizabeth Warren, and of
course Bernie Sanders has a complete matching set with if anything a
little more courage and conviction, but I've run across distinct and
refreshing ideas from another half-dozen candidates. I haven't noticed
Biden rising to that challenge yet. He remains the main beneficiary of
as fairly widespread faction that would be quite satisfied with their
lives if only the Republican threat would subside in favor of the quiet
competency Obama brought to government. Personally, I wouldn't mind
that either, but I recognize that has a lot to do with my age. Young
people inhabit a very different world, one with less opportunity and
much graver risks, so platitudes from America's liberal past don't do
them much good, or offer much hope. They face real and growing problems,
and not just from Republicans (although those are perhaps the hoariest).
Talking about policy actually offers them some prospect that faith
alone can never fill. And sooner or later, even Biden's going to have
to talk about policy, because that's where the campaign is heading.
This could hardly offer a starker contrast to the 2016 Republican
presidential primary, where there was virtually no difference regarding
policy -- just minor tweaks to each candidate's plan to steer more of
the nation's wealth to the already rich, along with a slight range of
hues on how hawkish one can be on the forever wars and how racist one
can be when dealing with immigrants and the underclass. The real price
of entry wasn't ideas or commitment. It was just the necessity to line
up one or more billionaire sponsors -- turf that credibly favored Trump
as his billionaire/candidate were one. The fact that Cruz and Kasich
folded when they still had primaries they could plausibly have won is
all the proof you need that the financiers pulled the strings, and as
soon as they understood that Trump would win the nomination, they
understood that he was as good for their purposes as anyone else, so
they got on board.
Democrats may have a harder time finding unity in 2020, because
their candidates are actually divided on issues that matter. On the
other hand, they are learning to discuss those issues rationally,
especially the candidates who are pushing the Overton Window left.
Even if they wind up nominating some kind of centrist, that person
is going to be more open to solutions from the left, and that's a
good thing because that's where the real solutions are. Franklin
Roosevelt wasn't any kind of leftist when he was elected in 1932,
and his famous 100 days were all over the map, but he was open to
trying things, and quickly found out that left solutions worked
better than conservative ones. We're not quite as mired in crisis
as America was in 1932, but it's pretty clear that catastrophe is
coming if Trump and the Republicans stay in power. The option for
2020 is whether to face our problems calmly and rationally with
deliberate policy choices or to continue to thrash reflexively
and chaotically. There's no need to imagine how bad the latter
may be, because Trump's illustrating it perfectly day by day.
Some scattered links this week:
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:
Bellingcat and how open source journalism reinvented investigative
Private equity pillage: grocery stores and workers at risk. I first
noticed this as a
twitter thread, but the article goes into a lot more detail (while
including all the cartoons). The article focuses on food retailers, but
if you want a quick rule-of-thumb, whenever you read about a familiar
company filing for bankruptcy, you can be pretty sure there's a private
equity fund behind it that has already sucked the firm dry of assets
and piled up unsupportable debt. Private equity firms -- you may recall
that's how Mitt Romney got so rich, not that having a rich and famous
father didn't give him a leg up -- are a plague, especially on American
workers. Some policy wonks should come up with a program to put them out
of business. One idea here would be to allow bankrupted companies to be
reorganized as employee-owned, writing down their PE debt, with public
loans to recapitalize the company.
Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman:
Trump campaign to purge pollsters after leak of dismal results.
Don't bother replacing Sarah Sanders -- there is no point.
I figured I should offer something to mark the passing of Trump's second
press secretary, but found very little that captures the true banality
she brought to such a thankless and hopeless job. Failing that, this will
have to do. Although I did also find: Luke O'Neil:
Tweets, lies and the Mueller report: Sarah Sanders' lowest moments.
On the other hand, Trump seems to think she has a future:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Governor of Arkansas? It's possible.
The Stephanopoulos interview is another fine mess for Trump.
Trump: witness to my crime can't testify, but trust me he's lying:
That would be former White House counsel Don McGahn, who Robert Mueller
interviewed at length.
'The Lehman Trilogy' and Wall Street's debt to slavery: How to get
rich in the 1840s, and how to get richer after that stopped working.
The princes who want to destroy any hope for Arab democracy: Trump's
best buds in "Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are backing
military leaders who kill demonstrators.".
If Donald Trump is the symptom . . . then what's the disease?
Reflects on how Trump was elected based on a widespread fear of decline,
economic as well as military, only to accelerate that decline, taking
much of the planet with him. Some other recent TomDispatch posts:
Getting Chian wrong, yet again: Reviews a Council of Foreign Relations
report entitled "Trump's Foreign Policies are Better Than They Seem," so
yeah, they have lots of examples. Also see: Michael Klare:
Bolton wants to fight Iran, but the Pentagon has its eye on China.
Pentagon strategists have long liked to promote conflicts with Russia
and China, as they help fund their dreams of high-tech weapons systems
that never get tested, because wars with nuclear powers like China and
Russia are still unthinkable. Interesting that Klare's next book also
looks at highly speculative Pentagon funding: All Hell Breaking
Loose: Why the Pentagon Sees Climate Change as a Threat to American
National Security. Without such threats, and the misunderstandings
and myths they are based on, one might realize that such arms spending
is unnecessary and, even worse, dangerous.
Congress's high-stakes budget fight to avert an economic crisis, explained.
The world's most insane energy project moves ahead: the Carmichael
coal mine, in Australia, controlled by Adani Group (of India).
The Best People review: how Trump flooded the swamp: On Alexander
Nazaryan's new book, The Best People: Trump's Cabinet and the Siege
on Washington (out June 18), about "the scandals, the incompetence,
the assault on the federal government, the bungled attempts to impose
order on an administration lost in a chaos of its own making." Green
also reviewed Michael Wolff's recent dirt-dishing Siege: Trump
Siege review: Michael Wolff's Trump tale is Fire and Fury II -- fire
harder. Related: Robert Reich:
Welcome to Trump's corrupt state -- the Star Wars cantina of world
Better schools won't fix America: "Like many rich Americans, I used
to think educational investment could heal the country's ills -- but I
was wrong. Fighting inequality must come first."
Saudi Arabia may execute teenager for his protests -- including when he
Why I'm optimistic about the 'deal of the century': Not because he
thinks Jared Kushner's "peace plan" is viable let alone workable, but it
marks the definitive end of the "two state" albatross that Israel has so
easily slagged off. Rather: "The deal presents the biggest opportunity
to those who have the most to lose from it." I don't get this optimism
yet, although to the limited extent I understand the idea -- despite
the advance publicity, it hasn't been fully presented yet -- but I can
imagine some tuning that might be tolerable going forward. Hearst also
wrote [February 2019]:
Lords of the land: Why Israel's victory won't last. Meanwhile,
some other relevant links:
The UK has now committed to the most aggressive climate target in the
Thomas Kaplan/Jim Tankersley:
Elizabeth Warren has lots of plans. Together, they would remake the
economy. Related: Paul Krugman:
Liberal wonks, or at least Elizabeth Warren, have a plan for that; also
Can Elizabeth Warren win it all?; also: Ed Kilgore:
Elizabeth Warren's one-two punch for conquering Washington; also:
Trump campaign zeroes in on a new threat: Elizabeth Warren. Best
laugh line from the latter piece: "Warren's populist economic agenda,
[Tucker] Carlson said, 'sounds like Donald Trump at his best.'"
Trump can't stop lying about his unpopularity:
Donald J. Trump did not invent the art of political spinning. But he
has perhaps raised it to an infernally high standard of sheer mendacity
in his determination to attack any information suggesting he is anything
other than the most wildly successful and popular politician since Pericles.
That means, among other troubling things, that he is engaged in a perpetual
war against the scientific measurement of public opinion.
Is it actually illegal to accept "campaign dirt" from foreigners?
If it's "something of value" doing so would violate campaign finance
laws. On the other hand, I doubt the law could prevent foreigners from
simply publishing and promoting "dirt" -- which is presumably what a
campaign would do with such information. In fact, most campaigns would
probably prefer that it come from an independent source.
The race to be the next British prime minister, briefly explained:
Seven candidates survived the first round of voting, the most famous
(and possibly the farthest apart politically) Boris Johnson (leader
with 114 votes) and Rory Stewart (last at 19 -- he's written a couple
of books on Afghanistan and Iraq which show some understanding of and
sympathy for the people there). Later rounds will reduce the field to
two, to be decided by registered Conservative Party members -- no one
in power there is eager to risk a new election. No mention of this here,
but since the Tories are a minority in Parliament, it seems to me that
their current coalition partners could scuttle the pick. [PS: See
Michael Savage/Toby Helm:
Boris Johnson's no-deal Brexit plan 'will trigger early election'.]
Sharon LaFraniere/Charlie Savage/Katie Benner:
People are trying to figure out William Barr. He's busy stockpiling
The Fed just released a damning indictment of capitalism: Title
after the jump: "The one percent have gotten $21 trillion richer since
1989. The bottom 50% have gotten poorer."
Dara Lind/Libby Nelson:
The fight over the 2020 census citizenship question, explained.
Trump tells Polish president: US media is corrupt: Actual quote:
"Much of the media unfortunately in this country is corrupt. I have to
tell you that, Mr. President." Trump could have turned this into a much
smarter quote by dropping "unfortunately" and adding: "that's why we
don't have to censor them." Of course, he wouldn't say that, because he
wants to censor them anyway. He feels so entitled he cannot recognize
that the media has been helped him out enormously. And he's such a
thin-skinned whiner he complains about them endlessly. Anything to
avoid a moment of reflection that might acknowledge that he's ever
done anything regrettable, let alone embarrassing.
The American right gets tired of democracy. I'd say the American right
has never liked democracy, and can point as far back as the early 1800s
when proposals to extend the vote to white male non-property holders were
met by worries that such people might use the vote to further their own
personal interests (to the detriment of their richer "betters"). But the
right is certainly getting more brazenly contemptuous of voting rights
and other aspects of democracy. This connects to a cluster of other links,
which purport to grapple with the question of what principles conservatism
has left after the right has pledged itself to politicians like Trump:
Against David French-ism.
Ross Douthat on the crisis of the conservative coalition: Interview
Josh Hawley could be the face of the post-Trump right.
The illiberal right throws a tantrum: sample quote:
I don't want to overstate the significance of this dispute between French
and Ahmari. They are yelling at each other in a walled garden; conservative
pundits in ideological magazines have little influence over a base whose
opinions are guided by the commercial incentives of Fox News and right-wing
talk radio, and the partisan imperatives of the Republican Party. If they
possessed such influence, Trump would not be president.
The question of whether the Republican Party would abandon liberal
democracy for sectarian ethno-nationalism was decided in the 2016 primary,
and all French and Ahmari are doing is arguing about it after the fact.
The commercial and social incentives for conservative writers to succumb
to Trumpism are vast. Some, like French, have had the integrity to stick
to their stated principles. Others, like Ahmari, have already fallen.
Today's skirmishes among conservatives resemble the irregulars in 1865
shooting at one another because they had not yet heard of Robert E. Lee's
surrender at Appomattox. And the support Ahmari has drawn suggests that
the conservative intelligentsia will offer less resistance to
authoritarianism than it did in 2015 and 2016.
House Democrats want to make accepting dirt on campaign opponents
from foreign governments a crime: "Democrats are rolling out a
new package of election security bills after Trump said he's open
to taking dirt on his 2020 opponents." That, or even the lesser
requirement to report foreign offers to the FBI, strikes me as a
bad idea: it practically begs foreign agents to set up and expose
Alabama's law forcing sex offenders to get chemically castrated,
Will climate change kill everyone -- or just lots and lots of people?
Oddly enough, I can think of adverse scenarios that are worse than the
ones discussed here -- war over diminishing habitat and resources is the
most obvious one -- but I can't imagine that no one would survive even
that, and I'm dead certain that the survivors will prove adaptable enough
to recover from any climate-induced dystopia. As for civilization ending,
the bigger threat is politically-directed stupidity (which seems to have
already claimed most of the Republican Party). As this explainer points
out, much of the dispute here really turns on the question of how much
threat we have to feel to act politically. Those who feel unheeded are
eager to turn out the hyperbole, but my impression is that so far that
has only had the perverse of undermining their credibility.
Trump's legally problematic claim that he'd accept "oppo research" from
foreign governments, explained.
Bosses pocket Trump tax windfall as workers see job promises vanish.
David E Sanger/Nicole Perlroth:
US escalates online attacks on Russia's power grid. Part of the
rationale here is to deter Russia from interfering in US elections,
but this reads more like a provocation along the lines of Nixon's
famous "madman theory" of threatening nuclear war. The assumption
seems to be that Russia will react rationally to such insanity, but
if they believe that, why not just sit down and negotiate some kind
of deal that would lessen the threat of cyberwarfare and present a
unified front against hacking by private parties and other countries.
Probably the same reason the US works to preserve its unique "first
strike" capability: to cower the rest of the world into submission
at the first demonstration of "shock and awe."
Is Pompeo angling to interfere in British politics? "In leaked
comments from a recent meeting with Jewish leaders, the US secretary
of state cites the need to 'push back' against a potential Corbyn
victory." Found a couple of useful links there:
Donald Trump and the art of the lie. He draws some examples from
Michael Wolff's Siege, others from the George Stephanopoulos
interview, but he could write the same article with fresh examples
any week of the year.
For Trump, lying is central to his disturbed psyche, and to his success.
The brazenness of it unbalances and stupefies sane and adjusted people,
thereby constantly giving him an edge and a little breathing space while
we try to absorb it, during which he proceeds to the next lie. And on it
goes. It's like swimming in choppy water. Just when you get to the surface
to breathe, another wave crashes into you. . . .
A tyrant's path to power is not a straight line, it's dynamic. Each
concession is instantly banked, past vices are turned into virtues, and
then the ante is upped once again. The threat rises exponentially with
time. If we can't see this in front of our own eyes, and impeach this
man now, even if he will not be convicted, we are flirting with the very
stability of our political system.
Sullivan also writes about Boris Johnson in the next section down
the page: "My Old Chum Boris." Sullivan knew Johnson from their school
days at Oxford together:
Boris was so posh it was funny. . . . He belonged, for example, to the
Bullingdon Club, an exclusive upper-class fraternity that specialized
in hosting expensive restaurant dinners for themselves, in white tie
and tails no less, with members eating and drinking till they were
stuffed and thoroughly shit-faced and then proceeded to puke on the
floors and vandalize the joint, smashing tables and chairs and china,
breaking windows and the like. Daddy would always pick up the price
for repairs. . . . Legend has it Johnson kept reinventing himself
politically and playing down his Toryism and poshness -- with the
help of then-student Frank Luntz, believe it or not -- and eventually
it worked and he won. I have to say I found him hugely entertaining,
and great company, but could never really take him seriously. He has
a first-class wit but a second-class mind and got a second-class
degree. If you want to measure the quality of his scholarship, check
out his deeply awful biography of Churchill, a thinly veiled attempt
to redescribe his own career as a Second Coming of Winston. . . .
But there is some sweet cosmic justice in Boris having to take
responsibility for the Brexit he backed. It may be a catastrophe,
but it will be his, and, for him at least, it sure will be fun.
Company part-owned by Jared Kushner got $90m from unknown offshore
investors since 2017. Also, Vicky Ward:
Jared Kushner may have an ethics problem -- to the tune of $90m.
Ivanka Trump cashed $4 million from her father's DC hotel in 2018:
"She and her husband, Jared Kushner, reported earning between $28.8 million
and $135.1 million in 2018.
How Trump turned liberal comedians conservative: Nice idea for a
piece, but doesn't deliver on its premise, nor approximate its title.
Weiss laments the eclipse of "wry satire," complaining that today "it's
all outrage and punching up -- and it's not always clear where the joke
is." I don't doubt that there has been a coarsening of humor since Trump
became president. Is any other reaction possible? I worry that many of
the jokes offer lazy simplifications (e.g., ragging on Trump for his
spelling and vocabulary lapses, like "covfefe"). I've also noted that
no one seems to be able to tell funny jokes about Democrats (exception
Hillary, but mostly in contrast to Trump). For instance, I can't recall
Seth Myers ever cracking a funny joke about Bernie Sanders. Also, I've
found myself with a pre-emptive groan every time Colbert does his "Doin'
It Donkey Style" routine. On the other hand, the real thing I've found
myself looking for from these comedians is solidarity. I rarely need
their help in understanding the news, but it's gratifying to know that
someone else shares my outrage.
UK signs order for WikiLeaks' Julian Assange to be extradicted to the US.
Why Trump remains open to receiving foreign aid during election
campaigns: Mostly links to other articles, but his summary is
As much as the media might be inclined to cast Trump's views on this
issue as an aberration, they are, on the contrary, completely in line
with what has become the GOP's overarching strategy for retaining power
as its capacity to win votes declines: through gerrymandering, stacking
courts, gutting campaign finance regulations, and now welcoming help
from foreign governments.
The Republicans' power-hunger corresponds directly with their
dwindling democratic opportunities.
A party that has realized it can't succeed by conforming with the
operating rules for a functioning democracy has concluded its self-ascribed
"right to govern" depends upon the systematic subversion of the principles
upon which this country was founded.
A tanker war in the Middle East -- again? Two oil tankers were
struck in the Straits of Hormuz between Iran and Oman. The Trump
administration and Trump's "allies" in Saudi Arabia and the UAE were
quick to blame Iran (with no proof but lots of innuendo), and Iran
immediately denied responsibility. One line in passing here sticks
with me: "Within hours, oil prices rose four per cent." A reminder
here of the "tanker war" in the late 1980s, although no mention of
the Iranian civilian airliner the US shot down then. More on Iran:
Meanwhile, no skepticism at the New York Times, where Bret Stephens
is already clamoring for war:
If Iran won't change its behavior, we should sink its navy.
Friday, June 14, 2019
My tweet on Trump's boast to the president of Poland that "much of
the media unfortunately in this country is corrupt":
So Trump tells president of Poland that the media in this country is
corrupt. Would have been smarter to add "that's why we don't have to
censor them." Or that he's built his career by exploiting that
corruption. But he's so vain he'd like to censor anyway.
Saturday, June 08, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31614  rated (+27), 251  unrated (+3).
Ran the numbers late Sunday evening, but added Monday's unpacking,
so the numbers have a slight skew from reality. I'm especially pleased
to get a copy of Orakel, the Swedish label Moserobie. It's
currently ranked number two on
Chris Monsen's Favorites list, and follows a Moserobie release
my own 2018 list. It's
gotten very expensive to mail CDs from Europe to the US recently,
and several of the last few labels I've been getting service from
seem to have dropped out (the ones I've felt the worst about are
Intakt and NoBusiness, plus Clean Feed a couple years back). With
labels like that, I try to find streaming sources, but it's not
Joe Yanosik wrote to tell me he's working up a Franco discography,
and asked whether I've considered doing a deep dive, especially into
his numerous Sonodisc recordings. I had, in fact, picked up a couple
of them in my shopping days, and have generally enjoyed everything I
picked up. Napster has a few of them I hadn't heard, so before long
I started working my way through them -- limiting myself to ones I
could figure out dates for. The grades below split 3 A-, 4 B+(***),
but there wasn't all that much to separate best from worst.
Notable music links this week:
Hank Shteamer: Anthony Braxton's Big Ideas.
New York City Jazz Record: I've never managed to see this before,
although it seems like most of the Jazz Critics Poll voters write
for it. I was first struck by Kurt Gottschalk's label spotlight on
Fundacja Sluchaj -- a Polish label I follow fairly closely because
they put whole records up on Bandcamp.
New records reviewed this week:
- Akiko Hamilton Dechter: Equal Time (2018 , Capri): [cd]: B+(*)
- Angles 9: Beyond Us (2018 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
- Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (2019, 4AD): [r]: A-
- Alan Broadbent Trio: New York Notes (2019, Savant): [r]: A-
- Avishai Cohen: Arvoles (2019, Razdaz/Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(***)
- Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence (2018 , Libra): [cd]: B+(***)
- Injury Reserve: Injury Reserve (2019, Senaca Village): [r]: B+(***)
- Kedr Livanskiy: Your Need (2019, 2MR): [r]: B
- Rosie Lowe: Yu (2019, Wolf Tone): [r]: B+(**)
- Kelsey Lu: Blood (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Martha: Love Keeps Kicking (2019, Dirtnap): [r]: B+(**)
- Orville Peck: Pony (2019, Sub Pop): [r]: B-
- Red Kite: Red Kite (2019, RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Chanda Rule: Sapphire Dreams (2016 , PAO): [cd]: B
- The Jamie Saft Quartet: Hidden Corners (2019, RareNoise): [r]: [cdr]: B+(**)
- The Twilight Sad: It Won/t Be Like This All the Time (2019, Rock Action): [r]: B
- Federico Ughi: Transoceanico (2016 , 577): [r]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Paul Bley/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian: When Will the Blues Leave (1999 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Alex Chilton: Songs From Robin Hood Lane (1991-94 , Bar/None): [r]: B+(*)
- Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1966/1968 (1966-68 , Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
- Franco Et TP OK Jazz: 1967/1968 (1967-68 , Sonodisc): [r]: A-
- Franco & Le TP OK Jazz: 1971/1972: Likambo Ya Ngana (1971-72 , Sonodisc): [r]: A-
- Franco, Vicky Et L'OK Jazz: Marceline Oh! Oh! (1972 , Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
- Franco Et Le T.P. OK Jazz: 79/80/81 Live: Kinshasa Makambo (1979-81 , Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
- Franco Et Le TP OK Jazz: Makambo Ezali Bourreau: 1982/1984/1985 (1982-85 , Sonodisc): [r]: B+(***)
- Franco/Simaro/Jolie Detta Et Le T.P. O.K. Jazz: 1986-1987-1988 (1986-88 , Sonodisc): [r]: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Sharman Duran: Questioning Reality (self-released)
- Rosana Eckert: Sailing Home (OA2): June 21
- Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (Moserobie)
- La La Lars: La La Lars II (Headspin)
- Xavier Lecouturier: Carrier (Origin): June 21
- Greta Matassa: Portrait (Origin): June 21
- Moutin Factory Quintet: Mythical River (Laborie Jazz)
- Matt Olson: 789 Miles (OA2): June 21
- Marlene Rosenberg: MLK Convergence (Origin): June 21
- Chanda Rule: Sapphire Dreams (PAO)
- Erik Skov: Liminality (OA2): June 21
- Ståhls Trio: Källtorp Sessions: Volume One (Moserobie)
Friday, June 07, 2019
No introduction. Cut my finger while cooking, and can't type worth
a damn. Getting late, too.
Some scattered links this week:
13 Democrats recorded messages about Israel. Only one spoke with
courage. Bernie Sanders.
Democrats learned the wrong lesson from Clinton's impeachment: "It
didn't actually cost the GOP all that much."
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
The May jobs report is a big disappointment for workers and bad news for
Juliet Eilperin/Josh Dawsey/Brady Dennis:
White House blocked intelligence agency's written testimony calling
climate change 'possibly catastrophic'.
The persistent ghost of Ayn Rand, the forebear of zombie neoliberalism.
Review of Lisa Duggan's Mean Girl: Ayn Rand and the Culture of Greed.
After mentioning various political figures, like Paul Ryan and Mike Pompeo,
infatuated with Rand, Gessen finishes:
Their version of Randism is stripped of all the elements that might
account for my inability to throw out those books: the pretense of
intellectualism, the militant atheism, and the explicit advocacy of
sexual freedom. From all that Rand offered, these men have taken only
the worst: the cruelty. They are not even optimistic. They are just
What HBO's "Chernobyl" got right, and what it got terribly wrong:
We watched all five episodes this week, and I thought they did a
remarkable job of explaining the causes and consequences of one of
the devastating man-made disasters of our time. Gessen compliments
the series whenever it sheds a harsh light on the Soviet bureaucracy,
then attacks it for not being harsh enough. Her critique is most
effective regarding Ulyana Khomyuk (Emily Watson), a single character
invented to represent the hundreds of scientists assigned to figure
out what went wrong, what more could go wrong, and how best to deal
with all that. Gessen faults Khomyuk as a stock Hollywood hero, but
what bothers me more is the reduction of a large group effort, with
all the complex interaction of major scientific endeavors, to small
acts of individual heroism. I've made the same complaint about the
series Manhattan, which reduced nearly all of the high-level
technical decision to just two characters -- both American, losing
any recognition that most of the major scientists working on the
project were Europeans (who, aside from some Brits and a celebrity
visit by Niels Bohr, were totally written out of the story). The
other conspicuous omission/error I found was when the lead scientist
attributed the critical "design flaw" and the lack of a containment
chamber to the Soviets' tendency to do things on the cheap. As I
understand it, the main consideration for the RBMK reactor design
was its use for producing bomb fuel as well as electricity, which
required frequent access to extract plutonium from the core. Still,
I think the writer here, Craig Mazin, makes a good case for telling
the story this way. See: Emily Todd VanDerWerff:
HBO's Chernobyl is a terrific miniseries. Its writer hopes you don't
think it's the whole truth. I haven't yet followed the link to
podcasts, which reportedly go into more detail about what's true
and what's been fictionalized in the series. VanDerWerff also wrote:
Chernobyl's stellar finale makes a case for the show as science
fiction. Also: Peter Maass:
What the horror of "Chernobyl" reveals about the deceit of the Trump
John Hudson/Loveday Morris:
Pompeo delivers unfiltered view of Trump's Middle East peace plan in
off-the-record meeting: What he told "a closed-door meeting with
An Iranian activist wrote dozens of articles for right-wing outlets.
But is he a real person? "Heshamat Alavi is a persona run by a
team of people from the political wing of the MEK. This is not and
has never been a real person."
Why conservatives are winning the internet: Interview with Jen
Schradie, author of The Revolution That Wasn't: How Digital Activism
Favors Conservatives. "Ultimately, it's not about the tool; it's
about the inequalities in our society that give certain people advantages
4 disturbing details you may have missed in the Mueller report: "and
none of them are favorable to the president."
How Trump could restart the nuclear arms race. And how this dovetails
with Putin's interests in the same: Reese Erlich:
Nuclear disarmament: the view from Moscow.
Manifest destinies: "The tangled history of American and Israeli
exceptionalism." Review of Amy Kaplan's book, Our American Israel:
The Story of an Entangled Alliance.
Trump tightens Cuba travel rules: "The US bans cruises and restricts
certain travel in a move meant to pressure Cuba. . . . All of these
policy moves reflect the administration's Cold War-esque approach to
Latin America that has emerged since Bolton arrived as National Security
I want to live in Elizabeth Warren's America: "The Massachusetts
senator is proposing something radical: a country in which adults
discuss serious ideas seriously."
I'm impressed instead by something more simple and elemental: Warren
actually has ideas. She has grand, detailed and daring ideas, and
through these ideas she is single-handedly elevating the already
endless slog of the 2020 presidential campaign into something
weightier and more interesting than what it might otherwise have
been: a frivolous contest about who hates Donald Trump most.
Michael E Mann:
Trump is giving Americans dirty water, dirty air, and a very dirty
climate: Alternate title by Paul Woodward -- Newsweek's is "Trump
lied to Prince Charles's face -- and to the world."
To say that Donald Trump's jaw-dropping display of environmental ignorance
while in the United Kingdom is an embarrassment to all Americans would be
an understatement. But the worst part of his ramblings about how we have
"among the cleanest climates there are based on all statistics" isn't that
it sounds like the ramblings of a Fox News addict. It's that his
administration is doing everything it can to work towards the opposite:
dirty water, dirty air, and, well, a very dirty climate.
Found a link there to another article which people who regard Trump
as Putin's stooge might pick up and run with: Hannah Osborne:
Climate change could make Russia's frozen Siberia far more habitable
by the 2080s.
Dylan Matthews/Byrd Pinkerton:
The incredible influence of the Federalist Society, explained.
The nudgeocrat: "Navigating freedom with Cass Sunstein." Review of
Sunstein's recent short book, On Freedom, although he's been
rehashing those same ideas for a long time now, most notoriously in
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness
(co-authored by Richard H. Thaler). He pushes "libertarian paternalism,"
where technocratic elites rig default choices to help guide the minions
to better choices without making them feel like they're being run.
Joe Biden's evolution on abortion, explained.
America needs to reexamine its wartime relationships: "The lessons
of the 1920s have been painfully relearned." Evidently not the author's
title, as the main thrust of the article is that Keynes was right about
the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and is still right today. Quiggin also
pointed me to this report:
Advertising as a major source of human dissatisfaction: Cross-national
evidence on one million Europeans.
Nathan J Robinson:
The best they've got: "Examining the National Review's 'Against
Socialism' issue" -- an article-by-article answer, which mostly suggests
that the writers are blithering idiots, with most authors understanding
nothing more than that socialism is bad, bad, bad.
Forget GDP -- New Zealand is prioritizing gross national well-being.
Why Joe Biden is holding on to such a strong lead in the 2020 primary
polls: "Biden has one big advantage in the 2020 Democratic primary
polls: older voters." Some numbers: with voters over age 45, Biden leads
sanders 45-10%; under 45, Sanders leads Biden 26-19%. Older dividing
lines increase the break for Biden. I'd guess that the world looks very
different as you move away from the 45 dividing line: older voters have
their lives relatively set and secure, as long as moderate Democrats can
protect Social Security/Medicare against further Republican depredation;
on the other hand, younger voters have bleaker job prospects, lots of
debt (their children's prospects looking even worse), and longer range
fears over the environment and war. They see Biden as representative of
the generation of mainstream Democrats whose accommodation to business
and the Republicans have let their prospects decline.
Trump is really unpopular in the most important 2020 battleground states:
"Trump is deep underwater in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other
key 2020 states.
Tim Starks/Laurens Cerulus/Mark Scott:
Russia's manipulation of Twitter was far vaster than believed. Of
course, not just Russia funds trolls. See: Jason Rezaian:
The State Department has been funding trolls. I'm one of their targets.
The climate crisis is our third world war. It needs a bold response.
I get his point, but when he brings up this particular analogy he wanders
into all sorts of conceptual minefields. War and climate change both
cause vast devastation, but the agencies are different, and so are most
of the effects. Even more specious is the notion that we need a war to
work up the courage and will to tackle difficult problems -- as phony
wars on poverty and drugs and so forth have repeatedly shown. Moreover,
you can never measure the true cost of wars in dollars -- as Stiglitz
tried to do in The Three Trillion Dollar War: The Truth Cost of the
Iraq Conflict (2008, so by now probably a couple trillion short).
When the US was attacked during the second world war no one asked, "Can
we afford to fight the war?" It was an existential matter. We could not
afford not to fight it. The same goes for the climate crisis. Here, we
are already experiencing the direct costs of ignoring the issue -- in
recent years the country has lost almost 2% of GDP in weather-related
disasters, which include floods, hurricanes, and forest fires. The cost
to our health from climate-related diseases is just being tabulated, but
it, too, will run into the tens of billions of dollars -- not to mention
the as-yet-uncounted number of lives lost. We will pay for climate breakdown
one way or another, so it makes sense to spend money now to reduce emissions
rather than wait until later to pay a lot more for the consequences -- not
just from weather but also from rising sea levels. It's a cliche, but it's
true: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
The war on the climate emergency, if correctly waged, would actually
be good for the economy -- just as the second world war set the stage for
America's golden economic era, with the fastest rate of growth in its
history amidst shared prosperity. The Green New Deal would stimulate
demand, ensuring that all available resources were used; and the
transition to the green economy would likely usher in a new boom.
Lots of other analogies bother me here. I can't imagine that any
amount of climate change will end human habitation or civilization,
and even if it did the earth will carry on, oblivious to evolution
of its surface chemistry. The great risk from climate change is that
it will cause destabilization and disruption, and that those things
will impose pain and loss and, most likely, greater strife. It may
be hard to convince people that such threats matter, but reasonable
people recognize that they do.
Michael Wolff's 'Siege' is like his last book -- but worse.
Bowe Bergdahl's story lays bare the tragedy of our forever wars:
review of American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in
Afghanistan, a book by Matt Farwell and Michael Ames.
Trump's D-Day speech was great. He was the wrong man to give it.
If all I knew was the title, I'd guess that someone wrote him a fairly
decent speech, but it felt off because Trump is incapable of delivering
the emotions the speech intended to convey. Aside from his peculiar form
of malicious humor, which he manages to deliver with unthinking grace,
he may be the worst speaker I've ever seen among major political figures.
Even when he's reading lines, he's so obviously out of character it's
disconcerting to try to follow him. But Ward doesn't say any of that.
He genuinely praises the speech, quoting sections which reveal nothing
more than the sanctimonious pablum of high school orators. Then he
denies that Trump is entitled to be valedictorian, because he dodged
the draft to avoid Vietnam, and because he's said various impolitic
things about NATO, America's anointed allies, and Robert Mueller --
reminding us that Mueller is a veteran as well as a patriot. Final
line: "If Trump really wants to honor D-Day's heroes, he should live
and work by their values from here on out." Sometimes it's hard to
sort out who confuses Ward the most, but given their demographics
(male, 93+ years old) those surviving "D-day heroes" probably voted
overwhelmingly for Trump. They were no more than typical Americans
at the time, and 75 years of cynical, self-serving militarism later
their view of the world is unlikely to be less warped than that of
anyone else today.
Oh, by the way, isn't the celebration of D-Day anniversaries a
bit chauvinistic (for America, of course, but also for France, which
bequeathed us the term)? The turning point of WWII in Europe was the
Battle of Stalingrad, where the Soviet Union, at enormous cost, halted
and started to reverse the German advance. Even after D-Day the war was
overwhelmingly fought in the East, where the suffering was immense. Not
that D-Day was a picnic. For something realistic, see: David Chrisinger:
The man who told America the truth about D-Day, a profile of famed
journalist Ernie Pyle.
Trump escalates feud with London mayor by calling him a "stone cold
loser": "Trump's spat with Sadiq Khan has lasted years."
In Alabama -- where lawmakers banned abortion for rape victims --
rapists' parental rights are protected.
Human rights in the US are worse than you think: "From police shootings
to voter suppression to arrests of asylum seekers, a new report finds US
human rights are abysmal."
Trump's obfuscation on the climate crisis.
Public support for left-wing policymaking has reached a 60-year high:
"Just slightly higher than the previous high point of 1961." The study
specifically looks at public attitudes to "big government," although
that's a right-wing scare term. The more basic question is how many
people think government should take a more active role in addressing
general problems, and consequently look to progressive politicians for
help. One thing I find interesting about this is that this shift in
opinion hasn't been led by Democratic politicians advocating a larger
role for government. Rather, it seems to be a groundswell, as more and
more people realize that the Republican "small government" obsession
has lost credibility. I'd also add that popular belief in liberal and
progressive ideals, so dominant in the New Deal/Great Society era,
never changed. Rather, people lost faith in the Democrats' ability
to defend and extend those ideals, which gave Reagan and his ilk a
chance to argue that their conservative ideas might do a better job
of securing the American Dream. They succeeded to a remarkable degree,
but only used their power to increase inequality and injustice. As
their effects have become more manifest, their rationalizations have
become more threadbare and disingenuous, to the point where fewer
and fewer people believe anything they say. The last to realize
this seem to be the mainstream media and centrist Democrats, but
even they are losing their blinders. Eric Levitz also writes
about this study:
America's political mood is now the 'most liberal ever recorded'.
Why Trump's Mexico tariffs are producing a revolt when China tariffs
didn't. Trump's China trade war is (mostly) pro-business, while
Trump's Mexico trade war is about immigration. Opposing immigration
may still be good politics for Trump, but restricting trade makes it
bad for business, and that's the one thing Republicans are willing to
break with Trump on.
What makes this standoff interesting is that Trump is asking, in a
small way, for a sacrifice the business wing of the GOP is never asked
to make. . . . The way the deal is supposed to work is that cultural
conservatives provide the votes, and they get their way on issues the
business community doesn't care about (until cultural conservatives'
views become an unpopular embarrassment the way opposition to same-sex
marriages and military service is), but business isn't supposed to
actually sacrifice its interests for the sake of cultural conservative
causes. With the tariff gambit on Mexico, Trump is overturning that
logic in a way that his other trade shenanigans haven't. And that's
why congressional Republicans are resisting in an unusual way.
The Joe Biden climate plan plagiarism "scandal," explained: "A
reminder of some bad history, but far and away the least important
part of his climate plan." Reviews the "bad history" of plagiarism
charges against Biden in 1987 for cribbing from a speech by a British
politician, which led to his withdrawal from the 1988 presidential
race. Neither case bothers me as plagiarism -- admittedly, not much
does -- but the charges reinforce the notion that Biden isn't a very
original thinker. But so does his climate plan. Indeed, his embrace
of received opinion is the foundation of his campaign.
Judy Shelton's potential nomination to a Federal Reserve Board seat,
Elizabeth Warren's latest big idea is "economic patriotism": "The
plan is to marry industrial policy to environmentalism and transform
the economy." Robert Reich applauds:
Elizabeth Warren's economic nationalism vision shows there's a better
Jared Kushner's telling indifference on refugees.
Banning former members of Congress from lobbying won't fix the revolving
door: "Congress needs more staff money and public financing, not
tighter rules." Yglesias previously argued
members of Congress themselves should be paid more, so he's extending
that logic to staff members: maybe if they're paid more as public servants
better people would seek these jobs, and be less likely to sell out to
lobbyists later. I rather doubt this. On the other hand, while a lifetime
ban strikes me as excessive, I can imagine some regulations helping. One
could, for instance, limit pay by lobbying firms, which would have put a
severe cramp into Billy Tauzin's move from the House to head up PHARMA
just after Tauzin managed the passage of the Medicare D bill (which kept
insurers from negotiating prices with pharmaceutical companies). Still,
it's hard to think of things that couldn't be worked around. The core
problem is that we live in a very inequal society, which rewards (and
therefore drives) everyone to maximize income, and rarely (if ever)
enforces taboos (let alone laws) against graft. That may seem like too
tall an order, but some little steps would help: much higher tax rates
for high incomes, making lobbying expenses taxable, and most important
of all, cutting off the main flow of corruption by public funding of
How bad can Brexit get? "Theresa May is out, but the crisis that made
her premiership both possible and untenable has intensified."
Wednesday, June 05, 2019
Scraped from Kathleen Geier's Facebook post:
If I am Donald Trump, the Democrat I most want to run against in
2020 is definitely Joe Biden.
Here are some of the reasons why:
I can tell working class voters of all races about Biden has
fucked them over by supporting NAFTA and championing the slimiest
practices of the credit card industry and other corporate
predators. This should help me hold on to some of the support I got
from white working class voters in the Midwest and it will depress
voter turnout among the working class voters who normally vote
If I once again get accused of sexual harassment or sexual
assault, I can neutralize these charges by pointing to Hairsniffer
Joe's history of touching women inappropriately, a behavior that
continue into the present, as well as his treatment of Anita
I will be sure to have my people place targeted ads that remind
African-American voters of Biden's crime bill and his history as a
white backlash anti-busing candidate. Do I think this will win me
their votes? No, but it will cause a lot of them to stay
When people raise concerns about my cognitive decline and my
being too old to be president, I can point the finger at Biden, who at
76 is four years older than me, and whose affect and campaign is
Best of all, even if I lose, Biden has made it clear that,
unlike Warren or Sanders, he's not going to make any structural
changes to the system that made me so powerful in the first
place. Biden has pledged that things will go "back to normal," which
means that white collar elites like me, who have committed fraud and
abuse in the private sector and high crimes and misdemeanors in
office, won't be held accountable for them. Not only do I and my peeps
get off the hook, but Biden's approach will breed the kind of apathy
and cynicism that discourages left-wing activism and empowers the
right and the GOP.
No other Democrat is anywhere near as vulnerable on a whole range
of issues as Joe Biden is. He is clearly the weakest top-tier
candidate in the race and the one that Trump, and the rest of the
Republican party, would give their collective right arm to run
I am praying that my fellow Democrats don't make their dream come
Monday, June 03, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31587  rated (+29), 248  unrated (-3).
So, 29 again. Ran the counter this afternoon, after I found a missed
grade and added a "remembered LP" grade -- an LP I distinctly remember
having but which didn't get picked up when I jotted down my first grade
list (mid-1990s, I think). I may have cut it some slack -- main thing I
remember was being disappointed by it.
Once again, surprised that I bagged that many -- after a very slow
start, one that kept the Salamon Freequestra album in the changer for
close to three days. Finished with Alfred Soto's
top 20 list, checking out Mountain Goats, National, Tyler, and
Weyes Blood, leaving me with only 5 A- records from his 20 (Control
Top's Covert Contracts, Billie Eilish's When We All Fall
Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Robert Forster's Inferno, Lizzo's
Cuz I Love You, and Nilüfer Yanya's Miss Universe).
Only one Christgau pick in those five (Eilish), and only one more
in Soto's other 15 (Sharon Van Etten's Remind Me Tomorrow,
a low B+ for me).
Speaking of Eilish, Phil Freeman dissed her album in the course of
making a Facebook rant:
I will never stop griping about "Best Albums of [Year]" lists that
should be called "Best *Pop and Indie Rock* Albums of [Year]". Billie
fucking Eilish's album (to pick but one example: sub in Tyler, the
Creator if you're worried about sexism) is not better than the Art
Ensemble of Chicago's, so own your ignorance or just fuck off, OK?
And no, I'm not saying all jazz > all pop. I hear shitty jazz
records every day. I'm just saying that if you're simply ignoring
the possibility that a jazz album could even be one of the best
records of the year, especially given what's been happening in the
genre in the last 4-5 years, that's *fucked up*, and major publications
are fucking up by doing it.
I commented, taking exception to his examples: Eilish is currently
12 on my
Music Year 2019 list, behind 7 jazz
albums (counting my top-rated Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri
Baraka Sessions, which admittedly has vocals, although the other
6 don't) and 4 other non-jazz.
Of course, Freeman isn't complaining about me ignoring jazz albums in
my annual lists. And I'm not much bothered that who spends most of his
non-jazz time listening to metal should have trouble appreciating a
lo-fi girl singer-songwriter. Or even that he offers Tyler, a hip-hop
artist who buries himself in soft off-kilter tones, as another option
in hype. (I agree that he is overrated, but I also find Igor
to be his most pleasing and interesting album yet.) Where I disagree
is in positing that the Art Ensemble of Chicago survivors reunion album
is this year's flagship jazz hope. I played it (both CDs) until I gave
up all hope, then let if off easy with a B+(**), which is to say that
I currently have at least 50 jazz records this year that I like better.
On the other hand, if I had to handicap the 2019 Jazz Critics Poll,
I doubt I'd find more than a couple of my A- records in the top ten:
James Brandon Lewis's An Unruly Manifesto seems most likely,
then maybe Matthew Shipp's Signature, Moppa Elliott's Jazz
Band/Rock Band/Dance Band, Quinssin Nachoff's Path of Totality,
or David Berkman's Six of One -- hunches based as much on labels
and publicists as on the records themselves. But none of those artists
have fared well in past polls, which is a much stronger indicator.
Some albums you're more likely to find on JCP ballots (my grades in
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi, 2CD) [**]
- Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (ECM) [*]
- Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (ECM) [**]
- Julian Lage: Love Hurts (Mack Avenue) [***]
- Joe Lovano: Trio Tapestry (ECM) [***]
- Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (Okeh) [***]
- Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi) [**]
- Joshua Redman Quartet: Come What May (Nonesuch) [***]
- Wadada Leo Smith: Rosa Parks: Pure Love: An Oratorio of Seven Songs (TUM) [*]
- David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (ECM) [***]
AEC looks pretty imposing on this list: it's big (last year was
dominated by 2-CD releases and won by Wayne Shorter's 3-CD monstrosity),
has historic cachet that reconciles the avant-garde with the tradition;
it augments what's left of a legendary group augmented with lots of
guest stars, and is on a label which always places records high in EOY
polls (that same label is the reason Mitchell is on this list). None
of the other records have that sort of cred, so maybe Freeman is right
to pick it. My only complaint is that it isn't good enough. If I wanted
to broaden the horizons of non-jazz critics, I'd start by recommending
Christgau remarked recently that EOY list-building has more to do
with brand identification than diligent sorting and ranking. I know
that to be true of my own lists, where my brand is somone who listens
to all kinds of things and doesn't give a fuck about what anyone else
thinks. As the Dean, I figure Christgau is more focused on building a
pantheon, but individual lists tend to be idiosyncratically personal
(and his certainly is). Freeman's referring to corporate lists, which
are carefully crafted to cater to a target audience. There's no place
for jazz in most, not because their writers dislike jazz (although
many do, or simply don't get the exposure -- hardly anyone hears much
outside of their niche these days), but because their editors don't
expect their readers to be interested in such things. So what you see
is what you'd expect when people of limited knowledge try to write
down to appeal/appease people who know even less.
Nonethless, as someone who has compiled literally thousands of EOY
lists in recent years, I believe that there is actually a tiny trend
toward more crossover jazz in predominantly indie/pop lists (although
more so in UK than US). Last year the major breakthroughs were Kamasi
Washington, Makaya McCraven, and Sons of Kemet (two A- records among
those three, the other a high B+, so those picks were much more
respectable as jazz than, say, Bad Bad Not Good from a few years
I could write volumes more on EOY lists (for data, see last
EOY aggregate and
Jazz Critics Poll).
But my bottom line is learn what you can from the data, don't
begrudge other people's pleasures, and don't rag on people for
not liking what you like.
Back to my original thread about what I reviewed this week:
beyond Soto's list, I looked at
AOTY's Highest Rated Albums of 2019 and picked out a few records
that seemed promising. Three sounded good enough to warrant multiple
plays before I settled on B+(***): Fontaines D.C.'s Dogrel (1),
Slowthai's Nothing Great About Britain (22), and Craig Finn's
I Need a New War. Two previously graded A- in top 25: Dave's
Psychodrama (2), and Little Simz's Grey Area (6), and
a bunch more I haven't heard. By the way, the Lee Perry dive started
Christgau's review of Rainford. I couldn't find it on
Napster, so went to
Obviously, a lot more Perry I haven't heard. I've always recommended
the 3-CD compilation, Arkology, but that only gets you 4 prime
years (expect overlap with Super Ape). I also really like the
recent (2014) Back at the Controls.
New records reviewed this week:
- Melissa Aldana: Visions (2019, Motéma): [r]: B+(**)
- Bruce Barth: Sunday (2017 , Blau): [r]: B+(**)
- Jerry Bergonzi: The Seven Rays (2019, Savant): [r]: B+(*)
- Dave Douglas/Uri Caine/Andrew Cyrille: Devotion (2018 , Greenleaf Music): [r]: B+(*)
- Ezra Collective: You Can't Steal My Joy (2019, Enter the Jungle): [r]: B
- Craig Finn: I Need a New War (2019, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
- Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel (2019, Partisan): [r]: B+(***)
- Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: The Hope I Hold (2018 , Greenleaf Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Maren Morris: Girl (2019, Columbia Nashville): [r]: B
- The Mountain Goats: In League With Dragons (2019, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
- The National: I Am Easy to Find (2019, 4AD): [r]: B+(**)
- Lee Scratch Perry: Rainford (2019, On-U Sound): [r]: A-
- Rotten Girlz: Punk You (2018 , Sazas): [cd]: B+(*)
- Samo Salamon & Freequestra: Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra (2016 , Klopotec): [cd]: A-
- Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Jaka Berger: Swirling Blind Unstilled (2018 , Klopotec): [cd]: B+(**)
- Slowthai: Nothing Great About Britain (2019, Method): [r]: B+(***)
- Peter Stampfel and the Atomic Meta Pagans: The Ordovician Era (2019, Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(*)
- Mavis Staples: We Get By (2019, Anti-): [r]: A-
- Tyler, the Creator: Igor (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (2019, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Weyes Blood: Titanic Rising (2019, Sub Pop): [r]: B-
- Jerry Bergonzi Trio: Lost in the Shuffle (1998, Double Time): [r]: B+(**)
- Jerry Bergonzi: Spotlight on Standards (2016, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
- Lee Perry: Africa's Blood (1971, Trojan): [r]: B+(*)
- Lee Perry and the Upsetters: Some of the Best (1968-79 , Heartbeat): [r]: B+(***)
- The Upsetters: Super Ape (1976, Mango): [r]: A-
- The Upsetters: Return of the Super Ape (1978, Upsetter): [r]: B+(**)
Added grades for remembered lps from way back when:
- Lee "Scratch" Perry: The Return of Pipecock Jackxon (1980, Black Star Liner): B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Akiko Hamilton Dechter: Equal Time (Capri): June 21
- Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Confluence (Libra): July 29
Sunday, June 02, 2019
No time for an intro, but let's credit Bernie Sanders for this tweet:
Soon we will send soldiers to Afghanistan who weren't even born yet
on September 11, 2001.
We've spent $5 trillion dollars on wars since 9/11.
And now some of the same people that got us into Iraq are trying
to start a war with Iran.
We must end our endless wars.
Some scattered links this week:
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
Mexican president to Trump: tariffs and coercion won't work.
A major coal company went bust. Its bankruptcy filing shows that it was
funding climate change denialism.
Saudi Arabia first: "The president is helping a repressive monarchy
wage war in open defiance of Congress. That's grounds for
What to do when you're a country in crisis: Review of Jared Diamond's
new book, Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis. Critiques
Diamond for imposing his "framework" on his historical cases, and goes
deep on fact checking -- some for sure, others pissier (like complaints
about using "unanimous" where unanimity is statistically impossible). I
recently wrote a Book Roundup blurb on Diamond's book, positing a similar
critique but not having read the book, not distracted by trivia.
Giridharadas ends by offering Jill Lepore's These Truths as a
contrast, but I did read that book, and noted a handful of egregious
factual errors there, as well.
Dahr Jamail/Barbara Cecil:
What would it mean to deeply accept that we're in planetary crisis?
David D Kirkpatrick:
The most powerful Arab ruler isn't M.B.S. It's M.B.Z.: Mohammed bin
Zayed, crown prince of United Arab Emirates. Related: David Hearst:
Abu Dhabi is trapped in a nightmare of its own making.
How Nancy Pelosi's tactics affirm the Trumpian style of politics.
"Trump will be gone someday, but the possibilities that Trumpism has
created will remain." This strikes me as wrong. To have any degree of
effectiveness, Pelosi has had to figure out how to stand her ground
against Trump's bullying. Adjusting to Trump's reality doesn't imply
accepting it as the new norm.
Republicans' successful campaign to protect Trump from Mueller's report
in one quote.
Bannon described Trump Organization as 'criminal enterprise,' Michael Wolff
More than 200 tornadoes devastated the Midwest over 13 days. Why?
One subtitle isn't very convincing: "Storm damages are getting worse,
but climate change isn't too much of a factor." Below it confirms my
suspicion that "Tornado Alley . . . is shifting east" in what appears
to be a long-term shift.
Bill Barr's Trump-toadying lickspittle ways, explained.
Bernie Sanders's most socialist idea yet, explained: "He wants to
mandate employee ownership of big companies." Also: Eric Levitz:
In appeal to moderates, Sanders calls for worker-ownership of means of
production. I've long felt that employee ownership of companies is
much preferable, both for workers and the public, to labor unions. I've
seen firsthand how giving employees an ownership stake makes their work
more productive and satisfying. Anything else generates class conflict,
often degenerating into a zero-sum contest. Of course, I support labor
unions, as they provide countervailing power against the arrogance and
abuse of unfettered management: strong unions help their workers, of
course, but they also strengthen the economy and reinforce/revitalize
We found the guy behind the viral 'drunk Pelosi' video.
Emily S Rueb:
'Freedom Gas,' the next American export.
Trump thinks the courts might save him from impeachment. It doesn't work
Troika fever: Key American allies in the Middle East are the real
This is what a real conservative looks like in 2019: In self-serving
praise of Robert Mueller and Justin Amash. Defines conservatism as "a
philosophy of limited, constitutional government, individual rights, trust
in tradition, love of country, prudence in foreign policy and restraint
at home." That's actually closer to classic liberalism: just town down the
reflexive jingoism, and allow for the possibility of progress -- e.g.,
extending individual rights to more (potentially all) people. The more
consistent core creed of self-annointed conservatives is their belief in
a natural social/political/economic hierarchy which places some people
above others. As democratic principles spread, conservatives have had
to hide their true agenda behind faux populism -- appeals to tradition,
to pride, and to prejudice -- which have often led them to embrace some
pretty unsavory politicians. Trump won them over by offering them the
only thing that matters to them: the spoils of winning.
Julian Assange must never be extradited.
Trump could save his presidency the way Bill Clinton did: Clever
Getting things done may be Trump's best hope of survival -- as the last
president who found himself in the impeachment crosshairs demonstrated.
In 1998, as Bill Clinton's presidency became engulfed in scandal
surrounding his affair with a White House intern, his mastery of what
was then called "compartmentalization" was tested. Day in and day out,
Clinton made sure Americans saw a functioning presidency. . . .
He could not prevent the investigation from going forward, or Congress
from trying to remove him from office. In December 1998, the House voted
two articles of impeachment against him, for perjury and for obstruction
But that very week, Clinton's job approval in the Gallup poll reached
73 percent -- not only the highest of his presidency, but among the best
recorded by any chief executive since the mid-1960s. By then, it had
become clear that the charges against him would not stick in the Senate,
which just under eight weeks later acquitted him.
By doing his job, Clinton saved his presidency.
Even in this polarized environment, there are still opportunities for
Trump to do the same.
Still, partisan asymmetry matters more than competency or popularity.
There was never any chance that Clinton would lose enough Democrats in
the Senate to be convicted there, and Trump is if anything in a stronger
position in the Senate now. His real problem is that his approval numbers
have never topped 43% since the election (compare to Clinton's 73%).
Maybe if Clinton was that low, he'd have something to worry about, but
Republicans are used to being unpopular, and most of what Trump is
unpopular for these days is being a hardcore Republican.
In Japan, Trump broke a cardinal rule of being America's president.
The 9 least popular Democrats running for president, briefly explained:
"The Laggard Nine," aka "the Sub-2 Percent Club"): Jay Inslee, Steve Bullock,
John Delaney, Eric Swalwell, Bill de Blasio, Tim Ryan, Michael Bennet, Seth
Moulton, Marianne Williamson.
Trump's new plan to tax Mexican imports, explained.
Robert Mueller should testify before Congress.
Joe Biden's low-key campaigning schedule, explained.
I started to include this link, because it fits into a discussion
several friends have been having about creating a game that would make
a case against nominating Joe Biden. I have mixed feelings about this,
partially explained below. On the other hand, I didn't get around to
presenting the other hand, so decided to drop it from the post.
Mehdi Hassan/Rebecca Traister:
Joe Biden would be a disaster: Podcast with transcript. I don't agree
that Biden would be a disaster, although I do think that nominating him
would be a missed opportunity. As I've noted, I think that 2020 may be a
pivotal, era-founding election. (There's no ironclad law at work here,
but we can identify four eras, each founded by a legendary president,
each ending with a notoriously bad president: Jefferson-Buchanan,
Lincoln-Hoover, Roosevelt-Carter, and Reagan-Trump; one might have
included Washington-Adams, but 12 years doesn't make for much of an era.
The latest era is anomalous in several respects, especially in that it
represents a turn away from the progressive expansion of democratic
rights.) Biden's total experience and instincts are totally rooted in
the compromises Democrats made to compete in the Reagan-Trump era. That
doesn't mean that if elected in 2020 he would continue to practice the
same submissive triangulation that marred the Clinton and Obama presidencies.
The party base today is going to pull him to the left, because it's
increasingly clear that the solutions to pressing problems are on the
left, and because we now know that centering impulses weaken the party.
After the post, I noticed an open tab with a multi-part tweet by
Jared Yates Sexton that someone had pointed my way. I rather hate
these things, so I may not have linked to it if I had noticed it in
time, but thought I might copy it here to see how much sense it makes:
I've written about this extensively in my new book The Man They
Wanted Me To Be, but it's really important to get this out: Trump's
behavior with Pelosi completely reflects the cycle of abuse that
myself and other survivors have endured. 1/
It's a really unpleasant thing to endure and it brings up some very
awful memories from my childhood, where I was systematically
physically and emotionally abused by insecure and unwell
men. Unfortunately, the president is an insecure and unwell man, the
The cycle is very simple. When an insecure man is threatened, he'll
lash out. This can be verbally or physically. It can be a dressing
down, a verbal tirade, the throwing of things, or a beating. Then,
after it's over, he'll try and make good or question the abusee's
Trump calling Pelosi "crazy" yesterday was really, really
triggering. I've seen, time and again, abusive men calling the women
they abuse crazy, calling into question what they endured, what I
watched happen. It's almost as bad as the actual abuse because it
fractures reality. 4/
Trump having his staff corroborate his version of events is
something that happens all the time. I've been made to corroborate
events I knew to be false simply because I was a frightened and
intimidated child. It was . . . jarring to watch it happen on the
national stage 5/
How this happens is pretty complicated and a lot to process. It
begins with childhood, where men are systematically abused themselves
in an effort to "toughen them up." By telling boys they can't have
emotions they're actually being emotionally abused in the
The message that's being sent though is that anyone who has
emotions, in this case women, are irrational. That means that men own
rationality and reality and that anytime a woman questions your
reality she's being "crazy" or irrational, which is what happened with
As I chronicle in THE MAN THEY WANTED ME TO BE, traditional
masculinity is a lie. Nobody can repress their emotions. But they can
pretend and pretend until eventually men develop what's called
alexithymia, which is a terrible emotional condition where they lose
With alexithymia men lose the ability to understand their own
emotions, they lose the ability to understand other's emotions, which
leads to them being "crazy" or "irrational." They often lose the frame
for their own emotional outbursts and ability to understand their
Watching Donald Trump, it's not hard to imagine he suffers from
alexithymia. Obviously he doesn't understand his own outbursts and has
no frame for the things he says and does. When he's questioned he
lashes out. In this case, maybe he believed he was calm, but he's
When men behave this way, those around them only have a few
options. You either submit to their worldview or face vicious
abuse. You see men around Trump who kowtow in fear constantly. That's
part of this cycle. With Pelosi, unfortunately, Trump isn't going to
As part of socialization men are taught the only acceptable
expressions are anger and violence. What we're seeing with Trump is
all his range of emotions. Pelosi challenged him and so he lashed
out. He questioned her sanity and has even promoted fake videos to
prove his point 12/
To anyone who's been abused, Trump is the embodiment of this
cycle. He brags incessantly while he's obviously pathetically
insecure. Anyone who even dares question him is ostracized and
attacked, belittled because he's afraid. He's really, really
It makes me sad to see the country resemble the abusive households
of my youth. Every day we worry what mood the president will be in,
whether it's a bad day or if we'll just be left alone. I've talked to
other survivors and the memories are visceral, palpable. 14/
Yesterday, as I heard him line up staff to back up his twisted
memories, I felt like I was four years old all over again, an angry
and dangerous man lording over me and demanding loyalty or else
promising violence. You don't shake that, and unfortunately that's
where we are. 15/
The truth is, Trump is unwell. Mentally, yes, but emotionally it's
undeniable. He's the embodiment of toxic masculinity and is so far
gone there's no reaching him. This is an abusive relationship, an
abusive situation we're living through, and he simply knows no other
We're going to keep seeing this cycle repeat itself until he's out
of office and we're going to be living with the ghosts of
it. Survivors of abuse carry their abuse with them the rest of their
lives. I certainly do, and to get better you have to recognize the
abuse as abuse. 17/
Listening to shows last night call it maneuvering just hid the true
nature of this. It isn't politics, it's personal, one-on-one abuse,
and if we don't recognize it we're not going to escape it or
understand it. There are many, many layers to this and simplifying
worsens it. 18/
A large reason why Trump enjoys the devotion he does is because the
people supporting him are locked into unhealthy cycles of
abuse. They've been victims too and they become locked in with his
abuse. It happens all the time. And to get past it we must recognize
In the meantime, as a survivor of abuse, I can tell you this: reach
out to anyone you know who is a survivor. These are really, really
trying times that reawaken the scars of abuse. Everyday the president
perpetuates a new dose of abuse and it takes a powerful
Saturday, June 01, 2019
When I posted my latest
on March 15 -- eleven months after my only 2018 compilation, after two
in 2017, four in 2016, and five in 2015 -- I figured another one would
be eminent. I got distracted, but here's a second batch of 40+ books,
and I'm pretty certain that a third will be ready in a few weeks. These
surveys are useful to me as a means of keeping track of what the world
knows and is thinking about. I've been trying to track "the coming dark
age" for some time now, but while lots of people seem to be getting
dumber (or at least more certain of their ignorance), a lot of smart
thinking is still being developed and preserved in books.
As I've started doing recently, I'm including various related books
in bullet lists following a leading one. There's also a supplemental
list at the end, of books worth noting but not (as far as I'm concerned)
at much length.
Jill Abramson: Merchants of Truth: The Business and the Fight
for Facts (2019, Simon & Schuster): Tries to update David
Halberstam's The Powers That Be (1979) by profiling four major
media corporation (The New York Times, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed,
and VICE) as they make business out of the public's appetite for news.
That, of course, raises the question of how the selection and reporting
of news is filtered and often distorted by each of their business and
cultural models. That's an intrinsically interesting question, but not
necessarily one that can be answered -- for one thing the author adds
her own limited vantage point. I can't say anything about charges that
sections of the book were plagiarized. Related:
- Alan Rusbridger: Breaking News: The Remaking of Journalism
and Why It Matters Now (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
Carol Anderson: One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is
Destroying Our Democracy (2018, Bloomsbury USA): At some point
in recent history, Republicans came to realize that it was easier to
win by suppressing the vote among Democratic constituencies than it was
to convince those voters of a political program which actually promises
little more than to make the rich richer at the expense of everyone else.
Of course, this isn't new: all republics have struggled over who counts
and who doesn't, but the core idea of democracy -- each and every person
is entitled to the same vote -- has been hard to argue with, until very
recently. Even now, even among Republicans, the arguments tend to be
disguised, and much of the mischief avoids the spotlight. Also wrote,
with Tonya Bolden, We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial
Divide (2018, Bloomsbury). Previously wrote: White Rage: The
Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide (2016). Also on voting rights:
- Allan J Lichtman: The Embattled Vote in America: From the
Founding to the Present (2018, Harvard University Press).
Max Blumenthal: The Management of Savagery: How America's
National Security State Fueled the Rise of Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Donald
Trump (2019, Verso): For the most part, a basic primer on how
the US fed and nurtured its eventual enemies in the Middle East, in a
long series of events that ultimately show how arrogant and self-centered
the architects of American policy have been. That general book has been
written a half-dozen times already, with dozens of other tomes treating
one aspect or another of the big picture. However, by dropping Trump
into the title, he's adding another dimension: not just what American
plots and wars have done to the Middle East, but what such persistent
warmaking has done to the psyches of ignorant and oblivious Americans--
Trump being an example.
Steven Brill: Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's
Fifty-Year Fall -- and Those Fighting to Reverse It (2018,
Knopf): Journalist, wrote a book on Obamacare called America's
Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix
Our Broken Healtcare System (2015), looks for a bigger picture
and finds it in "an erosion of responsibility and accountability,
an epidemic of shortsightedness, an increasingly hollow economic
and political center, and millions of Americans gripped by apathy
and hopelessness." That sounds a bit like a backgrounder for Trump's
"Make American Great Again" campaign slogan, but it appears that
the culprit Brill identifies is Trump's own billionaire class.
Arthur C Brooks: Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save
America From the Culture of Contempt (2019, Broadside Books):
Someone might be able to write a decent book on this theme, but I doubt
that the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative
propagandist who revels in his sense of moral superiority, is up to
the task. Previous feel-good books include: Who Really Cares: The
Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism (2006); Gross
National Happiness: Why Happiness Matters for America -- and How We Can
Get More of It (2008); The Battle: How the Fight Between Big
Government and Free Enterprise Will Shape America's Future (2010);
The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight for Free Enterprise
(2012), and The Conservative Heart: How to Build a Fairer, Happier,
and More Prosperous America (2015). Turns out that it's easy to
"love your enemies" once you've ground them under heel, which is the
author's real mission. More recent efforts to make the conservatives
seem like they think and care:
- Noah Rothman: Unjust: Social Justice and the Unmaking of
America (2019, Gateway).
- Ben Shapiro: The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral
Purpose Made the West Great (2019, Broadside Books).
Contrast these with the right's more pedestrian hackwork, designed
to rile up hatred (and otherwise confuse you):
- Dinesh D'Souza: The Big Lie: Exposing the Nazi Roots of the
American Left (2017, Regnery).
- Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of
Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying
American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).
- Mary Katherine Ham/Guy Benson: End of Discussion: How the
Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and
Makes America Less Free (and Fun) (2015; paperback, 2017,
- Derek Hunter: Outrage, Inc.: How the Liberal Mob Ruined
Science, Journalism, and Hollywood (2018, Broadside Books).
- Mark R Levin: Rediscovering Americanism: And the Tyranny of
Progressivism (2017, Threshold Editions).
- Ben Shapiro: Brainwashed: How Universities Indoctrinate
America's Youth (2004; paperback, 2010, Thomas Nelson).
Paul Buhle/Steve Max: Eugene V Debs: A Graphic Biography
(paperback, 2019, Verso): Buhle was editor of Radical America, a
major historian of American radical movements (co-editor of Encyclopedia
of the American Let), and a long-time of the
graphic book form, so the only thing surprising here is that it took
so long to come together. Art by Noah Van Sciver, with additional help
by Dave Nance. Actually, I've noted several of Buhle's graphic histories
in the past. Here's a longer list (credits aren't always clear):
- Paul Buhle/Nicole Schulman: Wobblies! A Graphic History of
the Industrial Workers of the World (paperback, 2005, Verso).
- Paul Buhle: The Beats: A Graphic History (2009;
paperback, 2010, Hill & Wang).
- Paul Buhle/Sabrina Jones: FDR and the New Deal for Beginners
(paperback, 2010, For Beginners).
- Paul Buhle: Radical Jesus: A Graphic History of Faith
(paperback, 2013, Herald Press).
- Paul Buhle/Noah Van Sciver: Johnny Appleseed (2017,
- Kate Evans: Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg
(paperback, 2015, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
- Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Studs Terkel's Working: A Graphic
Adaptation (paperback, 2009, New Press).
- Harvey Pekar: Students for a Democratic Society
(paperback, 2009, Hill & Wang): ed, Paul Buhle.
- Harvey Pekar/Paul Buhle: Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular and
the New Land (2011, Harry N Abrams).
- Spain Rodriguez: Che: A Graphic Biography (paperback,
2017, Verso): ed, Paul Buhle.
- Sharon Rudahl: Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of
Emma Goldman (paperback, 2007, New Press): ed, Paul Buhle.
- Gilbert Shelton/Paul Buhle: Radical America Komiks
(paperback, 2019, PM Press): reprint of Radical America
"underground comix" edition from 1969.
- Nick Thorkelson/Paul Buhle/Andrew Lamas: Herbert Marcuse:
Philosophy of Utopia: A Graphic Biography (paperback, 2019,
- Howard Zinn/Mike Konopacki/Paul Buhle: A People's History
of American Empire: A Graphic Adaptation (paperback, 2008,
Chapo Trap House: The Chapo Guide to Revolution: A Manifesto
Against Logic, Facts, and Reason (2018, Atria Books): I went
through a kneejerk period in the 1960s when I rebelled so hard against
the liberal warmongers of the Democratic Party that I was willing to
throw away all appeals to "logic, facts, and reason," and embrace its
opposite (arts, irrationality, mysticism). I changed my tune when I
found that one could arrive at right conclusions through reason, and
I wound up more dedicated to rationality than ever before. So at first
glance I took this book to be complete, reactionary bullshit. But it
turns out this is meant to be funny, and it's aimed at young people
today who feel the same incoherent rage and disgust over the powers
that be as I felt back in the 1960s. The authors are comedians who
run some kind of podcast. And while there are some lame jokes and
outright bullshit here, their core claim harbors a kernel of truth:
"Capitalism, and the politics it spawns, is not working for anyone
under thirty who is not a sociopath." Once you understand that, you
can look elsewhere for better-reasoned explanations and proposals,
but that insight is a good place to start.
Sarah Churchwell: Behold, America: The Entangled History of
"America First" and "the American Dream" (2018, Basic Books):
Two iconic notions, offered as sweeping generalizations about America's
role in the world, adopted by various political movements for varying
ends depending on the time and place. The contemporary interest angle
is that both played large roles in the 2016 election, perhaps even more
so than in their long and storied past. On the other hand, they're
basically bullshit, at once able to flatter and mislead their political
targets, and there's something rather hollow about stretching a book
Kimberly Clausing: Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade,
Immigration, and Global Capital (2019, Harvard University Press):
Theory tells us that free trade and unrestricted mobility of capital and
labor increases wealth all around. The reality is something else, as
global capital has exploited economic theory to effectively escape
nation-state regulation, leading to ever more extreme inequality,
stripping most people of most nations of their political standing.
That has in turn produced a backlash, both on the reactionary right
and on the left, which sees things like "free trade agreements" as
little more than a power- and wealth-grab. Causing attempts to save
theory from practice, by advancing political schemes to make open
borders work for everyone.
Anna Clark: The Poisoned City: Flint's Water and the American
Urban Tragedy (2018, Metropolitan Books): We routinely receive
warnings about America's crumbling infrastructure, but usually assume
those threats are things that could happen in the future, not things
already happening today. But the water system in Flint, Michigan has
already turned toxic, killing and irreparably harming people who merely
happened to live in the wrong place.
Michael D'Antonio/Peter Eisner: The Shadow President: The
Truth About Mike Pence (2018, Thomas Dunne Books): Two key
questions here: How bad is Pence? And how powerful is he? Trump had
promised to give his vice president unprecedented day-to-day power --
the first evidence of that was that Pence had the leading role in
staffing the administration, which is how Trump got surrounded by
so many orthodox extreme conservatives. But beyond his immediate
influence, I can't recall a moment of disharmony between Trump and
Pence -- indeed, hard to think of anyone else in the administration
one can say that about. Part of this is that Pence has been eager
and willing to support Trump's Kulturkampf fetishes, no matter how
loony (e.g., his stunt leaving a NFL game after players took the
knee during the national anthem, or his ridiculous task of holding
the official press conference announcing the Space Force). The
import of this is how Pence has set an example for even the most
hopelessly ideological Republicans to line up behind and join
forces with Trump.
Jared Diamond: Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in
Crisis (2019, Little Brown): An anthropologist who since
his famous Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
(1997) has used his license to practice macrohistory, taking a view
that straddles vast stretches of time and space to wrap big questions
up into tidy boxes. He picks on six countries for his turning points
this time: Japan (forced opening by US in 1860s), Finland (attacked
by Soviet Union in 1939 following their "non-aggression" pact with
Nazi Germany), Germany and Austria (post-WWII), Indonesia and Chile
(victims of US-backed coups in 1965 and 1973). He draws lessons for
Americans today. I doubt he has much to say about karma.
William Egginton: The Splintering of the American Mind:
Identity Politics, Inequality, and Community on Today's College
Campuses (2018, Bloomsbury): "Egginton argues that our
colleges and universities have become exclusive, expensive clubs
for the cultural and economic elite instead of a national, publicly
funded project for the betterment of the country. Only a return to
the goals of community, and the egalitarian values underlying a
liberal arts education, can head off the further fracturing of the
body politic and the splintering of the American mind." Lots of
gripes about higher education these days, many from the right.
Hard for me to sort these book out, probably because my own stake
in academia is so tenuous:
- Greg Lukianoff/Jonathan Haidt: The Coddling of the American
Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation
for Failure (2018, Penguin Books).
- Heather MacDonald: The Diversity Delusion: How Race and
Gender Pandering Corrupt the University and Undermined Our Culture
(2018, St Martin's Press).
David Graeber: Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (2018, Simon
& Schuster): It's long been obvious -- I first picked up this
insight from a book by Paul Sweezy written in the 1950s -- that we
have a lot of jobs that don't really produce anything of value,
that are effectively pointless and parasitical, what Graeber has
finally called bullshit. He's an anthropologist and anarchist, the
writer of a major tome Debt: The First 5,000 Years, and a
book of his experience and theory of Occupy Wall Street, The
Democracy Project:A History, a Crisis, a Movement.
Greg Grandin: The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border
Wall in the Mind of America (2019, Metropolitan Books): Author
of a number of first-rate books on America's impact on Latin America --
e.g., Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the United States, and the
Rise of the New Imperialism (2006) -- easily sees the links between
two centuries of US aggression and the militarization of the US-Mexico
border. Timely enough to include Trump's border wall fixation, though
not the latest blow up in Venezuela.
Bradley W Hart: Hitler's American Friends: The Third Reich's
Supporters in the United States (2018, Thomas Dunne Books):
Some were well known, like Charles Coughlin and Charles Lindbergh,
the Bund and the America First Committee. I wouldn't be surprised to
hear names like Koch and Trump pop up, although neither appear in
what I've read. Still, I'd guess that actual supporters were fewer
in number than sympathizers and apologists, especially those with
home-grown racist and/or anti-labor agendas. On the other hand I
really doubt that every isolationist was anti-semitic. Before WWII,
Americans had a long history of believing that we should stay away
from foreign entanglements, and the war schemes they lead to.
Daniel Immerwahr: How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater
United States (2019, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Beyond the 48
continental states, the US managed to pick up various far-flung lands,
and has actually managed to keep more of them than any European rival:
Alaska and Hawaii have become full-fledged states, Puerto Rico and
various smaller islands are in limbo, the Philippines were let go
but only losing them to Japan, the Panama Canal Zone was returned to
Panama (which was itself a US creation), Cuba was never officially on
the books but treated like a colony until its revolution. This surveys
most of that list, stopping short of the coups and incursions and a
globe-straddling archipelago of bases and even more pervasive property
claims by private Americans and friendly investors.
Stephen Kinzer: The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark
Twain, and the Birth of American Empire (2017; paperback,
2018, St Martin's Griffin): To be clear, Roosevelt was for and
Twain was against in this particular political debate (c. 1898,
what we've dubbed the Spanish-American War) over whether America
should impose itself on others as an empire -- arguably not the
first such debate, and most certainly not the last. Evan Thomas
covered the pro-empire side (mostly) in The War Lovers: Roosevelt,
Lodge, Hearst, and the Rush to Empire (2010); also Kinzer has
previously written about the 1898 annexation of Hawaii in Overthrow:
America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii to Iraq (2006).
Still, would be good to pay more attention to the anti-war/empire
Eric Klinenberg: Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure
Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life
(2018, Crown): Sociologist, writes about the value of shared spaces --
examples given include libraries, childcare centers, bookstores, churches,
synagogues, and parks -- for building social bonds and a sense of common
interests, as opposed to the fragmentation and isolation that has lately
taken hold almost everywhere.
Kevin M Kruse/Julian E Zelizer: Fault Lines: A History of the
United States Since 1974 (2019, WW Norton): A broad history of
what I've started calling the Reagan-to-Trump era, backing up a couple
years (the falls of Nixon and Saigon, OPEC embargoes, desegregation
riots in Boston) to get a running start. Jill Lepore says this details
how "Americans abandoned a search for common ground in favor of a political
culture of endless, vicious, and -- very often -- mindless division."
Kruse previously wrote White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern
Conservatism (2005), and One Nation Under God: How Corporate America
Invented Christian America (2015). Zelizer has written The Fierce Urgency
of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society
(2015, Penguin Press), and a few more, including books on the presidencies
of Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
Milton Lodge/Charles S Taber: The Rationalizing Voter
(paperback, 2013, Cambridge University Press): Argues that "political
behavior is the result of innumerable unnoticed forces and conscious
deliberation is often a rationalization of automatically triggered
feelings and thoughts," testing five basic hypotheses: "hot cognition,
automaticity, affect transfer, affect contagion, and motivated reasoning."
Yglesias used this book to explain Kanye West's embrace of Trump.
Michael Mandelbaum: The Rise and Fall of Peace on Earth
(2019, Oxford University Press): Argues that "in the twenty-five years
after 1989, the world enjoyed the deepest peace in history." Further
asserts that this blissful state ended "because three major countries --
Vladimir Putin's Russia in Europe, Xi Jinping's China in East Asia, and
the Shia clerics' Iran in the Middle East -- put an end to end to it
With aggressive nationalist policies aimed at overturning the prevailing
political arrangements in their respective regions." Pretty amazing that
anyone can look at the last 25-30 years and fail to identify the one
nation that has been almost constantly at war, attacking "enemies" in
more than a dozen countries scattered all around the world. Also that
the author overlooked a number of other wars that broke out during the
period, including the period's most deadly wars (in and around Congo).
Bill McKibben: Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself
Out? (2019, Henry Holt): Wrote one of the early books on global
warming, The End of Nature (1989). I read it during a mid-summer
trip to Florida, where my initial skepticism was overcome by seeing and
feeling how much heat could be absorbed into the atmosphere. Still, I
hated his metaphor, and he has a knack for coming up with new irritating
ways to say the same thing ever since. (Eaarth was the worst.)
This is his latest, probably even more impassioned as he's made his
career move from critic to activist. I'd probably find his 2013 memoir,
Oil and Honey: The Education of an Unlikely Activist, more to
my taste than this doomsday screed. But despite the hyperbole, he's
been basically right all along. You have to respect that.
John J Mearsheimer: The Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams
and International Realities (2018, Yale University Press):
Foreign policy mandarin, subscribes to the realist wing like his
sometime co-author Stephen M Walt, has developed a healthy skepticism
about how American foreign policy is practiced. Problem here is
likely to be his choice of "Liberal Dreams" as his evil strawman.
Although political liberals, especially in the anti-communist 1950s,
readily supported America's originally bipartisan, military-first
foreign policy, this policy has never advanced "liberal dreams."
For the last 30-40 years, "liberal hegemony" has never been more
than a neocon ruse, an attempt to dress up old-fashioned imperial
power projection with a patina of nice words. Meanwhile, Walt has
his own new book:
- Stephen M Walt: The Hell of Good Intentions: America's
Foreign Policy Elite and the Decline of US Primacy (2018,
Farrar Straus and Giroux).
Steve Pearlstein: Can American Capitalism Survive? Why Greed
Is Not Good, Opportunity Is Not Equal, and Fairness Won't Make Us Poor
(2018, St Martin's Press): Reminded me first of Robert Kuttner's 2018
book Can Democracy Survive Global Capitalism (still unread on
my shelf), but the questions are slightly different. Pearlstein seems
to assume democracy will have the final say, and asks instead whether
capitalism can be reformed in ways that will make it palatable to most
people. Clearly, its current practices like "squeezing workers, cheating
customers, avoiding taxes, and leaving communities in the lurch" tend
to undermine public trust and confidence.
Nomi Prins: Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World
(2018, Nation Books): Former bond trader, found her calling writing
about the banking racket in the Bush years -- Other People's
Money: The Corporate Mugging of America (2004), Jacked: How
"Conservatives" Are Picking Your Pocket (Whether You Voted for Them
or Not) (2006), It Takes a Pillage: Behind the Bailouts,
Bonuses, and Backroom Deals From Washington to Wall Street
(2009) -- looks at how "the open door between private and central
banking has ensured endless opportunities for market manipulation
and asset bubbles." I'm not a big fan of the titles per sé,
but few people have written more lucidly about how theirs racket
John Quiggin: Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So
Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly (2019, Princeton University
Press): Author of Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk Among
Us, an important effort to clear out much of the dead wood, takes
up Henry Hazlitt's 1946 classic, Economics in One Lesson, which
he summarizes as "leave markets alone, and all will be well." But all
isn't well, as there are many cases of market failures, so Quiggin adds
"Lesson Two: Market prices don't reflect all the opportunity costs we
face as a society." He gives 400 pages of examples and explanations,
in what may be one of the essential texts of modern economics.
Eric Rauchway: Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First
Clash Over the New Deal (2018, Basic Books): After an overwhelming
majority of Americans voted to free themselves from President Herbert
Hoover, they faced a four-month delay until the new president could be
sworn in -- a period so grueling that the US Constitution was changed
to move future inaugurations up from March to January. This book covers
those four months, a kind of pre-history to the famous "100 days" that
followed Franklin Roosevelt's inauguration. In terms of anticipatory
obstructionism, Hoover probably holds the record -- although John Adams
in 1800-01 raised the bar, and Donald Trump will no doubt try to top
them all in the shorter 2020-21 transition period.
Richard Rhodes: Energy: A Human History (2018, Simon
& Schuster): Recaps the history of mankind as the story of claiming
and taming sources of energy, possibly starting with human and domesticated
animal muscle, but wood, coal, oil, and nuclear play larger roles in this
story -- Rhodes seems to be especially fond of nuclear, although the four
major books he's written on nuclear bombs can be read as cautionary tales.
I've read those four books, plus a couple more, and don't doubt that he
is capable of synthesizing such a large and important story.
Nathaniel Rich: Losing Earth: A Recent History (2019,
MCD): A history, pointing out that by 1979 "we knew nearly everything
we understand today about climate change -- including how to stop it,"
which goes on to show how supposedly responsible people failed to act
on that knowledge, letting us slide into the ever-increasing crisis
we face today. The Reagan administration's determination to promote
coal and cripple the EPA and drive science from the policy process --
I'd say "echoes of Trump" but it's the other way around -- were key,
but the thing you keep running into is human reluctance to deal with
a catastrophe that seems to merely loom in the future, because the
worst hasn't struck yet.
Sam Rosenfeld: The Polarizers: Postwar Architects of Our Partisan
Era (2017, University of Chicago Press): Assumes that the problem
with politics today is partisan polarization, and seeks to find where that
came from by examining the political period from 1945 through 1980, moving
from "The Idea of Responsible Partisanship" to "The Making of a Vanguard
Party" and "Liberal Alliance-Building for Lean Times." Winds up with a
chapter on 1980-2000 and a "Conclusion: Polarization without Responsibility,
2000-2016." Rosenfeld attributes the idea that the two parties should
be realigned on a liberal-conservative axis to Franklin Roosevelt. What
actually forced the realignment was a single issue -- civil rights --
which straddled the 1980 divide (what we might call the tipping point).
Whether this was a good or bad thing depends a lot on how important you
think that issue is. But more generally, polarization always occurs
when issues become more serious and less amenable to compromise --
and we see that happening now, on race (of course) but also on the
more general principles of equality, fairness, justice, and whether
government will serve or oppress the vast majority of the people.
I don't mean to argue that polarization has no down side. The main
one is that it's led one party in particular to view politics as a
zero-sum game, even worse as it's blinded that party to recognizing
common problems (most obviously, climate change, which Republicans
furiously deny because it's inconvenient for some of their major
Joseph E Stiglitz: People, Power, and Profits: Progressive
Capitalism for an Age of Discontent (2019, WW Norton): Major
liberal economist, advised Clinton in the 1990s and bragged about it
in The Roaring Nineties: A New History of the World's Most Prosperous
Decade (2003), warned about Bush in the 2000s and reminded us in
Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World
Economy (2010), wrote an important book on The Price of
Inequality: How Today's Divided Society Endangers Our Future
(2012), and several books on trade, starting with Globalization
and Its Discontents (2002). I've read (and admired) most of his
books, but overlooked an earlier book, Whither Socialism?,
which claimed that "market socialism" couldn't work. His analysis
back then probably has much to do with his decision now to push
for what he calls "progressive capitalism" as the alternative to
the burgeoning movement for socialism. I'm sure he's very smart
about it, but I always find it a bit sad that the only occasions
when the left gains enough power to do something, they first have
to spend all their energy saving capitalism's sorry ass.
Bhaskar Sunkara: The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical
Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (2019, Basic Books).
Editor of Jacobin offers a primer on the history of socialism
since the mid-1800s and "a realistic vision for its future" -- well
short of the Soviet-era ideals, but carefully, cautiously tailored to
provide universal, fair and equitable solutions to economic problems.
- Bhaskar Sunkara: The ABCs of Socialism (paperback,
- Cinzia Arruzza/Tithi Bhattacharya/Nancy Fraser: Feminism
for the 99%: A Manifesto (paperback, 2019, Verso).
- Rutger Bregman: Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal
World (2017, Little Brown; paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books).
- Nancy Fraser: The Old Is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born
(paperback, 2019, Verso).
- Nancy Fraser/Rahel Jaeggi: Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical
Theory (paperback, 2018, Polity).
- Kristen R Ghodsee: Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism:
And Other Arguments for Economic Independence (2018, Bold Type
- Avel Honneth: The Idea of Socialism: Towards a Renewal
(2017; paperback, 2018, Polity).
- Danny Katch: Socialism . . . Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human
Liberation (paperback, 2015, Haymarket Books).
- Leigh Phillips: Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn
Addicts: A Defence of Growth, Progress, Industry and Stuff
(paperback, 2015, Zero Books).
- Leigh Phillips/Michal Rozworski: The People's Republic of
Walmart: How the World's Biggest Corporations Are Laying the Foundation
for Socialism (paperback, Verso).
- Chantal Mouffe: For a Left Populism (2018, Verso).
Michael W Twitty: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African
American Culinary History in the Old South (2017, Amistad):
A family history back to its roots, focusing on the food that made
each generation, and crossed in various ways from black to white
and back. Also on food and the South: John T Edge: The Potlikker
Papers: A Food History of the Modern South (2017, Penguin).
Craig Unger: House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story
of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018, Dutton): A
journalist with a nose for corrupt relationships, previously wrote
House of Bush, House of Saud: The Secret Relationship Between the
World's Two Most Powerful Dynasties (2004), seems to have a ripe
subject digging into Trump's various deals with Russian mobsters and
Jose Antonio Vargas: Dear America, Notes of an Undocumented
Citizen (2018, Dey Street Books): Author spent 25 years as
an "undocumented" American, "living illegally in a country that does
not consider me one of its own," before outing himself to write about
the experience in the New York Times -- becoming a spokesman for the
millions of "undocumented" Americans. Less about immigration either
as policy or practice than about what it feels like to live in a
country you have to hide from. Other recent books on immigration:
- Francisco Cantú: The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches From the
Border (2018; paperback, 2019, Riverhead Books).
- Abdi Nor Iftin: Call Me American: A Memoir (2018,
- Viet Tranh Nguyen, ed: The Displaced: Refugee Writers on
Refugee Lives (2018, Harry N Abrams).
- Peter Schrag: The World of Aufbau: Hitler's Refugees in
America (2019, University of Wisconsin Press).
- Matthew Soerens/Jenny Yang: Welcoming the Stranger: Justice,
Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (paperback,
2018, IVP Books).
William T Vollmann: Carbon Ideologies: Volume One: No
Immediate Danger/Volume Two: No Good Alternative (2018,
Viking): Mostly a novelist, occasionally writes non-fiction and
has been known to get carried away, like his Imperial
(1306 pp). This "almanac of global energy use" is similar-sized,
but published in two volumes.
Jon Ward: Camelot's End: Kennedy vs. Carter and the Fight That
Broke the Democratic Party (2019, Twelve): This suggests that
Reagan's triumph in 1980 had more to do with a breakdown caused by Ted
Kenndy's almost unprecedented primary challenge against a president of
his own party. The closest analogy I can think of was Teddy Roosevelt's
rebuke of William Howard Taft in 1912, which wound up with his Bull
Moose third party and both losing to Woodrow Wilson. Lots of parallels
there, not least the challengers' sense of entitlement. Looking back
now it's clear that Carter was a forerunner of many of Reagan's issues,
and as such helped to legitimize someone who had previously been viewed
as a far-right fringe candidate. One wonders whether the clearer choice
that Kennedy might have presented would have faired better.
Alan Wolfe: The Politics of Petulance: America in an Age of
Immaturity (2018, University of Chicago Press). More like
senescence, which has less to do with age than the popular choice
38 years ago to turn away from facing reality and pretend we're fine
in Ronald Reagan's fantasy world. Wolfe is a political science prof
(emeritus) with a long list of books, including The Seamy Side of
Democracy: Repression in America (1973), Marginalized in the
Middle (1996), Does American Democracy Still Work? (2006),
and At Home in Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good for the Jews (2014).
I last noticed him when he published The Future of Liberalism
(2009), a spirited defense that this must contrast with.
Shoshana Zuboff: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight
for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2019 PublicAffairs):
Seems to focus on the new information businesses, specifically the ones
that track your every step in navigating the Internet, and analyze and
market that information to others hoping to manipulate you. I'm not sure
how far you can push this model: is it really that important? I suspect
it may even be self-limiting.
Other recent books also noted without comment:
Ben S Bernanke/Timothy F Geithner/Henry M Paulson Jr: Firefighting:
The Financial Crisis and Its Lessons (paperback, 2019, Penguin
William J Burns: The Back Channel: A Memoir of American
Diplomacy and the Case for Its Renewal (2019, Random House).
Tucker Carlson: Ship of Fools: How a Selfish Ruling Class
Is Bringing America to the Brink of Revolution (2018, Free
Robert A Caro: Working (2019, Knopf).
Susan Faludi: In the Darkroom (2016, Metropolitan
Books; paperback, 2017, Picador).
Henry Louis Gates Jr: Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White
Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow (2019, Penguin Press).
Gary Giddins: Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star: The War Years
1940-1946 (2018, Little Brown).
Jonah Goldberg: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of
Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is
Destroying American Democracy (2018, Crown Forum).
Max Hastings: Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975
Steven Johnson: Farsighted: How We Make the Decisions That
Matter the Most (2018, Riverhead Books).
Dan Kaufman: The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest
of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics
(2018, WW Norton).
Yasmin Khan: India at War: The Subcontinent and the Second
World War (2015, Oxford University Press).
Lawrence Lessig: America, Compromised (2018, University
of Chicago Press).
Steve Luxenberg: Separate: The Story of Plessy V. Ferguson,
and America's Journey From Slavery to Segregation (2019, WW
Anna Merlan: Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists
and Their Surprising Rise to Power (2019, Metropolitan Books).
Ashoka Mody: Euro Tragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts (2018,
Oxford University Press).
Raghuram Rajan: The Third Pillar: How Markets and the State
Leave the Community Behind (2019, Penguin Press).
Jeffrey D Sachs: A New Foreign Policy: Beyond American
Exceptionalism (2018, Columbia University Press).
Darrel M West: Divided Politics, Divided Nation: Hyperconflict
in the Trump Era (2019, Brookings Institution Press).
Joan C Williams: White Working Class: Overcoming Class
Cluelessness in America (2017, Harvard Business Review
Monday, May 27, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31558  rated (+40), 251  unrated (-1).
Last Monday in May, so extra work today doing my paperwork for the
May Streamnotes archive.
Rated count was 34 when I first checked on Sunday, but I've kept this
open to see what fits into the month. Still, much of the bulk, both
this week and for the month, has come from diving into back catalog.
With new albums from George Cables and Jerry Bergonzi out, I thought
they might be fun. When time ran out, I still had more Bergonzi to go,
not least the new one.
The week's finds are scattered. The latest
Christgau Expert Witness picked a Youssou N'Dour album I had noticed
from publicist email but hadn't tracked down (not on Napster, but I was
able to stream from Rock Paper Scissors). Also Bassekou Kouyate &
Ngoni Ba's Miri, a previous A- here (also according to
Michael Tatum). Phil Overeem's
latest list pointed me at Beyoncé's Homecoming and A Day in
the Life, but the album I liked most was an exceptionally genteel trad
jazz quartet he had down at 23. I got some more ideas from Alfred Soto's
The best albums of 2019, first draft: specifically Nilüfer Yanya's
Miss Universe -- although I'll note that I had heard his six
higher-rated albums and didn't A-list any of them. (Further down his
list, I did pick Control Top: Covert Contracts; Robert Forster:
Inferno; Billie Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do
We Go?; and Lizzo: Cuz I Love You; still unheard: The
Mountain Goats, Vampire Weekend, The National; Tyler, the Creator;
and Weyes Blood.)
Lucas Fagen provided the tip on L7 (also one I did't follow up on
yet: Gary Clark Jr.). First L7 play didn't convince me, so I went back
and played the Best Of. Gave the new one an extra play later,
but didn't move it. They have one of the all-time great band sounds,
but at this point I'd guess it's more likely to drop a notch than to
rise one. Opposite is true of their eponymous debut, which Christgau
missed and I'd never heard. They get something out of youth there
that they'll never get back to again.
It occurred to me that Ray Charles and Betty Carter might be
on YouTube, and indeed it was. Someone wrote me a while back to point
out that several albums I couldn't find on Napster were on YouTube
(usually with nothing but the static album cover for video). I haven't
followed that tip often, but with big chunks of backlist from both
artists this month, seemed like good due dilligence. Disappointing
David Cantwell has written an exceptionally thorough review of
Robert Christgau's two recent essay compilations,
Book Reports and
Is It Still Good
to Ya? (Duke University Press):
Robert Christgau's big-hearted theory of pop. I managed to
screw up Cantwell's name when I initially posted the link,
confusing him with a
mediocre pitcher from 1927-37 (W-L record 76-108, mostly with the
doormat Boston Braves, although he looked better before going 4-25 in
1936). Turns out David Cantwell has been cranking out country music
Rolling Stone. It might be fun to follow up on them in June.
I am posting tonight a new installment of
XgauSez, Christgau's question-and-answer session.
New records reviewed this week:
- Beyoncé: Homecoming: The Live Album (2018 , Columbia, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
- Carlos Bica/Daniel Erdmann/DJ Illvibe: I Am the Escaped One (2018 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
- Brooks & Dunn: Reboot (2019, Arista Nashville): [r]: B
- George Cables: I'm All Smiles (2019, HighNote): [r]: B+(**)
- Steve Davis: Correlations (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
- Elder Ones: From Untruth (2019, Northern Spy): [r]: B
- Luke Gillespie: Moving Mists (2018 , Patois): [cd]: B+(*)
- Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (2019, 604/School Boy/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
- Norah Jones: Begin Again (2019, Blue Note, EP): [r]: B
- Kehlani: While We Wait (2019, Atlantic/TSNMI): [r]: B+(**)
- L7: Scatter the Rats (2019, Blackheart): [r]: B+(***)
- Doug MacDonald: Califournia Quartet (2018 , Dmacmusic): [cd]: B+(*)
- Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (2018 , Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
- Youssou N'Dour: History (2019, Naïve/Believe): [os]: A-
- Phicus + Martin Küchen: Sumpflegende (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
- Matthias Spillmann Trio: Live at the Bird's Eye Jazz Club (2017 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
- Spring Roll: Episodes (2017-18 , Clean Feed): [r]: B
- Ben Stapp/Joe Morris: Mind Creature Sound Dasein (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
- Oli Steidle & the Killing Popes: Ego Pills (2017 , Shhpuma): [r]: B-
- Norbert Susemihl/Chloe Feoranzo/Harry Mayronne/Barnaby Gold: The New Orleans Dance Hall Quartet: Tricentennial Hall Dance 17, October (2018 , Sumi): [r]: A-
- Tanya Tagaq: Toothsayer (2019, Six Shooter, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- The Dave Wilson Quartet: One Night at Chris' (2018 , self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
- Nilüfer Yanya: Miss Universe (2019, ATO): [r]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper (2018, Impulse!): [r]: B+(*)
- L7: Pretend We're Dead: Best of L7 (1992-97 , Warner Music Group): [r]: A
- Jerry Bergonzi: Intersecting Lines (2012 , Savant): [r]: A-
- Jerry Bergonzi: Dog Star (2017, Savant): [r]: B+(***)
- George Cables: Cables Vision (1979 , Contemporary/OJC): [r]: B
- George Cables Trio: Beyond Forever (1991 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- George Cables: Quiet Fire (1994 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- George Cables: Person to Person (1995, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- George Cables Trio: Skylark (1995 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- George Cables Trio: Dark Side, Light Side (1996 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- George Cables Trio: Bluesology (1998, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- George Cables: One for My Baby (2000, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Ray Charles/Betty Carter: Ray Charles and Betty Carter (1961, ABC): [yt]: B
- Carly Rae Jepsen: Tug of War (2008, Maple Music/Fontana North): [r]: B+(***)
- L7: L7 (1988, Epitaph): [r]: B+(***)
- Art Pepper/George Cables: Tête-Ã-Tête (1982 , Galaxy): [r]: A-
- Art Pepper/George Cables: Goin' Home (1982, Galaxy): [r]: B+(***)
Grade (or other) changes:
- Assif Tsahar/William Parker/Hamid Drake: In Between the Tumbling a Stillness (2015 , Hopscotch): [cd]: [was: A-] A
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Avishai Cohen: Arvoles (Razdaz/Sunnyside): June 14
- Red Kite: Red Kite (RareNoise): advance, June 28
- The Jamie Saft Quartet: Hidden Corners (RareNoise): advance, June 28
Sunday, May 26, 2019
Here in Wichita it's rained every day for a week with more coming
tonight, tomorrow, the day after. We're up to
11.96 inches this month (2nd wettest May ever; annual average is
34 inches). Many rivers in southeastern Kansas have flooded -- my
recent trip to Oklahoma was detoured when the Kansas State Turnpike
went under water. Wichita used to flood regularly, and my home would
surely be under water but for "the big ditch" -- a flood control
project built in 1950-59. (See Beccy Tanner:
'Big Ditch Mitch' saved Wichita many times; also, David Guilliams:
The Big Ditch: The Wichita-Valley Center Flood Control Project [PDF].)
I've been reading up on this, not least because I haven't seen the rivers
this high since 1966, when the Ditch spared Wichita (barely) an epochal
flood that wiped out the Arkansas River dam in Lamar, CO, and flooded
every other town on the river's path into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Reading
Guilliams' history reminds me that we had politicians in the 1940s who
were as short-sighted as the ones we have today, but I'll always be
thankful they got outvoted. That Ditch was the best investment Wichita
ever made. Without it I wouldn't be able to get around to this week's
Some scattered links this week:
Donald Trump's sneak attack on social security.
Foreign aid that costs an arm and a leg -- literally: "The US-funded
Israeli military is shooting so many unarmed Palestinians that the UN is
warning of an amputation crisis in Gaza."
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
How Trump's new immigration plan could hurt the economy.
Gaby Del Valle:
The Harriet Tubman $20 bill was supposed to be unveiled in 2020. Now it
might be delayed by almost a decade.
Russia's election meddling is despicable, but don't forget our own.
John Bolton on the Warpath: One of America's more gullible war reporters,
which lets him take Bolton more seriously than I would, offering a useful,
respectful profile which nonetheless makes him even more disgusting than
you imagined. Of particular interest are the details of how Bolton has made
millions of dollars recently trying to stir up multiple wars.
EPA plans to get thousands of pollution deaths off the books by changing
Trump's cover-up accelerates: "President Trump can only escalate. He
cannot help it."
Trump's position on the Mueller Report is legally ridiculous -- and
David A Graham:
Maggie Haberman/Annie Karni:
A would-be Trump aide's demands: a jet on call, a future cabinet post and
more: Give him lots of perks and Kris Kobach would be willing to serve
Trump as "immigration czar" (for a while).
One of the largest environmental protests ever is underway. It's led by
children. Most famously, Greta Thunberg, but she's not alone. I've
seen sub-teens on Jimmy Kimmel explain the science better than most
Democratic politicians, let alone Republicans (who don't try to explain
anything). In an effort to reassert his relevance, Bill McKibben
It's not entirely up to the school students to save the world.
Indian PM Narendra Modi and his party just swept India's elections.
Some more pieces on India's election:
Impeachment is a refusal to accept the unacceptable.
Does Trump want to be impeached? That very thought has occurred to me.
Bill Clinton actually got a bump in the polls out of being impeached. I
don't recall anything similar with John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, or Richard
Nixon, which is the company Trump will be joining. He may even think that
in the Us-vs-Them world he imagines himself thriving in, that not getting
impeached could be taken as not trying hard enough. Equally important, in
taunting the Democratic House leadership, he may hope to show them up as
weak and ineffective to their voter base. He's been campaigning hard since
inauguration day. It seems to be the only thing he really cares about, so
why not bet the farm? Maybe he even thinks there's a further endgame after
the election. After all, I've also been wondering whether Erdogan wanted
the failed coup that allowed him to purge his enemies in the military and
the courts and consolidate his grip on power. It would be harder to pull
that off in the US, but Trump's already broken numerous so-called "norms"
as he's mocked and degraded our past notions of democracy.
Trump continues drive to protect religious-based discrimination.
Lindsey Graham proposes invading Venezuela to oust Maduro. He's
citing Reagan's 1983 invasion of Grenada as a precedent, now (as then)
citing Cuban influence as a cassus belli. On the other hand, whereas
Grenada "had a population of less than 100,000 . . . Venezuela, on
the other hand, has a population of a little over 28 million people,
is lager than Texas, and has roughly 160,000 troops in its military."
Graham also wants to send more troops to the Middle East, where he's
up in arms against Iran. Warmongers like Graham and Bolton readily
group Iran and Venezuela without ever mentioning the one thing they
obviously have in common: before US sanctions crippled them, both
were major oil exporters. The effect of taking their oil off the
world market is to push prices (and oil company profits) up, or at
least to keep those profits from falling as global demand shifts to
Trump v Pelosi: anatomy of a feud.
Confessions of a presidential candidate: "How the political memoir
Moderate Democrats' delusions of 'prudence' will kill us all. This is
in response to an op-ed by "moderate Democrat" Greg Weiner:
It's not always the end of the world ("political prudence isn't in
vogue, but it should be"). I can see both sides of this debate, but
that's mostly because both are illuminated by the raging wildfires
deliberately set by the Republican far-right. Right now, I think the
balance of evidence favors Levitz, on two counts: the sheer amount of
destruction caused by Republicans in power, and the lack of positive
results from recent efforts by prudent Democrats (e.g., Obama).
The Fed's bad predictions are hurting us.
Robert O'Harrow Jr/Shawn Boburg:
A conservative activist's behind-the-scenes campaign to remake the nation's
courts: "Leonard Leo helped conservative nonprofits raise $250 million
from mostly undisclosed donors in recent years to promote conservative
judges and causes."
Nicole Perlroth/Scott Shane:
In Baltimore and beyond, a stolen NSA tool wreaks havoc. With David
E Sanger, the authors also reported:
How Chinese spies got the NSA's hacking tools, and used them for attacks;
Security breach and spilled secrets have shaken the NSA to its core:
gives them more credit for conscience than they deserve. America's
cyberwarriors aren't the first to fail to appreciate what happens
when other "warriors" learn to do what they do.
How the right to legal abortion changed the arc of all women's lives.
Australia isn't doing its part for the global climate. Sooner or later we'll
have to pay our share. Last week's elections kicked this can further
down the road. Quiggin has a new book out, Economics in Two Lessons,
explaining where markets work, and where they don't.
Trump's wrecking ball assaults American government. Luckily, it is strongly
built. I think a big part of Reagan's popularity came from the fact
that he couldn't do much short-term damage, even though that was plainly
the intent of his program. Democrats controlled Congress most of the time,
and liberals dominated the courts. Reagan indulged many people's prejudices,
saying things that flattered his base and riled them up against supposed
enemies, yet the real consequences of his presidency -- the destruction
of the labor movement, the major shift toward ever-greater inequality,
undermining civil rights while ramping up mass incarceration, the embrace
of militarism and the withdrawal from international cooperation, the end
of equal time and the takeover of politics by big money -- only gradually
became evident (not that they explicit about their goals, but because most
people didn't take the threat seriously). Of course, it became harder to
overlook the cumulative effect of Reagan and later waves of conservative
activism under the Bushes and Trump. Reich is probably right that the US
political system still moderates the extremism of Republican presidents --
although it's been much more effective at neutering reformist impulses by
Democrats -- yet clearly we are losing ground.
Trump's hasty plan to get Americans back on the moon by 2020, explained.
Worth noting that there is more at stake than just Trumpian ego. See Rivka
The race to develop the moon.
Michael S Schmidt/Julian E Barnes:
Trump's targeting of intelligence agencies gains a harder edge.
Trump directed Attorney General William Barr to investigate anyone
who thought that the Trump campaign may have colluded with Russia
in 2016, starting with the FBI and potentially going deeper into
the CIA and the broader "intelligence community," and he's given
Barr authority to declassify any secret documents he finds along
the way (see:
Trump gives Barr power to declassify US secrets in review of Russia
probe). This extraordinary politicization of the Justice Department
is obviously disturbing, but thus far most of the pushback has come
from the intelligence agencies, who prefer to operate in secret,
with little or no oversight -- e.g., Chuck Ross:
Ex-CIA officials fume about declassification order, ignoring previous
leaks of secret sources and methods. Also see: Natasha Bertrand:
Trump puts DOJ on crash course with intelligence agencies.
Congress wants to stop surprise medical bills. But they have one big
problem left to solve.
Mark Joseph Stern:
The Trump administration releases its plan to let health care providers
refuse to treat transgender people: This is getting real petty. Nor
is this all. See: Camille Baker:
The Trump administration wants to make it harder for transgender people to
access homeless shelters.
Does trump have an off-ramp on Iran? i doubt he even wants one,
nor is he likely to show any interest on wright's history lesson.
it looks to me like the conflict with iran is nothing more than a
favor to Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE -- all of which know
how to push his buttons and stroke him with gifts. Moreover, he is
incapable of seeing potential downsides, or even risk. Challenging
him, or calling his bluff, would be unthinkable. He might even say
The controversy over WeWork's $47 billion valuation and impending IPO,
Holding Trump accountable is a pocketbook issue: After reviewing
Trump's own history of cheating his contractors, note this:
Trump, as president, is acting in line with his own predilection for
alleged corporate criminals.
- While Obama's Environmental Protection Agency sought a $4.8 million
fine from Syngenta Seeds for poisoning workers with pesticides, Trump's
EPA settled for $150,000.
- Trump's Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fined a man $1 for
allegedly swindling veterans out of their pensions -- also extracting
from him a promise not to do it again.
- In February 2018, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission settled
with three major banks that had engaged in illegal market manipulation --
charging them a financial penalty but requiring no admission of wrongdoing
and waiving "bad actor" penalties that would have impaired their ability
to do business in the future.
The specific dynamics of each agency and each industry are, of course,
But the basic pattern is the same -- under lax enforcement, crime
basically pays. You might not get caught, and even if you do get caught,
the monetary penalties will not create a meaningful deterrent to future
misconduct. . . . The overall problem, in other words, is much larger
in scope than Trump. But Trump is part of the problem. Not only is he
emblematic, as a business leader, of the cost of inadequate enforcement,
but he's also someone who clearly favors inadequate enforcement as a
matter of principle and appoints regulators who make the problem worse.
What we know so far about Trump's tax returns, explained.
Men and women have similar views on abortion.
Yglesias also has a piece called
Daenerys was right: King's Landing had to burn, which goes to great
lengths to try to rationalize the indiscriminate fire-bombing of the
capitol of Westeros. I understand the impulse to try to take a contrary
view, especially counter to those who casually impose their contemporary
political prejudices on such a fantasy landscape, but Yglesias overlooks
some pretty obvious clues (like the Daenerys speech to her troops where
she vows to conquer/liberate all of Westeros and Essos -- a speech that
the actress claims she studied Hitler for, but which sounded more to me
like Napoleon), as well as a couple of much more fundamental problems.
What always turned me off in Game of Thrones was its unquestioned
bedrock belief in hereditary aristocracy, and its correlative commitment
to war. Without having read the books, I gather that Martin is completely
opposed to both, but rather than constructing cardboard characters for
us to root for (in the vain hope that good will ultimately triumph over
evil), he exposes the foundations by showing how every character is
corrupted and disgraced by inequality and violence. That Yglesias winds
up rooting for a strong and fearsome ruler shows how much he's willing
Shocked by the rise of the right? Then you weren't paying attention.
Young blames "endemic racism and unfairness" -- I take the latter to
mean inequality and the business practices that increase it.
Poll: Most Americans disapprove of the Alabama abortion ban.
Saturday, May 25, 2019
From Greg Tate, on Facebook, comment reply to Allen Lowe question about
A friend who speaks six languages fluently (including Arabic and
Polish) told that in her mind its all one language. The Black American
creative tradition is by necessity that of the auto-didact but on a
deeper level its also one of people who couldn't afford to only be
great at one thing or the luxury of compartmentalizing the world. The
major innovators seem to be more inter-dimensional than the rest of us
in mind body and spirit--You get the sense that All of Life is one
language to them. Which is to say they are more West African than
Cartesian how they integrate the world outside with the world
inside. Nothing exemplifies this more to me than Davis saying he
thought he heard a brass band the first time he heard a guitar. Which
suggests his artistic high bar when he started playing wasn't mere
competency but to make people feel like they too were experiencing a
marching band projecting out of a guitar. Methinks we do a disservice
to these innovative artists when we think they were only trying to
work out mechanics--they were acquiring complex technique to reproduce
Susan Brown posted this on Facebook, crediting Gary Moss. It may be
the single most horrific thing I've read all year:
i wish everyone would read this
94 yr old Kissinger takes on Trump
Recently, Henry Kissinger did an interview and said vary amazing
things regarding President Trump. He starts with: "Donald Trump is a
phenomenon that foreign countries haven't seen before"! The former
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger gives us a new understanding of
President Donald Trump's foreign policy and predicts its success:
"Liberals and all those who favor (Hillary) Clinton will never
admit it. They will never admit that he is the one true leader. The
man is doing changes like never before and does all of it for the sake
of this nation's people. After eight years of tyranny, we finally see
Kissinger knows it and he continues with:
."Every country now has to consider two things: One, their
perception that the previous president, or the outgoing president,
basically withdrew America from international politics, so that they
had to make their own assessments of their necessities.
And secondly, that there is a new president who's asking a lot of
unfamiliar questions. And because of the combination of the partial
vacuum and the new questions, one could imagine that something
remarkable and new emerges out of it.
Then Kissinger puts it bluntly:
"Trump puts America and its people first. This is why people love
him and this is why he will remain in charge for so long. There is not
a single thing wrong with him and people need to open their eyes."
When he boasts that he has a "bigger red button" than Kim Jung Un
does, he so transcends the mealy-mouthed rhetoric of the past, thereby
forcing a new recognition of American power.
Kissinger once wrote:
"The weak grow strong by effrontery - The strong grow weak through
inhibition!" No sentence better captures the U.S.-North Korea
Trump is discarding the inhibitions and calling the bluff on North
Korea's effrontery: His point is that the contrast of American retreat
under Obama and its new assertion of power under Trump creates a new
dynamic that every one of our allies and of our enemies must
Our allies grew complacent with Obama's passivity and now are
fearful due to Trump's activism. And they must balance the two in
developing their policies:
They realize that the old assumptions, catalyzed by Bush 43's
preoccupation with Iraq and Obama's refusal to lead are obsolete. So,
Trump is forcing a new calculus with a new power behind American
interests. Those - here and abroad - who rode the old apple cart worry
about its being toppled.
But, as Kissinger so boldly stated: "Trump is the one true leader
in world affairs and he is forcing policy changes that put America
This is the most accurate statement of what the American Citizens
who live outside of the swamp want and expect from their
I like the list of 13 things that I, as a senior American citizen,
want. Trump is at least talking about issues that most Americans are
My mantra about Trump is this: Truthfully, We are in agreement with
most of what he says. We are getting older and our tickers aren't what
they used to be, but what matters is that he covers most of the 13
things we as seniors want, at least I do for sure
- Hillary: held accountable for her previous wrongs!
- Put "GOD" back in America!
- Borders: Closed or tightly guarded!
- Congress: On the same retirement & healthcare plans as everybody else
- Congress: Obey its own laws NOW!
- Language: English!
- Culture: Constitution and the Bill of Rights!
- Drug-Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before & during Welfare!
- Freebies: NONE to Non-Citizens
- Budget: Balanced
- Foreign Countries: Stop giving them our money! Charge them for our
help! We need it here.
- Term limits for congress
- "RESPECT OUR MILITARY AND OUR FLAG!" And our law enforcement.
DRAIN THE SWAMP!
Further down, Susan offered this meme:
First Lady Melania Trump has sent out a request for prayers for our
president. Let us be a shield for him as he fights for us.
Further down, she links to an AP News piece on Alabama's "near-total
abortion ban," presumably favorably. But a commenter picked up another
tweet, from Stephanie Wittels Wachs, which is on target:
Make no mistake - a state that criminalizes abortion but ranks 50th in
public education doesn't give a shit about children.
Monday, May 20, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31518  rated (+20), 252  unrated (+3).
Rated count well down this week. Wednesday through Friday got totally
wiped out, starting with a dental appointment, then shopping for dinner
on Friday, then marathon cooking. Zhanna Pataki and I made a blini feast.
I found a Russian grocery store in Tulsa the previous week, and picked
up a pound of salmon caviar ("Alaskan rubies") and three whole schmaltz
herring. The latter went, one each, into sour cream sauce, mustard sauce,
and Estonian potato salad (with golden beets, apple, and ham (actually,
Canadian bacon). Other side salads: poached cod with horseradish sauce,
cucumbers in sour cream, green bean and walnut, carrot and garlic. I got
a couple of salmon filets and salted them. I made two loaves of rye bread
(only disappointment: came out dense and dry, probably because the dough
was, or maybe I just don't know how to properly knead bread; anyway, the
expensive Breville food processor wasn't up to the task). For dessert, I
made a light sponge cake, and topped it with strawberries and whipped
cream (recipe called for smetana, but I didn't allow myself enough time
to make my own -- probably should have bought some in Tulsa, when I had
the chance). I just now realized that I had brought a jar of eggplant
caviar back from Tulsa but failed to serve it. Dinner was spectacular,
A couple weeks ago I learned that Ani DiFranco has written a memoir,
No Walls and the Recurring Dream. She grew up in Buffalo,
and was close to my cousin's family there, so I have some kind of
personal interest in her story, and I've been aware of her musical
career from near the beginning. Then last week I noticed her No
Walls: Mixtape on Napster, so delved a bit deeper. I read what
I could from
Google's excerpt, while listening to
Mixtape -- unplugged remakes of 25+ years of remarkable songs --
and a couple other items I had missed that I found on her
Bandcamp. Stopped short of the bootlegs, although one of my favorites
(and one of the best places to start with her) is the live
Living in Clip. I was especially pleased that after panning
most of her recent albums with Todd Sickafoose I enjoyed
Year so much. I wrote about her in
[The New] Rolling Stone
Album Guide. A current grade list is
Robert Christgau reviewed Epic Beard Men
this week, along with two records by Quelle Chris that I had already
reviewed. I gave Guns another spin, enjoyed it, but left my grade
at B+(***). For whatever it's worth, I've graded A- all four of Strut's
Nigeria 70 compilations. I couldn't begin to rank them, other than
to note that I have the CDs to the first, and played one out of my travel
case while cooking last week. I doubt any are as good as the best King
Sunny Adé albums, or the second edition of The Rough Guide to Highlife,
but the new one hits the exact same pleasure centers, and that was good
enough for me.
The Ray Charles comp was the one I skipped when reviewing his Atlantics
last week. It's the one you'd most likely buy if you're reluctant to get
the entire 3-CD box (The Birth of Soul). Not sure why I didn't
grade it as high as the box or two of the source albums, other than that
I didn't give it a lot of time. I'm still bothered that we don't have
the ABC albums available for streaming. And I will note that one problem
with virtually every "greatest hit" collection from that period is the
mandatory inclusion of two hideous Beatles covers. Compilers don't always
pick the best songs, so that may be what's slightly off about the Rhino
Atlantic Best Of.
Best jazz album of the week was the first 2019 Clean Feed release I've
found on Napster. They've sometimes been hard to search out, but until
this year all of their releases have been available for streaming, which
lately has saved me the hassle of downloading. Not everything that's come
out is available yet, but I'm glad to get what I can. I'll try to catch
up in coming weeks. (There are a couple more on this week's list, as well
as one where the musician sent me the CD -- thanks for that favor.)
New records reviewed this week:
- Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Groove Machine (2018 , OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
- Camp Cope: How to Socialise & Make Friends (2018, Run for Cover): [r]: B+(***)
- Ani DiFranco: No Walls: Mixtape (2019, Righteous Babe): [r]: A-
- Epic Beard Men: Season 1 (2018, Strange Famous): [r]: B+(**)
- Epic Beard Men: This Was Supposed to Be Fun (2019, Strange Famous): [r]: A-
- The Fictive Five: Anything Is Possible (2018 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
- John Hart: Crop Circles (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Fred Hersch & the WDR Big Band: Begin Again (2019, Palmetto): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jørgen Mathisen's Instant Light: Mayhall's Object (2018 , Clean Feed): [r]: A-
- The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride (2018 , Summit): [cd]: B
- Yoko Miwa Trio: Keep Talkin' (2019, Ocean Blue Tear Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Priests: The Seduction of Kansas (2019, Sister Polygon): [r]: B+(***)
- Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: «As We See It . . . » (2019, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
- The Selva: Canicula Rosa (2018 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
- Senyawa: Sujud (2018, Sublime Frequencies): [bc]: B+(***)
- Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Transitions (2017 , MSO): [cd]:B+(*)
- Rodney Whitaker: Common Ground: The Music of Gregg Hill (2017 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Nigeria 70: No Wahala: Highlife, Afro-Funk & Juju 1973-1987 (1973-87 , Strut): [bc]: A-
- Ray Charles: The Best of Ray Charles: The Atlantic Years (1951-59 , Rhino): [r]: A-
- Ani DiFranco: Red Letter Year (2008, Righteous Babe): [bc]: A-
- Ani DiFranco: Binary (2017, Righteous Babe): [r]: B+(*)
- Larry Ochs: The Fictive Five (2015, Tzadik): [bc]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Luke Gillespie: Moving Mists (Patois)
- Ryan Keberle & Catharsis: The Hope I Hold (Greenleaf Music): June 28
- Doug MacDonald: Califournia Quartet (self-released)
- Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi)
- Samo Salamon & Freequestra: Free Sessions, Vol. 2: Freequestra (Sazas/Klopotec)
- Samo Salamon/Szilárd Mezei/Jaka Berger: Swirling Blind Unstilled (Klopotec)
- The Dave Wilson Quartet: One Night at Chris' (self-released): May 27
Ran a day late on this one, partly because I went long on the intro,
but also because I found so many links in my early trawl through the
usual sources I wasn't able to finish my rounds, then found even more
when I tried to wrap up. I'm sure it's always the case that an extra
day or two to let the words settle and go back and restructure would
be useful, but I've rarely felt that more than this week.
Abortion became a much hotter political issue last week, with the
passage and signing of a law in Alabama which criminalizes abortion in
all cases except when it is necessary to save the life of the woman,
with doctors risking prison terms of up to 99 years if their call on
life-saving is disputed. Much focus on this particular law centers on
the lack of any exclusion for rape and incest, which most people agree
would be reasonable grounds for abortion. (As
Phil Freeman tweeted: "Your first mistake was assuming old white
men in Alabama were against rape and incest.") But the Alabama law is
just one of many state laws Republicans have been pushing lately, all
aimed at relitigating Roe v. Wade in the Trump-packed Supreme
The "heartbeat" bills that could ban almost all abortions, passed
in four states including Ohio and Georgia, and coming soon in Missouri;
still more draconian bills are in the works, such as
A Texas bill would allow the death penalty for patients who get
I'll start this off by quoting from a Facebook post by a relative
of mine in Arkansas, Marianne Cowan Pyeatt, offering an unvarnished
glimpse of what anti-abortion Republicans are telling themselves:
All of a sudden we are supposed to believe that millions and millions
of aborted babies are the result of rape and not just a lack of
responsibility to use birth control or face the consequences if you
can't even be adult enough to take precautions. We all know that the
reason they can't make exceptions for rape is because every women
would lie and claim to be raped to get an abortion. There are morning
after pills for real rape victims or they can give the child away. No
one says they have to keep them. And the fact that this is even being
debated is because all the people who did very little for decades when
they could forget what was going on in those clinics are suddenly
facing a world where full-term babies can be murdered at birth. YOU
stupid liberals have taken it SO FAR that no decent person can ignore
it any longer. And we aren't so stupid as to believe that only
abortion of a baby could "save the mother's life" in medical
emergencies . . . we know delivery is many, many times faster. At that
point, if it dies, at least you tried and the mother is "saved" from
her life-threatening condition with no murder involved. I find it
hilarious that in insisting on that last frontier of killing babies
right up to birth has finally given people the resolve to take a stand
and right a wrong.
One thing this shows is that the fight over abortion rights is
being fought at the margins, with both sides seeking maximalist
positions, although there is nothing symmetrical about the conflict.
There is only one fanatical side to this issue: those who, like
Marianne here, want to ban all abortions. No one on the opposite
side -- and I am about as opposite as anyone gets -- wants to
terminate all pregnancies. Rather, we understand that pregnancy
is a complicated issue that affects women in many different ways,
and that there are some circumstances where some women feel they
would be better off with an abortion. We believe that this should
be a free and responsible choice, and to make this a real choice
for all women requires that we isolate it from the encumbrances
of government regulation and economic pressure.
I've long thought that conservatives and libertarians should be
strong supporters of abortion rights. Libertarians cherish freedom,
and freedom is the ability to make free choices -- among which one
of the most important is whether to bear and raise children. Not
everyone who wants children is able to have them, but safe abortion
at least makes it possible to choose not to have children. As for
conservatives, they always stress the responsibilities parenthood
infers. It would be perverse if they did not allow those who felt
themselves unable to assume the responsibility of raising children
the option of not having them. Indeed, in the past have sometimes
wanted to impose limits on the fertility of those they deemed unfit
to raise children (e.g., the forced sterilization of the eugenics
movement). Consequently, the hard turn of Republicans against free
access to abortion and birth control has always struck me as bad
faith: a political ploy, initially to capture votes of Catholics
and Southern Baptists, who had traditionally voted Democratic. I
first noticed this in Bob Dole's 1972 Senate campaign, and I never
forgave him for politicizing the issue. (He was being challenged
by William Roy, a ob/gyn who had occasionally performed abortions,
which were legal in Kansas well before Roe v. Wade. Until
that time Kansas Democrats were more likely to be anti-abortion
than Republicans. Using abortion as a partisan tactic may have
started with Nixon's 1972 "silent majority"/"southern strategy."
It was especially successful in Missouri. See
How abortion became a partisan issue in America.)
Abortion rights are desirable if there are any circumstances where
abortion is a reasonable choice. Most people recognize rape and incest
as valid reasons, as well as the health of the woman and/or the fetus.
Beyond that there arise lots of possible economic and psychological
concerns, which can only really be answered by the woman (with the
advice of anyone she chooses to consult). We generally, if not always
consistently, recognize that our freedom is rooted in a right to
privacy. Since a decision to terminate has no broader repercussions,
there is no good reason for the government to get involved. (One might
argue that a decision not to terminate might concern the state, in
that it would wind up paying for the child's education and health
care, but no one who supports abortion rights is seeking that sort
of oversight. China's "one child" policy is an example, but no one
here is arguing for the state to enforce such a thing.)
Regardless of how cynical Republican leaders were when they jumped
on the anti-abortion bandwagon, they learned to love it because it
dovetailed with the prejudices and fears they exploited (Jason Stanley
has a handy list, in his recent book, How Fascism Works), while
doing little to detract from their main objective: making the rich
richer, and building a political machine to keep the riches coming.
(Thomas Frank, in his 2004 book What's the Matter With Kansas?,
tried to expose their two-faced cynicism, but he wound up only agitating
the anti-abortion mobsters into demanding more results for their votes.)
Marianne's post is full of such prejudices, even while she tries to
paper over others. But while the first line refers to the Alabama
law, she'd rather turn the tables by accusing "stupid liberals" of
wanting to kill babies the instant before birth. That would be a
symmetrically opposite point of view, but even if legal it's not a
real something anyone would do.
Some links on the Alabama law and the assault on abortion rights:
Trump and top Republicans distance themselves from Alabama's controversial
abortion law. I take this as evidence it's polling very badly. Trump
has never put much thought into abortion, and probably doesn't care, as
strange as that seems given how much impact he has had on the issue. Back
in 2016, he was asked whether women who sought abortions should be
prosecuted, and he guessed they should. That was one of the very few
instances where he took back a statement -- something he never did
when criticized for sympathizing with Nazis and other racists, or
spouting his own racist slurs on immigrants and "shithole countries."
Those are things he has deep convictions about. Anti-abortion is just
something he has to play along with because the base expects it.
Why some anti-abortion conservatives think Alabama's abortion law goes
Elizabeth Dias/Sabrina Tavernise/Alan Blinder:
'This is a wave': inside the network of anti-abortion activists winning
across the country.
Why the anti-abortion movement stopped making allowances for rape and
Abortion is morally good:
Were I still Evangelical, and still longed to end abortion, I'd have many
reasons to celebrate. When your enemies pick up your arguments and tolerate
your allies in their midst, you can be relatively confident that you've
achieved the social and political dominance that you've worked toward for
years. Milano and the DCCC have walked directly into a trap that abortion
opponents set for them, and they don't even seem to realize what they've
done. Anything less but the prioritization of women over the pregnancies
they carry cedes ground the left cannot afford to lose.
I'm an anti-abortion Christian. But Alabama's ban will do more harm than
The GOP has its final anti-abortion victory in sight: "Stripping voter
rights. Rigging the Supreme Court. Dull procedural tricks. It's all paying
off at once."
Anna North, who also wrote the three articles linked above:
Renee Bracey Sherman:
Recent abortion bans will impact poor people and people of color most.
Alabama's near-total abortion ban is the ultimate elevation of the "unborn"
The abortion fight and the pretense of precedent.
Most Alabama voters don't support their state's exemption-free abortion
Some scattered links this week:
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
Farmers are losing patience with Trump's trade war.
Trump is making the same US mistake in the Middle East yet again.
Helene Cooper/Edward Wong:
Skeptical US allies resist Trump's new claims of threats from Iran.
Meanwhile, the lame-brains in the Trump administration get carried away:
see Eric Schmitt/Julian E Barnes:
White House reviews military plans against Iran, in echoes of Iraq War.
They're talking about deploying 120,000 troops, which seems like a lot but
is actually the same number they used in 2003 to do such a bang-up job in
Iraq -- a country about one-third the size of Iran (both in area and in
population). For more details, see Fred Kaplan:
War with Iran wouldn't be like Iraq: "It would be worse."
The secret vote that could wipe away consumer rights.
Isabel Debre/Raphael Satter:
Facebook busts Israel-based campaign to disrupt elections.
'I did my best to stop American foreign policy': Bernie Sanders on
Nicholas Fandos/Maggie Haberman:
House panel investigates obstruction claims against Trump lawyers.
David A Farenthold/Jonathan O'Connell:
Trump's prized Doral resort is in steep decline, according to company
documents, showing his business problems are mounting.
Bolton in Wonderland: "The only upside to Bolton's dangerous aggression
toward Iran is that it may put him too far out in front of Trump."
America's long, rich history of pretending systemic racism doesn't
America needs a permanent anti-war movement: "Public apathy toward
relatively small-scale military actions makes war with Iran more likely."
Actually, most cities have anti-war organizations, but they don't get
enough support, especially as we're swamped with domestic crises and
more attention is paid to conventional politics (because Republicans
are so bad more people in their desperation support Democrats).
Elizabeth Warren's new policy rollout targets Pentagon corruption.
Fossil fuels are underpriced by a whopping $5.2 trillion: "We can't
take on climate change without properly pricing coal, oil, and natural
gas. But it's a huge political challenge."
Austrian government collapses over Russia scandal.
Countervailing powers: the forgotten economic idea Democrats need to
rediscover. Klein is right that hardly anyone uses the term these
days, but I grew up with it, and still refer to it often. I'm not sure
where I got the idea, but Klein starts with John Kenneth Galbraith's
1952 book, American Capitalism: The Concept of Countervailing
Power. The idea is to build up multiple sources of power to work
against the abuses that follow from concentrations of wealth and power.
(The maxim I learned alongside this was "power corrupts, and absolute
power corrupts absolutely.") Klein also cites a recent book, Tim Wu's
The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.
Springtime for autocrats: "How Trump just legitimized one of Europe's
most anti-democratic leaders." Hungary's Viktor Orbán visits the White
Venezuela's collapse is the worst outside of war in decades, economists
Mark Landler/Maggie Haberman/Eric Schmitt:
Trump tells Pentagon chief he does not want war with Iran. This
was the story which led Steven Colbert to exclaim, "I hope this doesn't
get taken out of context, but thank God Donald Trump is president."
Before I give Trump any credit on this score, I want to see him fire
John Bolton, and tweet about how Bolton's been subverting his efforts
to get along peacefully with the world. Even then, the fact that he
hired Bolton never boded well.
The House just passed a sweeping LGBTQ rights bill.
Why prescription drugs cost more in America: Video. Also a link to
The true story of America's sky-high prescription drug prices.
William Barr delivers chilling message to FBI for Trump. "If you
come at the king, you best not miss"?
On refugees, the Trump administration is competent and malevolent.
President Trump's new immigration proposal would be terrible for
Trump's social media bias reporting project is a data collection tool
in disguise: "Instead of cracking down on violent extremism, the
government is collecting email addresses."
United States and Venezuela: a historical background.
The fog of ambition: Review of George Packer: Our Man: Richard
Holbrooke and the End of the American Century.
The Trump economy is hurting most Americans. Statistics won't fool voters.
Bezos offers absurd and hypocritical reason for his massive space plan:
He thinks we have to sustain economic growth indefinitely, even beyond the
carrying capacity of Earth, which can only be done by escaping into space.
Which I suppose means he can't imagine post-capitalism, even though there
are dozens of books on the subject, and dozens more on sustainable economies.
Maybe he should drop in on a local book store? His scheme would be deemed
so crackpot he could never get funding from government let alone banks, but
seeing as he's on track to become Earth's first trillionaire, we're tempted
to take him seriously. That is an irony of capitalism: sometimes a blessing,
sometimes a farce.
Brian M Rosenthal:
'They were conned': how reckless loans devastated a generation of taxi
drivers. Or what happens when you allow a secondary market for a
limited number of licenses.
Trump gives up the game he's playing with Congress during Fox News
interview: "Trump admits he's relying on the courts -- not Congress --
to change policy."
Trump's reckless "treason" accusation against the FBI, explained.
Trump pardons billionaire fraudster who wrote glowing book about
him: Conrad Black, "a former media mogul and business partner,"
convicted for fraud and obstruction of justice, author of a 2016 piece
"Trump is the good guy," the pardon citing his "tremendous contributions
to business, as well as to political and historical thought." Also
pardoned at the same time, Patrick Nolan. (See Aaron Blake:
The very political pattern of Trump's pardons.) The latter article
has a number of examples, notably
Dinesh D'Souza, convicted for campaign finance fraud, author of a
number of awful books and films, inventor of the "angry Kenyan" Obama
The liberal embrace of war: "American interventionists learned a lesson
from Iraq: pre-empt the debate. Now everyone is for regime change." He
seems to have jumped the gun here, for while the liberal media heads he
cites (e.g., Rachel Maddow) readily echoed the Bolton line on Venezuela
and Iran, actual Democratic politicians have been less eager to topple
foreign regimes. Jonathan Chait points this out:
Taibbi's 'liberal embrace of war' screed cites zero liberals embracing
war. I'd score that one for Chait, although I don't fault Taibbi's
worries about Democrats enabling Republican warmongering. As for the
"liberal" media, also see: James North:
US mainstream media is contributing to rising risk of war with Iran.
Nor is Chait above concocting his own shady, twisted titles:
Bernie Sanders wants to destroy the best schools poor urban kids have.
He means charter schools, which only succeed (relatively) in places where
public schools have been grossly neglected (partly by politicians moving
funds to charter schools). For more on Sanders' plan, see Dylan Scott:
Bernie Sanders rolls out education plan that cracks down on charter
schools; also Nikhil Goyal:
Bernie's plan to save public schools.
An expert's 7 principles for solving America's housing crisis.
The raging controversy over Ronald Sullivan, Harvey Weinstein, and Harvard,
Bernie Sanders and AOC's plan to crack down on high-interest loans,
explained: They call it the Stop Loan Sharks Act, by capping
interest on things like credit cards at 15% (still sounds high to
Trump's puzzling trade war with China, sort of explained: Useful
survey of Trump's side of the tariff war, credits Trump with more
smarts than the evidence suggests: "Precisely because the trade war
is an inherently lose-lose situation, any possible resolution of it
is a win." But that assumes that the trade war will end some day,
and that everyone will have forgotten about the costs of starting
Joe Biden's surprisingly controversial claim that Trump is an aberration,
explained. Cites some critiques:
There's an interesting chart here showing that
only a quarter of Clinton's ads primarily centered on policy,
"a much lower number than any previous 21st-century campaign."
That slack was made up by attacking Trump personally, trying to
isolate him from the Republican Party, which not only didn't do
Clinton much good, it also didn't help Democrats down ticket.
Compare that to 2018, when Democrats focused on policy issues
(like health care).
Kamala Harris wants public defenders to get paid as much as
The disaster aid fight shows just how unprepared Congress is to deal with
the effects of climate change. As an engineer, one of my core beliefs
is that it's much cheaper and much more effective to prevent faults than
to repair and compensate for disasters. But despite the title, that isn't
the core problem here. (Even if it were, some natural disasters are way
beyond our power to prevent. And while there is no doubt that climate
change increases the number and severity of disasters, there is no quick
and easy solution to that, either.) The immediate problem is that at the
same time we're being hit with more and more disasters, Republicans have
decided they don't want to pay for disaster relief, largely because it
runs counter to their belief that government shouldn't involve itself in
helping people (at least not Puerto Ricans).
Saturday, May 18, 2019
Disconnected red speaker posts at 4:06 PM, then turned amplifier back
Monday, May 13, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31498  rated (+29), 249  unrated (+1).
Weird how these weekly totals keep landing on 29 (6th time so far this
year). Should have been less, given that I drove to the Tulsa area on
Wednesday, returning Friday evening. Took my travel cases for the car,
nothing remotely new in them. Packed the Chromebook, but inadvertently
left it at home. Supposedly I can check email and web on phone, plus
a million apps including Napster, but I've never got the hang of that.
My second cousin down there swears she does everything with Siri, and
I could see how that might be better than trying to type on a clumsy
and error-prone touch screen. As a confirmed Apple-phobe, that isn't
even an option I'd consider, but I gather Samsung has something along
those lines (bixby?). I suppose I should look into that. Meanwhile, I
seem to be the only person I know who can go 3-4 days between charges,
so I take comfort in that.
I wanted to visit my cousin Duan, second son of my mother's oldest
sister, Lola. I hadn't been down there since his older brother, Harold,
passed several years ago, and he's up to 92 now. He's lived in/around
Bristow as long as I can remember -- we went to visit Aunt Lola every
couple months when I was young, and by then Harold and Duan had their
families, my second cousins just a couple years younger than I was, so
we were fairly close. Harold and Duan were drafted into WWII, and Duan
got called back for the Korean War. That seems to have qualified him
for living in the Veterans Center in Claremore, where he moved a few
months ago. Probably a good place for him at this stage, but not one
I'd ever look forward to (not a prospect with my 4F). Can't say as we
had good talks, but was good to see him.
I saw live music twice in Oklahoma, although nothing I can recommend.
The first was a free concert at the Veterans Center, with a c&w
singer who called himself Cowboy, and who toured with a dwarf pony in
tow -- something the vets seemed to appreciate. He mostly played Merle
Haggard songs (and nothing as obvious as "Okie From Muskogee"; more
like "Silver Wings"). One bizarre moment: he had a little girl bring
him up a disguise designed to make him look like Elvis Presley, then
launched into a medley of three r&b songs ("Lawdy Miss Clawdy,"
"See See Rider," don't recall the third), suggesting not only that
even today black music was only acceptable if dressed up as white.
He then played a fourth Elvis song, something late and not black,
and didn't bother with the disguise for that. Blackface has gone out
of fashion, but whiteface still works in Oklahoma. (There were a few
black residents at the Center, but they were a tiny minority, and I
don't recall any at the show.)
Second live music experience was attending a recital at the Coweta
High School of their various band ensembles, starting with 6th grade.
All three of my second-cousin's granddaughters played there, among at
least a hundred others. No strings, but lots of flutes and clarinets --
I counted 12 and 18 in the high school band -- a few saxophones, the
odd oboe or bassoon, a fair amount of brass, and a pretty substantial
investment in percussion (including a featured percussion ensemble).
Best was a pair of Cuban tunes. More typical were the Andrew Lloyd
Weber medleys. Lasted over two hours, which was exhausting for all
(huge crowd, by the way). They made passing reference to also having
a jazz ensemble, but nothing I heard fit that bill.
Given that hole in my week, the only way I got to 29 was by streaming
oldies. I started by looking for Betty Carter's album with Ray Charles.
Napster didn't have it, or for that matter much of anything else after
Charles left Atlantic for ABC. I mostly know his Atlantics through the
1991 Rhino 3-CD box, The Birth of Soul (my grade: A), but since
the individual albums were available, I worked through them, yielding
most of this week's pick hits. That also got me Ray Charles Presents
David 'Fathead' Newman, and I followed that up with a few more of
Newman's records (especially his early HighNotes). I didn't go very
deep there, as I've never found him to be especially remarkable.
After I got back from Oklahoma, I played the new Greg Abate record,
so I took a look at his back catalog. He's a mainstream saxophonist,
more rooted in bebop than swing, and I especially liked his 2014
album Motif, so I was more hopeful there. I skipped a few
things like his samba album, but got a fairly good sense of where
he's come from. Several very nice albums, the best being one with
Alan Barnes. The next logical step would be to see what else I can
find by Barnes. My database lists six of his albums, all Penguin
Guide ***(*)-rated, but I haven't heard any of them yet. Surprised
I've missed him, although I have rated records he shared but I've
filed under other names: Tony Coe, Scott Hamilton, Warren Vaché.
Revisited the latest Coathangers album this week, after
Robert Christgau gave it an A-. As I recall, Michael Tatum also
likes the album. I gave it a B+(***) on one or two plays back in March,
and found that my review didn't need much tweaking. I played his other
pick, Priests' The Seduction of Kansas, after the break, so next
week for it and Camp Cope's How to Socialise & Make Friends --
both good, high B+ records.
New records reviewed this week:
- Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (2019, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(***)
- Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (2018 , Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
- Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (2018 , ILK): [cd]: B+(*)
- Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (2019, self-released): [cd]: B
- Gwilym Simcock: Near and Now (2018 , ACT): [r]: B
- Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima (2018 , BMC): [r]: B+(***)
- The United States Air Force Band: The Jazz Heritage Series: 2019 Radio Broadcasts (2019, self-released, 4CD): [cd]: C-
- Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (2019, Patois): [cd]: B+(*)
- Greg Abate Quartet: Bop City: Live at Birdland (1991, Candid): [r]: B+(***)
- Greg Abate: Straight Ahead (1992 , Candid): [r]: B+(**)
- Greg Abate Quintet: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1995, Candid): [r]: B+(*)
- Greg Abate Quintet: Bop Lives! (1996, Blue Chip JAzz): [r]: B+(**)
- Greg Abate: Evolution (2002, 1201 Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Greg Abate/Alan Barnes: Birds of a Feather (2007 , Woodville): [r]: A-
- Ray Charles: Ray Charles (1953-56 , Atlantic): [r]: A
- Ray Charles: The Great Ray Charles (1956 , Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
- Ray Charles: The Genius After Hours (1956-57 , Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
- Ray Charles: Yes Indeed! (1952-58 , Atlantic): [r]: A-
- Ray Charles: What'd I Say (1952-59 , Atlantic): [r]: A
- Ray Charles: The Genius of Ray Charles (1959, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
- Ray Charles: Ray Charles in Person (1959 , Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
- Ray Charles: Ray Charles Live (1958-59 , Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
- Ray Charles: The Genius Sings the Blues (1952-60 , Atlantic): [r]: B+(***)
- David "Fathead" Newman: Fathead: Ray Charles Presents David 'Fathead' Newman (1958 , Atlantic): [r]: B+(*)
- David Newman: Fire! At the Village Vanguard (1988 , Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
- David "Fathead" Newman: Chillin' (1998 , HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
- David "Fathead" Newman: Keep the Spirits Singing (2000 , HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
- David "Fathead" Newman: The Gift (2002 , HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
- David "Fathead" Newman: Song for the New Man (2004, HighNote): [r]: B+(***)
Grade (or other) changes:
- The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: [was B+(***)] A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Groove Machine (OA2): May 17
- Fred Hersch & the WDR Big Band: Begin Again (Palmetto): June 7
- The Pete McGuinness Jazz Orchestra: Along for the Ride (Summit): June 7
- Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: As We See It . . . (Clean Feed)
- Marcus Shelby Orchestra: Transitions (MSO): June 7
- Rodney Whitaker: Common Ground: The Music of Gregg Hill (Origin): May 17
Sunday, May 12, 2019
I spent much of the week in Oklahoma, visiting my 92-year-old cousin,
his two daughters, and various other family. I packed my Chromebook, then
forgot it, so went a few days without my usual news sources -- not that
anything much changed while I was away. Trying to catch up here, including
a few links that seem possibly useful for future reference.
Looks pretty obvious from my "recent reading" sidebar that I'm in
a gloomy mood about the viability of democracy in this nation. The
odd book out is subtitled "On the Writing Process" -- thought that
might inspire me to write about it, and it has made me a bit more
self-conscious in my writing. The one I recommend most is Jason
Stanley's How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.
I lumped it into a list in my recent
Book Reports, but it's well thought out and clear, with a fair
smattering of historical examples but more focused on here and now:
things you will recognize. I rather wish there was a more generic
word than "fascism": one with less specific historical baggage,
one that can be used in general discourse without tripping off
unnecessary alarms. On the other hand, as a leftist, I've always
had a keen nose for generic fascism, so the word suits my purposes
just fine. I have, in fact, been using it since the 1970s, which
is one reason the modern American conservative movement always
seems to coherent and predictable.
Some scattered links this week:
More US pressure on North Korea is not the path to denuclearization.
Matt Apuzzo/Adam Satariano:
Russia is targeting Europe's elections. So are far-right copycats.
I don't doubt Russia's capacity for spreading cyber-havoc, but isn't
it more likely that Russia is the copycat, echoing and amplifying the
Andrew J Bacevich:
Why did we fight the Iraq War? Review of Michael J Mazarr's book,
Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America's Greatest Foreign
Trump is a bad businessman. Is he a tax cheat, too?
Once again, the US embarrasses itself on climate change.
It will be very hot and very wet -- we've exceeded 415ppm of carbon
dioxide for the first time since the pliocene.
The Complete Mercenary: "How Erik Prince used the rise of Trump to
make an improbable comeback."
US fossil fuel subsidies exceed Pentagon spending: "according to
a new report from the International Monetary Fund."
Revenge of the coastal elites: "How California, Oregon and Washington
are winning the fight against Trump's hateful policies."
Neil Eggleston/Joshua A Geitzer:
The court handling Trump's lawsuit must move at breakneck speed: "The
president deserves his day in court. But the American people deserve that
day to come quickly."
A farewell to arms control? "With Trump and Bolton at the helm, the
international arms control regime is effectively dead."
What's behind Bolton's attacks on the 'troika of tyranny'? "Bolton's
broadsides against Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela hint at ambitions for
much more dangerous geopolitical conflict -- and nothing short of a new
Cold War." You might think this impossible with the Soviet Union gone,
and Russia more focused on promoting right-wing extremism, but the real
enemy the US faced in the Cold War was always the workers and peasants
oppressed by capitalists and their oligarchic allies, and that's an
"enemy" that still exists.
Niall Ferguson/Eyck Freymann:
The coming generation war: "The Democrats are rapidly becoming the
party of the young -- and the consequences could be profound." There
are few scholars I hold in lower regard than Ferguson, but there are
enough charts and numbers here to let you think. I still think that
class matters more than age, probably other demographic factors as
well, but I wouldn't be surprised that age skews as advertised in all
categories. Maybe you could object that class rises with age -- as
successful people accumulate wealth, the poor die off younger -- but
the rich are such a slim slice of the population even a big skew is
unlikely to amount to much.
O billionaires!: Review of Michael R Bloomberg: Bloomberg by
Bloomberg and Howard Schultz/Joanne Gordon: From the Ground Up:
A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America. One thing about
these political wannabes: they'll never be accused of being traitors
to their class.
Putin and Trump's ominous nostalgia for the Second World War.
The roots of Trumpian agitprop.
Bernie Sanders's political revolution on foreign policy, explained.
Related: Zack Beauchamp:
What should a left foreign policy look like? An Elizabeth Warren adviser
offers his vision. An interview with Ganesh Sitaraman, whose
The emergence of progressive foreign policy. I still find parts of
this disturbing, like the insistence on maintaining military alliances
like NATO, as opposed to negotiating demilitarization and de-escalating
conflicts through more even-handed institutions like the United Nations.
Also, the shift in focus needs to be clearer: for a long time US foreign
policy has mostly been dictated by the needs of multinational corporations,
with little if any concern for economic justice, either for the majority
of Americans or for people around the world.
The Democratic counterrevolution has a self-appointed leader: Josh
Has Trump actually done anything about drug prices?
William Hartung/Mandy Smithberger:
A dollar-by-dollar tour of the national security state: How a "base
budget" of $554.1 billion adds up to $1.2542 trillion.
Creeping toward tyranny: I haven't read Hedges for a few years
now, so it hadn't quite sunk in how his principled hypersensitivity
has decayed into an all-consuming pessimism (of the intellect, but
also of the will):
Capitalists, throughout history, have backed fascism to thwart even
the most tepid forms of socialism. All the pieces are in place. The
hollowing out of our democratic institutions, which cannot be blamed
on Trump, makes tyranny inevitable.
Bad timing to exempt Trump from any blame right now, as his defiance
of Congressional subpoenas, his rejection (veto) of resolutions ending
his border "state of emergency" and Yemen War support, and his unilateral
sabre rattling over Venezuela and Iran are unprecedented. Still, he's
right that the signs anticipated and enabled Trump. Indeed, we're likely
to look back on his Bush-era books and accord him the honor of being our
first major "premature anti-fascist" (as Americans who fought against the
Fascists in Spain were labelled after the US declared war on Germany and
Italy). The only real problem with his 2007 American Fascists: The
Christian Right and the War on America was in focusing on gullible
Christians rather than their secular manipulators. The last book I read
by him was The Death of the Liberal Class (2010), which anticipated
Thomas Frank's Listen, Liberal (2016), his broadside on mainstream
Democrats. But when I checked out Hedges' latest book, America: The
Farewell Tour, I couldn't get into it. I'm past needing to learn how
bad it can get.
Right-wing Israeli author writes "The Virtue of Nationalism" -- and
accidentally exposes its pitfalls: On Yoram Hazony. Pull quote:
"Alongside Israel, there are two other countries Hazony claims have
been similarly victimized by the shaming campaigns of liberals and
globalists: apartheid South Africa and Serbia under the dictatorship
of Slobodan Milosevic."
Juan Guaidó makes open plea for US military coordination in Venezuela.
Trump has a new solution for poverty: pretend poor people don't exist:
"A proposal to redefine 'poverty' would throw potentially millions of
low-income people out of government-assistance programs."
E Tammy Kim:
Do corporations like Amazon and Foxconn need public assistance?
US-China trade talks end with no deal -- and more tariffs.
Trump to Congress: pass legislation to end surprise medical bills:
"The president has a good idea on health care -- and one that could actually
Climate change and the new age of extinction: Until now, or maybe
I just mean recently, this hasn't had much to do with climate.
To keep nearly eight billion people fed, not to mention housed, clothed,
and hooked on YouTube, humans have transformed most of the earth's surface.
Seventy-five per cent of the land is "significantly altered," the I.P.B.E.S.
noted in a summary of its report, which was released last week in Paris.
In addition, "66 per cent of the ocean area is experiencing increasing
cumulative impacts, and over 85 per cent of wetlands (area) has been lost."
Approximately half the world's coral cover is gone. In the past ten years
alone, at least seventy-five million acres of "primary or recovering forest"
have been destroyed.
Habitat destruction and overfishing are, for now, the main causes of
biodiversity declines, according to the I.P.B.E.S., but climate change is
emerging as a "direct driver" and is "increasingly exacerbating the impact
of other drivers." Its effects, the report notes, "are accelerating."
Watson wrote last week, in the Guardian, that "we cannot solve
the threats of human-induced climate change and loss of biodiversity in
isolation. We either solve both or we solve neither."
Related: Brad Plumer:
Humans are speeding extinction and altering the natural world at an
'unprecedented' pace. Also: Robert Watson:
Loss of biodiversity is just as catastrophic as climate change;
Human society under urgent threat from loss of Earth's natural life;
What is biodiversity and why does it matter to us?.
Want to expand Medicare? Then answer the $5 trillion questions.
"If you think the fight with insurance companies is tough, just wait
until single-payer advocates have to go head-to-head with doctors."
Admits that switching to "Medicare for All" could save overall health
care costs ($2.1 trillion is the number given), but that assumes cost
cuts, only 20% of which come from eliminating the insurance companies,
with 70% expected to come from paying doctors and hospitals less. I
don't see much of a problem here, although as usual the devil is in
the details. Big chunks of that 70% can be recovered without hitting
the wages of doctors, nurses, and other essential personnel. I also
see reason to cap top earners, but that's something that should be
done not just with doctors and administrators -- inequality is a
problem everywhere. On the other hand, why not just focus on easy
wins like cutting the private insurance companies out?
Beto's long history of failing upward: I've tended to resist citing
links on candidates, but this one is fairly deep. O'Rourke is one I don't
have much enthusiasm for, but while this is sharply critical, it doesn't
really lower my estimation of him.
A reporter's long, strange trip into the darkest parts of the American
mind: Review of Anna Merlan's new book, Republic of Lies: American
Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power. With a
picture of Alex Jones.
Trump, the billion-dollar loser -- I was his ghostwriter and saw it
Who owns South Africa?: "A fiercely debated program of land reform could
address racial injustice -- or cause chaos."
Are we in a constitutional crisis? "This is how democracy ends: not with
a bang, but with a long and technical debate over whether we're using the
65 years after Brown v Board of Education, school segregation is getting
North Dakota quietly decriminalized marijuana.
Is noise pollution the next big public-health crisis? Owen has a
book coming out this fall: Volume Control: Hearing in a Deafening
Bolton is spinning Israeli 'intelligence' to push for war against Iran.
Related: Sharmini Peries:
The Trump Administration is manufacturing an Iran crisis.
- Alex Ward:
Over 4 months after Mattis quit, Trump picks Patrick Shanahan as defense
James Reston Jr.:
Trump's other impeachable offense: "As Nixon learned, Congress will not
abide a president who defies its subpoenas."
Are we watching John Bolton's last stand? "Is John Bolton about to
get the Iran war he's always wanted, or is he on the verge of losing his
job?" I don't credit Trump with much insight or diligence on foreign
policy, but even so he must suspect that Bolton was a remarkably poor
pick as National Security Adviser. In particular, Bolton has his own
agenda, and has no scruples about contravening and undermining Trump's
own stated objectives. So it would make a lot of sense for Trump to
fire Bolton (and Pompeo, who is an only slightly less egregious hawk,
as well). Indeed, if I thought I'd get into the president's ear, I'd
write an op-ed taunting Trump to do just that, justifying it as key
to his 2020 re-election prospects. I'm still convinced that a major
reason Trump beat Clinton in 2016 was her "commander-in-chief test,"
where she came off as the more dangerous hawk. Hiring Bolton undoes
much of Trump's edge there, even if he doesn't trick Trump into much
Eric Hobsbawm, the communist who explained history: Review of Richard
Evans' biography, Eric Hobsbawm: A Life in History, referring back
to Hobsbawm's own memoir, Interesting Times, and various of his
books like The Age of Extremes (on the 20th century).
A new brain study shows a better way to engage voters on climate change:
Call it "climate crisis."
Trump turns shooting migrants into a punchline at Florida rally.
Unconscious bias is running for president: "On Elizabeth Warren and the
false problem of "likeability." Recommended by a Facebook friend, this is
a bit more than half right, but suffers from an as-yet-unnamed form of
specious argument related to the "mansplaining" that Solnit has written
extensively about. I don't doubt that the prejudices she decries are real,
but the "privileges" she seeks to overthrow have never struck me as worth
much. On the other hand, note that Warren's response to these prejudices
hasn't been to whine about them. She's talking to the so-called privileged,
and seems to be winning them over: Alex Thompson:
Trump backers applaud Warren in heart of MAGA country.
Trump lost $1 billion over 10 years, New York Times report shows:
"So much for Trump's brand as a savvy, self-made business leader."
On the trail with Bernie Sanders 2.0.
Time's up for capitalism. But what comes next? "Every day, we help
decide how the future will unfold. But how do we cast ballots for a
democracy that doesn't yet exist?" Adapted from her forthcoming book,
Democracy May Not Exist but We'll Miss It When It's Gone. I've
long meant to read her previous book, The People's Platform: Taking
Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age (2014), recommended by
Let's hit the pause button on more space for prosecutors: op-ed on
prison overcrowding here in Wichita.
The constitutional system is not build to resist Trump's defiance of
Trump's Iran policy is making war more likely.
Trump would have been charged with obstruction were he not president,
hundreds of former federal prosecutors assert.
I don't have much to say about Game of Thrones, but I was struck
by this ratiocination by
"But it's one thing for Daenerys to act like Bush, and another for her
to act like Hitler." He's talking about the indiscriminate fire-bombing
of cities full of innocent civilians, but while Bush criminally started
wars, lied about his reasoning, rounded up and tortured supposed enemies,
disrupted the lives of millions doing irreparable harm, just to show the
world that it's more important to fear his "shock and awe" than to respect
his self-proclaimed beneficence, and while Hitler did those same things
on an even more epic scale, the most comparable historical example of a
leader laying waste to entire cities was Harry Truman -- who we generally
recall as an exceptionally decent and modest president.
You can say that war does that, even to otherwise decent people. You
can say that Hitler and Bush were worse than Truman because they started
wars whereas Truman was simply trying to end one he had inherited. (This
is not the place to get into how he escalated the Cold War and the Korean
War, which in many ways I find more troubling than his "final solution"
to WWII.) You can say that Hitler was worse than Bush because his desire
for war was more deeply rooted in the uncritical imperialism and racism
of the era, which made him even more vindictive and bloodthirsty. But
I'd also note that Truman was not above the prejudices of Hitler's era,
and that Bush (while less racist than Truman let alone Hitler) was, like
all conservatives ever, fully committed to traditional hierarchies of
wealth and power, which made it easy for him to run roughshod over all
I have no idea where Daenerys fits among this trio, as she is a
fictional character in an imaginary world. Even if she reflects the
world of her creators, she does so haphazardly and inconsistently.
Monday, May 06, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31469  rated (+29), 248  unrated (-7).
Had a low energy period after posting
April Streamnotes last
Monday, so I'm not surprised that the rated count dropped. If anything,
I'm surprised it's as high as it is, but that was mostly from streaming
back catalog of artists recently reviewed.
I speculated last week that Walt Weiskopf's Worldwide is his
best yet, but I had missed most of his 1990s albums, so I had to hedge.
There are still a couple things I haven't heard, but nothing old came
close to the new one -- best of the albums below is probably Siren
(1999). When I gave Betty Carter's The Music Never Stops an A-
a few weeks back, I noted lots of holes in my database. Scratching my
head for something to listen to, I remembered that, and plugged a few
of them (while being unable to find others). The new Teodross Avery
album also sent me back. No great finds from any of those excursions.
I also tried looking up the album Carter and Ray Charles did together
in 1961, but couldn't find it. I noticed then I had an unrated Charles
record, and wondered whether I could build a playlist to duplicate it
(as opposed to having to dig up my physical copy). Turns out there's
damn few of Charles' ABC records on Napster, but I still got 17/20
songs from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, while
the other three were easy to find on YouTube. Not quite an equivalent
listening experience, but close enough, I figured (especially given
that I recalled hearing nearly everything). I'll do a few more Ray
Charles albums next week, starting with the early Atlantics.
On the other hand, this week's two new A- records are ones I hadn't
read a thing about before they showed up. After months of second guessing
other folks' picks, I feel like I've done my job.
I'll be posting a new
(link always points to the latest Q&A).
New records reviewed this week:
- Teodross Avery: After the Rain: A Night for Coltrane (2019, Tompkins Square): [bc]: B+(***)
- The Campfire Flies: Sparks Like Litle Stars (2019, OverPop Music): [cd]: A-
- Mark Dresser Seven: Ain't Nothing but a Cyber Coup & You (2018 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
- Satoko Fujii: Solo Piano: Stone (2018 , Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
- The Invisible Party: Shumankind (2017 , Chant): [cd]: A-
- Jon Lipscomb Quartet: Fodder (2016 , self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (2018 , Edgetone): [cd]: B+(***)
- The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (2019, RichHeart Music): [cd]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Kinloch Nelson: Partly on Time: Recordings 1968-1970 (1968-70 , Tompkins Square): [bc]: B+(*)
- The Teodross Avery Quartet: In Other Words (1994, GRP): [r]: B+(**)
- Teodross Avery & the 5th Power: New Day, New Groove (1998 , 5th Power): [r]: B+(*)
- Teodross Avery: Bridging the Gap: Hop-Hop Jazz (2008, BTG Music): [r]: B-
- Betty Carter/Ray Bryant: Meet Betty Carter and Ray Bryant (1955-56 , Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
- Betty Carter: The Modern Sound of Betty Carter (1960, ABC): [r]: B+(*)
- Betty Carter: Inside Betty Carter (1964-65 , Capitol Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
- Betty Carter: Finally, Betty Carter (1969 , Roulette): [r]: B+(*)
- Betty Carter: At the Village Vanguard (1970 , Verve): [r]: B+(**)
- Betty Carter: The Betty Carter Album (1976 , Verve): [r]: B
- Ray Charles: Greatest Country and Western Hits (1962-66 , DCC): [r]: A-
- Jon Lipscomb: Solo Guitar Improvisations Vol. 1 (2016, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
- Walt Weiskopf: Night Lights (1995, Double Time): [r]: B+(**)
- Walt Weiskopf: Song for My Mother (1995 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
- Walt Weiskopf: Sleepless Nights (1996 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
- Walt Weiskopf: Anytown (1998, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(**)
- Walt Weiskopf: Siren (1999, Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
- Walt Weiskopf: Man of Many Colors (2001 , Criss Cross): [r]: B+(***)
- Walt Weiskopf: Open Road (2014 , Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(***)
- Walt Weiskopf: Fountain of Youth (2016 , Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Yoko Miwa Trio: Keep Talkin' (Ocean Blue Tear Music)
Sunday, May 05, 2019
No time to work on this, as I spent Sunday trying to break in a new
Mexican cookbook. Much of Saturday too, and more of Friday -- not that
I had even started then. The one story that dominated the interest of
the liberal media was Attorney General William Barr's Senate testimony
and his failure to appear before the House. I was tempted to tweet when
I looked at
Talking Points Memo and
they had devoted their entire front page to Barr (aside from one bit
on the implosion of Stephen Moore's Fed nomination).
Actually, this should have been a banner week for the media to pick
apart Trump's increasingly manic and deranged foreign policy. The US
hasn't been taken such a nakedly imperial stance toward Latin America
since FDR traded in his cousin's penchant for Gunboat Diplomacy for
the sunny promise of a Good Neighbor Policy. I didn't link to anything
below on Trump's phone call to Putin, mostly because no one seems to
know enough about it to write intelligently. But there were also fairly
major stories that could have been reported about Korea, China, Iran,
Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, and Israel/Palestine (where Netanyahu celebrated
his election victory by launching the heaviest assault on Gaza since
Some scattered links this week:
Alexia Fernández Campbell:
Jason Del Ray:
The making of Amazon Prime, the internet's most successful and devastating
Venezuela's Guaido 'consering asking US to invade. That'll really
convince the Venezuelan people he has their best interests at heart.
Trump wants to block Deutsche Bank from sharing his financial records.
Matt Gertz/Rob Savillo:
Major media outlets' Twitter accounts amplify false Trump claims on average
19 times a day.
Under Trump, the language we use to create political reality is
One of the most frightening things I've witnessed in recent months was
a very polite conversation in a well-lit room in the Ronald Reagan
Building, in Washington, D.C., on Monday. The director of policy
planning at the State Department, Kiron Skinner, was interviewed
onstage by a woman who used to hold her job: Anne-Marie Slaughter,
who is now the head of the New America Foundation (where I am a
fellow this year). . . .
I have heard talk like this before, in Russia. A government official
once told me that he "carried out emanations": not policies, laws, or
even orders but signals akin to what Skinner called "hunches and
instincts." It's what officials do in countries that are led by a
combination of ignorance and corruption.
David A Graham:
Why Stephen Moore's Fed bid failed.
Bill McKibben has been sounding the climate alarm for decades. Here's his
best advice. Interview with McKibben, whose new book is Falter:
Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?.
All of the impeachable offenses: "Focusing on the Mueller report
alone risks leaving out the obvious.
Trump has nominated Kelly Craft to be the next UN ambassador. Here's who
Trump's abortion lies are going to get somebody killed.
Tennessee passed a law that could make it harder to register voters.
Once again, 'NYT' distorts the news, dishonestly making Gazans the
aggressor and Israel the victim.
John Kelly joines board of company that detains migrant children.
Joshua Partlow/David A Fahrenthold:
At Trump golf course, undocumented employees said they were sometimes told
to work extra hours without pay.
Susan E Rice:
The real Trump foreign policy: stoking the GOP base: "Why else would
he pursue so many policies in Latin America that do not serve the national
interest?" What about the economic interests of his donors? Or their more
general hatred of popular rule (aka democracy)?
Charlie Savage/Eric Schmitt/Maggie Haberman:
Trump pushes to designate Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. Paul
Woodward, in linking to this, also linked to a background piece from Jan.
27, 2017: William McCants/Benjamin Wittes:
Should the Muslim Brotherhood be designated a terrorist organization?
The dangerous ideas of Bill Barr: "The attorney general's theory of
executive power places presidents above the law."
The left needs to stop crushing on the generals. I'd respond that the
left I know doesn't, but when you write for American Conservative
your perspective might be distorted enough to include some "leftists" I
For the record, tonight's Cinco de Mayo menu, nearly all from The
Best Mexican Recipes (America's Test Kitchen):
- Chicken adobo
- Braised short ribs with peppers and onion
- Cheese enchiladas
- Classic Mexican rice
- Skillet street corn
- Restaurant-style black beans
- Shrimp and lime ceviche
- Mango, jicama, and orange salad
- Cherry tomato and avocado salad
- Key lime pie
- Duce de leche cheesecake
I generally cut the hot peppers back by 50%. I made the beef and the
desserts the night before. Started around noon, aiming at 6pm dinner,
but it wound up closer to 7pm, putting a couple guests to work. Used a
gluten-free shell for the key lime pie, but made cheesecake crust from
scratch, using a box of caramel and sea salt cookies plus some graham
crackers. Used store-bought yellow corn tortillas, which were the weak
link in the enchiladas (otherwise pretty great). Ten people, so the
table was pretty crowded. Kitchen was a colossal mess, but got it
straightened out by bedtime.
I've never been a big fan of Mexican food, but figured I should give
it a try, especially given access to specialty grocers here. But when
I bought my first Mexican cookbook, I found it impenetrable. This one
is intentionally simplified, which helped get me started. This cookbook
didn't have any desserts, so I scrounged around the web, not finding
much that interested me. (I've made flan and rice pudding many times
before, but didn't want to do them here. And while I'm partial to cake,
tres leches isn't a favorite.) On the other hand, lime figures large
in the meal, and I had the pie shell on the shelf. The cheesecake was
a second thought, and turned out to be a nice complement.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Replied to a twitter thread. It seems to have started with Dave
Weigel, who wrote:
To understand Bidenmentum, you've got to have some of the conversations
I had yesterday: Middle-aged women explaining that 2016 showed that
voters won't elect a female president, so they've got to be strategic.
Kathleen Geier wrote:
This is so depressing. Countries like Argentina, Chile, Liberia, and
Taiwan have elected women presidents. Are those countries less sexist
than the US? Just because Hillary Clinton was a weak candidate who
ran a lousy campaign doesn't mean another woman can't win.
Only reason I can think of why significant numbers of voters reject
any woman candidate is that the US has been on a constant war footing
since 1948, and that's seeped deep into our pores; ironically,
overcompensating hawks like H Clinton scare more voters than they
Wrote this up as a proposal for Mike and Ram:
Been kicking around various ideas, and thought this one might be
worth sharing. I've spent a lot of time thinking about a political
book, built around the idea that US history breaks neatly into four
eras: 1800-1860, 1860-1932, 1932-1980, and 1980-2020. Each begins with
a legendary president (Jefferson, Lincoln, FD Roosevelt, Reagan) and
ends with a tragically inept one-termer (Buchanan, Hoover, Carter, and
Trump). (In this regard, one could also cite 1788-1800,
Washington-to-Adams, but that doesn't seem quite long enough to
count. Each era was dominated by a single political party, although
each had two minor breaks for presidents from the other party -- in
three cases two for two terms each (Cleveland and Wilson, Eisenhower
and Nixon, Clinton and Obama); in the 1800-1860 period the Whig party
managed to win two elections with former generals (Harrison and
Taylor), but they both died in office and were succeeded by
exceptionally unpopular VPs (Tyler and Fillmore). Within each era, not
only was one party dominant, but the other party tended to mimic the
dominant party: most obviously, how Eisenhower and Nixon supported and
extended New Deal reforms, while Clinton and Obama willingly gave
ground to the pro-market, small-government Republican agenda. (The
earlier eras are more mixed, partly because the dominant party was
itself evolving. Cleveland, for instance, was more conservative than
the most pro-business Republican of his day, while Wilson was
relatively progressive, admittedly with certain blinders, most
The Reagan-to-Trump era differs from the others in several
respects. The first three eras started with major shifts to the left:
the spread of democracy under Jefferson and Jackson; the end of
slavery with Lincoln; Roosevelt's New Deal. Reagan led a backlash,
aimed at making Americans less equal, at reducing democracy, and at
limiting the rights of most Americans. Although Republicans captured
the levers of power and dominated the public agenda, their program was
never very popular, their winning margins (aside from Reagan's two
elections) slim (twice, at least by actual votes, negative). The eras
subdivide, this one breaking down into three waves as presidential
power (Reagan, Bush, Trump) did their damage, separated by breaks
which allowed the economy to recover (from the first Bush recession of
1992 and the much larger Bush recession of 2008), and the Republicans
to recharge (taking control of Congress in 1994 and 2010, kneecapping
the Democrats from making changes).
My original idea was to start with this framework, then expand on
how Democrats should view 2020 as an epochal, era-ending election, an
opportunity not just to reverse the Reagan-to-Trump tide but to build
a new paradigm for decades to come. A lot of good things fall out of
that perspective. I'm thinking now that I should dial back the
ambition from book to essay length, crank out the essay, try to get it
published somewhere respectable, and see if there's any further
demand. But along the way, I thought of how either of you might help,
then came up with something slightly different. That is to look at the
Reagan-to-Trump era reactionary movement in the broader context of
fascist movements around the world. Also, to lessen my load, and give
this a better chance of actually happening, I propose that you two do
it as a graphic book (Mike writing, Ram illustrating). Maybe I can
contribute some rough ideas, a website, some online notes, like
The immediate trigger for the thought was reading Benjamin Carter
Hett's "The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the
Downfall of the Weimar Republic." Some descriptions of Hitler can
easily be recast for Trump. Some cannot, but the essential point is
that both are public faces of crazed mass movements which were handed
power by arch-conservative power brokers (the Kochs and Mercers as
much as Hindenburg and his business backers), in both cases
understanding that their privileges can only be sustained if they can
hide behind a political movement preoccupied with hating others. It's
taken some countries much longer to mount a successful fascist
movement than others. Germany in the 1920s could look back on its
humiliating defeat in the Great War and rail against both internal
traitors and the insults of reparations, while imagining that the
extraordinary will of someone like Hitler could triumph, restoring
Germany's greatness among nations. Fascists could build on lesser
grounds, as Mussolini did in Italy. Even in England and France, small
groups felt cheated and spawned lesser fascist movements.
It was even harder to get a fascist movement started in the US, but
in the 1930s there was a clique of conservatives who harbored the
fantasy, and they started to build as the Cold War lent their
anti-union politics an air of respectability. As Robert Paxton argues
in "The Anatomy of Fascism," fascists start out as the public face of
oligarchic powers frustrated by having to deal with democracy. That
turns out to be a pretty apt description of Trump. And it's worth
noting that GW Bush made his own fortune working as the front man for
the oil magnates who owned the Texas Rangers. Also that as Reagan's
acting career washed up, he made his living as a shill for General
Electric (see Kim Phillips-Fein's "Invisible Hands" for more on GE's
hardcore opposition to FDR's New Deal). The difference between Hitler
and America's leading fascists is that Hitler moved beyond being a
front, seizing power and pursuing his own delusions, driving Germany
to utter ruin, whereas the damage wrought by the American troika have
yet to rebound against their masters.
Thinking along these lines, I was reminded of Marx's quip about
Napoleon III in 1848: "history repeats itself, first as tragedy and
then as farce." That seems about right for contrasting Trump to Hitler
and Mussolini, although one might not want to tempt fate given that
the full bill for electing Trump has yet to be paid. Also one doesn't
want to make light of the many terrible things that Trump as already
done. Still, I see no reason why we can't present him as a buffoon as
well as vile. Indeed, that's likely to be where the graphic form is
most effective. Nor should we refrain from treating Hitler and
Mussolini as farcical characters. Maybe if people had realized then
how ridiculous they were, they might have been stopped before they
could devastate so much of the world. Stopping Trump is still an
Monday, April 29, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31440  rated (+40), 255  unrated (-1).
Last Monday of the month, so time to unveil
April Streamnotes, including
this week's subset below. Five Mondays this month, so the totals are up
handsomely from the two previous four-Monday months. Weekly rated count
is up a bit, but that's partly because I found five records I failed to
record grades for recently. Some of those bookkeeping errors probably
caused me to log 29-album weeks (four so far this year) instead of 30,
long my standard for a productive week.
Worth noting that all three of this week's new non-jazz A-list albums
here also placed high on
Phil Overeem's latest list (numbers 4, 6, and 20). For what little
it's worth, I wrote those before seeing Overeem's list, but not before
Dan Weiss praised them on Facebook (although I think I first heard of
Billie Eilish from
Those tips help make up for the frustration of declining awareness
I've been feeling. Although I still keep a
music tracking file, I've stopped
making any systematic effort to find and list prospects, leaving me
with little concept of what to search out next. As a result, I veer
off on arbitrary tangents, as when I found a piece called
A Guide to Drexciya's Futuristic Electro. I really liked Drexciya's
Journey of the Deep Sea
Dweller, Vol. I back in 2012, so that seemed worth pursuing.
But it certainly fell far short of a plan.
Finally, a link that makes more sense to list here than in yesterday's
Rachel Syme: Vince Aletti's Obsessive Collection of Seminal Fashion
Magazinse. Vince was one of the first people I met when I moved
to New York City in 1977, so it's good to see him again, even older,
as we all are.
New records reviewed this week:
- Kevin Abstract: Arizona Baby (2019, Question Everything/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
- Juan Álamo & Marimjazzia: Ruta Panoramica (2016 , Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
- Anderson .Paak: Ventura (2019, Aftermath/12 Tone Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (2015-16 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Seamus Blake: Guardians of the Heart Machine (2017 , Whirlwind): [r]: B+(***)
- Club D'Elf: Night Sparkles (Live) (2011 , Face Pelt): [r]: B+(***)
- Control Top: Covert Contracts (2019, Get Better): [r]: A-
- Cooper Moore/Stephen Gauci: Studio Sessions Vol. 1 (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ronnie Cuber: Straight Street (2010 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
- Billy Eilish: When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019, Darkroom/Interscope): [r]: A-
- Anat Fort Trio: Colour (2019, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(**)
- Four: There You Go Thinking Again (2018 , Jazz Hang): [cd]: B
- Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Epistrophy (2016 , ECM): [r]: B+(*)
- Stephen Gauci/Sandy Ewan/Adam Lane/Kevin Shea: Live at the Bushwick Series (2019, Gaucimusic): [bc]: B+(*)
- Lizzo: Cuz I Love You (2019, Nice Life/Atlantic): [r]: A-
- Lisa Maxwell's Jazz Orchestra: Shiny! (2018 , Uncle Marvin Music): [cd]: B+(*)
- Bennett Paster: Indivisible (2018 , self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Andrew Rathbun: Character Study (2017 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
- Eric Reed: Everybody Gets the Blues (2019, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
- Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (2019, Birdwatcher): [r]: B+(***)
- Dave Scott: In Search of Hipness (2018 , SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
- Swindle: No More Normal (2019, Brownswood): [r]: B-
- Trapper Keaper: Meets Tim Berne & Aurora Nealand (2019, Ears & Eyes/Caligola): [cd]: B+(***)
- Cory Weeds Quintet: Live at Frankie's Jazz Club (2019, Cellar Live): [r]: B+(*)
- Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (2019, Orenda): [cd]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume One (1967 , Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
- Afro-Blue Persuasion: Live at Haight Levels: Volume Two (1967 , Tramp): [r]: B+(**)
- Elecktrokids: Elektroworld (1995 , Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: B+(**)
- Mark Turner/Gary Foster: Mark Turner Meets Gary Foster (2003 , Capri, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- Bill Cunliffe/Gary Foster: It's About Love (2003, Torii): [r]: B+(***)
- Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller III (1992-97 , Clone Classic Cuts): [bc]: A-
- Drexciya: Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller IV (1992-97 , Clone Classic Cubs): [bc]: B+(***)
- Drexciya: Neptune's Lair (1999, Tresor): [r]: B+(***)
- Drexciya: Grava 4 (2002, Clone): [r]: B+(**)
- Billie Eilish: Don't Smile at Me (2017, Darkroom/Interscope, EP): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Greg Abate with the Tim Ray Trio: Gratitude: Stage Door Live @ The Z (Whaling City Sound)
- Brittany Anjou: Enamigo Reciprokataj (Origin)
- Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Combo: Chez Nous (Summit): June 7
- Satoko Fujii: Stone (Libra): June 7
- The Invisible Party: Shumankind (Chant -18)
- Peter Jensen & DR Big Band: Stand on Your Feet and Fight: Voices of the Danish West Indies (ILK)
- Ellynne Rey: The Birdsong Project (self-released): May 1
- Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Side Three: New Work (Edgetone)
- The Richard Shulman Trio: Waltzing out of Town (RichHeart Music): May 11
- Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: The Rhythm of Invention (Patois): June 7
- Walt Weiskopf European Quartet: Worldwide (Orenda): May 3
- Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (2018 , Atlantic) [A-]
- Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless) [A-]
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Started early and still running late. Having recently read Benjamin
Carter Hett's The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and
the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, I woke up this morning with
the idea of writing something about Trump, Republicans, and Fascism
for today's introduction. Never got close to that. Hett's book is
pretty straight history, but you can find a page here or there where
you could easily gloss in Trump's name for Hitler's. Then you move
onto other pages where Trump fails any comparison, usually by being
too dumb or too lazy. There are also big differences between the
Nazis and the Republicans, although differences on race, foreigners,
unions, and military muscle are insignificant. The biggest one is
that the Nazis actually had their own goon squad that could go out
and physically attack their suspected enemies, whereas Republicans
only wish they could do that. Still, the key point about Germany in
1932 was supposedly sober conservatives were so desperate to squash
the left -- indeed, any trace of popular government, of democracy --
that they were willing to hand power over to a psycho like Hitler
and his vicious gang of followers. Republicans seem happy to do the
same thing here in America, for the same reasons, and with the same
obliviousness to consequences.
I should note somewhere that former Senator
Richard Lugar (R-IN)
died last week. Back in the 1980s he was the model of how a Republican
politician could straddle moderate urban politics (he was mayor of
Indianapolis) and the Reagan reaction, which for a time helped make
the latter seem more innocuous and palatable. He was finally devoured
by the right, purged in a primary by an opponent so extreme that the
Democrats were able to (temporarily) pick up the seat. I never felt
any particular fondness for Lugar, but I could understand why people
respected him. Even his breed of Republican is now a thing of the
Also noted that historian
David Brion Davis has died. His 1967 book The Problem of Slavery
in Western Culture greatly affected the way pretty much everyone
understood the history of slavery in the Americas. I've often thought
I should check out his later books, especially the ones that extended
his study into the 19th century. I learned of his death from a cranky
Corey Robin note, which I decided not to bother with below. Here's
a more useful (and generous)
Anyhow, this is what the week has to show for itself:
To solve climate change and biodiversity loss, we need a Global Deal for
My brain on cable news: "Tuning into TV's battle to the death."
What's actually on cable these days is a bizarre legalistic death battle.
Cohen, Manafort, Flynn, Butina, Mueller, Giuliani, et al. We aren't
debating whether Trump has been responsible for the deaths of innocents,
because everyone knows that he is -- presidents and collateral damage go
hand in hand. If Trump goes to prison, it will not be for child murder,
but for distributing hush money to silence former mistresses and for
taking bribes and for engaging in back channel machinations with Russia.
Whatever it takes, I suppose, but I have to agree with my cable guy:
there's something unseemly about the means employed.
Fox News is addictive and awful: choirboys gone to seed and women's
dresses with weird portholes at the shoulders or at the cleavage. The
anchors jeer smilingly at ideas that any sensible person of generous
mind can see make sense. Quick clips of closed-circuit footage of humans
with darker skin doing bad things are injected into the river of commentary --
mug shots included -- to create little mental firecracker pops of righteous
wrath among the pickup-truck crowd, along with "funny" attacks on progressive
causes by rightist comedians who love steak and country music. Fox &
Friends is a hot mess of clean living and white-right American
self-deception, and I can't watch it for very long without feeling
queasy. But it's an easy mark.
Trump's new defense of his Charlottesville comments is incredibly
false. Related: Allegra Kirkland:
Whitewash: Trump takes new approach to sanitizing Charlottesville
The UAE's seedy influence operations are a footnote to the Mueller
Hedge-fund ownership cost Sears workers their jobs. Now they're fighting
back. Seems like lots (damn near all of ) the companies you read about
in bankruptcy first passed through a phase where private equity operators
first bought the company with its own debt than stripped assets and paid
themselves "management fees." Maybe if they were lucky they'd be able to
sell the carcass off, but current bankruptcy law favors creditors over
employees and customers, finishing the liquidation while leaving the
public worse off. Our think tanks need to think about this situation,
and come up with new bankruptcy laws that allow companies to survive
such malign ownership, preferably under employee ownership, with debt
loads reduced to levels which allow the companies to carry on. Other
regulations could help, but just changing bankruptcy law would shift
the incentives dramatically.
Coalition airstrikes in Raqqa killed at least 1,600 civilians, more than
10 times US tally, report finds.
Tom Engelhardt: Publisher and introduction writer at
The roots of Trumpian agitprop: Hint: article namechecks Leni
Riefenstahl, as well as Susan Sontag writing about Riefenstahl.
Spain election: socialist party PSOE declared winner: live update
blog; PSOE is expected to be able to form a coalition with the further
leftist party Podemos; the far-right party Vox surged, but only wound
up with 24 MPs (6.8%), at the expense of more mainstream conservatives
(PP is down from 137 to 66).
The terrifying potential of the 5G network: "The future of wireless
technology holds the promise of total connectivity. But it will also be
especially susceptible to cyberattacks and surveillance." Guess who else
is selling snooping gear? Richard Silverstein:
Israel and the selling of the surveillance state.
Our enemies are the same people: San Diego synagogue shooter inspired
by New Zealand anti-Muslim massacre.
White identity politics is about more than racism: Interview with
Ashley Jardina, author of White Identity Politics..
Rich guys are most likely to have no idea what they're talking about,
Capitalism in crisis: US billionaires worry about the survival of the
system that made them rich.
The uncanny power of Greta Thunberg's climate-change rhetoric.
The climate-change movement feels powerful today because it is
politicians -- not the people gluing themselves to trucks -- who seem
deluded about reality. Thunberg says that all she wants is for adults
to behave like adults, and to act on the terrifying information that
is all around us.
Related: Stewart Lee:
Why Greta Thunberg is now my go-to girl.
Armpits, white ghettos and contempt: "Who really despises the American
heartland?" Opens with a sidebar on Stephen Moore (Trump's Fed pick),
Moore is an indefensible choice on many grounds. Even if he hadn't
shown himself to be extraordinarily misogynistic and have an ugly
personal history, his track record on economics -- always wrong,
never admitting error or learning from it -- is utterly disqualifying.
Survival of the wrongest: "Evidence has a well-known liberal bias."
Much more on Stephen Moore.
The great Republican abdication: "A party that no longer believes
in American values." Wait! Aren't greed, hubris, and desperate schemes
to rig every contest the ultimate American values? Those are clearly
the hallmarks of the recent Republican Party, and those are traits
one can question and denounce. But calling them un-American misses a
big part of their appeal.
To stop global catastrophe, we must believe in humans again: "We have
the technology to prevent climate crisis. But now we need to unleash mass
resistance too -- because collective action does work." Edited extract
from his new book, Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself
Out?. He also pleaded for mass resistance recently in
Glaciers and Arctic ice are vanishing. Time to get radical before it's
Paul Mozur/Jonah M Kessel/Melissa Chan:
Made in China, exported to the world: the surveillance state.
Trump's Fed pick wrote that women should be banned from March Madness:
Well, actually he's written and said a lot of stupid things, not least
on matters more germane to his appointment -- not that whether he's an
asshole is irrelevant. As for Trump's other pick of a political hack for
a Fed seat, see: Li Zhou:
It's official: Herman Cain is not going to be on the Fed. Zhou also
Young voters want more action on climate change -- even if it hurts the
Gabby Orr/Andrew Restuccia:
How Stephen Miller made immigration personal.
Ben Protess/William K Rashbaum/Maggie Haberman:
How Michael Cohen turned against President Trump.
Obama's original sin: "A new insider account reveals how the Obamas
administration's botched bailout deal not only reinforced neoliberal
Clintonism, but also foreshadowed an ongoing failure to fulfill campaign
promises." Review of Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's
Defining Decisions. Reminds me that perhaps the first of those
decisions was letting Clinton factotum John Podesta run the transition
team, which initially penciled in such pivotal figures as Tim Geithner
and Lawrence Summers.
Most Americans believe Trump lied to them, but think impeachment is a
bad idea. Related: Ella Nilsen:
Democrats' impeachment dilemma, explained.
Unanswered questions in the Mueller report point to a sprawling Russian
Darren Samuelsohn/Andrew Desiderio/Kyle Cheney:
'This is risky': Trump's thirst for Mueller revenge could land him in
trouble. Related: Andrew Restuccia:
Mueller report exposes diminishing power of Trump denials: "The
report has reignited a media debate about how seriously to take the
White House's statements of fact."
Eric Schmitt/David E Sanger/Maggie Haberman:
In push for 2020 election security, top official was warned: don't tell
The trigger presidency: "How shock jock comedy gave way to Donald
Trump's Republican Party.
Trump's high-stakes subpoena battle with House Democrats,
Trump lets loose stunning falsehood that doctors, mothers 'execute'
How the War on Terror is being written: Starts on Guantánamo, ends
with a long list of links to source documents. Midway, Taub notes:
The year after [James] Mitchell published his memoir [Enhanced
Interrogation], it was cited in a lengthy
report by Physicians for Human Rights, which argues that the
interrogation program represented "one of the gravest breaches of
medical ethics" since the Nazi medical experiments during the
Second World War.
These documents -- along with contemporaneous reports and books
by investigative journalists, academics, lawyers, and human-rights
advocates -- make up an evolving draft of post-9/11 history. With
each passing year, more details surface in memoirs, lawsuits, and
military commissions, and the historical record comes into sharper
focus. Millions of pages have come to light, and millions more remain
classified. But, seventeen years into the war on terror, a core,
uncomfortable fact remains: people on the receiving end of classified
security programs -- from drone strikes to renditions and interrogations --
become aware of the outlines of secret U.S. national-security laws and
practices long before American citizens have any clarity or say about
what is being done in their name.
Guantánamo's darkest secret.
Mueller prosecutors: Trump did obstruct justice.
Democrats want to challenge Trump's foreign policy in 2020. They're still
working out how. Surprisingly little here, or maybe not given how
readily Democrats have lined up behind the common consensus policies in
place since shortly after WWII. Consider "the four main pillars of a
progressive foreign policy (so far)":
- Confront climate change
- Democracy promotion and anti-corruption
- Strengthening alliances
- Rebuilding America
I would have started off with negotiated demilitarization: securing
treaties all around the world that resolve conflicts and reduce the
military posture of all nations (especially the US). My second point
would be to expand "democracy promotion and anti-corruption" to lean
left, to support more power for workers and for women, while accepting
that capital rights need to be limited and regulated. On trade, I'd
work to limit (or in many cases eliminate) rents based on intellectual
property. This in turn should lead to greater sharing of best practices
in science and technology, which would help with problems like climate
change, loss of biodiversity, etc. I'd also like to see some sort of
international framework for dealing with migration. Democrats have done
a miserable job of formulating foreign policy due to the old colonial
mentality where they've never seen the rest of the world's peoples as
our equals, and never recognized that our welfare is co-dependent on
the world's. Another piece on trying to change Democratic strategy:
When will Washington end the Forever War?.
Sri Lanka suffered from decades of violence before the Easter Sunday
bombings. Related: Samanth Subramanian:
After the Easter bombings, Sri Lanka grapples with its history of
We're not hearing enough from 2020 candidates about things they could do
Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020: "Americans want outsiders,
reformers, and fresh faces, not politicians with decades of baggage."
Pretty much all you need to know about Biden in 2020, but not the only
thing written this week. E.g.:
Anita Hill deserves a real apology. Why couldn't Joe Biden offer
Joe Biden's policies are as troubling as his inappropriate
Joe Biden's long record supporting the war on drugs and mass incarceration,
Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020 -- and it won't end well this
What Joe Biden hasn't owned up to about Anita Hill.
The 2020 candidates smell blood: "The reason so many Democrats are
running is they think Biden won't survive."
The field in 2016 was so small not because politicians with national
aspirations didn't exist, but because they thought Clinton -- with her
name recognition, financial resources, party relationships, high early
polling numbers, and general next-in-line aura -- was inevitable. She
cleared the field of most competition because other mainstream candidates
knew she would win (and non-mainstream Bernie figured she would too).
Biden is something more like a 2016 Jeb Bush: a weak establishment
favorite whose time might be past and -- should voters deprioritize his
top perceived strength, electability -- who could soon face the wolves.
Newell also wrote:
Biden has successfullyl goaded Trump, which is exactly what he needs to
do. One thing many Democrats will be looking for in primary season
is the candidate who most effectively articulates their rage over Trump,
and one of the best ways to do that is to get under his thin skin.
How Joe Biden could win the 2020 Democratic Primary: Put a lot of
weight on his initial poll lead, and hope nothing goes wrong.
Is Joe Biden 'electable' or not? Thank God, nobody seems to know.
The Democratic establishment should chill out about Bernie Sanders.
As Sanders continues to rate highly in national polls, many longtime party
stalwarts are palpably agitated over a blend of personal grievances and
overblown political and policy concerns. . . .
As a personal matter, the establishment's response is understandable.
Sanders, an independent Vermont senator, tends to portray the institutional
Democratic Party as corrupt and relentlessly sows suspicion about the
motives and integrity of everyone who disagrees with him. He treats the
catastrophe of the 2016 election as a deserved rebuke to party leaders.
And he brushes aside mountains of practical realities that others have
spent years dealing with.
But blowing up over this makes no sense. The whole point of a party
establishment is to be cynical, detached, practical-minded, and realistic.
If they assess Sanders's actual track record -- rather than his personally
insulting rhetoric -- they'd discover a fairly unremarkable blue-state
liberal who's good at winning elections and has extensive experience with
the disappointing realities of the legislative process.
Relevant here: Peter Daou:
I was Bernie's biggest critic in 2016 -- I've changed my mind: "It
would be an epic act of self-destruction for Democrats to try to hobble
his campaign." Let's see if I can explain this in simple terms. During
the Reagan-to-Trump era, Democrats have been preoccupied with raising
money (cultivating donor support). Some, like Obama and the Clintons,
have even done a good job of this, largely by promising that they'd do
an even better job for business than the Republicans would -- something
the stats clearly support. Meanwhile, the Democrats have let their base
go to hell, and found their support eroding, even as Republicans have
even less to offer. What Sanders is doing is rebuilding the Democratic
Party base, by appealing to the people Democrats have been screwing for
decades now. Attacking Sanders risks driving this base away, if not to
the Republicans then to a third party or nothing. Sanders is doing the
party a huge favor by not running as an independent. The party needs to
reciprocate by welcoming him and his voters. They might even find, like
Daou, that they'll learn something.
Brexit is not just a tragedy for Britain.