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Monday, September 21, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34056 [34007] rated (+49), 216 [217] unrated (-1).


New records reviewed this week:

  • Fontaines DC: A Hero's Death (2020, Partisan): [r]: B+(*)
  • Robert Gordon: Rockabilly for Life (2020, Cleopatra): [r]: B+(*)
  • Frank Gratkowski/Simon Nabatov/Dominik Mahnig: Dance Hall Stories (2017 [2020], Leo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gordon Grdina's the Marrow: Safar-e-Daroon (2018 [2020], Songlines): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gordon Grdina: Prior Street (2019 [2020], self-released): [bc]: B
  • Charlotte Greve/Vinnie Sperrazza/Chris Tordini: The Choir Invisible (2018 [2020], Intakt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tee Grizzley: The Smartest (2020, 300 Entertainment): [r]: B+(***)
  • GuiltyBeatz: Different E.P (2020, Banku Music, EP): [yt]: B+(*)
  • Haiku Hands: Haiku Hands (2020, Mad Decent): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tigran Hamasyan: The Call Within (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ray Wylie Hubbard: Co-Starring (2020, Big Machine): [r]: B+(**)
  • I Think You're Awesome: Suite to Be You and Me (2019 [2020], Jaegar Community): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Sherman Irby's Inferno (2012 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Black Brown & Beige (2018 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: Rock Chalk Suite (2019 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Christopher Crenshaw's the Fifties: A Prism (2017 [2020], Blue Engine): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Ever Fonky Lowdown (2019 [2020], Blue Engine, 2CD): [r]: B-
  • Vic Juris: Let's Cool One (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kaze & Ikue Mori: Sand Storm (2020, Libra): [cd]: B+(***)
  • La Lucha: Everybody Wants to Rule the World (2019 [2020], Arbors): [r]: B
  • Jacám Manricks: Samadhi (2018 [2002], Manricks Music): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Adam Niewood: Blue as a Whistle (2018 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Nussbaum: Leadbelly Reimagined (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pretenders: Hate for Sale (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(***)
  • Psychedelic Furs: Made of Rain (2020, Cooking Vinyl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dan Reeder: Every Which Way (2020, Oh Boy): [r]: B
  • Rumer: Nashville Tears: The Songs of Hugh Prestwood (2020, Cooking Vinyl): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scenes: Trapeze (2020, Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (2019 [2020], ESP-Disk): [cd]: A-
  • Greg Spero + Spirit Fingers: Peace (2020, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Henri Texier: Chance (2020, Label Bleu): [r]: B+(**)
  • Throttle Elevator Music: Emergency Exit (2020, Wide Hive): [r]: B+(*)
  • Azu Tiwaline: Draw Me a Silence Part II (2020, IOT, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kali Uchis: To Feel Alive (2020, Virgin EMI/Interscope, EP): [r]: B
  • Village of the Sun Feat. Binker & Moses: Village of the Sun/Ted (2020, Gearbox, EP): [bc]: B
  • Greg Ward/Jason Stein/Marcus Evans/Chad Taylor/Matt Lux: 85bears (2020, Ears & Eyes): [bc]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Borah Bergman/Perry Anderson/Steve Swell/Ray Sage: Quartets Trios Duos (2007 [2020], Mahakala Music): [cd]: A-
  • The Claire Daly Band: Rah! Rah! (2008 [2020], Ride Symbol): [cd]: B+(**) [10-02]
  • Dudu Pukwana: Dudu Phukwana and the "Spears" (1968-69 [2020], Matsuli Music): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Frank Gratkowski Quartet: Spectral Reflections (2001 [2003], Leo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Frank Gratkowski Quartet: FacioB+(***)
  • Last Exit: Headfirst Into the Flames: Live in Europe (1989 [2008], DMG/ARC): [bc]: A-
  • Selwyn Lissack/Friendship Next of Kin: Facets of the Univers (1969 [2014], Downtown Music Gallery): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Gwigwi Mrwebi: Mbaqanga Songs (1967 [2006], Honest Jons): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Pretenders: Break Up the Concrete (2008, Shangri-La Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pretenders: Live in London (2009 [2010], E1/Stroboscopic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Pretenders: Alone (2016, BMG): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jim Waller and the Deltas: Surfin' Wild (1963 [1995], Sundazed): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Osvaldo Golijov/The Silkroad Ensemble: Falling Out of Time (In a Circle) [10-09]
  • Tobin Mueller: What Survives: Radio Edits (self-released)
  • Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: Kites and Strings (One Trick Dog) [10-16]
  • Walter White: BB XL (Walter White Music)
  • Nate Wooley: Seven Storey Mountain VI (Pyroclastic) [10-16]

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Aside from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my main takeaway for the week is that I'm seeing a lot of articles trying to promote the election chances of Donald Trump, or at least make you real nervous. One of the more self-consciously rational ones is Ed Kilgore: A rational case for Trump winning the election without stealing it. A bit less rational is Michael Kruse: Trump is riding high. Can he keep from blowing it?. I suppose this sort of thing is good for clicks, and may impress upon Democrats the need for extra vigilance. The "rational" basis seems to be that Trump's approval ratings are little (if any) worse than they've ever been, and there's also the Electoral College skew, the well-oiled Fox propaganda machine, and a lot of "dark money" up to "dirty tricks" (and I suppose you can throw the omnipotent Russians into the mix). But there's also a lot of irrational, often downright magical thinking involved. I cite a few articles in this cluster below, but I'm not in general interested in speculative paranoia. There are plenty of real things to fear these days. Nor do I wish to prejudge the malevolence and malignancy of the American people. If Trump wins, that case will be proven, and if not, faith in democracy -- even one as compromised as ours -- will be vindicated.

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg opens up a seat on the Supreme Court, which has emerged as the ultimate arbiter of vice and virtue in the nation today. The fact that at age 87, with a series of grave illnesses, she clung onto her "appointment for life" shifts our focus away from her life and accomplishments to the political import of allowing Donald Trump to appoint her successor, subject only to the confirmation of Mitch McConnell's Republican Senate. The politicization of the Court is not new, although it has taken on a heightened and more desperate tone with recent polarization. From roughly 1940-80, we were fortunate to have had a Supreme Court that interpreted the Constitution in ways that expanded personal freedom and promoted social justice. This was a consequence of Franklin Roosevelt's long tenure as president and the legacy he left, which Republican Dwight Eisenhower rarely challenged, and which John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson extended. The most important achievement of the New Deal Court was its rulings against Jim Crow laws, although it's worth noting that their effect was limited until serious civil rights legislation was passed under Johnson. This period lasted long enough to let people forget that before Roosevelt, the Supreme Court had been by far the most reactionary branch of government. Conservatives railed against the Court, and Richard Nixon mounted the first significant right-wing attack on the civil rights and social justice the New Deal Court promoted. Ever since, the right has mounted an hysterical campaign to take away the rights granted by the Court -- especially abortion, but also the constitutional right to privacy free choice is based on -- and to secure ever greater privileges for the rich (as evidenced most clearly by the Court's recent claim that unlimited campaign spending is protected "free speech").

In recent years, the Court has been precariously balanced between Republican-nominated conservatives and Democratic-nominated liberals, with the former holding a 5-4 majority. The vacancy caused by the death of Antonin Scalia in February, 2016 should have given Obama the chance to flip the court 5-4 in favor of the liberals, but Mitch McConnell's Republicans controlled the Senate and refused to even hold hearings much less risk a vote on Obama's nominee (Merrick Garland, actually chosen for his centrist credentials). Their argument then was that with the election on the horizon, the appointment should be reserved for the incoming president, not the outgoing "lame duck." Needless to say, that is an argument you won't be hearing McConnell make this time, even though the election is much closer now (46 days after Ginsburg's death, vs. eight months after Scalia's).

All of this (and more) is covered in the following links. Perhaps the best place to start is Ian Millhiser: Ruth Bader Ginsburg's legacy, and the future of the Supreme Court, explained.


By the way, just read that Stephen F Cohen (81) died. He's written extensively on Russia and Putin, consistently arguing against restarting the Cold War and de-escalating the anti-Russia hysteria among Democrats since the 2016 election, without being uncritical of Putin. He will be missed, but if Trump is soundly defeated in November he may not be as essential as he's been over the last four years.

I'm also saddened to note that Diane Wahto (80) has died here in Wichita. She was a friend and an ally, a former chair of the Wichita Peace group.


Some scattered links this week:

Kate Aronoff: The Biden adviser who gives climate activists nightmares: Ernest Moniz, Obama's secretary of energy, nuclear physicist, "good friend" of the fossil fuel industry. Under Moniz, oil companies overcame Hubbert's Peak to increase US oil and gas production past its 1969 peak. Since then, he's cashed in on the favors he doled out to the industry.

Andrew Bacevich: The China conundrum: deterrence as dominance: "Does it really make sense to begin an arms race with China when there are so many other areas for competition and collaboration?" Democratic defense apparatchik Michele Flournoy, oft-touted as Biden's likely Secretary of Defense, thinks so. She is being provocative, as well as stupid.

Dean Baker:

  • Robert Samuelson hangs it up. I said my piece about Samuelson last week. Still, more here worth pointing out.

    Samuelson notes the work that Treasury secretaries Henry Paulson and Timothy Geithner, along with Federal Reserve Board Chair Ben Bernanke did to combat the Great Recession, and then says "but that doesn't excuse their failure to anticipate the housing boom and to preempt the bust." This is absolutely right. . . .

    Unfortunately, Samuelson also gives this trio credit for avoiding a second Great Depression. That's just a fairy tale they tell to children to justify shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars to the richest people in the country, to save their banks from their own incompetence. There is nothing about the situation in 2008-09 that would have forced us to endure a second Great Depression. We know the secret of getting out of a depression. It's called "spending money."

    Unfortunately, that trio made sure that most of the money went to bankers, which turned out to be a very inefficient use of stimulus cash (but nice for bankers, sure).

  • Trade wars are class wars: Even more than Klein and Pettis say: A note on the book Trade Wars Are Class Wars, by Matthew Klein and Michael Pettis.

Moriah Balingit/Laura Meckler: Trump alleges 'left-wing indoctrination' in schools, says he will create national commission to push more 'pro-American' history. If anything, the opposite is the problem: "Yet educators and students say that Trump is wildly out of touch with what happens in public school classrooms, where the United States is still held up as a beacon of freedom and democracy, and a moral leader." That assertion was dubious even when I was growing up, which was one reason the more I read into US history, the more critical I became of American foreign (and for that matter domestic) policy. Trump is calling for more (not less) indoctrination, because he wants to make sure that Americans blindly follow leaders like himself. I find this proposal exceptionally horrifying, not just because it perpetuates a mythology which reinforces problems and issues we've failed to own up to but more basically it attacks the very principle that truth matters, and that historians are responsible for uncovering truth within the context of time past. It is, in short, a demand that we give up the ability to think critically and act morally.

Zack Beauchamp: Conservative media is setting the stage for delegitimizing a Biden victory.

Medea Benjamin/Leonardo Flores: The US needs a new 'Good Neighbor' policy toward Latin America: Reminds me how one of Mexico's 19th century presidents lamented: "Poor Mexico. So far from God, so close to the United States." For 30 years after the Spanish-American War, America treated Latin America with "gunboat diplomacy" -- repeatedly invading countries and installing puppet regimes. Franklin Roosevelt tried to turn this around with his Good Neighbor Policy, and generally did, until the Cold War spread and gave he US excuses to overthrow a dozen or more countries, starting with Guatemala in 1953.

Jonathan Blitzer: The private Georgia immigration-detention facility at the center of a whistle-blower's complaint.

John Cassidy:

Jonathan Chait:

Fabiola Cineas:

Aaron Ross Coleman: Congress's failure to pass stimulus has had a devastating -- and predictable -- effect on minority groups.

Chas Danner: The 2020 hurricane season is officially out of names. Only other year when they "went Greek" for extra names was 2005, which wound up with 27 named storms, but took an extra month to get there (three storms were so large that year their names were retired: Katrina, Rita, and Wilma). For a full rundown on this year's storms, see Wikipedia. Since this article, Tropical Storm Beta was named, and is gathering strength in the Gulf of Mexico as it heads for Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Teddy, a Category 4 (the second largest this year, after Laura), is still active, but well off the Atlantic coast, threatening Bermuda, and likely to wind up hitting Nova Scotia. Tropical Storm Vicky petered out after hitting the Cabo Verde Islands, and Tropical Storm Alpha veered east into Portugal and Spain. Tropical Storm Wilfred is still active, well out in the Atlantic and slowly heading toward the East Coast. Because storms are named when they reach tropical storm level (tropical depressions are just numbered) the names sometimes seem out of sequence. The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends on November 30, but note that there were already 4 named storms (all tropical storms with 45-60 mph winds) before the season started, so norms don't seem to be working this year.

Katherine Eban: "That's their problem": How Jared Kushner let the markets decide America's COVID-19 fate. I was referred to this piece by Libby Watson: Jared Kushner's psychopathic incompetence: "The White House's most cynical opportunist can't even get amorality right." Eban wrote:

At the end of July, writing for Vanity Fair, I revealed that Kushner had commissioned a robust federal COVID-19 testing plan, only to abandon it before it could be implemented. One public health expert in frequent contact with the White House's official coronavirus task force said a national plan likely fell out of favor in part because of a disturbingly cynical calculation: "The political folks believed that because [the virus] was going to be relegated to Democratic states, that they could blame those governors, and that would be an effective political strategy."

The story struck a nerve, partly because it painted a picture of what might have been: The administration could have invested in a national testing system at a scale that could have greatly limited the number of cases and deaths. Instead the U.S. is on track to pass the grim milestone of 200,000 official COVID-19 deaths this month. With just 4% of the world's population, we now account for 20% of global deaths from the virus. . . .

Part of the answer almost certainly lies in the deep-seated belief, held by Kushner, President Trump, and their loyalists, that the federal government not only should not, but cannot play an effective leading role in responding to the pandemic, owing to its lumbering bureaucracy and onerous rules. At almost each step they have ignored the expertise of career officials and dismissed those with relevant experience as counterproductive meddlers. Trump famously calls them the Deep State.

Tom Engelhardt: Fire and fury like the world has never seen: One thing I've never been able to fathom is why some people think the "second coming of Christ" would be a good thing. My grandfather was the first to broach that subject with me, when he asked me whether I thought the founding of Israel would harken the day (the only thing I can remember him ever asking me). I don't recall answering. He came from along line of farmers whose intellectual interests began and ended with the Book of Revelations. (My father was the last of that line, and his ideas were pretty unconventional. My own take was that Revelations was to the Bible what a punchline was to a joke: if somehow you managed to swallow the set up, something that would make you finally realize it has all been a farce.) As it turns out, David Lloyd George thought just that when he signed the Balfour Declaration in 1917, and British rule over Palestine seemed designed to further that scenario (to the extent it seemed designed at all). There are at least a dozen recent books on how Trump is paving the way for the end times -- and those are just the ones by his more fanatic supporters. As something of a born-again atheist, I have no faith in heavenly kingdoms, either on earth or elsewhere, but I do recognize the impulses of crazed leaders to burn and leave it all in ruins. Early in his term, Trump famously threatened "fire and fury" should North Korea defy him. As Engelhardt notes:

And in every way imaginable, Donald Trump delivered as promised. He's been uniquely fiery and furious. In his own fashion, he's also been a man of his word. He's already brought "fire and fury" to this country in so many ways and, if he has anything to say about it, he's just gotten started.

Don't doubt for a second that, should he be losing on November 3rd (or beyond, given the mail-in vote to come), he'll declare electoral fraud and balk at leaving the White House. Don't doubt for a second that he'd be happy to torch that very building and whatever, at this point, is left of the American system with it before he saw himself "lose."

Since he is, in his own fashion, a parody of everything: a politician, a Republican, an autocrat, even a human being, he sums up in some extreme (if eerily satiric) fashion human efforts to destroy our way of life in these years. In truth, fiery and furiously fueled, he's a historic cloud of smoke and ash over us all.

John Feffer: Trump's scorched-earth doctrine: "Trump is doing whatever he can to make it impossible for his successor to resolve some of the world's most intractable problems." This article could have been 5-10 times as long (for instance, it never mentions Venezuela or Cuba, Bolivia or Brazil, or Somalia, where Trump has now bombed more than Bush and Obama combined). Maybe he's making some progress on disengagement from Afghanistan and Iraq, although nothing you can bank on. And he does seem to have dodged the worst case scenario he was headed for with North Korea, but again he's failed to work out any form of deal. Feffer has been working up to this piece, as in his A memo to the next president.

Matt Ford: Bill Barr's titanic lack of self-awareness: I don't see why it's so hard to understand Barr. Subhed says "he claims to be just a public servant," but Republicans since Margaret Thatcher have repeatedly argued that there is no public interest, therefore no such thing as a public servant. All people are simply self-interested, and for Republicans self-interest means looking at everything purely in terms of political advantages. In Barr's case, "everything" is law, and law is simply a tool to be used for advancing his party and himself. He's smarter about it than Trump is, but that's a pretty low bar. More on Barr this week:

Susan B Glasser: "It was all about the election": The ex-White House aide Olivia Troye on Trump's narcissistic mishandling of Covid-19: "The first staffer on the coronavirus task force to go public tells The New Yorker that America's pandemic response was 'derailed by the person at the very top.'"

Glenn Greenwald: The US-supported coup in Bolivia continues to produce repression and tyranny, while revealing how US media propaganda works.

Benjamin Hart: Trump administration to ban WeChat and TikTok from app stores beginning Sunday. Allegedly there is a national security angle here, but it also seems likely that Trump is doing this just to force the apps to be sold to "American" companies, in which case it's hard to imagine that some sort of graft isn't involved. More:

Pamela Karlan: Our most vulnerable election: Review of Lawrence Douglas: Will He Go?: Trump and the Looming Election Meltdown in 2020.

Stephen Kinzer: Back off Venezuela already: "The American campaign against socialist leader Nichoas Maduro is only hurting the people of the country." And reminding Venezuelans that the United States has always favored business interests over the people. [Unfortunately, the Boston Globe makes it impossible for occasional readers to access articles on their website.]

Jen Kirby: Are China and Iran meddling in US elections? It's complicated. I'm sure that nearly every government in the world sees their fate affected by US elections, but few can do anything about it, and little of what they do can have any real effect -- in part because "meddling" usually produces an adverse reaction. Israel is the only real exception inasmuch as they can appeal for support from two groups of voters: Israel-minded Jews, and (more significantly and successfully of late) Apocalypse-minded Christians. But nobody much talks about Israel's efforts.

Ezra Klein:

  • There are no good choices: "In shifting so much responsibility to individual people, America's government has revealed the limits of individualism."

  • Race, policing, and the universal yearning for safety: Interview with Phillip Atiba Goff, of the Center for Policing Equity.

  • A progressive vision to make America great: Interview with Klein's partner at Vox, Matthew Yglesias, about his book: One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. "In it, he argues that the path to ensure American greatness and preeminence on the world stage is a combination of mass immigration, pro-family policy, and overhauling America's housing and transportation systems." Yglesias is an often astute critic of right-wing political efforts, but he also won last year's "Neoliberal Shill" award, mostly for the sort of "policy vision" he presents in the book. I often cite Yglesias, but haven't rushed out to buy the book. Last week I cited a critical review: Jacob Bacharach: The emptiness of Matthew Yglesias's biggest idea. Bacharach's sharpest jibe:

    But what does it mean when a columnist or a pundit writes "a book"? Swift reads, even when they number in the many hundreds of pages, volumes like David Brooks's The Second Mountain or Paul Krugman's Arguing With Zombies or Thomas Friedman"s "flat world" diptych tend to collect a set of superficially counterintuitive arguments and insights that upon closer inspection almost always resolve themselves into the preexisting, commonsense notions that their intended readership already assumes to be true.

    I can see the argument that if America wants to "remain number one," it may be helpful to swell the population to a level comparable with China and India, but I don't get what's so important about "remaining number one." If America's self-appointed role as global hegemon is failing (as certainly appears to be the case), maybe the answer isn't to compete harder but to find a path to cooperation that precludes the need for anyone to be hegemonic? And while I'm open-minded about immigration, I don't see a tripling of the current population as necessarily good for our quality of life. Indeed, I'm inclined to be skeptical about the real value of growth -- which is, as always, the main thing "neoliberal shills" have to peddle. Here's another review of Yglesias' book: Felix Salmon: Matthew Yglesias thinks there should be 'One Billion Americans'.

Paul Krugman: The GOP plot to sabotage 2021: In refusing to even negotiate a new relief/stimulus package, Republicans are signifying two things: they don't think any new legislation will help them at the polls in November; and if they lose, their intention is to leave the nation in the worst possible shape for the Democrats in January. Of course, if the Republicans retain control of the Senate, they'll do all they can to make Biden look bad, much as they did to Obama in the recession he inherited. You'd think this calculation would be obvious -- and something Democrats could rally voters against. But Republicans were no less blatant in 2008-09, and somehow managed to ride obstruction to a major rebound victory in 2010. Even if they lose in November, they feel invincible, because no one really calls them on their most malevolent impulses. Even less remarked upon is how this works as extortion. The basic argument is that if you don't elect Republicans, they are going to cause so much destruction that you'll regret the affront. Of course, normal, sane people would never give in to that sort of bullying. Yet time and again the American voters do -- at least, enough of them in our severely skewed electoral system to let them claim victory and use their powers to profit the 1% and undermine everyone else.

Eric Levitz: It is not undemocratic to call Trump's presidency 'illegitimate'.

Martin Longman:

German Lopez:

Jane Mayer: For Mitch McConnell, holding the Senate is the highest priority.

Harold Meyerson: A Rorschach test for establishment liberalism. A note, which serves as an introduction, to a New York Times feature on the 50th anniversary of Milton Friedman's essay, "The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits": Greed is good. Except when it's bad.

Ian Millhiser:

Kiana Moore: "They didn't see me as innocent": "Can you remember your first experience with the police? For these 9 Black and brown people, the encounters would shape their sense of safety forever." Also see Amber Ruffin shares a lifetime of traumatic run-ins with police, a week's worth of memoirs Seth Meyers broadcast the week after George Floyd was killed.

Nicole Narea:

Ella Nilsen: The ways Democrats could retake the Senate majority, explained. I rarely link to these horserace pieces, but flipping the Senate (and ending the filibuster) are essential for Biden and the Democrats to have any effectiveness at all. Would be especially delicious should South Carolina and Kentucky retire Graham and McDonnell.

Timothy Noah: The good life that Keynes promised America got stolen: "A new study shows in electrifying terms the extent to which 45 years of income inequality destroyed the prosperity we should all be enjoying."

Osita Nwanevu:

  • The ridiculous war-gaming of the 2020 election: "Trump's opponents are so concerned that he might steal the election that they have forgotten to worry that he might simply win it."

  • The cultural permanence of Donald Trump: "Trumpism has become America's latest civic religion, and it won't be voted out of office in November." Presumably what he means to say is that even if Trump is voted out of office in November, Trumpism will survive as a political legacy and continue to affect elections indefinitely into the future. I rather doubt that. A big part of Trump's allure is his reputation as a winner, and losing will wipe that out -- even if his apologists come up with lots of excuses. Also, although his retail political skills are pretty meager, it is really hard to think of anyone else who is seriously rich/successful yet with his slovenly reality TV persona seems approachable and acceptable to the clods who adore him. Mainstream Republican donors had no interest in Trump until he won, and will have no interest in him if he turns out to be a loser. They will carry on, looking for newer, more convincing cons to carry on their graft.

Trita Parsi:

Deborah Pearlstein: How the government lost its mind: "Over the past 50 years, America has given up on the Enlightenment-era ideals of its Founders -- and the country's coronavirus disaster is the result."

Cameron Peters: Trump's Nevada rally was an exercise in delegitimizing voting -- and denying reality: "Trump keeps holding potential superspreader events in the middle of a pandemic."

Lili Pike: What wildfires in Brazil, Siberia, and the US West have in common: "Climate change and mismanagement are fueling large, uncontrolled fires around the world." More on fire:

Katha Pollitt: Melania Trump really doesn't care: "A new book by her ex-best friend shows how the first lady sold her soul." The book is Stephanie Winston Wolkoff's "tell-not-quite-all" Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady. By the way, article opens with a picture of Trump and Melania kissing. Reminded me of the cartoon show Bojack Horseman. Weirdest thing about that show was when different species (e.g., with horse or dog heads) try to kiss.

Andrew Prokop: Bob Woodward's new book Rage, and the controversies around it, explained. "What did Trump know about the coronavirus? And what did Woodward know?" It's occurred to me that Woodward might have been trying to make Trump look more knowledgeable about coronavirus in February than he was, although when you listent to the tapes, you quickly realize that he didn't know much -- the value of the tapes was in contrast to the even dumber things he later said publicly. It's also possible that Woodward didn't grasp even what Trump said, and that the import of the quotes only became evident near publication time when publishers were searching through the book for tidbits they could market. It's even possible that Woodward's conclusions about Trump fitness were suggested by editors after having read the book. More on Rage:

  • Jonathan Chait: Noted bibliophobe Donald Trump claims he read 466-page Woodward book in 1 night.

  • Isaac Chotiner: Bob Woodward's bad characters: Evident sources include Robert O'Brien, James Mattis, and Dan Coats ("Of Woodward's three main characters, Coats's journey is the most pathos-filled.") The book starts with O'Brien:

    We are only two pages in, which is usually about the moment in a Woodward book when you can guess whether a subject has coöperated: if he has, he almost certainly comes out looking well. Three pages later, a week has passed, and Woodward casually notes that O'Brien, appearing on CBS, has just said about the virus, "Right now, there's no reason for Americans to panic. This is something that is a low risk, we think, in the U.S." Another author might note the dissonance between O'Brien's public and private statements; Woodward does not even allude to it. But this is typical of Woodward's White House-centric narratives: inconsistencies pile up; narrative threads are dropped and then recovered without any notice of the ways in which they have altered in the interim. In a 1996 review of his books, Joan Didion wrote, "Those who talk to Mr. Woodward, in other words, can be confident that he will be civil ('I too was growing tired, and it seemed time to stand up and thank him'), that he will not feel impelled to make connections between what he is told and what is already known, that he will treat even the most patently self-serving account as if untainted by hindsight." . . .

    And yet Woodward appears as unequipped to grapple with Trump as the erstwhile members of his Cabinet were. Whether Woodward and his sources are aware or disengaged, cynical or naïve, takes on extra importance because of the unique challenges and outrages of our era, in which a willingness to abide Trump has sat side by side with an inability to understand his malignancy. . . .

    One of the issues that marred Woodward's Bush books, despite their interest, was his willingness to believe less-than-honest people. That is an even bigger problem in the Trump era, which has outdone the Bush years in dishonesty and features an outrageous number of people whose only motive for serving in government seems to be personal glory or wealth. If this is not enough to make anyone pine for Dick Cheney, the lying at least makes it even more vital that journalists doubt what they hear and think carefully about what to weed out or explain. I somehow have trouble believing that Lindsey Graham is, as Woodward recounts, worried that the judiciary is becoming "too partisan" or that much can be gleaned from Jared Kushner's endless monologues on leadership. The problem goes beyond the details. In one conversation, Mattis and Tillerson discuss the importance of State and Defense working together and beefing up the diplomatic corps; a reader who did not follow the news in 2017 would be surprised to learn that Tillerson was simultaneously embarking on gutting the State Department. . . .

    Even Woodward's worst books contain an astonishing number of fascinating details, but those who have lamented the failure of our institutions to stand up to Trump are unlikely to be surprised by the mind-set of the people who populated them. Acceptance of how far we have fallen would have meant not only reappraising the country many of them loved but also the Party many of them belonged to. But the alternative explanation for their behavior is no better: they knew what was coming and -- whether out of a sense of decorum or partisanship or cowardice -- refused to say so.

  • Constance Grady: Bob Woodward withheld his Trump revelations for months. Was that wrong? "Book publishing doesn't consider ethical questions to be its business. Increasingly, that's a problem."

  • Fred Kaplan: Trump comes off even worse in Woodward's Rage than you've heard.

  • Aaron Rupar: New Woodward audio is the starkest illustration yet of how Trump misled about coronavirus.

David Roberts: 4 astonishing signs of coal's declining economic viability: "Coal is now a loser around the world."

Aja Romano: What we know about a deadly shooting in Rochester, New York: "Two people are dead and 16 injured after a shooting at a party."

Aaron Rupar:

  • "There has to be retribution": Trump's chilling comments about extrajudicial killings, briefly explained.

  • Trump's ABC town hall revealed a president disconnected from reality: "He faced tough questions from voters -- and had few answers." Subheds: Trump won't even acknowledge that systemic racism is a thing; Trump has no shame about just making stuff up; This is your brain on Fox News.

    Along similar lines, Trump told a voter who asked him about immigration that he'll unveil new legislation "in a very short time" -- a talking point he often uses to buy time when he doesn't really have a plan.

    On the topic of law and order -- one that Trump is trying to make a centerpiece of his campaign -- Stephanopoulos grilled him on a disconnect between what he said back in 2016 and what he's saying now.

    "You promised four years ago at the Republican Convention, 'I'm gonna restore law and order in this country,'" he pointed out.

    Trump's response was that he has -- if you disregard all the large cities that are run by Democrats (so, most of them).

    Trump went on to compare the unrest that took place in American cities over the summer with the fall of Berlin in 1945, seemingly unaware of how that analogy reflects on his stewardship of the country.

  • Trump's dark National Archives speech was white resentment run amok: "It's just nonsense to believe that America isn't racist." Related:

    • Nancy LeTourneau: Is America strong enough to confront its racist past? Clever of her to flip the tables and present Trump as weak, but the real issue with him is that he rejects Americans' common understanding of ideals: especially the central importance of equality.

      That is precisely what threatens both Trump and his supporters. To confront the role that racism plays in our society is a two-step process. First of all, we must recognize that, since our founding, U.S. institutions have been grounded in white supremacy. Secondly, in order to ensure that our principles of equality and justice apply to everyone, those institutions have to change.

      That first step presents an obstacle for people like Trump, who view any admission of error as a sign of weakness. During his speech on Thursday, the president said that the narratives being pushed by the left resemble the anti-American propaganda of our adversaries, concluding that "both groups want to see America weakened, derided and totally diminished."

      But Trump's approach is the one that broadcasts weakness. It takes strength to examine ourselves, identify shortcomings, and correct them to the best of our ability. . . .

      In many ways, what is on the ballot in November are these two views of what it means to be an American. Are we a country that is too afraid to even admit our shortcomings, or are we strong enough to be self-critical and seize our power to continue the process of aligning the country with our highest ideals?

Tom Scocca: Crowd cheers as the President gloats about this one time the cops shot a reporter with a rubber ballot for no reason.

Liliana Segura: Trump prepares to execute Christopher Vialva for a crime he committed as a teenager: "Vialva is the first Black man to face execution during Trump's killing spree. He is set to die on September 24." Vialva has spent more time on death row than he lived before he was sentenced to die.

Alex Shephard:

    Why aren't voters blaming Donald Trump for the bad economy?: "Tens of millions are unemployed, hungry, and behind on the rent. But the economy is barely registering as an election issue." Just spitballing here, but Trump got no credit for the "great" economy because for most people it wasn't all that great, but has the "bad" economy since the pandemic broke out really been that bad? The massive first-round of stimulus spending made up for a lot -- one result being that Americans did a lot of saving during the lockdown. On the other hand, there's a tweet here based on an article interviewing construction workers in Ohio, which is totally deluded. Doesn't say much for the cognitive skills of the American people.

  • Barack Obama's memoir is set to be the biggest book of this year. That's pretty depressing considering that his main claim to fame was providing us a brief and unhappy respite between two much more disastrous Republican presidents.

  • Why does The Washington Post publish this Never-Trump drivel? Singles out a recent op-ed by AEI flunky Danielle Pletka, where her "principles" go into full wobble: "I never considered voting for Trump in 2016. I may be forced to vote for him this year."

Danny Sjursen: September 14, 2001: The day America became Israel: The date was when Congress voted, with just one dissent (Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA) to give GW Bush a blank check for starting his Global War on Terror. Three days earlier, planes flew into the World Trade Center in NYC and the Pentagon near DC, killing close to 3,000 people. I was in Brooklyn at the time, visiting friends, and we watched a lot of TV that day. One thing I saw was stock video of Palestinians cheering and burning US flags, released by Israel shortly after the attacks. Later during the day, I saw the grinning mugs of Benjamin Netanyahu and Shimon Peres bragging about how good the attacks were for Israel, predicting that now Americans will see the world the way Israelis do. (Ariel Sharon was PM of Israel at the time, but his limited English didn't merit prime time, nor did his perpetual scowl.) 9/11 gave the neocons recently installed in key government positions by Bush and Cheney the opportunity they've been waiting for. The neocons may have started as fanatic Cold Warriors, but in the 1990s they formed an alliance with Israel's right-wing to scuttle the Oslo Peace Process and confront both the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors from a stance of absolute, uncompromising power. With Sharon's accession to power, their relationship to Israel shifted from support to envy: their most fervent hope was for the US to impose its absolute power on the world, as Israel was doing in its own little corner. Whence came mantras like "axis of evil" and "real men go to Tehran." You can argue about how well that stance has served Israel: the conflict with the Palestinians will never end until Israel grants them some semblance of justice, but the costs of dominance are within politically acceptable bounds, as long as BDS doesn't hamper business, and the next Intifada is no more efficient than the last. And for now, Israel has nothing to fear from formerly hostile neighbors. The thrust of Kushner's (which is to say Israel's) diplomacy has been to form a united political front between Israel and Arab despots who fear Iran and their own people and other Arabs and hope they will be more secure with hoards of sophisticated American and Israeli arms. Speaking of which, more on the Kushner deal:

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Smoke on the water, lies burning in the sky. Starts with a bunch of photos of what Oregon looks like these days.

Matt Stieb: Federal officials considered using a 'heat ray' against DC protesters.

Farah Stockman: What I learned from a list of Trump accomplishments: "Facts are vital. But they are not sufficient." An introduction and executive summary of A fact-checked list of Trump accomplishments, where the list itself "consisted of 123 bullet points posted on the Conservative Hangout Facebook page in May." The thing I found most interesting here is that in order to make Trump look good, the listers most often selected "facts" designed to make Trump look more liberal than he is. Liberals may be embarrassed about using the word to describe themselves, but conservatives are shameless in recognizing that liberal policies are more popular than their own -- hence the need to hide and lie about them.

Once you strip away the misleading claims from this list of accomplishments, you are left with what Mr. Trump has delivered: tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations -- No. 84. Deregulation for banks and businessmen -- No. 97. Judges for the evangelicals -- No. 109. Tariffs on Chinese steel for the steelworkers -- No. 113. And after those tariffs sparked a trade war, bailouts for farmers -- No. 72. He moved the embassy to Jerusalem, for conservative Jews and evangelicals -- No. 110.

To Mr. Trump's supporters, those are real accomplishments. But are they worth more than Mr. Trump's failures, during a deadly pandemic? More than his broken promises? More than what he has destroyed? That's the question facing voters in November. Maybe this list of his true accomplishments needs to be weighed against a list of what he has dismantled over these last four years. Anybody got one? I'd be happy to fact-check it.

Derek Thompson: The reason Trump isn't trying to save the economy: "He is stuck in a Pollyannaish fantasy of his own making."

Alex Ward: The bogus Steve Bannon-backed study claiming China created the coronavirus, explained.

Matthew Yglesias:

  • America needs a democratic revolution: "Fixing systemic inequities in voting power should be a high priority for Democrats." Sure, the Electoral College, the extreme rural skew of the Senate, the gerrymandering of House districts, are all structural defects that skew and deform democracy, but they are essentially impossible to fix without overhauling the Constitution, and that's impossible as long as one major party thinks those iniquities work in its favor, especially a party with no scruples for democratic process. By all means, feel free to shame the Republicans for attempting to undermine democracy and turn government into a self-perpetuating grift and patronage machine, but don't for a moment think Democrats can afford to wait until the structural problems are fixed before delivering better policy and service when and wherever they manage to win some power. Also, note that the biggest inequity in American politics isn't geographical. It is money, which cut across party lines deeply enough that Democrats in 2009 made no effort to limit campaign spending or lobbying, even though they had the presidency and large majorities in Congress. Sure, it's unfair that the Electoral College is so skewed that a Democrat might have to win the popular vote by more than 5% to break even, but presidential elections have swung as much as 22% (61%-39%). There's no reason Democrats can't formulate a winning campaign, especially given that Republicans seem to have deliberately chosen policies so extreme and unpopular they can only win by exploiting structural inequities. The Democrats' biggest problem has loss of credibility, caused by failing to deliver on the modest promises of their centrist leaders. Whining about how the system is stacked against them isn't a viable excuse. After all, stacked systems are something workers face every day. They don't need to be told the system is unfair. They need leaders who can challenge and beat it anyway.

  • "Reopening" isn't enough to save bars and restaurants -- the US needs a bailout.

Li Zhou:

Monday, September 14, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34007 [33954] rated (+53), 217 [212] unrated (+5).

Got a late start writing today. I had the idea yesterday that I'd finally try to make lasagna -- something I've never tried before, although I have been known to make a pretty awesome pastitsio. Back when I first had the idea -- well over a year ago -- most of the recipes I consulted called for oven-ready noodles, so that's what I bought and still had on hand. I started with Mark Bittman's classic lasagna recipe, and made the bolognese sauce yesterday, but ran out of time and saved it overnight. Bittman called for boiled noodles, but all I had was oven-ready, so I wound up mostly following the box recipe -- adding an extra cup of water to my reduced meat sauce to make sure the noodles had plenty of liquid. Made pretty much every mistake possible in assembling the loaf, and it looked pretty ugly when it came out of the oven. Not bad, but the noodles were the weak link.

A bit surprised the rated count is so high, but my method for getting there was pretty conducive to quantity over writing. I searched through my tracking file for records I had given a medium/high priority to (basically 2 vs. 1, on what I had originally conceived of as a 3-to-0 scale, but haven't been using the ends). Currently I have 164 records at priority 2, mostly jazz. I started the week adding Saving Country Music picks to my metacritic file, so there's a fair number of alt-country albums in this week's crop. I also stumbled my way onto the Aerophonic Records Bandcamp, where Dave Rempis has been releasing a lot of his old tapes (a fairly common strategy for musicians sidelined by the pandemic). I also rummaged through my Downloads directory, sorted out what I had accumulated, and created a log to manage it better.

My other splurge this week was from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide, which aside from a few records I had previously given various B+ grades to (Chicks, No Age, No Joy, Taylor Swift -- I revisited No Age, see below), and Nat King Cole's Jumpin' at Capitol (released in 1990, an A- from way back, and not the only one), had a lot of things I hadn't heard. Only one I couldn't find was The Human Hearts, which back in 2012 released another Christgau A- I never managed to hear. Surprised I didn't like Billy Nomates more, especially given that I like Sleaford Mods a lot more than Bob does, but maybe that was the point?

Christgau, by the way, published his guide to volunteering to work on the side of sanity and civilization in the 2020 election today: Vote! It Ain't Illegal Yet!. He's practiced what he preaches for many years now. I know a couple others who volunteer regularly to help with campaigns, but no one who's put more into it. All I can manage to do is to write up some obvious truths (as I've been doing weekly in my Weekend Roundups; for the Trump era, you can download this [odt format], which isn't totally up to date).

I usually spend a fair amount of time updating the metacritic file on Mondays before posting this, but decided I'd rather get this out at a decent hour, and catch up later. Also thought I'd do a books post this week, but didn't make much progress on that, given the sheer length of yesterday's Weekend Roundup (1738 lines, 12816 words, making it the longest ever, eclipsing 1601/11281 from two weeks back)..


New records reviewed this week:

  • The 81's: 2 Things & 118 Others (2020, The 81's): [r]: B+(**)
  • 100 Gecs: 1000 Gecs and the Tree of Clues (2020, Dog Show): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jessi Alexander: Decatur County Red (2020, Lost Creek Music): [r]: B+(*)
  • Pedro Melo Alves: In Igma (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B-
  • American Aquarium: Lamentations (2020, New West): [r]: B+(**)
  • Antibalas: Fu Chronicles (2020, Daptone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Mulatu Astatke & Black Jesus Experience: To Know Without Knowing (2020, Agogo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Teodross Avery: Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk (2020, WJ3): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jon Balke: Discourses (2019 [2020], ECM): [r]: B
  • Ballister: Znachki Stilyag (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: A-
  • J Balvin: Colores (2020, Universal Latin): [r]: B+(**)
  • Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 1 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Black Thought: Streams of Thought Vol. 2 (2018, Human Re Sources, EP): [r]: A-
  • Afel Bocoum: Lindé (2020, World Circuit): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bonjintan: Dental Kafka (2018 [2020], Trost): [r]: B+(**)
  • Alan Braufman: The Fire Still Burns (2019 [2020], Valley of Search): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Cardenas: Blue Has a Range (2019 [2020], Sunnyside): [r]: B
  • Lynn Cassiers: Yun (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B
  • Ernesto Cervini: Tetrahedron (2019 [2020], Anzic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Elizabeth Cook: Aftermath (2020, Agent Love): [r]: B+(***)
  • Vladislav Delay: Rakka (2020, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Vladislav Delay/Sly Dunbar/Robbie Shakespeare: 500-Push-Up (2020, Sub Rosa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Daniel Donato: A Young Man's Country (2020, Cosmic Country Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Engines: Wooden Legs (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Frazey Ford: U Kin B the Sun (2020, Arts & Crafts): [r]: B+(**)
  • Arna Georgia: Yes Girl (2020, Arna Georgia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tom Guarna: Spirit Science (2019 [2020], Destiny): [cd]: B+(*) [09-18]
  • Russ Johnson/Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Isaiah Spencer/Jeremy Cunningham: Harmattan (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Knxwledge: 1988 (2020, Stones Throw): [bc]: B
  • The Magnetic Fields: Quickies (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Arlo McKinley: Die Midwestern (2020, Oh Boy): [r]: B
  • Cahalen Morrison: Wealth of Sorrow (2020, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Tatsuya Nakatani/Shane Parish: Interactivity (2018 [2020], Cuneiform): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nas: King's Disease (2020, Mass Appeal): [r]: B+(**)
  • Billy Nomates: Billy Nomates (2020, Invada): [r]: B+(***)
  • Oddisee: Odd Cure (2020, Outer Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gregory Porter: All Rise (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dave Rempis/Elisabeth Harnik/Michael Zerang: Triple Tube (2019 [2020], Not Two): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rempis Percussion Quartet: The Long Haul (2011 [2020], Aerophonic): [r]: A-
  • Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (2019 [2020], Pyroclastic): [cd]: A-
  • Bobby Rush: Rawer Than Raw (2020, Deep Rush): [r]: B+(***)
  • Christian Sands: Be Water (2020, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Axiom (2020, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(***)
  • Archie Shepp/Raw Poetic/Damu the Fudgemunk: Ocean Bridges (2020, Redefinition): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gary Smulyan: Our Contrafacts (2019 [2020], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stillefelt: Stillefelt (2019 [2020], Stoney Lane): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Peter Stampfel & the Bottlecaps: Demo '84 (1984 [2020], Don Giovanni): [r]: A
  • Triage: Live at the Velvet Lounge (2005 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Good Ol' Persons: Anywhere the Wind Blows (1989, Kaleidoscope): [dl]: B+(**)
  • Devin Gray/Ryan Ferreira/Jonathan Goldberger/Chris Tordini: Devin Gray's Fashionable Pop Music (2012 [2016], Rataplan): [bc]: B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • No Age: Goons Be Gone (2020, Drag City): [r]: [was: B+(**)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Borah Bergman/Perry Anderson/Steve Swell/Ray Sage: Quartets Trios Duos (2007 [2020], Mahakala Music)
  • Chad Fowler/WC Anderson: Lacrimosa (Mahakala Music)
  • Lafayette Gilchrist: Now (Lafayette Gilchrist Music, 2CD) [10-02]
  • Hazar: Reincarnated (IAN Productions)
  • Joachim Mencel: Brooklyn Eye (Origin) [09-18]
  • Markus Rutz: Blueprints: Figure Two: New Designs (OA2) [09-18]
  • Scenes: Trapeze (Origin) [09-18]
  • Jim Waller Big Band: Bucket List (self-released)

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

I picked this up on Facebook, forwarded by a couple of friends. I thought it might do more good here:

If you're active in the BLM movement (or even if you're just Black), you're getting posts on your feed about Biden and Harris's pro-police records.

If you're an environmentalist, you're getting posts on Biden's past support of fossil fuels.

If you're LGBT, you're reading articles about Harris defending California's policy of not providing gender reassignment surgery to trans inmates.

If you want universal health care, there's a post on your page about how Bernie was robbed and Biden is in Big Pharma's pocket.

If you're for immigrant rights, there is an article in your top 20 right now about Obama being the "deporter in chief."

This is especially true if you live in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, or Arizona.

None of these articles are wrong. Most of them lack context, and may err by omission, but they're not fake news. The organizations paying Facebook to show them to you, on the other hand, or paying "influencers" to share them . . . those are fake. They don't care about Black lives, or the environment, or trans people, or health care, or immigrants. They only want one thing.

They want you to not vote in November. Or vote third party, which is the same thing.

Whether it's a troll cubicle farm in Novgorod or a right wing think tank in Richmond, microtargeting allows them to aim directly at your feels and feed your outrage, disgust and sense of powerlessness.

They can't get you to vote for Trump, but they might get you to not vote against him.

Don't fall for it. Elect Biden. Flip the Senate. Then get back to work in 2021. Elect more Bernies and Warrens and AOCs and Jamaals in the primaries. Keep moving the Overton window. Scare the lukewarm Democrats you've just elected into doing the right thing. Hold Biden to the platform commitments he made to Sanders delegates, and push him to go beyond.

Because unlike Republicans, Democrats CAN be steered, persuaded, shamed, flattered, or convinced to take action. Obama didn't start out favoring gay marriage, or cannabis legalization. Hell, LBJ wasn't for desegregation, until he was.

Put Trump where he belongs, in the hands of the SDNY attorneys. Let Ruth Bader Ginsberg retire. Vote. And wear your mask. Thanks.

Copy. Paste. Speak the truth to the world.

We're less than two months away from the election. An insane amount of money is being raised and spent to sway that election, and it will be used to try to manipulate you in all kinds of ways. Beware that most of the money comes from rich people with their own private agendas -- indeed, a lot of it is coming through "dark money" fronts intended to avoid transparency and accountability. Misinformation and dirty tricks are likely to come so fast and furious you'll never be able to sort them out. On the other hand, you really only have to know a few things to decide this election: we live in a very complex world which requires expertise and trustworthiness to function; trust depends on respect and empathy for other people; a democratic government ("of, by, and for the people") is essential because it is the only basis for fair and just management of this complexity. Republicans have repeatedly failed to run competent government, partly because they are hold many people in contempt, and partly because they see political power only in terms of their ability to reward their donors and lock in their own power. While conservatives have failed for many years, they have rarely exposed their own incompetence as blatantly and hopelessly as they have under the leadership and direction of Donald Trump. He is a disaster and an embarrassment. He and his party deserve to be driven from the halls of power, and the only way to do that is to elect Democrats: Joe Biden for president, and the other Democrats running for Congress and state and local office. The more complete the rout, the better. It's easy to say this is the most important election of our lifetimes, but it may be more accurate to say that if we fail to take our country back this time, this may be one of the last chances we get.


Some scattered links this week:

Danielle Allen: The flawed genius of the Constitution: "The document counted my great-great-grandfather as three-fifths of a free person. But the Framers don't own the version we live by today. We do. The document is our responsibility now."

Nancy J Altman: Trump really does have a plan to destroy Social Security. The linchpin here is eliminating the payroll taxes that fund Social Security. Trump has already suspended collection of those taxes until the end of the year, producing a short-term stimulus and a slightly longer-term liability. The idea is that when the bill comes due, people will feel the pinch, and demand relief from the tax. As half of the tax is deducted from workers' checks, they would see a slight increase in take-home pay, but few would manage to save enough to make up for the eventual loss of retirement income. The other half is paid by companies, who could use the savings to pay workers more, but more likely will pocket the profit. Franklin Roosevelt thought that the regressive payroll tax would protect the program against predatory business efforts, but he didn't anticipate the short-sighted nihilism of Trump's generation. By the way, Glenn Kessler tries to argue that Trump has no such plan: see Biden campaign attacks a Trump Social Security 'plan' that does not exist. The gist of Kessler's argument seems to be that Trump says so many incoherent things, and does so little to clarify them, that you can't attribute anything as deliberate as a plan to him.

Kate Aronoff: Trump's fire sale of public lands for oil and gas drillers: "The Bureau of Land Management is rushing to auction off sites ahead of a potential Biden presidency."

Peter Baker: More than ever, Trump casts himself as the defender of White America.

Katrin Bennhold: Trump emerges as inspiration for Germany's far right.

Megan Cassella: 'A tale of 2 recessions': As rich Americans get richer, the bottom half struggles. This goes far in explaining why the Republicans have no interest in another stimulus bill, while the Democrats see the need for something much more dramatic:

Recent economic data and surveys have laid bare the growing divide. Americans saved a stunning $3.2 trillion in July, the same month that more than 1 in 7 households with children told the U.S. Census Bureau they sometimes or often didn't have enough food. More than a quarter of adults surveyed have reported paying down debt faster than usual, according to a new AP-NORC poll, while the same proportion said they have been unable to make rent or mortgage payments or pay a bill.

And while the employment rate for high-wage workers has almost entirely recovered -- by mid-July it was down just 1 percent from January -- it remains down 15.4 percent for low-wage workers, according to Harvard's Opportunity Insights economic tracker.

Zak Cheney-Rice: Police riots and the limits of electoral solutions.

Matthew Choi: Trump says Pentagon chiefs are accommodating weapons makers. Once in a while he goes off on an antiwar lark, without recognizing any discrepancy from his actual record. Related:

Jane Chong: Donald Trump, constitutional grift, and John Yoo: An overly long review of Yoo's Defender in Chief: Donald Trump's Fight for Presidential Power. You may remember Yoo as the lawyer in GW Bush's White House who came up with the most incredible legal rationalizations for Cheney's torture policy. "There isn't a lot more to Yoo's argument than his insistence that executive energy is a good and constitutional thing." Still, he usually waits until a Republican is in the White House before deciding for dictatorship.

Jane Coaston: The pro-Trump, anti-left Patriot Prayer group, explained.

Jelani Cobb: Our long, forgotten history of election-related violence: "President Trump has sparked dangerous lawlessness, but killing and destruction linked to political antagonisms are nothing new for this country." Still, I don't find it very reassuring that his first example dates from 1856.

Dan Diamond: Trump officials interfered with CDC reports on Covid-19: "The politically appointed HHS spokesperson and his team demanded and received the right to review CDC's scientific reports to health professionals."

Anne Diebel: Trumps on the couch: Review of Mary L Trump's Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man. Sooner or later, Donald Trump will no longer darken our doors, and from that point on I'll have no desire to ever read about him again. Indeed, the only one of a dozen books I've read to date that reveals much worth knowing about Trump is TV critic James Poniewozik's Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America, and that's because he bothered to sort out the meaning of so-called "reality TV" -- something I've never had the slightest interest in actually watching. The only other book that seems like it might be enlightening is his nieces's psychobiography, and that's largely because she takes a broader and deeper view of his family.

Jason Ditz: Biden says stay in Mideast, increase military spending: Well, that's not exactly what he said -- the only exact quote here is "forever wars have to end," but he isn't acknowledging that what makes them "forever" is America's military footprint in the Middle East. Ditz's subhed is also an exaggeration: "Biden wants to refocus on fighting Russia." He said that NATO has been "worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia," which could be ominous but is probably just a reflection on Trump's passive-aggressive stance. Still, statements like this give Trump some room to paint Biden as the warmonger in the campaign --l admittedly less credible than the same charge against Hillary Clinton, but the track record is that both have supported wars and the military pretty much in lockstep.

Nayantara Dutta: Neighbors are gathering online to give and get things they need right now: "In 'Buy Nothing' and gifting groups around the country, communities are connecting over free stuff." This is something I'd like to see happening, not least because I'm one of those guys (my wife calls us hoarders) who can't abide the idea of throwing things away that might be useful to other people, but who's too lazy to find people to give them to. I could imagine a neighborhood online exchange for browsing and ordering, with delivery so you don't have to go in to shop, and pickup of anything you care to pass on. You'd need a warehouse, a computer system, some sorters and deliverers, and someone would have to make decisions about recycling or trashing items that nobody wants. An open source software project could service many of these, and possibly add higher level interchanges to move surplus items into other locations with more needs. You could skim some stuff off to sell on the free market, and possibly finance some of the operation that way.

Steve Early/Suzanne Gordon: Under Trump, military veterans and service members have been 'losers': Trump's Secretary of Defense Mark Esper wants "to trim $2 billion allocated for direct care for 9.5 million active-duty personnel, military retirees, and dependents over the next five years." Gordon is the author of a book, Wounds of War: How the VA Delivers Health, Healing, and Hope to the Nation's Veterans.

Tim Elfrink: Police shot Portland slaying suspect without warning or trying to arrest him first, witness says. Michael Reinoehl was a suspect in the shooting of a pro-Trump "Patriot Prayer" counter-protester in Portland, making it hard to determine whether the shooting had been in defense (of self or others). By the way, Aaron Rupar quotes Trum on this: "This guy was a violent criminal, and the US Marshals killed him. And I'll tell you something -- that's the way it has to be. There has to be retribution." The thread I pulled this from disputes that federal marshals were the ones who killed Reinoehl. Dean Baker comments further: "I guess courts and trials are too complicated for little Donnie Boy to understand." As Richard Silverstein summed up this story, Trump urges summary execution of protesters.

Tom Engelhardt: The great, great fall, or American carnage from a pandemic President.

John Feffer: Trump and the troops: "The alternative to Trump is not the glorification of military service. It's promoting the kind of service that gets fewer people killed."

Thomas Frank: We need to reclaim populism from the right. It has a long, proud leftwing history. Excerpt from Frank's recent book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism, which I recently read, and generally liked. As a Kansan, I've spent a fair amount of time reading about the People's Party, and for that matter the Socialist Party (which one had a significant foothold in southeast Kansas). I appreciate Frank's brief history of the 1896 and 1936 elections. I do, however, think that there is a significant difference between the "liberal anti-populists" Frank attacks in the modern Democratic Party and the "anti-populism" of 1896 and 1936, and that difference matters going forward. I'll also note that part of the problem in 1896 was that silver wasn't a very good answer to the deflationary pressures of the time -- the Greenback Party of the 1870s was actually on a better track.

Andrew Freedman/Timothy Bella: Western wildfires break records as devastating toll on lives and homes begins to emerge.

Stanley B Greenberg: How Trump is losing his base: "Focus groups with working-class and rural voters show the deep health care crisis in America, and trouble for Trump's re-election." Makes sense, but the polls are showing Trump has a very consistent level of support, so if he's losing base votes, how is he compensating? Alexander Sammon argues that Trump's making up his losses among seniors with Latino votes -- see: The Biden-Trump demographic switcheroo.

Sue Halpern: How the Trump campaign's mobile app is collecting massive amounts of voter data. I didn't even know such a thing existed, but of course it does -- Biden has one, also, and the contrast is revealing:

By contrast, the new Biden app still collects data on users, but it outlines the specific uses of that data and doesn't automatically collect the e-mail and phone numbers of users' friends and family. "Unlike the Biden app, which seeks to provide users with awareness and control of the specific uses of their data, the Trump app collects as much as it can using an opt-out system and makes no promises as to the specific uses of that data," Samuel Woolley, the director of the propaganda research project at the University of Texas's Center for Media Engagement, told me. "They just try to get people to turn over as much as possible."

Also note:

The policy also notes that the campaign will be collecting information gleaned from G.P.S. and other location services, and that users will be tracked as they move around the Internet. Users also agree to give the campaign access to the phone's Bluetooth connection, calendar, storage, and microphone, as well as permission to read the contents of their memory card, modify or delete the contents of the card, view the phone status and identity, view its Wi-Fi connections, and prevent the phone from going to sleep. These permissions give the Trump data operation access to the intimate details of users' lives, the ability to listen in on those lives, and to follow users everywhere they go. It's a colossal -- and essentially free -- data-mining enterprise. As Woolley and his colleague Jacob Gursky wrote in MIT Technology Review, the Trump 2020 app is "a voter surveillance tool of extraordinary power."

I learned this firsthand after downloading the Trump 2020 app on a burner phone I bought in order to examine it, using an alias and a new e-mail address. Two days later, the President sent me a note, thanking me for joining his team. Lara Trump invited me (for a small donation) to become a Presidential adviser. Eric Trump called me one of his father's "FIERCEST supporters from the beginning." But the messages I began getting from the Trump campaign every couple of hours were sent not only to the name and address I'd used to access the app. They were also sent to the e-mail address and name associated with the credit card I'd used to buy the phone and its SIM card, neither of which I had shared with the campaign. Despite my best efforts, they knew who I was and where to reach me.

Rebecca Heilweil: Right-wing media thrives on Facebook. Whether it rules is more complicated.

Patrick Hingsley: Fire destroys most of Europe's largest refugee camp, on Greek island of Lesbos.

Umair Irfan: The orange skies and smoky air from Western wildfires, explained: "Air pollution may be the most dangerous element of the massive fires." Also: "Unprecedented": What's behind the California, Oregon, and Washington wildfires. More:

John Ismay: At least 37 million people have been displaced by America's War on Terror: A new report from Brown University's Costs of War project. "That figure exceeds those displaced by conflict since 1900, the authors say, with the exception of World War II." Also:

Sarah Jeong: The Battle of Portland: "How mass protests against racist police brutality sparked a historic federal crackdown on dissent." Extensive report.

The responsibility to de-escalate the conflict lay on the side that had the guns, rather than the side that was hurling eggs by the carton. But the feds were being directed by officials who were ranting at Congress about violent anarchists and a president who was calling the dweebiest city in America a "beehive of terrorists."

Fred Kaplan: Is America in the early stages of armed insurgency? Counterinsurgency strategist David Kilcullen thinks so. I think there is a lot of potential for isolated violence from the right, certainly if Trump loses, perhaps as likely if he wins. The big uncertainty is how Trump, Republicans, and their propaganda network responds to the violence -- the full-throated support given for Kyle Rittenhouse is chilling, even hard to imagine a mere four years ago.

Aishvarya Kavi: 5 takeaways from Rage, Bob Woodward's new book about Trump: Bob Woodward's second book on Trump drops on Sept. 15, so the press is awash with publicity leaks. Like 2018's Fear, was based on personal interviews, its title reduced to a four-letter word the subject can relate to. This seems like the piece to start with. The big revelation appears to be that Trump was able to speak knowledgeably and coherently about the coronavirus threat in early February, at a time when he was downplaying it publicly and doing nothing to reduce the threat. Many people blame Woodward for not reporting what he knew at the time, suggesting the news might have helped save lives. Of course, saving lives isn't Woodward's idea of good journalism. Selling books is. Here are Kavi's 5 takeaways:

  • Mr. Trump minimized the risks of the coronavirus to the American public early in the year.
  • Two of the president's top officials thought he was "dangerous" and considered speaking out publicly. Jim Mattis and Dan Coats. "Ultimately neither official spoke out."
  • Mr. Trump repeatedly denigrated the U.S. military and his top generals.
  • When asked about the pain "Black people feel in this country," Mr. Trump was unable to express empathy.
  • Mr. Woodward gained insight into Mr. Trump's relationship with the leaders of North Korea and Russia.

Offhand, I wouldn't rate any of these are breakthrough insights, but that's about par for Woodward, who regularly gets too close to his subjects to see them clearly. Other Rage pieces:

Ibram X Kendi: The violent defense of white male supremacy.

Glenn Kessler: Trump keeps bragging about imaginary auto plants in swing states.

Jen Kirby: The UK threatens to renege on the Brexit deal it signed with the EU just a year ago.

Ezra Klein: Black Republicans, Donald Trump, and America's "George Floyd moment": Interview with historian Leah Wright Rigueur, author of The Loneliness of the Black Republican.

John Knefel: Police and racist vigilantes: Even worse than you think.

Nicholas Kristof: 'We're no. 28! And dropping!': "A measure of social progress finds that the quality of life has dropped in America over the last decade, even as it has risen almost everywhere else."

The newest Social Progress Index, shared with me before its official release Thursday morning, finds that out of 163 countries assessed worldwide, the United States, Brazil and Hungary are the only ones in which people are worse off than when the index began in 2011. And the declines in Brazil and Hungary were smaller than America's.

"The data paint an alarming picture of the state of our nation, and we hope it will be a call to action," Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor and the chair of the advisory panel for the Social Progress Index, told me. "It's like we're a developing country."

The index, inspired by research of Nobel-winning economists, collects 50 metrics of well-being -- nutrition, safety, freedom, the environment, health, education and more -- to measure quality of life. Norway comes out on top in the 2020 edition, followed by Denmark, Finland and New Zealand. South Sudan is at the bottom, with Chad, Central African Republic and Eritrea just behind.

What Brazil and Hungary have in common with the US is far-right government. That they've suffered a bit less than the US is probably because those far-right governments have been hegemonic for shorter times: the US has been controlled by conservative Republicans (and the occasional ineffective neoliberal Democrat) since 1980, so inequality has progressed further, especially in eating into the social fabric. Porter is wrong to say the US is like "a developing country." Developing countries are developing -- making progress, even if fitfully. The US is a devolving country, its industries devoured by predatory capitalists, its workers marginalized, its society wracked by fear and loathing. It's still in the top quarter of the list, because it was once on top, but declining steadily -- maybe never to the point of the bottom rung, of countries that aren't even developing. They are mired in war, which is even more corrosive than private equity. On the other hand, the right's fascination with guns and private militias suggests that too could befall us.

Paul Krugman:

Claire Lampen: The Justice Department is reportedly trying to shield Trump from a rape lawsuit. E Jean Carroll claims that Trump raped her in a department store dressing room 25 years ago. She sued Trump for libel, and a court ordered him to provide a DNA sample and deposition. The DOJ intervention has stopped the case, at least for now.

Rob Larson: A quick guide to what is going on with the economy: A pretty substantial review up through July.

Eric Levitz:

  • The conservative case for organized labor: Interview with Oren Cass, a former Mitt Romney adviser who runs the think tank American Compass. Occasionally you run across Republican operatives who think that the Party needs to provide some economic aid for its working class voters, but those aren't the conservative ideologues who control the party. On the other hand, I don't see labor leaders abandoning their agenda to use government to extend worker rights -- unlike Samuel Gompers, who before the New Deal opposed laws regulating things like child labor because he felt they disincentivized workers from joining his union. One can imagine a few conservatives accepting unions as preferale to government regulation, but only the most elite-oriented unions are willing to overlook masses of non-union workers dragging the labor market down. And most conservatives are so invested in the notion that owners should wield absolute power that they're unwilling to consider any kind of power-sharing arrangement. Also note:

  • The GOP is no longer the pro-business party. Levitz is one of New York most dependable left-wing writers, so he's on a rather strange kick now. But sure, business has actually done much better with Democratic presidents than with Republican ones. Clinton was especially proud of that fact, and that's probably why they feel so good about raking in all those lucrative speaking deals. It's also true that Obama, Hillary Clinton, and now Biden have been raising more money than their Republican opponents. On the other hand, Republicans still have a lot of business support, especially in old, reactionary and/or predatory industries, especially among capitalists who are more focused on power than wealth.

    To be sure, Trump has done a great deal to benefit corporate America's incumbent executives, especially those looking to maximize their own wealth in the run-up to retirement. Through his regressive-tax cuts and deregulatory measures, the president has saved major U.S. firms and their shareholders a bundle. The nation's six largest banks alone have pocketed $32 billion as a consequence of Trump's policies. And for America's most socially irresponsible enterprises, this administration has been a true godsend. Since taking power, the Trump White House has, among other things, expanded the liberty of coal companies to dump mining waste in streams, pushed to preserve the rights of retirement advisers to gamble with their clients' money, freed employers from the burden of logging all workplace injuries, and ended discrimination against serial labor-law violators in the bidding process for government contracts.

    But the Republican Party is too corrupted by rentier and extractive industries -- and too besotted with conservative economic orthodoxy -- to advance the long-term best interests of American capital. . . .

    Contra ruling-class reactionaries' self-flattering dogmas, private enterprise is -- and always has been -- reliant on competent statecraft. Conservatives recognize capital's reliance on "big government" in the realm of military defense. But in the Anthropocene, emergent diseases and climate change pose at least as large a threat to capital accumulation as any hostile foreign power. Meanwhile, in a globalized economy beset by chronic shortfalls of demand and periodic financial shocks, the GOP's resilient skepticism about economic stimulus renders the party an uncertain friend to corporate America in its times of need. Granted, the party has largely fulfilled its duty to reflate asset prices and shore up credit markets this year. But the strength of the recovery (such as it is) is at least partly attributable to policies that originated with Democrats, and which the GOP accepted only grudgingly in March and has since refused to renew. As is, there is every reason to think that American businesses (especially small ones) would be better off if Pelosi's caucus could set fiscal policy by fiat.

Martin Longman: We can't endure much more bad leadership. He starts with some examples of how little decisions by leaders add up, for some reason starting with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and tracing from there through 9/11 and the Global War on Terror -- things which indeed reflect bad leadership but really have more proximate causes. Trump gets several mentions later on, but his real example is SD governor Kristi Noem's decision not to cancel the annual motorcycle rally in Sturgis. The result:

Nineteen percent of the 1.4 million new coronavirus cases in the U.S. between Aug. 2 and Sept. 2 can be traced back to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally held in South Dakota, according to researchers from San Diego State University's Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies.

That's more than 266,000 cases, with a public health cost of $12.2 billion. As for Trump, he's not just a bad leader in the sense that Clinton, the Bushes, and even Obama were -- by following conventional political "wisdom" into one cul de sac after another. He's bad on an absolutely cosmic scale. He's seeded the government with mini-versions of himself: pompous, arrogant, corrupt, vain, and stupid, and led them to believe that they are protected from legal and political consequences (even though he's ultimately had to fire many of them). One can imagine an inept leader surviving on the competencies of his staff, but Trump precluded that possibility both through his staffing -- sure, Pence was responsible for most of them, but over time Trump has managed to weed out most of the ones who weren't sufficiently sycophantic (or for that matter psycho) -- but also by insisting that nothing is real but in terms of its us-vs-them political impact. Trump's instinct was to look only at the political implications of coronavirus, to see how he could use it as a tool of divide and conquer. As such, he inevitably politicized things like mask wearing that most leaders would have taken pains to depoliticize. Longman stresses that many times he's argued that we need better leaders. What's more clear is that we need less bad leaders -- leaders who can put aside their political angles when the events dictate otherwise. However, Trump has gone way beyond such concepts as good and not bad. The problem with Trump's leadership is not just that it's bad; it's that he's so embarrassingly incompetent he's a distraction from everything.

German Lopez:

Bruno Maçães: How fantasy triumphed over reality in American politics. Author has a new book, History Has Begun: The Birth of a New America, from which this is adapted. He is stuck with the idea of a "new world order," and flat out declares "the proposition that the whole planet is on a course to embrace Western liberalism is no longer credible," but doesn't seem to have any better suggestions. He is right that in voting for Reagan in 1980 America turned away from the limits of the real world and decided to live in a fantasy -- one that's become progressively desperate as evidenced by Trump's "make America great again."

Amanda Marcotte: Trump, you're no FDR or Winston Churchill -- but you're a lot like Charles Lindbergh: "Trump defends coronavirus lies to comparing himself to wartime leaders -- but he's closer to the Nazi apologists." This doesn't mention Nick Adams's recent book, Trump and Churchill: Defenders of Western Civilization, which is ridiculous enough (on both counts) to need no review, nor does it mention Fred Trump's attachment to Lindbergh's "America First" movement (although it does note Donald Trump's use of the slogan and penchant for evoking fascist memes).

Perhaps the difference between the two men is that Lindbergh, as despicable a person as he may have been, became famous for doing something that required courage, intelligence and skill, which was to become the first person to fly an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean.

Trump, on the other hand, has spent his life bouncing from one failed venture to another, cheating and grifting to create the illusion of enormous wealth and great success. And so while Lindbergh eventually had to concede reality, Trump will never quit believing he can flim-flam his way through this crisis, no matter how many corpses pile up in his wake.

Nolan D McCaskill: Trump team says history will vindicate him on coronavirus: "Top advisers blame everyone but the president for the nation's plight during the pandemic."

Media Matters: This group watches Fox News so you don't have to. I'm convinced that nothing affects politics more these days than Fox's hermetically sealed alternate universe. I saw Matt Taibbi complain recently that MSNBC is "even more partisan" than Fox, and that nearly everyone who says they trust the New York Times for news identifies as a Democrat, but the latter at least doesn't try to lock their readers in a bubble of misinformation. (I watch so little MSNBC I can't really speak of them.) Some recent headlines give you a taste both of what Trump says and (more importantly) what he hears:

Ian Millhiser:

Tom Nichols: This Republican Party is not worth saving: "No one should ever get a second chance to destroy the Constitution."

Timothy Noah: Trump's OSHA is fining companies pennies for pandemic violations.

Olivia Nuzzi: There's still a reason for Trump rallies, for Trump at least: "The MAGA rallies -- which aren't technically MAGA rallies -- are helping the president workshop his campaign message in real time."

The rallies are a salve for the Tinkerbell syndrome that afflicts the president. He is first a showman, and his connection with an audience is life-sustaining -- a source of dopamine and a form of catharsis more powerful than any grenade-throwing exercise of a tweet. And they provide him with a sort of spiritual poll: a sense of how things are going, based on his animalistic crowd-aura-reading abilities.

On the other hand, you have to wonder about the quality of feedback he's getting from the small minority of Americans who adore him enough to risk their lives to gratify his ego.

Listening to him, it can sound like he's been unable to make sense of what has happened in America under his watch.

"This is the most important election in the history of our country. I wouldn't say that lightly," he said. "And frankly, I thought the last one was, and I said it, but they've gone to a level that nobody even thought possible. These people have gotten stone-cold crazy."

Antonio Olivo/Nick Miroff: ICE flew detainees to Virginia so the planes could transport agents to DC protests. A huge coronavirus outbreak followed.

George Packer: Are we on the cusp of an era of radical reform that repairs America's broken democracy? Alternate title: America's plastic hour is upon us.

Beneath the dreary furor of the partisan wars, most Americans agree on fundamental issues facing the country. Large majorities say that government should ensure some form of universal health care, that it should do more to mitigate global warming, that the rich should pay higher taxes, that racial inequality is a significant problem, that workers should have the right to join unions, that immigrants are a good thing for American life, that the federal government is plagued by corruption. These majorities have remained strong for years. The readiness, the demand for action, is new.

What explains it? Nearly four years of a corrupt, bigoted, and inept president who betrayed his promise to champion ordinary Americans. The arrival of an influential new generation, the Millennials, who grew up with failed wars, weakened institutions, and blighted economic prospects, making them both more cynical and more utopian than their parents. Collective ills that go untreated year after year, so bone-deep and chronic that we assume they're permanent -- from income inequality, feckless government, and police abuse to a shredded social fabric and a poisonous public discourse that verges on national cognitive decline. Then, this year, a series of crises that seemed to come out of nowhere, like a flurry of sucker punches, but that arose straight from those ills and exposed the failures of American society to the world.

Alex Pareene: What if Democrats just promised to make things work again? "It's actually a rarity to hear a politician explicitly promise to govern effectively." "Most Americans, like most people, simply want things to work."

Martin Pengelly:

Cameron Peters:

  • Trump's Nevada rally was an exercise in delegitimizing voting -- and denying reality: "Trump keeps holding probable superspreader events in the middle of a pandemic."

  • Why Mike Bloomberg plans to spend $100 million boosting Biden in Florida. Nothing to get excited about here -- no one has done more to discredit the idea of money's ability to influence elections than Bloomberg, but the main thing his spending couldn't overcome was the inherent weakness of the messenger. On the other hand, one could argue that his spending was very effective at getting people to vote for Joe Biden, who not only handily beat Bloomberg but won a bunch of states he didn't seriously campaign in. Florida was one of those states -- a particularly important one. Personally, I have no faith Florida will ever do the right thing, but it offers Bloomberg an opportunity to earn some favors with Biden. One thing about Bloomberg is that his motives are pretty transparent: he hates the left much more than he's bothered by the Republicans, and sees centrist Democrats as a much more effective prophylactic against popular revolt threatening his class privileges. If billionaires like Bloomberg can't deliver the presidency to Biden, their future in the Democratic Party will be as tarnished as Hillary Clinton's. Also see: Dexter Filkins: Who gets to vote in Florida? One reason Florida disappoints so often is that Republican jiggering of the election process there is often decisive. While there is little doubt that Republicans will try to cheat everywhere they can this year, North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin, and (of course) Florida are exceptionally vulnerable.

Lili Pike: China has quietly vaccinated more than 100,000 people for Covid-19 before completing safety trials. China was the first nation hit by Covid-19, and from that point seemed (to me, at least) likely to be the first nation to get a grip on the disease, possibly gaining some sort of strategic advantage vs. other countries (especially given the US obsession with "intellectual property" rents). Looking back, China was remarkably effective at containing the virus, with per capita infection rates so low one wonders if they've fudged the numbers. But also, unlike the US, the Chinese government retains the ability and will to direct private industry to further public goals, so they can pursue things like vaccine development much more aggressively than others can. Also, given their closed political system, they have little motivation to publicize developments before they are known to work -- compare to Trump's promises on a vaccine before the end of the year, or his touting of a plasma treatment that hadn't been cleared. So it's not a surprise that China seems to have jumped into the lead on vaccine development -- just news. Also, this should give you pause when thinking about Trump's plans for an "America first" vaccine controlled by corporate behemoths. From its inception, Covid-19 was a world pandemic, which demanded full international cooperation. Trump has repeatedly sabotaged that, and the US has suffered a lot as a result, and we're likely to suffer even more.

Paul R Pillar: Putting America on the wrong side of war crimes.

Michael Rea: How the evangelical movement became Trump's "bitch" -- and yes, I know what that word signifies: "As an evangelical myself, I can see how far the movement has sunk -- even to betraying its own ideal of masculinity."

James Risen: Senate report shows what Mueller missed about Trump and Russia. Also:

David Roberts: What's causing climate change, in 10 charts.

Nathan J Robinson: The case for degrowth: When the shutdowns happened back in March, a friend asked whether they would force us to start thinking about degrowth. The concept has been floating around for a while. Indeed, it's almost inevitable once you consider the impossibility of infinite economic growth, but it also builds on critiques of GDP -- turns out that measuring all economic activity fails to recognize any difference in value between activities (like building a house, or blowing one up and having to build another -- the latter produces more GDP, but one less house). Robinson reviews Jason Hickel's new book: Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World, and also spend considerable time with Mariana Mazzucato's The Value of Everything.

Philip Rucker/Josh Dawsey/Yasmeen Abutaleb: Trump fixates on the promise of a vaccine -- real or not -- as key to reelection bid.

Aaron Rupar:

Robert J Samuelson: Goodbye, readers, and good luck -- you'll need it: "What 50 years of writing about economics has taught me." Not much. He's been a hedgehog, his one big idea that inflation is bad. I read his book, The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath, where he insisted that the inflation of the 1970s was even worse than the depression of the 1930s. My parents lived through both, and while they may have been luckier than some in the 1970s, their view was the exact opposite. Perhaps because they learned to avoid debt and save in the 1930s they saw nothing but benefits from the 1970s: their costs were manageable (no debt, not even a mortgage), my father's wages grew substantially (thank God for unions), and their savings reaped pretty high interest (without having to become criminals). Samuelson's last piece before this one was Don't forget about inflation. I thought about complaining about it at the time but didn't, so when I saw this one, I figured I'd best get my last word in. I was pointed to this one by Alex Pareene, who tweeted: "this guy sucks and in incalculable but significant ways has made the future worse for all of us with his bad ideas and arguments dating back decades." Pareene also referred me to Brad DeLong: Carbon blogging/Robert J Samuelson is a bad person.

Jeff Satterwhite: The right-wing worldview is one of scarecrows and scapegoats. Argues that conservatives obsess over three "scarecrows": They will take out safety; They will take our liberty; They will take our culture. He doesn't offer a list of "scapegoats"; presumably they is all you need to know.

Jon Schwarz: 3,000 dead on 9/11 meant everything. 200,000 dead of Covid-19 means nothing. Here's why. "To America's leaders, our lives have value only insofar as they can be used to create a desired panic." Schwarz gives a number of examples of what were called cassus belli events -- excuses for launching wars. He mentions, for instance, the "Tonkin Gulf Incident" where US ships were fired on by North Vietnamese, but no one was injured. He doesn't mention Israel's sinking of a US ship during the 1968 Six Day War, where all Americans on board perished, but that wasn't a cassus belli, because the US had no desire to fight Israel.

Bush wanted a pretext to do a lot of things that were unnecessary, while Trump wanted an excuse to do nothing when, in fact, a lot really needed to be done.

Liliana Segura: Trump's execution spree continues at federal killing ground in Indiana: "More federal executions have been carried out in 2020 than in the past 57 years combined."

Adam Serwer: Will the United States belatedly fulfill its promise as a multiracial democracy?

Surveying the protests, Trump saw a path to victory in Nixon's footsteps: The uprisings of 2020 could rescue him from his catastrophic mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. The president leaned into his own "law and order" message. He lashed out against "thugs" and "terrorists," warning that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts." Ahead of what was to be his comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June, Trump tweeted, "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis" -- making no distinction between those protesting peacefully and those who might engage in violence.

In this, Trump was returning to a familiar playbook. He was relying on the chaos of the protests to produce the kind of racist backlash that he had ridden to the presidency in 2016. Trump had blamed the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri -- a response to the shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer -- on Barack Obama's indulgence of criminality. "With our weak leadership in Washington, you can expect Ferguson type riots and looting in other places," Trump predicted in 2014. As president, he saw such uprisings as deliverance.

Then something happened that Trump did not foresee. It didn't work.

Trump was elected president on a promise to restore an idealized past in which America's traditional aristocracy of race was unquestioned. But rather than restore that aristocracy, four years of catastrophe have -- at least for the moment -- discredited it.

Christianna Silva/James Doubek: Fascism scholas says US is 'losing its democratic status': Interview with Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I've read that book and think it's pretty good, finding a middle ground between accounts which take a overly strict historical definition (like Robert Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism) and leftists (like myself) who instantly smell fascism in every form of right-wing reaction. The NPR article links to Elias Bures: Don't call Donald Trump a fascist, which reviews Stanley's book and others (including one of Dinesh D'Souza's most ridiculous ones, accusing the left of fascism -- a trope Jonah Goldberg beat to death in Liberal Fascism). I think it depends a lot of who you're talking to. Many of us older folk on the left have a deep understanding of fascism, which provides a ready framework for recognizing much of what Trump and other conservatives say and do. Moreover, some Trump artifacts (like his ads where all the "bad guys" are Jews) echo fascist memes much too closely for comfort. On the other hand, more (mostly younger) people don't, in which case this quickly devolves to name-calling (which is all it ever was to Goldberg and D'Souza). Were I to construct a 0-10 F-Scale for how fascist politicians are, I'd peg Reagan and the Bushes in the 3-5 range, and Trump more like 7-8: too low to be a precise definition, but high enough one can't help but think about it. For a taste, here are some recent links that use the F-word:

Phillip Smith: Oregon is on the cusp of a major drug reform: Decriminalizing everything. It's likely that the number of states where marijuana is legal will increase this year, as it has nearly every election since Colorado voters approved. It's an easy call, given that it's arguably more benign than already legal alcohol and tobacco. Other drugs are a harder call, but prohibition hasn't worked any better with them than it did with alcohol or marijuana. I would go further than this proposal, but it's still much better than any state has yet done.

Roger Sollenberger: Tucker Carlson: "If we're going to survive as a country, we must defeat" Black Lives Matter: Excuse me, but what the fuck does this mean? What can "defeat" possibly mean? Arrest all the leaders and supporters of BLM? Wouldn't that just incite more people to pick up the struggle? What about anyone who even sympathizes with the notion that black people deserve the same rights and respect enjoyed by whites? Even if somehow you managed to do that, what kind of country would you have left? One with more people in jail than out? One the rest of the world -- which in case you haven't noticed is mostly non-white -- regards as an unspeakably vile rogue nation? Or maybe Carlson would be satisfied just to acquit all the cops who kill unarmed blacks, and beat back every effort to "defund" or otherwise reform the police? Wouldn't that just make BLM seem more important and more necessary than ever? The only way movements rooted in a fundamental quest for justice go away is when they achieve all or at least a significant chunk of their goals. Racist rants, even from perches like Fox News, just add to the conviction that movements like BLM are necessary.

Emily Stewart: Give everybody the internet. I agree, and would go a bit further. We also need public options to compete against all of the major commercial aps on the internet.

Matt Stieb:

Peter Stone: How William Barr is weaponizing the Justice Department to help Trump win.

David Swanson: In memoriam: Kevin Zeese is irreplaceable. Zeese, an activist lawyer, died last week. Includes some links, including two pieces co-authored by Margaret Flowers: We're in a recession, and it's likely to get worse (Mar. 19), and We don't have to choose between our health and the economy (May 19).

Astra Taylor: The end of the university: "The pandemic should force America to remake higher education."

Benjamin Wallace-Wells: How Trump could win: "The President consistently trails Joe Biden in polls, but political strategists from both parties suggest that he still has routes to reëlection." On the one hand, they're fucking with you. On the other, we have so little faith in our fellow voters, in the media that feeds them misinformation, and in the arcane system they have to navigate in order to vote, that we're full of doubts, and the fear of getting this wrong can be all-consuming.

Alex Ward:

Libby Watson:

  • Covid patients are receiving eye-popping bills. It's not all Trump's fault. "even a well-crafted plan would have been no match for our inept health care system."

  • The two Joe Bidens: "One talks of an 'FDR-size presidency,' the other works to calm Wall Street nerves. Which one will create the post-pandemic future?" The one that gets elected? Otherwise, do we even have a future?

  • America's callous indifference to death: "The Covid-19 pandemic serves as a reminder that even in an election year, our politics are ideologically predisposed to a malign neglect."

    Just two years ago, a hurricane in Puerto Rico killed at least as many people as died on 9/11, and our government's response was pathetic. The help provided has never come close to matching the need: As of July, the "first major program to rebuild houses hasn't completed a single one even though tens of thousands of homes still have damaged roofs nearly three years after Maria," according to NBC. Such neglect might be familiar to people in North Carolina or Texas, where people who had not yet recovered from one hurricane were upended again by another just a year or two later.

    The implication here is that government responded to 9/11 but not to "natural" disasters. True that victims of 9/11 received relatively generous compensation, but the overwhelming majority of what was spent following 9/11 did its victims no good whatsoever, and most of it created further problems -- even the toll of American soldiers killed in the subsequent wars far exceeded the number killed by terrorists, and the money spent, which gained us nothing, could have been put to good use at home. Politicians respond to deaths when it suits them, in ways that suit them.

Joshua Yaffa: Is Russian meddling as dangerous as we think? "The spectre of foreign manipulation looms over the coming election. But in focusing on the tactics of the aggressors we overlook out weaknesses as victims."

Jia Lynn Yang: Are we more divided now than ever before? Review of James A Morone's new book, Republic of Wrath: How American Politics Turned Tribal, From George Washington to Donald Trump. The two-party system has always been tribal, and always polarizing, but what's happened recently is that since 1980 the division has become increasingly right vs left. Before it was not uncommon to see greater diversity within a major party than between presidential candidates, but that started to change in 1980 when conservatives took over the Republican Party and won the presidency, using that success to sweep up all conservatives among Democrats. That was a winning formula for a while, but eventually turned GOP moderates into Democrats, and pushed the Democratic Party leftward (although so far you cannot say the left has come close to capturing the Democratic Party).

Matthew Yglesias:

Yglesias, by the way, has a new book, One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger. For a review, see:

Li Zhou: The Senate just failed to pass more stimulus amid a struggling economy. Here's why. "Republicans were simply using the vote to send a message."


Further notes:

From Twitter:

  • Sahil Kapur: It is remarkable how thoroughly "repeal and replace Obamacare" has been exposed as a policy mirage, after hundreds of millions of dollars poured into an assault that shaped countless elections and helped define U.S. politics in the 2010s.

  • Mike Konczal: A bugaboo of mine: there is no noteworthy insider-access or policy-friendly conservative reporting, research, or books on why this collapsed in 2017. There's no Jacob S Hacker's Road to Nowhere[: The Genesis of President Clinton's Plan for Health Security] equivalent. Just nothing.

    There are dozens of reports on why cap-and-trade failed in 2010, marquee ones that break into schools of thought of where to go next.

    It's just silence on the Right. The two major recent initiatives, Social Security privatization and ACA repeal, gone as if they never existed.

Jacob Hacker later tweeted:

For what it's worth, Paul Pierson & I did write out own post-mortem -- though it's definitely not an insider-access or policy-friendly conservative account: The Dog That Almost Barked: What the ACA Repeal Fight Says about the Resilience of the American Welfare State.

From Michael Hull, on Twitter:

OTD 49 years ago the State of New York murdered 39 people at Attica prison.

They planned the brutality, tortured the survivors, and began destroying evidence the same day.

They've denied it for decades, but I got pictures.

The video will be posted to my Vimeo page and available for download by anyone who wants it.

That's the goal - we want writers, artists, thinkers, people of all disciplines and representing every pocket of society to use this material as a vehicle to talk about their town.

It's time for the rebellion and retaking at Attica prison to be reconsidered through the lens of the modern abolitionist movement. It's time for more people to have their say on this brutal event.

It's time for New York to stop hiding this evidence.

Mike also has a Facebook page on the archive and his movie based on the archive, Surrender Peacefully: The Attica Massacre, with a link to the trailer.

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, September archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33954 [33914] rated (+40), 212 [215] unrated (-3).

Another week that started slow but hit 33 records Sunday evening, before I realized I was going to take an extra day. Spent that extra time listening to bassist Gary Peacock, who died last week (85). Wikipedia credits him with a dozen albums as a leader. Discogs expands that list to 69, picking up collaborations with his name further down the artist line. Including side credits, Wikipedia winds up at 98. He started 1958 with Bud Shank, with Bill Evans in 1963, and on two landmark 1964 albums: Tony Williams' Life Time and Albert Ayler's Spiritual Unity. He recorded 10 albums with Paul Bley (mostly after Bley married his wife, Annette), and 22 with Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio. His most impressive album as a leader was probably Tales of Another (1977), with Jarrett and Jack DeJohnette, well before Standards (1983). Ethan Iverson tweeted that he thought Mr. Joy was a masterpiece. I checked it out, under far from ideal circumstances, and concur.

Running into technical problems with Napster, which may mean I need to consider a new streaming provider. I have two computers, and Napster is behaving badly on the new one: search and selection are very slow, actually streaming music virtually impossible. Rebooting offers a temporary workaround. On the other hand, the older computer plays it fine, but the speakers have some unexplained static. Haven't spent any serious time debugging this, but it's one reason I spent more time on Bandcamp this week.

I don't have much more to say at this point. I do have a new batch of answers to reader questions. Ask more.


New records reviewed this week:

  • The Blam Blams: Opening Night (2020, LunaSea Media): [bc]: B
  • Bully: Sugaregg (2020, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(*)
  • Burna Boy: Twice as Tall (2020, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hayes Carll: Alone Together Sessions (2020, Dualtone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kathleen Edwards: Total Freedom (2020, Dualtone): [r]: B
  • Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbutt: Live in Graz (2019 [2020], Multiphonics Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • John Finbury: American Nocturnes (2019 [2020], Green Flash Music): [cd]: C+
  • Jason Foureman and Stephen Anderson: Duo (2020, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jacob Garchik: Clear Line (2018 [2020], Yestereve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Karen Jonas: The Southwest Sky & Other Dreams (2020, Yellow Brick): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sukyung Kim: Lilac Hill (2019 [2020], self-released, EP): [cd]: B+(*)
  • La Pingo's Orquesta & Todd Clouser: Midwest/Bajio (2020, Ropeadope Sur): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Bettye Lavette: Blackbirds (2020, Verve): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dua Lipa & the Blessed Madonna: Club Future Nostalgia (2020, Warner): [r]: B+(***)
  • Meridian Brothers: Cumbia Siglo XXI (2020, Bongo Joe): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Vee Mukarati: Vital Signs (2020, Primrose, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • No Joy: Motherhood (2020, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zephaniah OHora: Listening to the Music (2020, Last Roundup): [r]: A-
  • Okuden Quartet [Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Hamid Drake]: Every Dog Has His Day but It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter (ESP-Disk, 2D): [cd]: A-
  • Old 97's: Twelfth (2020, ATO): [r]: B+(***)
  • Angel Olsen: Whole New Mess (2020, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B
  • Ryan Porter & the West Coast Get Down: Live in Paris at New Morning (2020, World Galaxy): [r]: B+(***)
  • PVRIS: Use Me (2020, Warner): [r]: B
  • Dan Rosenboom: Points on an Infinite Line (2020, Orenda): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sara Schoenbeck/Wayne Horvitz: Cell Walk (2020, Songlines): [r]: B
  • Sneaks: Happy Birthday (2020, Merge): [bc]: B+(***)
  • South Florida Jazz Orchestra: Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza (2020, Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Fumi Tomita Featuring David Detweiler: Celebrating Bird/A Tribute to Charlie Parker (2020, Next Level): [cd]: B+(***) [09-25]
  • Toots & the Maytals: Got to Be Tough (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ulf Wakenius: Taste of Honey (2019 [2020], ACT Music): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe/Four Men Only: Complete Recordings (1968-73 [2020], NoBusiness -3CD): [cd]: A-

Old music:

  • Paul Bley: Mr. Joy (1968, Limelight): [yt]: A-
  • EABS: Repetitions (Letters to Krzysztof Komeda): Live at Jazz Club Hipnoza (Katowice) (2018, Astigmatic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • EABS: Slavic Spirits (2019, Astigmatic): [bc]:
  • Gary Peacock: December Poems (1977 [1979], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gary Peacock/Art Lande/Elliott Zigmund: Shift in the Wind (1980 [1981], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gary Peacock: Voice From the Past - Paradigm (1981 [1982], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Gary Peacock: Guamba (1987, ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner: Oracle (1993 [1994], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wayne Shorter: The Best of Wayne Shorter (1964-69 [1988], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • EABS: Puzzle Mixtape (2012-15 [2016], Astigmatic): [bc]: [was: B+(*)] B+(**)
  • Wayne Shorter: Adam's Apple (1967 [1987], Blue Note): [r]: [was: B] B+(***)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kaze & Ikue Mori: Sand Storm (Libra) [09-18]
  • Jacám Manricks: Samadhi (Manricks Music)
  • Okuden Quartet [Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Hamid Drake]: Every Dog Has His Day but It Doesn't Matter Because Fat Cat Is Getting Fatter (ESP-Disk, 2CD)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (ESP-Disk)

Monday, September 07, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Nearly everything here was complete late Sunday night, but I was having trouble framing the comics, and felt the need to write a bit of introduction, so I decided to sleep on it. Found the Trump tweet and the Carter quote after I got up. Added a couple links while wrapping up, but all articles that date from Sunday or earlier. I managed to find a few pieces on the late David Graeber, but none yet on Kevin Zeese, a lawyer and (like Graeber) another prominent Occupy figure, who died suddenly on Sunday. Music Week will probably be delayed a day this week. These delays weren't planned, but happy Labor Day.


Here are a pair of New Yorker cartoons that go a long ways toward illustrating and explaining the cognitive disconnect between Republicans and Democrats these days. The third was posted by Mary Anne Trump (her caption), and picked up from a friendly Facebook feed:

"It's days like this that make me wonder if I should be tweeting more or golfing more. . . ."
"Wow, for a lawless hellscape that Joe Biden is somehow responsible for, it seems like a nice day!"
Downtown Portland in smoldering ruins. Notice the fear on everyone's face as they await the arrival of antifa.

Having family and friends in the Portland area, I've seen numerous contrasting pictures like this, which makes the news media fixation on fires and looting seem all the more anomalous. I wrote a comment under the latter picture:

What terrifies Republicans isn't chaos, which they think they can bludgeon into submission, but the prospect of diverse people living together and enjoying richer and more rewarding lives as a result. Why they find this threatening has never been clear to me. In my experience, and I come from a long line of farmers and small town folk, when given a welcoming opportunity, most actually enjoy themselves.

I suppose I may sound condescending or patronizing, but I started narrow-minded and provincial and made my own way into and around the cosmopolitan world, often finding open doors and welcoming faces -- a tendency toward kindness which my old world actually prided itself on. I won't deny that cosmopolitans have their own prejudices, which may appear as hostile but more often sympathetic. It's as easy to find liberals who accept the idea that their opposites are clinging to a way of life threatened by the modern world. I don't think that is true. At any rate, I don't see the gap as unbridgeable, although one needs to reject the political incentives that drive us apart. And while both sides have attempted to make hay by appealing to the prejudices of their bases, as we see above, it's the Republicans who have most gravely distorted reality.

One more clause I wish to draw your attention to is "they think they can bludgeon into submission." It doesn't work like that. The world we live in is so complex and interconnected that the only way we can manage it is through massive cooperation, which depends on good faith and respect, which depends on justice for all. No people submits forever, but all people can join together in an order which is universally viewed as fair and just. Might doesn't make right, and the more brutally and viciously it is employed, the more resistance it generates, the more harm it winds up doing to all concerned. I could cite hundreds of examples. I doubt I could find an exception. Even seemingly complete domination either perpetuates indefinitely (e.g., Israel over Palestine) or ends with integration (America and the Indians, albeit imperfectly).

I'll add one more related point to this: there has been much talk recently about democracy ending in America, but note that such an end would not ensure that the immediate victors will stay in power and enjoy their privileges indefinitely. It merely means that change can only occur through violence, at great collateral cost. As I recall, Winston Churchill used to say "democracy is the worst possible form of government, except for all the rest." What he meant was that while he didn't like having to submit to the will of the people, he preferred that to losing his head (the pre-democratic method of disposing of unwanted monarchs). The British people regularly grew tired of Churchill and voted him out, only to vote him in again as their memories faded. Democracy in America has worn thin and ragged over recent decades, with most of the blame due to the influx of money -- something both parties bear responsibility for, but only the Republicans defend the practice as a class prerogative, and Republicans have made the most conspicuous efforts to tilt the table in their favor, exploiting the unequal representation locked into the Constitution, and using their legislative clout to further gerrymander districts. And this year, Trump has created doubts about the integrity of the voting process, such that neither side is likely to believe the count, no matter what it is.

One thing you won't see much of below is reports on polls and other voting irregularities. Partly because there is a lot of wild-eyed speculation going on, but mostly because I have little faith that anything we say now will have any predictive significance for November. One thing that was interesting was that the contested Massachusetts Democratic primary brought out an unprecedented huge vote for a primary. That is one data point suggesting that the November vote won't be significantly suppressed by the pandemic.


Got up this morning and first thing I read was this paragraph from Zachary D Carter: The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes, which does a nice job of framing what I wrote above:

Keynes had crafted an innovative philosophical cocktail. Like Burke, he feared revolution and social upheaval. Like Karl Marx, he envisioned a great crisis on the horizons for capitalism. And like Lenin, he believed that the imperialist world order had reached its final limits. But alone among these thinkers, Keynes believed all that was needed to solve the crisis was a little goodwill and cooperation. The calamity he foresaw in 1919 was not something inevitable, hardwired into the fundamental logic of economics, capitalism, or humanity. It was merely a political failure, one that could be overcome with the right leadership. Whereas Marx had called for revolution against a broken, irrational capitalist order, Keynes was content to denounce the leaders at Versailles and called for treaty revisions. As with Burke, it was revolution itself that Keynes hoped to avert. But he was optimistic, blaming capitalist instability and inequality as the fuel for social upheaval rather than democracy.

I took a shine to Marxism back in the late 1960s, but gave up on it by the mid-1970s, not because I changed my mind but because the insights I had gained there had become second nature, while I lost anything more than a passing commitment to the political program. I moved from opposition to one specific war (Vietnam) to a general pacifism, and I increasingly appreciated the value of incremental reforms versus sharp breaks. I became more tolerant, which is not to say uncritical, of liberals, and I found much that I actually liked in Keynes. (Robert Skidelsky's 2009 book, Keynes: The Return of the Master, offered a good introduction.) He sought to resolve conflicts by arguing ideas, and he retained a radical understanding of the good life which has eluded most economists -- so much so that they refer to their trade as "the dismal science." The quote above was in the section discussing his book, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919). Reading Keynes on the arrogant, ignorant, and pompous politicians of the day sheds comparable light on Trump today. Looking forward to discussion of Keynes' view of the future of work, which somehow still remains in our future, assuming we get that far.


Some scattered links this week:

Kate Aronoff: Elon Musk thinks his treatment of workers is a "trade secret".

Dean Baker: Trump's 'America First' vaccine agenda may leave us last: "By using the usual patent monopoly framework rather than international open-source collaboration, the coronavirus vaccine may prove both elusive and more costly for Americans."

Peter Baker/Maggie Haberman: Trump fans strife as unrest roils the US.

BBC: International Criminal Court officials sanctioned by US. "The Hague-based ICC is currently investigating whether US forces committed war crimes in Afghanistan."

Zack Beauchamp: Donald Trump is inciting violence. "His audience is tens of millions of people. Only a tiny percentage need to act to severely disrupt this country's politics."

Riley Beggin:

  • Trump eliminates federal antiracism training, calling it "a sickness": "A White House memo directing an end to the programs said the trainings are 'anti-American propaganda' and must stop." Trump means to stamp out "critical race theory," or more generally anything that impugns white people as ever having been racist, as benefiting from racism, or that just hurts their feelings. On the other hand:

    Trump has said the Black Lives Matter movement is a "symbol of hate" and has called those protesting police brutality "thugs." He's threatened to end protests by sending US troops into American cities, saying ongoing antiracism protests amount to "domestic terror."

    Throughout his presidency, Trump has vehemently opposed protesters' and officials' efforts to take down Confederate statues and has begun to promote a "law and order" campaign message that has included a racist dog whistle pledge to protect "suburban housewives" from "inner city" crime.

    And the president has consistently declined to condemn brazenly racist comments or actions. For instance, when a supporter in a retirement community was filmed shouting "white power" while driving a golf cart bedecked with Trump memorabilia in June, he retweeted it.

  • Jacob Blake speaks about being shot by a police officer: "It's nothing but pain".

  • The fight over defunding Stars and Stripes, explained. I've seen articles both blaming Trump for shutting down the Pentagon's house propaganda organ and crediting Trump for saving it.

Jake Bittle: This is what Trumpism after Trump looks like: Profile of Laura Loomer, "proud Islamophobe," QAnon supporter, Republican nominee for Congress.

Bob Brigham:

Rosa Brooks: What's the worst that could happen? This is rather ridiculous: war gaming various election scenarios, under the aegis of a group that calls itself the Transition Integrity Project, hiring "players" like Bill Kristol and John Podesta to simulate how R and D strategists would react to the various scenarios.

John Cassidy: Donald Trump's incitements to violence have crossed an alarming threshold.

Fabiola Cineas/Sean Collins/Anna North: The police shooting of Jacob Blake, explained: "Blake's shooting has inspired intense protests, a professional sports strike, and fiery rhetoric from President Trump."

Patrick Cockburn: Trump at the RNC: Echoes of Saddam.

Aaron Ross Coleman:

Summer Concepcion: Ex-staffers at DeJoy's former business say he reimbursed them for donations to GOPers.

Chris D'Angelo: Trump is trying to greenwash his appalling environmental record before the election.

Jason Ditz:

  • Pentagon accuses China of massing anti-satellite weapons:

    This is the latest in a series of Pentagon reports on what China "probably" intends, which are all policies which would justify the various US military programs associated with them. In this case, the formation of Space Force was done with an eye toward China threatening US satellites.

    Problem is that while Space Force could destroy Chinese satellites, it is not capable of protecting US ones, and the US has many more, and depends on them for offensive weapons systems like the "precision bombs" it employed in Iraq. As Chalmers Johnson noted over a decade ago, all China (or any other nation) would have to do to wipe out all US satellite resources would be to "launch a dumptruck full of gravel" into space. The only "defense" the US has against such threats is not to provoke the Chinese (or others) into feeling the need to level the playing field against an obvious US military advantage. For another US China scare report, see Pentagon: China could pull ahead of US military by 2049. Hard to say which is the more ridiculous presupposition: that "pulling ahead" of the US military is something that has any practical import, or that with Donald Trump president now we seriously need to worry about things that might happen as far away as 2049. For another one of these, see Alex Ward below, on China possibly doubling its nuclear arsenal in ten years.

  • Pompeo: Whole world uniting against China.

  • Israel attacks airport in Syria's central city of Homs.

  • Pompeo tells Venezuela opposition to boycott election.

Adam Eichen: The GOP remains loyal to corporations and lobbying groups over Americans. Covid hasn't changed that.

Paul Farrell: David Graeber dead: Anthropologist & anti-capitalist thinker behind 'we are the 99%' slogan dies at 59.

Also worth linking to some of David Graeber's work (also see the listing at The Anarchist Library):

Matt Ford: The Republicans' absurd quest to turn Biden into Trump: "The president's reelection campaign is now an obsessive exercise in psychological projection." Another way to look at this: has there ever in history been a better time for someone like Trump to run against an incumbent president like Biden? Only one problem with that scenario.

Andrew Freedman/Diana Leonard: Heat 'rarely ever seen' is forecast to roast West by the weekend, with wildfires still burning. Freedman followed this up with: California faces record-setting 'kiln-like' heat as fires rage, causing injuries.

Susan B Glasser: The 2020 election, a race in which everything happens and nothing matters: "If a pandemic that has killed nearly two hundred thousand Americans can't significantly hurt Trump's support, can anything?"

Hallie Golden/Mike Baker/Adam Goldman: Suspect in fatal Portland shooting is killed by officers during arrest. Of course, unlike, Kyle Rittenhouse, who shot three and killed two BLM protesters in Kenosha, but was taken into custody live. Michael Forest Reinoehl, "antifa supporter," now unable to testify what happened in the shooting he is accused of. Article quotes Attorney General William Barr: "the streets of our cities are safer." Isn't that what they always say after the police kills a "suspect"?

Elizabeth A Harris/Alexandra Alter: Trump books keep coming, and readers can't stop buying. Picture collects 19 book covers. I haven't read any of those, although I have read a dozen others (see below). The article notes that "in the last four years, there have been more than 1,200 unique titles about Mr. Trump, compared to around 500 books about former President Barack Obama and his administration during Mr. Obama's first term." I tried to publish a fairly exhaustive list of Trump books on May 16, including a few advance notices on books that were scheduled up through October, but my list ran out at 294. Some they mentioned that I missed:

  • Michael Cohen: Disloyal: (2020, Skyhorse)
  • Edward Klein: All Out War: The Plot to Destroy Trump (2017, Regnery)
  • Carlos Lozado: What Were We Thinking: A Brief Intellectual History of the Trump Era (2020, Simon & Schuster)
  • Lee Smith: The Permanent Coup: How Enemies Foreign and Domestic Targeted the American President (2020, Center Street)
  • Mary L Trump: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man (2020, Simon & Schuster)
  • Stephanie Winston Wolkoff: Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship With the First Lady (2020, Gallery)
  • Bob Woodward: Rage (2020, Simon & Schuster)

Most of those are recent releases (Woodward's is due Sept. 15, Lozado's Oct. 6), but Klein's screed simply slipped my net. I should do another books post. Not sure what more there is to net, but there is: John W Dean: Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers, and (of course) Donald Trump Jr: Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats' Defense of the Indefensible. For whatever it's worth, here are a few books I did read (on Trump, his administration, and/or the 2016 election, as well as a few less Trump-centric but still topical tracts, most recent first):

  • Thomas Frank: The People, NO: The War on Populism and the Fight for Democracy (2020, Metropolitan Books)
  • Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Economic Inequality (2020, Liveright)
  • David Bromwich: American Breakdown: The Trump Years and How They Befell Us (2019, Verso Books)
  • Sarah Kendzior: Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America (2020, Flatiron Books)
  • Joan C Williams: White Working Class: |Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America (2020, Harvard Business Review Press)
  • Ezra Klein: Why We're Polarized (2020, Simon & Schuster)
  • Stanley B Greenberg: R.I.P. G.O.P.: How the New America Is Dooming the Republicans (2019, Thomas Dunne Books)
  • James Poniewozik: Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America (2019, Liveright) -- the most insightful book on Trump per sé.
  • Tim Alberta: American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump (2019, Harper)
  • Alexander Nazaryan: The Best People: Trump's Cabinet and the Siege on Washington (2019, Hachette Books)
  • Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed and How It Might Be Saved (2019, Liveright)
  • Michael Lewis: The Fifth Risk (2018, WW Norton) -- a brief and understated exposé of what Trump has done to the ability of government to function.
  • Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion, and Revolution (2018, Harper Collins)
  • Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe, America (2018, Tim Duggan Books)
  • Katy Tur: Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History (2017, Dey Street Books)
  • Allen Frances: Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump (2017, William Morrow)
  • David Frum: Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic (2018, Harper)
  • Jonathan Allen/Amie Parnes: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign (2017, Crown)
  • Mark Lilla: The Once and Future Liberal: After Identity Politics (2017, Harper Collins)
  • Mark Singer: Trump and Me (2016, Duggan Books)
  • Matt Taibbi: Insane Clown President: Dispatches From the 2016 Circus (2016, Spiegel & Grau)

More pieces on Trump books:

Benjamin Hart: Black man died of asphyxiation after officers placed hood on him: "Rochester police put a 'spit hood' over Daniel Prude's head, then pinned him to the ground for two minutes. Seven officers have now been suspended."

Eoin Higgins: The Bush rehabilitation trap: "Democrats' insistence on redeeming pre-Trump Republicans will corrupt the party's agenda and spoil the chance for real social reform." Another excuse to link to: Will Ferrell returns to SNL as George W Bush, with a reminder: "I was really bad." Maybe I'd start cutting Bush some slack if he goes on air and admits as much. Still, such contrition wouldn't erase his actual record -- especially the warmongering, which is the one trait of his presidency he can't fob the blame off on the far-right Republicans Cheney staffed his administration with. Still, even his efforts to work with Democrats to solve common problems, like No Child Left Behind and Medicare D, have proven disastrous. Laura mentioned an article about Obama's "biggest mistake," and I immediately thought of several, most importantly his reluctance to repeatedly blame the damaged conditions he inherited on Bush. Not doing so gave Republicans a pass, allowing them to paint the fruits of their failed ideology as somehow being Obama's fault. That doomed Democrats in the 2010 elections, and all the Republicans had to do from then on was to obstruct -- which he also failed to clearly pin responsibility for. Obama's second biggest mistake was proclaiming Afghanistan "the right war," and wasting his first term trying to get it on track. Third was failing to repeal the Bush tax cuts in 2009 when he had the votes to do so. He spent the rest of his terms fighting debt fear and austerity pressures that would have been greatly relieved if he had restored those taxes. But the "biggest mistake" the article pointed to was the bombing of Libya -- see Stephen Kinzer: Obama's 'Biggest Mistake' is still wreaking havoc. The quotes actually come from Obama, but all he meant was "his failure to anticipate the after-effects," not the bombing itself. In failing to appreciate that belligerent acts have logical consequences, Obama proved to be as ignorant and reckless as his predecessor.

Michael Hudson: How an "act of God" pandemic is destroying the West: The US is saving the financial sector, not the economy. In fact, now that the financial sector appears safe from its March panic, the Republicans seem to be done with everyone else.

Harmeet Kaur: Covid-19 has killed more law enforcement officers this year than all other causes combined. "At least 101 officers have died from Covid-19, while at least 82 have died by other means, as of Thursday, according to ODMP. . . . Gunfire is the second-highest cause of death, which has killed at least 31 officers this year." Meanwhile, the number of people killed by police: 679 so far this year, 1,013 in the past year.

Sunil Khilnani: Isabel Wilkerson's world-historical theory of race and caste: Review of Wilkerson's new book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, where a central argument is that India's long-established caste system -- outlawed in the Indian Constitution of 1950 -- provides insights into racism in America (and, what the hell, Nazi Germany).

Ezra Klein:

  • Can anything change Americans' minds about Donald Trump?: "The eerie stability of Trump's approval rating, explained."

    On August 27, 2019, President Donald Trump held a 41.3 percent approval rating and a 54.2 percent disapproval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight's poll tracker. During the 365 days that followed, Trump became the third president impeached by the House of Representatives; America assassinated Iranian general Qassem Soleimani; more than 200,000 Americans died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus; the unemployment rate rose from 3.7 percent to 10.2 percent; the US banned incoming travel from Europe, China, and Brazil; an estimated 12 million people lost health insurance coverage; Trump pardoned Roger Stone, who was facing jail time for dirty tricks on the president's behalf; and George Floyd's murder sparked a nationwide movement protesting for racial justice -- to which officials responded by tear-gassing demonstrators in Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, so Trump could pose for a photograph holding a Bible.

    That is, of course, a bitterly incomplete list of a grimly consequential year in American history. But you'd never know it simply by following Trump's poll numbers. On August 27, 2020 -- one year later, and the day Trump used the White House as a backdrop for his convention speech -- FiveThirtyEight had Trump at 42.2 percent approval and 54.3 percent disapproval. Everything had happened, and politically, nothing had mattered. Or, at the least, not much had changed.

    "It's really remarkable," says Jennifer Victor, a political scientist at George Mason University. "The stability of Trump's numbers are almost unbelievable."

    Trump's approval ratings have ranged a mere 14 points (35-49%), compared to a range of 27 for Obama (40-67%), 65 for Bush II (25-90%), 36 for Clinton (37-73%), 52 for Bush I (29-81%), 33 for Reagan (35-68%). The Bush high marks were inflated by war, and deflated by recession. Reagan, Clinton, and Obama each started in recession, and presided over sustained recoveries. Trump was the first president not to get a "good will" bump after taking office, largely because of the way he campaigned and won. He was, instead, met with unprecedented demonstrations and vows of resistance, the first "women's march" overshadowing his poorly-attended inauguration. That may have helped to lock in his supporters, who viewed his regime as embattled from day one, and have since stubbornly resisted news of disasters that many of us considered inevitable consequences of his election.

  • What the Iraq disaster can teach us about Trump. Interview with Robert Draper, author of To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq.

Natasha Korecki/Christopher Cadelago: With a hand from Trump, the right makes Rittenhouse a cause célèbre.

Paul Krugman:

Robert Kuttner: The Biden do not reappoint list: "A third succession of Wall Street Democrats would be a disaster. Here are the names to look out for." Larry Summers, Peter Orszag, Mike Froman, Steve Rattner, Jeff Zients, Bruce Reed, plus a list of big names like Mike Bloomberg and Jamie Dimon and another of "lesser names." Since this piece was published, Zients was added as "co-chair" to Biden's transition team. See: Alex Thompson: Biden transition team shapes up with Obama-Biden alum hires.

Nancy LeTourneau: Trump's attack on Booker would be laughable if it wasn't so racist.

Eric Lipton: How Trump draws on campaign funds to pay his legal bills.

Martin Longman:

Michael Luo: American Christianity's white-supremacy problem: "History, theology, and culture all contribute to the racist attitudes embedded in the white church." There's plenty of this to go around, but Christian churches were incubators for abolitionism in the 19th century, and committed clergy and laity have been prominent in every antiwar and civil rights movement since.

David J Lynch/Carol D Leonnig/Jeff Stein/Josh Dawsey: Tactics of fiery White House trade adviser draw new scrutiny as some of his pandemic moves unravel. Fiery? Some new euphemism for "full of shit"?

Bill McKibben: How fast is the climate changing?: It's a new world, each and every day: Is McKibben's flair for hyperbole really helping? He has a knack for taking an isolated insight and blowing it up into a gross generalization, effectively obliterating his insight. Something a reasonable person could argue: practically every day we discover some new incident that helps reveal the greater depths of climate change. That's not the same as saying the world is changing every day. For most of us, most of the time, that's simply untrue, or at least untrue in terms that register with our senses. McKibben got into this habit with the title of his first book on climate change, The End of Nature. His argument there was that we can never know nature because we've changed the climate. In some sense he was onto something, but that's because humans have used technology to alter and dominate nature in many ways -- releasing greenhouse gases to raise air temperature was merely one of many ways, if anything, one of the least conscious of the many changes. On the other hand, he totally loses track of one of nature's most significant characteristics, which is its ability to evolve in response to changes, ranging from astronomical to human. Of course, he isn't the only environmentalist to have such anthropocentric conceits about the world. The very phrase "save the Earth" has all sorts of hidden assumptions about what kind of Earth it is one wants to "save." Surely you know that the Earth is almost all rock, and totally oblivious to changes on its surface. Surely you realize that life didn't need human beings for nearly four billion years, and could carry on happily should humans disappear.

Ian Millhiser:

Max Moran: Mick Mulvaney: A frustrated wrecking ball: "The former top Trump official is seething that civil servants want to do their jobs well."

Mick Mulvaney's career reached its logical endpoint last week when he announced he'd started a new hedge fund focused on exploiting deep knowledge of regulatory trends in the financial services sector. "I can't think of anyone better to read the tea leaves, if you will, of what is going to come next from Congress or any one of the slew of federal regulators out there," said Mulvaney's new business partner Andrew Wessel, lending high praise to what amounts to official corruption.

There are few public sycophants quite as shameless as Mulvaney when it comes to doing the bidding of financial loan sharks. Thanks to his slavish devotion to the cult of personality around a president he once called "a terrible human being," Mulvaney has gone from being the payday-loan industry's favorite congressman to Trump's director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's internal destructor, the acting White House chief of staff, and finally, the prestigious and rarefied job of Special Envoy for Northern Ireland.

Yet Mulvaney seems to be leaving public service unsatisfied. You see, despite his best efforts, financial regulation still, well, exists. And annoyingly, it seems there are hardworking people who still want it to, you know, exist.

I would have edited that last line to say "work" instead of repeating "exist." Also:

For too long, we've denigrated civil servants as lazy, wasteful, and parasitic -- terms and frames which are wrongheaded and highly racialized. The resulting anti-government fervor gave us the catastrophes of the Bush and Trump presidencies. It's an important point that bears repeating: People who hate government tend not to be very good at it.

If Biden wants to prove that he won't be like Trump or Mulvaney, if he wants to prove that his government will indeed restore dignity in America, there's a simple and powerful step he can take: Trust in government, and commit to appointing career civil servants to top jobs running the agencies they understand. If nothing else, it will severely piss off Mick Mulvaney.

Nicole Narea: How Trump made it that much harder to become a US citizen.

Ella Nilsen: Joe Biden makes the case Donald Trump has already made America more dangerous.

Timothy Noah: Wall Street's greedy indifference to human misery: "The disparity between the soaring stock market and struggling Americans perfectly epitomizes the country's grotesque inequality."

JC Pan: Rotting produce, vacant luxury apartments, and fake scarcity in a pandemic: "Leaving essentials like food and shelter to the whims of the market produces an extreme kind of disorganization." At the very least, this shows that markets don't respond very quickly or aptly to unpredicted events.

James Pasley: Trump frequently accuses the far-left of inciting violence, yet right-wing extremists have killed 329 victims in the last 25 years, while antifa members haven't killed any, according to a new study. I suppose the killing of a Trump militia man in Portland might be the first, if not self-defense, which will be hard to prove after police killed the alleged shooter.

Kevin Peraino: When America's Cold War strategy turned corrupt: Pretty much from its inception. After all, the point was to defend and promote business around the world, not least against its foes in labor. Review of Scott Anderson: The Quiet Americans: Four CIA Spies at the Dawn of the Cold War -- a Tragedy in Three Acts. Covers the years 1944-56; the spies are Michael Burke, Edward Lansdale, Peter Sichel, and Frank Wisner.

Cameron Peters:

Daniel Politi: Trump took art from ambassador's home in Paris, but pieces were fakes and replicas.

Andrew Prokop: The debate over whether unrest will help Trump win, explained.

John Quiggin: The economic consequences of the pandemic: Title for a book he's working on, which has recently spawned two articles: Have we just stumbled on the biggest productivity increase of the century?, on shifting work from office to home, and The end of the goods economy. Two more recent notes by Quiggin: What's with the stock market?, and Intangibles = monopoly.

Emily Rauhala/Yasmeen Abutaleb: US says it won't join WHO-linked effort to develop, distribute coronavirus vaccine.

Kate Riga: In first interview since FBI firing, Strzok frets about Trump-Russia unknowns; and Eric Tucker: Strzok calls attacks from Trump 'outrageous' and 'cruel'. Fired FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok starts to flog his Sept. 8 book: Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J Trump. More:

David Roberts: Big Oil's hopes are pinned on plastics. It won't end well. "The industry's only real source of growth probably won't grow much." Related:

Aaron Rupar:

Giovanni Russonello: Jazz has always been protest music. Can it meet this moment? Related: Alan Scherstuhl: Jazz is built for protests. Jon Batiste is taking it to the streets.

Michael J Sandel: Disdain for the less educated is the last acceptable prejudice: He's talking about among Democrats. As Donald Trump and many more attest, prejudices are rampant within the Republican Party -- maybe more against the highly educated but against the less educated as well, even as Republicans occasionally flatter the latter in order to con them. Sandel wrote The Tyranny of Merit: What's Become of the Common Good, the latest of a series of books that debunk the idea that we should be ruled by "the best and the brightest" (as David Halberstam dubbed the Kennedy meritocrats) -- Chris Hayes' Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy is the one I read and recommend, but Daniel Markovits: The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite adds to the critique. One thing Sandel notes is that Joe Biden "is the first Democratic nominee in 36 years without a degree from an Ivy League university." Still, he seems to be confusing education with "credentialism" -- his word, an interesting choice given how Jane Jacobs took the shift in focus from education to credentials to be a sure sign of Dark Ages Ahead. While many Democrats have made the mistake of seeing education as the key to advancement and therefore a painless answer to inequality -- Robert Reich was a pioneer in this regard -- but what makes that a mistake is ignoring all other factors. For instance, it's safe to say that the dearth of blue collar workers in Congress has more to do with lack of money and connections than prejudice. At least most Democrats see education as a universal desire and opportunity, and knowledge and science as general virtues -- unlike many Republicans, who find free thinking suspiciously dangerous. Also see:

Greg Sargent: These old quotes from Trump make his attacks on Biden look even more pathetic: "Violence on a president's watch is only his fault when that president is Barack Obama."

Walter Shapiro: America is not reliving 1968: "Sure, Donald Trump is harnessing Richard Nixon's law and order rhetoric, but that doesn't mean it will work."

Alex Shephard: The media is falling for Trump's law and order con.

Matt Shuham: With itchy trigger fingers, some right wingers predict the next civil war has finally arrived.

Timothy Snyder: What ails America: Specifically, a diary of botched medical care.

Roger Sollenberger: Ted Cruz seeks abortion pill ban, claims pregnancy is not "life-threatening".

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Sometimes they choke: Usual grabbag of points and asides, but I was struck by the chart (from 538) which argues that Biden has to win the popular vote by more than 3 points to reach a 50% chance of winning the electoral college. Next item shows the gerrymandered map of a "suburban Houston" House district. Then after some Markey-Kennedy points, he notes that the Postal Servie paid $14M to XPO Logistics, a company USPS head Louis DeJoy has a significant stake in, over the last 10 weeks. Also, I wanted to quote this:

MAGA loves America. MAGA hates the government. MAGA loves the man who runs the government they hate. MAGA loves history. MAGA hates the State. MAGA loves the statues of the historical figures who built the State they hate.

Other notes include that the US trade deficit reached its highest level in 12 years, and that "peak oil" is back, with US production on the decline again, after reaching its second peak (the first was in 1969).

Margaret Sullivan:

Emily VanDerWerff: One good thing: Stephen Colbert is looser, funnier, and angrier in quarantine.

Alex Ward:

Libby Watson: Covid patients are receiving eye-popping bills. It's not all Trump's fault. "His plan to help with hospital charges is poorly designed. But even a well-crafted plan would have been no match for our inept health care system."

Peter Wehner: Why Trump supporters can't admit who he really is:

During last week's Republican National Convention, speaker after speaker insisted that life under a Biden presidency would be dystopian. . . . "They're not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities. They want to abolish the suburbs altogether," a St. Louis couple who had brandished weapons against demonstrators outside their home, told viewers. "Make no mistake, no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats' America."

One does not have to be a champion of the Democratic Party to know this chthonic portrait is absurd. But it is also essential, because it allows Trump and his followers to tolerate and justify pretty much anything in order to win. And "anything" turns out to be quite a lot.

Michael Patrick Welch: Lake Charles was destroyed by Hurricane Laura. America has already moved on. "Like Katrina before it, Hurricane Laura has exposed disturbing inequalities -- and the rest of the nation's fundamental indifference."

Ben White: Trump's rebound story meets mounting bankruptcies: "Local business site Yelp found that 55 percent of the firms that closed during the worst of the pandemic beginning in March are now permanently shuttered."

Jill Wine-Banks: Don't forget about the Steve Bannon indictment. Seems like there may be more to come.

Matthew Yglesias: Donald Trump is the president: "Whose America is it, explained." After noting that while campaigning in 2016, Trump said: "the crime and violence that today afflicts our nation will soon come to an end. Beginning on January 20, 2017, safety will be restored." Trump never explained how he would work his magic, but he didn't. "Murder is on the rise again after ticking down for a few years, and acts of looting and vandalism are occurring in cities across the country." Subheds:

  • Trump is defunding the police
  • Trump encourages bad policing
  • Trump leaves no way out

Conclusion:

But what does Trump have on tap beyond angry tweets and absurd posturing? He's been the president for years, and he's flailing even with the issues he does want to talk about. Vice President Mike Pence ended his speech last week by asking the American people to let him and Trump "Make America great again, again." In context, it was essentially a request for a mulligan on Covid-19, which is absurd. But it's exactly what Trump is pushing on crime as well -- that we should just ignore the parts of the presidency where his ideas don't work and his administration fails on its own terms.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (final).

Music: Current count 33914 [33865] rated (+49), 215 [225] unrated (-10).

Another big week, closing out a huge five-week month -- the August Streamnotes (link above) collected 216 records, which is close to the record (something I don't have time to research at the moment). Fairly significant dives into old jazz, triggered either by questions or deaths, really pumped up the total. This week the subjects are Wayne Shorter and the late Jimmy Heath (whose new album came out shortly after his death). That left 92 new music albums, plus 14 new compilations of older music. This week I finally took a crack at my demo queue, reducing it by half.

Very few questions of late, but I did post some notes on Heath and Shorter.

Don't have time to write much more. I did save an obituary link for Japanese trumpet player Itaru Oki (1941-2020). I have two of his records in my database. I've also factored Phil Overeem's latest list into my metacritic rankings. One of the new records there (number 2 on the old music list) is Allen Lowe's latest book, packaged with 30 CDs.

Found out another cousin (well, -in-law) died, this one three years ago. Barbara Burns, wife of Jerold Dean Burns, known as Pete to his friends, and J.D. to his family. Been wondering about her.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Rez Abbasi: Django-shift (2019 [2020], Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Idris Ackamoor & the Pyramids: Shaman! (2020, Strut): [r]: A-
  • Mandy Barnett: A Nashville Songbook (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Big Bad Bones Featuring Scott Whitfield: Emergency Vehicle Blues (2019 [2020], Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Endless Field: Alive in the Wilderness (2020, Biophilia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nubya Garcia: Source (2020, Concord): [r]: B+(**)
  • Johnny Iguana: Johnny Iguana's Chicago Spectacular (2019 [2020], Delmark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jyoti: Mama, You Can Bet! (2020, SomeOthaShip): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jon-Erik Kellso: Sweet Fruits Salty Roots (2020, Jazzology): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eva Kess: Sternschnuppen: Falling Stars (2019 [2020], Neuklang): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Allegra Levy: Lose My Number (2020, SteepleChase): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Roberto Magris: Suite! (2018 [2020], JMood, 2CD): [cdr]: B+(**)
  • Raphaël Pannier Quartet: Faune (2020, French Paradox): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Protoje: In Search of Lost Time (2020, RCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bruno Råberg/Jason Robinson/Bob Weiner: The Urgency of Now (2017-18 [2020], Creative Nation Music): [cd]: A-
  • Maria Schneider Jazz Orchestra: Data Lords (2019 [2020], ArtistShare, 2CD): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band: Message From Groove and GW (2020, Arabesque): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Somi With Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Holy Room: Live at Alte Oper (2019 [2020], Salon Africana, 2CD)
  • Trio Linguale [Kevin Woods/John Stowell/Miles Black]: Signals (2019 [2020], Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Tropos: Axioms // 75 AB (2019 [2020], Biophilia): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Trevor Watts Quartet: The Real Intention (2019 [2020], Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Bob James: Once Upon a Time: The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions (1965 [2020], Resonance): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Oneness of Juju: African Rhythms 1970-1982 (1970-82 [2020], Black Fire, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Bilal: Love for Sale (2001-03 [2006], bootleg): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Heath: The Quota (1961 [1995], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Heath: Triple Threat (1962 [1998], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Heath and Brass: Swamp Seed (1963 [1997], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimmy Heath Quintet: On the Trail (1964 [1994], Riverside/OJC): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimmy Heath: Nice People: The Riverside Collection (1959-64 [1988], Riverside/OJC): [r]: A-
  • Jimmy Heath: Picture of Heath (1975, Xanadu): [r]: A-
  • Jimmy Heath: Peer Pleasure (1987, Landmark): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Heath Quartet: You've Changed (1991 [1992], SteepleChase): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jimmy Heath Quartet: You or Me (1995, SteepleChase): [r]: A-
  • The Jimmy Heath Big Band: Turn Up the Heath (2004-06 [2006], Planet Arts): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Heath Brothers: Marchin' On! (1976, Strata-East): [yt]: B+(**)
  • The Heath Brothers: Brotherly Love (1981 [1982], Antilles): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Heath Brothers: As We Were Saying . . . (1997, Concord): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Heath Brothers: Endurance (2008 [2009], Jazz Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wayne Shorter: Introducing Wayne Shorter (1959 [1960], Vee-Jay): [r]: A-
  • Wayne Shorter: Second Genesis (1960 [1974], Vee-Jay): [r]: B+(*)
  • Wayne Shorter: Etcetera (1965 [1980], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Wayne Shorter: Schizophrenia (1967 [1969], Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wayne Shorter: Moto Grosso Feio (1970 [1974], Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Wayne Shorter: Odyssey of Iskra (1970 [1971], Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wayne Shorter: Atlantis (1985, Columbia): [r]: C+
  • Wayne Shorter: Phantom Navigator (1986 [1987], Columbia): [r]: C
  • Wayne Shorter: Joy Rider (1988, Columbia): [r]: C+
  • Wayne Shorter: Alegria (2002 [2003], Verve): [r]: B


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Allegra Levy: Lose My Number (SteepleChase)
  • Merzbow/Mats Gustafsson/Balász Pándi: Cuts Open (RareNoise): cdr [09-25]
  • WorldService Project: Hiding in Plain Sight (RareNoise): cdr [09-25]

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Before we waddle in the dirt, here's an election song from Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby. It will make you feel better. And to top it off, how about People Have the Power (e.g., "the power to wrestle the earth from fools")?

Big event of the week was the Republican National Convention. Once again, I didn't watch any of it live, but caught some high- or low-lights on Stephen Colbert's "live" recaps, plus I read a lot. I started collecting links on Tuesday, and I haven't made the effort to group them, so the following list may seem to run around in circles. I did try to list them chronologically under each writer. (Past practice generally listed the latest pieces first, but the opposite made more sense for day-by-day pieces, and when I decided that I tried to reorder the others.)

There were other serious stories this week. A Category 4 hurricane hit Louisiana, inflicting a lot of damage. Police in Kenosha, WS shot an unarmed black man eight times in the back -- he survived, but is paralyzed -- and that kicked off another round of Black Lives Matter protests. Then an armed Trump supporter shot three protesters, killing two. There was also a shooting in Portland, OR, where the victim was a Trump-aligned counter-protester (presently unclear who pulled that trigger).

Barely mentioned below is a well-attended March on Washington, on the 57th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech there. One story I've shortchanged is Israel's continuing offensive against Gaza, extended last week with bombing raids on Lebanon (as opposed to the more covert destruction of the port of Beirut).


Links on the Republican National Convention:

  • Vox [Zack Beauchamp/Jane Coaston/German Lopez/Ian Millhiser/Nicole Narea/Andrew Prokop/Aaron Rupar/Dylan Scott/Emily Stewart/Matthew Yglesias/Li Zhou]:

  • Tim Alberta: Grand old meltdown: "Trump's Republican Party is the very definition of a cult of personality."

    The spectacle is unceasing. One day, it's a former top administration official going public with Trump's stated unwillingness to extend humanitarian aid to California because it's politically blue and Puerto Rico because it's "poor" and "dirty." The next day, it's Trump launching a boycott of Goodyear, a storied American company that employs 65,000 people, for one store's uneven ban on political apparel in the workplace. A day later, it's Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist, getting rung up on charges of swindling donors out of money for the private construction of a border wall, money he allegedly spent on yachts and luxury living. It was just the latest in a string of arrests that leave Trump looking eerily similar to the head of a criminal enterprise. What all of these incidents and so many more have in common is that not a single American's life has been improved; not a single little guy has been helped. Just as with the forceful dispersing of peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park -- done so he could hold up a prop Bible for flashing cameras -- Trump and his allies continue to wage symbolic battles whose principal casualties are ordinary people.

  • Eric Alterman: The 'abomination' of a convention makes clear the GOP threat.

  • David Atkins:

  • Zack Beauchamp:

    • Nick Sandmann, RNC speaker and Covington Catholic video star, explained: Why is an 18-year-old nobody speaking at the RNC?

      Sandmann is the perfect victim: a young conservative man who came to Washington to protest abortion and was "smeared" by the left as being an awful racist because he had the temerity to wear one of President Trump's hats. The fact that he's been fighting the media, and forcing them to settle lawsuits, is icing on the cake.

      In reality, though, Sandmann's appearance is a testament to the emptiness of this narrative. There's no policy argument connected to this story; revisiting it does nothing to convince voters that the Trump administration can make their lives better in any kind of material way. The RNC to date has been empty in this exact way, an attempt to gin up anger and fear at the base's enemies rather than sell a positive vision of America.

    • The RNC and the subtle rot of Trump's reality TV presidency: "Why the RNC's broadcasted naturalizations and pardon ceremony felt so wrong."

    • The RNC weaponized exhaustion: "The sheer volume of lies and illegal behavior from Trump and the Republicans is what allowed them to get away with it."

      The first night of the RNC featured more false and misleading claims than all four nights of the DNC put together, according to a CNN fact-check. The second night starred an anti-abortion activist whose tale about the horrors of Planned Parenthood had been exposed as a fraud more than 10 years ago. On the third night, Vice President Mike Pence suggested that the murder of a police officer by a far-right extremist was a crime committed by left-wing rioters. It was all capped off by President Trump's Thursday night speech, a farrago of falsehoods that even veteran Trump fact-checkers found stunning.

  • Katelyn Burns:

    • Kimberly Guilfoyle's speech encapsulated the Fox News feel of the RNC's first night: "Loudly." How can a person find any logic in gibberish such as this:

      "They want to control what you see and think and believe so that they can control how you live," she said. "They want to enslave you to the weak dependent liberal victim. They want to destroy this country and everything that we have fought for and hold dear. They want to steal your liberty, your freedom."

      The only way to stop it, according to Guilfoyle, would be by reelecting President Donald Trump. She listed several of Trump's accomplishments since taking office, mentioning tax cuts, taking on ISIS, and renegotiating trade deals.

      "Don't let the Democrats take you for granted," she said. "Don't let them step on you. Don't let them destroy your families, your lives, and your future. Don't let them kill future generations because they told you and brainwashed you and fed you lies that you weren't good enough."

    • Eric Trump's RNC speech had something rare: Policy substance. Just because he mentioned (in deceptive spin) a few things -- "tax cuts for the wealthy, cut regulations, an improved economy and reduced unemployment (before the pandemic triggered a collapse), and increased military funding, and the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem" -- that the Trump administration had done doesn't make him a policy wonk, let alone explain the thinking behind de facto policies. Moreover, the thrust of his speech was wholly in line with the Trump campaign spiel:

      Using imagery of the Hoover Dam and Mount Rushmore, Trump's speech painted a picture of an industrious heartland, ignored by the coastal elites. "Every day my father fights for the American people," he said. "The forgotten men and women of this country. The ones who embody the American spirit." . . .

      "In the view of the radical Democrats, America is the source of the world's problems. As a result, they believe the only path forward is to erase history and forget the past. They want to destroy the monuments of our forefathers," he said. "They want to disrespect our national anthem by taking a knee, while our armed forces lay down their lives every day to protect our freedom. They do not want the Pledge of Allegiance in our schools. Many do not want one nation under God. The Democrats want to defund, destroy, and disrespect our law enforcement."

      Trump went on to contrast this depiction of Democrats with his father, who he claimed is a champion for law enforcement, religious people, the "canceled," coal miners, and farmers. "To every proud American who bleeds red, white, and blue -- my father will continue to fight for you," Trump said.

      This featured notion that Trump fights for the little guy is possibly the most grotesque lie in a campaign that is chock full of them.

  • John Cassidy: Mike Pence's big lie about Trump and the coronavirus at the Republican National Convention.

    Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Pence's bowing and scraping to Trump is that he seems to revel in it. In an interview with the Times, his chief of staff, Marc Short, said Pence has studied previous Vice-Presidencies, and he "exemplifies servant leadership." Even in these twisted days, when Trump's takeover of the G.O.P. seems virtually complete, it isn't every elected Republican who would like to go in the history books as the forty-fifth President's most loyal and obsequious servant. As he demonstrated on Wednesday night, when he once again acted as Trump's lickspittle, Pence seems to fill the role naturally.

  • Jonathan Chait:

  • Jane Coaston: Trump was supposed to change the GOP. But the GOP changed him. "How the Republican Party turned Donald Trump into one of their own." This formulation flips a common argument about Trump refashioning the Party in his own image. He has done some of that in terms of look and feel, but Trump's style is something that has been honed for years by Fox pundits: he's basically a receptacle and incubator for their rants. But he's stocked his administration with standard issue Republicans, many straight from lobby shops, and they've limited his policy options to what they would have any Republican doing.

  • Aaron Ross Coleman: Republicans claim Democrats want to defund the police. Biden's plan calls for more police.

  • Chas Danner: NYC tenants in RNC video say they were tricked.

  • Josh Dawsey: Trump escalates rhetoric on unrest in cities, looking for a campaign advantage.

  • David Dayen: A guide to the GOP Convention's pretend agenda.

  • Dan Diamond/Adam Cancryn: How Mike Pence slowed down the coronavirus response.

  • Thomas B Edsall: 'I fear that we are witnessing the end of American democracy': "The Frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda is on display at the RNC."

  • Matt Ford: Donald Trump declares total war on the civil service: "The Republican National Convention is a testament to the president's effort to permanently recast the executive branch in his own warped image."

  • David Frum: The platform the GOP is too scared to publish: "The question is not why Republicans lack a coherent platform; it's why they're so reluctant to publish the one on which they're running."

    Once you read the list, I think you'll agree that these are authentic ideas with meaningful policy consequences, and that they are broadly shared. The question is not why Republicans lack a coherent platform; it's why they're so reluctant to publish the one on which they're running.

    1. The most important mechanism of economic policy -- not the only tool, but the most important -- is adjusting the burden of taxation on society's richest citizens. . . .
    2. The coronavirus is a much-overhyped problem. It's not that dangerous and will soon burn itself out. . . .
    3. Climate change is a much-overhyped problem. It's probably not happening. If it is happening, it's not worth worrying about. . . . Regulations to protect the environment unnecessarily impede economic growth.
    4. China has become an economic and geopolitical adversary of the United States. . . . When China wins, the U.S. loses, and vice versa.
    5. The trade and alliance structures built after World War II are outdated. . . . If America acts decisively, allies will have to follow whether they like it or not -- as they will have to follow U.S. policy on Iran.
    6. Health care is a purchase like any other. Individuals should make their ow best deals in the insurance market with minimal government supervision. . . .
    7. Voting is a privilege. States should have wide latitude to regulate that privilege . . .
    8. Anti-Black racism has ceased to be an important problem in American life. At this point, the people most likely to be targets of adverse discrimination are whites, Christians, and Asian university applicants. Federal civil-rights-enforcement resources should concentrate on protecting them.
    9. The courts should move gradually and carefully toward eliminating the mistake made in 1965, when women's sexual privacy was elevated into a constitutional right.
    10. The post-Watergate ethics reforms overreached. We should welcome the trend toward unrestricted and secret campaign donations. . . .
    11. Trump's border wall is the right policy to slow illegal immigration; the task of enforcing immigration rules should not fall on business operators. . . .
    12. The country is gripped by a surge of crime and lawlessness as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement and its criticism of police. . . .
    13. Civility and respect are cherished ideals. But in the face of the overwhelming and unfair onslaught against President Donald Trump by the media and the "deep state," his occasional excesses on Twitter and at his rallies should be understood as pardonable reactions to much more severe misconduct by others.

    So there's the platform, why not publish it? . . . This is a platform for a party that talks to itself, not to the rest of the country. And for those purposes, the platform will succeed most to the extent that it is communicated only implicitly, to those receptive to its message.

  • Masha Gessen: Trump's Republican National Convention was a spectacle fit for a would-be king.

    To call things what they are, the Republicans adopted a fascist aesthetic for this year's Convention. It was in the pillars and the flags; the military-style outfit that Melania Trump wore to deliver her speech, on the second night; the screaming fervor with which many of the speeches were delivered; the repeated references to "law and order"; and phrases like "weakness is provocative," which the Republican senator Tom Cotton offered on the final evening. The aesthetic -- and the rhetoric -- held out the carrot of greatness, of what Hannah Arendt, explaining the appeal of totalitarian movements, called "victory and success as such," the prize of being on the winning side, whatever that side is. The seduction of greatness may grow proportionately to anxiety: the more scared one is -- of losing one's job or health insurance, or of the coronavirus, of the world never going back to normal, among other worries -- the more reassuring it is to say (better yet, to scream) that one lives in the greatest country on earth. One looks at people shouting triumphantly -- none of them social distancing, only a few wearing masks -- and one feels somehow uplifted by the fantasy of being one of them.

  • Susan B Glasser: The malign fantasy of Donald Trump's convention.

    The problem, of course, is that America as we know it is currently in the midst of a mess not of Biden's making but of Trump's. Suffice it to say that, by the time Trump's speech was over and the red, white, and blue fireworks spelling out "2020" had been set off over the National Mall, late Thursday night, more than three thousand seven hundred Americans had died of the coronavirus since the start of the Convention -- more than perished on 9/11 -- and a hundred and eighty thousand Americans total had succumbed to the disease, a disease that Trump repeatedly denied was even a threat. His botched handling of the pandemic was the very reason that his Convention was taking place on the White House lawn in the first place.

  • Melissa Gira Grant: The real, paranoid housewives of the Republican Convention: "Patricia McCloskey and Kimberly Guilfoyle are a new twist on a dangerous lineage of conservative women."

  • Elliot Hannon: New citizens in Trump's naturalization stunt were unaware it would be used at RNC.

  • Monica Hesse: Trying to disgust you is the only move the Republican convention's antiabortion speakers have left.

  • Dan Hopkins: Why Trump's racist appeals might be less effective in 2020 than they were in 2016.

  • Sarah Jones: The GOP thinks Marxists are taking over. If only that were true: All this insane paranoia about radical Democrats and the march of socialism is helping to produce a backlash as more and more people wonder if that wouldn't be a good idea after all.

  • Fred Kaplan:

  • Ed Kilgore:

  • Ezra Klein:

    • A loyalty test for the GOP, a reality test for the country: "The Republican Party has become a personality cult."

      In the era of President Donald Trump, the news develops the quality "of being shocking without being surprising," wrote Masha Gessen in Surviving Autocracy. Each week's events are "an assault on the senses and the mental faculties," and yet, somehow, "just more of the same."

      That's how I felt watching the first night of the Republican National Convention. It was a night that I couldn't quite believe. It was a night I could not have imagined going any other way. It was bizarre, unnerving, and unprecedented. It was banal, predictable, and expected.

      "If you really want to drive them crazy, you say '12 more years,'" Trump said as he opened the convention. The crowd happily chanted "12 more years." It drove me a little crazy, but mostly left me tired. It's a performance of provocation hiding a convention that had nothing to say, only enemies to fight, social changes to fear.

      What is there to say upon hearing Trump described as "the bodyguard of Western civilization?" It's not an argument so much as a loyalty oath, an offering cut from the speaker's dignity and burnt for the pleasure of the Dear Leader himself. But the outrageousness is the point. Protest and you're triggered -- just another oversensitive lib who can't take a joke. Ignore it and you're complicit. To care is to lose. . . .

      Fact-checkers will have a field day with all this, but it's a bit beside the point. The sort of lie Trump and his supporters tell, writes Gessen, "is the power lie, or the bully lie. It is the lie of the bigger kid who took your hat and is wearing it -- while denying that he took it." That is the sort of lie that suffused Monday night's proceedings. The point isn't that it's true; it's that they can say it and no one can stop them.

      The core of Trump's agenda has always been untethering American politics from factual reality, and among Republicans, at least, he's been startlingly successful. The convention is a loyalty test for Republicans, and a reality check for the rest of us.

    • The 3 charts that disprove Donald Trump's convention speech: "Trump wants to take credit for something he didn't do [pre-pandemic economic growth], and dodge blame for something he did do [coronavirus response]."

  • Michael Kruse: How Trump mastered the art of telling history his way. Grim conclusion, quoting Doug Brinkley: "And if he gets reelected with us knowing all of this, then he is a reflection of what America has become."

  • Nancy LeTourneau: How Trump inoculates his supporters against reality.

  • Eric Levitz:

  • German Lopez:

  • Andrew Marantz: The manic denialism of the Republican National Convention.

    The problems in your life aren't real; the real problems are the ones that nobody, except for everybody on this stage, has the courage to talk about. The media wants to brainwash you; the Marxists are massing outside your idyllic suburban lawn; if the enemy gets its way, small businesses will be decimated, Thomas Jefferson will be cancelled, and 911 will go straight to voice mail. The speakers at the Republican National Convention keep ringing the same notes: fabricated panic followed by hoarse, manic Panglossianism. Jobs were lost under past Democrats, and they would be lost under future Democrats, but with President Trump there is only milk and honey. Joe Biden is a stultifying agent of the status quo, too boring to mention by name; he is also an unprecedented break with tradition, a threat to all that we hold dear. Climate change, of course, is waved away as mass hysteria; even the coronavirus pandemic is mentioned rarely and almost always in the past tense, as if the decision to deliver speeches in a cavernous, empty auditorium were merely the whim of a quirky location scout. Anyone watching from quarantine, during a once-in-a-century unemployment crisis, would not need a fact check to know that this is all a stretch, to say the least.

    Marantz goes on for a few paragraphs like this, then he quotes Ronald Reagan from the RNC in 1980: "Never before in our history have Americans been called upon to face three grave threats to our very existence, any one of which could destroy us. We face a disintegrating economy, a weakened defense, and an energy policy based on the sharing of scarcity." As best I recall, one of those was bogus, and the other two were trivial compared to what we got after Reagan was elected. Marantz then segues into a review of Rick Perlstein's new book, Reaganland. One factoid he pulled out of there is that "84 percent of Reagan voters gave 'time for a change' as their major reason for choosing him -- not any ideological reason at all." I can imagine a high percentage of Trump voters saying that in 2016, but now? Depends on how effectively the R's can portray Biden as the incumbent, responsible for all the mess Trump rails about.

  • Nick Martin: The Republican National Convention's carnival of white grievance.

  • Ben Mathis-Lilley:

  • Harold Meyerson:

  • Ian Millhiser:

    • The Hatch Act, the law Trump flouted at the RNC, explained.

    • The RNC's big Covid-19 lie, refused in one chart. Chart plots 7-day rolling average of new confirmed Covid-19 cases per million people, comparing US, EU, and six other well-to-do countries. "There are, in other words, world leader who did take decisive action to save lives. Donald Trump isn't one of them."

    • The RNC yanked a speaker who promoted an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory: Mary Ann Mendoza. "Cancel culture" lives on.

    • The most shocking line in Vice President Pence's 2020 RNC speech: "Pence blames right-wing violence on a vague leftist enemy."

      Pence's speech highlighted a single law enforcement officer, strongly implying that this officer was the victim of left-wing radicals opposed to police officers and to President Trump: "Dave Patrick Underwood was an officer of the Department of Homeland Security's Federal Protective Service, who was shot and killed during the riots in Oakland, California," said Pence, before acknowledging Underwood's sister, who was in the audience.

      Underwood's death is tragic, but it has nothing to do with left-wing radicals.

      Underwood was killed just blocks away from anti-police violence protests in Oakland, but federal authorities say he was killed by Steven Carrillo, an Air Force staff sergeant and a follower of the "boogaloo boys," a right-wing extremist movement that, according to the Washington Post's Katie Shepherd, "has sought to use peaceful protests against police brutality to spread fringe views and ignite a race war." . . .

      And yet, to Mike Pence, Underwood's death was just an opportunity to pin violence on his political opponents -- regardless of whether the attack has any real basis in fact.

  • Elie Mystal: We need to talk about the GOP's 'black friends': Several pieces here mention the relatively large number of black speakers at the RNC, but this article explains it: "The Republican National Convention has been all about using black people to convince white people it's OK to vote for a bigot." On the other hand, the ploy implies that the battle lines have shifted. George Wallace and Ronald Reagan never needed this sort of cover, but Trump's pollsters obviously felt he did. On the other hand, if Republicans believed that Trump had any appeal to black voters, they wouldn't be scrambling to help get Kanye West's name on battleground state ballots.

  • John Nichols:

  • Timothy Noah:

  • Anna North: Trump's pitch to evangelical voters, explained in one RNC speech: "He's 'the most pro-life president we have ever had,' according to anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson."

  • Rebecca Onion: American history has never seen anything to rival the Trumps' RNC family act: Alternate title, "The Trump children hogged the spotlight like nothing else in history."

  • JC Pan: The Republicans' love letter to rich culture warriors.

  • Cameron Peters: The difference between the DNC and RNC, in one tweet: It's mostly visual, so you'll have to follow the link to get it. Of course, that's not the only difference, or even the most important one.

  • Paul R Pillar: The costs of Mike Pompeo's partisanship.

  • Andrew Prokop: Why Republicans didn't write a platform for their convention this year: "The party's true priority is supporting Donald Trump."

  • Frank Rich: Trump thinks racism is his best chance: "Trailing in the polls, he used the Republican National Convention to ratchet his violence-encouraging rhetoric to an even more dangerous level."

  • Alyssa Rosenberg:

  • David Roth: Trump's cloud of gossip has poisoned America: "The president's insatiable need to traffic in rumor and conspiracy blows larger holes in our shared reality with each passing day."

  • Aaron Rupar:

  • Greg Sargent: The GOP convention just ripped the mask off Trump's corruption and lies: On Pam Bondi's speech.

  • Dylan Scott: The contradictory Republican case to Black voters -- and why it matters.

  • Doreen St Félix: The special hypocrisy of Melania Trump's speech at the Republican National Covention.

  • Joshua Shanes: This was the week American fascism reached a tipping point.

  • Walter Shapiro:

    • The surprising boredom of Trump's circus show.

    • Mike Pence is a parody of a politician.

      Wednesday night, the gravely serious Mike Pence ended his workmanlike speech at Fort McHenry with a similar frenzy of repetition: "With President Donald Trump in the White House for four more years and with God's help, we will make America great again, again."

      As presidential campaign slogans go, it isn't "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," which helped elect William Henry Harrison in 1840.

      Pence's oratory is revealing since he is a disciplined politician who obediently follows the script and scrupulously avoids crazed Trumpian improvisations. In short, every line in a Pence speech is there because White House political strategists thought it represented shrewd politics -- even Pence rhetorically sticking another scarlet "A" for "Again" on every MAGA hat. What the vice president is saying is that, despite Trump's supposed Mount Rushmore greatness, America needs saving yet again. In Pence's telling, the nation is akin to an innocent maiden in the silent movies who keeps getting tied to the railroad tracks.

      Donald Trump, of course, has no responsibility for anything. Not the pandemic, not the economy, not White House incompetence, not a white vigilante killing protesters in Kenosha, and not Hurricane Laura devastating the Gulf Coast. Trump is simply the unluckiest president since William Henry Harrison died in office just a month after he was inaugurated in 1841.

      Still unclear to me why, if God let Trump down in his first term, She's going to come to his rescue in a second term.

    • The Republicans still don't know how to run against Biden.

  • Alex Shephard:

  • Roger Sollenberger: Registered foreign agent Pam Bondi accuses Joe Biden of self-dealing in Republican convention speech.

  • Emily Stewart: Trump's spent years touting the stock market. At the RNC, he just . . . didn't. "Somewhere along the way, did someone decide it might not be a moment to tout stocks?" As long as Trump stays on script, which he mostly did at the RNC, everything he says has been pre-cleared and calculated for effect. What he says is what his handlers think will do him the most good. They may not be right, but it's not for lack of polling and testing.

  • Emily VanDerWerff: The bland, boring visuals of the Republican National Convention: "The aesthetics of the 2020 RNC are a disaster."

  • Paul Waldman: The RNC will be a strange mix of denial and terror.

  • Joan Walsh:

  • Alex Ward:

  • Robin Wright: A dubious Pompeo speech for an empty Trump foreign policy.

  • Li Zhou:

  • Jonathan Zimmerman: Trumpism is the real cancel culture.

This doesn't seem to be organized as a formal series, but I've noticed that Vox is running a number of pieces about what a second term with Donald Trump as president might mean. The articles are all speculative about the future, but they are also effective indictments about what the first Trump term did. I thought I'd try to collect them here:

  • Katelyn Burns: What a second Trump term could mean for LGBTQ people.

  • Nicole Narea: A nation of immigrants no more.

  • Andrew Prokop: Lock them up: The danger of political prosecutions in a second Trump term.

  • David Roberts: A second Trump term would mean severe and irreversible changes in the climate. Isn't that already the meaning of the first Trump term? Or at least part of the meaning. Roberts argues: "Trump's damage to the climate is not like his damage to the immigration system or the health care system. It can't be undone. It can't be repaired. Changes to the climate are, for all intents and purposes, irreversible." He's exaggerating on both ends. Trump's damage to government won't be so easy to reverse (especially with his packed courts). On the other hand, zero carbon emissions would eventually result in a lowering of the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere. Not soon, but, you know, eventually.

  • Dylan Scott: What would Trump actually want to do on health care in a second term?

  • Alex Ward: "America First, but on steroids": What Trump's second-term foreign policy might look like: "Little could stop President Trump from remaking the world in his image." It's tempting to wax dystopian when contemplating second terms for presidents who did extraordinary damage in their first terms -- invariably, they imagine even greater feats, especially with the popular ratification of their first term -- but the track records are more benign. GW Bush's second term was an utter disaster for America, but more past-due bills from his first term than new ambitions. His big push to privatize Social Security was beaten back, and he never managed to mop you the remainder of his Axis of Evil (having gotten totally bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan). Then his fraudulent housing bubble burst, and the Great Recession ensued. Reagan's second term was mostly tied up with scandals. Nixon didn't even manage to finish his second term. Even Eisenhower did little in his second term. Of course, one thing that helped in all of these cases is that Democrats won big in the 6th year mid-terms, so Republicans had no chance of doing much legislatively. Of course, foreign policy could be different, given how much power Congress has surrendered to the president over the years (and how much various presidents have snatched). Most of the topics in Ward's article are alarming, in large part because Trump is so unprincipled and erratic, but the last ("Trump may just start withdrawing from everything") might be for the better. A more sensible approach would be to draw back military forces based on multilateral treaties that build up international institutions, and that's clearly over his head. I don't want to cast doubt on the likelihood of disaster that a second Trump term would pose. First of all, after seeing what Trump has done, it would reflect very poorly on the judgment of the voters. Second, we'd have to bear with four more years of extreme bullshit, while real crises continue to multiply. Third, although popular opinion (through Congress) can frustrate his legislative agenda, his administration mostly works through executive orders and appointments to pack the courts. Fourth, he is just staggeringly bad at crisis management, and you should expect a lot of them. Finally, nobody has any idea how much damage he's caused in the last four years, or how much effort it's going to take to restore any semblance of normalcy. The Republican war on government (formerly conceived as "of the people, by the people, and for the people") sometimse includes bold proposals like privatizing the Post Office and the TVA, which can be opposed politically, but it mostly proceeds by entropy: by thousands of little cuts, not least to the incentive to public service. Much of what government does is manage risk (cf. Michael Lewis's book, The Fifth Risk). The thing is, you rarely notice that you've shortchanged risk management until it breaks, and disaster ensues.

    Trump has mostly worked to change the rules under which business and government operate, but it takes time before people adapt to exploit the new rules. For example, the Republicans won Congress in 1946 and combined with Southern Democrats to override Truman vetoes on labor and banking legislation. The effects of those laws didn't really become evident until the 1980s, when Reagan signaled open war on labor unions, and the savings & loan industry blew up. Things happen faster now because the brain rot of the Reagan era has progressed to Trump's zombiedom, because an era of relatively equal collective affluence has turned into an orgy of individualist greed. Trump's one claim to greatness is how thoroughly he personifies America's decline.


Some more scattered links this week:

Dan Alexander: Trump has now oved $2.3 million of campaign-donor money into his private business.

Edward Burmila: What populism is and is not. Review of Thomas Frank's book, The People, NO! The War on Populism and the Fight for Democracy.

Katelyn Burns:

Marcia Chatelain: How federal housing programs failed black America: Review of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's book, Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership.

Fabiola Cineas: The police shooting of Jacob Blake, explained: Black man, unarmed, shot 7 times in the back, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Protests ensued, and more shooting: Kyle Rittenhouse, age 17, armed with an AR-15, shot three protesters, killing two.

Eric Cordellessa: The Republicans newest plan to derail voting rights.

Vinson Cunningham: The exhilarating jolt of the Milwaukee Bucks' wildcat strike.

David Enrich: The incestuous relationship between Donald Trump and Fox News: Review of Brian Stelter's book, Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth.

David A Farenthold/Jonathan O'Connell/Joshua Partlow:

Jessica Flack/Melanie Mitchell: Uncertain times: "The pandemic is an unprecedented opportunity -- seeing human society as a complex system opens a better future for us all." Not sure this piece ever gets to where it's going, but I do believe that increasing social complexity is forcing us to rethink basic assumptions about how people work.

Chris Gelardi: US law enforcement's warrior complex is on full display in the streets -- and in leaked documents: "Hacked documents from the early weeks of the ongoing protest movement illustrate one of Black Lives Matter's central observations: Policing in the United States functions as a military occupation."

Sean Illing:

Umair Irfan: What makes California's current major wildfires so unusual: Updated from last week. After all, the state is still on fire.

Ezra Klein:

  • Isabel Wilkerson wants to change how we understand race in America: Wilkerson's book is Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents. Makes me wonder why she can't just say "class."

  • Those who like government least govern worst: "From the Iraq War to the coronavirus: why Republicans fail at governance." Mostly about Robert Draper's book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq, although the article title could have brought up any number of examples. Toward the end, Klein tries to draw a link between the coronavirus response fiasco and Iraq, and there are some (like magical thinking), but there are also differences. Republicans are generally pretty deferential to the military, so it's hard to pin the failure in Iraq on lack of funding or message discipline or even resolve -- all of which had an adverse effect on coronavirus response, and are characteristic of Republicans' general contempt for government. Yet Iraq was a disaster anyway. Faith in power and disregard for other people have something to do with it. With both, really.

  • How to decarbonize America -- and create 25 million jobs: Interview with Saul Griffith, who runs an organization called Rewiring America, and has an ebook on how to do it.

Markos Kounalakis: Vladimir Putin is on the ballot in November: This is really stupid. I don't doubt that Putin prefers Trump to Biden, and that he has little reason not to throw some of his cyber resources into tainting the 2020 election, but the net effect in terms of US-Russian relations will be negligible. The assertion that if Trump wins a second term, "Russia will be able to wantonly throw its weight around globally" is ridiculous. It hasn't happened in Trump's first term, and nothing changes for a second. The main limit on Russian "expansion" is Russia's own weakness and lack of popularity. Sure, they can on rare occasions play on external schisms as they have in Georgia and Ukraine, but most of the former Russian sphere thoroughly hates them, and their only "allies" elsewhere are countries the US has driven into their arms (like Syria, Venezuela, and Iran). If Biden decides to "get tough" on them, he'll only alienate and destabilize the world situation further. I don't doubt that Trump and Putin are sympatico because of their shared links to oligarchs, their reliance on jingoistic nationalism, and their general contempt for democracy, but interests are something else. Where Trump might help Putin most is in promoting the arms trade -- that being one of Russia's few competitive exports. He also might blow up the Middle East, which would be good for Russian oil and gas prices. (He's already taken most Iranian and Venezuelan oil off the market.) I don't doubt that if Putin were on the ballot, hardly anyone would vote for him. Except maybe in a Republican primary, where a cunning oligarch and despot might be preferred over a really stupid one.

Akela Lacy: Protesters in multiple states are facing felony charges, including terrorism.

Nicholas Lemann: Why Hurricane Katrina was not a natural disaster: "Fifteen years ago, New Orleans was nearly destroyed. A new book suggests that the cause was decades of bad policy -- and that nothing has changed." The book is Katrina: A History, 1915-2015, by Andy Horowitz. As I note under Alex Ward (above), bad policy may take many years to reveal itself as a disaster, which is the argument here. Louisiana is getting hit by another big hurricane this week:

German Lopez:

  • Trump asked for fewer Covid-19 tests. Now the CDC is recommending less testing.

  • How violent protests against police brutality in the '60s and '90s changed public opinion. It's not unreasonable to worry that acts associated with protests might lead to a backlash and even a setback. But lots of things are different now. Police brutality often triggered riots in the 1960s, but it wasn't seen as such, partly because the riots weren't preceded by protest marches, and partly because there weren't cameras everywhere back then to document the brutality. Civil rights marches in the 1960s were much more analogous to the current BLM marches, not only because they were organized protests but also because they were met with public police brutality not unlike we see today. Whereas the riots produced a backlash against "criminality," the marches made the case for civil rights, and were generally successful (ultimately). I worry that repeating protests too often will create an escalating dynamic that could turn counterproductive (which may have happened in Portland, although I'm not close enough to be sure). I also don't have any problem with arresting people who destroy property and/or act violently -- nor would I exempt the police when they do so. But secondary violence never excuses the violence that triggered the protests in the first place, nor does it justify further violence by police, let alone their self-appointed "allies." Police have as much responsibility to protect protesters as anyone else -- something they can all too easily forget when they dress up like stormtroopers.

Sarah Lyall: In Trumpworld, the grown-ups in the room all left, and got book deals: Gang-reviews books by Sean Spicer, James Comey, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Andrew G McCabe, Anonymous, John Bolton, and Mary L Trump.

Jonathan Martin: Over 100 ex-staff members for John McCain endorse Joe Biden. As someone who's long regarded McCain as one of the most reprehensible characters in American politics, I don't find this very gratifying. Especially give the other large Republican cluster to come over to Biden: Top Republican national security officials say they will vote for Biden. McCain was long the most reckless hawk in the GOP, and that's bread and butter to the security officialdom, so the bet is that Biden will follow militarist orthodoxy more faithfully than Trump will. Biden has given them little reason to think otherwise, so they may be onto something. Those camps loom large in All the Republicans who have decided not to support Trump.

Bill McKibben: On climate change, we've run out of presidential terms to waste. He probably said that about Bush too -- if not the first, certainly the second. After all, he founded 350.org when 350 was just a fearsome future number. The latest carbon dioxide number (from 2019) is 409.8 ppm.

Ian Millhiser: What happens to the Supreme Court (and the Constitution) if Trump wins: "The Supreme Court has rejected some of the GOP's sloppiest and most presumptuous arguments. It won't anymore if Republicans grow their majority."

Anna North: Elizabeth Warren calls for investigation into Trump's politicization of Covid-19.

Evan Osnos: Can Biden's center hold? Long piece, good background including some things I didn't know, recounting the campaign to date, not much forward projection, even on the title question. Of course, all you can really say is that what holds Biden's center together is fear and loathing of Donald Trump. Take that away and you can pick Biden apart from every angle. But for now, Biden is managing to straddle two theories that are normally in opposition: one is the centrist belief that if you can stop right-wing destruction and restore functioning institutions (not just government, although that's the big one), America will rebound largely on its own, and all will be well; the other is the leftist belief that unless equality and justice are restored, nothing can work right, and our problems will continue to multiply. Biden is more associated with the former, but not so dogmatically as to exclude inputs from the left. Moreover, as long as he's running against Trump, the left-center split isn't (or shouldn't be) an issue.

JC Pan: Private equity is cannibalizing the post-pandemic economy: "These vulture firms helped create the conditions for economic collapse. Now they're cleaning up."

All of this is to say that private equity had a heavy (if largely unseen) hand in weakening a number of crucial industries right before a national disaster. Not only will it likely face no consequences for indirectly facilitating a portion of the suffering, but it also now stands to profit from the wreckage of the economic recession it helped flame. . . .

That very disconnect illuminates the failure of an economy that encourages disaster profiteering. Though private equity may seem uniquely villainous, in the end, those firms are only doing what they were created to do and always explicitly promised to do: generate profit for their investors above all else. Their predations are made possible by a government that condones them or is content to simply turn away, as it has so many times before. That calls not just for a general condemnation of financial greed -- which most politicians are happy to offer -- but real measures to end it. As Warren and Fife put it, "Wall Street has already shown us what it will do if left unchecked."

Alex Pareene:

Vijay Prashad: Why Cuban doctors deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

Since the start of Cuban medical internationalism in 1960, over 400,000 medical workers have worked in more than 40 countries. . . . Cuban medical workers are risking their health to break the chain of the COVID-19 infection. Cuban scientists developed drugs -- such as interferon alpha-2b -- to help fight the disease. Now Cuban scientists have announced that their vaccine is in trials; this vaccine will not be treated as private property but will be shared with the peoples of the world. This is the fidelity of Cuban medical internationalism.

Andrew Prokop: The Jerry Falwell Jr scandal, explained: "It's not just about sex -- it's a tale of financial, institutional, and political corruption. And there's a Trump angle." More on Falwell:

Robert Reich: Trump's 40 biggest broken promises.

Aja Romano: Why we can't stop fighting about cancel culture: Is cancel culture a mob mentality, or a long overdue way of speaking truth to power?" No, neither, and not just because it isn't even a thing. Think about it. Cancel is something that only those in power can do. It's something they do all the time, usually without fanfare or even notice. They don't need a "culture" to get them to do it. All they need is the power. I made a joke above about "cancel culture" causing the cancellation of an RNC speaker who had suddenly become an embarrassment (although her usual racist shtick was probably why she got the invite in the first place). On the other hand, people without the power to actually cancel an appearance can still ask or demand that it happen, but they have no direct power to make it happen. It's really just a challenge to power, and those in power don't like those out of power butting into their business, so they imagine a "culture" which drives this dynamic on.

Siguel Samuel: Germany is launching a new experiment in basic income.

Luke Savage: Joe Biden's strategy of appealing to Republicans is courting disaster. See 2016. I don't mind the messaging going that way, but the mistake that Biden cannot afford is slighting the "ground game" to make sure the base votes, and understands what's at stake. That's something Obama did well, and Hillary barely did at all.

John Schwartz: Climate is taking on a growing role for voters, research suggests. Related: Lisa Friedman: Climate could be an electoral time bomb, Republican strategists fear.

Dylan Scott: How Obamacare helped millions who lost their jobs during Covid-19, in 3 charts.

Avi Shlaim: UAE-Israel deal: Breakthrough or betrayal?

Emily Stewart: Americans are falling through the safety net. The government is helping predatory lenders instead.

Libby Watson: The real pandemic gap is between the comfortable and the afflicted: "Beneath society's plutocratic layer, America is not as united in the face of crisis as we like to pretend." Who's pretending? The idea that this is a war, with its now-ancient implication that we're all in it together, didn't take root. Once the stock market rebounded, Trump and the Republicans lost interest in bipartisan deals that might help the non-rich. Still, there is another gap, between Watson's "comfortable" and those who struggle from paycheck to paycheck. Watson puts that gap somewhere between $30,000 and $130,000, noting that "Pew reports 18 percent of 'upper income' (above $112,600 in annual income) people have been laid off or lost their jobs since the pandemic started (compared with 39 percent of 'lower income' people, who earn less than $37,500)." I'd define it a bit differently: the "comfortable" are those who simply added their $1,200 stimulus checks to their savings, in contrast to the "uncomfortable" many who spent it on debts and necessities and soon wound up with nothing less. The big difference there is having an uninterrupted income stream larger than routine expenses, which has a lot more to do with who saves than thriftiness ever did.

George Will: Biden needs a Sister Souljah moment: I read this op-ed in the Wichita Eagle this morning, and was appalled and disgusted. Will is a conservative pundit who doesn't love Trump but also doesn't like anything his opponents stand for, so he should be irrelevant at the moment. I might have skipped this, but then I found Robert Tracinski: Biden needs a Sister Souljah month, which elicited a response from Martin Longman: We don't need another Sister Souljah moment. I didn't recall what the rapper said to provoke Bill Clinton's wrath, but still recalled the incident for its gratuitous racism. It was Clinton's way of reminding white people that he's one of them, and that he can be counted on to defend them against raging blacks. Biden doesn't need such a moment, and shouldn't want one, and anyone who prods him in that direction is aiming to make the racial divide worse. Take Donald Trump: he has a Sister Souljah moment almost every day, and each one begets the next. Tracinski's real point is that Biden needs to make sure he's viewed as anti-riot. I'm against riots too, and I don't care how draconian he gets in prosecuting rioters -- as long as the same justice applies to police and to Trump's agitator-thugs. Or I would be, but shouldn't police be held to a higher standard? As it is, much of what they do seems designed to provoke riots, not to prevent or pacify them. PS: Biden did issue a strong statement, included here. As Steve M notes, "The New York Times covers it by burying it in the 13th paragraph of a story about President Trump's overnight Twitter barrage." He also notes:

Why did Hillary Clinton lose in 2016? She lost for many reasons, but one was the media's willingness to let her opponent Bigfoot his way to a disproportionate share of press coverage. Trump was seen as great copy and great television, so the media yielded the floor to him every time he beat his chest and demanded attention, dismissing most efforts by Clinton to Change the subject to serious issues. And here we are.

Matthew Yglesias:

Monday, August 24, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33865 [33814] rated (+51), 225 [221] unrated (+4).

Started off last week playing old albums by the late tenor saxophonist Steve Grossman. (I only had two in my database, fondly remembering 1991's In New York.) Turns out I had missed quite a bit. Consistently strong albums, especially in the 1990's, with the Quartet with Michel Petrucciani perhaps closest to the cusp.

Then I went after a long list of British jazz albums suggested by a recent Q&A query: Don Rendell, Ian Carr, and Michael Garrick. I had noticed but didn't pursue recent box sets of the 1965-69 Rendell-Carr Quintet and the Carr's 1970-75 Nucleus group, but as I had listened to everything on separate albums, I figured I could summarize the boxes and assign them a grade. I haven't seen the packaging, so no extra credit there, nor for the convenience of keeping everything together. Garrick, who played a lot with Rendell and/or Carr, is the more significant talent, and also the one I've missed most by. One not below I can heartily recommend is his For Love of Duke . . . and Ronnie (1995-97 [1998], Jazz Academy).

These old jazz albums went fast, but by Friday, when I turned my attention to Weekend Roundup, I hadn't listened to a single new album. I promised to sort my input queue by release date and start picking off the oldest releases, but didn't get to that, and when I did pick out the most promising release I had seen reviewed, Matt Wilson's Hug!, I discovered it's not out until next week. I'll try again next week.

The only things in the Q&A queue are suggestions for artists to explore. One is Jimmy Heath (1926-2020). I only had two of his records in my database before adding his latest/final this week. I'm surprised I don't have his 1992 Little Man Big Band listed -- pretty sure I owned that, although I doubt I've played it since it was new. Heath didn't record as much as others I think of as his peers (Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, Joe Henderson, Clifford Jordan, maybe Hank Mobley and/or Wayne Shorter), but my sampling -- even against my "shopping list" -- has been relatively sparse. Something to look into.

Another suggestion is Bilal's Love for Sale, recorded 2001-03 and unreleased but leaked in 2006, and evidently pretty easy to find. The guy who wrote up my Wikipedia page has written up an extremely detailed one on this album.

Looking through the week's deaths, I see several familiar musicians: Justin Townes Earle (38, singer-songwriter, son of Steve Earle), Peter King (80, English saxophonist), Charlie Persip (91, drummer), Hal Singer (100, saxophonist). I tracked down several of Singer's albums back in June. I belatedly played Earle's 2019 album, and it's pretty good (see below).

On a more personal note, my cousin Devoe Brown (89) died today -- the third cousin I've lost this year. He was a builder in Twin Falls, Idaho. He married Colleen in 1950, and they had four daughters and a son. For many years he would buy, live in, fix up, and resell old houses. He started building new ones, eventually whole subdivisions of them. His father was a blacksmith and railroad worker, William Clagge Brown (1907-74), who moved his family from Arkansas to Missouri to Pocatello in the early 1940s. Clagge rode in rodeos, and was the most credible outdoorsman in a family chock full of hunters. Some griddles he crafted are among my most prized possessions. We visited both ways in the 1950s and 1960s. I became reacquainted with Devoe in the 1990s, and we've remained close. I don't think I've known anyone who so much enjoyed to laugh. One couldn't ask for better company. About six months ago, when he was diagnosed with liver illness, he took it in stride, describing his decline as "the grand finale" of his life. The last few months haven't been so grande, but it's always been a pleasure to hear his voice.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Abraham Inc.: Together We Stand (2019, Table Pounding): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Gregg August: Dialogues on Race: Volume One (2020, Iacuessa): [r]: B+(***)
  • David Berkman: Plays Music by John Coltrane and Pete Seeger: Solo Piano (2020, Without): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Black Art Jazz Collective: Ascension (2020, HighNote): [r]: B+(*)
  • Charley Crockett: Welcome to Hard Times (2020, Son of Davy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Justin Townes Earle: The Saint of Lost Causes (2019, New West): [r]: B+(***)
  • Paul Flaherty/Randall Colbourne/James Chumley Hunt/Mike Roberson: Borrowed From Children (2019 [2020], 577): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bill Frisell: Valentine (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jimmy Heath: Love Letter (2019 [2020], Verve): [r]: B+(*)
  • Eddie Henderson: Shuffle and Deal (2019 [2020], Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
  • Christoph Irniger Trio: Open City (2020, Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ingrid Laubrock + Kris Davis: Blood Moon (2019 [2020], Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
  • Matt Wilson Quartet: Hug! (2019 [2020], Palmetto): [cd]: B+(**) [08-28]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (1976 [2020], Dark Tree): [cd]: A-

Old music:

  • Ian Carr With Nucleus: Solar Plexus (1971, Vertigo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nucleus: Elastic Rock (1970, Vertigo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nucleus: We'll Talk About It Later (1970 [1971], Vertigo): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ian Carr With Nucleus Plus: Labyrinth (1973, Vertigo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ian Carr's Nucleus: Roots (1973, Vertigo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nucleus: Under the Sun (1974, Vertigo): [r]: B
  • Nucleus: Snakehips Etcetera (1975, Vertigo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nucleus: Alleycat (1975, Vertigo): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nucleus & Ian Carr: Torrid Zone: The Vertigo Recordings 1970-1975 (1970-75 [2019], Esoteric, 6CD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shirley Collins and the Albion Country Band: No Roses (1971, Pegasus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michael Garrick Trio: Moonscape (1964 [2007], Trunk, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michael Garrick: The New Quartet (2001 [2002], Jazz Academy): [r]: A-
  • Michael Garrick Sextet With Don Rendell and Ian Carr: Prelude to Heart Is a Lotus (1968 [2014], Gearbox): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Garricks' String Quartet: Green and Pleasant Land (2003, Jazz Academy): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Michael Garrick Trio: Gigs: Introducing Mick Garrett . . . ([2008], Jazz Academy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Johnny Griffin/Steve Grossman: Johnny Griffin & Steve Grossman Quintet (2000 [2001], Dreyfus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Grossman: Some Shapes to Come (1973 [1974], PM): [r]: A-
  • Steve Grossman: Terra Firma (1975-76 [1977], PM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Grossman: Way Out East, Volume 1 (1984, RED): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Grossman: Way Out East, Volume 2 (1984, RED): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Grossman: Love Is the Thing (1985 [1986], RED): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Grossman Trio: Bouncing With Mr. A.T. (1989 [1996], Dreyfus): [r]: A-
  • Steve Grossman: Live at Café Praga (1990 [1991], Timeless): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Grossman: My Second Prime (1990 [1991], RED): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Grossman: Do It (1991, Dreyfus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Grossman Quintet Featuring Harold Land: I'm Confessin' (1992 [2007], Dreyfus): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Grossman + Cedar Walton Trio: A Small Hotel (1993, Dreyfus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Steve Grossman/Michel Petrucciani: Quartet (1998 [1999], Dreyfus): [r]: B+(***)
  • Don Rendell: Meet Don Rendell (1954-55 [2001], Jasmine): [r]: B+(***)
  • Don Rendell/Bobby Jaspar: Recontre A Paris (1955, Swing, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Shades of Blue (1965, Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
  • Don Rendell/Ian Carr 5tet: Dusk Fire (1966, Columbia): [r]: B
  • Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Phase III (1967 [1968], Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
  • Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Live (1968 [1969], Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: Change Is (1969, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Don Rendell/Ian Carr Quintet: The Complete Lansdowne Recordings (1965-69 [2018], Jazzman): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Don Rendell Five Featuring Barbara Thompson: Just Music (1974 [1976], Spotlite): [r]: B+(**)
  • Don Rendell/Ian Carr/Michael Garrick: Reunion (2001 [2002], Spotlite): [r]: B+(***)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Steve Grossman: Time to Smile (1993 [1994], Dreyfus): [was: B] B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • The Big Bad Bones Featuring Scott Whitfield: Emergency Vehicle Blues (Summit) [08-21]
  • The Claire Daly Band: Rah! Rah! (Ride Symbol) [10-02]
  • Jason Foureman and Stephen Anderson: Duo (Summit)
  • Sukyung Kim: Lilac Hill (self-released)
  • Modern Jazz Quartet Karlsruhe: Four Men Only: Complete Recordings (1968-73, NoBusiness -3CD)
  • Radam Schwartz Organ Big Band: Message From Groove and GW (Arabesque)
  • Trio Linguale [Kevin Woods/John Stowell/Miles Black]: Signals (Origin) [08-21]

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

The Democrats had their virtual convention last week. I didn't watch any of it live. For that matter, neither did my wife, who's got a much thicker skin for these things -- probably developed from hate-watching Fox News, although in fairness she mostly does that to watch them squirm on particularly embarrassing news days. I did watch Stephen Colbert's nightly post-convention monologues, so I got a taste of the virtual spectacle -- mostly selected for joke potential. I've also read (or at least skimmed) the pieces, both on the convention and on the Biden campaign, linked below:

  • Vox [Zack Beauchamp/Aaron Ross Coleman/Dylan Matthews/Nicole Narea/Ella Nilsen/Anna North/Andrew Prokop/Dylan Scott/Emily Stewart/Emily VanDerWerff/Li Zhou]:

  • Zack Beauchamp: Andrew Yang said the smartest thing about Biden at the DNC: "The magic of Joe Biden is that everything he does becomes the new reasonable."

  • Fabiola Cineas: What it will take to fight the sexist, racist attacks against Kamala Harris. Interview with Niambi Carter, author of American While Black: African Americans, Immigration, and the Limits of Citizenship.

  • Constance Grady: How politicians showed off their books at the Democratic National Convention. Something I'm always curious about, but Cory Booker didn't help himself by showcasing a David Brooks book.

  • Sue Katz: Rating the Democratic National Convention: Highlights & bummers: A friend's blog report.

  • Ezra Klein:

    • Joe Biden likes you. On his acceptance speech. The speech itself is here. Klein does some of his Why We're Polarized stuff, but his main point is this:

      The core of Joe Biden's politics is his talent at fulfilling the simplest of political and emotional needs: Joe Biden likes you. That was the message of this convention, and it's the message that has always been at the core of his politics. Joe Biden likes you if you're a Democrat or a Republican. He likes you even if you don't like him, because it's his job to like you, no matter how you vote.

      "While I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president," Biden said. "I will work as hard for those who didn't support me as I will for those who did. That's the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party."

      If this sounds trite, consider the contrast it offers to the reality we live in, and the politics President Trump models.

      I must say I don't find that very reassuring. I get the contrast to Trump, and I believe that the most basic lesson of life is how necessary it is to respect other people (even ones very different from yourself). Still, putting likability above commitment runs the risk of losing the principles and allegiances that will get him elected in the first place, and make him ineffective. Obama didn't just want to make bipartisan deals. He was willing to make bad ones, just to look good to people who didn't care. Biden may want to be liked by everyone, but he won't be -- indeed, the depths of irrational invective and hatred Republicans direct at him during the campaign should make that point inescapable.

    • American carnage: "In 2017, Trump promised to end 'this American carnage.' Four years later, carnage defines his presidency."

  • Mike Konczal: Can Joe Biden unrig the economy? "Raising taxes on the rich would help stop the economy from simply channeling income to 1 percent."

  • Nancy LeTourneau: What everyone should learn from Michelle Obama.

  • German Lopez:

      Obama's Democratic convention speech gave a clear warning: Democracy is at stake in 2020: As he's done so often in his career, Obama grasps at the most anodyne, least objectionable position in a crisis. It is true that Republicans have no respect for democracy, and if given the chance will do anything they can to tilt elections in their direction. Still, it does little good to defend democracy in the abstract when you don't use of it to do popular things, or even practice the Preamble to the US Constitution (establish justice, promote the general welfare, etc.). When Democrats gained control of Congress and the Presidency in the 2008 elections, they did nothing whatsoever to fight back against the gross distortions of money in politics. They didn't even get rid of the anti-democratic filibuster in the structurally un-democratic US Senate. Don't get me wrong: it's good that Obama values democracy now. It's just a shame that he didn't make better use of it when he had the chance.

    • The Democratic convention highlighted gun violence. Here's what Biden plans to do about it. Gun control isn't an unpopular issue, but is is a polarizing one, so much so that I doubt it works as a political issue, so I don't see any value in the Democrats bringing it up.

  • Dylan Matthews: This is the future Joe Biden wants. Introduction to a series called A Biden Presidency: "The Democratic nominee's policy vision, explained." Other links in this series:

  • Ian Millhiser:

  • Nicole Narea: A Covid-19 victim's daughter delivered a moving account of her father's death -- and a searing critique of Trump. This may be the sound bite of the convention: "My dad was a healthy 65 year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that he paid with his life."

  • Ella Nilsen:

  • Anna North:

  • Cameron Peters: Bernie Sanders just made the progressive case for Joe Biden.

  • David Remnick: Obama, Harris, and an unconventional convention.

  • Aja Romano:

  • Aaron Rupar: Fox News thinks Joe Biden's DNC speech was "a home run": "Trump won't be happy with Fox News's rave reviews of Biden's speech."

  • David E Sanger: Top Republican national security officials say they will vote for Biden: "In a letter released hours before Joe Biden delivered his nomination acceptance speech, over 70 senior officials called President Trump 'unfit to lead' and outlined their support for his opponent." Every vote counts, but some endorsements create associations you'd rather not have. These, in particular, remind us that Biden has faithfully supported decades of national security blunders and disasters. One note is that the names most closely associated with Trump, while sometimes being highly critical of him (e.g., John Bolton), are still unwilling to break party ranks and commit to Biden.

  • Dylan Scott: Biden's 2020 message rests on Trump's fundamental Covid-19 failure. Cites a major piece by Ed Yong: How the pandemic defeated America: "A virus has brought the world's most powerful country to its knees." Scott quoted this much:

    A month before his inauguration, I wrote that "the question isn't whether [Trump will] face a deadly outbreak during his presidency, but when." Based on his actions as a media personality during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and as a candidate in the 2016 election, I suggested that he would fail at diplomacy, close borders, tweet rashly, spread conspiracy theories, ignore experts, and exhibit reckless self-confidence. And so he did.

    No one should be shocked that a liar who has made almost 20,000 false or misleading claims during his presidency would lie about whether the U.S. had the pandemic under control; that a racist who gave birth to birtherism would do little to stop a virus that was disproportionately killing Black people; that a xenophobe who presided over the creation of new immigrant-detention centers would order meatpacking plants with a substantial immigrant workforce to remain open; that a cruel man devoid of empathy would fail to calm fearful citizens; that a narcissist who cannot stand to be upstaged would refuse to tap the deep well of experts at his disposal; that a scion of nepotism would hand control of a shadow coronavirus task force to his unqualified son-in-law; that an armchair polymath would claim to have a "natural ability" at medicine and display it by wondering out loud about the curative potential of injecting disinfectant; that an egotist incapable of admitting failure would try to distract from his greatest one by blaming China, defunding the WHO, and promoting miracle drugs; or that a president who has been shielded by his party from any shred of accountability would say, when asked about the lack of testing, "I don't take any responsibility at all."

    When I scanned the article, I missed those but picked out a few additional paragraphs, which struck me as germane, albeit less pointed at Trump:

    How did it come to this? A virus a thousand times smaller than a dust mote has humbled and humiliated the planet's most powerful nation. America has failed to protect its people, leaving them with illness and financial ruin. It has lost its status as a global leader. It has careened between inaction and ineptitude. The breadth and magnitude of its errors are difficult, in the moment, to truly fathom. . . .

    The U.S. has little excuse for its inattention. In recent decades, epidemics of SARS, MERS, Ebola, H1N1 flu, Zika, and monkeypox showed the havoc that new and reemergent pathogens could wreak. Health experts, business leaders, and even middle schoolers ran simulated exercises to game out the spread of new diseases. In 2018, I wrote an article for The Atlantic arguing that the U.S. was not ready for a pandemic, and sounded warnings about the fragility of the nation's health-care system and the slow process of creating a vaccine. But the COVID-19 debacle has also touched -- and implicated -- nearly every other facet of American society: its shortsighted leadership, its disregard for expertise, its racial inequities, its social-media culture, and its fealty to a dangerous strain of individualism. . . .

    Despite its epochal effects, COVID-19 is merely a harbinger of worse plagues to come. The U.S. cannot prepare for these inevitable crises if it returns to normal, as many of its people ache to do. Normal led to this. Normal was a world ever more prone to a pandemic but ever less ready for one. To avert another catastrophe, the U.S. needs to grapple with all the ways normal failed us. It needs a full accounting of every recent misstep and foundational sin, every unattended weakness and unheeded warning, every festering wound and reopened scar. . . .

    Compared with the average wealthy nation, America spends nearly twice as much of its national wealth on health care, about a quarter of which is wasted on inefficient care, unnecessary treatments, and administrative chicanery. The U.S. gets little bang for its exorbitant buck. It has the lowest life-expectancy rate of comparable countries, the highest rates of chronic disease, and the fewest doctors per person. This profit-driven system has scant incentive to invest in spare beds, stockpiled supplies, peacetime drills, and layered contingency plans -- the essence of pandemic preparedness. America's hospitals have been pruned and stretched by market forces to run close to full capacity, with little ability to adapt in a crisis. . . .

    The federal government could have mitigated those problems by buying supplies at economies of scale and distributing them according to need. Instead, in March, Trump told America's governors to "try getting it yourselves." As usual, health care was a matter of capitalism and connections. In New York, rich hospitals bought their way out of their protective-equipment shortfall, while neighbors in poorer, more diverse parts of the city rationed their supplies. . . .

    At times, Americans have seemed to collectively surrender to COVID-19. The White House's coronavirus task force wound down. Trump resumed holding rallies, and called for less testing, so that official numbers would be rosier. The country behaved like a horror-movie character who believes the danger is over, even though the monster is still at large.

    Yong has another piece out: Long-haulers are redefining COVID-19.

  • Walter Shapiro:

  • Alex Shephard:

    • Joe Biden has found his big idea: "It's not just about defeating Donald Trump, but providing an off-ramp from this all-consuming political moment." Still hard to get much of a grip on all this vacuousness. It doesn't especially bother me if Biden doesn't come up with plans or anything forward thinking until after the election, but the idea that everything will be just fine if only we don't have Trump driving us crazy almost daily seems a little myopic. While acting deliberately may be too much to ask of a politician these days, shit happens, and that means the president will have to react -- often, intelligently, with care and maybe even cunning.

    • A night of magical thinking at the Democratic convention: "Democrats are already in love with their future, in spite of the face that Joe Biden has glossed over how he will get them there."

  • Doreen St Félix: Michelle Obama's unmatched call to action at the Democratic National Convention.

  • Emily Stewart: Ordinary Americans stole the show at this year's Democratic convention.

  • Emily VanDerWerff:

  • Kara Voght/Rebecca Leber: Biden's pitch to voters: What America needs now is empathy: After Trump, a little empathy seems like a good idea. Still, remind me of the old George Burns quote: "The secret of acting is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made." Biden's been trading in empathy his whole career, all the while voting for special interests. What we really need is someone to show us that government is on the people's side, doing things that help everyone in tangible ways. Republicans deny that this is even possible, which gives them an excuse for being so awful at it. Democrats, including Biden, have often gone along, touting deregulation and "market solutions" and austerity. But the thing is, in a world as complex and interconnected as ours has become, you need institutions committed to the public interest, and you really need them to work. Empathy may give you motivation to do that, but there are other motivations available, like survival.

  • Matthew Yglesias:

  • Li Zhou:

On to the Republican Convention next week. For a preview, see Riley Beggin: The Repubican National Convention: Who's speaking and how to watch. Also not one but two hurricanes, one on Monday to open the RNC, a second (bigger) one for its climax: Hurricane warnings issued as Gulf Coast prepares for March and Laura. Neither are likely to come close to the RNC in Charlotte. Here's some early anticipation of the RNC:


Some scattered links on other subjects this week:

Kate Aronoff: Ban yachts: "They're floating castles of crime, polluting our air and water." By the way, there's a striking passage in Paul Krugman's The Conscience of a Liberal, pointing out that during the era of relative equality in the 1950s/1960s (what he calls, in a phrase that surely will not stand the test of time, "the great compression") when private yachts were virtually unheard of -- in stark contrast both to the "roaring '20s" and now.

Riley Beggin:

Jane Coaston: QAnon, the scarily popular pro-Trump conspiracy theory, explained. More QAnon:

Jason Ditz:

Dilip Hiro: Donald Trump is losing his tech war with Xi Jinping. Lots of interesting details here, but the big takeaway is that China has a national economic plan which invests in world-class high tech industries and is lifting itself to be a world leader, where the US has a system (loosely speaking) of crony capitalism, where privately-owned businesses (and not necessarily American ones) can buy government favors but also gain much of their profits by using low-cost labor and suppliers abroad, so their profits do little (if anything) to help American workers, who (if anything) get poorer in the bargain. One detail: in 2019, China applied for more patents than the US. Over the last few decades, the main thrust of American trade policy has been to force other countries to pay intellectual property rents (to companies, not really to America). China is now poised to capture the lion's share of that income stream. I am very firm in my belief that patents are bad, so my preference is to ban them everywhere. As the US sinks ever lower in the patent tribute system, Americans should realize that the patent system is a losing game. (Americans have long charged China with cheating at that game, although the US didn't recognize foreign patents back in the 19th century.)

Sean Illing: What MLK and Malcolm X would do today: Interview with Peniel Joseph, author of The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., a dual biography.

One of the things I write about Malcolm is that Malcolm is Black America's prosecuting attorney, but he becomes the statesman. And Dr. King is the defense attorney who becomes this pillar of fire. He becomes this man on fire in the last several years of his life, and he's prosecuting and castigating in a way that we never think about King.

Umair Irfan: What makes California's current major wildfires so unusual: "Dry lightning, extreme heat, and Covid-19 are all shaping California's efforts to contain massive, deadly blazes." Related:

  • Darryl Fears/Faiz Siddiqui/Sarah Kaplan/Juliet Eilperin: Heat is turbocharging fires, drought and tropical storms this summer.

    At least 140 Western weather stations notched record highs in the past 10 days as a thermometer in California's Death Valley hit 130 degrees Fahrenheit, one of the highest temperatures measured on Earth. Eighty million U.S. residents are under excessive heat advisories. More than 35 wildfires are raging in California, burning 125,000 acres in the San Francisco Bay area alone, threatening 25,000 businesses and homes this week. Parts of the country are suffering drought conditions. And in the Atlantic Ocean, a marine heat wave is fueling what is becoming an unusually active storm season.

  • David Wallace-Wells: California has Australian problems now.

Colby Itkowitz/Amy Gardner: Tennessee adopts new law that could strip some protesters of voting rights.

Protesters who camp out on state property, such as the activists who have demonstrated for months outside the state Capitol against racial injustice, could now face felony charges punishable by up to six years in prison. Convicted felons are automatically stripped of their voting rights in Tennessee.

Ezra Klein:

  • What it would take to end child poverty in America: Interview with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA).

  • The tragedy of Hillary Clinton. This piece probably belongs with the DNC pieces above, as it is based on her speech there, but if I couldn't banish her from the roster, at least I sequester her here. Even Klein admits, "nothing ensures ignominy like failure," and Hillary's failure was a monumental one: she lost to Donald Trump. What Klein doesn't admit is that she uniquely lost to Trump because her unacknowledged faults precisely clouded Trump's far greater ones. Take corruption for instance: Trump could paint her as Crooked Hillary because he had bought favors from her in the past. Clinton's Foundation underscored her nouveau greed because Trump had his own Foundation (one that did even less to disguise its crookedness). Klein dabbles in counterfactuals, suggesting we would be much better off had Trump lost to Hillary. But while he relishes the idea of Hillary holding press conferences filled with facts and sound advice, Hillary would have found herself on top of a broken government system she couldn't control, likely faced with a hostile Congress -- chances that her Democrats would have won the House in 2018 were close to nil -- and media, still saddled with scandals she could never explain away. So she handles coronavirus a bit better -- maybe 110,000 dead now compared to 170,000 under Trump -- and the economy a bit worse (Congress wouldn't have given her anything like the CARES Act Democrats gave Trump), and she'd wind up looking hopeless for reelection. Maybe that's all just so unfair. Maybe in a true meritocracy her talents could have won out. But Clinton's big break, which let her win a Senate seat in a state she didn't live in, parlay that into Secretary of State for the rival who beat her, and corner the 2016 nomination with no opposition (except for a Vermont socialist she almost lost to), was as unmerited as picking the right guy to fuck, and sticking with him while he goes out and fucks so many others. Their bond was always their addiction to power, and they've never escaped that scent. It even overpowered Trump's stink, and that's why she lost in 2016, and became useless to us forevermore.

  • Why Republicans are failing to govern: "Does Mitch McConnell want Trump to be a one-term president?" Republicans have proposed as a next stimulus step a "$1 trillion HEALS Act," but they don't seem to be serious even about that -- it just gives them some talking room as they try to blame their failures on the Democrats, who've passed a $3.5 trillion dollar package in the House. Seems like there should be a lot of room for compromise there, especially when the alternative is nothing. Klein posits "four theories for the GOP's governance crisis":

    1. It's Trump's fault.
    2. Conservative thinking has no room for Covid-19.
    3. They're worried about Tea Party 2.0.
    4. They've given up on 2020, and many are looking toward 2024.

    Conclusion:

    That brings me to the explanation for GOP behavior that is almost unanimous among Senate Democrats I've spoken to. They believe Republicans are readying themselves to run the strategy against former Vice President Joe Biden they ran against President Obama: Weaponize the debt -- which Republicans ran up by trillions during the Trump administration -- as a cudgel against anything and everything the Democrats want to do. Force Democrats to take sole ownership of an economic response that's too small to truly counteract the pain.

    If Republicans are behaving like an opposition party that primarily wants to stop Democrats from doing anything, that's because it's the role they're most comfortable playing, and one many of them expect to reprise soon.

Paul Krugman:

  • Stocks are soaring. So is misery. "Optimism about Apple's future profits won't pay this month's rent."

    On Tuesday, the S&P 500 stock index hit a record high. The next day, Apple became the first U.S. company in history to be valued at more than $2 trillion. Donald Trump is, of course, touting the stock market as proof that the economy has recovered from the coronavirus; too bad about those 173,000 dead Americans, but as he says, "It is what it is." . . .

    Take the example of Apple, with its $2 trillion valuation. Apple has a price-earnings ratio -- the ratio of its market valuation to its profits -- of about 33. One way to look at that number is that only around 3 percent of the value investors place on the company reflects the money they expect it to make over the course of the next year. As long as they expect Apple to be profitable years from now, they barely care what will happen to the U.S. economy over the next few quarters.

    Another way to look at that price-earnings ratio is that investors expect Apple to continue to make monopoly profits every one of the next 33 (or more) years. That's double the length of patents, so they're also betting capitalism won't be very competitive in the next 33 years, that the present cartelization will only deepen. There's nothing in history to justify such expectations. Or another way to look at it is that rich people today have way too much money, much more than they can invest in actually producing things, so their only option left is to bid up the price of assets only they can afford -- which offers the gratification of making them appear to be even richer. Economists have a term for that: bubble. Still, they only seem to be able to recognize one when it bursts.

  • Trump, the mail and the unbinding of America: "The Postal Service facilitates citizen inclusion. That's why Trump hates it." I suspect that credits Trump with more depth than he has. He started railing against the Post Office when he thought it was helping his arch-rival, Jeff Bezos, so initially just another tantrum. Of course, he got even more agitated when he discovered people could vote by mail. But Trump's deeper problem with the USPS is basic Republican dementia: government = bad; business = good; ergo hack government up and turn the pieces into businesses, so they can figure out better ways to rip off customers and feed the profits to the rich.

  • Trump's racist, statist suburban dream: "Racial inequality wasn't an accident. It was an ugly political choice." This refers back to Richard Rothstein's book, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, which is part of the story -- for more in that vein, see Ira Katznelson: When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold Story of Racial Injustice in Twentieth-Century America -- but nowhere near all of it.

  • Trump sends in the economic quacks: "Now he's prescribing hydroxychloroquine to fight recession."

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • Republicans have politicized almost every aspect of American life. I think this is true, and that it's had an adverse effect both on society and on politics. Republicans might counter that Democrats have been politicizing things too, but looked at case by case you'll find that's usually in response to Republican polarization. The big example is climate change, which an increasing number of Republicans doubt and deny because doing so has become part of their political identity. That wasn't the case 30 years ago, when the "ozone hole" was recognized as a common problem needing a technical solution.

  • Former DHS staff: Trump claimed "magical authorities" to break the law: Touts a group called Republican Voters Against Trump (RVAT), which have been posting videos of Republicans explaining why.

Eric Levitz: America is drowning in joblessness -- and swimming in cash: "Thanks to the CARES Act, Americans hae saved roughly $930 billion more in recent months than they were on pace to do before the pandemic."

German Lopez: Why Trump shouldn't compare America's Covid-19 outbreak to New Zealand's, in one chart.

Laura McGann: Melania Trump's changes to the White House Rose Garden, explained: "She dug up trees and put in paved walkways."

Bill McKibben:

Stephanie Mencimer: Judge orders Trump to pay Stormy Daniels $44,000 in legal fees.

Ashley Parker: The permanent outsider: "President Trump has no idea how to run for reelection as an incumbent.

Yumna Patel: Gaza's health sector at risk as Israel's week-long airstrikes continue: "Israel has been bombing Gaza for eight days straight, all as part of what Israel says is a response to incendiary balloons sent from Gaza into Israeli territory." First I've heard about it, which gives you a measure of how Israel has routinized its arbitrary violence against Palestinians. No doubt there's more to link to here:

Gail Pellett: Out of China: An affair in a dangerous ditch. She spent 1980 working in China, chronicled in her marvelous book Forbidden Fruit: 1980 Beijing, recapped here with further thoughts.

Paul R Pillar: Trump's schadenfreude foreign policy and its political appeal: The German word means to take joy in the suffering of others. Aside from highly touted arms sales, that's about the only return Trump has managed in foreign policy, and if/when those weapons are used you can count them too. Trump has dashed any delusions one might have hoped for based on his campaign. The author of The Art of the Deal seems consitutionally incapable of making any deals at all. (The only one so far has been the NAFTA band-aid.) What's the point of sucking up to Putin, Xi, and Kim except to negotiate deals to reduce conflict and stabilize relations? All he's managed to do with Russia has been to dismantle decades worth of arms limits agreements, leading to a renewed arms race. (Which seems, by the way, to be ok with Russia, as one of their few viable export industries is arms.) Elsewhere, he's repeatedly broken things, while encouraging "allies" like UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Israel to break even more. His withdrawal from the Paris Accords shows that his Bad Neighbor Policy -- not official term, but the suggested as the polar opposite of Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy, an attempt to build some good will that proved invaluable in WWII -- permeates all levels. Pillar is right to point out that foreign policy is not a zero-sum game: hurting other people and countries doesn't help America; it often hurts, and not just in loss of reputation, trust and prestige. So why does Trump do it? Pillar tip-toes around several theories, noting that his policies are more likely rooted in his understanding of domestic politics than in any concern for the rest of the world, and coming closest to the mark with "Trump supporters disproportionately exhbit traits that make them more likely to feel pleasure from someone else's pain." There's a much shorter word for Trump's syndrome: sadism. The only thing that restrains us from talking about his "sadistic foreign policy" is the sheer amount of indifference and ineptness, which blunts the pleasure sadists obtain from the pain of others. On the other hand, schadenfreude is a bit too kind, as it implies a degree of sorrow Trump is simply incapable of.

Andrew Prokop:

Steven Rattner: The economic recovery that isn't: "Don't believe the story that Trump will tell at the Republican convention." Related:

Kate Riga: Pelosi's Kennedy endorsement and why people are so mad about it.

David Roberts: Air pollution is much worse than we thought: "Ditching fossil fuels would pay for itself through clean air alone."

David Roth: Trump's cloud of gossip has poisoned America: "The president's insatiable need to traffic in rumor and conspiracy blows larger holes in our shared reality with each passing day."

Dylan Scott: Kanye West is running for president -- seriously: He's getting on the ballot in places like Ohio and Wisconsin. From what I've been able to tell, his sole support comes from Republican operatives who won't vote for him but hope he'll split some black votes away from Biden. I seriously doubt he'll find many, or be any sort of a factor, but he could kind of work as a "fuck it all" alternative to major party candidates who are widely despised. Who he draws the most votes from is so irrational it's impossible to predict. More: Ben Jacobs: Kanye West's presidential campaign is both proceeding and unraveling.

Robert J Shapiro: How Trump may be plotting to stay out of jail:

Donald Trump has a serious dilemma. If Joe Biden loses in November, he can go home and settle in as a party elder stateman, as defeated nominees have often done. But if Trump loses, he faces years of intensive investigations by Congress and, assuming he pardons himself, years of investigations by state prosecutors, likely criminal indictments, and possible conviction and imprisonment. The investigations also could expose some of his children to legal peril. And Trump assets -- and those of the Trump Organization -- will be vulnerable to government seizure if New York state prosecutors and courts find that his past actions were part of an organized enterprise engaged in criminal activity. . . .

In Trump's view, this could be his ultimate deal. He agrees to accept the election results and retire peacefully, but only if Biden and Democratic congressional leaders agree to shelve future investigations and forgo federal prosecutions of him and his family and associates -- and call on state prosecutors and attorneys general to do the same.

If Trump loses non-trivially, I don't see that he has much leverage. I don't see how he can throw a fit and simply refuse to leave. I don't know that he can pardon himself, but I have entertained the idea that he might resign after November in expectation of a President Pence pardon, following the Ford-Nixon precedent, possibly extending to his family and company if not to all of his confederates. (I doubt he cares much about them anyway.) That still leaves possible state prosecution, and civil complaints. I'm not much impressed with the power of Congress to investigate Trump, so I don't see much worry there. On the other hand, Trump does have two pretty strong points in his favor. One is that although there is a lot he could be indicted for, it's almost inconceivable that he would ever be convicted by a jury that hadn't been rigged. The second is that it sets a rather nasty precedent for a new administration to criminally investigate its predecessor. As far as I know, that's never been done in the US -- well, until Trump, who currently has the DOJ investigating "Obamagate." Nixon deserved jail, but spared that spent the rest of his life out of politics and relatively harmless. (Not that eulogizing him didn't tarnish Clinton's reputation.) Obama never prosecuted anyone in the Bush administration, which effectively turned Bush's many faults into his own -- a huge favor to the Republicans, and a huge drag on his own ability to make changes. If Biden wins, he will inherit a mess even more huge than Obama did, so it's very important that he remind people how much this has been due to the mistakes and ill intentions of Trump and his gang. So whatever he does about prosecuting Trump, we need to make sure that the full extent of his crimes and scandals are aired. Perhaps this is time for some sort of "truth and reconciliation" commission? With it you could grant some degree of amnesty for honest testimony. You should be careful about how this is set up, but the emphasis should be on getting to the truth, and learning from it, and not on petty revenge. For a cautionary piece on why you need to keep people aware of truth, see Ari Rabin-Havt: We shouldn't have to remind people George W Bush was a terrible president. But we do.

Margaret Sullivan: Trump is 'Fox's Frankenstein,' insiders told CNN's Brian Stelter -- and here's the toll it's taken. Stelter has a book coming out next week: Hoax: Donald Trump, Fox News, and the Dangerous Distortion of Truth. It's hard to escape the conclusion that everyone involved deserve each other -- especially the ones who think they have scruples but don't act on them.

Trevor Sutton: How the US can fight corruption after Trump: Talking about foreign policy here, although one reason the US has never done much about limiting corruption abroad is that we tolerate so much of it at home. The other reason, which isn't much touched on here, is that buying off foreign officials is usually good for business (at least in the short term, which with business is the only term that matters).

Alex Ward:

Luke Winkie: 3 renters on getting screwed over by landlords during the Covid-19 housing crisis.

Joe Yerardi/Alexia Fernández Campbell: Fewer inspectors, more deaths: The Trump administration rolls back workplace safety inspections. Isn't this really what the Trump administration is all about? This is part of a Vox series called System Failure, a collaboration with Center for Public Integrity. Other pieces:

Mairav Zonszein: How this year's primary season demonstrated the waning influence of pro-Israel hawks: At least that's true within the Democratic Party, where AIPAC efforts to purge Representatives critical of Israel have largely failed. Most Democratic politicians are as obeisant as ever to the Israel lobby, but rank-and-file voters have been drifting away for years, partly as they recognize Israel as a racist warmongerer, and partly as Netanyahu has personally aligned with the Republicans. Biden was personally able to secure a pro-Israel plank in the Party platform, but a more representative platform would have been a good deal more critical.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Expanded blog post, August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33814 [33774] rated (+40), 221 [218] unrated (+3).

My wife announced that she's not going to watch any of the Democratic Convention speeches, figuring they'll just be depressing. Needless to say, I wasn't even considering the prospect. I can read up whatever it is I need (e.g., here's Vox's The 2020 Democratic National Convention's speaker lineup and how to watch). Looking at the lineup, the show will be sanctimonious, condescending, and more than a little nostalgic, reminding you of the opportunities past Democrats have squandered, and how little we have to show for it. I can see the value of inviting the occasional token Republican, and I'm glad Doug Jones gets a spotlight moment, but do we really need both Clintons to speak? And is the bench of Democratic prospects so weak Michelle Obama needs to be the keynote speaker? Barack Obama was nobody when he spoke in 2004, and it looks like the DNC is never going to let something like that happen again. While I'm sure Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will make the most of her token minute, bracketing her between John Kerry and Chuck Shumer is pretty much guaranteed to spoil the night. Then Sally Yates? On the other hand, at least they passed over Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler.

In past successful Democratic presidential campaigns -- by which I mean Clinton in 1992 and Obama in 2008 -- the candidates ran to the left until election, then made their accommodations with the established powers after they won, leaving most of their platforms with their luggage. To some extent, Gore did that in 2000, although not very convincingly, and even less Hillary tried that tack even less credibly in 2016. Biden seems determined to run through the vast open ground to his right, reassuring business, the suburbs, the shattered remnants of the middle and working classes, that he will restore a measure of normalcy and sanity after the batshit craziness of the Trump (and, if you still have any memory cells, Bush) fiascoes. And the left (including me) seem willing to let him call the tactical campaign shots however he sees best. On the other hand, the "democratic wing of the Democratic Party" has gradually accumulated a real power base in Congress, one that Biden and Harris will have to deal with to move forward -- not least because the real answers to the real problems are the ones coming from the left, but also because there no longer is a neoliberal Republican block like the one Clinton (and much less successfully Obama) tried to triangulate through. That residual power base is why the left doesn't need to get its message out during the rest of this campaign.

The other is that you can't build toward an egalitarian vision of peace and prosperity without first establishing a fundamental commitment to decency, honesty, and trust, and you won't have any of that if Donald Trump and the Republicans win in November. We may have differing ideas how to accomplish this, but the one that the Democrats have chosen was arrived at more or less democratically, and it is important to respect that process. Even if it means a week of boring, uninspiring TV. I really don't need any of these speakers to tell me who to vote for in November. But if you do need help, by all means tune in. You're the person they want to address.

One reason I'm not too terribly disappointed with the way the ticket has turned out is that I've been reading Thomas Frank's new book, The People, No! Eighty pages in, most of what he's covered so far has been the 1896 presidential election -- the one between William McKinley (R-OH) and William Jennings Bryan (D-NE) -- and the slanders against Bryan were harrowing. This doesn't have much relevance to the actual 2020 election. Trump's credentials as a populist are totally bogus, and Biden's aren't much better. Indeed, Biden will probably wind up raising more money than Trump (as Hillary did in 2016, and as Obama previously did). But if Sanders had won the nomination, he would have represented the most radical break in Democratic Party nominees since Bryan in 1896, following the ultra-conservative Grover Cleveland in 1892. The shift from 1968-1972 was comparatively miniscule: both Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern were midwestern liberals who agreed on virtually everything -- the one sticking point, and it was a big one, was the Vietnam War. Still, that was enough for many Democrats to sabotage their ticket by voting for Nixon.

It seems unlikely to me that establishment Democrats would have broken ranks as decisively as they had done in 1896 and 1972, if only because Trump is far too odious an alternative, but it is likely that the degree of vitriol directed at Sanders would have approached the levels aimed at Bryan. Of course, Republicans being the deranged scum they are, much the same will be aimed at Biden and Harris, but at least with them it's not something I have to take personally. (Not that I wouldn't be game to try, had Sanders won the nomination. At least the upside there justifies the risk.) One hopes that people will not only see through the slanders, but that they will reflect back properly on those who launched them. Also that they will be seen as evasions of responsibility for the tremendous harm caused by Trump and his party. (And, by all means, never attack Trump without also blaming his accomplices. He may be their nominal leader, but often as not he's the one being led around by the nose.)


I thought this was going to be a lax week, but ran the numbers and came up with 40 again. Started off with more Polish jazz left over from last week, plus another ZAUM album. Then Robert Christgau published his August Consumer Guide. As I noted in a tweet, I had previously graded several albums: Car Seat Headrest (A-), Dream Wife (A-), Haim (**), Lori McKenna (A-), X (*). Picked up almost all of the rest below. That leaves Birds of Prey, Deap Vally, and the Boswell Sisters -- I have Sony's That's How Rhythm Was Born (1931-34) in my database (B+); Christgau's pick isn't on Napster, but there are several alternatives. Three of this week's A- records come from Christgau, although only John Chibadura was an easy call -- City Girls and Kehlani could have gone either way, and probably would have fallen short without the encouragement and extra time.

Other suggestions came from all over. A couple were recommended in an Expert Witness Facebook post asking for items on Bandcamp. I can't say as they were particularly good, but they led indirectly to the new Mekons album, which is. I played a couple things I downloaded, and searched for a recent batch of Clean Feed releases. One I looked for but didn't find is a new WHO Trio album of Strayhorn/Ellington compositions. When I saw the Keith Ingham/Harry Allen records, I just had to check them out. When in doubt, I look at Napster's "featured" records, and decided to check out the live Stooges set. That reminded me of two albums I used to have but hadn't entered into the database. I probably should have looked and given them a fresh listen, but the memories were clear enough.

A couple other albums were suggested by working on Christgau Consumer Guides from September last year. Christgau wants to impose an eight month delay on them to give subscribers a sense of exclusivity, so I haven't been in any hurry to tackle them. Anyhow, finally started entering them into my private copy of the website last week. Still not sure what to do about enforcing the delay. I've long had code for handling timelocks on regular pages, so those are working on the CG columns, but I've never imposed delays on database fetches, so that will require new code. It seems to me that the way it should work would be to set up an account management system synched to Christgau's subscription newsletter, so that paid subscribers could also see restricted content on the website, but that would take a lot of work, and it's not clear how to keep the two sites in synch.

I should note that Steve Grossman died last week. I knew him mostly as one of a cluster of mainstream tenor saxophonists from the 1990s -- Bennie Wallace is the one I followed most closely, but I especially liked Grossman's 1991 In New York. Rather surprised to find that I only had one more of his albums in my database. I'll write up more next week. I'm especially glad that I started with his 1973 debut, Some Changes to Come. That dates from his tenure in Miles Davis's great fusion band, and builds thereupon.

It's been a trying week for me, with my brother hospitalized for what at first looked like Covid-19, but turned out to just be pneumonia. Had another scare with a friend in Massachusetts, which again turned out to be something else (but still quite serious). We continue to do virtually no socializing, and only rarely make even the most rudimentary shopping efforts. With this isolation, it's been a rare pleasure to occasionally post on Facebook a picture of some little meal I've managed to whip up. Some recent ones: ribs; dosas; carbonade; shrimp boil; Szechuan chicken wings; beef stroganoff; shells; Chinese ribs. (Looks like if you click on one, you can cycle through the rest, as you won't find many pictures there not of food. I think all the links are public. My rule is to only seek and accept friends that I have personal relationships with, and I very rarely bother Facebook with my writings -- that's what Twitter is for.) Not as satisfying as cooking for others, but in times like these we make do.

Still open for questions.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Aminé: Limbo (2020, Republic): [r]: A-
  • Arbor Labor Union: New Petal Instants (2020, Arrowhawk): [r]: B+(**)
  • BROM: Dance With an Idiot (2019 [2020], Trost): [r]: B+(***)
  • City Girls: City on Lock (2020, Quality Control/Motown): [r]: A-
  • Emily Duff: Born on the Ground (2020, Mr Mudshow Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tyler Higgins: Broken Blues (2016 [2020], Shhpuma): [r]: B+(**)
  • Kehlani: It Was Good Until It Wasn't (2020, Atlantic): [r]: A-
  • Martin Küchen & Landaeus Trio: Mind the Gap of Silence (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Makaya McCraven: Universal Beings E&F Sides (2017-18 [2020], International Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Paulette McWilliams: A Woman's Story (Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Mekons: Exquisite (2020, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Dawn Oberg: 2020 Revision (2020, self-released, EP): [bc]: B-
  • Larry Ochs/Aram Shelton Quartet: Continental Drift (2012-18 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • The Rails: Cancel the Sun (2019, Psychonaut): [r]: B+(*)
  • Roots Magic: Take Root Among the Stars (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
  • Thumbscrew: The Anthony Braxton Project (2019 [2020], Cuneiform): [dl]: A-
  • Charles Tolliver: Connect (2019 [2020], Gearbox): [r]: B+(***)
  • Matt Ulery: Pollinator (2019 [2020], Woolgathering): [r]: B+(**)
  • Otomo Yoshihide/Chris Pitsiokos: Live in Florence (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): [dl]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Harry Beckett: Joy Unlimited (1974 [2020], Cadillac): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nublu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris: Live in Sao Paulo (2008 [2020], Nublu): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Stooges: Live at Goose Lake, August 8, 1970 (1970 [2020], Third Man): [r]: B
  • Gillian Welch: Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs Vol. 1 (2002 [2020], Acony): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zam Groove: Music From Zambia ([2020], SWP): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • John Chibadura: The Best of John Chibadura ([1986], ZMC): [r]: A-
  • Extra Ball: Birthday [Polish Jazz Vol. 48] (1976, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B
  • Steve Harris/ZAUM: A Is for Ox (2006-07 [2008], Amazon): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Keith Ingham-Harry Allen Quintet: My Little Brown Book: A Celebration of Billy Strayhorn's Music, Volume One (1993 [1994], Progressive): [r]: A-
  • The Harry Allen-Keith Ingham Quintet: The Intimacy of the Blues: A Celebration of Billy Strayhorn's Music (1993 [1994], Progressive): [r]: B+(***)
  • Keith Ingham: Rockin' in Rhythm (2010 [2011], Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
  • Krzysztof Komeda-Trzcinski: Komeda [Polish Radio Jazz Archives 04] (1957-62 [2013], Polskie Radio): [r]: A-
  • Krzysztof Komeda: Ballet Etudes (1963, Metronome): [r]: A-
  • Jerzy Milian Trio: Baazaar [Polish Jazz Vol. 17] (1969 [1970], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(*)
  • Zbigniew Namyslowski: Zbigniew Namyslowski (1977, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B
  • Zbigniew Namyslowski: Standards (2003, Quartet): [r]: B+(***)
  • Zbigniew Namyslowski: Assymetry (2006, Quartet): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jan Ptaszyn Wroblewski Quartet: Flying' Lady [Polish Jazz Vol. 55] (1978, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jan Ptaszyn Wróblewski Sextet: Komeda: Moja Slodka Europejska Ojczyzna [Polish Jazz Vol. 80] (2013 [2018], Warner Music Poland, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)


Added grades for remembered lps from way back when:

  • Iggy and the Stooges: Metallic K.O. (1976, Skydog): B+
  • Iggy Pop: TV Eye 1977 Live (1977 [1978], RCA): B-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Berkman: Plays Music by John Coltrane and Pete Seeger: Solo Piano (Without)
  • Bruno Råberg/Jason Robinson/Bob Weiner: The Urgency of Now (Creative Nation Music)
  • Eric Revis: Slipknots Through a Looking Glass (Pyroclastic) [09-11]
  • Fumi Tomita: Celebrating Bird/A Tribute to Charlie Parker (Next Level) [09-25]

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

After what seemed like a very long deliberation, Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris as his running mate for vice president. The main takeaway is that he'll listen to whatever the left wing of the party has to say, but he's going to staff the government with people friendly with and acceptable to business interests. The New Democrat vision was to show that business is better served with Democrats in power. Clinton and Obama worked hard to make that case -- especially with trade deals like NAFTA and TTP that were injurious and opposed by critically important traditional union allies. While they were unable to convince most capitalists, they did manage to break off enough support to run well-funded campaigns. Biden fits neatly into their program -- if anything, he anticipated it, coming from a state which is famed mostly for its lax corporate laws. Against Donald Trump, he has the potential to raise a lot of big donor money -- as long as he is seen as a buffer against, rather than as a tool of, the insurgent left. The strongest VP candidate, based on her campaign skills, organizational ability, and command of the issues and policies, was Elizabeth Warren, but she's widely viewed in business circles as antagonistic to their interests. Harris is not viewed as hostile -- indeed, she's had tremendous success raising money in Silicon Valley -- making her the safe (and lucrative) bet.

Reassuring big money donors is one big thing Harris brings to the campaign. Her chuminess not only helps support Biden, it helps insulate the campaign from charges of being a vehicle for far-left radicals -- the main charge that Trump's Republicans have been making. In particular, Harris's reputation as a law-and-order hard case makes it clear that "defund the police" and "abolish ICE" are not part of the Biden agenda, quickly reducing a major thrust of Republican campaign fodder to the hysterical ravings of deranged paranoids.

Biden's primary success was based on a hunch shared by many Democrats, including some who policy-wise are more sympathetic to the left, that this year, running against this exceptionally odious president, it is important to risk as little as possible, to build a broad coalition around the single essential goal of denying Trump a second term. The early primary season turned on issues, with Sanders and Warren pulling the party to the left with their strong command of issues and policy; Buttigieg and Klobuchar countered as the most articulate candidates on the right, squeezing out potential compromisers like Harris and Booker. As Sanders emerged as the leader, the billionaires jumped in, and Michael Bloomberg spent the better part of a billion dollars to prove how virulently opposed to Sanders and Warren his class was. Bloomberg had no personal appeal, but served as a catalyst, aligning the party rank-and-file's deepest seated fears into a surge of support for Biden. Had she not dropped out, Harris might have become the middle-ground candidate that Biden turned into. But having dropped out, she returns to the campaign largely unscathed.

Biden committed to selecting a woman early on. Thus far, the only person who has found that decision controversial has been Donald Trump. There has been a good deal of discussion about race, which mostly struck me as misguided and/or irrelevant. I admit that I didn't see any advantage to Biden picking a black running mate. I figured doing so might cost him more white voters than it otherwise gained -- mostly because his own history on race and/or crime issues is rather tawdry, which may have helped him gain white votes, especially in Southern primaries. On the other hand, Harris is a brilliant solution to the question: she is the sort of black that iffy whites would find least stereotypical -- traits Obama shared, but her even more so -- yet she is black enough to provoke hideous reactions among more committed racists, who were solidly pro-Trump anyway. If anything has been made clear from first reactions, it's that Trump and his ilk are the ones trying to stir up America's race problem.

One reason Obama won was that he made it possible for many iffy whites to feel good about themselves for rising above their racist past. In picking Harris, Biden shows that he's better than that. In slandering Harris, Trump shows that he's not. That's hardly the only clear cut distinction between the two, but it sure is one of them.


Some background, referred or alluded to in the links that follow. Harris was born in 1964 in Oakland, California. Her parents were both immigrants, who came to UC Berkeley in 1960-61 as graduate students, received PhD's, and had distinguished careers. Her father is Donald J. Harris, from Jamaica, professor of economics at Stanford, now emeritus (age 81). Her mother was Shyamala Gopalan, from Tamil Nadu, India, studied endocrinology, and worked on breast cancer research in various universities and labs, including Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She died in 2009 (70). They had two daughters, and divorced in 1971. The daughters lived with their mother, including several years in Montreal, Canada. Kamala graduated from high school in Quebec, then attended Howard University in DC, then UC Hastings College of Law. She was admitted to the Bar in 1990, working in the Alameda County DA office, then in San Francisco (DA and Mayor's Office). She was elected San Francisco District Attorney in 2003 and 2007, California Attorney General 2010 and 2014, and was elected to the US Senate in 2016.

Some links on the Harris pick:


Tweet of the week, from Chris Hayes:

Something I just keeping back to over and over is the tremendous continuity between the last two Republican presidents, both of whom left the country in ruins, amidst historic catastrophes. The entire party and movement are rotten to the core and unfit to govern.

To which Steve M. astutely replied:

And yet Democratic politcians never say this -- mainstream Dems don't want to insult Republican voters, while progressive Dems are so angry at mainstream Dems that they lose sight of the sheer godawfulness of Republicans.


Some scattered links this week:

Alexandra Alter: Michael Cohen releases details about his forthcoming memoir. Title is Disloyal. Publication date September 8. Annie Karni: has more: In tell-all foreword, Cohen promises sordid tales Trump 'does not want you to read': "In his memoir, Disloyal, Michael D. Cohen, President Trump's onetime lawyer and fixer, claims that he had unique access to Mr. Trump, a man with 'no true friends.'"

Kate Aronoff:

  • A novel way to fund a green economy: "Instead of bailing out Exxon and other fossil fuel companies, a National Investment Authority could democratize finance and help ordinary people and their governments fight climate change."

    The government has been pretty kind to fossil fuel companies these last few months. Recent disclosures from the Federal Reserve's secondary bond-buying program show that it has now bought $17 billion worth of ExxonMobil debt and $28.5 million from Energy Transfer Partners, the company behind the Dakota Access Pipeline. Private asset manager Blackrock oversees this purchasing program, among others.

    Blackrock, with friends in both parties, is on the verge of becoming a fourth branch of government. Despite its pledge in early 2020 to recalibrate investment practices with climate change in mind, so far on behalf of the Fed it has seemed to offer up nearly unlimited public funds to bail out the world's biggest polluters. These investments serve as a lifeline to a deeply troubled and increasingly unprofitable industry. Meanwhile, state and local governments -- and the millions of people who'll soon lose their unemployment insurance -- have found bailouts much harder to come by. And hopes for a green recovery (which an increasingly large swathe of the Democratic Party supports to stave off depression and climate catastrophe) look alarmingly scarce.

  • We can't fight climate change without China: "The Democratic Party's 2020 platform echoes President Trump's hawkishness on China. That's a mistake."

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Co-opt & corrupt: How Trump bent and broke the GOP.

James Bruno: What are the chances Trump could actually go to jail?

Kyle Cheney: GAO finds Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli are ineligible to serve in their top DHS roles.

Colin Dickey: The helpless outrage of the anti-Trump book: "The Trump era has birthed a distinct new genre of political writing: irate, forgettable, and strangely complacent." Review of Donald W Drezner: The Toddler in Chief: What Donald Trump Teaches Us About the Modern Presidency, and Jonathan Karl: Front Row at the Trump Show, with side glances elsewhere. I'm struck by a quote from long-time ABC White House correspondent Karl (previously known for his "reputation for pitching softballs to Bush Administration officials"): "I don't believe there has ever been a more exhausting, exhilarating, dangerous, maddening, frustrating, downright bizarre, or more important time to be a White House reporter." I'm sure that dealing with Trump on a daily basis can seem to be all of those things -- except important: nothing Trump says has any bearing on the stories journalists should be telling about his administration, and detracts from their ability to do so.

Jason Ditz: US push to extend Iran arms embargo fails at UN Security Council: 2 votes for (US and Dominican Republic, of 13 needed), 2 against (Russia and China), 11 abstentions. More:

  • Bob Dreyfuss: Could covert war with Iran become overt before November 3rd?. I doubt it, but the scenario I wouldn't put past Pompeo goes like this: Trump loses, but is still in office until January, and uses that period of time to launch various offenses against Iran. Iran, in turn, will be tempted to hold back until Biden takes office, hoping for restoration of US support for the nuclear agreement; Iran's failure to retalliate will be taken by Trump as license to escalate further. Note that some of the attacks could be facilitated by proxies, like the new UAE-Israel partnership.

  • Mark Fitzpatrick: Pompeo set to double down on failure to extend Iran arms embargo.

Jesse Dorris: How DeForrest Brown, Jr, centers the black body in techno music: I don't usually put music links here, but have had trouble keeping track of them for Music Week. I reviewed several records by Brown last week, especially recommending his (i.e., Speaker Music's) Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (A-).

Robert Guffey: What is QAnon? A not-so-brief introduction to the conspiracy theory that's eating America: "Do millions of Americans really believe Donald Trump is saving children from underground demons? It seems that way." I admit that I never had any interest in even finding out what QAnon referred to. Still don't, even after often reading that Trump's most fervent supporters are psyched on whatever it is. Even if it weren't nuts, I doubt it would ever have a fraction of the ill-effects of believing in Atlas Shrugged. Or, for that matter, The Road to Serfdom. The old mental illnesses are still the direst.

Chris Hedges: America's death march: Whoever wins, this election won't save us: "Neither [Biden nor Trump] will stop hyper-nationalism, crisis cults and other signs of an empire in terminal decline." I hate coming off as an optimist, but Hedges has turned into a useless critic of modern life, like the existentialists around the time I stopped bothering with them. There are gross malaises that Hedges may still have some insight into, but there's also a lot of nuts-and-bolts dysfunction that even Biden can figure out and do something to keep utter chaos and collapse at bay -- like keeping the Post Office delivering mail. Halting global warming and unwinding America's worldwide "empire of bases" may be a bit harder, and Biden doesn't have the best of track records, but even there the election decision will surely have some bearing.

Rebecca Heilweil: The dystopian tech that companies are selling to help schools reopen sooner.

Mark Helenowski: Billionaires have made an absolute killing during the pandemic. The number is staggering.

Patrick Iber: How the GOP became the party of resentment: Review of Rick Perlstein's book Reaganland, the fourth volume in what promises to be an immense history of American conservatism from Goldwater on. (I've read the second volume, Nixonland. Been meaning to get to the others, but I'm daunted by their length -- over 3,000 pages to date.)

Ezra Klein:

  • Most candidates run to the center in the general election. Biden is moving left. Title is misleading, as the only criteria Klein is using is where the VP picks stands in relation to the Presidential candidate (Clinton-Kaine, Obama-Biden, Kerry-Edwards, Gore-Lieberman), and depend on making assumptions that may not be warranted. The first three VP's came from more centrist states, but if anything came off as more populist (especially Edwards). Lieberman came from a more liberal state, and was probably viewed as more liberal than Gore at the time, but he later discredited himself. Harris is from a more liberal state than Biden, but isn't all that liberal for California. On the other hand, the left-right spectrum has shifted this time, with Trump so extreme on the right it's nonsensical to even try to split the difference. I don't expect Biden to try to move left, but some left-aligned policies are so popular there's no reason not to go with them. If Harris looks to be a bit to his left, I don't see how that hurts him.

  • What would Keynes do? Podcast/interview with Zach Carter, author of The Price of Peace: Money, Democracy, and the Life of John Maynard Keynes.

    For Keynes, there's always something outside of consumer preferences that they need to align with. There's always a good life and a good society that we're trying to guide society towards. He believes there are objectively good things in the world, that not everything is relative, that not everybody's preferences are equal. That is a paternalistic approach, as you note.

    The way that his successors who take him seriously as a philosopher try to resolve this -- and I think [John Kenneth] Galbraith is the most successful in this -- is to say this is what democracy is for. We don't want to have big, bad, terrible monarch telling us what to do. But in a democracy people can express their preferences politically. And using the market as an alternative to democratic politics is signing us up for a particularly bad life. . . .

    [Keynes] could never really make up his mind about where he was on the question of socialism, but it was very clear to him by the end of his life that large sections of the economy had to be socialized if we were going to realize the type of good life that he wanted realized. In the States, we think of him as this guy who legitimizes deficit spending. In the UK, he has a very different legacy: his most significant policy achievement in the UK is socializing British medicine. He's the financial architect of the National Health Service.

Sheelah Kolhatkar: Trump's incoherent policy on TikTok and China.

Robert Kuttner: Falling upward: The surprising survival of Larry Summers: "He is once again a senior economic adviser to another prospective Democratic president."

Lyz Lenz: An inland hurricane tore through Iowa. You probably didn't hear about it. Gusts of up to 112 mph did considerable damage, leaving a quarter-million without power. There is some video from Chicago showing heavy rain, but no other mention of it. I've seen completely dry wind storms in Kansas, with winds in the vicinity of 80 mph. They are very rare. I've seen hurricanes from the Gulf of Mexico dump a lot of rain in Kansas, and I've read that the 1900 Galveston hurricane still produced hurricane-force winds as far inland as Chicago, but this wasn't one of those.

Martin Longman: Trump's bizarre obsession with Mount Rushmore.

German Lopez:

Louisa Loveluck/Chris Mooney: Baghdad's record heat offers glimpse of world's climate change future.

Ian Millhiser:

Samuel Moyn: The Never Trumpers have already won: "They're not trying to save the GOP from a demagogue. They're infiltrating the Democratic Party." Review of Robert P Saldin/Steven M Teles: Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites.

Exceptionally close to the Never Trump insurgency, Saldin and Teles take a cozy approach to their study of this movement and its central characters, faithfully drawing on their accounts of the rise of Trump. They start with the national security experts -- figures such as former National Security Council staffers Peter Feaver and Philip Zelikow. Officially, this stalwart crew feared that Trump threatened the Cold War national security consensus that had once led conservatives beyond geopolitical "isolationism." Views once safely quarantined to the libertarian or racist fringes of their party were now getting a second look, they worried.

Their concern here was hardly disinterested: More important than anything else for them was that Trump was breaking the taboo within the Republican Party that forbade calling the Iraq War a gross error.

That Never Trumpers were more bothered by Trump's apostasy on Iraq than by his racism, self-dealing, and ignorance of the Constitution makes sense. However, it doesn't necessarily follow that their revolt against Trump has won them much influence in the Democratic Party -- where second thoughts on Iraq, for instance, is now the norm even among those who originally voted to authorize the war. It is true that they have reinforced the view among Democratic hawks that it is safest to attack Trump over foreign policy issues, especially when they can paint him as doing favors for Russia. But that's not because they've cultured any support among rank-and-file Democrats. All they did was to sway a few centrists into thinking that they might pick up support among nominal Republicans for impeachment and such if the issues were defined strictly in national security terms. That never worked, other than to sidetrack Democrats from pressing more popular charges, like corruption and gross negligence. By the way, Saldin and Teles wrote a reply to this review: Don't blame Never Trumpers for the left's defeat. They have a point, provided you don't count Michael Bloomberg among the Never Trumpers -- although you could argue that he was the biggest one of all, especially in a world where free speech is denominated in dollars.

Olivia Nuzzi: The most tremendous reelection campaign in American history ever: "Inside the chaotic, desperate, last-minute Trump 2020 reboot." I can't read this because "You've reached your monthly article limit." But I read the Kos synopsis: Trump's campaign IS the cesspool of corruption and incompetence we thought it was.

Osita Nwanevu: Trump's "blasphemous" attacks on Biden were torn from the Republican hymnal: "The president's pearl-clutching critics have forgotten how defaming Democrats' faith is a longstanding tradition for the GOP." Still, no examples here further back than 2012 -- I expected at least a reference to the Republicans' characterization of the Democratic Party in the 1880s: "The party of rum, Romanism, and rebellion." After all, charging your opponent with antipathy to religion just exposes your own bigotry and intolerance. Nwanevu quotes Ashley Parker: "Rather than look for campaign ammunition in the former vice president's long track record of politically vulnerable votes and policy proposals, Trump has instead chosen to describe Biden as a godless Marxist bent on destroying the country with a radical agenda that would make Che Guevara blanch." At least those are charges that require no work researching, or any measure of self-reflection.

Aaron Rupar:

Katherine Stewart: Betsy DeVos's plot to enrich private schools amid the pandemic: "The secretary of education wants religious schools to flourish at the public system's expense; and she's doing it under the cover of the coronavirus crisis."

Matt Taibbi: Big Pharma's Covid-19 profiteers.

Alex Ward:

Li Zhou: Why Democrats are holding out for more comprehensive stimulus: "They don't think Trump's executive actions come close to covering what's needed -- and they have the leverage to push for more." Besides: "Republicans are set to bear more of the political backlash, for now."


PS: Robert Christgau forwarded this string of tweets from John Ganz (@lionel_trolling). I couldn't follow it as presented, so wondered if copying it down might help. Christgau's comment:

Read the five-part thread, reread a few of your political tweets, and ask yourself whether he nailed you or not. If you find that question discomfiting, please try to err on the side of not being contrarian till the election is over.

Ganz's thread:

  • There's also a kind of anti-respectability politics, which views everything that appeals to conventional people as either hopelessly naive and dowdy or thoroughly hypocritical, and sometimes as both
  • Usually this attitude is fostered in bohemian milieus, where a shared commitment to 'epater les bourgeois' and cultivated anti-conformism mistakes itself for political principle, it's almost beneath mentioning that it becomes its own sort of conformism
  • You get an importation of the intellectual habits of art criticism and social appraisal into politics, in some ways a welcome new perspective for political judgment to consider, but have the unfortunate result of turning everything into a question of affect or pose
  • There is always a performative aspect of politics, it's a kind of theater, so the eye trained to either judge artistic or social performances is going to make very witty and sometimes penetrating observations about politics, but usually they have more wit than substance
  • Politics, or rather commentary on politics, is one of the last places where people can maintain the very 19th century pretension of being simultaneously totally ensconced in a tiny elite cult of decadence while convincing themselves they understand the feelings of "the people"

There are also some comments by Ganz:

  • Some of the points of the bohemian political commentators are undoubtedly correct: much of conventional society and its ruling class are hypocritical and stupid, and their vaunted norms both hide their misconduct and prevent them from thinking
  • But they don't really have much of substantial position beyond seeing through these things and flaunting their own superiority to it all
  • Very fond of armchair sociology, they can't raelly theorize their own sociological position vis a vis the squares and dupes and how they need them for their existence
  • It's histrionic in the old sense of the word: a kind of theater of poses and attitudes, which might provide worthwhile critique of the serious world that is actually just as full of pretense, if it could drop its own pretense to self-seriousness and authenticity

Well, no, I don't think he "nailed" me. I don't even think he struck a glancing blow. Although it's hard to tell what he was aiming at, due to the total lack of specific references. I don't doubt that there are strands of socio-political analysis that reflect one clique making fun of, belittling, and/or looking askance at a broader population, scoring points with their wit. At least since I started reading critical theory, I've always been critical of trying to understand, much less practice, politics as an aesthetic concern. In fact, I'm pretty skeptical of anyone who attempts to impose an arbitrary ethics on it.

I have no idea what kind of political analysis Christgau wants to counter, but I can make a guess given his time frame: from now to the November election. On a good day, you can imagine an infinite range of political possibilities, and that's what people like me prefer to talk about. I'd like to write about why patents are always bad, or why everyone should have free access to the internet, and advertising should be banned there (except when you specifically ask for its, and even then you need to ability to challenge it). However, between now (roughly speaking) and election day in November, the political universe we live in has radically constricted to the choices on the ballots, in particular the two dominant political parties here in the US). During that time, the only practical thing you can do is to compare A and B (or, realistically, R and D) -- or, at least, that's the position of people who are totally invested in the election to the exclusion of all else. I'm not generally disposed to do that. In particular, I want to reserve the option of saying when both sides are in the wrong -- and I swear to you, I'm not being contrarian; there is always some underlying principle at stake. And those principles are grounded in serious thought; they're not just things that strike my aesthetic fancy.

Of course, politics isn't just voting. If, between now and November, cops kill yet another unarmed black teenager for no reason, I'm not going to tell you not to go march, even if I suspect doing so might reflect poorly on the election. It might even be a good idea to put a march together in Washington for funding for the USPS, unemployment, to stop evictions, etc. (a good time might be during the so-called Republican Convention, but not at wherever it's supposed to be -- not to draw attention to them but to take away from their news cycle).

And sure, take it easy on the Democrats until November. If they win, you'll have plenty of occasion to critique them in the future, but at least you'll be starting in a better place. And if they lose, you'll need them more than ever.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33774 [33729] rated (+45), 218 [223] unrated (-5).

Most of this week's haul is tied to a question I tried to answer a couple days back. I've done a little editing on my answer since its initial post. Always good to get back and tune some more -- something I rarely manage these days. The big questions concerned British jazz from the 1960s-70s, and also Polish jazz. The question mentioned a list of British and South African musicians by name. My review counts for them are: Joe Harriott (6), Michael Garrick (2), Don Rendell (0), Ian Carr (0), Mike Osborne (2), Tony Coe (4), Harry Beckett (2), Tubby Hayes (6), Chris McGregor (4), Dudu Pukwana (5), Mongezi Feza (1), Johnny Dyani (3), Louis Moholo (6), Annie Whitehead (0), Lindsay Cooper (0). That illuminates some holes in my listening.

I thought I might come up with a reference list of British jazz musicians, but both Google and Wikipedia failed badly -- e.g., neither mentioned Evan Parker, who would certainly top my list with 48 albums. After Parker, my most reviewed British jazz musicians are: Barry Guy (32), John McLaughlin (32), John Surman (27), Dave Holland (25), Tommy Smith (19), John Butcher (17), Paul Dunmall (16), Marian McPartland (15), Billy Jenkins (14), Andy Sheppard (11), Trevor Watts (11), Derek Bailey (10), Elton Dean (9), Alexander Hawkins (9), Stan Tracey (9), Chris Barber (8), Tony Oxley (8), John Taylor (8), Keith Tippett (8). Very likely I've forgotton a few. Further down, you get important musicians like Howard Riley (6), Gordon Beck (5), Paul Rutherford (5), Iain Ballamy (3), Humphrey Lyttleton (3), Ronnie Scott (3), Alan Skidmore (3), Mike Westbrook (3), Acker Bilk (2), Spike Hughes (2), Ken Colyer (1). I've probably slighted most of them.

But rather than try to catch up with British jazz musicians I've missed, I spent much of the week with Polish ones. Mostly it was just easier: Polskie Nagrania Muza (now owned by Warner Music Poland) has a series of 80 volumes of "Polish Jazz," and that's most of what you get when you do a title search for "Polish jazz" on Napster. The immediate appeal was a couple albums I had missed by Tomasz Stanko, and a couple more by Zbigniew Namyslowski -- I've long been a fan of his 1973 album, Winobranie. Most of this week's haul comes from that series, with a few more to come next week (although my interest is finally starting to flag). I wasn't surprised to find a bunch of trad jazz titles, but was pleased to note how well done they were. Indeed, the bop groups were also pretty sophisticated. The only genre that fell short of contemporary standards was 1970s fusion -- which, you may recall, could be pretty bad everywhere.

Two other clusters in the "old music": I started the week with English folksinger Shirley Collins' latest, and thought I'd sample some of her early records (especially one with Albion Dance Band which I used to own, but couldn't find). That didn't last long. The second cluster is from English drummer Steve Harris. I was reminded of him while looking at my list of Penguin Guide crown albums, and his was the only one I hadn't heard. Turns out that both it and a bunch more have recently (2018) been released on Bandcamp. I wound up liking the 2002 ZAUM album even more.

For new music, I worked a few things off my queue -- some of which won't be released until the Fall (it's hard to pace myself with them). Also spent a fair amount of time on the fence over DeForrest Brown Jr.'s latest album, so I wound up listening to his other releases. Listening order below, not release order.

I'll try to get around to some old British jazz this week. See if anything really clicks. Would be great if I could find my old Blue Notes for Monghezi LP, still unrated. Also been looking at the Bandcamp lists, which suggested Speaker Music (also Jenna Camille and Hideto Sasaki).

Recommendation: Jason Bailey and Mike Hull (my nephew) have started to produce podcasts. Episode 1: 'Fight the Power' discusses Spike Lee's film, Do the Right Thing.

Questions queue is empty now. Please use the form.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Max Bessesen: Trouble (2020, Ropeadope): [cd]: B+(**) [09-04]
  • Jenna Camille: The Time is NOW (2020, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shirley Collins: Heart's Ease (2020, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Duotrio: In the Bright and Deep (2020, Blujazz): [cd]: B-
  • Gato Libre: Koneko (2019 [2020], Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • John Hollenbeck: Songs You Like a Lot (2019 [2020], Flexatonic): [cd]: B- [08-14]
  • Camden Joy: American Love (2020, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Kenny Kotwitz & the LA Jazz Quintet: When Lights Are Low (2020, PMRecords): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Simon Moullier: Spirit Song (2017-20 [2020], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(***) [10-09]
  • Jose Rizo's Mongorama: Mariposas Cantan (2018-19 [2020], Saungu): [cd]: B+(**) [09-16]
  • Lawrence Sieberth Quartet: An Evening in Paris (2020, Musik Blöc): [cd]: B+(**) [09-24]
  • Speaker Music: Of Desire, Longing (2019, Planet Mu): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Speaker Music: Processing Intimacy (2019-20 [2020], Planet Mu): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Speaker Music: Percussive Therapy (2020, Planet Mu -EP): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Speaker Music: Black Nationalist Sonic Weaponry (2020, Planet Mu): [r]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Hideto Sasaki-Toshiyuki Sekine Quartet Plus 1: Stop Over (1976 [2020], BBE): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Ewa Bem With Swing Session: Be a Man [Polish Jazz Vol. 65] (1981 [1982], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • Shirley Collins: Sweet England (1959, Argo): [r]: B+(**)
  • Shirley Collins: False True Lovers (1959, Folkways): [r]: B+(*)
  • Shirley Collins/Davy Graham: Folk Roots, New Routes (1964, Decca): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ducks Deluxe: Side Tracks & Smokers (1973-2009 [2010], Jungle): [r]: B+(**)
  • Hagaw: Do You Love Hagaw? [Polish Jazz Vol. 12] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • Steve Harris: ZAUM (2002, Slam): [bc]: A-
  • Steve Harris/ZAUM: Above Our Heads the Sky Splits Open (2004, Slam): [bc]: A-
  • Steve Harris/ZAUM: The Little Flash of Letting Go (2004-05 [2005], Spitz Live): [bc]: B+(***)
  • High Society: High Society [Polish Jazz Vol. 18] (1969 [1970], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jazz Band Ball Orchestra: Jazz Band Ball Orchestra (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mieczyslaw Kosz: Reminiscence [Polish Jazz Vol. 25] (1971 [1972], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andrzej Kurylewicz Quintet: Go Right (1963, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(***)
  • Andrzej Kurylewicz: Polish Radio Big Band [Polish Jazz Vol. 2] (1964 [1965], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Makowicz: Live Embers [Polish Jazz Vol. 43] (1975, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mieczyslaw Mazur: Rag Swing Time [Polish Jazz Vol. 27] (1971, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Wlodzimierz Nahorny Trio: Heart [Polish Jazz Vol. 15] (1967 [1968], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(***)
  • Zbigniew Namyslowski: Zbigniew Namyslowski Quartet [Polish Jazz Vol. 6] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: A-
  • Zbigniew Namyslowski Quintet: Kujaviak Goes Funky [Polish Jazz Vol. 46] (1975, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: A-
  • Zbigniew Namyslowski Quintet: Polish Jazz - Yes! [Polish Jazz Vol. 77] (2016, Warner Music Poland): [r]: B+(**)
  • NOVI: Bossa Nova [Polish Jazz Vol. 13] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B
  • Polish Jazz Quartet: Polish Jazz Quartet (1964 [1965], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Ragtime Jazz Band: The Ragtime Jazz Band [Polish Jazz Vol. 7] (1966, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tomasz Stanko Quintet: Music for K (1970 [2004], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: A-
  • Tomasz Stanko: Music 81 [Polish Jazz Vol. 69] (1982 [1984], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(***)
  • Andrzej Trzaskowski: The Andrzej Trzaskowski Quintet [Polish Jazz Vol. 4] (1965, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)
  • Michal Urbaniak's Group: Live Recording [Polish Jazz Vol. 24] (1971, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(***)
  • Warsaw Stompers: New Orleans Stompers [Polish Jazz Vol. 1] (1959-64 [1965], Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: A-
  • Janusz Zabieglinski: Janusz Zabieglinski and His Swingtet [Polish Jazz Vol. 9] (1967, Polskie Nagrania Muza): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • John Finbury: American Nocturnes (Green Flash Music)
  • Somi With Frankfurt Radio Big Band: Holy Room: Live at Alte Oper (Salon Africana)
  • South Florida Jazz Orchestra: Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza (Summit) [08-28]

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

One thing I've noticed here but don't have the time or patience to try to unpack is that a significant share of the articles below look ahead to after the November election -- usually assuming that Trump will be defeated, some allowing for the possibility that Trump will cheat massively and produce a disputed result. This was bound to happen sooner or later, but this soon is a bit surprising. Maybe it's because the whole year is something we can't wait to get over with?

Some of the future articles imagine a chance for the Republican Party to reform itself after the Trump debacle, but I don't see that happening any time soon -- in large part thanks to the speed with which the Party recovered after the 2008 debacle. In many ways, Democrats will find it harder to function after winning than Republicans will -- especially if their victory isn't deep enough to capture both houses of Congress, allowing Republicans to obstruct their efforts, and Fox to blame those losses on the Democrats.

Finally, some pieces start to look at where the economy is headed -- not so much after the pandemic but along with it. Had I tried to speculate on that 4-6 months ago, I no doubt would have come up with little more than reassertions of what I had long been thinking. Now I'm less certain than ever.

Biden's date for announcing his VP pick is August 10. Good to get this posted before then.


Some scattered links this week:

Zeeshan Aleem: Trump falsely claims coronavirus is "disappearing" and Russia isn't meddling in the 2020 election: "Trump's surprise news conference held at his private club was packed with false claims about America's crises."

Michael Arria: Biden personally intervened to get the word 'occupation' removed from the Democratic Party platform: I don't discount the significance of one's views on Israel-Palestine as a test of political principles, but as a practical matter in a contest between Biden and Trump, and more generally between the parties, dropping it from the platform, and inserting some pablum, doesn't bother me. Biden isn't stuck in Sheldon Adelson's pocket, and he's not going to owe anything to the fundamentalist Christian apocalypse-mongers backing Trump. After the election, he'll have options based on future events, which he may or may not respond to constructively. But at this point, Israel has gone so far down its racist-militarist apartheid path that it's hard to see the US having any real influence (as if it ever has). Elsewhere, it's more important that the US disengage from its own occupations and interventions. Dismantling systemic racism and militarism at home would also help, perhaps more than anything else. Israel has chosen to follow its own rogue path, but that choice has always been easier with the US as a model. Take that away, and maybe Israel will start to realize the folly of its path. In the long run, all nations have to change of their own accord -- even the ones the US is so obsessed with bending to its will, like North Korea, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and China.

Joshua A Barocas/Jennifer E Lacy: The pandemic is an extraordinary opportunity to reform US education: "We should allow kids to take a gap year and waive standardized testing before it's too late."

If anything, there is a sense that many in the Trump administration and its allies across the country want public education to fail. For example, Kansas City Metropolitan charter and private schools received between $19.9 million and $55.9 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), program whereas Kansas City Public Schools received nothing.

Isaac Chotiner: Why Stuart Stevens wants to defeat Donald Trump: Interview with Stevens, who worked in the GW Bush presidential campaigns and was Mitt Romney's top strategist in 2012. More recently, he wrote It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, and is an adviser to the Lincoln Project. Still a lot of delusions here for past Republicans, especially Romney. Also a strong belief that the president's number one job is opposing Putin. For another interview with Stevens, see David Corn: The Republican Party is racist and soulless. Just ask this veteran GOP strategist.

Patrick Cockburn:

Chas Danner: Yes, Trump actually did want to be added to Mount Rushmore: "A White House aide reportedly looked into the process for adding another president's face to the monument." Filed under "Delusions of grandeur."

Wade Davis: The unraveling of America: "Anthropologist Wade Davis on how Covid-19 signals the end of the American era."

Jason Ditz: Superhawk Elliott Abrams named Special Envoy on Iran: Most recently, he's been Special Envoy for Venezuela, a job he's made a total mess of. Disasters are nothing new for Abrams. Ever since he got out of jail for his role in Reagan's Iran-Contra scandal, he's using his foreign policy clout to make things worse -- especially his tenure as GW Bush's top dog on Israel-Palestine. More on Abrams:

Tom Engelhardt: The unexpected past, the unknown future: It could have been different: Nostalgia for the bad old days, just following 9/11, when the Bushies thought all they had to do to rule the world was "to take the gloves off." Engelhardt resisted that idea from its inception, and if he's ever been wrong, it was to underestimate how bad it might get.

Amy Gardner/Josh Dawsey: As Trump leans into attacks on mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis: It's real hard to anticipate how turnout is going to break, but this is one part of the question. This was the first of several articles linked to in As Trump attacks mail voting, GOP officials confront signs of Republican turnout crisis. Another is Pema Levy: Democracy depends on the postal service more than ever. Republicans won't help fix it. Some more pieces on Trump, voting, and mail:

Shirin Ghaffary:

Susan B Glasser: "Mr President, what are your priorities?" is not a tough question: "Trump is running for reëlection, but, unlike four years ago, he can't even say why." Reduced to red hat slogans, he wants to keep America as great as it became the moment he was elected and inaugurated in 2017, which by definition will cover four more years. Why can't people grasp that? I mean, aside from the fact that none of the people are Donald J Trump?

Trump's vapid answer is more than a reflection of a political-messaging dilemma -- it's a sign of decline, both in terms of the President's ability to respond cogently to a simple query and as a warning for American democracy, given that such a large segment of the electorate apparently finds it acceptable to support a leader whose only campaign selling point is himself. Is Trump's inability to come up with something to say about the next four years a reflection of the fact that even he thinks he is going to lose? Perhaps, but it's also a measure of how far Trump has descended into full "l'état, c'est moi"-ism. Running for reëlection without offering even a hint of a program is a sure indicator of at least aspirational authoritarianism.

John F Harris: Donald Trump has the sole authority to blow up the world. It is madness to let him keep it. Madness to give any president solo authority, much less one who seems incapable of understanding what nuclear weapons can do, yet who seems fascinated with finding out. Thought about filing this under Hiroshima (below), but decided this is a current issue, not history. One thing that keeps is current is how completely Trump has dismantled arms limitation treaties with Russia. Also how he's approved the plan to spend a trillion dollars rebuilding America's nuclear arsenal. I sometimes wonder what else Trump can do to destroy the country before leaving office, and this is high on the list.

Kaleem Hawa: Present absences: Review of Rashid Khalidi's new book, The Hundred Years' War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance, 1917-2017, selecting the Balfour Declaration as his arbitrary starting point, no doubt cognizant that the "war" isn't over at a mere century.

Jacob Heilbrunn: Why the United States invaded Iraq: Review of Robert Draper's new book, To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America Into Iraq. Seems like there should be more here on Afghanistan, but for Bush, Cheney, et al., war with Iraq was predetermined, and if anything Afghanistan just slowed them down a bit. One thing here I previously missed was the 1998 "Rumsfeld Commission," where Congress gave "Donald Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other hawks . . . a high-profile platform" to fantasize about and play up the Iraqi threat. Draper also "presents the former CIA director George Tenet in a particularly unflattering light, suggesting that he made up for his frustrations with Bill Clinton by excess ("slam dunk") enthusiasm for GW Bush.

If Draper expertly dissects the ferocious turf battles that took place within the administration over the war, he does not really seek to set it in a wider context other than to note rather benignly that "the story I aim to tell is very much a human narrative of patriotic men and women who, in the wake of a nightmare, pursued that most elusive of dreams: finding peace through war." But there was more to it than that. Thanks to Donald Trump's bungling, Bush may be benefiting from a wave of nostalgia for his presidency. But he was criminally culpable in his naïveté and incuriosity about the costs and consequences of war. At the same time, Cheney and Rumsfeld were inveterate schemers whose cynicism about going to war was exceeded only by their ineptitude in conducting it.

Sean Illing:

Alex Isenstadt: Trump antagonizes GOP megadonor Adelson in heated phone call.

Derrick Johnson: Voter suppression is back, 55 years after the Voting Rights Act.

Fred Kaplan:

  • Trump's latest move at the Pentagon is brazenly unlawful: Giving Anthony Tata the job of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (you remember, the job in 2003 filled by "dumbest fucking person on earth" Douglas Feith), without getting Senate approval..

  • Trump's troop tantrum: "There's no strategy behind the decision to withdraw US troops from Germany. It's about the president's anger and ego."

Roge Karma: How cities can tackle violent crime without relying on police: Interview with Patrick Sharkey, author of Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, the Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence.

Isabel Kershner/Pam Belluck: When Covid subsided, Israel reopened its schools. It didn't go well.

Ezra Klein: How inequality is changing the Republican Party -- and breaking American politics. Review of Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Economic Inequality. I read the book recently, and recommend it. More on this book:

Hiroki Kobayashi: The elusive horror of Hiroshima: It's the 75th anniversary of our rude awakening to the atomic age. This refers back to John Hersey's early reporting of the bomb's devastation -- you can read Hersey's classic report here. I previously wrote about Hiroshima and Nagasaki on their 70th anniversary: Thinking about the unthinkable. I also wrote an earlier piece in the August 6, 2005 notebook. Some more on Hiroshima:

Zack Kopplin: How Mike Pompeo built a blood-for-oil pipeline: "The State Department, a conservative-connected shell company, and a key Kurdish crime family team up to siphon Syrian oil for US investors."

Josh Kovensky: NRA looted its Foundation to cover cash hemorrhage, DC AG alleges.

Michael Krimmage/Matthew Rojansky: The problem with Putinology: "We need a new kind of writing about Russia." Primarily a review of Catherine Belton's Putin's People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took on the West, which exemplifies the "old kind of writing," which trades in paranoia over Russia's evil designs to cripple and dominate the West -- easy enough to sell in America given the legacy and continuing hegemony of Cold War propaganda. The authors counter some of this, but don't go very far -- they certainly don't want to be dismissed as pro-Putin. It's easy for us to be critical of Putin, but we forget what a disaster Russia faced in the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin. With the old regime discredited, Yeltsin turned state-owned enterprises over to a set of underworld figures who emerged as more-or-less criminal oligarchs. Putin's principal task was the bring the oligarchs back from anarchy, which he did in classic Mafia manner by becoming capo di tutti capi. He wrapped his move by playing up nationalism, but he's more often been a limit against the ultra-nationalist opposition, which really does want to restore Russia's imperial greatness by recovering the periphery lost in 1991. He's also embraced the usual center-right power bases, like the church and the military. And he hasn't always respected the tenets of liberal democracy, but that's partly because they've never really taken root in Russia, and also because the left has never been able to form a credible opposition to Putin (remnants of the Communist Party are so wrapped up in nostalgia that they often wind up to Putin's right). Of course, America doesn't really care about Putin strong-arming his opponents -- even the tiny slice devoted to America's vision of neoliberalism. Rather, they cannot abide Russia doing business with countries on America's shit list, like Syria, Iran, and Venezuela. The fact is that Russia has few opportunities to form bonds abroad, and standing up to American bullying is still a popular stance in Russia. This situation only gets worse as American foreign policy gets ever more self-centered and myopic -- a trend that Trump has added a few new twists to but has been the rule since GW Bush decided to lead his Global War on Terror. The art to diplomacy is the ability to see what's important to the other side, and compromises which deliver more than half a loaf to both sides. Simply demanding that the other side bow over and submit has never worked very well (or for very long), and is even more ridiculous given America's declining stature with the rest of the world. A positive step here would be to start showing some respect for Putin, which doesn't necessarily mean glossing over his crimes, just putting them in context.

Anita Kumar: 'She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick': GOP pines for Rice as Biden VP. Hoping not to do a VP cluster this week, but must reiterate that Rice would be a really poor choice. PS: Mine is not the only such opinion:

Daniel Larison: The Jakarta method: How the US used mass murder to beat Communism: Review of Vincent Bevins' book, The Jakarta Method: Washington's Anticommunist Crusade and the Mass Murder Program That Shaped Our World. Aside from the brutal wars in Korea and Vietnam, and I suppose in Afghanistan and Iraq, I've long felt that Indonesia's anti-communist purge in 1965-66 was the single most reprehensible event in American foreign policy.

David Leonhardt: The unique US failure to control the virus: "Slowing the coronavirus has been especially difficult for the United States because of its tradition of prioritizing individualism and missteps by the Trump administration." Also of prioritizing business over all other aspects of human life.

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • Trump's latest attack on Biden: Photoshops and cheap shots.

  • David Brooks wants a nicer, more competent form of Trumpism. I for one don't care what Brooks thinks, but I will jump off from this Brooks quote:

    Bannon and Trump got the emotions right. They understood that Republican voters were no longer motivated by a sense of hope and opportunity; they were motivated by a sense of menace, resentment and fear. At base, many Republicans felt they were being purged from their own country -- by the educated elite, by multiculturalism, by militant secularism. . . . It would have been interesting if Trump had governed as a big-government populist. But he tossed Bannon out and handed power to Jared Kushner and a bunch of old men locked in the Reagan paradigm. We got bigotry, incompetence and tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Of course, Trump to offer Republican populists, beyond his own emotions as someone as hated and degraded by those elites as was his base -- yet that never came off as sympathy, only as more rage. As for the post-Trump Party, Brooks suggests building on these "core assumptions":

    1. Everything is not okay. The free market is not working well.
    2. Economic libertarianism is not the answer. Free markets alone won't solve our problems.
    3. The working class is the heart of the Republican Party.
    4. China changes everything.
    5. The managerial class betrays America.

    When I read that list, the answer is pretty simple: put workers in charge of US companies. Worker-owned companies aren't going to ship jobs overseas. Worker-owned companies aren't going to strip assets for short-term gain. Workers who own companies will support their communities, and their nation. And when workers own companies, the managerial class will work for them. Nothing else satisfies these concerns as simply and elegantly. Well, aside from China: not sure that anyone understands what that point means.

Eric Levitz: David Shor's unified theory of American politics. He's obviously a very smart guy who's been paid by Democrats to think about how to win elections for the last decade, and he's come up with insights that are uncomfortable to everyone. One thing that occurred to me in his bit on the Obama-to-Trump voters is that while he's probably right that race was the determining factor, one should consider the different ways the two candidates affected thinking on race. Obama was very conciliatory, which encouraged white voters to credit themselves for rising above the race question. Trump, on the other hand, gave white voters reason to feel good about themselves even if they were racist, which it turns out many still were. But Trump's also allowed super-racists to thrive, and maybe that's starting to make the fence-sitters a bit nervous. All through the interview, Shor is very critical of people who develop any consistent sort of ideology, which includes most Democratic politicians, their campaign staffs, and their donors (even rich ones). His advice: "you should talk about popular issues, and not talk about unpopular ones." And do the research to tell one from the other, rather than just following your instinct. Here's an interesting quote:

So I think people underestimate Democrats' openness to left-wing policies that won't cost them elections. And there are a lot of radical, left-wing policies that are genuinely very popular. Codetermination is popular. A job guarantee is popular. Large minimum-wage increases are popular and could literally end market poverty.

All these things will engender opposition from capital. But if you focus on the popular things, and manage to build positive earned media around those things, then you can convince Democrats to do them. So we should be asking ourselves, "What is the maximally radical thing that can get past Joe Manchin." And that's like a really depressing optimization problem. And it's one that most leftists don't even want to approach, but they should. There's a wide spectrum of possibilities for what could happen the next time Democrats take power, and if we don't come in with clear thinking and realistic demands, we could end up getting rolled.

Amanda Marcotte: Right-wing conspiracy theorists get (even more) unhinged as Trump's chances fade: "With QAnon on the rise, Alex Jones tells his fans to 'kill' progressives: Trump Nation is going full cuckoo."

Terrence McCoy: Last year's Amazon fires stirred international outrage. This year's dry season has started out worse.

Alexa Mikhail/Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff/Joel Jacobs: After hundreds of covid-19 deaths in state-run veterans homes, lawmakers press VA to adhere to science. I should mention again that my cousin was one of the victims in a VA facility in Oklahoma.

Nicole Narea: Trump's latest plan to use the census for political gain, explained. As they note, "more than a third of all US coronavirus cases occurred in July."

Michael T Osterholm/Neel Kashkari: Here's how to crush the virus until vaccines arrive: "To save lives, and save the economy, we need another lockdown."

JC Pan: The pandemic benefit seems so great because actual wages are insanely low.

Kim Phillips-Fein: Rethinking the solution to New York's fiscal crisis.

Wendell Potter: The health care scare: "I sold Americans a lie about Canadian medicine. Now we're paying the price."

David Roberts: How to drive fossil fuels out of the US economy, quickly.

Aaron Rupar:

John Quiggin: The end of interest: This is interesting:

Amid all the strange, alarming and exciting things that have happened lately, the fact that real long-term (30-year) interest rates have fallen below zero has been largely overlooked. Yet this is the end of capitalism, at least as it has traditionally been understood. Interest is the pure form of return to capital, excluding any return to monopoly power, corporate control, managerial skills or compensation for risk.

If there is no real return to capital, then then there is no capitalism. In case it isn't obvious, I'll make the point in subsequent posts that there is no reason to expect the system that replaces capitalism (I'll call it plutocracy for the moment) to be an improvement.

I have two thoughts based on this. The first is a corollary, that if capitalism is dead, the free market will no longer be able to rebuild the economy. Therefore, government must step in, providing planning and finance (and possibly even direction) for new ventures. The nations of East Asia (most dramatically China) have been able to grow above market rates thanks to central economic planning, in contrast to the relatively anemic growth in the West, especially if you discount the excess wealth generated by monopolies, corporate predation, and asset inflation (which is what happens when the rich have more money than things to spend it on). The Green New Deal is certainly one way the government could force feed the economy, and thereby prop it up, but probably isn't in itself all that will be needed. Which leads to the second point, which is that we need to come up with a better alternative than plutocracy. Indeed, we're far enough into plutocracy now that it's more properly seen as a problem, not a solution. But if Quiggin wants to scare people, sure, feel free to point out where that road heads.

William K Rashbaum/Benjamin Weiser: DA is investigating Trump and his company over fraud, filing suggests.

Jeffrey D Sachs: America's unholy crusade against China: Reaction to Mike Pompeo's big China speech -- "inflammatory anti-China rhetoric could become even more apocalyptic in the coming weeks, if only to fire up the Republican base ahead of the election" -- not sure why he focuses so much on evangelicals:

According to Pompeo, Chinese President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party of China (CPC) harbor a "decades-long desire for global hegemony." This is ironic. Only one country -- the US -- has a defense strategy calling for it to be the "preeminent military power in the world," with "favorable regional balances of power in the Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and the Western Hemisphere." China's defense white paper, by contrast, states that "China will never follow the beaten track of big powers in seeking hegemony," and that, "As economic globalization, the information society, and cultural diversification develop in an increasingly multi-polar world, peace, development, and win-win cooperation remain the irreversible trends of the times."

More on China (for pieces on TikTok, see Shirin Ghaffery above):

  • Doug Bandow: Let's face it, China is its own worst enemy: "Much like Trump, Xi's grand ambitions are checked by his inability to make friends." Bandow is a libertarian (Cato Institute) critic of American foreign policy, so so he avoids most of the usual Washington clichés. Still, he comes up with a long list of ways Xi's instincts to fight back and bully at every slight has hurt China's business relations.

Claudia Sahm: Economics is a disgrace.

Dylan Scott:

Steven Shepard: Kobach and Clay go down: Takeaways from a big primary night: Primaries in Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Tennessee. In Kansas Republican Senate primary, Roger Marshall beat Kris Kobach 39.41% to 25.68%, with Bob Hamilton at 18.34% and Wichita Eagle-endorsed David Lindstrom in 4th with 6.33%. Kobach barely won the governor primary in 2018 then lost, so he's increasingly viewed as a loser as well as a lunatic. Lacy Clay (D-MO), who's always struck me as a pretty progressive Congressman, lost to Cori Bush, who promises to be even better. Another incumbent, Steve Watkins (R-KS), recently indicted, lost his primary. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) faced a well-financed opponent she had barely won over in 2018, and won 66.27% to 33.73%. The biggest piece of election news was Missouri voting in favor of Medicaid expansion. Article doesn't have any "takeaways" from Tennessee (which voted later), where Trump-endorsed Bill Hagerty appears to have won the Republican Senate nomination. Related:

Alex Shephard:

Richard Silverstein: Israel bombed Beirut:

A confidential highly-informed Israeli source has told me that Israel caused the massive explosion at the Beirut port earlier today which killed over 100 and injured thousands. The bombing also virtually leveled the port itself and caused massive damage throughout the city.

Israel targeted a Hezbollah weapons depot at the port and planned to destroy it with an explosive device. Tragically, Israeli intelligence did not perform due diligence on their target. Thus they did not know (or if they did know, they didn't care) that there were 2,700 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a next door warehouse. The explosion at the arms depot ignited the next door warehouse, causing the catastrophe that resulted. More on Beirut:

Silverstein followed this initial report with Ex-CIA analyst confirms Beirut blast initiated by "military munitions," Lebanese President to examine role of "external actors"; and Senior Israeli opposition leader: Hezbollah arms cache caused Beirut explosion. I should note that I haven't seen any corroboration of Silverstein's reports elsewhere. Israel has publicly denied its involvement, although they've frequently attacked alleged Hezbollah supplies and forces in Syria, waged a brutal war against Lebanon in 2006, and invaded Lebanon in 1982, not leaving until 2000. They still occupy a small patch of Lebanon, a major bone of contention with Hezbollah. Mainstream media sources have focused on the large store of ammonium nitrate, which came from an abandoned Russian ship, while claiming that the initial fire which ignited the larger explosion had something to do with fireworks. As the articles below note, Lebanon has been struggling for some time, and there is a lot of pent-up resentment against the long-ruling cliques. There were popular demonstrations against the government over a year ago, and they have flared up again.

Jeffrey Toobin: It really is time to get rid of the filibuster.

Lucian K Truscott IV: Let's remember that long with everything else, Donald Trump's a total pig. Pic here of a much younger Trump with his old buddy, Jeffrey Epstein.

Chris Walker: Students suspended for taking pictures of crowds in Georgia school's reopening: This is the "cancel culture" I remember from the 1950s. PS: 9 people test positive for coronavirus at Georgia school that went viral for crowded photo.

Sean Wilentz: What Tom Cotton gets so wrong about slavery and the constitution: It was the Arkansas Republican Senator to called slavery "a necessary evil upon which the union was built" -- not the founders he cites. See Bryan Armen Graham: Tom Cotton calls slavery 'necessary evil' in attack on New York Times' 1619 Project. Note that Cotton is not only asserting his own views, he's trying to suppress the views of others: specifically, historians who have attempted to document the long and disgraceful history of slavery and racism in the United States.

Matthew Yglesias:

Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen: Why Republicans are dragging their feet on more stimulus. Now that the stock market has recovered, and the rich are richer than ever, their job is done. Sure, they still would like to get lawsuit immunity for businesses. But fuck everyone else. Note: The first group of pieces date from earlier in the week, before Trump punted with his executive orders. I've put them first, then reports on the executive orders and the reaction in a second block.

Then on Saturday, Trump broke off negotiations and signed his orders. They are a purely political ploy: a way to claim he's doing something without delivering much of anything. They are a "free lunch," as in "there's no such thing as a free lunch":

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, August archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 33729 [33697] rated (+32), 223 [220] unrated (+3).

After a month-plus of regularly hitting 40+ records per week, my energy and/or patience flagged last week. I started most days with something from the travel cases, or Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music (long out of sight, found it on a top shelf up stairs, along with Fats Waller's If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It box. Didn't unpack until Monday, and spent the rest of the day muddling through metacritic lists. After that, didn't feel like writing anything, so put that off a day. Still don't, but will try to touch a few bases.

As I noted in the intro to Weekend Roundup, my cousin Duan Stiner caught Covid-19 and died last week, three days shy of 93. He had been living in a VA facility northeast of Tulsa for two years. Although "locked down" in March, the disease got in and decimated the population. Last time I visited was shortly after he moved there. I can't say as I was particularly pleased with the place, but his daughters were upbeat, and visited him virtually every day (until March). It was a sad end to a long life of hard work and good humor. I've been missing him for a while already.

Duan was just one of several older relatives who have faced a lot of hardship this year. Another cousin, Chloe McCandlis, died in February. Others are ill or struggling, and even those who are getting by are finding 2020 to be an especially difficult year to be old in. I haven't traveled since my trip to see Duan in Oklahoma, and I'm not likely to for the foreseeable future, so I'm feeling especially helpless and useless these days.

A friend here in Wichita, Don Bass, also died, and we just heard that another is in the hospital.


In music, I should mention that Sean Tyla (73) died. He was the leader of the seminal pub rock band Ducks Deluxe, which recorded two albums 1974-75. Both records were personal favorites, with the second (Taxi to the Terminal Zone) the namesake for the short-lived magazine Don Malcolm and I published in 1977. Worth noting that I much preferred the UK version of their eponymous debut: there were two jazzy pieces that made much more sense in context than moved to weaken the second side of RCA's US release. They exemplified everything I loved in rock & roll. For the moment, I harbored the idea that the past of rock & roll might be its future. Of course, a couple years later the future did arrive, and it was something else.

When Ducks Deluxe broke up, Tyla carried on as the Tyla Gang, while other band members joined the Motors and the Rumour (Graham Parker's backup band, but they also recorded without Parker). I enjoyed his first title (Yachtless), but nothing else he did made much of an impression.

Best source for new records this week has been Bandcamp Daily, but I also tried picking off some of the higher ranking metacritic titles (link above). Also scanned Phil Overeem's July list, slimmed down and slightly annotated. The grade change came after receiving a CD, which certainly helped.

One question in the queue. Feel free to ask more.


New records reviewed this week:

  • The 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (2020, Dirty Hit): [r]: B+(***)
  • Arca: @@@@@ (2020, XL): [r]: B+(*)
  • Armand Hammer: Shrines (2020, Backwoodz Studioz): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (2020, Carpark): [r]: B+(*)
  • Boldy James & the Alchemist: The Price of Tea in China (2020, ALC/Boldy James): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lisa Cameron/Tom Carter/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Tau Ceti (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Crazy Doberman: Illusory Expansion (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Falkner Evans: Marbles (2019 [2020], CAP): [cd]: B+(*)
  • John Fedchock NY Sextet: Into the Shadows (2019 [2020], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Sue Anne Gershenzon: You Must Believe in Spring (2020, self-released): [cd]: B
  • Kate NV: Room for the Moon (2020, RVNG Intl): [bc]: A-
  • Keys & Screws [Thomas Borgmann/Jan Roder/Willi Kellers]: Some More Jazz (2017 [2020], NoBusiness): [cdr]: A-
  • David Krakauer & Kathleen Tagg: Breath & Hammer (2020, Table Pounding): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Lianne La Havas: Lianne La Havas (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jessy Lanza: All the Time (2020, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mako Sica/Hamid Drake: Balancing Tear (2020, Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (2020, Domino): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jason Robinson & Eric Hofbauer: Two Hours Early, Ten Minutes Late: Duo Music of Ken Aldcroft (2018 [2020], Accretions): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Christian Ronn/Aram Shelton: Multiring (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Benny Rubin Jr. Quartet: Know Say or See (2019 [2020], Benny Jr. Music): [cdr]: B+(***)
  • Andy Shauf: The Neon Skyline (2020, Anti-): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sparks: A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip (2020, BMG): [r]: C+
  • Paul Weller: On Sunset (2020, Polydor): [r]: B
  • Kamaal Williams: Wu Hen (2020, Black Focus): [r]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Doug Hammond/David Durrah/Charles Burnham: Reflections in the Sea of Nurnen (1975 [2020], Tribe): [bc]: B
  • Nkem Njoku & Ozzobia Brothers: Ozobia Special (1980s [2020], BBE): [bc]: A-
  • Shirley Scott: One for Me (1974 [2020], Arc): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sleaford Mods: All That Glue (2013-20 [2020], Rough Trade): [r]: B+(***)
  • Luiz Carlos Vinhas: O Som Psicodélico de L.C.V. (1968 [2020], Mad About): [bc]: B+(*)

Old music:

  • Kate NV: Binasu (2017, Orange Milk): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Kate NV: For (2018, RVNG Intl): [r]: B+(*)
  • Annie Ross: Sings a Handful of Songs (1963, Everest): [r]: B
  • Annie Ross & Pony Poindexter: Recorded at the Tenth German Jazz Festival in Frankfurt (1966, SABA): [r]: B+(*)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Luís Lopes Humanization 4tet: Believe, Believe (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): [cd]: [was: B+(***)] A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Rez Abbasi: Django-shift (Whirlwind) [08-28]
  • Tom Guarna: Spirit Science (Destiny) [09-18]
  • Bob James: Once Upon a Time: The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions (1965, Resonance) [08-29]
  • Eva Kess: Sternschnuppen: Falling Stars (Neuklang) [08-28]
  • Roberto Magris: Suite! (JMood) [08-17]
  • Raphaël Pannier Quartet: Faune (French Paradox) [08-21]
  • Maria Schneider: Data Lords (ArtistShare, 2CD)
  • Horace Tapscott With the Pan Afrikan Peoples Arkestra: Ancestral Echoes: The Covina Sessions, 1976 (Dark Tree)
  • Matt Wilson Quartet: Hug! (Palmetto) [08-28]

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Blog link.

My oldest surviving cousin, Duan Stiner, died on Sunday, due to Covid-19. He was days away from his 93rd birthday. He had been living in a VA center near Tulsa, Oklahoma. The center was locked down in March. He hasn't been able to leave, and our relatives haven't been able to visit, since then. Nonetheless, Covid-19 got into the facility, causing at least 58 cases and 10 deaths (figures I got before Duan died). Duan joined the Army in 1945, spent some time occupying Japan, then got called back for the Korean War in 1950. He never talked much about his Army days (unlike his older brother, Harold, who was an MP and was present for the war crimes trials on Tokyo; Harold died in 2015). Duan was a butcher, first in a grocery store, then he owned his own meat business. When I was young, my parents used to buy a side of beef at a time from him. I think he was the first person I personally knew to die of the disease, although I've written about dozens of more famous people in these pages.

I also found out that Don Bass (77) died last week, but don't know the cause (so he may have been the first). I ran into him often, especially at Peace Center events. He was a talented artist, and always a welcome sight.

More newsworthy individual deaths below. For numbers of the less famous, see At least 151,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US. Worldometer has the US death count at 158,365. (Those links may be volatile.)

Minor formatting change here, as I've eliminated the outer layer of bullets.


Some scattered links this week:

Dean Baker:

  • An economic survival package, not a stimulus package. I could have buried this among the other "stimulus" articles (see Li Zhou), but they're tied to actual negotiations, whereas this is more along the lines of what should be done. Krugman described the downturn as more of an induced coma than a typical recession, a distinction that is lost on people who have one-track minds (like everyone in business). Until the virus is contained and normalized (cured would be nice, but I'm imagining a somewhat more delicate and treacherous equilibrium), talk of restoring growth really misses the point, which is survival -- difficult enough in any case.

  • More thoughts on the post-pandemic economy: GDP is headed down, but are we worse off for that?

    If we do let obsessions with government deficits and debt curtail spending, then we can expect to see a long and harsh recession. . . . And, we also have to recognize that when we have a serious problem of unemployment, the failure to run large deficits is incredibly damaging to the country. Millions of workers will needlessly suffer, as will their families. And the failure is increased when it means not spending in areas that will have long-term benefits for the country, like child care and slowing global warming. It is tragic that deficit hawks are able to do so much harm to our children under the guise of saving our children.

Peter Baker: More than just a tweet: Trump's campaign to undercut democracy.

Jake Bittle: The right's increasingly unhinged fight against Black Lives Matter: "As the movement's popularity surges, the conservative media insists that it is hell-bent on destroying the American way of life."

Charles M Blow: Trump's nakedly political pandemic pivot.

Alleen Brown: Trump's pick to manage public lands has four-decade history of "overt racism" toward native people: Meet William Perry Pendley.

Alexander Burns: Trump attacks an election he is at risk of losing: "Mr Trump has become a heckler in his own government, failing to marshal leaders in Washington to form a robust response to the health and economic crises. Instead, he is raising doubts about holding the election on time."

Katelyn Burns: The NYPD unit that snatched a protester off the street has been accosting people for years.

Alexia Fernández Campbell: A small federal agency focused on preventing industrial disasters is on life support. Trump wants it gone: "The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board is without enough voting members, and its investigations are stuck in limbo."

Matthew Cappucci/Mustafa Salim: Baghdad soars to 125 blistering degrees, its highest temperature on record. Also record-high temperatures elsewhere in the Middle East.

Steve Coll: Is the Postal Service being manipulated to help Trump get reëlected?

Summer Concepcion: Cotton's office denies he believes slavery was a 'necessary evil' after backlash over remark: Maybe if he wasn't such a reactionary racist, he wouldn't be so often misunderstood? Still, it's hard to be any kind of conservative in America without having lots of racist skeletons in your closet. Maybe that's why so many conservatives move them to the front porch, and celebrate them.

James Downie: Republicans' pandemic blunders keep piling higher.

Katherine Eban: How Jared Kushner's secret testing plan "went poof into thin air": "This spring, a team working under the president's son-in-law produced a plan for aggressive, coordinated national COVID-19 response that could have brought the pandemic under control. So why did the White House spike it in favor of a shambolic 50-state-response?" Or, as David Atkins commented on this piece: Trump and Kushner should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

Alex Emmons: Democrats unveil draft foreign policy platform with promises to end "forever wars" and "regime change": however, blanket support for Israel makes it harder to achieve those goals.

Richard Fausset/Rick Rojas: John Lewis, a man of 'unbreakable perseverance,' is laid to rest: I'm afraid I found all the pomp surrounding the death and funeral of John Lewis a bit disconcerting. Such events only come about when someone has a political legacy they want to build up -- usually around a president, most recently/similarly someone like John McCain. I don't actually have much of an opinion about Lewis, but he does provide a reminded that the fight for civil rights isn't over, and the struggle for equality still has a long ways to go. Still, it was a big deal, all the more conspicuous because of the times (e.g., see the picture of Obama delivering a eulogy to a more-than-half-empty church). More related to the funeral:

John Feffer: The no-trust world. The first point George Brockway made in his brilliant The End of Economic Man (1991) was that nothing works in modern society without trust. Indeed, it's impossible to get anything done when you constantly have to scan 360 degrees for potential threats. (E.g., imagine trying to do simple reconstruction projects in war-torn Iraq.) Of course, it's even harder to defend against an invisible virus, especially where you can't trust people around you to follow recommended practices. Karen Greenberg's article below pairs well with this one: a big part of the reason we an trust no one is that powerful people, like but not exclusively Trump, are rarely held accountable for their acts, let alone their accidents.

Conor Friedersdorf: Forging a right-left coalition may be the only way to end the War on Drugs. Link to Atlantic article therein, but I'm up against my article limit. Quote sets up a 1991 debate between black liberal Charlie Rangel and white reactionary William F Buckley Jr, quoting Rangel in favor of escalating the war on drugs:

In fact, Rangel clarified, if somebody wants to sell drugs to a child, they should fear "that they will be arrested and go to jail for the rest of their natural life. That's what I'm talking about when I say fear." Then he suggested that America should tap the generals who won the Gulf War to intensify the War on Drugs. "What we're missing: to find a take-charge general like Norman Schwarzkopf, like Colin Powell, to coordinate some type of strategy so that America, who has never run away from a battle, will not be running away from this battle," he said. "Let's win this war against drugs the same way we won it in the Middle East."

That Gulf War "victory" doesn't look so great now, though the War on Drugs may have fared even worse. Neither failed for lack of tough guys like Schwarzkopf. Both were severely tarnished by the arrogance and racism that was baked into their execution, and were utterly ruined by the contempt and carelessness the enforcers had for the people they impacted. Here's another quote:

Had the drug war ended back in the early 1990s, younger Millennials would have been spared a policy that empowered gangs, fueled bloody wars for drug territory in American cities, ravaged Latin America, enriched narco cartels, propelled the AIDS epidemic, triggered police militarization, and contributed more than any other policy to racial disparities in national and local incarceration.

Also note that while Buckley and other libertarians have criticized the War on Drugs, they've never spent any political capital doing so. The one issue conservatives are serious about is privileging the rich, and that makes them comfortable with repression as a tool to protect the established order. So while it's possible that the left might pick up a few right-wing votes to decriminalize drugs, I don't expect them to be much help.

Masha Gessen: Why America feels like a post-Soviet state.

Shirin Ghaffary: The TikTok-Trump drama, explained.

Karen Greenberg: Can the pandemic bring accountability back to this country?

Glenn Greenwald: The US-supported coup in Bolivia continues to produce repression and tyranny, while revealing how US media propaganda works.

Daniel A Hanley: Another Trump legacy: Spreading price discrimination on the Internet: "Consumers are already feeling the pain of the president reversing net neutrality." Two prominent offenders mentioned here are Cox, which we use, and AT&T, which has made a big push to break into Cox's cable monopoly here.

Shane Harris: DHS compiled 'intelligence reports' on journalists who published leaked documents.

Doug Henwood: We have no choice but to be radical.

Sean Illing: "It's ideologue meets grifter": How Bill Barr made Trumpism possible. Interview with David Rohde, who wrote a long New Yorker profile of Barr.

Roge Karma: We train police to be warriors -- and then send them out to be social workers. A breakdown of training time (840 total hours) here shows that 20% goes for "firearm skills, self-defense, and use of force." A breakdown of actual time spent by police shows that only a tiny fraction of time is spent dealing with violent time, and that's mostly taken up by things like interviewing witnesses. Given that a large percentage of police are former military, this training bias is probably even more warped -- and given how many former military suffer from PTSD, the bias could be even more dangerous.

Annie Karni/Katie Rogers: Like father, like son: President Trump lets others mourn: "Whether he is dealing with the loss of a family member or the deaths of nearly 150,000 Americans in a surging pandemic, President Trump almost never displays empathy in public. He learned it from his father."

Ankush Khardori: There's never been a better time to be a white-collar criminal: "Thanks to the Trump administration's signature mix of incompetence and corruption, America is knee-deep in fraud and corporate malfeasance."

Bonnie Kristian: Trump's reasoning is bad, but withdrawing troops from Germany is a good idea.

Paul Krugman:

  • The nightmare on Pennsylvania avenue: "Trump is the kind of boss who can't do the job -- and won't go away.

  • The cult of selfishness is killing America: "The right has made irresponsible behavior a key principle."

  • Why can't Trump's America be like Italy? "On the coronavirus, the 'sick man of Europe' puts us to shame." The "sick man of Europe" quip was commonly applied to the Ottoman Empire in its last century, as European powers were chipping away at its borders and demanding "capitulations" to give them extraterritorial rights within the Empire. I've never heard it used to refer to anyone else. Italy is often derided for its unstable governments and unequal economy, but Greece and Portugal are more often viewed as the bottom of the barrel. If there is a "sick man of Europe" these days, it must be Donald Trump, who's personally much more rooted in Europe than in America.

  • What you don't know can't hurt Trump: "Slow the testing down," he said, and it's happening."

  • Republicans keep flunking microbe economics: "Getting other people sick isn't an 'individual choice.'" Henry Farrell has a comment at Crooked Timber, more focused on economists than Republicans. My own theory is that most economists do everything possible to view everything through their own prism, which is single-mindedly focused on increasing growth. The problem with the pandemic is that it's causing a lot of people to consider other factors, like health and safety, and that messes with the economists' heads. It also messes with Republicans, who basically agree with the economists but tweak their measurements to only really consider the effects of policy on making the rich richer.

Michelle Ye Hee Lee/Jacob Bogage: Postal Service backlog sparks worries that ballot deliveries could be delayed in November.

Jill Lepore: How the Simulmatics Corporation invented the future: Mostly on the data-driven 1960 presidential election.

Nancy LeTourneau:

  • How white supremacists are using protests to fuel racial tensions. It's widely felt, especially among Trump's campaign advisers, that playing up the protests, and especially provoking violence in/around them, will produce a backlash that will benefit Trump and his ilk.

  • Trump's eight potentially impeachable offenses in six months: If we've learned anything about impeachment under Trump, it's that it isn't a very useful process. The two-thirds supermajority rule makes it impossible to convict in the Senate, and the simple majority rule in the House makes it too each to impeach. Maybe that could work if the complaint wasn't political, but everything's political these days, so nothing works. As this list here indicates, it's easy to come up with a list of essentially political charges, and it's also fruitless. What might have worked better was if Congress had reserved to itself the right to overrule executive actions by simple majority, but somehow we've gotten into the ridiculous where Trump can simply veto Congressional resolutions (like ones limiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia, or military interventions in Syria). That puts us back at needing a two-thirds supermajority, which is well nigh impossible. On the other hand, the thing I find most disturbing about this list isn't its pointlessness. It's that a lot of these things aren't very good charges. Indeed, number four ("abuse of power in foreign affairs") insists on policies that Trump is right not to have followed ("willingness to ignore China's treatment of the Uighurs in exchange for help with farmers during trade negotiations" and "totally ignored Russia placing bounties on the lives of American soldiers in Afghanistan").

Martin Longman: The key to a real Democratic landslide: Better rural performance: I'm sympathetic to this position, partly because with all the factors stacked against them Democrats have to win landslides to be effective -- Obama's margins clearly weren't sufficient, and the popular pluralities of Al Gore and Hillary Clinton didn't even score as wins -- but also because I believe that Republicans are doing a terrible job of serving rural and small-town voters, and Democrats could do a lot better, so why not try harder. Kansas has long thought of itself as a rural state, but the percentage has been declining steadily, at least since my father moved to Wichita in the 1940s. According to the first measure I found, the rural percentage in 2018 was 31.5%, but I doubt the farm percentage is even 10%. (There are 58,500 farms in Kansas. If 4 people lived on each, that would come to 8%. The nationwide farm population is 2%.)

Carlos Lozada: Trump tried to shut him down, but Robert Mueller was his own worst enemy. Review of Jeffrey Toobin's new book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump.

Eric Lutz:

Nick Martin: It was insane to restart sports in America.

William Marx: Far-right groups now pose the greatest terrorist threat in the US and Europe. Links to: Jihadist plots used to be US and Europe's biggest terrorist threat. Now it's the far right. And that's just freelance terror, not the kind practiced by "law enforcement" organizations.

Ian Milhiser:

Bennett Minton: The lies our textbooks told my generation of Virginians about slavery.

Max Moran: The 277 policies for which Biden need not ask permission: "As president, Joe Biden could take action on hundreds of policies without having to go through Congress. The Biden-Sanders unity task force provides a map."

Sara Morrison/Rebecca Heilweil: How Trump and his son helped make a Covid-19 conspiracy theorist go viral in a matter of hours.

Nicole Narea:

Ella Nilsen:

  • The slow-motion 2020 election disaster states are scrambling to prevent, explained.

  • Joe Biden will announce his running mate soon. Here's who's on the list. Not something I spend much time thinking about, although I still think Elizabeth Warren is a cut above the rest on two major counts: she's a fearless campaigner, and while that isn't especially reassuring in a presidential candidate, it's a quality that stacks up especially well against Trump and Pence; and she simply knows a lot more about policy than anyone else. She's also likely to be a shrewd judge of personnel, if she gets the chance. The last two Republican gave their VPs (Cheney and Pence) decisive impact on staffing, but Clinton and Obama worked through their own personal staffs (who often gave them limited bad choices). Beyond Warren, Gretchen Whitmer would be a sensible pick, helping in a key state where she's currently very popular. I don't see any advantage in picking a black woman: Biden has very solid black support, but he also has substantial support from whites who might take exception to a black VP, so why run that risk. Only one I have any specific objection to is Susan Rice, who was a consistent hawk under Obama and a leading player in all of his foreign policy mistakes. The idea that her selection would allow Biden to focus on domestic policy while she runs foreign is one of the worst advanced here. Still, there isn't much reason to think that anyone else on the list would be much better than Rice on foreign policy issues -- they've just had less opportunity to discredit themselves.

Osita Nwanevu: The 2020 election doesn't really matter to Republicans.

Helaine Olen: The CFPB once defended consumers. Thanks to Trump, it now helps companies prey on them instead.

Vijay Prashad/Alejandro Bejarano: 'We will coup whoever we want': Elon Musk and the overthrow of democracy in Bolivia.

Laurence Ralph: Countries with levels of police brutality comparable to that in the US are called 'police states': That's the title in the link from Attention to the Unseen; better than "To protect and serve: Global lessons in police reform." There's a chart here of "Number of people killed by the police" per ten million residents, and the US is only in second place, barely above Iraq and just below Democratic Republic of the Congo, but no other country is close (only Luxembourg is more than 5% of the US rate, and Luxembourg is so small that its 16.9 rate works out to be 1 unfortunate person).

Catherine Rampell: Trump knows he's going to lose. He's already salting the earth behind him. Part of her evidence is Fed nominee Judy Shelton. Rampell wrote more about her here: Yes, Trump's latest Fed pick is that bad. Here's why.

Diane Ravitch: How Trump politicized schools reopening, regardless of safety.

Katie Rogers/Maggie Haberman: Kayleigh McEnany heckles the press. Is that all?

Theodore Schleifer: Tech billionaire Peter Thiel is searching for new political allies. He's found one in Kansas: Thiel's spent almost $1 million on Kris Kobach's Senate primary race. The only other candidate Thiel has supported so far this year is Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR). More on Kansas and/or elections:

Dylan Scott: Herman Cain, 2012 presidential contender, dies after contracting Covid-19: He was 74, a former CEO of Godfather's Pizza, one of the most prominent black Republicans, a major Trump surrogate. He attended Trump's Tulsa rally, signed his liability waiver, and was diagnosed a week later. More on Cain:

Robert J Shapiro: Trump is wrong again: US manufacturing is not recovering.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Demon seed.

Matt Taibbi: Kansas should go f--- itself: Review of Thomas Frank's new book, The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism. I have the book, and expect to read it soon -- maybe then I'll be able to figure out the confusion from Taibbi's review. I've read most of Frank's books, from What's the Matter With Kansas? (which has left a bad taste, mostly because it seems mostly to have been read and taken to heart by culture war conservatives, who have taken it as a dare to hold Republicans responsible for their promises) through Listen, Liberal (which perhaps could be blamed for exposing the Clintons as liars and frauds, although there's little evidence that the people who took that insight and voted for Trump got it from reading a book). Taibbi also cites a recent review by Jeff Madrick: Why the working class votes against its economic interests, which could be of Frank's work, but actually refers to Robert B Reich: The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, and Zephyr Teachout: Break 'Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom From Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money.

Adam Taylor: Trump ordered federal forces to quell Portland protests. But the chaos ended as soon as they left.

Alexander S Vindman: Coming forward ended my career. I still believe doing what's right matters.

Alex Ward: 5 real steps the US could take to help Uighurs in China: The first one that's missing is: why? It's certainly not because the US has any sympathy with or concern for Muslims in the far west of China, even as part of a more general commitment to human rights. To demonstrate the latter, one would have to make a show of supporting the Palestinians against Israeli occupation. One suspects the US of bad faith, because the US has rarely shown anything but bad faith on human rights. Otherwise, the US would support international institutions that tackle human rights issues, like the ICC. The US can't even be bothered to support the WHO. And the "real steps" listed here are straight from the Cold War toolkit being retargeted at China, for reasons only known to Trump and Pompeo. For more on them, see the comment under Robin Wright, below.

Robin Wright: Why Trump will never win his new cold war with China. Couple things here. First, the notion that the US "won" the Cold War with Russia is flat-out wrong, and misguided too. I've compared it to a wrestling match where one fighter has a heart attack, then the other pounces on top to claim the win. The people under the Soviet Union's thumb simply gave up their system of government, and really didn't get much from the West for their trouble. (Russia was so ravaged under Yeltsin that average life expectancy dropped 10 years in less time than that. Putin's popularity is to no small extent based on arresting that decline.) One striking aspect is that countries the US had totally ignored, like Albania and Mongolia, fell without so much as a funny glance from the US. The ones that didn't fall were the ones the US fought wars with (Korea, Vietnam), blockaded (Cuba), and China (both, but somewhat different), so there's no evidence that the Cold War's most aggressive tools achieved anything, other than to make the US look like a public menace. China might also have fallen, but the ruling party held on and imposed top-down reforms that radically grew the Chinese economy -- much faster and more equitably than any capitalist regime had achieved. Second thing is that while the Soviet Union saw itself as leading a worldwide workers revolution, China is just concerned with China. Their investments abroad promote their businesses, mostly at home. While they like the idea of garnering good will, they don't pose any threat to the regimes they do business with. As such, there's no demand for a global capitalist alliance to limit their power, let alone to tell them how to run their own damn country. On the other hand, the US is always telling its "allies" and clients how to run their countries and how to mistreat their people -- start by looking up Washington Consensus for examples. Article explains some of the ways China has outmaneuvered typical Cold War tactics like sanctions. It doesn't even dignify the neocons' unipolar military fantasies with a rebuttal, but well before his death in 2010, Chalmers Johnson wrote about how China could easily disable America's advanced weapons systems by "launching a dumptruck full of gravel into space" (destroying every satellite). The fact is that America's military can't win in Aghanistan, let alone take on a vastly more sophisticated foe like China. The only question here is how stupid Trump and Pompeo really are. More on China:

Matthew Yglesias:

  • Thursday's historically bad economic growth numbers, explained. Subhed tries to reassure us -- "It's not as bad as it looks" -- but that vastly understates how bad the chart looks. Real GDP dropped about 5% in Q1, most of which occurred before the lockdown. The Q2 GDP drop, which picked up part of the original lockdown, the slow reopening, but not much of the further backpedaling as cases rose to a second peak, is a staggering 33%. That's "not just the worst on record, but the worst on record by a large margin." This suggests to me that, given that the drop in employment is only half that much, we're seeing a huge drop in productivity in addition to lost jobs. Offhand, that makes intuitive sense, given the number of people working from home, the overhead of masks and sanitation, and the pretty severe dip in demand. But Yglesias focuses more on how the numbers are cooked up. That leads him to the hypothesis that in Q3 "we're probably going to see a historically amazing growth number when expressed as an annualized rate," and that "Trump will doubly brag that it's the best economy ever, but of course it won't be, any more than Q2 was the worst economy." Still, one shouldn't soft-peddle the notion that this is the worst economy ever. The only reason it hasn't been as painful as the Great Depression is that Congress (mostly thanks to Democrats) moved quickly to shore up incomes (and the Fed moved even faster to bail out banks and stockholders). Take that away (as many Republicans want to do) and it won't be long before we feel just how bad this economy is. More on this economy:

  • The real stakes in the David Shor saga.

Li Zhou: Senate Republicans have a new stimulus bill. Here's what's in it. Author also wrote, with Ella Nilsen: Senate Republicans' dramatically smaller unemployment insurance proposal, explained, and Millions of people will see a sharp drop in their unemployment benefits because Congress failed to act..

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Daily Log

This meme, from "Heather Hodges," got forwarded by a cousin. It may be the stupidest one I've ever seen:

A child in America is 66,667 times more likely to be sold to human traffickers than die of COVID-19. In addition, your masks assist in them being transported undetected and unidentified by anyone.

Children (definition varies) represent 8.4% of all cases, so 288.287 cases (out of 3,416,630). Deaths among children are rare, but at least 20 children under age five have died. Have 1.3 million US children been trafficked?

Doing some spice shopping (Penzey's):

  • Ancho chili pepper, ground, 1 oz 1/4 c jar, $3.95
  • Celery seed, ground, 2.9 oz 3/4 c bag, $7.29
  • Cinnamon, Vietnamese ground, 2.6 oz 3/4 c bag, $9.79
  • Oregano, Turkish broken leaf, 0.8 oz 3/4 c bag, $6.69
  • Paprika, smoked Spanish, 3.6 oz 3/4 c bag, $10.95
  • Thyme, French, 1.2 oz 3/4 c bag, $6.69 [out of stock]
  • Vanilla, Double Strength, 4 fl oz, $42.95

Not yet in the cart:

  • Ancho chili pepper, ground, 1 oz 1/4 c jar, $3.95
  • Celery flakes, 0.3 oz 1/4 c jar, $3.49
  • Celery salt, 6.9 oz 3/4 c bag, $6.69
  • Celery seed, India ground, 0.9 oz 1/4 c jar, $3.29
  • Celery seed, India whole, 0.9 oz 1/4 c jar, $2.95
  • Chipotle, ground red, 1.2 oz 1/4 c jar, $6.29
  • Cilantro, California, 0.5 oz 3/4 c bag, $5.95
  • Epazote, Mexico, 0.2 oz 1/4 c jar, $3.69
  • Garlic, granulated powder, 4.4 oz 3/4 c bag, $8.69
  • Italian herb mix, 1.1 oz 3/4 c bag, $6.69
  • Lemon peel, California powdered, 1.0 oz 1/4 c jar, $6.29
  • Orange peel, California, 0.8 oz 1/4 c jar, $4.69
  • Rosemary, Spain powdered, 1.1 oz 1/2 c jar, $5.29
  • Savory leaves, 1.2 oz 3/4 c bag, $7.95
  • Shrimp and crab boil, 2.1 oz 3/4 c bag, $9.49: yellow and brown mustard seed, allspice, coriander, cloves, cracked bay leaf, cracked ginger, black Tellicherry peppercorns, chili pepper, dill seed, caraway seed.
  • White pepper, Indonesia fine grind, 3.6 oz 3/4 c bag, $11.69
  • Vanilla, Mexican, 8 fl oz, $46.95
  • Vanilla, double strength, 8 fl oz, $84.95

Also checking out The Great American Spice Co., which has a broader selection and is generally less expensive (at least in larger quantities).

Monday, July 27, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, July archive (final).

Music: Current count 33697 [33650] rated (+47), 220 [224] unrated (-4).

I usually figure 30 records per week is a solid effort. This month I've averaged 40, which is largely attributable to streaming a lot of old jazz records: specifically, Freddy Cole (died this month), Hampton Hawes (got a question on him, Jackie McLean (ran across a complete album I hadn't heard on YouTube, and I always love listening to him), and Sam Rivers (took a look after his latest archival album just missed, and found a lot more than I expected). Of course, never leaving the house helped with the count. I think I made two grocery runs in July, and took my wife to the doctor once. Occasionally, especially after a grocery run, I try to cook something, but not often. Tried making gluten-free raisin bread today. Looks perfect, but I'm pretty sure it would taste better with wheat.

This ends a 4-week month. The link above gets you to the roll up, with 169 records. I revisited the Jessie Ware album and bumped its grade up. It's always sounded like an A- two-thirds of the way through, but took me a while to overcome my reservations over the end. Appears as a re-grade here, but just an edit in the monthly file.

Did play some records from the promo queue this week, including the last of the batch from NoBusiness. Looks like I still have 17 left in the queue, including 2 September releases and 1 October. (Also one more NoBusiness release. Really need to tidy up the mess on my desk.) Also made a late push to check off highly-rated albums in my metacritic file. Top ones I haven't heard yet are: Lianne Le Havas (22); 1975: Notes on a Conditional Form (34); Protomartyr: Ultimate Success Today (48); Paul Weller: On Sunset (51); and The Beths: Jump Rope Gazers (58); and lots more from 70 down (about half from 70-150, more after that).

I spent a lot of time with Taylor Swift's Folklore (four spins, plus some videos, plus I read a half-dozen pieces, mostly in places like Vox which don't normally review records. I liked the record fine, but wasn't blown away by anything on it. Same for the Texas girl group who decided Chicks wasn't the more offensive half of their name. For what it's worth, I always found both parts at least partly ironic, and they've lost some of that with the name change. (On the other hand, Lady Antebellum was never not offensive.) I spent a lot less time with Gaslighter, probably because I didn't sense that it had much potential to get better (as Ware did, and Swift might do).

Vocalese singer Annie Ross died last week, at 89. I'm not a big fan of her records, either with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks or not, but I've only sampled them lightly. I did think she was terrific in Robert Altman's The Player, basically playing herself. Another semi-famous musician who died last week was Peter Green (73), widely touted as the founder of Fleetwood Mac, despite the group being named for two other members (their first album was sometimes known as Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac). I have two Green albums in my database: In the Skies (1979), and a compilation, Man of the World: The Anthology 1968-1988, both B+. For an appreciation, see Milo Miles: The Terrifying and Lyrical Greatness of Peter Green. Greil Marcus also has some things to say about Green and Fleetwood Mac.

I answered a couple of questions last week. Please ask more.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Blaer: Yellow (2019 [2020], Ronin Rhythm): [r]: B+(**)
  • Adam Caine Quartet: Transmissions (2018 [2020], NoBusiness): [cd]: A-
  • François Carrier/Masayo Koketsu/Daisuke Fuwa/Takashi Itani: Japan Suite (2019 [2020], NoBusiness): [cd]: B+(***)
  • The Chicks: Gaslighter (2020, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Gerald Clayton: Happening: Live at the Village Vanguard (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dena DeRose: Ode to the Road (2020, HighNote): [r]: B+(***)
  • Robert Dick & Adam Caine: The Damn Think (2017 [2019], Chant): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Gregory Dudzienski Quartet: Beautiful Moments (2019 [2020], OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Extra Soul Perception: New Tangents in Kampala, London & Nairobi Vol. 1 (2019 [2020], Extra Soul Perception, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Asher Gamedze: Dialectic Soul (2020, On the Corner): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ricardo Grilli: 1962 (2020, Tone Rogue): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Bartosz Hadala Group: Three Short Stories (2020, Zecernia): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Jon Hassell: Seeing Through Sound (Pentimento Volume Two) (2020, Ndeya): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jarv Is: Beyond the Pale (2020, Rough Trade): [r]: A-
  • KA: Descendants of Cain (2020, Iron Works): [r]: B+(***)
  • Quin Kirchner: The Shadows and the Light (2019 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Jeremy Levy Jazz Orchestra: The Planets: Reimagined (2019 [2020], OA2): [cd]: B-
  • Lupe Fiasco/Kaelin Ellis: House (2020, 1st & 15th, EP) **
  • Lori McKenna: The Balladeer (2020, CN): [r]: A-
  • Pink Siifu/Yungmorpheus: Bag Talk (2019, Field Left): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pink Siifu: Negro (2020, Field-Left): [r]: B
  • Corey Smythe: Accelerate Every Voice (2018 [2020], Pyroclastic): [cd]: B-
  • Soft Machine: Live at the Baked Potato (2019 [2020], Moonjune): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Leni Stern: 4 (2020, LSR): [r]: B-
  • Tim Stine Trio: Fresh Demons (2018 [2020], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Taylor Swift: Folklore (2020, Republic): [r]: B+(***)
  • Marcin Wasilewski Trio/Joe Lovano: Arctic Riff (2019 [2020], ECM): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: Just Coolin' (1959 [2020], Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Abraham Burton: Live at Visiones, NYC 1993 (1993 [2020], self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers: Get in Union (1959-66 [2020], Global Jukebox): [r]: B+(**)
  • Owl Xounds Exploding Galaxy: The Coalescence (2007 [2020], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Sam Rivers: A New Conception (1966 (1967), Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Rivers: Streams: Recorded in Performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival (1973, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sam Rivers: Trio Live (1973 [1998], Impulse!): [r]: A-
  • Sam Rivers: Hues (1971-73 [1975], Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sam Rivers: Crystals (1974, Impulse!): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sam Rivers: The Quest (1976, RED): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sam Rivers: Paragon (1977, Fluid): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Rivers: Waves (1978 [1979], Tomato): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Rivers: Contrasts (1979 [1980], ECM): [r]: A-
  • Sam Rivers Quartet: Crosscurrent: Live at Jazz Unité (1981 [1982], Blue Marge): [r]: A-
  • Sam Rivers/Noël Akchote/Tony Hymas/Paul Rogers/Jacques Thollot: Configuration (1996, Nato): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sam Rivers: Concept (1995-96 [1997], RivBea): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sam Rivers & Alexander von Schlippenbach: Tangens (1997 [1998], FMP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Rivers/Doug Matthews/Anthony Cole/Jonathan Powell/David Manson: Fluid Motion (2002, Isospin Labs): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Rivers: Celebration (2003 [2004], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sam Rivers/Adam Rudolph/Harris Eisenstadt: Vista (2003 [2004], Meta): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sam Rivers/Ben Street/Kresten Osgood + Bryan Carrott: Purple Violets (2004 [2005], Stunt): [r]: B+(**)


Grade (or other) changes:

  • Jessie Ware: What's Your Pleasure? (2020, Interscope): [r]: [was: B+(***)]: A-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Duotrio: In the Bright and Deep (Blujazz)
  • Kenny Kotwitz & the LA Jazz Quintet: When Lights Are Low (PMRecords) [08-01]
  • Paulette McWilliams: A Woman's Story (Blujazz)
  • Jose Rizo's Mongorama: Mariposas Cantan (Saungu) [09-16]

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

A good headline to sum up the week comes from Philip Rucker: Trump's week of retreat: The president reverses course as the coronavirus surges out of control. Rucker lists various things that Trump had to backpeddle on -- wearing masks, opening schools, packing his convention hall in Jacksonville, insisting Congress cut payroll taxes. You know, things that any reasonable adviser could have predicted weeks or months ago. Turns out the will doesn't always triumph over reality. And speaking of reality: Coronavirus updates: US deaths top 1,000 for fourth consecutive day. Also: Rebecca Rainey: New unemployment claims rose last week to 1.4M, ending months of declines.

Here's a meme which pretty succinctly sums up where the President's head is at these days. No idea where it originated, but Sue Katz posted it on Facebook, and Laura Tillem forwarded it.

Here's a tweet, attributed to Richard Feynman:

Schrödinger's Douchebag:

A guy who says offensive things and decides whether he was joking based on the reaction of people around him.

Or in Trump's case, since he isn't much good at judging reactions of people around him, based on subsequent polling, or less formally on how Fox's talking heads decide to spin it.


Some scattered links this week:

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Daily Log

Watched We the Animals, to be discussed by Laura's film group. Can't say as I enjoyed it much. Story of three brothers, closely spaced, maybe 9-12 years old, running wild through upstate New York, their parents troubled and sometimes estranged, the father given to violence, mother to depression, with overtones of race (mixed) and a muddled reference to "emerging homosexuality." Reminded me how little I liked boys of that age, even given the relative order and comfort of my situation. (I also found the constant shirtlessness creepy.)

I started watching The Plot Against America, but stopped after the first episode. I may go back to it, especially given that the series only ran 6 episodes, but looks like it will be a chore. Meanwhile, I watched Watchmen. We had watched the first episode when it came out, then a second a couple months later after all the rave reviews, but didn't get into either, not least because it was so confusing. Turns out that 80-90% of the series is background flashbacks, trying to tie all this confusion into a neat ball, although it still winds up with lots of incredible loose ends. The biggest unexplaind gap is still how Jon Osterman transformed into Dr. Manhattan, and how that "god" terrorized Vietnam into becoming America's 51st state. But the more basic problem is why anyone should care about this alternate world. Unless you think "never trust the white guy" is a worthwhile lesson? Even so, Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) and Wade Tillman (Tim Blake Nelson) redeem themselves by finally arresting (more like rendering) Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons). But more typical are the closet Klansmen, including some hiding in high places.

Trying to shop for gluten-free baking. I have America's Test Kitchen's cookbook, which mostly calls for their own flour blend:

  • 24 oz white rice flour
  • 7.5 oz brown rice flour -- Anthony's 5 lb $13.99
  • 7 oz potato starch
  • 3 oz tapioca starch -- Anthony's 2.5 lb $11.99
  • 0.75 oz nonfat milk powder

Some comparative shopping:

Ordered from Amazon:

  • White rice flour: Pure Organic, 3 lb, $17.48 (0.36)
  • Brown rice flour: Naturtonix, 3 lb, $11.95 (0.25)
  • Psyllium husk powder: Kate Naturals, 12 oz, $17.75 in bundle
  • Xanthan gum: Kate Naturals, 8 oz, in bundle
  • Nonfat milk powder: NOW Foods, 12 oz, $8.99

Ordered from Whole Foods:

  • White rice flour: Bob's Red Mill, 24 oz, $3.99 (0.17)
  • Oat flour: Arrowhead Mills, 16 oz, $3.49 (0.22)
  • Tapioca flour: Bob's Red Mill, 16 oz, $3.69 (0.23)


   Mar 2001