August 2014 Notebook


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Having a lot of trouble focusing these days. Partly the number of things broken and need of (often expensive, sometimes just time consuming) repairs has been mind-boggling. And with the blog on the blink, I've fallen into a two-day week rut, compiling "Music Week" on Mondays then trying to catch up with the world on "Weekend Roundup" on Sundays. Several of the bits below could have been broken out into separate posts -- indeed, I wonder if they shouldn't all be.

I'm thinking especially of the Michelle Goldberg "Two-State" comment as something I could have written much more on. I don't know if I made the point clearly enough below, so let me try to sum it up once more: there are several distinct but tightly interlocked problems with Two-State: (1) the natural constituency for Two-State (at least among pro-Israelis) is the "liberal Zionists" -- an ideology based on an unsustainable contradiction, and therefore a diminishing force -- and without supporters Two-State is doomed to languish; (2) when liberals break from Zionism (which is inevitable if they have both principles and perception) they must do so by committing to universal rights, which means they must at least accept One-State as a desirable solution (Goldberg, by the way, fails this test); (3) as long as [illiberal] Zionists refuse to implement Two-State (and they have a lot of practice at staving it off), liberals (anyone with a desire for peace and justice) should regroup and insist on universal rights (e.g., One-State); (4) under pressure, I think that Zionists will wind up accepting some version of Two-State rather than risking the ethnic dilution of One-State. People like Goldberg would be better off getting ahead of this curve rather than trying to nitpick it. Someone like Netanyahu has thousands of excuses for postponing agreement on a viable Two-State solution. On the other hand, he has no legitimate defense against charges that Israel is treading on the basic human rights of millions of Palestinians under occupation. That's where you want to focus the political debate. And that shouldn't be hard given Israel's recent demonstration of its abuse of power.

The march to war against ISIS is another subject worthy of its own post. There are many examples, but the one I was most struck by this week was a letter to the Wichita Eagle, which reads:

The threat of ISIS appears similar to the threat of the Nazis before World War II. The Europeans ignored Adolf Hitler's rising power because they were tired of war.

As ISIS spreads through the Middle East at will, our nation's leaders are assessing how to counter this threat. ISIS is well-equipped, having seized abandoned equipment the United States gave the Iraqi army, and it is growing in strength, numbers and brutality.

What is the U.S. to do? That decision is in the hands of our nation's leaders. However, with the future leader of ISIS having said in 2009 to U.S. soldiers who had held him prisoner, "I'll see you in New York," trying to avoid conflict because we're tired of war should not be the determining factor.

Much of Europe succumbed to Hitler because Europeans were "tired of war."

Similar? Germany had the second largest economy in the world in the 1930s, one that was reinvigorated by massive state spending on munitions at a time when the rest of the world was languishing in depression. Even so, Hitler's appetite far exceeded his grasp. Germany was able to score some quick "blitzkrieg" victories over France, Norway, and Poland, and occupy those countries through fronts offered by local fascists -- the Vichy government in France, Quisling in Norway, etc. But even given how large and strong Germany was, it was unable to sustain an assault on the British Isles, and its invasion of Russia stalled well short of the Urals. And, of course, provoking the US into entering the war hastened Germany's loss, but that loss was very likely anyway. It turns out that the world is not such an easy place to conquer, and authoritarian regimes breed resistance everywhere they tread.

In contrast, ISIS is a very limited backwater rebellion. Its extremist Sunni salafism limits it to about one-quarter of Iraq and maybe one-half of Syria, and it was only able to flourish in those areas because they have been severely war-torn for many years. They lack any sort of advanced manufacturing base. Their land is mostly desert, so very marginal for agriculture. Their "war machine" is built on confiscated weapons caches, which will quickly wear out or be exhausted. They do have some oil, but lack refineries and chemical plants. Moreover, their identity is so narrow they will be unable to extend their rule beyond war-torn Sunni regions, where they're often viewed as more benign (or at leas less malign) than the Assad and Maliki regimes.

So it's hard to imagine any scenario where ISIS might expand beyond its current remote base: comparing it to Germany under Hitler is laughable. The one thing they do have in common is an enthusiasm for war, developed out of a desire to avenge past wars. You might say that that the West after WWI was "tired of war" but that seems more like a sober assessment of how much was lost and how little gained even in winning that war -- after Afghanistan and Iraq, most Americans are similarly dismayed at how much they've lost and how little they've gained after more than a decade of war. Many Germans, on the other hand, were willing to entertain the delusion that they only lost due to treachery, and that a rematch would solve all their problems. It's easy in retrospect to see this asymmetry in war lust as a "cause" of the war, but jumping from that insight to a conclusion that the West could have prevented WWII by standing up to Hitler sooner is pure fantasy. To prevent WWII you'd have to go back to Versailles and settle the first phase of what Arno Mayer later dubbed "the thirty-years war of the 20th century" on more equitable terms -- as effectively (albeit not all that consciously) happened after WWII.

As with post-WWI Germans, ISIS' enthusiasm for war is rooted in many years of scars -- scrapes with the French and British colonialists, with Israel, with brutal Baathist dictators, with the US invasion of Iraq and American support for Kurdish and Shiite militias. Most ISIS soldiers grew up with war and know little else -- in this the people they most closely resemble are not the Nazis but the Taliban, a group which resisted long Russian and American occupations, separated by a bloody civil war and a short-lived, brutal but ineffective period in power. On the other hand the idea that the US should shrug off their "war weariness" and plunge into another decade-plus struggle with another Taliban knock-off isn't very inspiring. Isn't repeating the same steps hoping for different results the very definition of insanity?

Still, the war drums keep beating. The Wichita Eagle has had three such op-eds in the last week on ISIS: from Charles Krauthammer, Cal Thomas, and Trudy Rubin -- each with the sort of screeching hysteria and ignorance of ecology I associate with finding roaches under the bathroom lavoratory. Clearly, what gets their goat more than anything is the very idea of an Islamic State: it looms for these people as some sort of existential threat that must be exterminated at any cost -- a reaction that is itself every bit as arbitrary, absolutist, and vicious as what they think they oppose. But in fact it's merely the logical response to the past wars that this same trio have urged us into. It's worth recalling that there was a day when small minds like these were equally convinced that the Germans and Japanese were all but genetically disposed to hatred and war. (Robert Morgenthau, for instance, wanted to spoil German farms with salt so they wouldn't be able to feed enough people to field an army -- that was 1945?) Europe broke a cycle of war that had lasted for centuries, not by learning to be more vigilant at crushing little Hitlers but by joining together to build a prosperous and equitable economy. The Middle East -- long ravaged by colonialism, corruption, and war -- hasn't been so lucky, but if it is to turn around it will be more due to "war weariness" than to advances in drone technology. The first step forward will be for the war merchants to back away -- or get thrown out, for those who insist on learning their lessons the hard way.

Some more scattered links this week:

  • Michelle Goldberg: Liberal Zionism Is Dying. The Two-State Solution Shouldn't Go With It. This starts off with a point (a major concession, really) that bears repeating:

    In 1948, Hannah Arendt published an essay in the magazine Commentary -- at the time still a liberal magazine -- titled "To Save the Jewish Homeland." She lamented the increasingly militaristic, chauvinistic direction of Zionism, the virtual unanimity among Jews in both the United States and Palestine that "Arab and Jewish claims are irreconcilable and only a military decision can settle the issue; the Arabs, all Arabs, are our enemies and we accept this fact; only outmoded liberals believe in compromises, only philistines believe in justice, and only shlemiels prefer truth and negotiation to propaganda and machine guns . . . and we will consider anybody who stands in our way a traitor and anything done to hinder us a stab in the back."

    This nationalist strain of Zionism, she predicted, might succeed in establishing a state, but it would be a modern-day Sparta, "absorbed with physical self-defense to a degree that would submerge all other interests and activities." It would negate the very humanistic Jewish values that originally fed the Zionist dream. "Palestine Jewry would eventually separate itself from the larger body of world Jewry and in its isolation develop into an entirely new people," she writes. "Thus it becomes plain that at this moment and under present circumstances a Jewish state can only be erected at the price of the Jewish homeland."

    It's difficult to avoid the conclusion, sixty-six years later, that she was right.

    Goldberg then cites Antony Lerman's recent The End of Liberal Zionism:

    The romantic Zionist ideal, to which Jewish liberals -- and I was one, once -- subscribed for so many decades, has been tarnished by the reality of modern Israel. The attacks on freedom of speech and human rights organizations in Israel, the land-grabbing settler movement, a growing strain of anti-Arab and anti-immigrant racism, extremist politics, and a powerful, intolerant religious right -- this mixture has pushed liberal Zionism to the brink. [ . . . ]

    The only Zionism of any consequence today is xenophobic and exclusionary, a Jewish ethno-nationalism inspired by religious messianism. It is carrying out an open-ended project of national self-realization to be achieved through colonization and purification of the tribe.

    "Liberal Zionist" is a contradiction that cannot survive. Indeed, in Israel it is all but dead. The key tenet of liberalism is belief in equal rights for all. In Israel it is virtually impossible to find any political party -- even "far left" Meretz -- willing to advance equal rights for the "Palestinian citizens of Israel" much less for those Palestinians under occupation. On the other hand, the debate as to whether Zionism is inherently racist has been proven not just in theory but empirically. As Max Blumenthal shows in Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, everywhere you look in Israel you see growing evidence of racism.

    In America, it's long been possible for many people (not just Jews) to combine domestic liberalism with an unthinking, uncritical allegiance to Israel. Of course it's getting harder to sustain the ignorance that allows one to think of Israel as a just nation. (The so-called Christian Zionists -- or as Chris Hedges puts it, "American fascists" -- require fewer illusions, since they are likely to be racist and militarist at home as well as abroad.) It sounds like Goldberg -- an early J-Street supporter -- has started to make the break, but she's still not willing to go full-liberal and endorse full and equal rights for all Israelis and Palestinians -- the so-called One-State Solution. She wants to salvage the so-called Two-State Solution, with Israel returning (for the most part) to its 1967 borders and an independent Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank (with or without Jerusalem as its capitol).

    The Two-State Solution was originally proposed by the UN in 1947, but the Zionist leadership weren't satisfied with the proposed borders, and the Palestinian leadership objected to the whole thing, preferring a unified democracy (with a 2-to-1 Arab majority) where nobody would have to move. After the 1949-50 armistice lines were drawn, Israel greatly expanded its borders and had expelled over 700,000 Arabs from its territory, ensuring Jewish demographic dominance. Those borders, which held until 1967, have long been accepted as permanent by most Palestinian groups and by all neighboring Arab countries: a deal that could have been made by Israel any time since the mid-1990s, but which wasn't, because no ruling party in Israel would accept such a deal, nor would the US or the so-called Quartet (which had endorsed the deal) apply significant pressure on Israel to settle. There are lots of reasons why Israel has taken such an intransigent stand. One is that the demise of liberalism leaves Israel with no effective "peace block" -- the price of occupation has become so low, and the political liabilities of peace so high, that Israel currently has no desire to change the status quo.

    This is, of course, a huge problem for anyone who believes in equal rights and/or who puts a positive value on peace in the Middle East. Such people -- by which I mean pretty much all of us (except for a few warmongers and apocalypse-hungry Christians) -- can only make progress toward a settlement by putting pressure on Israel, which is to say by increasing the costs to Israel of its present occupation policies. One way is to counter Israeli propaganda, to expose the facts of occupation and to delegitimize Israel's position. Another step is BDS, with the prospect of growing ever more extensive and restrictive. Another is to adjust the list of acceptable outcomes: that may mean giving precedence to the inclusive, equal rights One-State Solution over the unsuccessful Two-State scheme.

    The fact is that Two-State was a bad idea in 1947 and remains a bad idea today: it is only slightly less bad now because the "ethnic cleansing" that could have been avoided in 1947 is ancient history now; it is also slightly worse because it leaves us with a lot of refugees who will still be unable to return to Israel, and who still have to be compensated and patriated elsewhere. The dirty secret of the Two-State Solution is that it leaves Israel unaltered (except for the relatively trivial loss of some settlements) -- free to remain the racist, militarist Sparta it has become ever since 1948. That's why Israel will choose Two-State over One-State: Two-State guarantees that their Jewish state will remain demographically supreme, whereas One-State risks dilution of their ethnic solidarity. But even if the West's game plan is Two-State all along, you're not going to get there without playing the One-State card. If a US administration finally decides we need to settle this conflict, it won't start (as Obama did) by demanding a settlement freeze; it will start by demanding equal rights for all within whatever jurisdictions exist, and complete freedom from Israel for any jurisdictions that do not offer full and equal Israeli citizenship. Only then will progress be made. The problem with Goldberg's plea is that she's still willing to sacrifice her principles for Israel's identity.

  • Ezra Klein: The DNC'a braidead attack on Rand Paul: Paul's been reading Hillary Clinton's neocon ravings, and responded: "We are lucky Mrs. Clinton didn't get her way and the Obama administration did not bring about regime change in Syria. That new regime might well be ISIS." The DNC's response: "It's disappointing that Rand Paul, as a Senator and a potential presidential candidate, blames America for all the problems in the world, while offering reckless ideas that would only alienate us from the global community. [ . .  ] That type of 'blame America' rhetoric may win Paul accolades at a conference of isolationists but it does nothing to improve our standing in the world. In fact, Paul's proposals would make America less safe and less secure." Klein adds:

    This is the brain-dead patriotism-baiting that Democrats used to loathe. Now they're turning it on Paul.

    There are a few things worth noting here. The first is the ferocity with which the DNC responded to an attack that was, in truth, aimed more at Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama. The second is the degree to which a Rand Paul-Hillary Clinton race would scramble the politics of national security, with Democrats running against Paul in much the way Bush ran against Kerry. And the third is that it's still the case in foreign policy, the real divide isn't left vs. right, but interventionists vs. non-interventionists.

    Actually, the "real" political divide is between status quo cons like Obama and Clinton on the "left" side and various flavors of crackpots (including Rand) on the "right." But in foreign policy, the latter have come to include a growing number of non-interventionists, not so much because they believe in peace and justice as because they've come to realize that imperial wars bind us closer to the dark-skinned aliens we claim to be helping, and because some of them begin to grasp that the security apparatus of the state they so loathe (mostly because it's democratic, or pretends to be) could just as easily turn on them. Meanwhile, Obama and Clinton have managed to hire virtually every known "liberal interventionist" as part of their efforts to toady up to the military-security complex, even though virtually none of their real-world supporters buy into that crap. Someone smarter than Rand Paul could turn this into a wedge issue, but he'll tie it to something stupid like preventing the Fed from counteracting recessions.

    Also see Paul Rosenberg: Don't do it, Hillary! Joining forces with neocons could doom Democrats: One thing on his mind is LBJ and Vietnam (who like Hillary was willing to do "dumb stuff" to not appear cowardly), but there's also this:

    Here's the dirtiest of dirty little secrets -- and it's not really a secret, it's just something no one ever talks about: The entire jihadi mess we're facing now all descends from the brilliant idea of "giving the Soviets their own Vietnam" in Afghanistan. How's that for learning a lesson from Vietnam? Well, that's the lesson that Jimmy Carter's crew learned -- and Ronald Reagan's gang was only too happy to double down on.

  • Richard Silverstein: The Jingoism of Anti-Jihadism: Starts with a Netanyahu quote from September 11, 2001, that's worth being reminded of (from New York Times):

    Asked tonight what the attack meant for relations between the United States and Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister, replied, "It's very good." Then he edited himself: "Well, not very good, but it will generate immediate sympathy." He predicted that the attack would "strengthen the bond between our two peoples, because we've experienced terror over so many decades, but the United States has now experienced a massive hemorrhaging of terror."

    I remember watching him on TV at the time, as well as a similarly gloating Shimon Peres, and a slightly more somber John Major offering to share with the US Britain's vast experience in cultivating terrorists. You couldn't ask for better examples of how to react badly and make a problem worse. Silverstein then quotes from Hillary Clinton's Atlantic interview ("They are driven to expand. Their raison d'etre is to be against the West, against the Crusaders, against the fill-in-the-blank -- and we are all fit into one of these categories. How do we try to contain that? I'm thinking a lot about containment, deterrence, and defeat."):

    Here you have a perfect example of the sickness I outlined above. In the 1950s communism was the bugaboo. Today, it's jihadism. Clinton's conception of the latter uses almost exactly the same terms as those of the Red Scare: words like expansionist, angry, violent, intolerant, brutal, anti-democratic. There's even a touch of Reaganism in Clinton's portrayal of the fall of communism. There's the notion that through all of our machinations against the Soviet Union -- the assassinations, the coups, the propping up of dictators -- all of it helped in some unspecified way to topple Communism. She further bizarrely characterizes our anti-Communist strategy as an "overarching framework," when it was little more than knee-jerk oppositionalism to the Red Menace.

    What is most pathetic about this political stance is that it offers no sense of our own identity, of what we stand for. Instead, it offers a vague, incohate enemy against whom we can unite. We are nothing without such enemies.

    Next up is David Brooks, if you care. Richard Ben Cramer, in How Israel Lost: The Four Questions (by the way, probably the best single book about Israel in the last twenty years) hypothesizes that the reason Israel is so determined not to negotiate an end to the conflict is that its leaders fear losing the shared identity of having a common enemy in the Palestinians. Take the conflict away and the various Jewish subgroups -- the Ashkenazi, Sephardim, Mizrachi, Russians, Americans -- will splinter and turn on each other, fighting over diminishing spoils in a suddenly ordinary state.

    For more on Netanyahu, see Remi Brulin: Israel's decades-long effort to turn the word 'terrorism' into an ideological weapon.

  • More Israel links:

Also, a few links for further study:

  • Dean Baker: Subverting the Inversions: More Thoughts on Ending the Corporate Income Tax: Baker is arguing that the inefficiencies caused by the Corporate Tax Avoidance Industry are so great that we might be better off eliminating the tax altogether: if there were no tax, there'd be no need for corporations to pay lobbyists and accountants to hide their income, and we'd also eliminate scourges like private equity companies. First obvious problem here is that leaves a $350 billion revenue shortfall, which Baker proposes recovering with higher dividend and capital gains tax rates. (Of course, we should do that anyway.) One long-term problem is that federal taxes have radically shifted from being collected from businesses to individuals, which makes the tax burden more acutely felt by the public. A VAT would help shift this back, but so would anything that tightened up loopholes and reduced corporate tax evasion. Another advantage of having a corporate income tax is that it could be made progressive, which would take an extra bite out of especially large and/or profitable companies -- the former mostly benefitting from weak antitrust enforcement, the latter from monopoly rents -- which would both raise more revenue and take it from companies that are relatively safe from competition. I'm not strictly opposed to what Baker is proposing, but I'd like to see it worked out in a broader context that includes many other tax reforms that tackle inequality, lack of competition, globalization, and patents more systematically. I suspect Baker would prefer this too.

    Also see Baker's Patent Monopolies: The Reason Drug Companies Pushed Synthetic Opioids.

  • Andrew Hartman: Hegel Meets Reagan: A review of Rick Perlstein's The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.

  • Medium's CSS is actually pretty f***ing good. [Warning: very nerdy.] CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. The visual design properties of web pages can generally be controlled by attaching CSS code to the "generic markup code" in a web page (something called HTML). Having worked with pre-Web GMLs (Generic Markup Languages, especially the standardized one, SGML), I've always been very "old school" about coding web pages, which means I've never embraced CSS as a programming paradigm. So my reaction here was first one of shock that so much work went into this. (Looks like four programmers for a couple years, although it's unlikely that they only wrote CSS.) I was also at a loss for much of the terminology (LESS? SASS? mixin?), not that I can't guess what "z-index" implies. It's not that I haven't learned anything in the 15 years since I started building web sites, and it's certainly not necessarily the case that what's changed has changed for the better, but if I'm going to get over the hump of embracing this change I need good examples of making it worthwhile. And this, I suspect, is one.

  • Anya Schiffrin: The Rise and Fall of Investigative Journalism: An international compendium, spun off from her new book, Global Muckraking: 100 Years of Investigative Journalism from Around the World. This, by the way, is one of the few things I've read this week that make me feel more hopeful.

  • Rebecca Solnit: Men Explain Things to Me: Reprints the title essay, or at least an early draft of it, to Solnit's new book. Of course, I've had clueless men explain things to me, too. (A few clueless women as well, but singling out men is within reasonable statistical norms.) And in groups I have a relatively sensitive CSMA/CD switch, so I'm easily interrupted and loathe to reclaim the floor, so the larger the group the more likely I am to be regaled with unrefuted (not irrefutable) nonsense. Much of my consciousness of such dynamics comes from reading early feminist texts long ago, revelatory even in cases where women are reacting not so much to gender as to implicit power relationships -- something gender was (and not uncommonly still is) inextricably bound up in, but something that didn't end with gender. So Solnit's stories speak to me, even when the precise terminology is slightly off. [One of my favorite tech acronyms, CSMA/CD stands for "carrier sense multiple access with collision detection" -- an algorithm for efficiently deciding when a computer can send data over a common bus network. The same would work for deciding who speaks when in an open room, but actual results are often distorted by volume and ego.]

  • A few more links on Michael B. Katz:

One more little thing. I put aside the August 19, 2014 issue of the Wichita Eagle because I was struck by the following small items on page 3A:

Man sentenced to more than 7 years in prison . . . Scott Reinke, 43, was given 86 months in prison for a series of crimes including burglary, theft, possession of stolen property, making false information and fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement. . . . In tacking on the additional time last Friday, [Judge Warren] Wilhelm noted Reineke had a criminal history of more than 50 felony convictions.

Kechi man gets nearly 10 years for child porn . . . Jaime Menchaca, 34, of Kechi pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography and was sentenced to 110 months in prison. . . . In his plea, Menchaca admitted that on Sept. 13 he sent an e-mail containing child pornography to a Missouri man.

There's also another piece on page 5A:

Sex offender pleads guilty to child porn . . . Dewey had a 1999 conviction in Pueblo, Colorado, for attempted sexual assault of a child. He admitted in court Monday that he was found last September with images and videos of child pornography that he obtained via the Internet.

Prosecutors and the defense have agreed to recommend a 20-year prison term when Dewey is sentenced on Nov. 4.

This struck me as an example of something profoundly skewed in our criminal justice system. I won't argue that child pornography is a victimless crime (although what constitutes pornography can be very subjective), but possession of a single image strikes me as a much more marginal offense than repeated instances of property theft. (I don't think I even noticed the last case until I went back to look for the first two; it's harder to judge.) Glad the burglar/thief is going to jail, but wonder if it wouldn't make more sense for the child porn defendant to spend some time with a shrink, and maybe pay a nominal fine.

Also on the front page of the Eagle is an article called "Kan. GOP lawmakers vow to look out for oil interests": Senator Roberts, Reps. Huelskamp, Pompeo, and Jenkins prostate themselves at a Kansas Independent Oil & Gas Association confab. They all agreed they wanted lower taxes and less regulation. Nobody said much about the recent tenfold increase in earthquakes.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Daily Log

Went to a movie yesterday, so I thought I should catch up, without going to the trouble of posting anything. (Notation appears to have gone out of date. This is everything I can recall from 2014.)

Movie: Cavalry: A-

Movie: A Most Wanted Man: B

Movie: Belle: A-

Movie: The Lego Movie: B-

Movie: The Grand Budapest Hotel: B+

That's all I'm seeing for the whole year. I've certainly never seen so few films eight months into the year any time since I've been with Laura. We must have seen some late 2013 releases early in the year. Several films in the theatre now I'm interested in: Boyhood; The Hundred-Foot Journey; Magic in the Moonlight; Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Wouldn't mind seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes or Lucy either.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Music Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

I added my own two cents:

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

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

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

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

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

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

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

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

Old records rated this week:

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

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Weekend Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some scattered links this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • More Israel Links:

Also, a few links for further study:

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Daily Log

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Rhapsody Streamnotes (August 2014)

Pick up text from here.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Music Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

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

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

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

Old records rated this week:

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

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

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


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

Miscellaneous notes:

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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Weekend Roundup

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

  • Matthew Harwood: One Nation Under SWAT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • More Israel links:

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

Also, a few links for further study:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Music Week

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

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

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

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

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

New records rated this week:

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

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

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

Old records rated this week:

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

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

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

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Weekend Roundup

Some scattered links this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Israel/Palestine links:

Also, a few links for further study:

Friday, August 08, 2014

Daily Log

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

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

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Downbeat Readers Poll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full breakdown on the ballot albums below the fold.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Organ: Brian Charette.

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

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

Electric Bass: Steve Swallow.

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

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

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

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

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

Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole.

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

Composer: Steve Lehman.

Arranger: Steven Bernstein.

Record Label: Clean Feed.

Blues Artist or Group: Lurrie Bell.

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

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

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

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

Some more detailed information on the albums.

New album lists (graded):

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

New albums list (ungraded):

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

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

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

Historical album lists (graded/ungraded):

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

Blues album lists (graded/ungraded):

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

Beyond album lists (graded/ungraded):

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Music Week

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended music links:

New records rated this week:

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

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

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

Old records rated this week:

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

Grade changes:

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

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

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

Monday, August 04, 2014

Weekend Roundup

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week's scattered links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • More Israel links:

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

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Notes on Everyday Life

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

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

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

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

Daily Log

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

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

More table notes:


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

Jul 2014