Sunday, March 31, 2019
Started late, figuring I'd "just go through the motions," and
I'm giving up with maybe half of my usual sources unexamined.
Anyhow, this should suffice as a sample on what's gone on this
One piece I intended to link to was an article in the Wichita
Eagle a few days ago about sex abuse in the local Catholic diocese,
going back to the 1960s or earlier. My closest neighborhood friend
attended Catholic schools and often talked about how sex-obsessed
the priests were -- not that he was himself abused, but something
I found completely baffling at the time. That was something I often
wondered about When the scandals in Boston and elsewhere were finally
exposed, but until this article appeared I had never seen mention of
Wichita. Can't find the article on the Wichita Eagle website --
although I did find an earlier one,
KBI investigating clergy sex abuse cases in Kansas, asks victims to
come forward, mostly on Kansas City, KS.
Some scattered links this week:
Trump EPA appointees want more air pollution -- that's a very bad idea:
"Fine particulates are, if anything, massively under-regulated. . . . The
question of exactly how much we are under-regulating particulates seems
somewhat open to me, but the sign of the error is very clear."
The emerging 737 MAX scandal, explained: "It's more than bad
Amy Klobuchar's $1 trillion infrastructure plan, explained: "Fulfilling
a pledge Trump infamously left on the cutting room floor." Seems like a nice,
round ballpark figure, but I suspect the need is much more. Also note that
you could triple it and it would still cost less than the Iraq War
Elizabeth Warren's plan to make farming great again, explained: "A
crackdown on agribusiness conglomerates, and more."
The panic over yield curve inversion, explained: "A key financial
indicator says a recession is coming soon (maybe)."
It's time for Congress to do its job and investigate Trump:
It's worth remembering how Mueller's investigation came into existence.
Back in 2017, Trump's relationship with Russia was the only question
that Republicans, who controlled Congress, wanted to investigate.
Even on Inauguration Day, there were plenty of obvious lines of inquiry
into Trump to pursue. There were the credible allegations of sexual assault
(allegations that have only multiplied since then), the campaign contributions
that helped Trump University investigations go away, the fake charity Trump
ran for years, the dubious financing of his real estate ventures, and, of
course, the mystery of his tax returns.
Since he's taken office, the list of questions worthy of investigation
has only grown. There's his family members' weird security clearances,
reporting that a group of Mar-a-Lago club members appear to be running
the Veterans Administration, and the prosecution of Trump's personal
attorney Michael Cohen, which seems to have implicated Trump personally
in a crime.
The problem with all of this has been that Republicans didn't and don't
care. It was not until Nancy Pelosi took over as speaker of the House this
January that there was anything Democrats could do to take on these
questions without Republican help.
Democrats got behind Mueller's investigation because it was the only
game in town, not because it seemed incredibly promising. It was Trump's
abrupt decision to fire FBI Director James Comey, followed by months of
incredibly guilty-sounding tweets and other statements from the White
House, that led many of us to believe Mueller was likely to uncover
How Bowe Bergdahl may end up being the key to peace with the Taliban:
Author of the book American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the US Tragedy
in Afghanistan, which my wife recently read and touts as one of the
best books written on the whole misbegotten Afghanistan fiasco.
Will Rachel Maddow face a reckoning over her Trump-Russia coverage?
I've done my best to avoid her for more than the two years she's been
obsessed with Trump/Russiagate, but I've seen enough to suspect that
she's earned her winning spot in
The Post's Mueller Madness bracket -- she beat Ann Navarro, John
Oliver, John Brennan, and Stephen Colbert along the way. I've watched
Colbert regularly over the period, although he's sometimes stretched my
patience with his jokes on Mueller, Putin, and "treason" (a word that
should never be uttered). Of the other 30 bracket picks, I recognize
about two-thirds of the names, but only follow a couple regularly --
Jimmy Kimmel, Paul Krugman -- with another half-dozen I've read on
occasion. Most of those have a much broader critique of Trump, so I
doubt they'll have problems moving on.
Oliver North showed Republicans the way out: "Belligerence, shamelessness
and partisanship can take you far."
Alexia Fernandez Campbell:
The Mueller investigation is over. QAnon, the conspiracy theory that grew
around it, is not.
The media and the Mueller Report's March surprise.
Trump's order to open Arctic waters to oil drilling was unlawful, federal
David A Farenthold/Jonathan O'Connell:
Mary Fitzgerald/Claire Provost:
Trump-linked US Christian 'fundamentalists' pour millions of 'dark money'
into Europe, boosting the far right.
After the Mueller Report, the dream of a sudden, magic resolution to
the Trump tragedy is dead.
Of course, Donald Trump has not single-handedly destroyed the American
public sphere. It had been in decline for a while, with the horse-race
culture of its political campaigns, the anti-intellectual posture of
many of its politicians, and its media's obsession with entertainment.
But Trump has forced the deterioration to new lows. This is true of
Trumpism in general: its elements -- corruption, xenophobia, isolationism,
disdain for the media, denigration of the government, and lack of
transparency -- are not new phenomena but are, rather, long-standing
trends. But Trump represents a quantum shift, a leap into the abyss.
And much of the descent has gone underdiscussed by public figures and
undercovered by the media, which has been focussed on the investigation
by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, to the exclusion of much else.
The Mueller investigation, as a media story and a conversation topic,
has been irresistible largely because it promised a way to avoid thinking
of Trump as an American development. The Russian-collusion story dangled
the carrot of discovering that Trump was entirely foreign to U.S. politics,
a puppet of a hostile power. It also held the appeal of a secret answer to
our catastrophe, one that would make the unimaginable suddenly explicable.
The truth about Trump has been in plain view all along. The President has
waged an attack on political institutions, the law, and culture, and has
succeeded to an astonishing extent. We are no longer surprised, for example,
that more than a month passes between White House press briefings, or that
the President and his spokespeople lie openly and routinely. The assumption
that the Administration should at least act as though it were accountable
to the public has vanished, and we barely took notice.
The federal government gave up on retirement security: "As companies
shortchange employees with pensions, Treasury and Labor look the other
David A Graham:
The Steele Dossier set the stage for a Mueller letdown.
Did the media botch the Russia story? A conversation with Matt Taibbi.
Also see links to Taibbi's latest pieces, below.
Donald Trump is very committed to taking away your health insurance:
But in office, Trump has attempted to implement an agenda that does the
opposite. He's backed legislation, regulations, and lawsuits that would
make it harder for sick people to get health insurance, allow insurance
companies to discriminate against patients with preexisting conditions,
and kick millions of Americans off the Medicaid program.
This week, his Justice Department filed a legal brief arguing that a
judge should find Obamacare unconstitutional -- a decision that would
turn the insurance markets back into the Wild West and eliminate Medicaid
coverage for millions of Americans. By at least one estimate, a full
repeal could cost 20 million Americans their health care coverage.
Louisiana's disappearing coast: "The state loses a football field's
worth of land every hour and a half. Now engineers are in a race to
prevent it from sinking into oblivion."
The government failed to stop the last recession. It can prevent the next
one. A smorgasbord of ideas, none of which strike me as especially good
(or even appropriate), but perhaps worth thinking about. My impression is
that recessions are mainly caused by asset bubbles and excessive leverage,
and none of these really address those problems. Some do fit under the
rubric of "automatic stabilizers," which don't prevent recessions but do
limit the damage.
Enough collusion talk. It's time to focus on Trump's corruption:
"If there is a silver lining to the confusion and disappointment of
Russiagate, it is that we can now pay attention to the real fleecing."
This piece could have been written two years ago, and would still have
come too late. I always hated the "collusion talk" -- basically, four
reasons: it lazily recirculated cold war prejudices, ignoring the fact
that Russia's motives have fundamentally changed (from left to right,
from inept socialism to the oligarchy of mafia capitalism); it assumed
that a temporary alignment of interests (both Putin and Trump wanted
to bend their governments to better support the rich, and both were
deeply cynical and contemptuous of democracy) amounted to an alliance;
and they saw Trump (even as president) as naive and submissive to the
stronger and more cunning Putin; and finally, it was embraced most
fervently by Hillary Clinton's fans, because it seemed to offer an
explanation for her loss that she couldn't be held responsible for --
by a devious, hostile foreign power dedicated to hurting Americans by
denying us the blessings of her wise and generous rule, which brings
full circle to the lazy thinking of the first point. As Masha Gessen
notes above, Russiagate seemed to have the appeal of a magic bullet,
but it ignored the simpler explanation, which was that Trump was no
more than a "useful idiot" for Putin, the Kochs, the Mercers, and a
cast of others (including Israelis and Saudis and Chinese and less
notorious "foreigners") -- made useful precisely because he was and
is so utterly, shamelessly corrupt. So sure, let's talk about his
corruption now, as many of us have been doing since he selected his
cabinet and started cashing in chits at his hotels. But we should
also acknowledge that a big part of why Clinton lost was that she
was tainted by the same corruption as Trump: in fact, he could even
brag about the favors his campaign dollars bought from her. Still,
I suspect that corruption misses the real crux of the problem with
Trump. There is a deeper problem with Trump, and indeed with nearly
all Republicans these days, and that is worldview: their understanding
of how the world works, and of how people should live and act in the
Trump is the 'world's worst cheat at golf,' new book says. The
book is Rick Reilly's Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump.
Mueller's many loose ends: "What comes next now that the probe is
The Green New Deal aims to get buildings off fossil fuels. These 6 places
have already started.
Georgia passes 6-week 'fetal heartbeat' bill that bans most abortions.
From victory to vengeance: Trump scents blood in 2020 fight:
t felt like a victory lap. At a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan on
Thursday night, surrounded by a sea of red Make America Great Again
hats, a defiant Donald Trump held the podium before a raucous crowd.
"After three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax
is finally dead," the president declared in a 90-minute speech.
Basking after the conclusion of special counsel Robert Mueller's
investigation, which clouded the first two years of his presidency,
Trump falsely claimed "total exoneration."
He vowed retaliation against some of his sharpest critics and
suggested consequences for the media were in order. He spoke of doing
away with Barack Obama's healthcare law. And he threatened to shut
down the US-Mexico border as early as next week.
It was a stark reminder of how Trump views his executive authority
and a glimpse of his looming fight for re-election.
On Russiagate and our refusal to face why Trump won:
Trump would already be president-elect before he was taken seriously as
an electoral phenomenon. Right up until the networks called Florida for
him on election night, few major American media figures outside of Michael
Moore -- who incidentally was also right about WMDs and ridiculed for it --
believed a Trump win possible.
The only reason most blue-state media audiences had been given for
Trump's poll numbers all along was racism, which was surely part of the
story but not the whole picture. A lack of any other explanation meant
Democratic audiences, after the shock of election night, were ready to
reach for any other data point that might better explain what just
Russiagate became a convenient replacement explanation absolving an
incompetent political establishment for its complicity in what happened
in 2016, and not just the failure to see it coming. Because of the
immediate arrival of the collusion theory, neither Wolf Blitzer nor
any politician ever had to look into the camera and say, "I guess people
hated us so much they were even willing to vote for Donald Trump."
Post-election, Russiagate made it all worse. People could turn on
their TVs at any hour of the day and see anyone from Rachel Maddow to
Chris Cuomo openly reveling in Trump's troubles. This is what Fox looks
like to liberal audiences.
Worse, the "walls are closing in" theme -- two years old now -- was
just a continuation of the campaign mistake, reporters confusing what
they wanted to happen with what was happening.
As the Mueller probe ends, new Russiagate myths begin.
Poll: Only 29 percent of Americans say Mueller Report clears Trump.
Russia is a threat to American democracy, with or without collusion:
Two subheds: "Russia is still a threat to American elections" and "There
was still a lot of Trump campaign contact with Russia." Both statements
are certainly true, but also taken out of context and blown out of
proportion. The biggest threat to American democracy is the outsized
influence of special interest money, especially its ability to focus
and control media. Putin's Russian state is essentially a protection
racket for international oligarchs. It's no surprise that they would
want to steer other countries' elections and politicians to advance
their interests -- indeed, pretty much everyone with the means tries
to do the same thing (not least, Americans who have interests/allies
all around the world). On the other hand, Russia's budget is trivial
compared to (to pick one of many domestic example) the Koch network,
and due to history they have to lurk in the shadows (in stark contrast
to Israel and Saudi Arabia).
The Joe Biden and Anita Hill controversy: "He just keeps apologizing --
without saying anything new."
New York Times Editorial Board:
The secret death toll of America's drones: "President Trump is making
it harder to know how many civilians the government kills by remote
New York Post Mueller Madness brackets:
- Rachel Maddow (MSNBC host) + + + +
- Ana Navarro (CNN contributor) - Maddow
- John Oliver (HBO "Last Week Tonight" host) + - Maddow
- Donny Deutsch (MSNBC contributor) - Oliver
- "Morning Joe" (MSNBC) - Brennan
- John Brennan (MSNBC national security analyst) + + - Maddow
- Don Lemon (CNN anchor) + - Brennan
- Chris Hayes (MSNBC host) - Lemon
- Bill Kristol (The Bulwark editor) + - Chait
- Natash Bertrand (The Atlantic writer) - Kristol
- Ryan Lizza (Esquire correspondent) - Chait
- Jonathan Chait (New York Magazine writer) + + + - Maddow
- Paul Krugman (New York Times columnist) + - Boot
- Jennifer Rubin (Washington Post blogger) - Krugman
- Max Boot (Washington Post columnist) + + - Chait
- Adam Davidson (New Yorker writer) - Boot
- Alec Baldwin (SNL actor) + + - Colbert
- Brian Ross (ABC former correspondent) - Baldwin
- Chuck Lorre ("The Big Bang Theory" producer) - Kimmel
- Jimmy Kimmel (ABC "Jimmy Kimmel Live" host) + - Baldwin
- Stephen Colbert (CBS "The Late Show" host) + + + - Maddow
- Ken Dilanlan (NBC intelligence reporter) - Colbert
- Joy Behar (ABC "The View" co-host) - Avenatti
- Michael Avenatti (Stormy Daniels' lawyer) + - Colbert
- Benjamin Wittes (Brookings Institute senior fellow) + - Milano
- Molly McKew (information warfare expert) - Wittes
- Alyssa Milano (actress) + + - Griffin
- Seth Abramson (University New Hampshire professor) - Milano
- Kathy Griffin (commedian) + + + - Colbert
- Laurence Tribe (Harvard Law School professor) + - Griffin
- Robert De Niro (actor) - Tribe
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
Got this letter from David Akalugo:
I peruse your site regularly & I have to say thanks since it's a
useful treasure trove & a nice contrast to Robert Christgau's work
(comparing grades helps).
I searched Bob Dylan on your site recently & noticed you graded
Blood on the Tracks as a B, which stunned me since most (Christgau
included) regard it as a classic. what's the reason(s) why you
disagree with the consensus? I'd love to know.
I'm afraid the grade conceals how intensely I dislike "Blood on the
Tracks." I never was a folk music fan, and the only Dylan I owned
before moving to St. Louis c. 1972 was "Rainy Day Women" (which I
loved), so when I finally started listening to his albums -- everyone
I knew there had most of them -- I found myself out of sync with the
prevailing opinions. That was the case with pretty much everything --
in the late 1960s I mutated from believing in everything Americans
were supposed to hold dear to scrutinizing (and often rejecting) all
the cant I heard. My problems with Dylan only got worse as he released
new albums. I found myself reacting almost precisely opposite to
Christgau (who was a mentor and would soon become a friend) and his
rock critic consensus building, which (as someone who was pretty
insecure and habitually uncertain) was rather fitful for me. I think
at the time everyone was looking at Dylan's decline and trying to find
shards of hope, with most latching onto "Blood" as his second
coming. I actually wrote an A- review at the time (see: "Rekord Report
3"), but looking back at it I can now see the resentment building. It
bubbled over after Christgau panned two records I had initially liked
much more: "Desire" and Bette Midler's "Songs for the New Depression"
(with a Dylan duo). I eventually graded both down to B, but that only
made me hate "Blood" more. After that, I gave up on Dylan, and didn't
listen to anything until I found myself enjoying "Good as I Been to
You" in 1992 (or maybe it was the Traveling Wilburys in 1988). Since
then I've been through nearly everything. "Blood" still turns my
stomach, although "objectively" it's well crafted with memorable songs
-- Maria Muldaur and Bettye LaVette have picked up some for their own
superb albums. So discounting my personal baggage it's probably an OK
album. But as the grader I feel I'm still entitled to a little pique.
Monday, March 25, 2019
Expanded blog post,
March archive (complete).
Music: current count 31297  rated (+22), 253  unrated (+2).
I expected a "lazy week," so my lowest rated count this year shouldn't
be a surprise. Was real low until the weekend, when I settled down to
write up a lengthy
Even then, I ran into a problem when Napster stopped playing (could search
and select records, but couldn't fetch any music). Probably the Flash plugin
got hosed, and could get restarted by rebooting, but I had too much stuff
up in the air to bother). Played some CDs -- the week's three two A- and
one B+(***) records. Beyond that, I mostly searched on Bandcamp (9 this week,
vs. 5 on Napster). Trad jazz pianist James Dapogny died last week. I went
looking for missing records and couldn't find any -- I especially recommend
Original Jelly Roll Blues (1993) and Hot Club Swing: Small Group
Swing (1994) -- but that led me to singer and sometime duo-partner Carol
Leigh. Still, neither of the records below involve Dapogny.
I didn't get around to moving the computer last week, even though I had
planned to do it right after last week's
Music Week. I'm
going to swear off predicting when I'm going to get that done. Weather
should be relatively nice next week, and I have a couple of woodworking
projects on tap, so that may be more fun. Took a couple of days last
week making a rather spectacular dinner. Menu, as best I recall:
- Roasted chicken with fennel, clementines, and arak [Ottolenghi]: sub
ouzo for arak.
- Sweet potato gratin [Ottolenghi].
- Cauliflower bacon gratin [Greenspan].
- Pumpkin gorgonzola flan [Greenspan]: did one large one instead of
- Spiced butter carrots [Greenspan].
- Piperade stir-fry [Greenspan].
- Orange & olive salad [Greenspan, but I mostly did Wolfert from
- Profiteroles [Reichl], with coffee/chocolate chip ice cream and hot
I used a lot of eggs and cream. I originally wanted to do veal marengo
[Greenspan], but the one grocery store that routinely stocks veal chops
had none (no veal at all, no lamb, seafood counter already shut down. I've
made that chicken recipe a number of times, so was able to amend my shopping
list from memory. Might even have been an improvement on the veal, although
that's another marvelous dish. I had to make the fudge sauce and assemble
the profiteroles after dinner, and couldn't serve them all at once, but
our guests coped.
This is the last Monday in March, so my
Streamnotes (March 2019)
file is complete.
New records reviewed this week:
- Cyrille Aimée: Live (2018, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
- Cyrille Aimée: Move On: A Sondheim Adventure (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B
- Chat Noir: Hyperuranion (2018 , RareNoise): [cdr]: B
- Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Channels (2017 , Intakt): [cd]: A-
- Ex Hex: It's Real (2019, Merge): [bc]: B+(**)
- Paolo Fresu/Richard Galliano/Jan Lundgren: Mare Nostrum III (2018 , ACT): [r]: B+(**)
- ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: First Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 [2018, ICP): [bc]: B+(*)
- ICP Orchestra: Live at the Royal Room: Second Set: 6 May 2015 (2015 , ICP): [bc]: B+(**)
- Anthony Joseph: People of the Sun (2018, Heavenly Sweetness): [bc]: B+(*)
- Liebman Rudolph & Drake: Chi (2018 , RareNoise): [cdr]: A-
- Dan McCarthy: Epoch (2019, Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
- Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (2019, self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Sean Noonan: Tan Man's Hat (2018 , RareNoise): [cdr]: B
- Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ancestral Recall (2019, Ropeadope): [bc]: B+(*)
- Dexter Story: Bahir (2019, Soundway): [bc]: B+(*)
- Urbanity: Urbanity (2018 , Alfi): [cd]: B
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Sun Ra and His Spirit of Jazz Cosmos Arkestra: WUHY Radio Philadelphia 1978 (1978 , Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(*)
- Townes Van Zandt: Sky Blue (1973 , Fat Possum): [bc]: B+(*)
- Aceyalone: All Balls Don't Bounce (1995, Capitol): [bc]: B+(**)
- Aceyalone: A Book of Human Language (1998, Project Blowed): [bc]: B+(**)
- Carol Leigh: Go Back Where You Stayed Last Night (1984 , GHB): [r]: B+(**)
- Carol Leigh/Dumouster Stompers: Back Water Blues (1993 , GHB): [r]: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Michaël Attias: Ëchos La Nuit (Out of Your Head): April 5
- Betty Carter: The Music Never Stops (1992, Blue Engine): March 29
- Stephan Crump/Ingrid Laubrock/Cory Smythe: Channels (Intakt)
- Fleurine: Brazilian Dream (Pure Imagination)
- Larry Fuller: Overjoyed (Capri): May 17
- Remy Le Boeuf: Light as a Word (Outside In Music): May 24
- Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (ESP-Disk)
- Terraza Big Band: One Day Wonder (Outside In Music): May 3
- Tiger Hatchery: Breathing in the Walls (ESP-Disk)
- Dave Zinno Unisphere: Stories Told (Whaling City Sound)
Sunday, March 24, 2019
Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller handed a report in to Attorney
General Bill Barr on Friday, and Barr released a letter to Congress
"summarizing" the report, spun primarily to let Trump off the hook.
Publication of the full report would be a fairly major news story,
but all we have to go on now is just Barr's spin. For example, see:
Barr: Evidence Mueller found not 'sufficient' to charge Trump with
obstruction. That's always seemed to me to be the probable outcome.
Anyone who thought Robert Mueller would treat Trump like Ken Starr and
his crew did the Clintons clearly knew nothing about the man. Moreover,
letting Barr break the news is resulting in much different headlines
than, say, when James Comey announced that he didn't find sufficient
evidence to charge Hillary Clinton with any crimes in her email case.
At the time, Comey buried the conclusion and spent 90% of his press
conference berating Clinton for her recklessness and numerous other
faults. You're not hearing any of that from Barr, although when the
final report comes out -- and presumably if not released someone will
manage to leak it -- the odds that someone else less in Trump's pocket
could have reported it more critically of Trump are dead certain. As
I write this, reactions are pouring in. For instance: William Saletan:
Look at all the weasel words Bill Barr used to protect Trump.
No time to unpack this now, and probably no point either. I started
to write something under Matt Taibbi below, wasn't able to wrap it up
neatly, and left it dangling. I'll return to the subject at some point,
hopefully with better perspective. But I would like to make two points
here. One is that anyone who tried to pin the word "treason" on Trump
has committed a grave mistake. The word assumes that we are locked in
a state of war that is fixed and immutable, something that we are not
free to make political decisions over. It is, in short, a word that we
should never charge anyone with, even a scoundrel like Trump. Moreover,
it is a word that through its assumptions indicts its user much worse
than its target. Those Democrats who used it should be ashamed and
apologetic. (Needless to say, the same goes for Republicans who hurled
the same charge at Obama and the Clintons.)
The second point is that we need to recognize that what we allow
politicians (like Trump, or for that matter the Clintons) to get away
with legally is a much bigger scandal than whether they ever get caught
violating the law. Indeed, if you take the Mueller Report as exonerating
Trump, you're inadvertently arguing that anything a person can get away
with is fair and acceptable.
Little bit of insight I picked up from Greg Magarian on Facebook:
It's so fucking easy to be conservative. That's maybe the gratest
under-the-radar reason to hate conservatives: because all they have
to do is stand around and let the world keep sucking.
Best news I've seen this week:
A century with Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Some scattered links this week:
Matthew Yglesias: Probably his least interesting bunch of
pieces since Trump was elected -- maybe he's letting his election as
"Chief Neoliberal Shill" (beating out Scott Linciome in the finals, and
a host of other obvious candidates along the way) go to his head, or
maybe he's just letting his mind wander as presidential campaign news
starts to heat up (although it looks to me like 16-18 months too early
Fred Barbash/Deanna Paul:
The real reason the Trump administration is constantly losing in
Why free trade is bad for you (or most of you at any rate): "Free
trade is simply a euphemism for the corporate capture of international
Ajay Singh Chaudhary:
The Amazon drama: "The Amazon HQ2 story is a microcosm of twenty-first
century capitalism and a parable about the changing nature of politics for
Gaby Del Valle:
Boeing and other companies put safety at a premium.
Anti-Muslim hate crimes soar in UK after Christchurch shootings.
Coincidentally: Ayal Feinberg/Regina Branton/Valerie Martinez-Ebers:
Counties that hosted a 2016 Trump rally saw a 226 percent increase in hate
Federal judge demands Trump administration reveal how its drilling plans
will fuel climate change.
Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump use private accounts for official business,
their lawyer says.
After Trump: "Centrist liberalism is dead, and Trump is a disaster.
But progressives can use what he's done to remake America and its place
in the world." I doubt the first premise here, but that may just be
semantics: neoliberal foreign policy -- support for globalized capital
protected by a world-wide military umbrella cemented through alliances
with dependent countries and occasional fits of fury with any countries
that aren't adequately deferential -- is so embedded in the psyches of
centrist Democrats that it's automatic even if they are dead. Still,
Trump's "America first" doctrine fractures those alliances, revealing
the underlying weakness of American hegemony, and it's going to be hard
to restore anything like the Pax Americana that thrived after WWII and
through the collapse of the Soviet Union.
What's missing from Bernie Sanders' 'Progressive International':
"To challenge fascists and weak-tea liberals, Sanders has called for
a Progressive International . . . but it's not very international."
Jacinda Ardern has rewritten the script for how a nation grieves after a
Kushner, Inc review: Jared, Ivanka Trump and the rise of the American
kakistocracy: Review of Vicky Ward's book, Kushner Inc.: Greed.
Ambition. Corruption. The Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and
Ivanka Trump. New word for me, reportedly coined in the 17th century:
kakistocracy: "a system of government which is run by the worst,
least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens."
Karen J Greenberg:
Trump wants to take away your citizenship: "The current administration
is bent on making it easier to denaturalize American citizens." [Title from
The Nation.] Also at TomDispatch: William Astore:
The Death of Peace: "America's senior generals find no exits from
Nuclear powers need to disarm before it's too late: "The world's major
nuclear powers are treaty-bound to move towards disarmament. The India-Pakistan
clash underscores the need to get moving."
Rosalind S Heiderman/David A Fahrenthold:
Trump's legal troubles are far from over even as Mueller probe ends.
How the politics of racial resentment is killing white people:
Interview with Jonathan Metzl, author of Dying of Whiteness: How
the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America's Heartland,
I look at the rejection of the Affordable Care Act in the South. I look
at policies that make it far easier for people to get guns and carry
guns everywhere. I look at tax cuts that benefit wealthy Americans
but cut roads, bridges, and schools in poor and working-class areas.
Every one of those policies has been sold as a policy that will make
America great again. But they have devastating consequences for
working-class populations, particularly working-class white populations,
in many instances. . . .
I found that if you lived in a state that rejected the Medicaid
expansion and blocked the full passage of the Affordable Care Act, you
lived about a 21- to 28-day shorter life span on the aggregate. So it
was costing people about three to four weeks of life in those states.
When I looked at states that made it incredibly easy for people to
buy and carry guns pretty much anywhere they wanted, I found that this
correlated with hundreds of deaths that wouldn't have happened otherwise,
particularly in white populations, because gun suicide rose dramatically.
And I found that if you lived in a state that cut away infrastructure and
schools and funding, that correlated with higher high school dropout
All these variables are associated with shorter life expectancies, so
this is what I mean when I say these policies are killing people.
The Midwest floods are going to get much, much worse: "An 'unprecedented'
flood season lies ahead this spring, according to NOAA."
Trump's North Korea strategy is an incoherent mess: I think Kaplan
is way off-base here (although I wouldn't dispute "incoherent" either
viz. Trump or his free-wheeling administration). Starting talks should
have started a process to unwind sanctions, even with only the loosest
general agreement of reducing tensions. The fact that Kim has called a
halt to testing of rockets and nuclear warheads is significant, as is
Trump's decision to suspend "war games" in the region. Both sides have
gotten the other's attention, and made some tangible progress, so why
not start to unwind the sanctions that had so severely isolated North
Korea as to convince them of the necessity of building a nuclear threat?
The only reason the US hasn't budged on this issue is that hard-liners
like Bolton have convinced Trump to keep up maximum pressure, that all
he has to do is to hang tough until Kim surrenders everything. Yet what
happened was that Treasury tried to add even more sanctions, only to
have Trump publicly withdraw them. Kaplan thinks "Kim is gaining the
upper hand," but aside from making Trump and his administration look
even more schizophrenic I can't think of any advantage Kim accrues.
Sure, he can go back to sabre rattling, but the only reason for that
in the first place was to get Washington's attention, to start the
process of talking. But until he gets some sanctions relief, all he's
got to show for his scheming is some pictures socializing with one of
the world's most reprehensible oligarchs. The only good news on this
front since the Hanoi summit ended is that South Korea is starting to
act on its own, in its own search for peaceful resolution, rather than
letting Trump and Bolton mess things up. See: Josh Rogin:
The United States and South Korea now openly disagree on North Korea.
Gun crazy: "Trump's record-setting military budget is bloated, illegal,
Base instinct: "Trump thinks US military deployments are a protection
racket, and nothing will convince him otherwise."
Nikki Haley is wrong: Finland takes care of new moms way better than the
We read Democrats' 9 plans for expanding health care. Here's how they
work. Since I have it up (it was foolishly recommended by a FB friend),
here's a link to Ezekiel J Emanuel:
Bernie Sanders thinks he can vanquish health insurers. He's wrong.
I read Emanuel's book, Healthcare, Guaranteed: A Simple Solution for
America, when it came out in 2008, along with another dozen books
on the subject. What he recommended then was marginally better than what
we had then, and his new plan is marginally better than what we have now,
but he's always been a shill for the insurance companies (see his "full
disclosure" buried deep in this piece), and his only core belief is that
billionaires shouldn't be inconvenienced by politicians, who in any case
will never be able to buck the rigged system. (His brother is Rahm Emmanuel,
so he should know something about how that system works.) On the other hand,
why would you even consider health care policy from someone who wrote
Why I Hope to Die at 75?
A spinal surgery, a $101,000 bill, and a new law to prevent more surprises:
"How New York state fought surprise medical bills -- and won."
The brewing fight over making the Mueller report public, explained.
It took one mass shooting for New Zealand to ban assault weapons.
Who's afraid of the International Criminal Court/ Mike Pompeo, for
Greedy Boeing's avoidable design and software time bombs.
What Mozambique's unfolding flooding catastrophe looks like.
Stephen Moore, the Trump loyalists nominated to the Fed, explained.
Oddly enough, when Trump picked Larry Kudlow as his chief economic adviser
I had him confused with Moore. Maybe I'll be able to keep them straight
from here on, although their stupidities are pretty interchangeable.
Presumably Moore will back Trump and fight for low interest rates. On
the other hand, as Catherine Rampell reminds us in a tweet:
Funnily enough, when we DID have deflation -- during the depths of the
financial crisis -- he argued for tighter monetary policy, suggesting
that the Fed was about to stoke hyperinflation. Of course, a Democrat
was in the White House then.
Trump's untruths about Veterans Choice illustrate the sheer audaciousness
of his lies: "Trump takes credit for a program he didn't create in
order to demean the late war hero who in fact created it." I'm not opposed
to giving McCain credit where credit is due, but can we please stop this
reflexive reference to him as a "war hero"? It's true that he fought in
a war, and one may certainly sympathize with his suffering during that
war, but nothing he did was heroic, and indeed the only thing Americans
should feel about that war is ashamed. In fact, I have more respect for
Trump's (no doubt selfish) efforts to avoid that war than I do for the
"gung ho" enthusiasm of McCain, Kerry, and many others. [PS: I wrote the
above before I read this piece on POW fetishism: H Bruce Franklin:
Trump vs McCain: an American horror story. If pressed, I would have
guessed that the reason Trump's base so hates McCain has nothing to do
with Vietnam; what they can't forgive him for is losing to Obama. I feel
that same way about Hillary Clinton losing to Trump.]
Kellyanne Conway's stunningly irresponsible advice: read New Zealand
mosque shooter's manifesto.
16 years later, how the press that sold the Iraq War got away with
In the popular imagination, the case for war was driven by a bunch of
Republicans and one over-caffeinated New York Times reporter
named Judith Miller. . . . It's been forgotten this was actually a
business-wide consensus, which included the enthusiastic participation
of a blue-state intelligentsia. The New Yorker of [David] Remnick,
who himself wrote a piece called "Making the Case," was a source of many
of the most ferocious pro-invasion pieces, including a pair written by
current Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg, one of a number of WMD
hawks who failed up after the war case fell apart. Other prominent Democrat
voices like Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait, and even quasi-skeptic Nick Kristof
(who denounced war critics for calling Bush a liar) were on board, as a
Full Metal Jacket character put it, "for the big win."
The Washington Post and New York Times were key
editorial-page drivers of the conflict; MSNBC unhired Phil Donahue and
Jesse Ventura over their war skepticism; CNN flooded the airwaves with
generals and ex-Pentagon stoolies, and broadcast outlets ABC, CBS, NBC
and PBS stacked the deck even worse: In a two-week period before the
invasion, the networks had just one American guest out of 267 who
questioned the war, according to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.
This is an excerpt from a new book, Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media
Makes Us Despise One Another, which seems to be available as some
subscription deal [actually, here's a
better link]. Following that link led me to another title:
"It's official: Russiagate is this generation's WMD." I'd like to
quote something here, but I'm having trouble making sense of Taibbi's
point -- other than the broader one that the media (both right and
"left") is corrupt, stupid, and vain, and as such rarely credible,
but you know that by now, don't you?.
PS: Pulled this from Taibbi's twitter feed:
As a purely journalistic failure, however, WMD was a pimple compared
to Russiagate. The sheer scale of errors and exaggerations this time
around dwarfs the last mess. Worse, it's led to most journalists
accepting a radical change of mission. We've become sides-choosers,
obliterating the concept of the press as an independent institution
whose primary role is sorting fact and fiction.
The problem I have here is that the WMD lie was simple, coherent,
and obviously directed by the White House, US security services, and
their allies, "Russiagate" is a vacuous mix of charges and innuendo,
poorly sourced, and reeking of sour grapes from the excuse-hunting
sore losers around Hillary Clinton. If you take that as a strict
definition, journalists like Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald are right to
be critical, but how much of the media has chosen to be that narrowly
partisan? Rachel Maddow is certainly one, and I'm sure there are many
more -- including a bunch I habitually avoid. On the other hand, some
journalists have helped sort fact from fiction, and those facts note
that: a fair number of Trump campaign staff had considerable contacts
with Russians and instinctively lied about them afterwards; also it
is clear that Russian cyber operators actively campaigned for Trump,
often reinforcing Trump's own campaign messages, although it is not
clear to what extent (if any) the two campaigns coordinated (in this,
Russia was acting much like the many "independent" PACs that favored
Trump for supposedly didn't coordinate with the Trump campaign); and
after the election, Trump and his circle lied about the contacts and
eventually organized a massive PR campaign to counter and discredit
the Mueller investigation, which led to uncovering further embarrassing
facts and behavior. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has turned out
to be the most thoroughly corrupt ruling clique in American history,
with dozens of inadequately reported scandals -- perhaps because it's
been convenient for both sides (originally Trump/Clinton, with varying
degrees of party allegiance) to focus on the banner charges: "collusion
with Russia" (often hysterically inflated to "treason") and "obstruction
of justice." [ . . . ]
How to blow $700 billion.
The Pentagon's bottomless money pit.
Trump wants more war money than last year and Democrats don't seem to
Turns out that trillion-dollar bailout was, in fact, real.
The massive anti-Brexit protest march in the UK, in 19 photos.
No collusion, plenty of corruption: Trump is not in the clear.
Monday, March 18, 2019
Expanded blog post,
March archive (so far).
Music: current count 31275  rated (+29), 251  unrated (-1).
Rated count down, probably by a lot mid-week, but I spent a lot of
time on the computer hacking out
Book Roundup then
Weekend Roundup, and made up ground late. I checked and found
that this was the third week in the last two months with exactly
29 records. Would have been more except that this has been another
banner A-list week.
Two came out of my jazz queue -- David Berkman, not out until
April 5, and Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico -- and they qualify as
news. Three were tipped off by
Phil Overeem (Little Simz, Dave, and Robert Forster -- although
the first two took a revisit before I became convinced). One (Todd
Snider) was written up by
Robert Christgau (along with Leyla McCalls's Capitalist Blues
and Our Native Daughters' Songs of Our Native Daughters, both A-
here in previous weeks). I was tipped off to the final one (Matt Brewer)
Chris Monsen tweet. Various other sources led me to lower-rated
records, but somehow the best tips keep coming from friends.
I've put off my office/computer reorganization, but should buckle
down and get it done this week (tomorrow I hope, after I get this post
up and get some fresh light to work with. Still some things unclear
about how it's all going to get put back together.
Getting some decent weather after several rough months. (The "bomb
cyclone" was kind of a dud here, although it lived up to its billing
a hundred miles north of here, even more so between there and Denver.)
Maybe I'll take some time and work on the yard and/or my nephew's house.
Also still stuck with a lot of stress over myriad health issues -- but
generally looks like a lazy week coming up.
New records reviewed this week:
- 2 Chainz: Rap or Go to the League (2019, Gamebread/Def Jam): [r]: B+(**)
- Abhi the Nomad: Marbled (2018, Tommy Boy): [r]: B+(***)
- Allison Au Quartet: Wander Wonder (2018 , self-released): [r]: B+(**)
- The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (2018 , Palmetto): [cd]: A-
- Matt Brewer: Ganymede (2018 , Criss Cross): [r]: A-
- Chai: Punk (2019, Burger): [r]: B+(*)
- The Coathangers: The Devil You Know (2019, Suicide Squeeze): [r]: B+(***)
- Theon Cross: Fyah (2017-18 , Gearbox): [r]: B+(*)
- Dave: Psychodrama (2019, Neighbourhood): [r]: A-
- Joey DeFrancesco: In the Key of the Universe (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
- Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (2018 , Iyouwe): [cd]: B
- Robert Forster: Inferno (2019, Tapete): [r]: A-
- Girlpool: What Chaos Is Imaginary (2019, Anti-): [r]: B
- Larry Grenadier: The Gleaners (2016 , ECM): [r]: B+(*)
- Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn: The Transitory Poems (2018 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Julian Lage: Love Hurts (2018 , Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(***)
- 4WD [Nils Landgren/Michael Wollny/Lars Danielsson/Wolfgang Haffner]: 4 Wheel Drive (2018 , ACT): [r]: B-
- Little Simz: Grey Area (2019, Age 101): [r]: A-
- Nivhek: After Its Own Death/Walking in a Spiral Towards the House (2019, Yellow Electric): [r]: B+(*)
- Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (2018 , Relative Pitch): [cd]: A-
- Sigrid: Sucker Punch (2019, Island): [r]: B+(**)
- Todd Snider: Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 (2019, Aimless): [r]: A-
- Carol Sudhalter Quartet: Live at Saint Peter's Church (2018 , Alfa Projects): [cd]: B+(**)
- Paul Tynan: Quartet (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (2018 , Taina Music): [cd]: B+(*)
- Sheck Wes: Mudboy (2018, Cactus Jack/GOOD Music/Interscope): [r]: B+(***)
- Nate Wooley: Columbia Icefield (2017 , Northern Spy): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- James Booker: Vol. 1: At Onkel Po's Carnegie Hall, Hamburg 1976 (1976 , Jazzline): [r]: B+(**)
- Kid Creole & the Coconuts: Live in Paris 1985 (1985 , Rainman): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Laura Antonioli: The Constant Passage of Time (Origin): April 12
- Chord Four: California Avant Garde (self-released): May 3
- Levon Mikaelian Trio: Untainted (self-released): March 26
- Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley: Strings 3 (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Nate Wooley/Matthew Shipp: Strings 4 (Leo)
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Stories that caught folks' interest this week included an airplane
that aims to crash, mass slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand, and the
revelation that some rich people got caught trying to cheat their way
into getting their kids enrolled by elite colleges (as opposed to the
proper way, which is to give the colleges extra money). On the latter,
I'd like to quote Elias Vlanton (on Facebook):
Missing the Forest for the Trees: A few rich people bribed their kids
into elite colleges. So what? The real scandal is an educational system
that favors rich students over poorer ones (regardless of color) from
the first day of pre-K through crossing the graduation stage, diploma
in hand. If every bribing parent is jailed, the real injustice of social
inequality will remain. Ending it is the real task.
The post was accompanied by a photo of some of Elias's students, who
look markedly different from the students caught up in this scandal.
This seems to be one of the few crimes in America with a means test
limiting it to the pretty rich. Actually, I feel a little sorry for
the parents and children caught up in this fraud -- not so much for
being victimized (although they were) as for the horrible pressures
they put upon themselves to succeed in a world that is so rigorously
rigged by the extreme inequality they nominally benefit from. I got
a taste of their world when I transferred to Washington University
back in 1973. That was the first time I met student who had spent
years prepping for SATs that would assure entrance to one of the
nation's top pre-med schools. It was also where I knew students who
tried (and sometimes managed) to hire others to write papers and to
take graduate school tests -- so I suppose you could say that was
my first encounter with the criminal rich. I always thought it was
kind of pathetic, but it really just reflects the desperation of
a pseudo-meritocracy. And true as that was then, I'm sure it's much
more desperate and vicious today.
One more thing I want to mention here: I saw a meme on Facebook
forwarded by one of my right-wing relatives. It read:
YESTERDAY IN THE PHILIPPINES A CHURCH WAS BOMBED BY MUSLIM TERRORISTS
KILLING 30 CHRISTIANS. NO MEDIA COVERAGE.
I suppose the intent was to complain about news coverage of the mass
shooting in New Zealand, where a "white nationalist" slaughtered 50
Muslims, implying that the "fake news" media is playing favorites again,
acting like Muslim lives are more valuable than Christian lives. I thought
I should at least check that claim out. Google offered no evidence of
such an attack, at least yesterday. However, I did find that two bombs
had been set off on January 27, 2019, at a Catholic Cathedral in Jolo,
Sulu, in the Philippines, killing 20 people. There's a pretty detailed
Wikipedia page on the attack, so that could be the event the meme
author is referring to. I've also found an article in the
New York Times, although the emphasis there is more on the growth
of ISIS within the long-running Islamic separatist revolt -- which
started immediately after he US occupied the Philippines in 1898,
and has flared up repeatedly ever since, most recently in response
to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (one of Trump's favorite
strongmen). (Also another article in
CNN.) The context stripped from the meme doesn't excuse the
atrocity, but it does help explain American media's limited interest.
I have several links on the New Zealand shooting below, and they too
reflect our rather parochial interest in the subject. Although pretty
much everyone deplores the loss of life in all terrorist atrocities,
the New Zealand one hit closer to home (for reasons that will be
obvious below -- see, e.g., Patrick Strickland).
Some scattered links this week:
"Jexodus," the fake departure of American Jews from the Democratic Party,
explained: Starts with two Trump tweets, not that he coined the term
but it was the sort of thing that stuck to his brain. To quote:
- "Jewish people are leaving the Democratic Party. We saw a lot of anti
Israel policies start under the Obama Administration, and it got worse
& worse. There is anti-Semitism in the Democratic Party. They don't
care about Israel or the Jewish people." Elizabeth Pipko, Jexodus.
- The 'Jexodus' movement encourages Jewish people to leave the Democrat
Party. Total disrespect! Republicans are waiting with open arms. Remember
Jerusalem (U.S. Embassy) and the horrible Iran Nuclear Deal! @OANN
If anyone's antisemitic here, it's Trump, with his assumption that
American Jews will flock to whichever party that gives Israel the most
uncritically blind support. Trump assumes the old charge that Jews feel
more allegiance to Israel than to America, and his second tweet makes
plain how he sets US policy based on his own political calculation.
The Manafort case is a reminder that we invest too little in catching
white-collar criminals: "It shouldn't take a special counsel to
catch a tax cheat."
Big walls, fruitless wars, and fortress America: Review of Greg
Grandin: The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall
in the Mind of America.
A mother swept away by climate change: About "Generation Hot":
"some two billion young people, all of whom have grown up under global
warming and are fated to spend the rest of their lives confronting its
mounting impacts." Also this week at TomDispatch:
US regime change blueprint proposed Venezuelan electricity blackouts as
'watershed event' for 'galvanizing public unrest'. Related:
Venezuela coup leader's oil plans revealed: Guaidó hopes to privatize
Robert L Borosage:
Democrats must expose Trump's betrayal of working people.
The trouble with Biden.
Reminder: The president regularly spends the weekend hobnobbing privately
with rich clients.
The New Zealand shooter's manifesto shows how white nationalist rhetoric
spreads: "The same language featured in the alleged gunman's manifesto
is seen in white nationalist writings and outlets around the world."
Gaby Del Valle:
A Yelp-style app for conservatives wants to protect right-wingers from
"socialist goon squads": "63red Safe claims to identify which businesses
are 'safe' for conservatives." The notion of "socialist goon squads" strikes
me as pure projection, but I don't doubt that the fantasy is being embedded
in reactionary minds as an excuse for forming their own goon squads, maybe
even igniting civil war. It's not like it hasn't happened before. Indeed,
in 1993 and 2009 Republicans went to unprecedented extremes to fight back
from loss of presidential power, and unlike then it's pretty clear that
Trump is not going to bow out gracefully. Still, this app belongs to a long
line of hucksters who exploit and prey on conservative fears.
Why are millennials burned out? Capitalism. Interview with Malcolm
Harris, author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of
Millennials. There's a very striking chart here, showing that from
1948 up to about 1973 productivity and hourly compensation increased
(almost doubled) at the same rate, but after 1973 (and especially after
1980) they started to diverge: hourly compensation actually declined
up to the late 1990s, then rose slowly, winding up about 20% higher,
while productivity more than doubled again.
An autopsy of the American dream: Interview with Steven Brill,
author of Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America's Fifty-Year
Fall -- and Those Fighting to Reverse It (also, back in 2015,
America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the
Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System). Starts with five
examples of American decline: the fifth is the one I always find the
most damning (although it's arguably a consequence of the more prosaic
first four): "Among the 35 richest countries in the world, the US now
have the highest infant mortality rate and the lowest life expectancy."
Conor Friedersdorf: Parts of an ongoing series remembering
The college-admissions scandal and the banality of scamming:
This week's exposure of the college-admissions scam is significant exactly
because, in its trite ordinariness, it makes granular and concrete what is
usually abstract and difficult to pin down. The parents who responded "I
love it" to Singer's criminal propositions reminded me, viscerally, of
Donald Trump, Jr.,'s breezy e-mail reply when, in 2016, he was told of a
Russian source's ability to share dirt on Hillary Clinton: "If it's what
you say I love it." When the e-mail was revealed, in 2017, I felt a similar
satisfaction. In both cases, casual corruption, usually obscured by several
layers of secrecy and legal trickery, was finally laid bare. The people
involved were so self-satisfied and secure in their power that they greeted
unethical, perhaps felonious proposals with complete nonchalance.
How I would cover the college-admissions scandal as a foreign
Where is William H Macy in the college admissions scandal?
Trump Administration plans to close key immigration operations
UK Parliament rejects second referendum in latest Brexit vote.
A short history of President Trump's anti-Muslim bigotry.
The failures of neoliberalism are bigger than politics: A response
to "an excellent
discussion with economist Brad Delong" (cited last week). Delong
argued that neoliberals need to ally with the left because there are no
viable options on the right. Konczal points out that left neoliberals
have deeper problems: much of what they expected their pro-market plans
to accomplish has failed, or worse. For another comment on this, see
Three-Toed Sloth. Konczal works for the Roosevelt Institute. Some
recent articles and reports there:
Don't blame robots for low wages.
The power of petty personal rage: After some examples:
The point is that demented anger is a significant factor in modern
American political life -- and overwhelmingly on one side. All that
talk about liberal "snowflakes" is projection; if you really want to
see people driven wild by tiny perceived slights and insults, you'll
generally find them on the right. Nor is it just about racism and
misogyny. Although these are big components of the phenomenon, I
don't see the obvious connection to hamburger paranoia.
Just to be clear: To paraphrase John Stuart Mill, I'm not saying
that most conservatives are filled with rage over petty things. What
I'm saying instead is that most of those filled with such rage are
conservatives, and they supply much of the movement's energy. Not to
put too fine a point on it, pathological pettiness almost surely put
Donald Trump over the top in the 2016 election.
Indeed, pathologically petty is a pretty fair description of Donald
America the cowardly bully: "What the world has learned from Trump's
trade war." Easy to make fun of Trump's "trade war" negotiations, and
easier still to make light of the "improved" agreements he's made, not
least because their impact on actual trade effects is so negligible --
the bottom line is that the US under Trump is running even higher trade
deficits than even before. Still, I recoil at "the deal would do little
to address real complaints about Chinese policy, which mainly involve
China's systematic expropriation of intellectual property." That's only
an issue because rent-seeking IP owners have inordinate influence over
US trade negotiations. It's not something that benefits average people
anywhere in the world, least of all in the US. Indeed, in most cases
that's not something we should be forcing Americans to pay for, let
Michael LaForgia/Matthew Rosenberg/Gabriel JX Dance:
Facebook's data deals are under criminal investigation.
US bars entry to International Criminal Court investigators.
American schools can't figure out ow to teach kids about slavery:
The game-playing examples sound awful, and I can't think of any way to
redeem them. But there's been a tremendous amount of research since I
was in school -- I was ten when the Civil War centenary came along,
close enough you could still see and touch its artifacts and legacies,
although political interests made sure there was plenty of smoke to
obscure the reasons and repercussions. I can't remember what I learned
at the time -- I had a wonderful US history teacher in 8th grade, and
learned tons of stuff from him, but nothing on the Civil War era stands
out -- but by the early 1970s the picture had changed considerably. By
then, two major books on racism had appeared: David Brion Davis: The
Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (1966), and Winthrop Jordan:
White Over Black: American Attitudes Toward the Negrok, 1550-1812
(1968). Those books made it clear how racism was invented to justify and
perpetuate slavery. Along with those books, I read everything by Eugene
D Genovese, who showed how the economic institution of slavery grew
into self-contained worldviews of slaveholders and slaves, and much
else, including C. Vann Woodward, Eric Foner, James McPherson, David
Montgomery -- scholars influenced by the civil rights (and labor, at
least for Montgomery) movements. I'm less familiar with later books,
but I gather they follow along similar lines. It should be simple to
put together a survey of what we know about what we know about race
and slavery in American history, but we're still plagued by people
wanting to impose their political agendas on the past. Perhaps such
impositions are inevitable, but they came easier (because they made
more sense) fifty years ago, when America's major wars -- Revolution,
Civil War, WWII -- could be justified as steps toward a freer, more
equal and just world. That narrative has always been burdened with
nasty details, but lately conservatives have added more obstacles to
understanding. The fruit of such constant thrashing is often ignorance
and indifference, which is what these examples add up to.
Andrew Yang, the 2020 long-shot candidate running on a universal basic
income, explained. I'm not going to do many links on presidential
candidates, partially because I want to downplay the presidency relative
to other political campaigns (e.g., Congress), and partly because these
days professional politicians are so practiced in the art of boilerplate
they almost never say anything interesting. On the other hand, Yang is
someone cut from different cloth, with real ideas (not that I've taken
the trouble to see whether I agree with many of them), and that makes
him worth pointing out. At the bottom of the article, there's a list
of "who's officially running so far," eleven names, 8-10 you probably
already know, one I wasn't even aware of:
Marianne Williamson is Oprah's spiritual adviser. She's also running
for president. I only mention her because I'm always fascinated by
things I didn't know. I see no reason to take her seriously, but she's
no less qualified and probably more fun than Ben Carson. She may even
be competitive with her most similar match among Democratic hopefuls:
Kamala Harris. Oh, speaking of similarities, I have very little worth
saying about new candidate Beto O'Rourke, but his track record (a few
years in the House, losing high-profile Senate race) matches pretty
closely one previous presidential candidate: Abraham Lincoln.
A future without fossil fuels? Review of two short reports: 2020
Vision: Why You Should See the Fossil Fuel Peak Coming, and A New
World: The Geopolitics of Energy Transformation.
This is what happens when corporations run the government: Specifically,
Boeing. Also note: Tara Copp:
Trump's defense secretary faces ethics complaint over Boeing promotion.
This influence peddling suggests why we've wound up with titles like
America last: After 42 other countries put safety first, US finally joins
ban on flights of Boeing 737 Max aircraft, itself a link to the more
Boeing planes are grounded in US after days of pressure. That pressure
happened because US pilots had been complaining for months. See
Kalhan Rosenblatt/Jay Blackmann:
US pilots complained about Boeing 737 Max 8 months before Ethiopia crash.
Suresh Naidu/Dani Rodrik/Gabriel Zucman:
Economics after neoliberalism: A forum, with additional responses
(Corey Robin pointed me to this piece). Starts with a straightforward
statement of the problem:
We live in an age of astonishing inequality. Income and wealth disparities
in the United States have risen to heights not seen since the Gilded Age
and are among the highest in the developed world. Median wages for U.S.
workers have stagnated for nearly fifty years. Fewer and fewer younger
Americans can expect to do better than their parents. Racial disparities
in wealth and well-being remain stubbornly persistent. In 2017, life
expectancy in the United States declined for the third year in a row,
and the allocation of healthcare looks both inefficient and unfair.
Advances in automation and digitization threaten even greater labor
market disruptions in the years ahead. Climate change-fueled disasters
increasingly disrupt everyday life.
It's certainly possible for reasonable people to disagree on how best
to deal with these problems, but the basic political divide in America
today isn't about competitive solutions. It's about our ability to see
problems like these. One camp simply denies their existence, or denies
that they matter as problems, or denies that anything can be done about
them without making matters worse. The effective difference between the
last three is nihil. The article makes a lot of worthy points. For a
taste, here are some pull quotes:
- Economics is in a state of creative ferment -- a sense of public
responsibility is bringing people into the fray.
- Neoliberalism -- or market fetishism -- is not the consistent
application of modern economics, but its primitive, simplistic perversion.
- Economics' recent empirical bent makes it more difficult to idolize
markets because it makes it more difficult to ignore inconvenient facts.
- Economics does not necessarily have definite answers, but it does
supply the tools needed to lay out the tradeoffs, thus contributing to
a more informed democratic debate.
- Taking contemporary economics seriously is consistent with recommending
fairly dramatic structural changes in American economic life.
- These proposals all show a willingness to subordinate textbook
economic efficiency to other values such as democratic rule and
egalitarian relationships among citizens.
- Many economists dismiss the role of power, but these tackle power
asymmetries frontally and suggest ways of rebalancing power for
One good idea here might be retiring "neoliberalism" in favor of
"market fetishism" -- which really gets to the point, shorn of the
increasingly muddle political overtones. (The original neos tried to
hijack a well-established political tradition, although their ideas
ultimately had more appeal to the right.) Some more pieces I noticed
at Boston Review:
US officials offered my friend cash to take down Tehran's power grid:
and now they seem to have succeeded in Venezuela.
What the college admissions scandal reveals about the psychology of wealth
A chaotic Brexit is part of Trump's grand plan for Europe. Isn't
"grand plan" a bit beyond Trump's grasp? Roger Trilling was closer to
the mark when he described conservatives as only capable of "irritating
mental gestures," although they're more frequent and more impactful in
the Trump era than ever before. Still, something is missing here. It may
make sense that Trump wants Europe to be divided and weakened so it would
be easier prey for American control, but why should anyone in Europe
support that? Two possible reasons I can think of. One is that there's
some sort of "fraternal order of neo-fascists" where politicians with
similar reactionary instincts overcome their natural nationalist dislikes
to cheer each other on. The other is that international business concerns
back right-wingers everywhere because deregulation and chaos suits their
Trump wants to cut billions from the NIH. This is what we'll miss out on
if he does. "Is spending money at the NIH a good deal? The research
is incredibly clear: Yes."
Paul Manafort didn't get off easy -- unless you compare him to whistleblower
Reality Winner: written before Manafort's second sentencing, but still
"Winer performed a public service," and "was sentenced to 63 months, which
is the longest ever handed down to someone accused of leaking to the press."
Related: Henry N Pontell/Robert H Tillman:
Manafort's sentencing shows again that white-collar criminals get off
lightly: I'm not sure I'd place much weight on a single case with
so many political overtones, but the general point is probably right,
not that the perspective shouldn't be flipped: that non-white-collar
criminals get treated more harshly. There are several pretty obvious
reasons for this, but one that is rarely mentioned is that as the US
has become an increasingly unequal society, the law has increasingly
been used to impose a system of class control: to lock up more poor
people, to regulate more through probation, and to intimidate still
more with the threat of horrific consequences should they stray out
of line. It's surely no coincidence that harsh sentencing and mass
incarceration grew at the same time as we were cutting taxes on the
rich, dismantling civil rights protections, and reducing regulation
in ways that made white-collar scofflaws (like Manafort) more likely
to think they could get away with bending the laws even further.
The case for spraying (just enough) chemicals into the sky to fight climate
change: I'm willing to keep an open mind on geoengineering proposals
to counteract global warming, but this particular plan -- "injecting aerosols
into the high atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space" -- strikes me
as a lot like spraying perfume to cover up the stench of rotting bodies in
the basement. I'd also be skeptical of claims like "no bad side effects."
Somini Sengupta/Alexandra Villegas:
Tiny Costa Rica has a Green New Deal, too. It matters for the whole
White Nationalism's deep American roots: Singles out Madison Grant,
whose 1916 book The Passing of the Great Race was acclaimed as
"bible" by Austrain fan-boy Adolf Hitler. Grant was also the subject of
Jonathan Peter Spiro's book, Defending the Master Race: Conservation,
Eugenics, and the Legacy of Madison Grant (2009). I've long been
aware of how American race law provided models for other countries,
especially for South Africa's Apartheid laws, so the news that Nazi
Germany borrowed from American precedents was obvious. I recently read
James Q Whitman's Hitler's American Model: The United States and the
Making of Nazi Race Law (2017), which I would fault on two counts:
one is that he spends way too much time tiptoeing around the feelings
of his American readers; the other is that he misses the one obvious
difference, which is that Nazi race law was aimed at purging (ultimately
annihilating) "inferior races," while American racism originally meant
to maintain a stable, powerless, low-cost labor force. American racism
found its ideal state where it started, in slavery. However, there is
another less-discussed American root for annihilationist racism: the
relentless war against native Americans. Indeed, it is little wonder
that white racists around the world have always turned to the US for
inspiration: we have so much history to choose from -- something to fit
every raging prejudice.
Amy Davidson Sorkin:
What Pelosi means when she said, of impeaching Trump, 'He's just not
worth it" -- to work, impeachment requires substantial Republican
support, and until that arrives, Democrats are better off campaigning
against both Trump and Republicans, rather than trying to split them.
Related: Adam Gopnik:
The pros and cons of impeaching Trump.
White nationalism is an international threat: "The Christchurch
attacks point to a disturbing web reaching from the United States,
to the United Kingdom, to Greece, and beyond."
A European spring is possible: "The DiEM25 proposes immediate
financial changes to end austerity and fund a green -- and hopefully
post-capitalist -- future." For some background on Varoufakis, see
two pieces by Atossa Araxia Abrahamian:
Saving the sacred cow: "Yanis Varoufakis' vision for a more
democratic Europe." And:
Yanis Varoufakis's internationalist odyssey.
Friday, March 15, 2019
I've fallen way behind here. The last Book Roundup appeared way
April 21, 2018, eight months after the previous one on
August 18, 2017 (full list and archive is
here, but it's one long
file). The way this works is I pick 40 books per post, and write
a few words on each, mostly based on descriptions and comments at
Amazon, plus whatever else I happen to know or find. (Given the long
delays, I've actually read thirteen books from this batch, and bought
several more.) I've been known to do multiple posts in quick succession
when I catch up from far behind, and will likely follow this one up with
another (or two or maybe three) in pretty quick order.
In addition to the chosen 40, I list many more books in uncommented
lists, either under selected books where they seem to be related, or
at the end. I've included related book lists all along, especially
when I would find a cluster of related titles and didn't find reason
to comment on them individually. More recently I started appending a
generic list of books without comment, and since they're easy, I've
turned them into a time-saving measure (which also makes the list
more comprehensive). Again, due to the long lead time here, you'll
find more below than ever before.
In the past, I've added extra lists of paperback reissues of books
I've previously noted -- especially books I had since read and wanted
to write more about. None of them this time, but perhaps in the future.
As far as domain, the chose books are primarily on politics, history,
and the social sciences (especially economics), although I'll make an
exception here and there, whatever strikes my fancy. My main reason
for doing this is to familiarize myself with what people are writing
about issues I care about.
: Read: Gregg Carlstrom: How Long Will Israel Survive?; John
Dower: The Violent American Century; Ben Fountain: Beautiful
Country Burn Again; Thomas Frank: Rendezvous With Oblivion;
Robert Gerwarth: The Vanquished; Masha Gessen: The Future Is
History; David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep;
Jill Lepore: These Truths; Kevin Peraino: A Force So Swift;
Michael Ruhlman: Grocery; Quinn Slobodan: Globalists; Sarah
Smarsh: Heartland; Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom.
Waiting on the shelf: Tom Engelhardt: A Nation Unmade by War; Steve
Fraser: Class Matters; Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It.
Alan I Abramowitz: The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation,
and the Rise of Donald Trump (2018, Yale University Press): One
of several recent books that try to make sense of recent changes in
partisan alignment, especially as right and left have become more stuck
with their limited party options. This one focuses on "an unprecedented
alignment of many different divides: racial and ethnic, religious,
ideological, and geographic." OK, with Trump, mostly racial. Other
- Avidit Acharya/Matthew Blackwell/Maya Sen: Deep Roots: How
Slavery Still Shapes Southern Politics (2018, Princeton
- Kwame Anthony Appiah: The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity
- Morris P Fiorina: Unstable Majorities: Polarization, Party
Sorting, and Political Stalemate (paperback, 2017, Hoover
- Bernard L Fraga: The Turnout Gap: Race, Ethnicity, and
Political Inequality in a Diversifying America (paperback,
2018, Cambridge University Press).
- Francis Fukuyama: Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the
Politics of Resentment (2018, Farrar Straus and Giroux).
- Matt Grossman/David A Hopkins: Asymmetric Politics: Ideological
Republicans and Group Interest Democrats (paperback, 2016, Oxford
- Asad Haider: Mistaken Identity: Race and Class in the Age of
Trump (paperback, 2018, Verso).
- Marc Hetherington/Jonathan Weiler: Prius or Pickup? How the
Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America's Great Divide
(2018, Houghton Mifflin).
- David A Hopkins: Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral
Rules Polarize American Politics (paperback, 2017, Cambridge
- Daniel J Hopkins: The Increasingly United States: How and Why
American Political Behavior Nationalized (paperback, 2018,
University of Chicago Press).
- Ashley Jardina: White Identity Politics (paperback,
2019, Cambridge University Press).
- Donald R Kinder/Nathan P Kalmoe: Neither Liberal nor Conservative:
Ideological Innocence in the American Public (paperback, 2017,
University of Chicago Press).
- Steve Kornacki: The Red and the Blue: The 1990s and the Birth
of Political Tribalism (2018, Ecco Books).
- Amanda Marcotte: Troll Nation: How the Right Became Trump-Worshipping
Monsters Set on Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself
(2018, Hot Books).
- Michele F Margolis: From Politics to the Pews: How Partisanship
and the Political Environment Shape Religious Identity (paperback,
2018, University of Chicago Press).
- Lilliana Mason: Uncivil Agreeement: How Politics Became Our
Identity (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago Press).
- David Neiwert: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in
the Age of Trump (2017, Verso).
- Benjamin L Page/Martin Gilens: Democracy in America? What Has
Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It? (2017, University of
- Greg Sargent: An Uncivil War: Taking Back Our Democracy in
an Age of Trumpian Disinformation and Thunderdome Politics
(2018, Custom House).
- Kay Lehman Schlozman/Henry E Brady/Sidney Verba; Unequal and
Unrepresented: Political Inequality and the People's Voice in the New
Gilded Age (2018, Princeton University Press).
- Bill Schneider: Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable
(2018, Simon & Schuster).
- John Sides/Michael Tesler/Lynn Vavreck: Identity Crisis: The
2016 Presidential Campaign and the Battle for the Meaning of America
(2018, Princeton University Press).
- Salena Zito/Brad Todd: The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist
Coalition Reshaping American Politics (2018, Crown).
Andrew J Bacevich: Twilight of the American Century
(2018, University of Notre Dame Press): A collection of essays since
9/11/2001, 480 pages. He's a conservative anti-war, anti-intervention,
soldier-turned-scholar, has written a bunch of books in the meantime,
including: The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced
by War (2005); The Limits of Power: The End of American
Exceptionalism (2008); Washington Rules: America's Path to
Permanent War (2010); Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed
Their Soldiers and Their Country (2013); and America's War
for the Greater Middle East: A Military History (2016). Entitled
to a lot of "I told you so's."
Becky Bond/Zack Exley: Rules for Revolutionaries: How Big
Organizing Can Change Everything (paperback, 2016, Chelsea
Green): A primer for grass roots political change, written by two
"digital iconoclasts" who have worked for the Bernie Sanders campaign.
Title probably a nod to Saul Alinsky's Rules for Radicals.
There are actually quite a few activist primers out recently, such
- Andrew Boyd, ed: Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution
(paperback, 2016, OR Books).
- Adrienne Maree Brown: Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing
Worlds (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
- Charlene A Carruthers: Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist
Mandate for Radical Movements (2018, Beacon Press).
- Mark Engler/Paul Engler: This Is an Uprising: How Nonviolent
Revolt Is Shaping the Twenty-First Century (2016, Nation Books).
- Laura Grattan: Populism's Power: Radical Grassroots Democracy
in America (paperback, 2016, Oxford University Press).
- Sarah Jaffe: Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt
(2016, Nation Books).
- LA Kauffman: Direct Action: Protest and the Reinvention of
American Radicalism (paperback, 2017, Verso Books).
- LA Kauffman: How to Read a Protest: The Art of Organizing
and Resistance (2018, University of California Press).
- George Lakey: How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action
Campaigning (2018, paperback, Melville House).
- Amanda Litman: Don't Just March, Run for Something: A Real-Talk
Guide to Fixing the System Yourself (paperback, 2017, Atria
- Jane F McAlevey: No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the
New Gilded Age (2016, Oxford University Press).
- Sroja Popovic: Blueprint for Revolution: How to Use Rice
Pudding, Lego Men, and Other Nonviolent Techniques to Galvanize
Communities, Overthrow Dictators, or Simply Change the World
(paperback, 2015, Spiegal & Grau).
- Jonathan Matthew Smucker: Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for
Radicals (paperback, 2017, AK Press).
- Micah White: The End of Protest: A New Playbook for
Revolution (paperback, 2016, Knopf Canada).
Bryan Caplan: The Case Against Education: Why the Education
System Is a Waste of Time and Money (2018, Princeton University
Press): As a high school dropout, I should sympathize with the argument
that our education system is inefficient and ineffective, that much of
what is taught there is of little value, and that people can learn
essential life skills otherwise. And that should be even more true
now than it was when I was in school, as the system since then has
evolved into more of a credentials mill than a source for widespread
knowledge development. Elements of Caplan's critique are certainly
correct, but his proposal -- spend less on general education and more
on vocational training -- misses some key points. In particular, in
an increasingly complex technological civilization people need more
knowledge just to function as responsible citizens. Just as important,
they need to be able to reason independently, and to continue to
learn for the rest of their lives. I managed to do that, for the
most part in spite of my formal education, but rather than throwing
everyone else into the deep end to see who swims, wouldn't more
people be better off if we changed the educational system to help
people learn and develop -- rather than just train people for the
jobs we think we need now?
Gregg Carlstrom: How Long Will Israel Survive? The Threat
From Within (2017, Oxford University Press): A decade ago,
Richard Ben Cramer wrote what I thought the best single book on the
intractable problem of the Zionist State's continuing domination
over the Palestinian people in Greater Israel. His simple thesis
was that Jewish Israel was divided into a half-dozen very distinct
tribes that were being held together by their common enemy: the
people they displaced in settling Israel. Thus, they had to keep
feeding the conflict, lest they lose themselves as a people. That's
what they've done since then, ever more intransigently, to the point
where it's rotting the nation from within. We got our first really
good picture of how pervasive this is in Max Blumenthal's 2013 book,
Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (not that close
readers couldn't recognize the problem much earlier, even before
the 1948 War of Independence). Carlstrom adds a few more years onto
Blumenthal's story. Not pretty, although I suspect that had he waited
a year or two into the Trump era, where the US has totally given up
any pretense of independence, the story would be even grimmer.
Elizabeth Catte: What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia
(paperback, 2018, Belt Publishing): Examines the history of Appalachia
(especially West Virginia) and various stereotypes that have been
popularized, especially by J.D. Vance: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir
of Family and Culture in Crisis (2016), a book that journalists
discovered looking for explanations of why Trump was so successful
Amy Chua: Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of
Nations (2018, Penguin Press): Stresses the role of group
identity in elections both in the US and abroad. Chua has in the
past been especially sensitive (maybe a bit chauvinistic too) to
how the Chinese diaspora rose to economic prominence and political
antipathy all around southeast Asia -- cf. World on Fire: How
Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global
Instability -- so I imagine she builds on that here, a much
broader (though not necessarily deeper) foundation than our recent
carping about identity politics.
Tom Engelhardt: A Nation Unmade by War (paperback,
2018, Haymarket): Another collection of essays from the author's
TomDispatch website, where he and a few dozen regular contributors
have meticulously chronicled the frustrations and failures of the
post-9/11 "global war on terror" -- a vain and desperate defense of
the worldwide empire American neocons claimed as its triumph over
communism. Actually, that empire had always been based on more than
a little self-delusion, and its costs and contradictions had already
become evident when one of Engelhardt's writers, Chalmers Johnson,
wrote The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of
the Republic (2004). Engelhardt follows up, recounting the
attendant chaos and confusion. Also, by other Engelhardt writers:
- John Dower: The Violent American Century: War and Terror
Since World War II (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
- John Feffer: Splinterlands: A Novel (paperback,
2016, Haymarket Books): a novel.
- John Feffer: Frostlands: Book Two of the Splinterlands
Series (paperbck, 2018, Haymarket Books).
- Greg Grandin: The End of Myth: From the Frontier to the Border
Wall in the Mind of America (2019, Metropolitan Books).
- Alfred W McCoy: In the Shadows of the American Century:
The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (paperback, 2017,
- Nomi Prins: Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the
World (2018, Nation Books).
- Daniel A Sjursen: Ghost Riders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians,
and the Myth of the Surge (2015, ForeEdge).
- Rebecca Solnit: Call Them by Their True Names: American
Crises (and Essays) (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books).
- Nick Turse: Next Time They'll Come to Count the Dead: War
and Surival in South Sudan (paperback, 2016, Haymarket Books).
Ronan Farrow: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the
Decline of American Influence (2018, WW Norton): Based on
interviews with Secretaries of State from Henry Kissinger to Rex
Tillerson, this reports on the decline of the US State Department.
There is certainly an interesting book to be written on this, but
it needs to be paired with the increasing power of military and
intelligence sectors, and how both reflect a shift as Washington
politicians have lost faith in international institutions and law,
preferring to act unilaterally (at most giving lip service to an
ad hoc "coalition of the willing"). In the "sole superpower" view
of neocons like John Bolton, diplomacy is disparaged not just as
ineffective but as an admission of weakness. The curious thing is
that there is absolutely no evidence that the US acting on its own
is anyway near as effective as diplomacy. Such a book would also
note that the shift to the now dominant neocon view has mostly
been driven by a blind, unthinking "alliance" with Israel, such
that the more Israel defies international law and censure, the
more isolated, bitter, and ineffective the US becomes.
Ben Fountain: Beautiful Country Burn Again: Democracy, Rebellion,
and Revolution (2018, Ecco Books): Author of a well-regarded novel,
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk, sees America has stuck in some
sort of eighty-year cycle, leading to crises -- the first two were the
Civil War and the Great Depression -- requiring major upheavals to put
the nation back on track. Much of the book is election reporting, which
sounds like old (and much too rehashed) news, but none of the books I've
seen so far really makes sense of 2016's nonsense, so maybe we should
give continuously referring back to history a chance. One thing that's
a pretty safe bet is that Fountain's not going to argue that Trump is
the answer to the present crisis, unlike Lincoln and Roosevelt. Still,
even as Fountain writes about 2016 and the bad feelings evident there
from all sides, his real subject is the coming crisis -- 2020, maybe
even 2024, surely not much further out. But even there, don't expect
history to repeat itself. Buchanan and Hoover were procrastinators,
not least because they didn't see any way out of their dilemmas, but
Trump is a man of action, corroding and breaking everything he touches.
It's only a matter of time before his damage can no longer be shrugged
away as fake news.
Thomas Frank: Rendezvous With Oblivion: Reports From a
Sinking Society (2018, Metropolitan Books): Collection
of scattered essays, which makes this seem less coherent than
Frank's recent string of books -- Listen, Liberal: Or, What
Ever Happened to the Party of the People? (2016), Pity
the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback
of the Right (2012), The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives
Ruined Government, Enriched Themselves, and Beggared the Nation
(2008) -- although the net effect does much to prove how prescient
The Wrecking Crew's analysis was.
Steve Fraser: Class Matters: The Strange Career of an American
Delusion (2018, Yale University Press): The story of how the
subject of class has repeatedly been expunged from American history and
consciousness, taking a half-dozen case moments from the Mayflower to
Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech as examples. Fraser
wrote about this same subject more broadly in The Age of Acquiescence:
The Life and Death of American Resistance to Organized Wealth and Power
(2015), noting that with Occupy Wall Street the pendulum was suddenly
Robert Gerwarth: The Vanquished: Why the First World War
Failed to End (2016; paperback, 2017, Farrar Straus and
Giroux): On November 11, 1918, Germany surrendered, signing an
armistice ending the war they launched in 1914 by invading Belgium
and France. For Western Europe (and America), that ended what was
then called the Great War, but by then the Russian Tsar had been
overthrown, replaced by a revolutionary Soviet, and multi-ethnic
empires in Austria-Hungary and Turkey (the Ottoman Empire) had
also collapsed. For several years after, war, revolution, and
reaction continued in Eastern Europe, at least up to 1923 when
the Communists consolidated power in Russia and a nationalist
government in Turkey had driven both foreign and native Greeks
from Asia Minor. In the longer term, the Treaty of Versailles,
dictated by the victorious imperialist powers of Britain and
France, was widely viewed as unjust, an insult that festered and
grew into a second, even more deadly World War. Another recent book
that covers this territory is Prit Buttar: The Splintered Empires:
The Eastern Front 1917-21 (2017; paperback, 2018, Osprey), the
fourth volume in Buttar's history of the Eastern front, following:
Collision of Empires: The War on the Eastern Front in 1914
(2014; paperback, 2016, Osprey); Germany Ascendant: The Eastern
Front 1915 (2015; paperback, 2017, Osprey); and Russia's Last
Gasp: The Eastern Front 1916-17 (2016; paperback, 2017, Osprey).
Masha Gessen: The Future Is History: How Totalitarianism
Reclaimed Russia (2017; paperback, 2018, Riverhead): Chronicles
the failure of Russia to develop a liberal democracy after the collapse
of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Soviet Communism, by tracking
a small number of individuals -- mostly intellectuals, descendents of
Soviet-era elite families who tended to become liberal opponents of
Yeltsin and Putin. Tends to view the willingness to submit to an
authoritarian state as rooted in psychology rather than as the sort
of ideological belief system Timothy Snyder claims. Other books by
Gessen and/or on Putin and Russia:
- Masha Gessen: The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of
Vladimir Putin (2012; paperback, 2013, Riverhead).
- Masha Gessen: Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy
Riot (paperback, 2014, Riverhead).
- Masha Gessen: Where the Jews Aren't: The Sad and Absurd Story
of Birobidzhan, Russia's Jewish Autonomous Region (2016,
- Masha Gessen: Never Remember: Searching for Stalin's Gulags
in Putin's Russia (2018, Columbia Global Reports).
- Stephen F Cohen: War With Russia? From Putin & Ukraine
to Trump & Russiagate (paperback, 2019, Hot Books).
- Mark Galeotti: We Need to Talk About Putin: How the West Gets
Him Wrong (paperback, 2019, Penguin Random House).
- Nina Krushcheva/Jeffrey Tayler: In Putin's Footsteps: Searching
for the Soul of an Empire Across Russia's Eleven Time Zones (2019,
St Martin's Press).
- Michael McFaul: From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador
in Putin's Russia (2018, Houghton Mifflin).
- Arkady Ostrovsky: The Invention of Russia: The Rise of Putin
and the Age of Fake News (2016; paperback, 2017, Penguin Books).
- Peter Pomerantsev: Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The
Surreal Heart of the New Russia (paperback, 2015, PublicAffairs).
- David Satter: The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia's
Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin (2016;
paperback, 2017, Yale University Press).
- Angela Stent: Putin's World: Russia Against the West and With
the Rest (2019, Twelve).
- Shaun Walker: The Long Hangover: Putin's New Russia and the
Ghosts of the Past (2018, Oxford University Press).
- Tony Wood: Russia Without Putin: Money, Power and the Myths
of the New Cold War (2018, Verso).
- Mikhail Zygar: All the Kremlin's Men: Inside the Court of
Vladimir Putin (2016; paperback, 2017, PublicAffairs).
Steven M Gillon: Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission
and the Unraveling of American Liberalism (2018, Basic Books):
Officially, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired
by governor Otto Kerner (D-IL), a group appointed by President Lyndon
Johnson following riots in Newark and Detroit. They took a fairly hard
look at racism and poverty, and recommended bold new programs to end
both. You'd think that was the right in line with Johnson's "Great
Society" agenda, but Johnson rejected the report, and Nixon built his
campaign -- especially in his 1972 bid to pick up Wallace voters --
on race baiting. Gillon regards the failure to follow up on the report
as a failing of liberalism, but what really damaged Johnson and Humphrey
was their leading role in the Vietnam War, followed by the crippling
loss to Nixon, and later to Reagan.
Anand Giridharadas: Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of
Changing the World (2018, Knopf): As more and more of the
world's wealth sinks into the clutches of the very rich, a few of
them are stepping up with offers of philanthropic aid, offering to
somehow turn the world they're sucking dry into a better place --
without, of course, undermining their exalted place in it. Related:
- David Callahan: The Givers: Money, Power, and Philanthropy
in a New Gilded Age (2017, Knopf; paperback, 2018, Vintage
- Daniel Raventós/Julie Wark: Against Charity (paperback,
- Rob Reich: Just Giving: Why Philanthropy Is Failing Democracy
and How It Can Do Better (2018, Princeton University Press).
Jeff Goodell: The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking
Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World (2017;
paperback, 2018, Back Bay Books): Makes sense: Earth climate warms,
ice melts, flows into sea, which rises, flooding coastlines, where
many of the world's largest cities are. Goodell has written several
books related to climate change, like Big Coal: The Dirty Secret
Behind America's Energy Future (2007), and How to Cool the
Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's
Climate (2010). Every Roundup the shelves of climate change
books grows ever more imposing:
- Jeffrey Bennett: A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your
Questions About the Science, the Consequences, and the Solutions
(paperback, 2016, Big Kid Science).
- Peter Brannen: The Ends of the World: Volcanic Apocalypses,
Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass
Extinctions (2017; paperback, 2018, Ecco).
- Ashley Dawson: Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of
Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change (2017, Verso).
- Barbara Finamore: Will China Save the Planet? (paperback,
- Joshua S Goldstein/Staffan A Qvist: A Bright Future: How
Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow
- Hal Harvey: Designing Climate Solutions: A Policy Guide for
Low-Carbon Energy (paperback, 2018, Island Press).
- Paul Hawken, ed: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever
Proposed to Reverse Global Warming (paperback, 2017, Penguin
- Robert Henson: The Thinking Person's Guide to Climate Change
(2nd edition, paperback, 2019, American Meteorological Society).
- Albert C Hine/Don P Chambers/Tonya D Clayton/Mark R Hafen/Gary
T Mitchum: Sea Level Rise in Florida: Science, Impacts, and
Options (2016, University Press of Florida).
- Dhar Jamail: The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding
Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption (2019, New Press).
- Lucy Jones: The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped
Us (and What We Can Do About Them) (2018, Doubleday).
- Thomas E Lovejoy/Lee Hannah, eds: Biodiversity and Climate
Change: Transforming the Biosphere (paperback, 2019, Yale
- Michael E Mann/Lee R Kump: Dire Predictions: Understanding
Climate Change: The Visual Guide to the Findings of the IPCC
(2nd edition, paperback, 2015, DK).
- Michael E Mann/Tom Toles: The Madhouse Effect: How Climate
Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and
Driving Us Crazy (paperback, 2018, Columbia University Press).
- Todd Miller: Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration and
Homeland Security (paperback, 2017, City Lights).
- Robert Muir-Wood: The Cure for Catastrophe: How We Can Stop
Manufacturing Natural Disasters (2016, Basic Books).
- Dustin Mulvaney: Solar Power: Innovation, Sustainability, and
Environmental Justice (paperback, 2019, University of California
- Jeff Nesbit: This Is the Way the World Ends: How Droughts and
Die-offs, Heat Waves and Hurricanes Are Converging on America
(2018, Thomas Dunne Books).
- Orrin H Pilkey/Linda Pilkey-Jarvis/Keith C Pilkey: Retreat
From a Rising Sea: Hard Choices in an Age of Climate Change
(2016; paperback, 2017, Columbia University Press).
- Kim Stanley Robinson: New York 2140 (2017; paperback,
2018, Orbit): a novel, sure, but illustrates Goodell's point, exactly.
- Mary Robinson: Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the
Fight for a Sustainable Future (2018, Bloomsbury).
- Joseph Romm: Climate Change: What Everyone Needs to Know
(2nd edition, paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
- Elizabeth Rush: Rising: Dispatches From the New American
Shore (2018, Milkweed Editions).
- Roy Scranton: We're Doomed. Now What? Essays on War and
Climate Change (paperback, 2018, Soho Press).
- Mark C Serreze: Brave New Arctic: The Untold Story of the
Melting Arctic (2018, Princeton University Press).
- Varun Sivaram: Taming the Sun: Innovations to Harness Solar
Energy and Power the Planet (2018, MIT Press).
- Jeffrey St Clair/Joshua Frank: The Big Heat: Earth on the
Brink (paperback, 2018, Counterpunch).
- Peter Wadhams: A Farewell to Ice: A Report From the Arctic
(2016, Allen Lane; paperback, 2017, Oxford University Press).
- Joel Wainwright/Geoff Mann: Climate Leviathan: A Political
Theory of Our Planetary Future (2018, Verso).
- David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After
Warming (2019, Tim Duggan Books).
Chris Hedges: America: The Farewell Tour (2018,
Simon & Schuster): Author has become increasingly gloomy about
the state of the nation -- one might trace this through such books
as American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
(2007), Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of
the Spectacle (2009), The Death of the Liberal Class
(2010), The World as It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human
Progress, and Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of
Revolt (2015), winding up with this combination of high moral
outrage and down-and-out journalism. Seems to mostly be reissued
columns, which makes for a relatively scattershot book.
Michael Isikoff/David Corn: Russian Roulette: The Inside
Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump
(2018, Twelve): With the Mueller investigation not even done rounding
up even the usual suspects, this is probably just a quickie trying
to sum up what little is known about Russian interference in the 2016
presidential election. What is pretty clear is that Russia-backed
hackers weighed in forcefully for Donald Trump, although it seems
like sheer scapegoatism to credit the Russians with more influence
than the Kochs and Mercers and other quasi-independent Trump backers.
I'd be especially surprised if they have any "inside story" on why
Putin would wager such a risky bet. Most of the speculation I've
seen seems to be little more than projection. Isikoff and Corn wrote
a decent book on the Iraq War (Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin,
Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War), which recommends this
over most competing books, like:
- Seth Abramson: Proof of Collusion: How Trump Betrayed
America (2018, Simon & Schuster).
- Luke Harding: Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and
How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win (paperback, 2017, Vintage
- Seth Hettena: Trump/Russia: A Definitive History
(2018, Melville House).
- Greg Miller: The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion
of American Democracy (2018, Custom House).
- Malcolm Nance: The Plot to Hack America: How Putin's Cyberspies
and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election (paperback, 2016,
- Malcoln Nance: The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin's Spies
Are Winning Control of America and Dismantling the West (2018,
- Greg Olear: Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia
(paperback, 2018, Four Sticks Press).
- Roger Stone: The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story
of How Donald Trump Really Won (paperback, 2019, Skyhorse).
- Craig Unger: House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of
Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia (2018, Dutton.
- Clint Watts: Messing With the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media
World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News (2018,
Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls
Helped Elect a President: What We Don't, Can't, and Do Know
(2018, Oxford University Press): A subject sure to be much written
about, especially as the Mueller investigation sorts through and
eventually discloses (or leaks) its evidence, but for now this is
probably the most comprehensive, detailed analysis we have of what
Russian hackers did in 2016 and what the effect was (see Jane Mayer's
article in The New Yorker). Jamieson has written/contributed
to a bunch of books analyzing elections, going back to Everything
You Think You Know About Politics . . . and Why You're Wrong
(2000, Basic Books).
Jill Lepore: These Truths: A History of the United States
(2018, WW Norton): House historian for The New Yorker, her
less popular early work includes The Name of War: King Philip's
War and the Origins of American Identity (1998), and New York
Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century
Manhattan (2005), which prepared her well to write a book about
the use and abuse of history by the Tea Party Movement (The Whites
of Their Eyes: The Tea Party's Revolution and the Battle Over American
History). This is, as advertised, a single-volume history of
American political life and ideals, at once huge (960 pp) and
schematic, with an eye for telling details (many I never knew).
Daniel J Levitin: Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in
the Post-Truth Era (paperback, 2017, Dutton): Interesting case
example of what happens when Donald Trump gets elected president. Levitin
is a neuroscientist who's written books like The World in Six Songs:
How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature, The Organized Mind:
Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, and A Field
Guide to Lies and Statistics: A Neuroscientist on How to Make Sense of
a Complex World (which in a saner world would just be a basic update
of Darrell Huff's 1954 classic How to Lie With Statistics). So he
started with a recognition that human brains are fighting a losing battle
against complexity, "information overload," and the flood of calculated
misinformation, then panics when he sees where the nonsense he had tried
to reason with has gotten us. This new title is actually just a revision
of his Field Guide, where circumstances actually seem to call for
a fresh review. I expect more books along these lines will appear. For
now, I also note:
- Julian Baggini: A Short History of Truth: Consolations for a
Post-Truth World (2017, Quercus).
- Bruce Bartlett: The Truth Matters: A Citizen's Guide to Separating
Facts From Lies and Stopping Fake News in Its Tracks (paperback, 2017,
Ten Speed Press).
- Matthew D'Ancona: Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to
Fight Back (paperback, 2017, Ebury Press).
- Brooke Gladstone: The Trouble With Reality: A Rumination on Moral
Panic in Our Time (paperback, 2017, Workman).
- Michiko Kakutani: The Death of Truth: Notes on Falsehood in the
Age of Trump (2018, Tim Duggan Books).
- Hector Macdonald: Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape
Our Reality (2018, Little Brown).
- Lee McIntyre: Post-Truth (paperback, 2018, MIT Press).
- Cailin O'Connor/James Owen Weatherall: The Misinformation Age:
How False Beliefs Spread (2018, Yale University Press).
- Sophia Rosenfeld: Democracy and Truth: A Short History
(2018, University of Pennsylvania Press).
- Ryan Skinnell, ed: Faking the News: What Rhetoric Can Teach Us
About Donald J Trump (paperback, 2018, Societas).
Michael Lewis: The Fifth Risk (2018, WW Norton):
Journalist, has written a stack of very readable books, nominally
on finance and business but mostly about interesting people. This
one goes into three government bureaucracies -- the Departments of
Energy, Agriculture, and Commerce -- and finds people who for years
now have been doing useful, important work there, and takes a look
at what Trump and his minions are doing to those people and all that
work. Mostly they are shredding data, and purging the departments of
the workers with the expertise to collect and analyze that data. It
seems that facts and data have become troublesome for profit seekers
in industries that have Trump's ear. This is refreshing compared to
the reporters who get all the muck they can rake from twitter feeds,
the Washington gossip mill, and playing "gotcha" watching talk shows.
Sure, those things are symptomatic of the rot in Washington, but the
real stink you're going to have a hard time escaping will be coming
from out-of-the-way places, like Lewis' chosen departments.
John Meacham: The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better
Angels (2018, Random House): Biographer, has written books
on Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, and GHW
Bush, takes a sweeping look at American history, specifically the
struggles for expanding rights and greater economic opportunity --
a legacy that we (as opposed to certain conservatives) take pride
in when we think of American history (as opposed to numerous other
threads that we increasingly find shameful).
Yascha Mounk: The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is
in Danger & How to Save It (2018, Harvard University
Press): The election of Donald Trump has produced a tidal wave of
books on how the ignorant masses are rising up to turn to fascism
against liberal democracy, as if the effete corruption of the Clintons
actually represented the latter. To the extent that Trump gives off
the stink of authoritarianism, such books may be warranted, but the
bigger problem is how the center-left parties have turned their
backs on their natural supporters. Not sure what Mounk's proposal
is, but the way to save democracy is to make it pay off. More books
along these lines:
- Yascha Mounk: The Age of Responsibility: Luck, Choice, and
the Welfare State (2017, Harvard University Press).
- Madeleine Albright: Fascism: A Warning (2018, Harper).
- Wendy Brown/Peter S Gordon/Max Pensky: Authoritarianism: Three
Inquiries in Critical Theory (paperback, 2018, University of Chicago
- William Davies: Nervous States: Democracy and the Decline of
Reason (2019, WW Norton).
- Barry Eichengreen: The Populist Temptation: Economic Grievance
and Political Reaction in the Modern Era (2018, Oxford University
- Erica Frantz: Authoritarianism: What Everyone Needs to Know
(paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
- William S Galston: Anti Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal
Democracy (2018, Yale University Press).
- Henry A Giroux: American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge
of Fascism (paperback, 2018, City Lights).
- Benjamin Carter Hett: The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to
Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic (2018, Henry Holt).
- John B Judis: The Nationalist Revival: Trade, Immigration, and
the Revolt Against Globalization (paperback, 2018, Columbia
- Brian Klaas: The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack
on Democracy (2017, Hot Books).
- Steven Levitsky/Daniel Ziblatt: How Democracies Die
- David Neiwert: Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in
the Age of Trump (2017, Verso).
- Pippa Norris/Ronald Ingelhart: Cultural Backlash: Trump, Brexit,
and Authoritarian Populism (paperback, 2019, Cambridge University
- David Runciman: How Democracy Ends (2018, Basic Books).
- Timothy Snyder: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth
Century (paperback, 2017, Tim Duggan Books).
- Cass R. Sunstein: Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in
America (paperback, 2018, Dey Street Books).
Lawrence O'Donnell: Playing With Fire: The 1968 Election
and the Transformation of American Politics (2017, Penguin
Press): Broadcast journalist, something I assume moves him to the
shallow end of the pool, but this is not a bad time to take another
look at the 1968 election: like 2016, a time when a very unpopular
and untrustworthy Republican managed to eke out a victory because
many people trusted the establishment Democrat even less, most of
all because the latter was associated with the longest and bleakest
war(s) in American history.
Kevin Peraino: A Force So Swift: Mao, Truman, and the Birth of
Modern China, 1949 (2017, Crown; paperback, 2018, Broadway
Books): Chronicles a single turning-point year as Mao's revolutionary
forces swept through the major cities of eastern China, while Chiang
Kai-Shek's nationalists retreated to Taiwan, and Madame Chiang -- a
major figure in her own right -- was frustrated in her lobbying efforts
in New York and Washington. Some more context would have been useful --
fortunately I had previously read James Bradley's The China Mirage:
The hidden History of American Disaster in Asia, which laid out
the romantic relationship between missionary-minded Americans and the
Soong family (most notably Mme. Chiang). Still, I don't know much about
Mao's gains up to 1949, or American thinking on China until the blame
game of "who lost China?" took over, after the fact. Some more recent
historical books on China:
- Richard Bernstein: China 1945: Mao's Revolution and America's
Fateful Choice (2014, Knopf; paperback, 2015, Vintage).
- Wang Hui: China's Twentieth Century: Revolution, Retreat and
the Road to Equality (paperback, 2016, Verso).
- Daniel Kurtz-Phelan: The China Mission: George Marshall's
Unfinished War, 1945-1947 (2018, WW Norton).
- Rana Mitter: Forgotten Ally: China's World War II,
1937-1945 (2013, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; paperback, 2014,
- Stephen R Platt: Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the
West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War (2012, Knopf;
paperback, 2012, Vintage).
- Stephen R Platt: Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End
of China's Last Golden Age (2018, Knopf)
- David J Silbey: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in
China: A History (2012; paperback, 2013, Hill and Wang).
- Helen Zia: Last Boat out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the
Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution (2019, Ballantine Books).
Michael Ruhlman: Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food
in America (2017, Henry N Abrams): Food writer, first
noticed (by me at least) for his memoirs on studying to become
a chef -- The Making of a Chef (1997) and The Soul of
a Chef (2000) although I also have his tip books The
Elements of Cooking (2007) and Ratio (2009) but only
one of his cookbooks -- Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting,
Smoking and Curing (2005) -- rarely if ever used (although
it sure seems like a good idea). This is a history of grocery
stores, bound to be interesting -- as one reviewer put it, "a
lot of memoir, a smattering of rants, endless lists."
Quinn Slobodan: Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth
of Neoliberalism (2018, Harvard University Press): A history
of neoliberal thinkers starting with Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich
Hayek, their roots in the old Hapsburg Empire, their Geneva School
in the 1920s-30s, moving in to the Mount Pelerin Society up to the
World Trade Organization. Focus is mostly on Europeans, with some
political support from the US right but neither author nor subject
seems to have much respect for American economists like Milton
Friedman. One thing that is striking is that while the degree of
overt racism varied, all were concerned with replacing crumbling
colonial regimes with private ownership, in effect ensuring that
imperialism would survive by privatizing it.
Sarah Smarsh: Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke
in the Richest Country on Earth (2018, Scribner): Author "was born
a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer on her paternal side and the product
of generations of teen mothers on her maternal side." Grew up on a farm
thirty miles west of Wichita (also in Wichita), and seems to have kicked
the fates of her mother and grandmother, while still remembering enough
to write movingly about people like herself.
Timothy Snyder: The Road to Unfreedom: Russia, Europe,
America (2018, Tim Duggan Books): Historian, has written
a couple of major books on the especially bloody and cruel war
between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia for eastern Europe. I've
long been bothered by his tendency to treat Hitler and Stalin as
political equivalents, a sloppiness broad enough to let him slip
Putin into the same mold. His key here is the obscure Vladimir
Ilyin, offered here as the architect of a "politics of eternity"
which binds Putin to the totalitarians of yore. Snyder does his
best to chronicle Putin's offenses against liberal democracy, up
to and including his shadow war with Ukraine, but his focus on
ideology (and demonizing Putin) slights other possible factors,
like the economy. Despite the subtitle, Europe and America are
Jason Stanley: How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and
Them (2018, Random House): Philosophy professor at Yale,
previously wrote How Propaganda Works (2015). Focuses on
actual politics in the US here, which means you can count him
among the minority who believe that certain common political ideas
and strategies fit the F-word framework. One obvious point makes
it into his subtitle: the rallying of a self-considered nationalist
core into a political movement defined in opposition to all sorts
of others that diverge from the model. Republican propaganda has
increasingly been build around that focus from Nixon to Reagan to
Bush to Trump. The second obvious point is the willingness of the
fascist leaders to run roughshod over democratic processes, to
reduce law to a tool of power, and to use violence as a means for
asserting their power. The Republicans aren't yet as vicious and
brutal as fascists under Musolini and Hitler, but they lean that
way, and their followers respond emotionally (if rarely phsyically)
to their taunts.
Nassim Nicholas Taleb: Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries
in Daily Life (2018, Random House): Fourth in a series of
books that seek to approximate a logic of how the world works --
Fooled by Randomness and The Black Swan started off
by looking at statistics and its exceptions. One point here is that
the world is run by determined minorities imposing their will. Other
points: "For social justice, focus on symmetry and risk sharing";
"Ethical rules aren't universal"; "Beware of complicated solutions
(that someone was paid to find)." The title -- a phrase I've always
found suspicious -- is also given unconventional examination: "Never
trust anyone who doesn't have skin in the game. Without it, fools
and crooks will benefit, and their mistakes will never come back
to haunt them." Maybe, but I also don't trust people who want you
to put more of your skin in their game. They're looking to make
you pay for their mistakes.
Sandy Tolan: Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a
Hard Land (2015, Bloomsbury USA): Author of one of the best
books ever on the Israel/Palestine conflict -- The Lemon Tree: An
Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East (2007) -- returns
with another very specific, concrete story of Palestinian and Israeli
musicians transcending the conflict through "the power of music," but
also "determination and vision."
Michael Tomasky: If We Can Keep It: How the Republic Collapsed
and How It Might Be Saed (2019, Liveright): Political analyst,
writes for Daily Beat and New York Review of Books, a resolute centrist
adrift in a world where the center hasn't held. Starts with a "chronology
of polarization" that almost exactly matches the four era division I've
been threatening to write about. His command of history is strong, even
if I'd nitpick a bit. Ends with a "fourteen-point agenda to reduce
polarization" that strikes me as mostly crap, some specific ("reduce
college to three years and make year four a service year"), some vague
("vastly expand civics education"). And like most centrists, he's much
more bothered by the left than the right ("insist on a left that doesn't
contribute to the fracture"). I probably need to read this, but I'm not
likely to be happy with it.
Lawrence Tribe/Joshua Matz: To End a Presidency: The Power
of Impeachment (2018, Basic Books): For some people, it's
impossible to think of the colossal mistake American voters made
in November 2016 without thinking of rectifying it through given
constitutional means: impeachment -- a feeling which goes deeper
with each scandal or other embarrassment (i.e., almost daily). The
rest of us don't deny the requisite "high crimes and misdemeanors"
the constitution calls for, but recognize that impeachment has
been a purely political matter since it was first contemplated
as a way to get rid of the almost universally loathed John Tyler.
Tyler dodged impeachment; Andrew Johnson was impeached but not
removed from office; Richard Nixon wound up resigning before the
House voted. Bill Clinton was impeached in the most cynical of
all such affairs, but Republicans in the Senate never had a prayer
of mustering the two-thirds majority. As long as Republicans hold
power in Congress Trump is safe, not least because Trump has done
very little that offends them. Still, if you want to read about
impeachment (or the 25th amendment, which allows the cabinet to
stage a political coup with mere consent of Congress), there are
plenty of books to choose from. Tribe is probably first choice
because of his long practice writing about the Supreme Court --
most recently Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the
Constitution (paperback, 2015, Picador). Also recent:
- Jeffrey A Engel/Jon Meacham/Timothy Naftali/Peter Baker:
Impeachment: An American History (2018, Modern Library).
- Alan Dershowitz: The Case Against Impeaching Trump
(2018, Hot Books).
- Elizabeth Holtzman: The Case for Impeaching Trump
(2019, Hot Books).
- Allan J Lichtman: The Case for Impeachment (2017;
paperback, 2018, Dey Street Books).
- Barbara A Radnofsky: A Citizen's Guide to Impeachment
(paperback, 2017, Melville House).
- Cass R Sunstein: Impeachment: A Citizen's Guide
(paperback, 2017, Harvard University Press).
Siva Vaidhyanathan: Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects
Us and Undermines Democracy (2018, Oxford University Press):
Author of an eye-opening book on Google -- The Googlization of
Everything (and Why We Should Worry) (2011), with previous books
on Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Proprety
and How It Threatens Creativity (2003), and The Anarchist in
the Library: How the Clash Between Freedom and Control Is Hacking
the Real World and Crashing the System (2004). Not a technophobe
or luddite, but casts a wary on the business manipulations of your
formerly private life. Some other recent books on web society:
- Ken Auletta: Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business
(and Everything Else) (2018, Penguin Press).
- Yochai Benkler/Robert Faris/Hal Roberts: Network Propaganda:
Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics
(paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
- James Bridle: New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the
Future (2018, Verso).
- Talina Bucher: If . . . Then: Algorithmic Power and
Politics (paperback, 2018, Oxford University Press).
- Virginia Eubanks: Automating Inequality: How High-Tech
Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (2018, St Martin's
- Franklin Foer: World Without Mind: The Existential Threat
of Big Tech (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Press).
- Donna Freitas: The Happiness Effect: How Social Media Is
Driving a Generation to Appear Perfect at Any Cost (2017,
Oxford University Press).
- Scott Galloway: The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple,
Facebook, and Google (2017; paperback, 2018, Portfolio).
- Tarleton Gillespie: Custodians of the Internet: Platform,
Content Moderation, and the Hidden Decisions That Shape Social
Media (2018, Yale University Press).
- Alexander Halavais: Search Engine Society (2nd edition,
paperback, 2017, Polity).
- Matthew Hindman: The Internet Trap: How the Digital Economy
Builds Monopolies and Undermines Democracy (2018, Princeton
- Tera Karppi: Disconnect: Facebook's Affective Bonds
(paperback, 2018, University of Minnesota Press).
- Jaron Lanier: Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media
Accounts Right Now (2018, Henry Holt).
- Roger McNamee: Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe
(2019, Penguin Press).
- Martin Moore: Democracy Hacked: How Technology Is Destabilising
Global Politics (2018, Oneworld).
- Safiya Umdia Noble: Algorithms of Oppression: How Search
Engines Reinforce Racism (paperback, 2018, NYU Press).
- Corey Pein: Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey Into the
Savage Heart of Silicon Valley (2018, Metropolitan Books).
- Bruce Schneier: Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and
Survival in a Hyper-connected World (2018, WW Norton).
- PW Singer/Emerson T Brooking: Like War: The Weaponization of
Social Media (2018, Eamon Dolan).
- Jamie Suskind: Future Politics: Living Together in a World
Transformed by Tech (2018, Oxford University Press).
- Zeynep Tufekci: Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragiity
of Networked Protest (2017; paperback, 2018, Yale University
- Tim Wu: The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age
(paperback, 2018, Columbia Global Reports).
Sean Wilentz: No Property in Man: Slavery and Antislavery
at the Nation's Founding (2018, Harvard University Press):
Wide-ranging American historian -- his masterpiece is The Rise of
American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln, but he's also written
(much less reliably) The Age of Reagan: A History 1974-2008
(2008). Here he expands on a theme that Jill Lepore emphasizes in
These Truths: A History of the United States: that many of
the founders of the American Republic were conscious of the problem
of slavery, especially as it contradicted their revolutionary appeals
to liberty and equality.
Bob Woodward: Fear: Trump in the White House (2018,
Simon & Schuster): I suppose every time I do one of these I should
pick out a recent Trump book and hang a list under it. This one is
probably the best-selling, with its usual load of insider dirt. Some
- Amanda Carpenter: Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When
Trump Lies to Us (2018, Broadside Books).
- Stormy Daniels: Full Disclosure (2018, St Martin's
- Justin A Frank: Trump on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the
President (2018, Avery).
- Major Garrett: Mr. Trump's Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills,
Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency
(2018, All Points Books).
- Marvin Kalb: Enemy of the People: Trump's War on the Press,
the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy
(2018, Brookings Institution Press).
- Laurence Leamer: Mar-A-Lago: Inside the Gaes of Power at
Donald Trump's Presidential Palace (2019, Flatiron).
- Omarosa Manigault Newman: Unhinged: An Insider's Account
of the Trump White House (2018, Gallery Books).
- John Nichols: Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide
to the Most Dangerous People in America (paperback, 2017,
- Bill Press: Trump Must Go: The Top 100 Reasons to Dump Donald
Trump (and One to Keep Him) (2018, Thomas Dunne Books).
- April Ryan: Under Fire: Reporting From the Front Lines of the
Trump White House (2018, Rowman & Littlefield).
- Cliff Sims: Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the
Trump White House (2019, Thomas Dunne Books).
- Sean Spicer: The Briefing: Politics, the Press, and the
President (2018, Regnery).
- GB Trudeau: #SAD!: Doonesbury in the Time of Trump
(paperback, 2018, Andrews McMeel).
- Rick Wilson: Everything Trump Touches Dies: A Republican
Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever (2018,
Robert Wuthnow: The Left Behind: Decline and Rage in Rural
America (2018, Princeton University Press): I get why farmers
and small town dwellers find the federal government distant and aloof,
but what makes them think they're so different from other people in
America? Part of this is that they're more invested in a cult of
self-sufficiency: they feed themselves, fend for themselves, and
don't see why others shouldn't do so as well. Such views have made
them easy pickings for the cynical political manipulators on the
right, but they are probably justified in their suspicion that the
changes in what Hillary Clinton calls "the more dynamic parts of
the nation" is at the root of their relative decline. Wuthnow
previously wrote Small Town America: Finding Community, Shaping
the Future (paperback, 2016, Princeton University Press).
Anne Applebaum: Red Famin: Stalin's War on Ukraine
Michael Beschloss: Presidents of War: The Epic Story, From
1807 to Modern Times (2018, Crown).
Max Boot: The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the
Right (2018, Liveright).
Preet Bharara: Doing Justice: A Prosecutor's Thoughts on Crime,
Punishment, and the Rule of Law (2019, Alfred A Knopf).
Timothy Caulfield: Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?:
How the Famous Sell Us Elixirs of Health, Beauty & Happiness
(2015; paperback, 2016, Beacon Press).
Amy Chozick: Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential
Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling (2018, Harper).
Chris Christie: Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon,
New Jersey, and the Power of In-Your-Face Politics (2019,
James R Clapper: Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life
in Intelligence (2018, Viking).
Mike Davis: Old Gods, New Enigmas: Marx's Lost Theory
Michael Eric Dyson: What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F Kennedy,
James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America
(2018, St Martin's Press).
Daniel Ellsberg: The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a
Nuclear War Planner (2017, Bloomsbury).
Norman G Finkelstein: Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom
(2018, University of California Press).
Doris Kearns Goodwin: Leadership: In Turbulent Times
(2018, Simon & Schuster).
Alan Greenspan/Adrian Wooldridge: Capitalism in America: A
History (2018, Penguin Press).
David Harvey: Marx, Capital, and the Madness of Economic
Reason (2017, Oxford University Press).
Seymour M Hersh: Reporter: A Memoir (2018, Knopf).
Eric Holt-Giménez: A Foodie's Gide to Capitalism (paperback,
2017, Monthly Review Press).
Robert Kagan: The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled
World (2018, Knopf).
Robert D Kaplan: Earning the Rockies: How Geography Shapes
America's Role in the World (2018, Random House).
Naomi Klein: The Battle for Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes
on the Disaster Capitalists (paperback, 2018, Haymarket
Stephen Kotkin: Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941
(2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Press).
Andrew G McCabe: The Threat: How the FBI Protects America
in the Age of Terror and Trump (2019, St Martin's Press).
Ralph Nader: To the Ramparts: How Bush and Obama Paved the Way
for the Trump Presidency, and Why It Isn't Too Late to Reverse Course
(2018, Seven Stories Press).
Catherine Nixey: The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction
of the Classical World (2018, Houghton Mifflin).
Michelle Obama: Becoming (2018, Crown).
David Quammen: The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of
Life (2018, self-published).
Alissa Quart: Squeezed: Why Our Families Can't Afford
America (2018, Ecco).
Ben Rhodes: The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White
House (2018, Random House).
Dani Rodrik: Straight Talk on Trade: Ideas for a Sane World
Economy (2017, Princeton University Press).
Helena Rosenblatt: The Lost History of Liberalism: From Ancient
Rome to the Twenty-First Century (2018, Princeton University
Arundhati Roy/John Cusack: Things That Can and Cannot Be
Said: Essays and Conversations (paperback, 2016, Haymarket
Bernie Sanders: Where We Go From Here (2018, Thomas
Neil Sheehan/Hedrick Smith/EW Kenworthy/Fox Butterfield/James
L Greenfield: The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the
Vietnam War (paperback, 2017, Racehorse Publishing).
Robert Skidelsky: Money and Government: The Past and Future of
Economics (2018, Yale University Press).
Neil deGrasse Tyson/Avis Lang: Accessory to War: The
Unspoken Alliance Between Astrophysics and the Military
(2018, WW Norton).
Yanis Varoufakis: Adults in the Room: My Battle With the
European and American Deep Establishment (2017, Farrar
Straus and Giroux).
Alex Von Tunzelmann: Blood and Sand: Suez, Hungary, and
Eisenhower's Campaign for Peace (2016; paperback, 2017,
Vicky Ward: Kushner, Inc. Greed. Ambition. Corruption. The
Extraordinary Story of Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (2019,
St Martin's Press).
Thomas Weber: Becoming Hitler: The Making of a Nazi
(2017, Basic Books).
Gordon S Wood: Friends Divided: John Adams and Thomas
Jefferson (2017; paperback, 2018, Penguin Books).
Lawrence Wright: God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of
the Lone Star State (2018, Knopf).
Thursday, March 14, 2019
Saving this because it's on the fleeting medium of Twitter, although
I'm not sure it deserves much better. Final four in Neoliberal Shill of
the Year bracket (started with 64): Tyler Cowen, Scott lincicome, Alan
Cole, Matthew Yglesias. That lead Yglesias to tweet this thread:
As we enter the Final Four, I'd like to address a major criticism of
my candidacy -- the perception that "Yglesias isn't a neoliberal at all,
just some kind of zoning guy."
For starters, false!
I'm out here shilling for the merits of carbon pricing, for congestion
pricing, for optimism about the trajectory of global living standards over
the past two generations, etc.
But the housing issue is supremely important to the cause of neoliberal
There are plenty of regulations here and there that one can criticizing,
but if you want to seriously make a difference to middle class living standards
through regulatory reform housing is the only area that's big enough to move
Immigrants, of course, are going to need a place to live.
Absent a policy framework for abundant housingthen immigration becomes
a zero-sum scramble for scarce resources in you end up with Brexit.
And of course there's trade -- sustaining "manly" blue collar jobs
has been neoliberal globalism's Achilles heel.
But you know what's not getting outsourced to China? Construction jobs!
But we need to make sure those investments can happen in productive
In short, a heavy emphasis on land use issues is the cornerstone of
any successful neoliberal shill agenda.
Vote Yglesias to maintain the open society!
Monday, March 11, 2019
Expanded blog post,
Music: current count 31246  rated (+39), 252  unrated (-5).
Surprised the rated count is so high, as the week went by in a daze --
often literally, as the latest correction for my failing eyesight disorts
my rectangular view of the world into a slightly tilted trapezoid. I feel
lucky not to have fallen down, but have had numerous mishaps where I reach
for something (say, an elevator button) and miss. Not sure whether I should
go back and complain, or count my blessings that details have gotten a lot
sharper. Still, one bummer is that the eyes and/or glasses have contributed
to a reading slump.
Also, I had a moment of terror mid-week, when my computer screen went
black. Problem seems to be a relatively new LG monitor lost power, but I
haven't fully checked that out. I swapped in an older Samsung monitor,
which worked, but isn't quite a sharp. I went out and bought a new HP
25-inch monitor, but don't have it plugged in yet. I've had a plan for
some time now to rearrange my work area, so this disruption complicated
things -- and in my dazed mental state slowed me down even further. I
keep letting little things get in the way. For instance, I decided that
it would be better to cut a hole in the side of the desk to route wires
through, then couldn't find my hole saws. After spending a couple days
looking everywhere, I broke down and bought a new set -- but haven't
gotten around to using them yet. I seriously intend to do so after I
get this posted.
One thing the new arrangement will let me do is use two computers
again. I'll use the second computer for some much procrastinated website
development. One thing I need to do for the Christgau and other websites
is convert the character set from ISO-8859-1 (Latin-1) to UTF-8. It's
hard to work with two different character sets on the same computer.
And I don't want to commit myself to changing everything over at once,
so this seems like a sensible migration path. I have everything I need
to do this now. Still not looking forward to painful crawling around
the floor to get it all hooked up. More details on the tech advisory
mail list as I get it all working.
As for this week's music, I worked my way down to the bottom of
end-of-February 2019 list, leaving four records unheard: three I
couldn't find (DKV/Joe McPhee, All the Young Droogs, and the
Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet) plus the Bob Mould record I have
yet to look for). Meanwhile, Overeem has moved on with
a March list I haven't gotten to (although two records there --
by James Brandon Lewis and Rosie Flores -- are listed below, having
gotten to them on my own).
This week's regrades were Robert Christgau's
EW picks this week. I had played them previously, liked the music,
didn't get much out of the words, so I thought they merited an extra
listen. Like the music even more, still didn't get much out of the
words (Malibu Ken is reportedly funny, which I usually get even
if I don't get it all; I'd say Serengeti is funnier). Also caught up
previous week alt-rap picks, which I liked a bit less. Maybe too
avant, the exact opposite of the old school People Under the Stairs,
easily my favorite hip-hop album this week.
Only B+(***) record below I might have cut short is the Branford
Marsalis, which sounds a lot like his good ones -- easily his best
since 2012's Four MFs Playin' Tunes, which was more pointedly
titled. Old music by Chick Corea and Stanley Turrentine was suggested
by Napster -- evidently a couple of those are new digital reissues.
Trying my hand at stuffed peppers (with lamb, currants, pine nuts,
and feta cheese), a dish I've never done before. It never seemed
suitably fancy for a main course, yet too big for a side dish,
especially in a typical feast with so many sides no one would want
a whole pepper. On the other hand, might be perfect for a single-dish
dinner for two.
New records reviewed this week:
- Bali Baby: Resurrection (2018, Twin, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Bali Baby: Bubbles Bali (2019, Billmania Media): [r]: B+(**)
- Better Oblivion Community Center: Better Oblivion Community Center (2019, Dead Oceans): [r]: B+(*)
- Randy Brecker & NDR Bigband: Rocks (2017 , Piloo): [cd]: B
- Czarface/Ghostface Killah: Czarface Meets Ghostface (2019, Silver Age): [r]: B+(**)
- Angel Bat Dawid: The Oracle (2019, International Anthem): [bc]: B+(*)
- Dreezy: Big Dreez (2019, Interscope): [r]: B+(**)
- FAVX: Welfare (2018, Miel de Moscas/Burger, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
- Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (2018, Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(*)
- Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (2017 , Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
- Hama: Houmeissa (2019, Sahel Sounds): [r]: B+(*)
- Izumi Kimura/Barry Guy/Gerry Hemingway: Illuminated Silence (2018 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
- Brian Krock: Liddle (2018 , Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Lapis Trio: The Travelers (2017 , Shifting Paradigm): [cd]: B+(*)
- James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (2018 , Relative Pitch): [cd]: A-
- David Liebman/Jeff Coffin/Victor Wooten/Chester Thompson/Chris Walters/James DaSilva: On the Corner Live! The Music of Miles Davis (2015 , Ear Up): [r]: B+(**)
- Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (2018 , Okeh): [r]: B+(***)
- Mdou Moctar: Blue Stage Sessions (2018 , Third Man): [r]: A-
- Jessica Pavone: In the Action (2018 , Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
- People Under the Stairs: Sincerely, the P (2019, Piecelock 70): [r]: A-
- Powder: Powder in Space (DJ Mix) (2019, Beats in Space): [r]: B+(**)
- Psymun: All Killer No Filler (2018, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
- Idris Rahman/Leon Brichard/Tom Skinner: Wildflower (2017, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
- Alfredo Rodriguez/Pedrito Martinez: Duologue (2019, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(***)
- Rüfüs Du Sol: Solace (2018, Reprise): [r]: B+(*)
- Catherine Russell: Alone Together (2019, Dot Time): [r]: B+(**)
- Dua Saleh: Nur (2019, Against Giants, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
- The Specials: Encore (2019, Island): [r]: B+(*)
- Lyn Stanley: London Calling: A Toast to Julie London (2018 , A.T. Music): [cd]: B+(*)
- Tallawit Timbouctou: Hali Diallo (2011 , Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
- David Torn/Tim Berne/Ches Smith: Sun of Goldfinger (2015-18 , ECM): [r]; B+(***)
- Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (2017 , Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**)
- Trevor Watts/Stephen Grew: Let It Be: Live in Liverpool (2018 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Travailler, C'est Trop Dur: The Lyrical Legacy of Caesar Vincent (, Swallow, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
- Chick Corea: The Complete "Is" Sessions (1969 , Blue Note, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
- Chick Corea: The Song of Singing (1970 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
- Chick Corea: Verve Jazz Masters 3 (1972-78 , Verve): [r]: B+(*)
- Joe McPhee & Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Bricktop (2015 , Trost): [bc]: B+(**)
- Stanley Turrentine: Comin' Your Way (1961 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
Grade (or other) changes:
- Aesop Rock and Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): [r]: [was: B+(**)] B+(***)
- Serengeti: Dennis 6e (2018, People): [r]: [was B+(**)] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dan McCarthy: Epoch (Origin)
- Paul Tynan: Quartet (Origin)
- Claudia Villela: Encantada Live (Taina Music): April 12
Sunday, March 10, 2019
No introduction, other than to note that I hadn't planned on including
anything on the Ilhan Omar controversy, mostly because I still haven't
bothered to track down what she said and/or apologized for. I'm pretty
careful to make sure that nothing I say that's critical of Israel can be
misconstrued as anti-semitic, but that canard is used so often (and so
indiscriminately) by Israel's hasbarists that it feels like a waste of
time to even credit the complaints.
One more note is that I expected to find more on the record-setting
2018 trade deficit, but all I came up with was the Paul Krugman post
below, where the main point is that Trump is stupid, specifically on
trade and tariffs but actually on pretty much everything. Krugman's
explanation that trade deficits reflect a savings shortfall doesn't
really tell me much. As best I can understand it, deficits are a means
by which wealth transfers from consumers to the rich -- primarily the
foreign rich, but much of that money comes back to domestic rich for
investments and sales of inflated assets. I remember some years ago
William Greider proposed a blanket, across-the-board tax on imports
aimed at restoring a trade balance -- evidently such a thing is OK
under WTO rules, and it would get around the balloon problem Krugman
refers to -- but I've never heard about it since. Strikes me as a
good idea (although I'm not sure how it would interact with exchange
Also thought a bit about writing an op-ed on Trump and Korea.
Specifically, I wanted to pose a rhetorical question to Trump, to
ask him why he lets people like John Bolton undermine his chances
for forging a signature world peace deal, and securing a legacy
as something other than, well, you know, a demagogue and a crook.
Some scattered links this week:
Erin Banco/Betsy Woodruff:
Team Trump keeps pushing deal to send nuclear tech to Saudis. Related:
The nuclear energy industry goes MAGA to win over Trump.
Wilbur Ross broke law, violated Constitution in census decision, judge
A Clinton-era centrist Democrat explains why it's time to give democratic
socialists a chance. Interview with economist Brad De Long, who worked
in the Clinton (or should I say Rubin?) Treasury Department, and identifies
as a neoliberal. However, De Long has realized something more: not so
much that neoliberalism doesn't work as that there is no political center
for maintaining it in a way that works for the common good.
The core reason, De Long argues, is political. The policies he supports
depend on a responsible center-right partner to succeed. They're premised
on the understanding that at least a faction of the Republican Party would
be willing to support market-friendly ideas like Obamacare or a cap-and-trade
system for climate change. This is no longer the case, if it ever were.
"Barack Obama rolls into office with Mitt Romney's health care policy,
with John McCain's climate policy, with Bill Clinton's tax policy, and
George H.W. Bush's foreign policy," De Long notes. "And did George H.W. Bush,
did Mitt Romney, did John McCain say a single good word about anything Barack
Obama ever did over the course of eight solid years? No, they fucking did
The result, he argues, is the nature of the Democratic Party needs to
shift. Rather than being a center-left coalition dominated by market-friendly
ideas designed to attract conservative support, the energy of the coalition
should come from the left and its broad, sweeping ideas. Market-friendly
neoliberals, rather than pushing their own ideology, should work to improve
ideas on the left. This, he believes, is the most effective and sustainable
basis for Democratic politics and policy for the foreseeable future.
The premises here are the weakest: I doubt that since Reagan's win in
1980 there has ever been even so much as a "responsible center-right" faction
in the Republican Party -- Republicans have only welcomed "bi-partisan"
deals on their own terms, which is that they must (like NAFTA, "welfare
reform," or "no child left behind") hurt the Democratic base and discredit
the Democratic Party leadership in their eyes. More importantly, Democrats
only needed this "responsible center-right" alliance because they didn't
have sufficient votes to pass policy legislation on their own. And that
was basically because they kept undermining their historic base (unions
and the working class) while chasing donors in high-tech and finance. The
result was that the growth they pursued above all else was soaked up by
the rich, leaving their base with nothing to show for their votes. Left
democrats generally accept neoliberal economic ideas, but part ways in
one crucial respect: they understand that what it takes power to ensure
that the economy works for every one, and that sacrificing power (as the
neoliberal democrats repeatedly did) makes nostrums like growth totally
meaningless. The important thing about this piece is that De Long gets
that, and that realization has moved him from opponent to enthusiastic
Our current bunch of leftists are wonderful people, as far as leftists
in the past are concerned. They're social democrats, they're very strong
believers in democracy. They're very strong believers in fair distribution
of wealth. They could use a little more education about what is likely to
work and what is not. But they're people who we're very, very lucky to
have on our side.
That's especially opposed to the people on the other side, who are very,
very strange indeed. You listen to [Never Trump conservatives] like Tom
Nichols or Bruce Bartlett or Bill Kristol or David Frum talk about all the
people they had been with in meetings, biting their tongues over the past
25 years, and your reaction can only be, "Why didn't you run away screaming
into the night long ago?"
: De Long pointed me to this
Neoliberal Shill Bracket, evidently an annual ritual among the breed,
where DeLong was highly seeded but failed to advance to the Elite 8 round.
It's a little hard to follow given that nominees are only identified by
their twitter handles, but the round of 8 gives us: Tyler Cowen, Will
Wilkinson, Scott Lincicome, Alex Nowrasteh, Alan Cole, Megan McArdle,
Noah Smith, and Matthew Yglesias. (DeLong lost to Austan Goolsbee, who
in turn was eliminated by Noah Smith -- last year's winner.) The person
who runs this circus defines the core values of neoliberalism
tout their belief in "classical liberal freedoms," "equal rights,"
and "intelligent regulation and redistribution" -- making them more
conventionally liberal than we usually associate with the term --
but those are all secondary to "we believe in free markets, and the
power of markets to alleviate poverty and generate unparalleled
economic growth." Nice theory. Too bad things don't work that way.
The most unrealistic promise Democrats are making is to restore
Donald Trump is laying the groundwork to delegitimize the 2020 election.
I suppose this story is meant to shock, but he already did a bang up job of
delegitimizing the 2016 election, so of course he's sowing the seeds for
denying his future embarrassingly shoddy showing. On the other hand, Hillary
Clinton only hurt herself by trying to prod Trump into agreeing that if he
lost he'd bow out responsibly. He never took the bait, and in the end she
was the one who had to prematurely concede.
The jail health-care crisis: "The opioid epidemic and other public-health
emergencies are being aggravated by failings in the criminal-justice
Netanyahu says Israel 'belongs to Jewish people alone' in attacks on
nation's Arab population/a>. Related:
Wonder Woman takes on Netanyahu with anti-racism post on Instagram:
Not my idea of a big deal, but I like the contrast. Also:
Pompeo: If Bibi wants a Fascist government, fine by us.
The shameful campaign to silence Ilhan Omar. Related:
Wajahat Alli/Rabia Chaudry:
Want to combat hate? Stop the hazing of Ilhan Omar and start listening;
The Ilhan Omar controversy shows how little we care about Palestinian
The Democratic Party attacks on Ilhan Omar are a travesty;
Ilhan Omar's victory for political sanity;
Three 2020 Democrats express concern that attacks against Ilhan Omar
will stifle debate on Israel: "Warren, Sanders, and Harris all come
out in support of Omar;
The Democratic Party needs Ilhan Omar;
Israel lobby and pro-Israel House Democrats tried to excommunicate Ilhlam
Omar, they failed.
Why measles is a quintessential political issue of our time.
The anti-Bernie Sanders campaign being pushed by former Clinton staffers,
explained: "Former Hillary Clinton aides really want Bernie Sanders
to get the Clinton treatment." Presumably that means to be abused as
unfairly as Clinton was, although for Clinton's truest believers the
fact that he challenged her at all, and in the process exposed some (by
no means all) of her faults is something that can never be forgiven.
Of course, the same people were every bit as bitter on losing to Obama
in 2008, even as Obama bent over so far as to turn his administration
into a Clinton rerun -- so much so that Sanders' principled criticism
of Obama was used as a cudgel, helping Clinton to pick up many Obama
votes, especially in the early primaries in states Sanders wasn't well
known in. The quotes here are a mix of stupid and cruel; e.g.: the
Clinton aide accusing Sanders of "saying things that don't resonate
with a lot of people who don't share his privilege as a cis white man
Bernie Sanders's real base is diverse -- and very young.
The pros and cons of impeaching Trump.
Garrett M Graff:
How Giuliani might take down Trump: "The parallels between the Mafia
and the Trump Organization are striking, and Giuliani perfected the
template for prosecuting organized crime."
NYT's exposé on the lies about burning aid trucks in Venezuela shows how
US government and media spread pro-war propaganda.
Trump owns the swamp now, and it's awash in lobbyists:
Most of these people are not as famous (or infamous) as, say, the former
oil industry shill and coal lobbyist who have serially run the Environmental
Protection Agency under Trump. But 350 ex-lobbyists represent a lot of
special interests. And their greatest concentration, the Post notes, is
in the Executive Office of the President, where 47 ex-lobbyists toil to
set policy for the entire federal government.
Tariff Man has become Deficit Man:
Republicans in Congress spent the entire Obama administration inveighing
against budget deficits, warning incessantly that we were going to have
a Greek-style fiscal crisis any day now. Donald Trump, on the other hand,
focused his ire mainly on trade deficits, insisting that "our jobs and
wealth are being given to other countries that have taken advantage of
But over two years of unified G.O.P. control of government, a funny
thing happened: Both deficits surged. The budget deficit has hit a level
unprecedented except during wars and in the immediate aftermath of major
economic crises; the trade deficit in goods has set a record.
Greener childhood associated with happier adulthood. Paul Woodward's
title for this is more explicit: "We need contact with nature for the sake
of our sanity."
Marijuana legalization is winning the 2020 Democratic primaries.
Democrats have united around a plan to dramatically cut child poverty:
"The American Family Act, one of Democrats' biggest policy initiatives of
The making of the Fox News White House: "Fox News has always been
partisan. But has it become propaganda?" Indeed, it has. This article
has gotten a lot of attention for its revelation of how Fox knew about
and killed he story on the Stormy Daniels payoff before the election --
a clear decision to manage the news for Trump's benefit. But the piece
is much, much bigger than that one headline-grabber.
Democrats push to make Washington, DC, the fifty-first state.
Toluse Olorunnipa/Josh Dawsey:
Trump's massive reelection campaign has 2016 themes -- and a 2020
House Democrats launch massive obstruction of justice and corruption probe
aimed at Trump: "They've requested documents from 81 people or entities.
Here's who they are."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says 'we should be excited about automation':
"Robots aren't the problem, she says -- economics are." Hard to exaggerate
how smart this is, at least compared to the usual blather politicians of
both parties spout about Jobs:
New York congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez believes
that people should welcome robots taking their jobs -- but not the economic
system that can make it financially devastating. During a talk at SXSW, an
audience member asked Ocasio-Cortez about the threat of automated labor.
"We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work,"
she said in response. "We should be excited by that. But the reason we're
not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don't have
a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem."
Also note this pull quote: "Not all creativity needs to be bonded by
The Mar-a-Lago connection to the Cindy Yang affair raises huge security
Chas Danner: Everything to know about the spa founder selling access to
Trump will reportedly ask Congress for another $8.6 billion to guild the
Eric Schmitt/Charlie Savage:
US airstrikes kill hundreds in Somalia as shadowy conflict ramps
Why Sacramento is still protesting Stephon Clark's death, one year
A single-payer advocate answers the big question: How do we pay for
it? Interview with Matt Breunig.
Adam Schiff hires a former prosecutor to lead the Trump investigation.
Facebook's new move isn't about privacy. It's about domination. Related:
Mark Zuckerberg is trying to play you -- again.
Could one man single-handedly ruin the planet? After mentioning Xi
Jinping and Donald Trump, he gets to an even more ominous test case:
Brazil's new president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Monday, March 04, 2019
Scraped from a twitter image: Neoliberal Shill Bracket:
The Neolib Podcast Region:
1. @economeager - Rachael Meager + +
Asst Prof LSEEcon STICERD_LSE development & econometrics
8. @mnolangray +
5. @ModeledBehavior - Adam Ozimek +
4. @tylercowen - Tyler Cowen + + + +
11. @karlbykarlsmith - Karl Smith +
"do you even FRED bro?"
3. @willwilkinson - Will Wilkinson + + +
Niskanen Center VP for Research, NY Times, Vox
7. @senatorshoshana - Shoshana Weissmann + +
RSI digital media manager
2. @calebwatney +
The Sticker Club Region:
1. @s8mb - Sam Bowman + +
used to run ASI; "I invented neoliberalism"
16. @nihilistspicer -
"antifa DSA who happens to know Econ 101"
9. @erikbryn +
5. @jbarro +
4. @scottlincicome - Scott Lincicome + + + +
trade lawyer, Cato Institute
11. @NKaeding + +
3. @glenweyt +
7. @AlexNowrasteh - Alex Nowrasteh + + +
Cato Institute analyst of immigration policy
2. @hamandcheese - Samuel Hammond
Director of Poverty and Welfare Policy, Niskanen Center
15. @ahardtospell - Alex Muresianu +
Economic policy and memes; LoConservative, AmConMag, dcexaminer, ArcDigi
The Reviving Neoliberalism Region:
16. @ComfortablySmug +
8. @salonium + +
5. @AlanMCole - Alan Cole + + + +
Business economics and public policy Wharton, tax policy guy, high
priest emeritus of DBCFT
4. @patrickc +
6. @dylanmatt - Dylan Matthews
"my tweet portal is whack"
11. @asymmetricinfo - Megan McArdle + + +
DC blogger, "Live From the WTC"
14. @sonyaellenmann +
7. @Austen + +
2. @jaredpolis +
The Meetup Region:
1. @Noahpinion - Noah Smith + + +
Bloomberg opinion writer, chief neoliberal shill 2018
9. @jodiecongirl +
5. @Austan_Goolsbee + +
4. @delong - Brad DeLong +
6. @_TamaraWinter + +
14. @JosephMajkut +
10. @jaketapper +
2. @mattyglesias - Matthew Yglesias + + + +
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Music: current count 31207  rated (+33), 257  unrated (+5).
Lots of good records this week, mostly early 2019 releases that I
checked out after Phil Overeem posted his
Best Rekkids of '19 - End of Febru-weary Edition, with "30 pretty
damn decent releases." I had previously heard N:
- Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside -18) [B+(*)]
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: The Amiri Baraka Sessions (Flat Langston's Arkeyes) [A]
- Eric Dolphy: Musical Prophet (Resonance -3CD) [A-]
- Matthew Shipp Trio: Signature (ESP-Disk) [B+(***)]
- Bad Bunny: X 100PRE (Rimas Entertainment -18) [B+(*)]
I sampled 11 more below, coming up with 5 A-, 3 B+(***), 1 B+(**),
1 B-, 1 C. I looked up but didn't find 4 more (DKV, All the Young
Droogs, M'dou Moctar, and the Clifford Thornton Memorial Quartet --
a 2018 release I've looked for several times) -- basically only got
down to 14, but Michael Tatum recommended Our Native Daughters, so I
prioritized that, as well as the jazz releases (Ward, Ill Considered).
The DKV (Ken Vandermark sax trio with Kent Kessler and Hamid Drake)
is a 6-CD box on the Catalytic Bandcamp, but they only have 3 tracks
available -- far short of anything I can review in good conscience.
Until they stopped providing full albums a little over a year ago, I
tried to review everything they released (missing only a few monster
sets), but gave up after that, finishing 2018 with 8 unreviewed Ken
Vandermark titles in my
music tracking file (plus various
of his cohort, including Overeem's favorite, Joe McPhee) -- certainly
one reason why my 2018
Best Jazz list came up
shorter than recent years.
I also took a fairly deep dive into Ill Considered, a British jazz
quartet (sax, bass, drums, extra percussion), made possible by their
Bandcamp page --
only skipped An Ill Considered Christmas (see Phil Freeman's
review). Rhythmically, they remind me of Nik Bärtsch's Ronin,
but rawer, with a lot more sax appeal.
Missing from this week's A-list is James Brandon Lewis' An
Unruly Manifesto. I was all ready to write it up based on a
download when an actual CD showed up in a package from Relative
Pitch, but when that happened I decided I wanted to listen some
more. When I stopped writing Jazz Consumer Guide for the Village
Voice, I stopped requesting review copies. But only some publicists
stopped sending records, so I kept writing up what I got, filling
in obvious holes by streaming. For the last 3-4 years, the one US
label I most regretted not getting service from (and not being able
to find on a streaming service) was Relative Pitch. (Well, Tzadik
was competition, after they pulled their releases from Rhapsody.)
So this package was the week's most pleasant surprise. Will get to
them soon (with Lewis first).
I decided I was done with the
EOY Aggregate mid-week,
but today I figured I'd add in the albums I graded but hadn't shown
up in any other list. I got tired of that pretty quickly -- last
one I added was Chrome Hill's The Explorer (Clean Feed) --
so decided not to hold this post up for closure. The late adds to
the file moved it back a bit toward the consensus of aggregators
Acclaimed Music; e.g., Pusha T reclaimed 4th from Cardi B, and
in the biggest shift, Low rose to 8 over Noname and Parquet Courts.
Also, the Arctic Monkeys (which I dislike even more than Double
Negative) is back to up a tie at 16 (with Kali Uchis).
tonight. I keep postponing my website redesign work, mostly because
everything sucks here. But I did decide that one thing I need to do
is to move my computer back to the old desk, making it possible to
use a second (presently inaccessible) computer for development work.
To that end, I ordered another UPS, which is here waiting to be
plugged in, ready for the move. (Has been for a week, but any day
now.) When I get going, I'll explain why this matters to my "tech
advisory" mail list. If you'd like to join in on that discussion
(or just lurk), let me know and I'll sign you up. I expect to have
plenty of questions, and could use the help.
New records reviewed this week:
- Aesop Rock & Tobacco: Malibu Ken (2019, Rhymesayers): [r]: B+(**)
- Atomic: Pet Variations (2018 , Odin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Marcia Ball: Shine Bright (2018, Alligator): [r]: B+(*)
- Yugen Blakrok: Anima Mysterium (2019, IOT): [r]: A-
- R.L. Boyce: Rattlesnake Boogie (2018, Waxploitation): [r]: B+(*)
- Robert Ellis: Texas Piano Man (2019, New West): [r]: B
- Rosie Flores: Simple Case of the Blues (2019, The Last Music Company): [r]: B+(**)
- Fidel Fourneyron: ¿Que Vola? (2019, No Format): [r]: B+(***)
- Mimi Fox: This Bird Still Flies (1985-2018 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
- Ill Considered: Ill Considered (2017, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A
- Ill Considered: Live at the Crypt (2017, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ill Considered: Ill Considered 3 (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A-
- Ill Considered: Live at Total Refreshment Centre (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ill Considered: Live in Camden Town (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(**)
- Ill Considered: Live in Nantes (2018, Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ill Considered: Ill Considered 5 (2018 , Ill Considered Music): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ill Considered: Ill Considered 6 (2018 , Ill Considered Music): [bc]: A-
- Kel Assouf: Black Tenere (2019, Glitterbeat): [r]: A-
- Rebecca Kilgore/Bernd Lhotzky: This or That (2017, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
- Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba: Miri (2019, OutHere): [r]: A-
- Doug MacDonald Quartet: Organisms (2018 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Pat Martino: Formidable (2017, High Note): [r]: B+(*)
- Marilyn Mazur: Marilyn Mazur's Shamania (2017 , RareNoise): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Joe McPhee/John Butcher: At the Hill of James Magee (2019, Trost): [bc]: B+(***)
- Our Native Daughters: Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019, Smithsonian Folkways): [r]: A-
- Kassa Overall: Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz (2018 , self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
- RGG/Verneri Pohjola/Samuel Blaser: City of Gardens (2017 , Fundacja Sluchaj): [bc]: B+(**)
- Ustad Saami: God Is Not a Terrorist (2019, Glitterbeat): [r]: C
- Nick Sanders Trio: Playtime 2050 (2017-18 , Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(**) [03-15]
- Greg Ward Presents Rogue Parade: Stomping Off From Greenwood (2017 , Greenleaf Music): [r]: B-
- Anna Webber: Clockwise (2017 , Pi): [cd]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:
- Sir Shina Peters & His International Stars: Sewele (1986 , Strut): [r]: A-
- Atomic: There's a Hole in the Mountain (2012 , Jazzland): [bc]: B+(*)
- Rosie Flores: Girl of the Century (2009, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(*)
- Rebecca Kilgore/The Harry Allen Quartet: Live at Feinstein's at Loews Regency: Celebrating "Lady Day" and "Prez" (2011, Arbors): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- The David Berkman Sextet: Six of One (Palmetto): April 5
- Chat Noir: Hyperuranion (RareNoise): cdr, March 29
- Carolyun Fitzhugh: Living in Peace (Iyouwe): March 15
- Michael Foster/Katherine Young/Michael Zerang: Bind the Hand(s) That Feed (Relative Pitch)
- Guillermo Gregorio & Brandon Lopez: 12 Episodes (Relative Pitch)
- Brian Krock: Liddle (Outside In Music): April 26
- Lapis Trio: The Travelers (Shifting Paradigm)
- James Brandon Lewis: An Unruly Manifesto (Relative Pitch)
- Sean Noonan: Tan Man's Hat (RareNoise): cdr, March 29
- Jessica Pavone: In the Action (Relative Pitch)
- Tomeka Reid/Filippo Monico: The Mouser (Relative Pitch)
- Typical Sisters: Hungry Ghost (Outside In Music): March 22
Saturday, March 02, 2019
Three fairly major stories dominated the news this past week: Trump
walking away from his summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un without
even making a serious proposal or showing any interest in long-range
peace; Michael Cohen's congressional testimony, where he made a case
that his own crimes were directed by Trump; and Trump's "free-form"
speech at CPAC's annual convention. We'll take these in order, then
conclude with the leftovers, including some stories that are actually
bigger and more ominous than the headline grabbers: a dangerous border
skirmish between nuclear powers India and Pakistan, US escalation
against Venezuela, the impending indictment of Israeli PM Netanyahu,
the usual gamut of Washington scandals, and some hopeful legislation
that Democrats are introducing (and campaigning on).
Some links on Korea and the summit failure:
Love can't buy a nuclear deal: "Trump and Kim failed to reach a
breakthrough in Hanoi. For now, that may be for the best." It bothers
me a lot when otherwise astute observers say things like this. War is
so horrific no one should ever argue that walking back from the peace
table is a good thing. What this really shows is that Kaplan, like so
many American "experts," doesn't see costs and risks to perpetuating
the status quo, especially the cruel sanctions regime. In the lead up
to the summit, I didn't bother citing the many pessimistic forecasts,
like Kaplan's own
Trump's bargaining position with Kim Jong-un is unbelievably weak.
Kaplan is half right about that, in that there is virtually nothing
the US can do to force North Korea to capitulate. On the other hand,
the US has one great asymmetric advantage, in that we know that Kim's
"nuclear threat" is mere bluff, while US sanctions cause real pain
with little or no cost or risk. I could expand on this much more, but
right now don't have the time or stomach. But I will leave you with
two points: one is that Trump is exceptionally capable of negotiating
a realistic deal with Kim because he identifies with strong dictators
and has no inclination to judge them morally (also because he doesn't
have any compelling graft not to deal, as he has with Iran, Yemen, and
Venezuela); the other is that this summit demonstrates a common thread
in Trump's foreign policy, which is his utter contempt and callousness
in all his dealings with the world.
North Korea contradicts Trump on the reason a summit deal fell
Breakdown in Hanoi Summit shows the real danger on the Korean Peninsula:
Donald Trump's America.
Trump is missing his opportunity to press Kim Jong Un on human rights:
On the other hand, Kim missed the opportunity to press Trump on same.
After all the swagger, Trump's talks with North Korea collapse.
Some links on Cohen and this week in the "witchhunt":
Michael Cohen's road map for Democrats.
A legal editor on what we learned from Michael Cohen's Congressional
testimony: Interview with Quinta Jurecic, managing editor of
The sycophant and the sociopath.
Uncontradicted: "Republicans on the House Oversight Committee impugned
the integrity of Trump's former lawyer -- but failed to defend the president
from his key charges."
Michael Cohen: I probably threatened people for Trump hundreds of
What Michael Cohen's testimony means for the Russia investigation.
And some links on Trump and this year's CPAC (Conservative Political
Action Conference) orgy:
Still more scattered links this week:
Bernie Sanders is poised to open up a painful intraparty debate about
Michael A Cohen:
Mitch McConnell, Republican nihilist. Wish I could also share
The King and I, a review of Chris Christie's Let Me Finish
and Cliff Sims' Team of Vipers (locked behind paywall).
Rachel M Cohen:
Labor unions are skeptical of the Green New Deal, and they want activists
to hear them out.
Jair Bolsonaro praised the genocide of indigenous people. Now he's
emboldening attackers of Brazil's Amazonian communities.
It might be time for a "War Dogs" sequel: Report on a Defense
contractor TransDigm Group, which a recent report revealed "'earned
excess profit' on nearly every parts contract it made with the Defense
David A Graham:
Trump aides keep writing memos to protect themselves: "Their urge
to document the president's requests and interactions is justified by
How the Right is using Venezuela to reorder politics: "The
social-democratic wing of the Democratic Party must find a way to put
forth a compelling counter-vision."
Maggie Haberman: et al.:
Trump ordered officials to give Jared Kushner a security clearance:
Not much of a story, but much cited this week. Kushner eventually got
his clearance, and nobody seems to know exactly why it took so long --
in his position, it should have been automatic (not that he ever should
have gotten the job). So the interest now seems to be catching Trump in
another bald-faced lie (video link included).
Trump and Brexit proved this book prophetic -- what calamity will befall
us next?: Interview with Martin Gurri, author of The Revolt of the
Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium (2014). For
a flavor, here are the pull quotes:
"The year 2011 proved to be the moment of phase change, when digital
anger passed over into political action."
"Elites currently seem to be more concerned with re-establishing
their distance from the public than with reforming the system or
restoring their own authority. They equate legitimacy with clinging
to the top of the pyramid."
"When you abolish history, you lose your memory and it's like you've
had a stroke. That condition can lead you to do crazy things."
"If we select the elites, we can un-select them. When it comes to
politics, we can support politicians who fit into the digital age and
are willing to compress the pyramid and dwell closer to the public."
Trump delays more tariffs on China in hopes of a trade deal
Medicare-for-all: Rep. Pramila Jayapal's new bill, explained.
Related: Ryan Grim::
The special interests behind Rep. Pramila Jayapal's Medicare for All
bill are not the usual suspects.
Socialism and the self-made woman: "What Ivanka Trump doesn't know
about social mobility."
O.K., this was world-class lack of self-awareness: It doesn't get much
better than being lectured on self-reliance by an heiress whose business
strategy involves trading on her father's name. But let's go beyond the
personal here. We know a lot about upward mobility in different countries,
and the facts are not what Republicans want to hear. . . .
Look, Ms. Trump is surely right in asserting that most of us want
a country in which there is the potential for upward mobility. But the
things we need to do to ensure that we are that kind of country -- the
policies that are associated with high levels of upward mobility around
the world -- are exactly the things Republicans denounce as socialism.
Running the Democratic primary through 'Trump Country' is the road to
defeat: "Yes, we're looking at you, Bernie Sanders." Basically says
don't waste your breath on the deplorables, or anyone else who lives
in parts where they're statistically significant -- in effect, arguing
that demography is destiny, and going even further than Clinton in
admitting that Democrats have nothing to offer people who aren't part
of their focus groups. Dismisses Sanders as "just the most prominent
white man in the race right now." Adds that: "Both Trump and Sanders
campaigns could be read as promising to put a white man 'back on top,'
where he always thinks he belongs." As if any differences between the
two pale in comparison to checking a couple of boxes on census forms.
Survival of the richest: "All are equal, except those who aren't."
Why has it taken us so long to see Trump's weakness? Robin blames
the "Historovox" (a word I hope never to hear of again):
Perhaps the answer lies in a new genre of journalism that forgoes the
pedestrian task of reporting the news in favor of explaining it through
the lens of academic research. Ensconced at Vox, FiveThirtyEight,
dedicated pages of the Washington Post and the New York
Times, and across Twitter, the explainers place great stock
in the authority of scholarship -- and in journalists who know how
to wield the authority of scholars. This genre first arose under the
roseate glow of Obama, reflecting the White House's warm embrace of
science and smarts. Now, in the age of Trump, it's less a happy
affirmation of wonks and geeks than an anxious cry of the Resistance.
Being smart, honoring research, favoring truth: These are the emblems
of the world Trump wants to destroy and that the explainers wish to
preserve. . . .
Short-term interests and partisan concerns still drive reporting
and commentary. But where the day's news once would have been narrated
as a series of events, the Historovox brings together those events in
a pseudo-academic frame that treats them as symptoms of deeper patterns
and long-term developments. Unconstrained by the protocols of academe
or journalism, but drawing on the authority of the first for the sake
of the second, the Historovox skims histories of the New Deal or rifles
through abstracts of meta-analysis found in JSTOR to push whatever the
latest line happens to be.
It's not hard to think of suspect examples -- indeed, most of the
efforts to sketch Trump into the long histories of fascism or populism
miss more than they discover, much like the efforts to psychoanalyze
Trump as a sociopath -- but everyone brings some framework to their
observations, and it's usually better to have one that's tested and
coherent, rather than just falling for whatever PR slant most tickles
your fancy. I, for one, have found Vox exceptionally useful since Trump
became president. They do a relatively good job of summarizing news and
putting it into a context that is historical and scientific, and their
political slant isn't unpalatable (not that I don't find bones to pick).
On the other hand, I've found The Nation (which should be closer
to my politics) to be nearly useless (except for Tom Engelhardt's
remarkable TomDispatch, and whatever Mike Konczal contributes).
CNN hires Trump official who used same anti-press rhetoric as man who
sent bombs to CNN.
Richard Silverstein: Both of these articles were occasioned
by Netanyahu's decision to bring the ultra-right Kahanist political movement
into his governing coalition:
Putin's one weapon: The 'intelligence state': "Russia's leader has
restored the role its intelligence agencies had in the Soviet era --
keep citizens in check and destabilize foreign adversaries." As noted,
the role of the secret police dates back to the Tsars. It's always been
justified by the presumed weakness of the nation and state, something
it tends to perpetuate.
Sen. Brian Schatz will introduce a new bill to tax stock trades and curb
This battle of billionaires was inevitable: "A surprise decision over
a Pentagon contract seems like the latest volley in a war between President
Trump and Jeff Bezos." Billionaires will always be jealous of one another,
but the main interest here is an open-ended contract to turn management of
the DOD's cloud computing over to a private contractor, under rules that
curiously exclude all competitors other than Amazon.
Police who shot Stephon Clark will not be charged, District Attorney
Trump's other 'national emergency': Sanctions that kill Venezuelans:
"The humanitarian crisis will get rapidly worse if the most recent sanctions
The Senate just confirmed a former coal lobbyist to lead the EPA:
"Three things to know about Andrew Wheeler."