November 2020 Notebook


Monday, November 30, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (finished).

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

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

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

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

New records reviewed this week:

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

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

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

Old music:

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

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

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

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

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

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

I'm getting bored with this, just going through the motions, and Thanksgiving holiday no doubt depressed the news feed (Vox is way down, which may reflect turnover there), but started early enough there's still quite a lot here.

I'd like to dedicate this column to Lou Jean Fleron, who celebrated her 80th birthday today. Sixty-some years ago, she and her little brother Ken Brown attended a speech by Sam Rayburn (Speaker of the House, from Texas), and it inspired them both to study politics and become Democrats. Both wound up teaching political science. They've always been my heroes and role models, and no one has had more influence or provided more inspiration for my own considered political views than Lou Jean. I failed to write up the requested "story" for her Festschrift today, so the least I can do is dedicate this to her.

Trump's Election Fraud

As more votes have been counted, well, see Tim Dickinson: It actually was a landslide: 80 million votes and counting for Biden. Also note: "At 51 percent, Biden's share of the vote is the highest of any presidential challenger since FDR ousted Herbert Hoover in 1932." Trump got a lot of votes, too, but in the popular vote Biden is leading by over 6 million. The Electoral College margin appears to be 306-223. That it is that close attests to how the Electoral College bends the playing field in favor of the Republicans -- the party which has won four presidential terms while losing the popular vote, something the Democrats have never done. (The only other time a minority vote-getter became president was John Quincy Adams, in 1824, at a point when the Federalist Party had collapsed and the Whig Party not yet founded, so all major contenders were Democratic-Republicans. Andrew Jackson got the most votes, but no one got an Electoral College majority, so the House chose the president, in a deal brokered by Henry Clay.) Lots of people complain about the Electoral College, but with one party systematically benefitting from it -- and for that matter a party with nothing but contempt for democracy -- there's little chance of change. The only chance Democrats have is to win elections by even larger margins than Biden won this one.

Alexander Burns: Trump stress-tested the election system, and the cracks showed.

Gail Collins/Bret Stephens: Can this get any more pathetic? "The president and his enablers may look like fools, but they are causing real damage."

Aaron C Davis/Josh Dawsey/Emma Brown/Jon Swaine: For Trump advocate Sidney Powell, a playbook steeped in conspiracy theories.

Eliza Griswold: Trump's battle to undermine the vote in Pennsylvania.

Richard L Hasen: Trump's legal farce is having tragic results: "There is nothing funny about the Republican Party's multipronged attack on voting rights."

Rosalind S Heiderman: Wisconsin recount confirms Biden's win over Trump. Biden's lead actually increased by 87 votes.

Josh Marshall: The short, happy, bizarre defenestration of Sidney Powell.

Cameron Peters:

Daniel Politi: Biden sees lead increase in Milwaukee County after Trump pays for vote recount.

Philip Rucker/Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey/Amy Gardner: 20 days of fantasy and failure: Inside Trump's quest to overturn the election.

Robert Shapiro: No, it wasn't a coup attempt. It was another Trump money scam.

Other Election Matters

Trip Gabriel: How Democrats suffered crushing down-ballot losses across America.

Will Wilkinson: Why did so many Americans vote for Trump? "To the dismay of Democrats, the president's strategy of ignoring the pandemic mostly worked for Republicans." I think that much is true. Trump's own illness story, his treatment and recovery, breathed substance into his message that we shouldn't let fear of the virus dominate our lives. Many people admired his defiance, even if they recognized he wasn't very smart or conscientious. Still, that only helped so much.

How could a president responsible for one of the gravest failures of governance in American history nevertheless maintain such rock-solid support? Democracy's throw-the-bums-out feedback mechanism gets gummed up when the electorate disagrees about the identity of the bums, what did and didn't occur on their watch and who deserves what share of the credit or blame.

When party affiliation becomes a central source of meaning and self-definition, reality itself becomes contested and verifiable facts turn into hot-button controversies. Elections can't render an authoritative verdict on the performance of incumbents when partisans in a closely divided electorate tell wildly inconsistent stories about one another and the world they share.

Mr. Trump has a knack for leveraging the animosities of polarized partisanship to cleave his supporters from sources of credible information and inflame them with vilifying lies. This time, it wasn't enough to save his bacon, which suggests that polarization hasn't completely wrecked our democracy's capacity for self-correction: Sweeping a medium-size city's worth of dead Americans under the rug turned out to be too tall an order.

Biden Prospects

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

Doug Bandow: Team Trump determined to drop foreign policy bombs in the way out: "Everything the outgoing administration is doing today seems coordinated to obstruct the Biden team tomorrow."

Christopher Campbell: The Biden popular front is doomed to unravel. Title makes sense but I'd argue that both left and right wings of the Democratic Party need each other more than they need to fear or dominate the other, that neither can afford to lose the other, especially given that Republicans even without Trump remain a unifying threat. But this article has little to do with its title. Much of it is a strange rationalization of Trump's unexpected success. And it ends with an observation that the dividing line between the parties isn't capital vs. labor (as it was during the New Deal/Great Society era) but growing vs. declining states/regions.

Megan Cassella/Ben White/Tyler Pager: Biden unveils diverse economic team as challenges to economy grow: "The president-elect intends to name Cecilia Rouse, Neera Tanden and Wally Adeyemo to senior roles in his administration." Article assumes Janet Yellen is pick for Treasury Secretary. Most of the commentary I've seen concerns Tanden, who runs the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, but is infamous as a critic of Bernie Sanders and his supporters. Tanden was picked to run the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Sanders is on the Senate Budget Committee.

Nancy Cook: Trump's 2016 transition defined his presidency. Biden's might, too. "The hallmarks were all there during Trump's transition -- off-the-cuff decision-making, high staff turnover and bitter internal battles. So far, Biden's transition has publicly been the opposite."

EJ Dionne Jr: Why they fight: "The Democrats are a big-tent party. The GOP isn't. That explains everything." Glancing through the comments, I see that Dionne's view -- basically a variant on the old Will Rogers joke (quote included) -- is limited by being inside the tent. One could imagine (and maybe even relish) the "democratic wing" purging the Party's more conservative elements, like the Republican right-wing did to "purify" their party. Indeed, that's likely to happen, although I doubt the left will ever be as successful as the right has been. But for now, the big difference isn't the diversity of opinion within the Democratic Party, but the fact that Democrats still imagine themselves as representing and supporting the entire country -- even regions, components, and classes that provide them little support -- whereas Republicans focus narrowly on their supporters, even if only to reinforce prejudices.

Jen Kirby: Joe Biden's foreign policy vision takes shape as he selects his team. Nominees to date:

  • Antony Blinken: Secretary of State (grade card)
  • Alejandro Mayorkas: Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Avril Haines: National Intelligence Director
  • Jake Sullivan: National Security Adviser
  • Linda Thomas-Greenfield: UN Ambassador
  • John Kerry: Special Presidential Envoy for Climate

More on these people:

Jackson Lears: Don't wish for a restoration: One common reaction of Democrats to Trump has been a wave of nostalgia for Obama, and that's been a driving force behind Biden's campaign. As Biden stocks his administration, it is inevitable that he will draw heavily on Obama veterans. However, I'm more inclined to view Obama's years as opportunity wasted -- not just through inaction but through futile attempts to appeal to elite but conventional interests:

The great danger is that much of the Biden administration will likely be composed of Washington insiders who are devoted to the failed policies of the past -- austerity at home, overextended military commitments abroad. To cling to those policies would be to pretend that the populist challenge to the Washington consensus in 2016 never happened.

This is part of a New York Review series of short articles on the 2020 elections. Also see:

  • Ben Fountain: What has minimalist democracy gotten us?

  • Wallace Shawn: Developments since my birth. That would be 1943. I've thought a good deal about my own birth date (in 1950, a week before a Chinese volunteer army reversed American gains in Korea) as a pivotal date in the decline of the nation.

    Barack Obama seemed to love the old rhetoric, and he may have been despised by Trump and his followers not simply because he was the first person of color to become president, and not simply because of the elegance of his speeches and the refinement and sense of self-respect evident in his demeanor, but because the words he used somehow harked back to the ethical aspirations expressed by President Kennedy (never mind that neither he nor President Kennedy lived up to them).

    Over the decades of my life, America's morale has declined, I'd say. There was a dignity to feeling kind and good. It was enjoyable. On the other hand, the lack of connection between what we felt we were and what we actually were was dangerous and led to the death of a lot of people. . . . But for those countless others, in the cities and towns of the USA and in countries far away, to whom America has not been good, the face of America has always and forever been the face of Donald Trump.

Ralph Nader: Biden needs to report Trump's wreckage in Executive Branch as markers.

When the Bidenites take over on January 21, they will find hollowed-out government law enforcement and shelved research projects. They'll see offices empty after government scientists and other civil servants were forced out. Other public servants will be sitting in what the Japanese call "window jobs," ordered to stop working on vital matters ranging from limiting climate disruption to stopping Wall Street rip-offs. The Trump administration turned important government jobs into do-nothing positions.

Heavily censored federal CDC workers, benumbed from prohibitions on what they can say, and who were ordered not to speak the words "climate change" will receive their rescuers with deep relief. EPA workers who were ordered to repeal or weaken over 100 environmental safeguards -- unleashing deadly toxins into people's air and water -- will feel the breaking of the restraints imposed on sound science.

Specialists who were told to weaken or eliminate about 50 occupational health and safety standards and literally shut down enforcement at OSHA will also start to see the early dawn.

Biden's team will discover destruction or theft of public records, spectacles of looting and plunder of public trust and public property.

They will hear stories of corporate lobbyists coming in and out of the agencies as if they owned the government because they did. Trump turned over the federal government to Big Business, as has never before happened, brazenly, openly, and endlessly. His nominee to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) into nothingness, marauding Mick Mulvaney, openly said the agency's mission was to protect Wall Street Big Banks and unscrupulous payday lenders!! Mulvaney abandoned tens of millions of defrauded Americans. . . .

Unlike the entering Obama Administration back in 2009, the Biden Administration must come in with a determined mindset as they begin restoring the rule of law and reversing Trump's cruel and crazy policies. Biden's team will also need to start restoring past services and initiating new services for the citizenry.

They must not let the Trumpster outlaws escape and become immune fugitives from justice. If Trump's wrecking crew escapes the arm of the law, for sure they and their base will return with a vengeance in two and four years.

Osita Nwanevu: The Democrats' maddening cowardice is carrying over into the Biden era.

Richard Silverstein: Biden's Middle East policy will face an unholy right-wing alliance.

Jamie Stiehm: Why Biden has it harder than FDR and Lincoln: For starters, he doesn't have their Congressional majorities, and most likely won't have any sort of majority in the Senate. But even though Obama had a majority in Congress in 2009, he had a great deal of trouble getting his relatively modest legislative proposals passed.

Astra Taylor: How the Biden administration can free Americans from student debt.

Laura Weiss: The government's human cruelty will outlive Trump: "Immigration agencies won't suddenly clean up their act when the president leaves office. What's Biden going to do about their systemic abuses?"

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 13.3 million+ cases (14 day change +12%), 266,357 deaths (+29%), 91,635 hospitalized (+38%). The change rates have lowered a bit, but still 1 million cases in the last week (151,247 on Nov. 28). At the current rate, we'll hit 18 million cases and 300,000 deaths by January 1. Note that constant rate is not the worst possible scenario (see Higgins below).

Bryce Covert: New York's feckless, scientifically illiterate response to the Covid second wave.

Marissa Higgins: Amid holiday season, Dr Anthony Fauci gets brutally honest about possible coronavirus spike.

Umair Irfan: Covid-19 vaccine efficacy results are not enough: "What the latest Covid-19 vaccine announcements from AstraZeneca-Oxford, Pfizer-BioNTech, and Moderna can and can't tell us."

Melody Schreiber: Pharma executives are profiting from Covid vaccine press releases: "The timing of the announcements, and their lack of detail, are raising worries about insider trading and unrealistic expectations."

Still More on Donald Trump

Isaac Arnsdorf: Trump races to weaken environmental and worker protections before January 20th.

Dan Barry: 'Loser': How a lifelong fear bookended Trump's presidency: "The president's inability to concede the election is the latest reality-denying moment in a career preoccupied with an epithet."

Kyle Cheney/Josh Gerstein: Trump pardons former national security adviser Flynn. The first, and in some ways, the safest of Trump's post-election pardons. Even so, Trump made Flynn wait in line behind the Thanksgiving turkey. More on Flynn:

Zak Cheney-Rice: Losing hasn't changed Trump's stance on white supremacy: "His continued resistance to renaming military bases that honor Confederates -- though it has no obvious political benefit -- confirms his true beliefs." Doesn't strike me as a very good example. In fact, I don't think Trump qualifies as a white supremacist -- unlike some of his followers, and many of their forebears -- although he often has racist impulses, and consistently rejects all efforts to acknowledge much less correct past racism. I'd also argue that his position does have political benefit, at least within his base, which is all he really care about. A lot of Trump supporters are in denial about racism, both past and present, and one reason Trump is important to them is that he saves them from having to examine their own beliefs and acts. On the other hand, it's very likely that all of those bases will be renamed under Biden, and the issue will die there.

Lee Fang: Another official dismissed at the Pentagon as Trump continues unusual shake-up.

Lisa Friedman: EPA's final deregulatory rush runs into open staff resistance.

Charlotte Klein: Here's what a lame-duck Trump might do: List from subheds follows. The ones to worry about are the irreversible acts, especially military strikes.

  • Pardon his cronies and the connected
  • Attack Iran's main nuclear site
  • Bring back firing squads
  • Make it easier to pollute
  • Preserve Confederate monuments
  • Make it even harder to claim asylum

Philip Allen Lacovara: Yes, the Biden administration should hold Trump accountable. Author is "a former president of the DC Bar, served as counsel to the Watergate special prosecutor." More thoughts on prosecuting Trump:

  • Andrew Weissmann: Should Trump be prosecuted? "Being president should mean you are more accountable, not less, to the rule of law." Weissman "was a senior prosecutor in the Mueller investigation."

Martin Longman: How Trump killed political blogging.

Jonathan Martin/Maggie Haberman: How Trump hopes to use party machinery to retain control of the GOP.

Eric L Muller: The one word that bars Trump from pardoning himself: "The question shouldn't be whether the president can pardon himself but whether he can grant himself a pardon -- and those are not the same thing."

Olivia Nuzzi: The final gasp of Donald Trump's presidency.

Madison Pauly: Will Trump's accusers finally get their day in court?

Walter M Shaub Jr: The presidential transition meets Murphy's Law: In this case, GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, the very literal embodiment of Murphyism. Since this article, Trump allowed Murphy to release transition funds. But she still stands as a prime example of how Trump's intransigence is reflected among his loyal minions.

Asawin Suebsaeng: Trump's already gaming out a 2024 run -- including an event during Biden's inauguration.

Jeff Wise: The people v Donald J Trump: "The criminal case against him is already in the works -- and it could go to trial sooner than you think." Opens with the example of Silvio Berlusconi, who went from billionaire media magnate to prime minister of Italy to jail. I wrote about the Berlusconi precedent four years ago (which built on something I wrote in 2006, Mobsters in Suits), so it seems fitting that other people are writing about it now.

Obama Has a Book to Sell

Barack Obama's memoir, A Promised Land, came out last week, as did most of the press coverage.

Murtaza Hussain: Obama book explains how birtherism made Trump's presidency.

Fred Kaplan: Obama had a remarkable grasp of complexity and ambiguity. Is that good for a president?

Around the World

Ramzy Baroud: Expansion and mass eviction: Israel 'takes advantage' of Trump's remaining days in office.

Dave DeCamp: Israel suspected in assassination of top Iranian scientist: Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, "head of an Iranian military nuclear program." More:

Jason Ditz: Israeli airstrike kills 19 in eastern Syria, mostly Pakistani militia members:

Continuing a tactic of anticipating a US-Iran War, Israel seems to keep trying to provoke the conflict, with a Thursday morning strike in eastern Syria killing at least 19 Shi'ite militia members, declared "pro-Iranian fighters" by the Israeli press. . . .

This is the third Israeli attack against Shi'ites in Syria in just over a week. Iran did comment on the first one, which killed mostly Iraqi and Lebanese Shi'ites, and threatened retaliation over it. They did not specify when or how they would retaliate.

Roger Harris: US intervenes as Venezuela prepares for high stakes election.

Jacob Silverman: Mike Pompeo is a global arsonist. Can Biden put out his fires?

Other Matters of Interest

Joel Achenbach: Did the news media, led by Walter Cronkite, lose the war in Vietnam? Why is this even coming up now? As someone who lived through the era, and who regularly watched TV coverage in real time, I can assure you that the news media was fully behind the war effort until the hypocrisy and false claims became undeniable. Even so, they never quite grasped the real lessons of the war, which is why any suggestion that the war was ever winnable is so risible. The "revisionist" argument that the US could have prevailed had it not been for the American people's loss of willpower is nothing more than the "stab-in-the-back" claim that aided the rise of the Nazis in Germany, its "success" leading to yet another, even more disastrous war. Look at the people pushing it in the 1990s, and you'll find the same people who led us into Afghanistan and Iraq, who used martial myth to rally support for the Bush and Trump regimes, and the interminable waves of right-wing zealots in Congress and the Courts.

David Atkins: Not everything can move to Substack or the Times. Evidently, two (of three) co-founders of Vox have left: Ezra Klein to the New York Times, and Matthew Yglesias to do his own thing at Substack. Others trying their hand at Substack subscriber newsletters include Andrew Sullivan, Glenn Greenwald, and Matt Taibbi. (Article doesn't mention Taibbi, but does name Casey Newton, who used to cover Silicon Valley for The Verge.) I figure Sullivan-Greenwald-Taibbi to be temporary holding patterns: all three have grown apart from their hosts, but I doubt any of them are viable as isolated oracles. I'm more troubled by the Vox founders, not least because Vox has been my most reliable news filter over the past four years. Perhaps its business model has failed, and the founders have jumped ship based on inside information. But to my mind, leaving your own company to work for the behemoth New York Times or to freelance (which, again, may just be a stall) seems like a bad move.

Paul Demko: How one of the reddest states became the nation's hottest weed market: I suspected as much last time I visited Tulsa, where I saw billboards touting access to "medical marijuana," and my right-wing relatives (not to my knowledge actual users) bragging about how easy it is to get.

Christopher Bonanos: David Dinkins deserved better: "His mayoralty was not the overt failure that it once seemed." The former New York City mayor died last week, at 93. Dinkins was mayor from 1989 to 1993, following Ed Koch, and followed by Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.

Jonathan Chait: 'Republicans remain opposed to any policies that would reduce fossil-fuel use'. That seems like a far more explicit declaration than even the oil, gas, and coal companies are used to pushing. Until recently, they've been satisfied just throwing shade on climate change concerns, but more and more they're losing out to renewables on purely economic terms -- never mind the fact that what makes fossil fuel sources affordable is how the industry has escaped having to pay for its externalities.

Charles Duhigg: How venture capitalists are deforming capitalism.

Todd C Frankel/Brittney Martin/Andrew Van Dam/Alyssa Fowers: A growing number of Americans are going hungry: "26 million now say they don't have enough to eat, as the pandemic worsens and holidays near."

Amanda Frost: The Supreme Court has to choose between Trump and the nation's founders: "Are the court's conservatives the devout originalists they claim to be or partisan hacks? A key immigration case will provide the proof."

Michael M Grynbaum/John Koblin: Newsmax, once a right-wing also-ran, is rising, and Trump approves. More on Newsmax:

  • Alex Shephard: How Newsmax became Trump TV: "Chris Tuddy's conservative cable news network is gaining viewers by telling them Trump can still win."

Rebecca Heilweil: Parler, the "free speech" Twitter wannabe, explained.

Sean Illing: A historian on the perils of chaotic White House transitions: Interview with Eric Rauchway, author of Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal. I mentiond this piece in Music Week, but figured it bear repeating, and belongs here. The transition from Hoover to Roosevelt in 1932-33 is relevant inasmuch as it started with an incumbent president being thrown out in favor of a new party, in the midst of an unprecedented economic crisis -- less of an economic crisis now, but the pandemic more than makes up the difference. It was worse then because the transition period was two months longer, but less bad then because Hoover didn't have many of the powers that presidents have today (e.g., the ability to launch nuclear weapons at supposed enemies). It was similar in that Hoover, like Trump today, refused to recognize the election results as a popular verdict on his administration, and continued to pursue his dangerous policies until the very end.

Ian Millhiser: The Supreme Court fight over Trump's last-ditch effort to rig the census, explained: "The Court must decide whether to follow the Constitution's clear test -- or to rubber-stamp an illegal effort by Trump."

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: Dumb all over, again.

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins: The liberal establishment is 'a stranger to self-examination': "A conversation with Pankaj Mishra about Biden's closer-than-expected victory, the sterile state of mainstream intellectual culture, and his new book Bland Fanatics."

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34401 [34356] rated (+45), 213 [220] unrated (-7).

A day later than usual. Got distracted on Monday, and was too tired to write an introduction. I did the cutover when I got up Monday, and resisted the temptation to sneak in anything extra during the day, so chalk the high rating count up to hard work. Invites went out for the Jazz Critics Poll on Wednesday, so I've had a few ballots to count (16 at present, typically about 12% of the total). They've given me some listening suggestions, as well as motivated me to get to some queue items (e.g., Sonny Rollins).

The first EOY lists have started to appear. I've added Mojo and Uncut to my metacritic file (which at some point I should rename my "EOY Aggregate"). I compiled Mojo (including genre side-lists, except for soundtracks) from a scan of the glossy magazine, but for Uncut, I went to the more easily usable Acclaimed Music Forums (half-dozen more lists there already; while they frown on "single-critic" lists, like mine, they do an especially thorough job of collecting lists from European sources).

Both Mojo and Uncut picked Bob Dylans' My Rough and Rowdy Ways as the year's best record. Dylan is pretty clearly among the top three contenders this year, along with Run the Jewels' RTJ4 and Fiona Apple's Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Mojo had Apple at 2 and RTJ at 8. Uncut had Apple at 22, and no mention of RTJ4. I don't see any rappers at all on their list (even Brits, although there are a dozen-plus Black artists, including some Americans -- Thundercat came in at 5, and I don't see any Brits until Jarvis at 8, Shirley Collins 9, and Laura Marling 10). Early lists tend to be disproportionately British, and short on hip-hop.

My own working EOY lists are here, split into jazz and non-jazz. Usually they start with a strong jazz bias, which evens out over the season, as I scour over the vast array of pop and specialty lists. However, so far I've been looking mostly at jazz ballots, so the jazz list is the one that's seen a growth spurt this week (and probably for the next 2-3 weeks -- I've already added two more A- entries for next week's report: Luke Stewart: Exposure Quintet, and Dave Rempis: Stringers and Struts).

Phil Overeem noted that every record in my non-jazz list is marked with **, which means that I streamed or downloaded it. (Actually, there are two exception: Al Gold's Paradise, a blues album from a jazz publicist, and Thank Your Lucky Stars: Girl in Her 29s, which the artist was kind and/or desperate enough to send me.) I still get a fair number of jazz promos -- down at least 50% from the days when I was writing Jazz Consumer Guide for the Village Voice, and all the way to zero this week -- but haven't bought more than a couple dozen CDs in any of the last 5-8 years, and zero so far this year. Admittedly, that changes the way I listen to music, and you can take that as a caveat if you want. It does reduce the chance of adding any new music to my all-time list. On the other hand, it presents a pretty level playing field.

One new feature this week is that I finally added a section on "records I played parts of, but not enough to grade." I've thought about this before, but it always seemed like a bookkeeping headache. Still, last week I was going through the year's list promoted by a jazz publicist, seeking out items he hadn't sent me, and was left with two albums that were only partially available on Bandcamp. So I played what I could, and noted that for future reference. They are not counted as graded in my database, so won't inflate rated counts. I decided to go with four levels:

  • ++ indicates a record I'd like to hear more of; it is a solid prospect for an A- or B+(***) grade.
  • + is a record I like but don't consider an A- prospect; it probably falls in the middle of the B+ range.
  • - is a decent, maybe even a good record, but definitely not an A- or B+(***) prospect, and not worth my time pursuing; it's probably a low B+ or a B, though probably no worse.
  • -- is a record I have no desire to hear more of; it's not necessarily a bad record, but not worth the time.

I don't know how many more of these I'll do, but I run across partial selections at Bandcamp several times each week, and many other records that aren't available on streaming sites at least make a song or two available, even if only on Soundcloud or YouTube. One thing I do in the EOY lists is try to compile a list of records which by reputation have a 2% or better chance of an A- grade, so they are the most obvious prospects. I could also see doing this for back catalog items, which are particularly hard to find.

For now, the plan is to have a single section in Music Week each week, and two sections (new and historical) in the music year file. I'm not adding them to the EOY files, although they'll have some influence in the 2% sections. They won't show up in any of the database files, but I will be able to see comments in the source files. I might at some point figure out how to generate a collective list, but that will require some programming, so isn't in the cards for now. For now, I'm not adding them to the Record Guides, although I could see an argument for doing so.

One thing I was aware of while writing Sunday's Weekend Roundup was that I had written various conflicting things on Trump's post-presidential prospects. There is much speculation but no answers. I have no real idea, and chances are neither does Trump. For one thing, there's a very real question as to whether he will be prosecuted (there is very little doubt but that he will be hit with civil lawsuits, some of which are already in progress). Trump's public profile will have some bearing on those cases. In some ways, I think the main benefit from keeping the option to prosecute "on the table" is that the threat may force him to moderate his behavior. And I may add that I don't want to muzzle him to stifle his political impact, but just because he's been such a painfully tiresome presence in our lives.

The only reason I'm returning to this is that I wanted to pass on a link: Sean Illing: A historian on the perils of chaotic White House transitions. The historian is Eric Rauchway, and he recently wrote a book on the long stretch (November to March) from the 1932 election defeat of Herbert Hoover to the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt. I've talked about my notion that you can divide US history into four long partisan eras, each initiated by a major president and ended by a one-term failure: Jefferson to Buchanan (1800-1860), Lincoln to Hoover (1860-1932), Roosevelt to Carter (1932-1980), and Reagan to Trump (1980-2020). One thing I hadn't really thought about was how painful the transitions were between those eras. One can also throw in the transition from Adams to Jefferson in 1800-01, which like Hoover-Roosevelt was so bad it led to a constitutional amendment (the former separated the elections of presidents and vice-presidents, the latter moved the inauguration date up from March to January to shorten the lame duck period). The Buchanan-Lincoln transition period was when the Civil War started (although Rauchway doesn't blame Buchanan for that -- nonetheless, many pre-Trump polls of historians ranked Buchanan as the worst president ever). The Carter-Reagan transition was benign only in comparison to the others: it was conspicuously marked by Reagan's back channel negotiations with Iran to release the American embassy hostages only after Carter left office. What makes Hoover so relevant is the degree of crisis the nation faced then and is facing now.

One more week before we wrap up the November Streamnotes archive. I expect it will be a busy one. We have no plans for Thanksgiving. I may try to cook a nice dinner for two, but I don't even have plans at present, and I'm unlikely to go out shopping. No guests, not even virtual ones. We're pretty severely hunkered down, as Kansas pandemic numbers have kept shooting up.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Lina Allemano's Ohrenschmaus: Rats and Mice (2019 [2020], Lumo): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Lina Allemano: Glimmer Glammer (2019 [2020], Lumo): [bc]: B+(*)
  • The Awakening Orchestra: Volume II: To Call Her to a Higher Plain (2019 [2020], Biophilia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Baby Queen: Medicine (2020, Polydor, EP): [r]: A-
  • Angel Bat Dawid & Tha Brothahood: Live (2019 [2020], International Anthem): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Alabaster DePlume: To Cy & Lee: Instrumentals Vol. 1 (2020, International Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fox Green: The Longest April (2020, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Sam Gendel: Satin Doll (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B
  • Sam Gendel: DRM (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B
  • Julian Gerstin: Littoral Zone (2020, self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Ben Goldberg/Kenny Wollesen: Music for an Avant-Garde Massage Parlour (2020, BAG Production): [r]: B+(**)
  • Majamisty Trio: Organic (2019 [2020], Mistyland): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carla Marciano Quartet: Psychosis: Homage to Bernard Herrmann (2019 [2020], Challenge): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Orchestra: Dimensional Stardust (2020, International Anthem): [r]: A-
  • Charles McPherson: Jazz Dance Suites (2020, Chazz Mack Music): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Megan Thee Stallion: Good News (2020, 300 Entertainment): [r]: A-
  • Todd Mosby: Aerial Views (2020, MMG): [cd]: B
  • Pa Salieu: Send Them to Coventry (2020, Warner Music UK): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Amalgam (2020, Mahakala Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Margo Price: Perfectly Imperfect at the Ryman (2018 [2020], Loma Vista): [r]: B+(**)
  • Jason Robinson: Harmonic Constituent (2019 [2020], Playscape): [r]: A-
  • Bree Runway: 2000and4Eva (2020, Virgin EMI, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lori Sims/Andrew Rathbun/Jeremy Siskind: Impressions of Debussy (2020, Centaur): [r]: B
  • Chris Stapleton: Starting Over (2020, Mercury Nashville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dayna Stephens: Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard (2019 [2020], Contagious Music, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kevin Sun: (Un)seaworthy (2019 [2020], Endectomorph Music): [cd]: A- [11-27]
  • Sunny Sweeney: Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio (2020, Aunt Daddy): [r]: B+(***)
  • Tani Tabbal Trio: Now Then (2020, Tao Forms): [r]: A-
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Mantle (2019 [2020], Libra): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Thaba: Eyes Rest Their Feet (2020, Soundway): [r]: B+(*)
  • Micah Thomas: Tide (2020, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Peeter Uuskyla/Tellef Øgrim/Anders Berg/Per Anders Nilsson: Isn Hi Lagt Sae På Fjellvatna (2020, Simlas): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound: Soundpath (Composed by Muhal Richard Abrams) (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(***)
  • WHO Trio: Strell: The Music of Billy Strayhorn & Duke Ellington (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Wood River: More Than I Can See (2020, Enja/Yellowbird): [bc]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Dave Alvin: From an Old Guitar: Rare and Unreleased Recordings ([2020], Yep Roc): [r]: B+(***)
  • Don Cherry: Om Santi Om (1976 [2020], Black Sweat): [yt]: B+(*)
  • Jay Clayton/Fritz Pauer/Ed Neumeister: 3 for the Road (2001-02 [2020], Meistero Music): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland (1967 [2020], Resonance, 2CD): [cd]: A- [12-04]
  • Horace Tapscott/Michael Session: Live in Avignon, France 1989 (1989 [2020], The Village): [r]: B+(***)
  • René Thomas: Remembering Rene Thomas: Rare and Unreleased (1955-62 [2020], Fresh Sound, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Dave Alvin: Blue Blvd. (1991, Hightone): [r]: B+(***)
  • Dickie Landry: Fifteen Saxophones (1975 [2011], Unseen Worlds): [r]: B+(**)
  • Horace Tapscott: Songs of the Unseen (1978, Interplay): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Horace Tapscott Sextet: Dial 'B' for Barbra (1980 [2006], Nimbus West): [yt]: A-
  • Horace Tapscott: The Tapscott Sessions Vol. 9 (1983 [2001], Nimbus West): [r]: B+(**)

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

  • Emi Makabe: Anniversary (Greenleaf Music) -
  • Raf Vertessen Quartet: LOI (El Negocito) +

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • None.

Daily Log

Chris Monsen Facebook post: "some of the new releases this week that tickled my fancy:"

  • Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra: Dimensional Stardust
  • Uuskyla, Øgrim, Berg, Nilsson: ISN HI LAGT SAE PÅ FJELLVATNA
  • Eris 136199 (park, Sikora & Didkovsky): Peculiar Velocities
  • Love Moor: Motions
  • Mingus in Bremen

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Trump still refuses to concede. I thought he was a national embarrassment before the election, but hadn't even anticipated this. My apologies to all the pundits I made fun of for expecting, and even "war gaming," his intransigence. Jimmy Kimmel has started calling his lame duck period Squattergate.

Trump's Election Fraud

No serious observer thinks Trump has a chance of stealing back the election at this point, but as best I can figure, continuing to press his case does three things Trump's likely to regard as positives: it keeps his name at the top of the news, thereby keeping Biden and the Democrats from building on their win; it shows his base he's willing to fight for them (well, himself), even when the cause seems lost; and it lays the foundation for a scorched earth resistance against Biden and everything the Democrat-Socialists want to do. The downside, of course, is that it makes him look like a jerk and an asshole who has no concern for any part of the country beyond his following, but let's face it: you already knew that. I know a lot of people who thought they couldn't possibly despise him more than they did on November 3, but most of them now admit they were wrong: he's even more loathsome than they imagined.

David Atkins: Trump is staging a comically incompetent coup.

Dana Bash/Gloria Borger: Trump told ally he's trying to get back at Democrats for questioning legitimacy of his own election. "The President, this source said, 'doesn't see' how bad the aftermath of all of this could be for the country, and for democracy itself. As usual, he's focused on himself."

John Cassidy: Rudy Giuliani is a hot mess.

Christina Cauterucci: Shame the random, unknown government officials aiding Trump's coup attempt.

Jonathan Chait:

Kyle Cheney: Trump campaign cuts Sidney Powell from president's legal team. Just when she was upstaging Rudy Giuliani as the biggest laughing stock on retainer. Another take: Walter Einenkel: Trump campaign now says lady who lied with Giuliani for 2 hours at presser not really on legal team.

Chas Danner: Federal judge rebukes Trump's effort to overturn Pennsylvania election results: "In a scathing ruling, the judge said the Trump campaign was trying to 'disenfranchise almost 7 million voters.'" Also on this: Ian Millhiser: A Republican judge just tore into Trump's election lawyers for their incompetence.

Timothy Egan: Donald Trump is leaving behind blueprints to end democracy.

Garrett Epps: In election litigation, an ominous sign.

Edward B Foley: If the losing party won't accept defeat, democracy is dead. This has become a common thread for pundits, especially at the Washington Post:

Matt Ford: The unpardonable sins of Lindsey Graham. Also on Graham:

Masha Gessen: The coup stage of Donald Trump's presidency. Right after the election, I ridiculed efforts to describe Trump's refusal to accept plain results a coup, but he's persisted so steadfastly that there's little doubt that a coup is precisely what he would like to see. What escapes him is how one might work, but as long as he refuses to concede the fort, he has hopes that some kind of force might still come to his rescue. Gessen, on the other hand, has seen plenty of coups (successful and otherwise).

In the coup stage of his Presidency, Trump has continued to be Trump: he has shown no ability to plan or plot, but plenty of resolve and willingness to act. He fired military brass and the chief of election cybersecurity, Chris Krebs, for daring to contradict him. He garnered more than seventy million votes. He has showcased considerable power, in other words, but so far it doesn't seem to be enough to persuade Americans that he will keep it. For now, Trump's coup attempt seems doomed.

But, as is his way, Trump is succeeding even as he fails. His project all along has been to destroy the political order as we have known it. An overwhelming majority of Republican elected officials are hedging their bets on the coup attempt -- whether in order to humor Trump or appease his base, they have neglected to recognize the results of the election. The Tuesday-night incident at the Wayne County election board showed that at least some election officials will do Trump's bidding.

Alex Isenstadt: Trump threatens to wreak havoc on GOP from beyond the White House. Hey, bring it on!

Ed Kilgore: Rudy melts down over Trump and 'voter fraud' during insane press conference.

Jen Kirby: A Trump official is still blocking Biden's presidential transition. House Democrats want answers. GSA Administrator Emily Murphy.

Robert Mackey: Defeated Trump campaign tells supporters "The Left HATES YOU" in fundraising emails: The left hates Trump, not Trump supporters. Feels sorry for their mental anguish, and sometimes fears how irrationally they may act out. But the left's programs would actually help most Trump supporters. Just maybe not Trump.

Ian Millhiser: Trump's lawsuits challenging the election have turned into a clown show: "Republican officials aren't just losing. They're embarrassing themselves." Pictured: Rudy Giuliani.

Andrew Prokop: How long can Trump keep disputing the election results?

David E Sanger: Trump's attempts to overturn the election are unparalleled in US history.

Anya van Wagtendonk: Trump lashes out at fellow Republicans as his legal challenges to election results fail.

Li Zhou: 73 percent of Republican voters are questioning Biden's victory: Per a Vox poll.

Other Election Matters

Ross Barkan: The Biden campaign's decision not to knock on doors was a huge mistake.

Gabriel Debenedetti: Election night with Biden's data guru.

Fintan O'Toole: Democracy's afterlife: "Trump, the GOP, and the rise of zombie politics."

It is impossible not to think, in this in-between moment, of Antonio Gramsci: "The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." Something is dying, but we do not yet know what. Is it the basic idea of majority rule or is it the most coherent attempt to destroy that idea since the secession of the Confederacy? Something is trying to be born, but we cannot yet say what it is either. Is it an American version of the "managed democracy" or "electoral autocracy" that is the most rapidly expanding political form around the world? Or is it a radically renewed republic that can finally deal with the unfinished business of its history? The old is in a state of suspended animation; the new stands at a threshold it cannot yet cross.

I would have gone elsewhere with the Gramsci quote. Most Democrats seem to be suffering from PTSD. They've been so traumatized by Trump that they've lost faith in their own basic principles, so they hardly campaign on them. Moreover, they regard Trump as such an anomaly that they fail to recognize that he's part and parcel of the Republican Party. They fret over the Republican base falling for Trump's folly, when it would be more accurate to point out that Trump is the one who fell for the crazed, vicious worldview. On the other hand, there are Democrats who see this clearly, yet they were unable to prevail in the primaries -- mostly due to the tsunami of Bloomberg cash, and the panic of pandemic. I still have faith in the left's clarity and reason, but O'Toole is haunted by darker thoughts:

The historic question that must be addressed is: Who is the aberration? Biden and perhaps most of his voters believe that the answer could not be more obvious. It is Trump. But this has been shown to be the wrong answer. The dominant power in the land, the undead Republican Party, has made majority rule aberrant, a notion that transgresses the new norms it has created. From the perspective of this system, it is Biden, and his criminal voters, who are the deviant ones. This is the irony: Trump, the purest of political opportunists, driven only by his own instincts and interests, has entrenched an anti-democratic culture that, unless it is uprooted, will thrive in the long term. It is there in his court appointments, in his creation of a solid minority of at least 45 percent animated by resentment and revenge, but above all in his unabashed demonstration of the relatively unbounded possibilities of an American autocracy.

Andrew Prokop: Georgia's Republican secretary of state just certified Biden's victory.

Michael Tomasky: What did the Democrats win?

Li Zhou: Why Republican women candidates had such a strong year. As I recall, in 2018, when Democrats elected a lot of new women to Congress, the number of Republican women in the House remained constant. This year it's jumping from 22 to 36, while the count of Democratic women is little changed, at 105. How exactly does that justify this headline?

Biden Prospects

I've been avoiding speculation on Biden cabinet picks, figuring what will be will be, but just noticed this one: Biden chooses Antony Blinken, defender of global alliances, as Secretary of State. You may recall mention of Blinken last week. Robert Wright has been writing a series on Grading Biden's foreign policy team, and I linked to his assessment of Blinken, with its overall grade of C- (teacher's comment: "Tony is bright and studious but needs to do a better job of learning from past mistakes"). Wright followed up with a report card on William Burns, who fared considerably better at A- (B grades for military restraint and international law).

Kate Aronoff:

  • Joe Biden can't compromise with the rising seas.

  • Democrats' fear of the Green New Deal is tearing the Party apart: "Why are party leaders so scared of a policy that's demonstrably popular?" I have a slightly different question. Given that GND doesn't have any intrinsic definition (unlike, say, single-payer health insurance), what is keeping Democratic Party leaders from just picking out a few things they like and calling it their GND? Most likely it's that Republicans have had some success at condeming GND as an extreme radical-liberal project, and mainstream Democrats are used to running scared from Republican attacks. It's worth stepping back and thinking about this a bit. There are two directives to GND: one is to accelerate public infrastructure development, specifically to provide plentiful energy while reducing carbon emissions, thereby reducing climate change without crippling the economy. The second is to make sure that the jobs created come with livable wages and benefits. Why should any Democrats oppose either of those programs? One might argue about how much to spend how soon, and how to pay for it -- which shouldn't be the big deal opponents try to make it out to be. But those are just basic principles, especially for someone like Joe Biden, who's talked a lot about climate change and better wages. If you do those basic things, what does it matter what you call it?

Peter Beinart: The Biden problem. Specifically, about foreign policy: Biden has moved significantly left on domestic policy, but if anything mainstream Democrats (especially those calling themselves "security Democrats" during the impeachment process) have retrenched even deeper into American exceptionalist orthodoxy.

Thomas Geoghegan: An FDR-size executive order for Biden: "With one stroke, the new president could revive the labor movement and help repair the post-pandemic economy."

Even with a hostile Senate, there is at least one executive order that could do more to transform the country than single-payer health care or the Green New Deal -- indeed, an order that could help pave the way toward those goals. Biden could require as a condition in every federal contract that every supplier of a good or service have a collective bargaining agreement -- unless there is no such supplier that can perform that contract at a reasonable cost or comparable quality. Such an executive order would do more to revive the labor movement than many a federal law -- and it wouldn't require Mitch McConnell's permission.

Dylan Matthews: 10 enormously consequential things Biden can do without the Senate. From the unnumbered subheds (although there are major caveats in the small print, and even so I'm not sure Biden is on board for many of them):

  1. Fight climate change
  2. Forgive student debt
  3. Expand immigration
  4. Ease the ban on marijuana
  5. Reverse Trump's rollback of air pollution and lead poisoning rules
  6. Cut back on factory farming
  7. Create a postal banking system
  8. Crack down on Wall Street
  9. Crack down on monopolies
  10. Expand access to health care

Luke Savage: Joe Biden should take a hard look at what Obama did in 2009 -- and do exactly the opposite. By the way, a pretty good book on Obama's transition and initial choices is Reed Hundt: A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions, especially given that Biden is inheriting the worst recession America has faced since the one Obama inherited (in some ways it's arguably worse, in which case you might want to supplement your reading with Adam Cohen: Nothing to Fear: FDR's Innter Circle and the Hundred Days That Created Modern America). One of the biggest mistakes Obama made was to put off proposing any big infrastructure projects because they weren't "shovel ready" and he thought only short-term stimulus (like tax breaks and cash) would be necessary. (Feel free to blame Larry Summers for that decision. Also note how tightly Summers and Timothy Geithner limited Obama's choice in economic advisers.)

Dylan Scott: What Biden could do to expand health coverage -- without Congress. But: "Undoing Trump's health care actions won't be as easy as it sounds." Some problems are bureaucratic, but most were built into the program, even before Trump and the Republicans started beating on it.

Rob Urie: Democrats and the canard of 'too far left'.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

Latest map and case count: 12.3 million+ cases (14 day change +59%), 256,581 deaths (+62%), 83,227 hospitalized (+50%). The mapmaker had to shift the scale to restore some gradation to what had become a vast red blob.

Lavender Ali: How China crushed coronavirus.

Eleanor Cummins: Why we can't comprehend 250,000 Covid deaths. Statistics, sure, but don't underestimate the truth Upton Sinclair discovered: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

James Hamblin: How Trump sold failure to 70 million people: "The president convinced many voters that his response to the pandemic was not a disaster. The psychology of medical fraud is simple, timeless, and tragic."

Elliot Hannon: Tyson Foods supervisors allegedly bet on how many plant workers would get coronavirus.

Umair Irfan: Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for emergency approval for their Covid-19 vaccine.

German Lopez: The next Covid-19 superspreading event: Thanksgiving.

Alexis Madrigal/Whet Moser: How many Americans are about to die? "A new analysis shows that the country is on track to pass spring's grimmest record."

Nick Martin: Scott Atlas, star disciple in Trump's Covid death cult: "The task force adviser is there to incite the president's base and facilitate the slow, deadly violence of our failed federal response to the pandemic."

Anna North: Why restaurants are open and schools are closed.

Amy Qin/Vivian Wang/Danny Hakim: How Steve Bannon and a Chinese billionaire created a right-wing coronavirus media sensation: "Increasingly allied, the American far right and members of the Chinese diaspora tapped into social media to give a Hong Kong researcher a vast audience for peddling unsubstantiated pandemic claims."

Katie Shepherd: Trump coronavirus adviser tells Michigan to 'rise up' against new shutdown orders.

John Wagner/Colby Itkowitz/Michelle Ye Hee Lee: Donald Trump Jr, the president's eldest son, has tested positive for the coronavirus. Also might as well note: Kate Riga: Rick Scott becomes the 6th member of Congress to test positive this week. Also: Sean Collins: Sen. Kelly Loeffler has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ed Yong: Hospitals know what's coming: "'We are on an absolutely catastrophic path,' said a COVID-19 doctor at America's best-prepared hospital."

Still More on Donald Trump

Chas Danner: Lara Trump is considering Senate run in North Carolina: In 2022, for retiring Senator Richard Burr's seat.

Juliet Eilperin: Trump officials rush to auction off rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge before Biden can block it.

Randall D Eliason: The case against indicting Trump. Author recently wrote Yes, going after Trump's law firms is fair game, so he's drawing some fine distinctions.

Paulina Firozi: Trump administration exits Open Skies treaty. This was announced six months ago, but it's still shocking to see it happening, especially with Trump heading out the door.

Danny Hakim/Mike McIntire/William K Reshbaum/Ben Protess: Trump tax write-offs are ensnared in 2 New York fraud investigations.

David M Halbfinger: For Netanyahu and Israel, Trump's gifts kept on coming: "Allowing the convicted spy Jonathan Pollard the ability to emigrate to Israel was just the latest in a long list of prizes for America's closest ally in the Middle East." I always gag when I see "ally" in this context. Allies are concerned with your welfare. Allies come to your aid. Israel does whatever it wants, and expects Americans to clean up the mess, and pay them billions every year for the trouble. The twenty-year debacle of the Global War on Error isn't all Israel's fault, but it would never have happened without Israel: first, by generating so much bad will, but also by providing the inspiration for the neocon approach, which is to always project power, and suffer the consequences of perpetual war. As for Pollard, good riddance. But the list doesn't end there, and in every other respect we've been ill-served by the Trump administration's slavish prostration to Israeli ego and arrogance. Also on Pollard:

Sean Illing: How TV paved America's road to Trump: Interview with TV critic James Poniewozik, author of what I regard as the single most useful book on Trump, Audience of One: Donald Trump, Television, and the Fracturing of America.

Jill Lepore: Will Trump burn the evidence?: "How the President could endanger the official records of one of the most consequential periods in American history."

Steve M.:

  • This is asymmetric warfare, and the GOP has the advantage:

    One of the main reasons we're in this mess is that Republicans have spent years preparing their voters for a moment like this -- and Democrats haven't.

    As I often say, the right-wing media and Republican officials tell GOP base voters every day, whether or not we're in election season, that Democrats are evil, deceitful people who are responsible for all the ills of the world, occasionally in partnership with alleged allies such as antifa or the jihadist movement. Republicans voters have heard this for so many years that they don't need to be persuaded that Joe Biden -- who seems like a decent, human person to us -- is either the mastermind or the unwitting dupe of a fiendish plot cooked up by all-powerful supervillains to steal an election. Of course Biden and his henchmen could fake a couple hundred thousand votes in six states! Of course they could conceal the evidence so deftly that President Trump's lawyers and investigators can't uncover it! The absence of evidence isn't proof that the election was honest and fair -- it couldn't possibly be! Democrats are too evil! No dyed-in-the-wool Republican voter needs evidence to be persuaded that something terribe happened. Our malign nature is an article of faith! Proof isn't necessary. . . .

    And the mainstream media seems incapable of imagining the possibility that the Republican Party might be dangerous and malignant. Surely it's just Donald Trump! Or Trump plus Republicans temporarily in thrall to him! Surely the party's four years of coddling Trump aren't a sign that there's something inherently wrong with the party, any more than the GOP's extreme positions on climate change and gun ownership and abortion and the regulation and taxation of rich people and corporations are signs that the party can't be trusted! Despite all that, the GOP is seen not only as a respectable center-right party but as the party of normal Americans, while the Democratic Party is the party of non-whites and effete white freaks and weirdos.

  • Who's really addicted to Trump? Republicans and journalists. Starts with a link to a Frank Bruni column, anticipating the pains of withdrawal from our daily Donald Trump fix. SM sagely comments:

    Get a grip, Frank. It's fine to keep writing about Trump, at least for now. Trump is still with us. He destroys democracy a little more every day. People who study fascism express serious concern about his ongoing efforts to overturn the results of the election.

    But if we can ever be rid of him, we'll be fine. Trust me, I know. Years ago I obtained a copy of The Book on Bush: How George W. Bush (Mis)leads America by Eric Alterman and Mark Green, as well as The Man Who Would Not Shut Up, a biography of Bill O'Reilly by Marvin Kitman. There was a time I thought I'd read these books. But Bush and O'Reilly passed from the scene and I just . . . didn't. I gave the books away. If I think about Bush or O'Reilly now, I remember how much I despised them and how angry I was at the damage they'd done to America. But I rarely think about them. I'm much more concerned with the people who are actively doing harm today.

    That's how I'll be once Donald Trump is no longer a figure of influence in America. I'll be fine. The rest of his critics will all be fine.

Jonathan Mahler: Can America restore the rule of law without prosecuting Trump? Long article, covers a lot of possible grounds for prosecution. "No ex-president has ever been indicted before, but no president has ever left office with so much potential criminal liability."

Ben Mathis-Lilley: White nationalist appointed by Trump to Holocaust Commission praised Jeffrey Epstein for not being "a pussy" -- isn't this the ultimate Trump headline?

Philip Rucker/Ashley Parker/Josh Dawsey: Trump privately plots his next act -- including a potential 2024 run: Well, he filed the paperwork to campaign in 2020 the day after inauguration in 2017, so he understands how campaign finance works as a racket, and is not coy about getting in early. In the UK, the opposition party has what they call a "shadow cabinet": an MP designated to respond politically to each cabinet minister. Trump could proclaim himself Shadow President, and demand air time to respond to every Biden appearance. He might find that more fun than he ever had actually being president. On the other hand, he'll lose much of his immunity from prosecution and civil lawsuits when he leaves office (not that being an ex-president and a billionaire won't cut him some slack), so he might be better off toning down his profile. Check out the Mahler article above for an outline of the cases that could (and probably should) be brought against him.

Claudia Sahm: Is Trump trying to take the economy down with him? "His Treasury secretary is shackling the nation's central bank and closing an emergency program for local governments." The New York Times Editorial Board on this: Mnuchin's inglorious endgame.

Richard Silverstein: Trump wanted to attack Iran, they talked him out of it . . . for now. A Trump military attack on Iran has been a great fear for some time now, perhaps as an "October surprise," or as a lame duck parting gift. This gives you an indication of how close he came to doing it. After all, "Trump loves wreckage."

Emily Stewart: Why Trump and McConnell are trying -- and failing -- to push through Fed pick Judy Shelton.

James Webb: Ending 'endless wars' could cement Trump's foreign policy legacy: Well, maybe if had done it three years ago, and secured policy changes with clear directives, redeployments, and personnel changes, he'd have a legacy. Instead, he escalated the wars erratically, gave "allies" a free hand to expand their own wars, repeatedly hired (and had to fire) hawks like John Bolton, subverted possible efforts at diplomacy. A.J. Muste used to say: "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." Just one of many things Trump never came close to understanding. I think it is true that Trump won votes in 2016 because Hillary Clinton tried to out-hawk him (remember her "commander-in-chief test"?). Conservative anti-war pundits invested great hope in Trump as an alternative to the neocon/neoliberal war nexus. Even today, Doug Bandow is writing: Donald Trump isn't gone yet and I already miss him. What he's really saying is that he doesn't trust Biden, and fears that Biden will be worse than Trump, because Biden has always gone along with bipartisan defense and security posturing. Still, he could have just said that, as Beinart and others cited above have done, but he still relishes the idea that conservatives are good guys -- even Trump.

Robin Wright: What will a vengeful president do to the world in his final weeks?

Obama Has a Book to Sell

Barack Obama is doing a press tour to promote his memoir, A Promised Land, reportedly the first of two volumes (one for each term). I watched the first half of his interview on Jimmy Kimmel. It was refreshing to see a major political figure with a self-effacing sense of humor, talking about a recognizably normal family life. I turned it off before Kimmel got around to promised questions about the issues and events that constitute his legacy. Four years of Donald Trump helps us remember what his appeal was, slightly different from how twelve years of Obama and Trump have dulled our sense of how awful George W Bush was.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: On Barack Obama's A Promised Land. Flagship New York Times review. Book sounds awful -- not in the same way ghost written books for Bush or Trump would be, but a long, deep, blinkered trawl through a deeply heartfelt worldview that was rarely up to what was needed. Especially troubling is his inability to counter Republicans even a decade after the fact. Then there is this:

With foreign policy, he is less guarded. He even manages a kind of poetic jingoism, where nearly every criticism of the United States is mere preface to an elegant and spirited defense. In this sense Barack Obama defies the stereotype of the American Liberal for whom American failure on the world stage is not the starter course but the main. He is a true disciple of American exceptionalism. That America is not merely feared but also respected is, he argues, proof that it has done something right even in its imperfectness. "Those who complained about America's role in the world still relied on us to keep the system afloat," he writes, a reactionary position, as if it were innately contradictory to question America's outsize role and also expect America to do well at the job it chose to give itself.

All that talent, and the best he could do for American jingoism was make it more poetic?

Ryan Grim: Obama book: Rahm Emanuel cooked up deal to promise Larry Summers Fed Chair. The way I understood the story is that Summers and Tim Geithner were the only candidates for Treasury, and Geithner refused to consider any other position, so Summers had to settle for the Council of Economic Advisers -- a position he used to prevent anyone else from offering advice to Obama. The real question nobody's answered is why anyone wanted to hire either of them, let alone put them in charge of the recovery. Both were, after all, totally in the pocket of the big banks, as they amply proved. Sure, Summers wanted the Fed Chair job even more, but due to staggered terms it wouldn't open up for a year. When it did, Obama reappointed Ben Bernanke -- a big mistake, I always thought, for while he wasn't the worst ever, you'd think Obama would have gone with his own person, given how much power the Fed Chair has to make or break his economy.

Constance Grady: In his new memoir, Obama defends -- and critiques -- his legacy.

John F Harris: Could Obama have been great?

Peter Kafka: Obama: The internet is "the single biggest threat to democracy." I would have said money, and its control over media. There's a lot more money in the Internet now than 4, 8, 20 years ago, and it's taken a toll, but Fox News still bothers me a lot more than Facebook.

Osita Nwanevu: Barack Obama doesn't have the answers: "The former president seems unable to reckon with the failures of his presidency and diagnose the Republican Party's incurable nihilism."

Alex Shephard: Barack Obama, media critic.

Paul Street: The real v. the liberal fantasy Obama presidency: Two excerpts from Hollow Resistance: Obama, Trump, and the Politics of Appeasement: Street's recent book.

Around the World

Masha Gessen: The abortion protests in Poland are starting to feel like a revolution.

Fred Kaplan:

Terrence McCoy: Bolsonaro ran against corruption. Now, he'll have to find another slogan. You'd think so, but Trump ran on the same anti-corruption themes he used in 2016. The key is getting people to believe that it's only corruption when someone else does it.

Mitchell Plitnick: Pompeo's attack on BDS is an assault on free speech. That's kind of the lowest common denominator reaction to Pompeo, whose main thrust is less that you can't say you don't like Israel's human rights abuses as that you can't do anything about it. The whole point of BDS is to do something tangible that can lead to real changes but that doesn't incite or condone violence. Israel would rather face violence, which they're used to dealing with, than BDS, which questions their morality. However, free speech does come into play here, because the only way to counter the logic of BDS is to prohibit discussion of it.

Alex Ward:

Other Matters of Interest

Reed Albergotti: Apple is lobbying against a bill aimed at stopping forced labor in China.

Dean Baker: "Protecting intellectual property" against China means redistributing income upward.

Damian Carrington: Renewable energy defies Covid-19 to hit record growth in 2020.

Jonathan V Last: The Republican Party is dead. It's the Trump cult now.

JC Pan: Charles Koch got the free-market dystopia he wanted. Now he'd like your approval. "The same billionaire who refashioned the American political system to suit his needs is now calling for bipartisan cooperation -- on his terms." Also on Koch: Garrison Lovely: The reputation launderers: "Talking with monsters like they're not monsters isn't journalism -- it's cowardice."

Jeremy W Peters:

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: The gang that couldn't sue straight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Daily Log

Got an EOY list from publicist Matt Merewitz, who is usually pretty good about sending me things. Thought I should just copy it down as a checklist of sorts (my grades in brackets, ** indicates I didn't get a CD but streamed it anyway):

  • Aaron Parks & Little Big: Little Big II (Ropeadope) ** [B+(**)]
  • The Awakening Orchestra: volume ii: to call her to a higher plain (Biophilia) ** [B+(***)]
  • Ben Goldberg: Plague Diary (BAG)
  • Benny Benack III: A Lot of Livin' to Do (LA Reserve) [B+(**)]
  • Bob James: Once Upon A Time: The Lost 1965 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance) [B+(**)]
  • Cat Toren's Human Kind: Scintillating Beauty (New Focus) ** [B+(***)]
  • Christopher Hollyday: Dialogue (Jazzbeat Productions) [B+(**)]
  • Dave Douglas: Dizzy Atmosphere (Greenleaf Music) ** [B+(**)]
  • Dayna Stephens Quartet: Right Now! Live at the Village Vanguard (Contagious Music) [B+(***)]
  • Emi Makabe: Anniversary (Greenleaf Music) [U-]
  • Endless Field: Alive in the Wilderness (Biophilia) [B+(**)]
  • Gilfema: Three (Sounderscore) [B+(**)]
  • Gregg August: Dialogues On Race, Vol. 1 (Iacuessa) ** [B+(***)]
  • Jay Clayton/Fritz Pauer/Ed Neumeister: 3 for the Road (Meistero Music) ** [B+(**)]
  • Jim Snidero: Project-K (Savant) [B+(***)]
  • Joe Fiedler's Big Sackbut: Live in Graz (Multiphonics Music) ** [B+(**)]
  • John Ellis: The Ice Siren (Parade Light) [B]
  • John Hollenbeck: Songs You Like a Lot (Flexatonic) [B-]
  • Jorge Roeder: El Suelo Mio (self-released) ** [B+(*)]
  • Kenny Barron & Dave Holland Trio: Without Deception (Dare2) [A-]
  • Kassa Overall: I Think I'm Good (Brownswood) ** [B+(*)]
  • Lara Driscoll: Woven Dreams (Firm Roots) [B+(***)]
  • Lawrence Sieberth: An Evening in Paris (self-released) [B+(**)]
  • Lori Sims/Andrew Rathbun/Jeremy Siskind: Impressions of Debussy (Centaur) [B]
  • Matthew Shipp: The Piano Equation (Tao Forms) [B+(**)]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: The Unidentifiable (ESP-Disk') [A-]
  • Max Bessesen: Trouble (Ropeadope) [B+(**)]
  • Micah Thomas: Tide (self-released) ** [B+(**)]
  • Raf Vertessen Quartet: LOI (El Negocito)
  • Reverso (Ryan Keberle, Frank Woeste, Vincent Courtois): The Melodic Line (Out Note) [B+(*)]
  • Simon Moullier: Spirit Song (Outside In Music) [B+(***)]
  • Somi: Holy Room: Live at Alte Oper with Frankfurt Radio Big Band (self-released) [B+(*)]
  • Tani Tabbal: Now Then (Tao Forms) ** [A-]
  • The Warriors of the Wonderful Sound (Muhal Richard Abrams): Soundpath (ARS Nova Workshop) ** [B+(***)]
  • The Westerlies: Wherin Lies The Good (Westerlies) [B+(***)]
  • Tropos: Axioms // 75 AB (Biophilia) ** [B+(*)]
  • Whit Dickey Trio: Expanding Light (Tao Forms) ** [A-]
  • Wood River: More Than I Can See (Enja-Yellowbird) ** [B]

Monday, November 16, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34356 [34320] rated (+36), 220 [223] unrated (-3).

I continued my post-election practice of starting each day with a couple of vintage jazz CDs, although I stopped tweeting about it at some point. I published the previous week's selection, so might as well follow it up with this week's (as best I recall):

  • Don Byas: Don Byas on Blue Star
  • Charles McPherson: But Beautiful!
  • Charles Mingus: Mingus Ah Um
  • Sonny Rollins: Falling in Love With Jazz
  • Sidney Bechet: The Legendary Sidney Bechet
  • Duke Ellington: The Far East Suite
  • Coleman Hawkins: A Retrospective 1929-1963 [2CD]
  • Earl Hines: Piano Man! (ASV's 1928-41 big band comp)
  • Roy Eldridge: The Nifty Cat
  • Ben Webster/Buck Clayton: Ben and Buck
  • Ben Webster/Harry Edison: Ben and Sweets
  • Lester Young: The "Kansas City" Sessions

Only a couple A- records on that list (very solid ones). The Mingus (A+) got an encore spin. Only one today, as I had to venture out early. The practice cut down on my listening, especially from the demo queue (which I'm working on now). Still got a fairly decent haul. Several records I was tipped to from Facebook posts (e.g., Aesop Rock, Harald Lassen, Big Mama Thornton). Several came from Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide: I already had Thelonious Monk and Elizabeth Cook (both of them) at A-, Margo Price at B+(*), and Low Cut Connie at B, so I checked out the rest (aside from Slim Gaillard, who I like enough to have given his 4-CD Properbox Laughin' in Rhythm an A-, but didn't expect the 2-CD Verve reviewed to improve on the 1-CD Verve from 1994, Laughin' in Rhythm). Pleasant surprise from the list was Rodney Rice, but where he was nice and comfy, I wound up preferring Tim Barry's anger (choice cut: "Prosser's Gabriel"). The Barry tip, by the way, came from Napster, explained thusly: "because you like Johnny Cash." They're often wrong (not least about what I like), but for someone I had never heard of that was a pretty good tip. One caveat: given its 2-hour-plus length, I only played the record once. Still left me feeling it's more likely to get better than worse.

I noticed this Richard Scheinin tweet:

Sad news: the passing of Andrew White, one of the most brilliant & exciting saxophonists I've ever witnessed. An outrageous character, too. Brilliant man. Coltrane transcriber. Oboist. Electric bassist with Stevie Wonder and Weather Report. R.I.P., genius.

I've heard a few records White played on, but his name never stuck in my mind, and I don't have anything by him in my database. I searched for records online and came up empty. Wikipedia credits him with 42 albums, but they're self-released, and I'm not finding them anywhere. (I did find some YouTube videos -- one fairly long one I listened to was pretty impressive.) Seems like getting his music organized on Bandcamp would be a good project for his estate.

I've done some work on the Christgau website (not updated yet). I have all of the And It Don't Stop Consumer Guides in my database, and have written a bit of code that drops the most recent reviews out (supposedly this is an incentive for people who pay for their subscription). The transition from PHP 5 to 7 broke the old database code (and other stuff), so I'm having to go through dozens of files and rewrite code. Started that project way back, got distracted, but now I'm finally intent on plugging through to the end, at which point it'll be possible to update the database.

I can also tell you that Francis Davis and I will be doing another Jazz Critics Poll this year. Invites should be going out real soon now. (I heard "over the weekend" but haven't seen mine yet.) If you think you should be invited but haven't been in the past, or have been and haven't heard from us within the week, please send email and make your case. NPR will publish the headline results, and I'll publish all the gritty details, as usual. To help out, I've prepared a version of my music tracking file that omits my grades and only lists jazz albums. It covers everything I've noted since December 1, 2019, plus some earlier 2019 albums that were so obscure I hadn't noticed them in the 2019 music tracking file. Obviously, the list is far from complete.

I still haven't done any fine tuning for my own EOY lists, but you can see them in their initial state here: Jazz and Non-Jazz. I did a bit of reshuffling, but I'm still not very happy with the ordering -- especially non-jazz, where I own virtually none of the records and haven't replayed any (other than Dua Lipa) since they came out. Also, I've barely started the 2% section on prospects I haven't heard (but would like to).

EOY lists should start appearing around Thanksgiving, which is next week. (I've given zero thought to cooking for anyone, then or pretty much forever.) Meanwhile, my metacritic file offers a few hints as to how the year's shaping up.

I'm sitting on a tough question about African music. Would be nice if you asked me more.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Aesop Rock: Spirit World Field Guide (2020, Rhymesayers Entertainment): [r]: B+(***)
  • Susan Alcorn Quintet: Pedernal (2019 [2020], Relative Pitch): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Tim Barry: Live 2018 (2018 [2020], Chunkasah): [r]: A-
  • Noah Bless: New York Strong: Latin Jazz! (2020, Zoho): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Will Butler: Generations (2020, Merge): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carla Campopiano: Chicago/Buenos Aires Connections, Vol. II (2020, self-released): [cd]: B
  • The Nels Cline Singers: Share the Wealth (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cortex: Legal Tender (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • André Fernandes: Kinetic (2018 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rich Halley/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio/Newman Taylor Baker: The Shape of Things (2019 [2020], Pine Eagle): [cd]: A-
  • Theo Hill: Reality Check (2019 [2020], Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jaga Jazzist: Pyramid (2020, Brainfeeder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harald Lassen: Human Sampling (2020, Jazzland): [r]: B
  • José Lencastre/Jorge Nuno/Felipe Zenícola/João Valinho: Anthropic Neglect (2019 [2020], Clean Feed): [r]: A-
  • Nicole Mitchell/Moor Mother: Offering: Live at Le Guess Who (2018 [2020], Don Giovanni): [bc]: B
  • Ikue Mori/Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Prickly Pear Cactus (2020, Libra): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Oneohtrix Point Never: Magic Oneohtrix Point Never (2020, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lee Ranaldo & Raül Refree: Names of North End Women (2020, Mute): [r]: B+(*)
  • Rodney Rice: Same Shirt, Different Day (2020, Moody Spring Music): [r]: B+(***)
  • Scott Routenberg: Inside (2020, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Sad13: Haunted Painting (2020, Wax Nine): [r]: B+(*)
  • Alexa Tarantino: Charity (2020, Posi-Tone): [r]: B+(*)
  • Trees Speak: Ohms (2020, Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Andreas Tschopp Bubaran: Tumbuk (2019 [2020], Enja/Yellowbird): [bc]: B
  • Savina Yannatou & Joana Sá: Ways of Notseeing (2020, Clean Feed): [r]: B

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Blue Note Re:imagined 2020 (2020, Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Brian Eno: Film Music 1976-2020 (1976-2020 [2020], Astralwerks): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mort Garson: Didn't You Hear? (1970 [2020], Sacred Bones): [r]: B
  • Mort Garson: Music From Patch Cord Productions (1968-74 [2020], Sacred Bones): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Heshoo Beshoo Group: Armitage Road (1970 [2020], We Are Busy Bodies): [r]: B+(***)
  • Space Funk: Afro Futurist Electro Funk in Space 1976-84 (1976-84 [2019], Soul Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
  • Peter Stampfel/The Dysfunctionells: Not in Our Wildest Dreams (1994-96 [2020], Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cecil Taylor/Tony Oxley: Being Astral and All Registers/Power of Two: Live at the Ulrichsberg Festival, May 10th 2002 (2002 [2020], Discus Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Neil Young/Crazy Horse: Return to Greendale (2003 [2020], Warner): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Rodney Rice: Empty Pockets and a Troubled Mind (2014, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sad13: Slugger (2016, Carpark): [r]: B+(*)
  • Big Mama Thornton With the Muddy Waters Blues Band: 1966 (1966 [2004], Arhoolie): [r]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • David Friesen With Orchestra and Quartet: Testimony (Origin)
  • Jihee Heo: Are You Ready? (OA2)
  • Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez: Mantle (Libra)

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Weekend Roundup

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Not really a proper introduction, but I want to reiterate one point made below. It occurs to me that a lot of the anomalies of the election make sense as artifacts of the exceptionally high turnout. As I recall, back in 2010 it seemed like most of the Democratic vote drop could be traced to low voter turnout compared to 2008. The lesson there seemed to be that Democrats do better when more people vote, and that made a certain amount of sense because non-voters tend to be younger and less stable economically -- i.e., people who would vote Democratic if they had reason to bother. That ignored the fact that 2010 voter turnout was about the same as in 2006, when Democrats swept both houses of Congress. Obviously, different people chose not to vote in those elections -- mostly ones who lost faith in their party's handling of power. But the high turnout in 2020 suggests a different dynamic. As participation increases, the main thing that increases is the share of uninformed or misinformed voters, and they tend to be all over the map, voting R or D based on half-baked notions about what parties mean and do. And let us not forget the other major facts of 2020: the natural rhythm of campaigning was disrupted by the pandemic, which seems especially to have hurt Democrats (due to their greater wariness of the virus); incredible sums of money was spent, mostly on misleading television advertisements (where the Republicans were total frauds, and Democrats struggled to present a coherent message that matters to most people); the media continued to cover Trump as an eccentric celebrity, while ignoring most of the real things done by his administration and party. I think it's likely that the main reason the polls were off was that their qualifications for "likely voters" were off. A lot of unlikely voters wound up voting, and more of them than one might rationally expect ignorantly pulled the lever for Republicans. I say "ignorantly" because if you ask them why, it's extremely unlikely they'll offer an explanation that could pass even a rudimentary fact check. I think the signature here is to be found in Trump's much-touted improved share of Black and Latin votes. Clearly, he did nothing to earn those votes honestly, so the fact that he got them suggests confusion.

In other news, the big stories are tragedy and farce: the Covid-19 surge, and Trump's continuing charade to deny his election loss. Needless to say, the farce only adds to the tragedy. I can only hope that other Americans are as thoroughly disgusted with Trump as I am.

I'd like to get rid of the Table of Contents breakdown, but there's even more of it this week. Also a bit arbitrary to sort the post-election pieces out, so many wound up slotted under Biden or Trump. We're starting to see some pieces on what the Biden administration will (or could) look like. I haven't linked to many -- at this point it's mostly speculation and/or plotting -- as I'm not privy to any inside info, and I'm not likely to be consulted or referred to. I will say the following:

  • There are some Democrats it would be bad form to bring back. I don't have a long list, although it would probably grow if I gave it some thought, but for starters: Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emmanuel, Joe Lieberman, Lawrence Summers, Ash Carter, Madeleine Albright.
  • I'm against nominating any sitting US Senators. The Senate is too important right now. There's been discussion of Sanders and Warren, but both represent states with Republican governors, so could be net losses. At any rate, we need those two as independent voices for progress -- not as administration cronies. (I'd be OK with stealing a Republican Senate seat, although I don't know how you go about doing that. Ron Johnson?)
  • The left doesn't need representation in the Cabinet. All the left needs is an open door and a fair hearing. I also don't care about quotas or such. Clinton claimed to have a "cabinet that looks like America." By looks sure, but for the clothes and the bankrolls and the Ivy League degrees.
  • Biden's security people will inevitably draw on the same Washington think tanks that have owned American foreign policy for the last 60 years, so expect to be disappointed there, but don't assume they'll continue making the mistakes they've made repeatedly over the last 20-30 years (personally, in many cases). Conditions change, limits appear, and war weariness has set in like never before. They say "personnel is policy," but focus on the policy. (Of course, if Biden nominates a Kagan or Bill Kristol, by all means go apeshit.)

Parting advice: let Biden be the centrist he wants to be, but challenge him on issues, and bring forth real and substantive plans. Biden is more or less the center of the party. Move him and you move the party.

PS: I was going to link to several articles from The American Prospect (e.g., Robert Kuttner, David Dayen), but balked when they refused to show me a second without registering. Probably harmless to do so, but my skepticism is what keeps the Internet safe for me. But this also rubs a bugbear of mine. The only way to get better informed voters is to make information free. I'm not unsympathetic to the notion that progressives need to make a living, and I certainly know that writing is work, but I get tired of getting hit up for money all the time, especially when I'm trying to do the world a favor.

Election Aftermath

James Arkin: Health care vs. 'radical leftists': Parties re-running 2020 playbooks in Georgia runoffs. Also on Georgia:

David Atkins: Biden won big, but his approach may have cost Democrats downballot. I think it did, at least to the point that Biden didn't stress the message that he needs a Democratic Congress to deliver on his issues. Given his opponent, Biden was able to hold back, spouting nebulous notions (like "soul of the nation") instead of campaigning on issues, which Democrats had in spades thanks less to the fickleness of Trump than to the sociopathy of Republicans. It was, after all, Democrats who led on the CARES Act that got the country through the lockdown. It's Democrats who want a livable minimum wage, and who want every American to have health care. Those are winning issues, but only if you run on them.

Katelyn Burns: Biden plans on swiftly rolling back some Trump policies with executive orders.

Jonathan Chait: Trump's election challenges keep getting laughed out of court.

Nancy LeTourneau: Reefer madness: On the curious effect of the Marijuana Now Party candidates in Minnesota congressional races, which seem to have helped Republicans (and in at least one case were recruited by Republicans).

Eric Levitz: David Shor's postmortem of the 2020 election. Interview with the Democratic pollster. Also refers to his "other interview," with Dylan Matthews: One pollster's explanation for why the polls got it wrong. Shor argues that Trump voters aren't "shy" so much as they are cynical and distrust pollsters, which makes them reluctant to answer prying phone calls. Conversely, anti-Trump voters were more interested in voicing their displeasure with Trump, partly because they are more invested in democratic processes. This suggests a systemic bias in polling that's going to be hard to factor out.

German Lopez: America's war on drugs has failed. Oregon is showing a way out. For more:

Madeline Marshall: Weed was the real winner of the 2020 election: "Americans are turning against the war on drugs."

Matt Naham: Lawyers litigating for Trump suddenly remember their licenses are on the line if they lie to a judge.

Ella Nilsen: House Democrats will keep their majority for two more years.

Andrew Prokop:

Aaron Rupar: The 2000 election doesn't justify Trump's refusal to concede to Biden. Here's why.

Alex Shephard: The media finally figured out Trump. Now do the GOP.

David Siders: 'A grand scheme': Trump's election defiance consumers GOP.

Nate Silver: The polls weren't great. But that's pretty normal. Also at FiveThirtyEight:

Jacob Silverman: Postelection misinformation and massacre threats on conservatives' favorite new social media app: "Ted Cruz and Dinesh D'Souza have huge followings on Parler, a right-wing Twitter clone that has exploded in popularity since the election."

Over the weekend, Parler became the most downloaded app in the country, a position it was still holding as of Tuesday morning. It's also the app in which Lang Holland, the police chief of Marshall, Arkansas, on Friday called for his fellow users to join him in traveling to Washington, D.C., to "fight our way into the Congress and arrest every Democrat who has participated in this coup? We may have to shoot and kill many of the Communist B.L.M. and ANTIFA Democrat foot soldiers to accomplish this!!!" Holland added, "Death to all Marxist Democrats. Take no prisoners leave no survivors!!" He has since resigned.

Founded in 2018 and surging since this summer, when it at one point gained a million users in a week, Parler has been adopted by practically every media personality and politician of note on the right, including some you might have forgotten. (Milo Yiannopoulos, banned from Twitter and polite society for his pedophilia apologetics, uses Parler to promote his paid video appearances on the service Cameo.) Some of them are racking up huge follower counts: 1.8 million for Bongino, 2.9 million for Ted Cruz, 1.3 million for Dinesh D'Souza. Posting many times per day (often by simply syndicating their tweets), they attract thousands of "echos," the site's equivalent of a retweet, "upvotes," and comments.

Matt Stieb: Incoming GOP senator apparently doesn't know basics of World War II. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) missed the fact that the US fought against Nazi Germany in WWII.

Benjamin Wittes: How hard is it to overturn an American election?

So yes, the president is allowed to sulk. He is allowed to be the sorest of sore losers. He is allowed to once again display before the entire world the complete triumph of ego over patriotism, of self-interestedness over public-spiritedness, within his heart. There is, actually, nothing to do about it if he wants to play it this way; there is no way to stop him. And in and of itself, it's not even a particularly grave problem. It is certainly sad that the United States has a president who so completely fails the basic tests of honor and decency. It would be lovely to see him just once rise to some occasion, any occasion. But it's hardly a surprise that he can't or he won't or he doesn't want to. He is, after all, Donald Trump.

Matthew Yglesias: The problem with exit poll takes, explained.

Li Zhou/Ella Nilsen: How North Carolina and Maine dashed Senate Democrats' hopes of a "blue wave". The loss to Susan Collins shows that Democrats still aren't ready to put partisan interests above personal quirks. North Carolina shows that Republicans do just that. The asymmetry has repeated killed independent Democratic candidates, especially in Senate races. Which makes it all the harder to prevail in the Senate, given the built-in anti-Democratic bias.

Biden Prospects

Sam Adler-Bell: The brewing Democratic fight over Biden's cabinet.

Albena Azmanova/Marshall Auerback: 2020 was the 'precarity election'. I know quite a few words, but had to look up "precarity": "the state of being precarious or uncertain"; also more specifically: "a state of persistent insecurity with regard to employment or income." Subhed: "Democrats' failure to address the issue of economic precarity undermines their claim to be the party of the working class." We need to find a better way to express that idea.

Andrew Bacevich: After Trump, throw out the old foreign policy establishment, too.

Allison Crimmins: Why the Biden administration should establish a Department of Climate.

Melissa Gira Grant/Nick Martin/Katie McDonough/JC Pan: The election is over. Here's a vision from the left for the next four years. A collection of pieces from activists, mostly good ideas, few anywhere near fruition given present limits.

Ryan Grim: What went wrong in the House? "In answering that question, don't ignore the Democratic consultant class."

Naomi Klein: Now we have to fight Trump's tin-pot coup -- and Biden's worst instincts. I don't doubt the latter, but also don't see much value in anticipating them. Trump has made clear his intent to make the transition period as difficult as possible, leaving Biden so much to remedy that it's hard to see much point in squabbling over details. Later on, sure, the left needs to defend its principles, but not to weaponize them against against Biden, who for various reasons is in a very precarious situation.

Sonali Kolhatkar: America -- and the Democrats -- won't have a future if Joe Biden adopts a centrist agenda.

Eli Lehrer: What Joe Biden could learn from Harry Truman about hiring Republicans: I'm skeptical, but don't doubt that there are places where an occasional Republican might help rather than harm. However, understand that any Republican who works for (or even consorts with) the Biden administration will be branded a traitor by the party faithful, and will bring in damn little support. The point on soft vs. hard positions is well taken, and would be a good way to bring left Democrats into the administration without surrendering much power. But what makes it work is that left Democrats have ideas that actually help, unlike wandering Republicans.

Nick Martin: The agenda is still survival: "The Democratic Party can't be mired in intraparty fights about what's 'too far left.' Life as we know it is at stake."

Sara Morrison: How Biden's FCC could fix America's internet: "The FCC can bring back net neutrality and help Americans stay connected during the pandemic." Could, but note that Biden got a lot of money from Silicon Valley, and that Obama had a pretty shoddy record of appointing industry flacks to the FCC. Net neutrality is an easier call because there are industry interests on both sides of the issue, but there's still a big gap between what the less obnoxious parts of the industry wants and what people could actually benefit from.

Ella Nilsen: Democrats are already at odds over how to win in 2022.

Hadas Thier: Biden and the Dems should have buried Trumpism. But they provided no alternative. That's pretty unfair. Anyone who made the slightest effort should realize that Biden offers a clear and major contrast to Trump: He offered a return to the conventional pieties of American politics, to the conventions of unity that Trump flagrantly trashed. Admittedly, he's not nearly as articulate as Barack Obama, and his campaign came off as slack and cliché-ridden. He failed to make the point that Trump and Republicans down ballot are equally dangerous, and he didn't unify Democrats in anything beyond their disgust with Trump. On the latter score, his distancing from policies of the party's left-wing lent credence to Republicans' blanket attacks on all Democrats as radical socialists. It would have been better had he emphasized common principles: rather than attack Medicare-for-all, he could have emphasized his commitment to health care as a universal right; rather than trash Green New Deal, he could have stressed the need for infrastructure development, to limit climate change and to make the economy run more efficiently. In short, he could have gone far toward unifying Democrats on principles rather than dividing them on policies. But then, well, he wasn't a very articulate candidate. Related:

Robert Wright/Connor Echols: Grading Biden's foreign policy team: Tony Blinken. This will likely be a series. The authors previously wrote Introducing the progressive realism report card, and Wright wrote Grading criteria for progressive realism report cards.

Matthew Yglesias: Joe Biden needs to avoid a return to "eat your peas" budgeting.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Surge

The latest covid numbers are: 11+ million cases (14-day change +80%), 245,777 deaths (+38%), hospitalizations 69,455 (+43%). The first and second "peaks" on the chart look like mere speed bumps now. Sedgwick County, KS is regularly setting new records, and all the ICU beds in Wichita are full. Cases are up in virtually every state (Kansas is number 11). Trump carried 10 of the top 13 states.

Half or more of the following articles could have been filed in the more explicitly political sections, but have slopped over here. Not least because pandemic response has become so very political.

Julia Belluz: Why the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine is a cause for optimism -- and skepticism.

Jerusalem Demsas: 80 percent of those who died of Covid-19 in Texas county jails were never convicted of a crime.

Igor Derysh: To truly recover, US needs 400% more coronavirus relief than McConnell is offering, economists say. Since McConnell got reelected, why not flood Georgia with ads pointing out that votes for Senate Republicans are nothing more than votes for McConnell's plan to strangle states, cripple small businesses, and starve the unemployed? McConnell makes a much more convincing bogeyman than Chuck Shumer or Nancy Pelosi -- the stars of virtually every Republican scare ad over the last year.

Dan Goldberg/Alice Miranda Ollstein: Pandemic on course to overwhelm US health system before Biden takes office.

Eric Levitz: A nightmare COVID winter could force a GOP awakening on stimulus. Only if the stock market tanks again. Nothing else seems to phase them, and if they think they can blame the stock market on Biden, maybe not even that.

German Lopez: America's third Covid-19 surge, explained.

Nick Martin: Republican malice has turned the pandemic into a deadly loop: "The GOP blocks the stimulus. Nonessential businesses reopen and people go back to work because they need money. Cases surge. People die."

Eleanor Mueller: Health officials sound alarm over impact of Trump's transition blockade.

Benjamin Rosenberg: The second White House coronavirus outbreak: Mark Meadows, the Secret Service, and more.

Dylan Scott: Trump's final two months in office might be the worst Covid-19 months yet.

Michael Tomasky: There's a word for why we wear masks, and liberals should say it: "It's high time Democrats played some philosophical offense on the concept of 'freedom.'" Last week it was David Harvey instructing the left on the importance of embracing the concept of freedom -- for different reasons, to different ends. "Freedom" is a versatile word, and the right's use of it rests on a peculiar ratiocination. So why not? Just don't think it's an elixir. It's as likely to muddle as to inform.

Zeynep Tufecki: It's time to hunker down: "A devastating surge is here. Unless Americans act aggressively, it will get much larger, very quickly."

David Wallace-Wells: Un-normalizing America's third wave. Notes that the number of US deaths due to Covid-19 now exceeds "the number of people who died in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Still More on Donald Trump

Zeeshan Aleem: Violence followed the "Million MAGA March" in Washington, DC: Of course it did. Otherwise, evidently very little to report on. Curiously little on turnout. Here's what I found:

John Cassidy: The long-term damage of Trump's antidemocratic lies.

Nancy Cook/Gabby Orr: Trump aides privately plot a flurry of moves in their final 10 weeks: "The White House is eyeing executive orders and regulations on immigration, trade, health care, China and school choice."

Tom Engelhardt: Donald Trump knew us better than we knew ourselves. Subtitle, but more evocative than "Gloom and Doom 2020" or "State of Chaos." Sure, he knew how to play half of America, mostly because he's soaked up the vitriol spewed 24-7 on Fox News, adding only enough ego to think himself the leader of his perverse world. On the other hand, he hardly knows the rest of us at all.

Trumpism has split America in two in a way that hasn't been imaginable since the Civil War. The president and the Senate are likely to be in gridlock, the judicial system a partisan affair of the first order, the national security state a money-gobbling shadow empire, the citizenry armed to the teeth, racism rising, and life everywhere in an increasing state of chaos.

Welcome to the (Dis)United States. Donald Trump led the way and, whatever he does, I suspect that this, for at least the time being, is still in some sense his world, not Joe Biden's. He was the man and, like it or not, we were all his apprentices in a performance of destructive power of the first order that has yet to truly end.

Michelle Goldberg: The post-presidency of a con man: "Out of office, Trump might seem a lot less formidable." Goldberg previously (10/29) wrote a piece I can certainly relate to: Four wasted years thinking about Donald Trump. Also (11/07): We are finally getting rid of him.

Doug Henwood posted a link to a 1934 article by Leon Trotsky: Hitler's National Socialism, and commented on it in Facebook:

This 1934 essay on Hitler et al. by Trotsky appeared in the Yale Review, of all places, and it's pretty fabulous. Lots of relevance to the Trump phenomenon, though there are some differences. Trotsky estimated the petty bourgeoisie to about half the German population; ours is much smaller. And big capital is not yet behind the Trumpy mission, as it was behind the Nazis.

Trotsky wrote:

The leader by will of the people differs from the leader by will of God in that the former is compelled to clear the road for himself, or, at any rate, to assist the conjuncture of events in discovering him. Nevertheless, the leader is always a relation between people, the individualistic supply to meet the collective demand. The controversy over Hitler's personality becomes the sharper the more that the secret of his success is sought in himself. In the meantime, another political figure would be difficult to find that is in the same measure the focus of anonymous historic forces. Not every exasperated petty bourgeois could have become Hitler, but a particle of Hitler is lodged in every exasperated petty bourgeois.

This was written shortly after Hitler seized power, so at a time when Hitler's public support and messianic profile was roughly equal to Trump's. The difference, of course, is that Hitler was a ruthless tactician as well as a demagogue, which allowed him to consolidate power and remake Germany to embody his personal pathologies. There is little chance that Trump will be as successful and as disastrous, but it's not because his personal nature doesn't drive him to such extremes. He is hemmed in by historical constraints (and perhaps by his own ineptness), but his post-election behavior reveals him to be every bit the fascist we've long suspected him of. Secondary point: Marxists have often been exceptional journalists, starting with Karl (see, e.g., "The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte").

Ezra Klein: The crisis isn't Trump. It's the Republican Party. Interview with Anne Applebaum, who "wrote the book on why people choose to collaborate with authoritarian regimes," Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism.

Michael Kruse: Trump's crazy and confoundingly successful conspiracy theory.

Trump, after all, started preparing for what he was going to do if he lost this election before the last election. And he simply could not be doing what he's doing at this stage if he hadn't been doing it for this long. "He's able to do this now," said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a historian of authoritarians, fascism and propaganda who has a new book out this week titled Strongmen, "because of all that he's already set up."

It goes way back. "Donald is a believer in the big-lie theory," one of Trump's lawyers told Marie Brenner for a story in Vanity Fair 30 years ago this fall. "If you say something again and again, people will believe you."

Trump is an expert liar. The foundation of his existence is lies. He's not self-made. He's not a good businessman, manager or boss. He's an insider instead of an outsider. He's not been somehow singularly a victim but rather spectacularly privileged and lucky. "He is not who he says he is," former Trump casino executive Jack O'Donnell told me this past August. "He is," Trump biographer Michael D'Antontio said, "a walking lie."

Timothy L O'Brien: Why Trump fears leaving the White House: "Losing the presidency leaves him vulnerable to financial and legal danger."

Nathaniel Manderson: Understanding the Trump voters: Here's why nobody is doing it right: "I've been an evangelical pastor and a teacher in an immigrant community. I'm not shocked Trump did better this time."

Nick Martin: Consider the bootlicker: "Trump's time in office was a group effort. Here's a taxonomy of the grifters, sycophants, and opportunists who made it all possible for the last four years."

Alex Pareene: A coup is a coup: "It's still an illegitimate power grab, even if Republican operatives are only doing it to protect Trump's fragile ego." After Trump's repeated abuse of "coup" to describe impeachment, you'd think we'd be more careful in our choice of words now. Pareene seems to be responding to Matt Ford: This is (probably) not a coup d'état. But the fact is we have no proper word for Trump's stance now. I imagine it's not unprecedented -- surely there have been other elected leaders who have dragged their feet after losing elections, but it's hard to recall them, probably because so few got away with it. Perhaps Trump will become comparably obscure in the future.

Katha Pollitt: The Trump-shaped stain on American life.

James Risen: "We're not a democracy": Quote comes from Republican Sen. Mike Lee, who approves, and like most Republicans wants to see further barriers erected against the democratic impulses of the American people. But it's been Donald Trump who's done more than anyone to act upon Lee's precept. Attempting to discredit the election he just lost if just one more step after many.

While it would be cleansing to get rid of Donald Trump and his cronies, it will not be enough. Regardless of whether Trump wins reelection, the rot at the heart of the Republican Party -- particularly its deep-seated racism -- is not going away anytime soon. With or without Trump, America is in for a generation-long death match between the supporters of white identity in what is left of the Republican Party and supporters of a more diverse society, primarily Democrats.

Using the Supreme Court, the Senate, and the Electoral College, Trump and the Republican Party are trying to build defenses against changing demographics. Those mechanisms allow the party that controls the right states to retain power, even if that party does not represent a national majority. The Republican Party's objective is the political hegemony that comes from the strategic control of key states; it helps explain Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee's recent tweet, in which he noted that "we're not a democracy."

Nathan J Robinson: He'll be back: Starts, appropriately enough, with a New York Times headline from 1923, "Hitler virtually eliminated."

As I write, there are horns honking in the French Quarter and people cheering. I don't think they are overcome with emotional enthusiasm for the upcoming presidency of Joe Biden. They're just thrilled about the end of Donald Trump. For four years, this monstrous man has occupied our constant attention, committing crime after crime, escalating the climate crisis and terrorizing immigrants. Now, thank God, he has been narrowly defeated, and we face four years of a conservative Democratic presidency, which, while it cannot be expected to be good, at least spares us from the worst.

Aaron Rupar: Trump's turn against Fox News, explained: "The network sometimes engages with the reality that Biden won. For Trump, that's an unforgivable sin." More on Fox:

Maggie Severns: Where Trump's recount fundraising dollars are really going: "Money raised to pay for recounts goes to covering campaign debts, funding future political activities and boosting like-minded figures."

Nick Turse: Tantrum and theater: Trump's desperation after election loss isn't yet a coup.

Alex Ward: Why Trump is suddenly replacing Pentagon officials with loyalists. I'm reminded of how GWH Bush sent US troops into Somalia during his lame duck period, a poison pill which Clinton had to clean up later, after the whole operation went bad (remember "Black Hawk Down"?). Clinton, in turn, didn't do a very good job of cleaning it up, so 25+ years later the US is still bombing suspected "bad guys" in Somalia. The interesting twist here is that Trump's idea of a poison pill might not be starting or escalating a new war, but finally withdrawing troops from the endless war in Afghanistan -- a point of contention between Trump and DOD, one where Biden is likely to side with the generals. Americans in general, and Democrats in particular, would be pleased to leave Afghanistan, no matter what the consequences were. While continuing the status quo costs Biden little, having to decide whether to send troops back would be a lose-lose proposition. Trump might relish that.

Around the World

Murtaza Hussain:

  • Trump, the war president, leaves a trail of civilians dead in Yemen.

  • Trump destroyed any hope of Israeli-Palestinian peace -- and Biden can't rebuild it. One big reason Biden can't go back to the Clinton-Obama focus on a "two-state" solution is that it's been a mirage at least since Sharon's destruction of the Palestinian Authority after 2000. Reversing Trump's embassy move won't help that illusion. Nor would it help to undo the Kushner deals, the only effect of which has been to force Arab states to recognize Israel as a condition of American alliance -- which mostly means arms deals. Within this framework, the only thing that matters is mitigating the harsh effects of occupation on the Palestinians, which is to say, recognizing human rights. Needless to say, Trump has also acted to hobble international efforts to recognize human rights abuses everywhere in the world. Biden can and should try to reverse Trump on those policies. Of course, it's possible that Biden will try to have it both ways: defending human rights in general, while carving out an exception for Israel. Such hypocrisy makes a weak impression.

Nahal Toosi: Pompeo expected to announce process for US to label groups anti-Semitic. The criteria is simply whether a group has been critical of Israel, including for human rights abuses. Examples given in the piece: Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Oxfam. Support for non-violent BDS strategies against Israeli human rights abuses would also be deemed anti-Semitic. Also note that official US designation will be used to further chastise and restrict anyone who regards human rights for Palestinians as important. Also see:

Alex Ward: The surprising Armenia-Azerbaijan peace deal over Nagorno-Karabakh, explained.

Other Matters of Interest

Douglas Belkin: Charles Koch says his partisanship was a mistake: "At 85, the libertarian tycoon who spent decades funding conservative causes says he wants a final act building bridges across political divides." This reminds me a bit of those former Shin Bet heads who spent their entire careers crushing Palestinian opposition, then in retirement decided Israel should have been more accommodating. Charles Koch had as much (maybe more) as anyone to do with making Donald Trump's presidency possible. I don't recall the exact words, but somewhere in Samuel Beckett (Happy Days?) there's an exchange where the son asks his father why he was ever conceived. The father replies, "I didn't know it would be you." After being born with millions, and spending all of a long life strutting and preening like a feudal lord, Koch discovers he wasn't so smart after all. Meanwhile, as with those Shin Bet tyros, his work is being taken up and furthered by younger men, as callous and arrogant as he ever was.

[PS: James Thompson linked to this on Facebook. I commented: "I wrote about this piece in my Weekend Roundup. On further reflection, this is less a mea culpa than a sly take on his own selfishness: a way of saying, now that I got what I wanted from politics, you should give up on politics and stop trying to change my world."]

Sasha Frere-Jones: American history XYZ: "The chaotic quest to mythologize America's past."

Umair Irfan: It's official: 2020 is the busiest Atlantic Hurricane Season on record: "Subtropical Storm Theta is now the 29th named storm of the season." More:

Ezra Klein: The crisis isn't too much polarization. It's too little democracy: "If Republicans couldn't win so much power while losing votes, the US wouldn't be in the current crisis."

Yanna Krupnikov/John Barry Ryan: The real divide in America is between political junkies and everyone else: "Most Americans view politics as two camps bickering endlessly and fruitlessly over unimportant issues." This is false, but offers one more dimension to consider: how much people know and care about politics.

There might be an advantage for politicians who focus less on the demands of partisans and more on tangible issues. Yes, hard partisans are more likely to reward ideological victories, but they are also a minority of the electorate.

Each day, partisan Democrats wonder whether that day's "outrage" will finally change how people feel about President Trump. Partisan Republicans wonder the same thing about Joe Biden. But most "regular" voters are not paying that much attention to the daily onslaught. It turns them off.

And the major scandals that do break through? Well, to many of them, that is "just politics."

The left-right divide is still primary, as it's based not just on ideology but on ethical concerns: leftists seek greater equality in power, rights, and wealth, while right-wingers aim to preserve and enhance privileges. That divide is heightened by asymmetrical information: the right seeks to obscure its moral lapses by spreading propaganda aimed at increasing division by targeting others, while the left tries to expose the right's lies and misinformation and appeal to the people's basic sense of fairness and justice. That's the real divide, even if most people don't recognize it as such. But there isn't a sharp divide between people who people who get this much about politics and those who don't. Rather, there is a gradual attenuation of information and interest, passing down through people who have nothing to react to but isolated echoes, which makes their votes (when they bother) increasingly arbitrary. I suspect that the real explanation for Trump's gains among Black and Latin voters this year was the success of the get-out-the-vote campaigns, leading people who don't normally follow politics to vote anyway. Those people, with so little quality information to go on, simply voted more randomly than more informed voters, and that worked to Trump's advantage. Still, the solution isn't to suppress the uninformed vote. It's to do a better job of informing them -- much better than the Democrats did this year, although Georgia looks like an exception, perhaps because the registration effort was more personal there.

Robert Markley: Kim Stanley Robinson is one of our greatest socialist novelists: I haven't found time for novels, but I know people who would agree.

David Masciotra: If Democrats can't stop acting like losers when they win, America is doomed.

Corey Robin: The professor and the politician: "For Max Weber, only the most heroic figures could generate meaning in the world. Does his theory hold up today?"

Nathan J Robinson:

  • Interview: Stephanie Kelton talks MMT and more. With Sparky Abraham also on the interview. Kelton has a book: The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy.

  • Why nationalism is a brain disease: "Matthew Yglesias' One Billion Americans argues that America needs more people because America must be the best. But why be the 'best'? And what is 'America'?" Robinson suggests an alternate subtitle, trading in The Case for Thinking Bigger for How the Assumption That America "Must" Remain on Top Produces Ludicrous Implications. Examples follow. I've read Yglesias regularly in Vox, and often started these Weekend Roundups with links to his pieces, but his book strikes me as a naked reach for the Thomas Friedman market. And while he no doubt knows a lot, I have no desire for that level of cliché crafting. Besides, I learned all I ever needed to know about nationalism from Camper Van Beethoven: "And if you weren't living here in America/you'd probably be somewhere else."

Jeff Sharlet: A heart is not a nation: "Confronting the age of hate in America." Review of Jean Guerrero: Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda, and Seyward Darby: Sisters in Hate: American Women on the Front Lines of White Nationalism.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: After/math. Since I've mentioned "soul of America" several times recently, let this bury it:

So Biden found his new Neil Kinnock after all, except historian Jon Meacham, unlike Kinnock, is a one-man cliché factory. Is there any phrase more hackneyed and less meaningful than "the soul of America"? How much did the Biden campaign pay Meacham to insert "soul of America" four or five times into every Biden speech? As stale platitudes go, the sell-by date on that one expired 150 years ago and even then Mark Twain would have had rich sport illustrating just how moronic it is.

Randy Stein/Alexander Swan/Michelle Sarraf: Conservatives value personal stories more than liberals do when evaluating scientific evidence. The link to this article had a more potent title: "How conservatives process COVID data."

Among conservatives especially, the idea that the pandemic itself is not a major threat can hold as long as there's personal evidence on offer that supports that view. President Donald Trump's recovery from COVID-19 and his assertion based on his own experience that the disease is not so bad would have bolstered this belief. Recommendations from researchers to wear masks can remain mere suggestions so long as the court of public opinion is still undecided.

Given all this, Trump's quick recovery from Covid-19 could have been the worst possible outcome. Recent history seems to bear that out.

Monday, November 09, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, November archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34320 [34286] rated (+34), 223 [214] unrated (+9).

Spent most of the week in a fairly deep funk, not just due to the mixed bag of election results. Part of this is uncertainty as to where to go next with my writing. I'm tired of politics, and tired of music, and not too optimistic about anything else. I've long vowed that when I give up on the world, I'll go back to reading fiction. I haven't done that yet, but could go that way. Meanwhile, I've continued to make half-efforts at the usual projects. Yesterday's Weekend Roundup came to 811 lines, down 28% from the previous week, and down 45% from two weeks back. Indeed, it was the shortest since July 7, although early in the year most columns (23 total) were shorter.

As for music, I started off every day last week with vintage jazz albums. I noted the "breakfast music" in my Twitter feed, so I can report them here:

  • Ben Webster: Soulville
  • Don Pullen: Ode to Life
  • Coleman Hawkins: At Ease
  • Coleman Hawkins: Hollywood Stampede
  • Ben Webster: Cottontail
  • Budd Johnson: Let's Swing
  • Art Pepper/Duke Jordan: In Copenhagen 1981
  • Coleman Hawkins: The High and Mighty Hawk
  • Sonny Rollins: Plays G-Man
  • Johnny Hodges: Triple Play
  • Sonny Rollins: This Is What I Do

These are all grade A/A+ records.

When I finally did return to my computer, I spent most of my time on my record lists: the tracking list, and the metacritic list. In particular, I caught up on some jazz sources: All About Jazz, Free Jazz Collective, Bandcamp (Dave Sumner), and Stereogum (Phil Freeman). That, plus time lingering on Aerophonic's Bandcamp site, led me to most of this week's records. Phil Overeem spotted most of the new compilations (at least, the better ones).

I've only gotten one question in weeks, so tried to answer it today.

Fell further behind on my demo queue, with more than the usual mail haul this week. I will get to them in due course, assuming some return to normalcy -- although I can tell you now that the Rich Halley CD is one of his best. Note that some albums don't officially release until 2021. That forced me to set up the scaffolding for tracking 2021 releases. Still lots of 2020 to process, but looking forward to January 20, even more so than in 2009. Thank God (and FDR) for the 20th Amendment.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Actress: Karma & Desire (2020, Ninja Tune): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Aluna: Renaissance (2020, Mad Decent): [r]: A-
  • Jon Armstrong Sextet: Reabsorb (2020, Orenda): [bc]: B+(**)
  • David Binney/Kenny Wollesen: Basu (2020, Mythology): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jamie Branch/Dave Repis/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Tollef Østvang: Tripel/Dubbel (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Johanna Burnheart: Burnheart (2020, Ropeadope): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cosmic Vibrations: Pathways & Passages (2018 [2020], Spiritmuse): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dej Loaf: Sell Sole II (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Demae: Life Works Out . . . Usually (2020, Touching Bass, EP): [r]: B
  • Tashi Dorji/Tyler Damon: To Catch a Bird in a Net of Wind (2018 [2020], Trost): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Tashi Dorji: Stateless (2020, Drag City): [r]: B+(*)
  • Silke Eberhard/Dave Rempis/Kent Kessler/Mike Reed: Exposure (2017 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Michael Foster/Dave Rempis/Jason Roebke/Tyler Damon: The Eagle (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Ill Considered: Ill Considered 9: East/West (2019 [2020], Ill Considered): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Josh Johnson: Freedom Exercise (2020, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(*)
  • Les Sangliers: Miniscules (2018 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Kylie Minogue: Disco (2020, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rachel Musson: Shifa: Live in Oslo (2019 [2020], 577): [r]: B+(**)
  • Rachel Musson: I Went This Way (2019 [2020], 577): [r]: B+(**)
  • Aquiles Navarro & Tcheser Holmes: Heritage of the Invisible II (2020, Internatioal Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
  • Optic Sink: Optic Sink (2020, Goner): [r]: B+(***)
  • Paris: Safe Space Invader (2020, Guerilla Funk): [r]: B+(***)
  • Theo Parrish: Wuddaji (2020, Sound Signature): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Rempis/Jim Baker/Ingebright Håker Flaten/Avreeayl Ra: Millenniums (2019 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Dave Rempis/Terrie Ex/Tim Daisy: Sugar Shack (2013 [2020], Aerophonic): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Steph Richards: Supersense (2020, Northern Spy): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tiwa Savage: Celia (2020, Universal): [r]: B+(*)
  • Cat Toren's Human Kind: Scintillating Beauty (2020, New Focus): [r]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Cool Cats Invasion (Highlife, Juju & Palm-Wine) (1950s-60s [2020], Moochin' About): [bc]: A-
  • Etta Jones: A Soulful Sunday: Live at the Left Bank (1972 [2020], Cellar Live): [r]: B-
  • Kaleidoscope: New Spirits Known & Unknonwn (2014-20 [2020], Soul Jazz, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • La Locura de Machuca 1975-1980 (1975-80 [2020], Analog Africa): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi (1985-1997) (1985-97 [2020], Bongo Joe): [r]: B+(**)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Randal Despommier: Dio C'è (Outside In Music) [2021-02-06]
  • The End: Allt Är Intet (RareNoise): cdr [11-13]
  • Rich Halley/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio/Newman Taylor Baker: The Shape of Things (Pine Eagle)
  • Simone Kopmajer: Christmas (Lucky Mojo) [11-20]
  • Carla Marciano Quartet: Psychosis: Homage to Bernard Hermann (Challenge)
  • Todd Mosby: Aerial Views (MMG)
  • William Parker: Migration of Silence Into and Out of the Tone World (Centering/AUM Fidelity, 10CD): 1-CD "advance listening demo" [2021-01-29]
  • Ivo Perelman Trio: Garden of Jewels (Tao Forms) [2021-01-22]
  • Dave Rempis/Jeff Parker/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten/Jeremy Cunningham: Stringers and Struts (Aerophonic) [12-04]
  • Sonny Rollins: Rollins in Holland (1967, Resonance, 2CD) [12-04]
  • J. Peter Schwalm: Neuzeit (RareNoise): cdr [11-27]
  • Chris White/Lara Driscoll: Firm Roots (self-released) [2021-01-21]

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Blog link.

Table of contents:

Last week I collected a number of links meant to help readers understand how votes were likely to be counted over time from Tuesday evening into the next day(s). However, on Tuesday evening I found myself with little interest in checking, let alone following, the returns. Nor did my wife, who is much more the news junkie, somewhat more partisan, and definitely more full of dread. So we watched a movie instead (Ford vs. Ferrari, based on a story I followed closely when I was 15) and some stream TV I can't recall -- maybe the Australian series, Mystery Road? I googled election returns before going to bed: Biden was leading in popular vote, but it was closer than expected, with Trump still holding leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, but Arizona called for Biden. I saw some Kansas returns, and knew that Barbara Bollier had lost her Senate bid. I spent the rest of the week never going deeper than Google's AP widget, which currently gives Biden a 290-214 lead, a margin of a bit over 4.5 million votes (with Biden at 50.7%), with three states still uncalled: Biden leads narrowly in Georgia, Trump leads a bit more in North Carolina, and much more in slow-returning Alaska.

I had hoped the Democrats would win more impressively, especially in the Senate races. (One piece which explains why is Joseph Fishkin: Please let it not be close: Who 2020 prez outcome probably won't be decided in court. But also Republican obstruction and rule has cost us 10 years of "opportunity costs" as Washington has ignored critical problems.) As it is, Democrats picked up two seats (Arizona and Colorado), lost one (Alabama), are trailing in North Carolina and Alaska, and face two difficult runoffs in Georgia, so it is very likely that the Republicans will control the Senate: leverage they could use not just to prevent Democrats from delivering on any of their legislative goals but totally sandbag the Biden administration: rejecting any or all nominations (judges, even cabinet members), even failing to pass a budget, appropriation bills, and resolutions allowing the government to extend its credit limit. They could, in short, shut the federal government down for the next two years. I wouldn't put any of that past them.

Democrats also lost a few seats in the House, but retain control there. I stil haven't looked at detailed returns for down ballot races. I haven't had much interest in reading people's opinions about why the votes broke as they did, or what it means for the future. Nonetheless, I do have a few opinions:

  1. I doubt that nominating a more progressive ticket would have helped the Democrats much. In particular, I doubt that Bernie Sanders would have inspired more young people to come out to vote Democratic than he would have lost among anti-left Democrats, independents, and anti-Trump Republicans. I also doubt that he would have done much worse (except perhaps at fundraising, which appears to be very overrated this year). And he might have made up some ground by articulating a sharper attack on Trump and/or by promising greater return value for votes.
  2. Biden, like Clinton in 2016, put a lot of effort into wooing Republican crossover votes, which undermined Democrats in down ballot races (especially in Maine, where Republicans won a Senate seat that polls had shown them losing all year; the failed campaign to defeat Susan Collins was the year's biggest disappointment). Biden should have made it clear that he needed a Democratic Congress not just to deliver on his promises but to govern at all.
  3. Biden put way too much emphasis on nebulous ideas like "soul of America" and "saving democracy," and not nearly enough on pocket book issues, like raising the minimum wage, encouraging unions, cutting drug and medical costs, keeping the economy going during pandemic. I'm reminded that in 1860, Republicans didn't campaign on generalities like limiting slavery and preserving the union. Their campaign pitch was direct: "Vote yourself a farm! Vote yourself a tariff!" Sure, both of those points worked to undermine the Slave Power, but they required nothing more from voters than a sense of self-interest. Trump and the Republicans were vulnerable of every front (except arguably taxes, but even there they clearly favored the rich). Democrats could honest have argued that the economy would be much worse without their insistence that the CARES act provide extra money for unemployment compensation and small businesses, and that the only reason it hasn't been extended has been Republican obstruction.
  4. Republicans retained a remarkable degree of unity up and down the ticket, possibly because their charges against Democrats were so outrageous and indiscriminate. Republican Senate candidates won everywhere Trump did (plus Maine), limiting Democratic gains to states Biden carried (less Maine). In many cases, Democratic Senate candidates polled better than Biden, only to lose out. Republicans are brutally efficient at getting their voters out, as they've been for quite some time. One corollary is that it doesn't seem to matter whether the Democratic candidate is left, liberal, moderate, or conservative.
  5. I think the main reason Trump exceeded his polls this time was that he moved some late-breaking voters on pandemic lockdowns. His handling of the pandemic was disastrous, but his ultimate embrace of the disease made him look tough and vigorous, and it aligned with the business interests of potential swing voters. Biden backed away from endorsing more lockdowns, but had a harder time convincing voters that his more cautious approach would be better for the economy. (Note that I'm not endorsing Trump's stance, which is stupid and callous, but it helps explain the small shift at the end.)
  6. Republican control of the Senate will certainly suit some of Biden's richest backers (e.g., Michael Bloomberg, whose money is one of the grossest blemishes on the 2020 elections). It will give him a good excuse not to nominate anyone from what Howard Dean memorably dubbed "the democratic wing of the Democratic Party." (Even if Democrats had won control, their efforts would be checked by the most conservative Democrats in the Senate -- much as Joe Lieberman and James Exon killed the ACA public option.)
  7. The Georgia runoff elections offer an opportunity for Democrats to get a redo, albeit on unfavorable terrain. The Democrats need to run as a team, and beg Georgians to give Biden a chance to work for America. Republicans are already arguing that winning those races is "America's last chance to stop socialism," so they're not going to lose gracefully.

Here's a related Steve M tweet:

Republicans have successfully nationalized every election by linking everything that scares center and right voters to every Democrat. Someone torches a police station? Implicitly the local Dem's fault! Dems never do this to the GOP, which is why Susan Collins won.

The Elections

Josh Barro: Smile, Democrats. Trump lost. You won.

Jerusalem Demsas: Why Georgia has runoff elections: Well, you know, racism, same as in other Southern states that use runoffs to a black person doesn't win a plurality against a divided mix of white candidates. It matters this year because both Senate elections will be going to runoffs. And most likely, the runoff election will draw fewer voters than the presidential, and that will help the Republicans sweep both seats, giving them a slim majority in the Senate, the the ability to sabotage any appointments or other initiatives Democrats push.

Liza Featherstone: There was actually a lot of good news for the left on election day.

Natalie Fertig/Mona Zhang: 1 in 3 Americans now lives in a state where recreational marijuana is legal: "New Jersey, Arizona and Montana passed measures to legalize adult-use marijuana. South Dakota became the first state to authorize both medical and recreational sales at the same time." Mississippi voters approved medical marijuana. Every state that offered voters the chance to weigh in passed the measures.

Matt Ford: Election day was peaceful -- then Trump opened his mouth.

Murtaza Hussein: Nonwhite voters are not immune to the appeal of right-wing populism.

Ezra Klein:

  • How Joe Biden, the ultimate insider, defeated Donald Trump, the ultimate outsider: "The lessons of Biden's unusual campaign."

  • Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight. Not a coup. I doubt there are any institutions in America that could or would launch a coup, either to depose an inconvenient president, or in this case to preserve one who lost an election. It's not just that it's never been done before, or that there's little public support for taking contempt for American democracy to that level. Sure,the courts can (as they did in 2000) tilt the scales a bit. And if the electoral college split ended at 270-268 (as seemed possible before Biden won Pennsylvania), some sort of backroom deal (as happened in 1876 with Hayes-Tilden) might steal the election (although the Supreme Court ruled against "faithless electors" earlier this year). But neither of those disgraceful scenarios would really be a coup. What Trump is doing is everything he can to discredit an election that he clearly lost. He may not understand that he's really discredited himself in the bargain.

Michael Kruse:

  • Donald Trump confronts a new label: loser. By the way, Greg Magarian commented:

    This piece is utterly vicious simply because it's accurate and thorough. I disagree with people who think Trump was a singularly damaging president; in terms of the harm he did, he's just another disastrous conservative, the logical heir of Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes, all of whom slaughtered more people around the world. But Trump is certainly the worst person ever to hold the office, and I'm reveling in his debasement and humiliation. He deserves every drop in the tsunami of suffering that's headed his way.

  • How misfortune -- and stunning luck -- brought Joe Biden to the presidency.

Anita Kumar:

Peter Maass: As Trump is defeated, the Murdochs try to dodge backlash for Fox News. One thing I'll add is that Fox never needed to build a Republican majority to make money. Indeed, their interests favor keeping their audience extremely agitated, even if it's merely a sizable minority. Also, it kind of cramps their style having to defend a Republican establishment, certainly compared to how freewheeling they can get in attacking Democrats. That said, Trump was ideal for them: for one thing, he was living testament to their power and reach; for another, he never tried to be less crazy than they were. But Fox never needed Trump like Trump needed Fox. More on Trump and Fox:

Ian MacDougall: If Trump tries to sue his way to election victory, here's what happens.

Dylan Matthews: Joe Biden has won. Here's what comes next.

Laura McGann: Anderson Cooper described Trump as "an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun".

David Nakamura: Trump's bid to discredit election raises fear that he will undermine a smooth transfer of power.

John Nichols:

  • The Biden-Harris victory brings 'an outpouring of joy, hope, renewed faith': "In cities nationwide, a spontaneous celebration erupts as Trup is defeated and voters usher in 'a new day for America.'" I must admit this took me by surprise, probably because I was bummed by how close the election was, and by the failure to rout Republicans down ballot, leaving Congress divided and ensuring that very little of the Biden-Harris platform stands a chance of getting implemented (at least for two years, but mid-term elections almost always go against the sitting president's party, and Democrats have blown mandates after both Clinton and Obama won with more impressive margins). On the other hand, had Trump actually won a second term after the most appalling record ever, in one of the worst years this country has ever suffered, it would have felt like the end of the world. Dodge that and yeah, joy makes sense. [By the way, Wichita also had a celebration, despite not contributing much to the win. We didn't attend, not least because Sedgwick County is regularly breaking records for new Covid-19 cases.] More celebrations:

  • Georgia voters can put an end to Mitch McConnell's grim reaping: By electing Democrats to two Senate seats subject to runoff. Yeah, but they probably won't. Georgia Republicans do everything they can to make voting difficult, and they're very efficient at winning low-turnout elections.

Ella Nilsen: House Democrats will keep their majority for two more years.

Alice Miranda Ollstein/Megan Cassella: 'A dreaded two years': Biden, allies gear up to face a GOP Senate.

Gabby Orr: Trump faces divided family and friends as calls out for a concession.

Lili Pike: Why so many young people showed up on Election Day.

Max Read: Time has never moved as slowly as it did this week.

Aaron Rupar:

Nate Silver: Biden won -- pretty convincingly in the end.

Still, this brings up one last point: This is the seventh election out of the past eight in which Democrats have won the popular vote for president. If American elections were contested on the basis of the popular vote, this race could probably have been called fairly early on Tuesday night, and we could all have gotten a lot more sleep the past few days. But don't let bleary eyes obscure Biden's accomplishment.

The one election the Republican won the most votes in was 2004, when GW Bush used his minority win in 2000 to start a war in Iraq, and was barely able to rally the nation behind its hapless Commander in Chief, and a thick veil of smoke and mirrors to hide how poorly the war was going. By 2008, Bush was even more unpopular than Trump this year. You can read 538's election blog here: Biden is projected to be the President-Elect. Here's how it all went down.

Emily Stewart: Trump spent years worrying about the stock market only to discover Wall Street doesn't care if he loses.

Asawin Suebsaeng/Sam Stein/William Bredderman: Trump orders advisers to 'go down fighting'.

Libby Watson: The futility of the Democrats' record-breaking war chest: "Liberals lined the campaigns of Senate hopefuls with mountainous piles of campaign loot, only to watch it all burn up on election night."

Matthew Yglesias:

  • Trump's gains with Hispanic voters should prompt some progressive rethinking.

  • 3 winners and 4 losers from a very long Election "Day": Winners: Joe Biden; Congressional Republicans ("Congressional Republicans escape from the Trump years with a tax cut, a stocked federal judiciary, an absolute stranglehold on the Supreme Court, and almost certainly a majority in the US Senate. They did lose the House in 2018 and didn't win it back in 2020, but Democrats' majority is now slim. And Republicans will dominate the redistricting process next year, setting themselves up nicely to make a big run at the majority in 2022."); Poll workers; Losers: Democratic small donors; Blue Texas, Martha McSally; The polls.

Li Zhou: Kamala Harris makes history as the first woman to become vice president. Lots of articles in this vein, as if it matters. At this stage, anyone who has a problem with her race and/or sex needs to get over it. What matters more (and most Republicans will emphasize this) is that she's significantly more progressive than Biden. Of course, that may be a consequence of her experiences given her background. Or she may just be smarter and more respectful and responsible than your average American. More on Harris:

After the Election

Dean Baker:

Jedediah Britton-Purdy: Donald Trump was a monster forged by the American free market.

Thomas Frank: Ding-dong, the jerk is gone. But read this before you sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Fine with me if you sing first, even dance a little. Plenty of time for disappointment later.

Biden can't take us back to the happy assumptions of the centrist era even if he wants to, because so many of its celebrated policy achievements lie in ruins. Not even Paul Krugman enthuses about Nafta-style trade agreements any longer. Bill Clinton's welfare reform initiative was in fact a capitulation to racist tropes and brought about an explosion in extreme poverty. The great prison crackdown of 1994 was another step in cementing the New Jim Crow. And the biggest shortcoming of Obama's Affordable Care Act -- leaving people's health insurance tied to their employer -- has become painfully obvious in this era of mass unemployment and mass infection.

But the biggest consequence of the Democrats' shabby experiment is one we have yet to reckon with: it has coincided with a period of ever more conservative governance. It turns out that when the party of the left abandons its populist traditions for high-minded white-collar rectitude, the road is cleared for a particularly poisonous species of rightwing demagoguery. It is no coincidence that, as Democrats pursued their professional-class "third way," Republicans became ever bolder in their preposterous claim to be a "workers' party" representing the aspirations of ordinary people.

Michael Grunwald: America votes to make politics boring again.

Fred Kaplan: Even without the Senate, Biden can get an awful lot done: "The executive branch is powerful and has only become more so in recent years."

First, there are executive orders. Obama signed 270 of them in the eight years of his presidency (that's almost three per month); Trump signed 176 in his one term (with, perhaps, more orders to come in his remaining two-and-a-half months). Biden could, and probably will, follow suit. (One thing he'll almost certainly do is repeal many of Trump's executive orders, just as Trump repealed many of Obama's.) Some of his predecessors' orders were challenged, and even overturned, in the courts, but not that many. Besides, presidents have other tools of unilateral power at their disposal: administrative orders, federal regulations, and national security decision directives, few of which can be challenged, many of which are deeply buried in bureaucratic documents, some of which are highly classified.

Second, presidents have enormous leeway in foreign policy (a privilege that, for better or worse, Congress and the courts rarely restrict). Biden will almost certainly reenter the Paris Agreement on climate change (which was signed within a United Nations framework, so the Senate would have no say), extend the New START nuclear arms treaty with the Russians (a provision allowed under the treaty itself, which the Senate ratified under Obama), and at least try to revive the nuclear arms deal with Iran (which was a multilateral agreement, not a treaty, and so never required Senate ratification). He won't be able to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty without Senate approval (he would face obstacles with many Democrats as well as Republicans). But he can enter into lots of negotiations with other countries that, in some way, involve trade and regional security.

Kevin M Kruse: Why a Biden administration shouldn't turn the page on the Trump era: "The Obama-Biden administration wanted to move forward rather than hold Wall Street bankers and CIA torturers accountable. If elected, Biden should follow FDR's playbook and expose his predecessor's corruption and mismanagement instead."

Matt McManus: How to avoid another Trump. "Trump was able to divert attention from the profound structural inequities of our time toward an agnostic politics where 'giving the middle finger' to liberals would serve as an ideological substitute for change."

Osita Nwanevu: Will the Democrats ever make sense of this week? "They're more likely to take the wrong lessons from Biden's win and the down-ballot losses."

Alex Pareene: What if Democrats' message just doesn't matter? "Florida voters backed a $15 minimum wage. So did Joe Biden -- and he lost the state. There are important lessons here for the party."

Yanis Varoufakis: Hoping for a return to normal after Trump? That's the last thing we need.

The Pandemic Is Still With Us

Katelyn Burns: The White House is dealing with another Covid-19 outbreak: "Five people have tested positive, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, as the US sees record daily case counts."

Umair Irfan/Julia Belluz/Brian Resnick: The US Covid-19 epidemic hit a deadly new milestone, and help isn't on the way: "More than 120,000 new Covid-19 cases in a single day."

A Odysseus Patrick: Australia has almost eliminated the coronavirus -- by putting faith in science.

Melody Schreiber: Trump is still the president, and the pandemic is getting worse.

David Waltner-Toews: The wisdom of pandemics: "Virus are active agents, existing within rich lifeworlds. A safe future depends on understanding this evolutionary story."

Still More on Donald Trump

Daniel Block: Donald Trup's return to TV would not be easy.

A Trump-controlled network would have an even greater chance of failure. It took Turner and Murdoch years to turn CNN and Fox into behemoths. Both did so when the cable television market was larger and less consolidated than it is today. Conservative media is particularly tricky. The target demographic -- middle-aged-to-elderly white men -- is becoming a smaller proportion of the U.S. They already have Fox.

And Trump is not a talented businessman. His companies have declared bankruptcy six times. His properties bleed cash. And his experience as chief executive of the federal government isn't exactly inspiring. The United States has had one of the worst responses to the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to Trump's dithering and denial. He could delegate the network's management to better hands, but, once again, it's hard to see him not micromanaging.

"Do you really want to help me build a channel for Donald Trump that targets old white guys?" the senior executive said. "I don't think so."

That doesn't mean networks or investors won't work with Trump. In fact, they likely will. Perhaps Fox will give him an enormous contract to call in as a commentator, buying him off without the risks of having to host a Trump show. (Whether Trump, with his massive ego, would settle for anything less than a dedicated prime-time audience is unclear.) Maybe Sinclair will decide partnering with Trump is worth the risk. Someone, somewhere, will pay him for his brand. Indeed, even the most spectacular possible failure -- creating a new channel, only to have it sputter -- could still be a financial win. Al Gore's Current TV never really caught on with viewers. Yet when he sold it to Al Jazeera, he made out with $100 million.

Katelyn Burns: The Trump legal team's failed Four Seasons press conference, explained. More:

Nancy Cook: Trump prepares to launch a second term early, even without winning: "He ay fire department heads like the FBI's Chris Wray and Pentagon chief Mark Esper. He could sign base-pleasing executive orders. He might resume travel."

Emily Dreyfuss: Trump's tweeting isn't crazy. It's strategic, typos and all. I'd rather just think of him as an illiterate moron, but could that just be his personal touch added to devious coaching?

Amy Gulick: The majestic Alaskan rain forest in Trump's crosshairs: Tongass National Forest.

The Intercept: Part Seven: Climate change: "Trump has stacked his anti-science administration with corporate polluters, gutted environmental regulations, and opened protected land for extraction." Most recent installment in a series, American Mythology. Previous parts:

Sarah Jones: Say good-bye to Trump's lesser ghouls: The roll call profiled here: Seema Verma (as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, "approved drastic cuts to Medicaid that left thousands of needy Americans without health care"); Sonny Perdue (Secretary of Agriculture, issued rules to allow states to cut SNAP); Eugene Scalia (Secretary of Labor, name no coincidence, undermined OSHA among other things); Gina Haspel (CIA Director, torture supervisor); Julia Hahn (White House speechwriter, with white nationalist credentials to rival the more infamous Stephen Miller); Robert Wilkie (VA head, union buster, Confederate monument fetishist); Paula White (White House "spiritual adviser"); Alyssa Farah (White House communications director); Russ Vought (Director of Office of Budget and Management, "task is to reshape the executive branch according to Trump's whims"); William Perry Pendley (acting director Bureau of Land Management).

Nick Pinto: Across the US, Trump used ICE to crack down on immigration activists. This is part of a larger series on The war on immigrants.

Jon Schwarz: During the Trump Era, everyone and everything in America failed: "The possibilities in front of us are real, but we should not deceive ourselves about what we learned during the Time of Trump." Schwarz doesn't limit his list of failures to Trump and the Republicans; also indicted are: Biden, Democrats, and The Corporate Media. Nonetheless, Trump leads:

Before Trump, it seemed obvious that fascists were filled with vigor, always available for a mass torch-lit rally at midnight. Trump clearly has the instincts of a fascist: a lust for power, cruelty toward out-groups, and romanticization of a past that never existed. But he also can't execute any plan that requires more than five seconds of effort. Are you a fascist if you vaguely want to be Supreme Leader, but that seems like a ton of work, and your top priority is getting through all the hours of "Fox & Friends" on your DVR? . . .

It's true the Trump administration has managed to implement policies that blighted the lives of many, many people. But this has been on issues where Trump himself just had to sign papers put in front of him by the small number of his underlings who are minimally competent.

All that said, there is one area where Trump did not fail. Everyone has a mental map of the world inside their head. Mentally healthy people adjust their interior map when they see it doesn't match reality. Mentally unhealthy people try to force reality to change to match what's inside them. Trump, who is pullulating with hate and fear, has successfully devoted himself to multiplying the amount of hate and fear in the world outside of his head.

The most terrifying part of the Trump presidency has not been Trump himself, but the slavish support other GOP politicians have given his every action. We now know for sure that there's nothing a Republican president can do that's so grotesque that the rest of the party won't fall in line behind it.

Supreme Court and Other Injustices

Ian Millhiser:

Benjamin Weiser/Michael S Schmidt/William K Rashbaum: Steve Bannon loses lawyer after suggesting beheading of Fauci: "Mr Bannon, the former adviser to President Trump, said the heads of the FBI director and Dr Anthony Fauci should be put on pikes, leading Twitter to ban one of his accounts."

Around the World

Laura Gottesdiener: The children of Fallujah: The medical mystery at the heart of the Iraq War: "Since the 2003 invasion, doctors in Fallujah have been reporting a sharp rise in birth defects among the city's children -- and to this day, no one knows why."

Murtaza Hussain: Trump, the war president, leaves a trail of civilians dead in Yemen: "A new report sheds light on Donald Trump's bloody continuation -- and intensification -- of the brutality of US foreign policy."

Marissa J Lang: Mexico is poised to legalize marijuana, but advocates don't like the details.

Sharon Lerner: US military responsible for widespread PFAS pollution in Japan: "A new book by Jon Mitchell exposes 'countless' releases of PFAS chemicals by the US military in Japan." Interview with Mitchell, whose book is Poisoning the Pacific: The US Military's Dumping of Plutonium, Chemical Weapons, and Agent Orange.

Timothy McLaughlin: America still thinks it's the election police: "After the 2020 election, who would bother to listen to the US about how to run a vote?"

Other Matters

Harry Browne: Robert Fisk was a reporter who brought the wars home and shaped the thinking of a generation. Fisk died last week. His books Pity the Nation (on civil war in Lebanon, although it also includes important reporting on Syria) and The Great War for Civilisation (on Bush's "War on Terror") were major, but mostly we depended on him for day-to-day journalism.

Matthew Cappuci/Andrew Freedman: Tropical Storm Eta nears Florida with flood threat, hurricane warnings: "The storm's swipe at Florida is part of the second incarnation of Eta, which killed dozens in Central America last week after striking Nicaragua on Tuesday as a devastating Category 4 storm."

David Harvey: Socialists must be the champions of freedom.

Anatol Lieven: US strategists lost empathy, along with their wars.

Paul R Pillar: The global nuclear bargain. Eighty-four nations have signed, and fifty have now ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. You may recall that the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) back in 1970 promised that if nations agreed not to develop nuclear weapons, the states that previously had them would disarm. The US and others have failed to do so, hence the need for a new treaty.

Jeffrey St Clair: Roaming charges: The fog of bores.

Monday, November 02, 2020

Music Week

Expanded blog post, October archive (in progress).

Music: Current count 34286 [34260] rated (+26), 214 [214] unrated (-0).

Went to bed last night with chills. Finally found a thermometer after I got up, and still had a mild fever (100.7). Not much else in the way of symptoms. Seems unlikely to me that it is covid, but I expect to take it easy today, and monitor the situation. Will knock this out fast, then maybe read or watch some TV.

Week was short, as far as rating new records, not starting until I locked down the previous week on Thursday. Still, ran through a lot of records over the weekened. Phil Freeman's Stereogum column helped, as did Dave Sumner's at Bandcamp, and Tim Niland's blog. (Sorry I don't feel like tracking down the links.)

Made a mistake in yesterday's Weekend Roundup: It should be Laura Lombard, as the Democrat running for the House 4th Congressional District in Kansas (not "Carol"). When editing that, I resisted the temptation to add "creepy" to her opponent Ron Estes' name, although that's the adjective that always comes to mind.

Robert Christgau tweeted about my Weekend Roundup:

My friend and webmaster Tom Hull reads so much that I often have trouble getting through the exceptionally clear and swift summaries he posts weekly. This pre-election edition, however, I'm printing out. (Check out "Recent Reading" on the left.)

Also in my Twitter feed was this from Admiral Mike Franken:

Multiple Air Force One flights per day to campaign stops, each preceded by multiple C-17 advance party trips to drop off hard cars, personnel, comm packages. The American taxpayer is paying for Trump's campaign, and after he is gone, the super-spreader medical costs, as well.

A reasonable lesson to draw from this is that we should never allow sitting presidents to run for second terms. Of course, like so many things, this was a less obvious abuse of power before Trump.

Also in the Twitter feed is one from Trump ("The Depraved Swamp have been trying to stop me - because they know I don't answer to THEM - I answer only to YOU"). I suppose it's possible that by "swamp" Trump meant something other than the obvious point about how lobbyists have so much influence in Washington, but he never corrected the misperception. He simply made a mockery of it. As Public Citizen notes in quoting Trump's tweet:

  • A coal lobbyist runs the EPA
  • An oil lobbyist runs the DOI
  • A pharma exec runs HHS
  • A Raytheon lobbyist runs DoD
  • A Verizon lawyer runs FCC
  • A banking exec runs Treasury
  • A shipping heiress runs DOT
  • A private equity kingpin runs Commerce
  • An unqualified billionaire runs DoED

Front page headline in the Wichita Eagle today: Guns and ammo fly off the shelves in Wichita. Page two headline: Wichita police: Suicide attempts involving guns up 150% in 2020. My first thought was that this sounds like a self-correcting problem, but the scales don't work out. I understand why people on both sides are terrified by the prospect of losing this election -- not that I think Trump supporters have anything serious to worry about -- but it escapes me how anyone could think the solution is stockpiling guns.

If you haven't already voted, do so tomorrow. It is, quite literally, the least you can do. Next week we'll unpack some of the results, but quite frankly, I'm looking forward to not having to deal with so much insanity on a weekly basis.

New records reviewed this week:

  • Ainon: Drought (2020, We Jazz): [r]: B+(**)
  • Autechre: Sign (2020, Warp): [r]: B
  • Autechre: Plus (2020, Warp): [r]: B+(*)
  • Ballrogg: Rolling Ball (2020, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tim Berne's Snakeoil: The Deceptive 4 (2009-17 [2020], Intakt, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Call Super: Every Mouth Teeth Missing (2020, Incienso): [r]: B+(***)
  • Chrome Hill: This Is Chrome Hill (2020, Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mino Cinelu/Nils Petter Molvaer: SulaMadiana (2020, Modern): [r]: A-
  • Joachim Cooder: Over That Road I'm Bound (2020, Nonesuch): [r]: B
  • Dagny: Strangers/Lovers (2020, Little Daggers, EP): [r]: B+(**)
  • Fat Tony: Exotica (2020, Carpark): [r]: B+(***)
  • Ariana Grande: Positions (2020, Republic): [r]: B+(*)
  • Home Counties: Redevelopment (2020, Alcopop!, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Keith Jarrett: Budapest Concert (2016 [2020], ECM, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Junk Magic: Compass Confusion (2020, Pyroclastic): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Takuya Kuroda: Fly Moon Die Soon (2020, First Word): [r]: B+(***)
  • Adrianne Lenker: Songs (2020, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
  • Malin Pettersen: Wildhorse (2020, Die With Your Boots On): [r]: B+(**)
  • Mikkel Ploug: Balcony Lullabies (2020, Stunt): [r]: B+(*)
  • Serengeti: With Greg From Deerhoof (2020, Joyful Noise): [r]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra Arkestra: Swirling (2018 [2020], Strut): [bc]: A-
  • Richard Thompson: Bloody Noses (2020, Beeswing, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jeff Tweedy: Love Is the King (2020, dBpm): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ben Wendel: High Heart (2020, Edition): [r]: B
  • Miki Yamanaka: Human Dust Suite (2020, Outside In Music): [r]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Rendition Was In) (2001-17 [2020], Daptone): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Sun Ra & His Arkestra: Unity: Live at Storyville, New York, October 1977 (1977 [2020], Enterplanetary Koncepts): [bc]: B+(***)

Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Kevin Sun: (Un)seaworthy (Endectomorph Music) [11-27]

Sunday, November 01, 2020

Blog link.

Table of contents:

I opened the Wichita Eagle this morning to see an alarming op-ed, titled "This presidential election is a battle between good and evil." I didn't instantly disagree, but figured I needed to look at the fine print to see whether it favored good or evil, and turns out it sided with evil. The author was Brian McNicoll, a writer for the Heritage Foundation. This kind of demonization never does anyone any good -- even when opposing Donald Trump, who is guilty of so many offenses against humanity one can excuse the shorthand. The thing is, it's always possible to construct a valid critique of Trump on issues, without ever getting into ethical or psychological matters (which are pretty offensive, too). McNicoll's screed is evenly divided between lies he thinks favor Trump and lies he thinks damn Biden. One could go through these point-by-point, but the deeper problem is the absolutist Manichaean worldview. One may disagree over corporate tax rates, but you're only deluding yourself when you claim that some levels are good and others evil. Worse, you're vowing to kill your opponents, and inviting them to kill you, just so you can feel righteous.

The weird thing is that while Trump is right to worry about losing, his followers aren't really risking much. Most popular Democratic reforms will actually help all but the very richest Americans, and if the track record of Biden's wing of the party holds up, the rich will also do better. Guns seem to be a concern, but the only things Democrats are seriously pushing there are background checks and/or some kind of limit on weapons of mass destruction. Most gun owners will barely be inconvenienced. Lately I've known several people describe abortion as "evil" in tones liberals almost never apply to guns. Clearly, they want to strip hard-earned rights away from women, and be able to dictate a large chunk of their lives. What makes them think they should even have that right baffles me, but it's become a litmus test for the whole conservative movement.

I had a second screed I wanted to write a bit about, but don't have time. It starts:

If you are a liberal who can't stand Trump, and cannot possibly fathom why anyone would ever vote for him, let me fill you in.

It's not that we love Donald Trump so much. It's that we can't stand you.

And we will do whatever it takes -- even if that means electing a rude, obnoxious, unpredictable, narcissist (your words not ours) to the office of President of the United States -- because the thing we find more dangerous to this nation than Donald Trump is YOU.

I picked this up from a Facebook "friend" (actually, a relative), and ascribe much of it to the heat of the moment, but I feel personally threatened by this vitriol. Again, nearly all of the charges are lies, wrapped up with the credulous anger of someone who feels he is being victimized by the unseen but much imagined forces of the left.

I think it should be clear by now that I don't hate Trump supporters. Indeed, I know a fair number of them, and love some very much. I simply think they are mistaken, sometimes even delusional, and I believe that their mistakes and delusions can hurt people (including themselves). As for Trump himself, I think that someone who started out with all of his advantages, who ultimately accumulated so much power, should be held responsible for his actions.

Here's one of my rare political tweets:

I try to avoid TV ads, but some get through. In KS Senate race, Bollier's ads make me wonder why bother electing a stealth Republican? On the other hand, Marshall's ads make me want to vote for her. Sure, I know they're all outrageous lies, but he needs to pay for them.

One last note: Robert Fisk, veteran British foreign correspondent, dies aged 74. Fisk wrote a very important book on the 1975-90 Lebanese Civil War, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon. He covered the Middle East for many years, writing in The Independent, and has several more notable essay collections. His work immensely helped many of us to anticipate the disasters that unfolded with GW Bush's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the later interventions in Libya and Syria.


If you care about the community you live in, the nation, and/or the world, Vote for Biden-Harris. There is no other sane choice, and it's silly to pretend otherwise. If you're in Kansas, vote for Barbara Bollier for Senate, because her brand of Republicanism is far less obnoxious than Roger Marshall's, and she'll vote to organize the Senate in a way where Democrats actually have a chance of doing something good (or less awful). If you're in or near Wichita, vote for Laura Lombard over Ron Estes. If you're in our neighborhood, vote for Mary Ware and John Carmichael for the state legislature. And especially vote for James Thompson for the judge slot he started a late campaign for. If in doubt, vote for whoever's running as a Democrat. Not all Republicans are corrupt, sociopathic miscreants, but a lot of them are, and they're running on a ticket headed by one.

Electing Democrats won't solve our problems. They will be as sympathetic to lobbyists as Republicans are, but they'll understand better the need to protect their voters' interests as well, to find some balance which is the soul of moderation.

I didn't look for endorsement links this week (although I found one in an open tab). You can see some last week. I also wrote something about this in last week's Music Week.

The Economist: Why it has to be Biden.

Campaigns and Elections

Election day is Tuesday. Actually, most Americans have already voted -- 92 million, according to an article below -- so the real import of the day is that's when we start moving from polling to actual vote counts. As noted below, the polls favor Biden-Harris, not only to get more votes than Trump-Pence but to get enough more to overcome the systemic bias built into the electoral college (which in 2016 allowed Trump to win while receiving 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton). I tend to avoid spending a lot of time on polling, but this time I've picked out a number of links that explain how polling works, how it tends to go wrong, and what the risks are. The big open question this time is whether Republican efforts to suppress the vote and/or to reject votes through lawsuits slant the returns significantly. There is, also, a chance that someone might be able to hack the actual returns -- a far more serious problem than Russian efforts to spread misinformation in 2016. (After all, Republicans were doing a huge amount of that anyway.)

I think it's possible to say that any major discrepancies will be discovered and corrected if given time and attention. Most likely, a major thrust of Republican post-election torts will be (as Trump has already abundantly advertised) directed to shutting the process down as early as possible. While a truly close election could take a week or two to sort out, a Biden landslide could be clear within a day or two. At this point, a Trump landslide seems inconceivable, and would certainly be very suspicious.

Kate Aronoff: Are you fracking kidding me, Trump? "The president's latest electoral Hail Mary: He's considering ordering federal agencies to produce a report on fracking that will emerge months after the election and which no one will read." I can't help but find this amusing. After eight years of "oil man" Bush driving gasoline prices through the roof (only to see them collapse in his Great Recession), it was the Obama-Biden administration that promoted fracking, leading to a surge in oil production, achieving the "holy grail" of American energy independence that had been part of Republican platforms since Reagan but had always proved elusive. In a saner world, Biden would have to acknowledge fracking as a blemish on his record, but with Trump embracing it so wholeheartedly, he's let his opponent off the hook.

Alexander Burns: Trump's closing argument on virus clashes with science, and voters' lives: "The president has continued to downplay the severity of the coronavirus and declare before largely maskless crowds that it is vanishing. The surge in new cases across the country says: Not so."

Jonathan Chait:

  • Trump let the right make him the Herbert Hoover of the coronavirus: "The virus was a chance for Trump to revive his presidency. He blew it by listening to conservatives." He always listens to conservatives. Let's face it, he's not the kind of thinker who actually thinks on his own.

    Hoover, like Trump, was elected on the basis of his image as a can-do businessman (which in Hoover's case, unlike Trump's, was genuine). Ultimately, Hoover's presidency collapsed in the face of a depression whose severity and duration he refused to acknowledge. . . .

    From the outset of the crisis, numerous conservative intellectuals waved off the pandemic as overblown. Various oddball home-brew epidemiological theories circulated to justify this impulse. The esteemed right-wing law professor Richard Epstein estimated no more than 500 Americans would die, a figure embraced by administration officials. After fitful gestures toward following the advice of his public-health officials, Trump eventually sidelined them and put his pandemic response in the hands of Scott Atlas, another conservative movement apparatchik with no expertise in epidemiology. It is a grim historic joke that Atlas, like Epstein, is a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution.

  • The stench of Trump's racism will cling to his enables forever.

  • Tucker Carlson reports he lost only copy of documents that nail Biden.

  • Trump tells the Supreme Court it's on his election team.

Sean Collins: Black voter turnout was down in 2016. This time looks to be different.

Chas Danner: Trump reportedly plans to declare premature victory: Live election updates. This file gets updated regularly, so the title and lead piece may change, but the section title is a bit more provisional: "Trump reportedly plans to declare victory on if he's ahead on Election Night." As I've noted below, there isn't a very big window for claiming victory prematurely, unless he actually is winning. The article notes, "For this to happen, his allies expect he would need to either win or have commanding leads in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Iowa, Arizona, and Georgia." The fact is, he could win all of those states and still lose the election: Pennsylvania is the median state, and every state listed is on the list of states Trump is more likely to carry than Pennsylvania (current polls show him losing FL, NC, AZ, and GA, and barely ahead in IA, TX, and OH). That this story has any credibility at all is because we're so used to Trump claiming ridiculous bullshit, and certain segments of the media echoing him in awestruck wonder. [PS: Possibly in response to the Axios report this is based on: Trump denies he'll declare victory on election night, but threatens that his lawyers are ready to challenge results.]

Susan B Glasser: Denialism, dishonesty, deflection: The final days of the Trump campaign have it all. "The President is ending his reélection bid with scandals that call into question the legitimacy of next week's vote." I have a certain amount of respect for Trump's insistence that he still has a chance despite the polls, but he's going about it all wrong, and that exposes his bad faith, and considerably worse. If he could win, you'd expect him to do everything possible to convince even his opponents that the results are fair and true. But by harping on how rigged the election is, he's not only leading his followers to think that his loss would be illegitimate, he's planting the seed in his opponents' minds that he himself could only win by crooked means. He is, in short, making America's near future ungovernable for either party. He may not realize this, but win or lose he's already managed to spoil the election, to delegitimize American democracy. I don't know whether he's proud of this, or just that fucking stupid. Emphasis added below:

I have a different fear this time: What if the polls are right -- and Trump still wins? The election may be over, but the counting is not. His path to victory through the Electoral College may rest with only a few states where Election Night results are ambiguous enough that Trump could question them and, instead, pursue a win via friendly Republican state legislatures and the pro-Trump Supreme Court. Trump has already spent months laying the groundwork for this, preëmptively attacking the "rigged" election, baselessly suggesting widespread voter fraud in the use of mail-in ballots, and authorizing lawsuits to push for as many restrictive conditions on voting as possible in key states. An American President attacking American democracy in advance of an election has simply never been seen before. But he continues to do it every day, in the final run-up to November 3rd. Whatever the election's outcome, this is already one of the greatest political scandals of our time, and a lasting blot on Trump's record.

James Hamblin: Trump has gone from downplaying the pandemic to outright Covid denial.

Even casual observers of President Donald Trump's mode of thinking long ago abandoned hope that he might embrace analytic reasoning (sometimes referred to simply as "science"). But if there were ever a possibility that he might at least come to terms with the power of the coronavirus, it would have been when it sent him to the hospital. Barely a month ago, recall, we had cause to speculate that the president might soon be dead. Although details of Trump's illness remain concealed -- including abnormalities in his chest CT scan and the date that he first tested positive for the virus -- the known facts of his case indicate that it was not mild. He received supplemental oxygen to keep his red blood cells saturated, and he was prescribed dexamethasone, which is recommended only in serious cases.

Ben Jacobs: Where the Trump revolution started and ended: "Republicans thought they had realigned the coutry four years ago. Iowa isn't going along."

Dan Kaufman: Will Trump's broken promises to working-class voters cost him the election?

Jen Kirby/Rani Molla: 9 questions about 2020's record-breaking early vote, answered. "More than 84 million Americans have voted so far in 2020."

Charlotte Klein: Trump rallies leave trail of COVID spikes in their wake. Dubbing them his "superspreader tour" is no joke. For more details: Trump rallies may be responsible for an estimated 700 Covid-19 deaths.

Ezra Klein: Nate Silver on why 2020 isn't 2016. Interview with the 538 founder and guru. Pieces by Silver and 538:

  • Nate Silver: Trump can still win, but the polls would have to be off by way more than in 2016.

  • Nathaniel Rakich: Both candidates might fall short of 270 electoral votes on election night. But how close might they get? This gives you an hour-by-hour breakdown of when significant votes will be reported. For instance, at 7 EST six states should start reporting: Vermont, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Indiana, and Kentucky. Georgia is the bellweather in that group: Biden is slightly favored, but could lose it and still win the election; but if Trump loses Georgia, he's almost certainly toast. One thing I don't like about this presentation is that they're giving you "chance of winning" instead of vote margins (something you can actually track; Kentucky, for instance, is listed as 99% Trump, but the actual vote forecast is Trump +18.2; Indiana is Trump +9.9; South Carolina Trump +8.2; if those races are closer, Biden is likely to be doing better elsewhere; if they are bigger blowouts than expected, Trump is likely to do better elsewhere). The other caveat here is that while networks may call states based on polling as soon as the polls close, the closer races (like Georgia) will take some time to report, and may have big internal divisions (especially in Georgia), so it really matters where the early votes are reported from. At 7:30, you start to get Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia. Trump is likely to have an electoral vote lead at that point (33-16), but that will probably flip after 8:00, when DC, Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Maine, and New Hampshire start to report -- along with probable Trump wins in Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

  • Geoffrey Skelley: The battleground states where we've seen some movement in the polls.

Jill Lepore: The trouble with election projections. By an historian, so she mentions premature claims like Charles Evans Hughes in 1916, but somehow missed Thomas Dewey in 1948.

Robert Mackey: Trump's pathetic attempt to get Netanyahu to attack Biden falls flat. Well, aside from getting Netanyahu's richest American donor to cough up even more money.

Dylan Matthews/Kay Steiger: How the press calls elections, explained.

Tom McCarthy: 'Red mirage': The 'insidious' scenario if Trump declares an early victory. There are various "mirage" scenarios, both "red" and "blue," but they're all pretty tenuous. The fear is that if there is any point in the evening when Trump appears to be ahead, he will claim victory and his followers will believe him. But no one else will, until we see clear data that lines up with or exceeds expectations (for Biden) or that consistently overturns them (or Trump).

Dana Milbank: Trump just made Biden's closing argument against him.

We needn't look back over the past four years -- joblessness, debt, racial strife and international disdain -- to see why Trump is unfit. We need only look back at the past two weeks.

  • He returned to calling immigrants "rapists" and "murderers" and referred to "Barack Hussein Obama."
  • He mockingly mispronounced Kamala Harris's name and used the racist trope of labeling the African American Democratic vice-presidential nominee "angry."
  • His senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, proposed that Black Americans don't "want to be successful."
  • Trump's campaign, after a rally in frigid Omaha, stranded supporters for hours, landing some in the hospital.
  • Judge-appointed lawyers said they couldn't find the parents of 545 migrant children the Trump administration separated from their parents.
  • Trump embraced a "lock her up" chant directed at the Michigan governor, target of a kidnapping plot.
  • Covid-19 relief talks collapsed after the Senate Republican leader told the White House not to make a deal.
  • A federal judge struck down Trump's plan to slash food stamps for 700,000 unemployed Americans.
  • Stocks plunged, suffering their worst week and month since March as pandemic fears outweighed strong third-quarter growth.
  • Trump opened 9.3 million pristine acres of rainforest in Alaska to logging and development.
  • A Trump political appointee resigned in protest because a new presidential order destroys the integrity of the civil service.
  • Trump promoted dubious allegations against Biden that news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal and Fox News, said could not be corroborated by the evidence.
  • Trump told women in Michigan that "we're getting your husbands back to work."
  • And he tried, unsuccessfully, to get Israel's prime minister to join him in ridiculing "Sleepy Joe."

Meanwhile, news broke that:

  • Trump's administration ousted the top scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after he reminded Trump appointees not to manipulate scientific findings.
  • The U.S. Postal Service's on-time delivery dropped below 60 percent in swing states after a Trump ally sabotaged operations.
  • Trump's businesses have received at least $8.1 million from taxpayers and supporters since he took office.
  • Creditors forgave some $270 million of his unpaid debts related to a Chicago building project a decade ago.

But leading the latest parade of horribles has been pandemic ineptitude: the White House issuing a report taking credit for "ending the covid-19 pandemic," Trump's claiming we're "rounding the turn" even as his chief of staff says "we are not going to control the pandemic," and Vice President Pence campaigning despite an outbreak among his staff.

David R Montgomery/Maggie Haberman: Vehicles flying Trump flags try to force a Biden-Harris campaign bus off a highway in Texas. Sumner Concepcion later wrote about this story:

While making a surprise campaign stop in Philadelphia during a rally supporting the re-election of Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Biden ripped into Trump for refusing to condemn his supporters who swarmed a Biden campaign bus on the highway as it passed through San Antonio. The President retweeted a video of the episode with a giddy "I LOVE TEXAS!"

Biden also criticized Trump supporters who brought the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey to a standstill earlier today.

"We have never had anything like this -- at least, we've never had a president that thinks it is a good thing," Biden said.

By the way, David Frum's interpretation of this Trump tweet was: "President Trump endorses attempted vehicular homicide." Also: After Trump supporters surround a Biden bus in Texas, the FBI opens an investigation.

David Nakamura/Paul Sonne: Trailing in the polls, Trump enlists his administration and co-opts the government to bolster his reelection.

Nicole Narea: More people have already voted in Texas than did in 2016 overall: "Texas has historically had among the lowest levels of voter turnout nationwide." Chart shows four more states where early votes as a share of 2016 totals is over 80%: Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona. Chart is limited to "swing states," where Pennsylvania is low at 34.3%, Minnesota 40.0%, Ohio 46.3%, Michigan 50.3%, Wisconsin 58.4%.

New York Times Editorial Board: Why are Republicans so afraid of voters? "There is no 'both sides do it' when it comes to intentionally keeping Ameicans away from the polls."

Tina Nguyen: Election day becomes doomsday scenario for militia groups.

Cameron Peters:

Andrew Prokop:

Aaron Rupar:

David Siders/Zach Montellaro: Trump confronts his 50 percent problem: "The president's inability to capture a majority of support sheds light on his extraordinary efforts to suppress the vote."

Jamil Smith: How Donald Trump talks about black people.

Peter Stone: Billionaire casino boss Sheldon Adelson splashes the cash in bid to help Trump: "The magnate, 87, is expected to have spent $250m this election cycle to support conservative causes, fundraisers say."

Matthew Yglesias:

  • Nepotism and the 2020 election, explained: "Joe Biden isn't the only candidate with family in question in this campaign." That he even mentions Biden in this regard, let alone dedicating a section to "Hunter Biden makes a living off the family name," is an example of false equivalence. Nepotism is bad for a lot of reasons, and it seems like there's been a lot more of it in recent years -- e.g., the Bushes and Clintons, but the list of lesser figures is pretty long. The root is increasing inequality, and the result is a return to aristocracy. This limits the opportunities to those not born with the advantage of connections, while filling high positions with people far removed from everyday life.

  • Biden has a big lead in the polls, but can we trust them? His answer: "You can mostly rely on the polls, but that doesn't mean Trump can't win." What I would say is that polls do a pretty good job of reflecting what people think at the moment, but they carry more uncertainty than readily meets the eye. Also they can be scammed. Also, it's hard to model some aspects of voting, like actual turnout (how does that compare to "likely voters"). Also, both sides worry about hacking, mostly because Trump has warned us, but also because Trump and his allies are just the sort who have no scruples about cheating democracy.

  • How the polls heading into the last weekend of the election.

  • The latest batch of swing state polls shows a healthy Biden lead.

  • Trump's plan to win by invalidating votes, explained: "First, make it illegal to count votes quickly. Second, pain the slow count as suspicious."

  • Trump's closing argument is against a fake Joe Biden: "He desperately wants to run against 'the radical left' instead." It's hard to see how anyone could find his claims credible, but Republicans all over say the same things about all Democrats -- possibly because were they to talk about issues they may find most voters siding with "the radical left." This inevitable smear tactic convinced many Democrats to pick an obvious non-radical like Biden over someone like Bernie Sanders who really did promise change, but I doubt the slanders could be any worse or more credible against Sanders.

  • The "shy Trump voters" debate, explained. This offers a pretty fair explanation of how polling works these days, and what can go wrong with it. Much less on "shy Trump voters," possibly because the concept is so laughable.


The Covid Tracking Project: The pandemic is in uncharted territory: "The fall surge is rewriting the coronavirus record books across America. And the numbers are still climbing."

Timothy Bella: Donald Trump Jr. said Covid-19 deaths are at 'almost nothing.' The virus killed more than 1,000 Americans the same day. Also on DJTJ:

Vincent Bevins: How the pandemic dealt a blow to Europe's far right: "Covid-19 led to setbacks for many far-right parties across Europe as issues like immigration receded and voters sought out competent leadership."

Josh Dawsey/Yasmeen Abutaleb: 'A whole lot of hurt': Fauci warns of covid-19 surge, offers blunt assessment of Trump's response.

Stephen Duckett/Tom Crowley: Finally at zero new cases, Victoria, Australia, is on top of the world after unprecedented lockdown effort.

Charlotte Klein: Second coronavirus wave propels European countries into lockdown 2.0.

German Lopez: Why North and South Dakota are suffering the worst Covid-19 epidemics in the US. Subheds: The Dakotas resisted basic policies to fight Covid-19; The public, fueled by Trump, didn't follow proper precautions; North and South Dakota now have a serious and growing crisis."

Cameron Peters: As Trump downplays Covid-19, the US sets a world record for cases.

Still More on Donald Trump

David Atkins: Trump plans a series of Saturday night massacres if he wins. Names reportedly on the chopping block: Mark Esper, Gina Haspel, Christopher Wray. I don't care for any of them, but it is true that Trump's minions have become notably more servile and sycophantic since his first batch, and that's made them more willing to engage in dubious activities (e.g., William Barr, Mike Pompeo). A second term will be a giant boost to his ego.

Peter Baker: Dishonesty has defined the Trump presidency. The consequences could be lasting. "Whether President Trump wins or loses on Nov. 3, the very concept of public trust in an established set of facts necessary for the operation of a democratic society has been eroded." Bad, but if he wins, the consequences will be so much worse. When he tested positive for Covid, some pundits wondered whether his illness might make him a bit more humble and respectful of reality, but when he recovered, he only became more arrogant and more deranged. Winning this election will only reinforce his belief that dishonesty pays dividends, and Republicans will continue to follow him anywhere. If he loses, that will be a start toward reasserting that truth and trustworthiness matter. Sure, just a start, but a necessary one.

Elizabeth Dwoskin/Craig Timberg: The unseen machine pushing Trump's social media megaphone into overdive: "Researchers say the online feedback loop between Trump, high-profile influencers and rank-and-file followers is more dangerous than Russian misinformation."

Juliet Eilperin: Trump to strip protections from Tongass National Forest, one of the biggest intact temperate rainforests.

Garrett M Graff: 'There are no boundaries': Experts imagine Trump's post-presidential life if he loses. My own fearless prediction: whatever he does will be disgusting, and he'll only do as much of it as he can get other people (including the taxpayer) to pay for.

Karen J Greenberg: Donald Trump's failed state.

Michael Kruse: The swamp that birth Trump: "Trump's first chronicler revealed how New York's corrupt political culture imparted to the young developer the skills he brought to Washington."

Eric Lipton/Benjamin Weiser: Turkish bank case showed Erdogan's influence with Trump.

Martin Longman: Pompeo and the Trump crusade to politicize the federal workforce.

Jane Mayer: Why Trump can't afford to lose: "The President has survived one impeachment, twenty-six accusations of sexual misconduct, and an estimated four thousand lawsuits. That run of good luck may well end, perhaps brutally, if Joe Biden wins."

Timothy Noah: How the stock market betrayed Donald Trump: "The president foolishly rested his reelection hopes on economic indices that are even more irrational than he is."

Andrew Prokop: The unmasking of Anonymous, explained. Turns out the guy who wrote the famous New York Times op-ed, and followed it up with a book, A Warning, was Miles Taylor. Who? Who cares? More on Anonymous:

  • Masha Gessen: If we are going to recover from Trumpism, we must deny charity to Trump's henchmen.

    The D.H.S. is the heart, soul, and shock troops of the Trump Administration. Ending immigration as we know it was Trump's obsession and the dominant theme of his Presidential campaign. He pledged to build a border wall and close the country to Muslims, and he began delivering on these campaign promises as soon as he took office. He proceeded to destroy the asylum system by reversing Obama-era rules that granted asylum to victims of gang violence and domestic violence, by requiring people in need of international protection to stay in Mexico while their cases were being reviewed, and by implementing a policy of separating children from their parents at the border, placing them in separate detention facilities. At the time Taylor published his Op-Ed, his department had implemented all of those policies. Children were in cages. Refugee camps were forming at the southern border.

    Taylor didn't mention immigration in his Op-Ed. In A Warning, he focussed on the damage the President had done to America's international relationships, his attacks on the media, his destruction of the system of separation of powers, his betrayal (in Taylor's view) of Republican economic policies, but, most of all, on Trump's unhinged, uncouth ways -- his tendency to act as though the government were his henchmen.

  • Olivia Nuzzi: Enablement: The tortured self-justification of one very powerful Trump-loathing anonymous Republican. "The idea that he won is still shocking. He's a permanent scar on the face of our country."

David Rohde: How America escapes its conspiracy-theory crisis.

Joe Wertz: Trump's pullback of pollution controls is even more hazardous than you think.

Supreme Court and Other Injustices

The week started with Amy Coney Barrett has officially been confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, giving the Federalist Society a 6-3 majority.

Angelina Chapin: Louisville cop sues Breonna Taylor's boyfriend for 'emotional distress'.

Garrett Epps: Independent judiciary, RIP.

Matt Ford:

Sean Illing: The case for stripping the Supreme Court of its power: "A Harvard law professor on whether it's time to rethink the nation's highest court." Old 2018 interview with Mark Tushnet, who at the time was already worried by Brett Kavanaugh's appointment.

Ed Kilgore:

Marin K Levy: Republicans have already packed state supreme courts.

Ian Millhiser:

Anna North:

Around the World

Jariel Arvin: A 7.0 earthquake struck near Greece and Turkey, killing at least 14 and injuring hundreds.

Regine Cabato/Jason Samenow: Typhoon Goni smashes into the Philippines, heads toward capital. Peak winds hit 195 mph ("as strong as any landfalling storm on record"). Also: "The typhoon threatens the country just days after Typhooon Molave struck, killing at least 22 people, mostly south of Manila, according to Reuters. Goni is following a similar path."

Will Moreland: To compete with China and Russia, America needs a new era of multilateralism. Agree on multilateralism, but rather than repeating the Cold War folly of trying to organize the world against Russia and China, we need to find ways to cooperate with them. Moreland insists Russia and China are "a contest that cannot be wished away," and he focuses on the need to counter authoritarianism abroad. The obvious first step there is to counter it at home. But we should recognize that American support for dictators didn't start with Trump. It started in the 1940s with American strategists who felt we picked the wrong enemy and should have been fighting the Soviet Union instead of Nazi Germany. After WWII ended, they started recruiting former Nazis as assets for the global struggle against Communism. The Cold War is littered with high-sounding liberal rhetoric mixed with tactical support for dictators -- anything to ensure access for American capital and to keep left-leaning unions and parties out of power -- the net result merely proving America as the most hypocritical of nations. One can imagine a genuinely liberal foreign policy, one that promoted not just the usual democratic freedoms but let people everywhere assume more power over their lives, through governments more responsive to their needs. Still, neither the "realist" nor the "neocon" schools of foreign policy mandarinism support anything like that, even if they're willing to selectively spout the words to further their conflicts with their supposed enemies.

Alex Ward: Japan's new prime minister has just one year to save the country from crisis.

Other Matters

David Atkins: The GOP conspiracy mentality will only become more dangerous when they lose power.

Zack Beauchamp: How an Israeli thinker became one of Trumpism's foremost theorists: Yoram Hazony, president of the Herzl Institute think tank, author of a 2018 book called The Virtue of Nationalism. Michael Anton is a fan, and he probably ranks as the preëminent Trumpist intellectual around these days. Back in 2016, Anton wrote a pro-Trump essay called "The Flight 93 Election" in 2016, as if electing a Democrat would be so horrific that a suicide rush was preferable, and has a recent, even more hysterical screed: The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return. What makes Israeli settlers models for the American far right is their example as an elite which takes what it wants and holds it by force, with no bother pretending anyone else benefits, or even matters. In many ways they are recapitulating America's own settlement of the frontier, something which appeals to nostalgic gun-toting MAGA cowboys.

Fabiola Cineas: The Philadelphia police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., explained: "Wallace, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot in front of his mother while reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis."

Eleanor Cummins: Is this the end of American optimism? "Facing a seemingly endless pandemic and an election that has little hope of going smoothly, we're all on a grim, existential roller coaster now." Well, if Trump wins on Tuesday, that will wipe out what little's left of my optimism. One thing I thought I knew from close observation of American politics since 1960 is that while things have never worked out the way I hoped or wanted, somehow those in power managed to slog through without breaking everything -- even such disastrous wounds as the Vietnam War scabbed over, not that they learned the right (or any) lessons from their folly. Much of this resilience derives from business and other non-government organizations, and from civil relations, from everyday humanity. One can't help but wonder what kind of beating we're taking from the fear and isolation the pandemic is forcing on us. Trump's big pitch in the last days of the campaign is one of defiance, demanding that we not let the pandemic ruin our lives, that we go back to our pre-pandemic norms regardless of the costs in lives. I suspect that is a winning argument, and it is what will happen over the next year, even if we're smart enough to vote him out. Optimism always rebounds, even when it embraces irrationality. But better not to be so myopic and stupid about it.

Shirin Ghaffary: 5 fact-checks from the Senate's hearing on social media. More on the Senate hearings:

Richard Hanania: Americans hate each other. But we aren't headed for civil war.

Carol Lay: How to be an effective left-wing internet troll: Seems like something I might like to try, so I dug in and did my due dilligence. Eventually I concluded I couldn't hack it. Suggestion that wiped me out: "Skip the really long thoughtful posts. No one else reads them, either." Don't I know it.

John Patrick Leary: Who gets included in "the American people"? "The enduring struggle over who is deserving of political representation."

Nicholas Lemann: Losing Ground: "The crisis of the two-party system." Reviews three books: Robert B Reich: The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It; Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: Let Them Eat Tweets: How the Right Rules in an Age of Extreme Inequality; and Robert P Saldin/Steven M Teles: Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites. I've read, and can heartily recommend, Let Them Eat Tweets, along with most of the authors' previous books -- especially The Great Risk Shift (2007) is important for its little appreciated topic (few people realize they are carrying extra risk until it's too late), and American Amnesia (2016). I haven't read the others, and doubt I ever will.

JC Pan: Pandemic fatigue is just exhaustion in the face of a failed state: "Americans are increasingly frustrated by the obligation to ride out a global disaster on their own. They have every reason to be." The genius of Republican administration is that they're so bad (and so corrupt) at it that you give up on the very idea that government was intended to "promote the general welfare." Fatigue was bound to happen just as a function of time, but the level of failure one is willing to accept is a matter of political calculation.

Lili Pike: Why the record low Arctic sea ice this October is so alarming.

Peter Sterne: Inside Glenn Greenwald's blowup with the Intercept. As I recall, Greenwald started out as a fairly apolitical lawyer with libertarian tendencies, who became radicalized as Bush's Global War on Terror impinged on civil liberties. I read his first book, and it was pretty innocuous: How Would a Patriot Act? Defending American Values From a President Run Amok? He moved from there into blogging -- With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful seemed like a sharper title -- and even did some credible journalism (e.g., on Edward Snowden, and on Brazil after he moved there). He helped found the Intercept, but seems to have been increasingly peripheral lately, so the break appears to be a mix of ego and politics -- as a libertarian, he seems to want to attack Biden as much as Trump, which I'd say is premature (what good, right now, does it do to attack Biden for positions he shares with Trump?). I haven't cited him a lot lately, but I've occasionally found him useful (7 articles this year). Also on Greenwald:

Emily Stewart: Rashida Tlaib and AOC have a proposal for a fairer, greener financial system -- public banking.

Paul Sullivan: For owners looking to sell, an option that keeps their company intact: "A sale to employees keeps the company local, and that may be more important to some owners than getting the highest price." Always happy to see a story where employees take ownership of a business. From my own experience I've seen how even modest stock options help to align employee and management interests. We need better laws to facilitate this sort of transfer. Several people have floated "codetermination" -- the practice in Germany of giving employees seats on corporate boards, which is a big part of the reason Germany continues to run positive exports on manufactured goods, despite some of the world's highest wages. I'd like to see bankruptcy law changed so that companies that have been bankrupted by vulture capitalists can be reconstituted as employee-run, even where creditors lose out. I also support unions, but employee-run businesses are a better solution.

Jonathan Watts: 'Sleeping giant' Arctic methane deposits starting to release, scientists find.

Gene Weingarten: In search of healing: "America is facing one of the deepest divides in our history -- and, no matter who wins the election, a difficult path forward." Not the point of the article, but his critique of Trump is spot on. And while he tries to soften his chagrin with Trump's fan base, it's hard to escape the notion that they're somehow lacking: in knowledge for sure, understanding, perhaps even character.

I think Trump is amoral. I think he is a sociopath. I think he is a boor and a vulgarian. I think he is comically thin-skinned and vindictive. I think he is adolescently petty. Because I usually write humor columns, which confer a license to exaggerate, I have called him "America's Chief Petty Officer." I have noted that his supporters often argue that "Hey, at least he is not a politician," which, I wrote, is like "putting your money on a chicken in the Kentucky Derby because at least he's not a horse."

I think he has no empathy for anyone's suffering, something proven time and again: . . . I think he is a reflexive, congenital liar. I think his recent attempts at so-called populism -- suggesting, for example, that we teach "pro-American" history -- are a prehensile tactic, grabbing for a toehold from a shrinking and increasingly insipid political base. . . .

I find myself profoundly disliking and disrespecting almost half of my countrymen and women -- the group of Americans that support Trump, and it feels absolutely terrible.

Adam Weinstein: The great GOP dystopian experiment is working exactly as planned in Florida: "Republicans have run the place into the ground. Yet voters keep electing them to state and national office. Why?"

Matthew Yglesias: 2 models for regulating social media giants, explained: "We could treat them like phone companies or like TV networks, but not both." My own preference is a third path, which is to publicly fund free services, using open-source software, that would compete with the Internet giants but not do the evil things, like spying and selling user data, that Google, Facebook, etc. do. My guess is that if such organizations appear, users will flock to them, and we'll all be better off.

Zeta knocks out power to 2 million: Louisiana was hit by a category 2 hurricane last week, which then cut across the southeast into the Carolinas with high winds and heavy rain before heading East into the Atlantic. A series of reports. One thing I'll add is that Zeta is not the end of the Greek alphabet, although it's further down the list than we've ever gotten before.

Oct 2020