June 2022 Notebook
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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Q&A

Answered a question today.

Tweeted twice about this piece:

Tried my hand at answering a complex question posed in simple terms about "Clueless Joe Biden," inflation, and war. Now that it's posted, I can think of much more to say, but my model should help keep the components and politics in perspective: [link]

Clueless implies a lack of understanding, like, you know, Trump. Biden is closer to but not quite helpless. He's facing crises set in motion years before, and doesn't have the power or the tools, or sometimes the critical insight. But who does? No Republican I can think of.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (final).

Tweet: Music Week: 62 albums, 4 A-list,

Music: Current count 38227 [38165] rated (+62), 87 [93] unrated (-6).

Couldn't sleep this morning, so woke up in an exceptionally foul mood. Part of the bad mood had simply carried over from writing yesterday's Speaking of Which, which necessarily focused on the right-wing Supreme Court's renouncing the formerly "settled law" of Roe v. Wade. I've written more than a little on the subject over the years, and I scarcely wanted to rehash all that, but felt obligated to at least register the event and the temperature in the notebook I perhaps foolishly think I might want to look back on some day, as I recollect the changes I've seen.

The post took a lot out of me, and I was further disappointed not to get any reaction at all this morning, either to the regular Twitter or Facebook notices. (I normally limit my use of Facebook to following old friends and family, and normally limit my posts there to food pics.) I mean, I don't mind not getting hate mail, but occasional acknowledgments are appreciated.

The one thing that did lift my spirits is this video, where Olivia Rodrigo calls out the Supreme Court junta by name, with help from Lily Allen. (There's more info in an article here.


This is the last Monday in June, so the monthly archive is officially closed. I haven't done all of the indexing, but the rated count for the 4-week month is 212. I'll finish the indexing and add the Music Week introductions in later this week. Not a lot of work, but I'm hoping to get this out sooner rather than later. Maybe I'll have time to do some yardwork before the trash goes out.

This is probably the first week where I've listened to Spotify more than Napster. Spotify hangs less, and seems to get new records out earlier, and they seem to be a bit easier to find, although I wouldn't say they qualify for a blue ribbon. On the other hand, at least one record below I found on Napster after failing on Spotify.

Also picked up one record under "limited sampling," and it reflects a change in how I'm handling the category. Previously I used it for records where only a few cuts were available on Bandcamp or streaming, but I listened to everything that was available. For Voivod, I simply hit reject 4 tracks in. It wasn't even that I couldn't stand the record; I just got tired of it, and decided I wanted to move on. Good chance there will be more like that in the future. May even encourage me to check out some videos, on the theory that they probably represent choice cuts. I've decided to score such records as rated in the tracking and metacritic files, but I'm not counting them in the rated totals. I may have to fiddle with the tracking stats, as that's where I look to see how many rated records I have each year.

I'm adding some mid-year lists to the metacritic files, starting with those compiled at AOTY, adding in (sometimes informal) lists I'm picking up from Expert Witnesses on Facebook (one with a public link is from Alfred Soto. Few of the lists are ranked, and I'm paying no heed to those that are. Each mention is marked with '+', which is temporary until the EOY lists appear. (I added a couple more -- GQ, Treble, Vulture -- until my eyes gave out. Links are in the legend file files.)

In old music, made some further progress in digging out the unrated albums. Was surprised to find a couple winners there.

Don't know what comes next. I'm too exhausted right now to give it any thought.


New records reviewed this week:

  • 700 Bliss: Nothing to Declare (2022, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
  • Joey Alexander: Origin (2022, Mack Avenue): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Harry Allen: My Reverie by Special Request (2022, TYR1102): [r]: B+(**)
  • Harry Allen & Dave Blenkhorn: Play the Music of Phil Morrison (2022, GAC): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Ano Nobo Quartet: The Strings of Săo Domingos (2021 [2022], Ostinato): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Anteloper: Pink Dolphins (2022, International Anthem): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Edwin Bayard/Dean Hulett/Mark Lomax II: Trio Plays Mingus (2022, CFG Multimedia): [os]: B+(***)
  • Benny the Butcher: Tana Talk 4 (2022, Griselda/Empire): [r]: B+(**)
  • Cola: Deep in View (2022, Fire Talk): [r]: B+(*)
  • Theo Croker: Love Quantum (2022, Masterworks): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Flasher: Love Is Yours (2022, Domino): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Foals: Life Is Yours (2022, Warner): [r]: B+(*)
  • Gordon Grdina's Nomad Trio: Boiling Point (2022, Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Gordon Grdina/Mark Helias/Matthew Shipp: Pathways (2021 [2022], Attaboygirl): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton: Classics (2022, Stunt): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Hercules & Love Affair: In Amber (2022, Skint/BMG): [r]: B
  • Ari Hoenig Trio: Golden Treasures (2021 [2022], Fresh Sound New Talent): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Grace Ives: Janky Star (2022, True Panther/Harvest): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Randall King: Shot Glass (2022, Warner Nashville): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Kilo Kish: American Gurl (2022, Kisha Soundscape + Audio): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Masayo Koketsu: Fukiya (2021 [2022], Relative Pitch): [r]: B
  • Kristina Koller: Get Out of Town (2022, self-released): [sp]: B+(**)
  • David Krakauer & Kathleen Tagg: Mazel Tov Cocktail Party! (2022, Table Pounding): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Martin Küchen/Agustí Fernández/Zlatko Kaucic: The Steps That Resonate (2021 [2022], Not Two): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Martin Küchen: Utopia (2021 [2022], Thanatosis Produktion): [r]: B
  • Latto: 777 (2022, RCA): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Charles Lloyd: Trios: Chapel (2018 [2022], Blue Note): [sp]: B
  • Lupe Fiasco: Drill Music in Zion (2022, 1st & 15th): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Jamal Moss: Thanks 4 the Tracks U Lost (2022, Modern Love): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Mr. Fingers: Around the Sun Pt. 1 (2022, Alleviated): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Muna: Muna (2022, Saddest Factory/Dead Oceans): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Vadim Neselovskyi: Odesa: A Musical Walk Through a Legendary City (2022, Sunnyside): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Perfume Genius: Ugly Season (2022, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • Phife Dawg: Forever (2022, Smokin' Needles/AWAL): [sp]: B+((**)
  • Yunč Pinku: Bluff (2022, Platoon, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Ravyn Lenae: Hypnos (2022, Atlantic): [r]: B+(**)
  • Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (2014-20 [2022], TUM, 5CD): [cd]: A-
  • Wadada Leo Smith: String Quartets Nos. 1-12 (2015-20 [2022], TUM, 7CD): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Bartees Strange: Farm to Table (2022, 4AD): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Vieux Farka Touré: Les Racines (2022, World Circuit): [r]: B+(***)
  • Erlend Viken/Jo Berger Myhre/Thomas Strřnen: Djupet (2022, OK World): [bc]: B+(**)
  • WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (2021 [2022], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Bob Wilber With Dave McKenna and Pug Horton: Original Wilber (1978 [2022], Phontastic): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Wire: Not About to Die: Studio Demos 1977-1978 (1977-78 [2022], Pinkflag): [r]: A-

Old music:

  • Grace Ives: 2nd (2019, Dots Per Inch): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation [Original Soundtrack: The Essential Music of South Africa] (1954-96 [1997], Mango): [cd]: A-
  • Dudu Pukwana: Zila '86 (1986, Jika): [lp]: B+(***)
  • RG Royal Sound Orchestra: Impact (2009 [2010], RG): [cd]: B
  • Terry Riley: Poppy Nogood and the Phantom Band/All Night Flight: SUNY Buffalo, New York, 22 March 1968 (1968 [2006], Elision Fields): [r]: B+(*)
  • Dean Schmidt: I Know Nothing (2006 [2007], OA2): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Harvie Swartz & Urban Earth: It's About Time (1988, Gaia): [lp]: B
  • Steve Tibbetts: Compilation: Acoustibbets/Elektrobitts/Exotibbets (1976-2010 [2010], Frammis, 3CD): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Turning Point: Matador (2005, Native Language): [sp]: B-
  • Twice Thou: The Bank Attack (2012, The Buy Back Initiative/Music Group): [cd]: A-
  • Twice Thou: Trials & Tribulationships (2015, The Ennis Group): [r]: B+(***)
  • Twice Thou: Loose Screws: Las Aventuras de Tonito Montana (2017, The Ennis Group): [sp]: B+(*)
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2009 Radio Broadcasts (2009, self-released, 3CD): [cd]: C-
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2010 Radio Broadcasts (2010, self-released, 3CD): [cd]: C-
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2011 Radio Broadcasts (2011, self-released, 3CD): [cd]: C
  • The United States Air Force Band Airmen of Note: The Jazz Heritage Series 2017 Radio Broadcasts (2017, self-released, 3CD): [cd]: C+


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

  • Voivod: Synchro Anarchy (2022, Century Media) -


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sarah Bernstein: Veer Quartet (New Focus) [09-02]
  • Columbia Icefield: Ancient Songs of Burlap Heroes (Pyroclastic) [07-29]
  • Randal Despommier: A Midsummer Odyssey (Sunnyside) [07-15]
  • Glenn Dickson: Wider Than the Sky (Naftule's Dream) [07-08]
  • David Francis: Sings Songs of the Twenties (Blujazz) [04-23]
  • Eva Kess: Inter-Musical Love Letter (Unit) [07-22]
  • Jeremy Manasia Trio: Butcher Block Ballet (Blujazz) [06-20]
  • Miró Henry Sobrer: Two of Swords (Patois, 2CD) [07-15]
  • Xiomara Torres: La Voz Del Mar (Patois) [07-15]

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I suppose after the Roe v. Wade reversal, I have to write one of these, if only as a placeholder in the notebook. As usual, the best place to look on Supreme Court rulings is with Ian Millhiser. Start with: [06-24] The end of Roe v. Wade, explained. As Millhiser notes, this ruling has little to do with legal theory -- it's been increasingly clear for some time that the "conservative majority" is just making shit up (in that, Gore v. Bush back in 2000 was a harbinger) -- but reflects a political coup accomplished through decades of the right scheming to pack the Court with their cultists. I wrote a bit about the politics in a recent Facebook comment to a post by Greg Magarian, a law professor at Washington University, in St. Louis, where I studied for a couple of years). Magarian wrote:

No institution in the United States has taken a harder line against abortion rights than the Catholic Church.

As of 2018, Catholics made up just under a quarter of the U.S. population. About half of them -- just over a tenth of the total population -- typically vote Republican.

Seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices are Catholic. Six of those seven (all but Sotomayor) are Republicans -- two thirds of the total Court.

Those six Catholic Republican Justices make up the entire right-wing majority that voted to uphold the Mississippi abortion law and -- except for Roberts -- to overturn fifty years of abortion rights precedent.

This is what Kavanaugh refers to as "neutrality."

My comment:

Back around 1970, in "The Emerging Republican Majority," Kevin Phillips argued that Republicans would become the majority party if they could flipping two traditionally Democratic constituencies -- southern Baptists and northern Catholics. They did this by orchestrating a cultural backlash, most obviously based on race but abortion gave them a way to use religion. (The Schlafly backlash against women's rights was also a factor.) I've long viewed Missouri as the laboratory for this transformation. In the 1950s the state was solidly Democratic, but regionally divided: the cities and river valleys on the D side, the northern plains and the Ozarks on the other. The Danforths share a lot of the credit/blame for this transformation. It took another 20 years for Missouri's anti-abortion politics to spread to Kansas (in the 1990s, although Bob Dole jumped the gun in 1972), where WASP Republicans had easily ruled since the 1860s (aside from a brief Populist interlude) and had no need of such scheming. The Republican use of select Catholic doctrines has mostly been purely cynical (although there are cases of conservatives converting, like Sam Brownback, whose devotion to the cause is more devoutly evil). As for the Catholic dominance of the Supreme Court, that seems to be an artifact of the Federalist Society's control of the nominee list, which was largely a reaction to Souter's apostasy after he joined the court. Conservatives had seen many seemingly solid WASP nominees turn into liberals after joining the Court, and wanted to put a stop to that. I haven't looked into just why the FS almost exclusively nominates Catholics, so I'm reluctant to speculate as to why, other than to note that they have much in common with cults.

Millhiser also wrote a deeper historical piece that you should read: [06-25] The case against the Supreme Court of the United States. I recently picked up a copy of Millhiser's book on this same topic, Injustices: The Supreme Court's History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted. One thing few people realize now is how fortunate those of my age cohort (the "boomers") were to grow up in a period when the Court was expanding individual rights against the tyranny of the politically connected elite. Those days are gone, and outrage against "Supreme Injustice" is coming back. Life was certainly easier and less fraught when we didn't need to worry about the Supreme Court taking our rights away.

Some more links on the Supreme Court this week:

  • Zack Beauchamp: [06-24] At least Clarence Thomas's odious Dobbs concurrence was honest. I'm not sure "honest" is the word we're looking for here. Maybe you could say it was "candid" or "revealing" (a subhed is "How Thomas exposed the majority's incoherence"). It's a commonplace to say that "you can't negotiate with terrorists," but isn't the real lesson that you can't compromise with people who are always coming back for more. Thomas may not be a terrorist, but he's sure relentless in his determination to make America bleaker and more cruel.
  • Margaret Carlson: [06-25] Apocalypse Now: Abortion, Guns, and the Supreme Court: "Welcome to the new, horrifying normal."
  • Irin Carmon: [06-24] The Dissenters Say You're Not Hysterical.
  • Jonathan Chait: [06-24] Now We See What Happens When Social Conservatives Take the Wheel: "The Christian right's power finally becomes real." Well, yes and no. They'll still feel like outsiders until they get their way on dozens of other issues. But the right-wing Court has already given them several other victories -- like allowing them to claim a religious exemption against conforming to laws they don't like, and forcing states to subsidize their exclusivist schools -- and no doubt more are coming. This is not a bad time to review Chris Hedges' 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. Wouldn't be a bad time for him to update it, either.
  • Michele Goodwin: [06-26] No, Justice Alito, Reproductive Justice Is in the Constitution. Author is a law professor, and author of Policing the Womb: Invisible Women and the Criminalization of Motherhood. Last year she wrote a piece relevant here: I Was Raped by My Father. An Abortion Saved My Life.
  • Melissa Gira Grant: [06-24] The Fight for Abortion Rights Must Break the Law to Win: This article makes me squeamish, because it shouldn't have to be this way. But the struggles for civil rights, for labor rights, women's rights, the environment, against the war machine, both in the US and nearly everywhere else, have often ran up against the written law and its hired thugs. One reason I'm squeamish could even be that the anti-choice movement has so often resorted to criminal behavior on their own -- the assassination of Dr. George Tiller is one we here in Wichita will never forget or forgive.
  • Jake Grumbach/Christopher Warshaw: [06-25] Many states with antiabortion laws have pro-choice majorities. But do they have functioning democracy?
  • Carl Hulse: [06-24] Kavanaugh Gave Private Assurances. Collins Says He 'Misled' Her. Well, it's not like anyone else was fooled.
  • Natasha Ishak: [06-25] Trigger laws and abortion restrictions, explained. Also: In 48 hours of protest, thousands of Americans cry out for abortion rights.
  • Ankush Khardori: [06-24] Trump's Big Payback. Easy to write: "Donald rump delivered his end of the bargain he made with Republican elites and voters years ago. Support me despite my corruption, my gross personal failings and transgressions, and my persistent debasement of the presidency, and I'll do your bidding on the issue closest to your hearts: abortion." No doubt that was true for some people, but lots of Trump voters liked his corruption, failings, transgressions, and especially debasement. They may or may not have cared about abortion, but politics is a package business: you have to buy it all, even if you wish you could throw much of it away. If 2016 was a straight up referendum on abortion, Hillary Clinton would have won, but other factors tipped the election, and history isn't forgiving.
  • Caroline Kitchener: [06-25] Roe's gone. Now antiabortion lawmakers want more.
  • Ezra Klein: [06-26] The Dobbs Decision Isn't Just About Abortion. It's About Power. Interview with Dahlia Lithwick. Transcript here.
  • Josh Kovensky: [06-24] Alito Changed Next to Nothing From the Leaked Draft: That was a question that occurred to me but I hadn't seen answered elsewhere. The leaked draft, you may recall, sounded completely bonkers, yet Roberts and Kavanaugh continued to support the finding, even while trying to qualify it in their own opinions.
  • Claire Lampen: [06-24] Life After Roe Starts Now: "The Supreme Court decision ensures a health-care crisis that will ripple out across the country." Last paragraph starts: "Despite positioning themselves as 'pro-life,' conservatives show painfully little concern for the children and families their laws will force into existence." Examples follow.
  • Jill Lepore: [06-24] The Supreme Court's Selective Memory. It didn't take long to realize that when Scalia spoke of "originalism," he simply meant whatever he happened to think at the time. Scalia's no longer here to channel what the Founders originally thought, but his heirs are equally adept at reinventing the past.
  • Ian Millhiser: [06-23] The Supreme Court's new gun ruling means virtually no gun regulation is safe: "New York State Rifle v. Bruen is poorly reasoned. But its implications are potentially catastrophic." Millhiser also wrote: [06-21] The Supreme Court tears a new hole in the wall separating church and state.
  • Rani Molla: [06-24] 5 ways abortion bans could hurt women in the workforce.
  • Nicole Narea: [06-24] The end of Roe is only the beginning for Republicans, and [06-25] Republicans are eyeing a nationwide abortion ban. Can they pull it off?
  • Charles P Pierce: [06-24] The Hard Right Has Gotten What It Paid For: "The Court's decision on Friday was a victory for clinic bombers, murderous snipers, stalkers of doctors, and vandals of all kinds." Points to the deep connection between the Koch network and the Federalist Society, brokering some kind of deal that swung the 2016 presidential election. Also: "States will be in conflict the way they haven't been since the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850."
  • Nia Prater: [06-24] 'A Woman Has No Rights to Speak Of': Read Liberals' Supreme Court Dissent.
  • Nathan J Robinson: [06-24] The Supreme Court Is Coming Dangerously Close to Complete Illegitimacy. Robinson also wrote back when the draft opinion was leaked [05-07] The Atrocious Reasoning of Samuel Alito.
  • Greg Sargent/Paul Waldman: [06-24] 5 big truths about the Supreme Court's gutting of Roe:
    1. The court's decision is both straightforward and incredibly sweeping.
    2. The court is only getting started.
    3. Democrats need a fundamental rethink to meet this moment.
    4. Democrats must make very clear promises about what's next.
    5. Democrats must make this stick -- hard -- politically.
  • Dylan Scott: [06-24] The end of Roe will mean more children living in poverty. Curious how "pro-life" concerns end at birth. Scott also wrote: [06-24] The dire health consequences of denying abortions, explained.
  • Adam Serwer: [06-25] The Constitution Is Whatever the Right Wing Says It is.
  • Jia Tolentino: [06-24] We're Not Going Back to the Time Before Roe. We're Going Somewhere Worse: "We are entering an era not just of unsafe abortions but of the widespread criminalization of pregnancy."
  • Jillian Weinberger: [06-24] How the US polarized on abortion -- even as most Americans stayed in the middle.
  • Jessica Winter: [06-25] The Supreme Court Decision That Defined Abortion Rights for Thirty Years: "The centrist, compromising view of reproductive rights in Planned Parenthood v. Casely helped clear the path to overturn Roe v. Wade."
  • Kate Zernike: [06-25] How Did Roe Fall "Before a Decisive Ruling, a Powerful Red Wave." Singles out the 2010 mid-terms, where Republicans flipped a majority of state legislatures, which they then used to gerrymander districts, rig elections, and introduce an endless stream of bizarre laws. The focus on abortion was just one of many areas where they relentlessly pushed the envelope of what was acceptable, sane even (guns too). "Over time the attack on Roe has become more than an attack on abortion; it has become an attack on democracy."
  • Mary Ziegler: [06-24] If the Supreme Court Can Reverse Roe, It Can Reverse Anything. Or, as seems increasingly the case, just make shit up. Those of us old enough to remember right-wingers complaining about liberals "legislating from the bench" are finding this new regime exceptionally bizarre.
  • [06-25] 18 Ways the Supreme Court Just Changed America: Various "thinkers" at Politico weigh in, with takes all over the place. At least a third of these are blatantly ridiculous. Even the ones who seem justifiably alarmed don't seem to have a firm grasp of reality. I am especially disturbed by the pictures, here and elsewhere, of the "Students for Life protesters." Who are these women? And how did they get tangled up in this cynical political conspiracy? They seem so happy, failing so completely to grasp that abortion is always an exception, where the rules they think they can impose through their wishes break down in rare but real tragedy. Such naive belief must be delicious, but turns blind and cruel when backed up with the force of law.
    • 'People who seek abortions will seek to circumvent these laws.'
    • Young people 'won't see this country as a democracy.'
    • 'This decision will push abortion to the center of every political race in the country and polarize U.S. politics even more.'
    • This decision will 'give both parties an opportunity to move toward the center on abortion.'
    • 'The court's invalidation of Roe v. Wade will fire the starting gun on yet another wave of overtly violent conflict.'
    • 'In a post-Roe America, I am hopeful that our society will rebuild, and out communities will heal.'
    • 'It's hard to see how the issue will do much at the national level.'
    • This decision will 'place the reproductive health of Black women and other women of color at great risk.'
    • 'The American people will be forced to talk to one another, reason together.'
    • Expectant parents will not be able to fully use the powerful tools and knowledge of genetic testing and prenatal screening.
    • The decision will 'exacerbate the partisan and regional division on abortion that is already in place.'
    • 'There will be civil war.'
    • The anti-abortion movement will 'look to the conservative justices for protection for fetal personhood.'
    • The court could craft 'a new, more modern and justice-focused decision upholding the right to abortion.'
    • 'Conservatives must urgently embrace a whole-life approach.'
    • 'Making abortion illegal will not materially affect the number of abortions.'
    • 'A trajectory of many years of laws that increasingly see women's health and autonomy as secondary to those of fetuses.'
    • 'Abortion opponents will not be appeased until abortion is entirely eliminated.'


Since we're here, some other stories, briefly noted:

Ukraine: The war grinds on, with Russia continuing to make small gains in Luhansk, including their capture of Severodonetsk, and little interest from either side in ending the war. Some stories:

  • Katrin Bennhold/Jim Tankersley: [06-26] Ukraine War's Latest Victim? The Fight Against Climate Change. It's hard to wean yourself while you're panicking to get more to make up for lost access to Russian oil and gas. E.g.: Germany will fire up coal plants again in an effort to save natural gas.
  • Andrew Cockburn: [06-24] Why Sanctions Always Fail.
  • Jen Kirby: [06-23] Russia's territory in Europe is the latest source of Ukraine war tensions: Kaliningrad is a majority-Russian (87%) city and territory on the Baltic Sea, named in 1946 when the Soviet Union started redesigning the borders of eastern Europe. Before, the city was known as Köningsberg, at least after it became part of Prussia in 1525 (or 1657, following a short Swedish occupation). After 1918, it remained part of Germany, but was separated by a Polish corridor. In 1946, 100,000 Germans were expelled, and by 1948 400,000 Russians had moved in, so Stalin decided to keep it as part of the RFSFR instead of giving it to Lithuania (which separates it from Russia, but the Lithuanian population is only 0.4%). However, the land barrier is giving Lithuania an excuse to disrupt land transportation between Russia and Kaliningrad. This strikes me as an unnecessary provocation and a dangerous escalation of the sanctions regime. [PS: Needless to say: [06-24] Russia Blames US for Lithuania's Kaliningrad Embargo.]
  • Anatol Lieven: [06-20] Ukraine minister Kuleba accuses critics of being 'enablers of Putin': His is a name you should recognize when it appears in outlandishly hawkish op-eds. I give Biden some credit in not playing Bush's "either you're with us or against us" ultimatum, but Kuleba has no such cares. He is having the time of his life.
  • Branko Marcetic: [06-24] Western Sanctions on Russia Aren't Working as Intended: They started with an overestimation of the costs to Russia, and an almost complete ignorance of the self-costs they would produce. They helped to rally public support for Putin in Russia, while they've undercut political support at home -- e.g., their contribution to inflation is hurting Biden, even if support for the war hasn't eroded. I'm not surprised. I've always thought that the best excuse for sanctions was that they were a way to feel like you're doing something to Putin short of directly escalating a war that could easily become worse.
  • John P Ruehl: [06-24] The Ukraine War's Role in Exacerbating Global Food Insecurity.
  • Liz Sly: [06-25] Russia will soon exhaust its combat capabilities, Western assessments predict. So there's light at the end of the tunnel? Excuse me if I've heard that one before. Unless NATO starts reinforcing troops (which would be a really bad idea), Russia has significantly more resources that it can continue to bring to bear (assuming Putin still wants to).

Inflation: Look: Democrats worked hard to save the economy from collapse during the pandemic, both in early 2020 when the stock market plunged so bad even Republicans were willing to play along, and in early 2021 when they pushed a serious stimulus bill through to get things moving again. The reforms weren't targeted as precisely as possible, so some people came out of the crisis better off than before, while others barely survived. But Republicans had nothing to offer, other than their bitter opposition, which along with a couple of chickenshit Democratic senators eventually brought better prospects to a halt. Meanwhile, the disruptions caused (and still being caused, e.g., in China) by the pandemic messed up supply chains, and sudden shifts in supply and demand got converted into higher prices -- the same sort of price gouging we saw early in the pandemic. All this adds up to higher consumer prices (aka inflation, although many economists tie the word more closely to higher wages, which is what they really get worked up about).

  • Ahmari Anthony: [02-10] The Meat Industry's Middlemen Are Starving Families and Farmers.
  • Kate Aronoff: [06-24] Inflation Is Scrambling Joe Biden's Brain. Biden's embraced the idea of a "gas tax holiday," where the savings wouldn't amount to much, and almost certainly go not to consumers but to companies profit lines. Kevin T Dugan: [06-22] Joe Biden, Oil Man notes that Republicans oppose Biden's proposal, not wanting to give Biden any credit for lowering prices, especially given that they may already be declining.
  • Michael Hudson: [06-22] The Fed's Austerity Program to Reduce Wages. Politicians may cite higher consumer prices as inflation, but the only inflation the Fed takes seriously is wages, not least because the only tool the Fed has to combat inflation is to put people out of work, to make workers desperate enough to accept less. As for the rest: "The Fed is all in favor of asset-price inflation." Also note: "The economy cannot recover as long as today's debt overhead is left in place. Debt service, housing costs, privatized medical care, student debt and a decaying infrastructure have made the U.S. economy uncompetitive."
  • Paul Krugman: [06-23] Beware the Dangers of Sado-Monetarism.
  • Phillip Longman: [06-20] It's the Monopoly, Stupid: "Unchecked corporate power is fueling inflation."
  • Alexander Sammon: [06-21] Skyrocketing Rent Is Driving Inflation.

Eric Alterman: [06-24] Will the Oligarchs Who Own the US Media Save Democracy? Don't Bet on It.

Justin Elliott/Jesse Eisinger/Paul Kiel/Jeff Ernsthausen/Doris Burke: [06-21] Meet the Billionaire and Rising GOP Mega-Donor Who's Gaming the Tax System: Susquehana founder and TikTok investor Jeff Yass.

Ben Jacobs: [06-23] Donald Trump's cuckoo coup: By all rights, the January 6 Committee hearings should be dominating the news this week. Thanks to Republican non-participation, we've never seen Congressional hearings this clear and focused, so free of cant and obfuscation. Sure, the net result is pretty much what we understood at the time: an understanding that led almost immediately to Trump's second impeachment. Jacobs also wrote: [06-22] A new right-wing super PAC is attacking Liz Cheney as a "DC diva". More on the hearings:

  • David Brooks: [06-08] The Jan. 6 Committee Has Already Blown It: Doesn't take much to be a "right-centrist" pundit these days, does it? He moans that "these goals are pathetic." Why bother investigating things that merely happened? Why not ask for the impossible? "We need a committee that will preserve democracy on Jan. 6, 2025, and Jan. 6, 2029." But isn't part of the threat to 2025 and 2029 the fact that a lot of people still don't understand the horror of Jan. 6, 2021? Maybe it won't do any good to explain it again, calmly and thoroughly, as the Committee is trying to do, but does Brooks have a better idea? Not this week.
  • Jen Chaney/Benjamin Hart: [06-26] What Has Made the January 6 Hearings Such Great Television?
  • Richard L Hasen: [06-24] No One Is Above the Law, and That Starts With Donald Trump. I remember hearing that phrase a lot when Clinton was president. Much less so with Bush. And while it's something one would like to think is true about Trump, he seems to have proven that he is, if not above the law, at least beyond its reach. On the other hand, even if it were possible to indict and convict Trump on any of hundreds of possible charges, don't think that would prove the justice system in America is, you know, just. Just lucky, which at the moment it isn't.
  • Robert Kuttner: [06-23] The Consequences of Indicting Trump. With right-wingers complaining that the January 6 Committee hearings are a "show trial," it's interesting to imagine how a real trial would be different. For one thing, the power of subpoena and the penalties for perjury would be stronger. The most likely problem is that defining the crime would be more difficult: it is obvious that Trump's efforts to cling to power skitted around all sorts of malfeasances, but he was operating in territory where no one had ever ventured before, and which hadn't been anticipated and coded into law. The other obvious problem is selecting a jury that would be able to judge the case precisely on the merits, without fear of future reprisals. And while the case itself could be presented in non-political terms, it won't be heard that way, at least by the public. Even Kuttner spends much more time speculating on political ramifications.
  • Charles P Pierce: [06-23] There's Always One Guy in the Office Who Will Act on the Boss's Worst Ideas: In Trump's DOJ, that turned out to be Jeffrey Clark. Also: Trump's Misfit Goons Simply Could Not Shut Up About What They Were Doing.
  • Nathan J Robinson: [06-16] The Dangers of Praising Mike Pence and Liz Cheney: "Democrats need to stop praising horrible neoconservatives."

Kathryn Joyce: [06-24] 'National Conservative' manifesto: A plan for fascism -- but it's not hypothetical. Document, came out of a conference last fall, hard to tell how seriously to take it, but one speaker sequence mentioned here suggests it's not just a few "think-tankers": Rick Santorum, Nigel Farage, Mark Meadows.

Jen Kirby: [06-23] Afghanistan's staggering set of crises, explained: "Almost a year after Kabul's fall and the US's withdrawal, the economy remains in free fall, and the country faces a near-constant humanitarian disaster." Why do you think it was any better when the US military was ensconced in Kabul? Granted, it probably looked better to Americans, with their governmment pumping up a bubble around them, but if it was so great why did the people let the Taliban back in? Not unpredictably, US sore-loserdom has set in, with the US seizing Afghan assets abroad, and refusing to provide humanitarian aid for a crisis large of its own making. Continued US hostility also gives away any change at leverage that engagement might offer. This only plays into the hands of the most reactionary elements of the Taliban, who much like reactionary elements here are the least competent of all possible administrators. Of course, the US has played the sore-loser card many times before. North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Syria, and Iran are countries we once supposedly cared for but stand today as monuments to America's hurt vanity. One reason this has popped up again is that Afghanistan was hit by an earthquake last week, killing at least 1,000. See: Adam Weinstein: [06-24] Earthquake poses test of US resistance to the Taliban.

Rohan Montgomery: [06-26] The First Item on the G7 Agenda Should Be to Cancel the Global South's Debt: "The simplest way to fight global warming and injustice at the same time would be for the world's richest countries to end the vicious debt cycle that forces poor countries to exploit natural resources." Of course, it's not going to happen. The reason the G7 is the G7 is that they're happily collecting rent from the rest of the world. Also that most of the rent doesn't go to the governments, but to the moguls and oligarchs those governments serve. After WWII it became clear that Western Colonialism wouldn't be sustainable, so they came up with a new way to continue the exploitation without the political visibility. That was debt, which along with intellectual property rents keeps the Global South down.

Nicole Narea: [06-21] What Eric Greitens's "RINO hunting" ad means for the Missouri Senate race. Gross, gratuitous violence, sure, but isn't it weird when Greitens huffs: "Order your RINO Hunting Permit today!" Here he is, urging followers to commit crimes, but insisting that they need a permit first? And who exactly is issuing these permits?

Nicole Narea: [06-24] Congress passes a landmark gun control package: "Landmark" is a bit of a stretch, as it doesn't do much -- so little a handful of Republicans went along with it, perhaps confident after the Supreme Court's gun ruling this week that the courts will strip it down even further. On that angle, see [06-24] So is Bruen the reaso a few Republicans went along with a gun bill?

Jim Robbins/Thomas Fuller/Christine Chung: [06-15] Flooding Chaos in Yellowstone, a Sign of Crises to Come.

Jeffrey St Clair: [06-24] Roaming Charges: The Anal Stage of Constitutional Analysis.

Raymond Zhong: [06-24] Heat Waves Around the World Push People and Nations 'To the Edge'.

Daily Kos headlines:


I've started following Rick Perlstein's Twitter feed. Here's one highly a propos:

The rationalizations you'll be hearing right-wingers slinging for all the misery their ideas are about to loose on the world will be epic. More and more people will realize how surreal their mental world can be. The fever will not "break"; the fever is the whole enchilada.

I also follow Zachary Carter, whose book The Price of Peace is one of the best I've read in the last couple years, but I take exception to this:

Feels a lot like a crisis of inaction. Bad things keep happening and Biden can't or won't respond. Today's Roe repeal is the sort of thing that could be a political opportunity for Democrats, but the party has no plausible plan to do anything about it.

But aren't there several plausible plans in play: blue states are passing legislation codifying support for abortion rights, and offering sanctuaries; Congress could do the same if Democrats had slightly larger majorities; with larger majorities, the Supreme Court itself could be reformed (the subject of an op-ed by Jamelle Bouie: How to Discipline a Rogue Supreme Court. Sure, some Democratic plans in the past haven't worked out so well, like Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, which was at least partially sold on the need to prevent the right-wing takeover of the Supreme Court.

There are other areas where Biden and the Democratic leadership are coming off as more inept, not least because they are conflicted. There is no good solution for inflation without also considering all other economic factors, including inequality and the environment, and sane people have serious disagreements about what to do when there. Also on the Ukraine War and many other foreign policy disasters, which are the end result of decades of bad policy and missed opportunities. The simple fact is that any time a Democrat gets elected president -- and that only seems to happen after a Republican has made a total botch of the world -- that Democrat is going to be hit with multiple crises that have been gestating over long periods of time, then hampered by not having the power or the good will to do what really needs to be done. Somehow Republicans get a free pass on blame, and new chances to fuck things up even more, knowing that Democrats will have to clean up their messes, and will be found wanting for doing so, which will kick off yet another cycle of rage and retribution.

The 2022 elections will ultimately come down to one question: do voters want the emotional satisfaction of punishing the Democrats for everything that's gone wrong, or will they wise up to the fact that Republicans have nothing constructive to offer, and that the only way to actually fix our problems is to give Democrats the power to do so? If the latter, of course, we'll have to keep a close eye on them, but at least we'll be dealing with people who recognize problems and are willing to reason about how best to solve them.

I've been reading Matthew Yglesias since he started blogging, at least up to the point when he went to Substack and started charging monthly (and also writing columns for Bloomberg, which for all I know probably has its own paywall). I sometimes wonder whether I should at least follow his Twitter feed, but sometimes a tweet like this leaks through:

I mean the obvious answer is that Hillary Clinton should have adopted more moderate positions on issues in 2016, allowing her to win slightly more votes and become president. That's the central failure of Democratic strategy over the past decade.

I'm hard pressed to recall what "more moderate position" she didn't adopt in 2016. As Jeet Heer noted, for VP she picked "a pro-life Catholic man like Tim Kaine." Was that meant to reassure us that she'd fight to the end to protect abortion rights? Besides, she did win "slightly more votes," but lost the election because she didn't win them where she most needed them. Folks who voted for Trump because they thought he's "fight for them" were foolish and stupid, but they got the body language right -- the mistake was in thinking Trump identified with them. But Hillary, despite all her sabre-rattling, was never going to "fight" for anyone. She was always going to bend over for the highest bidder. And thanks to our two-party system, she was all that stood between Trump and us.

One last tweet, from Barack Obama, hitting key points succinctly enough to be worth quoting:

Today, the Supreme Court not only reversed nearly 50 years of precedent, it relegated the most intensely personal decision someone can make to the whims of politicians and ideologues -- attacking the essential freedoms of millions of Americans.


One more thing: I'd like to quote a particularly good paragraph by No More Mr. Nice Blog, which starts with a quote from a Ross Douthat column I didn't think worth citing above:

I guess whenever liberals are doing anything more than sending money to organizations we hope will sustain our civil rights, that's "radicalization" in Douthat's eyes. Yes, we're angry, and we're in the streets. But why does Douthat believe the anti-abortion movement will need "durable majority support"? Universal background checks and an assault weapons ban have "durable majority support." Higher minimum wages have "durable majority support." Roe itself had "durable majority support." The right doesn't care. The right knows how to hold on to power without having any popular positions, and the right also knows how to gum up the works when it temporarily loses power so it will regain power quickly. The right doesn't need a popular stance on abortion, any more than it needs a popular stance in guns or wages. It just needs to cling to power by any means necessary.

Ever since Biden took office and the Democrats tied up the Senate, we've been seeing Republicans put on a master class in "clinging to power" and "gumming up the works" -- often with the help of self-hating Democrats and a mainstream media that keeps legitimizing Republicans no matter what they say or do.

He goes on, quoting Douthat again, then responds:

The people on the right who are "hostile to synthesis, conciliation and majoritarian politics" aren't "forces," they're the entire right. Even the ones who drew the line at returning an unelected president to office believe that the right should do whatever it can get away with, national consensus be damned.

And (there's no point in me inserting the Douthat quotes, because you can imagine them already):

Stop snickering. He really believes this. He thinks it's actually possible that a movement almost monomaniacally devoted to punitive acts will do a 180 and empathetically expand aid to poor parents in the name of conservatism. . . . Yes, once again Douthat is digging in the dung pile of the contemporary right, convinced that there must be a compassionate-conservative pony in there somewhere.

He also quotes from that "NatCon Manifesto" (see Kathryn Joyce link above).

Saturday, June 25, 2022

I wrote this note on Facebook, in response to a Greg Magarian post:

Back around 1970, in "The Emerging Republican Majority," Kevin Phillips argued that Republicans would become the majority party if they could flip two traditionally Democratic constituencies -- southern Baptists and northern Catholics. They did this by orchestrating a cultural backlash, most obviously based on race but abortion gave them a way to use religion. (The Schlafly backlash against women's rights was also a factor.) I've long viewed Missouri as the laboratory for this transformation. In the 1950s the state was solidly Democratic, but regionally divided: the cities and river valleys on the D side, the northern plains and the Ozarks on the other. The Danforths share a lot of the credit/blame for this transformation. It took another 20 years for Missouri's anti-abortion politics to spread to Kansas (in the 1990s, although Bob Dole was a harbinger), where WASP Republicans had easily ruled since the 1860s (aside from a brief Populist interlude) and had no need of such scheming. The Republican use of select Catholic doctrines has mostly been purely cynical (although there are cases of conservatives converting, like Sam Brownback, whose devotion to the cause is more devoutly evil). As for the Catholic dominance of the Supreme Court, that seems to be an artifact of the Federalist Society's control of the nominee list, which was largely a reaction to Souter's apostasy after he joined the court. Conservatives had seen many seemingly solid WASP nominees turn into liberals after joining the Court, and wanted to put a stop to that. I haven't looked into just why the FS almost exclusively nominates Catholics, so I'm reluctant to speculate as to why, other than to note that they have much in common with cults.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 45 albums, 5 A-list,

Music: Current count 38165 [38120] rated (+45), 93 [97] unrated (-4).

When I mentioned to my wife that I had written a "rant about reparations" yesterday, she visibly gulped. This morning she admitted "it was not as bad as I feared." See: Speaking of Which. When I wrote the piece, I wasn't aware (or didn't recall, or maybe I noticed but it just didn't sink in) that the State of California had a task force studying reparations, and that it had just [June 1] released an interim report. Otherwise, I would have included some links, like:

It seems very likely to me that a 500 pp report would contain a lot of information that should be better known, and that they would come up with a number of proposals that are worth considering in their own right, even if (like me) you are wary of trying to sell them as reparations. (Not that there aren't some people who buy into the "liberal guilt trip" logic they usually come off as, and certainly not to offend the people who really do feel guilty.) For instance, one apparently modest proposal is to end "voter approval for publicly funded 'low-rent housing.'"

One pet idea I have is to designate the poorest neighborhoods in major cities as "upgrade zones," where money would be offered to resident homeowners to improve their properties. Advisers would be provided to help owners plan their upgrades, and to negotiate fair prices with contractors, and review their work. The lender (probably city government) would receive a lien to cover the cost of upgrades, but the lien would be written off over 10-20 years, provided the original owner continues to occupy the house. Owners could choose to resell their houses, in which case the remaining lien would be paid off ahead of previous mortgages. Property tax assessments would also be frozen as long as the lien exists, but may be adjusted when the property is sold. This wouldn't help renters much, but could be combined with a program to help renters buy their houses, and thereby become eligible for upgrades.

Needless to say, a similar type of program could be offered more broadly for "green" upgrades, which is another case where helping individual homeowners helps the whole public. I've got a lot of ideas along these lines. If I was younger I'd consider opening a "think tank." Actually, 20+ years ago I had the idea of writing open source business plans, which other people could pick up and run with. (For an example on home automation, look here.)

I did write a bit about inflation yesterday, but more and more I'm convinced that what we're seeing is a self-induced oil panic -- the decision to blockade Russian oil after Putin invaded Ukraine is the pivot, but sanctions against Iran and Venezuela, and continuing conflict in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen also reduces supply -- compounded by monopolistic concentration, which gives companies great leeway to raise prices. In this context, raising interest rates if a blunt and misguided weapon. The one area where higher interest rates may help is in reducing the amount of profitable leverage available to speculators who are to some extent driving up prices. (If you think prices are going to rise, you can bet on that, and help make it happen. But higher interest rates make such bets more expensive and more risky -- especially with the Fed threatening to induce a depression.) I'm glad I'm not one of the economists who recommended that Jerome Powell be re-appointed "because he had learned his lesson." I've always said that Biden should have appointed someone who would look out for him. [*] (Obama made the same mistake with Bernanke, and Clinton with Greenspan.)

[*] I considered singling Larry Summers out, because I was so offended by a line asserting that Summers has been proven right in his prediction that Biden's early stimulus would be inflationary. Now I see that Summers is still peddling the discredited NAIRU theory, saying: "We need five years of unemployment above 5% to contain inflation -- in other words, we need two years of 7.5% unemployent or five years of 6% unemployment or one year of 10% unemployment." As Jeff Stein noted, what Summers is calling for is "devastating joblessness for millions of poor American workers." Zachary Carter added that this is "really bad economics." I miss George Brockway, who worked so hard to expose the intellectual and moral vacuity behind NAIRU (stands for Non-Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment; Yglesias has a piece on NAIRU here; Brockway wrote about it in his collection of New Leader columns, Economists Can Be Bad for Your Health: Further Reflections on the Dismal Science).

At this point, the single most important thing Biden should be doing is impressing on Zelensky the need to end the war, and reassuring Putin that if a fair solution is arrived at, Russia can be more secure and engage world commerce without being plagued by sanctions. He also needs to start dealing honorably with the raft of countries that are currently on the US "shit list" (most likely to be joined soon by Colombia and Brazil[**]).

[**] As Ryan Grim tweeted, "The Colombian right conceded the election, acknowledged it was fair and represented the will of its people." Then he cited the reaction from Ron DeSantis: "The election in Colombia of a former narco-terrorist Marxist is troubling and disappointing. The spread of left-wing totalitarian ideology in the Western Hemisphere is a growing threat. Florida stands with Colombian Americans on the side of freedom." When are Americans going to understand that immigrants no longer get to dictate who wins in the countries they left? I'm especially sick and tired of Cubans, who were generously welcomed to America (despite the fact that some of them turned out to be Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio), holding American foreign policy hostage just to vent their spite. (Sure, one can say the same thing about East Europeans who came here and turned into political totems -- e.g., to pick a more recent example than Zbigniew Brzezinsi or Madeleine Albright, Ukrainian war hawk Alexander Vindman.)


Feeling better this week, if not about the world, at least in my little corner of it. The mini-split air conditioner in the bedroom appears to be truly fixed, which is good for a couple more hours of sleep most nights. These days, even trivial tasks like replacing a porch light or a toilet fill valve feel like accomplishments. Finally making some progress with sorting and storing. Even managed to get the "unrated" list below 100. I have little idea where those 93 LPs and CDs actually are (other than a pile of USAF CDs), but the search is on.

Didn't have too much trouble finding new records to play this week. The demo queue is pretty close to empty, aside from two Wadada Leo Smith boxes (12-CD total, enjoying Emerald Duets today). Dave Sumner's Bandcamp reports pointed me to a lot of interesting items, as did Christian Iszchak's consumer guide (Lalalar wasn't an instant hit, but I stuck with it). Auntie Flo and Shawneci Icecold seemed interesting enough to merit a bit of a dive, even though not much came out of it. I heard about the latter because he wrote in, and I felt like doing some due diligence. I suppose I should mention that the father of one of the Nova Twins is a virtual friend of my wife's. That may have put some pressure on me to get to the record early, but I also pegged their debut, Who Are the Girls, at A-, so it was only a matter of time.

I'm hoping to do a Q&A sometime this week, although I don't currently have a lot to chew on.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Chad Anderson: Mellifluous Excursions Vol. 1: Where You Been (2022, Mahakala Music): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Auntie Flo & Sarathy Korwar: Shruti Dances (2022, Make Music): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Yaya Bey: Remember Your North Star (2022, Big Dada): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Steve Davis: Bluesthetic (2022, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(*)
  • Tetel Di Babuya: Meet Tetel (2021 [2022], Arkadia): [cd]: B+(**) [06-24]
  • Donkeyjazz: Play the Blues (2021, Singo): [r]: C
  • Binker Golding: Dream of a Dogwood Wild Boy (2021 [2022], Gearbox): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Cameron Graves: Live From the Seven Spheres (2022, Mack Avenue): [r]: B-
  • I Am [Isaiah Collier & Michael Shekwoaga Ode]: Beyond (2021 [2022], Division 81): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Shawneci Icecold/Daniel Carter/Brandon Lopez: Toro (2021, Underground45): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Shawneci Icecold/Daniel Carter: Familiar Roads (2021, Underground45): [sp]: B
  • Shawneci Icecold & Fatlip: Carte Blanche (2021, Underground45): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Shawneci Icecold & Rob Swift: For the Heads That Break (2022, Fat Beats, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Brian Jackson: This Is Brian Jackson (2022, BBE): [r]: B+(*)
  • Jones Jones: Just Justice (2020 [2022], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Kaleiido: Elements (2022, Exopac): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lalalar: Bi Cinnete Bakar (2022, Bongo Joe): [r]: A-
  • Brian Landrus: Red List (2021 [2022], Palmetto): [cd]: B+(***) [06-17]
  • George Lernis: Between Two Worlds (2021 [2022], Dunya): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Linus + Nils Řkland/Niels Van Heertum/Ingar Zach: Light as Never (2021 [2022], Aspen Edities): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Kjetil Mulelid Trio: Who Do You Love the Most? (2022, Rune Grammofon): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nova Twins: Supernova (2022, 333 Wreckords Crew): [sp]: A-
  • Jessica Pavone/Lukas Koenig/Matt Mottel: Spam Likely (2019 [2022], 577): [cd]: A- [08-26]
  • André Rosinha Trio: Triskel (2022, Nischo): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Felipe Salles/Zaccai Curtis/Avery Sharpe/Jonathan Barber: Tiyo's Songs of Life (2021 [2022], Tapestry): [cd]: A-
  • Satoyama: Sinking Island (2021 [2022], Auand): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: World Construct (2021 [2022], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Josh Sinton/Tony Falco/Jed Wilson: Adumbrations (2021 [2022], Form Is Possibility): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Torben Snekkestad/Sřren Kjaergaard: Another Way of the Heart (2021 [2022], Trost): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Sprints: Manifesto (2021, Nice Swan, EP): [bc]: B+(*)
  • Sprints: A Modern Job (2022, Nice Swan, EP): [bc]: B+(***)
  • SSWAN [Jessica Ackerley/Patrick Shiroishi/Chris Williams/Luke Stewart/Jason Nazary]: Invisibility Is an Unnatural Disorder (2020 [2022], 577): [cd]: B+(***) [09-02]
  • Gebhard Ullmann/Gerhard Gschlössl/Johannes Fink/Jan Leipnitz/Michael Haves: Gulfh of Berlin (2018 [2021], ESP-Disk): [cd]: B+(**)]
  • Devin Brahja Waldman & Hamid Drake: Mediumistic Methodology (2019 [2022], Astral Spirits): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Weakened Friends: Quitter (2021, Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(**)
  • Tommy Womack: I Thought I Was Fine (2021, Schoolkids): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eri Yamamoto/Chad Fowler/William Parker/Steve Hirsh: Sparks (2022, Mahakala Music): [bc]: A-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Barney Wilen: Zodiac (1966 [2022], We Are Busy Bodies): [r]: B

Old music:

  • Auntie Flo: Goan Highlife (2011, Huntleys & Palmers, EP): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Auntie Flo: Future Rhythm Machine (2012, Huntleys & Palmers): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Auntie Flo: The Theory of Flo (2015, Huntleys & Palmers): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Auntie Flo: Radio Highlife (2018, Brownswood): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jakuzi: Hata Payi (2019, City Slang): [r]: B+(**)
  • Sarathy Korwar & Upaj Collective: Night Dreamer Direct-to-Disc Sessions (2019 [2020], Night Dreamer): [bc]: B+(***)
  • The United States Air Force Academy Band: The Falconaires: Sharing the Freedom (2010 [2011], self-released): [cd]: B-


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Jones Jones: Just Justice (ESP-Disk) [06-18]
  • Brian Landrus: Red List (Palmetto) [06-17]
  • Matthew Shipp Trio: World Construct (ESP-Disk) [06-17]
  • Wadada Leo Smith: The Emerald Duets (TUM, 5CD) [06-17]
  • Wadada Leo Smith: String Quartets Nos. 1-12 (TUM, 7CD) [06-17]
  • Gebhard Ullmann/Gerhard Gschlössl/Johannes Fink/Jan Leipnitz/Michael Haves: Gulfh of Berlin (ESP-Disk -21)
  • WeFreeStrings: Love in the Form of Sacred Outrage (ESP-Disk) [06-17]

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Speaking of Which

Tweet: Speaking of Which: Facing a political divide where one side is confused and inept but is still orders of magnitude better than the other, which is ignorant, easily misled by louts, and utterly convinced of their own bizarre self-righteousness.

Blog link.

Late Saturday start, with no aim other than to blow off some steam (starting with the Cineas piece below). This is a very troubling, very unpleasant time. While it's never been more clear how destructive the Republican Party from top to bottom has become, we're stuck with a Democratic Party which is increasingly conflicted and befuddled, where we're stuck with factions which not only don't get along but are often seen putting their own narrow interests ahead of everyone else. And at the top, well, as one headline put it: Biden Survives Bike Fall After Failed Backpedaling Attempt. The only thing I'm grateful there is that the headline is literal, and not some horrendous metaphor. I have no time or desire to try to draw up a list, but since I don't say any more about it below, the stupid dilly-dallying over the war in Ukraine is worth mentioning. Somewhere I read that Zelensky is unwilling to resume negotiations until August, when he hopes to be in a better position. Meanwhile, the NATO chief is projecting the gravy train (err, the war) will go on for years. Meanwhile, Biden is headed to Saudi Arabia hat-in-hand to beg for lower gas prices, rather than seeking relief from the countries (Iran and Venezuela) the US is sanctioning for disrespecting the empire. And the Senate (Graham and Menendez, of course) wants to shovel an extra $4.5 billion to Taiwan to piss off China. Nonetheless, even the worst Democrats are orders of magnitude less awful than the Republicans, so here we are, struggling to help Biden get back up on that bicycle (ok, that's a metaphor).


Kate Aronoff: [06-17] Biden Wrote a Stern Letter to Oil Refiners. His Government Should Take Over the Industry Instead. I've occasionally said that the biggest mistake America ever made was to allow the oil industry to be private. The profit motive led to a vast squandering of natural resources. (The Spindletop fiasco is a classic example, where the biggest find to date was pumped dry in three years, during which oil prices totally collapsed.) But also, that decision gave us oil millionaires/billionaires, who have been a political menace ever since. Still, Biden's letter doesn't inspire much faith in the greater wisdom of the public sector, as he's mostly looking for politically expedient price relief, without little if any concern for the longer term consequences. Recent price rises, which are still less than half what Europeans pay, are mostly due to a supply crunch caused by US sanctions against Russia, Venezuela, and Iran. One could argue that price increases (although not the foreign policy that's led to them) are a good thing, in that they will incentivize people and business to use less oil and gas. (Of course, the smart way to do this would be to plan tax increases well into the future, so the expectation of higher prices is set, without the immediate pinch, but Americans don't like planning, so you get movement through poorly understood panics instead.)

There is much more that could be said about nationalization, but it's an issue with no short-term chances, so no real urgency. Socialists have been overly fond of nationalization in the past, and overly reticent of late. I think there are cases where it would be a good idea, but I'm not sure what they are, or whether oil is one (regulatory and tax policy are other options, and there is a big question about stranded assets -- a lot of "wealth" is in the form of untapped oil reserves, which may turn out to be worth a lot less than current appraisals).

Christina Carrega: [06-15] The land of the free leads the world in incarceration. Why?

Sewell Chan/Eric Neugeboren: [06-19] Texas Republican Convention calls Biden win illegitimate and rebukes Cornyn over gun talks.

Fabiola Cineas: [06-15] There's no freedom without reparations. The article has problems even defining a reparations program, which should be a clue as to why it isn't a viable political agenda. If politics is the art of the possible, reparations is something else (perhaps a rhetorical device which promises to go away with suitable inducements?). But impossibility is only one of the problems with reparations. More importantly, it is simply the wrong answer to the problem -- even if you accept that the problem (the persistence of poverty and prejudice among descendants of victims of slavery and legal discrimination) is an important one that should be addressed seriously. It is wrong because it imagines the past can somehow be repaired. It is wrong because it compounds injustice, by assessing damages from people who weren't responsible to compensate people who weren't immediately affected. It is wrong because it assumes one can redress inequities without addressing inequality. A much better solution is to aim to bar discrimination and promote equality across the whole of society, regardless of past conditions, even if you have to proceed piecemeal. And it is wrong because it inevitably produces a backlash. The most obvious example is the reparations imposed on Germany after WWI, but the backlash against "affirmative action" in the 1970s should be cautionary enough. It wasn't a bad idea when the economy was booming for everyone, but as inequality increased and businesses turned against their workers, it became a wedge issue for separating the white working class (many of whom were descendants of immigrants who arrived in America well after the Civil War).

It's also wrong because it is rooted in a fundamental misconception about what justice can and cannot do, and that misconception seems to be increasingly rampant these days. Justice cannot change the past, It can (to some extent) exact revenge for recent past events, but revenge never heals, rarely soothes, and often misses its target completely. And while justice can be harsh on individuals (especially powerless ones), it is rarely up to dealing with larger groups, let alone corporations and political parties, or worst of all, national leaders who launched wars. Bill Clinton made headlines in his rush to put Ricky Ray Rector to death, but never had to face justice for his bombing of a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, or his repeated bombing of Iraq, or his even more devastating sanctions to starve Iraqi children. And he's just one example, and certainly not the worst. The International Criminal Court might sound like a good idea, but what kind of justice do you have when you almost never bring the guilty parties. (Sure, they did prosecute Slobodan Milosevic over Kosovo, but it was Wesley Clark, under Bill Clinton (again!), who ran the bombing campaign against Serbia, killing up to 2,000.

I have no objection to impressing upon all Americans how despicable slavery was, and how systematically and often violently both officials and ad hoc groups terrorized "free" blacks after the Civil War. I'd go so far as to say that it's important to acknowledge all unsavory acts over centuries by American state(s) and people. While the arguments for reparations start with explaining this history, and should be applauded for that, the framework of reparations recasts history as political, inviting reaction. While it's true that reparations need not be a zero-sum game, but it is easily understood as such: a transfer of wealth from the public (which through taxes means everyone, in an economy where most people are vulnerable) to an arbitrarily selected few. The left's key political proposition is to help nearly everyone, fairly and equally, but reparations can easily be twisted into an argument for putting certain minorities ahead of an increasingly fragile and frightened majority.

Needless to say, reparations for any one issue raises questions about other past injustices, of which they are many. There has, for instance, been some reparations for Japanese-Americans interned during WWII. There is something to be said for the symbolic effect of admitting past wrongs, and that may be all some reparations advocates are working for. Similarly, I don't see much harm in suing police departments for wrongful deaths, especially where prosecution is impossible. Sometimes it even works to sue a corporation (as with Purdue Pharma), but such cases have to be pretty egregious, and they're no substitute for better regulation to prevent such disasters from happening. While the right to sue is one important safeguard for justice, I fear we've gone way overboard, resulting in a justice system which is arbitrary and inconsistent.

Elizabeth Dwoskin: [06-19] Peter Thiel helped build big tech. Now he wants to tear it all down. Another billionaire who thinks his money entitles him to run (or ruin) the world.

Chris Haberman: [06-18] Mark Shields, TV Pundit Known for His Sharp Wit, Dies at 85: I remember watching him on NPR square off against David Brooks, in the latter's Bush-toady phase. He didn't impress me much, but Brooks developed a reputation as slime that has stuck to him, even as he's tried to distance himself from more reptilian Republicans.

Roxana Hegeman: [06-17] Heat stress blamed for thousands of cattle deaths in Kansas. It wasn't extraordinarily hot, but the combination of heat and humidity killed over 2,000 cattle, in a preview of the sort of killing heat waves likely to be common as global temperatures rise. Probably not the first such example, but this one hit especially close to home.

Ian Millhiser: [05-15] Democracy in America is a rigged game.

Timothy Noah: [06-17] Was Nixon's Guilt as Obvious as Trump's Is? Not much here on Trump, but then you already know about the Jan. 6 Committee's evidence. Focus is more on whether Nixon ordered the Watergate break in, as opposed to merely covering up the excessive zeal of his crew, and Noah presents a fairly strong case why we should think so, even with no one coming out and admitting it. For one thing, Nixon ordered similar break ins. For another, Nixon was directly involved in more crimes than you can shake a stick at -- Noah has several examples of campaign finance violations, and there was still the back channel promises to derail negotiations that might have ended the Vietnam War in 1968 (Nixon's prosecution of the war in Vietnam and extension to Cambodia will always remain in my mind his supreme crime, on a level with the worst monsters of the 20th century). One can go much deeper into the Nixon/Trump comparisons -- as Woodward and Bernstein tried to do last week -- but they will mostly show that however cunning and unscrupulous Nixon was in exceeding his authority and venturing beyond the law, he was conscious of what he was doing, and aware of what he was risking. Trump, on the other hand, aspired to do much worse, but lacked the managerial chops to pull it off. In the end, he was hoisted by his own words, as testified to by his ridiculous "advisers," and by the acts of his most outrageous fans. That the latter were (probably) disconnected and acting autonomously doesn't excuse him; it underscores how irresponsible and damaging his lies and cult had become. Noah ends with an indictment of the media, for letting Nixon fade gently once he resigned, instead of digging to get to the bottom of all the evil he had done. Their failure then has been compounded with Trump now. We should by now understand that Nixon and Trump are two types who should never be allowed even remotely near presidential power. Yet the media was so smitten with both, they not only failed to expose their crimes, they never admitted their own complicity in letting them fester until the crimes became impossible to ignore.

Gina Schouten: [05-24] Why We're Polarized, Part 1. The first of four notes on Ezra Klein's Why We're Polarized, by a Harvard philosophy professor. The others are [05-31] Part 2, [06-08] Part 3: Moving on to Institutions, and [06-15] Part 4: The Last one, about Party Differences. The latter focuses on how the Republicans have cultivated a monolithic identity, which is continually reaffirmed ever more starkly, while the Democrats are bound to be a loose coalition with divergent interests, united only by their fear of Republicans.

Samantha Schmidt: [06-19] Gustavo Petro, former guerrilla, will be Colombia's first leftist president.

Jeffrey St Clair: [06-17] Roaming Charges: A River Ran Through It: Title refers to Yellowstone, the first patch of America reserved as a National Park, a place where you can still observe relatively unsullied nature. Well, nature struck back, and now the Park is closed. "They called it a 1000-year flood. It will probably happen four more times in the next 50 years." In other stories, he notes that Republicans flipped a House seat (TX-34), in a district that is 84% Latino. (I see here that turnout was 7.34%, so you'd think there would be room for improvement in November, but that's pretty embarrassing. For more on this, see GOP Win Says More About Filemon Vela Than a South Texas 'Red Wave'.) That's the first of a number of incendiary lobs at the Democrats (especially the pathetic idolization of Liz Cheney and Mike Pence). There's also this little gem:

Uvalde police have hired a private law firm to fight requests to release the bodycam footage of the school shooting because they claim it could be used by other shooters to determine "weaknesses" in cop response to crimes.

Evidently they have no plans to examine the footage themselves to help figure out how to correct for the "weaknesses" it reveals.

Emily Stewart: [05-15] Stopping inflation is going to hurt: "The economy will feel worse before it feels better." Well, that's largely because the fight against inflation is being led by the Fed, and they see their job as helping bankers by turning the screws on borrowers and consumers. There are other possible approaches, especially given that a major driver of inflation is the Ukraine War, and that has nothing at all to do with interest rates. Same thing for monopoly rents and supply chain kinks, although slack demand will eventually reduce those pressures -- while further discouraging businesses from developing more capacity, which would help drive prices down. Also on inflation:

Monday, June 13, 2022

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 55 albums, 5 A-list,

Music: Current count 38120 [38065] rated (+55), 97 [107] unrated (-10).

It's been a very frustrating week, especially a blow to my confidence that I can manage basic tasks of household maintenance. Still trying to figure out an air conditioner problem with the temperature over 100F. Dreading tomorrow, but no reason to think I won't get through it, or feel better once it's over.

Nothing much more to say about the music below. I did bump two albums I had at B+(**) up a notch today on revisit, but I'm pretty sure that's as high as they will go.

Been trying the new Napster web interface, and so far I hate everything about it. Looks almost exactly like a Spotify clone. Given that Spotify has more music and is much more robust -- comparing Spotify's Linux app to Napster's web interface; Spotify's web interface is probably no better -- the only reasons I thought of for keeping Napster were that it was a bit better for browsing (still pretty awful) and a bit easier for song lists, and they managed to squander both advantages. Plus Napster has a unique problem: it periodically stops with a notice that my account is being used on another device. I've also had to swat down many offers to download the supposedly superior Napster app, only to find they still don't have one for Linux (though supposedly they're working on it now).


New records reviewed this week:

  • 070 Shake: You Can't Kill Me (2022, GOOD Music/Def Jam): [r]: B+(***)
  • Florian Arbenz/Joăo Barradas/Tineke Postma/Rafael Jerjen: Conversation #5: Elemental (2022, Hammer): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Bad Bunny: Un Verano Sin Ti (2022, Rimas Entertainment): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bloc Party: Alpha Games (2022, Infectious/BMG): [r]: B
  • Boris: W (2022, Sacred Bones): [r]: B-
  • Buck 65: King of Drums (2022, self-released): [bc]: A-
  • Buck 65/Tachichi: Flash Grenade (2022, Black Buffalo): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Burton/McPherson Trio: The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village (2021 [2022], Giant Step Arts): [cd]: B+(**) [06-19]
  • Neneh Cherry: The Versions (2022, EMI): [r]: B
  • Tom Collier: The Color of Wood (2022, Summit): [cd]: B
  • Dan Ex Machina: All Is Ours, Nothing Is Theirs (2022, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Drive-By Truckers: Welcome 2 Club XIII (2022, ATO): [sp]: A-
  • Eels: Extreme Witchcraft (2022, E Works/PIAS): [r]: B+(*)
  • Empath: Visitor (2022, Fat Possum): [r]: B
  • Everything Everything: Raw Data Feel (2022, AWAL): [r]: B+(*)
  • Fantastic Negrito: White Jesus Black Problems (2022, Storefront): [r]: B+(***)
  • Hugo Fernandez: Ozean (2022, Origin): [cd]: B+(***) [06-17]
  • Liam Gallagher: C'mon You Know (2022, Warner): [r]: B+(*)
  • Mary Gauthier: Dark Enough to See the Stars (2022, In the Black/Thirty Tigers): [r]: B+(***)
  • S.G. Goodman: Teeth Marks (2022, Verve Forecast): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michael Head & the Red Elastic Band: Dear Scott (2022, Modern Sky): [r]: B
  • Honolulu Jazz Quartet: Straight Ahead: The Honolulu Jazz Quartet Turns 20 (2022, HJQ): [cd]: B
  • Kathryn Joseph: For You Who Are Wronged (2022, Rock Action): [r]: B+(*)
  • Avril Lavigne: Love Sux (2022, DTA/Elektra): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dmitri Matheny: Cascadia (2021 [2022], Origin): [cd]: B+(*) [06-17]
  • Ben Morris: Pocket Guides (2022, OA2): [cd]: B- [06-17]
  • My Idea: That's My Idea (2021, Hardly Art, EP): [sp]: B+(**)
  • My Idea: Cry Mfer (2022, Hardly Art): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The Mysterines: Reeling (2022, Fiction): [sp]: B
  • Jason Palmer: Live From Summit Rock in Seneca Village (2021 [2022], Giant Step Arts): [cd]: B+(**) [06-19]
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: Unlimited Love (2022, Warner): [r]: B
  • The Regrettes: Further Joy (2022, Warner): [r]: A-
  • Derek Senn: The Big Five-O (2022, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Alexander Smalls: Let Us Break Bread Together (2022, Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Soft Cell: Happiness Not Included (2022, BMG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Spanish Harlem Orchestra: Imágenes Latinas (2021 [2022], Ovation): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Grant Stewart Quartet With Bruce Harris: The Lighting of the Lamps (2021 [2022], Cellar): [cd]: B+(**) [06-17]
  • John Wasson's Strata Big Band: Chronicles (2022, MAMA): [cd]: B-
  • Orlando Weeks: Hop Up (2022, PIAS): [r]: B+(*)
  • The Whitmore Sisters: Ghost Stories (2022, Red House): [sp]: B+(**)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Cumbia Sabrosa: Tropical Sound System Bangers From the Discos Fuentes Vaults 1961-1981 (1961-81 [2022], Rocafort, EP): [bc]: B+(**)

Old music:

  • Bike for Three!: So Much Forever (2014, Fake Four): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Buck 65: Sore (2004, WEA, EP): [r]: B+(*)
  • Buck 65: Dirtbike 1 (2008, self-released): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Buck 65: Dirtbike 2 (2008, self-released): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Buck 65 [Produced by Jorun Bombay]: Laundromat Boogie (2014, DWG): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Abraham Burton/Eric McPherson Quartet: Cause and Effect (1998 [1999], Enja): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Neneh Cherry: Man (1996, Virgin): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hata Unacheza: Sub-Saharan Acoustic Guitar and String Music (1960s [2013], Canary): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Avril Lavigne: Let Go (2002, Arista): [r]: B-
  • Avril Lavigne: Under My Skin (2004, Arista): [r]: B-
  • Lowkey: Dear Listener (2008, SO Empire): [r]: B+(**)
  • Lowkey: Soundtrack to the Struggle (2011, Mesopotamia Music): [r]: A-
  • Lowkey: Soundtrack to the Struggle 2 (2019, Mesopotamia Music): [r]: A-
  • Jackie McLean/John Jenkins: Alto Madness (1957, Prestige): [r]: B+(**)
  • Grachan Moncur III: New Africa (1969, BYG Actuel): [r]: B+(***)
  • Grachan Moncur III: Aco Dei De Madrugada (One Morning I Waked Up Very Early) (1969 [1970], BYG Actuel): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Felipe Salles/Zaccai Curtis/Avery Sharpe/Jonathan Barber: Tiyo's Songs of Life (Tapestry) [05-20]

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I don't feel like doing a general survey this week, but I felt like jotting down a quote from Sebastian Haffner's 1938 memoir, Defying Hitler -- Brian Eno recommended the book recently so I thought I'd give it a try. Haffner is a pseudonym for a young German lawyer (Referendar, basically a clerk in the courts system), from a professional class family, with centrist politics breaking against the Nazis (as opposed to the many centrists who broke the other way). From page 224:

Nationalism -- that is, national self-reflection and self-worship -- is certainly a dangerous mental illness wherever it appears, capable of distorting the character of a nation and making it ugly, just as vanity and egoism distort the character of a person and make it ugly.

I don't know which German word was translated as "self-reflection," but I imagine it has more to do with mirror-gazing than with any sort of mental self-scrutiny. Aside from that quibble, this is a pretty apt definition. I've often noted that political appeals to patriotism work mostly as flattery, as least for those who identify with the nation, and who use that identity to elevate themselves apart from others, who are easy then to characterize as enemies.

The paragraph continues:

In Germany this illness has a particularly vicious destructive effect, precisely because Germany's innermost character is openness, expansiveness, even in a certain sense selflessness. If other peoples suffer from nationalism it is an incidental weakness, beside which their true qualities can remain intact; but in Germany nationalism kills the basic values of the national character. That explains why the Germans -- doubtless a fine, sensitive and human people in healthy circumstances -- become positively inhuman when they succumb to the nationalist illness; they take on a brutal nastiness of which other peoples are incapable. Only the Germans lose everything through nationalism: the heart of their humanity, their existence, their selves. This illness, which damages only the external features of others, corrodes their souls. A nationalist Frenchman can still be a typical (and otherwise quite likable) Frenchman. A German who yields to nationalism is no longer a German. What he achieves is a German Empire, maybe even a Great or Pan-German Empire -- but also the destruction of Germany.

Haffner underestimates the pathology of nationalism in other countries, while failing to note that one thing that made German nationalism so ominous was that Germany was a large and powerful country that could invoke the memory of past empires. In small countries, nationalism may be equally distasteful, but it's more likely to assume a defensive crouch. (Nationalists in Ukraine may be as personally noxious as Russian nationalists, but the aggressor there is the one with size, power, and history.)

Haffner also credits Germans with more cosmopolitanism than seems warranted. As recently as 1918, Germany was a monarchy with a powerful military caste, a landed aristocracy, and an industrial and commercial autocracy, bent on imperial conquest. It shouldn't be surprising that many Germans who had bought into such delusions would seek out dynamic new leaders -- rather than admitting that the ideas themselves were rotten. (This was well before Britain and France were forced to abandon their overseas empires.)

On the other hand, you can plug "America" into this paragraph and it makes more sense. American history has its share of blemishes and warts, but what we remember fondly, what we most of us identify as distinctively American, has come from the left: ending slavery, expanding democracy, equal rights, free speech, opportunity for immigrants, freedom to develop and create and prosper -- things that the right has sought at every juncture to hinder. Take those things away, as America's self-identified nationalists want to do, and America will, like Germany in the Nazi years, become a bitter, hardened, hollow shell of itself.

It's unnerving to read this section the week the House Select Committee on January 6 chose to unveil their findings. The thing I find most disturbing isn't what happened at the time, but how Republicans (especially on Fox News) are reacting. However briefly, at the time many Republicans, including Congressional leaders Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell, instinctively sought to distance from the rioters and the inciters. But most of them have since reversed course, finding excuses first for Trump, eventually for the rioters. But what I heard after the Committee presentation was how many of them (especially on the Fox payroll) have adopted the rioters, most explicitly as martyrs to the Republican cause. While the insurrection was happening, I never for a moment doubted that it would be put down, that Congress would reconvene, and that the election results would be confirmed. My reasoning was simple: those were still things that the people believed in, regardless of the outcome. But seeing how so many Republicans have embraced both Trump's lies and the rioters' crimes, I'm less certain they will defend democracy next time around.

Back around the time GW Bush was reëlected in 2004 I bought a copy of Richard J Evans' The Coming of the Third Reich, figuring it was time to brush up on the signs of how a nation could come to embrace fascism. It's still on the shelf. Bush self-destructed shortly after the election. Initially, he decided to use his mandate to wreck Social Security, which I knew would backfire, due to technical obstacles built into its design, and also politically. His wars got worse, leading to sacking Rumsfeld and sidelining Cheney. Katrina hit, and suddenly a "heckuva job" wasn't enough. Congress went to the Democrats in 2006, ending any chance of going after Social Security. Then the banking system collapsed, and with it the economy. Bush finished his term with the lowest approval rating of any president ever.

While I never got to Evans' book, I did wind up reading Bejmanin Carter Hett's The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic, which covers the same ground in half as many pages (Haffner's corresponding section is less than half that long, but includes the now-familiar names). And I've read a good deal more specifically about the Nazis, as well as more broadly about fascism (e.g., Robert Paxton's The Anatomy of Fascism, which narrowly excludes "conservatives" like Francisco Franco, who are still fascists in my book).

As a leftist, I'm exceptionally sensitive to the slightest whiff of fascism, so points of similarity tend to resonate with me: each one implies the likelihood of others, and cumulatively they add up to a diagnosis. Still, it only matters if the insight scores political points. (We do still oppose fascists, don't we?) And most people are reluctant to use The F Word -- liberals because they're extra-careful to respect political differences, and conservatives because, well, it cuts too close to the bone. But with Trump and his fan base, we keep getting closer (e.g., see Zack Beauchamp: The January 6 hearings showed why it's reasonable to call Trump a fascist).

My considered view is that Trump is a Fascist, at least as long as he gets to be Der Führer/Il Duce, but America isn't ready for a Fascist dictatorship, and he isn't smart/skilled/driven enough to make it happen. On the other hand, the number of Americans who would welcome a Trump dictatorship has probably doubled in the last six years. That's scary, but still not a huge number. And while they have a lot of guns, Trump militia like the Proud Boys are a long ways from being able to terrorize "the left" like the SA did -- not least because the police and courts, bad as they are, are unlikely to roll over like their German equivalents. What Trump, like Hitler and Mussolini, does have up his sleeve is deep support from conservative elites, who thus far are right in their belief they can pull the puppet strings (at least where it matters, on taxes, regulation, and the courts). Hitler was especially ruthless where it came to consolidating power. Trump has no idea how to do that -- not that he wouldn't applaud giddily if someone slew his enemies.

In Trump's wake, there seems to be renewed interest in Richard Nixon, especially his conspiracy to cover up Watergate. For example, see: Woodward and Bernstein thought Nixon defined corruption. Then came Trump. If Trump seems worse than Nixon now, it's largely because Nixon (and Reagan and Bush-Cheney and dozens of lesser Republicans) set the bar so low. The concept behind Watergate was the exact same one that led Trump's staff to meet with Russians, and the dump of DNC emails was as damaging as anything they hoped to dig up at Watergate. The two were morally equivalent. Nixon and Trump shared several traits. Both lusted for power, and neither had any scruples about pursuing it. Both believed that as president they were above the law. (As Nixon put it, "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.") Both cultivated lists of enemies, and hurt themselves pursuing vengeance. Nixon broke new ground in raking in campaign money, and in manipulating the media. Trump followed suit, and probably topped him at both. (While Nixon seems to have been interested in money only for the power it could bring, Trump was after more money.) Nixon initiated the agenda of packing the Supreme Court, and Trump brought it to fruition. Nixon designed the reactionary political realignment (start from his "silent majority") which Trump kicked up to another level.

Trump left policy to his minions, who pursued corruption like never before, causing grave damage to the very concept of public service. Nixon was much more engaged, especially in foreign policy, where what he did was much worse. Nixon's escalation in Vietnam, and especially his "incursion" into Cambodia, were among the worst war crimes of the Post-WWII era. His coup in Chile was also murderous, just on a smaller scale, but forever a stain on America's reputation as a champion of democracy. Nixon still gets a lot of credit for his opening to China, but defense mandarins may be second-guessing him there. He was also responsible for promoting the regional power ambitions of countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia -- thinking both would be allies against the Soviet Union, they turned out to have their own agendas, with blowback.

Nixon also presided over the decision to ignore peak oil, replacing declining domestic oil production with imports, leading to the oil price shocks of the 1970s. One nearly immediate impact was that the trade surpluses the US had enjoyed for decades turned negative in 1970, never (so far, at least) returning. That produced a drag on the economy, and jump started the trend to ever greater inequality -- Republicans stoked this at every opportunity since, while Democrats did little to halt the trend. Longer term, Nixon's decision to keep gas cheap only accelerated today's climate crisis.

Finally, we should mention the one ridiculous piece of Nixon's foreign policy that Trump was especially suited for: the "madman theory," where the US tries to intimidate rivals by feigning insanity. Nixon was never quite insane enough to pull it off, although Reagan's careless rhetoric nearly did lead to a nuclear confrontation. But Trump was so volatile his military leaders went behind his back to reassure foreign leaders the US won't nuke them.


Speaking of Watergate, we've watched the first three episodes of the eight-episode Starz series Gaslit, which focuses on the turbulent marriage of Martha and John Mitchell (Julia Roberts and Sean Penn -- the latter under massive makeup, leaving only his grin and voice recognizable, and producing more cognitive dissonance by playing him as such a horndog), with major parts for John Dean (Dan Stevens, juggling his insecurity and scruples while pursuing his own romance) and G. Gordon Liddy (Shea Wigham, psychotic). They seem to be keeping their facts straight, while taking liberties with the characters -- mostly making them much funnier than you figured, and therefore much more interesting to watch. (Martha Kelly as Nixon secretary Rose Mary Woods is especially note-perfect. Brian Geraghty, who played a sociopathic kidnapper in The Big Sky, reprises that character as a "minder" assigned to keep Martha Mitchell from talking to the press.) We've started but never finished several recent series on recent political figures (Mrs. America, Impeachment: American Crime Story), but this one we are enjoying. Also note that historian Rick Perlstein is on board to keep the facts straight.

On the back story, this just appeared: Manuel Roig-Franzia: During Watergate, John Mitchell Left His Wife. She Called Bob Woodward.


Here are a few more links. I haven't made any effort to collect on the Jan. 6 hearings, or on Ukraine, nor do I have more to say about guns. (Breaking news is that some kind of deal has been made in the Senate, but that still doesn't guarantee passage.) I also avoided pieces on the economy, which are hard to sort out or make sense of. We seem to be stuck with more and more inflation, even if there's a recession, which Wall Street and the Fed seem to be in a race to trigger. Also nothing on elections (American, anyhow).

One gun story I don't have a link for -- it's in today's Wichita Eagle -- is Kris Kobach explaining how he gives his children "a chance to shoot a deer" once they turn 7. His preferred gun is the AR-15, because it's designed to minimize the kickback, making it easier for children to handle. He also likes the AR-15 for coyotes (probably because it improves the chances of hitting one without having to aim carefully). He doesn't describe this as hunting, and doesn't mention what they do with the carcass (assuming they hit something), so maybe they're just not very good shots. My father took us hunting, but we never held a gun until well into our teens, and then it was a single-shot bolt-action .22 rifle. He also had shotguns, and I shot them a few times later, but never liked hunting or target shooting. I'm reminded, though, of a story a few years back, when a small girl was given an Uzi at an Arizona shooting range, and lost control of the gun, killing her instructor. The story also notes that all three Republican candidates for KS Attorney General favor arming teachers. One is quoted about how "an armed society is a polite society." (I wonder what evidence they have. I haven't noticed many police becoming more polite once they realize a suspect is armed.) If elected, Kobach has vowed to target the ACLU, and to set up a whole task force dedicated to suing the Biden administration. He's nothing but a terrorist with a Harvard Law degree.

Jon Lee Anderson: [06-06] Can Chile's Young President Reimagine the Latin American Left?

Andrew Bacevich: [06-07] The F-Word (The Other One): Fascist, of course. I could have slipped this link in above inasmuch as the author offers his opinion (and several others) on whether Trump is a Fascist. ("My own inclination is to see him as a narcissistic fraud and swindler." Sure enough, and bad enough, don't you think?) But the bone he wants to pick is with Timothy Snyder: [05-19] We Should Say It. Russia Is Fascist. Snyder is a historian of 20th Century Eastern Europe, whose hatred for Nazi Germany is only matched by his loathing of Soviet Russia, leading him to identify strongly with anyone caught up in their savage machinery: Bloodlands is his big history book, but he's also written political tracts which try to defend liberal democracy against its modern foes, who are invariably rooted in the region's totalitarian past. In this, he's found that mapping his targets to Fascism is all it takes (QED), so that's what he does with Putin. On some level, this is more satisfying than the pundits who try to pigeonhole him as a Marxist (no evidence of that), the ghost of some Tsar (or Rasputin), or (more commonly) as a diehard KGB spook. No doubt Putin shares some traits with Fascists, but most are common to many right-wingers (nationalism, reactionary cultural tastes, a heavy hand defending the order), and few offer any insight into why Putin decided to invade Ukraine, or what he wants to achieve. Rather, the F-Word is a label which argues he needs to be stopped, because his aggression is insatiable. Bacevich is historian enough to debate the 1930s vs. now, but his reticence to use the F-Word may owe more to his wariness of getting caught into an inevitable war trap. Because in the end, war is what Snyder wants, and he wants it now, in Ukraine, against Putin, because he sees that conflict as some sort of cosmic struggle. ("If Russia wins in Ukraine, it won't just be the destruction of a democracy by force, though that is bad enough. It will be a demoralization for democracies everywhere.") Bacevich knows better than to give into that kind of ideological blackmail.

Jonathan Chait: [06-10] Republicans Respond to January 6 Hearings by Defending Trump: No remorse, no accountability. Probably much more like this. Probably more even worse. Trump's own: "January 6 was not simply a protest, it represented the greatest movement in the history of our country to Make America Great Again."

Jason Ditz: [06-10] Syria's Damascus Airport Shuttered After Major Israeli Attack.

Matt Ford: [06-08] The Supreme Court Keeps Chipping Away at Your Constitutional Rights. "What recourse do ordinary citizens have when federal agents violate their rights? After Wednesday, not much." Also on this, Ian Millhiser: [06-08] The Supreme Court gives lawsuit immunity to Border Patrol agents who violate the Constitution.

Sarah Jones: [06-09] Democrats Need a Vision. Fast. I meant to write more about this, but for now will merely note it. Also in this vein: Jason Linkins: [06-11] You Deserve the Good Life. Democrats Should Promise to Deliver It.

Ed Kilgore: [06-10] Rick Scott Backtracks, But His Plan Is Still Ultra-MAGA Madness: I only note this because I wrote a long critique of Scott's manifesto, in case I want to update it later. The main change seems to be an attempt to dodge the charge that he wants to raise income taxes, but he's made up for it by finding new ways to demean poor folk.

Markos Kounalakis: [06-09] The US Should Recognize Belarus's Government in Exile: Why? Because Putin isn't paranoid enough about US intentions on his border? (Or as the author puts it: "Recognizing Tikhanovskaya's government in exile would force Russia to worry about its western flank as it attacks eastern Ukraine.") Author also wants "to designate Russia a state sponsor of terror (SST)." The net effect would be to add insult to injury, making it even harder to negotiate peace. But the general principle just underscores how arrogant the US is in believing it has the right to pass judgment on who represents other countries.

William LeoGrande: [06-10] Biden's 'Summit of the Americas' showcases failed Cold War worldview: In excluding Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, another example of the US presuming it has the right to pass judgment on the political choices of other countries. Also Rosa Elizalde: [06-10] Storms at the Summit of the Americas.

Edna Mohamed: [03-25] Lowkey says he will 'not be silenced on Palestine' after push to remove him from Spotify: I've had this tab open for quite a while, meaning to check him out. Finally did last week (he's still on Spotify, also Napster), and will have reviews tomorrow. For whatever it's worth, "Long Live Palestine" is a small part of his repertoire -- at least compared to neoliberalism, or war in Iraq. (He was born in London, but his mother came from Iraq.)

Nick Parker/Bryan Pietsch: [06-12] 31 tied to hate group charged with planning riot near LGBTQ event in Idaho.

Christian Paz: [06-11] Can blaming corporate greed save Democrats on inflation? Let's concede that as far as 2022 is concerned, inflation is a political issue of some import. What Democrats need to be able to do is argue that they can deal with it better (for most people) than Republicans can, and corporate greed is an issue that should break their way, and is worth hitting on otherwise. Where Biden is most responsible for inflation is for letting the Russia-Ukraine War drag on, which is constricting the world market for food and fuel. I don't expect people to grasp that point, but peace could make a dramatic change in two of the most obvious categories.

Jeffrey St Clair: [06-10] Roaming Charges: The Politics of Limbo.

Robert Wright: [06-12] A case study in American propaganda: The Institute for the Study of War (aka the Kagan Industrial Complex).

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Music Week

Expanded blog post, June archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 60 albums, 7 A-list,

Music: Current count 38065 [38015] rated (+50), 107 [107] unrated (-0).

Added a link to yesterday's Speaking of Which moments after posting. It's to an Alex Pareene post, What Do Cops Do?, which referred back to an Alexander Sammon piece I had already commented on (Why Are Police So Bad at Their Jobs?). I had to slip the PS inline because at the end of the paragraph I segued to another Sammon piece, then to three more pieces by Charles P Pierce. This last part should have been broken out into a separate entry, as the subject changed to the relentless scheming that Republicans practice to steal elections. I didn't break it out because I came to the pieces late, but also because also because this is stuff I've been following and commenting on for decades. Pierce's "Ratf*cking" pretty explicitly invokes David Daley's 2016 gerrymandering book, Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy. But in its cynically anti-democratic soul, it goes back at least as far as Nixon's plumbers, which I got an early glimpse into back in 1969, when I read Joe McGinniss: The Selling of the President 1968.

But back to the Pareene piece. He argues that most failures in policing can be explained by a simple rule of thumb: "They do what's easy, and avoid what is difficult." He gives various examples. He cites a study showing that when we hire more police, they arrest more people for misdemeanors ("that is, the unimportant shit"). He concludes: "It's easier to arrest a fifth grader than it is to save one's life. It is far easier to do 'crowd control' -- to restrain a panicking parent, perhaps -- than it is to enter a room currently occupied by a psycho with a semiautomatic rifle."

I don't cite Pierce often enough, but that's mostly because he posts lots of short pieces that can be redundant to the longer ones I tend to cite. However, if you don't have time to shop around, and are especially interested in the pathological (i.e., Republican) side of electoral politics, he covers a lot of ground, and offers a good summary of what's recent. Another blog I recommend for much the same reason is No More Mister Nice Blog. The main guy there signs his pieces Steve M., which I'm a bit subconscious about citing, but he has a keen eye for Republican pathology, and a healthy scepticism about how well Democrats deal with such problems. If all you follow is those two blogs, you'll be pretty well informed.

Not much on Ukraine yesterday, but I want to add one thought. It's not terribly surprising that Russia botched their invasion, and it's been gratifying to see how effective Ukrainians have been at countering the offensive. But that shouldn't blind you to the critically important truth, which is that Russia has a huge margin of strategic depth: it has a much bigger economy, has a lot more soldiers it can deploy, and has a base which is safe and secure from reprisals or subversion. While it's possible that Putin et al. will decide the war isn't worth it, it's more likely that they will keep trying different things until they come up with something that works. I'm reminded here of the US Civil War, which was little short of a disaster for the North at first, but Lincoln kept shuffling his generals until he came up with ones who were effective, ones who could leverage the Union's huge strategic advantages, and turn the war in their favor. Russia seems to be doing that recently, picking up small patches of ground, expensively but inexorably. Earlier, this prospect made me think that it was important to negotiate a fair end sooner rather than later. Now, I see it as more urgent than ever. A piece I recommended yesterday stands out: Ross Barkan: The War in Ukraine Can Be Over If the U.S. Wants It. But the title reminds me that a good many other wars could also be over if the U.S. was so inclined.

Fifth straight Speaking of Which. I still don't want to make a weekly practice of it, but hit a mental dead spot last week when I couldn't think of anything better to do. Had an urgent home repair to do today, and it wound up taking three hours instead of the 15-20 minutes it should have. Moreover, I'm beginning to think I should redo it before long. Much else is proving frustrating. Got some medical anxiety this week, so I don't really see clear sailing ahead.


Another fairly big ratings week. Pulled a lot of records off the upper reaches of the metacritic list, but they are often ones that I wouldn't have bothered with otherwise, and they seem to be falling into perhaps-too-easy piles: the better ones at B+(**) (12 this week), the not-so-great ones at B+(*) (16), with the also-rans at B (5), and nothing lower (not that further exposure wouldn't have turned me vicious; I just didn't bother trying to figure out where). I continue to have mixed feelings about the Ezz-Thetics reissues: Don Cherry's Where Is Brooklyn? and John Coltrane's live A Love Supreme were previous A- albums, and that hasn't hanged. The extras neither help nor hurt, which makes them redundant, but should I grade down for that? I was struck by how much I preferred the Antibes concert to the much-hyped Seattle one that appeared (and swept the Jazz Critics Poll) last year.

Christian Iszchak has been writing annotated monthly listening reports since January, but his entry for May switched to a Consumer Guide format, the best new example of such I've seen since Michael Tatum's Downloader's Diary. I discovered the Wiz Khalifa album there.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Bad Bad Hats: Walkman (2021, Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(*)
  • Band of Horses: Things Are Great (2022, BMG): [r]: B+(*)
  • Nat Birchall: Afro Trane (2022, Ancient Archive of Sound): [bc]: A-
  • Kaitlin Butts: What Else Can She Do (2022, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
  • Daniel Carter/Evan Strauss/5-Track/Sheridan Riley: The Uproar in Bursts of Sound and Silence (2018-21 [2022], 577): [cd]: B+(***) [08-25]
  • Cypress Hill: Back in Black (2022, MNRK): [r]: B+(**)
  • Destroyer: Labyrinthitis (2022, Merge): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dubstar: Two (2022, Northern Writes): [r]: B+(*)
  • Steve Earle & the Dukes: Jerry Jeff (2022, New West): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ebi Soda: Honk If You're Sad (2022, Tru Thoughts): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Tord Gustavsen Trio: Opening (2021 [2022], ECM): [r]: B+(*)
  • Hatchie: Giving the World Away (2022, Secretly Canadian): [r]: B+(**)
  • Horsegirl: Versions of Modern Performance (2022, Matador): [r]: B+(*)
  • Christopher Jacob: New Jazz Standards Vol. 5: The Music of Carl Saunders (2021 [2022], Summit): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Just Mustard: Heart Under (2022, Partisan): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Wiz Khalifa/Big KRIT/Smoke DZA/Girl Talk: Full Court Press (2022, Asylum/Taylor Gang): [r]: A-
  • Azar Lawrence: New Sky (2021 [2022], Trazar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Lyle Lovett: 12th of June (2022, Verve): [r]: B+(**)
  • Nduduzo Makhathini: In the Spirit of Ntu (2022, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
  • Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra: In the Valley (2019 [2022], Stricker Street): [cd]: B+(*) [07-01]
  • Angel Olsen: Big Time (2022, Jagjaguwar): [r]: B+(*)
  • Kelly Lee Owens: LP.8 (2022, Smalltown Supersound): [r]: B
  • Tess Parks: And Those Who Were Seen Dancing (2022, Fuzz Club): [r]: B+(***)
  • Sean Paul: Scorcha (2022, Island): [r]: B+(**)
  • Pkew Pkew Pkew: Open Bar (2022, Dine Alone): [bc]: B+(*)
  • PUP: The Unraveling of PUPTheBand (2022, Rise/BG): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Rempis/Joshua Abrams/Avreeayl Ra + Jim Baker: Scylla (2021 [2022], Aerophonic): [cd]: A-
  • Alma Russ: Fool's Gold (2022, self-released): [r]: B+(**)
  • Scalping: Void (2022, Houndstooth): [r]: B+(**)
  • Louis Sclavis: Les Cadences Du Monde (2021 [2022], JMS Productions): [sp]: A-
  • Shabaka: Afrikan Culture (2022, Impulse, EP): [sp]: B
  • Shamir: Heterosexuality (2022, AntiFragile): [r]: B+(*)
  • Elza Soares: Elza Ao Vivo No Municipal (2022, Deck): [r]: A-
  • Sonic Liberation Front and the Sonic Liberation Singers: Justice: The Vocal Works of Oliver Lake (2021 [2022], High Two): [cd]: B+(***) [06-10]
  • Caroline Spence: True North (2022, Rounder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carl Stone: Wat Dong Moon Lek (2022, Unseen Worlds): [bc]: B
  • Oded Tzur: Isabela (2021 [2022], ECM): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eddie Vedder: Earthling (2022, Seattle Surf/Republic): [r]: B
  • Anna Von Hausswolff: Live at Montreux Jazz Festival (2018 [2022], Southern Lord): [r]: B
  • Dallas Wayne: Coldwater, Tennessee (2022, Audium/BFD): [r]: B+(*)
  • John Yao's Triceratops: Off-Kilter (2018 [2022], See Tao): [cd]: [06-10]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • Albert Ayler Quartet With Don Cherry: European Recordings Autumn 1964 Revisited (1964 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): [r]: B+(***)
  • Don Cherry: Where Is Brooklyn? & Eternal Rhythm Revisited (1966-68 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-
  • John Coltrane: Favorites [Naima/My Favorite Things/A Love Supreme] Revisited (1963-65 [2022], Ezz-Thetics): [bc]: A-
  • Los Golden Boys: Cumbia De Juventud (1964-69 [2022], Mississippi): [bc]: B+(***)

Old music:

  • Eddie Bo: Check Mr. Popeye (1959-62 [1988], Rounder): [r]: B+(**)
  • Maggie Brown: Maggie Brown (2004, Riverwide): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Alma Russ: Next Town (2020, self-released): [r]: B+(*)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Hugo Fernandez: Ozean (Origin) [06-17]
  • Honolulu Jazz Quartet: Straight Ahead: The Honolulu Jazz Quartet Turns 20 (HJQ) [05-20]
  • George Lernis: Between Two Worlds (Dunya) [06-10]
  • Dmitri Matheny: Cascadia (Origin) [06-17]
  • Ben Morris: Pocket Guides (OA2) [06-17]
  • Alexander Smalls: Let Us Break Bread Together (Outside In Music) [06-10]
  • Spanish Harlem Orchestra: Imágenes Latinas (Ovation) [05-20]
  • Grant Stewart Quartet With Bruce Harris: The Lighting of the Lamps (Cellar) [06-17]

Monday, June 06, 2022

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

I started today reading this tweet by John Cardillo:

If we removed every Democrat from politics today we'd be the freest, strongest, safest, healthiest, wealthiest, fastest growing, and most stable powerful nation the world has ever known.

Our cities and the world at large would be peaceful and prosperous.

Leftists are a cancer.

The happiest edit would just be to just swap in "Republicans" for "Democrats" and "fascists" for "leftists," but that's not quite right. If you got rid of all of the Republicans in Congress, you'd still pitched debates over most important issues. You'd still have a long list of legacy problems, which Democrats would approach with different plans and urgencies, but at least most Democrats are able to admit when a problem exists, and to entertain the possibility of different solutions. Still, few Democrats would make that edit. All democracies have legitimate opposition parties. Wanting to purge one is an attack not just on that party but on democracy itself.

Still, it's hard to see how this Republican omnipotence could work. First, how could you arrive at it other than by excluding most of the people Republicans hate? Then wouldn't you have to convince the people you've excluded to not resist, either by resigning themselves to be ruled over by people who hate them, or by incarcerating or killing them.

Then there's the matter of whether Republican policies, given a free hand to implement them, actually do the things the tweet claims. For instance, if more guns made us safer, wouldn't the US already be the safest country in the world by now? Republicans are opposed to pretty much any reform of the private health care system, which is unique in the world and a long ways from making us the healthiest nation. And we've seen repeatedly that economic growth increases when Democrats have more power, not less. Maybe there's some wiggle room Republicans can claim definitions of "freest" and "strongest," but I can think of lots of ways we are neither. Conservatives tend to view life as a zero-sum game, so they expect their freedom, wealth, etc., to come at someone else's expense. And while you may expect that the superlatives touted in the first line should apply to everyone, conservatives only care for peak values, as their primary concern is social hierarchy.

I also don't get the cancer analogy. Despite my quip above, I don't see fascism as a cancer either. Cancer is a disease that eats you out from the inside. Racism is more like a cancer. Inequality too. Capitalism can be like a cancer if you don't keep it in check. One could say the same thing of bureaucratic government. But isn't fascism an external attack on the body, like bedbugs or bubonic plague? Sure, the left has on occasion tried to lead revolutions against entrenched orders that ruled through violent repression, but self-identified socialists have mostly been mild reformers -- and these days there is hardly other kind. The term simply means that we value an equitable society above the individual pursuit of wealth and power. (Republicans like to condemn the much broader class of all Democrats as socialists, by which time the term has lost all meaning. The term seems to have some cachet given their past success with red-baiting.)

But I suppose there is one reason conservatives may view socialism as cancerous rather than simply an external threat: socialists insist that it is possible to change social and economic relations, and that idea is corrosive to the principle that social hierarchy is natural and necessary to good order. As with religious dogmas, the first instinct is not to reason with them but to stamp them out. Further proof of this is how right-wingers have increasingly attacked reason and science to keep their followers from doubting their orders.


Maggie Astor: [05-31] Trump Policies Sent US Tumbling in a Climate Ranking: As you may recall, The Trump Administration Rolled Back More Than 100 Environmental Rules. The full impact of those changes accrues over much longer timespans, and in many cases may be irreversible. This includes some (but not all) of what amounted to a war against the very idea of climate change, and the science behind it. Trump also sent a powerful message to the rest of the world not to take climate change seriously, so although the US fell more than most nations in this ranking, the effect extended far beyond US boundaries (as should be expected, given that air flow is global). Economics recognizes what are called opportunity costs: losses that are incurred indirectly, when comparing how resources could have been used better than they were. Especially in the climate domain, it is likely that opportunity costs will swamp the actual damage Trump caused (which is itself a huge burden). For a primer on opportunity costs, see John Quiggin's book Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work So Well, and Why They Can Fail So Badly -- the title refers to Henry Hazlitt's famous Economics in One Lesson, the second lesson that Hazlitt missed being the impact of opportunity costs. Speaking of Quiggin, relevant here is his post on Climate change after the pandemic. Also on climate change:

Ross Barkan: [06-01] The War in Ukraine Can Be Over If the US Wants It: It must have seemed deliciously ironic to start this piece with two nonogenarians from opposite ends of the political spectrum agreeing on the most eminently practical path to ending the war: in particular, the need to give Putin a face-saving exit path, by ceding Ukrainian claims to Donbas and Crimea (preferably with some sort of referendum that makes the concessions look like self-determination -- Zelensky and Biden also need a face-saving exit path). Many observers, including Anatol Lieven and Fred Kaplan, have settled on this basic compromise, as I have myself. Barkan's additional point here is also right: US arms and economic support for Ukraine should be tied to a desire and willingness to negotiate an end to the war. "Diplomacy is not appeasement. It is the only way out."

Philip Bump: [05-31] What if -- and bear with me here -- John Durham doesn't have the goods? Bump also wrote [06-01] A brief history of failed efforts to make Trump the Russia probe's victim. The special counsel has been investigating the tip that led the FBI to look at possible collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia about twice as long as Robert Mueller took to investigate Russia's electioneering, the various actual contacts made between Trump's people and various Russians, and the sundry attempts to cover up what did or did not happen, during which time he not only wrote a report but also obtained dozens of indictments and a fair number of convictions (many subsequently pardoned by Trump). Durham has brought one charge against a former Clinton lawyer, Michael Sussmann, who was acquitted last week. Bump may be giving Durham more credit than he deserves, but does a good job of summing up I'd be more tempted to describe as Bill Barr's parting effort to piss on the incoming Biden administration. (One thing Republicans understand is how much fun you can have investigating the opposition, which is also why they've fought efforts to investigate them, from Mueller to the Jan. 6 committee, so doggedly.) Of course, the story doesn't end with Durham's failures. He did what he was supposed to do, which is to generate some flak that will be taken as gospel by whoever still has an axe to grind over "the Russiagate hoax" -- Trump-lovers, sure, but especially Hillary-haters. For example, see Peter Van Buren: [05-30] Hillary Was In on Russiagate. Matt Taibbi probably has a whole file on this theme.

I've been pretty critical of Hillary, but don't have the interest or inclination to be a hater. I don't doubt the fact of Russian interference in the 2016 election. I think it was a dumb move on Putin's part, but he was probably right that Hillary would be more aggressive in sanctioning and marginalizing Russia. (She was, after all, Secretary of State under Obama when US Russia policy started to change.) He was also right that Trump's vanity, bigotry, and corruption could be played, but didn't get much out of it, given that Trump never cared enough to wrestle foreign policy from the neocons who've dominated it the last 20-30 years. (He might have had a better chance had he managed to keep Bannon and Flynn, who were among the Blob's first victims in his advisers.) But he was wrong in thinking nobody would notice or care. When Trump won, Clinton's fan club rushed to distribute blame elsewhere, and Putin was the easiest possible villain. Too easy.

I've resisted the "Russiagate" tide since its inception, not because I thought it was a hoax, but because it fed into two degenerate trends. First, it distracted from looking at other reasons Clinton lost, most importantly the piss-poor record New Democrats -- including Obama, who stocked his administration with so many he might as well have been a charter member -- had accumulated. And second, because it made conflict and possibly war with Russia much more likely (QED Ukraine). Also:

Kate Kelly/David D Kirkpatrick: House Panel Examining Jared Kushner Over Saudi Investment in New Firm: This kind of corruption was what I expected them to start investigating after the 2018 wins, and step up as new stories of payback and payouts emerge. We're talking $2 billion here, you know.

John E King: [05-28] Joan Robinson Changed the Way We Think About Capitalism. Profile of the path-breaking economist (1903-83), who collaborated with Keynes while keeping alive a connection to Marx, argues her "creative and heterodox thinking has much to offer us."

Sarah Jones: [06-04] White Christian Nationalism 'Is a Fundamental Threat to Democracy': Interview with Philip S Gorski and Samuel L Perry, authors of The Flag and the Cross: White Christian Nationalism and the Threat to American Democracy. Chris Hedges covered much of this same ground in his 2007 book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America, although as a minister Hedges is more insistent on separating religion from fascism. I'm sympathetic to his position, but not committed: it seems to me that "white Christian nationalists" are fascists first and foremost, their religion not so much telling them what to do as reassuring them that their prejudices are right and just, that they are impervious to critics, who are by definition not just wrong but evil. Jones also wrote: [06-03] Little Martyrs: A nihilistic religion worships the gun.

Júlia Ledur/Kate Rabinowitz: [06-02] There have been over 200 mass shootings so far in 2022. The actual number in the article is 232, which is actually down a bit from 240 at this point in 2021, but way above any previous year (155 in 2020). The killing of four people in Tulsa was the 20th since the much more publicized killing of 19 children an two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. I get the problem, and would like to see something done about it, but I don't see how Biden urges Congress to act on guns in rare prime-time address helps politically. It just reinforces the Democrats want to take your guns away and leave you defenseless as they take over the country and brainwash everyone to adopt their wokeness -- never mind that that's not even remotely in the cards, let alone that it doesn't make any fucking sense. Guns and crime (and make no mistake: guns are a big part of the crime problem) are a problem, but not a top-five, maybe not a top-ten problem (just off the top of my head: inequality, war, climate, political corruption, pollution, racism, personal debt, bad health care, bad education, crumbling infrastructure, rampant fraud and deceit, disinformation (maybe move that one up), worker powerlessness (maybe move that one up, too), the imminent loss of the right to birth control, whatever the term is for the fact that one political party has totally lost its grip on reality. Of course, these problems all intersect, and guns makes many of them worse: the Buffalo shooting was white supremacy, the Tulsa one was about health care, I don't know what Uvalde was about (beyond blood lust; you could say mental illness, but it would be easier to get rid of the guns). More on guns, shootings, etc.:

Alexander Sammon: [06-02] Why Are Police So Bad at Their Jobs? "It's not just Uvalde. Cops nationwide can't stop crimes from happening or solve them once they've occurred." Seems like a good question, although the answer is unlikely to be obvious or simple -- and once that touches on many interests and prejudices. I'm less bothered by "can't stop crimes from happening" -- not a job anyone can reliably do -- than "solve them once they've occurred" (maybe we're too hooked on the brilliant sleuths of tv?). But just for an example, following a near-dozen shootings here in Wichita over Memorial Day weekend, the police chief was arguing for more money to pay more overtime to put more police on the streets. How can that possibly result in less gunplay? Back when a few people started talking about "defund the police," they actually had some serious ideas about employing other people to address a broader number of social problems, instead of dumping all those cases on police to sort out. But few people heard those ideas. The more common reaction was to superfund the police, giving them more tools of war. Uvalde is likely to wind up as a case example of how that kind of thinking fails. [PS: See Alex Pareene: [06-02] What Do Cops Do?] Sammon also wrote: The RNC's Ground Game of Inches: "Inside the secretive, dubious, and extremely offline attempt to convert minorities into Republicans." Once you've decided the key to successful campaigns is trickery, never miss one." Also on the Republican ground game, Charles P Pierce: [06-01] They're Ratf*cking at Every Level. They're Ratf*cking in Every Direction. Also [06-02] Republicans Have Secured Their Gerryanders Through a War of Institutioal Attrition. Also, a reminder of what happens when they cheat their way into power: [06-02] You'll Be Shocked to Learn Trump's Social Security Bigwigs Immiserated Poor and Disabled People.

Jeffrey St Clair: [06-03] Roaming Charges: Tears of Rage, Tears of Grief. Quotes a David Axelrod tweet on how "The inexplicable, heart-wrenching delay in Uvalde underscores the indispensable role of police." St Clair adds: "Every police atrocity -- either by actions (Floyd, Taylor, Brown), negligence or incompetence -- will inevitably be used as a justification for more police power." He also quotes Brendan Behan: "I have never seen a situation so dismal that a policeman couldn't make it worse."

Emily Stewart: [06-02] Might I suggest not listening to famous people about money? Why, indeed, listen to celebrities about anything they're obviously being paid to endorse?

David Wight: [05-31] How the Nixon Doctrine blew up the Persian Gulf, undermined US security: He's specifically referring to the bit where Nixon and Kissinger decided to recruit regional powers with the latest US weapons, thinking they might provide a proxy barrier against the Soviet Union after the American fiasco in Vietnam. Two main recruits were Iran (still under the once-pliant but then megalomaniacal Shah) and Saudi Arabia (just starting its campaign to spread Wahhabism to would-be Jihadis). What could go wrong? What didn't? Both undertook their own agendas, which after the revolution in 1979 clashed. Iran has ever since been regarded as a hopeless enemy, although the Saudis and their followers have actually done more material damage to the US. The obvious lesson is that the US always thinks it can control its proxies, but never can. The most wayward offender is Israel, which not only enjoys carte blanche from America, but actively undermines the American political sphere.


May 2022