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Monday, February 27, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (final).

Tweet: Music Week: 42 albums, 8 A-list,

Music: Current count 39680 [39638] rated (+42), 40 [42] unrated (-2: 12 new, 28 old).

I'm growing weary of writing about music, so I'll let these reviews post without introduction. As you can see, I'm still enjoying what I listen to for background, even if my engagement is more limited, and the notes more cryptic.

On the other hand, I put quite a bit of effort into yesterday's Speaking of Which, and I've added a couple more notes today. A cursory glance at the news today shows a torrent of demented thinking. Just in the New York Times, ranging from Damon Linker: My Fellow Liberals Are Exaggerating the Dangers of Ron DeSantis (it "almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump"; my emphasis on his slender thread of hope; but note that he's still upset that LBJ "exaggerated" Goldwater's inclination toward nuclear annihilation with the 1964 "daisy ad"; Goldwater never aired a comparable scare ad about how Johnson would lead us into a quagmire in Vietnam, because he was totally on board with escalating the war there), to Ross Babbage: A War With China Would Be Unlike Anything Americans Faced Before (he wants us to rise to the challenge, largely by obscuring what the real risks may be; 20 years ago Chalmers Johnson explained how easily an adversary like China could destroy America's satellite capability, which is useful for GPS and phone calls, but essential for targeting advanced weapons, and that's just one example Babbage doesn't think to consider).

I will note that I've cached a frozen copy of my 2022 list. The latter will still be updated, at least through the end of 2023, as I find more things, but I haven't been looking very hard of late. The EOY jazz and non-jazz lists will also be updated as needed, but perhaps not that long. Also got my indexing for February Streamnotes out of the way.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Don Aliquo: Growth (2022 [2023], Ear Up): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Iris DeMent: Working on a World (2023, Flariella): [sp]: A-
  • Margherita Fava: Tatatu (2022 [2023], self-released): [cd]: A- [03-10]
  • Thomas Heberer/Ken Filiano/Phil Haynes: Spontaneous Composition (Corner Store Music '22): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (2022 [2023], Soul Song): [cdr]: B+(***) [03-03]
  • Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (2023, Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B+(*)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

None.

Old music:

  • Iris DeMent: The Trackless Woods (2015, Flariella): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Lionel Hampton: Ring Dem Bells [Bluebird's Best] (1937-40 [2002], RCA Bluebird): [sp]: A-
  • Lionel Hampton: Vol. 2: The Jumpin' Jive: The All-Star Groups: 1937-39 (1937-39 [1990], RCA Bluebird): [sp]: A-
  • Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra: Midnight Sun: The Original American Decca Recordings (1946-47 [1993], MCA): [r]: B+(**)
  • George Haslam: Duos East West (1997 [1998], Slam): [sp]: B+(***)
  • George Haslam/Paul Hession: Pendle Hawk Carapace (2002, Slam): [sp]: B+(**)
  • George Haslam/Borah Bergman/Paul Hession: The Mahout (2003 [2004], Slam): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jon Hazilla Trio: Tiny Capers (2001, Double-Time): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton (1989 [1993], Jazz Haus Musik): [bc]: B+(***)
  • Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: What a Wonderful World (2001 [2002], Jazz Haus Musik): [bc]: B+(**)
  • Peter Herborn: Large One (1997 [1998], Jazzline): [sp]: B+(**)
  • John Hicks: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Seven (1990 [1991], Concord): [sp]: B+(***)
  • John Hicks: Impressions of Mary Lou (1998 [2000], HighNote): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Andrew Hill: Grass Roots (1968, Blue Note): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Hill: Grass Roots [Connoisseur Series] (1968 [2000], Blue Note): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice (1969 [1970], Blue Note): [r]: B
  • Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice [Connoisseur Series] (1969-70 [2001], Blue Note): [r]: B-
  • Andrew Hill Trio: Invitation (1974 [1992], SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Andrew Hill: Spiral (1974-75 [1975], Arista/Freedom): [r]: A-
  • Andrew Hill: Divine Revelation (1975 [1994], SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Andrew Hill Trio: Strange Serenade (1980, Soul Note): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Andrew Hill: Faces of Hope (1980, Soul Note): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Dave Holland Quintet: Points of View (1997 [1998], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Holland Quintet: Not for Nothin' (2000 [2001], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Yuri Honing: Seven (2001, Jazz in Motion/Challenge): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Elmo Hope Ensemble: Sounds From Rikers Island (1963 [2003], Fresh Sound): [r]: B+(***)
  • Shirley Horn: May the Music Never End (2003, Verve): [sp]: A-
  • Wayne Horvitz: 4 + 1 Ensemble (1998, Intuition): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Dick Hyman & John Sheridan: Forgotten Dreams: Archives of Novelty Piano (1920's-1930's) (2001 [2002], Arbors): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Yarona (1995, Tiptoe): [sp]: A-
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: Cape Town Flowers (1997, Tiptoe): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Bobby Marchan: There's Something on Your Mind: The Greatest Hits (1960-72 [2014], Fuel 2000): [sp]: B+(**)
  • The New York Allstars: Oh, Yeah! The New York Allstars Play More Music of Louis Armstrong (1998, Nagel Heyer): [sp]: B+(***)
  • The New York Allstars: Hey-Ba-Ba-Re-Bop: The New York Allstars Play Lionel Hampton: Volume One (1998 [1999], Nagel Heyer): [r]: A-
  • Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time (1957-58 [1959], Ace): [sp]: A-
  • Huey "Piano" Smith: That'll Get It: Even More of the Best ([1999], Westside): [sp]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Sara Caswell: The Way to You (Anzic) [03-03]
  • Mark Feldman/Dave Rempis/Tim Daisy: Sirocco (Aerophonic) [04-28]

Daily Log

Phil Freeman posted the "My Fellow Liberals" article on Facebook, with the comment:

All these "really, must you be so *shrill* when screaming about incipient fascism" essays should end with the line, "Of course, I'll be fine no matter what happens."

I added this comment:

The Times op-ed section love running stuff like this (e.g., I remember their "Brett Kavanaugh isn't so bad" piece). Still, you'd think they could find a more convincing argument than that DeSantis "almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump" (love how the editor inserted "Mr." but let the rest slide). And his example of Democrats exaggerating the dangers of their opponents is LBJ's "daisy ad" against Goldwater? LBJ was pretty awful, but I'm still glad we didn't have to experience Goldwater being president while Vietnam went sideways. It's not obvious to me that the assertion that Goldwater might have used nuclear weapons is very far off base, given a pretty well established track record of always favoring the most hawkish option.

I tossed out this comment on EW, response to a question about import albums omitted from Christgau's CG 70s book:

I've wanted to sift through the ACN and add to the CG database notes on albums that never got proper reviews, but never found the time. I recall a favorable reference to Ronnie Lane's "One for the Road" -- one of the 1970s' best albums. I don't recall any mention of Brinsley Schwarz's "New Favourites," but that's another one.

Joe Yanosik responded with his own efforts to read Christgau's tea leaves:

That would be awesome. Of course, I maintain those "recommended but ungraded" album titles in my database and have grubbed grades on most of them over the years. Recycables, for example:

  • Elmore James: Shake Your Moneymaker: The Best of the Fire Sessions (Buddah) A
  • Elmore James: Blues Kingpins (Virgin) A-
  • Alan Jackson: Greatest Hits Volume II (Arista) A-
  • George Strait: 50 Number Ones (MCA Nashville) (Not an A record)
  • Merle Haggard: The Essential Merle Haggard: The Epic Years (Epic/Legacy) A-
  • The Animals: Retrospective (Abkco) Unknown
  • Roky Erickson: I Have Always Been Here Before: The Roky Erickson Anthology (Shout! Factory) Unknown but likely NOT an A record
  • Bert Williams - all those Archeophone CDs - (None are A records)
  • Macy Gray: The Very Best of Macy Gray (Epic) A-
  • Blind Willie McTell: Statesboro Blues (Bluebird/BMG Heritage) (Not an A record)
  • Blind Willie McTell: The Early Years 1927-1933 (Yazoo) A- or A
  • Digital Underground: Playwutchyalike: The Best of Digital Underground (Tommy Boy/Rhino) (Not an A record)
  • Bruce Cockburn: Anything Anytime Anywhere: Singles 1979-2002 (Rounder) (unknown)
  • Phoebe Snow: The Very Best of Phoebe Snow (Columbia/Legacy) A-
  • Buddy Guy & Junior Wells: Play the Blues (Rhino Handmade) A-
  • T-Bone Walker: The Best of the Black & White and Imperial Years (Metro Blue) (not an A record)
  • Burning Spear: The Best of Burning Spear: 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection (Island) A
  • Count Basie and His Orchestra: America's #1 Band: The Columbia Years (Columbia/Legacy) A-
  • Now That's Chicago! (Legacy) A
  • Dwight Yoakam: The Very Best of Dwight Yoakam (Reprise/Rhino) A
  • Waylon Jennings: Ultimate Waylon Jennings (RCA Nashville/BMG Heritage) A
  • Joan Armatrading: Love and Affection: Classics (1975-1983) (A&M) (unknown)
  • Fats Waller: The Centennial Collection (Bluebird) (Not an A record)
  • Harry Belafonte: The Essential Harry Belafonte (Legacy) (Not an A record)
  • Pete Seeger: The Essential Pete Seeger (Legacy) (Not an A record)
  • Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time With Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: The Very Best of, Volume 1 (Westside) A-
  • The Dirty Dozen Brass Band: This Is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band Collection (Shout! Factory) (unknown)
  • For Jumpers Only! (Delmark) (Unknown but likely NOT an A record)
  • The Sound of the City: Memphis (EMI) A-
  • Memphis Celebrates 50 Years of Rock & Roll (BMG) (unknown but likely an A record)
  • Mystikal: Prince of the South...The Hits (Jive/Zomba) (unknown but likely an A record)
  • Ol' Dirty Bastard: The Definitive Ol' Dirty Bastard Story (Elektra/Rhino) (unknown)
  • Sarah Vaughan: Love Songs (Columbia/Legacy) (not an A record)
  • Santana: The Essential Santana (Legacy) (unknown)
  • Earth Wind & Fire: The Essential Earth Wind & Fire (Legacy) A- or A
  • The Jesus and Mary Chain: 21 Singles 1984-1998 (Warner Bros/Rhino) A-
  • A Flock of Seagulls: Platinum and Gold Collection (RCA) A-
  • Lightnin' Hopkins: Blues Kingpins (Virgin) A-
  • Roxy Music: The Early Years (Virgin) (unknown)
  • The Move: Great Move! The Best of the Move A-
  • Slade: Get Yer Boots On: The Best of Slade (not an A record)
  • Bill Doggett: The Very Best of Bill Doggett: Honky Tonk (Collectables) (choice cuts)
  • Yo La Tengo: Prisoners of Love (Matador) A for the 2-CD version only, not 3-CD
  • Neil Young: Greatest Hits (Reprise) A- or A
  • Youssou N'Dour: 7 Seconds: The Best of Youssou NDour (Columbia/Legacy) (not an A record)
  • Youssou N'Dour & Le Super Etoile: Le Grand Bal Bercy 2001 Vol. 2 (unknown)

Discussion moved on to the Move, so I added:

Since you mentioned the Move, back in the early 1970s, when I finally had enough money to shop for quality stereo equipment, I used to bring a copy of "The Best of the Move" with me to stores, and insisted that they play "Brontosaurus." I wanted to hear all that bass, but also that super treble break.

Note that Cliff Ocheltree recommended "my favorite issue (reissue?) of 2021": Brinsley Schwarz: Live on the Road: 1974-1975, a 4-CD box on Wasabi (Amazon for $58.65, which gave me pause).

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Started early, with the Bobert tweet at the bottom, then the Wirestone piece I picked up from Facebook, because I doubted I'd be able to find them come weekend. Then found Responsible Statecraft's anniversary series on Ukraine (starting with the Kinzer piece), and I was off and running. Also note the mini-essay following the MJT nonsense. I've contemplated collecting a few dozen such ideas under an old Paul Goodman title, Utopian Essays & Practical Proposals. Although it would take a constitutional amendment, this is one of the practical ones.

[PS: Added a couple minor notes on Feb. 27. I should add that the Wichita Eagle's top front page story today was Josef Federman: Israeli settlers rampage after Palestinian gunman kills 2 in West Bank. It's important to stress that this is not a single event, occasioned by a single event. Israeli settlers have been attacking Palestinians with more/less impunity for years now, including in the days leading up to the two settlers being killed. The change since the last election is that settlers who have gotten away with crimes against Palestinians in the past have now been elected to the government, and are using their position to encourage further attacks. For another report, see: Israeli settlers rampage through Palestinian towns in revenge for shooting. When officials incited Russian mobs to attack Jews in Tsarist Russia, the massacres were called Pogroms. The same word is completely appropriate here. The only thing new about the "new government" is that they're making no effort to hide or to sanitize their virulence. Hence, even in Wichita people who once admired and supported Israel are now getting a glimpse of just what the cult of Zionism has become.]


Top story threads:

Trump, DeSantis, et al.: Slow week for Trump, while he's awaiting the Georgia indictments. Meanwhile, DeSantis is pranking as usual, and a couple minor figures have entered the 2024 race.

Marjorie Taylor Greene's National Divorce: Her terminology may have been influenced by having just divorced her husband of 29 years. While I wouldn't presume that her divorce was amicable, it was certainly a lot simpler and cleaner than dividing the Federal Government between Red and Blue States -- especially given that said government has a trillion dollar military operating all around the world, with enough firepower to destroy the world many times over. Given that virtually every nation that has/has been divided has done so in war (including the US in the 1860s), the risk is off the charts.

Greene defends her proposal by saying, "Everyone I talk to says this." Obviously, her circle of acquaintances doesn't amount to much. It clearly excludes the 40% or so Democrats in Red States who would be stranded, including majorities in nearly every actual city. It also ignores Republicans who realize that they're much better off in the United States than they would be in the third-world dystopia that Republican policies lead to -- a contrast that will only grow as Democrats gain effective power in the Blue States, finally free of the dead weight of the Red. (Even now, the Federal government sends considerably more money to Red States than it collects in taxes, a net transfer that presumably would end with division.)

So the first thing that needs to be said about her proposal is that there's no reason to take it seriously. It has no political support beyond the small and delusional right-wing faction that Greene has become the public voice of, and a similarly small faction of the left who are sick and tired of Republican obstruction when we are faced with problems that require bold and imaginative action.

Speaking of which, I've had this idea kicking around for a while, on how to restructure Congress so it actually represents virtually all of the American people (instead of a bare majority, mostly selected by a tiny slice of donors). The idea is that within any congressional district, the top two (or possibly more) vote getters would be elected, with the district's vote a fraction, according to how many votes each candidate received. You could sweeten the pot a bit and round the winner up to a percentage point, and the second (and lesser) votegetters down, so the winner of a close race might get 0.51 votes, and the loser 0.49. But the first big advantage of this system would be that 100% of voters would have an elected representative, whereas under the current system, as many as 49% might not.

There are other advantages. Gerrymanders would cease to matter, because all they would do is shift fractional votes from one district to another. This also significantly reduces the importance (payback) of money in elections. Third parties would complicate things, but not that much. It would matter little whether districts got larger or smaller than at present. You could also calculate vote weights based not on percentages but on actual votes, so districts with high turnout would be better served than ones with low turnout. You could also use actual votes to deal with grossly unequal districts, such as states represented in the Senate. (Which would solve that problem, although eliminating the Senate would also work.)

Israel: I wanted to comment on the Parsi article, then found Beinart, then created a section, which (as usual) snowballed. Elsewhere I offer two definitions of "forever war," but Israel suggests a third: a war that you protract endlessly because you're less interested in the goal than the process. This is practicable only when your enemy is incapable of hitting back effectively. As such, this process resembles hunting more than it does war:

Ukraine War: The one-year anniversary of Russia's Feb. 24, 2022 invasion is bringing out a lot of rear-view mirror gazing, as well as fresh rounds of bluster from Messrs. Biden, Putin, and Zelensky. I pretty much said my piece on this war, or at least its historical context, in my 23 Theses piece back on April 19, but I add to a few of those points below, and reiterate most of them. It is important to stress that one year ago, despite a vast history fraught with errors and atrocities on every side, one person could have prevented this war from happening: Vladimir Putin. But a year later, responsibility for continuing the war largely rests on his opposite counterpart, Joe Biden. I fear he isn't up to the task (although I worry more about the company he keeps).

  • Connor Echols: [02-24] Diplomacy Watch: China's peace plan draws mixed reactions: China presented a proposal, which Zelensky at least had the good sense not to reject out of hand (unlike the US). Echols also wrote: [02-21] How the Ukraine war helped the arms trade go boom.

  • Gregory Afinogenov: [02-24] Peace in Ukraine Isn't Coming Soon: Something here that you rarely (if ever) read elsewhere concerns the internal restructuring of Ukraine to make it more neoliberal, i.e., a better investment for Europe and America. On the other hand, limiting speech and banning parties isn't a particularly good look for Team Democracy. Better known is how Russia has become more repressive.

  • Daniel Bessner: [02-23] How the war in Ukraine has challenged left-wing restrainers. One of the more problematic pieces this week from the Quincy Institute's Responsible Statecraft, where the idea that the US should exercise considerable restraint in dealing with the world is foundational -- while the website appeals to both left and right, the focus on restraint is intrinsically conservative (even when mouthed by Obama as "don't do stupid shit"). To refer to "left restrainers" is not only infelicitous, it also shortchanges the diversity of opinion on the left. Aside from left-rooted converts to massive armed support for Ukraine (like Bernie Sanders aide Matt Duss, who figures so large in this article -- partly because Bessner's definition of the left is tied to the Sanders campaign -- that if lefties had to have licenses, his would be suspended), I can count at least four left-oriented position groups: the pacifists (Medea Benjamin might be an example), who see all warring sides as wrong, even if they have trouble figuring out how to disengage them; the international law visionaries (Phyllis Bennis is prominent here); advocates of international solidarity (deriving from the old communist left, where the solution to war is revolution by workers on both sides; I don't have a prominent current example); and the anti-imperialists, who see Zelensky as a tool of the same old imperialism, and therefore hope that Putin can thwart the west (Max Blumenthal is an example; if I could, I'd suspend the licenses of this group as well). And, of course, there are hybrids and in-betweeners as well. I draw on all four, but I don't see how the first three allow one any measure of sympathy or support for Putin.

  • Eli Clifton: [02-24] Ukraine War is great for the portfolio, as defense stocks enjoy a banner year: "The top five US weapons firms outperformed major Wall Street indexes in the last year, mostly on the backs of American taxpayers."

  • Andrew Cockburn: [02-22] We were promised 'economic shock and awe' against Russia: "But one year after its brutal invasion of Ukraine, Moscow looks poised to weather the worst of Western sanctions." Just last week Biden was talking about new, even more crippling sanctions. But one clear lesson from the last year is that sanctions have had minimal impact on Russia. Nor is there any reason to expect that further sanctions will make any difference. I was skeptical a year ago, and even more so now. But while sanctions have a miserably poor record of motivating desired political behavior, the one thing they really do is express the desire to hurt a country. So not only did they fail to end the war; they continue to give Russians a reason to fight on.

  • Jonathan Guyer: [02-21] Biden and Putin's dueling speeches show why the end of the Ukraine war is a long way off. Both sides feel the need to show strength and determination, without betraying any doubt as to the rightness of their cause, or allowing the possibility of compromise. Guyer thought about this a bit more, and wrote: [02-24] How Ukraine could become America's next forever war. "Next" is something of a misnomer, given that it's already happening. However, the phrase is telling. It could mean one of two things: one is that you're fighting against a foe that cannot be defeated and will never give up, in which case your only out is to find some accommodation; the other is that you're really confused about your goals, so it's easier to keep fighting than to reconsider. Vietnam is an example of the former; the Global War on Terror the latter. Russia in Ukraine has elements of both: neither side can be defeated, so the war has turned into a game of chicken; meanwhile both sides have gotten so wrapped up in their own propaganda neither can see a way to back down.

  • Ellen Ioanes: [02-26] Here's what arming Ukraine could look like in the future: France, Germany, and the UK have floated a proposal to arm Ukraine on their own, independent of American control.

  • Fred Kaplan: [02-21] The Game Putin Is Really Playing by Threatening a Nuclear Weapons Treaty, on Putin's declaration that Russia is suspending its participation in the New START nuclear arms treaty; and [02-24] How the Ukraine War Is Likely to End. As he rules out a "total war solution," "end" can only mean some sort of agreement, for which he offers little grounds for hope.

  • Stephen Kinzer: [02-21] Putin & Zelensky: Sinners and saints who fit our historic narrative: "Think about why the West wants to invoke WWII and the Cold War here, and then ask whether it's been productive." Actually, the "West" started invoking WWII in the runup to Bush's Iraq War, probably because Vietnam didn't poll so well. I doubt it's a coincidence that two of the loudest anti-Russia hawks in academia (Anne Applebaum and Timothy Snyder) have books to sell you about Stalin's atrocities in Ukraine, while others (like Michael McFaul) have careers in think tanks subsidized by the war machine. Meanwhile, recycling Cold War propaganda against Putin works because he's Russian and no one who matters cares about the differences. Zelensky's Churchill act also works, because he knows it's just a role, so he can ignore most of Churchill's career, and not get called on it. As Kinzer points out: "As far back as 1873, an American cartoonist depicted Russia as a hairy monster vying with a handsome Uncle Sam for control of the world. That archetype resonates across generations. Like most populations, Americans are easily mobilized to hate whatever country we are told to hate. If that country is Russia, we have generations of psychic preparation."

  • Charles A Kupchan: [02-24] US-West must prepare for a diplomatic endgame in Ukraine: The only possible endgame is diplomatic, but that means offering Putin some kind of graceful exit -- something the armchair generals in Washington and Brussels seem to be having too much fun to contemplate.

  • Marlene Laruelle: [02-25] This is far from over: Sobering lessons from Ukraine. These aren't organized very nicely, so let me offer my own:

    • Russia has totally burnt its bridges to the West. NATO is stronger than ever, and while it's not a real threat to Russia, it is an insult, and won't be going away. Russia is presumably still popular in the separatist regions, but they've totally lost the rest of Ukraine. Even if they negotiate an end to sanctions, it will be a long time before they recover lost business with Europe.
    • Ukraine, minus any parts that vote to stay with Russia, will be tightly integrated into the EU.
    • Militarily, there has been a huge home-field advantage, which doesn't bode well for Ukrainian hopes to retake Russian ethnic areas. The big Russian advantages (air power, strategic depth) haven't been very effective, while discipline, morale, and logistic support have been weaknesses. Western arms have allowed Ukraine to move from a guerrilla defensive operation to more conventional operations, but territorial gains have been minor. The result is unwinnable for both sides.
    • The US has so little credibility in the Global South that it has failed to isolate Russia and strangle it economically. The utility of sanctions as a weapon is seriously in doubt.
    • The costs of continued military operations on both sides are high and growing. While the West is better able to afford them, there is no reason to expect that Russia will be starved out of the war any time soon.
    • The toll on the Ukrainian people is, of course, immense, with millions of refugees in Europe and Russia. Much of Ukraine is being turned into a complete wasteland.
    • While the risk of nuclear war is small, it demands respect, and that means that both sides need to curtail their ambitions. We have seen little indication of that in this anniversary's rhetoric.
  • Anatol Lieven: [02-20] Russia was defeated in the first three weeks: Basically true, both militarily and politically. Russia's offensive in the south from Crimea was actually pretty effective, although short of capturing Odesa it made little difference. But their blitzkrieg toward Kyiv and Kharkiv stalled, turning into a "40-mile-long traffic jam" that became easy pickings for Ukraine. I'm skeptical that even had Russia troops captured Kyiv, the west half of Ukraine would have folded, so it was just a matter of time before Putin realized he bit off more than he could chew. And politically, Putin gave NATO something it hadn't had since 1992: a reason to exist. There was never a chance that western hawks who had kept the organization on life support wouldn't jump on the opportunity to fight (especially as they could do so through proxies). The problem since then is that the Russian defeat, which Putin would be hard-pressed not to admit, still hasn't been as total as the victory the resurgent NATO powers crave. If only the warmongers understood that there is no such thing as victory in war. The only decision is when do you cut your losses? And the only answer is the sooner the better.

  • Aryeh Neier: [02-24] Will the West Be Serious About Crimes Against Humanity This Time? "In the 1990s, the Western powers were slow to move against Serbian butcher Slobodan Milosevic. We can't make that mistake again." Yes we can, and sure we will. Milosevic and several of his henchmen are the only ones who had to face the ICC, because they were the only ones who fell out of power with no one to protect them. Putin may be worse, but he'll never face the ICC, because even if Russia puts him out to pasture, he won't be vulnerable like that, and no one else is going to be able to touch him. Same, I might add, for Henry Kissinger, and a long list of others. I came to grips with this with Richard Nixon, who never got anything like the punishment he deserved, but once he was driven from power and shamed, anything more ceased to matter. Besides, if you want to get serious about "crimes against humanity," you have to catch them much sooner than when they get mixed up in war. The time to stop Hitler wasn't when he crossed some line at Wannsee or even Kristallnacht but when (or before) he came to power.

  • Vijay Prashad: [02-26] The global South refuses pressure to side with the West on Russia: Actually, most have voted to condemn Russia's invasion, but very few have agreed to enforce economic sanctions against Russia.

  • William Ruger: [02-23] 'Ukraine maximalists' on the Right still dominate. But for how long? Ever since Arthur Vandenberg in 1948, Democrats could always count on overwhelming Republican support for foreign wars, with some Republicans (like Barry Goldwater and John McCain) reliably overexcited. Meanwhile, the Democratic rank-and-file tended to become more dovish, encouraging Republicans to pile on, painting Democrats as spineless appeasers even as their leaders overcompensated with macho posturing (none more than Hillary Clinton). The prowar consensus has held up on Ukraine, with Democrats especially reluctant to break ranks -- part loyalty to Biden, part because they've been sold the line that Putin (not unlike Trump) is a sworn enemy of democracy. On the other hand, a few Republicans (most notably Trump) are wavering, for various reasons -- the worst being that some (e.g., Josh Hawley) would rather go to war with China, followed closely by the ones who like Putin as a fellow fascist. What worries me is that unless Biden can steer this war toward a diplomatic conclusion, the Democratic Party will be so mired in the war machinery that they'll never be able to deliver on their core promises, and Republican do-nothingism will seem like the saner course.

  • Alex Shephard: [02-23] Republicans Are Ready to Abandon Ukraine: "The GOP is turning against continued support for Ukrainians fighting off a Russian invasion." As I noted above, some are hedging their bets, but most Republicans love the arms merchants too much to throw cold water on their party. Republicans will, of course, abandon Ukraine as soon as the war is over and the US is called on to rebuild a country which sacrificed everything so our war gamers could think they were "degrading" the Russian military threat.

  • Robert Wright: [02-23] The Ukraine Archives: Summaries and links to a remarkable series of pieces on the war, going back to Jan 24, 2022: "How cognitive empathy could have prevented the Ukraine crisis" -- did you know there was a crisis a full month before invasion?

  • Joe Lauria: [02-24] More Evidence Emerges That US Wanted Russia to Invade: Slant here is anti-American (some evidence for that) and pro-Russian (more of a stretch). It is, of course, likely that some American deep state-types decided early on that Putin was less pliant than Yeltsin and should be viewed as a threat (or could be propped up as one), so they came up with a scheme to flip Ukraine and use that as leverage to entrap Putin. I've always thought that pro-western lobbying in Ukraine had less to do with US strategic interests than with European business, as the rewards there were much closer to home, but sure, Victoria Nuland, and all that. Whether 2014 counts as a coup or a popular uprising is open to debate: the presence of plotters (including Nuland) doesn't preclude the latter. One may also debate the extent to which the 2014 separatist uprisings in Crimea and Donbas were spontaneous or orchestrated from Moscow, although it didn't take long before Putin was calling the shots.

    In any case, subsequent elections legitimated the shift in power (no doubt more than would have been the case had Crimea and Donbas not split off). What's much murkier is the political machinations after Zelensky ran on a peace platform, then ultimately emerged as Ukraine's top warrior. In particular, no one that I'm aware of has written up a thorough diplomatic history from Zelensky's election to the invasion, but it's safe to say that the Biden administration encouraged Zelinsky to demand more, and that Putin grew increasingly alarmed. I doubt this was meant to provoke an invasion (as Lauria claims), but it was certainly meant to corner Russia. We've seen some evidence (not provided here) that Putin tried diplomacy before resorting to force: there are reports of the US and UK lobbying Zelensky to reject Russian overtures. The US also went to great lengths to publicize the Russian troop buildup, and to threaten sanctions and other retaliation. At the time, I noted that the US risked goading Putin to attack. I don't know that to have been their intent, but they were surprisingly well prepared when Putin made his move.

    Still, regardless of any American designs -- something one should always be skeptical of, given how poorly past designs have played out -- it was Putin, for reasons wholly of his own, who deliberately walked into this "trap." Lauria concludes, "the question is whether Russia can extricate itself from the U.S. strategy of insurgency and economic war." I doubt that he can, and not because he's ideologically wedded to KGB-recidivism, to atavistic dreams of reviving imperial glory, or the sheer nihilism of ending western civilization, but because bullies can't stand to back-peddle, and because politicians -- and that's what he really is -- get so easily trapped in the rhetoric that initially gained them success. He needs to find a new game, but I doubt he has the imagination for that.

    The real question going forward is whether Biden and/or Zelensky can see clear to let Russia loose. No one can afford a "forever war," no matter how much pleasure you take in making your enemy squirm.


Other stories:

Christine Ahn: [02-22] When Jimmy Carter went to North Korea: "Ever the peacemaker, he met with Kim Il Sung in 1994 and helped freeze Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program for over a decade." The secret of Carter's success was that he met with them personally, and he agreed to reasonable proposals. The Clinton administration was shamed into accepting his fait accompli, but in due course reneged on its promises and sabotaged the deal, which was finally buried by Bush, and in due course by North Korea testing nuclear bombs and missiles. Trump's brief flirtation with Kim Jong Un produced a lull in the testing, which might have been formalized into an end to hostilities, but Trump's underlings (e.g., John Bolton and Mike Pompeo) made sure that didn't happen either.

For more on Korea, see:

Brooks Barnes: [02-23] The Billionaire's Daughter Knows What You're Thinking: Elizabeth Koch, daughter of Charles Koch, the second generation feudal lord of Wichita. Cited because it may be interesting, but I haven't invested the time to tell you why. So I'll pass this over to Ian Millhiser: "A fascinating window into what becomes of a useless person who never had to worry about anything important her entire life. And a strong policy argument for higher estate taxes."

Thomas Floyd/Michael Cavna: [02-25] 'Dilbert' dropped by The Post, other papers, after cartoonist's racist rant. Noted because I've read "Dilbert" for a long time, but only because it was there in the paper. Long ago, it was occasionally clever or observant about office culture, but it started to lose its moorings when Adams quit his day job, leaving him to recycle his clichés. My wife quit reading it years ago, and I doubt I'll miss it much. Should the strip be canceled? That's something I'd almost never do, not least because he doesn't deserve to martyr himself (which may well have been his intent, as he no doubt believes the "woke mob" is out to get him). Besides, his statements, at least as quoted in the article, are more stupid than inflammatory (not that I'm not much of a stickler on either count). How could anyone construct a poll with a question like "are you ok with white people" and expect straight, meaningful answers? On the other hand, how could anyone jump to his conclusions without being a dangerously deranged racist?

[PS: The Wichita Eagle ran "Dilbert" on Sunday, but canceled the strip as of Monday. They replaced it with something called "Pooch Café," which, yes, is marginally funnier. On the other hand, has any comic strip in the last 10-20 years done more than "Dilbert" to make white guys look clueless and/or stupid?]

I didn't go looking for anything to tack onto this, but then there was this:

Shirin Ghaffary: [02-21] Social media used to be free. Not anymore. As Facebook joints Twitter in trying to squeeze more money out of their users, as if they weren't imposing enough already. Granted, the push is mostly aimed at businesses, which are already used to paying for publicity, but at some point the platforms will start to bleed users, and that the value of that publicity will depreciate. Thing is, it would be possible to publicly fund social media platforms that provide the desired connectivity without harvesting data and trying to monetize it through advertising. And they would be less of a drain on society than the current monopolistic rackets.

Clare Malone: [02-25] Watching Tucker Carlson for work: "You don't know Fox News until you are watching it for a job."

Ian Millhiser:

Timothy Noah: [02-21] How the GOP Lost Its Brain: "Today's Republican Party is driven by egos and power rivalries, not ideas. The GOP once had ideas -- lots of them. The problem was that they were unpopular and bad." Isn't the answer obvious? At some point, unpopular and bad ideas become liabilities. And besides, they never were anything but props for hitting on some irrationally emotional point -- one they've since found they can jump to with hysterics endlessly repeated by their propaganda machine. Turns out all those brains were merely atavistic.

Evan Osnos: [02-26] Sliding toward a new Cold War: Russia and Ukraine come up, but this is mostly about China, which is by far the more serious force. Still, this is remarkably short on reasons why China might be considered a threat. They just, you know, are, mostly because we understand so very little about them, or for that matter ourselves. Osnos turns to George Kennan for guidance, quoting a new biography that Kennan "spent the four years from 1944 to 1948 promoting the Cold War, he devoted the subsequent forty to undoing what he and others had wrought." The point should be obvious: starting wars is much easier than ending them.

Nathan J Robinson: [02-23] Why the Right Hates Social Security (And How They Plan to Destroy It): Interview with Alex Lawson, of Social Security Works.

Derek Willis: [02-24] After a Decade of Tracking Politicians' Deleted Tweets, Politwoops Is No More: "Service changers after Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter have rendered it impossible for us to continue tracking these tweets."

Clay Wirestone: [02-09] 'No future!' If Rep. Kristey Williams has her way, there won't be a next generation of Kansans: "Destroying public education will drive parents, students and teachers out of the Sunflower State for good." First, let's dial the hyperbole back a bit, and dispense with the Johnny Rotten analogies. The Republican chair of K-12 Education is pushing a voucher bill, designed to siphon public education money into private schools, with "little or no oversight on expenditures, little to no oversight for student achievement." Choice sounds like a good thing, and one can argue that having to compete for students should make schools work harder to satisfy students and parents. But does it really work like that? For starters, it's the rule rather than the exception that privatization of public services leads to more cost while returning less value. This is part profit-seeking (which includes a strong impulse toward fraud, unless it is checked by regulation, which itself adds to the overhead), and part due to the lost efficiencies of scale (including more specialized teachers, less administrative overhead, shared technology, lots of things, but not necessarily larger classroom size). Second, vouchers divide public support for public schools, worsening current underfunding. Third, if vouchers don't cover the whole cost of private schooling (which isn't likely, given its inefficiency), they increase religious isolation and class-stratification (which has always been a selling point for elite private schools; but they're not the ones driving this agenda, as their clients always have been able to afford paying their own way).

Still, the advocates of voucher programs are remarkably myopic. In looking to exempt their children from the taint of public schooling (be it secular and/or non-elitist), they blithely ignore the others, who they consign to run-down, under-resourced schools that teach little and increasingly resemble detainment centers -- until their inmates escape and struggle to survive in a world that has shown them nothing but disdain. If, then, they turn to crime, they can finally look forward to the public finally spending serious money on them, in the guise of punishment. Even if they don't, most will never gain the skills that we need to run an increasingly complex and fragile economy. What a waste.

By the way, there are specific Kansas angles here, some mentioned in the article. In recent years, Johnson County has grown largely based on the reputation of its public school system (compared to the Missouri suburbs around Kansas City). The author is worried that wrecking public schools in Kansas will reverse that trend, resulting in a mass exodus (although having once fled Missouri, I'm not so sure they want to head back). A possibly bigger problem is rural Kansas, which has already lost so many people that school districts are struggling just to hold on, let alone to adapt to times that require more and better education.


James Thompson forwarded this Twitter interchange:

Lauren Bobert: One thing you can be sure of - I'll never go woke.

Leslieoo7: I'm sure of that. To be woke requires awareness, an enlightened mind, exposure to different cultures and different types of people. It requires maturity to realize that not everyone looks like you or thinks like you and that's okay.

Woke is the antonym of ignorance.

Michael Thrower offered a list of "10 Great Very Short Econ Books" (≤ 200 pages) [thread]:

  1. Diane Coyle: GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History
  2. Albert O Hirschman: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to Decline in Firms, Organizations, and States -- how consumers influence firms
  3. Jesper Roine: Pocket Piketty: A Handy Guide to Capital in the Twenty-First Century
  4. Eric Lonergan/Mark Blyth: Angrynomics
  5. Joan Robinson: An Essay in Marxian Economics
  6. Avner Offer: Understanding the Private-Public Divide: Markets, Governments, and Time Horizons -- argues that state can plan long-term where markets can't.
  7. Alex Cobham: The Uncounted -- how statistics can be distorted by power relations.
  8. Richard A Easterlin: An Economist's Lessons on Happiness: Farewell Dismal Science.
  9. Dean Baker: The Conservative Nanny State
  10. Lee Elliot Major/Stephen Machin: Social Mobility: What Do We Know and What Should We Do About . . . ?

Monday, February 20, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 45 albums, 6 A-list,

Music: Current count 39638 [39593] rated (+45), 42 [42] unrated (-0: 14 new, 28 old).

I wrote quite a bit of Speaking of Which yesterday. When I got up today, I noticed I still had a tab open to an especially deluded Washington Post op-ed called How to break the stalemate in Ukraine, so I added a couple paragraphs on it. By "breaking the stalemate" they basically mean blowing it up and risking WWIII. Of course, they assume that won't happen. Even though they start from characterizing Putin as a psychotic tyrant set on empire expansion, they assume he is still sane enough to accept the humiliation of defeat (and that he doesn't dare offend China).

Wichita Eagle had an article today denying that Biden would visit Kyiv after Warsaw. Of course, he did land in Kyiv, on his way to Warsaw. I don't mind the security-directed deception. I won't even mind the sabre rattling if it's followed up with serious attempt to settle the war. I understand the logic, but I'm still skeptical that the hot air helps in any way.

Apologies for not relegating the politics to the bottom of this post, after the notes on the music. But no notes this week. I need to get this out of the way so I can get to dinner tonight, and don't have much to say anyway.

Playing The Best of Ace Records Volume 2: The R&B Hits as I post this. Five songs there by the late Huey "Piano" Smith.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (2022 [2023], Origin): [cd]: A-
  • Scott Hamilton: Talk to Me, Baby (2022, Blau): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles (2023, One Trick Dog): [cd]: B+(*)
  • Markus Rutz: Storybook (2023, Jmarq): [cd]: B+(**)
  • Greg Ward's Rogue Parade: Dion's Quest (2021 [2023], Sugah Hoof): [cd]: B-

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

Old music:

  • Walter Blanding: The Olive Tree (1999, Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Free Jazz Quartet: Premonitions (1989, Matchless): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Chico Freeman: Chico (1977, India Navigation): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Chico Freeman: Kings of Mali (1977 [1978], India Navigation): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Chico Freeman: The Outside Within (1978 [1981], India Navigation): [yt]: A-
  • Chico Freeman: No Time Left (1979, Black Saint): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Chico Freeman/Von Freeman: Freeman & Freeman (1981 [1989], India Navigation): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Chico Freeman: You'll Know When You Get There (1988 [1989], Black Saint): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Don Friedman: My Romance: Solo Piano (1996 [1997], SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Richard Galliano: Concerts Inédits (1996-98 [1999], Dreyfus, 3CD): [r]: A-
  • Vincent Gardner Quintet: Elbow Room (2005, SteepleChase): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charles Gayle Quartet: More Live at the Knitting Factory: February, 1993 (1993, Knitting Factory Works, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
  • Michael Gibbs: Michael Gibbs (1970, Deram): [yt]: A-
  • The Michael Gibbs Orchestra: Big Music (1988-90 [1996], ACT): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Jon Gordon: The Things You Are (2005 [2007], ArtistShare): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Stéphane Grappeli/Michel Petrucciani: Flamingo (1995 [1996], Dreyfus): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Benny Green/Russell Malone: Jazz at the Bistro (2002 [2003], Telarc): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Bobby Hackett and His Jazz Band: Coast Concert (1955 [1956], Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bobby Hackett/Jack Teagarden: Jazz Ultimate (1957 [1958], Capitol): [r]: B+(**)
  • Bobby Hackett: Hello Louis! Bobby Hackett Plays the Music of Louis Armstrong (1964, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
  • The Bobby Hackett Quartet Plus Vic Dickenson: This Is My Bag (1968 [1969], Project 3): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlie Haden/Egberto Gismonti: In Montreal (1989 [2001], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Magico (1979 [1980], ECM): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Folk Songs (1979 [1981], ECM): [r]: B+(**)
  • Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins/Enrico Pieranunzi: First Song (1990 [1992], Soul Note): [r]: B+(***)
  • Jim Hall: Jazz Guitar (1957, Pacific Jazz): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Jim Hall: Dialogues (1995, Telarc): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Bengt Hallberg: Time on My Hands (1994-95 [1995], Improkomp, 2CD): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Scott Hamilton: From the Beginning (1977-78 [2002], Concord, 2CD): [sp]: A-
  • Scott Hamilton: Tenorshoes (1979 [1980], Concord): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Albert King: The Very Best of Albert King [Blues Masters: The Essential Blues Collection] (1960-73 [1999], Rhino): [cd]: A-
  • Return to Forever: The Anthology (1973-76 [2008], Concord, 2CD): [cd]: C
  • Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy (1973, Polydor): [cd]: C
  • Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Where Have I Known You Before (1974, Polydor): [sp]: C+
  • Return to Forever Featuring Chick Coera: No Mystery (1975, Polydor): [sp]: C-
  • Return to Forever: Musicmagic (1977, Columbia): [sp]: C-
  • Tough Young Tenors: Alone Together (1991, Antilles): [r]: B+(***)
  • Junior Wells & the Aces: Live in Boston 1966 (1966 [2010], Delmark): [r]: B+(**)
  • Junior Wells: Live at Theresa's 1975 (1975 [2006], Delmark): [r]: B+(***)


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.

  • Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 12.5: Compilation II for Improvisers, Jazz Ensemble and Electronics (1990 [1999], Bruce's Fingers): [bc]: ++
  • Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 30: Compilation III: For Improvisers, Big Band and Chamber Ensemble (1998, Bruce's Fingers): [bc]: +
  • Paul Hession/Alan Wilkinson/Simon H. Fell: Foom! Foom! (1992, Bruce's Fingers): [bc]: +


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Dave Askren/Jeff Benedict: Denver Sessions (Tapestry) [03-17]
  • Sarah Bernadette: Sad Poems on My Phone (Blujazz, EP) [02-13]
  • Javier Red's Imaginary Converter: Life & Umbrella (Desafio Candente) [05-12]
  • Ingrid Laubrock: The Last Quiet Place (Pyroclastic) [03-31]

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

As usual, this is assembled piecewise as I find the pieces, kind of like an Easter egg hunt. As such, the bits accumulate somewhat randomly, although given the present political situation some topics inevitably recur.

PS [02-20]: I added a comment on the Washington Post Ukraine editorial.

Top story threads:

Top stories for the week:

DeSantis and Trump: For a primer on these two asshole clowns, consider how they interact: [02-18] Inside the collapse of the Trump-DeSantis 'alliance of convenience'.

Other Republicans:

Flying Objects: It's open season, although it's gotten so silly that even Biden wants 'sharper rules' on unknown aerial objects.

  • Ellen Nakashima/Shane Harris/Jason Samenow: [02-14] US tracked China spy balloon from launch on Hainan Island along unusual path: This report says the balloon "may have been diverted on an errant path caused by atypical weather conditions." It also suggests that, given the balloon was tracked from its launch on Hainan (a large island in the South China Sea) that the panic that ensued once the balloon was seen by civilians in Montana was unwarranted. Biden could have simply announced that we knew about the balloon, had tracked it since its launch, and considered it harmless.

  • Chas Danner: [02-18] Did an F-22 Blow Up an Illinois Club's Hobby Balloon? Perhaps the doubt is because when a $150 million F-22 shoots a $472,000 AIM-9X Sidewinder at a $100 "pico" balloon there isn't much debris left to analyze.

  • Jonathan Guyer: [02-13] Why the balloon and UFO affairs are a Sputnik moment: "As all these objects fall, a new space race is rising." The problem starts with the phrase "Sputnik moment": the original event was turned into fodder to fuel an arms race that resolve nothing; do the same thing here and you'll get the same stupid results (or worse).

  • Fred Kaplan: [02-15] The Very Serious Lessons We Should Learn From the Balloon Fiasco: Starts by citing the Nakashima post (above), then adds that both China and the US blew this incident up into something ridiculous, with their instinctive claims of innocence, macho posturing, and faux rage. The net effect was to add fuel to a conflict that neither side really wants. Not that there aren't factions in the US stupidly spoiling for a fight (most conspicuously among Congressional Republicans, not that Democrats, some, following Obama's "pivot to Asia," aren't also encouraging).

Hot Rails to Hell: Mostly on the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Also see Jeffrey St Clair's latest "Roaming Charges" (below) for a pretty detailed summary.

Ukraine War: The war is approaching its first anniversary, with a minor Russian offensive near Bakhmut, and not much more news to report, other than a lot of posturing about how both sides are resolved to fight on indefinitely, regardless of the costs.

  • Blaise Malley: [02-17] Diplomacy Watch: Is the Biden team laying the groundwork for talks? They still seem to be under the delusion that pre-negotiation posturing will make a real difference when the only thing that will work is finding a mutually tolerable agreement -- one that all that posturing, with the suggestion of bending the enemy to your will, only makes less likely.

  • Luke Cooper: [01-30] Ukraine's Neoliberal War Mobilization: "Low taxes, privatization, and pared-back labor protections could undermine Ukraine's fight against Russian aggression." One fact that's rarely been mentioned is that Ukraine's economic performance since independence has been worse than Russia's. That's a big part of the reason it can make sense that some parts of Ukraine -- especially ones where Russian is the first language -- might prefer reunification with Moscow to continued rule from Kiev. Since the war started, Zelensky has been pulled toward the US and Europe, mostly by his insatiable demand for weapons, but nothing comes with no strings attached. He may be hoping that after spending so much, the west will help Ukraine rebuild, but in Washington the redevelopment choices are neoliberal and even worse.

  • Francesca Ebel/Mary Ilyushina: [02-13] Russians abandon wartime Russia in historic exodus. "Initial data shows that at least 500,000, and perhaps nearly 1 million, have left in the year since the invasion began."

  • Nicholas Kristof: [02-18] Biden Should Give Ukraine What It Needs to Win: Some rather huge hidden assumptions here, starting with the notion that the war can be won, that Ukraine can win it, that there is a finite recipe of weapons (and other aid, although Zelensky mostly just wants to talk about weapons) that can do the trick, and that Biden has it within his power to deliver them. Also that winning would be a good thing.

  • Anatol Lieven: [02-14] Austria should buck the West and welcome Russia to key security meeting.

  • Anton Troianovski/Valerie Hopkins: [02-19] One Year Into War, Putin Is Crafting the Russia He Craves: I don't know whether that's an accurate headline, but the images and descriptions of the propaganda barrage Russia is mounting to bolster support for the war are unsettling. It's hard to tell how effective this is, but the idea that defeating Russia in Ukraine will cause Putin's house of cards to crumble is far from certain. It's just as likely that, having been brought up on such propaganda, Putin's successors will be even more gung ho than he is.

  • Erin Banco/Sarah Anne Aarup/Anastasiia Carrier: [02-18] Inside the stunning gnrowth of Russia's Wagner Group: The obvious question this raises is how does Wagner compare with the mercenary outfits the US uses, like Blackstone?

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [02-16] The Sy Hersh effect: killing the messenger, ignoring the message. Remember: means, opportunity, motive. Hersh may not have every detail right, but can you spin a more plausible story? The main argument against the US having blown up the pipeline is that it would have been a really stupid thing to do (if you ever get caught). Again, I may spend too much time watching crime fiction, but the maxim at work here is: "criminals do stupid stuff." Ergo, stupidity is not a defense. It's practically a necessity.

  • Timothy Snyder: [01-23] Why the world needs Ukrainian victory: The author, an historian of the conflicts in 20th century eastern Europe, the study of which has left him with an outsized hatred of Russia (although at least he never was a Nazi symp; he started out as a protégé of Tony Judt, who was perhaps overly excited by the emergence of democratic movements following the Cold War). I can't imagine what a "Ukrainian victory" might look like, but I'd be happy to see Russian troops pushed back to pre-2014 borders (probably what he has in mind), or even to the separatist borders before last March. Still, the cost of doing so has already been huge, and will only get worse, so one has to doubt the value is of protracting the war, especially given the stalemate of the last six or so months.

    Perhaps I might agree that "the world needs a Russian defeat," but hasn't that already happened? And hasn't history taught us that defeats (and for that matter "victories") are often poor predictors of future peace? Perhaps "an utterly defeated people" (to cite a phrase Israelis have used to describe the goal of their plot against the Palestinians) isn't the best answer? Still, Snyder is not just claiming that defeating Russia will be a good thing in itself. He's arguing that Ukrainian victory will save and redeem European civilization. And without having the slightest wish to defend Putin, he's wrong on nearly every point. Quotes are from his piece (answers to "why does the world need a Ukrainian victory?"), followed by my brief notes:

    1. "To halt atrocity. Russia's occupation is genocidal." Not true. Brutal? Impossible to justify? Sure.
    2. "To preserve the international legal order." There is no such thing. Maybe there should be, but there are too many counterexamples, including the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
    3. "To end an era of empire." Does this presume that the US, UK, etc., will dismantle their empires (remember that the US has over 800 military bases abroad) if Russia fails in Ukraine? How does one cause the other? I don't doubt that some Russians harbor nostalgia for lost empire, and I don't approve, but fighting to defend fellow Russians who accidentally found themselves on the wrong side of an arbitrary border from threats they regarded as existential (one might say "genocidal," but let's not), is rather limited compared to, say, the European partition of Africa.
    4. "To defend the peace project of the European Union." Ukraine is not part of the EU, so this seems out of bounds. The notion that Russia is really fighting "against the larger idea that European states can peacefully cooperate" is specious.
    5. "To give the rule of law a chance in Russia." Russia has no shortage of "rule of law," nor is this likely to change regardless of the outcome of the war. It is true that states at war tend to become more repressive and less free (as Americans should know, from our own experience), but what helps is ending the war, not whether it is counted as a victory or defeat.
    6. "To weaken the prestige of tyrants." We're so gullible that we need a war for this? "Fascism is about force, and is discredited by defeat." Us so-called "premature antifascists" think fascism is discredited by its acts. Are you suggesting that fascism would be vindicated by victory?
    7. "To remind us that democracy is the better system." This assumes that Russia isn't a democracy, which is the stock propaganda line, but by most measures it's not much different from Ukraine: both have elections and multiple parties, with both significantly corrupted by oligarchs. Ukraine has been more volatile, partly because US and EU interests have lobbied more there. But unless the war is settled by some kind of referendum, there is no reason to think that its outcome will be determined by differences in political system. [*]
    8. "To lift the threat of major war in Europe." The only reason the threat exists in the first place is the exclusion of Russia from Europe, which is defined by NATO and the EU. Defeating Russia in Ukraine may make Russians meeker, or may make them more bitter and vengeful. Only cooperation lifts the threat.
    9. "To lift the threat of major war in Asia." He means "a Chinese invasion of Taiwan." This would take a long explanation, but in short that doesn't follow.
    10. "To prevent the spread of nuclear weapons." More faulty reasoning. He plays fast and loose here, drawing a conclusion from "if Ukraine loses," whereas supposedly he's arguing for "Ukrainian victory," as if there is no middle ground.
    11. "To reduce the risk of nuclear war." Partly derived from previous, but also depends on a tautology: a Ukraine victory only happens if Russia accepts defeat without resorting to nuclear arms, hence the risk removal is defined into the proposition. Real problem is that the proposition is the risk. Perhaps reasonable people might conclude that if the use of nuclear weapons is worse than accepting defeat, possessing nuclear weapons has no value. But are we dealing with reasonable people, on either side? And if, perchance, the taboo against using nuclear weapons is broken, the long-term risk of nuclear war elsewhere will most likely increase.
    12. "To head off future resource wars." There is no reason to think that frustrating this kind of war in one place will dissuade others from trying it elsewhere. More often than not, the failure of one war just encourages warriors to try harder next time.
    13. "To guarantee food supplies and prevent future starvation." Another case of overgeneralization. Ukraine may be a powerhouse granary, but pales compared to the threats posed by climate change.
    14. "To accelerate the shift from fossil fuels." To some extent the war has already done this, but it is tangential to the outcome, and in any case is something that should be decided on its own merits, rather than as a side-effect of war gaming.
    15. "To affirm the value of freedom." So why not end with something totally vacuous? Seems par for the course.

    [*] When comparing democracies, you might want to consider Julia Conley: [02-17] Due to Wars and Climate Destruction, US Ranks Worse Than Peers on 'Impunity' Index: "A democratic system of government is insufficient to fend off impunity." If you're unfamiliar with the concept: "Impunity is the growing instinct of choice in the global order. It represents a dangerous world view that laws and norms are for suckers." As best I can tell, Russia ranks worse than China, which ranks worse than the US, which is somewhere close to the median on a list of 160 countries.

  • Washington Post Editorial Board: [02-18] How to break the stalemate in Ukraine: On reading the title, my first thought was the way must be to press harder for a ceasefire and a sensible settlement, since that's the only way the war can possibly end. But no, they insist that "the West's overarching goal must be ensuring that the Russian tyrant gains nothing by his aggression. To allow an outcome that rewards the Kremlin in any way would be a moral travesty." As opposed to their alternative, which prolongs and intensifies the destruction and slaughter. They then go into a long shopping list of weapons systems they want to send Ukraine. And they insist the US should throw caution to the wind: "But a principal lesson from the past year is that the risk of escalation is overblown."

    Nuclear weapons? "As for the Russian autocrat, he has nothing left to escalate with other than manpower and nuclear weapons. If the West adequately arms Ukraine, he cannot win with the former and is very unlikely to resort to the latter, which would alienate his most important ally, China. A tactical strike by Russia would be one of history's greatest acts of self-immolation, cementing Russia's pariah status for decades." The logic here is hard to fathom, especially given that nuclear deterrence depends on the mutual understanding of logic and nothing more. If the West doesn't respect Russia's nuclear threat, and no longer shows that respect by limiting its military response, why shouldn't Russia follow through on its threat? If Russia is rational enough not to use nuclear weapons, why isn't it rational enough to negotiate? After all, it will only be "self-immolation" if the US decides to retalliate massively -- a separate decision which should make the US even more of a world pariah than Russia. After all, wouldn't a US strategic nuclear attack on Russia also be self-immolation?

    Thus far, both Biden and Putin have been sane enough not to paint themselves into a corner where they have to follow through on the dismal logic of their war strategists. Still, they have to endure insanity like this editorial.

Other stories:

Peter Beinart: [02-19] You Can't Save Democracy in a Jewish State. Of course, it's only ever been a slogan. From 1949-67, Palestinians within the Green line were able to vote, but subject to martial law, and Palestinians who fled the atrocities (like the mass murder at Deir Yassin) were denied re-entry as their homes and land was confiscated. After 1967, martial law was relieved, but reinstated in the occupied territories, where Palestinians were denied even the vote. As settlements encroached on Palestinian lands, a two-tier system of (in)justice was implemented. Now the right-wing wants to be able to strip citizenship and force into exile those few Palestinians who still have it, and they want to prevent the courts from reviewing whatever they do. Yet still zionists liked to brag that Israel was "the only democracy" in the region. Given that "democracy" is one of those slogans the US is supposedly fighting for in Ukraine and elsewhere, you'd think the loss of it in Israel might matter, but to the folks to direct US foreign policy, it doesn't.

Ryan Cooper: [02-17] Elon Musk Shows How Oligarchy Poisons the Speech Commons: "Free speech is not when one rich guy gets to shout 1,000 times louder than anyone else." And not just any rich guy: the one who now owns the platform had Twitter tweak its algorithms to promote Musk's own tweets. By the way, the least free speech in America is still advertising, where the volume is simply scaled by money, and the motives are always suspect, and often downright fraudulent. For an example, see: Christian Downie/Robert Brulle [02-19] Research Finds Big Oil's Trade Group Allies Outspent Clean Energy by a Whopping 27x.

David Dayen: [02-03] Amazon's Endgame: "The company is transitioning to become an unavoidable gatekeeper in all commerce." It's really hard to get a handle on how many angles a company like Amazon is playing to get control over virtually all consumer spending. ("The real danger from Amazon is that is invisibly takes a cut from everybody: consumers, businesses, even governments.") The other thing that's hard to get a grip on is that while this works mostly due to proximate monopoly power, it's based on network effects and efficiencies of scale that are impossible to compete with, so traditional antimonopoly remedies (divestments, standing up competitors) won't work. What might help would be to treat those parts of the business as natural monopolies and strictly regulate them. Or one could create public utilities to compete with them while eliminating many of the most onerous aspects of the business (like the capture and sale of personal data). Of course, a regulatory regime that would expose Amazon's side-dealing would help make alternatives more competitive.

Huntger DeRensis: [02-15] How a Super Bowl whitewash of Tillman cover-up was a helpful reminder. I've long felt that the only reasons people join the military are delusion and desperation. NFL star Tillman wasn't desperate. There is some evidence that his delusions were lifting before he was killed by other American soldiers, but that fact itself should disabuse one of some of the most common delusions, including the notion that the military serves the nation in any substantive way, and that joining it is somehow heroic. much of what I know about Tillman specifically comes from Jon Krakauer's book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, who takes the whole macho/hero thing very seriously.

Lauren Fadiman: [02-13] How a For-Profit Healthcare System Generates Mistrust of Medicine. I haven't been looking for support on such an obvious point, but did stumble across this:

Steve Fraser: [02-16] The Spectre of "Woke Communism". Explains that DeSantis's rant about "woke corporations" isn't a particularly novel idea: irate right-wingers have a long history of conflating "Bankers and Bolsheviks." Also at TomDispatch:

  • Andrew Bacevich: [02-12] Tanks for Nuttin': Or "Giving Whataboutism a Chance." Tipped me off to the silly Snyder piece above. As for "whataboutism": "When the Russian president embarked on his war in 2022, he had no idea what he was getting into, any more than George W. Bush did in 2003." Also: "Classifying Russia as a de facto enemy of the civilized world has effectively diminished the urgency of examining out own culture and values."

  • Julia Gledhill/William D Hartung: [02-14] Merger Mania in the Military-Industrial Complex: Hartung is a long-term critic of Defense spending, with several books on the subject, going back to And Weapons for All (1994), and How Much Are You Making on the War, Daddy? A Quick and Dirty Guide to War Profiteering in the Bush Administration (2003). So I'm a bit surprised that in looking at the latest scandals, they don't mention the wave of defense contractor mergers in the 1990s (like Boeing-Douglas and Lockheed-Martin). Those were supposedly guided by the Defense Department on the theory that post-Cold War they wanted to reduce the number of competitors for a shrinking pie. (Given the infamous "revolving door" take that assertion with a grain of salt.) Of course, thanks to the CIA's backing of Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan, and the neocon plot to "garrison the world," the pie actually expanded, and the megacorporations spawned by the mergers became even more politically influential than ever -- leading to this latest round of mergers.

    While it made sense during WWII to temporarily convert industry to war production by guaranteeing high, low-risk profits (contracts were typically "cost + 10%"), it was foolish to build a permanent arms industry on that basis, specifically because it created a huge independent political force lobbying for more war. The result is that US foreign policy is now largely subordinate to the continued profit of the arms manufacturers. Absent this corrupt influence, a sensible foreign policy would focus on the need for peace, fairness, and cooperation between all nations, instead of splitting the world into permanent conflict zones. One example is the Abraham Accords, where Israel and its former Arab enemies puy aside their differences so that both can freely buy American arms to use against their own people. Another is the expansion of NATO with its vilification of Russia, eventually prodding Putin into creating the current Ukraine bonanza. And then there's the militarization of what are basically trade disputes with China. The latter hasn't blown up like Russia, but if/when it does the consequences could be far worse.

    Also relevant here is Stephen F Eisenman: [02-17] The Insecure Superpower.

Amy Goldstein/Mary Jordan/Kevin Sullivan: [02-19] Former president opts for home hospice care for final days: Jimmy Carter, 98. I've listed him among the short list of era-ending one-term presidents, along with Buchanan, Hoover, and Trump (a slightly looser definition of era might also pick up John Adams, and maybe even John Quincy Adams). Of those, Carter most resembled Hoover: an extremely talented technocrat who faced bad times and made them worse through dumb choices. When I look back now, the thing I'm most struck by is how many of his choices anticipated turns toward disaster that we now associate mostly with his successor, Ronald Reagan. He appointed Paul Volcker, who crashed and burned the economy to smash unions and slay inflation. He kicked off the fashion for deregulation. He exacerbated the Cold War with his Olympics shenanigans, and more seriously by arming jihadis in Afghanistan. He misplayed Iran, leaving a conflict that festers to this day. He paved the way for the neoliberal turn in the Democratic Party, a dead weight that still exercises undue influence.

On the other hand, give him credit for actually doing something constructive about Israel (even if he mostly rationalized it as countering Soviet influence in Egypt). He negotiated the Begin-Sadat accord that guaranteed that Israel would never again have to face a united front of Arab enemies. Less known is how he backed Israel down from intervening in Lebanon in 1978. Four years later, Reagan gave Begin the green light, leading to a 17-year occupation that failed in every respect, leaving Hezbollah as the dominant power. Carter has often been maligned for being critical of Israel (especially for his 2006 book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, which is worth scanning through, even though the reality now is worse than apartheid), but he was a truer friend to Israel in 1978-79 than any of his more popularly obsequious successors.

Also give Carter credit for a remarkable post-presidency, a record of public service unique in American history, one that worked on many levels, ranging from the mudane (Habitat for Humanity) to high diplomacy. (His mission to North Korea, which Clinton's people subsequently bungled, could well have nipped that conflict in the bud.) I had hopes that Clinton and/or Obama might have followed suit, but they opted instead to hobnob with the rich and grow their fortunes (with the bad faith effectively killing Hillary Clinton's political ambitions). At root, that's because Carter was a fundamentally different kind of person -- one rarely seen in American politics. As one recent piece put it, The un-celebrity president: Shunning riches, living modestly in Georgia.

Laurie Hertzel: [02-15] Is owning a lot of books a mark of middle-class smugness? This popped up in the wasteland of bits that is my morning newspaper, and rubbed me bad enough I decided to save the link. Smug? Sounds like someone is insecure.

Ian Millhiser:

Ashley Parker/Justine McDaniel: [02-17] From Freddie Gray to Tyre Nichols, early police claims often misleading: "Misleading" is putting it mildly.

Andrew Prokop:

  • [02-19] Can the Republican establishment finally stop Trump this time? As someone who regards the "Republican establishment" as even more malevolent than Trump, this is not a contest that interests me, but you're welcome to consider it. Sure, based on the four years when Trump was president, you could counter that Trump = the Republican establishment (for policy, admin, and judges) + a media-obsessed dose of crazy and extra risk of volatility, and that combination of risk probably makes him worse. But don't lose sight of how bad the other blokes are (or their handlers and donors).

  • [02-18] A juicy new legal filing reveals who really controls Fox News: "As Trump spread his stolen election lies, Fox was terrified of alienating its own audience, emails and texts show." This comes from Fox internal email collected by the Dominion Voting vs. Fox lawsuit. Also: Erik Wemple: [02-17] Fox News is worse than you thought; and Matt Ford: [02-18] The Fox News Text Messages Prove the Hosts All Know They're Craven Liars; and Ben Beckett: [02-18] Fox News Knew Donald Trump's Election Fraud Claims Were False. They Broadcast Them Anyway. Texts uncovered in the Dominion Voting lawsuit against Fox.

  • [02-15] The rise of the Trump-Russia revisionists: Latest summary of the latest analyses of the public reporting of Trump-Russia entanglement, if you still give a whit. I've said my bit many times over. For this one, note the chart comparing pre-2016 election search interest in "Trump Russia" with the alleged Clinton scandals (email, foundation, wikileaks). Even if Trump was maligned unfairly, the effect was much less than the insinuation of scandal re Clinton -- something both the FBI and mainstream media should be ashamed of (and not just because it tipped the election to Trump, a more disastrous outcome than the mainstream media, despite all their hyperventilation on Russia, prepared us for). The other thing that should be noted is that if reporters had a realistic concept of how political actors work, they could have dismissed 80% of the bullshit out of hand, instead of breathlessly repeating it for amusement.

Nathan J Robinson: [02-16] The Apocalyptic Delusions of the Silicon Valley Elite: Interview with Douglas Rushkoff on "how the super-rich plan to escape the world after they've destroyed it." Rushkoff is what you'd call a social critic, with a dozen-plus nonfiction books (plus some novels) since 1994, most related to tech. His latest is germane here: Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires. By the way, I've picked up a copy of Robinson's new book Responding to the Right. You can read an overview here.

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-17] Roaming Charges: Train in Vain: Leads off with a lengthy report on the East Palestine, Ohio train disaster -- probably the best piece to read on the subject. Also includes significant sections on the Seymour Hersh pipeline piece, which he doesn't accept at face value but also doesn't reject out of hand ("the lack of any follow-up reporting from the New York Times or Washington Post, to either confirm or discredit Hersh's story, is one of the more shameful episodes in a dismal couple of decades for American journalism"). And some pertinent comments on the art of shooting things down, as well as more statistics and details about prisoning America. One stat I basically knew is that we're running more than one mass shooting per day in 2023. One I didn't realize is that there have been over 1,000 train derailments (basically, 3 per day) for many year running. Also includes a link to L7, about assholes and their wars.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 38 albums, 8 A-list,

Music: Current count 39593 [39555] rated (+38), 42 [48] unrated (-6: 14 new, 28 old).

Rated count is high enough, but since I decided not to keep a tracking file (like I've done for many years, including 2022 with 5046 albums) I've been blissfully unaware of new non-jazz releases. On the other hand, there is a long list previously unheard music in my Penguin Guide 4-star list, and that suffices for now.

The latest plan is to suck up the recent music reviews into the book drafts, then empty them out into a redesigned website, so I figure anything that helps patch up old gaps is probably worthwhile. On the other hand, I've given up on trying to stay current. Maybe I'm still enough of a jazz critic to play catch up later on, but that'll depend on what else I manage to get going.

This week it's all been catch up. I finally added my Oct. 22 Book Roundup blurbs to my Book Notes compendium (beware: count is now 6145 books, 340k words, a file that should be broken up and stuffed into a database). I've also finally done the indexing for the December and January Streamnotes files, including the Music Weeks roll ups.

I'm still planning on doing the frozen snapshot of the 2022 list by the end of February, although I haven't actually added anything to the list this week (or last, as best I recall).

Incoming mail has been relatively high the last few weeks, so the drop to zero this week probably means little.


I wrote a fairly long Speaking of Which yesterday. One thing I didn't go into is that Democrats could start to divide over foreign policy, where Biden has resurrected the Blob. Left democrats have generally tolerated this, probably because Biden has been more accommodating on domestic policy, and because he handled the Afghanistan debacle with aplomb, but there are lots of obvious pitfalls, including some potential disasters, that could ultimately split the Democratic Party, not unlike Lyndon Johnson's Vietnam War. I don't see anyone -- even Sanders or Warren -- taking these risks seriously, let alone trying to steer foreign policy back onto a saner course. On the other hand, there is a pretty obvious platform that someone could challenge Biden on -- although the chances of winning in 2024 are miniscule, the odds of being right in the long run are much greater.

As noted, I ordered a couple of books from the very prolific Nathan J. Robinson, whose Current Affairs is by far the most useful of the explicitly socialist websites I've seen. (I regularly consult Jacobin and Counterpunch, but find much less there that I feel like forwarding -- Jeffrey St Clair's "Roaming Charges" is an exception, mostly for its breadth of coverage but also because I don't mind a little snark.)

I'm midway through Timothy Shenk's Realigners, which is to say I finished the profile on W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) and am deep inside the one on Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) -- neither of whom realigned anything, but got tossed back and forth trying to find a political party they could identify with. That was, of course, much harder for Du Bois, who I grew up more familiar with.

Lippmann has always been an enigma to me, as I've never understood why so many people accorded him such great respect and authority. From what I've read, I don't see that changing. I turned hard against Cold War Liberals during the Vietnam War, and while he wasn't much of a presence then, he seems to have been one of their prototypes and heroes. One thing I didn't know was that he coined the phrase "the great society," then wound up writing a book called The Good Society.

Next up is the horrible Phyllis Schlafly, although the chapter I'm more worried about is the one on Barack Obama, whose idea of realignment seems to have been to line up Wall Street and Silicon Valley behind the Democrats, and take the rest of us for a ride where the superrich pull away from everyone else.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (2022 [2023], Ayler): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jo Lawry: Acrobats (2022 [2023], Whirlwind): [cd]: A-
  • Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls (2022 [2023], Cellar Music): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (2022 [2023], Troubadour Jass): [cd]: B+(***)
  • Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (2022 [2023], Yes): [bc]: A-
  • Eldad Tarmu: Tarmu Jazz Quartet (2022 [2023], Queen of Bohemia): [cd]: B+(**) [03-01]
  • Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project: Mi Hogar (2022 [2023], Outside In Music): [cd]: B+(**) [02-13]

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • None.

Old music:

  • Ray Brown: The Best of the Concord Years (1973-93 [2002], Concord, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York (2001 [2003], Stretch): [r]: B+(**)
  • The Sonny Criss Orchestra: Sonny's Dream (Birth of the New Cool) (1968, Prestige): [yt]: B+(***)
  • Meredith D'Ambrosio: It's Your Dance (1985, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(***)
  • Lars Danielsson: Poems (1991, Dragon): [r]: A-
  • Stefano D'Anna Trio: Leapin' In (1991 [1992], Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stefano D'Anna Quartet: Carousel (1998, Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
  • Stefano D'Anna: Runa (2003 [2004], Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carlo Actis Dato: Ankara Twist (1989 [1990], Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
  • Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Bagdad Boogie (1992, Splasc(H): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Blue Cairo (1995 [1996], Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(**)
  • Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Istanbul Rap (2003 [2003], YVP): [r]: A-
  • Wolfgang Dauner/Charlie Mariano/Dino Saluzzi: Pas De Trois (1989, Mood): [r]: B+(**)
  • Danny D'Imperio: Blues for Philly Joe (1991 [1992], V.S.O.P.): [sp]: A-
  • Danny D'Imperio: Hip to It (1992 [1993], V.S.O.P.): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Johnny Dodds: The Chronological Johnny Dodds 1927 (1927 [1991], Classics): [r]: A-
  • Arne Domnérus Quartet: Sugar Fingers (1993, Phontastic): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Kenny Drew Jr.: Third Phase (1989, Jazz City): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Dutch Swing College Band: Live in 1960 (1960 [1988], Philips): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Billy Eckstine: Everything I Have Is Yours: The MGM Years (1947-58 [1994], Verve, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marty Ehrlich: Pliant Plaint (1987 [1988], Enja): [r]: B+(**)
  • Marty Ehrlich: New York Child (1995 [1996], Enja): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson: With Eddie Locke and His Friends Feat. Budd Johnson, Tommy Flanagan, Major Holley: Recorded in Concert at St. Peter's Church, NYC, May 20, 1978 (1978 [1995], Storyville): [r]: B+(**)
  • Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Three Gentlemen From Chikago (1981, Moers Music): [yt]: B+(**)
  • Bill Evans: The Brilliant (1980 [1990], Timeless): [sp]: A-
  • John Fedchock: New York Big Band (1992 [1995], Reservoir): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band (1956 [1957], Vik): [r]: B+(***)
  • Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band: Volume 2 (1956 [1957], Vik): [r]: B+(**)
  • Dave Liebman: Drum Ode (1974 [1975], ECM): [sp]: A-
  • David Liebman/Richard Beirach: Double Edge (1985 [1987], Storyville): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Dave Liebman Group: Miles Away (1994 [1995], Owl): [r]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • None.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

Started Friday, but various things distracted me along the way, and this feels exceptionally jumbled at the moment. For what it's worth, I started with the Jonathan Chait pieces, and only decided to include the bit on the Turkey/Syria earthquake very late. Also appearing late was the Thomas Friedman Biden-to-Israel column. You'd have to look back at past weeks to get the context.


Top story threads:

Biden's State-of-the-Union Address: I never watch speeches like this (or like anything, actually), but I've seen bits since, and for once the coverage helped. The Sanders quotes in the Kilgore piece are especially jaw-dropping.

  • Bill Scher: [02-08] Biden Concedes Nothing in His State of the Union Address: "A deft, defiant Democratic president outfoxes the Republicans in front of the nation and smartly stresses antitrust and consumer rights." Scher contrasts this with Clinton in 1995 and Obama in 2011, who proposed spending cuts to placate new Republican majorities in the House. Part of the reason may be that the Republicans' narrow win has been widely spun as a failure, so Biden feels less need to triangulate. But also Democrats are sick and tired of the imperious demands of the right, and have resolved to fight back, not least because they have started to have confidence in their own plans, rather than thinking all they have to do is offer something slightly more palatable than what the nihilist Republicans are demanding.

  • Jonathan Chait: [02-10] Joe Biden Is a Mediocre Liberal: "But he's proved to be a successful president anyway." This is kind of a silly article, but at least is less pretentious than another one that I can imagine: that someone slipped Biden a book on the New Deal, and he decided to adopt FDR's penchant for just trying things, going whichever direction seemed to work best. Of course, his options have been limited, given lack of majority support in Congress. The fault there is in thinking that he's acting according to some plan. Nothing in his history suggests anything but opportunism, but that's left him flexible enough to adapt to the times.

  • David Dayen: [02-10] The Twilight of the Deficit Hawks: "Democrats have stopped being the willing partner in a great conspiracy to slash social insurance." Looks at a deficit hawk group called Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, where the board is amply stacked with has-been Democrats who've long been willing pawns in schemes to cut social welfare. "The problem for Republicans is that they have always wanted Democrats as willing partners, in no small part because then they could try to pin the blame on Democrats. In terms of actual principles, of course, the GOP doesn't care about deficits; under every Republican president for the last 40 years, it has happily supported giant deficit-busting tax cuts. Democratic rejection of deficit politics leaves Republicans politically exposed."

  • Ed Kilgore: [02-08] Sarah Huckabee Sanders Showed That the GOP Is Truly Not 'Normal'. The quotes from Sanders' rebuttal speech are so disconnected from reality it's hard to decipher them as anything but a catechism: words repeated from memory as a testimony to a faith that is way beyond experience or perception. She says "the dividing line in America is no longer between left and right. The choice is between normal or crazy." She came down clearly on the side of crazy.

  • Paul Krugman: [02-09] War Is Peace, Freedom Is Slavery, Democrats Are Radicals: "Delivering the Republican response, Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that the United States is divided between two parties, one of which is mainly focused on bread-and-butter issues that matter to regular people, while the other is obsessed with waging culture war. This is also true. But she got her parties mixed up."

  • Frank Bruni: [02-07] Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the Queen of Having It Both Ways.

  • Paul Waldman/Greg Sargent: [02-08] Sarah Huckabee Sanders's strange "woke" rant reveals a big GOP problem: Republicans like to rant about "woke," but how many people have any idea what it means? (I mean, other than bad people? Ones true patriots should fear and loathe?)

  • Eric Levitz: [02-08] The GOP's Heckles Were a Gift to Biden's Reelection Campaign.

  • Harold Meyerson: [02-08] Biden Forges a New Democratic Paradigm: "The president repudiates the neoliberal ideologies of the past and puts the party on solid economic and political ground."

  • Timothy Noah: [02-09] And Now, the Republicans Are the Party of Defending Businesses That Rip People Off: "Biden was right to talk about junk fees in his SOTU. And Republicans are playing into his hand." Nor is it just junk fees. Once Republicans disposed of the idea of there even being such a thing as a public interest, they opened the door to all kinds of profit-seeking, even fraud. Their push to deregulation basically encourages companies to take all sorts of profitable liberties. And their efforts to cripple enforcement, not least by the IRS, appear designed to promote financial crime even in cases they're not able to explicitly legitimize.

  • Paul Waldman: [02-10] Sorry, Republicans, no one should trust your word on Social Security. Democrats have long accused Republicans of wanting to kill Social Security and Medicare, and they've always been able to produce evidence to support their case, but somehow the charge has rarely had much impact. The charges don't stick because most people doubt that Republicans would be so foolish as to dismantle such popular programs. But while there are cranks who want nothing less, serious Republican efforts aim to merely knick, cripple, and ultimately eviscerate the program. And often, as with Bush's 2005 privatization ploy, they are hyped as plans not to kill but to save the programs. That one failed not just because it was unpopular but because there was no way to make it work. But many other ploys have slipped into law: higher eligibility ages, reduced cost-of-living adjustments, increased co-payments on Medicare -- each designed to make the program less appealing, and therefore less popular. And no less ominous are the scams like Medicare Advantage, which add cost to the program, making it less efficient, and presumably untenable in the long run. What Democrats finally seem to be wising up to is that to protect Social Security and Medicare, they need to improve the benefits -- and watch Republicans squirm to resist, instead of just issuing denials and carrying on as usual.

    By the way, one thing that helps Republican denials of intent to destroy Social Security and Medicare is their ability to get the "liberal press" to editorialize on their behalf. See Dean Baker: [02-05] The Washington Post Wants to Cut Social Security and Medicare (Yeah, What Else Is New?).

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [02-07] Biden speeds through Ukraine, China in soaring State of the Union: "Just 200 words out of a 7300-word speech devoted to a war consuming our attention -- and $113 billion in resources -- for the last year." What's the opposite of "wag the dog"? Arthur Vandenberg's prescription was that in order to sell a massive military outlay, you first have to scare the hell out of the people. But for Washington today, it's so reflexive you scarcely have to mention it.

The Republican House: And elsewhere, basically anywhere they are given license to plunder and a voice to spew their nonsense.

Trump and DeSantis: We might as well combine their latest stunts and blunders, as the differences rarely matter.

Death to Flying Things: That was the nickname of a 19th century infielder, Bob Ferguson (1845-94), supposedly for his skill at catching pop ups and line drives, but before long Joe Biden will be laying claim to it. [PS: And then Biden and Justin Trudeau ordered a third object shot down over Canadian airspace.]

Ukraine War: Both sides appear to be planning offensives, confident enough they can ignore the dire need for ceasefire and a negotiated settlement. Meanwhile, big story was Seymour Hersh's article on the NordStream pipeline sabotage. Beyond the White House issuing the expected denial, I haven't seen much commentary, particularly from the Europeans most directly affected.

  • Connor Echols: [02-10] Diplomacy Watch: Lavrov shores up support for Russia in Africa.

  • Luke Cooper: [01-30] Ukraine's Neoliberal War Mobilization: "You can't fight wars with neoliberal economics," but austerity programs have led to fracturing and war elsewhere (e.g., Yugoslavia). While Ukraine is fighting for its independence from Russia, it is increasingly indebted to the US and Europe, whose future generosity is by no means assured: in fact, the economic regimes long pushed by the US and Germany have more often led to stagnation and impoverishment.

  • Dave DeCamp: [02-09] GOP Resolution to End Support for Ukraine War: Actually, it's just Matt Gaetz and ten of his cohort, so no one but Kevin McCarthy is likely to get bent out of shape over this threat. They call it "The Ukraine Fatigue Resolution," which should make for amusing op-ads. Blaise Malley [02-09] also has the story: Gaetz introduces 'Ukraine Fatigue' resolution.

  • Chris Hedges: [01-29] Ukraine: The War That Went Wrong. I'm merely noting this, not having read much by him recently. While his railing against US imperial hubris is well-founded, it's not clear to me that his detailed understanding of Ukraine is. I also glanced at Hedges' [02-05] Woke Imperialism, which reveals him to be a strange bedfellow in the anti-woke pile on. I'd say that the ability to recognize and the desire to oppose one form of discrimination (racial) would make one more likely to identify and oppose others (even class).

  • Seymour Hersh: [02-08] How America Took Out the Nord Stream Pipeline. Detective stories have drummed into us the critical trinity of means, opportunity, and motive. People were quick to point the finger at Russia, but they could have produced the same effect by closing the valve, without the enormous future cost of repairs, so that never made any sense. Ukraine probably had the most motive, but means? Only the US checks all three boxes (especially with Norway's collusion), but you'd think exposure would be awfully embarrassing, especially in Germany. Jeffrey St Clair addresses this in this week's "Roaming Charges" (link below).

  • Anatol Lieven: [02-10] Crimea Is a Powder Keg. I've been saying all along that there needs to be an honest referendum on where the people of Crimea want to align (with Russia or Ukraine). Same for other contested oblasts, although refugees complicate things, especially in areas which have seen the most intense fighting. (There are also border issues: do you hold a referendum over all of Donetsk, or just the portion -- either now or before the 2022 invasion -- controlled by Russia?) I've also been saying that Ukraine would be better off without the breakaway territories. That doesn't sit easily with those who want to inflict the maximum defeat on Russia, but haven't they been indulged enough already? Lieven's review of Crimean history just underscores my position.

  • Eve Ottenberg: [02-10] The Leopard's Tale: US Weapons Makers on a Marketing Spree.

  • Kelley Beaucar Vlahos: [02-10] Pentagon wants to revive top secret commando program in Ukraine. Much unexplained here, including the word "restart." It's hard to see how US control of missile targeting intelligence falls short of US direction of Ukrainian forces.


Other stories:

Dean Baker: [02-05] Ending the Cesspool in Pharmaceuticals by Taking Away Patent Monopolies, and [02-07] The NYT Tells Us that Drugs Are Cheap, Government-Granted Monopolies Make Them Expensive. Baker has been almost alone in flogging this horse, but it's an important point, and even more important than he seems to recognize. The problem with patents isn't just that they grant companies legal power to fleece the public. (One's tempted to say "tax," given the word's arbitrary overtones.) They also reflect a worldview where all wealth derives from property, as they create new classes of property the wealthy can exploit. But they also have the exact opposite effect of what their proponents claim: they stifle innovation, by hacking up public knowledge and assigning exclusive control to companies motivated by mere profit-seeking. The elect claim them, then exclude others from developing them further. In a patent-free world, anyone could take an idea, develop it, making it public for others to develop further, as the knowledge developed would be gratis everywhere. Perhaps nowhere do we see the corrosive effects of patents than in world trade talks, where rich countries insist others submit to their market discipline and pay tribute to their arbitrary property grants. Pharmaceuticals are simply one of the most morally hazardous products: patents give companies the power to demand: "your money or your life." The Covid-19 pandemic shows how short-sighted this is.

Jonathan Chait:

  • [02-06] Michael Lind, Case Study in the Perils of Discourse-Poisoning: "How an intellectual talks himself into believing the GOP is the left-wing party." What occasioned this was a piece by Lind called The Power-Mad Utopians, which argues "America needs a broad popular front to stop the revolution from above that is transforming the country." Chait summarizes Lind's complaints about what he calls "the 'Green Project' (support for clean energy), the 'Quota Project' (affirmative action), and the 'Androgyny Project' (transgender rights)." Chait points out that while there are factions on the left pushing such arguments, the actual policies Democrats push fall far short. And he wonders why Lind seems to have abandoned his earlier focus on class to embrace culture war reaction. Those of us who have followed Lind know that he occasionally has solid insights -- he pointed out that libertarianism has indeed been tried, as what we now call feudalism; his 2004 book on Bush, Made in Texas, was one of the period's sharpest critiques, building as it did on his disillusionment with neoconservatism -- he has also on occasion proved remarkably stupid (as in his 1999 book, Vietnam: The Necessary War). For what it's worth, I think there is some value in critiquing utopian tendencies on the left (as on the right). But I'd say that the way to do that is to elect sensible Democrats who focus on real problems and how to mitigate or even solve them, as opposed to naysayers and outrage merchants who have nothing to offer but force and collateral damage. And I have to point out that sometimes Lind's cleverness gets the better of him (e.g., what can "The Trump presidency was the Thermidorian Reaction to the radical Bush revolution" possibly mean?).

  • [02-09] Columbia Journalism Review Had a Different Russiagate Story -- and Spiked It: Chait complains that Jeff Gerth's CJR essay "worked backward from the conclusion that Trump had been vindicated and used a parallel to the media's coverage of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction. . . . Proceeding from the premise that Trump had been smeared by the press, Gerth attacked the media's coverage of the issue." He then impugns CJR's motives by citing "a very different Russia story" they "commissioned, and killed": one that looked into The Nation's "pro-Russian stance" (attributed largely to editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and her late husband, Stephen F. Cohen). I'll leave it to you to sort out the conflict in Chait's mind.

    But I will note that I've always been sympathetic to Cohen's opposition to efforts to gin up a new cold war against Russia, which was always central to his critique of the "Russiagate" hysteria. True, I thought he sometimes tried too hard to sympathize with Putin, who I've long regarded as a very repellant political figure -- my worries about regenerating cold war hysteria have more to do with the damage such attitudes cause to American domestic and foreign policy, not least the risk of prodding Russia into war, as has now happened. (While I blame Putin for intervening in Ukraine both in 2014 and invading in 2022, I seriously doubt that would have happened absent the long drum-roll of American arms propagandists.)

    What bothered me about Russiagate was never the truth or falsity of the charges -- a mixed record, as far as I can tell -- but the subtexts: the desire to reconstruct Russia as an enemy worthy of massive defense budgets (as noted above), and the lame excuse it provided for Hillary Clinton's 2016 political loss, to which we may now add the effective submission of the Democratic Party to the anti-Russia hawks (and in most cases to the anti-China hawks).

    On the other hand, I should note that I turned off the Russiagate hysteria almost as soon as it got cranked up. There was never any shortage of legitimate reasons to despise Trump, and even he soon got boring, as focus on his personal outrageousness distracted from the many horrible things his administration did (and the even worse things they clearly wanted to do). Perhaps if journalism was my profession, I might have felt more like Matt Taibbi (or maybe not, as he's always compensated for his independence with a veneer of both-sidesism). But on balance I'd say the media has been far more solicitous of and generous to Trump, and much less critical, than is objectively merited.

Thomas L Friedman: [02-12] In 46 Words, Biden Sends a Clear Message to Israel: I doubt the statement is either as clear or as weighty as Friedman thinks, but let's start with it:

The genius of American democracy and Israeli democracy is that they are both built on strong institutions, on checks and balances, on an independent judiciary. Building consensus for fundamental changes is really important to ensure that the people buy into them so they can be sustained.

This misses two key points to focus in on the narrow point of the value of having an independent judiciary (which is arguably the least democratic part of US government). The first is that the real genius of American democracy is that it trends toward equal rights for all people (imperfectly, fitfully, but each expansion is ultimately one that we are proud of). On the other hand, Israeli democracy is built on the systematic exclusion of a large class of people, who are denied political rights within Israel and human rights in general. And this has gone on for 75 years, with the full blessing of the "independent judiciary" Friedman and Biden are so concerned over.

Bob Hennelly: [02-08] "Cover-up": Workers "know the truth" about the derailment disaster -- why are they being ignored? In Ohio, a train with 150 cars (20 carrying "hazardous materials") derailed and caught fire.

John Herrman: [01-30] The Junkification of Amazon: "Why does it feel like the company is making itself worse?" It is. And it's not alone. It's tempting to attribute this to monopoly leverage, but it's working at smaller granularity with greater speed than ever before. Google is another example: they started out offering a fast, relatively high quality search engine. Now they're basically sucking you into a maze of insider deals of marginal utility. Amazon started out as a place where you could buy discounted books your local retailer couldn't bother stocking. Now it's, well, some kind of insidious racket.

Ed Kilgore: [02-12] What Would 2024 Look Like for Democrats If Biden Retired? Not a subject that particularly interests me, but since his SOTU address helped unify all factions of the Democratic Party behind his presidency, I suppose one could offer a few observations. Clearly, his age will be an issue. Health past 80 is always a worry, but also he's always been prone to gaffes, and from here on they'll all be attributed to his age. He's never been an especially persuasive speaker, but it would be nice if Democrats had one for that role. On the other hand, administrations are team efforts, and a charismatic leader is hardly needed to micromanage. The key question won't be who can run government better, but who can win in 2024.

Biden has one big advantage in that regard. He has proven willing to work with the democratic wing of the Party, but he is still acceptable to the neoliberals who, like the Gold Democrats of 1896 and the Democratic Hawks of 1972 would rather throw the election than see their party move toward the left. You no doubt recall that when Sanders took the lead in 2020, Bloomberg put $500 million into the primaries, making an ass of himself but stampeding Democrats away from Sanders and Warren to . . . well, Biden was their sensible compromise choice, one that despite his many weaknesses kept the party united enough to defeat Trump. If he can do that again (or whoever the Trump-wannabe du jour is), I'll be happy.

Of course, Democrats should be developing a deep bench of potential leaders. Republicans are able to do that because they are all interchangeable ciphers with agendas set by their donors. Democrats have a tougher time, because the money people who ran the Clinton-Obama period did such a poor job of delivering gains to the party base that the people revolted (Sanders was a catalyst, and by no means the only one, but he proved that small donations could compete with the PACs). Consequently, there is a great deal of unresolved distrust among Democrats, which tends to get papered over with the more pervasive fear of Republicans.

Kilgore is mostly responding to a piece by Michelle Goldberg: [02-06] Biden's a Great President. He Should Not Run Again.

David Lat/Zachary B Shemtob: [02-12] Trump's Supreme Court Picks Are Not Quite What You Think. Marginal distinctions, but they know better than anyone that they never have to answer to his sorry ass again. It's possible that what kept Scalia and Thomas so tightly bound to right-wing lobbies is keeping their kin on the payroll.

Louisa Loveluck: [02-10] In earthquake-battered Syria, a desperate wait for help that never came. The worst-hit part of Syria is in territory that isn't under control of the government in Damascus, and while the US and others have pumped arms into the area, it's not really stable enough for outside aide to get in, either. Nothing constructive can happen in a war zone. People need to realize that's a good reason to settle conflicts, even if not optimally. Also note that even in Turkey, which is much more stable, politics still gets in the way: see Jenna Krajeski: [02-09 Turkey's earthquake response is as political as the conditions that increased the devastation. [PS: Death toll from the 7.8 earthquake has topped 33,000.]

Stephen Prager: [02-09] Republicans Are Starting to Discuss Which Groups to Cast Out of Democratic Society. Sounds like something they'd do, but most of the article is still on voter suppression, which is not a surefire method (not least because it stinks).

Nathan J Robinson:

  • [02-06] AI Is About to Bring Us Into a Very Creepy New World: "The ability to defraud and deceive is about to massively escalate." I think that trust is going to become extremely important in future politics, and that it's going to be impossible to achieve in a world that puts the profit motive above all else.

  • [02-11] I Have Now Destroyed All of the Right-Wing Arguments at Once: Robinson has a new book out, Responding to the Right: Brief Replies to 25 Conservative Arguments. I probably know all of this already, but ordered a copy for future reference. Also ordered his 2018 essay collection, The Current Affairs Rules for Life: On Social Justice & Its Critics, which covers similar ground, calling out a number of right-wing intellectuals. I skipped over his Why You Should Be a Socialist, initially because Amazon didn't offer a paperback (they were too busy pushing Audible and Kindle). Turns out there is a paperback, for a couple bucks less than the hardcover, but I don't see much practical value in calling yourself a socialist, and I see lots of worthwhile things that can be done short of the label (although not short of getting called names by Republicans and other fascists).

    Robinson notes that right-wingers have their own primers on how to argue their talking points, like Gregg Jackson's Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies (2006), and Larry Schweikart's 48 Liberal Lies About American History (2008). Looking at the latter list, roughly one-third are certainly true (like "The Reagan Tax Cuts Caused Massive Deficits and the National Debt"), one-third are worded vaguely enough to be debatable (like "The Early Colonies Were Intolerant and Racist" -- well, they did execute women for witchcraft, and they did practice race-based slavery, but there were occasional exceptions), and one-third are things no liberal has seriously argued (like "John F. Kennedy Was Killed by LBJ and a Secret Team to Prevent Him from Getting Us Out of Vietnam").

Walter Shapiro: [02-09] The Democrats Lost the House by Just 6,675 Votes. What Went Wrong? Some case studies, if you want details.

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-10] Roaming Charges: Killing in the Name Of . . . : "The US is home to less than 5 percent of the world's population, but holds 20 percent of the planet's prisoners." Also: "Through the first week of February, police in the US had killed at least 133 people -- a 20% increase over the same period last year." Further notes on ICE border jails, and an in-depth review of the Seymour Hersh article and reservations.

Monday, February 06, 2023

Music Week

Expanded blog post, February archive (in progress).

Tweet: Music Week: 21 albums, 1 A-list,

Music: Current count 39555 [39534] rated (+21), 48 [39] unrated (+9: 20 new, 28 old).

Took a break after the excesses of last week and last month. I spent two days on a fried chicken dinner, during which I only played old favorites. Finally, over the weekend (while writing Speaking of Which), I finally dug up my unplayed Penguin Guide 4-star list, and started up in the 'C' section. (I'm deleting as I knock items off.)

Lots of items from that list aren't on streaming (probably most of them). I've also generally skipped over compilations from familiar artists, especially material I've heard elsewhere (e.g., a lot of Louis Armstrong). And sometimes I've had to make adjustments, like with Eddie Condon's The Town Hall Concerts, where 2-CD sets have recently (hard to tell how recently) been broken up into pieces for download/streaming. (For example, The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six are the first half of the previous Vol. 3. Also, the Condon twofers on Collectables have been split up, with one piece of one of them reduced to EP-length). When I get into an artist like Condon, it's tempting to go deeper, but for now I've mostly restrained myself -- I did substitute the Timeless 1928-1931 for the similar Classics set, and added the 3.5-star In Japan.

Once again, I've neglected my paperwork, including the indexing for recent Streamnotes files. I also haven't frozen the 2022 list. (Started to, then noticed that I didn't freeze 2021 until February 28, so I might keep that consistent this year.) I think I added one set to the EOY Aggregate (from Christian Iszchak, although I should also add the latest from Phil Overeem).

The 12th Annual Expert Witness Poll Results have been turned into a web page. The Expert Witness Facebook group boasts 371 members, but only 43 voted. Would be nice to have the individual ballots collected (and I don't mean in a Google spreadsheet, like PJRP uses). I included the ones I found in my EOY Aggregate (looks like I got 19 of them, plus a few more that I tracked from independent lists, like: Sidney Carpenter-Wilson), Chuck Eddy, Christian Iszchak Brad Luen, Chris Monsen, and no doubt others.

We had a small disaster at the Robert Christgau website, when a software change made by the ISP broke the database access code. They fixed the problem fairly quickly, but it shows that I need to upgrade the code to play nice with PHP 8 (since not breaking websites seems to be beyond the ken of the PHP developers). I've been thinking more lately about a revision of the now-22-year-old website code, and may finally have some time to work on it. We've long needed to migrate to the UTF-8 codeset, and to make everything HTML5 proper (about half of the pages are). There is also a lot of dead PHP 5 code to be cleaned out (PHP 7 broke it, especially the database code). Also need to fix the viewport for cell phones, and that probably means redoing the navigation menus, and replacing the table layout code with divs and spans and more CSS.

Functionality-wise, the main thing I'd like to do is to put all the page metadata into the database (I'm ok with leaving the page text in flat files), so the 2001 Voice-centric directory structure is, if not gone, purely atavistic. This would help make browsing more flexible. I'd also like to add a category/keyword system, which again would add many more dimensions for browsing. Plus I need to do a better job of documenting everything, so the next poor sod who has to maintain the site has some clue as to how it works. None of these things, at least codewise, are very difficult, but there's a ton of data to run through the wringer. That's probably what's been daunting me for years now.

I've also started to think about rebuilding my website. The idea here is to create a new directory structure alongside the old "ocston" framework, then start moving content into it. The new structure would also be build mostly out of flat files, but would have a database to index the files, and possibly manage some structured content (like album grades and/or book blurbs). I've collected lots of content in LibreWriter files, but that hasn't made it any more accessible. So maybe the best solution is to bust it up again? As I want to eventually organize some of this writing in book form, a flexible website configuration might be a useful path forward.

I have an email list for discussing my website plans. If you're interested in the gritty technical details, let me know and I'll sign you up. Traffic on the list has been very light, but would pick up if I ever got my ass in gear.


New records reviewed this week:

  • Kwesi Arthur: Son of Jacob (2022, Ground Up Chale): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Skip Grasso: Becoming (2022 [2023], Barking Coda Music): [cd]: B
  • The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (2022 [2023], Strikezone): [cd]: B+(***)

Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries:

  • None.

Old music:

  • Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2003 [2004], ACT): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Betty Carter: Look What I Got! (1988, Verve): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Ron Carter/Jim Hall: Telephone (1984 [1985], Concord): [sp]: B+(*)
  • Soesja Citroen: Soesja Citroen Sings Thelonious Monk (1983 [1994], Timeless): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Soesja Citroen: Songs for Lovers and Losers (1996, Challenge): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Johnny Coles: New Morning (1982 [1983], Criss Cross): [sp]: B+(***)
  • George Colligan: Agent 99 (1999 [2001], SteepleChase): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Eddie Condon: 1928-1931 (1928-31 [1995], Timeless): [sp]: B+(**)
  • Eddie Condon: The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six (1944, Jazzology): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Eddie Condon's All-Stars: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast (1954, Columbia, EP): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eddie Condon: Bixieland (1955, Columbia): [r]: A-
  • Eddie Condon: Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz (1956, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eddie Condon: Bixieland/Treasury of Jazz (1955-56 [2003], Collectables): [r]: B+(***)
  • Eddie Condon: In Japan (1964 [2002], Chiaroscuro): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Eddie Costa: Classic Costa (1990-91 [1991], Chiaroscuro): [sp]: B+(***)
  • Fred Hersch/Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (1994 [2017], Sunnyside): [sp]: B+(**)


Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:

  • Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (Origin) [02-17]
  • Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (Ayler) [02-09]
  • Brad Goode: The Unknown (Origin) [02-17]
  • Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (Soul Song) [03-03]
  • Manzanita Quintet: Osmosis (Origin) [02-17]
  • Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (Troubadour Jass) [02-03]
  • Mason Razavi: Six-String Standards (OA2) [02-17]
  • Triogram: Triogram (Circle Theory Media) [04-07]
  • Dan Trudell: Fishin' Again: A Tribute to Clyde Stubblefield & Dr. Lonnie Smith (OA2) [02-17]
  • Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (Ears & Eyes) [02-24]

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Speaking of Which

Blog link.

One of the big stories this week was the saga of a Chinese weather balloon that at 60,000 feet got caught up in the jet stream and drifted across Alaska and western Canada, dipping into Montana and cutting a path through North Carolina and into the Atlantic. There, having completed its spy mission (if that's what it was), Biden ordered it blown up -- an act of pure spite and bloody-mindedness. Reports say he didn't act earlier because he was worried about debris landing on Americans, but odds of that happening in eastern Montana were pretty slim. Rather, he gave Republicans and the press three days to play up their China loathing -- fueled in part by Blinken canceling a visit to Peking in protest -- then jumped to the head of the line.

As you may recall, this incident comes about a week after Air Force General Mike Minihan predicted war with China in 2025, a prospect he (and therefore the United States) is currently planning for -- a plan that House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul heartily endorses. With so much sabre-rattling in the background, you'd think that Biden would work harder at smoothing over the tensions, but having been taunted into action, he scarcely had the resolve to resist.

Some further reading:


Top story threads:

Sometimes it's hard to find the right lead-in piece for what you know will be a cluster of links.

Debt Limit: Stealing a page from 2011, Kevin McCarthy (or whoever's pulling his strings) is willing to crash and burn the economy just to watch Biden squirm. So far, Biden's not falling for it:

  • Paul Krugman: [02-02] Republicans and Debt: Blackmailers Without a Cause.

  • Eric Levitz: [02-02] The GOP Can't Remember Why It Took the Debt Ceiling Hostage.

  • Li Zhou: [02-01] The lessons of the 2011 debt ceiling crisis, explained by the negotiators who were there: "Democrats and Republicans took different, sometimes contradictory, lessons from the last standoff." Democrats realized that Republicans couldn't be trusted, and didn't care how much damage they'd do, confident that the media would blame Obama. Republicans thought they had won a victory, not so much in imposing their will as in turning the discussion in their favor, by making debt and spending seem like bigger problems than the sluggish economy they were helping to stall. Pretty much the same calculation this time, except that in the meantime Trump's tax cuts blew a hole in the budget, and Biden is less inclined to give debt reduction the oxygen it needs to derail every other issue he has campaigned for.

    As it happens, right after linking to this piece, I read this from Ryan Cooper's How Are You Going to Pay for That?, where he minces fewer words on the 2011 doomsday negotiations:

    All told, this gruesome incident was a world-historical episode of moronic policy incompetence. It's as if your house were on fire, and the mayor and the fire department were arguing furiously about which grade of gasoline should be sprayed on the blaze.

    Cooper's book is very good, but I don't care for his coinage of the term "propertarianism" as a substitute for terms commonly used on the new left ("neoliberalism") and old left ("capitalism"). All of these terms refer to the notion of putting property rights ahead of human needs, but the problem is not so much property itself as a particular form of property: capital (as opposed to personal property, which means something you have exclusive use of, but not necessarily that produces income or rent). Neoliberalism is slightly different: an ideology aligned with capital, but couched in the idea of individual freedom, with contempt for notions of labor and society. Also note that neoliberalism was another neologism, designed at cross purposes: its advocates wanted to lay claim to tenets of classical liberalism, yet dispose of elements like New Deal support for unions (same tactic used by New Democrats and New Labour).

Trump: I'm sorry to inform you that as the only declared candidate so far for president in 2024, he's back in the news, and already stimulating horserace coverage for primaries that supposedly face him off with this year's favorite media goon, Ron DeSantis.

Other Toxic Republicans:

Ukraine War (Continued):

  • Blaise Malley: [02-03] Diplomacy Watch: Second thoughts on Ukraine retaking Crimea? Very little to report here. Elsewhere, there is a story that Biden Offered Putin 20% of Ukraine to End War, but all sides deny that (no one wants to look reasonable).

  • Helene Cooper/Eric Schmitt/Thomas Gibbons-Neff: [02-02] Soaring Death Toll Gives Grim Insight Into Russian Tactics. "The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is approaching 200,000, a stark symbol of just how badly President Vladimir V. Putin's invasion has gone, according to American and other Western officials." These figures are clearly wild guesses, exaggerated for propaganda purposes. I referred back to these number after reading much smaller figures cited by Jeffrey St Clair below. The difference is that to St Clair, the numbers (which focused more on civilians) demanded a ceasefire and negotiated settlement; here they're just another excuse for further punishing Russia, even when suggesting that Ukrainian losses are comparable.

  • Bruno Marcetic: [02-03] Diplomatic Cables Prove Top US Officials Knew They Were Crossing Russia's Red Lines on NATO Expansion. Of course, one could argue that the "red lines" were stupid. One could also argue that the US was daring Russia to do something stupid. The one thing that's inarguable is what Putin finally did was profoundly stupid.

Israel: As the Palestinian Authority, despite its legendary corruption, has found it impossible to do business with the new fascist government, Biden sent Secretary of State Blinken to kiss the ring, to reassure Netanyahu that nothing he can do will shake American fealty to the Zionist regime. Meanwhile, efforts in the US and UK are heating up to police any discussion of Israel's crimes. One of the few sources still reporting on Israel is Mondoweiss.


Other Stories:

Kate Aronoff: [02-03] The Biden Administration Has Been Very Good for Big Oil: "Despite climate legislation passed by Democrats last year, oil companies are securing loads of drilling deals and posting huge profits."

Rachel DuBose: [01-31] What can the world learn from China's "zero-Covid" lockdown?

Constance Grady: [02-03] The mounting, undeniable Me Too backlash: This has less to do with the ebbing of the "Me Too" moment a few years back than with the long reaction against the women's liberation movement in the 1970s, which has scored some recent purely political wins recently, like overturning Roe v. Wade. Hence, re-reading Susan Faludi's 1991 book, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. I will note that while this reaction is inflicting real damage, it is not especially popular. So perhaps instead of relitigating points that have sense become common sense and embedded in popular culture, we should look at the political anomaly that has given such power to, well, Republicans -- one can add adjectives to reinforce one's sense of disgust, but doing so suggests that there are other, more decent Republicans, and there's little to no practical evidence of that.

Ezra Klein: [02-05] The Story Construction Tells About America's Economy Is Disturbing: Declining productivity, ever since the 1970s.

Paul Krugman: [01-30] Will Americans Even Notice an Improving Economy? That's a good question. Part of the problem is statistics: few people are aware of them, and fewer still have any idea how they relate to their own lives. (Statistics are the only way to make sense of massive amounts of data, but we'd prefer anecdotes we can relate to. But also there is the problem of gauging the significance of variations that are smaller than we normally perceive. This is a big problem with climate change: each degree warmer is a really big deal, but every day we experience temperature swings 10-20 times as great.) Part of the problem is the political bubbles we all live in: as far as I'm concerned, the Bush and Trump economies were disasters, even if the nature varied from time to time; Republicans, with far greater experience at denying reality, thought those times were peachy keen, only to be devastated by Obama and Biden (despite much higher top line statistics). But one other source of confusion is that under both parties, fortune favors the already rich. This is especially true with the Fed, which supposedly tries to manage employment and inflation, but actually implements its policy decisions to giving rich people (via bankers) more or less money at any given point. So it's quite possible that the economy is going gangbusters, but none of it is trickling down to you. Conversely, the vacuuming up, whether through inflation or taxes, is something everyone feels personally, which makes it relatively easy to exploit politically.

Eric Levitz: [02-03] The Fed Can Stop Choking the Economy Now: But they keep missing Powell's target figures for unemployment (er, reducing inflation).

Megan McArdle: [01-29] The $400K conundrum: Why America's urban rich don't feel that way: Refers back to the Todd Henderson case, the guy who in 2010 claimed that it's hard to get by on a meager $450,000 per year. I wrote a bit about this back then. The thing that struck me about Henderson's budget was that most of the money went for things that a decent modern social democracy would provide for most people: health insurance, schooling, retirement. Of course, for his extra money, he's also getting exclusivity: private instead of public schools. And maybe his children need the extra leg up his high income provides. McArdle refers to such people as "broke 2-percenter" -- so close to the 1-percent, yet they keep coming up just short.

Louis Menand: [01-30] When Americans Lost Faith in the News. "The press wasn't silenced in the Trump years. The press was discredited, at least among Trump supporters, and that worked just as well. It was censorship by other means." Menand tries to sketch out the origins of public distrust in the press. Those origins weren't in the 1950s, when journalists were all too happy to shill for the CIA, but the more "bad news" -- riots and anti-war protests -- they reported, the more suspect they became. Nixon may not have coined the phrase "fake news," but as so often in arts Trump perfected, Nixon was the originator, his practice of shooting the messenger only ending when the messengers shot back. Menand wades through various books, finally Margaret Sullivan's "memoir slash manifesto" Newsroom Confidential: Lessons (and Worries) From an Ink-Stained Life.

Ian Millhiser:

Eve Ottenberg: [02-03] Egalitarian Paradise Lost: David Graeber and the Pirates of Madagascar. Review of the late anarchist anthropologist's second posthumous book, Pirate Enlightenment, or the Real Libertalia.

Eric Reinhart: [02-05] Doctors Aren't Burned Out From Overwork. We're Demoralized by Our Health System. It's a big slide from the heyday of the AMA, when doctors organized as a business racket, to today, when doctors are talking about the need for unions.

Dylan Scott:

Jeffrey St Clair: [02-03] Roaming Charges: See No Evil: "There have been at least 52 people killed by police in the US since the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols on January 7th. In 2021, there were 1055 people killed by police in the US. In the same year, 31 people were killed by police in all of Europe. . . . Most of the people killed by police in 2022 were killed by officers responding to mental health calls, traffic violations, disturbances, other *non-violent* issues and situations where no crime was alleged." Examples follow. Behind a paywall, St Clair also wrote: [01-29] The Murder of Tyre Nichols and the Death of Police Reform.

Zeynep Tufecki: [02-03] An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here: Actually, H5N1 avian flu is already here. It just hasn't broken out as a pandemic in humans yet. In 2005, Mike Davis took the threat seriously enough to write a book: The Monster at Our Door: The Global Threat of Avian Flu. We should have learned from our Covid-19 experience how better to face such threats, but a powerful bloc of nihilists (aka Republicans) drew the opposite lessons, and are working hard to make sure public health officials never again have the tools to protect public health. Note that David Quammen, who has followed these threats for decades and recently wrote Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus, wrote a piece about this back on [2022-10-31]: A Dolphin, a Porpoise and Two Men Got Bird Flu. That's a Warning to the Rest of Us.

David Wallace-Wells:

  • [02-02] Why Are So Many Americans Dying Right Now? Covid, but that only explains about half of "excess deaths" since April 2022. The author, by the way, has written extensively about the pandemic: e.g., [01-04] 9 Pandemic Narratives We're Getting Wrong (although it's not always clear what he's debunking, let alone whether he's right -- my takeaway from the Operation Warp Speed narrative is that the economic incentives that motivated Pfizer and Moderna aren't very trustworthy, and probably aren't the best approach in the long run), and [2022-12-01] China Has an Extraordinary Covid-19 Dilemma (China is often viewed through strange political blinders; I'm not sure this piece is immune, but it's far from the worst).

  • [01-25] Britain's Cautionary Tale of Self-Destruction: Starts off talking about the death toll from Covid-19, then noting how the entire post-Brexit economy and political system are ailing. For instance, economists were asked whether the slowdown in productivity was unprecedented. They did manage to find a worse case, but that was 250 years ago. Then there's: "Liz Truss failed to survive longer as head of government than the shelf life of a head of lettuce." Part of this problem was touched on by Eshe Nelson [01-09]: Britain's Economic Health Is Withering With Sick Workers on the Sidelines. Also: Ellen Ioanes: [02-04] The labor strikes in Britain are years in the making: "Austerity, Brexit, wage stagnation and a cost of living crisis have pushed British workers to the brink."


Jan 2023