Monday, August 14. 2017
Music: Current count 28538  rated (+30), 378  unrated (+3).
Average week, although more old music than usual as I followed a
recent Burnt Sugar album into their back catalog (still missing 2011's
All Ya Needs That Negrocity), then also picked up old records
from avant-jazz guitarist Joe Morris -- I found some new Ken Vandermark
albums on his Catalytic Sound Bandcamp, although better still was a
2008 album Morris album with Vandermark. Unfortunately, a lot of the
new Catalytic Sound albums don't come with any music, but I found
several on Napster.
Another of the new Vandermark albums is under Eric Revis' name --
like his last several, a good one. It's the first album on Portugal's
Clean Feed label I've reviewed since they stopped sending me CDs --
I hope they don't take the grade as positive reinforcement. I probably
have download codes for more, but haven't chased them down yet. I did
pick up new albums on ECM by Vijay Iyer, Tim Berne, and Gary Peacock.
I spent quite a bit of time with the Iyer, and basically timed out in
trying to determine whether it's an A-, so I guess it isn't. Still,
the Fieldwork-times-two band dazzles here and there, and the mix is
more interesting than his last couple ECM albums. Will get to the
others sooner or later.
The Hamell Live album seems to be some sort of download-only
bonus to the new studio album, but I figured I'd treat it as a separate
release as that's how it appears on Napster. Figured it would slack off
a bit, but I like it as much (if not more).
I'm a little confused about how the numbers add up, since I graded
5 CDs while only unwrapping 3 new ones, yet wound up with +3 unrated
instead of -2. I've double-checked and haven't found the discrepancy.
No progress on the Jazz Guides this past week. I have started on
collecting Robert Christgau's
Expert Witness pieces at
Noisey for a website update, probably by the end of the month.
I've probably lost some of the corrections readers sent in. If you
sent one in and haven't heard back from me, assume that I did and
I should also note that I've added
@BirdIsTheWorm to my twitter feed. He probably tweets too much
(13.1K tweets vs. 1815 for me, but he has 3588 followers to my 271),
but I figured maybe he'd point me toward some things that I was
missing, as in his latest
The Round-up: What went unseen. Actually, I've seen 2 (of 5) of
those new records -- both B+(*) -- but hadn't heard of the others
(just added to my
Music Tracking file). I also
At this moment, the front page of his
Music and More
blog has seven substantial album reviews on it: three of records
I've heard [A-, B+(***), B+(*)], the others I will want to check
out soon. (Playing Shipp as I write.)
New records rated this week:
- Carol Albert: Fly Away Butterfly (2017, Cahara): [cd]: B+(**)
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: All You Zombies Dig the Luminosity (2016-17 , Avant Groidd): [r]: B+(***)
- Downtown Boys: Cost of Living (2017, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
- Julian Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You Happy (2017, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Laurel Halo: Dust (2017, Hyperdub): [r]: B+(*)
- Hamell on Trial: Tackle Box (2017, New West): [r]: A-
- Hamell on Trial: Big Mouth Strikes Again: Hamell Live (2017, New West): [r]: A-
- Hard Working Americans: We're All in This Together (2017, Melvin): [r]: B+(***)
- Vijay Iyer Sextet: Far From Over (2017, ECM): [r]: B+(***)
- Lean Left: I Forgot to Breathe (2015 , Trost): [r]: B+(**)
- Charles Lloyd New Quartet: Passin' Thru (2016 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
- Meredith Monk: On Behalf of Nature (2015 , ECM): [r]: B+(*)
- Richard Pinhas/Barry Cleveland: Mu (2016, Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(**)
- Eric Revis: Sing Me Some Cry (2016 , Clean Feed): [r]: A-
- Mark Rubin, Jew of Oklahoma: Songs for the Hangman's Daughter (2017, Rubinchik): [bc]: B+(**)
- Oliver Schwerdt: Prestige/No Smoking (2015 , Euphorium, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- Ken Vandermark/Klaus Kugel/Mark Tokar: Escalator (2016 , Not Two): [bc]: B+(***)
- John Vanore: Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson (2016 , Acoustical Concepts): [cd]: B+(**)
- Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Honey and Salt (2016 , Palmetto): [cd]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Not April in Paris: Live From Banlieus Bleues (2004, Trugroid): [r]: B+(***)
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: If You Can't Dazzle Then With Your Brilliance, Then Baffle Them With Your Blisluth (2004 , Trugroid, 2CD): [r]: B+(***)
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: More Than Posthuman: Rise of the Mojosexual Cotillion (2006, Trugroid, 2CD): B+(***)
- Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber: Chopped and Screwed: Volume 2 (2007, Trugroid): [r]: B
- Joe Morris Trio: Antennae (1997, AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(**)
- Joe Morris/Mat Maneri: Soul Search (2000, AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(*)
- Joe Morris: Singularity (2000 , AUM Fidelity): [r]: B+(**)
- Joe Morris Bass Quartet: High Definition (2007 , Hatology): [r]: A-
- Joe Morris: Mess Hall (2011 , Hatology): [r]: B+(**)
- Randy Newman: Live (1971, Reprise): [r]: B
- Matthew Shipp: Duos With Mat Maner and Joe Morris (1997-98 , Hatology): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Chet Doxas: Rich in Symbols (Ropeadope): September 8
- San Francisco String Trio: May I Introduce to You (Ridgeway): September 8
- Triocity [Charles Pillow/Jeff Campbell/Rich Thompson]: I Believe in You (Origin): August 18
Sunday, August 13. 2017
Laura came downstairs yesterday playing
Chris Hedges Best Speech in 2017 so I wound up listening to a fair
chunk of it. We all know that Hedges in 2007 was a Premature Antifascist --
a term US "intelligence agencies" used to describe Americans who turned
against Hitler before Pearl Harbor -- when he published his book
American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,
but is he still "premature" in 2017? The world he decries sounds an
awful like the one we have come to live in. If there is a common theme
to the stories below, it's that Trump and his crew have moved decisively
into a fascist orbit: one that worships naked power while practicing
shameless greed. Of course, Trump didn't invent this world. He's just
risen to the top, like scum in a stockpot.
Brief scattered links this week:
Andrew J Bacevich: Yes Congress, Afghanistan Is Your Vietnam.
Also by Bacevich:
The Great Hysteria. The latter piece goes beyond his specialty area
(losing hopeless wars) to spell out a political agenda which in its
diagnosis of the symptoms afflicting America is remarkably similar to
that of Hedges above (except, being a conservative, he doesn't blame
Yet these advances have done remarkably little to reduce the alienation
and despair pervading a society suffering from epidemics of chronic
substance abuse, morbid obesity, teen suicide, and similar afflictions.
Throw in the world's highest incarceration rate, a seemingly endless
appetite for porn, urban school systems mired in permanent crisis, and
mass shootings that occur with metronomic regularity, and what you have
is something other than the profile of a healthy society.
He then follows this up with a ten-point political wish list, including
a couple proposals I disagree with (mandate a balanced federal budget,
return to a draft-based military) and other more sensible points sure to
be rejected by his fellow "conservatives" (e.g., "enact tax policies
that will promote greater income equality").
Dean Baker: The Zika Vaccine: The Miracle of Government-Funded Research.
Also by Baker:
Breitbart Strikes Out in Trying to Give Donald Trump Credit for Stock Market
Run Up. And this tweet, introducing:
Why Is It So Hard for Intellectuals to Envision Alternative Forms of
The upward redistribution from globalization was not an accidental outcome;
it was the point of globalization.
Doug Bandow: North Korea Does Not Trust America for a Pretty Good
Reason. For more history, see:
Bruce Cummings: Americans once carpet-bombed North Korea. It's time
to remember that past.
Celisa Calacal: These two Supreme Court cases protect police who use
Marjorie Cohn: A Preemptive Strike on North Korea Would Be Catastrophic
and Illegal: Well, the second point is bound to fall on deaf ears
in Washington, where hardly anyone has any fear of or respect for
international law. I'm not sure that Americans ever had any such fear,
but for many years after 1945 they at least gave lip service to the
idea of international law, and took some effort to pretend to respect
it. I think this shift started with the developing Cold War in the
late-1940s, as the US found it couldn't use the UN to automatically
rubber-stamp its policies, but it was in the 1990s when the US stopped
going through the motions. The obvious signal point was when Bush
refused to sign the International Criminal Court treaty, but Bush's
failure to even consider responding to the 9/11 terror attack via
international law shows us how far Washington had already crawled
up its own asshole. The two world wars led many people to believe
that a strong system of international law was necessary to prevent
further wars and genocides -- a goal which stalled under the Cold
War, but should have been rekindled after the Soviet Union ended
and the free market capitalism had become ubiquitous. Indeed, the
mass slaughters in Yugoslavia and Rwanda spurred many nations in
that direction, but the neocon ascendancy in the US derailed those
efforts, and it's rare today even to find Democrats standing up
for the UN, the World Court, and (especially) the ICC.
There are still people in Washington who recognize Cohn's point
about "catastrophic" -- and they're the only real defense we have
against Trump's impulsiveness and recklessness. Possibly the most
definitive statement of the hopelessness of Trump's evident policy
of huffing and bluffing North Korea into submission is
Jeffrey Lewis: The Game Is Over, and North Korea Has Won.
Esme Cribb: Trump TV Ad Attacks Democrats, Media as 'The President's
Enemies': Several things about this ad campaign are unprecedented:
I've never before seen a president actively campaigning for re-election
six months after taking office, but Trump started a few months back --
especially raising money, in stark contrast to his "self-financed" 2016
campaign; Trump is actively building a "cult of personality" while at
the same time claiming a false equivalency between his supporters and
the nation; he takes every criticism of his program as a personal attack
and tries to turn it into an attack on the nation, who in turn are at
least implicitly implored to lash back; he adds an air of whininess,
pleading to be allowed to be the dictator he imagined being president
to be. In some ways I wish Obama had taken this tack -- if anyone ever
had just cause to complain about vilification and obstructionism it was
he, but he never would have proclaimed himself "our president," even
though his efforts to be "a president of all the people" left his own
Yochi Dreazen: The North Korean crisis won't end until Donald Trump
John Feffer: Welcome to 2050. The 'Climate Monster' Has Arrived.
Katie Fite: Grouse Down: Focuses mostly on the sage grouse population
in California, but her description of the political pressures has also
been echoed here in Kansas, where Republicans have all but campaigned
for the extermination of prairie hens -- a nuisance, evidently, to
the local oil industry. Also, note that grouse hunting is a controversy
in the UK:
Mark Avery: Grouse shooting: half a million reasons why time's up
for this appalling 'sport'.
Margaret Flowers: Improved Medicare for All Is the Answer: A
rebuttal to the recent Nation article,
Joshua Holland: Medicare for All Isn't the Solution for Universal
Health Care. Flowers answers many point by positing an Improved
Medicare for All Act. The real differences have to do with political
will, especially in the face of special interests that make a lot of
money off the current system, and stand to keep making more and more.
One may critique Single Payer/Medicare for All schemes for not being
able to fix all of America's many health care problems. But private
insurance companies add very little value for their cut of the pie,
which makes them the easiest target for reform, and therefore the
obvious place to start. But also see:
Steven Rosenfeld: Eleven Steps for States to Rein in Health Care
Costs While Building Toward Single-Payer. Even if you support
single-payer, here is a list of things that can be done (many at
the state level) to help manage cost -- things that contribute to
providing more/better actual care, which is what we're really
- Create a state-chartered body to process all medical bills with
a single form.
- Require all private insurers to offer three uniform plans with
- Create a single state agency to buy drugs for pharmacies and
- Restore hospital price regulation so all facilities charge the
- File anti-trust legal actions against monopolistic hospital
- Put price controls in medical group contracts with private
- Reject spending caps for hospitals and patients as that hurts
- Ban drug company payments to doctors by their sales reps.
- Issue public reports on the few doctors causing most medical
- Integrate other social safety net services with providing
- Give the state subpoena power to review claims and find fraud.
Also note what's going on in Maryland:
Ann Jones: Medicare for All in One State.
Thomas Frank: Finally, Democrats are looking in the mirror. That's
reason for optimism.
Ryan Grim: Gulf Government Gave Secret $20 Million Gift to DC Think
Tank: That would be the UAE (United Arab Emirates) and the MEI
(Middle East Institute).
Gabriel Hetland: Venezuela May Be on the Brink of Civil War:
I'm having a tough time getting a coherent explanation of just what's
the problem with Venezuela these days, and this doesn't answer many
of my questions, but it's a start. (There's also Hetland's
Why Is Venezuela in Crisis?, which cites government blundering but
also a violent opposition supported by Washington, and the pre-election
Greg Grandin: What Is to Be Done in Venezuela?) Of course, never
underestimate the power of Donald Trump to make things even worse:
Ben Jacobs: Trump threatens 'military option' in Venezuela as crisis
David Leonhardt: Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart:
The chart measures income growth at every percentile starting with 5th,
with additional subdivisions for the 99th, at two points in time: 1980
and 2014. There's also an animated chart showing the intervening years,
which the lower percentiles being depressed before the top percentile
really spikes after 2000. A third chart shows that average income
growth dropped from 2.0% in 1980 to 1.4% in 2014, with the median
dropping far more than that -- they don't pull the number out, but
the median in 2014 is so depressed that only the top 15 percentile
receive even the reduced average income growth.
Conor Lynch: Emmanuel Macron's Sudden Collapse: French 'Radical
Centrist' Now as Unpopular as Trump: Oh my, that was an awfully
short honeymoon. Could it be that shameless neoliberalism isn't all
that popular? I've seen columns by so-called centrists speculating
that Macron's model could be translated to the UK and even to the
US. If the US had a top-two runoff like France, I could imagine a
fairly charismatic independent (someone like a younger Ross Perot,
say, but not Michael Bloomberg) getting close to Macron's first
round vote (23.8%), then beating either Trump or Clinton in the
runoff (although it's unlikely that either Trump or Clinton would
sink that low).
Bill McKibben: The Trump administration's solution to climate change:
ban the term. And for more on language chance on Trump government
Oliver Milman/Sam Morris: Trump is deleting climate change, one site
at a time.
David McCoy: Even a 'Minor' Nuclear War Would Be an Ecological Disaster
Felt Throughout the World: Just in case you were wondering.
Peter Montgomery: Trump's dominionist prayer warriors: Inside the
"Prophetic Order of the United States":
In the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, God told Frank Amedia
that with Donald Trump having been elected president, Amedia and his
fellow Trump-supporting "apostles" and "prophets" had a new mission.
Thus was born POTUS Shield, a network of Pentecostal leaders devoted
to helping Trump bring about the reign of God in America and the
world. . . .
POTUS Shield's leaders view politics as spiritual warfare, part of
a great struggle between good and evil that is taking place continuously
in "the heavenlies" and here on earth, where the righteous contend with
demonic spirits that control people, institutions and geographic regions.
They believe that Trump's election has given the church in America an
opportunity to spark a spiritual Great Awakening that will engulf the
nation and world. And they believe that a triumphant church establishing
the kingdom of God on earth will set the stage for Christ's return. Amedia
says that the "POTUS" in the group's name does not refer only to the
president of the United States, but also to a new "prophetic order of
the United States" that God is establishing.
Chris Hedges: What Trump Owes America's Christian Fascists.
Sarah Newell: Is Foxconn a Fantasy? The High Cost of Bringing
Manufacturing Jobs to Wisconsin. Trump and Gov. Scott Walker
are bully on a deal where giant Chinese electronics Foxconn
would build a factory, adding 3000 jobs in Wisconsin, maybe
13000 eventually. All they need in return:
In order for this plan to become a reality, the Wisconsin state
legislature would need to approve $3 billion in corporate incentives
to defray capital costs and workforce development costs. The math is
startling: Wisconsin will pay out $230,000 in tax dollars for each
one of the 13,000 jobs. This means Wisconsin taxpayers will shell
out $66,000 per year to subsidize jobs that will pay less than the
state average income.
Trita Parsi: For Netanyahu and the Saudis, Opposing Diplomacy With
Iran Was Never About Enrichment: An excerpt from Parsi's new
book, Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.
I suspect that the real reason both Israel and Saudi Arabia decided
to take such rejectionist stands against Iran was that they realized
that they could push American buttons by doing so -- most Americans
have harbored deep-seated grudges against Iran ever since the fall
of the Shah and the Hostage Crisis -- thereby elevating their own
importance in Washington's eyes. They've doubled down since the Iran
deal, and while leaving the deal intact (so far), both countries have
effectively increased their influence in Washington (especially with
William Rivers Pitt: We Have Been at War in Iraq for 27 Years:
It started in 1990, when Saddam Hussein misinterpreted ambiguous
signals from a US ambassador as a go-ahead to invade Kuwait, an
oil-rich sheikdom that, following American inclinations, had made
large loans to Iraq for its war against Iran -- loans it then
insisted Iraq must repay. The first George Bush thought he'd get
a nice political boost from a quick little war, but sold it by
comparing Saddam to Hitler, digging a hole for political himself
when the initial Gulf War came up short -- a hole which Clinton
defended and deepend through his sanctions and no-fly zones until
the Bush II decided to fix it by plunging the US into a massive
occupation morphing into a civil war which led to ISIS and Obama
re-entering Iraq. Throughout this whole quarter-century, official
Washington doctrine has blocked out any and all dissent against
the ever-expanding sinkhole of Middle Eastern carnage fed by the
massive introduction of US troops in 1990. Actually, one can
point to a few earlier signs of the wars to come: US inheritance
of British outposts around the Gulf, Carter's declaration that
the Persian Gulf is an US security area, Reagan's installation
of American troops in Lebanon, and US support for proxy wars
against Afghanistan and Iran. Any way you slice this, the only
Americans with any clue as to how this might go awry were the
antiwar protesters. And note that while Pitt focuses on Iraq,
US involvement in Afghanistan started in 1979 -- 38 years ago --
and is at least as far from resolution (never mind success)
there as it is in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, anywhere
else you find American drones and/or special forces.
Aja Romano: Google fird "politically incorrect" engineer has
sparked a broad ideological debate: Actually, I only see a
relatively narrow debate here, which is corporations can fire
employees for what we would otherwise deem constitutionally
protected free speech. I would favor more such protections,
but these days it's hard to stop a company -- especially one
without a union -- from firing anyone for any reason. The two
most obvious reasons for firing this particular engineer are
that he's very stupid, and that by exposing that stupidity
he's embarrassed the company. But I don't see him engendering
any serious debate on his claim that women aren't competent
at software engineering. More on this:
Cynthia Lee: I'm a woman in computer science. Let me ladysplain
the Google memo to you.
Anis Shivani: How we got from George W. Bush to Donald Trump: Liberals
had more to do with it than we'd like to think: Big thought piece
which is probably a bit harsh on Obama but reminds us how extreme the
Bush-Cheney agenda was, and how little of it was rolled back by Obama.
We need to remind ourselves that the early years of the Bush administration
felt utterly radical, that the defense of freedom of speech and mobility,
of the civility and respect that make a constitutional democracy work, never
felt so threatened, never felt more precious and worth saving, as in those
years. That feeling, unfortunately, is gone now, despite Trumpism and
whatever else will follow, because the anti-constitutional innovations
have become normalized. This happened particularly because the succeeding
Democratic administration did not take any steps to counter, philosophically,
any of the constitutional violations, or even the disrespect for science,
reason and empiricism that had deeply saturated the public discourse.
I think it's fair to say that Obama left most of his anti-Bush critique
on the campaign trail. I'm not sure how to partition the blame for that
between his wholesale adoption of Clintonites in his administration and
his innate conservatism, with its emphasis on projecting continuity and
stability. Clearly, he missed the opportunity to do important things:
to roll back the corrosive effects of money on politics; to return to
a previous American belief in international law and institutions; and
to lean back against increasing inequality. One might counter that he
had difficulty enough with more modest efforts on health care, finance
reform, and climate change.
Still, the main difference between the Bush-Cheney agenda and Trump's
is the relative shamelessness of the latter -- the garrish greed, the
naked lust for power, and the absence of any scruples over how to get
the riches they crave. You'd think that would blow up in their face --
that if nothing else the American people and media are still capable of
being shocked by corruption. But then why hasn't that already happened?
Can you mark that all down to "normalization"?
Richard Silverstein: Bibi: "This is the End, My Friend": On the
corruption scandal that threatens to bring down Israeli Prime Minister
Netanyahu, with sideward glances toward Trump's own nest feathering.
Silverstein also wrote
Israel to Shutter Al Jazeera, Join Ranks of Arab Authoritarian Regimes
Suppressing Press Freedom. As for everyday life in Israel-Palestine,
see Kate's latest news clip compendium:
Settler violence against Palestinians nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017.
This includes a quote from Gideon Levy about how certain nations have
held themselves to be above international law and norms:
More than 100 states signed the international treaty banning the use
of cluster bombs; Israel, as usual, isn't one of them. What has Israel
to do with international treaties, international law, international
organizations -- it's all one big unnecessary nuisance. Israel's fellow
rejectionists are, as usual, Russia, Pakistan, China, India and of
course the United States, the world's greatest spiller of blood since
World War II. This is the company Israel wants to keep, the club it
belongs to. Cluster bombs are an especially barbarous weapon, a bomb
that turns into countless bomblets, spreading over a wide area, killing
and wounding indiscriminately. They sometimes explode years after were
fired. The world was appalled and disgusted by such a weapon of mass
destruction, and for good reason. The world -- but not Israel. We're
a special case, as is commonly known. We're allowed to do anything.
Why? Because we can. This has been proved. We used cluster bombs in
the Second Lebanon War and the world was silent. We also use flechettes,
unmercifully. In 2002 I saw a soccer field in Gaza hit by IDF flechette
shells, which spray thousands of potentially lethal metal darts. All
the children playing on it had been hit.
Matt Taibbi: Is LIBOR, Benchmark for Trillions of Dollars in Transactions,
a Lie? Well, sure.
Clara Torres-Spelliscy: Trump Is Already Profiting From His 2020
Jason Wilson/Edward Helmore: Charlottesville: one dead after car rams
counter-protesters at far-right gathering: I skipped over several
articles leading up to Saturday's right-wing rally to oppose removing
a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a park in Virginia,
and "counter-protests" against those defending the pro-slavery icon.
However, the events were interrupted when someone droves his car into
the "counter-protest" crowd, killing one and injuring 19, then managed
to drive off. A police helicopter later crashed in the area, adding
two to the death toll.
Sheryl Gay Stolberg/Brian H Rosenthal: Man Charged After White Nationalist
Rally in Charlottesville Ends in Deadly Violence;
Summer Concepcion: David Duke: Charlottesville Rally 'Fulfills the
Promises of Donald Trump;
Esme Cribb: What We Know About the Man Accused of Ramming Car Into
Michael Eric Dyson: Charlottesville and the Bigotocracy;
Josh Matshall: "I'm Not the Angry Racist They See in That Photo"
(complains a misunderstood white guy; but when you go around complaining
about "the slow replacement of white heritage within the United States" --
when you even think "white heritage" is a thing -- you're racist);
Colbert L King: These are your people, President Trump;
Glenn Thrush/Maggie Haberman: Trump Is Criticized for Not Calling Out
Esme Cribb: Trump Didn't Want to 'Dignify' White Supremacy by Condemning
It (but he has no qualms about dignifying "radical Islamic terror"
or Rosie O'Donnell?);
German Lopez: We need to stop acting like Trump isn't pandering to white
supremacists; and, just for historical context:
Philip Bump: In 1927, Donald Trump's father was arrested after a Klan
riot in Queens. One thing I noticed during the campaign was that
Trump was quick to reverse himself whenever he inadvertently blurted
out something contrary to conservative doctrine -- as when he initially
argued that women seeking abortions should be punished -- but he never
apologized for the violence of his supporters, nor did he ever disown
the white supremacists who rallied to his cause.
Jana Winter/Elias Groll: Here's the Memo That Blew Up the NSC:
The author was Rich Higgins, a Flynn acolyte who has since been fired:
The full memo, dated May 2017, is titled "POTUS & Political Warfare."
It provides a sweeping, if at times conspiratorial, view of what it
describes as a multi-pronged attack on the Trump White House.
Trump is being attacked, the memo says, because he represents "an
existential threat to cultural Marxist memes that dominate the prevailing
cultural narrative." Those threatened by Trump include "'deep state'
actors, globalists, bankers, Islamists, and establishment Republicans."
Zak Witus: To Combat Trump's Attacks on Democracy, We Must Understand
Precedents Set by Obama: "Seven months into the Trump presidency,
many people still deny how some of Donald Trump's most regressive and
harmful policies directly continue the legacy of Barack Obama." That's
true in a number of cases ranging from prosecution of "leakers" to
brutal ICE tactics to Saudi arms sales and drone murders around the
world, though the bigger problem is that Obama failed "to change the
way we think about war" and many more things -- race, equality, the
culture of corruption. Part of that was his "no drama" pledge to
restore competency to government after the politicized corruption
of the Bush years -- something he rarely claimed credit for, and
which few Americans even noticed. One thing about Trump is that he
has no quibbles about taking credit for "good" things, regardless
of how little he was actually involved, while chalking all of his
obvious failures up to "fake news."
Matthew Yglesias: What to know about the biggest stories of the
week: We had a lot of loose talk about nuclear war; Trump feudud
with Mitch McConnell; the opioid crisis gets an official "state of
emergency"; Paul Manafort seems to be in legal trouble. Other Yglesias
pieces this week:
Trump's new immigration plan would make Americans poorer;
Big business wants you to think a tax cut for big business will stop
The looming debt ceiling fight, explained;
Donald Trump gets a daily briefing all about how great he is.
When I looked at
Crooked Timber I noticed that Laura Tillem had one of the recent
comments. It was in response to Henry Farrell's
Five Books, listing five novels:
- John Le Carré, A Perfect Spy
- Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
- Dennis Lehane, The Given Day
- Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings
- Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies
I had to look up the authors (although I guessed 3/5, maybe 4).
We were recently talking about how much I enjoyed the 1998 BBC/PBS
series of Our Mutual Friend, and we had recently watched
the 1987 TV rendition of A Perfect Spy (which I didn't much
care for). I doubt I've read enough novels (probably about 50,
which wouldn't last my wife a year) to construct such a list --
only obvious one is Thomas Pynchon, V., though the unfinished
Gravity's Rainbow might have wound up even better.
I probably could offer a list of non-fiction:
- George P Brockway, The End of Economic Man: Principles of Any
- Geert Mak, In Europe: Travels Through the Twentieth Century
- John McPhee, Annals of the Former World
- Jan Myrdal, Angkor: An Essay on Art and Imperialism
- David Quammen, The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in
an Age of Extinctions
My "recent books" roll currently runs 552 books, so that at least
is a sample (roughly from 2003 to the present), although only one of
the books listed above comes from it (Mak's magnificent
Thursday, August 10. 2017
This is only the second Book Roundup I've done this year -- the
last one was back on
April 26, with the second most recent, on
August 21, 2016, dating from almost a year ago. Limiting myself
to 40 blurbs per post, I should be able to do one of these every
other month (six times a year), but it's hard to get into the right
research mode. Still, when I do, I tend to overshoot, coming up with
two or more posts in rapid succession (five is my current record).
Right now I only have 18 leftover blurbs in the scratch file, but
I expect it won't be hard to round them up to a second post.
I suppose one thing that helps thin them out is that I recently
started adding a section listing books without blurbs -- gives me
a way I can note the existence of something without having to take
the time to write much. I don't count those books under my 40 limit.
On occasion I've also noted paperback reprints of previously noted
books, and there are some of those below. The Thomas Frank and Jane
Mayer books were written before the 2016 election, but they turned
out to be the year's most prophetic books (note that both paperbacks
have post-election I-told-you-so afterwords).
Most recently I've been reading Hacker and Pierson, a book that's
been sitting on my shelves a fair while. Its paean to "the mixed
economy" could be sharper, but its review of the political forces
that stripped us of past keys to prosperity is reasonably thorough.
I would add that the more you forget about how things work, and
the more you adopt ideas that are just plain wrong, the deeper
you enter into what the late Jane Jacobs recognized as "the coming
Going through this list, some books that I either already have
or am particularly likely to pick up are Andrew Bacevich: America's
War for the Greater Middle East, Michael Chabon/Ayelet Waldman:
Kingdom of Olives and Ash, Michael J Hudson: J Is for Junk
Economics, Ibram X Kendi: Stamped From the Beginning,
Nancy McLean: Democracy in Chains, Nathan Thrall: The Only
Language They Understand. I'll also note that my wife is currently
listening to China Miéville: October. One thing I've learned
from this book so far is that the Bolsheviks came out on top because
they were the only party willing to walk away from the disastrous
Tariq Ali: The Dilemmas of Lenin: Terrorism War Empire Love
Revolution (2017, Verso Books): One expects that the centenary
of the Russian Revolution will produce the usual spate of new books,
so this is nominally one of them. But for a good while now we've known
that in his last couple years Lenin was unhappy about the drift of his
revolution, so it's never been quite fair to blame him for the whole
dead weight of the Stalinist system. Not sure whether Ali can freshen
him up in any useful way, but it's worth noting that the hopes that
many people held for the workers' paradise weren't wrong, even if
they were somewhat misplaced. Forthcoming [Sept. 19]: Slavoj Zizek:
Lenin 2017: Remembering, Repeating, and Working Through (2017,
Jon Bakija/Lane Kenworthy/Peter Lindert/Jeff Madrick: How Big
Should Our Government Be? (paperback, 2016, University of
California Press): Looks like each author gets separate chapters
around the question. The only one I'm familiar with is Madrick,
who wrote The Case for Big Government (2008), so you know
where he's going. Right-wingers have argued for shrinking federal
government back to an arbitrarily small percent of GDP, a level not
seen since Calvin Coolidge, although few of them are on record in
favor of shrinking the federal government's most cancerous tumor,
the Department of Defense, proportionately. Even so, they've shown
no allowance for the ways the world has changed since the 1920s,
such as the much greater complexity of the marketplace, the need
for a much more skilled and knowledgeable workforce, the need for
modern transportation and communication networks, the impacts of
larger population and production on the environment, and many
other things -- even if (like me) you think the growth of the
"defense" and "security" sectors (i.e., war and repression) is
largely bogus. I would go further and argue that public takeover
of dysfunctional markets like health care would be a good idea,
as well as some way to subsidize creative development of products
that can be freely mass-produced (like software and many forms
of art). I don't see how you can map any of these needs to a
fixed size, so size itself isn't a very good measure.
John Berger: Portraits: John Berger on Artists (2015,
Verso Books): Art critic and novelist, died earlier this year at 90,
his early books Art and Revolution (1969), The Moment of
Cubism (1969), Ways of Seeing (1972), and About Looking
(1980) had a huge effect of me personally. This is a collection of 74
pieces on more/less famous artists, starting with the Chauvet Cave
Painters but quickly jumping to Bosch (6) and Michelangelo (11), and
ending with ten names born post-1950 (most, sad to say, unknown to me).
The sort of book you're bound to learn a lot from. Tom Overton edited
this, and also: Landscapes: John Berger on Art (2016, Verso
Books). Also recent: John Berger: Confabulations (paperback,
2016, Penguin Books); Lapwing & Fox: Conversations Between
John Berger and John Christine (2016, Objectif).
Heather Boushey/J Bradford DeLong/Marshall Steinbaum, eds:
After Piketty: The Agenda for Economics and Inequality
(2017, Harvard University Press): Large (688 pp) collection of
essays on Thomas Piketty's pathbreaking book Capital in the
Twenty-First Century and the myriad problems associated with
Michael Chabon/Ayelet Waldman, eds: Kingdom of Olives and
Ash: Writers Confront the Occupation (paperback, 2017, Harper
Perennial): Connecting with Breaking the Silence, a number of well
known writers (mostly novelists) took a tour of Israel and its
Occupied Territories, and chronicled what they found as they bear
"witness to the human cost of the occupation."
Frans de Waal: Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals
Are? (2016, WW Norton): Interesting question, most likely one
the biologist/primatologist has much fun poking holes in. More or less
related: Jennifer Ackerman: The Genius of Birds (2016, Penguin);
Jonathan Balcombe: What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater
Cousins (2016, Farrar Straus and Giroux); Charles Foster: Being
a Beast: Adventures Across the Species Divide (2016, Metropolitan
Books); Sy Montgomery: The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration
Into the Wonder of Consciousness (paperback, 2016, Avila); Virginia
Morell: Animal Wise: How We Know Animals Think and Feel (paperback,
2014, Broadway Books); Carl Salina: Beyond Words: What Animals Think
and Feel (paperback, 2015, Picador).
Bill Emmott: The Fate of the West: The Battle to Save the
World's Most Successful Political Idea (2017, Economist
Books): British, editor of The Economist, same basic shtick
as Edward Luce: The Retreat of Western Liberalism. Blames
Moscow, Beijing, but also Washington, and locates "the west" as
much in Tokyo and Seoul as in Europe, the idea being the promise
of neoliberalism (if not necessarily the reality): "It relies on
the operation and staunch defense of several principles, first
among them relative equality of income and opportunity as well as
openness . . . An open society is thus one of porous borders rather
than of walls, friendly to free trade agreements as opposed to
protectionist tariffs, outward-looking rather than nationalist."
Perhaps the idea wouldn't be fairing so poorly if the practice
did a better job of delivering the promised broad-based wealth.
The recent Brexit vote provides a detailed map of who wins and
loses from open borders.
Niall Ferguson: Kissinger: 1923-1968: The Idealist
(2015, Penguin Press): Hagiography, based on access to private papers,
the first installment of a "magisterial two-volume biography," written
by a pseudo-scholar with politics and morals flexible enough for the
task. Anyone else would subtitle the second volume War Criminal,
even if the time frame had to extend beyond 1976. But my guess is that
Ferguson is thinking of The Realist, a suitable philosophical
refuge for idealists once their hands get bloody. Myself, I'm more
inclined to call this period The Bullshit Artist, then look
for something even more scatological to follow.
Peter Fleming: The Mythology of Work: How Capitalism Persists
Despite Itself (paperback, 2015, Pluto Press): Argues that
"neoliberal society uses the ritual of work (and the threat of its
denial) to maintain the late capitalist class order," despite all
sorts of technological and cultural changes that could reduce the
class-definitional role of work toward the sidelines. In the US you
might want to substitute "jobs" for "work," and I-don't-know for
"neoliberal society" -- the corporate-political system? Also wrote
Resisting Work: The Corporatization of Life and Its Discontents
(paperback, 2015, Temple University Press).
James Forman Jr: Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment
in Black America (2017, Farrar Straus and Giroux): How
many black politicians got wrapped up in the post-1970 "war on
crime" and its attendant mass incarceration. Forman worked six
years as a public defender, a stark contrast to other jobs on his
resume, like Supreme Court clerk and Yale Law School professor.
Thomas L Friedman: Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's
Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations (2016, Farrar
Straus and Giroux): Anyone who can get away with as many clichés and
as much cant as Friedman must truly feel blessed. However, the very
facts and trends that makes him so optimistic signify little more
than mental rot to me. For more, see
Matt Taibbi's review.
Kelly Fritsch/Clare O'Connor/AK Thompson, eds: Keywords for
Radicals: The Contested Vocabulary of Late-Capitalist Struggle
(paperback, 2015, AK Press): Recalling Raymond Williams' Keywords:
A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976), the activist-editors
and forty-some contributors attempt to map contemporary movements by
their jargon, terminology, language. Probably a worthy undertaking,
interesting to me because I opened a file recently under the same
rubric, but not to explore language so much as to offer a framework
for hanging short topical essays on. Williams' book goes deeper into
history and etymology -- he was, after all, primarily a literary
critic. Best case this one does too. Worst case it tries to codify
some form of "political correctness" -- to pick a term that postdates
Bruce Cannon Gibney: A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby
Boomers Betrayed America (2017, Hachette): Author is a venture
capitalist, a guy who made a fortune mostly betting on high-tech start
ups, so it's rather ripe for him to blame a whole generation for the
short-sighted squandering of the unprecedented wealth many Americans
enjoyed after the Great Depression and WWII. He berates "a generation
whose reckless self-indulgence degraded the foundations of American
prosperity . . . [who] ruthlessly enriched themselves as the expense
of future generations . . . turned American dynamism into stagnation,
inequality, and bipartisan fiasco." That all happened, and I think it
is fair to say that the Boomer generation, which grew up with postwar
prosperity and its focus on individual freedom was further removed
from the previous generation than is generally the case, but those
effects the author describes as sociopathic were just one political
strain in a broad spectrum, that of the resurgent right-wing and its
promotion of often predatory greed. Perhaps the author has some other
political agenda, but offhand this looks like he's representative
of the rarefied class that captured the nation's wealth then blamed
the less fortunate for their "entitlements." Just who are the real
Joshua Green: Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump,
and the Storming of the Presidency (2017, Penguin): Campaign
reporting, focusing on Bannon -- presumably the Devil in the title,
although it's since become clear that he picked a very leaky and
unstable vessel for his machinations. I have no idea what Bannon's
been able to accomplish since moving into the White House. During
the campaign he provided Trump with a gloss of fascist aesthetics
and a whiff of ideological coherence distinct from the usual run
of conservative nostrums -- that probably contributed to Trump's
win, but was far less significant than Hillary's failures, the
lock-step support of the Koch/Republican machines, and the amazing
gullibility of so much media and so many people. On the other hand,
one might cast Trump as the Devil, and explore why Bannon would
invest all his hare-brained ideological fantasies in such a shoddy
salesman. I suppose because doing so made him famous, and in America
fame is merchantable (and money is everything).
Chris Hedges: Unspeakable: Talks With David Talbot About
the Most Forbidden Topics in America (2016, Hot Books):
Conversations, evidently the publisher has a series of these.
Hedges was a divinity student who left the church and became a
prize-winning war journalist, then the more he saw the more he
moved to the left. Among his books: American Fascists,
written back in 2007.
Michael Hudson: J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality
in an Age of Deception (paperback, 2017, Islet): Presented
as a "companion" to his 2015 book, Killing the Host: How Financial
Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy. Starts with an
"A-to-Z" of key economic terms, nothing that "economic vocabulary
is defined by today's victors -- the rentier financial class," and
working to unmask their spin. Follows up with several scattered
essays, like "The 22 Most Pervasive Economic Myths of Our Time,"
"Economics as Fraud," and "Methodology Is Ideology, and Dictates
Policy." He was one of the first to recognize the real estate
bubble of the 2000's and predict its bust -- a now obvious point
that all but a few conventional economists missed.
Frederic Jameson: An American Utopia: Dual Power and the
Universal Army (paperback, 2016, Verso): Marxist literary
critic and political theorist -- I must have a copy of his 1971
Marxism and Form: Twentieth Century Dialectical Theories in
Literature somewhere upstairs -- takes a shot at sketching
out his utopia in the lead essay here, followed by nine responses
edited by Slavoj Zizek (only other author I recognize is novelist
Kim Stanley Robinson). I haven't read any of his later books, most
recently (all Verso): Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality
(2016); The Ancients and the Postmoderns: On the Historicity of
Forms (2015); The Antinomies of Realism (2013, Verso);
Representing 'Capital': A Reading of Volume One (2011);
The Hegel Variations: On the Phenomenology of Spirit (2010);
Valences of the Dialectic (2009).
Matthew Karp: This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at
the Helm of American Foreign Policy (2016, Harvard University
Press): When I think of southerners running US foreign policy, I
think of James Byrne's decisive role in launching the Cold War,
and later Lyndon Johnson plotting a coup in Brazil as well as
"Americanizing" the civil war in Vietnam. But this goes back to
the first half of the nineteenth century, before the South tried
to secede from the union, a period when prominent southerners
agitated to expand American power south and west, and thereby
to buttress and advance their system of slavery. I suppose you
can start with the Louisiana Purchase and the Monroe Doctrine,
as well as the Mexican War and the annexation of Texas, but
there were other schemes that didn't come to fruition, notably
the desire to annex Cuba as a "slave state."
Ibram X Kendi: Stamped From the Beginning: The Definitive
History of Racist Ideas in America (2016; paperback, 2017,
Nation Books): I've long thought that the "definitive" history was
Winthrop Jordan's monumental White Over Black: American Attitudes
Toward the Negro, 1550-1812, which won the National Book Award
for 1968, but that book was focused more on the early development
of Anglo-American racism. Those ideas have since been recapitulated
(sometimes with mutations) in many ways up to the present day -- the
key to Kendi's own National Book Award winning tome. Many reviewers
describe this book as "painful" -- often citing the skewering of
otherwise admirable abolitionists like William Lloyd Garrison for
adopting racial stereotypes (the book consists of five parts built
around individuals: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, Garrison, WEB
DuBois, and Angela Davis). I don't know whether the author adopts
a fatalist position on the racist ideas, but I believe that their
persistence has everything to do with increasing inequality, much
as the origins of those ideas had everything to do with exploiting
negro labor. As Kendi argues: "Hate and ignorance have not driven
the history of racist ideas in America. Racist policies have driven
the history of racist ideas in America."
Naomi Klein: No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump's Shock
Politics and Winning the World We Need (paperback, 2017,
Haymarket Books): Describes Trump as "a logical extension of the
worst and most dangerous trends of the past half-century" --
trends Klein has made a career of writing about; e.g., No
Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (2000), The Shock
Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007), This
Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014).
James Kwak: Economism: Bad Economics and the Rise of
Inequality (2017, Pantheon): A primer on how "Economics
101" is wrapped up in political biases which promote inequality,
passing it off as the genius of markets. Another book along the
same lines: Joe Earle/Cahal Moran/Zach Ward-Perkins: The
Econocracy: The Perils of Leaving Economics to the Experts
(paperback, 2016, Machester University Press); also Michael
Hudson: J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an
Age of Deception (paperback, 2017, Islet).
Guy Laron: The Six-Day War: The Breaking of the Middle
East (2017, Yale University Press): Fifty years later, has
the advantage of recently declassified documents. "The Six-Day War
effectively sowed the seeds for the downfall of Arab nationalism,
the growth of Islamic extremism, and the animosity between Jews
and Palestinians." The latter started much earlier, but the war
led to a massive increase in the number of Palestinians living
under Israeli military occupation, and started the great land
grab known as the Settler Movement -- so, yes, it did much to
poison relations. I don't know if Laron discloses anything new
about the run up to the war -- 90% of the book is on the events
before the war itself -- but it seems pretty clear to me that
Ben-Gurion regarded the 1950 armistices as temporary stays while
Israel gathered strength to launch new offensives to grab the
various territories they've long coveted. Their military success
changed the nation's psychology, as they stopped paying heed to
world law and opinion, and set out on their own arrogant path,
trusting only in their own brute force and cunning.
Chris Lehmann: The Money Cult: Capitalism, Christianity, and
the Unmaking of the American Dream (2016, Melville House): A
book on how often throughout America's history Christianity has upheld
and celebrated economic iniquity -- "the pursuit of profit, as well as
the inescapability of economic inequality."
Edward Luce: The Retreat of Western Liberalism
(2017, Atlantic Monthly Press): British political writer, has
covered both Washington and New Delhi for Financial Times.
No relation to Henry Luce, but you get the feeling he'd like to
occupy a similar perch, but where Henry proclaimed "the American
century," Edward bemoans its eclipse, lamenting both the decline
of western power in the world and the erosion of Democratic norms
in the west. At first blush, this all has a whiff of "white man's
burden" to it. Not sure if that's fair, but one should note that
the assault on liberal democracy in America and elsewhere comes
almost exclusively from entrenched elites whose "populist" pitch
is purely cynical.
Nancy McLean: Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the
Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America (2017, Viking):
This traces the Koch political machine back to the ideas of an
Nobel prize-winning economist, James McGill Buchanan (1919-2013),
a president of the Mont Pelerin Society, distinguished senior
fellow at the Cato Institute, and professor at George Mason U. --
although the reality has more to do with the Kochs' money than
with Buchanan's ideas (which included the book Why I, Too, Am
Not a Conservative: The Normative Vision of Classical Liberalism).
Should be an interesting book (in my queue, anyway).
Viet Tranh Nguyen: Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory
of War (2016, Harvard University Press): Vietnamese novelist,
moved to US at age 4, won a Pulitzer Prize for his novel The
Sympathizer, writes about how most or all sides remember the
war and aftermath he grew up in.
Thomas M Nichols: The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against
Established Knowledge and Why It Matters (2017, Oxford University
Press): My own impression is that we don't lack for expertise, but as
inequality increases so does the temptation for experts to hire themselves
out to private interests, which in turn makes people more suspicious of
experts. The author seems more inclined to blame the internet for
'foster[ing] a cult of ignorance" -- but that strikes me as a secondary
PJ O'Rourke: How the Hell Did This Happen? The Election of
2016 (2017, Atlantic Monthly Press): Famed right-wing humorist,
not that he was ever very funny -- if you ever bother to scan through
conservative editorial cartoons you'll get a sense of how low the bar
is -- but do you really want to bother with lines like this: "America
is experiencing the most severe outbreak of mass psychosis since the
Salem witch trials of 1692. So why not put Hillary on the dunking
Ilan Pappé: Ten Myths About Israel (paperback, 2017,
Verso Books): Only ten? Some are big ones, long since debunked, like
that Palestine was "a land without people" (therefore perfect for "a
people without land"), that Palestinians who fled their homes in 1947-49
did so voluntarily, and that Israel had no choice but to start the 1967
war. I don't have the full list, but they evidently extend to Israel's
rationalizations for its periodic assaults on Gaza and the question of
why people who have repeatedly sabotaged the "two state solution" still
insist it's the only one possible. Pappé has written many important
books on Israel and the Palestinians, especially The Ethnic Cleansing
of Palestine (2007), and more recently The Idea of Israel: A
History of Power and Knowledge (2014).
Keith Payne: The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the
Way We Think, Live, and Die (2017, Viking): Textbooks on
inequality invariably start with lists or charts of numbers --
after all, the most straightforward thing you can do with money
is count it. However, the problem with inequality has never just
been who gets (deservedly or not) what. Every bit as important
is how it makes us think and behave toward each other. Several
books have explored these ways -- e.g., how inequality worsens
health care outcomes, even beyond the correlation between inequal
societies and crappy health care systems -- although this promises
to delve deeper into experimental psychology.
Charles Peters: We Do Our Part: Toward a Fairer and More Equal
America (2017, Random House): Founder and long-time editor of
The Washington Monthly, a journal I've long admired both for its
heart-felt liberal bearings and its shrewd analysis of what government
can and cannot do. And while he would like to point us toward "fairer
and more equal," the trajectory he's recognized since 1970 has been
pointed the other way. (Although I've lately discovered that he coined
the term "neo-liberal" and seems to have a dark side -- especially an
antipathy to unions, which for many years were the most effective and
practical advocates for "a fairer and more equal America.")
Kate Raworth: Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a
21st-Century Economist (2017, Chelsea Green): The doughnut
image depicts "a sweet spot of human prosperity" -- where economics
should aim for widespread human satisfaction, as opposed to the
20th-century (and earlier) obsession with scarcity and growth. The
seven ways are better captured by their subtitles: from GDP to the
Doughnut; from self-contained market to embedded economy; from
rational economic man to social adaptable humans; from mechanical
equilibrium to dynamic complexity; from 'growth will even it up
again' to distributive by design; from 'growth will clean it up
again' to regenerative by design; from growth addicted to growth
agnostic. The last few years have seen a rash of books complaining
about how economic theory is shot through with false and damaging
assumptions, so it was only a matter of time before someone tried
to build a new understanding around more contemporary goals.
TR Reid: A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer,
and More Efficient Tax System (2017, Penguin Press): Author
of a very good international survey of health care systems, The
Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer
Health Care (2009), tries to work the same magic by comparing
tax codes around the world. While he's probably correct that the US
tax code (plus the huge state-by-state variations and wrinkles for
other taxing authorities) is "a fine mess," and that other nations
have come up with "tax regimes that are equitable, effective, and
easy on the taxpayer," the whole issue seems much less important.
It is, however, something that Republicans obsess on, as with most
things usually with an eye toward making it much worse.
Walter Scheidel: The Great Leveler: Violence and the History
of Inequality From the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century
(2017, Princeton University Press): A rather depressing argument: he
argues that inequality has been the default state of civilization ever
since agriculture started producing surpluses that predatory elites
could seize. The exceptional periods of leveling only seem to occur
due to wars and other disasters. One might still hope that reason
might come to our rescue, but empiricists are unconvinced.
Gershon Shafir: A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine,
and the World's Most Intractable Conflict (2017, University of
California Press): Fiftieth anniversary of 1967, when Israel dismantled
its internal military occupation and seized new territory from Egypt,
Jordan, and Syria, allowing them to bring back military occupation on
an even larger scale. Author has written a number of books on the
conflict, going back as far as Land, Labor, and the Origins of the
Israeli-Palestinian Conflit 1882-1914.
Thomas M Shapiro: Toxic Inequality: How America's Wealth
Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens
Our Future (2017, Basic Books): We certainly need more
books that come up with vivid examples of how inequality poisons
social and political and economic relationships, which is what
this title promises. Focuses on race, which follows up from the
author's previous The Hidden Cost of Being African American:
How Wealth Perpetuates Inequality. One thing that should be
obvious is that you can't achieve racial equality in an era of
increasing wealth/income inequality.
Steven Slowan/Philip Fernbach: The Knowledge Illusion: Why
We Never Think Alone (2017, Riverhead): "Humans have built
hugely complex societies and technologies, but most of us don't even
know how a pen or a toilet works." (For the record, I can answer
both of those, although never having read about pens -- unless
Henry Petroski's book on pencils ventured there -- I'd have to
offer a guess there, based on other principles I understand.) But
the basic idea is sound. I'm not sure what the authors draw from
this, but I'd say that one important thing is that as we become
ever more dependent on advanced technology, it becomes ever more
important that we develop social relations that increase trust.
This in turn implies several changes: we need to cultivate more
widespread expertise; we need to make that information more open;
and we need to shift incentives for experts toward openness and
generosity and away from selfishness and exploitation. I should
also add that this has generally been the direction over the last
couple centuries, hand in hand with technological advancement.
But all this is increasingly at risk because various business and
political interests find it more profitable to appropriate and
monetize "knowledge" -- for a sketch of the possible outcomes
here, see Peter Frase's Four Futures.
Wolfgang Streeck: How Will Capitalism End? (2016,
Verso): Depicts a world of "declining growth, oligarchic rule, a
shrinking public sphere, institutional corruption, and international
anarchy," adding up to instability, probably collapse, certainly a
need for profound change. Contradictions of capitalism has been a
staple of Marxist thought for 150 years now, so even if the author
doesn't come up with an answer to his question, he has plenty of
theory to build on. Streeck also wrote Buying Time: The Delayed
Crisis of Democratic Capitalism (2nd edition, paperback, 2017,
Nathan Thrall: The Only Language They Understand: Forcing
Compromise in Israel and Palestine (2017, Metropolitan Books):
Hard to think about the conflict without considering how to end it,
especially if you're an American, since we've long assumed that our
mission on Earth is to oversee some sort of agreement. Thrall has
been following the conflict closely for some time now, and writes
up what he's figured out: that the only way it ends is if some
greater power wills it. The title has a certain irony in that the
Israelis, following the British before them, have often said that
violence is the only language the Palestinians understand. But as
students of the conflict should know by now, the only times Israel
has compromised or backed down have been when they been confronted
with substantial force: as when Eisenhower prodded them to leave
Sinai in 1956, when Carter brokered their 1979 peace with Egypt,
when Rabin ended the Intifada by recognizing the PLO, or when Barak
withdrew Israeli forces from Lebanon in 2000. Since then no progress
towards resolution has been made because no one with the power to
influence Israel has had the will to do so -- although Israel's
frantic reactions against BDS campaigns shows their fear of such
pressure. On the other hand, one should note that force itself
has its limits: Palestinians have compromised on many things,
but some Israeli demands -- ones that violate norms for equal
human rights -- are always bound to generate resistance. What
makes the conflict so intractable now is that Israel has so
much relative power that they're making impossible demands. So
while Thrall would like to be even-handed and apply external
force to both sides, it's Israel that needs to move its stance
to something mutually tolerable. The other big questions are
who would or could apply this force, and why. Up to 2000, the
US occasionally acted, realizing that its regional and world
interests transcended its affection for Israel, but those days
have passed, replaced by token, toothless gestures, if any at
all. It's hard to see that changing -- not just because Israel
has so much practice manipulating US politics but because
America has largely adopted Israeli norms of inequality and
faith in brute power.
Bassem Youssef: Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through
the Arab Spring (2017, Dey Street Books): Egyptian, dubbed
"the Jon Stewart of the Arabic World," had a popular television
show during the brief period when that was possible -- the brief,
unpopular period of democracy sandwiched between the even less
popular (but who's counting?) Mubarak and Sisi dictatorships.
Other recent books also noted:
Gilad Atzmon: Being in Time: A Post-Political Manifesto
(paperback, 2017, Interlink)
Nir Baram: A Land Without Borders: My Journey Around East
Jerusalem and the West Bank (paperback, 2017, Text)
Mark Bowden: Hue 1968: A Turning Point in the American War
in Vietnam (2017, Atlantic Monthly Press)
Noam Chomsky: Optimism Over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire,
and Social Change (paperback, 2017, Haymarket Books):
interviews by CJ Polychroniou.
Joan Didion: South and West: From a Notebook (2017,
Richard Falk: Palestine's Horizon: Toward a Just Peace
(paperback, 2017, Pluto Press)
Al Franken: Giant of the Senate (2017, Twelve)
Henry A Giroux: America at War With Itself (paperback,
2016, City Lights Press)
Al Gore: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
(paperback, 2017, Rodale Books)
Jeremy R Hammond: Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (paperback, 2016, Worldview)
Yaakov Katz/Amir Bohbot: The Weapon Wizards: How Israel
Became a High-Tech Military Superpower (2017, St Martin's
China Miéville: October: The Story of the Russian Revolution
Vijay Prashad: The Death of the Nation and the Future of
the Arab Revolution (paperback, 2016, University of California
David Roediger: Class, Race, and Marxism (2017,
Alice Rothchild: Condition Critical: Life and Death in
Israel/Palestine (paperback, 2017, Just World Books)
Raja Shehadeh: Where the Line Is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings,
Friendships, and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine
(2017, New Press)
Peter Temin: The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and
Power in a Dual Economy (2017, MIT Press)
Also, some previously mentioned books new in paperback:
Andrew J Bacevich: America's War for the Greater Middle East:
A Military History (2016; paperback, 2017, Random House):
A self-styled conservative, but a useful critic of militarism in
post-Vietnam America (see 2005's The New American Militarism:
How Americans Are Seduced by War). As the Cold War wound down,
the military pivoted to focus on the Middle East, most dramatically
with the 1990-91 Gulf War, which turned into a 12-year containment
project aimed at Iraq, and boosted by 9/11 backlash into a massive
war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more clandestine operations from
Libya to Yemen and Somalia to Pakistan.
David Daley: Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan
to Steal America's Democracy (2016; paperback, 2017, Liveright):
More nuts-and-bolts on how the right-wing -- the financiers of the
Koch Bros. dark money networks -- has plotted its takeover of American
democracy, especially by targeting and capturing state legislatures.
Thomas Frank: Listen, Liberal: Or What Ever Happened to the
Party of the People? (2016; paperback, 2017, Picador): Shows
how the Democratic Party, especially since the arrival of Bill Clinton
in 1992, has triangulated its way into the good graces of bicoastal
urban elites more often than not at the expense of the party's old
base -- people they could continue to take advantage of because the
Republicans have left them nowhere else to go. This was damning and
embarrassing when it came out last summer, and after white working
class voters flocked to elect Trump over Hillary people started
pointing to this book as prescient. Paperback includes an afterword
where the author gets to "I told you so." Real question is whether
the Democratic Party moving forward can learn from its mistakes.
A good place to start is here.
Jacob S Hacker/Paul Pierson: American Amnesia: How the War on
Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper (2016;
paperback, 2017, Simon & Schuster): Argues that ever since Madison
and Hamilton crafted a strong federalist constitution, America has
benefited from a strong activist government, one that regulated
commerce to limit market failures, that made major investments in
infrastructure, and eventually built a modern safety net -- lessons
that too many Americans have forgotten as narrow-minded business
interests have sought to capture government for their own greedy
Jane Mayer: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionairse
Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016; paperback, 2017,
Anchor): To assess the disaster of the 2016 elections, it is not only
important to look at the shortcomings of the Democrats -- start with
Thomas Frank: Listen, Liberal before you move on to Jonathan
Allen/Arnie Parnes: Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed
Campaign -- but also at what made the Republicans so effective,
mostly a huge clandestine political machine only marginally connected
to the RNC and/or the Trump Campaign, largely funded by the Koch Bros.
and their fellow travelers. This is the best book on the latter, and
the paperback as an "I told you so" afterword. Still, Mayer's excavation
of these misanthropes has only barely begun.
Monday, August 7. 2017
Music: Current count 28508  rated (+18), 375  unrated (+10).
Basically took a break for the latter half of the week (Wednesday to
Saturday). Main reason:
For this stretch, I mostly played CDs from one of my travel cases:
Lilly Allen, Beautiful South, Bobby Bland, Manu Chao, Dance Floor
Divas, Duke Ellington/Coleman Hawkins, English Beat, Franco, Girl
Group Greats, Mighty Sparrow, Roger Miller, Van Morrison, Nigeria
70, Pet Shop Boys, Public Enemy, Wilson Pickett, Shirelles, Phil
Spector, Velvet Underground, Mary Wells, Hank Williams. That, plus the
work, kept me in a pretty good mood.
Before that, I was probably off to a typical week. The Tyshawn Sorey
album took a bit of time, and I think I probably played the Elan Pauer
(the only other CD in the list below) 3-4 times. Evidently Pauer is an
alias for Oliver Schwerdt -- he also sent me a 2-CD under that name,
one of a fair number of things in a suddenly resurgent queue (seems to
be split evenly between September-October releases and things already
out). For a long stretch the queue had been so depleted I stopped
paying much attention to it, but I got more records in the mail last
week than in any week for many months.
I spent Sunday playing Randy Newman. Robert Christgau proclaimed
his new Dark Matter an "album of the year contender" on
Friday. I still don't hear anything like that, but gave it five
plays before parking it in the bottom half of my
2017 A-List -- didn't want to
underrate it as badly as I had Harps and Angels, but I still
doubt I'll wind up liking it as much. I had heard "Putin" on a late
night show, and it seemed pretty awful at the time. It's funnier
here with orchestra and "the Putin girls" chorus. But the opener
(whence the title, but not its title) is an awkward, incoherent
mess, and "Brothers" is just a bummer until it breaks into a
celebration of Celia Cruz. Good song about the original Sonny Boy
Williamson, and "She Chose Me" works for him.
I also went back through the Songbooks -- I had given Vol. 2
a B+(**), but missed Vol. 1 and Vol. 3, and wound up
replaying the whole 3-CD "box" to pick up the songs Bob mentioned
that were left off Vol. 3: "A Few Words in Defense of Our
Country" as timely as it was in 2008 (the death of one of those
Supreme Court Italians proving inconsequential), but I'm not hip
enough to his irony to stomach his 2012 "I'm Dreaming [of a white
president]" ("he won't be the brightest/ but he'll be the whitest/
and I'll vote for that"). The box does offer a really terrific
"A Wedding in Cherokee County."
I bumped up the grade of Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life
from where I had it last Monday. Among other things, it offers
a sharper political commentary than Newman does. We need more
people demanding "the fucking truth." And while she's right
that "critics can be mean sometimes" I'm not feeling that now.
New records rated this week:
- Anat Cohen: Rosa Dos Ventos (2017, Anzic): [r]: B
- Anat Cohen & Marcello Gonçalves: Outra Coisa: The Music of Moacir Santos (2017, Anzic): [r]: B+(**)
- Lana Del Rey: Lust for Life (2017, Interscope): [r]: A-
- Billy Flynn: Lonesome Highway (2017, Delmark): [r]: B
- Paul Heaton + Jacqui Abbott: Crooked Calypso (2017, Virgin EMI): [r]: B+(*)
- Randy Newman: Dark Matter (2017, Nonesuch): [r]: A-
- Elan Pauer: Yamaha/Speed (2015 , Creative Sources): [cd]: B+(***)
- John Pizzarelli: Sinatra & Jobim @ 50 (2017, Concord): [r]: B-
- Skyzoo: Peddler Themes (2017, First Generation Rich/Empire, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (2016 , Pi): [cd]: A-
- Tyler, the Creator: Flower Boy (2017, Odd Future/Columbia): [r]: B
Old music rated this week:
- Bill Frisell: Ghost Town (1999 , Nonesuch): [r]: B+(*)
- Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 1 (2003, Nonesuch): B+(*)
- Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook Vol. 3 (2016, Nonesuch): [r]: B+(***)
- Randy Newman: The Randy Newman Songbook (2003-16 , Nonesuch, 3CD): [r]: B+(**)
- John Pizzarelli: Let There Be Love (2000, Telarc): [r]: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Laura Ainsworth: New Vintage (Eclectus)
- Gerald Beckett: Oblivion (Summit)
- Jane Ira Bloom: Wild Lines: Improvising Emily Dickinson (Outline, 2CD): September 8
- Miles Donahue: The Bug (Whaling City Sound)
- Fred Hersch: Open Book (Palmetto): September 8
- Noah Kaplan Quartet: Cluster Swerve (Hatology)
- Steve Langone Trio: Breathe (Whaling City Sound)
- The Liberation Music Collective: Rebel Portraiture (AD Astrum): August 17
- Paul McCandless: Morning Sun: Adventures With Oboe (Living Music): October 10
- Marcus Monteiro: Another Part of Me (Whaling City Sound)
- Dave Potter: You Already Know (Summit)
- Chris Speed Trio: Platinum on Tap (Intakt): August 18
- Jason Stein Quartet: Lucille! (Delmark): September 5
- Omri Ziegele: Going South (Intakt): August 18
Sunday, August 6. 2017
I took a break from the politics and music this past week to cook
a dinner served Saturday. I started my "birthday dinner" tradition
back in the mid-1990s, where I would take a national cuisine and try
to make as many varied dishes as I could muster. I suppose the original
idea was just to show off: the first two dinners were Chinese, which
I largely figured out in the early 1980s while living in New Jersey.
Then I moved on to Indian -- another old interest although I didn't
get to be really good at it until the birthday dinners started up --
and then Turkish. Later on I started using the dinners as research
projects as I attempted to figure out other cuisines: Spanish, Thai,
Moroccan, Lebanese, Japanese, Iranian, Italian, Greek, Brazilian,
I've long felt like Korean would be worth trying. I've dabbled
a bit, mostly from working from Charmaine Solomon's The Complete
Asian Cookbook. My first Korean food came from a restaurant in
Cambridge (MA): small nuggets of intensely flavored beef. A decade
later, I had a friend in Boston who several times fixed huge feasts
of homemade Korean food. One of the first times I tried cooking at
a relative's home, we bought beef short ribs and I marinated and
grilled them. But I never got out of the rut of habitually ordering
bulgogi when I got the chance. A couple years back I bought a copy
of Young Jin Song's The Food and Cooking of Korea, but until
recently it languished on the shelf.
A few months ago I decided to give it a go. I planned out a menu,
and knowing I'd need some lead time I went ahead and made a batch of
classic kimchi. I did some shopping to figure out what could be found,
but we couldn't schedule the dinner I had hoped for, and I wound up
making a "practice run" with what I had bought -- a pretty substantial
dinner in its own right. I finally got a chance to go all out this
week. I started shopping on Wednesday, and made the first batch of
kimchi that night. More shopping Thursday, plus an emergency run on
Friday. Cooked some things on Friday, and finished up on Saturday,
producing the spread (not very artfully laid out) photographed below:
I made an image map to identify the various dishes, but it only works
on the unscaled image
the rescaling problem, but I've wasted enough time on that already.
In addition to the Song cookbook mentioned above, I bought two more
Korean cookbooks: Deuki Hong/Matt Rodbard, Koreatown: A Cookbook,
and Maangchi's Real Korean Cooking. I ordered the latter after
finding several promising recipes on the author's
website. I built up a
long shopping list with a tentative menu (16 dishes), noting what I
already had and what I would need. Then I added various things as I
looked through the books, trying to expand my options or just to get
a sense of what's available. For example, I never found perilla leaves,
bellflower root, or dried file fish (although I did something labeled
"filetfish"); I found but didn't buy fresh burdock and dried fernbrake.
I started my shopping at Thai Binh, the largest Vietnamese grocery
in town. They cover Chinese and Thai pretty well, with a smallish
specifically Korean section where I had previously bought chili paste
(gochujang), bean paste (doenjang), coarse chili powder (gochugaru),
and coarse sea salt. They have a substantial produce section (although
no water chestnuts this time) and a tremendous variety of frozen fish
so I figured they'd be my best shot. Then I stopped at Dillons to get
the beef, pork ribs, and some more conventional vegetables. Still,
I came up short in several respects, so I googled for Korean
groceries and found two more: Grace Korean-Japanese Market and
Kimson Asian Food Market. I went to them on Thursday, and that
evening went to Sprouts and Dillons. I didn't actually have much
on the list by that time, other than English mustard, which I
finally found at Dillons (Rock/Central).
Grace was small but had a couple things I hadn't picked up before.
They also have a small cafe area which seemed pretty inactive. I picked
up a couple "homemade" batches of seaweed and shrimp salads, but didn't
particularly like either. Kimson only had about a third as much space
as Thai Binh but was packed so they had almost as much stuff, including
some things I had never seen locally (like frozen sea urchin for sushi).
I wound up having to go out again on Friday -- Thai Binh and Dillons --
as I couldn't find the short-grain (sushi) rice I was sure I had plenty
Notes on the menu: Most Korean food is very hot (spicy,
but aside from chilis, garlic, and ginger there are virtually no
spices). The heat comes from chili powder, chili paste, or (much
less often) chili oil or fresh peppers. I can barely tolerate hot
peppers, so in all of the following recipes I either cut them way
back or completely out (though I usually kept the garlic and sugar
which are probably included just to draw out the heat). I thought
about serving a hot sauce on the side, but doubted any of my guests
especially wanted it. (The kimchis were still pretty hot in my book.)
Also, virtually every Korean dish is topped with sesame seeds, which
I also omitted (although I offered black sesame seeds on the side).
Classic Cabbage Kimchi (Song): I made this several months
ago, and had enough leftover for the rice and to serve on the side.
Start with a Chinese (napa) cabbage, split into quarters and soak in
salt water 2 hours. Then dry, sprinkle with salt (working between the
layers), and let stand 4 hours. Mix seasoning: daikon, Asian chives,
garlic, ginger, onion, Asian pear, scallions, water chestnut, chili
powder, fish sauce, sugar. Recipe called for a couple oysters. I think
I used some smoked oysters, not really the same thing. Rinse the salt,
then stuff the seasoning between the cabbage leaves. Then it's just a
matter of setting, initially at room temp, later in refrigerator --
no need to bury in back yard.
White Kimchi (Song): Same basic idea minus the chili
powder (chopped fresh chilis provide heat without color -- I used
small Thai peppers, one red and one green). I just did half a head
of napa cabbage: salted it, rinsed it, soaked it 24 hours in a kelp
stock (with apple, pear, and a red date), then drained and stuffed
with daikon, scallions, ginger, red dates, garlic. I didn't have
fermented shrimp, so soaked some dried shrimp, chopped it up, and
added a little shrimp paste. Also didn't have watercress. This then
needed to sit another day.
Diced White Radish Kimchi (Song): I took about half of a
very large daikon, peeled it, cut into half-inch cubes, and salted it.
For seasoning I used sugar, chili powder, garlic, onion, scallions,
sea salt, fish sauce, ginger, and brown sugar. Recipe calls for 5 tbs
chili powder. I used one, plus some Spanish smoked paprika to keep
the color up.
Boy Choy Kimchi (Hong): This cookbook has a "five quick
kimchis to keep in your fridge" section, which all use the same basic
cure (sugar and kosher salt) and the same marinade: Asian pear, chili
powder, fish sauce, garlic, sugar, ginger. I cut the chili down to
about one-third, and this wound up being the hottest dish I served.
I cut the bok choy in half, sprinkled the cure, waited an hour of two,
rinsed, then added the marinade and refrigerated.
Pineapple Kimchi (Hong); I bought a pineapple core,
cut it into chunks, added the quick marinade, and refrigerated.
Not a traditional kimchi, but something that struck the authors'
fancy, and actually pretty tasty.
Griddled Beef with Sesame and Soy (Song): Aka bulgogi.
Dillons has 12-oz. packages of thin-sliced steak which work perfectly
for this (I've made it several times), so I bought two. Sliced the
beef into 1-inch squares. Marinade: scallions, onion, Asian pear,
dark soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, black pepper, garlic, a little
lemon juice (recipe calls for lemonade). Recipe warns against
marinating over two hours ("becomes too salty"), but Hong calls
for overnight (and uses the saltier thin soy sauce, and more of
it). To cook, I heated up a cast iron skillet and dumped the bag
in. In retrospect I should have dumped the bag into a collander
to drain more liquid from the marinade, as it almost turned into
a braise, and I wound up cooking the meat longer than I would
have had I not had to boil off so much sauce.
Deiji Kalbi (Hong): I originally planned on making
Griddled Doenjang Pork (Song), using pork loin and fermented bean
paste, then saw this recipe and merged them. I bought a side of
spare ribs -- about three pounds -- and separated them. Mixed up
a marinade in the food processor: Asian pear, apple, onion,
chili paste (about 1 tbs), fermented bean paste (about 4 tbs),
black pepper, mirin, soy sauce, garlic, sugar. Recipe called
for 1 cup of chili sauce + 1/4 cup of ground chili (for about
50% more pork), with none of the bean paste, so they were looking
for super spicy. I wanted something earthier, with just a little
kick. I marinated this overnight, put it on the rack of a roasting
pan with some water, and baked it at 350F for about an hour.
Seafood Salad in Mustard Dressing (Song): Recipe for 2 so
my plan was to scale it up 3X, but I wound up exceeding that, then I
forgot about the scaling when I made the dressing, so wound up making
a second batch (and now that I think of it, probably should have made
a third). Recipe calls for squid, shrimp, whelks, jellyfish, and crab.
I got a frozen package of small squid tubes that had been crosshatched,
and I substituted pre-cooked periwinkles for the whelks. I found a 1 lb.
package of shredded and salted frozen jellyfish. I got a little more
than a pound of snow crab legs, so boiled them and extricated the meat.
The squid, shrimp, and jellyfish were also boiled briefly. I initially
started with a half-pound of shrimp, then decided they were so much
better than everything else so I made the rest of the 1 lb. bag. And
I wound up only using about 1/3 of the periwinkles and 1/4 of the
jellyfish. I chilled the seafood, then added julienned carrots, Asian
pear, and cucumber, plus some shredded napa cabbage. Then the seasoning:
English (hot) mustard, sugar, vinegar, salt, dark soy sauce, sesame oil
(instead of chili oil). I decided it was piquant enough but could use
some more mild mustard, so added some dijon, then honey dijon.
Stir-fried Kimchi and Rice (Hong): I made a pot of
short-grain rice the day before: soaked the rice through multiple
passes, then boiled and cooked over low heat. I started with two
cups of raw rice, and only used three cups here, so I have a lot
leftover. I got some thick-sliced bacon at Dillons, and chopped
up three slices. I browned them, added a chopped onion, about a
cup of classic kimchi, chopped ginger and garlic, then the rice.
One suggestion is to serve this with two sunny-side up fried eggs.
I had the idea that I could push the rice to one side, add some
oil, and fry a couple of eggs in situ. I covered them briefly,
then when the bottoms had set, flipped them over, and before the
yolks set started folding them back into the rice. Garnished with
Spicy-Sweet Shredded Squid (Hong): I found some dried
whole squids, about 8-inches long and flattened, that were still
pliable. Cut them into thin shreds. Put them in a pan with a little
water and cooked them until the water evaporated. Mixed up a sauce:
chili paste, sugar, rice syrup, mirin, sesame oil. (I think I added
some hoisin sauce and ketchup to the sauce -- or maybe that was some
other dish.) Added the sauce to the squid and continued to cook
until it was well glazed.
Sweet Potato with Almond Syrup (Song): Two sweet potatoes,
peeled, quartered and cut into half-inch slices. I baked them for 20
minutes, then deep fried them. Made a syrup of brown sugar and water,
and after it thickened turned off the heat, stirred in some ground
almonds ("flour"), then added the sweet potato chunks, stirring to
coat. Several problems here: syrup got too thick and the almonds
were ground too fine (recipe calls for 2 almonds, crushed, which
might have worked better) so they acted more as a thickener. I
wound up needing to add some water to the syrup, which thinned it
adequately but also cooled it down. Ultimately minor problems.
Steamed Eggplant (Maangchi): I used two Japanese
eggplants, cut into quarters then sliced into inch-long pieces.
Steamed them, then served them in a sauce: fish sauce, soy,
garlic, scallions, sesame oil.
Black Beans with Sweet Soy (Song): Start with a can of
cooked black beans, then rinse, boil, rinse again, and boil again --
this time with sugar, thin soy, and maple syrup, until the water is
evaporated. This actually wound up becoming a bit crunchy, as well
as much more salty than sweet.
Sweet Lotus Root (Song): Bought a package of peeled, sliced
lotus root. Soaked it in vinegar water, then boiled it a few minutes,
then returned to pot with soy sauce and boiled for 20 minutes, then
added sugar and maple syrup and boiled another 30 minutes, then add
sesame oil. Before the last step, I still wasn't getting the look I
wanted, so I switched to a deeper, narrower pot, and added some dark
soy and maple syrup (and the sesame oil) and boiled it down to a
Beansprout Namul (Song): Recipe calls for soybean sprouts,
but I used mung bean sprouts. Soaked in salt water, then par-boiled,
then sauteed with scallions and sesame oil.
Spinach Namul (Song): Steamed a bunch of spinach. Mixed up
a sauce: dark soy, garlic, sesame oil, rice wine. Added the spinach to
the sauce, and let it sit for a while. Heated up a skillet, added a bit
of oil, and quickly heated up the mix.
Braised Shiitake Mushroom and Onion (Song): Chopped
a half onion. Trimmed stems from a package of mushrooms. Mixed them
with garlic and sauce: dark soy, sesame oil, maple syrup. Dumped them
all in a pot and braised until the water evaporated.
Sweet Rice with Red Dates (Song): Made this for dessert.
Starts with glutinous rice, which is soaked, then put into a pot with
brown sugar, a cup of water, chopped dates, chopped chestnuts, raisins,
sesame oil, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Then "add water until it
covers the rice by about 2cm (3/4 inch)"; bring to a boil, then turn
low. I decided mejdol dates would be better than the dried red dates,
and I missed the cinnamon, but the bigger problem was too much water.
The result was a sticky mass with puddles of water. I dusted it with
cinnamon, topped with pine nuts, and served, but it wasn't very good --
maybe not quite a disaster but the night's poorest showing.
I'm reconstructing this from memory, so I may not even have the
right cookbook for several recipes that appeared on multiple books.
I did what seems like more than the usual mount of fiddling, not
just to adjust the heat and avoid sesame seeds. I did quite a bit
of fiddling with various sauces to get an appealing mix of tastes.
And aside from the dessert it pretty much all worked. Interesting
that the dishes with the highest-percentage leftovers were the
kimchi (although the rice, which is usually the least popular
choice, was most nearly wiped out).
I scratched a half-dozen possible dishes at various points in the
afternoon. I had bought groceries to make: zucchini namul, buckwheat
noodles, braised bean curd. I could have done a chives namul. I had
more bok choy which I could have fixed with the bean paste. I had
cucumbers which could have been used several different ways (but I
didn't have time to do proper pickles). I could have made the extra
jellyfish into its own dish (similar to the squid). I also had dried
anchovies that could be given the squid treatment. I bought red and
green bell peppers and can't remember what they were for. I have a
piece of barbecued eel in the freezer. I could have taken some of
the rice, dressed it with sugar and vinegar, and made sushi, topped
with wasabi, broiled eel, and sweetened soy. (Would have been better
than the dessert I served.)
There's a lot more Korean food I could have made -- something to
try out later. I wanted to have lots of little things (Koreans call
them banchan) rather than a big main course. That's why I didn't
consider doing a soup or a combo rice dish like bibimbap. In fact,
I didn't want to serve plain rice, even though that's the foundation
virtually all Korean meals are built upon. I also figured I should
stay away from obvious Japanese imports like sushi, teriyaki, and
tempura (all common in Korea). I figured the bulgogi was essential,
and what sold me on the pork ribs was the possibility of sticking
it in the oven and forgetting about it. Similarly, the seafood salad
could be made early and out of the way, and having those three dishes
really didn't leave much room for chicken or fish. One thing I was
tempted by but figured was too tricky and/or marginally weird was
the raw blue crabs -- Thai Binh stocks them, and they basically get
kimchi'ed for a couple days before serving, so they wouldn't have
presented a logistical problem.
Figuring out the logistics is a big part of these large-scale
dinners. In fact, this one was relatively easy, the first critical
task figuring out what I could (and could not) obtain, and where
to shop for it. The kimchis had relatively long lead times (pickles
were already out of the question), so that determined when I had
to start. I've done meals so complicated that I've mapped them out
using charts, but this one wasn't that mind-boggling. After I made
the kimchis, on Friday I cooked the seafood, roasted the sweet
potatoes, steamed the spinach and eggplant, cooked the plain rice,
made the squid, and marinated the meat. Hardest thing there (by
far) was picking out the crab meat. I got up a little after noon
on Saturday and started working through the little dishes -- the
braises sometimes took an hour or more, but I could plate them
when they were done. While the braises were going on I julienned
the vegetables and dressed the salad, then put it back in
the refrigerator. I usually get desserts out of the way early,
but this one could be cooked anytime, and there was very little
prep to it. The final push could hardly have been simpler: put
the ribs in the oven, fix the fried rice, then finish the steak.
And I could wait until the guests arrived to do the latter.
So, a pretty memorable dinner. Learned a lot while doing it.
The guests seemed pretty pleased. The dog tried crawling into
the dishwasher to help with the prewash. I won't try to get into
the dinner discussion and all that, which for me was probably
the highlight of the evening. Had some leftover ribs and sweet
potatoes for dinner this evening. Have some people coming over
Monday to help clean out the leftovers -- and maybe I'll cook
some of the scratched dishes then. Hopefully Trump won't start
bombing Korea by then. I was born during the Korean War. I'd
hate to suffer through a second one.
Thursday, August 3. 2017
Took a break today and glanced at the Internet and came up with the
usual load. Noted a tweet from Kathleen Geier: "No one will look back
at this era in American politics and remember it fondly. Absolutely no
Peter Beaumont: Former Netanyahu chief of staff 'in negotiations to become
state witness': In a world increasingly run by the very rich, I reckon
it's no surprise that merely powerful politicians should strive to become
rich themselves. Of course, sometimes they get caught.
Julian Borger: Leaked Trump transcripts show his incoherent, ill-informed
narcissism: not that you expected anything else.
Esme Cribb: NSC's Senior Intelligence Director Ezra Cohen-Watnick Fired:
Reported a Flynn protégé, survived McMasters' previous efforts to fire him
thanks to intervention by Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner.
Cohen-Watnick was the latest casualty in a string of firings at the NSC.
McMaster (pictured above) replaced Fox News commentator K.T. McFarland
as his deputy in May, reportedly without seeking White House approval
first. He also reportedly fired Rich Higgins, a staffer who worked in
the council's strategic planning office on July 21, after Higgins
authored a memo claiming Trump was under attack by "globalists and
Islamists" and "cultural Marxists." McMaster also fired Derek Harvey,
Trump's top Middle East adviser, in late July.
Also see Josh Marshall on
The Deeper Story on Cohen-Watnick.
Esme Cribb: Mueller Impanels Grand Jury in Federal Russia Probe.
Bob Dreyfuss: What Did Trump and Kushner Know About Russian Money Laundering,
and When Did They Know It?
Joshua Holland: Medicare-for-All Isn't the Solution for Universal Health
Care: I haven't worked my way through this piece, so for now will
just note its existence. I was aware of the article before, but steered
to it from
Dylan Scott: What you need to know about the Senate's "right-to-try"
bill. The latter was a broadly bipartisan bill that somewhat
streamlines the options of terminally ill patients to try unproven
treatments: Republicans evidently like the bill either because it
gives patients more freedom/choice or because it helps doctors and
drug companies commit fraud.
Sharon Lerner: EPA Staffers Are Being Forced to Prioritize Energy Industry's
Wish List, Says Official Who Resigned in Protest.
Jeffrey Lewis: Scuttling the Iran Deal Will Lead to Another North Korea:
"Tehran can already make an ICBM anytime it wants, and there's nothing
Donald Trump can do about it." Still, isn't that the wrong way to look
at the problem? The real problem with North Korea isn't that they have
rockets and nuclear warheads that could be used against us. The problem
is that the regime and people there suffered through a horrific war
that devastated everything, and since then they've been isolated and
paranoid, prevented from functioning as a normal country by the sheer
spite of the United States. One forgets that Iran's interest in rockets
grew out of their own horrific decade-long war with Iraq, where Tehran
was regularly subjected to rocket attacks (which Iran reciprocated,
unlike Iraq's use of poison gas). Clearly, Iraq isn't the threat it
once was, but Iran is still surrounded by hostile regimes, with the
US and Israel actively engaging in various plots of sabotage and/or
insurrection. Scuttling the nuclear deal may or may not force Iran to
develop nuclear-armed ICBMs -- doing so wouldn't give them an effective
tool for attacking the US, but it might deter the US from attacking
Iran -- but it will certainly leave Iran more isolated, paranoid, and
repressive, much as the same sanctions regime has left North Korea.
If Trump's people had any sense, they'd not only embrace the Iran deal,
but seek to build on it, and use it as a model for opening up a modus
vivendi with North Korea.
Paul Mason: Democracy is dying -- and it's startling how few people
are worried; also
Yascha Mounk: The Past Week Proves That Trump Is Destroying Our
Democracy: These two articles came up in a row at WarInContext,
on a day when I was already thinking not just tha democracy has
been taking a bruising but that it's likely to get worse before
(if ever) it gets better. Still, Democracy is in the eye of the
beholder, so we get Mason worrying about Putin, Erdogan, and Trump
(also Poland, Hungary, Venezuela, India, the Philippines, and
China, but not Egypt or Saudi Arabia or Israel), while Mounk
sticks to Trump.
Andrew Prokop: As Trump takes aim at affirmative action, let's remember
how Jared Kushner got into Harvard: "a lot of money, and two US
senators, were involved." By the way, the two senators were Democrats,
albeit also multi-millionaires.
Jedediah Purdy: A Billionaire's Republic: Review of Ganesh Sitaraman's
new book, The Crisis of the Middle-Class Constitution. As noted
above, many of us are worried about the fate of democracy in the near
future. There are various theories about various threats, but the most
basic threat is that posed by significant inequality.
Bernie Sanders: Nissan dispute could go down as most vicious anti-union
crusade in decades:
Nissan is no stranger to trade unions. It has union representation in
42 out of 45 of its plants throughout the world -- from Japan to France,
Australia to Britain. But the company does not want unions in the US
south, because unions mean higher wages, safer working conditions,
decent healthcare and a secure retirement.
Corporations like Nissan know that if they stop workers in Mississippi
from forming a union, wages will continue to be abysmally low in this
state. Further, if workers are unable to form unions and engage in
collective bargaining, Americans throughout this country will continue
to work for longer hours for lower wages. As Americans, our goal must
be to raise wages in Mississippi and all over this country, not engage
in a destructive race to the bottom.
Nissan is not a poor company. It is not losing money. Last year, it
made a record-breaking $6.6bn in profits and it gave its CEO more than
$9.5m in total compensation.
Those kinds of obscene profits are a direct result of corporations'
decades-long assault on workers and their unions. Forty years ago, more
than a quarter of all workers belonged to a union. Today, that number
has gone down to just 11%, and in the private sector it is less than
7%. And as corporations and Republican politicians succeed in decimating
the right of workers to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits,
the American middle class, once the envy of the world, is disappearing
while income and wealth inequality is soaring. We have got to turn that
I proudly support Nissan workers' fight to form a union.
I wonder if any other Democrats have taken a stand on this. Also:
John Nichols: A Nissan Victory Could Usher in a New Era of Southern
Organizing. I've heard that the Games of Thrones showrunners
want to do a new fantasy history series that posits what would have
happened had the South won the Civil War. If you want to indulge in
alternative history, a more promising precept would have been what if
Taft-Hartley had failed in 1947 and the AFL and CIO had launched mass
organizing drives in the South, as they had planned but chickened out
on after Taft-Hartley -- and, of course, had they been successful. At
the very least, that would have advanced the civil rights movement a
decade or more, and prevented the decline of union membership, which
would have kept the Democratic Party, and ultimately the country, from
drifting far to the right.
Matt Taibbi: There Is No Way to Survive the Trump White House:
"The tenures of Reince Priebus and Anthony Scaramucci represent two
opposite, but equally ineffective, strategies for surviving the Trump
Some see in all these maneuverings an effort to purge GOP loyalists
like Spicer and Priebus. Others see a Nixonian lunge to hire thugs
in a crisis. This to me is all overthinking things. There is no
strategy. This White House is just a succession of spasmodic Trump
failures, with a growing line of people taking the fall for each of
them. You can fall with honor, or without, entertainingly or not.
But if you join this White House, fall you will. It's only a matter
Sophia Tesfaye: Trump's next military scapegoat: Foreign-born service
members targeted by Pentagon.
Sam Thielman: Stinger Missiles and Shady Deals: Ex-Biz Partner to Trump
Has a Tall Tale to Tell: Felix Sater, whose CV includes a conviction
for stock fraud as well business ties to Trump, as well as a stint as a
Trump "senior adviser."
Matthew Yglesias: Democrats' push for a new era of antitrust enforcement,
explained: Antitrust legislation, still on the books, was one of the
great achievements of the Progressive movement, even if it could be (and
mostly was) viewed as a way to defend capitalism from the capitalists.
However, it has been little enforced since then, especially under the
Reagan-Bush-Bush-Trump administrations, but Clinton's administration
is mostly remembered for its antitrust case against Microsoft (on
behalf of other high tech companies), and I can't think of any cases
filed by Obama. However, Democratic-leaning economists like Joseph
Stiglitz have lately noted the role of monopoly rents in generating
skyrocketing inequality, and other researchers -- many summarized
here -- have broadened that view. I suspect one reason many Democrats
have gone along with new antitrust planks is that they've long been
spouting the cause of competitive free markets, which is the primary
goal of antitrust. However, the forces against antitrust enforcement
are lobbyists working for dealmakers and brokers, who regardless of
their general principles will invariably argue that their sponsor
companies should be excepted. Still, an important plank, and not just
because competition is good. You should also consider how industry
consolidation destroys and undermines jobs.
Yglesias also wrote
Anthony Scaramucci, explained, as if you couldn't figure that one
out yourself. Still, worth being reminded of this:
Trump, who is very fond of zero-sum thinking, one-sided deals, and
sketchy business ethics, would naturally find [Scaramucci's] background
Some people make money by providing mutually beneficial win-win
arrangements. . . . Trump doesn't really do that. His early real
estate ventures in Manhattan and Atlantic City ended up being failures
that went bankrupt.
But in the mid-1990s, he started the process of spinning shit into
gold by launching a publicly traded company, Trump Casino Hotels &
Resorts, and bilking his investors for all they were worth.
TCHR never made any money for shareholders. "A shareholder who bought
$100 of DJT shares in 1995 could sell them for about $4 in 2005,"
according to Drew Harwell's analysis of the company. "The same investment
in MGM Resorts would have increased in value to about $600." But it did
make lots of money for Donald Trump. It spent more than $6 million on
entertaining high-end clients on Trump's golf courses. It spent $2
million more on renting Trump's plane. It bought $1.7 million of
Trump-branded merchandise. It bought a bankrupt casino from Donald
Trump for $490 million. It paid Trump millions in salary for his
work as CEO. And most lucratively of all, Trump was able to offload
debts he had personally guaranteed onto the publicly traded company.
From there, Trump hopped to starring in a reality television
programming and then into a lucrative celebrity brand licensing
business. He also launched a fake university that had to pay out
$25 million to settle fraud claims.
Trump is, in short, the kind of guy who'd look up to SkyBridge's
"make money selling bad products" business model, not down on it.
Let me also note this trip down memory lane:
Carl Boggs: The Other Side of War: Fury and Repression in St. Louis.
I moved to St. Louis and Washington University after the events described
here, and didn't know Howard Mechanic or anyone else mentioned in the
article, but did know Boggs -- a political science professor at Washington
Monday, July 31. 2017
Music: Current count 28490  rated (+28), 365  unrated (+1).
Most of the following made its way into
July Streamnotes, so not
much news to report. Just seven albums in the August draft file so
far: Arcade Fire, Hal Galper, Paul Jones, Manchester Orchestra, Vic
Mensa, Vieux Farka Touré, Reggie Young. I think I gave Arcade Fire
five (maybe six) plays. The others on Napster got one each.
Three of those came out last week. Checking AOTY, they scored:
Manchester Orchestra (78/11), Arcade Fire (71/23), Vic Mensa (65/5).
I'm surprised Arcade Fire has been reviewed so poorly (although it
has 100 scores from NME and The Independent). They're a
group I've generally admired but never felt much affection for:
while I've graded their previous albums pretty high (B+ for 2004's
Funeral; A- for Neon Bible, The Suburbs, and
Reflektor), none of those albums scored especially high on
my EOY lists (27, 27, 29). I expect this one will wind up lower
(it's at 28 now, but we're only about half done -- big question
is whether I ever play it again). But critics have generally liked
their albums more than I have; e.g., AOTY scores for their four
albums are: 95/15, 84/20, 89/33, 78/40; higher still were their
Pazz & Jop finishes: 6, 5, 3, 14. Presumably this one won't
fare so well, but I can't tell you why. Maybe in this day and age
critics want something mopey? (Like Mount Eerie? Or Manchester
On the other hand, the low critical scores for Vic Mensa's
The Autobiography correlate with my disappointment, not
that we necessarily agree as to why. Christgau liked his mixtapes,
and there was at least something happening in There's Alot
Going On. Not that there's nothing I like in Mensa's record;
just a lot I don't. That contrasts, say, to Tyler the Creator's
new Flower Boy, which was a total blank after one spin.
I reckon that's an improvement given how offensive his early
albums were. Got to it after the cutoff, so it's not in the list
below -- nor is Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life, which I
played a lot and like but wound up hedging. "God Bless America --
and All the Beautiful Women in It" may be the kindest patriotic
anthem of the year, followed by "When the World Was at War We
Kept Dancing" and "Beautiful People Beautiful Problems."
Milo Miles wrout about the remarkable
Carl Craig album. Robert Christgau reviewed the Perceptionists
and Oddissee (an earlier A- for me) at
Noisey. Akmee and Alexander Hawkins are on Chris Monsen's
2017 Favorites list. Ergo, Led Bib, and several others were
downloads I've been sitting on for a long time -- Roscoe Mitchell
a more recent download. The Eddie Palmieri and Vieux Farka Touré
albums are unlikely to disappoint their fans -- high HMs that
might make the A- grade if I spent more time with them.
Finished adding the post-2000 vocalists to the Jazz Guide
(currently 968 + 747 pages). Stalled when I got into post-2000
instrumentalists (currently 6% done). When I scrolled back to
the top, I realized I needed to make some edits in the front
matter -- in particular I changed the grade scale so that A or
A+ is 10, A- 9, B+ 8-6, B 5, B- 4, C+ 3, C 2, C- or worse 1.
I think this maps closer to my actual practice, where A/A+
grades have become extremely rare, as have sub-C grades. I
asked several friends about this mapping and pretty much all
of them wanted more spread on top (A- = 8) with adjustments
shifting some higher grades up to 9 or 10, but I really needed
something I could apply more mechanically. I also didn't mind
cutting my artists and publicists a bit of slack here, while
readers still have a useful curve: 10 is still pretty rare
(especially post-2000), and 9 isn't very common (around 10%
of the total, which is about what you'd expect in a decile
While editing I noticed that I started this project last
August, so I've been working on it a full year, during which
time I've done very little of the editing that will be needed
if this ever sees the light of day, and nothing at all on
several other possible book projects. Feels Sisyphean, even
as time seems to be running out.
Already looks like it's going to be another good week for another
Roundup. Last week I described Trump as having broke out of his
cage and gone on a joyride -- evidence included promoting Anthony
Scaramucci, purging Sean Spicer and Reince Priebus, and two of the
most embarrassing and disgusting speeches in a career with little
else -- but today the joyride ended in a crash as Scaramucci got
fired. Now we're going to have to suffer through stories about how
Marine General John Kelly restored order and discipline to the
White House, as they buckle down on the great cause of "tax reform" --
a more efficient, and less damaging, way to feather the pockets of
the very rich than repealing the ACA.
On the other hand, I may be pressed for time for a Sunday
Roundup, as I have a dinner scheduled for Saturday. I've been
planning for some time on doing a birthday-sized Korean menu, and
will finally get the chance. (I started the classic cabbage kimchi
months ago.) Perfect cuisine for a "birthday feast" with all the
banchan -- small side dishes, kind of like tapas but they pretty
much all get the same treatment. Art Protin told me I should do a
full dinner report every few months, so I'll try to follow through
I am trying harder to cook occasional small dinners for just us,
and they've often been superb. Last week I made my first-ever lasagna,
with sausage and lamb (recipe called for beef and veal, but I didn't
find the latter and decided not to make a deep search). I was a bit
disappointed in it (certainly compared to the pastitsio I made a
while back), but the leftovers are good enough to eat cold, along
with a little horiatiki salad.
New records rated this week:
- Akmee: Neptun (2016 , Nakama): [r]: B+(***)
- Arcade Fire: Everything Now (2017, Columbia): [r]: A-
- Richard Dawson: Peasant (2017, Domino): [r]: B
- Ergo: As Subtle as Tomorrow (2013 , Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(***)
- Kevin Eubanks: East West Time Line (2017, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
- Hal Galper and the Youngbloods: Live at the Cota Jazz Festival (2016 , Origin): [cd]: B+(**)
- Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (2017, Fly Eye/Columbia): [r]: B+(*)
- Joel Harrison: Stump (2013 , Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(***)
- Alexander Hawkins: Unit[e] (2016-17 , self-released, 2CD): [bc]: B+(**)
- Paul Jones: Clean (2017, Outside In Music): [cd]: B
- Steve Lacy: Steve Lacy's Demo (2017, Three Quarter, EP): [r]: B
- Led Bib: The Good Egg (2013 , Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(***)
- Led Bib: The People in Your Neighborhood (2013 , Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(**)
- Let's Eat Grandma: I, Gemini (2016, Transgressive): [r]: B
- Manchester Orchestra: A Black Mile to the Surface (2017, Loma Vista): [r]: B
- Vic Mensa: The Autobiography (2017, Roc Nation): [r]: B-
- Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (2015 , ECM, 2CD): [dl]: B+(***)
- Mokoomba: Luyando (2017, OutHere): [r]: B
- The Moonlandingz: Interplanetary Class Classics (2017, Transgressive): [r]: B
- Sam Newsome: Sopranoville: Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared Soprano (2017, Some New Music): [r]: B+(*)
- Oxbow: Thin Black Duke (2017, Hydra Head): [r]: B+(*)
- The Ed Palermo Big Band: Oh No! Not Jazz!! (2014, Cuneiform, 2CD): [dl]: C
- Eddie Palmieri: Sabiduria/Wisdom (2012 , Ropeadope): [r]: B+(***)
- The Perceptionists: Resolution (2017, Mello Music Group): [r]: A-
- Vieux Farka Touré: Samba (2017, Six Degrees): [r]: B+(***)
- Ralph Towner: My Foolish Heart (2016 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Reggie Young: Forever Young (2017, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Lisbon Improvisation Players: Motion (2002 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Carol Albert: Fly Away Butterfly (Cahara): September 1
- Julian Gerstin Sextet: The One Who Makes You Happy (self-released): September 1
- Tyshawn Sorey: Verisimilitude (Pi)
- John Vanore: Stolen Moments: Celebrating Oliver Nelson (Acoustical Concepts): August 18
- Matt Wilson: Matt Wilson's Honey and Salt (Palmetto): August 25
Sunday, July 30. 2017
I shot most of my war back on Thursday's
have had limited time since then. But still I couldn't ignore these
Some scattered links:
Tariq Ali: Nawaz Sharif has gone. But Pakistan's high-level corruption
Sharif's party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, is fighting back,
accusing the court of a vendetta -- which usually means that his
billions could not buy a single judge. This is truly exceptional.
Life in Pakistan has not been morally salutary for any of its citizens.
The family politics represented by the Bhutto-Zardaris and their rivals,
the Sharifs, is swathed in corruption. Each has learned from the other
how best to conceal it, minimising paperwork and juggling accounts.
Many years ago, when Benazir Bhutto was prime minister, she asked me
what people were saying about her. "They're saying your husband is
totally corrupt, but are not sure about how much you know . . ."
She knew all right, and was not in the least embarrassed: "You're
so prudish. Times have changed. This is the world we live in. They're
all doing it. Politicians in every western country . . ." Her husband,
the president-to-be Asif Ali Zardari, was imprisoned by Sharif, but no
actual proof of corruption was discovered: Zardari's loyalty to his
cronies was legendary, and they remained loyal in return. Sharif, it
appears, has been less fortunate.
Dean Baker: How about a little accountability for economists when they
Robert A Blecker: Trump's "America first" strategy for NAFTA talks
won't benefit US workers
Carole Cadwalladr: Al Gore: 'The rich have subverted all reason':
Ten years after his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Gore
is back with a sequel and goes beyond simply remind us, "I told you
so." One thing he's started looking at is the money:
"I mean that those with access to large amounts of money and raw power,"
says Gore, "have been able to subvert all reason and fact in collective
decision making. The Koch brothers are the largest funders of climate
change denial. And ExxonMobil claims it has stopped, but it really hasn't.
It has given a quarter of a billion dollars in donations to climate denial
groups. It's clear they are trying to cripple our ability to respond to
this existential threat."
One of Trump's first acts after his inauguration was to remove all
mentions of climate change from federal websites. More overlooked is
that one of Theresa May's first actions on becoming prime minister --
within 24 hours of taking office -- was to close the Department for
Energy and Climate Change; subsequently donations from oil and gas
companies to the Conservative party continued to roll in. And what is
increasingly apparent is that the same think tanks that operate in the
States are also at work in Britain, and climate change denial operates
as a bridgehead: uniting the right and providing an entry route for
other tenets of Alt-Right belief. And, it's this network of power that
Gore has had to try to understand, in order to find a way to combat it.
Alexia Fernandez Campbell: What McCain did was hard. What Murkowski and
Collins did was much harder. I suppose McCain's vote to sink the
so-called "skinny repeal" does qualify as "something useful for once"
(a prospect I doubted when I cited Alex Pareene's
I Don't Want to Hear Another Fucking Word About John McCain Unless He
Dies or Actually Does Something Useful for Once). But McCain couldn't
have cast the killing vote without Collins and Murkowski consistently
voting against all of McConnell's ploys to repeal Obamacare -- in large
part because they seem to be the only Republicans who actually care
about the bottom-line assessments that the bills would deprive upwards
of twenty million Americans of health insurance.
Through all of this, the backlash against these two women senators was
severe. Two House Republicans threatened them with violence.
President Trump publicly shamed Murkowski on Twitter:
Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the
Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!
Murkowski then got a call from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who
reportedly threatened to punish Alaska's economy based on her health
care vote, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.
You might recall that Murkowski actually lost the Republican primary
last time out to Tea Party fanatic Joe Miller, then beat Miller with
a write-in campaign, so she's entitled to some independence (or maybe
she's already written off the hardcore right). It will be interesting
to see how much internecine blood is spilt over "repeal-and-replace"
and other supposed Republican failures, but Reagan's so-called "eleventh
commandment" has long vanished: it seems almost certain that each and
every Republican who broke ranks even once will face right-wing primary
challengers. Even more amusing is the pouting tantrum from
John Daniel Davidson: I'm a conservative -- and I now see voting
Republican is a waste of time: "The Obamacare fiasco reveals
that once they are in power, Republicans in Washington refuse to
deliver on their promises."
Tom Engelhardt: Bombing the Rubble: "Precision warfare? Don't
make me laugh." Also:
William D Hartung: The Hidden Costs of "National Security":
"Ten ways your tax dollars pay for war -- past, present, and future>"
William G Gale: The Kansas tax cut experiment: Now that Sam Brownback's
moving on to become Trump's Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom,
a position that will better fit his sanctimonious twaddle and hopefully
is powerless enough to limit how much real damage (as opposed to mere
embarrassment) he does, the Brookings Institute is finally getting around
to looking at his late, great signature tax scam (blessed in the beginning
by none other than Arthur Laffer, his paid consultant). Some of the bullet
- Under his plan, the tax rate on pass-through business income fell to
0. The idea was to boost investment, raise employment, and jump-start the
- The Kansas economy did not grow faster than neighboring states, the
country itself, or even Kansas' own growth in previous years.
- The experiment with tax policy was such a failure that a Republican
controlled legislature not only voted to raise taxes, but did so over
the veto of the governor.
- Second, a lowered business income tax can be manipulated. While
Kansas cut the tax rate on pass-through income to 0 in hopes of
promoting economic activity, the growth simply didn't happen. In
reality, many people in Kansas re-characterized income from labor
into business-form in order to take advantage of the 0 percent
- There are other, more general, takeaways from the tax cut experiment.
When Kansas cut taxes, its bond rating went down, and it had to cut
central services such as education and infrastructure. After seeing
this, a majority of Kansans decided they would not prefer to keep the
- Therefore, another implication is that tax reform is not just about
taxes, rather what taxes pay for. Taxes and spending are linked.
The tax cuts threw the state into a permanent budget crisis, forcing
spending cuts (and other desperate measures which ultimately weakened
the state's credit rating) at a time when courts consistently found the
state to be violating the requirement (part of the state constitution)
to adequately fund local schools. As Republicans try to pass federal
"tax reform" they'll be recycling many of the same nostrums Brownback
used in Kansas, so beware.
Jack Gross: The American Model: Book review of James Q Whitman:
Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of
Nazi Race Law. "What appears to be still difficult, even as
it gets told in ever finer detail, is the simple and immense
situation that America and Nazi Germany are two instantiations
of a single history of white supremacist rule." It's well known
that South Africa based its Apartheid legal system on America's
Jim Crow laws. The Nazi case is less clear, but Hitler admired
America in several respects -- white supremacy is the one detailed
here. As I recall, he also saw America's advance across the
continent as a model for his own Eastern conquests -- what we
proclaimed as Manifest Destiny he called Lebensraum.
Jim Hightower: Fight for your right to fix your own iPhone:
I'm not surprised that Apple is in the forefront of companies
seeking to maximize their profits and control of customers by
"repair prevention." Actually, I was recently was looking at a
Microsoft Surface computer and read that you can't get into it
to repair it without destroying the case -- one, I suspected,
of many traits they copied from Apple. We live in an age where
is it often cheaper to replace something than to repair it,
which may be good for various companies but as a society it is
wasteful and degrading.
Mike Konczal: This Small Regulation Shows Us How the Economy Could Work
for Everybody: Part of Dodd-Frank the Republicans want to get rid
of, because all that regulation limits the ability of big banks to
goose up their profits by price-gouging and other fraudulent means.
Peggy Noonan: Trump Is Woody Allen Without the Humor: Unfair to
Allen, of course -- I'd rather watch Interiors (possibly the
most unfunny movie ever made, not merely the unfunniest by Allen)
than a Trump rally speech -- but no one ever looked to Noonan for
fair, or for that matter for insight. But as a piece of anti-Trump
snark this rivals Maureen Dowd:
He's not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key
and determined; he's whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself,
sobbing, on the body politic. He's a drama queen. It was once said,
sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her
first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife. Actually
his wife, Melania, is tougher than he is with her stoicism and grace,
her self-discipline and desire to show the world respect by presenting
herself with dignity.
Half the president's tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive,
shrill little cries, usually just after dawn. "It's very sad that
Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back,
do very little to protect their president." The brutes. . . .
His public brutalizing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions isn't
strong, cool and deadly; it's limp, lame and blubbery. "Sessions
has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes," he
tweeted this week. Talk about projection. . . .
His inability -- not his refusal, but his inability -- to embrace
the public and rhetorical role of the presidency consistently and
constructively is weak.
"It's so easy to act presidential but that's not gonna get it
done," Mr. Trump said the other night at a rally in Youngstown,
Ohio. That is the opposite of the truth. The truth, six months in,
is that he is not presidential and is not getting it done. His mad,
blubbery petulance isn't working for him but against him. . . .
We close with the observation that it's all nonstop drama and
queen-for-a-day inside this hothouse of a White House.
Noonan closes with Anthony Scaramucci ("He seemed to think this
diarrheic diatribe was professional"), without making the obvious
point: that he's Trump's perfect "communications director" because
he recapitulates Trump's own communications style -- just classed
up a bit by extending Trump's third-grade vocabulary and grammar
into puberty, as if that's all it's going to take to get the snooty
sophisticates to stop laughing at him. Noonan cites historian Joshua
Zeitz's comment: "It's Team of Rivals but for morons."
Still, there is no reason to think that Noonan is transitioning
into some kind of satirist. It's safe to say she's the same paid
political hack she's been since Ronald Reagan signed her checks.
What happened last week was that Trump, aided by Scaramucci, found
a way to escape from his orthodox Republican chapperones and go
out on a joyride. They did manage to ditch Reince Priebus, but
while John Kelly will no doubt prove a sterner nanny, his job of
containing Trump will likely prove taxing. Meanwhile, it's not
just Noonan among the party hacks who are sounding alarms about
Charles Krauthammer: Longing for a self-contained, impenetrable
Transparency, thy name is Trump, Donald Trump. No filter, no governor,
no editor lies between his impulses and his public actions. He tweets,
therefore he is.
Ronald Reagan was so self-contained and impenetrable that his
official biographer was practically driven mad trying to figure him
out. Donald Trump is penetrable, hourly.
Wrong metaphor. Trump and Reagan were similar in one respect: neither
had anything coherent going on between their ears, just chaos and bestial
desires. The difference was that Reagan was an actor (and more importantly,
a paid corporate spokesman) who could credibly read the scripts he was
given, whereas Trump just improvises (often making shit up)-- not because
he's any good at it but because all his life he's been a boss surrounded
by ego-stroking sycophants. Krauthammer, like many conservatives, is upset
over Trump's taunting of Jeff Sessions, who's been hard at work implementing
the conservative agenda to undermine democracy and rig the justice system
while Trump's been throwing his juvenile tantrums.
Given how rare it is for such committed Republican cronies as Noonan
and Krauthammer to break ranks, their attacks on Trump may mark the end
of the honeymoon. Orthodox Republicans may not have liked Trump back in
the primary season, but they figured he'd be manageable once he got the
nomination, and they were suddenly delighted with him once he did the
one thing they most coveted: winning. And indeed he has proven pliable
in terms of policy and personnel, abandoning every shred of independent
thinking he displayed during the campaign. As long as he was helping
them get what they wanted, they could tolerate his idiosyncrasies. But
evidently something has changed: not just that he's proving ineffective
and unpopular -- the health care debacle is really more their fault
than it is Trump's -- but that he's becoming needlessly dangerous and
Trita Parsi: The Mask Is Off: Trump Is Seeking War With Iran:
President Donald Trump has made it clear, in no uncertain terms and
with no effort to disguise his duplicity, that he will claim that
Tehran is cheating on the nuclear deal by October -- the facts be
damned. In short, the fix is in. Trump will refuse to accept that
Iran is in compliance and thereby set the stage for a military
confrontation. His advisers have even been kind enough to explain
how they will go about this. Rarely has a sinister plan to destroy
an arms control agreement and pave the way for war been so openly
The unmasking of Trump's plans to sabotage the nuclear deal began
two weeks ago when he reluctantly had to certify that Iran indeed was
in compliance. Both the US intelligence as well as the International
Atomic Energy Agency had confirmed Tehran's fair play. But Trump threw
a tantrum in the Oval Office and berated his national security team
for not having found a way to claim Iran was cheating. According to
Foreign Policy, the adults in the room -- Secretary of State Rex
Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security
Advisor H. R. McMaster -- eventually calmed Trump down but only on the
condition that they double down on finding a way for the president to
blow up the deal by October.
Matt Shuham: Trump Calls for 'Rough' Policing, Gives Blessing to Law
Enforcement Abuses: Probably one of the ten scariest articles of
the Trump era. Sure, there have been many instances where Trump looked
to be endorsing ad-hoc violence against protesters, foreigners, other
minorities -- why not suspected criminals? Well, because abuses eat at
and eventually destroy the very notion that we live under a fair and
equitable system of law and justice. And has become very clear over the
past few years, what we have now is already way too permissive of police
abuses. Indeed, quite a few police superintendents have come to recognize
that bringing their forces under control is a major public relations
concern. So what Trump is saying undermines responsible police as well
as the entire system of justice, and helps to make American civil society
coarser and more hateful.
On the same speech:
Dara Lind: Trump just delivered the most chilling speech of his
presidency. In reaction, see:
Cleve R Wootson Jr/Mark Berman: US police chiefs blast Trump for
endorsing 'police brutality'.
Matt Taibbi: The Anthony Scaramucci Era Will Be Freakish, Embarrassing
and All Too Short:
In the space of a week, Trump's new press expert demonstrated that he
a) didn't know how to hold off-the-record conversations b) didn't
understand that cameras and microphones keep rolling even when the
red light is off and c) doesn't bother to check the other public
statements made by administration officials before he makes statements
of his own. An alien crashed on earth and given a two-minute tutorial
on dealing with reporters would have done a better job. . . .
The Communications Director job in the Trump administration is a
no-win job, because the real Communications Director is Trump's
Twitter feed. The job that Scaramucci technically occupies is a
thankless and redundant position that involves standing before
reporters and reconciling avalanches of already-circulated lies,
contradictions, and insulting/ignorant statements.
Even a genius of the highest order couldn't make this work.
Of course, Trump hasn't had geniuses available to him. The
fourth-rate minds he has instead had in his employ just started
raging trash-fires whenever they tried to logically explain
They gave us statements like Kellyanne Conway's "alternative
facts," or Katrina Pierson's bit about how Trump wasn't changing
his position on immigration, but rather "changing the words that
he is saying."
Matthew Yglesias: The most important stories of the week, explained:
The Senate rejected three versions of ACA repeal; Trump named a
new Chief of Staff; Trump kind of banned transgender military
service; Trump feuded with his attorney general.
Reuters: US flies B-1B bombers over Korean peninsula after missile
test: Not clear from the article whether they actually flew into
North Korean air space, which would be daring the Koreans to shoot
a plane down, dramatically escalating America's snit fit over North
Korea's missile tests. Also:
Tom Phillips: China and Russia have 'responsibility' for North Korea
nuclear threat, says US. Reminds me that Casey Stengel once said
that the secret to successful managing was keeping the guys who hate
you (like North Korea) away from the ones on the fence (like Russia
and China) -- a lesson Rex Tillerson never learned. The odds of Trump
(or one of those generals he gives carte blanche to) doing something
profoundly stupid over Korea have been steadily increasing -- much as
it has with Iran (see Trita Parsi, above).
Friday, July 28. 2017
The summer here in Wichita hasn't been exceptionally hot, but it's
been hot enough to be stultifying. I haven't enjoyed it, and find damn
near everything else depressing, but kept my nose to the grind wheel
and came up with a perfectly average month: 136 records, 108 (or 112)
more or less new, the old stuff purely opportunistic as I came across
various interesting tangents.
I cut the month off a couple days early rather than collide with
my usual Sunday/Monday blog schedule. Kept hoping to find something
new, and finally did after I thought I'd finished the column: The
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records
from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets).
They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since
my last post along these lines, back on June 30. Past reviews and
more information are available
here (9910 records).
21 Savage: Issa Album (2017, Slaughter Gang/Epic):
Rapper Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, from Atlanta, first studio album
although he had an EP I liked last year (Savage Mode). I like
the easy beats and delivery here. However, doesn't it seem a bit lazy
to make every line rhyme by ending it with the N-word?
John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (2016 ,
ECM): British guitarist, on ECM since 1974, backed here by pianist
Marc Copland (wrote two songs), Drew Gress (bass), and Joey Baron
Ryan Adams: Prisoner (2017, Blue Note): Prolific
singer-songwriter, seemed promising when he first appeared in 2000
but quickly grew tiresome. I still can't find anything much to care
about, but as a formal piece of guitar-driven songcraft this sounds
Akmee: Neptun (2016 , Nakama): Norwegian group:
Erik Kimestad Pedersen (trumpet), Kjetil Jerve (piano), Erlend
Albertsen (bass), Andreas Wildhagen (drums). Four songs, two by
the pianist, one each bassist and drummer. Slow to develop, but
powerful or eloquent when they do.
Algiers: The Underside of Power (2017, Matador):
Postpunk band from Atlanta, second album, moves both toward metal
and experimental, a mix that I sometimes get a charge out of but
more often find annoying. Produced by Adrian Utley of Portishead.
Thom Jurek: "Algiers ultimately turn doomsday on its head
Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (2016 , Skirl):
Pianist, born in Switzerland, based in New York since 2008, second
album, both quartets, this one distinguished by alto saxophonist
Michaël Attias, whose runs keep slipping out of the grooves.
Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S: Plucky Strum: Departure
(2017, Whaling City Sound): Guitar and bass duets, second album
together -- first filed under the bassist, but cover shows Bailey
in the driver seat this time. Originals from each, one together,
covers from Steve Stills and Joni Mitchell.
Big Boi: Boomiverse (2017, Epic): Like Jay-Z,
another big-time rapper into real estate. Still, I prefer his
boisterous, big-time pop.
Bleachers: Gone Now (2017, RCA): Indie pop band,
principally Jack Antonoff, who collaborated extensively on Lorde's
Melodrama. I prefer Lorde's voice for pop, but this isn't
bad, especially on relationship songs. But I did get tripped up
by the closer.
Theo Bleckmann: Elegy (2016 , ECM): German
vocalist, fifteen albums since 1992, more art song than swing,
often given an angelic air by his high-pitched voice. Leads a
band that indulges him lavishly: Ben Monder (guitar), Shai Maestro
(piano), Chris Tordini (bass), and John Hollenback (drums).
Benjamin Booker: Witness (2017, ATO): Singer-songwriter
born in Virginia, grew up in Florida, given name Benjamin Evans, adopted
name suggests a gnarled bluesman but his eponymous first album didn't
really fit that hole, and this one doesn't even aim for it. Garage rock
seems to be the new consensus, but I see he's cited "Gun Club, Blind
Willie Johnson and T. Rex as influences." More a way of triangulating
what he's aiming for, a target he sometimes hits.
Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die (2017, International Anthem):
Trumpet player, based in Chicago, seems to be her first album, mostly
quartet with Tomeka Reid (cello), Jason Ajemian (bass), and Chad Taylor
(drums), plus some "cameos" -- notably too many cornets. I get hung up
on a piece called "The Storm" -- otherwise impressive, an especially
strong turn by the drummer. Choice cut: "Theme Nothing."
Brother Ali: All the Beauty in This Whole Life
(2017, Rhymesayers Entertainment): Minneapolis rapper Jason Newman,
converted to Islam at age 15, sixth album: as thoughtful, good
natured, well intentioned as ever.
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Oneness
(2015 , FMR): Leader plays alto sax and Chinese oboe, accompanied
by drums and acoustic bass guitar. Parts are a bit harsher than I'd
like, but I love Carrier's deep, searching runs, and this is another
good setting for them.
Cashmere Cat: 9 (2017, Mad Love/Interscope): Norwegian
DJ/turntablist, Magnus August Halberg, first album after three EPs.
Draws on an impressive roster of vocalists -- Kehlani, The Weeknd,
Ariana Grande, Ty Dolla Sign, Selena Gomez, Jhené Aiko, and more --
while minimizing their differences.
Charly Bliss: Guppy (2017, Barsuk): Guitar band from
Brooklyn, singer-guitarist Eva Hendricks give them some pop appeal
while guitarist-vocalist Spencer Fox thickens the din (something I've
seen dubbed "bubble-grunge").
Amber Coffman: City of No Reply (2017, Columbia):
Former Dirty Projectors singer, absent from this year's album
although Dave Longstreet co-wrote and produced here. I find the
group's fancy twists and filigree damn near unbearable, but this
album is relatively free of annoyance -- just conventional stuff,
mostly synth strings, nicely tucked into the background, where
they frame her attractive voice.
Avishai Cohen: Cross My Palm With Silver (2016 ,
ECM): Israeli trumpet player, unrelated to the bassist but brother of
Anat Cohen, second ECM album, quartet with piano (Yonathan Avishai),
bass (Barak Mori), and drums (Nasheet Waits). Tends to submerge under
Manfred Eicher's aesthetic, which is probably the point, but the
trumpet has a nice brassy air.
Larry Coryell's 11th House: Seven Secrets (2016 ,
Savoy Jazz): Reunion of the guitarist's best known fusion groups, with
several albums (and later archival material) spanning 1972-76. Randy
Brecker (trumpet) and Alphonse Mouzon (drums/keyboards) return from
the original group -- Mouzon died soon after this was recorded, and
Coryell died before its release. Also adds second guitarist Julian
Coryell and Mike Lee on bass. Heavy grooves, blistering trumpet, nice
they got this chance to feel young again.
Carl Craig: Versus (2017, InFiné): Pioneering
electronica producer from Detroit, his 1997 album More Songs About
Food and Revolutionary Art a personal favorite, but I can't say
as I've followed him closely since. He provides electronics and
production for his tracks here, but the bulk of the sound comes
from a 22-piece orchestra, arranged by Francesco Tristano to bring
forth the drama, suggesting classical music but when have they
ever enjoyed such danceable beats before?
Richard Dawson: Peasant (2017, Weird World):
Singer-songwriter from Newcastle, UK; started as a folkie, winds
up all over the map, with folkish harmonies and music that isn't
afraid of getting dissonant. His own voice reminds me of Robert
Wyatt, although I'm less inclined to forgive his idiosyncrasies
and lapses, partly because it grates so much more.
Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Meddeski/John Scofield:
Hudson (Motéma): Cover only offers last names, although
all are pretty recognizable. Hype credits this to "jazz supergroup
Hudson." Names appear alphabetical, the opposite of the way I would
list the credits by instrument, with guitarist Scofield up front.
Indeed he is, and probably playing better than he has in two decades,
but I'm tempted to chalk that up to the drummer, especially remarkable
on the 10:56 title piece. Also note that nearly half of the pieces
are late-1960s rock hits -- two Dylans, Hendrix, Robertson, Mitchell --
and while they're the things you notice, they're not the ones that
stick with you.
Dirty Projectors: Dirty Projectors (2017, Domino):
Formerly an indie rock band given to fancy arrangements and off-kilter
rhythms, now just Dave Longstreth and extra studio musicians, notably
co-producer Tyondai Braxton. I hated their/his last two albums, ones
which turned them into much more than a cult band, and didn't expect
anything better here. Didn't find it either: just intricately layered
churchy/soulish vocals with no discernible sense of time.
Chano Dominguez: Over the Rainbow (2012 ,
Sunnyside): Spanish pianist, has twenty-some records since 1980,
including a couple with Martirio, one with Paquito D'Rivera, one
called Flamenco Sketches. Solo, probably not the one to
Emperor X: Oversleepers International (2017, Tiny
Engines): Chad Matheny, American but based in Berlin, had a thing
for odd electronic music but came up with a surprising set of songs
in 2011 (Western Teleport), and almost repeats that feat here --
except that I lose track somewhere after "Schopenhauer in Berlin"
until the closing 11:11 minimalist instrumental.
Noga Erez: Off the Radar (2017, City Slang): Electropop
artist from Israel, works/writes with producer Ori Rousso, first album,
titles in English but I'm less clear about the lyrics. Not a lot of
pop appeal, closer but still not as gloomy as trip-hop..
Ergo: As Subtle as Tomorrow (2013 , Cuneiform):
Trombonist Brett Sroka, leading a trio with Sam Harris (keyboards) and
Shawn Baltazar (drums), fourth album together, where Harris produces
the most unexpected sounds -- prepared piano is one of his options --
but the trombone pulls it back together.
Kevin Eubanks: East/West Timeline (2017, Mack Avenue):
Guitarist, discography starts in 1983, couple dozen albums although
only one entered my database. Looks like two sessions, the first half
with Nicholas Payton (trumpet), Orrin Evans (piano), Dave Holland
(bass), and Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums); the second with Bill Pierce
(tenor sax), Rene Camacho (bass), Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums), and
Mino Cinelu (percussion). Nice either way.
The Feelies: In Between (2017, Bar/None): NJ jangle
pop band, invented their genre in 1980 and broke up as soon as they
released their greatest album, 1991's Time for a Witness. As
with so many bands, they ran out of better options and regrouped --
in 2006, with an album in 2011, and now this second one. No new ideas
here, and for a while I thought they were slowed by age, but the
reprise of the title cut is something I could dig much longer than
Forest Swords: Compassion (2017, Ninja Tune): English
electronica producer Matthew Barnes, second album, leaves me feeling
Free Radicals: Outside the Comfort Zone (2017,
Free Rads): Houston group, "a horn-driven instrumental dance band
with a commitment to peace and justice" -- I recognized the group
name from chemistry, but sure, politics works too. Took no more
than five seconds for me to realize they were right up my alley.
Turns out they've been around for a couple decades, recording
The Rising Tide Sinks All in 1998 and five albums since.
Nine-piece group, three saxes, three brass (including sousaphone),
guitar, bass, drums, but 15 more "guests" joined in these sessions,
including two elder vibraphonists whose credits include Benny
Goodman and Sun Ra (author of their one cover). For a first
approximation, imagine a cross between anarchist collectives
like Club D'Elf and the Tribe and a New Orleans brass band. Not
without its messy moments, but surely a SFFR.
Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Small Town (2016 ,
ECM): Guitar and bass duets, recorded live at the Village Vanguard,
very low key. Three originals (one by both, two Frisell), five covers,
"Wildwood Flower" recalling Frisell's Americana, an effect deepened
by the title tune. Other covers: Paul Motian, Lee Konitz, Fats Domino,
Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Kisaragi (2015-16
, Libra): Piano and trumpet duets, at least that's what the
cover says, but I'm not hearing much of that -- a lot of submerged
electronic sound, interesting here and there but never really seems
to break the surface.
Future Islands: The Far Field (2017, 4AD): Synthpop
band from Baltimore, fifth album since 2008, their second title from
poet Theodore Roethke -- an effect that I suppose recalls bands like
the Cure. This one is more than a little catchy, but beyond that hard
for me to say.
(Sandy) Alex G: Rocket (2017, Domino): Birth name is
Alexander Giannascoli, from Pennsylvania, based in Philadelphia,
self-recorded lo-fi albums from 2010 on, finally getting picked up by
Domino for 2015's Beach Music. This has some nice, even some
Laszlo Gardony: Serious Play (Solo Piano) (2017,
Sunnyside): Pianist, from Hungary, has recorded steadily since the
early 1980s. Solo, mostly standards, avoids the obvious.
Golden Pelicans: S/T (2014, Total Punk, EP):
Punk band from Orlando, had a live cassette and a couple singles
before this 12-inch vinyl, 7 short cuts, 14:25, title as given on
their Bandcamp though I'd be tempted just to use the band name.
Classic punk, right at you.
Golden Pelicans: Oldest Ride Longest Line (2015, Total
Punk, EP): Longer (9 cuts, 17:39), if anything faster. Needless to say,
I can't parse a single line of lyrics, but for some reason that bothers
me more here (maybe because one oft-repeated word sounds like "faggot,"
but turns out the song title is "Maggots").
Golden Pelicans: Disciples of Blood (2017, Goner, EP):
Punk purism evolving into something they call "thug rock" -- the songs
stretching out over two minutes on average (9 cuts, 20:59), so long
they count this as an LP. Other advances include a label I've heard
of and color on the cover. Still intense.
Goldfrapp: Silver Eye (2017, Mute): English electropop
duo, singer Alison Goldfrapp and synth player Will Gregory. Seventh
album since 2000.
Vitor Gonçalves: Vitor Gonçalves Quartet (2017,
Sunnyside): Pianist, from Brazil, based in New York. First album,
with Todd Neufeld (guitar), Thomas Morgan (bass), and Dan Weiss
Giovanni Guidi: Ida Lupino (2015 , ECM):
Italian pianist, handful of records since 2006, two previous trios
on ECM, this a bassless quartet: Gianluca Petrella (trombone), Louis
Sclavis (clarinet), Gerald Cleaver (drums). Most satisfying when the
trombone gets the upper hand.
Marika Hackman: I'm Not Your Man (2017, Sub Pop):
English singer-songwriter, father Finnish, second album after four EPs
starting in 2013. Probably started as a DIY folkie but moved into on
into non-glitzy pop.
Haim: Something to Tell You (2017, Polydor): Three
sisters, surname Haim, from Los Angeles. Second album: loud, catchy
Calvin Harris: Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (2017, Fly
Eye/Columbia): Scottish DJ/producer (given name Adam Richard Wiles),
called his first album I Created Disco (he was born in 1984).
Ten cuts (37:40), each featuring 1-3 well-known names (e.g.,
"Heatstroke" features Young Thug, Pharrell Williams, and Ariana
Grande). Hottest track just has one voice: Nicki Minaj.
Joel Harrison: Stump (2013 , Cuneiform):
Guitarist, has a dozen or so albums since 1996, "focus here is
kon his playing and not his writing and arranging," which gets
him out of a postbop quagmire I've never warmed to. Provides
more details on his gear than song credits ("a mixture of Luther
Vandross, Buddy Miller, George Russell, a traditional spiritual,
Paul Motion, Leonard Cohen"). Backed with bass, drums, and (6/11
Alexander Hawkins: Unit[e] (2016-17 ,
self-released, 2CD): British pianist, plays in Convergence Quaret,
Decoy, and other projects. First set is an explosive sextet, with
Shabaka Hutchings (bass clarinet/tenor sax), Dylan Bates (violin),
Otto Fischer (guitar), bass, and drums. Second set swaps drummers
and replaces Hutchings, doubling the group size, adding trumpets,
reeds/flutes, cello, and live electronics.
Arve Henriksen: Towards Language (2016 , Rune
Grammofon): Norwegian trumpet player, nine albums since 2001, backdrop
mostly guitar and electronics -- he contributes to the latter along
with Eivind Aarset and Jan Bang, and adds his voice (plus Anna Maria
Friman on one track), aiming for something ethereal.
J Hus: Common Sense (2017, Black Butter/Epic):
British rapper, Momodou Jallow, born in London of Gambian descent,
first album after a mixtape and several singles. Disjointed,
off-kilter beats -- any hype about Afrobeat is strictly in the
ear of someone else -- vocal range pretty narrow but keeps at
it and ultimately catches on.
Benedikt Jahnel Trio: The Invariant (2016 ,
ECM): German pianist, originally appeared in a group called Cyminology
(after vocalist Cymin Samawatie). With Antonio Miguel on bass and Owen
Howard on drums. Original pieces.
Jay-Z: 4:44 (2017, Roc Nation): Big star, rapsabout
what matters most (to him, anyway): his asset portfolio. Better, I
suppose, than slinging dope, where he made his first fortune. Slippery
beats, legendary flow, marred by the occasional operatic sample.
Dusan Jevtovic: No Answer (2016 , Moonjune):
Serbian guitarist, has at least two previous albums, this one a
fusion trio with Vasil Hadzimanov on keyboards and Asaf Sarkis on
drums. Strong on the upbeat, impressive for a while.
Sean Jones: Live From Jazz at the Bistro (2017,
Mack Avenue): Trumpet player, quartet includes Orrin Evans (piano),
Luques Curtis (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums), plus a couple
guests join in on several cuts.
Jonwayne: Rap Album Two (2017, The Order Label):
Rapper from La Habra, CA; real name Jonathan Wayne. Follows up
on 2013's Rap Album One, but he has three more albums, a
half-dozen mixtapes. Runs a skit making fun of not looking like
a rapper, and if the cover doesn't cinch that, the skit does.
Alison Krauss: Windy City (2017, Capitol): Started
out as a bluegrass fiddler, crediting her band on most of her albums,
but she's always sung, remarkably on these ten covers. She may look
like a lost mannequin on the cover, but there's nothing stiff or fake
here. Especially choice cuts: "Gentle on My Mind," "Poison Love,"
"You Don't Know Me."
Steve Lacy: Steve Lacy's Demo (2017, Three Quartet,
EP): From Compton, Steven Thomas Lacy-Moya, still a teenager but
joined the Internet for their third album (Ego Death), spins
off a six-song 13:33 "song-series" here.
Brian Landrus Orchestra: Generations (2017, BlueLand):
Baritone saxophonist, has a half-dozen albums but regards this big band
+ strings affair as some kind of breakthrough. Liner notes: "It's a
culmination of everything I've listened to and loved over the years."
Then he produces a long list of examples, including Stravinsky, Mulligan,
Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, J Dilla, and Hermeto Pascoal. He could have
stopped after the first two: this opens with a four-part "Jeru Concerto."
I vaccilate between hating it and finding myself swept up in the vast
absurdity of the enterprise.
Nikki Lane: Highway Queen (2017, New West):
Alt-country singer-songwriter, originally from South Carolina,
based in Nashville but doesn't really belong there.
Led Bib: The Good Egg (2013 , Cuneiform):
British group, drummer Mark Holub seems to be the leader, with
two alto saxophonists (Pete Grogan and Chris Williams), keyboards
(Toby McLaren), and double bass (Linan Donin). Eight albums since
2005; this one, a four-cut 33:58 live vinyl/download only, came
out the same day as The People in Your Neighborhood, and
has been languishing in my download queue for quite a while. Some
remarkable stretches here, and for once they don't wear out their
Led Bib: The People in Your Neighborhood (2013
, Cuneiform): Studio album, eleven tracks, 71:31, more range
but maybe too much as they wander more, but still a powerhouse.
Let's Eat Grandma: I, Gemini (2016, Transgressive):
British group, from Norwich, principally Jenny Hollingworth and Rosa
Walton -- "multi-instrumentalists" although keyboards dominate and
drums appear only after you start wondering why there aren't any.
They harmonize in little girl voices, often taking on little girl
personas. Group name derives from a joke about the comma placement,
obscured and made more menacing by omission.
Carmen Lundy: Code Noir (2017, Afrasia Productions):
Jazz singer, more than a dozen albums since 1986, has one of those
widely admired voices, deep and resonant, but frames it with pretty
ordinary arrangements in a hornless band.
Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo': TajMo (2017, Concord):
Two bluesmen who always seemed comfortable in their retro form,
a genre that Taj (Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) invented as early
as 1968, although, now 75, he hasn't recorded much since 2000.
Only nine years younger, Keb' (Kevin Moore) didn't record until
1994 -- he never struck me as that notable, but he's picked up
three Grammy Awards and been nominated for many more. Best thing
here is a relaxed, understated "Diving Duck Blues," just a duet
(better, I think, than the version on Taj's debut album). However,
they lose that charm when the big band chimes in, no matter how
agreeable the fancy band groove gets.
Mat Maneri/Evan Parker/Lucian Ban: Sounding Tears
(2014 , Clean Feed): Viola/saxophone/piano trio, a viable
chamber jazz configuration except that Parker is hard to hem in
or pin down, and he provides most of the interest here.
Mura Masa: Mura Masa (2017, Polydor): British DJ
Alex Crossan, from Guernsey, took his alias from Japanese swordsmith
Muramasa Sengo. First album, draws on a wide range of singers and
rappers (Damon Albarn, Nao, Héloise Letissier, A$AP Rocky) for an
eclectic mix, unfied by the dance beats.
Spoek Mathambo: Mzansi Beat Code (2017, TEKA):
South African rapper, probably more accurately rooted in electro
or kwaito as the beats and chants matter more than the words here.
Father John Misty: Pure Comedy (2017, Sub Pop):
Singer-songwriter Josh Tillman, cut eight albums 2003-10 as J.
Tillman, played on one Fleet Foxes album, now has three albums
under this moniker. Title cut is anything but, and the somber
sobriety gets stifling, even when he's self-conscious, as when
"Mara taunts me" saying "just what we all need/Another white
guy in 2017/Who takes himself so goddamn seriously." I looked
that lyric up after I heard "He's a national treasure now,"
and wasn't sure whether he was talking about Jesus or Trump --
turns out himself, for once not the worst-case scenario. The
music does grow on you. I could imagine someone loving this --
just not me.
Roscoe Mitchell: Bells for the South Side (2015
, ECM, 2CD): Chicags saxophonist, joined AACM in 1965 and
co-founded Art Ensemble of Chicago in 1967. Recorded this for
AACM's 50th anniversary. Half nonet -- Hugh Ragin (trumpet),
James Fei (reeds), Tyshawn Sorey (trombone/piano/drums), Craig
Taborn (piano), Jaribu Shahid (bass), three more percussionists
(Kikanju Baku, Tani Tabbal, William Winant) -- and half duo and
trio subsets, which leave much open space, although not without
interest or occasional surprise.
Mokoomba: Luyando (2017, OutHere): Band from Zimbabwe,
third album, translates from Tonga as "mother's love." As expected,
splits the distance between Congolese soukous and South African jive,
including a piece of mbube.
The Moonlandingz: Interplanetary Class Classics (2017,
Transgressive): Side project for two members of Fat White Family plus
Rebecca Taylor and Sean Lennon, hard to pin down but neo-psychedelia
is the genre I most often find. Dense, fast, and loud, not a mix I'm
very fond of.
Sam Newsome: Sopranoville: Works for Prepared and Non-Prepared
Soprano (2017, Some New Music): Saxophonist, played tenor early
on but since 2005 has focused on soprano. His innovation here is various
ways to coax unusual sounds from the horn by "pareparations" -- change
to the reed, obstacles that modify the airflow, and/or dangling chimes
from the horn. He tries hard to make music with this setup, but it is
by nature limited.
Oxbow: Thin Black Duke (2017, Hydra Head): Underground
(noise/experimental) rock group from San Francisco, dates back to 1988,
principally Eugene Robinson (vocals, lyrics) and Niko Wenner (guitar,
keybs, music), plus bass and drums, first album titled Fuckfest.
Haven't heard the early ones but Robinson's anguished wail reflects
back to the blues, set off by the hard rock Sturm und Drang.
Ozomatli: Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica (2017, Cleopatra):
Los Angeles band, released eponymous debut in 1998, obviously closer
to Mexico than to Jamaica, which contributes occasional rhythms without
being recognizable as such. Mostly in Spanish, not that "Besame Mucho"
or "La Bamba" need translations any more than "Land of 1000 Dances"
and "Come and Get Your Love" -- anyway, their selling point is the
treatment, not the songs.
The Ed Palermo Big Band: Oh No! Not Jazz!! (2014,
Cuneiform, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, formed his big band in 1977, cut
their first record in 1982, came up with the idea of arranging Frank
Zappa tunes for big band in the 1990s and this is at least his third
Zappa album. First disc anyway -- reminds me that I've never liked
Zappa, although he's probably not the only one here to blame. Second
is mostly Palermo originals, which aren't much better.
Eddie Palmieri: Sabiduria/Wisdom (2012 , Ropeadope):
Pianist, parents moved from Puerto Rico to the Bronx where he was born
in 1938. Has 43 albums since 1962. Ten-piece group, eight more "special
guests" (Donald Harrison, Obed Calvaire, Ronnie Cuber, Joe Locke, etc.).
Rhythmically intense, bewilderingly complex. Choice cut: "The Uprising."
Aaron Parks/Ben Street/Billy Hart: Find the Way (2015
, ECM): Pianist, originally from Seattle, cut a record for Blue
Note in 2008, two now for ECM plus a couple on Stunt. Has a lot of
mainstream side-credits, starting with Terence Blanchard. Trio here,
all originals except the title cut, flows nicely but doesn't really
draw me in.
Nicki Parrott: Dear Blossom: A Tribute to Blossom Dearie
(2017, Arbors): Bassist-singer, from Australia, mostly standards with
retro swing. While early on she sang with offhanded charm, she's become
more confident and polished, doing fine by this songbook. Backed by
piano-vibes-drums, with guest spots for Warren Vaché on cornet and
Engelbert Wrobel on clarinet and tenor sax.
Nicki Parrott: Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook
(2016 , Venus): With John Di Martino (piano), Frank Vignola
(guitar), sister Lisa Parrott (baritone sax/bass clarinet), and
some drums/percussion I can't find a credit for. Better songs, but
not all of them work.
Chris Pasin and Friends: Baby It's Cold Outside
(2016 , Planet Arts): Trumpet player, based in New York,
studied at New England Conservatory, dropped out of jazz for a
stretch but returned in 2009 with something he recorded in 1987.
Second album I've heard, cut last June, aside from the title
mostly Xmas songs, pretty much the last thing I was in the mood
for on a Fourth of July morning -- but I suppose we can take
some comfort that seasons come and go. Nice trumpet, and a few
vocals from Patricia Dalton Fennell.
The Perceptionists: Resolution (2017, Mello Music
Group): Alt-hip-hop group from Boston, cut Black Dialogue,
a terrific album, in 2005, plus a mixtape and a live album around
that time, and nothing since then until now, although Jeffrey Haynes
has had a notable career as Mr. Lif, as has Jared Bridgeman (aka
Akrobatik). Not sure what happened to third member DJ Fakts One,
but only two faces on this cover. Smart politics, the beats more
jumbled as befits our more chaotic era.
Peter Perrett: How the West Was Won (2017, Domino):
British singer-songwriter, fronted a memorable band called the Only
Ones 1976-82, recorded a solo album in 1994 as the One, and finally
came out with this album under his own name. Opener recalls "Sweet
Jane" but is pretty great on its own. Then you start to recognize
the old band, just older, slower, wearier, more desperate. Aren't
Chris Potter: The Dreamer Is the Dream (2016 ,
ECM): Tenor saxophonist, always works in some soprano, adds clarinet,
bass clarinet, flute, mbira and sampler here, in a quartet with David
Virelles (piano/celeste), Joe Martin (bass), and Marcus Gilmore (drums).
Mostly settles into soft moods here, but occasionally busts a solo like
you know he can do.
Karriem Riggins: Headnod Suite (2017, Stones Throw):
From Detroit, now based in Los Angeles, made his first impact as a
jazz drummer, then as a hip-hop producer. This splits the difference,
leaning toward hip-hop instrumentals, but with 29 cuts, only two over
3 minutes, it plays more like a scrapbook of ideas.
Troy Roberts: Tales & Tones (2017, Inner Circle):
Saxophonist (tenor/soprano), from Perth, Australia, half-dozen albums
since 2006. Quartet with piano (Silvano Monasterios), bass (Robert
Hurst), and drums (Jeff "Tain" Watts). Lively group, interesting
detour on "Take the 'A' Train."
Louis Sclavis: Asian Fields Variations (2016 ,
ECM): French clarinetist, long discography since the early 1980s, trio
here with Dominique Pifarély (violin) and Vinent Curtois (cello) --
both names in large print on the cover below the title. Chamber jazz,
but it doesn't always go down smoothly, and is more interesting when
it doesn't. [NB: download order shuffled from actual release.]
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ruler Rebel (2017,
Stretch Music/Ropeadope): Trumpet player from New Orleans, expanded
his name for a 2012 album and evidently still uses it. First album
of a promised trilogy, "speaking to a litany of issues": "Slavery in
America via the Prison Industrial Complex, Food Insecurity, Xenophobia,
Immigration, Climate Change, Sexual Orientation, Gender Equality,
Fascism and the return of the Demagogue." No fixed band, but the
various keyboards, guitar, bass, drums and exotic percussion add up
to a derivative of Miles Davis funk, with two cuts featuring Elena
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Diaspora (2017, Stretch
Music/Ropeadope): Second installment in his trilogy, credits the
leader with many things in addition to his trumpet, including "sonic
architecture," and doubles down early on Elena Pinderhughes' flute,
adding a Sarah Elizabeth Charles vocal to close.
Sex Mob: Cultural Capital (2016, Rex): Long-running
quartet, released five albums 1998-2003, since then just one more every
3-4 years, making this their ninth. They've often done covers/spoofs
in the past (e.g., Sex Mob Does Bond), but everything here was
written by Steven Bernstein (slide trumpet, alto horn), with old hands
Briggan Krauss (alto/baritone sax, guitar), Tony Scherr (acoustic/electric
bass, guitar), and Kenny Wollesen (drums/percussion). Plenty clever tricks,
but no great jokes.
ShitKid: ShitKid (2016, PNKSLM, EP): Swedish
singer-songwriter Åsa Söderqvist. Eight cuts, 17:40, three with
excrement in the title, but the single is "Oh Please Be a Cocky
Cool Kid." Not clear whether the distortion is an aesthetic ploy
or just sloppy recording. [Same title and cover previously
released as 3-song, 7:23 single.]
ShitKid: EP 2 (2017, PNKSLM, EP): Not quite maturity,
but she's learning, using the distortion more artfully, picking up
bits of melody that recall girl groups or the NY Dolls doing girl
groups although they're still pretty amateurish. Four songs, 10:52.
ShitKid: Fish (2017, PNKSLM): Nine-cut, 28:15 "LP" --
repeats two songs from EP 2, including the obvious single
"Sugar Town." Fans may be disappointed that the distortion abates,
but that sounds like progress to me. Only a matter of time before
she picks another moniker.
Rotem Sivan: Antidote (2017, Alma): Israeli guitarist,
based in New York, leads a trio with Haggai Cohen Milo (bass) and Colin
Stranahan (drums). Nice tone and momentum.
Bria Skonberg: With a Twist (2017, Okeh): Canadian,
based in New York, sings and plays trumpet, fifth album, mostly
novelties swung hard in Gil Goldstein arrangements. Lots of studio
musicians sashaying in and out. Not as much trumpet as I'd like,
but she's sassy and fun.
Songhoy Blues: Résistance (2017, Fat Possum): Guitar
band from Mali, second US album, not sure if they have any from their
days in Bamako, but they've moved on from covering Ali Farka Touré.
Indeed, if you buy the line that Touré plays blues like John Lee Hooker,
they resemble a Southern rock band, although they occasionally slip up.
Sorority Noise: You're Not as ____ as You Think (2017,
Triple Crown): Guitar band from Hartford, CT; third album, rather short,
running 10 songs in 29:38 as they turn their anxieties into excruciating
pain and sometimes resolve, or something like that.
Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet: December Avenue (2016
, ECM): Polish trumpet player, 75, discography starts around 1970
with his first ECM album in 1975 and many more from 1995 on. Quartet
with David Virelles (piano), Reuben Rogers (bass), and Gerald Cleaver
(drums). Supportive, although the trumpet is eloquent, and sometimes
the pianist breaks out.
Mavis Staples: I'll Take You There: An All-Star Concert
Celebration (2014 , Blackbird Production Partners,
2CD): A Chicago concert for her 75th birthday celebration, chock
full of guest stars who take most of the leads. Some names: Gregg
Allman, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal,
Buddy Miller, Aaron Neville, Bonnie Raitt, Jeff Tweedy. (There
also seems to be a 1-CD version that omits the less famous, like
Joan Osborne, Otis Clay, Ryan Bingham, and Grace Potter.) They're
in full raise-the-rafters mode when they mass, especially toward
the end when they follow up the inevitable "Will the Circle Be
Unbroken" with Talking Heads' "Slippery People," the title cut,
and everyone piling onto the finale, where the stage buckles
under "The Weight."
Vince Staples: Big Fish Theory (2017, Def Jam): Young
(23) rapper from Long Beach, second album plus two EPs Christgau prefers
over his debut. This one's as sketchy as the EPs and not much longer
(36:04). For me (three plays) the words never emerged from the beats,
which were fine but not exceptional.
Dave Stryker: Strykin' Ahead (2016 , Strikezone):
Guitarist, did a lot of his early work on SteepleChase (from 1991),
often teaming up with saxophonist Steve Slagle, but goes his own way
here: with Steve Nelson (vibes), Jared Gold (organ), and McGlenty
Hunter (drums). Hints at soul jazz but settles for a smoother, more
Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (2016 , ECM):
Pianist, from Minneapolis, was a big part of James Carter's 1990s
Quartet. This is another quartet, although Chris Speed (tenor sax,
clarinet) is here more for color and shading, never threatening
to run away with so much as a song. Also with Chris Lightcap on
bass and Dave King on drums, both (like the leader) dabbling in
Talinka: Talinka (2016 , Moonjune): Principally
singer-actress Tali Atzmon, produced by husband Gilad Atzmon, who also
plays bass clarinet, soprano sax, and accordion, along with viola/violin,
bass, and drums. Folkish, rooted in deepest, darkest Europe, a haunting
vibe developed over the last few Orient House Ensemble albums.
Katie Thiroux: Off Beat (2016 , Capri):
Bassist-singer, second album, more emphasis on the vocals this
time (including some scat). One original, standards ranging
from Ellington to Loesser to Leiber & Stoller ("Some Cats
Know"), backed by piano and drums with Ken Peplowski (tenor
sax/clarinet) on half the cuts, Roger Neumann (tenor/soprano
sax) on two of those. Just bass and voice on "Willow Weep for
Me" -- one of the finest versions ever.
Ralph Towner: My Foolish Heart (2016 , ECM):
Guitarist, plays classical and 12-string on this solo outing, the
title cut the only standard, all else original. He's been doing this
sort of thing since the early 1970s. This strikes me as having a
little more bite than has been his norm.
Harriet Tubman: Araminta (2013 , Sunnyside):
Band consisting of Brandon Ross (guitar), Melvin Gibbs (bass guitar),
and J.T. Lewis (drums), released two albums 1998-2000, a third in
2011, and now this fourth, where they are joined by trumpeter Wadada
Leo Smith. Named for the famous abolitionist, born into slavery in
1822 as Araminta Ross, and lately picked to replace Andrew Jackson
on the $20 bill. Smith is especially striking here, expanding and
building upon the band's dense industrial-funk fusion.
Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm (2017, Merge): Fourth
band album for Katie Crutchfield, joined here by twin sister Alison
Crutchfield -- the pair previously fronted P.S. Eliot, then split
with Alison recording as Swearin' before her solo album early this
year. The hard anthems up front start as din but 3-4 songs in I
start to follow, and even discern a bit of Alabama drawl.
Florian Wittenberg: Don't Push the Piano Around
(2017, NurNichtNur): Avant composer, previously used electronics,
wrote these pieces for piano and recruited Sebastiaan Oosthout to
play them on a Fazioli 212 grand. Minimalist, mostly repetitive
figures lapsing into more meditative passages.
Wizkid: Sounds From the Other Side (2017, Starboy/RCA):
Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, from Lagos, Nigeria, b. 1990, third album,
first on a major label, genres listed as "Afrobeat, Afropop, reggae,
dancehall, hip-hop" -- probably best known for a featured spot with
Drake. Of those, the reggae/dancehall is most conspicuous, both on
the opening and closing tracks.
Glenn Zaleski: My Ideal (2014 , Sunnyside):
Pianist, from Massachusetts, based in New York, started with a 2010
duo with his saxophonist brother Mark. This is a trio with Dezron
Douglas (bass) and Craig Weinrib (drums), plus one track with Ravi
Coltrane on tenor sax.
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Battle Hymns (2017, Quasi Band): Various Portland-based
artists, few I've heard of but Janet Weiss fills in more often than
not on drums, Sam Coomes is nearly as common on bass, Corrin Tucker
has a group called Filthy Friends, and Carrie Brownstein appears as
MEDS. Released soon after the election, "pay what you want" with the
proceeds split between Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and 350.org. Indie
rock that's still indie. Mixed bag of songs, with "Love in the Time
of Resistance" my favorite.
The Bob's Burgers Music Album (2010-16 ,
Domino, 2CD): From the animated sitcom. Pretty sure I've seen a
couple episodes (out of 129 in 7 seasons), but not recent enough
to contextualize any of the 112 tracks that fill up 1:56:13. In
fact, I wouldn't have bothered if Matt Rice hadn't recommended
it so highly, and he probably knows all that context. What I can
say is that most songs are just sketches -- a few amusingly
familiar -- and most are about food. Still, they play to me
like light operetta, even if rock-based. Also lots of dialogue.
Miracle Steps (Music From the Fourth World 1983-2017)
(1983-2017 , Optimo Music): Jon Hassell, whose 1980 album with
Brian Eno coined the "Fourth World" meme, contributes a piece, along
with 13 others I don't recognize. At the time earth was conventionally
carved into three worlds, so the implication is that this music is
rather distant from all three. Here we get a surfeit of mallets and
hazy reeds/flutes, so Larry Chernicoff's bent saxophone is a welcome
surprise -- not that the usual stuff doesn't grow on you.
Allen Ravenstine + Albert Dennis: >Terminal Drive
(1975 , Smog Veil, EP): Pere Ubu trivia, supposedly the entire
original 15:39 version of the piece which appeared in shorter form in
the 1996 Datapanik in the Year Zero box. Ravenstine, a keyboard
player, joined the group in 1975, and worked with them through 1989.
Dennis plays string bass here. Strikes me as much ado about damn little.
Albert Beger's 5: Listening (2004, Earsay): Israeli
saxophonist, plays tenor on five tracks, alto on the other two,
sparring with Yoni Silver (bass clarinet/alto sax/organ), backed
with guitar, bass, and drums. Dedicated to the late Steve Lacy.
Sometimes settles into a groove, more often fights its way out.
Albert Beger/Gerry Hemingway: There's Nothing Better to Do
(2011 , OutNow): Sax-drums duo, Beger playing tenor and soprano.
Only really comes together when both push each other hard. [3/6 cuts]
Willem Breuker Kollektief: In Holland (1981, BV Haast):
Dutch avant group, dates back to 1974, ten pieces here, the leader
playing three saxophones and two clarinets. Sometimes they veer too
close to classical for my taste, more often they make rousing circus
music, and occasionally throw in a tango, but you never doubt they're
having a blast.
Willem Breuker Kollektief: To Remain (1983-89 ,
BV Haast): Mostly recorded in 1989, including the 12-part title suite,
with a few earlier tracks stuck on at the end. Continues their avant
mix of classical and circus music, at times turning downright cartoonish --
especially when they quote familiar tunes. All in good fun, I'm sure.
Daniel Carter/Toby Kasavan/Mark Hennen/William Parker: Feels
Like It (2000 , BDE-BDOP): Kasavan and Hennen both play
piano/keyboards; Carter alto sax, flute, and trumpet, and Parker, of
course, bass. Nothing on this album in Discogs, but thanks to Rick
Lopez' magnificent Parker sessionography we know that Kasavan played
with Parker once before (in 1977), while Hennen appears many times,
from Jemeel Moondoc's Ensemble Muntu in 1973 all the way to 2008.
Two long pieces, strong early as long as Carter can carry it.
Larry Coryell: Lady Coryell (1968 , Vanguard):
The guitarist's first album, after his band Free Spirits' 1967 debut
and a "featuring" credit under Chico Hamilton. First side seems aimed
at some kind of psychedelic/Hendrix thing with vocals (not very good).
Second side is jazzier, especially when Elvin Jones and Jimmy Garrison
Larry Coryell: Introducing the Eleventh House With Larry
Coryell (1972 , Vanguard): The guitarist's most famous
band started here, five years after Coryell's debut, and continued
through 1976. With Randy Brecker (trumpet), Mike Mandel (keybs),
Danny Trifan (bass), and Alphonse Mouzon (drums). Compared to the
2016 reunion, the guitar is more central, the groove more fluid,
and Brecker has yet to discover "skunk funk."
Larry Coryell: The Restful Mind (1974 ,
Vanguard): Featuring Ralph Towner (guitar), Collin Walcott
(tablas/congas), and Glen Moore (bass); i.e., three-quarters
of Oregon with the soft reeds replaced by more guitar power.
Actually, pretty impressive when they turn that power on.
Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence
Vol. 1 (2005, Earsay): Tempted to file this under Beger --
Israeli tenor saxophonist, also plays alto flute, b. 1959, album
cut on his home turf, name centered on the cover, and of course
his brash free runs dominate the sound -- but the spine and all
other sources favor the drummer. Beger starts tentative but soon
finds his voice, and charges hard until they close out with some
kind of chant.
Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence
Vol. 2 (2005 , Earsay): More from the same sessions
[but just 2/4 cuts on Napster]. "Funky Lacy" lives up to its title.
Emperor X: Tectonic Membrane/Thin Strip on an Edgeless
Platform (2004, Discos Mariscos): Second album, seems to
have been reissued by Bar/None in 2012 after they released Western
Teleport in 2011. There's much more on his Bandcamp page, but
this at least has the form of a song album, albeit with more blips
and more bits where he just sits on a riff, but they're interesting
in their own right.
Free Radicals: The Rising Tide Sinks All (1998,
RWE): The title presumably a play on "a rising tide lifts
all boats" -- a phrase John F. Kennedy made famous when he argued
for reducing the marginal income tax rate on the rich nearly two
decades before Arthur Laffer's napkin, probably his second most
disastrous legacy (after his decision to dig deeper into Vietnam,
rather than get the hell out). Several titles are political, but
the one that best captures the vibrant music is "Circus of Life."
And when a vocal appears on the third track, it's some kind of
Muslim prayer sung over hip hop tabla beats.
Free Radicals: Our Lady of Sunny Delights (2000,
Rastaman Work Ethic): Second album, the core group augmented by
close to fifty musicians, working through 31 pieces ranging from
9 seconds to 5:56, with fewer vocals but much exuberance -- even
a song about the "Irrational" kind.
Free Radicals: Aerial Bombardment (2004, Rastaman
Work Ethic): Fifty musicians, 32 tracks, opens with a nod toward
reggae but the occasional vocals take a turn toward hip-hop, with
the instrumentals favoring beat pieces over their usual horns.
Free Radicals: The Freedom Fence (2012, Free Radicals):
Back after eight years, "an epic collaboration of 48 musicians to
create a highly danceable funk, klezmer, dub, ska, jazz, hip hop,
and salsa-soaked satire of borders, apartheid, and gentrification" --
I can't attest to all of that as I've only heard 10/23 tracks, but
they still add up to 33:59, and they cover a lot of ground.
Free Radicals: Freedom of Movement (2015, Free Radicals):
Here Houston's radical collective reins in their usual eclecticism to
work with "Houston's renowned breakdancing collective Havikoro." The
funk beats are relentless, but the politics rarely advances beyond
the song titles.
Lisbon Improvisation Players: Motion (2002 ,
Clean Feed): Second of three albums by this "group" -- first album
was all-Portuguese, but only player on all three is saxophonist
Rodrigo Amado (tenor/baritone here), with Acácio Salero on drums
and two visiting Americans: Steve Adams (soprano/tenor sax) and
Ken Filiano (bass).
Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal (1968, Columbia): Henry Saint
Clair Fredericks Jr., born in Harlem 1942, grew up in Massachusetts;
father a West Indian jazz arranger and piano player, mother sang in
the church choir. Father was killed in an industrial act when Henry
was 11, and his mother married the nephew of bluesman Arthur "Big
Boy" Crudup, pointing him toward guitar blues. In 1964 he formed a
band with Ry Cooder before they both moved on to solo careers (Cooder
plays rhythm guitar here). Eight blues standards done up as classic
blues rock -- an impressive debut he then spread out from.
Taj Mahal: Natch'l Blues (1968, Columbia): The debut
proved he could play straight, hard, electric blues, but here is where
he starts to sound distinctive, especially on his arrangement of
"Corinna." He wrote five originals too, reducing the covers to four
including a couple of soul efforts (William Bell and Homer Banks,
but they suggest and fall short of Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett).
Taj Mahal: Happy Just to Be Like I Am (1971, Columbia):
More scattered, as he's starting to work in some things from his father's
homeland in the West Indies, replete with Andy Narell's steel drums.
Probably the most interesting thing here. On the other hand, his takes
on such old fare as "Stealin'" and "Oh Susanna" come off a little hard.
William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra:
Spontaneous (2002 , Splasc(H)): The bassist's big
band, never the most disciplined of units but well stocked with
free-thinkers (e.g., trumpets: Lewis Barnes, Matt Lavelle, Roy
Campbell), in full improv fury, live at CBGB's in New York. Two
half-hour pieces, "Spontaneous Flowers" (Ayler) and "Spontaneous
William Parker Bass Quartet Featuring Charles Gayle: Requiem
(2004 , Splasc(H)): The four bassists -- Parker plus Henry Grimes,
Alan Silva, and Sirone -- set the tone and limit the momentum, with
Gayle occasionally joining in on alto sax for a bit of spit and polish.
Rising Sons: Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (1965-66
, Columbia/Legacy): First band for the future roots stars, the
17-year-old Cooder recognizable vocally because he wasn't ready yet,
although I can't complain about his bottleneck guitar. The 23-year-old
Taj's voice is more obvious (even before he dubbed the final three
tracks in 1992), and the vocals I can't place probably belong to Jesse
Lee Kincaid -- he seems to have been the de facto leader of the group.
Rounding out the band were Gary Marker (bass) and Ed Cassidy (drums,
later replaced by Kevin Kelley). Terry Melcher produced an album, but
it was shelved until being recast here, probably because their mixed
bag country-rock needed a clearer voice to be recognized (like Gram
Parsons, or Glenn Frey). Not that there isn't a decent blues EP here
Matthew Shipp Trio: The Trio Plays Ware (2003 ,
Splasc(H)): With William Parker (bass) and Guillermo E. Brown (drums),
not just any piano trio but David S. Ware's legendary quartet minus
the saxophonist. Lacks the rough edges Ware couldn't help but add,
and some of the emotional force as well, while revealing how centered
the melodies were.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in
brackets following the grade:
- [cd] based on physical cd
- [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
- [bc] available at bandcamp.com
- [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely
available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist
Thursday, July 27. 2017
Accumulated all this in half a week, and no doubt missed lots
along the way. Will catch up a bit on Sunday, but I don't see
much free time between now and then, and the supply seems to be
fucking endless. My fellow Americans: you should be ashamed of
Dean Baker: Obamacare Isn't Just Dying, Trump and Republicans Are Trying
to Kill It: Title could be phrased better. Although there is much
room for improvement, Obamacare is only failing where political sabotage
has kept it from being fully implemented (especially Medicaid expansion).
Trump's predictions of failure depend mostly on his own administration's
Dean Baker/Arjun Jayadev/Joseph Stiglitz: Innovation, Intellectual Property,
and Development: A Better Set of Approaches for the 21st Century:
Nina Burleigh: Alex Jones and Other Conservatives Call for Civil War
Chris Cillizza: The 29 most cringe-worthy lines from Donald Trump's
hyper-political speech to the Boy Scouts.
Esme Cribb: Scaramucci Vows to 'Kill All the F*cking Leakers' in
Profanity-Laced Rant: And to think I was feeling uncomfortable
watching Colbert doing his Italian mobster voices to paraphrase
the new White House Communications Director, but once again satire
gets gobsmacked by reality. Targets of the profanities include
Steve Bannon and Reince Preibus as well as unnamed little people.
For more, see
Ryan Lizza: Anthony Scaramucci Called Me to Unload About White
House Leakers, Reince Preibus, and Steve Bannon. Also:
Amy Davidson Sorkin: When Anthony Scaramucci Fell in Love With
Perhaps Scaramucci admires Trump's knowledge of bankruptcy, perhaps
especially moral bankruptcy, not as a degraded state but one in which
some unprofitable principles can be written off and new, more marketable
ones acquired. . . .
Radical honesty doesn't seem like an option. Neither does actually
useful information on the workings of the executive branch, or of
Congress. When he was asked, on Friday, why he believed that the
President would get "a win" on health care, he said, "The President
has really good karma, O.K.? And the world turns back to him. He's
genuinely a wonderful human being, and I think, as the members of
Congress get to know him better and get comfortable with him, they're
going to let him lead them to the right things for the American people.
So, I think we're going to get the health care done."
Lucia Graves: John McCain had the chance to do the right thing on
healthcare. He failed. I don't particularly begrudge the bipartisan
standing ovation McCain received on returning to the Senate following
surgery and a diagnosis of brain cancer. It is, after all, a famously
collegial institution, and nothing counters ideological prejudices like
personal contact. However, his purpose in returning was to advance a
partisan scheme to deprive millions of Americans of affordable and
effective health insurance while treating the richest Americans with
a sizable tax break. And while McCain said that he was opposed to the
act he voted to advance, he proved his bad faith both then and in a
later vote (see
Tara Golshan: McCain said he wouldn't vote for the Senate health care
bill. 6 hours later, he did. The fact is that McCain is one of the
great con artists in American political history, something the media
have fallen for repeatedly. If you need a refresher, see Alex Pareene's
post from February 17:
I Don't Want to Hear Another Fucking Word About John McCain Unless He
Dies or Actually Does Something Useful for Once -- since then the
odds of him dying vs. doing something useful have gone up, but even
then the odds of the latter were vanishingly slim. The only "useful
thing" I can recall him doing was to derail Boeing's original tanker
lease scam, but Boeing eventually managed to get their tankers bought --
after at least one Boeing executive went to jail. McCain's career low
point was probably his sabre-rattling against Russia over South Ossetia
in 2008 (while he was running for president), but the fact is that he's
long been the most dangerous hawk in the Senate. As for everything
else, he's just an ordinary right-wing Republican hack. David Foster
Wallace missed an opportunity when he reprinted his McCain essay as
a separate book instead of folding it into his previous collection,
Interviews With Hideous Men.
Charles P Pierce: The Price of John McCain's Republican Loyalty:
It was an ugly day in the United States Senate on Tuesday, as ugly a
day as has been seen in that chamber since the death of Strom Thurmond,
who used to make a day ugly simply by showing up. The Senate took up
the Motion To Proceed on whatever the hell hash Mitch McConnell wants
to make out of the American healthcare system. . . . But the ugliest
thing to witness on a very ugly day in the United States Senate was
what John McCain did to what was left of his legacy as a national
figure. He flew all the way across the country, leaving his high-end
government healthcare behind in Arizona, in order to cast the deciding
vote to allow debate on whatever ghastly critter emerges from what has
been an utterly undemocratic process. He flew all the way across the
country in order to facilitate the process of denying to millions of
Americans the kind of medical treatment that is keeping him alive, and
to do so at the behest of a president who mocked McCain's undeniable
As the last line indicates, and the rest of the article elaborates,
Pierce is one of many who previously succumbed to an exaggerated opinion
of McCain's forthrightness or integrity or heroism -- there is plenty of
reason to deny all three. Still, Pierce may be right about where this
thing ends. It is, as ever, a case where an ounce of prevention (or at
least forethought) could have prevented a whole world of hurt:
The Republicans have the votes now. Dean Heller and Rob Portman and
Shelley Moore Capito have lined up with their party once, and the
likelihood is their respective prices will be met again because this
is not a policy issue any more, it is pure politics now, a promise
made by an extremist majority to its unthinking base. That's what
the end of this ugly day looked like, a day on which the final bloody
death of Barack Obama's legacy was placed on the fast track by people
who know better, and on which Susan Collins of Maine was more of a
maverick than John McCain ever was. It was an ugly day in the U.S.
Senate, and there was nothing but ruin everywhere you looked.
Mehdi Hasan: Despite What the Press Says, "Maverick" McCain Has a
Long and Distinguished Record of Horribleness. By the way, here's
Tracking Congress in the Age of Trump vote card. To be fair,
he has wavered a bit since getting diagnosed with brain cancer.
Ryan Grim: Steve Bannon Wants Facebook and Google Regulated Like
Utilities: That actually makes a fair amount of sense, although
I could come up with a better scheme based on non-profit public
entities which would provide the same services without imposing
ads on users. My favorite quote from the article:
In 2011, Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., then the chairman of the Judiciary
Committee, complained that Google had waited too long to hire an
armada of lobbyists. . . . They have since caught up: In the first
few months of the Trump administration, tech firms set new lobbying
spending records in Washington.
The latter probably became necessary because so many of them bet
heavily on Hillary -- no need for lobbyists when you've already got
the politicians in your pocket.
Cameron Joseph: Dem's New Slogan Is Lame, but GOP Is Giving Them a
Populist Opening: Slogan is "A Better Deal," introduced by Chuck
Shumer in (where else?) a New York Times Op-Ed, followed up by a
press event involving Shumer and Nancy Pelosi. Unclear from this
piece how the whole thing came about, but it starts to suggest some
thinking along the lines of Newt Gingrich's 1994 "Contract" -- a
hint of serious ambitions from a crew that more often seems bent
on self-sabotage. I don't mind the slogan, but the actual platform
could use some sharpening (see Corey Robin below), and it wouldn't
hurt to come up with some more credible leadership than Shumer and
Pelosi. (From a
NYT letter: "Can it be a better deal, with the same familiar
One comment on this is
Lee Drutman: The Real Civil War in the Democratic Party. He points
out that it was relatively easy to find an agenda that Shumer, Pelosi,
and left-favorite Elizabeth Warren could agree on, but that rank-and-file
Democrats are much more divided -- he says:
Among the Democratic rank-and-file, the more consequential divide is
between those willing to trust the existing establishment and those
who want entirely new leadership. It's a divide that Democratic Party
leaders ignore at their peril.
He goes on to babble nonsense about "political institutions" and
the "pragmatism" of the Democratic Party establishment, but the real
crux of the issue is that the Clintons and Obama, Shumer and Pelosi,
cannot be trusted to deliver on their campaign promises, and indeed
don't seem to be bothered by their repeated failures. On the other
hand, they're quite effective at delivering favors to the interests
that finance them.
Jamiles Lartey: 'I am livid': Donald Trump criticized for odd,
disjointed speech to Boy Scouts.
Charlie May: Judge: Kris Kobach, vice chair of Trump's voter fraud
commission, has been "misleading the Court": Much notice has
been paid recently to how Trump's treated Jeff Sessions, the first
member of the Senate to endorse Trump. Less so about Trump's other
early endorsers -- with Sessions they'd pass for the four horsemen
of the apocalypse: Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Chris Christie --
none given positions in the new administration. But among lesser
figures, take Kris Kobach, KS Secretary of State and the only
elected Republican to endorse Trump before state caucuses here.
Kobach famously showed up on Trump's doorstep with a binder of
his brilliant ideas for running the country, but all he got was
co-chair with Mike Pence on Trump's Election Integrity Commission,
designed to play up Kobach's most scurrilous projects. That got
him sued, in a case that he's repeatedly bumbled. And while he's
also intent on running for governor of Kansas in 2018, Trump's
appointment of Sam Brownback as pope of the State Department
means Kobach will be running against an incumbent, Jeff Colyer.
As the late Molly Ivins like to say, "lie down with dogs, get
up with fleas" -- except with Trump it's worse, more like rats
and bubonic plague (the fleas are just intermediary).
By the way, the first clue about Trump was the nepotism.
I should dig up Robert Townsend's quote on nepotism, but
it's something like: if you practice nepotism, no first-rate
people will ever work for you, because they'll know you're
prejudiced against them, and you'll be stuck with your fucking
Also see, from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund:
Sherrilyn Ifill: President Trump's Election Integrity Commission
is illegal and unconstitutional -- that's why we filed a lawsuit.
Alex Pareene: It's Not Mitch McConnell's Fault That Your Ideas Are Bad
and Hated: Written before McConnell engineered his vote to open
Senate discussion of his secret Trumpcare bill, so his impulse to
pardon McConnell may have been premature.
Perhaps it is related to the mental block that causes them to regularly
forget that the only reason a Republican is currently president is
because he constantly and loudly promised not to be a conservative on
issues like social insurance. Instead of confronting the implications
of that victory, conservatives instead have responded like Trump's own
budget director, who regularly brags that he is tricking the president
into exchanging his (popular) non-conservative ideas for (unpopular)
This is why it's absurd to blame Mitch McConnell. The role of the
Senate is to be the place where popular things go to die -- in the
popular (albeit fictional) account of our Founders' intentions, it
acts as the "cooling saucer," where a good thing everyone likes (hot
tea) becomes something you dump down the drain (old, room temperature
tea). The rules of the Senate were perfected over many decades to turn
it into a place where the will of the people is easily frustrated. It
is extraordinarily difficult to get large, popular bills through the
Senate. Imagine, then, how hard it must be to pass incredibly
Well, maybe not so hard, because Pareene seriously underestimates
the contempt that Republican politicians have for voters they've found
so easy to manipulate, and the fear they have of movement conservatives
itching to primary them.
Heather Digby Parton: Trump's cynical jobs program: Dump your house,
move somewhere else and work for less: "Maybe Trump supporters
are glimpsing the truth: He has no plan to bring back high-paying
jobs, and never did."
The bottom line is that Trump doesn't care about American workers.
His issue is with foreign competition for American companies, which
isn't exactly the same thing. He said in a Republican primary debate,
"We are a country that is being beaten on every front. Taxes too high,
wages too high, we're not going to be able to compete against the world."
His supporters had to pretend they didn't hear that: Their wages were
Charles P Pierce: Sam Brownback Is Your New Ambassador at Large for
Religious Freedom: Remember The Peter Principle? It was
a bestselling business book back in the 1970s that argued that people
rise in organizations until they meet their level of incompetence,
then they stay there. Brownback's appointment is evidence of an
opposite corollary which rarely occurs in real life, but the only
safety net Republicans believe in is one for their own failures,
so the Trump administration sorted through all of their positions
until they found the highest one where Brownback's incompetence
will probably prove inconsequential. On the other hand, I suspect
they've underestimated the Kansas governor, former senator, and
almost instantly failed presidential aspirant. I mean, until now
it's unlikely you've ever even heard that the US has an Ambassador
at Large for Religious Freedom (the result of a 1998 law), so his
acceptance has already made the US (and, let's face it, Trump)
look more ridiculous. Brownback's chief qualification for this
post is the fervor with which he's attempted to impose his own
conservative Catholic religious beliefs on everyone else. But
the cause of "religious freedom" has most often been invoked to
defend bigotry and discrimination -- an interpretation that
Brownback will be thrilled to adopt.
Corey Robin: A Party That Wants to Die but Can't Pull the Plug:
"The Democratic Party is offering tax giveaways for corporations.
So much for learning from its mistakes." Probably unfair to write
the Democrats off for this one gaffe, but worth pointing out that
it is wrong in multiple ways: it subordinates workers to business
instead of giving them skills (as education would) they can use
to get better jobs wherever suits them best; it sends the wrong
message to business -- namely that politicians are eager to bribe
them to do things they should be doing anyway; and it doesn't give
workers the leverage they need to convert their training into
better paying jobs (as, e.g., helping them join unions would).
One problem that Democrats like Chuck Shumer have is that they're
so used to sucking up to business they don't have any other ideas.
Marshall Steinbaum: Congressional Democrats Get Serious About
Antitrust: Which would be a marked change from the Clinton
and Obama administrations -- and, I agree, a necessary one:
Antitrust must be a core component of any agenda that would address
the slow economic growth, rising inequality, and wage stagnation that
are our most pressing economic problems. At the root of all of these
is the consolidation of corporate power. Corporate profits now account
for over 15% of the economy's gross value-added, up from 5% in the
Hiroko Tabuchi: Rooftop Solar Dims Under Pressure From Utility
Lobbyists: Just in the last couple years it's started looking
like renewable electrical sources will get the upper hand over
coal and gas (and for that matter nuclear), primarily due to
dramatic cost reductions in solar panels. However, utility
companies don't like distributed solar, coal and gas companies
don't like competition, nor do domestic producers of solar panels
(the cheapest are made in Asia). A government concerned about
climate change would lean against those pressures, but Trump
is likely to respond favorably to such lobbying. Those who
laughed when Trump promised to bring coal jobs back might
Matt Taibbi: Newly Released Documents Show Government Misled Public on
Trevor Timm: If Trump wants to fire Jeff Sessions, let him -- it would
be a gift to America. One of the week's more popular stories has
been Trump's tweet attacks on his attorney general for recusing himself
from the Russia investigation instead of doing the right thing and
protecting the president and his family. Trump's too self-absorbed to
care, but after Sessions lied about his own Russia meetings, recusal
was literally the least he could do. Still, Timm is right: although
there'd be little change in replacing most of Trump's appointees with
anyone else likely to get Trump's approval, Sessions is one appointee
with his own well-defined agenda, and he's working hard to leave a
huge gash through all of our previous expectations of what justice
in America means. Also see:
Jon Swaine: Why did Donald Trump turn on attorney general Jeff
Shaun Walker: Putin: Russia will retaliate if 'insolent' US lawmakers
pass sanctions bill: Of course, American politicians think there's
no risk in voting against Russia (not to mention Iran and North Korea),
and maybe that's true as far as their own election prospects go. But
they're making the world a more dangerous place.
Monday, July 24. 2017
Music: Current count 28462  rated (+34), 364  unrated (+0).
Very little new jazz in the queue, so I spent most of the week
looking elsewhere -- including some old music by Taj Mahal and the
late Larry Coryell following their latest albums. Seems like I'm
increasingly diverging from Robert Christgau, although for once I
like the Peter Perrett album
more than he did (but Jay-Z
less). He has yet to review my other A- records this week (Alison
Krauss and Waxahatchee, though I'll be surprised if he doesn't like
the latter). Only three records this week came from CDs.
On the Jazz Guides project, I managed to get 73% of the way through my
Vocals 2000- file, bringing
the 21st Century guide to 911 pages (vs. 746 for 20th Century). That's
up 84 pages in one week. Some quick envelope math based on the remaining
Jazz 2000- file suggests I'll
wind up with about 1450 pages about three weeks into September. With some
stragglers, probably best to nudge those figures out/up a bit: probably
750 + 1500 pages shortly after October 1. Assuming, of course, I keep at
it reasonably hard, as I did last week.
I should publish Streamnotes on Friday or Saturday, before the usual
Weekend Roundup and Music Week posts on Sunday and Monday (the last two
days of July). Currently 121 records (94 new + 4 recent comps) in the
I filled out a ballot for the
82nd Annual DownBeat Readers Poll. So should you. Tried to spend
as little time as possible here. Came up with this:
- Hall of Fame: George Russell
- Jazz Artist: Wadada Leo Smith
- Jazz Group: Mostly Other People Do the Killing
- Big Band: Satoko Fujii Orchestra
- Jazz Album (since 2016-06-01): Houston Person & Ron Carter, Chemistry (HighNote -16)
- Historical Album (since 2016-06-01): Don Cherry/John Tchicai/Irene Schweizer/Leonn Francioli/Pierre Favre, Musical Monsters (Intakt -16)
- Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith
- Trombone: Steve Swell
- Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom
- Alto Saxophone: François Carrier
- Tenor Saxophone: Houston Person
- Baritone Saxophone: Ken Vandermark
- Clarinet: Michael Moore
- Flute: Nicole Mitchell
- Piano: Matthew Shipp
- Keyboard: Craig Taborn
- Organ: Gary Versace
- Guitar: Mary Halvorson
- Bass: William Parker
- Electric Bass: Steve Swallow
- Violin: Jenny Scheinman
- Drums: Andrew Cyrille
- Vibraphone: Jason Adasiewicz
- Percussion: Hamid Drake
- Miscellaneous Instrument: Erik Friedlander (cello)
- Male Vocalist: Freddy Cole
- Female Vocalist: Catherine Russell
- Composer: Carla Bley
- Arranger: Steven Bernstein
- Record Label: Intakt
- Blues Artist or Group: Taj Mahal
- Blues Album (since 6/1/2016): David Bromberg Band, The Blues, the Whole Blues and Nothing but the Blues (Red House)
- Beyond Artist or Group: Parquet Courts
- Beyond Album (since 6/1/2016): A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here . . . Thank You 4 Your Service (Epic/Sony)
That took about an hour, as compared to the 8-10 hours I usually
spend on the Critics Ballot. I did look at my
2017 crib sheet about midway
through, which encouraged me to be more consistent. I had also looked at
Tim Niland's ballot, although I only wound up agreeing on 5-6 picks
(for one thing, unlike Tim I didn't do any write-ins). The one thing
that took some extra time was that I copied down the Album of the Year
nominees, checked my grades, and added things I wasn't aware of to my
2017 music tracking file. I found
that I haven't heard 40 of the nominated new jazz albums (of 126, so
31.7%). My grade breakdown was A: 1, A-: 12, ***: 17, **: 25, *: 19,
B: 6, B-: 6.
I also copied down the nominated "historical albums": I've heard
9/43 (20.9%), which is probably better than in recent years (although
the new album share is probably worse). I didn't bother with blues
albums -- indeed, my pick there wasn't even an A- record. "Beyond"
is a concept I don't find meaningful, even trying to pictures it
from the magazine's jazz/blues perspective.
New records rated this week:
- 21 Savage: Issa Album (2017, Slaughter Gang/Epic): [r]: B+(n*)
- Ryan Adams: Prisoner (2017, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
- Big Boi: Boomiverse (2017, Epic): [r]: B+(***)
- Benjamin Booker: Witness (2017, ATO): [r]: B+(***)
- Larry Coryell's 11th House: Seven Secrets (2016 , Savoy Jazz): [r]: B+(*)
- Laszlo Gardony: Serious Play (Solo Piano) (2017, Sunnyside): [cd]: B+(*)
- Haim: Something to Tell You (2017, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Arve Henriksen: Towards Language (2016 , Rune Grammofon): [r]: B
- J Hus: Common Sense (2017, Black Butter/Epic): [r]: B+(**)
- Jay-Z: 4:44 (2017, Roc Nation): [r]: B+(**)
- Jonwayne: Rap Album Two (2017, The Order Label): [r]: B+(***)
- Alison Krauss: Windy City (2017, Capitol): [r]: A-
- Brian Landrus Orchestra: Generations (2017, BlueLand): [cd]: B+(**)
- Nikki Lane: Highway Queen (2017, New West): [r]: B+(**)
- Carmen Lundy: Code Noir (2017, Afrasia Productions): [r]: B
- Taj Mahal & Keb' Mo': TajMo (2017, Concord): [r]: B
- Mura Masa: Mura Masa (2017, Polydor): [r]: B+(*)
- Spoek Mathambo: Mzansi Beat Code (2017, TEKA): [r]: B+(*)
- Ozomatli: Non-Stop: Mexico to Jamaica (2017, Cleopatra): [r]: B+(*)
- Peter Perrett: How the West Was Won (2017, Domino): [r]: A-
- Troy Roberts: Tales & Tones (2017, Inner Circle): [r]: B+(**)
- Mavis Staples: I'll Take You There: An All-Star Concert Celebration (2014 , Blackbird Production Partners, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
- Dave Stryker: Strykin' Ahead (2016 , Strikezone): [cd]: B+(*)
- Waxahatchee: Out in the Storm (2017, Merge): [r]: A-
- Wizkid: Sounds From the Other Side (2017, Starboy/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Larry Coryell: Lady Coryell (1968 , Vanguard): [r]: B
- Larry Coryell: Introducing the Eleventh House With Larry Coryell (1972 , Vanguard): [r]: B+(*)
- Larry Coryell: The Restful Mind (1974 , Vanguard): [r]: B+(***)
- Taj Mahal: Taj Mahal (1968, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
- Taj Mahal: The Natch'l Blues (1968, Columbia): [r]: B+(***)
- Taj Mahal: Happy Just to Be Like I Am (1971, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Rising Sons: Rising Suns Featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder (1965-66 , Columbia/Legacy): [r]: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Paul Jones: Clean (Outside In Music): August 4
- Elan Pauer: Yamaha/Speed (Creative Sources)
- Oliver Schwerdt: Prestige/No Smoking (Euphorium, 2CD)
- Reggie Young: Forever Young (Whaling City Sound)
Sunday, July 23. 2017
I'm having a lot of trouble with websites making demands: that I
pay them money, or sign up for things, or other demands I don't have
the patience to parse. I understand that internet media businesses
have a tough time making ends meet, and I'm not unsympathetic, but
I'm not rich, and I'm not in the business of reporting on media,
and I really hate where this is going: a world where information
is locked up behind a handful of companies, where people have to
decide something is worth paying for before they can find out
whether it's worth anything at all. In such a world many people
will only be able to read things that they value because they
agree with, and most people will never read anything because the
practical value of most information is vanishingly small. This
is a hideous prospect promising a world that only grows more and
more dysfunctional. Allowing paywalls to be bypassed by agreeing
to look at tons of advertising only makes the information more
untrustworthy and unappealing. Advertising may not be the root of
all evil in America, but it's certainly contributed, especially
by raising consumer manipulation to the level of a science.
I should probably compile a list of websites I'm boycotting --
or, effectively, that are boycotting me -- but I find the practice
too annoying to obsess over. Looks like I should add the Washington
Post to the list -- clicked on several pieces and all I get now are
subscription screens. (The ad there started "I see you like great
journalism" but the WP has rarely met that mark; e.g., see
The Washington Post's War on Disability Programs Continues,
and ask yourself: why should anyone pay these people money?) I'm
especially annoyed at
The Nation blocking me out,
and have decided to stop linking to their articles. (We actually
subscribe to the print edition of The Nation, which as I
understand it entitles us to "full digital access" but I've never
set that up before -- indeed, never had to.) I've started to avoid
The New York Times and The New Yorker -- again, we
pay them money for print editions, but they have "free article"
counters, and I'd hate to waste my quota by looking at something
stupid by David Brooks. We actually pay for quite a bit of print
media, and my wife subscribes to digital things I don't even know
about (and probably wouldn't be happy about if I did know). Still,
we don't read so much or so widely because we find it entertaining
or necessary for business. We do it because we're trying to be
concerned, responsible citizens. And it sure looks like the goal
of business in America is to make citizenship cost-prohibitive.
I'll add that I don't have paywalls, advertisements, or even
any form of begware on my websites. I'm not paid for what I write,
nor do I make any money off the occasional music discs I'm sent.
I do this for free, and find that at least a few people find my
analysis and information to be useful and worthwhile -- I guess
that's my reward (that plus satisfaction in my craft). I even
spend some money to make this possible, but I do feel the need
to limit my losses. In this current media environment, that may
mean limiting the sources I consult.
PS: Add Foreign Policy to that list, demanding
about $90/year under the unsavory slogan, "Today, truth comes at
a cost." The link I was following came from
Trump assigns White House team to target Iran nuclear deal, sidelining
State Department. This probably complements several links on Iran
Binta Baxter: How the Student Loan Industry Is Helping Trump Destroy
American Democracy: Also, how Trump's helping the student loan
Cristina Cabrera: Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner Have Raked in $212
Million Since 2016.
Daniel José Camacho: Hillary Clinton is more unpopular than Donald Trump.
Let that sink in: At least before the election, she polled better
than Trump. You'd think she'd do even better after six months of Trump's
non-stop scandals, but many recent polls show she'd still lose, and the
Democrats have yet to register tangible gains by targeting Trump --
despite Trump's own favorability polling sinking into "worst ever"
territory. Still, I'd take these polls with a grain of salt. Clinton's
own favorability ratings have taken a hit partly because people who
voted for her -- mostly people who would never have voted for Trump --
are still pissed at her for losing. As for the Democrats, they've yet
to move on from her -- something that probably won't happen until the
2018 campaigns get seriously under way. Meanwhile, for all the scandal
in Washington, there hasn't been a lot of evident everyday damage that
most people can blame directly on Trump (immigrants are the exception
here). Those things will compound over the next year -- something
Democrats need to position themselves for.
Jonathan Cohn: Only 32 House Democrats Voted Against Reauthorizing Trump's
Deportation Machine: Note, however, 9 Republicans also voted no.
Thomas Frank: The media's war on Trump is destined to fail. Why can't
it see that? Wait, there's a "media war on Trump"? How can you
tell? Didn't mainstream media gave Trump ten times as much coverage
in 2016 as they did anyone else? The New York Times gave him an
interview sandbox just last week. Sure, it made him look stupid,
but doesn't that just play into his appeal? One might argue that
Steven Colbert and Seth Myers are waging something like a war on
Trump, but they're also catering to large niche market of people
who can't stand Trump (and who have insomnia, possibly related).
But mainstream media -- the so-called objective reporters -- are
fatally compromised by corporate direction and an eye towards
entertainment, and both of those factors have played into Trump
while leaving the right-wing takeover of the Republican Party
largely unexamined. One could imagine a responsible media going
after Trump's administration, examining in depth the conflicts
of interest, the money trails, the intense lobbying both of
business fronts and other interests like the NRA and AIPAC --
and they needn't be partisan (all the better if they catch a
few corrupt Democrats along the way). But that's not going to
happen as long as the media is owned by a handful of humongous
conglomerates. On the other hand, Trump's own war on the "fake
news" media does seem to be working, if not to deter them from
serious reporting, to reinforce the tendency of his believers
to disregard anything critical they may come up with.
Glenn Greenwald/Ryan Grim: US Lawmakers Seek to Criminally Outlaw Support
for Boycott Campaign Against Israel:
The Criminalization of political speech and activism against Israel has
become one of the gravest threats to free speech in the West. In France,
activists have been arrested and prosecuted for wearing T-shirts advocating
a boycott of Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measures designed
to outlaw such activism. In the U.S., governors compete with one another
over who can implement the most extreme regulations to bar businesses
from participating in any boycotts aimed even at Israeli settlements,
which the world regards as illegal. On U.S. campuses, punishment of
pro-Palestinian students for expressing criticisms of Israel is so
commonplace that the Center for Constitutional Rights refers to it as
"the Palestine Exception" to free speech.
But now, a group of 43 senators -- 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats --
wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans
to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched
in protest of that country's decades-old occupation of Palestine. The
two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland
and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect
is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will
face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty
of $1 million and 20 years in prison.
Philip Weiss: Critics of US 'Israel Anti-Boycott Act' say even requests
for information could expose citizens to penalties. For an example
of a similar state bill, see
Heike Schotten/Elsa Auerbach: National movement to silence BDS disguises
itself in MA legislature as 'No Hate in Bay State' act.
As this is happening, there are dozens of articles on the unfolding
human catastrophe in Gaza; e.g.
Gaza on Verge of Collapse as Israel Sends 2.2 Million People "Back to
Middle Ages" in Electricity Crisis. There is also renewed violence
in the West Bank; see:
Jason Ditz: Six Killed, Hundreds Wounded as Violence Rages Across West
Sheren Khalel: Three settlers stabbed to death and three Palestinians
shot dead in turmoil over security measures at al-Aqsa mosque compound;
also always useful to check out
Kate's latest press compilation.
Benjamin Hart: Obamacare and the Limits of Propaganda:
But now, Republicans control every lever of the federal government,
and any illusion that replacing Obamacare would be simple has been
well and truly shattered. Instead, the relentless news coverage
around health care has finally revealed Republicans' philosophy on
the issue: nothing more than knee-jerk opposition to the previous
president combined with an overwhelming desire to cut taxes for
And by thus far rejecting any reasonable fixes to the law, the
GOP has inadvertently helped drag the American public to the left.
A recent Pew survey found that 60 percent of Americans now believe
that government has a responsibility to ensure health care for its
citizens, the highest number in a decade. That includes 52 percent
of Republicans with family incomes below $30,000, up from 31 percent
a year ago.
Propaganda works best when the enemy it conjures is hazy and
easily caricatured; it works less well when everyday reality intrudes.
Americans have now gotten a taste of what citizens in other
industrialized nations have long become accustomed to, and they don't
want less of it. They want more.
John Judis: The Conflict Tearing Apart British Politics: An Interview
With David Goodhart: Judis' interviews have generally been interesting,
but this one gets pretty stupid. Goodhart's distinction between Somewheres
and Anywheres isn't ridiculous -- certainly they're more neutral terms
than Provincials and Cosmopolitans, but that's pretty much what they boil
down to. On the other hand, the way he maps British partisan politics onto
his concepts is scattered and arbitrary, obviously intent primarily on
marginalizing Jeremy Corbyn, who he clearly detests on all levels:
Jeremy Corbyn probably represents the view of about five percent of the
British people, but a lot of naïve people don't remember the 1970s and
the 1980s and the thing called the Soviet Union. They live in this
ahistorical world. Even older people who are not so naïve and realize
that Jeremy Corbyn was not to their taste in almost every respect
nonetheless planned to vote for him as a protest against Brexit on
the assumption that he was not going to be prime minister. The things
that pushed him up, gave him twelve points more than were expected,
were the very high turnout of the blob youth left, the hard core
Remainers, and enough of the blue collar voters coming back to Labour
on anti-austerity grounds. . . .
I think the traditional Labour coalition has blown apart, but on a
one-off basis Jeremy Corbyn has managed to stitch it back together
sufficiently to give him the uplift of ten percent in the vote. By
going helter skelter for the educated or semi-educated youth vote
and playing on the soft left ideology that so many kids come out of
the university with, combined with this bribe to abolish student
tuition fees, he is shoring up for his own political ends, the
middle class welfare state. So he has this huge uplift of the student
vote and enough of the blue-collar vote, but it's a one-off and I
think Labour is still on the road to oblivion as a party.
I don't know anything more about Goodhart -- e.g., I have no idea
why he should be considered some sort of expert on UK politics --
but he seems like a prime example of neoliberalism, especially in
his disdain for "the middle class welfare state" and his painting
anything government might do to help out any but the poorest of
citizens as a "bribe" -- and needless to say the poor who still
do get some paltry dole will also face a substantial helping of
shame. The left's counter to this is to establish a set of rights
which raise everyone up.
Goldhart's view of Labour as a declining, obsolescent political
force seems to be stuck in the "end of history" fantasies prevalent
in the US/UK after the collapse of Communism. Until the fall, the
ruling capitalists in the West at least had a healthy fear of worker
revolution, and therefore sought to make society and economy more
palatable. After the collapse, they lost that fear, and went on a
binge of greed that still hasn't subsided, even though they seemed
to trip up severely with the 2008 meltdown. Meanwhile, the left
tried to rethink and regroup. A recent, interesting piece on this is:
Tim Barker: The Bleak Left. I haven't finished it, and have my
own ideas which gradually formed as I was trying to write about
post-capitalism in the late 1990s. One of the first things I did
was to jettison Marx, reinterpreting his revolutionary impulses
not as early-proletarian but as late-bourgeois. Paraphrasing
Benjamin on Baudellaire, I saw him (and later Marxists) as "secret
agents, of the bourgeoisie's discontent with its own rule." That
brought me back to equality as the foundation seed both of liberal
politics and any just society. No way to properly unpack this here,
but given recent trends toward extreme inequality (thanks mostly
to neoliberalism, although inherited money also has much to do
with it, especially on the US right) it isn't at all surprising
that the left would reform to countervail, and that it would draw
both on liberal and on socialist traditions to do so.
Sam Knight: Trump's Environmental Protection Pick Is BP's Former Lawyer --
and May Preside Over Cases Involving BP.
Mike Konczal: "Neoliberalism" isn't an empty epithet. It's a real,
powerful set of ideas. Centrist Democrats are getting touchy
about being called "neoliberal" -- even in The Nation I've
seen Danny Goldberg (link, if you can read it,
here) insist that the left stop using the term. He doesn't
offer an alternative, but the first one that pops into my mind
is "corporate stooges" -- "neoliberal" at least suggests some
degree of coherence and integrity. Konczal tries to sketch out
how that ideology developed historically, going back to Charles
Peters' 1983 "A Neoliberal's Manifesto." Since then, adherents
have preferred to call themselves New Democrats (or New Labour
in Britain), while British critics have tended to use neoliberal
for macroeconomic policies that promoted free flow of capital
and trade while forcing governments to adopt austerity, with
no linkages to other issues (thus, for instance, one could be
neoliberal on economic policy, neoconservative on war, and
either liberal or conservative on social issues). However, at
present neoliberalism is a cleavage line that splits Democrats --
even if Clinton had to compromise on trade and college tuition
to secure the 2016 nomination. Indeed, neoliberal only became
an epithet as it became clear that its promises of widespread
prosperity turned out to be not just hollow but fraudulent.
Richard Lardner: Lawmakers Announce Bipartisan Deal on Sweeping
Russia Sanctions Bill: Proves two things: (1) nothing brings
a nation together like a shared enemy, even a phony one; and (2)
the Democrats have still not made a serious review of America's
habit of imperial power projection, even though it objectively
hurts both their base and their political message. A crude way
to understand the latter point is that the only times Republicans
join with Democrats is when they intuit that doing so hurts (and
helps disillusion) the Democratic Party base. Democrats wouldn't
have to go full isolationist to turn the corner on the neocon
fetish with single-power projection that has dominated US policy
since the mid-1990s. (The Iraq regime change vote marked their
ascendancy, again keyed to take advantage of an enemy Democrats
wouldn't doubt.) Democrats could, for instance, revert to their
early beliefs in international law and institutions -- a belief
that led to the UN, an organization the neocons have managed to
totally marginalize (except when they can use it). That reminds
me of a third point: this bill again testifies to the singular
anomaly of US subservience to Israel. You'd think at the very
least that Democrats would defend Obama's nuclear deal with Iran,
but their allegiance to Israel trumps party loyalty.
One should note that while Congress is limiting Trump's power
to reduce international tensions by curtailing sanctions, that
same body is evidently giving Trump a free hand to start any war
that strikes his fancy. See (if you can):
John Nichols: Paul Ryan Hands Donald Trump a Blank Check for
Dylan Matthews: President Trump's essentially unlimited pardon power,
explained: Reports are that Trump has already started discussing
using his pardon powers to obstruct the Russia investigation. Can he
do that? Yes. Would that be grounds for impeachment? Probably. Will
the Republican congress act on that? Nope. Also, where early reports
merely stated that Trump was asking about his pardon powers, now he
seems to have gotten the answer he wants:
Cristina Cabrera: Trump Asserts His 'Complete Power' to Pardon.
On the other hand, Laurence Tribe argues
No, Trump can't pardon himself. The Constitution tells us so.
Caitlin MacNeal: Spicey's Greatest Hits: Trump spokesman Sean Spicer
resigned this week, after Anthony Scaramucci was appointed as White House
Communications Director. Link has videos of some of Spicer's more famous
gaffes, but his root problem was the material he had to work with, and
the so-called journalists who cover the presidency and can't seem to dig
deeper than press briefings and Trump's twitter feed. Scaramucci is a
hedge fund guy, which makes you wonder what he's doing slumming in the
White House staff. His first job, of course, was to clean up his own
Cristina Cabrera: Scaramucci on Twitter Deletion Spree.
Tom McKay: Trump Nominates Sam Clovis, a Dude Who Is Not a Scientist,
to be Department of Agriculture's Top Scientist: But he did work
as host of a right-wing talk show back in Iowa.
Heather Digby Parton: Trump rejects his poll numbers as fake news --
but even his voters are starting to notice the scam.
John Quiggin: Can we get to 350ppm? Yes we can: A relatively
optimistic forecast on climate change, based largely on recent
technological trends like much cheaper solar power, but noting
various risks, and assuming "the absence of political disasters
such as a long-running Trump presidency." Links to a contrasting,
downright apocalyptic view, not specifically linked to Trump:
David Wallace-Wells: The Uninhabitable Earth.
Lisa Rein: Interior Dept. ordered Glacier park chief, other climate
expert pulled from Zuckerberg tour
Sam Sacks: Trump Kicks Off Voter Fraud Commission With Innuendo That
States Are Hiding Something. Kris Kobach's voter suppression
racket is one of the most disgusting of Trump's programs. Still,
it's rather a shock to see Trump so personally involved with it.
Matt Taibbi: What Does Russiagate Look Like to Russians? Kind
of like Americans are war-crazed fanatics whose hatred of Russia
is less ideological than genetic?
For journalists like me who have backgrounds either working or living
in Russia, the new Red Scare has been an ongoing freakout. A lot of
veteran Russia reporters who may have disagreed with each other over
other issues in the past now find themselves in like-minded bewilderment
over the increasingly aggressive rhetoric.
Many of us were early Putin critics who now find ourselves in the
awkward position of having to try to argue Americans off the ledge,
or at least off the path to war, when it comes to dealing with the
There's a lot of history that's being glossed over in the rush to
restore Russia to an archenemy role.
For one, long before the DNC hack, we meddled in their elections.
This was especially annoying to Russians because we were ostensibly
teaching them the virtues of democracy at the time.
The case in point was Boris Yeltsin's 1966 campaign, where "three
American advisers [were] sent to help the pickling autocrat Yeltsin
devise campaign strategy." Yeltsin then created the corrupt oligarchy
we like to blame on Putin.
Evidently, one of the rarest skills in the world is the ability to
imagine how other people view us.
Trevor Timm: ICE agents are getting out of control. And they are only
getting worse: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (not sure
why the article refers to them as "Ice" rather than "ICE"). They've
had the legal authority, for some time, so all Trump had to do to
crank them up was "take the shackles off" ("eerily echoing the CIA's
comments post-9/11 that they would 'take the gloves off' in response
to the terrorist attack"). Of course, Trump is doing more: "stripping
away due process protections for arrested immigrants via executive
order, the US justice department has even attempted to cut off legal
representation for some immigrants."
Robin Wright: Is the Nuclear Deal With Iran Slipping Away?
Also on Iran:
Trita Parsi: War with Iran is back on the table -- thanks to Trump.
By the way, Parsi, who wrote the definitive book on why Israel decided
to pump Iran up as "an existential threat" (Treacherous Alliance:
The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States) has
a new book
Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy.
Matthew Yglesias: The most important stories of the week, explained:
the Obamacare repeal push died, then came back; John McCain has brain
cancer; Donald Trump said some things; House Republicans released a
Other Yglesias pieces:
Trump's new communications director used to call him an anti-American
hack politician (not any more: see
Cristina Cabrera: Scaramucci on Twitter Deletion Spree);
Trumpcare still isn't dead;
A new interview reveals Trump's ignorance to be surprisingly wide-ranging;
The latest Trump interview once again reveals total disregard for the rule
Trump is mad Democrats didn't work with him on health care, but he never
tried. Also, here's a Yglesias tweet:
Look, just because Sessions hasn't actually been convicted of a crime is
no reason we can't start seizing his property now.
Monday, July 17. 2017
Music: Current count 28428  rated (+38), 364  unrated (+3).
Sad to note that Joe Fields, still active at 88, died last week.
Since the 1960s, when he started out with Prestige Records, he has
been responsible for an extraordinary number of great mainstream
jazz records. He founded a series of labels -- Cobblestone, Muse,
Onyx, High Note, and Savant, running the latter two with his son
Barney since 1996. Along the way he cultivated many artist careers --
perhaps most notably, Houston Person started with him at Prestige
and followed him through Muse and High Note. If Fields had a
signature, it was picking up artists discarded from major labels
and giving them second (or third) careers.
Pending queue only has six albums in it, including the four that
arrived last week. I only reviewed three records from CD last week
(two came up A- after I played them a dozen or more times -- the
other A- got three spins on Napster). Still, a pretty high rated
count, so not much else got that kind of attention -- and the six
EPs went especially fast.
As promised, I got into the download queue last week: 10 albums,
mostly from ECM, none as good as Craig Taborn's Daylight Ghosts
last week. I probably have another dozen saved up, and could dig up
more if I went through my mail (although some may have expired). A
few of the items below came from mid-year lists by Phil Overeem and
Matt Rice (linked to last week). Others came from thumbing through
the August DownBeat.
The latter has their 65th Annual Critics Poll results, which I
voted in and annotated my
ballot back in April.
Especially pleased to see Don Cherry and Herbie Nichols added to
their Hall of Fame (along with George Gershwin and Eubie Blake --
no complaints there either; the latter three came from their
Veterans Committee). The category winners -- minus a few I
care less about; RS = Rising Star; in parens: first number is
my 1-2-3 pick (if winner on my ballot), otherwise my pick and
finish (if on list); ergo: (1) means my pick won:
- Trumpet: Wadada Leo Smith (1); RS: Taylor Ho Bynum (1).
- Trombone: Steve Turre (8 Roswell Rudd); RS: Marshall Gilkes (9 Joe Fiedler).
- Soprano Saxophone: Jane Ira Bloom (8 Sam Newsome); RS: Christine Jensen (16 Mike Ellis).
- Alto Saxophone: Rudresh Mahanthappa (François Carrier); RS: Matana Roberts (13 Dave Rempis).
- Tenor Saxophone: Charles Lloyd (14 David Murray); RS: Noah Preminger (5 Ellery Eskelin).
- Baritone Saxophone: Gary Smulyan (4 Hamiet Bluiett); RS: Dave Rempis (5 Gebhard Ullmann).
- Clarinet: Anat Cohen (5 Ben Goldberg); RS: Oscar Noriega (19 Avram Fefer).
- Piano: Kenny Barron (Irène Schweizer); RS: Kris Davis (1).
- Guitar: Mary Halvorson (2; 8 Marc Ribot); RS: Gilad Hekselman (Samo Salamon).
- Bass: Christian McBride (6 William Parker); RS: Eric Revis (7 Ingebrigt Håker Flaten).
- Violin: Regina Carter (8 Jason Kao Hwang); RS: Sara Caswell (10 Szilard Mezei).
- Drums: Jack De Johnette (Gerry Hemingway); RS: Jeff Ballard (20 Paal Nilssen-Love).
Looking back, several of my picks were just whims. I probably should
have voted for Bloom over Newsome, and I can't fault De Johnette (cf.
this week's record -- drumming is amazing there, something I can't
imagine anyone else matching) or Revis, or begrudging any recognition
of Barron. Rempis started on alto, but I think his tenor sax is his
main instrument now -- still, I don't think of him on baritone at all,
so that came as a surprise. Two of my picks were write-ins (Schweizer
and Salamon -- both serious ballot omissions), so of course they didn't
finish. Smith and Halvorson also won other categories, so they were
featured in articles.
Preminger was well down my list at tenor sax (a long list), but he's
put together a fine series of relatively mainstream albums (two A-,
one ***, two **), so I shouldn't be surprised that he's getting some
recognition. I also credit Mahanthappa with six A- (or in one case A)
albums, so he's a pretty reasonable pick (albeit in a real competitive
category: Carrier has 10 A- records, Anthony Braxton 19, Steve Lehman
5 + 3 in Fieldwork + 1 with Mahanthappa [the A], not that I counted
Continuing to make progress on compiling my jazz reviews into two
guides: a haphazard retro-survey of the 20th century, and a somewhat
more systematic guide to post-2000 (21st century) jazz. I started by
collecting the reviews from their various column sources into a huge
text file. Since then I've been scanning through my
database files, adding dates and
instruments where I had them, pulling out whatever reviews I had, and
adding any other rated but unreviewed records. It took many weeks to
Jazz '80s-'90s (1516
artists). Since then, I picked up three much shorter files:
Latin Jazz (147),
Pop Jazz (249), and
The pop jazz list was rather depressing, as it is far from
comprehensive: in fact, mostly concentrated in the early Jazz CG
days (2004-06) after which it became clear that I wasn't likely
to review those records favorably. It would probably be easier
to cut them out than it would be to cover them anywhere near as
comprehensively as I cover mainstream and avant jazz. One saving
grace was that it lowered the grade curve, although probably not
The "avant-garde" list was more interesting, but again is far
from comprehensive. The definition I tended to follow was AMG's
genre classification, which itself stradled minimalism, experimental
rock, and modern (or, a term I prefer, post-classical) composition,
but only rarely avant-jazz. I tried to take an interest in such music
back in the 1970s, so one thing I noticed was that several dozen LPs
I vaguely recall never got into the database (e.g., I probably had
five or so albums by Karlheinz Stockhausen, but none were listed).
On the other hand, the "shopping list" included quite a few albums
from Kyle Gann's 1998-99 Consumer Guides -- most by people I hadn't
heard of otherwise.
The compilation files are now up to 746 pages (20th century, 288k
words) and 827 pages (21st century, 403k words). There are a few odds
and ends that I've been including but were tucked away in odd database
files (e.g., Astor Piazzolla in "latin," John Fahey in "folk"), but
basically the 20th century compilation is about as large as it's going
to get. Page sizes are different, but that probably makes it about
25% of the size of The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings -- a
human impossibility to match. On the other hand, the 21st century book
will continue to grow, perhaps considerably. The
Jazz (2000-) file will add 2248
Vocals (2000-) has another 484
Back in April I estimated that I might have the compilation done
sometime from August to October. Looks like the most I can do in a
day is about 150 artists, so I'm looking at another 20 days actual
work time -- for various reasons I've had trouble spending more than
4 days/week on this, so let's figure another 5 weeks. Labor Day?
Maybe. Not sure what happens then, but I'll try to convert it to
some distributable format. Still needs a massive amount of editing
to be publishable. Don't know when/if that will ever happen.
New records rated this week:
- John Abercrombie Quartet: Up and Coming (2016 , ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
- Sebastien Ammann: Color Wheel (2015 , Skirl): [cd]: A-
- Theo Bleckmann: Elegy (2016 , ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
- Jaimie Branch: Fly or Die (2017, International Anthem): [r]: B+(**)
- Charly Bliss: Guppy (2017, Barsuk): [r]: B+(**)
- Avishai Cohen: Cross My Palm With Silver (2016 , ECM): [r]: B+(**)
- Jack DeJohnette/Larry Grenadier/John Meddeski/John Scofield: Hudson (2017, Motéma): [r]: A-
- Bill Frisell/Thomas Morgan: Small Town (2016 , ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
- Golden Pelicans: S/T (2014, Total Punk, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Golden Pelicans: Oldest Ride Longest Line (2015, Total Punk, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Golden Pelicans: Disciples of Blood (2017, Goner, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Giovanni Guidi: Ida Lupino (2015 , ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
- Benedikt Jahnel Trio: The Invariant (2016 , ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
- Sean Jones: Live From Jazz at the Bistro (2017, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(*)
- Aaron Parks/Ben Street/Billy Hart: Find the Way (2015 , ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
- Nicki Parrott: Dear Blossom: A Tribute to Blossom Dearie (2017, Arbors): [r]: B+(*)
- Nicki Parrott: Unforgettable: The Nat King Cole Songbook (2016 , Venus): [r]: B+(**)
- Chris Potter: The Dreamer Is the Dream (2016 , ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
- Karriem Riggins: Headnod Suite (2017, Stones Throw): [r]: B+(**)
- Louis Sclavis: Asian Fields Variations (2016 , ECM): [dl]: B+(*)
- Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Ruler Rebel (2017, Stretch Music/Ropeadope): [r]: B+(**)
- Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah: Diaspora (2017, Stretch Music/Ropeadope): [r]: B+(**)
- Sex Mob: Cultural Capital (2016, Rex): [r]: B+(**)
- ShitKid: ShitKid (2016, PNKSLM, EP): [bc]: B-
- ShitKid: EP 2 (2017, PNKSLM, EP): [bc]: B
- ShitKid: Fish (2017, PNKSLM): [bc]: B+(*)
- Rotem Sivan: Antidote (2017, Alma): [r]: B+(**)
- Bria Skonberg: With a Twist (2017, Okeh): [r]: B+(*)
- Tomasz Stanko New York Quartet: December Avenue (2016 , ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
- Katie Thiroux: Off Beat (2016 , Capri): [cd]: A-
- Florian Wittenberg: Don't Push the Piano Around (2017, NurNichtNur): [cd]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Miracle Steps: Music From the Fourth World 1983-2017 (1983-2017 , Optimo): [bc]: B+(***)
- Allen Ravenstine + Albert Dennis: >Terminal Drive (1975 , Smog Veil, EP): [dl]: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura: Kisaragi (Libra)
- Hal Galper and the Youngbloods: Live at the Cota Jazz Festival (Origin)
- Laszlo Gardony: Serious Play (Solo Piano) (Sunnyside)
- Brian Landrus Orchestra: Generations (BlueLand): July 28
Sunday, July 16. 2017
Might as well go back to my original title, since this week I have
more comments (albeit fewer than usual links), and "Week Links" never
was a very good title. Browser limits are still keeping me from seeing
as much as I used to, but now that I've figured out how to work around
a couple serious bugs in Chromium I'm getting more done. Mostly rounded
these up on Saturday -- good thing since I chewed up most of Sunday
cooking a small dinner-for-two (a cut-back version of
jambalaya) and doing some
tree trimming (much too hot here to do that).
Getting very close to the end of Bernie Sanders' Our Revolution:
A Future to Believe In. First half is a campaign journal where it
turns out he was as delighted meeting us as we were finding him. Second
is a policy manual which doesn't venture as far as I would but strikes
me as a well-reasoned merger of the viable and the practical. I really
don't get people who see him as too idealistic, or as too compromised.
One thing that's missing is any real treatment of foreign policy. Some
ambitious Democrat needs to stake out a radical shift there, returning
to the belief in international law that Wilson and Roosevelt advocated,
while paring back America's penchant for military and/or clandestine
intervention. But while he touches most other bases, I do believe that
Bernie is correct that inequality is the central political issue of our
times, and the more we do on that, the better most other things will
Dean Baker: Obamacare is only 'exploding' in red states: Most of
the problems with ACA private insurance exchanges are concentrated in
states with Republican governors/legislatures, who were also culpable
for failing to expand Medicaid, leaving millions of poorer Americans
without health care insurance. "Where Republican governors have sought
to sabotage the program, they have largely succeeded. Where Democratic
governors have tried to make the ACA work, they too have largely
succeeded." That Trump thinks ACA is a disaster says more about the
bubble he gets his information from.
Dean Baker: How Rich Would Bill Gates Be Without His Copyright on
Windows? Gates' personal fortune is estimated at $70 billion,
and the copyright is at the root of that, followed by various
patents and business practices that led to Microsoft's conviction
for violating antitrust laws -- the last major antitrust case any
administration in Washington bothered to prosecute. As so-called
intellectual property goes, copyright is a minor problem, as long
as we're talking about works of art -- the latest extended terms
are way too long, and we would be better off with a program to buy
up older copyrights and move work into the public domain. Copyright
of software code has rarely proved a problem: what killed Novell's
efforts to produce a compatible DOS wasn't copyright: Microsoft's
illegal/predatory business practices protected their monopoly. The
real alternative is free software, which has been very successful
even without public funding -- fairly modest investments there
would pay huge dividends to the public. Baker also talks about
patents, which are a much more daunting problem, even beyond their
obvious costs. ("The clearest case is prescription drugs where we
will spend over $440 billion this year for drugs that would likely
sell for less than $80 billion in a free market.") Patents allow
owners to stake out broad claims and sue others for infringement
even when the latter developed innovations completely independently.
Patents made more sense when they protected capital investments for
manufacturing, but that's never the case for software patents --
they exist purely to line corporate pockets by harassing potential
competition (including from free software).
Cristina Cabrera: Poll: Majority of Republicans Now Say Colleges Are
Bad for America: The poll question is are colleges and universities
having a "negative effect on the way things are going in the country."
In 2015, 37% of Republicans thought that; today 58%. Before 2015, the
Republican figures were relatively stable (56% favorable in 2010, 54%
in 2015), and Democrats have become slightly more favorable, 65% in
2010, 72% today. The shift in Republican views coincided with the
realization that the Republican presidential primaries would turn
into contests between dumb and dumber, where candidates competed to
show how little they understood the modern world and how everything
worked (or, increasingly often, didn't work). As I recall, the first
to stake out an anti-college position was Rick Santorum, and at the
time I found his position shocking. For starters, it ignores the
fact that we completely depend on science and advanced technology
for nearly every aspect of our way of life -- what happens to us
when we stop educating smart people to develop and maintain that
technology? Nor is it just technology: the right's prejudices have
a tough time surviving any form of open debate -- which is why
conservatives have increasingly retreated into their own private
institutions. Still, this is anomalous: colleges have always been
institutions of, by, and for the elites, dominated by old money
while occasionally opening the doors to exceptionally talented
outsiders -- especially ones eager to join the system (Clinton
and Obama are obvious examples, ones that have left an especially
bitter taste for Republicans). And while the post-WWII expansion
opened those doors wider for middle class Americans, if anything
the trend has reversed lately, as prohibitive pricing is making
college more elitist again. Still, this shows an increasingly
common form of disconnect between Republican elites and masses:
the latter are driven mostly by pushing their hot buttons, and
all they have to do is get people so worked up they won't realize
the incoherency of anti-elite and anti-diversity positions, or
the fact that the rich still have their legacy privileges, so
will be the last to be deprived of higher education's blessings.
Jason Ditz: House Approves $696 Billion Military Spending Bill:
Includes $75 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations, which is
subject to change if Trump approves more "surges." Of all Trump's
budget changes, more Defense spending struck me as the easiest to
pass, because the War Lobby extends beyond Republicans and well into
the Democratic Party. More Ditz pieces:
House NDAA Amendments Would Limit US Participation in Yemen War;
Trump Wants Authority to Build New Bases in Iraq, Syria.
Dahlia Lithwick: Trump's election commission has been a disaster. It's
going exactly as planned.
As Kobach put it to Ari Berman last month, his whole master plan for
world dominion was so simple: to create in Kansas -- where he is running
for governor and has been secretary of state for a number of years --
a template for programmatic vote suppression nationwide. If he created
"the absolute best legal framework," other states and the federal
government would follow. Somehow, though, Trump's "election integrity"
commission turned into one of the most colossal cockups in an
administration already overflowing with them.
Marc Lynch: Three big lessons of the Qatar crisis.
Reza Marashi/Tyler Cullis: Trump Is Violating the Iran Deal
Josh Marshall: A Theory of the Case [07-08]:
During the election I frequently referenced one of my favorite quotes
and insights from the insight, which came from Slate's Will Saletan:
"The GOP is a failed state. Donald Trump is its warlord." To me this
clever turn of phrase captures at a quite deep level why Trump was
able to take over the GOP. The key though is that once Trump secured
the Republican nomination, once he became the Republican and Hillary
Clinton the Democrat, all the forces of asymmetric partisan polarization
kicked into place and ensured that essentially all self-identified
Republicans and Republican-leaning independents fell into line and
supported Trump. . . .
Trump embodies what I've come to think of as a "dominationist"
politics which profoundly resonates with the base of the GOP and has
an expanding resonance across the party. Party leaders made the
judgment that since they couldn't defeat Trump they should join him,
hoping he would deliver on a policy agenda favoring money and using
public policy to center risk on individuals. That hope has been
Jack O'Donnell: Trump put family first when I worked for him. It was
Julianne Schultz: The world we have bequeathed to our children feels
darker than the one I knew
Tim Shorrock: Kushner and Bannon Team Up to Privatize the War in
Afghanistan: Also Erik Prince and Stephen Feinberg, who stand
to make most of the money in the deal.
Tierney Sneed: Insurers Torch New Cruz Provision in TrumpCare: 'Simply
Unworkable': The Cruz amendment that was supposed to save McConnell's
Obamacare repeal/replace bill would allow insurance companies to offer
lower-priced plans that don't meet minimal federal guidelines for health
insurance. Of course, what makes such plans cheaper is that they don't
adequately insure the people who buy them.
Timothy Snyder: Trump is ushering in a dark new conservatism: A
historian stuck in Eastern Europe's "Bloodlands" between Hitler and
Stalin tries to drive a wedge between conservatives and Trump:
In his committed mendacity, his nostalgia for the 1930s, and his acceptance
of support from a foreign enemy of the United States, a Republican president
has closed the door on conservatism and opened the way to a darker form of
politics: a new right to replace an old one.
Conservatives were skeptical guardians of truth. . . .
The contest between conservatives and the radical right has a history
that is worth remembering. Conservatives qualified the Enlightenment of
the 18th century by characterizing traditions as the deepest kind of
fact. Fascists, by contrast, renounced the Enlightenment and offered
willful fictions as the basis for a new form of politics. The
mendacity-industrial complex of the Trump administration makes
conservatism impossible, and opens the floodgates to the sort of
drastic change that conservatives opposed.
Pace Snyder, I'm not inclined to equate Trump with Hitler, but I'm
also unwilling to credit "conservatives" with the moral or intellectual
conscience or coherence to oppose either. The one constant in the whole
history of conservatism is the belief that some people should rule over
others, and more often than not they're willing to discard any principles
they may previously have found convenient to accomplish their goal. You
see that in how willingly pretty much the whole right, and not just in
Germany and Italy, admired Hitler and Mussolini. Trump, too, captured
the right by offering the one thing it most wished for: victory. But
there is a difference: Hitler had his own agenda, one rooted in the
smoldering resentments of the Great War and the collapse of Germany's
Empire. Trump's notion of America the Great may not be much different,
but his ideas and plans are strictly derivative, a parroted, almost
cartoonish distillation of recent conservative propaganda -- a bundle
of clichés and incoherent rage, selected purely because that's what
seems to work. No doubt some Trump supporters, especially among the
"alt-right" white nationalists, can dress this up darkly. One thing
we can be sure of is that we won't be saved by conservatives.
Jeff Stein: The Kodiak Kickback: the quiet payoff for an Alaska senator
in the Senate health bill: Looks like the fix is in for "moderate"
Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski:
Buried in Senate Republicans' new health care bill is a provision to
throw about $1 billion at states where premiums run 75 percent higher
than the national average.
Curiously, there's just one state that meets this seemingly arbitrary
designation: Alaska. . . .
Republicans' health care bill will cost Alaska Medicaid recipients
about $3 billion. In exchange, they're trying to buy off Murkowski with
far less in funding for the Obamacare exchanges. We'll know soon if it
Jonathan Swan: Scoop: Bannon pushes tax hike for wealthy: Technically,
Bannon fills the same role as Karl Rove, but I've never seen anyone refer
to him as "Trump's Brain," even though Trump clearly needs one. Rove was
a political strategist in the conventional sense, a role that became more
prominent under Bush than under Clinton or Obama because it was clearer
that Bush needed one. So does Trump, but whereas Rove had a pretty good
sense of public opinion even if only to manipulate it, Bannon seems to
pull his ideas straight out of his arse. Besides, Trump's subcontracted
every policy issue to his straight conservative fellow travelers, leaving
Bannon isolated. So that Bannon wants something doesn't clearly mean a
thing. Still, higher taxes on the superrich would be a popular (and for
that matter populist) move, but don't stand a chance in a Republican
Congress almost exclusively dedicated to the opposite. Besides, as this
piece makes clear, Trump has others -- Gary Cohn and Steven Mnuchin are
prominent names here -- pulling in the other direction. Biggest
non-surprise in the article: "They're becoming far less wedded to
Matt Taibbi: Russiagate and the Magnitsky Affair, Linked Again:
Much interesting background on the Magnitsky thing, which goes a long
way to explaining why Putin remains so suspicious and ominous even if
you reject the neocons' "new cold war" aspirations. I personally think
the Trump Jr. meeting/emails are "no big deal" but also suspect that
the Trumps would love to get in on Putin's corruption scams.
Jonathan Taplin: Can the Tech Giants Be Stopped? WSJ story, but
you can read more of it in the link I provided. E.g.:
The precipitous decline in revenue for content creators has nothing to
do with changing consumer preferences for their content. People are not
reading less news, listening to less music, reading fewer books or
watching fewer movies and TV shows. The massive growth in revenue for
the digital monopolies has resulted in the massive loss of revenue for
the creators of content. The two are inextricably linked.
The numbers cited for internet ad revenue are much larger than I
expected, and seem to be almost exclusively concentrated in a handful
of companies. Meanwhile, we need a new and different model, both for
content creation and for internet services. What we have now is little
more than a siphon for draining our money and concentrating it in the
hands of a few vultures. I suppose WSJ thinks they're fighting this
with their paywall, but they're just adding to the problem.
Kenneth P Vogel/Rachel Shorey: Trump's Re-Election Campaign Doubles Its
spending on Legal Fees: So does this mean the campaign is at this
stage mostly a slush fund to defray Trump's legal costs? Too bad Clinton
couldn't run in 2000 when he needed something like to handle that sordid
impeachment affair. As it was, he had to go bankrupt, then recoup his
losses making post-presidential speeches.
Melissa Batchelor Warnke: Democrats are doubling down on the same
vanilla centrism that helped give us President Trump.
Matthew Yglesias: The most important stories of the week, explained:
Senate Republicans released a new health bill; Donald Trump Jr. has a
problem; Christopher Wray is set to be the next FBI director; the CBO
scored Trump's budget. Yglesias previously covered the same stories in
The revised health bill cuts taxes less without doing anything to boost
I don't believe Donald Trump Jr., and neither should you; and
CBO: Trump plan won't balance the budget even with his fake revenue-neutral
Poddy looks into the Kristol Ball of Counterfactuals [No More Mister
Nice Blog]: Attempts to counter an op-ed from John Podhoretz (link in
article) called "Hillary's White House would be no different from
Trump's," which argues:
Trump hasn't done anything in office, other than nominating a Supreme
Court justice and sending a raid to Syria, and Clinton wouldn't have
been able to do anything either, with both Houses of Congress run by
Republicans. Of course she would be more boring than Trump, since she
is evil but not a sower of chaos, but we wouldn't know what we were
missing. The Clinton family melodrama would resemble that of the
Trumps in its ethical compromises, with Clinton Foundation donors
hovering around the White House, which is identical to President
Trump spending every weekend hovering around the golfers and hotel
guests filling his personal coffers.
Podhoretz has one valid point here: that Clinton was going to
have a hard time separating herself and her administration from
the taint of corruption surrounding the Clinton Foundation. Nor
can we really credit much her promises to do so, given how Trump
has found it impossible to fulfill his own promises to isolate
himself from his business interests. Even so, with Clinton the
thicket of corruption complaints would be mostly laughable, blown
up by the hysterical "right-wing noise machine," whereas Trump's
numerous conflicts of interest alrealdy seem to try the patience
of mainstream journalists who'd rather play "gotcha" with Russia.
As for everything else, what Trump has actually managed to do --
even discounting things that Clinton might also have done, like
escalating the wars in Syria and Afghanistan -- has actually been
pretty astonishing. Trump has signed dozens of executive orders
reversing hard-won gains from Obama. He's signalled that the US
government won't be enforcing its civil rights laws anymore. He's
reversed some key openness protections for the Internet. He's
launched a monstrous commission on "voting fraud" that's already
having the effect of reducing voter registration. He's raising
money for a "re-election campaign" four years off, and using that
money to pay his legal bills. His Supreme Court pick is already
paying dividends for the extreme right. He may not have a lot of
legislative accomplishments yet, but he's perilously close on a
measure to repeal Obamacare that will cost more than 20 million
Americans their health insurance, while making health care more
expensive and less accessible for pretty much everyone. That
measure would be a tax bonanza for the very rich, and Republicans
are working on more of those.
The article also posits that a Clinton win would also have tipped
the Senate to the Democrats. Perhaps, but I'd shift the focus a bit:
a Democratic win in the Senate (and even more so one in the House)
would have tipped the presidential election to Clinton. Perhaps she
should have run on that, instead of trying to appeal to suposedly
moderate suburban Republicans to split their ballots and let Clinton
save us from that ogre Trump. Turns out Republicans are too shameless
to care -- anything to get their tax breaks and patronage favors and
to grind workers and their spouses and children to dust.
Still, one lesson Democrats should draw is to never again nominate
anyone so easily viewed as compromised and corrupt.
Monday, July 10. 2017
Music: Current count 28390  rated (+31), 361  unrated (-5).
Not much to say here. The
Pending list is down to five albums,
including this week's three arrivals. The new Free Radicals album spent
several days in the CD changer, finally replaced by some golden oldies --
"We Need a Revolution" emerged as the perfect soundtrack
for reading Bernie Sanders Our Revolution. I was delighted enough
by the new Free Radicals album I went back and checked out their five
previous albums. Houston band with many hangers-on, similar to Boston's
Club D'Elf though less into world music and more into hip-hop.
Aside from Free Radicals, only three more records were reviewed from
CD (or CDR), including Chris Pasin's Xmas album, release date October 6.
So I spent most of the week scrounging around on Napster, checking out
various pop albums including Amber Coffman and Bleachers -- recommended
last Friday in Robert Christgau's
Expert Witness. Having given Lorde's Melodrama an A-, and
Dirty Projectors a C (fairly generous I thought), I've rarely
found an EW more out of sync with my ears. Nor did other well-regarded
recent albums turn out to be very appealing. I even slogged through
The Bob's Burgers Music Album, recommended high in
Matt Rice's Mid-Year Top 30 (five more albums I haven't heard on
that list, though I'm not in a big hurry to get to At the Drive-In).
One thing I looked for was William Parker's Quartets album
here by Tim Niland). I didn't find it, but did notice several
Parker albums I hadn't heard, especially on the Italian Splasc(H)
label, which led me to the albums by Matthew Shipp, Hamid Drake,
Daniel Carter, Albert Beger, and Willem Breuker. I gave up on the
latter when two Penguin Guide ***(*) records didn't pan out.
Finally, I broke down and started playing some of the downloads
I had picked up over the year, including very well regarded albums
by Craig Taborn and Harriet Tubman (number two on
Chris Monsen's 2017 Favorites list, and number three for
Phil Overeem). I still have a couple dozen on the computer, and
probably more untapped in my mail files, so I should keep plugging
away at this. Playing the new Tomasz Stanko as I write this. Should
also see what else (aside from the Mat Maneri) Clean Feed didn't
I'll also note my surprise that both Overeem and Rice are big
fans of Zeal & Ardor's Devil Is Fine (number 1 and 2,
respectively). Christgau liked the album back in
April, and even I gave the record a B+(***) in
May, noting: "fuses black
field hollers (or chain gang chants) with black metal (and a little
xylophone) -- a fairly amusing rather than overbearing combination."
Also, I should issue a correction: Overeem lists (at 12) Dalava:
The Book of Transfigurations, which
last month I incorrectly
identified as "self-released." The label is Songlines.
New records rated this week:
- Bleachers: Gone Now (2017, RCA): [r]: B+(*)
- Brother Ali: All the Beauty in This Whole Life (2017, Rhymesayers): [r]: B+(**)
- Amber Coffman: City of No Reply (2017, Columbia): [r]: B+(**)
- Chano Dominguez: Over the Rainbow (2012 , Sunnyside): [dl]: B+(*)
- Free Radicals: Outside the Comfort Zone (2017, Free Rads): [cd]: A-
- Future Islands: The Far Field (2017, 4AD): [r]: B+(*)
- (Sandy) Alex G: Rocket (2017, Domino): [r]: B
- Goldfrapp: Silver Eye (2017, Mute): [r]: B+(*)
- Vitor Gonçalves: Vitor Gonçalves Quartet (2017, Sunnyside): [r]: B+(*)
- Marika Hackman: I'm Not Your Man (2017, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
- Dusan Jevtovic: No Answer (2016 , Moonjune): [cd]: B+(*)
- Mat Maneri/Evan Parker/Lucian Ban: Sounding Tears (2014 , Clean Feed): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Chris Pasin and Friends: Baby It's Cold Outside (2016 , Planet Arts): [cd]: B
- Craig Taborn: Daylight Ghosts (2016 , ECM): [dl]: A-
- Harriet Tubman: Araminta (2013 , Sunnyside): [dl]: A-
- Glenn Zaleski: Fellowship (2014 , Sunnyside): [dl]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Battle Hymns (2017, Quasi Band): [dl]: B+(**)
- The Bob's Burgers Music Album (2010-16 , Sub Pop, 2CD): [r]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Albert Beger's 5: Listening (2004, Earsay): [r]: B+(**)
- Albert Beger/Gerry Hemingway: There's Nothing Better to Do (2011 , OutNow): [bc]: B+(*)
- Willem Breuker Kollektief: In Holland (1981, BV Haast): [r]: B
- Willem Breuker Kollektief: To Remain (1983-89 , BV Haast): [r]: B-
- Daniel Carter/Toby Kasavan/Mark Hennen/William Parker: Feels Like It (2000 , BDE-BDOP): [r]: B+(*)
- Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence Vol. 1 (2005, Earsay): [r]: B+(***)
- Hamid Drake/Albert Beger/William Parker: Evolving Silence Vol. 2 (2005, Earsay): [r]: B+(**)
- Free Radicals: The Rising Tide Sinks All (1998, RWE): [r]: A-
- Free Radicals: Our Lady of Sunny Delights (2000, Rastaman Work Ethic): [r]: B+(**)
- Free Radicals: Aerial Bombardment (2004, Rastaman Work Ethic): [r]: B+(**)
- Free Radicals: The Freedom Fence (2012, Free Radicals): [r]: B+(**)
- Free Radicals: Freedom of Movement (2015, Free Radicals): [r]: B+(***)
- William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra: Spontaneous (2002 , Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(*)
- William Parker Bass Quartet Featuring Charles Gayle: Requiem (2004 , Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(**)
- Matthew Shipp Trio: The Trio Plays Ware (2003 , Splasc(H)): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dave Stryker: Strykin' Ahead (Strikezone): September 1
- Katie Thiroux: Off Beat (Capri): August 17
- Florian Wittenberg: Don't Push the Piano Around (2017, NurNichtNur)