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)
Sunday, July 9. 2017
Not much to show this week. One problem is that I'm still cramped
in terms of what I can search out. Another is that I wasted most of
Sunday on a plumbing task instead of putting the time in here. And I
must admit that said plumbing task -- installing a new kitchen faucet --
left me embarrassed and exhausted: I figured it might take an hour,
but it chewed up more like six (pretty much everything that could go
wrong did go wrong -- from the shutoff valves not working to the
supply hoses not being long enough to the drain plumbing not fitting
back together again properly) and it involved physical contortions
that I'm going to be feeling for at least a week. Moreover, I'm not
even sure I like the fancy "touchless" feature, so it's beginning to
look like a bad shopping decision -- which may be even more
Normally I feel good upon completing a house project (and, indeed,
everything seems to be working properly here, except my shoulders and
hips). So maybe more general depression is taking its toll. No doubt
many of the links below contributed, although there is an evident
shift from stories about the horrors Trump and the Republicans are
scheming to thoughts about how best to resist them, and how to build
an effective, comprehensible alternate vision.
Candice Bernd: How the Koch-Backed Effort to Privatize the Veterans Health
Administration Jeopardizes Everyone's Health Care Future
Brian Beutler: Bernie Sanders and the Progressive Left's Selfless
Defense of Obamacare:
It is easy enough to divide liberals between those who think Obamacare
was an unlovely half-measure that nevertheless improved on the pre-Obamacare
status quo and those who think it was a remarkable achievement on its own
(though there is considerable overlap between these two factions). It is
nearly impossible to find liberals or leftists of any influence who would
sit out the fight over Trumpcare, or join the fight to repeal Obamacare,
in order to make things worse in the short term (more than 20 million
Americans would lose health insurance) for the better in the long run
(single payer). In other words, the left isn't making the perfect the
enemy of the good.
The same cannot be said of conservatives, who define themselves
largely by the things they oppose. It is not a coincidence that
Republicans failed to develop and build support for an Obamacare
alternative over all the years they railed against it. . . . Once
again, the left is prioritizing the public interest over expediting
its defining ideological priorities, and once again the right is
doing just the opposite.
As the Ryan and McConnell bills have shown, Republicans cannot
define a replacement for Obamacare without (a) pointing out many
of the concrete achievements of the ACA, and (b) showing people
how much they have to lose by repeal/replace.
Jamelle Bouie: The white nationalist roots of Donald Trump's Warsaw
speech; also on the same speech:
Walter Shapiro: Donald Trump's warning about 'western civilisation'
evokes holy war.
Elizabeth Douglass: Towns sell their public water systems -- and come to
Tom Engelhardt: Aiding and Abetting the Tweeter-in-Chief.
TomDispatch also published
Danny Sjursen: Fighting the War You Know (Even if It Won't Work),
about Trump's "support" for his generals in Afghanistan.
Henry Farrell: Trump's plan to work with Putin on cybersecurity makes
no sense. Here's why.
Henry Grabar: St Louis Gave Workers a Wage Hike. Missouri Republicans
Are Taking It Away:
Republican-run states forcing Democrat-run cities to not raise the
minimum wage is a story we've seen before, of course. Alabama thwarted
Birmingham's efforts in February of last year; Ohio stopped Cleveland
in December. More than a dozen other states have passed pre-emptive
pre-emptions, abolishing municipal wage laws before any cities or
counties consider them. GOP politicians usually say minimum wage
ordinances won't actually help workers, but they also defend the
pre-emptions in principle, because they preserve a "uniform
Dilip Hiro: Trump and Saudi Arabia Against the World.
Christopher Ketcham: The Fallacy of Endless Economic Growth:
The idea that economic growth can continue forever on a finite planet
is the unifying faith of industrial civilization. That it is nonsensical
in the extreme, a deluded fantasy, doesn't appear to bother us. We hear
the holy truth in the decrees of elected officials, in the laments of
economists about flagging GDP, in the authoritative pages of opinion,
in the whirligig of advertising, at the World Bank and on Wall Street,
in the prospectuses of globe-spanning corporations and in the halls of
the smallest small-town chambers of commerce. Growth is sacrosanct.
One reason American politicians of both parties stress growth so
much is that it's the magic elixir that turns pro-business policies
into something we can pretend is good for everyone (you know, "trickle
down" and all that). Without growth, the only way anyone can improve
their lot is at the expense of someone else. But haven't we already
been running this experiment for the last forty years, since growth
rates in the former "first world" dropped in the 1970s, triggering a
feeding frenzy among the rich as they sought to hold their profits up
at the expense of workers and customers?
Mike Konczal: What the stock market's rise under Trump should teach
Democrats: Quotes Kevin Phillips describing the Democrats as
"history's second-most enthusiastic capitalist party." Lots of folks
expected the stock market to do better under Hillary Clinton, but
it's actually boomed under Trump, fattening up with the promise of
deregulation boosting profits and tax cuts keeping them safe from
the government. Turns out that being "second-most" doesn't get you
much support from the capitalists even if historically you've run
much stronger growth, and defining yourself as a "responsible
steward" of the economy doesn't satisfy anyone.
This approach hit two serious walls in 2016. The first was that people
weren't happy with the economy. Nearly three-fourths of people said the
country was on the wrong track, with similar numbers describing the
economy as rigged. Median household incomes in 2016 had finally inched
back to 2007 levels. This lead to a year of awkward juxtapositions,
with "America is Already Great" headlines running next to reports on
how much life expectancy is falling for white workers. Democrats
attacked Trump as a poor steward, someone too unstable and chaotic to
run the economy as it was. But that message doesn't motivate voters
when they believe the economy isn't working for them.
Shawn Richman: How Union-Busting Bosses Propel the Right Wing to Power:
Book review of the essay collection, Against Labor: How US Employers
Organized to Defeat Union Activism.
Joseph Stiglitz: Tell Donald Trump: the Paris climate deal is very good
for America; also:
Trump's reneging on Paris climate deal turns the US into a rogue state.
Matt Taibbi: North Korea Isn't the Only Rogue Nuclear State.
Yanis Varoufakis: A New Deal for the 21st Century:
Outsiders are having a field day almost everywhere in the West -- not
necessarily in a manner that weakens the insiders, but neither also in
a way that helps consolidate the insiders' position. The result is a
situation in which the political establishment's once unassailable
authority has died, but before any credible replacement has been born.
The cloud of uncertainty and volatility that envelops us today is the
product of this gap.
For too long, the political establishment in the West saw no threat
on the horizon to its political monopoly. Just as with asset markets,
in which price stability begets instability by encouraging excessive
risk-taking, so, too, in Western politics the insiders took absurd
risks, convinced that outsiders were never a real threat.
One example . . . was building a system of world trade and credit
that depended on the booming United States trade deficit to stabilize
global aggregate demand. It is a measure of the sheer hubris of the
Western establishment that it portrayed these steps as "riskless."
I don't really understand how Varoufakis' notion of a new New Deal
works. Rather, it looks to me like the outsiders he notes, from Trump
to Macron, offer no alternative whatsoever to neoliberal orthodoxy.
Meanwhile, when a real challenger, like Varoufakis' party in Greece,
does manage to win an election they still get beat down.
George Yancy/Noam Chomsky: On Trump and the State of the Union:
An interview with Chomsky, part of "The Stone" series.
Matthew Yglesias: The most important stories of the week, explained:
Trump went to the G20; North Korea tested a missile that could theoretically
reach Alaska; CNN and Trump continued their feud; Ted Cruz floated an idea
to resurrect Obamacare repeal; the top federal ethics official resigned.
Bernie Sanders is the Democrats' real 2020 frontrunner.
One thing I meant to touch on was the term "neoliberalism": my wife
got worked up over something Josh Marshall said about that, but as far
as I can tell it was only a tweet. I did find this piece from [2016-04-27]:
Corey Robin: When Neoliberalism Was Young: A Lookback on Clintonism
before Clinton. One thing I learned here was that Charles Peters
re-invented the term in the 1970s to describe a faction of pro-business,
anti-union, anti-communist, but socially liberal Democrats, which would
parallel the evolution of neo-conservatism (pretty much the same cocktail
with more emphasis on projecting American military might, and fewer
scruples about the company they kept). I had read Peters' Washington
Monthly in its infancy and had always admired Peters, so I was a
bit taken aback (although I will note that Peters' preference for
employee ownership of business over unions is one I share, just not
one I espouse in anti-union terms). My own acquaintance with the term
"neoliberal" dates from the 1990s, when I associated it with what was
then called "the Washington consensus" -- the chief dogma of the IMF
and World Bank. As such, it appeared to be defined in terms of US
foreign policy: it was basically the carrot as opposed to the neocon
stick, although neoconservatives would often adopt it whenever they
wanted to present a prettier face (and actually in the IMF's austerity
conditions, the veiled threat was often quite palpable).
Until recently, about the only place I ran across "neoliberal"
was from left-oriented British critics. I don't have time to try
to unpack this here, but outside of the US it's common to regard
conservatives as relics and guardians of aristocratic privilege,
liberals as individualists who advanced through bourgeois revolts,
and the left as more-or-less democratic socialists who tend to
favor limiting individual freedom when it conflicts with public
good. What distinguishes neoliberals from liberals is that their
focus has shifted from the rights of individuals to the demands
In the US, we've tended to merge our ideas of individual rights
and public good, a point reinforced by a history where virtually
everything we cherish (as opposed to various things like slavery
and ethnic cleansing that fill us with shame) comes from this
liberal-left synthesis. On the other hand, there is a small but
well-heeled and politically influential faction among Democrats
that repeatedly sacrifices the public good for the desires of
capital, and "neoliberal" would seem to distinguish them both
from people-oriented liberals and from the public-minded left.
Certainly not a very elegant term, but until we come up with
something better it serves that purpose. Not clear to me whether
"neoliberal" as I'm using it here dates back to Charles Peters,
but certainly Bill Clinton is an example, as is Andrew Cuomo,
and indeed the idea is tempting to any Democrat who depends on
Saturday, July 8. 2017
Mark Penn/Andrew Stein: Back to the Center, Democrats: Penn was
Hillary Clinton's "senior adviser" for her 2008 campaign, which he
did more than anyone to destruct and disgrace. Stein was Manhattan
Borough president back in the 1990s. Neither figure has any import
even among the Clinton faction of the Democratic Party, so it may
be unnecessary even to bother with their half-hearted efforts to
herd the Democratic Party back toward the "center" -- there must be
others who are other who can articulate such views more coherently,
but their raw instincts are little different. The one thing they
all have in common is a visceral hatred for the left, although in
particulars it could take any form that seems convenient. For Penn
and Stein, this is built on selective memory:
The path back to power for the Democratic Party today, as it was in
the 1990s, is unquestionably to move to the center and reject the
siren calls of the left, whose policies and ideas have weakened the
In the early 1990s, the Democrats relied on identity politics,
promoted equality of outcomes instead of equality of opportunity
and looked to find a government solution for every problem. After
years of leftward drift by the Democrats culminated in Republican
control of the House under Speaker Newt Gingrich, President Bill
Clinton moved the party back to the center in 1995 by supporting
a balanced budget, welfare reform, a crime bill that called for
providing 100,000 new police officers and a step-by-step approach
to broadening health care. Mr. Clinton won a resounding re-election
victory in 1996 and Democrats were back.
In 1996 Clinton's "resounding re-election" came with 49.2% of
the vote, leaving Gingrich and the Republicans in complete control
of Congress -- "back" only if your entire conception of the Party
was Clinton himself. The only bills Clinton was able to pass during
his second term were ones the Republicans calculated would hurt and
disillusion the Democratic Party base -- "welfare reform," repeal
of Glass-Steagall, a capital gains tax cut, a bill which declared
"regime change" in Iraq to be US policy. But in wasn't "leftward
drift" that cost the Democrats control of Congress in 1994: it was
Clinton's "triangulation" (his efforts to win over business support
by attacking the party base, especially unions), as exemplified in
his decision to prioritize NAFTA over health care, and to forsake
traditional Democratic health care proposals in favor of a system
that catered an increasingly predatory health care industry.
Still, if Clinton's second term was such a golden age for the
Democratic Party, how come they lost two elections to Bush, with
the Republicans maintaining control of Congress up to 2006 -- when
wild-eyed Howard Dean took control of the DNC? And while Obama won
decisively in 2008 with his promise of change (and less soundly in
2012 running on "no change"), it's quite a stretch to blame Hillary
Clinton's epic collapse in 2016 on the party's "leftward drift."
While Republicans have made huge gains since 2010, you have to ask
whether this was abetted by fear of the Democratic left or disgust
over the corruption and ineptness of Democratic centrists. One hint:
Trump's nickname for Clinton was "Crooked Hillary."
Penn and Stein are not just deluded about history, they've come
up with some peculiar ideas about what a "winning strategy" for the
Democrats might entail. For instance, they think Democrats can win
back the working class through a combination of Trumpian prejudices
and "moderate" trade and immigration policies:
Central to the Democrats' diminishment has been their loss of support
among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party's shift
away from moderate positions on trade and immigration, from backing
police and tough anti-crime measures, from trying to restore
manufacturing jobs. . . .
On trade, Democrats should recognize that they can no longer
simultaneously try to be the free-trade party and speak for the
working class. They need to support fair trade and oppose
manufacturing plants' moving jobs overseas, by imposing new taxes
on such transfers while allowing repatriation of foreign profits.
Penn and Stein never mention Clinton's signature NAFTA treaty,
which was a direct attack on the working class, and the cause of
a massive wave of Mexican emigration -- the other major source of
immigrants (poor ones, anyway) has been US wars and US-sponsored
dictators around the world. The single most important reason
Democrats lost so much of the working class was their failure to
protect and support unions -- they were just too busy chasing
business donors. Republicans took advantage of that lapse by
playing to white prejudices -- their only option, because they
don't have any economic answers (but neither do the "centrist"
Democrats, despite empty cant like "fair trade").
The reason this op-ed has generated any interest at all is
that it raises a real question, obscures another, and is stupid
enough it begs you to argue the opposite.
The real question actually has three parts: is the assumption
that American politics is laid out on a left-right axis true; if
so, is it true that the center has shifted right in recent years;
and if so, can the Democrats gain voter share by moving right to
recapture that center? "Centrism" depends on all three being true,
but there are many problems with each. Many people don't think in
terms of left-right (e.g., they consider other terms like integrity,
or they focus on non-economic issues). The statistical center has
moved different directions on different issues. And both parties
obfuscate (rather than change) unpopular positions. But also 30-50%
of eligible voters don't vote, so they defy categorization. If you're
on the left, you probably think that's because mainstream Democrats
haven't given many people credible reasons to vote. That's unproven,
but one data point is that Sanders has consistently polled better
against Trump than Clinton did. That argues against Penn and Stein.
The obscured question is whether actual Democrats have done better
when they moved to the center. Clinton's 1992 campaign was distinctly
populist, and Obama seemed to embrace progressive liberalism in 2008.
Both moved sharply center/right after those elections, and both lost
Congress after two years. Even though both were re-elected, neither
regained Congress, and neither managed to get a successor elected.
Both oversaw periods with reasonable economic growth which accrued
almost exclusively to the very rich, resulting in greater inequality.
Both saw (and contributed to) the decline of the public sector, and
the deterioration of the safety net -- as a result, average Americans
(by definition, the "center" of the electorate) saw their relative
welfare decline, their risks increase, and their children's futures
diminish. You might argue that median welfare declined less under
Clinton and Obama than it did under the Bushes, but in absolute terms
the only upward indicator "centrist" Democrats can point to is the
personal wealth of the dealmakers at the top. As the quotes above
make clear, Penn and Stein do their best to obfuscate this legacy.
The opposite argument -- that Democrats are more likely to win when
they move left -- actually has quite a bit of historical support. Both
Clinton (in 1992) and Obama (in 2008) ran successful campaigns that
promised much more than they delivered or even attempted when they
entered office. The Democrats' best election of the last 25 years
was in 2006 (actually before the recession in 2008), when the DNC
was run by Howard Dean, the self-described champion "of the democratic
wing of the Democratic Party." And again, all available evidence shows
that Sanders would have fared better than Clinton against Trump.
Would be "centrists" have trouble grasping this because they fail
to understand how the current political dynamic destroys any ground
the "centrists" try to claim. This is because the two parties are very
different in goals and methods. The Republicans were taken over by a
faction which relentlessly and insatiably pushes everything to the
right, in large part by never conceding anything important to the
other side. This doesn't preclude compromise deals, but they always
exact a high price from the Democratic Party base, and as such lead
those voters to become disenchanted with the Party leadership. They
can do this because their policies are compatible with the beliefs
of their donors -- to increase corporate power over everyday life,
making the rich richer, and punishing whoever stands in their way.
One could imagine a similar dynamic on the left, but as politicians
became ever more dependent on donors there has never been a comparable
funding option for the left. Instead, what's happened is that "centrist"
Democrats have filled the breech, banking the votes of the base while
cutting deals with their favored donors -- sometimes incredibly bad
deals, like NAFTA and the repeal of Glass-Steagall. In this dynamic,
rich donors naturally pressure Democrats to settle with Republicans,
yet in the end they wind up backing the Republicans because they can't
resist the promise of getting more and more power and wealth. So in
this dynamic, the "centrists" screw themselves two ways: they betray
their base voters, and they never really get the business support they
bargained for. And after repeated failures, it starts to get obvious
that they really have nothing to offer. (Hence Penn and Stein wind up
pushing "fair trade" and "trying to restore manufacturing jobs.")
There are a few more angles to all of this -- e.g., Democrats hurt
themselves enormously when they jump into foreign wars -- but this is
the basic dynamic. Penn and Stein don't begin to understand it. For
another view on the piece, and some background on who these jokers are,
Alex Pareene: Mark Penn's Bad Column Also Makes No Goddamn Sense.
Nicholas Lemann offers a sympathetic portrait of the Clintons in
his New York Review of Books piece,
What Happened to Clintonism? (mostly behind their paywall),
based on four recent books: Daryl A Carter: Brother Bill: President
Clinton and the Politics of Race and Class; Michael Tomasky:
Bill Clinton; William H Chafe: Hillary and Bill: The
Clintons and the Politics of the Personal; and Joe Conason:
Man of the World: The Further Endeavors of Bill Clinton.
He does manage to make Clinton seem less sinister than he appears
now. To some extent the "political winds" in the early 1990s were
blowing in a way that favored someone like Clinton (or Gore), so
to some extent he just happened to be in the right place at the
right time. (This is not the same thing as popularity within the
party. I remain convinced that Jesse Jackson would have won most
primaries in 1992 had he run, but I doubt he would have won, and
the Party kingmakers were desperate for someone who could win.)
And after twelve years of Reagan and Bush, Clinton's centrism
still had an aura of plausibility: indeed, if he had a free hand
he might have expanded and strengthened the safety net, rolling
back the decline of the middle class, while still pursuing his
pro-business initiatives. The Republicans deserve much credit (or
blame) for wrecking his dream programs, but he shares blame for
echoing and legitimizing their concerns and compromising with
Conason's book covers the post-presidential years, mostly Clinton's
unique combination of vanity and altruism embodied in his Foundation,
probably without examining too closely how much money stuck to his
fingers on its way from Davos-class donors to the world's needy. It
isn't surprising that someone who worked so hard to help his wealthy
benefactors make even more should aspire to be one with them, but
such upward mobility has neither sharpened his political instincts
nor his human empathies -- which in 2016 turned into a liability for
Hillary, whose own political ambitions made his philanthropy look
more like some kind of political slush fund. Had the Clintons just
quietly receded into their newfound wealth few people would have
cared much, but having grown wealthy from being president and making
their supporters billions of dollars, running again just made them
look greedy, and pretending they were running for us just added the
insult of hypocrisy.
That Hillary Clinton ultimately lost the election to Donald Trump,
and largely because she was the one perceived to be "crooked," is much
more than ironic. Given Trump's history and personality, it should have
been easy to depict him as greedy and egotistical -- a man who had spent
every waking moment of the last fifty years pursuing fame and fortune,
one who could hardly be expected to change his stripes the moment he
nominally became a public servant. Even looking back it's not clear
why Clinton's campaign failed to drive that point home -- it's not so
much that they didn't try as didn't manage to be convincing. And while
there are many possible reasons for this, the big one was that they
spent so much of the campaign being defensive, reeling from the constant
barrage of email and foundation scandals.
On the other hand, the Republicans seem to have figured out a very
effective way to drive home their "crooked Hillary" meme: social media.
Probably the most convincing (and disturbing) piece I've read to date
on the campaign is Sue Halpern's
How He Used Facebook to Win. The important thing about social media
advertising is the degree to which ads can be targeted, so that Trump's
people could deliver very precise messages meant to push different user
buttons. This, of course, builds on a strategy Republicans have depended
on for years now: cultivating single-user voters and stoking their fears
to rally them against the Democrats. (Crime comes and goes, but guns and
abortion have been especially reliable issues.) There is, of course, a
risk in doing this too publicly: it generates a backlash. But highly
targeted social media advertising limits unintended visibility, while
providing a multiplier effect as fans forward their favored memes to
their friends and followers. Here's a sample from the article:
In the early phase of the primaries, Parscale launched Trump's digital
operation by buying $2 million in Facebook ads -- his entire budget at
the time. He then uploaded all known Trump supporters into the Facebook
advertising platform and, using a Facebook tool called Custom Audiences
from Customer Lists, matched actual supporters with their virtual
doppelgangers and then, using another Facebook tool, parsed them by
race, ethnicity, gender, location, and other identities and affinities.
From there he used Facebook's Lookalike Audiences tool to find people
with interests and qualities similar to those of his original cohort
and developed ads based on those characteristics, which he tested
using Facebook's Brand Lift surveys. He was just getting started.
Eventually, Parscale's shop was reportedly spending $70 million a
month on digital advertising, most of it on Facebook. (Facebook and
other online venues also netted Trump at least $250 million in
While it may not have created individual messages for every voter,
the Trump campaign used Facebook's vast reach, relatively low cost,
and rapid turnaround to test tens of thousands and sometimes hundreds
of thousands of different campaign ads. According to Issie Lapowsky
of Wired, speaking with Gary Coby, director of advertising at
the Republican National Committee and a member of Trump's digital team:
On any given day . . . the campaign was running 40,000 to 50,000 variants
of its ads, testing how they performed in different formats, with subtitles
and without, and static versus video, among other small differences. On the
day of the third presidential debate in October, the team ran 175,000
variations. Coby calls this approach "A/B testing on steroids."
And this was just Facebook. The campaign also placed ads on other
social media, including Twitter and Snapchat, and ran sponsored content
on Politico. According to one estimate by a campaign insider, the Trump
team spent "in the high eight figures just on persuasion." . . .
There were other digital innovations as well. On election day, for
example, the Trump campaign bought all the ad space on YouTube and ran
a series of five thirty-second videos, each hosted by a different Trump
surrogate representing a particular segment of the Trump base. We
"learned that putting Mr. Trump on persuasion ads was a bad idea,"
Cambridge Analytica's Oczkowski said in April at a meeting of the
Association for Data-Driven Marketing and Advertising in Melbourne,
Australia. Instead, there was Ivanka Trump, representing mothers and
business women; Willie Robertson, the star of the television show
Duck Dynasty, to appeal to southerners and hunters; Milwaukee
sheriff David Clarke, representing law and order and diversity (he
is African-American); the former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell to appeal
to veterans and their families; and Ultimate Fighting Championship
president Dana White, a tough, aggressive guy's guy.
"There was no targeting," Oczkowski explained. "Every single American
who [went] to YouTube that day [saw these ads]." And, he continued, once
viewers watched one of the thirty-second videos to the end, they landed
on a screen with a polling place locator. "We had tens of millions of
people view the videos and hundreds of thousands of people use the 'find
your polling place' locator. When you're talking about winning by thousands
of votes, this stuff matters," Oczkowski said.
Parscale's strategy of using Facebook's "dark posts" also turned out
to matter, enabling the Trump campaign to attack Clinton with targeted
negative ads that flew below the public radar.
Nor was Trump's digital advertising limited to pushing buttons to
get potential supporters to come out and vote for him. It was also
directed at undermining Hillary Clinton's support by turning potential
voters for her off:
"We have three major voter suppression operations under way," a senior
campaign official told Bloomberg's Green and Issenberg. One targeted
idealistic white liberals -- primarily Bernie Sanders's supporters;
another was aimed at young women -- hence the procession of women who
claimed to have been sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton and harassed
by the candidate herself; and a third went after African-Americans in
urban centers where Democrats traditionally have had high voter turnout.
One dark post featured a South Park-like animation narrated by Hillary
Clinton, using her 1996 remarks about President Bill Clinton's anti-crime
initiative in which she called certain young black men "super predators"
who had to be brought "to heel."
"We've modeled this," the unnamed senior campaign official told Green
and Issenberg. "It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these
people out." And it did. Democratic turnout in battleground states was
weak, which was crucial to Trump's victory. Tallying it up three days
after the election, David Plouffe, Obama's 2008 campaign manager, noted:
In Detroit, Mrs. Clinton received roughly 70,000 votes fewer than Mr.
Obama did in 2012; she lost Michigan by just 12,000 votes. In Milwaukee
County in Wisconsin, she received roughly 40,000 votes fewer than Mr.
Obama did, and she lost the state by just 27,000. In Cuyahoga County,
Ohio, turnout in majority African-American precincts was down 11 percent
from four years ago.
Some of these approaches had been worked by Obama's campaign in 2008
and 2012, especially in terms of micro-targeted get-out-the-vote efforts.
But there's an essential asymmetry between Republican and Democratic
agendas and strategies: Democrats at least try to present a coherent
program that offers tangible benefits to voters (even though they,
especially recently, have a poor track record of delivering on their
promises, nearly every popular benefit ever dates back to Democrats).
Republicans, on the other hand, favor intrinsically unpopular policies
of increasing the power and wealth of a tiny coterie of elites, so
they have few options other than to dissemble and misdirect -- indeed,
what seems to work best for them is driving voters into blind rage.
The article quotes Laura Quinn, explaining: "Trump didn't have a lot
of 'Here is my agenda, here is my narrative, I have to persuade people
of it,' . . . The Trump world was more like, 'Let's say a lot of
different things, they don't even necessarily need to be coherent,
and observe, through the wonderful new platforms that allow you to
observe how people respond and observe what works, and whatever
squirrel everyone chases, that's going to become out narrative,
our agenda, our message.'"
It's tempting to blame all this -- literally the undermining of
democracy by special interests spreading unchecked misinformation --
on social media. Indeed, the business model of paying for social
media through advertising is quickly becoming as annoying and as
distorting as the same model has long been in broadcast media.
(Print advertising is somewhat less so because it's easier to pass
over -- for that same reason, it is often more informative and less
manipulative.) I have an even lower view of advertising, not just
because that industry has been the source of such all pervasive
techniques as message framing, focus groups, polling, targeting,
but because the whole industry is built on the notion that truth
is maleable to whatever special interests want it to be. As more
and more money is put into the process of manipulating public
opinion, actual policies become afterthoughts, not something we
agree on because we want or need them, but perks for the political
parties most skilled at provoking or stroking our psyches.
Hillary Clinton was unable to defend us from these machinations,
partly because her naive faith in the establishment, garnered by
living so many years in its bubble, didn't prepare her for such a
dirty campaign, and partly because she was so complicit in so many
failures of that establishment that she wound up bearing more than
her share of the blame -- she even managed to make Donald Trump
look like an outsider, an insurgent, a vanquisher (all ridiculous
views if you give them a bit of thought). The silver lining in the
election is that it frees us from the notion that all is fine and
nothing has to change. Had she won, we'd still be struggling with
that notion, and the Republicans would still look like a possible
way out -- even though they have nothing to offer but worse. Finally,
the Democrats can cast off the worst of their legacy (Mark Penn and
Andrew Stein, for starters). The center is no longer an option: it's
too late, and offers too little.
Monday, July 3. 2017
Music: Current count 28359  rated (+35), 366  unrated (-2).
Most of the week's new finds made it into the June
Streamnotes post which
came out on Friday -- the best new one is yet another good one from
François Carrier. The Streamnotes post included a 30-album wild-ass
guess at what a mid-year critics poll list might look like, with my
grades for the 27 albums I had checked out. I've since added the 3
I had missed, so the top-30 grade curve looks like this:
Kendrick Lamar, Lorde, The XX, Syd, Run the Jewels,
Khalid, Joey Bada$$
Migos, Spoon, Chris Stapleton, Paramore,
Future, Vince Staples, SZA, Japandroids,
Sampha, Drake, Thundercat, Jay Som, Mount Eerie,
Slowdive, Laura Marling, Stormzy
Father John Misty, Perfume Genius,
That's still pretty left-shifted from normal, but note I decided to
include Jens Lekman and Magnetic Fields (both Christgau picks) instead
of artists with more supporting data such as Ryan Adams, Julie Byrne,
Alex G, and/or Harry Styles. I'll also concede that I can imagine other
people liking most of the bottom half of the list more than I do (well,
Perfume Genius and Dirty Projectors seem pretty hard to like).
I got a couple of reprieves from my computer problems. The website
ISP found a bit of free disk space, but at 95% used it could go away
fast, and the company has become impossible to communicate with. I
got around my local browser problem by switching to Chromium, which
has held up fairly well, although I haven't put anyway near the load
on it I used to do with Firefox. I still need to save everything off,
do a fresh operating system load, and put it all back together again,
but it's tempting to keep muddling by for a while until I face up to
all that. It would be good, for instance, to update the
Christgau website before I
break my local copy. It would be even better if I could migrate the
website to HTML5 and UTF-8 when it comes back. Presumably there are
tools that help with that sort of thing, but I haven't searched them
out yet. We've also talked a bit about making it more phone-friendly
or even converting it to some kind of phone ap, but that's another
learning curve. Anyone who has advice or suggestions about this,
please get in touch through normal channels.
Tried turning on the old Dell laptop today, but it came up with an
ominous message about the "disk drive failing" that suggests it's soon
to be a goner. It's running Ubuntu 10.04, so it's even further behind
than my main machine. For most practical purposes I replaced it with
a Chromebook a few years ago, but I never got into the habit of using
cloud storage, so I really just use it for web surfing. I suppose a
new real laptop is in order.
Meanwhile, about the only thing I've actually been enjoying has been
cooking. The hardest thing has been lining up guests so I get an excuse
to stretch a little -- I still haven't done the big Korean bash I planned
out 3-4 months ago. I did cook Indian for my sister's birthday, but that's
about all. On the other hand, I've been picking up small packages of meat
and scattered vegetables that I can cook for the two of us. Today I turned
a pound of hamburger into
sort of a Cuban sloppy joe mix -- served with pan-fried potatoes and
fried egg (a "caballo").
Lately I've found myself going back to Chinese recipes, some I haven't
made in years. On Sunday I made a version of sweet & sour pork and
some fried rice. I made lettuce wraps with a chicken and pine nut filling
and fried cellophane noodles. I found some frozen pork chops and turned
them into pork & pickle soup (the "pickle" is Szechuan preserved
vegetable -- mustard stem), adding some dried mushrooms. Another time
I made braised pork ribs with fermented black beans. Then there was the
"hoisin-exploded" chicken. I have a pretty good pantry of Chinese odds
and ends, so I can usually turn a package of meat or fish and whatever
vegetables are handy into a remarkably tasty meal. The hard part is
keeping fresh scallions and ginger on hand.
My mother was the master of always having a pantry (and two freezers)
stocked with anything she might need should, say, a relative show up
in need of a full meal and maybe a pie or cake. After she died, I made
three typical cakes, knowing that all the ingredients would be on hand.
We grew up on stories of Aunt Hester receiving guests at 3AM with full
meals prepared on her wood-fired stove. I don't think Mom ever had to
do that, but she was prepared.
New records rated this week:
- Algiers: The Underside of Power (2017, Matador): [r]: B-
- Sheryl Bailey & Harvie S: Plucky Strum: Departure (2017, Whaling City Sound): [cd]: B+(*)
- Erik Bogaerts/Hendrik Lasure/Pit Dahm: Bogaerts & Lasure + Dahm (2016, self-released): [bc]: B-
- Burial: Subtemple/Beachfires (2017, Hyperdub, EP): [r]: B
- Julie Byrne: Not Even Happiness (2017, Ba Da Bing): [r]: B+(**)
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Oneness (2015 , FMR): [cd]: A-
- Playboi Carti (2017, AWGE/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
- Cashmere Cat: 9 (2017, Mad Love/Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
- Dirty Projectors: Dirty Projectors (2017, Domino): [r]: C
- Silke Eberhard Trio: The Being Inn (2016 , Intakt): [cd]: A-
- Emperor X: Oversleepers International (2017, Tiny Engines): [r]: B+(***)
- Noga Erez: Off the Radar (2017, City Slang): [r]: B
- The Feelies: In Between (2017, Bar/None): [r]: B+(**)
- Forest Swords: Compassion (2017, Ninja Tune): [r]: B-
- Llop: J.Imp (2017, El Negocito): [cd]: B+(*)
- Lorde: Melodrama (2017, Lava/Republic): [r]: A-
- Father John Misty: Pure Comedy (2017, Sub Pop): [r]: B-
- Oddisee: The Iceberg (2017, Mello Music Group): [r]: A-
- Aruán Ortiz: Cubanism: Piano Solo (2016 , Intakt): [cd]: B+(**)
- Mike Reed: Flesh & Bone (2016 , 482 Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Smino: Blkswn (2017, Zero Fatigue/Downtown): [r]: B+(**)
- Songhoy Blues: Résistance (2017, Fat Possum): [r]: B+(**)
- Sorority Noise: You're Not as ___ as You Think (2017, Triple Crown): [r]: B+(**)
- Vince Staples: Big Fish Theory (2017, Def Jam): [r]: B+(**)
- SZA: Ctrl (2017, Top Dawg/RCA): [r]: B+(**)
- Mat Walerian/Matthew Shipp/William Parker: Toxic: This Is Beautiful Because We Are Beautiful People (2015 , ESP-Disk): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Emperor X: Tectonic Membrane/Thin Strip on an Edgeless Platform (2004, Discos Mariscos): [r]: B+(**)
- Wallace Roney: According to Mr. Roney (1988-91 , 32 Jazz, 2CD): [r]: B+(**)
- Wallace Roney: No Job Too Big or Too Small (1987-93 , Savoy Jazz): [r]: B+(***)
- Wallace Roney: Mistérios (1994, Warner Brothers): [r]: B-
- Wallace Roney: No Room for Argument (2000, Stretch): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Rafal Mazur: Oneness (FMR)
- Free Radicals: Outside the Comfort Zone (Free Rads): September 23
- Dusan Jevtovic: No Answer (Moonjune)
- Chris Pasin and Friends: Baby It's Cold Outside (Planet Arts): October 6
- Talinka: Talinka (Moonjune)
Sunday, July 2. 2017
Last week I contemplated suspending Weekend Roundup. Partly I was
having grave computer problems that made surfing the web ever more
painful, and partly I was just disgusted with all the insane things
Trump and the Republicans are doing. Since then I tried Google's
Chromium browser and it's working better (although not perfectly,
never had to deal with before).
So I figured I'd compromise by just jotting down a few links
without comments, although sometimes I couldn't help myself.
Also because shit's happening so fast, I figured I should jot
down a date for each linked page (when I remembered to do so).
Then I wrote an introduction.
Meanwhile, I slogged through Noam Chomsky's essay collection,
Who Rules the World? I didn't learn a lot I didn't already
know, but I started out in a bad mood about America's many wars,
so I didn't mind Chomsky being even harsher than I would be.
Still, I wanted something lighter next, and settled for Bernie
Sanders' post-campaign book. Only about 100 pages into it --
still pre-Iowa, when he was a very longshot, yet still no more
improbable than the mess we wound up with. I talked to a friend
last week who was still complaining about "Bernie or bust" --
people who held out for something more while most of us were
willing to settle for much less (damn near nothing).
Five months in, I think we can draw some clear conclusions about
Donald Trump as President. One is that he's a lot more ignorant about
everything a national political leader does (or should do) than pretty
much anyone imagined -- including those of us who have long feared
what we thought would be the worst. One manifestation of this is that
he has no clue how to get anything done, and his ideas about what to
do rarely rise above his sociopathic prejudices.
The second, which was easier to predict from his campaign, is that
his shameless disregard for truth is orders of magnitude beyond anything
Washington -- a notorious haven for dissemblers -- has ever encountered.
The media literally have no idea where to begin, because there are no
fixed points to navigate by.
The third is that Trump has belied every intimation he made on the
campaign trail that he might break with Republican Party orthodoxy and
forge a new direction: nationalist, for sure, but giving government a
more humane role at home and a less aggressive one at home. This not
only didn't happen; as many of us suspected, it never had a chance.
Trump's trifecta of ignorance, incompetence, and dishonesty (for lack
of a better word -- mendacious implies he's somewhat clever, and even
bullshit suggests a hidden agenda) has left his administration in the
malevolent hands of Republican apparatchiks and their billionaire
His only authentic (in the sense of things he personally decided)
moves so far have been hiring relatives and touring his personal
properties -- things he's been doing for decades. And when he's not
indulging his oversized ego, he's doing what he's always tried to do:
make money. He's not responsible for creating Washington's ubiquitous
culture of graft, but he exemplifies it, especially by making sure
he's getting his cut.
Still, since Mitch McConnell unveiled his hitherto secret health
care bill (the BRCA, like the breast cancer gene -- it seems immune
to adding a "Care" suffix because it clearly doesn't), Trump's own
personal garishness has taken a back seat (despite eruptions like
the Mika Brzezinski flap) to his adopted party's crusade not just
to coddle and elevate the rich but also to demean and hurt the poor
(and anyone else they can organize their disdain against). This
should have been clear years ago, but centrist Democrats and the
bought-and-aid-for media have perpetuated the myth that they can
work with moderate counterparts among the Republicans. But while
Clinton and Obama never pointed to the obvious, Trump inadvertently
made the point when he complained of not having a chance to get a
single Democratic vote for his "repeal-and-replace Obamacare" bill.
At least this answers the thought experiment: how bad does a bill
have to be to not get a single sell-out Democrat?
Still, Republicans are using their thin Congressional margins,
the conservative-leaning Supreme Court, and anything that can be
done through executive orders (or not done by turning a blind eye
to enforcement on matters like civil rights, environment, and
antitrust), to push its anti-popular (and frequently downright
unpopular) agenda through. Just this last week, Trump's travel
ban order got a reprieve from the Supreme Court, and the House
passed two anti-immigrant bills (certain to fall short of the 60
votes the Senate used to require, but McConnell may still get
It's hard to say whether Trump's chaos (for lack of a better
word, although I was tempted by "insanity") is making their
efforts easier or harder. Matthew Yglesias sums this up in
Why Donald Trump can't make deals in Washington:
It seems paradoxical that you could combine the party discipline needed
to push controversial and unpopular legislation through on a party line
vote with total disengagement on the part of the party's top leader. But
the Trump administration seems to feature just the right mix of chaos
and conventionality to make it work. Both Vice President Mike Pence and
Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are very conventional Republicans with
deep ties to the congressional party. That seems to be good enough to
ensure that Trump will take his cues from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell
regardless of his personal instincts. Trump triumphed over the GOP's
leadership during the 2016 primary, but he has largely surrendered to
them on policy questions.
The result is that deals get done -- or not -- by the party's
congressional leadership. The ability to legislate hinges on Ryan and
McConnell being able to agree among themselves. Trump serves as an
ineffectual figurehead, talking tough but not really being able to
engage with the policy details enough to properly negotiate an
unprecedented rollback of the welfare state.
Here's another writer who understands that no matter how
personally noxious Donald Trump may be, his administration is
doing pretty exactly what any Republican administration would
be doing given the same powers:
Alex Pareene: This Is Normal:
What most of the worst people in Donald Trump's administration have
in common is that they are Republicans. This simple fact is obscured
sometimes by the many ways in which Trump is genuinely an aberration
from the political norm -- like his practice of naked nepotism rather
than laundering the perpetuation of class advantage through a
"meritocratic" process -- and by the fact that many of the most vocal
online spokespeople for "the resistance" ignore the recent history of
the Republican Party in favor of a Trump-centric theory of How Fucked
Up Everything Is.
But it is necessary for liberals, leftists, and Democrats to actually
be clear on the fact that the Republican Party is responsible for Trump.
The Democrats' longterm failure to make a compelling and all-encompassing
case against conservatism and the GOP as institutions, rather than making
specific cases against specific Republican politicians, is one of the
reasons the party is currently in the political wilderness. . . .
Next time you boggle at the sight of the president's unqualified
son-in-law flying to Iraq to get briefed by generals on the facts on
the ground, remember that George W. Bush sent a business school chum
to privatize Iraq's economy and a 24-year-old with no relevant experience
to reopen the Iraqi stock market.
The worst members of Trump's cabinet -- Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt,
Betsy DeVos -- are Republicans. Their analogues in any possible alternate
Republican presidency would've been basically identical in how they
carried out their work. Jeb Bush would've signed the AHCA. Marco Rubio
would've sold arms to Saudi Arabia. John Kasich would've abided the theft
of a Supreme Court seat and selected a justice just as conservative as
Neil Gorsuch, if not Gorsuch himself.
None of those men would've lobbed crude personal insults at cable show
hosts. They wouldn't have been as cartoonishly, personally corrupt in
their business dealings (though scores of their appointees would have
been). But even the most consequential way in which Trump differs from
a hypothetical alternate Republican president, his blatant obstruction
of the investigation into whether or not he is somehow compromised by
or in league with the Russian government, has almost no real-world
consequences, compared to his (bog-standard Republican) international
and domestic policy agendas. When Mitch McConnell's underhanded
legislative maneuvering is included in a list of ways in which Trump is
normalizing authoritarianism, you give the president far too much credit
and the Republican Party far too little.
Meanwhile, here are links (mostly without comments) to some
stories I noticed:
Zeeshan Aleem: Trump just made a humiliating economic error in front
of South Korea's president [06-30]: Confusing trade deficits with
national debt. The bigger problem -- assuming confirmation of Trump's
duncehood is no surprise -- is that US has historically bought South
Korean alliance by supporting its export-driven economic growth, a
strategy undercut by Trump's "America First" demagoguery -- oddly at
a time when Trump's blundering has triggered another confrontation
with North Korea. Also see:
Jason Ditz: Trump: North Korea Should Be Dealt With Rapidly:
but how? "South Korea and China had both been said in recent weeks
to have presented the Trump administration a diplomatic resolution,
but to have been dismissed out of hand, with the administration
ruling out any deal that reduces the 'military pressure' on North
Zack Beauchamp: This chilling NRA ad calls on its members to save
America by fighting liberals
Ari Berman: The Trump Administration Is Planning an Unprecedented Attack
on Voting Rights
Aaron Blake: Kellyanne Conway would like to question the media's patriotism --
because Mika Brzezinski questioned President Trump's [06-30]
Esme Cribb: No Staff Members Left in Science Division of White House
Chas Danner: Christie Shuts Down New Jersey Government, State Beaches
and Parks Closed [07-01]
David A Farenthold: A Time magazine with Trump on its cover hangs in his
golf clubs. It's fake. [06-27]
Michelle Goldberg: Trump No Longer Seems Able to Hide His Raw
Richard Goldstein: Jupiter Rising: On Macron and France.
Glenn Greenwald: CNN Journalists Resign: Lastest Example of Media Recklessness
on the Russia Threat
William Greider: Worried About Those Global Cyber Attacks? They Were
Started by Washington
Alex Isenstadt/Josh Dawsey: Senate GOP seethes at Trump impulsiveness
[06-27]: Sour grapes about Trump's inadvertent mucking with 2018 Senate
prospects; e.g., his PAC attacks against Dean Heller (R-NV), who must be
one of the most endangered Republican incumbents (otherwise why would he
break with Trump over gutting of ACA?).
Annie Karni/Nahal Toosi: Tight circle of security officials crafted
Trump's Syria warning [06-27]: Curious that Trump's claim that
"new intelligence" indicated that Syria was planning on launching a
chemical weapons attack appeared almost immediately after Seymour
Hersh reported that US intelligence agencies didn't believe reports
of a previous attack that Trump used as pretext for his cruise missile
volley against a Syrian Air Force base (see:
Trump's Red Line). Also note that Trump and company claimed their
warning had worked a mere two days after it was issued (see:
Michael D Shear: White House Warning Halted Syria Chemical Attack,
Officials Say [06-28].
Jeremy Kryt: Inside Trump's Disastrous 'Secret' Drug War Plans for Central
Martin Longman: And Now the Trump Presidency Begins to Fail for Real
[06-29]: Well, Trump has settled on a strategy of trying to pass everything
with straight party votes, further angering Democrats by using executive
power to reverse virtually everything associated with Obama -- in effect,
he's not only set out to erase the last eight years, he's more explicit
about that than any president ever. (Too bad Obama did just the opposite,
even though GW Bush left him a lot that should have been rolled back.)
Health care is merely the most obvious example, because Republicans made
it one eight years ago, leaving Democrats with no option other than to
pass the ACA on a straight party vote. But this dynamic applies to lots
of things, and there's no reason to think taxes, infrastructure, or
immigration will turn out any different. And note that a big part of
Trump's problem with pressing his partisan majority is that he can't
win without support of the tea party faction (or whatever they call
themselves these days) and those guys have learned to leverage their
numbers, basically to block anything that isn't extreme enough. Thus,
the House AHCA initially failed, only to pass after the leadership
made it more hurtful and even less popular. Needless to say, that
just encourages the extreme right to become even more aggressive.
On the other hand, Trump closed off the option (if it ever existed)
of moving toward the center when he staffed his administration and
started his Obama purge. So, yeah, getting things done is going to
be difficult for Trump. On the other hand, his capacity to wreck our
world is still quite extraordinary, so I wouldn't start celebrating
German Lopez: Trump's "election integrity" commission wants every voter's
name, party ID, and address [06-30]: This is Kris Kobach, a reach
which far exceeds anything Russia has been accused of trying to hack.
Such a database would be very useful for political operators. Article
has much background info on Republican voter suppression efforts, which
is what "voter fraud" is really all about. Aside from the politics,
another obvious problem is noted here:
Eric Geller/Cory Bennett: Trump voter-fraud panel's data request a gold
mine for hackers, experts warn. Meanwhile, instead of backing away
from such an obviously bad idea, Trump is doubling down:
Esme Cribb: Trump Rails Against States Rejecting His Shady Election
Hugh Miles: Al-Jazeera, insurgent TV station that divides the Arab world,
faces closure: Shutting down the closest thing the Arab world has
to a free press is one of Saudi Arabia's key demands before they will
consider calling off their blockade of Qatar, and the one that's most
clearly offensive to anyone in any country that has a relatively free
Mark Perry: Tillerson and Mattis Cleaning Up Kushner's Middle East
Brad Palmer/Nadja Popovich: As Climate Changes, Southern States Will
Suffer More Than Others: Florida, of course, but Texas and Arizona
are conspicuously red on this map. Authors argue that the poorest
counties will suffer most, but it seems obvious to me that relatively
rich individuals will be hardest hit -- e.g., it's not poor people
who own all that beachfront property soon to be submerged. Another
Carbon in Atmosphere Is Rising, Even as Emissions Stabilize.
Alex Pareene: Donald Trump Is Getting Played Like a Sucker by His Own
Budget Guy [05-26]: "Democrats dream of running against budgets
like the one drawn up by Mulvaney. It neuters Trump's single greatest
political advantage, which is that a sizable number of whites in the
Rust Belt convinced themselves that Trump was something other than a
Mitt Romney-style plutocratic Republican." I had lost track of Pareene,
but looks like he's been at
Fusion for some time. Some older posts that caught my eye:
Maybe We Need That Hillary Clinton Dark Money Group Now [06-21];
Alex Pareene: Stop Enabling the Nihilist Republican Shrug [06-01];
Actually, Why Not Cancel the White House Press Briefing? [05-12]
("A room full of people who know the man answering their questions cannot
possibly truthfully answer their questions makes for great TV, but it does
not make for meaningful coverage of the White House");
Airlines Can Treat You Like Garbage Because They Are an Oligopoly [04-11];
I Don't Want to Hear Another Fucking Word About John McCain Unless He Dies
or Actually Does Something Useful for Once [02-17]. Perhaps best is
The Long, Lucrative Right-wing Grift Is Blowing Up in the World's Face
Trump was always venal, dishonest, genuinely deluded about his financial
acumen and business success, and, you know, a wildly misogynistic accused
rapist and sexual harasser. But for most of his public life, he also
clearly knew the right sorts of things to say to sound like a reasonable
person, albeit a mostly ridiculous one. Donald Trump the deranged believer
of bizarre untruths about the world at large is actually a fairly recent
development. . . . Trump learned what to think about the world at large
from the media, and for most of his life, he was a consumer of the
Donald Trump today is a cruel dolt turned into a raving madman by cable
news and Breitbart.com. You could see the descent happen during the Obama
era, in concert with the broader maddening of the GOP. The major difference
between Trump and the other old white men who've been radicalized by the
conservative press is that his was a strangely self-directed conversion,
based on his desire to make himself known as a plausible Republican
presidential candidate. . . .
Now, and for the foreseeable future, the grifter-in-chief sits alone
in the White House residence every night, watching cable news tell him
comforting lies -- that he's a hugely popular president, that responsibility
for his myriad setbacks and failures lies with the many powerful enemies
aligned against him a grand conspiracy -- in between the ads for reverse
mortgages and "all-natural male enhancement." There's an image of America
in the age of the complete triumph of bullshit. You spend a few years
selling lousy steaks to suckers, then one morning you wake up and you're
the sucker -- and the steak.
Frank Rich: Nixon, Trump, and How a Presidency Ends: More on Nixon
than on Trump, but the relevance is clear. One note I wasn't aware of
is that the House impeachment committee considered charging Nixon with
violating the "emoluments clause," which Trump has flagrantly violated
since taking office. Another is a Gary Wills quote about Nixon's help:
"a world of little men using large powers incompetently from a
combination of suspicion and panic." As I recall, Nixon and his "little
men" were less worried about what was being investigated than what else
the investigators might find, and that's surely true of Trump too.
Corey Robin: If Republicans lose the healthcare fight, it's the beginning
of the end: One note here is that in 1977, 1983 and 1993 "the federal
government launched a major retrenchment of Social Security" -- all three
were bipartisan efforts, two signed by Democratic presidents, but this
time Democrats aren't going to give Republicans cover for their cuts and
the misery they cause. This makes me think Republicans should worry more
about passing their bill, but they're pretty locked into their delusions.
Still, note this:
One reason the Republicans are having such a hard time of it is that the
public is overwhelmingly against the Senate bill. As Politico recently
reported, Senate phones have been ringing off the hook -- almost entirely
from citizens opposed to what the Republicans are doing.
A staffer for Mississippi senator Thad Cochran claims his office
received 226 constituent calls over a four-day period: two in favor of
the Republican bill, 224 against. And, yes, you read that correctly.
Not Massachusetts. Mississippi.
Jordan Rudner: Donald Trump's Supreme Court Justice Did a Lot of Horrible
Things Today [06-26]: Subheds: He opposed a ruling that gave same-sex
parents equal rights; He made it clear how he'll side on Trump's travel
ban; He helped vote to send a man to death in Texas; He tried to take on
a case that could further weaken gun control laws; He voted to strike
down a barrier between church and state
Christopher Sellers: Trump and Pruitt are the biggest threat to the EPA
in its 47 years of existence [07-01]
Matt Taibbi: With CNN Flap, Media's Trump-Era Identity Crisis Continues
[06-28]: "Donald Trump's great talent as a politician -- some might call it
an anti-talent -- is his ability to bring everyone down to his level." Also
Megyn Kelly Vivisects Bloated Conspiracy Hog Alex Jones [06-20].
Jeffrey Toobin: The National Enquirer's Fervor for Trump: "Throughout
the 2016 Presidential race, the Enquirer embraced Trump with
sycophantic fervor. The magazine made its first political endorsement
ever, of Trump, last spring." Related:
Gabriel Sherman: What Really Happened Between Donald Trump, the Hosts
of Morning Joe, and the National Enquirer [06-30].
Matthew Yglesias: The most important stories of the week, explained
[06-30]: CBO released its analysis of Senate GOP health bill; Trump's
travel ban finally went into effect; the EU slapped Google with a $2.7
billion fine; Elizabeth Warren endorsed single-payer health care;
Donald Trump held his first Trump fundraiser at the Trump hotel. Google
was found in violation of EU antitrust laws for perverting its search
results in favor of its advertisers. That should be illegal here, too.
The fundraiser may have struck people as odd given that he famously
self-financed his 2016 campaign. Yglesias writes:
While some politicians would go the extra mile to avoid even the
appearance of personally profiting from the presidency, this was
the clearest sign yet that Trump revels in it -- donors know they
are putting money directly in Trump's pocket via the hotel fees,
Trump knows it too, and the donors know that he knows it.
Yglesias also wrote:
Republicans' health bill saves its most severe Medicaid cuts for
outside the CBO's scoring window;
The 3 leading conservative cases for the Senate health bill,
explained. Needless to say, those "cases" range from bad to fraud.
From the second article:
One key thing to understand is that even though the bill would set
Medicaid on a course that makes cuts to coverage and services inevitable,
it defers all the actual decision-making to governors and state
legislatures. The effect is that the political pain for making the
cuts will probably fall on state-level actors rather than congressional
ones, letting the members of Congress whose actions made the cuts
inevitable evade accountability.
Note: It was impossible for me to follow various links that loooked
interesting due to aggressive gatekeeping. This included
The Wall Street Journal.
The Nation. I subscribe to The Nation, so should be able to work
around that, but the new browser doesn't have the right account info.