Sunday, November 27. 2016
I didn't really plan on posting a Roundup this week, but when I
looked at Salon's politics section way too may red flags jumped out
at me. I'm generally inclined to give Trump a little rope to hang
himself, but I'm surprised by the speed with which he's set about
the task. I realized that Trump was a guy who spent every waking
moment conniving to make money (well, aside from the time spent
plotting sexual conquests), and thought it unlikely that he'd
change for a moment. But these pieces are mostly self-explanatory,
so at least I don't have to annotate them.
Some scattered links this week on all things Trump:
Donald Trump's Caldron of Conflicts
Yoni Appelbaum: Donald Trump's Revival of 'Honest Graft'
Dan Bacher: Trump Appoints Big Oil Think Tank Director to Lead Interior
Thor Benson: Donald Trump's surveillance state: All the tools to suppress
dissent and kill free speech are already in place: Thanks to 9/11 and
the permanent state of war.
Jamelle Bouie: Government by the Worst Men: Bannon, Flynn, Sessions --
but isn't that only the beginning?
Donald Brownstein: Donald Trump's Fragile Hold on America
Matthew Daly: Donald Trump's stock in Dakota Access oil pipeline company
Amy Davidson: The Real Concerns of the Trump Transition
Joe Emersberger: How the Rich Are Getting Richer: Interview with
Garrett Epps: Donald Trump Has Broken the Constitution
Henry Farrell: Kissing the Ring: After considering Trump as Cosimo
de Medici, a prediction:
If this is right, the key qualities of presidential politics over the
next four years will be instability, frequent policy change, palace
intrigues, and Trump looking to reign triumphant above it all, not
particularly caring (a la Padgett and Ansell's Cosimo) about attaining
specific goals, but instead looking to preserve his position at the
center of an ever shifting spider web of political relations, no matter
what consequences this has for the integrity of the web.
Dana Goldstein: How Trump Could Gut Public Education: First clue
is his pick of fellow billionaire Betsy DeVos as Secretary of
Education. Also note that Trump has some previous experience in
the business of education.
William Hartung: Trump for the Defense
Joshua Holland: Struggling White Voters Who Helped Elect Trump Are Headed
for Some Serious Pain
Paul Krugman: Infrastructure Build or Privatization Scam?
Gary Legum: Peak "crony captialism": Donald Trump indulging in corrupt
favoritism isn't surprising -- but so much of it so soon?!
Simon Maloy: The Trump sleaze factor: Let the GOP own the new, expanded
"culture of corruption" Trump promises
Josh Marshall: Must Reads on the Coming Privatization of Everything and
The Historic Cash-In Continues. Marshall has also been on top of Paul
Ryan's scheme to wreck Medicare -- for all the world it sounds like he's
trying to replace the popular and effective program with something similar
to but a bit shadier than Obamacare -- including this piece on the politics:
Medicare for the Win.
Richard C Paddock, et al: Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for
Trump, the Businessman President
Phil Plait: Trump's Plan to Eliminate NASA Climate Research Is Ill-Informed
Joy-Ann Reid: Already Happening: Media Normalization of Trumpism
Matthew Rozsa: This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: What
was the president-elect doing this week to possibly make himself
David Swanson: Michael Flynn Should Remember Truths He Blurted Out Last
Year: like criticizing Obama for his obsession with death-by-drone.
Jim Tankersley: Trump can't revive industry. But his voters might still
get raises. Unfortunately, that depends on Trump sustaining growth
rates comparable to Clinton in the 1990s, and assuming that the labor
market hasn't deteriorated in the meantime -- I'm pretty doubtful on
both counts. On the other hand, if Trump succeeds in deporting virtually
all undocumented workers, that could tighten labor markets a bit (but
probably not enough).
Jeremy Venook: Donald Trump's Conflicts of Interest: A Crib Sheet
Matthew Yglesias: Don't let Donald Trump's antics distract you from what's
really important, following up on
We have 100 days to stop Donald Trump from systemically corrupting our
Also a couple things not exactly on the incoming disaster, although
not exactly unrelated either:
I don't have much to say about Fidel Castro. I've never held any
romantic attachment for Cuba's communist regime, and I don't doubt
that it has sometimes been repressive and that its planned economy
could have been more dynamic. However, I can't begrudge their early
expropriation of foreign (mostly American) assets, and must admit
that they've built a literate, highly educated, and for the most
part egalitarian society, while maintaining a vibrant culture, all
despite cruel economic hardships imposed variously by America and
Russia. It's worth remembering that Cuba was the last slaveholder
society in the Americas, and the last of Spain's colonial outposts,
and after the US seized it in America's 1898 imperialist expansion
was only granted "independence" because it was thought easier to
run it through local puppet strongmen -- a scandalous series that
was only ended by Castro's revolution.
I've long thought that the vitriolic reaction of American politicos
to Cuba's real independence and defiance reflected a deep-seated guilt
(and embarrassment) about how badly we had mishandled our power there.
But it manifested itself as sheer spite, ranging from the CIA's Bay of
Pigs invasion and numerous assassination plots the CIA tried to mount
against Castro to the long-running blockade -- all of which reinforced
Castro's anti-Americanism and made him a hero for underdogs all around
the world. Obama's recent normalization of US-Cuban relations finally
gives us a chance to be less of an ogre -- although the reflexive
instinct is still apparent in recent comments by
Trump, Rubio, and others. Hopefully they'll blow this jingoistic
thinking out of their systems.
Here are a few scattered comments on Castro from:
Tony Karon (2008);
Stephen Gibbs/Jonathan Watts: Havana in mourning: 'We Cubans are Fidelista
even if we are not communist';
Kathy Gilsinan: How Did Fidel Castro Hold On to Cuba for So Long?.
One quote, from the Karon piece above:
There's been predictably little interesting discussion in the United
States of Fidel Castro's retirement as Cuba's commandante en jefe,
maximo etc. That's because in the U.S. political mainstream,
Cuba policy has for a generation been grotesquely disfigured by a
collective kow-towing -- yes, collective, it was that craven Mr.
Clinton who signed into law the Draconian Helms-Burton act that made
it infinitely more difficult for any U.S. president to actually lift
the embargo, and the equally craven Mrs. Clinton appears to pandering
to the same crowd -- to the Cuban-American Ahmed Chalabi figures of
Miami, still fantasizing about a day when they'll regain their
plantations and poor people of color will once again know their place.
[ . . . ]
What fascinates me, however, is the guilty pleasure with which so
many millions of people around the world revere Fidel Castro -- revere
him, but wouldn't dream of emulating his approach to economics or
governance. People, in other words, who would not be comfortable
actually living in Castro's Cuba, much as they like the idea of him
sticking it the arrogant yanqui, his physical and political
survival a sure sign that Washington's awesome power has limits --
and can therefore be challenged.
Monday, November 21. 2016
Music: Current count 27362  rated (+24), 379  unrated (-16).
I expected my computer problems would be solved by now, but seems
like they've multiplied. I basically work on three computers. I built
my main one close to a decade ago, then upgraded most of it four or
so years ago: new motherboard, 8-core AMD cpu, 32GB RAM, kept the old
mirrored hard drives. I write on it, and maintain master copies of a
half-dozen websites. It's great, but I fell off the update track some
while back, so it's still running Ubuntu 12.04, which includes one
I avoid it (NoScript helps) but even so it crashes a couple times a
week. Ubuntu is now up to 16.04, and at some point I need to break
down and do the upgrade(s).
Meanwhile, I've had a second, less powerful Ubuntu computer --
I bought the components there on a pretty limited budget (probably
something like $500, maybe five years ago), and I've kept it up
to date. I hooked up some Klipsch speakers to it, and used it for
monsters that kills my main computer). However, a couple months ago
I started noticing loud clicks in the audio, and occasional freezes
when I would look at DVDs. I tried replacing the power supply, which
got rid of the clicks. But then something happened: the video went
blank (a deep screensaver option), but wouldn't wake up. I could
still log into the machine remotely, and I've been tracking down
similar issues and possible fixes, but none have worked. Knowing
the computer was old and weak, I decided to buy new components --
AMD 8-core FX cpu, motherboard, 32GB RAM, 2TB hard drive, a fairly
cheap ATI Radeon video card. I figured I'd use the recently purchased
power supply (a 650W Corsair) and an old box (which previously hosted
my wife's computer; when I rebuilt I got her a new mini-tower box).
The old box had a 550W Thermaltake power supply which looked quite
viable, so I decided to try an experiment: I swapped power supplies,
then stuck my new video card into the old computer. I rebooted, and
it came up with proper graphics. I finally was able to listen to a
record on Napster (Erroll Garner, below, and got about half-way through
the new Miles Davis bootleg before I went to bed). Anyhow, that seemed
to work well enough I ordered yet another video card. Then next morning
I got up and the video was blanked, and nothing I did made could wake
it up. The blackout is so bad not even the BIOS splash screen appears.
The monitor, however, displays diagnostic info (analog, digital, no
cable). I just remotely did a software update, then reboot. Still no
screen. Very frustrating, very perplexing.
Meanwhile, I've built the new computer, except for the new video
card I expect to arrive tomorrow. Then I'll plug it in, do a fresh
Xubuntu desktop install, and try to patch up the various things I
need (emacs, mysql, apache, php, etc.). Should take the better part
of a day, if all goes well. Not that anything's gone well in the
last month or so. At some point all this frustration threatens to
turn into depression.
So, all but one of this week's records were reviewed from CDs,
so all are jazz. (I don't think I've bought a single CD all year.)
At least I've drained about half of the queue that built up in
September and October. Main thing left is six Ivo Perelman discs,
giving him ten on the year. All are titled The Art of the Improv
Trio then a volume number. First one is pretty good, and most
likely they're all like that, so I'll be struggling with marginal
distinctions for a couple days -- at least that beats the Xmas CDs,
which I figure I'll suffer through sometime closer to the holiday.
I did finally flesh out my first pass at EOY lists: one for
Jazz, and the other for
Non-Jazz. The former
is much larger (61 A-list, 120 HM, 385 other, so 566 total, 8-6-11=25
for reissues/compilations, vs. non-jazz: 41 A-list, 36 HM, 105 other,
so 182 total, 11-9-6=26 for reissues/compilations). At this time last
year the Jazz A-list was well ahead of the Non-Jazz, but eventually
they evened out. That seems less likely this year, but is still possible.
Assuming I get Napster up and running again, the ratio of Jazz/Non-Jazz
further down the grade scale should reduce somewhat, but hard to see
that ever balancing out. Reissues and compilations remain especially
hard to get hold of.
No Thanksgiving plans. My wife never wants me to cook on that day,
and all the usual friends and family have their own plans, so most
likely we'll be home alone. Maybe I'll get some listening done.
Still scanning through the notebooks for stray record reviews. Up
to December 2006, where I noticed that I had in fact made Thanksgiving
dinner that year. Went Japanese that year:
- miso soup
- pan-fried gyoza
- salmon teriyaki
- tiny roast potatoes
- french-cut green beans with peanut sauce
- grilled Japanese eggplant with spicy peanut sauce
- agedashi (fried bean curd)
- pineapple upside down cake
Also planned on sushi rice with grilled unagi (eel), but evidently
didn't get that done until the next day. I hardly ever cook Japanese
(except for the salmon, one of the easiest really good recipes I know),
so this mostly seems unfamiliar (aside from the ringers: the eggplant
is one of Barbara Tropp's Chinese fusion recipes, and the cake is my
Mom's recipe, an old family standard -- in fact, one of the cakes I
made for her funeral reception).
New records rated this week:
- Sophie Agnel/Daunik Lazro: Marguerite D'Or Pâle (2016, Fou): [cd]: B+(**)
- Tom Collier: Impulsive Illuminations (2014-15 , Origin): [cd]: B
- Dim Lighting: Your Miniature Motion (2014 , Off): [cdr]: B+(*)
- David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Triple Exposure (2015 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
- Clay Giberson: Pastures (2015 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Highest Engines Near/Near Higher Engineers (2016, Flat Langston's Arkeyes): [cd]: B+(**)
- Erik Jekabson: A Brand New Take (2015 , OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
- Walter Kemp 3oh!: Dark Continent (2015 , Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
- Frank Kimbrough: Solstice (2016, Pirouet): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jerry Leake: Crafty Hands (2016, Rhombus Publishing): [cd]: B+(**)
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn: At Ibeam (2015 , Constant Sorrow, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell With an Ocean View (2016, Constant Sorrow): [cd]: A-
- Thierry Maillard Trio: Ethnic Sounds (2016, Blujazz): [cd]: B-
- Mamutrio [Lieven Cambré/Piet Verbist/Jesse Dockx]: Primal Existence (2015 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
- Tom Marko: Inner Light (2016, Summit): [cd]: B
- Melanie Marod: I'll Go Mad (2016, ITI): [cd]: B+(*)
- John Moulder: Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit (2014-16, Origin): [cd]: B
- Moutin Factory Quintet: Deep (2016, Blujazz): [cd]: B+(*)
- Fredrik Nordström: Gentle Fire/Restless Dreams (2016, Moserobie, 2CD): [cd]: A-
- Phil Parisot: Lingo (2016, OA2): [cd]: B+(*)
- Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (2014 , JCA): [cd]: B+(*)
- Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (2016 , Panorama): [cd]: B+(***)
- Anna Webber's Simple Trio: Binary (2016, Skirl): [cd]: B+(***)
- Scott Whitfield: New Jazz Standards (Volume 2) (2016, Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Erroll Garner: Ready Take One (1967-71 , Legacy): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dr. Mint: Voices in the Void (Orenda): January 21
- Live Human: Scratch Bop (Cosmic)
- Mast: Love and War (Alpha Pup): advance, October 7
- Rudy Royston Trio: RisEofOrion (Greenleaf Music)
- David Wise: Till They Lay Me Down (self-released): January 6
- Basak Yavuz: A Little Red Bug (Things&Records): December 15
Saturday, November 19. 2016
First, a few summary points, many drawing on my previous
Hillary Clinton still has a popular vote margin over Donald
Trump, one that currently stands at 1,322,095 votes, up nearly one
million votes since I checked earlier, and up about 100,000 votes
since I started this post. (I've seen a tweet that has Clinton's
lead at 1.65 million votes.)
Still, that's less than Clinton's margin
in New York state alone (1,507,241), a mere 45% of her margin in
California (2,904,526). In fact, California topped Hawaii as her
best percentage state (61.78%; she won 90.4% in DC). By contrast,
Trump's biggest popular win, in Texas, was 813,774, followed by
Tennessee (651,073), Alabama (588,841), Kentucky (574,108), Missouri
(530,864), Indiana (520,429). Trump topped 60% in 9 states (AL, AR,
KY, NB, ND, OK, SD, WV, WY), but most were small.
Clinton lost three states that she was heavily favored in
by very slim margins: Michigan (0.27%), Wisconsin (0.93%), and
Pennsylvania (1.24%). Had she hung on to those three states she
would have won the electoral college. It's easy to imagine various
technical shifts in her campaign strategy that might have secured
those states and won her the election, even without any substantive
adjustments to her platform. She was not a hopeless candidate, but
was a flawed and for many people uninspiring one, and was not well
served by a staff and organization built to flatter her.
Voter turnout was down 1.2 points, to 53.7%. Trump was elected
president with about 25% of the vote, and Clinton lost with just a
hair more. As was widely reported, they were the two least approved
candidates in history. Clinton maintained a polling lead throughout
the campaign, but was never able to top 50%, her leads varying widely
as Trump's numbers waxed and waned. Trump caught a break a week before
the election when FBI Director James Comey re-opened Clinton's email
troubles, and Trump avoided major blunders in his last week, so his
win can be attributed to a lucky break.
The Democrats gained two Senate seats and seven House seats,
so the party as a whole was not swept up in a Republican tide. More
likely she was a drag on down-ticket Democrats. I believe that one
of the biggest tactical errors was Clinton's failure to run against
what Harry Truman once called "the do-nothing Congress" (Democrats
lost control of Congress in 1946, but recovered in 1948 with Truman's
come-from-behind campaign). Ultimately we'll see that most of the
bad things that happen in the next four years will originate in the
Republican Congress, and most of Trump's own disasters will be tied
to his forming an extremist Republican administration. The election
would have been very different if Clinton had run not on Obama's
"successes" but by blaming Republicans for his shortcomings.
I think it's safe to say that Bernie Sanders would have been
a more formidable candidate for the Democrats. What is certain is
that we didn't have any of Clinton's sleazy vulnerabilities. Also
that he was far enough removed from the Clinton-Obama mainstream
he could have run as a credible change, and that he has shown the
ability to rally large and enthusiastic crowds (which Trump did
and Clinton did not). Maybe the Republicans could have come up with
an effective set of slanders to undo him, but they wouldn't have
had the benefits of 24 years of target practice against Clinton.
Sanders' real vulnerability was that the Clinton-Obama Democrats
would sandbag him (much as previous generations of Democrats did
to Bryan and McGovern), but perhaps fear of Trump would have held
them in check.
Whatever divisions were thought to exist in the Republican
party have vanished. The only thing Republicans really care about
is winning and ruling, and they really don't care how ugly it
looks. And while their current margins are extremely thin, that
didn't impose any scruples on Bush and Cheney in 2000 -- another
time when the presidential victor lost the popular vote -- and
Republicans have only become more vicious and unscrupulous since
then. (Trump, for one, never had to feign compassion.)
One thing that we should bear in mind is that many disasters take
a long time to fully reveal themselves. That Republican Congress
elected in 1946 has had an especially long-lasting impact. George
Brockway, for instance, cited a banking "reform" bill that they
passed as the first chink in the deregulation that finally sunk the
economy in 2008. More obvious was the Taft-Hartley Act, which made
it significantly harder to form and maintain labor unions. After
that act was passed, the CIO gave up on organizing unions in the
South, which left American businesses with an alternative to union
labor in the North. That, more than anything else, gradually ate
away at the Rust Belt, leading to this year's Democratic debacle.
But then the Democrats haven't been passive observers to the
destruction of their party's base. Harry Truman was so militantly
opposed to worker strikes after WWII that he inadvertently validated
the public opinion behind Taft-Hartley (a bill he vetoed, but his
veto was overridden). And one can argue that the Clinton-sponsored
NAFTA was the straw that broke the camel's back -- he's certainly
the one who gets blamed, even though it was mostly Republicans who
voted for the agreement.
On the other hand, the half-life of disasters certainly seems
to be quickening, especially as public institutions become more and
more corrupt, as wealth and income are distributed ever more inequally,
as decades of bad choices slowly add up into harder ones. A lot of
the links below concern the destruction of the middle class, especially
in the Rust Belt, and raise the question of why even people who are
still doing OK have become anxious about the economy. This can only
remind me of a book published back in 1989, Barbara Ehrenreich's
Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class. And
really, she wasn't way ahead of the learning curve. She was merely
more perceptive than most people were. Recent books, such as the
six recommended in the list below, focus more on those who have
fallen, and who can't get up. But fear came first, and Democrats
would have been better served had they recognized that, instead
of blundering on and pushing more and more people down and out.
Here are a mess of links I've collected, thinking they may be of
some interest (more or less alphabetical by author).
Scott Alexander: You Are Still Crying Wolf: Title refers to a piece,
Frank Bruni: Crying Wolf, Then Confronting Trump, which complains
that Democratic denunciations of "honorable and decent men" like McCain
and Romney have inoculated many Americans against even more strident
warnings about Trump (he cites an essay by Jonah Greenberg, "How the
Media's History of Smearing Republicans Now Helps Trump"). Alexander
argues that Trump did better than Romney among blacks, Latinos and
Asians, then concludes: "The only major racial group where he didn't
get a gain or greater than 5% was white people." He then goes on to
argue that Trump isn't nearly as racist (i.e., no more than "any other
70 year old white guy") as people think, and that white supremacists --
at least as represented by people like David Duke (who got 3% in his
Louisiana Senate campaign) or groups like the KKK (national membership
in the 3000-6000 range) are extremely marginal. I think he goes too
far in making excuses for Trump, but it does raise the question: given
that Republicans have spent forty-some years "dog-whistling" race-charged
themes, isn't it possible that Democrats have become hyper-sensitive to
that veiled rhetoric? (And conversely, isn't it possible that much of
the Republican target audience have grown so accustomed to it they no
longer pay it any mind?) On the other hand, Alexander does stress how
bizarre he finds Trump:
16. But didn't Trump . . .
Whatever bizarre, divisive, ill-advised, and revolting thing you're
about to mention, the answer is probably yes.
This is equally true on race-related and non-race-related issues.
People ask "How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that
Obama was born in Kenya, if he wasn't racist?" I don't know. How could
Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism?
How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy theory that the Clintons
killed Vince Foster? How could Trump believe the wacky conspiracy
theory that Ted Cruz's father shot JFK?
Trump will apparently believe anything for any reason, especially
about his political opponents. If Clinton had been black but Obama
white, we'd be hearing that the Vince Foster conspiracy theory proves
Trump's bigotry, and the birtherism was just harmless wackiness.
Likewise, how could Trump insult a Mexican judge just for being
Mexican? I don't know. How could Trump insult a disabled reporter
just for being disabled? How could Trump insult John McCain just
for being a beloved war hero? Every single person who's opposed him,
Trump has insulted in various offensive ways, including 140 separate
incidents of him calling someone "dopey" or "dummy" on Twitter, and
you expect him to hold his mouth just because the guy is a Mexican?
I don't think people appreciate how weird this guy is. His
weird way of speaking. His catchphrases like "haters and losers!" or
"Sad!" His tendency to avoid perfectly reasonable questions in favor
of meandering tangents about Mar-a-Lago. The ability to bait him into
saying basically anything just by telling him people who don't like
him think he shouldn't.
Krishnadev Calamur: Donald Trump's CIA Pick Made His Name on the Benghazi
Committee: That's Mike Pompeo, currently 4th district congressman from
Canada, a district which includes Wichita and a half-dozen rural counties.
Pompeo was first elected in 2010 when Todd Tiahrt ran for Senate (and lost
to Jerry Moran). Tiahrt, who I had long regarded as the worst congressman
in America, tried to take back his House seat in 2012, and lost to Pompeo --
at the time I characterized them as R(Boeing) and R(Koch), respectively.
Indeed, the Wichita Eagle has an article today titled "Koch Industries,
Pompeo's biggest backer, cheers his CIA nomination." In Congress, Pompeo
has been a faithful defender of the Koch's brand of laissez-faire, but
far more than that he's emerged as one of the House's most rabid neocons --
a fact that was recognized by Bill Kristol when he put Pompeo's name on
his short list of vice presidential candidates. At this article points
out, Pompeo's was one of the Benghazi Committee's most forceful foes
of Hillary Clinton. Indeed, as CIA Director it wouldn't surprise me if
he forgoes the Special Prosecutor and just "renders" her to a black site
to be tortured until she confesses all. At least, nothing in that sentence
violates his understanding of law or morality.
Martin Longman has more on Pompeo (as well as Flynn and Sessions) here:
Trump Makes Three Catastrophic Picks. I do have a bone to pick with
one line: "What unites [Pompeo] with Mike Flynn is his outrage about
Obama's firing of Gen. Stanley McChrystal for disloyalty." Uh, McChrystal
was fired for incompetence. If you go back to the Rolling Stone
article where all this dirty laundry was aired, you'll find that Flynn
was even more outspoken in berating and belittling Obama, yet somehow
Obama looked past that to nominate Flynn to be head of the DIA. Sure,
that may rank as the worst appointment Obama ever made, but you can't
say it was because he was thin-skinned about criticism.
Robert Christgau on the End of the World
David Dayen: Beware Donald Trump's Infrastructure Plan:
Does this sound familiar? It's the common justification for privatization,
and it's been a disaster virtually everywhere it's been tried. First of
all, this specifically ties infrastructure -- designed for the common
good -- to a grab for profits. Private operators will only undertake
projects if they promise a revenue stream. You may end up with another
bridge in New York City or another road in Los Angeles, which can be
monetized. But someplace that actually needs infrastructure investment
is more dicey without user fees.
So the only way to entice private-sector actors into rebuilding
Flint, Michigan's water system, for example, is to give them a cut of
the profits in perpetuity. That's what Chicago did when it sold off
36,000 parking meters to a Wall Street-led investor group. Users now
pay exorbitant fees to park in Chicago, and city government is helpless
to alter the rates.
Elizabeth Drew: How It Happened: Some fairly dumb things here,
including a metric comparing votes in counties that have Cracker
Barrel vs. Whole Foods stores, and an assertion that the third
party vote cost Clinton the election. Also includes this quote
from J.D. Vance (author of Hillbilly Elegy):
"People who are drawn to Trump are drawn to him because he's a little
outrageous, he's a little relatable, and fundamentally he is angry
and spiteful and critical of the things that people feel anger and
spite toward," Vance has said. "It's people who are perceived to be
powerful. It's the Hillary Clintons of the world, the Barack Obamas
of the world, the Wall Street executives of the world. There just
isn't anyone out there who will talk about the system like it's
completely rigged like Donald Trump does. It's certainly not
something you're going to hear from Hillary Clinton."
Jason Easley: It Was a Union Contract, Not Trump, That Kept a Ford Plant
From Leaving the US
Barbara Ehrenreich: Forget fear and loathing. The US election inspires
projectile vomiting: Pre-election piece (sorry I didn't link to
it earlier). Still, this works fairly well as a post-mortem:
[Trump's] supporters -- generally portrayed as laid-off blue-collar
workers who, in the absence of unions, have devoted themselves to the
cause of whiteness -- cheer on each of his macro-aggressions. To them,
he is a giant middle finger in the face of the bipartisan political
elite, and the crazier he acts, the more resounding this fuck-you gets.
It doesn't matter that most of Trump's assertions can't stand up to
fact-checking; ignorance has been enshrined by an entire alternative
media, stretching from Fox News to Stormfront on the Nazi-leaning right.
On the liberal left, tragically, we do not have Bernie Sanders, who
would have dispatched Trump's populist pretensions with a wrist flick.
But no, representing the side of tolerance, good government and
cosmopolitanism, we have the very epitome of Democratic party elitism,
a woman who labeled half of Trump's supporters "deplorables," a politician
who is so robotic that any efforts to analyze her motives risk the charge
Liza Featherstone: Elite, White Feminism Gave Us Trump
Matt Feeney: The Book That Predicted Trump: The book touted here
is Corey Robin's The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund
Burke to Sarah Palin (2012) -- I'm pretty sure those names are
just historical bookends and not meant to imply a general vector of
declining intelligence and coherence, as Robin's central thesis is
that conservatism, whether you're talking about Burke or John Calhoun
or Ronald Reagan or Trump is always pretty much the same thing, for
the same reasons: to defend the privileged few against anything that
might make us more equal.
Speaking of books, the New York Times recommends
6 Books to Help Understand Trump's Win:
- George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America
(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and
Mourning on the American Right (The New Press)
- J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in
- Thomas Frank, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party
of the People? (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company)
- John B. Judis, The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession
Transformed American and European Politics (Columbia Global Reports)
- Nancy Isenberg, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class
in America (Viking)
I've only read one of these -- Thomas Frank's critique of Clinton's
Democrats, a legacy which needs to be critically reviewed by anyone
who wants to rebuild the Democratic Party -- but the common theme here
is the economic and social stresses felt by the vanishing middle class
of white people.
Kathleen Frydl: The Oxy Electorate:
The number of people who cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential race
was greater than in 2012, even though, as a state, Ohio recorded a net
loss in turnout from the previous election. This pattern holds for
nearly all opioid-ravaged counties. And not just in Ohio -- in
Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan as well, all of them crucial
to the presidential election's outcome. In 9 of the Ohio counties
that Trump successfully turned from Democrat to Republican, six log
overdose rates well above the national norm. All of the Pennsylvania
counties that chose Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 have exceptionally
high overdose rates, averaging 25 people per 100,000; in none of these
counties did vote totals fall.
Kathleen Geier: Inequality Among Women Is Crucial to Understanding
In these white working-class communities, it is the women who have
experienced some of the worst hardships. You may have heard of that
famous study that showed that showed an unprecedented decline in
longevity among white Americans who lack college degrees. But most
media reports missed a crucial point: As the statistician Andrew
Gelman pointed out, "Since 2005, mortality rates have increased
among women in this group but not men." And in addition to economic
insecurity and rising mortality rates, working-class women have
suffered from another indignity: invisibility. During the campaign,
there was a blizzard of articles about the concerns of elite
Republican women and white working-class men, but practically
nothing about female members of the working class.
John Judis: Why Trump Won - and Clinton Lost - and What It Could Mean for
the Country and the Parties: Quickie post-mortem, including some things
that don't make much sense to me (like the anti-third term pendulum), but
one thing I'm struck by is that immigration has different regional effects,
and appears particularly threatening when used to break or undermine unions --
meatpackers in Iowa is a case in point. One conclusion I'd draw is that
Democrats need to come up with better ways of talking about immigration,
because the way this campaign played out they came off as reflexively pro,
which raised legitimate questions of how much they cared about people who
were born here.
Theda Skocpol wrote a rejoinder which pokes a few holes without doing
much to fill them in (partly because she feels the need to defend Clinton
and to denigrate Sanders).
Mike Konczal: Preparing for the Worst: How Conservatives Will Govern
Unlike 2009, the conservative policy agenda is designed to not require
any Democratic votes. The idea that a conservative policy agenda would
create a dysfunctional system is a feature, not a bug. And the hope
that conflicting factions of the GOP will provide opportunities to
break them apart are not likely to pan out. But there's some reason
for hope, because their overreach and lack of preparedness will give
us opportunities. [ . . . ]
They aren't ready with a replacement for Obamacare. They aren't
ready for the heat of privatizing Medicare, or weakening Medicaid.
There are constituencies for both, and town halls can be flooded and
people organized. Those who desperately wanted a change towards
economic security are going to be surprised that the factories aren't
coming back and that they signed up for a libertarian kleptocracy
instead. But we should also be clear on the challenges of their
policy agenda, and that the cracks won't appear by themselves.
Konczal recommends a book (as do I): Thomas Frank's The Wrecking
Crew: How Conservatives Rule (2009) -- no mention of Trump, but lots
of things you're going to be seeing. And back on Sept. 21, Konczal wrote
a piece that provides useful background here:
Trump Is Actually Full of Policy.
Michael Kruse: What Trump Voters Want Now: Talking to blue collar
Trump voters in Pennsylvania:
"Your government betrayed you, and I'm going to make it right," Trump
told a boisterous crowd at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena less
than three weeks before Election Day. "Your jobs will come back under
a Trump administration," he said. "Your steel will come back," he said.
"We're putting your miners back to work," he said.
The people here who voted for Trump want all that. They want him
to loosen environmental regulations. They want their taxes to go down
and their incomes to go up. They want to see fewer drugs on their
streets and more control of the Mexican border. They want him to
"run the country like a business." And they want this fast. So now
comes the hard part for Trump -- turning rhetoric into results. Four
years ago, the largely Democratic voters in Cambria County flipped
on President Obama, disgusted that he had not made good on his
promise of change. What's clear from a series of interviews with
Trump supporters here is that they will turn on Trump, too, if he
doesn't deliver. [ . . . ]
But beyond flared tempers in the immediate aftermath of this
ugly election, said Rininger and Daloni, the larger point is that
this isn't going to work. There's next to no way, they believe,
that Trump can deliver on his promises.
"The infrastructure for the steel is all gone," Daloni said.
"It just doesn't exist anymore in Johnstown. It did used to be a
steel boomtown, but it was long before Obama was elected. It was
decimated, really, before Bill Clinton was elected. The mills
were going down in the '70s and '80s."
The Trump voters say they want change, but Daloni and Rininger
say the change has happened already. And despite what Trump promised
at the downtown arena a month ago, they believe there's a real chance
that Trump's solutions could make things worse. Incomes won't go up --
they'll go down. "I make $32 an hour, with good benefits, and that's
because I'm union," Rininger said. "I wouldn't even be f--king close
to that if I wasn't union."
And jobs, they worry, won't come back -- they'll disappear faster.
And before long, they said, the only work in Cambria County will be
minimum-wage counter jobs at the familiar collection of ring-road
fast food-joints. "The service industry, I'm afraid," Daloni said.
"If Trump starts trade wars," Rininger said, "you hurt us. You hurt
our plant" -- which is owned by Swedes, with a CEO from India. And the
steel the workers do still make, Rininger said, is sold to Brazil.
It's sold around the world.
Charles Pierce comments:
You Can Keep Studying White Working Class Voters, But We Know the
David Leonhardt: The Democrats' Real Turnout Problem: Cites a study
by Douglas Rivers of five east-to-midwest swing states that switched
from Obama to Trump (plus Minnesota, which was very close):
In counties where Trump won at least 70 percent of the vote, the number
of votes cast rose 2.9 percent versus 2012. Trump's pugnacious message
evidently stirred people who hadn't voted in the past. By comparison,
in counties where Clinton won at least 70 percent, the vote count was
1.7 percent lower this year.
Eric Lichtblau: US Hate Crimes Surge 6%, Fueled by Attacks on Muslims:
I wouldn't call 6% a surge, but it turns out that's a gross "hate crime"
count. The real bottom line:
There were 257 reports of assaults, attacks on mosques
and other hate crimes against Muslims last year, a jump of about 67
percent over 2014. It was the highest total since 2001, when more than
480 attacks occurred in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Ryan Lizza: Donald Trump's First, Alarming Week as President-Elect:
Old history, now eclipsed by an even more disturbing second week
(e.g., Michael Flynn, Mike Pompeo).
Amanda Marcotte: Voter suppression helped make Donald Trump president --
now he'll make it worse
Sophia A McClennen: Like a double dose of Dubya: Donald Trump's presidency
will be like the George W. Bush disaster -- only worse
Michael Moore: 5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win: This piece dates
from July 21, 2016, so it counts now as prophetic, but was meant
more as a warning, from someone who grew up in an industrial Great
Lakes state and has spent much of his career chronicling the hard
times his people have suffered. Here's the first point:
I believe Trump is going to focus much of his attention on the four
blue states in the rustbelt of the upper Great Lakes -- Michigan,
Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Four traditionally Democratic
states -- but each of them have elected a Republican governor since
2010 (only Pennsylvania has now finally elected a Democrat). In the
Michigan primary in March, more Michiganders came out to vote for
the Republicans (1.32 million) that the Democrats (1.19 million).
Trump is ahead of Hillary in the latest polls in Pennsylvania and
tied with her in Ohio. Tied? How can the race be this close after
everything Trump has said and done? Well maybe it's because he's
said (correctly) that the Clintons' support of NAFTA helped to
destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going
to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade
policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states.
When Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the
Michigan primary, he threatened the corporation that if they did
indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move
it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars
shipped back to the United States. It was sweet, sweet music to the
ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his
threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones
in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and
Trump walked away with a big victory that should have gone to the
governor next-door, John Kasich. . . .
And this is where the math comes in. In 2012, Mitt Romney lost
by 64 electoral votes. Add up the electoral votes cast by Michigan,
Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It's 64. All Trump needs to do to
win is to carry, as he's expected to do, the swath of traditional
red states from Idaho to Georgia (states that'll never vote
for Hillary Clinton), and then he just needs these four rust belt
states. He doesn't need Florida. He doesn't need Colorado or Virginia.
Just Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And that will put
him over the top. This is how it will happen in November.
And that was exactly what happened -- had Clinton held the
line in the three closest states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania;
forget Ohio) she would have been elected. She is, of course, one of
the other four points, but more interesting is what Moore calls "the
Jesse Ventura Effect":
Finally, do not discount the electorate's ability to be mischievous
or underestimate how any millions fancy themselves as closet anarchists
once they draw the curtain and are all alone in the voting booth. It's
one of the few places left in society where there are no security
cameras, no listening devices, no spouses, no kids, no boss, no cops,
there's not even a friggin' time limit. You can take as long as you
need in there and no one can make you do anything. You can push the
button and vote a straight party line, or you can write in Mickey
Mouse and Donald Duck. There are no rules. And because of that, and
the anger that so many have toward a broken political system, millions
are going to vote for Trump not because they agree with him,
not because they like his bigotry or ego, but just because
they can. Just because it will upset the apple cart and make mommy
and daddy mad. And in the same way like when you're standing on the
edge of Niagara Falls and your mind wonders for a moment what would
that feel like to go over that thing, a lot of people are going to
love being in the position of puppetmaster and plunking down for
Trump just to see what that might look like.
Of course, the polls told them that Trump didn't have a chance,
that someone sane would catch them when they jumped. Moore also
wrote another pre-election piece called
5 Ways to Make Sure Trump Loses, which included this bit:
So many people have given up on our system and that's because the
system has given up on them. They know it's all bullshit: politics,
politicians, elections. The middle class in tatters, the American
Dream a nightmare for the 47 million living in poverty. Get this
straight: HALF of America is planning NOT to vote November 8th.
Hillary's approval rating is at 36%. CNN said it last night: No one
running for office with an approval rating of 36% has ever been
elected president (Trump's is at 30%). Even in these newer polls,
60% still say that Hillary is "untrustworthy to be president."
Disillusioned young people stop me every day to tell me they're not
voting (or they're voting 3rd Party). This is a problem, folks. Stop
ignoring it. You need to listen to them. Chastising them, shaming
them, will not work. Acknowledging to them that they have a point,
that Hillary Clinton is maybe not the best candidate, . . .
The rest of the paragraph doesn't make a lot of sense, and maybe
acknowledging your candidate's flaws won't convince many people to
overlook them, but one way to approach this would be to refocus the
campaign on electing Democrats to Congress, both to help her and to
keep her honest. And the easiest thing in the world should have been
running against our current batch of Congressional Republicans. Of
course, it didn't happen, perhaps because the Clintons rarely concern
themselves with any but the first person.
Toni Morrison: Making America White Again: This is one of sixteen
pieces the New Yorker commissioned as
Aftermath: Sixteen Writers on Trump's America. See especially
Jane Mayer on Trump and the Koch network. Also this from Jill Leopre:
The rupture in the American republic, the division of the American
people whose outcome is the election of Donald Trump, cannot be
attributed to Donald Trump. Nor can it be attributed to James Comey
and the F.B.I. or to the white men who voted in very high numbers
for Trump or to the majority of white women who did, too, unexpectedly,
or to the African-American and Latino voters who did not give Hillary
Clinton the edge they gave Barack Obama. It can't be attributed to the
Republican Party's unwillingness to disavow Trump or to the Democratic
Party's willingness to promote Clinton or to a media that has careened
into a state of chaos. There are many reasons for our troubles. But
the deepest reason is inequality: the forms of political, cultural,
and economic polarization that have been widening, not narrowing, for
decades. Inequality, like slavery, is a chain that binds at both ends.
[ . . . ]
Many Americans, having lost faith in a government that has failed
to address widening inequality, and in the policymakers and academics
and journalists who have barely noticed it, see Trump as their deliverer.
They cast their votes with purpose. A lot of Trump voters I met during
this election season compared Trump to Lincoln: an emancipator. What
Trump can and cannot deliver, by way of policy, remains to be seen; my
own doubts are grave. Meanwhile, though, he has added weight to the
burden that we, each of us, carry on our backs, the burden of old hatreds.
I agree that inequality infects everything, but would also have
blamed war: it's impossible to spend fifteen years at war, even if
it only rarely touches us personally (as has oddly been the case
with this one), without it coarsening and brutalizing us, and that
shows up in an increasingly bitter and violent campaign. Trump
evinced by far the more popularly resonant stance, on the one
hand disowning misguided conflicts like Bush's Iraq war yet on
the other hand showing an unflinching will to inflict violence
whenever threatened. Clinton, on the other hand, seemed to follow
Obama in thinking that war can be compartmentalized and managed,
something that can continue indefinitely without changing us.
For more on this point, see:
Tom Engelhardt: Through the Gates of Hell: How Empire Ushered in
a Trump Presidency.
Charles P Pierce: I Am Sure of Nothing Now: Concludes with this
quote from Hunter S. Thompson on the 1972 election, the first time
I was as grossly disappointed by American voters as this time (not
that there haven't been a couple more times sandwiched between):
This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves;
finally just lay back and say it -- that we are really just a nation
of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy
guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world
who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that
George McGovern, for all his mistakes . . . understands what a
fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this
country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands
of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some
stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared
to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose . . .
Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country
to be President?
Sean T Posey: How Democrats lost the Rust Belt in 2016:
In 1964, 37 percent of Ohio workers belonged to a union; that number
fell to 12 percent by 2016, and incomes for the working class tumbled
in tandem. It's a similar story in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Indiana,
West Virginia and Wisconsin. Republican policies are largely responsible,
but Democrats have done little to address the precipitous decline of
the working class.
When Hillary Clinton famously referred to half of Trump's supporters
as a "basket of deplorables," it rang hollow for voters who had waited
in vain for her to acknowledge their economic plight. Ohio, Pennsylvania
and Michigan helped elect Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. However, for
working families, the economic hangover of the post-industrial era never
went away. Clinton's campaign failed to fully appreciate their pain.
A couple years into the "recovery" it was reported that 97% of the
gains had been reaped by the 1%. Maybe that number has inched down a
bit since then, but that translates as a windfall for the very rich
and no recovery for most people.
John Quiggin: The dog that didn't bark: One of the most glaring
results from the election is that virtually none of the Republicans
who had been so critical of Trump early on failed to vote for him
in the end. Perhaps that's because socially liberal, economically
moderate, or libertarian Republicans have become urban myths --
even though Clinton wasted a lot of time courting them (she did
seem to be doing better among the neocons, but it looks like they'll
do quite nicely under Trump).
Sam Stein: The Clinton Campaign Was Undone by Its Own Neglect and a
Touch of Arrogance, Staffers Say
Steven Waldman: Did the Decline of Labor Finally Kill the Democrats?
Gary Younge: How Trump took middle America: Lead-in: "After a month
in a midwestern town, the story of this election is clear -- when people
feel the system is broken, they vote for whoever promises to smash it."
Steve Bannon: 'we'll govern for 50 years': A boast that only seems
modest next to "Thousand Year Reich." From the cited
interview (more of a profile piece than tete-a-tete):
When Bannon took over the campaign from Paul Manafort, there were many
in the Trump circle who had resigned themselves to the inevitability of
the candidate listening to no one. But here too was a Bannon insight:
When the campaign seemed most in free fall or disarray, it was perhaps
most on target. While Clinton was largely absent from the campaign trail
and concentrating on courting her donors, Trump -- even after the leak
of the grab-them-by-the-pussy audio -- was speaking to ever-growing
crowds of 35,000 or 40,000. "He gets it; he gets it intuitively," says
Bannon, perhaps still surprised he has found such an ideal vessel. "You
have probably the greatest orator since William Jennings Bryan, coupled
with an economic populist message and two political parties that are so
owned by the donors that they don't speak to their audience. But he
speaks in a non-political vernacular, he communicates with these people
in a very visceral way. Nobody in the Democratic party listened to his
speeches, so they had no idea he was delivering such a compelling and
powerful economic message. He shows up 3.5 hours late in Michigan at 1
in the morning and has 35,000 people waiting in the cold. When they got
[Clinton] off the donor circuit she went to Temple University and they
drew 300 or 400 kids."
Oh, then there's this final quote: "I am Thomas Cromwell in the court
of the Tudors."
As I was putting this post together, I started reading Corey Robin's
Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin (2011), and noted
this quote (p. 59) on the asymmetry between left and right, on how
hard change is for the former, and how easy reaction is for the
Where the left's program of redistribution raises the questions of
whether its beneficiaries are truly prepared to wield the powers they
seek, the conservative prospect of restoration suffers from no such
challenge. Unlike the reformer or the revolutionary, moreover, who
faces the nearly impossible task of empowering the powerless -- that
is, of turning people from what they are into what they are not -- the
conservative merely asks his followers to do more of what they always
have done (albeit, better and differently). As a result, his
counterrevolution will not require the same disruption that the
revolution has visited upon the country.
My main worry about the Sanders campaign wasn't that he might get
slandered and lose his appeal, but that there wasn't a strong enough
movement under him to deliver on his promises. And that mattered, of
course, because his promises mattered. By contrast, all Trump voters
had to do was to put their guy in power. After that, go back to work,
and let their new right-thinking leader do what needs to be done.
I've never had any inkling why they would trust him with that power,
but then I don't think like they do: I learned early to question all
authority, and found that when you give a greedy monster more power
he only becomes greedier and more monstrous. But in a way, the great
appeal of the right is that it offers simplistic solutions, wrapped
in a little virus of paranoia which allows them to be used again and
again, regardless of their repeated failures.
Wednesday, November 16. 2016
A few more posts as I'm sifting through the old
online notebook for a few stray record reviews, and finding a world
that looks and sounds eerily familiar, marked by six years of corrupt
Republican rule (following eight years of corrupt Clinton and twelve
years of even more corrupt Reagan-Bush). This shows that ten years ago
I was starting to doubt that some of the damage could ever be reversed.
Clearly, eight years of Obama has had little effect -- one statistic
is that 97% of the gains of the recovery have been captured by the top
1%, which implies that the overwhelming majority of Americans haven't
seen anything vaguely resembling a recovery, no matter what the stock
markets say -- and now we're poised for another plunge into disaster.
From February 1, 2006, when "the Liar in Chief gave his State of the
Of course, not everything Bush has tried has worked out exactly
according to plan. But it's hard to tell given that the real plans
have always been secret, and that the administration and its pliant,
co-opted media have consistently been able to put their spin over.
Maybe Iraq was intended to be a cakewalk that would deliver us a
steady source of cheap oil, but the worst case scenario -- that
Iraqi oil falls off the market, constricting supplies and driving
prices up -- works just as well for Bush, and better still for
Exxon-Mobil. Maybe John ("no carrot") Bolton's non-proliferation
diplomacy was intended to pacify Kim Jong Il, but a nuclear-armed
North Korea is just the sort of threat that keeps Japan in line
and helps sell anti-missile defense systems. Maybe Bush actually
wanted to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden, but the latter's taunts
are always good for a bump in the polls. Win-win scenarios like
those encourage boldness by insulating Bush from the consequences
of screwing up. If Herbert Hoover had been able to spin like Bush,
America wouldn't have had that New Deal for the Republicans to try
The fact is that most Americans are worse off than they were
five years ago. Real wages are down. The real cost of living is
up, with energy and health care, education and housing leading
the way. Fewer people have jobs; those who do work longer hours
for less benefits. Productivity is up, but all of the benefits
have gone to management. More people live in poverty. Fewer have
health insurance, so more skip non-emergency care. Many people
have compensated for their declining incomes by borrowing more,
so savings is down and debt is up. The federal budget has gone
from a surplus to record deficits. Trade deficits have also hit
new record levels. This has been temporarily covered by foreign
funds, which own more and more of America's capital and debt.
The portion of federal spending on such non-productive expenses
as defense, security, and prisons has grown considerably, in
turn starving social services and infrastructure investments.
Where state and local governments have tried to compensate for
loss of federal funds, their tax increases have often swallowed
up the federal cuts. Meanwhile, safety nets have been reduced,
not least under the guise of tort reform and bankruptcy reform.
Environmental protections have been slashed, and the Super Fund
clean-up system is defunct. Much of the federal government has
been turned into a super-police agency, the Dept. of Homeland
Security -- the domestic equivalent of the Dept. of Imperial
Security (formerly the Dept. of Defense). The right to privacy
(i.e., the right to be secure in one's home and person) has
been attacked from every angle: through new laws like the USA
PATRIOT Act, through blatantly extralegal acts like NSA spying,
through Bush's packing of the courts with right-wing extremists.
And on all fronts, whatever competency government once had has
diminished as the civil service system has been turned into a
major new system of political patronage.
The key idea here is not just that the Republicans are crooks
(cf. Jack Abramoff) or scoundrels (cf. Scooter Libby) or both (cf.
Tom DeLay): it's that they're building a political machine to
perpetuate their control, a brutally efficient Tamany Hall that
straddles the entire globe. It's a spectacular vision, but it's
already -- long before such new space weapons as the Rods from
God come on-line -- showing signs of overreach. The Iraq war may
be good for Exxon-Mobil, maybe even for Halliburton, but it's been
rough on the US Army, stretched now to the breaking point. And the
longer a few thousand insurgents in Iraq are able to tie the US
down, the more defiant others become. The Muslim world is still
mostly tied down in crony dictatorships, but when democratization
comes they won't be so easy to push around. For an example of how
this works, cf. Latin America, where anti-US politicos have won
every election recently. Moreover, Bush's domestic programs weaken
the US economy in nearly every way, making any number of economic
disasters possible, on top of the long term rot caused by the
right's political attacks on science and education, the closing
of opportunities, and the increasing tolerance of graft.
That was written a couple years before the predicted economic
disaster got out of hand.
From February 15, 2006, when Dick Cheney went hunting:
The sea change in the media coverage of Dick Cheney's little hunting
accident just proves that what goes around comes around. Cheney was the
guy who insisted on going full bore ahead on the Republicans' agenda
after they squeaked through the tainted 2000 presidential election. His
cynical exploitation of ill-gotten power was unprecedented in its scope
and depravity. (Not only had Bush taken office under a cloud, compare
what he said during the campaign to what they did afterwards to get a
glimpse of how disengenuous they were before power corrupted them
further. And just as secrets and lies got them into office, secrets
and lies followed them everywhere.) Although Cheney hasn't exactly
gotten a free ride for all he's done, he's gotten a lot of slack --
the media's customary deference to the powerful, who are often (and
this is important) the ones who feed them the spin they report as
news. I'm tempted to suggest that the real reason they've turned on
Cheney so hard is that he denied them the scoop, but at least part
of their bite comes from resentment at having been lied to over and
over. The media has a bad case of "kiss up, kick down" (to borrow
a phrase used to describe John Bolton), so now that Cheney has
gotten himself into a pickle, they can finally show their love.
On March 3, 2006, I wrote a comment about a quote from Robert D.
Kaplan, an American journalist who served in the IDF and went on to
be a major neocon cheerleader in books about Afghanistan, the Balkans,
and The Arabists. I read a lot of his work after 9/11, but had
largely given up on him by the time I wrote this:
One thing to remember about Kaplan is that he's consistently argued
that democracy is not a viable goal for US (or any imperial) foreign
policy. His prescription for Iraq was that the US install an
authoritarian regime -- possibly another Baathist, another Saddam but
on a tighter leash. Allawi would have suited Kaplan fine had it
worked, but by the time the US brought Allawi in it was already too
late. The US lost the re-use Saddam's systems of control -- the
"decapitation" option -- when Bremer dissolved the Iraq army, or you
can go further back to the decision to short-staff the invasion
force. This meant that the US depended on the Kurds and Shiites to
stabilize Iraq after the invasion, and the price of their
participation was de-Baathification. Bush also tied his shoelaces
together with his liberation/democracy spiel -- while the US actually
did very little very slowly to promote democracy (the two-thirds rule
is an especially clever poison pill) the idea is still a dangling
sword over the head of the occupation.
Kaplan's books are very readable and quite useful, except when he
starts "thinking". Even then his "pragmatism" is rigorous and
consistent -- to the point that he insists that imperialism needs a
"pagan ethos". His big problem is that his ideals and preferred
practices are rooted in some other century. That strikes me as a fatal
debilitation in a "pragmatist."
On the other hand, recent news does make the rather sobering case
that bad as Saddam was, removing him has led to worse. One thing we
need to give some serious consideration to is how it might be possible
to ameliorate conditions under Saddam-like dictators without plunging
entire countries into the hell of war. As far as I can tell, since
1991 all the US ever did viz. Iraq, and for purely domestic political
reasons of the basest sort, was try to make conditions there
By the way, has anyone noticed that in Saddam's show trial, he's
being charged with ordering fewer executions than Bush signed off on
while governor of Texas?
On May 12, 2006, I wrote a post around quotes about Berlusconi
and Nixon that seemed to fit the election results so well I went
ahead and posted them
On June 22, 2006, I wrote a post called "Clintonistas for
Armageddon" -- it's one of those things you forget about because
it led to nothing, but it was about an op-ed written by two
Clinton war guys, William Perry (Clinton's Secretary of Defense)
and Ashton Carter (a Clinton under-secretary, who later became
Obama's Secretary of Defense). They were upset about North Korea
testing one of its missiles, and urged Bush to pre-emptively fire
cruise missiles at the site. While North Korea's missiles (and
most likely a couple fission bombs) were works-in-progress, this
overlooked that North Korea has thousands of pieces of heavy
artillery capable of raining destruction on Seoul. That's not
a very smart deterrent to test. I spent some time researching
North Korea at that point. Today I'm more struck by the Clinton
connection. I led off the post with this line:
One reason we're always stuck in a hopeless, hapless mess in foreign
policy is that the people the Democrats hire to staff those positions
are for all intents and purposes the same pinheaded warrior wannabes
as the ones the Republicans hire.
On June 23, 2006, I wrote a post based on an Eagle article
reporting that sociologists are finding that Americans have fewer
and fewer close friends (the average dropped from 3 in 1985 to
2). I quoted the piece, then added:
This trend has been going on all my life. It's easy to think back
to the '50s and '60s when people actually worried about this -- you
don't hear much about alienation any more, but it was so much on the
mind that existentialism was invented to salve it. The arch trends
all date back to the '50s: the move to the suburbs, the envelopment
of passive entertainment, the time demands of careerism. More recent
is the notion of Quality Time, another time encroachment that has
come about as parenting has been shaped by the career ethic. Another
factor is fear: the threat of nuclear destruction dates back to the
'50s, but everyday fear of your neighbors has built up slowly over
time. (The current obsession with tracking "sex offenders" is a good
example.) But then fear may also be a consequence of having fewer
friends: as you lose the knack of making friends the rest of the
world becomes unapproachable.
The consequences of this for politics are almost too obvious to
point out. The more isolated and self-contained people's lives are,
the less appreciation people have for others not like them. Passive
intake of news and information leaves you vulnerable to manipulation --
especially the sort of manipulation that's become the stock and trade
of the new right in America. Most of this nonsense would fall apart at
the first dissent, but if you avoid anyone who might think differently,
you can wind up convincing yourself of any fool thing.
July 8 I wrote an untitled
piece, a bit of autobiography trying to explain why I write this shit.
Interesting to read it a decade later, because sometimes I forget.
I've written a lot on Israel ever since 2001 but haven't quoted
much in this series. However, in July 2006 Israel opened a brutal
assault on Lebanon, an event Condoleezza Rice memorably dubbed "the
birthpangs of a new Middle East." On July 25, I wrote:
The irony in all this is that the neocons
got snookered worse than anyone in thinking of Israel as the model the
American military should aspire to. The fact is that Israel hasn't had
anything resembling a clean military victory since 1967. The War of
Attrition with Egypt was exactly that. 1973 was a draw perceived as
a psychological defeat. Lebanon was a bloody, pointless mess from the
very start, dragged out to 18 years only to give Hezbollah training.
The counter-intifadas were like trying to fight roaches by pummelling
them with garbage.
To be fair, America hasn't done any better, unless you're still
excited by Grenada. Korea was a draw. Vietnam was a flat-out loss.
The Cuba invasion never got off the beach. Panama was good for one
kidnapping then a hasty retreat. Kuwait left Iraq as an open sore,
then you know what happened when they opened that one up again.
Afghanistan is a slow burn. The War on Terrorism has left its Most
Wanteds at large. The War on Drugs hasn't made a dent. The War on
Poverty was quietly abandoned, at least until Bush revised the
semantics. The last winner we had was WWII, and that was won by
manufacturing, logistics and engineering -- as Billmon points out,
not by the will to fight, which the Germans and Russians were far
more effective at mustering.
The neocons, both American and Israeli, don't understand a lot
of things, but at the top of their list is that, while we like
everyone else will fight for our homes, we don't really want to
go somewhere else and fight to take or crush someone else's homes,
especially when they're willing to fight back, and we might get
killed or maimed. The only way the US can staff its military is
by promising folks that their tours will be virtually riskless --
which thanks to the neocons is getting tougher and tougher, and it
shows. Israel still has universal military draft -- well, nearly
universal, except for the Arabs they don't trust and the ultra
orthodox who get a pass -- but even they are so used to riskless
conflict that the real thing is shocking. The fact is, very few
people these days want anything to do with war. The destruction
is extraordinary and mutual, the chances of gain are negligible.
Why do these war mongers even exist?
Finally (for now, anyway), on September 13, 2006 -- two years before
"The Great Recession" became official -- I called this post "The Great
Yesterday I mentioned a long list of problems the Bush administration
has at best ignored, more commonly exacerbated, and in some cases flat
out caused. I didn't bother with the tiresome task of enumerating, but
Billmon has come
up with a reasonable summary, occasioned by the 5th anniversary of the
You can learn a lot about a country in five years.
What I've learned (from 9/11, the corporate scandals, the fiasco in
Iraq, Katrina, the Cheney Administration's insane economic and
environmental policies and the relentless dumbing down of the
corporate media -- plus the repeated electoral triumphs of the Rovian
brand of "reality management") is that the United States is moving
down the curve of imperial decay at an amazingly rapid clip. If
anything, the speed of our descent appears to be accelerating.
The physical symptoms -- a lost war, a derelict city, a Potemkin
memorial hastily erected in a vacant lot [the still-empty hole where
the WTC used to be] -- aren't nearly as alarming as the moral and
intellectual paralysis that seems to have taken hold of the
system. The old feedback mechanisms are broken or in deep disrepair,
leaving America with an opposition party that doesn't know how (or
what) to oppose, a military run by uniformed yes men, intelligence
czars who couldn't find their way through a garden gate with a GPS
locator, TV networks that don't even pretend to cover the news unless
there's a missing white woman or a suspected child rapist involved,
and talk radio hosts who think nuking Mecca is the solution to all our
problems in the Middle East. We've got think tanks that can't think,
security agencies that can't secure and accounting firms that can't
count (except when their clients ask them to make 2+2=5). Our churches
are either annexes to shopping malls, halfway homes for pederasts, or
GOP precinct headquarters in disguise. Our economy is based on asset
bubbles, defense contracts and an open-ended line of credit from the
People's Bank of China, and we still can't push the poverty rate down
or the median wage up.
I could happily go on, but I imagine you get my point. It's hard to
think of a major American institution, tradition or cultural value
that has not, at some point over the past five years, been shown to be
a) totally out of touch, b) criminally negligent, c) hopelessly
corrupt, d) insanely hypocritical or e) all of the above.
The next line is: "It's getting hard to see how these trends can
be reversed." Then Billmon starts comparing the US to the Soviet
Union in the '80s. He recommends a book by David Satter: Age of
Delirium: The Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union. I have some
other reading planned on the post-fall depression. The thing I find
most interesting about Russia isn't the stupidity of the (especially
late) Communist years -- it's the absolute collapse of living
standards following the fall. We're so used to the idea of progress
that we have trouble seeing decline even when the facts are hard to
read otherwise. This collapse hit Russia so the hard life expectancy
metrics declined. A quarter or more of Russia's GDP vanished. There
are other examples scattered around the world, especially war-induced
losses like in Iraq, and war-inducing ones in parts of Africa.
In some measures living standards in the US have been declining
since roughly 1970. This has been masked by technological progress,
by debt accumulation, by scapegoating, and by political delusion.
Take medicine, for instance: science and technology have advanced,
but insurance and delivery of basic health care has in some cases
actually regressed, such that US life expectancy has finally begun
to decline, especially compared to other wealthy nations. But the
new stuff gets the press and sets the perception. Only when you
need it do you find out you can't get it, or it doesn't really
work, or something else goes wrong.
Immigration is another source of cover-up. Undocumenteds provide
low skill labor that compensates for demotivating our own unskilled
labor. There's a lot of scapegoating over that, but more important
is legal immigration, which is needed to compensate for our failures
to educate and develop knowledge workers -- everyone from school
teachers to computer programmers to doctors. Immigration stimulates
the economy, but it also levels the world. It's not necessarily a
problem per se, but what it covers up is.
Beyond the obvious declines, there's a steady build up of risk
and liability, as well as plain old depreciation. I've been reading
complaints about not putting enough money into infrastructure for
decades now. It's like, if you have a house with termites, it may
look fine for years, especially if you don't look very close. Then
one day a gust of wind, or just gravity, will bring it down. That's
basically what happened to the Alaska pipeline. That's what happened
to the New Orleans levees. Katrina wasn't the big storm everyone had
so feared, but it was big enough anyway, because we didn't realize
how vulnerable we had become.
That sort of rot has been accumulating for a long time -- George
Brockway dated a lot of recent economic problems to the Republicans'
first attempts to dismantle the New Deal when they took over Congress
in the 1946 elections. Laws they passed like Taft-Hartley had little
immediate effect, but over time undermined labor unions and working
wages and the very principle of equal opportunity. Banking laws, as
well as later deregulations, have had similar long-term effects. The
long-term dip in growth rates occurred during the Vietnam War, which
had many other corrosive effects -- especially as the politicos have
dug themselves ever deeper in duplicity and cover-ups.
By now they have to keep denying, they have to keep runing from
the truth. Acknowledgment is failure, and as long as they keep from
failing they can pretend they're succeeding, which is what keeps
the whole scam going. But sometimes failure strikes too suddenly
and/or unshakeably to spin. The last five years have shown us some
examples like that.
Monday, November 14. 2016
Music: Current count 27338  rated (+9), 395  unrated (+1).
I spent Tuesday evening following the election results on a pair
of computers -- my main writing (work) computer and a Chromebook I
use for travel. I mostly used two websites: I followed 538's
2016 Election Night "live coverage and results," and I used the
New York Times'
Presidential Election Results page, which was the first one I
found that gave me a map with red/blue states I could scroll over
to see that state's vote totals. My first hint that anything was
amiss was early in the evening when I saw that Trump was winning
Indiana and Kentucky with 60-61% -- like everyone else, I expected
those states to go to Trump, but those margins struck me as a bit
on the high side. Still, at that point 538's monitor was still
showing Clinton with a 75% chance of winning, and even when her
chances started slipping it wasn't very obvious to me what was
happening. I thought the Republicans were projected to hold the
House way too early, and the Democrats' chances of taking over
the Senate collapsed pretty early in the evening, as Indiana and
Florida were called quite early. However, by the time I went to
bed (about 4AM CST) I was shocked and rather sick.
I remained in a daze for several days (or maybe I'm still in
one). I finally sat down and wrote up my analysis on Friday, then
sat on it a day, edited some, and finally posted it on
Sunday. I figure I'll follow up with a "Roundup" post some
time this week (not necessarily waiting until my usual Sunday
column -- a practice I'm thinking of discontinuing, unsure as
I am of how much "reality" I can stand anymore). You might
consider prodding me with questions and/or helping by pointing
out particularly interesting links (I've grown rather weary of
my usual sources).
Music should be a salve in times like this, but my first
reaction was to favor silence -- there seemed to be too much
noise, too much stimulus, from an Umwelt that suddenly seemed
alien, hostile, and more than a little deranged. Since the
election I've watched no conventional television news, nor
have I returned to the late-night shows we followed regularly
during the campaign. I still get stuff from the web, but
aside from the numbers I used in Sunday's list, I haven't
gone looking for much -- least of all opinions. Nor have I
in any way been tempted to go out and protest -- I gather
there have been anti-Trump protests, but have no idea how
common they are. More generally, I don't see much point in
getting worked up over what bad thing Trump and the Republicans
might do (e.g.,
Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017). There will be
plenty of opportunity in the future when we'll have tangible
threats to try to stop, so you might as well save your energy
for that, or prepare quietly out of sight (better to appear
genuinely shocked than blanketly obstructionist).
When I did finally play some music, it was Leonard Cohen's
Live in London. Partly I wanted to only hear real good
stuff, partly I didn't want to be critical, and partly I had
thought of "Democracy Is Coming to the USA" during a fairly
optimistic Tuesday afternoon. I didn't know at the time that
he had died (although I played it a couple more time after the
news broke). After Cohen, I started playing some old jazz I
liked, especially Coleman Hawkins. I mostly relied on my travel
cases before I started picking things I hadn't heard in years
from a nearby shelf. That's where I found the Sonny Criss set
below: I had noticed it when looking for ungraded records in
the database, so with it I finally returned to grading.
Only late in the week did I give the new jazz queue a chance.
The Terrel Stafford looked old-fashioned, and turned out to be a
good deal better than his Lee Morgan tribute (not coincidentally
because it sounds more like prime Morgan). Rodrigo Amado's album
came in the mail during the week, and jumped the queue. I wasn't
sure I wanted to hear anything avant -- I had been considering
Allen Lowe's latest when the cataclysm disoriented me -- but I
have him down for four previous A- records, so he seemed like a
pretty good prospect.
Still, only nine records rated this past week. Again, everything
here comes from CDs. The computer I normally stream music on is
unusable (well, it still prints, and I haven't tried workarounds
like setting up an X-server or moving the speakers to a machine
that still works, so I guess I haven't been trying very hard).
I should remedy that some time this week: I've ordered new parts,
so I'm pretty much building a whole new computer. The new one
should actually be slightly more powerful than my work machine,
so that opens up some possibilities for rebalancing my work.
I'll get to more new jazz next week -- I've gone through five
records today since I started work on this post (none very good) --
and when I get the new machine running I should be able to check
out some promising things on Napster or elsewhere. Still would
be a good idea to drain the new jazz queue, as the Jazz Critics
Poll deadline is December 4 -- well before anything else I'm
likely to be invited for. (If you're a critic who hasn't gotten
an invite and should, let me know and I'll pass you on to Francis
Davis -- or you can contact him directly.)
I had rather hoped I'd get my
EOY lists set up by the time I posted this, but it now looks like
all you're going to get if you follow the links is stubs. Also,
at this point I have to stress that order is very preliminary.
I'll get them fleshed out later this week, and will be updating
them through the end of the year (and maybe next year as well --
as I've done so far for the 2015
I should point out that Robert Christgau has a piece on Leonard
Our Man, the Sophisticate. Christgau also
tweeted a recommendation for another Noisey piece on Cohen:
Rajeev Balasubramanyam: An American State of Grace: Darkness and Light
in Leonard Cohen's Political Imagination. Most likely there are
many other worthy pieces on Cohen: e.g., see
Comparatively little has been written about another music death
last week: Leon Russell. For a few years in the 1970s I thought he
was one of the greats (especially his eponymous debut album, plus
his work on Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen), and with
Hank Wilson's Back it looked like he could be a credible
country singer. A couple of really awful albums followed (Stop
All That Jazz and Will o' the Wisp) and I quickly lost
interest, so I can't say much about his last forty years. I reckon
I could say he was the Mac Rebennack of Tulsa, but Tulsa doesn't
give a brilliant pianist and outrageous singer much to work with.
Still, something else to mourn in one helluva awful week.
New records rated this week:
- Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (2016, Not Two): [cd]: A-
- Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Basically Baker Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker (2016, Patois, 2CD): [cd]: B+(*)
- Earth Tongues: Ohio (2015 , Neither/Nor, 2CD): [cd]: B
- Jason Hainsworth: Third Ward Stories (2015 , Origin): [cd]: B+(***)
- Ingrid Laubrock: Serpentines (2016, Intakt): [cd]: B+(*)
- Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Yellow Red Blue (2015 , Paint Box): [cd]: B+(**)
- Felix Peikli & Joe Doubleday: It's Showtime! (2016, self-released): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Carol Robbins: Taylor Street (2016 , Jazzcats): [cd]: B+(*)
- Terell Stafford: Forgive and Forget (2016, Herb Harris Music): [cd]: A-
- Andrew Van Tassel: It's Where You Are (2016, Tone Rogue): [cd]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- Sonny Criss: The Complete Imperial Sessions (1956 , Blue Note, 2CD): [cd]: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio: Desire & Freedom (Not Two)
- Jari Haapalainen Trio: Fusion Machine (Moserobie)
- Fredrik Nordström: Restless Dreams (Moserobie)
- Ivo Perelman/Karl Berger/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 1 (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Whit Dickey: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 2 (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 3 (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/William Parker/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 4 (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 5 (Leo)
- Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: The Art of the Improv Trio Volume 6 (Leo)
- Enoch Smith Jr.: The Quest: Live at APC (Misfitme Music)
- Zarabande: El Toro (AFlo)
Sunday, November 13. 2016
I suppose I should write something about last week's election.
I've been sick to my stomach all week, feeling chronic maladies that
make me wonder how many of the ill consequences I will actually hang
on to experience. Admittedly, this reasoned forbiding was made more
personal by the death and funeral of a friend and the sufferings of
another. It probably didn't help that I've spent so much of my time
re-reading old notebooks and blog posts going back to
2001, where I offer a strongly worded
and reasoned accounting of the ongoing disaster Billmon liked to refer
to as the Cheney Administration. (I haven't gotten up to the Obama era
yet -- itself a lengthy chronicle of growing dismay, especially at
the mental illness that so many Republicans have fallen into, but
also at the haplessness of Democrats, especially Obama.)
Since 2001, I've written some five million words in the notebook.
The majority of them have been on music, and I've occasionally mentioned
movies, television, books, and more personal matters, but at least one
million of those words have been addressed to clearly political topics
A few people do appreciate what I've had to say, but I've never managed
to attract any attention beyond old friends and folks who initially
tuned in for music reviews. So when confronted with results like last
week's, I can't help but feel that I've wasted fifteen years of my life.
I've never been, nor ever will be, a political activist, let alone a nuts
and bolts political strategist. I'm starting to feel like I should hang
it up, focus on other projects, and let others carry on.
Still, I guess I do have a few things to say. I haven't read many
of the post-mortems, least of all the efforts of the usual suspects to
shift blame (but for some examples, see
Annie Karni: Clinton aides blame loss on everything but themselves).
Rather, I did what I usually do, and looked at some numbers. (I mostly
got these from Wikipedia and Google, perhaps not the most authoritative
sources, but likely to be close to accurate.) First,
they show that there was no groundswell of support for Trump. He
got 817 thousand votes less than Romney did in 2012 (while losing
by 5 million votes), and he only got 168 thousand more votes
than McCain in 2008 (while losing by 9.5 million votes). In total
votes, the Republican share has been effectively flat over the last
three presidential elections. If the voter base has grown (which
would be expected given that the population has grown), you could
even argue that the Republican share has been declining. They didn't
win this time because they gained ground. They merely lost less than
Clinton did: she finished with 5.4 million fewer votes than Obama
got in 2012, and even so was only done in by a quirk in where those
votes were distributed, a bias rigged into the electoral system.
You might wonder about the effect third parties had, but it was
negligible. After polling close to 9% for most of the season, Gary
Johnson collapsed at the end, receiving 3.22% of the vote. Jill
Stein suffered a comparable collapse, dropping from 3% peak polls
to less than 1% (0.96%). Both of those candidates ran in 2008, and
both did better this time (Johnson was up 2.23%, Stein 0.60%), but
their 2.83% increase was a tiny fraction of the increased unfavorable
ratings of this year's major party candidates. If
Clinton could have magically counted all of Stein's votes, her
plurality would have been larger -- as it was, Clinton received
439 thousand more votes nationwide than Trump did -- but even a
1.3% popular vote margin wouldn't have been enough to flip the
electoral college in
her favor (she would have picked up Michigan and Wisconsin, but
not Pennsylvania -- Stein got 48,912 votes in Pennsylvania, but
Trump led Clinton by 67,636). At most Stein accounts for one-sixth
of Clinton's deficit.
In the end, it's hard to see anyone other than Clinton to blame
for that 5.5 million vote drop off. Indeed, one can argue that her
deficit was even larger against reasonable expectations.
Economic indicators have generally
been favorable, and Obama was enjoying his highest approval numbers
in a many years. Moreover, Trump was a glaringly deficient, utterly
ridiculous opponent: Clinton's
poll numbers surged after each of three debates when viewers could
see them side-by-side, even more so after
the party conventions. She appeared to have the more unified party
behind her. And she had more money than Trump (although Trump had
pulled ahead of her in "dark money" and benefited from millions the
Kochs and others plowed into down-ballot races). So you have to ask:
why didn't enough people come out and vote for her?
In some cases they did: she ran ahead of her polls in Nevada,
where the "get out the vote" campaign was focused on Latinos (and
Democrats feared losing a critical Senate seat). But I have to
wonder if she had any effective "ground game" at all in states where
polls showed her leading, especially the states that ultimately sunk
her: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and
Wisconsin. Could be that Democrats were over-confident there, or
just lackadaisical: how many people there didn't vote because they
assumed their votes weren't needed? (And how many were turned away
by nasty voter suppression laws?) As I understand it, Clinton
didn't appear in Wisconsin after the primary. And while she did
campaign in Pennsylvania, the big push there was to win over
suburban Republicans, not to fortify the party base.
On the other hand, the Koch network seems to have put most of
their money into down-ticket races, notably in defending endangered
Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida --
all successfully, coincidentally tilting those states for Trump.
(Also Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, and Ohio, where Trump was expected
to win -- Clinton didn't even contest Indiana or Missouri, although
both states should be competitive. The Democrats did win three close
Senate races, all in states Clinton won: Illinois, Nevada, and New
All along, I basically felt that if Clinton could run a "get out
the vote" operation comparable to Obama's in 2008-12, she would win
handily. If any lesson has become a commonplace over the last 10-20
years, it's that you win elections by motivating your base and getting
them out to vote. The bottom line is that Trump did that, and despite
her advantages Clinton did not do an adequate job. What was unusual
this year was that the primary motivator
was fear and loathing of the other side, and that in turn led voters
to excuse a lot of deficiencies in their own candidate. Of the two,
Clinton's failure is far more spectacular, and far more damning,
than Trump's success.
For starters, Clinton had a lot more to work with than Trump did.
No major party candidate had ever had anything like the disapproval
ratings of Trump. Moreover, he could be attacked on numerous fronts,
starting with the gross dysfunctionality of his party's agenda and
their obstruction against any constructive attempts to solve proven
problems (e.g., health care, finance regulation, climate change). I
think it was a tactical error on Clinton's part to focus instead on
personal issues -- a tactic that Trump made irresistibly easy, but
doing so exposed her own personality faults to greater scrutiny,
and she could go overboard, especially with that "nuclear codes"
thing which also reminded voters that the notoriously hawkish and
anti-Russian Clinton could just as easily get them blown up. (From
Karni's article above: "They explained that internal polling from
May showed that attacking Trump on the issue of temperament was a
more effective message." Internal? From May?)
Just before the election, Trump rolled out an ad that was quickly
anti-semitic: the problem was that aside from Clinton, all the
"bad" people in the ad were Jewish (although they weren't identified
as such); and since what made them "bad" was that they "control the
levers of power in Washington," favor "global special interests," and
"put money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations," that
evokes the old anti-semitic trope of a secretive global Jewish cabal
pulling strings all around the world. On the other hand, the thrust
of the ad was plainly true (as far as it went): for several
decades now, Washington has molded public policy to benefit special
interests, especially large financial organizations, and Hillary
Clinton was very much a cog in this process. I hadn't heard about the
ad when I first saw it, so I was focusing on the explicit message,
and for a while I thought it would have made a terrific Jill Stein
spot. Then Trump came on, and of course it's ridiculous to think that
he'll change any of this -- if ever there was a guy angling to get
his share of the graft, it's Trump -- but his final pitch turned out
to be prophetic: he proclaimed the election the last chance Americans
had to stop Crooked Hillary, and that was one simple, concrete task
they could carry out. And so, just enough people voted for Trump (and
just not quite enough voted for Clinton) to make that much happen.
After one of the most annoying and frustrating campaign seasons in
American history, at least some people emerged feeling they had
accomplished something. (On the other hand, had Clinton won, most
Democrats would merely have been relieved, feeling they had dodged
a deadly bullet, but aware that the next four years would be sheer
The one clear result from this election is that Clinton is done.
Having lost one nomination to Obama, having nearly lost another to
Sanders, and now having blown a huge lead against Trump, she is a
three-time loser, and at her age there's no way she's going to
bounce back. And that's not only good riddance, it's a reprieve --
a chance for the Democratic Party to regroup and rebuild free of
the dead weight of the Clinton legacy. Back in
1992 Bill Clinton came to Washington thinking he would show the
Democrats a way to win in the post-Reagan oligarchy. All they had
to do was to prove to the corporate masters that Democrats would be
better for business than the Republicans were. As governor of Arkansas,
Clinton had pioneered that formula, helping boost local outfits like
Walmart and Tyson
grew to become international giants. In Washington, one of the first
things he did was to push NAFTA through -- over the protests of labor
unions, but pointedly to subdue those unions, to weaken them and thereby
proove his loyalty to his business friends. Even though Clinton managed
to get reelected in 1996, his strategy could hardly be called a
success: he cost the Democrats Congress in 1994, and all of his
subsequent legislative accomplishments were compromises that
Republicans agreed to because they understood that they only
served to undercut the Democratic Party's base.
That was followed by eight years of Bush, which started with
budget-busting tax cuts and ended with a complete financial meltdown
and the worst depression since the 1930s -- conditions which, along
with a similar loss of Congress in 2010, conspired to keep Obama
from doing virtually anything significant to help his voters out.
(His donors, of course, made out like bandits.) With Obama we
effectively got eight more years of Clintonism, most obviously
through a raft of Clinton-linked appointments, notably his hawkish
secretary of state. What's happened in the 24 years since Clinton
came to Washington is that inequality has blown up to unprecedented
(nearly unimaginable) levels, we've been plagued by near-permanent
war, and the Republicans have somehow convinced most Americans that
government-by-Democrats can never work to their benefit. And they've
een able to do that largely because Democrats like Hillary Clinton
have played along. Her long history of complicity and collusion in
all of this is the root of her problems, and it's why roughly a third
of the country despises her so much they're willing to risk a fool
like Donald Trump as president. (And in a country where 40% of the
people have been turned off and never bother to vote, that's all it
I still find it almost impossible to imagine Trump as president,
but I'm even more disturbed by what happened in the Congressional
elections. The Republican Congress since 2010 has been nothing
short of a public embarrassment. Most Republicans have been
inveterate obstructionists, with nearly all adhering to extreme
(and dysfunctional) ideological positions. The Democrats should
have made Congress the central issue this election, much as Harry
Truman won the 1948 election by campaigning against a Republican
"do nothing" Congress. And if most Americans had clearly understood
that message, they surely would have flipped both the House and
Senate to the Democrats. But none of that happened. Sure, Democrats
made modest gain: two Senate seats and seven House seats, but that
left the Republicans in control of both chambers, with fat chance
that Trump use the presidential veto will to tamper down their
insanity (as Obama, at least, could do).
The only upside is that presumably Congressional Republicans
won't feel compelled to wreck their own president's administration.
They'll let him do that himself, although I full well expect them
The Republicans have been playing a weird game where they never
get blamed for their obstruction or inaction. That's been going
on since 1994, minus a respite when Bush was president. In effect,
they've extorted the American people into giving them complete
power this time -- recall that Republicans were promising to
hound Clinton even if she won the election, and had vowed never
to confirm any of her judicial nominees. A Trump presidency
spares us that kind of discord (although he could still order
prosecutors to go after Clinton -- something that would smack
of petty vindictiveness, not that that's beneath him).
What the Democrats have long needed to do was to rebuild a
real, effective party that squarely defends and promotes the
interests of the majority of their voters. They haven't done
this because the Clintons (and Obama) have been so remarkably
successful at raising money from well-heeled donors, notably
in finance and high-tech. The Republicans have a long head
start building their party from the ground up, recruiting
compliant apparatchiki to run for precinct and entry-level
offices, giving them a coherent ready-built program and
talking points, and
promoting those who toe the line most effectively. This has
resulted in Republican domination of state and local offices,
and their gerrymandering has given the Republicans an edge
in the House (even when Democrats get more votes). They have
organizations like ALEC crafting pet legislation, plus think
tanks and their extraordinary media network.
The Democrats have nothing like this, not least because they
don't have a coherent program. They merely promise not to be as
awful as Republicans, without even fully explaining why that
might be, or what it might entail. If there's a silver lining
in this election, it's that the DNC will abandon its "cult of
personality" that only supports the person at the top (Clinton
or Obama) and start to work toward rebuilding the party from
the bottom up, formulating a coherent challenge to Republican
right-wing dominance. This election debacle will cost us dearly:
most obviously, the era when the courts would use constitutional
rights to protect us from oppressive government will come to a
How bad it might all get is hard to forecast. Trump started his
campaign by occasionally straying from conservative orthodoxy, but
wound up pledging allegiance to nearly every wretched idea the
Republican Party has embraced. As president, the main question
will be whether he succumbs to ideologues like Mike Pence and/or
Paul Ryan, or whether he resists and takes a less self-destructive
course. (He has, for instance, already backtracked on Obamacare.)
Same for foreign policy: does he provoke more war, or back away
from destructive confrontations? I don't expect in any way that
he'll become "Putin's puppet" but there are several areas where
a closer relationship with Russia could reduce world tensions. On
the other hand, no prospective Trump underling fills me with more
dread than Michael Flynn -- I find him far more worrying than
Trump's notorious "temperament."
Beyond that I don't really care to speculate. Like Reagan and
Bush, his fetish for "free enterprise" and contempt for government
will foster unimaginable corruption. Meanwhile, the usual Republican
nostrums will fail, often catastrophically. We in Kansas have gotten
more than a taste of how bad Republican fantasies can turn out. Now
it's your turn. This isn't the first time I've been so sorely
disappointed by the American people -- the Nixon landslide in 1972
and the Reagan landslide in 1984, both in spite of overwhelming
evidence of malfeasance and sociopathy, were especially terrible,
although Bush's narrow win in 2004 was even more painful. But we've
grown up in a nation that's been warped by perpetual war with the
world, a nation that has come to celebrate inequality and inequity,
that has grown vicious and surly even while thinking itself beyond
reproach. Trump has finally given America a face as ugly as the
reputation we've garnered over decades. It still feels like a bad
dream, but some day we must wake up and face ourselves. Hopefully
that will be sobering.
Tuesday, November 8. 2016
While looking for jazz reviews tonight, I ran across a post I had
written on May 12, 2006 -- that's ten-and-a-half years ago -- titled
"Mobsters in Suits." At the moment it appears as though the 2016
election is ending in the ugliest way ever: with the Democratic Party
nominee winning a clear plurality of the popular (democratic) vote,
but the Anti-Democratic Party capturing the quintessentially Republican
Electoral College, and thereby electing yet another minority president --
a rich guy with media savvy but no political experience, traits that
early in the primaries reminded me of his fellow billionaire and kindred
spirit, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. I might as well just
quote it here, and leave it to you to figure out the relevance:
Speaking about the erosion of public trust under right-wing --
dare we say Fascist? -- politicians, I was struck by a couple of
quotes in Alexander Stille's New York Review of Books piece, "The
Berlusconi Show" (May 25, 2006):
If Berlusconi initially entered politics to save his television and
financial empire and to defend himself against criminal prosecution,
then his political career can only be judged a complete success. But
he has achieved much more than that: he almost single-handedly
derailed the national corruption investigation known as Operation
Clean Hands. He greatly weakened the war against the Mafia. He made it
possible for politicians to openly mix public affairs with their
private interests, and created a politically slanted television that
in many ways anticipated developments in the United States and
It is difficult to exaggerate the degree of popular support for the
investigations of public corruption that took place in 1994 when
Berlusconi first "entered the playing field." The magistrates who
conducted the investigations were highly trusted; and Antonio Di
Pietro, the most prominent of the prosecutors, was literally the most
popular person in the country -- far more so than Berlusconi
himself. Similarly, between 1992 and 1995, prosecutors in Sicily and
elsewhere accomplished the semingly impssible by arresting thousands
of mafiosi, including the boss of bosses, and helped bring the
murder rate in a country of nearly 60 million people down by 50
percent. The Mafia seemed on the verge of defeat. The entry into
politics of a billionaire who owned TV stations and the country's
leading soccer team and whose company was already under investigation
changed the atmosphere; it had the immediate effect of making criminal
justice a political issue: any further effort to prosecute Berlusconi
or his associates would automatically be seen as a political
[ . . . ]
Berlusconi's prolonged presence in politics has made the entirely
abnormal appear normal. Some Italians have accepted that the owner of
the largest media company has become prime minister without divesting
himself of his interests; no one seems surprised that the parliament
contains dozens of his employees, or that they pass laws that help his
company. Since a businessman who was already under investigation when
he entered politics could become prime minister, hardly anyone seems
appalled that he should get his co-defendants and their lawyers
elected to parliament so as to give them parliamentary immunity. Nor
has there been any serious complaint when these lawyers in parliament
write laws to help their clients escape prosecution in cases they
might lose at trial.
Other sections of the article talk about how Berlusconi's media
empire was able to effectively slander Di Pietro, and how Italy's
economy has declined under Berlusconi's rule. In some ways this
story is peculiar to Italy. No US media tycoon, despite all the
corporate concentration of recent years, has a comparable degree
of dominance. Moreover, in the US corporate titans still prefer
to rent their politicians rather than taking on the dirty job
themselves. Hence, Ken Lay was satisfied backing George Bush --
although in retrospect he might have been better off following
in Berlusconi's footsteps.
Clearly, politics in the US is a calling that has lost its appeal
to anyone with a sense of self-respect, much less a shred of honesty
and integrity. Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone, May 18-June 1, 2006) traces
this back to Richard Nixon:
In the Forties or Fifties, in the age of FDR or Ike, you grew up
thinking the president was like your dad. If you grew up with Kennedy,
he was a handsome young prince living in a castle. Nixon was the first
to rule in an era when the president was something gross your parents
whispered about at night, like ethnic neighbors or anal sex. These
days, the idea of the president as a sort of hideous, power-crazed
monster with a lizard brain and a ten-foot erection is almost
universal. In fact, we choose our presidents now solely on the basis
of their ability to survive a grueling two-year process designed to
beat out of a man everything but his most nakedly criminal urges. We
ritually assault his friends and family, make him perform acts that
would shame a Thai whore -- and if he's still smiling at the end of it
all, we pick him. Only a monster, a Nixon, is capable of that
We know that, and we choose him anyway. Why? Because that's who we
are. We get off on that sort of thing. The fascination runs very
deep. And it's far too late to do anything about it.
The piece concluded with some quotes and comments on Stephen Colbert's
White House Correspondents Dinner keynote, which you can
look up. As for the relevance
of Berlusconi, here's what Kathleen Geier tweeted tonight:
This is an awful night, but keep it in perspective: the relevant
comparison to Trump is not Hitler, but Berlusconi. Which is bad enough.
My only additional comment at this time is that while ten years ago
I thought America was relatively immune to the sort of criminality that
Berlusconi practiced in Italy, it is less so now. How much less remains
to be seen, but we have witnessed and suffered through eight years of
relentless obstruction and sabotage against Obama's presidency, with
essentially no efforts to -- indeed no conception of -- constructively
address the nation's myriad problems. And now it seems like the voters
have handed two branches of government over to a party hell bent on
Monday, November 7. 2016
Music: Current count 27329  rated (+42), 394  unrated (-29).
Actual rated count is probably 19 records -- at least that's how many
are listed below. Counts for previous weeks are 15-9-19, so I'm in some
kind of protracted rut. When I originally computed this week's count I
came up with 18, but noticed that was less than I had listed, so I knew
that I had failed to record some grade in the database. So I wound up
listing all of the unrated records, and compared them to several other
sources, and found a couple dozen records I hadn't counted correctly.
Almost everything below was listened to on actual CDs -- I see three
exceptions, two from Napster and one from Bandcamp. Reason there is that
the computer I use for streaming effectively died last Monday/Tuesday,
so I haven't been able to do any of that almost all week. (It's also
kept me off Facebook.) The computer isn't actually dead. I can remotely
log into it, but either the screen is permanently locked or the display
circuitry is dead. I replaced the power supply in that computer a couple
weeks ago, and it did seem to resolve a clicking/popping problem in the
audio. Also could be that a software "upgrade" triggered the problem --
screen lockouts are not unreported, although the fixes I've seen haven't
solved the problem.
My current plan is to order new guts and rebuild the computer, pretty
much from scratch (salvaging my new power supply and old hard drive, and
re-using an old tower case, but not much else). I've started to shop for
components, and have had a tough time settling on anything beyond an AMD
FX-8350 AM3+ eight-core processor (for some reason Intel doesn't offer
anything cost/performance-competitive). Anyhow, that CPU and comparable
components might persuade me to consolidate my writing work on the new
listening machine, at which point I can finally upgrade software on my
"main" machine. Upgrade the network too. Important things I've been
procrastinating on for way too long.
Second time in last three weeks I have no A- (or better) records to
report. BassDrumBone was my big hope, and I have both discs three spins,
finding much to like but not enough to get excited about. The Richie
Cole album is really lovely, Eric Hofbauer strikes a fine balance for
Ives-in-jazz, and Nat Birchall adds another worthy chapter to the St.
John Coltrane gospel. So, some good records here -- just none cracking
the 97 A-list albums already on my
2016 list. I figure I'll format
this list into best-of-year format sometime in the next two weeks --
EOY lists traditionally start appearing around Thanksgiving, and it
turns out I never ever froze last year's lists (split for
Also heard that NPR will once again support Francis Davis's Jazz
Critics Poll, so I'll help out some there.
Making slow progress collecting jazz reviews. I haven't made any
changes to the
21st Century book -- everything
I'm scraping up is going into a scratch file for future processing --
but I have continued to add directly to the
20th Century non-book, which
recently inched over the 300-page mark. I'm still thinking that what
I've written there is far patchier than is needed for a real record
guide, but it's getting to where I may have to take it seriously. I
have, by the way, continued to use the high grade scale (A- = 9, B =
5) as I've been updating, as opposed to the low scale (A- = 8, B = 4)
I used in the first pass at the Jazz CG data. When I get back to the
latter, I'm pretty sure I'll switch to the high scale. Pretty much
everyone I consulted preferred the low scale, but I haven't made any
meaningful distinctions between A+ and A in decades, and it doesn't
seem either fair or reasonable to downgrade everything else because
I want to insist on some concept of perfection.
I don't expect to get much work done this coming week. For one thing,
I'm sad to report that one of my oldest friends, Tony Jenkins, has died.
He was 60, has struggled with liver cancer over the past year. He grew
up next door, and wound up owning that house -- he was living there when
we moved to Wichita in 1999, although he also had another house about a
mile northeast, that he and his wife bought when they married. It was
one of those tiny houses built for aircraft workers during WWII, and he
transformed it into something special, tearing the roof off and building
a second story with a master bedroom and bath that spanned the whole
house. I spent a lot of time with him while he was doing that, trying
to be helpful (but wasn't really), and he inspired much of the work I've
done on our own house ever since. Haven't seen him much in the last few
years, so his illness really came as shock and regret.
He is survived by his wife Kathy and a rather large dog -- when they
got married nearly four decades ago they told us they were going to
practice with dogs, and they stuck to that story. Tony once told me
he had been surrounded with death all his life, which struck me as
excessively morose. But his brother Bobby, who was a couple years older
than me (so about eight years older than Tony), was killed in Vietnam --
more than any single thing his senseless death turned me against that
atrocious war. He also had a much older brother, Wayne, who died in a
car crash before he turned sixty, but I don't think they were close. (I
barely knew Wayne, mostly by reputation as a legendary local athlete
who turned down a chance to play pro baseball to pursue a lucrative
business career.) I don't know when Tony's parents died, but they've
been long gone -- certainly before Tony got through his 20s, though
probably not while he was still in his teens.
He was a tremendous talker, the sort of guy you might be tempted to
wind up a bit just to see where he takes it. He had low expectations
in school -- I once prepared a very nice poetry notebook for him (not
at all like the blasphemous one I prepped for my brother, the one that
got him kicked out of school), and Tony declined to use it because he
figured no one would believe it to be his own work. You could call that
integrity -- he certainly had that. He worked in construction, doing
siding for a while, then mostly ironwork for cement. Hard work, took
a toll. But what he did learn, he could be downright perfectionist
about. Early on I probably looked down on him as not very smart, but
eventually I came to admire him, to respect his very real talents,
and to appreciate his steady friendship. He was unique. He is missed,
his absence an unfillable void.
New records rated this week:
- Amendola vs. Blades: Greatest Hits (2015 , Sazi): [cd]: B+(**)
- BassDrumBone: The Long Road (2013-16 , Auricle, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
- Martin Bejerano: Trio Miami (2016, Figgland): [cd]: B+(*)
- Nat Birchall: Creation (2016, Sound Soul & Spirit): [bc]: B+(***)
- Boi Akih: Liquid Songs (2016, TryTone): [cd]: B+(*)
- Christiane Bopp/Jean-Luc Petit: L'Écorce et la Salive (2015 , Fou): [cd]: B+(*)
- Oguz Buyukberber and Simon Nabatov: Wobbly Strata (2014 , TryTone): [cd]: B+(**)
- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds: Skeleton Tree (2016, Bad Seed): [r]: B-
- Richie Cole: Plays Ballads & Love Songs (2015 , Mark Perna Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Andrew Downing: Otterville (2016, self-released): [cd]: B
- Rebecca DuMaine and the Dave Miller Trio With Friends: Happy Madness (2016, Summit): [cd]: B-
- Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band: ¡Intenso! (2016, Clavo): [cd]: B+(**)
- Eric Hofbauer Quintet: Prehistoric Jazz - Volume 3: Three Places in New England (2016, Creative Nation Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Roger Ingram: Skylark (2015, One Too Tree): [r]: B
- Nate Lepine Quartet: Vortices (2016, Eyes & Ears): [cd]: B+(*)
- Delfeayo Marsalis presents the Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Make America Great Again! (2016, Troubadour Jass): [cd]: B+(**)
- Matt Mayhall: Tropes (2015 , Skirl): [cd]: B+(*)
- Adam Schneit Band: Light Shines In (2016, Fresh Sound New Talent): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Soul Basement feat. Jay Nemor: What We Leave Behind (2016, ITI): [cd]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Amendola vs. Blades: Greatest Hits (Sazi)
- Tom Collier: Impulsive Illuminations (Origin)
- David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Triple Exposure (Origin): November 18
- Clay Giberson: Pastures (Origin): November 18
- Stu Harrison: Volume I (One Nightstand): November 18
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Flukum (Flat Langston's Arkeyes)
- Erik Jekabson: A Brand New Take (OA2): November 18
- Jerome Jennings: The Beast (Iola): November 18
- Nate Lepine Quartet: Vortices (Eyes & Ears)
- Mamutrio [Lieven Cambré/Piet Verbist/Jesse Dockx]: Primal Existence (Origin): November 18
- Melanie Marod: I'll Go Mad (ITI)
- Matt Mayhall: Tropes (Skirl)
- Phil Parisot: Lingo (OA2): November 18
- Adam Schneit Band: Light Shines In (Fresh Sound New Talent) *
- Steve Slagle: Alto Manhattan (Panorama): January 6
Sunday, November 6. 2016
I was sorely tempted to write nothing more about the election until
it's all over. I doubt I'll write much below, but when I start out I
never know. Part of this is just plain disgust at how the last couple
weeks have played out. Part is that I've been sick, and that hasn't
helped my mood one bit. A big part of the disgust is simply that
Hillary Clinton seems to have blown a huge lead:
FiveThirtyEight gave her an 88.1% chance of victory on October 17,
81.5% as late as October 28. Today that's down to 64.5%. In terms of
states that posits her as losing six states she was previously leading
in: Arizona (her odds there are now down to only 25.8%), Iowa (27.1%),
Ohio (32.9%), Florida (47.4%), Nevada (48.0%), and North Carolina (48.4%).
That's still based on a 2.8% popular vote margin. Some polls are closer
than that, with at least one showing Trump ahead.
TPM had a narrower spread yesterday (2.4%) but a larger one today
(3.9%, despite Clinton dropping to 45.9% of the vote).
Throughout most of the election, the median state (as far as the
electoral college is concerned) has been New Hampshire: if Clinton
wins New Hampshire and every other state she's been polling better
in, she gets 272 electoral votes and wins the election. She's still
given a 61.2% chance in New Hampshire. Trump could win the election
by capturing New Hampshire, unless he loses a larger state he holds
a slim lead in (Nevada, North Carolina, and Florida are all very
early voting looks especially good for Clinton in Nevada). On
the other hand, Trump could lose New Hampshire and still win if he
pulls an upset in Colorado (where he's currently givens a 26.9%
chance) or Pennsylvania (25.9%).
At this stage, the presidential race has been reduced to these nine
"battleground" states. Kansas (97.5% R) isn't one of them. In fact, I
don't think I've seen a single street sign for either Trump or Clinton.
I did see two Trump advertisements last week, and thought they hit an
effective note: it is, after all, easy to tag Clinton as the candidate
of the status quo, without suggesting how attractive more status quo
would be compared to Trumpian change. I haven't seen any Clinton ads,
but am haunted by at least one of her soundbytes, where she warns us
of the danger of entrusting "America's nuclear codes" to someone as
"thin-skinned and impulsive" as Trump. That's probably as carefully
phrased as could be, but it mostly reminded me that she is decidedly
hawkish, someone who believes strongly in flaunting America's military
power, and someone who views the presidency as almost a secondary role
to being Commander-in-Chief. Isn't it odd that the numerous "checks
and balances" that limit what a president can do aren't sufficient to
keep a mad person from blowing up the world? I've said all along that
the surest way Clinton could lose would be to remind us of her appetite
for war, and she's found an inadvertent way of doing that. I figure
that must be part of her blown lead, even though the emails and her
linkage to Anthony Weiner (perhaps the most universally reviled man
in America right now) have gotten more attention.
By the way, as I was preparing this,
FBI Director Comey says agency won't recommend charges over Clinton
email, admitting, in his usual backhanded way, that his previous
letter about re-opening the Clinton email investigation -- the event
that precipitated Clinton's polling losses -- had come to nothing.
Too bad we can't inspect the internal FBI emails discussing why he
exposed this baseless innuendo in the first place. The FBI has a
terrible legacy of politically-minded "investigations" but they've
rarely set their sights on someone as mainstream as Hillary Clinton.
Once again they've embarrassed themselves.
More I could write about here, but let's wind up this intro with
Seth Meyers' "closer look" at the
Major Clinton and Trump scandals:
That's a problem for a lot of Americans: They just don't love the two
choices. Do you pick someone who's under federal investigation for using
a private email server?
Or do you pick someone who called Mexicans rapists, claimed the
president was born in Kenya, proposed banning an entire religion from
entering the US, mocked a disabled reporter, said John McCain wasn't
a war hero because he was captured, attacked the parents of a fallen
soldier, bragged about committing sexual assault, was accused by 12
women of committing sexual assault, said some of those women weren't
attractive for him to sexually assault, said more countries should get
nukes, said that he would force the military to commit war crimes,
said a judge was biased because his parents were Mexicans, said women
should be punished for having abortions, incited violence at his
rallies, called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese,
called for his opponent to be jailed, declared bankruptcy six times,
bragged about not paying income taxes, stiffed his contractors and
employees, lost a billion dollars in one year, scammed customers at
his fake university, bought a six-foot-tall painting of himself with
money from his fake foundation, has a trial for fraud coming up in
November, insulted an opponent's looks, insulted an opponent's wife's
looks, and bragged about grabbing women by the pussy?
How do you choose?
Problem here is that Meyers is still reducing the election to a
choice between two celebrity personalities, as opposed to the real
differences between the parties and interests they represent. Not
that there are no real issues buried in the Trump litany, nor that
some of the personal traits (like his seething contempt for women
and non-whites, and for that matter workers) don't portend policy
dangers, but one thing this campaign has spared (or cheated) us
was an opportunity to debate and vote on two radically different
political visions. Imagine how much different this election might
be if the choice was Bernie Sanders vs. Ted Cruz? One might learn
something there, and emerge from the election with a mandate and
a direction. But with Clinton vs. Trump we're stuck with muddled
results -- both candidates are widely viewed as crooked, greedy,
deceitful, treacherous, untrustworthy, pompous, arrogant, and
full of ungrounded bluster -- their few differences attributable
to irreconcilable identity allegiances. And even if Clinton wins,
her margin isn't going to be nearly large enough to win Congress
as well and to force a rethinking of those divisions. Republicans
running for Congress have pledged to block her every appointment,
to stalemate government and disable her administration from day
one. Trump has already convinced most of his supporters that the
only way he can lose is if the system is rigged against them.
It's fair to say that America is more divided now than at any
election since 1860, which precipitated the Civil War. In terms
of ideas and policies, those divisions have been growing since
the Goldwater and Reagan campaigns, with conservatives demanding
ever more complete domination of government and business, making
the state a tool of the rich while eliminating any countervailing
support government might provide for working people. Of course,
conservatives rarely argue their agenda coherently -- they prefer
to describe clear-cutting as their "healthy forests" initiative --
because they're aware that they'd lose. What Trump adds here is
an unprecedented degree of paranoia, and a demagogic style that
insists on degrading and dehumanizing his opponent and all of her
supporters, and that's what's made him so vile and dangerous.
Some scattered (election) links this week:
Nate Silver: Election Update: The Campaign Is Almost Over, and Here's
Where We Stand
Spencer Ackerman: 'The FBI is Trumpland': anti-Clinton atmosphere
spurred leaks, sources say:
This atmosphere raises major questions about how Comey and the bureau
he is slated to run for the next seven years can work with Clinton
should she win the White House.
The currently serving FBI agent said Clinton is "the antichrist
personified to a large swath of FBI personnel," and that "the reason
why they're leaking is they're pro-Trump."
The agent called the bureau "Trumplandia," with some colleagues
openly discussing voting for a GOP nominee who has garnered unprecedented
condemnation from the party's national security wing and who has pledged
to jail Clinton if elected.
David Atkins: Trump Would Be a Radical Policy Disaster:
This dyspeptic election is finally coming to an end in just a few days
amid ugliness the likes of which has not been seen in modern American
history. This nastiness has focused on the personal and the irrelevant,
from the ridiculous non-scandal of Clinton's emails to the revolting
but ultimately superficial fact that Donald Trump apparently carried
on an affair for years that we're only just learning about.
Follow the article if you want the affair link. Read everything
else. Still, he missed the policy proposal that bothers me most: one
that would make it easier for rich guys like Trump to sue anyone and
everyone who said anything negative about them.
Jonathan Blitzer: A Scholar of Fascism Sees a Lot That's Familiar With
[Ruth] Ben-Ghiat has been broadening her studies ever since the primaries,
and is now considering a book-length examination of strongmen, from
Mussolini to Trump, with stops in Franco's Spain, Erdogan's Turkey, and
Qaddafi's Libya. In the speech of Mussolini, Putin, Trump, and also
Berlusconi, Ben-Ghiat notes a pattern: they are at once transparent
about their intentions and masters of innuendo. "Trump trails off. He
uses ellipses and coded language. He lets his listeners fill in what
they want." When Trump seemed to suggest that gun owners should deal
with Hillary Clinton themselves, or when he talked about needing to
"watch" certain communities out to steal the vote on Election Day, his
statements were more powerful for their ambiguity. "It's all about
letting listeners convince and mislead themselves," she said.
Amy Davidson: Bernie Sanders's Hard Fight for Hillary Clinton:
Seems like the Obamas and Joe Biden get all the media notice, but
did you know?
The truth is that Bernie Sanders is very, very angry -- at Donald Trump.
He is angry enough to have spent weeks traveling on behalf of Hillary
Clinton, speaking for her in union halls and arenas, to students and
activists. When he talks, he is entirely Bernie -- "We are going to
fight for that democracy; we are not going to become an oligarchy" --
and he hints strongly that he has done some negotiating with her before
getting on the stage, and will continue to do so after, as he hopes,
she is elected. When praising her positions, he often says "Secretary
Clinton has told me" or "Secretary Clinton has promised," as though he
knows that it might not work, with the sort of swing audiences he is
dispatched to persuade (students, working-class voters), simply to
declare that taking these stands is in her nature. But he knows what
he wants: for her to win. [ . . . ]
"There are many, many differences between Secretary Clinton and Mr.
Trump," Sanders told the crowd. "But there is one that is very, very
profound. Are you ready for a very radical thought right now? I don't
want anyone to faint! I think we have some paramedics here" -- "paramedics
here" is, it turns out, an excellent phrase for demonstrating a Brooklyn
accent -- "but I do want to make this announcement. Are you ready for
it?" The crowd indicated that it was. "All right. Madam Secretary, you
correct me if I'm wrong here; I don't want to misspeak for you --
Secretary Clinton believes in science!" [ . . . ]
A few hours later, Sanders was off on his own to Iowa. Trump is ahead
in that state, in the latest average of polls, by about two and a half
points. Sanders had three events scheduled for Friday -- Cedar Falls,
Iowa City, Davenport. On Saturday, there would be more.
Kerry Eleveld: Latino electorate both on track for historic turnout and
routinely undercounted in polls: One tidbit: in 2010, polls showed
Republican Sharon Angle leading Harry Reid by 3-5 points, but Reid wound
up winning 50.3-44.5%, largely due to a huge 90-10 Latino vote split.
Ron Fournier: Hillary Has No One to Blame but Herself: Concerns
itself with trivial pursuits like that email server. For insight into
the deeper Clinton problem, see:
Matt Stoller: How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul. Or Thomas
Frank's latest book, Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the
Party of the People? -- although I don't recommend reading the
latter until Wednesday (either way).
Charles Franklin: Party Loyalty and Defection, Trump v Clinton:
Chart tracking polls so both parties with identically high (86.8%)
support for their candidates, after Republicans had trailed all year.
Defection rates similarly low, although Democrats (6.8%) more so than
Republicans (5.2%), the margin growing lately. Billmon's conclusion:
"The November non-surprise. The zombies came home."
Neil Irwin: A New Movement in Liberal Economics That Could Shape
Hillary Clinton's Agenda: The concept is "labor market monopsony,"
which has to do with how monopoly businesses are not only able to
charge rents (fix prices), they're able to use their power to depress
labor markets (wages). Ways to ameliorate this problem include higher
(and more comprehensive) minimum wages and stronger antitrust action
(something Democrats have not been good at, while Republicans have
abandoned any pretense of enforcement).
Ann Jones: Nasty Women:
In his own telling, he, not the women he's demeaned or assaulted, is
the abused one and he's taking it for us, for America. It's quite a
self-portrait when you think about it and should make us appreciate
all the more those women who stepped before the cameras, reported his
sexual assaults, and left themselves open to further abuse from Trump
and his supporters. They have done something rare and brave.
[ . . . ]
On the dark side, you never know what a sore loser and his loyal,
bullying, misogynist followers might do. Say, for example, followers
of the type who show up outside Hillary rallies with banners reading
"Trump that Bitch!"
Paul Krugman: Conservative Intellectuals: Follow the Money:
We're supposed to think back nostalgically to the era when serious
conservative intellectuals like Irving Kristol tried to understand
the world, rather than treating everything as a political exercise
in which ideas were just there to help their team win.
But it was never like that. Don't take my word for it; take the
word of Irving Kristol himself, in his book Neoconservatism: The
Autobiography of an Idea. Kristol explained his embrace of
supply-side economics in the 1970s: "I was not certain of its economic
merits but quickly saw its political possibilities." This justified a
"cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit and other monetary or
financial problems," because "political effectiveness was the priority,
not the accounting deficiencies of government."
In short, never mind whether it's right, as long as it's politically
useful. When David [Brooks] complains that "conservative opinion-meisters
began to value politics over everything else," he's describing something
that happened well before Reagan.
Paul Lewis/Tom Silverstone: Trump rally protester: I was beaten for a
'Republicans against Trump' sign
Martin Longman: Chris Christie Convicted By Proxy in Federal Court:
Would be a bigger story if Trump had picked Christie as his running
mate, but still . . . for anyone who wants to talk about locking people
up, we can start with "two of Chris Christie's 'loyal lieutenants' who
were taken down by Section 666 of Title 18 of the United States Code,"
who now "each theoretically face 20 years in prison (although nothing
close to that will be imposed)."
Caitlin MacNeal: With the End in Sight, Trump Goes All In on Criminalizing
John Nichols: Republicans Won't Stop Talking About Impeaching
Clinton: Specifically, Sen. Ron Johnson, likely to be defeated in
his reelection bid in Wisconsin. But that's only one example.
Amir Oren: Comey's Revenge: The Real Reason the FBI Intervened in the
The large spoke [Comey] put into the Hillary Clinton's wheels of victory
won't be enough to stop her but could well reduce her coattails enough to
keep the Democrats from regaining control of Congress, leaving Washington
paralyzed by the warring branches of government. His motive was a personal
grudge that Comey has held against Bill Clinton for a decade and a half,
along with fresh residue from the investigation he closed this summer
Oren dates that grudge from Bill Clinton's pardon of Marc Rich and
Pinchas Green, financiers who "fled the country as they were about to
be indicted for tax evasion and doing business with Iran during the
hostage crisis," but who found advocates in Israel's government. But
Oren also points out that Comey is a Republican, a deputy attorney
general under Bush, but he supported Obama's nomination of Eric Holder
as attorney general, and was himself nominated by Obama to be FBI
Yochi Dreazen: The anti-Clinton insurgency at the FBI, explained.
Daniel Politi: Key to Trump's More Disciplined Campaign? He No Longer
Controls His Twitter Account:
Although Trump may be keeping some of his thoughts away from the public
spotlight, the Times also paints a scary picture of a candidate
who is obsessed with getting revenge from those he feels have wronged
him. "Offline, Mr. Trump still privately muses about all of the ways he
will punish his enemies after Election Day, including a threat to fund
a 'super PAC' with vengeance as its core mission," notes the Times.
The Times piece:
Inside Donald Trump's Last Stand: An Anxious Nominee Seeks
John Quiggin: Trump voters are (mostly) Romney voters: Who in turn
were mostly Bush voters:
Trump is getting overwhelming support from self-described Republicans
and Republican-leaning independents, and almost none from Democrats
and Democrat-leaning independents. The same was true for Romney four
years ago, and for Bush before him. [ . . . ]
This makes nonsense of much of the discussion of Trump voters as
the dispossessed, protesting against globalisation, predatory capitalism
and the destruction of American manufacturing. Conversely, it turns out
that the discussion of Romney's "dog whistle" appeals to racism was
misconceived. Replacing the dog whistle with a bullhorn has turned out
to be no problem for the great majority of those who voted for Romney.
[ . . . ]
Corey [Robin] here at CT and elsewhere has probably been the most
consistent exponent of the view that Trump is a traditional Republican,
in the line of
Reagan. I broadly agree, though I'd put more stress on new developments
over the past 20 years or so. Trump's complete disregard for truth, norms
of decency and so on, is an extrapolation of a process that's been going on
for quite a while, at the popular level with Fox News, birtherism and so on
and in the Republican intellectual apparatus with climate denial, zombie
economics and attacks on "political correctness."
The links are to pieces in Jacobin by Corey Robin. They're both worthwhile,
but an even better title is Robin's
The Conservative Movement Has No Decency. This piece, of course,
is mostly about Joseph Welch's 1954 rebuke of Joe McCarthy, but ties
in to Trump's denunciation of Khizr Khan after his speech at the
Democratic Convention. Still, Trump's outburst wasn't isolated or
even uniquely his own. Robin offers many other examples without ever
mentioning the abuse conservatives have heaped on Hillary Clinton --
a subject for whole books, likely to sprawl into multiple volumes
if she wins.
Robin titled his latest thoughts on the election
Viva Las Vegas! In it he includes a Brecht quote from 1942:
. . . to present Hitler as particularly incompetent,
as an aberration, a perversion, humbug, a pecuilar pathological case,
while setting up other bourgeois politicians as models, models of
something he has failed to attain, seems to me no way to combat Hitler.
Joe Romm: Trump just proposed ending all federal clean energy
Alexis Sottile: The Trump Effect: How Hateful Rhetoric Is Affecting
America's Children: Solar, wind, efficiency, batteries, clean
cars, and climate science, too.
Matt Taibbi: The Fury and Failure of Donald Trump:
The best argument for a Clinton presidency is that she's virtually
guaranteed to be a capable steward of the status quo, at a time of
relative stability and safety. There are criticisms to make of Hillary
Clinton, but the grid isn't going to collapse while she's in office,
something no one can say with even mild confidence about Donald Trump.
But nearly two-thirds of the population was unhappy with the direction
of the country entering the general-election season, and nothing has been
more associated with the political inside than the Clinton name.
[ . . . ]
The "scandal" of the Wiki papers, if you can call it that, is that
it captured how at ease Clinton was talking to bankers and industrialists
about the options for the organization of a global society. Even in
transcript form, it's hard not to realize that the people in these
rooms are all stakeholders in this vast historical transformation.
Left out of the discussion over the years have been people like
Trump's voters, who coincidentally took the first hit along the way in
the form of lowered middle-class wages and benefits. They were also
never told that things they cared about, like their national identity
as Americans, were to have diluted meaning in the more borderless future.
This is why the "basket of deplorables" comment rankled so badly. It's
not like it was anywhere near as demeaning or vicious as any of 10,000
Trump insults. But it spoke to a factual disconnnect.
Matthew Yglesias: The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit
story has dominated the campaign
Matthew Yglesias: Melania's illegal immigration problem reminds us what
Trump's campaign has always been about: OK, now we have proof that
she entered the country to work illegally. American nativists should be
up in arms: isn't a big part of their spiel how we shouldn't offer amnesty
to people who don't follow the rules? Yet if they're so devoted to deep
American roots, why are they backing a guy who has only one native-born
American ancestor? Unless it matters what kind of immigrants we're talking
Indeed, going back to when the Nixon administration sued Trump for
discriminating against black and Latino tenants, Trump's long record
of racism isn't really disputable.
So there's really nothing so surprising about the Melania story.
Trump doesn't like immigrants who change the American cultural and
ethnic mix in a way he finds threatening and neither do his fans.
Europeans like Melania (or before her, Ivana) are fine. I get it,
David Duke gets it, the frog meme people get it, everyone gets it.
But it does raise the question of why mainstream press coverage
has spent so much time pretending not to get it. Why have we been
treated to so many lectures about the "populist appeal" of a man
running on regressive tax cuts and financial deregulation and the
"economic anxiety" of his fans?
PS: Just shook up by a 5.3 earthquake centered 3 miles west of
Cushing, Oklahoma. Fairly sharp for about 15 second here, unsettled for
another 20-30 seconds, but I doubt we suffered any damage. On the other
hand, Cushing bills itself as the "pipeline capital" of America, so they
have a lot of dangerously fragile infrastructure real close to the
epicenter. Happened at 7:44:25 local time.
Monday, October 31. 2016
Music: Current count 27287  rated (+15), 423  unrated (+5).
Another light week. Spent Friday evening through Sunday working on an
overly ambitious birthday dinner. I doubt I'll ever try that again -- at
least at such scale. Wound up scratching five dishes from the menu -- a
couple I'll finish up tonight to keep from wasting the ingredients, a
couple more can wait indefinitely. Theme was Greek, with three main dishes,
baked and fresh veggies, pita bread, dips, stuffed grape leaves, and various
hot mezze, with walnut cake for dessert. The bread was disappointing, the
dips mixed, the grape leaves tasty but mostly ignored, the mezze reduced
to meatballs and sweetbreads (especially good). The main dishes -- fish,
shrimp, rabbit, and briami were all spectacular. Cake was fine too.
Biggest problem was logistical, as I was unable to get the food out in
proper order, and we ran out of table space -- we probably would have been
better off setting it up as a buffet, but we don't really have room for
that either. Smaller dinners for six or so still seem workable, and the
main dishes were pretty simple preparations -- long bakes or slow braises.
Thanks to Elias Vlanton, Greek was the first non-American cuisine I fell
in love with, but aside from
Garithes Yiouvetsi I've
rarely cooked it, having moved on and made Turkish cuisine my specialty.
So it was nice to get back to basics recently.
October's Streamnotes on
Saturday, just before I started cooking, so there's virtually nothing
new listed below. I posted a notice on Facebook, and was surprised to
find that nearly all of the commentary concerned my ACN background
grades on Bruce Springsteen. I often use Streamnotes as a tool for
going back and checking out records I had missed, but since I didn't
bother with previously rated records I figured that at least listing
them would provide some useful context. German avant-pianist Alexander
von Schlippenbach was a case in point this past month, as I reviewed
his latest plus six older ones, then listed 18 others (including
Globe Unity and a couple of joint projects with wife Aki Takase).
I started doing Springsteen after watching his appearance on
Stephen Colbert plugging his memoir and a tie-in CD of odds and
sods. Next I moved on to Live 1975-85, his famed 5-LP/3-CD
live archive, then figured I might as well mop up the rest. Can't
say as I discovered anything -- certainly nothing I wish I had
bought earlier. As is well documented (e.g.,
here) I developed an
intense dislike for Springsteen c. his Time cover --
partly my rather instinctive leanings toward antihype, partly
revulsion over the hyperbolic dramaturgy of Born to Run
(e.g., "Jungleland") and Darkness at the Edge of Town,
and partly because I had become partisan in my fondness for
the era's British pub rock movement (e.g., see the numerous
references to Ducks Deluxe, op. cit.).
One commenter wrote "a universe where BTR is a B+ is a chilly
place indeed." Actually, my original Born to Run grade was
B-. I certainly didn't feel chilly at the time. Lots of other things
I loved at the time, and it's always been relative.
I've mellowed considerably since then, acknowledging the title
cut as magnificent (despite some terrible lyrics, like "And strap
your hands 'cross my engines") although "Jungleland" still sucks.
The album that started to turn me around was The River,
where he cut out most of the crap and started to hone his sound
down to something classically rock but still distinctive. Took
me a while, but he eventually turned into someone I liked (took
him a while too) -- e.g., I don't get the problem some commenters
have with The Seeger Sessions.
Still, I'm not here to argue that you shouldn't like something
you actually do. If you have your own considered views, God bless
you. I figure I'm mostly useful because I write about so much stuff
you've never heard of, or never taken seriously. (Black Bombaim is
a good case in point, or 75 Dollar Bill -- although Jason Gubbels
and Robert Christgau got to the latter way before I did.) And when
I do touch on something familiar, maybe that will help you correlate,
as well as providing my own sanity check. Wouldn't want to miss
anything important, especially if it's a widespread pick (like
Springsteen, unlike Schlippenbach).
More useful was Dan Weiss' complaint that I underrated Rae Sremmurd.
One of those acts I always seem to come out low on. A comment that's
more likely to trigger re-evaluation is Michael Tatum's on American
Honey: "Genres that aren't supposed to mix, artists I don't care
for, even songs I never liked . . . no one listens to all this stuff
at the same time. But somehow it works." I could blame Spotify (Napster
only has like seven cuts), but I heard all that and still couldn't
decide whether it justified what's basically a mixtape.
New issue of Downbeat came in the mail today, featuring
their 81st Annual Readers Poll results. I've rarely felt further
isolated from the jazz fans represented by the magazine (looks
like about 15000 voted). The HOF winner was the late Phil Woods,
a worthy candidate who narrowly edged out Wynton Marsalis -- not
a personal favorite, but over 35 years now he's probably produced
as many A- albums as Woods, maybe more. Woods also won for alto
saxophone, where he was trailed by (get this): Kenny Garrett,
David Sanborn, and Grace Kelly. Marsalis won trumpet, followed
by a guy I'd never heard of, Roger Ingram (he's mostly played in
big bands, going back to Louie Bellson and Woody Herman).
Most disappointing for me was the album standings -- not so
much that Maria Schneider won (most critics adore her) as that
she was followed by Grace Kelly, Gregory Porter, Arturo Sandoval,
and many others. I count two A-, two B+(***), and various lower
grades. What the hell, let's list them:
- Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields (ArtistShare) [**]
- Grace Kelly: Trying to Figure It Out (Pazz) [*]
- Gregory Porter: Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note) [B-]
- Arturo Sandoval: Live at Yoshi's (ALFI) [*]
- Jack DeJohnette/Ravi Coltrane/Matthew Garrison: In Movement (ECM) [A-]
- Christian McBride Trio: Live at the Village Vanguard (Mack Avenue) [**]
- Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap: The Silver Lining (Columbia) [*]
- Pat Metheny: The Unity Sessions (Nonesuch) [B]
- Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra: Live in Cuba (Blue Engine) [**]
- Esperanza Spalding: Emily's D + Evolution (Concord) [B]
- Charles Lloyd & the Marvels: I Long to See You (Blue Note) [**]
- Chick Corea & Béla Fleck: Two (Concord) [B]
- Cécile McLorin Salvant: For One to Love (Mack Avenue) [*]
- Sonny Rollins: Holding the Stage: Road Shows Vol. 4 (Okeh) [A-]
- Snarky Puppy: Culcha Vulcha (Universal) [C+]
- Bill Charlap: Notes From New York (Impulse!) [*]
- John Scofield: Past Present (Impulse!) [***]
- Snarky Puppy: Family Dinner Volume Two (Decca) [B-]
- Kenny Barron: Book of Intuition (Impulse!) [**]
- Arturo O'Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra: Cuba: The Conversation Continues (Motéma) [***]
I haven't assembled my 2016 lists yet (working list
here), but compare my
Best Jazz Albums of 2015,
which intersects the earlier (and larger) half of this list, and
considers a lot more.
Hard to overstate how disgusted I am right now with the FBI
over Hillary Clinton's emails -- easily the most boring subject
in American politics for over a year now. (And while I don't
doubt that Anthony Weiner is a creep, why the hell are they
investigating him?) Before this broke I was actually thinking
that both candidates had been treated unfairly. After all, the
real primordial scum of American politics is Ted Cruz, but to
go after him you'd have to talk about issues, and that's the
real fear and dread of all sorts of media in America.
I minor exception to this is the Wichita Eagle, which has
published detailed position charts on various candidates. Trump's
isn't as awful as you'd expect, and Clinton's isn't as good as
you'd hope, but that race at least is pretty clear cut. But I
was saddened by how awful the Democratic congressional candidates
are this time -- Patrick Wiesner for Senate and Dan Giroux for
House. Given the Republican incumbents, I'll probably wind up voting
or both (although I know a few people who prefer independent Miranda
Allen over Giroux), but neither has much of a chance.
I'll be voting for Clinton too, although I fear my prediction
that she'll be dogged by one stupid scandal after another for
her entire term will turn out prescient. Very doubtful my wife
will vote for her. Since the email thing broke open again, she's
been hashtagging "itoldyouso" and heaping special scorn on those
who claimed "she's been vetted" back in the primaries. Turns out
none of the candidates were very well vetted, because the vanity
and hubris presidential candidates all but require are endless
generators of petty scandal.
New records rated this week:
- Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (2016, Columbia): [r]: A-
- The Core Trio: Live Featuring Matthew Shipp (2014 , Evil Rabbit): [cd]: B+(**)
- Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The Declaration of Musical Independence (2014 , ECM): [dl]: B+(***)
- Fond of Tigers: Uninhabit (2016, Offsesson/Drip Audio): [cd]: C+
- Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet: That Feelin' (2016, Savant): [cd]: B+(**)
- Jacam Manricks: Chamber Jazz (2015 , self-released): [cd]: A-
- Grégoire Maret: Wanted (2016, Sunnyside): [r]: B-
- John Prine: For Better or Worse (2016, Oh Boy): [r]: A-
- Sleaford Mods: TCR (2016, Rough Trade, EP): [r]: B+(***)
- Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos (2016, Lex): [r]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton/Schlippenbach Trio: 2X3=5
(1999 , Leo): [r]: B+(***)
- Schlippenbach Trio: Bauhaus Dessau (2009 , Intakt): [r]: B+(***)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach: Payan (1972 , Enja): [r]: B+(*)
- Alex von Schlippenbach/Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Tony Bianco: Vesuvius (2004 , Slam): [r]: B+(**)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. 1 (2005 , Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales, Vol. 2 (2005 , Intakt): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Sophie Agnel/Daunik Lazro: Marguerite d'Or Pâle (Fou)
- Walter Kemp 3oh!: Dark Continent (Blujazz)
- Jasmine Lovell-Smith's Towering Poppies: Yellow Red Blue (Paint Box): November 4
- Thierry Maillard Trio: Ethnic Sounds (Blujazz)
- Moutin Factory Quintet: Deep (Blujazz)
- Snaggle: The Long Slog (Browntasaurus): November 4
- Terell Stafford: Forgive and Forget (Herb Harris Music)
Saturday, October 29. 2016
Slightly more than a month's worth of records here, as I ran into a
couple bad weeks then found myself running out of month. Still a fairly
substantial outing: 114 records (93 new, 3 recent comps, 18 oldies I'm
just now catching up to -- mostly Bruce Springsteen and Alexander von
Schlippenbach, both searches triggered by recent albums).
New records are mostly jazz, although I made an effort early in the
month to check out many of the year's better regarded pop albums -- my
main source Album of the Year's
Highest Rated Albums of 2016 list. I'm still missing three of the
top five (Nick Cave, Beyoncé, and Frank Ocean), one more down to ten
(Dillinger Escape Plan), and three more down to twenty-five (DD Dumbo,
Nails, The Hotelier) -- mostly not on Napster (although I now see that
Nick Cave finally appeared).
Rated count for
2016 releases is currently 744 albums.
I'm not sure how that compares year-to-date with 2015 but it's probably
down by about 20%: by freeze date my
2015 list had hit 1112 albums, so if
you scale that back to ten months you get 926, and 744 is 80.34% of that.
Of course, in every year critics pick up their coverage rate toward the
end when the annual best-of lists start to appear. Seems likely I'll
wind up down closer to 10% than the current 20%.
A list this year is currently 97 long, down considerably from 150
last year (at freeze date, now up to 164). Same calculations show
that current A-list is down 22.4% this year. I've actually wondered
whether I'm getting faster and looser with grades this year. These
numbers actually look rather normal, but that doesn't mean I haven't:
I'd have to do some research to prove it, but I suspect that it's
normal for A-grades to pile up late in the year. It's also normal
for jazz to spurt ahead of non-jazz (currently 54-43, as I recall
less than last year's split at this time, although the two columns
wound up evenly balanced).
One reason for my doubts is that some of this month's picks are
records that I don't regard as especially strong for the artist,
but I've let them pass through anyway (Leonard Cohen, John Prine,
Handsome Family, maybe even Revolutionary Snake Ensemble). On the
other hand, I didn't quite bite on several jazz albums that have
gotten a lot of critical play (Mary Halvorson, Wadada Leo Smith;
perhaps halso Darcy James Argue and Andrew Cyrille). On the other
hand, my favorites this time lean toward mainstream and/or groove
(although I guess Black Bombaim and Damana don't fit either niche --
so much for predictable).
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 September 22. Past reviews and
more information are available
here (8746 records).
75 Dollar Bill: Wooden Bag (2015, Other Music):
A duo, with Rick Brown banging on things and playing a little alto
sax, and Che Chen playing guitar and more alto sax. Mostly roiling
drone and percussion, and little differentiation among seven songs,
but the noise is distinct and captivating, so there.
75 Dollar Bill: Wood/Metal/Plastic/Pattern/Rhythm/Rock
(2013-15 , Thin Wrist): Principally a duo, with Rick Brown playing
less than a full set of drums (but "plywood crate") and Che Chen more
than one guitar, with a few others adding to the discordant harmonies.
Four pieces, 39:20, the vaguely Saharan grooves and harmonies minimally
Stefan Aeby Trio: To the Light (2015 , Intakt):
Swiss pianist, third trio album, also appears on good records by label
mates Christoph Irniger and Sarah Buecchli. With André Pousaz on bass
and Michi Stulz on drums.
Joey Alexander: Countdown (2016, Motéma): Pianist,
from Bali in Indonesia (full name Josiah Alexander Sila), was 11
when he cut his debut and 13 for this sophomore effort. Mostly trio
with Larry Grenadier or Dan Chmielinski on bass and Ulysses Owens Jr.
on drums. He's gotten the red carpet treatment so far -- even won a
Grammy. And he is a surprisingly adept interpreter, as well as a
fairly decent writer of genre exercises, but among mainstream jazz
pianists these days, who isn't?
JD Allen: Americana: Musings on Jazz and Blues
(2016, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, leads a trio with Gregg August
on bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Sticks to basics here, doesn't
strain or strive, but makes it all -- mostly original pieces, only
one cover dating back to the '30s -- feel natural, unforced.
Amber Arcades: Fading Lines (2016, Heavenly): Alias
for Dutch singer Annelotte de Graaf, with a background in law working
for UN war crimes tribunals. No idea how I should alphabetize names
like this. Bright, tuneful pop, framed more by guitar than keyboard.
Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: Real Enemies
(2016, New Amsterdam): Big band, rhythm section (including guitar)
often plugged in, third album, Argue composes and conducts but
doesn't play. His conspiracy themes are highlighted in spoken
pieces, including a lecture on "paranoid style," and he backs it
all up with stark, dramatic swells.
Jay Azzolina/Dino Govoni/Adam Nussbaum/Dave Zinno: Chance
Meeting (2016, Whaling City Sound): Listed alphabetically,
all four contributing songs, as listed: guitar (best known, if not
best remembered, for Spyro Gyra), tenor sax, drums, and bass. Most
impressed by Govoni -- unfamiliar with him, but he teaches at
Berklee, and his page there asserts the obvious: "A good saxophonist,
first and foremost, has to have a tremendous sound." He does.
Andrzej Bauer/Adam Baldych/Cezary Duchnowski/Cezary Konrad:
Trans-Fuzja (2012 , ForTune): Polish string jazz
trio (cello, violin, bass/electronics) plus drums. Despite the
instrumentation, not close to the "chamber jazz" notion.
Beekman: Vol. 02 (2015 , Ropeadope): Tenor sax
quartet based in Brooklyn, pianist Yago Vazqauez (also Rhodes) listed
first although all write with saxophonist Kyle Nasser most prolific --
4/9 songs, vs. 3 for Vazquez, 2 for Pablo Menares (bass), 1 by Rodrigo
Recabarren (drums). Boppish, flows fast and hard.
Black Bombaim/Peter Brötzmann: Black Bombaim & Peter
Brötzmann (2016, Clean Feed): Portuguese "stoner/psychedelic
rock" group, a power trio with guitar-bass-drums but no singer, so
they're into densely textured noise. That suits the saxophonist. He
does what he's been doing for nearly fifty years, but the framing
makes this more accessible without compromising his rawness.
Bon Iver: 22, a Million (2016, Jagjaguwar): Justin
Vernon, third album, not so much a singer-songwriter as a fairly huge
cult artist, his popularity and critical favor a puzzle to me -- not
that I'm immune to his appeal, I just find it hard to see how such
arcane chicanery and fey disposition could gain a mass following.
Perhaps that says something about the ever-evolving nature of anomie.
Danny Brown: Atrocity Exhibition (2016, Warp): Rapper
from Detroit, apprenticed in the drug trade but has righted his career,
now on his fourth album. Voice humorous similar to Young Thug, gives
him a bit of lift even when the thug life doesn't deserve it. First
hook goes "tell me something I don't know." Not the last, either.
John Butcher & Ståle Liavik Solberg: So Beautiful, It
Starts to Rain (2015 , Clean Feed): Sax and drums
duets, the former playing soprano and tenor. Three pieces, 35:19,
choppy and rather abstract.
George Cables: The George Cables Songbook (2016,
HighNote): Pianist, has a long list of records since 1975, many
well regarded ones on SteepleChase I haven't heard so I tend to
remember him best for his stellar work with Art Pepper. Something
of a career recap here, with a superb trio (Essiet Essiet and
Victor Lewis) augmented by sax (Craig Handy) on five tracks,
percussion (Victor Kroom) on four, and vocals (Sarah Elizabeth
Charles) on six.
Lou Caimano/Eric Olsen: Dyad Plays Jazz Arias
(2015 , self-released): Alto sax and piano, respectively,
adding Randy Brecker (flugelhorn) or Ted Nash (tenor sax) on
most pieces -- written, as advertised, by Mozart, Verdi, Bizet,
Massenet, Delibes, and Barber. But without their usual strings
and voices they never trigger my usual classical gag reflex.
They just seem a little overblown.
Neko Case/KD Lang/Laura Veirs: Case/Lang/Veirs
(2016, Anti-): Trio of established singer-songwriters, in alphabetical
order but also from most to least famous. Reviewers like to compare
this to the Parton-Ronstadt-Harris "Trio" but those were much bigger
stars with instantly recognizable voices. These three are much more
anonymous, yet it's remarkable how evenly they blend together.
Nels Cline: Lovers (2013 , Blue Note, 2CD):
Guitarist, pays the rent by slumming in Wilco, but that evidently
hasn't dulled his ambition for solo projects. Indeed, this project
is gargantuan both in length and in its credits, yet none of that
is evident in the orchestral music, an mix of placid and ominous,
neither all that well defined.
Clipping: Splendor & Misery (2016, Sub Pop):
Experimental hip-hop group from Los Angeles, best known member
Daveed Diggs (from Hamilton), offer a concept about about
a future slave (Cargo 2331) being shipped through outer space.
Progress ends in very spare and mechanical beats and blips, its
own cold and unforgiving dystopia.
Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker (2016, Columbia):
Slow, grim, gravelly, the octogenarian poet backs himself into a
dark corner, and then a funny thing happens: the more you strain for
clues (and you do) the sweeter his serenade.
Cymbals Eat Guitars: Pretty Years (2016, Sinderlyn):
New York band, took their name from a Lou Reed quote "describing the
sound of the Velvet Underground," not that they're that disciplined.
Instead, we get a better-than-average rock band with solid songs and
some flash, not that I find that especially interesting.
Andrew Cyrille Quartet: The Declaration of Musical
Independence (2014 , ECM): Drummer, from Brooklyn, an
important figure on the avant-garde since he joined Cecil Taylor's
group in 1964. With more than dozen albums under his own name, his
ECM debut is a subversive little quartet, with guitarist Bill Frisell
shirking the spotlight more often than not. Equally inscrutable are
Richard Teitelbaum (synth/piano) and Ben Street (bass).
Damana (Dag Magnus Narvesen Octet): Cornua Copiae
(2014 , Clean Feed): Drummer-led Norwegian octet, with three
saxes (alto, tenor, baritone/bass), trumpet, trombone, piano, bass:
tremendous power from a horns section, but also texture, layering,
and detail, propelled by a rhythm section with a hint of swing.
Looks like a debut record, likely my ballot pick.
Dogbrain: Blue Dog (2016, Dogbrain Music, EP): Jay
Ward, a countryish songwriter who sings through his stutter because
the music flows so readily, has one album and three EPs. Six cuts,
Dreezy: No Hard Feelings (2016, Interscope): Chicago
rapper-singer, has a couple of EPs, pretty good single here in "Body"
Drive-By Truckers: American Band (2016, ATO): First
thing you notice is how easily Patterson Hood's southern drawl flows
over the contour of the melodies. Then words kick in, starting with
a remarkable song about race and shooting deaths which works in a not
unrelated bit of domestic violence.
Earprint: Earprint (2016, Endectomorph Music):
Boston quartet: Tree Palmedo (trumpet), Kevin Sun (tenor sax,
clarinet), Simón Willson (bass), Dor Herskovits (drums). Slippery
postbop, bouncing off walls, occasionally surprising you.
Orrin Evans: #Knowingishalfthebattle (2016, Smoke
Sessions): Postbop pianist from Philadelphia sets up a high-revving
group with two guitarists (Kurt Rosenwinkel and Kevin Eubanks),
plus bass (Luques Curtis) and drums (Mark Whitfield Jr.), with
guest spots for sax (Caleb Wheeler Curtis) and voice (M'Balia
Singley) -- the latter's take of "Kooks" trips itself up, but her
"That's All" is fine.
Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moving Still
(2016, Pi): Trumpet player, previous album (Moment and the Message)
was terrific, has notable side credits with Steve Coleman, Steve Lehman,
Mary Halvorson, and Tomas Fujiwara. Quintet with both guitar (Miles
Okazaki) and piano (Matt Mitchell), tends to float above their postbop.
Five in Orbit: Tribulus Terrestris (2015 ,
Fresh Sound New Talent): Franco-Catalan quintet, where Ramon Fossati
(trombone), Olivier Brandily (alto sax/flute), and Laurent Bronner
(piano) write the pieces (aside from a Lincoln-Roach cover), plus
Nicolas Rageau (bass) and Luc Isenmann (drums). Fossati seems most
drawn to Mingus, kicking the band into a higher orbit.
Fond of Tigers: Uninhabit (2016, Offsesson/Drip Audio):
Instrumental rock band from Vancouver, seven-piece, includes a couple
of the city's notable jazzbos -- JP Carter on trumpet and Jesse Zubot
on violin -- but guitarist Stephen Lyons (also credited with vocals,
percussion and electronics) is most likely responsible, for the music
if not necessarily the bloat.
Friends & Neighbors: What's Wrong? (2015
, Clean Feed): Another fine Norwegian freebop group, quintet
with trumpet, tenor sax/clarinets, piano, bass, and drums -- no one
I've heard of before. Four of the five contribute songs, with André
Roligheten (reeds) marginally more prolific (and listed first in
Future of the Left: The Peace & Truce of Future of the
Left (2016, Prescriptions): Rock band from Wales, considered
noise rock or post-hardcore but I'd slot them more as post-punk in
a line that includes the Fall and the Three Johns. Not sure of the
politics, but Falco's snarl exudes class conflict, so that's a start,
and I've never found their basic grind more appealing.
Robert Glasper Experiment: ArtScience (2016, Blue
Note): Pianist, originally promised jazz with hip-hop influence and
has straddled that concept inelegantly since 2005, but the vocals
here push the balance toward postmodern r&b, which is where the
beats derive anyway.
GOAT: Requiem (2016, Sub Pop): Swedish group, called
their first album World Music and has tried to expand on that
thought ever since, but to the extent they specialize at all, they've
come up with a psychedelicized form of afrobeat. They're not always
that delectable, but I could listen to, say, the grind of "Goatband"
much longer than 7:50, nor is that the only time they find such a
Mary Halvorson Octet: Away With You (2015 ,
Firehouse 12): Guitarist, protégé of Anthony Braxton, has previous
Quintet and Septet albums, here adding Susan Alcorn (pedal steel)
to the latter: Jonathan Finlayson (trumpet), Jon Irabagon (alto sax),
Ingrid Laubrock (tenor sax), Jacob Garchik (trombone), John Hébert
(bass), Ches Smith (drums). Slippery pieces, much to admire but hard
to pin them down, especially with the guitarist most elusive of all.
The Handsome Family: Unseen (2016, Loose Music):
Brett and Rennie Sparks, she (I gather) does most of the writing
with its fascination for nature and science, and he does most of
the singing, like the music (mostly guitar) basic but elegant. I
fear some recycling of tunes, but that's mostly because they're
Billy Hart & the WDR Big Band: The Broader Picture
(2016, Enja/Yellowbird): The veteran drummer composed all of these
pieces, some going back to the 1970s, and took over as the WDR Big
Band's drummer, but the star here is Christophe Schweizer, arranger
of the pieces and director of the big band. The WDR Big Band has
long been one of the most competent of Europe's institutional bands,
but even they have rarely brought their guest star's music so vividly
Luke Hendon: Silk & Steel (2016, self-released):
Guitarist, touches on gypsy jazz à Django Reinhardt, backed by bass
and drums (and sometimes violin) but you rarely notice more than the
Dave Holland/Chris Potter/Lionel Loueke/Eric Harland:
Aziza (2016, Dare2): Bass, tenor/soprano sax, guitar/vocals,
drums -- not sure why I missed the first two names when I filed this
(other than that my advance didn't come with a cover, and the spine
only says Aziza). Strong rhythm record, moves right along.
Potter, of course, is superb, and when he switches to soprano they
just double down on the Latin tinge. Two songs each, the sort of
balance you rarely find in a supergroup.
Jenny Hval: Blood Bitch (2016, Sacred Bones): Avant
goth diva from Norway, released a couple records as Rockettothesky
before reverting to her birth name, turns out some kind of soundtrack
about vampires -- maybe just a concept album, but it's as scattered
as many soundtracks.
Ital Tek: Hollowed (2016, Planet Mu): Electronica
producer Alan Myson, from Brighton UK, fifth album since 2008, has
a bit of industrial klang shaded toward ambience.
Nicolas Jaar: Sirens (2016, Other People): Nominally
electronica, but it's the rock and roll bits -- bass throbs, drum rolls,
even a little squelchy guitar -- that impress me, not that he doesn't
occasionally fade into ambiance.
Kate Jackson: British Road Movies (2016, Hoo Ha):
British singer-songwriter, formerly frontwoman for the Long Blondes,
debut solo album. Solid album, but not much sticks.
Manu Katché: Unstatic (2016, Anteprima): French
drummer, group includes Tore Brunborg (saxes), Jim Watson (keyboards),
and Eileen Andrea Wang (bass), adding guests here and there, notably
Nils Langren (trombone on five tracks). Relaxed, a bit light, easy
on the ears.
Michael Kiwanuka: Love & Hate (2016, Polydor):
Born in London, parents from Uganda, straight up soul singer often
tagged as retro, big star in England but barely gets noticed here.
Second album, nothing fancy but a simple pleasure.
Mike LeDonne & the Groover Quartet: That Feelin'
(2016, Savant): Started as a mainstream pianist in the early 1990s
but has increasingly made the organ his tool, goes for old-fashioned
soul jazz with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander and guitarist Peter
Bernstein providing tasty leads, and dependable Joe Farnsworth on
drums. Vince Herring (alto sax) joins on three cuts.
Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam: I Had a Dream That You Were
Mine (2016, Glassnote): Former frontman (guitar, vocals) of
the Walkmen, my candidate for the most dead-ass boring alt/indie
band of the last decade, working with multi-instrumentalist and
producer Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of a much better band, Vampire
Weekend. Splits the difference, the songs sharp and catchy, but
still something I don't quite trust.
John Lindberg Raptor Trio: Western Edges (2012
, Clean Feed): Bassist-led sax trio, with Pablo Calogero on
baritone and Joe LaBarbera on drums. The deep sax meshes evenly
with the bass, with no threats to break out into something crazy --
just steady, smart free jazz.
John Lindberg BC3: Born in an Urban Ruin (2016,
Clean Feed): Bassist, founder and mainstay of String Trio of New
York. Trio with Wendell Harrison on clarinets and Kevin Norton
on vibraharp and percussion, although more often it seems like
bass duets with one or the other, or just bass solos. Each combo
is interesting in its own right, but I don't see how they add up.
Jacam Manricks: Chamber Jazz (2015 ,
self-released): Saxophonist, credited here with alto, soprano, tenor,
flute, alto flute, and clarinet; leading a quartet with Kevin Hays
on piano and Fender Rhodes, Gianluca Renzi on acoustic bass, and
Ari Hoenig on drums. Nothing I think of as "chamber jazz," although
he incorporates bits from some classical composers as well as
Nascimento and Miles Davis, adding to the album's sheer catchiness.
Grégoire Maret: Wanted (2016, Sunnyside): Born in
Geneva, Switzerland; based in New York; plays chromatic harmonica,
an instrument which speaks blues but gets diluted in the strings and
flute producer Terri Lyne Carrington brought out, not to mention the
scattered soul vocals. Could be his Grammy first time out spoiled him.
Jørgen Mathisen/Christian Meaas Svendsen/Andreas Wildhagen:
Momentum (2015 , Clean Feed): Free sax trio from
Norway, Mathisen -- also on the Damana album -- playing soprano
and tenor (mostly the latter), the others bass and drums. Struggles
a bit, both at full roar and in more studious stretches.
Maxwell: blackSUMMERS'night (2016, Columbia): Gerald
Maxwell Rivera, neo-soul crooner, fifth album going back to 1995, but
only second since 2001, the previous title differentiated from this
one's only by different case. Can't say that I docked him for that,
but it didn't win him the benefit of the doubt either.
Anna Meredith: Varmints (2016, Moshi Moshi): British,
background includes compositions for classical orchestra, moving into
pop in 2012 with the first of two EPs, then this debut album. Favors
crashing waves of synths, where words are almost an afterthought.
Rale Micic: Night Music (2015 , Whaling City
Sound): Guitarist, born 1975 in Belgrade (Yugoslavia, now Serbia),
moved to US in 1995 to study at Berklee, settled in New York, has
at least three previous albums. This quartet blends his guitar
nicely with Danny Grissett's piano.
Minim Experiment: Dark Matter (2016, ForTune):
Guitarist Kuba Wojcik wrote all five tunes, featuring piano (Kamil
Piotrowicz) and backed by bass and drums, most attractive when the
beat sustains the minimalism, but interesting even when it doesn't.
Moonbow: When the Sleeping Fish Turn Red and the Skies Start
to Sing in C Major I Will Follow You to the End (2016, ILK):
All tracks composed by bassist Tomo Jacobson, born in Poland, based
in Copenhagen, also in the group Mount Meander, and working on a film
about William Parker (who contributed a liner note poem). Septet --
three saxes, guitar and piano, bass and drums, Kresten Osgood the
only familiar name. Ambitious set, with its broad sweep and towering
heights, moody colors. Still, hard to get a handle on it all.
Kevin Morby: Singing Saw (2016, Dead Oceans):
Singer-songwriter from Lubbock, recording his third album in Woodstock.
Outstanding song is "Dorothy," which refines a riff from . . . "Heroin."
The Mowgli's: Where'd Your Weekend Go? (2016, Photo
Finish/Island): Pop group from Calabasas, California -- a ritzy suburb
in the hills west of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. Bouncy upbeat,
multiple singers with lots of vocal harmonies, a formula completely
alien to the downer vibe that young critics seem to love. Me, I loved
their previous Kids in Love, but while this has similar appeal,
nothing here quite grabs me.
Mudcrutch: 2 (2016, Reprise): Southern rock band, formed
in 1970 in Gainesville, Florida, defunct by 1975 without an album but
reformed in 2007 with five-sixths of the original lineup, the original
lead singer having left by 1972 and been obsoleted by backup Tom Petty's
post-group stardom. So basically, this is Petty in a nostalgic mood.
Mark Murphy: Slip Away (2016, Mini Movie): Not the late
jazz singer, this one's a singer-songwriter, plays guitar, also covers
Dylan, McCartney, Newman, and Young. Band composed of name jazz musicians
(Jon Cowherd, Chris Morrissey, Jeff Ballard, Gilad Hekselman, Dayna
Stephens) with Maria Neckham joining for a duet, but no one stretches,
the result barely registering as easy-listening rock.
Naked Wolf: Ahum (2016, Clean Feed): Dutch group,
has a previous album, looks like all members write with Felicity
Proven (trumpet) and Mikael Szarfirowski (guitar) also singing (or
rapping); the others are Luc Ex (bass), Yedo Gibson (reeds), and
Gerri Jäger (drums). The vocals threaten to pull this into some
weird post-rock vein, while the instrumentals drag it back into
the domain of demented circus music.
Steve Noble & Kristoffer Berre Alberts: Condest Second
Yesterday (2015 , Clean Feed): English drummer, has a
long discography since 1987 mostly with European avant-gardists, here
in a duo with a relatively new tenor saxophonist from Norway -- brings
tremendous energy, although he does tend to squawk.
Sean Noonan: Memorable Sticks (2015 , ForTune):
Drummer-led piano trio, with Alex Marcelo and Peter Bilenc, with
Noonan adding a narration about chipping away in a salt mine, looking
for treasures. Very upbeat, often emphatic, but I find the voice
more distracting than not.
Angel Olsen: My Woman (2016, Jagjaguwar): Singer-songwriter
from St. Louis, sang backup for Bonnie "Prince" Billy, second (or third)
album, adding to the critical acclaim for her 2014 Burn Your Fire for
No Witness. First time through I didn't catch much, but a second spin
caught my ear numerous times, even when she slows to a whisper.
Parker Abbott Trio: Elevation (2016, self-released):
From Canada, a different kind of piano trio, with both Teri Parker
and Simeon Abbott playing various keyboards (including organ and good
old acoustic piano, but mostly electrics), with Mark Segger on drums
Nicholas Payton: Textures (2016, Paytone): Around
the turn of the century someone came up with the term "jazztronica"
and a number of mainstream jazz artists started dabbling in that
direction, including the New Orleans trumpet master. Nothing much
happened, but Payton keeps plugging away, doing this solo on keyb
and laptop. He succeeds in generating textures. Still doesn't amount
to much by way of music.
Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (2015
, HighNote): Two old guys playing sax-bass duets at a casual
pace on comfortable standards. Carter has probably appeared on more
records than any other jazz musician (Morton & Cook once tried
counting and decided Ray Brown held that distinction, but Carter
has long passed Brown). Back cover has a photo of the two with an
old white man sandwiched between the more imposing black figures --
presumably that's Executive Producer Joe Fields, who signed Person
to Prestige in the 1960s and kept him close ever since. This isn't
their first duet album. I should probably recheck that one, but
for now I'm too much in love with this one. Guess I'm getting old
John Prine: For Better, or Worse (2016, Oh Boy):
In 1999 Prine eased his way back from throat cancer with a remarkable
album of old country tunes, the vocal duties shared with Iris DeMent
and several other women. He repeats that concept here -- probably
figures that at 70 he's earned another easy one, or maybe he's
noticed that he hasn't written a album's worth of originals since
Bush provoked him to 2005's Fair and Square. Of course,
this isn't as marvelous as the first time: the songs aren't as
improbable, he's lost a step, and so many young women are chasing
him that DeMent only gets two highlights. None of that bothers
me. And if you're waiting for a John Prine song, just wait for
Punkt 3: Ordnung Herrscht (2015 , Clean Feed):
Group named for German bassist-composer Noah Punkt, who has a previous
solo album, two previous trios, and various other projects. This is
a trio with saxophonist Tobias Pfister and drummer Ramon Oliveras,
free jazz, sharp but not too aggressive.
Rae Sremmurd: SremmLife 2 (2016, Eardrum/Interscope):
Hip-hop duo from Mississippi, Swae Lee and Slim Jimmi, second album.
Pretty ragged for pop stars, somewhat catchy, might even be funny too
if I was into their B- and N-shit.
Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: I Want That Sound!
(2016, Innova): Alto saxophonist Ken Field's Boston-based answer
to New Orleans' second line brass bands, actually just a sextet
with two saxes, trumpet, and the trombonist doubling on tuba.
Fourth album, more of their infectious funk groove.
Huerco S: For Those of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who
Have) (2016, Proibito): Brian Leeds, Kansas-born, based in
Brooklyn, second album, ambient electronica composed of little bits
of synth, almost toy-like at first but grows into something.
Savages: Adore Life (2016, Matador): London-based
post-punk band, fronted by Jehnny Beth (Camille Berthomier), who
has a bit of Patti Smith in her voice. Doom and gloom too, the
sort of thing that could prove prophetic, although for now I'm
on the fence.
SBTRKT: Save Yourself (2016, self-released, EP):
English "post-dubstep" group, primarily synths producer Aaron Jerome,
with vocals from Sampha and The-Dream. Short LP (8 tracks, 25:55)
after two longer albums. Kind of mopey, more like trip-hop, without
Schlippenbach Trio: Warsaw Concert (2015 ,
Intakt): Avant pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, with Evan Parker
on tenor sax, and Paul Lovens on drums -- a trio for more than forty
years. Frenetic and sketchy when they started out, now old masters
to don't mind kicking up their heels.
John Scofield: Country for Old Men (2016, Impulse!):
Easy-grooving guitarist, backed by Larry Goldings (piano and organ),
Steve Swallow (electric bass), and Bill Stewart (drums), playing
relatively old country songs (Shania Twain's "You're Still the One"
is the only one less than thirty years old, and James Taylor's
"Bartender's Blues" might not count as country), all familiar and
Travis Scott: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016,
Epic): Jaques Webster, Houston rapper, dreams of dollar signs in his
stage name, recruits enough guests for his second album to point that
way. But I mostly hear a beats record, and like it that way.
Elliott Sharp Aggregat: Dialectrical (2016, Clean
Feed): After many years as an avant-garde gadfly, mostly playing
guitar, he's turned into a free jazz stalwart, here playing reed
instruments (soprano/tenor sax, Bb/bass clarinet), in a group
named for his 2012 album -- his best as far as I know. This one
gives 76-year-old drummer Barry Altschul a "Feat." on the cover,
and spreads the horns out with Taylor Ho Bynum on trumpet and
Terry L. Greene II on trombone, plus Brad Jones on bass. Sharp
indeed, though also a bit shrill.
Alan Silva/Mette Rasmussen/Ståle Liavik Solberg: Free Electric
Band (2014 , ForTune): Silva, born in Bermuda, moved to
New York at age 5, has been a minor figure on the avant-fringe since
the early 1960s, mostly playing bass but increasingly since the 1990s
keyboards. Regardless of the dilapidated upright on the cover, he plays
synth here, the electric clashing with alto sax and drums. One 45:55
piece, rough around the edges, as advertised.
Sleaford Mods: TCR (2016, Rough Trade, EP): New label,
thought they'd test the water and make nice with a five track, 17:17 EP,
so straightforward you can follow every word and step easily to the
clipped beats. TCR stands for Total Control Racing.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy
(2015 , RVNG Intl.): Three pieces, 23/12/18 minutes, not sure
who composed but both play various synthesizers, for something like
ambient but with much more swish.
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Ears (2016, Western Vinyl):
More synths, more scattered at first with bits of voice and woodwind
(Rob Frye's credit) or maybe just more slippery, with six shortish
pieces between 3:05 and 4:57 then an 11:09 finale which builds into
something, justifying its title, "Existence in the Unfurling."
Wadada Leo Smith: America's National Parks (2016,
Cuneiform, 2CD): Trumpet player, came of age in Chicago's AACM but
remained obscure until around 2000 when he started to break out of
expectations -- an album with Thomas Mapfumo (from Zimbabwe), an
"Electric Miles" trbute band with Henry Kaiser, and recently a series
of extended compositions (including The Great Lakes Suites
and Ten Freedom Summers). This sprawling six-piece, written
for his Golden Quintet (piano-cello-bass-drums) draws inspiration
from all around the country, and strikes me as being as heavy and
ponderous as its subject matter, but dotted with marvelous, often
Solange: A Seat at the Table (2016, Saint/Columbia):
Last name Knowles, same as her older sister Beyoncé. Third album in
thirteen years, a big production with scores of writers, producers,
and guests, but the sound hardly suggests such scale, and the songs
are laced with a male commentary which while interesting in its own
right could just as well belong to a completely different album.
Richard Sussman: The Evolution Suite (2015 ,
Zoho): Pianist, also credited with electronics, more importantly as
composer, arranger, etc. Played keyboards in Elephant's Memory in
1969, later spent a couple years with Blood, Sweat & Tears,
while his own records started up in the 1970s. Title piece runs
through five movements, with a couple "radio edits" tacked on to
fill out 75 minutes. Band a quintet with trumpet (Scott Wendholt)
and tenor sax (Rich Perry), expanded with a string quartet (The
Sirius Quartet) and Zach Brock on electric violin. Some exciting
passages, but I don't much care for the strings.
Kate Tempest: Let Them Eat Chaos (2016, Lex):
British rapper with a literary bent, not sure what the story is
here but it must pick up toward the end when the grime beats come
together and flower into melody -- or maybe that's just the music.
Touché Amoré: Stage Four (2016, Epitaph): Post-hardcore
band from Burbank, fourth album, work up a decent grind, tight enough
I'm impressed and rather pleased, as if I still liked music of this
Wax Tailor: By Any Beats Necessary (2016, Le Plan):
French trip-hop producer Jean-Christophe Le Saoût, fifth album since
2005, comes out as a blues rocker but eventually retreats to his more
accustomed turf. Reminds me of a group called Was Not Was, another
producer vehicle with no signature sound but a lot of smashing studio
Whitney: Light Upon the Lake (Secretly Canadian):
Alt-rock duo from Los Angeles, Max Kakacek and Julien Ehrlich, who
previously did business as the Smith Westerns, plus a drummer from
Unknown Mortal Orchestra and a producer from Foxygen wrapping the
falsetto vocals with orchestral dross.
YG: Still Brazy (2016, Def Jam): Rapper Keenon Jackson,
from Compton, follow up to his 2014 My Krazy Life, still shocked
that a guy with such crude rhymes and so little flow can bank on a major
label contract. Inspirational lyric: "Fuck Donald Trump."
Yoni & Geti: Testarossa (2016, Joyful Noise):
Collaboration between beatmaker Yoni Wolf (of WHY?) and rapper David
Cohn (aka Serengeti). Musically this reminded me first of the Beach
Boys then the Beatles in their most psychedelic modes but more so by
half. The raps are standard-grade 'Geti.
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
American Honey (, UME): Soundtrack to a movie
I hadn't heard of until Christgau raved about this download-only
product. Evidently there are multiple versions, with a "complete"
song list totalling 27 songs, but Rhapsody only has 8 so I turned
to Spotify and found 23. A mixtape of hip-hop and Americana and
some alt-rock. only a couple songs I recognized, although when I
played Spotify the ones on Rhapsody stood out. Maybe they're the
best, or maybe more familiarity will elevate more.
Vieux Kanté: The Young Man's Harp (2005 ,
Sterns): Blind kamalé ngoni virtuoso from Mali, died at age 31
in 2005, leaving this recording from "shortly before he died"
unreleased. Schematic solo intro before a singer and percussion
Bruce Springsteen: Chapter and Verse (1966-2012
, Columbia): Compiled as a tie-in to Springsteen's Born
to Run autobiography, so it starts with juvenilia: three cuts
from his teenage bands, three more from the year he got signed
(1972), plus one of those soppy ballads from his second album --
the first five previously unreleased -- before he gets his sound
together on "Born to Run." The second half you probably know, not
so much a best-of as a set of signposts to a life's work. Not a
record you're likely to replay, except maybe for your grandchildren,
who probably won't get it but might dig the early intensity.
Black Bombaim: Titans (2012, Lovers & Lollypops):
"Stoner/psychedelic rock" band from Portugal, Ricardo Miranda (guitar),
Vitor Rodrigues (electric bass), and Paulo Gonçalves (drums), although
this second album adds others on each of four LP-side-length tracks
(three over 18 minutes, one just 10:36). Most mix-ins are guitar, some
keybs, a muted vocal on first tracks, and some sax sounding prophetic.
Black Bombaim/La La La Ressonance: Black Bombaim & La La
La Ressonance (2013 , PAD/Lovers & Lollypops): A
live mash up of two Portuguese instrumental rock bands, the former
group a noise-oriented power trio, the latter a bit jazzier (and not
just because they feature Paulo Araujo on alto sax).
Black Bombaim: Far Out (2014, Lovers & Lollipops):
A single LP, so just two pieces, total 34:44, the first side adding
the superb saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, the second mixing in synth and
electronics by Luis Fernandes. Rocksteady beat, of course, but what
they build on it, unencumbered by vocals, is as complex as powerful.
Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton/Schlippenbach Trio: 2X3=5
(1999 , Leo): Two trios, the common denominator saxophonist Evan
Parker, with the latter trio adding pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach
and drummer Paul Lovens. One 77:07 piece, the interest often drifting
to the percussion, not least the piano.
Schlippenbach Trio: Bauhaus Dessau (2009 ,
Intakt): Living legends, seems like every few years they tape a
concert and put it out, if only to remind you they're still around,
still kicking up raw improv, with Evan Parker doing his circular
breathing thing for a showstopper.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Live 1975-85
(1975-85 , Columbia, 3CD): In the 1970s most big rock groups
would release a live album, usually a 2LP, either as a status item
or a piece of interim product. Shortly before I moved to New York,
Springsteen had played a week at the Bottom Line -- possibly the
last time he played in a venue that intimate -- and those who saw
him there were total converts. I wasn't, but I never saw him live,
and only started to like his albums with 1980's The River
(his 2LP, another of the era's status rungs). Over the next decade
his songbook grew and his concerts grew longer, so when he finally
did release the live album his fans had been craving, it added up
to five LPs, 40 songs, 3:36:13 -- something they could also squeeze
into a 3CD box. Highlights abound, including two possible national
anthems we can all stand for, a story about dodging the draft, a
terse take on "War." But even the 1975-78 hyper-dramaturgy I so
hated at the time sounds personable framed by these arenas.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Hammersmith Odeon,
London '75 (1975 , Columbia, 2CD): One complete concert,
2:04:52, from the tour that followed Springsteen's Born to Run
breakthrough album, released as a DVD bonus to that album's 30th
Anniversary Edition package, then a year later repackaged on CD.
Makes me wonder whether I would have been so appalled by the studio
album had I seen them live? In an age when guitar bands were the norm,
the organ-piano-sax combo both invoked rock's early roots and scaled
the sound up to a new level of magnificance. Still too much drama.
Bruce Springsteen: The Promise (1977-78 ,
Columbia, 2CD): Outtakes from the sessions that produced my least
favorite Springsteen album, the pompous and ridiculously overblown
Darkness at the Edge of Town, assembled as part of a 3-CD +
3-DVD "30th anniversary edition" -- extra baggage we can dispense
with here. Two songs were hits for others, and a couple more are
related to things that made the finished album, but most were most
likely rejected because they weren't sufficiently hyperbolic -- a
human scale that I found redemptive, at least when it appeared on
better songs than these.
Bruce Springsteen: In Concert/MTV Unplugged (1992
, Columbia): Part of MTV's Unplugged series, but after
the previously unreleased "Red Headed Woman" the irregular band
plugged in and played a set primarily from his uninspired current
albums, Lucky Town and Human Touch (8/12 songs).
Bruce Springsteen: The Ghost of Tom Joad (1995,
Columbia): Title reference is to Steinbeck channeled through Woody
Guthrie, not least musically where guitar and harmonica suffice for
the subdued folk music. I can relate more to the lament for the lost
foundries of "Youngstown" -- but not much else.
Bruce Springsteen: Tracks (1972-95 , Columbia,
4CD): Demos and outtakes, a couple of live tracks, a few B-sides,
66 songs in all selected from a trove of some 350 at the time. I have
no idea how many turned up on later albums -- the four 1972 demos made
it to 1973's Greetings From Asbury Park, and much further down
I see a "Born in the USA" as a Nebraska outtake. Mixed bag, of
course, but follows the arc of his career -- the third disc, where the
scraps fell off his two great 1980s albums, is a lot of fun. But he
slipped and slowed down a bit in the 1990s.
Bruce Springsteen: 18 Tracks (1972-99 , Columbia):
A 15-cut sampler from the Tracks box set, plus three more bait
cuts, no doubt figuring that's all they'd need to get fans willing to
buy a 4-CD box of outtakes to buy them again. I don't think it would
be hard to carve an A- record from the box, but I'd mostly go with the
fast ones, and they didn't. In fact, they only picked one of the five
"choice cuts" Christgau identified in the box: "Pink Cadillac."
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band: Live in New York
(2000 , Columbia, 2CD): Recorded over two nights of a "ten-show
tour-ending run at Madison Square Garden," and originally released as
an HBO special (pretty sure I saw that), expanded onto two DVDs, and
finally two CDs, long enough to qualify as an average Springsteen show:
loud, some interesting variations, magnificent when the sax comes out
on top. Due for a revival: "American Skin (41 Shots)."
Bruce Springsteen With the Sessions Band: Live in Dublin
(2006 , Columbia, 2CD): Another DVD product reissued on CD, the
band refers back to the 2006 album We Shall Overcome: The Seeger
Sessions -- 10 of 12 songs repeated here, plus 10 more, a mix of
Springsteen's folkier oldies and even older trad fare, all given the
big arena treatment by a star who can command an 18-piece band and
make it cohere like a revival.
Alexander von Schlippenbach: Payan (1972 ,
Enja): The avant-pianist's first solo album, not that I'm so sure
where all the sounds in the 10:00 closer "Kinds of Weirdness" come
from. But until weirdness takes over, you get chopped abstraction,
finding its unique way in the world.
Alex von Schlippenbach/Paul Dunmall/Paul Rogers/Tony Bianco:
Vesuvius (2004 , Slam): London studio session, the
pianist playing with saxophonist Dunmall's trio, Rogers playing a
7-string ALL bass. Two long pieces (29:11, 34:47), not as volcanic
as hoped for.
Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales,
Vol. 1 (2005 , Intakt): Twelve-tone theory is supposedly
a way to break ingrained habits by spreading compositions evenly over
all possible tones, but I doubt I'll ever be able to recognize that
theory just by sound. Rather, I hear a sort of mid-tempo rambling, a
lot of thought input but far less conveyed. [4/9 tracks: 35:50]
Alexander von Schlippenbach: Piano Solo: Twelve Tone Tales,
Vol. 2 (2005 , Intakt): More from the same session,
ending the string of originals with three Dolphy tunes, "All the
Things You Are," and Monk's "Trinkle Tinkle." [6/13 tracks, 34:03]
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section. Included
extra Schlippenbach albums (Globe Unity, Aki Takase) but the Evan
Parker record was picked for Schlippenbach, so this isn't the place
to go through his discography (at least 26 rated records).
- Globe Unity 73: Live in Wuppertal (1973, FMP): A-
- The Globe Unity Orchestra & the Choir of the NDR-Broadcast: Hamburg '74 (1974 , Atavistic): B
- Globe Unity Special '75: Rumbling (1975 , FMP): B+(***)
- Bruce Springsteen: Greetings From Asbury Park (1973, Columbia): B
- Bruce Springsteen: The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle (1973, Columbia): B
- Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (1975, Columbia): B+
- Bruce Springsteen: Darkness at the Edge of Town (1978, Columbia): B-
- Bruce Springsteen: The River (1980, Columbia, 2CD): A-
- Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska (1982, Columbia): B+
- Bruce Springsteen: Born in the USA (1984, Columbia): A
- Bruce Springsteen: Tunnel of Love (1987, Columbia): A
- Bruce Springsteen: Human Touch (1992, Columbia): B-
- Bruce Springsteen: Lucky Town (1992, Columbia): B-
- Bruce Springsteen: Greatest Hits (1975-95 , Columbia): B
- Bruce Springsteen: The Rising (2002, Columbia): B+
- Bruce Springsteen: Devils and Dust (2005, Columbia): A-
- Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (1997-2006 , Columbia): A-
- Bruce Springsteen: Magic (2007, Columbia): A-
- Bruce Springsteen: Working on a Dream (2009, Columbia): B
- Bruce Springsteen: Wrecking Ball (2012, Columbia): A-
- Bruce Springsteen: High Hopes (2014, Columbia): B+(*)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach: The Living Music (1969 , Atavistic): B+(**)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra: Globe Unity 67 & 70 (1967-70 , Atavistic): B+
- Schlippenbach Trio: First Recordings (1972 , Trost): B+(**)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio: Pakistani Pomade (1972 , Atavistic): B+(***)
- Schlippenbach Quartet: Hunting the Snake (1975 , Atavistic): B+(*)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach and Sunny Murray: Smoke (1979, FMP): B+
- Schlippenbach Trio: Elf Bagatellen (1990, FMP): B+(**)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach/Axel Dörner/Rudi Mahall/Jan Roder/Uli Jennessen: Monk's Casino: The Complete Works of Thelonious Monk (2003-04 , Intakt, 3CD): A
- Schlippenbach Trio: Gold Is Where You Find It (2008, Intakt): B+(***)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach/Daniele d'Agaro: Dedalus (2008, Artesuono): B+(***)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach: Schlippenbach Plays Monk (2012, Intakt): B+(*)
- Schlippenbach Trio: Features (2014 , Intakt): A-
- Aki Takase/Alex von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe: Lok 03 (2004 , Leo): A-
- Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric! Homage to Eric Dolphy (2014, Intakt): B+(***)
- Lok 03+1 [Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach/DJ Illvibe/Paul Lovens]: Signals (2016, Trost): B+(**)
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
- [sc] available at soundcloud.com
- [sp] available at spotify.com
- [os] some other stream source
- [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
Friday, October 28. 2016
More tidbits from my
online notebook, which starting in 2005
became an archive and expansion of my blog.
On February 15, 2005, I wrote about North Korea's newly developed
nuclear weapons, and the American response:
North Korea's announcement that they possess nuclear weapons was
met first by some incoherent bluster by Condoleezza Rice, then by
a marginally more thoughtful U.S. threat: let's see if they can eat
their nukes. This is hardly America's first attempt to win hearts and
minds through empty stomachs. During the Korean War the U.S. bombed
dams to ravage Korean farmland. The many years of crippling economic
sanctions that the U.S. has imposed on North Korea ever since then
have resulted in chronic malnutrition and starvation. Now the idea
is to tighten up the sanctions even more. It's not really clear how
that can be done, but if it can be done one net effect will be to
punish a people even more for their misfortune in leaders. Another
will be to remind the world of how callous and cruel the U.S. can
Following WWII the U.S. established a reputation as being a
gracious victor, but the stalemate at the end of the Korean War
left a sour taste in the mouth of American triumphalism. Since
then the U.S. has responded to each occasion where its will was
rejected with the petty vindictiveness of a sore loser: Korea,
Cuba, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq. After the shooting stopped in Korea
the U.S. proceded to punish North Korea with every weapon short
of invasion. North Korea's response was to internalize the threat,
developing a defensive posture that makes invasion a very risky
proposition and a deterence capability that could devastate the
South Korean city of Seoul, while occasionally making aggressive,
grimacing gestures. More recently, North Korea has made overtures
to normalize relations, especially with South Korea -- that seems
like the one way to escape America's death grip isolation. But the
obstacle to normalization is the U.S., especially the factions in
control of the Bush Administration -- for whom North Korea is most
useful as a threatening enemy: especially as a rationale for their
"missile defense" boondoggle, although one also suspects that they
find North Korea's threat useful for keeping Japan in line.
On February 4, 2005, I wrote a letter in response to an editorial
in the Eagle by a "Social Security reformer" named Jim Clark (you
may recall that Bush tried to redeem his "mandate" by wrecking Social
Security, a quest which didn't go over too well):
The big problem with the Social Security reform facts that
Jim Clark wants to get straight is that they aren't facts yet:
all he's done is speculate about the future. For instance, he
assumes that Americans in the future won't have the moral
backbone to increase taxes if necessary in order to fund the
Social Security needs of the old and infirm, even though ever
since the founding of Social Security they have done whatever
needed to be done. Moreover, he asserts that the federal
government of the future will default on its borrowing of
the excess taxes that workers have paid into Social Security
since the last time the politicians "fixed" it. If this is
true we have much more serious things to worry about than
pensions in the latter half of the 21st century. The only way
Social Security can go bankrupt is if the U.S. government goes
bankrupt first. Given Bush's tax cuts and exorbitant spending
on war and corporate welfare, the trade imbalance and the
sinking dollar -- that's the real threat we need to take
From a post on May 29, 2005, on a couple Kansas politicians:
Todd Tiahrt, whose congressional district includes Wichita, was
one of twenty Republicans to vote against undoing the ethic rule changes
that Tom DeLay had tried to cover his sorry ass with. Tiahrt has spoken
repeatedly in defense of DeLay -- he even went so far as to reiterate
DeLay's threats against "activist judges" on the same day DeLay was
apologizing for them. Note the careful wording above to avoid saying
that Tiahrt represents Wichita. Tiahrt represents Boeing, but because
he occupies the district congressional seat, nobody represents Wichita.
I maintain that he's the worst congressman in the country, but on the
evidence of this vote he still has nineteen competitors.
Senator Sam Brownback has taken over the District of Columbia
committee in the Senate. His first act there was to make sure that
gay marriages performed in Massachusetts won't be recognized as legal
in D.C. While most of what Brownback does is obnoxious, please excuse
me if I take this one personally. I have a niece, born and raised
here in Wichita, who went to college in Boston, met a nice girl and
got married there. They've recently moved to D.C., where my niece
is studying law. Most people look at political issues as something
rather abstract, failing to recognize the real people impacted. This
is one case where I can fill in a real person, and in that context
Brownback is nothing but a priggish homewrecker.
In early May, 2005, I noted that I succumbed to my wife's entreaties
and started watching television with her, specifically the Jack Bauer
terrorism fantasy 24. Since then TV has become a nightly ritual.
I reckon you can date my mental rot from that date.
On May 27, 2015, I noted:
The Democrats caved in on Bush's activist judges. From day
one the Bush administration has sought to exempt itself from the
rule of law -- first attacking convenient international targets
like the World Court and treaties restricting their ability to
proliferate weapons of mass destruction, then moving on to the
PATRIOT ACT while trying to pack the court system with political
cronies. There's a word commonly used to describe people who try
so hard to evade the rule of law: criminals. However, in their
demagogic slander campaign against "activist judges" -- most of
whom meet any reasonable definition of conservative -- they're
moving beyond mere criminality. We need a fresher word for this,
but anyone who can recall history as far back as the 1920s will
know what I mean by the old-fashioned term: fascists.
On May 31, 2015, I published a piece in the Village Voice on
jazz labels. The
notebook adds a note on business models that I promised to return
to some day:
My first draft for the introduction sketched out an unconventional
economic theory. I discarded it (the draft, not the theory) after my
editor didn't understand it, but I hope to go back to it someday. I
regard businesses as important and vital, but I'm not an ideological
capitalist. I'm struck by the arbitrariness and inefficiency of most
businesses, and those same traits are in play here. But a couple of
things make jazz labels different from most widgetmakers: one is that
there's not a lot of money in the market, so there's not a lot to be
gained by being greedy; another is that success is mostly a matter of
survival -- it's more important not to lose a lot than to make a lot
when you can; a third is that most of the capitalists are in awe of
their labor; finally, in many cases the music is its own reward. By
and large, this sort of capitalism has served recorded jazz well.
Other businesses might learn something from their example.
On September 1, 2005, I wrote this in a letter about Katrina and
I wouldn't say it was unnecessary, given that it was inevitable. Almost
happened a year ago, you should recall, but the storm was smaller, later
in the season, and turned north to hit the Florida panhandle instead.
Could happen next year. There will probably be 3-5 more hurricanes this
year, so it could even happen again this year. New Orleans wasn't designed
to be a death trap, but that's mostly because it wasn't designed at all.
It looked dry enough when the French set up camp there, but as the town
grew it expanded into more dubious terrain, plus it finally dawned on
people that the town was sinking. The levees and pumps and so forth were
added to protect what they had blundered into, and the whole system is
a stack of cards that at any moment could have been knocked down from
many angles. John McPhee covers some of this in The Control of Nature,
which is most of what I know, but not most of what there is to know. I
wonder what's going to happen to all that rain in Tennessee and Kentucky
when it drains down the Mississippi, but maybe that's manageable compared
to the usual annual floods. One thing that will become obvious over the
next few months is that flood in New Orleans is fundamentally different
from flood almost everywhere else. Right now Mississippi is getting as
much or more coverage, but they can start fixing things in Mississippi
now. New Orleans will be under water for months, and there's no telling
what will or won't be salvageable when they finally pump it dry. It will
be tempting not to rebuild it at all. One thing that's already started
is that everyone with an axe to grind is viewing this through their own
prism. Same thing happened after 9/11: I knew people who saw that as a
wake-up call to dismantle Israel's settlements or stop using foreign oil;
Eric Raymond thought the answer would be to let all airplane passengers
carry guns on board; dumber still, Bush invaded Iraq. No telling what all
is going to come out of this. Racism, for sure. The all-idiots team on
Fox news are already bitching about how federal disaster insurance lets
people think they're safe building in dangerous places, and complaining
about how people around the Great Lakes wind up paying for such stupidity.
Global warming has something to do with this. Unchecked, badly planned
development is another aspect. Long-term underinvestment in infrastructure
is another, and of course bankrupting the federal government doesn't help
in this regard -- and this shouldn't just include levees and roads and
such, the social and educational and economic deficits are coming due,
too. One thing this shows is that keeping 20% of America below the poverty
line packs its own hidden costs. People have already pointed out that the
helicopters and National Guard are all in Iraq -- don't you think that the
liberal argument about how we have to help poor Iraq (cynical as it is)
is going to wear thin pretty quick? The gasoline price stories seem to
have the jump on all else, probably because they were already a story,
so were easy to do. It's telling that Bush's first act was to suspend
air quality standards for gasoline blends. Stock market went up yesterday,
mostly people buying oil company stocks.
Several times this year I've written that one of the big issues of the
coming decades will be how governments respond to disasters. The Indian
Ocean tsunami was a distant example, but this (actually lesser) disaster
will make a more immediate impression on people here. It should scare
the hell out of us -- even if New Orleans is unique, much of the story
translates elsewhere. Marc Reisner has a sketch of a very possible CA
earthquake in A Dangerous Place, which makes for harrowing reading.
To the best of my knowledge, no one sketched out what could happen in
New Orleans, but that's no longer a question for the imagination.
On September 30, 2005, in the wake of Katrina, I wrote about
the Republican embrace of small and/or incompetent government:
I don't know about Norquist, but the key issue for some
Republican ideologues isn't the size of government so much as their wish
to break the poor, and for that matter the middle class, of the habit of
looking toward government to help solve their problems. Starving the
government beast is one way to do this, but more effective still is to
render government incompetent. Bush may have failed the straightforward
task of shrinking government, but he's done a bang-up job of making it
incompetent -- or at least making it useless to all but his political
backers. For Bush, this is a multi-pronged attack, but the main thrusts
are: 1) put political agents in charge everywhere, especially to maximize
the patronage potential of the government; 2) undermine the civil service
system and the unions; 3) muck up all regulatory processes; 4) start a
few wars to suck up resources; 5) pile extra security responsibilities
on top of all other government functions; 6) cut taxes on the rich,
driving the government ever deeper in debt; 7) push as much unfunded
work as possible onto state and local governments. In this framework,
greater debt does double duty: it provides discretionary rationale for
rejecting spending now, and it makes future spending more prohibitive.
The resulting government will, for most people, become so useless that
they won't mind drowning it in a bathtub. . . .
Ever since Ronald Reagan got elected in 1980, America has been in
denial, and the Republicans have capitalized on that denial by feeding
people fantasies. That worked because until lately it's never really
been tested. First Reagan then Bush put together improbable coalitions
of the rich and the foolish, and now that coalition is starting to
show signs of fracture. Polls show that Bush is losing support among
fringe groups like libertarians and racists. The more serious question
is whether, or when, the rich will abandon him. The rich have more to
lose than anyone -- do tax cuts matter so much that they're willing to
countenance such thoroughgoing corruption and incompetence?
On October 17, 2005, I wrote about Bush's ill-fated nomination of
Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court:
The Miers nomination is one more instance of David Ogilvy's old
adage: "first rate people hire first rate people; second rate people
hire third rate people." Bush not only hires them. Once they've proven
their incompetence, he gives them medals and/or promotes them.
Saw a news story tonight on how Americans are feeling all tapped
out donating for disaster relief lately. The death toll in Pakistan's
earthquake has passed 50,000, but as Stalin might say, that's just a
statistic. Hurricane Stan killed more than a thousand in Central America,
but that's just a hurricane that missed the US -- someone else's problem.
(Unlike the remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy, which have caused extensive
flooding along the US East Coast. And while we're at it, note that
Hurricane Vince, the first V-name storm ever in the Atlantic, was also
the first hurricane on record to hit Spain. The world's disaster zones
are spreading.) There are so many lessons buried in this story that it's
hard even to list them. One is that disasters are not just nature --
they are compounded by human developments. One aspect of that is that
disasters in areas of widespread poverty take a much higher toll in
lives. (On the other hand, disasters in areas of wealth ring up higher
insurance claims.) Another is that private charity doesn't work very
well. Even in the best of circumstances it isn't very efficient, and
over time generosity wanes. But even governments are hard pressed to
respond to large disasters -- especially when they shunt much of their
spending off into military adventures, as the US and Pakistan have
From October 22, 2005, I reminded readers I had opposed going to
war in Afghanistan in the first place (well, in 2001, although had
I given it any thought I would have opposed it in 1979 as well),
Still, every now and then the US manages to do something really
stupid over there: bombing a caravan of tribal leaders, torturing
and killing a stray taxi driver, scoring a decisive firefight with
the Canadians, killing a NFL star wearing their own uniform. Last
week they pulled off another doozy: they burned a couple of killed
Taliban fighters, hoping to taunt their comrades into coming out to
be slaughtered. Even if such an act wasn't sacrilege to Muslims,
you'd think they'd remember how they felt when American contractors
were strung up and burned in Fallujah. Maybe if the whole thing
hadn't been videotaped they could have contained the outrage, but
unlike all those good old wars it's hard to hide what you're doing
these days. But the bigger problem lies in the mixed messages that
emanate from Bush, Rumsfeld, et al. (You'll remember the concept of
mixed messages from the 2004 presidential campaign -- it was what
Bush accused Kerry of propagating.) On the one hand, they tell us
that we're in Afghanistan and Iraq to help people achieve their
legitimate democratic aspirations with freedom and prosperity and
all the good things that go with it. On the other hand, they tell
us that our goal there is to kill or capture the enemy, which is
everyone who opposes us, an ever-increasing population. Soldiers
have a tough time reconciling these contradictions, but many of
them joined up out of blanket hatred of Arabs and Muslims, and
most have come to realize that shooting first is a policy that
the brass almost never comes down on -- even when it gets taped
and broadcast, as is the case this time.
On November 11, 2005 I wrote about Veterans Day:
But the problem with gunshy military and the trigger-happy
politicos in America isn't just about us. Most of the rest of
the world has learned to live perfectly well without war. The
best thing that ever happened to Germany and Japan was that
they lost WWII, and that they lost it bad enough they never
entertained the thought again. (As you'll recall, when Germany
lost WWI a bunch of hotheads like Hitler wanted another round,
which is what they got.) It's beginning to look like the worst
thing that ever happened to America was that we thought we won.
The truth is nobody wins wars, and while you may thankfully
beat some country that was worse than you at the start, in the
nasty brutality of war you become ever more like your enemies.
But war isn't obsolescent just because it's gone out of fashion
in places like once war-happy Europe. Even the soldiers in the
world's one undoubted superpower have lost their taste for war.
This even happened in the Soviet Union: the nation that almost
single-handedly beat back Nazi Germany was unable to quell a
bunch of goatherders and poppy-growers in Afghanistan. That
should have been a powerful lesson but we misread it. Just as
powerful states, like the Soviets in Afghanistan and the US in
Vietnam and Iraq, are increasingly unwilling to sacrifice to
conquer other people's lands, the people of those lands are
still willing to sacrifice to drive the invaders out. These
are the two sides of what Jonathan Schell has called "the
unconquerable world" -- the world we live in today, the one
that Bush ideologues cavalierly dismiss as "reality-based."
This would all be laughable if so many people didn't buy
into the myths. The right has the most at stake: their view of
human nature makes enemies inevitable, and their strategy for
dealing with those enemies is to intimidate them -- one of their
favorite maxims is Machiavelli's "it is better to be feared than
loved," so you can see how that leads to the dream of firing
lasers from space to instantly smite their foes. Insistence on
military might makes them look tough and spends money that
liberals might otherwise be tempted to waste on the poor. The
military and their business partners appreciate the dole. The
scam would end there, except that the right does indeed make
enemies, and once in a while one takes a pot shot at us. That's
when we finally wonder just how much defense all those billions
have bought us. But when you're talking a tightly organized cell
of fanatics with homemade bombs, you're talking something at a
scale the military can't operate at. Imagine a gnat on a rhino.
Imagine entering an Abrams tank in a Formula One race. Still
not close. There are only a few things the military knows how
to do. Incinerate a billion people in China? Hey, no problem.
Flush Osama bin Laden out of a cave in Afghanistan? No way. A
rational person would conclude that the military is useless for
that task and any other thing we might reasonably want to do,
and downright dangerous for all the things it can actually do.
But how tough can a politician look arguing the common sense
that $500 billion/year buys us nothing worthwhile? Especially
when so many soldiers have sacrificed so much to keep us free.
The problem with Veterans Day is that the veterans are the
designated cheerleaders for this kind of nonsense.
The tragedy of Veterans Day is that many veterans do get run
through the ringer. Something like 20% of the soldiers returning
from Iraq bring home physical and/or mental wounds. The casualty
rates for the brief and, from the American standpoint, almost
bloodless Desert Storm war were even higher -- of course, the
current war is likely to more than make up the difference as
time passes. It's ironic that despite all the photo ops and
propaganda ploys, despite the political instincts of many and
perhaps most of the soldiers, the antiwar movement is far more
concerned with their welfare than the people who cheered them
into war. That is largely because the antiwar movement is far
more concerned with everyone's welfare. But it's also a seductive
concern, in that many of us are tempted to bask in the warm glow
that the military and the politicos have spun around veterans.
That seduction, for instance, led many Democrats to the foolish
notion that a decorated veteran like John Kerry would be an
unassailable candidate against Bush's own dubious service record.
Kerry lost. So will the vets, unless we come to our senses and
figure a way out of these rhetorical traps. Veterans are little
different from anyone else, except that some have been put through
circumstances that no one should have to experience. They don't
need a day, and we don't do them justice by giving them one. Only
an end to war corrects the course. And that can't happen as long
as we glory in wars past, let alone present.
Might as well end this with my Pazz & Jop ballot, from
December 27, 2005:
- Amy Rigby: Little Fugitive (Signature Sounds) 
- Kanye West: Late Registration (Roc-A-Fella) 
- William Parker Quartet: Sound Unity (AUM Fidelity) 
- The Perceptionists: Black Dialogue (Definitive Jux) 
- Amadou & Mariam: Dimanche à Bamako (Nonesuch) 
- FME: Cuts (Okka Disk) 
- Rachid Taha: Tékitoi (Wrasse) 
- Buck 65: This Right Here Is Buck 65 (V2) 
- Blueprint: 1988 (Rhymesayers) 
- Jerry Granelli: Sandhills Reunion (Songlines) 
Monday, October 24. 2016
Music: Current count 27272  rated (+9), 418  unrated (+6).
One of those weeks that was just blown to shreds, as I came down with
a stomach bug on Wednesday, spent a couple days pretty much stuck in bed,
and still feel exhausted and a bit unsettled. Before getting sick several
records got a lot of plays without quite convincing me they're A- material
(Cables, Schlippenbach, American Honey). The only Schlippenbach
Trio album I've given an A- to was 2015's Features, which I don't
recall as being a close decision, so I thought I should at least go back
and replay 1972's Pakistani Pomade -- perhaps a little wilder than
the new one, but not nearly as vividly recorded. I've been playing more
old Schlippenbach today, but nothing that can't wait until next week.
Birthday tomorrow, will be 66. Spent some time today wading through
the Social Security online form, so maybe I'll start drawing some income
(and slow down the savings burn). Had planned on cooking tomorrow, but
the illness forced a postponement -- maybe Saturday. I usually pick out
a national cuisine and try to overdo it. I thought Greek would be fun
this year: first non-American food I learned to cook, thanks to my dear
college friend Elias Vlanton. I visited Elias back in June and we cooked
up a pretty smashing dinner, using The Jerusalem Cookbook and a
few other Mediterranean recipes, so he's been on my mind. Finally worked
out a tentative menu last night: a delicate balance of feasible and
Made very little progress on the jazz book(s) last week. I'm up to
October 2005 in the notebook.
I've reached a point where nearly all the reviews I'm finding had been
copied to the Jazz Prospecting and/or Recycled Goods archives. Not
sure yet if that means I can skip the rest, but good chance I can.
For now I have one more Golden Oldies column to post, so that series
will probably end with 2005.
I should get around to a Streamnotes post later this week. Currently
have 102 records, which isn't a huge amount, but if quantity doesn't
force a post, the calendar will. Might give me some extra motivation to
cherry pick the largest incoming queue I've had in several years.
Sad to note the death of Tom Hayden, a founder of the new left even
before he became one of the leading opponents of the Vietnam War. As a
teenager I read his book Rebellion in Newark, and of course
rooted for him in the Chicago 8/7 trial. I was pleased to see him go
into mainstream California politics, and can't say much about that.
(Although I did roast him for endorsing Hillary over Bernie earlier
this year: post
In 2012, he spoke to the annual meeting of the
Peace and Social Justice Center
here in Wichita, and did a nice job of tracing out the continuity from
the New Left to today's progressive politics.
New records rated this week:
- Stefan Aeby Trio: To the Light (2015 , Intakt): [cdr]: B+(**)
- John Butcher & Ståle Liavik Solberg: So Beautiful, It Starts to Rain (2015 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
- George Cables: The George Cables Songbook (2016, HighNote): [cd]: B+(***)
- Dreezy: No Hard Feelings (2016, Interscope): [r]: B+(*)
- Mark Murphy: Slip Away (2016, Mini Movie): [cd]: B
- Schlippenbach Trio: Warsaw Concert (2015 , Intakt): [cd]: B+(***)
- Travis Scott: Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight (2016, Epic): [r]: B+(**)
- Wax Tailor: By Any Beats Necessary (2016, Le Plan): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- American Honey (, UME): [sp]: B+(***)
- Alexander von Schlippenbach Trio: Pakistani Pomade (1972 , Atavistic): [r]: [was: B+] B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- BassDrumBone: The Long Road (Auricle, 2CD): November 15
- Eraldo Bernocchi/Prakash Sontakke: Invisible Strings (RareNoise): advance, November 18
- Jeff Collins: The Keys to Christmas (Crossroads)
- Fifth (Jinsy): advance, November 18
- Frank Kimbrough: Solstice (Pirouet): November 25
- Ingrid Laubrock: Serpentines (Intakt): advance: November
- Jerry Leake: Crafty Hands (Rhombus Publishing)
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn: At Ibeam (Constant Sorrow)
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: A Day in Brooklyn [Recorded 10/18/15 at Ibeam] (Constant Sorrow)
- Allen Lowe: In the Diaspora of the Diaspora: Hell With an Ocean View (Constant Sorrow)
- Tom Marko: Inner Light (Summit)
- Bobby Previte: Mass (RareNoise): advance, November 18
- Ken Schaphorst Big Band: How to Say Goodbye (JCA): December 2
- Scott Whitfield: New Jazz Standards (Volume 2) (Summit)
Tuesday, October 18. 2016
Continuing my slog through the
online notebook, picking up in mid-2004,
just in time for another presidential election -- I think this was the
one that Matt Taibbi called "The Stupid Season," fully aware that what
he was describing was a periodic ritual, not a one-shot fluke. On
August 19, with the anti-Kerry "swift boaters" in full attack, I
It looks like the Bush campaign from here on out is going to be
nothing but lies and slander and terrorism. They're trying to work
their own base into a frenzy of paranoia, and they're trying to
swamp the media with ruses to crowd out any serious evaluation of
Bush, his record, and the real issues. Already we've seen a series
of terrorism alerts where they try to spook us with little more
than leaks and innuendos. We've even seen a flare-up in Iraq hard
on the heels of the latest economic debacle -- is this an indication
of how desperate they are to change the subject?
The election is still more than two months away. I seriously doubt
that anything much is going to change between now and then, but as
their policies continue to sink in their own quicksand, we can expect
the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy to become ever shriller and ever more
desperate. All a straight-thinking person can do from here on out is
to batten down the hatches and stay the course.
One of the evening news shows has a daily segment called "Fallen
Heroes" -- all someone has to do to get into that show is be a U.S.
soldier killed in Iraq. By that logic I've known several Vietnam War
heroes: my nextdoor neighbor, drafted, marched through the jungle,
where he sat down on a mine; a cousin, killed inside a tank when his
own gun accidentally discharged (the official story; some people
suspect he was fragged). It is said that these people made the supreme
sacrifice for their country, but the plain fact is that the country
wasted their lives for no good purpose. So I couldn't care less if
Kerry did or didn't do anything conventionally heroic in Vietnam.
The real heroes from that war were the ones who opposed it, as Kerry
himself dramatized when he threw away his medals or ribbons or
whatever they were.
I probably should have added something like "too bad he no longer
has the courage to remind us how right he was in opposing that war, as
opposed to how dumb he was in signing up for it in the first place."
Maybe even: "in retrospect, he's managed to make both stances look
like nothing more than opportune political stunts as he tried to
gauge which way the wind was blowing." But then we're talking about
a guy who voted against the Gulf War in 1990 and for the Iraq War
in 2003 and came to regret both votes.
On September 3, 2004, I wrote a fairly long post on Chechen
separatism and terrorism -- the occasion was an attack on a school
in nearby Beslan, which killed more than 300 people.
On September 13, 2004, I found myself looking back on 9/11:
Three years after the terrible attacks of 11 September 2001 I find
myself wondering whether anyone ever is so shocked by an unexpected
event that they reconsider and change course. The horror that we felt
that morning watching the World Trade Center burn and collapse was
not just for the victims. Every bit as horrifying was the expectation
of what would come: not what further attacks might come, but what the
U.S. would do in reaction. To call what happened afterwards revenge
would be to give it more purpose and sense than history demonstrates.
All Osama bin Laden actually did on that day was to poke a giant and
stir it into fitful action. He soon went into hiding and has been
irrelevant ever since, but the U.S. reaction has continued to rail
blindly against the world. In the three years since, the U.S. has
laid waste to two countries, killing at least ten times as many people
as died on that fateful day, perhaps twenty times, sacrificing another
thousand Americans in the process. The U.S. burned up over $200 billion
prosecuting those wars, now just hopeless sinkholes, festering pools
of hate. And three years out we're nowhere near closure.
That no good would come of America's reaction was clear from the
first day. The problem was no doubt made worse because the President
was a deceitful cynic who saw a ready chance to cover himself with
the glory of war, and because his administration was chock full of
liars and crooks and ideological megalomaniacs. But the U.S. had
long been cocked for this sort of reaction, much as, say, the world
of 1914 plunged into World War following the assassination of Archduke
Ferdinand. . . .
The attacks of 11 September 2001 should have been a moment for
sober reflection, but it wasn't. The collapse of the Soviet Union
should have been a time for healing, but it wasn't. Throughout
history there have been few cases where victors have been gracious,
and fewer still where nations have changed their ways without
having been forced to by catastrophe. That anyone believes that
Bush has a clue how to proceed from here tells us both that we're
not very smart about ourselves and the world and that, disastrous
as the War on Terror has been, we still haven't fallen hard enough
yet. Kerry's nomination and campaign are scarcely more encouraging:
he has a bad record for rushing into wars, but at least has some
capacity for learning from his mistakes. Bush's supporters are
blind to those mistakes, otherwise they'd recognize that he is
the necessary sacrifice in order to start to set things right.
On October 29, 2004, I wrote a piece about the Boston Red Sox
and their curse, on occasion of their first World Series victory
since 1918. Also wrote this:
Noted the cover this week of The Economist: Ariel Sharon
with an olive branch in his mouth. Evidently it's supposed to
represent him as a dove, but it looks to me like he's just ate
the West Bank.
On October 21, I sent a letter to virtually everyone in my
address book, titled "Vote for John Kerry (It's Important)."
It was the first time I ever done something like that (and it
will probably be the last). You can read the letter with a
postscript here. The
Bush has a big problem this year: reality. In less than four
years Bush has taken us from relative peace and prosperity to a
disastrous war and an economy which exposes the fundamental problems
of a government which favors the rich at the expense of everyone
else. A good part of this problem is systemic -- the decline of real
wages for the workers who built America has been going on for thirty
years, as the gulf between rich and poor has been broadening,
concentrating power for the rich and reducing opportunity and a sense
of fairness for everyone else. But much of the problem is due to the
arrogance, ignorance and incompetence of the Bush
administration. . . .
If Bush does somehow manage to win it will be a
sad time for America. Not only would it expose us to four more years
of depredations and mismanagement, it plainly broadcasts to us and the
world that the citizens of the United States just don't get how far
their country has decayed from the ideals of freedom, equality,
opportunity, and justice that we grew up believing in. A victory for
Bush would show us to be extraordinarily gullible, or downright
As we now know, Bush did win that election -- a very close one,
with some taint in Ohio -- but it wasn't long before the gullible
came to regret their choice: only Nixon sunk faster and further
after a successful re-election bid. Still, twelve years later few
people seem to recall what was at stake in 2004. And even though
the second Bush term merely brought the disasters seeded in his
first term to fruition, it seems like most people have forgotten
his party's responsibility for so many calamities.
After Kerry failed, I wrote a long postmortem, including this
prediction (November 3, 2004):
The most likely [scenario] is that Bush will make such a mess of his second
term that his now-blind followers will give up in disgust. But that's
been given a pretty severe trial by his first term, and he's emerged
stronger than ever. Historically mid-term congressional elections (the
next one is in 2006) have ran against the President's party, but the
Republicans managed to escape that effect in 2002, mostly by treating
each race as a separate forum (mostly not on Bush). The Democrats do
have the experience of massive volunteer efforts this year, which if
duplicated could make an impact in 2006.
My mood darkened later that week when Bush celebrated by destroying
the defiant Iraqi city of Falluja. From my November 9, 2004 post:
John Kerry campaigned using the slogan, "help is on the way." George
W. Bush's first act now that he's got his mandate was to launch a major
ground assault on Falluja in Iraq, following a few months of intensive
aerial bombardment. This has evidently been planned quite a while, but
they delayed launching it until the votes had been counted and the voters
safely put back to sleep. A more revealing campaign slogan for Bush would
be, "hell is on the way."
I'm not aware of Kerry commenting on the siege of Fallujah, although
I have to admit that I haven't been paying a lot of attention to him,
including his concession speech. Had Kerry won the election he presumably
would have something to say, as the assault on Falluja would have made
his task of coming up with a somewhat positive resolution even harder
than it is. But all I know about Kerry's concession speech is that it was
lauded as gracious, which probably means he didn't take the opportunity
to scold the electorate by pointing out that "help is not on the way."
That is, of course, the difference between a politician trying to make
nice and a leader who realizes how much was at stake, and now how much
has been lost, in this election. Kerry may be a dedicated public servant,
and he may have laudable personal principles, but he's not a guy who's
going to fight for once you're down.
From November 17, 2004, as Bush was reloading his administration for
a second term:
Colin Powell's resignation as Secretary of State is good riddance,
even if his successor is likely to be even less principled and even
more inept. My home town paper's editorial page toasted Powell today
under the heading "Moderate": "His moderate, multinational, pragmatic
views were routinely rejected in the Bush team's squabbles on nuclear
nonproliferation, Iraq, the Middle East and other major challenges
abroad." If this was Powell's strategy, the editorial writer (Randy
Scholfield) would have been right to conclude that "his tenure can
only be described as a failure." Yes, it's been a failure, maybe
even in Powell's own limited terms. But it hasn't been a failure
because Powell's moderation was rejected by hotter heads; it's been
a failure because of Powell's willingness to support the hawks. And
there's damn little evidence that Powell isn't one of the hawks.
His disagreements have at most been tactical.
Theodore Roosevelt's used to say "speak softly and carry a big
stick." Powell alone among Bush's War Cabinet seems to have taken
that as a maxim. But Roosevelt's intent was to camouflage a whole
administration. If only Powell speaks softly, he loses his voice.
The bigger question is why did the others speak so loudly. And the
evident answer is that Bush's foreign policy has first and foremost
been a matter of domestic politics. Bush's bully tactics are meant
to show his base that he's their strong leader; and the world be
damned -- it's not like their votes count. Powell's most famous
self-description was as the "bully on the block," so how much
space does that leave between Bush and Powell? Damn little, at
least in the realm of intentions. I don't discount that Powell
has a stronger grip on reality and the limits of American power,
but let's face it: for Bush that's off-message. Powell did nothing
effective to bring such concerns to bear on administration policy.
Maybe this too is just an act. . . . .
As the second term cabinet turns over, the most notable trend
is that the new cabinet members are almost all current White House
staff (e.g., Alberto Gonzalez for John Ashcroft). This bespeaks
an administration that will be even more closeted and close-minded
than the last one. You voted for it, America. This is just Bush's
way of saying: fuck you.
On November 25, 2004 I wrote about an event where a panel of
speakers held forth on "are we safer now?" (meaning safer from
terrorism). I introduced that piece by noting that a school in
Wichita had recently been blown up, not by terrorists but by
construction incompetence (probably a gas leak). I went on to
generate a long list of non-terrorist things that actually make
our lives more dangerous, then added this paragraph, which goes
a bit deeper:
All this might not matter much if the world were a well balanced
static system, but it isn't. We live in a world where resources are
shrinking while demand expands. We live in a world where expertise
is becoming rarefied, putting us at the mercy of experts who may or
may not have our interests at heart. We live in a world where a
clever few can exploit the ignorant many, but even the clever few
have to compete so ruthlessly that they lose their grip -- they've
constructed a world of hair triggers that surrender control and
amplify panic. We live in a world where the "movers and shakers"
move and shake so fast that they've become incapable of recognizing
the unexpected. We live in a world which continues to cling to the
ideology that the pursuit of private advantages serves the common
good, even though there are few if any cases where this is true.
And we live in a nation that has promoted its misconceptions to
such staggering heights that some sort of horrible crash seems
On January 21, 2015, I wrote about natural disasters, starting with
a local ice storm, then moving on to California mudslides and the big
tsunami in the Indian Ocean:
What this means is that as disasters mount up government has not
merely become the insurer-of-last-resort, it's increasingly becoming
the only insurer of note. This should give us pause, especially as
the political geniuses of the Republican party have set out on a
program to systematically bankrupt government. In doing so they run
the risk of leaving us in the rubble. The Bush administration's
response to the tsunami crisis is a good example of how this is
going to work: a tiny pittance, maybe a bit more after the media
shames them, plus whatever the charitably inclined might pitch in;
meanwhile the government's contribution gets delivered through the
military -- the only U.S. government agency functioning beyond U.S.
borders these days -- and only after they work out the payola
On February 23 I wrote a good deal about Boeing's outsourcing of
their plant in Wichita where my father and brother had worked for
many decades. I also wrote a little note on Hillary Clinton and her
presidential prospects (nearly four years ahead of the 2008 election):
Found in the Wichita Eagle "Opinion Line" (a good source of wise
cracks and insane rants): "What a complete joke that Hillary Clinton
is, quoting the Bible in her speeches." One reason I note this is that
she has been getting a lot of flack on a local mail list I subscribe
to for her murky position on abortion rights and her hawkishness on
Iraq and any other potential cruise missile target you'd care to name.
Juan Cole reports that she's also managed to tick off the presumptive
next Prime Minister of Iraq. Clearly she's launched her campaign, but
I have to wonder what her prospects are with an increasingly polarized
public where both ends of the spectrum can't stand her. Maybe that
would have worked to her advantage in the '90s when few cared about
issues and most distrusted those who did.
I remember listening to a radio interview with her back in '93 or
'94 when she was asked what her reaction would be if her health care
reform was rejected, and she said that would be a shame. That might
have been savvy had she been sure of winning, but when her plan went
down is was just aloof. It was worse than a shame -- it was tragic,
not so much what her lousy plan lost as that she blew a huge amount
of political capital on something that wouldn't have solved the
problem in the first place, that substituted for a serious plan,
and that by failing cut the Republicans loose to do all the damage
they've done since 1994. That health plan was the same sort of too
clever straddle-the-middle tactic she's building her campaign on.
I'm hoping that someone will take her to task in the NY Democratic
primary in 2006 and knock her out.
Monday, October 17. 2016
Music: Current count 27263  rated (+19), 412  unrated (+11).
Rated count back way down again -- it was 15 two weeks ago, then
jumped up to fairly normal 33 last week (not counting a bookkeeping
windfall which made the posted total 46; September's weekly totals
were 34, 38, 25, 30). Several obvious factors: good records get more
spins than not-so-good ones, and that was especially true this week;
I took a fair amount of time off for yardwork and cooking; and the
machine I use to listen to Rhapsody has had some problems, so I've
had it down for a couple days (hopefully a new power supply will
help -- finally got it installed today and so far, so good).
Up to February 2005 in my trawl through the
online notebook for lost reviews.
I've started to find some of the Jazz Consumer Guide surplus (before
I started posting them in meta-columns in December 2005), as well
as quite a few reviews of older jazz albums. I'm saving the latter
in a Recorded Jazz in the 20th Century book file, currently
a bit over 260 pages long (recent PDF
here). I haven't updated the
Recorded Jazz in the Early 21st Century PDF recently (you
can still download the 144-page first pass
New records rated this week:
- Joey Alexander: Countdown (2016, Motema): [r]: B+(*)
- JD Allen: Americana (2016, Savant): [cd]: A-
- Bauer Baldych Duchnowski Konrad: Trans-Fuzja (2012 , ForTune): [bc]: B+(**)
- Black Bombaim & Peter Brötzmann (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: A-
- Orrin Evans: #Knowingishalfthebattle (2016, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
- Jonathan Finlayson & Sicilian Defense: Moving Still (2016, Pi): [cd]: B+(**)
- Friends & Neighbors: What's Wrong? (2015 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
- Robert Glasper Experiment: ArtScience (2016, Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
- Luke Hendon: Silk & Steel (2016, self-released): [cd]: B+(*)
- Dave Holland/Chris Potter/Lionel Loueke/Eric Harland: Aziza (2016, Dare2): [cdr]: A-
- Manu Katché: Unstatic (2016, Anteprima): [r]: B+(*)
- John Lindberg Raptor Trio: Western Edges (2012 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
- Nicholas Payton: Textures (2016, Paytone): [r]: B-
- Houston Person & Ron Carter: Chemistry (2015 , HighNote): [cd]: A
- Punkt 3: Ordnung Herrscht (2016, Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith: Ears (2016, Western Vinyl): [r]: B+(**)
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani: Sunergy (2015 , RVNG Intl.): [r]: B+(**)
- Wadada Leo Smith: America's National Parks (2016, Cuneiform, 2CD): [cd]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Black Bombaim: Titans (2012, Lovers & Lollypops): [r]: B+(***)
- Black Bombaim/La La La Ressonance: Black Bombaim & La La La Ressonance (2013 , PAD/Lovers & Lollypops): [r]: B+(**)
- Black Bombaim: Far Out (2014, Lovers & Lollipops): [r]: A-
Added grades for old LPs:
- The Freedom Sounds featuring Wayne Henderson: People Get Ready (1967, Atlantic): in twofer with Sonny Sharrock: Black Women (, Collectables): B+
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Amendola vs. Blades: Greatest Hits (Sazi)
- Martin Bejerano: Trio Miami (Figgland): November 4
- Boi Akih: Liquid Songs (TryTone)
- Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Basically Baker Vol. 2: The Big Band Music of David Baker (Patois, 2CD)
- Oguz Buyukberber and Simon Nabatov: Wobbly Strata (TryTone)
- Richie Cole: Plays Ballads & Love Songs (Mark Perna Music): October 21
- The Core Trio: Live Featuring Matthew Shipp (Evil Rabbit)
- The Delegation: Evergreen (Canceled World) (ESP-Disk, 2CD)
- Earth Tongues: Ohio (Neither/Nor, 2CD)
- Brent Gallaher: Moving Forward (V&B): January 6
- Jason Hainsworth: Third Ward Stories (Origin): October 21
- Nate Lepine Quartet: Vortices (Eyes & Ears)
- Tom Marko: Inner Light (Summit)
- Matt Mayhall: Tropes (Skirl)
- John Moulder: Earthborn Tales of Soul and Spirit (Origin): October 21
- Adam Schneit Band: Light Shines In (Fresh Sound New Talent): advance
- Andrew Van Tassel: It's Where You Are (Tone Rogue): December 1
- Anna Webber's Simple Trio: Binary (Skirl): October 25
- Scott Whitfield: New Jazz Standards (Volume 2) (Summit)