Monday, March 14. 2016
Music: Current count 26384  rated (+21), 411  unrated (-2).
Rated count dropped further (was 24 last week). Next week will most
likely be lower still, at least if I manage to spend any substantial
amount of time working on my sister's house. Not sure what happened
last week. I suspect both interest and listening time were down as I'm
coming off my 2015 wrap up efforts but not paying much attention to
2016. Still, relatively high share of recommended records this week.
The Tom Zé was recommended by Christgau the previous week, but it took
me a while to find it on Rhapsody. (The other Zé record Christgau
liked, Tropicália Lixo Lógico, was an A- back in 2012.) BJ
the Chicago Kid and Wussy were tips from Michael Tatum (although
Christgau wasted no time certifying Wussy). Threadgill was the most
obvious prospect in the incoming queue, aside from vault discoveries
from Thad Jones/Mel Lewis and Larry Young (still pending).
Two HMs came close. The Kendrick Lamar dump is mostly up to snuff,
maybe even genius, but I kept stumbling on some dull stretches that
should have been edited out -- although doing so would have cut the
"album" well under 30 minutes. The Danny Green record grew on me
despite my usual disinterest in piano trios and dislike for string
quartets. I rarely fall for postbop jazz that lush, but it almost
became the exception -- indeed, might have had I stuck with it
I'll also note that the Loretta Lynn record is likely to
be much enjoyed by fans, although it doesn't really add much. The
concept there is to do for her what Rick Rubin did for Johnny Cash
in his final years: to capture his voice on a vast songbook that
may (or may not) enhance his legacy. That worked mostly because
Cash had such a unique voice. Lynn's voice isn't in that rarefied
league, although she's sounding remarkably good here, and she's
got a lot more production support than Cash had. John Carter Cash
co-produced, along with Lynn's daughter, and I hear they have 200+
songs recorded since 2007, so I expect we'll be hearing a lot more
from them -- perhaps part of the reason I managed to curb my initial
Also bothered to listen to five Rough Guide releases -- a
couple were Christgau HMs, but the best of the batch was a pick back
in 2009 (fun fact: I also have 2001's The Rough Guide to Merengue
and Bachata and 2006's The Rough Guide to Merengue at A-).
Most I tried to track down the source dates for, with the usual mixed
results. The label's compilers usually have good ears, but I've long
been irritated by their shoddy documentation -- wouldn't you think
that a company that publishes books would take that more seriously?
Working off Rhapsody is even more frustrating, as I can only imagine
how bad the booklets might be.
John Morthland, one of the finest rock critics to emerge in the
golden age of the art, died last week. It came as a complete shock
to me, partly because only a couple months ago he sought me out with
a Facebook friend request -- I was honored. I met him in the 1970s
when I moved to New York. He had recently moved to New York himself
from working at Creem in Michigan, along with Lester Bangs
and Georgia Christgau. I didn't run into him much, but after he
moved to Austin in the mid-1980s Georgia would occasionally mention
him, and I wound up corresponding with him a bit. Sometime around
2003 I even managed to drive through Austin, and looked him up and
had lunch. He asked if I was still strictly into rock, and I told
him that I had mostly moved on, much as he had -- in fact, his
The Best of Country Music guide book helped me out a lot
(although I grew up close enough to country music it wasn't much
of a leap; when it was cut out, I bought a stack of his book and
handed them out as presents; one thing I probed him on was doing a
website around his book, but he didn't have any interest in going
back there). He was a very kind and generous person, an encyclopedic
mind which he shared freely. His passing is a real loss.
I meant to collect more links, but for now I'll just go with his
Rockcritics.com interview. Also
Katy Vine's memoir, from Texas Monthly.
New records rated this week:
- B.J. the Chicago Kid: In My Mind (2016, Motown): [r]: A-
- Renato Braz: Saudade (2005-15 , Living Music): [cd]: C
- Andy Brown Quartet: Direct Call (2015 , Delmark): [cd]: B
- Patrick Cornelius: While We're Still Young (2014 , Whirlwind): [cd]: B+(*)
- The Dominican Jazz Project: The Dominican Jazz Project (2015 , Summit): [cd]: B+(*)
- Danny Green Trio: Altered Narratives (2015 , OA2): [cd]: B+(***)
- Kendrick Lamar: Untitled Unmastered (2013-16 , Top Dawg Entertainment): [r]: B+(***)
- Tom Lellis: The Flow (2015 , Beamtime): [r]: C-
- Loretta Lynn: Full Circle (2016, Legacy): [r]: B+(**)
- Roberta Piket: One for Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland (2015 , Thirteenth Note): [cdr]: B+(*)
- Leslie Pintchik: True North (2015 , Pintch Hard): [cd]: B+(***)
- Logan Richardson: Shift (2013 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(*)
- Henry Threadgill Ensemble Double Up: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (2015 , Pi): [cd]: A-
- Wussy: Forever Sounds (2016, Shake It): [r]: A-
- Tom Zé: Vira Lata Na Via Láctea (2014, self-released): [r]: A-
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- William Hooker: Light: The Early Years 1975-1989 (1975-89 , NoBusiness, 4CD): [cd]: A-
- Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays (1966 , Resonance, 2CD): [cd]: A-
- The Rough Guide to Cumbia [Second Edition] (1975-2012 , World Music Network): [r]: B+(***)
- The Rough Guide to Latin Disco (1975-2014 , World Music Network): [r]: B+(*)
- The Rough Guide to Merengue Dance (, World Music Network): [r]: A-
- The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Cumbia (1969-2014 , World Music Network): [r]: B+(***)
- The Rough Guide to the Best Arabic Music You've Never Heard (2008-14 , World Music Network): [r]: B
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Raul Agraz: Between Brothers (OA2): March 18
- Cristina Braga & Brandenburger Symphoniker: Whisper (Enja): May 6
- Oguz Buyukberber/Tobias Klein: Reverse Camouflage (TryTone)
- Julian Hartwell: The Julian Hartwell Project (self-released)
- Pram Trio: Saga Thirteen (self-released)
- Ratatet: Arctic (Ridgeway): March 11
- Scptt Reeves Jazz Orchestra: Portraits and Places (Origin): March 18
Sunday, March 13. 2016
Not much time for my usual weekly survey, but I did find a few pieces
on the Donald Trump/Fascism axis, and for your convenience I've added a
bit of forecasting for Tuesday's elections at the bottom.
Josh Marshall: Someone Will Die: Reflecting on recent incidents
at Trump rallies, violent and merely threatening or maybe just
For all the talk about Mussolini, let alone Hitler, George Wallace is
the best analog in the last century of American politics -- the mix of
class politics and racist incitement, the same sort of orchestrated
ratcheting up of conflict between supporters and protestors. As all
of this has unfolded over the course of the day there have been
numerous instances of Trump supporters calling for protestors to "go
back to Africa" and another on video calling on them to "go to fucking
Is the man invoking Nazi concentration camps in that video an
anti-Semite or just a ramped hater in a frenzy of provocation? I'm not
sure we know. And as I'll argue in a moment, in a climate of incitement
and crowd action, it doesn't necessarily matter.
It may sound like hyperbole. But this is the kind of climate of
agitation and violence where someone will end up getting severely
injured or killed. I do not say that lightly.
Actually, more than Wallace this reminds me of the Rolling Stones
at Altamont, hiring Hell's Angels for "security" then playing "Sympathy
for the Devil" as they killed a fan. That's the sort of thing that
happens when a cavalier attitude toward violence makes it cool.
I'll add that I don't particularly approve of protesting at Trump
events. That's partly because I don't regard him as in any way unique
in the Republican Party today -- he's certainly not the "worst of the
worst" policy-wise, although he does seem to be the most careless and
cavalier regarding the racist violence they all more or less pander
to. I do understand that the people who protest Trump are concerned
to nip his attitude in the bud, and to make it clear that his kind of
incivility will always be challenged in America today -- although I
also think it's hard to make that point in the heat of a rally. But
also I think there's a fuzzy line where protest becomes harrassment --
indeed, I think anti-abortion activists often cross that line -- and
I worry it might backfire. Marshall concludes:
The climate Trump is creating at his events is one that not only
disinhibits people who normally act within acceptable societal norms.
He is drawing in, like moths to a flame, those who most want to act
out on their animosities, drives and beliefs. It is the kind of
climate where someone will eventually get killed.
I'm reminded that one of the defining characteristics of fascism
is how readily, in the very early days in Italy and Germany, fascists
resorted to violence against people they regarded as enemies (which
is to say pretty much everyone).
David Atkins: Donald Trump is Merely the Symptom. The Republican Party
Itself is the Disease: We on the left have long had an acute sense
of the smell of fascism -- possibly the most basic definition is that
fascists are the people who want to kill you, so we're talking less
about political theory than existential anxiety. It's long been clear
to me that there are elements of fascism in the American right, but
I've been more focused on the anti-democratic manipulations of the
elites than on the swelling tide of hatred they've stirred up. Still,
interesting to read this:
We no longer have to speculate whether fascism, in Sinclair Lewis'
famous words, would come to America wrapped in the flag and carrying
a cross. We already know what its beginnings look like in the form of
Trump rallies, which are carrying an increasingly violent, overtly
racist, authoritarian aura strongly reminiscent of the 1930s in
Germany or Italy.
Those comparisons were once the province of liberal activists or
traffic-seeking headline writers. No longer. The incipient racist
violence has reached such a fever pitch that a Trump rally in Chicago
had to be canceled entirely. It's one thing to talk in theoretical
or strictly political terms about Trump's authoritarian behavior,
his effect on the Republican Party generally or the potential
feasibility of Trump's policy proposals. But the influence of
Trumpism on the country is already so obviously toxic and dangerous
that it must be called out and mitigated before people start getting
seriously hurt or killed.
That's not the fault of Donald Trump. It's the fault of the GOP itself,
for three main reasons.
First, the Republican Party abandoned the notion of shared truths
and shared reality. They set up an alternative media empire and convinced
their voters that every set of authorities from journalists to scientists
were eggheaded liberals not to be trusted. They peddled conspiracy theories
and contrafactual dogmas of all stripes -- from the notion that climate
scientists were all lying about global warming in order to get more grant
money, to the notion that tax cuts for the rich grow the economy and pay
for themselves. Their base became convinced that no one could be trusted
except for the loudest and angriest voices who told them exactly what they
wanted to hear. Fox News, talk radio and the Drudge Report became the only
trusted media sources. But at a certain point those outlets stopped becoming
the media arm of the Republican Party; instead, the Republican Party became
the legislative arm of those media outlets. It should come as no surprise
that when the Republican establishment seemed unable to deliver on its
promises to their voters, conspiracy theory peddlers new and old from
Breitbart to Drudge would turn on the establishment and convince the GOP
masses that Fox News was the new CNN, just another liberal arm of the media
not to be trusted.
Second is, of course, the Southern Strategy of exploiting racial
resentment. That worked just fine for Republicans while whites were the
dominant majority under no particular threat. It was a great way to win
elections in much of the country while discounting voters who couldn't
do them much damage. As long as the rhetoric remained, in Lee Atwater's
words, "abstract" enough, the tensions created wouldn't boil over into
anything much more damaging than the slow, quiet destruction of generations
of minority communities via legislatively enforced instituional racism.
But as whites have become a smaller and smaller part of the electorate,
that Southern Strategy has not only cost the GOP elections by throwing
away the minority vote; it has also heightened the fears and tensions of
the formerly dominant white voters it courts. What was once quiet and
comfortable racism has become a loud and violent cry of angst. That,
again, isn't Donald Trump's fault. It's the Republican Party's.
Third and most important is the effect of conservative economics. For
decades laissez-faire objectivism has hurt mostly the poorest and least
educated communities in America. Due mostly to institutional racism,
those have tended in the past to be communities of color. The deregulated
economy simply didn't need their labor so it tossed them aside, leaving
squalor and a host of social problems in its wake. This was convenient
for those peddling racist theories, as it laid the blame for drug and
family problems in those communities directly on the individuals involved --
and by extension on their racial background.
I would phrase these last two points slightly differently. Republicans
not only swept up white southerners who had grown up as the supposedly
top dogs in a racially segregated society. They also appealed to new
suburbanites in the north, again white, many Catholic, many moving up
the economic ladder, hoping (among other things) to escape what they
viewed as the decay of the (increasingly black) central cities. These
were the so-called Reagan Democrats, and they were recruited through
ploys as tinged with racism as the Southern Strategy.
I would also point out that Republican economic orthodoxy did more
to destroy the middle class than it did to pillage the already poor.
They used a two-prong strategy to slide their agenda past an unwary
and somewhat oblivious base: on the one hand, they convinced their
target voters that the were only for those other people and
that real Americans like themselves didn't need to be propped up by
the government -- indeed, they made it a point of pride that they
weren't; on the other, they made it possible for their audience to
live beyond their means by offering credit so things like education
and housing, previously "affordable" thanks to government programs,
could still be had. They realized that most people don't recognize
a declining standard of living until it smacks them in the face,
and even then they assured you that your misfortune was you own
damn fault -- not something government could (let alone should)
help you out with.
Tuned up a bit, this is pretty accurate, but still missing a key
fourth point: war. You may think that war's good for "absolutely
nothing," but it's proven very useful for Republicans. For one thing
it creates a false unity of us-against-them, which they can exploit
with God-and-country shtick; it undermines democracy, which they
fear and dread anyway; more importantly, it debases the value of
human life, elevating killing to a patriotic act, and tempting us
to think that the solution to all our problems is to kill supposed
enemies; needless to add, it also opens up incredible opportunities
for graft; it forestalls any pressure to collaboratively work on
worldwide problems, to shift from competition to cooperation. It
also turns out that it's been pretty easy to sucker Democrats into
supporting war, which both saddles them with insupportable costs
and alienates them from their base.
Michael Tomasky: The Dangerous Election: Written before "Super
Tuesday" this has some details that have been overtaken by events --
one certainly wouldn't write about Rubio's nomination path today --
but it's worth quoting his own three-item explanation for Trump's
domination of the Republican Party (it is both more succinct and
more narrowly political than Atkins'):
The fury that led to Trump's rise has three main sources. It begins
with talk radio, especially Rush Limbaugh, and all the conservative
media -- Fox News and, now, numerous blogs and websites and even hotly
followed Twitter and Instagram feeds -- that have for years served up
a steady series of stories aimed at riling up conservatives. It has
produced a campaign politics that is by now almost wholly one of
splenetic affect and gesture. If you've watched any of the debates,
you've seen it. The lines that get by far the biggest applause rarely
have anything to do with any vision for the country save military
strength and victory; they are execrations against what Barack Obama
has done to America and what Hillary Clinton plans to do to it.
A second important factor has been the post-Citizens United
elevation of megarich donors like the Koch brothers and Las Vegas's
Sheldon Adelson to the level of virtual party king-makers. The Kochs
downplay the extent of their political spending, but whether it's
$250 million or much more than that, it's an enormous sum, and they
and Adelson and the others exist almost as a third political party.
When one family and its allies control that much money, and those
running want it spent supporting them (although Trump has matched them),
what candidate is going to take a position counter to that family and
the network of which it is a part? The Kochs are known, for example,
to be implacably opposed to any recognition that man-made climate
change is a real danger. So no Republican candidate will buck that.
[ . . . ]
This fear of losing a primary from the right is the third factor
that has created today's GOP, and it is frequently overlooked in the
political media. [ . . . ]
Few Americans understand just how central this reality is to our
current dysfunction. All the pressure Republicans feel is from the
right, although they seldom say so -- no Republican fears a challenge
from the center, because there are few voters and no money there. And
this phenomenon has no antipode on the Democratic side, because there
exists no effective group of left-wing multimillionaires willing to
finance primary campaigns against Democrats who depart from doctrine.
Very few Democrats have to worry about such challenges. Republicans
This creates an ethos of purity whose impact on the presidential
race is obvious. The clearest example concerns Rubio and his position
on immigration. He supported the bipartisan bill the Senate passed in
2013. He obviously did so because he calculated that the bill would
pass both houses and he would be seen as a great leader. But the base
rebelled against it, and so now Rubio has reversed himself on the
question of a path to citizenship for undocumented aliens and taken
a number of other positions that are designed to mollify the base but
would surely be hard to explain away in a general election were he to
become the nominee -- no rape and incest exceptions on abortion,
abolition of the federal minimum wage, and more.
Bob Dreyfuss: Will the Donald Rally the Militias and the Right-to-Carry
Movement?: OK, that makes three straight pieces on Donald Trump and
fascism, a subject we'll have to call "trending." This one consults
Richard J Evans' The Coming of the Third Reich -- premature
antifascist that I am, that occurred to me more than a decade ago,
but I have to admit I never got around to reading the book:
If you decide to read the book, try doing what I did: in two columns
in your head draw up a list of similarities and differences between
the United States today and Weimar Germany in the 1920s and early
In this edgy moment in America, the similarities, of course, tend
to jump out at you. As Trump repeatedly pledges to restore American
greatness, so Hitler promised to avenge Germany's humiliation in World
War I. As Trump urges his followers, especially the white working class,
to blame their troubles on Mexican immigrants and Muslims, so Hitler
whipped up an anti-Semitic brew. As Trump -- ironically, for a
billionaire -- attacks Wall Street and corporate lobbyists for
rigging the economy and making puppets out of politicians, so Hitler
railed against Wall Street and the City of London, along with their
local allies in Germany, for burdening his country with a massive
post-World War I, Versailles Treaty-imposed reparations debt and for
backing the Weimar Republic's feckless center-right parties. (Think:
the Republican Party today.) As with Trump's China-bashing comments
and his threats to murder the relatives of Islamist terrorists while
taking over Iraq's oil reserves, Hitler too appealed to an atavistic,
reckless sort of ultra-nationalism.
He finds some differences too, but expects American fascism to be
Corey Robin: This is why the right hates Donald Trump: He doesn't question
their core beliefs, but they still see the danger:
Trump hasn't dared touch a lot of the orthodoxy of the right, including
its penchant for tax cuts, which is the keystone of the conservative
counterrevolution, as everyone from Howard Jarvis to George W. Bush
understood. But without the fear of the left -- listening to the
Republican debates, you'd never know the candidates were even concerned
about their opposition, so focused is their fratricidal gaze -- Trump
is free to indulge the more luxurious hostilities of the right.
And this, in the end, may be why Trump is so dangerous. Without
the left, no one has any idea when his animus will take flight and
where it will land. While counterrevolutionaries have always made
established elites nervous, those elites could be assured that the
wild Quixotism of a Burke or a Pat Buchanan would serve their cause.
As today's Republicans and their allies in the media have made clear,
they have no idea if Trump won't turn on them, too. Like Joe McCarthy
in his senescence, Trump might try to gut the GOP. At least McCarthy
had a real left to battle; Trump doesn't.
Trump is dangerous, then, not because he is an aberration from
conservatism but because he is its emblem. He's a threat not because
the movement he aspires to lead is so strong but because the one he
will lead is so weak. It's weak not because it has failed but because
it has succeeded.
This doesn't make an obvious lot of sense, but we can unpack a few
things here. The best evidence of the weakness of the left is how much
politicians like Clinton and Obama remain in thrall to still hegemonic
parts of the conservative mindset, even as the so-called conservative
movement has moved on to even more dysfunctional hysteria. Or maybe
the best evidence is how alien Sanders' programs seem to the Clinton
(and Obama) worldview, even though they'd be little more than common
sense in any social democracy in western Europe. On the other hand,
the conservative movement has greatly weakened since Reagan, at least
in the sense that nothing they do works (unless you consider obstruction
and fraud forms of art). I've long assumed that the right hates Trump
because they fear that if given power he would abandon their batshit
theories for compromises that might at least muddle through, and that
that would undermine the hegemony of key ideas they've invested so
much money and effort in. Or to put it slightly differently, they
may just fear that he wouldn't follow orders like the political hacks
who've spearheaded the party for the last few decades. I suspect in
this they're giving him too much credit.
Bill Clinton's odious presidency: Thomas Frank on the real history
of the '90s: The history should be familiar. The conclusion:
Some got bailouts, others got "zero tolerance." There was really no
contradiction between these things. Lenience and forgiveness and
joyous creativity for Wall Street bankers while another group gets
a biblical-style beatdown -- these things actually fit together
quite nicely. Indeed, the ascendance of the first group requires
that the second be lowered gradually into hell. When you take
Clintonism all together, it makes sense, and the sense it makes
has to do with social class. What the poor get is discipline; what
the professionals get is endless indulgence.
I don't necessarily agree with the argument that financialization
requires dismantling the safety net, although history does show us
that once the bankers got their bailout, they weren't bothered that
nobody else did. The bigger point, I think, is that the Clintons
went to elite colleges and spent all their lives rubbing shoulders
with the rich and super-rich and that rubbed off on them. Whereas
in politics they were ready to do whatever was expedient, in their
personal lives they always yearned to be one with the rich, and
they were pretty successful at that. I also think the same can be
said for Obama, which is a big part of why he worked so hard to
avoid upsetting the status quo.
By the way, here are the latest poll projections at 538, for Tuesday's
primaries. First, Democrats:
- Florida: Clinton 67.6%, Sanders 29.4%. Best Sanders poll 34%.
- Illinois: Clinton 56.2%, Sanders 40.8%. Latest polls show Sanders
+2 (YouGov, 3/9-11) and Clinton +6 (3/4-10), so this has tightened up a lot;
all earlier polls Clinton +19 or more (two early March polls have Clinton
+37 and +42). Nonetheless, 538 gives Clinton a 95% chance of winning.
- North Carolina: Clinton 63.0%, Sanders 33.7%. Best Sanders poll
- Ohio: Clinton 58.9%, Sanders 38.4%. Latest polls are +9 and +20
for Clinton; Sanders led one poll in February, but his best recent poll is
Clinton is likely to sweep, but Sanders has a real upset chance in
Illinois, and a more remote one in Ohio. I wouldn't be surprised if
Sanders beats his polling averages in all four states.
- Florida: Trump 39.9%, Rubio 30.6%, Cruz 17.2%, Kasich 10.1%.
Rubio's best poll is 32%, but other recent polls give him 22% and 20%.
538 gives Trump a 85% chance of winning.
- Illinois: Trump 32.1%, Rubio 27.1%, Cruz 21.1%, Kasich 17.4%.
Trump has led every poll there since last July, when Walker was the
front runner, but 538 doesn't give any of the polls much weight.
- North Carolina: Trump 36.4%, Cruz 28.8%, Rubio 20.3%, Kasich
12.5%. Latest, highly weighted poll shows Trump over Cruz 41-27%.
- Ohio: Kasich 37.8%, Trump 31.8%, Cruz 20.9%, Rubio 7.7%.
Latest poll shows a Kasich-Trump tie at 33%, with Cruz at his highest
polling number ever, 27%. Two previous polls show Kasich +6 and +5
leads, but everything before that favored Trump.
Florida and Ohio are "winner take all" states, so the stop Trump
effort has to stop him there. Kasich is done if he loses Ohio, and
Rubio is done if he loses Florida. Cruz isn't likely to have much
good news, but he can rationalize away his losses -- especially if
Rubio is eliminated.
Thursday, March 10. 2016
The Wichita Eagle was a veritable catalog of horrors yesterday.
I'm working off hard copy, but if you hurry you might find the URIs
Kansas.com. Here are some of the
things that caught my eye (or nose, as the case may be).
Page 1: Wichita school district officials will consider staff
cuts. This story has gone around the block several times before. When
Sam Brownback was elected governor in 2010, he passed a state income tax
cut, promising it would act as "a shot of adrenaline" straight into the
heart of the Kansas economy. (To reduce his credibility, he even hired
Arthur Laffer to study and recommend the cut.) The most notable thing
about the cut wasn't that it favored the already rich: it zeroed out
all income taxes on "small business owners," i.e., those with "Chapter
S" businesses, e.g., Wichita billionaires Charles Koch and Phil Ruffin.
The result was that tax revenues fell far short of spending, so Brownback
tried balancing the books with spending cuts, while the state legislature
raised taxes on sales and "sins" (like tobacco) -- Kansas now has the
highest sales tax on food in the country, and it's even higher in many
counties since they've been encouraged to levy their own sales taxes
(as opposed to, say, property taxes). So state and local government
have been severely pinched for five years now.
To complicate matters, there's a clause in the Kansas state constitution
which says that the state government has a responsibility to provide
adequate funding for local school districts. Many school districts have
repeatedly sued the state for failing to honor the constitution, and
the Kansas Supreme Court has repeatedly sided with them, ordering the
state to pony up more money. A couple years back the legislature came
up with what they called a "block funding" scheme to satisfy a court
order, which promptly was challenged and ruled unconstitutional. This
year the legislature is considering various bills to replace the sitting
Supreme Court with one more to their liking. (To be fair, the Justices
have been remiss in dying, like Antonin Scalia had the decency to do,
so Brownback hasn't had much opportunity to leave his mark, as he has
done to virtually every corner of the state.)
Page 1: Westar seeking rate hike for homes, cuts for businesses:
Wester is the local electric company, formerly known as Kansas Gas &
Electric before it got conglomerated. Like most electric companies, they
are a natural monopoly, and as such are regulated by a state utility
board. Every year Westar asks for ridiculous rate increases, and every
year they get beat down to something slightly less ridiculous. However,
Brownback has managed to restaff that board with crony appointments,
and sometime last year then decided to fire the staff that reviews the
rate proposals and rededicate themselves to fighting against federal
government regulation of utilities, leaving those utilities free to
gouge Kansas consumers. Well, it turns out that Westar is taking full
advantage of this "regulatory capture" and proposing a 31% increase
in residential electric rates. They're willing to give some of this
increase back in the form of rate cuts to large business users --
after all, you can't be too grateful to "job creators" in Kansas --
but that looks pretty paltry by comparison. Like I said, normally
when you read about rate increase proposals, you know it's a game
and most of the hit will be knocked down, but this time it's
different: the "regulators" having surrendered, there is no one
to stand up for Kansas consumers, so the predators will feast.
Page 2: Police: Hutch students planned to detonate pipe
bombs in school: Juveniles, ages 14 and 15, no names released.
Page 2: Hesston police chief: 'I am not a hero':
There was a mass shooting at the Excel factory in Hesston (a small,
mostly Mennonite, town less than an hour north of Wichita) a week or
two ago. The shooter killed three and wounded more than a dozen,
before the police chief fatally wounded the shooter. Needless to
say, another triumph for gun rights in Kansas.
Page 5: Kansas bills seek to reduce early-term birth costs:
Kansas has its own privatized Medicaid service ("KanCare"), which costs
the state a lot of money. The legislature has been looking for ways to
trim costs, so they hired someone to study the situation, and they've
come up with long lists of ways to reduce costs by denying services they
regard as inessential. One of these is to outlaw cesarean deliveries of
premature babies (any under 39 weeks). Presumably there is still some
way to establish a medical necessity, but this adds a whole new layer of
legal interference with women's reproductive care. (Of course, a more
effective way to save money would be to allow, or even encourage, covered
women to opt for abortions, but it's taboo to even mention that in the
state legislature.) Another proposed law would "require physicians to
offer birth risk factor screenings for women in the first trimester to
determine whether a pregnant woman uses tobacco, consumers alcohol,
abuses substances, suffers from depression or is a victim of domestic
violence." (No info on what happens if she does.)
Page 6: Old Town shooting a test of new chief's approach to
policing: Another mass shooting, the first since Wichita got a new
Chief of Police a few weeks ago.
Page 6: 4 people shot to death in KCK; fifth killing in
mid-Missouri may be linked: Kansas City, Kansas. Shooting deaths
there hardly ever get reported here, so I guess 4 must be the magic
Page 6: Trump wins Mich., Miss.; Democrats split states:
So, Tuesday's presidential primary election results get buried deep
in the paper, a single column about eight inches long, under a head
no larger than "Prepaid card users, under scrutiny, find tax refunds
frozen" and "Drug in Sharapova case used by Soviet troops in 1980s."
The night's big story, barely mentioned, was Bernie Sanders' surprise
upset of Hillary Clinton in Michigan (a state 538 gave her a 21-point
poll advantage and a 99% chance of winning). On the other hand, they
make no mention of Trump's third win in Hawaii, or Cruz's solo win in
Idaho, or that Marco Rubio got zero delegates from those states.
Page 12: Sports Authority default ripples through sporting-goods
industry: One store in Wichita, now shuttered, employees sacked.
Another overleveraged chain bites the dust.
Page 13: Two Sedgwick County officials back measure that would
restrict property tax increases: Not enough for Sedgwick County
Commissioners Jim Howell and Karl Peterjohn to not pass property tax
increases, they want to use their limited time in office to lobby the
state legislature to prohibit future tax increases -- otherwise, like,
future county commissioners might try to use county and local government
to, like, do things for people.
Page 13 (Opinion): Cal Thomas: Culture beast to blame for
Trump's rise: Nearly everything in this column is absurdly wrong,
but my eyes were drawn to this paragraph:
On the other side of the political fence, Bernie Sanders and Hillary
Clinton feed into the entitlement mentality that the government exists
to give you stuff and take care of you. Democrats have exploited race
and class for political advantage, deepening the divide between whites
and blacks (and increasingly Hispanics), as well as the three classes --
poor, middle class and wealthy. If the left really cared about
African-Americans, wouldn't that core Democratic constituency be
better off now than they have ever been, given the amount of money
spent on social programs supposedly created to improve their lot in life?
First point: the United States government does exist to "give
us stuff" (the wording in the US Constitution is "promote the general
welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty"). What Thomas calls an
"entitlement mentality" is what most of us think of as the basic rights
of citizenship -- one of which is that we elect, and therefore effectively
own, the government. If the government is ours, why shouldn't we use it
for our own benefit? Where Sanders and (even) Clinton run afoul of Thomas
is that they encourage us to take advantage of our own citizenship and
use our votes to increase "the general welfare." On the surface, it's
hard to understand how people like Thomas can even write this nonsense,
but that they can gives you an idea of how completely they are enclosed
in the right-wing media bubble.
Second point: Thomas remains a captive of one of the right wing's
oldest and deepest cons: the notion that helping people hurts them.
Conservatives love this con because they hate sharing: it makes them
feel especially virtuous, and if the disadvantaged fall for it they
might go away blaming themselves for a system that is rigged against
them. A corollary to this point is the belief that liberal efforts to
improve the general welfare of Afro-Americans have only hurt them (and
that the Democrats are hypocrites or just plain cruel for pursuing
such policies). The problem with this point and corollary is not just
that they're cynical and self-serving: it's that they're flat out
falsehoods. The fact is that most Afro-Americans are much better off
now than they were before the Great Society programs, before the Civil
Rights laws, before the New Deal. It's certainly true that much more
could be done, that there is much room for improvement, but you can't
begin to justify an argument that those programs haven't helped. (As
I'm writing this, one example of this is the full-color Berkshire
Hathaway ad on the opposite page, showing showing a prosperous-looking
black couple talking to a real estate agent in front of some rather
upscale suburban housing. Ads like that didn't exist when I was a
child. You can readily find examples elsewhere. For example, this
piece was written to dispell misconceptions Sanders' supporters
may have about blacks, but could enlighten Thomas as well.)
Third point: blaming the Democrats for exploiting "race and class
for political advantage" and "deepening the divide between whites and
blacks (and increasingly Hispanics)" is, well, obscene. Class exists
because one group owns property and makes its income from rents and
profits, and another only makes a living by selling its labor, and
that difference puts those two classes in conflict with one another.
Political parties didn't invent capitalism; they arose because of it.
What Thomas is really saying is that it would be good for his side if
the other side never talked about class conflict. Race complicates
this only a little bit: most Afro-Americans came to America as
slaves, were held as such until 1865, and even after emancipation
were discriminated against in ways designed to maintain them as a
low-wage labor pool. Slaveholders, in turn, used the ever-present
threat of slave revolts to organize poor white militias, a division
that persists to this day, undermining class solidarity which could
improve the lot of both black and white working classes. Similar
divisions have long existed between native and immigrant workers --
again something that owners have often exploited to increase their
advantages in class struggle.
Thomas is not objecting to class, racial, or ethnic divisions --
indeed, he views them as immutable, the very foundation of his ideal
conservative order. What he objects to is any possibility that the
people not favored by his ideal hierarchy should become conscious
and realize that change is possible -- that the general welfare can,
in fact, becomg more general.
Page 13: Letters to the Editor: One letter points out
the value of burying electrical lines rather than the cheaper (and
much more outage-prone) stringing of lines from poles -- perhaps
something that could be added to Sanders' infrasructure program,
but that's hard to do when the power grid is trusted to predators
like Westar. One letter touted Sanders' supporters, and two more
had praise for Ted Cruz. Consider this paragraph:
Beck opined that unless Republicans quit their infighting and unite
behind a principled Republican conservative such as Sen. Ted Cruz,
R-Texas, they will lose the election to an unworthy Democrat, who
will follow President Obama's job-killing policies.
It still shocks me when I find people so totally ignorant of the
facts. GW Bush was the job killer, winding up with negative job growth
after eight years after his short-term housing bubble gains were wiped
out when the bubble burst. Obama, on the other hand, has seen America
steadily add jobs after an initial dip bequeathed by Bush, and the net
result as been sharply positive (despite a loss in public sector jobs
thanks to Republican slagging on government spending, especially at
the state and local level -- remember Brownback?). In fact, ever since
WWII Democratic presidents have average over twice the growth rates of
Republicans (despite huge increases in deficit spending by Reagan and
the Bushes). I'll leave it to you to look up the numbers, but believe
me, the differences are huge.
There is also a letter on Trump:
Trump is what the base of the Republican Party has been clamoring for --
nay, demanding -- for decades and has given an outlet to racists, bigots
and misogynists who blame political correctness on their inability to
practice these openly. So why is the party surprised?
Well, because Republicans' capacity for self-delusion is boundless --
almost as great as their knack for passing the buck (for example, see
Bobby Jindal Blames President Obama for Donald Trump's Rise; it's
really pretty galling how easily Republicans fling about "job-killing,"
especially with "Obamacare" -- but never with job-massacres like NAFTA
or TPP). Leaving
Trump aside for the moment, I've seen Ted Cruz talk passionately about
stagnating wages, and then in the next breath proposing to abolish the
IRS to solve the problem. How is that supposed to work? If the federal
government has no facility for collecting taxes, how can it afford to
do anything, much less encircle the globe in military bases armed to
the hilt with state-of-the-art weapons systems? Without future tax
income the federal government won't even be able to borrow money.
Printing more money doesn't begin to solve the problem. And then what
happens to the 20-25% of the workforce who lose their government jobs?
And the millions more who lose Social Security and Medicare? You know,
I hate taxes too, but I can't pretend nothing bad will happen if you
abolish the IRS.
As for Trump, Republicans have plenty of reason to be embarrassed
by him, but the actual complaints coming from people like Thomas and
Jindal and everyone from Glenn Beck and Bill Kristol to David Brooks
and Mitt Romney boil down to two points: one is that Trump deviates
from (and is not seen as a true believer in) the conservative dogma
that right-wingers have spent millions (possibly billions) of dollars
drumming into the movement, and the other is that Trump isn't wholly
dependent on said right-wingers -- so they fear he's liable to go off
For many years we suffered bad politicians with bad ideas and somehow
muddled through. Even now, people my age are more likely to die quietly
than to see their world descend into dystopia. But I have little faith
now that young people today will be able to muddle through even as we
did. Throughout much of my lifetime the left tried to organize on the
basis of helping other people -- something noble but when push came to
shove not exactly dependable. But with the Sanders campaign what I see
is young people mobilizing to defend themselves against a future full
of peril. Meanwhile, when you look at newsdays like the above, that
peril appears not just as something looming like global warming but as
something frightfully urgent.
A couple quick links on the election:
FiveThirtyEight: What Went Down in the March 8 Presidential Primaries:
Live blog from the night, closed out before anything from Hawaii reported,
so not really the whole night. They spent a lot of time patting themselves
on the back for nailing the Republican contests, and more time complaining
about the bad polling data that screwed up their 99% prediction of a
Clinton win in Michigan. For more of the latter, their Carl Bialik
added a post-mortem,
Why the Polls Missed Bernie Sanders's Michigan Upset. The reason
that makes the most sense to me was that Sanders really hit the right
notes with the Flint debate and the Detroit town hall events, although
that's too subjective for these guys (they complain about not having
any post-event polls, an excuse they also used with Cruz in Iowa). The
one I don't believe at all is that over-confident Clinton supporters
switched to the Republican primary to stop Trump. That doesn't make
sense on any level, and exit polls tell us that only 4% of identified
Democrats crossed over anyway so it couldn't have been much of an
effect (sure, 4% would have tilted the election to Clinton, but I
really suspect that most of that 4% crossed to vote for Trump, not
against him, and I doubt that Trump-leaning Democrats would have
preferred Clinton over Sanders -- unless they were super hawkish).
Nate Silver: Marco Rubio Never Had a Base: Rubio finished below
the delegate threshold in all four Republican primaries on Tuesday,
so he wound up with zero delegates. He trailed Kasich (and Cruz) in
Michigan, so wound up fourth there. He significantly underperformed
expectations in all four states. He's trailing in 538's poll average
in his home state of Florida to Trump 30.6-39.9% (or 24.7-40.2%,
depending on which chart you use; his best recent polls are 30-38%
and 32-42%, but others are 22-42%, 20-43%, and 22-45%). He's dropped
from 2nd to 3rd in all recent polls in North Carolina. He's still a
bit better in Illinois (20.4%), but that reflects more on Trump
(33.0%) and Cruz (19.5%). Silver has some ideas on why Rubio hasn't
done well, but they don't go far toward explaining why he's tanked
so much lately. I'd say it's basically because he's a placeholder --
a way of saying "none of the above." Let's face it, no one really
likes him, even if they think they should. Silver trots out one
revealing bit of data: Rubio's best districts so far are all very
Democratic. Good chance what those voters like about Rubio is that
they see him as someone they may be able to slip him past a more
liberal electorate. Sure, he's a phony, but their phony, and no
one doubts that if he wins he'll do as he's told.
This is probably as good a place as any to mention two popular
memes that came out of Super Tuesday and intensified this week.
One is the proposition that if conservatives really want to stop
Trump, the only choice they have left is to back Cruz. Sure, he's
possibly the most toxic politician in America right now, but with
him you get the whole package: a doctrinaire conservative even
more principled (i.e., extreme) than Rubio and Kasich, and a guy
who appeals to the basest instincts of the party base (much like
Trump minus the flim flam). The second is that Rubio should cut
a deal where he withdraws, throws his support to Cruz, and joins
the ticket as Cruz's vice president. It's amusing to think that
Rubio thinks he has supporters so loyal that now they would
follow him into Cruz's arms when it was Cruz (and Trump) that drove
them to Rubio in the first place. He's a politician with no intrinsic
appeal, and it's good that's becoming obvious to everyone.
If you want to read more, there's
Gary Legum: The Marco Rubio post-mortem: How a supposedly ready-made
GOP nominee crashed and burned.
Bill Curry: It should be over for Hillary: Party elites and MSNBC can't
proper her up after Bernie's Michigan miracle: Few people remember
this but when Eugene McCarthy ran against Lyndon Johnson in 1968,
McCarthy actually lost to Johnson in New Hampshire. Nonetheless, that
he came as close as he did rattled Johnson so severely that he dropped
out of the race almost immediately. He could see that McCarthy would
keep gaining traction, and while he could almost certainly have still
won at the convention -- Hubert Humphrey in fact did without running
in a single Democratic primary -- he didn't want to go out like that.
I think of this not only because it was one of my formative political
experiences but because Hillary Clinton started this campaign in every
bit as dominant a perch as Johnson had in 1968. Her nomination was so
pre-ordained that virtually no mainstream Democrat even considered a
run against her. (Martin O'Malley ran a very half-hearted campaign,
having positioned himself as Hillary's backup plan. Sanders and Lincoln
Chafee weren't even Democrats, and Jim Webb wasn't much of one.) So
why does Clinton, unlike Johnson, truck on after repeated primaries --
both in 2008 where she kept her losing campaign going all the way to
the convention, and so far in 2016 -- reveal her to be a flawed and
vulnerable candidate? Could just be hunger, but could also be a sense
of entitlement. One thing it certainly involves is a willingness to
win ugly, especially if that's the only way she can do it. Curry points
out some of the obvious problems. A couple paragraphs, the first from
a section headed "The old politics is over," the second from the end:
I often talk to Democrats who don't know Obama chose not to raise the
minimum wage as president even though he had the votes for it; that he
was willing to cut Medicare and Social Security and chose not to
prosecute Wall Street crimes or pursue ethics reforms in government.
They don't know he dropped the public option or the aid he promised
homeowners victimized by mortgage lenders. They don't know and don't
want to know. Their affection for Bill and Barack -- and their fear
of Republicans -- run too deep. [ . . . ]
In the end, thinking only tactically makes you a bad tactician.
When revolution's in the air polls, money and ads mean far less.
Reporters who know nothing else can't conceive how voters choosing
among a democratic socialist, a pay-to-play politician and a fascist
might pick door number one. They bought Hillary's myth of inevitability,
but as Lawrence of Arabia told Prince Ali in the desert, nothing is
written. If Democratic voters really use their heads, they'll see
through the tactical arguments just like the voters of Michigan did --
and then walk into voting booths all over America and vote their hearts.
Then there will be change.
The first paragraph reminds me of disappointment: that voting for
Obama in 2008 was a vote for change, but in fact what we got was a
president and administration that was dedicated to preserving the
liberal-conservative tradition in America, to not rocking the boat
and not changing anything -- in short, the sort of business-as-usual
administration we expected from Clinton. Looking back, it's easy to
see that we could have done much worse, but we also could have done
better. Now we're being offered the same-old, same-old we rejected
in 2008, and we're being told first that it's inevitable -- that one
is proving flimsy -- and that Clinton is the only one able to stave
off the barbarian hordes. I saw David Corn on TV last night arguing
that Hillary's been "tested by fire" over thirty years, while Sanders
has never had to face the sort of assaults the Republicans will surely
bring against him if he's the nominee. Still, it's not as if Hillary
hasn't been burnt a few times along the way, and he overlooks that
Sanders has actually held elective office for thirty-some years,
whereas Hillary only served one unfinished Senate term, one that
was gift-wrapped for her in a safe state. Maybe Sanders is tougher
than the pundits think. Maybe he just has less unsavory laundry to
Curry also wrote
Hillary's inevitability lie: Why the media and party elites are
rushing to nominate the weakest candidate.
Andy Schmookler: Who Is the Better Bet to Beat Trump, Hillary or
Bernie?: Doesn't offer a clear cut argument for Sanders, but
the argument for Hillary isn't very clear cut either. (Curry, by
the way, subtitled the piece above "She's the one Dem even Trump
Charles Pierce: Why Bernie Won Michigan: One reason was that Clinton
tried to claim Sanders' vote against the TARP fund bank bailout bill was
a vote against the later auto industry bailout that Obama worked out
using TARP funds:
But, as I talked to more and more people around Flint, I got the sense
that the resonance of the exchange was not what HRC and her campaign
thought it would be. The UAW members I talked to clearly considered
HRC's use of the auto bailout against Sanders to be at best a half-truth,
and a cynical attempt to win their support, and they were offended by
what they saw as a glib attempt to turn the state's economic devastation
into a campaign weapon. These were people who watched the auto industry
flee this city and this state, and they knew full well how close the
country's remaining auto industry came to falling apart completely in
2008 and 2009. They knew this issue because they'd lived it, and they
saw through what the HRC campaign was trying to do with the issue.
Pierce also has a piece about Clinton trying to red bait Sanders
over old comments he made about Cuba and Nicaragua:
Bernie Sanders Said Something We Weren't Ready to Hear Last Night:
The pundits are right that Sanders' statements back in the 1980s are
fertile ground for conservative ratfcking -- look how easy it was for
HRC to turn them around on him -- and likely would be used to make a
meal out of him in a general election. The biggest problem that Sanders
has here, though, is that he told a truth that we're still not prepared
to hear. That Elliott Abrams has not been fitted with a leper's bell
yet is proof enough of that.
Still, I can't help but think that Obama has painted himself red,
white and blue in patriotic homilies, fervently striving to steer any
attention away from the fact that as a black American he might have
had a somewhat more nuanced view of this country's legacy in the world.
Note that I'm not saying he does, but no matter what he's said or done
it hasn't cut any mustard with the rabid right, who have spent the last
eight years frantically trying to deny that he's even a real American.
So what crime is Sanders committing here by admitting the truth, and
offering lessons from history as a guide for future policy? Merely
that he will be attacked for not parroting common myths. But isn't
the fact that he hasn't been pilloried yet for embracing Socialism
at least a suggestion that the sanctities of the high priests are
slipping? What ultimately undermines Obama and Clinton here is the
widespread (and I'm pretty sure unfounded) belief that they are not
sincere. But by not falling for the homilies, Sanders is showing that
he is sincere, honest, truthful, and trustworthy -- and when he doesn't
get hurt by doing so, that starts to free us from the dead weight of
retrograde ideas. I have to admit, I myself always cringe when I hear
Sanders' line about "a political revolution." I consider myself well to
his left, and I would never use the r-word, partly to be circumspect but
mostly because I don't consider it a real or even particularly desirable
possibility. But then a funny thing happens every time I hear the line:
applause. And I have to admit, I'm not the sort of political purist who
makes a fuss against something worthwhile that seems to be working.
Sarah Leonard: Which Women Support Hillary (and Which Women Can't
Afford To): I saw this piece a while back (posted Feb. 17), and
the title resonated through the Kansas caucuses and into Michigan.
Could go on much longer, but let's close with a Matt Taibbi tweet:
Struggling to find the comp for that Trump victory speech. Ron Jeremy
If anyone out there is too culturally illiterate to get the point,
Ron Jeremy is a pudgy porn actor with modest skills as a comic, perhaps
best known for waging swordfights with his erect penis. Stalin was head
of the Soviet Union from 1929-1953, during which time he had nearly all
of his political opponents killed off, some after elaborate show trials,
at least one by an icepick-wielding assassin. He was famed for giving
marathon speeches, frequently interrupted by long stretches of applause.
It's been observed that the reason the applause lasted so long was that
no one wanted to be seen as the first person to stop clapping. Sorry
if you flash on both images next time you hear Trump speak, but I know
Monday, March 7. 2016
Music: Current count 26363  rated (+24), 413  unrated (+3).
Rated count is down this week. I can't think of any particular
reasons, other than that I'm getting tired and/or lazy. A lot of
records stayed in the changer longer than usual. About three-quarters
of the records (18 below) are 2016 releases. I didn't consciously
decide to move on so much as I started running out of 2015 releases
to chase down. I'm not sure how much remains unsearched of the Ye Wei
Blog list, but I only see two albums from there listed below (Youth
Worship is recommended to people who like that sort of thing -- I
called it alt/indie but it's got a heavier sonic depth without being
The live Drive-By Truckers album is one I had been avoiding, partly
as redundant but mostly because I didn't want to invest three-plus hours
in a sitting. It only got one spin, but I never regretted a minute of
it. Then I went back and listened to two early albums I had missed, and
a best-of I probably shouldn't have bothered with. I haven't been all
that happy with the group's later ATO albums, but all the source albums
on New West are superb, each worth having in its own right. The problem
with Greatest Hits is that I've hardly ever heard such an album
that elevates less over its source material. I wound up giving it two
extra plays to see whether I should knock it down, but in the end didn't.
Still, not the place to start.
The Meridian Brothers compilation, a 2013 release, was featured in
Robert Christgau's latest
Expert Witness along with two Tom Zé albums -- one old news here
(Troplicália Lixo Lógico, an A- from 2012) and a newer one
(Vira Lata Na Via Láctea, from 2014), I'm listening to as I'm
writing this -- and a long list of HMs from Latin America (or wherever
Sidestepper comes from). That list went back as far as 2010 (Anibal
Velasquez) but didn't mention two more recent Meridian Brothers albums
on Soundway. I can recommend the one album on his HM list I had heard:
Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz & Twoubadou Sounds, 1960-1978
(an A- in 2014). The Rough Guides continue to drive me crazy.
I slogged my way through Psychedelic Salsa [B+(**)] and
Psychedelic Samba [B+(***)] a while back, but hadn't notice
any of the three he reviewed.
I jotted down a list of more/less recent Latin American albums I
had noticed and recommended but Christgau hadn't reviewed. Thought
I'd share that with you here:
- The Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet: 10 (2015, Zoho) [***]
- Bomba Estereo: Elegancia Tropical (2013, Soundway) [A-]
- Bomba Estereo: Amancer (Sony Music Latina) [***]
- Fabiano Do Nascimento: Danca Dos Tempos (2015, Now-Again) [A-]
- Fumaca Preta: Fumaca Preta (2014, Soundway) [A-]
- Aurelio Martinez: Landini (2014, Real World) [***]
- Ondatropica: Ondatropica (2012, Soundway) [A-]
- Sao Paulo Underground: Tres Cabecas Loucuras (2011, Cuneiform) [A-]
- Sonzeira: Brasil Bam Bam Bam (2014, Talkin' Loud/Virgin) [***]
- Tribu Baharu: Pa'l Mas Exigente Bailador (2015, self-released) [A-]
- Mati Zundel: Amazonico Gravitante (2012, Waxploitation/ZZK) [A-]
- Cartagena! Curro Fuentes and the Big Band Cumbia and Descarga Sound of Colombia 1962-72 (2011, Soundway) [A]
- Jukebox Mambo: Rumba and Afro-Latin Accented Rhythm and Blues 1949-1960 (Jazzman) [***]
- Palenque Palenque! Champeta Criolla and Afro Roots in Colombia 1975-91 (Soundway) [A-]
- The Rough Guide to Psychedelic Samba (2015, World Music Network) [***]
Of course, I'm no expert. I only find out about these discs by
accident, don't have much back catalogue to compare to (even compared
to, say, African music), don't follow Spanish or Portuguese. There
are probably more albums I have misfiled somewhere else, like under
jazz or electronica. (I had Fumaca Preta filed under Europe -- its
leader is described as Portuguese-Venezuelan.) I skipped over most
Latin jazz. I also used 2010 as a cutoff date -- there's a good deal
more on older lists.
New records rated this week:
- Steve Barta: Symphonic Arrangement: Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio (2015 , Steve Barta Music): [cd]: B
- Rich Brown: Abeng (2015 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Cowboys & Frenchmen: Rodeo (2015, Outside In Music): [cdr]: B+(*)
- The Drive-By Truckers: It's Great to Be Alive! (2014 , ATO, 3CD): [r]: A-
- Moppa Elliott: Still Up in the Air (2015 , Hot Cup): [cd]: B+(**)
- David Fiuczynski: Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam (2015 , Rare Noise): [cdr]: B
- Socrates Garcia Latin Jazz Orchestra: Back Home (2015 , Summit): [cd]: B
- Lafayette Harris Jr.: Hangin' With the Big Boys (2013 , Airmen): [cd]: B+(***)
- Joseph Howell: Time Made to Swing (2015 , Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
- Krakauer's Ancestral Groove: Checkpoint (2015 , Table Pounding): [cd]: B+(***)
- Julian Lage: Arclight (2015 , Mack Avenue): [cd]: B+(*)
- Los Bosnáis: Nordeste (2015, Elefant, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Kirk MacDonald: Symmetry (2013 , Addo): [cd]: B+(*)
- Meridian Brothers: Los Suicidas (2015, Soundway, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Dave Miller: Old Door Phantoms (2015 , Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B-
- Christian Perez: Anima Mundi (2015 , CPM): [cd]: B
- Richard Poole/Marilyn Crispell/Gary Peacock: In Motion (2014 , Intakt): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Alfredo Rodriguez: Tocororo (2015 , Mack Avenue/Qwest): [cd]: B+(**)
- Sidestepper: Supernatural Love (2016, Real World): [r]: B+(*)
- The U.S. Army Blues: Live at Blues Alley (2015 , self-released): [cd]: C
- Youth Worship: LP1 (2015, Self Harm): [r]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Cheryl Bentyne: Lost Love Songs (2003-11 , Summit): [cd]: B+(***)
- DJ Katapila: Trotro (2009 , Awesome Tapes From Africa): [r]: B+(***)
- Meridian Brothers: Devoción (Works 2005-2011) (2005-11 , Staubgold): [r]: A-
Old music rated this week:
- Drive-By Truckers: Gangstabilly (1998, Soul Dump): [r]: B+(***)
- Drive-By Truckers: Alabama Ass Whuppin' (1999 , Second Heaven): [r]: B+(***)
- Drive-By Truckers: Ugly Buildings, Whores, and Politicians: Greatest Hits 1998-2009 (1998-2009 , New West): [r]: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Cheryl Bentyne: Lost Love Songs (Summit)
- Renato Braz: Saudade (Living Music): June 7
- Andy Brown Quartet: Direct Call (Delmark)
- Rex Cadwallader/Mike Aseta/Arti Dixson/Tiffany Jackson: A Balm in Gilead (Stanza USA): May 6
- Taylor Cook: The Cook Book (self-released): March 18
- Patrick Cornelius: While We're Still Young (Whirlwind)
- The Dominican Jazz Project (Summit)
- Danny Green Trio: Altered Narratives (OA2)
- Lafayette Harris Jr.: Hangin' With the Big Boys (Airmen): May 6
- Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis: The Abyssinian Mass (Blue Engine, 2CD+DVD): March 18
- Gabriela Martina: No White Shoes (self-released)
- Never Group: Zhenya Strigalev (Whirlwind)
- Roberta Piket: One for Marian: Celebrating Marian McPartland (Thirteenth Note): advance, June 10
- Leslie Pintchik: True North (Pintch Hard): March 25
- Henry Threadgill Zooid: Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi): April 1
- Marcos Varela: San Ygnacio (Origin): March 18
- Jeff Williams: Outlier (Whirlwind)
Sunday, March 6. 2016
Kansas held both Democratic and Republican Party caucuses yesterday.
Both had record turnouts, in many cases forcing voters to wait in line
for hours. Still the caucus format is so inconvenient that at most 10%
of the number of people who will vote in November showed up. I suppose
you could argue that that means only the hard core fanatics showed up.
You could go further and point out that both caucuses were won by the
party's extremists -- Cruz and Sanders -- with both trouncing national
favorites (Trump and Clinton) by more than 20 points. Still, while a
primary might have narrowed the outcomes, I seriously doubt if it would
have overturned either winner.
The Republican caucus was a big show here in Wichita, with most (or
maybe all) registered Republicans required to head downtown to the
Century II Auditorium, where the voting took place after speeches in
favor of the candidates. Cruz and Trump represented themselves in
person. Marco Rubio was AWOL, his slot filled in by local Congressman
(and Bill Kristol favorite) Mike Pompeo. Trump was singled out for a
counter-demonstration, and had some hecklers removed from the caucus.
When the votes were counted, the results were: Cruz 48.2%, Trump 23.3%,
Rubio 16.7%, Kasich 10.7%, out of about 72,000 votes (Romney got 689,000
votes in 2012).
The Democratic caucuses were organized by State Senate district. We
attended the 25th, at the SEIU union hall on west Douglas. The 25th
district covers the near west side of Wichita, between the Arkansas
River and the flood control ditch from 25th North to Pawnee (23rd
South), plus Riverside (the area between the Little Arkansas River
and the big one -- this is where we live) and a chunk of south Wichita
from the river east to Hillside, bounded by Kellogg (downtown) on the
north and Pawnee on the south (this is the area I grew up in). The
district is represented by creepy Republican Michael O'Donnell --
a "preacher's kid" who long lived rent-free thanks to his father's
church, and who is best known for authoring a bill passed last year
which placed many restrictions on what welfare recipients could do
with their money (including a restriction that they couldn't draw
more than $25 at a time from an ATM), but who was most recently in
the news for providing beer to a party of underaged "campaign
The district is mostly working class, overwhelmingly white --
Wichita is still pretty segregated, and the Republicans who drew up
the Senate district map worked hard to put every black person they
could find into the 29th district -- the result is that Sedgwick
County has only one Democrat in the state senate, compared to 7-9
Republicans (some suburban and rural slivers overlap into other
counties). The district was formerly represented by Jean Schodorf,
a liberal Republican who was ousted by O'Donnell in the 2012 GOP
primary purge. He will be opposed this year by Lynn Rogers, a
popular school board member who recently switched parties, so
I think he has a good chance to flip the district (until they
redraw it -- Republicans control the state senate 32-8).
We managed to park about three blocks from the caucus site,
and spent a little more than an hour in line to get into the
building. By that time, they had decided to run a primary instead
of a caucus as they couldn't fit a tenth of the people who turned
out into the hall. We saw a couple dozen people we knew (including
a couple carrying Hillary signs), and many hundreds we didn't (a
great many with Bernie signs or stickers). When we got in, I was
chagrined to find that my name wasn't on the voter roll, so I had
to register. (Being Democrats, they didn't require ID or proof of
citizenship, so I'm not sure how my registration will set with
the Voter Suppression Bureau -- or whatever they call it these
days. I've been registered here since 1999, but changed from
independent to Democrat for the 2008 caucus, so it's possible
that the party change didn't stick).
The final vote total was 67.7% Sanders, 32.3% Clinton, with
41,000 votes cast (Obama got almost 440,000 in 2012). I've looked
around for more local election results, but haven't found much yet.
I do know that the 4th Congressional District, which includes Wichita
and mostly rural counties southeast to Montgomery (Independence and
Coffeyville), broke 70-30% for Sanders -- the highest of any Kansas
Congressional District. There's a good chance my caucus went 75-80%
for Sanders. It's likely blacks in Kansas broke for Hillary: I saw
few, but those who did have signs supported Hillary. Sanders got
81.4% in Lawrence (where Cruz only got 37% and Rubio beat Trump
20-18%), but (as I recall) the 3rd District was the closest, so
Hillary must have done better in Wyandotte (largely black) and/or
Johnson (KC suburban) counties.
The 4th was also Cruz's top congressional district. He slumped a
bit in the 3rd (suburban Kansas City, Lawrence) and, a bigger surprise,
in the 1st, represented by his most prominent booster in the state,
Tim Huelskamp. Good chance Huelskamp's endorsement actually cost Cruz
votes: Huelskamp is much hated in the most Republican district in the
state, mostly by farmers who don't appreciate his efforts to wipe out
the government gravy train. Not a good day for other prominent endorsers
either: Gov. Brownback, Sen. Roberts, and Rep. Pompeo all threw their
political weight behind Rubio, who came in a distant third, performing
well below his statewide average in Pompeo's district. The top Trump
supporters -- Kris Kobach (ALEC) and Phil Ruffin (Wichita's other
billionaire, like Trump a casino mogul) -- had no discernible effect.
One might also add Clinton-backer Jill Docking, possibly the best known
Democrat in the state -- she lost a couple statewide races, but bears
the name of two former governors and a state office building in Topeka.
Here are some figures by Congressional District: Cruz got 58% in
the 4th, 49% in the 1st, 46% in the 2nd, and 42% in the 3rd. Rubio
led Trump in the 3rd 22-20%, but with Pompeo's help trailed in the
4th 13-22%. Kasich got 15% in the 3rd, only 6% in the 4th. Sanders
did best in the 2nd District (Topeka) with 72%, followed by 70% in
the 4th, 69% in the 1st, and 62% in the 3rd.]
Sanders also won in Nebraska (57.1-42.9%), while Clinton mopped
up in Louisiana (71.1-23.2%). Evidently Clinton finished the day
with a slight increase in her delegate edge. Maine votes today, and
should go to Sanders. [PS: That indeed
happened, Sanders leading 64.2-35.6%.]
Michigan and Mississippi vote on Tuesday --
Michigan should be an indicator of whether the Sanders campaign is
looking up or down. Recent polls there favor Clinton (60-36%, 57-40%,
55-44%; 538's weighted average is 57.1-37.2%), but Michigan Democrats
have been known to think out of the box -- George Wallace and Jesse
Jackson are former winners -- and the last-minute focus there will
be intense. (Trump is a heavy favorite on the Republican side, leading
Cruz 37.0-21.4% with Kasich above Rubio 20.7-18.4%.)
Trump won primaries yesterday in Kentucky (35.3-31.6% over Cruz,
with Rubio at 16.4% and Kasich 14.4%) and Louisiana (41.4-37.8% over
Cruz, with Rubio way out at 11.2% and Kasich half that), while Cruz
solidly beat Trump in Maine (45.9-32.6%, Kasich over Rubio 12.2-8.0%).
The latter was a surprise to me: Cruz had done very poorly in New
England thus far, and Maine is about the last place in the nation
where moderate Republicans have any traction. May be worth noting
that turnout in Maine was extremely low (18382 votes vs. 292276 for
Romney in 2012, so 6.3% -- about half the ratio in Kansas).
For more on this round, see 538's
How the States Voted on Semi-Super Saturday. They are very impressed
by Cruz, at least as unimpressed by Rubio, and quick to dismiss Sanders.
You also get things like:
The Republican race is quite challenging to model demographically, and
also isn't all that well-explained by ideology. So I expect that
personality really might have something to do with it. Is it a
coincidence that some of Trump's worst performances so far are in
"nice" states like Minnesota and Kansas, and that his best is in
neurotic, loud Massachusetts?
My first reaction to the first line was that there's no division
in the Republican party either demographically or ideologically,
but then the third line made me think of one: Catholics, especially
those who got worked up over race and left the Democratic Party for
Reagan. Massachusetts, which Reagan won in 1984, was ground zero
for them, but Kansas and Minnesota have far fewer Catholics and a
lot less urban/suburban race panic. They are also states where the
Republican Party has never made much effort to pander to racism --
I suppose you could say that was "nice" of them, but they didn't
really have the need in Kansas, nor the opportunity in Minnesota.
Of course, we don't really need to define this group as Catholic:
the more generic term is racist, and Trump does very well in those
One thing that 538 does point out is that Carson's votes seem to
be going to Cruz, not Trump. I think he's right there, especially
in Kansas, where Carson is very highly regarded and would probably
have pulled 10% were he still in the race. They also note that while
Trump led Louisiana in early ballots, Cruz may have gotten more votes
on primary day than Trump.
Some scattered links this week:
Jeffrey Toobin: Looking Back: The New Yorker's legal expert,
author of two books on the Supreme Court -- The Nine: Inside the Secret
World of the Supreme Court (2007), and The Oath: The Obama White
House and the Supreme Court (2012) -- considers the legacy of the
late Antonin Scalia and gets to the point quick:
Antonin Scalia, who died this month, after nearly three decades on the
Supreme Court, devoted his professional life to making the United States
a less fair, less tolerant, and less admirable democracy. Fortunately,
he mostly failed. Belligerent with his colleagues, dismissive of his
critics, nostalgic for a world where outsiders knew their place and
stayed there, Scalia represents a perfect model for everything that
President Obama should avoid in a successor. The great Justices of the
Supreme Court have always looked forward; their words both anticipated
and helped shape the nation that the United States was becoming. Chief
Justice John Marshall read the new Constitution to allow for a vibrant
and progressive federal government. Louis Brandeis understood the need
for that government to regulate an industrializing economy. Earl Warren
saw that segregation was poison in the modern world. Scalia, in contrast,
looked backward. [ . . . ]
Scalia described himself as an advocate of judicial restraint, who
believed that the courts should defer to the democratically elected
branches of government. In reality, he lunged at opportunities to
overrule the work of Presidents and of legislators, especially Democrats.
Scalia helped gut the Voting Rights Act, overturn McCain-Feingold and
other campaign-finance rules, and, in his last official act, block
President Obama's climate-change regulations. Scalia's reputation, like
the Supreme Court's, is also stained by his role in the majority in Bush
v. Gore. His oft-repeated advice to critics of the decision was "Get
Toobin has a follow-up piece,
The Company Scalia Kept, including an overdose of the wit and wisdom
of Scalia's hunting buddy, C. Allen Foster ("when the last duck comes
flying over with a sign around his neck 'I am the last duck,' I will shoot
it"). Also post-mortem is
Jedediah Purdy: Scalia's Contradictory Originalism, which treats
Scalia's signature rationale with more respect than I can muster. I've
felt "originalism" was nothing more than Scalia's way of echoing Pope
Urban's "Deus vult" -- a cheap way of selling anything that enters his
wretched mind (although effective only if you think Scalia, like the
pope, is infallible).
Nate Silver: Republican Voters Kind of Hate All Their Choices:
My first thought was, not as much as I hate them, but then I remembered
that we're talking about Republicans, who seem to have a boundless
capacity for hating other people -- so why not themselves? One chart
here shows that in in the 2012 primary season, Republicans were more
likely to have at least a "satisfied" view of Romney (63%) than of
Santorum (55%) or Gingrich (52%). The current leader is Rubio (53%),
followed by Cruz (51%) and Trump (49%). Another chart puts Trump's
49% well below that of all but one previous nominee or major candidate
since 2004: Ron Paul in 2012 was lower; Cruz, Gingrich, and Rubio were
the next lowest, behind Huckabee (2008), Santorum (2012), and Edwards
(57% in 2004). Another chart shows that the 2008 race between Obama
and Clinton was less divisive: Clinton led 71-69 -- the main difference
was that while Clinton never dropped below 58 (in Mississippi), Obama
had lower scores in a few states that turned hard against him in the
general election: West Virginia (43), Kentucky (43), Arkansas (47),
Oklahoma (49), and Tennessee (51). Clinton's figure this year is even
higher at 78, while Sanders is well behind at 62 -- still high enough
to suggest he would do a better job of uniting the party than any of
the current batch of Republicans.
No More Mister Nice Blog has a piece which looks beyond Rubio's bare
margin in acceptability, arguing there's not much to it:
Cruz is the other Trump, and Rubio continues to be friendzoned.
The argument is basically that Trump and Cruz, as militant outsiders,
are more acceptable to each other's bases than an obvious corporate
tool like Rubio would be to either's. The result is that if a brokered
convention hands the nomination to Rubio, a big chunk of Cruz and/or
Trump supporters would go home or break loose or otherwise wreck the
Stephem M Walt: It's Time to Abandon the Pursuit for Great Leaders:
From Napoleon to Donald Trump, the track record of investing great power
in a charismatic individual has been lousy (in Walt's words, "always a
mistake"). The Germans had a word for this, Führerprinzip, which has
since become as discredited as it deserves to be. That's one example
Walt doesn't bother with, for the problem is not just the higher you
fly the harder you fall (surely no one can argue about Napoleon in any
other terms), but that Great Leaders may not even be possible any more
(and that may be for the better). Walt surveys the recent wreckage:
I suspect the appeal of the Great Leader also reflects the present
shortcomings of existing democratic institutions in Europe and North
America, the transparent hypocrisy of most career politicians, and the
colorlessness of many current office-holders. If you strip away the
well-scripted pageantry that tries to make presidents and prime
ministers seem all-powerful and all knowing, today's democratic
leaders are not a very inspiring bunch. I mean, seriously: whatever
their political skills may be, can one really admire an
undisciplined skirt-chaser like Bill Clinton, an insensitive,
privileged bumbler like George W. Bush, or an unprincipled opportunist
like Tony Blair? Does listening to David Cameron or François Hollande
fill you with confidence and patriotic zeal? I still retain a certain
regard for Barack Obama, who is both thoughtful and devoid of obvious
character defects, but nobody is talking about him being a "transformational"
president anymore. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton's lackluster performance
on the campaign trail and the clown show that is the Republican primary
season is just reinforcing the American public's sense that none of
these people are sincere, serious, genuinely interested in the public's
welfare, or deserving or admiration or respect. Instead, they're mostly
out for themselves, and they would say and do almost anything if they
thought it would get them elected. And if that is in fact the case (and
many people clearly believe it is), then a buffoon like Trump or a grumpy
outsider like Bernie Sanders are going to look appealing by comparison.
Leaving aside the irrelevant sidepoint of whether Sanders is grumpy,
the obvious follow-up points are that lacking any policy goals that in
any way bear up under scrutiny, the Republican primaries have turned
into a forum on leadership posturing, may the greatest of the great
prevail (although it's not clear to me how this hasn't ruled Rubio out
yet). Meanwhile Clinton has developed (or should I say was given?) the
counter, that it is not the president but America that is great, a
blessing she will surely shepherd and sustain. From where I stand,
all this adds up to is a culture of narcissism -- the last thing in
the world we should look to our political leaders to fix.
Still, I'm haunted by Trump's "make America great again" -- the
nagging question being, when was America ever really great? Indeed,
what could that possibly mean? Sure, empires from Rome to Brittania
to Nazi Germany have exulted in their brutal power while lavishing
their elites with the spoils of war, but hardly any of their gains
trickled down to the masses, and every last one sowed the seeds of
its own destruction. What's so great about that? For that matter,
what's so good? The difference is not just rhetoric: back when
Lyndon Johnson was president, he had an argument with Bill Moyers
over what to call his programs to lift the poor out of poverty and
broaden the middle class. Moyers wanted to call this vision the
Good Society, but Johnson insisted on cranking up the superlatives,
giving us the Great Society. Problem is, while it's easy to think
of lots of things that would make most lives better, no one could
really envision what it would take to make them great. By overselling
his programs, burdening them with grand gestures and empty rhetoric,
he undermined them. (Same for his War on Poverty, which he actually
did a much better job of executing than his Vietnam War, but which
could never be won as definitively as Americans had come to expect
Perhaps Sanders seems grumpy because he's stuck thinking about real
problems and viable solutions instead of engaging in the great national
ego stroke of our collective and/or individual greatness?
Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:
Partial draft on Libya-Syria, couldn't work my way out of this in time:
Martin Longman: Clinton and Libya: Libya and Syria both erupted in
Arab Spring demonstrations in early 2011. Both nations were ruled by
governments which the US had long regarded as antagonistic (not always
so, but that was certainly the default prejudice). Both were headed by
strongmen, who ruled through a combination of brute force and tribal
favoritism, and they responded to popular demonstrations with brutal
repressive force. In both cases the clashes rapidly became militarized
with some factions within the established military breaking away. In
both cases the opposition was joined by jihadi-oriented islamists,
whose anti-American stance muddied initial anti-regime biases in the
US. While both conflicts had much in common, a few differences led
the US to react differently to them. Actually, there were a range of
reactions and proposals within the US government, with Obama deciding
to go with the interventionists in Libya and against them (at least
initially) in Syria. Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State at the
time, and generally sided with the hawks. She largely got her way in
Libya: the US intervened and in fairly short order Gaddafi's offensive
was halted and unwound, Gaddafi was killed, and his government was
dismantled. It turned out that overthrowing Gaddafi left a vacuum
that soon evolved into a civil war that continues today, so it's no
longer easy to view Libya as any kind of success for US policy.
Meanwhile, the initial revolts in Syria degenerated into prolonged
and indecisive civil war. Obama resisted the interventionists at
first, who continued to coo into his ear that if only we could step
in we could put an end to the bloodshed (you know, doing so would be
a humanitarian act). The US approved small scale programs to aid and
abet anti-government rebels, but such programs were ineffective and
only served to extend the war. The US got more active when a former
anti-American group in Iraq mutated into ISIS, setting up an "Islamic
State" that spanned northwestern Iraq and parts of eastern Syria. The
American reaction at that point became kneejerk, so the haphazard
opposition to Assad was supplemented by a more direct war against
Assad's chief adversaries. The US has often been misguided in its
foreign alliances, but it's hard to think of a previous case where
it's acted with such unthinking callousness. Aside from her initial
impulse to intervene in Syria, Clinton has at least been on the
Wednesday, March 2. 2016
The mainstream news media was all hepped up yesterday to declare
Super Tuesday as the event that cinched the nominations of Donald
Trump and Hillary Clinton, a bias they confirmed by rapidly calling
the most obvious states for their heroes: Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas
(Trump over Cruz 32.7-30.5%),
Tennessee, Virginia (Trump over Rubio 34.7-31.9%), and Massachusetts
(Clinton over Sanders -%). Then not much else broke as they expected.
Everyone expected Cruz to take Texas (over Trump 43.8-26.7%), but he
also won Oklahoma and Alaska. Finally, Marco Rubio won in Minnesota
(over Cruz 36.5-29.0%, with Trump at 21.3%, how lowest share of the
Sanders was a shoe-in for Vermont (86.1-13.6%; Trump prevailed
over Kasich there 32.7-30.4%), but he also won impressively in
Minnesota (61.6-38.4%) and Colorado (58.9-40.4%), and surprisingly
in Oklahoma (51.9-41.5% -- 538's polls and models favored Sanders
there, but I didn't really believe them). Clinton won blowouts
across the south, sweeping Virginia (64.3-35.2%) and Arkansas
(66.3-29.7%) and four states she has no prayer of winning in the
fall (she got 65.2% in Texas, 66.1% in Tennessee, 71.3% in Georgia,
and 77.6% in Alabama). The only close contest was in Massachusetts,
which she won 50.1-48.7%. That seems like a state Sanders should
have won (and needed to win to have a shot at the nomination), but
having lived there, one thing I recall is that the state harbors
some of the most reactionary Democrats in the north, if not the
whole country. I don't know how significant that was, but it's
something you wouldn't be aware of unless you lived there.
It seems pretty clear that Clinton will win the nomination: she's
running a little ahead of 538's targets, accumulating a majority of
popularly elected delegates, plus she has that huge superdelegate
advantage. She also appears to be headed toward some big wins in
March primaries: 538's polling averages show her winning handsomely
in Michigan (60.7-36.3%), Florida (66.8-29.8%), Illinois (65.5-30.4%),
North Carolina (59.7-36.8%), and Ohio (60.1-37.6%). Sanders' next
best chance is April 5 in Wisconsin, where polling is close to tied.
I'm not seeing any polling for the March 5 caucuses in Louisiana,
Kansas, and Nebraska, or March 6 for Maine. I expect Kansas and
Nebraska to be close, and Maine to tilt to Sanders, so he may get
some good news before the bad. At some point I think Sanders needs
to pivot his campaign toward retaking Congress -- say thanks for
supporting him by campaigning for his supporters, which would allow
him to stay on the campaign trail until November, and build up a
party which would pull Clinton to the left.
Trump didn't top 50% anywhere (he came close in Massachusetts with
49.3%, followed by 43.4% in Alabama, 38.9% in Tennessee, 38.8% in Georgia,
but took less than 35% in his owner wins, bottoming out in Minnesota).
And Trump wound up with less than half of the delegates (319 vs. 369 for
the not-so-united opposition). He's still the frontrunner and may still
be on track to the nomination, but he's not exactly blowing everyone else
away. The best you can say for his chances is that no one else looks to
have a chance. Kasich finished second in Vermont (close) and Massachusetts
(distant, Trump winning 49.3-18.0%). Presumably he'll hang around for Ohio,
where he's polling a few points behind Trump. A win there might give him
a shot at a broken/brokered convention, as establishment favorite Rubio
continues to falter: he won Minnesota, and came in second in Virginia
(close) and Georgia (distant), but he specializes in thirds -- eight of
them, everywhere else. Carson's best state was Alabama (10.2%), which
netted him 0 delegates. Today he conceded that he
sees no 'path forward' for his campaign, but rather than suspending
it he'll just fade into occlusion (like the last Shiite Imam). Presumably
his voters will gravitate toward Trump (if they don't follow their leader
That leaves Cruz, who'd like establishment conservatives to realize
that he's their last chance to stop Trump -- something that it's safe
to say isn't going to happen, if only because many of them despise Cruz
even more viscerally than they do Trump. They may, after all, worry that
Trump isn't a true conservative, but Cruz is so true he makes their
carefully worded rationalizations look like a cruel joke. And while
they may not wish to admit it, Trump at least is thoroughly corruptible,
with a substantial personal stake in his fortune. Cruz, on the other
hand, has the air of a true believer, the sort of fanatic who in his
extremism could bring them all down. (Hence Rubio: never in history
has a candidate so completely looked the part of a tool of his donors'
interests. No wonder he's their favorite.)
FiveThirtyEight: Super Tuesday: Live Coverage and Results: Start at
the bottom if you want to follow the night minute-by-minute, the bottom
having a lot of background data (since it started before any new data
came in). Only some of this avalanche of info is useful, but note, for
instance, at 6:53PM someone asked about Rubio's polls, and Harry Enten
answered: "The two states where [Rubio] has been competitive, according
to data I've seen, are Minnesota and Utah." That was before Rubio won
Minnesota. Also suggests that if he was going to win anywhere, that would
be it, and winning there doesn't suggest he's going to win anywhere else
(well, except Utah, maybe).
Nate Silver: Can Republicans Still Take the Nomination From Trump?
Main thing I take away here is that the picture will become much clearer
after March 15, when winner-take-all primaries in Florida and Ohio can
shift the delegate counts dramatically. Currently 538 has Kasich slightly
ahead of Trump in terms of "chance of winning" Ohio (41-39%), but the
poll data tilts the other way: Trump (30.1%), Kasich (27.4%), Rubio
(21.6%), Cruz (18.8%). Trump is doing a little better in Florida, with
41.4% polling average, vs. Rubio (35.2%), Cruz (12.4%), and Kasich
(8.5%). If Trump wins both, I don't see how he can fail to take the
By the way, the other polling averages for March primaries: Michigan
(March 8): Trump 38.4%, Rubio 24.9%, Cruz 17.4%, Kasich 15.1%; Illinois
(March 15): Trump 37.3%, Rubio 29.4%, Cruz 16.8%, Kasich 13.1%; North
Carolina (March 15): Trump 31.3%, Rubio 29.0%, Cruz 21.8%, Kasich 12.9%;
Arizona (March 22): no average, but latest poll shows Trump 35%, Rubio
23%, Cruz 14%, Kasich 7%. Trump is also leading polls for April primaries
in Wisconsin, New York, and Pennsylvania. Nothing on smaller states, but
March 5 could be a good day for Cruz with caucuses in Louisiana, Kansas,
and Nebraska (contiguous, as they are, with three of his four wins: Texas,
Oklahoma, and Iowa).
Clare Malone: If You Want to Understand What's Roiling the 2016 Election,
Go to Oklahoma: This was written a couple days before the election,
when Sanders upset Clinton, and Cruz pulled ahead of Trump. It's been
a long time since anyone has brought up Oklahoma's early-19th-century
populist past, but when you're looking for explanations, it's always
handy to grasp at straws.
Nate Silver: Don't Assume Conservatives Will Rally Behind Trump:
Another piece from before the election. Useful mostly because it looks
back at the history of partisan abandonment ("share of party's voters
voting against its presidential candidate"), something Democrats have
done more often than Republicans (indeed, aside from 1964 Republican
defections appear to have mostly gone to third party candidates. But
note that 2012 had the lowest total figure (8+7) since the chart starts
up in 1952, and 2004 had the second lowest (11+7) -- one can argue that
after a lot of party-jumping from 1952-1996 we've entered a new period
of stability. Sure, Trump could change that, both by losing Republicans
and by drawing Democrats. Perhaps Sanders also (conversely, of course).
But I don't expect many Republicans to cross over and vote Democratic --
just too much pent-up hatred to swallow that pill. And thus far I haven't
heard any credible talk of a third party candidate meant to torpedo Trump
support among Republicans, even at the cost of throwing the presidency
to Hillary Clinton. (Bloomberg maybe, but he seems far more animated by
Sanders than Trump, which makes sense given where his billions come from.)
That leaves, who? The Republicans are a party of lemmings. They'll follow
anyone off the cliff.
Amanda Girard: How Hillary Clinton's Super Tuesday 'Win' Relied on Dismal
Voter Turnout: Some numbers here. Sanders has been hoping that high
voter turnout will boost his chances. Most of the numbers I've seen are
down from 2008 (Clinton v. Obama), but that's a pretty high bar. The
chart does suggest that Sanders do relatively well where the turnout is
relatively high: turnout in the five states Sanders won or barely lost
(Massachusetts) was down 8.8%; in the six southern states Clinton won
by landslides, turnout was down 32.7%. That really just corresponds to
the adage that competitive races draw more interest. On the other hand,
Republican turnout has generally been high higher this year, which
probably has more to do with the competitiveness of the races (and the
obscene amounts of money spent on them) than a net shift to the GOP.
Martin Wolf: Donald Trump embodies how great republics meet their end:
Intellectual mischief, introducing the phrase "pluto-populism" ("the
marriage of plutocracy with rightwing populism" -- the more common
historical term for this is "fascism").
Kevin Drumm: Will Conservatives Do the Right Thing in November?:
Uh, no: even though focus groups have long cautioned conservatives
against over-the-top racism (while identifying all manner of viable
"dog whistles"), deep down the only thing conservatives really care
about is their money, and they'll do whatever it takes to grab the
political clout they need to keep their good thing going. I got a
kick out of this quote from Bret Stephens complaining about how
unfairly conservatives have been maligned for trading on racism:
It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right
all these years. Nativist bigotries must not be allowed to become the
animating spirit of the Republican Party. If Donald Trump becomes the
candidate, he will not win the presidency, but he will help vindicate
the left's ugly indictment. It will be left to decent conservatives
to pick up the pieces -- and what's left of the party.
That's a real knee-slapper, "decent conservatives." I won't deny
that there are decent people who identify with conservatism, mostly
because the movement flatters them for their personal virtues -- most
of which I approve of and share in -- and they take that as some sort
of tribal identity. But the conservative movement doesn't stop there.
It takes advantage of their decency and isolation and uses that to
promote the wealth of a very few at the expense of nearly everyone
Colbert Rips Trump's KKK Fumble: 'This is the Easiest Question in
Politics!': It should be pretty pro forma by now for Republicans
to disavow David Duke and the KKK -- it's not like they haven't had
to do it before -- but somehow Trump hesitated. I saw a meme on
The Other 98% -- somehow Facebook has made it impossible to share
their photos anywhere else (or at least I haven't figured out how to
do it). The text reads: "Donald Trump eagerly attacks Muslims, Mexicans,
journalists, newspapers, scientists, women who aren't pretty enough for
him, women who breastfeed, people who are taken prisoner, Macy's, Apple,
fat people, thirsty people, handicapped people and the Pope . . . but
he has to be careful and do more research before he criticizes the
Peter Beinart: Why Liberals Should Vote for Marco Rubio: OK, this
is bizarre, but Beinart has quite a history of thinking himself into
ridiculous positions, like when he supported the Bush invasion of Iraq,
then wrote a book blaming the Bush team's conservatism for fucking it
all up (The Good Fight: Why Liberals -- and Only Liberals -- Can Win
the War on Terror and Make America Great Again). He admits that
Marco Rubio "would be a terrible president" but considers Trump so
odious that he's urging Democrats to abandon their party, forgoing
the non-trivial differences between Clinton and Sanders, to vote for
a guy who's only taken seriously because conservative pundits can't
think of anyone better to back. He even offers three reasons why voting
for Rubio is a dumb idea, yet his paranoia about Trump is so great he
dismisses them out of hand. He even suggests liberals should help out
by donating money to Rubio's campaign, as if they'd make a material
difference compared to the billionaires already bankrolling Rubio. And
he has a "plan B" if liberal largesse doesn't tilt the nomination to
Rubio: convince your conservative buddies to vote for Hillary Clinton.
That at least isn't so far fetched: some are already gravitating to
Clinton because they view her as an even-more-trigger-happy Commander
Not sure whether that factors into Beinart's thinking: regardless
of how hawkish Clinton is, the GOP "establishment" candidates -- Kasich
as well as Rubio -- have staked out even more reckless neocon positions
than Clinton, Cruz, or Trump. Indeed, one of Beinart's charges against
Trump is how he's "praised Vladimir Putin": going soft on Putin seems
to violate one of the "norms that both decent liberals and decent
conservatives cherish." He concludes: "Across the ideological divide,
it's time to close ranks." Effectively, he's saying that none of the
differences between Rubio and Clinton (let alone Sanders) matter. In
truth, Beinart comes off as such a smug and complacent
liberal elitist it's hard to read this
without thinking, hey, this guy deserves Trump. Of course, why should
we suffer because he's a dolt? I can see going soft on Clinton because
bad as she is she isn't nearly as awful as any conceivable Republican.
I can see differences between those Republicans, but none that make
me want to pick one, let alone try to influence the Republican primary
to pick the least evil one. Nor am I even sure that Trump is the most
evil: Rubio and Kasich are clearly more pro-war, and Cruz is more prone
to blow up the government lest it ever help people in need. My biggest
worry about Trump isn't that he'll be much worse than Rubio. It's that
he'll prove more effective campaigning against a corporate shill and
shameless hawk like Clinton.
Derek Thompson: How Donald Trump Can Beat Hillary Clinton: To wit:
But here's the problem: If Trump doesn't care about policy and his appeal
truly transcends issues, what's stopping him from becoming a starkly
different person in the general election, the same way he's morphed,
with convenient timing, from a moderate businessman -- supportive of
Canadian health care, a friend of Democrats, an admirer of Hillary
Clinton -- to a nationalist demagogue?
Trump's most famous skill is self-promotion through bloviation. But
his most underrated skill is he is a terrific panderer. He will
say anything he thinks people want to hear, but he'll say it in a way
that makes his pandering look like an act of courage. The ingenious
subtext of much of his messaging is: "Nobody wants to hear this hard
truth, but here it is: you're right!" [ . . . ]
Trump is also positioned to offer a devastating critique of Hillary
Clinton -- that she never wins: She tried to pass health care reform.
Biggest disaster I ever saw in Washington. Biggest I ever saw. And that's
saying a lot. She wanted us to go into Iraq and then into Libya. Look at
that mess. Worst decision in foreign policy history. Worst. NAFTA, prisons,
welfare reform. You know that story about King Midas? Where he touches
something and it turns to gold? Hillary's the opposite. Everything she
touches blows up. She's a disaster.
Is it really so hard to imagine Trump peddling a populist message
that keeps the Great Wall of America (he can't disavow that wall),
dials down on the dog-whistle rhetoric toward Hispanics and Muslims,
and goes hard at the economic and cultural insecurity of the middle
class by promising them a gorgeous new fleet of protectionist trade
deals, a big beautiful tax cut, and all the social spending they've
come to love? Pay Less, Keep More, Win, Win, Win. It will be a
incredible six months of populist pandering. And what's worse: If it
produces results and he rises in the polls, the political media will
paint Trump as a rapidly maturing centrist.
The word Thompson keeps using about Trump is "authentic." George
Burns used to be quoted as saying "the secret to acting is sincerity --
if you can fake that, you've got it made." Trump's figured out how to
fake authenticity, and that's likely to cause Clinton fits (not that
she isn't unskilled at faking sincerity).
Monday, February 29. 2016
Music: Current count 26339  rated (+41), 410  unrated (-10).
Most of this week's haul has already appeared in
Rhapsody Streamnotes, if
you noticed. I was rather bummed when I posted a link on Facebook and
only got three "likes" and no comments. I put a lot of work into that,
and I thought I came up with some really interesting records, most of
which got very little recognition elsewhere. It seems that even Facebook
didn't like the post, as it swallowed the URI and didn't bother picking
up an image (a process which became mysterious and unpredictable a year
or so ago). I did check that the link works, but maybe it got assigned
some super-low priority that kept it out of readers' feeds. I also don't
seem to have any way to share my Facebook posts with the Expert Witness
group, which would give them a little broader circulation.
One thing a bit odd about last week was that most of the A- records
pictured to the right and listed below came after the Streamnotes post.
Usually I find a few things as I'm wrapping up. but last week only Tribu
Baharú appeared in time, with two records (Alberto Pinton and Daveed
Diggs) found the day after the post. This week's two jazz records are
2016 releases, from my mail queue. The other two appeared on Ye Wei
Blog's 2015 EOY list (although it looks like the Diggs album originally
appeared in 2012). About half of this week's records are 2015 releases --
consider that half-full or half-empty as you like.
Thought I'd note that we watched the Oscars last night -- using the DVR
to speed through commercials, acceptance speeches, and most of those song
numbers (my wife had control of the remote). We probably saw a record low
number of nominated films, and I've rarely been so ambivalent about the
ones I've seen. Some crib notes:
- Picture: Saw 4/8 in theatres (The Big Short, Bridge
of Spies, Brooklyn, The Martian), plus Mad Max: Fury
Road on TV. The "future dystopia" shown in the latter struck me as a
pretty literal portrayal of this year's Republican platform -- with global
warming turning the planet into desert, without in any way dimming our
fetish for fossil fuels and guns; water is privatized, creating a master
class which literally lives above the masses, who are effectively turned
into slaves; the women (aside from a token truck driver) are reduced to
being "breeders" and/or are hooked up to milking machines. Sure, that may
not be exactly what Trump, Cruz, Rubio, et al. have in mind, but we're not
talking about clear thinkers here. Presumably the movie appeals to action
junkies, not far removed from people who find entertainment value in war
and cruelty -- the sort of people who like to harp on how we "live in a
dangerous world" and always need to be armed to the teeth to survive.
Here, not only does avarice and ignorance lead to disaster, those same
traits preclude any chance of learning from past mistakes. We missed the
winner, Spotlight. Bad timing. The Big Short and Bridge
of Spies were pretty good films.
- Actress: Saw 2/5, missing winner Brie Larsen. I would have
picked Cate Blanchett (Carol) over Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn).
- Actor: Saw 2/5, missing winner Leonardo DiCaprio -- still in
theatres here, so maybe we should check it out. I would have picked Bryan
Cranston (Trumbo) over Matt Damon (The Martian).
- Supporting Actress: Saw 1/5, Rooney Mara (Carol),
thought she was pretty good.
- Supporting Actor: Saw 2/5, including winner Mark Rylance
(Bridge of Spies, though we know him more for Wolf Hall),
a terrific choice.
- Director: Saw 2/5, obviously preferring Adam McKay over
- Animated Feature Film: Saw 0/5.
- Original Screenplay: Saw 1/5, would have been happy with
Bridge of Spies.
- Adapted Screenplay: Saw 4/5, missing only Room. Won
by The Big Short, a remarkably fine job (also, almost unheard
of, I've read the original book by Michael Lewis).
- Foreign Language Film: Saw 0/5.
- Documentary Feature: Saw 0/5.
I'll stop there, since most of the rest was won by Mad Max: Fury
Road. I can sort of see the logic behind Makeup and Hair Styling,
Costume Design, and Film Editing (though I much preferred Carol
in the first two and The Big Short in the latter, just to pick
the first things that popped into my mind). But the two awards for sound
only reinforce my old suspicion that the loudest film wins. By the end
I realized that Mad Max: Fury Road would have been less offensive
(and probably made more sense) had I turned close captioning on and cut
the sound way down.
For context, here's a quick, ranked rundown of 2015 movies we did see:
- The Big Short [A-]
- Bridge of Spies [A-]
- Trumbo [A-]
- Carol [A-]
- The Martian [B+]
- Mr. Holmes [B+]
- Brooklyn [B+]
- Black Mass [B+]
- The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel [B]
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens [B] -- in IMAX
- Mad Max: Fury Road [C+]
As I said, we didn't see much in 2015. We did catch our first 2016
release, Hail Caesar, today: not an especially good film, but it
had more than a few great jokes (and a couple amusing dance numbers)
[B+]. The Revenant is still in local theatres, and there's a
good chance that Spotlight will get another encore. Less likely
that The Hateful Eight will come back, but that's another film
that we meant to see but didn't find time.
On the other hand I've probably watched more television this year than
any time since I was a teenager. While most of it is rather light, I've
gotten to where I prefer the pacing of a serial. Something, perhaps, to
write about at a later date.
Too late for yesterday's political post, but I should note that we can
add Kris Kobach's name to the list of Donald Trump endorsers. Had this
happened a day earlier, I would have slotted his name in the Trump fanclub
list somewhere between David Duke and Ann Coulter. Kobach is Secretary of
State here in Kansas, or as he likes to think of it, the guy in charge of
rigging elections. But he also freelances writing anti-immigrant legislation
for ALEC, most of which has been ruled unconstitutional. A truly repugnant
excuse for a human being.
New records rated this week:
- The 3.5.7 Ensemble: Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples (2014 , Milk Factory Productions, 2CD): [cd]: B
- Andy Adamson Quartet: A Cry for Peace (2015 , Andros): [cd]: B+(*)
- Melissa Aldana: Back Home (2015 , Wommusic): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Dave Anderson: Blue Innuendo (2015 , Label 1): [cd]: B+(*)
- Annie Girl and the Flight: Bodies (2015, United for Opportunity, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Dawes: All Your Favorite Bands (2015, Hub): [r]: B-
- Debashish Bhattacharya: Slide Guitar Ragas From Dusk Till Dawn (2015, Riverboat): [r]: B+(***)
- Chaise Lounge: Gin Fizz Fandango (2015 , Modern Songbook): [cd]: B+(***)
- Jonah Considine: Golden Flu (2015, Nein, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Daveed Diggs: Small Things to a Giant (2012 , Deathbomb Arc): [bc]: A-
- DJ Sandji: 100% Balani Show (2015, Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
- Ginkgoa: EP Ginkgoa (2015, self-released, EP): [bc]: B+(**)
- Vijay Iyer/Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (2015 , ECM): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Matt Kane & the Kansas City Generations Sextet: Acknowledgement (2014 , Bounce-Step): [cd]: B
- Knife Pleats: Hat Bark Beach (2015, Jigsaw): [bc]: B+(*)
- Charles Lloyd & the Marvels: I Long to See You (2015 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Bring Their 'A' Game (2015 , Hot Cup, EP): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Make the Magic Happen (2015 , Hot Cup, EP): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Mark Lyken/Emma Dove: Mirror Lands (2015, Time Released Sound): [r]: B
- Made to Break: Before the Code (2014 , Trost): [r]: B+(***)
- J Mancera: Mancera #5 (2015 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Will Mason Ensemble: Beams of the Huge Night (2014 , New Amsterdam): [r]: B+(*)
- Gilligan Moss: Ceremonial (2015, EMI, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Takami Nakamoto: Opacity (2014, HIM Media, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Angelika Niescier/Florian Weber: NYC Five (2015 , Intakt): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Nonch Harpin': Native Sons (2015 , self-released): [cd]: B-
- Eva Novoa: Butterflies and Zebras by Ditmas Quartet (2015 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(***)
- Oblik: Order Disorder (2014 , Ormo): [bc]: B+(***)
- Alberto Pinton Noi Siamo: Resiliency (2015 , Moserobie): [cd]: A-
- Quantic: The Western Transient: A New Constellation (2015, Tru Thoughts): [r]: B
- Quttinirpaaq: Dead September (2015, Rural Isolation Project): [bc]: C+
- Tribu Baharú: Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador (2015, self-released): [r]: A-
- Twin Talk: Twin Talk (2014 , Ears & Eyes): [cd]: B+(*)
- Wildhoney: Sleep Through It (2015, Deranged): [r]: B+(*)
- Wildhoney: Your Face Sideways (2015, Topshelf, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Young Thug: Slime Season 2 (2015, self-released): [r]: B+(***)
- Omri Ziegele Noisy Minority: Wrong Is Right (2015 , Intakt): [cdr]: A-
Old music rated this week:
- Eva Novoa: Eva Novoa Trio (2010 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(**)
- Eva Novoa: Eva Novoa Quartet (2010 , Fresh Sound New Talent): [r]: B+(***)
- Horace Parlan: Movin' & Groovin' (1960, Blue Note): [r]: B+(**)
- Horace Parlan: Up & Down (1961 , Blue Note): [r]: B+(***)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- David Fiuczynski: Flam! Blam! Pan-Asian MicroJam (Rare Noise): advance, March 25
- Krakauer's Ancestral Groove: Checkpoint (Table Pounding): April 8
- Kirk MacDonald: Symmetry (Addo): March 4
- Hendrik Meurkens: Harmonicus Rex (Height Advantage)
- Larry Young: In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (1964-65, Resonance, 2CD): March 11
Sunday, February 28. 2016
Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in South Carolina by a good deal
more than I expected (73.5% to 26.0%). This has finally given the media
carte blanche to harp on the viability of Sanders' campaign as opposed
to his issues and the relative merits (and weaknesses) of the candidates.
I expect that will be the rap from now to convention time, so it may be
true that the fun part of the campaign is over. In theory, Super Tuesday
could mark a turnaround, but that doesn't seem very likely. Nate Silver
has a piece where he estimates the share Sanders would take in each state
if he split the Democratic vote 50-50 with Clinton (see
Bernie Sanders Doesn't Need Momentum -- He Needs to Win These States).
The table compares Silver's estimates with actual results through Nevada
and polling (where available) later on. Where figures are available,
Clinton is consistently beating her estimates -- even in New Hampshire,
where Sanders +22 win fell short of his +32 projection. Silver figures
Sanders needs to win six (of eleven) Super Tuesday states: Vermont (a
cinch), Minnesota-Colorado-Massachusetts (maybe but not much polling,
and Mass. is very close), and Oklahoma-Tennessee (which seem pretty
hopeless, although the Okla. polling isn't so bad -- Clinton +2).
Later in next week, he also lists Sanders as Kansas +18, but polls
here favor Clinton. There are some fishy things about the model --
I'd be surprised if Sanders ran the table in the Rocky Mountain and
Upper Midwest states like Obama did, and I suspect Clinton has more
support in the "white belt" from Oklahoma up through West Virginia
than Silver's model suggests (Silver has West Virginia +17 for
Sanders, but Bill Clinton won the state, and Obama lost it bad).
Still, it's been fun, and regardless of what happens on Tuesday,
we'll probably go to the caucus on Mar. 5 and get counted for Sanders.
Meanwhile, Donald Trump is increasingly viewed as the Republican
winner. 538 has estimates on the following upcoming Republican primaries
(some with very little polling data, and many states are still missing).
Trump is projected to win all but Texas (Cruz), although his leads in
Florida (Rubio) and Ohio (Kasich) aren't unassailable. I've tabled up
the raw poll averages below (* indicates only a single poll was used).
|03-22||Arizona *||35.0%||23.0%||14.0%|| ||7.0%|
They don't seem to have any Kansas polling. As I understand it, Trump
is leading among Kansas Republicans, although Rubio has racked up most of
the big endorsements (Brownback, Roberts, Pompeo, Dole). Tim Huelskamp has
endorsed Cruz. Lynn Jenkins was the first Rep. to endorse Carly Fiorina,
so I guess she's due for a do-over. Last two Republican caucuses went to
the holy roller -- this year that's split between Carson, Cruz, and Trump
(not an evangelical, but he tends to hate the same people evangelicals do,
and that seems to be what counts with them).
Trump, by the way, has very few
endorsements: two sitting governors (Christie and LaPage), one senator
(Sessions), two reps; but he has done well among European fascists (Marine
Le Pen, Matteo Salvini, Geert Wilders) and with some comparably shady
Americans (David Duke, Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Jerry
More about Trump in this week's links, below. Didn't even get around
to last week's mass shooting incident in Hesston, KS:
Martin Longman: How Will Trump Unite the Party? Remember Ronald
Reagan? He used to go around the country saying that the "11th
commandment" was "never speak ill of a fellow Republican." The GOP
was a much larger tent in those days, encompassing Mark Hatfield
and John Chaffee as well as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms (and my
own so-far-to-the-right-he's-left favorite, Iowa Rep. H.R. Gross --
younger folks can substitute Ron Paul, but you'll miss something).
Reagan was himself pretty far gone on the right, but he never called
anyone a RINO, much less any of the following, courtesy of Donald
When it comes time to unite the party, he'll have to contend with
having insulted all his opponents:
- Kasich: "total dud"
- Rubio: "a lightweight choker"
- Carson: "Pyramids built for grain storage -- don't people get it?"
- Cruz: "the worst liar, crazy or very dishonest"
- Fiorina: "if you listen to Carly Fiorina for more than ten minutes
straight, you develop a massive headache"
- Graham: "dumb mouthpiece"
- Walker: "not smart"
- Pataki: "terrible governor of NY, one of the worst"
- Jindal: "such a waste."
- Paul: "reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning
- Perry: "should be forced to take an IQ test"
And those are just the Twitter insults. Don't forget some of his other
antics, like saying no one would vote for Fiorina's face and that Ben
Carson is a pathological sociopath.
Trump is going to have some problems with Fox News, too. Here's a
sample of what he's said about their personnel:
- Brit Hume: "know nothing"
- Megyn Kelly: "I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that
would not be politically correct"
- Carl Cameron: "consistently fumbles & misrepresents poll results"
- Charles Krauthammer: "should be fired"
- Bill Kristol: "a sad case," "always wrong"
- Frank Luntz: "a low-class snob"
- George Will: "boring and totally biased," "should be thrown off Fox
What about other organs of the right?
Trump said "very few people read" the "dying" National Review,
and their editor in chief, Rich Lowry, is "clueless," "incompetent," and
"should not be allowed on TV."
The Club for Growth is "crooked" and filled with "total frauds."
Brent Bozell of the right-wing Media Research Center is "begging for
money like a dog."
Charles Koch is "looking for a new puppet."
Most of these strike me as pretty accurate, perceptive even. Kristol,
in particular, is wrong so often he makes stopped clocks seem brilliant.
His judgments on Luntz, Will, Lowry, and Koch also get to the point, but
he could stand to expand on Krauthammer. Still, one might note that no
Republican candidate can claim Reagan's commandment as his (or her) own:
they may admire the Gipper for lots of petty and vindictive shit, but not
for the flexibility which made him seem much less the ogre than his record
indicates. Even GW Bush was careful to sugar coat his conservatism, but
to fight Obama the right-wing had to make sure that the ranks would hold,
so they started a purge and everything turned nasty. Trump has taken that
nastiness to a new level, but he didn't start it. He just took advantage
of the seething hatefulness of the Republican masses -- ground tilled and
sown by the right-wing propaganda mills. His only innovation was to turn
that bile toward the Republicans' own puppet- and pundit-class -- the
same people who had conned those masses into thinking that conservative
economic orthodoxy was somehow in their interest (despite overwhelming
evidence to the contrary.
Somewhat related: see
Nancy LeTourneau: Unprecedented for a laundry list of things that
Republicans have done to oppose Obama that no opposition party in US
history has previously done.
Longman also has an interesting post,
The Conservative Movement Collapsed Before Trump. As you know,
since Obama became president the Republicans haven't offered any
alternative policies, because a policy might provide a starting
point for compromise. They've focused on obstructing everything
that Obama has wanted to do, with the sole exception of a couple
issues where Obama broke with the Democratic base (e.g., TPP):
they're OK because they both undercut Obama within his own party
and undercut the Democratic Party in the nation at large. Twenty
years ago the Republicans had a largely unearned reputation as
"the party of ideas" -- that was mostly due to the well-funded
right-wing think tanks. Since then, well, most of the ideas
turned out to be duds, and once Obama and the Tea Party arrived
thinking went out the window, replaced by narrow-minded fervor.
Hence every Republican candidate this year tried to run on
leadership character, and mostly what they tried to lead the
party in was being an asshole. Ergo:
What the Republicans failed to do is to adjust to losing in 2008 and
2012 and come up with a new kind of conservatism that could win where
McCain and Romney had lost.
And that left a giant opening for someone like Trump to walk right
through and begin denouncing everyone on the right as dopes and idiots
and ineffectual morons.
One of the reasons that the Republican Establishment has no answer
for Trump is that their alternatives (basically, now down to Marco
Rubio at this point) have never had an answer for how they could make
the modern brand of conservatism a winner on the presidential level.
If you are definitely not electable, then you can't convince people
to vote against Trump because he's unelectable.
Curiously enough, neocon godfather Robert Kagan is saying pretty much
the same thing:
Trump is the GOP's Frankenstein monster. Now he's strong enough to
destroy the party. Kagan's so alarmed by Trump he's already
endorsed Hillary Clinton as the best hope for Washington's war
mongers. Personally, I find this as disturbing as David Duke's embrace
of Trump. And I'm reminded that when
Antiwar.com was doing a fundraiser
a few weeks back, they included Clinton along with Trump, Cruz, and
Rubio under the headline "are you scared yet?"
DR Tucker: The Sum of All Fears: This is the most over-the-top
paranoid rant I've heard to date regarding Donald Trump. It's worth
quoting, partly for entertainment value, partly to show how sensible
fears can sometimes run amok:
I'm scared for my friends' children. They will be of an impressionable
age over the next four years. When they see President Donald Trump on
the TV screen, what warped values will penetrate their minds? What
flawed lessons will they carry with them for the rest of their lives?
Will I have to tell my friends not to let their kids watch President
Trump, for the same reason one doesn't let children watch movies with
explicit sex, violence and profanity?
What kind of world will those kids inherit? A Trump victory would
be far more devastating for our climate than the Keystone XL pipeline
would have been. I guarantee that within 24 hours of a Trump victory,
China, India and other major polluters will abandon the Paris climate
agreement, reasoning that by electing an unrepentant climate-change
denier, America cannot possibly be trusted to hold up its end of the
deal. Without that deal, you can say goodbye to a livable future --
and say hello to more fires, more floods, more disease, more death.
[ . . . ]
Think about what's at stake. This country is only so resilient.
In 1992, America could have survived four more years of Poppy Bush.
In 1996, America could have survived four years of President Bob
Dole. In 2008, America could have survived four years of President
John McCain. In 2012, America could have even survived four years
of President Mitt Romney.
Does anyone think this country could survive four days, much
less four years, of President Donald Trump?
I certainly agree that there are some pretty unsavory aspects to
a prospective Trump presidency, but I wouldn't put our prospects
under four years of Trump any lower than McCain or Romney. The one
most inordinate power US presidents have is their ability to start
wars, and McCain would easily have been (even without the legacy
of GW Bush) en the most trigger-happy US president since Jackson.
You should never forget that McCain was eager to push the US into
war with Russia over Abkhazia. Romney has less history to review,
but he ran for president in 2012 as an unreconstructed neocon --
an ideology also embraced by Cruz, Rubio, and Kasich. (I briefly
turned on a recent GOP debate only to find Kasich answer another
question by demanding that the US send arms to the Ukraine. That
was, for me at least, the scariest single moment of the campaign
I've witnessed thus far.) It's not unlikely that Trump, who has
on purpose remained vague about most of his policy intentions,
will turn out to be as bad as any of the above, but Tucker isn't
reacting to Trump's agenda so much as to the aesthetics of his
whole campaign. My own take is that Trump is significantly the
least objectionable of the remaining Republican candidates. Also,
my intuition is that once elected, Trump will (more readily than
most) adjust to the confines of business-as-normal. (He will, for
instance, have a much easier time learning to go with the flow in
DC than a president Bernie Sanders would.)
I also want to note that during his business career, Trump has
actually built a few things. That's a pretty stark contrast to
Romney, whose business career mostly consists of buying up companies
and raping and pillaging them. I'm not saying that Trump has done
mankind many favors, but he's not a pure predator like Romney.
I'm not saying that Trump won't go bonkers over immigration:
that is, after all, his signature issue. And sure, he'll do lots
of other horrible things. Tucker tried enumerating some of those
in another post,
Mad World: Part I, although he does get carried away with the
I doubt your pro-Trump friends or family members will acknowledge that
the Republican frontrunner's mendacious mutterings about minorities are
what really attracts them to the former pro wrestling personality, so
it will be up to you to bring that issue up. Ask them if they are bothered
by the bigots in Boston who pledged allegiance to Trump after beating up
a homeless Latino man. Ask them if they are troubled by the violent assault
on an African-American man at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama. Ask
them to put themselves in the shoes of Muslim Republicans who are horrified
by Trump's religious intolerance. [ . . . ]
As I write this, I think of my own fears about a Trump presidency, fears
that quite literally keep me awake some nights. I'm troubled by the
thought of young and impressionable men and women thinking that Trump's
behavior is something that should be emulated. I fear that a President
who makes jokes about Megyn Kelly's menstrual cycle will escalate the
level of misogynist microaggression American women have to put up with
on a daily basis. I'm scared that President Trump's Supreme Court nominees
will make Antonin Scalia look like William Brennan. I worry that during
a Trump administration, we will see the worst racial violence since the
pre-civil rights era, with story after story of innocent Mexicans and
Muslims being lynched in the night.
From this you'd think that Trump is planning on relaunching the Brown
Shirts and Hitler Youth. No doubt there are elements of fascism in Trump
and his followers, but Trump spent much of his life working in a medium
where you snarl and gruff a lot but always pull your punches. No doubt
some of his admirers are more prone to violence, but we have that now.
Groups like Black Lives Matter aren't going away if Trump wins. They're
going to become more vigilant than ever.
Finally, it's hard to let the hyperbole about Scalia and Brennan
pass by without comment. I'm not much of an optimist, but I can't
imagine a supreme court justice worse than Scalia. Ok, if you credit
his brains there's Alito, or take away his wit and you get Thomas --
where do they get these guys? Well, they get them from central casting
at the right-wing think tanks, and they keep them in line by keeping
them on the conservative gravy train (otherwise justices have been
known to take the constitution too seriously -- Brennan being something
of the gold standard there). Ok, maybe Trump can find someone a shade
more corrupt and venal and flat-out evil than Scalia, but if anything
he's less likely to rubber stamp the next movement crony in line.
Still, here's something real to worry about:
Trump: We'll Prune Back 1st Amendment. Trump wants to make it easier
for rich people to sue the media for "libel." While this could cut both
ways, in America civil suits favor those with deep pockets, as those
without can hardly afford to defend themselves, while the rich can sue
to harass even if their cases have no merit.
More Trump links:
Conor Lynch: Charles Koch's deceptive Sanders ploy: How the right-wing
oligarch cloaks his dangerous agenda: Koch wrote an op-ed which
appeared in the Washington Post, the Wichita Eagle, and presumably
elsewhere, where he suggested that he shares at least one common cause
with Bernie Sanders: ending "corporate welfare." The op-ed still fell
far short of an endorsement: evidently ending "corporate welfare" is
actually less important to Koch than preventing government from providing
a wide range of services, including more affordable education and health
care, to the middle class, let alone taxing the rich to pay for it all.
The Kochs like to claim their opposition to "government picking winners
and losers" is based on sound economic principles, but the case examples
that they most care about are subsidies that make "green energy" more
cost-competitive with the fossil fuels the Kochs are so invested in.
On the other hand, what makes fossil fuels attractive economically is
that a large portion of the real costs of their use, especially air
and water pollution -- what economists call "externalities" -- is never
factored into the market price of coal and oil products. A simple way
to correct for these market distortions would be a carbon tax, which
is something else the Kochs are dead set against.
Growing up in Wichita, I've occasionally wondered whether it would
be possible to tempt the Kochs to support, even if only through their
professed libertarian lens, some progressive issues. (Disclosure: in
the 1970s I worked in a Wichita typesetting shop where one of my jobs
was to retype several books by Murray Rothbard, which the Kochs were
reprinting as part of their missionary work. So I do have some insight
into the philosophy they espouse as opposed to the corruption they
actually practice.) In particular, anyone concerned about the size
and reach of the federal government should be very critical about the
military-industrial complex and the dozens of federal spy agencies.
They should also be extremely concerned about "the war on drugs" and
similar excuses for building up a police state. The Kochs have spent
hundreds of millions of dollars promoting their narrow political views,
yet have never -- at least to the best of my knowledge -- contributed
a dime to the
Peace & Social Justice Center
of South Central Kansas, which is very active on those very issues.
Rather, they've spent a ton of money buying a congressional seat for
Mike Pompeo, who has turned into one of the worst neocons in Congress.
And they have thus far failed to kill off subsidies for windmills in
Kansas -- turns out too many (Republican) farmers depend on "corporate
Sean Illing: Delusional David Brooks: His blind spot for Republican
nihilism has become pathological: Could have filed this under Trump
as this is yet another explanation how the Republican Party has succumbed
to its intellectual and moral rot, but I figured it's worth quoting at
The Republican Party no longer aspires to governance. The Tea Party, an
offspring of Republican politics, is a nihilistic political movement.
Everyone one they've sent to Congress they sent for one reason: negation.
Under the guise of some nebulous goal to "take the country back," they've
done nothing but undermine Obama and destroy the possibility of compromise.
And this delirium has spread throughout the party. Recall that Republican
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said explicitly that the GOP's "top
political priority over the next two years should be to deny President
Obama a second term."
Only one party insists America is in perpetual decline. Only one party
puts the culture wars at the center of its agenda. Only one party cultivates
anti-intellectualism in its ranks. Only one party sold its soul to religious
fanatics. Only one party refuses to accept the legitimacy of a
democratically elected president.
It was Republicans who abandoned conservatism as a serious governing
philosophy. It was Republicans who repeatedly defied custom with radical
non-filibuster filibusters. It was Republicans who used the nation's
credit rating to blackmail the opposing party. It was Republicans who
threatened to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding.
And yet Brooks says our problem isn't "exclusive to the right"?
Well, Brooks would say that, wouldn't he? He knows that his bread is
buttered on the right. He understands that being a "conservative" pundit
is more of a career decision than a philosophical option. Once you agree
to carry water for the reactionary rich, you have to expect to get wet
now and then. It's not like he doesn't make a tidy living abandoning
any pretense of principles. As a bought man he'll always make excuses
for his proprietors, even when he can't understand them himself.
Bernie Sanders may be an outsider, but only in an ideological sense.
The man has served in public office for more than three decades. Trump
is a political arsonist with no ideas, no experience, no plan -- and
he's the most popular candidate in the party. With a grenade in one
hand and a half-articulated list of platitudes in the other, he's
brought the Republican Party to its knees. And that's because he's a
perfect distillation of the Republican zeitgeist. The establishment
doesn't approve, but Trump didn't emerge from a whirlwind -- he's an
unintended consequence of their cynicism.
Brooks is right: There is a metastasizing cancer in our body politic,
of which Trump is a symptom. But the disease flows from the compromises
of the Republican Party, a party increasingly of ideological troglodytes
with no interest in policy or compromise.
The Republican fringe has become the Republican mainstream, and the
country is the worse for it. Brooks is wise to lament that, but he
discredits himself by pretending this is a bipartisan problem with
bipartisan roots. This is a Republican problem -- and he knows it.
Martha Rosenberg: The FDA now officially belongs to Big Pharma:
I complained above about how Republican obstructionism against Obama
is only briefly lifted on occasions when Obama does something that
actively harms the Democratic Party base. The Senate's confirmation
of Obama appointee Robert Califf to head the FDA is a good case in
point. The vote for Califf was 89-4, with three Democrats (Markey,
Manchin, and Blumenthal) and one Republican (Ayotte) opposed.
(Sanders didn't vote, but spoke against Califf.) Nor is this the
first Obama favor to Big Pharma, as the ACA was written to their
Califf, chancellor of clinical and translational research at Duke
University until recently, received money from 23 drug companies
including the giants like Johnson & Johnson, Lilly, Merck,
Schering Plough and GSK according to a disclosure statement on
the website of Duke Clinical Research Institute.
Not merely receiving research funds, Califf also served as a
high level Pharma officer, say press reports. Medscape, the medical
website, discloses that Califf "served as a director, officer,
partner, employee, advisor, consultant or trustee for Genentech."
Portola Pharmaceuticals says Califf served on its board of directors
until leaving for the FDA.
In disclosure information for a 2013 article in Circulation,
Califf also lists financial links to Gambro, Regeneron, Gilead,
AstraZeneca, Roche and other companies and equity positions in four
medical companies. Gilead is the maker of the $1000-a-pill hepatitis
C drug AlterNet recently wrote about. This is FDA commissioner material?
Richard Silverstein: Another Mossad Assassination, This Time in
There are only a few things the Mossad is "good" at. And killing is the
primary one. They don't do much that's constructive. They don't make the
world better or safer for Israel. They don't bring peace. They don't
persuade people to compromise.
They kill. They cheat. They steal. They're good at all those things.
But how do those things do anything to help Israel in the long-term?
Yeah, they take out an enemy. But only to see a stronger, more
formidable enemy replace the one they murdered. Often, as in tonight's
case, they get revenge on someone who last posed any danger to any
Israeli decades ago. So what benefit is it to Israel to murder an
unarmed man (story in Telegraph and Ynet) who left militancy long
ago and was eking out a life as a shop owner in a foreign country
to which he'd fled so long ago?
Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:
Celebrating Allen Ginsberg 50 years after 'Wichita Vortex Sutra':
I was surprised to see this long feature piece in the Wichita Eagle.
After I dropped out of high school in 1967 I read a lot of poetry, and
Ginsberg was very important to me. I assembled a poetry notebook for
my younger brother when he was in ninth grade -- I had had a similar
assignment and by then I felt embarrassed at my own pathetic notebook --
and picked out over a hundred poems, typing up over 300 pages. I don't
recall whether I included "Wichita Vortex Sutra" -- if so it would have
been the longest thing in the notebook -- but I am pretty sure that the
first poem was Ginsberg's "Howl." By then I had a large poster of a
bushy-bearded Ginsberg, which I attached to the ceiling over the stairs
to my room with wallpaper paste. (My mother hated it. Unable to tear it
down she painted over it as soon as I left home.) My brother got kicked
out of school for that notebook -- the vice principal, who had been my
ninth grade science teacher (the one that turned me from a future in
science to never taking another science class) was especially livid.
We were both sent off to see a shrink, who found the whole episode
rather amusing. What I find amusing is that it only took fifty years
for upright Wichita citizens to honor the greatest piece of literature
ever situated in our fine burg.
Barbara Ehrenreich: Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in
the American City: Book review. Many stories. For example:
The landlord who evicts Lamar, Larraine and so many others is rich enough
to vacation in the Caribbean while her tenants shiver in Milwaukee. The
owner of the trailer park takes in over $400,000 a year. These incomes
are made possible by the extreme poverty of the tenants, who are afraid
to complain and lack any form of legal representation. Desmond mentions
payday loans and for-profit colleges as additional exploiters of the poor --
a list to which could be added credit card companies, loan sharks, pay-to-own
furniture purveyors and many others who have found a way to spin gold out of
human sweat and tears. Poverty in America has become a lucrative business,
with appalling results: "No moral code or ethical principle," he writes,
"no piece of scripture or holy teaching, can be summoned to defend what
we have allowed our country to become."
Tom Engelhardt: The Disappointments of War in a World of Unintended
Consequences: I agree that Edwin Starr answered the key question
with his 1970 hit song. Still, Engelhardt's litany of the sheer waste
that is devoured by America's war machine took me aback. On the other
hand, when he asks "has war outlived its usefulness?" I start to
wonder whether he's really going far enough.
Alfred McCoy: Washington's Twenty-First-Century Opium Wars:
Author wrote a book about the CIA's role in the heroin trade in
and around the Vietnam War, but that was so 20th-century. Since
2001 the world's heroin trade has moved to another American war
front: Afghanistan. The CIA's interest in heroin in war zones
seems to have been how handy the business was for producing cash
and corruption, but that works both ways as the Taliban has turned
itself into one of the world's leading drug cartels -- its own
potent source of cash and corruption.
Bill McKibben: It's Not Just What Exxon Did, It's What It's Doing:
We now know that Exxon had internal documents as early as 1982 that
acknowledged that global warming is a real (and possibly irreversible)
threat and is caused by burning fossil fuels. Exxon buried the report,
and hasn't become any more conscientious since.
Thursday, February 25. 2016
I suppose I should be looking past 2015 by now, but 77 (of 120,
so 64.2%) new records below were 2015 releases. Also, all but three
of the 43 2016 releases are jazz, almost all from my incoming queue.
I've mostly weaned myself from updating the
2015 EOY List Aggregate
file, although I continue to tack on my own grades when I get around
to things. Also continue adding things to my own
non-jazz EOY files --
after trailing all year, the new non-jazz A-list now leads the jazz
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records
from 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 January 31. Past reviews and more
information are available
here (7800 records).
The 3.5.7 Ensemble: Amongst the Smokestacks and Steeples
(2014 , Milk Factory Productions, 2CD): Group variously configured
as a trio, quintet, or septet, although there's too much fine print for
me to sort out which is which: full blown, you get tenor sax, trumpet,
clarinet, guitar, piano, bass, drums -- no one I recognize (except maybe
pianist Jim Baker). Probably based in Chicago -- one of the few covers
is from Fred Anderson (another is a Zimbabwean folk tune). Some stretches
make a strong impression, but others drag and in the end I don't much
Andy Adamson Quartet: A Cry for Peace (2015 ,
Andros): Pianist (credit is "keyboards" but the piano sketch on the
cover looks grand enough), first album (although the publicity photo
looks like gray hair), a quartet with Dan Bennett on sax, plus bass
(some electric) and drums. Original material, upbeat, sax wails.
Africans With Mainframes: Commission Number 3 (2015,
Bio Rhythm, EP): Chicago house duo, Nolelan Reusse and Jamal Moss
(better, but not only, known as Hieroglyphic Being), Discogs credits
them with nine singles/EPs since 2001. Three cuts, 21:40, fast beats,
went by so fast I'm not sure I heard it all.
The Alchemist and Oh No: Welcome to Los Santos (2015, Mass
Appeal): Sometime rappers but mostly hip-hop producers, each with more
than a half dozen or more records on their own, the schema here is to
"present" various artists -- a mix of soul, synthpop, and dancehall
with a commercial tie-in to a major video game.
Ancient Methods: Turn Ice Realities Into Fire Dreams
(2015, Hands, EP): Techno producer Michael Wollenhaupt, initiated this
alias in 2007 as a duo with Conrad Protzmann but continues solo. Four
cuts, 25:49. Engaging enough, but do I detect a bit of martial music,
or just the mechanical percussion of factory work?
Dave Anderson: Blue Innuendo (2015 , Label 1):
Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), has a couple previous albums, leads
a groove-oriented quartet here -- Pat Bianchi (organ), Tom Guarna
(guitar), and Matt Wilson (drums) -- something a little lighter than
soul jazz but very pleasant.
Thomas Anderson: Heaven (2016, Out There): Singer-songwriter
from Oklahoma, based in Austin, cut a self-released album in 1990 that
got him some notice and a few records on very small labels before he
landed back on his own with an equally fine album in 2012. This one
makes eight, and he's never been clearer or more straightforward, but
he has rocked harder, and been more amusing. Perhaps like me he never
figured heaven would be all that much fun.
Annie Girl and the Flight: Bodies (2015, United for
Opportunity, EP): Bay Area alt-rock group, has a couple albums before
this tight and catchy six song, 19:49 EP. Vocalist (who also plays
guitar) goes by the name Annie Girl, and signs her songs Annie.
Arca: Mutant (2015, Mute): Alejandro Ghersi, born
in Venezuela, raised in Brooklyn, second album plus a couple EPs.
Many short pieces, doesn't settle neatly into a groove, restless
I'd say, but more method than frenzy.
Allison Au Quartet: Forest Grove (2015 ,
self-released): Alto saxophonist from Toronto, second album, fronts
a quartet with keyboards-bass-drums, Felicity Williams credited for
voice on three tracks, lively but not exceptional postbop.
Adam Baldych & Helge Lien Trio: Bridges (2015,
ACT): Violinist from Poland, along with the Norwegian pianist's trio.
Hard to put my finger on it, but there's something special about this,
uh, chamber jazz.
Eszter Balint: Airless Midnight (2015, Red Herring):
Born in Hungary, not sure when or when she came to the US, but she
made her acting debut in 1984 (a Jim Jarmusch movie). She's recorded
intermittently, this her third album since 1999. A remarkable set of
songs. Also remarkable that no one noticed it until Christgau wrote
Beans on Toast: The Grand Scheme of Things (2015, Xtra Mile):
English folk singer Jay McAllister, much like American folk singers in
that he's low tech with simple songs marked by humor and humanity. At
some point I should check out the back catalog -- most with the same
cover design -- but this one starts with three memorable songs -- his
craft ("Folk Singer"), his manifesto ("The War on War"), and more craft
("Fuck You Nashville"), then follows it up with three more memorable
ones ("Lizzy's Cooking" is a favorite), or maybe eight. Inspirational
lyrics abound, my favorite: "I believe that everyone should just chill
the fuck out."
Debashish Bhattacharya: Slide Guitar Ragas From Dusk Till
Dawn (2015, Riverboat): Indian classical musician, b. 1963,
plays lap slide guitar, has a shelf full of records so I don't know
if this is a sampler or just another example.
Blue Muse: Blue Muse Live (2015, Dolphinium): From
Jacksonville, "specialize in playing jazz in church," although they
don't come off as especially gospel-oriented: more postbop, with
guitar-piano-bass-drums and vibraphone behind Sarah Lee's sax. Nice,
melodic, could function as muzak but doesn't fade so gently into the
Thomas Borgmann Trio: One for Cisco (2015 ,
NoBusiness): German saxophonist (soprano, tenor, toy melodica),
plays free, two twenty-minute-plus improvs with Max Johnson on
bass and Willi Killers drums (and voice). One of those limited
edition vinyl-only releases.
Brooklyn Blowhards: Brooklyn Blowhards (2015 ,
Little (i) Music): Mostly the work of Jeff Lederer (tenor/soprano
sax), with Petr Cancura (tenor sax), Kirk Knuffke (cornet, slide
trumpet), and Brian Drye (trombone) adding to the horn power,
accordion but no bass, three drummers, guest spots for Gary Lucas
(guitar) and Mary Larose (vocal). Mostly trad sea shanties mixed
in with Albert Ayler covers, gospels that get under your skin.
Turns solemn toward the end with "Shenandoah" and "The Seaman's
Jean-Luc Cappozzo/Didier Lasserre: Ceremony's a Name for the
Rich Horn (2014 , NoBusiness, EP): Trumpet-drums duo,
vinyl limited edition of 300, I'm not seeing the length of these two
parts anywhere but the vinyl is 10-inch and Discogs is treating it as
an EP, and a fair amount of that is sub- or barely-audible. [PS:
total time 19:46]
Brandi Carlile: The Firewatcher's Daughter (2015,
ATO): Singer-songwriter, half-dozen albums since 2005, started as
a folkie and could pass as country but not in Nashville -- coming
from Washington, not her natural milieu anyway. And like Courtney
Barnett, she's upped her game by rocking harder, leading with the
Chaise Lounge: Gin Fizz Fandango (2015 ,
Modern Songbook): DC-based cocktail jazz group, seventh album
(counting last year's least awful Xmas thing), guitarist-pianist
Charlie Barnett the putative leader. Singer Marilyn Older seems
intent on disappearing in the cover photo but is front and center
on the album. I'm not seeing song credits, but if these aren't
standards, some (e.g., "If I Never Get to Paris") should be. [PS:
All Barnett originals except for one Older lyric and "It's All
Right With Me" by Cole Porter.]
Christine and the Queens: Christine and the Queens
(2014 , Atlantic/Because/Neon Gold): Electropop project of
French singer-keyboardist Héloïse Letissier, the US release recycling
cover art and about half of the songs from her 2014 album Chaleur
Humaine, shifting some songs to English without losing her cool.
Benjamin Clementine: At Least for Now (2015, Virgin
EMI): Singer-songwriter, b. Benjamin Sainte-Clementine in London,
self-taught, busked in Paris, plays piano and guitar, first album,
has a broadly dramatic style which picks up bits of classical and
French chanson -- Nina Simone stands out among his reference points,
although I also hear echoes of David Bowie. Could become insufferably
pompous, but for now let's say he's pretty unique.
Avishai Cohen: Into the Silence (2015 , ECM): Trumpet
player from Israel, not to be confused with the bassist of the same name,
has at least eight albums, some as Third World Love, some as Triveni. He
composed these pieces following his father's death, and they are centered
on Yonathan Avishai's piano. With Eric Revis (bass) and Nasheet Waits
(drums), plus saxophonist Bill McHenry on three cuts. Inspiring in spots,
but mostly lovely.
Colleen: Captain of None (2015, Thrill Jockey): French
singer-songwriter, Cécile Schott, has a half-dozen albums since 2003,
music is mostly electronic, unusually captivating for ambient, vocals
mostly in English, much brighter than trip hop.
Jonah Considine: Golden Flu (2015, Nein, EP): Five
mixes of one title, total 32:19, the redundancy convincing me to treat
it as an EP. Electronic beats, heavy on the one.
Roxy Coss: Restless Idealism (2014 , Origin):
Tenor saxophonist, first album, self-released five years ago, wasn't
much good, but she's got a band, a label, and much more poise now,
with a light tone that likes to soar.
Czarface: Every Hero Needs a Villain (2015, Brick):
Joint venture of rapper Inspectah Deck and hip-hop duo 7L &
Esoteric, their second album together. Basically, underground rap
for comic book fans.
Diet Cig: Over Easy (2015, Father/Daughter, EP):
New York "slop pop band," actually formed upstate in New Paltz,
with a couple singles and this short (five songs, 10:06), catchy EP.
DJ Sandji: 100% Balani Show (2015, Sahel Sounds):
Mixtape of Balani Show hits assembled by a Bamako, Mali DJ. Fast,
"regularly pitched up," whizzes right past you.
DMX Krew: There Is No Enduring Self (2015, Breakin):
British electronica producer Edward Upton, has been in business since
1996. Keyboards, neat little rhythmic figures, doubt they're bouncy
enough to dance to but pleasant as they are, they never fade into
Dog Party: Vol. 4 (2015, Asian Man): Punk-pop duo
from somewhere in Northern California, first cut reminded me of '60s
girl groups, but they guy they were fawning over was dead, so maybe
they're postmodern after all. Post-Ramones too. Second album, unless
(like Rhapsody) you dismiss something that crams 13 songs into 29:36
as an EP.
Anderson East: Delilah (2015, Low Country Sound/Elektra):
Singer-songwriter from Alabama, cut his first album as Mike Anderson
before switching names for this major label debut. He draws on various
strains but most effectively emerges as a soul man -- I doubt it even
helps much to add the "blue-eyed" adjective.
Harris Eisenstadt: Old Growth Forest (2015 ,
Clean Feed): Drummer, from Canada, has at least a dozen albums since
2002 (AMG lists 16). Quartet, Jeb Bishop (trombone) and Tony Malaby
(tenor sax) the horns, Jason Roebke on bass. I'm a little surprised
that the horns don't make a bigger splash, but the rhythm undercuts
whatever they do, and is more interesting for that.
Ari Erev: Flow (2015 , self-released): Pianist,
from Israel, third album, half trio, adding Yuval Cohen's soprano sax
on five cuts, Gilad Dobrecky's percussion on four of those.
Father: Who's Gonna Get F***** First? (2015, Awful):
Atlanta MC, also known as Fatheraintshit, promises "12 tracks of pure
debauchery," but delivers them with a sly understatement, a precise
but cautious monotone over beats which barely register.
Mike Freeman ZonaVibe: Blue Tjade (2014 , VOF):
Vibraphonist, first record was called The Vibesman, this one
is a tribute to Cal Tjader, although the compositions are all Freeman
originals so the connection is in the, uh, vibe -- and bassist Ruben
Rodriguez, two Latin percussionists, and Jim Gailloreto's flute and
tenor sax. Some time ago I tried to figure out who was the most famous
jazz musician I didn't have a single record by, and somehow came up
with Tjader, so I'm no expert here. Still, the first half or so of
this album is really delightful, and it doesn't wind down badly.
Bill Frisell: When You Wish Upon a Star (2015 ,
Okeh): Jazz guitarist, perennial poll winner, may have done more than
anyone else over the last 30 years to expand the domain of jazz -- in
an early album he ranged from Ives to Madonna, but he's been most
successful at picking up strains of folk music. Here he mostly goes
for movie and TV themes, most bad unless your appetite for kitsch
is unbounded. With Eivind Kang on viola, Thomas Morgan on bass, Rudy
Royston on drums, and Peta Haden singing about half the pieces --
her "You Only Live Twice" is horrific but she turns in a marvelous
"Moon River" and nails "Happy Trails."
Fred Frith/Darren Johnston: Everybody Is Somebody Is Nobody
(2013-14 , Clean Feed): Guitar and trumpet, the former with a nice bag
of tricks which set the tone here. Johnston never really gets out ahead of
this, evidently satisfied to let the senior musician find his way.
Donnie Fritts: Oh My Goodness (2015, Single Lock):
Born in Florence, Alabama back in 1942, a keyboard player who found
success as a studio musician in Muscle Shoals, co-wrote the occasional
song with people you've heard of, cut an album in 1974 and a second
in 1997. This one is sort of a career recap, a project that attracted
quite a few guests but is held together by his quavery amateur voice.
Abba Gargando: Abba Gargando (2015, Sahel Sounds):
Tuareg guitarist from Timbuktu in the dessert of Mali, lays out
straightforward rhythmic vamps, some with chantlike vocals. Wedding
fare, I gather, though the amplifier distortion sometimes gets to
be a bit much, a dull but treacherous edge.
Charles Gayle/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Live at Jazzwerkstatt
Peitz (2014 , Jazzwerkstatt): The leader plays tenor sax
on the 28:16 opener, piano on the next three pieces (total 27:54), and
returns with his sax for the 10:14 encore. His sax is an old story, raw
and searching, and his piano embodies the same spirit.
Ginkgoa: EP Ginkgoa (self-released, EP): Nicolle
Rochelle (from New York) and Antoine Chatenet (from Paris) do "French
songs with an American vibe, American songs with French touch," from
pop to swing with electro beats. Four of them, anyway, 13:31, but
they're onto something.
Michael Monroe Goodman: The Flag, the Bible, & Bill
Monroe (2015, MammerJam): I could do without two of those
three, and I suspect that if cornered Goodman would choose Monroe
too. OK, maybe that's wishful thinking, but the title song is more
sentimental than jingoistic, and his bluegrass-infused honky tonk
is well honed.
Grandpa's Cough Medicine: 180 Proof (2015, self-released):
Urban Dictionary attributes the group's name to the movie Dumb and
Dumber: refers to alcohol, the hard stuff, but not necessarily 180
proof. Instrumentally they're a bluegrass band, more fixated on Saturday
night than Sunday morning, but they hardly sound as degenerate as they
advertise, even when Hank 3 guests.
William Clark Green: Ringling Road (2015, Bill Grease):
Singer-songwriter from Texas, went to college in Lubbock but was a
generation removed from the Flatlanders. Fourth album, chock full
of songs with country themes -- "Sticks and Stones," "Creek Don't
Rise," "Fool Me Once," "Old Fashioned," "Going Home" -- although I
find them a bit hard to hear through the heavy riffs and crashing
Haiku Salut: Etch and Etch Deep (2015, How Does It
Feel to Be Loved): Instrumental trio from England, three women with
many more instruments, some cuts focused in piano, others more with
electronics ("loopery and laptopery"). Wikipedia lists genres as
"folktronica, post-rock." I toyed with filing the under electronica
and even new age but they were better than that.
Nigel Hall: Ladies & Gentlemen . . . Nigel Hall
(2015, Feel Music Group): Retro soul man, born in DC in 1981, based
in New Orleans, first album, half original material, half covers,
mostly from the 1970s golden age. Goes for a classic soul sound, and
more often than not gets it.
Ross Hammond and Sameer Gupta: Upward (2015 ,
Prescott): Guitar-tabla duo. Gupta is from San Francisco, has some
classical training but has also worked on a couple albums with jazz
pianist Marc Cary (one under Gupta's name). His tabla leads here,
while the guitarist nips around the edges. Enchanting background
Anna von Hausswolff: The Miraculous (2015, Other
Music): Swedish singer-songwriter, normally plays keyboards but opts
for a "9,000 pipe Acusticum Organ" here, which gives the album a dank
churchly air with a whiff of brimstone.
Heads of State: Search for Peace (2015, Smoke Sessions):
Veteran group, some claim to being all stars: Gary Bartz (alto sax),
Larry Willis (piano), Buster Williams (bass), Al Foster (drums). Play
two Bartz tunes, seven covers -- Strayhorn, Carter, Coltrane, McLean,
Tyner for the title cut. Much as you'd expect, except milder -- as if
they've found that peace, or are just getting old.
Don Henley: Cass County (2015, Capitol): Voice still
familiar from way back when, though I don't recall hearing any of his
albums -- this is only the fifth since 1982. After a 15 year hiatus,
he recruited feature guests like a junior grade rapper, though less
to be sociable than, I suspect, to gauge his reputation in Nashville.
He draws some more estimable names than his own -- Merle Haggard,
Dolly Parton, Lucinda Williams, Miranda Lambert, also Mick Jagger
and Stevie Nicks. He doesn't need them, but he has his own limits.
Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Highest Engines Near/Near Higher
Engineers (2015 , Flat Langton's Arkeyes): Group founded
by poet Thomas Sayers Ellis and saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, with
others in unspecified roles. Starts in a school classroom and moves on,
at one point the rush of spoken word fragments coming so fast they
become disorienting, kind of like modern life. The saxophones (Devin
Brahja Waldman also contributes) are terrific.
Dre Hocevar: Collective Effervescence (2014 ,
Clean Feed): Percussionist, from Slovenia, has a couple previous
albums. This sounded to me like a bassist's album at first -- lots
of tortured low rumblings, but there is no bassist: I must have
been noting Lester St. Louis' cello and/or Philip White's electronics
and signal processing. Also with Bram De Looze on piano and, notably,
Chris Pitsiokos on sax.
Inventions: Maze of Woods (2015, Temporary Residence):
Electronica duo, Matthew Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions
in the Sky), second album.
Jason James: Jason James (2015, New West): Country
singer from Texas, has a couple self-released albums before this
effective debut. Has the trad country sound down pat, can draw out
a ballad and go to the honky tonk.
Matt Kane & the Kansas City Generations Sextet:
Acknowledgement (2014 , Bounce-Step): Drummer,
originally from Hannibal, Missouri, followed his jazz mue to Kansas
City. Has a couple piano trio albums, adds two saxes and a trumpet
here, playing a program of Kansas City musicians: Bobby Watson, Pat
Metheny, Ahmad Alaadeen (a KC-based saxophonist with several albums
in the 1990s).
Knife Pleats: Hat Bark Beach (2015, Jigsaw): Vancouver
alt-rock group, Rose Malberg the singer (as she's been in a series of
bands I'd never heard of). Twelve short, snappy songs, nothing over
2:34, total 26:18.
Lame Drivers: Chosen Era (2015, Jigsaw): New York alt-rock
group, described as their debut album but they seem to have been around
for a while. Chipper, catchy even.
Left Lane Cruiser: Dirty Spliff Blues (2015, Alive
Naturalsound): Blues-rock band from Fort Wayne, Indiana, complete
with wailing guitar, crunchy bass, pounding drums, and more than a
few reefer songs.
Urs Leimgruber/Alex Huber: Lightnings (2014 ,
Wide Ear): Saxophone-and-drums duo. Not specified here, but Leimgruber
usually plays tenor and soprano, rather prickly free jazz, doesn't
blow you away but keeps teasing at your ears.
Marilyn Lerner/Ken Filiano/Lou Grassi: Live at Edgefest
(2013 , NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio, the bassist having an
especially good outing, the piano probing, never too settled.
Mark Lyken/Emma Dove: Mirror Lands (2015, Time Released
Sound): Soundtrack, Dove is the filmmaker working in her native Scotland,
Lyken an "audio and visual artist." Calming piano, ambient landscapes,
scattered voices, including squawking seabirds.
Made to Break: Before the Code (2014 , Trost):
Ken Vandermark group, third album since 2011, with Christof Kurzmann
(electronics), Jasper Stadhouders (bass), and Tim Daisy (drums).
Another solid free jazz effort, but this particular group has never
blown me away.
J Mancera: Mancera #5 (2015 , self-released):
Alto saxophonist Jaime Mancera, from Bogota, Colombia, came to the US
in the 1990s, played in the house band at the Copacabana, not sure
what else. Debut album, all originals, backed by guitar, bass guitar,
keyboards, drums, percussion -- rich but steady grooves, vibrant sax,
the tunes sound to me like classic movie themes, or kitsch, or both.
Will Mason Ensemble: Beams of the Huge Night (2014
, New Amsterdam): Drummer, his Ensemble adding oboe, alto sax,
two guitars, bass, and a lot of voice -- rarely my favorite thing.
Aside from the voices, the music starts chamber then turns rockish,
picking up interest as it goes.
Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Orchestra: Galactic Parables:
Volume 1 (2013 , Cuneiform, 2CD): Cornet and electronics
from the leader, also big-theme compositions -- "The Arc of Slavery,"
"Helmets of Our Poisonous Thoughts," "Free Agents of Time" -- done
live at a festival in Italy with almost-big band, basically a merger
of his Chicago and Sao Paulo Undergrounds plus Damon Locks' spoken
word (which at first blush sometimes gets in the way).
Mekons/Robbie Fulks: Jura (2015, Bloodshot): A subset --
aven't found a credits list yet, and some press refers to the band as
"Mini-Mekons" -- of the great British country-punk band and label mate,
cut after a joint tour of Scotland in 2014 and sneak-released on very
limited Record Store Day vinyl. By the turn to English folk, I'd guess
that the missing Mekon is Jon Langford. Fulks can't quite fill those
Buddy Miller & Friends: Cayamo: Sessions at Sea
(2016, New West): Allegedly recorded on a cruise ship, something I can
imagine a journeyman with a serviceable twang doing, although I have
more trouble imagining all his "friends" packed on the same boat, only
joining him for one stock cover each. A mixed bag, with Kacey Musgraves,
Doug Seegers, and Richard Thompson on the plus side, Kris Kristofferson
and Lucinda Williams on the other.
Whitey Morgan & the 78s: Born, Raised & Live From
Flint (2011 , Bloodshot): Honky tonk band from Flint,
Michigan with a couple albums under their belt, the titular leader
born with the name Eric Allen. Half original drinking and/or cheating
songs, half covers ranging no further than Bruce Springsteen, closing
with a romp through "Mind Your Own Business."
Whitey Morgan & the 78s: Sonic Ranch (2015, Whitey
Morgan Music): Third studio album, self-released, can't find credits
or such, but nothing wrong with it as straightahead honky tonk/rock
Gilligan Moss: Ceremonial (2015, EMI, EP): New York
electronica producer, first EP (four songs, 18:57), vocals prominent
but window dressing, takes some surprising bounces.
Takami Nakamoto: Opacity (2014, HIM Media, EP):
Electronica producer/visual artist, based in Paris, creates a
pastiche of fascinating beats and effects, at least for five cuts,
Marius Neset: Pinball (2014 , ACT): Tenor
saxophonist from Norway, studied and lives in Copenhagen. Two early
albums didn't much impress me, but this is lively, festive even.
Backed by piano trio, with Ivo Neame also playing organ and keyboards,
and some guest spots -- strings, flutes, percussion.
No Fun: How I Spent My Bummer Vacation (2014 ,
Concrete Jungle): Yet another garage punk band, from Germany although
they sound more like California to me -- all English songs (except for
"Ode an die Freude," which seems self-explanatory enough), short ones
(12 add up to 26:37).
Nonch Harpin': Native Sons (2015 , self-released):
Fusion group, I guess, although I'm not sure between what and what --
maybe bebop and smooth jazz? Quintet, keyboards and guitar center, a
sax, bass, and drums. Guitarist Andy Markham has most of the writing
credits, with one tune credited to King Crimson people, another based
on something southeast Asian arranged by saxophonist Chinh Tran.
Novelist x Mumdance: 1 Sec EP (2015, XL, EP): Brit
grime MC Kojo Kankam -- just EPs, no albums yet -- working with Brit
electronica producer Jack Adams. Short (4 cuts, 11:58), snappy.
Eva Novoa: Butterflies and Zebras by Ditmas Quartet
(2015 , Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, from Barcelona,
based in Brooklyn, third album, a quartet with Michaël Attias (alto
sax), Max Johnson (bass), and Jeff Davis (drums), all of whom
contribute songs -- Davis' Monkish "Justin" is a highlight, but
throughout they break melodies up to set the notes free.
ObLik: Order Disorder (2014 , Ormo): French free
jazz sextet, no one I've heard of: Pierre-Yves Merel (tenor sax), Alan
Regardin (trumpet), Alexis Persigan (trombone), Cyril Trocchu (piano),
Fabrice Sylvain Didou (bass), L'Houtellier (drums), with the bassist
writing the compositions -- something which emphasizes group coherence
over freewheeling improvisation.
Matt Parker Trio: Present Time (2015 , BYNK):
Saxophonist, mostly tenor, some soprano, second album (plus one for
his retro group, the Candy Shop Boys). Trio with Alan Hampton (bass)
and Reggie Quinerly (drums), plus vocalist Emily Braden on three
cuts -- she can also go swing or modern.
Ken Peplowski: Enrapture (2015 , Capri):
Clarinet and tenor sax, a retro guy but not much of a swinger --
an early album presented him as Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool.
Quartet, backed by Ehud Asherie (piano), Martin Wind (bass), and
Matt Wilson (drums). All covers, ranging from Ellington and Waller
to Lennon/Ono and Manilow, all gentle and cool, quite lovely.
Danilo Pérez/John Pattitucci/Brian Blade: Children of the
Light (2015, Mack Avenue): Piano-bass-drums trio, all well
known to mainstream jazz fans if not exactly household names. The
pianist was born in Panama but has never been very close to Latin
jazz, and this is a thoughtful, finely detailed mainstream effort.
Physical Therapy: Hit the Breaks (2015, Liberation
Technologies, EP): Daniel Fisher, has a handful of EPs and DJ Mixes
since 2012, comes up with six hard-hitting beat tracks, good for 28:30.
PINS: Wild Nights (2015, Bella Union): Manchester
alt/indie quartet, all women, Faith Holgate singer-guitarist. No
idea why all sources capitalize group name. Second album, previous
is reportedly punkier but this one is crystal clear.
Pixel: Golden Years (2015, Cuneiform): Norwegian
group, bills itself as a pianoless quartet (like Baker-Mulligan,
maybe even Coleman-Cherry) with Jonas Kilmork Vemøy on trumpet and
Harald Lassen on sax, but bassist Ellen Andrea Wang also sings,
which gives them some pop appeal.
Valery Ponomarev Jazz Big Band: Our Father Who Art Blakey
(2014 , Zoho Music): Russian-born trumpet player, emigrated to US
in 1973 where he found employment in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (1977-80).
Benny Golson, who goes back even further with Blakey, guests on two tracks.
Mostly tunes from Blakey's bands, with Ponomarev adding to the credits.
The band does its job, especially on familiar gems like "Moanin'," and the
trumpet solos sparkle.
Protean Reality: Protean Reality (2015 , Clean
Feed): Spine has the title twice, so I'll accept that at the group
name. Still, I filed this alto sax trio in my database under Chris
Pitsiokis' name. Born 1990, he's been on a tear the last year or two.
This one has Noah Punkt (electric bass) and Philipp Scholz (drums).
Impressive show of free jazz technique, wears a bit thin.
Radical Dads: Universal Coolers (2015, Old Flame):
Alt/indie band from Brooklyn, a trio with two very hot guitarists --
singer Lindsay Baker and her husband Chris Diken -- and a drummer
from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Robbie Guerlin (evidently the other
singer), enveloping smart songs with cyclonic sound.
Jemal Ramirez: Pomponio (2015 , First Orbit
Sounds Music): San Francisco-based Latin jazz drummer, first album,
co-produced by vibraphonist Warren Wolf who is very prominent here.
With Howard Wiley (saxes), Joel Behrman (trumpet), Matthew Clark
(piano), John Shifflet (bass), and John Santos (percussion). Wolf
and Behrman contribute tunes, the rest coming from jazz sources --
Kenny Garrett's "J'Ouvert" is choice.
Renku: Live in Greenwich Village (2014 , Clean
Feed): Avant-sax trio -- Michaël Attias on alto, John Hébert on bass,
Satoshi Takeishi on drums -- named for their 2004 album. Fine group,
nice balance, much of interest, almost state of the art.
Rhythm Future Quartet: Travels (2015 , Magic
Fiddle Music): Acoustic string band -- violin (Jason Anick), bass
(Greg Loughman), two guitars (Olli Soikelli and Max O'Rourke) --
plays a chamber variant of gypsy jazz, unencumbered by drums but
with no shortage of rhythm.
Pete Rock: PeteStrumentals 2 (2015, Mello Music Group):
Hip-hop DJ/producer, had some hits as a 1994-94 duo with rapper C.L.
Smooth. Since then he's worked with other groups, occasionally dropping
a solo album like his first PeteStrumentals back in 2001. This
belated successor isn't all instrumental, but the vocals tend to be
repeat riffs, not open raps.
Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength &
Power (2015 , Rare Noise): Free jazz quartet, everything
joint-credited, presumably improvised on the spot. The trombonist has
done things like this in the distant past, none recently, and never has
he got the mix this right. Saft has emerged as an exceptional free jazz
pianist, and the bassist and drummer know the game.
Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Unity (2014 , Samo):
Guitarist, from and still based in Slovenia, has been prolific since
2003 or so. I don't quite get the significance of this trio being
"bassless" -- basically it's a sax trio with Julian Argüelles (sic:
should be Arguëlles) on soprano and tenor, John Hollenbeck on drums,
and a guitarist who can take charge instead of a bassist to fill out
the harmonics. Really takes off when he does.
J. Peter Schwalm: The Beauty of Disaster (2015 ,
Rare Noise): German composer, plays guitars, keyboards, drums, and other
electronics here, accompanied by various guests here and there. He's
cut a couple ambient albums with Brian Eno, and that's roughly where
this goes: a very calm, rather lovely piece of furniture music.
Travis Scott: Rodeo (2015, Grand Hustle/Epic):
Houston rapper, Jacques Webster, can't say I'm getting anything
out of this but also can't say why. Not underground, no bling
Seinabo Sey: Pretend (2015, Virgin): Afro-Swedish pop
singer, born there but father was a renowned Gambian musician. Debut
album after a couple EPs. Reportedly influenced by Alicia Keys and
Beyoncé, I hear more distant echoes of Nina Simone.
Shatner's Bassoon: The Self Titled Album Shansa Barsnaan
(2015, Wasp Millionaire): Jazz group from Leeds -- no one here named
Barsaan let alone Shatner, and no bassoon. Group name refers to a part
of the brain which under suitable drugs produces time distortion. No
idea what the title refers to. Two drummers (one, like the bassist and
the guitarist, doubling in electronics), electric keyboards, and Oliver
Dover on saxes and clarinets. Amusing sound mix, much promise, but runs
Shopping: Consumer Complaints (2014 , FatCat):
British post-punk trio -- Rachel Aggs (guitar, vocals), Billy Easter
(bass), Andrew Milk (drums) -- sharp enough, could amount to something
if the lyrics bear out their "healthy distrust of capitalism." Looks
like this was self-released in the UK in 2014, then reissued last year
when they were picked up by a label.
Shopping: Why Choose (2015, FatCat): Second album,
Christgau regards the two as "pretty much interchangeable," and that's
probably true, but this one struck me as a bit cleaner and clearer,
and minus a minor stumble in the middle.
Shopping: Urge Surfing (2015, self-released): Not
the British post-punk band above, a self-proclaimed "subway surf
punk" band from Brooklyn, or more precisely, "one dude in his laundry
room with 3 mics, a couple of guitars and a crappy, high latency
interface," plus "his lady" and a friend or two who happened to drop
in. Still, he/they make a lot of noise, excitement even.
Shopping: Gizzard Shingles (2015, self-released):
Cover reads "shopppping" -- their first album, 2014's Tuff
Noogies, read "SHOPPPING" so let's just say their identity
is confused. I'm a little confused too.
SK Simeon & Yaw Faso: Maskya (2015, Big Dada, EP):
Two Melbourne, Australia-based artists, at least one with roots in Uganda
although the dominant vocals are rooted in Jamaican dancehall. Beats by
the aptly named Machinedrum. Four cuts, two attributed to each, 13:46.
Dr. Lonnie Smith: Evolution (2016, Blue Note): Organ
player, got on the bandwagon around 1967, closer to fusion than to soul
jazz. He produced records regularly up to 1979, two in 1993-94, and he
refound his groove after 2000. First Blue album since 1970, produced
by Don Was who draws on labelmates from Robert Glasper to Joe Lovano.
flute, and a lot of rhythm. Strikes me as cluttered.
Mike Sopko/Simon Lott: The Golden Measure (2015
, self-released): Guitar-drums duo, the artists' names not on
the cover but the packaging is pretty minimal, like the concept:
punk jazz about sums it up, but being jazzbos there's nothing so
basic as pounding out a chord to a speeded up 4/4. But the attitude
fits, and punk has always been more about attitude than technique.
The Souljazz Orchestra: Resistance (2015, Strut):
Ottawa, Canada-based group, seventh album since 2005, basically a
combination of Afro-beat and vintage funk -- I flashed on Charles
Wright at one point -- with horns and extra percussion.
Vladimir Tarasov/Eugenius Kanevicius/Ludas Mockunas:
Intuitus (2014 , NoBusiness): Drums (percussion,
cimbalom, hunting horn), bass (electronics), and reeds (soprano and
tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet). Free jazz with some quirks.
Bruce Torff: Down the Line (2014-15 , Summit):
Keyboard player, second album, lined up some accomplished musicians --
Lew Soloff (two cuts, his last date, two weeks before his death),
Joel Frahm, Pete McCann -- but didn't hire a bassist (Ben Wittman
is the drummer).
Tribu Baharú: Pa'l Más Exigente Bailador (2015,
self-released): Colombian afro-champeta, from the Caribbean coast
(a champeta is a knife used by fishermen to descale fish), marked
by sweet soukous guitar, upbeat percussion, and whoops and shouts
with more affinity to zouk and reggaeton than to salsa or cumbia.
Some rough spots, but they overpower them.
Turnpike Troubadours: Turnpike Troubadours (2015, Bossier
City): Red Dirt band from Oklahoma, although their label name -- title
of their first album -- is a town in the northwest corner of Louisiana.
Fourth album. Lots of fiddle mark them as primeval country, but otherwise
they're pretty ordinary.
Twin Talk: Twin Talk (2014 , Ears & Eyes):
Sax trio -- Dustin Laurenzi on tenor, Katie Ernst on bass, Andrew Green
on drums -- not an avant thing. Ernst also sings several songs.
Ursula 1000: Voyeur (2015, Insect Queen): EDM project
of Alex Gimeno, a Brooklyn producer with nine albums plus EPs and
singles and remixes since 1999, spanning glam rock and cha cha and
exotica, though this one mostly pushes my disco buttons, the beats
sometimes reminding me of DJ Shadow. Ends with a change of pace, a
movie theme called "The Shadow of Your Smile" tarted up like in a
James Bond film.
Carlos Vega: Bird's Ticket (2015 , Origin):
Saxophonist, seems to be based in Chicago but teaches at Florida
A&M. First album I'm aware of -- AMG has it attached to a
singer-keyboardist who died in 1998. Quintet, Victor Garcia on
trumpet, plus piano/Rhodes-bass-drums. Latin jazz vibe, some
strong sax runs.
Ward Thomas: From Where We Stand (2015, WTW Music):
British country music duo, 20-year-old twin sisters Catherine and
Lizzy Ward Thomas. Their country fetish doesn't amount to much more
than a hejira to Nashville to record, but their straightforward
songs have some appeal, as do their harmonies.
Dan Weiss: Sixteen: Drummers Suite (2014 , Pi):
Sixteen musicians -- counting three vocalists who don't exactly sing --
but only the leader/composer is a drummer. (Well, Stephen Cellucci is
credited with percussion, and like Weiss and guitarist Miles Okazaki
with "vocal percussion" -- whatever that means.) Some remarkable music
here, very slippery, but I invariably gag on the vocal dressing, if
not the flutes and harps. Safe to say this will fare well in year-end
ballots, just not mine.
White Reaper: White Reaper Does It Again (2015,
Polyvinyl): Garage punk band from Louisville, quartet, includes a
keyboard for cheesy hooks that have been likened to bubblegum --
the sound reminds me of punk jokesters like the Rezillos (and, yes,
the Ramones), although they probably have more in common with recent
bands like the Go! Team. I'm sure I would have loved them back when
I was fourteen.
Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King (2016, Fader):
Spoken word artist, i.e., more poet than rapper, six albums since
2001, missed them all so maybe he should be a SFFR. Actually,
nearly all of this is sung, not that the lyrics don't jump out
from the sometimes catchy, often indecisive music. Politics too,
but I'm not getting as much there as I hear I should.
Worriers: Imaginary Life (2015, Don Giovanni):
Brooklyn garage punk band led by singer-songwriter Lauren Denitzio,
debut album, rips through 12 songs in 28:04, catchy and crunchy.
The Yawpers: American Man (2015, Bloodshot): Alt band
from Colorado led by Nate Cook, who may thank God he's an American man
but doesn't feel too blessed -- more like ashamed. Took a third play to
get past the first two songs and see everything else fall into place.
Reminds me of the Drive-By Truckers, minus the cornbread and molasses.
Yelawolf: Love Story (2015, Shady): Michael Wayne
Atha, white (well, part Cherokee) rapper from Gadsden, Alabama;
started underground, signed to Eminem's label, diversified -- I
don't get why this was an EOY pick at Saving Country Music [maybe
the fiddle stomp?], but he takes a wide range of rap stances
(including a couple of Eminem-like rants) and sings a lot.
Young Thug: Slime Season 2 (2015, self-released):
For some reason Rhapsody only has this volume and not the slightly
earlier Slime Season 1 (September 16) or the later Slime
Season 3 (February 16) -- such a prolific mixtape artist can
really keep the whatever flowing. He never struck me as much of a
thug, but his warbly voice is an endless fount of rhymes, some
rising to wit, most just enjoying his lowlife self.
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game
(2001 , Jazzed Media): Doug Richards has taught at Virginia
Commonwealth University since 1979, founding its Jazz Studies program
and forming the Great American Music Ensemble (GAME), which played
annual Kennedy Center concerts from 1990-97, but while I've found a
1992 Geoffrey Himes piece raving about them, I've yet to find any
evidence that they recorded -- until now, that is, and this has been
sitting on the shelf since 2001. I don't recognize anyone in the big
band, but they exemplify Gary Giddins' notion of repertory concert
jazz as well as I can imagine. And special guests violinist Joe
Kennedy Jr., singer René Marie, and especially Jon Faddis -- whose
Armstrong is as uncanny as his Gillespie -- go the extra mile. Mostly
familiar tunes, but that's half the fun.
Sheila Jordan: Better Than Anything: Live (1991 ,
There): A simply marvelous singer, well into her 80s now with nothing
new recorded/released since 2008, so these scraps from the past -- like
HighNote's 2012 release of Yesterdays, her 1990 duo with Harvie
S -- are especially welcome. This one, from a year later, also features
the bassist along with pianist Alan Broadbent. She's still remarkably
facile, singing out her band announcements, working in impromptu bits
to breakneck songs, making scat look easy.
Joëlle Léandre: No Comment (1994-95 , Fou):
Avant bassist from France, has a large discography going back to 1982.
Solo, nine numbered "No Comment" pieces picked up from two performances,
one in Vancouver, the other in Italy. The bass is fascinating enough,
but I can't stand the few short voice bits.
Nouakchott Wedding Songs (2015, Sahel Sounds): From
Mauritania, the northwest corner of the vast expanse of Sahara Desert.
Eleven tracks by eight artists -- Hussein Moktar, Sidibou ould Siyed,
and Idoumou ould Jeich are the repeaters -- no idea how old vintage
or anything else, although they promise a 12-page booklet with the CD.
Rough going, but not without moments of exhilaration.
Soft Machine: Switzerland 1974 (1974 , Cuneiform):
An important prog rock band founded in Canterbury in 1968, but by this
Montreux Jazz Festival performance singers Kevin Ayers and Robert Wyatt
had left, their seven numbered albums history, leaving only keyboardist
Mike Ratledge from the founders, with Allan Holdsworth (guitar), Karl
Jenkins (keyboards), and Hohnet Planet (soprano sax, oboe) among the
The Catheters: Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days
(2002, Sub Pop): Seattle group, seem like serious Stooges fans, singer
Brian Standeford sometimes affecting a remarkable Iggy impression.
Loud, a little clunky for punk. Phil Overeem loves it.
The Catheters: Howling . . . It Grows and Grows!!!
(2004, Sub Pop): Second (and last) album (having skipped the EP),
uncommonly fierce as these garage-punk bands go, not without an
occasional hook either.
Sheila Jordan: Confirmation (1975 , Test of Time):
Second album, released on East Wind thirteen years after her 1962 debut
(Portrait of Sheila), a year after she appeared on two remarkable
Roswell Rudd albums (the long out-of-print Numatic String Band
and Flexible Flyer, one of my all-time favorites). Backed by Alan
Pasqua (piano), Cameron Brown (bass), Beaver Harris (drums), and Norman
Marnell (tenor sax). She shows remarkable poise, especially on the first
two songs ("God Bless the Child," "My Favorite Things"), though some of
the rest slip past me.
Sheila Jordan: Believe in Jazz (2003 , Ella
Productions): Recorded during her 75th birthday tour, in Switzerland
with the Serge Forté Trio. Everything she did in this period was
masterful, but few pieces are more definitive than her "Everything
Happens to Me" here.
Sheila Jordan & E.S.P. Trio: Straight Ahead (2004
, Splasc(H)): With Roberto Cipelli's piano trio -- Attilio Zanchi
on bass and Gianni Cazzola on drums -- with "special guest" Paolo Fresu
(trumpet, flugelhorn). Title song comes from Abbey Lincoln/Mal Waldron,
but nothing with Jordan is very straight at this point, as the takes
difficult songs and makes them utterly personal. At this point she
usually just worked with a bassist, but Fresu is a treat.
Eva Novoa: Eva Novoa Trio (2010 , Fresh Sound
New Talent): Pianist from Barcelona, in a trio with Masatoshi Kamaguchi
(bass) and Marc Lohr (drums). All original material, impressive debut.
Eva Novoa: Eva Novoa Quartet (2010 , Fresh Sound
New Talent): Pianist, composed all tracks, adding alto saxophonist
Ernesto Aurignac to Masatoshi Kamaguchi (bass) and André Sumelius
(drums). Recoded in Barcelona, Novoa's home base, very smart postbop,
impressive all around.
PINS: Girls Like Us (2013, Bella Union): First album.
Punkier mostly in the sense that the songs are shorter, but not always
Saul Williams: Saul Williams (2004, Fader): Second
album, reportedly a musical advance although the help Williams brought
in comes not from hip-hop but left-leaning rockers -- Serj Tankian,
Alex de la Rocha, Ikey Owens. Brings some intensity, but I can't make
much out of it, even with politics on one's sleeve.
Saul Williams: The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy
Tardust! (2007 , Fader): Third album, music mostly
provided by Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails and various soundtracks).
Title echoes David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, but the album
leans forward, often hard.
Additional Consumer News:
Previous grades on artists in the old music section.
- Sheila Jordan: Portrait of Sheila (1962 , Blue Note): A-
- Sheila Jordan/Harvie Swartz: Old Time Feeling (1983, Muse): B+
- Sheila Jordan: The Crossing (1984 , Blackhawk): B+
- Sheila Jordan: Songs From Within (1989, M.A.): B+
- Sheila Jordan: Lost and Found (1990, Muse): A-
- Sheila Jordan/Harvie S: Yesterdays (1990 , High Note): A-
- Sheila Jordan: Heart Strings (1993, Muse): B+
- Sheila Jordan: From the Heart (1982-93 , 32 Jazz): B+
- Sheila Jordan/Cameron Brown: I've Grown Accustomed to the Bass (1997 , High Note): A-
- Sheila Jordan: Jazz Child (1997 , High Note): B
- Sheila Jordan: Little Song (2002 , High Note): A-
- Sheila Jordan/Cameron Brown: Celebration (2004 , High Note): A-
- Sheila Jordan: Winter Sunshine (2008, Justin Time): B+(**)
Everything streamed from 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
- [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
Wednesday, February 24. 2016
Seems like these book blurb columns involve a lot of "hurry up and
wait," or vice versa. Last one was
August 9, and before that
August 1, and
July 31, 2015. At that point I was so backlogged I was able to pump
out four 40-book posts in a little more than a week. I don't have nearly
that much backlog now -- certainly enough for one more post, but at the
moment a bit shy of two (current backlog count is 61, including a couple
books that won't be out until April). Still, if I keep researching, I
may get that third post.
I'm so far behind that I've managed to read several of these books:
Padraig O'Malley: The Two-State Delusion, Roberto Vivo: War:
A Crime Against Humanity, and Sarah Vowell: Lafayette in the
Somewhat United States. I've also started Jane Mayer: Dark
Money, and have Robert J Gordon: The Rise and Fall of American
Growth and Joseph Stiglitz: Rewriting the Rules of the
American Economy waiting on the shelf.
Diane Ackerman: The Human Age: The World Shaped by Us
(2014; paperback, 2015, WW Norton): She has written poetry, children's
books, and some fifteen non-fiction books, some quite personal but a
couple taking on very broad topics -- like A Natural History of the
Senses (1990) and A Natural History of Love (1994). This
one explores the many ways humans have reshaped the world to their own
tastes and interests, an extraordinarily profound story, one that's
hard to wrap one's mind around if only because the change has been so
Mary Beard: SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2015,
Liveright): A history described both as sweeping and concise (608 pp)
of Rome and its Empire from foundation up to 212 CE when Caracalla
extended Roman citizenship to all non-slaves throughout the empire --
as good a date as any to avoid having to deal with the Empire's
decline and fall.
Bill Bryson: The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an
American in Britain (2016, Doubleday): An American who writes
humorous books about the English language and travels (thus far to
English-speaking countries) and occasionally stretches for something
like A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003). Born in Iowa,
he's spent most of his adult life in Great Britain, writing Notes
From a Small Island (1996) before moving back to the US, and now
this second travelogue to Britain after returning. Probably charming
and amusing, smart too.
Hillel Cohen: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 1929
(paperback, 2015, Brandeis): Israeli author, has written two important
books on Arab collaborators before and after Israel's founding -- Army
of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration and Zionism, 1917-1948 (2008),
and Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs,
1948-1967 (2010, both University of California Press) -- reviews the
pivotal 1929 Arab riots, which led to expansion of the Haganah forces,
and in 1936-39 the much larger and deadlier Arab revolt. As for "year
zero," historians can pick and choose; e.g., Amy Dockser Marcus opted
for 1913 in Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Michael Day: Being Berlusconi: The Rise and Fall From Cosa
Nostra to Bunga Bunga (2015, St Martin's Press): Biography
of the Italian media mogul who parlayed wealth and power into three
terms as prime minister of Italy, which helped him gain even more
wealth and power, give or take occasionally getting "bogged down by
his hubris, egotism, sexual obsessions, as well as his flagrant
disregard for the law." All the timelier given how Donald Trump
threatens to repeat the feat. By the way, Berlusconi is currently
estimated to be worth about three times what Trump is ($12-to-$4
billion), but that's after Berlusconi has been prime minister, and
before Trump becomes president.
EJ Dionne Jr: Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism From
Goldwater to the Tea Party and Beyond (2016, Simon &
Schuster): Journalist, leans liberal, has covered politics for a
long time and written books like Why Americans Hate Politics
(1991), They Only Look Dead: Why Progressives will Dominate the
Next Political Era (1996), Stand Up, Fight Back: Republican
Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the Politics of Revenge (2004),
Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious
Right (2008), and Our Divided Heart: The Battle for the
American Idea in an Age of Discontent (2012). Much wishful
thinking there, oft frustrated by the increasingly fervent (do I
mean desperate?) right-wing, which he finally tries to face up to
Reese Ehrlich: Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War
and What the World Can Expect (2014, Pegasus): It may be
decades before anyone writes a definitive history of the many facets
of Syria's civil war, if indeed it is over then. Meanwhile, we get
small facets of the story from many scattered observers, and I doubt
this one is any different (despite the forward by Noam Chomsky, who
is nearly always right, unpleasant as that may be). Other recent
books on Syria (aside from ISIS, which are probably more numerous):
Leon Goldsmith: Cycle of Fear: Syria's Alawites in War and Peace
(2015, Hurst); Nader Hashemi/Danny Postel, eds: The Syria Dilemma
(2013, The MIT Press); Emile Hokayem: Syria's Uprising and the
Fracturing of the Levant (paperback, 2013, Routledge); David W
Lesch: Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad (rev ed, paperback,
2013, Yale University Press); Jonathan Littell: Syrian Notebooks:
Inside the Homs Uprising (2015, Verso); John McHugo: Syria: A
Recent History (paperback, 2015, Saqi); Christian Sahner:
Among the Ruins: Syria Past and Present (2014, Oxford University
Press); Bente Scheller: The Wisdom of Syria's Waiting Game: Foreign
Policy Under the Assads (2014, Hurst); Stephen Starr: Revolt in
Syria: Eye-Witness to the Uprising (rev ed, paperback, 2015,
Hurst); Samar Yazbek: The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered
Heart of Syria (paperback, 2015, Rider); Diana Darke: My House
in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution (paperback,
2015, Haus); Robert Fisk et al: Syria: Descent Into the Abyss
(paperback, 2015, Independent Print); Robin Yassin-Kassab/Leila
Ali-Shami: Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War
(paperback, 2016, Pluto Press).
Jack Fairweather: The Good War: Why We Couldn't Win the War
or the Peace in Afghanistan (2014, Basic Books): I remain
stumped about what was so good about the war. The fact that American
public opinion was more unified in favor of attacking Afghanistan
than Iraq didn't make a bit of difference. The war may have polled
as high as the war against Nazi Germany, but there was no depth, no
commitment, beyond the polling, and even less understanding. The
book is probably stronger on why it all went so wrong.
Richard Falk: Palestine: The Legitimacy of Hope
(paperback, 2014, Just World Books): A collection of essays since
2008 when Falk was appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on
human rights issues in Occupied Palestine (his tenure there ended
in 2014). Falk was a law professor who took an early interest in
war crimes, especially regarding the Vietnam War -- cf. Crimes
of War (1971, Random House), written and edited with Gabriel
Kolko and Robert Lifton. He also has a newer essay collection out,
Chaos and Counterrevolution: After the Arab Spring (paperback,
2015, Just World Books).
Henry A Giroux: The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking
Beyond America's Disimagination Machine (paperback, 2014, City
Lights): Canadian educator and culture critic, has written books like
Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism
(2011, Peter Lang). Essays include "America's Descent Into Madness" --
"The stories it now tells are filled with cruelty, deceit, lies,
and legitimate all manner of corruption and mayhem. The mainstream
media spin stories that are largely racist, violent, and irresponsible --
stories that celebrate power and demonize victims, all the while
camouflaging their pedagogical influence under the glossy veneer
of entertainment" -- and "The Vanishing Point of US Democracy."
Robert J Gordon: The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The
US Standard of Living Since the Civil War (2016, Princeton
University Press): For 100 years after the Civil War, technological
advances dramatically stimulated growth and raised living standards.
However, from about 1970 on, growth rates have slowed markedly, and
we seem to have entered a period of long-term stagnation. James K
Galbraith, in The End of Normal: The Great Crisis and the Future
of Growth, made a similar argument, but this goes much deeper
into the changes wrought by the century of high growth. As for the
future, we've already seen one consequence of slack growth: to keep
profit levels up to expectations, investors have sought political
favors and increasingly engaged in predatory behaviors (something
often called financialization). Sooner or later the other shoe is
bound to drop, as workers (and non-workers) who had been promised
growth and wound up suffering from stagnation inevitably seek to
regroup. Meanwhile, as Gordon points out, things like increasing
inequality further dampen growth, further fueling the need for change.
Greg Grandin: Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's
Most Controversial Statesman (2015, Metropolitan Books): More
like America's premier war criminal, a point we need to keep stressing
as he continues to woo war-friendly politicians of both major parties.
Grandin, whose books include Empire's Workshop: Latin America, the
United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism (2006), wants to
delve deeper, going beyond Kissinger's own acts to explore his influence
on America's peculiar self-conception as an empire. I'm not sure how
much neocon nonsense can really be pinned on Kissinger, but if I did
wonder this would be the place to start. Amazon thinks if you're curious
about this you'll also be interested in Niall Ferguson: Kissinger:
1923-1968: The Idealist (2015, Penguin Press). You won't be.
Ran Greenstein: Zionism and Its Discontents: A Century of
Radical Dissent in Israel/Palestine (paperback, 2014, Pluto
Press): Surveys various political movements and thinkers based in
Israel/Palestine who rejected the politics of Zionist dominance,
starting with Ahad Ha'am in the 19th century, continuing through
the Communist Party, the various Palestinian movements, and the
Matzpen movement up to the 1980s.
Ann Hagedorn: The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced
Our Security (2014; paperback, 2015, Simon & Schuster):
As I recall, when Bush I set out to attack Iraq in 1990, the US
moved over 600,000 troops into position. When Bush II decided to
invade Iraq, the US went with a little over 100,000 troops. The
main difference was that in the intervening years the Military had
contracted out vast numbers of support jobs -- logistics, food,
that sort of thing. Over the course of the Iraq and Afghanistan
wars, the outsourcing expanded to security, and the mercenaries
they hired became increasingly common and unaccountable for their
actions. (You may recall, for instance, that when Fallujah first
revolted, the Americans they hung from that bridge were contractors.)
That's what this book is about. I'm a little surprised Hagedorn
wrote this book, since the main thing I had read by her was a
magnificent slice of history, Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in
America, 1919 (2007; paperback, 2008, Simon & Schuster).
Jeff Halper: War Against the People: Israel, the Palestinians
and Global Pacification (paperback, 2015, Pluto Press): Head
of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and author of one
of the most trenchant short analyses of Israel's "matrix of control"
over the Palestinians, takes a deeper look at Israel's technologies
of control, including how they are exported elsewhere in the world.
Doug Henwood: My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency
(paperback, 2015, OR Books): All the dirt on Clinton, at least as viewed
from the left, a perspective which reveals her as a corporate shill and
inveterate warmonger. Henwood mostly writes about economic issues, in
Left Business Observer. Other books tackling Clinton from the left
include: Diana Johnstone: Queen of Chaos: The Misadventures of Hillary
Clinton (paperback, 2015, CounterPunch), and Liza Featherstone, ed:
False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton (paperback,
2016, Verso [June 16]).
Alistair Horne: Hubris: The Tragedy of War in the Twentieth
Century (2015, Harper): Argues that the many major wars of
what the late Gabriel Kolko summed um as Century of War (1994)
turned on excessive hubris of one side or the other ("In Greek tragedy,
hubris is excessive human pride that challenges the gods and ultimately
leads to total destruction of the offender" -- in reality the US has
been a repeat offender without paying the ultimate price). Huge topic,
but to provide depth of battle detail Horne limits his study to six
cases: Tsushima (1905), Mononhan (1939), Moscow (1941), Midway (1942),
Korea (1950), and Dien Bien Phu (1954).
Michael Hudson: Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites
and Debt Destroy the Global Economy (paperback, 2015, Islet):
Unorthodox economist, has seen this coming for a long time and
written many books about it -- most recently The Bubble and
Beyond: Fictitious Capital, Debt Deflation and Global Crisis
(2012), and more presciently an essay on "the coming real estate
collapse" in 2006. As I've tried to point out, the function of
debt today has little to do with putting savings to productive
work, and much to do with allowing people who can't afford it to
keep up appearances until they crash. Needless to say, this is
unsustainable -- not that governments haven't struggled heroically
to keep the bankers solvent.
Rafael Lefevre: Ashes of Hama: The Muslim Brotherhood in
Syria (2013, Oxford University Press): I pulled this out of
the long list of Syria books (see Reese Ehrlich) because it stands
out: the focus is on the 1982 Hama uprising and Hafez Assad's brutal
suppression (over 20,000 killed, mostly in an artillery barrage of
the liberated city). The Muslim Brotherhood led the uprising, and
returned two decades later as an activist faction in Syria's "Arab
Spring" demonstrations -- also met brutally, resulting in the civil
war that has killed another 200,000 (not that any of these estimates
Les Leopold: Runaway Inequality: An Activist's Guide to Economic
Justice (paperback, 2015, The Labor Institute Press): Labor
economist, previously wrote a couple of primers on how Wall Street has
ripped off America -- The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game
of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity
(2009), and How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds
Get Away With Siphoning Off America's Wealth (2013). Has lots of
"easy-to-understand charts and graphs," goes beyond explaining predatory
finance to note how other key issues ("from climate change to the exploding
prison population") are connected to economic inequality, and offers
activists a guide for doing something about this central problem.
Mike Martin: An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand
Conflict, 1978-2012 (2014, Oxford University Press): Author
was attached to British forces occupying Helmand in 2006 -- a Pashtun
province on the southern border of Afghanistan, also the locale for
Rajiv Chandrasekaran: Little America: The War Within the War for
Afghanistan (2012, Knopf) -- but speaks Pashto and was able to
record the bewildered thoughts of the locals, as well as the equally
confused thinking of the occupiers. The levels of misunderstanding
here should give anyone pause. Noteworthy here that he extends his
coverage of the conflict to include both Soviet and US/UK forces,
occupations with more than a little in common.
Paul Mason: Postcapitalism: A Guide to Our Future
(2016, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Argues that capitalism will change
in the near future, mutating into something new, shifting the economy
away from its basis on "markets, wages, and private ownership." He
adds, "This is the first time in human history in which, equipped
with an understanding of what is happening around us, we can predict
and shape the future." I have no idea how he works this out, but I
started thinking about "post-capitalism" back in the 1990s. In my
case the initial insight was the realization that it is possible to
engineer economic systems and thereby consciously direct development
instead of waiting for the invisible hand to lead us around. I also
realized that the infinite growth required by capitalism must sooner
or later give way to ecological limits. These appear to be common
themes, but of course the devil's in the details. I would reject,
for instance, Hayek's rule that all planning leads to tyranny, but
I don't think you can just hand-wave that; there's too much history
to the contrary.
Jane Mayer: Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires
Behind the Rise of the Radical Right (2016, Doubleday): Give
a guy a billion dollars and all of a sudden he thinks he can recruit
some politicians and hoodwink the public into voting fot them. It's
really just a case of extraordinary hubris, a sense of self-appointed
privilege combined with utter disdain for democracy. Take the Kochs,
for instance -- Mayer has already reported on them in The New
Yorker, and they seem to account for a big chunk of this book,
but they are hardly alone. As I recall, Newt Gingrich blamed his loss
to Mitt Romney in 2012 to only having one billionaire backer vs. five
for Romney. In this state of corruption, sometimes a handful of voters
can shape history, maybe even prevent democracy from working to the
benefit of the majority.
Sean McMeekin: The Ottoman Endgame: War, Revolution, and the
Making of the Modern Middle East, 1908-1923 (2015, Penguin):
The old adage is "history is written by the victors" -- a rule which
has served to distort and largely bury one of the major stories of the
early 20th century: the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. Even David
Fromkin's brilliant A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern
Middle East, 1914-1922 skips over the revolt of the Young Turks
and the two Balkan Wars that set the stage for the Ottoman entry into
the Great War, which has the effect of making much of what the Ottoman
triumvirate did during the war seem nonsensical (and possibly insane).
McMeekin attempts to correct this partly by starting earlier, but also
by researching deeper into newly opened Ottoman and Russian archives.
But also, I suspect, because history has finally shown the Anglo-French
"victory" to be hollow and bitter indeed.
Aaron David Miller: The End of Greatness: Why America Can't
Have (and Doesn't Want) Another Great President (2014, St
Martin's Press): Washington on the cover. His most striking trait
was a desire to be seen as disinterested, a leader who only sees to
the public interest, never to his personal one. Needless to say,
such people are scarce today, not so much because they don't exist
as because they don't promote themselves in the manner of would-be
presidents. On the other hand, there are great egos who would dispute
this thesis, notably Donald Trump, who hope to lead a nation to its
greatness, doing all manner of great things. For such cases, I can
imagine two books: one explaining why they will fail, the other why
what they sought was never desirable in the first place. I doubt
that Miller has written either.
Ian Millhiser: Injustices: The Supreme Court's History of
Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted (2015,
Nation Books): Reminds us that throughout history the Supreme Court
has more often than not been an entrenched conservative activist --
it is only thanks to Franklin Roosevelt (and a few successors, with
Nixon starting the revanchist return) that we have been fortunate
enough to have grown up with a Court that actually expanded human
rights. Of course, the recent growth of the conservative cabal has
given the author more to complain about. Indeed, the subtitle could
well be the Roberts' Court's motto.
David Niose: Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America
From the Attack on Reason (2014, St Martin's Griffin):
Legal director of the American Humanist Association, has focused
defending the secular nature of American democracy -- his previous
book was Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans
(2012; paperback, 2013, St Martin's Griffin) -- but is worried not
just by the right's religiosity but by its increasingly dogmatic
attacks on reason.
Padraig O'Malley: The Two-State Delusion: Israel and Palestine --
A Tale of Two Narratives (2015, Viking): Author has extensive
experience in the reconciliation of conflicts in Northern Ireland and
South Africa, giving him some perspective here. Hard to tell whether
the focus on competing narratives is just a license to spin bullshit,
but he's right that the power imbalance is what precludes every effort
at reconciliation. Actually, I'm curious how he works this out -- as
someone who occasionally thinks of writing a book along these lines:
why is something so seemingly easy to reason out so impossible for
the people who need to do it? The answer, of course, has to do with
relative power: in particular, the one side who feel they don't have
to do anything.
Dirk Philipsen: The Little Big Number: How GDP Came to Rule
the World and What do Do About It (2015, Princeton University
Press): Gross Domestic Product is a measurement of the overall size
of an economy (usually expressed per capita), but it is at best a
very coarse number, tied to growth in marketable goods and services,
but not so much to a better, let alone a sustainable, standard of
living. Many other writers have questioned the value of GDP as a
measurement; e.g., Joseph E Stiglitz, et al., Mismeasuring Our
Lives: Why GDP Doesn't Add Up (2010).
Ted Rall: After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back as
Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan (2014, Hill &
Wang): A "graphic journalist," Rall made two extended trips to
Afghanistan, one shortly after 9/11, the other ten years later,
recording his observations here, as well as some history -- if
you don't know it, at least it goes down fast and easy. Recent
Rall books include The Book of Obama: From Hope and Change
to the Age of Revolt (paperback, 2012, Seven Stories Press),
and Silk Road to Ruin: Why Central Asia Is the Next Middle
East (2nd ed, paperback, 2014, NBM Publishing). Before that,
The Anti-American Manifesto (paperback, 2010, Seven
Stories Press), which I found excessive, shrill, unfunny. More
recently, Rall wrote and illustrated Snowden (paperback,
2015, Seven Stories Press) and Bernie (paperback, 2016,
Seven Stories Press).
Pierre Razoux: The Iran-Iraq War (2015, Belknap Press):
Big (688 pp) book on one of the largest and longest wars of the last
fifty years, lasting from 1980-88, costing close to a million lives --
little understood in the West, the US in particular taking an attitude
that both sides should kill off the other. This book evidently goes
beyond the immediate conflict to look at how other nations related to,
and encouraged, the war. Also available: Williamson Murray/Kevin M
Woods: The Iran-Iraq War: A Military and Strategic History
(paperback, 2014, Cambridge University Press). Before these books,
the standard was probably Dilip Hiro: The Longest War: The Iran-Iraq
Military Conflict (paperback, 1990, Routledge).
Robert B Reich: Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the
Few (2015, Alfred A Knopf): Supposedly one of Bill Clinton's
longtime buds, taught government, staked out his politics in 1989
with The Resurgent Liberal, then in 1991 wrote The Work
of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism
which contain two major concepts, one spectacularly wrong (his
idea that as trade policies liberalize the US will more than make
up losses in manufacturing jobs with new "symbolic manipulator"
jobs), the other alarmingly right (that the rich were withdrawing
from community life to their gated communities and retreats, from
which they will cease to care about the fate of the lower classes).
Clinton liked this thinking so much he made Reich Secretary of
Labor, a job Reich filled capably if not exactly happily (cf. his
memoir, Locked in the Cabinet). Since leaving Clinton, he
has continued to wobble leftward, writing optimistic books about
politics (Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America
in 2004) and business (Supercapitalism in 2007), on the
other hand reacting when it all goes wrong (Aftershock in
2010 and Beyond Outrage in 2012, the subtitle still ending
with How to Fix It. So figure this as more of everything:
after all, the only thing wrong with capitalism is the capitalists,
who somehow in their personal greed forgot that the magic system
is supposed to make life better for everyone.
Dennis Ross: Doomed to Succeed: The US-Israel Relationship
From Truman to Obama (2015, Farrar Straus and Giroux): Author
has been an advisor to three US presidents helping them to screw up
numerous efforts to bridge the Israel-Palestine conflict, and in the
meantime has worked for Israeli think tanks, his most consistent
allegiance. In other words, he is an American who can always be
counted on to take the position that "Israel knows best" -- his
maxim for reconstructing a longer stretch of history. ("Ross points
out how rarely lessons were learned and how distancing the United
States from Israel in the Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush, and Obama
administrations never yielded any benefits and why that lesson
has never been learned.") If the title seems oblique, read it
this way: the surest way to doom any chance for peace for Israel
and Palestine is to involve Dennis Ross.
Andrew Sayer: Why We Can't Afford the Rich (2015,
Policy Press): Shows how the rich ("the top 1%") have used their
political clout "to siphon off wealth produced by others," and
goes further to argue that their predation is something the rest
of us can no longer afford -- a far cry from the common notion
that we are so obligated to the "job creator" class that we need
to sacrifice our own well being to stroke their egos. Author has
previously written books like: Radical Political Economy:
Critique and Reformulation (1995), The Moral Significance
of Class (2005), and Why Things Matter to People: Social
Science, Values and Ethical Life (2011).
Kevin Sites: Swimming With Warlords: A Dozen-Year Journey
Across the Afghan War (paperback, 2014, Harper Perennial):
War reporter, previously wrote In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year,
Twenty Wars (paperback, 2007, Harper Perennial), and The
Things They Cannot Say: Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You About What
They've Seen, Done or Failed to Do in War (paperback, 2013,
Harper Perennial). Sites first entered Afghanistan to join the
Northern Alliance in 2001, and on his sixth tour retraced his
footsteps in 2013 to ask what has changed. Some stuff, but it's
not clear for the better.
Timothy Snyder: Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and
Warning (2015, Tim Duggan): The recent author of Bloodlands:
Europe Between Hitler and Stalin (2010) narrows his focus on the
Nazi Judeocide, not just what happened but on why. He comes up with a
rather original theory of Hitler's mind, something about resources and
ecology, and adds that "our world is closer to Hitler's than we like
to admit, and saving it requires us to see the Holocaust as it was" --
hence the "warning." I wonder whether obsessing on the need to "save
the world" isn't itself an invitation to overreach (not to mention
overkill). But then I tend to think of the Holocaust as a contingent
quirk of history, not some cosmological constant.
Joseph E Stiglitz: Rewriting the Rules of the American Economy:
An Agenda for Growth and Shared Prosperity (paperback, 2015,
WW Norton): Practical proposals for reducing inequality, restoring
the sense that the United States is "the land of opportunity, a place
where anyone can achieve success and a better life through hard work
and determination." That reputation has been blighted by stagnation
as the rich have managed to use their political and economic clout to
capture an ever-increasing share of the nation's wealth. Stiglitz,
one of our finest economists (Krugman's preferred term is "insanely
great"), has been working on this problem for a while now, including
his books The Price of Inequality: How Today's Divided Society
Endangers Our Future (2012), and The Great Divide: Unequal
Societies and What We Can Do About Them (2015).
Roberto Vivo: War: A Crime Against Humanity (paperback,
2015, Hojas del Sur): Born in Uruguay, CEO of "a global social communications
media firm" in Buenos Aires, has put together a global history and virtual
legal brief to outlaw war. The impulse is sensible -- common recognition
of the law, whether from respect or fear, is the main reason we haven't
sunk into a Hobbesian "war of all against all" mire -- and indeed at some
points enjoyed broad international support. That's probably true today,
too, but it only takes one country that insists on flexing its muscles
and putting its self-interest above peaceful coexistence to spoil the
understanding. In the 1930s, for instance, Germany and Japan were such
outlaw countries. Today it's mostly the United States and Israel (and
one could argue Saudi Arabia, Russia, and/or Turkey). Vivo makes his
case logically and succinctly, but he doesn't really face up to the
infantile nations that put so much stock in their warmaking skills and
so little in international law.
Sarah Vowell: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States
(2015, Riverhead): Starting with an MA in Art History, she went into
radio, wrote some essays, and found a niche writing popular history,
starting with Assassination Vacation, her travelogue to the
historical sites of murdered presidents. Since then her histories
have become more conventional: The Wordy Shipmates (2005,
on the Puritans), and Unfamiliar Fishes (on the takeover of
Hawaii). Here she recounts the American Revolution by focusing on
Washington's French sidekick, and the early nation viewed from
Lafayette's 1824 return visit.
Lawrence Wright: Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin,
and Sadat at Camp David (2014, Knopf; paperback, 2015, Vintage
Books): A day-by-day account of the 1979 Camp David negotiations between
Egypt and Israel over return of the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and, as it
turns out, damn little else -- still, the only significant time that
Israel could be bothered to sign a peace agreement with a neighbor. (I
don't much count the later treaty with Jordan.) Wright previously wrote
The Leaning Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (2006, Knopf),
a valuable book on the thinking behind the attack.
Next batch of 40 sometime next week.
Monday, February 22. 2016
Music: Current count 26298  rated (+32), 420  unrated (-2).
Skipped Weekend Roundup again. Instead, I cooked up a relatively
simple two-dish dinner for my wife's birthday (also my nephew's):
a variation on paella valenciana (with chicken, chorizo, sea scallops,
shrimp, and a couple lobster tails, but no clams) and a salade niçoise
(with canned tuna instead of the now-more-fashionable grilled). For
dessert, a flourless chocolate cake with ice cream on the side. Prep
took several hours, but it all went fairly leisurely. Good thing, as
my back was killing me.
The political news I missed commenting on proved uneventful. Trump
and Clinton made small, indecisive steps toward eventual nominations:
Trump winning South Carolina with about 35% of the vote, Clinton
eeking out another close caucus win in Nevada (52.6% to 47.3%). With
the party establishment totally behind Clinton, all she has to do to
win is not get beat too bad, which thus far has only happened once
in three contests.
Trump, who still alarms his party's establishment, has more of
an uphill climb, and with 32.5% of the vote hardly looks inevitable.
Still, he could hardly dream of facing a lamer set of opponents.
With Bush dropping out -- he got 7.8% of the South Carolina vote,
barely edging John Kashich (7.6%) and Ben Carson (7.2%) for 4th
place -- the establishment appears to be stuck with Marco Rubio
as their standard bearer. I was surprised that Rubio edged Cruz
for second place (22.5% to 22.3%), but Rubio got key endorsements
and South Carolina Republicans seem to be relatively good at
following orders. Rubio also got key endorsements last week in
Kansas: Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Roberts, both vastly
unpopular even among Republicans, as well as neocon Rep. Mike
Pompeo. Still, I find it very hard to take Rubio seriously.
Nevada Republicans will caucus on Tuesday, and South Carolina
Democrats will vote on Saturday.
FiveThirtyEight gives Trump a 64% chance of beating Rubio (25%)
and Cruz (10%) in Nevada, and considers Clinton a cinch (>99%)
in South Carolina. Their odds greatly exaggerate the voting split:
the actual polling averages are 57.5% Clinton, 32.0% Sanders, which
is about the flipside of Sanders' margin in New Hampshire. We've
been hearing conventional wisdom for weeks now that Sanders will
falter once the elections move from "white liberal" states Iowa
and New Hampshire to ones that are more "diverse" -- but it now
appears that Sanders won a majority of Hispanic voters in Nevada.
One link I've been meaning to mention is
Matt Karp: Why Bernie Can Win: some things to think about next
time you hear we have to all get behind Clinton because she's the
"electable" one. On the other hand, see
Steve Benen: Sanders' turnout 'revolution' off to an inauspicious
start: so far, at least, Democratic Party turnout this year is
not up to the levels established in 2008 (and more alarmingly, I
suspect, Republican Party turnout is up).
Two more links:
Nancy Le Tourneau: Post-Policy Republicans Gave Us Donald Trump,
which refers back to her earlier post,
GOP Chaos: Post-Truth vs. Post-Policy: Over the last eight years,
the Republicans have given up on promoting alternative policies --
partly because Republican think tank proposals, like the health care
plan Romney implemented in Massachusetts, could be adopted wholesale
by Democrats -- and turned into "the party of no." Actually, it would
be more accurate to say that they've turned into extortionists, along
the lines of "elect us, or we'll really make you suffer." (Note that
the only policies Republicans have been willing to work with Obama on
are ones intended to split Obama away from the Democratic base: TPP,
offshore oil leases, and more war in the Middle East.)
A large chunk of this week's records, including both A- albums
(Beans on Toast and Ursula 1000), came from Ye Wei Blog's
2015 EOY list, the HMs including: Nigel Hall, Abba Gargando, DMX
Krew, and No Fun. Actually a pretty diverse group of records (English
folk, disco, soul, Timbuktu guitar, electronica, and a garage punk
band from Germany. A similar number of lower grades: electronica,
alt-rock along a punk-pop axis, Saharan wedding songs. Huge thanks
to Jason Gross for digging all these up.
The week's jazz releases include four limited edition LP-only
releases that NoBusiness was kind enough to burn on CDR for me.
None are great but three would be enjoyed by anyone with an ear
for free jazz.
The new Saul Williams comes recommended by
Robert Christgau, and that led me to check out some of his back
catalog. Can't say as I got much out of any of them, not that they
aren't interesting. Maybe it's that I've always had trouble fishing
lyrics out of their matrix. Maybe I'm confused by that context.
Christgau also provides directions on the proper way to listen to
the Hamilton soundtrack. My own approach was to stream the
whole thing through once, while referring to the synopsis section of the
Wikipedia article on the musical. I was thereby able to follow
the plot and check it against my own recollection of the history.
But unlike Christgau, I didn't make any extra effort to habituate
myself to the music, which struck me as hackneyed and wordy -- a
common trait of musical drama. My grade reflected that I was duly
impressed, not least with the scholarship, but not much interested
in hearing it again: B+(**).
The Catheters came up thanks to a Phil Overeem facebook post.
He compared their first album to the Stooges, and as usual he's
right -- although I guess I'm less impressed by the accomplishment.
Their second album caught Christgau's attention, and we wound up
with the same grade.
Never did this before, but here's a
link for a Beans on Toast song/video.
Good chance I'll post Rhapsody Streamnotes sometime this week.
Currently have 104 albums in the draft file. In any case, it has
to come out before the end of the month, which is next Monday.
Also working on a books post. Haven't done one of them in quite
some time. I've even read a couple of the books I'll be reporting
New records rated this week:
- Africans With Mainframes: Commission Number 3 (2015, Bio Rhythm, EP): [boomkat]: B+(*)
- Ancient Methods: Turn Ice Realities Into Fire Dreams (2015, Hands, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Beans on Toast: The Grand Scheme of Things (2015, Xtra Mile): [r]: A-
- Thomas Borgmann Trio: One for Cisco (2015 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Jean-Luc Cappozzo/Didier Lasserre: Ceremony's a Name for the Rich Horn (2014 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B-
- Avishai Cohen: Into the Silence (2015 , ECM): [dl]: B+(**)
- Diet Cig: Over Easy (2015, Father/Daughter, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- DMX Krew: There Is No Enduring Self (2015, Breakin): [r]: B+(***)
- Dog Party: Vol. 4 (2015, Asian Man): [r]: B+(**)
- Harris Eisenstadt: Old Growth Forest (2015 , Clean Feed): [r]: B+(***)
- Abba Gargando: Abba Gargando (Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(***)
- Nigel Hall: Ladies & Gentlemen . . . Nigel Hall (2015, Feel Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Ross Hammond and Sameer Gupta: Upward (2015 , Prescott): [cdr]: B+(***)
- Dre Hocevar: Collective Effervescence (2014 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
- Lame Drivers: Chosen Era (2015, Jigsaw): [bc]: B+(*)
- Marilyn Lerner/Ken Filiano/Lou Grassi: Live at Edgefest (2013 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(***)
- No Fun: How I Spent My Bummer Vacation (2014 , Concrete Jungle): [r]: B+(***)
- Novelist x Mumdance: 1 Sec EP (2015, XL, EP): [r]: B+(*)
- Physical Therapy: Hit the Breaks (2015, Liberation Technologies, EP): [r]: B+(**)
- Rhythm Future Quartet: Travels (2015 , Magic Fiddle Music): [cd]: B+(*)
- Pete Rock: PeteStrumentals 2 (2015, Mello Music Group): [r]: B+(**)
- Vladimir Tarasov/Eugenius Kanevicius/Ludas Mockunas: Intuitus (2014 , NoBusiness): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Ursula 1000: Voyeur (2015, Insect Queen): [r]: A-
- Saul Williams: Martyr Loser King (2016, Fader): [r]: B+(***)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Joëlle Léandre: No Comment (1994-95 , Fou): [cd]: B
- Nouakchott Wedding Songs (2015, Sahel Sounds): [bc]: B+(**)
Old music rated this week:
- The Catheters: Static Delusions and Stone-Still Days (2002, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(***)
- The Catheters: Howling . . . It Grows and Grows!!! (2004, Sub Pop): [r]: B+(**)
- Saul Williams: Saul Williams (2004, Fader): [r]: B+(*)
- Saul Williams: The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! (2007 , Fader): [r]: B+(**)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Socrates Garcia Latin Jazz Orchestra: Back Home (Summit): March 4
- Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays (1966, Resonance, 2CD)
- Angelika Niescier/Florian Weber: NYC Five (Intakt): advance
- Richard Poole/Marilyn Crispell/Gary Peacock: In Motion (Intakt): advance
- Omri Ziegele Noisy Minority: Wrong Is Right (Intakt): advance
Monday, February 15. 2016
Music: Current count 26267  rated (+36), 422  unrated (+1).
Started to write a Weekend Roundup yesterday, but I lost a big chunk
of time when we went out for shopping and sushi, and another when we
watched The Good Wife and Downton Abbey. In the meantime
I wrote an ill-tempered rant I wasn't very happy with about the late
Antonin Scalia, and a short item on the Republican debate. Scalia was
one of the most despicable figures in American politics in my lifetime.
In his early years he was remarkably adept at twisting the constitution
and the law to support his own political prejudices -- economist Martin
Feldstein was one of the few I can think of to have debased his craft
so thoroughly -- but in his later years he gave up on cleverness and
turned into an ill-tempered crank and demagogue. He wasn't the first
modern conservative appointed to the court -- Lewis Powell and William
Rehnquist are obvious cases -- but he was a movement conservative, not
content to rule he went out to campaign. One reason Republicans are so
apoplectic about the prospect of Obama naming a replacement is that
Scalia had made himself one of the political idols of their movement.
To them, he had become sacrosanct, turning every snarky dissent into
I did manage to get out one tweet on Scalia:
My only question re Scalia is how will we ever again know what the
Founding Fathers originally thought without him to reveal the truth?
Scalia called his legal philosophy "originalism" but what it amounted
to was little more than an egomaniacal fraud as Scalia was invariably
able to find his own political agenda among the "original intents" of
the Founding Fathers. Three obvious problems with this: one is the utter
impossibility of anyone growing up in modern America fully understanding
the mindset of anyone from the 18th century; the second is that those
founders were a remarkably diverse and divisive lot, so there's really
no single "original intent" to divine; and third, the common recognition
that the genius of the US constitution lies in its flexibility, how it
has been adapted over time. Yet Scalia has often been humored (and in
some quarters revered) for this nonsense. What he tried to accomplish
was to imbue the Constitution with something like the doctrine of papal
infallibility, then proclaim himself pope. The arrogance of it all is
Anyhow, that's more or less what I meant to write. I also had some
links, including two to more moderate pieces by Michael O'Donnell:
Alone on His Own Ice Floe, a 2014 book review of Bruce Allen Murphy:
Scalia: A Court of One, and the post-mortem
It will Be Easy to Replace Antonin Scalia. The latter doesn't refer
to the political process, which with the Republican-controlled Senate
will be arduous and often embarrassing, but to the impact and stature
of the former Justice, who conceded both many years ago (especially in
Bush v. Gore, a ruling he explained should never be taken as a
precedent elsewhere). My original draft is squirreled away in my
notebook, along with various
other aborted drafts and more personal notes (plus a lot of what I
wound up posting -- it's basically my backup store).
I won't go into the other stuff here, other than to mention that
when the Kansas Supreme Court ruled last week that the government
of Kansas -- which is to say Governor Brownback and the neanderthal
state legislature -- had violated the state constitution by failing
to adequately and fairly fund public education. Brownback's response?
He wants to personally appoint a new Kansas Supreme Court. This isn't
the first time the Court has ruled as much: last time the legislature
came up with their "block grant" scheme and basically dared the school
boards to sue them again. When Scalia died, Brownback issued a moving
tribute to his hero. Clearly, one thing Brownback learned from Scalia
is that an oath of office swearing to "uphold the constitution" isn't
enough to keep a Republican from picking and choosing which parts
they want to uphold.
Also listened to a few records this past week. The number of A-list
jazz records for 2016 increased from two to five, and it's worth noting
that trombone great Roswell Rudd has two of those five. Also that one
was originally recorded in 2001 but unreleased until now.
The other three A- records this week are alt/indie rock. Shopping
showed up on Robert Christgau's
Expert Witness last week (he swear the earlier Consumer Complaints,
*** below, is every bit as good, but my more limited exposure prefers Why
Choose). Radical Dads came from Jason Gross's EOY list (at
Ye Wei Blog), as did a bunch of HMs listed below: Jason James, Souljazz
Orchestra, White Reaper; Czarface, Haiku Salut, PINS, Worriers; The
Alchemist/Oh No, Inventions, Seinabo Sey. It's not the best A-list Gross
has ever come up with -- most years I discover 4-6 A- records there
(like Radical Dads' Rapid Reality, an A- in 2013).
The third A- is American Man by the Yawpers, a record that no
one I know has gotten onto yet: its only appearance in an EOY list was
19th among Hipersonica's international albums over in Spain -- I checked
it out because I've often liked albums on the label, Bloodshot. Perhaps
a bit long on American mythos, but struck me as a non-southern Drive-By
Truckers with a dash of non-Jersey Bruce Springsteen. But what do I know?
Feels weird to me to be the one finding alt/indie and post-punk albums.
Definitely not my calling.
New records rated this week:
- The Alchemist and Oh No: Welcome to Los Santos (2015, Mass Appeal): [r]: B+(*)
- Adam Baldych & Helge Lien Trio: Bridges (2015, ACT): [r]: B+(***)
- Colleen: Captain of None (2015, Thrill Jockey): [r]: B+(**)
- Czarface: Every Hero Needs a Villain (2015, Brick): [r]: B+(**)
- Ari Erev: Flow (2015 , self-released): [cd]: B+(**)
- Father: Who's Gonna Get F***** First? (2015, Awful): [bc]: B+(**)
- Fred Frith/Darren Johnston: Everybody Is Somebody Is Nobody (2013-14 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(**)
- Charles Gayle/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Live at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz (2014 , Jazzwerkstatt): [r]: B+(***)
- Haiku Salut: Etch and Etch Deep (2015, How Does It Feel to Be Loved): [r]: B+(**)
- Heroes Are Gang Leaders: Highest Engines Near/Near Higher Engineers (2015 , Flat Langton's Arkeyes): [cd]: B+(***)
- Inventions: Maze of Woods (2015, Temporary Residence): [r]: B+(*)
- Jason James: Jason James (2015, New West): [r]: B+(***)
- Buddy Miller & Friends: Cayamo: Sessions at Sea (2016, New West): [r]: B+(*)
- Marius Neset: Pinball (2014 , ACT): [r]: B+(*)
- PINS: Wild Nights (2015, Bella Union): [r]: B+(**)
- Pixel: Golden Years (2015, Cuneiform): [dl]: B
- Radical Dads: Universal Coolers (2015, Old Flame): [r]: A-
- Jemal Ramirez: Pomponio (2015 , First Orbit Sounds Music): [cd]: B+(*)
- Renku: Live in Greenwich Village (2014 , Clean Feed): [cd]: B+(***)
- Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi: Strength & Power (2015 , Rare Noise): [cdr]: A-
- Samo Salamon Bassless Trio: Unity (2014 , Samo): [cd]: A-
- Travis Scott: Rodeo (2015, Grand Hustle/Epic): [r]: B
- Seinabo Sey: Pretend (2015, Virgin): [r]: B+(*)
- Shopping: Consumer Complaints (2014 , FatCat): [r]: B+(***)
- Shopping: Why Choose (2015, FatCat): [r]: A-
- Shopping: Urge Surfing (2015, self-released): [bc]: B+(*)
- Shopping: Gizzard Shingles (2015, self-released): [bc]: B
- Dr. Lonnie Smith: Evolution (2016, Blue Note): [r]: B
- The Souljazz Orchestra: Resistance (2015, Strut): [r]: B+(***)
- Bruce Torff: Down the Line (2014-15 , Summit): [cd]: B
- Carlos Vega: Bird's Ticket (2015 , Origin): [cd]: B+(*)
- Dan Weiss: Sixteen: Drummers Suite (2014 , Pi): [cd]: B
- White Reaper: White Reaper Does It Again (2015, Polyvinyl): [r]: B+(***)
- Worriers: Imaginary Life (2015, Don Giovanni): [r]: B+(**)
- The Yawpers: American Man (2015, Bloodshot): [r]: A-
- Yelawolf: Love Story (2015, Shady): [r]: B+(**)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- The Great American Music Ensemble: It's All in the Game (2001 , Jazzed Media): [r]: A-
- Soft Machine: Switzerland 1974 (1974 , Cuneiform): [dl]: B+(*)
Old music rated this week:
- PINS: Girls Like Us (2013, Bella Union): [r]: B+(*)
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Anthony Braxton: Excerpts From Three New Recordings: Trillium J (The Non-Unconfessionables)/Quintet (Tristano) 2014/3 Compositions (REMHM) 2011: sampler, albums: April 1
- Rich Brown: Abeng (self-released)
- Moppa Elliott: Still Up in the Air (Hot Cup)
- Hanami: The Only Way to Float Free (Ears & Eyes): advance, April 22
- Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra: All My Yesterdays (1966, Resonance, 2CD): February 19
- Julian Lage: Arclight (Mack Avenue): March 11
- Dave Miller: Old Door Phantoms (Ears & Eyes): April 1
- Danny Mixon: Pass It On (2015, self-released)
- Nonch Harpin': Native Sons (self-released): April 1
- Alberto Pinton Noi Siamo: Resiliency (Moserobie)
- Twin Talk (Ears & Eyes): April 29
Friday, February 12. 2016
I didn't really want to let myself get sucked into another post-election
commentary like last week's
enough links have popped up to be worth a brief post.
On the Democratic side, it's worth noting that Bernie Sanders thus
far is running ahead of Barack Obama in 2008 against Hillary Clinton:
sure, Obama won Iowa handily where Sanders only tied, but Clinton beat
Obama soundly in New Hampshire, and this year lost that same state by
even more. Geography tilts Iowa toward Obama and New Hampshire toward
Sanders -- a little bad luck for Clinton there, but doesn't Clinton
also have the advantage of having done all this before? In both states
Sanders gained 20-30 points over the last six months. That's momentum.
Both states are atypical in various ways, and despite all the effort
candidates put into winning them, their idiosyncrasies make them poor
guides for subsequent primaries, where campaigning is necessarily less
personal. The main thing Iowa and New Hampshire seem to do is to winnow
down the field. The sixteen Republicans we started with are now down to
six: Trump, Kasich, Cruz, Bush, Rubio, and Carson. Not sure if Gilmore
still thinks he's running: he got 133 votes, or 0.052%, a figure that
trailed three no-longer-running candidates (Paul, Huckabee, Santorum)
but at least topped ex-candidates Pataki, Graham, and Jindal; see results
here; all 30 names listed were on the
Republican ballot, but the list doesn't break out the 1750 write-ins.)
Gilmore (and for that matter Santorum) were also beat by Andy Martin, who
Wikipedia describes as "an American perennial candidate who has
pursued numerous litigations" and "the primary source of false rumors
that then-presidential candidate Barack Obama was secretly a Muslim
during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election." Just behind Gilmore (and
ahead of Pataki) was Richard Witz, a retired school custodian from
Spencer, Massachusetts. The low vote getters on the ballot were
Robert L. Mann, and
Peter Messina, with five votes each (Messina is the only one of those
three with as much as a website).
Chris Christie (6th place, 7%) and Carly Fiorina (7th place, 4%) dropped
out after New Hampshire. With most of next month's primaries taking place
in the South, they didn't really have anything to look forward to. Further
down, Ben Carson (8th place, 2%) and Jim Gilmore (13th place, 0%) seem to
still be running (as opposed to "in the running").
[PS: On Friday, after I had written the above, Gilmore gave up the
ghost. NBC noted that the Republican field had narrowed to six, then gave
a rundown that only mentioned five of them. Ben Carson seems to be turning
into the invisible man.]
Here are some links to chew on:
Nate Silver: Republicans Need to Treat Donald Trump as the Front-Runner:
Looks for comparisons in past Iowa-New Hampshire results for patterns and
finds everything from Pat Buchanan to Mitt Romney (who in 2012 did 0.2
better in Iowa and 4.2 better in New Hampshire, but really pretty close,
at least without adjusting for the competitive fields). The sidebar also
(at the moment) shows Trump with a 55% chance of winning South Carolina
(which you may recall Romney lost to Newt Gingrich; he has Rubio at 22%
and Cruz at 15% but only in the fishy-sounding "polls plus" column).
Then Silver abandons the stats and starts dreaming:
If you could somehow combine Rubio's likability and appeal to conservatives,
Kasich's policy smarts and post-New Hampshire momentum, and Bush's war chest
and organization, you'd have a pretty good candidate on your hands. But
instead, these candidates are likely to spend the next several weeks
sniping at one another. The circular firing squad mentality was already
apparent in New Hampshire, where fewer advertising dollars were directed
against Trump despite his having led all but one poll of the state since
By pegging Trump as the "front runner" Silver seems to be daring the
"Republican elites" to get their act together and settle on one anti-Trump
miracle and be done with it. Still, you have to wonder (as
Elias Isquith does), if, having downplayed Trump's changes, Silver
isn't just looking to salvage his reputation. What Silver's own data
shows is that Bush-Kasich-Rubio (maybe even Cruz) understand that only
by getting past each other does one have a chance of taking on Trump --
the problem is that none of them come close to Silver's dream criteria.
What I suspect will eventually happen is that those "elites" will in
the end reconcile themselves to Trump, because in the end Trump is no
threat to them. That's far more likely than the prospect of the Democratic
Party apparatchiki giving in to Sanders even if Sanders sweeps the primaries
as thoroughly. Part of this is, as David Frum put it, because the GOP
fears its base, whereas the Democrats loathe theirs. But mostly it's
because Trump is just another corrupt demagogic symptom of a system that
Sanders is promising to upend.
Paul Krugman: Hard Money Men: Ohio Governor John Kasich skipped Iowa
and ran pretty close to the perfect New Hampshire campaign -- lots of town
halls, one-on-ones, presenting a low-key personality with a command of
issues and his own temper -- and wound up getting 16% of the vote, pretty
unimpressive totals except that he topped Cruz, Bush, and Rubio for second
place. Tempting, given his competition, to argue that he's a sane oasis
in the Republican field, but Krugman isn't having any of it:
[N]ote that on economic policy -- which sort of matters -- Kasich is
terrible, arguably worse than the rest of the GOP field.
It's not just his balanced-budget fetishism, which would be disastrous
in an economic crisis. He's also a hard-money man.
Ted Cruz has gotten some scrutiny, although not enough, for his
goldbuggism. But Kasich, when asked why wages have stagnated, gave as
his number one reason "because the Federal Reserve kept interest rates
so low" -- because this diverted investment into stocks, or something.
No, it doesn't make any sense -- but it tells you that he is viscerally
opposed to monetary as well as fiscal stimulus in the face of high
So no, Kasich isn't sensible. He's just off the wall in ways that
differ in some ways from the GOP mainstream. If he'd been president
in 2009-10, we'd have had a full replay of the Great Depression.
For more on Kasich, see
Heather Digby Parton: John Kasich is a right-wing Trojan Horse.
On the other hand, Jon Huntsman received 17% of the vote in New
Hampshire in 2012 (3rd place behind Romney and Ron Paul) and was never
heard from again.
Emily Douglas: Last Night, Rachel Maddow Perfectly Captured What
Bernie's Win Means for the Left: Follow the link for that quote
(and some video). What I find more interesting is this later bit:
Think back to the 1992 conventions, when Pat Buchanan gave his infamous
culture-wars speech, announcing a "crusade," as Maddow put it, against
gay people, minorities and feminism and concluding that "There is a
religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is
a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be
as was the Cold War itself." In response to that declaration of war,
the Democratic Party didn't have much: "As a gay person watching that
in 1992, I didn't feel like Bill Clinton had my back. I didn't feel
like the Democratic Party had my back," she added. "He was talking
about agreeing with Ronald Reagan that government was the problem."
I saw a little bit of Maddow in the election coverage. She was
talking about how Trump is viewed, at least in Europe, as analogous
to the neo-fascist right-wing parties there. That's probably true,
but Americans have little experience with native-grown fascism, so
the same resonance isn't easily felt here. On the other hand, most
European countries experienced native fascist movements as well as
the fascist-driven World War -- so bad that surviving right-wing
parties can't help but be tarred by the experience. You find, for
instance, in France large numbers of people who will vote for
anyone against Le Pen. The closest analogue in the US was
when Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke ran for governor of
Louisiana. But aside the KKK, the US has never really had fascist
movements. In a sense, the hallmarks of fascism -- racism, rabid
xenophobia, militarism -- have become so mainstreamed here that
they don't get flagged as such.
Martin Longman: Why Sanders Is Still Behind the Eight Ball: Points
out that the way the Democratic Party selects "superdelegates" creates
a huge baked-in advantage for Clinton (currently 394-42). By comparison,
with the proportional split of delegates in New Hampshire, Sanders has
made a net gain of 13 delegates. At that rate, it's going to take a long
time and a lot of landslide victories for Sanders to catch up. Sure,
Clinton had a similar advantage in 2008, but not as extreme as this
year: Obama had a number of prominent Democratic supporters (Longman
emphasizes Tom Daschle). Still hard to say what happens if the primaries
go overwhelmingly for Sanders: those superdelegates may save Clinton,
but won't make her look like the people's pick.
Joel Beinin: More details about Bernie Sanders and Kibbutz Sha'ar
ha-'Amakim: In case you're curious. I've heard reports that
after New Hampshire Clinton was going to attack Sanders for being
anti-Israel. Good luck with that. Chances are that most supporters
of Sanders are already more disturbed by Israel's right-wing polity
(not to mention the alliance of Netanyahu with the Republicans)
than Sanders himself is -- so attacking him on that is more likely
to shift voters against Israel/Likud than it is to harm Sanders.
Michelle Alexander: Why Hillary Clinton Doesn't Deserve the Black Vote:
"From the crime bill to welfare reform, policies Bill Clinton enacted --
and Hillary Clinton supported -- decimated black America." Then, and these
are not unrelated, there's "the economy, stupid":
An oft-repeated myth about the Clinton administration is that although it
was overly tough on crime back in the 1990s, at least its policies were
good for the economy and for black unemployment rates. The truth is more
troubling. As unemployment rates sank to historically low levels for white
Americans in the 1990s, the jobless rate among black men in their 20s who
didn't have a college degree rose to its highest level ever. This increase
in joblessness was propelled by the skyrocketing incarceration rate.
[ . . . ]
Despite claims that radical changes in crime and welfare policy were
driven by a desire to end big government and save taxpayer dollars, the
reality is that the Clinton administration didn't reduce the amount of
money devoted to the management of the urban poor; it changed what the
funds would be used for. Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing
and child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine.
By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to
food stamps. During Clinton's tenure, funding for public housing was slashed
by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections
was boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to
sociologist Loïc Wacquant "effectively making the construction of prisons
the nation's main housing program for the urban poor."
Josiah Lee Auspitz: For GOP, It's 270 to Win, but Also 1237 to Lose:
Reviews the strange delegate allocation procedures the Republican Party
adopted to help ensure the dominance of conservatives by tipping the
scales toward smaller states in the west and south.
Eric Alterman: Why There Will Be No New New Deal: Draws on the
argument of Jefferson Cowie in a new book, The Great Exception:
The New Deal and the Limits of American Politics. Cowie seems
to believe that the New Deal was an unrepeatable exception because
it occurred at the one point in American history when the internal
divisions of America's working class -- race, ethnicity, religion --
were at low ebb (even so, he sees the exclusion of blacks from many
New Deal benefits as necessary for their passage -- for details see
Ira Katznelson's When Affirmative Action Was White). Civil
rights for blacks and increased immigration only serve to undermine
the New Deal's unique focus on class and solidarity. Alterman also
cites Robin Archer's Why Is There No Labor Party in the United
States? and Robert J Gordon's The Rise and Fall of American
Growth to pile on inevitability. Yet he also notes:
Beginning midway through Jimmy Carter's presidency, with the New Deal
order wheezing on life support, Democrats tried to save themselves by
aping right-wing arguments about government being the problem, not the
solution, to the challenges that ordinary Americans faced. By tying
themselves to the mast of a corrupt campaign-finance system, they have
helped to make it so.
Uh, maybe it wasn't so inevitable. Maybe it had more to do with some
bad decisions certain politicians made because the Cold War had blinded
them to thinking of America in class terms? Someone like, oh, Bill
Clinton? Cowie points to the Great Depression and WWII as the key
events that forged the sense of unity and solidarity that made the
New Deal, and implies that they are irrepeatable. On the other hand,
it's not that we lack for depressions and wars -- just the critical
analysis to understand and overcome them.
Gar Alperovitz: Socialism in America Is Closer Than You Think:
Lest you think that socialism is un-American, Alperovitz has a number
of examples of things that already exist that go beyond Sanders' own
program. Not all are advertised as "socialism" -- a brand that hasn't
fared all that well, not that socialists don't have an honorable legacy,
often moving well ahead of more mainstream politicians.
Josh Marshall: A Clarifying Encounter: On Thursday's Democratic debate,
which Marshall thought was good for both but maybe a bit better for Clinton.
He complains, "and yet there's a vague hint of Rubio-ism in Sanders" -- an
objection to Sanders repeatedly hitting his campaign talking points. Having
heard them all many times I can't say that's something I especially enjoy,
but I suspect such repetition is needed to drive his points home -- and
they are points that encapsulate broad programs, unlike Rubio's whatever.
I caught about three minutes of the debate, which included Sanders citing
the 1954 coup against Mossadegh as a lesson in unintended consequences --
and he wasn't just name-dropping; he explained it very succinctly -- and
blasting Kissinger's guidance of American foreign policy, citing how the
Kissinger's expansion of the Vietnam War destabilized Cambodia and led to
three million deaths and how his opening to China has cost millions of
American jobs. That's all stuff I know like the back of my hand, but it's
also stuff you never hear politicians say. When Sanders promised he wouldn't
be seeking Kissinger's advice, Clinton asked he would listen to on foreign
policy, and Sanders ignored her. What should he say? The Democratic Party
mandarins, like Zbigniew Brzezinski and Madelyn Albright, are every bit as
compromised as Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice: indeed, you can't be certified
as a "foreign policy expert" in Washington without having been systematically
deluded for decades. Maybe Marshall is right and Clinton is exceptionally
knowledgeable about wonky policy specifics. But Sanders knows his history,
and that's where lessons are to be learned -- not least the ones that have
blindsided Clinton time and again.
Monday, February 8. 2016
Music: Current count 26231  rated (+32), 421  unrated (+9).
I don't have much to say this week. Most of the records below are
still 2015 releases (11 are 2016, only one of those non-jazz). Since
I froze the 2015 file, belatedly
graded 2015 releases are appearing in green. (Note to self: this
greatly increases the likelihood of a coding error making the file
unviewable, so check it more often.) I have decided (for now) to
continue adding to the
non-jazz EOY lists,
and I've added a few things to the
EOY aggregate -- I'm
not really looking for more lists, but occasionally stumble onto
this one from If
Men Had Ears -- supposedly objective because numbers were
crunched, but there's still selection bias, and anything that
elevates Tame Impala to second place is a bit suspicious).
A fair number of the records below are alt-country. Last year
I got a lot of good tips from
Saving Country Music.
Less so this year, but I checked most of their nominees out --
even Don Henley's not-so-bad album (much better than the James
Taylor album that also appeared on Rolling Stone's EOY
list). I complained last week about not being able to find Arca's
Mutant on Rhapsody -- thanks to the reader who encouraged
me to try again. The Eszter Balint album appeared on Christgau's
EW post (also Thomas Anderson and Donnie Fritts). It's worth
noting that Balint's superb album was totally missed by the 700+
EOY lists I've compiled -- the second (or third) time Christgau
has picked something that far from the spotlight. (Foxymorons was
the other, with Mark Rubin only appearing on the list of a well
Old music has a couple albums from the wonderful Sheila Jordan.
I noticed Better Than Anything in Downbeat, and when
I found it on Rhapsody, I noticed a couple more albums I hadn't
heard. I commented that she hadn't recorded anything new since
turning 80 in 2008. Rummaging around a bit I found notice of an
85th birthday concert with Steve Kuhn in 2013, and her website
showed events at least into 2014. No doubt she's moving into a
Some more EOY list links:
New records rated this week:
- Arca: Mutant (2015, Mute): [r]: A-
- Thomas Anderson: Heaven (2016, Out There): [r]: B+(***)
- Allison Au Quartet: Forest Grove (2015 , self-released): B+(*)
- Eszter Balint: Airless Midnight (2015, Red Herring): [r]: A-
- Blue Muse: Blue Muse Live (2015, Dolphinium): [cd]: B
- Brooklyn Blowhards (2015 , Little (i) Music): [cd]: B+(***)
- Brandi Carlile: The Firewatcher's Daughter (2015, ATO): [r]: B+(***)
- Benjamin Clementine: At Least for Now (2015, Virgin EMI): [r]: B+(**)
- Anderson East: Delilah (2015, Low Country Sound/Elektra): [r]: B+(***)
- Mike Freeman ZonaVibe: Blue Tjade (2014 , VOF): [cd]: B+(**)
- Bill Frisell: When You Wish Upon a Star (2015 , Okeh): [cdr]: B
- Donnie Fritts: Oh My Goodness (2015, Single Lock): [r]: B+(***)
- Michael Monroe Goodman: The Flag, the Bible, and Bill Monroe (2015, MammerJam): [r]: B+(***)
- Grandpa's Cough Medicine: 180 Proof (2015, self-released): [r]: B+(*)
- William Clark Green: Ringling Road (2015, Bill Grease): [r]: B+(*)
- Anna von Hausswolff: The Miraculous (2015, Other Music): [r]: B
- Heads of State: Search for Peace (2015, Smoke Sessions): [r]: B+(**)
- Don Henley: Cass County (2015, Capitol): [r]: B+(*)
- Left Lane Cruiser: Dirty Spliff Blues (2015, Alive Naturalsound): [r]: B+(*)
- Urs Leimgruber/Alex Huber: Lightnings (2015 , Wide Ear): [cd]: B+(**)
- Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Orchestra: Galactic Parables: Volume 1 (2013 , Cuneiform, 2CD): [dl]: B+(***)
- Mekons/Robbie Fulks: Jura (2015, Bloodshot): [r]: B+(***)
- Whitey Morgan & the 78s: Born, Raised & Live From Flint (2011 , Bloodshot): [r]: B+(**)
- Whitey Morgan & the 78s: Sonic Ranch (2015, Whitey Morgan Music): [r]: B+(***)
- Matt Parker Trio: Present Time (2015 , BYNK): [cd]: B+(**)
- Ken Peplowski: Enrapture (2015 , Capri): [cd]: B+(***)
- Danilo Pérez/John Patitucci/Brian Blade: Children of the Light (2015, Mack Avenue): [r]: B+(**)
- Valery Ponomarev Jazz Big Band: Our Father Who Art Blakey (2014 , Zoho Music): [r]: B+(***)
- J. Peter Schwalm: The Beauty of Disaster (2015 , Rare Noise): [cdr]: B+(**)
- Shatner's Bassoon: The Self Titled Album Shansa Barsnaan (2015, Wasp Millionaire): [bc]: B+(*)
- Mike Sopko/Simon Lott: The Golden Measure (2015 , self-released): [cd]: B+(***)
- Turnpike Troubadours: Turnpike Troubadours (2015, Bossier City): [r]: B
- Ward Thomas: From Where We Stand (2015, WTW Music): [r]: B+(*)
Recent reissues, compilations, and vault discoveries rated this week:
- Sheila Jordan: Better Than Anything: Live (1991 , There): [r]: B+(***)
Old music rated this week:
- Sheila Jordan: Confirmation (1975 , Test of Time): [r]: B+(***)
- Sheila Jordan: Believe in Jazz (2003 , Ella Productions): [r]: A-
- Sheila Jordan & E.S.P. Trio: Straight Ahead (2004 , Splasc(H)): [r]: A-
Unpacking: Found in the mail last week:
- Dave Anderson: Blue Innuendo (Label 1): April 1
- Andy Adamson Quartet: A Cry for Peace (Andros)
- Thomas Borgmann Trio: One for Cisco (NoBusiness): CDR (LP only)
- Jean-Luc Cappozzo/Didier Lasserre: Ceremony's a Name for the Rich Horn (NoBusiness): CDR (LP only)
- Chaise Lounge: Gin Fizz Fandango (Modern Songbook)
- Ari Erev: Flow (self-released)
- William Hooker: Light: The Early Years 1975-1989 (NoBusiness, 4CD)
- Vijay Iyer/Wadada Leo Smith: A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke (ECM): advance, March 25
- Marilyn Lerner/Ken Filiano/Lou Grassi: Live at Edgefest (NoBusiness): CDR (LP only)
- Joëlle Léandre: No Comment (Fou)
- J Mancera: Mancera #5 (self-released): March 1
- Christian Perez: Anima Mundi (CPM): March 4
- Rhythm Future Quartet: Travels (Magic Fiddle Music): February 26
- Alfredo Rodriguez: Tocororo (Mack Avenue/Qwest): March 4
- Vladimir Tarasov/Eugenius Kanevicius/Ludas Mockunas: Intuitus (NoBusiness): CDR (LP only)
- The U.S. Army Blues: Live at Blues Alley (self-released)
Sunday, February 7. 2016
I threw this together rather quickly, but here are some links of
interest this week:
Thomas Frank: It's not just Fox News: How liberal apologists torpedoed
change, helped make the Democrats safe for Wall Street:
As the Obama administration enters its seventh year, let us examine one
of the era's greatest peculiarities: That one of the most cherished
rallying points of the president's supporters is the idea of the
Today, of course, the Democrats have completely lost control of
Congress and it's easy to make the case for the weakness of the White
House. For example, when Frank Bruni sighed last Wednesday that
presidents are merely "buoys on the tides of history," not "mighty
frigates parting the waters," he scarcely made a ripple.
But the pundit fixation on Obama's powerlessness goes back many
years. Where it has always found its strongest expression is among
a satisfied stratum of centrist commentators -- people who are well
pleased with the president's record and who are determined to slap
down liberals who find fault in Obama's leadership. The purveyors
of this fascinating species of political disgust always depict the
dispute in the same way, with hard-headed men of science (i.e.,
themselves) facing off against dizzy idealists who cluelessly rallied
to Obama's talk of hope and change back in 2008.
Frank brings up many examples, especially the Obama administration's
response to the financial collapse and recession of 2008:
It would have been massively popular had Obama reacted to the financial
crisis in a more aggressive and appropriate way. Everyone admits this,
at least tacitly, even the architects of Obama's bailout policies, who
like to think of themselves as having resisted the public's mindless
baying for banker blood. Acting aggressively might also have deflated
the rampant false consciousness of the Tea Party movement and prevented
the Republican reconquista of the House in 2010.
But Obama did the opposite. He did everything he could to "foam the
runways" and never showed any real interest in taking on the big banks.
Shall I recite the dolorous list one more time? The bailouts he failed
to unwind or even to question. The bad regulators he didn't fire. The
AIG bonuses that his team defended. The cramdown he never pushed for.
The receivership of the zombie banks that never happened. The FBI agents
who were never shifted over to white-collar crime. The criminal referral
programs at the regulatory agencies that were never restored. The
executives of bailed-out banks who were never fired. The standing
outrage of too-big-to-fail institutions that was never truly addressed.
The top bankers who were never prosecuted for anything on the long,
sordid list of apparent frauds.
Frank concludes that "the financial crisis worked out the way it
did in large part because Obama and his team wanted it to work out
that way." After all the "hopey-changey" campaign blather in 2008,
it came as a shock to discover how hard Obama would work to conserve
a banking industry which had frankly gone berserk: not only could
Obama not imagine America without its predatory bankers, he couldn't
imagine changing ownership of those banks, or even dislodging Jamie
Dimon from Chase. It's not clear that anyone in the Republican party
is that conservative. Rather, they are like those proverbial bulls
in the china shop, blindly breaking stuff just to show off their
Paul Krugman Reviews The Rise and Fall of American Growth by
Robert J. Gordon: Gordon's big book (762 pp.) argues that growth
is largely driven by the introduction of new technologies, but that
not all technologies have the same growth potential. In particular,
a set of technological breakthroughs from the late 19th century up
through the 1930s drove high rates of growth up to about 1970, but
more recent innovations have had much less effect, so the prospects
for future growth are much dimmer. This is pretty much the thesis of
James K. Galbraith's 2014 book, The End of Normal: The Great Crisis
and the Future of Growth, who I suspect is clearer about why this
is the effect, while spending a lot less time on the case histories.
For Galbraith, the key is that the earlier innovations tended to move
work from the household to factories while cheaper transportation and
energy made those factories much more cost-effective. On the other hand,
recent innovations in computing and automation increase efficiency at
the expense of jobs, and increasingly some of those labor savings are
taken as leisure. One reason this matters is that our political system
was built around an assumption that growth makes up for inequality --
that conflict over the distribution of wealth is moot as long as there
is ample growth for all. But this isn't something that we're just
discovering now: growth rates in the US started to dip around 1970,
and the result over the next decade was the growth of a conservative
political movement that aimed to maintain profit rates even as growth
slumped. I actually think that shift was triggered by more tangible
factors -- peak oil, moving from a trade surplus to deficit, the many
costs of the Vietnam War (including inflation) -- but the technology
shift helps explain why no amount of supply-side stimulus ever did
any good: every subsequent growth spurt has turned out to be a bubble
accompanied by more/less fraud. Krugman suggests some of this, but
the more explicit (and challenging) suggestions are in Galbraith's
So what does this say about the future? Gordon suggests that the future
is all too likely to be marked by stagnant living standards for most
Americans, because the effects of slowing technological progress will
be reinforced by a set of "headwinds": rising inequality, a plateau
in education levels, an aging population and more.
It's a shocking prediction for a society whose self-image, arguably
its very identity, is bound up with the expectation of constant progress.
And you have to wonder about the social and political consequences of
another generation of stagnation or decline in working-class incomes.
A couple more things worth noting here. One is that the exceptionally
high growth rates of recent years in China, India, and similar countries
is tied to them belatedly adopting the technologies that fueled high
growth in Europe and America nearly a century ago. Nothing surprising
here, although one would hope they'd be smarter about it. The other is
that while newer technologies produce less economic growth, they still
quite often have quality of life benefits. So while wages and other
economic metrics have stagnated, many people don't really feel the
pinch. (And where they do, I suspect is largely due to the oppressive
weight of debt.)
Paul Krugman: Electability: Alright, so
Vox asked 6 political scientists if Bernie Sanders would have a shot in
a general election, and they said: no, no way. In particular:
Fear of sudden, dramatic change could impede Sanders in a general election.
But just as powerfully, Republicans could also successfully portray Sanders
as out of step with the average American's political views, according to
the academics interviewed for this story.
There isn't a lot of doubt that this would have a big impact in an
election. Political scientists have had a pretty good idea since the 1950s
of how voters tend to make their choices: by identifying which candidate
fits closest to them on an ideological spectrum.
Who's Krugman to argue with such august personages:
I have some views of my own, of course, but I'm not a political scientist,
man -- I just read political scientists and take their work very seriously.
After all, man, they're scientists! They must be right, even
though Krugman has occasionally -- well, more like 3-4 times a week --
been moved to note that the professional practitioners of his own branch
of the social sciences, economics, often have their heads wedged. But,
I guess, political science must be much more objective than
economics, more predictive and all that, less likely to be biased by
the political biases of its researchers and analysts. Sure, makes
a lot of sense. After all, I know a lot of people who went into political
science, and who among them did so because they were interested in
politics? Uh, every one of them. I myself majored in sociology, and
spent most of my time there dissecting the myriad ways biases corrupt
research. I could have done the same thing in economics or political
science, but the nonsense in those social sciences was just too easy
to debunk. But it's been ages since I've been so reminded how shoddy
political science is as I was by the Vox article.
As for Krugman's value-added, there really isn't any. He doesn't
even explain why electability is such a concern. He just proclaims,
"The stakes are too high for that, and history will not forgive you,"
after taunting us: "That's what Naderites said about Al Gore; how'd
that work out?" So, like, it's my fault Gore couldn't make a
convincing argument why Bush would be a much more terrible president
than himself? Sure, in retrospect that's true. In retrospect, it's
also clear that enough hints were available at the time to make that
argument -- and it's not only Gore's fault that he failed to do so,
you can also blame a press that was totally smitten with Bush's good
ol' boy shtick.
I don't doubt the importance of the election, at least in terms
of how much damage a Republican victory might inflict. But I don't
buy the idea that we all live on a simple left-right ideological
continuum, let alone that we all make rational choices based on who
is closest to one's individual perch. Gore's problem, for instance,
wasn't that he wasn't close enough to the median voter. It was more
like he didn't convince enough of his base that he would fight for
them, that his election would be better off for them than Bush's.
No doubt Clinton is closer to that median voter, but will she fight
for you? Or will she cut a deal with whatever donor woos her most?
My first close encounter with Hillary was listening to a radio
interview with her while her ill-fated health care plan was still
in play. She was asked how she would feel if it was rejected, and
she said "sad." Right then I realized this was a person who didn't
care enough even to get upset. Sanders wouldn't take that kind of
rejection lying down. But the Clintons simply forgot about health
care for the rest of his terms, and went on to doing "pragmatic"
things the Republicans would let them pass: NAFTA, welfare "reform,"
the repeal of Carter-Glass.
Robert Freeman: The new social contract: This is what's roiling the
electorate & fueling the success of anti-establishment candidates
Trump, Cruz and Sanders: Actually, less about those candidates --
that's just bait -- than the dissolution of the notion that rich and
poor are bound together through a "social contract":
But shared prosperity is no longer the operative social contract.
Ronald Reagan began dismantling it in 1981 when he transferred vast
amounts of national income and wealth to the already rich. He called
it "supply side economics."
Supposedly, the rich would plow their even greater riches back
into the economy, which would magically return that wealth -- and more --
to everyone else. George H.W. Bush called it "voodoo economics." It
seemed too good to be true. It was. Consider the facts.
Since the late 1970s, labor productivity in the U.S. has risen
259 percent. If the fruits of that productivity had been distributed
according to the post-World War II shared prosperity social contract
the average person's income would be more than double what it is today.
The actual change?
Median income adjusted for inflation is lower today than it was in
1974. A staggering 40 percent of all Americans now make less than the
1968 minimum wage, adjusted for inflation. Median middle-class wealth
is plummeting. It is now 36 percent below what it was in 2000.
Where did all the money go? It went exactly where Reagan intended.
Twenty-five years ago, the top 1 percent of income earners pulled
in 12 percent of the nation's income. Today they get twice that, 25
percent. And it's accelerating. Between 2009 and 2012, 95 percent of
all new income went to the top 1 percent.
This is the exact opposite of shared prosperity. It is imposed penury
That is the new deal. Or more precisely, the new New Deal, the
new social contract.
Freeman is right that this is the rot and ferment that breeds support
for "anti-establishment" candidates. Trump and Sanders have different
answers to the problem: Trump flames foreigners, and that seems to appeal
to certain voters; Sanders blames the rich, and that appeals to others.
I'm less sure why Freeman lumps Cruz here. Sure, he's "anti-establishment"
in the sense that he too has a scapegoat: the government. But he has the
very opposite of a solution.
I should also quote Freeman on Clinton and Sanders, since this runs
against the "common sense" of Krugman's "political scientists":
It is unlikely Hillary will pull many Republicans away from whomever
the Republicans nominate. She is both an object of visceral hatred to
most Republicans and the establishment candidate in a year of
Sanders, on the other hand, pulls well from disaffected Republicans.
He has little of Hillary's baggage and polls much better against either
Trump or Cruz than does Hillary. He is anti-establishment in a year of
ervid anti-establishmentism, a fiery mouthpiece for the intense
cross-partisan anger roiling the electorate.
If Sanders can survive the primaries he has a much greater chance of
beating any Republican challenger than does Hillary. Whether he can
implement his vision of a retrofitted social contract is another matter.
Links on the presidential campaign trail:
Josh Marshall: Making Sense of the Last NH Debate: And relishing
how "Chris Christie simply eviscerated Rubio." I doubt if this means
the end of the Rubio bubble, which exists because major players --
I suspect "the establishment" gives them more credit than they deserve --
need to front a candidate who is pliant enough to do their bidding,
and the others they've entertained have proven more obviously flawed
(especially Jeb Bush). For post-debate damage control, see
Amanda Terkel: Marco Rubio Says He'll Keep Using the Same Obama Attack
Line Over and Over Despite Being Mocked.
Cody Cain: Donald Trump's Iran idiocy: The interview that should have
ended his candidacy once and for all: as the article notes, Trump
couldn't even negotiate the sacking of Megyn Kelly at the Fox debate.
The idea that with nothing more than ignorance and bluster he could
have negotiated a better deal with Iran -- one that would have allowed
the US to keep $150 billion in Iranian assets impounded after the
revolution -- is pretty farcical.
This was highly revealing of Trump's character. He exhibits a tendency
toward paranoia, he immediately concludes that others are conspiring
against him without a shred of evidence, and he perceives himself as
being victimized. These are traits that are not exactly well suited
for a leader of a nation.
In another encounter, a lady from the audience expressed concern
that Trump had not provided enough specificity about his policies.
Trump's answer was that he prefers not to provide detailed policies
because he desires to remain unpredictable.
Seriously? A presidential candidate running on a platform of
Gary Legum: The special hell of a Ted Cruz rally: What it's like to spend
an evening with the GOP's oiliest operator.
Conor Lynch: These guys are killing conservatism: How Trump & Cruz
are accelerating the intellectual debasement of the right: Not that
the big-name conservative thought leaders aren't hoping for a more pliant
and innocuous standard bearer (like Marco Rubio), but Cruz and Trump get
the headlines. Actually, he write another article about how those same
are debasing the right -- George Will and David Brooks are good examples,
yet somehow they're still considered the "reasonable" guys.
Rebecca Gordon: American Presidential Candidates Are Now Openly Promising
to Commit War Crimes: specifically focuses on Republicans Cruz, Carson,
Bush, and Trump (the piece was published on Jan. 7; I'm sure that had it
appeared last week the author would have mentioned Rubio, who seems to
have emerged as the neocon favorite in the race). I'll also note that
Gordon focuses on torture -- she wrote Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical
Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States -- which seems to be more
of a Republican psychosexual obsession. Had she taken a broader view,
she might have said something about Clinton, whose "no fly zones" also
advocate war crimes.
Daniel Denvir: Dems, stop lying to yourself about Hillary: Sure, she "gets s*** done" -- atrocious s***, that is: Pretty much reiterates a point
I thought I made above.
Paul Campos: Hillary Clinton's self-satisfied privilege: Her Goldman Sachs
problem helps explain the popularity of Bernie Sanders and Donald
Trump: Among other things, reveals that "together the Clintons have
a yet worth in excess of $100 million" -- a curious figure given that
one or the other has either been on the public payroll or been preparing
to run for office virtually all of their adult lives (at least the last
30 years). Just brilliant I guess -- why else would a savvy (and more than
a little underhanded) business like Goldman Sachs be willing to pay you
$650,000 for a single speech?
Martin Longman: The Tide Has Turned Against Clinton: Argues that
her establishment connections and "no, we can't" campaign is losing
[W]hen they got to policy, she had the distinct disadvantage of having
to argue that we can't have a health care system as good as Canada's
and we can't afford to give people free tuition to college like we give
them free tuition to K-12 education, and that we can't raise the minimum
wage as much as her opponent would like. [ . . . ]
The problem is that she is thereby pushed into being a naysayer who
can't speak to the aspirations of the base. Her incrementalism is probably
well-suited to actually occupying the White House in a time of Republican
dominance in Congress and in the states. But it's a wet blanket on the
What seems to be happening here is that Sanders is disrupting the
time-tested Clinton-Obama campaign strategy, which is to promise great
things when running for the first term, then sandbag them and yield
Congress to a Republican backlash, which in turn gives them an excuse
for never delivering anything, and turns their re-election campaign
into a defensive struggle against the barbarians. Longman also cites
Quinnipiac poll which shows that Sanders has closed the gap, now
trailing Clinton among Democrats 42% to 44% (previously 53%-36% in
Clinton's favor). CNN also reports that "general election match-ups
between the top Republian and Democratic candidates suggest Sanders
and Rubio would be their party's most competitive standard-bearers,"
with Sanders defeating Trump by 10 points but only tied with Rubio
Richard Silverstein: Interview: Bernie's Commie Mohel Speaks:
A sneak preview of the anti-Sanders smear to come, modelled, no
surprise, on the anti-Obama smear of eight years past.
Nomi Prins: The Big Money and What It Means in Election 2016:
includes particulars for most candidates, especially the billionaires
behind Cruz and Rubio, plus a long section on Clinton -- her electability
argument depends as much on her fundraising prowess as on her centrism;
however, there's a catch:
As of October 16, 2015, she had pocketed $97.87 million from individual
and PAC contributions. And she sure knows how to spend it, too. Nearly
half of that sum, or $49.8 million -- more than triple the amount of
any other candidate -- has already gone to campaign expenses.
She doesn't talk much about the Kochs, who a year ago were torn
between Scott Walker and Rand Paul as their favorite candidates.
For more on them, see:
Robert Faturechi: How dark money stays dark: The Koch brothers, Sheldon
Adelson and the right's biggest, most destructive racket going. Also,
Chris Gelardi: Capitalist puritans: The Koch brothers are pushing pure
economic liberty as the only road to true prosperity -- to the detriment
of all but the rich -- actually, I'm not sure that even the rich
(even the Kochs) would prosper under true Kochian freedom. I expect it
would in rather short order lead to the sort of dystopia you see in the
Oscar-nominated Mad Max: Fury Road.
Also, a few links for further study (briefly noted:
Andrew J Bacevich: Out of Bounds, Off-Limits, or Just Plain Ignored:
Sub: "Six national security questions Hillary, Donald, Ted, Marco, et al.,
don't want to answer and won't even be asked." Only one has to do with
the "war on terror" -- still the biggest game in town. Not sure that
Bacevich has much of a handle on his question six: "Debt."
Tom Engelhardt: "The Finest Fighting Force in the History of World":
Take Afghanistan, for instance. Engelhardt cites Anand Gopal's No
Good Men Among the Living, America, the Taliban, and the War Through
Afghan Eyes, which argues that the Taliban disbanded and dissolved
after their first taste of American firepower, but the US couldn't
leave well enough alone:
Like their Bush administration mentors, the American military men who
arrived in Afghanistan were determined to fight that global war on
terror forever and a day. So, as Gopal reports, they essentially
refused to let the Taliban surrender. They hounded that movement's
leaders and fighters until they had little choice but to pick up their
guns again and, in the phrase of the moment, "go back to work."
It was a time of triumph and of Guantánamo, and it went to everyone's
head. Among those in power in Washington and those running the military,
who didn't believe that a set of genuine global triumphs lay in store?
With such a fighting force, such awesome destructive power, how could
it not? And so, in Afghanistan, the American counterterror types kept
right on targeting the "terrorists" whenever their Afghan warlord allies
pointed them out -- and if many of them turned out to be local enemies
of those same rising warlords, who cared?
It would be the first, but hardly the last time that, in killing
significant numbers of people, the U.S. military had a hand in creating
its own future enemies. In the process, the Americans managed to revive
the very movement they had crushed and which, so many years later, is
at the edge of seizing a dominant military position in the country.
[ . . . ]
It's probably accurate to say that in the course of one disappointment
or disaster after another from Afghanistan to Libya, Somalia to Iraq,
Yemen to Pakistan, the U.S. military never actually lost an encounter on
the battlefield. But nowhere was it truly triumphant on the battlefield
either, not in a way that turned out to mean anything. Nowhere, in fact,
did a military move of any sort truly pay off in the long run. Whatever
was done by the FFFIHW and the CIA (with its wildly counterproductive
drone assassination campaigns across the region) only seemed to create
more enemies and more problems.
Engelhardt concludes that "Washington should bluntly declare not
victory, but defeat, and bring the U.S. military home. Maybe if we
stopped claiming that we were the greatest, most exceptional, most
indispensable nation ever and that the U.S. military was the finest
fighting force in the history of the world, both we and the world
might be better off and modestly more peaceful."
Ann Jones: Social Democracy for Dummies: After having written
books on American failure in Afghanistan and on how maimed US
veterans have fared on their return, Jones moved to Norway, to
see what life is like in an affluent country free from war. Not
Thomas Piketty: A New Deal for Europe: The author of possibly
the most important book yet in growing inequality, Capital in
the Twenty-First Century, offers a few modest proposals for
reforms in the Eurozone. Also see Piketty's earlier review of
Anthony B Atkinson's Inequality: What Can Be Done?:
A Practical Vision of a More Equal Society.
Philip Weiss: Dov Yermiya, who said, 'I renounce my belief in Zionism
which has failed,' dies at 101. Yermiya fought in Israel's "War for
Independence" in 1948, and only issued his renunciation in 2009, in a
letter quoted here. You might also take a look at
Steven Erlanger: Who Are the True Heirs of Zionism? -- which starts
with a bloody admission:
ZIONISM was never the gentlest of ideologies. The return of the Jewish
people to their biblical homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty
there have always carried within them the displacement of those already
living on the land.
The Israeli general and politician Yigal Allon defined Zionism in 1975
as "the national liberation movement of a people exiled from its historic
homeland and dispersed among the nations of the world." Some years later,
and more crudely, perhaps, another general and politician, Rehavam Ze'evi,
a tough right-winger, said, "Zionism is in essence the Zionism of transfer,"
adding, "If transfer is immoral, then all of Zionism is immoral."
Admissions like this were rarely broadcast to the public during the
early days of Israel, when David Ben-Gurion spoke of Israel becoming "a
state just like any other." So the recent tendency to speak in such terms
may sound like a confession but is rarely accompanied by reflection much
less shame: rather, they are bragging, and preparing the grounds for
another round of "ethnic cleansing."